Thursday, February 28, 2013

Good-bye Pope Benedict....

CASTEL GANDOLFO, Italy (AP) — Benedict XVI greeted the faithful for the last time as pope on Thursday, telling tearful well-wishers that he is beginning the final stage of his life as "simply a pilgrim," hours before he becomes the first pontiff in 600 years to resign.

The pope's journey into retirement began with an emotion-drenched sendoff from the Vatican, with Swiss Guards in full regalia standing in attention and prelates kneeling to kiss the papal ring — Benedict's closest aide weeping by his side.

Bells tolled as the pope left the Vatican by helicopter and circled St. Peter's Square, where banners reading "Thank You" were held up skyward for him to see. The bells tolled anew as he arrived in Castel Gandolfo, whose central piazza was jammed with people eager to catch the last glimpse of Benedict as pope.
His arms raised, the aging Benedict appeared at the balcony of the palazzo where he will spend the first few months of his retirement. The crowds cheering wildly, he said he was happy to be "surrounded by the beauty of creation" on this unique day.

As of 8 p.m., he said to applause, he would no longer be pope.

 Benedict's decision to live at the Vatican in retirement, be called "emeritus pope" and "Your Holiness" and wear the white cassock associated with the papacy has deepened concerns about the shadow he might cast over the next papacy.
But Benedict has tried to address those worries over the past two weeks, saying that once retired he would be "hidden from the world" and living a life of prayer.

In his final speech in St. Peter's Square on Wednesday, he said he wasn't returning to private life exactly, but rather to a new form of service to the church through prayer.

And on Thursday he went even further with his own public pledge of obedience to the new pontiff.
The Vatican spokesman, the Rev. Federico Lombardi, said the pope's pledge was in keeping with this effort to "explain how he intends to live this unprecedented situation of an emeritus pope."

"He has no intention of interfering in the position or the decisions or the activity of his successor," Lombardi said. "But as every member of the church, he says fully that he recognizes the authority of the supreme pastor of the church who will be elected to succeed him."

The issue of papal obedience is important for Benedict. In his last legal document, he made new provisions for cardinals to make a formal, public pledge of obedience to the new pope at his installation Mass, in addition to the private one they traditionally make inside the Sistine Chapel immediately after he is elected.

"I am simply a pilgrim beginning the last leg of his pilgrimage on this Earth," Benedict said, as well-wishers wiped tears from their eyes.
 (via Yahoo News)

I am not a Catholic but news of this magnitude cannot help but affect all Christians, everywhere. Although this is the first step in treading unfamiliar territory, I know that he will walk the path with the same quiet, calm, introspective manner which characterized his Papacy. 

Time will tell if this was a good decision for him, but I've read enough to know he is doing what he feels is best for his beloved church. I have to believe that having watched Pope John Paul II in decline must have played a role in this decision. 

Whatever the future should bring to this great man of the church, he is certainly in the prayers of the faithful congregation.

Van Cliburn

Harvey Lavan ‘Van’ Cliburn, one of the most popular classical pianists of recent years, passed away on Wednesday morning after losing his battle with advanced bone cancer. He was 78. Born in Louisiana in 1934, Cliburn began taking piano lessons from his mother aged just 3. By the time he was 12, he had already won a state piano competition and performed with the Houston Symphony Orchestra. He made his Carnegie Hall debut aged just 20.

Educated at Julliard, he won the International Tchaikovsky Piano Competition in Moscow in 1958, aged 23. At the height of the Cold War, it was unusual for an American pianist to be recognised in such a public way.

<iframe width="420" height="315" src="" frameborder="0" allowfullscreen></iframe>

Every day, at work, I listen to live streaming classical music. It is one of my very favorite musical forms and I've found it's the perfect way to help pass the time. My introduction to classical music was via Van Cliburn's recording of Tchaikovsky on vinyl no less! I'll admit I played it so much and so often, I received a second copy of the album for Christmas one year.

It's a sad day for the world, the man was truly gifted!

Pretzels and Lent

The pretzel has its origins as an official food of Lent. Even though much of the information available is based on tradition that has been handed down through the ages, the Vatican library actually has a manuscript illustrating one of the earliest pictures and descriptions of the pretzel (Codex 3867).

During Lent in the early Church, many abstained from all forms of meat and animal products, while others made exceptions for food like fish.  Pope St. Gregory sent the following to  St. Augustine of Canterbury,  "We abstain from flesh, meat, and from all things that come from flesh, as milk, cheese and eggs." Second, the general rule was for a person to have only one meal a day, around three o’clock in the afternoon, and smaller snacks during the rest of the day.

According to Snyder’s of Hanover, (a modern day pretzel maker), a monk in the early 600s in Italy was preparing a special Lenten bread of water, flour and salt. In order to remind his brother monks that Lent was a time of prayer, he rolled the bread dough in strips and then shaped each strip in the form of crossed arms. The bread was then baked as a soft bread, just like the big soft pretzels one can find today. 

There are two schools of thought concerning the name. 1)Because these breads were shaped into the form of crossed arms, they were called bracellae, the Latin word for "little arms." From this word, the Germans derived the word bretzel which has since mutated to the familiar word pretzel. 2) Another possibility is that the monk gave these breads to children as a reward when they could recite their prayers. The Latin word pretiola means "little reward," from which pretzel could also be reasonably derived. 

This simple Lenten food became very popular and was enjoyed by all classes of people. As they were easy to prepare and store, it became a common food to give to the poor and hungry.

Another legend tells that monks baking pretzels in the basement of a monastery in Vienna, during the siege by the Ottoman Turks , could hear the sounds of the Turks digging secretly under the walls of the city. The monks alerted the guard and Vienna was saved! 

Originally all pretzels were soft. The story is told of a young apprentice baker dozing off while tending to the oven where the pretzels were baking. After almost allowing the oven fires to die out, he awoke, stoked the oven and  over-baked the pretzels. At first the master baker was upset, but soon discovered that the hard pretzels were also delicious. These hard pretzels were less perishable than the soft, and thereby easy to have available to give to the poor and hungry.

The Pretzel Prayer
We beg you, O Lord, to bless these breads which are to remind us that Lent is a sacred season of penance and prayer. For this very reason, the early Christian started the custom of making these breads in the form of arms crossed in prayer. Thus they kept the holy purpose of Lent alive in their hearts from day to day, and increased in their souls the love of Christ, even unto death, if necessary.
Grant us, we pray, that we too, may be reminded by the daily sight of these pretzels to observe the holy season of Lent with true devotion and great spiritual fruit. We ask this through Christ our Lord. Amen.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Where are you?


Most people do not listen with the intent to understand. They listen with the intent to respond. They’re either speaking or preparing to speak. They’re filtering everything through their own paradigms, reading their autobiography into other people’s lives." (Stephen Covey)

Although some may think this is "splitting hairs", it truly is two different things. People who listen and want to understand are making an effort to know one another. To share the gift of intimacy. To connect.

If you listen only as a means to respond, you are telling others that your life is more important than theirs. You are not interested in knowing more about your fellow man but in building your own reputation.  Your need to be clever and be heard threatens the real goal of understanding each other better.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

I Am....

An Irish story for Lent

 Lent is a serious time in the church year, but I don't believe God wants us to live totally without humor. I posted this to pass along a little smile:

An Irishman moves into a tiny hamlet in County Kerry, walks into the pub and promptly orders three beers. The bartender raises his eyebrows, but serves the man three beers, which he drinks quietly at a table, alone.

An hour later, the man has finished the three beers and orders three more.

This happens yet again. The next evening the man again orders and drinks three beers at a time, several times. Soon the entire town is whispering about the Man Who Orders Three Beers.

Finally, a week later, the bartender broaches the subject on behalf of the town. “I don’t mean to pry, but folks around here are wondering why you always order three beers.” ‘Tis odd, isn’t it?” the man replies, “You see, I have two brothers, and one went to America, and the other to Australia. We promised each other that we would always order an extra two beers whenever we drank as a way of keeping up the family bond.”

The bartender and soon the whole town was pleased with this answer, and soon the Man Who Orders Three Beers became a local celebrity and source of pride to the hamlet, even to the extent that out-of-towners would come to watch him drink.

Then, one day, the man comes in and orders only two beers. The bartender pours them with a heavy heart. This continues for the rest of the evening – he orders only two beers. The word flies around town. Prayers are offered for the soul of one of the brothers.

The next day, the bartender says to the man, “Folks around here, me first of all, want to offer condolences to you for the death of your brother. You know-the two beers and all…”
The man ponders this for a moment, then replies, “You’ll be happy to hear that my two brothers are alive and well… It’s just that I, myself, have decided to give up drinking for Lent.”
                                               Told by Father Joseph Jenkins

Monday, February 25, 2013

The table

Although the table is a place for intimacy, we all know how easily it can become a place of distance, hostility, and even hatred. Precisely because the table is meant to be an intimate place, it easily becomes the place we experience the absence of intimacy. The table reveals the tensions among us. When husband and wife don't talk to each other, when a child refuses to eat, when brothers and sisters bicker, when there are tense silences, then the table becomes hell, the place we least want to be.

The table is the barometer of family and community life. Let's do everything possible to make the table the place to celebrate intimacy.    Henri Nouwen

Sunday, February 24, 2013

A prayer for Lent

O Lord of my heart and soul,

purge me of my spiritual ambition,

cleanse me of my self-interest,

purify my motive,

fill me with your Spirit,

and then, O God, please make,

...”the you, near your mouth and in your heart” (Romans 10:8)

something other than “me” or “my”.

Forgive my preoccupation with self,

bring others into focus,

direct awareness, loving kindness,

generosity and justice,

ever to my thoughts and to my heart...


Saturday, February 23, 2013

The Table

For this time in my life, there are 3 generations living under one roof. Our house is not large but we still have days that we don't all see one another. Between work and school schedules, outside activities and all the other busyness that is our world today, we must make time to be with one another. We are blessed to have a couple of days each week that we all sit together for supper. 

The table is set and we look each other in the eyes, we touch as we pass the food, we share our thoughts...and it is communion. Not in the actual "bread and cup" but communion of the heart.

Henri Nouwen says:
The table is one of the most intimate places in our lives. It is there that we give ourselves to one another. When we say, "Take some more, let me serve you another plate, let me pour you another glass, don't be shy, enjoy it," we say a lot more than our words express. We invite our friends to become part of our lives. We want them to be nurtured by the same food and drink that nurture us. We desire communion. That is why a refusal to eat and drink what a host offers is so offensive. It feels like a rejection of an invitation to intimacy.

Strange as it may sound, the table is the place where we want to become food for one another. Every breakfast, lunch, or dinner can become a time of growing communion with one another.

Make it a priority to be food for one another, especially for those who are closest to you.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Growing church...

Personally, I would love to see the church "growing" this way too!

...Maybe you mean “Growing in Depth.” Would that mean that people were learning to accept their flaws without glossing them over? Would that mean an outbreak of patience and kindness that only comes from realizing that we are all screwed up in one way or another, and God loves us anyway? Would that mean that folks realized that they are unqualified to do ministry – just like the minister – and would commit to doing ministry anyway? Would that mean that you realized the value of what you have in Christ is too valuable to not give it away?

Read the full article here...great food for thought, and prayer.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Kids at church

A friend linked to this article on his Facebook page, and it's something we all need to read! This is only part, if you'd like to read it all, check here...

...Because if the normal noises of normal children are going to distract me, I was going to be distracted anyway.  By cute clothes or cute men or split ends or whatever.  And nobody’s suggesting that we wear burqas to Mass or segregate our congregations or require frequent trims.  Unlike most of the thoughts that grab my easily-distracted mind, the screams of your children are a distraction that draw me to deeper prayer.

So take them to the cry room if you want–or stay in the pew.  Lord knows that at many churches if you’re in the cry room you’re practically not at Mass, it’s such a circus in there.  Keep them as quiet as you can however you want to–I won’t judge.  They’re going to be ridiculous and you’re gong to be embarrassed, but taking them to Mass gives them grace, earns you years off of purgatory, and breaks my hardened heart just a little bit.

On behalf of those of us who don’t understand the sacrifices you make to bring your kids to the wedding feast, I’m sorry.  I’m sorry for judging you and being annoyed at you and rolling my eyes and everything else that focuses on me instead of on us.  Your kids are a very important part of us, even–especially–when they won’t stop yelling.

Because yes, your kids are distracting me.  They’re distracting me from my narcissism.  They’re distracting me from the idol I’ve made of worship, making me encounter God as he really is, not as I want him to be.  They’re distracting me from the endless series of irrelevant thoughts that occupy my “praying” mind.

Your screaming kids are distracting me.  Thank you for that.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A revolution in the sky...

Today is the 540th  birthday of Nicolaus Copernicus, author of De revolutionibus orbium coelestium which, for the first time in history, placed the Sun in the center of the universe with all other planets revolving around it. Until he mathematically proved this theory, all thought the Earth to be at the center.

 Sometime between 1510 and 1514 [Copernicus] wrote an essay that has come to be known as the 'Commentariolus,' which introduced his new cosmological idea, the heliocentric universe." At the time, the prevailing theory, codified by the 1st century philosopher Ptolemy, was geocentrism – the belief, in short, that all celestial bodies revolve around the earth. Undertaking an extensive analysis of the path of the planets overhead, Copernicus argued that in fact it was the sun that was at the center of the solar system.

His work drew the ire of the Catholic Church and of Martin Luther himself, but in the end Copernicus proved to be correct. His theory ushered in the Scientific Revolution which was the beginning of modern science.

During a Roman Catholic ritual in 2010, his remains were interred beneath the altar of Frombork Cathedral in northern Poland, where the astronomer had been the canon (head priest) and where he originally was buried in 1543.The exact location of his grave had been lost and his remains were not conclusively identified until 2005, through the use of modern DNA testing.

Monday, February 18, 2013


Some may see a hopeless end, but as believers we rejoice in an endless hope.

Sunday, February 17, 2013


In the grand scheme of my existence, I realized that having a “How ’bout them apples?” Thoreauvian moment wasn’t really too important. I looked at my list of requirements for a perfect fruit tree and tore it in half. I resigned myself to picking some spotty apples (and only a handful of edible ones) each year … But this part of the calendar has become a time for me to anticipate the Easter blooms of that beautiful apple tree and to remember that Lent is as much about quitting the obligations that clutter our life as it is about learning to dedicate ourselves to more eternal tasks — because fewer branches equal better fruit.

After reading this article, I asked myself, "How many limbs do I need to prune from my life? What branches do I really need?" 

for Sunday...

Saturday, February 16, 2013

I see the moon

"Moments later, in the quiet of her pickup truck, Libby points to a pale
moon in the night sky and shares with Henry the darkest private fear of
any loyal political aide in symbiosis with a candidate who is, by
nature, flawed. "Beautiful, huh?" Libby says, "but Henry, it's only
reflected light. It needs the sun. And the Stantons are my sun. I lived
my life drawing light and warmth from them. . . . And they don't need
. . . me at all."    (From the movie "Primary Colors")

It takes a lot of guts to make this type of admission. We each strive to make our mark in the world and will fiercely protect what "we" have done. One of the most important words in the quote above is "flawed". If that which you reflect is flawed, it may make you doubly contend with your own short comings, as well as the others. It would be a heavy burden to carry.

I am sure no one sets out to merely be the reflection of another, but it happens. If you found yourself in this situation, what would you do?

Friday, February 15, 2013

Too much, too little...


Next time you meet someone who sees the world differently, take time to be curious. It's not very likely that you will change each others minds, but you may come to a better understanding of their position...and of your own.

Thursday, February 14, 2013

Cheesy Valentines...

Just thought I'd share a few...

Happy Valentines Day!

About Lent...

"...Naturally, folks are all abuzz about how to best observe. As I read through Facebook comments, tweets, and blog posts, I find that I have had all of the typical responses.
  • “I’m gonna give up chocolate or alcohol.”
  • “Giving things up is ridiculous. God wants us to live fully live. This whole practice is just stupid.”
  • “Instead of giving something up, I’m taking something on this year.”
Like I said: I’ve said and done each of these things. I’ve given up something that was that important, I’ve wholly rejected the practice as a part of my rejection of conformist religion, and I’ve tried to reframe “self-denial” into “self-giving.”
But each of these responses makes a mistake, in my opinion. Notice that all of them are about me. They have very little to do with what God might be doing, but about something that I’m doing. Each of these responses betray a belief that I am the one in control, that I am the one, ultimately, who matters. As Richard Rohr says,

Resurrection takes care of itself. It’s getting people into tombs that’s hard. Just as nature abhors a vacuum, most contemporary people, both liberals and conservatives, abhor boundaries.
This realization was a hard truth for me, and so I have returned to the classic Lenten disciplines of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving. I encourage you to do the same."

Read the rest of the article here...excellent food for thought!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013


Traditionally, Lent was a time for personal conversion leading up to Easter, during which Christians practiced the spiritual disciplines of fasting, praying and almsgiving to strip away all that is unnecessary and become more mindful of their ultimate dependence on God. Let’s recapture the true meaning of Lent in ways that are actually relevant to your life. Each day throughout Lent, starting on Ash Wednesday, the calendar’s link for that day will become active, revealing a Daily Jolt for spiritual contemplation relating to Lent, and new and practical ideas for fasting, prayer and almsgiving.

Check out Busted Halo's website for their Lenten Calendar.

And if you're not sure what this "Lent" stuff is all about...check out this video:

Ash Wednesday

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013


When people find that you're a Christian, are they surprised? Can they tell by your words and deeds that you have found joy in your life or do you follow the "I'm a Christian so I can't have fun" stereotype? Do you spend all your time thinking of the things you cannot do?

The happiest people on earth ought to be those of us in God's service. And we ought to
look like it. We have every reason to smile more than anyone else. Even though our work is terribly serious, we ought to have more fun and have a better time doing it than anybody. Why would we not enjoy life? For whom do we live it?

Those who look as if they've just finished their last piece of bread do not minister very effectively. We really don't need to spend all our time on the negatives of life; there are enough heart-breaking experiences to go around for all of us. Who wants to follow a God who is perceived to be standing over us hand on His hip, shaking His finger? If God does not want us to be happy creatures, why would He have provided us with food, drink, books, music, friends and all the beauty in the world? On top of all the wonderful things to be found in our world He also offers us the opportunity to be in communion with Him? One on one. We can't allow ourselves to get so wrapped up in daily life that we forget the gifts.

I don't mean to sound like life is always easy if you're a Christian...we do not have an easy calling. God holds us to a higher standard but He is also a loving guide who is always there to help us through the hard times and offer us joy, His joy. What more could we want?

Monday, February 11, 2013

The Pope

Although I am not Catholic and am not subject to the Holy See, I still feel the need to pause and ponder the decision by Pope Benedict to step down. After all, even Protestants were once Catholic.

By now you've heard much of what the media has to say and it's hard for me to listen to them. Few to none of them show any knowledge about that which they speak. One need only hear their “laundry list” of things the next Pope should be and do to see their ignorance. Unless I have misunderstood the process, those who choose the next Pope pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit, not the news agencies.

Although Pope John Paul II was one of the most beloved of popes in modern history, his age and illnesses severely limited him during the latter part of his tenure on St. Peter's seat. I have to wonder if this has not had a bearing on Benedict's decision. He is known as a humble man and this move shows true humility. A true desire to serve our Father and the Catholic church as best he can. Truly, how many of us would willingly relinquish the power he wields?

If there is one glaring lesson to be learned by this decision it's this...perhaps Benedict’s retirement is meant to remind this exceedingly busy world — the non-stop, twenty-four-hour-live and very self-important world — that we are none of us indispensable; that there comes a time to step back, throw oneself into the arms of the Lord and trust that all shall be well.

Dressed in Gentleness

Once in a while we meet a gentle person. Gentleness is a virtue hard to find in a society that admires toughness and roughness. We are encouraged to get things done and to get them done fast, even when people get hurt in the process. Success, accomplishment, and productivity count. But the cost is high. There is no place for gentleness in such a milieu.

Gentle is the one who does "not break the crushed reed, or snuff the faltering wick" (Matthew 12:20). Gentle is the one who is attentive to the strengths and weaknesses of the other and enjoys being together more than accomplishing something. A gentle person treads lightly, listens carefully, looks tenderly, and touches with reverence. A gentle person knows that true growth requires nurture, not force. Let's dress ourselves with gentleness. In our tough and often unbending world our gentleness can be a vivid reminder of the presence of God among us.
Henri Nouwen

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A book and it's cover

Let me state first of all, I'm not one to watch "reality" shows...I'd rather do just about anything, even clean house, than to watch someone else's "so called" life.

Having made that statement, I must now confess. I have watched a handful of episodes of "Duck Dynasty". Go ahead, laugh...but I'll tell you a secret, my husband of 35 years has loved duck hunting longer than he's loved me! We used to joke that we planned for both our children to be born in November so he'd be there for the delivery. From the duck blind drawing on the first Saturday of August, until the season ended in January, duck hunting was part of our life. So when it came on one evening while I was fixing dinner I thought, why not?

I did find it funny, and I'll admit, I've known people like them in my life. Not just known but gladly spent time with them. People like that are the salt of the earth!

Not surprisingly, the father in the show is a great lesson in not judging a book by it's cover. He may seem a little slow, but that can be deceiving...check out a few clips of the show on You Tube and THEN read this tell me I'm wrong about the book and cover!

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

The Blind Side

A storybook ending to the popular movie "The Blind Side" just goes to show how Christ can touch any life, if we are brave enough to step out and show Him to the world. 

Friday, February 1, 2013

Art in the Sand

Each year, our Youth attend Warmth in Winter. A conference wide weekend of love, learning, fun, fellowship, growth and the Word.

This past weekend our speaker was Joe Castillo. You may have seen him recently on "America's Got Talent"...he placed second on the show but I'm sure the young people would tell you he's # 1. 

He tells stories using sand and light and I must say watching the story unfold as you hear it is amazing...Maybe this will help you see what I mean...