When All Else Fails…Pray

Lord God, as the election approaches,
we seek to better understand the issues and concerns that confront our city/state/country, and how the Gospel compels us to respond as faithful citizens in our community.

We ask for eyes that are free from blindness
so that we might see each other as brothers and sisters,
one and equal in dignity, especially those who are victims of abuse and violence, deceit and poverty.

We ask for ears that will hear the cries of children unborn and those abandoned, men and women oppressed because of race or creed, religion or gender.

We ask for minds and hearts that are open to hearing the voice of leaders who will bring us closer to your Kingdom.

We pray for discernment so that we may choose leaders who hear your Word, live your love, and keep in the ways of your truth
as they follow in the steps of Jesus and his Apostles
and guide us to your Kingdom of justice and peace.

We ask this in the name of your Son Jesus Christ and through the power of the Holy Spirit.

Amen.

 

Now…go vote.

 

 

Source: http://www.usccb.org/prayer-and-worship/prayers-and-devotions/prayers/prayer-before-an-election.cfm

 

Liar, Liar, Pants on Fire

Thirty seven percent of all statistics are made up.

Believe me?

You shouldn’t. I made that up.

I read an article this weekend about the rise of fake news sites. It seems that in this age of social media, more and more people are simply making up the news and spreading it around. Case in point, one of the characters in the election year tragedy playing out in our country tweeted something this weekend as news. Two hundred and fifty thousand people retweeted it (forwarded the message) or hit the “like” button to show their support.

The problem? The original tweet had no basis in fact. The candidate had simply made it up.

To be fair, both sides use social media to highlight their competitor’s faults and oversell their own version of truth. That’s politics.

But in this hyperpartisan age of campaigning, we would all be wise to do our research before believing what we read or before passing something on.

I suppose turning off the television and ignoring the whole thing is another option.

Then again, maybe history can teach us.

Two thousand years ago, a weary band of men and women met a man who changed their world. His message was love over hate, forgiveness over revenge, mercy over murder, light over darkness, justice over expediency.

No social media. No Twitter. No Facebook. No Instagram. Just the power of a positive message.

Maybe therein lies the lesson. Seek the Truth where it may be found. Spread the news that renews. Live in a way that shows others we recognize God’s presence so that in our touch, our words, our actions, God may touch, and speak, and act.

Then, perhaps, others may sense God’s presence when we pass by and, seeing us, know with little effort, they catch a glimpse of God.

No online presence is necessary.

Come Holy Spirit, renew the face of the Earth…

 

 

Artwork source: http://hoshanarabbah.org

 

 

St. Paul and the Election Season

A reading from the letter of St. Paul to the Ephesians

Brothers and sisters:

That means everyone. All of us. No one is excluded.

Be kind to one another, compassionate,

No name calling.

forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ.

Help us, Lord, to understand and forgive – or simply to forgive – to comfort the sorrowful and heal the scars of division.

 Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love,

That doesn’t say, “act like children,” it says imitate God like children do, free of animosity and hatred.

as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma.

We may have to suffer for a bit, but offer the suffering up for the needs of others who have less than you, suffer more than you, are more forgotten than you.

Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones,

This may require us to turn off the television.

no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place,

In public or in private. In verbal or electronic form.

but instead, thanksgiving.

You are an ambassador of others. Your needs are secondary. You are running for an office that serves, not saves.

Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person,

Oh, Lord give us strength.

that is, an idolater,

Help me form my conscious sincerely.

has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God.

Give me courage discern the essential from the merely desirable, the good from the less good, the less good from the bad.

Let no one deceive you with empty arguments,

But doesn’t that cover most of the arguments I hear.

for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient.

God will sort it out in the end.

So do not be associated with them.

Help me reflect the Light, oh Lord.

For you were once darkness,

Sometimes it feels that I still am.

but now you are light in the Lord.

Thank you, Jesus.

Live as children of light.

And invite others to do the same.

Plans

So as I look at the week ahead and review my to do lists, what we will cook for dinner, what still needs to be done around the house, and what will occupy my time at work and at home, I look to this morning’s Gospel for direction.

And, as usual, Luke interrupts my thoughts with a challenge. We have all been the man in the story from this morning’s Gospel reading. He has a wonderful harvest and makes plans to build bigger barns. But then something comes along and ruins those plans – or in his case, his own death gets in the way of the new barns he wanted to build.

In the story, the man is chastised not because he plans but because his plans do not include God. “Here is what I will do…I shall tear down…I shall build… I shall store…then I shall say to myself…”

He keeps his wealth instead of sharing it. He plans to take care of himself and forgets those in need around him. He looks out for number one and avoids eye contact with the man or woman standing next to him, those standing on the corner, those sitting across from him or suffering across the world.

It’s a story to which we can all relate.

But, as the poet reminds us, “No man is an island…”

So I go back over my schedule for the week. When is time for prayer? When will I make sure I am present to others? When will I go out of my way to share the harvest, limited though it may be at times, with others?

Planning is good. Plans that include God are better.

 

 

Healed

After last night’s televised freak show, I am tempted to reflect on the demise of American democracy, but thankfully, I am distracted by the story in Sunday’s Gospel.

The author of Luke’s Gospel has Jesus’ healing ten lepers. It’s a story that always causes such consternation. Ten were healed but only one returned to say “thank you.”

It is good to give thanks.

But to concentrate on the one who returned is to miss the point. Maybe the other nine had good reasons.

Maybe one was a mother who had been kept away from her children for so long by this disease that turns you into an outcast. She was healed and she rushed right home and returned to her family.

Maybe one didn’t believe he had been cured because he didn’t do anything to deserve it. He couldn’t face unconditional love – healing without a price – so he couldn’t see he was healed and just went back to the colony.

Another was really, really excited about being free from the ravages of his illness and in his excitement, he just forgot.

Maybe another was alone, having already lost his family and now the only family he knew – the other lepers – were gone too. He was cured but now he was alone. He wasn’t grateful, he was ticked.

I could go on but you get the point.

Ten were healed and only one said “thank you.”

To concentrate on the one is to miss the point. Then again, I sometimes think we’ve institutionalized missing the point.

Ten were healed.

Ten were healed.

Ten cried out for mercy. Ten longed to be near Jesus so they just shouted as loud as they could. And Jesus, never one to leave someone wanting, responded simply, “Go, show yourselves to the priest” (the priest being the only one who could verify that they had in fact be healed).

They asked for Jesus’ mercy and received so much more.

Ten were healed. One said thank you.

It is good to say thank you.

But something tells me it is better to be healed.

 

 

 

artwork The Ten Lepers by John Steel

Holes

The children wanted to dig a hole in the backyard this weekend.

“Why?” I asked.

“Because. It’s a big yard. It needs a hole.”

“Don’t you remember digging holes when you were a kid?” My wife asks.

I honestly don’t.

I remember tying the wagon to my bike and going on imaginary trips. My maternal grandmother would even mail her paper boarding pass to me so I could use them when I pretended to travel. I still have one tucked away in a book somewhere. It serves as a memento of a generation passed.

I remember being younger and having absolutely nothing to do. Of course, you dare not admit this boredom for fear of being overheard and the avalanche of chores that might follow.

I remember putting fireflies in jars.

I remembering eating tons of ice cream and not getting an upset stomach and I remember drinking a coke and still being able to fall asleep.

I remember riding my bike until it was dark and walking to McDonald’s with my brother.

But I don’t remember digging holes.

Still, at some point this weekend I paused from the home construction project I wanted to get done and looked out in the yard. There were the children, digging a hole. I found myself unconsciously humming a song I heard once upon a time. The song is “Eulogy” by The Hereafter and, though I have no idea of its origin, I love these lyrics:

Let’s pretend that we can still pretend/Let’s pretend that we are young again/I am only looking for a friend/Let’s pretend that we are young again.

As I hummed the tune, I wandered out to the yard. The kids were so proud. So dirty. So happy.

And I had to admit. It was an impressive hole.

This week remember what gave you joy when you were kid. Hitch your wagon to your bike. Smile more. Email less. Put down the phone. Catch a firefly.

Dig a hole.

 

 

V+J

The other night, Maureen and I attended a dinner where the emcee asked the audience to name the last five actors who won an Oscar, or the last five Heisman Trophy winners, or the last five winners of the Nobel Prize. The room was quiet. Then he asked us to remember the names of five teachers who made a difference in our lives. Nodding heads all around.

I thought of that challenge as we headed to Maryland yesterday to attend the roast beef dinner at the children’s former school. True, it is a long way to drive to take the family out to dinner, but well worth it when we saw how their friends reacted at seeing them for the first time since June.

The Oblate Sisters of St. Francis de Sales (and the food they cook) was enough of a reason to drive the four hours or so for the event. These remarkable women understand that a teacher cannot give what he or she does not have and their ability to “Live Jesus” always overwhelms me. Seeing the children interact with them, catching the Sisters up on their new school and new friends and new home, was a joy-filled sight.

We were planning to head back to Connecticut last night but since we have family in Philadelphia, we are taking the day to see Aunt Barbara. Plus, we are hoping the children’s former dentist might be able to fit child number two into his schedule, as she took a tumble down the stairs this weekend and chipped her front (adult) tooth. Never a dull moment.

Then it’s back up Interstate 95 to donate more money to the toll collectors ($1200+ since February) and finally home to the Nutmeg state.

As we drive, we will finish homework and wrap up the second Harry Potter audiobook. We will talk about last night and our former teachers and friends from another school. Most importantly, we will pray for the good Sisters, who continue to feed us – physically and spiritually – with their kindness and friendship.

May you be as blessed with such teachers in your life.

 

 

Rough Weekend

Maureen was away for seven days and usually the time the kids and I spend together in her absence is filled with waffles and ice cream or a double feature for movie night. None of that happened this weekend.

The week was filled with homework and soccer practice and was enjoyable and largely uneventful until Friday afternoon. We hit Home Depot for few things, including light bulbs. As we unpacked our items, child number three decided he could reach the counter from the door and threw the bag, including the light bulbs. The light bulbs didn’t make it.

Friday evening child number one got pizza out of the basement freezer and never shut the freezer door. Her error was discovered fifteen minutes before we were leaving for soccer game number one.

We lost the game. It was as if fate knew that’s how it should be.

Fast trip home between games to clean the house for two friends arriving this weekend for a visit only to find child number two and four sitting among their piles of messiness reading, not cleaning, just reading.

“Daddy never cries,” they told Mommy when she got home.

I don’t babysit my children. I parent them. Unlike some men, I am proud to say that I can manage when my wife has to travel.

Still, what a welcomed sight for all of us when she returned home Sunday afternoon.

One can be strong. Two, leaning on each other, are even stronger.

May your week be blessed.

 

 

Remember

I remember, like all of you, where I was on that Tuesday morning fifteen years ago. I remember watching the events unfold, the emails from around the globe as family checked on family, the phone calls from Brazil as messages were relayed to and from my uncle who lived there to family living in Tennessee because calling Brazil that morning was possible; calling family in New York was not.

But more than anything, I remember watching the news, the coverage, the stories, and the sadness. I have always been fascinated by the news, long before I studied journalism in college. In those days that followed I was pinned to the television. I could not watch enough. I remember how, in those early hours, the people called the place “Ground Hero” in memory of all those brave men and women who ran into the fire. They ran into the fire.

Soon the media would rename it Ground Zero, the epicenter, even though for some families, the epicenter was the Pentagon or a field in Pennsylvania. The moniker stuck, like it often does when people repeat it again and again.

I remember, in the midst of the chaos, the cameras turned to the families when the families started to gather because their loved ones had not come home from work. The pictures of the missing filled the screen as commercials were abandoned and some channels were too overcome with grief to broadcast at all. I remember the pictures. The men and women holding posters with photos of their parents, brothers, sisters, lovers, and friends adhered hastily to anything they could find. Just to be able to stand with a photo was enough. There were no words.

Then, because journalists are human and most humans are afraid of silence, the reporter thrust a microphone towards a woman and quietly said, “Tell us about your husband.”

“Every time he walked into the room,” she replied, “He took my breath away.”

Fifteen years later, it still gives me chills.

May our God, who is beyond all understanding, give you peace this week.

May we look upon those we love with the face of Jesus.

May we practice patience.

May we be people of peace.

And may we, in the silence of our hearts, pause for moment to look at the bright blue September sky.

To remember to give thanks.

For a faithful God who takes our breath away.

Again and again and again.

 

 

Calm Amidst The Storm

A friend told me that it takes a year to really move. A year to get settled. A year to feel at home.

As the son of a military officer, he moved around a lot as a child and young adult, so I remember thinking he must know what he is talking about. Still, I thought, it will not take us that long. Being together is what counts and it will feel like home quickly.

My friend was right.

Sure, the house feels like home some of the time. But there is a restlessness that is shared by the children and the parents as the projects continue. The basement is off limits as our first project of preparing the playroom and movie area is stalled. The walls are framed and the drywall is hung, but the rest of it is waiting for the whole house air conditioning to be installed, which had to wait until the bank gave the okay, which waited for the estimates and paperwork.

So we moved the Legos to the sunroom to give the children some space to play. Then the sunroom project of new walls, windows, and a sliding door forced the Legos to move to the dining room table. To save money, we let the company schedule us whenever they wanted so when they arrive and say, “It’s time,” we moved. The sunroom will not be finished until the insulation and drywall go in, but to save money, the insulation crew is waiting to come out until it’s time to do the attic, which cannot happen until the air conditioning is installed.

Champagne problems, to be sure.

Still, there is a restlessness as movie night is moved to the master bedroom and we crowd into the bed and argue over who sits where. There is restlessness as we squeeze into the kitchen to eat dinner, having surrendered the dining room to the Legos. There is dust everywhere.

Thankfully, the heat has abated and the windows are open, cooling the house. Boxes and toys are still unpacked as they are moved from room to room. Books litter the floors as I try to catch up on writing. Amazon keeps delivering boxes for projects that have to wait for the weekend or other pieces of the puzzle to be completed. We would use the garage for some larger things but the doors are broken and do not open. They, too, are on the list.

Then, in the midst of the craziness, we look out the window and see the deer that wander through our yard. They like to eat the Hostas, but since landscaping is on next year’s list, they can only wander through our yard to see what the neighbor’s have to offer.

But in the stillness we stand silent. We stare out the window knowing that any little noise will scare them off. In hushed tones we huddle at the window and talk about how pretty, how small, how tall, how majestic, how quiet, how everything they are…

We stand in our home together and watch.

The stillness is interrupted by the rapping on the door.

“Why is that person knocking so loudly?” I ask no one in particular.

“Oh, yeah,” comes the response. “The doorbell is broken.”

(Sigh)

“It will take a year,” I tell myself, “It will take a year.”