When my children were little, we would have what was called a “Book Picnic”. Sometimes we would read together in an elaborate “fort” made from kitchen chairs, couch cushions and blankets. Sometimes we would pile all the blankets and pillows on the floor and lay on our tummies together reading our favorite books. My personal favorite was on the coldest of winter evenings in Ohio, we all climb into my bed with our PJ’s and our favorite blankets, and read until our eyelids drooped shut. Everyone got to pick between three to five of their favorite books (five were for the darkest winter days) and we would take turns reading from each child’s stack. A particular favorite was Richard Scarry’s stories; Detective Sneef” (sometimes called “Detective Sniff”, which affirms the weird french accent I used while reading the book), the clumsy “Mr. Frumble” (in which we would say “OH NO Mr Frumble!” whenever he broke or split something), and the elusive criminal spy “Lady Cheetah” (which for some reason I had a bad Russian accent…too much James Bond maybe?)
At our Thursday group we shared a few memories of what books meant to us as we raised our own children. If only all children had this experience of a parent reading them to sleep each night.
A Bedtime Story
Once upon a time, (a few months ago) in a land not-so-far-away (Memphis) there was a man. He was the headmaster of a school (ok a school principle of an inner city elementary). He knew that his villagers (students) were in a state of dyer need (this format is creative but quickly becoming annoying to both my reader and to me.) Ahem….let me try this again.
A young school principal in Memphis knew his students had low reading scores, which was not surprising considering the living conditions of their families. Turning to the librarian for ways to endear his kids to books and reading, the two of them came up with an idea for the principal to go on Facebook Live and read a book aloud to any of the kids who wanted to log on and watch. He didn’t know if it would have any appeal, but quickly noticed the number of students watching neared 100. He started to expand the program by asking trivia questions about the book later in the week and offering prizes. Soon, news spread to other area principals, and now the kids can be read a “bedtime” story almost every night of the week.
CONSTANCY TO HOPE
It’s easy to see that this man’s constancy and generosity were outstanding in offering extra time and care for his students. We know that constancy comes from FORTITUDE, and fortitude from Hope. In order to keep going in this life, we need to know we are actually headed somewhere better. On the other hand, this man’s extra devotion to the well-being of his kids must have been motivated by love, giving up his evenings to read. Only love seeks the better of the other at the expense of oneself. One of our group mentioned this quote which is her own source of motivation:
“Love and ever more love is the only solution to every problem that comes up. If we love each other enough, we will bear with each others’ faults and burdens. If we love enough we are going to light that fire in the hearts of others. And it is love that will burn out the sins and hatred that saddens us. It is love that will make us want to do great things for each other. No sacrifice and no suffering will then seem too much.” –Servant of God Dorothy Day
How we will act:
We will go “above and beyond” our duties in serving someone (especially someone influenced by our leadership as this principal did) in at least two situations this coming week. Perhaps this means doing something you don’t like, but it means so much to the other (a child, a committee member, the office assistant, an employee). When someone in authority (like this principal) acts out of love in service, it makes a lasting impression.
How we will pray:
Act Of Charity
My God, I love you with all my heart above all else, because you are infinitely good and our everlasting happiness. Out of love for you, I love my neighbor as myself and I forgive anyone who has hurt me. Lord, enable me to love you more and more. Amen.
(Note that to increase in love, we must ask to increase our capacity to forgive.)
We asked ourselves how we could be generous like this principle (beyond what is expected of us at the basic level) and to do that we will need to make this request to God to increase in us our capacity to love like Him.
The Thirteenth Sunday in Ordinary Time
We end the month of June with this passage from Luke:
Gospel LK 9:51-62
he resolutely determined to journey to Jerusalem,
and he sent messengers ahead of him.
On the way they entered a Samaritan village
to prepare for his reception there,
but they would not welcome him
because the destination of his journey was Jerusalem.
When the disciples James and John saw this they asked,
“Lord, do you want us to call down fire from heaven
to consume them?”
Jesus turned and rebuked them, and they journeyed to another village.As they were proceeding on their journey someone said to him,
“I will follow you wherever you go.”
Jesus answered him,
“Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests,
but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.”And to another he said, “Follow me.”
But he replied, “Lord, let me go first and bury my father.”
But he answered him, “Let the dead bury their dead.
But you, go and proclaim the kingdom of God.”
And another said, “I will follow you, Lord,
but first let me say farewell to my family at home.”
To him Jesus said, “No one who sets a hand to the plow
and looks to what was left behind is fit for the kingdom of God.”
Reflections from the group:
Do you want us to call down fire from heaven to consume them?
The Apostles didn’t know what they were saying perhaps, but they were instantly rebuked. We don’t know all of the facts about another’s situation and we can’t judge.
Thank goodness Jesus rebuked the apostles. How many times have I been the one who didn’t know to welcome him when he came to me?
A few of us noticed this emphatic word stand out in the reading, and had not noticed it before. Jesus understood what he needed to accomplish and the strength it would take to finish it, verses the men who half-heartedly offered to follow him but were attached to earthly things that inhibited their determination.
It is difficult to have one foot in the spiritual world and one foot in the world. As we have families, jobs and children and all of us must use technology to exist and so we must keep one foot in the world; but we must be mindful of those situations that can act like a bear trap which clamps down on us and keeps us from moving more into spiritual understanding with an “eternal perspective”. We must have our eye on heaven in order to have perspective of what is holding us back in the world from loving Christ with our whole heart.
Eternal Perspective from Cancer
One of our group has newly been diagnoses with a rare cancer. Her astounding faith, peace and joy have strengthened and fortified our own faith.
Her perspective is that she is grateful for this gift. She called it a gift because it immediately gave her the strength to straighten out all of the things in her life that she felt were misaligned or out of place. She knows that God has given her a platform on which to share her faith.
You see, when we are in a place of weakness and vulnerability, others are watching to see how we will respond. Perhaps that is why God came to us as an infant (the most vulnerable of men) in a manger (poorest of the poor). In our culture today, we don’t care for authority. We can judge those who are speaking from a place of strength as an enemy or oppressor. We don’t care to listen because we feel they cannot understand, even if they have gone before us, so to speak. Conversely, when a person who is suffering speaks of joy and hope, then we are paying attention.
Here is her reflection from this Sunday’s gospel:
I have no place to rest my head…
During lent, my prayer to God was that He would transform me. I wanted to no longer have a mouth that spoke unkindly or sarcastically. It came to me that my tongue should instead be a throne for Christ; that everything I speak should build others up and bring Glory to God. After receiving my cancer diagnosis, it occurred to me that if I truly wished for a transformation, that healing of my body only was not enough to ask for- since that alone, miraculous as it might be, would leave me just the same as I was before my prayer for transformation. So if I were truly praying for transformation that would include healing of mind, body and spirit. It came to me that to be transformed in Christ,that I should continue to imagine my tongue as a throne for Christ, continually “offering a sacrifice of praise.” In addition, I should strive to create in my mind a pristine palace for God, where no unworthy thoughts or feelings would create clutter or mess to spoil His Kingdom and the special place where our Lord reigns from His throne. And finally, I should aspire that my heart become a tender pillow for Jesus to lay his head upon, and also a place of consolation and peace for others in need to find a sweet resting place. So now I am asking God to do something much harder than cure me of cancer— to actually transform me into His worthy servant!