Wednesday, October 31, 2012

My Tribute to Barbara Curtis

My Tribute to Barbara Curtis

On October 30, 2012, dear, precious Barbara, my soul mate, my good buddy, and best friend, answered God's loving call to "Come Home." I was an only child and always longed for a sister confidant. I've had and do have many close friends through the 8 decades of my life, but 'Barbara-come-lately' was uniquely my sister-in-depth.

"Lead her gently Home, Father." May the Lord whom Barbara loved so passionately and served so enthusiastically with the gifts God had given her, welcome her with "Well done, good and faithful servant. Enter into the joy of your Lord."

I remember the first time we met. When I answered the phone one day, a stranger who didn't actually introduce herself asked if she could come and visit me. She said she read one of my books. I said "Sure." Less than two years ago, lovely Barbara appeared at my door and stepped into my life and into my heart—and the rest is only too short a history. We bonded immediately as if we had known each other forever.

I soon found out who she really was and I was awed at her famous resume. I began to follow her fantastic blog which kept me up-to-date on everything important going on in the nation, the world, my own back yard, the political scene, her family, and above all in our Christian Faith. Google Barbara's name to find out how far-reaching is her ministry. 
Our habit (although sometime interrupted by circumstances) was to meet in Winchester once a month usually at Applebees, for a lingering 3 hour lunch and private girl-talk. We sensed that the Lord smiled on our times together. Both of us were always refreshed and energized to keep on in the direction our Lord was leading us. I grieve ever so deeply for the absence of her physical presence and our so-frequent communication and intimate sharing about everything in our lives and of course our mutual love for writing.

Her family was Barbara's life. She was the sturdy, dependable hub of their family wheel whose spokes numbered 12 children, plus their spouses, in-laws, the grandchildren and beyond. She was always strong for them, teaching and encouraging, sacrificing herself for them with joy. She continually gathered others in her ever-widening loving embrace. As her relationships and friendships increased, she stretched with them. Above all, how firmly she stood for and fought for the truth of the Christian faith to draw others closer to God!

I wonder if Barbara realized how close she was to her "Finish" Line. She was so young at heart, nearly a quarter century younger than I. Barbara was a woman of powerful and vivid and compelling words that always hit the mark on whatever topic she focused. She had many ideas and plans for the future, the great communicator that she was. A columnist for many periodicals through the years, most recently for the ARLINGTON CATHOLIC HERALD, she was a much sought after speaker on family issues as related to the Christian faith. 

The author of many books that have influenced generations of parents, she was excited to have just completed a new book manuscript. She packed it off to the publisher as she drove off to a Christian Journalism Workshop in N. Carolina. At that event Barbara had been eager to hone her skills, exchange ideas, and widen her world view so she could better engage our culture through the new evangelization. She was returning with a back burner full of ideas. She was stricken with her illness the day she returned. 

In the perfect plan of God, He must have counted her life as "complete" and fully acceptable to Him. God would not have cut her life short. In a way that our finite minds can't grasp, Barbara had already completed the purpose and destiny that her loving Heavenly Father uniquely planned for her life from before the foundation of the world. 

In my human emotions, I am still struggling to accept the shortness of Barbara's life, her absence, and seemingly unfinished Kingdom business. Lord, I do accept that Your ways are higher than our ways and that our times are in Your eternal hands, so I bow to Your will. “To everything there is a season; a time to live, and a time to die.” Life is fragile indeed and we are admonished to “number our days so as to apply our hearts unto wisdom.”

I must force myself to focus on the eternal picture or else I will be overcome with personal grief. When friends and loved ones leave this earth-life and their bodies, our faith is tested. Both Barbara and I are fairly recent Catholic Christians. I embrace and actualize what our Catholic faith teaches and what I do believe and understand about "The Communion of Saints." 

We both affirmed that the Body of Christ, the Church, includes not only present Christian believers on earth, but also those who have departed this life in the friendship of Jesus Christ. The Church teaches with the authority of the Bible and the very words of Jesus, that believing departed loved ones are alive and well! The Church teaches that we can pray for their journey into God's presence, and that they can intercede for us who are still alive on earth in the Name and Mediatorship of Jesus and through the action of the Holy Spirit.

When Barbara's precious mortal body, her “earth suit,” ceased to function, it separated from her soul and will wait in the earth for the Day of Resurrection. Her eternal soul—self-aware, alert, and rejoicing in her new eternal state—goes to God and beholds Him in all His supernal glory. 

We speculate, but I venture a guess that Barbara will not be inactive or content to simply float around Heaven's universe landscape in minus gravity. Perhaps Heaven, in a dimension which we can't grasp with our finite minds, may have available some Celestial Computer Lab with techy angels hovering around to assist (although no viruses or hacking here!) where former earth-writers like Barbara can continue to write about the glories of God's vast creation and conduct interviews with newcomers who are celebrating Reunions.

Into her "inbox" may come requests for prayer from us earthlings, loved ones and friends, whose affairs and lives she will be keeping tabs on—because her love and ours continues; love never fails. I can visualize precious Barbara hurrying off to take our prayers through Jesus our Mediator to our Heavenly Father to be answered! 

We have not lost Barbara off in lonely space somewhere. Her Good Shepherd is welcoming her gently Home into His loving fold. Surely an immense "cloud of witnesses" are cheering her arrival while we on earth bid her farewell. Jesus told us not to let our hearts be troubled, that He prepared dwelling places for us in His Father's House. I can imagine that Barbara's new address plate is on one of those mansion "dwelling places." I'll bet her Place is big enough for the entire Curtis extended family—Tripp and the kids and spouses and grandkids and great-grands—to gather there when they too arrive. They will each have a mansion of their own, but methinks BARBARA'S HOUSE will still be their fav place to hang out. 

Dear Barbara, my good buddy. I will love you forever. Be prepared-—I too will be sending you some of my prayer intentions via Angel-Wing-mail pretty often.

Eternal rest grant unto her, O Lord, and let perpetual light
shine upon her. May she rest in peace. Amen.”

Leona Choy a.k.a."Sal" (To Barb I was “Sal”--it stood for God's SALmon—still swimming upstream, although somewhat more slowly due to chronological factors.)

P.S. Oh Barbara!—now you know the outcome of the election before the rest of us!

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Do you want to know a secret?

Some people sing in the shower—I sing to the Lord while I do some simple wake-up exercises before I dress for the day. I call them my “Spiritual Exercises.” They are my own stretching and bending routine to keep my ancient bones and muscles at least minimally limber.

My performance may not be a very pretty sight so it is entirely private, although I face a huge picture window in my master bathroom. My home is on a hill--I have named it "Eagle Summit" since it overlooks a wooded valley and distant hills. Through that window, each season is spectacular in its variation of colors. No dwellings block my view nor am I exposed to human eyes. I watch the sun rise if I rise early enough. In the summer the large, stately oak tree outside that window provides shade, and I watch feathered creatures flit about doing their own exercise routine. They appear to be singing along with me. In the winter, bare branches, sometimes snow laden, give me an unobstructed different view of God's creation. 

Following the adage “If you don't move it, you lose it!” I slowly reach and stretch and bend and swing and clap—to the extent that I am still able in the eighth decade of my life. I softly sing to the Lord an intimate medley of praise songs—either with my cracking, aged voice, or in a breathy whisper. Only God can hear me and I believe He is pleased with whatever comes forth from my lips or my heart. It is a “joyful noise unto the Lord” even if I only think the words. I go through my physical routine in rhythm with the words of the praise songs that follow:

I begin with the familiar “Morning has broken” tune but with my own words. I have always been deeply Trinitarian and direct my praises to the Godhead in that manner.

“Morning has broken like the first morning. I have arisen praising the Lord: Praising the Father, praising the Son, and praising the Spirit, great Three in One.”

Then, “I love You Lord and I lift my voice to worship You, O my soul, rejoice! Take joy, my King, in what You hear, may it be a sweet, sweet sound in Your ear.”

I follow with a three-stanza song: Father I adore You, lay my life before You, how I love You!” (Repeated to Jesus, then to the Spirit.) 

After that, “When morning gilds the skies my heart awakening cries 'May Jesus Christ be praised!' Alike at work or prayer, to Jesus I repair, 'May Jesus Christ be praised!'”

If I still have stamina and breath, I continue, “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God Almighty, early in the morning my song shall rise to Thee; Holy, holy, holy merciful and mighty: God in three Persons, blessed Trinity.” 

After that, “O worship the King, all glorious above, and gratefully sing His power and His love; my Shield and Defender, the Ancient of Days, pavilioned in splendor and girded with praise.”

If I have any strength left, I conclude my morning praise looking out on God's creation wonderland singing “Fairest Lord Jesus [or in a newer version: Beautiful Savior] Ruler of all nature, O Thou of God and man the Son: Thee will I cherish, Thee will I honor, Thou my soul's glory, joy, and crown.”

That's about all that my diminished lungs can muster! These are not “Ignatian Spiritual Exercises”—they are Leona's. They work for me as part of my “Morning Offering” of praise and surrender to the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit!

Friday, October 19, 2012



Leona Choy

AUTUMN puts on a Paradox Performance:
She hurries to change scenes and costumes
making me dizzy with her diversity
as she passes briefly through between summer
and winter's blustery polar breath.

AUTUMN quickly comes and goes
a transient season of diminishing sunlight
and shortened fugitive days
still she turns once more to bless me
with the ineffable glow of a splendid sunset
leaves fall from soon bare branches
yet such glory in their surrender of life
a part of nature dying all around
amidst a time of bountiful harvest.

AUTUMN's paradox inevitably brings
sadness for diminishing mortal years
yet deep gratitude toward seasons past
rue for course of life I might have changed
now decreed and appointed
I must let go of what I cannot alter
embracing the joy of what's to come.

AUTUMN's paradox offers me time
to gather all my nostalgia
like creatures forage for their winter larder
I will store up my treasured memories
to savor on a frigid winter's night
around the warmth of the dying embers
of my friendly hearth
and rest content in God's best plan.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012


Ah ha! Just what I was looking for!

Blessed Cardinal John Henry Newman (1801-1890)
composed this declaration:

"God has created me to do Him some definite service.
He has committed some work to me
which he has not committed to another.

"I have a mission; I may never know it in this life,
but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain,
a bond of connection between persons;
He has not created me for naught.
"I shall do good—I shall do His work.
I shall be an angel of peace while not intending it,
if I do but keep His commandments.
Therefore, I will trust Him."

The above is exactly the statement of affirmation I was trying to make when I wrote the following poem earlier this week. Both Newman's declaration and my poem summarize what I have personally sensed since my childhood—not fully understood, sometimes doubted, often was amazed at, at times dug in my heels against—but always pondered in my knowing spirit as true. 
Like the many facets of a diamond, this mission, this destiny, this purpose, this journey God has put me on for eighty decades since my baptism as an infant, has had multiple reflections in its outworking. Step by step it is still being revealed as I keep marveling at how God leads me. In different seasons of my life the Lord has required me to walk diverse and unknown paths, “roads less traveled.” Sometimes my road has become a bridge, sometimes a link in a chain, sometimes a bond of connection, sometimes peacemaking, sometimes a catalyst to enable God's larger purposes to be fulfilled.

My response is less than perfect at times because I “see through a glass darkly” as Saint Paul described it. Most of the time, however, my heart-stance is to say an emphatic “YES, LORD!” It is my personal continuing “fiat”: “Behold, I am the handmaiden of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word.

At times I feel as if I am blindfolded or stumbling in the darkness because God has not spread out plainly before me His agenda for my mission. At times I have been afraid that, humanly speaking, everything has gone askew. I ask His forgiveness when I have demanded full light upon my path or been impatient and insisted He tell me the outcome in this life. It's hard to wait “till Later!”

Nevertheless, in the words of an old Christian hymn, “I will trust and obey, for there's no other way.” So I will keep taking only the next step He reveals, doing His work and keeping His commandments. Since God has always proved faithful, “Therefore, I will trust Him.”

Leona Choy

THE WIND has blown through my life
from infancy through all the changing years
propelling me
along the paths of time.

Sometimes gently whispering
Sometimes urgently redirecting me
altering my self-planned course
to thrust me
along new paths of time.

THE WIND blew unrecognized
through my innocent childhood years.
In youth's impetuosity oft withstood
by the stubbornness of my self-will
as I stumbled
along my private paths of time.

In prime and senescent years
THE WIND continues to blow
lovingly, patiently
in spite of my resistant humanity.

Grant me the grace to live
this allotted span of earth-time
given me so munificently
to accomplish some ordained portion
of God's Kingdom destiny
some mission to bring me
ultimately to behold His face
in Eternity and receive His words
“Well done, good and faithful servant!”


* THE WIND=The Holy Spirit

Monday, October 8, 2012

An out-of-season THANKSGIVING

"In EVERYTHING give thanks..."
TODAY the early mist and fog hangs low over the wooded scene outside the picture window of my Shenandoah Valley, Virginia home that I call “Eagle Summit.” The morning sky stretches gray and sunless. Rain clouds hold back as if awaiting the weather forecaster's final “best guess.” Birds chirp in muted tones. Autumn chill is in the air.

I feel pensive yet filled with inner joy. According to the calendar, “Thanksgiving Day” is being celebrated in Canada today. But I'm quietly celebrating my own “Thanksgiving Day,” today October 8, as a loving gift from God—because I'm a cancer survivor.

A third of my lung was removed. The surgeon spelled out the odds of my surviving the next five years—very low odds for lung cancer. “Unless God still has plans for your life,” he observed. 

Obviously, that has been the case since that surgery took place on October 8, 1990. The Lord's goodness and mercy has been following me for another twenty-two years—and counting.

I'd appreciate your prayers that I may continue to be unconditionally available and obedient “to follow the Lord fully” in stewardship of His gifts to me like Caleb did in his late 80s as recorded in the Old Testament Scriptures.


Leona Choy

When the mists have rolled away
and I no longer see through a glass darkly
in the supernal Beatific vision of God
and the full glorious Light of the Son
I will see with 20/20 eyes in Eternity
what was obscure to me in mortal life
but obvious in the courts of Heaven:

Myriads of angels hovering protectively
clouds of heavenly witnesses cheering me on
departed friends and family interceding for me
my Guardian Angel 24/7 alert at my side
whispering wisdom to the ears of my heart
the Holy Spirit infusing grace and strength
God's hand overshadowing my paths
unfolding each moment and year after year
His plan to finish what He started
at my conception when He created
my body and soul 
—and He continues the process
because I must be
a still “Unfinished Symphony!”

Tuesday, October 2, 2012


The God of the Second Chance
--and the third, the fourth, the fifth Chance

Leona Choy

Long ago on a distant hill
in the springtime of my soul
I gathered a pile of stones
beneath an ancient oak.

It was my altar
where I knelt unseen by man
in intimacy with my God
for my special consecration.

Occasionally I return
if only in my memory
and seek that tree and the stones
and my place of sacrament.

Sometimes I find
the rocks scattered haphazardly
by insensitive hands
or nature's accident
perchance by passing time.

So I perform the ritual
of gathering them again
piling one upon another
to reassemble my altar.
I kneel to restore my commitment
to the Lord, my Rock.

Such is life:
the rebuilding
over and over
of personal altars
and the renewal
of promises made
to our Ever-Merciful
and Forgiving God:
The God of the Second Chance.


Preface to DryLand

I saw Him beckoning to me from the Dry Land of the Desert, but I didn’t want to follow. I shook my head declining His invitation.
I much preferred to walk in the cool shadow of mountains, along woodland paths that wound through the green forest, or to enjoy breezes from the ocean shore. With compatible companionship, of course. Without a care in the world. And not dealing with serious things.
But He persisted, extending His nail-scarred hand toward me in my comfort zone.
“Let us go together to seek the lost, comfort the sorrowing, heal the hurting, and bring water to thirsty ones. Come with Me to The Desert. . . . ”
“Let someone else go,” I pleaded, digging in my heels.


Leona Choy

Lord, I know I should be willing
to walk in The DryLand
if it's with You—and yet
I'm not eager.
Actually, I'm disinclined and reluctant
because I sweat in the heat
it's not comfortable in the desert
my tender feet burn and split
my throat is parched
I swallow sand and grit
hot wind bites my fevered face.

But I know You trust me
to carry Your Living Water
the only cup of refreshing
that can quench the thirst
of other travelers
who must journey through
The DryLand.

Please give me Your grace
not to draw back
to keep my eyes on Your face
and not be slack
in my commitment.

If I myself do not feel
the blazing heat
an aching heart
pressure beyond measure
temptations and trial
nor find You sufficient
for every mile
of my own DryLand
I would not care to share
Your Water with another.

Accept my weak willingness
to walk in arid deserts
as well as verdant valleys
that I might become
Your watered garden
Your spring of refreshing
to meet the needs of those
whose stumbling, blistered feet
You bid me wash (as You did)
while all of us
journey together with You
through Life's DryLand.


Isaiah 58:11
"And the Lord will...satisfy your desire in scorched
places...and you will be like a watered garden and
like a spring of water whose waters do not fail."

Dealing with the "me" complex

THE DISPUTE ABOUT IMPORTANCE is not unique to the five finger argument below.
 Jesus needed to take His twelve disciples in hand to teach them a lesson. “Jesus began to question [His disciples], 'What were you discussing on the way?' But they kept silent, for on the way they had discussed with one another which of them was the greatest. And sitting down He said to them, 'If any one wants to be first, he shall be last of all, and servant of all.'” Mark 9:33-35

The Five Finger Argument

On The Way to accomplish A Task for The Master, the five fingers of a hand of one of His human children had a contention among themselves.

“I am the most important,” each finger declared.

The thumb held itself up. “I indicate what’s Number One. I show priorities.”
The first finger bragged, “I always point the way. I give good directions.”
The second finger stood erect. “I am the tallest, above the rest of you, so I am the most important.”
“I am the most precious,” said the third finger. “I wear the wedding band.”
The small finger spoke quietly, “When hands are clasped in prayer, I am nearest to God.”

God, the Creator of the hand and the designer of the differences between the five fingers, called a Ministering Angel to give the fingers a test to prove which was the most important. 
The angel scattered some pebbles on a table and said, “Whichever of you picks up all the pebbles is the most important and can set off to accomplish The Task by itself.”
Each finger tried to pick up a pebble but failed to do it alone.
Finally, in true humility, each finger realized that it had to cooperate with the others to do The Task of The Master.
As a whole hand, the five fingers easily picked up the pebbles.


James 3:16
“Where jealousy and selfish ambition exist, there is disorder....”

Romans 12:3-8
“For through the grace given to me I say to every man among you not to think more highly of himself than he ought to think; but to think so as to have sound judgment, as God has allotted to each a measure of faith. For just as we have many members in one body and all the members do not have the same function, so we, who are many, are one body in Christ, and individually members one of another....And since we have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us, let each exercise them accordingly....”

The entire chapter of 1 Corinthians 12 explains varieties of gifts and ministries.
“One and the same Spirit works all these things, distributing to each one individually just as He wills... no part of the body can say 'I have no need of you'....Now you are Christ's body and individual members of it....”