Tuesday, May 31, 2011

St. Joan

"One life is all we have and we live it as we believe in living it. But to sacrifice what you are and to live without belief, that is a fate more terrible than dying." - Joan of Arc

Yesterday was the feast day of Joan of Arc. Always fascinating, often controversial...she cannot be denied as a force in the 15th century.

She was born to a poor family in a region of France that had suffered terribly in the conflict between England and France. During this time, France was without a real leader. When Joan of Arc came to the court she overwhelmed Charles (de Ponthieu) with her passion and conviction. At 17, she was given control over an army and allowed to lead them into battle. Within a year Joan of Arc had led the French army to victories at Orleans, Patay and Troyes. Many other towns were also liberated from English control and it allowed a triumphal entry into Dauphin for the coronation of King Charles VII on 17 July 1429.

A year later she was captured and subsequently sold to the British. The English and members of the French clergy decided to put her on trial for witchcraft. In many ways it was a show trial with the result cleverly orchestrated. There are two versions of the story...one was that Pierre Cauchon (a leading clergy member) was a staunch supporter of the British and hated Joan of Arc for her miraculous revival of French national pride. The other is that he genuinely felt obliged to save Joan's Immortal soul from damnation for the claims she was making.

In the beginning, the trial was held in public but, were eventually conducted behind closed doors as her responses were much sharper than her prosecutors expected which gained her much public sympathy. She did, in fact, hold her own and produced some strong rebuts.

There were threats of torture (there is no evidence this was actually carried out) and, as would be expected, Joan was found guilty and condemned to death by burning at the stake. Faced with such an overwhelming ordeal Joan broke down and confessed.

However, a week later, she regained her strength and recanted her confession. She was able to face her ordeal with dignity. It is said that over 10,000 people came to see her execution by burning. Her ashes were scattered in the Seine. In later years she was found to be innocent and was designated a martyr...she was canonized a saint in 1920...

As always, you can find information about the saints at MethodX


We humans are impulsive creatures. We tend to want to react immediately even when we would be better served to think things through. I have found that if I follow my grandmother's wisdom (to sleep on any major decision) I rarely regret it. Taking the time to research the issue and consult everyone involved has kept me from looking foolish more often than not.

How many times have you taken things personally only to find out later that they weren't meant that way at all? I'd rather not tell you how often my arrogance has gotten in the way and perhaps even made me loose a friend. The older I get the more I realize the world does NOT revolve around me.

There are times when I don't have the luxury of time and must react or make a decision quickly. Those times cannot be helped. But, even then, if I take a moment to remind myself that others involved have used their best judgment and are not on the other "side" just to hurt me, we generally come to the best conclusion for everyone involved. What a sad, dull world it would be if we didn't learn and grow from the ideas of others.

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, which is observed on the last Monday of May, commemorates the men and women who died while in the military service.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Who are you?

A couple of years ago, I read: Jesus Centered Youth Ministry. In it,Rick Lawrence speaks of a time in his life when he was looking hard at the way he was following Jesus. He says, "Had I so taken Jesus for granted in my life that I'd essentially stopped relating with Him as He really is? Even more, had I so "understood" Jesus that the pursuit of Him was far less interesting to me than the pursuit of Christian relationships or postmodern worship or artistic expressions of the Christian life or culturally relevant approaches to Bible Study?"

At that point, he took time to focus on three Jesus-centered questions:
1. Who do I say Jesus is? Jesus asked His disciples this question after one of His huge public gatherings. It was preceded by a safer one for the disciples: "Who do people say that I am?" Jesus, ever shrewd, tossed them an easy pitch to swing at before He brought the heat.
2. Who does Jesus say I am? After Peter answered the first question by telling Jesus He was the Christ, the son of the living God," Jesus fired back with His own answer to Peter's unasked question: "And you are Peter, whose real name is the Rock."
3. Who do I say I am? After Peter had betrayed Jesus, his best friend he had to answer the most important question in his life: "Am I the fake, duplicitous little man my betrayal is telling me I am or am I the Rock Jesus told me I am?" You can see Peter's answer in the first two chapters of Acts as he stands before the crowds that only days before had demanded Jesus' life, and he ROCKS them.

Peter didn't believe the lie...he believed Jesus. Who does Jesus say you are?


Church is a community of believers. It shouldn't be about what I GET out of the service, but rather, what do I ADD to the service. Is it better and more fulfilling because of my presence or my voice? It should be a gathering of individuals who unselfishly give to each other of themselves. If I am not in church, I'm taking away what I can add to the service.

When we are in church we often lose focus on the idea that we are not an audience. God is. We cannot equate going to church with going to the movies. We are not there to be sung to, preached to or prayed for. God is there to be sung to, prayed to and praised. We, as the congregation, are every bit a part of the service as the organ, the preacher or the special music. If we stop thinking that church is for us and what we get out of it and start thinking of what we give to God, then the "what we get" comes back to us from God and not from the sound system.

Saturday, May 28, 2011


In every era, the church has done its best work when it has looked outward. All of the best theology is empty without an ethic of service, an ethic that Jesus so explicitly instituted. Thousands of missions, hospitals and universities have been founded to serve in Jesus' name. Millions of Christians have taken the call to servant hood seriously and stepped out of normalcy and cultural comfort. And innumerable billions of acts of kindness take place every year as followers of Christ serve with no intention of seeking recognition or repayment.

Sure, there are times that it's inconvenient. And you can bet you'll come into contact with people that will make you uncomfortable. Jesus didn't tell us to help only those "who are like ourselves."

Richard Foster writes that Jesus leadership was not with a scepter, but with a towel. When Jesus washed His disciples feet at the Last Supper, He was performing the ultimate act of service to them. Then, after rising, He said to them, "I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you" (John 13:15). There is no wiggle room in that statement or in the declaration"...whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant and whoever wants to be first must be your slave." (Matthew 20:26-27) Jesus makes no bones about it. Christians serve. Period.

The Word...

Hebrews 4:12-13 tells us:"For the word of God is living and active and sharper than any two edged sword, piercing as far as the division of soul and spirit, of both joints and marrow, and able to judge the thoughts and intentions of the heart."

Can you see the image of the sword? Instead of a blade that is sharp only on one side and as such is limited in use, this sword is a formidable weapon no matter what direction you swing it. God's word is just such a weapon except it is not a weapon for dealing death but LIFE.

Sin whispers through the desires of the flesh and rationalizations of the mind...you won't have a chance in the future if you don't cheat on this test. You won't be noticed if you don't dress a certain way. You won't have job security if you speak up about dishonest practices at work. Your life will be wasted in this relationship, you should just get a divorce. Only a fool would go around looking weak instead of getting revenge.

All of these statements are lies. It is the deceitfulness of sin. Those lies sometimes lodge themselves very deep in the heart as thought and intentions that seem unshakably true because of the hardness of the heart that encloses them like a dark, sealed casket. In that condition, unbelief has the upper hand. We are not believing the promises of God, we are trusting in the promises of sin. The Word of God is living, active and sharp and it will penetrate deeper than the deception of sin has ever gone and reveal what is truly worth trusting.

Friday, May 27, 2011


What a unique way to serve the community...

Every morning, the Rev. Edinson DeArco leads a van full of high schoolers in prayer while driving them to class.

Last March, Lakota High School in Liberty Township, Ohio, decided to do away with its busing program. That left the students of the Lakota Lake Apartments stranded more than seven miles from their education.

Read the rest of the article here...

Augustine of Canterbury

Today is the feast day of Augustine of Canterbury...

When he was chosen by Pope Gregory the Great to lead forty monks in Anglo-Saxon
evangelization, Augustine sailed in Kent in A.D. 597 and soon had baptized Ethelbert, king of Kent, and thousands of other new Christians. Since Britain had been home to Christianity for several centuries, this was not an entirely new venture. In fact, Ethelbert's French-born wife, Queen Bertha, was already Christian.

Augustine is considered a patron saint of England.

More information at MethodX

The Catholic Encyclopedia has more...

Head vs. Heart

There's an old saying that tells us "the longest journey we ever undertake is between the head and the heart. The path to our hearts, even though it is where Christ lives, is almost always cluttered, sometimes almost totally obscured. Like the seeds from the parable, weeds spring up way too easily and will take over, if we let them. The Apostle Paul reminds us...what our head says we want, our actions contradict; what our hearts long for, our head refuses to attend to. We are blessed in the fact that God knows all about weeds and is a loving and tender gardener.

Because God loves and dwells within us, nothing is closer than a place of quiet rest. His heart is waiting for our hearts to stop running, stop trying so hard, to stop focusing on externals and to let go. When your days are filled with noise and the juggling of tasks and demands, when you face the daily decisions and stresses, when you face times of sorrow and despair remember He is as close as your own heart.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

A Shepherd

There are pictures we carry in our hearts. Those we remember when we are happy...those we remember when we are lonely or afraid. Those we remember when we've lost loved ones. Pictures can be informational...they can comfort, motivate, inspire...they can lift our spirits. Our memories are filled with pictures. Whatever the subject or situation, most of us have at least one picture that comes to mind.

Several years ago, a female minister was appointed to our United Methodist church. Although we supported the ordination of women and the church had been doing so for decades, this was our first! Understandably there were some doubts...most of us had never had a pastor that was not male...was she up for the task?

Any doubts we had were erased her first Sunday morning. She brought with her a husband (who is also a UM Minister) and 3 young children...the youngest was pre-school age. As she walked to the back of the Sanctuary to deliver the Benediction, her youngest followed her down the aisle and raised his arms to be picked up...this was mama after all. She lovingly held him in her left arm as she raised her right hand and blessed us...at that moment my heart was filled and I could feel God oh so close... What a powerful image of a shepherd of God! What a picture!

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

Books and Stories

My family moved quite often as I was growing up. Although I learned about different parts of the southeastern US, it became hard for me to make friends. Having felt the pain of leaving once too often, it became easier to merely be nice and polite but not to get too close. As a replacement for these people, I fell in love with reading.

The characters in the books could go with me wherever...they too could move at the drop of a hat and never change. If I became particularly lonely, I could re-visit a book that I had read before and feel comfortable in the familiarity of the story.

In High School I was introduced by one of my English teachers to JRR Tolkien via his epic works...first The Hobbit and then The Lord of the Rings. For those who have read these stories, you know they are a world unto themselves with right, wrong, good, bad, humans, elves, dwarfs and other creatures. Since this was before the days of Internet, it was hard to find others to discuss the books with but in time, it was my great pleasure to introduce them to my husband and son. Both of them brought their own interpretations and opinions and went spent much time in conversation about every aspect of the story.

There was joy and trepidation when we heard the Lord of the Rings would be made into movies. How could anyone hope to put the depth of each character on film and do justice to the work? Needless to say we were thrilled with Peter Jackson's vision (the Ents were just as I had imagined them!) and bought them all when they became available on DVD.

There is much in the words of these books that can apply to our life as Christians. Two of the characters that didn't make it into the movies were Tom Bombadil and his wife Goldberry (the River-Woman's daughter). They were quite lovable and unique but it was obvious that there was more to them than meets the eye. At one point, Tom rescues Frodo, Sam and the other hobbits from Old Man Willow (a tree with evil intent and interesting powers). The hobbits had called out for help when they realized they were trapped and Frodo assumed that Tom had heard their cries. But Tom says” Eh, what? Did I hear you calling? Nay, I did not hear, I was busy singing (a favorite pastime of his). Just chance brought me then, if chance is what you call it. It was no plan of mine, though I was waiting for you.”

We can apply this to our Christian walk...we know God is there and in prayer we interact with Him. But, by and large we go about the business of our lives without much thought that there is a plan far greater than we are able to know. Although God is not so busy singing that He does not hear our cries for help, He still operates on His time, and with His knowledge of what we need. We are called to trust and know that evil only affects us if we allow it and that He will rescue us when we have need.


Once again, in less than a month, tornado's have wreaked havoc on communities here in the South. Those of us who live here expect strong spring storms and always keep one ear open for the sirens that warn of the possibility of a twister. The National Weather Service is warning us that today may be another one of death and destruction as storms again push through the area.

So far there have been almost 500 deaths and untold damage to homes and businesses. Our neighbors in Missouri join those from Alabama in our hearts and prayers.

If you are looking for a way to help, UMCOR is always one of the first on the scene, wherever disaster occurs. They can always use our support.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Spiritual Hot Spot...

Whenever the prophets describe the Messianic era, experiencing God is the end-goal. For most of us, that sounds like a foreign concept. Many of us have trouble knowing there is a God, let alone experiencing God. This is the gap the Messianic era is coming to fill. The Messianic era is that time when God will go from an abstract idea being learned about and discussed to an experiential reality one lives and breathes.

An interesting article concerning the reasons the Jews "yearn for the Temple".

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Armed Forces Day...

According to the US DOD:

The theme for 2011 is United in Strength
On August 31, 1949, Secretary of Defense Louis Johnson announced the creation of an Armed Forces Day to replace separate Army, Navy and Air Force Days. The single-day celebration stemmed from the unification of the Armed Forces under one department -- the Department of Defense. Each of the military leagues and orders was asked to drop sponsorship of its specific service day in order to celebrate the newly announced Armed Forces Day. The Army, Navy and Air Force leagues adopted the newly formed day. The Marine Corps League declined to drop support for Marine Corps Day but supports Armed Forces Day, too.

"The heritage of freedom must be guarded as carefully in peace as it was in war. Faith, not suspicion, must be the key to our relationships. Sacrifice, not selfishness, must be the eternal price of liberty. Vigilance, not appeasement, is the byword of living freedoms. Our Armed Forces in 1950--protecting the peace, building for security with freedom--are "Teamed for Defense ..."
General Omar N. Bradley
Former Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff

"... Our Servicemen and women are serving throughout the world as guardians of peace--many of them away from their homes, their friends and their families. They are visible evidence of our determination to meet any threat to the peace with measured strength and high resolve. They are also evidence of a harsh but inescapable truth--that the survival of freedom requires great cost and commitment, and great personal sacrifice."
President John F. Kennedy, 1963

May 21, 2011, The End of Time

Chances are, if you're reading this on May 21st, 2011 or later, the world has not ended (forgive the sarcasm). I am not sure why people spend time trying to know the date. A simple search through the Bible shows us how little we know about God's timing...

1 Thessalonians 5: 1 - 11
1 Now, brothers and sisters, about times and dates we do not need to write to you, 2 for you know very well that the day of the Lord will come like a thief in the night. 3 While people are saying, “Peace and safety,” destruction will come on them suddenly, as labor pains on a pregnant woman, and they will not escape. 4 But you, brothers and sisters, are not in darkness so that this day should surprise you like a thief. 5 You are all children of the light and children of the day. We do not belong to the night or to the darkness. 6 So then, let us not be like others, who are asleep, but let us be awake and sober. 7 For those who sleep, sleep at night, and those who get drunk, get drunk at night. 8 But since we belong to the day, let us be sober, putting on faith and love as a breastplate, and the hope of salvation as a helmet. 9 For God did not appoint us to suffer wrath but to receive salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ. 10 He died for us so that, whether we are awake or asleep, we may live together with him. 11 Therefore encourage one another and build each other up, just as in fact you are doing.
Matthew 25:13
13 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know the day or the hour.
Mark 13:32
32 “But about that day or hour no one knows, not even the angels in heaven, nor the Son, but only the Father.
Matthew 24:42-44
42 “Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come. 43 But understand this: If the owner of the house had known at what time of night the thief was coming, he would have kept watch and would not have let his house be broken into. 44 So you also must be ready, because the Son of Man will come at an hour when you do not expect him.

What puzzles me most about all the "end of time" predictions is the reasons behind them. The Bible spells out, very clearly, that we are to be ready for the last day. Regardless of when it comes. What reward is there in knowing the time? What purpose served?

While I cannot speak to Mr. Camping's motivations, these discussions do offer us an opportunity to reflect on what we believe about the end of time or the end of our life.

Don't know about you but I'm just not that concerned about the when. My concerns tend more to...have I lived in such a way that others have been drawn to Christ? Have I had a generous spirit? Have I shown that I trust Him in all ways? Do my friends and family know I love them? Have I truly lived? If answer to those questions is yes then it matters not the day or the hour for I will meet my Savior, Redeemer and Friend.

Friday, May 20, 2011


At first I thought it was a joke...but it's not:

CDC (Centers for Disease Control) Recommends Preparing for All Disasters -- Even Zombies

You can get the full run down on Yahoo News

Normal natural disasters are floods, tornadoes, hurricanes and earthquakes and being prepared for disaster means being ready for any type of emergency -- including zombies. On Monday, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention blogged about preparing for disaster and reminded readers that in the event of a zombie apocalypse, basic preparedness will help even if there are flesh-eaters roaming.

According to the CDC blog, if a zombie apocalypse breaks out, the CDC will investigate the event just like they would any other disease outbreak. CDC investigation and assistance would include "consultation, lab testing and analysis, patient management and care, tracking of contacts, and infection control (including isolation and quarantine)." Just like any other disease outbreak, the CDC would try to determine where and how the outbreak started and would make every effort to determine how to best deal with an outbreak of zombies.

So, even the CDC has a sense of humor! I give them credit for a very tongue-in-cheek way of getting the message of Emergency Preparedness out there!


Asbo Jesus


Every time we enter into solitude we withdraw from our windy, tornadolike, fiery lives and we open ourselves for the great encounter, the meeting with Love. But first in our solitude is the discovery of our own restlessness, our drivenness, our compulsiveness, our urge to act quickly, to make an impact, and to have influence. We really have to try very hard to withstand the gnawing urge to return as quickly as possible to the work of "relevance." But when we persevere with the help of a gentle discipline, we slowly come to hear the still, small voice and to feel the delicate breeze, and so come to know the presence of Love.
"A Book of Hours" Henri Nouwen

Thursday, May 19, 2011


From time to time it takes massive amounts of self control to keep from posting ideas about current events here on the blog.

I have purposely steered away from talking about them and my feelings. I suppose I felt that if I addressed it with the young people of our congregation, I should do so face to face. Recently there has been more than one, topic that has caused me to re-think this policy.

Given that, I may have been wrong in my policy of not discussing things here. I enjoy a good debate...but how can we (you and I) talk about what's going on if I don't mention it? If you are a regular reader, you can expect to start seeing an posting or two on current events. I invite you to respond. The sharing of ideals will help each of us to grow and expand our horizons.


25 Manners Every Child Should Know
(but many adults have apparently forgotten)

Manner #1: When asking for something, say "Please."

Manner #2: When receiving something, say "Thank you."

Manner #3: Do not interrupt people who are speaking with each other unless there is an emergency. They will notice you and respond when they are finished talking.

Manner #4: If you do need to get somebody's attention right away, the phrase "excuse me" is the most polite way for you to enter the conversation.

Manner #5: When you have any doubt about doing something, ask permission first. It can save you from many hours of grief later.

Manner #6: The world is not interested in what you dislike. Keep negative opinions to yourself, or between you and your friends, and out of earshot of others.

Manner #7: Do not comment on other people's physical characteristics unless, of course, it's to compliment them, which is always welcome.

Manner #8: When people ask you how you are, tell them and then ask them how they are.

Manner #9: When you have spent time at your friend's house, remember to thank them for having you over and for the good time you had.

Manner #10: Knock on closed doors -- and wait to see if there's a response -- before entering.

Manner #11: When you make a phone call, introduce yourself first and then ask if you can speak with the person you are calling.

Manner #12: Be appreciative and say "thank you" for any gift you receive. In the age of e-mail, a handwritten thank-you note can have a powerful effect.

Manner #13: Never use foul language. They are boring and unpleasant.

Manner #14: Don't call people mean names.

Manner #15: Do not make fun of anyone for any reason. Teasing shows others you are weak, and ganging up on someone else is cruel.

Manner #16: Even if a play or an assembly is boring, sit through it quietly and pretend that you are interested. The performers and presenters are doing their best.

Manner #17: If you bump into somebody, immediately say "Excuse me."

Manner #18: Cover your mouth when you cough or sneeze, and don't pick your nose in public.

Manner #19: As you walk through a door, look to see if you can hold it open for someone else.

Manner #20: If you come across someone working on something, ask if you can help. If they say "yes," do so -- you may learn something new.

Manner #21: When an someone asks you for a favor, do it without grumbling and with a smile.

Manner #22: When someone helps you, say "thank you." That person will likely want to help you again.

Manner #23: Use eating utensils properly. If you are unsure how to do so, ask someone to teach you.

Manner #24: Keep a napkin on your lap; use it to wipe your mouth when necessary.

Manner #25: Don't reach for things at the table; ask to have them passed.

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Icons have been part of Christian tradition for centuries. Rather than letting our imagination race ahead to form the words for the next part of our prayer, they add focus. Rather than heads bowed and eyes closed, our heads are raised and our eyes focus on the visual reminder of God's love. This type of prayer allows us to ponder our faith and our God. We search the icon for an understanding of Who God is for us and what His plan is for our life.

I asked my daughter for a copy of the Icon shown above for my birthday a couple of years ago. I didn't know why for sure. All I knew was that I had been reading about them and felt a real connection to this one in particular. Over time it's relevance and significance has grown and it has become a treasured part of my prayer life.

Icons are painted in specific ways and the creator follows very specific customs. If you'd like more information about their creation or their use, there are many sites on the internet (see below). I would also recommend Henri Nouwen's book, "Praying with Icons". Keep in mind, they are not painted as art but for the church and are to be used as a tool in our spiritual journey.

You can find more information at The Upper Room or other places on the internet.

An address

I just ran across the Address to Catholic University of America's 2011 graduates by Speaker of the House John Boehner...it is a worthwhile read:

President Garvey, thanks for the warm welcome.

I don’t know about you, but I began my day by counting my blessings…my wife, my two daughters, my 11 brothers and sisters, this great country of ours, and the privilege you have given me to address CUA’s Class of Two-Thousand-and-Eleven.

This university has stood over the years, and stands today, as the center of Catholic intellectual life in America. Now, I am a loyal alumnus of Xavier, another great Catholic university.

But being here today, with your new president, with Cardinal Wuerl, and all the distinguished faculty and trustees … let me say how impressed I am with the continued growth and success of this institution, and that I am truly humbled to take part in this ceremony.

Just two Sundays ago, I attended Mass here at the Basilica. Looking up, pondering the power and the glory of the Blessed Mother, I felt the tug of a memory…one from before Xavier…

I played football in high school. The Moeller High School football team was the Moeller Crusaders. And our coach, Gerry Faust, made sure we earned every bit of that name.

For him, there was no distinction between the spiritual life in the Church and the physical grind of the football field. He made no bones about it. He would tell us in no uncertain terms that life is a precious gift from God, and therefore making the most of one’s life is a direct form of devotion to the Virgin Mary.

He’d have the whole team kneel down and pray the Hail Mary before every meeting, every practice, and every game. Then we’d go out and smash heads with the other team for four quarters…all in the name of the Blessed Mother.

That gives you an idea of the kind of guy Coach Faust was, and still is. And it was the basis for a lesson he taught us, one I’ve been repeating ever since: “There’s nothing in life you can’t achieve if you’re willing to work hard enough and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.”

Graduates, I truly believe that if you maintain that mindset, you can accomplish just about anything. After all, we live in America; a land of hope, opportunity and freedom, where you can be whatever you want to be. That would be an advantage each of you would have no matter which school you decided to attend.

But Catholic has prepared you in a way no other institution can. The focus of your development here has been getting you to grapple more with WHO you want to be than WHAT you want to be. You’ve been challenged to think rationally, and to use your heart and your conscience to guide your words and your actions. Let me tell you, there are no apps for these skills…

Of course, to whom much is given, much is expected. That’s why each of you must be willing to work hard and make the sacrifices necessary to succeed.

What does “hard work” and “sacrifice” entail?

First and foremost, humility. If you remember one word I’ve said today, it should be ‘humility.’

Growing up with 11 brothers and sisters, playing for Coach Faust, serving in the United States Congress, I’ve learned that no one who succeeds in life does it alone. You must be willing to lean on others, listen to others, and yes, love others.

Tony Snow, a great public servant and former White House press secretary who lost his life to cancer, stood at this lectern and told the class of 2007 that “to love is to acknowledge that life is not about you.”

“I want you to remember that,” he said, “It’s not about you. It’s a hard lesson, a lot of people go through life and never learn it. It’s to submit willingly, heart and soul, to things that matter.” Tony’s wisdom is timeless.

Recently, I was asked if there’s a special prayer I say before going into meetings with the president. Well, I always ask God for the courage and wisdom to do his will and not mine. Serving others – that’s not just how I lead in the Congress, it’s how I lead my life.

You’re also going to need some patience along the way too. Trust me on this.

I know that’s not a word you’d typically associate with an occasion wrapped in pomp, but patience is how we come closer to knowing God’s will. “In your patience possess you your souls,” according to Luke.

After Xavier, I ended up operating a small business, which got me more involved in my community. From there, I stumbled into politics. Certainly wasn’t something I imagined I would be doing when I was sitting where you are now. But again, it’s ‘WHO’ we want to be that helps determine ‘WHAT’ we want to be.

I came to Congress in 1991, and before long, found myself in the leadership ranks of my party. Being called a ‘rising star’ … that was heady stuff. But then, in the fall of 1998, I lost the support of my colleagues and my leadership post.

Now I would love to stand here and tell you I just shrugged it off and moved on, but that wouldn’t be true. The truth is that I was devastated. I wasn’t going to let anyone see me sweat, but I was down. Down … but never out.

Because “nobody,” Hemingway once wrote… “Nobody ever lives their life all the way up, except bullfighters.”

So I told my staff, we’re not going to talk our way back. We’re going to earn our way back. I was going to let my work speak for itself. I was going to be patient.

Of course, your humility and your patience are supported by your faith. In your journey through life, faith will be your constant partner – if you let it.

I’ve been back in the leadership ranks of my party now for more than five years. I knew what I was getting into. Like any other commitment you’ll make in life, it demands some soul-searching.

The morning of the leadership elections in 2006, I went to 7 am mass, and the question kept tugging at me: Am I sure I want to do this? Am I ready?

I struggled with this in my mind, asking the Blessed Mother for her guidance. Finding no answers.

Then, after having breakfast, my cell phone rang. It was a number I vaguely recognized. I picked it up. It was Coach Faust. Calling to wish me luck and tell me he knew I could do it.

Now I’ve never gotten a phone call from the Blessed Mother, and I don’t expect I ever will. But I gotta tell you, that was pretty darned close.

You know, a journalist once asked Mother Teresa how she persevered in the face of all the despair she had seen. Mother replied, “God has not called me to be successful. He has called me to be faithful.”

Over the years, I’ve carried in my heart a similar code my parents taught me: you do the right thing for the right reasons, and good things will happen.

So there you have it: humility, patience, and faith – the raw material of hard work and sacrifice. They will take you as far as you want to go.

Graduates, these are just some of my life’s lessons. You’ll learn some of your own, and when you do, don’t wait to share them. The days go slow, but the years go fast. Your parents know what I’m talking about.

One more thing, just a favor I’d like to ask: by all means, take your work seriously, but don’t take yourself too seriously.

Looking back on his life, the great Irish writer Frank McCourt said if he could travel back and visit his twenty-something self, he’d take him out for a steak, a potato, and a pint. “I’d give myself a good talking to,” he wrote. “Straighten up, throw back those shoulders, and stop mumbling.”

To that, I’d only add: just relax, and be on time.

I began here by reflecting on my blessings, on all the things for which I’m thankful. But you may have noticed something about my list. The good things in life aren’t things. They are people. They are values. They are our birthrights.

For when it’s all said and done, we are but mere mortals doing God’s work here on Earth. Put a better way – no, put the best way: remember you are dust, and to dust you shall return.

All right, off you go. Good luck, God bless, and congratulations to all.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Chopping Wood

I've never had to chop wood...but we did heat our home for years with a wood burning stove. So I've seen it done, but never like this:

What a great idea!

Reflections from Retreat

I started my recent retreat with the hope and prayer that something would be added to my day to day living. Something that would feed my spirit in light of a very busy schedule. Although I was filled with ideas prior to the time away, I left it to God to show me what I needed most. While it can be quite hard to leave things in the hands of God (after all, I know what I need!), I was determined to live “in the moment” and not limit the possibilities.

As the days continue to pass, I now know His answer...

Having never had the opportunity to live in an environment such as the Sisters do...that in and of itself was an eye opening experience. There were no televisions or radios in the room. No internet or computers. My cell phone is exactly that...I can call, text and take pictures but access to anything else is non-existent. While we did take the time on Friday to visit the Abbey of Gethsemani (it was only a 20 minute drive) the remainder of our time was spent on the convent grounds...walking, reading, praying, communing with my companion and the Nuns, spending time at Mass and Vespers, meditating, relaxing. Time was also spent reflecting on life and work done for our Lord. I now understand that our body's truly do have natural rhythms of sleep and wakefulness...and with it can come healing.

I had packed one bag with items for my spiritual quest. Crosses, candles, a hand held labyrinth, notebooks, pens/pencils, incense, Rublev's Icon of the Trinity, I-Pod and CD player and books. One of the books was Thomas Merton's “A Book of Hours” and I made a pact that I would pray these along with Psalms from the Bible faithfully...really pray them. In Merton's book, each day is broken down into (4) times to pray the Divine Office...Dawn, Day, Dusk and Dark with the different prayers, psalms, Canticles, Antiphons and hymns that one would expect. I can't tell you what joy and peace this time afforded me.

And continues to do so. You see, I now realize that my prayer life has been as dull, brittle and lifeless as a leaf from a tree in the fall. I have been living on short, need to do it quickly, breath prayers for far too long. This past week (while away and at home) of honoring a commitment to spend specific times with the Father has added a richness and depth to my spirit. I could not have imagined and may not have believed it. But there it is...each dawn the joy of beginning a new day, each evening laying down my head with a heart filled with peace.

Oh Lord, oh Lord, how majestic is your Name in all of the earth!

Monday, May 16, 2011

ST. John the Silent

St. John was born in AD 454, to a wealthy Armenian family. When he was only eighteen years old, he built a monastery for himself and ten friends, so that they might spend their lives in devotion and prayer. When he was twenty-eight, he was made Bishop of Colonia, though he preferred quiet and solitude to a life of administration. When locals around him were being persecuted in 490, he went to Constantinople to seek the emperor's intervention. With this successfully done, John decided to move out to the desert, rather than go home to Armenia, in order to seek the quiet and solitude he longed for.

John found his way to the monastery of St. Sabas, and was allowed in 494 to graduate from his novice status and live alone as a hermit. This lasted for nine years, but in 503, when St. Sabas was evicted form the monastery due to the displeasure of some of the monks, John also ceased contact with the monastery. When St. Sabas was welcomed back in 509, John renewed his ties to the monastery. John died in 558, when he was 104 years old

More info at MethodX


I look at all the things that God has made, the stars, the oceans, the mountains, along with all living things and see that they are more splendid, more perfect, more beautiful and more lasting than anything man can create or even conceive.

In ancient times we were more aware of the constellations and blooms, waves and horizons and it was easier to believe. Could Joan of Arc have led her army, could she even have thought to, could she have trusted enough, without having a sense of something greater, bigger than herself? Could the Pilgrims have sailed all those weeks without really knowing what they would find, unless they trusted that there was an Omnipotent God who would guide their way?

We have obliterated the stars with our artificial light – but perhaps we’ve blinded ourselves, too. Without the wonder and greatness of the galaxies in our sight, we’ve lost the ability to believe in, or expect, miracles. When you cannot see the glory of God’s creation, how can you wish to glorify the Lord? No longer seeing anything greater than ourselves, we turn inward, we worship our own thoughts, our invention, our desire. Worshiping self is a hollow, cold existence. Without the warmth of God's love, we can never become what He calls us to be.


Sorry for "no posts" in the last few days...I'm not sure if it was my computer, or Blogger or both but I was unable to access the sight. I have several posts to share with you and will be up and running again shortly.

I do hope you all had a great weekend. Although mine was filled with joy, laughter and family it was "cold" here in the Sunny south! While many may think that 55° is warm...where I live it just doesn't happen in the middle of May. But then again, we spent more time together in conversation than we would have if it were warm...blessings in disguise!

Thursday, May 12, 2011

Psalm 84

Psalm 84

1 How lovely is your dwelling place,
LORD Almighty!
2 My soul yearns, even faints,
for the courts of the LORD;
my heart and my flesh cry out
for the living God.
3 Even the sparrow has found a home,
and the swallow a nest for herself,
where she may have her young—
a place near your altar,
LORD Almighty, my King and my God.
4 Blessed are those who dwell in your house;
they are ever praising you.[c]

5 Blessed are those whose strength is in you,
whose hearts are set on pilgrimage.
6 As they pass through the Valley of Baka,
they make it a place of springs;
the autumn rains also cover it with pools.[d]
7 They go from strength to strength,
till each appears before God in Zion.

8 Hear my prayer, LORD God Almighty;
listen to me, God of Jacob.
9 Look on our shield,[e] O God;
look with favor on your anointed one.

10 Better is one day in your courts
than a thousand elsewhere;
I would rather be a doorkeeper in the house of my God
than dwell in the tents of the wicked.
11 For the LORD God is a sun and shield;
the LORD bestows favor and honor;
no good thing does he withhold
from those whose walk is blameless.

12 LORD Almighty,
blessed is the one who trusts in you.

Praying the Psalms has added a whole new dimension to my prayer life. I'm sure many of you have discovered this for yourself...but it's new to me. He asks us to glorify His Name and has given us the words!

God is Love

"To say that I am made in the image of God is to say that love is the reason for my existence, for God is love. Love is my true identity. Selflessness is my true self. Love is my true character. Love is my name.

If therefore, I do anything or think anything or say anything or know anything that is not purely for the love of God, it cannot give me peace, or rest, or fulfillment, or joy.

To find love I must enter into the sanctuary where it is hidden, which is the mystery of God."

Thomas Merton

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Positive / Negative

Suppose, during the course of the day, you received 25 compliments. Suppose, during that same day, you received 1 insult. Which would you listen to? If you're like me, it would be the 1 insult. I know, I know...I have the unbelievable ability to drown out all the positives with one negative. I allow it to take over my thoughts.

Someone once told me that it's just easier to believe the bad stuff...and it is...but why? Why would we feel that the one person who insulted us knows so much more than the 25? Do we believe they're smarter? Do they know me better? Probably not...

I have the innate ability (it truly is built into my genes) to totally forget the opinions of those who know me, love me, appreciate me. I manage to convince myself that even if the positive speakers are experts, everyone makes mistakes. Or maybe they're just saying these things to be nice.

I buy into the lie. The person who gives the negative opinion is not infallible. They're human. Their opinion isn't more grounded or well thought out that the other 25...it's just what it is...an opinion. But because it's so easy for me to believe the negative, I give them the power to wound me.

What if I choose to listen to the positive instead? What if I listened to the 25 good opinions as if they were messages from God? What if I allowed these words to wash over me and surround me with love...edify me...strengthen me? I can only believe that this would have a positive effect and so that is my quest. Take each opinion for what it is and go forward. I vow not to allow the negative to rule my life any longer. How about you?

The Road

As always, Asbo Jesus says so much with so few words...

Monday, May 9, 2011

My time in Retreat....

I had the great good fortune to spend last weekend on retreat at the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse in Nerinx, Kentucky.

The weather was fabulous and the trees and flowers are in full bloom. Needless to say, the outdoors called to me at first light and I spent much of the day roaming the farm. The pond in front of the Academy Building is home to many turtles who poked their heads up to watch me walk by and also to what must have been extremely large bull frogs (if the depth of their croaks is any indication) who sang to me in the early morning as well as at dusk each day. I managed to rise before daylight each morning in order to open my window so I could hear them greet the day!

The beautifully manicured cemetery gives testament to the reverence in which the current residents hold those who have gone ahead to be with God. The markers date back to the early days of the Motherhouse (which has been in the current location since 1824). Never having been one to spend much time amongst graves, this was one of the most peaceful places I have ever been.

Along with the other paths in the vicinity of the main campus, I walked (more than once) down the gravel lane to the “Cedars of Peace” cabins located in the woods. They are wonderfully made and I can imagine the perfect place to spend solitary time in reflection and meditation. Imagine my surprise when I found there were 2 lakes on the property...ahh, heaven!

I have always loved to spend time walking a labyrinth as a way of pilgrimage and there is an esthetically perfect one next to a wonderful little chapel right in the middle of the woods. It is obvious that much prayer has gone into each aspect of the property.

The buildings that comprise the main campus have the beauty and intrigue that comes with age...high ceilings, tall windows with shutters, hardwood floors that creak. All of which served to make me feel that I was in the arms of a well loved friend. You could feel peace and serenity in the very air. The Sisters and staff were amazing. They were attentive without being intrusive and every touch or word was a gentle as a spring rain. It was pure enchantment to hear their voices raised in song during Morning Mass.

I haven't even mentioned the Art Gallery (this sculpture is called "Fiat) or the Derby party I attended Saturday night but suffice it to say that my time in Kentucky was truly blessed and I pray this is not my only visit there.


but not in the way you think!

What is the old saying, a picture is worth a thousand words...

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Fibonacci Numbers...

Couldn't resist posting this...

Happy Mother's Day...

Not home from the retreat yet...but had to post something to all the Mothers in our lives...whether we're able to see them face to face or merely remember them in our hearts, they touch us all.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Beginning today (Thursday, 5/5/11) I will be on retreat in the rolling hills of Kentucky until Sunday. My prayer is that it will be a time of introspection, meditation, learning and listening.

I will be back with you on Monday.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

My opinion....

I have put off responding to the death of Osama bin Laden simply because I wasn't sure how I felt about it. Of course, I was pleased that the world no longer contained the one face that made each of us recall the terror, anger and sadness of 9/11. But I could not bring myself to celebrate in the fashion of so many others. I am not judging their outpouring of jubilation...each is free to react in their own way.

But rather than celebrating death, isn't it more satisfying to know that American arms and intelligence have triumphed in a contest with our enemies? Even though it has taken much longer than any one of us would have liked or expected, we have at last rid the world of al-Qaeda's most valuable figurehead. Seal Team 6 performed their duties quickly and effectively. Have you noticed that those who were on the front lines, who jumped into harms way to do their duty and accomplish their mission, are keeping well hidden from the glare of the camera? They refuse our praise and adulation. If you could ask any one of them, they would tell you that it's all in a day's work. This is what they have sacrificed and trained for...to defend freedom at a moment's notice.

While I realize it has probably been a long time since bin Laden has been the real leader, the fact that he has been able to survive for so long has been extraordinarily symbolic to his followers. But, when the time came and his location pinpointed, he and his followers succumbed after a very brief struggle. His last stand cannot be used to glorify him or serve him as a martyr. .

I am also pleased to know that we do not have to struggle with the myriad of issues that would have presented themselves if he had been captured alive. Where would we try him? What prison would hold him? Would his ultimate death be televised and thus used to inspire countless others? The fact that he died without the glare of television crews and was buried quietly in the sea, which does not give up her dead, made handling the situation simpler and easier. Some may try to argue that the military should not be judge, jury and executioner but he was tried in the court of world opinion almost ten years ago...his fate was sealed at that point.

I am no where near perfect and cannot say that I am right...it's just the way I see it.


The topic of bullies comes up often in today's world. They have always been with us but until recently, were squarely in the minority. When I was a child, to be called a bully was to invite adult intervention. Allowing one child to bully another was not tolerated. The bully was punished in an effort to curb their behavior.

Unfortunately, they are fast becoming too loud to drown out, too powerful to control by conventional means. It's happening more often and earlier. Is it their fault? Or, is it ours? Do we stand up to the bully in a way in which Christ is honored? While He walked this earth, Jesus would not, did not tolerate this type of behavior...but He did not retaliate by trying to shout them down...He spoke the truth to them. In quiet, calm tones.

While it is so hard to watch (especially in children), we do neither ourselves or them any favors by stooping to their level. The Reverend Fredrick Schmidt, Jr. sheds some light on the situation...

Welcome to the bully culture: E Pluribus Bully'em. They are armed and dangerous. Not in the traditional sense. They are armed with the internet. They are armed with the ability to say anything and everything until it sticks. They are loud and large.

So where does the spiritual task lie?

1. Listen to the people on the edge.
2. Invite them into the conversation.
3. Insist that they are heard—even if what they want to say is not something you (or the bullies) want to hear.
4. Mirror in your own behavior the modesty that allows others to make their own choices.
5. Remember that God's politics are not your politics—or theirs. Your way is not the only way.
6. Insist on listening.
7. Redirect attention away from the labels to the arguments, the logic, the evidence, the data.
8. Resist the bullies. Resist them by speaking out. Resist them by being honest. Resist them by naming their behavior what it is: bullying.
9. If necessary, turn them off until they learn the limits of their singular, childish demands.

To back off and shrink back neither serves God nor the search for Truth. Backing off strengthens bullies—reinforces their delusions—and fosters an idolatry that crowds out the voice of God.

Caving into bullies is the new apostasy. To face it squarely is to risk the new martyrdom.

Join the effort. Be a saint.

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Feast Day

One of my favorite books in the Bible is the Book of James. There is so much practical instruction for the church and it's members. It is worthwhile to read on a regular basis...

May 3rd is the Feast Day for "James the Less"

James (first century), and apostle known as James the Less, the son of Alphaeus, may have been "the Lord's brother" (Galatians 1:19). He may also be the James who became the first bishop of Jerusalem and authored the epistle of James.

"This James would certainly qualify as a "lesser" disciple during Jesus' time. He must have quietly been formed and nurtured in the way of Jesus, for after the Resurrection he became one of the leaders of the growing church. James expressed his concern for the issues of the day in a letter. He warned against showing favor to the rich and upheld the link between faith and works, between hearing and doing the Word. He warned against loose tongues, boasting, and judging. James instructed Christians to pray and care for the suffering. His short letter, full of practical advice for being the church, bears reading again. James reminds us that though one may be quiet for a time, the call to leadership may come at any time."

Information from MethodX

Life and Death

All things must come to an end, and there are two alternatives before us. They are life and death; and every one of us will have to go to his own particular place. There are two different coinages, so to speak, in circulation, God’s and the world’s, each with its own distinctive markings. Unbelievers bear the stamp of the world; while the faithful in love bear the stamp of God the Father, through Jesus Christ. Unless we are ready and willing to die in conformity with His Passion, His life is not in us. Ignatius of Antioch

Monday, May 2, 2011


Jesus chose His disciples from the common people. Four of them were fishermen, one was a tax collector, we're not sure what the others did before Jesus came into their lives but suffice it to say they were probably involved in the family business. He chose these men to preach, teach and lead. He called them to set up, plant and grow churches. Most of the disciples were untrained (in anything other than the family business), uneducated and in many ways not spiritual in worldly terms. He didn't raise them to lofty positions. He simply called them to make disciples of their friends and neighbors...who would then make disciples of their friends and neighbors. Thus the cycle begins and grows.

Why then have we made it so hard? We leave the task of making disciples to the “experts”...preachers, teachers, youth leaders. We send them for training and throw money at them. Some are brilliant leaders...but where did we ever get the notion that it was “their” job? When did we abdicate our position in God's Kingdom? Is it because it's too hard? We might be ridiculed? We're too apt to play a numbers game and thus make it a competition? We don't have the time? We don't want to expose ourselves or our feelings?

Should we not simplify the nature of making disciples? Each new disciple of Christ reaches out to help make another. Think of the possibilities if this was one of our primary duties...the churches we have now could scarcely contain all the new members. The task is not to be the greatest disciple, it is to make as many disciples as possible.