‘TWAS THE NIGHT OF JESUS BIRTH

(I wrote this a few years ago but always like to revisit it.  I hope you enjoy this take on a classic.  May you and yours have a blessed and beautiful Christmas.)

14825285848701889714424

‘Twas the Night of Jesus’ Birth, when all through the house

Not a creature was stirring, not even the church mouse.

The animals were munching in their stable where
They hoped that the Savior would soon be there.

The sheep were all nestled down for the night
While the shepherds made sure that all was just right.

Everyone thought and didn’t want to say
All was just the same another boring Bethlehem day.

When out in the sky there arose such a light,
The shepherds couldn’t look ‘cause it was so bright.

There was a beautiful angel up in the sky
The stunned Shepherds couldn’t figure out why.

The angel told them in a manger of a stable there lies
A baby—the Savior In the town nearby

The shepherds went off to where the baby lay.
They knew they would see the Savior this day.

More rapid than stallions, they ran so fast
To see the Savior— they didn’t want to be last

Now Peace!
Now Joy!
Now Everlasting Life!
On Goodness!
On Love!
God’s Greatest Light!

To the city of Bethlehem! To the door of the stable!
They hurried on their way as they were able.

From the dry desert sand, the three kings they came
Following a star, for they knew its name.

So over the dunes they came from the east
This long journey they didn’t mind the least.

And then in a twinkling, the star burst bright
Their journey had ended with joy and delight.

They found the New King, born today
In the city of Bethlehem, so far away

They saw His mother by the child’s bed
With Joseph softly rubbing baby Jesus’ sweet head.

Their hearts were excited, the Christ Child they found
The gifts they had readied were perfectly sound.

The visitors awed for what they saw
A child—
His eyes
His dimples
His cheeks
His nose
Oh so regal
Truly a King to save us all.

But His smile gave a great blessing for He knew their coming
Was a sign of His life’s service for man’s eternal saving

The Kings thought to themselves, and sighed with a pause
O’ this child is much better than meeting the Santa Claus

They spoke not a word, wanted to give more
Gave all they had, and could only adore.

Led by the star, signaling a King, the wise men nobly gifted
Gold, frankincense and myrrh, for One so regal, all truly fitted

As they left that place— so holy and mild
They glowed with love for they saw a Savior—the Christ Child.

They went to their homes and proclaimed from the heights,
A Merry Christ Mass to all and to all a Blessed Night!

Advertisements

Save Yourself?

From a very young age we have been taught to take care of ourselves.  It is ingrained in us, especially as Americans, to be strong, tough, independent, and self-sufficient.  We pride ourselves on the ability to do things on our own.  Even a little child just learning how to walk is praised for her/his independence.  As a young adult many of us rebelled against our parents with the attitude, “I don’t need you; I can take care of myself!”

In today’s Gospel reading (Lk 23: 35-43), Jesus is mocked and encouraged to save himself.  Yet, Jesus knows the heavenly Father reigns and reveals His Kingdom through action (or inaction as the onlookers view it.)  The good thief recognized Jesus’ humility before the Father and asked Jesus, “remember me when you come into your kingdom.” Jesus responds by telling the thief that he will be with him “in Paradise.”

284_christ-the-king

It is hard to let go of control and trust the Lord will bring us through difficult times.  Yet, this is precisely what Jesus is teaching us in today’s Gospel reading.  We must go against what has been ingrained in us since birth and be weak, vulnerable, and dependent upon God in life.

I think of one of my favorite verses in scripture, Mt 6:33, “Seek first the kingdom (of God) and his righteousness, and all these things will be given you besides.”  Every day, every moment of our lives we must look to God to carry us, guide us, speak through us and in doing so, we will dwell in His Kingdom, in Paradise.

Happy Feast of Christ the King everyone!

Work Hard, Persevere, TRUST

“Work hard and good things will come your way.”  This type of work ethic was instilled in me since childhood.  My parents worked hard and it was expected of me to do the same.  It seemed like there was always work to do and it still seems that way.  I look around and see leaves which need to be raked, laundry to be done, and there is always reading to do for school or a piece of artwork to be completed for a job.  I am sure you have your own list of things which need to be done.  So many of us are preparing our yards for a hopefully mild Pennsylvania winter, preparing our homes for the holidays, preparing for another work week, etc etc etc.

In today’s gospel reading (Luke 21: 5-19) the Lord tells us to not prepare to defend ourselves in the event others attack us for following Him. “I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking.”  Not preparing for conflicts is something which goes against basic logic especially for those of us with a solid work ethic built into us since childhood.  We have learned to always be prepared and if you are a boy scout being prepared is your motto.  Today, Jesus is asking us to trust in Him and not go overboard in preparing.

I think Jesus wants us to work, study, and be ready but in the end let Him have the reigns.  This is hard for perfectionists who want to be in control.  St Pio is well known for having said, “pray, hope, and don’t worry.”  Using this format, I say we need to work hard, have faith, and trust God will do the rest.  It is hard to learn when to say, “I’ve done enough” but it is a skill we must acquire.  The very last line in today’s gospel reading tells us we need to persevere.  One could easily say this contradicts the earlier statement to not prepare but Jesus is really telling us to persevere in trusting Him.

sabbath

One very good way to follow the advice in today’s reading is to practice the art of Sabbath keeping.  It is not just for our Jewish brothers and sisters but something all of us need to do for our mental, emotional and physical well-being.  I can highly recommend a book on Sabbath keeping written by Marva J. Dawn, “Keeping the Sabbath Wholly: Ceasing, Resting, Embracing, Feasting”.  I’ll warn you right now, it won’t be an easy thing to do but if you take the challenge I promise a transforming experience.  Dawn teaches how to put trust and perseverance into action which results in a life filled with peace and a greater awareness of God’s providential care.  I am going to revisit the practice.  If you want to join me, get in touch and we can support one another in our weekly adventure of Sabbath keeping.

Sabbath Blessings to all of you!

God of the Living

God is God of the living and not of the dead.

Have you ever felt like your heart is so worn out, battered and bruised, that you are just dead inside?  It is just at these times that God invites us to come alive in Him, to cut through all the conflicts in our lives and refocus on Him.

burntdeaddryheart

In today’s gospel reading (Lk 20:27-38) the Sadducees are seeking to trap Jesus in a web of technical details.  In response, Jesus turns everything around and reveals God’s love for ALL.  In our own lives we can often get caught in the mire of details as we try to figure out what is right and what is wrong.  At these times, it is best to keep our eyes focused on the Kingdom of God and His Righteousness, and then everything will fall into place.  Sometimes when we are stuck between two choices we need to look between the two and find God in the mix.  He will reveal himself to us by bringing our hearts to life.  Remember, God is God of the living and not of the dead.  Seek out those places where God dwells, where life flourishes, and you will find His Kingdom.

Ready, Set, Go!

These are the words I remember yelling so much as a child when my brothers, cousins, or other neighborhood kids would enter into races.  Things a little differently at the Olympics but the concept is the same and so is our spiritual life.

bg_readysetgo2Olympic athletes spend long grueling hours, day-after-day, preparing for that one chance to compete in the Olympic Games.   Not that I have ever lived in such a way but I am sure those athletes wake up early some days and wonder why they are doing this with their lives, wonder if the sacrifice is worth it.  I imagine it is hard to stay motivated unless they keep something to remind them of the anticipated reward.

Often times our prayer lives are exactly the same.  We pray, pray, pray, asking God for favors, imploring our case, begging to find peace in the midst of what we perceive to be insanity.  Sometimes it is easy to wonder if our prayers are truly worthwhile.  This is when we need to remember that the prayers we offer change us, not others.  The prayers we offer condition our hearts for eternity.  We recognize His Glory and offer gratitude, we review our day, our week and ask forgiveness for the times we have denied Him dwelling within others and within ourselves.  We present our needs before Him and most importantly, we rest, silently, in His presence.  So many times we forget about that restful and silent part of prayer.  This is when God is working on our hearts and speaking to us, often with a quiet whisper.  In the silence He is setting our disposition in accordance with His loving will.  In the steps of “Ready, Set, Go” we can’t skip of the “Set” step.  We can’t go from getting ready to pushing off with great energy without that step of silence.  Just look at those Olympic swimmers…they fidget, step up on the blocks, make sure their hands and feet are properly placed.  Then, after all that, they are set in place, quiet and still as statues, waiting for the starting buzzer.  When we “set” in place we too need to be silent and wait for the Lord to tell us to, “Go!”

When the Lord does tell us to “go,” He is giving us what we need to move toward eternity with Him.  We know we belong in eternity or else we wouldn’t have ventured into this race in the first place.  When we “go” with His loving will, we live our lives according to His wisdom and come closer to our entering into our eternal home.  In refusing to follow the basic, “Ready, Set, Go” rules in our spiritual journey leads us to doing our own will and we all know how things work out when we fail to recognize the love and power of God.

Let us take the advice of my wise pastor this morning (and I paraphrase), “Act like you belong to eternity and you will live according to the wisdom of God.  If you don’t you will just be doing things based upon your own will”

Being Outside

In today’s gospel reading (Luke 7: 11-17) we find Jesus traveling to the city of Nain where he ends up raising an only son of a widow.  At first glance it is easy to think on the surface and see that Jesus has saved the son.  We look a little deeper and see that Jesus has also saved the mother because without an adult male in the family the woman would be destitute.  Looking deeper still, we see that Jesus also saves us today and offers us the opportunity to be brought back into life (Him) each and every day.

I think it is pretty safe to assume all of us have experienced times when we have been the new person in the crowd, whether we were new to the school, it was our first day on the job, or even our first Sunday Mass at a new parish after we made a big move.  Regardless of our individual situations the feelings we encounter are often similar, feelings of nervousness, caution mixed with courage, and generous portions of daring combined with faith in God’s path set before us.  I imagine this is how the widow of Nain felt as she walked along with those carrying the body of her only son.  Her status in the community died with her son and as they walked outside the walls of the city she surely must have felt like she too had died.

The widow of Nain was cast off and rejected just like we are rejected by those who once shared significant parts of our lives with us.  It can easily feel like someone ripped your heart out of you and there is a big nothingness.  Where do you go?  What do you do?

Sometimes life can deal us some pretty lethal blows, relationships fall apart, jobs disintegrate, reputations dissolve, even our ability to think and do things that once came easy might be crumbling before our eyes.  Whatever losses we face in life we must take them as an opportunity to renew our faith and trust in the Lord Jesus.  When we hold onto Him and only Him, we can endure these losses without fear of what the future will bring.  We know that our loving Father who created us, who loved us into being, will always be present regardless of everything else falling apart.  Sure, we will be sad but the challenge is, and will always be, to take that sadness and use the energy to grow closer to the Lord as we lean only on Him.  Then the path becomes clear and we see the invitation He offers us and invitation to come closer into His heart and discover renewed life.

On the Path to Shalom

Are you a strong willed or stubborn person?  Do you find yourself struggling to let go of your will to embrace God’s will which leads to His peace?  I do.

Growing up in a German family, my parents believed in the value of hard work and instilled in my sister, brothers, and myself the trait of persistence.  True, this persistence can show itself as stubbornness but this trait, which my mother would often tell us that all Germans have, can be good and bad.  In today’s first reading (Acts 16:1-10) we see that Paul is persistent in seeking the will of the Spirit of Jesus.  He recognizes that when his preaching is not welcomed in a specific locale that Jesus doesn’t want him there.  Instead of being stubborn and insisting with his own will that these people will accept his preaching, Paul moves along until he is welcomed.  At the end of the reading we see Paul recognize that God had called them to preach in Macedonia and not in the province of Asia, Mysia, or Bithynia.

Paul teaches us to accept those times we are rejected as simply God nudging us on our journey.  So many times I know my stubbornness comes out and I resist those little nudges of the Lord.  I think when we resist those nudges we challenge the Lord.  He so often lets us go on our own way and all we find is resistance and frustration.  It must bring a smile to His face when we cry out to Him as we realize our foolishness in being stubborn and going our own way.  If only we would learn our lesson and lay down our own desires to simply follow Him.

winding-pathIn the Gospel reading (Jn 15:18-21), Jesus reinforces this lesson by telling us that we will meet with resistance, “no slave is greater than his master.” Surely, in our travels we will endure difficulty but if we only step back, look to Jesus, and let Him run the show, we will find oneness with Him and experience His peace.  No doubt, we will find shalom, that peace beyond the peace of this world.  We will find  Divine peace.

 

The Velveteen Rabbit, The Beatles, and Jesus

Last weekend my husband and I escaped the city for the day and went on an adventure which included good food and a fair amount of exploring.  As we were wandering around we came across a large fleatique.  We happily went inside to discover one of the largest collections of “stuff” we had seen in a long time.  There was booth upon booth of gently used and once passionately loved items.   Right in front of our eyes was anything one could ever not need and then some.  As I looked around, I thought of the Velveteen Rabbit, the Beatles, and Jesus.

pasadena-rose-bowl-flea-market-antiques

In today’s Gospel (John 13: 31-35) we hear Jesus give us a “new commandment: love one another.” But what does it really mean to love another person and do we truly follow that commandment in our lives?  There are a myriad of books and theories about love out there and it seems like almost everyone has an opinion on the best way to show your love, especially around Valentine’s Day.  When I was a kid I had a keychain that said “love is being best friends.”  It was given to me by my “best friend” at the time.  If I remember correctly we weren’t best friends that long and I honestly have not seen her since we graduated high school.

Our experience of love in childhood often sticks with us and teaches us lessons about the meaning of true love.  Do you remember the story of the Velveteen Rabbit? I can still picture that beat up rabbit, stuffing coming out of him, missing an eye, fur all matted down or simply worn away.  That rabbit experienced love.  It was not a love requiring prim and proper perfection but one that was deep and true, a love which wore on that rabbit like a glorious badge of honor.  The love the Velveteen Rabbit experienced brought him to life just as love brings us to life.  I think that is why Jesus asked us to love each other.

As I look around and see those who have expressed great love to me, I don’t see a love that could be on display in a china shop.  Instead, I see the real stuff of life.  I see the long hours holding broken hearts and wiping away tears, the laughter we all need at times, the quiet gentleness of times being faithfully present with no words spoken.  Bits of love, like these, keep us living and breathing.

It doesn’t take much to think about how Jesus wants us to give of ourselves, to authentically seek Him within others without falling to self-serving goals or bloated egos.  The love Jesus wants us to experience and give brings us to life and sustains us.  It is all we need….just like the Beatles would sing,

All you need is love, love
Love is all you need

Isn’t it amazing how love can be found in the oddest of places, even a fleatique.

Follow Me: A Lifetime Journey

In Today’s Gospel reading (John 21: 1-19) we encounter Jesus standing by a charcoal fire on the shore of the Sea of Tiberias, waiting for Peter and the other disciples. Jesus invites Peter to come to Him at the place they first met.  He invites Peter to renew his life, find his identity within Jesus and then move forward and follow Him.

Jesus also invites us on a lifetime journey through our own struggles and triumphs.  We are continually given opportunities to encounter the Lord in our daily lives, find Him dwelling within us, and have the strength to truly follow Him in our lives.  Today, I share with you a beautiful story of faith, love, and courage in the life-changing journey of Carol Glock.  Through her battle with cancer, Carol encountered Jesus, learned more about herself, and is continuing to follow Him.

1811317highres

Miracle Breast Cancer Cure Inspires Survivor to start her own Nonprofit

 Carol Glock, a breast cancer survivor from Pittsburgh Pennsylvania knows how taxing the journey to recovery can be for a family. “On June 6, 2013, I was diagnosed with Inflammatory Breast Cancer.  I was told that I had a 20% chance to survive,” said Glock.

“My tumor started as an eight-by-seven centimeter mass in my left breast. I was shocked.  There is no breast cancer in my family history and I was receiving periodic mammograms.  However, inflammatory breast cancer progresses rapidly, often in a matter of weeks or months.  When you are diagnosed with inflammatory breast cancer it’s typically at stage 3 or 4.”

Dr. Thomas Julian, a surgical oncologist and breast cancer specialist at Allegheny General Hospital (AGH), part of the Pittsburgh-based Allegheny Health Network, informed Glock about a clinical trial underway at the hospital of an investigational drug for inflammatory breast cancer, called Neratinib, that targets and blocks proteins that help cancer cells to grow. Once accepted and enrolled in the study, the results of the treatment were almost immediate for Glock.   On July 17, 2013, she was informed the tumor in her breast was nearly gone!!

“The doctors told me that inflammatory cancer grows fast but it also responds fast to treatment.   By August 28, 2013, my ultrasound did not show a mass in my breast.   My response to the treatment was very rapid and very good,” she said. After receiving chemotherapy, radiation and having a mastectomy, Glock was declared cancer free.

“I have a 90 % survival rate for 5 years and 80% after that.  I realize that because of the nature of my cancer it could come back again, but I plan to remain vigilant and put my trust in the excellent team of doctors that took care of me,” she said.

“I attribute a lot of recovery to my faith, hope and spiritual prayer life.  Prayers were requested from friends and relatives throughout the United States and Spain. Also, my parents had a plaque with my name placed in the St. Perigrine Garden (patron saint of cancer) in Boynton Beach, Florida.  Glock said her family’s incredible support made all the difference in her battle with cancer.

“My son, Justin, chose to live at home just so he could watch over me and help my husband.  My youngest son, Jonathan, made himself available for oncology appointments and was with my husband during my long surgery. My oldest son, Jason, also was wonderful throughout the entire difficult time,” she said. “My cancer treatment was excellent but key to my recovery was the prayer, love and support of my family and friends,” Glock said. 

“Due to the miracle of my cancer recovery,” Glock was driven to start her own nonprofit to educate and raise funds about breast cancer awareness and to encourage other breast cancer survivors to consider participating in a clinical trial.  For more information go to www.glockfoundation.org 

Jesus in our Hearts

(A reflection for St Paul of the Cross Passionist Province)

hearts

As springtime continues to sprout in the Pittsburgh area, signs of the presence of the Lord and new life are all around on this glorious Easter weekday.  The sun is shining, tulips and daffodils dot flowerbeds, even the bald eagles of Pittsburgh are tending to new life in their nests.  (Here is  link to the webcam for the Bald Eagle nest near Pittsburgh PA – http://www.pixcontroller.com/eagles/index.htm). The Lord is always revealing His presence to us just like He pointed out the evidence of His presence and love to the two disciples He walked with on the road to Emmaus.

Did you ever wonder why it was so hard for the disciples on the way to Emmaus to see Jesus walking with them, guiding their conversation?  When have you been blinded to His presence or even chosen to turn a blind eye to His movement in your life?  So many times in life we have what a dear friend calls an “ah ha” moment where we recognize Jesus in our lives.  Then, without warning, He vanishes and we wonder, “where did He go, where is Jesus?”

The resurrection challenges us to look for Jesus in our hearts and in the hearts of others.  We must venture back to that place where we first encountered Him so we can see Him dwelling anew in the dark recesses of our hearts.  We do this through recognizing His presence in the Eucharist, through sitting with Him in quiet prayer.  He is waiting for us in the Eucharist, coming to us, entering our hearts and dwelling closer than the air we breathe.

May we always seek Jesus and allow Him to enter our hearts, revealing His great love for us on the journey to oneness with Him.