Saturday, April 30, 2011
As I drove by, I glanced below the wording expecting to see some kind of religious advertisement or a sacred music event. All I could see was a series of colorful logos of local high schools and colleges. And the name of a local bank emblazoned at the bottom. (It happened to be where I do my banking.)
I thought I would inquire what that is all about the next time I do business with that bank.
SPIRIT CHECKING. Meanwhile, the wording itself caught my attention each time I made a trip in that direction. The billboard was coincidentally also positioned near the place where a state police car often "hides" behind a little hill only partially visible to oncoming or passing traffic.
SPIRIT CHECKING. What's more, that billboard stands almost exactly where two years ago I had a brief, very brief, lapse of awareness to slow down on a certain Sunday morning on the way to Church in what seems to be a deliberate speed trap. Precisely here the normal 55 mph in our semi-countryside apple orchard area divided highway suddenly is posted 45 and then almost immediately 35. This is a route I take daily to Mass and the only route I can take wherever I need to go into town--and I always dutifully slowed down! Except that ONE time....
SPIRIT CHECKING. Yes, that one and only time did cost me an unbelievably hefty $ $ traffic ticket (my first, I'll have you know!) Nevertheless, when my auto insurance came due, the company dropped my policy...Imagine! And I had a clean record on their books, always paid my premiums on time! And no accident or traffic violations on my police record either! Don't get me started on this....I don't want to talk about age discrimination.... I bit the bullet, painfully paid the fine, found another insurance company (at a higher rate, it figures!) and moved on with my life....
SPIRIT CHECKING. I do slow down as I approach the police-hiding-hill now, whether I spot the police car there or not. I am acutely aware of my driving habits. (Of course, I always was!) I'm careful not to have lapses nor even dream of accelerating just a wee bit more if I am late. I even invested in a little silver key ring thing that dangles on my rearview mirror with the inscription, "Don't drive faster than your Guardian Angel can fly!"
SPIRIT CHECKING. Whatever that billboard is about (and I eventually found out from a friend that there are logos of your fav sports team or your child's school that you can order printed on your banking checks) I find myself searching my own heart and conscience to see if the Holy Spirit is putting His finger on anything in my life that may be grieving Him or quenching Him through omission of one of Jesus' commands or commission--lack of obedience in some area where He has been speaking to me. It serves as an examination of conscience.
SPIRIT CHECKING. Well, that billboard speaks volumes to me. I wonder if anyone else has a prick of conscience or thinks about the spiritual implications as they drive by? Or...just maybe...God had that billboard erected just for me??
Since tomorrow, May 1, is our celebration of DIVINE MERCY SUNDAY, I share this post from a friend-blogger, also a rather recent Catholic Christian. I consider this a valid and sensitive biblical explanation--with which I agree--of the difference between presumption and trust in God's loving mercy.
As we sing at Catholic Mass now, and as we sang when I was an evangelical,
"There's a wideness in God's mercy/Like the wideness of the sea;
There's a kindness in God's justice/which is more than liberty;
There is plentiful redemption/in the blood that has been shed;
There is joy for all the members/in the sorrows of the Head."
This is an encore blog post…just ‘cause I feel like it...and it is spring!
And because CZECHING MY ROOTS is the half-price discount book-of-the-month for MAY which you may order through my e-mail address on the header. Instead of $17.95, it is discounted to $9 plus $3 S/H!
This excerpt is from the Introduction to my published autobiography, CZECHING MY ROOTS. When each new springtime rolls around, I thank God for so generously blessing me with my multi-generational life:
“Time passes so quickly. The stages of life focus in and fade out as the spotlight shines on changing dramas and new characters. How enriching are all our experiences, both difficult and joyful, if we learn to savor each moment as we live it!”
The concluding poem, STAGE OF GENERATIONS, I wrote at the end of this post sums it all up….
What’s in The Trunk?
My husband and I were the trunk of our family tree and our four sons, Richard, Clifford, Gary and Jeff, are the branches. Our grandchildren and the children they will have and the generations to come are the spreading branches.
Suddenly, so it seems, I find myself “the matriarch” in chronological age and the only remaining part of the trunk of my family tree.
Some of our branches are offspring from our own biological trunk—authentic Chinese Czechers—our sons and some of our grandchildren. But we have also enthusiastically welcomed the grafting of some new branches into our tree by extended family relationships—marriage, blended families and adoption. I embrace grafted branches just as warmly as branches sprouting from our original trunk. We treasure them equally because they were lovingly chosen. They enrich our family tree and bear wonderful varieties of fruit that our original tree could not have produced.
Our trunk is unique because it is made up of two people from two geographically and culturally separate root systems. My husband, Ted, was from the continent of Asia, from the ancient historic land of China. My heritage is from the continent of Europe, from what is now The Czech Republic. We met and married on still another continent, North America, to which my forefathers came to seek a better life.
Soon we who are part of the present main trunk will be the roots of those who come after us. Some of our branches have already become trunks in their own right and their young, extended branches before long will mature into trunks too. An entire human forest will spring up around our main trunk!
Although my generation calls itself the main trunk at present, we are the offspring and descendants of the branch systems of the past generation, in fact, of all generations that have gone before. I believe all of us are here in the plan of God and in His foreordained continuity stream of life, and our posterity will be part of God’s unfolding plan.
The Christian heritage passed to my husband and me from each of our grandparents, who spoke different languages and grew up far apart on this planet, was no coincidence. Ted and I believed it was appointed by God. We, in turn, have the joy and obligation and privilege to pass this treasure on to our children and to our children’s children as a Christian legacy throughout what remains of human history.
I have roots and also branches.
I am part of what has been
and what is yet to be.
In between is me:
the trunk of the family tree.
Through me pass
generations from antiquity
who have determined
what I have become.
They are my history.
They have molded me.
From me new branches spring.
They are my posterity.
Some choice I have
to assist and incline them
toward the best
of what they might become.
Still, they are free
to grow and change
within the range
of their heredity and opportunity
and God’s special plan
arranged from Eternity.
For me, the trunk between,
I pray that I might be
a planting strong against
the inevitable storms
yet bending with the wind
passing on the best
from roots unseen
but giving branches room
to stretch and reach
upward to new heights
because I fulfilled
with the help of God
my trunk destiny.
Unfortunately, neither my husband nor I could trace our roots back very far. Both of us regret that we didn't ask our parents and grandparents more questions about their early lives and what they remembered of their roots. It is pointless to feel guilty—children rarely care about their roots when they see their more exciting futures stretching out seemingly open-end ahead of them. It rarely seems to matter to youth where they came from. They are usually concerned only with where they are going after school tomorrow.
In your youth, you view daily events up close, as through a microscope. Usually it takes the seasoning of life, the more mature years, before you think about and value your roots. Eventually you begin to see your life in a broader panorama, on a wider screen than you did in your youth. You can see further when you’ve climbed some of the higher hills of life and experienced the valleys between. You have the advantage of looking back over your shoulder to see where you've come from and forward to where you are going.
I embarked upon this creative and nostalgic adventure of writing my story in order to leave a heritage. God handed me the baton in life’s race only for my lifetime. Now I am responsible to pass it on to the next generation.
The words of a song by Jon Mohr express it well for me:
“Surrounded by so great a cloud of witnesses,
Let us run the race, not only for the prize;
But, as those who’ve gone before us,
Let us leave for those behind us
The heritage of faithfulness passed on through godly lives.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.
May the fire of our devotion light their way.
May the footprints that we leave lead them to believe,
And the lives we live inspire them to obey.
Oh, may all who come behind us find us faithful.”
Our descendants may not fully appreciate this historical saga now, just as we would not have valued it when we were younger. But it will be available when they, too, reach the summit of some of life’s hills and long to search for and find the gold of the past.
Time passes so quickly. The stages of life focus in and fade out as the spotlight shines on changing dramas and new characters. How enriching are all our experiences, both difficult and joyful, if we learn to savor each moment as we live it!
STAGE OF GENERATIONS
I've greeted many mornings like this one:
fresh, spring mornings, year after year.
They may appear the same
because nature’s garments never go out of style
but I am not the same as I was
in those bygone springtimes.
As a child
I walked on tiptoe, wide-eyed in wonder
as if I were the first to discover nature.
Everything was new to me
although ancient as time and creation.
In my youth
nature seemed to be a setting for the private stage
on which my emotions played the leading parts.
I could hardly wait to turn another page
in the thrilling script of my life.
Then, at summer’s noonday,
I saw spring approach again
with hushed and measured steps
taking off her verdant cloak and laying it down
under the sun in my garden
so that my own son*
still bundled in winter wear
could poke at the peeping crocus in the soft soil
and laugh at the chirping robin
with anticipation in his new eyes
to see his pristine world.
Soon, ah, too soon, at prime of life
I watch my grandson* stomping his toddler feet
bouncing innocently in my tulip bed
bubbling with unsullied delight
over his chaste, new world.
And now, in life's autumn time,
I still welcome spring’s approach
with open arms and eager heart.
Generations focus in, fade out—
and what of me?
I see at last life’s harmony
in perfect panorama:
the CREATED, the CREATION, the CREATOR—
the world a splendid stage
the changing season-scenes
both neophyte players and the pros
some hiding behind gilded masks
others garbed in tattered costumes
or flaunting sequined velvet.
The stages of life may alternate
between dim, shadowy scenery
and klieg-lighted brilliance.
But over all
producing and directing
the ever-cycling dramas of my life
IS MY GOD!
* I’m blessed by God that I’ve experienced these words in plural and gender inclusive and multigenerational = children, grandchildren, and now I’m super-abundantly blessed with great-grandchildren!
“The Lord has dealt bountifully with me” (Ps.116:7); “The Lord satisfies your years with good things” (Ps. 103:5; “May you see your children’s children…” (Ps. 128:6).
Wednesday, April 20, 2011
(An imagineered series by Leona Choy for her grandson, Jeffrey D. Choy.
Grandma, when we go to Mass and everybody stands up and says The Creed—what’s a “creed”?
It is a list of the really important things that Christians have believed ever since Jesus was resurrected. Christians went all over the world to tell people about Jesus so the apostles, Jesus’ followers, wanted to be sure everyone believed the true things that Jesus Himself taught.
I suppose that was a good idea so people wouldn’t get mixed up in their faith. But it seems that there are two creeds in the Missal. What’s the difference?
One creed is called “The Apostles’ Creed” and the one we usually recite at Church at Mass is “The Nicene Creed” which is a little longer and goes into more detail.
The Apostles’ Creed ends with “I believe in the resurrection of the body and life everlasting.” Is that something different than Jesus’ resurrection we celebrate at Easter?
Yes, Jeffrey, that refers to the resurrection of the bodies of people who have died. When we die, our bodies are buried in the ground, but God judges our souls right away according to whether we have faith in Him and how we lived our lives. That is a decision each of us has to make while we are living. We won’t have any chance to change our minds after we die.
Wow! That’s serious, huh? Our souls are the invisible part of us that lives in our body, right? So if we know Jesus then our souls go to Heaven while our bodies stay in the ground? How long do they stay there?
Just a minute—you have two questions. Yes, some Christians’ souls might go straight to Heaven, but for many of us, we may need a little stopover in what we might call “a mud room” for our souls to get cleaned up and ready to see our perfect and holy God. The Bible says that unless we are holy, we can’t see God. Whether it is a place or a condition, it is really a part of Heaven, like the vestibule or entry hall. It’s for those who are for sure on the way to Heaven. Remember, we talked about that before?
Yup, I remember. And you said that “time” doesn’t apply anymore after we die, so “how long” we are in that stopover, if we need it, doesn’t even count ‘cause everything is smooshed together in eternity…it is always “now.” Grandma, that’s kinda hard to understand.
You’re right. None of us can really understand how that all works until we get there. So we just trust Jesus because He is said He was going to prepare a Place for us to be with Him. We’ll have lots of wonderful, happy surprises waiting for us!
OK then, so when do we get this resurrection of our bodies?
When Jesus comes back to earth again. We call that The Second Coming of Christ. We don’t know when that will be. It could be anytime. In the Apostles’ Creed we say, “He will come again to judge the living and the dead.”
How do we know what’s going to happen when Jesus comes?
In the gospel of John 5:28-29 Jesus said, “An hour is coming when all those in their tombs shall hear the voice of the Son of God and come forth. Those who have done right shall rise to a resurrection of life; the evildoers shall rise to a resurrection of judgment.” In Matthew 16:27 Jesus said about the same event, “The Son of Man [Jesus] will come with his Father’s glory accompanied by his angels. When he does, he will repay each man according to his conduct.”
Does that mean that the bodies of both good and bad people will get resurrected? Their souls and their bodies will get together again? Will we get the same body back again? Will I still be me? If a body was in the ground for a long time it would be yucky—maybe even a skeleton—how about if someone was lost at sea—or burned in a fire!
Whoa! That’s a lot of questions at once. Since God created us in the first place from the dust of the earth, He could certainly re-create your body no matter what condition it was in, don’t you think? It seems that we will really be exactly who we always were, but sort of a new model, you might say. We will be resurrected into a “glorified” body that will be like Jesus’ body was after His resurrection. Remember what Jesus could do?
Yeah, He could appear and disappear. He could go through walls and locked doors. Oh, He could also go long distances in an instant. Let’s see…but He could still eat food...and even have a barbecue on the beach for His followers. And His disciple Thomas could still see the wounds in Jesus’ hands and feet and sides.
Isn’t that exciting, Jeffrey? You’ll have a glorified body and it will be way better than that of the fantasy bionic man…or superman who pretended to leap buildings!
Yeah, but how long will that resurrection take?
You will just have to get your Bible and read some of the cool details in the entire fifteenth chapter of First Corinthians. Here’s a sample, “We shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye, at the last trumpet; for the trumpet will sound, and the dead will be raised imperishable, and we shall be changed. For this perishable must put on the imperishable, and this mortal must put on immortality.” That’s in verses 52 and 53. I’ve heard that “the twinkle in the eye” is faster than even a blink!
But when we get our new resurrected bodies, will we hang around on planet earth just like we lived before?
Apparently not, because God is preparing a whole new heavens and earth and Jesus said He was “making all things new.” For sure we’ll be spending eternity with God wherever and there will be no more suffering or death and all that earthly stuff.
Grandma, this is a lot to understand!
In the book of Revelation in the Bible we have some clues and little peeks, even big peeks, into what things may be like in eternity, but it’s all more than we can even imagine with our human minds right now, Jeffrey. So we’ll just have to “Wait and see.”
God sure has big and wonderful plans for us! And all because Jesus got resurrected first and we celebrate that at Easter!
Friday, April 8, 2011
I need it over and over
in the soil of my heart.
O Divine Sower
You awakened my life
at the first planting
of Your Living Seed
in my fertile heart and
it began to bear FRUIT
I continue to need
another spiritual springtime
so I welcome You
to plant more Seed
to plow deeper furrows.
Send Your sun and rain
that I may reap again
a greater harvest
to bear MORE FRUIT for You
Each spiritual springtime
add to my depleted soil
what nourishment it lacks
break up my fallow ground
lying dormant still
in valley and on hill
pull the willful weeds
rotate my crops
contour my disorderly fields
so I may bear MUCH FRUIT
". . . he who abides in Me, and I in him, he bears much fruit. . . ." John 15:5b
"And others fell on the good soil, and yielded a crop,
some an hundredfold,
and some thirty."
Saturday, April 2, 2011
When I was a pre-teen attending Girl Scout summer camp, all were required to take swimming instruction. The first day we made a mad dash to the river bank eager to plunge right in and learn to swim in one easy lesson. To our disappointment, day after day we received lessons on how to float. None of us received our Beginners patch until we mastered that first stage.
In lifestyle and career style I’ve always been a swimmer—an active go-getter, setting my own goals and swimming upstream against the current like the salmon, if necessary. Floating seemed too passive for me.
It has taken long years, decades, scores of years and personal failures for me to understand that in spiritual matters the Lord is working on us, teaching us to float in the sea, which is Himself. Paradoxically, the floaters and not the swimmers get places and accomplish the important work of God’s Kingdom. It is only in floating that we can live the Spirit-filled life and realize the destiny He had in mind when He gave us life and chose us for Himself. There is a significant difference between working for God and allowing God to work through us.
I am very far from being a good spiritual floater, but now I think I see what God is getting at. I try to put it into action in the daily Morning Offering of myself to God, a lifetime practice based on Romans 12:1, 2 which, as a teen, I chose as my life verse. “I offer (present) my body as a living sacrifice holy and acceptable to God, my spiritual worship.” I’m thankful that in my mid-eighties, for my Morning Offering I can still kneel on the floor at my bedside (and more important—get back up!) and also kneel in Church--which I guess keeps me limber! Presenting my body, soul, and spirit to God is the beginning of my prayer-offering.
Then I fill in the details of my needs for that day as I see them, with the bottom line: "I want to do Your will on earth as it is done in Heaven. Fulfill in and through my life today the purpose for which You gave me life." (Of course God already knows my heart, but I am reminding myself that I want to follow God's GPS all the way, all the day.)
I conclude with “Lord, put me in the river of your will today so that I may float with the current of Your Holy Spirit and be carried along to fulfill Your destiny in and through my life. Bring into my life today everyone and everything You desire so that I may either be a blessing to them, and/or they can bless me.” In this way I can be sure that whatever happens--whoever calls, comes, or touches my life in any way, and whatever the interruptions to my own plans for the day--is by God’s sovereign appointment and for His purposes.
Floating demands little skill; it only demands letting go and trusting the water to hold you. That is contrary to our self-preservation instincts. The more we resist relaxing, the more likely we are to sink. If we relax in the water, no matter how the waves might roll, we can safely “go with the flow.”
Spiritually, floating is to have confidence in God and His plan and His support. Like the swimming instructor, God’s strong hand is beneath our back assuring us that we will not drown. Floating is initiated by inviting God to become the absolute Lord of our lives. As the swimmer is intensely active and intent on going to a place he has chosen, the floater yields to the flow of the current. Yes, the floater is going someplace too, but his destiny is the concern of the current that carries him. God determines the goal; the Holy Spirit is the current; we are not without direction. We can confidently float in chill of “the dark night of our soul” as well as in broad daylight in the warm sunshine. It is our decision whether to swim or float, whether to plot our own way or leave everything to God.
In applying this to our prayer lives, for the most part we are swimmers—we use the strenuous efforts of our own faculties, our knowledge and intellect. We itemize to God what we want Him to do; we tell Him how to do it and when; we monopolize what should be a dialogue. We don’t seek silence and solitude so we can hear His voice, feel His impressions, and understand His mysterious intentions. We need to learn to float free and give the Holy Spirit a chance to initiate His intercession within us, to pray through us and with Him for the business of His Kingdom and the people who are on the heart of God.
God doesn’t want us be content with a Beginners patch either in the matter of prayer or absolute trust in Him. He’ll guide us out into the deeper waters, to float into the midstream of His will. When we present ourselves to the Lord each morning and launch out to float on the river of God’s will, we’ll be going somewhere that with our finite minds or human efforts we can’t predict or control. Nevertheless, if we are floaters, it will be somewhere far better than the destination and the route we could have charted for ourselves.
This short and intense book, a masterpiece of spirituality, is highly charged with love and passion both for God and for the reader. It has been endlessly reprinted and translated, circling the globe and deepening and changing the lives of Christians generation after generation. I have chosen to re-read it for Lent to stretch my spirit higher toward God as I press on toward holiness with Saint Paul in Philippians 3:12-14. *
Below in a paraphrased nutshell is his idea centered around what he calls "the sacrament of the present moment."
Most of us are very ordinary people with humdrum lives, work to be done, with every day filled with responsibilities and a multiplicity of trivial decisions and tasks. Our lives are made up of a stream of petty affairs, some wonderfully pleasant, many boring, a lot unpleasant and often tragic, together with much that is tedious and irritating. Caussade says that everything in life is to be welcomed as the expression of the will of God. This is well-supported in the Scriptures.
"Everything helps us to God so we must accept what we very often cannot avoid, and endure with love and resignation things which could cause us weariness and disgust. This is what being holy means."
"For most people the best way to achieve perfection toward which God would lead us is to submit to all that He wills for our particular way of life. God speaks to every individual through what happens to him moment by moment. The events of each moment are stamped with the will of God...We find all that is necessary in the present moment. We may be bored with the small happenings around us, yet it is these very trivialities, as we consider them, which would do marvels for us if only we did not look down upon them. If we have abandoned ourselves to God, there is only one rule for us: the duty of the present moment."
Caussade insists, over and over again, that we must live from minute to minute. The past is past, the future is yet to be. There is nothing we can do about either, but we can deal with what is happening in the present moment. We must realize that nothing at all happens unless willed by God, therefore, our all-important duty is to cooperate with His will. Every act, every thought of every second, is significant. He does not mean that we must approach God before every snap decision; that would be absurd and impossible. But we should have so completely surrendered ourselves to God that we are fully aware of what hangs upon every moment and that we react, as best we can, in the way God wishes.
Caussade combines intense practicality with profound mysticism. He was obsessed by one thought: the necessity of loving God and surrendering ourselves to Him completely. We need do no extraordinary works, show no unique devotion, behave in no uncommon manner. The smallest incident must be seen as willed by God and must be dealt with as such. This will bring us as close to God as is possible during our life on earth and ensure that we shall enjoy complete union in the eternal life that awaits us.
* May this spiritual selection whet your appetite for MORE. Run, don't walk, or preferably phone or e-mail your Christian bookstore or "let your fingers do the walking" on your computer keyboard to amazon.com to order a copy of this classic. You may find that used, dog-eared copies of earlier editions are best, since, in my estimation, newer reprints don't seem to have the same flavor and even format as the older ones. (Mine is copyright 1975 translated from the original French by John Beevers.)
SPRING startled me today
as I shook out the dust mop.
He took me by surprise
for I didn't realize
he was around yet.
He slipped behind me
ruffled my hair with the wind
kissed my cheek with the sun
and then laughed
to see me blush.
His warm breath caressed my neck
teasing me, making me restless
as I swept winter from the porch.
I tried to get him off my mind
by staying inside at humdrum tasks.
He rustled the curtains to get my attention
and flirted with me
through the open window.
I can’t resist him!
I must run away with him
right away today, so I race
with trowel and seeds in hand
to our garden rendezvous
our "special place"
eager once more
for the touch of the rich mulch
and sweet earthy scent
of Virginia country soil.
Despite the lingering chill
of the retreating March wind
I kneel in the moist flower bed
breathing hard, delighted to feel
basic nature and the hope of life
incipient in the seed
I cast off my winter inhibition
and thrill to the ecstasy
of SPRING's embrace!