Three Minutes a Day
Church Bulletin Laughs
Church bulletin bloopers are always good for a laugh. Here are several that were cited in the National Catholic Register:
▪ “Ladies, don’t forget the rummage sale. It’s a chance to get rid of those things not worth keeping around the house. Bring your husbands.”
▪ “Remember in prayer the many who are sick of our community.”
▪ “Smile at someone who is hard to love. Say ‘Hell’ to someone who doesn’t care much about you.”
▪ “Don’t let worry kill you off; let the Church help!”
▪ “Potluck supper Sunday at 5:00pm. Prayer and medication to follow.”
▪ “The eighth-graders will be presenting Shakespeare’s Hamlet in the Church basement Friday at 7pm. The congregation is invited to attend this tragedy.”
▪ “The pastor would appreciate it if the ladies of the congregation would lend him their electric girdles for the pancake breakfast next Sunday.”
I commend enjoyment. (Ecclesiastes 8:15)
Lord, bless my life with joy and laughter.
Won’t Back Down
Two weeks after he was beaten and robbed in St. Margaret of Scotland’s parish rectory, Father Daniel Mallette, an 80-year-old priest on the South Side of Chicago, was back on the job, saying, “It feels great to be back.”
On December 6, 2011, Father Mallette was awakened at 12:30 a.m. by two men who broke into the rectory and forced him out of bed. They demanded he open the church safe. He was hit in the face and kicked; several ribs were broken. The men took $600, but not before one of the robbers said to him, “This might sound ridiculous, but could you pray for me?”
Despite the incident, Father Mallette’s commitment to serving the people of God hasn’t wavered. An ex-boxer who has served at St. Margaret’s since 1977, he told reporters, “This is the job I always wanted.”
All of us will face challenges, maybe even severe ones, on the path to living out our callings in life. Pray to God for help.
But we are not among those who shrink back and so are lost, but among those who have faith and so are saved. (Hebrews 10:39)
Heavenly Father, we can do all, endure all, be all in You!
A Hockey Team’s Heart
Eleven-year-old Zach Bennett of Albany, New York, was born with neurofibromatosis, a degenerative disease resulting in tumors on his nerves. He has endured constant pain, and 20 operations, including amputation of both legs. The local hockey team, the Albany River Rats, had always been a source of joy to Bennett. “Hockey means life to me because it makes me motivated,” he told ABC News.
After his second leg was amputated, Bennett’s mother asked the River Rats for help raising his low spirits. The players began to visit him regularly. When the team was moved to North Carolina and became the Charlotte Checkers, they made a deal that every game won would result in Bennett practicing walking.
The team then decided to help move the family to Charlotte by holding fundraisers and donating a portion of ticket sales. When Bennett walked into his new home, the entire team was there to meet him. The Charlotte Checkers made it to the playoffs, and Bennett walked to his seat at the games.
Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 2:5)
Help me remember the power of self-giving love, Lord.
The Perfect Christmas Gift
“To experience 80 years and rejoice in each new day is his singular joy,” writes syndicated columnist Christina Capecchi about her grandfather, an artist who recovered from a heart attack at age 70 and thereafter, continued learning and growing. At age 73, he taught himself to play clarinet and is now writing a book called Life Begins at 70.
While she was hosting a fun-filled but hectic Christmas party, Capecchi was called aside by her grandfather. “Look, what do you see?” he asked, encouraging her to pause and appreciate the bustling scene. “You see love,” he said.
Through her grandfather’s eyes, the young writer was able to see an affectionate family baking, decorating, eating and enjoying their time together. She wrote that her grandfather gave her “the perfect Christmas gift: to step outside the party like the Ghost of Christmas Present and then re-enter, relishing all the little things that had seemed ordinary a moment before.”
Enjoy the extraordinary ordinary moments of your life.
Rise before the aged, and defer to the old. (Leviticus 19:32)
May we find time today, Jesus, to notice life’s small gifts.
A Mother’s Love
Kris Miccio, a law professor and Fulbright Scholar, has been fortunate enough to know the love of two different but equally caring mothers—her biological mother and the “Mom” who adopted her through the New York Foundling hospital where she was left as an infant.
After 18 years of searching, with the aid of her adoptive mother, Miccio finally located her birth mother and three half-sisters. Together, she and her newfound family celebrated her 59th birthday in Ireland. Miccio cannot be more grateful to her foster Mom and to The New York Foundling for her double gift of life.
“[My birth mother] may have given me life,” Miccio told her adoptive mother, “but you gave me a life.”
Now that her adoptive parents have passed away, Miccio is more thankful than ever for the blessing of yet another devoted family.
May we always appreciate the inclusive love and support of our immediate and extended families.
Can a woman forget her nursing child? (Isaiah 49:15)
Jesus, bless and strengthen the bonds of all families.
A Christmas “Miracle”
Maryknoll Father James Keller, the founder of The Christophers, always encouraged people to use their talents to be a force for good. He also knew that the entertainment industry had a big influence on the public, so he encouraged filmmakers to create movies with a positive message.
One time while he was visiting Hollywood, Father Keller played golf with the writer-director team of Bill Perlberg and George Seaton. The two men described a story idea they had for a movie, and asked Father Keller what he thought of it. The priest responded that it sounded like it had the makings of a great picture, and he hoped and prayed it would come to be.
About a year later, Father Keller received a thank-you note from Seaton and Perlberg, saying that his encouragement was just the boost they needed to make their movie. That film turned out to be the Christmas classic Miracle on 34th Street.
Offer someone words of encouragement today. You never know the difference those words could make.
Your word is a lamp to my feet and a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Let my words be a source of positive action, Messiah.
A Feast for Hillbilly and Friends
Ron Petros asked his wife, Carol, “Why don’t we invite some of the guys here for Thanksgiving?” The “guys” to whom he referred were homeless men nicknamed Jimbo, Hillbilly, Irish, Capone, and Rocky. Petros had become acquainted with them when living on the streets himself in Minneapolis, Minnesota.
“With long, intensive help from counselors and friends at the New Hope Center Street ministry, [Ron had] given up alcohol and got a job, and he and I had married,” Carol wrote in Guideposts magazine. “But his heart cried out for those still left.”
The Petroses couldn’t afford a large meal so it seemed providential when a friend from church called, offering extra bags of Thanksgiving food to donate to Ron and his wife.
The homeless men were so grateful to Ron and Carol for the Thanksgiving feast that they even insisted on cleaning up afterwards. Regarding the celebration, Carol concluded, “If any seeds of hope had been planted in the mind of any one of them…then our dinner would truly be cause for thanksgiving.”
But when you give a banquet, invite the poor…And you will be blessed. (Luke 14:13,14)
Help us to protect and provide for the impoverished, Lord.
Igniting a Soul for Hanukkah
One Hanukkah many years ago, Chaim Drizin set out to kindle the holiday spirit in a Brooklyn, New York, neighborhood of Russian Jewish immigrants. Writing on Chabad.org, he said that many of the immigrants knew little about the particulars of their faith because they had lived under communism.
Spotting an elderly man sitting on a park bench by himself in front of a concrete chess table, Drizin approached him carrying the small tin menorah and colored candles he was planning to distribute. He wished the man a Happy Hanukkah and asked if he’d like to light the menorah.
“Please go away, I am not interested,” the man replied.
Drizin put the menorah with candles on the chess table, lit them, and said, “Here is the menorah. If you want it, it is yours.”
He left to reach out to others in the neighborhood, and completed his mission successfully. On his way home, he drove past the bench where he had left the old man earlier. There, he saw the old man staring at the lit menorah with tears in his eyes. “Flame meets flame,” Drizin writes, “and a soul ignites.”
Make [these] days of…gladness. (Esther 9:22)
Kindle in me a love for You, Father.
Loving Your Mother-in-Law
Bob Brody never liked his mother-in-law, Antoinette “Nettie” Chirichella of Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Though her negative view of life annoyed him, he never lost his temper with her over his 23 years of marriage with her daughter.
Then, something unexpected happened. Brody started listening, really listening, while Nettie reminisced about the challenges she had faced over her 78 years of life. These challenges included raising his future wife without a husband or much money. Brody apologized to Nettie for years of judging her harshly. He even came to look forward to her company. Unfortunately, she passed away soon after their reconciliation.
“Nettie has been gone for 12 years now, and I would give almost anything to get her back,” Brody told the New York Daily News. “We keep her cane on display in our living room, leaning against a dresser, as if to lend our family her support through eternity. If I ever forget how to feel grateful on Thanksgiving, she’s all the reminder I need.”
If there is repentance, you must forgive. (Luke 17:3)
Inspire us to make changes in our relationships, Jesus.
An Invisible Thread
A Chinese proverb states that an invisible thread connects people who are destined to meet. Laura Schroff believes that might be the reason her life changed one day in 1986. The advertising executive was walking on a Manhattan street when she was approached by a boy who asked if she had any spare change. At first she ignored him, but something made her go back. The boy’s name was Maurice Maczyk, and he was 11.
Schroff had no change to give him, but asked him instead if she could buy him lunch at McDonald’s. That was fine with him.
As Schroff learned about Maurice’s abusive father and drug-addicted mother, she came to admire the boy’s indomitable spirit—and even see a reflection of her own past with an alcoholic father. That meal began the pair’s mutually-healing friendship, and inspired Schroff’s Christopher Award-winning memoir, An Invisible Thread. One of the lessons Schroff learned from the experience: “Sometimes blessings are right in front of you…You just have to open your eyes and heart.”
You make Him glad with the joy of Your presence. (Psalm 21:6)
Grant me an open heart and helping hand, Lord.
Relaxing with God
Every day, an elderly man came to the same church to pray. He always sat quietly in the last pew. One day, the pastor decided to ask him about it: “What do you say to God during all that time you spend in church?”
The man smiled and answered, “I don’t say anything. He just looks at me and I look at Him. We enjoy one another.”
Father John Catoir, former Director of The Christophers, shared that story in his book That Your Joy May Be Full, then offered this reflection:
“Enjoying the Lord in silence; that’s contemplation. It’s a relaxing love relationship. The mind rests and the heart is full of joy. Contemplation begins where other prayer leaves off. In contemplation there are no words, no actions, no thoughts. Our heart is open before God. We receive His love and enjoy His presence….Enjoying the Lord is as close to heaven as we can get here on earth.”
Take delight in the Lord…Commit your way to the Lord; trust in Him and He will act. (Psalm 37:4,5)
In a life that seems constantly busy, Lord, help me find stillness and silence so I can find You.
By Faith, Not By Sight
Though he was born legally blind, Scott MacIntyre doesn’t consider it a disadvantage. Encouraged by his parents to focus on his abilities, not his disability, MacIntyre was a child prodigy with a God-given talent for music. At age 19, he graduated summa cum laude from Arizona State University—and at age 22, he became American Idol’s first blind contestant.
The biggest challenge of MacIntyre’s life began the day of his college graduation when he learned that he was suffering from stage four renal failure and would need a kidney transplant. That problem nearly killed him, but he was saved by the wife of his former piano teacher, who donated one of her kidneys to him.
When asked by Christopher Closeup host Tony Rossi how the adversities he’s faced have affected his faith, MacIntyre said, “One of the questions I get is, ‘If I could have my sight back, would I choose to have it back?’ And I have to say ‘no’ because I look back over my life, and I see all the ways God has used that to grow my relationship with Him and be a witness to the world. I couldn’t trade that.”
We live by faith, not by sight. (2 Corinthians 5:7)
Bless me with the wisdom to follow You, Jesus.
The Good Samaritan Motorist
When Justin Horner’s tire blew out on a remote road in Oregon, he discovered he had a spare tire but no jack. He wrote a sign reading “NEED A JACK,” and held it up. For three hours, cars and trucks just passed him by.
As Horner told the story in The New York Times Magazine, a van finally pulled over. The Good Samaritan driver spoke no English but his daughter did. He indicated he could help. Then, Horner’s tire iron broke while he was removing the blown tire. The van driver’s wife drove to the nearest town, bought a new one, returned within 15 minutes, and the job was soon done.
Inquiring about the family, Horner was amazed to find out they live in Mexico; they were in Oregon to earn money picking cherries. He wrote, “This family, undoubtedly poorer than just about everyone else on that highway, took a couple of hours out of their day to help a strange guy on the side of the road.”
When Horner tried giving the Good Samaritan $20 for his trouble, he smiled, shook his head, and said in broken English, “Today you, tomorrow me.”
Imitate what is good. (3 John 1:11)
Guide me in aiding the powerless, Savior.
A Celebrity’s Kindness
Good character in a professional setting is measured not by how you treat those who are at your level or above you, but rather how you treat those working their way up the ladder.
While appearing as a guest on the GAC network, Grammy Award-winning singer/songwriter Vince Gill was asked, “Who inspires you the most?”
He responded, “Anybody that ever treated me kind when I was young. Musicians or whoever I would have the opportunity to be around—if someone was nice to me, I never forgot it. I still have some friends that I made back 35 or 40 years ago. When I was around a great musician that I admired, I was like a little puppy dog asking, ‘What kind of guitar strings do you use or what kind of pick do you use?’ When they were kind and welcoming, it made an impact. So I always try to be kind to the young people that are trying to learn to do this.”
Character and kindness go hand-in-hand.
I led them with cords of human kindness, with bands of love. (Hosea 11:4)
Loving Creator, may I see Your reflection in everyone I meet and treat them accordingly.
A Prayer about Relationship
Most of us are so familiar with the Lord’s Prayer—the Our Father—that we may say its words without thinking much about them. It was something author and speaker Mark Hart admits to doing until he started working as a youth minister. Realizing how shallow his own prayer life was moved him to a deeper understanding of Jesus’s words.
In his book The ‘R’ Father, Hart writes, “The Lord’s Prayer is an invitation into a daily relationship…If we go to bed underwhelmed by God’s love, we weren’t as present to Him as He was to us that day. This prayer orders our priorities from the beginning: God first, us second, worship before petition. If our prayer is only about petition…we lose the worship, the adoration, the thanksgiving, and the ability to discern what God is saying to us. In short, we lose the relationship.”
Hart concludes, “In praying ‘Our’ Father…Jesus is giving us more than a relationship with His Father…He’s giving us an introduction to our greater family—the true body of Christ—and an initiation into a new way of living.”
Believe in the good news. (Mark 1:15)
I praise You, Lord, and ask Your help.
Leading Hearts to God with Humor
Singer-songwriter Jackie Francois believes humor is key to living a Christian life. Upon the release of her album, Divine Comedy, she told journalist Matthew Warner:
“People in this world think that if you are passionately Catholic you lack all passion, humor, and joy. When I meet people on planes…they are absolutely shocked that I am Catholic, because I have a huge smile on my face (almost all the time) and crack jokes. Our hearts, which can be guarded and afraid, are put at ease with humor. We feel more open to a person when they give us joy and laughter, and ultimately we are led to God, because He is the source of joy.
“One of my favorite quotes is from Blessed Mother Teresa who said, ‘Joy is the net of love by which we catch souls.’ People won’t always remember what you say, but they’ll remember your presence, and people are drawn to those with joy…St. Katharine Drexel said, ‘We must attract them by joy in order to lead them to its source, the Heart of Christ.’ Amen!”
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
May I reflect Your joy to others so that they come to know You, Jesus.
A Hundred Thousand Welcomes
Born and bred in Texas, Verily magazine Relationships Editor Ashley Crouch grew up surrounded by Southern hospitality. It is, she writes, “born of a rich tradition of appreciation for neighbor and communal interdependency.” When Crouch visited Ireland in 2012, she was happy to discover a similar tradition.
The Gaelic words “Céad Míle Fáilte” (translated to “A hundred thousand welcomes”) greeted her wherever she went. And they weren’t mere words either. The people she encountered were genuinely interested in accommodating her and making her feel at home. Crouch writes, “I learned that true hospitality is rooted in a heart overflowing with love and kindness.”
Jesus’ heart is also overflowing with love and kindness to a greater extent than any of us can imagine. He bids us “a hundred thousand welcomes” whenever we turn to Him. The least we can do is extend the same kindness to each other.
Pleasant speech multiplies friends. (Sirach 6:5)
Inspire me to be a hospitable and welcoming person, Jesus.
Make Me An Optimist
Hope needs to be an essential element of our daily lives if we’re going to live joyfully the way God intends. That’s certainly been the Christopher belief since our founder, Maryknoll Father James Keller, chose as our motto the ancient Chinese proverb, “It’s better to light one candle than to curse the darkness.”
Here’s a prayer written by Nancy F. Summers for Living Faith magazine that should help you keep hope alive:
“O God, for this new day now dawning, make me an optimist. Although there are signs of hope surrounding me, sometimes I see only the negative, the imperfections, the decay. Teach me to refocus on the marvelous possibilities, the great potentialities, the vibrant new life which fills my world each new day. Whenever my vision is darkened by pessimism, open my eyes, Lord, to the light of hope. Amen.”
I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans for your welfare and not for harm, to give you a future with hope. (Jeremiah 29:11)
It’s easy to get overwhelmed by negativity, Lord, so teach me to trust in You and be a person of hope.
Be Your Children’s One Percent
Football coach Lou Holtz once noted, “Eighty percent of people don’t care about you one way or the other; 19 percent of people hope you fail. The other one percent is your family.”
These thoughts, paraphrased in Jake Frost’s column in The Catholic Moment, might read rather negatively on the surface, but Frost emphasizes that small but significant one percent, the family who loves you unconditionally. This love, he advises parents, must be expressed to your children at a young age.
Frost cites an incident when his two-and-half-year old daughter Liz was snubbed by two girls on the playground. He knew of no other way to make Liz feel better than to simply be there for her. “Kids need to know they really matter,” Frost declares. “We do that for our kids in a million ways: listening, being open to interruptions, foregoing nights out to instead spend time with our little ones.”
Be your children’s one percent, as your Heavenly Father always is for you and all His earthly offspring.
It is that very Spirit bearing witness with our spirit that we are children of God. (Romans 8:16)
Father, may we take comfort in the constancy of Your love.
Thank God for Kids
Writer Matthew Archbold is used to hearing people make snide comments about the fact that he and his wife have five kids. But a father-of-one at a barbecue Archbold attended asked him sincerely what it was like having so many children.
On his National Catholic Register blog, Archbold revealed what he told him: “I told him that I’ve learned more about life and love in the past 11 years from the kids than I had in the previous 31. I told him I’m happier and more responsible than I’ve ever been because of them. I told him that every night when I pray, I thank God for them. I told him that in life, I maybe have made only two good decisions: one of them was marrying my wife and the other was having children. It seems to me that if you make those two decisions right, a whole lot of the little decisions just seem to get worked out. I told him that I never heard of anyone on their deathbed thinking that they wished they had fewer people around who loved them back.”
Surround yourself with people who will love you back.
Let the children come to Me. (Mark 10:4)
Let me look upon all children as the precious gift they are, Heavenly Father.
On Being Charismatic
According to public speaking coach Ruth Sherman, charisma isn’t just something you’re born with; it’s a learnable skill. “A charismatic person can walk into a group of strangers and quickly make friends,” says the author of Get Them to See It Your Way, Right Away. “An uncharismatic person hangs uncomfortably on the edge of the crowd.”
Here are some guidelines to help you develop charisma:
▪ Walk purposefully. Set specific goals before attending a business or social event instead of wandering aimlessly. (“Resolve to meet three new people at a party.”)
▪ Offer intriguing introductions. Rather than just your name, include something about yourself. (“I am an attorney specializing in copyright and patent law.”)
▪ Ensure that at least one person isn’t a total stranger.
If you’re attending a group’s annual meeting, call the president in advance and ask a question. See if they’d be willing to introduce you around at the event.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it. (Colossians 3:23)
Help us to remember we have God-given gifts, Paraclete.
Judgment vs. Need
When Fred Rogers of Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood accepted a special Christopher Award in 2001, he shared a story about his time as a seminary student (Rogers was an ordained minister).
He recalled, “A substitute preacher had come to our church and, in his sermon, went against every rule that we had been taught in class. As he finished, I was ready to give him my unspoken failing grade, but I happened to look at the woman who was sitting beside me. With moist eyes, she turned and said, ‘That preacher said exactly what I needed to hear.’
“Something happened between that preacher’s poor sermon and that woman. It hadn’t happened to me. I had come there in judgment—not in need. Ever since that day, I have recognized that the space between a person who is doing his or her best and a person who has come in need—that space is holy ground. The Holy Spirit can use whatever we offer to speak to another person’s heart. So whenever I make a TV program or just talk with a neighbor, I realize that all I need to do is give the best that I can, and God will translate it into whatever is needed most.”
Listen to His voice. (Psalm 95:7)
Use my words and actions to accomplish Your will, Lord.
A Thankless Job
Bob dreamt that he was in heaven with an angel who was giving him a tour of the place. Their first stop was a large office filled with other angels busily sorting pieces of paper. “This is the Receiving Room,” said Bob’s angelic tour guide. “This is where all the petitions made to God in prayer are received.”
Bob and the angel moved on to another busy office that was designated for Packaging and Deliveries. The angel explained, “This is where the graces and blessings that people ask for are processed and delivered.”
Finally, they arrived at the Acknowledgment Department where a lone angel sat around doing nothing and looking bored.
“Why is there so little work going on here?” Bob asked.
The angel responded, “After people receive the blessings that they asked for, very few send back acknowledgments.”
“How does one acknowledge God’s blessings?” said Bob.
The angel answered, “Just say ‘Thank You, Lord.’”
Give the angel in heaven’s Acknowledgment Department something to do. Thank God for your blessings right now.
Praise your God. (Psalm 147:12)
For Your love, thank You, generous God.
On his farm, Doug Schmidgall created a unique display of appreciation for military veterans. Using a 20-foot-wide disc that he attached to the back of his tractor, he carved out the heartwarming words “Thank You Troops” on a hill near the Abraham Lincoln Capital Airport serving Springfield, Illinois.
According to Illinois’ State Journal-Register, the farmer’s grateful message stretched across a hill about seven football fields wide and 100 yards tall.
Schmigdall, who has two sons in the military, says that whenever he sees a veteran he makes a point to shake his or her hand and say thank you. “They all deserve it,” he affirmed.
Find your own unique way to show appreciation to military personnel for their service and sacrifice—and that of their families. Regardless of how long ago they served, the important thing is never to forget how much they’ve done. They can’t and won’t. Neither should we.
Fight the good fight of faith; take hold of eternal life, to which you were called. (1 Timothy 6:12)
Help us, Lord, to keep the men and women who serve in the military in our thoughts and prayers.
The Power of Forgiveness
At the age of 14, Rosario Rodriguez narrowly escaped an attack by a serial rapist and murderer near her Grand Rapids, Michigan home. During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Rodriguez said of the attack’s aftermath, “I experienced a lot of depression and anxiety. The depression was the hardest thing—and trying to figure out my self-worth. I felt like I was treated like trash, so therefore I must be trash.”
Rodriguez started seeing a therapist who would pray with her at the beginning and end of every session. He was able to talk her through her emotions in a way that led to actual healing. In addition, she went to her parish priest for counseling. He encouraged her to pray for her attacker, and to speak the words “I forgive him” even if she didn't feel like it.
Rodriguez explained, “It didn't happen right away, but . . . I did pray for him. When I got to that place where I experienced healing, I was able to forgive. And when I let go of that rage and bitterness, I experienced so much peace, so much joy, it was an amazing freedom that I didn’t think I would ever have again.”
Christ has set us free. (Galatians 5:1)
Grant me the freedom of forgiveness, Jesus.
The Devil’s Most Valuable Tool
One day, the devil decided to go out of business, so he put his tools up for sale. Malice, Jealousy, and Pride were soon recognized by most of his prospective customers. There was one worn, tiny, wedge-shaped tool bearing the highest price, however, which seemed difficult to identify.
“What is that?” someone asked. “I can’t place it.”
Oh that!” Satan answered. “That is Discouragement. It’s my most valuable tool. With it, I can open many hearts, since so few people know that it belongs to me.”
One of the most effective protections against discouragement is the comforting conviction that, as a Christopher or Christ-bearer, we do not work alone. Christ is ever with us. We are His instruments, no matter how imperfect we may be.
Do not let your hearts be troubled. Believe in God, believe also in Me. (John 14:1)
Protect my mind and heart from discouragement, Jesus. Help me to trust in You.
Much Wisdom, Few Words
A lot of wisdom can often be conveyed in a few words. Here are some examples from the book More Roadside Church Signs Across America by Mary and David Compton:
▪ Small deeds done are better than great deeds planned.
▪ If you feel far away from God, who moved?
▪ Swallowing your pride seldom leads to indigestion.
▪ Is God your steering wheel or your spare tire?
▪ The best exercise is stooping down and lifting up another.
▪ Growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional.
▪ Good example has twice the value of good advice.
▪ Keep your words sweet; you may have to eat them.
▪ Instead of pointing a finger, hold out a hand.
▪ We are overdressed when wrapped up in ourselves.
▪ Don’t expect a thousand-dollar answer to a ten-cent prayer.
▪ If you find yourself with time on your hands, put ’em together and pray.
▪ Carve praise in stone; write criticism in sand.
▪ A baby is God’s opinion that the world should go on.
I have put my hope in the Everlasting. (Baruch 4:22)
Increase my ability to see and live by Your wisdom, Jesus.
Monsters and Happy Endings
The late Maurice Sendak did not write and illustrate your typical children’s books. His well-known Where the Wild Things Are presented super scary-looking monsters and children who were less perfect in appearance—more like “real kids,” he would say. But it’s what was at the heart of his works that makes them stand out.
“Children surviving childhood is my obsessive theme and my life’s concern,” he said in one interview. He included those themes even in productions of opera, ballet and plays he did outside the world of writing for kids. And if Sendak’s main characters sometimes faced scary, even dangerous situations, they always returned home, safe, in the end.
Daily, we face realities that are discouraging, disappointing, sometimes even frightening. But with faith and trust in a loving God, we can see our way through the personal story of each and every day.
The Lord is good, a stronghold in a day of trouble. (Nahum 1:7)
Guide me, Father, as I face the difficulties and decisions of this day.
Unemployed Hero Rewarded with Job
Thirty-year-old Delroy Simmonds was on his way to a job interview when he saw a gust of wind blow a baby carriage holding nine-month-old David Zamara onto the train tracks at Brooklyn’s Van Siclen Avenue station. Even worse, the train was approaching. Without thinking, Simmonds jumped onto the tracks and lifted the injured boy and his stroller to safety.
Though he was hailed a hero by the media, Simmonds’s rescue of Zamara prevented him from making it to his interview on time. Moved by Simmonds’s noble actions, Guy Rodriguez, project manager of ABM Janitorial Services at Kennedy International Airport, offered the unemployed father of two a position a mere two days later.
Simmonds’s reacted humbly to being called a hero. “I’m just a normal person,” he told the Daily News. “Anybody in that situation should have done what I did.”
God bless the unsung heroes who perform small miracles every day.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Father, may we always be inspired to help others in need.
Don’t Settle for Mediocrity
Singer/songwriter Audrey Assad does her best to create music that’s beautiful because she herself is inspired by the beauty God put in this world. Yet she also has to remind herself not to settle for mediocrity because beauty takes too much effort.
On her blog, Assad wrote, “Michelangelo’s Sistine Chapel is regarded as one of the world’s greatest works of art. Even it, in all its beauty, falls short of God’s Beauty. You cannot help but admit, though, that in its brilliance it assists the human heart in transcending this world and glimpsing the next.
“We’re not all going to be Michelangelo…but we can work like mad to make something really, really good. I daresay that in our ‘God is Dead’ society, Goodness and Beauty have a crucial role to play in converting the world to Him, alongside Truth. So we definitely shouldn’t settle for mediocrity in our work ever, ever, ever…whether we plumb toilets or paint portraits.”
I have filled him with divine spirit, with ability, intelligence, and knowledge in every kind of craft. (Exodus 31:3)
Inspire me to reflect Your beauty, Father.
An Eye-Opening Journey
For many years, actress Patricia Heaton (Everybody Loves Raymond, The Middle) had financially supported the volunteer work of her sons’ pediatrician, who traveled to poverty-stricken Sierra Leone, Africa, a few times a year on behalf of Lighthouse Medical Missions. In partnership with several churches, the charity builds schools and takes medical supplies to the community there. In 2009, he invited Heaton and her 15-year-old son to come along.
She explained on Christopher Closeup, “I had been to an orphanage in Mexico 20-something years ago so I knew what third-world living was like, but this was an eye-opener for my son….There were only 77 doctors in the whole country. I have more doctors in one building in Beverly Hills.”
Heaton and her son helped serve the medical needs of the children, witnessing both desperation and joy among Sierra Leone’s citizens. She said, “We need to be letting them know they’re not alone…There’s no end to the need there, so we will always have our work cut out for us.”
Honor physicians for their services. (Sirach 38:1)
Help me respond to the needs of the poor, Father.
How to Help Veterans
Military personnel and their families make a lot of sacrifices and need our attention. Parade magazine offers 11 ways for us to help veterans on their day—November 11—and throughout the year. (The article also offered relevant websites for further information.)
▪ Give shelter (homesforourtroops.org)
▪ Offer a ride (dav.org)
▪ Foster a pet (guardianangelsforsoldierspet.org)
▪ Record a war story (loc.gov/vets)
▪ Donate cell phones (cellphonesforsoldiers.com)
▪ Share used DVDs (dvds4vets.org)
▪ Contribute to holiday drives (operationgratitude.com)
▪ Send care packages (soldierpackages.org)
▪ Share your expertise (milserve.org)
Do you have extra time, money, goods? What about skills in financial counseling, or carpentry to build wheelchair ramps? There are millions of soldiers, vets and families who need you.
Put on the whole armor of God, so that you may be able to stand against…the devil. (Ephesians 6:11)
Holy Spirit, help us repay our debts to our veterans.
To Save a Life or Buy a Shirt
Chelsea Egan lives in the Bergen County, New Jersey, community of Haworth, goes to Northern Valley High School in Demarest, and shares many of her likes and dislikes with other girls her age. Like many of them, too, she gets a lot of birthday presents each year, and with her 15th birthday rapidly approaching, she had an idea to bring to her parents: Why not skip the gifts this year and collect money for cancer instead?
The idea didn’t pop up out of thin air. Egan lost one aunt to cancer and another was battling the disease, and she wanted to do something to help fight it. Thus was born the quickly-organized collection, which included donations ranging from 45 cents to $100.
Egan explained her reasoning to columnist Mike Kelly of The Record: “My parents bought me lots of stuff for Christmas. There wasn’t anything else I needed, though there was more stuff I wanted. But what’s the reason for me to get more stuff? Would I rather save a life or buy a shirt? That’s what it came down to.”
Have…sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Lord, let me see opportunities to do good.
Stay With Me Lord
St. Padre Pio of Pietrelcina once wrote a prayer expressing his absolute dependence on God. Here is a slightly shortened version of it:
“Stay with me, Lord, for it is necessary to have You present so that I do not forget You. Stay with me, Lord, because I am weak and I need Your strength, that I may not fall so often.
“Stay with me, Lord, for You are my life, and without You, I am without fervor. Stay with me, Lord, for You are my light, and without You, I am in darkness.
“Stay with me, Lord, to show me Your will. Stay with me, Lord, for I desire to love You very much, and always be in Your company.
“Stay with me, Lord, for it is You alone I look for. Your Love, Your Grace, Your Will, Your Heart, Your Spirit, because I love You and ask no other reward but to love You more and more. With a firm love, I will love You with all my heart while on earth and continue to love You perfectly during all eternity. Amen.”
Pray always. (Luke 18:1)
Lord, help me see Your presence always.
Journey for a War Hero
Sixty-one year-old John Moore of Gallup, New Mexico, is the type of person who honors war heroes from the past in word and action. Father Emil Kapaun, a chaplain in the Korean War who died in a POW camp, holds a special place in his heart.
After learning of Father Kapaun’s brave exploits, which included rescuing a wounded soldier while being fired upon, Moore trekked 630 miles from New Mexico to the priest’s home parish in Pilsen, Kansas. The goal? Raise awareness for Father Kapaun’s canonization cause as well as attempts to have him posthumously recognized with the Medal of Honor.
Moore’s expedition was made all the more arduous by the fact he had a wooden cross strapped to his back, which he intended to have erected in honor of Father Kapaun. He never complained because he believed the priest was worthy of the sacrifice. “I don’t want any recognition for this,” Moore declared. “I just look at myself as the donkey carrying Christ.”
Indeed, through our God-given talents and gifts, we are called upon to carry the message of Christ to others.
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works.
Lord, may we use our gifts to spread Your loving promise.
Church for the Non-Religious
If you’ve ever tried to convince your non-religious friends to start going to church, Parents.com contributor Nick Shell offers several scientific reasons that might help sway them:
▪ Family values: “Church is a great place to get moral reinforcement [because] pop culture, everyday life, and even our own negativity can be a drag on our ideal personal standards.”
▪ Motivation: “Imagine the hope that comes out of the belief that the creator of this universe not only loves you but has a plan for your life. When you belong to a church, you are exposed to a way of thinking that ultimately affects how you see the world, yourself, and others.”
▪ Opportunities to help others: “You’d be amazed at some of the unique ways you can help others and your community through your church. It is likely you will find a venue to serve others in a way that is framed around your talents and abilities.”
▪ Routine: “When you expose yourself and your kids to all this positivity every week, after a while you’re bound to see a noticeable difference in the way your family interacts.”
For where two or three are gathered…I am among them. (Matthew 18:20)
Lord, I believe. Help my unbelief.
A Journey for Poverty
How far would you go to spread God’s enduring message? Seventy-five-year-old Bob Hentzen traveled 8,000 miles. On foot.
President and co-founder of the Christian Foundation for Children and Aging (CFCA) which serves people living in extreme poverty in 22 countries, Hentzen hoped that by walking from to Chile from his home in Guatemala, he could help raise awareness about his cause. Instead of asking others to walk with him, he asked that they sponsor a child selected for them by CFCA.
During Hentzen’s arduous journey across highways and deserts, he was fortunate enough to meet with some of the 182,000 families his organization supports. He said, “If the Lord gave me good health and long legs, it was for a reason. By walking with people living in poverty we are saying, ‘You are not alone; we are listening to you and learning from you.’”
Help the poor for the commandment’s sake, and in their need do not send them away empty-handed.
Nurture my empathy for the poor, Lord.
How Far Will You Walk With God?
At the 2012 Christopher Awards ceremony, former New York Jets defensive lineman Marty Lyons won the James Keller Award—named after The Christophers’ founder—for his work creating a foundation that grants wishes to terminally ill children.
Lyons shared the story of a girl named Lauren who was diagnosed with a brain tumor at age 14. Her wish was to go to the White House and to have some poems she’d written published. Lyons and his foundation helped her achieve both goals.
At age 16, Lauren passed away. Lyons attended the funeral which took place in the same church in which Lauren had been baptized and confirmed. The priest holding the service had known Lauren all her life, and pointed out that she woke up every day and took a walk “hand-in-hand with the good Lord” until she finally walked all the way home with Him.
Choking up at the memory, Lyons concluded, “I tell you that story because every day, we have a choice on how far we’re going to walk with God. How many lives can we change if we just say a kind word? You don’t have to be a professional athlete to make a difference. All you have to do is care.”
In the path of righteousness there is life, in walking its path there is no death. (Proverbs 12:38)
Guide me in Your ways, Lord.
A Link in a Chain
Cardinal John Henry Newman once penned these words about the fact that God uses every human being to accomplish some good:
“God has created me to do Him some definite service; He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission…I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons.
“He has not created me for naught. I shall do good. I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place while not intending it—if I do but keep His commandments.
“Therefore I will trust Him. Whatever, wherever I am, I can never be thrown away. If I am in sickness, my sickness may serve Him; in perplexity, my perplexity may serve Him; if I am in sorrow, my sorrow may serve Him. He does nothing in vain, He knows what He is about.”
You…discern my thoughts…and are acquainted with all my ways. (Psalm 139:2,3)
When things are not going well in my life, Lord, help me to trust that You are still leading me.
Muslims Help Build Catholic Church
The Sudanese have been long divided by civil war. There is progress toward unity, however, thanks to a former “Lost Boy” of Sudan whose Christian faith led him to speak up for justice.
Lopez Lomong was held captive and nearly killed during the Second Sudanese Civil War. He eventually escaped into Kenya, and was moved to the United States by Catholic Charities. A track-and-field athlete who served as the U.S. flag bearer during the 2008 Olympics opening ceremony, he vocally opposed the Sudanese government for their violence against the people of Darfur in western Sudan.
In appreciation of this support, Darfuri Muslims volunteered to help build a Catholic church in Lomong’s hometown, determined, said one, “to show we never again want the people of Darfur to be used against their brothers in the South.”
Lomong says, “This church will be a symbol to all of Sudan that we can live in peace.”
Despite religious differences, people are capable of choosing respect and understanding rather than intolerance.
May the God of steadfastness and endurance grant you to live in harmony with one another. (Romans 15:5)
Help us find common ground, Father.
Miss America Praises God
The night Laura Kaeppeler was crowned Miss America, she said she felt God’s peace and presence. She credits her faith to her years at St. Therese Elementary School and St. Joseph High School in Kenosha, Wisconsin. “My Catholic education has been so important in reaching my goals,” Kaeppeler told The Catholic Herald, the Milwaukee Archdiocesan newspaper. “It gave me my foundation for my faith.”
When Kaeppeler was Miss Wisconsin, her life experiences led her to start a program called Circles of Support, which mentors children of incarcerated parents. She feels a kinship with them because her father was sentenced to a year in federal prison when she was a teenager.
Kaeppeler plans to use the $50,000 college scholarship she receives as Miss America to go to law school so she can become a family attorney specializing in helping children who have a parent in jail. Her message to kids is, “Put God first, believe in yourself, and never give up.”
This is the victory that conquers the world, our faith.
(1 John 5:4)
I pray for an increase in the virtue of faith, Lord.
A Kicker with No Toes?
Former professional football player Tom Dempsey didn’t let the fact that he was born with no right hand and no toes on his right foot prevent him from becoming a standout on the gridiron. He even holds the world record for field goal kicking—63 yards.
It was 1970, when Dempsey, wearing a specially-designed shoe, was playing for the New Orleans Saints. In the final seconds of a game against the Detroit Lions—a game which the Saints were losing by two points—Dempsey kicked the longest field goal ever to win the game.
What enabled him to win a place in the record books? Dempsey credits his parents, saying, “I’ll always be grateful for my parents’ attitude toward me when I was a small boy. They simply refused to let me feel sorry for myself because I was different than other people. They taught me to get out and compete. My father, especially, made me try everything.”
Each child has a spark of potential which can remain largely buried without the right kind of support. You and I can play a key role in God’s design by encouraging children to go as far as they can in developing their talents.
Love builds up. (1 Corinthians 8:1)
Holy Spirit, help adults affirm and inspire young people.
A Saint’s Life-saving Help
When kindergarten student Jake Finkbonner of Bellingham, Washington, fell during a basketball game, he bumped his mouth and suffered a small cut. That was enough for “necrotizing fasciitis,” a flesh-eating bacteria, to invade his body.
Jake spent nine weeks in the hospital. Several times, the doctors prepared his family for the boy’s impending death. All the while, his family, friends and the parishioners of Whatcom County’s three Catholic churches prayed for Jake’s recovery, specifically asking Blessed Kateri Tekawitha for her intercession. Blessed Kateri was suggested as intercessor because she is the patroness for American Indians and Jake is of Lummi Indian descent. When Jake was healed, doctors couldn’t explain why.
Five years later, following a rigorous investigation, the Vatican decreed Jake’s healing to be a miracle, which contributes to Blessed Kateri’s canonization as a saint on October 21, 2012. The now 11-year-old still bears the scars from his 29 surgeries, but he is healthy and active.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not rely on your own insight. (Proverbs 3:5)
Lord, through You, all things are possible.
When Atlanta resident Andrea Roberts gave birth to her son Reece in 2002, she and her husband felt a great deal of fear and anxiety. Reece, they discovered, had Down syndrome.
Eventually, Reece started to smile. A lot. Andrea recalled on Christopher Closeup, “That personality and that glow that is so much a part of Down syndrome started to come out and grow…It was easy to get to the other side emotionally and to recognize that this wasn’t a horrible burden.”
In order to help other kids with Down syndrome, Andrea started volunteering at an agency in her area that supported orphans in Ukraine. She was appalled to discover that these children were often abandoned and placed in institutions where they were abused.
That mission turned into an international adoption ministry called Reece’s Rainbow which is named after Andrea’s son. To date, they have helped find adoptive families for more than 500 Down syndrome and special-needs children.
Toward what mission are your life experiences leading you?
All things work together for good. (Romans 8:28)
Creator, help us care for all Your children.
The Value of “No” and “Yes”
In a culture that tells kids that happiness can be found in buying a particular toy or electronic gadget, Mary Jo Pedersen notes that it’s especially important that parents tell their kids “no” once in a while—and that they teach them to say “no” as well.
She also points out, “Children need first to say yes to something that they value in order to know when to say no.” That’s why parents passing their faith on to their children carries more weight than any material wealth.
Pedersen recommends teaching children to say no through these simple but important rules:
▪ Know and name what you believe…and teach it to your children.
▪ Help your children learn self-control so they can behave as they believe.
▪ Find networks of parental and family support who share your values.
Remember, God is the best model a parent can emulate, for we are all His blessed children.
Train children in the right way. (Proverbs 22:6)
Lord, may we teach our children to say “yes” to You.
Big Grandmother of All Medicine
A doctor from Seattle Washington was known as “Big Grandmother of All Medicine” to her patients—the Montagnards of Vietnam’s highlands.
After graduating from medical school in the late 1950s, Dr. Patricia Smith, then age 32, decided to work with lepers in Vietnam. She came to see that the primitive hill people she met through her work there needed a hospital. After months of studying Bahnar, their difficult dialect, she managed to win their confidence by saving the life of a critically ill Montagnard child.
Once accepted by them, Dr. Smith raised funds until she was able to build the hospital where she personally treated patients for years. She returned to the United States after South Vietnam fell to the communists in 1975.
Upon her death in 2004, Dr. Smith’s son, Wir, said of his mother, “She was an amazing person. She was a little like Mother Teresa.”
Each of us can be “a little like Mother Teresa” and Dr. Smith. Just look around you to find someone in need.
If you can do anything, have pity on us and help us. (Mark 9:22)
Fill me with a spirit of selflessness, Jesus.
Choose the Lord
From her alarm clock not going off on time to getting stuck in traffic, youth minister Megan Thompson knows there are a number of things that can go wrong on any given day. Yet in her column for the Catholic Times—the newspaper of the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio—she notes that viewing the world through a purely negative lens is no way to live.
“A life focused on curses means a life void of the recognition of blessing, and hearts emptied of the fulfillment found in praise,” Thompson writes.
Her philosophy of thanksgiving is derived from Ann Voskamp’s book entitled One Thousand Gifts which encourages people to be grateful to God during times of good fortune or bad.
“We can feel frustrated,” Thompson explains. “But we can also choose to see blessing…In all, we can choose praise. And if in all, we choose praise, we choose joy. We choose the Lord.”
Thanking God is the greatest choice you can make, every day. In all things, submit to His infinite wisdom and grace.
Take My instruction instead of silver. (Proverbs 8:10)
Christ, before every choice we make, may we always remember to give thanks to You, first and foremost.
Saving Babies from the Trash
It was 1972 when Lou Xiaoying, a woman in China who made a living by recycling trash, found her first abandoned baby lying in a pile of junk on the street. She took the baby girl into her modest home where she and her husband raised her.
Xiaoying told The Daily Mail, “Watching her grow and become stronger gave us such happiness, and I realized I had a real love of caring for children. I realized if we had enough strength to collect garbage, how could we not recycle something as important as human lives.”
Thousands of parents abandon their children in China either due to extreme poverty or the country’s one-child policy. As a result, Xiaoying would find more than 30 abandoned babies in the trash over the next 40 years. She kept four children to raise herself, and found homes with family and friends for the others.
Now 88 and suffering from kidney failure, Xiaoying’s story is finally being widely heard, and she is being declared a hero. Said one supporter, “She is shaming governments, schools, and people who stand by and do nothing. She has no money or power, but she saved children from death.”
Just as you did it to one of the least of these…you did it to Me. (Matthew 25:40)
Open my heart to the suffering of children, Father.
Great Worth in God’s Sight
Contemporary Christian singer Mandisa has struggled with being overweight all her life. That’s why the former American Idol contestant celebrated when she reached a personal goal of losing 100 pounds at the same time she was releasing her fourth album, What If We Were Real.
As Mandisa explained on Christopher Closeup, she included God in her weight-loss effort because she knew she had to rely on His power, not her own, to be successful.
She also revealed what she’s come to understand about body image in general. Mandisa said, “Women and girls…are subconsciously told that unless we measure up to those [models in] magazines, that we’re not beautiful. I very strongly disagree. God began showing me that…my identity doesn’t come from that reflection in the mirror, [but] it comes from what He lays out in Scripture…It talks about the unfading beauty that comes from the inside, a gentle and a quiet spirit which is of great worth in God’s sight.”
Nurture the unfading beauty inside you.
Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:4)
Help me reflect Your light and love, Messiah.
A Sensible Approach
They say the way to a person’s heart is through their stomach—but what about their other senses? Here are a few “sensible” suggestions on showing your loved ones how much you care.
▪ Sight: Take extra care with your appearance, tidy up the house, and don’t forget to smile!
▪ Touch: Washing dishes together, holding hands on a walk, and kisses are wonderful ways to re-connect with your loved one.
▪ Smell: Be it food, perfume or incense at church, the good smells in life remind us to keep a wafting sense of wonder.
▪ Taste: The nourishment of the body is as important as the nourishment of the soul. We become what we eat! Feed your loved ones well so that they can relish their journey through life.
▪ Hear: Say “I love you” to your beloveds, and mean it. Tell others of your love, and share your joy!
I will bless the Lord at all times; His praise shall continually be in my mouth. (Psalm 34:1)
Lord, You are the creator of all. You made us out of love, for love. Renew Your love within us for the glory of the Kingdom!
Where There Is No Love
St. John of the Cross once said, “Put love where there is no love, and you will find love.”
On Christopher Closeup, Sister Rosemary Dowd, RSCJ, cited that statement when explaining the motivation behind her 40 years of work with prisoners. She explained, “I had no knowledge [of jails] except what you see in the movies. I simply always thought that people in jail were not loved very much by anybody.”
Over the years, Sister Rosemary has had numerous transcendent experiences. Once when she brought a glass of water to a prisoner who was in severe pain, and another time when she tied the shoe of a prisoner whose arm was broken, she felt like she was serving Christ Himself.
Currently the chaplain of Cook County Jail in Chicago, she often prays with the prisoners, listens to their problems, and provides them with reading material from The Christophers that will nurture their faith. She says, “A lot of men I know here want to change, and I love that the Christopher material is so helpful in providing models of people who have changed.”
Putting love where there is no love can make a world of difference.
I have come to call sinners. (Mark 2:17)
Enable us, Jesus, to choose love.
Blanketing the World with Love
Anyone familiar with Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip knows about Linus and his blanket. It was Linus, in fact, who supplied the name for a nationwide charity group that provides blankets for “every sick and hurting child.”
Project Linus, as it came to be known, was founded in 1995. Inspired by a Parade magazine article about a girl who benefited from her blanket during chemotherapy, Karen Louchs decided to stitch coverlets for the Rocky Mountain Children’s Cancer Center in Denver, Colorado. Since then, 400 chapters of Project Linus have been born.
Judi Goldman and Linda Neuman, co-coordinators of the Northbrook, Chicago chapter, have distributed blankets to thousands of grateful children. “This work is fulfilling on so many levels,” Goldman points out. “The more you give, it comes back tenfold.”
We too, possess God-given abilities to change people’s lives for the better. All it takes is one stitch, one step at a time.
For the measure you give will be the measure you get back. (Luke 6:38)
Messiah, grant us the wisdom to best utilize our talents.
Brothers in Arms
How did six-year-old Cayden Long, who can’t walk or talk due to cerebral palsy, manage to compete in several triathlons around the country? With the help of his nine-year-old brother, Connor, who told ESPN, “I’m trying to give him the best life he could ever have.”
Sensitive to the fact that Cayden was being denied a normal child’s life, Connor saw an ad for a 2.5-mile triathlon in Nashville, and asked his parents if he and his brother could participate in it as a team. The Longs worked it out with the event organizers and got the go-ahead. Using a specially-designed stroller that allows Connor to push and pull Cayden through the course, the boys finished second-to-last. But they didn’t mind because they both laughed and had a great time.
The Long brothers have competed in several other triathlons, and their mom has noticed a difference in Cayden. She said, “I know it changed him. With the help of his brother, he’s found something that he can do.”
Thanks to one little boy’s love and devotion, we all get a reminder about how to be brothers and sisters in Christ.
I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27)
Jesus, may I be kind to those with special needs.
Making Wishes Come True
Kim Adams of Ulster County, New York, is a CAT scan technician, a mother and, since 2010, the founder of an organization that grants wishes for people with Down syndrome.
Interviewed by CBS-TV, Adams gave her reasons for starting Gifts from the Heart for Downs. “People aren’t always very kind so I just felt this was one way to honor people with Down syndrome, and help them have something for themselves,” she said. She had adopted two babies with Down syndrome herself, and remembers the challenges.
Adams and her family raise all the money to fulfill wishes, and work hard to arrange everything from visits with celebrities to purchases of strollers or electronic equipment which can help children improve their communication. All the families who’ve benefited are moved by the generosity of the organization.
Make it a point to be kind to everyone, but especially those the world often treats harshly. Your generosity and compassion could mean the world to them.
Increase and abound in love for one another and for all. (1 Thessalonians 3:12)
Divine Master, encourage us to share our blessings.
Pull Your Pants Up
“Pull your pants up,” thought Kimberly Ogba, every time she saw young men walking down the street with saggy jeans that exposed their underwear. Instead of just complaining, she created a line of t-shirts that actually convey that specific message.
Ogba, a Nigerian immigrant living in Queens, New York, told the Daily News that the “saggy pants” trend is disrespectful to society and insults the legacy of Martin Luther King Jr.
She said, “When you see young boys pull their pants down, what comes to mind? Gangs and guns and violence. Dr. King had a dream that one day we would not be judged by our color but by the content of our character…You could be a Harvard graduate, but if you wear your pants down…you look dumb. We adults have a duty to educate our teenagers, our boys, on how to be men.”
Ogba also has other t-shirts with messages like “Wake Up With A Smile” and “I’m A Survivor,” which she hopes will teach and inspire young people. She says, “We have to put the dreams back in their lives.”
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works. (Titus 2:7)
Keep us mindful, Lord, of the examples we set.
With few programs that teach Syracuse, New York’s urban youth about leadership, interpersonal skills, and conflict resolution, Team A.N.G.E.L. has stepped into the breach. Though angels are usually helpful heavenly beings, in this case the word stands for “Avoid Negative Garbage and Enjoy Life.”
Created as a way to prevent local youth from getting involved with drugs, gangs, and violence, Team A.N.G.E.L.’s founders—Eddie Mitchell Jr., Ryedell Davis, Isaiah Gregory, and Shenise Stevens—serve as positive role models and mentors for the 35 teens currently involved in the program. They help the teens with their homework, take them bowling, teach them cooking skills, and educate them on avoiding body language that can unintentionally lead to violence.
Davis hopes to expand the program, which is funded entirely by its founders, across the state and the country.
Spread optimism, not negativity, to those around you—and you’ll be acting like an angel yourself.
You must make every effort to support your faith with goodness. (2 Peter 1:5)
Lord, help us to be examples of hope and positivity.
Making Room at the Inn
On July 16, 2012, a first-of-its-kind safe haven for pregnant college students was created on the grounds of Belmont Abbey College in Charlotte, North Carolina.
Several years ago, a study discovered that even when there are resources for pregnant college students on campus, the perception of a lack of resources can drive a woman to have an abortion or drop out of school. That study motivated a Charlotte-based pregnancy resource center called Room at the Inn to pursue a college-based residence program.
The college’s Benedictine monks donated four acres of land to the project. After years of fundraising and building, the 10,000-square-foot facility opened. Fifteen mothers at a time will be able to stay there free-of-charge while receiving material and emotional support both before and after childbirth. Women don’t have to attend Belmont Abbey College to participate.
As Jeannie Wray, Room at the Inn’s executive director, told the Catholic News Herald, “[We] can give these young women the opportunity to continue their educations, have their babies, and make a positive impact on society.”
Choose life. (Deuteronomy 30:19)
May we support those who feel helpless, Lord.
Stopping the Silliness of Busyness
Are you too busy? Does your busy life keep you up at night, thinking about everything you didn’t get done?
In Be More with Less, author Courtney Carver encourages others to make the choice she did—and get un-busy!
“Becoming less busy was not an accident, but a decision I made on purpose,” she says. “Being a good person, loving wife, mother and friend…that was the life I wanted.”
Here are some to-dos so you stop doing too much.
▪ Only check your e-mail twice a day. Delete e-mail you don’t really need to read.
▪ Turn your phone and computer off when you aren’t working.
▪ Help someone.
▪ Do less—be more.
In the end, what we are for people—a shoulder to lean on, a smile to encourage, a hand to hold—is far more important than what we do or say.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you. (1 Peter 5:7)
Calm my spirit, Master; send me Your peace.
Mistakes, We’ve Made a Few
Cicero, the Roman orator and statesman, set forth what he considered the six most drastic mistakes made by men over the course of their lives. They are:
▪ The delusion that individual advancement is made by crushing others.
▪ The tendency to worry about things that cannot be changed or corrected.
▪ Insisting that a task is impossible because we cannot do it ourselves.
▪ Refusing to set aside trivial preferences.
▪ Neglecting development and refinement of the mind, and not acquiring the habit of reading and study.
▪ Attempting to compel others to believe and live as we do.
These mistakes didn’t cease to exist with the fall of Rome. We’re still making them. With God’s help, though, we can use the insights of our heritage to move a little further along the road to a balanced, fair-minded view of reality.
Wisdom abides in the mind of a man of understanding. (Proverbs 14:33)
Jesus, may we act on the wisdom that You gave us.
A Love Stronger Than Death
After 72 years of marriage, Gordon and Norma Yeager died one hour apart while holding hands.
The Des Moines, Iowa, couple got married on the day Norma graduated from high school in 1939. From then on, they were inseparable. “They believed in marriage till death do you part,” their youngest son Dennis told KCCI-TV.
In October 2011, Gordon and Norma were in a car accident and rushed to the intensive care unit where the nurses knew not to separate the pair. Gordon died first, holding hands with his wife and surrounded by their family.
Their children were confused, however, when his heart monitor kept beating after he was dead. The nurse pointed out that, because he and Norma were holding hands, his monitor was picking up her heartbeat. Still, exactly one hour later, Norma followed him.
That kind of lifetime commitment may seem rare nowadays, but it is still possible. It’s a love that will carry into eternity.
For love is as strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
God, we pray our earthly passing reflects the great love we hope to enter into with You.
A Life Defying the Odds
During his acceptance speech into the Pro Football Hall of Fame in Canton, Ohio, in 2012, former New York Jets running back Curtis Martin recalled the time his abusive father held a gun to his head and pulled the trigger seven times. No bullet was discharged. His father then pointed the gun away from his son and pulled the trigger again. The bullet fired. Only 15 at the time, Martin believed his father would kill him some day.
Though he wasn’t religious, Martin attended a church when he turned 20 to thank God for allowing him to live despite the odds. He told God, “I promise I will do my best and live right and do whatever You want me to.’…I’m 39 years old now. God has definitely upheld His end of the bargain and I’m going to spend the rest of my life trying to uphold my end.”
In light of his own experience, Martin ultimately wants to be remembered as a good father. He said that when he dies someday, “I want my daughter to be able to talk about the man that Curtis Martin was…a man of integrity, a man of strong character, and a God-fearing man. That’s what I want.”
Live lives that are…upright and godly. (Titus 2:12)
Protect and guide abused children, Father.
The Road to Joy
“It is [your critics] that are really the losers, for is anything sweeter than the inward joy that comes from thinking well of others.” That quote was spoken by St. Thérèse of Lisieux who placed great emphasis on focusing on people’s positive qualities, even people who aggravated her.
It’s an attitude that resonated with Marc Foley, O.C.D., author of the book The Love That Keeps Us Sane. He writes, “What has dwelling on your neighbor’s faults ever brought into your life? Did it bring peace…beauty…or joy? Didn’t it rather…poison your capacity to see goodness and beauty in life? And when we deprive ourselves of seeing goodness and beauty, do we not deprive ourselves of two of the wellsprings of joy?”
“Thérèse knew that when we are critical of others and don’t make the effort to see others in the light of charity, we deprive ourselves of happiness…Love helps keep us sane because it discloses the beauty and goodness of God that permeates this world, for when we see through the eyes of God we are able to see into the life of things.”
Joy has come to me through the Holy One. (Baruch 4:22)
Open my eyes to Your goodness in everyone, Lord.
An Unforgettable First Date
Most girls recall their first date, but 10-year-old Presli Collins had one that was particularly memorable. That’s because the youngster (and her dad) enjoyed a special night out with NFL quarterback Tim Tebow.
Collins has already undergone several painful surgeries for a condition called neurofibromatosis, which causes tumors in the brain, spinal cord and under the skin. As a resident of Parker, Colorado, one of her greatest joys was watching Tim Tebow when he played with the Denver Broncos. After the football star learned about her condition and how big a fan she was, he arranged to take her to the Cartoon Network’s “Hall of Game” awards in Los Angeles.
Collins’ mother, Lisa, told KDVR-TV that Tebow “made [Presli] feel like she was the star...My husband said he’s never seen her smile and be as happy as she was…I can’t even express how grateful we are for the opportunity and the joy she’s had.”
Whenever we reach out in love to someone who is suffering, we take advantage of an opportunity to bring joy into their lives—and our own lives as well.
Be doers of the word. (James 1:22)
Lord, help me bring joy to others.
The Last Laugh
People snickered when 61-year-old Alan Moore announced that he wanted to resume his latent college football career. But the Vietnam veteran and kicker would have the last laugh, as the revival of his high-school dream would lead him to become the oldest player in college football history.
Back in 1968, Moore’s schooling was interrupted when he enlisted for Vietnam rather than waiting to be drafted. After leaving the service, he got married, had children and worked for about 30 years in construction. Then the competitive bug bit the grandfather of five, and he decided to attend Montgomery, Alabama’s Faulkner University which would allow him to join its football team. He successfully kicked for the extra point in the school’s September 2011 season opener.
Moore’s goals extend beyond winning football games, however. He says, “At this point in life, it’s much more important that I have a positive influence on kids.”
You’re never too old to pursue your dreams or be a role model. Trust that God will lead you to the right result.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
May we work to keep our dreams alive, Jesus
Bye, Bye Stress
Irritability. Sadness. Difficulty concentrating. Even physical symptoms, like headaches or rapid heart rate. These are among the symptoms of stress.
But there are ways to become the calm, relaxed person you’ve always wanted to be. Here are some tips to de-stress from Dr. Lisa Klewicki, clinical psychologist and radio personality.
▪ Look for the positive. Try thinking upbeat instead of worrying about the negative.
▪ Set priorities. Make a list of “must do” tasks, versus those that are less imperative.
▪ Practice gratitude. Being thankful for all your blessings in life can decrease feelings of being overwhelmed which lead to stress.
In times of stress, a sure path to peace of mind is to call on the Lord, the infinite source of love and the reason for all our hope.
When the cares of my heart are many, Your consolations cheer my soul. (Psalm 94:19)
Send me Your Spirit, Lord, to soothe my soul.
Waiting for the Biblioburro
When author Monica Brown first read about traveling librarian Luis Soriano, she felt inspired to write a children’s book about him. After all, this was a man who braved attacks by snakes and armed bandits so he could carry books to poor children in rural Colombia on his two donkeys, Alfa and Beto. Promoting literacy and education to kids continues to be his goal.
Brown combined her considerable writing talents with John Parra’s beautiful illustrations to create Waiting for the Biblioburro, a 2011 book which won a Christopher Award in the “Books for Young People” category.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Brown explained, “[Luis] saw the lack of access to books and the lack of literacy. He thinks that when you teach children about being citizens through critical literacy, that they can say ‘no’ to violence. That’s his ultimate goal. He wants the town of La Gloria, where he’s from, to be glorious. He sees a connection between literacy, democracy and exercising positive choices for community.”
Reading can open horizons for people of all ages. Pick up a good book today.
Be doers of the Word. (James 1:22)
Father, help me make positive life choices.
Survey Says: Hire a Veteran
Businesses looking to hire employees who exhibit “selflessness,” “resilience,” “team orientation,” and “reliability” should seriously consider military veterans. That’s what a study by the University of Phoenix Research Institute discovered after polling over 800 corporate managers and executives.
Caroline Molina-Ray, the Institute’s executive director, told the New York Post’s Chris Erikson that they undertook the study because there was a lack of information about how veterans adjust to a civilian work environment as well as how they’re actually viewed by their employers. Erikson notes that some hiring managers are wary of people with military backgrounds “due to stereotyping or a lack of appreciation for how military skills can translate to a civilian environment.”
Molina-Ray points out, “Three million jobs will go unfilled between now and 2018 just because we don’t have enough qualified workers to fill them…There’s a natural fit between these highly qualified collaborative veterans and the skill sets employers are looking for.”
Military veterans have made many sacrifices for their country. They deserve a fair shot.
Love…in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Father, bless our military veterans.
An Imitation of Christ
As Christians, we are called to carry a cross in this lifetime. The cross changes, depending on our age, circumstance, and vocation. Yet, no matter how heavy it is, we are to lean on Christ and find joy despite the pain. That’s what Jean Biscombe—known as “Ms. Jean” to her Charlotte, North Carolina, pre-school students—did when she was fighting cancer.
As recalled by Catholic News Herald columnist Rico De Silva whose daughter was in Biscombe’s class, it was easy to forget she was fighting cancer because of her joyful attitude and optimistic personality. She cared about her students and went about her day with the purpose of doing her best for the benefit of others. Upon her death in 2011, De Silva wrote that he thanked God he “was able to cross paths with such a courageous and loving woman.”
It’s never easy to carry a cross, but the courage it takes to accept it is in true imitation of Christ.
Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Lord, this life can be hard. Help lighten my load by keeping me close to You all the days of my life.
The Human Experience
The powerful documentary The Human Experience earned a Christopher Award in 2011. It profiled brothers Jeffrey and Clifford Azize, who set out on a trek around the world with their friends to discover the essence of the human spirit.
They lived with the homeless on the streets of New York, cared for disabled children in Peru, and visited victims of leprosy and AIDS in Africa.
Along the way, they explored questions about the purpose of life and the inherent dignity of every person.
Their journey reminds us that even society’s outcasts aren’t as different from us as we may think. As one of the lepers in Africa states, “We all are the same. You are my brother. That’s why you need to love everybody.”
Each person is precious in the eyes of God. Let’s remember to treat each other with the love and respect God demands.
Pursue peace with everyone, and the holiness without which no one will see the Lord. (Hebrews 12:14)
May our lives testify that everyone is created in Your image and likeness, Lord.
Blueprint for Achievement
Author William Arthur Ward once wrote a “blueprint for achievement” if you want to be a winner in life. His suggestions are:
“Believe while others are doubting.
“Plan while others are playing.
“Study while others are sleeping.
“Decide while others are delaying.
“Prepare while others are daydreaming.
“Begin while others are procrastinating.
“Work while others are wishing.
“Save while others are wasting.
“Listen while others are talking.
“Smile while others are pouting.
“Commend while others are criticizing.
“Persist while others are quitting.”
Each of us has what it takes to be a winner. There may be a lot of effort involved, but it will make success that much sweeter.
In the path of righteousness there is life, in walking its
path there is no death. (Proverbs 12:28)
With You at my side, Father, I know I can accomplish Your will for my life.
Courage in Small Steps
Father Joseph Peek of Atlanta, Georgia, was diagnosed with leukemia shortly before his ordination. His treatment led to serious new health problems. The once-athletic Navy man became weak and vulnerable to infections. Yet he also struggled to prevent his illness from getting the better of him.
Though plagued with open wounds—including those on the soles of his feet—he walked three miles in the “Win the Fight” 5K to raise money for The Winship Cancer Institute at Emery University in Atlanta.
Father Peek also kept ministering to sick people, but now with greater insight. In the past he hadn’t liked going to hospitals, feeling he had nothing to say. “Now,” he says. “I am very comfortable in hospitals, and I have a lot to say.”
Patients are inspired by Father Peek because they know he understands their struggles. And the priest knows that God is present, giving him the strength that in turn inspires them.
But rejoice insofar as you are sharing Christ’s sufferings, so that you may also be glad…when His glory is revealed. (1 Peter 4:13)
Give us strength, Father, whether we are suffering.
The Coach as Wounded Healer
You might think that a former defensive lineman for the Baltimore Colts and Detroit Lions would believe a coach’s job—especially a coach of young people—is to teach them to win games. Joe Ehrmann, however, says, “A coach’s responsibilities include helping young people to confront and comprehend the toxic culture that is trying to seduce and shape them.”
As a guest on Christopher Closeup, Ehrmann said he came to that belief due to poor male influences in his life, like his abusive father. In addition, Ehrmann was beaten and raped by a stranger at age 12.
Ehrmann’s emotional recovery was helped by reading Henri Nouwen’s book, The Wounded Healer. He explained, “All of us, as we go through life, get wounded…Nouwen makes the point that we really have two choices. One, you can ignore, deny or repress your own woundedness. The other choice is to take your own wounds, accept them, bring healing and wholeness into them, then use them as an opportunity to offer other people the chance to heal. So I became a wounded healer.”
How can your past hurts bring healing to others?
The tongue of the wise brings healing. (Proverbs 12:18)
Jesus, heal our brokenness with Your love.
Young Athletes Start On Right Foot
Serious athletes want to focus on their sport, not their uniforms. That’s why the girls’ track team at Dunbar High School in Washington, D.C. wanted an alternative to their sometimes-revealing uniforms, which often left them feeling self-conscious and attracting unwanted attention from boys.
When Coach Marvin Parker learned of their discomfort he took action. As an admirer of tennis great Althea Gibson, he knew she had competed in a white skirt. He thought it would be wonderful if girls from the country’s first black high school could run track in similar attire.
Parker and a designer came up with a skort (combination shorts and skirt) that the athletes could compete in effectively. It was “long enough to provide modest cover but short enough not to constrict movement,” according to a Washington Post story. Now the young competitors have even more confidence which helps their performance.
Modesty, style, and creativity can be a winning combination.
Let us run with perseverance the race that is set before us. (Hebrews 12:1)
Help us become creative problem solvers, Gracious Father.
Bless Your Beautiful Hide!
At age 79, Stephen Covey, the best-selling author of The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, passed away following injuries he sustained in a bicycle accident. The in-demand speaker, writer and entrepreneur had spent years teaching people the foundations of effective leadership in life and business.
Covey was a guest on The Christophers’ TV program in 2006. Producer Tony Rossi remembers him well.
He says, “Covey was not only friendly; he burst into song. When I took him to meet our make-up artist, Janet, he spontaneously started singing Bless Your Beautiful Hide from Seven Brides for Seven Brothers! Janet appreciated the compliment, and the whole crew was left smiling. In that impromptu moment, Covey put everyone at ease and demonstrated an important leadership principle. If you connect with people on an individual level, inspire respect in them, and even make them smile, they’ll want to do a good job for you. You won’t just be a boss; you’ll be a leader. Covey obviously practiced what he preached.”
Support your faith with goodness. (2 Peter 1:5)
Enable to inspire respect and joy, Lord.
What Makes Us Happy
We spend more time worrying than we do just enjoying life and being happy, and maybe there’s a simple reason for that. Maybe it’s because we’re looking for happiness in all the wrong places—like having a lot of money or owning the latest gadgets.
Okay, then, what does make us happy? Writer Vesela Simic shared some of her suggestions:
▪ Don’t be a hermit. Share the joys and sorrows of life with a spouse or a friend.
▪ Remember to say “thank you.” Develop an “attitude of gratitude,” and see if it doesn’t improve the way you look at life.
▪ Work toward a meaningful goal. It’s true; we need a purpose to life.
▪ Live in the present. Don’t dwell on the past; don’t worry about the future. Enjoy the peace of the now with God.
▪ Emphasize the positive. Focus on what’s right instead of on what’s wrong.
▪ Believe in the presence of God. Study after study shows that those who believe in God are happier than those who don’t!
Let the righteous be joyful. (Psalm 68:3)
Jesus, increase my happiness.
Speaking Vocation Into a Life
Grammy-nominated singer/songwriter Sarah Hart has a gift for music and lyrics, so it’s a good thing she didn’t pursue her early career goals of becoming an archaeologist or pediatrician.
During an interview on Christopher Closeup, Hart laughingly recalled a conversation she had with her band director in high school. He asked her what her career aspirations were and she responded, “I might want to be a doctor.” He just looked at her and said, “Honey, you’re not gonna be a doctor.”
While some might interpret the band director’s response as harsh or condescending, Hart appreciated him “speaking vocation into my life…I think it’s something we need to be able to give our young people a little more—to say, ‘Here are the gifts I see in you and here’s a path that you can carve to use these gifts.’”
Hart’s gift for music and love of God have led her to a successful career in Christian music, where she’s written songs for artists like Amy Grant, whose hit “Better Than a Hallelujah” earned Hart her first Grammy nomination. She also steps behind the microphone herself to perform songs she’s written.
Identify your unique gifts. Then put them to good use.
Your word…is a light to my path. (Psalm 119:105)
Give me the wisdom to see my talents, Jesus.
Like many ethnic minorities in Bhutan during the late 1980s and early 1990s, the Chamlagai family fled to neighboring Nepal to escape government persecution. There, they lived in a United Nations refugee camp, made up of small bamboo huts with little food and no electricity or running water.
In 2009, the Catholic Social Services Refugee Resettlement office in Charlotte, North Carolina helped the family—including Hari, who was only three when they fled—relocate to the United States.
After arriving in Charlotte, Hari still wasn’t sure what to expect. However, a worker from the Resettlement Office met his family at the airport and helped ease their transition into American life by offering them everything from education to employment.
Hari, after working for six months at a warehouse, is now a caseworker for the same organization that helped him and his family so much. He is repaying the kindness they showed him.
As tough as life’s challenges can be, God has a way of working them out for our greater good.
The Lord is my shepherd…He leads me in right paths. (Psalm 23:1,3)
Strengthen our will as we face life’s obstacles, Father.
Home is Where Prayer Is
Rabbi Abraham Joshua Heschel once wrote the following about the importance of prayer in our daily lives:
“Prayer is not a strategem for occasional use, a refuge to resort to now and then. It is rather like an established residence for the innermost self. All things have a home: the bird has a nest, the fox has a hole, the bee has a hive. A soul without prayer is a soul without a home.
“Weary, sobbing, the soul, after roaming through a world festered with aimlessness, falsehoods, and absurdities, seeks a moment in which to gather up its scattered life, in which to divest itself of enforced pretensions and camouflage, in which to simplify complexities, in which to call for help without being a coward.
“Such a home is prayer. Continuity, permanence, intimacy, authenticity, earnestness are its attributes. For the soul, home is where prayer is…To pray is to open a door where both God and the soul may enter.”
I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours. (Mark 11:24)
I want to grow closer to You, Jesus. Guide my mind, heart, and soul when I pray.
Helping the Least of These
It began as a senior project, but would become so much more. Michael O’Connell, a senior at Rogers High School in Newport, Rhode Island, chose to ride on the Boston Healthcare for the Homeless Program (BHCHP) van so he could give a presentation about it to his class. The project, which was founded by his uncle, brings homeless people in need of medical treatment to clinics.
As it happened, there was a film crew on board the van with O’Connell. He arranged for a screening of their documentary, entitled “Give Me a Shot of Anything: House Calls to the Homeless,” to be shown at his school. All the screening’s proceeds, which totaled $2,625, were donated to the St. Joseph Church Soup Kitchen, per O’Connell’s request.
“It’s extraordinary what Michael has done,” soup kitchen coordinator Jim Farrington declared. “It’s very moving.”
Each one of us has the potential to help, as the Lord said, “even the least of these.”
So give for alms those things that are within; and see, everything will be clean for you. (Luke 11:41)
May we never underestimate our abilities to lessen the needs of the less fortunate, Lord.
Hollywood and Human Trafficking
In 1992, at age 14, Holly Austin Smith became the victim of a child sex trafficker. She got to know the man while hanging out in her local New Jersey shopping mall.
Over time, he convinced her that he could help her become a model and actress. The youngster naively believed him, ran away from home, and was forced to work as a prostitute.
Smith was soon rescued by a policeman who saw she was underage. She is now a survivor advocate who advises parents and schools to teach kids to become more media literate so they can avoid situations like hers.
In The Washington Times, Smith notes that “traffickers are fully aware of what popular culture is telling your teens” by promoting images of fame, over-sexualized young girls, and products they claim will make their lives fulfilling. If teens can learn how and why images are marketed a certain way, Smith thinks they may avoid the pitfalls of the poor decision she made.
Teach your kids that their worth doesn’t come from worldly things, but rather from being loved by God and by you.
Imitate what is good. (3 John 1:11)
Father, protect our children from those who would harm them.
Heroes of 9/11
Will Jimeno, a former Port Authority police officer, was one of the last people pulled out alive from the rubble of New York’s Twin Towers after their fatal collapse on September 11, 2001. In commemoration of the 10th anniversary of 9/11, Jimeno was honored at Citi Field during a Mets-Marlins game.
Jimeno was trapped under the tower rubble for over 10 hours before he was rescued. It took him three years to recover from severe muscle and nerve damage, but he told the New York Daily News that he “is now walking fine.”
Today, the 43-year-old New Jersey resident cherishes each day with his beloved wife and daughters, and considers himself blessed to be able to be a voice for the victims.
Jimeno says, “I hope every American remembers everyone who lost their lives that day. To me, every single soul that day was a hero.”
Pray for the victims and their families.
Give them a garland instead of ashes, the oil of gladness instead of mourning. (Isaiah 61:3)
Help us to treasure the gift of life, Lord, and to honor those who have perished protecting what is good.
A Mother’s Inspiration
Mohamed Sanu, a rising college football star at Rutgers University in New Jersey, credits his mother, Aminata Koroma, for providing an example of strong moral character. Koroma left war-torn Sierra Leone in 1975 to pursue a better life in the United States. She became a successful businesswoman, and gave birth to Sanu in 1989. Years later, Aminata felt called to return to Sierra Leone to help her people there. Sanu remained behind in the U.S., cared for by his older sister.
As reported in the New York Post, Koroma now runs an orphanage for 40 boys, ages 12 to 18, whose parents were killed in the country’s civil wars. Her influence has rubbed off on Mohamed, who explained, “Even though I can’t fill her shoes or do the things she does, I try to help other people.”
Sanu’s coaches confirm his strong moral character, noting that he volunteers for the Special Olympics and often speaks to young people about avoiding drugs and staying in school. Grateful for the opportunities his mother’s sacrifices provided, Mohamed hopes to go to Sierra Leone some day and help in any way he can.
For I have set you an example, that you also should do as I have done for you. (John 13:15)
Guide us, Holy Spirit, so we might inspire young people.
Mom Loses Child and Finds Mission
In 2007, Gretchen Holt-Witt of Califon, New Jersey, was a working mother of two when she learned that her two-year-old son, Liam, had cancer. Though the war on cancer has received a lot of publicity, potential cures for childhood cancers have received little funding, so the boy’s treatment options were limited.
Holt-Witt decided to make a small effort that would help raise money for pediatric cancer research: she would bake and sell cookies through a website that a friend created called CookiesForKidsCancer.org. When word of her mission spread, hundreds of volunteers got involved. What started as a modest effort led to 96,000 cookies being sold in three weeks, netting more than $400,000.
Though Liam passed away in 2011, his mother’s efforts continue, so that other parents may some day not have to deal with the pain of losing a child to cancer.
“I have to spend my time making sure that when I see [Liam] again, I can tell him that mommy did everything she could to make it better for others,” Gretchen says.
So let us not grow weary in doing what is right, for we will reap at harvest-time. (Galatians 6:9)
Lord, bless the efforts of volunteers everywhere.
Church Friends for Body and Soul
In today’s Facebook and Twitter-driven world, most of us are familiar with the online realm of social networking. But how many of us seek to form close ties at church?
If we haven’t tried to make friends at our houses of worship, research shows we should. Studies by Harvard professors Robert D. Putnam and Chaeyoon Lim indicate “the more church friends a person has, the happier he or she is.”
“Church friends are super-charged friends, but we have no idea why,” Putnam informed a February summit on religion, well-being and health at Gallup world headquarters in Washington.
The data collected notes that people who describe themselves as “very religious” enjoy the highest sense of well-being in every respect of the word—health, positive nature, etc. Participants who were “moderately religious,” however, were less healthy than those who possessed no religion.
The Lord encourages us in the Bible never to be lukewarm, in our friendships—and especially in our faith.
Magnify the Lord with me, and…exalt His name. (Psalm 34:3)
God, help me pursue religious fellowship.
Forgiveness is Secret to Long Life
Joe Binder hasn’t let age slow him down a bit. The 102-year-old works as the booth attendant at Mario’s Restaurant in the Bronx, just renewed his driver’s license, and loves to go dancing.
“My secret?” Binder told the New York Post. “I’ve been very nice to people in my life. I got hurt along the way, but I turn the other cheek and forgive those who have wronged me.”
He has many fond memories, ranging from watching returning World War I soldiers on parade to seeing The Sopranos shoot a scene in a restaurant, after he came in at 4 a.m. to open it for them. Binder is beloved in his community and through it all, he has maintained his habit of giving to others.
“When and if I do [receive a tip], I give it to the homeless or to people who can use it,” he said.
Forgiving others not only frees those we forgive; it frees us from the poison of resentment and anger.
It is I who wipe out, for My own sake, your offenses; your sins I remember no more. (Isaiah 43:25)
Lord, grant me the grace to truly forgive those who have wronged me.
A Student’s Prayer
Completing one’s education can be a challenging but fulfilling endeavor. A selection from My Orthodox Prayer Book offers hardworking students some much-needed spiritual comfort on their individual academic journeys:
“Christ my Lord, the Giver of light and wisdom, who opened the eyes of the blind man and transformed the fishermen into wise heralds and teachers of the gospel; through the coming of the Holy Spirit, shine also in my mind the light of the grace of the Holy Spirit.
“Grant me discernment, understanding and wisdom and learning. Enable me to complete my assignments and to abound in every good work, for to You I give honor and glory. Amen.”
Above all, Lord, help us to remember that life is an educational experience, one during which we never stop learning.
For the commandment is a lamp and the teaching a light, and the reproofs of discipline are a way of life. (Proverbs 6:23)
Rabbi, bless and guide us on our academic and spiritual quests for knowledge.
Peace Begins at Home
Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta was an outspoken advocate for peace throughout her life. She realized that to create peace in the world, it has to start close to home.
In her book No Greater Love, Mother Teresa writes, “If we really want peace for the world, let us start by loving one another within our own families…We must love those who are nearest to us, in our own family. From there love spreads toward whoever may need us.
“It is easy to love those who live far away. It is not always easy to love those who live right next to us. It is easier to offer a dish of rice to meet the hunger of a needy person than to confront the loneliness and the anguish of someone in our own home who does not feel loved.
“I want you to go and find the poor in your homes. Above all, your love has to start there. I want you to be the good news to those around you. I want you to be concerned about your next-door neighbor. Do you know who your neighbor is?”
A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:18)
Make me a channel of Your peace and love, Lord.
A Man Forever Changed
Baseball fans know Clayton Kershaw as a gifted young pitcher for the Los Angeles Dodgers. But those who read a report by Karen Crouse in The New York Times know that he returned from a visit to the African nation of Zambia as a man forever changed.
Kershaw can thank his wife, Ellen, for the trip. As a college student, she had been to Zambia, and was taken by the plight of the orphans she met—victims of the AIDS epidemic that has devastated the country. She made their cause her own, working with an organization called Arise Africa. She rarely stopped talking about returning to the country with Kershaw, who had been her childhood sweetheart and was now her husband.
“You come home,” Kershaw said, “and you see people striving to get more money, more cars, bigger houses and more possessions, thinking that will make them happier. You go to Zambia, it helps put things in perspective. You realize where happiness comes from, and it’s not from material goods.”
Where do you think happiness comes from?
A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span. (Sirach 30:22)
Teach me to find genuine happiness, Lord Jesus.
Radio Announcers and Guide Dogs
Morning radio in Chicago has featured husband-and-wife team Don and Roma Wade for more than 25 years. Don is a lifelong radio personality, while Roma, an educator, came to it later in life. “My husband lured me into radio,” she says.
But a decision the couple made together was to support the Guide Dog Foundation for the Blind because they saw their own professional careers as a natural link to the charity.
“The concept of radio is so helpful to the blind population, we thought it would be a fitting charity for us to get involved with,” Roma explains.
Our own work can be connected to getting a job done—and part of a labor of love for others.
“For surely I know the plans I have for you,” says the Lord, “plans for…a future with hope.”
Lord, help me to see Your will for me this day.
Refilling the Well
The dozen women sit in a circle on the floor, sharing their symptoms of “compassion fatigue.” All are caregivers for chronically or terminally ill animals. Some are veterinarians, vet technicians, vet tech students; there’s even a pet owner or two.
“Refill the Well” is a one-night workshop given by the Reverend Eliza Blanchard in Westwood, Massachusetts.
Blanchard tells participants that their jobs are difficult “because you give care, you don’t take care.” She reminds the group of the announcement on airplanes, when flight attendants tell passengers to don their own oxygen mask before helping children or others in need put on theirs.
“You can’t help anyone if you don’t help yourself first,” Blanchard observes.
In our own lives, it’s important to care for and to love ourselves so that we can be and do the best for those we love.
Beloved, since God loved us so much, we also ought to love one another. (1 John 4;11)
Refresh me, Lord, when I grow weary.
In the Academy at Florence, one of the great Italian masterpieces displayed is Michelangelo’s statue, “David.” Every year, thousands of people admire this early example of the great master’s work, unaware that the huge block of stone from which the figure was hewn has a curious history.
At first an inferior artist began to work on it, but through lack of skill, he succeeded only in hacking and marring the marble. Then the rulers of Florence called on the young Michelangelo, who created a lasting work of art.
There is no one around so ruined that he is undeserving of a second chance. As the true artist saw in the shapeless mass of stone the outline of his masterpiece, so God sees in the lowest of the low that unextinguished spark of goodness and humanity which can be his salvation.
All of us can do the same, looking at everyone in a creative, not destructive, spirit. God will guide us in the good work of restoring what was lost, of giving life to what was spiritually dead.
The Son of Man came to save the lost. (Matthew 18:11)
Kindle the divine spark inside me, Lord.
In the Revolutionary War, during preparations for a battle, a man in civilian clothes passed a corporal who was arrogantly ordering his men to lift a heavy beam. The man stopped and asked the corporal, “Why don’t you help them?”
“Sir,” the answer came back indignantly, “I am a corporal!”
With a muttered apology, the stranger stripped off his coat and pitched in to help the soldiers.
“Mr. Corporal,” he said when the task was done, “whenever you haven’t enough men to do a job, call on your commander-in-chief. I’ll be glad to help.”
With that, George Washington put on his coat and left.
To help others, we must often humble ourselves. Paradoxically enough, we always win by doing so. The best proof of this is Christ Himself. He became the friend and servant of the lowest among men, lepers and beggars and thieves. And for this, all mankind reveres Him.
He that is greatest among you shall be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
Lord, help me to humble myself, in Your name, for others.
The Finder of a King
Interested in Egypt from childhood, Howard Carter got to travel there from his home in England when he was in his early 20s. He worked as an artist and photographer at various sites, capturing the beauty of ancient civilizations.
In 1922, more than three decades after his arrival, Carter discovered the intact royal tomb of the Pharaoh Tutankhamun—“King Tut”—who had been interred around 1333 B.C.
Reports say that Carter struggled after that to produce a noteworthy follow-up to his remarkable royal find. Perhaps he didn’t realize, as his obituary in the New York Times observed, the great gift he had given a postwar world: the splendor of the tomb and its rich furnishings that revealed a Golden Age of arts and crafts equal to any other period of ancient times.
In all that we discover around us, we catch sight of the sacred, the handiwork of the Creator.
One generation shall laud Your works to another, and shall declare Your mighty acts. (Psalm 145:4)
Your Spirit is present through generations, Lord, giving life and strength to all.
The Distribution of Talent
A bricklayer whose brother happened to be a gifted and famous violinist once found himself in a conversation with the head of the construction company for which he worked.
“It must be great to have such a renowned man for a brother,” the executive said. And then, anxious not to offend his worker’s pride, he added, “Of course, we must accept the fact that talent isn’t evenly distributed—even in the same family.”
“That’s the truth,” replied the bricklayer. “Why, my brother doesn’t know the first thing about bricklaying. It’s a good thing he can afford to pay others to build his house for him.”
It’s not vanity to recognize our own place in life and our fitness for it. Instead of wasting our time envying other people’s talents, we should devote ourselves to the productive use of our own abilities. God intends each of us to have a specific job—and He gives us the right tools.
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
Envy and jealousy are a waste of time, Father. Help me develop my personal talents, and encourage others to pursue theirs
Keeper of the Puppets
A look into the Bronx, New York basement of Nilda Garces reveals what might be best described as a United Nations of puppets. On every wall there hangs a cluster of puppets—“little people,” as Garces calls them—each one dressed in traditional garb from across the globe.
For almost four decades, Nilda has been using the puppets locally in her shows and classes for education, recreation and therapy. A self-taught puppet maker, Garces started with shows for kids in the Bronx Zoo and the Botanical Gardens, as well as for her own three sons and their classmates.
In addition to exposing young people to the world’s cultures and peoples, her efforts aim to preserve the innocence and creativity Nilda fears kids are losing in the digital age.
“I just want to help them into their childhood,” Garces explains.
The wonder and creativity of childhood days can refresh an aging soul.
I have been young, and now am old, yet I have not seen the righteous forsaken. (Psalm 37:25)
As Your children, Father, we give thanks for Your abiding presence.
A Little Knowledge
A high-school girl, seated next to a famous astronomer at a dinner party, struck up a conversation with him by asking, “What do you do for a living?”
“I study astronomy,” he replied.
“Really?” said the teenager, wide-eyed. “I finished astronomy last year.”
Many people stop growing mentally and spiritually at an early age. Physically, they continue to develop, but spiritually they remain as six-year-olds. Yet most of us do recognize that we have a lot to learn.
The words and actions of other people are one of the best sources of learning. By appreciating those around us, by realizing how much one can share with them and gain from them, we inevitably grow daily in knowledge—and in love.
Give instruction to the wise, and they will become wiser still. (Proverbs 9:9)
Holy Spirit, inspire me to learn about the people and places that surround me—and about You as well.
The Greater Fool
An English nobleman gave his jester a wand, saying, “Keep this until you find a greater fool than yourself.” The jester laughingly accepted the wand and waved it about on festive occasions.
One day, the nobleman lay dying. Calling the jester to his bedside, he said, “I am going on a long journey.”
“Where to?” asked the jester.
“I don’t know,” came the reply.
“How long will you be gone?” the jester inquired.
“I will be gone forever,” said the nobleman.
“What provisions have you made for the trip?” asked the jester.
The nobleman shrugged his shoulders: “None at all.”
“Then,” said the jester, “take this.” And placing the wand in the nobleman’s hands, he added, “It belongs to you.”
Those who fail to realize the purpose of life—where they came from and where they are going—are running a foolish risk. You can help them out of their predicament by praying for them, and going to them with the love that Christ has given you.
Help my unbelief. (Mark 9:24)
Guide me toward You always, Jesus.
Speaking Up at Work
It might seem hard to excel on the job if you’re not outspoken. But Wendy Gelberg, author of The Successful Introvert: How to Enhance Your Job Search and Advance Your Career, tells us how to go from shy to shining at work.
▪ Set meeting goals. Review the agenda in advance, and be prepared to contribute one idea, comment or suggestion.
▪ Speak when you can. If a meeting setting proves too intimidating, ask for some one-on-one time for post-meeting feedback.
▪ Talk yourself up. Know that there’s a difference between bragging and self-promotion.
▪ Write it down. Keep a log of your achievements. Refer to it at promotion time.
Each of us has unique God-given talents—and we’re called to actively develop and share them with others.
Commit your work to the Lord, and your plans will be established. (Proverbs 16:3)
Bless the work of our hands, Lord.
No Time to Lose
The ship’s chief engineer, coming down the companionway into the engine room, shouted at one of the crew members, “How long have you been working here?”
The crew member answered honestly, “Ever since I saw you coming down the ladder.”
There is a constant temptation for all of us to take it easy until an emergency arises. Often, we tend to excuse our own spiritual idleness, putting off action to some future time we imagine will be more practical.
We are naturally inclined to believe that a kind of routine goodness is enough, and we postpone any really energetic spiritual activity.
In actuality, every day is the right day for spiritual labor, the proper time for directing our energies toward our eternal goal. There is no time to lose.
Behold, now is the acceptable time; behold now is the day of salvation. (2 Corinthians 6:2)
Jesus, I pray for the strength, wisdom, and willpower to serve You every day.
He’s Come Too Far To Fail
Duchenne muscular dystrophy slowly robbed Daniel Escalona of his ability to run, walk, and move his arms. Yet it didn’t dim his determination. Daniel graduated from his Chicago high school in June 2012, and is now a student at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. The school has a state-of-the-art dorm and support system for 24 students with disabilities.
Writing in the Chicago Sun-Times, Daniel’s father, Alejandro, reflected on the bittersweet, but proud experience of sending his disabled son off to college. He wrote, “Our hearts have been broken…seeing your body diminish to a point now where you can move your fingers only enough to type into an iPad or dial your cellphone. Still, you have written papers, essays and newspaper articles without once complaining about your condition.”
“I have had the privilege of taking care of you as your body has weakened. I have bathed you, dressed you, carried you to your chair and moved you at night so that you can sleep comfortably…We don’t know what the future will bring. But as a relative put it, you haven’t come this far to fail, Daniel.”
Happy are those who persevere. (Daniel 12:12)
Keep me striving for my goals, Lord
Adversity Doesn’t Kill
Three hundred years ago, a prisoner condemned to the Tower of London carved this sentiment on the wall of his cell to keep up his spirits during his long imprisonment: “It is not adversity that kills, but the impatience with which we bear adversity.”
Rebelling against difficulties or obstacles that can’t be legitimately avoided only makes a bad situation worse. Ordinary common sense recommends that we ride the storm, not buck it. But going one step further—from the natural to the supernatural—makes it easier still to bear adversity patiently.
Once you recognize that your suffering can actually bear fruit if you try to have the same purpose as Christ, then there will be the hidden joy of accomplishment even in bearing the Cross which He bore for us 2,000 years ago.
Because He Himself was tested…He is able to help those who are being tested. (Hebrews 2:18)
Be by my side this day, Jesus, helping me bear my crosses.
So Much More is Possible
Jim Abbott has been retired for 13 years from an improbable major-league baseball pitching career that included a no-hitter for the New York Yankees. The reason his career was improbable is that he’s only got one arm.
During 10 seasons, from 1989 to 1999, he played with the California Angels, the Yankees, the Chicago White Sox and the Milwaukee Brewers. Though his 87-108 win/loss record wasn’t stellar, it still included one of baseball’s most difficult feats, the no-hitter.
It’s hard to imagine someone more perfectly suited for Abbott’s current field, that of motivational speaking. He’s 44 now, and several times a month he’ll appear before audiences all over the country, delivering the same message he did as a major-leaguer.
“So much more is possible than you think,” Abbott explained to The New York Times. “With optimism and creativity and determination, amazing things can happen.”
The Lord is not slow about His promise…but is patient. (2 Peter 3:9)
Enable me to walk into the future with courage, Spirit of God.
Preacher and writer William L. Stidger once told a story about the conductor Walter Damrosch who stopped his orchestra when everything was apparently going along smoothly. He asked, “Where is the seventh flute?”
As Stidger points out, the conductor didn’t ask for the first flute, or the second—but the seventh. Even the seventh flute had an important role in creating the harmony the leader desired.
The lesson, Stidger explained: “We may feel inferior, untalented, not beautiful, and some of us uneducated. But each of us has a part to play and should play it well.”
He tells how he used to watch the man who plays the triangle in a large orchestra. Often the player would sit through the entire number, eagerly waiting. Then, toward the close, he would, with perfect timing, deftly touch the instrument and produce just the right note.
In other words, there is no unimportant job. Whatever your part is in this world, do it well.
We, through many, are one body in Christ, and, as individuals, are mutually dependent. (Romans 12:5)
Make me aware of my purpose, Messiah.
Love at a Convenience Store
Chinsuk Kim first picked a career as a radiology technologist in a Las Vegas hospital. She quickly realized, however, that the job was not for her. After working in a casino for a few years and saving some money, she discovered a convenience store franchise opportunity. Owning a store, she found, was a good fit for her personality.
A few years later, Todd Ferguson walked in to that store for a cup of coffee; he soon became a regular customer. On one visit he asked if Kim needed help. She said yes, and a business partnership began—one that would lead to their opening four additional convenience stores in Las Vegas. They also formed another kind of partnership—as husband and wife.
“If you ask us what this store has done for us,” Ferguson says, “we’d say it brought us together.”
Not every path we take in life leads to success. But every road traveled helps us encounter others—those we may love, and who will love us in return.
And now faith, hope and love abide…and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Lord, show me Your face in all I meet this day.
Comfort At Life’s End
Hospice workers respect life while also providing comfort care at its end.
Pam Greene, a hospice nurse in Nebraska, told a reporter that she is now passionate about helping people through the process with dignity. Years ago she “hated death and dying. I didn’t like going to funerals. I didn’t like any of that kind of stuff.”
But she followed the advice of one hospice director, who noted that those who work in this field need a good understanding of what their own values are in relation to death and dying.
“If they’re struggling with some unresolved issues,” the director said, “it’s going to really be difficult for them to deal with patients of all ages who die.”
Over time, Greene’s life experiences and her work as a home-health-care nurse changed her views about dealing with death. Now families tell her she is “a calming, peaceful presence at the end, and sometimes that’s what you need.”
Even though I walk through the darkest valley, I fear no evil; for You are with me. (Psalm 23:4)
Divine Comforter, help us ease loved ones on their final journey.
A King Indeed
Frederick the Great of Prussia was walking along a road on the outskirts of Berlin one day when he accidentally brushed against a very old man. “Who are you?” Frederick asked out of idle curiosity as the two came to a halt.
“I am a king,” the old man answered.
“A king?” echoed Frederick. “Over what kingdom do you reign?”
“Over myself,” was the proud reply. “I rule myself because I control myself. I am my own subject to command.”
All of us can be kings, in the sense of the old man’s words. But how many of us actually are? Instead of being in command, we often let ourselves be ruled by the tyrants of temper, laziness, or passion.
We can’t hope to influence others if we are, as the common expression puts it, “not ourselves.” And we can only be ourselves by controlling ourselves.
Strive first for the kingdom of God and His righteousness. (Matthew 6:33)
Give me the wisdom and spiritual strength to make wise decisions, Father.
A Saint of WWII
It was August 14, 1941, at the Auschwitz concentration camp in Poland. The Nazis were picking which prisoners would be killed that day. After 10 men were selected to die, one of them—Franciszek Gajowniczek—cried out, “My wife! My children! I will never see them again!”
Also present at this time was another Nazi prisoner, Father Maximilan Kolbe, a Franciscan Friar. He stepped forward and told the Nazi commandant, “I am a Catholic priest. Let me take his place. I am old. He has a wife and children.”
The commandant was surprised and asked, “What does this Polish pig want?” Father Kolbe pointed to the condemned man and repeated, “I am a Catholic priest from Poland; I would like to take his place, because he has a wife and children.”
Perhaps stunned by the priest’s selflessness, the Nazis granted his heroic request. Gajowniczek, the man he saved, said, “It was the first and the last time that such an incident happened in the whole history of Auschwitz.”
Maximilian Kolbe was canonized a saint in 1982.
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13)
Give me a courageous and selfless heart, Father.
Hold the Elevator!
When Ernest was a student in the Christopher Leadership Course, he shared a story about going to a job interview after being out of work for six months. The interview was scheduled to take place in a high-rise New York City office building.
Ernest got on the elevator, and the doors started to close. As they were nearly shut, he heard a woman shout, “Please hold the elevator!” He quickly pressed the “Door Open” button, allowing her to get in. The woman was grateful because she was already late for a meeting. She then asked Ernest what he was doing there, and he explained he had a job interview.
The woman handed him her business card and told him to call her because she might know someone who is hiring. When Ernest arrived home that day, he did exactly that. Three days later, the woman’s contact paid off and Ernest had gotten a new job. And it was largely due to a simple act of kindness on an elevator.
Not every act of kindness will have such a big reward. Then again, kindness should be its own reward.
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
Teach me to treat others the way I’d like to be treated, Savior.
Urban decay, crime, and drug dealing are just some of the problems plaguing an East Baltimore neighborhood called Oliver. Now, 100 military veterans are working to improve the area through Operation Oliver.
As reported in The Baltimore Sun, the project began in July 2011 with the intent of “cleaning up alleys, rehabbing homes, helping residents find jobs…and notifying police about illegal dumping sites and drug dealing.”
Marine Corps veteran Rich Blake says, “A lot of the conditions from places we’re deployed to, Iraq and Afghanistan, are not that much different from the conditions here in Oliver…We’re not afraid to dig in and make a difference.”
Operation Oliver is working. The project has attracted 1,000 volunteers in addition to the veterans. It’s fixed up 50 homes, cleaned up five tons of trash, turned a former prostitution site into a playground, and taken residents to look for jobs.
Through hard work, courage, and perseverance, what used to seem a mission impossible is becoming a mission achievable.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from above. (James 1:17)
Inspire me to acts of service in Your name, Jesus.
Some Much Needed Women’s Care
Since 1984, 19 Women’s Care Centers have been founded throughout the United States.
The purpose of these nonprofit centers, along with the Catholic Charities organization affiliated with them, is to offer unwed mothers a safe, nonjudgmental place to receive the counseling and prenatal care they require. One such center opened on March 1, 2012, in Hammond, Indiana, an area which has the highest number of abortions in the state.
“We are proud and happy to be in this effort for choice,” Catholic Charities chairman Daniel Lowry told the Gary Diocese. “This is an opportunity for women to make the right choice—God’s choice—at a difficult time in their life.”
Gary Bishop Dale J. Melczek adds, “Every human being has value, but how do we act on that? You’re helping those in difficult situations. This is not just professing faith, but action.”
Life, especially new life, is one of God’s most precious gifts. May we never cease to see the value in living every day.
For it was You who formed my inward parts; You knit me together in my mother’s womb. (Psalm 139:13)
Lord, may we strive to protect the sanctity of life.
Chocolate Ice Cream and a Smile
A long week away from home at a business meeting, and an intense week ahead back at the office. That was the past and the future for Janet as she sat in a small café on a Sunday afternoon, a million thoughts and worries racing through her mind about moments gone by and those yet to come.
Suddenly, she caught sight of a three-year-old boy eating a small dish of chocolate ice cream. He seemed to be savoring every spoonful as he got almost as much of the ice cream on his nose and cheeks as he did in his mouth.
Janet found herself smiling, with only one thought on her mind: joy written in chocolate all over the face of a child!
Dwelling on past sadness or future worries can make us miss the love and joy of the present moment. So be in the here and right now!
So do not worry about tomorrow…Today’s trouble is enough. (Matthew 6:34)
I offer You praise, Lord, for You give me all to delight my heart and mind.
Some Freshman Wisdom
On his Patheos.com blog, Timothy Dalrymple wrote an open letter to college freshmen, encouraging them to become “the individual you most truly…are, the one God dreamt of when he made you—and not the person that you or your parents or friends think you should be.” His insights included:
▪ Seek wisdom, not merely intelligence: Dalrymple notes that, during his college years, he saw many intelligent people doing foolish and immoral things. Wisdom is more important and rare than intelligence because it seeks goodness and truth more than personal academic advancement.
▪ Seek betterment, not merely achievement: With hard work, one can accomplish much in school. It takes more virtue and self-awareness, however, to seek a change in character to become the best version of yourself. And the pay-off is richer.
▪ Seek fellowship, not merely friends: Sharing a common faith is a powerful bond between people. As Dalrymple writes, “It’s a great joy to be surrounded by people your age who love God and seek to live their lives according to His word.”
Let the hearts of those who seek the Lord rejoice. (1 Chronicles 16:10)
Father, bless all who seek Your face.
When Life Takes a Swat at You
After work, Lynn stopped at a New York City coffee shop for a relaxing cup of tea. Through the window, she saw a woman walk by with a huge, fluffy, chocolate-brown dog that stood about three feet tall. Another passerby and her small boxer dog stopped to chat with the big dog’s owner.
One of the coffee shop patrons looking out the window commented, “The amazing thing is that the small dog doesn’t seem to know that he’s small, and the big dog doesn’t seem to know he’s big.” The small dog kept playfully jumping at the big dog, as if to wrestle him to the ground. Meanwhile, the big dog seemed amused and patient, before gently giving him a swat with his paw. However, the swats never deterred the confident, little dog who was even more enthused and persistent. No obstacle was going to keep him from what he wanted to do! They kept it up, just enjoying the fun in the moment.
Lynn looked at the incident as a metaphor. When life seems too big or overwhelming to deal with—even when it takes a swat at you—persistence, focus, confidence and enthusiasm can help you to reach your goal—or at least enjoy the journey.
Do not be faint-hearted. (Jeremiah 51:46)
Jesus, give me courage and joy as I face my challenges.
Mazel Tov, Aly Raisman!
Aly Raisman entered the 2012 Olympics under the radar compared to some of her fellow U.S. women’s gymnastics team members. In the end, however, the humble Jewish-American gymnast won three medals—two gold, one bronze—giving her the highest medal count among all U.S. gymnasts.
One of Raisman’s best moments occurred during the floor exercise competition on August 7 because she was able to incorporate her Jewish heritage into her performance. The song to which Raisman competed was the Jewish classic “Hava Nagila.” August 7 was also the 40th anniversary of the murder of 11 Israeli athletes and coaches by terrorists during the 1972 Munich Olympics.
Though Raisman didn’t choose the song for that purpose, she said it gave her performance special meaning once she discovered the connection. It also made winning the gold medal feel like a little bit of a tribute to those who were killed.
Raisman emerged from the Olympics as an unexpected star who did her country, her faith, and herself proud.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Help me to walk quietly and humbly, Lord.
Where would any school-age child be without a backpack? They’re more than just places to store books; they’re also portable organizers and study aids. Any child without one visibly struggles in school. To this end, Catholic Community Services (CCS) in Salt Lake City, Utah, hosts an annual backpack “back-to-school drive,” which provides bags filled with proper supplies to children who need them.
CCS’s yearly “Backpack Bonanza” is held every August, attracting the notice of many Utah businesses. “We serve thousands of children,” says CCS public relations/marketing coordinator Lauren McCarty. “These backpacks are going to children…on the brink of homelessness and to children who just arrived in this country without anything.”
Thanks to people with generous hearts, children without anything will be able to carry their school books instead of the burden of feeling deprived. Ease others’ burdens whenever you can.
For if the eagerness is there, the gift is acceptable. (2 Corinthians 6:12)
Lord, infuse us with generous and caring spirits.
People are Mirrors
A psychologist once asked a group of college students to jot down, in 30 seconds, the initials of the people they disliked. Some of the students taking the test could think of only one person. Others listed as many as 14.
The interesting fact that came out of this research was this: those who disliked the largest number of people were themselves the most widely disliked.
When we find ourselves continually disliking others, we ought to ask ourselves the question, “What’s wrong with me?”
Very likely, if we develop an aversion to those around us, it isn’t because they deserve our judgment or condemnation, but because we are lacking in some particular quality we profess to see missing in them. Other people are mirrors, in the sense that what we see in them is a reflection of ourselves.
Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of friends is better than either. (Sirach 40:20)
Enable me, Lord, to see the best in people, and in turn, bring out the best in myself.
Finding Spiritual Beauty
When author Christopher West gives talks on Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body teachings, he doesn’t simply denounce our culture’s attitudes toward casual sex, but rather presents the Christian view of sexuality as a positive option.
While discussing his book At the Heart of the Gospel on Christopher Closeup, West said, “We can’t just go out there and yell and scream about what’s wrong in the world. Scripture says that we overcome evil with good. It is important that we show what is true, good and beautiful.”
West continued, “I often say to my audiences, ‘Think of a time in your life when you were pierced by beauty. Maybe it was a song, a sunset, the birth of a child.’ Those are moments when God is inviting us into His beauty. He’s made the world so beautiful to lead us to Him. In our pornographic culture, we have reduced beauty to something merely physical. When we do that, we lose sight of true beauty. Physical beauty is meant to point us to spiritual beauty. That is what the heart craves. And when it is proclaimed, our hearts yearn for it and are attracted to it.”
God said, “Let us make humankind in our image.” (Genesis 1:26)
May the beauty of this world guide me to You, God.
A Blessing, Not a Burden
Older generations used to be more revered for their wisdom and age, out of respect for the ties that bound them to their family and community. Both Blessed John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI have called elderly people a blessing for society. Caring for them is as much an act of love as it is a repayment of a debt for all they have given and shared. To honor them is a high calling, and to answer it is necessary.
In “To Live Each Day With Dignity,” the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops says, “We deserve to grow old in a society that views our cares and needs with compassion grounded in respect, offering genuine support in our final days. The choices we make together now will decide whether this is the kind of caring society we will leave to future generations. We can help build a world in which love is stronger than death.”
Senior citizens have a lifetime’s worth of wisdom and guidance to share. Listen to them. Spend time with them. Care for them. Be Christ to them.
With all your heart honor your father, and do not forget the birth pangs of your mother. (Sirach 7:27)
Lord, give us the strength to care for those who need us and to help restore the Culture of Life.
God and CPR
Seventy-one-year-old Father Tadeusz Koncewicz, a priest from Poland, was visiting his friend, parish priest Father Krzysztof Bugno, in Titusville, Florida, when they decided to find relief from the heat by going for a swim at a nearby beach. After wading into the water, Father Koncewicz got pulled further out into the ocean by strong waves that knocked him around.
Father Bugno and another man were finally able to drag Father Koncewicz to shore, but he had stopped breathing and was turning blue. Using what little knowledge of CPR he could remember from watching television, Father Bugno administered it, trying to save his friend’s life. By the time rescue crews arrived, the unconscious priest was breathing again. He was taken to a hospital and expected to recover.
“I didn’t know CPR, but I felt I was guided,” explained a thankful and relieved Father Bugno to Florida Today. “It’s a miracle because God gave me the strength supernaturally…He came back to life. I believe it’s a miracle.”
Sometimes God uses us to accomplish His miracles. Be open to following His lead.
Save us, O Lord our God. (Psalm 106:47)
Reach out to me in my troubles, Divine Savior.
A u g u s t 1
Grandmother Explains God to Mugger
It was late afternoon when 92-year-old Pauline Jacobi finished shopping at the Dyersburg, Tennessee, Wal-mart. As she sat in her car ready to drive home, a stranger opened the passenger door and got in. “Give me your money,” he demanded. She told him no, so he threatened to kill her. “Then the good Lord took over,” Jacobi told the Dyersburg State Gazette. “I said, ‘If you kill me, I'm going straight to heaven. If you kill me, you're going to hell.’” Jacobi noticed that the man looked disheveled, but not mean. In fact, he had sad eyes. She asked him his name, and he told her Ricky. Jacobi, a lifelong churchgoer, then asked if he wanted to go to heaven someday. Ricky said he did, but was afraid the Lord wouldn’t take him. Jacobi explained God’s forgiveness and grace to Ricky, then gave him all the money she had in her purse—$10—with a warning not to spend it on liquor. Ricky shed a tear, kissed Jacobi on the cheek, and got out of the car. Jacobi doesn’t know what happened to Ricky, but she hopes she brought him a little bit closer to a better life in this world—and the next.
The Lord was my support. (Psalm 18:18)
Let us change hearts together, Jesus.
Recognition Isn’t Everything
Paul Cézanne never knew that he would some day be considered the father of modern painting. Because of his great love for his work, he never thought of recognition. He struggled for 35 years, living in oblivion at Aix in France, giving away masterpieces to indifferent neighbors.
One day, a discerning Paris art dealer happened upon his canvases and, gathering several of them, presented the first Cézanne exhibit. The greats of the art world were stunned. Here, indeed, was a master!
Cézanne himself was no less astonished. Arriving at the gallery on the arm of his son, he gazed wonderingly at his paintings, and tears came to his eyes.
“Look,” he whispered.” “They’ve framed them!”
Had it been Cézanne’s chief aim to be hailed as a great artist, he might never have achieved much of anything. But he did achieve greatness simply by trying to make use of the artistic talents God had given him in the very best way he knew how.
Do I seek to please men? If I yet pleased men, I should not be the servant of Christ. (Galatians 1:10)
I pray that I do the best I can with the talents you’ve given me, Creator.
From Tragedy to Triumph
After her newborn son was diagnosed with congenital heart disease, Alexis Spellen felt helpless. Sadly, her son didn’t survive. The nurses who assisted her during this time, however, changed her life—and her career path. Their compassion and support fueled her desire to become a nurse herself.
Eighteen years later, Spellen is a nurse consultant in New York City’s Washington Heights, helping create long-term care plans for seniors. She works with patients and their families, making sure they are well-informed about their health and how to best stay engaged in everyday life, often with the help of home aides, nutritionists, physical therapists and social workers.
Spellen’s dedication has inspired her two surviving sons as well: one is a registered nurse and the other is in nursing school. She believes that, out of every tragedy, you can still create positives. As she told the New York Post’s Cara O’Flynn, “When the tragedy occurred, I knew what I needed to do, and I’ve been doing it ever since. I guess it was my calling.”
What is God calling you to do?
For I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, Plans…to give you a future and a hope. (Jeremiah
Lord, help me navigate the storms of life.
Open From Within
In Holman Hunt’s painting, The Light of the World, Jesus is shown in a garden at midnight, holding a lantern in His left hand. With His right hand, He is knocking on a heavily paneled door.
When the painting was unveiled, a critic remarked to the painter, “Mr. Hunt, the work is unfinished. There is no handle on the door.”
Hunt answered, “That is the door to the human heart. It can only be opened from the inside.”
God doesn’t force Himself on us. We are free to deny Him. But we are reminded constantly of God’s love and desire to come to us.
It is most important for all Christophers to follow this same respectful approach. Be ever ready to share Christ’s truth with others, but offer it gently—and with love.
Come to Me, all you that are weary and are carrying heavy burdens, and I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Teach me, Jesus, to be Your representative on earth so that others come to know Your bountiful love.
A mother and child stand on a street corner, waiting for the light to change.
“Now you have to wait until you see the traffic light turn red, and the other sign showing you the person walking,” the mother says, adding, “Don’t forget to look both ways, just to be sure.”
The child stands for a moment, even with all the lights in place, and after a check to her left and right.
“What’s the matter?” asks her mother.
“Well, it seems like a lot to think about just to cross the street,” the little girl says, somewhat frustrated.
“Yes, but after all that thinking, you’ll be on your way, moving on,” the mother replies.
In our own lives, we weigh many options and think through many decisions. In the end, we should strive to keep moving in a forward, positive direction, living life fully every day.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart…and He will make straight your paths.” (Proverbs 3:5,6)
Lord, guide my steps; show me Your ways.
Like an Action Hero
One summer day on a busy parkway in Columbus, Georgia, Michael Perry, 26, risked his own life to save driver Christopher Sanders, 27.
Sanders was at the wheel of his Jeep when he had a seizure and subsequently blacked out. He had started having seizures 10 years earlier, but never while driving. His vehicle slowed and drifted dangerously on the parkway as traffic whizzed by.
Perry saw the erratic Jeep, sized up the situation, pulled his own car over and managed to jump into Sanders’ vehicle. He guided it safely onto the parkway’s guardrail. Thankfully, no one was seriously hurt, although Perry bruised his leg slightly when he got it caught between the Jeep and the guardrail.
“It could have gone very, very badly,” police Sgt. Michael Graydon told the Associated Press. “Everything worked right, and it was pretty miraculous.”
Everyone has the potential to perform a miracle, no matter how small, for someone else.
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Jesus, bless the courageous Good Samaritans among us.
The youngsters in chef Didi Emmons’ free Take Back the Kitchen program are anything but disadvantaged, at least nutritionally. “I’ve seen firsthand that poverty and obesity often go hand in hand, and I wanted to teach the kids some life skills,” Chef Emmons told a reporter. She shares her skills at the Haley House Bakery Café in one of Boston’s poorest neighborhoods.
One 18-year-old admitted, “Before I met Didi, I didn’t like healthy food at all. But the stuff we made tasted so good, you would forget it was also good for you.” In addition to healthier versions of burgers and fries, other dishes from this bakery include curried sweet potato soup and mango smoothies.
Each six-week course begins with a knife-skills demonstration. Explains Emmons, “The kids might not think they like vegetables, but once we get them chopping, they make a connection with their food.”
Caring adults can help youngsters “make a connection” with good meals—and good lives.
Beloved, I pray…you may be in good health. (3 John 2:1)
God, help parents and teachers to guide young people in Your ways.
A Musical Soul
Writing on HelpOthers.org, Jill, a college student in New York City, recalled feeling depressed because her mother had been laid off from her job. Just then, while walking through a ferry terminal, Jill heard a young woman’s voice singing about love and overcoming challenges. After listening for 15 minutes, she gave the keyboard-playing singer some money, told her how good she was, and said, “I’ve been going through a rough time, but you’ve made me hopeful again.”
The singer asked why Jill felt sad, so she told her. Then the singer said, “Here’s the problem. The way you were walking, your head was down. Don’t look defeated…Opportunity comes in different ways, and if your head is down you might not see it. You should smile more. Lift your head up.”
The singer further explained that she is a psychology student who is trying to alleviate people’s pain by sharing “motivational music.” It worked. As Jill headed home, her smile grew a little wider because her heart had been “touched and lightened by a musical soul.”
I will bind up the injured, and I will strengthen the weak. (Ezekiel 34:16)
May my words bring comfort to the troubled, Jesus.
Saved by a St. Bernard
It was a hot July day in Brooklyn, New York, when seven-year-old autistic girl Keyla McCree snuck out the window in her parents’ third-floor apartment and perch herself on the room’s air conditioner outside. When she started dancing on top of the air conditioner, neighbors on the street below got worried.
Steven St. Bernard, a 52-year-old bus driver and father of four who lives in the same apartment complex, happened to be nearby and rushed over, knowing that she would likely fall. When asked by WABC News what was going through his mind, he said, “Please let me catch her, please let me catch her, that’s all I could say.”
Sure enough, McCree fell off the air conditioner, but was cushioned by the arms of St. Bernard who was standing below her. The girl was largely unhurt, though her hero tore a tendon in his shoulder. His injury didn’t bother him, though. St. Bernard said, “It feels good to know that I did something.”
Pray for the courage to be a hero when you encounter someone in trouble.
The integrity of the upright guides them. (Proverbs 11:3)
Be my guide in times of trouble, Jesus.
Walking to Work
Maggie exited the New York City subway on a Monday morning—back to work after a busy weekend, longing for just one more day off.
Seated on a bench outside one building, an older man played classical music on a small radio. Maggie felt her spirits rise as she listened, marveling at the composer’s genius. Looking up she saw the beautiful details in the façade of an old building just a block from her Manhattan office, admiring designs from years past. Just outside her workplace, she heard a mother on her cell phone wish her child luck on the day’s exam, feeling grateful for technology that draws us ever closer.
Suddenly, Monday morning seemed a little brighter—as the walk gave Maggie a chance to count life’s blessings.
Each day we’re surrounded by God’s gifts to us, born of the creativity and hard work of others.
Let them thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works to humankind. (Psalm 107:8)
I give You thanks, Creator, for the earth and its abundance.
The Life of Spoose
On the first anniversary of his death, Kerry Trotter, the content manager of Word on Fire Ministries, recalled the life of her grandfather, Jack Leonard, who was nicknamed “Spoose.”
Though the 94-year-old Chicago native had been “a big, Irish personality full of stories and songs and…wit,” Spoose had known his share of hard times. He endured them because of his Catholic faith which was “formed by his parents who fled their homes in Ireland as teenagers, hungry, poor and terrified. They clung to it like the few cents sewn into their jacket pocket.”
Spoose experienced suffering of his own: the deaths of friends and family along with other losses. But Trotter says, “That suffering was repurposed into love. There were no grudges. Even when friends and business partners betrayed him…he turned the other cheek.”
Again, it was his faith that shaped Spoose’s attitude: “He was a boots-on-the-ground believer in God. He delivered love knowing that everyone deserved it, and that receiving love was an empowering gift with no equal.”
Practice loving God and neighbor just like Spoose did.
Experience is the crown of the aged. (Proverbs 25:6)
Make me a boots-on-the-ground believer, Lord.
Oh, My Aching …
Many people around the world are disabled by degenerative disc disease in their backs and necks, according to Cornell University’s Chronicle Online. Fortunately, medical and engineering professionals work daily to find new and better ways to offer relief from chronic and debilitating pain.
For example, Cornell engineers and doctors in New York “have created a biologically based spinal implant that could someday mean relief for countless sufferers,” writes Ann Ju in the Cornell Chronicle.
New biologically based discs might have an advantage over potentially risky “bone or metal or plastic implants” which can move around in the body. Also, “debris from the metal or plastic particles” can accumulate inside us from wear and tear.
Few of us are scientists who can create new inventions that promote good health and relieve pain. All of us, however, have it within our power to reach out to others in ways that improve their mental, emotional and spiritual health. That doesn’t require a degree; just a kind and caring heart.
To each is given the manifestation of the Spirit for the common good. (1 Corinthians 12:7)
Help relieve the pain that keeps me from living fully, Jesus.
The Best Laid Plans…
The day before she was leaving for vacation with her husband and two sons, author Lisa Hendey had planned to finish her extensive “to do” list. After the first item, however, her plans started to go awry.
She had to care for her mother-in-law, who underwent outpatient surgery which lasted two hours longer than expected. Then she had to pick up her own mother from the airport which cut into the time she had set aside for packing and laundry.
Regarding the experience, Hendey wrote on the “Faith and Family Live” website, “Some days, we can make a list and tick through each of the tasks with perfect precision. Other days, God has us on a varying path, the one that twists, turns, and winds far from our anticipated destination. On those days, I imagine Him looking down benevolently as He reminds me who is truly ‘in charge’ and what is truly ‘important.’ On days like this, I need to remind myself that life is not about me always being in charge. More often than not, when I let go and ‘go with the flow,’ the days are better than I could have ever imagined.”
Happy are those who trust in the Lord. (Proverbs 16:20)
Teach me to trust in You, O Lord.
From Trash to Eco-Treasure
Former Peace Corps volunteer Laura Kutner made treasure out of trash at the school where she worked in Guatemala.
While enjoying a bottle of soda one day, she noticed that the bottle had the same width as the walls of a classroom that was under construction. In order to create eco-friendly insulation for the walls, Kutner led parents, students and volunteers in the effort to fill 8,000 bottles with inorganic trash, wrap the bottles in chicken wire, then put them in the walls which would be coated with cement. When money to complete the project ran out, a San Diego nonprofit called Hug It Forward supplied the needed funds.
Now, Kutner’s ingenious “eco-blocks” are providing warm insulation for walls in the new classrooms. She is training other volunteers on the technique because interest in duplicating it has spread. For such efforts to work, local people must be involved—and willing to work for positive change. “If a community does not want or does not need it, the project is not going to be successful,” says Kutner.
May we be inspired to assist the growth of our own communities.
Live in harmony with one another. (Romans 12:16)
Strengthen the bonds of hardworking communities, Jesus.
Rescuing a Kidnapping Victim
How did a broken washer and dryer lead Antonio Diaz Chacon to save a six-year-old girl from a kidnapper?
The 24-year-old New Mexico father of two and his wife, Martha, had to travel to a relative’s house to do their laundry because their washer and dryer weren’t working. When they arrived, Chacon spotted suspicious activity down the street: namely, a man roughly tossing a little girl into a blue van.
“The way he grabbed her and threw her into the van, I knew it wasn’t right,” he told the Associated Press. “I knew I had to catch him.” Chacon chased the car down in his own black pick-up while his wife called 911. After the kidnapper crashed into a pole and ran away, Chacon rescued the girl from the van.
News of Chacon’s heroism spread, and people flooded the police with calls wanting to send the family gift cards and cash. Whirlpool even honored him with a new washing machine and dryer. He was overwhelmed by the support. The victim’s father said, “Chacon’s actions prove that good people still exist.”
Doing good is its own reward, but tangible gifts of thankfulness are always appreciated.
The righteous are as bold as a lion. (Proverbs 28:1)
Inspire me to go the extra mile to help others, Holy Spirit.
Helping Parents of Preemies
When New Jersey resident Tami C. Gaines’ twins, Trey and Bria, were born prematurely, the babies barely weighed 1 pound 13 ounces, and weren’t expected to live. Though Gaines was tempted to sink into despair, her two other children helped her discover the strength to cope with what was happening.
In the ensuing months, the twins fought numerous health problems including a blood infection (Bria) and heart issues (Trey). Yet the babies were resilient and survived, though they have lingering medical needs.
Gaines herself became a stronger person in the process, and has written a book entitled Preemie Parents: 26 Ways to Grow With Your Premature Baby. She told the New York Daily News, “You have to separate yourself from being a parent who wants to have a nervous breakdown…and be an advocate who needs to learn how to ask the right questions.”
Gaines’ ultimate message is this: “No matter how dark things get, you have to find that little piece of light to hold on to. That little piece of light will guide you out of the darkness.”
Children were being brought to Him…that He might lay His hands on them and pray. (Matthew 19:13)
Watch over our children, Lord.
I Shall Not Hate
When Israeli shelling in the Gaza Strip killed his three daughters, Palestinian doctor Izzeldin Abuelaish astonished the world by not calling for revenge. Though angry and grieved, he called for peace and cooperation so there would be no more needless suffering.
His memoir “I Shall Not Hate,” which won a 2011 Christopher Award, follows Dr. Abuelaish through his struggles growing up in Gaza, the friendships he made as the first Palestinian to work in an Israeli hospital, and his realization that people of all religions are children of the same God and deserve respect. Now the founder of the Daughters For Life Foundation, which provides educational opportunities for young women in the Middle East, this unyielding peace activist continues to be a model of forgiveness and reconciliation.
Not letting yourself be consumed by hatred in a situation like Dr. Abuelaish’s can seem like an impossible task. Ask God to help free you from the burden of hatred.
Pursue what makes for peace and for mutual upbuilding. (Romans 14:19)
Instill me with mercy toward those who have harmed me, Lord.
A Servant of Justice
Eighty-one-year-old Msgr. Marvin Mottet of Davenport, Iowa, received the 2012 Servant of Justice Award in Washington, D.C. It came from the Roundtable Association of Catholic Diocesan Social Action Directors.
According to a story carried in Catholic News Service, Marvin Mottet’s exposure to social action dates back to childhood when he saw his parents helping others during the Great Depression—sharing food with strangers, or waiting for payment on milk deliveries.
As a seminarian and then as a young priest he became more involved with the cause, helping to launch the Catholic Interracial Council and ultimately, in 1978, becoming executive director of the U.S. Bishops’ Catholic Campaign for Human Development.
When he returned to Davenport he continued his involvement in the Catholic Worker Movement, and threw himself into parish work in the inner city. Through it all, his ministry has been buttressed by an active prayer life that continues unabated.
He raises the poor from the dust, and lifts the needy from the ash heap. (Psalm 113:7)
Teach me to be a servant of justice, O God.
A pig named Biscuit, a pony called Bonsai, and a goat named Sophie share a bond with the troubled youngsters who visit the Gentle Barn in Santa Clarita, California.
Ranch founder Ellie Weiner told New York Times writer Karen Jones that she was abused in childhood, but found comfort caring for stray animals: “[They] saved me and healed me. If they could do that for me, then they could do it for others.”
Youngsters who visit the Gentle Barn hear the recovery stories of these animals who, after being abused themselves, have learned to love and trust again. They identify with them and leave feeling more hopeful about their own futures, noted one children’s services worker.
A tough gang member, who had been physically abused by his father, was seen comforting a horse who’d also suffered beatings. The young man was spotted in the back of the stable crying and softly petting the horse on the head, saying over and over, “No one is going to hurt you now.’”
He heals the brokenhearted, and binds up their wounds. (Psalm 147:3)
May we learn to be gentle with the most vulnerable, Jesus.
The Memory Project
What would lead Madison, Wisconsin’s, Ben Schumaker to visit an orphanage at the base of a volcano in Nicaragua carrying 62 pounds of painted portraits? A labor of love—one he started in college called The Memory Project.
Schumaker told CBS News that he wants to give the orphans “a sense of personal heritage” since they have no parents to give it to them. The orphans’ photos are taken by someone in their area, then those pictures are sent to Schumaker who sends them to high school art teachers around the U.S. The teachers make it a class assignment to paint portraits of the orphans.
Schumaker has found that after staring into the eyes of the orphans in the pictures, the American students develop a sense of connection to their subjects and compassion for their needs. “If it can raise the net level of compassion in the world by that much, I’ll be happy,” he says.
The Memory Project has distributed over 4,000 portraits to orphans around the world—and continues to open the hearts of teens in the United States to the needs of the less fortunate.
Those who are kind reward themselves. (Proverbs 11:17)
Help me bring joy to others, Messiah
IntenCity Summer Service
For most school-age children, summer is a time of rest and rejuvenation. For 31 middle school students from Indianapolis, the summer months also included volunteering at the IntenCity Summer Service Camp. Established by Tyler Mayer, the student life director at Bishop Chatard High School, this camp consists of four days of service at various charitable organizations like soup kitchens and centers for those with special needs.
“There are a lot of students who have time in the summer, and we thought it would be a good way for them to be productive and learn a little more about life,” Mayer told Alison Graham of the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper, The Criterion. “One of my favorite parts is seeing the junior high students getting to learn from those they are serving.”
“It was cool meeting people with special needs,” volunteer Sarah Herman declared regarding her work at A Caring Place, an adult daycare center. “I hope we’re being role models and showing people it’s not hard to make a difference. The people we helped will be glad the next generation is so caring.”
Who needs care and compassion in your area?
Who gives to the poor will lack nothing. (Proverbs 28:27)
Jesus, may we never undervalue the importance of giving.
The World Needs Leaders
In his book Developing the Leader Within You, author John C. Maxwell shared several character traits we should all keep in mind if we ever find ourselves in a position of leadership. He wrote:
“The world needs leaders…
“Who use their influence at the right times for the right reasons; who take a little greater share of the blame and a little smaller share of the credit; who lead themselves successfully before attempting to lead others; who continue to search for the best answer, not the familiar one; who add value to the people and organization they lead; who handle themselves with their heads and handle others with their hearts; who know the way, go the way, and show the way.”
Lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all humility and gentleness, with patience,
bearing with one another. (Ephesians 4:1)
You are my role model for effective leadership, Jesus. Help me follow Your example.
Love is Stronger than Death
Sophie Caldecott relishes the bedtime stories her father read to her when she was growing up—stories by authors like Jane Austen and C.S. Lewis—because they taught her not only about right and wrong, but about love. In 2011, the now twenty-something Caldecott’s understanding of love reached a deeper level after discovering her father had cancer.
Writing in Verily magazine, Caldecott says, “Life seems so fragile back in that hospital waiting room, but I have come to realize that, in fact, it is resilient even in the face of death. When life is built around love, it can outlast death, because death is not the end. The cancer is a sick imitation of the real thing, multiplying desperately because it has no real substance or meaning of its own beyond that which it destroys.”
“Perhaps the most precious lesson that a father can teach his daughter—a lesson which helps her to deal with the possibility of losing him, in fact—is that love is stronger than death. I learned this through the heroes and heroines of the stories that my father shared with me—and, like them, I will never despair or stop believing that the world is good.”
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Let Your love heal those who suffer, Lord.
A Bronze Medalist’s Heart of Gold
If someone told you that an Olympic bronze medalist was selling her medal, you might assume that athlete was dissatisfied with her third-place finish. Nothing could be further from the truth for Zofia Noceti-Klepacka from Poland.
Noceti-Klepacka, who won bronze in a windsurfing competition at the 2012 Olympics, plans to sell her medal to help a five-year-old girl named Zuzia whom she’s known since birth. The youngster has cystic fibrosis, a potentially-fatal lung disease.
Noceti-Klepacka has witnessed the financial difficulties Zuzia’s family is facing due to her hospital visits and need for constant care. Prior to heading to the summer games, the Olympian promised that if she won a medal, she would auction it off with all the proceeds going to the medical needs of her biggest fan, Zuzia. Now she’s following through on her promise.
Athletes train for thousands of hours for the possibility of winning an Olympic medal. For Noceti-Klepacka to be willing to part with hers to benefit a young girl in need demonstrates that her medal may be bronze, but her heart is golden.
While physical training is of some value, godliness is valuable in every way. (1 Timothy 4:7)
Help me treasure life more than riches or rewards, Lord.
Communion on the Moon
Did you know that the first foods consumed on the moon were the communion elements from a church service?
Before his Apollo 11 mission, astronaut Buzz Aldrin wondered whether it might be possible to take communion on the moon. His pastor enthusiastically supported the idea, and arrangements were made.
In 1969, when Neil Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the lunar surface, Aldrin was carrying a special container. It held a bit of bread and tiny chalice of wine that he had brought from his Presbyterian church. Aldrin then read a prayer illustrating his trust that in exploring space, humankind was acting in God’s name. Afterward, he consumed the bread and wine.
The incident was kept quiet at the time because a prominent atheist was involved in a legal battle objecting to the reading of Scripture by the crew of Apollo 8. Twenty years later, the truth was finally revealed, showing that God was not forgotten during one of the great scientific accomplishments of the 20th century.
Consider the wondrous works of God. (Job 37:14)
Guide me in exploring the mysteries of life and the world, Creator.
Learning for Life
There are many appealing aspects to summer vacations from school, but there may also be downsides. Educators now believe that students lose their academic edge during long summer months when classes aren’t in session. The problem is often more acute in lower-income homes.
“Unfortunately, far too many children leave the classroom for summer vacation, and also leave behind access to regular breakfast and lunch, educational materials, and technological tools,” writes Debbie Rambo, president of Catholic Charities of the Archdiocese of Boston. And more importantly, she adds, “students lose access to the mentors who motivate them to keep their minds sharp and develop as life-long learners.”
A relaxing break is wonderful and welcome, but parents should try to keep their children’s minds active as well. So read a book with them, visit museums, plan a trip to a historical site. This way, when the start of the school year rolls back around, their minds will be as sharp as when they left.
Teach them the good way in which they should walk. (2 Chronicles 6:27)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to prepare youngsters for a lifetime of learning and growing
Faith Filled Runners
Currently stationed at Scott Air Force Base near St, Louis, Missouri, Lieut. Col. Pat Castle wanted to combine his love of athletics with pro-life work. In conjunction with his friend, Rich Reich from Patrick Air Force Base in Florida, he founded LIFE Runners (LIFE stands for “Living In Faith Exchange”).
The group’s 154 members, located in the U.S. and abroad, participate in one half or full marathon a year. Money raised supports women experiencing unplanned pregnancies.
In addition, LIFE Runners also serves as a self-help group of sorts. Members support one another through grueling marathon training. As Castle explained to National Review columnist Kathryn Jean Lopez, “Training for marathons requires great discipline…and affords quiet time for prayer.”
Inspired by Castle’s enthusiasm, Lopez observes, “Any of us, runners or not, can work harder to apply what we say we believe in practical ways. People who say they support life can challenge themselves to make that a daily and real activism—looking for ways to support women and children and families.”
Before I formed you in the womb, I knew you. (Jeremiah 1:5)
Guide us, Creator, to find ways to support the value of life.
A Nation Under God
Some people object to the words “under God” being in the Pledge of Allegiance, but Christopher Award-winner Father Robert Barron points out that this Biblical belief is what keeps the United States a free country.
He writes, “One of the most significant contributions of the Bible to politics is the placing of kings ‘under God.’ Israelite kings were not like Egyptian Pharaohs…absolute in judgment and godlike in sovereignty. Rather, they ruled at the pleasure of God and according to God’s purposes. When they ran counter to the divine will, they were placed…under judgment….The prophets…excoriated Israel’s leaders for their idolatry and indifference to the suffering of the weak and the poor.”
Father Barron continues, “It is precisely this Biblical intuition that shaped the thinking of the political philosophers of the 18th century, who put in place the whole set of checks and balances to which we have become accustomed. The bottom line is this: when the true God is marginalized, someone else or something else—the army, the press, the government, a single leader—plays the role of God. And that is dangerous indeed.”
Put your trust in the Lord. (Psalm 4:5)
Protect and guide this nation, Messiah.
The Once-Rejected Zipper
Today you can find one on pants and dresses, even boots and backpacks. But when Gideon Sundback introduced his zipper in 1914, people didn’t get it—or want any part of it. After all, they had buttons, hooks and clasps.
Earlier versions proved to be part of the problem; they jammed and pulled apart too easily. That’s why Sundback gets credit as the inventor of the zipper, because his device was practical and reliable.
The U.S. Army used Sundback’s zipper for gear and clothing in World War I. It became a mainstay in civilian clothing in 1923 when B.F. Goodrich Company updated the standard boot, calling it the “zipper boot.” The name stuck—and so did the idea of zippers for fashion.
Not every idea is perfect at the start. But collaboration in thought and deed can help sew up success in the long run.
Take delight in the Lord, and He will give you the desires of your heart. (Psalm 37:4)
Give me strength, Lord, to pursue my dreams.
An Answered Tweet
Ever want to catch for a Major League Baseball pitcher? Try connecting on Twitter!
On a day when his team wasn’t playing, Colorado Rockies pitcher Jeremy Guthrie wanted someone to catch for him—so he sent a message to his 34,000 followers on the social media website Twitter, asking, “Anybody on lunch break & up for a catch with me?”
Woody Roseland, a 21-year-old stand-up comic, was the first to respond to Guthrie’s offer—and he got a positive response! It was Roseland’s lucky day in another way, too: after two-and-a-half years of receiving chemotherapy for cancer in his knees, lungs, and calf, he had completed his last treatment.
When the two men met, Guthrie was surprised to see Roseland’s prosthetic left leg and hairless head—both remnants of his long battle with cancer. One tweet and an afternoon of baseball cemented Guthrie’s and Roseland’s friendship.
The Internet gives us new ways to connect with each other, but face-to-face and heart-to-heart meetings are still the best.
A cheerful heart is a good medicine. (Proverbs 17:22)
Lord, help me to find joy in times of suffering, trusting that You will never abandon me in times of sorrow.
Forgiving the Shark
In July 2011, six-year-old Lucy Magnum was playing in one-and-a-half feet of water at Ocracoke Island, North Carolina. Her father, Craig, and mom, Jordan, were only 10 feet away. Suddenly, Jordan heard Lucy scream and saw blood shooting out of her leg. She had been bitten by a shark!
Craig, an emergency room doctor, stemmed the bleeding and rushed his daughter to a nearby hospital. Though Lucy endured a severed artery and a tendon tear, there was no nerve damage so she was expected to make a full recovery.
After the incident, Lucy said that she hated sharks. To calm her fears, her parents told her that the shark bit her because it was a case of “mistaken identity.” He thought she was another fish, and when he found out she wasn’t, he swam away. This made sense to Lucy. On the Today Show, Jordan revealed that Lucy said, “I don’t care that the shark bit me. I forgive him.”
Imagine that. A six-year-old forgave a shark that seriously harmed her. Yet many of us hold on to grudges for much less of a reason. Maybe we should look to the example of Lucy—and of Jesus—and say, “I forgive.”
Be merciful. (Luke 6:36)
Jesus, help me to forgive others as You did.
Steps To Recover From Disappointment
Psychiatrist and Today Show contributor, Dr. Gail Saltz, tells her Woman’s Day audience it’s normal to feel distressed when you don’t get what you expected. She offers three steps guaranteed to help you bounce back.
▪ Allow yourself some time to be sad, disappointed and/or angry. “Whether it’s not having the job you envisioned, a relationship breaking up, or an unsupportive parent—it’s truly a loss, and you’ll experience all the emotions associated with it.”
▪ Rewrite negative thoughts, which are common. “Doing this takes a combination of self-acceptance and a willingness to expand the scope of your expectations.” Focus on the positives in your life.
▪ Regroup and set smaller, doable goals. “They will give you a sense of control over your situation, and help build your confidence.”
No matter how many times we fall, remember that with hope, determination and God’s help, we can rise again.
We are afflicted in every way, but not crushed;…struck down, but not destroyed. (2 Corinthians 4:8,9)
Teach me to be grateful for my successes as well as the lessons learned from my disappointments, Lord.
Laughing and Loving for 75 years
The first time Van Harris saw Shirley, she was just 10-years-old and punching a bunch of boys who had taken her hat off her head.
“I said, ‘Geez, I’d like to meet a girl like that,’” Van recalls.
Well, they did meet—and eventually married. The two even worked together as comedians in the Catskills in New York.
Talking on a radio program about the colorful characters they met in their Brooklyn neighborhood, the duo found much to smile and laugh about. “It turned out that all our children have a great sense of humor as a result of being surrounded by [our old Brooklyn friends],” Shirley says.
How blessed we are to be loved by others and to know of God’s boundless love, which is truly a reason for daily rejoicing!
We know that all things work together for good for those who love God. (Ephesians 8:28)
In the joyful moments, and in sorrow, You are always with me, Lord.
The Parent of All Virtues
Catholic News Service columnist Therese J. Borchard cites Cicero as stating that, of all of life’s virtues, gratitude is “not only the greatest…but the parent of all the others.”
As diligently as gardeners tend to the plants that sprout in their backyards, so should we work to sow the seeds of gratitude implanted within our souls. Borchard suggests several surefire ways to cultivate gratitude:
▪ Change your language. Words of thankfulness are the best antidotes to fear and resentment.
▪ Get a gratitude partner. Having someone around who’s more likely to see the cup as half full than half empty will help your own perspective.
▪ Remember. Never forget the kindnesses you have been shown, for good things have ways of coming back to you.
▪ Keep a gratitude journal. Psychological studies show gratitude can have lasting health benefits, so writing down what you’re grateful for can keep everything fresh in your mind.
▪ Give back. Perform acts of kindness for other people.
God loves a cheerful giver. (2 Corinthians 9:7)
God, imbue us with spirits of thankfulness.
What’s Your Mission – Statement?
“To Spec, On Time.” That’s the mission statement of a technology company, and it says that every product is completed to a client’s specifications and delivered on time.
Jim Nichols, vice president of a full-service communications firm, feels that when it comes to writing mission statements, organizations should take their cue from the military. “There is no possible way that every minute detail can be communicated to every soldier on the battlefield,” Nichols explains. Instead, the commander’s intent focuses on an end state, and each soldier helps to make that happen.
And so it is with companies, Nichols emphasizes. Workers can use the tools at their disposal to reach an end goal, whatever that might be.
What’s the goal of your organization? How do you help make it happen? And in life, do your actions accomplish the good the Lord wishes for all the human family?
The Lord will fulfill His purpose for me; Your steadfast love, O Lord, endures forever. (Psalm 138:8)
Help me to be a part of Your mission, Lord, to bring Your love to all peoples, in all times.
Managing Life’s Challenges
Red Sox baseball great Curt Schilling strives to be a devoted husband and father. That might even be more challenging than being an excellent pitcher.
Schilling, who’s never been a public figure newsworthy for poor behavior, was asked whether faith plays a role in guiding him. He replied, “No, it doesn’t play a role—it’s everything.”
Curt and Shonda Schilling, together for more than 19 years, wrote a book entitled The Best Kind of Different describing their personal journey as parents learning their son had Asperger’s Syndrome (a form of autism) and as a couple devoted to their marriage in an era when divorce is common.
The attitude with which the couple faces problems—marital or otherwise—is key to their success. Curt told the Daily Caller website, “I know I never sat back and said, ‘Wow, is my marriage over?’ It was always, ‘How do we fix it?’…You have to learn the difference between losing and failing. You’re going to lose little battles every day, but you can only fail at something you quit.”
Be careful then how you live. (Ephesians 5:15)
Help me, Lord, to be a problem solver, not a quitter.
“Shoebox” for Books
“This is the bookstore of my childhood,” says author Ann Patchett of the shop she co-owns in Nashville, Tennessee.
She feels its size—a “shoebox” compared to the larger booksellers—is more like the way bookstores used to be. “People are really coming all the way back around and saying, ‘I want and miss the little store,’” Patchett believes.
As for the financial investment, the writer sees the venture as a “gift” to her city, a spot that sees itself as the Athens of the South, complete with a full-size replica of the Parthenon.
The store’s name—Parnassus—is the mountain in Greece where music, literature and poetry were born. “We wanted to be part of that great tradition,” Patchett says.
Doing what we love to do should always measure against our call to love one another.
The second [commandment] is this, “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Mark 12:31)
For love of You, Lord, I offer love to my neighbor.
A Teen’s Compassionate X Factor
When Rachel Crow was born a “crack baby” due to prenatal cocaine exposure, few would have imagined she might become a 13-year-old singing sensation on TV’s The X-Factor.
“She actually lived in a crack house and suffered a lot of abuse,” Rachel’s adoptive mother, Barbara Crow, told The New York Post. Crow and her husband, Kelly, adopted Rachel at six months through Colorado Social Services. The identity of her birth parents is unknown. Despite her troubling past, Rachel remains relatively unaffected.
“She never looks at her past in a sad way,” Barbara says. “She looks at it as that is what made her the person she is.”
That past has also made her concerned about the future welfare of other children. In the aftermath of her TV exposure, Rachel hopes to get the opportunity to help other foster kids.
“I want to build a foundation that makes them feel good about themselves—whether they want to sing, [play] sports, or go to Harvard,” Crow declares.
Don’t let a difficult past pull you down. Rather, use your experience facing prior difficulties to encourage and lift others up.
Our competence is from God. (2 Corinthians 3:5)
Encourage us, Jesus, to see beyond our own limitations.
A Happy Catholic
Author and blogger Julie Davis considers herself a “Happy Catholic” (also the title of her blog) not only because her spiritual journey has taken her from atheism to belief, but because it’s changed her attitude about life.
Julie admitted on Christopher Closeup that she’d always been a negative, glass-is-half-empty person who was good with a stinging putdown of someone else. A few years after she started blogging, she saw some people commenting about her, “I love Julie. She’s so happy, cheerful, perky and optimistic.” Julie realized, “I am now a glass-is-half-full kind of person.”
That positive attitude helped her be a model of faith to her non-believing father when he was dying. Julie recalled, “I had the great privilege of being allowed to sit on the bed next to him and say, ‘Dad, you’re going to die soon and when that happens and God reaches out His hand, please reach out and grab it back. All the happiness that you’ve been looking for and not finding is there.’ He started crying, grabbed my hand and said, ‘I will. I will.’ And that’s not anything I did. I was doing my best, but only God could move a heart like that.”
You have put gladness in my heart. (Psalm 4:7)
Father, teach me to live joyfully.
Sleeping Outside to Make a Difference
Matt Bell will help the world’s poor by living and sleeping on the campus of McMurry University in Abilene, Texas, where he is a student.
The “world village” that Bell and other classmates will live in as part of the school’s “One Week, One Mission, One World” fundraiser consists of tents and shanty-town style dwellings, all intended to highlight the conditions residents face in Haiti and India. Visitors to the “village” are encouraged to contribute toward mission journeys students will make to those countries during the summer.
Tim Palmer, assistant chaplain at the university, hopes to also raise awareness along with the funds, “awareness in our own hearts, [and] awareness in our community.”
We’re all connected as brothers and sisters, and all children of God!
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
Gather us together, Lord; united in Your love.
Telling the Truth Onscreen
If you’ve seen movies like The Blind Side or TV series like Lost, you’ve been exposed to projects that have been worked on by alumni or faculty of the Act One program in Hollywood. Originally a screenwriting school for Christians, it now includes a Producing and Entertainment Executive program as well.
Since The Christophers have always been concerned with the quality of popular entertainment, Act One’s Programs Director, Vicki Peterson, appeared on Christopher Closeup to discuss effective storytelling from a Christian perspective.
Peterson explained, “The Act One philosophy is—what the audience does with a film or with a TV show after they watch it is just as important as what they're doing when they watch it…We strive to instill in our students that it’s important to respect the audience. It’s important to give them opportunities to think. It’s what God is doing in the hearts and minds of the people watching your material that is important. The way to do that is to create mystery, and to create situations where the audience can…have something to think about.”
He told them many things in parables. (Matthew 13:3)
Give wisdom to artists and writers, Father.
An 80-Year-Olds Long View
An 80-year-old man was planting a peach tree when his neighbor asked him, “Do you expect to eat peaches from that tree?”
The elderly gentleman rested on his spade and answered, “No. At my age I probably won’t. But all my life I’ve enjoyed peaches—never from a tree I planted myself. I wouldn’t have had peaches if other men hadn’t done what I’m doing now. I’m just trying to pay back the other fellows who planted trees for me.”
Those who take a “what’s in it for me” attitude short-change themselves and everyone else too. It’s far better to recognize that mankind forms a single family, with God as its Father.
We all need to work where and when we can in order to forge the strong bonds of loving service that will knit this family together in grateful praise of its maker.
Every generous act of giving, with every perfect gift, is from…the Father of light. (James 1:17)
Thank You, Lord, for the opportunity to positively impact future generations.
How To Be a Better Boss
In order to help you develop your natural leadership abilities, here are several “golden rules” for bosses that appeared in a magazine for supervisors:
▪ Be considerate. Take into account the problems of your people.
▪ Be consistent. People want a leader whose course is steady and whose actions are predictable.
▪ Be a good listener. Lead people by knowing them; know them by listening to them.
▪ Show confidence in them. People will repay your confidence in their ability with improved performance.
▪ Be open to ideas. If you put down someone’s suggestions too harshly, he or she may not come to you with more.
▪ Be communicative. Keep your people informed.
Even if you’re not officially a boss, there are occasions when leadership skills come in handy. Lay the groundwork now by prayer, planning, and a desire to be of service to others.
Let the greatest among you become as the youngest, and the leader as one who serves. (Luke 22:26)
Imbue me with Your humility, Jesus, so I can become a servant leader.
Asking for Directions
Jennifer Vasilakos of Santa Barbara, California, needed a kidney transplant, but didn’t qualify for one because of a bout with skin cancer earlier in her life. As a result, she endured physically-draining kidney dialysis three times a week.
Vasilakos continued researching her condition, and discovered that an adult stem cell treatment had an excellent chance of healing her. The procedure wasn’t approved in the United States, however, so she set out to raise money to have it done in a hospital in another country.
One day while handing out flyers about her situation at a local festival, a driver pulled over to ask Vasilakos for directions. The driver turned out to be Ty Warner, the billionaire creator of Beanie Babies dolls. Vasilakos gave him directions, but also told him about her condition and desired treatment.
After giving it some thought, Warner sent her $20,000 to cover all her expenses because he wanted to help her while also raising awareness about the benefits of stem cell procedures. A grateful Vasilakos is now receiving her treatment—and hopes to be a model of healing to others.
Assist your neighbor. (Sirach 29:20)
Create in me a generous heart, Messiah.
More Than a Weatherman
Many know Al Roker as a TV weatherman, writer and producer, but he’s also a husband and father who balances work and family life.
Roker tells Parade magazine that he’s lucky to have a career that affords him some scheduling flexibility so he can be there for his kids’ special moments: “My dad was a bus driver, and he couldn’t take off to come see me in a school assembly.”
On Sundays, the weatherman typically attends church, has brunch and takes a quick bike ride. As a kid, he remembers going on family drives and thinks that’s an “underrated pastime” today. “The other day I was driving my daughter and her friends to an event, and it was fun because you become invisible,” Roker observes. “You get to hear a bit of their world.”
Make time to be a part of your family’s world whenever possible.
Be wise, my child, and make my heart glad. (Proverbs 27:11)
Lord, support parents as they sacrifice for their children.
A Father’s Day Prayer
The Rev. Chuck Currie wrote the following prayer for Father’s Day:
“We give our thanks, Creator God, for the fathers in our lives. Fatherhood does not come with a manual, and reality teaches us that some fathers excel while others fail. We ask for Your blessings for them all—and forgiveness where it is needed.
“This Father’s Day we remember the many sacrifices fathers make for their children and families, and the ways—both big and small—they lift children to achieve dreams thought beyond reach. So too, we remember all those who have helped fill the void when fathers pass early or are absent—grandfathers and uncles, brothers and cousins, teachers, pastors and coaches—and the women of our families.
“For those of us who are fathers, we ask for wisdom and humility in the face of the task of parenting. Give us the strength to do well by our children and by You. “In Your Holy name, O God, we pray. Amen.”
Fathers make known to children your faithfulness. (Isaiah 38:19)
Guide fathers to be loving, Messiah.
A Captain’s Rescues
During the 1950s, Captain George H. Grant, a skipper who saved 106 lives during his 50 years at sea, was awarded a gold medal for meritorious service. His rescues included two men on a sinking fishing boat in the Gulf Stream, 17 sailors from a naval vessel that sank outside San Francisco harbor, and 83 survivors of a collision between a tanker and an ice breaker.
One of Captain Grant’s most remarkable rescues involved one of his own men—a sailor who fell overboard and was not missed until several hours later. Upon learning what happened, the captain immediately turned his ship around and retraced the exact course. The seaman was eventually found unharmed.
Few of us will go to sea and duplicate those kinds of rescues. But each one of us, during our voyage through life, has countless opportunities to help our fellow men and women if we show a Christlike concern and alertness for those in distress.
They that go down to the sea in ships, doing business in the great waters. These have seen the works of the Lord. (Psalm 106:23-24)
Help me, Lord, to be ever on the lookout for those in trouble.
Not Garbage Anymore
The man hunched over slightly as he spoke, but his voice was strong and clear: “I realized that I was someone, something, and somebody. I was not garbage anymore.”
The speaker was a former compulsive gambler, and a member of Gamblers Anonymous (GA) an organization with chapters around the world.
Unlike the occasional bettor, the compulsive gambler can’t resist a wager. His personal and family life crumbles, he runs up large debts and may resport to stealing or writing bad checks to obtain more money for his addiction.
According to GA, “One of our fundamental principles is the concept that people with like problems can be helpful to each other.”
“Like to like” is a sound guideline for effecting needed changes. That’s why God calls us to start where we are—and extend our reach as we grow in sympathy and competence.
Deliverance belongs to the Lord. (Jonah 2:9)
Jesus, make me see the value of my life, and the fact that You and I together can deal with my troubles.
A Daughter’s Forgiveness
Emmy Award-winning journalist Rita Cosby wrote a best-selling book called Quiet Hero about her father Richard’s World War II past in Poland—and the emotional wounds that allowed him to abandon their family years later without showing a shred of remorse. Because Rita’s mother had always encouraged her to forgive him, she found the strength to hear his side of the story.
Though Richard Cosby was reluctant to talk about his past, he finally opened up to his daughter, revealing that he was 13 when the Nazis bombed Warsaw. He became a part of the Polish resistance and the Warsaw Uprising. A devastating incident occurred when many of his friends were killed in a tank explosion. Richard made the choice to block out the emotion of the loss and continue fighting for his country.
Following these revelations, Richard told Rita, “Please forgive me. I had to block everything out. I’m sorry if I carried that over into the way I handled myself as a father.” From that moment on, father and daughter were reconciled.
Choose to forgive those who hurt you.
There is forgiveness with You. (Psalm 130:4)
Give me the courage to forgive, Merciful Savior.
A Life of Leisure
Sometimes a TV show can remind you of life’s little truths. Take, for instance, the 1960’s TV series, The Andy Griffith Show. It took place in the idyllic town of Mayberry and featured Andy Griffith as Sheriff Andy Taylor, a widowed father who lives with his son, Opie and Aunt Bee.
One episode revolves around what happens when Andy hires Malcolm, a visitor to Mayberry, to help Aunt Bee with her cooking, baking, and cleaning. Andy thinks Aunt Bee is overworked and deserves to be a woman of leisure.
As Aunt Bee’s life of leisure progresses, however, she becomes less joyful. While Andy meant for her to relax more, Aunt Bee finds she has lost her purpose. She lives to care for her loved ones and didn’t mind all the seeming impositions.
Realizing their mistake, Andy and Malcolm allow Aunt Bee to resume her old routine, restoring her joy in the process.
Regardless of how old you are, do your best to maintain a sense of purpose in your life.
There is nothing better for mortals than to…find enjoyment in their toil. (Ecclesiastes 2:24-25)
Lord, help me find You in my work.
A $500 Tip Goes a Long Way
“Leave an awesome tip (and I don’t mean 25 percent. I mean $500 on a…pizza).”
Thus read the last part of 30-year-old Aaron Collins’ will, as it was written on his computer. Collins’ brother, Seth, discovered the document after Aaron passed away unexpectedly.
Determined to fulfill his brother’s dying wish, Seth created a website in Aaron’s name to raise money. He collected enough to present $500 to Chelsea Powell, a surprised and appreciative waitress at Bella Notte restaurant in his hometown of Lexington, Kentucky. The YouTube video of the presentation of the tip drew over two million views, and has helped raise over $47,000.
“When I was daydreaming I thought (if we could collect) $1,500, we’ll do it three times,” Seth told the Associated Press. To date, he has enough money to give lucky servers $500 tips once a week for two years. He hopes to extend his brother’s act of charity for many years to come.
Let us love…in truth and action. (1 John 3:18)
Abba, may we express the goodness of Your principles through both our words and deeds.
Three Powerful Words
The service that Peggy Bowes and her family received at the restaurant they went to was poor, to say the least. Their waitress had been bringing their food in sporadic shifts—and sometimes it wasn’t even the right food!
With everyone at their breaking points, the server left the table frustrated. Moments later, she returned with the correct food, uttering what Bowes calls “three powerful words.” The waitress said, “Please forgive me.” She revealed it was only her second day on the job and she was still learning.
For her genuine repentance, this waitress received a generous tip from the Bowes family. The incident also reminded Peggy of some wisdom she had received on her wedding day.
Writing in the Diocese of Charlotte, North Carolina’s Catholic News Herald, Bowes recalled, “There [are] three simple sentences that are critical to the success of a marriage: ‘I was wrong.’ ‘I’m sorry.’ ‘Please forgive me.’”
Wise words to remember in marriage—and in life.
Just as the Lord has forgiven you, so you also must forgive. (Colossians 3:13)
Messiah, may we forgive as readily as You forgive us.
Playing, But Really Learning
Playing with children may seem to be primarily about fun, but it’s also about math and language, even creativity.
Play, in fact, is essential for a child’s growth and development. By encouraging and engaging in play, parents and other adults teach children to gain knowledge and valuable social skills.
For example, by counting fingers and steps, children learn math. By playing hide and seek, they develop their memory. By dressing up and pretending, they learn to understand more clearly the world that surrounds them. And by painting and dancing, their creativity expands.
So for the sake of their future and just for fun, let the games begin!
By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God. (1 John 5:2)
How joyous is the Good News of Your great love for us, Lord!
From Illiterate to Best-selling Author
Maine lobsterman Jim Henry didn't learn to read until he was 91, but that didn't stop him from pursuing an even higher goal. The book he wrote himself, In a Fisherman's Language, is on its second printing. A collection of stories about his life, it has attracted interest from as far away as Germany and Greece, and caught the eye of a New York film producer.
Henry’s father made him quit school when he was in the third grade so he could go to work. Although he had an accomplished and varied career, he was able to hide his illiteracy from friends and relatives over the years.
Then Henry heard George Dawson’s story. The grandson of a slave, the 98-year-old Dawson earned a high school diploma by learning to read and write. Henry was inspired and began working with a literacy volunteer and reading first-grade books.
Today, at age 98, Henry is getting another education in the publishing world as he works to keep up with demand for the book he wrote himself.
You’re never too old to try something new.
Now Moses was eighty years old, and Aaron eighty-three years old, when they spoke to Pharaoh. (Ex. 7:7)
Lord, may I never be too old to serve You.
The Injury That Led to God
As a boy, Daniel Murphy started playing baseball through the process of elimination. He was too short for basketball, too slow for soccer, and because he didn’t like to get hit, forget about football. Baseball, however, was a game for which he had a gift.
Murphy was drafted by the New York Mets in 2006, and made his Major League debut two years later. The year 2011 was shaping up to be his best season to date. Then it happened. Again.
A knee injury ended his season early for the second time in two years. At first, Murphy understandably felt depressed about his bad luck. Then, God stepped in.
Though Murphy was raised in a Christian family, he admits he didn’t give much thought to his faith. The injury changed his perspective. As he explained on Christopher Closeup, “There were moments that led to me surrendering to the Lord. After that, I don’t want to say everything was easy, but there was a peace and joy I never experienced before…The Lord had knocked me on my back a number of times, and I had not answered. This time I finally decided to submit and give everything to Him.”
Submit yourselves therefore to God. (James 4:7)
Help me choose Your will, Lord, instead of my own.
Say Yes to the Dress
Knitting their own wedding dress isn’t an option many women would consider, but Lydia Tayler from Huddersfield, England, made a successful go of it. Both she and the groom-to-be, Ash Pears, wanted to hold a wedding for less than the average 20,000 British pounds it costs in modern-day England. They would much rather invest the money in a house that could hold them and the kids they wanted to have.
A knitter since age six, Tayler spent four months making the dress which consisted of 300 grams of yarn and 100,000 stitches. She told The Daily Mail newspaper, “Everyone just loved my dress. It was lovely to wear—not only nice and warm but as light as lace because I used very fine yarn.”
Coupled with other saving measures, Tayler’s and Pears’ wedding cost only 5,000 pounds, leaving them ready to buy a new home. The now Mrs. Pears says, “If someone else was considering knitting their own dress, I’d tell them to go for it.”
Sometimes doing things simply really is the best option.
I, wisdom, live with prudence, and I attain knowledge and discretion. (Proverbs 8:12)
Lord, help me to spend my money wisely.
If God Is For Us…
In light of the natural disasters that have taken place lately, here is a Christopher prayer for those who are suffering:
“Lord, our world has been upended. The forces of nature appear to be conspiring against us. Our sense of hope has either burned up in flames, been washed away in a flood, crumbled with the earth, or been blown away by a fierce wind. Your presence is virtually undetectable.
“But then I remember that Your beloved Son suffered too. He spoke the words, “My God, my God, why have You forsaken me” while hanging on the cross. Yet the truth is that You never did forsake Him. Instead, You walked with Him through His pain—quiet, yes, but ever-present.
“As we grasp onto the tiniest spark of hope, we remember the words of Scripture: ‘If God is for us, who can be against us?’ “No doubt, the road ahead will not be easy. Open our minds and hearts to Your wisdom, courage and guidance on the journey; bring us comfort when our hearts are breaking; carry us when we are weary; and give us strength as we rebuild our lives. Amen.”
Do not fear, only believe. (Mark 5:36)
Bless those suffering tragedies, Lord.
A Miraculous Defect
On July 20, 2012, when a gunman opened fire on the crowd watching the premiere of the movie “The Dark Knight Rises” in Aurora, Colorado, 12 people died and many more were hurt. One of the wounded was 22-year-old Petra Anderson. Three shotgun pellets hit her arm while one entered her brain. Doctors feared her injuries could leave her with severe speech, motor and cognitive problems. During surgery, they discovered otherwise.
Anderson’s pastor, Brad Strait, wrote on his blog, “The doctor explains that Petra’s brain has had from birth a small ‘defect’ in it. It is a tiny channel of fluid running through her skull…Only a CAT scan would catch it. In Petra’s case, the shotgun buckshot…enters her brain from the exact point of this defect. Like a marble through a small tube, the defect channels the bullet…through her brain. It turns slightly several times, and comes to rest at the rear of her brain. And in the process, the bullet misses all the vital areas of the brain.”
Petra Anderson is now expected to make a full recovery.
Sometimes our imperfections can be a blessing.
All things work together for good for those who love God. (Romans 8:28)
Use my flaws to create good, Father
Lessons from the Lakota
No matter our age, we’re never too young or old to learn from other cultures. Ten teens from St. Joseph parish in Milford, Iowa, discovered this lesson when they took a service trip to the Lakota Reservation in Rosebud, South Dakota. The annual mission trip was founded by parishioner Teresa Goehring and led by Father Tom Flanagan.
“Our primary work [at the reservation] was to paint the inside walls of a small building that functioned as a church for the small resident community,” Father Flanagan explained.
But the young people’s experience at the Lakota Reservation extended far beyond physical labor. “I liked getting to know everyone on the trip better,” volunteer Gabe Goehring pointed out. “I liked working with the Lakota children. Kids have a simple faith that I admire…I feel closer to God when the world is less busy.”
“It is in the giving that the participants also receive,” Father Flanagan confirmed, “perhaps in a new awareness of themselves as part of the larger body of Christ.”
Now the whole group of those who believed were of one heart and soul. (Acts 4:32)
Jesus, may we always be generous to those in need.
The Reading Writer
No matter where she is, Mary Higgins Clark likes to read. “I never go to a doctor or a dentist without a book in my bag,” says the best-selling suspense novelist. She does have a favorite spot, however: a roomy wing chair with a footstool in her family room.
And what does she read? “Fiction or nonfiction: honestly, both,” she said in an interview with The New York Times Book Review. Her earliest choices, which included Nancy Drew mysteries, pointed her towards the genre of suspense. “I was hooked,” declares the author.
In 2003, The Christophers honored Clark with a Life Achievement Award for her ongoing dedication to promoting literacy.
Reading opens our minds, offering food for thought. Reading God’s word on Sacred Scripture can open our hearts, nourishing our souls and bodies.
The grass withers, the flower fades; but the word of our God will stand forever. (Isaiah 40:8)
Speak Lord! Help me to know Your will.
Tapping Teen Control
“Teens want to feel in control of their lives,” explains Julie Morgenstern, who co-wrote Organizing From the Inside Out for Teens with her high-school-age daughter.
Since most teens have innate organizational skills, here are their four tips for tapping into them:
▪ Talk the talk. Avoid phrases like, “Your room is a pigsty.” Would you help someone who was insulting you?
▪ Personalize your pitch. Offer teens positive reasons to be more organized, especially the benefits they themselves will gain.
▪ Flip the focus. Point out the ways your teen is naturally neat and offer to help organize the rest of the room in the same way.
▪ Break it down. Agree to a definition of “organized.” Then, make a list of areas that could use such organizing and tackle them together.
No matter our age, we can all use positive reinforcement to make changes for the better, as we welcome help along the way.
I waited patiently for the Lord; He…heard my cry. (Psalm 40:1)
When I seek Your help, Father, You are never far from me.
Stained Glass Spirituality
When syndicated Catholic News Service columnist Christina Capecchi took a sabbatical from checking or posting on the social media site Twitter, she had more time to work on writing and poetry. She also enrolled in a class that taught her how to make stained-glass windows. What began as a lesson in “artistry,” however, soon turned into one of deep spirituality.
When Capecchi cut on the wrong side of the glass, she told her teacher she thought she “made a mistake.” His surprising answer: “We don’t say that in art.”
To Capecchi’s amazement, all the perfect and imperfect pieces of glass wound up complementing each other flawlessly. From this lesson, Capecchi concluded that we as Christians form the broken pieces that God transforms into art—and His “sunlight…makes our stained glass radiate.”
Don’t fret over shattered pieces in your life. Instead, trust in God to make them beautiful.
Create in me a clean heart, O God, and put a new and right spirit within me. (Psalms 51:10)
Lord, may Your spirit shine through even the darkest corners of our lives.
God is Always There
Swimmer Missy Franklin’s hard work and dedication led to her winning four gold medals and one bronze at the 2012 summer Olympics. The teen also credits God with being by her side through it all.
Though Franklin wasn’t brought up in a religious home, she started growing in her Christian faith because of her current high school, Regis Jesuit in Aurora, Colorado. She told the website Beliefnet.com that she felt God’s presence upon first entering the school—and her experiences there continue to nurture her faith.
And how does God figure into the competitive swimming side of her life? Franklin says, “God is always there for me. I talk with Him before, during and after practice and competitions. I pray to Him for guidance. I thank Him for this talent He has given me and promise to be a positive role model for young athletes in all sports.”
Remember, God is always there for you too. Take advantage of His constant and loving presence.
Walk in the light of the Lord. (Isaiah 2:5)
Help me grow in love for You, Lord.
The Horse Whisperer
Violence from his abusive father was a regular part of Buck Brannaman’s life growing up on the rodeo circuit. But loving concern from the foster family that took him in, along with his natural rapport with horses, transformed Brannaman into a gentle man now known as the real-life “horse whisperer.”
The documentary film “Buck,” which earned a 2011 Christopher Award, follows Brannaman around the country as he holds clinics for people interested in learning to ride horses—and for those who own equines that seem uncontrollable. One of the primary lessons he conveys is that horses are a mirror to your soul, and will often reflect your own troubles. Brannaman explains, “Rather than helping people with horse problems, I'm helping horses with people problems.”
The way Brannaman deals with those troubles is through leadership and sensitivity, making his lessons relevant to the daily challenges of both animals—and people.
If there are problems troubling your soul, ask God to help heal them. And remember, He can be a whisperer too.
Let your gentleness be known to everyone.
Jesus, help my words and actions bring healing.
Standing Up for Heroes
Inspired by movies like Star Wars and Raiders of the Lost Ark, Hank Hughes grew up wanting to become a filmmaker. His love of country, however, led him into the U.S. Army where he became a captain and a decorated platoon leader who served two tours in Afghanistan.
Now retired from the Army, Hughes is hoping to pursue his original career path, but finds it difficult. He told ABC News, “You return home in a bit of a time machine. Everyone else has moved on, and you've just arrived.”
As part of its “Standing Up for Heroes” series, which connects veterans with civilian mentors, ABC arranged for Hughes to meet one of his idols: filmmaker George Lucas. “These guys are heroes, and we need to help them,” explained the director about his involvement with the project.
During their first meeting, Lucas offered Hughes practical advice about developing creative ideas, and invited him to meet again to review a student film he’s creating for film school.
If there’s anyone who can benefit from your professional expertise, consider reaching out. It could benefit both your lives.
Pay…honor to whom honor is due. (Romans 13:7)
Inspire me to use my talents to mentor others, Jesus.
How’s Your Attitude?
Christian pastor Charles Swindoll, who’s authored books like Encouragement for Life, once wrote the following about the importance of attitude in creating a successful life:
“The longer I live, the more I realize the impact of attitude on life. Attitude, to me, is more important than facts. It is more important than the past, than education, than money, than circumstances, than failures, than successes, than what other people think or say or do. It is more important than appearance, giftedness or skill. It will make or break a company...a church...a home.
“The remarkable thing is we have a choice every day regarding the attitude we will embrace for that day. We cannot change our past...we cannot change the fact that people will act in a certain way. We cannot change the inevitable. The only thing we can do is play on the one string we have, and that is our attitude...I am convinced that life is 10 percent what happens to me and 90 percent how I react to it.”
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger.
May Your love inspire a positive attitude in me, Jesus.
Remote Control Man
The next time you’re channel surfing, offer a thank you to Eugene Polley.
Beginning his career in the stockroom of Zenith Electronics Corporation, Polley rose through the engineering ranks to invent the remote control device, called the Flash-Matic, in 1955.
While another device existed prior to Polley’s creation, it required attachment to the television set. Eugene Polley’s remote worked like a flashlight, the beam of light making the magic happen. A short time later, however, his device was supplanted by a more efficient one, created by another Zenith colleague. Still it was Polley who started those channels changing.
While we certainly should respect and build on the successes of the past, we’re called on as well to do great things of our own in the future.
Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with thy might.
Give me strength this day, Father, to serve You and love my neighbor.
Souls, Not Goals
“Our number one goal is not winning games [but] to bring glory to God,” said Mark Steffens, an atypical sports coach guiding an uncommon soccer squad.
Steffens coaches the Charlotte Eagles, members of the United Soccer League in North Carolina. Though they play at a professional level, the team’s focus is more on having players who “do the right thing” on and off the field. As Elizabeth Johnson writes on CNN.com, the team was established in 1993 with two goals:
“First, teach men to live for God on the field by playing fair. Second, send team members into the community…to teach impoverished children and refugees about soccer and to use the sport to attract people who wouldn’t normally visit church.”
Team members strive for excellence in a culture of love, acceptance and forgiveness. They bring this spirit to their work with children as well. “We honor God whether we win, lose or draw,” Coach Steffens declares.
In the case of an athlete, no one is crowned without competing according to the rules. (2 Timothy 2:5)
Inspire me, Lord, to see there is more than one way to win.
You’ll Never Guess Who Did This
A driver banged into another car as he pulled out of a supermarket parking lot in Oroville, California.
The unidentified man got out of his care and left a note on the windshield of the vehicle he hit. He then banged into two more cars, also leaving notes, before finally making it to the street.
A bystander who saw what happened went to read what the driver wrote on the notes. They read, “You’ll never guess who did this.”
The bystander then added this message to the bottom of each note: “He’ll never guess who got his license number.”
Honesty should never be grounded solely in the fear that someone may be watching our misconduct. God has endowed us with the “still small voice” of conscience. Kepp yours tuned to a fine pitch by reflecting on eternal and human truths. Then you’ll never have to worry about getting caught.
Take pains to have a clear conscience toward God and toward men. (Acts 24:16)
Holy Spirit, may I be responsive to Your inner promptings that tell me to do what is right.
Finding the “Richness” in You
Fifty-two-year-old Albanian immigrant Gac Filipaj has worked as a janitor at Columbia University in Manhattan for half of his life. And in May 2012, he was part of Columbia’s graduating class as well. It took Filipaj 12 years to obtain a bachelor’s degree in classics, but his work was worth the effort.
“This is a man with great pride, whether he’s doing custodial work or academics,” declared Peter Awn, dean of Columbia’s School of General Studies. “He’s one individual who makes his own future.”
An extremely self-reliant man, Filipaj left his small home village in Yugoslavia to avoid being drafted into the army, where he knew ethnic Albanians like himself were viewed as enemies. In 1992, he moved to New York and stayed with an uncle, taking a job as a restaurant bellboy before becoming a janitor at Columbia. Now, he hopes to become a custodial supervisor, preferably at Columbia. Money, however, is not a primary object for Filipaj. “The richness is in me…not in my pockets,” he says.
Wisdom is as good as an inheritance. (Ecclesiastes 7:11)
Jesus, grant me the courage to accomplish our goals in life.
Blessed Are Those Who Bring Bliss
Because of his cerebral palsy, 15-year-old Alberto Zambrano of Queens, New York, spends a lot of time in his bedroom. That’s why the transformation accomplished by the nonprofit Blissful Bedrooms brought him to tears.
Run by husband and wife Alex and Martha Dvoryadkin, the charity relies on volunteers and small Internet donations to help redecorate the bedrooms of severely disabled children. “If they’re going to spend all of their time in their bedroom, we want it to be a sanctuary,” Martha told the Daily News.
To help attract donations, Alex, who is a freelance photographer, takes pictures and makes videos to put a face to each story, then posts them on their website. Zambrano’s room renovation, which cost $5,000, included a new paint job, a flatscreen TV, and professional wrestling memorabilia.
“We feel it’s our responsibility to give back,” says Martha, “and this is how we do it.”
Look for unique ways that you can “give back.”
As each has received a gift, employ it for one another, as good stewards of God's varied grace. (1 Peter 4:10)
God Almighty, help us share beauty and goodness with our fellow man, as You have done so freely with all of creation.
A Beautiful Warrior
In 2004, Eric Strauss, an ABC News producer for the network’s Primetime series, traveled to Texas to profile Bridget Kelly. Two years earlier, at age 24, Kelly had been the victim of a brutal attack in which she was kidnapped, raped, shot repeatedly, and left for dead. She miraculously survived her ordeal and became an advocate for victims of sexual violence.
Kelly eventually left Texas to attend New York University. One day, she and Strauss met for a friendly lunch. Their friendship soon blossomed into something more.
On July 7, 2012—10 years after the horrific attack that changed her life—Bridget Kelly married Eric Strauss in an interfaith ceremony in Manhattan. During the wedding, Kelly told Strauss, “I knew from our first times spent together that you were smart and funny and caring…You listen. You accept me for who I am and make me feel safe and happy.”
Strauss told his bride, “You revealed yourself to be a beautiful warrior the second I met you. With your elegance, insightfulness, and compassion, you inspire me to be better.”
It’s amazing how God can bring love out of tragedy.
Love bears all things. (1 Corinthians 13:7)
Help me rediscover hope after tragedy, Jesus.
Living with Grateful Hearts
How many times a day do you say “thank you?”
In Uganda, East Africa, being thankful goes far beyond politeness—it is a way of life.
According to Sister Mary Margaret Lavonis, the ideals of gratitude are ingrained in Ugandans at a young age. This principle is known as “webali,” or “an expression of gratitude for all God’s gifts, no matter how big or small.”
After learning about this tradition, Sister Lavonis admitted, “There are so many things in life I just expect and do not recognize as gifts. It would be good for each of us to adopt an attitude of thanksgiving. One way we can do this is to spend some quiet time reflecting upon all God has given us.”
Besides lifting up prayers of gratitude to God, Sister Lavonis recommends writing thank-you letters and attending Mass, which is “the ultimate offering of thanksgiving to God.”
Like the children of Uganda, we should all strive to live with grateful hearts.
To You, O God…I give thanks and praise.
Lord, may we be thankful for Your endless love.
Hospital Food People Love
A new popular dining spot in Warrenton, Virginia, Bistro on the Hill, offers good food, a great view, and musical accompaniment by a retired piano player. It’s also the cafeteria of Fauquier Hospital.
“We believe that food is nurturing,” says Zach Erickson, Fauquier’s director of nutrition services. A trained chef, he and his staff go to a lot of trouble to keep the meals as healthy as possible.
A “culinary healing garden” just outside the Bistro provides fresh produce, which is supplemented by locally grown fruits and vegetables. Salad dressings are made from scratch, and contain no artificial ingredients or hydrogenated oils.
And the cost is affordable; meals on senior nights are just $4.50 a plate. And diners interviewed give the food and the service two thumbs up.
All we do for others should be given our best effort, and provide the best to those we serve.
You shall eat in plenty and be satisfied, and praise the name of the Lord. (Joel 2:26)
Bless us, O Lord, and all the gifts we receive from Your generous bounty.
Tweets to Save Lives
Eleven-year-old Bailey Browning of Roanoke County, Virginia, admires the heroes on the action-adventure TV series Chuck, but she herself is a real-life hero for St. Jude Children’s Research Hospital in Memphis.
The middle schooler first got involved with raising money for the Tennessee hospital six years ago when her kindergarten teacher, Joy Watson, launched a St. Jude Math-a-Thon on behalf of a student with leukemia. Participants earn donations for every math problem they finish. The money is then given to St. Jude’s which treats patients regardless of their ability to pay.
Because Chuck is Browning’s favorite TV show, she contacted stars Zachary Levi, Yvonne Strahovski, Adam Baldwin and others through Twitter. They shared links to her online donation page with their 250,000 Twitter followers, and contributed donations themselves. Over the past three years, Browning has raised more than $20,000. Though the youngster has never visited St. Jude’s, she’d like to work there someday doing celebrity relations.
Compassionate hearts and social media can help save lives.
He cured many who were sick. (Mark 1:34)
Help me be a vessel of healing, Lord.
Letting Go of Grudges
In his book That Your Joy May Be Full, Father John Catoir, former Director of The Christophers, shares a story about Catherine Marshall, author of the best-seller Christy. She and her husband decided to make a concerted effort to practice forgiveness the way Jesus called us to.
Each day, they wrote down any grievance they had against anybody, read those grievances aloud, forgave the persons involved, then destroyed the papers. The practice, they found, helped cleanse them of resentment.
Father Catoir writes, “Why do so many people devoted to Christ miss the importance of a forgiving heart? If you have a flood in the basement, it is far wiser to turn off the water before you begin bailing out. The same with prayer. Lots of good people pray, but they feel justified and self-righteous about their grudges. If you’ve been abused by someone, only you can understand how much it hurts, but the Lord asks you to forgive, even if forgiveness offends your sense of justice….If we do, our lives will be enriched, our prayer will be more fruitful, our peace will be restored, and our joy will be deepened.”
Pray for those who persecute you. (Matthew 5:44)
Lead my heart to forgiveness, Merciful Savior.
According to Inc. magazine, the best managers share a similar understanding about workplace, company, and team dynamics. Here are just two of those core beliefs.
▪ A company is a community, not a machine. Good bosses see their company as a collection of individual hopes and dreams, all connected to a higher purpose. They encourage their employees to dedicate themselves to the success of their peers and therefore to the community and the company at large.
▪ Motivation comes from vision, not from fear. The best chiefs in the workplace inspire people to see a better future and how they’ll be a part of it. They see change as an inevitable part of life, and help employees embrace new ideas and new ways of doing business.
No matter what we do to earn our bread and shelter, all we do should give praise to the God Who gives us the talent for every task.
Render service with enthusiasm, as to the Lord. (Ephesians 6:7)
Bless the work of my hands, Master.
Garden Retreats Nurture Hope and Faith in God
Do you feel like you want to grow closer to God? Benedictine Sister Angela Jarboe suggests planting a garden.
She has led numerous garden retreats at Our Lady of Grace Monastery in Beech Grove, Indiana, with positive results. She explains that witnessing the growth of various flowers rejuvenates both the body and soul.
“Everything God creates is unique,” Sister Angela told David Shaughnessy of the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper, The Criterion. “Everything has a life cycle. In our lives, we have to learn we are only temporary. While we are living, we need to be images of God.”
Sister Angela has cherished a fondness for nature ever since she was a child, when she would frequently accompany her father on hiking and canoeing trips.
“I went through a period of crisis in my life,” she confided. “Hiking in the woods to see the wildflowers got me out of it. When you’re in hard times, watching something grow gives you hope. Christians should be hopeful people. Hope gives life.”
I am the vine, you are the branches. Those who abide in Me…bear much fruit. (John 15:5)
Abba, help us to grow in physical and spiritual maturity.
It’s Good to be the King
At Urbana High School in Frederick County, Maryland, a popularity contest was won by a most deserving student.
Kevin Schombert is a sports enthusiast, a manager of the high school’s basketball team, and a beloved part of the school community. He also has Down syndrome. What better way to honor his spirit and dedication, thought senior Caitie Cyr, than by nominating Schombert for Homecoming King?
Cyr created a Facebook page to generate support for her idea. She wrote, “Kevin lives, breathes and bleeds Urbana Hawk Blue. Plus he has a contagious smile. Let our legacy be more than championships, let’s do something that will make us all feel good. NOMINATE KEVIN SCHOMBERT HOMECOMING KING 2011!!!”
When Schombert’s name was announced at the school’s basketball game, the entire home side of the stadium cheered and chanted while the school spirit team began a cheer in his honor.
Celebrate the good people in your community!
I praise thee, for thou art fearful and wonderful. Wonderful are thy works! (Psalm 139:14)
O God, all are made in Your image. In our humanity, we find and truly see our commonality with You.
A Prayer for Mother’s Day
As a tribute to his late mother, the Rev. Chuck Currie wrote the following prayer for Mother’s Day:
“God, this Mother’s Day we stop to give You thanks for our mothers. We remember the times that they have set aside their own needs to tend to ours. We remember those moments where they have expressed love for us when no one else would…We remember moms that we have lost and ask that Your spirit hold them fast—and that You watch over us as we still grieve. We ask for Your healing touch for mothers who have lost children and for women who have tried to conceive but been unable to. Help us…be the family for those that have no other.
“We also lift up to you today mothers who are struggling to provide shelter, food and medical care for their children. Use us as instruments of Your will as we seek to build the Kingdom you have promised…We also acknowledge, O God, that not every mother is perfect. Help us to forgive those that have wronged us. Forgive us too for the times we have not shown our mothers the love they deserve for all the mighty gifts they have given us. In the name of Jesus, born of Mary, we pray. Amen.”
He blesses your children within you. (Psalm 147:12)
Let me show gratitude for my mother, Lord.
In the Symphony of Life
Violinists enrich a symphony by the individual touch they bring into their playing. According to an acoustical scientist, if all the violinists in an orchestra hit the same note at exactly the same instant, the effect would be like the amplification of a single instrument.
“Of course,” he added, “the violinists must play very close together to produce good music. But they play just far enough apart—in pitch and timing—to achieve a richness, an aliveness, which they would not have if they were playing precisely alike.”
Your part in life may be a humble one. But whether one plays the instruments or polishes them, sells tickets or sweeps up after the performances—each has a role to play. And each is needed if the program as a whole is to succeed.
God gave you a particular role to play in our world. Therefore, our world will be richer because of the unique elements of love and beauty you bring to it.
Now there are varieties of gifts, but the same spirit; and there are varieties of service, but the same Lord.
(1 Corinthians 12: 4-5)
Help me play my role humbly and effectively, Jesus.
As a popular blogger, author, wife, and mother of five kids, Hallie Lord knows what it’s like to be busy. She also realizes that she is just one of the many women out there who may feel overwhelmed at times because of everything they have to do. That’s why she points out the importance of women doing something for themselves once in a while without feeling like they’re neglecting their responsibilities.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about her book Style, Sex and Substance, Lord explained, “You can mistakenly get into this mindset of, ‘If I’m doing something for myself, that is a moment in time that I am not serving the world.’ But that’s actually not true because when you’re taking care of yourself—whether it’s taking a nap, taking a bath, reading a book, going for a run—you’re actually fueling yourself. You’re fueling your body, spirit and mind. It sounds a little trite but it’s true that you have got to put your own oxygen mask on first. If we don’t, we’re going to have nothing to give back to the world.”
In returning and rest you shall be saved; in quietness and in trust shall be your strength. (Isaiah 30:15)
Enable me to find rejuvenating peace, Savior
Helping the Graduate
If your child is a recent college graduate, watching him or her struggle to find a job can be frustrating. But there are some positive things parents can do to help.
▪ Look for internships. Such an opportunity can lead to full-time employment.
▪ Stay location-flexible. Seek out options in less popular locations—rural, remote or even Third World spots.
▪ No blank checks. Think carefully before offering financial assistance. If you do, make it related to job-seeking, such as for interview clothes. If you do grant a loan, spell out the specifics, including the provisions for paying it back.
▪ Cast a wide net. Broaden your child’s sights to consider all job offerings—not just high-paying ones that are exceedingly scarce.
Your greatest contribution to the process is, of course, your loving presence as they walk this new path in life’s journey.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
May all I do this day, Lord, help others to know and love You.
Staying Positive by Running
The stress Jodi Sampson experienced after being told her two-year-old son had cancer could have been unbearable if it weren’t for the relief she found in running as exercise.
After six years of chemotherapy, her son was declared cancer-free. But then, Sampson was diagnosed with breast cancer herself. Her doctors thought exercise could still be beneficial, even during radiation treatments. So, she made sure to keep on running.
Now thankfully cancer-free, Sampson shared these tips with Fitness magazine about how “sweating kept her sane:”
▪ Put life on pause: “I couldn’t control what happened in the hospital, but I could lace up my sneakers, grab my iPod and hit the road. When I returned, I felt like I was better able to cope.”
▪ Write it down: “I made two lists—one of things that stressed me out and another of those that made me happy. It helped me pick activities that made me feel good.”
▪ Reach out: “It’s hard for me to ask for help from others, but I’m learning.”
Therefore, lift your drooping hands and strengthen your weak knees. (Hebrews 12:12)
Help us to stay active in the midst of our distress, Father.
Fresh Conversations for Real Women
Twenty-somethings Kara Eschbach and Janet Sahm felt disappointed that modern women’s magazines didn’t reflect their own lives, hopes, and values. As an alternative, they launched Verily magazine in summer 2012 to “start fresh conversations on what it means to be real women” and focus on inner beauty as well as fashion and appearance.
As Eschbach explained on Christopher Closeup, “Women today are more unhappy than ever. There's a statistic pointing out that 70 percent of young girls feel worse about themselves after three minutes of reading a fashion magazine” because they compare their bodies to the models and feel they don't measure up. Verily aims to be a positive influence on young women.
Though the magazine is secular, it's grounded in the values that its co-founders learned growing up. Eschbach admits that she went to church on Sunday, but lived in ways that didn't reflect her beliefs: “For me, it's been this slow journey of [discovering] how I reconcile the person I want to be with [how] I'm living...of trying to come closer to God's truth in the decisions I make every day.”
Strive first for the kingdom of God. (Matthew 6:33)
Jesus, help me see authentic beauty in others.
It Was Worth the Cost
With severe weather predicted for Henryville, Indiana, Stephanie Decker picked her two children up at school before things got bad. Once they arrived at home, Decker saw a tornado heading straight for her house and rushed with the kids into the basement. After wrapping her son and daughter in a comforter, she covered them with her body.
Decker told The Courier-Journal that when the tornado hit, debris began falling. A large steel beam that fell on her leg nearly severed it completely.
Just as the tornado finally moved on, a second one hit, forcing Decker to endure even more of a battering. When that tornado passed, the children were able to get help for their ailing mother who had lost 40 percent of her blood due to a severed artery. Decker endured multiple injuries including the amputation of parts of both her legs. Doctors say she’ll be able to walk with prostheses.
Decker’s husband calls her a “hero.” And she believes her injuries were worth it, saying, “I love my kids…I wanted to do anything I could to protect them.”
The Spirit helps us. (Romans 8:26)
Grant me the strength to protect my loved ones, Jesus.
A Knuckleballer’s Heart
When Queens, New York, resident Mike Gitelson was diagnosed with acute myeloid anemia in 2011, treatment required heavy doses of chemotherapy. His wife, Eileen Lopez, asked a friend with connections to the Mets if he could get a team member to call Mike, who was a diehard fan. The caller would be All-Star knuckleball pitcher, R.A. Dickey.
Dickey invited the couple to a Mets game in June. They got a tour of Citi Field—and conversation time as well. As reported by Wayne Coffey in the Daily News, “[Gitelson] liked that Dickey said he’d pray for him, and even though Gitelson was not at all religious, he was open to people praying for him.”
Said Dickey: “He was having some trouble, and I just tried to engage with him. I wanted to be in the moment with him.”
Mike Gitelson died in March 2012 at age 40. He was buried wearing an R.A. Dickey shirt because, as Eileen, said, “R.A. brought him so much joy.”
When you spend time with a person who’s suffering, be in the moment with them. That simple act can produce a lot of joy.
Comfort My people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
Help me truly listen to others, Divine Savior.
Donuts and Prayers for the Homeless
Brenda Prohaska of City Island, New York, stops by the local diner to pick-up donuts and coffee with a purpose in mind. As she explained to a neighbor she met there, they were to be used for an interfaith prayer service on Potter’s Field, the city cemetery for the indigent and unclaimed located near her Bronx home. The donuts and coffee would serve as refreshments after the prayers.
The Potter’s Field Campaign is just one initiative of Picture the Homeless, a grassroots organization founded and led by homeless people.
“All who pass from this life possess a sacred dignity intrinsic to their membership among the human family, and all deserve to be reposed in dignity and remembered with honor and love,” the group’s website explains.
God created each one of us in love; we are called each day to share that love with our neighbor, in prayer and action.
Blessed be the God…of all consolation, who consoles us in all our affliction. (2 Corinthians 1:3, 4)
Comfort those who mourn, Lord; send Your peace to troubled souls
Wisdom from Non-College Grads
Forbes magazine contributor David DiSalvo grew up in an extended family of people who didn’t go to college because they had to go to work instead. Despite their lack of schooling, however, they were “steeped in wisdom.” DiSalvo shared several of the lessons he learned:
▪ You can learn something useful from anyone. “Whenever we find ourselves ignoring someone because we’ve already determined that they aren’t ‘smart’ enough to say something meaningful, we’ve made a big mistake…I’ve yet to meet someone who couldn’t teach me something.”
▪ Learning is good; Doing is better. “You can learn a lot about car engines, but until you get under the hood and work on one, you can’t see how remarkable an invention these machines are.”
▪ Money is important, but experience is invaluable. “When you buy something, you’ll enjoy that thing for a while, but eventually…[it] will become yet another thing you own. When we invest in experience, however, we are buying memories, new learning, new ways of thinking, and a whole lot more.”
Apply your ear to words of knowledge. (Proverbs 23:12)
Open my ears to the wisdom around me, Savior.
Good Food, Kind Souls
Rocker Jon Bon Jovi and his wife Dorothea have opened a restaurant with a twist. Located on the Jersey Shore, it caters both to those who can afford a good meal—and those who can’t.
Known as Soul Kitchen, the restaurant is a pay-what-you-can initiative. Patrons have two options: pay the suggested donation (or more to help cover others’ meals) or pay by volunteering to work at Soul Kitchen. The diner is staffed by volunteers, and is open Thursday through Sunday.
As reported in The Wall Street Journal, the Bon Jovis originally tried out the idea using pilot locations at a local church and soup kitchen. Then they renovated an auto shop which now has the “feel of a neighborhood hangout spot” and is part of the JBJ Foundation, the Bon Jovis’ charitable organization. The JBJ Foundation had been mostly focusing on affordable housing, but with the economic downturn in recent years, they added feeding the community to their mission.
Offering food to the hungry will not only feed their bodies; it will nourish their souls.
You shall not harden your heart or shut your hand against your poor brother. (Deuteronomy 15:7)
Lord, we are grateful for the ability to help others in need.
Wedding Gowns to Haiti
In 2008, a friend approached Diane Cornelius about donating wedding gowns to poverty-stricken areas of Haiti. A bridal store owner from Lexington, Kentucky, Cornelius was willing to help out, figuring such events would be big celebrations. When she traveled to Haiti herself, she discovered they were so much more.
As Cornelius met and spoke with brides, she came to understand that marriages in Haiti are not just cause for a party, but rather a gateway to a better life. Once married, women achieve greater recognition in the community, even in church circles.
So far, Cornelius has donated dresses to more than 100 brides. “To me, a wedding means joy, hope and a future,” she says.
A husband and a wife joined together in love can bring joy and hope to an entire community.
Above all, clothe yourselves with love, which binds everything together in perfect harmony. (Colossians 3:14)
May our love be a reflection of Your great love, Lord.
AIDA—A Speech, Not an Opera
Want to give an effective talk? A national magazine for executives recommends the following, easy-to-remember formula:
▪ A—Attention. Make a simple statement of your subject that shows your audience how they will benefit by listening. Keep it short and to the point.
▪ I—Interest. Ask questions. Promise the listener that he will gain personally by listening.
▪ D—Desire. Arrange your points so that the listener is compelled to follow you. Sum up each idea as you go along and show its connection to the next one.
▪ A—Action. This is the summary. It should be a short, simple, positive, closing statement about what you want your audience to believe or do.
The “how” of giving a speech is important, but so is the “what.” Ground yourself in gospel values so that you will have something worthwhile to say when the opportunity arises.
I will speak noble things, and from my lips will come what is right. (Proverbs 8:6)
Give me the courage and skills to speak up, Father.
After Losing $800…
As 77-year-old Jane Corbett drove to buy groceries for the St. Louis, Missouri homeless shelter where she volunteers, hundreds of dollars were flying out of the envelope she had accidentally left on top of her car while buckling in her special needs grandchild.
Construction worker Ray Leuthauser was driving behind Corbett and unsuccessfully honked at her to try to get her to stop. He finally just pulled over and started grabbing whatever money he could that was flying around—over $300—along with the Sam’s Club credit card that had come out of the envelope too.
The credit card was made out to Sts. Peter and Paul Church which is how Leuthauser tracked Corbett down to return the money. After learning that $500 were still missing, Leuthauser collected donations from his fellow construction workers to make up the difference.
Needless to say, Corbett was extremely appreciative. She told KSDK-TV, “Just pass it on. [Let’s] do whatever we can every other minute to help each other."
Helpers are for a time of trouble. (Sirach 40:24)
Lord, teach me to go out of my way to help others.
Laugh at Yourself
How important is laughter in one’s spiritual journey? According to the late Charles M. Schulz, creator of the “Peanuts” comic strip, it’s a necessity.
“It has long been my belief,” wrote the cartoonist, “that one of the things which has enabled man to survive is the ability to laugh. No matter how difficult the situation may be, man somehow has always been able to find humor in it…If I were given the opportunity to present a gift to the next generation, it would be the ability for each individual to learn to laugh at himself…I think it is one of God’s greatest blessings.”
We fail at laughter when we take ourselves too seriously—when we believe that what “I” think or want or do is all that matters. But the world runs according to God’s order, not ours.
There are billions of stars in our galaxies, and yet by the wonderful gift of faith we know that God cares about each one of us personally. To lose sight of that is to narrow our chances for happiness.
See the joy that is coming to you. (Baruch 4:36)
Teach me to see the humor around me, Holy Spirit.
Peace by the Potbelly Stove
Lunchtime in New York City. Tourists rush from spot to spot, breathless from activity. Workers e-mail and text, frenetic in their daily routine.
But inside the Potbelly Sandwich Shop, you’re likely to find a different world. The smiling staff welcomes customers, while a musician plays familiar songs on his guitar. Conversations take place—person to person, instead of phone to phone. The soothing smell of baked bread fills the air.
The Potbelly Sandwich Shop chain began in 1977 in Chicago inside a small antique store. Taking its name from the potbelly stoves that were once a gathering place in homes and communities all over the country, it became a spot to share a meal and conversation. With more than 200 outlets nationwide, these sandwich shops remain such an oasis, even in the midst of a bustling city.
In our daily lives, we too need those breaks, moments to nourish body and spirit.
Anxiety weighs down the human spirit, but a good word cheers it up. (Proverbs 12:25)
Send Your Spirit, Master, to renew the face of this earth.
Building a Better Workplace
When employers and employees don’t treat each other with respect, a workplace can become stressful. The Christophers’ founder, Maryknoll Father James Keller, gave this advice on creating a kinder, more productive business environment:
“If you’re an employer, show those who work for you that you respect them and don’t regard them as mere cogs in a wheel. If you’re an employee, give your employer his due in a spirit that shows you consider your work as something more than an obstacle on your way to a paycheck. Above all, whether you are an employer or employee, be pleasant at all times. If you are, everyone who crosses your path will be blessed. It takes only a moment to disagree without being disagreeable.”
One more suggestion from Father Keller: “At the close of each day, examine your conscience to make sure you are going forward, not backward in showing kindness to others. The more you grow in love of others for love of God, the more peace of soul you will enjoy. And those who have peace of heart and soul seldom get ulcers or need sleeping pills.”
We are God’s servants. (1 Corinthians 3:9)
May my work glorify You, Father.
The Gift of Human Beings
Though she achieved success as an actress, including as a co-star with Elvis Presley, Dolores Hart left Hollywood to become a Benedictine nun at the Abbey of Regina Laudis in Bethlehem, Connecticut, in 1962. She had followed her spiritual calling, but it wasn’t until many years later that a debilitating disease took her relationship with God to a deeper level.
n 1997, Mother Dolores was left wheelchair bound due to a mysterious illness that went undiagnosed for some time. Finally, New York City doctor Norman Latov diagnosed her with peripheral neuropathy. He found a treatment that eased her symptoms and restored her ability to walk.
That suffering taught Mother Dolores an important lesson. She said on Christopher Closeup, “You have to become dependent on the gift of human beings, and you discover that God is an incarnate reality. In the beginning, God was always a pie-in-the-sky reality. Now I had to realize that Jesus was there through the people who were assisting me, caring for me, and doing the things that were bringing me through.”
God sent me to heal you. (Tobit 12:14)
Lord, grant me the blessing of people who love me.
A Clear Vision
On her first mission trip, to Guyana in South America, Jo Yerrick remembers fitting villagers—mostly children—with eyeglasses.
“We had one little girl whose eyesight was so bad she couldn’t attend school,” Yerrick said.
Finding a pair to fit her prescription in the box of 2,000 donated eyeglasses took a while. But when Yerrick found the right pair and put them on the child, it opened her up to a whole new world in which she can now see better and get an education.
The Michigan resident and mother of six grown children has also visited Nicaragua and Haiti. Another such traveler, Noel Heikkinen, says of the experience, “This radically changed my view of the entire world.”
Our own life’s vision is clearest seen when we serve others with eyes of hope and love.
Look my eye has seen all this…But I would speak to the Almighty. (Job 13:1)
Bless me, Father; use my life for Your will.
Faithfulness in Little Things
Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen once wrote the following about the importance of being a person of character:
“Faithfulness in great things is not uncommon; faithfulness in little things is rare but most indicative of character. Almost any husband would leap into the sea or rush into a burning building to rescue his wife. But to anticipate the convenience or happiness of the wife in some small matter, the neglect of which would go unnoticed, is a more eloquent proof of tenderness.
“Our lives for the most part are made up of little things, and by these our character is to be tested. There are very few who have to take a prominent place in the great conflicts of our age; the vast majority must dwell in humbler scenes and be content to do a more humble work…Little duties carefully discharged; little temptations earnestly resisted with the strength which God supplies; little sins crucified—these all together help to form that character which is to be described not as popular or glamorous, but as moral and noble.”
The righteous walk in integrity—happy are the children who follow them! (Proverbs 20:7)
Give me courage to make right decisions, Jesus.
Raising a Cowboy for the Disabled
Twenty-seven-year-old Jamie Feretic of Queens, New York, decided to make a difference for the disabled in a somewhat unique way. She is raising and training a Labrador Retriever puppy named Cowboy to potentially be a therapy dog for the charity Canine Companions for Independence (CCI).
As reported in the Daily News, CCI provides dogs free-of-charge to “people who suffer from physical and mental disabilities.” Volunteers like Feretic take in eight-week-old puppies, absorb the cost of caring for them for 18 months, and help socialize them. Approximately 40 percent of the dogs go on to become actual therapy dogs for CCI. If a canine is disqualified for some reason, the person who raised him or her has the option of adopting the animal.
Feretic says, “It’s one of the most rewarding things I have ever done, but it’s a lot of work…He loves helping people.”
Each of us can derive joy from helping others. If you see an opportunity, take it.
Serve one another with whatever gift each of you has received. (1 Peter 4:10)
Teach me to love helping others, Lord.
Mariano Rivera Has Faith
Some sports writers dismiss professional athletes’ expressions of their religious faith, but Bob Raissman of the Daily News says he knows real spirituality when he sees it.
“Forgive this mere mortal for passing judgment on such matters, but [Mariano] Rivera’s spirituality is sincere. His faith has carried him to this point and will take him even further,” Raissman writes.
He notes that one reporter asked the New York Yankees’ pitcher how he’d remained so “dominant and durable” for so long. Rivera answered that God gave him his athletic gift. “I didn’t discover it,” he said. “It was given to me by the Lord.”
Cynical reporters remain skeptical, and maybe their doubt is warranted when certain athletes seem to be praising themselves more than God. But Bob Raissman is convinced that Rivera is the real deal. “Believe it,” he says.
Like Mariano Rivera, may we also give the praise for our individual talents where it is due: to God.
Those who wait for the Lord shall…shall run and not be weary. (Isaiah 40:31)
Keep us focused on what really matters in life, Jesus.
More Than Knowledge
One day when Thomas Aquinas was preaching to the local populace in Italy, the future saint saw an old woman listening attentively to his every word.
Inspired by her eagerness to learn more about the God she loved so dearly, he said to the people, “It is better to be this unlearned woman, loving God with all her heart, than the most learned theologian lacking love.”
A great theologian himself, Aquinas knew that our main avenue of approach to God is love. Though he never belittled knowledge of God—indeed, he wrote volumes of books monumental in their deep knowledge of the things of God—he insisted on this cardinal point: if we do not love God and our neighbors, and work to increase that love, it matters little how much we know about Him.
Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 5:21)
Jesus, help me to grow in love of You and my neighbor.
Ellen headed to work on a Friday morning. Her mind should have been filled with happier thoughts of the weekend ahead with family and friends. Instead, the looming problems of her job seemed to block out the sunshine of the beautiful spring day.
While her thoughts were focused on possible solutions, she caught sight of a young boy walking with his mother on his way to school. Dressed as a knight, complete with sword and shield, the child marched down the New York City street, slaying the imaginary dragons in his path. His smile broadened with every victory.
Suddenly Ellen smiled, too. Yes, a shot of youthful hope can help us all slay the dragons that face us today and every day.
I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised. (Psalm 18:3)
You are my rock of refuge, Lord, my shield against life’s storms.
Taking a Technology Break
Face it—it’s a digital world. Whether for work or connecting with friends and family, we’re wrapped up in the internet with social media, e-mail and chat messengers. Wireless technology keeps us connected even when we’re on the go.
One online blogger tried taking a break from all these connections and found her offline time comprised her most productive work hours. Here are some of her suggestions to arrange your digital downtime:
▪ Know exactly what you want to do online. Disconnect when you’re done.
▪ Get away from your desk. Work on your top priorities during that break.
▪ Set clear your next steps before getting back online. Fight the distractions to accomplish those tasks.
Online or offline, we are never disconnected from the Source of all hope—our loving God. We don’t ever need to take a break from Him.
Trust in the Lord with all your heart, and do not lean on your own understanding. (Proverbs 3:5)
Speak, Lord; help me to know Your will.
The Goal of Honesty
Pat Smith of Owatonna, Minnesota, is the father of 11-year-old identical twin boys Nate and Nick. As reported by ABC News, Nate wowed hockey fans during a celebrity fundraiser by “hitting a puck through a hole in a board 89 feet away” during a charity event. The prize was $50,000.
The problem, however, was that Nate was ineligible for the jackpot because the raffle ticket permitting the hockey shot was written in Nick’s name. If they hadn’t revealed the deception, the boys would have received a windfall, but their dad encouraged them to do the right thing and tell the truth.
For the Smiths’ honesty, the sponsoring agency decided to donate $20,000 to youth hockey in Minnesota in the twins’ names. The youngsters were pleased with the donation. In addition, the boys were given a three-week hockey camp next summer.
“I just think that honesty is more important than any prize or money you can get,” Smith concludes. “It’s always best to tell the truth and things will work out.”
Whoever walks in integrity walks securely. (Proverbs 10:9)
May we always strive to be truthful, Almighty God.
Whiners Need Not Apply
What traits will help you get a job or get ahead in a job you already have? Kaitlin Madden, writing on CareerBuilder.com, notes that human resources managers prize emotional intelligence even more than one’s IQ “because employees with high emotional intelligence are more likely to stay calm under pressure, solve conflict effectively and show empathy to their team members.”
Depending on circumstances, some workers believe it is next to impossible or even unrealistic to stay calm and not whine when circumstances are difficult. But there’s more than one way to address legitimate complaints.
Madden describes people with a high share of emotional intelligence as demonstrating control over their feelings, practicing self-reflection, listening actively and empathizing with colleagues. Naturally, workers need relevant job skills. But if the choice is between two technically competent people, preference often goes to the one able to remain level-headed and agreeable.
These are traits worth cultivating both at work and in life.
One who is slow to anger is better than the mighty. (Proverbs 16:32)
Help me to stay calm and trust in You, Jesus.
How to Stay Young
American General Douglas MacArthur kept a poem in his office entitled “How to Stay Young.” It was written by Samuel Ullman and its words are timeless. Here is an excerpt:
“Youth is not a time of life—it is a state of mind; it is a temper of the will, a quality of the imagination, a vigor of the emotions, a predominance of courage over timidity…Nobody grows old by merely living a number of years; people grow old only by deserting their ideals. Years wrinkle the skin, but to give up enthusiasm wrinkles the soul. Worry, doubt, self-distrust, fear and despair—these are long, long years that bow the head and turn the growing spirit back to dust.
“Whether 70 or 16, there is in every being’s heart the unfailing childlike appetite for…the joy of the game of life. You are as young as your faith, as old as your doubt; as young as your self-confidence, as old as your fear; as young as your hope; as old as your despair. So long as your heart receives messages of beauty, cheer, courage, grandeur and power from the earth, from man and from the Infinite, so long are you young.”
Be careful then how you live. (Ephesians 5:15)
Regardless of my age, Lord, make my outlook youthful.
He Never Gave Up
Thomas A. Edison had strong reasons to throw his hands up in despair. As a child, he was sent home from school after three months because his teachers felt he was “to addled” to learn.
Edison also lost his hearing at the age of 12. The love and encouragement of his mother, coupled with his own thirst for knowledge and willingness to work hard, kept him going.
The result? At age 21, Edison invented the stock ticker. At 23, he developed an automatic telegraph that sent 1,000 words a minute. At 37, he was a millionaire. But discovery, not money, was his goal. So Thomas Edison kept at it, eventually inventing the phonograph, the electric light, and the motion picture camera.
When discouragement beckons—at home, on the job, or anywhere else—think of the example of men and women who refused to quit. If you resolve to do your part, you can confidently leave the results in the hands of a loving God.
Be strong and of good courage. Fear not; be not dismayed. (1 Chronicles 22:13)
Jesus, You never gave up on Your mission. May we reflect the same perseverance in our lives.
The Ex Vivo Miracle
Rita Saverino, a wife and mother of two in New York City, was diagnosed with a grapefruit-sized cancerous tumor behind her liver. The only way to get it out and make sure the cancer was removed from the surrounding areas was to perform an “ex vivo” surgery.
That meant Saverino’s abdominal organs—her liver, stomach, kidney, and intestines—would be surgically removed, operated on outside her body, then replaced into her body once the tumor was out.
Seven surgeons told Saverino this procedure couldn’t be done, until she found Dr. Tomoaki Kato at New York Presbyterian Hospital. He is one of the only surgeons in the world willing to perform this cutting edge procedure.
As shown on the ABC reality series NY Med, the surgery lasted 18 hours, but was successful. It gave Saverino a new lease on life, and a greater appreciation for how precious every day with her family is. She said, “Life is fragile. Life is precious. I believe in miracles.”
Confidence brings a great reward. (Hebrews 10:35)
Lead me to healing in all my afflictions, Lord.
The Burden of Needless Worry
It’s easy to get consumed by worries of what other people think of you. Up-and-coming musical theater actress Brooke Evans was no exception.
Evans exuded talent and confidence, but often felt crippled by the need to know how others saw her, both on a personal and professional level. If she didn’t know, she would assume the worst. She explains, “I didn’t trust that others would see in me what God sees in me or what I see in myself.”
Hitting bottom forced Evans to confront issues she never realized she had. She said, “I’d never taken the time to find out what was holding me back. I prayed constantly that God would show me how to move forward. When I discovered my problem, I started working on the solution. I now don’t need to know what others think of me. It’s inconsequential as long as I know that God can be proud of me, and I can be proud of myself.”
Since her epiphany, Evans was accepted into a prestigious New York theater program where she is developing her natural talent without unnecessary worries holding her back.
Give yourself the esteem you deserve. (Sirach 10:28)
I am secure in Your love for me, Father.
Wake Up, Generation
Twenty-one-year-old singer/songwriter Paige Omartian knows that life is precious because she almost lost hers to bone cancer at age 11. She gets frustrated when she sees young people wasting their lives, as if they have no God-given purpose.
Now healthy and married, Omartian has written a book, Wake Up, Generation, to share her story. In it, she recalls visiting the hospital for a checkup and seeing “patients attached to tubes and IV poles…with scared, half-conscious faces, wondering what was happening to them. I couldn't help but ask this: Why do we have to walk through the valley of the shadow of death before we realize our lives are so precious?”
Omartian concludes, “As young people, we have a tendency to think that we’re not only invincible, but have all the time in the world…We need to open our eyes…We’ve been sleepwalking in apathy, passive in our motivations, blinded to the incredible adventure that God wants to breathe into our lives…Wake up!...Leave your old ways behind. Christ will guide you…You don't have a second to waste.”
Wake up. (Revelation 3:2)
Teach me to appreciate and use my gift of life, Jesus.
Give God the Glory
Golfer Bubba Watson surprised everyone, including himself, when he won the 2012 Masters Tournament on Easter Sunday. His first words also may have surprised everyone: “I’d like to first thank Jesus Christ, my Lord and Savior.”
Watson showed admirable humility and level-headedness as he called his accomplishment a blessing, saying that he never dreamed he would win. Shedding tears as he spoke, he put it all in perspective as he mentioned his newly adopted son.
Watson said, “Golf isn’t everything for me. If I would have lost today, it wouldn’t have been the end of the world. To win is awesome, but I’ll go back to real life next week. I still haven't changed a diaper.”
Watson continued to praise God on Twitter after his win—and continues to try to do so with the way he lives his life.
In good times or bad, praising God first shows our perspective on life—and helps shape us as we do it.
Rejoice always, give thanks in all circumstances; for this is God's will for you in Christ Jesus.
(1 Thessalonians 5:16-18)
Thank You, Lord, for being with me always.
When Climbing Out Your Minivan Window…
With a broken driver’s-side door handle inside her minivan, mother of five Jennifer Fulwiler tried exiting her vehicle like the characters on the old TV show The Dukes of Hazzard: by climbing out the window. As she writes in the book Style, Sex, and Substance, she soon realized this was not an easy task for “a 34-year-old mother with a penchant for…ice cream.”
To make matters worse, this was happening in the church parking lot in front of a proper-looking parishioner. Fulwiler says, “My foot got stuck in the steering wheel, and I lost my balance, [tumbling] out the window.”
Feeling embarrassed, Fulwiler researched female saints she could look at as role models for living a more dignified, holy life. She was surprised to discover the saints were a diverse group of women with varying temperaments and lifestyles.
Fulwiler writes, “My insecurity about how to be a Catholic woman the ‘right’ way had led me to focus almost exclusively on myself…It was only when I learned to accept myself that I could forget myself and…show others the love of Christ.”
I am fearfully and wonderfully made. (Psalm 139:14)
May I extend to others the grace You give me, Jesus.
The Doctor is a Nun
Though Sister Anne Brooks tends to the spiritual needs of the people in poverty-stricken Tutwiler, Mississippi, she spends even more time caring for their physical needs as the only local doctor many of them have ever known.
In 1983, Sister Anne opened a medical clinic in Tutwiler with the help of a grant from the charity, Catholic Extension. As reported by Byron Pitts of CBS News, she is now 73 and works 12-hour days, seven days a week.
More than two-thirds of her patients have no money to pay for medical care. “Last year, I spent $48,000 buying medicine for people who couldn’t afford it but would have died if they didn’t have medicine,” said Sister Anne. The money all came from donations for which she is extremely grateful.
As she gets older, Sister Anne especially wishes for a second doctor to help with her work. She has no intention of retiring, though, because she loves the people of the community. She says, “[This work] is about having someone care about you so you can care about yourself. It’s a dream.”
The Lord is my strength and my might. (Exodus 15:1)
Give me the strength to serve Your people, Lord.
Making the Most of the Night
Family life is filled with an excessive amount of activities and often not a lot of down time.
Author Jenn Berman (The A to Z Guide to Raising Happy, Confident Kids) suggests several ways to make the most of those precious few hours of evening family time.
First, call a “black out”—an hour or two of tech-free time. No texting, tweeting or video games.
Next, eat together, and maybe even prepare dinner as a family.
Finally, right before bed time, talk with one another. Have each family member discuss their favorite and least favorite parts of the day.
Each moment we share with those we love is precious and to be treasured.
How very good and pleasant it is when kindred live together in unity! (Psalm 133:1)
In all times, we seek Your love and wisdom, Master.
Speaking With Someone Facing Illness
You may want to comfort a friend or loved one who’s struggling with cancer, but you’re not sure what exactly to say.
Lori Hope, author of Help Me Live: 20 Things People with Cancer Want You to Know, offers several suggestions:
▪ Say “I’d like to ask how you’re doing, but I don’t want to bring it up if you don’t want to talk about it. What would you prefer?”
▪ Ask, “How’s it going?” not “How are you feeling?” That allows people to talk about their illness or to introduce a different topic to discuss, if they prefer.
▪ Try, “I’m so sorry to hear about your cancer. Know that I’ll be thinking of you.” Or, “I imagine you’re feeling so many things right now. Please know that I’m here to listen whenever you’d like to talk about it.”
▪ If you do offer to help in some way, be specific. Say you’ll bring dinner or baby-sit the children.
In addition, be sure to always keep them in your prayers.
The Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but that very Spirit intercedes with sighs too deep for words. (Romans 8:26)
Guide us with Your Word, Lord
A Sweet 16 to Remember
Most teenagers ask for cash on their 16th birthday, and high-school junior Kara Magoolaghan from White Plains, New York, was no different. Only instead of keeping this money for herself, she asked that it be donated to the Charity Ghana ACT (Alliance for Community Transformation), which was founded by her mother’s friend John Barber.
Magoolaghan learned from Barber that his group was raising money to construct a school in Ho, Ghana. She was happy to aid this worthy cause, and even opted to visit Ho herself to get to know the kids there.
“I thought it would be much more memorable and meaningful if I went somewhere to help other people. I got just as much out of it as I would have if I had a party,” Magoolaghan explained to Catholic New York reporter Juliann DosSantos.
If you have the opportunity, each out to someone who needs help. It may initially seem like you’re giving them the gift, but you’ll find the experience rewarding too.
Do to others as you would have them do to you.
Christ, may we be as generous to others as You are to us.
The Impossible Gold Medalist
Swimmer Katie Ledecky, 15, was the youngest member of the 2012 U.S. Olympic team in London. A well-liked and humble student at Stone Ridge School of the Sacred Heart in Bethesda, Maryland, she told The Catholic Standard newspaper that she prays before each race, and goes to Mass every week because it helps her “reflect and connect with God.”
On August 3, Ledecky swam a challenging 800-meter race. Nobody, including NBC announcers Rowdy Gaines and Dan Hicks, expected the first-time Olympian to win. When she took off like a cannonball at the race’s start, they said she was expending too much energy and would dwindle. Ledecky, however, defied conventional wisdom. She was in a race, so she was going all out to win. And win she did.
It was a great night for a teenager whose Christian faith asserts things some claim are impossible. Yet here was Ledecky reminding everyone that experts can be wrong—and that people who don’t know they can’t achieve the impossible can achieve it anyway with a little faith and heart.
The human mind plans the way, but the Lord directs the steps. (Proverbs 16:9)
Lead me, Lord, down Your paths for me.
Hope for the Future
On August 16, 2008, a small private plane carrying popular “mommy blogger” Stephanie Nielson and her husband, Christian, crashed in Arizona, exploding on impact. Though Christian was injured and burned, Stephanie bore the brunt of the explosion with burns over 80 percent of her body. Near death, she remained in a medically-induced coma for 10 weeks.
Despite Stephanie’s grueling recovery and lingering scars, she maintained her positive attitude. She chronicled her journey of healing on her blog, called The Nie Nie Dialogues, and has written a book called Heaven is Here.
In April 2012, Stephanie gave birth to her fifth child, Charlotte. She wrote on her blog, “I just wanted to express publicly how thankful I am…how good God is. Because of Him I am blessed and happy and have a very beautiful baby. Because of Him my trials are bearable and there is reason to live, even among my pain and physical problems. Because of Him I know who I am and what I am doing here on earth. I have a purpose and because of Him, I have hope for the future.”
Put your trust in the Lord. (Psalm 4:5)
Heal my emotional and spiritual scars, Jesus.
A Defiant Song
Following the movie theatre massacre that occurred in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, Denver-based preacher Nadia Bolz Weber considered canceling her weekly Friday night “Beer and Hymns” gathering. In the end, she held it anyway.
Weber wrote on her blog, “We sang our prayer to God, and in our singing I heard a defiant tone. The sound of a people who simply will not believe that violence wins, a people who know that the sound of the risen Christ speaking each of our names drowns out all other voices…In baptism we are a people marked by the cross of Christ…but this violence and death has been overcome by the love of a God who, in the three days between Good Friday and Easter, reached into the very bowels of hell and said, ‘Even here I will not be without you.’”
“This is the God to whom we sing. A God who didn’t say we would never be afraid, but that we would never be alone… To sing praise to God amidst violence is to simply put evil in its place. It’s to draw a line and say, ‘Here and no further.’ For the devil surely hates the sound of Alleluia.”
Sing to the Lord for He has triumphed. (Exodus 15:21)
Help me see You when my heart is breaking, Jesus.
Carry the Peace of God
Jesus is dead. He lies in the tomb. He died that you might live, proving His love for you to the last drop of His blood.
His request to you is to continue what He began. He died for all. He wishes to continue to live here in the souls of men and to carry on His work through your cooperation.
In His first appearance to His disciples after the Resurrection, Christ gave His followers the sublime and thrilling mission of bringing peace to the world: “Peace be to you! As the Father has sent Me, I also send you.”
This was more than just a polite suggestion. It was a solemn command to carry the peace of God to the whole world—that precious peace for which all mankind longs.
No greater support has been given any mission. The whole of heaven is behind anyone who throws himself into the task. That is a direct invitation and challenge to everyone.
I consider that the sufferings of this present time are not worth comparing with the glory about to be revealed to us. (Romans 8:18)
Give me the strength, O Lord, to do my part in carrying Your Son’s peace to all people.
One Father’s Love
There was only one thing that could get Rick Van Beek of Midland, Michigan, to finally quit smoking and get in shape: his daughter, Maddy, who is unable to walk or talk due to cerebral palsy. Van Beek isn’t even sure that Maddy can see, yet he’s ensured that the now 13-year-old is living an active life.
Van Beek told the Midland Daily News that the one thing he knows Maddy enjoys is being outdoors. Since 2008, father and daughter have competed in more than 70 half-marathons, triathlons, and other races. Van Beek pushes or pulls Maddy in a specially-designed stroller, and sometimes carries her. Their presence has inspired the many who witness this act of love.
Van Beek told Fox News, “Maddy has changed more peoples’ lives than I even know about without doing anything, just being out there.” The devoted father now hopes to start a charity that will build equipment for special needs children.
Some might look at Maddy and see only what she lacks. Van Beek sees her through the life-changing eyes of love, and knows she is a blessing.
[Be] rooted and grounded in love. (Ephesians 3:17)
Inspire me to practice a higher quality of love, Lord.
A Life of Fortitude
Father Francis Ford, one of the first four Maryknoll missionaries in China, traveled there, eager to share his faith but also cognizant of the challenges ahead. His first prayer on arriving in China was, “Lord, make us the doorstep by which the multitudes may come to worship Thee.”
Ordained a bishop in 1935, he worked for years starting schools and churches, helping people in need and training the native clergy. George Weigel, telling Bishop Ford’s story for the Ethics and Public Policy Center, notes that the bishop was arrested by communist authorities and died a martyr in a Chinese prison in 1952. Time magazine described the bishop’s final days based on statements by his secretary, Sister Joan Marie Ryan, M.M. Though he was never tried for any crime, Ford was “publicly paraded, beaten, and degraded in some of the cities in which he had done mission work since 1918.”
Bishop Ford died a witness to his faith—and a shining example of courage to future generations.
Keep alert, stand firm in your faith…be strong. (1 Corinthians 15:13)
Give us the courage to hold fast to our convictions, Lord.
Jesus Wrecked My Life
Katie Davis believes that Jesus “wrecked” her life. In her eyes, however, that's a good thing.
A few years ago, the Tennessee teen served as class president at her high school, enjoyed shopping for shoes, and planned to attend college. But Davis had grown up admiring Mother Teresa and the love with which she served the poor.
On her 16th birthday, Davis told her parents that she wanted to spend a year doing mission work before going to college. They reluctantly agreed to let her volunteer at an orphanage in Uganda. She enjoyed the work so much that she moved to Uganda after graduation to work as a kindergarten teacher.
In her Christopher Award-winning memoir, Kisses From Katie, Davis writes, “I think many people would have looked at [the orphans] and seen only their filthy clothes, or the ringworm on their heads…[God] blinded me to the filth and disease, and I saw only children hungry for love that I was eager to share with them...I have one purpose, in Uganda and in life, and that is to love. I could ask for no greater assignment.”
Clothe yourselves with love. (Colossians 3:14)
Guide me in serving the less fortunate, Lord.
Strangers No More
Over 800 children fleeing poverty, political persecution, and genocide in other countries are welcomed at the Bialik-Rogozin School in Tel Aviv, Israel. The Christopher Award-winning documentary Strangers No More follows three of those students whose skilled and compassionate teachers provide them with a solid education, and the help they need to move beyond their tragic pasts to create a better tomorrow.
The film’s directors call the school “an extraordinary place where one can experience a sense of humanity so rich and pervasive, it often feels impossible.” Thankfully, the school’s success is very real—and provides a model for creating community out of diversity.
Chances are you’re surrounded by people you see on a regular basis, but who are strangers to you. Why not say “hi” and turn a stranger into a friend?
Do not neglect to show hospitality to strangers, for by doing that some have entertained angels without knowing it. (Hebrews 13:2)
Lord, give me the courage to approach people I don’t know and extend my hand in friendship.
The Humbling Grace of Service
When Janet Sahm, co-founder of Verily magazine, was in college, she took a summer job with an elderly care program in Indianapolis. Though Sahm grew up Catholic, she’d become disconnected from her faith as she got older. Her interest in reconnecting with Catholicism coincided with her new job.
Before she was trained, Sahm got an emergency call to take the overnight shift caring for a 97-year-old infirm priest named Msgr. Richard Kavanagh. “I was scared to death,” she recalled on Christopher Closeup. “[We] both laughed because he knew I didn’t know what I was doing, but he was so gracious.”
Msgr. Kavanagh grew so comfortable with Sahm that he asked her to help him say Mass in his kitchen. She said, "I’d be his server and hold him up and help walk him to the altar. The graces that were happening, I didn’t even realize…I was Catholic and desired to be close to our Lord, but how I was living my life was totally disconnected. What a gift I had to be with him in the last days of his life. That experience taught me the beauty of the Eucharist and the beauty of the Mass. It was humbling.”
I am among you as one who serves. (Luke 22:27)
Jesus, help me grow closer to You through humble service.
The Gift of Life
When Michael Peters of Omaha, Nebraska, was an infant in 1996, his parents heard the distressing news that his heart was terribly weak. He would need a transplant in order to survive. Their spirits were lifted once a donor became available.
Michael and his parents still honor the two-year-old heart donor and her family whose gift gave them hope and life.
“When I think about her now, I feel blessed,” said Michael. “Because of what they did, what she did, I was able to live.”
Father Michael Gutgsell, rector of St. Cecilia Cathedral in Omaha, offers the religious viewpoint on organ donation. He explains that giving or receiving organs “doesn’t cheapen, disrespect or corrupt the goodness of the physical being or create an obstacle of the possibility of our resurrection from the dead in a glorified body.”
The need for organ donors is great and signing up isn’t necessarily complicated. Is it right for you?
I will pour out My spirit on all flesh. (Joel 2:28)
May we recognize the inherent dignity of our human bodies and revere all the lives You have created, Father.
A Father’s Message
As a child, Ann Curry, the NBC television journalist, would ask her father what she should be when she grew up. His answer was always the same: “Whatever you do, do something that is of some service to somebody else, because if you do, you’ll know that it mattered that you were born.”
That message, Curry admits, propelled her into a life of traveling the world, seeing people in great need with her own eyes—and doing something to help.
“What I didn’t realize until much later was that my father had given me the keys to happiness,” she explains. “In the rush and the hustle and bustle of our lives, we often forget that those simple acts of giving can give our own lives the most value, the most comfort and peace.”
Who is your “neighbor in need” this day? How will you help?
Like good stewards of the manifold grace of God, serve one another. (1 Peter 4:10)
Slow me down, Lord. Help me to see Your way to make a difference.
Movin’ With the Spirit
In the mid-90s, New York musician Sean Forrest could be found “hanging out in pubs, being on stage, [and] getting ready to party,” but he couldn’t find fulfillment. “I just knew that wasn’t what God was calling me to do,” Forrest said.
He converted to Catholicism and started a nonprofit called Movin’ With the Spirit, which uses retreats and music to minister to teens and their families. In 2009, Forrest expanded his work to include outreach to Haiti’s poor and suffering. Their need was magnified after the devastation caused by the 2010 earthquake.
“When we go, we feed the people,” Forrest told the National Catholic Register. “But we also feed them Christ. We catechize and teach them with the truth of our Catholic faith.”
Forrest has found fulfillment and so have his volunteers. “They come back even more energized and spiritually fulfilled by the faith of the Haitian people.”
For surely I know the plans I have for you, says the Lord, plans…to give you a future with hope.
(Jeremiah 29: 11)
Help me, Jesus, to discover my true vocation.
Child Slavery Rampant
We may think the slave trade was abolished in prior centuries but tragically, it exists to this very day. “80 percent of today’s slaves are women and girls; 50 percent are children,” writes Mark Hanlon, an executive at Compassion International, a Christian organization that works to free youngsters from poverty.
“The nature of slavery may differ from country to country —from enslavement in the sex trade to child abduction by rogue military organizations—but nearly all enslaved children share a common trait: extreme poverty,” Hanlon notes.
Brazil is highlighted as a country in which the child sex trade has reached epidemic proportions. Girls as young as 12 are pushed into the field to make money, thereby destroying any sense of a normal childhood. “Nations with high rates of child slavery are compromising their next generation of leaders,” Hanlon says.
Thankfully, organizations such as Compassion International are working on solutions to place child trafficking where Hanlon claims it belongs—“in the history books.”
If my father and mother forsake me, the Lord will take me up. (Psalm 27:10)
Heavenly Father, shield our children from exploitation.
The Medal of Honor
America’s Medal of Honor is usually given posthumously, but Sgt. First Class Leroy A. Petry, who survived his combat experience, received his award in a 2011 White House ceremony. He became the second living medal recipient from the conflicts in Afghanistan and Iraq.
During combat in Afghanistan, Petry, an Army Ranger, was shot in both legs. Then a grenade exploded nearby, wounding several of his fellow soldiers. When a second enemy grenade landed close to them, Petry threw it away as it detonated. The explosion filled him with shrapnel and ripped off his right hand.
In honoring Sgt. Petry, President Obama referred to 9/11 and paid tribute to “a generation that has borne the burden of our security during a hard decade of sacrifice.”
Much is indeed sacrificed during war, most directly by combatants and their families. Societies sacrifice as well. There is always good reason to seek and spread peace throughout our world, while we also honor the selflessness and heroism of those who fight.
Be courageous and valiant. (2 Samuel 13:28)
Bring peace into our world as well as our hearts, Messiah.
Silence Can Nourish Your Soul
“At all times cultivate silence.”
These words in a chapel’s stained glass window made Judith Valente realize that although she led spiritual retreats for busy professionals, she had forgotten to nourish her own soul.
Writing in USA Today, she said, “What I lacked were moments of silence and solitude when I could simply be. Without them, I was losing drop by drop the inner resources I needed to do my work well and cultivate an inner life.”
Valente was on a retreat in a Benedictine monastery where she learned many lessons from the monastic practices that also could apply to her professional life. Foremost among these was conversatio which means “a constant turning, a continuous conversation with life.” However, we cannot have a conversation if we never stop to listen, which calls for periods of silence.
We are often so busy “doing” that we forget how to “be.” Set up a daily time of silence and listen for God's voice.
But the Lord was not in the fire; and after the fire a sound of sheer silence. (1 Kings 19:12)
Lord, may I always be attentive to Your still, small voice speaking out of the whirlwind of my life.
The Grace of Brokenness
On January 2, 2009, Kevin Wells—a healthy 40-year-old husband and father of three— had just gone to bed when a malformed tangle of veins and arteries in his brain suddenly burst. The sharp pain from the blood and other fluids that were filling his head grew worse as he and his wife waited for an ambulance.
Wells was diagnosed with a brain hemorrhage, and given emergency brain surgery. His situation remained dire for the next few weeks, so he came to lean on his faith to find physical and spiritual healing. During an interview on Christopher Closeup about his memoir, Burst, Wells said he endured so much pain he felt like Satan was tempting him to give up on life. That’s when he started a contemplative prayer focused on Jesus that calmed him down. At one point, said Wells, he saw Jesus putting His hand on his head and saying, “It’s going to be okay.”
Though Wells slowly found healing with the help of doctors, nurses, and constant care from loved ones, he also credits God—with whom he’s developed a close relationship—for bringing him back from the edge.
He went about doing good and healing. (Acts 10:38)
May I be a source of healing to the suffering, Jesus.
Irish Blessings and Good Wishes
The Irish are known for their way with words, so here is a special wish for St. Patrick’s Day.
“May there always be work for your hands to do / May your purse always hold a coin or two. / May the sun always shine warm on your windowpane, / May a rainbow be certain to follow each rain. / May the hand of a friend always be near you, / And may God fill your heart with gladness to cheer you.”
Next, a bit of Irish wisdom:
“It's easy to be pleasant when life flows by like a song. / But the man worthwhile is the one who can smile / When everything goes dead wrong.”
Finally, here’s one to make you smile:
“May those who love us, love us. / And those that don't love us, May God turn their hearts. / And if He doesn't turn their hearts, / May He turn their ankles, / So we’ll know them by their limping.”
Happy St. Patrick’s Day!
A joyful heart is life itself, and rejoicing lengthens one’s life span. (Sirach 30:22)
Grant me eloquence, wisdom, and joy, Heavenly Father.
At St. Vincent Academy in Newark, New Jersey, students learn more than just school subjects. “Learning compassion is a major theme of our school,” explains the administrative director, Sister June Favata, S.C.
“We must pay attention to the ‘soul and heart’ development of the young women who are students at our school,” she adds.
Toward that end, the high school has a “Students-in-Community” service program. In one activity, freshmen and sophomores welcomed more than 100 special education and special needs children for a festive “compassion” carnival.
“This is about teaching them to be sensitive to other people’s needs,” Sister June explains.
Each of us is called to compassion class every day. It’s what’s good for us—and for our neighbor.
When He went ashore, He saw a great crowd; and He had compassion for them. (Matthew 14:14)
Be merciful with me, Master, when I stumble and fall
Harnessing the Sun
OB-GYN Laura Stachel left her Berkeley, California home to investigate why so many women in Nigeria were dying in hospitals while giving birth. She discovered hospitals there lacked reliable electricity. “I watched [cesarean sections] where the lights would go out and the doctors literally finished with my own flashlight,” she says.
Stachel turned to her husband, who was familiar with ways to create solar electricity. He designed a simple suitcase containing solar panels that convert sunlight to electricity, which is then stored in a battery that hospitals can use to power operating room lights. The suitcases are a work in progress, distributed through their nonprofit, We Care Solar. Cost reduction is being studied to try to reach as many as possible of the estimated 300,000 clinics needing help worldwide. However, 160 clinics have been aided so far with solar suitcases.
Helping others can be a work in progress, but even a small beginning can give others hope.
For You have been a refuge to the poor, a refuge to the needy in their distress. (Isaiah 25:4)
Lord, help me brighten the lives of others.
Blindness Leads to New Vision
In 1996, 23-year-old David Bigoney was shot in the head by his stepmother, who also killed his father and then herself. Undiscovered for seven hours, Bigoney survived, but was left completely blind. Initially unable to navigate his home without bumping into walls, he began training for Iron Man triathlons to give himself purpose. He finished his first event in Fort Lauderdale, Florida, just minutes before the 17-hour deadline.
Bigoney was surprised to hear he inspired others. “Inspire you? I’m here for me,” he thought. Eventually Bigoney began Team Vision Foundation to help connect those with visual challenges to sports and healthy living. After competing in a 10k run as part of Team Vision, a visually challenged girl named Madison said, “I feel like an eagle!”
Bigoney says he is a better man now than when he was shot on that long ago night. “No pun intended, but it has opened my eyes to a whole other world,” he says.
Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil; for thou art with me.
Guide me through life’s dark valleys, Lord.
Krishna Roy, 83, lives outside of Washington, D.C. She has worn many hats in her lifetime—working for the Indian government, the United Nations and a community-based health care clinic, to name but a few.
As she ages, she sees faith as critical to facing life. “I feel that I have been tested several times, and the kind of faith I grew up with taught me that hope and love are the most important aspects of my life,” she explains.
Roy recalls times when she even fought with others, but faith kept her from becoming bitter or making enemies. “The tolerance, patience, peace, hope and love from faith have been central to my life,” she concludes.
Believing in God’s goodness and manifesting it to others are our best course of action at any age.
The beauty of the aged is their gray hair. (Proverbs 20:29)
Father, Your love for us is everlasting, and for that we give You praise.
A professional musician, Marie Bellet sings about what she knows—as a wife and mother of nine. “A lot of my music is trying to find the supernatural meaning of what we’re doing every day at the grocery store, in the laundry room, at the dining room table,” explains the singer-songwriter to Catholic Digest.
The title of Bellet’s fifth album, Everything Changes, has a deep meaning for her as well. She says, “We have to constantly be open to being transformed. Your life changes constantly. You go from having little kids and being constantly watchful they don’t stick a fork into a light socket, to suddenly they’re…leaving home. One of the hardest things, when your kids are getting older and leaving, is that you realize they are moving out of your comfort zone and they’re going to be facing their own adventures…And God asks us to just trust in Him.”
No matter the changes in life, a focus on love and a search for God’s presence in the details of every day will surely make life better.
I keep the Lord always before me…I shall not be moved. (Psalm 16:8)
In the details of this day, Lord, help me see Your face.
Can Hollywood Forgive Its Own?
Actor/Director Mel Gibson’s public indiscretions and offensive outbursts have been well-documented by the press. Some wondered if he would ever work again. In 2011, at the 25th Annual Cinematheque Award Ceremony, he presented an award to actor Robert Downey Jr. at Downey’s request.
In his acceptance speech, Downey made a stirring plea: “I asked Mel to present this award for a reason. When I couldn’t get sober, he told me not to give up hope and encouraged me to find my faith. It didn’t have to be his or anyone else’s as long as it was rooted in forgiveness. And I couldn’t get hired, so he cast me in the lead of a movie actually developed for him. He kept a roof over my head and food on the table…All he asked in return was that someday I help the next guy in some small way. At the time, he didn’t imagine the next guy would be him…I would ask you to join me, unless you are completely without sin…in forgiving my friend his trespasses and offering him the same clean slate you gave me.”
For if you forgive men their trespasses, your heavenly Father also will forgive you. (Matthew 6:14)
Jesus, help us reflect Your Divine Mercy.
Judging Your Neighbor
In his book series In Conversation with God, Francis Fernandez encourages Christians to become more understanding toward the faults of others, especially during Lent. He writes, “Charity changes the heart so that there is room in it for all, even those who don’t understand us or who fail to respond to our love. With the Lord beside us, we will not feel anyone to be our enemy.”
“[St. Bernard advises], ‘Although you might see something bad, do not instantly judge your neighbor, but, rather, excuse him interiorly. Excuse the intention if you are unable to excuse the action. Consider it as if done in ignorance, or unawares, or through weakness.’”
Fernandez concludes, “Only he who is humble is capable of maintaining an understanding attitude. Otherwise, the tiniest faults of others are magnified, and one tends to justify and minimize one’s own greater faults and errors. Pride is like a curved mirror that distorts the reality of things.”
Maintain constant love for one another. (1 Peter 4:8)
Give me the patience to deal with the faults of others as well as my own, Jesus.
A prominent businessman who was enrolling his son in a prominent university shook his head when he started to examine the institution’s catalogue of studies.
“Does my son have to take all these courses?” he asked the dean. “Can’t you make it shorter? He wants to get out quickly.”
“Certainly he can take a shorter course,” replied the dean. “But it all depends on what he wants to make of himself. When God wants to make an oak, He takes 20 years, but He only takes two months to make a squash.”
Shortcuts attract all of us. And of course, we’re free to take the easy way out. But just as oaks don’t grow overnight, neither do a person’s mind and character. We’ll have to live for all eternity based on the way we form ourselves here on earth.
He that is patient, is governed with much wisdom; but he that is impatient, exalts his folly. (Proverbs 14:29)
Lord, I pray for the patience to develop the best qualities with which You have created me.
No Loaves, but 40 Fish
“Small miracles are all around us,” writes Catholic News Service columnist Father Peter Daly. For instance, a woman in his parish in Prince Frederick, Maryland, who works cleaning houses, took in her three recently-unemployed adult children and their families. Altogether, she now had 18 mouths to feed.
Another parishioner had been catching fish to help feed this mother’s significantly-enlarged table of guests. One day, he enlisted the help of two teenagers from the parish’s Catholic Heart Work Camp for his next fishing trip. After a quick prayer, the three of them went on to catch a whopping total of 40 fish—“one every three minutes.” This extraordinary blessing was enough to feed this woman’s family for several days.
When life’s problems seem too much to bear, say a prayer and have faith that God will provide you with the physical and spiritual help you need. And if you have the opportunity to be a source of blessings for others, put yourself in God’s hands and see what the two of you can accomplish together.
The Lord will guide you continually, and satisfy your needs in parched places. (Isaiah 58:11)
Christ, may we always trust in Your everlasting bounty.
How to Sharpen a Student
In his monthly Apple Seeds newsletter, Father Brian Cavanaugh recalled asking a college student how her midterm exams went. She replied they weren’t too tough, except for one professor whose tests are “impossible to pass.”
Father Cavanaugh asked, “Do you learn more studying for her tests, or from the teachers that are not so difficult?”
The student admitted she had learned more with the difficult professor, but still wondered why she had to be so tough. Father Cavanaugh then asked if she thinks the best way to sharpen a knife is with a stone or a towel.
“You can’t sharpen a knife on a towel!” the student said.
“Exactly!” he answered. “A knife can only be sharpened on a hard surface so that it will be sharp enough to fulfill its purpose and cut what needs cutting. Students and children, too, cannot be sharpened on soft surfaces. They are sharpened on the hard surfaces of teachers and parents, so that they’ll be sharp enough to cut it in life and fulfill their life’s purpose.”
Those who are wise shall shine. (Daniel 12:3)
Allow the challenges I face to make me better, not bitter, Lord.
How to Talk to God
Prayer is an important part of our Lenten obligations. If you find it difficult to pray, you might simply imagine God speaking to you. His words might sound something like this:
You don’t have to be clever to please Me; all you have to do is want to love Me. Just speak to Me as you would to anyone of whom you are very fond. Are there people you want to pray for? Tell Me their names, and ask as much as you like. Trust Me to do what I know best.
Is there anything you want for your soul? Tell Me if you feel guilty about anything. I will forgive you, but you have to accept My forgiveness.
Tell Me about your self-centeredness, and your laziness. I love you in spite of your faults. Do not hesitate to ask Me for blessings for mind and body. I can give everything you need for a happier, holier life. Are you afraid of anything? Trust yourself to Me. I am here. I see everything. I will never leave you.
I prayed, and understanding was given me; I called on God, and the spirit of wisdom came to me. (Wisdom of Solomon 7:7)
Jesus, guide my mind and heart in prayer.
When Scottish famine relief worker Magnus MacFarlane Barrow traveled to Malawi in 2002, a child he met there told him that his only wish—and by extension, the wish of most children—was “to have enough food to eat and to go to school one day.”
That encounter, coupled with his desire to follow Jesus’ command to feed the hungry, led Barrow to create Mary’s Meals. The Scottish-based organization feeds over 500,000 people in 16 poor countries including Kenya, Malawi, Sudan and Haiti. It often concentrates on providing meals to preschoolers who are particularly vulnerable to hunger-related diseases.
As reported in the National Catholic Register, Barrow’s efforts now include drought-stricken areas of Africa. He says, “The situation in east Africa has become increasingly desperate, with failed rains leading to dire food and water shortages.”
Through one man’s initiative and Christ-like compassion, there are less starving children in the world. Foster that same kind of initiative and compassion in your life.
I will abundantly bless its provisions; I will satisfy its poor with bread. (Psalm 132:15)
Holy Spirit, help me feed the hungry in body and spirit.
A Healthy Helping of Healing
Gilbert McClure, a retired Kansas cattle rancher, lists his recently deceased son John’s best qualities: integrity, sincerity, honesty. That last one digs deep into his sorrow. You see, John took his own life, and admitting that is heartbreaking.
His parents didn’t see his death coming; his personality was the opposite of his actions. John was a chef whose popular restaurant was always full. But as his mother Marilyn told The Kansas City Star, “You have to face the truth so you can start the healing. When you say suicide, invariably, someone else will open up.”
Now, his parents are using their son’s death for suicide prevention. Gilbert also finds solace in the thought that John is still cooking: “Let the Lord know he got himself a great chef.”
Pain that’s shared can often be lightened because you’re no longer bearing the burden alone. It is also the first step toward healing.
Pray for one another, so that you may be healed. (James 5:16)
Lord, You never promised an easy life. Give us the strength to follow You.
Love to the Rescue
“All I want is for her to live, I don’t care if she is injured or not,” Lieutenant Onur Eryasar of the Turkish Air Force told a Reuters news photographer. He was speaking of his 25-year-old fiancé, who was trapped under rubble following an earthquake in Turkey. “It doesn’t matter, I just want her alive.”
Upon learning of the quake, the lieutenant rushed from his military base to the scene of devastation. He determined from friends that his fiancé had been there having lunch in a restaurant. Lieutenant Eryasar located the place in the dark and shouted her name. “Hearing the voices of other people trapped in the collapsed building, he persuaded one of the rescue teams to begin digging,” Reuters News Service reported.
After 18 hours pinned under bricks and debris, the young woman and two colleagues were rescued alive and conscious. Thanks to Eryasar’s love-fueled persistence, a young life was saved.
Where there is love, miracles can happen.
Love…believes all things…endures all things. Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13; 7, 8)
Inspire us, Holy Spirit, to love one another.
A Three Dollar Lesson
When National Catholic Register writer Matthew Archbold arrived in Virginia on a business trip, he asked an elderly man inside the train station for directions. The chatty stranger not only gave him directions, but offered to walk him to his destination. Archbold writes, “I refused…Being a Northener, I figured anyone being this nice was selling something.”
Archbold later returned to the station where he again saw the stranger. Ever a talker, the man revealed that he had been visiting Virginia for his high school reunion when he suffered a heart attack and was hospitalized. With his ticket expired, he was waiting for a check that would allow him to buy a new ticket. Feeling bad at having been standoffish, Archbold offered him $10 to buy food. The man said three dollars would be fine.
He went off and returned an hour later. Archbold assumed he had eaten. Then, a homeless man entered the station, walked up to Archbold’s new friend, and thanked him for buying him a hot dog. The stranded stranger had used the three dollars to help someone else in greater need. It was an example of selflessness that Archbold says he will never forget.
Love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
Open my eyes to the needs of others, Lord.
No Tempers in Thailand
A travel magazine offered this tip about what not to bring on a trip to Thailand—your temper. In fact, Thais consider such emotional wrath to be a form of insanity.
The culture in this Asian nation instead celebrates jai yen, the art of keeping a “cool heart,” and that means keeping your anger in check no matter the circumstances.
What’s the secret for such a serene demeanor? It’s another characteristic of Thai culture—mai pen, or “never mind.” Thais take problems in stride. Life is meant to be enjoyed, they say.
Not every experience will keep us calm, cool and collected. But during those times that don’t, we need to keep in mind only the boundless love and mercy of God for us all.
For as the heavens are high above the earth, so great is His steadfast love toward those who fear Him. (Psalm 103:11)
Lord, You are slow to anger and rich in kindness; send me Your Spirit this day.
The Unexpected Road to God
“None of the characters went looking for God, but God found them,” said writer/director/producer Emilio Estevez about his Christopher Award-winning movie, The Way.
It tells the story of Tom, an American doctor whose son, Daniel, dies while on the historical pilgrimage called the Camino de Santiago in France and Spain. Because of his strained relationship with Daniel, Tom decides to honor his memory by embarking on the pilgrimage himself. Along the road, he’s joined by other travelers whose friendship he comes to value.
The film’s sense of community has a special resonance for Estevez. He explained on Christopher Closeup, “One of the great salvations of my life is that I live very close to my parents. We talk daily. In this film, you have four pilgrims who are without family. Then they find each other. They need community more than anything else…That is the biggest theme of the film. These people realize that what ultimately connects them is their humanity and brokenness.”
God created us to be in relationship with one another. Be open to building new, healing friendships in your life.
Be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)
Lead me toward fulfilling relationships, Lord.
The Duke’s Witness of Faith
Father Matthew Muñoz from the Diocese of Orange, California, has an impressive lineage. His grandfather is Academy Award-winning actor John Wayne.
In an interview with Catholic News Agency, Father Muñoz explained Wayne’s spiritual path: “He was raised with a lot of Christian principles and a Bible faith that, I think, had a strong impact upon him.”
In 1933, Wayne married a young Catholic woman named Josephine who is Father Muñoz’s grandmother. The priest said, “He was constantly at Church events…After a while, he got the sense that the common secular vision of what Catholics are—and what his own experience actually was—were becoming two different things.”
Though Wayne and Josephine civilly divorced in 1945, she never stopped praying for him and his conversion. That prayer was answered in 1978, the year before the actor’s death. Father Muñoz said, “He wanted to become baptized and become Catholic. It was wonderful to see him come to the faith and leave that witness for our whole family.”
Come, let us return to the Lord. (Hosea 6:1)
Lead me in Your ways, Jesus.
Paralyzed Youth Inspires Hockey Players
In December 2011, Minnesota teen Jack Jablonski was paralyzed from the neck down after taking a hit from behind into the boards during a junior-varsity hockey game. The injury touched the hearts of players throughout the National Hockey League.
New York Rangers rookie defenseman Stu Bickel was first to respond by donating a jersey a few days after the injury. Fans and professional players from across the country have shown an outpouring of support. More importantly, within a month of Jablonski’s injury, USA Hockey—the U.S. body governing ice hockey—began assessing more severe penalties for boarding and checking from behind to help reduce player injury.
Jablonski’s recovery has been greatly improved from the initial diagnosis, with movement in his right and left arms. He works hard at therapy, bolstered by frequent calls and visits from the professional players he admires.
Life may seem bleak at times, but great good can come from it if we help each other.
As you are partakers of the sufferings, so also you will partake of the consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:7)
Lord, help me remember that You want all good for us.
We’re Called to Serve
How many people every day walk by a homeless person without a second glance? Bishop Chatard High School sophomore Abby Wuensch admits to having done so. After taking part in a homelessness immersion program conducted through her Indianapolis school, however, the teen says she’ll never do so again.
“I’ve had my eyes opened,” Wuensch confided to Criterion reporter John Shaughnessy. “I’ve learned that I shouldn’t be awkward around homeless people. I should give them a smile.”
This program, created by religion teacher Sister Kathleen Keadon, helped its participating students and teachers to see homeless people in a new, more compassionate light.
“[The program] made me see the human dignity in everybody,” English/theater teacher Abby Funk confessed. “It’s made me smile at people more.”
Jesus said the poor will always be with us. Therefore, we shouldn’t retreat from the impoverished in fear, but rather reach out to them in love and understanding.
For the needy shall not always be forgotten. (Psalm 9:18)
Lord, help us to uphold the human dignity of all Your children, rich or poor.
A Fresh (Vegetable) Approach to Feeding the Hungry
St. George Greek Orthodox Church in Bloomfield Hills, Michigan, takes the Bible’s urging to “feed the hungry” seriously. The parish is known for its outreach programs, including an active youth ministry and a Philoptochos chapter of the largest organization of Orthodox women in the country. These Philoptochos societies raise money for all sorts of worthy charities.
“Perhaps our most innovative outreach program is a vegetable garden, the proceeds of which are donated to a local food bank,” parish priest Father Nicholas Pathenos informs the Orthodox Observer.
Ironically, although Bloomfield Hills was once one of the five richest cities in the United States, the recent unemployment rise has created a need for more charitable outreach than ever.
“My biggest challenge is dealing with the economic impact…on people’s lives,” Father Nicholas admits. “I do a lot of counseling.”
Each of us has the power to help the less fortunate.
Give, and it will be given to you. (Luke 6:38)
Lord, may we seek fresh approaches to assist the impoverished.
An Olympic Gymnast’s Blessings
“God has given me this awesome talent to represent Him. Glory goes up to Him, and the blessings fall down on us,” said 16-year-old gymnast Gabby Douglas, after winning the gold medal in the 2012 Olympic women’s all-around competition.
Douglas has turned to God throughout her life during times of physical training and emotional turmoil, such as her parents’ divorce and living apart from her mother, Natalie Hawkins.
Though Hawkins was reluctant, she allowed her daughter to move from Virginia Beach, Virginia to West Des Moines, Iowa, in 2010 so she could work with Liang Chow, the coach who trained Olympic gold medalist Shawn Johnson. Unable to afford living expenses, Douglas was welcomed into the home of Missy Parton, her husband and four children who cared for her like a member of their own family. Hawkins, meanwhile, sent her daughter Bible passages twice daily to keep her grounded.
Yes, Gabby Douglas is grateful to her Father in heaven for showering blessings on her. Those blessings include two loving mothers, Natalie and Missy, who made her dreams possible.
Cast all your anxiety on [God]. (1 Peter 5:7)
Guide my steps as I walk life’s winding roads, Jesus.
Helping After School
After graduating from high school, Demetrius Phillips had one wish—to help others.
The Oakland, California teen found the right fit in an organization called Start Strong: Building Healthy Teen Relationships. The group focuses on preventing teen dating violence and abuse.
Phillips visits places frequented by teens his age and talks with his peers about understanding and preventing abuse. “Teen violence is not taken seriously,” he says, believing it has direct connection to a young person’s own family and friends, in some cases. He also points out that a teenage male who abuses his girlfriend is likely to become an adult who abuses a child. He and others feel strongly about stopping that from happening.
No matter our age, we’re called to understand and respect the dignity and inherent worth of all around us.
Let no one despise your youth, but set the believers an example in speech and conduct. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Fill my heart with Your gentle Spirit, Lord.
February 20, 2013
The Importance of Forgiveness
Steve Wayne of Louisville, Kentucky, had a challenging relationship with his father, Bill, who often treated him harshly. Yet Bill also had a generous side which allowed him to be a foster father to teens without a responsible parent to care for them.
Later in life, when Bill, now a double amputee, was in poor health, Steve would help his mother care for him. One day, Bill asked why the son he treated the worst would care for him, especially in light of the fact that Steve suffered with chronic anxiety. “I did this to you,” Bill said.
Steve responded, “Dad, that was 30 years ago…You did what you thought was right. If it matters to you, I forgive you.”
Steve writes, “The truth is I had forgiven him 20 years before that day, but my father held that guilt in his heart. I learned from my mother that he felt guilt up to the day he died. That is sorrowful news, for there is much about my father that I inherited that was a blessing...Dad, we had our ups and downs, but I love you still…You live in our hearts just as you live in heaven.”
Bear with one another, and…forgive each other; just as the Lord has forgiven you. (Colossians 3:13)
Strengthen the bonds between parents and children, Jesus.
Made in His Image
“I don’t think I would be alive today if it wasn’t for the hope God had to offer that there is so much more to life than the suffering I was going through at the time.”
For 26-year-old New Jersey native Maura Byrne, that suffering stemmed from 15 years of physical abuse, an eating disorder and serious self-image issues. The turning point in Maura’s struggles occurred during a summer she spent in Calcutta, India, volunteering with the late Mother Teresa’s Missionaries of Charity. Though raised by Catholic parents, Maura had no conception of the role God’s love could play in her life.
Maura says, “One of the missionaries told me about God the Father’s love. I remember breaking down in tears, and I wanted to get to know this loving God. It happened through time spent in Eucharistic adoration, discovering my dignity as a daughter of God created in His image and likeness.”
Maura has now created a ministry called Made In His Image which provides support and counseling to young women dealing with abuse and eating disorders.
Seek Me and live. (Amos 5:4)
Jesus, help me see myself through Your eyes.
The Cancer Year
When singer/songwriter Audrey Assad married William Price III in February 2011, it was a happy moment for both of them. Then, cancer intruded on their joy.
Price was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s lymphoma within weeks of their wedding. The doctors assured him this was the best type of cancer to have because it was treatable and curable.
That began what Price calls his “cancer year.” Though chemotherapy was difficult, he chose to focus on the positive.
On his blog, the now cancer-free Price wrote, “The Cancer Year is not marked by disease; it is marked by the unity of Joy and Suffering—not joy and suffering experienced alternately, but together, united. So far, marriage and cancer have served the same purpose, namely, to unite me with Christ on the Cross. The consolation of accompanying Christ in spirit at a place where He was physically alone is so sweet, like nothing I’ve known…I would never wish chemotherapy on my worst enemy, but I would never take that experience back. It was an opportunity to see love from my wife and friends and family that I could never have otherwise seen.”
He has given us a new birth into a living hope. (1 Peter 1:3)
Heal my physical and spiritual ills, Savior.
Some Alone Time with God
Criterion writer Marcellino D’Ambrosio schedules some “alone time” with God when he feels the stresses of life overtaking him. Specifically, he visits a monastery to enhance his prayer life. “Prayer is like breathing,” D’Ambrosio writes in the Indianapolis archdiocesan newspaper. “All Christians need to do it continually to survive.”
The monks and the nuns that D’Ambrosio visits are living reminders of lives blessed by constant communion with God. D’Ambrosio remembers one aspect of a Trappist monastery that particularly resonated with him.
“I was struck by the words chiseled in stone above the door—‘God Alone,’” D’Ambrosio recounts. “A monastery is a place where men or women live alone, apart from…secular life. Whether it be for a morning, day, weekend or full week of retreat, entering into the rhythm of the monks’ prayer and solitude helps me restore my focus and energy.”
May we all be so similarly inspired to take deep breaths, and reconnect with God.
Answer me when I call, God of my right! (Psalm 4:1)
Father, strengthen the bonds of our heavenly communion.
Become a “Good Conductor”
When he was a poor student desperate to get home to see his dying mother, British writer Bernard Hare was in a bind. He had missed the last train for the day that would take him directly home, but bought a ticket for another train, knowing he’d likely miss his connection. He was also unable to afford a taxi.
Fortunately the “Good Conductor,” as Hare calls him, noticed his distress and offered help even after being rebuffed. The trainman radioed ahead to his colleagues and had the connecting train held up until Hare could board. The youth was rendered speechless. He didn’t know how to repay this generous man. The conductor replied, “The next time you see someone in trouble, you help them out. Tell them to pay you back the same way and soon the world will be a better place.”
Hare retells his story to inspire the troubled youngsters he mentors today, saying, “My meeting with the Good Conductor changed me from a selfish, potentially violent hedonist into a decent human being.”
Be a “Good Conductor” of kindness.
The fruit of the spirit is love. (Galatians 5:22)
Generous Father, help me spread kindnesses today.
February 14, 2013
A Love From Here to Eternity
The late Sargent Shriver was one of the most admired public servants of the 20th century. An integral part of the Kennedy administration, he founded the Peace Corps, and later served as President of the Special Olympics which his wife, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, created for children with intellectual disabilities.
The devotion Shriver and his wife shared throughout their 56 years of marriage was grounded in mutual respect and love for God. In the book, A Good Man: Rediscovering My Father, Sargent Shriver, their son Mark prints a letter his father once wrote to his mother that demonstrates how deep his love went.
It reads, “If I end up in heaven someday with our most precious Lord and Savior, you my courageous and wise wife will be the single most important reason for my being there. Second only to our Lord himself, you will have saved my soul—by your intelligence, your example, your dedication to our Lord and to the Blessed Mother, by your faith and by your love.”
Let your spouse know how much he or she means to you—and center your lives around God.
Love never ends. (1 Corinthians 13:8)
Bless all married couples, Jesus.
An All Star Legacy
Six-time NBA All-Star Jack Twyman, who died in May 2012, achieved some great feats on the basketball court. His greatest legacy, however, is the extraordinary kindness he showed to an injured teammate.
In the Cincinnati Royals’ final game of the 1957-58 season, Maurice Stokes flew over the shoulders of an opponent and hit his head on the floor. He was left permanently paralyzed.
Stokes had no one to care for him, so Twyman leapt into the breach. He became Stokes’ legal guardian, helped him learn to communicate again, and raised money for his medical expenses. After Stokes died in 1970, Twyman pressed for his admission to the Hall of Fame. When Stokes was finally elected, in 2004, it was Twyman who accepted the honor for his friend.
And one more thing. In 1958—when the civil rights movement was only beginning—Twyman did what he did even though he was white and Stokes was black. Why? He told the New York Times, “Something had to be done and someone had to do it. I was the only one there, so I became that someone.”
Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Show me, Lord, how to help others.
February 11, 2013
Wishing to Remember
Almost 70 years ago, Dorothy Flood was denied access to a train dining car because she was black.
Traveling with her grandmother from New Jersey to North Carolina, Flood recalls what happened once they crossed the Mason-Dixon Line: “The African-Americans would go in the back, and white people would go into separate cars.”
When granted a wish to enjoy a meal in that dining car today—thanks to Jeremy Bloom’s Wish of a Lifetime, an organization that grants wishes to adults 65 and older—Flood had the chance to dine in style, giving thanks that times had changed for her and for all people of color.
“Oh, she would have loved this,” Flood said while enjoying dessert and thinking of her late grandmother.
Remembering the mistakes of the past helps ensure that we don’t repeat them, while also reminding us not to hurt ourselves or our neighbors in the future.
Justice and only justice you shall pursue. (Deuteronomy 16:20)
We are all Your family, Father, and we give praise to Your name.
February 10, 2013
Jesus and the Bikers
Finding groups of Christians who are committed to spreading the Gospel may not seem odd. What is perhaps unusual is the focus of one ministry—bikers.
The Freedom Biker Church has branches in the Carolinas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Colorado, and even British Columbia, Canada. Its mission—reach out to bikers who would probably not be too comfortable walking into a mainstream church.
“Everybody in the world is looking for acceptance, security, significance and a real genuine love from somebody,” explains church founder Mike Beasley. “And what Freedom Church really is, is just taking the essence of the church in our relationship with Jesus Christ and saying there are no pretenses here, no walls. You come as you are.”
God’s love is unconditional. He invites us into relationship with Him just the way we are. It is through that transforming relationship, however, that we can grow to become better than we’ve ever been.
And He said to them, “Go into all the world and spread the good news to the whole creation.” (Mark 16:15)
Lord, may I accept my neighbor as a reflection of You.
Recognize and Stop Cyberbullying
Many adults dismiss schoolyard bullying as a normal rite of passage. But things have changed in this Internet age.
“The explosion of technology in recent years has given rise to the phenomenon known as ‘cyberbullying,’ which involves using the Internet or other mobile devices to send or post harmful or cruel texts or images,” Allyson Bowen, a clinical social worker from Columbia, South Carolina, tells the Catholic Chronicle.
According to Bowen, we once imagined a bully to be a burly boy picking on smaller kids on the playground. Now the problem is also girls targeting other girls on the Internet. In fact, Allyson notes that now girls “are about twice as likely as boys to be not only victims but perpetrators” of cyberbullying.
“Everyone has been targeted at some point in his or her life,” says Bowen. “The difference between us being targets and becoming victims is our coping skills.”
Teach your kids empathy as well as what they need to know to protect themselves in this new technological era.
In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law. (Matthew 7:12)
Dear God, heal those in need of Your comfort
February 8, 2013
Learning to Shelve Your Pride
Part-time nurse and mother of seven Molly Beck from Westfield, Indiana, knows how irresistible it can be to want to handle everything by yourself. However, there was one moment at a school event for her kindergartener several years back which changed this stubborn determination.
Beck made her way through the buffet line with her kids and a stroller in tow. Though other parents offered to help carry food for her and her family, Beck refused all assistance and instructed her kids to carry their own plates. Her back hadn’t been turned for two seconds when her oldest daughter, Natalie, started crying because her plate and bagel had fallen onto the floor. As Beck comforted her daughter, she thought about her pride, what it had caused her to do, and how wrong she’d been.
“We are called by our very human nature to help each other out,” Beck claims. “These days, when I am offered help, my instinct is still to demur. But when I remember the sight of those tears, I swallow that bitter pill of pride and say…‘Yes, please.’”
Never be afraid to accept and offer help.
Pride goes before destruction. (Proverbs 16:18)
Jesus, may we never be too prideful to accept help.
February 7, 2013
History in a School
Back in the 19th century, Cornelia Peacock Connelly, a native of Philadelphia, found herself separated from her husband and living, with her three children, in England. There she started a Religious Community—the Society of the Holy Child Jesus—focusing on educating the children of English Catholics and Irish immigrants.
By the time of her death in 1879, the Society had started in America. Her vision—transforming lives through education—lives on in schools like Cornelia Middle School (CMS) of the Holy Child on New York City’s Lower East Side.
Says Sonia Rivas, a graduate: “I made it through high school with the help of the CMS support program, and now I am a freshman at John Jay Criminal College in New York City.”
The good we do can have a ripple effect far past our own lifetimes, helping others achieve their own greatness.
Show yourself in all respects a model of good works, and in your teaching show integrity. (Titus 2:7)
Teach me Your ways, Lord.
February 6, 2013
In the media coverage of activist Chen Guangcheng’s fight to leave his native China for the United States, some focused on his blindness as a key element in that story, while others thought it peripheral.
“His blindness did not give him any particular bravery or insight,” wrote one author. “It is just a factor in a much larger life.” Conversely, a journalist saw his lack of sight as “the central fact” of his existence.
Blind from a young age, Guangcheng managed to study law. His work on behalf of human rights in his homeland—particularly for those persons with disabilities—had landed him in jail, and had him placed under house arrest where he was beaten. In 2012, he was allowed to move to the United States.
A focus on his blindness aside, it is clear that Guancheng sees clearly what should be important to each one of us: the inherent worth and dignity of every human being.
There is no longer Jew or Greek…there is no longer male or female; for all of you are one in Jesus Christ. (Galatians 3:28)
All around me, Father, I see the beauty of Your creation.
February 5, 2013
Wake Up Call—Take Two
You open your eyes to begin the day—and it’s suddenly a disaster. Maybe your children are throwing a collective “I don’t want to get up!” tantrum. Or perhaps the morning news program pronounces packed roadways or troubles on commuter trains.
Press “rewind” on the day’s start with these three steps.
▪ Find the light. Stand in a sunny spot in your home for just a few minutes to absorb the brightness and warmth, natural mood elevators.
▪ Shake it off—literally. Walk quickly around the house, or up and down the stairs, helping your brain get the “feel better” message.
▪ Smile. While you may not feel like it, the act of smiling makes you and those around you feel better. Others will instinctively reflect back what they see.
Good or bad start, each day is an opportunity to make the world a better place for others and for yourself.
I can do all things through Him who strengthens me. (Philippians 4:13)
Sunrise to sunset, You are my strength, Father, giving meaning to my life.
A Suitcase for Dreams
As a flight attendant, Kary Doerfler of Seattle, Washington, made many journeys, logging miles across the globe. But one trip—to Accra, Ghana, in Africa—changed the direction of her life.
While there, she started volunteering at the Osu Children’s Home orphanage, bringing them supplies whenever she returned. Soon she realized she wanted to do more than just make a visit, give out toys and go home.
So Doerfler started a non-profit organization called Dreams for Orphans to provide a home and an education for orphans in developing countries. Fellow flight attendants joined her in the effort.
“After 20 years of flying, we have all found our calling and passion within the spirits of these children,” Doerfler says.
Life’s journey takes us to many places; at each stop, there’s an opportunity to connect with new hearts.
Beloved, let us love one another, because love is from God…and…God is love. (1 John 4:7,8)
Father, help me to show Your love to all in need.
Let the Lower Lights Be Burning
The Lower Lights, a gospel group that performs classic hymns with a folk/bluegrass flavor, took its name from one of the songs they recorded: Brightly Beams Our Father’s Mercy.
In a sermon, 19th-century preacher Dwight L. Moody told the story of a Lake Erie ship that crashed into the shore of a Cleveland harbor during a violent storm one night, killing many on board. Though the lighthouse shone brightly, its lower lights, which guide ships safely to shore, were not working. Moody concluded, “Brethren, the Master will take care of the great lighthouse; let us keep the lower lights burning.”
That imagery impressed Moody’s friend, composer Philip Paul Bliss, so he turned it into a hymn: “Brightly beams our Father's mercy from His lighthouse evermore. / But to us He gives the keeping of the lights along the shore. / Let the lower lights be burning! Send a gleam across the wave! / Some poor fainting, struggling sea-man you may rescue, you may save.”
The Lower Lights now hope their music will serve as a little piece of God’s light in the world.
I am the light of the world. (John 8:12)
Help me reflect Your light, Father.
February 2, 2013
Gifted Teacher Inspires Many
When Jacksonville Beach, Florida teacher Mike Tetlow died unexpectedly, First Coast News writer Erin Hawley shared his story along with the tributes sent in to honor him.
On his honeymoon 18 years ago, a car accident left Tetlow paralyzed. Using a power-driven wheelchair, he returned to teaching at St. Paul’s Catholic School where students and faculty admired him for being passionate, demanding, and encouraging, while never dwelling on his disability. His assistant principal, Krissy Thompson, added that he showed youngsters they could do just about anything if they put enough thought and effort into it.
One of his students, Katie, further asserted that Tetlow was “an example of strength and humility…He depended on a few student volunteers to help him during lunch every day—setting out his pills and meal for him. He had a way about him that put me, and other students who did this for him, at ease.”
Another one of his pupils, Brooke, concluded, “He was a teacher, father, husband, Christ-believer, comedian, and a fighter.” May we all be motivated by Mike Tetlow’s example.
Therefore be imitators of God. (Ephesians 5:1)
Move us, Holy Spirit, to inspire others by example.
February 1, 2013
Transforming Hate Into Love
While visiting his sons’ video production office in Chicago, Christopher Award-winning Today Show producer Mike Leonard met 63-year-old postal worker James Hundley. Leonard’s reaction: “Never have I met a more friendly, polite, upbeat person.” Those personality traits were surprising in light of Hundley’s background facing down hatred and violence.
In the mid 1960’s, Hundley joined his fellow African-Americans in peacefully marching for civil rights in his native Mississippi. He was cursed at, spit upon, had rocks thrown at him, was threatened with guns, and arrested. Hundley told Leonard, “I was angry but…I’ve gotten past that.”
Leonard notes that Hundley absorbed the hate, then “transformed it into a genuine display of good will toward others.” How did he manage that transformation?
Hundley explains, “My mother and father always taught us good values—that no matter what, you should love others. Love is the strongest force in the universe.”
The fruit of the Spirit is love, joy, peace, patience. (Galatians 5:22)
Move me beyond past hurts toward love, Jesus.
January 31, 2013
Six journals filled with hand-written praise and thanks from everyday Americans are among Sgt. Timothy Gallagher's most prized possessions. Deployed in Afghanistan, Gallagher is one of the soldiers “adopted” by Delta flight attendant Robin Schmidt, who regularly passes journals around domestic flights for passengers to write notes to members of the U.S. military.
Messages are wide-ranging, including jokes, thank-you letters, condolences, and surprising confessions. Afghan and Iraqi passengers have sent thanks for helping their countrymen.
“I thought it was amazing,” says Army Specialist Jonathan Pacheco, who Schmidt also adopted. “I didn’t think there were that many people that supported the cause.” Soldiers say they keep every journal, though they often share them with others.
The journals have turned into a passion inspiring Schmidt, the soldiers, and those writing them.
All the brethren send greetings. Greet one another with a holy kiss. (1 Corinthians 16:20)
Lord, thank You for the gift of community—and for the gift of our selfless servicemen and women.
January 30, 2013
From Toledo to Tanzania
Meeting someone on a plane can be memorable, but rarely does it lead to selling one’s home, moving to Tanzania, helping start a Catholic university, and converting to Catholicism. Yet that’s what happened when Toledo, Ohio’s Don Stiles met Tanzanian Archbishop Paul R. Ruzoka on a flight in 2009.
Stiles and his wife, Gisela, became friendly with the archbishop, and grew to support his mission to build a university in Tabora, Tanzania, so much that they moved there. Though not Catholic themselves, they were so lovingly welcomed by the community they began looking into converting. Several bouts of malaria forced the Stiles to return to Toledo, where they now run a nonprofit that raises money for projects in Tanzania.
One goal is building a sanctuary and providing educations for albino children. Albinos in Tanzania are regularly kidnapped, mutilated and killed for superstitious reasons. “These children need to be protected,” says Mrs. Stiles.
Life is full of unexpected surprises when you put yourself in God’s hands.
The Lord…will keep your life. (Psalm 121:7)
Lord, protect Your most innocent.
January 29, 2013
Powering Up the Will
Our daily lives are full of temptations that tax our self-control and drain our willpower—forcing us, at times, to lash out or give in to bad choices.
According to Roy Baumeister, Ph.D., director of social psychology at Florida State University, willpower functions like a muscle. It can be fatigued by overuse, but strengthened by some healthy habits to make you more productive, less stressed and happier. Here are two tips from Baumeister.
▪ Play offense. People with strong self-control spend less time resisting and more time planning ahead—setting themselves up for success.
▪ Use the calm before it storms. You can’t control or predict life’s surprise stresses but let the peaceful moments prepare you for difficult situations. Don’t add to stressful times with more stress; use your willpower wisely.
In any moment, our will to do good can be strengthened with a prayerful appeal to God.
If any of you lacks wisdom, ask God, who gives to all generously. (James 1:5)
I place my trust in You, Lord; You are my hope.
January 28, 2013
Beauty and Brains
Well-known for her beauty, actress Hedy Lamarr had another side. Growing up Jewish in Austria, Lamarr was fascinated by science. Later on in Hollywood, since she wasn’t they type to party, she looked for something to occupy her time. She discovered that she had a talent for inventing.
Obsessed with helping the war effort—especially after Nazi submarines sank a cruise ship of British schoolchildren in 1940—Lamarr invented a radio guidance system that could help the U.S. military. Though it was too difficult to implement, it would become the precursor to many wireless technologies we use today, including Bluetooth, GPS and cell phone networks. It wasn’t until the 1990s, when Lamarr was in her early 80s, that her pioneering efforts were recognized and honored.
Every life is multiple-faceted, with interests and gifts able to make life better for all.
Let your light shine before others, so that they may see your good works and give glory to your Father. (Matthew 5:14)
You have planted Your spark of life within me, Lord. May I honor this great gift.
January 27, 2013
No Age Restrictions on Service
The Hahn brothers have long found meaning in life by serving others. Both 85-year-old Lawrence and 95-year-old Father Bernardine were inspired as boys by the example of the Franciscan brothers at Immaculate Conception parish in Omaha, Nebraska.
Lawrence has worked for the St. Vincent de Paul Society’s food pantry and currently visits hospitalized and homebound parishioners from his current parish, Holy Ghost. “Caring for others gives me a complete spiritual feeling,” he told The Catholic Voice.
The same holds true for his brother, Father Bernardine, who has been a Franciscan for the past 75 years. “I enjoy being a priest,” Father Bernadine testifies. “That’s what keeps me going….I’m not going to retire until I have to. From reading, I know that people who retire don’t often live long. They need activities to keep them going. What I do is what energizes me.”
Remember, Jesus never put any age restrictions on serving others. Help those in need for as long as you can.
So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim Your might. (Psalm 72:18)
May we always look for the true meaning of life, Jesus.
January 26, 2013
Being a Peacemaker
Maryknoll Father James Keller, the founder of The Christophers, encouraged everyone he met to be a Christopher—a Christ-bearer—in the truest sense of the word. One of his suggestions for doing that involved being a peacemaker.
Father Keller once wrote, “You can do more than you think to bring to all men that precious peace for which the human heart yearns. Almighty God has placed in your hand a share of His peace. He expects you to keep a bit of it for yourself. But the rest of it is intended for everybody. And according to His divine plan, He sends that peace to others through you and millions of others like you. But no angel will come down from heaven and point the way for you. God leaves it up to you to discover for yourself how and where you will deliver or transmit that peace the world needs so much today.”
Father Keller concludes, “Here then is the sublime commission that has been given to each of us: to take Christ’s peace into our hearts and our homes, so that it will radiate from there to every part of the world.”
A harvest of righteousness is sown in peace for those who make peace. (James 3:18)
Make me a peacemaker, Prince of Peace.
January 25, 2013
A Good and Perfect Gift
After her daughter, Penny, was born with Down syndrome, Amy Julia Becker admits to feeling grief and fear intermingled with the natural joy of having a new baby. As someone who'd always been devoted to her Christian faith, she engaged in some emotional and spiritual wrestling about how Down syndrome fit into God's plan.
A friend told Becker that when she first heard the baby’s diagnosis, she was reminded of the Bible verse, “Whoever receives this child, receives me.” Those words gave Becker a new perspective that would develop even further over time.
In her Christopher Award-winning memoir A Good and Perfect Gift, Becker notes that she eventually came to see Penny not as a diagnosis, but simply as her daughter. She and her husband, Peter, came to a new understanding of parental love, God's grace, and finding strength in weakness.
Sometimes the situations we initially perceive as burdens can actually be blessings in disguise.
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Matthew 18:5)
Open my heart to children with challenges, Messiah.
January 24, 2013
When we are created, we are given special talents, though we don’t yet know it. We’re endowed with the ability to love, and this love will manifest itself in different ways throughout life. For Lorie Burcham of Nashville, Tennessee, her purpose was expressed through baking.
Burcham and her husband worked in youth ministry for 14 years, and were looking for more ways to help pay the bills and feed their family. Her love of baking started out as a way to earn extra money, but soon turned into a passion and a booming business. With extra effort and a special technique called “infusion,” which keeps wedding cakes moist and delicious through a marinating process, Burcham and her husband were invited onto the Food Network twice for cake-baking challenges.
Thanks to the increased publicity the TV exposure brought them, the couple is now running a café, alongside their cake studio, where they are able to sell their delicious desserts.
How can you use your God-given talents to make life a little sweeter?
In all toil there is profit, but mere talk leads only to poverty. (Proverbs 14:22-23)
Lord, I do not know how or when You will use my talents, but let all I do glorify You!
January 23, 2013
Sharing God's Love with a Bike Ride
A new bike is a dream come true for many children. However, for Francessca Robertson, a four-year-old quadriplegic with cerebral palsy, a bicycle seemed like an impossible dream. Connie and Gordon Hankins, however, make impossible dreams come true. They modify standard tricycles with special handlebars, pedals, and axles for children with special needs. All this is done for a fraction of the cost of other adapted tricycles, although the Hankins invest a lot of personal time on the project.
“The driving force is our faith because we want to pass God’s love on to those that need it,” Connie Hankins says. “You see these children and the joy it brings them. That is our blessing.”
Francessca is not likely to forget that blessing as she pedals her new red and white bike (with pink streamers and rhinestone bell) around her suburban Chicago neighborhood as fast as her older brothers, just like the other kids.
What can you do to help others using skills or materials you already have?
There was not a needy person among them; distribution was made to each as any had need. (Acts 4:34-35)
Open my eyes, Jesus, to how I could be helping others.
January 22, 2013
The Choice to Save Mothers and Babies
In 1981, Wall Street executive Kathy DiFiore realized she was feeling spiritually unfulfilled. She asked for God’s guidance while praying the prayer of St. Francis of Assisi. Inspired to learn more about the saint’s life, she discovered that he took Jesus’s words very seriously—feed the hungry, shelter the homeless. As DiFiore recalled on Christopher Closeup, “It motivated me to do something unique.”
With a heart for the unborn—and an awareness that many families would throw their daughter out of the house when they discovered she was pregnant—DiFiore decided to offer her New Jersey home as a shelter for a pregnant teenager.
In the ensuing years, that effort has grown to become the non-profit, Several Sources Shelters. They own and run five New Jersey facilities that have saved thousands of babies.
In addition, DiFiore founded a national pro-life website, LifeCall.org. It lists contact information for shelters and crisis pregnancy centers in every state in the U.S. and offers a toll-free number of its own: 1-800-NO-ABORT (662-2678).
Act with steadfast love. (Jeremiah 9:24)
Create in me, O Lord, a compassionate heart.
January 21, 2013
Let Freedom Ring
Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was the leading figure of the 1960s civil rights movement. His “I Have a Dream” speech, delivered in 1963 before 200,000 people at the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., remains a model of eloquence.
Dr. King began by stating his intention to “cash a check,” the promise that President Lincoln had given to black people 100 years earlier when he signed the Emancipation Proclamation. “We refuse to believe that there are insufficient funds in the great vaults of opportunity in this nation,” he said.
He urged listeners not to give in to “bitterness and hatred,” or to turn to violence. He said, “We must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force.” Then Dr. King reached the “I have a dream” section of the speech, channeling the voice of Isaiah as he proclaimed that “the crooked places will be made straight, and the glory of the Lord shall be revealed.”
“Let freedom ring,” he pleaded, until all people are “Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty, we are free at last!”
When justice is done, it is a joy to the righteous. (Proverbs 21:15)
Help me treat all people with dignity, Creator.
January 20, 2013
Few Words Spoken But Much Said
Christopher Klusman was born deaf so he understands the feelings of isolation and marginalization that a lack of hearing can bring. Now that he’s been ordained a Catholic priest, he hopes to be a bridge of inclusion to the deaf parishioners of St. Roman’s Church in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.
With an estimated three to five million deaf Catholics in the United States, Father Klusman knows he is serving a traditionally under-served community. After the 34-year-old finished celebrating Mass in American Sign Language, he was happily greeted by the congregation. “I feel like I’ve learned more about my faith from him than I have my whole life,” parishioner Karen Lausten told the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. “It’s so important to have a priest that understands our language, our culture.”
Father Klusman embodies a “joyful boyishness” irresistible to everyone he meets. In his ministry, he strives to show deaf people they are loved by God. “They are equal members of the body of Christ,” he says. “They have so many gifts.”
Remember, we are all equal in the body of Christ.
He made godliness prevail. (Sirach 49:3)
Lord, speak Your words in my heart.
January 19, 2013
The Greatest Empire
The 19th century French emperor Napoleon Bonaparte spent the final six years of his life in exile on the island of Saint Helena. He had much time for thought during these days, and some of his reflections proved highly interesting.
For instance, Napoleon wrote, “Alexander, Caesar, Charlemagne, and I founded great empires. But upon what did the creation of our genius depend? Upon force. Jesus alone founded His empire upon love, and to this very day millions would die for Him.”
Forcing no one, Christ taught in a new way, the only one throughout history whose whole school and whole plan was founded on love. The world had never before heard of this love. And even now, 20 centuries later, the legacy of that love continues. It may be threatened in many places, but the light of faith still burns in people’s hearts.
Often, Jesus seems to lose. In reality, He always wins—and always by love.
A new commandment I give unto you: that you love one another as I have loved you. (John 13:34)
Help me to love as You love, Jesus.
January 18, 2013
Teachers Change Lives
Teacher Tony Apuzzi first met Jasalle Ruiz when she was “a rowdy sixth grader” at Intermediate School 120 in the Bronx, reports the Daily News. When he left for another job, Ruiz’s grandmother told him, “You’ve changed my granddaughter’s life. Please remain a part of her life after you leave.”
Apuzzi kept in touch with Ruiz in the ensuing years and supported her in all her endeavors. After receiving her associate’s degree from Bronx Community College in 2010, she was accepted into the College of New Rochelle, but unable to afford the tuition. That’s when her former teacher changed her life once again.
Apuzzi sold part of his prized collection of baseball memorabilia for $3,000 so he could help pay Ruiz’s tuition. And when a friend of Apuzzi’s wrote to the Yankees about the situation, pitcher Mariano Rivera donated $6,000 from his own foundation towards Ruiz’s education. “Nobody has ever done what he [Apuzzi] has done for me,” said Ruiz, now 21 and hoping to be a doctor. “He’s always been there when I needed him.”
The teaching of the wise is a fountain of life. (Proverbs 13:14)
Lord, bless all adults who mentor and encourage youth.
January 17, 2013
Friends Extend Grace
Busy wife, mom and writer Elizabeth Duffy had to drop out of a months-in-the-making dinner with friends because she had accidentally scheduled a trip out of town for the same day. Duffy e-mailed the friend who had coordinated the get-together saying, “I hate myself.” Her friend told her not to hate herself explaining, “Friends extend grace to one another.”
That phrase resonated with Duffy. Writing on Patheos.com, she said, “I might have withdrawn from the group knowing that I’d goofed up long-held plans. Conversely, I might have been ejected from the group by less understanding friends. But any time the soul chooses to isolate rather than to embrace, it is the ego. And the ego is the enemy of human relationships. It allows us to build imaginary castles around ourselves.”
“We have an obligation to extend grace to one another, to people who are not expecting it—to extend it freely, with maturity…When our egos win, we all lose.”
A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin. (Proverbs 18:24)
May I extend to others the grace You give me, Jesus.
January 16, 2013
Loving Links in a Chain
A little girl hurt in a disastrous Indiana accident was ultimately rescued by the efforts of many guardian angels. All would become links in a loving chain of care and concern.
Maggie Mullin, 3, was in the audience at the State Fairgrounds to hear her favorite band, Sugarland, when the stage rigging collapsed due to a violent storm, trapping Maggie and others. The youngster was bleeding badly, but her mother who was next to her couldn’t move because of a broken leg.
That’s when numerous concertgoers turned into angels to save a little girl. Among them were a doctor, a machinist, a registered nurse, a nursing student, a state trooper, a sheriff, a firefighter and others. They rescued Maggie and transported her to a first-aid station, seeing to it that she was taken to a hospital emergency room.
All of these ordinary people went to extraordinary lengths and personal risk to help a stranger in need. Hopefully, each of us will find the courage to help others during their times of need.
Let each of you…look to…the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Gracious Father, thank You for Your healing power
January 15, 2013
Saving New York from Nazis
John Cullen of the U.S. Coast Guard was a World War Two hero you may never have heard of.
A Daily News obituary reported that Cullen, who died at age 90 in 2011, was a “baby-faced 21-year-old” sentry on a Long Island, New York, beach when he came upon several Nazi saboteurs posing as clammers with boat trouble.
The New York native didn’t trust these so-called fishermen. Actually, they had been dropped off by a German submarine in the waters near Long Island as part of a war plan known as Operation Pastorius.
The Nazis threatened Cullen, and also offered him a $300 bribe to stay quiet about his suspicions. Although he pretended to acquiesce, he left and informed his superiors. Due to the young sentry’s quick thinking, Operation Pastorius failed.
Today’s active duty service members, veterans, and their families continue their acts of quiet heroism evident throughout American history.
Be strong and let your heart take courage, all you who wait for the Lord. (Psalm 31:24)
Prince of Peace, guide our military during times of war.
January 14, 2013
Taught to be Generous
When Janice Sparhawk, 72, fell behind on the mortgage payments of her Wisconsin home, her 12-year-old grandson, Noah Lamaide, raised $10,500 in one month to save it from foreclosure. He accomplished that goal through his website, Noah’s Dream Catcher Network, by telling potential donors of all the wonderful things his grandmother had done for others. He had started the website at age nine when his mother challenged him to complete one community service project a year.
Noah’s passion for helping others started with his grandma, who was a foster parent to hundreds of children in Wisconsin. When he turned eight, Noah invited all of his friends to his birthday party. In lieu of gifts, he asked his guests to bring a donation for the local food pantry.
Noah says, “I want to help others and make a difference in the world by asking people to reach out and help each other.”
The world needs more people with such generous hearts and inspirational initiative.
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
Lord, grant me the desire to serve Your people.
January 13, 2013
“Lord, Make a Way Here”
Bankruptcy and divorce were just two of the problems with which a member of Father Peter Daly’s parish—St. John Vianney in Prince Frederick, Maryland—had to deal.
After being forced to retire from his job, this man took a minimum wage job at a local motel. The meager salary wouldn’t allow him to pay for the oil that heats the water in his home during the winter. When this man went to see Father Daly, they prayed together, “Lord, make a way here.”
Soon after, the 20-year-old oil burner in the church’s parish center stopped working, and they opted to replace it with a natural gas furnace. The burner still had 1,000 gallons of unused oil remaining, so Father Daly knew exactly what to do with it.
In the column he writes for Catholic News Service, Father Daly says, “Our maintenance man siphoned the oil into a tank mounted on his pickup track and took it over to our struggling parishioner. He was so happy that he did a little ‘happy dance’ in his driveway. Now he’ll have hot water and heat in the cold weather. It was a gift from God by way of our parish.”
Trust in the Lord with all your heart. (Proverbs 3:5)
Lord, may we always be a source of good will for others.
January 12, 2013
A Nurse’s Calling
“I think we identify with people who can’t help themselves. I never realized that until Virginia died,” said Diana Costine, RN, an emergency room nurse at New York Presbyterian Hospital featured on ABC’s reality TV series NY Med.
The “Virginia” referred to is Virginia Dunn, a homeless woman Costine calls a “frequent flyer” because she’s been coming to the ER for 20 years with drug and alcohol problems. Dunn is the type of person most of us would do our best to avoid in the street. Yet Costine and her colleagues treat her with the highest level of dignity, respect, and compassion. They are concrete examples of God’s love in action.
When Dunn is brought into the ER after suffering a heart attack, the doctors and nurses try to save her but are unable to. Her death hits them emotionally because they knew her and liked her. For Costine, it also confirms she’s chosen the right career path—that of helping the most vulnerable.
Regardless of what vocation you’re called to, offer a heart and a hand to those in need of help.
Let love be genuine. (Romans 12:9)
Fill my heart with compassion for the helpless, Lord.
January 11, 2013
An Olympian’s Reality Check
Olympian Shawn Johnson’s first gymnastics coach at age five told her mother that the youngster had no talent. Thankfully her mother transferred her to a new coach, Liang Chow, whose training led Johnson to the 2008 Beijing Olympics where she won one gold and three silver medals.
Though Johnson was proud of all her medals, she reveals in her memoir, Winning Balance, that she was shocked to discover reporters referring to her as a loser when she won silver—as if being the second best gymnast in the world was something about which to be disappointed. She explained on Christopher Closeup that the experience led her to find pride within herself instead of from outside sources.
Johnson learned another lesson while watching her friend’s sister endure chemotherapy for cancer. She said, “Seeing her go through that while tending to four beautiful kids and not once complain [taught me that] family and faith and health means the most. I feel like we don’t put enough attention on that. It was a great reality check for me.”
Endurance produces character. (Romans 5:4)
Help me feel satisfied with my life and efforts, Lord.
January 10, 2013
A Prayer for Employment
In light of all the people struggling to find jobs so they can support themselves and their families, here is a prayer for employment from EWTN.com that you or someone you know might find helpful:
“God, our Father, I turn to You seeking Your divine help and guidance as I look for suitable employment.
“I need Your wisdom to guide my footsteps along the right path, and to lead me to find the proper things to say and do in this quest. I wish to use the gifts and talents You have given me, but I need the opportunity to do so with gainful employment.
“Do not abandon me, dear Father, in this search, but rather grant me this favor I seek so that I may return to You with praise and thanksgiving for Your gracious assistance.
“Grant this through Christ, our Lord. Amen.”
Forgetting what lies behind and straining forward to what lies ahead, I press on toward the goal. (Philippians 3:13-14)
Send your peace and guidance to those struggling with unemployment, Father.
January 8, 2013
Bob invited a large group of friends to dinner at his home, and asked his wife, Mary, to cook up a feast on very little notice. The night of the dinner arrived and everyone was having a wonderful time as they all sat down to eat.
At the table, Mary turned to their six-year-old daughter, Katie, and asked, “Would you like to say the blessing?”
“I wouldn’t know what to say,” Katie replied.
“Just say what you hear Mommy say,” Mary answered.
Katie bowed her head and said, “Good Lord, why on earth did Bob invite all these people to dinner?”
While that joke may be funny, it’s also got a little truth to it. We may forget the fact that people—either kids or adults—are listening to and absorbing the words we say. God, of course, always hears everything.
The lesson: choose your words wisely—and for goodness sake, give your spouse plenty of notice before inviting a crowd over for dinner!
The prudent are restrained in speech. (Proverbs 10:20)
Guide my words, Holy Spirit, that they may be pleasing to You.
January 9, 2013
Doing What You Thought You Couldn’t
“I have fears…big ones, little ones, medium ones…served up like different size fries you order at McDonald’s,” wrote singer/songwriter Brooke White on her blog.
The former American Idol contestant and current member of the band Jack and White revealed that one of her medium-sized fears has always been singing the national anthem at a sporting event. “Not because of a lack of patriotism,” she explained. “Indeed I’m proud to be an American. [But] I’ve always believed I lacked the capability to sing it in a way that is respectful to the tune in front of stadiums of people.”
In December 2011, to fulfill her husband’s dream of enjoying floor seats and meeting players at a Phoenix Suns basketball game, White finally agreed to sing the anthem before the game. After a full day of prayers and preparation, she sang the song perfectly, drawing cheers from the crowd.
White concluded, “I don’t like facing my fears…But there [is] something I dislike even more, and that is being controlled by fear because it usually means that I miss out on opportunities, that I don’t become what I’m supposed to become…There is nothing quite like doing the thing you thought you couldn’t do.”
Do not fear, for I am with you. (Isaiah 41:10)
Lord, let us face my fears together.
January 7, 2013
The Character That’s the Strongest
Prior to his death in 2001, actor Carroll O’Connor’s final role was in the film Return to Me, a comedy written and directed by actress Bonnie Hunt in 2000. One of O’Connor’s lines in the movie stemmed from something Hunt’s father used to say before he passed away: “It’s the character that’s the strongest that God gives the most challenges to.” O’Connor could relate, having been devastated by the loss of his son, Hugh, to suicide in 1995.
The release of Return to Me coincided with O’Connor receiving a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. Bonnie Hunt attended to pay tribute to her colleague. As recounted in Entertainment Weekly magazine, Hunt hugged O’Connor after the ceremony and asked, “Were you thinking of Hugh a little?”
O’Connor looked startled and said, “Thank you for saying his name. People never want to talk about Hugh, because they think I’ll become upset or depressed, but just the opposite is true. I love to think about him; I love it when people remember him.”
Thanks to Hunt’s insightfulness and compassion, O’Connor’s bittersweet day was made just a little sweeter.
Clothe yourselves with love. (Colossians 3:14)
Help me reach out in kindness to those who suffer, Lord.
January 6, 2013
A Gift of Grace
For 16 years, blogger Elizabeth Scalia, her husband and their two sons thought of their border collie, Alle, as another member of the family. That’s why it was so painful when Alle passed away in July 2012.
Scalia recalled how insightful and loving the dog was, noting that “[Alle was] the one who knew when any of us was sick, and came to lie with us. The one who watched at the window as we left, and ran to the door when we returned, because all she knew was love, love, love.”
After reflecting on Alle’s life, Scalia discerned a spiritual lesson that can benefit everyone: “That much love is a gift of grace…I can remember…what she taught me about God—the constancy of a love so unconditional; a love that watches as you leave, waits so faithfully and runs to meet you when you return; a love that comforts in illness, consoles in loneliness; a love that is present even as we are lost in our dreams.”
That’s a perfect reminder of God’s ever-present, ever-loving, ever-merciful presence in our lives—and of the way we’re all supposed to act toward each other.
A friend loves at all times. (Proverbs 17:17)
Nurture my ability to practice unconditional love, Jesus.
January 5, 2013
Writing in the New Year
The start of a new year may fill you with feelings of both anticipation and apprehension. According to freelance writer Christina Capecchi, however, there is a simple and intellectually stimulating way to combat this anxiety: writing.
Christopher Award-winning author David McCullough, whom Capecchi cites, claims that of all the lost art forms of our present world, the loss of daily writing is the most unfortunate.
“The loss of people writing,” McCullough decried to Time magazine last year, “is not just the loss for the record. It’s the loss of the process of working your thoughts out on paper…That [writing] was brain calisthenics.”
Capecchi echoes McCullough’s sentiments, adding that writing benefits spiritual growth as well: “We write to make sense of our lives and our world, to examine who we have been and who we hope to become.”
Take Capecchi’s advice and start this New Year’s off right—by writing, even just a little bit, each day.
Let the word of Christ dwell in you. (Colossians 3:16)
Lord, may the words I write and speak help me grow in my love for You and my neighbor.
January 4, 2013
A Spiritual Detective
When the late Johnny Cash's wife, June Carter Cash, died in 2003, many of the couple's family and friends spoke at her funeral service. One of the most poignant eulogies was the one delivered by Rosanne Cash, Johnny's daughter from his first marriage.
Rosanne had this to say about the kind of person June was: “In her eyes there were two kinds of people in the world: those she knew and loved—and those she didn't know and loved...She looked for the best in everyone. It was a way of life for her. If you pointed out that a particular person was perhaps not totally deserving of her love and in fact might be somewhat of a loser, she would say, ‘Well, honey, we just have to lift him up.’ She was forever lifting people up. It took a long time for me to understand that what she did when she lifted you up was to mirror the very best part of you back to yourself. She was like a spiritual detective: she saw into all your dark corners and deep recesses, saw your potential and your possible future and the gifts you didn't even know you possessed, and she lifted them up for you to see.”
Be the kind of person who lifts others up.
Pursue peace with everyone. (Hebrews 12:14)
Help me bring out the best in others, Jesus.
The Kindness That Changed Two Lives
In 2008, New York Police Officer Susan Porcello and her partner responded to a 911 ambulance call that took them to a one-bedroom apartment at a Brooklyn address. There they found Gaspar Musso, an elderly diabetic who lived alone. He told them that he needed help, and that he had no family or friends. Officer Porcello felt she had to say something, and it was a simple statement. “Well,” she told Musso, “I’m your friend.”
As reported by Denis Hamill in the Daily News, those words changed both their lives. Officer Porcello got Mr. Musso to Lutheran Medical Center and made sure he received prompt and caring attention. She also discovered that he was a Marine veteran who had seen combat in the South Pacific in 1944.
Porcello got Musso admitted to a first-class nursing home in Brooklyn. There she visited him several times a week, reading to him and otherwise seeing to his needs until he passed away shortly before Thanksgiving.
Thanks to Officer Porcello’s kind heart, a lonely veteran spent his final days feeling appreciated and loved.
Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. (John 13:34)
Jesus, help me be a friend to the lonely.
January 1, 2013
The Road Not Taken
In 2008, high school basketball phenomenon Elena Delle Donne started attending the University of Connecticut, a decision that would likely have launched her sports career into the stratosphere because of the school’s reputation. Two days later, she moved back to her home state to attend the University of Delaware which was 20 minutes from her family’s home.
Her step back from quick personal success surprised many. But Delle Donne wasn’t concerned with ‘personal’ success. It was her sister, Lizzie, who was born deaf, blind and with cerebral palsy, that she cared about most.
Delle Donne told ABC News, “She knows me by my smell and my feel. Physical contact is the only thing she knows. So when I did leave, I lost Lizzie.”
Separation from the sister she loved was too much to bear, so Delle Donne is now playing basketball for the University of Delaware. Her career path may be slowed somewhat, but the blessing of being near her biggest fan makes it worth the wait.
Where your treasure is, there your heart will be also. (Matthew 6:21)
Remind me that love is the key to seeing You, Lord.
Angel for an Evening
Philip Stover and Father Charles Ehrenbach were strangers stranded at the Philadelphia Airport because of a blizzard-related delay in their flight to Albany, New York.
Stover noticed that the elderly priest looked confused. He asked if he needed help, discovered they were on the same flight, and the two men began a friendly conversation.
Once the plane took off and they arrived in Albany, Father Fehrenbach was stranded because his ride never showed up. Stover drove him to the hotel where the priest was scheduled to lead a retreat. After dropping him off, the shy Stover departed without saying good-bye.
A year later, Stover received a letter from Father Ehrenbach who said he believed his helper was an actual angel until he found his business card. Writing in Catholic Digest, Stover says the experience taught him that “we each have all it takes within us to become [God’s] angel for an evening.”
Reach out to someone in fellowship and you might find that you too can be “an angel for an evening.”
Show hospitality. (Hebrews 13:2)
Lord, may we always give thanks for earthly angels
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