Monday, September 22, 2008

Welcome autumn!

It's hard to decide, but I think autumn is my favorite season. God seems to outdo Himself in His creation when He splashes the foliage with gorgeous, brilliant colors. Retirees who have moved to the so-called "sun-belt" often complain that they miss the change of seasons. I grew up in Iowa where we enjoy spectacular autumn scenes, but the land is flat. Living in Virginia now, I love to look at the slopes of mountains and hills for a panoramic view of the sensational burst of changing colors.

Botanists tell us that leaves closest to the SUN turn color first. The color travels down a mountain side at the rate of 100 feet a day—if anyone cares to know. The autumn of life, our mature years, can be the most beautiful of life’s seasons if we live close to Jesus, the SON. Our advancing years don't need to be a retreating, declining, dimming, fading time spiritually. Potentially, our mature years can be a sharpening, focusing, distilling period of fruit-bearing for God.

Luscious apples, peaches, and other fruits ripen in the autumn. What can compare to the fragrance of ripened fruit? Have you noticed how early in summer the empty wooden crates are set out among the apple trees in the orchards? I've seen them as early as the first blossoms, long before the tiny apples are visible. The farmer anticipates them, counts on the natural course of fruit-bearing. Likewise, the Lord expects fully ripened fruit from us older but still growing Christians. Let's not disappoint Him!

Jesus talked a lot about fruit-bearing to His disciples, and his words apply to us as well. He wants us not only to bear fruit, but more fruit, and MUCH fruit. Perhaps that progression may also apply to different stages of our lives. When we were younger Christians, we bore some fruit for Him; in mid-years we may have borne more. Many have a mistaken idea that as we grow older, we are expected to bear less fruit, that it is inferior and tends to shrivel and dry. Some of us may have less opportunities and less energy in later years, but I believe the Bible teaches that fruit-bearing should not diminish simply because of advancing age. Fruit bearing is for a lifetime.

In Psalm 92 David described righteous older people as still “yielding fruit in old age.” If we stay connected to Jesus, the Vine, abiding in Him, it is a matter of effortlessly yielding to the supernatural life of God within us that produces fruit. Older, seasoned trees often bear the best quality, most luscious, sweet fruit—as should we.

So go outdoors and whiff the burning leaves (if it is still permissible to burn them in your neck of the woods—safety first!)
Take off your sunglasses and look around at the changing season-scenes (unless you live in California)
Stop-Look-and-Listen to the "Vs” of honking geese heading South—unless you already live in the South—in which case why not give them a “Welcome Party”?
Well, anyway, go to the market and buy some crunchy Virginia Golden or Red Delicious apples and caramel dip.....and envy us who live where God lavishly paints His trees each autumn.


Leona Choy

AUTUMN is a cushion

a subdued, leaf-fire-scented buffer

between the swelter of summer

and the wail of frigid winter:

my favorite interlude

this seasonal spectacular!

AUTUMN is a wet, crunching bite

of a home-grown Red Delicious

a plump pumpkin time

a snuggle-under-covers season

a time for raking fallen leaves

winding up the hose

pulling up dry garden plants

filling the bird feeder time

an air-conditioner storing time.

AUTUMN is a moth-balled sweater

retrieved from the cedar closet

along with last year's

mismatched woolen gloves.

Unlike the sudden burst of spring

AUTUMN arrives with composure

and quiet intensity

that signals flocks southward

and elbows harvesters

to hurry with their bounty tasks

before the latter rains.

AUTUMN causes football fever

in restless males: spectators and players

it arouses ghostly squeals and costume madness

in the wide-eyed young for Halloween

while Thanksgiving menu and fall fashions

tantalize the female mind.

AUTUMN taps summer on the shoulder

nudging it out of the way

displacing the sultry day

with crispy-cool wool jacket weather.

I eagerly trade

deep-breathing frosty morning walks

for sluggish dullness that stalks

humid hot July which I

only tolerate because

I anticipate AUTUMN.

The painted leaf, the falling leaf

evoke in my emotions

a tension between joy and grief:

regret for what I haven't done

in blaze of summer sun

and gratitude to be alive

at this moment of harvest

in relationships and nature.

The wardrobe of the seasons

would be frightfully out-of-style

without the flashy scarf and golden cap

of AUTUMN with her winning smile!

P.S. Thanks, God, for not bargain hunting.

You spare no expense

when You re-create each autumn!



Tuesday, September 16, 2008


(You are invited to read over my shoulder)

My dear friend,

"You have need of patience so that after you have done the will of God you may stand firm. Having done all, stand." (Ephesians 6:13, 14)

The road ahead of you may still be long and you feel not only weary but possibly exhausted from your health challenge. We can expect a normal let down after any trauma like you have been through. A dip in your physical and emotional stamina after your surgery is certainly normal with all the meds and chemicals with which your body has been bombarded. Of course all that affects the level of your spirituality. Please don’t beat yourself up about that, or feel guilty that you may not be on top of it and “triumphantly coping” with all that your life package holds right now.

Yes, discouragement does come from the devil, but simply flying low is not a sin. In fact, it may be part of God's maturing and purifying purpose. Flying high all the time is not an emotional level that we can maintain. God doesn’t expect us to live in a bubbly state all the time. (As an evangelical, I tended to think so, but it is not reality.)

When you are flying low, it is an opportunity for your praying friends to come underneath, to hold you up, to keep you flying, keep you from crash landing. We plead graces and strength on your behalf from Father God, from Jesus, from our holy Mother, from the Holy Spirit, and from all the “cloud of witnesses” saints and loved ones in heaven.

I still have so much to learn about Catholic spirituality as I seek to understand some of the deeper dimensions. I've recently discovered the classic book by Father Thomas H. Green "When [not IF] the Well Runs Dry" –his attempt as a spiritual director to interpret in a user-friendly way the teachings of St Theresa of Avila and St John of the Cross and a few others of their ilk, including The Cloud of the Unknowing. I’m trying to grasp the idea that the lack of consolations and an emotional high is “good” and should be expected! That the dark night of the soul is “good” and a sign of God's favor! That dryness, aridity, and lack of feeling is “good” and to be cherished! Apparently down is really up, and up is really down. I’ve undergone considerable “renewal of my mind” in the joy of becoming Catholic—at least if I want to learn to navigate in deeper waters.

When we are flying low and "poor in spirit" God seems to be drawing us on to deeper growth and maturity. You may be going through some “poor in spirit” time at present, right? I sure don't have it all figured out yet, but I think I am on the path to appreciate just a little of how God treats His children whom He loves. That certainly includes you, my friend! That seems to mean that God lovingly withdraws our consolations and permits adversity, pain, and suffering to draw all of us toward detachment, from clinging to even the good temporal things and relationships of life. That’s not fun and games, but I guess that is the way of the Cross that we share with Christ. Perhaps all of this is happening deep within your spirit while the rest of life seems to go on at its normal fast pace around you as before—everyone is on a merry-go-round that you seem to be watching from the park bench without joining in because you are simply too weary.

As you fly low, you are being drawn closer to Jesus' bosom. Look at it this way—you are experiencing a most highly favored status with Him as His arms are embracing you. Accept His tender love, my friend. God is still in control and He has a good plan going for you. Give Him time. You are secure in His Plan A. Don’t despair—you are not in any Plan B because of what you have been going through.

Isn’t it a comfort that in Romans 8 we are assured that when we don't know how to pray as we ought (like I don’t really know how to pray for you) that the Holy Spirit takes over? He forwards our prayers directly to the Father with groanings that cannot be heard and presents them to God through the intercession of Jesus. The result? The will of God is put into gear for you and my feeble prayers are answered perfectly. Angels are dispatched at God's bidding to carry out His will in your life. Keep an eye out for those ministering angels—invisible or visible. They may surprise you.

My friend, I am sure you have surrendered your will to be united with God's will as your personal “Fiat.” So I pray that you will "float" on God's River of Life (as Fr. Green describes it) resting and trusting, and not thrashing about as you would be were you swimming in your own will and strength.

I pray that the Holy Spirit will be the wings beneath you to bear you up when you are flying low. May God keep you keeping on when your journey seems too long, too hard to bear, and the way too rough and narrow and crooked. God specializes in making a way when there is no way. I pray He will give you strength to endure and to embrace your present cross with JOY. My friend, you are privileged to participate with Jesus in His suffering according to the mystery of Colossians 1:24—which I never understood as an evangelical—and which I still don’t fully understand, but I accept.

Your friend in Christ,



Monday, September 15, 2008

Catching Detouritis

I'm afflicted with a weakness called "detouritis." It comes on me whenever I head for the closet—the prayer closet. I sincerely want to meet God, but I grope and stumble. Something happens to me on the way to pray.

I sense an invisible but very real enemy who lurks around dark corners carrying a suitcase full of masks and disguises. The tag on his suitcase spells out "Wiles." That's not his name—that’s a description of the contents. It's full of tricks and strategies meant to fool, trap, and entice me. The devil is a master of crafty and beguiling behavior. He designed his cunning activities to lure me away from time alone with God. Chicanery and fraud are involved. I don't consider myself naive, so why am I such a willing victim of the Deceiver?

He is downright devilish. I don't think I’m important enough for him to give me his infernal personal attention, but it's obvious that Satan has trained his underling minor devils well. They seem to know me inside out. In my own strength, I'm no match for the Deceiver or his crew. Of course I know what he's up to, but sadly, I still fall for the same old tricks.

In the morning, the Deceiver seems to gently rock my bed like a cradle. Perhaps it's a flashback to my infant days, but I never fail to doze off again (or get dizzy) even after I've had a full night's sleep. He succeeds in convincing me I’d be sleep deprived if I didn’t get a few more winks.

He lullabies me by crooning, "You don’t have to get up yet. Just a few more minutes are good for you." So I’m compelled to roll over, pull the covers up, and before I know it the sun is streaming through the window. No time to pray this morning. Now I must rush!

At night, the Deceiver uses a sandman disguise. If he has kept me from reading the Bible and praying in the morning, he thrusts me into phase two. He let's me believe that I'll still have time to read the Bible and pray late at night. When I try, he places tiny lead weights on my eyelids, and they begin to droop. I try unsuccessfully to rub the sand out of my eyes. My mind struggles with cobwebs. I have no idea what I've read. Certainly I haven't grasped anything that would fortify me against the Deceiver's tricks or touch God meaningfully.

On the other hand, the Deceiver is more than willing to let me read a novel far into the night. Or permit me to watch the late show on television without nodding off. He knows that if I delay my prayer until the last thing at night, he's home free. I murmur:

“My Jesus, I love Thee, I know Thou art mine.

(But I'm just so tired that here I recline.)

My gracious Redeemer, my Savior art Thou,

(But I'll see you tomorrow. I'm sleepy just now!

The Deceiver knows that if my traditional mindset dictates that the proper times to meet with God are only in the morning or at night, he can take it easy on me all day. However, why should all be lost because some urgency or emergency kept me from my accustomed Quiet Time in the morning? Why can’t I schedule another time during the day when I’m alert? I can show the Deceiver who is boss—God is my boss! As I abide in Him, and He in me, I can be in God's presence all day long. When I walk and talk with the Lord in the midst of my daily activities, the Deceiver must keep his distance. He has no power in the presence of God, but he will still keep trying to interrupt, to distract my mind, to intrude on my awareness of God's presence in my ordinary pursuits.

Failing to divert my mind, he often attacks my body by making me hungry, or thirsty, or itchy when I enter the presence of God—or summoning any number of little aches or pains that he's used successfully on me before. So....What is my shield of faith for, if not to deflect the Deceiver's attacks?


Lord, here I am—finally!

Did You think I wasn't coming?

I began to think so too.

I can't understand what I do:

Why should I take a detour

from entering Your Majesty’s presence

to clean smudges from windows

(And I hate doing windows!)

instead of hurrying to meet You

to cleanse my soul?

Then I water house plants

that aren’t even thirsty

while it is I

who need a fresh drink

of the Water of Life.

I confess my predictable dawdle,

dilly dallying with trifles,

delaying my delight in Your presence.

Honestly, Lord, I do desire You

first above all else—though

who would guess

as they watch me digress?

I keep You waiting for me

You, who are King of the Universe,

Creator, and Savior of men!

Please forgive me.

To my shame I expose

my distorted priority.

You've never made me wait.

You have never been late.

You've always kept Your promise

that if I draw near to You,

You will draw near to me.

Lord, draw me like a magnet

into Your presence.

Cause me to come

straight as an arrow

instead of taking a detour

at every distraction.

Well, finally I'm here now

sitting at Your feet at last,

cleansed by Your Word,

resting in Your love,

refreshed and restored

by my Ever-forgiving Lord!


"But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness. . ." (Matt. 6:33). "As the deer pants for the water brooks, so my soul pants for Thee, O God. My soul thirsts for God, for the living God. . . " (Psalm 42:1,2). "Draw near to God and He will draw near to you. . . “ (James 4:8).

(Excerpt from Part I of Leona Choy’s book-in-progress DETOURITIS: It’s Causes and Cures)



Much of my time alone with God should be spent listening to God, not in God listening to me. God can speak aloud if He wants to, but He usually doesn’t. In the early days of salvation history it would seem that He spoke aloud to the prophets and the leaders of His chosen people. Today God speaks more often through impressions. How do I know that what I think I’m “hearing” is really from God and not just my own thoughts or imaginations? I need "hearing aids."

In John 10:4 and 27 Jesus said that His sheep would know His voice and follow Him, and a stranger they would not follow. One writer pointed out that the Greek word for sheep that Jesus used in this passage literally means “fully mature ewes.” The lambs do not recognize the shepherd’s voice in the beginning because discernment takes time and must be learned by experience. The young lamb gradually develops an ear to hear the shepherd’s voice by observing which voice the mature sheep of the flock respond to.

Similarly, we Christians need to learn to recognize the voice of God for personal guidance in our lives. In matters of morals and ethics and theology, however, it is not a matter of our private interpretation. God’s truth is not up for grabs at our every whim and desire. Jesus knew the capricious and vacillating heart and mind of man so before He ascended to the Father, He established “the Church of the living God, the pillar and bulwark of truth” as a sure way of continuing to hear His voice on earth. (1 Timothy 3:15) In the Catholic faith, we don’t depend on guesswork or “everyone doing that which seems right in his own sight” as they did in the times of the Judges in the Old Testament. Jesus gave the keys of His Kingdom to the apostle Peter and his successors. The Magisterium, the teaching body of the Church composed of the Pope and the bishops, guard the New Testament revelation and pass it on faithfully through the generations. We don’t have to reinvent the wheel to decide what is or is not God’s truth. Based squarely on the inspired Holy Scriptures and in line with Sacred Tradition from the apostles, we are on solid ground when we check our impressions. The greater our familiarity with the Scriptures and the Catechism of the Catholic Church, the better our chance of discerning God’s voice from among other voices we may hear. God has provided us with ample “hearing aids.”

As I bring the Scriptures into my prayer time and ask for the Holy Spirit’s enlightenment, I learn to recognize the tone of God’s voice; my fear of mistaking His voice lessens. The degree of my surrender to the Lord and my sensitivity to the Holy Spirit are other factors in my listening perception. The more I submit and commit myself to obey the Word and will of God, the more discernment in hearing God’s voice I will develop.

I’m at some disadvantage when I try to enter the spiritual world by prayer. I’m only one-third spirit, as it were, and I’m trying to communicate with God who is all Spirit. I almost immediately meet resistance from my body which operates in the flesh and my soul. My soul operates through my senses and emotions and is uncomfortable in the spirit world; in the natural, it resists entering the unknown realm of God’s presence where feelings are not paramount. However, my spirit is alive and well because I am indwelt by the Holy Spirit by virtue of my baptism, and I received spiritual ears to hear God’s spiritual voice. Jesus emphasized that by repeating many times, “He who has ears, let him hear”! And that means us!

Granted, sometimes an impression could come from my human spirit or from the realms of evil and not from the Holy Spirit. I must always square the impression carefully with what God said in His Word and in His Church because God never contradicts Himself.


Saturday, September 13, 2008


Do you ever wake up in the morning thinking, What’s the use? What I do today doesn’t make any difference to anyone.

If we are still in the working world, we might think about that differently. Our job or career gives us meaning, makes us feel worthwhile; someone pays wages for what we do. Those who are retired from active public life are tempted to feel the monotony and meaninglessness of their lives at home or in a retirement community. I’ve heard such friends say they live from meal to meal, from pill time to pillow time. They feel that they are “putting in their hours” –for what?

We may have played the board game “Trivial Pursuit.” Trivial means “of little value, unimportant, insignificant.” The questions and answers in the game are certainly not earth shaking. Pursuit means “the act of chasing,” in this case, useless data. We might think, “That’s like me, but I’ve even given up chasing because there is nothing worthwhile in my life to run after.” We may wonder if our life matters to anyone or would we be missed when we are gone. Have we made any difference by living?

Around Christmas we traditionally view the old black and white movie featuring Jimmy Stewart who played the discouraged character who grumbled, “I wish I had never been born!” His personal angel supposedly granted him his wish by transporting him back in time to see what would have happened had he never been born. Fiction, of course, but packing a sober truth. Each of us does make a difference. God has put us into our particular circumstances, at this time in history, among the people we are to influence for His eternal purposes. What we do or don’t do on a daily, momentary basis is eternally significant. We look at our lives from our limited, human perspective, but God looks at the big, eternal picture.

Saint Therese of Lisieux who lived in the 1800s always insisted that it was not the splendor or the greatness of our deeds that mattered. The smallest, most trivial task we accomplish is supremely important if it is done in obedience to God’s will and for love of Him. Jean-Pierre de Caussade, a spiritual writer in the 1600s declared, “To achieve the height of holiness, people must realize that all they count as trivial and worthless is what can make them holy…consider your life and you will see it consists of countless trifling actions. Yet God is quite satisfied with them….What God arranges for us to experience at each moment is the best and holiest thing that could happen to us.”

Jesus said that doing the smallest act, giving a cup of cold water to a little one even in the name of a disciple, would receive a reward. And that whatever we do for another, is as if we did it to Him. What a difference it would make in our daily lives if we accepted that nothing is trivial in the sight of God!


Friday, September 12, 2008


Let’s be totally honest. We can’t expect to live on planet Earth forever. Note even with bionic or spare parts that might function nearly as well as our original organs. As Christians, we do anticipate totally changed bodies someday. In the resurrection our bodies will be similar to Jesus’ body after His resurrection. That’s something to look forward to—but it’s for later, not now. There is good news and bad news.

No matter how well we pay attention to good nutrition, proper exercise, load up with vitamins, even submit to cosmetic surgeries and other attempts at rejuvenation, we can only hope to slow the process of aging. The truth is that our bodily parts are definitely deteriorating. We only fool ourselves if we ignore reality. The Bible says plainly, “…our outer man is decaying” (1 Corinthians 4:16).

A few facts selected from a TIME magazine article titled Older, but Coming on Strong, reinforces that: “By and large, the changes [of natural aging] are decremental. Every organ is losing reserve capacity.” Then the following medical facts are pointed out: There’s a decline in ability to recover from physical stresses. Bones take longer to knit, wounds to heal, and infections to clear up. The immune system starts to decline around age 30. White blood cells lose their effectiveness which makes it harder to stave off illness. Metabolism begins to slow at around age 25. Muscle mass gradually shrinks. Kidneys may lose up to 50 percent of their efficiency between ages 30 and 80.

Wait! There's more to cheer us up as we include younger folks in the statistics! Some of the liver’s functions gradually decline. Lungs lose on the average 30 to 50 percent of their maximum breathing capacity between ages 30 and 80. Blood vessels lose elasticity, bone mass begins to drop by about one percent a year after peaking in one’s 30s. The senses flag: taste diminishes, the nose loses keenness of smell, hearing fades, vision begins deteriorating at about 40, and changes occur in the skin. Tell me about it!

But don’t give up yet! Sweat glands decline in activity, the quality of sleep changes, the brain loses an average of about 20 percent of its weight, and speed of recall and mental performance slows. Wow! That is the verdict for humanity right across the board. Everything deteriorates in the end!

How about us who are children of God and indwelt by the Holy Spirit and anticipating eternal life? Yes, we go through the same deteriorating process that we share with all created things. What is the Christian outlook? “Therefore, we do not lose heart, but though our outer man is decaying, yet our inner man is being renewed day by day” (2 Corinthians 5:16).

That’s the good news! An “outer man” is not all there is to the Christian. We have an “inner man” that is indestructible, one better than bionic. That’s why we can encourage one another to keep on keeping on.

The fact that we have in imperishable inner person, our eternal spirit, is our solid rock to stand on, our security in Christ. Renewing our inner spirit day by day is God’s perfect design for His children. It enables us to live the kind of optimistic and productive lives God planned for us all the days of our lives. That is God’s way. Being renewed spiritually day by day, every day, can cushion that downward slide that seems to accelerate with the years.

How shall we as Christians view the aging process? The following verse provides the key: “For momentary, light affliction is producing for us an eternal weight of glory far beyond all comparison.” That’s it! Aging is only a “momentary, light affliction” no matter how negative it feels. Perhaps you thought it was terminal? It isn’t! We are destined to live forever! Our eyes should never be focused on the limitations of aging, but upon “the eternal weight of glory” in the future for these inevitably declining bodies.

The Bible says there is nothing to compare with what’s ahead of us in life after life and no way to describe it adequately. That should put aging in the proper, optimistic perspective for the Christian. Let’s not be depressed with our normal decline, no matter what season of life we are in. Let’s be confident that we are going up although to all appearances, we are going down the slippery slide!


(A Dialogue with Deity)

My Complaint

I live in earth’s time zone, Father

No longer strong and fit

I’m experiencing depreciation

without tax benefit.

I feel distressed, often depressed

‘cause life has lost its kick.

My glasses are thick

my neck has a crick

my parts are shabby and worn

for they’ve been working overtime

since the day that I was born.

I’m winding down in serving You

as in days gone by I used to do.

Father, indeed, like a dandelion weed

I think I’m going to seed!

Response from God

I AM that great I AM.

There is no time in Me

only endless eternity

and you are eternal in Me.


This is My perfect plan:

your temporary outer-man

declines and wastes away

but your forever inner-man

renews each passing day.

Your spirit does not diminish

or fade away at the finish

but can flourish and sprout anew

like the ancient palm and cedar

as your roots grow deep to pursue

My rivers of Living Water!


Thursday, September 11, 2008


Throw it out? Store it? Use it broken? Mend it? Decisions about broken things become more difficult as years go by.

A quick inspection of our closets, basement, and especially garage, reveals an accumulation of broken things. If we had an attic, it would be cluttered too. Some people, are obsessed with keeping such stuff in the event that they might use it someday. On the other hand, I tend to be a thrower-outer.

Some things have sentimental value like family photos and scrapbooks of our children's or grandchildren’s refrigerator art. We'll probably keep those. But let's face it—most other things are space-wasters.

The older we become, the more broken things of the spirit and emotions we accumulate. Such intangibles hurt even more than a broken arm. Our past breaks up. People move and places change. Landmarks disappear. Our roots feel broken—parents are gone along with our childhood memories. When our children grow up and leave home, we feel that distance and time have broken off our branches.

Our roles in life change with the cycling years. Our self-worth and influence feel fractured. Can we afford to cry over such breaks? Is it worthwhile to waste today's priceless limited time gazing in the rear view mirror of yesterday? Why should we apply Band-Aids or splints to broken things of our past when God has brand new adventures available to us?

Broken things are space-wasters of the spirit that clutter our heart-garages and mental-attics. The Holy Spirit is the Great Motivator, the Eternal Prompter; He draws us, pushes us, and impels us to keep moving on to new things instead of hugging broken things. "Behold, the former things have come to pass, now I declare new things; before they spring forth, I proclaim them to you" (Isaiah 42:9).

Sometimes the Lord deliberately severs our roots to pull us out of the hardened soil of the familiar that prevents us from stretching and growing to our full potential. As maturing Christians, let's not allow memories to become ponderous anchors for our life ships to hold us back from sailing over the wide ocean of what God has prepared for us. The only reason to pay attention to our past is to recount God's blessings.

When we leave a broken relationship behind, precious though it may have been—or painful—just over the horizon may be a surprising new relationship. A broken job or broken health may motivate us to unfold wings we've never tried before. Broken things are part of God's intensive care for us. He intends them for our good.

God's marching order regarding broken things is, "One thing I do: forgetting what lies behind and reaching forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus" (Philippians 3:13,14).


Lord, broken things hurt!

I have broken roots:

Places of my early years

have changed;

they don't look the same,

and I'm a stranger there.

No one remembers my name.

I can't fit in anywhere.

Friends of my youth are gone,

displaced, or Moved On;

ties of the past

are broken by time,

erased by circumstance.

I have broken branches:

Young ones are out the door

to live no more under my care,

no longer needing me,

and starting another family tree.

They grow their own branches

which seem to me

even more fragile than mine.

I feel broken:

There was a time

when I was somebody

known in the gates,

called upon, leaned upon.

Now I feel fractured,

shattered, useless.

I don't rhyme with anyone and

I'm out of rhythm with the times,

with the new world out there

that doesn't care

who I was or am.

Lord, You too were broken:

Your heart and body were

broken for me like bread

that You multiplied

when many were fed.

You feel the same infirmity

that touches me.

Help me to learn Your ways:

Whatever You allow

to be broken now

makes room for the new

to spring into view;

You uproot the familiar

to reveal broader horizons;

You shift a relationship

to stretch my reach;

You change my role in life

to prompt fresh bonding.

Because You love me,

You sever that which chains

me to the common,

the habitual and accustomed.

I accept Your way

for with the broken things

You give my spirit wings!


(Excerpt from Leona’s book-in-progress BROKEN ON PURPOSE)

Wednesday, September 10, 2008


LIFE seems to have a heavy foot on the accelerator. Each year, each month, each day passes more quickly as one grows older. Youth is in a hurry to mature; children are pushed too soon into adolescence. The “centerfold” of mid-life, thought to be the prime time, evaporates too rapidly. The media substitutes sound bites and video clips for in-depth reporting.

As Christians, are we allowing the world around us to set our pace? Do we feel as if we are navigating blindfolded in treacherous whitewater with dangerous rocky shoals around us in the rapid, frothy flow with a roaring waterfall ahead of us?

I came across a thoughtful paraphrase of Psalm 23. Credit goes to a Japanese writer, Tokio Megashie.


I shall not rush.

He makes me stop for quiet intervals,

He provides me with images of stillness

which restore my serenity.

He leads me in ways of efficiency

through calmness of mind

and His guidance is peace.

Even though I have a great many things

to accomplish each day,

I will not fret,

for His Presence is here.

His timelessness, His all importance,

will keep me in balance.

He prepares refreshment and renewal

in the midst of my activity.

By anointing my mind with His oils of tranquility

my cup of joyous energy overflows.

Truly, harmony and effectiveness shall be

the fruits of my hours,

For I shall walk in the Pace of my Lord

and dwell in His House forever.


Friday, September 5, 2008


A TV ad for a certain brand of mattress points out that many of us living in these hectic pace times are sleep deprived. We often get six or less hours of sleep whether in “Motel 6” (pun intended) or on the home turf of our own bedrooms. The point of the commercial is that with their brand of mattress, we will get “a better six.” Perhaps there are alternatives.

I agree about the six or less sleep hours. At this latter season of my life, my sleep pattern is weird. Something, I suppose, which I have in common with my other aging friends. In my youth I often “slept the clock around” as my frustrated mother viewed it. At the same time, I prefer to think my wakefulness may have something to do with what the Lord wants to do with or through me.

Here’s my pattern: No matter when I go to bed, I sleep soundly only for the first several hours (my vivid dream time). I seldom sleep beyond 3 a.m. or so–I’m simply wakeful after that—not necessarily stressed or anxious or worried about anything—just awake. This is not the sleep pattern I would choose! But I accept the deviation from the norm and stay snuggled in bed in a sort of twilight zone. My spirit is awake while my body is resting, kind of relaxed and only semi-conscious. I’ve discovered that it can be a sweet, intimate time to worship and adore the Lord and draw closer to Him. Why waste those precious hours that could belong uniquely to the Lord?

Gradually I’m learning to use that half-dozing time to open myself to hear God’s voice: “Here I am, Lord. Speak, for Your servant is listening” like Samuel in the Old Testament account was told to respond in the middle of the night when he heard God call him. I’ve figured out that God may be stirring me awake or keeping me awake and subdued and docile so He can have my undivided attention. Daylight hours are too noisy with activity to hear Him clearly. He “speaks” by impressing my heart, not audibly through my ears.

I’m learning to allow the Holy Spirit to bring to my mind and my spirit whomever or whatever He wants me to pray for—even out of the blue. So I let my spirit gently float around. I call it “butterfly praying.” Sometimes with words, often only with silence and peace. Sometimes my spirit prays in mental prayer. Other times I only mention names, or recall faces, near and far, those living in heaven and those on earth. I don’t think it’s important for me to know exactly how to pray for someone. I do pray specifically for those who have shared their needs and asked me to pray. I lift up to God those who have touched my life in some way, by some encounter during that day.

I don't necessarily remember my night praying after I rise in the morning. I leave my intercession in the hands of God and trust Him to answer according to His perfect will and time. In contrast to tossing and turning restlessly trying to force sleep and ending up feeling exhausted, I don’t feel sleep deprived if I’ve invested my wakeful night hours in this way. Whether or not I had my usual six hours, as a rule I try to leave the house at 6:30 a.m. for daily Mass. A bit tough in the winter while it’s still dark, but what joy to meet Jesus Christ at the Table of the Lord as He invited and commanded, “This do in remembrance of Me.”


Thursday, September 4, 2008


Not too long ago, many of us were not sure where Kuwait was. The first Gulf war spotlighted it. A generation or so ago, mostly poor Bedouin tent dwellers inhabited that tiny country. Sheep and goat herders, they were impoverished and pathetic. As if things weren’t bad enough, they noticed that their water source had become contaminated. Their meager livelihood was threatened.

They complained, "If only there wasn't oil in the water of our wells and rivers, our animals could drink safely and we could survive." That was before they found out the incredible value of that nuisance oil that lay beneath the surface of the sand. Their discovery made them among the richest people in the world. Splendid palaces now replace dilapidated tents.

What is our "if only" complaint?

If only my circumstances had been different. . . .

If only I had been born of different parents. . . .

If only I had received more education. . . .

If only I had such and such talent or ability. . . .

If only I had married someone else. . . .

If only my children had turned out better. . . .

If only I had chosen a different job or career. . . .

If only I could change my location. . . .

If only I could be young again and start over. . . .

The grass always looks greener somewhere else. The Lord promised to lead His children "in green pastures" (Psalm 23) but perhaps the desert of our present life doesn't look much like a palm-treed oasis. Other people always seem to get the breaks.

Have we given serious thought and prayer to the fact that the oil in our water source may be there for some wonderful purpose of God? For our good? We are where we are and who we are because God planned it that way. What we think is a hindrance, an obstacle, a stone of stumbling, may be a stepping stone for some opportunity that we have yet to see.

Our response as Christians to our circumstances is the key to finding the oil beneath the sand of our personal desert. We may be looking no further than the smelly sheep and goats of our humdrum daily lives. God, on the other hand, may have spiritual oil derricks in mind whereby we could not only experience victory in our own lives over our adverse circumstances, but we could point others to our source of strength in Christ.

Let’s look over the sandy desert of our lives today. It is, after all, a matter of outlook and vision. Why not let God open our eyes to see our "green pastures and still waters" without our moving anywhere else or changing our circumstances? The Lord might have exciting surprises for us in the very situation where He has put us!


(Excerpt from Leona Choys book LIVING IT UP, Meditations for Seasoned Saints)

Wednesday, September 3, 2008


Three-stage Progression

In my evangelical years, I frankly never came across a Christian who crossed over the faith median and became Catholic. I met many, however, who had gone the other way—Catholics who became evangelicals. Nearly all churches were peppered with them. I thought the flow was going only in one direction. It is common knowledge now that converts to Catholicism are escalating in numbers across the world, many from the clergy ranks of Protestant churches. Stories and books of their paradigm shifts are readily available.

Every journey for Protestants into the Catholic Church is unique. Each comes to the door with a distinctive backpack. Some people initially kick at the door in criticism and argument. Others may knock tentatively to find out what is really behind it. Some make as if to pass by unconcerned but are drawn through the door in spite of themselves.

Yet there is some similarity of progression for most converts that lies just under the surface. Gilbert Keith Chesterton (1874-1936), a famous late in life convert to Catholicism, wrote brilliantly about what he viewed as three phases of conversion. This seems fairly typical of many converts; I can identify as well. The exception would be those who are truly adversarial and resistant, who would be happy to bring the Church down.

Chesterton writes: “The convert commonly passes through three stages or states of mind. The first stage is when he imagines himself to be entirely detached . . . [like] the young philosopher who feels that he ought to be fair to the Church of Rome. He wishes to do it justice; but chiefly because he sees that it suffers injustice . . . I [Chesterton] had no more idea of becoming a Catholic than of becoming a cannibal. I imagined that I was merely pointing out that justice should be done even to cannibals . . . .

The second stage is that in which the convert begins to be conscious not only of the falsehood but the truth . . . . It consists in discovering what a very large number of lively and interesting ideas there are in the Catholic philosophy . . . .This process, which may be called ‘discovering the Catholic Church,” is perhaps the most pleasant and straightforward part of the business . . . .It is like discovering a new continent full of strange flowers and fantastic animals, which is at once wild and hospitable . . . .It is these numberless glimpses of great ideas that have been hidden from the convert by the prejudices of his provincial culture, that constitute the adventurous and varied second stage of the conversion. It is, broadly speaking, the stage in which the man is unconsciously trying to be converted . . . .

The third stage is perhaps . . . the most terrible. It is that in which the man is trying not to be converted . . . . He is filled with a sort of fear . . . . He discovers a strange and alarming fact . . . a truth that Newman and every other convert has probably found in one form or another. It is impossible to be just [fair or unbiased] to the Catholic Church. The moment men cease to pull against it they feel a tug towards it. The moment they cease to shout it down they begin to listen to it with pleasure. The moment they try to be fair to it they begin to be fond of it . . . .

“All steps except the last step, he has taken eagerly on his own account, out of interest in the truth . . . . I for one was never less troubled by doubts than in the last phase, when I was troubled by fears. Before that final delay I had been detached and ready to regard all sorts of doctrines with an open mind . . . . I had no doubts or difficulties just before this point. I had only fears; fears of something that had the finality and simplicity of suicide . . . . It may be that I shall never again have such absolute assurance that the thing is true as I had when I made my last effort to deny it . . . .

“At the last moment of all, the convert often feels as if . . . he is looking through a little crack or crooked hole that seems to grow smaller as he stares at it; but it is an opening that looks towards the Altar. Only, when he has entered the Church, does he find that the Church is much larger inside than it is outside . . . .

“There is generally an interval of intense nervousness . . . . To a certain extent it is a fear which attaches to all sharp and irrevocable decisions; it is suggested in all the old jokes about the shakiness of the bridegroom at the wedding . . . . He wonders whether the whole business is an extraordinarily intelligent and ingenious confidence trick . . . . There is in the last second of time or hair's breadth of space, before the iron leaps to the magnet, an abyss full of all the unfathomable forces of the universe . . . . That anything described as so bad should turn out to be so good is itself a rather arresting process having a savor of something sensational and strange . . . .” (The Catholic Church and Conversion, New York: Macmillan, 1926, 57-66)

The Church which Jesus clearly established as recorded in the Bible, being the destined and prepared home of all mankind, isn't simply a human construct for me to decide for or against by my human reason alone. It is not up to any puny man to come to a conclusion about her claims—such as we might about a new scientific theory. Chesterton’s observations totally resonated with me. He described my journey! The minute I stopped being unjust to the Church, she began drawing me with the supernatural powers of the Holy Spirit.

I take a glance in the rear view mirror. In my case, I first set out to dig for the truth about the Church in order to undermine the decision of a fellow Protestant friend who turned Catholic. A shameful motive I admit, although underlying that, I sincerely wanted to rescue my friend from what I perceived as theological error. In the process, I tried at first to be fair to the Church by investigating her claims firsthand. That was also a matter of pride; I wanted to prove my own ability and reasoning powers. Gradually, after diligent research and prayer, weighing every Catholic doctrine against Scripture with the hope that I would find it defective, I did a turnabout. I started to defend her claims. I can’t pinpoint exactly when I crossed over my personal median. After that, the supernatural magnet of the Holy Spirit began to draw me through the door in spite of myself.

The rest, as they say, is history.


(The above is an excerpt from Chapter 6 of Leona Choy’s book-in-progress JOURNEY TO THE LAND OF MORE)