Peace on Earth…or Not?

“I have come to set the earth on fire, and how I wish it were already blazing! There is a baptism with which I must be baptized, and how great is my anguish until it is accomplished! Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth? No, I tell you, but rather division. From now on a household of five will be divided, three against two and two against three; father will be divided against his son and a son against his father, a mother against her daughter and a daughter against her mother, a mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law” (Luke 12:49-53) 

“Do you think that I have come to establish peace on the earth?”

That’s Jesus talking, folks.  This reading was from Sunday Mass almost two weeks ago, but it’s been on my mind since I heard it.  People usually like to put forth a picture of Jesus as some sort of namby-pamby nice guy who wants us to tolerate everything and…of course…not judge.  Sounds to me like He wants us to pick a side and if we tick off someone in the process, no matter who it is…oh well.  

That’s rough sometimes, especially if you are someone who likes to avoid confrontation.  But, in the final analysis, when it comes right down to it, we need to decide who we’re going to serve.  Trust me I know from experience, you don’t even have to say anything and people will figure out who you are and if you’re not “going with the flow” (i.e. the culture, the politics, the mainstream) it’s going to…well, to put it bluntly…piss off someone.  It’s not easy to be misinterpreted, blamed, shamed or hated because of what you believe.  The conflict between loving everyone and living according to a set of principles and beliefs can cause sleepless nights and sadness.  

When I heard this reading, it was freeing.  Jesus Himself said that He has come to bring division…division.  It was a realization that it’s exactly right for separations to happen.  They’re supposed to happen.  It’s a given.  He said so.

Now, that being said…He didn’t say anything about hating those on the other side of the fence.  Loving others doesn’t always mean that you’re going to be meeting for coffee at Starbucks and having a nice, long chat.  It doesn’t mean that you can even be in the same room.  But, it does mean that you can wish them well and that God’s will be done in their life.  You can pray for them…in fact, maybe you should pray for them.  

It drives me a little crazy when people, some of whom aren’t exactly real familiar with Jesus or His teachings, like to tell you that He says we’re not supposed to judge.  “Judge not, lest ye be judged” is the one verse that everyone seems to remember when another is taking a stand.  Well, guess what?  It means that we’re not the ones responsible for deciding who is going to Heaven or hell.  That is God’s job alone.  Matthew 7:1-5 is more a commentary on hypocrisy.  In other words, you need to be aware of your own shortcomings before pointing out someone else’s.

 “Stop judging, that you may not be judged. For as you judge, so will you be judged, and the measure with which you measure will be measured out to you. Why do you notice the splinter in your brother’s eye, but do not perceive the wooden beam in your own eye? How can you say to your brother, ‘Let me remove that splinter from your eye,’ while the wooden beam is in your eye? You hypocrite, remove the wooden beam from your eye first; then you will see clearly to remove the splinter from your brother’s eye.”  Matthew 7:1-5

I don’t see anything there about not being able to call a sin a sin.  

If you choose to follow where you believe you are being led, be prepared not to be understood or liked.  It goes with the territory.   Be not afraid….

Crossdressing camp for boys as young as six draws criticism from Christian leaders |

Crossdressing camp for boys as young as six draws criticism from Christian leaders |

This makes me so desperately sad and feeling hopeless of ever having our world go back to a sense of normalcy.  This is child abuse.

What is bad is good and what is good is bad…God help us.


Costly Weddings Could Be Crippling for New Marriages

Costly weddings could be crippling for new marriages :: Catholic News Agency (CNA).

I read the above referenced article this morning with great interest.  This notion has been nagging at me and this article hits all the nails on the head.

“I think the celebrities have set the bar very, very high with all these hyped-up, high profile, highly photographed weddings, very extravagant events.” When couples want the “big, dream wedding,” he added, “often it’s very unrealistic.”

This…this right here!  Look, I’m not begrudging anyone the money they make or how they spend it, but this attitude has more to do than with just weddings.  It’s the problem with this whole country!  We give too much attention to celebrities…some of whom have less than admirable lifestyles…than to forming our own consciences and values.  Plus, not having a firm grasp on the reality of our own state in life, blurs what’s really important on this very momentous occasion.

I love to watch a Say Yes to the Dress marathon on TLC as much as anyone else.  And please…I’m a big fan of David Tutera’s My Fair Wedding.  I think most girls dream of their wedding day and want to feel like a princess.  But maybe there should be a TLC show that depicts preparing for the marriage as well.  This portion of the event is sadly lacking in wedding preparation coverage.  No amount of table arrangements and costly dinners will help you be ready to share your life with another human being.

A wedding is a day…a marriage is a lifetime.  I think it’s less than smart to start off your life together deeply in debt for a party.  Maybe it’s time for a turn around to more thoughtful, more meaningful weddings than the big blowout, let’s-impress-all-our-friends extravaganza.  Life takes twists and turns that no one expects and a little thought to how you might face them would better prepare you than a filet mignon dinner.

As long as we’re watching TV, flip over to HGTV some time and watch another marathon of House Hunters.  Couple after couple are putting off marriage in order to buy a house together.  The emphasis is on the “thing” rather than on their lives.  This always makes me sad.  A girl says yes, not to the dress, but to the 4 bedroom house that they can barely afford.  And you can almost see the hope in her eyes that now that the house has been purchased, the ring can’t be far behind.  If they are expecting to spend the average $30,000 on a wedding and make the house payment…good luck.  The order is all confused.

There is nothing wrong with a small, intimate gathering of family and close friends.  Back in my parents’ day, these were more common and everyone went back to the family home for a reception after church.  I was lucky in that my parents paid for my wedding, but even then, it wasn’t extravagant.  However, more people came up to my father and told him how much they enjoyed themselves.  The emphasis was on being with the people we cared about and less on trying to dazzle them.

As a contrast, check out this article and the photo of a couple that has gone viral.  The groom wanted to take a few moments to pray with his bride before their wedding.  If you read their story, I’d say that they really have a handle on what’s important.  Virginia Couple Prays Before Wedding

I look at my only daughter who is just 14 and I get sucked into the dream of a splashy wedding too.  I want her to be happy on her special day and for her to feel like a princess.  But, I don’t know that I will be in a position to give her those things.  What I hope I can give her is the idea that the person she promises herself to and their life together will mean more to her than a $10,000 dress that she’ll wear only once.

A Reason for Hope, Part 4

It was three years after learning about Medjugorje and starting on my “faith journey” that I finally felt called to go there.  Funny this calling came in the middle of the Bosnian War in 1993.  Things were quiet in the village, but make no mistake…there was a conflict.  Some UN troops had even taken up residence in the village.

It didn’t seem to matter, I felt called to go.  Interestingly, I was accused of just going to “see” signs and wonders.  I don’t think you go to a war zone just to see signs and wonders.  What did seem true was that after everything that had happened to me because of Medjugorje, I felt homesick.  Homesick for a place I’d never been physically, but had been in my heart.  And I felt the need to make the pilgrimage to say “thank you” to Jesus and His mother for putting me on the right path for my life.

I had never been away from my husband and kids and I think I traveled alone once in college to see a friend.  I was not an adventurous sort at all, but I set out with a pilgrimage group for 12 days away from home and security.

The pilgrimage was internal as well as external.  Removed from all the comforts of home and with no radio or TV to speak of, it was easy to reflect, to think and to pray. Medjugorje felt like home away from home and so peaceful…even passing tanks on the way into town.   Most of the experience was so personal, that I wouldn’t even know how to share it if I wanted.  I think I learned a lot about myself that I probably use to this day.

The first and second nights there I lay down to go to sleep.  Sleep didn’t come easy.  Granted, I was away from home in a strange place.  However, there was more to it.  Once I settled into bed and tried to drift off to sleep, I felt as if there was a battle going on for me.  I don’t know how else to explain it.  The feeling was so strong that on the second night, I sat up in bed and said (quietly so as not to wake my roommate), “That’s enough!”  From that time on, I felt the sensation of protection so strongly.  I had to sit up and look at the wall behind my bed, because it felt as if someone was standing guard there.  Someone probably was.

There were so many ways to pray in Medjugorje…it’s almost as if everything you did was a prayer…climbing Mt. Krizevac and Apparition Hill, going to Mass, walking through the fields, even shopping for souvenirs to bring a little bit of the place home with you…everything.

One sunny afternoon, a few of us were back at the pilgrim house where we were staying having a rest.  I was in the kitchen with Fr. C, our spiritual director, and my roommate.  A few of the girls on the trip were outside in the yard talking.  All of a sudden their conversation took on a more excited tone and one of the girls yelled, “Hurry!  Come quick!”

We ran out to where they were standing only to find them staring up into the sky…at the sun…and pointing.  About all they could say was, “The sun!”

*** Warning:  Do not try this at home! ***

I had heard stories of pilgrims in Medjugorje seeing the sun spin and dance and do all sorts of things the sun isn’t supposed to do.  This was much like the miracle of the sun at Fatima.  I hadn’t even thought about those stories since I’d been in the village…until now.

I took a quick peek in the direction they were pointing, but I mean…come on, everyone knows you’re not supposed to look at the sun.  One of the girls told me to give it one second, so I did.  The sun was quickly veiled by what looked like a host that we use for Communion.  Clouds of pink, purple and gold swirled around it.  After a few seconds, the “host” appeared to crack down the middle, as the priest does to it during the Consecration at Mass.  Then three dots appeared on one half and suddenly a Cross came forward away from the host.  I stood there watching this for a couple of minutes, dumbstruck.  You can’t, you shouldn’t look at the sun.  But here I was…looking at the sun.  I only turned away because more dots started to appear and in my mind I got nervous that I had now done irreparable damage to my eyes.  The others told me that the dots and the Cross formed a Rosary after I had looked away.

I only relate this because to be honest…I loved (and still do) hearing what other people experience.  Was that the most important part of my trip?  No.  But it does show that God works outside the world that we as humans know.  I didn’t need proof that He existed, but I looked at it more as a little gift for us that day.  Just because…

Twelve days in Our Lady’s boot camp and it was time to leave.  My heart and head were full of so much, I knew it would be more than just clothes I’d be unpacking when I got home.  Re-entry back into our American way of life was a shocker at first.  Everything seemed so loud!  But I was so happy to see the smiling faces of my family at the airport.  And I was happy that I had done this thing, not only for myself, but for all of us.  It just cemented all that we had started to do as a family.

Conversion is an ongoing process.  Life goes on.  People change, situations change.  Over the course of the last 20 years or so, bad things have happened and joyous things have too.  But at the center of it all…even when we may have slacked off in a few ways here and there…has been God and our faith.  Some days you realize it’s the only thing you have on which you can rely.  I’ve made people unhappy because of my beliefs and lost a few people too.  In the end, I can’t deny that I am the way I am because I said “yes” to something I believe with all my heart is true.  God is eternal.  I think I’ll store my treasure and my hope there.

A Reason for Hope, Part 3

I’ve heard it said that when a person finds conversion that it is like they are riding a bike with training wheels.  All the signs and wonders that accompany the conversion are helps in getting that person up and running.  Then, when that person has put the foundations under them to sustain their faith, God sometimes removes the “goodies” and it’s time to pedal that bike on their own.  I’d say that has definitely been my experience.  At the beginning of my conversion, there were so many “God-incidences”…things that could only be explained as God acting in the moment.  As time has passed though, those days of unexplained happenings have gotten fewer and further between or are not quite as strong in intensity as they once were.  But I know now for a fact and I believe with all my heart that Jesus is really there and my faith is true.  But those incidences are good to “ponder in my heart” sometimes and serve as reminders to me.

In the beginning, when I was soaking up information like a sponge, I had read a book about angels that I wouldn’t recommend now.  For the most part, it was just a book of angel stories.  It wasn’t the best thing I’d read, but I finished it.  At the end of the book…I’ve forgotten, thankfully, the anecdote in its entirety…it had something to do with the Buddhist concept of spinning out into “nothingness.”  Nothingness?  I had been spending all my time lately reading and praying and having a relationship with a God I believed was “somewhere” and that someday I would hopefully get to spend the rest of eternity with Him.  Nothingness?  This little short blurb in a book made me so sad and strangely, made me doubt all that I had come to know.  So I did the only thing I could…I asked God, “Is everything I’ve come to believe true?”

And from outside myself, I literally heard a voice say, “Believe…it’s all true.”  The doubts washed away, I was at peace again and that book found its way out of my house.

When you are the mother of two rambunctious little boys, any kind of  break in the action is welcome…even doing dishes alone.  That’s how I found myself one evening, while Daddy had taken the boys on some outing.  With no TV or radio, just blessed silence, I stood at the sink.  I worked away at the pile of dishes with little on my mind.  Suddenly, I felt complete peace and not at all alone.  I stood there feeling completely loved and had I turned around, would not have been at all surprised to see Christ standing there…that’s how strong the presence was.  And then…gone.

One of the gifts I learned of was the scent of roses that was often associated with the Blessed Mother.  I hadn’t experienced it myself, but thought that must be the most amazing thing.  One of my prayers at the time was that my husband would join me in my devotional life. It wasn’t that he didn’t believe, he just hadn’t really come to experience things for himself.  So one evening while he and the boys were busy with some project in the garage, I was doing a little vacuuming in the house.  All of a sudden in my bedroom it smelled like a florist shop!  I hadn’t sprayed anything and there were no fresh flowers anywhere in the house.  The scent of roses was unmistakable and so strong.  I didn’t know what to do…I wanted to stand there and keep smelling it, but I wanted to go get my husband.  Getting a witness won!

I ran to the garage to get my husband.  I just told him to come in the house and refused to tell him why.  He followed me to the bedroom with the kids trailing behind him.  As soon as he hit the doorway, he said, “Roses.”  Soon after he was confirmed and received his First Communion.  Our faith became a “family thing” and not just something individual.

Before the “training wheels” were taken off, God had one more interesting road I was going to navigate.

To be continued…