God’s surprise gift of love

My latest column in the Catholic Free Press and Catholicmom.

Last year my dear friend lost her dog and her cat after many years together. When I first met Jackie in 2010 she was able to go out with friends and do her food shopping although it took great effort. Diagnosed with Ménière’s, a disease of the inner ear that causes severe vertigo resulting in nausea and dizziness, it has been difficult for Jackie to walk and to tolerate riding in the car. Now eight years older, she is totally homebound. Losing her two animal friends was a blow.

Coping with decline

Jackie is a woman of great faith whose life is an inspiration to me. There is no one who has understood me better than she. We have shared our deepest, most precious thoughts and feeling with each other. Each week when we visit and I bring her Communion, I take note of how she copes with her slow decline. It is hard watching my best friend suffer.

A surprise

Yet, at the same time, I see the move of God in her life. There is no chance of physical healing, although she prayed for that (along with her family and friends). She has resigned herself to God’s will. But it has not made her bitter nor has it chipped away at her faith. Just last week we spoke of how God has a way of surprising us with His love when we least expect it. Just the night before the Lord provided for Jackie with the gift of a new dog. Although it was not in her plan, it was in His.

Love at first sight

Patches, a mixed-breed terrier, is nine years old. She came from a good family but her owners, an elderly husband and wife, had to enter a nursing home and thus she was given up. Jackie’s daughter found out about the dog online and was intrigued by the description of Patches as loving, craving affection, and enjoying being in the laps of her owners. She sounded like the perfect dog. Patches arrived just after Jackie’s 83rd birthday and proved to be everything she was described to be and more. One look into her eyes and we all fell hopelessly in love. Her friendliness, sweet disposition, and her way of cocking her head and dancing when she got excited captured our hearts in an instant. It was love at first sight, for Jackie, and for Patches.

Reminder of God’s love

Looking at the pleasure Patches has brought to Jackie, I feel wave after wave of happiness and gratitude. When she least expected it, God granted her one of her dearest wishes despite the fact that she thought she’d never own another dog. She did not want to burden her daughter and son-in-law with the care and feeding of a dog but they had other ideas. They too love Patches not only for herself, but for the joy she brings to Jackie.

And this is what led us last week to contemplate God’s surprising love for us. Meditating on a Scripture passage before receiving Communion, I read John 10 aloud. Verse 28 was the standout:  “I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish. No one can take them out of my hand.”

Meditating on that verse, we both spoke of the many ways God shows that love. He knew of Jackie’s inability to leave her home. He felt her loneliness since losing her dog and cat, and her resignation at the prospect of never again enjoying the company of a pet. He understood her many challenges and sent a concrete expression of His sweet, fragrant love to ease her suffering.  It came in the form of Patches.

Always beside us

I reflect often on the image of this little dog cuddling close to Jackie. I think of her daughter and son-in-law’s thoughtfulness in providing this new friend. It all makes me smile. Patches is a reminder to Jackie and all those who love her that God hears the deepest longings of our hearts, and provides. Even as we must carry our crosses we are given refreshment along the way to remind us He walking beside us. In the long and difficult journey home, God never leaves our side.

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Introducing The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections

I am excited about a new daily devotional coming out from Ave Maria Press called The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections, edited by Lisa M. Hendey and Sarah A. Reinhard. I was asked to contribute 4 devotions to this wonderful book and am honored to be included in this distinguished group of over 80 leading Catholic authors.

I just got my advance copies and I can now share with you one of my reflections:

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Continue reading “Introducing The Catholic Mom’s Prayer Companion A Book of Daily Reflections”

Is My Day Your Day: Finding God in others–do we trust each other enough to find him?

Note: My spiritual journal still resides here but I will also be publishing each post on the blog as well.

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MARCH 30, 2016–Today’s readings put forth a common theme–that we need each other. I loved the line from the meditation found at The Word Among Us website:

“There’s something about opening ourselves to other people that makes us more open to the Lord’s presence and his comfort.”

The meditation cites the examples of the two disciples walking to Emmaus, pouring themselves out to Jesus even though they did not recognize him. What they did recognize was his openness to their plight. He was willing to listen.

It also discusses the reading from Acts where Peter and John “give what they have” to the lame beggar–the healing power of Christ.

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The meditation concludes with the idea that we most often find God in one another.

Such discovery requires trust. I have to go out on a limb based upon my initial feelings about someone, and trust that they want to hear what I have to say.

It makes me think about the vibe I give out–does my face convey openness, or am I annoyed that you are bothering me? Am I sitting still and being attentive or am I fidgeting? Is my mind focused on you or pushing in the future, waiting for you to leave?

It’s not easy to trust. It’s a lot easier on my part to think that my problem is so “special” that no one will understand it and so I keep it to myself. That’s a form of pride. There is no problem that is unique to one individual. At least one other person in the world has been through my problems. If I go out on a limb and confide in another, will I find God waiting there to listen?

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Susan Bailey, Author, Speaker, Musician on Facebook and Twitter
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“Do you want to be healed?” is a tricky question.

father-steven-labaireI am pleased to present this guest post from
Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

Today’s gospel reading (John 5:1-16) at the Pool of Bethesda where Jesus heals the man who had been lame for over thirty years struck a familiar chord. In that reading, Jesus asks a most obvious question: “Do you want to be healed?” He sensed that the man having been ill for so long, was stuck in that mode.

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The Pool of Bethesda

I remember hearing that question in my head when I had my throat blessed two years ago on the Feast of St. Blaise--that blessing healed my singing voice. Actually my answer to the question at that point was “No!”

Why the heck not??

I no longer wanted the responsibility associated with being a singer. It sounds ridiculous even as I write this but leading the singing at mass each week had become a grind. That’s what happens when you do it too long without a break. It was time to step aside and I used my lack of singing voice to do that. I sure as heck didn’t want my voice to come back–it would take away my excuse!

cantering

Eventually I came to understand that it was perfectly okay to take time away. I have only just returned to singing in church but this time as a member of the choir, without the leadership responsibility.

Get that elephant off of me!

Then there was the feeling of being stuck when it came to my weight. I felt like I had an elephant sitting on top of me–loosing weight seemed like an impossibility.

elephant on chest

A rare hour spent in church in front of the monstrance changed everything. The grace I received from that time of prayer helped me to gently prod the elephant to move away. He did and I was able to embrace my diet (which is now a chosen lifestyle). I’ve lost 22 of the 27 pounds that I wish to lose. That elephant will not visit me again.

Praying at home

As I wrote in my spiritual journal, “Is My Day Your Day,”  Even though I felt the insistent call again and again to stop, be still and pray, I could not get myself to do it. Again, it was time spent in adoration that caused that elephant to move away as well.

prayer corner4 smaller

True healing

I was healed: my voice came back, I lost the weight, I’ve started praying in my corner each morning and each night.

Healing removes burdens, not just of the physical ailment or stubborn mindset, but of the guilt and attachment associated with those things.

Sometimes it is there for so long that it becomes your identity. It can be a excuse to avoid doing something that is difficult. It definitely requires a truthful assessment of yourself and that can be painful.

All of that was true. But in each case, I experienced transformation. SO worth it!

Not such a simple question is it: “Do you want to be healed?”

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Paying attention: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) by Father Steven LaBaire –

I am pleased to present this guest post from Father Steven LaBaire, pastor of Holy Family Parish in Worcester, MA.

In preparation for mass this Sunday:

In this Sunday’s Gospel we hear about Jesus opening the ears of a man who is unable to hear. Jesus also removes a speech impediment which had prevented the man from speaking clearly (Mark 7:31-37). Not surprisingly this man’s life is completely changed.

Christians are supposed to continue what Jesus did: Opening ears and loosening tongues. Continue reading “Paying attention: Reflections on the Sunday Gospel (Mark 7:31-37) by Father Steven LaBaire –”

Three ways your smart phone can strengthen your faith

This is from my recent Tech Talk column on Catholicmom.com. Portions of this article were taken from my upcoming book, River of Grace: Creative Passages Through Difficult Times, from Ave Maria Press. It is available  on Amazon.

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You and your smartphone are tied at the hip. Emails, phone calls and Google Calendar reminders direct your day’s activities. What if that same smartphone could help you develop spiritual discipline? Continue reading “Three ways your smart phone can strengthen your faith”