Saturday, July 28, 2012


The Point of it All

Grandma, a friend at school said that Jesus' last name was Christ. Is that true?”

“No, Jeffrey, it was a title. 'Christ' is from the Greek word 'christos' which means 'the anointed one.' It comes from the Hebrew word 'Messiah.' That was the term given to the Redeemer who is spoken of by the prophets of the Old Testament. He was expected to be the great and wonderful leader or king whom God promised would save the Jewish people and the whole world..”

Since that was Jesus' title, what was His last name then?”

“People didn't have surnames in those early times in history.”

In the Bible I see only first names of people. How could anyone tell who was who when there were so many similar names?

“People were usually identified by who their father was or the place where they were born or what they did for a living, or their birth order, or some characteristic about them. Like James and John the sons of Zebedee, and Simon the Zealot, or Alexander the coppersmith, or Saul of Tarsus.”

When did people start using last names?”

“The earliest time was in China way back in 2852 B.C. A Chinese person had three names: their family name, their generational name, and their given name. It is the same even today in China. And the family name is written first. It wasn't until the 10th or 11th century that it became the custom in Europe to have a surname so that the government could tell who was who for written records, taxes, and military service. In some countries it didn't happen until the 15th or 16th century. In Scandinavia it was as late as the 19th century, and in Turkey not until 1933.”

Why didn't Jesus take the name of his father Joseph then?”

“Jesus is the only person who did not have a human father. Mary was the mother of Jesus and Joseph was her husband but not Jesus' biological father. God chose Joseph to be the legal guardian or foster father of Jesus and care for Him during His growing years.”

Then who was Jesus' real father?”

“God was His father so Jesus was His son. Here is a mystery again—Jesus is God, a part of the Trinity. He became man, became human like us but still remained God. He has the same divine nature as His father, God. Jesus is man because He was born from the body of Mary so He has a body like ours. Mary was the only human parent of Jesus.”

So is Jesus more than one Person?”

“No, Jesus is only one Person. We say that He is the second Person of the Trinity—God the Father, God the Son, and God the Holy Spirit. But Jesus has two natures: the nature of God and the nature of man.”

I don't quite know the difference between nature and person.”

“A nature is what someone is: Jesus is God and man—two natures. A person is who someone is: Jesus is Jesus the Christ—one person.”

Well I have to think hard to understand that.”

“Here is an important word for you to learn: Incarnation. The Son of God always existed. He was with God the Father from the very beginning of Eternity. The first chapter of the gospel of John explains that. Then at one point in history He came to earth and took on a human nature, a body like ours. That's what “Incarnation” means. Jesus became man but He still remained God. The Bible calls it 'becoming flesh'.”

How did He do that?”

“We can't really understand or explain it but the Bible said that's how it happened and we accept it by faith. After the angel Gabriel announced God's plan of Incarnation to her, Mary said yes. She agreed to have the Son of God born through her body. He was conceived in her womb by the power of the Holy Spirit and developed there and was born like all infants.”

Why did Jesus want to become a man?”

Well, that's the point of it all! God loved the people of the world so much that He sent His Son into the world to save whoever would believe in Him. He didn't want anyone to perish because of their sins. That includes all of us because we have all sinned. God had a plan whereby we could be forgiven by what Jesus did to take away our sins. He wanted everyone to have eternal life and be forever with Him.”

Hey, that sounds like from the gospel of John 3:16!”

“That's right! Do you remember when Adam disobeyed God and caused all mankind to be inclined to sin and listen to the devil? As a result Heaven was closed to all mankind. But God promised Adam that He would one day send someone to fix the situation. That was the promise of the Incarnation! We should have been punished for our sins, but Jesus came to earth and became man and died in our place to take our punishment. Jesus Christ opened Heaven for us again!”

Oh, that's double awesome! It all makes sense. Now Heaven is open to anyone who believes in Jesus and is born of water and the spirit like He told Nicodemus in the gospel of John.”

And that's the point of it all!”

Tuesday, July 24, 2012


Re-defining my ROLE

Each of us assumes dozens of roles in a lifetime. I don't mean a role in a drama or play. A role is a function or action in relation to someone or something else. It refers to our position in a job or career situation. A role is also defined by our relationship to family members, church, or community. A role is a label to help people identify us.

Sometimes we aren't happy to have people identify us only by our role in life. We long to simply be ourselves, whoever we think we are. Sorry, but that's unrealistic. Try as we may, we can never be our true selves in isolation. We will always find ourselves, our distinctive identity, by relating to someone else. We are our child's mother, someone's next door neighbor, the sixth grade teacher, the charity volunteer, the retired accountant, our friend's prayer partner. We are defined by who we are toward God—His child, His disciple, part of His Church, His obedient servant, His witness. 
In the late season of our lives we may find that others are defining us by non-roles we would rather avoid: the new widow, the resident in assisted living, the patient in room 301, the elderly person who lives alone. 
The pain may come when we find that a particularly satisfying ROLE is OVER. One or more of our roles don't fit us anymore, we have grown out of a role, or we are told that we no longer suit the role. Or someone has stepped into what used to be our role. Others are beginning to carry the torch that we felt we were carrying so well. In later years we change jobs or lose our job, we move from our neighborhoods, we lose our independence, we are forced to downsize into one room in a retirement residence. We feel nearly as homeless and marginalized as the man who sleeps on the street or under a bridge. 
Our role in relation to others has drastically shifted. We lose a spouse or a loved one, our children grow up and no longer seem to need us. The nurturing role in our lives is over. We may feel that we are being benched. We change roles from caring for others to being cared for ourselves. Adjustments can be traumatic, especially if we didn't choose to give up those roles; the decision was made for us.
I need to understand who I really am beneath all of life's roles so that when my roles change it will not shake me. If I maintain a constant, intimate relationship with God throughout my lifetime, I should be able to weather the inevitable changes of roles with His enabling. Our relationship with the Lord is our constant, our sure anchor to keep us from being overwhelmed as we navigate the stormy seas of life.

Rather than grieving over changed or diminishing roles in my latter years, I can decide to welcome the adventures that changing roles bring and roll with the new roles.

Monday, July 23, 2012



The title of this post, "Me...Still Me!" appeared as a caption on a “Pro-Life” poster displaying two pictures. It got my attention because although arresting and true, it seemed incomplete. In the first frame was the photo of a pre-born fetus; in the second was a cute smiling toddler. The point seemed to be that even unborn, the fetus was already an identifiable, unique human being. 
I wished there was a third photo of an inwardly beautiful elderly person. In fact, the third picture—which wasn't there—is the identity which is often stolen or lost. The elderly are the same persons who once were in the bloom of youth and prime of life. Nothing has intrinsically changed.

I'm told to be aware these days of “Identity Thieves.” They lurk around in unsuspecting places and ways to pounce on my Social Security number, bank statement, and scraps of paper on which I innocently reveal who I am and what is of value to me. It seems that when people are in the senior season of their lives, they are more vulnerable to having their identity stolen--in more ways than one.

Is it right for someone to ask a person in advanced years, “Who did you used to be?” intimating, however unintentionally, that he or she is not identifiable or of value because he is no longer engaged in what may have been his career? Age doesn't make us “past tense.” My real identity at the core of my inward life can never be stolen, nor can I lose it. After I've retired from my lifelong occupation, I haven't regressed to become a nonentity. My spirit doesn't age, is continually renewable, and is everlasting.

Those of us in our advanced years need to maintain our self-esteem with gratitude to God for who we have become. He has been working on me for a lifetime conforming and transforming me into the image of Christ through all the ups and downs that have shaped me. Roles in life may come and go, but I am a unique person known and loved by God, distinct from all others, unduplicatable, uncloneable. I am a sheep that Jesus as the Good Shepherd calls by name and I answer to it. It wouldn't matter if my name was Jane Doe and there were a million other Jane Doe's, my particular identity would be secure. 
In fact, even I may not know who I really am; only God knows. What's more, I expect to be “still me” and uniquely identifiable in the Life after Life throughout all Eternity. No “Identity Thieves” are allowed in the Courts of Heaven, and no longer will anyone question me about my identity.

 The Scriptures promise that in “The Father's House,” as Jesus called Heaven, “we shall know as we are known.” That must mean that no one will ask for my I.D. And I will know everyone else without being introduced!

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Nodding but signifying nothing

Drowsy excuse

In the historic city of Prague, on one of the highest points in a section called Letna, stands a large mechanical device. I've gone to gaze at it each time I've traveled to the Czech Republic. It's located almost directly opposite the famous ancient Hradcany Castle across the Vltava River. An imposing, massive iron metronome mounted on a high stone wall, it perpetually swings upward and downward.

It was part of an exhibition elsewhere in Prague in years past, but was moved to this location to replace a huge statute of Stalin and workers. That heavy statue was joyfully hacked to pieces and hauled away in celebration of the Velvet Revolution in 1989 marking the Czech people’s freedom at last from the occupying Communist regime.

This impressive monster of a metronome serves no practical purpose. Yes, it nods at measured intervals but it doesn’t tell the time. It just plods along day after day, month after month, year after year nodding but signifying nothing. The metronome is not like the famous astronomical clock in the Square at Stara Mesta in the middle of old town Prague. That truthful device accurately tells the world not only the precise current time anywhere in the world but how all the heavenly constellations were aligned at any given point in history and how they will be aligned in ages to come. An amazing scientific instrument, it has spanned the centuries and is held in awe by all!

In contrast, it is useless to ask the monstrous metronome anything. It only nods without comment. It doesn’t tell us anything about either history or what is to come.

Am I nothing but a nodding metronome marking the passing of time in the late years of my life? Plodding along letting day after day slip by hardly noticed? Am I nodding in agreement to the downward pull of the secular culture around me? Do I excuse myself because I am “over the hill,” so to speak, and no longer responsible before God to share the spiritual Treasure I have found in Jesus Christ with the people wherever God has planted me? God calls me to be a faithful steward and serve my generation even if it is the generation that is soon to pass off the earthly scene. While there is breath and life there is still time. My witness is all the more urgent. 

None of us knows how near we are to God’s Grand Finale of history, the return of Christ which we proclaim at every Mass. Nor do we know how close we are to our final breath. I don't want to nod drowsily excusing myself because of advanced age or lack of a public pulpit. I'm surrounded by my chronological peers with eternal souls who need to be reminded of the lateness of the hour before it is too late.

Thursday, July 5, 2012


WAIT Training

Curbing my emotional impulsiveness is something I've been struggling with most of my life. It has nothing to do with the pumping iron kind of “weight” training.

As a woman, I tend to more easily and quickly vent my feelings. In the latter season of my life my problem seems to accelerate. Somehow I must be assuming that my matriarchal status gives me a right to be outspoken. I admit to times when I want to complain to someone about what he or she did that didn’t please me or neglected to do something as promised. I could whitewash it and call it “righteous indignation.” Nevertheless it's still a negative character trait.

Since I tend to think I'm right, I’d like to make it known. But by nature I’m not really a confrontational person, especially not face to face. As a writer, I’d much rather send off a letter. That gives me a chance to craft my complaint, state my case logically and carefully point by point. Snail mail is far too slow these days. With the ease of e-mail, which is instant and allows me to vent while I'm hot under the collar, my unfortunate habit escalates. 

Oh, the trouble I’ve gotten into and the embarrassment I’ve suffered time and again by impulsively sending off a missive which in the end turns out to be a deadly missile when it reaches its destination! The dictionary tells me that a missile is “an object or weapon that is thrown, shot, or otherwise propelled to a target.” A letter I quickly send off in the heat of my emotions, especially with a backdrop of perception before I have all the facts, can be more lethal than a hand grenade. It has the potential to mortally wound a friendship or relationship. It is not a “guided missile” unless I had waited patiently to be guided by the Lord before I sent it. 

God has had me in WAIT training most of my life in respect to my impulsive habit of venting-and-sending written words too soon or speaking words prematurely. The latter are even more damaging since they were spontaneous and I can't retract them. In Proverbs we read, “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” And “Like apples of gold in settings of silver is a word spoken [by inference, written] in right circumstances.” In the book of James the writer warns, “The tongue is a restless evil and full of deadly poison. With it we bless our Lord and Father; and with it we curse men…from the same mouth come both blessing and cursing.” 

I'm not advocating holding in my emotions; totally suppressing them has pressure cooker dangers. In the Psalms, David gave us a preemptive example to follow: “I will pour out my complaint before God; I declare my trouble before Him.” Ah, now we’re getting to the heart of the matter. VENT is a good four letter word, but WAIT is its healthy counterpart.

Through long years of experience in making mistakes in this area of speaking or writing something hastily or rashly, I’ve found what works for me. However, sometimes I still come dangerously close to transgressing again. Recently an occasion arose when I was really miffed. I felt that I had every right to complain to someone about an unfair situation that involved my feelings. I sat down at my sometimes overly user-friendly computer, and set about venting my feelings through my fingers with the full intent of sending off the e-mail immediately to the person involved. I rapidly wrote two steamy pages. I spell-checked, outlined my points, underlined, cap lettered for emphasis, and edited it several times until I was satisfied I had spoken my piece eloquently and presented my case flawlessly. Let the chips fall where they may—the person deserved every sentence. 

I sat back and blew out my breath—Well, here it goes! But somehow I was held back from clicking SEND. An unseen but clearly felt hand seemed to restrain me. Perhaps it was my Guardian Angel. (He is probably exhausted and frustrated with his incredibly long and arduous life assignment of bringing me to my senses.)

WAIT!” There was no mistaking the impression.
Be patient. Click SAVE instead.” Okay, I guess I could send it later.
That’s not all—pray for him. And pour out your complaint before God.”
Reluctantly I obeyed. I waited one day, two days. The emotional fire in my furnace cooled.

On the third day my target person surprised me by e-mailing me all on his own. With caring and warmth he laid out an entirely different scenario for the situation between us that had precipitated my boiler eruption. I had misunderstood, jumped to conclusions, and read between the lines when there was nothing there to read! Because of my wrong perception, I came close to losing a relationship that was precious and holy!

Venting is necessary to relieve my emotional pressure—holding in my feelings isn't healthy. Writing down my feelings is a good outlet, an escape valve—as long as I don’t send the missive immediately. Complaining is permitted—if I do it before God. Waiting awhile is always wise.

O Lord, don’t give up on me—keep me in your WAIT Training class for as long as I need it. And reward my Guardian Angel with an extra slice of Angel Food cake for his coffee break at “Celestial STARbucks” for restraining me from something more serious than egg on my face.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012



Tomorrow is the 4th of July--INDEPENDENCE DAY. Okay, so I'm not going anywhere or do anything for a change. No BBQ, no picnic, no beach, no fireworks—and no computering or writing. If I want to, I'll read a novel all day—or sit and dream under the sun umbrella on the deck with ice cold lemonade—if the temp is not too hot. Or take two or three naps—why not? 

I'm not going to cook for myself or for anyone else. I'll scrounge for sustenance in the refrigerator—or eat all the Mint Chocolate Chip ice cream in the freezer. Or I'll go out by myself to the neighborhood Applebee's Restaurant—half price for senior citizens on Wednesdays. What's more, I have a Gift Card! 

This is not my normal behavior. No one pushes me; I tend to push myself, a lifelong habit. I'm a highly motivated goal setter and have a sense of purpose and calling from God which He has not revoked although I'm more than half way through my eighties. This rather intense lifestyle does have a flip side...I have to deliberately schedule time to smell the roses and slow my pace and unwind. From time to time I intentionally "declare my independence" from all usual routine and "exit at the REST STOP!" 

I'm going to take a delicious, leisurely, laid back DO NOTHING DAY tomorrow!

Leona Choy

I hereby declare my independence
with a “DO NOTHING DAY!”

I’m going to chill out today
and let my motor idle and delay work
on my perpetual deadlines and goals.
I’ll ignore the flak from the nervous crowd
who may not understand my escape from productivity.
I’ll say “No thanks!” to their generous offer
to buy me an “all expenses paid” ticket
for a guilt trip to Stressed Out Land.

I plan to soft pedal my fortissimo
and play awhile in pianissimo.
I’ll put aside my endless “to do” list
scratching across it:
“Some other day—maybe.”
I’ll seize an interval of healthy fun
and back off from the rat race I usually run.

I’ll shut my ears to “Do it now!”
and procrastinate till it’s really too late.
I’ll simply bow out for one single day
to let my spirit romp and play.
God and I will sit down together
on a porch swing in a gentle breeze
to enjoy a break—at His invitation.
We’ll call “Time out!” as He did
when His six day creative work was done.

I’ll deliberately neglect responsibility
and purposely pamper myself
for an entire twenty-four hour day
and close my ears to the drumbeat others play.
I’ll march at my own more sagacious pace
and not compete in life’s frantic drag race.
I’ll not insist on making things happen
but relax in God’s silent grace.

I plan to do absolutely nothing today,
and let the world just accelerate away.
I’ll loosen the strings of my fully-taut bow
and release my built up tension.
I’ll lighten up and state my intention:
Today I declare my own holiday!”
I’ll loaf and lounge all I jolly well please
and let my overheated engine cool
—before I succumb to burnout
and have to be towed away!