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Archive for October, 2011

I spent last weekend in the midst of people who have loved me since my birth … my mom, two of my brothers and my sister. I have never had a moment in my life when I wondered if anybody out there loved me; I have never felt unwanted.

When I returned home, I read a story in the Sunday newspaper about a renaming ceremony in India for girls. Excerpted from the story:

More than 200 Indian girls whose names mean “unwanted” in Hindi have chosen new names for a fresh start in life.A central Indian district held a renaming ceremony Saturday that it hopes will give the girls new dignity and help fight widespread gender discrimination that gives India a skewed gender ratio, with far more boys than girls.

In shedding names like “Nakusa” or “Nakushi,” which mean “unwanted” in Hindi, some girls chose to name themselves after Bollywood stars such as “Aishwarya” or Hindu goddesses like “Savitri.” Some just wanted traditional names with happier meanings, such as “Vaishali,” or “prosperous, beautiful and good.”

As I read that, I wept.

I cannot imagine naming a child “Unwanted.” I cannot imagine being that child.

I have a renewed gratitude for my church that preaches and teaches the dignity of each person. How I hope and pray that each of those girls hears the Good News; of how deeply our Father loves them; how their names – real names spoken in love and tenderness – are etched in the palm of God’s hands.

How can I help to make that happen? My heart is crying out for it. I may not be able to directly touch those girls, but the LORD has placed me in this place and in this time and I know my ministry is all about me.  Mother Teresa once said “There is Calcutta all over the world for those who have eyes to see.” I will be praying for those girls, and doing what I can in my own corner of the world, amidst the poverty of spirit all around me.

Lord, I need your guidance, your strength, your Wisdom. Help me to see those around me who feel unwanted, unloved. Help me to be your hands and your feet, for your glory. In Jesus’ name I pray!

Will a woman give up the child at her breast, will she be without pity for the fruit of her body? yes, these may, but I will not let you go out of my memory. See, your name is marked on my hands (Isa 49:15-16)

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Oddballs!

My readings today were so rich! I’ve already sent the first one to a friend who struggles with wondering what his purpose is, and wonders what his value is within the body of Christ.

And honestly, I think that’s something we all struggle with from time-to-time. I have come to see that nearly everyone feels like an oddball … like we don’t fit in with the majority, or that we are on the outside. This feeling is far more universal than we realize and I think of how much more affirming we could be to one another if we were conscious of it.

If you’ve ever felt like a foreigner; if you’ve ever felt like a “dry tree” with nothing to add and too little to offer; if you look at the majority and know their ministries are not meant for you … Oddballs, this reading is for you … and for me.

1 Thus says the LORD: Observe what is right, do what is just, for my salvation is about to come, my justice, about to be revealed.

2 Happy is the one who does this, whoever holds fast to it: Keeping the sabbath without profaning it, keeping one’s hand from doing any evil.

3 The foreigner joined to the LORD should not say, “The LORD will surely exclude me from his people”; Nor should the eunuch say, “See, I am a dry tree.”

4 For thus says the LORD: To the eunuchs who keep my sabbaths, who choose what pleases me, and who hold fast to my covenant,

5 I will give them, in my house and within my walls, a monument and a name — Better than sons and daughters; an eternal name, which shall not be cut off, will I give them.

6 And foreigners who join themselves to the LORD, to minister to him, To love the name of the LORD, to become his servants — All who keep the sabbath without profaning it and hold fast to my covenant,

7 Them I will bring to my holy mountain and make them joyful in my house of prayer; Their burnt offerings and their sacrifices will be acceptable on my altar, For my house shall be called a house of prayer for all peoples. (Isaiah 56)

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When I was going through the darkness of depression, a friend and I began sharing “little blessings.” Each day we would simply try to make note of something that blessed us, and share it with the other.

It usually was something very ordinary or simple … hearing a child’s laughter; seeing an especially pretty sunset; witnessing a small act of kindness between strangers.

And you know, when you start looking for blessings you realize how each and every day is filled with them; you begin to appreciate them and feel great gratitude for the small and simple moments.

I have learned a lot from the little blessings and my battle with depression. I learned that even on the worst days, if someone came to me needing help, it was I who was lifted up by being drawn out of “self” and focusing on another’s needs instead.

It truly is in giving that we receive. Thank you dear LORD for this lesson; I hope that every single day I continue to look and to truly see the beautiful blessings you have poured out in my life. I pray that I focus not on self, but on others and that together – intertwined as members of Your body – we share our blessings, large and small.

Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down, and overflowing, will be poured into your lap. For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you. Luke 6:38

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Please watch this video. Not for the political message … I’m not particularly a Ron Paul supporter … but for the very important message of life.

And if you don’t have time to watch the video, please at least read this excerpt in Ron Paul’s words:

I happened to have walked into an operating room where they were doing an abortion on a late pregnancy. They lifted out a small baby that was able to cry and breathe and they put it in a bucket and put it in the corner of the room. and pretended it wasn’t there.

I walked down the hallway and a baby was born early — slightly bigger than the baby they put in the bucket and they wanted to save this baby. So they might have had 10 doctors in there doing everything conceivable.

Who are we to decide that we pick and throw one away and pick up and struggle to save the other ones.

Unless we resolve this and understand that life is precious and we must protect life, we can’t protect liberty.

How did we get here? How did we get to a place where breathing, crying babies are placed in a bucket to die and this is defended as a “right?” Oh dear God, have mercy on us; it is crushing to my very soul.

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I’ve often thought about the yin and yang of giving and receiving. Certainly we would all rather be a cheerful giver, having the means and the gifts to bestow on someone else in need. It is a good feeling to help someone else.

But in order for one to be able to give, another must be in need. It’s not a position anyone desires … it is humbling and often painful.

And I’ve learned so much from people in need. Vada has taught me how to receive with gratitude and dignity. I know it’s been very humbling for her to have to ask for help, but I’m so grateful she has asked and has allowed me to help; it has blessed me. There were times in my life when others have wanted to help me and I’ve refused or made it difficult by my attitude. I’m sorry for that now … I realize it would have been a gift to them to have received graciously what they desired to give. 

My great-uncle Jim was always so strong and wise, a grandfather figure in my life. At the end of his life he was very weak and bed-ridden; he could do nothing for himself and was in a great deal of pain. Yet the nurses adored him; he was never rude or demanding and always expressed his gratitude. I learned from that … every day we have the opportunity to make someone’s life a little easier, or a little more difficult. I hope and pray that I always choose to make it easier for someone, more pleasant.

I have pondered this occasionally, but never extended it out further. Yesterday I was reading and saw the natural extension of this yin and yang and it was one of those lightbulb moments for me. It comes from the book The Ordinary Path to Holiness by R. Thomas Richard. He writes about “the chosen people” and also about how intertwined our lives are by God’s design. I love this:

We learn in the history of salvation of a chosen people. It is important to understand how and why God could choose one people apart, out of His whole created humanity. This understanding is important for us today as a Church, because God has not changed. The love extended by God is universal! God does not love one people more than another, but He works among people differently to show His universal love. The Church is the chosen people of the New Covenant, and this has definite implications for every member of His Church. As we come to understand God’s work in a chosen people, we will come to understand the divine burden which Christ left for us.

God works for the salvation of all mankind by choosing and especially blessing some, leaving need in others, so that all might live interdependently. In this way divine charity is encouraged among persons. In this way human persons have the opportunity to participate in divine love.

I find that very humbling and very beautiful.

LORD, please help me to see every single day my interdependence, giving with a joy-filled heart from what You have provided … and receiving with gratitude what others desire to give. Help me choose to make some else’s day a little better; guard me from pride or anger that might burst forth and belittle or wound another soul. In Jesus’ name, I pray.

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Our Mission

I like to read – books, blogs, various websites. I make my rounds each day, often numerous times. I quote sections here & there in my blog as I pray and study and ponder, but today I read a really good article that I’d like to copy here in part.

It really resonated with me because it’s something that took me too long to understand … and it’s something I wish everyone could grasp.  Not so much about a “mission,” because I think sometimes we try to pinpoint a single “purpose” for our lives.

But rather about understanding that all of our blessings, all of our trials, all of our paths have a purpose even if they seem to our eyes to come to a dead end. We are each uniquely created and when we are searching for a direction or a purpose it’s good to remember that our own personality and passions can be a good guide; I believe that the things that come “natural” to us are strengths God gifted to us and can use in His service to others.

Here is the article; I edited to shorten it and you can read it in full here:

You and your family have a mission in life. It is unlike the mission of any other person (or family) in the world. Someway, God has a design for you different from that of any other who has ever lived on this planet. There have been perhaps as many as eighty billion people in all of history and yet you have a mission that’s as unique to you as your fingerprints.

We can glimpse them – and get a sense of them – through prayer. A glimpse.

What’s your life mission? Have you ever contemplated it? Do you realize how important you are to God? Do you know that you are as important as anyone?

Some “missions” seem obvious:

A doctor may see his cause as healing the sick, and indeed that is likely a key part of it. A mother takes care of her children. That’s obvious. A carpenter may see his mission as feeding his family, as well as building homes – and both are involved in it. A gardener takes care of trees.

This is where we may find surprise — for hidden in the jobs we do and lives we live and the trials and victories and obstacles are often “little” side tasks and challenges that we take for granted and don’t think are important when in fact they may be more important than our actual careers.

A smile is important. It can be a mission. It sends a good spiritual force – the force of a Loving God – around a person. A smile makes people feel better. A smile bolsters. A smile can turn around a bad day. A smile even promotes health. A smile may start a chain reaction. As such, then, a smile can affect God’s Plan for the entire universe.

The same is true of prayer: Perhaps the true mission of an insurance agent is to pray for everyone he sees, not just support his family and try to sell insurance. Wouldn’t it be a surprise if during our “life reviews” our missions were shown to us as praying for everyone and wishing them well and that our jobs were just the means to that or some other spiritual end? 

What is your mission?  How do we know what our true missions are?

A mission comes naturally. It is never forced. It flows with our lives. It fits like an old shoe. It is a challenge. It is an adventure. It is interesting. We are naturals for it. It could be to pray or sacrifice. It may have suffering. It always loves. It does not serve ego.

It is tied to your personality.

It is tied to what you love.

It is in the truth of who you really are.

“Every person has a mission to do before they die,” wrote one woman who has extensively studied near-death experiences. “Examine your life in the past. There is a reason for anything that occurs in this world. This is God’s way of giving you chances to improve your soul. Always show love. God’s timing is always accurate. He gives you lessons in each person’s life, even if they may seem to be painful, such as: sickness, loss of family, loss of money, an angered family member, and so on.

We have more of an effect on the world with our everyday lives than we realize. So too is there a plan for each of our lives — a mission as important as that given any other person (or saint). It may not seem like a grand plan. It may not be flashy. Look at Joseph. Look at Mary.

But God’s greatest power is exhibited, often, in littleness and the everyday tasks of life. The point for now: in the depths of our spirits are the secret plans for our lives.

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My sister posted this photo of her granddaughter on facebook a few days ago. Our older brother immediately captioned it, “Pure Joy!”

Do you remember a time when you felt this kind of joy … pure, wide-open, joy?

I’ve been pondering what “joy” is since I saw the photo. I would say I have a deep-seated, profound joy. It may not be “happiness” or a feeling of thrilled excitement; it is a different sort of joy – a permanent joy; a joy rooted in confidence and peace not in “myself” but in God. It was forged within me during the long dark night of my soul.

Coincidentally In God’s perfect timing, I started a book today I’ve been anxious to read. In the introduction was this … how perfect is it to read today, as I ponder joy?

Yes, our vocation is to joy. We are called to return to our God who made us, and our return is a turn to joy. Joy is no shallow thing; it is not a superficial pleasant feeling. Joy is consistent with great suffering, and with long times of darkness and confusion.  Our joy is deeply linked with our supernatural destiny, that is to say, in communion of love, in the eternal joy of God who is love.

The book is The Ordinary Path to Holiness by R. Thomas Richard. He writes that each person experiences childhood, adolescence and adulthood – the same person, but each stage has its own unique characteristics and level of knowledge, wisdom and understanding. Likewise, spiritually we go through different stages with unique characteristics.

Which brings me back to joy … the joy of a child; the joy of an adult, forged through trials.

I suspect I’m going to like this book.

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