The rule was simple. Justin was to arrive back from his afternoon tour de chance, after finishing his homework previously. He had to be at the table, hands washed, appetite engaged, and ready for grace or, and here was the ominous not-so-veiled threat: He would sit at the table and go without supper while everyone else enjoyed Mom’s home-cooked delights. “Piece of cake, Dad!,” Justin retorted. It seemed easy enough.
The first person who ever uttered the phrase, “no good deed goes unpunished,” must have been quite an interesting character and someone you would have liked to have sat down with over a cup of coffee or a glass of wine, depending on the time of day and how many nerves you have left at any given juncture. The meaning of this all-too-familiar phrase is fortunately or unfortunately played out in all our lives, one way or another.
Then, after the longest month she could remember, the anger began to set a hold on her heart and nothing was going to relieve this new darkness that previously escaped her personality and approach to life. Why wasn’t anyone else upset? Don’t they know how horrible this is? She just wanted to scream, and, on some occasions, she would, as long as she could into the dusty pillow that still retained faint aromas of his cologne.
It had been so wonderful growing up because it was like they were best friends. But at some tender, delicate point in the history of their family, the young son at sixteen suddenly discovered that he knew everything while his dad at midlife never seemed to receive enough thanks and gratitude for all the sacrifices he endured. These two men, who actually began to look a bit alike in these later years, drifted apart a bit which became painfully obvious when their wife and mother abruptly left them.
After a few hours of the most horrible and sickening nausea she could ever recall, with both an empty stomach and a soul that felt as if she was in free fall through a bottomless pit, she knew it was time. It was time to make the decision that was nestled deep within her tortured existence, and call out to God for whatever was left in their torn relationship.
Although it may not be apparent or obvious to some, there does seem to be a level of inequality, or at least disparity, about how the pandemic has shut some aspects of our lives, and compartmentalized them in an unusual fashion, which has caused even more to question what the motivation was or the rationale behind such moves. Here we are talking about the closure, even the prolonged cessation of places of worship, no matter what the alliance or persuasion.
Everyone was on edge. It was the height of pandemic panic and the tension had an unusually eerie feel as it spread throughout the large, mid-city grocery store, previously a hustling yet comfortable place where people greeted each other warmly and loudly with the excitement of a family reunion. But today was different. The first death in the area had just been reported and although unspoken, the question on some minds was definitely, “who would be next?”
“She” was in another terrible mood and no one was going to get out alive, or at least, without needing a strong sedative, a bottle of Motrin, a deep skin massage or all of the above. Someone must have contradicted her, called her out on the condescending tones and thinly veiled insults, or finally just yelled back. But that’s all it took to unleash the Kraken and a new level of their hostile work environment that made a pack of hungry, feeding hyenas look like a quilting bee.
With numbing regularity we have witnessed the complete and utter validation of the truth that adversity and problems do not create character. They reveal it. Like any personal crisis, the world-wide pandemic, now infamously known as COVID-19, is chock-full of life lessons dovetailed by the rich and cleansing Season of Lent that hopefully will never be forgotten, especially in our lifetime going forward. Let us take a look at a few.
It is clear that without Christmas we couldn’t have Easter and without Easter, Christmas is just another excuse to shop, overeat and watch children make forever memories. So what are we to make of these fifty days or so of rumblings beneath our souls’ surface? How can we link these two stunning realities and make sense of it all? The fifty days shouldn’t be wasted on returning to the routine that we all say we dislike and end up restarting with gobs of regret and complaints.
Whereas life often separates meaning from emotion, the spiritual life brings them together to create remarkable epiphanies that harmonize all life to give us a heightened awareness of our place in this world. This is what I believe happened to the Magi after following the star in the East that took them to places they had never dreamed of going and were, by extension, never the same again.
At first, I was angry because these last two months had been excellent. Lots of fun, excitement, creativity, conversations, a healthy share of drama, physical achievements such as individual accomplishments at swimming, weight loss, and intense cardio thresholds, not to mention two of the finest, choicest Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations that I could remember. For much of those hallmark memorable goals, I had some very close friends to thank.
There is something quite marvelous that has happened every Christmas Eve in Finland since the early 14th Century: it is simply known as the Declaration of Peace. It is accompanied by all kinds of musical instruments including drums, choral singing and even symphonic strings. What is it? It is basically a highly anticipated announcement made in the old capital that attests and demands everyone to act with peace and love during the Christmas Season. Here is the actual text: “Tomorrow, God willing, is the graceful celebration of the birth of >>
I know, I know. So many Christmas decorations appeared looming in most stores even before the pumpkins and ghosts arrived– and yes, even before the poor turkey was running for its life. However, have no fear or trepidation, nor any real despair about these assaults on our budgets and nerves because, quite frankly, there is something marvelous happening here: it is all about the deep and endearing love God has for all of us as He reaches into our souls to stir the memories and joys of childhood, even if >>
What is it about the month of August that sets it apart from the other months of our lives? I guess you could say that every month has its own character and shades of emotion like individual children that came from the same family. But, August is now upon us and it may be calling us to something deeper and most challenging as we begin to see the end of 2019 not too far in sight. First, let us take a look at the name of this summer month: “August” >>
In a most dramatic example of how baseball imitates life, there was an emotional and heart-stopping scene at Minute Maid Park during the Cubs-Astros game last Thursday (5/29) during the last inning. Albert Almora Jr. of the Cubs hit a hard line-drive foul into the stands that hit a young child. He was extremely and visibly affected and shaken by the accident and had to be consoled by security personnel right on the field. According to the latest reports available, the young child was awake, responsive and taken to a >>
Like any young couple in the 80s, Jimmy and Deborah struggled with great difficulty to start and raise a family and maintain their love for each other as expectantly as they could. This was compounded with increasing difficulty as they were considered a military family moving every two years from place to place. But soon, all that would change when a promising business opportunity opened up for the young couple and they decided to settle down in Albany, New York. Things were moving right along quite well for them and >>
It must be more than twenty-five years ago now and I still remember that wonderful coffee cup given to me for Easter one year. I recall it vividly for two distinct reasons: the first is functional because the ceramic cup actually came with a lid to keep the fresh coffee hot for those of us who forget to take constant sips of the brew and are left with the insipid taste of semi-cold coffee. But the second reason was much more deep and meaningful. I can still see the cup >>
In this amazing life we sometimes live unforgetfully, there can be found, close to the surface of our comings and goings, unique and altogether lovely gifts in the form of archetypal moments. These are recurrent symbols, motifs and patterns nestled carefully within soul-enriching experiences that actually mold us and fashion even as we struggle or celebrate through them. These are replete in literature, art, and mythology and a list of the most famous could easily start right here, right now. However, today we make yet another bold claim: in everyone’s >>
“Set me as a seal upon your heart, as a seal upon your arm; For Love is strong as Death, longing is fierce as Sheol. Its arrows are arrows of fire, flames of the divine.” Song of Songs 8:6 After a very long and tedious day at work, a man slowly but surely made his way back home when he took the opportunity to rest by the side of the road. An elderly woman equally slowly passed by the place where he had stopped arduously pushing a cart full of >>
My recently acquired membership in the sixty-plus club comes with some surprising benefits among my family and friends. It is definitely true that time seems to travel much faster as once remembered and good memories seem closer while bad ones appear further and further away. Other benefits include an apparent increase of loving patience from those who have recently joined the forty-plus club, more enjoyment of peace and quiet, and because the body has also fallen captive of this time change, this same peace and quiet both seem easier to >>
Like any and most American families, in the given span of ten years or so you notice at least two things: you see less people at family gatherings and then you see more people at those same wonderful moments. The reason is simple. People die, people get married, and people are born. Sounds pretty simple, doesn’t it? Well there’s a lot more to it. At a recent and quaint gathering of my cousins and me, all of whom have entered the 50+ Club, we spoke directly about this very observation >>
You know, it’s funny. This morning I received two strangely coincidental texts: one said that they could no longer speak to me for an indefinite amount of time, while the other was, “write the next post.” While I was stunned and hurt by the former, I knew I had to get started on the latter and so here it is. This post could be called the “Tale of Two Friends, “How to Deal with Remarkable Disappointment,” or “The Nicodemus Factor,” all of which should be made perfectly clear after about >>
Without a doubt, I have been richly blessed with friends who love to eat. In addition to our shared pastime and life-giving, life-sustaining hobby, my friends represent a number of different cultures to which they have remained faithful and attached. One evening a couple of weeks ago, we decided on an Italian-Indian night and made a veritable feast of the evening. What a night, and what a weight-gaining evening! Obviously, there were many wonderful garlic and curry combinations that I couldn’t begin to pronounce much less list at this moment. Needless >>
Procrastination is a true human trait and proof of the existence of God with the promise of His most wonderful heaven. It clearly exhibits the hope and confidence in a better tomorrow and thereby, by extension, the rationale to put off today what can be done later. But in the meantime, before we reach heaven, I don’t think it’s such a good idea. What do I mean by that? Consider the following.
“Each man is the architect of his own fate.” (Appius Claudius, Roman Statesman, 300 B.C.) There once was a brilliant architect who envisioned a world beyond shape and dimensions, efficient and inspiring places of business and homes that all could afford and live and reach their destiny and ultimate calling. With the soul of a poet and the mind of a genius, he continued to set forth design after design, project after project that continued to amaze and stir the imagination of young and old alike. But what was more profound about this >>
True to form, Michael surprised the lights out of him. “Show me your wallet” he asked. The man at the pulpit that evening had all the attendees enthralled about where he was going with all this. Michael took the man’s wallet, opened it up, and from one of the folds there, pulled out three items, a credit card, a holy card with the image of St. Michael the Archangel, and a picture of his family, in that specific order. “Here’s your problem, Buddy!
One Sunday morning in a small town, a preacher named George Thomas, came to the Church carrying an old bird cage and set it on the pulpit. Eyebrows were raised and, as if in response, the preacher began to speak. I was walking home through town yesterday when I saw a young boy swinging this old bird cage. On the bottom of the cage were little wild birds, shivering with cold and fright. I stopped the lad and asked, “What you got there, son?”
A close friend of mine returned from a funeral and although most are sad, there was something deeply and doubly tragic about this one. I still remember how the story unraveled before me. Twenty-five years earlier, a daughter was born to a young, hard-working couple. There was much excitement as could be expected over a first-born and on that first day of the new arrival, there was concern. The child was born with Down Syndrome and in every way, a child of God.
There once was a young woman who went to her mother and started telling her about how hard her life is and how hard things were for her. She was tired of fighting and not knowing how she was going to make it. She was ready to give up. It seemed as though the problems never stopped. As soon as one problem was solved, another one arose. How could she continue? She needed advice.
A man built a prosperous business through much hard work and honesty. As he got older, he became concerned about the future of his business mainly because he had no children of his own, no close relatives, except for three distant cousins who were already in charge of various aspects of the business. After much prayer and consideration, he called a meeting with all of them, and told them he needed a solution to a problem. They nervously gathered in his spacious office, a little intimidated, but mostly curious. After >>
There was once a plumber who just finished a very difficult and long day. He lost a few clients, one died, a check bounced, and one of his employees quit and took all the tools that were purchased for him a year earlier. On top of that, a flat tire caused him more stress as did the amount of crazed drivers who thought they were on the Indy 500. One of his co-workers needed a ride home and asked him to please drop him off at his house and he >>
This past week, I was alone without a tree and nothing to open Christmas morning. Now, don’t get me wrong here: this is not your very own personal invitation to my “New Year’s Pity Party.” Hardly. I am the most blessed man I know, and I mean that sincerely. People who know me often comment that I am the strongest, most patient and courageous person they know, and believe me, that’s nice. While I strive to live up to that daily, some days and years are better than others; which brings >>
A short Christmas story by O’Henry entitled “The Gift of the Magi” is about a young, very poor, couple who lived in New York City during the turn of the century. They were clearly very much in love and both wanted so deeply to give the most wonderful gift to one another, but, as it was, they had no money. Each of them had only one material possession that had any real monetary value; the young man had a valuable pocket watch and his young bride had beautiful long hair. Both worked hard to >>
A Tibetan legend of the panda states that many, many years ago, when these bears lived in the Himalayas, they were completely white in color. They must have resembled polar bears more than any other creature at that time and they were very playful. They lived, as it were, in a type of wintery-Eden of seemingly pure innocence and peace. They were also friends with a certain shepherdess who would watch over the flocks and fields and seemed to be a type of protective yet, maternal figure for the cubs. >>
Christmas is coming and the geese aren’t the only ones getting fat. Even as Thanksgiving is still a few days away, my family and I have already begun exchanging food preparation ideas, old and new recipes, special prayers to invoke before we dive in, and of course, the names of those who are going to clean up everything once we have done our significant damage. To that end, I am always looking for books and materials at estate and garage sales, libraries and yes, even half-priced booksellers for older books >>
We don’t often receive desperate pleas in our office for help except when it comes to frantic questions about the number of English or Spanish Bibles that someone quite nervously is wondering why they haven’t arrived and who might have stolen them and why they are not there as we promised, etc. However, all that changed last week. Have you ever heard the premise that God places us right where He wants us, at the right time, for the right reason? Well, if not, I intend to make a believer >>
“The greatest art in the world is the art of storytelling.” ~Cecil B. DeMille Before the written word in human history, there was storytelling; narratives that were used to pass on events, provide a means of entertainment, education, cultural preservation, and instilling moral values. In his book “Teacher Man,” Pulitzer Prize-winner, Frank McCourt reflects on his 30 years as a teacher in New York City high schools. He used a variety of techniques in his English and creative writing classes, but one that seemed to surface again and again was the >>
Kent Nerburn is a noted writer, speaker and all around gifted man who has allowed his rich life to shape everything he does and says. I hope one day I can go and listen to him, maybe even share a cup of coffee. He says that the most formative experience of his childhood was accompanying his father while working for the Red Cross as ‘first-responder’ to many natural and unnatural disasters in Minnesota. Clearly, many life lessons were learned from those nutritive moments. Earlier in his remarkable life, Kent drove a >>
When I was in college, I remember reading about an incident that apparently transpired between Frederick II, the king of Prussia in the 1700’s and a prisoner. This beloved monarch truly wished to be present to all in his kingdom, even to those who were incarcerated. It was reported that when he went to a specific prison in Berlin, he went cell by cell greeting each of the occupants. Everyone who saw their king had the same reactionary speech, “Please, Your Highness, free me from this place for I am >>
Today, I have outlived my father by one day. What happens tomorrow is all in God’s hands, to whom I have given thanks and praise, and to whom I have lifted my Dad’s soul to Jesus, all throughout this time leading up to this occasion especially with the awesome celebration of the Mass. This whole experience has been a kind of epiphany for me even as the eventual appearance of the numbers “60” on the birthday cake loom in the not-so-distant future. My father, you could say, was a little attached >>
Having spent seventy-seven wonderful years on this planet, my amazing aunt died peacefully in her sleep earlier this month. Although she carried a number of painful medical conditions and her memory was beginning to fade, it was still a brutal reminder of how fragile and delicate life truly is. This experience was also compounded with the death of her sister, my mother, less than two months earlier. My aunt’s life was filled with a series of fundamentally linked episodes which I only recognized after she died. Isn’t that always the case? >>
With all the various temptations for the mind to stray from the path of righteousness, can anyone ever be holy in what they do? The Good News is that the word of God tells us how to be holy. We are to have our minds ready for action, to keep alert and set our hope completely on the blessing which will be given to us when Jesus Christ is revealed. Peter calls all to be obedient to God, and do not allow your lives to be shaped by those desires you had >>
It was many years ago, but it seemed as if it all transpired last week. Her funeral was scheduled for the last day of May and by that morning he had nothing left emotionally. The last bit of energy behind the forces to smile, to relieve and comfort members of his family and his mom’s closest friends had basically evaporated. He couldn’t even drive to her funeral; thank God for his 17-year old daughter acting as the chauffeur, who perhaps should have relied on Google Maps instead of her childhood memories of >>
“Human stories are practically about one thing, really, aren’t they? Death. The inevitability of death . . . There is no such thing as a natural death. Nothing that very happens to man is natural, since his presence calls the whole world into question.” ~J.R.R. Tolkien, The Lord of the Rings. The story I am about to share with you is actually the work of a short fiction story written back in 1964 by Roy Popkin. It was first published in 1965 in the Reader’s Digest and has been reproduced >>
After years of wandering aimlessly throughout his life, Clint Dennis realized that something deeply important was missing. He decided to attend church, and as he entered the church for the first time he noticed people putting on long robes. They were also tying ropes around their waist and wrapping headdresses around their heads. “Come be a part of the mob,” a stranger told him. It was Palm Sunday and the church was reenacting the crucifixion. He would be part of the crowd that shouted “Crucify him! Crucify him!” Hesitantly he agreed. Then another >>
When was the last time you looked in the mirror? What did you see? Did you see how much the Father has loved us? The Good News is that “His love is so great that we are called God’s children — and so, in fact, we are.” (GNT 1 John 3:1) Beloved child, as a Christian, you are no stranger to God. Though you may sometimes feel alone, you are not. Take comfort in the promise that God is everywhere, that He keeps watch over you and that He is always >>
There is a true story of a little boy whose sister needed a blood transfusion. The Doctor explained that she had the same disease the boy had recovered from two years earlier. Her only chance of recovery was a transfusion from someone who had previously conquered the disease. Since the two children had the same rare blood type, the boy was ideal donor. “Would you give your blood to Mary?” the doctor asked. Johnny hesitated. His lower lip started to tremble. Then he smiled and said, “Sure, for my sister.” Soon >>
A story told during a sermon at church involved a little boy and his father. The scene was the backyard of their home where the young lad had a sandbox that looked like a small beach enclosure with toys and lots and lots of area to play. While his father looked on from the back kitchen window, his son was playing the way most children play, unfettered and very innocently with the imagination and creativity that usually accompanies this age. All seemed to be going very well until the child found >>
There was a little boy named Steven, who had serious allergies. At first, he didn’t understand why crazy things were happening to him. Swellings, wild itching or rashes covered his entire body when he ate a particular food or got near a certain fabric, or one year a live Christmas tree. Later Steven was told to stay away from bees and wasps, which, always seemed to gravitate toward him. He was never afraid of the dark -or spiders -or even snakes, but he did develop a serious respect for those >>
One day, a young father wanted his son to understand the true impact of making right choices, of obeying and doing what’s right. His idea was unique: every time his son made a bad choice or a wrong decision, he gave him a hammer and one gray nail to go out to their backyard and pound it into the wooden fence. At first, it seemed like a game for the youngster, as he was excited in a playful way to have to go out and nail these objects into the fence. It >>
William Arthur Ward (1921-1994) was an American writer and one of this country’s most quoted inspirational writers with more than 100 articles, poems and meditations written and published in such magazines as the Reader’s Digest. He once wrote a piece based on a Chinese proverb that said, “If you keep a green limb in your heart, the singing bird will come.” The obvious application that he was asserting is that there are certain pre-set attitudes (limbs, branches) in one’s heart that are conducive to a happy life and outlook. His idea >>
If you can dream it, you can achieve it. The incredibly imaginative EPCOT Center in Orlando, Florida opened some 16 years after its principle architect and dreamer, Walt Disney died. It had been a concept still in development by the masterful Disney who envisioned it to be a “real city that would never cease to be a blueprint of the future.” Even though there were many who said that they didn’t understand what he was talking about, and that there was no way they could put all that together in one place, >>
This story took place in a small, rural town somewhere in the Midwest, where there was a horrible house fire and all the members of the family barely escaped with their lives. The ten-year old son was alive, but suffered severe burn injuries over seventy-five percent of his body. The pain was unbearable, especially for a youngster who literally saw most of life go up in smoke. Since there were no hospitals close by that could administer the help and recovery that he needed, he was flown to a hospital >>