Saturday, April 30, 2016

Michele Morris Update and Exciting News about Her One-Act Play "Teresita"

This is what the book's cover will look like.

Where Is She Now?

Michele Morris has returned to Richmond, Virginia.  After an adventure in following God’s will that led her clear across the country to Carmel, she has continued praying and discerning the question she began to ask God many years ago “What do You want of me?” 

Her devotion to Christ, being a person of prayer, and seeking His will in all things have remained.  It looks a little different than she’d expected, but that’s often been the case.  In recent months, she has been led by the Lord to seek publication for her original play about St. Teresa of Avila. 

“Teresita” ends with a message of needing to move forward to discover and finish discerning if the life of a Carmelite was indeed where St. Teresa was being called to spend the rest of her life.  Michele continues her own discernment having journeyed to Carmel and back. 

The parallels between Michele’s life and St. Teresa of Avila's are fascinating.  Now many others will get a taste of the highs and lows of vocational discernment in the life of one of the most popular Doctors of the Church through “Teresita.”

About the Play

Known as Teresita to her friends and family, nineteen-year-old Teresa de Cepeda y Ahumada asks for her father's permission to enter Carmel of the Incarnation.  He says no. In a passionate and decisive moment, Teresa leaves home in the middle of the night without her father’s knowledge.  Teresa reflects on her life's experiences that led her to this imminent decision.     

The Buzz about “Teresita”

"Michele has produced a drama that is born from a heart filled with love for St. Teresa of Avila. She captures the faith of the great Saint whose story is fitting in this age of a profound renewal of the church. She acts with a conviction inspired by Teresa."
~ Fr. James F. Kauffmann, S.T.B., S.T.L., M.A., S.S.L. 

“Ms. Morris in “Teresita” exceeded our expectations with the depth of the story, the poignancy of the message, and the sheer entertainment value. She puts a human face on this Saint whose lofty reputation can have a dehumanizing effect. I highly recommend her show for audiences of children and adults alike. For us, one performance was not enough.” 
                                      ~ Fr. Robert Novokowsky, FSSP

"Michele Morris has created a compelling and important script and performs it with dynamic sincerity.   Her one-woman play, "Teresita," reaches out to us and penetrates into the depths of what each of us define as "faith." I am so pleased to recommend that you experience this show!"
~ Larry Gard, Artistic Director, Carpenter Science Theatre Company 

"Teresita" is going to be published as a book by Leonine Publishers.  To see the upcoming book in the Leonine bookstore, click here and scroll to the bottom.    

Special thanks to my Glory Bee Friend!" 😁🐝     Love, Michele

Friday, April 29, 2016

Books Are One of My Primary Love Languages

I've read The 5 Love Languages book by Gary Chapman, but I'm utterly convinced that BOOKS ARE ONE OF MY PRIMARY LOVE LANGUAGES! The above graphic I created is made up of only a shelf or so full of the thousands of books I've read and really enjoyed. People who know me well know I am a voracious reader. If I love and care about you, then I recommend or give you good books to read. Those who know me well and love me recommend, lend, or give me good books to read.  

I no longer have copies of the vast majority of these books, because my habit when I absolutely love a book it so to give it to a family, friend, and/or even an acquaintance who has shared an interest in a topic that a particular book I have read treats with tremendous accuracy, hopefulness, and or candor. 

Since I rarely reread books unless they are so profound and life-changing I feel the need to soak up their wisdom through a second read-through, then the compelling desire to share the love by passing it on is greater than letting it collect dust when I already have a stack of great books I still want to read on my shelves. Are you like that, too?

How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from Someone Who Knows by Jacqueline Novak

I was too offended by much of the rudeness and lewdness in How to Weep in Public: Feeble Offerings on Depression from Someone Who Knows.  I read up to page 101 before becoming so bothered I couldn’t bring myself to continue.  I had hoped to be entertained by Jacqueline Novak’s take on the misery of depression, but the vulgar language and excessive sexual references made me feel annoyed and irritated instead of amused. 

I get that she’s a popular mainstream, not-at-all-religious comedian and the shock factor is what gets to some people, but I wasn’t feeling it.  I’m sure that watching several of Christian comedian and musician Tim Hawkins’ hilarious Youtube videos this week also influenced my visceral dislike for Novak’s approach.     

I’ll admit a few of the items on her Top lists included made me smile, but I never found myself actually laughing (which to me is the mark of a book that is truly funny).  At least, she was brutally honest in the Introduction:
“What This Book Will Not Provide:
  •        Useful exercises
  •        Insights of lasting value
  •        Relief from depression
  •        Help of any kind” (p. 9)

I get that this is humor and a parody, but skimming quickly through the rest of the book only to discover that my favorite flavor of Ben and Jerry’s has been discontinued was more than I could handle.  One of the primary ways I’ve experienced significant relief from depression has been to make some rather drastic changes to my diet, so I rarely eat dairy products, chocolate, or lots of processed sugar these days, but knowing that I won’t get to so much as glance at my former ice cream fix on the frozen foods aisle seems cruel.

If I were knee-deep in self-help books and languishing in the lingo of depression but had never sat with someone who was feeling suicidal to keep them from ending their lives or considered the possibility of my own early demise, I might feel differently.  

I wouldn’t recommend this book for those who are suffering from severe depression or in the midst of caring for someone who does.  I personally have found books on the topic by Henri Nouwen, Kathryn J. Hermes, FSP, Joyce Rupp, and Nick Vujicic significantly more interesting, encouraging, practical, and enjoyable to read.  (Nouwen is a priest, the next two are consecrated women religious, and the last one is an upbeat, humorous gentleman author and speaker who was born without arms or legs).  Their faith-based approaches resonate with me and left me with three of the four anecdotes that Novak’s book lacked: "useful exercises, insights of lasting value, and help..."

I received a free copy of How To Weep in Public from Blogging for Books in exchange for an honest review.  Got a blog?  Like reading and reviewing books, check out their program here. 

Monday, April 25, 2016

The Things Lily Knew; Things Unknown to Lily; A Little Like Lily (books 4-6 in a series) by Sherry Boas

The Things Lily Knew is the 4th novel in the trilogy.  Wait, what?  How does that work?  Sherry Boas intended for her novels about the profound impact Lily, a female with Down syndrome, has on everyone around her to be a trilogy.  However, the author, who has an adopted daughter with Down syndrome, missed writing about Lily so much, she penned three more novels linking the lovable leading lady with family and friends.

The emphasis on the immeasurable value of each person is more important than ever these days when some studies have shown that when women are given a prenatal diagnosis of Down syndrome, as often as 90% of the time they abort the child.

I am awed by how fluidly and convincingly Boas tells the story of a precious life well worth living while simultaneously addressing the many questions and concerns parents often have when faced with what is commonly referred to as “a poor pregnancy diagnosis.”  The demands on patience, time, energy, and effort for parents of persons with disabilities are often heavy, but none of them outweigh the tremendous love that abounds.
Here are my reviews of the First Three in the Trilogy Turned Series of Six: Until Lily (1st book), Wherever Lily Goes (2nd book), Life Entwined with Lily's (3rd book)

Things Unknown to Lily (5th book in a series) has the depth, rich backstory, and character development I liked best about the Lily Trilogy.  Fewer characters developed at much greater length made this book more enjoyable and similar to the style and substance of the first three books. 

Dealing with the struggles of living with and/or suffering from depression are all-too-familiar for many people.  Studies show that approximately 1 in 5 adults in the U.S. experience mental illness in a given year.  That means the chances are better than average that you, a spouse, child, co-worker, and/or friend of yours is presently struggling with a potentially devastating invisible illness.

That aspect of things and the challenges it poses in a marriage are ones that we have experienced profoundly.  To read, one of my personal reflections on depression , check out Depression Is a Taste of the Agony in the Garden.

The book engages the reader through the characters’ common, though rarely said aloud questions (Will anyone ever really love me who gets to know me intimately?  What have I gotten myself into marrying someone who suffers from depression?  Will things ever get better?) They grapple with the questions that most people ask at some point in life about self-worth, relationships, intimacy, pain, suffering, vocations, and marriage.  The details, conversations, conflicts, and decisions illustrate that life is a complex journey with many ups and downs.  The struggles and suffering are real, but the triumphs and healing are, too. 

The innocent, honest, open style of Daisy’s thoughts, feelings, and actions create a moving portrait of what it might be like to be inside the mind of someone with Down syndrome.      

Within the structure of a personal memoir, there are several passages included from the viewpoint of other characters.  This gives us some additional perspective on what’s happening while providing the opportunity to read between the lines.  Oftentimes, we can deduce more about major aspects of the story, such as the severity of her father’s illness, from what others say and do than we can solely from Daisy’s thoughts. 

We are shown in a way that is real and respectful that persons with Down syndrome have the same emotions, challenges, and experiences with heartache that the rest of us do.  The dynamics of having a crush, being close friends with someone, feeling jealous when a loved one spends time with someone else instead of you are universal themes with which most of us can identify. 

I love the covers of these books!  They are quite beautiful, striking, and tie the books together well.  I’m very much into photography, art, and design as well as writing, proofreading, and editing, so that’s another thing I appreciated about the series.

I recommend the Lily series to anyone who thinks or would like to be convinced that each person’s life is precious and affects so many other lives well beyond our ability to imagine.  I received free copies of these three books in exchange for an honest review of each.

To read more about author Sherry Boas, click here.

To find out more about the Lily Series or to purchase your own copies of the books, click here.

Sunday, April 17, 2016

The God I Believe in...

The American Catholic Almanac: A Daily Reader of Patriots, Saints, Rogues, and Ordinary People Who Changed the United States by Brian Burch & Emily Stimpson

The American Catholic Almanac is a fascinating look at the brave people, historical circumstances, and stalwart faith that shaped the Catholic Church in the United States.  

I thoroughly enjoyed reading about this motley crew of individuals recognized for their holiness as well as their boldness for Christ.  A masterful mix of well-known figures and lesser-known characters united to bring the faith to this country and keep it going. 

This is not a mere jog through the litany of saints.  Though a number of individuals written about in these pages have received this distinction from the Vatican, many of these men and women haven’t yet and may never make it into the latest edition of Saint of the Day.  

The variety of reasons a certain person or incident is chosen for each particular day of the year adds intrigue and diversity.  Not only birthdays, death dates, and saints’ feast days are mentioned and recorded in this daily reader, but also many other 24-hour periods significant to history in America.  Some other entries mark the anniversaries of when a battle was reenacted, prestigious Catholic colleges and universities began a conference, a personal letter was penned, Prohibition ended, a new order of religious women came into being, and the elevation of a cathedral to the status of basilica. 

It was fun not knowing what to expect for each day, priest or laity, patriot or rogue, commoner or coincidence.  As unexpected as much of America’s history, this tome illustrates the excitement and danger embodied in the Catholic quest for eternal salvation.      

I would recommend this book for history buffs, well-read Catholics, as well as those who are just getting to know the overarching attributes characteristic of the usual suspects for sainthood.

I received a free copy of The American Catholic Almanac from Waterbrook Multnomah in exchange for an honest review to share on their Blogging for Books site.  To purchase, The American Catholic Almanac, click here.  If you love free books, reading, and have a blog, you can sign up here.

Thursday, April 14, 2016

Playing with a Few of My Favorite Things: Writing, Photography & Art

I'm almost always writing, taking photos, and creating art, but I don't always share what I'm working on or mix these things together.  I figured it would be fun to combine a few of my favorite things and see what happens.  

About the image: This photograph is one I took in Rochester, New York, of a sunset over Lake Ontario.  I was out on the pier accessible through Ontario Beach Park.

About the message: Lessons God has taught me that I've needed to be reminded of more than once.

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories

This book by Planned Parenthood’s 2008 Employee of the Year is worth reading regardless of what “side” you’re on.  Who knows what actually happens in an abortion clinic?  Those women who have worked there themselves.

Abby Johnson is a post-abortive former clinic manager of a large Planned Parenthood in Texas.  Like many, she began her career set on helping women.  The longer she worked in the industry, the more she witnessed that weighed heavily on her. 

She’s been on both sides of the fence, and now she’s built a gate so others disillusioned by the lies they were told and deeds they have done can find an easier way out. 

In my experience, people who are suffering most often want someone to listen and be present to them.  The young, the old, the frightened, the bold, the greatest and the least would like someone to acknowledge their existence and remain with them in their time of need.

The many examples of hope and compassion inspired me the most about The Walls Are Talking.  This is not an easy book to read.  I knew that going in.  I thought I would be shocked by the stories in these pages.  Some of the details included are truthful in a way that is at times both gory and horrifying.  Over the past several years, I have read numerous articles and studies in print and online, including the book Unplanned , and I have watched several documentaries on the abortion industry.  Two of the most powerful documentaries I've seen are Changing Sides and Bloodmoney (narrated by Dr. Alveda King). I would have felt really blown away had I not read or viewed any insider information in advance.      

You are not alone if you have ever thought: I have to hide my pain.  I can never tell anyone what I’ve done. I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I have to pretend that everything is fine.  My heart and life are irreparably broken.  No one else understands or cares about what I’m going through. 

After doing some research that left her reeling, my mom became an active pro-life advocate.  Her passion for prayer and her dedication to helping women and children has always inspired me.  Over the past several years, I have watched her lead our local 40 Days for Life campaign and support a number of local organizations who help women faced with unplanned pregnancies get the support and information they need.  

Through those outreach ministries I became involved in with my mom, I came to know one of the couples in our community who was very close to post-abortive women.  Kay Marie and Joe Geiger headed up Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreats in our area for many, many years.   

Have you ever talked with someone who made you feel as if you were the only person in the world who mattered at that moment?  Kay Marie Geiger had the ability to listen and be fully present to the person in front of her.  I haven’t met many people who are as loving, gentle, and compassionate as she was.    

It is my sincere hope and prayer that more people who have had an abortion or who have worked in the abortion industry would have the blessing of meeting people like Kay Marie and Joe Geiger.  We could use more people listening and whispering in the midst of the shouting and doubting.  Forgiveness and healing are possible.  It’s never too late.  Rachel’s Vineyard post-abortion healing retreats are still happening in our area and around the world.  Find one near you. 

Abby Johnson’s conversion is expanded upon in her best-selling book Unplanned.  This follow-up to her conversion story chronicles her own experiences working for Planned Parenthood as well as those of many other women who were employed in clinics across the country.  The book is well-written, clear, concise, and includes a variety of insights into the abortion industry.  For more information about The Walls Are Talking: Former Abortion Clinic Workers Tell Their Stories or to order your own copy, click here.  

To read more about the nonprofit organization Abby Johnson started to help abortion clinic workers, check out And Then There Were None (ATTWN)

Tuesday, March 29, 2016

Happy Easter! Christ is Risen! Alleluia!

Prints of Grace © 2016 Trisha Niermeyer Potter

I must stay I have thoroughly enjoyed seeing all of the adorable family and Easter egg hunt photos with the kids that everyone has posted on Instagram, Facebook, and their blogs.  Since my husband and I don't have any cute kids dressed in their Easter best, I figured I would attempt to create something prettier to look at than either of us did this past weekend.

Kevin went to the Easter Vigil and brought me Communion, because I'm still sick, then we both spent all day Sunday at home in our pajamas (which also aren't cute, festive, or anything like that, so there will be no photos).   

I did all of the readings for the lengthy Mass at home by myself while he was gone.  I had a decent time of prayer and reflection, but I missed being present in the flesh with the St. Michael congregation for the celebration of God’s love, the Scriptural summary of salvation history, and the rejoicing over new members coming into the Church and the renewal of our own Baptismal promises.  Kevin said that the music ministry was amazing, as always.  Deacon Andy’s homily was one of the best he had heard. 

After spending the past several years espousing the benefits of observing the Easter Triduum by participating at church in the three-part over three days observation of the holiest days of the year, I missed the Triduum plus at both parishes Kevin and I have been attending for Mass.  At least, Kevin made it to two out of three nights. 

Upon rereading entries from past Holy Weeks, I realized Kevin was sick and missed everything church-related last year.  Apparently, the holiday tradition we most need to break is the Potter Paschal Plague.  Eventually, we will make it back to Mass together and will rejoice that Christ has indeed risen from the dead, and we have both risen from the bed.

May you and your loved ones have a glorious Easter season filled with abundant reminders of God's unconditional love!  
        Blessings, Trisha & Kevin

A Note on the Artwork: I created the above graphic using three of the coloring pages from:

Coloring Art Therapy Magazine 48 Prints Jenean Morrison Wanderlust

I colored these this week while home resting and trying to get over being sick with a pretty nasty upper respiratory infection.  I used Sharpie markers to color each design, altered the colors slightly to make them look a little brighter and more like Spring in a Word .doc, cropped images closely, and made them oval-shaped to look like Easter eggs, then added text and popped the whole thing into Paint to save it.

Monday, March 28, 2016

Not Our Normal Lent

Not Our Normal Lent
Prints of Grace © 2016 Trisha Niermeyer Potter
Media: water color paints & colored pencil

I never once got to the Stations of the Cross and only made it to Reconciliation once during Lent.  Sickness, injury, stress, exhaustion, and being in survival mode in some ways brought me closer to Christ’s suffering.  I had ample time and occasion to consider how circumstances outside of His choosing and mine would affect the choices I made, how I responded to different situations, and how I would treat people, particularly those who were also struggling. 

My meditation on God’s mercy and Christ’s sacrifice led me to thoughts of reconciling with my father and being one of his main caregivers during the last few years of his life.  I also thought about my Godfather’s life and prayerful legacy, which I am certain greatly influenced my healed relationship with my dad.

I never once made it over to the abortion clinic to join my mom and other prayer warriors as part of 40 Days for Life this spring.  I prayed from home for them and had it on my heart quite often to pray for a couple I know and love facing an unplanned pregnancy.

Some years I have created homemade Easter cards to give and send out.  That didn’t happen this year.  I thoroughly enjoyed watching the kids where I worked make brightly colored Easter eggs with the materials I brought in from home.  They had fun hiding them in different places and getting their friends and me to find them.  My favorite was the Easter egg with a little Easter bunny popping out of the top that a clever elementary school girl taped so it was hanging upside down under one of the lunch tables.    

When I mentioned being bummed that I have been too sick to participate in the Easter Triduum this year, my mom responded that I’m living it.  I hadn’t really thought about it that way.  This Lent has certainly been a time of trial.  Though I didn’t give up desserts (my diet is already pretty strict) or commit to an additional l daily prayer practice, I kept in mind that the things I was doing to take care of and/or be present to others counted as my Lenten observance, especially when it took every last ounce of energy I had remaining. 

Much of my "community outreach" and “volunteering” has been chosen for me lately.  When I have seen a need that others aren’t meeting, I try to step in particularly when children, the elderly, and/or those in fragile health are concerned.  

I've always been a stickler for safety as my parents and employers will attest.  I try to be proactive in addressing safety and health issues.  I'm a firm believer that children shouldn't be crash test dummies, but sometimes there are just too many for me to do anything about without some significant assistance and cooperation.  More on that later.  

Throughout the Christmas and Lenten seasons, I was beating myself up over not visiting our neighbor more often when she was in rehab after breaking her hip, but then it dawned on me that I was there for her when she really needed me. She and the EMTs didn't think she'd broken anything when she fell a couple days before Christmas, so they offered to put her in her bed and leave.  She is already disabled, lives alone, and they'd had to break into her apartment to get to her, because the door had been locked, so I voted against that option.  I insisted she go to the hospital and said I'd go with her.  It turns out she did break her hip and needed emergency surgery.      

Kevin and I both made it to Mass on Palm Sunday, but I haven't been back to church since then. I was determined to make it through my last week at a job without calling in.  Fortunately, during Holy Week, they were kind enough where I worked to let me have a bit longer breaks during my split shift so I could go home nap/rest and eat before working the rest of the day.  I know I couldn’t have made it through otherwise.  Having to be at work at by 6:45am and not off until between 5-6:30pm, I would have collapsed without that extended mid-day reprieve. 

Lord, thank You for opportunities to serve you, occasions to pray, and sacrifices to offer beyond what I felt up to committing to at the beginning of Lent.  Please help me continue to be open to the promptings of the Holy Spirit this Easter season.

Sunday, March 13, 2016

Laughing Together Series (Vol. 10) What Not to Wear to Church or When Offering to Help Others Get Dressed

I know it’s been a while since I’ve posted one of these as part of my Laughing Together Series.  My husband Kevin and I have continued LAUGHING TOGETHER in the midst of our busy lives.  Having a sense of humor we can share is part of what keeps us relatively sane in trying times. 

Though my first nine posts in the series focus on the early years of our dating relationship, I figured it would be entertaining and appropriate to mix in some of our latest adventures, notable quotes, and funny occurrences for this and future posts. 

Kevin usually has to work both Saturday and Sunday at the retail store in Short Pump where he is employed as a member of the inventory team.  He tends to walk between 6-11 miles on the days he’s scheduled, so he typically comes home feeling pretty exhausted.  Lately, due to a severe case of tendonitis, he has also been in pain.  It’s been particularly difficult for him to grasp things in his left hand.  (Fortunately, although he’s left-handed, he still did awesome on all of his final exams and the courses for his last semester drafting and design degree.  I'll include more about that in another post).

It has posed a painful challenge for him to dress and undress, tie his shoes, etc. due to the tendonitis.  He also is so worn out by the time he gets home from work on Saturday or Sunday that he eats, collapses on the couch to rest for a bit, then he joins me for Mass, rarely having changed out of his work uniform when it's time to leave.  I’m not sure why it bothers me that he wears this outfit to Mass, but it does.

Trying to be both compassionate and proactive, I offered to help.  “I’ll help you get dressed for church when I get back.”

He gave me a sideways glance with raised eyebrows.  It was then I realized my offer might not seem quite as thoughtful considering this is what I had on at that moment:

The peach and white paisley long underwear type top is meant to be worn what looks like inside out
and is only one size too big for me.  The pajama pants are three or four sizes too big,
but so comfy I still wear them at home. Yes, my just-chilling-at-home attire
is often this clashing, tacky, and entertaining.

For obvious reasons, we both burst out laughing. 

True to my word, I came home in enough time to assist Kevin in changing out of his uniform before church.  I found him hurriedly getting dressed. 

This sort of begs the question: can I dress him up or should I just take him out? (pun intended)

Sunday, February 21, 2016

The Story of My Life Summed Up in One Photo

For much of my life, I have had people close to me who are the die-hard, rose colored glasses wearing, Pollyanna brand of optimists.  They are usually extroverts, promoters, in some kind of denial about an aspect of their lives, often involving mental or physical health and basic safety. Some of these individuals have been prone to delusions of grandeur.  A number of them are considered great salespeople.  

I have found it difficult, bordering on impossible to get through to someone who is proclaiming from the rooftops that: EVERYTHING IS AWESOME! when things are actually a dangerous, chaotic disaster waiting to or already in the process of happening.

It's difficult to get through to someone who does not want to hear or see that anything is amiss.  The first step towards recovery is admitting that you have a problem. 

I have spoken up about and/or intervened in several different situations and circumstances involving everything from abuse, addiction, alcoholism, anorexia, neglect, academic and developmental concerns, mistreatment of the elderly in nursing homes and rehabilitation centers, to special needs neighbors who live alone when they are no longer safely able to do so.

In the above photo, the magnetic alphabet letters on the board below the sign form the essence of the message from me to the powers that be: HELP CRAZYTOWN QUIK

Whether speaking to parents, counselors, social workers, neighbors, employers, nurses, doctors, co-workers, family members, friends, public health and safety professionals, or law enforcement agencies, I have always felt it necessary to say something when someone's life, health, and/or basic safety are in jeopardy.  The younger, older, sicker, and/or more disabled the victim, the more likely I am to say something.

This is a question I have often grappled with and may continue to do so throughout my life: When is it my legal, moral, and/or ethical responsibility to speak up and when do I have the right to remain silent?

I've done all I can reasonably do for now, so it's time for the serenity prayer:

Tuesday, February 16, 2016

Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It)

I found Toxic Charity to be a very thought-provoking look at how churches and charities tend to harm rather than empower people who are struggling.  Some of the points Robert D. Lupton makes I've read elsewhere, but Toxic Charity is the first book I've come across in which the problem of giving people handouts rather than a hand up is explored in such depth and with so many practical suggestions for affecting change. 

Drawing from his 40 years of experience as an urban activist, Lupton illustrates how helping the poor means more than giving donations in order to affect lasting change and interdependence rather than ongoing dependency.  He isn’t afraid to ask the tough questions about models of ministry in his book Toxic Charity: How Churches and Charities Hurt Those They Help (And How to Reverse It).  

Getting to the Nitty-Gritty of Charity

Who is really benefitting—those being served or those doing the serving?  Are others being educated and empowered to do for themselves, or are they learning to depend on others for manpower, funding, and outside assistance to do what members of their own communities are perfectly capable of doing on their own?

How Long Do You Keep Pushing?

I can think of a very easy-to-explain analogy for this.  Young children on swings at the playground may very well be too short to get into the swing themselves and need help.  When first learning to swing, they can’t reach the ground on their own, so they need a push.  Even before their feet can reach the ground, we can start teaching them how to pump their legs to keep the momentum going.  Giving them a push and perhaps assisting them getting on the swing are entry-point types of assistance they can’t do on their own, yet.  Teaching them how to pump their legs is the developmental aspect of the learning process that fosters independence.  They learn that they have much greater control when they can keep themselves moving even if no one is there pushing them. 

If we simply push them on the swings without showing them how to pump their legs—feet up when you go forward and down when you go back—then they will only keep moving as long as we are standing there pushing them. 

The same is true of helping others. They may need an initial boost to get started and some instruction, resources, and encouragement, but ultimately the goal should be greater self-sufficiency rather than utter dependency.  People will be a lot more invested in a project they’ve identified as being necessary and have had input, investment financially and/or have given in terms of their talents and time than they would a project that doesn’t meet a real need or solve an ongoing problem that has to be addressed in their community to affect positive change.

The following questions author and urban activist Robert D. Lupton raises  regarding charity also apply to our relationships with those we serve in ministry: 

1. Are we giving people what they need to survive in a crisis beyond the time of crisis when they can and should be doing for themselves?  

2. Do we provide disaster relief or relief that ends up becoming disastrous to community leadership, personal dignity, and a strong work ethic?  

3. Are we facilitating change or enabling unhealthy dependence?  

4. Is there a measure of accountability in the program?  

5. How are needs and wants determined, researched, defined, and met?    

To find out more about Toxic Charity or to get your own copy of the book, click here.

Sunday, February 14, 2016

A Special God Is Love Message, Graphic, and Prayer for Valentine's Day

While flowers, chocolates, a romantic dinner out, some new scented lotion, jewelry, a day at a spa, or a gift certificate for a massage can all be tokens of love, the real measure of love is what someone is willing to give up or sacrifice in order to do what is ultimately best for you in mind, body, and/or spirit.

God humbled Himself by becoming a helpless little baby.  Jesus came into our world and gave all He had in body, mind, and spirit out of love for us.  We have the freedom to refuse love or get confused that love is synonymous with a gift bought from a store.  The Truth is that we were created by God out of love.  We are made to give and receive love.

Questions to Consider: 

How is God trying to reach you with His love?  Will you accept it or return to sender?

What are three ways you can demonstrate genuine love for God?

My Prayer: Lord, open our hearts and minds to the love You wish to shower upon us, have instilled in us, and want to see us pass along to everyone we meet.  Give courage, comfort, and consolation to those who are mourning the loss of loved ones, who are feeling unloved or unlovable, who in any way doubt Your unconditional love for them.  

Saturday, February 13, 2016

My Stroke of Insight

I put off reading My Stroke of Insight for a while thinking I wouldn’t like it as much as the other more religious books I’ve read for SDI, but it is awesome how scientific, enthusiastic, joy-filled, and hope-filled it is.  Our brains and bodies are truly amazing creations of God.  

This woman's story is a powerful testimony to the resilience of the human spirit. The power of love, gentleness, compassion, and determination can bring about healing, hope, and wholeness.  I’ve read that we usually only use about 10% of our brains during our lives. (I wonder if my brain looks different because of how many books, articles, and things I read.)

This woman’s spirit and energy very easily come through her writing, attitude, honesty, and vulnerability.  It’s encouraging how she was able to experience a painful, difficult time through the eyes of a scientist as well as a fragile human being.

I could relate to her struggle to overcome challenges that she thought and felt shouldn’t be as much of a project for her to do, but which had become something she had to work up to after her stroke.  I can get so frustrated with myself if I don’t understand something right away or can’t do it properly.  I can’t imagine having to learn to do everything all over again, including walk and talk.   

I wonder what people most often assume or think about me based on my writing, photography, and artwork.  I think of Bishop Robert Barron’s advice to lead with beauty and goodness.  I’m not sure how well I do that in my daily life, but there’s always room for improvement.  I’m encouraged that such tremendous transformation and healing can occur.  

We need people who know and love us, who believe in us, and will go to bat for us when others would prefer to give up on us.  Reading this book made me think of a local Cursillista's story and recovery as well as another friend of mine who suffered significant brain damage when she was in a car accident several years ago.  It’s remarkable how God opens up areas of understanding, wisdom, intuition, and connectivity when we need them. 

I highly recommend reading My Stroke of Insight.  If you're short on time or need additional inspiration to read this true story, check out Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor's TED talk here:

Friday, February 12, 2016

Pope Francis Encyclical letter On Care for Our Common Home LAUDATO SI'

I grossly underestimated the beauty of Pope Francis’s vision of love and care for nature as a reflection of God’s creation and the unity all of us share.  I heard about this encyclical letter a while back, but I didn't rush to read it, thinking it wouldn't be as interesting, enlightening, or as edifying to me as some of his other writing due mainly to the subject matter being the environment.  

The writing is beautiful, harmonious, thought-provoking, and challenging.  Pope Francis speaks of how treating other people and our earth with dignity and respect are part of acknowledging the goodness in God’s creation and the harmony intended to exist among us. 

The pope explained why he chose the name Francis.  Like St. Francis of Assisi, our current pope wholeheartedly believes that protecting and holding other people as well as our planet as sacred, we are best able to sense God’s presence, glorify, and praise Him. He is intimately aware of the connection among all living things as being representative of God’s love.  

I was drawn in by the wisdom and passion of the argument that our vision for the future must take into consideration generations yet to come who will also inhabit this planet and who are likely to learn from their parents, grandparents, and ancestors what their relationship with our planet and all who live on it should be. 

Are we being as conscientious and careful about our consumption of natural resources and material goods as we could be?  

I know I still have a very long way to go in that area.  Suddenly the fact that Kevin and I recycle cardboard, paper, most glass and plastic containers and reuse grocery bags seems a drop in the bucket compared to what we could be doing.  And yet, those things are a start in the right direction and are good habits we have formed in an attempt to be kinder to our planet. 

There are so many opportunities to grow in this area, just like in so many others.  The first step is a deeper awareness of the decisions we make and how they affect the lives of others as well as how they impact our environment.  From that place of reflection and consideration, we will likely have our hearts and minds opened to additional things we could do or refrain from doing in order to preserve our planet. 

Lord, thank You for the gift of nature You have given us.  Help us to treat all humanity and nature with the dignity and respect it deserves.  

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Are You Ready for Lent?

In some ways, I feel as though Kevin and I have already been going through an arduous period of time in the desert.  Thinking and praying about what to do or give up for Lent once again last night, I was hard-pressed to come up with anything other than doing our best to get through each day and not give up. 

What can two people who have already been stripped down to the bare minimum and left with little to offer each other or others do or give up?  Then it dawned on me, I can observe this Lent by offering a sacrifice of praise and thanksgiving for all of God’s blessings.  When work is stressful, health challenges abound, and a form of survival mode is how my husband and I are able to keep functioning, then slowing down enough to express glory and appreciation to the Lord would be a good way to help prepare our hearts and minds for the three holiest days of the year: the Easter Triduum.

An excerpt about Lent I wrote four years ago that still remains true:

If I think about spending 40 days focused on how sinful and selfish I am, then I’m likely to get depressed.  If I focus on how amazing the Lord is— how incredibly loving, merciful, and compassionate our God is—that He would give us His only Son as expiation for our sins, then I’m likely to be hopeful.  I’m likely to submit more fully to the Lord’s Will in all areas of my life.  I’m likely to invite God in my heart and mind to remove the lies and replace them with His infinite Truth. To read the rest of the reflection, check out this link

A Few Great Books to Read during and/or about Lent:

Rediscover Lent by Matthew Kelly

Preparation for Total Consecration by St. Louis de Montfort

Monday, February 1, 2016

Top 40 Signs You Aren't Above Being Ghetto

  1. You’ve met several of your neighbors outside with lights flashing and sirens blaring. 
  2. You can’t be 100% sure that the red smeared on the side door is ketchup.
  3. At least one vehicle in your parking lot has a club attached to the steering wheel.
  4. Someone stole two tires from your neighbor’s car while it was parked next to the building.
  5. You put duct tape on the bottom of your front door to seal it.
  6. You cover your secondhand sofa with bedsheets, towels, and/or a combination of the two to cover the gaping holes in the upholstery.
  7. You honk your car horn to let someone know you’ve arrived to pick them up.
  8. You open a window and shout at your neighbors to pipe down.
  9. Most of your furniture has come from friends and family (without any form of payment exchanging hands).
  10. You go “shopping” for furniture left by the dumpster.
  11. Your mattress and box springs are directly on the floor.
  12. More than one set of window blinds has been broken beyond repair at a time. 
  13. You have resorted to putting one side of a large cardboard box in the bedroom window to block the street light out.
  14. You peruse the giveaway/discard pile in the hallway and have found several items to add to your cupboards.
  15. A white plastic outdoor table and chair set has served as your dining room table.
  16. There are circumstances under which you deem it acceptable to hitch a ride from a total stranger in a questionable part of town because you feel reasonably secure once you’ve seen that there are no bodies in the trunk.
  17. Cab drivers are afraid to pick you up at the location where you are when you call or where you will be going, so they insist on picking you up at a different place or dropping you off short of your intended destination.
  18. You have a printer that’s wireless, but a laptop that has to stay plugged in.
  19. You like to brag about how much junk you can fit in your car’s trunk.
  20. Loud music with more bass than treble has been known to blast through your walls.
  21. Packages delivered to your third-floor apartment have been stolen.
  22. Your building is so old not all of the outlets are grounded.
  23. You’ve resorted to doing several loads of laundry at a friend or family member’s house.
  24. It smells like a disposal blew chunks whenever your neighbor runs his dishwasher.
  25. You regularly borrow movies from friends with wide selections rather than renting movies through Redbox, Netflix, etc.

  26. Your big screen TV stopped working, and you left it where it was for months because you couldn’t afford to replace it.
  27. You actually get excited about clothes shopping at Goodwill.
  28. Your pajamas never match, and you wear them outside of your apartment to do chores such as: get the mail, take the trash out, and do the laundry. 
  29. You have walked into a home goods store and said out loud near the customer service desk: “Those are too big to fit in our drawers” when you see a display of silverware trays.
  30. You’ve brought your own store-bought cake to the restaurant where you’re having your birthday dinner.
  31. You’ll wear a brand new pair of pants or a sweater without washing it first and are not offended by the term “picking tags.”
  32. You wear clothes that are two or more sizes too big for you.
  33. There isn’t a straight doorframe in your place.
  34. You still own and use a VHS player.
  35. A neighbor wearing an oven mitt on each hand has come to the door to ask for assistance in getting a bat out of her apartment.
  36. More leaks were found after the roof was fixed than before.
  37. The building’s two “cleaning” people sweep the hall and stairway carpets with tattered brooms once a week but never vacuum.
  38. In your mind, changing the shower curtain is synonymous with redecorating the bathroom.
  39. You are willing to eat soup directly from a pan to reduce the number of dirty dishes you will have to wash by hand.
  40. You turn in a school homework assignment on the back of a used envelope.
If you have anything to add to this list or that you think should be removed from it, please share your thoughts in the comments below.
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