Thursday, August 18, 2016

Olympics, Race, Marathon

"persevere in running the race that lies before us while keeping our eyes fixed on Jesus" Heb 12:2

Like many others around the world, I have been completely enamored with the Olympics. Watching these incredible men and women use their God-given talents to the max is nothing short of inspiring. For some reason I have noticed more than usual attention given to Christian athletics who have displayed their faith either by word or by action. Maybe I'm just paying more attention. Again, extremely inspiring.

There are also numerous videos on youtube from this Olympics in Rio and from past Olympics. One of the videos that caught my attention was "when Switzerland's Gabriela Andersen-Schiess finished 37th in the inaugural women's Olympic marathon at the Los Angeles 1984 Summer Games. Her refusal to quit the race despite the exhausting conditions and suffering from dehydration led to an iconic Olympic moment as sheer determination saw her over the finish line." https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lBasZWjd92k 

As I watched this runner, more than once, stumbling to make it to the finish line, and as I listened to her interview about her desire just to finish, about her knowledge of where she was going and her need just to make it to the finish line, thoughts of our lives as Christians came flooding through my mind. The idea that this woman had run this same race many times, the idea that she had finished this same amount of miles, made me stop and think how important it is for us to continually and consistently practice our faith. Our life is nothing short of a marathon. Every day that we practice acts of charity, every day that we take time to pray, every day that we strive toward sainthood, we move a little closer to our reward of eternal life with Christ. We should, like these athletes, put our blood, sweat and tears into our workout. We should, like these athletes, leave everything out on the playing field so that at the end of the day we can truly say we gave it our all. We need to practice over and over everyday so that when the going gets tough, when we are completely drained of all our energy, when we experience true dryness and our body fails, our mind and our heart will take over and we will persevere to another day. There is no doubt that we will stumble. There is no doubt that we will be tempted to quit and to jump on the easy ride with everyone else. There is no doubt that we will feel the pain of the struggle. But, what we know as Christians, what we know from the example of Jesus Christ himself and of the Saints who have imitated His life, is that the reward is well worth the struggle, well worth continuing the journey.

In the interview with this amazing athlete, Gabriela mentions that when she arrived inside the stadium, she was cheered on by the crowd. How important it is for us to support one another in our lives of faith! She mentions that there was a Doctor behind her as she struggled through the last lap. How important it is for us to have spiritual help from our priests, our deacons and other spiritual directors! She mentions that she realized that she would never have another Olympic opportunity so she knew she had to cross that finish line. How important it is for us to take every opportunity set in front of us as if it's our last!

Practice. Persevere. Push hard. And like these great athletes, leave it all out there. Everyday. Finish. With our eyes fixed on Jesus.

Thursday, August 11, 2016

Baby Birds, Leaving the Nest, Last to Leave

As I was working outside this morning, I noticed this little nest of baby birds in my front tree. The more I look at the photo, the more I love it. How precious this new life! How precious all life! The first thought that came to my mind was that they seem to be a little late in the season. Seems we usually have new babies in the Spring and early Summer. Guess I'm thinking they will be late leaving the nest, last to get out into the real world before Fall.

Today I took my last child to register for her Freshman year of High School then put her on a bus for Freshman overnight. Last week my son started his Junior year of High School and in two weeks I will take my daughter way up north to begin her Freshman year of college. My two oldest are finishing graduate school while my third is working on career decisions and college classes. And, of course, we have our first wedding next March. Leaving is just on my mind.

Seems that whether they are the first to leave the nest or the last, whether they keep up with the rest of the world or go out on their own a little later, whether they come back for a while or stay gone forever, they all, at some point, have to learn to fly. They all, at some point, will take what they've learned inside that nest and they will go out and make lives for themselves. They will build their own nests and they will be responsible for themselves and most likely others. They have been fed and nourished and they will learn to feed and nourish their own.  And we must encourage them to go. No matter how difficult it is to have that empty nest, they need to move along so that as the seasons change, they do not get held down by the storms of life, they do not get washed out or eaten up. We must encourage them to spread their wings and to take that first leap. We must teach them that God will be with them and that when times are tough or seem impossible, they can turn to God for help and He will always, always be there. We must encourage them not just to keep the faith but to spread the faith.

On this day of leaving, on this day of letting go, on this day of changes, I pray these baby birds fly. I pray that while leaving the nest, they take with them all they've been taught and they know how much they are loved. I pray that even the very last to leave receives all they need to make it in this world, to weather the storms and to thrive.

Monday, August 1, 2016

Mother Teresa Canonization, Weeds

Last week Allen and I were in Chicago at the Catholic Marketing Network Trade Show bouncing back and forth between promoting my new book, Talking to God, and buying beautiful, new merchandise for the bookstore. In almost every booth we witnessed the excitement of the upcoming canonization of Mother Teresa on September 4th. When asked my thoughts on Mother Teresa, all I could think of were the parables over the past couple of weeks about the weeds among the wheat. For some reason, Jesus' explanation to allow the weeds to grow along with the wheat for fear of pulling up the good while trying to get rid of the bad, reminded me of many holy people who dedicate their lives to taking care of the less fortunate, the sick, the poor, those many may consider problems. Mother Teresa was the perfect example of not just allowing weeds to grow along with the wheat but of believing that those who may be considered the lowest could be nourished and changed into something good. Who is to say that the sick and the poor and the lowly are not the wheat itself and those who walk around them are not the weeds who choke their possibility of becoming something beautiful? It's just food for thought. The week and the Gospel readings made me think about what and who I am surrounded by on a daily basis. The merciful Mother Teresa who worked tirelessly for others, who saw in each person the face of Christ, who herself struggled spiritually, understood that Jesus was not just talking about allowing people, good or bad, rich or poor, young or old, to live together equally, but that we should help one another to be something more, that we should nourish one another and build each other up so that when the final sickle is wielded, we are not cut along with the others we did not bother to try and help. She understood that we could well be the weeds. We, who go to our jobs daily and work hard for a living and provide for our own families, may well be the ones who choke the possible goodness of the less fortunate. Every person is a gift. Every person deserves a chance. Some we may feel have squandered that chance but who are we to judge. Those may be the very persons that Jesus put in our lives to save us. What better way to close the Year of Mercy than with the canonization of one who was Merciful? What better way to continue the work of mercy than to emulate our great Saints, our wheat, those selfless people who knew that all mankind deserves the chance to be saved, to live a better life, to be fed and nourished, to rise above? Weeds and wheat growing together to the end. May we somehow learn to strengthen one another, to plant and to feed and to grow together so that in the end the wheat fields are full of the goodness that God intended.

Friday, July 22, 2016

St. Mary Magdalene

I finally got my side view mirror fixed! I can change lanes without turning my entire body around and my children will once again ride in the car with me. Life is almost back to normal (whatever that is).

When my father was sick in the hospital for weeks, I sort of took it for granted that I could move in and out of the parking garage without thinking much about what I was doing. One night as I was leaving, I whacked my mirror on one of the poles. Man. Like the situation was not upsetting enough in itself!

My dad died in November last year and I just now took the time to replace the mirror. As I got in the car and headed for home, I heard(?), I imagined(?), I understood my dad to send me a message. "Now, stop straining to always be looking in the rear view, in the past. Live for today. Do not worry about yesterday.  Move forward."

Today, as we celebrate the feast of St. Mary Magdalene, we hear Jesus say, "Stop holding on to me, for I have not yet ascended to the Father. But go to my brothers and tell them, 'I am going to my Father and your Father, to my God and your God." Hmm. This message made me think about the message from my dad (so to speak). I think, he wants me to move forward, to live my life without worrying about the past. Maybe even to let him move on...but I know that's a stretch to believe that I would get that kind of message. But, thank God for the faith to even believe that a Scripture passage could give us such comfort about the one we love who has gone before us. Thank God for the faith to believe that as I drove home and could not control my emotions that maybe my dad was trying to tell me to let go of the past. Even if the message for us today is to stop hanging on to "things", to go to confession and relieve ourselves of our problems so that we can move forward. Even if the message from Mary Magdalene today is to share with others the Risen Christ, to go to our brothers and tell them that it is all real, He has Risen and He dwells among us. Even if the message is merely to believe. Even if all of these things...we should be grateful for the moment, for the opportunity, for the truth, for our faith. On this feast of St. Mary Magdalene, we hear Jesus ask, "Whom are you looking for?" Let's face it. Everyone is looking for a Savior whether they realize it or not. Stop looking in the past. See clearly without straining. Live fully this day. He is right here in our midst. Believe and live.