My brother in law Tony helping the poor

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Giving Up is Hard to Do

Lent.  In general, Lent is supposed to be a time for reflection, penance, and self-denial.  I asked my kids today, "so what are you giving up this year?"  My one son told me he is giving up Lent, "that way I'm killing two birds with one stone," he says.  One time a friend of mine asked me, "what are you giving up for Lent this year?"  I said, "potato chips."  He said, "way to stretch yourself."  I had given up potato chips for Lent every year for the past 15 years.  This year I thought about trying something different, "stretching" myself a little bit more.  I decided to give up trying to be all things to all people.  Instead of looking others in the eye and trying to please them, I am going to try and look Jesus in the eyes and please him.  Do you think that  is going to be easy?  Heck no!  You try and see if you come up short.

For as long as I can remember I have been trying to make others happy (unsuccessfully I might add).  My boss, my mother, my kids, my husband, my family, my friends, my dog....yada yada.  When I think of how little success I have had just trying to achieve that goal I realize that I am a complete failure!  So this Lent, instead of unsuccessfully trying to please PEOPLE, I thought for the first time in my life I would try to please the one and only person who truly loves me...God!

I wonder if I will succeed?  I wonder if it will be as hard as I think it will?  I wonder if He will notice?  I wonder... In 40 days I will no longer wonder, I will know the truth.  So where did this idea come from?  Well, I hate to say it, but again I must credit Joyce Meyer, the TV evangelist.  She brought up a very good point.  She said that people gotta stop trying to please will never work!  She said, "stop spending so much time trying to please the people in your life that are not happy, and try to please God in your life who wants YOU to be happy."  Can I really be happy not looking for acceptance and approval from others?   Well, I'm sure going to try, even if it does kills me!  However, I might find that it is was much easier to do than not eating chips!  In which case, my Lent would be lacking in penance and self-denial.  Hmmm, I better reflect on that.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

What it takes

Did you ever wonder what it takes to be a good parent, spouse, friend, Christian?  Growing up in a family of 8 children I saw what it took for my parents to be good parents.  They sacrificed a great deal.  My son John exclaimed at this past Christmas dinner, "it must have been great to grow up rich like you did."   At first my Mother's reaction was to snap at him and correct him reassuring John that we did NOT grow up rich!  But then I asked him, "why would you say that we were rich Johnny, you saw the modest home we grew up in?"  He said, "well, your dad must have been rich because he had to feed all of you, buy you clothes, and he sent you all to Catholic grade school."  Little did Johnny know that Catholic grade school back then was free for must of us, we just had to pay a book bill, and clothes were handed down from one to another, but we did all get a new pair of shoes each year for school.  My dad used to go to the butcher and bring home sides of beef that my sisters would cut and hand wrap to save money.  Things were definitely different back then.  But Johnny's observation is a good one (he is a very smart boy!).  It got me thinking, what does it take today for us to be good parents, and how come I grew up in 2 bedroom bungalow with one bathroom and I felt as rich as I do now living in my 4 bedroom colonial with 4 bathrooms?

What makes us rich?  What makes us good parents, siblings, friends, Christians?  Is it how we spend our money?  Is it where we live?  Is it who we associate with? Or is it something else?  Of course my faith was formed many years ago in that old neighborhood I grew up in but I cant say it was the area.  In fact, so many of the kids from my neighborhood (and Catholic school) grew up and have little or no faith at all.  Was it my family?  Sure, that was a big part of my formation but not all my siblings practice their faith either.  Does faith even have anything to do with it? I'm not really sure to tell you the truth.  In fact, some of the nicest people I know are atheists and some of the most nasty people I have ever met are "Christians."  So if it's not our families, or our friends or even our faith, then how can we find the recipe for success?  What can and should we do so that when we look back on our lives we have little or no regrets?  Can one truly be rich without money?  My son sure thought so.  Maybe Johnny is on to something.  Maybe Johnny saw a huge family gathered around a dinner table telling old stories and laughing with each other and thought, 'wow, I hope I am rich someday like my aunts and uncles are now!'  

I think it takes great perserverance and a forgiving heart to be rich later on.  So many times the people who were gathered around that happy Christmas table hurt one another.  I remember the dragout fights we would have where we would literally beat the heck out of each other!  I remember the incredibly hurtful things people I have called my friends have said and done to me, and I remember being beat down so low that I was sure there was no hope of getting back up.  All that being said, I am happy that my family has forgiven me for anything I have done to them and I am happy I have forgiven them.  I am blessed to still have the handful of good friends I have today even though we have not always been good to each other, and I very happy that God allows us to grieve.  After we enter and go through the grieving process, God promises us a brighter day!  

I had the pleasure of hearing Joyce Meyer, the TV evangelist speak about her life once.  She said that for 10 years her father sexually abused her, and although she could not fathom why this person she loved and trusted would hurt her so bad, she prayed day and night for his soul and for God to rescue her.  She never gave up hope in Jesus.  After many, many years, Jesus answered her prayer and she was rescued from her abuser and has been able to forgive him in her heart.  Today, she is the most widely known spiritual speaker on television and in print.  Her message of hope is told day after day and week after week.  After the darkness, God rewarded Joyce for her forgiving heart and perserverance.  

I believe that is what it takes. After our discussion at the Christmas dinner table with Johnny, my Mom ended the conversation with, "I guess we were rich!"