Judgement at the Dollar Store

John 8:15 You judge according to the flesh; I am not judging anyone.

I drove to the local dollar store to pick up a few travel size containers for a trip my husband and I were taking.

As I walked inside I noticed a rather large man looking at me. He had on baggie pants, a hoodie, and a backwards baseball cap. He nodded at me and I gave a quick, nervous smile.

I was rushing about, trying to finish up my shopping before I had to get back to work. After I got what I needed I made my way to the cashier. There were two lines, both of them long.

That’s just great, I thought to myself; now I’ll be late for work.

I chose what seemed to be the shortest line and waited. And waited. In front of me was a woman who appeared to be in her late 30s, and her mother. I was about to switch to the other checkout line, which seemed to be moving quicker, but something told me to stay put. In front of the line was the man I had seen earlier. I quickly pulled out my phone and started checking my emails to keep me busy, not wanting to make eye contact again.

I was barely paying attention when I heard the younger woman in front of me say, “Really? Thank you!”

The man had paid for their purchases.

I smiled to myself. Now it was my turn. I piled my items on the belt and the cashier rang them up. As I pulled out my wallet she said, “Oh no, it’s been taken care of.” I couldn’t believe it! “Me too?” I said to him. “You paid for ME?” He said yes so I thanked him and hugged him.

I hurried out to the parking lot, still delighted at this turn of events, and I saw the man getting into his car. Something told me that I just had to talk to him, so I pulled my car next to his and rolled down the window.

“That was such a nice thing to do. What is your name?”

He said his name was Al. “Well, Al, how can I pray for you?”

Al told me that his wife had recently been diagnosed with breast cancer, and was undergoing surgery in two weeks. To take his mind off of their troubles he had decided to do something nice for other people.

It was all I could do to hold back the tears, I was so touched by this man’s kindness. And I was also upset with myself, for judging this man by his appearance.

I promised to pray for Al and his wife.

I don’t know the outcome of his wife’s surgery, but I do hope Al knows how much his gesture meant to me.
I paid it forward the next time I went shopping, in honor of Al.

Has there ever been a time when you unfairly judged someone based on their appearance?

Please share your experiences with me.

God bless you,
Andrea

Prayer in Action

 

Romans 8: 26 Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with groaning too deep for words.

This has been a busy week for prayers of healing. The son of one of the women in my bible study group had surgery due to an injury. A dear friend of mine also had surgery to remove a cancerous growth, and was waiting to find out if the cancer had spread. Both women were worried.

Prior to her surgery, my friend told me that she could feel the prayers being said for her, and knowing that everyone cared for her gave her the strength to face whatever was coming her way. The surgery for my other friend’s son went well,  but he was in a lot of pain after his surgery. His mother had her son offering his pain as a sacrifice to my friend with cancer! This was such a noble deed, and my friend was touched by this boy’s offering.

I am happy to say that my friend’s son is on the road to recovery, and my other friend is cancer free! Is this because of all the prayers?

How often have we told one another that we would pray for them? How often have we asked for prayers, for ourselves and others? This got me thinking about our prayers in action and how they work. We’ve all heard stories of miraculous healings, where patients have been told that there was no hope, and against all odds they make a full recovery. Is just knowing someone is praying for you enough to help you to heal? What about the people who don’t know people are praying for them?

Does God turn around and say, “Okay, all these people are praying, so I’ll heal you?” And conversely, does He decide not to heal someone because no one is praying for them? Of course not.

So then how exactly do our prayers work?

The easy answer is that God wants us to turn to Him with our requests, just as a child turns to his mother or father. We pray for healing, but what we should be praying for is strength. When we pray, we need to ask the Father to send His Spirit over us, that we may have faith to deal with what is before us.

God is always listening; He always hears us. But sometimes the answer is no.

Take a moment and really think about that. Sometimes the answer is no.

As we say in the Lord’s Prayer: Thy will be done. It is not our will but God’s. We need strength to bend to the will of God, and He will reward us tenfold.

When has God answered your prayers? And when was the answer, “No.”

Please join the conversation.

God bless you, Andrea

 

 

Ash Wednesday

Matthew 6:16-18 “And when you fast, do not look gloomy like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces that their fasting may be seen by others. Truly I say to you, they have received their reward. But when you fast, anoint your head and wash your face, that your fasting may not be seen by others but by your Father who is in secret. And your Father who sees in secret will reward you.”

When my daughter was young she once asked, “Mommy, if the bible tells us not to disfigure ourselves when fasting, why do we get marked with ashes?” I was hard-pressed to find a good enough answer for her, since I myself had the same question. It always seemed odd to me that on the day when we as marked as Christians with ashes, the reading for the day tells us  to hide our fasting and sacrifice.
 However, there’s more to it than that. To borrow a tagline from Nike, the bible is telling us to “Just Do It.” We needn’t go around boring others with tales of our sacrifice. If we do that to make people feel sorry for us, then that is our reward, and we’re done. But we are NOT done. The reason for our fasting and sacrifice is to honor our Father. We should do everything for the glory of God, not for the glory we may receive from others.
Today we celebrate Ash Wednesday. We are marked with ashes to call attention to the fact that God the Father created us from nothing, and our physical bodies will return to nothing. This serves to remind us that we are so much more than this. We remember that one day our bodies will return to the earth, but our souls will live in the glory of God.
 This is also the beginning of the season of Lent, when we make a promise to “give up something.” We make sacrifices this season for Jesus, who sacrificed everything for us. But it doesn’t always have to be giving something up. Instead of going without chocolate for the next 40 days, (which by the way is a very noble sacrifice!) maybe you could make a promise to devote 30 minutes a day in prayer, or go to daily mass, or weekly stations of the cross. The possibilities are almost endless!
 It is also the one day when we as Christians have a physical presence. Many of the other religions of the world have daily signs of their faith, such as yarmulkes, head scarves, and unshaven beards, but other than today, we don’t have that outward sign.
 Therefore, wear your ashes today with pride!
 What changes will you make this Lenten season? Please share your thoughts with us.
God bless you, Andrea
This entry was posted on February 18, 2015. 2 Comments

Open Your Hearts

John 3:16-18 This is how we know what love is: Jesus Christ laid down his life for us. And we ought to lay down our lives for our brothers. If anyone has material possessions and sees his brother in need but has no pity on him, how can the love of God be in him? Dear children, let us not love with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.

So yesterday was St Valentine’s Day, a day set aside for romance and love. There were many heart-shaped boxes of chocolates lining the shelves of my local drug store, and the line at the card store ran to the back wall. People were frantic, trying to find the ‘perfect’ card.

Forgive me for being cynical, but why do we need a holiday that is forced upon us by the florists and the people at Hallmark to show our love to each other? Don’t get me wrong. There’s no harm in these gestures, but shouldn’t we do as John tell us? “Let us love not with words or tongue but with actions and in truth.”

The truth is, I love my husband very much, and I know that he loves me. Flowers and candy are nice, but we don’t need these tokens, or a special day, to show our love. Everyday with him is special. Whenever he takes out the trash, or cleans the snow off my car, he puts a smile on my face. When he goes off to work before dawn, and returns home long after the sun has gone to sleep, to earn a living for our family, he shows his love for me. When I cook his favorite meals for him, or go to work, and care for our children and our home, I show my love for him.

Isn’t it so much more with Jesus? Jesus showed His love for us by the ultimate action: He allowed Himself to be beaten, tortured and crucified; He gave His life for us, to conquer sin and death. Ponder that for a moment. What more precious gift is there, than that of our Savior?

Because of that gift, we need to make a sincere effort to show our love to those around us, each and every day. Not just on a day that the calendar tells us to.

It doesn’t have to be a grand gesture. Call a neighbor who is lonely. Let someone ahead of you on the checkout line. Whatever you do, do it with joy in your heart.

I challenge each of you to open your hearts to God each day. Find a new way to show those around you that you love them.

With what actions have you shown others, and Jesus, your love?

Please share your thoughts and comments so that others might learn.

God bless you, Andrea

 

The Power of ‘Maybe’

I was driving to work one day last month when I stopped at a red light. I was about 3 cars back, when suddenly this man appeared on the side of the road. His long, stringy hair hung like a curtain in front of his face, and his clothes were worn. He clutched a cardboard sign on which he had written, “HUNGRY” in big block letters. Before I had a chance to react, the light changed to green and the cars behind me began to honk. As I drove along I said a prayer for the man, asking God to watch over him, and went on my way.

Later on I was relating this story to my family. “I wish I would have done something.” I told my husband. “What were you going to do, give him money? He’d probably spend it on booze or drugs.” my husband replied. “Maybe.” I said in response, but for the rest of the night I couldn’t get the man out of my thoughts.

Maybe.

Maybe he’s just down on his luck, and doesn’t know where to turn. Maybe he lost his job through no fault of his own, or maybe he has a sick child and there are medical bills to pay. Maybe he’s overwhelmed. There were so many “maybes”.

When I woke the following morning I was still thinking of the man.

Doesn’t Jesus tell us in Matthew 25:40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.”

As I readied myself for work, I decided that I needed to do something. I made an extra sandwich for lunch and placed it in a paper bag. I added a bottle of water, a banana and a napkin. I also added a note, “Dear Friend, I hope this helps you in some small way. Please know that I am praying for you. God Bless you.” I included the phone number of my parish outreach.

I carried the extra lunch bag out to the car and placed it on the front seat. As I drove off, I asked God to send the man there if I was supposed to help him. I felt nervous as I approached the corner where I had seen him. There he was, cardboard sign in hand. I pulled over and tooted the car horn. As the man approached the passenger side of the car I suddenly felt afraid. What if he tried to get in my car, or hurt me? No, I thought, I have to trust in God.

I lowered the window, unbuckled my seatbelt, and wordlessly handed the lunch bag to the man. As he grabbed it from me ours eyes locked, and I wasn’t afraid anymore.

“God bless you.” he said to me as he took the lunch. “God bless you!” I replied, tears welling in my eyes, “and good luck to you.”

I never saw him again after that day. I’d like to think that maybe my small act of kindness was enough for this man to find help

Maybe.

How has God called you to “do for the least of these”? Please share your thoughts and comments.

God bless you, Andrea

 

 

 

This entry was posted on February 12, 2015. 3 Comments

Just an Ordinary Day

I’m always seeking Jesus in the ordinary, but it wasn’t always so.

I’m what is known as a cradle Catholic, baptized as an infant. I attended parochial school from grades 1-12, and I received all of my sacraments: First Holy Eucharist, Confirmation, and a nuptial mass for our wedding. Growing up, my family attended mass every Sunday and Holy day, but sometimes throughout my life, I wasn’t always listening. I was just going through the motions. I thought I knew better than God.

As newly-weds, my husband and I didn’t always attend mass each week. Sometimes we’d go, but more often than not we’d find an excuse not to go. We’d lounge in bed on a Sunday morning instead. “We’ll go next week” we’d tell each other, but then Sunday would roll around and the with it the same excuses.

This went on for a few years. We’d go some weeks but not many. I always felt guilty for not regularly attending mass, but it didn’t change my actions.

Until one ordinary day. I was flipping through the dial on my car radio, trying to find something to listen to on my drive to work. Suddenly a familiar tune came on. It was “church music”. I was about to change the station when a bible quiz started. I listened, and I knew the answers! This became my new routine. I found myself looking forward to the questions. I made sure I tuned in for that particular segment. I wasn’t crazy about the music that was being played, but usually I’d stick around for a song or two before switching back to secular music.

Then one day that station was gone! I spoke to a friend of mine who told me they had lost their funding for our area, but she recommended a Christian radio station that just started up in our listening area. It was called K Love. I became an avid listener to each morning. The music was not at what I was used to. They played contemporary Christian songs. I started listening to this station the whole ride to work, not bothering to change. I also started reading my bible again, and as you can probably guess, I started going back to church regularly.

Now, it’s so many years later. We have been blessed with 3 wonderful children, and we attend mass every Sunday. My car radio is always tuned to K Love, and most times it’s on in my house, too. Unless, of course, my children get to it first. Then they’ll be playing the current hits. (They are teen-agers, after all!)

But every so often, I’ll catch one of them singing along to one of “my” songs, and my heart swells.

All because of one ordinary day.

Has there ever been a time when you found Jesus in an ordinary moment? I’d love to read your thoughts and comments, so please feel free to share.

God bless you,  Andrea