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Mary Magdalene and Me

July 22, 2014

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I suppose it is fitting that I write a post on this day – July 22.  Mary of Magdala is my patron saint and today is her feast day.  She is the saint name I took for my confirmation.  When I was in fourth grade as to what name I was to take for my confirmation name – I said Mary.  My confirmation instructor praised me for choosing Mary – the mother of Christ but I quickly retorted and said, “Oh no, I want to be the bad Mary.” I am not sure if this speaks to the bad preparation I received in my catechesis and confirmation prep or if it speaks of the bad idea of having 4th graders confirmed.

Through the years and through my reconversion to the faith, I have come to love Mary Magdalene and embrace her as my patron saint.  She is often associated with the woman caught in adultery, (John 8:1-11) but there is no biblical reference that the woman was Mary Magdalene.  She is mentioned as the women whom Jesus has cast out seven demons (Luke 8:2, Mark 16:9) and of course she was one of the women who stayed at the cross of Jesus even when others fled. Maybe the most important role she played as the apostle to the apostles is to be the first to witness Jesus after the resurrection!

Jesus said to her, ‘Woman, why are you weeping? Who are you looking for?’ Supposing him to be the gardener, she said, ‘Sir, if you have taken him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will go and remove him.’

Jesus said, ‘Mary!’ She turned round then and said to him in Hebrew, ‘Rabbuni!’ — which means Master. (John 20:15-16)

I love this narrative – I often joked that Mary Magdalene must have been a blonde! I mean really, how can someone be looking right at Jesus and think he is the gardener? But, if I am honest, how many times have I been looking at Jesus and not seen Him? And how many times have I been looking at a gardener and think he was Jesus.

Following Jesus in the steps of Mary Magdalene is very fitting for me.  I am a sinner.  I have my seven demons and I believe Jesus is casting them out one by one.  And even if the biblical figure of the woman caught in adultery isn’t Mary Magdalene, I know Jesus forgives me  like the woman caught in adultery.  I also know that Jesus defends me even when I have no other advocate (John 8:7).

So today I celebrate my Saint Day and be reminded that my sins are forgiven, that Jesus defends me and that he loves me through the most difficult times.

 

'Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb', artist unknown

‘Christ Appearing to Mary Magdalene at the Empty Tomb’, artist unknown

A Prayer to St. Mary Magdalene

St. Mary Magdalene, woman of many sins, who by conversion became the beloved of Jesus, thank you for your witness that Jesus forgives through the miracle of love.

You, who already possess eternal happiness in His glorious presence, please intercede for me, so that some day I may share in the same everlasting joy. Amen.

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Turn, Turn, Turn…

July 5, 2014

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flowersTo Everything Turn, Turn, Turn….

Or so goes the song written by Pete Seeger in the late 1950s. The lyrics, except for the title which is repeated throughout the song, and the final verse of the song, are adapted from Chapter 3 of the Book of Ecclesiastes.
I have come to reflect again on this bit of scripture as I find myself moving from one era of my life to another. As I have grown older and hopefully wiser I have been taking time in my prayer to reflect on these movements in my life and how they really do fit into God’s plan.
A few years ago my children when off to college and thus I started a new era in my life. My mother recently passed away and a good friend has moved away (By coincidence she lives in the same town that Pete Seeger made famous – Beacon New York) . My pastor and spiritual guide has been reassigned to a different parish. I might be ready for a midlife crisis but the seasons of life are not only for empty-nesters – these seasons have been happening all of my life.
As a High school student, I readily anticipated and embraced going off to college and being independent (or so I thought) but even the anticipation left me with fear as I left behind security and family. My 20′s were filled with college, marriage and establishing some sort of career. It was quite hedonistic in it’s way, at least in that it was a time of the unholy trinity of Me, Myself, and I, but God was still leading me even though I didn’t know it. I learned about love through my marriage to my husband. I may not have known the fulness of God’s love for me yet, but I was learning. By my 30′s the season of raising children entered into my life. I would write more about it but it is a blur of diapers, potty training, sports camps, music lessons and play dates. Yet even during this crazy time of my life, I remember savoring every minute with my little children and never wanting it to change. God has his hand in teaching me about love here too. The sacrificial way in which we love our children, but I had more to learn.
My forties brought me a surprise. My children grew more independent and this season of my life brought me the surprise of God through a conversion experience I was not prepared for. I realized I was a child of God, His beloved and loved! I filled my life with learning and a zeal for evangelization. This season of my life brought me to volunteering for my church, to my work for the Archdiocese and in contact with mentors and friends who have helped me to learn more and grow deaper in my faith. Most of all this season has taught me how to pray.
I have lately realized that God is moving me into another season. A dear friend and spiritual sister has moved with her family to New York and my pastor who brought me to my faith and guided me through much of my spiritual life has been transferred. Like my children leaving the nest, it feels like the end of an era.
Even though my children graduating from High School left me reminiscent for the past, I relish the time with my grown up children and sharing their new lives as adults! I wonder what God has planned for me in this next season of my life. Maybe this season will bring me to more  wisdom and maturity in my faith? We will see.

I am sad to see the end of this season of my life, but it may be a time to deepen my friendships with those close and who have moved away, explore my relationships with my adult children and find out what God has in store for me next!
All I know is that seasons turn, turn, turn…

To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, a time to reap that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace.
Ecclesiastes 3:1-8

 

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My Meeting with a Pro-abortion Feminist

April 25, 2014

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I had the interesting opportunity this past week to have dinner with Kathy Sloan. Kathy is from N.O.W. – yes that is the National Organization for Woman. Kathy is on the board of directors and is the U.N. representative for N.O.W. We normally would be on different sides of the table, but Kathy is here in Minnesota lobbying with the Minnesota Catholic Conference against the bills legitimizing surrogacy. I finally understand that phrase “Politics makes strange bedfellows.” It seems we agree on some things – Surrogacy is bad for women is one, but I found durring my dinner conversation that we agreed on a few other things as well. If you would like to know more about the Surrogacy issue – check out the Article by Katheryn Mollen from the Minnesota Catholic Conference: http://www.mncc.org/catholic-spirit-wombs-rent-industry-now-legal-minnesota/

Katheryn Mollen was the one who arraigned the meeting between Kathy and I. It was at my request because my 21 year old daughter is involved with her feminist club on her college campus. To get this meeting for my daughter made me the “rock star” in her eyes. Yes we are a diverse family with a lot of different ways in which we approach things and I support her in her efforts even if occasionally she gets it wrong, but the jury isn’t out on her yet! She is a strong independent young woman and I am proud of her.

Back to my meeting with Kathy. I have to say, I was a little anxious about meeting, as I wondered what we would talk about or if it would be adversarial. Driving to dinner I reflected on my own journey in life and my thoughts on the feminist movement. I reflected that I have much to be thankful for from the feminist movement. I am a product of the advances made by Gloria Steinem and others who fought to get equal pay for equal work and I greatly benefited from Title IX that allowed me to participate in High School and intercollegiate sports. When I am talking to young women athletes now – they can’t even imagine that less than 35 years ago there were practically no sports programs for women and if there was a program, it was not funded.

As we conversed over dinner I found out that Kathy was a fan of the music of Hildegard of Bingen (Catholic Saint) and has been working with Catholic bioethicists on the issue of donor eggs and surrogacy. Her reasoning that she is against legitimizing commercial surrogacy, (and feminists are split on this) is that it makes “women nothing more than objects … an oven… something to be used.”

Hmmm… It seems I have heard something like that before…

Man is a person, man and woman equally so, since both were created in the image and likeness of the personal God.” Pope John Paul II

This was an opening to express my difficulty with the traditional feminist movement and its stance on reproductive rights. It was… an opening to evangelize. I said, “As long as the feminist movement focuses on reproductive rights, it will keep women, and men, viewed as objects whose purpose is primarily sexual pleasure.”

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan - Feminist from N.O.W.

My daughter Courtney and Kathy Sloan – Feminist from N.O.W.

From there I started speaking of the new feminism and Pope John Paul II’s writings. I can’t say she became a convert or revert right there, but she asked a lot of questions about this new feminism. I gave her a book of writings by Edith Stien and promised to send her a copy of MULIERIS DIGNITATEM.
Yes, it seemed I had more in common with this feminist from N.O.W. than I ever thought I would. I love building bridges and I have always purported that we can’t evangelize if we never meet people who are different than us.
On a side note… my daughter thinks I am a “rock star!”

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The Catholic Church in the News

April 12, 2014

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The Catholic Church has been in the news a lot lately and for the most part the only reporting has been bad news. But there is a story a local paper decided to run that probably won’t be picked up by the big media stations.
It is a story I almost missed.
I had the oppourtunity to attend daily Mass at my local parish and Catholic High School. I am normally not around for daily Mass at home, but I had an appointment in town so I thought I would make the effort to go. I almost did’t. I was running late, my hair was still wet from my shower and I needed to prepare for my meeting, but since it was daily Mass I figured I had time to attend and still be able to run back home to get ready.

What happened at that Mass was a special grace that I was blessed to be witness to.

When I showed up at the church their was a hearse sitting out front. My first thought was: Oh no, what is going on? Mass will probably take longer. I may be late for my appointment.
The Catholic High School Mass was was hosting a funeral. A funeral for a woman I did not know and a woman none of the students at the school knew. She was a woman who had recently died and had very little family left to attend her funeral.
It was a beautiful witness of a community of people reaching out to a member of their own to fulfill the corporal and spiritual works of mercy of praying for and burying the dead.
Someone alerted the local small town paper and they decided to cover the story.
I urge you to read it. You can find it here:

http://www.southernminn.com/faribault_daily_news/news/article_5124e564-21ed-5721-83ed-1ebde6c60e06.html

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News

Photo Jace Smith/Faribault Daily News


Grab a box of Kleenex. There was not a dry eye in the house.

As beautiful as this story is, there are others like it happening every day. Most don’t make the news. They are the stories of good and faithful priest and parishioners doing the good works of being good Christians. Since the media usually doesn’t report these – it is up to us to see them – everyday.
See them and be a part of them.

As we enter into Holy Week, be observant of the good works around you and when you gather with family on Easter remember to share the GOOD News of our beautiful church.

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Keats, Baseball and Surviving the Clergy Sex Abuse Crisis

March 29, 2014

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image

The English poet John Keats expressed the idea of negative capability in a letter to his brother in 1817. He described it as the capacity for accepting uncertainty and the possibility that certain questions might never be resolved. The great writers, according to Keats, are those with the greatest negative capability. He credited Shakespeare with the greatest talent in this regard, and thought that the dynamic tension created by perpetual uncertainty made for the most interesting characters and depth in story.

I came across this term while watching a baseball documentary called “The Tenth Inning”that addressed the steroid scandal from a few years ago.  In the documentary, writer George Will says “Now we live in a sports age and a baseball age, where nothing’s more valuable than negative capability because if we’re just in a rush, if we can’t wait to see Roger Clemens or Barry Bonds, or whoever it is, as right or wrong, then we’re missing the complexity of these people and the difficulty of the age that they’re living in.”

What does this have to do with the Catholic faith or anything to do with this blog?

Well, we are in a scandal of our own locally. A much darker and serious issue than baseball and steroids. Living through it can be a full time chore and the idea of negative capability intrigues me. I have to admit my cycles of anger, frustration, despair and a few “What were they thinking!” moments as I read, along with everyone else, the accounts reported by certain radio stations and other media outlets.  Working for the church does not make me immune to or “in the know” on anything, in fact, working for the church seems to make every news report of a fallen priest or a seemingly poor decision feel like a personal affront to my faith and work.

So how do you hang onto your faith when your church is in crisis?

I have been trying to tap into that Negative Capability.  It is a strange name and since I am not a literary intellect, I’ve never read Keats or studied Shakespeare and I am surprised at how I am drawn to this odd literary term.  But it seems to describe a way I aproach my faith life.  In my early stages of (re)conversion to the Church, I hungered for knowledge and devoured books.  Knowledge of the one I loved, the one I sought – so much like Song of Songs.

On my bed night after night I sought him

            Whom my soul loves; SOS 3:1

But in wanting to know God – in wanting to know Christ, I wanted to understand and figure out the complexities and abserdities of a virgin giving birth, the irrational math of the trinity and  duality of transubstantiation.  In my desire for knowledge, I couldn’t rest in faith.  I wanted proof. I wanted answers. In my struggles I could only hope for Divine Grace to step in. I needed to learn to rest in that negative capability and enjoy the tension of this amazing church that isn’t about either/or – but lives in the and/also of a faith based on a Man who is also the Son of God who really is present in the Mass.

Crisis of Faith

In regards to our current clergy abuse crisis, I have also had to yield to this negative capability in a darker way. I have to rest in questions that may never be resolved. I have been sickened by the reports. The victims are tragic and the deeds and actions of a few priest are abominable. It is very easy to paint a black and white picture of the people involved, but the personalities are as complex as are the times in which they live.  We are called to see everyone through the eye that God sees us. Through the fullness of who they are.

In all of this we are called to pray for the victims, but also the perpetrators. We are called to love our good priests and also the fallen. We must love the whistel blowers, the reporters, and the angry Catholics who have left the church.  Only in this strange church filled with the hard teaching are we called to forgive and love and carry on. (all while protecting the inocent and sin no more)

Only in this lovely faith called the Catholic Church could we celebrate the Friday that Christ was crucified and call it Good.

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The Poor (and the Cold) Will Always Be With Us

December 11, 2013

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Snowman in St. Paul

Snowman in St. Paul

On my way to work – I saw this (picture attached) where I usually see the homeless man asking for money.
It is sort of cute – being a little snow man on the corner of a busy St. Paul intersection, but it brought me to think of whom I usually see there and why I need to care if he has found some shelter.

For the last 5 years I have been driving by this spot and I often see someone asking for money. Different people. Some young, some old. Some have signs that they carry, others don’t. For a while I wouldn’t give them any change because I had bought into that idea that it might be someone who would use my money for drugs or alcohol, but lately I have changed my thoughts on that. It has caused me to reflect on what Jesus said.

“The poor you will always have with you; but you will not always have me.” Matthew 26:11

A friend recently told me that after volunteering at various food shelves and homeless shelters that she had come to a revelation. She said “We want the poor to be like us” meaning that when we give, we want the people that we help to become like us. We put conditions on our giving. While we would like to make sure that every opportunity is given to those in need to break out of the chains of poverty; that is not why we help the poor. We give and help, because we can. We give because every person is made in God’s image. We give because we wouldn’t want to miss out on the chance to serve Jesus.

In the Temptations Faced by Pastoral Workers from Evangelii Gaudium, Holy Father says in paragraph 85:
“One of the more serious temptations which stifles boldness and zeal is a defeatism which turns us into querulous and disillusioned pessimists, ‘sourpusses’. Nobody can go off to battle unless he is fully convinced of victory beforehand. If we start without confidence, we have already lost half the battle and we bury our talents.”

It is easy to think and say “I have given enough” or “Others will take care of them” or “They might just use my money for drugs” or   “I will only give to an organization” but maybe that is the defeatism that Pope Francis is referring to.

So for now I keep a dollar or two handy to give when I can and try to remember this prayer of Blessed Mother Teresa while I pray that the man I ususally see on this corner isn’t as cold as the snowman that he left behind.

Dear Jesus, help me to spread Thy fragrance everywhere I go. Flood my soul with Thy spirit and love. Penetrate and possess my whole being so utterly that all my life may only be a radiance of Thine. Shine through me and be so in me that every soul I come in contact with may feel Thy presence in my soul. Let them look up and see no longer me but only Jesus. Stay with me and then I shall begin to shine as you shine, so to shine as to be a light to others. Amen.

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An Advent Reflection on Joy to go with Your Morning Coffee

November 30, 2013

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From kellywahlquist.com

Coffee

My friend Kelly Wahlquist is starting a daily Advent reflection using Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation “The Joy of the Gospel. Her idea is to break it up into small chunks (she calls them sips like in sips of coffee) and read it through Advent. To follow along, go to her website http://www.kellywahlquist.com
What a beautiful way to prepare for the incarnation of JOY!
I plan on following… Join me!
Here’s the schedule for Advent. She will post the paragraphs and perhaps a little reflection each day to go with your coffee:

Dec. 1 2-8 (Joy)

Dec. 2 9-13 (Joy of Evangelizing)

Dec. 3 14-18 (Scope of exhortation)

Dec. 4 19-24 (Church’s missionary transformation)

Dec. 5 25-33 (Pastoral Activity & Conversion)

Dec. 6 34-39 (Heart of the Gospel)

Dec. 7 40-45 (Human Limits)

Dec. 8 46-49 (Mary)

Dec. 9 50-58 (Amid Crisis: idolatry of money)

Dec. 10 59-75 (Cultural Challenges)

Dec. 11 76-92 (Temptations of pastoral workers & Relationship in Christ)

Dec. 12 93-109 (No to spiritual worldliness)

Dec. 13 110-126 (People of God proclaim the Gospel)

Dec. 14 127-134 (Person to Person, Charisms, Culture)

Dec. 15 135-144 (The Homily)

Dec. 16 145-159 (Preparing to Preach)

Dec. 17 160-175 (Kerygma)

Dec. 18 176-185 (Social dimensions of evangelization)

Dec. 19 186-216 (Inclusion of the poor in society)

Dec. 20 217-237 (Common Good and Peace in Society)

Dec. 21 238-258 (Social dialogue as contribution to peace)

Dec. 22 259-274 (Spirit-filled evangelizers)

Dec. 23 275-283 (Personal encounter with Christ)

Dec. 24 284-288 (Mary)

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Families are Messy…

November 25, 2013

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Licensed under Creative Commons

Licensed under Creative Commons

As we approach Thanksgiving and our opportunities to be with extended family, there is one thing we need to remember – families are messy.

I am not talking about Uncle Bob who never does the dishes or the spilled gravy at the kids table; I am saying that family relationships are messy.  Some families have a no politics and no religion rule on conversations at their family gatherings.  That may help with the tension of hot button topics like same sex unions and abortion, but as people of faith we cannot put on and take off our religion at will like a sweater.  We wear our faith all of the time!

How do we deal with some difficult situations this Thanksgiving like -

Your sister and her boyfriend, who are living together,

Your uncle who is in a same sex relationship,

Your cousin who complains about the church’s teaching on contraception,

Your nephew who has left the church because of the current Clergy abuse scandal in the news…

Jesus had the answer – He loved more!

Since I have a fondness for food and mentions of food in the bible – I am taken by this quote every Thanksgiving…

Matthew 11:19, The Son of Man came eating and drinking and they said, ‘Look, he is a glutton and a drunkard, a friend of tax collectors and sinners.’ But wisdom is vindicated by her works.”

I think the most important thing to remember in this passage is that WE all are the sinners.  If our church only let perfect Catholics in – the pews (and the pulpits) would be virtually empty.  I am so grateful that Jesus (and my family ) eats with me!

So set the tone with a prayer of humility and gratitude and respect and have a Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your messy family and LOVE MORE!

 

Prayer of Thanksgiving

God of all blessings,
source of all life,
giver of all grace:

We thank you for the gift of life:
for the breath
that sustains life,
for the food of this earth
that nurtures life,
for the love of family and friends
without which there would be no life.

We thank you for the mystery of creation:
for the beauty
that the eye can see,
for the joy
that the ear may hear,
for the unknown
that we cannot behold filling the universe with wonder,
for the expanse of space
that draws us beyond the definitions of our selves.

We thank you for setting us in communities:
for families
who nurture our becoming,
for friends
who love us by choice,
for companions at work,
who share our burdens and daily tasks,
for strangers
who welcome us into their midst,
for people from other lands
who call us to grow in understanding,
for children
who lighten our moments with delight,
for the unborn,
who offer us hope for the future.

We thank you for this day:
for life
and one more day to love,
for opportunity
and one more day to work for justice and peace,
for neighbors
and one more person to love
and by whom be loved,
for your grace
and one more experience of your presence,
for your promise:
to be with us,
to be our God,
and to give salvation.

For these, and all blessings,
we give you thanks, eternal, loving God,
through Jesus Christ we pray. Amen.

Happy Thanksgiving!

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Pray With Us

October 23, 2013

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Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Madonna and Child ~ Licensed under Creative Commons

Praying Together for Our Church

Below is a letter from Jeff Cavins to the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute inviting us to pray.  Let us all join in this beautiful novena.

In times of difficulty I have learned to turn to Mary.

For those of you who do not know of the Catechetical Institute – I urge everyone to look into it.  I am an alumni. Go C.I.

Thank you Jeff.

 

 

Dear Friends,

 

We would like to invite you to something very special that those associated with the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute are doing in response to recent news in our archdiocese.

 

As many of you know, the Catholic Church is going through some extremely difficult times. As graduates and current students, you know that we, at the Catechetical Institute, are not only learning “what” to believe, but we are learning how to “live out” what we believe. It is difficult times such as these that call us to live what we have learned—to truly live as disciples of Jesus Christ, as witnesses to the Gospel, as Christians. This is not an easy task.

 

As Catholics, we are blessed to follow in the great biblical tradition of the heroes of faith, men and women who responded to trials with prayer, praise and thanksgiving. As a united Catechetical Institute, we are doing just that and extending an invitation to our CI community to pray together for every member who makes up our archdiocese; for, the archdiocese is not the structure, it is the people, all of us together. We are inviting you to join us in praying for the entire body of Christ and all who are suffering right now during this arduous time.

 

We are beginning an extraordinary novena, one that happens to be a favorite of Pope Francis. The novena is called, “Mary, Undoer of Knots” and has a beautiful and rich tradition.

 

This novena will begin on Wednesday, October 23rd and conclude on the eve of the Feast of All Saints. If you do not own the small booklet that explains and walks you through the novena, you can find the daily prayers at http://www.cistudent.com.

 

As mature Catholic believers, we must always ask ourselves, “What is the responsible, charitable and right way to proceed?” No doubt, many people have asked you questions about what they are hearing in the media. Our response does not merely represent our own opinion, but it represents the body of Christ. We are the body of Christ, and as such we need to always ask, “What would Jesus do?”

 

Therefore, let us ask the Holy Spirit to season all our words with love, mercy and compassion. This is not only our response to our fellow Catholics, but also the response to those who appear to be attacking the Church. The guilty, the innocent, the accused and the accusers should all be treated with dignity and love. This is what it means to truly live the faith. This is what it means to be a Christian.

 

Thank you for uniting your prayers with ours at the Archbishop Harry J. Flynn Catechetical Institute. Let us together turn to Mary, Undoer of Knots, invoking her to ask her Son to grant us pure, humble and trusting hearts.

 

In Christ,

 

Jeff Cavins

 

 

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Something Beautiful…

October 14, 2013

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Something Beautiful

Something Beautiful

Last week a speaker/entertainer came to speak at the Champions for Life luncheon.  Danielle Rose, a music missionary sang from her prolife CD and spoke about her missionary work in China.  Because of the one child only policy and the poverty of most of those who live there, many families abort their daughters in favor of having a son who can care for them in their old age. As she was explaining this horrible reality, she described that this country had 20 million young men who will never have a wife and family.

 

What happens in a country where you have millions of young men with no future?

 

With such hope and innocence she said.  “Maybe God will raise them up to become priests.”  I am sad to say that most of us in the audience chuckled at that statement.  Maybe we have become so cynical that we don’t believe God can really do such things. China is, after all, an atheist country where it is illegal to evangelize.  Then, Danielle caught our attention and said compellingly “No, really! God can make something beautiful.”

 

At that moment, Danielle asked the Holy Spirit to help her find the right words to say.  I wish I could remember her exact words but she went on to compare Christ’s passion to the situation in China.

 

 

She said, “God can take something ugly and sinful and horrible and make something beautiful happen from it.” Of course I know this; I just need to be reminded.

 

I don’t know about others in the audience, but I wasn’t thinking about the situation in China.  I was thinking about situations in my own heart, situations closer to home.

Her words reminded me to hope and trust that “God really can make something beautiful!”

 

Here is to something beautiful!

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