Monday, November 1, 2010

How can I bless the Lord?

I thought blessing was to be done by God upon us.

Barak is the Hebrew word for bless, what God does for man, and is used about 330 times in the Bible. It implies that God is conferring or granting the power of advantage on someone. It is used by a superior bestowing his favor on a lesser. Blessing denotes prosperity in every way, certainly not limited to material substance.

When used by Jesus in the Sermon on the Mount in Matthew 5, the Amplified Bible expands it: “Blessed—happy, to be envied, and spiritually prosperous [that is, with life-joy and satisfaction in God’s favor and salvation, regardless of their outward conditions]; [that is, possessing the happiness produced by experience of God’s favor and especially conditioned by the revelation of His grace].

I understand the concept when God is the one doing the blessing. But bless is also used by man toward God, as in Psalm 103. “Bless the Lord, O my soul, and all that is within me, bless His holy name.” How can I bless the blessed who already has everything? Used in this way it is an expression of praise mingled with Thanksgiving, of extolling, celebrating, lauding, reverencing, venerating, honoring, lifting up, magnifying, glorifying, as in Neh. 9:5. In repeated passages in Revelation it is used as the declaration of the angels, the elders, the living creatures as in 7:12, “Amen, blessing and glory and wisdom and Thanksgiving and honor and power and might, be to our God forever and ever. Amen.”

This is so exciting! Praise and thanksgiving and worship and blessing are all activities that I can carry over from earth right into the presence of God! I can experience them here, genuinely rehearse them, and I’ll be all practiced up for heaven.

I bless God whenever I come into His presence in prayer. I give Him pleasure each time we meet. I can be sure His face is shining upon me, that He will be gracious to me when I worship Him in spirit and in truth, when I praise Him, when I lift Him up, and glorify Him. This is such a vital part of prayer. If I come into His presence only with a “gimme-gimme” attitude it surely can’t please Him, any more than a demanding child receives favor from a parent whom he regards simply as a bestower of things desired. It is not that I am “buttering up” God so that He’ll give me what I ask. Blessing God, worshiping, praising Him must be the sincere overflow of my heart, loving on Him. Meeting God in prayer is first of all a love tryst. He loves me, I love Him. Plain and simple, that is what prayer is all about.

To assist me with the appropriate words to celebrate God, I went through the book of Revelation and copied verbatim every passage where any occupant of heaven was blessing, praising, worshiping God. What a precious, rich, and authentic Book of Worship I now have whenever I enter into His courts with praise! If I come into His presence in a less than uplifted mood, blessing the Lord is a lifter of my head and heart. God loves it, I know, and inclines His ear, because “He inhabits the praises of His people.”

When I praise and worship God, guess who doesn’t want to be around? The devil, who hates to hear me glorify God. That was his downfall originally—he was the worship leader in heaven, and wanted to deflect the glory away from God to himself. The more I bless God, the more the devil will distance himself!



I should sensitively follow God’s leading who or what to pray for. Sometimes He interrupts my customary prayer agenda and has me pray for someone or something else. Perhaps someone or something I haven’t even thought about.

I shouldn’t box in the Holy Spirit but let Him rise up within me and “pray aright.” He may lead me here and there in my praying. It is so exciting! Some call it “butterfly praying.” Jesus said that the Holy Spirit is our Helper in prayer, “to bring things to our remembrance.” I should let Him help me by directing my praying precisely to His ordained target, causing my prayers to alight, like a butterfly, upon some specific person or need because “[the Spirit] knows the mind of the Father” (Rom. 8:26-28).

The Lord wants to use me as a channel of prayer, to literally pray through me. The Holy Spirit knows precisely what God wants to happen and wants me to be obediently attentive to listen and respond to His leading. His creative ways are endless. The key is my obedience in prayer. It isn’t that I have to be such a super-spiritual person in order to hear the promptings of the Holy Spirit, or that it requires some mystical experience or vision. I’m qualified simply because I’m a believer, one of His chosen ones, through whom He wants to administer His will and His blessings to others.

The Holy Spirit wants to “hover over” (Greek: rachaph) move upon, brood over, birth something in someone, to release His power somewhere upon someone or some situation. And I have the privilege of cooperating with Him! Isn’t that awesome? What a wonderful reason to keep coming to the Lord in prayer to be His instrument!

I should retain my attentiveness to the Holy Spirit’s promptings throughout my day, not only during my quiet time. As I keep my mind and heart and thoughts centered upon the Lord, at any time He can impress me to pray for someone or something “out of the blue” [literally!]. I should be bold to step out in prayer to respond and obey His inner voice. I may never know the outcome of my prayer, but that’s OK. I’ve been obedient. With practice and experience I will become more and more sensitive to God’s voice. Jesus said, “My sheep know My voice and they follow Me” (John 10:4)



It is not unusual for those of us in advancing years to be scheduled for a stress test in the hospital including treadmill, heart monitor, EKG, and nuclear imaging. I’ve had that experience several times. The point of such medical procedures is to see if one’s heart gives the right response with a steady, regular heartbeat when stretched to the limit. The tests are not comfortable and push us beyond what we thought we could endure. Sometimes it is discovered that there is something blocking normal channels of the heart.

Stress and pressure in our lives is usually built up over time, although the onset of trouble may seem sudden. Blood pressure tends to increase gradually. As we age, there are different kinds of pressures—interior and exterior, self-imposed or circumstantial—which affect our well-being. Our hearts and circulatory system become sluggish, and often an irregular heartbeat develops, as in my case. Sometimes the condition is benign, sometimes more serious and medication is required. As time goes on, eventually a pacemaker may be implanted to assist normal function.

There are spiritual parallels. The Lord allows situations to test us on the treadmill of life to see if our spiritual hearts respond correctly under pressure. Some things may be blocking our normal responses to His voice and hindering the completion with joy of the course in life that God has appointed for us. Cares of this world, prolonged illness, relationship pressures, and multiple sufferings beset us. Such conditions may result in a breakdown in physical health as well as spiritual health. We notice fatigue in both areas; we can’t keep up the pace of life as we age. Our energy is depleted, particularly through our increasing limitations. Second Corinthians 4:16-18 notifies us, in case we are in doubt, that “our outer person is decaying [wasting away]” because we all are “earthen vessels made of clay.” We feel broken, run down, tired, used up, and physically and spiritually listless.

Just as we are given medication to restore physical normalcy, most of us whose pace is irregular need some assistance to regain the normal, regular function of our spiritual hearts. It is essential for our inner person, our spiritual infrastructure, to be renewed day by day. This refreshing comes from the Spirit of God as we seek God’s presence daily, from the Sacraments and the Mass, and from the Word of God all of which nourish our souls.

GOD, The Divine Pacemaker, is always available to mend our spiritual hearts and restore His pace for our final days. As we focus on Him, looking unto Him as the “Author and FINISHER” of our faith, and Finisher of our life course, He infuses sufficient strength for those Last Miles of our earthly journey. As the old hymn goes, “He giveth more grace as the burdens grow greater....” The assistance may also come through friends who pray and care for and encourage us, cheer us on, and bear us up when we are flying low. Thank God for The Body of Christ, the Household of Faith!


Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Number Your Days

(I signed up to receive a daily e-mail devotional from Joni Eareckson Tada.

Today’s thought by Joni is below.
My comment and poem on a similar Scripture verse follows. Leona Choy)

"Teach us to number our days aright, that we may gain a heart of

- Psalm 90:12
I have this habit of numbering my days: When I wake up in the morning,

I make a point of thinking, "Lord, this day is worth a thousand years of
eternity and that means that the people I meet, the letters I write, the
conversations I have... these all have value in Your sight. Teach me to
measure each moment."

I haven't cultivated this habit overnight. Because of all the things to be
counted, this is the hardest - to number our days. We number everything
else so easily. We know how much money we have in our purse and how
many dollars in the bank. Farmers number their sheep and cattle.
Restaurants number meals served in a week. Teachers check off
attendance records. Gardeners can tell you how many tomato plants
are in the backyard.

Yet we find it hard to number something so precious as our days.
Perhaps that's because we see our days stretching on and on. They
seem infinite and so there is no need, we think, to number them. Things
we fail to account for, we waste. That's why it is wise to ask God to
teach us to consider each day separate from the next, distinct in its
purpose, unique in the way it is to be lived.

James 4:14 says, "What is your life? You are a mist that appears for
a little while and then vanishes." And if we need another reminder,
Isaiah 40:6-7 says, "All men are like grass. The grass withers and the
flowers fall, because the breath of the Lord blows on them. Surely the
people are grass." When we finally arrive in heaven, we will be surprised
by many things, but nothing will amaze us more than how short life on
earth really was.

  You have written this day in Your book, Lord, so teach me to spend it

wisely for Your glory.
 Joni and Friends 
Taken from Diamonds in the Dust. Copyright © 1993 by Joni Eareckson Tada.

Used by permission. Zondervan Publishing House, Grand Rapids, Michigan 49530

Children learn to paint by filling in numbers that correspond to colors on a canvas stamped with a pre-printed image. The result appears to be a masterpiece painted by a novice—however, a gifted artist designed it beforehand to make it easy for the beginner.

“Lord, however many years You will grant me to live, I’ll always be Your child. Forgive me for being so presumptuous to demand anything from Your generous, loving heart. I surrender myself to do Your will and fulfill the purpose for which You gave me life and opportunity and sufficient number of days and years to paint a masterpiece for You. I am content to “paint by number” for Your glory according to Your predestined plan and time until You are pleased to call my painting “Finished!”


Leona Choy

"God, I demand a canvas big enough

on which to paint all my ambitions.

Make it a durable piece of cloth.

Provide me with a spacious studio.

I require a complete spectrum of colors.

And I must have quality oil paints.

Plenty of time is essential

to accomplish my life's masterpiece."

Instead, God provided me a fragile easel,

a small palette of primary water colors,

and confined me to a cramped room

without a sure promise

that I'd even have threescore and ten years

in which to emblazon my dreams

on a miniature, disposable canvas.

"That isn't fair, God!" I complained.

He answered my arrogant presumption:

"My Beloved Son, in only thirty-three years

in an obscure corner of an oppressed land

among hostile people and misunderstanding friends

without media blitz and modern tech assistance

reconciled heaven and earth

interpreted Eternity to man

and declared, 'IT IS FINISHED!'"

I fell as His feet ashamed of my impertinence.

"Lord of my days! Accept my praise

for whatever You grant me in this life.

Help me understand Your perfect plan

for mortal man—and for me.

I will accept joyfully and soberly

both my limitations and opportunities.

So teach me to number my days

that I might apply my heart

unto wisdom and learn

to paint by their number.”


Tuesday, August 31, 2010


My longtime friend, now blind, lives in a nursing home and recently suffered a stroke which affects her sleep. A relative helped her try to speak on the phone to me last Sunday. It was recorded on my Caller I.D., but I couldn’t understand her. If I write her, someone must read the letter to her. I just happily found out that I can communicate by e-mail with the relative who will convey my message. Thank You, Lord, for creating cyberspace so that precious Emily and I can connect our spirits and bond in the love of Jesus! You may read over my shoulder….

Hello Emily,

I think of you so often and pray for you when I pray for many of my friends our age who live in care facilities. God is with each one of you "all day long" as King David said in the Psalms so many times. And dozens of times David reminded us that during the night time God is especially close to us. Perhaps night time is difficult for you? "His song will be with me in the night" and we are to meditate on Him "with my heart and my spirit." "Let them sing for joy on their beds."

Well, Emily, that probably doesn't mean out loud, does it? We might disturb others. But you and I know how to "sing" in our spirits, mentally, without a sound, and the Lord hears our praises to Him perfectly clear and loud. The apostle Paul calls it “making melody in your heart to the Lord.”

I know how much you love the old hymns and have stored them in your memory. It doesn’t matter anymore whether you can see a hymnbook, does it? Sing them mentally all night long especially when you wake up and can't go back to sleep. Because you have temporarily lost your eyesight (only until you see God face to face), you told me once over the phone that it doesn’t matter whether it is daytime or nighttime anymore—it is always dark for you. But you have God's Light shining brightly in your Spirit. Jesus said He was the Light of the world—no one can put that Light out or Him turn off. There is a verse somewhere in the Bible that says, "darkness and light are alike unto Thee." You know that's true.

Here's something we did when we were young, maybe you did too. When we gathered in Church or someone’s home for what we called “Singspiration,” we took turns suggesting favorite hymns. When we finished singing the last phrase of one hymn stanza, we let the theme or a word remind us of another hymn, and then we started to sing that one. And so on and on, caboosing one hymn after another. Try that for endless praises to our God and it will be a "sweet, sweet sound in His ear," as a modern chorus reminds us.

I will write you again, Emily. "May the Lord bless you and keep you and be gracious unto you, may He lift up His countenance upon you, cause His face to shine upon you (that means smile at you, Emily—you can't SEE His smile, but you can FEEL the warm glow of it, can't you?)—and may He give you His peace."

I love you and Jesus loves you more than you will ever know, until your faith becomes SIGHT and you SEE Him in the intense brightness of His glory for Eternity.

Your friend, Leona


Saturday, August 28, 2010


Someone said that never having to say "I'm sorry" is the definition of true love--or friendship? I think it's just the opposite; to say "I'm sorry" is the test of love and friendship.

I failed that test yesterday. I asked God and my friend for forgiveness and the chance for a re-take test today.

My missionary friend Trudy (not her real name) asked in her recent letter for prayer that her pet dog, Claudus, (not its real name) would lose 3 pounds to qualify for the regulations on the airlines as it accompanied her back and forth to her continuing overseas assignment. I wrote her, without intending offense, that I didn't think God wanted me to make it my priority intercession to pray for a dog when I committed to pray for her mission work.

"I pray for the human aspects of your work, for you, your co-workers, and the people whom you are seeking to draw to Christ. But as much as I have always loved animals and my children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren have pets, I have a hard time to pray for the diet of Claudus and the money it must take for his trans-Pacific ticket each flight. Nothing personal, just considering your request in the grand scheme of things Eternal. Your friend and prayer partner."

Oh, my goodness, how inappropriately sanctimonious and prideful I must have come across! I wasn't walking in her shoes; I didn't know the circumstances of her need and jumped to wrong conclusions when I shouldn't have jumped at all. There is a time to speak and a time to be quiet!

Trudy so graciously and gently answered me today with the background of her request. She is my age, 85. We were college classmates, and as a lifelong missionary administrator she could have and was certainly eligible to have retired 20 years ago, but she was still giving valuable professional and spiritual service to her mission in Asia. Moreover, she was responsible for an invalid sister in a nursing home in this country, so she had to shuttle back and forth overseas twice a year to discharge both sides of her commitment. Friends and co-workers in both countries had been unable to help care for Claudus during her absences because of their own responsibilities, illnesses, living circumstances, and other valid and complicated reasons, despite her best efforts to make arrangements for his care. She admitted to feeling awkward asking for prayer about her dog; lately, a friend who was caring for her dog had overfed him. At the same time, she was concerned that the situation might be an attack of the Enemy to distract her from her work for God's Kingdom.

Trudy never married and devoted her entire life to serve the Lord. She didn't have the loving, close, support of family relationships, of husband and children, that those of us who married had. Claudus had been a gift from co-workers not only for her loving companionship, but as a faithful guard dog since she lives alone. Walking her dog forces her to get the exercise she needs for some of her physical challenges. Oh, I could certainly empathize with her.

Now I understood the size and fit of the shoes she wore as she gave beyond-the-call-of-duty sacrificial service to God under difficult circumstances coupled with her aging and health limitations. My heart reached out to her. How quickly I tried to humble myself and express my "Sorry" for words misdirected!

"Trudy, please forgive me for speaking out of turn. Of course I will pray for your dilemma concerning Claudus because this may, as you suggest, be a tactic of the Enemy to distract you from faithfully pursuing at your age (at OUR age) the fulfillment of your calling. That's what I want to do in the latter years of my life. Yes, it may also be a test of your obedience to the Lord and trust in His providence in all things great and small. May the Lord give you His wisdom and common sense and make a way for you where there does not seem to be a way."

And God, help me to learn well my lesson not to judge anyone else's pathway of life and the shoes God has assigned them for their journey.


Friday, August 27, 2010

Who is my neighbor?

In this self-centered society in which we live, with its insulation from one another because of social networking sites online where everyone pursues his own high-tech individual pursuits, it would seem that we don’t have time or occasion to know our neighbors face to face. People who live in high-rise beehive apartments in urban areas put multiple locks and chains on their doors and often don’t speak to people who live down the hall in their own “cells” behind closed doors. Fear of strangers often pulls them into seclusion.

Even when people live, as I do, in a more relaxed suburban development of quiet, five acre wooded lots and on a cul-du-sac, we might be hard pressed to name the people who live within sight of our own driveway. If we walk for exercise, as I do, we may know the canines and felines who live behind fences or electrified borders of well-manicured lawns. However, we may know little about the needs and problems of the people who own the pets.

We are all so busy in the particular orbit of our routine lives that knowing our neighbors doesn’t even make it to our list of priorities. Until an emergency vehicle speeds by, and then we may wonder to whose house it is headed. As it did last week.

In my private prayer each morning I ask of God, "This day bring into my life everything and everyone whomever You choose--in person, by letter, e-mail, phone call, thought, impression, prayer, event, or in the course of my responsibilities or circumstances for today. Since they are filtered through Your perfect will, interruptions and changes are not accidental or incidental. They are my opportunities and Your appointments for my good and for Your glory. Please give me good sense to avoid all those other good things to do or be concerned about, or those over which I have no control, which are not Your "main thing" for me, and which would take my time away from Your priorities for me. Help me avoid them and leave them gratefully in Your hands."

Someone has said that people may come into our lives for a season but always for a reason. I've tried to live by the principal that God brings someone into the orbit of my life either to contribute something good to me, or that I may build something good into his or her life.

She came to my door one morning. My neighborhood friend. We had had some contacts through the years but we were not close. Sometimes we met on our exercise walk along our quiet street. She asked if she could talk to me and of course I welcomed her warmly. She had deep emotional problems coupled with some serious but not life-threatening physical challenges which had thrown her into dark depression. A beautiful woman 25 years my junior was despairing that she had nothing left to live for. I asked if I might pray for her and she consented. We hugged and shared some tears, but I felt some barrier, some unseen, seemingly insurmountable struggle that I couldn't penetrate. I assured her I was there for her and suggested we talk again soon.

I had a busy week or two and didn't follow up our encounter, although I remembered to pray for her, my neighborhood friend.

Last week while working at my computer, I was startled to see through the window several rescue emergency vehicles speeding by. Where could they be headed?

An hour later I received a phone call.

My neighborhood friend had taken her own life!

In the throes of my own deep emotional shock, I took it personally. I went over and over a roster of "what ifs" and was overwhelmed with thoughts that I could have done more but didn't do so, didn't see this coming, and now it was too late.

I beat myself up about the tragic choice my neighbor made. I didn't turn her away in her time of need but I didn't reach out further to her.

Her choice was so, so sad, but I have to accept that it was ultimately her choice. I have to leave her to God and trust Him and pray for her immortal soul. I believe that God's incredibly generous mercy and forgiving love covers such happenings when a person's reason is clouded by depression. I must realize that to focus on "I could have done more" is not always amenable to rational argument.

But where did I miss God's guidance? Or did I? I know I can't go there. I can't turn back the clock. So there--I guess I needed to lay it all out and now I have to lay it all down at the foot of Jesus' cross. I must move on and pray henceforth to become more sensitive, more discerning, to let God show me "Who is my neighbor?" and what He would have me do and say and pray.


Friday, August 20, 2010


Every time I have a need for prayer helpers I send an S.O.S. to certain friends whom I call my “Praying Eagles.” Sometimes it’s by e-mail, sometimes by phone, sometimes it is through face to face encounters. Many of them don’t know one another and live scattered across the country; but they know me. I may not even have met some of them personally. But in Christ they love me and I love them.

When they have a need for prayer help, they feel free to call on me too. Sometimes it is another member of our Lord's Body who is sick or suffering or needy in some way—someone whom most of us may not even know. (1 Cor. 12:26) But we beseech our Heavenly Father in the Name of Jesus to show His mercy and love and healing, if that be His will, on behalf of that person or that situation we have been asked to pray about.

We lift each other up, if we are DOWN. Likewise, when one of us is UP and rejoicing in some blessing or grace, we celebrate together with that brother or sister. We rejoice again when a prayer is answered, often “exceedingly, abundantly above what we can ask or even think.” This prayer fellowship extends “across the aisle” of our particular Christian faith persuasions. If we are one in Christ, we are part of one another. The apostle Paul encouraged us to “bear one another’s burdens and so fulfill the law [of love] of Christ.”

Some Christians are reluctant or shy to ask anyone else to pray for their needs; they keep their burdens to themselves. They are very private people and I respect their reticence. Also, their particular Christian faith persuasion might not provide a background or experience for such personal sharing. Cultural differences also hold some folks back. I believe they are missing something particularly precious. I encourage them to avail themselves of the joy and privilege of our Body Life in Christ!

God doesn't get tired of our asking Him for help; He hears every prayer we lift up to Him. So we shouldn’t get weary of praying for each other either. Of course, God hears His precious child when he or she prays alone. And when two or three gather in His Name, Jesus has promised to be in the midst of us. He doesn’t require a multitude of people to pray for a need before He will hear and answer. When more of us join together in prayer, it is not a "class action suit" to try to influence God with our sheer numbers to do what we ask Him. We must always ask only that His will might be done. We should not be presumptive to demand a specific answer. He is God and we are not. Only He sees the big picture.

Our Heavenly Father must surely be pleased, however, with our close and loving "Family relationships" which lead us to pray together in agreement even when we are scattered in different locations when we pray for someone's need. God transcends space and time.

Each of us may cultivate his own circle of “praying eagles.” We don’t need to be formal about it. Among our friends and brothers and sisters in our church fellowship we should soon be able to discern those who genuinely love to pray and have compassionate hearts. We flock together naturally because we are "one in the spirit and one in the Lord."


Monday, July 5, 2010


”SILENT CAR, HOLY DRIVE, ALL IS CALM, STRESS ASIDE….” (My mobile version of “Silent Night)

That’s right. I’m leaving my car radio OFF on my drive to daily Mass and while driving around town for appointments and errands. That’s my new routine since I returned from a weekend retreat of Silent Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. That weekend was quite a new adventure for this still recent Catholic convert; I never participated in a silent group experience before. It took some getting used to, but then I began to appreciate it. I realized how much I have been missing spiritually by filling up any time slot with some kind of auditory blast and blare!

God speaks in the silence, if we will only listen. "Silence might be a fearful thing to modern man," stated Pope Benedict XVI recently. He encourages us, "Accept interior and exterior silence, so as to be able to hear God's voice, and the voices of our neighbors."

Sometimes God has to calm us down, lay us aside, isolate us, quiet us (yes, shut us up!) even require us to stop praying in order to get our attention. He may already have answered those prayers, but we are too busy buzzing around to be aware of His work in our inner life.

Jesus told us to go into our closet when we pray, to come alone, and shut the door. I don’t think they had clothes closets with doors in Jesus’ day. We need to interpret it in our current cultural milieu. In my case, my closet is my Chrysler and it has four doors. I drive mostly alone. My auto is now my mobile sanctuary and adoration chapel.

It would seem that Jesus meant we should lay aside attachments when we go into our inner chamber where “God sees in secret.” During that silent retreat, I became keenly aware of how many attachments to things of this world and secular life styles and material cares I still hugged to myself even while seeking holiness and spiritual progress. I’m working on specific negative attachments that I seem to cling to or they easily cling to me. We commonly work on such attachments in Lent, but it should be an on-going awareness that draws us to the sacrament of Reconciliation.

One of my attachments was that I always switched on my car radio to a talk news station for the duration of my commute to whatever destination, especially to Mass, a trip that normally takes 15 minutes. The endless raucous news chatter was certainly no preparation for my appointment to meet Jesus in the Eucharist. It had become an attachment bordering on an addiction.

My sacrifice, which really was no sacrifice at all, was simply to open my mobile “closet,” shut my driver’s side door, buckle my seat belt, and not reach over to turn the radio on. This may sound inconsistent with my position as president of a Christian radio station that plays predominately Christian music. Nevertheless, leaving the radio off included not tuning in to our music station either.

How sweet is the silence! The only button I press is to notify God, “Here I am, Lord. Your servant is listening to You.” My ears aren’t bombarded with the cacophony of the world’s concerns, and my heart is not stressed with the calamities of politics or the earth’s catastrophes—at least just for the time being.

Mostly I lift my heart into the heavenlies in Christ Jesus, as the apostle Paul bids us in Ephesians. I simply ask the Lord what is on His mind for me for the day; then I listen. When a personal need or someone’s name or intention drifts into my mind, by mental prayer I merely “mention it” to God. It wings its way into His holy presence and He takes care of it.

“DRIVE IN HEAVENLY PEACE…RIDE IN HEAVENLY PEACE” to conclude my mobile adaptation of the familiar Christmas carol. Try it—you’ll like it! I liked it so well that I have left my car radio off indefinitely.


See my previous post, SEEKING SLICES OF SILENCE March 2010.


Monday, June 28, 2010


Whenever my late husband Ted left on a ministry trip out of town or out of the country, those were his parting words. He claimed that each time he returned, if at night, he’d have to put on all the lights so he wouldn’t stumble over my latest urge to change-around the furniture.

They say that opposites attract. My husband was a “Just leave it where it is!” person. I’m a changer at heart. I love change—any kind of change. I always did.

“That chair might look better over there.” or “Why not put the table by the window?” Or “Let’s try the sofa against the other wall.” “Let’s drive a different route home.” “Wait till you taste this new recipe.” Anything for something different. I thrive on it.

My family knows my idiosyncrasy well. They got together and presented me with a surprise gift when I moved into my current house—a box of dozens of plastic cylinders of various sizes that have one shiny, slippery side and one sort of spongy side. They are meant to put under the legs of furniture so you can shove it around on the carpeting with hardly a push no matter how heavy the pieces may be. I am delighted! I’ve tried about every arrangement of furniture imaginable…oh, not quite. “Let’s try the recliner over there….”

I guess God knew what He was doing when He added the love of change to my DNA. I’ve traveled and lived and ministered in many places in the world; I’ve had to constantly adapt to new cultures and situations and people. Mt flexibility was an asset. Late in life I made the most major faith change imaginable by becoming Catholic and compounding the changes in every aspect of my life and my relationships—and the lives of others, too. That change, however, was not for variety but for fullness and stability and my integrity.

Whether we like change or not, all of us will encounter changes throughout our lives. Changes are inevitable, continuous, and lifelong—whether physical, emotional, mental, spiritual, geographical, or circumstantial. There is nothing as certain as change. It often hits us like a ton of bricks when we least expect it.

As much as I like material change-arounds, something within me is apprehensive of life’s intangible changes because of their very uncertainty. The future is a vast unknown that seems to hold nothing but “what ifs.” In the last chapter of the book of Proverbs, the ultra-capable, super-faith woman who is described there is said to “smile at the future.” Help me, Lord; I’d like to do that. It requires Saint Faustina’s solid affirmation and continual aspiration, “Jesus, I trust in You!”

Changes are part of God’s maturing process to shape us into greater conformity to Jesus Christ. We miss blessings if we resist changes. We gain and progress when we accept them as new challenges. At the same time, we need to remain anchored in the Unchanging One, our Lord, who is “the same yesterday, today, and forever.” (Hebrews 13:8)

Why am I surprised to know that I grow through the unpredictable? Although I struggle through the disenchantments of change, they bring me to new reality and joy. It seems that through changes God deliberately sloughs off the old and familiar and underneath the crust I discover the fresh and new that has been waiting for me. In the shattering of a dream, I awaken to new visions.

Well then, I’m wrong to resist change since it is my friend. It is God’s instrument to teach me to bend with the wind and lean in another direction that He has planned for me. The wind will always blow, the storms will be inescapable. They will beat upon my life as in the parable that Jesus told about the two houses built on different foundations. Settled in Him, we will not be shaken or moved—we are built upon The Rock, not sand. Our infrastructure, our eternal spirit, is reinforced by the indwelling Holy Spirit to withstand life’s shifting earthquake changes.

The changes of life are opportunities for me to bloom transplanted. Lord, help me welcome change as a clean slate, a fresh breath, a cool breeze, an untried path, and a stimulus to renewal!



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 is exactly what 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 exactly the opposite. We are disenchanted with the monotony and meaninglessness of our 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 implies “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 even 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 it packs 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, moment by moment 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 like 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 absolutely nothing is trivial in the sight of God!



But he isn’t strummin’ on his ol’ banjo. Fe-fi-fiddley-i-oh, his name is ADOLPH and he has a prominent place in my spice cabinet. His full name is ADOLPH’S Meat Tenderizer. He comes brashly into my kitchen with an extraordinary promise to “turn commonplace cuts into gourmet products!” I was well-acquainted with him when my children were younger and for economic reasons I was hunting for bargains at the meat counter.

In the instructions on the label I discovered interesting spiritual illustrations: “You know it, Lord, I’m just a commonplace cut, but I’d sure like to be a gourmet product fit for the Master’s use. How can that happen?” Adolph says I must follow five simple steps:

  1. Moisten all surfaces. “Ah yes, the loving dealings of God in my life may sometimes produce tears. The hurts of life are real and painful. My heart first needs to be moistened—on ALL surfaces. OK, Lord, top to bottom, I surrender every part of my life to You. I hold nothing back.”

  1. Sprinkle tenderizer generously. “The HOLY SPIRIT is my Tenderizer. He is always at work in my life. He transforms my heart of stone into a tender heart of flesh (Ezekiel 36:26, 27). He makes me docile and obedient to God. He liberally sprinkles God’s promises on my hurting heart to encourage me and lift me up. Lord, help me accept Your loving process for my good.”

  1. Pierce deeply with a fork at ½ inch intervals. “Pain, affliction, and sorrow have a redemptive purpose in my life. Prophetically, our Blessed Mother’s heart was pierced deeply as with a sword. Her will was compliant and united with God’s. But my tough, stubborn will needs to be broken. God doesn’t break my spirit, however. He loves me and desires to bring out His best in me. Sometimes trouble seems to invade all areas of my life at once. Every ½ inch of my world cries out for relief! Nevertheless, I open even the deepest recesses of my life to You, Lord.”

  1. Marinate. “Oh, Lord, waiting is so hard! I know, I know—God’s work in my heart takes time. I’m in such a hurry to get out of my difficulty. But my Heavenly Father knows best that I need time to accept what He is doing in me. Give me patience, Lord, while You marinate me.”

  1. Bake, broil, barbecue, roast, or microwave immediately. “I cry, ‘Enough already! Surely I don’t need more heat!’ But my Lord must apply heat to separate my imperfections from the pure gold. The fire of affliction is the refiner’s fire. My oven experience is essential. When God’s time is just right, when I have learned the lessons He has been trying to teach me, He will deliver me from the oven of my affliction in His own way.”

The result of this painful process? I will be a gourmet product fit for my King! I will have a tender, sensitive, responsive heart toward my Lord—a heart that joyfully, quickly, genuinely responds to Him with a fiat “Yes, Lord, YES!”

The label on my jar of Meat Tenderizer says 100% Natural. Here we part ways with the symbolism because God’s spiritual dealings with us are 100% Supernatural! Man can’t duplicate it; the flesh can’t counterfeit it. Only the Holy Spirit can prepare my heart to please God and unite me with the passion of Christ.

Recently, the ingredients in my fresh jar of Meat Tenderizer have been somewhat modified. The label now adds: NO MSG. Monosodium Glutamate was found to be injurious to our health. In God’s process of maturing me through trials, the Holy Spirit is the only active ingredient—perfectly pure and always working for my holiness and for my good.


I know that this is a term for unintended injury or destruction after a military strike. But I want to apply it also to families after a divorce strikes. For better or worse, that often leaves us with an accumulation of “EX-relationships.”

My late husband and I would never have envisioned during the growing years of our children that divorce would ever invade our family. We were doing our best, but of course imperfectly, to raise our sons in the Christian faith with good moral values. My husband was a minister and we served together in mission work overseas and on university campuses and in “church planting.”

I have to tell it like it is—in the process of time we found ourselves with several ex-daughters-in-law, multiple ex-in-laws, and miscellaneous ex-relationships with people whom we had grown to love and whom we truly held close to our hearts.

What do we do with “leftover relationships” after divorce? Are they obsolete? Do we shut the door and leave them behind? How can we dismiss them from our mind and heart? What does God want us to do about these significant others, so to speak, many of whom are still in our daily orbit of contact? What is the Christian way to deal with this ever-increasing problem in our society? It is certainly not limited to the non-faith, secular world out there—unfortunately, it equally permeates our Christian culture.

To compound the situation, precious grandchildren are involved who are as dear to the left behind “exes” as they are to us. They, as well as we, want as minimum collateral damage as possible from our now fractured families.

To muddy the waters still further, remarriage gives all of us another new category of relationships—the blended marriages! And also the blended marriages of the exes! Sometimes it seems like trying to unscramble eggs to figure out how to introduce someone as “my son’s former wife’s mother’s sister!”

Lord have mercy! Help us, O Lord, to look to You for wisdom in our tangled relationships in this earthly life. Yes, we look forward to the glimpse that Jesus gave us when He declared that in His Father’s House there would be “no marriage or giving in marriage”—whatever that will really mean, we will leave to His wisdom and sovereign plan.

I can only share a word of how God by His Spirit, I trust, has given me sufficient grace to handle it all, especially after I became a single mom, single grandma, and single great-grandma when my husband died 19 years ago. (He has missed knowing our last 5 out of 10 grandchildren, and our current, so far, 6 great-grands and another on the way—but possibly Grandpa Ted in Heaven is more aware of our situation than we know, and is interceding with Jesus asking help for me to cope wisely with all these relationships!)

I must say that God has made the way gentler by gracing us, by and large, with “amiable” divorces—that sounds like an oxymoron. In some circumstances that may not be possible or advisable, but I truly felt it was God’s will for me to maintain discreet but warm and cordial relationships with nearly all of the exes, praying for them, and cooperating with them for shared time with grandchildren, if there are any involved.

I praise God that as the years went by I have seen some of the exes draw closer to God and re-marry to establish Christian homes where they continue to surround the grandchildren with love and Christian nurture. I’m so happy when the exes still turn to me asking prayer for their problems. I sincerely try to affirm them for the good I see in their lives, and avoid negative words toward any of the other people involved.

I’ve had to open my arms even wider to welcome and embrace whole sets of new in-laws as a result of precious new daughters-in-law. I’ve had to do a lot of stretching! Good exercise! New step-grandchildren sometimes pop into the mixing bowl and my heart hugs them all close. Because so many years go by, some of my blended grandchildren have given me blended great-grandchildren and…are we having fun yet? You betcha we are! There are more new young ones to pray for and help to guide in the ways of the Lord. And more family memories to make!

I’m far from perfect and have made my share of mistakes, but I don’t think some of those mother-in-law disparaging jokes are fair game. God can help us shape our attitude to please Him. I still have a whole lot to learn as new situations present themselves in our extended family.

Thank You, Lord, for helping me to “roll with the punches and go with the flow.” As a result, I’m rich in the relationships You have in Your own miraculous way rescued for good out of situations that could have had a lot of collateral damage and destruction.

Most of us, young and old, eventually find ourselves confronting some kind of relational disintegrations or re-integrating marriage situations. God is ready to help us. He’s there for us when we lean into Him for wisdom to cope successfully.


Wednesday, June 23, 2010

Living in the present moment

I really have to work at living completely in the present moment. I don’t have as much difficulty with the backward look, with living in the rear view mirror. Most of my problem focuses on anxieties about the “what if’s” of the future. I role play at crossing fantasy bridges that I may not actually cross.

Our parish book club is reading a book of meditations given to the Papal Household at Lent while Pope John Paul II was with us. It was written by the late Vietnamese Archbishop Francis Xavier Nguyen Van Thuan. During his thirteen year imprisonment, God taught him that simply living the present moment intensely and filling it up with love is the surest way to holiness. That public deeds or many sacrifices are not the way that saints and great witnesses became holy.

He quoted from Saint Faustina,

“If I look at the future, I am full of fear,

but why go forward into the future?

Only the present moment is dear to me,

because perhaps the future will not lodge in my soul.

The past is not within my power

to change, correct, or add something.

Neither the wise nor the prophets were able to do this.

I trust therefore to God that which regards my past.

O present moment, you belong to me completely.

I desire to use you as much as it is within my power…

Therefore, trusting in your mercy,

I go forward in life as a child,

and every day I offer to you my heart

enflamed with love for your greater glory.

Our humanity seems captured within the familiar framework of time. That’s all we have experienced and know how to experience. Why should it be so difficult to live in the now? That is exactly where we encounter God who is in The Eternal Now. I still have a lot to learn.

# End