Prescription Grade

Most of my articles used humorous family tales to connect with my readers when I first started writing. I missed the lighter side and thought it was time to put the “fun-sucker” in time-out and bring out some humor again. My current senior state of being is an excellent place to begin.

The term twilight years has always baffled me. I do not know who falls in that category because I haven’t bothered to look it up. Who cares anyway? There are already far too many labels in the world for my liking.  I have decided to continue living in the fantasy that my body is as young as my mind thinks it is. If I can just stay off the playgrounds, away from mirrors, bicycles, and ice rinks, I’ll be in good shape and safely “ICU-free in 2021.” Granted, my mind is not as sharp as it used to be. Or at least I don’t think it is.

All life on the planet ages, but seems especially challenging for homo sapiens. Ok, I am aware that it isn’t a walk in the park for the aging water buffalo or zebra who end up as easy pickings for a hungry lion pride. As humans made in the image and likeness of God, we have intellect and will which helps us over-process the effects, concerns, and deficiencies at a higher level. “Yikes, who is that old lady looking at me in the mirror!” Random aches and pains come without warning and remind us that we are only mortal and meant for more than this earthly abode. Having to recall specific details, names, or events can be an additional, unwanted frustration.

Kid: “Mom, remember that place we went, and you bought that rolling pin? Whatever happened to the shirt I was wearing?”

Me: “Did I buy a rolling pin? Were you even born yet? I need more details.”

Kid: “Come on, really? It was my favorite shirt. Remember you bought that candy from Rocky Mountain Chocolates?”

Me: (instant clarity) “Oh yes, the orange jelly enrobed in dark chocolate. That was delicious. THAT shirt? I threw that away ages ago.”

I had found over the years that when the event in question involved me stuffing something delicious in my mouth, I had better memory recall. Popular Chocolate Science Weekly did a whole segment on the connection between food intake and memory association. Thankfully, I still have the wherewithal to whip up emergency brownies and always carry them in my purse. You never know what essential memories I’ll need to archive. This critical memory-saving practice keeps a smile on my face and the innertube firmly inflated in my middle.

If I wanted to make excuses for my lapsed memory, I could blame my far too many head injuries for turning my brain to mush. That is a well-documented, valid defense. My adult kids find it hilarious when I am not making lightning-fast decisions, to audibly whisper to each other and wink, “it’s the accident.” Little farts!

Since I have opened Pandora’s box, eliciting excuses connected to my dubious memory, hearing with only one ear has a considerable impact. It boggles my mind how many people automatically go to my non-functioning left ear to share a trifle with me. One might as well share their confession in that ear, ’cause it hears nada. Mix in a bit of background music at a restaurant, forty other happy diners, and I basically get zip. I, however, just nod and smile trying to keep up. So what I miss eighty percent of what was said, I cannot be held accountable for remembering information I never heard in the first place.

There, I feel better already. Maybe it isn’t an aging thing after all and just all my other abnormalities. I have an excuse to fit every scenario except the recent one where I used the prescription powdered stuff from my recent colonoscopy. Why you ask ? Waste not, want not! Apparently, it packs a serious punch even in tiny doses. Good thing I am still fairly quick on my feet. I am happy to report I survived the prep for my roto rooter job. You would think by now there would be a pill or less invasive technology like something out of Star Trek. I hardly can handle the appalling beverage required to do the prep. I have polled many who feel the same way. Not my husband, he just drinks it right down and thinks it “tastes just fine.” REALLY? He could possibly be the only person on the planet who feels that way. I shall spare the faint-hearted and rookies’ further details and simply state that hell might just be an eternal colonoscopy prep.

Thank goodness heaven is for real, and none of that business is necessary. Stay on the straight and narrow- it’s worth it now for the prize that awaits us.

 

 

 

Sneaky Mom Does Good

I rather like that we mothers are surprisingly adept at reading our brood. Age does nothing to deter us. I’m sixty-two and my mom is still working her magic on me. We have a knack for being annoyingly effective in getting necessary information and reminders into their little psyches.  

6am text from me: “Happy birthday, I love you! (Lots of emoji’s)

6:02am text from me: “Oh my bad! I meant to send that to grandma. I bet you already wished her a Happy birthday LOL!” (kissy face emojis)

6:03am return text: Mahmmmmm! U woke me up! (angry face emoji)

Obviously, this skill must be well-honed over time. Technology threw us a curveball, but we caught up soon enough, broadening the possibilities to hit our marks. Occasional failures are part of the learning curve, but we are quick to ascertain new skills, becoming more bothersome as the situation demands.  

Point in case: last year my mother kept asking me if I had “watched, the Chosen series yet.” No, I would reply with some lame excuse. A mom with any credibility can see right through that stuff. The trailers looked interesting enough, but I was convinced without ever seeing it, that it was cheesy and ultimately poorly done, a well-meaning Christian effort to shove Jesus down our throats. So, I stayed busy and distracted until she came for lunch one fall day. She asked again if I had seen any of the episodes of the Chosen. I replied, “I had not.” She said flatly, “sit down, we’re watching it now,” and whipped out the DVD set. Moms are good at getting what they want, but isn’t that what love does? It persists even when rejected and discounted, especially when it is good for the person they love.

Maybe you have heard people talking here and there about “The Chosen” series but have never taken the time to check it out. Perhaps you have never heard of it at all. Not to worry, I am happy to introduce you to it and share what I have experienced.

My mom knew, that all I needed to do, was to get past my bias and watch one episode. Being a lover of Christ, it was not hard to convince me after the first episode that “the Chosen” was different. It quickly dissolved for me all the previously held erroneous assumptions. Rather than the starting point of Jesus as the chosen Messiah, this series is about those whom Jesus chooses to follow Him.

What might those early men and women who followed in His company been like?

They came from various walks of life, personalities, and back stories. What was it like to follow the Messiah that they had prayed for and yearned for their whole lives, and then by chance to be chosen despite their woundedness, imperfections and human limitations?

I have to say, with each episode I am touched in unexpected ways. Some are profound and deep, touching the pains in my own journey of life and faith; while others give me a different perspective to consider. Woven into each episode is the reality of life, both challenging and humorous. What was it like to be in the company of a rogue preacher traveling together with the insecurity of what each day would bring? What roles would each of them play, as the true mission of the Messiah is revealed, and contradicts their commonly held beliefs? For a historical piece it is hugely relatable, because it is our human experiences that unites us. They had the same concerns we do today.

What is God up to in our crazy current age?

Where is God in the suffering of humanity?

What is the purpose of my life, and how can I know His plan for me?

I really cannot recommend the Chosen series enough. Many people I speak with have never heard of it or are reluctant as I was, to just watch it with an open mind and heart. I find that it gives me endless possibilities to meditate on in prayer. It opens my eyes to the immense compassion and love of our God through His incarnate Son, Jesus Christ. Yes, Jesus was true God, but also true man. He got tired, angry, laughed, and danced at weddings. He was frustrated by the hardness of hearts in his time (and ours). Yet He deeply loved and desired to make whole those lost sheep He came to find; to bring them and us today, into right relationship with the Father.

This series brings to life these early saints of old and their humanity.

It would be a disservice to diminish them as nothing other than ancient one-dimensional canvases or dusty statues of plaster stuck in time. We share similar stories and struggles. God’s answers and solutions for them are the answers and solutions that we desperately need for ourselves.

The portrayal of Mother Mary is also beautifully played, demonstrating her humility and wisdom. As Catholics we hold our dear Mother in such high regard and rightly so. Like me, she was a woman, wife, and mother. Unlike me, she was the Mother of the Son of God, without sin or stain. However, that does not imply she was without human emotions, laughter, or tears. Immaculate yes, unapproachable and aloof, no.

What mother when she knows her child can do something to help someone will not ask him to do so?

What mother does not feel as her children grow, that they do not need her as they once did?

What mother does not worry nor carry in her heart, pain and sorrow in union with her children? When they suffer, she suffers.

Watch the series. (you’re welcome) It is free. I want to hear what touched you. Don’t be afraid to talk about it and share it with others. Ponder it in your own heart. Support it financially if you are able. This beautiful worldwide means of evangelization is bringing all walks of life and beliefs together and changing lives for the better. What other viewing can we say does that?

Thanks, mom! You knew what was best, and were persistent in sharing this amazing series with us. We are forever grateful.

Note: St. Andrew the Apostle will be featuring select episodes of “The Chosen”, followed by discussion groups. Watch for the details coming soon.

The Chosen, first season

Rotten

Over the years with the continual alteration of the English language, we realized for a short time that sick was cool, the latest rendition of dope means neither dense nor drugs, and “spilling the tea” has nothing to do with the common drink. “Rotten” however, still means decaying, putrid, and bad. Why the vocabulary lesson? So that we begin at the same starting point.

By their fruits you will know them…every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” Matt 7:16-18

This same chapter of Matthew opens with, “Stop judging, that you may not be judged.” Well, which is it? Where is the line between judgement and classifying fruit? It is there that many of us waffle back and forth fearful to make a pronouncement. “Gees, that banana is pretty spotty and spoiled …but who am I to judge?”

It is not about the tree;

it is about the fruit.

We do not judge people; we judge the fruit that is born from their decisions and actions. When I am unclear about someone’s motivation, I can look at their harvest over time and make an assessment. Why? To better determine their integrity, the genuineness of their words, reliability of their actions, and whether to put distance or stock in the relationship.

“So by their fruit you will know them.”

Matthew 7:20

A weed will never develop into a stock of wheat in nature. A weed is a weed from start to finish. Jesus reminds us of this fact, “…nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit.” I believe Jesus is helping us learn to discern the actions of others. From there we can make decisions on where we place our trust or spend our time.  It means we are paying attention, and not simply taking words and actions at face value. In the world we live in, we are constantly immersed in media, non-stop news, and marketing. We must be prudent and take time to look beyond the fancy packaging to consider the fruit being produced. This necessary endeavor will uncover the rectitude of the produce.

At times, the fruit is easily distinguishable. But at other times, just as in nature, we need to wait for the fruit to ripen. Some fruit can only be measured over time to expose its true nature. We have all had the experience of desiring a beautiful piece of ripened fruit. We are excited to taste its sweet, juicy contents. On the outside it looks perfect and ready. However, upon first bite we discover it to be mealy, disgusting, and unsatisfying, so we toss it away in disappointment. When it comes to people, we may even feel betrayed by something that did not accurately reflect what was presented on the outside. I propose some helpful life lessons:

  • Pay attention, not everything is as it presents itself. Dig deeper.
    • If you hang around rotten trees and eat bad fruit, you will get sick. Sour stomachs are the symptom of a bigger issue.
    • Do not continue to expect different results from the same behaviors.
    • Fruit is a metaphor for both physical and spiritual yields. One can be alluring yet scandalous, the other captivating and fulfilling, bearing much good fruit.
    • Pray for discernment and help in recognizing what is good
    • Look to Scripture. The Word of God deciphers, clarifies, and elucidates.

Scripture is the Word of God and worthy of study and reflection. It is ever new, bearing good fruit in our lives and souls. Its’ advice and benefits are timeless. Wisdom seeks understanding and welcomes lessons from the Master Gardner, who helps us distinguish good from bad fruit.

From Flocking Mad to a Flock in Prayer

A couple of weeks ago I posted an article about faithful Catholics feeling rather abandoned by their shepherds during this past year.  My article “Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to Catholic Priests and Bishops,” was read by thousands with much feedback echoing comparable sentiments. Through comments, personal and public, people from all over shared how grateful they were for my “courage to express what they were feeling.”

I felt very strongly that this message was Divinely inspired, and so I surrendered it all to His Will. Our Shepherd, Bishop Olmsted, in whom I have great respect, wrote in response that it reminded him of the passage in Luke 12:48, “Much will be required of the person entrusted with much, and still more will be demanded of the person entrusted with more.” He clearly understands that those who have been called by God to greater positions of authority in the Church, have weightier performance obligations.

While this is true, neither does it mean the rest of us get to mindlessly frolic in the pasture while they do all the heavy lifting.

In attempting to understand why many of us felt frustrated over these past fourteen months, I believe we kept waiting for our shepherds to act and lead us in the crisis, to comfort and extol, to challenge and step out in trust, to remind us by their actions and reactions– that fear is not of God. I believe that was the minimum expectation. Was that a faulty premises? It was scary for all of us. No one was left untouched. We were not demanding the impossible.

As faithful followers of Christ, we His sheeple, had a responsibility to hunker down in prayer, to continue to trust in God, despite the turmoil and fearmongering that raged on every media outlet. God is more powerful than this tiny blip on humanity’s radar screen. I am reminded of the scene in Matthew 14:24-32, when the boat is being tossed at sea and Jesus came to them walking on the water. He beckons Peter to come out. “But when he saw how [strong] the wind was he became frightened; and, beginning to sink, he cried out, ‘Lord, save me!’”

“When he saw how strong the wind was…,” Peter quickly sank into something far more dangerous, FEAR! Wind makes a lot of noise and does damage; fear does much worse.

We too, saw a big noisy storm blowing from all directions. We let it occupy our minds, take up residence in our hearts, and fill our homes. Did we cry out, Lord save us? Did we surrender ourselves and trust that the Lord would not let us drown? Did we rely only on human solutions? Because when Peter cried out, “Immediately Jesus stretched out his hand and caught him, and said to him, ‘O you of little faith, why did you doubt?’” God was there for us, He never left.

Why do we doubt that the storms in our lives are bigger than the omnipotent God?

Countless times in Scripture we read about the awesome power of God to command nature, exorcise evil, raise the dead, transform hearts, and heal the sick. Maybe we think those are just fairy tales? Perhaps when Jesus reminds us that the size of our faith can move mountains, we assume he is exaggerating.

When our faith is little, it requires trials to grow. Step by step. Event by event. It does not magically happen without effort on our part. Spiritual muscles need to be exercised. Trust in God happens through learning to let go. Surrendering takes a lifetime, as we learn to relinquish control and put everything into the all-powerful hands of the Father. Faith requires stepping forward into the unknown.

Fear stunts our spiritual growth.

There is work to be done both by our Shepherds and by we the sheeple. God will not call us for something He has not equipped us to handle with His mighty help. We must pray daily for our clergy to be transformed by God. We must realize the good they are doing, rather than only dwell on the negative. We must pray for one another to be strengthened. We need each other. We are the One Body of Christ. Prayer helps us all!  

How do we transform from bleating, frustrated sheep? We must get involved. We must put skin in the game. We must support, pray for, and encourage our shepherds. We are the Body; Christ is the Head. As the Body, we are His hands, feet, and love in this time and place. We need to get to work; we have gotten lazy.

It starts with us being holy people, raising holy families, and ridding ourselves of unholy habits. And sometimes it means raising a little holy hell by reminding one another to do our part, stand firm, and trust God who is in control. Nothing happens outside of His Providence.

We were made for heaven, not to graze in the pasture all day getting fat. All circumstances are opportunities to form us into holy pilgrims on the path towards heaven. “If God is for us, who can be against us?”

Believe it. Your eternal life depends on it!

Flocking Mad, An Open Letter to our Catholic Priests and Bishops

Greetings from the pasture!

I thought I would reach out and apprise you about life from your sheeple’s perspective after being devastated from every angle. Perhaps you may think you know what it is like down here in the pasture–based on vetted emails, random blogs, or confessions (if you are doing those). You do not. We no more know what it is like to shepherd the likes of us than you know what it is like to be us in this time and place in history.

These are crazy times, yes? We all seemed to be caught unprepared. However more alarming than a worldwide pandemic was your eerie silence and over-exaggerated responses to shut down the flow of grace and sacraments. We really needed your reassuring presence, the trustworthy example of stalwart faith, and comforting words. Instead, it felt like you disappeared and are only recently emerging. So much silence! Where did you go as you continue to leave us to wander without strong shepherds in these confusing times. You were particularly inaudible before the election when we needed to be reminded of Catholic teaching. Many sheep wandered into strange pastures heeding lies because the light of clarity and truth was concealed under the guise of our safety. Where was the timeless, never-changing truth boldly proclaimed with conviction? You neither brought lucidity, nor wisdom when we needed you.

I will be honest; it feels like we have been abandoned, and left to the wolves, as we watch through the thicket, the discord and mounting division between yourselves. It saddens us to see our leadership in disarray. Good holy priests who do boldly speak the inconvenient truth are reprimanded including forced resignation. I am curious, why would priests speaking truths cause this reaction? Threats surround us from all sides, both inside and outside Mother Church. Who can be trusted? So many wolves masquerading as shepherds and very few say or do anything.

“I know that after my departure savage wolves will come among you, and they will not spare the flock. And from your own group, men will come forward perverting the truth…”

Acts 20: 29-30

We feel like sheep without shepherds. God has entrusted us to you. How do we believe shepherds who are not even united on basic Church teachings? Are you as lost as we feel?

Why do you hide in Chanceries behind paper masks that will not protect you from judgment? You like seats of honor but fail to deliver when it gets too stormy outside. You bend and bow to the ever-changing winds of the culture. You regurgitate social lies through your unwillingness to correct and authentically lead. It seems you have become but an illusion of the high office so painstakingly bestowed upon you.

We wander about in inhospitable meadows with no bearing, while you cavort around with pomp and frivolity looking important wearing the stench of rotting souls.

Why do you fear a pathetic virus, and disregard the fires of Hell? Which is more perilous? The transitory has trumped the eternal. Rather than prepare us well for death and eternal life, you appear to have relinquished your office and surrendered to an agenda as predictable as Lucifer himself.

Where is your faith and trust in God? Where is your courage, your rod in hand, and willingness to protect the flock even at personal risk that you assumed at your ordination? With minute opposition the spigot of grace was shut down as you eagerly submitted to government bureaucrats rather than stand fast in seeking solutions and protecting the flock. During the Black Plague, where nearly one-third of Europe’s population died, it was Priests who selflessly stood in the breach knowing they faced certain death, yet risked their lives to give comfort, hope, and make available the sacraments.

Gentlemen, this is no Black Plague.

Never in all my life would I have imagined I would write such a letter. I am embarrassed for your failure to be the great men God called and equipped you to be. So many souls you will answer for that did not find refreshment and solace in your sermons, at the altars, and in the confessionals as you pandered to the fear and agendas of those who whispered insidious advice. How many died without viaticum as you concealed yourselves and encouraged others to do the same, unwilling to fight for our souls?

Even now, you unnecessarily continue dispensations further feeding the flock a disparaging diet of fear. Churches and Dioceses still mandating ludicrous requirements instead of being beacons of light in the darkness and extolling your brothers to be men of bold faith and trust.

STOP this madness. Fight the good fight. To Hell with your safely guarded reputations. Speak up, stand up, and fight for our souls. This trifling threat is nothing compared to what Christianity has endured over the ages. It is only an annoying pest that needs to be neutralized. A wise Priest once said to me, “Flies do not overwhelm us by their strength, but by their number.” And their number is steadily growing, while you only contemplate dialogue, and fail to act with authority and conviction.

Your silence is deafening!

Rally your sheep! Lead us in prayer and sacrifice. Plead before God begging for forgiveness for yourselves and for us all. Implore God to fill you with wisdom, courage, perseverance, and the determination to be the shepherds you were called to be. This is your moment. As Shepherds, you were ordained for this time in history.

Unite. Put your petty differences aside and direct us in the timeless never-changing truth.

It is time to get the fly-swatter boys and rid humanity of this infestation.”

One very little, very frustrated sheep,

Barbara Lishko

Ad Majorem Dei Gloriam