Archive for August, 2010

REFLECTION: What does it take?

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

As summer comes to an end and as I sit and reflect, the Father brings to mind a few special ones that I had met as the season began.  As I prod deeper and then as I step back to look at the whole picture, I begin to realize that these meetings did not come by chance, but I can very readily call them a special appointment.

I believe I first met them over 30 years ago while I was still in my university years.  The boys were then very young and still rambunctious.  As if by chance, I was there when the youngest was ordained, while I had attended the event for another with the same calling.  And then this summer, as if the Father had wanted our paths to meet again, I met the second one before he was ordained and then I was invited to attend his first Mass.  I never really got to know their mom, but as the summer progressed and because of a very unique “calling” from the Father, our acquaintance developed into a deeper friendship.

What does it take for a mother to offer her sons up to the Father?  I really don’t know, as I still have not had a chance to ask Julianne about that.  And yet when we chat and as I listen to her mention her sons, I realize that she no longer addresses these two as her sons, but she addresses them as Fr. Garrick and Fr. Justin.

Wanting to bring something along to celebrate his first Mass, I prepared an arrangement for the mother of the Priest.  We were just acquaintances then, but I had a great desire to prepare something for her because I heard that her son, who had just arrived, would leave almost immediately after his first celebration.  Just like our blessed Mother Mary, she chose to say “yes” to the Father and to surrender and offer another of her sons to His service.

As I searched and worked around the blooms in the garden, an arrangement of  white flowers cascading over a circle of dark, burgandy peonies came to be.  Not really knowing what I was doing, goosebumps immediately popped up on my arms when I heard the Father explain the arrangement.  The circle of dark, burgandy peonies represented the sin of the world.  The white flowers that distinctly rose above the peonies represented the Chosen Ones, the Priests, whom the Father has called to bring healing and to shepherd His children.

REFLECTION: Would you come as you are?

Sunday, August 29th, 2010

How would you come if someone invited you over and specified for you to come as you are?  Knowing my casual and care-free nature, I would probably “come as I am”.  However, I doubt if I would take the instructions literally.

IF I was gardening before hand and  I had my arms and legs deep in mud, I would consider cleaning and fixing myself up enough to qualify as appearing decent.  IF my host was sophisticated and was known to criticize her guests, I would definitely work on my appearance a lot longer to ensure I “met up” to the invitee’s “standards”.

However, if I was distraught, broken, confused and feeling totally hopeless and helpless, I believe I would come just the way I am.  Perhaps it is in our brokeness, during those moments when our needs are stripped down to the very basic ones, that we are willing to forgo the “presentation upkeep” society demands of us and we are willing to come just as we are.

Last weekend, I attended a 4 Step retreat facilitated by Lalith Perera titled “Come as you are, I love you.”  Memories of my extreme brokenness during bouts of depression now come to mind and I remember seeking for anything that would bring even a spoonful of relief to my broken spirit.

Lalith mentioned that many wait for “one day” or “some day” and yet Jesus says, “Come to me all you who are weary and heavy burdened and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11:28)  There are no conditions to His invitation.  He is waiting for broken people.  He wants the world to know that He loves them, in spite of…

Have you wondered why many feel that they are unworthy to be loved, let alone be loved by God?  Lalith explained that who we are is a constitution of what we were as a child.  In their attempts to keep our behavior in check, many of our parents indirectly taught us that Jesus only loves a good child.  With our childish comprehension, many of us would have also translated this to mean that Jesus does not love bad children.  Unfortunately, this philosophy is what is at the bottom of our hearts and many of us think we need to be good to be loved by God.

Over the past week, many of us in the North Shore of Vancouver are grieving over the loss of a 16 year old who died of the injuries she sustained when she leaped from a moving vehicle.    Had she known she would have been injured, many are sure she would not have made that choice.

During an impromtu prayer gathering the day after, our parish was filled with at least 100 youth who were grieving and so terribly lost.  All who attended, including the adults, knew that this didn’t have to be.  And yet, our community had lost a beautiful girl.

Her friend came up to share some sentiments and she mentioned that they had just watched a show where a best friend had died.  The two had discussed what would happen if they lost their best friend that day and unfortunately, one of them did.  She mentioned how confused she was and she was asking “Murphy what to do”.

We know Murphy can’t tell her best friend what to do to help her feel better.  I doubt if anyone of us can.  And yet, many of us who have experienced God’s love in times of tragedy know that He alone can.

On our last prayer gathering this week, this prayer was shared…

A prayer for comfort as we grieve for Murphy…

Father God, you are the companion of the Sorrowing. Bind your love strongly, fiercely to the memories of Murphy   that are stored in her family’s heart and in the heart of her community.
May they never wear out when death grows distant.

We want to forever honor and cherish the goodness of Murphy’s life.

Guardian of the Grieving, lift up our sad hearts.
Let us find laughter in the midst of our loss.
Let us find hope in the midst of our sadness.
Let us find comfort in the midst of our emptiness.
Let us find meaning in the midst of our confusion.
Let us find you Lord, ever-vigilant Beloved, as our shelter and our solace.
Sustain our aching heart.

(adapted from Joyce Rupp  http://www.journey-through-grief.com/sample-prayers.html)


And Father, help us to remember that You love us just the way we are.
You love us in our brokenness, You love us in our hopelessness.
Open up our spiritual hearts so that we can find the grace to receive your love.
Father, we ask for your grace so that we are able to see that we deserve to be loved.
And Father, even if we aren’t ready to receive Your love, love us just the same and

Embrace us with the peace that we need to carry on.

We pray for all these in Jesus’ mighty name, Amen.

PLEASE pray for Murphy’s family and all the youth who are lost and hurting.

God bless,

Melissa – August 28, 2010

Reflection: What do you remember?

Wednesday, August 18th, 2010

She encouraged me to write and to record all the good moments in my life.  That was over two years ago and I continue to write.

I had met a petite young woman one early morning in February.  I had eagerly watched her from the back the night before as she shared one miracle after another which the Father had allowed her to orchestrate for others.  Unknown to her, I was fidgeting and jumping in my seat, thanking God for the victories and the miracles that continue to take place.  The Father is alive and well and He continues to perform miracles in this day and age!

As her talk ended, I quickly rushed to the front where she quietly sat and I must have disturbed the peace in that once tranquil church.  She must have thought I was berserk (actually, she still does), but she welcomed a visit from me the following day.  In spite of my hype, she said I was sincere and she was willing to help me through the final stages of depression.

We talked some and after a while, she commented that everything I said about myself was negative.  She then asked me to open my notebook and to write 5 or 6 things I liked about myself.  She patiently waited as I struggled, racking my brain for something positive about myself.  She didn’t accept a few things I wrote and she shared her reasons, and then to my surprise, she took my notebook and very quickly wrote things she liked about me!

I asked how she could write anything about me since she didn’t know me.  She casually mentioned that she had seen enough of me to notice a few of my good traits.  I don’t remember what she wrote and I still need to find that notebook, but those words of encouragement began a new, positive journey for me.

Before we went for prayer at the altar of the church, she asked if I knew that God made me.  Immediately I said “yes”.  She then asked if I knew that part of God is in me.  Once again I said “yes”.  She then added, “Can you love the part of God that is in you?  Let that be a start.”

I have shared those few words with many, and each one has responded in awe and gratitude.

As I write, my thoughts move on to our dear family friend, Carding.  He suddenly suffered difficulty breathing and a few days after being admitted to the intensive care unit, he completely lost his sight.  I spoke to him a few days earlier and he mentioned that he is much better, but he no longer has his vision.  His wife mentioned that his demeaner is low and I suggested that he is still in the denial stage of mourning his loss.

Pondering over how to encourage him, the lady’s advice had come to mind.  “Write your good and happy experiences down so you can dwell on them when you are low.”  I don’t think Carding had considered that in the past, but with the aid of a patient friend or friends, I believe that together, they can recall all the good memories of his life.  I know my brother would praise him for his delicious Filipino meals.  It is unfortunate that he will not be able to cook now, but it would be good to help him remember the positive traits he has and can further develop.

The other night, another friend reminded me of Patrick Henry Hughes. (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6fvCX8MaNLY)  Patrick was born without eyes and yet his incredible determination and the power of encouragement and belief from his parents opened the doors which society would normally slam shut for those like him.

We briefly chatted about how Carding’s other senses would develop and how he would be able to use them to guide him around the world.  We also discussed how his prayers would be so powerfully used by the Father.  Often times, society writes off the power of what our bedridden members can do.  As they choose to use the gifts they still have available and as they offer their suffering up for another, mighty miracles happen.

Julianne then asked me to encourage Carding to pray for baby Andrew who also was born without eyes.  It may be a while before Carding learns to let go of his pain, but as he focuses on another and lifts another in prayer, I know how much more healing he will experience.

May the Father give us the grace to encourage each other and help each of us remember the positive, happy moments in our lives.  And when trials come, may He give us the strength to rise up above our sorrows and receive His love and His comfort.

God bless,

Melissa – August 18, 2010


Reflection: The dash…

Tuesday, August 17th, 2010

He began his recollection last night by asking, “How do you walk?  As wise men making use of your time?  How do you use things which you appear to have in abundance of?”  Fr. Soria’s questions continue to resonate in my heart and mind this morning.

As I spoke to Julianne , a new friend who has finally gone into retirement, last night, I began to realize how dedicated people push themselves so much for the sake of others.  Teaching for numerous years, she taught many beyond what was on the curriculum, encouraging many to respect themselves and others in turn.  It was interesting to hear her share that another retiring friend said she would not “DO” but “BE” in her retirement years.  Mentioning that my conscience was a tad guilty of not using my time wisely, Julianne responded by saying “You function in high gear while I function in low.”

I chuckled to myself as I heard her repeat these words again to me last night while my imagination ran wild.  I pictured myself as the cartoon character “road runner – beep beep” who’s enormous speed was depicted by circles for his feet and who’s movement was accompanied by swooshing sounds.  I must admit there was a time when I functioned that way.  I would often find bruises and cuts on myself, initially wondering where they came from and then later remembering that I had previously “ran” around doing so many things at the same time, bumping into things because I failed to “see” things clearly as I sped through.   I now begin to picture water molecules bouncing against each other as a pot of water begins to boil.  Yup!  That’s a true depiction of “bouncing off the walls”, and it is NOT HEALTHY.

“She would not ‘do’ but ‘be’ in retirement.”  To be…  I pondered over that phrase many times during my previous bouts with depression.  I found it very difficult to “be” for lack of internal peace.  My serotonin levels had gone wonky during those times and all I sensed was a tangible huge void while I felt I was in a deep, dark crevice accompanied continuously by the horrific unwelcomed anxiety.  As medication helped balance my hormone levels, I slowly began to sense a taste of “well-being” once again and I was eventually able to “be”… to live and enjoy the fact that I am alive!

Fr. Soria reminded us not to waste our time engaging in dejection as we notice the superior talents of others compared to ours.  We each are given talents and are called to use them to the full.

I’ve noticed that many undiscovered talents rise to the surface as we make use of what we currently have.  Recognizing our talents and failing to use them is like looking at a spanking new bike and yet failing to enjoy it for what it was meant to be.  It is only when we get on the bike and we begin to pedal that the gears begin to move.  As we gain confidence in our biking ability, we are then able to expand ourselves for more and eventually, we are able to enjoy the rush of the wind as we pedal through in our new found freedom.

Fr. Soria closed his recollection by stating “As long as we are alive (we have time), there is HOPE.  There is time to repent and time to live a richer life.”

God bless,

Melissa – August 16, 2010

REFLECTION: Saying goodbye to Kerry

Monday, August 16th, 2010
Today, many of our parishioners at Christ the Redeemer said goodbye to Kerry.  Although her spirit was determined to fight the cancer with a vengeance, her body was too frail to battle on.  I had met Kerry for the first time at the tail-end of a conference where she had dropped in with my friend, Shawna.  We met again 3 more times after that and yet surprisingly, it feels as if I’ve known her for a long, long time.  Perhaps prayer does that.  Together, Shawna and I would often pray up a storm, praying for the miracle that would completely heal Kerry.  The Father did answer with a miracle and for a while, Kerry was cancer free.  Unfortunately, it’s ugly head rose again and Kerry began another battle.

Somewhere along those two years, I met little Ava.  She was 4 when we first met and when she saw me at Shawna’s, she immediately said, “I know you.”  I looked at her, but I failed to recognize her.  She then mentioned that I had painted her face several Sundays ago.  That triggered my memory and our journey together began.

Throughout Kerry’s funeral Mass, my thoughts drifted off periodically, wondering how Ava and Ben would carry on in the absence of their mother.  Ava would be in Grade 1 in September and Ben would be in Grade 6.   My thoughts jumped a year forward and Ava’s first Holy Communion came to mind.

My thoughts then drifted to the last time I saw Kerry.  She was attached to her portable “chocolate drink dispenser”, as the machine “fed” her the Ensure drink directly to her stomach.  Shawna had brought me with her to the hospital so that we both could pray with Kerry.  In the midst of our visit, Kerry mentioned that a lady was expecting to have a spinal tap and she wanted to be with her and to hold her hand.  Much to her disappointment, the procedure had taken place in her absence and yet, it was very evident that Kerry’s heart was with the other woman.

During her eulogy, a friend had told one story after another, painting the beautiful life of Kerry.  She shared about Kerry’s love for life and the kindness she bestowed on others.  Many humorous stories were shared and it was obvious Kerry knew how to live her life to the fullest.

In his homily, Msgr. Smith mentioned that Kathleen, Kerry’s Mom had prayed for a miracle.  He had mentioned of  Kathleen’s recent great feat of travelling 800 kms on foot while on a pilgrimmage in Spain.  He mentioned that he had pondered why God said “no” to Kathleen’s prayers.  Msgr. then commented that almost immediately after that question was pondered, he heard God’s answer.  “I didn’t say ‘no’ to Kathleen” was the Lord’s reply.  I said “yes” to Kerry.”

Msgr. then refered to 2 Corinthians 1:19-20…”For the Son of God, Jesus Christ, whom we proclaimed among you, Silvanus and Timothy and I, was not Yes and No, but in him it is always Yes. For all the promises of God find their Yes in him. That is why it is through him that we utter our Amen to God for his glory.”  (I have attached Msgr.’s entire homily below for those who are interested.)
Tonight my heart continues to be restless.  I am finding it difficult to say goodbye to one whom I have prayed for for a while.  Deep within my heart I know Kerry has returned Home to the Father.  Perhaps my heart is just longing to spend time with Shawna…perhaps sharing some sentiments about Kerry and spending some time in prayer for Ian and the children.

My thoughts return to Ava.  She turned 6 last month.  Celebrating her birthday together last year, I asked when her birthday was and she very quickly replied …”It was last month, but you can still give me a gift.”  I chuckled to myself, knowing that that little one has the same fighting spirit as her mother.

I know it is time to say goodbye and so I say “Farewell for now Kerry.  I know I’ll see you again when I return Home.”

God bless,

Melissa – August 10, 2010

p.s. – Two beautiful poems were shared this morning.  I would like to share them with you who were not able to join us…

“You can shed tears that she is gone, or you can smile because she has lived.
You can close your eyes and pray that she’ll come back, or you can open your eyes and see all she’s left.
Your heart can be empty because you can’t see her, or you can be full of the love you shared.
You can turn your back on tomorrow and live yesterday, or you can be happy for tomorrow because of yesterday.
You can remember her only that she is gone, or you can cherish her memory and let it live on.
You can cry and close your mind, be empty and turn your back, or you can do what she’d want:
smile, open your eyes, love and go on.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

“The Next time…

The next time you do the grind or walk the seawall
The next time you spot a girl so beautiful that you have to stop and stare
The next time you see a mother fixing her son’s hair with her fingers
The next time you go to a book club and don’t discuss the book
The next time you bite into the most scrumptious appetizer you have ever tasted
The next time you put out your daughter’s clothes for school the next day
The next story you read to your children
The next good glass of wine with a friend
The next time you walk into a room and you think that it is beautiful in its simplicity
The next time you dead head flowers
The next time you look at your spouse and wink because you know you are thinking the same thing
The next time you get a hostess gift that is perfect

Remember Kerry

I know I will

Ian

——————————————————————————————-

Author:  Msgr. Greg Smith

Before all else, I want to renew my own condolences and those of our parish family to you, Ian, to Benjamin, Ava, Kathleen, Tara, Ron, Catherine, Chris, Christina, Mary and Kerry’s many loving friends and relatives. We gather this morning in hope, but we all share the pain of a loss that touches three generations in the parish.

As many of you know, Kerry’s mother Kathleen is a force to be reckoned with. Her 790 km pilgrimage in Spain is proof enough of that.

And it’s no secret that Kathleen—and many others—prayed for a miracle.

So I found myself wondering what Jesus would say if I asked him “How could you possibly have said no to Kathleen?” And just as soon as I thought it, his answer came to mind.

“I didn’t say no to Kathleen,” was the Lord’s reply. “I said ‘yes’ to Kerry.”

You might say I’m just playing with words, or putting words on Christ’s lips. But the answer is word-perfect, because it comes right from the Bible.

Here’s what St. Paul wrote: “The Son of God, Jesus Christ…was not ‘Yes-and-No’; but in him it is always Yes.”

In a very real sense, Christ doesn’t have “No” in his vocabulary; His nature is all “Yes.”  St. Paul expands on this when he adds that in Jesus “every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” (2 Cor 1:19-20)

During Kerry’s final weeks, I wrestled in Sunday homilies with questions of unanswered prayer—with what seemed to be a “no” from God. But over time I became convinced that we have to look to God’s “yes” to try and understand and accept her death.

For days—and a couple of nights—I tried to find the words to explain His “yes”. Because it’s very hard to see God at work when our human instincts find him absent, or at least asleep.

I thought I might focus today on Kerry’s final days and hours when, despite the natural feelings of fear and sadness and loss, God really did seem present in the circle of love that surrounded her. But that wasn’t enough.

Finally, I did what most of us do at the end of our rope: I prayed. I came to church in the early morning, and I prayed with the four readings we’ve just heard. And I realized that what we need right now is God’s Word, not my words. He speaks His “yes” in every one of them.

The family has chosen readings that will answer many questions, ease many doubts, and bring much peace if we give them the chance. I made copies of the readings and put them at the back; I hope many of you will take one home and give the Word of God the chance to speak directly to your hearts in days and weeks ahead.

Because these powerful texts should speak to us all—although the first reading is not for teetotalers. Isaiah’s idea of heaven features vintage wines—something most of us can understand. But in case superb wine doesn’t appeal, the prophet also mentions fantastic food; God is never outdone or undone.

The psalm draws on another common experience—a father’s care for his children. A father who knows his child, who loves his child. Such is our God to us, in life and in death. Kathleen will have many memories of Kerry’s father Ben holding her and loving her; she may remember Ben consoling her when she was afraid or hurt; all such memories are just a taste of the compassion and love that God now shows for Kerry.

The second reading must have been chosen with Kerry in mind, because it’s a reading for fighters. But more than that, it’s a reading for conquerors—for in Christ we are victors in the battle. A long list of negatives—hardship, distress, peril, famine and so on—are just examples of whatever life throws at us; in everything, in anything, in illness, whatever—God’s love is with us.

Finally, there’s the Gospel. It’s bold; Jesus  reverses all our human judgments by calling the poor rich, the meek strong, and the hungry satisfied.

The Gospel lets us confront our doubts: Jesus says something we can’t ignore, something that we naturally reject—and we have to decide whether he’s right or wrong. Are mourners really to be called blessed, or is Jesus to be called mistaken?

The other readings can answer that question, because they’re not only about Kerry and her long struggle. They speak to us, and promise to us what was promised to her: tears wiped away, steadfast love, and victory in Christ. Victory even over the fears and doubts that menace and distress us; peace to ease the pain of loss and sorrow.

In Jesus “every one of God’s promises is a “Yes.” He said “yes” to Kerry at her birth, blessing her with gifts of beauty and a family that would raise her in love. He said “yes” when she was baptized and welcomed into another family circle, the Church, his Body. Once again he said “yes” when she was joined in a fruitful union with Ian through the sacrament of marriage.

He said “yes” to Kerry last Tuesday, when he welcomed her to her eternal home. And God will say yes to those who love her, as they claim his promises in the days ahead

REFLECTION: “90 Minutes in Heaven”

Monday, August 16th, 2010

“90 Minutes in Heaven”.  That title immediately captured my attention as my eyes landed on it’s book cover.  Perhaps many readers would be intrigued, moved and focused on Don Piper’s experience in Heaven, however, while I am still living on planet earth, my focus remains on the circumstances that took place during and after his momentary “experience” in Heaven.

Dick, a Pastor who was caught up in the traffic caused by a truck and car collision, was told that “the man in the red car is deceased.”  Nevertheless, he relentlessly persisted and finally he was given permission to pray for the man.

“He began praying for me.  As he said later, “I felt compelled to pray.  I didn’t know who the man was or whether he was a believer.  I knew only that God told me I had to pray for him.”

“As Dick prayed, he became quite emotional and broke down and cried several times.  Then he sang.  Dick had an excellent voice and often sang publicly.  He paused several times to sing a hymn and then went back to prayer.”

“Not only did Dick believe God had called him to pray for me but he prayed quite specifically that I would be delivered from unseen injuries, meaning brain and internal injuries.”

“This sounds strange, because Dick knew I was dead.  Not only had the police officer told him but he also had checked for a pulse.  He had no idea why he prayed as he did, except God told him to.  He didn’t pray for the injuries he could see, only for the healing of internal damage.  He said he prayed the most passionate, fervent, emotional prayer of his life.  As I would later learn, Dick was a highly emotional man anyway.”

“Then he began to sing again.  ‘O what peace we often forfeit, O what needless pain we bear, all because we do not carry everything to God in prayer.’  The only thing I personally know for certain about the entire event is that as he sang the blessed old hymn “What a Friend We Have in Jesus,” I began to sing with him.

“In that first moment of consciousness, I was aware of two things.  First, I was singing – a different kind of  singing than the tones of heaven – I heard my own voice and then became aware of someone else singing.”

“The second thing I was aware of was that somene clutched my hand.  It was a strong, powerful touch and the first physical sensation I experienced with my return to earthly life.”

Don continues…“Without question, I am still alive because people prayed for me, beginning with Dick Onereckerand other people around the country, many of whom I’ve never met.”

Imagine that, had Dick not been obedient to the call of the Father to pray, Don Piper would not have lived to
tell his story!

“That’s perhaps the biggest miracle: People prayed and God honored their prayers.”…”I attribute leaving ICU alive to the prayers of David Gentiles and the others.  ‘We’re taking over from here.  You don’t have to do a thing to survive.  We’re gong to pray you through this….I knew I wasn’t going to die.  God’s people wouldn’t let me.”

Although I automatically pray when a request comes to my attention, this incident hightens my desire to pray more fervently and extensively when a prayer request arrives.

There are times when the ill cannot request prayers for themselves and so family and friends make a plea on their behalf… “A few days later, when Jesus again entered Capernaum, the people heard that he had come home.  So many gathered that there was no room left, not even outside the door, and he preached the word to them. Some men came, bringing  to him a paralytic, carried by four of them.  Since they could not get him to Jesus because of the crowd, they made an opening in the roof above Jesus and, after digging through it, lowered the mat the paralyzed man was lying on.   When Jesus saw their faith, he said to the paralytic, ‘Son, your sins are forgiven.’ …He said to the paralytic, ‘I tell you, get up, take your mat and go home.’   He got up, took his mat and walked out in full view of them all.   This amazed everyone and they praised God, saying, ‘We have never seen anything like this!’ (Mark 2:1-12)

May the Father move us to pray fervently for each other.

God bless,

Melissa – August 15, 2010

REFLECTION: Did you see that?

Saturday, August 14th, 2010


Last night, the girls and their friends drove up with me to Cypress Bowl.  We had eagerly awaited the night sky in hopes of watching a meteor shower.  In spite of the company surrounding me, the drive appeared long as we drove slowly up the mountain, while the darkness enveloped us.  Eventually we found an open area and parked among others.

The girls had brought blankets along and they laid them on top of the car’s hood and the trunk.  I hesitated climbing up with them and decided to contort myself so that I was half standing and half lying on the hood.  A long term contortionist act isn’t in my calling and eventually, with the help of one of the girls and with a lot of scrambling, I was finally comfortably lying on the hood and watching the night sky.

Patience is a virtue and watching meteors shoot across the sky requires a lot of patience.  The paper had mentioned that 100 meteors would pass by each hour, but that didn’t happen while we were there.  It didn’t take long for us to see our first one, but after that, extended time needed to pass before another quickly flashed by.

Every attempt I made to entertain myself in song immediately got a plea for me to stop. I was “begged” for the sake of all the others.  I normally wouldn’t care less what others thought, but for the sake of not getting pelted by other unknown viewers, I decided to “stop”.

As we waited “silently”…cars continued to drive passed us, either driving further upwards towards the top of the mountain or returning back down.  The mobile cars were infuriating because the headlights were blinding and distracting.  Then, out of no where, a meteor would shoot by and someone would yell “Did you see that?!?!”  Unfortunately, our friend, Hysoo, would often say, “I missed it again!”  Eventually Michelle caught on and asked if her eyes were open.  Hysoo was falling asleep and Michelle kept poking her and asking her to wake up.

As I reflected on this with the Father this morning, I began to sense how this incident paralleled with our lives.  Miracles occur daily in our lives, but we often fail to catch them.  The regular miracles, such as being able to experience sight and sound, are like the stars that are visible every clear night.  We only recognize them as miracles if we take time to be still and to “glance” upward.  The special, extraordinary miracles that God blesses us with are like the shooting stars that swiftly pass by every so often. We fail to recognize them because our eyes are often “closed”.  The blinding and distracting headlights are the activities and cares of the world that often “blind” us from “seeing” and distracting us from spending time with the Father.

May the Father open up our spiritual eyes and ears so that we are able to “see” and “hear” Him and may He give us the grace to slow down long enough so we can catch each miracle that He showers in our lives.

God bless,

Melissa – August 13, 2010

REFLECTION: What’s on your mind?

Monday, August 9th, 2010


Every so often, my friend, Shawna is so moved by a book that she ensures that I read it.  I was actually with her when she purchased the book for another who was celebrating a birthday that day.  Several months later, her friend shared how the book moved her and she in turn encouraged many others, in our gathering, to read the same.  LEFT TO TELL -Discovering God Amidst the Rwandan Holocaust by Immaculee Ilibagiza with Steve Erwin is a book which has moved many.

I am amazed how often things related to the same topic usually pop up around the same time in my life.  I do not credit coincidence for them, as deep lessons are often learned during these incidents.  And so I share….

“‘This is where you’ll stay’, he said, swinging the door open to reveal our new home; a small bathroom about four feet long and three feet wide. …there was a small air vent/window near the ceiling that was covered with a piece of red cloth…”

“I couldn’t imagine how all six of us could possibly fit in this space, but the pastor herded us through the door and packed us in tight.  ‘While you’ve in here, you must be absolutely quiet, and I mean silent.’ he said.  ‘If you make any noise, you will die.  If they hear you, they will find you, and then they will kill you.  No one must know that you’re here, not even my children.  Do you understand?”

“‘…Find them, find them, kill them all!’

“My head was spinning; I fell backward onto the ladies.  I couldn’t breathe.  ‘Dear God, save us…’  I whispered but couldn’t remember the words to any of my prayers.  A wave of despair washed over me, and I was overwhelmed by fear.”

That’s when the devil first whispered in my ear. Why are you calling on God?  Look at all of them out there… hundreds of them looking for you.  They are legion, and you are one.  You can’t possibly survive – you won’t survive.  They’re inside the house, and they’re moving through the rooms.  They’re close, almost here…they’re going to find you, rape you, cut you, kill you!”

“My heart was pounding.  What was this voice?  I squeezed my eyes shut as tightly as I could to resist the negative thoughts.  I grasped the red and white rosary my father had given me, and silently prayed with all my might; God in the Bible You said that You can do anything for anybody.  Well I am one of those anybodies, and I need You to do something for me now.  Please, God, blind the killers when they reach the pastor’s bedroom – don’t let them see the bathroom door, and don’t let them see us!  You saved Daniel in the lion’s den, God, You stopped the lions from ripping him apart…stop these killers from ripping us apart, God!  Save us, like you saved Daniel!”

“I prayed more intensely than I’d every prayed before, but still the negative energy wracked my spirit.  The voice of doubt was in my ear again as surely as if Satan himself were sitting on my shoulder. I literally felt the fear pumping through my veins, and my blood was on fire.  You’re going to die, Immaculee! the voice taunted.  You compare yourself to Daniel?  How conceited you are…Daniel was pure of heart and loved by God – he was a prophet, a saint!  What are you?  You are nothing…you deserve suffering and pain…you deserve to die!”

…The struggle between my prayers and the evil whispers that I was sure belonged to the devil raged in my mind.  I never stopped praying…and the whispering never relented.”

Have you “heard” whispers similar to this before?  I have, but more often they come in the form of thoughts. Many Christians mention that the greatest battle takes place between our ears…specifically in our brain where our thoughts are.  The devil enjoys planting thoughts in our minds, hoping to create havoc when we take a bite of his bait.  Someone mentioned that we do not sin when horrible thoughts come to mind.  It is only when we entertain these thoughts that we begin to sin.

Over 20 years ago, while I battled with numerous negative thoughts, a friend had challenged me and asked if I was being pro-active with my thoughts.  Not really understanding what she meant, I said “yes”.  I told her I immediately prayed for God’s help when the thoughts began to bombard my mind.  She asked what I did then and I said “nothing”.  To my surprise she said that I wasn’t being pro-active enough.  She mentioned that I needed to rebuke and bind the thoughts in Jesus’ name as they came to mind.   As I began to practise her counsel, I began to realize that I didn’t have to be a victim of my thoughts and continue to be tormented by them.  Being pro-active required me to take an active role with the thoughts the devil planted in my mind.  With a little practise and with God’s grace, I learned to nip the negative thoughts as they rose to the surface and I learned to refuse to toy and entertain these thoughts.

Today, Msgr. Smith summarized his homily in 3 words…”Don’t Give Up“.  He then mentioned that he could actually cut it down to 2 words…”Don’t Quit.”  Hiding in that cramped bathroom for 91 days, Immaculee never gave up.  “Her unquenchable faith and connection to God throughout her ordeal” gave her the perseverance she needed to remain calm and to maintain a sound mind.  Just as if he knew that I was struggling to find words to finish this reflection, Msgr. Smith shared 10 key principles to perseverance from Ralph Martin’s pamphlet, “Don’t Give Up!”.

1.   It is important to persevere.

2.   Ask for the grace of perseverance.

3.   Break away from sin and persevere in following Jesus.

4.  Learn from others (Saints) who have already persevered the grace of perseverance.

5.  “It is precisely in enduring in faith through the attacks on perseverance that we grow in the faith that produces and steadfastness and perseverance.

6.   Trust that we will never be tested or tempted beyond our strength.

7.   Read Scriptures (from the Bible) as a source of strength.

8.   Pray

9.   Participate in the perseverance of Jesus.

10.  The reward for perseverance is Heaven!

In 1 Corinthians 10:13, God the Father promises us that “No test has been sent you that does not come to all men.  Besides, God keeps his promise.  He will NOT let you be tested beyond your strength.  Along the test he will give you a way out of it so that you may be able to endure it.”

“The mental anguish was even more intense.  I was trapped alone with my thoughts, and the dark fears and doubts that had haunted me since my arrival became relentless – they wormed into my heart and undermined the foundation of my faith.  When the killers were out of earshot, my thoughts drifted away from God, and the negative energy rushed in.  Yet whenever I prayed, I immediately felt His love around me, and the anxiety eased.”

“So I resolved to pray during every waking moment, beginning as soon as my eyes opened at 4 or 5 a.m.  My first prayer was always to thank God that the pastor’s home had been built so it could shelter us during the genocide.  Then I thanked Him for having the architect design the house with an extra bathroom, and for prompting the pastor to buy a wardrobe of exactly the right dimensions to conceal our hiding place.”

“After my warm-up devotions of thanks, I began praying my rosary.  I prayed many different Catholic prayers on the red and white beads.  Sometimes I prayed so intensely that I broke out in a sweat.  Hours would pass… When I finished the rosary and my prayers, I’d take a “break” to meditate on some of my favorite Bible passages.”

“Because I felt that my faith was under attack, I spent hours contemplating two verses I’d memorized from Mark,which talked about the power of faith.  First there was this one: ‘Therefore I say unto you, what things soever ye desire, when ye pray, believe that ye receive them, and ye shall have them’  (Mark 11:24).”

“Then I would reflect on the other one: ‘For verily I say unto you, that whosoever shall say unto this mountain, be though removed, and be thou cast into the sea; and shall not doubt in his heart, but shall believe that those things, which he saith shall come to pass; he shall have whatsoever he saith’  (Mark 11:23).”

“Even a few minutes not spent in prayer or contemplation of God became an invitation for Satan to stab me with his double-edged knife of doubt and self-pity.  Prayer became my armor, and I wrapped it tightly around my heart.”

May the Father give each of us enough grace to persevere when trials come our way and when we have difficulty praying for ourselves, may He lead others to rise in intercessory prayer for us so we can finish our race towards Heaven.

God bless,

Melissa – August 8, 2010

REFLECTION: What do you see?

Thursday, August 5th, 2010

From time to time, I come across something that draws my deep interest and my thoughts continue to dwell on it for a while.  Today, I stumbled across some art work which moved me so.  A few moments chatting with the artist, Michelle Vulama, encouraged her to show me what she saw.  I had originally asked if she used reference books to draw all the detail she paints on her rocks.  Her answer was a simple “no” and she then lifted a regular rock and she began to point out areas where she could see pictures with her mind’s eye.  Goose bumps immediately popped up on my arms as I began to “see” beauty with her guidance.

As I drove home, thoughts continued to twirl in my mind and I sensed the Father encouraging me to do the same with His eyes.  Many times we fail to see the beauty in another, perhaps because we don’t look for it or perhaps we just need another to help us recognize the beauty that is slightly hidden by other things.

May we each search for the beauty in each other and may we help each other find the beauty in others.

God bless,

Melissa

p.s. – Please take the time to view Michelle Valuma’s awesome work.  Her website is http://michellevulama.com. Note that each picture she paints originates from what her imagination “sees” on the surfaces of a single rock.  Look out for the detail and as you do, I am sure you will be intrigued.  Enjoy!