Beautiful Space

As I was sponging down my oversized island countertop, in my lovely new kitchen, dreaming of even more improvements, it occurred to me:  why?

Why do I seek such a beautiful kitchen? Such a beautiful home?  I have spent many dollars and hours with glossy, photo-sparkling magazines. lustily admiring luxurious  granite-lined, stone-tiled, large-windowed cooking spaces.  They are beautiful and there is a certain ‘aaah’ factor in a well-arranged space.  But does it really need the continuous improvement that I attend to it?

I love my kitchen.  I love my family and friends.  Welcoming them into this space is a pleasure.  I considered Mary, the Holy Mother.  She was similar to all women, welcoming others into her home, and through the adage ‘a woman’s work is never done’.  But, I don’t believe she ever created work for herself by searching for adornments to her living space.

The importance of my home and my kitchen is that it is a welcoming place for those I love.  And even for those I don’t love so much.  When these people are with me, the important thing is that I treat them well, with respect and generosity, so that I may share a glimpse of the face of God with them.

Picture of the Home, Washington welcome sign. Photo by and (c)2004 NaJina McEnany. Used by permission.

It doesn’t matter what my kitchen looks like, it matters what my kitchen acts like.  If I am merely polishing my kitchen in order to polish my image, then I have gotten it gravely wrong.  I should be polishing my soul through the worship of God and the pursuit of heavenly grace, and corporeal works of mercy.  I hope these things happen in my home, and through my kitchen.  I am grateful for the beauty around me, and must thank God for it.  But it is of no use if I do not offer this vision to others.


Measuring Your Life


Awards (Photo credit: pennstatenews)

How do we measure achievement?

How can we assess the value of our own personal life?

Watch Harvard Business School Professor Clayton Christensen give a TED talk about measuring the value of your life.  By comparing personal life stories with corporate approaches to decision-making, and employing academic theory, he comes to a surprisingly simple and convincing answer.

Watch it here.   It’s worth it.  (It’s a little long, so if you’re short on time, start about eight  minutes in).  It could change the way you approach every day.

In Good Company

Prayer is powerful.  No matter how you feel when you are praying alone, keep in mind that there are millions, maybe billions of people who also believe in prayer.  They are praying with you.

I’ve found a few pictures to remind us of this good company that we’re in.  Consider that each picture represents people in their own circumstances reaching out to God.  Beautiful.

2012 Easter Sunday Mass, St. John the Evangelist Metropolitan Cathedral (Dagupan City, Pangasinan) Author: Ramon FVelasquez

Wooden Prayer Plaques at Yushima Tenjin, Taito, Tokyo Photo Credit: Vigyani (Wikimedia)

Praying jewish man on the western wall in Jerusalem Author: Peter van der Sluijs

The repeated prayer “Om Mani Padme Hum” carvedon red stone pieces and stacked to make a wall. Such devotion so far from any permanent settlement. Photo Credit: McKay Savage (London, UK)

Worshippers flood the Grand mosque, its roof, and all the areas around it during night prayers in Mecca. Author: Al Jazeera English

Rosaries prayer Photo Credit, Wikimedia: User:leba12

Handwritten prayers to Saint Charbel lie underneath a statue in the en:Mexico City Metropolitan Cathedral in en:Zocalo Square, en:Mexico City. Taken by Chris Kanaan

RABIAN SEA (April 24, 2011) Sailors aboard the Nimitz-class aircraft carrier USS Carl Vinson (CVN 70) participate in an Easter Sunday sunrise service in the hangar bay. Carl Vinson and Carrier Air Wing (CVW) 17 are conducting maritime security operations and close-air support missions in the U.S. 5th Fleet area of responsibility. (U.S. Navy photo by Mass Communication Specialist Seaman Nicolas C. Lopez/Released)

Just Be There

Chatting with my nine-year-old as he was going to bed, I realized I didn’t know much, really, about his day.  I knew his activities — school, basketball practice, homework, chores, video games, etc.  But how was he?  ‘Fine.’

I wanted more.  But…he’s a child.

I recalled a chapter from James Martin’s ‘Jesuit Guide,’ God Meets You Where You Are. God, our Father, doesn’t need for us to explain, analyze or be in a certain place to hear us and to know us.  He is just with us.

I am with you always (Matthew 28:20)

finding god...

finding god… (Photo credit: tanjila)

Walked away from a church, and ‘all that nonsense’ years ago?  Can’t bring yourself to go back into a house of worship?  Okay — God is with you.

Yet there too you shall see the Lord, your God; and you shall indeed find him when you search after him … (Deuteronomy 4:29)

At home surfing the web?  In the grocery store? In a funk; in joyous rapture about the birth of a new baby; or in mourning for the death of a loved one or the loss of a job? In the street, homeless and looking for shelter?  Hmph, how about that… God too.

The Lord, your God, is with you wherever you go (Joshua 1:9)

oak sapling

oak sapling (Photo credit: adstream)

As a parent, maybe I need to meet my son where he is.  If he is playing a Xbox in the basement, maybe I should too.  Or at least watch.  I can shoot a basketball now and then.  By being there, I show interest and make a connection that I so desperately want.  Just like God wants with us.  One small seed of communication can grow into a healthy relationship tree.

This is as true for our relationship with God as it is for me with my son.

God is with you in everything you do (Genesis 21:22)

Photo credit: peksh78

Lucky for us, we are God’s children.  God is everywhere with us, all the time.  He sees what we do, and go through, and he understands.  He is always whispering ‘Tell me about it…’ and so happy when we want to talk.  If only we could be more like that, with children, friends, family, the lost, the lonely, the poor.

Behold, I stand at the door and knock.  If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, I will come in and dine with him, and he with me. (Revelations 3:20)

Pray for it.  Maybe you can.

A Humble Man, A Jesuit, and a Pope…Is this the Start of a Joke?

Il santissimo nome di Gesù

Il santissimo nome di Gesù (Photo credit: Nick in exsilio)

A humble man, a Jesuit and the Pope were sitting in a boat together… the joke’s not written yet, but it will be.  The punch line of course will be Pope Francis.  (Keep it nice, please!)

Never has the world put ‘Jesuit’ and ‘Pope’ in the same description.  Some (mostly Jesuits themselves) would argue the same about ‘humble’ and ‘Jesuit’…

Jesuits are a well-educated and well-humored bunch and I admire them greatly.  The Society of Jesus (S.J.)  often pokes fun at its reputation for humility (or lack thereof).    To give you a sense, here are two well-known jokes about Jesuits:

A Franciscan and a Dominican were debating about whose order was the greater. After months of arguing, they decided to ask for an answer from God when they died. Years later, they met in heaven and decided to go to the throne of God to resolve their old disagreement.

God seemed a bit puzzled about the question and told them he would reply in writing a few days later. After much deliberation, God sent the following letter:

My beloved children,
Please stop bickering about such trivial matters. Both of your orders are equally great and good in my eyes.
Sincerely yours,
God, S.J.

Here’s one about meeting the Holy Family:

A Jesuit, a Dominican, and a Franciscan were walking along an old road, debating the greatness of their orders. Suddenly, an apparition of the Holy Family appeared in front of them, with Jesus in a manger and Mary and Joseph praying over him. 

The Franciscan fell on his face, overcome with awe at the sight of God born in such poverty.
The Dominican fell to his knees, adoring the beautiful reflection of the Trinity and the Holy Family.
The Jesuit walked up to Joseph, put his arm around his shoulder, and said, “So, have you thought about where to send the boy to school?”

Cardinal Bergoglio (2008), now Pope Francis Photo Credit: Aibdescalzo

Pope Francis seems to have plenty of humility, thanks be to God. Humility aside, why is Pope Francis’ training as a Jesuit a big surprise?  Why is he the very first Jesuit to rise to this office?

The Jesuits take pride, and work hard to avoid ambition and the seeking of power.  Jesuits pledge not to pursue offices of honor or prestige.  So how did this happen?

Father Robert Ballecer of the Jesuit Conference of the United States said on NPR, “We have a vow that we will not seek out office, but there have been cases where the office seeks us out.”  For example, Jesuit bishops or cardinals.  “In each case, the story goes that they refused the first time, maybe even a second time…But being obedient priests and being obedient Jesuits, if they’re asked again and again to serve their church, they will.”

I heard a report that during the previous conclave Cardinal Bergoglio (now Pope Francis) was second in the running to Cardinal Ratzinger (now Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI).  As the conclave proceeded, Cardinal Bergoglio begged the other cardinals to stop voting for him.

Then Pope Benedict XVI resigned.  So… ‘here we are,’ to quote the new Pontiff.

The Jesuit ‘pedigree’ is considered a high level of achievement within the Catholic priesthood.  Jesuits spend years continuing their education (many earning doctorates), and in spiritual ‘formation.’  Traditionally they are educators too. There is also a focus on social justice and serving the poor.

Ignatius Loyola

Ignatius Loyola (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Jesuits develop their spiritual lives based on the philosophies of their founder St. Ignatius of Loyola.  I have found Ignatian spirituality a powerful, and freeing revelation.  It is a practical, moderate approach to spirituality as part of real life, with direct and intentional connections to God.  See “The Jesuit Guide to (Almost) Anything” by Fr. James Martin (an American Jesuit).   Many in the church rely upon Ignatian Spirituality (the ‘examination of conscience’ comes from Ignatius), but the Jesuits are especially well-versed in it and devoted to it.    Fr. Martin on the spiritual approach of St. Ignatius:

“…his way of life has helped millions of people discover joy, peace, and freedom, and not incidentally, experience God in their daily lives.”

It may be part of the mood of the moment, but my hopes for this Pope swing as high as his humility is low.  The Church has missed humility in it’s leadership and it is sorely needed.  I pray that, over time, the leadership of Pope Francis, promotes the healing of wounds so painfully caused by the Church.  May any whiff of wrongdoing (re:  an allegation of complicity in Argentinian conflicts) be addressed honestly and in a straightforward manner, or be shown as a result of scandal-hungry media.

No matter his 76 years, a Jesuit Pope is a new direction for the Catholic Church.  May his spiritual formation be deeply rooted in the ways of God, and may he show not only Catholics, but the world, that God is the way forward, the way of joy, the way to peace and to a life worth living.

No joke!


Working for God

Two thoughts for you as you do your best today:

Pray as though everything depended on God. Work as though everything depended on you.

Saint Augustine

I know God will not give me anything I can’t handle.  I just wish He didn’t trust me so much. 

Mother Teresa

Tell Me Again the Write Answer

Another day, another procrastination, another inspiration… isn’t life amazing?

Inspiration Point

Inspiration Point (Photo credit: James Marvin Phelps)

As I was stewing around the house, not writing, I wondered what I must get done:  organize that service project?  Tidy up for a biggish group of friends we’re expecting on Saturday?  Cook?  Shop?  Organize rides for the kids, get sports gear together, do the laundry… Am I procrastinating?  YES to all.

When I find myself like this, I know I need to sit quietly, and pray for a few minutes.  The answer will usually come.

Nothing  jumped out at me from the scripture readings.  Then I read the Magnificat Meditation of the Day written by a French married laywoman, Servant of God Elisabeth Leseur, (1866-1914):

Elisabeth Leseur with her husband Felix, an atheist, who converted and became a priest after her death

“All that life reveals each day … all that constitutes our inner being; all of this should one day become words or actions that reveal our depths.”

Is this another directive to write? God is really good about giving me messages I need more than once.  (I don’t always get it the first time…)

“It is a difficult task, a great effort, to express our innermost thoughts, but we must do it, breaking open our souls as we might break open a sacred vase so that others may breathe the divine perfume.”

Helloooo, writers…. That’s the guidance for today.  Again, pretty direct this time (see A Clear Answer, Especially for Writers).  Thank you God, the Holy Father and Holy Spirit.  Let me write in that same spirit, with strength and wisdom from above. Otherwise, my writing is not going to smell anything like ‘divine perfume.’  Quite the contrary…

Holy Spirit painting

Holy Spirit painting (Photo credit: hickory hardscrabble)

Contain those worldly distractions — email  pings, ringing phones, the buzz of the dishwasher finishing.

Sit. Reflect. Pray. Write. Pray again. Re-write.

Make time for the Lord.  Make time to write. I pray for the intersection of these two passions.  I pray that I may write according to your will Lord.

And the final touch from Elisabeth’s meditation:

“As we go along, let us spread ideas, words and desires, without looking back to see who gathers them up.”

She never even blogged… Truth be told, I love comments, likes and followers.  I love to see who reads my words… but I know, that’s not humble.  I struggle with humility Lord.  So I’ll just ask You to help me do it your way God.  It’s always better than mine.

Thank you for all the gifts and guidance you give me God. Amen.

Pray for That Jerk

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Dreading it as much as dental drilling, I forced myself to go to Confession last night.

During my face to face meeting with the priest (who listened intensely while I talked to my knees) I mentioned, among other transgressions, that I was finding it hard to forgive someone.

Exuding a holy, loving spirit through deep gentle eyes, he said ‘Forgiveness does not mean agreement.  You don’t have to approve what happened.  Just forgive.”  To forgive, pray for the person who offended you — it helps you to let go and cuts the cord.


forgiveness (Photo credit: cheerfulmonk)

Pray for that jerk? Ask God to be good to he who was such an idiot?  The look must have shown on my face.

Father told me a story about one person’s approach to forgiveness in a very difficult situation.  His prayer: “Okay Lord, I won’t object if you help that SOB.”

Minimalist.  But hey, it’s a start.

Try it.  The effect for me was immediate. My heart felt lighter; my soul felt as if a layer of dust had been lifted.

Thank you Lord for a priest so full of your spirit.  His irreverent humor let me laugh, and led me to pray and forgive.  Amen.

Go to confession.  It’s not only good for your soul, it’s good for the jerk.

Where’s My High Five?

I taught CCD today (2nd graders) and the lesson was on the Last Supper and the Eucharist –very important as the children prepare for First Communion in the Catholic Church.  The lesson was… fine.

I didn’t want fine. I went to some trouble and wanted a ‘wow!’  I rearranged the room to set it up like the Last Supper, brought in a chalice, paten, candles, pictures of the Last Supper, and even sticker sets for each child to create their own Last Supper.  We didn’t get to the sticker sets—yes, the fun bit.  Ran out of time. Sigh.

Of course we’ll use it next week.  The children were fairly attentive and responsive.  It just left me a little flat.   This, on top of some other writing-related frustrations, left me low.

In other words: c’mon God!  High five me or something!  I’ve been praying.  I’ve been asking.

I was given insight, if not direct messages today.  Here is what I heard at Mass based on some excerpts from the readings:

In the Responsorial Psalm 27: 7-8,13-14

 “Hear O LORD, the sound of my call;

have pity on me, and answer me.

Of you my heart speaks; you my glance seeks.”

I’m calling, but is my heart speaking of God or looking for glory?  Hmmm. Do I want God to look good, or am I more worried about me?  Guess.

  “Wait for the LORD with courage;

 be stouthearted, and wait for the LORD.”

 I am waiting…   Sigh.  I know.  I’m really just being impatient.  And selfish.  It’s not about me.  And God, I do know you’re not on my time.  Though I do keep forgetting that.

Then Paul’s letter to the Philippians 3:17-4:1

“…many…conduct themselves as enemies of the cross of Christ.

…Their minds are occupied with earthly things.”

 Like recognition?  Reward?  Achievement?  (You talkin’ ta me God?)

  “But our citizenship is in heaven

 and from it we also await a savior, the Lord Jesus Christ.

…stand firm in the Lord, beloved.”

Enough said.

Boy, I’m glad you speak to me Lord.  Thank you for reminding me what is important and loving me even though I forget, often.  Strengthen my faith so that I may stand firm in your ways and live humbly in your name. Amen.


Dental Freak-out (2): Friends and Toothsavers

A fair lady’s smile is worth more than a thousand ounces of gold. Chinese proverb. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The Friday of my dental follow-up arrived (see Dental Freak-out) in which I was scheduled for likely extraction and implant.  I had steeled myself for tooth demolition and construction work.  I left a meeting early to make sure I was on time.  On my way, I ran into a friend, and told her where I was headed.

“Are you crazy?  Pulling a tooth — they shouldn’t need to do that.  They can save almost any tooth these days.  What kind of dentist is this?  Have you been to an endodontist?”

I didn’t know what an endodontist was.  My dentist’s specialty was cosmetic:  read, implants.  Endodontists specialize in root canals.  My friend used to work as a dental hygienist and is very knowledgeable about dentistry.   And I just happened to run into her now… Hello, God?

Her take: “You don’t want an implant.  That’s a foreign body inside your body, permanently.  Unless you absolutely have too. You need a second opinion.”

“But my appointment is in 15 minutes!”

“Don’t go,” she advised.

While I stressed, called my husband and fretted, she made a few calls and got me the name of a good endodontist.

I cancelled the appointment when I was already five minutes late.  They were not happy.

The endodontist looked at my teeth.  “I can see why the other dentist was worried.  That tooth is dead.  But you don’t want an implant back there — it’s the back molar, and too close to the sinuses and the brain.  Anyway, I can do a root canal right now.  Have you out of here in about 30 minutes.”

And, after a relatively painless procedure (how amazing is that?), it was done.  Whew.  What a relief.  Much cheaper too.

The endodontist has now referred me to a good general dentist.  Much more work is yet to be done. Ugh.  But at least I’m in good hands now.

Thank you God.  You sent me my friend in my time of need.  Thank you, thank you!  Help me to be a friend to others in your name.  And please stay with me through all this horrible dental work. I’m still scared.  Amen.