Be still and know I am God

Today is day three of a vacation with my husband, Gary, in the Poconos. There is snow on the ground, the air is crisp, and there is a natural stillness and quiet brought by the blanket that has been spread over the hills.

We are happy here at the Crescent Lodge and Country Inn. Right now we are sitting in the dining room with an incredible view and a yummy breakfast prepared by Harry who has worked here for 26 years. On our first night, Jill, got us settled into Devonshire, our own private little getaway with a fireplace, jacuzzi, and a canopy bed…a little piece of heaven and peacefulness…

snowflakeSo, why is it a constant effort to turn off the chatter in my brain? I have looked at every Poconos brochure in the lobby, researching what to do, where to eat, how to have fun. All the while, craving the peace and quiet to do just what I want…to settle in by that fire and read my book for as long as I want. Yesterday God intervened as the Northeaster approached and we had snow all day. I thought to myself, yes, if I could design my own Heaven, this would be it, a book, a cup of tea, a fire, snow blowing outside and my husband to cuddle up with.

BUT, today the weather is clear and the mind chatter is back…so my vacation goal is to learn to live with the chatter as a part of my natural drive and creativity and how to tame it when it is time for relaxation. I am accepting my humanness and examining the good in it, while loving the fact that I can relax with morning and evening prayer, do a little journalling, read some Scripture and spiritual reading and gaze at the gift of my husband for 7 days before reentering the world…hopefully, recharged to serve Him more energetically and creatively. (Oh, yes, I must admit I am going to catch up on Season 4 of Downton Abbey !!)

As for worries about distraction and brain chatter, here is a snippet of the December 10, 2014, post from Word on Fire  ’St. Thomas explains that our merit rests primarily on our original intention in praying. It isn’t broken by accidental distraction, which no human being can avoid, but only by intentional and willing distraction. This also should give us some relief. We need not worry too much about distractions, as long as we don’t encourage them. We realize something of what the Psalmist says, namely, that God “pours gifts on His beloved while they slumber” (Ps 127:2)’

Thank you St. Thomas Aquinas! Now back to my vacation…may you all be blessed today!

  

Respecting Life: Laws and Prayer

One of my most vivid memories of my eighth grade year was learning what an abortion was. I had barely learned what sex was. Even at 13 years old, it sickened me to think that a mother would kill her baby. In small ways, I became involved in the ProLife movement and remained active for many years.

After awhile it became tiresome. Not that I had changed my belief in the sanctity of life. If anything the gift of my four children hardened it into my soul. Over the years, I became aware of the myriad arguments on both sides and came to know women who had experienced it, if not once, but several times, for many reasons.

At first I was ashamed about not showing up for the meetings, the human chains at highway intersections, and the annual March for Life. What would people think? And that is a whole other post…

christ holding a babyBut as my spiritual life was deepening, I became truly aware of  the Presence of the Holy Spirit in my life to a degree that it was an ever present life raft. There was something more vital and life-giving that the Lord was asking me to do. It hit home at a Deacon and wives conference where Helen Alvare was the keynote speaker and the Rachel’s Vineyard organization had an information booth.

At the time I had just finished my Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling at Loyola University. And here was God’s mission opportunity for me in the field of respect for life. During all those “active” years that were very public, I saw the worst aftermath of abortion. The soul-killing regret, shame, and depression of the mothers (AND fathers) that had aborted a child. No one had ever told them about that side effect.

As a licensed counselor, with a specialty in allowing faith in God to guide the healing process, I could sit with these parents and guide them back to a full life with God’s merciful love and full forgiveness.

Today, while we fight over laws about respecting life and abortion, God is present trying to get His message of mercy and love through to us. When we rely on God’s grace we understand that He can heal any situation of life, whether it be helping a woman to see that an unborn child’s life is precious not only now, but for future generations, or assisting a dying person in seeing  the beauty of each moment of their life.

Do we need the public activity in the fight for respecting life? Yes, awareness keeps us on our toes and gives us direction for our prayers. But, it is these prayers and our willingness to speak freely about God’s love for us that will change the hearts of those looking to end lives by their own decision so that there will no longer be any business for the abortion clinics, nor need for measures to end one’s life early. 

May the peace of Christ and the power of the Holy Spirit be with you.

  

Glimpse of heaven

gates-of-heavenMany people leave this Earth each day. Unless we know them or see a news article or program, we seldom think about it. That is as it it should be I guess or we would be forever worrying about death and would miss the life that our Lord sent us here to live and enjoy.

Matthew 6:34 “Therefore do not be anxious about tomorrow, for tomorrow will be anxious for itself. Sufficient for the day is its own trouble.”

Today, our pastor, Fr. Henry Kunkel, of St. Mary of the Assumption in Pylesville, MD lost his mother, Catherine. In a way, many of us lost a spiritual mother today. She was an important presence at our small, rural parish for many years as Father cared for her in the rectory where she made her home, until just a week ago when she went to the hospital.

Psalm 37:4  ”Delight yourself in the Lord, and he will give you the desires of your heart.”

Catherine was a spunky woman of Northern Italian heritage (she would want me to make sure you knew she was Northern Italian!) who lived life to its fullest. My fondest memories of her will be of the stories she told of her most treasured saint, St. Frances Cabrini. She relied on her in times of trouble to comfort her and bring the issues to the Lord for resolution. Her room at the rectory included a small shrine to this holy woman. Her stories of  her time in Peru with her husband, Anthony, and Fr. Kunkle and his sister, Karen, were some of her favorite to tell and mine to listen to. She was an inspiration even when poor health kept her to a quieter pace.

Psalm 146:2  ”I will praise the Lord as long as I live; I will sing praises to my God while I have my being.”

I had the honor to spend many hours with her in the past week as she allowed her last moments on Earth to pass. I am so grateful to Father and Karen for granting me this time. Witnessing Father’s tender words of release and love to her brought tears and an even deeper appreciation for the beauty of the relationship between this mother and her son.
Sitting with her as she became less in this world and more in her spiritual being so as to pass into the loving arms of God allowed me much time for thought and prayer. It was as if I could feel the gates of Heaven slowly opening a little more each day as she readied herself so graciously to be held in the arms of the Lord. The presence of God and his angels was palpable.

Ecclesiastes 12:7  ”And the dust returns to the earth as it was, and the spirit returns to God who gave it.”

I thank you Lord for giving me this spiritual mother here on Earth to guide me. Maybe she and my earthly mother will meet in the heavens…of course after Ms. Catherine is finished chatting with St. Frances Cabrini and her husband, Anthony. Knowing her, probably in that order!

Until we meet again Ms. Catherine…I love you!

  

Something Spiritual Stirring…

 

cup of heart coffee

What’s that quote from St. Augustine? “Our hearts are restless, until they can find rest in you.” Yes. That is what I have been. Maybe I should have been writing more to calm my soul?

The summer presented an unwanted invitation from God (or maybe just something that happened). Anyway, back surgery and continuing recovery got in the way of anything I had wanted to do. Or did it?

Recovery times have always been annoying to me (and those around me!) I am NOT a good patient. I want to do what I want to do! But the fruits of time to read spiritual materials, time to watch my grandchildren grow and play, and time to be quiet and examine all those unwanted thoughts that come in when you can’t stay busy are coming to harvest.

When you ask God to give you your purpose, to give you guidance on how to clean up your act so you can move toward His purpose for you and then He does, well the dam breaks loose!

My awareness has been heightened and I am grateful. It is a daily re-centering of my heart, refocusing of my want-to’s and have-to’s and even in the blissfulness of consolations, it is still a discipline to be a disciple.

Just wondering how many of you are feeling a stirring in your restless heart? What are the fruits of this joyful anxiety for you?

Unsure? Sit down and rest awhile. And listen.

  

It’s been a long, a long time coming…

So what do you say when you’ve been away a long time? I am opting for “Hello again! I’ve missed you!” Some have asked where I have been…same place I was before in the physical sense that is. Spiritually, somewhere new.

The weeks before Lent were filled with a sense that something had to change. Something in me. It would have to be a time of spiritual cleansing and discipline. A time to face the parts of me that had been hiding in the crevices between places of knowing something had to change and not having a clue what to change or where to start.

One thing was clear. God was the originator of the message…change NOW, for me. In the words of Ada Whiddington, from 1891, that came to me in an email prayer request recently,

jesus (1)Not I, but Christ be honored, loved, exalted,
Not I, but Christ be seen, be known and heard;
Not I, but Christ in every look and action,
Not I, but Christ in every thought and word.

I was to look within using every possible action for the 40 days of Lent. I eliminated certain foods and eating patterns, bumped up my daily prayer to include the Rosary, Scripture, and meditation, left myself only minutes on Facebook to see pictures of grandchildren, gave up television and online Bingo and replaced them with spiritual reading. During times of temptation I turned to prayer, a few times when battling the urge to eat late at night I went to my knees begging to be released. I read a wonderful book on fasting by Elmer Townes, Fasting for Spiritual Breakthrough. He brought me to a fresh new realization of what the power of fasting and discipline are for.

I was trying out something I had heard of before, but never really realized could be done. Kingdom Living. It became very real to me that we are living in the Kingdom of God right now! The same spirit I have within me now is the one I was planned with by God, born with by my mother, and the one that will be released from its physical home when I die. I must nourish this spiritual being that is eternal. Discipline was allowing me to see clearly and I began to love it. Really love it.

Then we got to the Triduum. I began to feel a letdown. A feeling very similar to what I experience when a vacation is over. Easter came. At the beginning of Lent, I planned on that day! The feast, the chocolate, the bunny cake! The day came and I ate because I was “allowed to”. For the next few weeks, my discipline waned. I was missing Lent! In my humanness I need a goal. In the past it would have been a number on the scale. I was in fact very happy that I lost 10 or 11 pounds, enough to give me a start on the next 30 or 40! But this time I yearned for a new spiritual goal, one that would be sought with others on the same path.

This was the key. Seeking a goal in community. A community of others seeking Christ and a change in their lives. I would need to learn to search out meaningful goals that were not self-serving, like looking good, albeit a healthy body is necessary for the rigors of discipleship! I turned to the project that God set before me in April of 2013, our parish’s ChristLife evangelization program. It’s next sessions were beginning on May 8th and would end on June 26th. My discipline program needed a “love” to go with it, a passion set outside myself for Christ.

When I saw the dates on the calendar and noted the tribulations of the weeks following Easter, I saw very clearly that I had lent my ear to the negativity and fear that Satan plants in me when I try to work for Christ. My spiritual cleansing had given clarity to my spiritual eyes! To the point that now I welcome trials knowing they are meant as challenges for my soul strength! When I see the problems’ origin, it’s remedy is simple. Turn around and pray, hard!

So it has been a long time, a little longer than Christ’s own desert time, but then again I am weak and need much more time than he for true and lasting change. I join with you again with renewed and uplifted Spirit, ready for the challenges awaiting and the joys of spreading the message of Christ so we can honor, love and exalt him…forever.

Prince of Peace, is an original artwork by Akiane Kramarik, www.Akiane.com

 

 

  

Blessed Woman Shares Her Gift Through Music

Donna Cori Gibson singingThis Lent I have restricted myself to only Catholic/Christian media. One of my favorites for many years has been Donna Cori Gibson. I first heard her on EWTN and fell in love with how she  takes prayers from the Saints, the Church, and word-for-word from Scripture and sets them to contemporary music to make learning easy. She also sings the rosary, Divine Mercy Chaplet, and a song for each station of the cross. You can get FREE downloads of some of her songs at www.donnacorigibson.com/FreeDownload1.html.

You will be inspired!

  

Joyfully Painful Growth Toward Your Purpose

plant through crackAs we move even deeper into following our purpose there is a purging of personality characteristics that have been hidden. It IS painful, but if there can be one, a joyful pain. Yes, even more so as I step into my God gifted purpose. What we need is always provided. I ran across an article by Randy Hain that addressed exactly what I had been experiencing. Somehow seeing the words in print helped me release the obstacles!

If you are feeling stuck in finding or following your God-gifted purpose, you will enjoy this article…

http://www.integratedcatholiclife.org/2014/02/randy-hain-six-obstacles-to-catholic-authenticity/

  

Sharing About…when prayer is hard

image016Some of you may know my husband Gary, a deacon at our parish, also has a blog. When I saw it this morning my first thought was, “Hey that was going to by my topic!”…After reading it and seeing his choice of accompanying picture I knew he was sensing my own recent difficulties…I couldn’t have said it better, so here is the link!  Enjoy your day. And know that even  when prayer is hard for us, God is still there in the very same loving and compassionate way as when prayer seems easier!

http://deacongarydumer.com/2014/02/03/how-do-we-pray/

  

Getting Used…and loving it!

This past Thursday night, January 30, 2014, I was privileged to witness the Holy Spirit at work right in my little country parish of St. Mary’s in Pylesville, MD. But before I tell you how, here is the beginning of the story…

I have been a part of St. Mary’s for a little over ten years. My husband, Gary, and I arrived when he was assigned there after his ordination to the deaconate. Our home parish was very different than St. Mary’s, large and more suburban, thousands of families vs. hundreds, modern in architecture vs. an original stone church with wooden pews and a choir loft… a big change. With this move, I decided to change my “church self” too.

At our home parish, I had been very active in ministry, trying to find my place in God’s world. I found out a lot about myself and the Church there. Mostly wonderful discoveries, but also disappointments. This little exchange with my mother-in-law, Rita, will explain it.

pathwayRita, had been a lifelong staff member of many parishes, usually managing the parish office. When I began my own venture into volunteering at church, it was SO exciting! To be around people who love God, to be in that atmosphere all the time was what I wanted.
Well, about six months into my volunteer work on the Parish Council, I called Rita. “Mom, I thought that working at the church, everyone would be nice! I am so disappointed.” Rita, with her characteristic kindness and wisdom, said “People who work at churches are just people, just keep doing what you are called to do.” So I did.

By the time Gary was ordained, I was ready for a break. I was finishing up my Master’s Degree in Pastoral Counseling, working full-time and raising 4 children. So I decided that I would remain in the background at St. Mary’s, sitting in the back of the church, actually enjoying the anonymity and alone time with God. Little by little people would figure out who I was, the deacon’s wife. But I kept a low profile for about 3 years. My promise to God was that if he asked me to do something specific I would.

It only took two weeks before Father Kunkel asked to speak with me after Mass.

The request was to attend the Adult Education committee meetings, which I did. My yearning to be involved again was sparked. So began the next phase of my journey, doing women’s groups, working with the Youth Ministry at Catholic Heart Work Camp, pitching in at the bi-annual chicken dinners and so on.

Then last April, I saw that a ministry that had been close to my heart for ten years, fire heartsChristLife, was holding its annual training. Hmm, maybe I should look into that, I thought.
The birth of this evangelization ministry took place with some of the parishioners at my beloved childhood parish and school, St. Louis in Clarksville, MD. I had known one of its founders since childhood, attending elementary and middle school with his daughter and then later in life reconnecting with her at Loyola where we both received our training in Pastoral Counseling. It had been tugging at my heart for 10 years. Maybe now was the time.

But with a private practice to handle and the addition of many grandchildren that I wanted time to enjoy, would I have the time?  I thought, “I’ll ask Gary, that will decide it.” Somewhere in my heart I was torn between him wanting to say “yes” and wanting him to say “no”. I figured my chances were good that he would say no because he was so busy himself. Well I bet you know what happened, he was glad to attend the training with me and get involved. Uh..oh.

So there I was, all trained up and excited, a little worried about how to or if I could handle the challenge and ready to present the idea to our Parish Council. Here was my “out”… I had been willing, now I would be let off the hook of fear that was setting in. Parish Councils are notorious for shooting down new ideas…God bless them. Well again, I bet you know what happened. The Parish Council president was elated, “This is what we have been praying for!”  ”Really?!” I thought to myself. Uh..oh. The 25 minute drive home was a mixture of anxiety and excitement.

So here we are in February of 2014, 10 months after that National Training for ChristLife. We had a pilot program for which 20 people volunteered their time and talent in September. They also had to put up with my inundating their email with news and changes and the meetings that took their personal time. Their spouses and families sacrificed having them present while they took on the joy of ministry.

Months of bulletin and pulpit announcements, Father Kunkel “advertising” after Mass, hospitality Sunday presence and tables at the numerous other parish events were a holy barrage of invitations to Discovering Christ. “Join us, join us!”, we sang in every way possible. We hoped some people would show up…maybe a dozen or so.

IMG_1548Last Thursday, 85 people listened to the call. Not of us, the team. Not of the bulletin or pulpit pleas. But the call of Christ in their hearts…their hearts were burning within them.

So, I got used. I got used by God to bring a simple message about a way to evangelize, a way for people to have a deep relationship with our Lord.

And I have never been happier about being used in my life! Praise God for his power over my doubt and fear. For his taking over and running the show! AMEN.

When you feel the rustlings, when you feel the urge to give, listen. It is God calling you.

  

Poisons purged…

As I continue to participate in the Heal My Voice project on Feminine Leadership lead by Andrea Hylen, what I expected to write about is 180 degrees different from what I am writing about out of  my soul. She warned us about this!

Moving toward a new way of working with Catholic women brought with it the realization poison bottleof actually preparing for leadership. Not getting lessons, webinars, newsletters, and articles ready. Not marketing strategies.

Inside preparation. Soul readiness. It’s WAY harder. Painful, deep…Purging. Realizing patterns of thinking and behavior that serve only to keep me stuck in a place where Christ cannot be effective through my work and my passion.

It is a surprising place to be after committing to a much deeper connection to God over the past year. We usually expect to be in a more wonderful “happy place” as a result of this daily dedication. Don’t get me wrong. Life has certainly been the beneficiary of many, many gifts of blessings and joy. BUT (and my husband will laugh at this…), “I did not want this!”

This place of purging IS a gift. It feels grown up and responsible and capable of  being the woman God sent me here to be in this time in our Earthly history. It feels like it is a completion of years of nagging little pains, memories, behaviors, and false beliefs. It feels like the strongbox holding all of this is exploding open instead of its contents oozing out into my consciousness like a poison to my soul.

Beautiful maryMy poisons are being revealed. The antidote is Christ. The balm is his blessed mother, Mary.