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