Wednesday, December 28, 2011

Even Less Time

We just returned from quick driving trip to Florida from Illinois.  This week I am coaching and my daughter is playing in a high school basketball tournament that plays 4 days in a row, 1.5 hours NW from our high school.  At same time I am trying to get into work before 7 a.m. each day to get some hours in at my client before my contract there ends.

Just babbling to let you know why I've dropped off, especially reading and commenting on your sites.  I missed some events in your lives, and I will catch up, and I will keep you in my prayers in the meantime.

I took this exhaustion I've felt the past three nights as clear sign that I should try to just renew the contract at 20 rather than 40 hours a week for the remainder of the basketball season!

That will give me time not just for the wonderful blogging community that I am blessed to be a part of, but also more family time, prayer and reading time, and just . . . . you know . . . the possibility of keeping my sanity.

Did I mention my daughter was lead scorer tonight and we are now the only undefeated team left in the Christmas tournament?  I get a kick out of the fact that the public school that bridges two farming towns in Illinois unabashedly calls it a Christmas rather than a Holiday tournament.

Or did I mention that I love coaching high school basketball and these wonderful girls more, I suspect, than Bobby Jones enjoyed playing golf?

Beyond the enjoyment there is a spiritual richness to coaching in a Christian school.  We pray before every bus trip, and our game ending cheer, win or lose is, "FOR HIM!!".  We also end in prayer, and often incorporate scripture verses into the practice ending prayers, with different girls volunteering for this as chance to practice their faith out loud.

There is also the fact that some of the team members and their families are going through hard times right now.  None of this is kept hidden--whether it is unfaithfulness in a marriage, "My Dad did some stupid things", or a father going into the ER, or need to raise money for a child's surgery.

Everything is mentioned and everything is raised up in prayer.  Our faith and love are part of our everyday experience and this is the richest part of the experience for me, and I think also the girls realize how wonderful it is too.

It is truly a blessing from God to have the privilege to do this.  It is also a miracle to reflect how He orchestrated it, and provided for me to have a client that used to keep me up nights and working weekends give me an assignment that is very easy to balance between 5-6 day a week practice and game commitments and 7 day a week family responsibilities . . .

Well, until this week where it is exhausting, but providentially so.

Sunday, December 25, 2011

Thursday, December 15, 2011

Made for Love, Made to Know You

The lyrics and music for this Brooke Fraser song are amazing.

If you liked this one you might also like the songs she composed and performed with Hillsong United especially:  Lead Me to the Cross, Hosanna, and Desert Song.

On her solo albums, beside this awesome C.S. Lewis Song, I also like Shadowfeet, Something in the Water, and Flags.

Tuesday, December 13, 2011

Let Loving Hearts Enthrone Him

Far and away my favorite Christmas Carol is "What Child is This?" written in 1865 by William Chatterton Dix at the age of 29 after suffering a sudden, near-fatal illness, that left him confined to bed-rest, and during which he suffered a deep depression.

There have been many interpretations of this beautiful carol over the years, but certainly the recently produced version by Andrea Bocelli and Mary J. Blige is among the most awe inspiring.  What a combination they are.  Andrea Bocelli has the beautiful, disciplined, operatic voice that is only more beautiful by the reverence and love with which he sings the traditional melody.  Mary J. Blige, who many of us have seen on different reality shows, and (afraid to admit it) Oprah know her to be a woman of talent as well as kindness.

I don't often have songs on repeat, as I had post-college roommate once that did this with a certain 10,000 Maniacs single and I had to hide the CD, which was mine for the record, because I could not take it.

Today though I was listening to this song on repeat on the drive in.  Part of the reason for the repeat is if you immerse yourself in the flow and love for Jesus and his Mother, Mary, in the song, you cannot help but have your heart swept to God in thanksgiving and love.  I literally had a lightness and pleasant tingling sensation in the upper part of my head (stay with me) along with tears in my eyes when I listen to this.

What child is this, who, laid to rest
On Mary's lap, is sleeping?
Whom angels greet with anthems sweet,
While shepherds watch are keeping?
This, this is Christ the King,
Whom shepherds guard and angels sing:
Haste, haste to bring him laud,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Why lies He in such mean estate,
Where ox and ass are feeding?
Good Christians, fear, for sinners here
The silent Word is pleading.
Nails, spear shall pierce Him through,
The cross be borne for me, for you.
Hail, hail the Word made flesh,
The Babe, the Son of Mary.

So bring Him incense, gold, and myrrh,
Come peasant king to own Him,
The King of kings, salvation brings,
Let loving hearts enthrone Him.
Raise, raise the song on high,
The Virgin sings her lullaby:
Joy, joy, for Christ is born,
The Babe, the Son of Mary!

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Just As I Am

"Just As I Am" is by Fernando Ortega off of his latest CD, "Come Down O Love Divine".  Fernando had performed this hymn as a young artist, but this was a new melody and arrangement for this his latest project.  The music and the lyrics are stunning and soul moving.  They also have a similarity to the words St. Therese chose in the longer version of her Offering to Merciful Love.

Fernando dedicated the song to Billy Graham and there is a section in the song when we hear briefly from Billy Graham.  Here are the lyrics:

I waited and waited for God

He turned and He heard me
He lifted me out of the mud
His own hand secured me
The Lord is my strength
I will not be confounded
So I have focused my face like a flint
I'll not be ashamed
Lord I come

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

Take the days that remain in my life

Lord, let me serve You
While there is breath on my lips
I would proclaim You
I long for Your return
I long to see You face to face
I long to join the eternal song
Communion of all the saints

Just as I am

Without one plea
But that Your blood
Was shed for me

St. Therese's Offering to Merciful Love (long version)
Since You loved me so much as to give me Your only Son as my Savior and my Spouse, the infinite treasures of His merits are mine. I offer them to You with gladness, begging You to look upon me only in the Face of Jesus and in His heart burning with Love. . . . 

After earth's Exile, I hope to go and enjoy You in the Fatherland, but I do not want to lay up merits for heaven. I want to work for Your Love alone with the one purpose of pleasing You, consoling Your Sacred Heart, and saving souls who will love You eternally.

In the evening of this life, I shall appear before You with empty hands, for I do not ask You, Lord, to count my works. All our justice is stained in Your eyes. I wish, then, to be clothed in Your own Justice and to receive from Your Love the eternal possession of Yourself. I want no other Throne, no other Crown but You, my Beloved!

We can only confess that Jesus is Lord (see 1 Corinthians 12:3) or call God, "Abba", Father (see Galatians 4:6) in the Holy Spirit.  Our faith itself, our confession of faith, our realization that Jesus is Lord, and through the shedding of his Precious Blood we have the Holy Spirit to teach us to call out Abba--Our Father, all of it is gift.  Lord, make us truly thankful!

We will show up empty handed just like St. Therese, Great Saint that she is!
We know we have nothing to boast of
that our hope of salvation came from God, Our Father, 
not sparing his only Son, 
and that Son in obedience and love
became incarnate of a woman, 
full of grace, conceived without sin because of God her Savior, 
and this Son, revealed his Father to us,
taught us to pray, Our Father, 
taught us how to love, how to show mercy and compassion, 
how to forgive, he suffered betrayal, humiliation, bodily and soul wrenching torment, 
and then laid his life down for us his friends, 
and every drop of his Precious Blood ran from his pierced side, His Sacred Heart.  Jesus, I do Trust in You.  Jesus I thank you that you thirst for me.  Increase my thirst, increase my love for you.

After this I looked, and behold, a great multitude which no man could number, from every nation, from all tribes and peoples and tongues, standing before the throne and before the Lamb, clothed in white robes, with palm branches in their hands,and crying out with a loud voice, "Salvation belongs to our God who sits upon the throne, and to the Lamb!"  And all the angels stood round the throne and round the elders and the four living creatures, and they fell on their faces before the throne and worshiped God, saying, "Amen! Blessing and glory and wisdom and thanksgiving and honor and power and might be to our God for ever and ever! Amen."  Then one of the elders addressed me, saying, "Who are these, clothed in white robes, and whence have they come?"  I said to him, "Sir, you know." And he said to me, "These are they who have come out of the great tribulation; they have washed their robes and made them white in the blood of the Lamb.  (Revelation 7:9-14)

Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Love Note from Sister to Brother

No, this isn't a post on the pros and cons of inclusive language.

Just wanted to share cute note and loving sentiment between my 10 year old daughter in 4th grade, Kathleen, and her 6 year old brother in 1st grade, Ray.

I go back and forth in my mind between Pope Benedict saying we should have "authentic" online presence and then holding on to partially hiding my identity for family safety and my kids', and poor husband's privacy.  I ended up not using their real names for this post.

Usually handwritten notes in lunch boxes are from Moms to their kids, and at least for me, they don't go on for couple pages--but just say something like Love Mom, have a good day, etc.

I found a hand written and decorated note on three tiny notebook pages, written in permanent red marker, in Ray's lunchbox from Kathleen.

Here is what it said:

Dear Ray,
I hope you are
having a good day.
When you are done
with your lunch come
by me.  After recess
remember your lunch
box.  I put lots of
candy in your lunch
box for you.  After
school remember to
go to After-School-
care.  Have a great, 
wonderful, awesome,
and fun day.
Love, you !! (with exclamations having a smile)

Of course with lots of hearts and the o in both "love"'s turned into a heart!

I don't remember exchanging notes like this with my brothers or sisters or my first two kids doing this.  So cute!  She just loves him for who he is, and even wants him to come visit her during lunch.

I continue to feel instant affection for anyone who shows their Christian faith in a secular setting to me.  When I was going for an interview yesterday at Motorola the security guard said to me, "Oh S_____ (my last name), My neighbor, May the Dear Lord Rest Her Soul, was an S____.  She made the best Irish Soda Bread."

I said to him, "Oh.  Well I make a mean Irish lasagna."

I am sure he didn't know what to make of that, but it did make him smile.  He apologized to me for the rain outside when I was on my way out.

Monday, December 5, 2011

Rich Exchange of Hearts: Example of True Love

Mark 14:1-11 tells the story of a woman anointing the head of Jesus with a whole jar of expensive perfumed ointment, at the house of Simon the Leper in Bethany.  This account doesn't say this was Mary Magdalene, or Mary, sister of Lazarus and Martha, it just says woman, and immersing myself as a woman who loves Jesus is more attractive to me right now, than researching who commentators say this woman was.  As most of you who come here regularly are also on the path pursuing a deeper love relationship with our Savior, Jesus Christ the Lord, I wanted to post on this today.

While defending her action, Jesus says, "What she has done for me is one of the good works. . . . She has done what was in her power to do:  she has anointed my body beforehand for its burial." Mark 14:6b, 8

Fr. John Bartunek in The Better Part has powerful meditation on this passage, that I have to share with you, so it might touch you as I have been touched by it.

We can imagine the depth of understanding between them.  Jesus knows her heart, and she knows that he knows, and with utter simplicity and confidence she expresses what is in her heart and what she can no longer contain.  He looks into her eyes as she approaches him, and smiles.  She adores him, she performs this gesture of welcome and appreciation.  This rich exchange of hearts is inaccessible to the others. . . . 

  • The woman's gesture was generous, and true love is generous.  Love flows like a waterfall, like a rushing fountain . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was costly, and true love is costly.
  • Since love by definition is self-giving, when one loves one necessarily feels a certain loss, a certain self-sacrifice.  
  • The loss yields a profound joy, because the beloved benefits (and because we are created to love). . . . 
  • The woman's gesture was beautiful, and true love is the most beautiful reality of all.
Citing William Barclay's Daily Study Bible, Fr. Bartunek says that St. Mark's use of the Greek word kalos rather than agathos when Jesus describes her "good work" is significant, because Greek has two words for "good".  Agathos means strict moral goodness, "while kathos connotes moral goodness, with a winsome, elegant, charming twist. . . . True love goes beyond the cold exactitude of dry duty; true love gives with a smile, a flourish, and a delicacy that not only meets the beloved's needs but meets them in a lovely, pleasing way."

Jesus's own true love is shown in his passion.  He doesn't just pour out "a symbolic drop" of his blood.  "He generously pours out all of his blood . . . he suffers betrayal, rejection, humiliation, injustice, physical (emotional, and spiritual) torment, and mockery".

O Wisdom of God, thank you for leaving us this example of one woman's great love for you in the Bible.  Thank you for defending her.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, thank you for your most generous, costly, self-emptying, and beautiful love, being born in humility and poverty in a manager, in living a life of self-giving love, teaching, and healing, for laying down your life as the Lamb of God to bear our sins, and restore us as children of God.  Thank you for staying with us until the end of the world in the generous giving of the Blessed Sacrament, and the Holy Spirit to dwell within us and mold us into your image.

I love you, Lord!

Mary, Masterpiece of the Holy Spirit

Part Three of the Compendium of the Catechism of the Catholic Church, begins with this title and picture:
El GrecoSaint John Contemplates the Immaculate Conception, Church of SainLeocadia and Saint Roman; Museum of Santa Cruz, Toledo. 
I found the commentary on this picture illuminating, and hope you do too!

   Mary, the Panhagia (all holy), is the masterpiece of the Holy Spirit (Panhagion).  Her existence, from her immaculate conception to her glorious assumption into heaven, is completely sustained by the love of God. The Spirit of the Love of the Father and the Son makes of Mary a new creature, the new Eve. Her heart and mind are intent upon the adoration of and obedience to the heavenly Father. She is his beloved daughter and she is also dedicated to the acceptance and service of the Son whose mother and disciple she is. Her soul is likewise intent upon her surrender to and cooperation with the Holy Spirit for whom she is a treasured sanctuary.
   In this image Mary is surrounded by angels playing musical instruments and making merry, her head crowned with the divine love of the Holy Spirit, symbolized by the dove. Mary is the mother and protector of the Church (at her feet there is a faint glimpse of a sacred edifice). Through her efficacious, motherly intercession with Jesus, she pours out upon the Church the abundance of heavenly graces (symbolized by the tuft of blooming roses).
   Below at the left, the Apostle John in contemplation of Immaculate Mary represents everyone of the faithful who sees in the Blessed Virgin the perfect model and likewise the teacher and guide for living in the Spirit.
   In his book Life in the Spirit and Mary Fr. Christopher O Donnell, O.Carm., writes:
   In her relationship to the Spirit, Mary is our model. If Jesus is to be born in us, we too need to be overshadowed by the Holy Spirit. We need to be receptive and open to his action. When we allow him to touch us and make of us a new creation (see 2 Cor. 5:17; Gal. 6:15), we are in the obedient state of Mary, eager to receive. This involves continuous docility to the Spirit. The great work that he does within us is to make us adopted children of the Father, so that we too with Christ can cry "Abba, Father" (Rom. 8:14-15, 23).
  What is important is that our attitude be truly marian, for the Mother of God said a "yes" to a relatively unknown future. Afterward the Spirit guided her. But it is noteworthy that Mary is led to divine truth also by other persons who themselves received revelation. It was to the shepherds, not to Mary, that the angels announced the birth of one who was saviour, Christ the Lord (Luke 2:10, 17). The old man Simeon was inspired by the Spirit and prophesied about the child and about Mary: her Son will be salvation, light, glory, a sign of contradiction, and Mary's own soul will be pierced (see Luke 2:30-35).
. . . (B)e alert to the danger of an illuminism-that is, any tendency to prefer direct revelation to other means at arriving at truth. Mary was once directly enlightened by God, at other times indirectly. So . . . though we know the power of the Spirit to guide us directly, we must also value his guidance through other persons, through the Scriptures, through the teaching of the church.