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FranciscanEvery once in a while, I find a prayer that simply rings true.  From the first word to the last, I know that it is mine.  One if the Prayer of St. Francis of Assissi.  The second is this Franciscan Blessing.

My husband and I often joke.  Are we redneck liberals?  Liberal rednecks?  The reality is that we don’t entirely fit in anywhere.

When politicians talk black and white and easy answers, I squirm.  Sending children and teens back to the horrid situations they risked life and limb to flee?  No, that doesn’t work for me.  That said, I don’t believe that wide open borders are a solution either.

As a family, we support a variety of programs that work to help people where they live, to better their lives, to better their situations and to better their societies.  We’re just crazy enough to think that in doing this we can change a life and, through one life, the world.

The programs that we suport include but are not limited to:

TEAM Food Ministries and St. Louis Area Food Bank.  These are two organizations that work in our area to feed large numbers of working poor.

Presbyterian Disaster Relief.  This is the branch of the Presbyterian Church that goes in and helps with shelter, food and medicine whenever there is a hurricane, tornado, earthquake or other disaster.

Heifer International.  This is a family favorite.  Heifer is one of the best organizations for “teaching a man to fish.”  Not only do they provide people with stock (goats, cattle, chicks, ducks, bees, trees, wool producing animals, etc), they also educate.  Each family that is helped in turn helps another family and so one. Communities are rebuilt.

Yes, the headlines are awful but there are many people working quietly out of the spot light.  They are working to feed and shelter and educate.  Me?  I’ve always considered myself just a touch crazy — crazy enough to think it will work.  But according to the Franciscans, I’m not so much crazy.  I’m blessed.

In turn, I can take His Blessing and pass it on to others.


Last Saturday night, as my husband and I drove to church, a thought occurred to me. I am this person now. But in an hour, I will be someone else. That’s how transformational a regular religious practice such as going to Mass (or service, or whatever you call that particular hour in your particular religious sect) can be. It isn’t for everyone. (I’m assuming. Otherwise churches would be a lot more crowded, the way they are on Easter or Christmas.) But maybe it should be.

There are a million reasons to attend Mass: to spend an hour with God, to receive the sacrament of the Eucharist, to be a part of a like-minded community, to regularly nudge or reawaken one’s faith…I suppose the list is as varied as the individuals filling the pews. And even if none of those reasons strikes you as relevant, there’s one that should. Go to church, if for no other reason, than to sacramentally experience life.

There are posters, Pinterest pins and slogans everywhere that say things like, “If you’re not living on the edge, you’re taking up too much room!” Or “Life is either a grand adventure or it is nothing!” People seem fond of these slogans. We like to celebrate life; hence our affection for birthdays. But how do we live this notion on a daily basis?

Going to church regularly is one way to celebrate life. You are there with people who share your faith and, hopefully, your beliefs and morals. The ritual of Mass (or service) is soothing, yet allows for contemplation and new insights. And if you tune in, really tune in, it can be an hour unlike any other in your week: It can be an hour that you really feel, really experience. It can be life-changing.

Maybe we all need to slow down for one hour a week (or more) and not let life just happen to us. Maybe we need to remember that life can be lived intentionally, as it is when one chooses a regular religious practice like going to Mass. Oh sure, it might not be all hearts and flowers. The pastor might say something you disagree with. You might see someone there with whom you have difficulty. But good or bad, the experience can change you if you let it. All you have to do is let it.

One hour a week to transform your life, to change your thinking, to fall in love again with the greatest love you will ever know. It’s worth it.

A dear family member came by to see me the other day and we had a nice visit. But I noticed that, three or four times during our time together, she was furiously texting.

Some would be offended by someone texting while in their presence, but I’m really not offended.  I just wonder.  Where are they?

I mean, in a sense, they’re not really… anywhere.  They’re not visiting with me.  They’re not in the presence of the friend they’re texting.  It’s almost as if – for that moment, at least – they don’t really exist.  They don’t have a “present” as such, just a kind of in-between.  Not really here, but not there either.

It’s kind of how I feel about turning forty-nine years old.  Yep, today is my birthday, so of course, I’ll be sitting in front of a chocolate cake and chilling all the day long. Diets will be on hiatus, of course.  All other obligations will be on auto-pilot.  It’s going to be a “me day,” for sure!

So I hear tell that “life begins at fifty.” Well… what do I till then? I’ve got a year before life begins?  How am I gonna spend my time, waiting for life to begin? It’s like I’m in limbo!  Life is on hold till next year!  Aah!

Okay, I’m back now.  That’s just a saying, you tell me.  Well thank you.  Life begins right where you are, doesn’t it?

So now that I’ve reached this almost-milestone, part of me wants to say, “yikes!” But the truth is, getting older is a blessing.  Sure, I’d like to have more energy, but I don’t really know that I had that much energy, even in my twenties.  It seemed there was so much to be done.  So much I wanted out of life.  I didn’t realize that I had choices, and that, if I’d looked around me, I really had the whole world in front of me.

It didn’t feel that way.  It felt like I had to go, do, move, get out there, get things done, get on the right track.  It may well have all been pressure I put on myself, but I never felt relaxed and positive.  I felt stressed and my soul felt squashed.

Now that I’m older, and have effectively taken myself out of the “rat race,” I feel so much more hopeful. I get to be myself, knowing God loves me as I am and I don’t have to be anyone but me. My faith is a huge part of that sense of optimism, and I’m grateful to God every day for keeping hold of my hand. It’s been quite a journey, and looking ahead, all I see are blue skies. I’d say I’m ready for the next chapter to begin.

words of love“I’d really like to see them loose.  They need a lesson in humility.”

I wasn’t entirely surprised to hear this.  The oldest boys on the swim team can be a bit . . . much.  A few of them are scary tall and they thunder through a crowd like a storm.

But if you get to know them, they are amazing people. I watched one of them beg a little guy to get off the rope and keep swimming when he panicked at his first meet. Another coached a six-year old from the other team, telling him when to dive in and cheered him all the way to the far side of the  pool. Then there was the young man who quit flirting to “borrow” my son’s sports drink when I got woozy in the heat.  The speech that one of them gave at the closing banquet brought not only laughs but tears to a few eyes.

Loud?  You bet.

Brass?  In abundance!

I think the problem is that they intimidate us.  These aren’t the cute little guys that we gave birth to fourteen plus years ago, the little bundles of joy that we thanked God for daily.  For the most part, we knew how to handle them when they were that small.

Now, they’re bigger than we are, they have tons of opinions and believe in sharing those opinions here, there and everywhere.  We aren’t quite sure how to handle them.  When that’s the case, can I make a recommendation? Try to see them as God sees them.  Young men struggling to find their way, to be the men they are meant to be. Like us, they are unsure what the future brings but they don’t have our experience in dealing with that uncertainty.

Failure is what they worry about most.  Instead of wishing it on them, they need us to hold them up to Him in prayer.




Have a Mary Little Christmas

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