"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset." Saint Francis De Sales

Monday, August 29, 2011

Good Night Irene

She arrived in Midlothian on Saturday and left early Sunday morning. I was not thrilled about her visit but thankful she wasn't more irritable than she was.

Our home was not damaged nor were any in our neighborhood. We had two large trees come down. One scrapped the back deck and one landed on the shed. The damage to the deck was minimal, just breaking a few pieces of siding and trim. The shed only requires replacement of about six shingles on the top where the tree hit it. The fact that the roof did not collapse is an indication of the building skill of my neighbor Mitch. He is a carpenter and in the construction business. We had him build the shed back in 2008. A better idea than buying a typical "kit." Sometimes I make good decisions. So, if you need a new shed, let me know.

Power went out Saturday around 6:30 PM and returned at noon on Sunday. A short inconvenience thanks to the repair crews of Virginia Dominion Power. Mitch, the carpenter, loaned us a small generator so we were able to keep the refrigerator running, have a light on and made coffee on Sunday morning.

Cleanup on Sunday was long but fruitful. Thanks to great neighbors Mitch and Paul we cut up the trees and cleared the lawn. Dee was able to run the lawn tractor around to mow the lawn and get those small things we missed. Neighbor Roger was there to help her get the tractor going. I had gone in to rest a bit and fell soundly asleep. Dee was unable to wake me so went over to Roger for assistance. Hm, so much for team work.

This was Dee's Mom first hurricane experience. When the first tree came down Saturday, she was sitting at the table looking out the back windows. She had never seen a tree fall, especially one that came toward her. We made sure she spent the night with us and Dee took her home Sunday morning. Her apartment never lost power so she was able to go home and shower. Then, being the wonderful person she is, Mom brought dinner back for us Sunday evening. We are blessed to have her.

There are many people who are not as fortunate as we were. They have suffered from the high winds and flooding. They have to deal with power outages, damage and aftermath of the hurricane. Lord please watch over them and help them to get through their recovery.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 12)

1. Saturday was the annual block party on Treefoil Court. My brother in law Frank organizes this event bringing together all their friends in the neighborhood. There is an inflatable jumper and water slip and slide for the younger crowd. The adult games include a wiffle ball and a "corn hole" tournament. The latter going on until early morning.

I went to bed early but was jolted awake by a large "BOOM." Fireworks .... they didn't have these last year, it was quite a surprise.

There is always more than enough food and drink. Home made deserts being the best. I'm sure I added a few pounds.

It was sunny and warm and the evening brought a relaxing coolness that balanced the day.

2. From "The Feast of Booths: Christin's Quote Book."

"The statistics on sanity are that one out of every four Americans is suffering from some sort of mental illness. Think of your three best friends. If they're okay, then it's you." Rita Mae Brown

3. Dinner at Duff's in Orchard Park, New York. It was great! Dee and I split an order of chicken wings, hot but tasty. I washed them down with a couple of Molson Canadian drafts. This is what I look forward to when we come to Buffalo. Real "Buffalo" chicken wings and Canadian beer.

4. I missed well not really, just wasn't here when the earthquake was. Fortunately there were no injuries or damage in Richmond. Unfortunately our son Todd and his family are close to Mineral, Virginia. The house shook but it's still up. Then there was the aftershock, but that too passed without any issues.

Now we're getting ready for "Irene," a large hurricane heading along the eastern coast. As of right now we are suppose to get 40 mph winds and rain. It would be nice if she would move off shore and frolic in the ocean far east of us.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

An Angel Story

My sore throat changed on Friday night. I woke up with a chill and figured it was from sleeping without the sheet covering me. So I covered myself and put on a shirt. 

It didn't help. I pulled the comforter over me and still could not get warm. Dee came into the room and asked if I was okay.

"I'm cold and can't get warm." This is not a good way to spend my vacation, but I know she will take care of me.

She felt my forehead and asked if I had brought the Ibuprofen. I didn't, so she went downstairs and got some Tylenol from my sister. Then she covered me with another comforter and I was able to sleep.

I finally get to sleep, but sometime later I awake. There is an angel sitting at the edge of the bed. He is dressed in white slacks with a tailored long sleeve shirt that is also white. There are no wings but there is an aura around him that is soft and pleasant to the eyes.     

"Paul it's time." His voice reminds me of the country singer Randy Travis. 

"What? What do you mean it's time. I'm cold and have a fever. Maybe a little delirious because I'm talking to an angel. But I'm not dying."

The angel looks at me and smiles. His face is compassionate and he takes in a slow breath. "Paul, it's time. Just take my hand and we''ll be on our way."

"But I'm not ready! I mean my retirement is coming up. I'm only 64. I want to travel with my wife, enjoy my family and friends. I'll finally have time to enjoy my hobbies. Do you know how many figures I haven't painted? Do you know I'm still trying to write stories? I have these plans I'm putting together to enjoy my retirement life... plans to paint, plans to write, plans to learn new things ... plans to ... plans to 

Oh great, they're my plans ...

They're not His plans. 

Can we work out something? Maybe give me a few more years? Say ten or fifteen or even twenty?"

"Paul, God doesn't work that way. He has watched you work and become stronger in your faith. He loves you and now it's time for you to join Him." 

"Hrmph ...... this is not what I expected. Please understand that I do want to be with Him, just not now. Is there anything that can be done to change His mind?"

"No Paul there isn't." The angel then reached over and gently put his hand on my shoulder.

As he touched me, my eyes opened and there was Dee with her hand on my shoulder. "Are you alright? It looks like the fever broke. You shirt is wet and you have kicked off all the comforters."

"Yes, I'm fine. Thank you for taking care of me. I love you."

"I love you too. Are you sure you're okay?" She checked my forehead again to confirm I was over the fever. 

Whoa, that was an interesting dream. Hopefully it wasn't some sort of foreshadowing. I would like to believe that it was just my imagination running pell-mell through my mind. Sometimes I get a specific thought stuck in my head and it follows me into my dreams. Maybe that's what happened. Anyway, I'm still here and getting better.


Saturday, August 20, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 11)

1. Here is a quote from Aileen O'Donoghue who writes for "Living Faith."

"This kingdom isn't one in which no bad or sad things ever happen, but one in which the beautiful, the fun and the unexpected are given just as much importance, where it is recognized that our thoughts can make us more unhappy than our circumstances." 

So, when things are not quite going the way you feel it should be going just do an attitude adjustment. We can make our lives more enjoyable if we want to. Just be a child of God.

2. Last Friday night went to the James River Winery for their "Fridays On The Patio." Wine tasting, food, music and meeting new people. Our last visit was in August 2009, see my review "in vino veritas."

This year we took Dee;s Mom, who is my wine drinking buddy. She loved the wine tasting part and at one point when asking for another glass was told she had already been through the selection. I'm sure the young man was trying to be helpful by acknowledging she had tried everything. So she selected a bottle of the 2008 Montpelier Blush. I went to my favorite, the 2007 Cabernet Franc. 

The evening was perfect, mild temperatures, no rain and enjoyable music by the Sharon Rae North band. We met two young couples whom I shared my limited wine experience with. Kevin and Lisa and Jerome and Stephanie. Very nice and pleasant to talk to.

3. Please read "Thoughts of a Flawed Disciple." The timing for me was excellent. I needed some positive reinforcement trying to get through a nagging sore throat.

4. We're off to Buffalo for a few days to visit my sister and her family. We will be seeing Dee's aunt and uncle and some of her cousins. Somehow we'll squeeze in time with Phil and Lynne and Rich, Kathy, Walter and Sue. I am looking forward to the trip.

When we use to travel with the boys Dee always had games for everyone to get involved. It was a time before electronics. We sang songs, counted different colors of cars, played "I see" and read stories. The first electronic device I put in one of our vans was a small black and white television. It had an adapter that fit into the cigarette lighter. The only issue we had is that as I drove the station signal would change. It made it difficult to get interested in a program that you only watch for 20 minutes. 

Now we have our GPS, iPod, laptops and da' Nook.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Canaanite Woman

Sunday's Gospel is the story of the Canaanite woman. One that speaks of her faith and persistence. It contains a lesson that kept my attention throughout the Homily.

The cities of Tyre and Sidon are in the region of what is today Lebanon. At the time of Jesus it was an area of "Gentiles." So the reading starts at a location outside of Israel. My thought is did Jesus purposely travel here to teach the Apostles about faith? 

When the woman approaches and speaks to Jesus he does not answer her. This would be normal during this period as women had little or no authority. They were suppose to be confined to their homes and were considered inferior to men. Any woman seen in public without her father or husband were usually considered "unclean." But, my mind is still "spinning," there is a different reason for not answering. This is a lesson, Jesus is not being rude or ignoring her because she is a woman.

The disciples don't speak to her either and suggest to Jesus to tell her to go away. But He did not send her away, he told her that He was "only sent to the lost sheep of Israel." In other words, sorry, but Gentiles are not included in hearing the Word of the Lord. 

When Jesus does speak to the woman, He makes a statement. It is not the beginning of a conversation. Was this for the benefit of the disciples? I believe it was. He was giving them the opportunity to react based on all that they had learned. But they were not thinking nor grasping what was happening.

The woman takes advantage of not being dismissed and asks for help, not for her but for her daughter. The love of a mother so strong that she is willing to ignore her unsavory position. Another lesson and still no reaction from the disciples.

Jesus continues with another statement, perhaps testing her, but once again providing an opportunity for His disciples. He tells her, that it is not right to take Word of the Lord from the Israelites and give it to the Gentiles. 

But the woman's faith is undaunted and she will not go away. She replies saying that even if the Gentiles hear indirectly of the Word, it is enough.

Jesus replies, "Oh woman, great is your faith!" He knows she really understands what the Word of the Lord is. She is rewarded for her faith and her daughter is healed.

So, I wonder what the disciples are thinking. Have they missed the lesson? Do they realize what they have just witnessed?

There is a strong message that lights up the reading. As I'm sitting in the pew and listening to the Homily my mind is putting each lesson into place. I am listening and know that I need to write about this. The Deacon's Homily is different from my interpretation but it is still good. He is providing information for reflection and teaching us about seeing and faith. But I'm focused on the disciples. Why can't they hear and see?

Then I realize that I don't always hear and see. Sometimes we are so close to Jesus that we look pass Him. Maybe this reading is one I need to "bookmark" to remind myself to look and see Him, always.


Friday, August 12, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 10)

1. Dee and her Mom prepared lasagna, meatballs, sausage and salad on Sunday. We brought this dinner over to the fire station where our son Stephen is assigned. His wife Christina baked brownies for desert. It was a delicious meal and there were four very happy and content firemen at the end of the meal. 

2. Our dear friend Jeanne went in for a scheduled operation Monday morning. At Sunday Mass Father Jim did "anointing of the sick" for her in the small chapel. Jeanne's family and friends were in attendance for her. Afterward we went to Panera for brunch and our group was so large that we took up three large tables.

Watching the faces and listening to the conversations I knew that God's presence was there. There was love, support and laughter. We "broke bread" and prayed. It was a beautiful day.

The operation was successful and now our prayers are for Jeanne's quick and uneventful recovery. Thank you Lord.

3. Please read Jennifer Fulwiler's blog, "THOSE (Our Father, Word by Word.)

She is is a talented writer who has taken a word and applied it to our daily life. The concept of "good" and "bad" are easy to deal with if you believe you are not a sinner. I have to work at being good all the time. It's too easy to slip into a false reality. Dealing with people at work makes it even harder. In my daily prayers I ask for help when my faith wavers or my love for others hesitates. It's all part of life and wanting to follow Christ and His teachings.

My favorite quote from Jennifer's blog; "The only difference between being a good person and a bad person is the number of lies you allow yourself to believe."  

4. "For this reason reason a man shall leave his father and mother and be joined to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh. So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man put asunder."  Matthew19:3-12 

Today's Gospel means more to me today than when Dee and I were married on May 8th, 1971. On that day I left my mother and father started out on a new journey. There was no real plan as most people who were in love got married, had children and grew old together. It seemed simple but I soon learned that it wasn't. Marriage requires love and I was not really aware of what that meant. Fortunately, with God's blessing and Dee's love for me I began to understand what "shall become one flesh" means. It is through God's love for us and our love for God that binds us together. We love as He had taught us to love and each day it grows. There are times that it would have been nice if I figured it out sooner, but I'm thankful I know now and life is beautiful.  

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Promise Land

Standing before the promised land Moses turned to Joshua and said, "It is the Lord who goes before you; He will be with you and will never fail you or forsake you. So do not fear or be dismayed."  Deuteronomy 31:7,8

I went to see "The Ten Commandments" back in the late 60's. The theatre was downtown and at the time was the only one with the new wide screen "Cinerama." The characters stood out much larger than I had ever seen before. Their impact on the story made a positive impression which remains with me today.

Today as I read Deuteronomy I can see Moses (Charleston Heston) standing beside Joshua (John Derek), his hand on Joshua's shoulder. The words flowing forth from a reassuring voice of a strong statured man. White hair blowing in the wind, an aura surrounding him. How can Joshua not believe. I can imagine that he is excited and perhaps apprehensive of what lies ahead. But his faith is strong and he leads the Israelites across the Jordan.

I don't have Moses standing beside me providing direction. There is no panoramic view of the Promised land stretched before me. I am here reading the morning paper and see stocks falling, credit rating dropping, fear, chaos and speculation. It is the Promised land in turmoil. But I will make it through because God is with me. I have placed myself in His hands. Yes, there is some apprehension because I don't know what His plan is. But I will follow it and I will be glad I did.    

Friday, August 5, 2011

My Slow Takes (vol. 9)

1. Saint Francis De Sales, Chapter III - On Patience, "Ye have need of patience, that, after ye have done the Will of God, ye might receive promise," says Saint Paul; and the Savior said, "In your patience possess ye your souls."

This is our patience of suffering. He tells us that we need to have patience no matter what issues we face. Those that we deem as major issues as well as the every day "annoyances" we face. 

His best advise; "Follow Saint Gregory's advise, When you are justly blamed for some fault you have committed humble yourself deeply, and confess that you deserve the blame. If the accusation be false, defend yourself quietly, denying the fact; this is but due respect for truth and your neighbor's edification. But if after you have made your true and legitimate defence you are still accused, do not be troubled, and do not try to press your defence - you have had due respect for truth, have the same now for humility. By acting thus you will not infringe either a due care for your good name, or the affection you are bound to entertain for peace, humility and gentleness of heart."

If we can maintain our patience our souls are strong which makes our faith strong. We are able to place our lives in God's hands. Our inner peace will shine enabling others to see us as we really are. God's children living God's Word. 

2. On Sunday our oldest son Eric treated me to the movies. We saw "Cowboys and Aliens." This is a western and I enjoyed it. Daniel Craig was a better cowboy than agent 007. He was not the Roy Rogers or Lone Ranger type of cowboy that I grew up with. His character was well written and his acting excellent. Harrison Ford did a great job as the protagonist which was different from his Indiana Jones movies. The addition of Keith Carradine gave the movie the cowboy touch. Keith is one of those actors that looks and acts like a cowboy should. His appearance in the movie was the ingredient that made it a western.

The story line was well done, there was plenty of action and the special effects blended in giving it a realistic look. I would watch this again. 

3. Wednesday evening we met with Father Jim to discuss ideas for our "new comers" ministry. I was pleased that everyone was open to the new ideas that Father Jim suggested. We expanded his suggestions and will be putting together a revival of welcoming to our church.

The objective of our ministry is to welcome new members and returning members to our parish. This concept was not changed. The love of God continues to "shine." I am blessed to be part this ministry. 

4. The Buffalo Sabres hockey team announced the new assistant coach Kevyn Adams. Our family is excited as Kevyn went to school with our son Eric. Kevyn's dad, Ken, and I also attended high school together. Both of our families settled in Clarence, New York. 

We still follow the Sabres even though we are now in Virginia.  Stanley Cup here we come! 

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Not Quite Today's Reading

When the twelve returned, they told Moses, "We went in to the land to which you sent us. It does flow with milk and honey, and here is its fruit. However, the people who are living in the land are greedy, and they can't trust one another nor work together in harmony. Besides, we saw descendants of the Democrats, Republicans and the Tea Party. They dwell in the D.C., Alexandria, Bethesda, along the seacoast and on the banks of the Potomac."

But Caleb's faith was strong. "We shall enter the land and replace those who are unable to follow the ways of the Lord. We shall endeavor to put things right."

Thank you Caleb of reminding me that God is with us and we will get through our economic issues. I pray for those in Congress who are good Christians and are doing their best. I pray for those in Congress who have wavered. Please help us all as we deal with our in-between time moving toward the elections in 2012.