Monday, December 28, 2009

holy families?

Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family.  Fortunately, they don't call it the Feast of the Perfect Family, but I think they got kind of an unfair advantage considering two of the members were sinless.  Poor Joseph!  But they weren't perfect - their teenager decided to stay behind in the city they were visiting without telling anyone, and his parents left without making sure he was with them. 

Our families, too, are called to be holy, though sometimes we are not anywhere close to that ideal!  So, if we are called to be holy, that must be an attainable goal.  Not perfection - just holy. 

The second reading from Sunday is one of my favorite bits of scripture.  It seems to come up fairly frequently, and it will always remind me of our previous pastor for a couple of different reasons.  This is from Colossians 3:12-17, and it gives us some direction for having a holy family: 

Put on then, as God's chosen ones, holy and beloved, (that's us!) heartfelt compassion, kindness, humility, gentleness, and patience, bearing with one another and forgiving one another, if one has a grievance against another; as the Lord has forgiven you, so must you also do.  And over all of these put on love.... And let the peace of Christ control your hearts.... And be thankful.  Let the word of Christ dwell in you richly....And whatever you do, in word or in deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through him.

Oh, goodness!  Patience?  Bearing with one another - even when you are tired of bearing with some people?  Forgiving?  Again??  Patience?  Love?  Be thankful??  Really??  We are God's chosen ones?  So we have to act like it?  Was He running short on people to choose from ?  Patience??  Peace of Christ?  Peace?  Here?  In this house?  I have to forgive AS the Lord forgives me?  That means I'll be forgiving for years to come??  The same things over and over?  Patience?? 

Does anyone think that this call to be a Holy Family might be a lifetime work?  Probably best accomplished with prayers, as well as compassion, gentleness, humility, patience, forgiveness, love, and gratitude.  Lord, don't go anywhere.  I'll be needing you often for this project! 

Friday, December 25, 2009

christmas blues

Don't get me wrong, I like Christmas, though I probably like Advent more - the preparing and anticipating and waiting, the quiet expectation.  Christmas brings family togetherness, food.  The smiles on my kids' faces when they get something they really wanted.  All good things.   I just wish there was less emphasis on the gifts and more emphasis on THE gift.  

Last year, money was tight in the extended family, and the gifts were scaled back some.  There was less expectation.  This year, I feel like I let down some of the recipients.  Our gifts did not match up dollar for dollar.  And when the gift-giving is basically exchanging gift cards, it's easy to see who spent what.  On the other hand, I did not go in debt up to my eyeballs.

God is good!  Maybe someday there will be more focus on THE GIFT and less on the gifts!

we played with string

Back in the days before the dawn of time, back before the days of Atari, and cable TV, we amused ourselves with simpler entertainment.  Here my brother takes a step back in time and demonstrates how to create the ever-popular "cup and saucer" with a string.  I, for my part, could remember the "rocket ship", the "parachute", the "chicken-foot" (which is the parachute turned upside down) and the most difficult of all - Jacob's Ladder.  I was kind of amazed that I can still remember those things after 30+ years.  Our kids didn't "get it" at all.

Thursday, December 24, 2009

God is with us!

O come let us adore Him...

One of the scouts who helped us decorate was taken at the appearance of "flaming straw" around Baby Jesus and commented about it (more than once) to Father, who finally said, "Yes, He is burning with love for you.....are you on fire with love for Him?"  And that was part of the homily tonight.  Another point, was that straw is rather useless material.  Our lives are like the straw, waiting for Jesus to rest in the "stuff" of our lives. 

A few pictures from our decorating excursion at church yesterday:

Merry Christmas!

parts and pieces, part five

My former co-worker/friend was able to make it to my house this morning to complete my washer repair job.  $40 later he was on his way, and I am able to wash clothes in my own house once again.  Hopefully this will be the last repair for a little while!  And that will mean the end of the "parts and pieces" series.  I hope!

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

ready or not...

Here He comes!

This Advent has been relatively stress free.  My shopping was done yesterday - 2 days ahead of schedule by my standards.  I still need to wrap, but there is tomorrow for that, and some of it is done already. 

The tree was put up a couple of days ago.  Or half of it, anyway.  We decided to leave off the back side of it, in order to make it a little more compact.  Space is at a premium.  No ornaments this year, thanks to the cat.  But it looks nice with some twinkly lights and candy canes.  And an angel on the top that was handmade by the mother of one of my students 15 years ago or so.  Its head is a little droopy - maybe I should try to fix that.

Went to confession a week or so ago, so our souls are relatively clean; the house not so much.

Lessons and Carols was Sunday night at church.  We listened to readings recapping our salvation history and listened to/sang carols between readings.  Our choir did a wonderful job, and it was an hour well-spent.

Christmas cards got skipped this year, and I have a feeling I am not the only one.  I think I have only received 3, in spite of the fact that I actually sent them out last year!

Baking cookies was a thought.  Even bought the dough (slacker, I know).  But the kids decided (and I agree) that eating the dough is more satisfying than the cookies, soooo....the baking didn't quite happen this year.

The church is decorated.  I don't do much decorating at home, so this satisfied my decorating urge.  We were there because the boys needed service hours for their next rank in scouts.  I had been told that we would be needed to unpack some boxes, carry in the nativity pieces, and hang some stuff.  I really thought it would be 20 or 30 minutes, but we were there for 2 1/2 hours!  The boys did unpack boxes and carry pieces from the hall to the church.  We hung thingies on the walls.  They climbed around in the church attic looking for spray-painted pine cones.  We fluffed bows.  They hauled live plants and fake trees here and there.  I will try to take some pictures after Mass tomorrow and post them.  Our beautiful little church was all set for Christmas when we left!

Come Lord Jesus!

parts and pieces, part four

When we did the last bit of maintenance on the washing machine, before I closed it back up (sounds like surgery), I took a look around with the flashlight and saw that one of the two shock aborbers holding up the tub was broken.  I didn't order them right away, but one day last week.  They came in about a week ago, and last weekend, we endeavored to replace them (both of them are now broken).  We did manage to take off the ones that were on the machine, but try as we might, could not get the new ones on.  Picture in your mind - this is at the bottom of the washing machine, so we are laying down on the bathroom floor, trying to push or pull the particular piece into place.  Not a whole lot of leverage.

Soooo.... I called a former colleague from school, who left teaching this year to "pursue other interests".  Apparently the other interests are going pretty good, because it has been difficult for him to find time in his schedule.  But, he just called, and is going to come by in the morning.  Say a prayer that he knows what he is doing and can get humpty dumpty back together again, and I will be able to do laundry in my own house once again!

Monday, December 21, 2009

o radiant dawn

Here's a bit of Catholic trivia for you:  the "O Antiphons".   Click on the link for more specific information.  The O Antiphons are prayed during Evening Prayer of the Liturgy of the Hours from December 17 to December 23.  Each "O" is followed by a title (in Latin) that relates to Jesus and was found in the prophecies of Isaiah.  As an "added bonus", when the first letter of each title when taken in reverse order, spells the Latin for "tomorrow He comes". 

Anyway, the Antiphon for today was "O Radiant Dawn, splendor of eternal light, sun of justice:  come, shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death."  I wonder if it is an accident that an antiphon that speaks of radiant light was chosen for the shortest day of the year?

As I drove to Mass this mornng at 6:15 or so, the dawn was anything but radiant.  It was foggy and still dark, and I wondered where the extra daylight that we had a month or so ago had gone!  The good news is that the days will get longer from here on out...

Saturday, December 19, 2009

unthinkable impossibilities

Unthinkable impossibilities - like the Saints being 13-0.  Do we dare to think 14-0?

The homily this evening was about unthinkable impossibilities that give way to save realities.  An unthinkable impossibility like a virgin conceiving the child of God by the Holy Spirit so that He could walk among us as one of us.  And what a saving reality that unthinkable impossibility was!

In our own lives there are unthinkable impossibilities - addictions, struggles, family issues.  But given to God (and not taken back), we can be open to saving realities - in His way, not ours.

Edited to add:  Perhaps 14-0 was an unthinkable impossibility.  But perhaps this loss will be a "saving reality" for the Saints.  If they have to play Dallas in the play-offs, perhaps we'll be ready for them!

Wednesday, December 16, 2009

gift from the heart

About 6 weeks into the school year, I got a new little student in my class.  His records say that he is mildly mentally disabled, but I'm not so sure.  The other kids have pointed him out as "slow", but he routinely has answers in my math class, when they do not.  He is quiet, never bothers anyone, and one of this "things" is to draw rows and rows and rows of these little men.  His box of crayons, pencils, glue sticks, and scissors is always present.  He will usually put these away when I ask, so that he can do math, but usually - when there's a break in the action -  they find their way back to his desktop. 

When I looked closely at what he was doing one day, I thought they were pretty interesting.  Each one is different, and there seems to be no rhyme or reason.  I asked if I could have one, and he shook his head "no".  One day on his way out the door, he shoved a paper at me, "Here".  It was one of his sheets of drawing, but uncolored.  The next day, I asked him if he would color it for me, and he took it back to work on it.  Periodically, I've asked him if he is working on it for me, and he nods. I told him that's what I wanted for Christmas.  Today, I got my present.  I think I will mat it and laminate it!

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

different scenery

Like many, I am a creature of habit.  It's just good knowing what to expect.  Mondays, Thursdays and Fridays will find me at 6:30 Mass at one church.  Unless I have a before-school meeting, Tuesdays and Wednesdays will generally find me at 7:30 Mass at another parish that is a bit out of the way.

Today, though, was rainy.  The school drop-off line was limited to the 3 or 4 cars that could fit under the pavilion at one time, and so moved more slowly.  By the time I dropped off my bundles of joy at school, I knew I would be late for 7:30 Mass.  Sometimes I will just go ahead and go, praying that the lights are with me and there is a parking place and I am not too late. I figure Jesus would rather see me late, than not at all.   But today, the weather was nasty, the roads were wet, and something told me not to make the trip across town.

But I have really come to depend on my early morning times with Jesus.  (Daily Masses are often a lot quieter than weekend Masses.)  The next best thing?  The adoration chapel.  So I went to "the little chapel down the road" and spent a nice quiet half hour there before I had to be on my way to school. Sometimes that's the best part of the day -  at the feet of Jesus.

Monday, December 14, 2009

cutting edge

This little gadget arrived in my room on Friday: 

It is a Promethean Board, and is something like a giant touch screen monitor.  I can hook a laptop to it on the side, and there is a projector on the arm at the top.  The screen can be raised and lowered.  It is SOOOooo cool. 

Even though the internet aspect of it wasn't working today, we still found plenty to do.  Everyone got a chance to write, draw, decorate.  By the last period, I had the sense to save their creations. 

This is exciting for me, because in special ed, we usually get the leftovers.  The textbooks that no one uses, etc.  For us to actually get something new and "cutting edge" is almost beyond words.

This little marvel sells for somewhere between $3,000 and $5,000.  It was paid for with Stimulus Funds.  Be sure to thank your grandkids for me someday!

spiritual tidbits

We are blessed to have a pastor who is an awesome homilist.  You never find yourself wondering what he's trying to say or how much longer he is going to go on about whatever.  There is always a point.  They take as long as they need to take, but never any longer.  More often than not, you are sure that he is talking to you!  Some are awesome, some are just good, but I think I could sit and listen to him all day. 

Anyway, here are a few insights from the past few days of daily Mass and Sunday.  Sometimes I take a few notes; sometimes I rely on memory, which fades pretty fast.  One of his favorite ways to start a homily is to highlight a few verses from one of the readings or from several of the readings and then go from there.  I'll put those verses in bold italics.

From Thursday: I am the Lord, your God, who grasp your right hand.  It is I who say to you, "Fear not, I will help you." (Isaiah 41:13)  Fear not!  This is the command that we see most often in the Bible.  How do we do this?  After all, God made us, and fear is part of our make-up.  The way that we do this is to avoid making choices based on fear and anxiety.  I sit there thinking, "Well, I don't really do that," and he further explains.  We lie because we are afraid of looking bad or taking responsibility for our actions.  We cave in to peer pressure because we are afraid of not being accepted.  We engage in intimate relationships that the Lord does not bless because we are afraid of being alone.  Hmmmm....   Well maybe sometimes.  I think it is a comforting image to see the Lord taking us by the hand.  Just like a mom grabs a child's hand and says, "Let's go.  Everything will be alright.  I will help you!"

From Friday:  I, the Lord, your God, teach you what is for your good, and lead you on the way you should go. (Isaiah 48: 17ff)  Those who follow you, Lord, will have the light of life. (Psalm 1)  But wisdom is vindicated by her works.  (Mathhew 11:19)  You can't please everyone.  Follow the Lord.

From Sunday:  Shout for joy, O daughter Zion!  Sing joyfully, O Israel!  Be glad and exult with all your heart, O daughter Jerusalem... The Lord, Your God, is in your midst... (Zephaniah 3:14 ff) This was written while Israel was in exile and Jerusalem lay in ruins.  They were at a political and moral low.  What a strange time to rejoice!  Rejoice in the Lord always.  I shall say it again:  rejoice!...The Lord is near.  (Philippians 4: 4 ff)  These were written by St. Paul as he sat in prison about to be beheaded.  Rejoice?  How?  Know that joy is not the absence of sorrow, pain, and trouble in our lives.  Rather, joy is the result of the presence of God in our midst.  We are to turn to the Lord and hold nothing back.  What should we do? (Luke 3:10)  Well, rejoice!

From today:  I see him, though not now;  I behold him, though not near:  A star shall advance from Jacob, and a staff shall rise from Israel. (Numbers 24)  This was a prophecy uttered by Balaam - a pagan. He was instructed by the King of Moab to curse Israel.  Instead, he is faithful to the voice of God.  St. John of the Cross, whose feast is celebrated today says that we must dig deeply in Christ.  He is like a mine of many treasures.  We allow this to happen in prayer.  Not babbling prayer, but prayer of listening, which leads to Wisdom. 

And that is all I've got for that.  Your mileage may vary.

the weekend in review

Just didn't seem like too much to write about this weekend.  Not sure why I'm writing about it now...

Friday night found me at an Ornament Exchange Party hosted by one of my mom-friends.  It was a crowd of a lot of teachers from several different schools.  The food was delicious, the company was good, the evening was fun, and everyone left with an ornament.  The only drawback was my attempt to park on the street.  In the dark, I did not see the storm drain / catch basin on the curb.  I hit it with my tire, and when I got out of the car I could hear a gentle  Sssssssss.  So not a good thing.  One of the other partiers volunteered that she had roadside assistance on her phone plan and offered to call.  She did, and within a half hour or so, a young man came and changed my tire.  Unfortunately Saturday morning found me at the tire store buying a new one.

Let's see:  cookies for the party, $8.99.....2 cute snowmen ornaments, $3.99 each and 20% off, 1 new tire, $113.00 + change... Wait - something's supposed to be priceless...

What was priceless was kid #1.  His school hosted a dance the same evening.  Previously he has not been very enthused about school dances, having attended only one in 6th grade, which he declared to be a tremendous waste of his time!  But he has discovered something this year:  G-I-R-L-S!  and he was really looking forward to the dance.  I was glad to find when I picked him up that he had a good time.  Even though some of the girls weren't really excited about dancing with him, no one refused him.  He came to me with his shirt and said, "Mom, smell.  You can smell the 'girl smell!'"  That was probably priceless.  But I am so not ready for this girl thing.

Saturday afternoon was confession and Mass.  There was an actual LINE at confession.  I almost forgot what I had to say by the time I got in there - had to look at my list!  But it was good to see some other sinners. We celebrated after Mass with Chick-Fil-A.  And while the boys filled up on chicken nuggets, I had a peppermint chocolate chip shake to go along with my meal.  You only live once, and it was worth it!

Someone's cell phone went off during the quietest part of Mass - apparently not for the first time. That was awkward.  Father refused to continue Mass until the offending phone was removed from the church.  I didn't know whether to pray for him or the cell phone owner.  Maybe both. 

Sunday passed in a whirl.  The Saints are 13-0!!  I wrapped some Christmas presents.  Lesson plans.  Math homework.  Laundry.  Cleaning the kitchen. Lighting the Advent wreath.

And now I guess you know why there was nothing very exciting to blog.

Tuesday, December 8, 2009

playing on God's team

He chose us in him, before the foundation of the world, to be holy and without blemish before him. (Ephesians 1)

At today's school Mass held on the Feast of the Immaculate Conception, Father explained that when he was a skinny, buck-toothed kid in junior high, he was usually the last one to get picked for any sort of team.  And when you get "picked" under those circumstances, you're not really being chosen at all; someone is just getting stuck with you. 

But here we are chosen by God before the beginning of the world - from all eternity.  He actually WANTS us on His team!  I think that's a team that I want to play on.  I am often thankful that I have been chosen.   (And from what I hear, it's a winning team!)

Sunday, December 6, 2009

silent reflection

There were a few camp pictures that didn't make the good, the bad, and the ugly posts, but which I thought were still worth posting.  All of them reflections in the lake.  For some reason, the colors that are reflected in the lake are more vivid than the actual colors.  Maybe if we look at ourselves in God's mirror, the same thing happens??

about those crooked paths...

Today's Gospel reading for the 2nd Sunday of Advent was taken from Luke 3.  It quoted from Isaiah, and it made me think of the title of the blog.  At some point I will have to pull out my Bible and see if the scripture from Isaiah is the same one used in my title...

A voice of one crying out in the desert:
"Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths.
Every valley shall be filled and every mountain and hill shall be made low.
The winding roads shall be made straight,
and the rough ways made smooth,
and all flesh shall see the salvation of God."

There are some rough spots in my life that need to be made smooth, some winding roads that could be a little straighter.  So hopefully, we can make it to confession next Saturday.  Father even said the "c-word" in a sentence in his homily today - saying something about making a good confession before Christmas in order to better welcome Jesus into our lives. 

o is for ostensorium

Saturday evening found the boys and I attending Mass and later eating pizza with our former pastor.  He seems to enjoy our company a couple of times a year, and endures the all-you-can-eat buffet.  The conversation ranges all over the place - from "artistic" displays of people who have donated their bodies to science to how Catholic schools can only teach the degree of Catholicism that the people there are comfortable with practicing themselves to the origins of the names of the days of the week to catching up on mutual friends/acquaintances.  I always learn something.

Earlier in the week, I had emailed him asking for his help with an ABC book I am putting together for my Godchild.  I had pictures for many of the letters, but still needed some help with several.  So before we left for the pizza place, we brainstormed, and he scoured the sacristy looking for things to fill in the blanks.  A couple of the additions to the book:

Yep!  That's an Ostensorium.  AKA as a Monstrance!

And V is for vestments of which he is very proud.  They are a vast improvment over the old ones.  But I didn't see a pink rose chasuable in the closet....


There was a bit of snow here on Friday night. And just the THREAT of snow was enough to cancel all evening plans. The kids had fun in the slush and snow. The fact that we avoided a trip to the ER with all the slipping and sliding and swinging of golf clubs and general frenzied excitement is something of a miracle.

A few pictures from the evening:

And then there's the whole global warming thing...when we've gotten snow 2 years in a row in early December (technically still fall) in south Louisiana...