Our Lady of Fatima... Pray for us.
Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament... Hear us.
Our Lady of the Rosary... Strengthen us.

Friday, December 24, 2010

Funny Guy Friday... The Greatest Christmas Gift Ever...

    I must admit that I have had very little time to think about writing a FGF this week.  Unfortunately, the everyday things do not stop just because Christmas is around the corner. Since I am a bit pressed for time, I thought that I would retell a story that I have told several times about the greatest Christmas gift ever given.
    About five years ago, Matthew and I went out to buy a gift for Cheryl. I had planned on buying her a pearl bracelet, so our first stop was a jewelry store owned by a woman that we knew through some friends. Matthew was very specific about what he wanted to get his mother--- a piece of jewelry that had three hearts on it, the three hearts representing the three kids. Very thoughtful. Even more so, considering that I wanted to get her a pearl bracelet because I had no clue what to buy her, and since I had bought her a pearl necklace the year before, this was as good as anything.
    When we got to the store, I got the bracelet and one other smaller piece of jewelry, and then Matthew began his search for the perfect gift. He told the woman what he wanted and she showed him a nice ring that had three hearts. Very nice and very much within budget.
     He seemed to like it, but then she showed him a very beautiful necklace that had three hearts, each inside of the other. Two were formed from small diamonds and one was made from red rubies. Think of the Grinch's heart as it grows. Wow, he loved it and knew that this was the one. I must admit, I loved it too, but thought this may be out of our price range. I asked how much this necklace cost, and let's just say that if the ring was in our price range, the necklace was ten times over our price range.
     I politely told the woman that this was a bit more than my five year old (and his dad) wanted to spend. At this point, Matthew asked if he could talk to me. For some reason, he always starts off every comment to me by saying, "Dad," even if we are the only two in the room. "Dad, can I talk to you for a second?" Sure, no problem. "No, dad, I need to talk to you in private." We walked over to a corner of the store and he told  me that he really, really, really wanted to buy that necklace. I explained to him that it was really, really, really, really over the budget (I threw in an extra really). The owner of the store was amused by the exchange. We settled on the ring.
     Matthew was very disappointed, so I thought a trip to the ice cream parlor was warranted, but after ten minutes of his moping, I had had enough. It was time for him to get over it. Although he got more and more upset about the situation, he told me he had to get all of his disappointment out before we went home because he did not want his mother asking him what was wrong.
     I again explained that it was a lot of money and that since we planned to go skiing for a week, money was tight. At this point, I realized two things: one... I was negotiating with a very cute, lovable terrorist; and two... I was going to go back to the store to see if they could hold the necklace until after the holidays, perhaps for an anniversary gift in April. I explained my plan to Matthew, but he was still not moved and wondered out loud why HE would buy an anniversary gift for MY wife. He had no problem with ME buying a Christmas gift for HIS mother, but I digress.
   I went back into the store and asked if she could hold the necklace and she told me that she could not. She mentioned how cute she thought our "man to man" talk was, but apparently,  not cute enough for her to hold the necklace for three or four months. I understood and I told her that she only saw part of Matthew's act because even Coldstone Creamery was not cheering my boy up.
   A few days later, I went back to the store to pick up the three items that we purchased and when I did, she handed me a bag with four items. I told the woman that there was a mistake and that I only got three pieces of jewelry. She told me that she was so impressed and moved by Matthew's reaction that she included the necklace, and that I could come back and pay for it whenever I got the chance... and whenever I got the money. What a great gesture and it only came with one small catch... I had to promise to come back and tell her about Matthew's reaction. She was so moved by the things that Matthew had said, and how much he wanted to get that necklace for his mom that she had to know "the rest of the story."
     I thanked her and told her how excited Matthew would be and as we talked, I decided that I would not tell him and just let him be surprised on Christmas morning. I put the necklace in the corner behind the tree where it went unnoticed. On Christmas morning, typically Cheryl  opens her gifts last, and so, after she was done opening all of her gifts, I told Matthew that there might be one more gift for mom. I asked him to grab it and to stand by her as she opened it up.
     When she opened the box, she was very impressed as she placed the necklace around her neck. Her reaction, however, was nothing compared to Matthew's. His eyes lit up, and got as big as saucers, and he immediately ran over to me and jumped into my arms and just kept saying "Thank You, Dad. Thank You so much, Dad."
     Later I told Cheryl the story and told her if she did not like it, we could take it back. She looked at me like I was crazy because she loved it and after Matthew's reaction, she did not care if it cost a million dollars, it was not going back. By the way, the necklace was just shy of a million. 
     The greatest gift ever given was not the necklace that Matthew gave to his mom. As nice as that was, it was a distant second. The greatest Christmas gift ever given was the gift that Matthew gave to his dad. Thank you Matthew, Thank you so much Matthew!
     Have a very Merry and Blessed Christmas.

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Cute nativity video...

This is very cute... from Creative Minority Report...

Zechariah's Canticle...

“Blessed be the Lord, the God of Israel;
for he has come to his people and set them free.
He has raised up for us a mighty Savior,
born of the house of his servant David.
Through his prophets he promised of old
that he would save us from our enemies,
from the hands of all who hate us.
He promised to show mercy to our fathers
and to remember his holy covenant.
This was the oath he swore to our father Abraham:
to set us free from the hand of our enemies,
free to worship him without fear,
holy and righteous in his sight
all the days of our life.
You, my child, shall be called the prophet of the Most High,
for you will go before the Lord to prepare his way,
to give his people knowledge of salvation
by the forgiveness of their sins.
In the tender compassion of our God
the dawn from on high shall break upon us,
to shine on those who dwell in darkness and the shadow of death,
and to guide our feet into the way of peace.”
Luke 1:67-69

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

The Magnificat...

Mary said:
“My soul proclaims the greatness of the Lord;
my spirit rejoices in God my savior.
for he has looked upon his lowly servant.
From this day all generations will call me blessed:
the Almighty has done great things for me,
and holy is his Name.
He has mercy on those who fear him
in every generation.
He has shown the strength of his arm,
and has scattered the proud in their conceit.
He has cast down the mighty from their thrones
and has lifted up the lowly.
He has filled the hungry with good things,
and the rich he has sent away empty.
He has come to the help of his servant Israel
for he remembered his promise of mercy,
the promise he made to our fathers,
to Abraham and his children for ever.”

Andy Williams... A Song and a Christmas Tree... Twelve Days of Christmas...

     Here's another "oldie, but goodie" that lets me know Christmas is nearly here. Andy Williams never disappoints.

Saturday, December 18, 2010

Steve and Eydie... Sleigh Ride...

     When I was a little girl, nothing said, "Christmas is coming," like the song, Sleigh Ride, by Steve and Eydie!
     Music was such a big part of my childhood. My parents must have played this album every day in December. My mom and sisters will especially appreciate hearing it one more time.
     Merry Christmas. Do you remember?

Friday, December 17, 2010

Funny Guy Friday... Confessions of a few bad confessions...

     As Catholics, our family goes to Confession at least four or five times a year. We especially make a point to go before Easter and before Christmas to prepare ourselves for these Holy seasons. It is a great opportunity to cleanse our souls, and be granted absolution by the priest. It is also a chance for my wife and kids to get in a few good last-minute violations of the Ten Commandments, as they make fun of me and my confessional disasters.
     First of all, I should confess, no pun intended, that I was not raised Catholic, so going to Confession is a fairly new thing for me, and I am not as comfortable as I should be.
     For those of you that are not familiar with the sacrament of Confession, there is a basic script that starts with, "Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been _____ days/months/years since my last confession."
     Each time that we go, I try to squirrel in a way to tell the priest how long it has been, without actually telling the priest how long it has been. Technically, saying it has been "several weeks" is not a lie when it has actually been more like four months. There are, in fact, "several weeks" in four months.
     Cheryl points out that it may not be such a great idea to start the whole thing off by lying to the priest. Personally, I don't think it is a lie, and I want a ruling from the judges. The problem is that it is too stupid of a question to actually ask the priests about... and if it turned out to be a lie, it would need to be confessed at our next session. So, I just bite the bullet and give them an accurate timeline.
     Once the initial "greeting" is out of the way, the confession begins. A confession can be face-to-face with a priest, or behind a screen in a small dark booth. I refer to this as contact, or non-contact.
     This is similar to when I go to the jail to visit an inmate. My decision to go contact or non-contact at the jail usually depends on how bad the inmate might be... the worse the inmate, the higher the chance of a non-contact visit.
     My decision to go contact or non-contact with the priest depends upon how bad my sins might be... the worse the sins, the higher the chance of a non-contact confession. Occasionally, the only option is a contact visit, but I must admit that typically, if I can go non-contact, I do.
    Unfortunately, this is not the only time that my work life creeps into the process. Almost every time I go, I refer to the priest as "your Honor,'' at least once, as if I am talking to a judge. But none of this is what my family makes fun of me for when we go. No, they make fun of me about my previous Confession disasters.
     Not being raised Catholic, I never had to memorize the Act of Contrition... a prayer you say at the end of your confession, to show that you are truly sorry, and that you want to change your life. Cheryl and the kids know this by heart, but I do not. As a result, I bring a little cheat sheet into the booth. A bit embarrassing, but what the heck, they don't know who I am... or do they?
     The first time that I went to Confession at our current church, I waited in line for about half an hour. They should really figure out a way to make the line more entertaining like they do at Disney... with a show or something. I think they would attract a bigger audience, but I could be wrong.
     This particular confession was on a Saturday afternoon, before the 4:30 Mass. While in line, I remembered that I did not have my reading glasses. No problem... I determined that I could make out my cheat sheet without them. But once inside the confessional, with the door shut, I realized that it was pitch dark. In fact, the only scrap of light to be found was peeking out through the screen, from the priest's side.
     As panic was setting in, all I could think of was, How am I going to read my cheat sheet when it comes time for the Act of Contrition? I have no idea what I said, or what he said, but I do remember struggling mightily to find light on my side of the booth, and trying to read without my glasses. In fact, it was so bad that the priest kindly asked me if I needed help. As I struggled, the one thought that saved me from complete humiliation was that this was non-contact. He would never know who I was!
     After I was done, I exited the confessional only to have the priest walk out at the exact same time. "Oh, well hello Mark, good to see you. I have to run, I am late in getting ready for Mass." This had to be some violation of some priestly professional standard... I was thinking that perhaps he needed to go to his own confession.
     On another occasion, we went to a Penance Service with a whole gaggle of priests, and we could get into any one of five or six lines. I just happened to pick a line with a visiting priest... in a previousy scouted-out, well-lit confessional.
     I greeted the priest, and started the confession off with a sure sin of missing Mass on one particular Sunday. This guy asked for details. This had never happened before. Typically, I confess in a general manner, and they forgive in a general manner. What was up with the new guy and details? I explained that we had been on vacation in Vermont, and I really lost track of the days and could not find a Sunday evening Mass. He said it was not a sin, as it was not intentional. Wow, they have to be intentional? Who knew?
     I went to the next sin on my list, and he again told me this one was not a sin either... that he does the same thing. I was 0 for 2. This was going great, but I was running out of sins. I started sweating, and thought to myself, Maybe I should start making stuff up! I mean... It's one thing not to know the Act of Contrition... but when you have no reason to even be in there in the first place...
     The thought of making stuff up struck me as funny, and I soon had the giggles. Uh-oh... giggles and Confession is not a good mix. Anyway, I came up with a few things, but nothing very good. I remember leaving that night thinking that if this guy were my regular priest, I could cut my confessions down to one every three or four years.
     Then there was the granddaddy of all confessional screw-ups. On this particular occasion, we went to Confession at the Chapel instead of at the regular church. I had never done this before at the Chapel, so Cheryl and the kids advised that there are three doors: If you want to do non-contact, use the door on the far left... and if you want to go contact, use the door on the right. No problem.
     For some reason, I was telling the kids that they should go contact... to "be a man, and face the priest when you confess your sins." I was going to do it... so they should do it too. They all went before I did, and none had the guts to take me up on my challenge... but I backed up my words with action.
     That is right... contact all the way, baby. I would show these lifelong Catholics who the real man was. 
     I must admit that I was a bit nervous. So nervous that when I opened up the door on the right, I actually opened up the door in the middle by mistake. You know... the middle door... where the priest sits... and waits for everyone to open the door on the left. He had his ipod touch sitting there in what looked like clock-mode, but if I had to swear to it, I think he had on headphones.
     He nodded, and it occurred to me that there was nowhere for me to sit unless I crawled up on his lap. Then I realized... I was not where I was supposed to be.
     So, what do you do when you walk into the priest's side of the confessional? Well, one thing is for sure, you cannot go non-contact at that point. I said, "Hello," and then I actually said, "I will see you in a second," and I shut the door.
     Bless me Father, for I have sinned. It has been 3 seconds since I saw you last, and in that time, I walked in on a priest during Confessions.
     We went again last night, and it was more of the same. Again, I realized that I did not have my reading glasses, so I dropped off the family, and went to the Dollar Store to get a cheap pair. All they had were purple and pink, but I didn't care... I would be the only one in the booth, and the priest wouldn't be able to see me... plus, it was Advent... the purple worked.
     When I returned to the church, Grace and Cheryl were near the front of the line, so I got in at the end. I waited and waited, and finally it was almost my turn. Once I had made it to the front of the line and was next to go, I felt it was safe to break out the new purple reading glasses to make sure that I could see my cheat sheet. As I was looking down, the priest calls  time out for a potty break. Seriously, don't you think he could have laid off of the coffee for just one night?
     My man scurried out of his side of the confessional, but only after the guy in front of me had safely checked in on the non-priest side. I was sure that the priest waited for him to get settled, so as not to embarras the guy. However, I was also sure that he got a good look at me standing at the front of the line, reading my cheat sheet in my purple glasses.
     As he came back from his bathroom break, he greeted me, and jumped back into the game. I was thinking about asking the guy behind me to switch, but then I thought, I have no idea what that guy is going to confess, and I don't want the priest thinking that I did something awful. I stayed in line with the idea that I could do damage control.
     Upon further reflection, switching with the guy behind me could have been a great opportunity for me to make myself look good. At least that guy may have actually known his Act of Contrition without relying on a cheat sheet.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Hope for crisis pregnancies...

     This past Monday, I had the wonderful and much-needed opportunity to visit a pro-life crisis pregnancy center that occupies an office space that was once an abortuary. This particular center is one of two clinics run by my sister-in-law. The one I visited is in Severna Park, Maryland, and the other one is in nearby Bowie.
     The people/angels of this ministry have reclaimed that Severna Park space for God, and have brought it from deep and horrifying darkness into the Light of Christ's presence and hope.
     In a culture that falsely and hopelessly markets killing as a necessary choice, these pro-life centers are full-service clinics with 3D/4D sonogram machines to show their clients the truth. They also bring the truth of God's mercy and love to every person who walks through their doors.
     In this Season of Hope, it is a comfort to know that these clinics stand for peace and truth, shining light on life-affirming choices for those who may believe all hope is lost.
      To visit their website and see their broad spectrum of free services, please click here.
     And if you are considering end-of-year contributions, please, prayerfully consider donating to these centers. Although they have many volunteers, money is needed to hire the nurses, to pay for supplies, and to pay the rent. They receive no public funding of any sort. They rely solely on private donations. If you wish to contact them, please click here .
     If you cannot give money at this time, please pray for this ministry and the men and women who seek their care... that God will always provide.
     May God bless you abundantly, now and always.
     Blessed Mother... Please look with favor upon this ministry, and these centers, and intercede with utmost urgency on their behalf... as at the Wedding Feast. Thank you. Amen.
     "We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose." Romans 8:28

Tuesday, December 14, 2010


     I have been going to Adoration on Sunday mornings before Mass.
     Alone in a room, face to face with Almighty God. Aside from the Holy Sacrifice of the Mass, it is my favorite hour of my week.
     Sometimes I sit there and stare at the Blessed Sacrament, trying so hard to see with my eyes something that my soul knows is there. Maybe I will see a swirling of majesty. The Risen Jesus, glorified, surrounded by the Heavenly Hosts. Maybe I will see and feel a warm light.
     A few weeks ago, I read something that changed my perspective. I had been so focused on what I could see when I look at Him, that I never stopped to think about what the Lord sees when He looks at me. Does He see a light? Does He see Himself?
     When I am there, part of me wants to approach the Lord Jesus, and hold the Monstrance close to me, as like a hug. To have God close. So close.
     The other part of me says, Don't you dare touch God. I am not worthy. He is perfect, and holy, and pure, beyond my human understanding. I don't dare disturb Him.
     But still, I want to be closer. Physically closer.
     Then I meditated on what I would see, if I could. And He wasn't a swirl of majesty. And He wasn't just a glow. Or the Man Jesus.
     He was a baby. The baby Jesus.
     In my mind and in my heart, I approached the manger of that first Christmas night, and I picked up that Baby. And I held Him close. And He was in my arms. And I kept Him warm.
     Jesus, the infant Savior. My infant Savior.
     For all the times in my life when I need Him... when He alone is my utmost joy... He holds me.
     But in that hour of uninterrupted quiet with the Lord, He needed me, and I held Him. I want to always hold Him close to me. And keep Him warm.... as He needed that first night in that stable. There, with His Mother and Father protecting Him and loving Him, it was safe and warm. But beyond those walls, it was dark and cold. And although there were some people who couldn't wait to meet Him, there were also those who wanted to kill Him.
     Lord, I pray that I can always hold you close. Especially when it is dark and cold out there.

Memorial of St. John of the Cross...

     "Father, you endowed John of the Cross with a spirit of self-denial and a love of the cross. By following his example, may we come to the eternal vision of your glory. We ask this through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever. Amen."
     For information about St. John of the Cross, including activities and recipes, click here.

    Friday, December 10, 2010

    Funny Guy Friday... Preparing for the worst...

         Cheryl and I are both convinced that inflation is going to hit, and hit hard, in the not-so-distant future. As a result, we have made some decisions to prepare... buying enough canned food, flour and sugar to last for months. This is a no-lose proposition. If we are wrong, we will have enough food, purchased at a reasonable price, to last for months. If we are right, we will have enough food to last for months, and we won't have to shop for food sold at ridiculous prices. In addition, we will have a great opportunity to meet the neighbors, as they try to break down our door to get at our stockpile.
         Frankly, Cheryl has explored many food storage and emergency options, but her latest research speaks volumes about how far she is willing to go in order to prepare.
         Matthew and I went out to do some Christmas shopping, and while we were out, we snuck into Red Robin for a bite to eat and into Menchies (a frozen yogurt store) for another bite to eat---sort of our own food storage plan. 
         When we returned home, Grace advised that Cheryl was on the computer doing some research. I had hoped it was research on cleaning, and ironing shirts, because at this particular moment, I need some shirts cleaned and ironed. Unfortunately, it was research about survival kits. You know... the kits that you put in your car or home that will provide all the necessities that you may need in an emergency.
         We have all seen the movie where some couple in a crumbling marriage is driving on some isolated road in a blizzard, in the midst of an argument started by the wife who "craves more" from the already overworked husband. A deer runs out and in an effort to avoid the deer, they drive their car off of the road. The couple is knocked unconscious until the husband comes to, and lovingly revives his demanding wife. A slap in the face works too.
         Their car will not start, but even if it could start, they could not drive it because the damage is too extensive. As they turn on the radio, they discover that the roads are all shut down and there is no chance of a rescue.
         They are stranded and must decide either to venture out or to stay in the car and wait for help. What to do, what to do! Oh, by the way, did I mention that their cell phones are both out of juice? They are in a heap of trouble.
         The couple has no means of survival in the car so they decide to venture out to find help because they know that it is hopeless in that car. As they struggle to survive, and are on their last leg, they come upon a mysterious mountain man. This man has been living in "these parts" for years, and is the answer to their prayers.
         At first, he seems so helpful as he leads them to his warm cabin and feeds them a nice hearty stew. Fortunately, he has made enough for three people this particular day.
         They stay with this mysterious stranger for a few days, long enough for the curious wife to look around the cabin and discover a briefcase with the bank's logo on it. When she opens it, she finds a bundle of cash and recalls the bank robbery that occurred in her hometown four years ago. GASP. It was him.
         As she shuts the briefcase, our mountain man walks in on her. He becomes irate, and now he has no choice but to tie them up until he can figure out a way to kill them both. The poor husband, a good looking professional, lawyer perhaps, who is a great provider, but has not had a fight since the sixth grade, puts up a valiant effort, but in the end, the mountain man prevails. He then ties the couple up to the bed until he can decide how he is going to kill them.
         As we all know, that decision can take days to figure out. Despite his pending plan to kill the couple, he inexplicably continues to feed them until a final decision is made on that killing thing. As a result, the mountain man/bankrobber occasionally has to venture out of the cabin to search for food.
         On day seven of the ordeal, he decides he needs help to drag the day's kill into the cabin. It is a bit odd that after years of being a mountain man, living by himself, he now needs help but he does. He unties the wife so that she can assist and while she is untied, she turns on her womanly charms. Despite seven days without a bath, the mountain man/bank robber cannot resist her, and he lets his guard down long enough for her to whallup him with a shovel. She then unties her husband and he sends smoke signals to the local authorities, that can now be seen because the blizzard has cleared. The woman realizes how lucky she is and how much she really does love her husband. They live happily ever after with a nice reward from the bank.
        What does this have to do with Cheryl's research, you ask? If the couple had assembled a survivor's kit, none of this would have ever happened. They could have stayed in that car for days and waited for the blizzard to clear.
        And now... The rest of the story... When Matthew and I returned home from our night out, Grace tried to tell us about the research but couldn't get the words out because she could not stop laughing.
         It turns out that Cheryl had been pricing "catastrophe kits," and was impressed by one that thought of everything. This particular kit included six "poop bags," and even a "cat" toy. Obviously something to keep the kiddies occupied as they await rescue. Wow, very impressive, they think of everything, she commented.
         As Cheryl looked closer, she realized that the kit also included actual cat food. Now that seems a bit odd, she thought. Wait a second, a closer look revealed that the poop bags were for cats. And the catastrophe kit was not exactly a catastrophe kit, but instead was a CAT-tastrophe kit... designed specifically for felines. We don't even have cats!
         This story is particularly alarming for me because this is the woman that I have to rely on to charm our captor and then hit him over the head with a shovel! By the way, I thought that Brad Pitt would be perfect in the role of the husband!

    Wednesday, December 8, 2010

    Psalm 37...

         "Do not be provoked by evildoers; do not envy those who do wrong. Like grass they wither quickly; like green plants they wilt away. 
         "Trust in the LORD and do good that you may dwell in the land and live secure. Find your delight in the LORD who will give you your heart's desire. Commit your way to the LORD; trust that God will act and make your integrity shine like the dawn, your vindication like noonday. 
         "Be still before the LORD; wait for God. Do not be provoked by the prosperous, nor by malicious schemers. Give up your anger, abandon your wrath; do not be provoked; it brings only harm. Those who do evil will be cut off, but those who wait for the LORD will possess the land. Wait a little, and the wicked will be no more; look for them and they will not be there. But the poor will possess the land, will delight in great prosperity. 
         "The wicked plot against the just and grind their teeth at them; But the LORD laughs at them, knowing their day is coming. The wicked draw their swords; they string their bows to fell the poor and oppressed, to slaughter those whose way is honest. Their swords will pierce their own hearts; their bows will be broken. Better the poverty of the just than the great wealth of the wicked. The arms of the wicked will be broken; the LORD will sustain the just. 
         "The LORD watches over the days of the blameless; their heritage lasts forever. They will not be disgraced when times are hard; in days of famine they will have plenty. The wicked perish, the enemies of the LORD; like the beauty of meadows they vanish; like smoke they disappear. The wicked borrow but do not repay; the just are generous in giving. For those blessed by the Lord will possess the land, but those accursed will be cut off. 
         "Those whose steps are guided by the LORD; whose way God approves, may stumble, but they will never fall, for the LORD holds their hand. Neither in my youth, nor now in old age have I ever seen the just abandoned or their children begging bread. The just always lend generously, and their children become a blessing. 
         "Turn from evil and do good, that you may inhabit the land forever. For the LORD loves justice and does not abandon the faithful. When the unjust are destroyed, and the children of the wicked cut off, the just will possess the land and live in it forever. 
         "The mouths of the just utter wisdom; their tongues speak what is right. God's teaching is in their hearts; their steps do not falter. The wicked spy on the just and seek to kill them. But the LORD does not leave the just in their power, nor let them be condemned when tried. 
         "Wait eagerly for the LORD, and keep to the way; God will raise you to possess the land; you will gloat when the wicked are cut off. I have seen ruthless scoundrels, strong as flourishing cedars. When I passed by again, they were gone; though I searched, they could not be found. 
         "Observe the honest, mark the upright; those at peace with God have a future. But all sinners will be destroyed; the future of the wicked will be cut off. The salvation of the just is from the LORD, their refuge in time of distress. The LORD helps and rescues them, rescues and saves them from the wicked, because in God they take refuge."
         The psalm responds to the problem of evil, which the Old Testament often expresses as a question: Why do the wicked prosper and the good suffer? The psalm answers that the situation is only temporary. God will reverse things, rewarding the good and punishing the wicked here on earth. The perspective is concrete and earthbound: people's very actions place them among the ranks of the good or wicked.
          Each group or "way" has its own inherent dynamism--eventual frustration for the wicked, eventual reward for the just.

    The Immaculate Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary...

         God designed the perfect woman to bear his Son.
         Today we celebrate "Mary, full of grace," who was redeemed from the moment of her immaculate conception. For information and activities for this blessed day, please click here.
         And the angel Gabriel said, "Hail, full of grace! The Lord is with you."

    Monday, December 6, 2010

    Emmanuel... God with us...

         This Advent season, you will hear the word, Emmanuel, many times. Have you meditated lately on what that single word means for us?
         God. With. Us.
         Please read this article, from Catholic Online.
         "We hold in our hands during these weeks of Advent the treasure of all treasures.  The season beckons us to once again contemplate something truly astonishing.  It will pass us by if we are not careful.  In the stillness, as the earth is falling asleep for the winter comes a message, spoken with a single word."

    Need a romantic getaway?

         If you say no, you are kidding yourself. Everybody needs a little romance.
         But perhaps you or your hubby just can't take the time off... Or you are short the extra cash for a weekend at a spa. Maybe you just can't leave the kids. No worries.
         Go here for a romantic getaway anyway.
         Okay, so it's a blog, but that is often the only outing I have some days.
         Right now, I have a sick daughter resting upstairs. I've got a load of laundry going, with more to throw in. Lots more. I have a load of dishes in my dishwasher with load number two waiting in the sink. And I have Christmas decorations spread all around the house, ready to be lovingly arranged. That, of course, is the one thing I am looking forward to.
         So, in the meantime, thinking about Advent... and while searching for an Advent blog button for my blog, I came across the blog, Thoughts from Alice W... Romantic Interludes.
         I know I post very little about my personal tastes, but this site will surely show you.
         Light a candle and enjoy.

    St. Nicholas...

    St. Nicholas
    Feast Day: December 06
    Born: (around) 270 :: Died: (around) 340
         "St. Nicholas is loved by children all over the world and he is especially well known for Christmas giving. This famous saint was born in Asia Minor, which today is called Turkey. After his parents died, he gave all his money to charity.
         "There are many stories told about kind St. Nicholas.
         "Once a poor man was about to leave his daughters to a life of evil and sin because he did not have the money to get them married. Nicholas heard about his problem. He went to the man's house at night and tossed a little pouch of gold through a window. This was for the oldest daughter.
         "He did the same thing for the second daughter and the grateful father kept watch to find out who was being so good to them.
         "When St. Nicholas came a third time, the man recognized him. He thanked Nicholas over and over again.
         "St. Nicholas also prayed and brought back to life three young boys who had been killed.
         "Later St. Nicholas became bishop. He loved justice. It is said that once he saved three men who had been wrongly condemned to death. He then got their accuser to confess that he had been given money to tell lies about the three men and get them into trouble.
         "He even got thieves to return the goods they had stolen from people.
         "St. Nicholas died in Myra, and a great basilica was built over his tomb. Many churches were dedicated in his name.
         "When his remains were brought to Bari, in Italy, this city became a famous shrine for pilgrims from all over Europe.
         "Nicholas is the patron of sailors and prisoners. Along with St. Andrew, he is also the patron of Russia."
         Source: Holy Spirit Interactive, Kids Zone, Saint of the Day
         For more about St. Nicholas, including activities and recipes, click here, from Catholic Culture. Thanks for the link, Sam.

    Saturday, December 4, 2010

    Introduction to food storage...

         If hyperinflation hits as expected, trouble is coming. It makes sense to stock up now. Hope for the best, and prepare for the worst.
         But how? Click here to learn. 
         And don't forget, for more information and how-tos about food storage, check out my link to Food Storage Made Easy, in my sidebar. 
         Remember, inch by inch, it's a cinch.

    Amazing storm pictures...

         These are some awesome storm pictures taken in Montana last July. The photographer is up for an award. Click here for the full story. Behold the power of God.

    The storm over the plain...
    The rain pouring out of the center of the cloud...
    The sun setting behind the storm...
    Awe-inspiring. I feel small.

    "Blessed may you be, O LORD, God of Israel our father, from eternity to eternity. Yours, O LORD, are grandeur and power, majesty, splendor, and glory. For all in heaven and on earth is yours; yours, O LORD, is the sovereignty; you are exalted as head over all. Riches and honor are from you, and you have dominion over all. In your hand are power and might; it is yours to give grandeur and strength to all. Therefore, our God, we give you thanks and we praise the majesty of your name." 1 Chronicles 29:11-13

    Friday, December 3, 2010

    Funny Guy Friday... The Turkey Bowl...

         About twenty years ago on Thanksgiving day, I raked a bunch of leaves in my backyard, and made an opening for a football game with my brother and my nephews who probably ranged from four to twelve years old. The game was such a hit, we played the following year and the following year, and every year thereafter on Thanksgiving day. It has become one of the most anticipated events of the holiday season... the family Turkey Bowl.
         Cheryl's family attends church on Thanksgiving day, my family plays football. Both are religious events, one will get you into heaven, the other will get you bragging rights. Heaven is for eternity, bragging rights last for one year. I want both but I realize that there are other things I can do and other days that I can attend church that will help get me to heaven; I only have one shot at bragging rights. We play football.
         All family members are eligible to play and they can bring friends, girlfriends, co-workers, whomever. Girlfriends have become crucial to a team's success. We have developed certain rules, that for the most part we actually follow. One such rule is that you have to include the younger kids and the women. So whenever I meet any of my nephews' new girlfriends, my first few questions include asking what their time is in the forty, if they know how to run a post, and if they know the difference between man to man and zone defense. I make mental notes to determine if I will pencil them in for the Dark Side (my nephew's team) or the side of all that is good and decent, the Good Guys (my team). I must admit, the boys do pretty well with athletic girls. Cheryl tells me that the girls are also very pretty and very nice, but to me, they are just another number between the white lines. It's all about the game.
         The game has evolved through the years. We have purchased shirts which I collect and keep for the year. Shirts became necessary because at least one knucklehead would always wear the wrong color shirt, and then scream for the ball when he was on defense. This is known as the Uncle Butch-scream-for-the-ball defense. This was always good for at least one disputed interception every year.
         We have also purchased a set of flags. Believe me, I got tired of hearing, "He didn't touch me," or "He only got me with one hand," even if it was me saying it. For the record, they never touched me, even with one hand, the liars. Flags solved that problem.
         We play at a high school where my brother works and if it rains, we have access to an indoor facility. Even before the indoor option, we had never had a rainout. We played no matter what.
         Each year we have a pre-game breakfast together before the big game and at the conclusion of the game, usually at dinner, I award an actual MVP trophy. This is serious stuff.
         The pre-game festivities typically begin in the first few weeks of October, when I send out the first emails. I begrudgingly acknowledge that as I get older, I can no longer compete physically with my nephews. I am sure thay would begrudgingly admit that they cannot compete with my trash talking emails. In fact, I crush in the emails every year. It is not so much the quality (the responses are often times hilarious) as it is the quantity (I respond to every email).
         The Turkey Bowl e-mails have also been a great source of information for our family as we have had the announcement of at least one wedding, and at least one pregnancy. Some people will do anything to try to climb ahead with the emails, but I am still the King. As I taunted my sister the night before the big game, "I get in your head," as I got into my best Darryl Green defensive stance. It was such a good stance, I actually tweaked my groin. Not a good sign going into the big game.
         This year was special as my sister Michel was here with her husband and three of her kids from Houston. Her son was recently married and his new bride made her Turkey Bowl debut. The good news... she runs a 5.1 forty, can run a post and can play either man to man or zone---a real keeper. The bad news... apparently, as my nemesis nephew Darth (captain of the Dark Side) makes more money, the Dark Side has expanded their scouting operation. They got to her first and snagged her. Nice move as she is the real deal.
         In fact, as much as I teased my sister, she and her family represented themselve quite well. Her one daughter sported a very impressive gelled-up mohawk, and her son has a 12 foot wing span.
         I got stuck with my sister, er uh, I selected her to the Good Guys squad. Although she has an unorthodox style of catching, she gets the job done. Most people are taught to catch with their hands, and to not let the ball get to their body. She advised that she always thought that you let it get to your body and then cradle it in---she told me that she always taught her kids this method.
         This explains a few things, including the brusies on her flat-chested daughters. Just kidding... that last line was a total joke. The girls are perfect----and by "the girls," I mean, my nieces.   
         Anyway, my sister's rib-breaking style resulted in our team's first touchdown, as a pass nearly impailed her. You know, the sound of a ball thumping someone's chest actually echoes when you are playing indoors. But it was not all good for big sis, as she looked like a wounded chicken running in place as she attempted to guard, and I use that term loosely, her new daughter-in-law. I must admit, that was a bad match-up for the Good Guys. I mistakenly relied on the fact that the new daughter-in-law would not take advantage of her new mother-in-law, but the new chick is cut-throat. Another reason to like her!
         Our family, for the most part, is full of excellent athletes. They are quick, fast, can throw and catch. In fact, I think they have even gotten faster in the past year as many of my deep throws were a few yards short this year. Either that, or my arm is getting weaker---no, no, no they are getting faster, definitely faster---I'm sure of it.
         We throw very few blocks, we save that for our larger, tougher in-laws and guests, and even then it is frowned upon. We prefer that you just "get in a tackler's way" rather than actually block---leads to fewer injuries. We like to run and catch and throw. Very wide receiver diva-like, but without the attitude.
         We try to split the teams evenly, and in the past have made some in-game trades. Of course the problem is that when you trade a Peyton Manning quality player for some scrub at half-time, the scrub usually can figure out what is going on. No bother... we sacrifice the scrub's feelings for the "best interests of the game." Hopefully the scrub is someone's boyfriend/girlfriend/friend-friend, and is not an actual family member who will be back every year.
         As I said, this year, the Good Guys won. Admittedly, we took advantage of one of the rules that our side implemented, so it was a bit of a tainted win. But a tainted win is, at the end of the day, STILL A WIN!
         The Dark Side, led by the evil Darth, marched down the field with relative ease on its first possesion. It did not look good for the Good Guys. Fortunately, we were able answer back with a scoring drive of our own, culminating in the "broken rib catch" by my sister Michel. The game went back and forth with each team scoring on every possession.
         A key play involved a missd extra point that bounced off of my niece's daughter's face. This resulted in the first controversy of the game. The ruling on the field was that the ball stuck to her face long enough for the catch to count, and the extra point was good. However, after further review, it appeared that even though the face did make the catch, she was outside of the endzone prior to the ball falling off of her face onto the ground. PAT failed.
         The tainted score came as a result of violating the girls-must-be-involved-in-a-positive-yardage-play-during-a-first-down-drive rule (it is very complicated, so I won't bore you with the details). Admittedly, it was probably a technical violation of the rule, and not a flagrant flauniting of the rule.
         Although we did not involve a female, we did include a child in that series of plays, and in the past, children have counted as women (again, very complicated, but think of the three fifths compromise and apply it to women and children). This, I am sure will be a major topic of conversation when the first emails come out next October. We have very long memories in my family!
         The MVP trophy was awarded to the Houston contingency. The dilemma is that the trophy has to be here next year, so they had to commit to coming for Thanksgiving again next year. This was a serious stipulation on their ability to accept the trophy, and take it back to Houston. The trophy is too valuable to ship by mail. My mohawked niece, sporting a much nicer, cuter post-game do for the Thanksgiving dinner, rushed to accept the award... so they are now committed.
         On Sunday, as I left to take my sister to the airport, my dad told me to drive carefully because I was carrying "precious cargo." I love my sister and her family but I could not help but think to myself, I KNOW, YOU DON'T HAVE TO TELL ME, THEY HAVE THE MVP TROPHY!!!

    St. Francis Xavier...

         Today is the memorial of St. Francis Xavier. Read about him, here, from Holy Spirit Interactive, Kids Zone.
         May you always feel the protection of the risen Lord.

    Find hope in the daily readings...

          It is all in the daily readings... Hope for today... and for eternity. Look around... If the Lord can change the cedars of Lebanon into an orchard and vice versa, He can change our nation... and preserve it for the faithful.
         The Lord said: Since this people draws near with words only and honors me with their lips alone, though their hearts are far from me, And their reverence for me has become routine observance of the precepts of men, Therefore I will again deal with this people in surprising and wondrous fashion: The wisdom of its wise men shall perish and the understanding of its prudent men be hid. 
         Woe to those who would hide their plans too deep for the LORD! Who work in the dark, saying, "Who sees us, or who knows us?" Your perversity is as though the potter were taken to be the clay: As though what is made should say of its maker, "He made me not!" Or the vessel should say of the potter, "He does not understand." 
         But a very little while, and Lebanon shall be changed into an orchard, and the orchard be regarded as a forest! On that day the deaf shall hear the words of a book; And out of gloom and darkness, the eyes of the blind shall see. The lowly will ever find joy in the LORD, and the poor rejoice in the Holy One of Israel. 
         For the tyrant will be no more and the arrogant will have gone; All who are alert to do evil will be cut off, those whose mere word condemns a man, Who ensnare his defender at the gate, and leave the just man with an empty claim. 
         Therefore thus says the LORD, the God of the house of Jacob, who redeemed Abraham: Now Jacob shall have nothing to be ashamed of, nor shall his face grow pale. When his children see the work of my hands in his midst, They shall keep my name holy; they shall reverence the Holy One of Jacob, and be in awe of the God of Israel. Those who err in spirit shall acquire understanding, and those who find fault shall receive instruction.
    Isaiah 29

    The Road We Are Traveling... "State Capitalism" is National Socialism

         I posted in October about the Fabian Socialists
         Listed below are the Fabians' goals, fr0m the 1942 book, The Road We Are Traveling, by American Fabian Stuart Chase.
    1. Strong, centralized government.
    2. Powerful Executive at the expense of Congress and the Judicial.
    3. Government controlled banking, credit and securities exchange.
    4. Government control over employment.
    5. Unemployment insurance; old age pensions.
    6. Universal medical care, food and housing programs.
    7. Access to unlimited government borrowing; abandon the gold standard; deficit spending.
    8. A managed monetary system.
    9. Government control over foreign trade.
    10. Government control over natural energy sources, transportation and agricultural production.
    11. Government regulation of labor, labor organizations.
    12. Youth corps devoted to health, discipline, community service and ideological teaching consistent with those of the authorities.
    13. Heavy progressive taxation, with heavy emphasis on estates and income of the rich.
    14. State control of communication and propaganda.
         "It wouldn't be a lot of takeover of property or industry, as in the old socialistic sense... The formula appears to be control without ownership. It is interesting to recall the same formula was used in the management of great corporations in depriving stockholders of power."
         Look how much they have achieved here in America.
         Congress just authorized the FDA to regulate the food supply this week... central control over agricultural production.
         And the FCC just announced they are moving forward with net neutrality, and they expressed a desire to conduct a "public value test" for every commercial broadcast station as a condition for keeping their licenses. Earlier this year, Congress said no to net neutrality, but the FCC claims they have the legal authority to do it anyway... State control of communication and propaganda.
         Just look at the rest of the list... What else do they have left to do?
         Proponents of this "fundamental transformation" may claim, if they say anything at all, that this will lead to some sort of desired alternative to capitalism, called State Capitalism. But it is really National Socialism... with the ultimate goal of Global Socialism. And it will happen right under our noses. 
         Once we know what we are looking for, we see it plain as day.
         God is our shelter. 

         Dear Lord, please remove the destroyers of our republic. I don't care what you do with them, just please remove them from power. Thank you for being our shelter. Please help me to be a shelter to others, too. I trust in You...

         “A strong city have we; he sets up walls and ramparts to protect us. 
    Open up the gates to let in a nation that is just, one that keeps faith. 
    A nation of firm purpose you keep in peace; in peace, for its trust in you.” 
    Trust in the LORD forever! For the LORD is an eternal Rock. 
    He humbles those in high places, and the lofty city he brings down; He tumbles it to the ground, levels it with the dust. It is trampled underfoot by the needy, by the footsteps of the poor.
    Isaiah 26:1-6
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