Gimme, Gimme, Gimme

05/29/2015

“I WANT IT!”

How many times have you been in a store and heard something like that? Probably a bratty little kid being coddled by Mommy or Daddy.

And we get annoyed.

And we know the little brat is going to get their way. Right?

Never stop asking. Never stop believing. Be persistent.

Well, somebody a lot cooler than us once said

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you.”  –  Matthew 7:7

… so maybe the little brat is onto something.

We frequent the United Center on Chicago’s west side for a Blackhawks game or two every… now and then… and there are usually a handful of people lining the sidewalks asking for money, jingling some coins in a plastic cup, arm outstretched, maybe not asking but implying. Some of these folks appear needier than others.

But they all persist. They are not deterred by those who walk by without filling the cup.

A miserable beggar annoyed a lot of people who followed Jesus, too.

Bartimaeus, who we’re told was blind, sat by the roadside begging (Mark 10:46) as Jesus left Jericho. Many in the crowd told him to shut up. He was as annoying as the little brat squawking at Mommy in the grocery cart.

But the guy who is a lot cooler under duress than we are wasn’t perturbed by the whiny blind dude.

Jesus stopped and said “Call him.” – Mark 10:49a

Oh my God! He’s going to try to rationalize with the little brat!

Jesus said to him in reply, “What do you want me to do for you?” – Mark 10:51a

I knew it. These brats always get what they want.

The blind man replied to him, “Master, I want to see.” – Mark 10:51b

Persistence.

Jesus told him, ‘Go your way; your faith has saved you.” Immediately he received his sight and followed him on the way. – Mark 10:52

What do these little brats know that we don’t?

Probably nothing.

They’re just not afraid to ask.

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Thursday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Thursday, May 28, 2015

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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Happy Birthday, Stephen

05/28/2015

A birthday story. In semi-chronological order.

35 years ago today — May 28, 1980 — was my first day of full-time professional employment. Tribune Company, 435 N. Michigan Avenue,  23rd Floor, Tribune Tower.

I had graduated three days earlier. Yup. Three days.

Crazy.

Nothing like getting right down to it.

A month to the day later, June 28, I was getting married.

I had life all mapped out. College graduate. World by the tail. I knew what I wanted and we were moving forward with executing the master plan, starting today, May 28, 1980.

I had no idea what was going to happen in the years that followed. Years that look far different than the path I was headed down then. I could not have imagined how different my life was going to be. If not for a series of twists and turns and good fortune, I wouldn’t be where I am today.

This isn’t about me. It’s about you. But for sake of background, from May 28, 1980:

Wedding. Separation. Moved home (to Grandma and Grandpa’s). Divorce (no kids). Met Mom. And met Sarah and Andy. Gave Mom a ring. Married Mom; that same day, I became a dad. Moved to Arizona August 1985. Doug born. Moved to Gurnee December 1986.

Remember this? Apache Lake, Arizona, 2006.

Remember this? Apache Lake, Arizona, 2006. Stephen and Martha.

Whew!

We settled in to our home in Gurnee, two blocks from Aunt Bernie and Uncle Stan, and Sarah and Andy settled in at St. Patrick School after jumping from school to school (Chicago, Rockford, Tempe) since fall of ’84. Mom stayed at home and I was as adventurous as ever when it came to jobs. Three different stops by 1988.

And then 27 years ago today — May 28, 1988 — you were born.

Stephen popsicles 904129_10201237710811808_2121718102_o

Healthy eater from way back!

You were always on the go. Never slowed down. In fact, we knew beyond a shadow of a doubt when you were really sick. That’s the only time you slowed down.

Stephen 6th birthday 1510930_10152124423427114_1194564090_n

Pretty sure this was your 6th birthday by a quick count of the candles.

Those years in the green house sure flew by. Martha was born 15 months after you. By your sixth birthday (1994), all you guys were already stuck with me as a full-time accessory. Mom started nursing school in 1990. In 1992, I got fired (“laid off”) for the second time in two tax seasons. I was through with attempting to be a good employee and I commandeered the living room for my office. Mom helped me start my own full-time tax business.

The years flew by. Your grade school years were a blur.

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I don’t think this was your birthday party. I think this was at Mr. and Mrs. Brokaw’s house. But it had to be around the time we moved to Winthrop Harbor.

Cub Scouts and basketball and Martha to Girl Scouts and of course everybody had to go almost everywhere we went. Then the move to Winthrop Harbor, first the blue house and then into our house on Fulton in November 1997. And soccer. And baseball.

All of the sudden, everybody was in high school.

A blur.

Stephen 11144946_10153373740037840_7812351075886637232_oSarah and Andy got married. You became a master rollerboarder (Grandpa’s term for skateboarding). You joined Zion-Benton’s cross country team in your senior year. Wow!

Stephen in car around 2007 55184_547157656455_6128157_o

Not sure which car this is. I think Will took this photo.

You have always — ALWAYS! — done things your way. I’m not sure you give yourself enough credit for that.

Your 24th birthday party.

Your 24th birthday party.

You are introspective, funny, bold, and super-creative. You don’t just “push buttons.” You walk up to the panel of buttons, lay your body across the entire panel, all at once, and ask “what does this one do?” You keep us on our toes and you keep us in stitches. And that’s not forced. You have a genuine gift of humor and lightheartedness. That’s a good thing.

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Woodstock, Illinois. “Groundhog Days” 2013. Reliving the filming of Groundhog Day.

You also have a heart of gold.

You’re a good friend.

That’s why two men chose you to be their Best Man at their weddings.

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Toasting Eilert and Ari.

These are just a quick handful of memories of my baby boy (you will always be my baby boy, Stephen, no matter how old you get). You bring so much life into our days. You have so many talents to share with the world. You are good. You are honest. You are not afraid to discuss a difficult subject or tackle a difficult task. I love you and I am proud of you. Happy birthday, Stephen. May today be the first day of your best year ever.

Stephen, Andy, Sarah, and Martha looking on during the photo session after Doug and Amy's wedding.

Stephen, Andy, Sarah, and Martha looking on during the photo session after Doug and Amy’s wedding.


What’s Your “One Thing?”

05/27/2015

What is the one thing — one thing and one thing only — that you cherish more than anything else?

How much would you sacrifice to keep it?

How much would you endure to defend it? To fight to keep it?

Ever think about things like that?

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What is the one thing that you do that causes you the most angst? What is the one thing that pushes you off course… makes you angry… tempts you… creates bitterness…

… prevents you from being more than you are now?

“You are lacking in one thing.” – a portion of Mark 10:21

Jesus counsels a rich man in the Gospel according to Mark (Mark 10:17-27).

“You know the commandments: You shall not kill; you shall not commit adultery; you shall not steal; you shall not bear false witness; you shall not defraud; honor your father and your mother.”  –  Mark 10:19

The man is a righteous person. He seems to be leading a holy life. He follows the commandments.

He replied and said to him, “Teacher, all of these I have observed from my youth.”  –  Mark 10:20

… but there’s one thing that is keeping the rich man from a complete relationship with God.

Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to the poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.”  –  Mark 10:21

Who throws obstacles in front of us? Who blocks our path? Who prevents us from following God’s commandments? Who doesn’t want us to enjoy a complete relationship with Christ?

You know the answer.

The devil manifests in many forms. There may be elements of truth in the lies. There may be elements of goodness in the lies.

But the devil cannot manifest the truth. He is always deceptive.

We cannot and do not know exactly why the rich man’s possessions were preventing him from enjoying a complete relationship with God. But there was something about this one thing that stood between him and inheriting eternal life.

What was it?

And what’s your one thing?

Maybe you are following and keeping all the commandments, like the rich man.

Maybe you are working for worthy causes.

Maybe you pray like a banshee for countless causes.

But maybe there’s one thing that stands between you and inheriting eternal life.

Do you know what it is?

I know my one thing.

I’m not going to tell you. It’s too embarrassing. But God knows. I talk to Him about it just about every day. And often several times a day.

It stands in my way.

I don’t presume to speak for God, but I suspect it stands in my way of inheriting eternal life, too.

I also know beyond a shadow of a doubt that it may not matter. If I have a contrite heart. If I beg for God’s mercy.

God is love. God is truth. God is mercy.

Jesus told St. Faustina that His grace was ours if only we would ask for it.

God knows our hearts. God knows that all of us sin. It’s in our nature.

That’s why he sent Jesus. To assume our nature. To die for the sake of all of us who cannot control ours.

I believe that we have an obligation to lead good Christian lives even if we confess Jesus as our Lord and Savior.

I don’t think it’s enough to say “I believe” and go on enjoying our possessions at the expense of neglecting those poor who have few or no possessions, who have few comforts or not enough to eat. Or enjoying our knowledge of God and Jesus and neglecting the poor in spirit, those who have no knowledge of God’s mercy, those who have never heard the Word or the truth.

What is your one thing and how does it keep you from having treasure in heaven?

Confess it. Pray for help controlling it or eliminating it or transforming it.

How do I know… or rather, how do I suspect I know… that we may still find a path to our treasure in heaven, even as we struggle with our one or two or three (or more) things?

They were exceedingly astonished and said among themselves, “Then who can be saved?”

Jesus looked at them and said, “For men it is impossible, but not for God. All things are possible for God.”  –  Mark 10:26-27

It’s okay to acknowledge our shortcomings. It’s okay to confess them. It’s okay to throw ourselves at the mercy of Jesus and His heavenly Father.

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Monday of the Eighth Week in Ordinary Time, Monday, May 25, 2015

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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A Love Story Starring Doug and Amy Kwiecinski

05/23/2015

Doug and Amy asked me to read at their wedding. Today’s the day. May 23, 2015, 5:00 pm, Central Daylight Time.

They also asked me to say a few words after the reading. This is what I will say to them in just a few minutes.

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When you asked me to read and gave me a selection of readings to choose from, and then asked if I would say few syllables after the reading, I read over each one, I jotted a few notes, and when I read this one, the letter to the Corinthians, I just started writing — and writing and writing and writing! — I just knew this was the right reading for today. For you. For both of you.

Doug and Amy 941299_10153453624890080_2006328927_n

Love is not easy. Love ain’t just flowers and chocolate and jewelry and other nice “things.”

Those are nice. They’re not bad. They help express love. They’re not love.

Love is not about me.

It’s not about you…

Take a look at the person next to you. At the people around you. It’s about them. Love is about them.

Doug, Amy… take a look at the person next to you. It’s about them.

Doug and Amy in the car 1425721_10153453625515080_1701486744_n

Love never fails.  –  First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 13:8 (beginning)

We fail. It’s easy to fail! And it’s easier to not admit to failure.

Pompous. Inflated. Rude. Quick-tempered. Brood over injury.

Yikes. [shudder]

Guilty!

Sorry, honey. Thanks for loving me.

Do not ever stop praying.

Do not ever stop learning.

Do not ever think you have it all figured out.

Love is work.

But love is the reason for all of this.

Love is the reason for everything.

Love is the reason for new life. Love is the reason for all life.

Love sustains us in death. And when we mourn the death of a loved one.

Love is the reason for everything in between.

Love is hard.

When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child…  –  First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians 13:11a

Don’t think that just because you’re an adult… and you think you reason as an adult, it gets any easier.

You will disagree.

You might argue.

You will be tested.

And… you’re human! So sometimes you will fail!

Pick yourselves up. Dust yourselves off. Admit your mistakes. Ask God for help. Pray to Him for forgiveness.

Never forget His Divine Mercy. Never hesitate to ask for His Divine Mercy!

Love never fails.

Father Leo Clifford was a Franciscan Friar. He passed away in 2012. In the early 2000s, he recorded five seasons of Reflections, brief… 6, 7, 8 minute thoughts… homilies. He had a melodious Irish accent and an almost lyrical manner of speaking. He touches your heart. Grabs your emotions. In one of his Reflections, Philosophy of Life, Father Clifford says:

By definition, you cannot keep love. Love must be given away. You cannot buy love. You cannot barter it. You cannot sell it. You cannot store it. You can only give it away.

A song is not a song until it is sung. A bell is not a bell until it is rung. And love is not love until it is given away…

Isn’t that beautiful?

Sounded so poetic, I wondered if those were his words or a quote. So I did a little research.

My best guess is he borrowed it. Paraphrased the words of Oscar Hammerstein II.

Hammerstein wrote these words for the Broadway musical, The Sound of Music. Before the Reprise of Sixteen Going on Seventeen, Maria says (sings) the following to Liesl:

A bell is no bell till you ring it
A song is no song till you sing it
And love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay
Love isn’t love till you give it away…

God is Love. God gave us Love so that we can give it away.

Look around. See all this? It’s His. And it’s ours because He loves us!

Guess what?

We give it all back to God. We leave nothing behind. We give everything back to God.

Except Love.

Welcome to our family, Amy. We’re honored to have you.

Never stop honoring and loving your wife, Doug. Even through difficult times.

Congratulations, Doug and Amy. Lots of love to both of you.

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Here’s the reading:

A reading from the First Letter of Saint Paul to the Corinthians

1 Cor 12:31-13:13

Brothers and sisters: Strive eagerly for the greatest spiritual gifts.

But I shall show you a still more excellent way.

If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.

Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, it is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth. It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing. For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away. When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known. So faith, hope, love remain, these three; but the greatest of these is love.

The Word of the Lord.


The Fierceness of Love

05/19/2015

Yet I consider life of no importance to me

  –  the beginning of verse 24, chapter 20, Acts of the Apostles

Why had life become so unimportant to St. Paul? Warned repeatedly by the Holy Spirit about imprisonment and hardships, Paul still dutifully sails back to Jerusalem to face those who wish to kill him.

On the road to Damascus, his life changed forever. He pursued the disciples who were spreading the news and message of Jesus of Nazareth, to persecute them, to imprison them, even to see them put to death.

Little did he know that he was the one being pursued.

Jesus caught up with Paul on the road to Damascus. Jesus struck him down, blinded and disabled him, and with a love as fierce as the fury of Paul’s persecution, persuaded Paul that Jesus was the Way.

And Paul was transformed. He proclaimed the Word and spread God’s Love with the same fierceness.

It was not a fierce fury, but a fierce Love. A boldness that transcended human courage.

And Paul continued to receive visions and messages from Jesus via the Holy Spirit, assuring him of safe passage and cautioning him that hardships awaited.

How receptive are you to the murmurs of the Holy Spirit in your life? Do you hear them? Are you listening?

How willing are you to Love fiercely?

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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I Could Tell You, But Then I’d Have to Kill You

05/15/2015

Charlie: Excuse me, Lieutenant. Is there something wrong?

Maverick: Yes ma’am, the data on the MiG is inaccurate.

Charlie: How’s that, Lieutenant?

Maverick: Well, I just happened to see a MiG 28 do a…

Goose: We!

Maverick: Uh, sorry Goose. WE happened to see a MiG 28 do a 4g negative dive.

Charlie: Where did you see this?

Maverick: Uh, that’s classified.

Charlie: It’s what?

Maverick: It’s classified. I could tell you, but then I’d have to kill you.

  –  Top Gun, 1986

Top secret information. Shrouded in secrecy. It’s a line that’s been used in movies — and even sitcoms — for a long time. I don’t know where or how it originated.

That’s not the point.

Even if it isn’t true, it’s a great line.

Jesus said to his disciples “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”

  –  John 16:12

Okay, so it’s not quite the same thing, but think about all that happened from the perspective of the Apostles and the other disciples.

“First this guy asks us to follow him around, drop everything we’re doing, leave our families, leave our jobs. He keeps promising us a kingdom. But the Romans aren’t going away. Their armies are so strong.

“But there’s something about him. We never go hungry. We don’t have enough money to feed ourselves, not to mention the hundreds or thousands that keep following us, no matter where we go. Yet we’re always satisfied. All of us!

“And he cures sick people! Where did he learn how to do that?

“He keeps referring to God as his father!

“Most of the leaders hate us. Why? What did we do? What did HE do? Yeah, he calls them out. But everything he does helps someone else. There’s not an unloving bone in his body…”

Then the hammer fell.

“Where is our kingdom? He says it’s ‘not of this world.’ That’s for sure! They’re going to kill him! If the rabbis don’t stone him to death, the Romans are going to kill him. Where’s our kingdom?

“What are we going to do now? We have nothing left. Nothing. No profession. No home. Will they kill us, too?”

And how would you react if a dead guy came back to talk to you? Kept talking about eating his body? And then as quickly as he appeared, he disappeared?

And within, like… a month, maybe a little longer, he goes from riding into town like the king that he says he is…

Gets beaten within an inch of his life…

Then carries his own cross…

Then dies a quick agonizing death…

You watch him die…

Then you see him — or someone who looks a lot like him — walking around, talking with you, claiming that he has risen from the dead…

And then after he hangs around with you for a while — when he feels like it — and disappears like an apparition — when he feels like it…

He floats away, like a bird, until you can’t see him any more…

“Now what do we do? Where’s our kingdom?

 

Jesus said to his disciples “I have much more to tell you, but you cannot bear it now.”

  –  John 16:12

Maybe their heads would have exploded if He told them everything right away. So it’s not that He would have to kill them, the weight of the Truth would have.

After all.

They were only human.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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The Cure for Insomnia. Guaranteed.

05/12/2015

Seems that every day, I hear someone talking about lack of sleep. Or a Facebook post: “Who else is up?” Another: “Why am I still up at 3:30?”

These people can’t fall asleep. They have “tried everything.” Nothing seems to work.

But…

They haven’t tried everything.

I have the solution!

It works every single time it’s tried.

Guaranteed or your money back.

No ups. No extras.

You don’t need sleep aids or pills. You don’t need chamomile tea or warm milk with butter and honey before beddy-bye, although these are fun and dee-lish!

NOTE: My solution is not intended to replace medical advice. If your doctor has prescribed medication for you, or if you are being otherwise treated for a specific medical condition, do not disregard his/her advice!  If you have any doubts or questions, consult your physician.

But… I’d still suggest you ask them if you should try my advice.

Are you ready for my guaranteed, no-fail cure for insomnia?

Have you read my disclaimer? Do you understand it?

Okay.

Ready?

Here goes…

Want to sleep this soundly?

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Try this…

Repetitive prayer.

That’s it?

That’s it.

It works.

Every single time you try it.

And just for kicks, let’s say it doesn’t work. What’s the worst that’s happened? You’ve constructively used time that you would have otherwise spent in misery.

But it won’t happen.

You will fall asleep.

Structured prayer works best.

Try a Rosary. Or a Divine Mercy Chaplet.

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It will work.

Focus on a particular need. Best if you focus on someone other than yourself. Lose yourself in thoughts of a friend, a co-worker, a loved one…

Someone who is ill. Someone who has experienced a death in the family. A caregiver who doesn’t get relief. Someone enduring a trying time.

What if I don’t know how to pray? What if I don’t know a structured prayer?

Being Catholic certainly has its advantages. The Holy Rosary is a staple in our spiritual diet. Besides the Divine Mercy Chaplet, there are various other chaplets. If you have a favorite, by all means, use it! It will work.

But let’s say you are unfamiliar with prayer.

The Rosary consists of five decades (ten prayers) of the Hail Mary, along with introductory and closing prayers and a meditation for each decade.

Don’t know how to pray the Rosary?

Start here:

Say the Hail Mary.

Hail Mary, full of grace. The Lord is with you. Blessed are you among women and blessed is the fruit of your womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.

Amen.

Think about the person or situation you are praying for as you pray.

Say it ten times. Or don’t count. Just continue to pray it.

Focus on the intention of your prayers.

How much good have you done?

And as you drift off to sleep, you are lifting up good intentions to God.

One more thing.

Don’t doubt me until you’ve tried it.

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Thanks for taking some of your precious time today to read my thoughts. My intention, beginning Friday, April 17, 2015, is to post a brief, daily meditation based on the readings from the day’s Catholic liturgy. I would appreciate your help and encouragement. This is something I’ve been called to do for some time. I’m finally embracing it. Father, forgive me for procrastinating.

 

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