Saturday, June 30, 2012


“Help! I've fallen and I can't get up!” 

 The image of a woman lying helpless on the floor after a fall flashes across my TV screen. An often repeated advertisement warns me, “One out of three people over 65 will fall this year.” Because I'm in that category I'm urged to buy an alert button to hang on a pendant around my neck to assure being rescued in the probable event of a fall.
I thought about some of the reasons one might fall and the spiritual applications:

Entangled feet—throw rugs or a purring cat rubbing our ankles can topple us.
Weak knees—suddenly our legs buckle and down we go.
Uneven ground—we trip over unexpected rough places on a walkway.
A hearing problem—we lose our equilibrium if our ears aren't tuned to God.
Diminished eyesight—we don't see the hazards evident to those who see properly.
Fainting—we suddenly collapse when we feel lightheaded.
Uncertain of our direction—our indecision causes a misstep.
We habitually hurry—we move too fast for our feet to keep up with our gait.
We are pushed—someone shoves us accidentally or on purpose.
Foot problems—wear and tear on our arches causes pain and limping.
Inattention—we don't listen when someone warns us about a danger.
Inadequate light—we stumble over unseen obstacles.
Too much baggage—we are thrown off balance by carrying extra pounds
Our spine is stressed—misalignment throws us off balance.
We are drunk—staggering, we can't walk the straight line test.
Staircase mishaps—going up or down we may miss a step and fall.
Shuffling—we don't pick up our feet properly.
Distracted—our mind is elsewhere and our feet are confused.
Inappropriate footwear—improper shoes or walking in bedroom slippers.

Accidental falling happens to the toddler and to the advanced-in-life totterer and to anyone in between. For the small child, it is a matter of learning to walk and how to get up from a tumble. Because the little one is closer to the floor, the bumps and bruises are not usually critical. Sufficient baby fat cushions their fall. The older person, having been a veteran walker, may not be aware of the increasing lack of balance that comes with chronological aging. A fall is usually more serious because bones are more brittle and there is less natural padding. As seniors, we should learn to watch our step.

Most of the above physical warnings can translate into spiritual warnings. Although we may be longtime Christians, we are still in danger of losing our spiritual balance and falling. The road of life may be getting rough. Uncertainty faces us. We shuffle instead of walk with alertness focusing on where we are going. We can become confused and lose our spiritual bearings. 

Some unexpected trauma of life may threaten to topple us. We are not as careful to walk in God's full light as we did in the fervor of our first love for Christ. We must be careful not to carry too much baggage of the past; it may drag us down to a fall. Our attachments to this life may be too tight. If our feet are tired and weak from the length of life's journey, we may need spiritual orthodics in our shoes to maintain our foot health and balance. We may not be hearing God's whisper of guidance as we did when we were in a more intimate relationship with Him. The Holy Spirit is available as our hearing aid.

Jesus admonished us to watch and pray so we will recognize the particular temptations of our life road and not trip. Let's not let our vision become clouded with the cataracts of the passing things of this world. Along our pathway are sins which can so easily beset us and upset us causing us to fall if our spiritual eyes aren't focused on God. Our feet may get tangled up in the trivia of the temporal and down we go spiritually. If we are not progressing in our faith and trust in God, we slip backward and eventually take a spill. If we don't keep our knees strong (literally by kneeling in worship or by worshiping in our spirits) we will join our peers who head for knee and hip replacements.
Only with our hearts continually turned to prayer can we keep from fainting from the weariness of advancing age. Some of us in our senior years slow down too soon and fall from the resulting weakness caused by inactivity. On the other hand, some of us tend to excessively hurry because the time left on earth seems so short—we trip and fall too. We should trust Jesus to show us His will for our pace at each season of life.

We must beware of elevating ourselves with high heels of pride for our achievements, turn an ankle, and take a tumble. “Pride goes before a fall” the Scripture declares. Let's not be drunk with the luxuries and comforts of this world which the evil one designs to keep us from walking the straight line of righteousness.

In our advanced years our spinal disks deteriorate and we may lose a few inches. Applied spiritually, we may “lose our backbone” by no longer standing up straight for the moral and spiritual issues we once stood for so enthusiastically.

 Let's obtain whatever spiritual alignment we need to keep walking tall as faithful children of God--all the way to the Finish Line without falling. 

Monday, June 25, 2012


Care for life from its beginning to its natural end

March 2005 was a month of historical significance not only for the Catholic world but for the entire community of nations. Everything seemed hushed as we lived quietly under the lengthening shadow of the final days of the illness and death of our beloved elderly Pope John Paul II. The next weeks would hold both intense mourning and jubilant celebration on a scale, according to the media, heretofore unknown in world history. 

My Confirmation into the Catholic Church just prior to my 80th birthday coincided with those last days of the life of Pope John Paul II and within a few weeks of the election of Pope Benedict XVI.
The previous September JP II had written the following message calling for increased respect of the elderly, his projected theme for Lent 2005. It was published in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish, Portuguese, and Polish. Excerpts from it follow.

The Pope used the words of Moses taken from Deuteronomy 30:20: "Loving the Lord...means life to you, and length of days." He wrote, “These words of Moses invited the people to embrace the Covenant with Yahweh in the country of Moab 'that you and your descendants may live, loving the Lord, your God, obeying His voice, and cleaving to Him'." "I ask you to deepen your awareness of the role that the elderly are called to play in society and in the Church, and thus prepare your hearts for the loving welcome that should always be reserved for them." 

“Thanks to the contribution of science and medicine, one sees in society today a lengthening of the human life span and a subsequent increase in the number of elderly. This demands a more specific attention to the world of so-called 'old age', in order to help its members to live their full potential by placing them at the service of the entire community. The care of the elderly, above all when they pass through difficult moments, must be of great concern to all the faithful, especially in the ecclesial communities of Western societies, where the problem is particularly present."

"Human life is a precious gift to be loved and defended in each of its stages. The Commandment, 'You shall not kill', always requires respecting and promoting human life, from its beginning to its natural end. It is a command that applies even in the presence of illness and when physical weakness reduces the person's ability to be self-reliant."

“The elderly need to be understood and helped in this perspective. I wish, here, to express my appreciation to those who dedicate themselves to fulfilling these needs, and I also call upon other people of good make their own personal contribution."

“It is necessary to raise the awareness in public opinion that the elderly represent, in any case, a resource to be valued." 

For this reason, economic support and legislative initiatives, which allow them not to be excluded from social life, must be strengthened." 

"In truth, during the last decade, society has become more attentive to their needs, and medicine has developed palliative cures that, along with an integral approach to the sick person, are particularly beneficial for long-term patients."

Knowledge of the nearness of the final goal leads the elderly person to focus on that which is essential, giving importance to those things that the passing of years do not destroy."

Precisely because of this condition, the elderly person can carry out his or her role in society. If it is true that man lives upon the heritage of those who preceded him, and that his future depends definitively on how the cultural values of his own people are transmitted to him, then the wisdom and experience of the elderly can illuminate his path on the way of progress toward an ever more complete form of civilization."

“What would happen if the People of God yielded to a certain current mentality that considers these people, our brothers and sisters, as almost useless when they are reduced in their capacities due to the difficulties of age or sickness?" 

“Instead, how different the world community would be, if, beginning with the family, it tries always to remain open and welcoming towards them."

In view of the threat presently on the American scene to suppress our Christian freedom to care for the young and the old and the physically and mentally ill through our Catholic institutions, how relevant and timely are these admonitions of Blessed John Paul II!



I’m certainly not publicly prominent or politically important, but I'm so thankful I have security guards assigned to me!

It’s interesting to watch a television shot of the security guards who are assigned to the president of the United States when he goes out in public, especially in a crowded situation—if you can spot them. They are usually dressed in plain clothes and blend into the crowd, but their eyes behind special dark glasses continually dart back and forth on the alert to spot anything out of order or anyone who might pose a threat to the president's safety. 

   As Christians, we are secure in the care and protection of God's angelic messengers sent to minister to His children, no matter how old His children are. The promise of Scripture is that God sends His angels "to guard me in all my ways" (Psalm 91:11). All my ways includes everything that concerns me, every detail, problem, and decision, every ache or pain or weakness or limitation or suffering I may be going through. As I acknowledge God "in all my ways" I can be certain that He will direct my paths. (Proverbs 3:6) 

Those angelic security guards don't go off duty after they’ve put in their assigned hours since their assignment is open end—24/7. Nor do they take coffee breaks at some heavenly “Star”bucks, take a power nap on a soft cloud, or forsake us in our latter years. When we sleep, they stay awake. We are given to understand in Scripture that a guardian angel is assigned to little children, and there is nothing to indicate that it's not a lifetime job. There is no hint that they leave their assignment when we become old enough to take care of ourselves. We don't know if they grow old along with us, but it is highly unlikely since they were created before man and are not mortal, therefore not subject to space or time.

If we live long enough, the time is likely to come when we are too old to take care of ourselves. We need their services even more as our years increase. As we chronologically advance, we are in greater danger of stumbling, slipping, and falling physically or drifting spiritually or losing our emotional balance by being assaulted by adversity, pain or suffering. We need our security guards from the time we are toddlers to the time when we are totterers. They provide us with lifetime intensive care. What a comfort to know that we are surrounded by such caring, intelligent, supernatural beings sent directly from our Father's loving heart to shield us so intimately! 

Most of the time they are invisible to us. Sometimes they appear as special people God sends to care for us in illness or accident—doctors, nurses, technicians, and Hospice helpers with their knowledge and skills to attend to the needs of our mortal bodies. They also come to us in the form of our loved ones with their tender concern and encouragement. There are providential times when those heavenly beings temporarily take visible human form for some special purpose on our behalf. At the close of our earthly lives, it is thought that God dispatches angelic transport companions assigned to accompany us on our final journey to The Father's House. 

We don’t know how many miles we still have left to travel or how many hills we must climb before those Heavenly Gates open to receive us and our Welcome Celebration begins. "I go to prepare a place for you," said Jesus. The precise day and time we should arrive is filled in on God’s invitation card, but that is kept secret from us in a sealed envelope. We only know that our mortal lives are fragile, that "our times are in His hands," and that His timing is always perfect. 

Doubtless God will give our security guards a “heads up” when that time is approaching so that we don’t have to worry about an R.S.V.P. to God's invitation. We simply need to be living in a state of grace and readiness with oil in our lamps to meet our Bridegroom.

Friday, June 22, 2012



Most of us aren't conscious of breathing until some physical disorder or outside condition obstructs or inhibits its normal function. In later years as a result of lung cancer surgery to remove a part of my lung, I have chronic diminished lung capacity. From time to time I go through a pulmonary function test. 

It's pretty high tech procedure these days. In a hospital lab I sit in a clear plastic box that looks like a phone booth. I'm tested through Spirometry to measure the force and amount of air leaving my lungs, through a Diffusion test to show how well my lungs move air into my blood, and several lung volume tests with different mixtures of air. The latter measures how much air I inhale and exhale or stays in my lungs. Shortness of breath has become my new normal. I can't do a fast mile walk as previously, and flights of stairs have become increasingly difficult.

Nighttime breathing is an additional challenge since I must use a CPAP machine connected by a hose to a nose-piece to alleviate Sleep Apnea. 

As Job declared, “My days are but a breath”--a breath is all that separates this world and the next for everyone. So I'm thankful for every sustaining breath I take and for whatever measure of breathing normalcy God sees fit to apportion to me. I'm conscious of the Source from which my breath came and continues to come—God—who breathed into the nostrils of the first man the breath of life, and Jesus Christ who breathed on His followers to receive the Holy Spirit in power to be His witnesses. “[God] gives to all life and breath and all things” (Acts 17:25).

In gratitude and in stewardship for the generosity of God lovingly lavishing upon me eight decades of breath from my first infant breath , I want to use that breath for Him in the way He expects me to—by praising God and sharing Him with others. “Let everything that has breath praise the Lord. Praise ye the Lord!” (Psalm 150:6) 

Part of the evening meditation for the Mass Liturgy in the devotional publication “Magnificat” was the hymn I was also familiar with as an evangelical. I took the first phrase as my “Bread Before Bed” (See my blog post for June 7, 2012) as I drifted off to sleep repeating in rhythm with my breathing: “Breathe on me, breath of God, fill me with life anew.”

Each stanza speaks meaningfully to me: “That I may love what thou dost love, And do what thou wouldst do. Breathe on me, breath of God, Until my heart is pure, Until with thee I will one will, To do and to endure. Breathe on me, breath of God, Till I am wholly thine, Till all this earthly part of me, Glows with thy fire divine. Breathe on me, breath of God, So shall I never die, But live with thee the perfect life, Of Thine eternity.”

I expressed it my way in one of my poems:


I praise You, Lord,
with every breath
and every thought
with singers and sages
throughout all ages
with all saints on earth
and heaven's host
praise the Father, the Son,
and the Holy Ghost.

I join my breath today
and with my voice proclaim
Your matchless holy name
with earth and heaven acclaim
Your benevolent sovereignty.
You rule the universe
yet deign to stoop
to reign in me
a finite reflection
of Your creativity.

I praise You, O Lord!
I celebrate You!
Applaud You! Magnify You!
I lift You high
yet how can I
when You are already
The Highest?

But I glorify
what You are and do
Majestic hitherto
and still today
declared by my breath
and tongue of mortal clay.


Just a calendar number anyway!

When you go to buy a super-suitable mattress these days, you are supposed to know your “sleep number.” I don't know that, but my “lived number” is 31755. That is 87 x 365 which is the generous number of days filled with “goodness and mercy” which according to Psalm 23, have followed me through the valleys and mountaintops all the days of my life.

My 103 year old beloved cousin Martha who lives in a retirement home sent me the sweat shirt which was given her when she attained the young age that I reach today. It pictures a laughing Minnie Mouse cartoon figure with the words, “I'm NOT 87! I'm 18 with 69 years experience!” 

I hope that I'm wiser now that I'm full of years and that I will be greathearted to share that wisdom...but only when I'm asked!


Do You mean it, God?
Do You expect me to celebrate aging?

Of course I did in my youth:
I hurrayed the milestones
the red-letter days—the birthdays
festive with red balloons
Koolaid and chocolate cake
candles and presents
feted with favorite peers
in my exciting childhood years.

But at some point I stopped counting
and cut the flashy fanfare.
The numbers got stuck at thirty-nine
at least Jack Benny's and mine
and the years slipped quietly by
neither lauded nor applauded
more solemnized than commemorated
but not unrecorded on my face
and in my creaking knees
and aching back—
oh yes, time did keep track!

You DO mean it, God?
It's actually in Your perfect plan
for man (and woman too)
to ripen and mature and celebrate
whatever time of life
You've granted so generously
to Your “forever child”
(that's me!)

Okay, so then I'll be
jubilant and carefree
blowing out my 87 candles with gusto
and opening excitedly
Your delightful presents
of all the new days still ahead
as I count on Your guiding hand
and ever-faithful presence!

Tuesday, June 19, 2012


Whose fault is that?

When I was a baby, my mother put food in my mouth. When I was a child she put food on my plate. She was in charge of what I ate, how balanced it was, and how large or small the portions. As I grew, I became in charge of what was on my plate. My choices were dictated by my tastes; my selection of foods and their quantity was often flawed. That has remained the case throughout the many seasons of my life.

As an adult I'm expected to exercise good judgment in my choices and the quantity I should consume—neither starve myself, nor go on strange fad diets nor overindulge.

Applying the simile to what I am doing on a daily basis or to describe my lifestyle, I catch myself frequently lamenting, “I just have too much on my plate!” Overload is my particular problem, rather than not having enough to do or to complain that I am bored. In this late-in-life season, I am still tempted to take on too much, to fail to pace myself, to resist the reality that I have growing limitations. 

There are other questions I should be asking myself. Who “put on my plate” what I'm attempting to do? Is it my decision? Is someone else forcing me to do more than I should be doing? Are other people or circumstances loading my plate with things I am not supposed to be “eating”? I get into trouble when I let other people put too much on me, demand too much of me. Also when I inadvisedly take on too much. Could it be from pride to try to prove that I can still do everything I did before?

Or do I believe God is in charge and still has a plan for my life even at my advanced age? Am I still eagerly cooperating with Him as He continues to move me toward the destiny He has had for my life from the beginning of time? He doesn't expect me to retire from His calling on my life.

God does expect me to exercise good judgment in my choices since He and I have a track record of walking together throughout a lifetime of His guidance. He has held my hand from infancy until advanced years through my trial-and-error stumbling as I have been learning obedience. I know I can count on “His goodness and mercy to follow me all the days of my life.” He will lead me to balance what is on my plate.

God never overloads my plate—or leaves it empty. He provides me with “my daily bread” and allows me to exercise my free will under His generosity to put on it peanut butter and jam or make it into a BLT sandwich. He offers me a menu and guides me to make the best selections for my spiritual health and to fulfill His plan for my life.


Life is not a fast food order
I can have prepared my way:
put on the mayo and tomato
add the cheese, hold the onions
lettuce and ketchup are okay.

Life is not a giant leather menu
offered by the maitre d'
prime cuts, lobster, or Cornish hen
to titillate my gourmet palate
at immense expense to me.

Nor is life a hospital check list
brought by a punctual nurse
with my breakfast tray
allowing me selection
within dietary restriction
for the next repetitious day.

Life is
whatever shall be
provided by the Lord
Who knows what's best for me.

God works all things together
through my free will choices
yet monitored by Him
in His sovereignty.

I don't feel manipulated
exploited or dominated
or maneuvered like a puppet.
I'm perfectly satisfied
well-nourished too
by what He's selected for me
from His predestined menu
by His Divine decree!
Ephesians 2:10; Romans 8:28

Sunday, June 10, 2012


So, whose day is it?

            I can’t believe how many times I said that today. One thing after another went wrong. Very wrong.
            My computer crashed and I was left without being able to send important messages. I thought I might be going deaf in my right ear. My appointment with my audiologist turned into a rollover appointment with my ENT doctor involving several hours. Not good. I have serious congestion. Came away with a prescription for a strong antibiotic. Then my car wouldn’t start in the medical building parking lot. Had to phone my son to come to my rescue. It was 92 degrees and not yet noon. I forgot my water bottle. My energy was depleting fast. When I finally arrived at the pharmacy no prescription awaited me. It had been phoned to a branch pharmacy across town instead. I was told there would be a 45 minute wait. It was another hour and a half. Then my cell phone went dead.
            And so it went for the rest of my exhausting, frustrating day. My well-planned schedule was shot. Nothing seemed to go right. I kept complaining, “This just ISN’T my day!”
            But didn’t I kneel and present myself to God at my bedside upon rising as is my lifelong habit according to Romans 12:1? “By the mercies of God, present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice, acceptable to God, which is your spiritual service of worship.” Didn’t I ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit? Didn’t I affirm that I wanted to obey His will in all things today in my life on earth as it is done in heaven? Didn’t I ask the Lord to bring into my life today anyone and anything that was in His will to fulfill the destiny to which He had called me when He created me? Didn’t I ask Him to keep me flowing in the river of His will for His glory today?
            Then what’s my beef? God was simply answering my prayers all day long in His perfect way to accomplish in me and through me His will that I had wanted from daybreak on. Smooth sailing on the flowing river of His will through the day wouldn’t have done it as well. God brought me into exactly the situations and to encounter the specific people He wanted me to touch for Him today, or to be touched by.
Did I miss something? What spirit did I project? The fragrance of Christ or the odor of my whining and frustration? Did I miss some opportunity to share the Christ in me with someone else by my attitude or my words? Did I drop the ball and overlook some learning experience to be further transformed into the image of Jesus?
Obviously I needed the sandpaper of those abrasive, adverse experiences to grow in my trust for God today. I needed to rely less on myself and my own control. Could it have been God’s loving test? Not to see if I would fail, but to put me in a position for the pressure to draw me closer to Him?
OF COURSE IT WASN’T MY DAY! I had given my day over to God and it was His and I am His. “This is the day the Lord has made. Let us rejoice and be glad in it” –whatever He sees fit in His love to put on my plate. God is in charge of the menu!

Saturday, June 9, 2012


We’re movin’ on toward maturity!

            I’m using up the WATERMELON SMILE Moisturizing Body Wash in my shower these days. It’s labeled “For KIDS” and is in a brilliant green and chartreuse plastic bottle with Sponge Bob pictured on the front. All this is intended to make clean up attractive to children. The stuff is sweet scented, almost smells like bubble gum. But I guess I can endure that. I don’t want to waste it. It’s leftover from when my grandson used it.
            When 12 year old grandson Jeffrey visits now, he uses SPORT Shower Gel with the label shouting “Mean and Clean.” It’s in a jet black plastic easy-grip bottle with a battleship gray and silver top. The matching soap is also battleship gray and certainly strongly scented for manly noses.
            Seems like just yesterday Jeffrey was eager to plunge into grandma’s whirlpool bathtub and fill it with that purple HAWAIIAN BLAST foaming bubble bath and disappear in its depths to pretend he was Jaws.
            The Apostle Paul described the normal and expected maturing process with a spiritual spin. “When I was a child, I used to speak as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I did away with childish things.” (1 Cor. 13:11) My grandson still has a ways to go to reach full manhood, but he is definitely on the way. How he cleans up is a symbol of his progress.
            We anticipate children to act like children and our expectations are proportionate. We know that we will have to remind children repeatedly to wash up. There seems to be a natural avoidance to soap and water! Supervision seems to go on forever before they take over with their own motivation. Spiritually we should grow up in relation to personal cleansing which is the holiness to which God draws us. When we do soil our spirits, we need to know how to get rid of sin’s contamination and stench through confession, repentance, and the beautiful and efficacious channels the Church provides for our reconciliation.
            It’s no longer necessary to plead with and nag this nearly-teen young man to wash up. He gladly heads for the shower, especially after his sports workout. Big time progress! May all of God’s growing children of whatever age follow suit. It takes light to reveal our spiritual spots and blemishes. Let us be quick to clean up and walk in the Light as Jesus provides it.      
The Apostle Paul reveals his heart with his instruction from 2 Corinthians 7:1, “Therefore, having these promises, beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all defilement of flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.” This is expanded by the Apostle John in his first epistle, chapter one, verses seven through nine: “…the blood of Jesus His Son cleanses us from all sin. If we say that we have no sin, we are deceiving ourselves, and the truth is not in us. If we confess our sins, He is faithful and righteous to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.”
            Some of us who are more mature in years and in the Christian faith might do well to continue using that spiritual WATERMELON SMILE moisturizing wash if we are still behaving in a childish manner. God expects us to be examples of believers and live godly in Christ Jesus. That means to grow up in all ways unto the Lord. NO EXCUSE SLIPS ISSUED TO THOSE IN ADVANCING YEARS!


Discovering my niche

            No, I didn't misspell the title. I’m referring to my God-given “ROLE” in life—my purpose, my destiny at this particular time in my life cycle. The question presupposes that God has a plan for the entire sweep of my life. I wholeheartedly accept that faith premise! These are introspective thoughts: I direct the following questions to myself in what is realistically the final season of my life.
Do I know what my role or life-niche is right now? I may have known what it was at other stages of my life when it was more clearly defined. Now it is not that easy to perceive. Do I know why I’m still here on earth and what God means for me to be and do before I have finished my task on earth? Who am I in Christ and what is my place in His Body, the Church, in His Kingdom?
It is absurd to imagine that the Lord has abandoned His plan for me and the calling on my life just because I have reached a certain chronological age. What is there about “I will never leave you or forsake you” that I don’t understand and trust? God is eternal and views all things in the eternal present. He is “God our help in ages past, our hope for years to come” as the hymn writer declares. “Ages” can be thought of in the sense of personal chronological ages as well as ages of history.
What’s around me right now?  Who is around me now? That’s what and who I’m responsible to share Christ with. Have I found my present niche, the place and the life to which He called me? It may be considerably less public than before, even hidden. If it happens to be a restricted one, even relegated to relative inactivity, that is still the sphere in which He intends that I live and serve Him. Am I walking in it faithfully and to the best of my understanding and ability?
            My sphere in life at whatever the season of life I’m in evolves and changes according to God’s working in my life and my circumstances. It is determined by my openness to God’s will for my life or my resistance to it.
            Am I influencing my culture and circumstances, or do they squeeze me into their mold and stifle me? Do I resist where it seems that God has planted me? Do I think He made a mistake? Do I think He abandoned me in my advanced years? Would I rather be elsewhere and with other people under different circumstances? If I harbor that attitude, I am the temporal, mortal clay pot questioning the wisdom of the Infinite Potter.
            It is as if I’m standing at the center, the hub, of a people wheel. I’m not standing there alone but with Christ. He means me to reach out to the people in my circumference with my hands and heart as if with His hands being the spokes of the wheel
            In all your ways acknowledge Him.”  “My ways” are my present circumstances where I’m to express His Lordship. God has put enough instruction in inspired, sacred Scripture to help me ascertain whether I’m in the will of God and how to find my niche and serve there with His enabling. IT IS SIMPLY UP TO ME TO DO IT.


The siren pull of a June day

            My chiropractor set me up for this. “Too much sitting at the computer stresses your back and legs and irritates all the nerves connected with them.”
            I already know that. But I’m a writer and when I get involved in the creative processing of words and thoughts, I ignore the time. Before I realize it, hours have gone by. And yes, I do hurt.
            “So set a kitchen timer and just get up and MOVE every hour. Return to your writing renewed.”
            “Okay, I’ll give it a try.” It took awhile because often I ignored the irritating jangle-buzz that startled me and kept on writing. But I am learning (haven’t totally succeeded yet) and now head for the door with my sunglasses and cell phone. (The latter at the insistence of my sons who are always warning me about breaking a hip!)
            It is not a forced march—the siren pull of balmy June with the warm, affectionate sun kissing my cheek, the gentle wind ruffling my hair, the intoxicating fragrance first of honeysuckle, then sprouting pine, then peonies, then lilac then roses—overwhelming! Lord, I notice! I notice and appreciate the seasonal cycle You created from the beginning that continues to nourish me in my season of life and in my generation!
            As a teenager I memorized the poem of James Russell Lowell, “What is so rare as a day in June? Then, if ever, come perfect days. Then heaven tries earth if it be in tune and over it softly her warm ear lays.” What a sensory experience!  The words moved me as a child and I can embrace and encore the feeling even now as a great grandmother. Why not?
As a child I soaked myself deliciously in the release and relief of summer vacation from school. The lazy, hazy, days when there was nothing I had to do, nowhere I had to go. I understood the true meaning of leisure. Bored was not in my vocabulary. With neighborhood children I always found more than enough to occupy each day. Even hiking in the woods and taking along sandwiches and a bottle of “pop” for an impromptu picnic by a bubbling stream was permitted and safe. We brought home tadpoles to watch the frog cycle progress. And at night there were “lightning bugs” to catch on the lawn and put into jars while grownups gathered on the porch with neighbors to cool off.
I can experience that feeling again in bite size pieces when my kitchen timer goes off. I wear a pedometer and in my measured mile I can condense some of the sensory delights of my childhood. I am still alive and my Creator, Savior, Redeemer, Provider, Sustainer, who holds my breath in His hands, is within me, beside me, going before me, drawing me ever closer to Himself. Moreover, He has my back.
THERE GOES THE BUZZER! WON’T YOU COME WALK WITH ME? After the so-rarity of June comes the heat of high July and with it even more to notice of God’s creation and more to bless God for!


Celebrating your namesake

            I’m not sure why your Dad and Mom chose that name for you, but you have a noble role model and namesake in Saint Ephrem the Syrian Christian. You probably aren’t aware of it as a pre-schooler, but Syria is a country far away from your home in Maryland. Syria is much in the world’s headline news at present.
            Today, June 9, the Church celebrates his life all over the world. You will read and understand more about Saint Ephrem as you grow older, but I’ll tell you a few things in advance. Ephrem was born in Mesopotamia and like you came from a Christian family. He lived in the 300s A.D. That was just a couple of hundred years after Jesus lived on earth and then went to heaven.
            Ephrem was not really a very smart student in school, but he studied hard and did well. When he grew up he became a great writer even though he didn’t have a computer or even a pen and paper as we do. Even today can read some of his wonderful writings that have lasted for nearly two thousand years.
Ephrem knew a lot about the teachings of Jesus even before all the books of the Bible had been put together. Those who knew Jesus passed on his true teachings to others and then they passed it on to Ephrem and the people who lived in his day. He loved Jesus very much and taught people to believe in Him. He tried to be sure they believed exactly what Jesus taught. He was always standing up for the Christian faith against those who didn’t believe. He preached in public and became a deacon in the early church community.
            Ephrem wrote poetry and many beautiful hymns to the melodies of popular songs. He changed the words to words of sound doctrine. He was one of the first to teach singing in public worship to instruct people in the Christian faith. This was something new in his day, although throughout Scriptural history God’s people always sang praises to God. It made them feel part of each other and expressed their joy in Jesus. Some people gave Ephrem a nickname, “Harp of the Holy Spirit” because he was always singing about Jesus.
            As your great-grandma, I pray for you that you will continue to be a joyful, singing boy and then grow to be a man who always brings people to Jesus. God has gifted you with a big, happy smile, Ephrem, that everyone notices. I think you were born smiling! You are already a blessing to your family and others. We love you. I know you will live up to the witness and holy life of your namesake, Saint Ephrem.

Thursday, June 7, 2012


Freeze, hurry, or drag my feet?

            I’ve sometimes had the urge to seize a significant moment and hug it tightly, nail it down so it wouldn’t get away. I want it to last forever. It might have been a particular period of my life or some enjoyable experience. I remember the childhood game of “Statue.” You were supposed to “freeze” in whatever position you were when the command was given. If only I could freeze time at some ideal age or without any changes in my family situation, my strength, or my health. Or permanently capture an especially happy moment.
On the other hand, as years advance some people can’t wait to slow their pace and spend the rest of their days in a leisurely manner just “drifting down the river on a Sunday afternoon,” as the sentimental song of bygone days would have it. Still others are obsessed with running still faster from a sense that time is chasing them. Where’s the balance?
            In our early years we struggle to fulfill ourselves through education, jobs, careers, possibly in marriage and family relationships. Our talents and skills and the approval of others impel us to run toward those goals. And we have enough energy to do so. Time seems to be on our side. We rarely give its earthly termination a thought—obviously we have a generous supply—open end.
            Suddenly, so it seems, we find ourselves in the mature years of life and energy has leaked out. But it dawns on us that we aren’t done yet! We haven’t finished what we started. We haven’t reached our goals. Many dreams haven’t materialized. We were forced to abandon some and readjust others. We haven’t yet become what we hoped to be.
            In frustration and then panic we may frantically try scrambling up some earthly ladder toward completion, attainment, and success. Fulfillment seems illusive. We stare into the face of increasing limitations. It all seems to be downhill from now on.
            When we were younger, time seemed to drag its feet. Now time is pushing the accelerator down with both feet. Life is like mist or smoke: when we try to catch it, our fingers close around nothing. We keep asking, “Where did the time go?” Have we lost the entire centerfold of life? We feel crowded into a corner.
            Trying to speed up or slow down or remain static is all fantasy! Much of life is beyond my control. I’m sure that I really wouldn’t be satisfied if I could stop time at this or any moment. I might miss what God has planned for me just around the next bend. What’s still coming may be better than anything I’ve experienced in the past or present. I might miss the invigoration of a fresh challenge, a hurdle to leap over, or a new mountain to climb.
            Sometimes the Lord saves the best wine until the last!
            In any case, I don’t have a choice. In the mortal realm I’m temporarily locked into earth’s time frame and human condition. The clock ticks on until one day I step over into a thrilling eternal dimension where time is of a different essence.
            Today is still the best day for me as a child of God. The choicest moment is right now! The Lord must have something special in mind to keep me around on Planet Earth. I’ve already lived my yesterdays. I don’t know about my tomorrows. Today is the only time for which I am accountable, and I have the awesome opportunity to live it totally for Jesus.
            I can’t afford to let today slip through my fingers without living it to the hilt and celebrating life to the fullest. While I live and breathe I still have time to be a faithful steward of the rest of my life. I may even be able to add more of life’s pages in full color for the pleasure of my Lord and my God!


"Just be logical, Mom!"
I’m not complaining, Lord—just putting in a request through channels. My valued Guardian Angel has been faithfully with me 24/7 since my conception. I really appreciate him. You created him brilliant, wise, alert, skillful, and powerful as are all Your heavenly messengers. He is multi-gifted and can multi-task. He does marvels for me in every area of my life.
Nevertheless, Lord, I really need a Techy Angel to assist him in these highly specialized days in which I live as I try to serve you through my published words.
My four sons give me immeasurable help in computer technology and the latest equipment. But they are still mortal and limited. Of course, knowing so much more than I do, they lovingly scold me when I’ve got myself into some computer confusion. They first ask me accusingly what I did to get myself into this fix. That intimidates me! My sons keep telling me that I should simply follow the prompts to solve my own problems. “Just be logical, Mom!” I honestly can’t, Lord, because I simply don’t know what the questions or options even mean in order to choose wisely. I hesitate to venture into unknown areas “above my pay grade.”
My loving sons always do come through to rescue me and give me a new start. Without doubt they have their own Guardian Angels who are truly quite tech-savvy. Forgive them, Lord—sometimes they shout at the computer calling it stupid in their anger when they themselves may be a little slow to figure out a certain problem.
When I get into some unsolvable-to-me predicament, my son Rick can even magically guide my cursor from somewhere else without being with me. Awesome! He tells me just to sit back, and I watch the monitor while he gets into the squigglies of computer language, right at the core, making his way around in its inner workings like a brain surgeon. That’s so much like You, Lord, when You take over to solve some mess I’ve made.
But I’d really like to have a Techy Angel on duty all the time to assist my Guardian Angel because I’m so often frustrated with the hardware and the software. You’ve given me a dominant right brain and I deal primarily with creatively processing words to help people come to you. I can’t seem to think techy. It was so simple in my earliest days of writing when modern writing technology consisted of a black manual Underwood typewriter whose carriage you had to push back to start another line.
Oh no, Lord, I wouldn’t want to regress from this marvelous progress. Certainly I wouldn’t like to go back to how it was! Thank you for all the advancements at my disposal to accomplish the divine tasks of Your Kingdom!
But the vehicle of writing and publishing demands a stronger left brain—lacking that, I need a Techy Angel to help me. Do You think You could manage it? I’d take good care of him, feed him angel food cake, and laud and applaud him. It would make my writing life a whole lot easier, thank You.


 A Nourishing Bedtime Snack

            I’ve heard several versions of this story. The location details may vary, but the point of the true experience is always consistent.
            During the bombing of London during World War II, young children were temporarily sent off to the English countryside to live safely and out of danger with other families. Everyone was living in austerity and food supply was scarce and rationed. The children were fretful, nervous, and distraught by separation from their parents and families. Their sleep was filled with nightmares. Although they were provided with food during the daylight hours, they seemed to be afraid that there might not be anything for them to eat in the morning.
            Their surrogate caring families finally found a loving way to alleviate their anxiety. Although they had eaten before bedtime and their tummies were full, their hosts gave each child a substantial hunk of bread to hold in his hands through the night. Thus the young ones were assured that they would have something in the morning, and if they woke up during the night, the assurance of being able to touch and taste and smell the bread gave them the comfort they needed.
            I have tried to build on that spiritually in my own life. In the latter season of my life it is more common to find it difficult to go to sleep. Or to stay asleep. Or to go back to sleep after I've been interrupted by a bathroom break. So upon going to bed, I deliberately “hold” a piece of spiritual Bread in my heart and mind in order to “eat” it during the night if I awaken and to comfort and assure me that I will be kept safely through the night by the provision of my Heavenly Father.
That piece of Bread might be the phrase of a Bible verse I’ve selected from the nightly Scripture readings. Or even one word that has spiritual impact for me. Or some phrase from a hymn or a prayer. Something to sink my spiritual teeth in, to chew on by repeating over and over by my lips or in my mind in silent contemplation.  Some portion of fresh bread to hang on to every night. King David the Psalmist repeatedly mentioned how during the day and then all through the night he meditated on his bed about God and His goodness.
What I think about just prior to drifting off to sleep is incredibly important. It will become part of my subconscious and even mingle with my dreams. Unfortunately, a lifelong habit has been to read myself toward drowsiness, sometimes with light fiction so as not to tax my brain too heavily and prevent the onset of quality sleep. I confess that I’ve too often read far into the night, even beyond midnight, enticed on by the exciting drama of a novel. I’ve had to break that habit and make my last thoughts before bedtime those that focus on God, my Provider and Sustainer, and His words, which make for a much more peaceful night.
            As Jesus taught us to pray, “Give us this day our daily bread,” so I ask the Father to direct me in choosing just the right piece of nightly bread to sustain me. Such nourishment truly becomes “Wonder Bread” to me.



There they stood lined up before the Altar after Friday daily Mass. About 20 elementary age boys and girls from our parish academy. The girls wore white dresses and veils and the boys were properly dark-suited. They had taken an initial step of faith to receive their First Communion for which they had been preparing throughout the year. Each had just been given a sash with the emblems of the Seven Sacraments.
A bit of wiggling, shy smiling to parents and congregation, and then they began to sing a simple, winsome, repetitive song that I haven’t been able to get out of my mind and heart since. It was accompanied with appropriate gestures that described the words:
            “JESUS IN MY HEART
            JESUS IN MY MIND
            JESUS IN MY WORDS
            JESUS IN MY ACTIONS.”
Verses followed with other words substituted for the subject:
LOVE is in my heart…PEACE is in my heart…JOY….
They concluded with:
            “JESUS FILL MY HEART
            JESUS FILL MY MIND
So endearing, so faith-grounded in biblical Truth that would serve them for a lifetime and beyond! (Then parental cameras began to snap of course!)

All through the day I catch myself embracing that tune with words of my own adapted to my season of life and state in life: “JESUS IN MY LIFE, JESUS IN MY DAY, JESUS IN MY WRITING, JESUS IN MY WITNESS, JESUS IN MY SPEECH, JESUS IN MY THINKING, JESUS IN MY WORRIES, JESUS IN MY FEARS, JESUS IN MY SLEEPING…on and on throughout the common experiences of my present daily moments at my chronological age.
            I think of the beloved hymns of my evangelical days—still valid and deeply spiritually edifying—the moving surrender and consecration hymns and praise choruses. I have not nor do I need to abandon them in favor of exclusively singing the many beautiful, new and poignant Catholic hymns. I still turn so often to the Protestant hymnal during my worship time. Jesus said that the Father seeks those who will worship Him in spirit and in truth. God’s truth is wherever He sees fit to reveal it without respect to the channel. He is the Ultimate Source. This is another “both/and” which continues to fulfill me.
In echo of the children’s chorus above, I treasure the composer Frances Ridley Havergal who lived in the 1800s who wrote the hymn, “TAKE MY LIFE AND LET IT BE”
“Take my life and let it be consecrated, Lord, to Thee;
Take my moments and my days—let them flow in ceaseless praise.”
And then the composer, as the First Communion youngsters did, added other words of specific surrender: “TAKE MY HANDS, FEET, VOICE, LIPS, SILVER AND GOLD, INTELLECT, WILL, HEART, LOVE, MYSELF…and I will be ever, only, all for Thee.”
At the heart of my surrender is for the Lord to completely fill me with Himself.
The kids have it right, yes, right from the start: “JESUS IN MY HEART and in ALL OF MY LIFE--including the latter season of my life when Jesus is pleased to see me advance to be more childlike!”

Wednesday, June 6, 2012


As our seasons of life advance, our memories may go into a slippery slide. Thankfully, God doesn't have that problem! He knows all things from before the beginning of time to the no-end of it.


(Ideation from computer/word processor commands are in italics.
Copyright from Leona’s book DIVINE APPLICATIONS)

It's incredible what I’ve forgotten
though when I did it
said it, saw it, wrote it, heard it
all was fresh and plain and clear
and I never had a fear
that I wouldn't recall it at will.

Some thingsI’d rather forget:
unpleasantries and failures
hurts to me and mine
and the pain I've given others
my sins, open or secret
but displayed plainly and etched indelibly
saved in the storage disks of my mind.

You are far beyond my Word Processor
that conveniently and without error
will electronically recall ALL
that I program into it:
whether good or bad, trivial or trash
glittering gems of eloquence
but also spelling typos
untruths and gibberish.

I esteem and appreciate
the compassion, love, and mercy
of Your awesome memory process
to remember no more  my transgressions
placed under the Cross.
Bless You for their loss for eternity
in the depths of the sea of cyberspace
removed from Your monitor screen
as far as can be
as the East is from the West!

Undeserving and unworthy I bow in gratitude
to Your infallible memory
to remember forever
to record perfectly and reward in eternity
my deeds done and words spoken
in Jesus' name:
cups of cold water given
visits to the sick and the prisoner
an inn and care provided for a battered one
the perfume of my praise
lavishly spilled to anoint Your feet—

Memory backup: Psalm 103:12;
Matthew 10:42; 25:36-44; Luke 10:33; John 12:3-5


“A little child shall lead them….”

Sarah Palin's youngest child, Down Syndrome boy Trig, is 4 years old. I heard that every morning when he wakes he pulls himself up in his crib, rubs the sleep out of his eyes, grins, and then welcomes the day by clapping his hands and laughing. He looks around at God’s creation and his own world and although he can’t speak intelligibly, the precious little guy applauds as if to say, “Okay, world, what do you have for me today?”
Isn’t that a better example than dragging ourselves out of bed grumbling and complaining with dread to face another day of either boredom or a rat race of activity? Let’s applaud the immense blessing of having enough strength to swing our feet out of bed, put them on the floor, and walk!
To greet the day by applauding God—what a great idea no matter what our chronological age or circumstances! God gives us each fresh new day of life and invites us to live for Him whatever our limitations, and then He gives us the strength and wisdom to do it.
I decided to make applauding the Lord a part of my morning offering—and I started today! First, as is my lifelong habit, I present (offer, surrender) myself to the Lord according to Romans 12:1, 2. I ask, “What do you have for me today, Heavenly Father? I want to be Your obedient child.” Then I anticipate the serendipities He has planned for me and applaud His goodness and mercy which He promised would follow me all the days of my life, if I follow Him!
Is applauding the Lord a foolish and childish gesture at my age of 87? No, but it’s childlike, since I will always be Jesus’ little child. He told us in the Scriptures that that’s the way He wants us to approach Him if we are to receive the Kingdom of God. I just might sing that classic children’s song for His pleasure too! "Jesus loves me, this I know…Little ones to Him belong; they (yes, me too, Lord!) are weak but He is strong.” 
When I head out the door to experience the freshness and uniqueness of every season and notice what spectacular things God continues to do in nature through the ages, I have the urge to applaud Him again.
        So let’s CELEBRATE/APPLAUD each day as a gift from our loving Lord!


(Continuing the Sub-section of this Series dealing with his prep
 for First Communion

“Grandma, where did those ten things we are not supposed to do come from?

“Jeffrey, those are called The Ten Commandments. The ten instructions from God are not laws or regulations to keep you from having fun. They are God’s loving rules for our happiness.”

“How do we know they came from God?”

“The story is in the Bible in the book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament. That records the history of the Jewish people from when they started to become a nation. God chose a certain people-group to reveal His will for all mankind, to teach them His ways of truth.”

“Did God actually write them down?

“In a manner of speaking, yes. God designated Moses to be their leader to guide them out of Egypt where they were slaves. He told Moses to go to the top of a mountain where He would reveal the principles for their daily lives.”

“Why did they need laws?”

“There were millions of Jewish people coming out of Egypt and they were not used to being a free nation. They needed good laws to help them respect authority and get along together in an orderly way.”

“Where were they going when they left Egypt?”

“It was God who had planned it all and promised the people to lead them to a good land where they could live peacefully and prosper as a nation. By giving them these basic laws they would have the principles on which their lives and their nation could be successful. We call those happy rules ‘The Ten Commandments.’”

“If those commandments were meant for the Jewish people, why do we have to follow them?”

“God intended them for all mankind because they are the foundation of a good society based on God’s love for all people and people’s respect for each other and what belongs to each person privately. They are what we call ‘universal principles.’”

“Did Jesus obey the Ten Commandments and does He want us to do so too?”

“Yes, since Jesus was Jewish and grew up in a Jewish culture, He learned those rules and obeyed them from childhood. When He grew to manhood He told His followers that His Father God didn’t send Him into the world to discard those commandments, but that He would fulfill them.”

“What does that mean?”

“That Jesus kept them perfectly because He was the Son of God. No human person is able to keep them perfectly, but we try to do so with God’s help because we know God wants us to live by those principles. We want to please God. When we fail, that is what we call ‘sin’. But when we are truly sorry and confess our sins, God is willing to forgive us.”

“Aren’t these commandments mostly for grown ups?”

“They are for all of us at every age, but the Holy Spirit and the Church shows us how to apply them to whatever period of our lives we are in. Remember, they are principles that guide us to know how we should live however young or old we are.”

“Are there more commandments than these ten that God wants us to keep?”

“Jesus didn’t really add more commandments, but He taught us many ways to apply these ten basic principles. He said that if we love God, we will want to keep His commandments. In fact, someone asked Jesus which are the greatest of the commandments and He said the ten could be summarized into two—love God with all your heart, soul, and mind, and love others. If we do that, we will be keeping all the commandments.”

 “Is there an easy way to remember the Ten Commandments?”

“The first three have to do with our relationship with God. The seven remaining ones have to do with how we relate to other people—and that all depends on our age.

“How would I try to keep the first commandment to have no other gods before God?

“You might ask yourself whether you’ve sometimes made other things in your life more important than God. Do you talk to Him and choose whatever God wants for you more than what you want for yourself?”

“How would I take the name of the Lord in vain?”

“Do you say the words ‘God’ or ‘Jesus’ when you really weren’t talking to Him or about Him? Like using His name for an exclamation. God’s name is holy. We shouldn’t use God’s name in words of anger or cursing to wish evil on someone. Or making fun of holy things.”

“And observing the Sabbath Day? Is that the same as Sunday?”

“Because Sunday was Jesus’ resurrection day, Christians from that time worship on Sunday. We try our best to worship God at Mass by singing, praying, and carefully listening to God’s Words. God meant it to be a day of rest and learning more about God.”

“I guess I might know how to honor my father and mother. That would mean to obey them and follow their rules, right?”

“It does mean to be respectful and not talk back. Our parents know what is best for us even when we don’t fully understand why we are supposed to do or not do something. We should try to do immediately what they tell us.”

“I don’t kill people, grandma.”

“In a positive way this means to be kind to others and not fight with people or injure people in any way. It includes not doing any harm to others or trying to get even with someone by causing an injury.”

“How about adultery?”

“Have you seen signs on property that say ‘No Trespassing’? What does that mean?”

“I guess it means that we are not to go on someone’s property or take anything that doesn’t belong to us.”

“That’s right. This commandment means that we should respect our own bodies and the bodies of others and keep our thoughts clean. Also not to watch movies or TV programs or read books or magazines that show people acting in improper ways with their bodies. Or telling or listening to dirty jokes.”

“I know stealing is taking something that belongs to someone else.”

“It also means to be honest and fair in everything and not damage the property of others. Cheating is a form of stealing too. And not so is not playing fair in sports or games.”

“Does ‘bearing false witness” mean lying?”

“Yes, and also saying something that is only partly true. Or saying things that will make other people lose their respect for someone even if it is true. It means not talking about other people’s faults or judging people.”

“The last two commandments talk about ‘covet.’ What is that?”

“That means to want something intensely that belongs to someone else. We should be happy with the things we have and not be jealous of anything that belongs to others. If we keep wanting something so strongly, we will soon be tempted to take it or do it—then that would be lying and stealing and disobeying other commandments.

“I guess that being unselfish and sharing my good things with others might be the opposite of ‘coveting,’ wouldn’t it?”

“You are right. God gave us The Ten Commandments, and the gospels, and the teachings in the Bible to show us how God wants us to live. In that way we can learn how to make good choices and avoid evil. The Holy Spirit helps us through the grace of the sacraments, the teachings of the Church, and the example of saints and fellow Christians.