Archive for December, 2015

REFLECTION: The shake…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

It began with a rumble followed by a little tremor which grew a tad stronger.  As I looked up from my computer, something behind me fell off from the shelf.  I wondered if the tremor would grow even stronger, but thankfully it didn’t.  (I now find it odd that I waited for the tremor to grow, rather than protect myself by ducking and covering my head…)

After posting about it on Facebook and calling to check on the girls, I googled and discovered that a 4.4 quake was also felt near San Bernadino in California.  (http://www.usatoday.com/story/news/nation/2015/12/30/43-magnitude-quake-near-san-bernardino/78048552/)  Is the BIG ONE coming?  We’ve always been warned that the BIG ONE is due and we were always told to prepare for it.

Are you spiritually prepared for the BIG ONE?  I hope so.

The Pasadena, Calif., Fire Department tweeted that the small quake was a “Good reminder to be prepared.”  I wonder if any Priest or Pastor has tweeted the same.

May God give each of us the grace to be ready when our time comes.

God bless,

Melissa – December 30, 2015

REFLECTION: When it hurts too much…

Wednesday, December 30th, 2015

She was on the phone when I stepped through the door into her home.  Putting down the items she requested for the coming week, I sat and listened to her call.  She was exasperated and she asked if she was going to be transferred once again to another who couldn’t answer her question.  She’s 93 and her son, in his 70’s, needed some medical attention.

I noticed several slices of stale toast on a plate beside her and a mug of coffee that was still half full.  Noticing my glance at the untouched plate, she informed me that her caregiver had given her soggy toast and cold coffee for breakfast.  She sounded weak and she said she wasn’t feeling well.  I wondered if it was because she didn’t have anything to eat today.

As I waited for the water to boil for her pot of tea, I noticed several sealed bags of toast on the counter.  A careful inspection drew my attention to mold on the contents.  Those were dumped immediately so no one would serve them to her in error.  I found a wrapped sliced chicken sandwich in the fridge and I asked if she wanted it.  She replied, acknowledging that it was her dinner.  She asked me to set it down on the table beside her and she quickly took a quarter to satiate her hunger.

She had apples in the fridge.  As I sliced them, I wondered why those weren’t served to her.  Her fridge was filled, overflowing with wrapped plates of food, but she was hungry.  Lacking mobility now, she couldn’t get to the fridge on her own and her caregivers, who drop in around the clock, are supposed to prepare and serve her meals.  Something was terribly wrong!

Another phone call came through.  It was Fr. John Brioux.  He was driving around her area and he wanted to drop by.  As we spoke outdoors while I was leaving, he said, “They’re both in a terrible state!”  I agreed and told him that the medics had come twice for her son, but he refused to go to the hospital.  He was extremely dizzy, but it wasn’t a simple case of vertigo.  He had fluid in his ears and he was told that antibiotics wouldn’t help.  Even Gravol couldn’t help with the dizziness.

Fr. John questioningly repeated, “They were willing to bring him to the hospital but he refused to go?”   “Yes”, I replied.  To that he responded, “I’ll be anointing them, giving them both the Anointing of the Sick and they’ll also be receiving Communion.  Perhaps he’ll change his mind after that.”

Lord, we ask You to look after our elders who in turn are being cared for by their elderly children.  PLEASE open the doors for proper care.  We thank You for Your faithful Priests who make house calls.  Bless them with wisdom, love and compassion so that they can give the home bound the hope and care that they so desperately need.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – December  29, 2015

REFLECTION: Precious and heartfelt blessings…

Tuesday, December 29th, 2015

I’m not sure why she turned to me.  Was it because I was handing out the paper plates?  She beckoned me closer with a hand gesture and she then pulled out a covered container.  “Could you fill this  with food for my husband so I can feed him.”  She then immediately asked if we were giving out pants.  She had mentioned how cold her legs were and she then lifted her dress to show me her legs.  Sadly, we didn’t bring clothing out on site this time.  I would have pulled down my pants immediately had it not been illegal to walk around in public without pants on.  That’s what another volunteer did with her socks.  I had caught her in the midst of putting her feet into a plastic bag before she returned her foot into her shoe.  She then took her socks back from her husband and went along to hand her socks to another who needed it more than her.

The lady continues to pop into my mind, especially when I sit on our comfy couch with a blanket over me…

How often do we make ourselves comfortable without thinking of the comfort of another?  How often do we complain of being so famished when our fridge is still filled to the brim?

Walking with the hungry and homeless has been such a blessing.  Having the opportunity to glimpse with their eyes has brought about deeper appreciation of the blessings in my own life.  I’ve encountered many hiccups, but they’ve been nothing compared to those whose basic needs are threatened.

Today, I received a surprise message…

“Hello melissa im jus wondering if u are the same melissa that would come and help mom around 2007.   i was pregnant then and was helpin mom.  i was also one of her kids.   i had cancer as well
 

If ur the same melissa i jus wanted to say thanx and i remember u.”

I’ve forgotten what I had done or who I encountered eight years ago, but someone didn’t.  God’s grace never ceases as He periodically brings someone out of the blue to reconnect and reminisce about our previous encounter.  These are precious and heartfelt blessings.  Thank You Lord!

God bless,
Melissa – December 29, 2015 

 

Reflection: The reason for the season…

Friday, December 25th, 2015

While decorating the foyer of our home several days ago, a few
figurines of our nativity scene had a bad fall.  One survived
without a blemish, but two others cracked, one much worse
than the other.

Uncertain as to whether I could find replacements for them, I didn’t toss
them out, but I went forward and continued to use them in the nativity scene.

 

It was then that I realized that this was the reason for the season.
Jesus came into this world because of our brokenness… as a result of our
bondage to sin.  It is He, alone, who is able to redeem us.

As we celebrate Christmas in a few days, may we ask for God’s grace to
open our hearts to Him and may His loving presence in our lives begin
to bring healing so that we may be able to live life to the full.

May God’s grace and blessings fall upon all this Christmas,

Melissa – December 23, 2015

REFLECTION: The unexpected visitor…

Monday, December 21st, 2015

The phone rang, waking me from deep sleep.  Dreading the possibility of bad news, I gingerly picked up the phone…  thankfully, no one was at the other end and I quickly disconnected the line.  Two more calls came, waking me once again from deep sleep and still there was no one at the other end.  To prevent further disturbance, I left the line on, hoping that I could finally return to deep, sound sleep.

Sleep was interrupted once again, but this time, by three heavy bangs pounding on the door.  I jolted up, thinking  I had overslept and we had a parcel delivered.  I quickly dressed and realized it was still in the wee hours of the morning.  Reaching the door, I called out, asking who was there.  Silence replied to my beckon and I gingerly peeked out the door, noticing a huge vehicle with its lights on parked at our driveway.  I called again and finally a voice replied, “It’s the police.  Did you call 911?”

Did I call 911?  It was evident that I didn’t, but somehow a call went through from our land line.  Because I left the telephone line on, the call couldn’t be confirmed and the cop was sent out to follow up and investigate.  He asked if I was alone and if I needed him to search the premise when my son joined me at the front door.  I chuckle recollecting what had transpired after because J asked if he could offer the cop anything.  My son…forever so generous!

The cop had mentioned that it had been windy and perhaps that could have triggered the call?

As I listened to  Msgr Greg’s homily at the 5:00 Mass last night, I gradually began to “grasp” what had transpired.  Before I fell asleep, I had wrestled with God, pleading for a dear friend and her two beautiful girls.  Things weren’t going well and it was anticipated more unpleasant news would be delivered soon.  I fell asleep still questioning our Father, “Why”?

Had my son not talked about the incident at daylight, I would have thought the cop incident was a dream.  Nevertheless, the event brought about a beautiful revelation.  I had sent out a spiritual 911 on behalf of my friend.  I had asked if her pain, anguish and her desires were preventing her from seeing clearly.   I knew with all my heart that God still caused ALL things to work together for good to those who love Him and are called according to His purpose. (Romans 8:28)

Although I still fail to grasp why justice has not been served, the unexpected guest helped me realize that our Father hears our spiritual 911 calls.  If our spiritual line is busy or if we fail to hear His voice, He sends angels to bang on our doors, at times jolting us into realizing that we are NOT alone and He has sent them to do battle for us and to ensure that we are safe.

Father God, there are many times when we fail to understand the situation that we are in.  We struggle with  fear and pain and we reject what is brought before us.  Lord, we ask for the needed grace to trust You completely.  Thank You for sending peace in the person of Christ.  As we receive Him in Holy Communion, may His very presence bring us peace which only He can give… the peace the world cannot comprehend.  In Jesus’ name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – December 21, 2015

p.s. –

SUNDAY, DECEMBER 20, 2015 – http://gregorynsmith.blogspot.ca/

Our Friday morning men’s prayer group celebrated Mass together at 6 a.m. last week. Like other members of the group, I invited some men in the parish to join us.

I was surprised by those who turned down the invitation because they were busy. Not because they didn’t want to be in church so early, but because they already had a work commitment at the crack of dawn.

Think about that. None of these men was a coal miner or a taxi driver or a doctor in the emergency room, but all of them were expected to be on duty shortly after most people wake up.

We can’t just blame their nasty bosses in Toronto. Many of us are living in the eye of a hurricane of busy-ness, whether we’re in business, managing a home, or serving a parish.

Is it any wonder that the Friday morning group chose “peace” as a theme for our Advent Mass?

Peace is a word that rings in our ears. Our hearts long for it, even if we aren’t entirely sure what it is.

In our first reading today, the prophet Micah doesn’t tell us what peace is; he announceswho peace is. Writing at a time of political disaster and impending doom, he promises security from the Messiah who will be born in Bethlehem.

But he doesn’t say the Messiah will bring peace; he will be peace.

St. Paul says the same thing about 700 years later, when he tells the Ephesians that Christ Jesus “is our peace.” (Eph. 2:14)

Many people today seek peace through techniques. You can find dozens of books online that promise peace through deep breathing, yoga, or something called mindfulness training. Much of this is rooted in Eastern or New Age methods.

But only Christianity promises peace as a person—Someone on whom we can unload our limitations, our sorrows, our shortcomings, our imperfect spouses and children, our bad health, our fears—all of the ordinary “stuff” which we allow to rob us of our peace.

The security and peace promised to us in Christ comes from surrendering control of our lives to Him—not asking him to change everything we’re dealing with, but asking him to change us.

In our second reading, Jesus himself accepts God’s will, in an act of total surrender to the Father. None of can make such a complete sacrifice of ourselves, but all of us, made holy by Christ’s sacrifice, are also called to surrender ourselves to the will of God.

Doing God’s will can be as simple as bearing with the trials life sends us, uniting them to the supreme sacrifice of Christ through the Mass, through a morning offering, and by accepting them.

What does God’s will mean for you this week? For some, it might be accepting without complaint the arrival of a mother-in-law who likes to say “that’s not really how we stuff a turkey in our family…”

It might be bearing with the loneliness that comes from missing a departed loved one at Christmastime. Maybe we need to resist family social events that will make it all but impossible to come to Mass on Christmas.

For me, it will be finding time to pray during this wild week, trying to find time to write a good homily for Friday while getting to Costco before Thursday.

God’s will is different for each of us, but God’s peace is the same for all of us—Christ, who is our peace. Christ, born in Bethlehem, Christ, coming anew at Christmas.

The famous Serenity Prayer may be just what we need to help us understand how we are to accept God’s will and find the peace that Jesus promises, a peace the world cannot give, even at Christmas.

Let me close with its power-filled words:

God grant me the serenity
to accept the things I cannot change;
courage to change the things I can;
and wisdom to know the difference.

Living one day at a time;
enjoying one moment at a time;
accepting hardships as the pathway to peace;
taking, as He did, this sinful world
as it is, not as I would have it;
trusting that He will make all things right
if I surrender to His Will;
that I may be reasonably happy in this life
and supremely happy with Him
forever in the next.   Amen.

REFLECTION:  Through the eyes of love…

Sunday, December 20th, 2015

As I sat knitting on the couch that seems to always “embrace” me, a song I first heard at our wedding reception came through on Youtube.  I had not searched for it, but it came at the tail end of another song which I had recently discovered.

Our 31st anniversary is 3 days away and I am not sure if my husband will make it back in time from Maldives, fulfilling one more on his bucket list.  (He is on the waiting list.)

The song was chosen for us by the band because I had been too busy preparing our wedding on my own, one day less than 3 months after the passing of my Father-in-law.  He had passed suddenly from a heart attack and yet he died at a beautiful moment, a few minutes after he rubbed his hands together and declared his content and happiness after his afternoon snack.

The date was chosen to fulfill the custom of my in-laws.  Although it was rushed, God provided and our wedding ceremony was celebrated in the tiny parish at Our Lady of Perpetual help, rather than the humongous St. Augustine Parish.  THANK YOU LORD!

My parents and my siblings had all moved on to the States and I used to joke, saying that they couldn’t get rid of me and so they all took off, leaving me behind in our family home.  Perhaps I was the only one who understood the joke because I always ended being the only one laughing.

The musical prelude into the song caught me by surprise.  It intrigued me because it was familiar and yet I didn’t recognize it until the lyrics were sung.  Rather than being nostalgic, the lyrics brought new sentiments.  They brought recognition of how my life had been transformed when our Father had taught me to look at life with the eyes of love.  The transformation was gradual because I had so many hang-ups.  Nevertheless, the transformation began when I finally took His dare and I looked at myself with His eyes of love.  To my joy, I realized I truly was a gift from God, not only to the world but to myself.  I was a gift and I still am a gift to myself as God’s presence in my being gives meaning and purpose.

Please listen to the song, Through the Eyes of Love (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AxTZmmt-EJA&index=2&list=RD9pU7k2X2izw&spfreload=1)  The artist sings it slowly and intently, singing my heart to our Lord.  My prayer is that each one, in turn, will embrace the lyrics and realize how the love of God transforms each one of us.

God bless,

Melissa – December 19, 2015

p.s. –
 Through the Eyes of Love

Please, don’t let this feeling end
It’s everything I am, everything I want to be
I can see what’s mine now
Finding out what’s true since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

Now, I can take the time, I can see my life
As it comes up shining now
Reaching out to touch you
I can feel so much since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

And now I do believe
That even in a storm
We’ll find some light
Knowing you’re beside me
I’m all right

Please, don’t let this feeling end
It might not come again and I want to remember
How it feels to touch you
How I feel so much since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

And now I do believe
That even in a storm
We’ll find some light
Knowing you’re beside me
I’m all right

Now, I can take the time, I can see my life
As it comes up shining now
Reaching out to touch you
I can feel so much since I found you
Looking through the eyes of love

Songwriters
Hamlisch, Marvin / Sager, Carole Bayer

Published by
Lyrics © Sony/ATV Music Publishing LLC

REFLECTION:  Thank You Lord, You’ve never failed me yet!

Saturday, December 19th, 2015

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For a few days there, grief within began to grow.  It was painful realizing there would be several youth with Directions Youth Services, who had transitioned from living off the streets into independent housing, who would go without food hampers and gifts this Christmas.  The magic number was 22.  It was a larger number than the previous years, but it was good because it signified 22 young adults had left living off the streets and were now living indoors!

The first response to the circulation of the Christmas Wish List was magical.  One individual immediately “adopted” 5!  Two were adopted by one from the States and then a frozen turkey came along with another when she arrived at our regular Bible study!  Hair supplies on the wish list of a young one was dropped off by another just before her day surgery, a $50 grocery card was delivered from Port Moody and then 3 movie tickets, which I had desperately prayed for for a 16 year old, was offered by another.  Two regular faithful ones adopted two each and then there was the warm hat and sweater dropped off by a precious, single mom!  (Thank you each one of you for your love and generosity!)

And then there were the remaining 9.  How would it be possible to provide for these with limited funds?  Two of us began petitioning for more help but the response was dry.  Although the young adults were told they were not guaranteed to receive, the sadness and grief were still there.

Many times, having ADHD is a blessing.  With my mind still on these 9, it was difficult sitting still during yesterday’s Bible Study DVD session  and so I began to pace around the parish halls.  The undelivered food hampers the Knights of Columbus had prepared for others had caught my attention.  Silently, I asked our Father to provide for these 9 ones too.  Perhaps, with the twinkling of His eyes,  the Holy Spirit prompted me towards the parish foyer and I noticed several boxes of food donations  sitting there.  God led me back to the room to finish watching the DVD but silent prayers were lifted, spiritually banging on Heaven’s doors.

Although Christmas appeared to look bleak for these 9, God began to unlock doors and windows.  He led us directly to the right people and we received the thumbs up. ALL the grocery at the foyer were ear marked for Directions Youth Centre!   Direction’s van came by this morning and it was filled!

THANK YOU GOD for continuing to work even in the darkest of times!

Thank you to all those who gave so generously and to all who prayed fervently.  THANK YOU LORD!  You’ve never failed me yet and I know you never will!  May You, alone, receive all the glory!

God bless,

Melissa – December 18, 2015

REFLECTION: The challenge…

Tuesday, December 15th, 2015


The request arrived yesterday afternoon, and yet it feels as if I’ve already been wrestling with it for a while…  My response?  I pray and continue to ask, “Lord, have mercy on me.”

I’ve been challenged with this before, but I am surprised where the request comes from this time around.  In truth, to me, the request was ludicrous then and it remains the same today.

He wrote…”Can I ask you a favor?  Would it be possible for you (if and when you receive requests for prayers) to send that directly to *** who is coordinating the *** Prayer Request initiative?  You know about this, I am sure.  There are so many overlaps and repeats between *** and your emails that it has become redundant and causing many to ignore such emails.  Don’t you think this would be better? … Thank you for your kind cooperation and God bless.”

In essence, the writer is suggesting that I send the prayer requests I receive directly to another and not to circulate them to those on my own mailing list.  My heart cries out in anguish, “WHY???”  Why can’t those who have complained see that a duplicate prayer request is a call from God to pray one more time.  Is that too much to ask from another?  Would we not want others to lift our trials up to the Father repeatedly on our behalf?  I would.

My heart continues to grieve.  I continue to ask our Father what  is going on in the hearts of those who feel the triviality of a duplicate prayer request.  As I pray, I am reminded of the scripture… At that time many will fall away and will betray one another and hate one another. Many false prophets will arise and will mislead many.…” Matt 24:10-11  In fact, the King James Version describes this situation to a T…”And then shall many be offended, and shall betray one another, and shall hate one another.”

Lord, my heart and mind cannot comprehend the pettiness of this challenge.  It appears as if my mind refuses to grasp how another can complain of a duplicate prayer request.  My heart tells me that many are honoured and moved to pray again and yet, the few who are disgruntled are making a lot of noise.  Dear Holy Spirit, PLEASE open their spiritual hearts and let them see.

Pope Frances has opened the doors of the Church for the Jubilee Year of Mercy.  You have asked each of us to extend the same mercy You have continued to shower over us.  I ask Lord, that you send the desire to extend mercy to those who have spoken negatively.  Let Your will be done here on earth… in every ministry that You have called us into.  Lord, You alone are my Boss and I ask that Your will be done in my life and in the lives of ALL who call You Lord.

God bless,

Melissa – December 15, 2015

p.s. – May I ask for your prayer support?  In truth, your ongoing prayers are so desperately needed.  The attacks are ongoing and substantial.  Thank you.

  •  Matthew 18:21-35

 Then Peter came and said to Him, “Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me and I forgive him? Up to seven times?” Jesus *said to him, “I do not say to you, up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven.

 “For this reason the kingdom of heaven may be compared to a king who wished to settle accounts with his slaves.  When he had begun to settle them, one who owed him ten thousand talents was brought to him.  But since he[c]did not have the means to repay, his lord commanded him to be sold, along with his wife and children and all that he had, and repayment to be made.  So the slave fell to the ground and prostrated himself before him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you everything.’  And the lord of that slave felt compassion and released him and forgave him the debt.  But that slave went out and found one of his fellow slaves who owed him a hundred denarii; and he seized him and began to choke him, saying, ‘Pay back what you owe.’  So his fellow slave fell to the ground and began to plead with him, saying, ‘Have patience with me and I will repay you.’  But he was unwilling and went and threw him in prison until he should pay back what was owed. So when his fellow slaves saw what had happened, they were deeply grieved and came and reported to their lord all that had happened.  Then summoning him, his lord *said to him, ‘You wicked slave, I forgave you all that debt because you pleaded with me.  Should you not also have had mercy on your fellow slave, in the same way that I had mercy on you?’  And his lord, moved with anger, handed him over to the torturers until he should repay all that was owed him. My heavenly Father will also do the same to you, if each of you does not forgive his brother from your heart.”

REFLECTION: Did “Jack Frost” take a nip off you last night?

Wednesday, December 2nd, 2015

IMG_6236Did “Jack Frost” take a nip off you the last few nights?    I assume “Jack” didn’t have a chance to take a bite since many had the luxury of staying indoors in a comfortable heated home. Nevertheless, the frosted and icy streets that each encountered in the morning would tell the story of how cold it was.

Because of the low number of guests queuing up for our Believe Street Meal on Sunday, I took a walk around a portion of downtown Vancouver, hoping to encounter and invite more guests to our meal.  The presence of the homeless and the marginalized were low and yet the activity among the party goers was strong.  Could the absence of the homeless indicate that many had opted for shelters?  I hope so.  Nevertheless, there were a handful of resilient ones who gathered together to smoke a joint and then there were those who made a stand and chose to make their “home” outdoors in the cold.

Perhaps you can say that some were blessed because they had a comforter and bedding to lift them above the cold concrete paths.  Many of these had made signs, penning down their hardship on cardboaard… inviting passer-bys to give.  Undoubtedly, people gave because these ones had said they had already eaten and were full.

And then there were those who had gotten their priceless opportunity to sit right in front of the door of a convenient store.  One or two were hungry, but they could not give up the desired spot they had gotten to pan for donations.

We can never understand why we have folks living off the streets in downtown Vancouver.  The youth may have ran from the torment that took place within the  walls that were once called “home”.  Others may have been thrown out because of addiction and yet, there may be those who are out there because funds have run dry and their health and/or mental state prevent them from obtaining secure employment.

On my way back to our serving site, I encountered an aboriginal young man scrounging through a trash can on Burrard Street. The  invitation to a hot meal didn’t seem to entice him, but the magic words “We have Mac n Cheese.” immediately caught his attention and he replied that he was coming.  He continued scrounging through the trash, but eventually he caught up with me and we had a nice chat.  He mentioned that he had layer upon layer of clothing to keep him warm.  They couldn’t be too restrictive because it prevented him from using his bike.  As we walked past the beautifully lighted St. Paul Hospital, he mentioned that he was on the 3rd or 4th floor for a duration of  12 or 13 weeks because of a hip infection.  He liked it there because it was warm, the nurses were kind and they made good peanut butter sandwiches.

The picture of the man with his feet over his bike is the capture I took of my new buddy.  While I took pictures of our new volunteers, he asked if I wanted to take his picture while he napped.  He was sitting down although earlier, he had mentioned he didn’t like sitting because it made him cold.

Father God, we thank You for the shelter and the warmth we enjoy and often take for granted.  Please help us remember that there are others out there who do not have.  Please use the nip of the cold to remind us to lift a prayer for those without.  Give us the grace and the desire to give from our abundance and when we don’t have, help us at least give a smile.  In Jesus name we pray, AMEN.

God bless,

Melissa – December 2,2015

p.s – Directions Youth Services (http://directionsyouthservices.ca/ – catering to the youth from 13 years to 21) would appreciate donations of regular sized shoes, over-sized jackets so the kids can layer their clothing, underwear, socks, meat products and other food donations.  There will be an opportunity to donate funds for food hampers for those who are in assisted living.  I will circulate more information about that when it is available.