Tuesday, June 30, 2009

Salt

It may seem odd but I can't help but think today about poor Lot's wife being turned to a pillar of salt. She just couldn't follow the instructions. She just had to turn around and it cost her and her family a great loss.

My friend Maureen and I were always looking for ways to make money when we were young. We would collect the cokes bottles left at construction sites and turn them in for refunds, pull bag worms from trees (yuk), sell the indian money found in pebble driveways and shovel snow from sidewalks. One particular winter when the snow masked a layer of ice, Maureen and I decided to get some help from good ole Morton Salt. As we moved from one job to the next, we needed more salt from our parents' kitchen and as we grabbed another box, Maureen's sister grabbed us. She explained that pouring the salt all over the concrete sidewalks would make our job easier now but come summer, when our clients discovered their sidewalks chipping away, our job would be much more difficult and costly repairing the concrete. We cleaned what we could of any salt residue and went back to the tedious task of breaking up the ice with our shovels and cleaning the sidewalks as we had promised. Our job was much tougher but following Colleen's instructions saved us in the long run.

Of course, when I went to the Morton Salt website to get the above picture, they now have salt specifically to melt ice from the sidewalks. Boy could Maureen and I make some money now! Pass it on and don't look back.

Sunday, June 28, 2009

Scripture

The Bible is very obviously the greatest hand me down that leads us to our Father. The daily Scripture readings are the best way I can think of to start each day so that even if I don't listen to them or follow what they say as I should, I know what I'm supposed to be doing in life to stay close to God and to strive for Heaven.

Today's reading about healing reminds me of my trip to Rome in the '80s. I will never forget gathering in St. Peter's Square waiting for Pope John Paul II to drive around and bestow a blessing on me. Fr. Thoni had told Bubba and I to get to the square early and stand as close to the barracades as we could and wait. When we arrived, we were all alone and within an hour a crowd began to form. As the time got closer for the Pope's arrival, the crowd began to press against us. I envision today people walking with Jesus as He is headed to cure Jairus' daughter and how the crowd must have been for the woman with hemorrhages who wanted simply to "touch His cloak". As the Pope spoke, the crowd went wild and as he got in His golf cart looking thing the crowd began pushing and shoving, trying to get closer to the front where Bubba and I stood. As the Pope got closer and much to my surprise, women started passing their children through the crowd and screaming "please". The Pope approached and I had to decide whether to take his picture, touch him or lift these children as fast as I could to have him touch them. And in what seemed a long, long moment, the Pope paused, blessed the children, shook my hand and I took his picture. My energy was drained from my body and I remember to this day the touch of his hand. There was no screaming of miracles on that day as that Holy man of God touched the crowd - or was there? Jesus worked through Pope John Paul II and He works through us.
Reach out and touch those in need. As we read the Scriptures to find out what we should be doing each day and as the world pushes against us, may we be His hands and His feet and His voice on this earth. Pass on the Word.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Strong Foundation

We are formed to be a dwelling place for the Holy Spirit. With Christ as our foundation and with the teachings of men and women God has sent before us, we grow as one in community. We are supposed to fit together, to live together, and to grow as one body.

When I was young, my dad changed from work with Steel Service Company to a business of his own, Concrete Form Erectors. I could ride down the main street toward downtown Nashville and see the many buildings where my father had laid the foundation. Parking garages, office buildings, hotels, stadiums and anything else that needed based in concrete was his specialty. Although his base structures were not the prettiest part of the projects (sorry dad) they were what held everything together.
My mom loved the arts. Through her high school years at St. Cecilia, a woman herself known for her music and art, my mom loved to draw and paint and perform. As her children were born, she continued her love of art in different ways. As one who loved to create, she worked on her house and the children and the furniture. Oh, the crazy things we could do to furniture in the '70s.
Together, a builder and an artist can bless the world with a firm foundation that looks good. Together my parents laid a foundation in our hearts that could withstand the outside world. They gave us examples of how to live our faith and of how to cherish family values. They gave us a strong base and backed it with education and a neighborhood community that made the whole package appealing.

A solid base. Today and every day I pray that I may build on that foundation and pass it on. Pass on the importance of building a dwelling place in my heart for the Holy Spirit. Pass on the beauty of a faithful life. May we all be examples of a structure pieced together in God's love with a strong foundation. May we fit together and live together and grow as one body.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Narrow Gate

"Enter through the narrow gate; for the gate is wide and the road broad that leads to destruction, and those who enter through it are many. How narrow the gate and constricted the road that leads to life. And those who find it are few."

Today's readings has always been one of my favorites because I can picture myself in the midst of what Jesus says to us. I've always wanted to be different (and I don't mean strange because at times I have that hands down). I mean really different. The kind of different that blazes trails and finds the tiny ways in life that make others feel the life of Christ in our midst. But, no. I've always gone with the crowd. I've always jumped on the band wagon and ended up playing one of the loudest instruments.
Last summer my mother treated my two oldest daughters and myself to a trip to Spain and Portugal. It was truly incredible. It was also a great example of the narrow gate and the broad road. As we journeyed, we walked many wide open roads to food and shopping and massive Cathedrals and palaces and castles. But, we also happened on tiny, rocky pathways that led to unique shops and quaint cafes and incredible Chapels. There were many, many tiny alcoves that led to such places as St. Anthony's birthplace and the Miracle of the Eucharist in Santarem.
As we were walking down the cobbled, steep street in Toledo, we were shopping the many vendors who were set up outside between tourist sites. I looked to my left and spotted an old beggar sitting outside a slim entranceway with simply a leather flap covering the opening. I pulled back the flap to find a tiny room with about 10 pews and an altar with the Blessed Sacrament exposed. I entered and knelt. The tiniest opening, the smallest room and there in the midst of this busy tourist-packed city known for it's beautiful Synagogues was Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament. I prayed and I thanked and I spent a few moments I wandered back out through the small opening into the crowded street and found my companions several shops ahead.
Today, Jesus reminds me in the Gospel to enter the tiniest openings and to walk the narrow pathways and to find Him in most unexpected places and the most unlikely people. May we all find that constricted road that leads to life.
Thanks for the picture mom. http://www.jeandortch.com/

Thursday, June 18, 2009

Shadow

The St. Cecilia Alumnae Luncheon honored several classes this past week including my sister's Class of 1974. I was lucky enough to capture this picture of the four girls I shadowed most of my eight grade year. And the story goes...

Although we were four years apart, my sister and her friends allowed me to hang around them. I guess since she was my ride to basketball and football games and anywhere else I wanted to go without parents, I was just there. I was included and there was really no better feeling in the world than to be a part of an older crowd. I loved to watch them roll their hair with empty frozen orange juice cans and sneak smokes out the bedroom window. I loved that I knew the inside jokes about hiding extra clothes in bushes and making cokes and sunflower seeds and boys they worked with at Opryland. Even the simplest things they did seemed really big. Jeanne seemed to know everybody and it wasn't long before most of her friends knew me. It also wasn't long before her friend, John Dwyer, nicknamed me Shadow.

Near the end of an awesome summer, before leaving for her first year of college, Jeanne gave me a bright red cotton jersey for my birthday. She practically ripped it out of my hands to show me the back. A large white number twenty, which was my new number as she passed on her place on the SCA basketball team, and above that the name Shadow. It was a jersey I wore until the name and the number wore off. It was a name I answered to proudly and it was the feeling of being comfortable and being included that I would never forget.

In the shadow of His wings, we find a comfortable place to be with God in safety. He looms over us, engulfs us and satisfies us. He shelters us and protects us. We are happy under His careful watch. He stays close enough to cast a shadow and to be our help.

Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Siblings


My husband and I where headed to Chicago on an annual business trip and gathered the kids to take a simple, quick picture so we would have something in our briefcases if anyone asked to see their lovely faces. It was quite a chore for these siblings to take a simple picture. They were laughing and cracking up and making comments for almost every shot. Right! A quick picture.
Amazingly, God made each of us different. We each have our own individual selves that are like no other. Each person is a miracle in themselves. Just think, as we look into the eyes of the many, many people we encounter each day, each of us have our own gifts and our own look and no matter how hard we try, it's different from any other. If we truly looked at each person, took time to stop and see them as they are, individually, our eyes would be open to the many miracles of that day and the gifts each miracle has to offer.
It took me quite some time in my life to realize that God gave each of us our own gifts. He made us unique and although I may have wanted the gifts that my siblings had, those were not mine to pass onto in life. I had my own talents and blessings and I had to gather them, be thankful for them and use them as God intended. Not to say that I could not and did not pick up bits and pieces of the examples my siblings passed down. I did. Spending lots of time together as a family naturally has it's perks but I still had to open myself to their gifts and I hope my children are willing to do the same.
My siblings could easily win the high school awards of valedictorian, salutatorian, best all around, friendliest, prettiest. most athletic and most talented. Each one with their own gifts of leadership, intelligence, ingenuity, confidence, hard work, competitiveness, love, beauty, creativity, sensitivity, humor and talent taught me to use my own gifts to the fullest. I secretly, at some point, wanted to be like each of them, yet, I had to find my own way that would contribute to the completion of our family. We were constantly called one another's name and compared by those who taught us and coached us but our parents urged us to be our own persons. That is what I'd like to pass on to every child, especially those of my own who can't quite take a quick, simple picture. I'd like each to seek their own talents and their own gifts and to use them to the fullest. All our imprints make a difference. All are a part of the completion of the family of God.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Angels

Hand me down heaven is put together for us to think of "things" in our lives that have been passed down to us that will help us eventually gain the great reward. People share traditions passed on by their parents. One family shared that their mom or their dad would go through the house each morning and take the crucifixes from the kids' walls and lay them on the pillows of their bed. Every night the children had to rehang the crucifix and be reminded of the love of Jesus. What a neat idea! I'd love to know more about other family traditions.

My mother shared with me one day that if you say the prayer to the Guardian Angel 5 times before you go to sleep, your protector's name would come to you the next day, somehow, plain and clear. So, that night before I lay my head on my pillow, I prayed. Around 2 a.m., I sat up in bed and the name Ferrell came into my head very clearly and that was all. I lay my head down and the alarm woke me up at 5 a.m., my mom picked me up at 6 a.m. and we drove to the airport to fly to Chicago to buy for Christmas. In the plane, I told my mom about my middle of the night experience and she simply confirmed, "Well, he's it." "He's what?" "Ferrell's your Guardian Angel. Now you can call him by name when you pray to him." Being a doubting one, I needed more proof and told her that if one of the new angels in the Roman showroom was named Ferrell, I'd be convinced. My mom couldn't believe I was making it so difficult.

We arrived in Chicago and were driven to the showroom where our representative was waiting to work with us. After buying for Christmas, we ate lunch and continued through the huge showroom, meticulously looking at each item. As we were about to end the day, we walked to the front to look at the new Seriphim angels and I said to mom, "Now if one of these new angel's name is Ferrell, then I'll believe." Our rep shuffled up behind us and asked why were were talking about the name Ferrell. I told him it was a long story and I'd share later. "I just asked because that's my middle name, Ferrell. It was my mother's maiden name and I don't hear it much. My full name is Jack Ferrell Carmody." I whipped my disbelieving head around to my mother who was wearing that goofy smile and just said, "Okay. Okay. I believe."

Believe in angels or not, if you have a tradition, pass it on.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Baseball Gloves

Many things in life come previously prepared making our challenge seem a little more possible. Our foods, if we want them, are freeze dried and ready in minutes. Communication from coast to coast is planned and laid out and at our fingertips. Most of us have the advantage of instant relief, instant gratification, instant coffee and instant answers. But somewhere, somehow, someone has made all this possible. Someone has previously prepared all of this to make our lives a little less hectic. But, we still have to put it into action. We have to plug it in, mix it up, receive it and respond to it.

Leather baseball gloves were no doubt a good investment when we were growing up because they would last for years and only get better with age. When first purchased, I can remember my brothers rubbing the middle with Vaseline to soften the leather, putting a baseball inside and wrapping the whole thing with rubber bands, putting them under their mattresses and then sleeping on the lumpy mass. They went to great lengths to get their gloves in just the right shape for the many games they played. As their hands grew, the gloves would be passed down to the next sibling and the process would begin again for the following season. Consequently, I always had a loose, soft leather glove with the finger hole beside the thumb matted down to just the right comfort. All the work had been done and the vessel was ready. The only challenge left for me was to follow the ball into the glove and hold on.

God sets the table before us. He sends His only Son to prepare the way for us but we still have to put forth effort. We still have to know Him and to obey His ways and to follow Him. The challenge is made possible because of the preparation but we still must actually open ourselves to His way and His truth and His life.
May we open our vessels, plug in, receive, respond, follow and hold on.

Thursday, June 4, 2009

Time

“He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without men’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. I recognized that there is nothing better than to be glad and to do well during life.” Ecclesiastes 3:11,12

God gives us the gift of time with one another. We may think we never have enough time but in God’s time everything fits. We squander time, wish we had more time or lose time but in God’s time the work that truly needs done, will get done. In God’s time, all will be well and we shall be glad. Life works when we take our eyes off the clock and keep watch with God.

As I entered my grandparent’s TV room, the clock was always right on top of the television, on the right side. No matter where they lived the clock was always in the same place. My grandmother would turn it on and if it were working correctly the light inside would show a waterfall coming down over a ridge. The movement was simple. There was no great splashing or appearances of rafts or people or even branches about to go over the edge. Just the simple continuous flow of the water. The time on the clock meant nothing. I couldn’t even say that the clock worked if the waterfall didn’t because it was the beauty of the falls I cared about, not the time.

My grandparents were just like that clock that sat upon their television. They were just simply continually there for us grandchildren. No matter when I might show up at their house or when I might call to talk, they were always there. They simply had time for us to visit. There was never anything really spectacular about the time we spent with them or the talks we had or the dinners we shared. They were glad to see us and glad to know we were doing well.


Pass along the gift of time with one another. Simple time.

Monday, June 1, 2009

Slip and Slide

I have to laugh because slip and slide could be the lead into words about my spiritual life but today it's all about summer fun.

I sat yesterday and watched as my children played on this long strip of plastic I purchased for $5.00. Oh that so much fun could always cost so little! Set up down the small hill in our backyard with a few added enhancements, and the laughter and summer fun began. At one point a "boogie board" was added but after one hard fall, discarded. Just a few times down from a running start and head first dive and the 13 year old pulled a hole in the side near the bottom but that didn't stop this crew. The hose was repositioned and the fun restarted.

Hey, it does sound a little like my spiritual life; adding a few enhancements, jumping head first into something and having it fall apart just to reposition parts and start all over again.

The boys dropped out of the games on the slip and slide and threw baseball for a while with an older daughter joining and proving she can catch after all. Where was that golden glove during all the early days Allen and I sat in the stands and watched those balls roll farther into the outfield? Oh well, times change and so do the kids.

May they always find this joy in these simple ways.