This website will no longer be updated. I invite you to please visit my blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com
This website will no longer be updated. I invite you to please visit my blog at http://spiritualwomanthoughts.blogspot.com
Our pastor shared this story at Mass on Sunday:
As many parishes do at Christmas time, a parish in New York was having a pageant acting out the Nativity story. A little boy named Tom was taking part. He was mentally disabled, but was very excited to be in the pageant. He was playing an innkeeper and practiced his line over and over again until he had it down perfectly, “There is no room in the inn.”
The big night came and he was ready. When Mary and Joseph came up to him, he delivered his line just as he had practiced. Everything was going as planned, until the Holy Couple walked away from him sadly, at which point he called after them, “Wait! You can stay at my house.”
That little boy obviously had the spirit of hospitality alive and well within him. If he had been back in Bethlehem two thousand years ago, our Christmas story might have had a slightly different setting. But what about us, living today? Do we have that spirit of hospitality?
For some, it comes easily. Their door is always open. There is always enough food and one more is always welcome at the table. They have a special gift for making everyone feel welcome. I love those people and am so thankful for those that I know.
As an introvert, I’ve always struggled with hospitality. Quite honestly, people frequently stress me out, so inviting people into my home isn’t that easy. But as is often the case with our weaknesses, God has provided me with plenty of opportunities to practice it. And, I’m happy to report, I’m getting better. If only because it is such a weakness of mine, I make a concerted effort to be welcoming to anyone who wants to come to my home.
Sometimes it is easier to be open and welcoming with strangers, or those individuals we see rarely, than it is with family members. Sometimes, the people we need to be most hospitable with are the people who are closest to us. This can include those who live in our very own homes.
This time of year, we are called in a special way to be hospitable, to open the doors of our homes and our hearts. How often do we slam the door shut, claiming that “there is no room in the inn.” We are called to make room. Will we welcome Jesus, disguised as members of our own families, into our own inns?
The Scripture readings for this week remind us of the value of life. Psalm 54 emphasizes “The Lord upholds my life.” God is the author and provider of life. Without God, our heart would never pulse a single beat nor would we ever take a single breath. He alone has the right to choose when we come into this world and when we move on to the next world. That is why we must respect and defend life from conception until natural death.
In the Gospel (Mk 9:30-37), Jesus teaches, “Whoever receives one child such as this in my name, receives me; and whoever receives me, receives not me but the One who sent me.” Each child is a gift from God, regardless of the circumstances of his or her conception. Each child has a God-given right to live.
It is fitting that we have these readings to reflect on as this year’s fall 40 Days for Life campaign begins this week. Running from September 26th until November 4th, 40 Days for Life is a focused pro-life effort that consists of 40 days of prayer and fasting, 40 days of peaceful vigil and 40 days of community outreach.
What can you do to help this effort? This fall, there are 316 individual campaigns taking place. To find one near you, please visit the 40 Days for Life website at http://www.40daysforlife.com. If you are interested, you can connect with your local campaign in order to take part in peaceful vigils and work to bear pro-life witness in your community.
Not all of us are able to become actively involved in the vigils, but two things each one of us can do to help this effort are to fast and pray. I personally tend to think of this campaign as a second Lent. In this case, instead of being focused on our own spiritual growth and repentance for sin, it is focused on offering up our sacrifice and prayers for a larger cause. We join our prayers and sacrifices with others in order to help bring about important change in our world.
It can be impossible to know the difference our prayers and efforts make in the world, but there have been tangible results from past 40 Days for Life campaigns. There have been ten campaigns since the movement began in 2007. During that time, 5,928 lives that have been spared from abortion (and those are just the ones we know about), 69 abortion workers have quit their jobs and walked away from the abortion industry and 24 abortion facilities have completely shut down following local 40 Days for Life campaigns.
Being pro-life matters. Won’t you please consider how you can join with others during these 40 Days for Life in prayer, fasting, and vigil to help change hearts and save lives?
“Mom, can I count your grey hairs?” my nine-year-old asked me the other day as he started to poke at my head. He eventually abandoned the task, deciding that there were too many.
Last week, I walked into my parents’ house and my mom declared, “Wow! I love your new haircut. It makes you look older!” Hmm . . . I know she meant well, but in my late thirties, is that really a compliment?
At Mass this morning, I found myself wistfully wishing that I could be the eighteen-year-old altar server. She is such an intelligent, kind young woman with many talents. Her whole future is ahead of her and she is heading to Harvard in a couple weeks. And, as if that foray into envy wasn’t bad enough (yes, I ALWAYS have to confess envy), I realized that not only am I not young with my future ahead of me, but also that I am old enough to be that young woman’s mother.
Needless to say, my quickly advancing age has been on my mind a lot lately.
Our chronological age is one of those things that we have no control over. Those of us blessed to live on this earth for a certain number of years eventually become middle-aged and then senior citizens. But while men seem to earn a certain respect and distinguished quality as they grey, we women are constantly told by the world that we only have value when we are, or at least look, young. Hence, the huge market for cosmetics, plastic surgery, and anything else that may promise to restore us to our youthful appearance.
One can either choose to embrace the changes and accept them as best as one can or one can choose to fight tooth and nail against the signs of age. I decided a long time ago that I would go grey naturally, and plastic surgery is most definitely not in my future. I do exercise and try to take care of myself, but the simple truth is that my body is aging, and will continue to do so. I need to make peace with the middle-aged woman in the mirror.
Lisa Borgnes Giramonti tackled this topic in the July 2012 issue of Living magazine. She wrote,
Character. Age. Patina. Why do we value these qualities in our possessions but not in ourselves? . . . I am reluctant to accept the prevailing belief that beauty lies in subtraction, and that by erasing the passage of time from my face I will not only be smoother but happier. Wrinkles mean you’ve lived, and life is a privilege. . . Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we could appreciate ourselves the way we do our furniture? If the beauty of a changing face was considered a shining testament to the added value of age.
I second that passage. I have no idea how to convince our youth-obsessed society that age is something to be embraced, rather than viewed as the enemy. But, maybe it starts with each one of us and how we view ourselves when we look at our reflection, and then continues with how we present ourselves to the world. We’ve had time to become comfortable in our skin and to be secure in the women we are. It’s time to radiate that character and confidence. It’s time to show that age is beautiful!
Newsweek ran a very interesting article recently: Is the Onslaught Making Us Crazy? Tony Dokoupil examines the growing body of evidence that the internet is changing the way we think and feel. He writes,
The current incarnation of the Internet – portable, social, accelerated, and all-pervasive – may be making us not just dumber or lonelier but more depressed and anxious, prone to obsessive-compulsive and attention-deficit disorders, even outright psychotic. Our digitized minds can scan like those of drug addicts, and normal people are breaking down in sad and seemingly new ways. . . . In less than the span of a single childhood, Americans have merged with their machines, staring at a screen for at least eight hours a day, more time than we spend on any other activity including sleeping. Teens fit some seven hours of screen time into the average school day; 11, if you count time spent multitasking on several devices. . . .More than a third of users get online before getting out of bed.
Dokoupil goes on to describe the way heavy internet users’ brains begin to resemble those of drug addicts, and that even when people state that they want to withdraw from such constant use of the internet, they find it almost impossible to do so. Part of the issue is that a great number of us are connected to the internet for work reasons. One spends all day online for work, and then goes home and spends time online for pleasure.
Smartphones contribute to the problem as well. It used to be that you actually needed to be near a computer to connect to the internet. Today, the internet travels with us. People text and surf and post photos while pushing children on swings, or while watching a soccer game, or while out to dinner with friends. It is never-ending.
Among teens, there used to be a break between the world of school and the world of home. Now, whatever social problems a teen may be having at school follow them wherever they go. There is no escape. Everything is about the social image one projects. One teen quoted for the Newsweek article states: “It’s a nervewracking learning curve, a life lived entirely in public with the webcam on, every mistake recorded and shared, mocked until something more mockable comes along.” At the same time, these teens live in fear of missing out on something should they disconnect for a while.
The internet has brought much good into the world and I wouldn’t want to return to the pre-internet era, but as with any good thing, it has the potential for abuse and overuse. I don’t have a smartphone and I only go online for a few hours a day while I am working, but I’ve noticed that even given my limited exposure, my focus isn’t what it used to be.
Even while I was working on this article, the internet was calling to me. I feel like while the internet is up, I need to be checking my email, Facebook, and Twitter every few minutes to see what is going on in the world. Like the teens interviewed, I fear missing out on something. There definitely is an addictive quality about it.
As parents, we need to be proactive about limiting our children’s screen time. For better or worse, they are growing up in a world dominated by interacting with computers. They need to learn how to make responsible use of the technology. But at the same time, they need to learn how to disconnect as well. In-person relationships need to be cultivated. Books need to be read. Skills need to be learned. There is a whole lot of life to be lived away from a screen. Perhaps we parents can set an example by limiting our own screen time as well.
That I, Paul, might not become too elated, because of the abundance of the revelations, a thorn in the flesh was given to me, an angel of Satan, to beat me, to keep me from being too elated. Three times I begged the Lord about this, that it might leave me, but he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for power is made perfect in weakness.” 2 Cor 12:7-9
What is this “thorn in the flesh” that St. Paul speaks of in his second letter to the Corinthians? Bible scholars have speculated over the years – it could have been a physical illness, a spiritual temptation, or perhaps a certain person who simply made his life incredibly difficult. In the end, it really doesn’t matter, and perhaps that is why St. Paul was purposefully vague (the Holy Spirit at work!). If he had specified what, in particular, was bothering him so much, we might be inclined to brush off the verse and think it doesn’t apply to us. As it is, it has something to say to each and every one of us.
Every one of us has a “thorn in the flesh” – something that no matter how hard we try and no matter how much we beg God, just isn’t going away any time soon. I know I have mine – more than one, actually. There are the physical issues I struggle with, the temptations I find myself battling every single day of my life, the people who I always seem to clash with, the character flaws that I can’t seem to correct, the sins I find myself saying in confession over and over and over again, despite my resolution to “go and sin no more.”
And yet, perhaps, like St. Paul, those thorns in our flesh serve a purpose. I know mine help make me much more understanding and less judgmental. My physical difficulties help me to have patience with others. Is someone having a bad day? Perhaps they had some pain I can’t see and don’t know about. I try to give them the benefit of the doubt.
The people I find difficult to deal with? I’m sure that they find me a cross as well, and if not them, well, then there are probably others that do and I just don’t know about it. A little kindness and biting one’s tongue can go a long way.
I know I’m not perfect. I prove it every day of my life. Therefore, I will not be casting stones anytime soon, and when I’m tempted to be self-righteous at any time, I only have to remind myself of my own laundry list of sins and that temptation is usually put in check pretty quickly.
Most importantly, though, like St. Paul, our imperfections force us to depend on God. We need His mercy, His forgiveness, His understanding. We need Him to take us, all of us – even our weaknesses, and flaws, and somehow turn our failings and our trials into something good. If we were perfect, we wouldn’t need God. As it is, we can’t make it through a minute on our own. We must rely on His grace and trust that He knows what He is doing. Those thorns in our flesh may be an ever-present reality, but God can use even them for His glory.
The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndrome
by J.D. Kraus
Arlington, TX: Future Horizons, 2010
I picked up The Aspie Teen’s Survival Guide: Candid Advice for Teens, Tweens, and Parents, from a Young Man with Asperger’s Syndromeby J.D. Kraus because I have an eleven-year-old son with Aspergers. As we start to navigate those challenging tween and teen years, I need all the help I can get!
I read the book first with the intent of deciding whether I would let my son read it. In the end, I chose not to have him read it. This is because he is still very young in the whole tween/teen age range and much of the information does not concern him yet – he suffers from high anxiety as it is and doesn’t need to start stressing about issues that are still a few years away. Also, the author is on some medications to help with anxiety and depression, and he discusses this. While they have proved helpful for him and I know that they certainly can be of use in certain situations, I’m trying really hard to not go that route with my son, focusing instead on counseling and behavioral therapy. Lastly, Kraus is very intelligent in all his academic subjects, whereas my son has some definite struggles and I think he might feel pretty badly about himself if he compared his academic life.
However, that being said, as a parent, I found this book to be incredibly helpful and I would recommend it highly to any parent with an Aspie kid as well as any teachers who work with these children. It is always good to have these first-hand accounts of what it is like to live with this brain difference. I can’t be inside my son’s head, but books like this give me a window into his world.
A large portion of the book deals with school-related issues. After reading this, I’m more thankful than ever that I chose to homeschool. Bullying (by both students and unsympathetic teachers) is a major issue and Kraus covers it well, offering suggestions on how to cope and report issues one may be having.
The chapter that interested me most was the one on driving. I really wonder if my son will ever be able to drive a car. Kraus explained well how he tries to limit the stress involved in driving, and gave me some hope that my son may indeed be able to manage this with the proper training for unexpected circumstances. The chapter on dating was interesting as well.
Overall, I found this to be a very informative book. Kraus is a young man, so he doesn’t have the perspective an older person might have, but what he does bring to the table is the immediacy of having just been in these situations. His memories haven’t had time to be softened. This world is as real to him as it is to our own children navigating it. Anything that can help us understand how our Aspie kids see that world is of tremendous benefit.