I went to Mass last night…

I went to Mass last night; it was good and full and clean.

The prayers have changed, but the words still meant the same.

I worshipped and praised and found myself lifted. And then I wondered, why have I dragged my feet for such a long time? Why have I stayed away?

The Holy Spirit whispered in my ear and now I know why – I was looking at people instead of at God. He never fails. He never disappoints – oh, in the short term, when we do not understand His Heart, we misunderstand His motives and His means. He is slow, we say. But He is ever on time.

The Mass is the fulfillment of the Seder supper of the Hebrew Passover Feast – for Christians. Every word, every prayer, every song is knit together to reassure our hearts of the Love of God. The Bread and the Wine feed our souls. The Body and the Blood – Jesus – sustains our spirits. We are fed and surrounded by pure Light.

Oh, Father, how I love You. I thank You for loving me first.

I thank You for sustenance and the Peace of Your Holy Spirit living in my heart. For Your Holy Catholic Church where I am loved and accepted as Your child.

I thank You for the Mass. Thank You for Holy Communion. Thank You for dwelling with us in the Bread and Wine. Thank You for reaching out to us in our nakedness and shame. Thank You for clothing us, for sheltering us, for Your presence.

Thank You for giving Your life for ours. Thank you for not holding back Your Son. Thank You for sending Your Holy Spirit. Thank You for the wisdom You are, and for the love You give us. Thank you for being with us now and at the hour of our greatest need. Amen.

Did you ever wonder what it means to take the Lord’s name in vain?

mill-sky-clouds-grass-339343I have often thought about the times I have used expletives to express my feelings or reactions to difficult situations. Yes, I usually feel awful after such an outburst. But for some reason, I never felt that my expletives were the whole of the matter. I always felt as though there were more to be considered, I just didn’t know what that “more” was.

This past Saturday I attended a Spiritual Retreat at my local Parish Hall. It was led by a young priest with a guitar. His voice was soft and his words were gentle. For a moment, I was lulled into thinking that this would be another “feel good” retreat, where I would divest myself of some half-imagined unconfessed sin and feel better for a short time afterward.

As it turned out, I was in for a surprise. The Priest, Father Jeff, was using the theme “Spirits Soaring”. He spoke on the gifts of the Holy Spirit, which are wisdom, knowledge, faith, healing, spirits, tongues, interpretation of tongues… and a host of other gifts which the Holy Spirit bestows according to the will of the Father. As part of his teaching, Fr. Jeff spoke of the Hebrew word for Spirit.

In Hebrew, the word for Spirit is rûah, which also means… wind.

Genesis 1:1-2 In the beginning, when God created the heavens and the earth, the earth was without form or shape, with darkness over the abyss and a mighty wind (rûah) sweeping over the waters.

Job 3:3-4 For the spirit (rûah) of God made me, the breath of the Almighty keeps me alive.

According to Fr. Jeff, the name for God in Hebrew is an attempt to replicate the sound of breathing. The four consonants that spell the name of God cannot be pronounced alone because they are expiration sounds (breathing out sounds). Further, the word has no vowels to inform the sound.

This information made me sit up and take notice. Fr. Jeff explained that the name of God is like a sigh… that as we breathe, drawing air in and letting air out, we are making the sound of rûah… sighing. That means that as we breathe in and out, we are uttering the name of God. But to speak God’s name at all is to pray, to call upon Him.

This means that every inhale, every exhale, every moment of the day or night, is prayer. Is this what it means in Scripture when we read that the Spirit prays for us with groanings too deep for words? This gives a whole new meaning to taking God’s name in vain. If I am breathing God’s name, night and day, 24/7, then anything I say is layered on top of that prayer.

Follow me here – if I am speaking words of encouragement and hope, I am keeping the message of God’s name melodious and harmonic. However, if I am speaking hatred or promoting some other shameful pursuit, I am belying the message of my breath, and heaping coals of shame on God’s name (and my own head). If I criticize, or judge, or lie, or falsely accuse, or gossip – it is as though I did it in God’s name.

How many times have I brought shame on my Heavenly Father’s name by what I have said!?! I am suddenly aware that I am a woman of unclean lips. I know that I have sullied the name of my God. I cry out, “Please forgive me, Father. I didn’t understand. Now I do. Help me restrain my lips and tongue so they never speak judgment against your name again. Give me a clean heart and pure lips to sing your praises.  Let my mouth exist to praise you.”

Amen. I feel as though I will never be the same again. And I do feel good after all… very good.


A Meditation Journey

So, you’re thinking about trying meditation? It’s a good choice for improved health – physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Meditation seems to fill up our feel-good tank and cleanse our feeling-not-so-good tank. There are scientific reasons this is true. However, for me at least, it is better to experience the truth than to read facts about it.

I’ve been meditating for about a year, on and off. I require quiet and isolation to meditate at this point in my journey. I’m easily distracted by the movement of others or their conversations. This is okay. I’m just learning how to meditate. I guess I don’t have expectations for how this journey should unfold.

What I have discovered so far is that I slip into meditation easily if I use guided lessons. I find the speaker helpful in the context of my efforts to relax. Once I am relaxed, the gentle voice guiding my thoughts and attention helps me stay in a meditative state.  I find that I’m content to stay this way for up to half-an-hour after the guidance ends.

The benefits are a calmness that permeates my entire being. I am not upset by obstacles or problems that present themselves into my day. I almost feel as though I am walking on a cloud. Life is rosier – easier. My friends have commented on my calmness. While calm is my normal state, the calm induced by meditation is deeper and richer in every way.

I find myself inspired to play, paint, write, draw – all expressions of creativity bubbling up from within. Colors are more beautiful, nature is more intoxicating, life is lovely. The peace is refreshing, yet comfortable. Like wearing a scarf that’s just the right weight for the weather.  I feel as though I have put peace on – but it’s lighter than a veil.

Meditation is taught in Scripture. David meditated, as did Moses and Solomon, and many others in the Old Testament. Jesus meditated for 40 days and nights in the desert before He began His Earthly ministry. I can see why they turned to meditation – it clears the mind and heart for work. Meditation as prayer is unsurpassed, at least in my experience.

I cannot imagine discontinuing meditation any more than I would discontinue prayer. Both strengthen my soul. My resilience. My ability to love. That’s the best part of all – I feel love for others unlike my previous attempts to cultivate the emotion. I feel compassion and empathy for others. Even those whose beliefs and lives contradict mine.

Yeah, I think meditation rocks and I plan to continue practicing until I get good at it!

I’ll Never Stop Loving You…

What can I tell my mother when she’s gone? That I love her.

This morning I almost called my Mom. She’s been gone since July 7, 2016, but I nearly picked up my phone to dial her number. I just wanted to share how alike we are – how like her I’ve become. Even down to the way I take my coffee. Well, I use honey instead of Sweet and Low, but we both prefer half & half.

I stopped myself before I picked up the phone. But this is what I would have said if she had answered:

I’ve wanted to call you so many times, Mom. Wanted to pick up the phone and talk to you about… anything. I miss you. I’m so sorry you were right – you didn’t ever see me again. I couldn’t bear the thought of you not knowing me. I’m a coward, I know. I didn’t come. But I thought about you constantly.

And I do love you. I still think about you often – daily. I see the things I do that you taught me. Like folding a Kleenex down on one corner and using the doubled portion. Like licking all the way around an ice cream cone to catch the melting bits before they drip. Like shaving under my arms before shaving my legs so the razor doesn’t hurt.

You were an excellent Mother to me. I remember you being the room mother for my first-grade class. And baking cakes for the school cake walk. I remember you curling my hair to make it curly. How frustrated you would be when the curl fell right out. But you kept on curling it, night after night. Only rag curls held their shape as ringlets.

I remember you rocking me when I hurt myself. And spanking me for taking off my clothes during nap time. And teaching me my prayers. And reading aloud to me every day of my childhood. I remember you for cutting out paper dolls. For coloring with me when you had chores waiting.

I remember you sitting patiently in the emergency room while I received stitches yet again. I remember you washing the piano teacher’s bathroom to pay for my piano lessons. And I appreciate you for it. Thank you for loving me. For teaching me. For raising me to be a good citizen.

You always did the best you knew how to do. You worked hard at being a good wife and mother. I remember you kept a clean house, cooked nutritious meals, and washed all of our clothes and linens. You never complained about doing it, it just got done. Thank you for teaching me to do those things, as well. You modeled good mothering to me. You never failed me, Mom. And I’ll love you forever!

A wise man loses nothing if he but saves himself. Michel de Motaigne

Life lessons often arrive when we least expect them. Read to find out the life lessons I learned while losing weight.

I have recently lost 44 pounds. This is an exciting and thrilling event for me as I have struggled for many years trying to lose weight. Between medications and self-defeating beliefs, I was unsuccessful until September of last year. I’m not sure what changed internally, or why I was suddenly able to start dropping the pounds. However, I am sure that I have learned two very valuable life lessons through this experience.

First, I have learned that I can do anything if I set my mind to it. Even something seemingly impossible. You see, my bipolar meds cause weight gain. There is nothing I can do about that, short of discontinuing the meds, which I am unwilling to risk. But I can change my diet and activity level so that my body changes. That is what I did. I changed what and how much I was eating, and increased my activity. The pounds started coming off and continue to fall away. I’ve hit two plateaus in the past year. But I never stopped doing what I was doing, which is eating right and exercising.

Which leads me to the second thing I have learned. Just because the path forward is not visible does not mean it doesn’t exist. If I take just one more step, more of the way forward opens up before me. So, the trick is to keep moving forward. One step after another. This is all I can do – step out in faith that the path will appear as I do. So far, it has not failed me. The pounds continue melting off of my body, and I continue to feel better and better about myself. Not just for losing weight, but for growing in faith.

If you are struggling with a path that seems to be invisible, whether something to do with your health, or your job, or a relationship, focus your intention and energy on taking just one more step. Give yourself a little time to catch your breath, then lift that “foot” to take another step. In my experience, the path will manifest in front of your eyes as you do.

Don’t worry about the steps after the next one. Don’t worry about the ones behind. Just focus on taking one step forward at a time. I believe you will be pleasantly surprised to find that the worry and anxiety you are carrying about this step will disappear as you step forward into the present. And really, this is all we can do. We can’t necessarily change the path – we can only change our response to it. By embracing the next step, you release the tension that exists between you and it.

I encourage you to step out in faith. And let me know if you discover a life lesson for yourself in the process. I care very deeply about you and your life. I want to see you shine!




My Daddy Gave Me Music

My Daddy was a long-haul truck driver. He traveled the entire country in the course of moving his loads and getting them to their delivery ports. He wasn’t home every day. But when he was home, we watched the Lawrence Welk Show on T.V. together. Joanne Castle was the pianist – ragtime was her style. Daddy loved to watch her play. So did I. I don’t remember him asking me if I wanted a piano, but I do remember the results.

On his next trip out, Daddy searched everywhere for a used piano that we could afford. He found one in a barn in Kentucky. It was old and worn but still had a good tone. Daddy bought it for $75 and put it in the trailer of his truck. He tied it down so it would travel safely. He and Momma kept it a surprise.

When Daddy got home, he unloaded the piano and put it in the family room. It needed quite a bit of work, but he was confident he could do it. In fact, he ordered a correspondence course called Rebuilding and Tuning the Upright Grand Piano (or something very close to it). He bought strings and felts, hammers and keys. He spent every spare moment working on it.

I watched him work. He was very careful as he removed the strings, hammers and felts. It took months to restring and replace the hammers and felts. Of course, I was only five at the time, so my attention span was short. I checked in with him countless times, asking, “Is it ready?” He always said, “Not yet; soon,” and returned to his task as I returned to mine.

Finally, the day came that the piano was ready to play. Daddy sat down and played a few chords. His mother, my grandmother, was a pianist. He must have learned what little he knew by listening to her play. He only sat there for a moment before he sat me on the piano bench he had made. I touched the new ivories with awe. I wanted to play the piano more than anything else in the world.

Daddy and Momma knew a lady who taught piano lessons. Her name was Maureen Ricks Moore. I started lessons when I started first grade, at age six. Momma cleaned Mrs. Moore’s home to pay for my lessons. I loved playing from the start. I had lessons twice a week. Mrs. Moore placed a gold star on the page of each song I played correctly from memory. When I finished with Teaching Little Fingers to Play, she moved me into the John Thompson series of books. The piano became my best friend.

Mrs. Moore entered her students into the National Fraternity of Student Musicians. We played in annual Piano Auditions, where we received grades for our piano performance as well as testing on an understanding of music theory. I advanced along a trajectory designed to prepare me for a piano major in college.

My fondest memories are twofold. First, my Daddy worked shift work at a copper mine outside Tucson. He would come home from graveyard shift at about 8:00 in the morning. He always asked me to play the piano for him so he could go to sleep. I played Shubert’s Serenade, Indian Love Call, Stardust, Deep Purple, and a host of classical pieces I had learned for the Auditions. He always slept best after I played.

Second, Daddy formed a country-western band when I was in grammar school. I played the piano to the guitar, bass, and accordion he recruited. Friends, we played every weekend at our home. The chords and riffs I learned there would form the basis of my playing for years to come.

I still remember playing Daddy to sleep. The memories are solace now that he’s gone home to be with his Maker. I play today with other musicians who enjoy playing music that brings comfort to our listeners. My early training developed an instinctual sensitivity to the emotions that music impacts. I love it when listeners tell me my music calms them.

Thanks, Daddy. For the piano, for the lessons, for your love.