THREE MINUTES A DAY
A perennial favorite, our annual book offers inspirational stories and reflections for each day of the year. View a selection of current reflections here on the site, order the current volume in our shop or to subscribe to receive Three Minutes reflections free-of-charge daily...
A Cry of Hope
Expectant parents Mindy and Christopher Koehler received devastating news during their baby Arabella’s ultrasound: she had a rare birth defect called congenital diaphragmatic hernia, or CDH, which hinders normal lung growth. Half of the children with CDH nationally don’t live past six months.
Doctors advised the couple to terminate the pregnancy. “I felt so lost and confused,” Mindy recalled to ABC Action News.
Heartbroken, the Koehlers were referred to Johns Hopkins All Children’s Hospital in St. Petersburg, Florida, where they met Dr. David Kays, who gave them hope. He told them that there was enough lung for their daughter to survive and an 85 percent survival rate. Dr. Kays performed repair surgery after Arabella was born, and today she continues to thrive.
This hospital is sparking a surge of patients around the world with its survival rate of CDH at 95 percent, believed to be the highest in the world. And now, whenever the Koehlers listen to the sound of Arabella crying, they feel joy that she has the lung capacity to do so.
Protect me, O God, for in You I take refuge. (Psalm 16:1)
Lord, please protect and give strength to the healers.
A Close Shave and a Fresh Start
In July 2018, Phil wanted to apply for a job at McDonald’s and was told he could get an interview if he groomed himself and shaved his beard. Phil was determined, but there was one problem. He was homeless, living on the streets of Tallahassee, Florida, and lacked a proper razor.
While attempting to shave in a gas station parking lot, Phil was approached by police officer Tony Carlson. Carlson noticed Phil was using a defective razor, so he decided to help him. He tightened the razor’s screw and proceeded to shave Phil’s beard himself.
“I like to think of us more as peace officers first, law enforcement officers second,” Carlson told the Today Show. “[Phil] was excited that there was a chance he was going to get the chance to get a job if he just did this single thing.”
Phil’s interview with McDonald’s went great, and they hired him shortly thereafter. His life is being changed for the better, thanks to a police officer’s random act of kindness.
During a severe ordeal of affliction, their abundant joy and their extreme poverty have overflowed in a wealth of generosity on their part. (2 Corinthians 8:2)
Loving Father, lead me to someone in need of assis
Amen to the Rescue
Heather Brown and Tyler Smith headed to the beach for a day of fun with their friends. The high school seniors at Christ Church Academy in Jacksonville, Florida, jumped into the water and started swimming, hoping to reach a nearby island. But as ABC News reported, the pair “were quickly caught up in a current that continued to pull them out deeper into the ocean.”
Panic set in, and Smith started experiencing cramping. “While I was laying on my back, the best I could, floating, I just called out, ‘God, please don’t let this be the end. I still want to see my family...Send someone to save us,’” Smith said.
After an hour and a half, Brown and Smith finally saw a boat coming toward them. Its name? “Amen.” Captain Eric Wagner picked up the teens, saving their lives. He said, “We were the only boat there, too. It was a day that only the fishing boats were going out, and they go straight out to the Gulf Stream. They don’t go up and down the coast, so I don’t think any boats would have found them. I don’t want to call it dumb luck, it wasn’t. It was the hand of God.”
He reached down from on high...He drew me out of mighty waters. (Psalm 18:16)
Send help to those in distress, Holy Spirit.
“On Sundays, He Serves the Lord”
Eighteen years ago, the Today Show’s Al Roker and his wife, Deborah Roberts, noticed that their baby son, Nick, wasn’t developing the way he was supposed to. At age three, Roker writes in Guideposts, “he hardly talked and could barely walk.”
Doctors diagnosed Nick as being on the autism spectrum. But the young man didn’t let that limit his life. Al says, “[Nick] started working with speech, behavioral and occupational therapists, developing strength, conversational skills and mobility. We enrolled him in a program at a school to suit his needs, watched him make friends, signed him up for Tae Kwon Do — at his insistence — and took him to Sunday school.”
Today, Nick is a black belt in Tae Kwon Do and an acolyte at St. James Episcopal Church. Roker says, “Ever since he’s become an acolyte, Nick has the clearest focus, Sunday after Sunday...lighting the candles, carrying a torch, holding up the Bible for the lesson to be read and marching down the center aisle with the cross, concentrating on that altar. On Sundays, he serves the Lord.”
God chose what is weak in the world to shame the strong. (1 Corinthians 1:27)
Lead special needs children to fulfill their potential, Lord.
How Al Smith Faced Prejudice, Part Three
Al Smith and Franklin Roosevelt didn’t like each other initially, but polio humbled Roosevelt. He came to appreciate all the traits that made Smith a beloved and successful politician, so the two became friends. And without Roosevelt’s support, Smith might not have been able to convince the Democratic Party’s Protestants to make him their candidate in 1928.
The anti-Catholic prejudice was so bad among some Democrats that Alabama Senator Tom Heflin and his supporters in the KKK suggested that Catholics in the United States should be deported because they can never be good citizens due to their allegiance to Rome. Thankfully, the Klan lost that argument.
Terry Golway hopes that people who read his biography Frank and Al are left with this message: “I hope they’re reminded what a great man Al Smith was. He suffered through the most bigoted campaign in American history in 1928. He was deplored around the country because of his Catholic beliefs. I think that many Catholics may have forgotten that part of history...I hope this reminds them of what it was like to be a Catholic in the United States 100 years ago. It wasn’t easy.”
God shows no partiality. (Acts 10:34)
Help me see Your presence in everyone, Father.
How Al Smith Faced Prejudice, Part Two
Despite making inroads into the halls of power in New York, Catholics like Al Smith weren’t always embraced on a national level. During a Christopher Closeup interview about his biography Frank and Al, Terry Golway explained, “The overt discrimination against Catholics, particularly the Irish, dates back to the 1840s when the first wave of Irish Catholic immigrants came over to the United States during the potato famine.
“By 1873, which is when Smith was born, there’s still a lot of contempt for Catholics based on religion, but also based on the fact that many of them were poor and didn’t speak English, like the Italians...And there was a great sense that Catholics were threatening the Protestant identity of the United States.”
The main person who helped Smith overcome that bias was Franklin Delano Roosevelt, who Smith dubbed “Frank.” Their alliance was unusual, however, because of their differences. Smith grew up in New York’s working class; Roosevelt came from money and prestige. And when FDR was first elected to the New York Assembly in 1911, he was seen as a snob. So how did they come together? More of the story tomorrow...
Do not judge by appearances. (John 7:24)
Creator, help us overcome our prejudices.
How Al Smith Faced Prejudice, Part One
Al Smith may be best known today for the annual Catholic Charities fundraising dinner named in his honor, but in the early 1900s, he made history by becoming the first Catholic on the ballot for the U.S. presidency.
Smith grew up on Manhattan’s Lower East Side, which included Irish, Italian, Jewish, and Chinese immigrants. His family was working class, though many around him were poor. When Al’s father died, his mother had to take a job to support the family, and Al himself dropped out of his Catholic grammar school to find work.
Through political connections he made with the Irish Catholics who ran Manhattan’s Democratic Party, he was elected to the State Assembly in 1903 and became a self-educated politician who got things done on issues that affected working men, women, and children, like the ones he grew up with.
Later, Smith became one of New York’s greatest governors. But when his attention turned to running for national office, he had to deal with the anti-Catholic prejudices still held by many at that time. More of the story tomorrow...
When the righteous are in authority, the people rejoice. (Proverbs 29:2)
Help us choose good and honest public servants, Lord.
A Question Can Change a Life
Rusty Schimmel was a high school senior in Evansville, Indiana, working his summer job as a lifeguard at an Easter Seals swimming pool. Then, a single question changed his life.
Like many teenagers, Rusty was trying to figure out what he wanted to do with his life. He was a mediocre student who never really applied himself in school. He did, however, enjoy his job working with disabled kids and giving them swimming lessons. One day, a therapist told him that he had a great way with the kids, and asked if he’d ever consider being a therapist.
The question threw Rusty for a loop. His first thought was that he never saw himself doing anything so life-changing. But the fact that somebody else believed he could do it made Rusty believe it for himself for the first time. He soon buckled down at school and got his grades up, went into a competitive college program, and became a therapist.
Now, over 20 years later, Rusty has built an impressive career helping others and is still working for Easter Seals, currently as the vice president for adaptive technologies.
So if anyone is in Christ, there is a new creation! (2 Corinthians 5:17)
May my words encourage others and extend Your grace, Lord.
A Dancer’s Praise
If we’re making the most of the talents God gave us, we are praising Him in our own unique way. That truth was highlighted in a Humans of New York Internet post about Silas Farley, a member of the New York City Ballet.
He said, “I was first exposed to ballet at the age of seven when a traveling company came to my church in North Carolina. By the time I was eleven I was practicing six days a week. It became my all-consuming monastic devotion.
“I eventually made it to the New York City Ballet. I’ve always seen ballet as my way of serving God. I think it’s what God has called me to do. You can call it frivolous, or superficial. But you can stretch that argument to infinity. Why do we have painting? Why do we have architecture? I think it’s all a form of worship. In a secular age, the theater becomes the cathedral.
“There can be such a lack of empathy and collaboration in this world. But in the theater, we see beauty and order and harmony modeled for us – two hours at a time. And it took a lot of sacrifice to make that possible.”
We have gifts that differ according to the grace given to us. (Romans 12:6)
May I praise You through my words and actions, Father.
A Grand Opening a Day Late
The grand opening of Billy’s Donut Shop turned out to be not so grand. The Missouri City, Texas store’s first day in business didn’t draw any customers.
The owner’s son, Billy By Jr., tweeted out a picture of his father looking disappointed inside his empty shop, writing, “My dad is sad cause no one is coming to his new donut shop.” He hoped people would see the tweet and come down to support this new mom-and-pop business. And that’s exactly what happened.
Billy’s tweet got shared 300,000 times, leading customers to come to the donut shop in droves. The next day, Billy tweeted, “Just wanted to update y’all! We completely sold out of donuts and kolaches! You are all amazing. I can’t thank everyone enough for coming out and supporting local businesses. This means so much to my family.”
Billy also tweeted out a new picture in contrast with the old one. This one showed father and son, side by side, smiling and feeling happy that their new venture would be a success after all.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice; he who begets a wise son will be glad in him. (Proverbs 23:24)
Strengthen relationships between fathers and their children, Holy Trinity.
From Prison Cell to Broadway Stage
For actor Charles Dutton, one decision made all the difference in his troubled life. Dutton grew up on the streets, was in and out of reform schools, and landed in prison after fatally stabbing a man in a fight. Even there, his temper continued to get him into trouble.
While he was in solitary confinement, he read an anthology of plays and became interested in drama. He decided his life was going to change. While he was still in prison, he got his high school equivalency and two-year college diplomas.
After his release, Dutton studied at Yale Drama School and went on to become a successful actor. He won a Tony award for his role in a Broadway hit and became the star of a TV sitcom.
Dutton’s story demonstrates that in many ways, large and small, our decisions can change our lives — and we can change ourselves. If there’s an aspect of your life that needs transformation, exercise your free will to change it for the better.
As servants of God, live as free people, yet do not use your freedom as a pretext for evil. (1 Peter 2:16)
Free us, Jesus, from whatever enslaves our hearts, minds, souls, or bodies.
Employing People with Autism
Stella Spanakos feared for her son Nicholas’s future. Nicholas was living with autism and Stella worried there weren’t many opportunities for him as he was heading into adulthood. This fear led to action, and Stella founded the Nicholas Center.
The Nicholas Center offers services to teach social and vocational skills to people living with autism, and provides them with employment and essential job training skills through three businesses that Spanakos cofounded. She told Forbes her “son and his classmates inspired our team to create opportunities that wouldn’t have normally existed.” Her business model has helped pave the way for other industries to employ people with autism.
Stella Spanakos is a beacon of light to families struggling with autism, and her purpose is to ensure that her son, and those like him, have a future and are taken care of. She’s a mother who’s “greatest mission in life is making sure my son is safe and can live a life that is fruitful and productive.”
Keep forever such purposes…and direct their hearts toward You. (1 Chronicles 29:18)
Jesus, help me find my mission in life and go after it with all my heart.
A Garden of Love
When Toshiyuki Kuroki’s wife, Yasuko, went blind after complications with diabetes, he transformed their Japanese dairy farm into a garden to help remind her of the joys of living.
Yasuko lost her sight 25 years ago. Goodnewsnetwork.org reported that “she began to withdraw from life, no longer talking to people and locking herself away inside their house.” One day Toshiyuki noticed a shibazakura – a bright, fuchsia colored flower – and although his wife couldn’t see it, the strong fragrance ignited an idea that blossomed in his mind.
Toshiyuki planted flowers near and around their house until their entire farm was transformed into a giant flower garden. It was so beautiful that it even caught the attention of tourists who came to see the pink-blanketed grounds. And the fragrance led Yasuko to venture outside, walk through the gardens, interact with visitors, and find the beauty in living again.
Today, the flowers are still blooming and the couple is able to enjoy life together in their “garden built by love.”
And the Lord God planted a garden in Eden. (Genesis 2:8)
Creator, even in darkness please show me the light.
An Unexpected Airport Encounter
Singer-songwriter Sarah Hart felt frustrated that her flight would be delayed by two hours. She sat at the airport, grumbling to herself, until an elderly woman approached her saying, “Honey, I know you don’t know me from Adam, but I’m 88 and can you please take me to the bathroom? I have macular degeneration and I can’t see where I’m going.”
Hart happily obliged, and learned the stranger’s name was Donna. Afterwards, the two women began chatting. Hart wrote on her Facebook page, “[Donna] was on her way to visit her daughter, a theater actress in New York City who is dying of ovarian cancer. Hospice had called and asked her to come right away. After that, I was not about to leave this sweet woman alone. I spent the last two hours with her...So many tears, but a little laughter sprinkled in, too.”
Hart helped Donna board her plane, gave her a big hug, and promised she’d write. Hart concluded, “I was so truly reminded...no matter how bad you have it, someone else has it so much worse. And angels are everywhere, to keep you centered in reality and in what truly matters.”
Comfort My people, says your God. (Isaiah 40:1)
May I be a comfort to the lonely, Messiah.
A Deacon (and Cows) Come to the Rescue
During a recent interview on Christopher Closeup, Deacon Don Grossnickle recalled becoming good friends with a Ugandan seminarian who was studying at his Chicago parish, St. Mary of the Lake. When that seminarian was ready to be ordained back in Uganda, he invited Deacon Don to concelebrate his first Mass.
The trip was eye-opening for the deacon, who visited orphanages, water projects, and St. Luke Clinic, run by a nurse named Teophista. There, he saw six mothers and babies slowly dying from malaria fever, hooked up to IV.
Malaria is preventable and treatable, but the people of Uganda had no money to afford those resources in many cases.
Deacon Don came home and said, “God, help me do something to help those people who are too poor to afford medicine.”
Deacon Don started a microfinancing program, which allows people in the U.S. to donate money to Ugandan families to get a cow, sell its milk for profit, then donate ten percent of the profits to the clinic for buying medicine. The program has been successful. Says Deacon Don, “Through the Lord’s gifts here, we’re expanding.”
He does not let their cattle decrease. (Psalm 107:38)
Creator, allow me to help the poor today.
Team Work: Their Lives Depend on It
What’s it like to do your job perched nearly 300 feet in the air? The men who painted New York’s original Tappan Zee Bridge in the mid-20th century answered that question for a newsman.
“You have to be crazy,” said one. “I’ve been crazy about this job for five years. House painting is dull. This is more challenging and I love it.” A 62-year-old crew member, on the job for 45 years, added, “It keeps me young. It seems like 45 days.”
The supervisor explained, “We practice the idea that each man is his brother’s keeper. We must have teamwork or we’re in trouble.”
On the ground, this adage is no less true. In a world beset by divisions, one of our primary tasks is to work together as a “human team.” Whether you are a bridge painter, a student, or anything else, there is a positive contribution that only you can make. God’s help is assured. Our cooperation is needed.
To this day I have had help from God, and so I stand here, testifying to both small and great. (Acts 26:22)
Father, make us energetic in putting into practice Your command to love our neighbor as ourselves.
Denzel Washington’s Inspiration
Actor Denzel Washington was raised in a hard-working family in New York. He didn’t have a lot of material things, but he did have excellent mentors, one of whom was Billy Thomas from the local Boys Club.
Billy would hang up college pennants of the schools where Boys Club’s graduates went on to study. Dozens of pennants, from schools all over the country, made a young Denzel feel like anything was possible. Though he stayed close to home, going to Fordham University in the Bronx, he continued to have good mentors. As an adult, Denzel reflected on his life and saw just how much their influence mattered.
In his autobiography he wrote, “I had tremendous help along the way. That was a huge blessing from God. Behind every great success there’s someone and often more than one person. A parent, teacher, coach, role model. It starts somewhere. As the Bible says, ‘Train up a child in the way he should go, and when he is old he will not depart from it.’ There’s no reason it can’t start with you.”
Whoever becomes humble like this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven. (Matthew 18:4)
Jesus, I am humble and grateful for those who have led me.
A Father’s Quiet Sacrifices
On the day that former NBC News correspondent and Christopher Award-winning author Bob Dotson graduated college many years ago, he discovered that his father, Bill, had never made it past the fifth grade. The reason, his dad explained, was that his own father abandoned the family, leaving his mother to raise three kids by herself. Money was so tight that his mother turned Bill over to a farmer to work as an indentured servant.
He was eventually rescued by his aunt, and started working as a janitor at age 11. When Bill got a job in an optical store, his boss encouraged him to go to night school to make up for his missed education. And so he did — for 23 years.
As Bob recalled on his Facebook page, “By the time I turned two, my father had earned an honorary Master’s Degree in Ophthalmics for his study of the eye…He opened Dotson Optical Company. His partner stole most of the profit that first year and disappeared…Undaunted, dad saved and struggled until he could open a new business that eventually bankrolled the first Dotson to graduate from college — me.”
Let each of you look not to your own interests, but to the interests of others. (Philippians 2:4)
Bless fathers who make sacrifices for their families, Lord.
Adoption Changes Lives
With all but one of their children grown and out of the house, Lisa and Gary Fulbright decided to welcome two new children into their family through adoption.
Then, in 2017, they became foster parents to three more children: Jaxon, Journey, and Jace, brothers from a family of seven children, all in the custody of the state.
The Fulbrights would invite the boys’ siblings – Emerson, Autumn, Piper, and Sawyer – over to visit on holidays. Then one day, St. Francis Ministries, an organization that provides care for children in state custody, asked the Fulbrights if they would be willing to adopt all of the siblings in order to keep them together. The Fulbright’s immediate response was, “Yes.”
The children were ecstatic and the Fulbrights got everyone matching football jerseys to wear on the day of the adoption. Lisa told Good Morning America, “They had been through so much, they didn’t need to lose each other...It’s kind of chaos, but it’s a fun type of chaos because we just love them.”
Blessed are you because you had compassion.
Lord, help my heart grow in love and compassion.
Building a Dream Job
Carlyn McClelland was a stay-at-home mom until she realized her passion for carpentry and fought through stereotypes and financial challenges to make her dream a reality.
It started when McClelland wanted renovations done to her house in Middlebury, Indiana, but was overwhelmed by the type of work involved. Then, in 2015, she took that first step to learn to do it herself.
“I was about two weeks into my [associates degree] program when I realized that I should have done construction my whole entire life,” she told Good Morning America.
Afraid of getting further into debt with this life-changing decision, McClelland applied for a scholarship through Dirty Jobs host Mike Rowe’s foundation, mikerowe WORKS. It aims to close the skills gap and challenge the stigmas and stereotypes that discourage people from pursuing a trade job.
Carlyn was granted the scholarship and finished her degree. She is now proud to be doing the work she is passionate about, while also building her dream home.
Go now, and work (Exodus 5:18)
Lord, thank You for all my special talents.
A Non-Traditional Wedding Banquet
When Ana Paula Meriguete and Victor Ribeiro got married in Brazil, instead of having a wedding dinner, they chose something a bit less traditional but much more generous: a banquet to feed the hungry.
Following the couple’s wedding ceremony in church in 2019, the real banquet was being prepared in Guarapari, in the Brazilian state of Espírito Santo, where 160 hungry children and their families were waiting, grateful for food in their stomachs.
“We decided to feed those who really need it, because our family members have what they need,” Ribeiro told the newspaper Estadão.
The bride and groom were ready to finance the celebration on their own, but monetary donations from friends and family started pouring in, including from a professional catering company who generously donated food for the banquet.
It was a beautiful way to commemorate the union of this special couple whose love extended beyond themselves to help so many in need.
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled...And you will be blessed. (Luke 14:13-14)
My Lord, help guide my generous spirit to feed others.
The Beauty in a Blade of Grass
At the age of 34, Mrs. Vita Buckley of Dix Hills, New York, became almost totally blind. She could see colors, but not details. The mother of three developed keratoconus, a disease that attacks the cornea, the transparent tissue that covers the iris and transmits light to the optic nerve.
But Buckley was lucky. Within a week, she was able to receive a corneal transplant in one eye. A year later, the other eye received the same treatment.
What was it like to regain her sight? “I was sitting in my kitchen one day,” she said in an interview, “when I noticed I could see the veins in the leaves, make out the bark on trees and the individual blades of grass. I was suddenly aware of details that I’d forgotten.”
Do we appreciate the gift of sight? Do we ever thank God that we can behold a leaf, a tree, a blade of grass, a loved one’s face? Don’t take this precious gift for granted.
Thank the Lord for His steadfast love, for His wonderful works. (Psalm 107:15)
Help us to slow down, Lord, and begin to take in the beauties of the universe You let us share.
The Strange Case of Dr. Couney
If you were a woman who gave birth to an extremely premature baby during the early 1900s, your best odds of saving your child’s life came from going to a sideshow in Coney Island or Atlantic City and looking for the exhibit run by Dr. Martin Couney. Dawn Raffel tells his story in her Christopher Award-winning biography The Strange Case of Dr. Couney.
Couney’s exhibit featured premature infants in incubators. It might sound exploitative, but the care these babies received from his staff was the best — and Couney genuinely wanted to save them. He said he was doing “propaganda for preemies!”
Why did preemies need propaganda? Because the eugenics movement was gaining in popularity at the time, and its proponents believed that the weakest members of society should be allowed to die (or even actively killed) to keep society strong. It was a worldview later adopted by the Nazis.
In her research, Raffel met with several of the babies, now senior citizens, for whom Couney cared. They all appreciated learning more about the mysterious doctor who saved them.
Before I formed you in the womb I knew you. (Jeremiah 1:5)
May our society treasure all human life, Creator.
Thirteen-year-old Washington native Michael Platt has always enjoyed baking. As a youngster, he was also greatly inspired by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.’s famous “I Have a Dream” speech. Michael recently found a way to use his affinity for creating pastries to make a positive difference in the world.
Three years ago, Michael received a pair of shoes from “TOMS: One for One,” a nonprofit that gives a free pair of shoes to a child in need for every new pair of shoes it sells.
The youngster decided to do the same with baked goods and created a company called Michaels Desserts. The absence of an apostrophe in his charity’s name is deliberate, “as a reminder that he is baking for others, not himself.”
Even more impressive is the fact that Michael is accomplishing all this while dealing with epilepsy. Due to his frequent seizures in class, his mother made the decision to homeschool him.
“I always wanted to have a purpose for what I do,” Michael told Washington Post reporter Hannah Nathanson. “It’s all about helping people.”
A gift opens doors. (Proverbs 18:16)
Abba, help us utilize our talents for the greater good.
Good Neighbors Cut Crime Rate
During the 1970s, a tidal wave of burglaries swept over the Whispering Oaks section of Austin, Texas, until policeman George Vanderhule did something about it.
The community was being hit by 35 major offenses a month: burglaries, vandalism, sexual assaults on adults and children. Officer Vanderhule found that the residents were strangers to each other: “Nobody knew anybody else.”
Added to that, there were too many bushy trees, high privacy fences, and places to hide. In five meetings with concerned residents, he showed them how to use light and noise to make it harder for criminals to break in.
“If your neighborhood criminal can’t enter your home in four minutes,” said the officer, “he’ll give up the attempt.” Crime dropped in Whispering Oaks by nearly 70 percent over a two-month period.
Knowing your neighbors is good for more than crime prevention. It’s a chance to make friends — and to be a friend.
Better is a neighbor who is nearby than kindred who are far away.
Keep us from being narrow in our concerns, Father, so we will have friends in time of need.
Persistence in Prayer
Have you ever felt the need to pray, but didn’t know how to go about it? Here are two suggestions that might help.
One, set aside some time each day. It doesn’t have to be long. Three minutes at the start of the day — or just before going to bed — would be fine. If you give three minutes to reflection each day, you will be surprised at the spiritual progress you will make in a few months.
Second, start simply. Say the Our Father slowly, thinking about each phrase; or read a line of Scripture and think about what it means to you. Even a poem or a passage from a favorite book can help focus your thoughts.
God did not intend prayer to be a burden, but a time to draw closer to Him — to recognize His presence and enjoy it.
When you call upon Me and come and pray to Me, I will hear you. (Jeremiah 29:12)
May we set aside time each day to rejoice in Your presence, Lord.
The Happiest Bus Driver in London
After almost 50 years, Londoner Patrick Lawson reached a profound turning point in his life. “My whole teenage years, if I wasn’t on the street, I was in jail,” he confessed to CBS News reporter Caitlin O’Kane. “My mind was just focused on drugs and violence.”
“I saw the big issue,” Patrick continued. “I thought of my young teenage children and I thought, ‘If I make it through this, I’ve got to turn my life around.’”
True to his word, after his epiphany, Lawson wasted no time in getting help for his drug addiction. Through the SHP (Single Homeless Project), he was able to find a job driving buses. In becoming a bus driver, Lawson found the new beginning he needed, and the purpose in life he always wanted.
His unfailingly cheerful demeanor soon earned Lawson the title of “the happiest bus driver in London.” After nearly a year of employment, he even became the proud recipient of the Hello London Award for Outstanding Customer Service at Transport. “I love what I do,” Lawson concluded.
There is nothing better than that all should enjoy their work.
Father, may we find passion and purpose in our vocations.
The Gift Wrap & the Jewel
At age 92, Wanda Goines read her poem about aging, “The Gift Wrap & the Jewel,” in a video that went viral. Here is the poem: “I looked in the mirror and what did I see / but a little old lady peering back at me / With bags and sags and wrinkles and wispy white hair, / And I asked my reflection, ‘How did you get there? / You once were straight and vigorous and now you’re stooped and weak / when I tried so hard to keep you from becoming an antique.’
“My reflection’s eyes twinkled as she solemnly replied, / ‘You’re looking at the gift wrap and not the jewel inside. / A living gem and precious, of unimagined worth / Unique and true, the real you, the only you on earth.
“The years that spoil your gift-wrap with other things more cruel, / should purify and strengthen, and polish up that jewel. / So focus your attention on the inside, not the out / on being kinder, wiser, more content and more devout. / Then, when your gift-wrap’s stripped away, your jewel will be set free / to radiate God’s glory throughout eternity.”
Let your adornment be the inner self with the lasting beauty of a gentle and quiet spirit. (1 Peter 3:4)
Make me kinder, wiser, and more devout, Jesus.
A Squirrely Visitor
It was a gorgeous summer day when Catholic Charities of Rockville Centre, New York, held an orientation meeting for new employees in its Hicksville office. Part of the day involved a fire drill, which prompted everyone to go outside and enjoy the sun’s invigorating warmth. When the employees re-entered the office, however, they discovered a visitor had come in with them. There was a squirrel on the table in the boardroom.
As recounted on the Catholic Charities blog, the employees tried shooing him towards the front door and enticing him with peanut butter. Neither approach worked. Finally, someone removed the screens from the windows and opened them wide, so the squirrel could “feel the breeze on his whiskers.” That approach worked, and he scurried out!
The writer concludes, “That day, [God] revealed the merciful spirit of our employees and their determination and perseverance in resolving unusual problems. If they go that extra mile for a squirrel, imagine how much more they’re prepared to do to serve their neighbors in need!”
Ask the animals, and they will teach you. (Job 12:7)
Help me to see Your presence, Lord, in all creatures, great and small.
It’s Time You Come Work For Me
In June 2019, Russ Martin was recognized with a special honor. The Director of Broadcast Operations, at KLUX 89.5 HD radio in Corpus Christi, Texas, received an award for 25 years of service.
As reported by South Texas Catholic, KLUX General Manager Marty Wind congratulated Martin “for his unceasing dedication to Catholic broadcasting for the past 25 years...We couldn’t have done it without you. And we appreciate you.”
Before joining KLUX, which is run by the Diocese of Corpus Christi, Martin worked in secular media in California, Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. He said, “I still get up in the morning and look forward to going to work. For 25 years I worked in commercial radio and the Lord said, ‘Okay, you have some talent so it’s time you come to work for Me.”
Not all of us can leave our jobs and go work for God full time. But each of us, in our own ways, can serve Him in some way every day. Take a look at your life and see where God is calling you to be a messenger of His hope and love.
Your ears shall hear a word behind you, saying, “This is the way; walk in it.” (Isaiah 30:21)
Lord, make me aware of Your voice in my life.
A Love That Defied the Odds
“He opened up my world,” said Kris Scharoun-DeForge about her husband, Paul, on their 25th wedding anniversary. But at the time they got married, the world wasn’t exactly supportive of their relationship. You see, both Kris and Paul have Down syndrome, and many people didn’t believe they had the intelligence and maturity to make a marriage work.
As reported by Reader’s Digest, the couple has faced obstacles in their lives, but they’ve always risen to the occasion. Paul spent years successfully working in the vocational department of the Arc, an organization that helps the developmentally disabled. And Kris became a skilled cook and goes to work every day in an office mail room.
Unfortunately, the couple couldn’t defeat their final challenge. Paul developed dementia and died in 2019 at age 56. Throughout his illness, Kris was at his side whenever possible, even when Paul was moved to a medical facility. Susan Scharoun, Kris’s sister, said, “They have an unconditional love.”
Set me as a seal upon your heart...for love is strong as death. (Song of Solomon 8:6)
Strengthen couples through all the challenges of marriage and help them deepen their love, Jesus.
The Light of the Trinity
On his blog, Deacon Greg Kandra noted that the concept of the Holy Trinity can be understood through the concept of light. The first words God speaks in Scripture are, “Let there be light.” He later gave us His Son, “the Light of the World,” as our savior. And on Pentecost, said the deacon, “the Holy Spirit, arrived in…tongues of flame settling over the apostles to ignite their hearts and light the way.”
He then cited John Wesley’s description of the Trinity: “In this room, there are three candles — and only one light.”
Deacon Kandra continued in his own words: “The world will do all it can to extinguish the light. With violence. With bigotry. With persecution. With cruelty and hate.”
“If you want to know how to make the mystery of the Trinity alive in the world…I would suggest this simple advice:
Remember God’s love for the human race, His love for every one of us — a love so vast, it stretches across eternity and gave us His son, the Light of the World and then gave us the Spirit, the light that never goes out. Let that light shine…Let us be that light.”
Let your light shine. (Matthew 5:16)
May I reflect Your light to all I meet, Holy Trinity.
A D-Day Remembrance
On June 6, 1944, Allied forces fighting Hitler’s occupation of Europe made the bold move to liberate the continent by storming the beaches of Normandy, France. More than 4,000 Allied troops were killed during the attack. Irving Locker, though, was a survivor. He recalled his experiences for NBC News for the 75th anniversary of D-Day in 2019.
The 94-year-old from New Jersey was a part of the 116th AAA Gun Battalion. He recalled, “It’s terrifying and believe me when I tell you, when we were in the Higgins boat coming in, the long life that we thought we were gonna have could be shortened very, very fast because of the bullets that were coming at us.”
Locker, who is Jewish, is willing to talk about his time in the Army, but admits that thinking about the Holocaust still keeps him awake some nights. Regarding his service, he said, “We did what we had to do. Freedom is not free. There was a lot of people that gave their lives, millions of people gave their lives so that they — the children today — could be free.”
Precious in the sight of the Lord is the death of His faithful ones. (Psalm 116:15)
May we remember those who fought and died for our freedoms, Prince of Peace.
Nurses in Normandy
American sisters Ellan and Dorothy Levitsky became inseparable at a young age. They did everything together, including go to nursing school and volunteer to join the Army as World War II continued in Europe. A need arose for nurses in France, so Ellan volunteered to go if Dorothy joined her. Ellan told the Los Angeles Times, “The war was on, they needed nurses badly, and I just felt I had to do something.”
In August 1944, the sisters arrived in Normandy to work at a “makeshift hospital,” where they tended to the physical, emotional, and spiritual wounds of the injured. Their kindness and commitment made them so beloved by the locals that in 2012, they were awarded France’s highest honor, the Legion d’Honneur.
Dorothy passed away in 2015, but Ellan, age 99, made the trip to Normandy for the 75th anniversary of D-day on June 6, 2019. Wearing her Legion d’Honneur pin, she was constantly approached by people wanting to thank her for her service. We join with them in applauding her service as well.
May the Lord bless His people with peace!
Bless all nurses who bring comfort to the sick, Father.
Paula Faris’ Journey of Faith, Part Four
Though Paula Faris is a successful anchor and correspondent with ABC News now, she almost didn’t pursue that career path. She had felt God calling her to be a broadcaster early in life, but she let fear paralyze her.
Paula studied TV production in college, staying behind the scenes despite her professors telling her she would be perfect for on-air work. After graduation, she took a job in radio sales, until 9/11 caused her to follow God’s promptings and pursue a career in news. “If God calls you, God’s going to equip you,” reflected Paula. “We can’t trust ourselves. We have to trust God.”
Paula also acknowledged that living a life of faith isn’t all sunshine and roses. She concluded, “[Jesus said], ‘In this world you will have trouble, but take heart because I have overcome the world.’ You’re going to have issues as Christians. In fact, you may have more problems...But we can have peace because Christ has overcome it all. That’s the end game. If we’re getting too comfortable here, then we need to really question our priorities. We were never called to be comfortable.”
Let Your steadfast love become my comfort.
Equip me to do Your will despite my fears, Jesus.
Paula Faris’ Journey of Faith, Part Three
Though Paula Faris is a lifelong Christian, her aim with her “Journeys of Faith” podcast isn’t to proselytize or even talk only with people who think and believe exactly as she does.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, she explained: “Jesus was out there talking with people that didn’t see eye to eye with Him. He was with the worst of sinners, and yet having conversations — even some tough conversations…This is me sitting down with and listening to or respecting somebody else’s faith...and also showing them, hopefully, the love of Christ in me. We can agree to disagree, and we can do so respectfully.
“I think that as a society, we’ve lost the ability to do that...We tend to just sit down with people that think exactly like us...[Through] these conversations with people that I don’t see eye to eye with, I’m growing…And I think you will earn people’s respect if you sit down and engage in a conversation with them, and show them the love of Christ. Really, that’s the calling, isn’t it? To love God and love people. We overcomplicate it. That’s what I’m trying to accomplish here.”
Conduct yourselves wisely toward outsiders... Let your speech always be gracious. (Colossians 4:5-6)
Allow me to show someone the love of Christ, Father.
Paula Faris’ Journey of Faith, Part Two
After enduring what she calls her “season of hell,” Paula Faris told her bosses at ABC News that she couldn’t maintain her current schedule anymore, and asked if she could work on news stories Monday to Friday instead.
She also pitched them the idea of starting a podcast in which she would interview newsmakers about their spiritual beliefs. ABC News obliged Paula’s requests, and she has since launched her podcast, “Journeys of Faith.”
“The genesis [of the podcast],” said Paula, “is my own personal faith. It’s been my rock, my glue, my foundation. It has kept my marriage together. It has pulled me through the most difficult and trying times.”
“Secondly” she continued, “as a journalist, I recognize that if you mention Jesus or God or Allah, we cut that from the interview. I don’t want that to happen. That’s why we created this. It’s to give people a space to talk about something that’s deeply personal to them and something that they’re very passionate about.” More tomorrow...
Do not be ashamed, then, of the testimony about our Lord. (2 Timothy 1:8)
Help me to share my faith humbly yet honestly, Jesus.
Paula Faris’ Journey of Faith, Part One
ABC News’ Paula Faris seemingly had it all. A great husband, wonderful kids, and high-profile jobs as co-anchor of Good Morning America’s weekend edition and co-host of the The View. But Paula also felt overextended, as if God was telling her that she needed to step back from some of her professional commitments. She discussed the idea with a network executive, who told her, “You’d be crazy to do that.”
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Paula said, “I allowed fear to paralyze me from doing what I knew was right.” Then, her eight month “season of hell” began.
Paula suffered a miscarriage that required emergency surgery; she endured a severe concussion when someone threw an apple at her head while she was reporting a story; she sustained injuries in a car crash; and she got pneumonia.
During that period, Paula felt like God was asking her to trust His will about changing her work schedule. She also realized that she had invested “too much of my identity in what I did and not who I was as a child of God.” And so, she listened and trusted. More tomorrow...
Pay attention to what you hear. (Mark 4:24)
May I hear You and trust Your will, Jesus.
A Garden Blooms in the Bronx
In 1989, Daniel Chervoni couldn’t take it anymore. The Bronx, New York native noted how ugly his neighborhood’s Brook Park looked with its overgrown weeds and bushes, garbage, and general lack of care.
Chervoni told NY1 News’ Pat Kiernan, “I went to sleep one day, woke up, and it was like, you know something needs to be done with this space. Next thing I know, I become a gardener, a farmer, a bee keeper, a chicken man! And I enjoy it, I love it.”
After taking some gardening classes, Chervoni took it upon himself to clean up the park and turn it into a community garden where neighbors gather to socialize and help out. And all these years later, Brook Park is till thriving.
Kiernan notes, “Garden boxes line the space and garlic grows in the greenhouse. Chickens lay fresh eggs for local residents to enjoy. And during warmer months, Chervoni tends to the beehive. Local school kids are invited to help out, too.”
Chervoni concludes, “I get enjoyment out of seeing people smile...and getting to help other people less fortunate than me.”
I made myself gardens and parks, and planted in them all kinds of fruit trees. (Ecclesiastes 2:5)
May we nurture the gardens around us, Creator.
Climb the Highest Mountain
Sir Edmund Hillary, the first man to climb Mount Everest, once told an interviewer that the greatest explorers were frequently motivated not by confidence, but by fear. “They can often perform better as a consequence,” he said. “If you’re absolutely sure you’ll be successful, why bother starting? Maybe you’re doing something that’s a bit too easy for you.”
To reinforce his point, Sir Edmund expressed the opinion that his own talents are rather modest. “But,” he added, “having a certain amount of stubbornness and a vigorous strength, I was able to get by on many of these projects.”
Besides climbing Everest, Sir Edmund also made a dogsled trip across the Antarctic and a 1,500-mile journey up the Ganges River in India.
There are limits to what stubborn determination can achieve, but few of us reach them. We sometimes fail because we give up too soon. So set high goals. Sprinkle stubbornness with common sense. Pray to God for guidance. And then climb your mountain.
Look! On the mountains the feet of one who brings good tidings.
Instill in us a spirit of adventure for high achievement, Lord.
The Pressure to Be the Best
When singer-songwriter PJ Anderson performs at retreats and Catholic Heart Work Camps, his hope-filled songs find a receptive audience in youth who fear failure while enduring tremendous pressure to succeed.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, PJ said, “At a lot of these youth events…the thing I hear most about from high school kids is the pressure that they feel to be the best at everything. When I was in high school, you went to summer school if you needed a little extra help. But now, you go to summer school so you can get extra credit...so you can go to college early so you can graduate early so you can go to a job that you end up not even liking that much. It’s all this pressure to be the best in academics, the best in sports. I hear that a lot.
“But not everybody can be the best,” continued PJ. “So with that comes feelings of failure from high school kids and younger. [They need to hear] that we are enough with Jesus, with our Creator, with God. We need to do our best to be close to Him. But He doesn’t call us to be busy and the best. He calls us to be holy and to keep Him close.”
Draw near to God. (James 4:8)
Guide me in dealing with the pressures of life, Messiah.
A Kid’s Best Friend
When a child is sick or injured, what he/she needs may not necessarily be another prescription, but the kindly wag of a tail.
Wrangler is a Labrador and the first full-time facility dog at Providence St. Vincent Medical Center in Southwest Portland, Oregon. His important job is to help comfort patients in the children’s emergency room, where they can be in a lot of pain, feel out of control, and fearful of the environment and situation.
Facility dogs, such as Wrangler, receive extensive specialized training from an accredited organization and learn specific skills that make them like part of the medical staff.
“Kids tend to be animal lovers, and they will be petting Wrangler and, without realizing it, they are being soothed,” Kasie Walker-Counts, a pediatric nurse, said to Catholic News Service. “He’s adorable, but he also adds so much in an often terrible situation.”
Wrangler knows more than 90 commands and can snuggle on command. In a stressful situation, he is just what the doctor ordered.
And God said, “Let the earth bring forth living creatures of every kind…And it was so.” (Genesis 1:24)
Creator, let me be gentle and kind to all of Your creatures.
Ear for the Lonely
During the 1970s, when workers in a door-to-door survey in Iowa reported that loneliness and boredom were a major problem for older persons, one county set out to do something about their need.
“Dial-a-Listener” was set up to provide volunteers, who would staff phones between 1:00 p.m. and 9:00 p.m., to talk with anyone who cared to call. A positive attitude and a pleasant voice were among the traits looked for in the “listeners.” Many recruits were themselves retired and expressed a deep satisfaction in taking part in an activity that helped so many people. Response to the program was extremely positive.
Given enough motivation, any community could undertake a similar service for the aged or infirm. Even more basically, any individual can try to be a sympathetic listener when the opportunity arises. With God’s help, resolve never to turn a deaf ear to another’s cry of loneliness.
If you will not listen, my soul will weep in secret. (Jeremiah 13:17)
Father, You always hear us. Help us to learn to listen to one another.
Remembering Those Who Serve
For Memorial Day 2019, the community of Locust Valley, New York, mourned the loss of Sgt. Robert Hendricks, age 25. A local resident, he was killed by a roadside bomb in Afghanistan just a few weeks earlier.
As noted in Newsday, he was the “first fallen service member from the quiet town since Army Sgt. James Harrington, Jr. was killed in the Vietnam War.”
The town spent Memorial Day as many do: watching parades with school bands, laying wreaths, gathering for cookouts, and remembering the war dead. But this year the reality of what service and sacrifice mean hit close to home in a poignant way.
“People generally think that it’s our grandfathers and great grandfathers who we honor on this day for their service,” said one resident, “but it’s also for young soldiers.”
This is My commandment, that you love one another as
I have loved you. No one has greater love than this, to
lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:12-13)
God, may we never forget our unsung soldiers and their
families who sacrifice so much.
Grateful American, Part Five
After attending Mass with his wife and children for many years, Gary Sinise finally took the next step and converted to the Catholic faith himself. During a Christopher Closeup interview, he said, “[Our] little church became such a positive force in our lives...I secretly went through a confirmation process and surprised my family by taking them to church on Christmas Eve. Our priests brought me into the church, confirmed me into the Church. And that was a big surprise to my family.”
Gary continues to live his faith and mission of service through the Gary Sinise Foundation, which includes outreach efforts, such as the building of specially-adapted houses for disabled veterans. And his hope for people who read his memoir Grateful American is this:
“If the book can inspire others to look at what they’re grateful for and to think about our country not as a place where people are divided all the time…But look at the blessings that we’ve had because of the freedoms we have in this great country. If I can inspire people to go out there and serve others, the book is going to be worth the year it took to put it all down.”
Kindness is like a garden of blessings. (Sirach 40:17)
I promise to count my blessings today, Father.
Grateful American, Part Four
During a 2003 flight to Iraq for the USO, Gary Sinise found himself seated next to a man he didn’t recognize. The man didn’t know who Gary was either, so the two started talking. The stranger introduced himself as retired fireman John Vigiano Sr. His two sons, Joe and John Jr. — one with the NYPD, one with the FDNY — were killed on 9/11 in the Twin Towers’ collapse.
Vigiano Sr. went down to Ground Zero to dig through the rubble looking for his sons. On Christopher Closeup, Gary recalled, “[John told me that] he looked around and saw people from all over the world who came to Ground Zero to help pass out food and water and help in any way they can…He saw all these people lined up for days, and the spirit of America coming together to help everybody at Ground Zero. He said to me, ‘You know, I think more good came out of that terrible day than evil.’”
Gary credits his friendship with Vigiano (who passed away in 2018 at age 79), along with many of the firefighters he met, with helping him to decide to become Catholic himself in 2010.
The conclusion of the story tomorrow...
Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good. (Romans 12:21)
Teach me to bring good out of evil, Holy Spirit.
Grateful American, Part Three
As involved as he was with veteran’s causes, Gary Sinise felt devastated at the loss of life that occurred on 9/11. He and his family went to their local church in California for a memorial Mass that Friday.
During a Christopher Closeup interview about his memoir Grateful American, Sinise said, “I remember crying through the Mass and feeling with [my] broken heart that service to others was a great healer.”
Sinise began using his spare time and musical talents to entertain members of the military being sent to Afghanistan and, later, Iraq. “I started going to war zones, hospitals, entertaining on military bases across the country and around the world.
“I started raising money for multiple military charities, all as a volunteer...I found that the more I gave, the more relief I received...because I could see that I was doing some good. Was it God calling me to service? It very well could be…This is a life mission.” More of the story tomorrow...
The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
Lead me to take advantage of the healing gift of service, Jesus.
Grateful American, Part Two
The role of Lt. Dan in Forrest Gump led Gary Sinise to get more involved in veterans causes. At the same time, he was facing his own battles on the home front. His wife, Moira, was struggling with alcoholism and was unwilling to admit her problem. Faced with the loss of her family, she finally pursued the help she needed and moved toward recovery.
While attending an AA meeting at St. Michael’s Church on the North Side of Chicago, a woman walked up to Moira one day and told her, “My dear, you need to become a Catholic.” Moira’s mother had been Catholic, but they didn’t practice the religion when she was growing up. As Moira explored the Catholic faith, she decided this was a step she wanted to take.
Moira converted, and she and Gary began sending their kids to Catholic school and attending Mass together as a family. Gary himself had not yet joined the Church, but he had become more open to God and the spiritual part of life due to various experiences in recent years. Then came 9/11.
More of the story tomorrow...
Call on Me in the day of trouble; I will deliver you. (Psalm 50:15)
Lead spiritual seekers toward faith in You, Jesus.
Grateful American, Part One
Actor Gary Sinise grew up in Chicago and, during his teenage years, made some bad choices having to do with getting high, partying, and even stealing cars. He credits his high school theater program with pointing him “toward redemption.”
In 1994, Sinise’s life changed when he portrayed Lt. Dan Taylor in the Tom Hanks hit Forrest Gump. In the movie, Lt. Dan inadvertently leads his platoon in Vietnam into an ambush in which some of them are killed. Lt. Dan loses his legs.
After the war, observed Sinise on Christopher Closeup, Lt. Dan tries “to drown himself in alcohol because he’s dealing with terrible guilt and post-traumatic stress. But at the end of that story, he’s standing up again on prosthetic legs. He’s successful in business and moving on with his life. He’s able to make peace.
“[For] so many troubled, injured, or wounded veterans that I met in hospitals — that’s the story they want. They want that story of being able to move forward, put their war experiences behind them, and be successful…It was a hopeful story, and I found that our veterans related to it and wanted to talk about it.”
You are the God of the lowly...savior of those without hope. (Judith 9:11)
Bring hope to veterans with PTSD, Messiah.
Stargazer Finds a Comet
Would you like to have a comet named after you? Don Machholz had that wish. The stargazer eventually succeeded, but it took him 1,700 hours of comet hunting before his perseverance paid off. “I was so excited when I found it,” said the California man in 1978, “because I was familiar with that part of the sky, and I knew it shouldn’t have been there.”
Machholz became interested in astronomy at age 13 and began his pursuit of a new comet in earnest in 1974. Comets are the only celestial bodies named after the discoverer. “At first,” said Machholz, “my goal was to find a comet and have it named after me. But later it was thrilling just to study the sky, and I no longer felt disappointment when I didn’t see anything new.”
The true amateur — the word means “lover” — takes joy in the action itself, and not in the reward. Each of us can be an amateur, finding delight in loving service to the people that God has called us to serve.
The glory of the stars is the beauty of heaven, a glittering array in the heights of the Lord. (Sirach 43:9)
Inspire us, Jesus, to find happiness in what we do for others.
Talk to Each Other
The Curry Pizza Company has many locations, one of which is in Fresno, California. One of the co-owners, Varinder Malhi, runs a special promotion offering a free pizza pie to any group of four or more. There is one catch, however — the individuals in the group must relinquish their smart phones to the wait staff, who then secure them in the employee lockers.
Malhi first got the idea for the “Talk to Each Other Discount” when he saw the benefits of turning off his phone during family meals at home. If patrons can make it through their pizza without asking to check their phones, they are entitled to one free pizza. Alternatively, if the group is not in the mood for a pizza that day, they can instead opt to donate their pie to the homeless through a nonprofit called Khalsa Aid.
“We make 40-to-50 pizzas [for the homeless] every other week from each [of our] locations,” Malhi told Your Central Valley writer Dennis Valera. “Khalsa Aid volunteers to serve it, we volunteer to make it.” What a wonderful way to promote both generosity and real-life “face time” in our day-to-day life!
Pleasant words are…sweetness to the soul. (Proverbs 16:24)
God, may we always value the power of communication.
Above and Beyond
As a teacher in Chicago, LaShonda Carter is used to going the extra mile for her students. But a recent example of how she offered to help garnered some attention from national media, as well as a surprise for the student she was assisting.
Former student Larresha Plummer had recently been accepted to a college program and was looking for work. She had an infant daughter, and couldn’t find anybody to babysit so that she could attend a job fair.
That’s when she reached out to Carter, who not only agreed to stay with the child, but also to give Plummer a ride to the job fair. A Facebook Live video from the car by Carter is what made the story spread.
That small act of kindness inspired others, and even sparked some surprise job offers for Plummer, who hopes to repay her former teacher’s good deed someday. For Carter, it’s all in her approach to her students. “I’m no more special than any other teacher. Teachers do things like this every day. We don’t need recognition,” she told Good Morning America.
Everyone who is fully qualified will be like the teacher.
Gracious God, may I strive to love others as You love me.
The Father of the Tin Can
A man whose name is virtually unknown started the canning industry in America. Here is his story.
In September 1847, Harrison Woodhull Crosby performed the first experiments in canning stewed tomatoes. Using six tin pails, he soldered tin lids on them, leaving a square hole in the center. Packing each pail with freshly stewed tomatoes, he sealed over the openings and stored them for several months. When opened, the tomatoes were fresh and delicious.
Later, at New Jersey’s Lafayette College, he tried selling 1,000 tin cans of tomatoes, but failed. Doggedly, he sent shipments of canned tomatoes to newspapers, senators, Queen Victoria, and President James Polk. Glowing newspaper accounts followed, and canning was on its way to becoming a common practice.
It’s easy to think that people will snap up a good idea, but it isn’t always so. Trust in God and perseverance to provide a more certain formula for promoting sound projects on the job, in the home, or wherever others need services you can offer.
We want each one of you to show the same diligence so as to realize the full assurance of hope to the very end. (Hebrews 6:11)
Holy Spirit, guide my creative ideas toward success.
Waving Granny Says Goodbye
For the past 12 years, 88-year-old Tinney Davidson has been quite a fixture in her town of Comox, British Columbia. In 2007, she and her husband moved into a house that was located very close to the Highland Secondary School.
It was then that Tinney got into the habit of waving cheerfully from her living room window to the students walking to and from school. Even after her husband passed away, she continued these daily greetings, leading these youngsters to give her the affectionate nickname, “Waving Granny.”
After a dozen years of waving, however, Tinney moved into an assisted living home. In gratitude for her warm salutations, the pupils from Highland decided to give her a proper personal send-off.
In a touching video posted by CBS News, approximately 400 students were shown walking by Tinney’s house, carrying flowers and colorful signs thanking their “waving Granny” for her kindness. Tinney watched through tear-filled eyes as all of the youngsters waved and blew her one last kiss goodbye.
Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life. (Proverbs 16:31)
Lord, may we always respect and learn from our elders.
The Little Library that Could
With a desire to share his love of books and reading, retired Italian school teacher Antonio La Cava transformed his three-wheeled van into a mobile library called the Bibliomotocarro to transport books to children who otherwise would not have access. “Without a book, so often the child is alone,” La Cava told the BBC.
Worried about “growing old in a country of non-readers,” La Cava drives throughout Italy, bringing books to children in remote villages to help promote literacy to those with little access to reading material. He even takes time to travel to San Paolo Albanese, which only has two children of primary school age, because everyone deserves the chance to read.
La Cava strongly believes in spreading the joy of literature to as many children as possible and hopes his Bibliomotocarro brings the message that culture is made by and for everyone. He said, “Carrying out such action has a value, not only social, not only cultural, but has a great ethical meaning.”
Reading...will enable you to perceive my understanding of the mystery of Christ. (Ephesians 3:4)
God, help me share the Good News with those who long to read and hear Your words.
God’s Plan All Along
Jackie and Travis Allor of Warren, Michigan, had been thinking about expanding their family through foster care and adoption. Once they began praying about it, “the signs were all around us,” they told the Detroit Catholic.
The Allors soon found a child who needed a placement, Elicia. After a few weeks, the Allors got a call from a social worker saying that Elicia’s mother was about to lose her rights to all her children, and would they consider adopting Elicia’s three brothers as well? “I joke I was praying for four years for kids, and God gave us four kids at once,” Jackie said.
Life in foster care had been difficult for the children, adjusting to new homes and having a life marked by constant change. But the family soon settled in, and worked through the challenges that came with fostering and adoption. The one thing they all agreed on was that this was their family, and this was the way God planned to bring them all together in love.
He destined us for adoption as His children through
Jesus Christ, according to the good pleasure of His will. (Ephesians 1:5)
Jesus, let me always trust and be open to Your plan for my life.
Serving Cups of Kindness
If you’re looking for one of the nicest places in America, Reader’s Digest suggests you visit Bothell, Washington, where a cup of coffee is served with something extra special: kindness.
Will Tinkham, who was born with developmental disabilities, works at the coffee stand, Beca’s Brew, and greets guests with a smile and a warm “hello” every day. His kindness inspired the coffee stand’s owner, Beca Nistrian, to start Kindness Day on May 10th, which is Tinkham’s birthday.
“[Will] finds the smallest things to be happy about…He finds joy in everything,” Nistrian told KOMO News.
To spread kindness on this day, Nistrian delivered free cookies and coffee to police officers, firefighters and all “who serve other people, but not for the money.” Others quickly joined in these acts of kindness, and the town of Bothell established May 10th as “Cup of Kindness Day.”
Will Tinkham proved that kindness can be spread all year long and have a lasting impact. It all just starts with a smile.
Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.
Lord, may I choose to spread kindness today and always.
A Hollywood Legend’s Conversion, Part Two
Gary Cooper joined the Catholic Church in 1959, explaining his conversion in this way: “This past winter, I began to dwell a little more on what’s been in my mind for a long time (and thought), ‘Coop, old boy, you owe somebody something for all your good fortune.’ I guess that’s what started me thinking seriously about my religion. I’ll never be anything like a saint...I just haven’t got that kind of fortitude. The only thing I can say for me is that I’m trying to be a little better. Maybe I’ll succeed.”
Cooper’s newfound faith brought him comfort and confidence in 1960 when he was diagnosed with cancer. Author Mary Claire Kendall, writing at Forbes.com, quotes Cooper’s wife Veronica saying, “He’d been perfectly wonderful throughout the entire illness. What helped him most was his religion.” In addition, he found spiritual strength in the sacraments and books like Fulton Sheen’s Peace of Soul.
As he lay dying, Cooper placed himself in God’s hands and told others, “I am not afraid of the future.” He passed away in May 1961.
I love those who love Me, and those who seek Me diligently find Me.
Help me to trust in Your love and forgiveness, Father.
A Hollywood Legend’s Conversion, Part One
Actor Gary Cooper was beloved by his family and friends, as well as by fans who admired the heroic characters he played in films such as High Noon, Pride of the Yankees, and Sergeant York. But he also had flaws, the biggest of which was having affairs with other women despite being married to his wife, Veronica Balfe.
An affair with actress Patricia Neal led Cooper to separate from his wife and their daughter Maria. But guilt from the whole situation made him physically ill and, eventually, repentant, leading to him moving back in with his family.
As reported by Mary Claire Kendall for Forbes.com, Balfe’s Catholicism was a regular part of hers and Maria’s life — and it came to have an influence on Cooper, too. He started attending Sunday Mass with them, and befriended their parish priest, Father Harold Ford. Though the actor and clergyman initially bonded over a shared love of hunting and fishing, their conversations also turned to God and left Cooper contemplating some of life’s bigger questions. More of the story tomorrow...
The Lord...is patient with you, not wanting any to perish, but all to come to repentance. (2 Peter 3:9)
Lead sinners, including me, to repentance, Jesus.
A Graduation to Remember
Aldo Amenta was never supposed to walk again after breaking his neck in a 2015 diving accident and being left a quadriplegic. As reported by CBS News, the Florida International University student considered dropping out of school, but changed his mind after receiving support from loved ones and a scholarship to continue his education.
In 2018, Amenta earned a degree in electrical engineering, but also accomplished an even greater feat: he walked.
Rehabilitation and physical therapy had helped him make progress in regaining minor use of his limbs — and an exoskeleton did the rest. The device, which contains motors and levers, was attached to the lower half of Amenta’s body, allowing him to take slow but steady steps across the stage to accept his diploma at his graduation ceremony.
He said, “You have to keep hope, faith, have perseverance and a lot of patience towards that particular situation. Even if you find yourself in a really dark place, there’s always a little light that will shine your way through to succeed.”
The crowd was amazed when they saw...the lame walking. (Matthew 15:31)
Bring hope to those with medical problems, Lord.
A Leadership Lesson from Caterpillars
Processionary caterpillars are strange creatures. They travel in long, undulating lines, one behind the other. French naturalist Jean-Henri Fabre once led a group of them out onto the rim of a large flowerpot, so that the leader found himself nose-to-tail with the last caterpillar in the procession.
Through sheer force of instinct, the ring of insects circled the rim for seven days and nights until all died from exhaustion and starvation. This was in spite of a clearly visible source of food nearby. The caterpillars ignored the food because it lay outside the beaten path.
Going around in circles can be unhealthy for people too, especially for those charged with any degree of responsibility for leadership. Take a look around you and see if there might be some opportunities for good that you never noticed before.
Sow for yourselves righteousness, reap steadfast love. (Hosea 10:12)
Holy Spirit, give me the vision to see where I can exercise the leadership today’s world needs.
When God Calls the Heart
Brian Bird is the creator and executive producer of the family-friendly, faith-affirming, Christopher Award-winning Hallmark Channel series When Calls the Heart. The show is so popular with Christian fans that Bird co-authored a devotional book series with Michelle Cox, titled When God Calls the Heart. It uses plotlines as jumping off points for prayerful reflections.
Here is one of their prayers for times when you’re facing a challenge and don’t know what to do: “Father, why do I always try to fix my own problems? Why do I make a mess of things when I should just turn to You first? Please help me to trust You more in situations where I feel as if I’m trapped in a corner with no idea how to escape.
“Help me to get out of Your way so that You can take charge. Teach me what You want me to learn from each situation, and provide the strength I need. Help me to also be vulnerable enough to ask my friends and loved ones for help. And, in turn, help me to be available when life has them in a bind. Thank You for never failing me.”
In all your ways acknowledge Him, and He will make straight your paths. (Proverbs 3:6)
Remind me to turn to You in good times and bad, Jesus.
“Come On, Kid, Fight Back”
In May 2019, in the Hermosa neighborhood of Chicago, a mother and daughter were walking along the street when they heard screams emanating from a canvas shopping bag left on top of a garbage can. Inside was a newborn baby boy. As reported by the Chicago Tribune, “His naked body was covered by a towel and the umbilical cord was still attached.”
The mother and daughter took the child to a nearby firehouse where firefighters discovered he was no longer moving and “cold as concrete.” An ambulance arrived and they all started working on the baby together, trying to warm him and will him back to life.
In the ER, doctors inserted an IV and breathing tube in the baby. Larry Langford, a spokesman for the Chicago Fire Department, noted that many people gathered around the child, some making the sign of the cross and praying, others cheering him on, saying, “Come on, kid, fight back.”
Suddenly, the baby’s vital signs improved. He became more stable over the next few days, gaining a second chance at life thanks to the hard work and prayers of everyone involved.
I will restore health to you. (Jeremiah 30:17)
Bring love and life to all babies, Creator of All.
One Day, It Will Be You
Twice in one week, Adele noticed elderly people struggling through a task without anyone offering to help them. The first happened in a supermarket where an older man searched and searched for a particular product. Adele stopped to help him.
Next, she was in a cafe when she saw a senior citizen, with a gash on his leg from falling down, struggling to walk to his car. No one offered to help, so Adele accompanied him herself.
On her Facebook page, Adele said, “When you see an elderly person walking down the street, searching in the supermarket or struggling to their car, take a minute...and ask them if they need a hand. Think about your grandparents and your parents and how upset you would be if someone didn’t stop to help them. But more, think of them as you.”
“Once upon a time they were you. They were busy, they had work, they had children, and they were able. Today, they are just in an older body that is not going as fast as it used to and this busy life is confusing. They deserve our utmost respect and consideration. One day it will be you.”
Do not cast me off in the time of old age; do not forsake me when my strength is spent. (Psalm 71:9)
May I be a help to someone who is elderly, Father.
For a long time, Jenny Albers perceived romance as defined by fairy tales: a big diamond engagement ring, bouquets of flowers sent to the office, surprise exotic getaways. However, it wasn’t until she experienced marriage and parenthood that Albers realized what true romance means.
As a Colorado mother raising two children (with two other children already in heaven), Albers sees that her relationship with her husband is better than any fairy tale. In a blog post for the Today Show, she writes, “It’s not the expressions of love based in fantasy that matter, it’s the expressions of love shaped by reality.”
Albers says that love and romance shouldn’t be measured by big luxurious gifts, but instead by the “rather ordinary”: helping with the dishes, changing a baby’s diaper, and being a source of comfort when things get tough and messy. Romance, she concludes, is the “million little acts of service that are done simply out of love.”
I will recount the gracious deeds of the Lord… according to...His steadfast love. (Isaiah 63:7)
Lord, thank You for Your million little acts of love.
A Foster Care Success Story
Justin Nieves of Oviedo, Florida, has known hardship and struggle in his young life. His mother was addicted to drugs and his father died when he was in middle school.
Justin went to live with his aunt and uncle when he was in high school, but continued conflicts led to him being placed in foster care at age 16. That was a crucial point when Justin could have chosen to drop out of school. However, he decided to commit to his education, if for no other reason than to buck the low expectations of foster care kids.
Once he saw his academic success, that initial reaction turned into hope for a better future. Justin told the Orlando Sentinel, “I started meeting case workers, going to church, and decided I was going to do good for myself…As I started going through college, I thought...that other kids could do the same.”
Today, at 21, Justin has mended his relationship with his aunt and uncle, and mentors other foster care children on how to have a successful future. He was recently recognized for his community work.
Cast all your anxiety on Him, because He cares for you.
(1 Peter 5:7)
Help me to show my gratitude by sharing Your gifts, Lord.
What Makes You Smile? Part Two
Christopher James Bohinski grew accustomed to his role as caretaker for his cancer-stricken mom in her hometown of Wilkes-Barre, Pennsylvania. He did the laundry, took her to doctor’s appointments, served her meals, and more. But he also felt a sense of dissatisfaction at having left behind his smile ministry. His mother finally told him, “People need smiles everywhere. There’s a lot you can do for others right here.”
After suggesting a fall festival (or Smile Festival) to the mayor, Bohinski got the go-ahead to put it together. When word spread, everybody got involved. Bohinski wrote in Guideposts, “A dentist donated prizes. A college fraternity offered to oversee the ring toss...The police department offered a meet and greet with its K-9 unit.” Even his mother started helping, as it gave her a happy distraction from chemo.
The Smile Festival became “the most attended town event in recent history.” Bohinski concluded, “In that moment, I realized the power of a smile. And I knew I was exactly where I was supposed to be. My own dreams weren’t delayed; they were just coming true in a different way than I had ever envisioned.”
God...fulfills His purpose for me. (Psalm 57:2)
Teach me to trust in Your vision for my life, Divine Healer.
What Makes You Smile? Part One
Christopher James Bohinski moved to New York City to pursue an acting career, but noticed that many of the talented people he encountered suffered from a negative attitude. Having experienced the pain of losing his father to cancer, he knew that he wanted to do something to add positivity to the world.
As he recalled in Guideposts, Bohinski created a blog called NYC Smile 4 Me, and started posting videos of himself asking strangers, “What makes you smile?” It became a hit and even attracted celebrities ranging from Helen Mirren to Kristin Chenoweth. Bohinski observed, “God smiled on my efforts.”
Then, he got the news that his mother in Pennsylvania had been diagnosed with lung cancer. He made the three hour trips back and forth for a while to be with her when she received chemotherapy, but came to see she needed him there full-time as a caretaker. Bohinski uploaded a video explaining his move, thinking that was the end of his smile ministry. But God wasn’t quite through with his efforts just yet. More tomorrow...
A glad heart makes a cheerful countenance.
Help me to recall the things that make me smile, Father.
A Not Quite Solo Flight
The first time Mrs. Editha Merrill ever sat behind the controls of a plane, she had to fly the plane in an emergency. The 78-year-old woman was in the co-pilot’s seat when the pilot suffered a severe heart attack at 7,500 feet. They were a hundred miles from the nearest airport.
Also on the plane was a woman who had been instructed on what to do in an emergency. But the two could not change seats in the cramped cockpit so it was up to Mrs. Merrill to do the flying. Somehow, the two succeeded in landing the plane.
Later, a spokesman for the airport said that they had made a good team, bringing in the plane without damage to it or themselves.
Two people working together can often accomplish miracles. When there’s a difficult job to be done in your life, why not ask a friend to share your burden?
If they fall, one will lift up the other; but woe to one who is alone and falls and does not have another to help. (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
Jesus, show us how to help our friends when they need it.
Gallup to the Truth
The late pollster George Gallup was a man of faith: faith in his work and faith in God. In part, he came to God through his work with statistics.
He once said he could prove the existence of God statistically. As an example, he used the human body.
“The chance that all the harmonious functions of a human body would just happen is a statistical monstrosity,” he said. The existence of human beings, in other words, defies all the laws of probability and implies the existence of God.
We all have different ways of coming to God. But give God a chance. Take time each day to search for Him in your way.
Ever since the creation of the world His eternal power and divine nature, invisible though they are, have been understood and seen through the things He has made. (Romans 1:20)
Guide me to You, Almighty Lord.
From Orphan to “Bon Pasteur”
Saint Mary Euphrasia Pelletier was born at the end of the French Revolution into a family living in exile on an island off the coast of France. Her father died when she was 10 years old, at which point her mother sent her to a boarding school in Tours, France. Her mother died three years later, so she remained at the school as an orphan.
Near her school in Tours was a convent for the Order of Our Lady of Charity of the Refuge, founded in 1641 to help poor and homeless girls at risk of exploitation. Inspired by their mission, she joined the order while still a teenager, eventually becoming Mother Superior.
As Larry Peterson reported on Aleteia, Mary Euphrasia felt it was her calling “to help the orphaned, abandoned, and vulnerable young girls that seemed to be everywhere.” In Angers, France, she established a home for them called “Bon Pasteur” (“Good Shepherd”), and continued founding these shelters for young women throughout the country.
Give justice to the weak and the orphan; maintain the right of the lowly and the destitute. (Psalm 82:3)
Lord, guide me to find my purpose in service to others.
A crippling disease gave a new direction to the life of Jacqueline du Pré. She was a successful cellist who traveled extensively on concert tours with her pianist husband.
In 1971, du Pré felt her hands going numb. She discovered that she had multiple sclerosis. She could no longer play the cello, or, eventually, even walk or dress herself. She had to learn to handle her frustrations and to reorganize her life.
From her wheelchair, du Pré began teaching music to a dozen students. She also led a research project on multiple sclerosis to which musicians donated their fees from four concerts a year. With performers like Arthur Rubenstein and Isaac Stern, the project raised money for the work.
Jacqueline du Pré passed away in 1987, but her mantra remains a good one: “I believe in realistic optimism, but not in wishful thinking.”
You, too, may be suffering from a disability. Don’t give up on life. Explore your potential, believe in yourself, and trust in God to help you find and reach new goals.
As You share in our sufferings, so also You share in our consolation. (2 Corinthians 1:8)
Lord, help us find solace in our suffering.
One Man Changed Our Language
Can one person really make a difference? An obscure young school teacher in Somers, New York, thought so. In 1783, he compiled a book that eventually sold 100 million copies.
Noah Webster thought that political independence from England wasn’t enough. He said he had “too much pride to stand indebted to England for books to teach our children.” His “Spelling Book” was an important step in the liberation of American literature. He deleted the “u” from such words as “honour” and shortened words like “programme” and “musick.”
History and science, as well as rules for proper behavior, were contained in his famous “blue-backed speller,” which was a prelude to his landmark dictionary, published in 1828. Later came a grammar book and reader. Not wanting his books pirated, Webster was influential in getting copyright law passed in Congress in 1831.
Noah Webster had a sense of mission. He pursued his goal day and night, though he never made much money on his writing. Let us pursue our goals with the same passion.
Our steps are made firm by the Lord. (Psalm 37:23)
Father, when we need it, remind us of where we came from, why we are here, and where we are going.
Dream Small to Win Big
Though Jack and Judy Jurries’ second son, Joey, was born with Down syndrome, they were determined to raise him to reach his full potential. When Joey showed an interest in swimming, his small dream inspired not only his family, but the world to realize he could achieve great things.
“My every dream was that my kid would be accepted and have peers and a social situation to interact with,” Judy shared with the Catholic Herald.
In 2018, Joey’s swim times qualified him to participate in the Down Syndrome World Championships held in Truro, Nova Scotia. The Jurries took a “leap of faith” and after overcoming multiple training, financial and health challenges, Joey and his mom traveled with the U.S. team for the world-level meet. Joey medaled in three events and broke a national record.
Proud of her son, Judy said he is an inspiration to others with disabilities: “God gave him a gift, there’s no question about that, but they can all strive for whatever their gift might be.”
Jesus said to him, “Stand up, take your mat and walk.” (John 5:8)
Lord, may our disability not define us, but make us stronger.
Young at Heart
100-year-old John Cook recently wed 102-year-old Phyllis. These twice-widowed centenarians have certainly proven that you’re never too old to be young at heart!
John and Phyllis met in Kingston Residence, an assisted living facility in Sylvania, Ohio. They had been dating for about a year before they made the decision to tie the knot. “We were just compatible in a whole lot of ways, found ourselves enjoying each other’s company,” World War II veteran Cook told WNWO-TV.
“To tell you the truth, we fell in love with each other,” Phyllis added. “I know you think that may be a little far-fetched for somebody our age, but we fell in love with each other.”
The key to the Cooks’ successful union, according to the new bride? Valuing the other’s privacy. “We keep both our apartments,” the new Mrs. Cook concluded. “He’s upstairs and I’m down.” The newlyweds always share meals together, and their favorite pastime is sitting outside, enjoying each other’s company in the sunshine.
The Lord God said, “It is not good that the man should be alone. I shall make him a...partner.” (Genesis 2:18)
Abba, foster love and fidelity between married couples.
A Prayer to Open Hearts and Spirits
Some of the prayers of the Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. have been collected in Lewis V. Baldwin’s book Thou, Dear God: Prayers That Open Hearts and Spirits. Here is one that addresses human beings falling short of our Christian ideals:
“O Thou Eternal God, out of whose absolute power and infinite intelligence the whole universe has come into being, we humbly confess that we have not loved Thee with our hearts, souls and minds, and we have not loved our neighbors as Christ loved us. We have all too often lived by our own selfish impulses rather than by the life of sacrificial love as revealed by Christ. We often give in order to receive. We love our friends and hate our enemies. We go the first mile but dare not travel the second...”
“O God, have mercy upon us. Forgive us for what we could have been but failed to be. Give us the intelligence to know Your will. Give us the courage to do Your will. Give us the devotion to love Thy will. In the name and spirit of Jesus, we pray. Amen.”
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God. (Romans 12:2)
Conform my will to Your will, Father.
Volunteer in a Wheelchair
Many years ago, Mrs. John Nichols completed more than 1,000 hours of voluntary hospital work. And she did it all as a paraplegic, confined to a wheelchair.
Propelling herself around the corridors of New Jersey’s Englewood Hospital, Mrs. Nichols headed the volunteer services committee, the visitors’ aid service, and was a member of the hospital’s executive board.
Attracted to hospital work at age 18, she began as a clinic aide in New York Presbyterian. With a few years interruption for a long series of operations, she kept at it afterwards.
“She makes all the visitors feel relaxed and comfortable with her big smiles,” commented an associate: “Then you’re startled when she leaves her desk on an errand and goes zipping around in that wheelchair.”
Succumb to self-pity and you’ll accomplish little or nothing. But “go with what you’ve got,” whatever your limitations, and you can be an effective instrument of God’s love.
Do not neglect the gift that is in you. (1 Timothy 4:14)
Father, may we stress our assets and minimize our liabilities in our efforts to serve others.
Helping Is All That I Know
“People appreciate my dad for what he did as a right fielder for the Pittsburgh Pirates, sure, but they also remember him as someone who always wanted to help,” Roberto Clemente, Jr. told Michael Anft for AARP: The Magazine. “That’s how we lost him. His plane went down over the Atlantic in 1972 as he was traveling to Nicaragua to deliver aid to earthquake victims.”
Clemente Jr., who was a boy when his father died, carries on the generous spirit of both his parents. “Helping is all that I know,” he said. While playing Little League, he saw kids and adults asking players for food and wanted to do something.
Today, Clemente Jr. is a sports broadcaster and also serves as global ambassador for Food for the Hungry and its Striking Out Poverty enterprise. He not only wants to get people food and clean water, he wants to teach them how to help themselves.
Come, you that are blessed by My Father, inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world; for I was hungry and you gave Me food, I was
thirsty and you gave Me something to drink. (Matthew 25:34)
Instead of focusing on the negative, give us the strength, Jesus, to maintain hope in the face of challenges.
Changing the World One Suit at a Time
While working at New York City’s Department of Motor Vehicles, PK Kersey noticed many young men arriving for job interviews dressed inappropriately. Kersey felt motivated to help.
He assumed the applicants either didn’t own a suit or didn’t realize the importance of getting dressed up to make a good impression. At first, he and his brother simply gave away their extra suits. But much more was needed.
Kersey started a nonprofit called “That Suits You,” which has grown to include job-skills training, workshops, and partnerships with various schools and organizations.
Participants learn how to get jobs and succeed in them. Kersey told AM NY, “It’s about the relationships they’re building from us teaching them, the mentorship, and how they’re learning to communicate and express themselves.”
When Kersey sees the impact that his work is having on people’s lives, he knows it’s all worth the effort.
Do not neglect to do good and to share what you have, for such sacrifices are pleasing to God. (Hebrews 13:16)
Help us, Lord, to notice what needs to be done and to pitch in.
Friendship and Fortitude
In 2011, Micah Herndon returned home from four years of active duty in Iraq and Afghanistan. He took up running to cope with post-traumatic stress and survivor’s guilt.
In 2019, he entered the Boston Marathon. Written on small plates fixed to his shoelaces were the names of three fallen comrades: Juarez, Ballard, and Hamer.
At mile 20, Herndon’s legs began to lock up. “That last 4.2 miles I ran is the hardest, longest 4.2 miles I ever ran in my life,” he said on NBC’s Today Show. It became so difficult for him to move that he dropped to the ground and began crawling.
He low-crawled until his legs loosened up enough to allow him to crawl on all fours. He made it across the finish line to honor the fallen and send a message.
Herndon said, “I just hope that what everyone gets out of this whole message is to bring awareness to PTSD and all the other issues that come from war, and not to be ashamed of it if you’re a veteran.”
My flesh and my heart may fail, but God is the strength of my heart and my portion forever. (Psalm 73:26)
Lord, sustain me through the trials of life.
A Teacher’s Helping Hand
“I’m not coming back to school,” said 13-year-old Damien to his math teacher, Finn Lanning, at AXL Academy in Aurora, Colorado. When Damien explained why, Lanning was shocked.
Damien lived in foster care and suffered from kidney disease. Since no foster family was willing to take him in, he would have to live in the hospital. On top of that, Damien’s chances of qualifying for a kidney transplant were low because he didn’t have a stable home.
As reported by Steve Hartman of CBS News, Lanning said, “It hit me like a ton of bricks. I mean, you just can’t sit across from somebody that you care about and hear them say something like that and know that you have room to help.” And help he did.
The teacher, who believed he was perfectly happy being single and childless, took Damien in and became his foster parent. Lanning was at Damien’s side through dialysis and eventually, the kidney transplant he needed. He is now looking into adoption, proving that selflessness can lead to a level of happiness we never expected.
Give justice to the weak and the orphan. (Psalm 82:3)
Lead adults to open their hearts and homes to children in need of families, Father.
Look for God in Ordinary Places
Two of Jesus’ followers were traveling to Emmaus on the first Easter, when the risen Lord approached them and joined them in their journey. Unrecognized, He discussed the events of the last few days with them, explaining why it was necessary for the Christ to die and so “enter into His glory.”
When they reached the village, the two invited Jesus to stay with them, which He did. St. Luke explains how the Master broke bread and gave it to them — and how they suddenly recognized who their companion actually was.
Like the two disciples, we all tend to look for the Lord to act in grand and dramatic ways. Yet, the events of everyday life are filled with His presence, had we but the eyes to see. A meal, a job to be done, a chance meeting on the street — all can be occasions for encountering God in our neighbor.
Their eyes were opened, and they recognized Him; and He vanished from their sight. They said to each other,“Were not our hearts burning within us while He was talking to us on the road, while He was opening the Scriptures to us?” (Luke 24:31-32)
Father, help us to realize that it is in each other that we find You.
Your Debt is Forgiven
As Easter approaches every year, many churches advertise their holiday masses or services. But in 2018, Pathway Church in Wichita, Kansas, tried something different. They spent the money they would have ordinarily used for ads to pay off the medical debt of 1,600 families in the state.
As reported by Relevant magazine, Pastor Todd Carter coupled the church’s promotion funds with money already allocated to help needy families, totaling $22,000. These families then received a note stating, “We’re Pathway Church. We may never meet you, but as an act of kindness in the name of Jesus Christ, your debt has been forgiven.”
Addressing his congregants, Carter said, “I want you to imagine for a moment what those 1,600 people felt like last week when they got that letter in the mail...and all of a sudden they realize that their debt, this debt that has been hanging over their head, has been forgiven…That’s exactly what God, in the person of Jesus Christ, wants you to feel each and every day: that your debt has been forgiven.”
Forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors. (Matthew 6:12)
Help me to accept and practice forgiveness, Savior.
Time to Examine Our Motives
Jesus’ last words before dying included a prayer of forgiveness for those who executed Him: “Father, forgive them; for they do not know what they are doing.” (Luke 23:34)
This outstanding gesture of pardon reveals the compassion of Jesus. It also illustrates how easy it is for men to perform unworthy deeds in the name of the highest causes.
Among those who executed Jesus, at least some were acting in the name of “defense of religion” or “the interests of public peace.” Similar explanations have been given throughout history to justify persecutions, wars of aggression, or restrictions on the rights of individuals and groups.
During the celebration of Christ’s death and resurrection, it is well to take stock of our motives. Are we purifying them in the light of the Gospel’s message of love? Or are we using high-sounding excuses to rationalize courses of action that have little or nothing to do with the message of Jesus?
Father, into Your hands I commend My spirit. (Luke 23:46)
Holy Spirit, help me to be open and honest in analyzing my intentions.
Finding God in the Darkness, Part Four
Though doctors initially predicted Kate Bowler would die quickly from her cancer, she remains alive several years later because of an experimental treatment with immunotherapy drugs. She’s not cured, but remains stable for the time being.
The extra time has deepened Kate’s gratitude for life’s simple moments, such as holding her son’s hand while walking him to his first day of kindergarten because she never thought she’d get to see that day.
Her experiences also broadened her feelings of connection to others. During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kate noted that being in pain led her to a deeper understanding of the struggles that all people go through, because no one’s life is problem-free.
Kate’s perception of God has also evolved. She concluded, “I wanted to be an earner: someone who earned God’s love and approval...I found that I shifted some of the way that I think of God from a contractual one, into one in which I mostly think of God as overwhelming love, as one where even in the midst of the worst moments, I felt the sweetness of God’s love.”
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Help me experience the sweetness of Your love, Jesus.
Finding God in the Darkness, Part Three
The hospital in which Kate Bowler had surgery and received treatment was right next to the Methodist Seminary where she worked at Duke Divinity School. That experience gave her a new appreciation of community.
Kate explained that Americans in particular often subscribe to a hyper-individualism (“I can do it on my own!”) that she also bought into because she’s a high achiever. But once she got sick, her work colleagues rallied around her out of love and demonstrated “that we have to belong to one another.”
“The more helpless and reliant I became,” Kate observed, “the more I realized how important it is to have that web of obligation in which we don’t feel embarrassed by our neediness. We just know, ‘I can’t do this on my own. Also, could you bring some food tomorrow?’ My lovely, sweet local Methodist church fed me for a year. I mean, they just took turns bringing food over when we couldn’t take care of ourselves. So I’ve been absolutely held up by the people who’ve chosen to love me.”
More of Kate’s story tomorrow...
If they fall, one will lift up the other. (Ecclesiastes 4:10)
It’s difficult for me to admit my neediness, Lord. Give me the wisdom and strength to ask for and accept help.
Finding God in the Darkness, Part Two
Though Kate Bowler isn’t Catholic herself, she has found solace in certain aspects of the faith following her diagnosis with incurable stage four colon cancer.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Kate said, “I’ve learned from the Catholic tradition, especially in Lent, that there are times of deep and important lament, when Catholics are good at saying and performing what it feels like to come undone...A Catholic cross has a suffering Jesus to remind us that we’re in our bodies, Jesus was in His body, and that our suffering is not an affront to God.”
Kate has also come to a new understanding of Easter. She used to view life as something where “you love all the right people, do the right things, and, in a way, you don’t really need the Kingdom Come…That’s why Good Friday [and] Easter [are] so important. First, the world has come apart and only God can put it together. And then in Easter, we’re hungry for the fact that God’s going to come back and there will be a new kingdom and new earth. Before, I didn’t need a new kingdom. Now, I do.”
I am the resurrection and the life. Those who believe in Me, even though they die, will live. (John 11:25)
May Lent bring me closer to You, Suffering Savior.
Finding God in the Darkness, Part One
At age 35, Kate Bowler’s life seemed blessed. She had a loving husband and newborn son, she’d written a successful book exploring the prosperity gospel, and she worked as a professor at Duke Divinity School. Then, she was diagnosed with incurable stage four colon cancer.
Kate was understandably shaken to her core. She had been raised around Mennonites and Catholics, so she didn’t officially subscribe to the prosperity gospel, an American religious movement which believes that if your Christian faith is true and deep, God will make you healthy and even wealthy. But after her diagnosis, she saw that she had absorbed the belief that she could control her life through sheer determination and faith.
Kate confronted her new reality and wrote about it in her Christopher Award-winning memoir Everything Happens for a Reason and Other Lies I’ve Loved. Instead of feeling like a failure for not healing herself, she came to find God in the midst of brokenness and suffering, especially during the season of Lent. More of Kate’s story tomorrow...
The Lord is near to the brokenhearted. (Psalm 34:18)
Bring Your peace to those with fatal illnesses, Savior.
A Payless Donation
When a Payless shoe store in Hays, Kansas, was going out of business in early 2019, one woman was inspired to buy out nearly 200 pairs of shoes — not for herself, but for flood victims in Nebraska.
Fort Hays State University graduate Addy Tritt heard that her alma mater was taking part in the Nebraska flood relief effort, so she decided to help. “I have been so blessed,” she told the Hays Post. “So many people have helped me when I was down. I want to help if I can.”
When she heard that her local Payless was going out of business, Tritt walked in to buy out the remaining shoes in the store. After some negotiation, she bought 204 pairs of shoes for $100 out of her own pocket. The retail value was $6,000.
After her donation, Tritt hopes she inspires others to volunteer and help however they can. “I think everything is a part of God’s plan,” she said. “If you can do something for someone else, you need to find a way, even if it is a pair of shoes.”
The Lord sits enthroned over the flood. (Psalm 29:10)
Merciful God, help me be a lifeline to others.
A Ride of Compassion
An Illinois man started a new job at FedEx and has a police officer to thank for his second chance.
In April 2018, Ka’Shawn Baldwin, 22, was pulled over by Police Officer Roger Gemoules for driving with an expired license plate and an invalid driver’s license. Baldwin told the officer that he knew his license was expired, but that he had borrowed the car from a friend so that he could get to his job interview that day.
Gemoules told NBC affiliate KSDK, “He was polite when I pulled him over and he seemed like a good young man, so I wanted to give him a chance.”
Instead of towing his car and giving him a ticket, the officer showed Baldwin compassion and drove the young man to his interview, where he landed a job at FedEx as a package carrier.
Gemoules’ actions have been commended by Cahokia Mayor Curtis McCall Jr. as being “a great example of how community-oriented policing actually works.”
Saul said, “May you be blessed by the Lord for showing me compassion!” (1 Samuel 23:21)
Loving Creator, teach me how to walk through life in Your footsteps and show compassion toward others.
Abandoned Church Finds New Life
Greg Thomas sat on the steps outside the abandoned wooden church in Montgomery, Minnesota, and prayed. He had received a diagnosis of stage four neck and head cancer, and required a feeding tube in his stomach along with intense chemo and radiation. He told the Star Tribune he was “terrified.”
Thomas returned to those steps every day. Finally, an idea struck him. Maybe he could give the church a new coat of paint and fix it up. It was called St. John’s Catholic Church, and had been built by Czech settlers, many of whom were buried in the cemetery on its grounds. But it had been closed for 70 years.
Thomas got the church keys from a nearby farmer and discovered the statues and pictures inside remained untouched. He painted, put up shingles, and soon attracted help from the community. He also started feeling better, noting, “It was like as I was rebuilding the church, God was rebuilding me.”
Thomas’s cancer went into remission, and St. John’s now welcomes worshipers who, like Thomas, are in need of a house of prayer.
Like living stones, let yourselves be built into a spiritual house. (1 Peter 2:5)
Holy Spirit, guide me in building Your spiritual house.
Measuring the Value of Life
By what yardstick do you measure the value of life? British journalist Mary Craig offered an appealing standard in a book she wrote many years ago, titled Blessings. After a forthright description of her efforts to accept the disabilities of her second son, Paul, she explained her very real grief at his death:
“I owed him an incredible debt. If our value as human beings lies in what we do for each other, Paul had done a great deal: he had, at the very least, opened the eyes of his mother to the suffering that was in the world, and had brought her to understand something of the redemptive force it was capable of generating.”
That is quite the accomplishment for a 10-year-old who was never able to speak, required constant attention, and lived what some would call a vegetative life.
Of suffering, Craig wrote: “The value of suffering does not lie in the pain of it, which is morally neutral — but in what the sufferer makes of it,” which is the essence of Christ’s acceptance of the cross.
Father…not as I will but as You will. (Matthew 26:39)
Jesus, help me bear my crosses.
When Carl Kozlowski stayed home from school in the third grade, he didn’t think it would be a career-defining moment. But after watching David Letterman’s zany morning show at the time, it planted a seed that led Kozlowski to a career in stand-up comedy. Now, he has joined forces with another comic, Scott Vinci, to create a business called Catholic Laughs.
The duo, along with other well-known comedians, perform at parishes that are interested in doing fundraisers, so they work out a deal to split the profits from the show. And parishioners don’t have to worry that they’ll be inundated with swear words in the comedy routines. Kozlowski and Vinci’s Catholic upbringings led them to keep things clean.
A profile in the Detroit Catholic noted Vinci as saying, “Contrary to popular belief, it is not necessarily more difficult for a comedian to keep his act ‘clean’ in the industry. Rather, clean shows cultivate a broader appeal, and usually result in more gigs.” For more information, go to CatholicLaughs.com.
Our mouth was filled with laughter, and our tongue with shouts of joy.
When life gets too serious, send me something to laugh about, Holy Spirit.
Starting a New Life with Gratitude
“I was convinced I would become an adult when I turned 21. But now, I’m certain that turning 65 was the watershed moment that finally grew me up.” So says Bruce Horovitz in Kaiser Health News about the age at which he found his life beginning — again.
The husband and father notes that hitting age 65 happily started a new and purposeful chapter in his life for which he created a playbook that others could follow.
He agrees with and quotes James Firman, CEO of the National Council on Aging: “There’s really nothing to prepare us for the transition to this next phase of life.”
Horovitz suggests reviewing such areas as health, finances, social relationships, and service to others. For example, he “re-established contact with a best buddy from college” and “bumped up my volunteer schedule.”
Again quoting Firman, he concludes, “Life is a gift…Success in old age starts with an attitude of gratitude.”
Do not lose heart. Even though our outer nature is
wasting away, our inner nature is being renewed day by
day. (2 Corinthians 4:16)
Guide us, Jesus, along the many paths life takes us.
Have You Heard...?
Even scrupulously honest people can unwittingly spread false information. At some time or other, most of us have repeated a rumor that proved to be untrue. And even true stories easily become so distorted that they have little relation to fact.
Psychologists have identified common ways stories change as they pass from person to person: incidents may be exaggerated to make a more dramatic story; details may be forgotten; or what people hear may be influenced by their prejudices.
Rumors can damage businesses, ruin reputations, fan racial tensions, or at the very least cause needless anxiety.
When you hear a story, ask yourself: “What’s the source of the story?” and “Is there any real evidence to support it?” Don’t unthinkingly pass on rumors that could do harm. Take responsibility for your words.
Rumor follows rumor. (Ezekiel 7:26)
Lord, make my speech charitable, honest, wise, and joy-filled.
Getting Past Futility
Rogers Hornsby, Grover Cleveland Alexander, Bob Lemon, and Babe Ruth are all Hall of Fame baseball players. But all of them knew futility as well as success in the World Series.
Hornsby, one of the greatest hitters of all time, struck out eight times in 21 at-bats in the 1929 series and hit .238.
Pitchers Alexander and Lemon both allowed 11 runs in a four-game series. No pitcher ever allowed more.
Babe Ruth was the goat of the 1922 series, batting a feeble .118 in five games. Six years later, he compiled a .625 average in another World Series.
No one is protected from failure. A champion is an individual who can come back from a poor performance and maintain a standard of excellence.
Recognize that you’ll have good days and bad days, and don’t be discouraged when things go wrong. Learn from the past, but live in the present moment.
By your endurance you will gain your souls. (Luke 21:19)
Give us the needed endurance, Savior.
Has My Lent Been Enough?
“Has my Lent been enough? Have I prayed enough? Have I fasted sufficiently? Have I given alms with generosity and caring?” Those are the questions that author and blogger Lisa Hendey asked herself in 2018, during a particularly difficult year in which she found herself caring for her ailing mother.
She finally came to realize that nothing she does would ever be “enough” to make up for Jesus’ sacrifice on the cross and His gifts of mercy and salvation. That was, after all, a free gift of His grace. But Hendey did learn something in the process.
She wrote, “Our family's situation has brought me into greater solidarity not only with the elderly who face this journey and their caregivers, but really with all of those in need. I see them everywhere: those who camp on the street half a mile from my home in LA. Those who labor at multiple low paying jobs to put food on their tables. Those who have been born with or developed disabilities, for whom basic daily tasks are a trial...This Lent has taught me that I can never do ‘enough.’...I can only try to love.”
I will boast...gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may dwell in me.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
I offer my loving words and actions to You this Lent, Lord.
Stars of Wonder
During the “in-between time of winter and spring,” Elizabeth Scalia admired the night sky outside her Long Island, New York home, where stars are all too rarely seen. Writing for Word on Fire, she asked, “Does the fact that we can no longer see the stars have anything to do with our loss of wonder? These things over which we have no management — the stars, and all creation — they are more splendid, perfect, beautiful, and lasting than anything man can create or even conceive.”
She continued, “We have obliterated the stars with our artificial light, and in so doing have blinded ourselves. Without the wonder, the greatness of the galaxies in our sight, we’ve lost the ability to believe in, or expect, miracles.
“When you cannot see the glory of God’s creation, how can you wish to glorify the Lord? No longer able to easily see and affirm anything greater than ourselves, we turn inward, we worship our own thoughts, our invention, our desires.”
Today, choose to move beyond that narrow scope of vision and humble yourself before the greatness that surrounds you.
The heavens are telling the glory of God; and the firmament proclaims His handiwork. (Psalm 19:1)
Creator, open my eyes to the wonders of Your creation.
Fasting Like a 17th-Century Monk, Part Two
J. Wilson had long known about the Paulaner monks and their “beer fast” in the 17th century, so he decided to recreate their type of beer with a professional brewer and adhere to the fast himself during Lent 2011. With permission from his boss at an Iowa newspaper, he drank “four beers a day during the workweek and five beers on the weekends.”
Writing for CNN, Wilson said, “At the beginning of my fast, I felt hunger for the first two days. My body then switched gears, replaced hunger with focus, and I found myself operating in a tunnel of clarity unlike anything I’d ever experienced.”
Wilson lost over 25 pounds and gained a sense of “self-discipline [that] can’t be overstated in today’s world of instant gratification.” His experience, he concluded, “left me with the realization that the monks must have been keenly aware of their own humanity and imperfections. In order to refocus on God, they engaged this annual practice not only to endure sacrifice, but to stress and rediscover their own shortcomings in an effort to continually refine themselves.”
I sat down and wept...fasting and praying before the
God of heaven. (Nehemiah 1:4)
Help me renew and refine my spirit, Father.
Fasting Like a 17th-Century Monk, Part One
Lent is a season of fasting, which can often feel unpleasant (it is supposed to be a sacrifice, after all). But modern fasting can’t compare to the kind done by the Paulaner Monks of Southern Italy after they moved to Bavaria in the 17th century.
As reported by Aleteia, “The strict order required the brothers to refrain from all solid foods for the entire 40 days of Lent, which naturally brought about questions of how the order would maintain proper nutrition throughout the season. Turning to what they knew, they concluded that beer, or ‘liquid bread’ as they called it, could sustain them.
“The Paulaners brewed a special, unusually strong beer that would provide high levels of carbohydrates and nutrients to fight off malnutrition. This early doppelbock-style beer eventually became the original product of Paulaner brewery, founded in 1634, under the name ‘Salvator.’”
Modern beer is much different, so this idea wouldn’t work today. But one man did recreate a similar beer a few years ago and gave the fast a try. We’ll share his story tomorrow...
I had eaten no rich food, no meat or wine had entered my mouth. (Daniel 10:3)
Give me the strength to make sacrifices for You, Lord.
On God’s Goodness
A little chapel in the foothills of the Appalachians bears this inscription on a beam above the pulpit: “God has always been as good to me as I would let Him be.”
These words are from the last letter written by Sallie Howard, whose husband built the chapel in her memory.
This memorial, at the edge of DeSoto State Park in northern Alabama, was built around a large outcrop of rock, which forms its back wall. Visitors drawn by the unusual structure often linger to think about the meaning of the inscription.
Sallie Howard’s words reflect her awareness of God’s love. God delights in us and wants to guide and help us. He is waiting to give us peace and joy — if only we will let him.
The compassion of the Lord is for every living thing. (Sirach 18:13)
How may I imitate Your compassion, Merciful Savior?
Two Thousand Mile Taxi Ride
Many years ago, a New York cabbie drove 2,000 miles on an errand of mercy for a stranded Illinois family.
The driver had picked up a family at Kennedy Airport after an airline strike had stranded them in New York en route from the Virgin Islands to their home in Decatur, Illinois. When the family found that no accommodations to Illinois were available, the taxi man jokingly asked if they would like him to take them to Decatur for $300. The family agreed.
Driving straight through, the cab reached Decatur in 18 hours. After breakfast and a two hour nap at the home of his grateful passengers, the driver headed East again.
Commented the mother of the Decatur family, “He’s a wonderful, helpful man. We’d probably still be stranded in New York if it weren’t for him.”
You and I may never be called on to display such a startling willingness to “go the extra mile.” But in every life, God offers many opportunities for growth through service to others.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go also the second mile. (Matthew 5:41)
Jesus, make us more aware that “it is in giving that we receive.”
Jeff and Sonia McGarrity of Colorado are the proud parents of eight children, four of whom are “typical” and four who have “Awesome syndrome.” They’re using a term created by author Mark Leach, who wishes that the doctor whom “Down syndrome” is named after had been named “Awesome” instead. Because that’s how they see their kids with Down’s: Awesome!
One of the McGarritys’ sons was born with Down’s, so the family adjusted and loved him unconditionally. Later, they adopted three daughters with Down’s.
In countries such as Iceland, close to 100 percent of women whose unborn children test positive for Down syndrome abort their babies, purportedly to help spare the children suffering.
Jeff told Catholic Charities, “While families with children who have special needs — and all families, for that matter — certainly have their share of sleepless nights and frustrating days, we are glad to welcome the ‘suffering’ that has these four bright-eyed kiddos as a part of our lives.”
As soon as I heard the sound of your greeting, the child in my womb leaped for joy. (Luke 1:44)
Jesus, may I see the awesome gift of life in all those around me!
The Best Response to Reckless Hate
Following the murders of 49 worshipers at two mosques in Christchurch, New Zealand, blogger Larry Denninger recalled a line from the movie The Two Towers, based on Tolkien’s Lord of the Rings trilogy: “So much death. What can men do against such reckless hate?”
“The best response to reckless hate,” Denninger writes, “is reckless love. It sounds insensible and nonsensical to the world, and to be honest, it sounds that way to most Christians, too. But we know as Christians, by the example of Jesus’ life and death, that is the only response.”
“Evil’s power lies in its ability to make us despair and feel hopeless. It endlessly batters against our hearts, minds, and souls, tempting us to believe all is lost...The truth? God doesn’t expect you or me to solve all the problems. He expects us to love with a reckless love. That’s what Christians are expected to do. Today, tomorrow, every day... May it never be said no one ever witnessed the love of God in us, because we failed to show the love we profess to possess. Let us be the ones to show what can be done against such reckless hate.”
God is love. (1 John 4:8)
Where there is hatred, let me sow love, Lord.
Chores Lead to Happiness
Washing the dishes, vacuuming the floor, and dusting the furniture are all chores that need to be done in every family’s home. But usually the adults finish these tasks because their kids whine and cry about doing them. A new study, however, shows that parents might want to make their children do chores anyway because they’re good character builders and can also lead to greater happiness.
Using the Harvard Grant Study as research, How to Raise an Adult author Julie Lythcott-Haims said, “If kids aren’t doing the dishes, it means someone else is doing that for them. And so they’re absolved of not only the work, but of learning that work has to be done and that each one of us must contribute.”
Lythcott-Haims elaborated to Tech Insider, explaining, “By making them do chores — taking out the garbage, doing their own laundry — they realize, ‘I have to do the work of life in order to be part of life.’ It’s not just about me and what I need in this moment, but that I’m part of an ecosystem. I’m part of a family. I’m part of a workplace.”
Train children in the right way, and when old, they will not stray. (Proverbs 22:6)
May we build a good foundation for our children, Lord.
Mother and Child Reunion, Part Two
The day after reading the file about Ann, his biological mother, Jim Ryan received a call from Barb, an employee of Catholic Charities. Barb told him she’d been doing this kind of work for years, but never encountered a story as moving as this one. She promised to help him track down his mom.
Barb discovered that Ann had married a man named Jack, had four children with him, and lived in New Jersey 15 minutes away from where Jim grew up. Barb added, “[Ann] told me that she’s prayed for you every day of your life, and that her only prayer was that someday you two would meet in heaven.”
Jim called Ann, and they agreed to meet. He was in the process of moving from Virginia to Massachusetts to serve as the Dean of Harvard’s Graduate School of Education. So with his wife and four kids in tow, Jim’s happy reunion with his biological mother occurred at a rest stop on New Jersey’s Garden State Parkway. Over time, he and his four siblings grew close as well. Jim said, “This is not a bridge I ever expected to cross, but it has enriched my life in so many ways.”
Let her who bore you rejoice. (Proverbs 23:25)
May the loving and life-affirming bonds of family transcend any challenges from the past.
Mother and Child Reunion, Part One
Jim Ryan’s parents had always been open about the fact that they had adopted him through Catholic Charities when he was nine days old, and that the first time they saw him, he was wearing a hand knit Irish sweater and a St. Christopher medal. But because Jim grew up in such a loving home, he never had any desire to find out about his biological parents.
At age 46, after his adoptive parents had passed away, Jim took a friend’s advice to look into his origins. He contacted Catholic Charities and received a file from them that revealed his birth mother was an Irish immigrant named Ann.
In a speech, Jim explained, “[She] worked with a wealthy family in New York City. She did not want to give me up for adoption, and cried every time it was brought up, but ultimately realized she couldn’t afford to keep me...She knit during her pregnancy, which accounted for the sweater. I learned that she stayed in the hospital with me all nine days and fed me all my meals. And I learned that she left the hospital broken-hearted.”
Jim’s wife, Katie, read the file, too, then tearfully told her husband, “You have to find her.” More tomorrow...
You have received a spirit of adoption. (Romans 8:15)
Bless women who give up their children for adoption, Lord.
“What a Love Story!”
Sharon Gibbs-Brown was privileged to witness a once-in-a-lifetime love story firsthand when she got a job as caregiver to 88-year-old Frances DeLaigle and her 94-year-old husband Herbert.
As reported by Georgia’s WRDW News, the DeLaigles celebrated their 71st anniversary in 2019. Six children, 16 grandchildren, and 25 great-grandchildren later, this couple was still going strong.
Brown’s position with the DeLaigles sadly ended far too soon, when Herbert and Frances passed away within hours of each other. The impact of their love story, however, was beautifully recounted in Brown’s Facebook post:
“They smiled, giggled and play[ed] like teenagers falling in love for the first time…They lived together, loved together, laughed together, and passed on the same day…Being in the presence of the Delaigles was such a blessing, it even strengthen[ed] my marriage and the love my husband and I share. To God be the Glory for such an opportunity.”
Set me as a seal upon your heart. (Song 8:6)
Abba, may we be inspired by the enduring bonds of love that surround us.
Minister to a World of Silence
If you were deaf and had to be rushed to the emergency room of a hospital alone, how would you give medical personnel vital information about yourself or your condition? This is a problem that faced millions of hearing-impaired people throughout the country.
Many years ago, Richard Russo, a deacon in the Catholic Church, led Cabrini Medical Center in New York City to take the lead in meeting the needs of the deaf. More than 40 employees completed a course to give them skills in such communication as sign language and finger spelling. In addition, Cabrini hired a deaf person for its staff.
“The deaf have traditionally stayed away from health settings,” explained Deacon Russo at the time. “Experience has taught them that most people do not understand their special methods of communication…Their needs are not heard.”
Deacon Russo passed away in 2017, but he is still remembered for the service and compassion he brought to an underserved community in our world.
The greatest among you will be your servant. (Matthew 23:11)
Guide me in serving others, Holy Spirit.
As You Find Me
Meredith Bird would much rather listen to Taylor Swift than Christian worship music, but one Sunday in church, the song “As You Find Me” pierced her heart and soul. Originally recorded by Hillsong United, the lyrics include, “I know I don’t deserve this kind of love / Somehow this kind of love is who You are / It’s a grace I could never add up / To be somebody You still want / But somehow You love me as You find me.”
Though Bird’s adoptive family has been nothing but loving and welcoming to her all her life, she has struggled with feeling unwanted and unloved because her birth mother abandoned her at a hospital as a baby. That’s why the song resonated.
On her blog, Bird writes, “When the little voice inside your head reminds you repeatedly of how disposable you are...you spend a lot of your time and energy trying to earn love and attention from people...But then there’s Jesus, who loves us like nothing else compares. Who doesn’t shy away from the messy, broken parts of us...I can’t fathom why Jesus would want me, of all people. But, somehow, He loves me as he finds me.”
See what love the Father has given us, that we should be called children of God. (1 John 3:1)
Help me to accept Your love, Jesus.
Teaching How to Save a Life
March 13, 2019, started out as a typical day for New Jersey science teacher Julianne Downes, when suddenly a student in her class started choking. Downes sprang into action and proceeded to do the Heimlich Maneuver. After 20 attempts, the food was finally dislodged from the student’s throat.
After saving the student’s life, a humbled Downes said that she is just one of many that could have helped, thanks to the Pascack Valley High School’s mandatory policy of training each student and staff member to be CPR and AED certified. It was mandated back in 2015 after a student collapsed during track practice and a fellow teammate, who was an EMT, saved his life.
“It is impressive and powerful that we have all these people that can jump into action in any moment,” Downes told CBS2.
Downes is heralded as being a hero by faculty and students, but she said, “As a mom, as an educator and as a human, it’s our job to do the right thing.”
For I will surely save you…because you have trusted in Me. (Jeremiah 39:18)
Oh loving Jesus, thank You for saving my life when You died on the cross.
After someone recovers from surgery or injury, what happens to all of their crutches, knee braces, etc.? More often than not, they end up getting discarded. 23-year-old University of Utah student Mohan Sudabattula thought of a much better use for these medical devices. Thus, Project Embrace was born.
“People get prescribed this stuff for a temporary amount of time to help them heal, and then what?” Sudabattula said to KSL5 TV reporter Caitlin Burchell. “It ends up sitting around and becoming clutter…so we decided to do something about it.”
“I thought back to my entire family in India and the communities there,” he continued. “There are children and patients who…would do anything for these types of devices.”
For now, Project Embrace is comprised of student volunteers. The used medical equipment they collect has been sent as far as India and Swaziland. The students hope to expand their outreach, and are awaiting their pending nonprofit status.
“One thing that brings us all together as a team is a passion for this, and a passion to help,” Sudabattula concludes.
Whoever is kind to the poor lends to the Lord. (Proverbs 19:17)
Savior, may we always seek to help those in need.
Workers Find Success in Satisfaction
How do successful people describe the satisfaction they get from work? Bits and Pieces magazine reported an informal poll of men and women who admitted to both being good at what they do—and loving it.
One said: “I love to create something that wasn’t there yesterday.” Another said: “I like knowing I can do more than is expected of me—and I go ahead and do it.” Still another admitted: “I get a thrill out of doing a job a little better than it was ever done before.”
Everybody takes satisfaction in different ways. But each of us needs work that means more than a paycheck. Knowing that you give any task your best efforts brings a sense of accomplishment that no one can take away.
In the Lord your labor is not in vain. (1 Corinthians 15:58)
Help me approach my work with humble pride, Lord, and guide me toward accomplishing Your will.
Smart Home Helps Military Family
Caleb Brewer, a retired Army Sergeant from Tucson, Arizona, was wounded in combat in Afghanistan on his 31st birthday in 2015. He lost both of his legs, sustained a traumatic brain injury, and was fortunate to have survived. However, thanks to a veteran’s program, Sgt. Brewer, his wife, and their two daughters now have a new place to call home – a home specially designed and built to accommodate his needs.
As reported in the Arizona Daily Star, Brewer’s story came to the attention of the RISE program and the Gary Sinise Foundation. RISE provides mortgage-free homes to severely wounded veterans. The home is a “smart house,” designed with features that can be controlled by a phone or tablet to help in daily functions. It was also built to accommodate Brewer’s wheelchair.
The family’s gratitude reflects the love they’ve experienced though this good deed. “It’s incredibly overwhelming in a good way,” said Brewer. “It doesn’t feel real. I never would’ve expected it in a million years.”
Every house is built by someone, but the builder of all things is God. (Hebrews 3:4)
Strengthen families wounded by war, Prince of Peace.
How Big is God?
On the website Daily Devotion, Jonathan Salomon shared a story about a young boy asking his father, “How big is God?”
The father responded, “It depends,” then tried to explain what he meant. “Looking to the sky,” wrote Salomon, “his father saw an airplane and asked his son what size did he think that airplane was? The child replied: ‘Very small, I can barely see it!’
“Then the father took him to the airport and being close to a plane he asked: ‘Now how big is the plane?’
“And the boy replied very amazed: ‘Dad, it’s huge. Wow! So, so big.’
“The father then said: ‘This is how God is for you. His size will depend on the distance that you have from Him, and likewise that will affect your view of Him, your concept of Him and your experience with Him. The closer you are to God, the Bigger He will be in your life, and your concept of Him will be of a Great, Awesome, Loving and Powerful God that He is. If that is not how you see God right now, maybe you need to get a closer look.’”
Great is our Lord, and abundant in power; His understanding is beyond measure. (Psalm 147:5)
Help me move closer to You today, Father.
Grief, Then Hope
Larry Yeagley was a hospital chaplain in Fort Worth, Texas. He was ideally suited to this ministry because he knew first-hand the pain of grief. He himself lost a son in an accident.
He started Grief Recovery Seminars because he believed that “nobody should cry in their pillows all by themselves.”
Yeagley said that it’s important for us to allow grieving people to express their pain and tell us how they feel, deep down inside: “We have to let them drain off some of that pain, some of that agony, some of that doubt and frustration and anger before we can introduce them to hope.”
If you want to help someone you know who is grieving, just be there. No one should have to grieve alone.
Be kind to one another, tenderhearted. (Ephesians 4:32)
Who needs my ear, my shoulder to cry on, my kindness and tenderheartedness today, Merciful Savior?
A Country Singer Breaks New Ground
In April 2019, country superstar Brad Paisley broke ground for “The Store,” a free supermarket in Nashville, Tennessee, to serve those in need.
The Paisley family was inspired to open The Store after volunteering at a similar establishment in Santa Barbara, California. They walked away from that experience realizing that most people didn’t want handouts. “They want dignity and respect,” Paisley said on The Store’s website. “They want to be self-sufficient.”
The Store will offer free groceries and be located at Paisley’s alma mater, Belmont University. College students will volunteer their time serving others at The Store to help open their eyes about hunger in their area.
Paisley told CBSNews.com, “You can read statistics on hunger or you can read everything about this subject and never necessarily have it hit you in the heart like watching someone walk through this service, which is hopefully what’s going to happen as a student is volunteering here.”
Blessed are those who hunger…for they will be filled. (Matthew 5:6)
Open my eyes and heart to the needs around me, Giving Lord.
How We Reflect God’s Love
Gene Dodaro may be “deep in his senior years,” as he puts it, but the memories of those who’ve loved him remain fresh in his mind. First, there was his grandmother, Frances Caputo, who died when he was only seven. “She was a little Italian lady, less than five feet tall,” he recalled. “Whenever we would visit, she would cup my face in her hands and rain kisses all over it.”
During those years, Gene also met his best friend, Ray Wiehn. Ray, who came from a devout Catholic family, was bigger and stronger than Gene, and served as his protector if anybody wanted to hurt him: “He was like my big brother: He would always direct me to do what was right, civilly and religiously. Surprisingly, I always listened! He’s gone now also, and I miss his brotherly love.”
Gene concludes, “When I hear of God’s love for us, I think of the ways my grandmother and Ray loved me, and I understand: Our Father wants to cup our faces and shower us with kisses, and at the same time, protect and guide us to a lifetime of happiness and caring.”
Faith, hope, and love abide...and the greatest of these is love. (1 Corinthians 13:13)
Help me to see Your love in those around me, Father.
A Message from Above
Baptist minister Jerome Jones of Monticello, Georgia, was working his day job as a lineman with the power company when a message literally came from above. It was a note tied to balloons that read: “God, help me go to college…Please help me get everything I need to leave Wednesday.”
The writer of the note was Mykehia Curry, who was the first in her family to go to college. As reported by CBS News, she was worried about starting school and couldn’t afford a few things she needed to set up her room. Jones, meanwhile, was struggling with his faith and considering leaving ministry. He had just $125 to his name, but the note touched his heart.
Rev. Jones got in touch with Curry. He purchased and dropped off a mini-fridge and a comforter to make her college start easier. What’s more important is that both were the answer to one another’s prayers. Rev. Jones received the boost of faith he had been looking for, while Curry’s balloon prayer happened to land with just the right person at just the right time.
At that very moment, the prayers of both of them were heard in the glorious presence of God. (Tobit 3:16)
Help me to be an answer to someone’s prayer today, Lord.
A Doctor Who Revolutionized Transplants
Dr. Christoph Broelsch recently passed away in his native Germany at age 75. Throughout his career, he was a pioneering transplant surgeon, and one of the first to perform a successful living-donor liver transplant.
In the 1980s, Dr. Broelsch traveled to University of Chicago Hospital where he and other doctors, all experts in their field, theorized a way to take a section of a liver from a living donor and transplant it into a patient whose liver was failing. The first surgery happened on a mother and daughter, where the child – only 21 months old – had advanced liver disease.
The surgery was a success, and was repeated at that hospital and at many others. Both the mother and daughter recovered fully, leading normal lives. Thanks to Dr. Broelsch’s work, pediatric patients (and some adults) no longer had to wait for a full organ from a deceased donor.
Dr. Broelsch and his team were public about the ethical issues at hand with living-donor transfers. They knew their work would save lives and add to quality of life, so they persevered.
There may come a time when recovery lies in the hands of physicians. (Sirach 38:13)
Thank You, Lord, for doctors and nurses that heal the sick.
“Do They Not Deserve the Best?”
Well-known for its Mardi Gras celebrations, New Orleans has another distinction as well: it is home to the only Catholic university in the U.S. that was founded by a saint. Born into a wealthy family in 1858, Katharine Drexel joined the Sisters of the Blessed Sacrament later in life and focused her attention on ministering to Native Americans and African Americans.
As reported by Catholic News Agency, she founded a secondary school for African Americans and “a preparatory school for teachers, one of the few career tracks available to Black Americans at the time.” The latter school went on to become Xavier University of Louisiana in 1925.
University president C. Reynold Verret recalled a New York Times interview in which St. Katharine was asked, “Why are you using this expensive Indiana limestone for a school for black children?” Her response: “Do they not deserve the best?”
St. Katharine knew they did, and she spent her life promoting the inherent value of these young people who still suffered under segregation.
There is no longer slave or free…for all of you are one in Christ Jesus. (Galatians 3:28)
Free our hearts from prejudice, Creator of All.
They Carried Him
When a storm brought quickly-accumulating snow to Edmonton, Canada, Shannon Ranger walked to pick up her six-year-old son, Matthew, from school. He has spina bifida, and uses a wheelchair, so she knew the trip home would be a challenge.
Their struggles were noticed by those passing by. One man tried to shovel in front of them, but couldn’t keep up. Another man soon joined in, and they decided the best way to make the over half-mile journey was to carry the boy in his chair. “It was amazing to see such kindness,” Shannon told CBS News.
One of the men had his son with him, who immediately thought Matthew looked like a king being carried in his throne. That made Matthew laugh – and made the whole situation better. Shannon was so touched that she wrote a Facebook post that attracted media attention for how much the help of a few strangers meant to them.
Finding no way to bring him in because of the crowd, they went up on the roof and let him down...through the tiles...in front of Jesus. (Luke 5:19)
Jesus, where my strength is needed, may I always be willing to help.
A B.O.L.D. Youth Ministry
During Lent 2019, young people from Memphis, Michigan, chose to fast for 30 hours and sleep outdoors to help those in need. As reported by the Detroit Catholic, B.O.L.D. Youth Ministry, which includes members from St. Augustine and Holy Family parishes, sponsored the event to raise money for the charity World Vision.
Youth minister Jennifer McClelland explained, “This is a program we did last year where the children give pledges and donations to raise money for countries with starvation and water shortages.” The students only consumed water and Gatorade the entire time. They also took part in challenges that helped them understand what poor people in other countries endure. For instance, they would carry two gallons of water a certain distance to recreate what villagers without nearby water do.
Tenth-grader Brennan McClelland said, “Doing a retreat like this makes you think hard about what God has given you, what you have to be thankful for, and it opens your eyes to the needs of others.”
Is not this the fast that I choose...to share your bread with the hungry? (Isaiah 58:6-7)
Open my eyes to the needs of others, Jesus.
Lost and Found
Over six years ago, 17-year-old Rameil Pitamber had just lost his father, and was struggling to keep his grades up. “I was lost,” he told CBS News correspondent Adriana Diaz. “I was a follower, and one poor decision led to the next.”
Pitamber’s string of bad decisions culminated in the worst decision of all: robbing a Little Caesars pizzeria at gunpoint with his friend who worked there. Pitamber was caught, convicted and sentenced to 11 years in prison. Brian Nugent, a deputy police officer in Avon, Indiana, was the person who arrested Pitamber.
Years later, Pitamber was released early for good behavior and started volunteering at a Goodwill store. There, he again encountered “Detective Brian,” who remembered him. An impromptu lunch between the two led to a friendship that continues to this day. With Brian’s help, Pitamber has found steady work, and is even attending school. “[Detective Brian] treated me with compassion,” Pitamber gratefully concluded. “To this day, he still builds my worth and self-esteem. With him in my corner, I can do anything.”
Set the believers an example. (1 Timothy 4:12)
Christ, help us to be strong, positive mentors for our youth.
How McDonald’s Went Meatless
The story of how McDonald’s added the Filet-O-Fish sandwich to their menu is grounded in the Catholic tradition of meatless Fridays. Reader’s Digest featured an article crediting the creation of the country’s most famous (and widespread) fried fish sandwich to Lou Groen of Cincinnati, Ohio.
Groen had been in the restaurant business for a while when he purchased Cincinnati’s first McDonald’s franchise in 1959. He noticed that on Friday nights, typically one of the best for restaurant profits, his sales were plummeting.
Groen knew that the area’s large Catholic population was looking for meatless options, so he sought out a fish sandwich with tartar sauce to add to the menu. McDonald’s CEO Ray Kroc wasn’t impressed, however. He wanted to try a meatless “Hula Burger” with a pineapple slice instead of beef.
The two made an agreement: both would be added to Groen’s menus, and they would see which had higher sales. The rest is history, and since then Catholics (and all people) have enjoyed the Filet-O-Fish on Fridays – and any day of the week.
For he and all who were with him were amazed at the catch of fish that they had taken. (Luke 5:9)
Feed my soul this Lenten season, Jesus.
A Spirit of Unity
Singer-songwriter PJ Anderson recently led a service pilgrimage for young people in association with Catholic Heart Work Camp. They traveled to Rome to volunteer in a soup kitchen called Casa Scalabrini, named after an Italian priest who was dedicated to caring for refugees and immigrants. Residents at the facility came from Africa, Tibet, and other countries.
PJ’s group met with the refugees and found that they took great pride in their new home. The refugees also cooked foods from their homelands and served the retreat group because it made them feel good to be of service themselves.
Though some of the refugees didn’t speak English, PJ called their time together “a community building event...A smile is a smile in whatever language.” And he saw barriers between different peoples break down, creating an experience of unity.
PJ said, “We’re living in a crazy world right now, with lots of hatred and violence…We need to unite our voices as one in love. Not in hate, not in being angry. But let that feeling of anger turn into love, so we can drive out hate with love.”
Have unity of spirit, sympathy, love for one another, a tender heart, and a humble mind. (1 Peter 3:8)
Holy Spirit, help me drive out hate with love.
Give Up Worry for Lent, Part Three
In Gary Zimak’s book of daily reflections Give Up Worry for Lent: 40 Days to Finding Peace in Christ, he shares a wise quote from Blessed Fulton Sheen: “Nothing is more destined to create deep-seated anxieties in people than the false assumption that life should be free from anxieties.”
Gary knows that quote is especially relevant in the modern age. During an interview with Tony Rossi of The Christophers, he said, “We are creating more anxiety because we buy into the false notion that the only way we can experience peace in life is to be problem-free. Jesus never said that.
“In John 16, He said, ‘You will have problems, you will have tribulations, but be of good cheer. Why? Because I have overcome the world.’ Jesus never promised a problem-free life. He didn’t have one. His mother didn’t have one. St. Joseph didn’t have one…So when we look to eliminate all our problems, we’re trying to control something we can’t control. Peace is found in the Lord.”
The peace of God, which surpasses all understanding, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus. (Philippians 4:7)
Help me find my peace in You, Jesus.
Give Up Worry for Lent, Part Two
In Give Up Worry For Lent’s first reflection, author Gary Zimak shares a personal story about one of the most troubling times of his life. His wife was pregnant with twin girls, but they were given only a ten percent chance of survival because they had a condition called twin-to-twin transfusion syndrome. After going for treatment at Our Lady of Lourdes Hospital in Camden, New Jersey, the couple would go to the chapel.
“When you’re going through something like that,” recalled Gary on Christopher Closeup, “you realize just how helpless you are and how much you need the Lord.
“Above the sanctuary were the words of Matthew 11:28: ‘Come to Me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.’ I remember looking up at those words while my wife and I were kneeling…[and] saying, ‘Lord, I need rest. I need You.’ That’s the message for each of us, especially those who are worried. He wants us to come to Him. That’s the answer.”
Thankfully, the Zimak girls are healthy and now 21 years old. But Gary can never forget about the lesson he learned during that experience.
I will give you rest. (Matthew 11:28)
Give me rest from my worries, Jesus.
Give Up Worry for Lent, Part One
Gary Zimak absolutely LOVED eating sweets. So for many years, he decided to give them up for Lent as a sacrifice for God. Though he stuck to his commitment, he came to realize that the spiritual benefits were lacking.
During a Christopher Closeup interview, Gary said, “Several weeks into Lent, the focus shifted and I lost sight of why I was doing it. All I kept thinking was: Two weeks until cake! I would literally be standing at the convenience store drooling over doughnuts…It took me a while to [ask]: is this helping me grow spiritually?”
Gary suspected that other people might be having the same results with their Lenten sacrifices, so he wrote a book based on his own experiences with debilitating worry and anxiety. It’s called Give Up Worry for Lent.
Gary said, “People are stressed out about the state of the world, their finances, their health. It is such a powerful open door to lead people to Jesus. They’re looking for relief, and He’s the relief they’re looking for, even though they don’t realize it.”
Do not worry about anything, but...let your requests be made known to God. (Philippians 4:6)
I bring my worries to You today, Jesus. Help me.
Bullied Boy’s Birthday Redo
One Tuesday morning, Grand Rapids Police Officer Austin Lynema saw a little boy running down the block after a school bus. On pulling over and asking the boy if he needed help, Officer Lynema learned that the youngster’s name was Thomas Daniel, he had missed his bus, and his mother didn’t have a car to drive him to school.
The policeman offered Thomas a lift, which he accepted. During the car ride, Thomas confessed that it was his ninth birthday, and he was a having a party later. He was afraid no one would show up because he was bullied by his classmates, so he invited Officer Lynema to his party. The policeman accepted.
Unfortunately, Thomas’s worst fears were realized, and Officer Lynema was his only guest that night. The next day, Lynema and a few other officers took matters into their own hands, and threw Daniel an unforgettable “birthday redo.”
“No kid should get bullied,” the Grand Rapids Police Department Facebook page posted about the second party, along with pictures from the event. “Next year, Thomas Daniel, make sure you drop us that invite…We wouldn’t want to miss it!”
You shall love your neighbor as yourself. (Mark 12:31)
God, comfort and strengthen all victims of bullying.
A Good Deed Each Day
Breanne Zolfo of Crown Point, Indiana, owns a small coffee shop, Café Fresco, through which she helps her community practice good deeds.
As reported on the Today Show, it all started six years ago. When the shop wasn’t busy, Breanne would write inspirational quotes on the cups she would give to her customers. That proved popular, so she began writing suggestions for good deeds on the insides of sleeves of coffee. She encouraged customers to donate to homeless shelters or charities, and take a photo of themselves doing it. In exchange, she would give them a free cup of coffee.
Also in the shop is a special tip jar, where the money raised goes to help someone local with a surprise good deed. Once, she bought a bike for a homeless man with the money. He returned years later to explain what a difference that made in his life.
“We planted a small seed in Crown Point, Indiana, and now people are spreading our mission to other cities and states. When we have other people helping us, that’s when we can do it everywhere,” Zolfo said.
He satisfies the thirsty, and the hungry He fills with good things. (Psalm 107:9)
Lord, help me to do a good deed for someone today.
Back on the Job—and Glad
Work was the essence of a good life to 81-year-old Harry Sandborn, a retired railroad dispatcher who became a teller for Chase Manhattan Bank.
Sandborn was one of over 100 retirement-age people employed by the bank in a special work program for the elderly begun in 1953. Called “per diems,” they worked as often as five days a week or as little as two or three times a year. Evaluation reports on the “per diems” were always very high.
Explained one 75-year-old worker, “I was bored doing nothing. Now I feel like a model in a ‘before-and-after’ ad. I believe that older workers are more reliable; we were brought up different, we’re more responsible.”
Not every retired person can—or wants to—go back to work. But all deserve an opportunity to make their special contribution. Why not, with God’s help, reach out to one older person you know and make his or her life a little more fulfilling?
In old age they still produce fruit. (Psalm 92:14)
Father, may we show respect and love for older persons.
Magnificent Miles Finds a Home, Part Two
Lonnie soon learned that applying for an international adoption was “a nightmare.” There were so many hoops to jump through. And the cost was $32,000. But he and his wife already viewed Miles as their son, so they weren’t going to give up. It took 14 months to complete the process, but in 2017, they traveled to Taiwan to pick Miles up from the orphanage and bring him home.
In 2019, Lonnie told Humans of New York, “[Miles is] four years old now. He runs to me every time I open the door...Even though he can’t express himself, he’s amazingly empathetic. He’s drawn to people who look alone. There are meltdowns. And there are days when I feel like I’m not qualified for any of this. But on the days you don’t think you can get through it—you don’t realize that you’re getting through it. And in the end, you’re getting more than you ever give.
“Recently my wife started sending me pictures of other children, but I always said ‘no.’ Until I saw Miles’ little sister for the first time. She’s from the same orphanage. Her name is Maddie. We submitted our papers three weeks ago.”
You have been the helper of the orphan. (Psalm 10:14)
Lead children with special needs to loving homes, Holy Spirit.
Magnificent Miles Finds a Home, Part One
Lonnie Snyder’s wife kept trying to persuade him to expand their family through adoption, even though they were both pushing 40 and had two teenagers already. Sometimes she would even show him pictures from an organization called Rainbow Kids, which featured orphans with special needs. But Lonnie just wasn’t interested in taking on this new responsibility.
As he told Humans of New York, “One day in 2015, we had an outside speaker visit our office. He talked about his child with Down syndrome. And my heart was completely changed. I went home and told my wife the story. I was crying. She was crying. And I think both of us knew what was going to happen.
“A few days later she forwarded me an email from Rainbow Kids. The title was ‘Magnificent Miles.’ He was living in a Taiwanese orphanage. Just a beautiful little boy. Fifteen months old. Fluffy hair. And all alone. We knew it was our son.”
More of the story tomorrow...
A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you. (Ezekiel 36:26)
Ask If He Wants to Help You
Jordan Taylor of Baton Rouge, Louisiana, was just doing his job stocking shelves at a grocery store when he noticed he had an audience. Jack Edwards, a 17-year-old with autism, was mesmerized by Taylor’s stocking of the juice and milk in the refrigerator section.
Rather than be put off by the unusual attention, Taylor engaged him. He told CNN, “Something in the back of my mind was just like, ‘Ask if he wants to help you.’”
Taylor and Edwards stocked shelves together for half an hour, carefully and methodically, with Taylor showing Edwards where each item went. Sid Edwards, Jack’s father, said, “It was a big deal. When you go to a grocery store with an autistic kid… people don’t understand. They’re not very accepting. Somehow this young man reached my son.”
Taylor’s kindness created a beautiful memory for Edwards, whose father captured it on video. His Facebook post went viral, allowing tens of thousands of people to view this one act of kindness that lit up a boy’s day.
Wine and music gladden the heart, but the love of friends is better than either.
May I be a friend to somebody today and share Your love, Jesus.
The Power of Gratitude
Gratitude can be a powerful force. The act of thanking someone for a kindness, or a job well done, can give glory to God, who should be the ultimate source of our gratitude.
Writer Shemaiah Gonzalez recently reflected on gratitude in a piece on Busted Halo. She wrote about the powerful gospel account of the 10 lepers who were healed, but only one came running back to Jesus to thank Him. Our Lord appreciated the thanks, and sent the man on his way with a blessing for his faith.
In our everyday lives, the opportunities for gratitude are endless. Those who teach us, who serve us meals, who fix our cars and our plumbing problems, and hundreds of other ordinary tasks all could be boosted by a simple thanks.
By cultivating this attitude, Gonzalez points out, we become more open to the miracles that surround us. She writes, “As I start to thank God for His mercies in my life, I see more answers to prayers: a new friend, someone’s healing, a found solution…God’s blessings become even more apparent. All we have to do is say, ‘Thank You!’”
With gratitude in your hearts sing psalms, hymns, and spiritual songs to God. (Colossians 3:16)
Thank You, Lord, for this day, and all the good in my life.
The “Secret” to Staying Married
On the occasion of her parents’ 50th wedding anniversary, nurse Katie Duke revealed on Instagram that they are often asked what their secret is to staying married. This is what her mom and dad had to say:
“There is no such thing as one secret thing that makes a marriage last. It’s a constant effort of forgiveness and love, a consistent dedicated friendship, an open mind, loyalty and faith, the ability to learn from life’s lessons, and letting go of past things that can keep you from growing together.
“Along these years, we’ve learned lessons about the world, about each other, and about ourselves. You see, it’s so easy for people to give up, and we never expected this to be a walk in the park, but after 50 years, every moment was worthwhile. So, at the end of the day, there is no ‘one thing’ that works.
“Find someone who is loyal and loves every aspect of you, even the annoying nuances, find someone who can balance making you laugh and taking you seriously, find someone you do not want to live without, and make a decision to grow together.”
Above all, maintain constant love for one another. (1 Peter 4:8)
Give married couples the wisdom and grace to grow, Lord.
Should I Pop the Question?
Romantic infatuation has little to do with true love, in the opinion of Ray Short, a sociologist who taught a marriage course at the University of Wisconsin. True love just doesn’t happen magically, he said, in advising students to make sure they’re really in love before marrying. He offered these checkpoints to identify infatuation:
■ Thinking the other person is faultless.
■ Loss of interest when separated by time or distance.
■ Frequent quarrels.
■ Impatience with the other’s family or friends.
“If you ask yourself about a relationship before you go ahead,” said Short, a married father of five, “it may keep you from saying ‘I do’ and then later saying you don’t.”
There are no infallible signs that a marriage will or will not work. But a willingness to give and receive love wholeheartedly, an unselfish spirit, is a good indication that true love is really there.
And the two shall become one. (Mark 10:8)
Lord, grant couples the wisdom to ask the right questions before they marry.
Eye Can Write
Twelve-year-old Jonathan Bryan of Wiltshire, England, was born with severe cerebral palsy. He cannot speak, and relies on oxygen and a feeding tube.
His parents, Chantal and Christopher, were told that because of his severe condition, he would be “unteachable” and that he would never be able to communicate. They didn’t take that answer as the final word, though. In a recent story published on Lightworkers, they shared their journey.
Chantal developed a technique where Jonathan could spell out words by pointing to an alphabet card with his eyes. Jonathan has done more than communicate his daily thoughts this way: he’s written a 192-page memoir: Eye Can Write.
Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby recently met Jonathan and was struck by the conversation. He tweeted, “In Jonathan I met a fellow disciple of Christ. He profoundly knows the love and grace of God…He speaks with more conviction and joy of the hope of resurrected life with Christ than I have witnessed for years.”
When you give a banquet, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. (Luke 14:13)
You are closest to those who are suffering, Lord.
A Teacher’s Heroism
Angela McQueen is a high school teacher in Mattoon, Illinois, who experienced an educator’s worst nightmare. While walking around on cafeteria duty, she noticed a student close to her pull out a handgun.
Without hesitating, she sprang into action, grabbing the shooter’s hand and trying to direct his gun up to the ceiling. After wrestling him to the ground, another teacher jumped in to help subdue him, but not before two students were injured by gunshots (but luckily all survived).
McQueen told the newspaper The Pantograph, “It’s the mama-bear instinct. I don’t have kids of my own, but these are still ‘my’ kids. You’re not going to do this to my kids.”
After the event, McQueen went outside to console the students who had run screaming from the cafeteria. Her only concern was for her students, even more than for her own safety. Local police credit her actions with helping avert a terrible outcome. To the school and student’s families, she is a hero.
No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. (John 15:13)
Lord God, help me honor and be grateful for those who protect the innocent.
A Dedicated Leader
In the spring of 2019, the University of Notre Dame bestowed the Laetare Medal on Norman Francis, the longtime president of Xavier University of Louisiana, the only historically black Catholic university in the Western Hemisphere.
A civil rights leader and pioneer in Catholic higher education, Francis was the first African American president at Xavier, a school founded by Saint Katharine Drexel. He accepted the post in 1968 and retired last year at the age of 83.
“I did not build Xavier. I was part of Katharine Drexel’s mission to provide a quality education for all,” he said.
In a statement reported by Crux, Notre Dame President Father John Jenkins said, “For more than 50 years, Dr. Francis has been at the center of civil rights advocacy by leveraging the power of Catholic higher education. In bestowing the Laetare Medal upon him, Notre Dame recognizes his leadership in the fight for social justice through educational empowerment.”
How much better to get wisdom than gold! To get understanding is to be chosen rather than silver. (Judges 5:12)
Lord, make us leaders who extend opportunity to all.
Sick Days to Support a Life
When Alabama high school teacher David Green ran out of sick days to help care for his infant daughter, a group of teachers performed an incredibly selfless act: they donated their sick days.
In early 2019, David and his wife, Megan, faced a parent’s worst nightmare. They found out their 10-month-old daughter, Kinsley, had leukemia. With Kinsley fighting for her life, the couple was inundated with hospital bills and frequent doctor visits. After David used his last sick day, Megan called on the generosity of others so that her husband could continue to have time with their daughter.
“Kinsley is the biggest daddy’s girl and needs him to be here as often as he can,” Megan wrote in a post, as reported by Lightworkers.com, “so she would be so thankful for any donated days so she can spend time with her Daddy.”
Alabama teachers answered the call and generously donated 100 sick days to David. One such teacher, Anna Kachelman, told WHNT-TV, “This was a real physical way that we could help him and his family.”
For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)
Dear Lord, help me answer the call to give the gift of time.
Because One Person Cared
In the harsh winter of 1954, Abbé Henri Pierre, a Capuchin monk who had been a hero of the French Resistance, mobilized the entire government and people of France to do something for the poor and homeless who were dying in the streets.
Abbé Pierre called for the creation of shelters to help those without homes–and many people responded. He helped build 8,000 low-rent apartments in the Paris area. He founded 52 self-sustaining communes in France and helped 100 others throughout the world.
The initiative was called the “Emmaus movement” after the New Testament town near which two disciples met the risen Christ. The homes were supported by people selling scrap paper and repairing and selling broken furniture and appliances.
The Emmaus motto is, “Give instant help to those nearest and in need. Show them how to help themselves. Afterward, let them help others.”
Thousands received decent housing, food and jobs because one man saw a need and began to fill it.
Trust in the Lord, and do good. (Psalm 37:3)
Grant us a greater measure of courage, Jesus, to follow You with trusting hearts.
A Trailblazer’s Vision
The doctor gave 19-year-old Willie O’Ree the bad news bluntly: the retina in his right eye was shattered and he would be blind for life, never able to play hockey again.
It was 1955, and O’Ree was with Canada’s Junior League Kitchener Canucks. A puck had struck him in the right eye because helmets and face shields were not yet a part of the game.
O’Ree felt devastated at first, but soon realized he could still see perfectly out of his left eye. As reported by Tony Paige in New York’s Daily News, O’Ree made adjustments when he was on the ice so he could see what was going on. When a professional team eventually invited him to join because he was such a good player, he didn’t volunteer the information about his right-eye-blindness—and the team never asked.
O’Ree went on to play 21 years of professional hockey and, as an African Canadian who became the NHL’s first black player, came to be known as the Jackie Robinson of hockey. When he talks to kids today, he offers his life as proof that goals can be achieved despite tremendous challenges.
I will lead the blind by a road they do not know. (Isaiah 42:16)
Help me overcome my challenges, Lord.
The Heart of Perfection, Part Three
One of the recovering perfectionists that Colleen Carroll Campbell admires is St. Jane de Chantal, a widow with four young children. She dealt with numerous challenges, including difficult in-laws. Colleen said, “Jane was intense…She was skimping on sleep...She was trying to pray around the clock. Meanwhile, everything was falling apart around her.”
Then Jane met Francis de Sales, who dispelled Jane’s notion that God wanted her to do everything perfectly and drive herself harder and harder. Colleen noted that Francis taught her, “Be gentle with the child who interrupts you. Decide not to gossip about those in-laws who drive you crazy...Be patient with everyone, but above all with yourself.”
Colleen concluded, “When Jane internalized this advice, she not only became more patient with herself, but it trickled down. She became more patient with the in-laws, the kids...She grew into this paragon of gentleness…It’s amazing what grace can do in the life of any perfectionist if we open our hearts to God’s dream of perfect for us rather than our own.”
The patient in spirit are better than the proud in spirit. (Ecclesiastes 7:8)
Increase my patience with myself and others, Holy Spirit.
The Heart of Perfection, Part Two
As a result of her experiences, Colleen Carroll Campbell wrote a book called The Heart of Perfection: How the Saints Taught Me to Trade My Dream of Perfect for God’s.
In it, she addresses Jesus’ mandate “Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect.” During a Christopher Closeup interview, Colleen said, “I did struggle a lot with that. I thought the universal call to holiness meant that…anything short of flawlessness is something to beat yourself up about.”
Eventually, Colleen found new truths about God in the parable of the Prodigal Son. She notes that serious Christians often have trouble seeing themselves as the prodigal son because we think we’re holier than him. But in reality, we all fall short of pleasing God at times, and we are all in need of His mercy.
“When you begin to embrace that,” said Colleen, “you’re no longer imposing this intense standard on yourself [because] you realize that’s not what God is asking of you. He’s not asking for flawlessness. He’s asking more and more for surrender.”
More of Colleen’s story tomorrow...
While he was still far off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion. (Luke 15:20)
Move me beyond the damaging effects of perfectionism, Jesus.
The Heart of Perfection, Part One
“Any time our faith becomes more about criticizing others – or even criticizing ourselves – rather than leaning on and loving Jesus, we’re in trouble.” That’s an insight that Colleen Carroll Campbell gleaned about herself – and society in general – when she began reflecting on her own perfectionist nature.
The author had always prided herself on doing her jobs flawlessly. But when she became a mother, the level of perfection she demanded from herself was emotionally and spiritually draining—and impossible to live up to.
Colleen looked to her Catholic faith for answers, specifically to the saints she had admired for their perfectionism. She discovered that these holy men and women were actually recovering perfectionists, who had followed a new path after gaining divine spiritual insights.
In addition, Colleen learned that an obsession with flawlessness is rooted in the idea that we can earn God’s love instead of simply receiving it as the gift and grace that it is.
More of Colleen’s story tomorrow...
My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.
(2 Corinthians 12:9)
Teach me to be less critical of myself and others, Jesus.
An Educator for the Ages
Born in Plum, Texas, in 1885, Clara Belle Williams had a love for learning. As she got older, she pursued higher education at Prairie View Normal and Independent College, graduating as valedictorian in 1908. But not everything came easy for Williams. The reason: she was African American.
While teaching at Booker T. Washington Elementary School in Las Cruces, New Mexico, Williams began taking courses at New Mexico College of Agriculture & Mechanic Arts (NMCA&MA). Because she was black, many of her professors wouldn’t allow her to sit in their classrooms with the white students. Williams was forced to stand in the hallway and take notes from there. But she refused to let racism hold her back.
Williams earned her Bachelor’s Degree in English in 1937, becoming NMCA&MA’s first black graduate. She remained a lifelong learner and educator—and her three sons all graduated college with medical degrees.
Clara Belle Williams lived to the age of 108, leaving behind a legacy that continues to be admired today.
[Mortals] look on the outward appearance, but the Lord looks on the heart.
(1 Samuel 16:7)
Guide and heal the victims of racism, Lord.
Sadie to the Rescue!
It was 3:30 p.m. on a Wednesday, and 11-year-old pit bull Sadie was a dog on a mission. Her owner, Serena Costello, was not home, but Sadie’s sharp nose had sniffed out a gas leak in the house. After trying unsuccessfully to break out through the front door, the tenacious pit bull somehow managed to open the back sliding door and began racing down her block, relentlessly barking in alarm.
Someone called the New York Tuckahoe Police Department, believing her to be a runaway dog. When the cops came and tried to catch her, however, Sadie eluded them, forcing them to chase her all the way back to her home. “When they [police] went to investigate,” Lawrence Rotta of the police department told CBS2, “they noticed an odor of gas emanating from the doorway.”
The police notified the fire department and electric company, and the gas was turned off. A potentially deadly crisis was averted—all thanks to one plucky and persistent dog. “You saved us,” Costello crooned to Sadie, as she gave her beloved pet a grateful hug.
Who teaches us more than the animals? (Job 35:11)
Abba, bless our pets, faithful companions and protectors of us all.
Making Peace in an Angry World
In The New York Times, columnist David Brooks noted that angry disagreement has become widespread in American culture today. He offered several thoughts on pursuing a better way.
■ “Your narrative will never win. In many intractable conflicts...each side wants the other to...admit it was wrong the whole time. This will never happen...Find a new narrative.”
■ “Agree on something. If you’re in the middle of an intractable disagreement, find some preliminary thing you can agree on so you can at least take a step into a world of shared reality.”
■ “Gratitude. People who are good at relationships are always scanning the scene for things they can thank somebody for.”
■ “Never sulk or withdraw. If somebody doesn’t understand you, not communicating won’t help her understand you better.”
■ “Reject either/or. The human mind has a tendency to reduce problems to either we do this or we do that...There are usually many more options neither side has imagined yet.”
■ “Presume the good. Any disagreement will go better if you assume the other person has good intentions.”
Put away from you all bitterness and wrath and anger...and be kind to one another. (Ephesians 4:31-32)
Teach me to be a peacemaker, Messiah.
Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents
What are three things in the world you wish you could have? That’s the question a fifth-grader asked nursing home residents near her hometown of Harrison, Arkansas. Their answers not only surprised her, but prompted her to help grant their wishes.
When Ruby Kate Chitsey visited the nursing home where her mother worked in 2018, she asked residents what they wished for. To her surprise, many of them lacked simple luxuries to make them happy: pants that fit, food from outside the nursing home, a working phone in their room since they were lonely.
Ruby became emotional at their responses and, with her mother’s help, started a GoFundMe page called “Three Wishes for Ruby’s Residents.” The youngster raised nearly $70,000 to grant these residents, and many more in other nursing homes, their wishes.
“They weren’t new cars or a million dollars [they wanted],” Ruby told CNN. “They were very simple things that you could just go in Walmart and get—and that’s what we do.”
Blessed are the pure in heart, for they will see God. (Matthew 5:8)
Help me, Lord, to share the simple luxuries in my life.
Prayer of Gratitude
This is a story about how an American flyer developed a philosophy of life while in a German prisoner-of-war camp during World War II.
When Lt. Robert H. Doolan’s plane was shot down over Holland, he was arrested and placed in solitary confinement for one month. Finally, he was sent to a POW camp where he lost 40 pounds.
Despite the hardships he faced, he wrote the following prayer in prison: “O Lord, let me remember: That every day I awaken is a beautiful day. That there is always someone worse off than I who needs my help. That there is no such thing as bad food. That prayer will accomplish miracles. Let these simple facts be my guide through life.”
That attitude helped him pull through. If you’re facing small or large challenges in your life, consider saying Lt. Doolan’s prayer. Maybe it can help you pull through, too.
My steps have held fast to Your paths…I call upon You, for You will answer me, O God. (Psalm 17:5,6)
I have tried to walk in Your way, God. Help me in times of trouble.
The Will to Learn
Joseph Wallace grew up poor and struggling in Manhattan. At age 17, he dropped out of school, barely able to read at a second grade level. He explained: “When you’re a kid and you don’t have decent clothes, you don’t want to go to school.”
Wallace took a job in the garment district, pushing trolleys through the streets. With perseverance and hard work, he managed to establish his own dry-cleaning business and made it a success. But he still could not read or write.
So Wallace decided to do something about it. He found a teacher willing to give him private lessons, and started studying. He finally began to master reading and writing at the age of 42. It is never too late to learn. God gives us the power to better ourselves, to grow, to acquire new skills no matter our age or condition. But it takes patience and determination. What area of your life needs a fresh decision to turn it around?
Learn where there is wisdom, where there is strength, where there is understanding. (Baruch 3:14)
Lord, don’t let past failures or shame hold me back from pursuing a worthwhile goal. Give me the courage to move in the right direction.
“You Need Food? I’ll Give You Food”
One Saturday evening, Jitendra “Jay” Singh, owner of a 7-Eleven in Toledo, Ohio, was informed by one of his clerks that a possible shoplifter was wandering around the store. From the surveillance cameras in his office, Singh witnessed a young man stuffing several snack items into his pockets.
Jay directed his employee to dial 911, and stepped out to confront the teenager. When Jay asked him why he was stealing, the teen admitted it was because he and his brother were hungry. On hearing this, Jay told his clerk to hang up the phone.
“I said, “You need food?’” Jay recounted to CBS News.
“I’ll give you food. That’s not a problem.”
Cedric Bishop, another customer in the store, then saw Jay fill a bag with more substantial hot food items and give it to the boy, free of charge. Bishop was so moved by Jay’s kindness to the youngster that he posted this story to his social media account, where it received an overwhelmingly positive response.
“It’s basically our Indian culture that if you give food to a hungry person,” Singh humbly concludes, “that’s considered like God will bless you for that.”
I was hungry and you gave Me food. (Matthew 25:35)
Father, whenever possible, may we respond with kindness.
How to Predict a Snowstorm
You can tell when a snowstorm is coming by looking for natural weather signs, wrote William E. Osgood in Wintering in Snow Country. Here are some things to watch for:
■ A red sky at sunrise that changes quickly to lemon yellow.
■ A halo around the sun or moon, caused by snow crystals in the atmosphere.
■ The hunger of birds. Birds know snow is on the way and they try to eat all they can before it starts falling.
■ A shivery cold feeling. This is caused by the high humidity that usually precedes a storm.
■ Sounds. They carry very distinctly and can be heard long distances just before a storm.
Jesus once told people that they could read the signs of an approaching storm in the sky, but could not understand the signs of the times. He reminded them that each of us is accountable for the way we live our lives. So remember to love both God and neighbor each and every day.
You know how to interpret the appearance of the sky, but you cannot interpret the signs of the time. (Matthew 16:3)
Give us insight into your ways, Father.
MLK on Loving Your Enemies
The Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. pursued civil rights for African Americans in a peaceful way because he took to heart Jesus’ call to “love your enemies.” In one sermon, quoted in the book A Knock at Midnight, he shared his thoughts on the subject:
“There is a final reason, I think, that Jesus says, ‘Love your enemies.’ It is this: that love has within it a redemptive power. And there is a power there that eventually transforms individuals. Just keep being friendly to that person. Just keep loving them, and they can’t stand it too long.
“Oh, they react in many ways in the beginning. They react with guilt feelings, and sometimes they’ll hate you a little more at that transition period, but just keep loving them. And by the power of your love they will break down under the load. That’s love, you see. It is redemptive, and this is why Jesus says love. There’s something about love that builds up and is creative. There is something about hate that tears down and is destructive. So love your enemies.”
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven. (Matthew 5:44)
Strengthen my ability to love my enemies, Jesus.
The Friendship Houses
In Durham, North Carolina, something unique is happening in North Street Neighborhood, where “people with and without disabilities...flourish in a shared life of welcome, belonging, and mutuality, with Jesus at the center.”
Specifically, the Friendship Houses allow graduate students at Duke Divinity School to live with someone who has a disability. The results have been a grace for everyone involved.
Amy Papinchak has a developmental disorder, which results in intellectual disability. Before moving to North Street, she felt alone. But once she joined this special community – and especially after she became best friends with a young woman named Avery Bond – Amy’s life and spirit thrived!
Amy and Avery act like lifelong, loving sisters. Avery’s husband Zach, who also took part in this project, told ABC News’ Local-ish, “Slowing down and allowing yourself...to be in friendship with people with disabilities is a hidden treasure we’re missing out on in our busy lives. Maybe just slow down and get to know one person who’s different than you.”
A true friend sticks closer than one’s nearest kin.
May I be welcoming to someone with special needs, Lord.
A Robbery’s Unexpected Outcome
In 1996, 18-year-old Danny Givens and some friends entered a St. Paul, Minnesota VFW hall intent on robbing everyone there. Givens shot off a bullet right away to make sure people knew he meant business. But he hadn’t counted on armed, off-duty police Sergeant Art Blakey being there. The two exchanged fire, with each one being shot in the stomach.
When Sgt. Blakey’s daughter Brooke arrived at the hospital, her father’s first words to her were, “I’m fine, is he OK?” She couldn’t believe that her dad was so concerned about the criminal who had shot him. But that’s who Blakey was.
He asked the judge for leniency when Givens was sentenced, and he visited Givens’ mother during the 12 years he was in jail. Givens told KARE-TV, “I was in prison the whole time knowing this gentleman had nothing but love for me.”
Givens became a Christian in prison, and when he returned home after his release, Blakey was there. Blakey hugged Givens and said, “I’m so proud of you. I love you. I forgive you.” The two men remained friends until Blakey’s death in 2018.
God proves His love for us in that while we still were sinners Christ died for us. (Romans 5:8)
Teach me to practice Christ-like love, Divine Savior.
The Blessing of a Pothole
Paramedics in Gretna, Nebraska, were racing a 59-year-old man to the hospital because his heart was beating 200 times a minute. He would need an electric shock to return his heart to its normal rhythm, but the hospital was 20 minutes away.
Suddenly, the ambulance hit a tremendous pothole that delivered such a jolt to the vehicle that the man’s heart rhythm returned to normal! One doctor explained that this kind of occurrence is extremely rare, but it can happen—and a man’s life may have been saved in the process.
In life, it’s easy to get distracted by the pursuit of money or comfort or power. As a result, we might lose track of what’s most important. Then, we hit a metaphorical pothole — an unexpected occurrence or piece of news — that shocks us back to reality, restoring our natural rhythm.
Try to live in a way that you don’t need potholes to remind you how precious your health, your loved ones, and all God’s blessings are.
Let the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart be acceptable to You, O Lord, my rock and my redeemer. (Psalm 19:14)
Guide my steps to live according to Your will, Father.
The Right Attitude
Eddie Luisi has worked in television for most of his life, most notably as “stage manager to the stars” on ABC’s Good Morning America, but also as director of The Christophers’ old television show. While giving a talk to students at Keokuk High School in Iowa, he shared one secret to his successful career: an excellent work ethic.
As an example, he recalled one of his first jobs in TV that started at 6:30 a.m. Luisi noticed that the producers “were coming in tired and cranky, so I got there at six in the morning and had some of the work done when they arrived.” His bosses noticed his commitment, positive attitude, and hard work, so when an opportunity for a promotion came up, he got it.
Luisi advised the students to approach their lives and careers in the same way. He said, “I’ve done the news, weather, sports...whatever they needed. I learned from every job, every experience, and I always treated everybody with kindness. Every person on earth should be treated with kindness.”
Whatever your task, put yourselves into it, as done for the Lord. (Colossians 3:23)
Lord, instill me with initiative and a positive attitude.
The World’s Oldest Barber
Does doing what you love keep you young? Ask 108-year-old Anthony Mancinelli.
After 95 years in the barber business and cutting three generations of hair, the Italian immigrant and New Windsor, New York resident has been named the “world’s oldest barber” by the Guinness Book of World Records.
In 1919, Mancinelli emigrated to New York with his family from Naples, Italy. To help his family financially, he decided to learn the barber trade when he was 12 years old. He opened his own shop seven years later, and now – more than nine decades later – he still loves what he’s doing.
He is asked by even his doctor what is the secret to his long life? “Only one man knows the secret,” Mancinelli told Guideposts. “The Man above…I tried never to do anything wrong, so maybe the Man above is rewarding me with long life.”
Mancinelli still has no retirement plans and hopes to keep doing what he loves until the Lord takes him.
And I shall dwell in the house of the Lord my whole life long. (Psalm 23:6)
Lord, help me to live each blessed day to its fullest.
Snow Angels Help Dialysis Patient
Natalie Blair feared the winter weather forecast. As a dialysis patient, a huge snowstorm could be a matter of life or death. To her relief, four high school seniors came to her rescue and shoveled a path so that she could reach her dialysis treatment on time.
When high school student Patrick Lanigan heard the forecast for eight inches of snow in his New Jersey community, he knew he needed to do something to ensure that his neighbor, Blair, could reach her dialysis treatment.
As reported by CNN, Lanigan, along with three other Parsippany High School seniors, helped shovel Blair’s pathway at 4:30 a.m. the following morning. The pathway was cleared in 30 minutes and Blair was able to get to her treatment on time.
The students’ act of kindness was captured by a photo and shared on social media by Lanigan’s father, Peter, who called the four high school students “Snow Angels.” And that is exactly what they were by helping a neighbor in need.
You have shown me great kindness in saving my life.
Loving God, may I put my neighbors’ needs before my own.
Ulster Project Finds Common Ground
When the opportunity presented itself for Melinda Leonard to bring a chapter of the Ulster Project to Louisville, Kentucky, she took it without hesitation. She experienced the project years before while living in Tennessee and understood its ability to build bridges between people of different religions.
The Ulster Project brings both Catholic and Protestant teens from Northern Ireland to live with families in specific places in the United States for one month stays, during which time they engage in activities for the purposes of finding common ground.
The host families always have a teenager of the same age, so the experience becomes a dynamic intersection of people from various backgrounds working to understand how to live in harmony with one another.
In an interview with The Record newspaper, Leonard said, “My hope is that we get to the end of the program and these teens will have been informed and encouraged that they possess the skills to be effective leaders and peacemakers, and that they can make a difference in their communities and in the world.”
Those who love God must love their brothers and sisters also. (1 John 4:21)
Lord, help me to build bridges between people.
Wrong Number Spawns Beautiful Friendship
Though Callie Hall was a young adult, she felt devastated when she heard her parents were getting a divorce. Little did she know that a wrong number from a stranger would help her through that difficult time.
One day, Callie got a phone call from an unknown number, so she let it go to voicemail. It was from a woman named Grandmamma Margaret, who mistook Callie’s number for her grandson Barry’s. Callie called her back to explain she had the wrong number, but Grandmamma Margaret kept calling.
“It brought me joy to see that number come up on the phone because of the amount of love and joy she had,” Callie recalled to Southern Living
Soon, Grandmamma Margaret was leaving messages not for Barry, but for Callie herself. These phone calls quickly blossomed into a friendship, so the older woman invited Callie to visit her home in Columbia, South Carolina.
Callie said that Grandmamma Margaret was just as lovely in person and she is “beyond blessed this sweet lady called the wrong number.”
You shall also love the stranger. (Deuteronomy 10:19)
Jesus, I trust You’ll help guide me in difficult times.
Destigmatizing Mental Illness
Twenty-five years ago, Deacon Tom Lambert from the Archdiocese of Chicago learned that his oldest daughter was suffering from a mental illness. When he and his wife looked to the Church for mental health resources, they found nothing. So they decided to do something.
Deacon Lambert helped found a local commission and national Catholic council on mental illness. He told U.S. Catholic, “One in four people deal with a mental illness in any given year. For one in 22 people, that illness is persistent and chronic. These people are in our pews, in our neighborhoods, and in our families...yet we don’t talk about mental health.
“Because mental illness is so stigmatizing, people feel they’re going through this alone. Showing them that there are those who accept them for who they are and what they’re going through and love them for who they are is the ultimate spiritual gift we can bring. One of the most healing things we can do as people of faith is to listen to others, hear what they’re going through, and meet their spiritual needs.”
Since you are eager for spiritual gifts, strive to excel in them for building up the church. (1 Corinthians 14:12)
May I be a source of healing to others, Divine Physician
God’s Divine Appointment
Foster parenting is close to Hallmark Channel actress Jen Lilley’s heart because she and her husband Jason are foster parents themselves. In fact, they adopted the son they had fostered for two years, and also took in his little brother.
Lilley recalled that, initially, she was hoping for a child that was elementary school age, particularly the 8-year-old girl she and Jason had been mentoring. But that plan didn’t go through so the agency asked them to take in a four-month-old boy with special needs. Lilley felt reluctant to do so, but ultimately agreed. She now calls it “God’s divine appointment.”
She said on Christopher Closeup, “That process ever since has been the most rewarding, emotionally stretching, and spiritually stretching journey of my life. I would do it again, 100 times over, and I hope to foster until I die.”
Parenting has also deepened Lilley’s love and appreciation for her husband. She explained, “If you already have a good marriage, I highly suggest throwing kids in the mix because it opens up your heart on a whole different level.”
Whoever welcomes one such child in My name welcomes Me. (Mark 9:37)
Open couples to the idea of foster parenting, Jesus.
While volunteering at a nursing home, 27-year-old Beth Regan noticed the beautiful relationship between World War II veteran Bob Graham and his wife, Rosie.
“He brushed her hair every morning,” Regan told CBS News. “He’d hold a mirror in front of her and tell her every day how beautiful she was. When she was unable to hold utensils, every day Bob would feed her first before he ate himself.”
When Rosie passed away, Regan continued to visit Bob. Then, two years later, at age 97, he passed away as well. Worried that few people would attend his funeral, Regan used social media to invite people to honor this amazing man at St. Elizabeth Ann Seton Church in Westchester County, New York.
What happened next stunned her. Hundreds of people showed up to give him a hero’s funeral, complete with a police motorcade, a pipe and drum corps, and over 200 military veterans, police, and firefighters from all over New York. Regan said, “I’m overwhelmed with emotion and support. The outpouring of love is incredible.”
The faithful will abound with blessings.
Lord, may we always honor those who have served.
Light in Winter’s Darkness
On a frigid January evening, author Mary DeTurris Poust, tired after a long workday, arrived home to take her dog out for a walk. Her mood was as dark as the night sky until she noticed “white twinkling lights on the neighbor’s trees and the sight of a family gathering around a dinner table through a brightly backlit window...I was suddenly overwhelmed by the beauty of everyday life in an artistic creation right outside my front door.”
DeTurris Poust returned home with a new perspective: “With the holidays behind us and a lot more winter ahead, it can be easy to get bogged down in the darkness and drudgery...Our minds are already counting the days to spring and sunshine.”
“What if, instead, we basked in the density of winter darkness, settled in for the season, and focused instead on the flashes of light and color and warmth that are even more brilliant than usual because of the stark contrast to the world around us?...Simple joys hidden in plain sight can make all the difference, if we can learn to stay in—and appreciate—the now of our lives.”
Be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God. (Romans 12:2)
Open my eyes to the lights in the darkness, Savior.
Why Don’t You Just Trust in God?
Anthony Hopkins is one of the world’s most celebrated actors of stage and screen. From his portrayals of chilling psychopaths to reserved English authors, he brings a passion and intensity to his roles. That intensity worked against him in his earlier years, though, leading him towards alcoholism.
When he was in his late 30s, Hopkins knew he had to stop drinking. He was attending AA meetings when a woman asked a question that changed his life: “Why don’t you just trust in God?” From then on, the self-described atheist began to think about God. Whether it was grace or desperation, he turned to God. His desire to drink left him, never to return.
Hopkins has held on to faith in his life. He speaks charitably about his former cohort of atheists, but also muses, “I wonder about some of them: why are they protesting so much? How are they so sure of what is out there? And who am I to refute the beliefs of so many great philosophers and martyrs all the way down the years?”
The kingdom of heaven is like a merchant in search of fine pearls; on finding one pearl of great value, he...sold all that he had and bought it. (Matthew 13:45-46)
Your promises, Lord, are worth more than earthly glory.
Business Owner Offers Second Chances
George Vorel of Carnegie, Pennsylvania, is a successful business owner who operates industrial steel plants. The work is dangerous and requires precision. Perhaps that’s why many are shocked to hear that Vorel has hired, and continues to hire, former drug addicts who are in recovery.
He told his story in Guideposts, focusing on his family’s experience with addiction and his personal conversion. Vorel’s daughter was in and out of trouble and rehab, struggling to stay clean. One day, he heard a preacher on the radio talking about St. Paul’s letter to the Romans and about being conformed to God’s will. Vorel began to pray and came to see that the best role he could play in his daughter’s life was to love her, no matter what.
Eventually she was successful with her recovery, and Vorel saw what a difference that made. Like his experience drawing closer to God, recovery was a second chance at a new life. Vorel decided to do everything he could to give that same second chance to others, and he began by welcoming job applicants who were in recovery.
Blessed are the merciful, for they will receive mercy. (Matthew 5:7)
Jesus, may I reflect Your mercy to those in my life.
A Flight Attendant with a Servant’s Heart
Vicki Heath had met thousands of passengers during her years as a flight attendant for Southwest Airlines, but there was something special about Tracy Sharp, a 35-year-old woman with Down syndrome who was flying back home to Sacramento with her parents. After engaging the family in conversation, Vicki learned that Tracy’s dream was to work as a flight attendant.
Vicki stayed in touch with the Sharps, and several weeks later called with the offer to have Tracy serve as her assistant on a flight from Sacramento to Seattle. Tracy was thrilled!
Her parents joined her on the trip and relished watching their daughter interact with passengers and hand out food and drinks. As reported by Woman’s World magazine, “At the end of the flight, all the passengers applauded their wonderful flight attendant, and Tracy boasted a 100-watt smile.”
Tracy’s dad, Terry, said, “Her self-confidence has expanded.” Vicki added, “I will never know why God chose me to befriend Tracy, but He did. I’ve learned it doesn’t take much to make somebody happy...and it brings you amazing joy, too!”
She opens her mouth with wisdom, and the teaching of kindness is on her tongue. (Proverbs 31:26)
Lead me to bring joy to someone today, Father.
It Was a God Thing
Jamario Howard, JaMychol Baker, and Tae Knight were waiting for their order at Brad's Bar-B-Que in Oxford, Alabama, when Jamario noticed an elderly woman sitting by herself. He wondered if she might be lonely, so he went over, began chatting with her, and learned her name was Eleanor Baker.
Eleanor told Jamario a little about her life, including that she was a widow and tomorrow would have been her 60th wedding anniversary. The young man knew he couldn’t leave this lady by herself, so he invited her to join him and his friends for dinner. She did, and they had a wonderful evening together.
When Jamario posted a picture of them all on Facebook, the story went viral. Eleanor told CBS News that she considers the evening “a God thing. I think God sent me there.”
Jamario added, “I used to say when I was younger, and I still say today, I want to change the world somehow. And I don’t know how. I’m not rich. I’m not famous...But we can show the world it’s alright to be kind. And then, before long, maybe the world will be a much better place.”
If we love one another, God lives in us, and His love is perfected in us. (1 John 4:12)
Help me show the world “it’s alright to be kind,” Lord.
Reach Out to Others in the New Year, Part Two
Here are more of Elizabeth Manneh’s New Year’s resolutions (via BustedHalo.com) to help ease the loneliness of others:
■ “Carry yourself with kindness. Treating others with a positive attitude can make a huge difference in someone’s day. Smile and say hello to the supermarket cashier, the bank teller, or the senior citizen in line for the bus.”
■ “Put your skills to good use. When I was a single parent, I dreaded facing household maintenance or repair jobs, and was overjoyed when our neighbor offered to fix our gas fireplace when the switch got stuck. For some, even a small job like repairing a leaky faucet is a task that can seem mountainous, but it’s easy for the handy DIY enthusiast. Think about what needs you might be able to meet in your community.”
■ “Send a handwritten card. Snail mail is not dead!...Why not dust off your pen and write a good old-fashioned letter? Many older people struggle with modern technology, but will keep and reread a letter over and over again.”
Turn to me and be gracious to me, for I am lonely and afflicted. (Psalm 25:16)
Teach me to be of service to others, Jesus.
Reach Out to Others in the New Year, Part One
After reading about a study that showed loneliness in the United States had reached epidemic proportions, Elizabeth Manneh felt that God was challenging her to improve the lives of others as her New Year’s resolution. Writing on the website Busted Halo, she shared some of her ideas:
■ “Be observant. It’s easy to miss signs of loneliness, so keep an eye out for those on the fringes who might benefit from words of welcome, a friendly conversation, or a kind gesture.”
■ “Give your time. Maybe somebody you know is struggling with a stressful job, coping with a personal crisis, or lives alone and doesn’t feel like going out without a companion. Offer to take them for a much-needed night out.”
■ “Taking someone to medical appointments is another way to give your time. A few years ago, my mother needed regular hospital treatments every day for three weeks, and the hospital was over 25 miles away. Her church made up a rotation of people who drove her there, chatted with her while she waited, and brought her home afterwards. She felt very loved.”
Bear one another’s burdens. (Galatians 6:2)
Make me sensitive to the loneliness of others, Lord.
Ten Things You’ll Never Regret Doing
“She tried, with God’s grace, to be caritas [charity] to those around her.” So writes Sister Theresa Aletheia Noble about her friend and fellow Daughter of St. Paul, Sister Caritas Forte, who died in 2018 after a long, debilitating illness.
After Sister Caritas died, the other sisters discovered a list in her journals, called “10 Things I Will Never Regret Doing Before Death.” The list offers good advice (and possible New Year’s resolutions) for everyone, so here it is:
1. Do good to everyone.
2. Do not speak ill of anyone.
3. Reflect before speaking.
4. Do not speak when agitated.
5. Help the less fortunate.
6. Admit your errors.
7. Be patient with everyone.
8. Listen, but not to gossip.
9. Don’t believe displeasing things about others.
10. Prepare for death.
Do not forget My teaching, but let your heart keep My commandments. (Proverbs 3:1)
Remind me to integrate wise advice into my life, Father