Friday, August 31, 2012

4-H Club Memories and Catholic Apologetics

I found 4-H Club overwhelming as a child. The pledge with its four-H motto. Head. Heart. Hands. Health. The procedure of each meeting, like we were some CEOs of a Fortune 500 hundred company or something.

And the Howard County Fair. I was as afraid to face the judges in the baking division as a child is to face Mom and Dad after he misses curfew. And one was expected to enter something. Baked goods. Hand-sewn items. A calf or lamb.

I couldn't sew very well, and my dad was a preacher, not a farmer. So the livestock option was off limits.

Still, my sister and I entered our cheesy bread the year I was in sixth grade. We were given the opportunity to present our recipe to the judges - while an audience watched us -  live - like some kid- version of the FoodNetwork television show.

We had practiced our Cheesy Bread recipe schtick. We had it down.

The day of the presentation, I fell into the set dialogue and introduced our subject matter.

"Hi. I'm Denise Johnson and this is my sister Karlene, and we're from the Saratoga Presbyterian Church."

Dad was in the audience. His laughter cut through the murmurs and County Fair noise in the big tent. I paused. What was so funny? My sister looked at me. Her eyes spoke volumes:

I can't believe you just said that.

That's when it hit me. I was supposed to say that my sister and I were from the Saratoga Sunbeams 4-H Club.

Instead, I had told the entire audience that my sister and I were from the Saratoga Presbyterian Church.

That's how it is when your dad's a preacher. It is everything. It is such a big part of who you are that you fall into the image, the inheritance, the identity of it - even when you don't mean to do it.

I am a preacher's kid.

Forget Saratoga Sunbeams. I had just told everybody that we were Saratoga Presbyterians. And my dad was falling off his chair. Laughing.

I haven't changed all that much.

Sure. I'm Catholic now, but even when I don't mean to do it. Even when my mind is somewhere else. Even when I'm dog tired or one Margarita into the evening or at a ball game or a party or a family reunion. It comes out.

Hi. I'm Denise. And I am from the Catholic Church. You think I'm here to make some bread or buy some groceries or get my daughter's back-to-school physical, but you're in for a surprise.

I'm here to tell you that I'm Catholic. All the rest of it is a setting, a backdrop, a epoch that appears to be focused on some unrelated event.

You are wrong.

I'm from the Church of 2,000 years. Go ahead. Give me a script. I'll manage to find a way to say what really matters.

You think you are here to witness a food demonstration. But I'm here to evangelize.

I can't get around it.

I've stopped trying.

And the best part of all? I can hear Dad laughing.

That's my girl.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Tulips and Tidbits

I found this on a tulip website. It is a list of events that signal the time for planting bulbs. There is nothing Catholic here, but it is a such a great list that it made me smile. So, I am passing it on to you.

There really is a season for everything under heaven. Enjoy the list:

Signals that will work well in most regions:
  • Soil temperatures in your area are approaching 55°F
  • Fall nighttime temperatures stay between 40° and 50°F
  • You blow out the irrigation system before the winter freeze
  • The Fall striped bass run is on
  • The Fall foliage has moved just past peak
  • Squirrels are digging in acorns as fast they can
  • Birds start grouping
  • You start to smell wood smoke
  • The soft woods in the high peaks start to yellow
  • In the north you start closing windows In the south you start backing off the air conditioning
  • The grapes are ripening on the vine
  • You don't hear the crickets any more
  • You start turning the heat on in your car
  • While driving, you see leaves bouncing along the interstate
  • The hostas start to lie down
  • You catch a whiff of that organic, decaying leaf smell
  • The dog stops lying in that round hole he dug in the garden, and moves to a sunny spot
  • Your kids start putting on their jackets without any nagging from you
From Colorblends

Saturday, August 18, 2012

The Last Farewell

I blame it on the fall. If we didn’t have original sin, we wouldn’t have the word goodbye. No adiĆ³s. No arrivederci. No auf wiedersehen.

And Roger Whittaker would not have made a fortune on songs like "The Last Farewell."

Our hearts long for more. We want reconciliation, and reminiscing, and restoration. We love hello, a word that holds promise and hope.

Young people love the word hello. We remember the Renee Zellweger line, “You had me at hello.”

Hello is so much better than goodbye.

Couples who hope to reconcile wait for hello. They dread goodbye.

Old friends smile at the word hello and immediately pick up where they left off.

Parents need hello when their college-aged children have said that first serious goodbye.

I went to my thirty year class reunion a few weeks ago. I enjoyed seeing some old friends and reminiscing. Still, it left me a little sad. I realized again how time presses on - moving from first encounters to last goodbyes. Sometimes, it happens, and we don’t even notice it. We find ourselves checking in at a hotel a few miles from our alma mater and hours later, we’re chatting with a friend from junior high that we haven’t seen in three decades. At the end of the night, we hug and slip into our cars and return to our lives, doubting as the poet Robert Frost says, that “I should ever come back.” And that's kind of sad.

Three weeks later, I’m at a funeral.

It’s been seven years since I was in RCIA with Bob and Pat. Today, Pat is burying her husband. And I think of Roger Whittaker and last farewells and first hellos.

Yes. I'm convinced. This word goodbye is all because of the fall. This is not how it was meant to be. Wives are not meant to say goodbye to their husbands. Mothers aren’t meant to bury their children. Friends aren’t meant to drift in and out of one another’s lives as though friendship was as transient as a daffodil in spring.

I walked into the funeral home and saw Pat standing beside the casket, and I knew that goodbye was not God’s plan for us.

Bob had suffered from Alzheimer’s. Pat said that one of her best memories was visiting Bob during those last months of his illness. She already missed him, though he was still physically present. She looked at Bob one day, and asked – almost without expecting an answer – “Do you still love me?”

“I love you exceedingly,” he said. It was marital grace – as beautiful as their first hello. No. Even better.

It’s the human condition. Children grow up and move out. Friends drift apart. A husband outlives a wife, or a wife outlives a husband. Goodbye doesn’t get easier.

I began walking over to Pat as she stood there next to her husband, and I recalled meeting them in RCIA class nearly eight years ago. I remembered the story of their journey, how they had neither one been Catholic, but both felt the Spirit’s call simultaneously. I don’t know another couple that can say that. But as I watched Pat from across the room at the visitation, I realized that Bob had made one step in this journey that took him further down the path.

In the middle of their goodbye, I crossed the room and said, “Hi Pat.” My little hello, what good could it possibly do in an overwhelming and irreversible goodbye?

She reached for my hand and smiled.

Original sin may have given us the word goodbye, but God’s grace has given us the word hello.

At any given moment, there is someone who is waiting for hello.

I don’t know who it is in your world. But I think you probably do.

Go ahead. Say it to someone right now.

There is a wellspring of grace in the little word “hello.”


Friday, August 10, 2012

Women "Get" Giving Birth to God's Plan

The Second Vatican Council message to women December 8, 1965:
“But the hour is coming, in fact has come, when the vocation of woman is being achieved in its fullness, the hour in which woman acquires in the world an influence, an effect, and a power never hitherto achieved. That is why, at this moment when the human race is undergoing so deep a transformation, women impregnated with the spirit of the Gospel can do much to aid mankind in not falling…”
Doesn't that make you want to give your fiat  to whatever God sends you to do, to whatever God asks you to be, to whatever cross God asks you to bear?

It's an exciting thought...

What if every Catholic woman took this to heart?

Come on, ladies. Let's give birth to something amazing today.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

My Sunnyvale Visitor

Dear blog visitor from Sunnyvale, California,

You visit every day. You seem to be making your way through blog postings in a very methodical fashion. I've noticed. Just wanted you to know.

I would love to know your story.

(And to other visitors-- I would love to know more about you as well.)

May the grace of Our Lord Jesus Christ be with you, now and always--


Thursday, August 2, 2012

Have a Friend Who is Ready for RCIA?

"Now Is The Time"
Catholic by Grace diocesan article

Without a doubt, you know someone who is ready and just needs a little nudge. Chances are, you sit by him almost every week at Mass. Chances are, you work with her, and your conversations have turned to the topic of faith now and then. Maybe, you even kiss this person goodnight and call the same four walls home.

There is a strong possibility that you know someone who is not yet Catholic, but someone who is curious about the Catholic Church. Moreover, you may be the only link between Mother Church and that person's full communion with Our Lord.

Why is it so easy for us to invite a friend shopping, encourage a co-worker to try a new coffee shop or persuade our spouse to get a membership at the local gym, but the idea of inviting that same person to look into RCIA classes makes us break out in a cold sweat?

One day, we will all stand before Our Lord, and it will be a day of reckoning. Okay, here are the ones I put in your path, Jesus will say as he shows us an instant replay of our lives. Now, let's take a look at what you did to help them come home. How often did you pray for them? How often did you bring them to Me as your special intention for Holy Communion? How well did you live out the life of faith in front of their eyes? Did you ever invite them to explore the faith?

Our beloved Church has made it so easy for us to help the seekers discover the joy of reconciliation. Our beautiful Church has made it possible for us to just point a finger in the right direction. We don't have to have all the answers. We don't even have to be a stellar Catholic, and we certainly don't have to be a saint to help a lost lamb back into the fold. We have only to love Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and the Church He established. We have only to cling to this firm foundation and say, "There she is, my friend. There's the fullness of the faith. Mother Church. Home. Complete Truth. Peace and joy. I'll walk with you every mile of the journey. I'll hold your hand. I'll find the answers when you have questions. And I'll pray for you. Man, oh man, will I pray for you."

There is an old saying that most of us learned when we were honing our typing skills. "Now is the time for all good men to come to the aid of their country." I have no idea where the line originated, but it keeps coming to me as I think about this time of year. Now is the time for you to speak up. Now is the time when most RCIA classes are forming. Now is the time for you to be an instrument of peace, unity and reconciliation. Now is the time for all good men (and women) to come to the aid of the one God has placed on your heart right now.

All it takes is one finger, as long as it is pointed in the right direction. Don't know where to begin? Well, the next time grace opens a door for you to bring it up, try saying this: "Are you interested in exploring the Catholic Church and what she really teaches? Well, there is a class specifically designed for non-Catholics who are a bit curious about the Church. I'd love to be your sponsor. I'll even make the call if you'd like."

Does the idea of evangelizing scare you a bit? Well, then get on your knees and ask for sufficient grace and enough love to share the Gospel of Jesus Christ. And remember, now is the time . . .

Share the article. Fill the Church. Prepare the Way of the Lord.

Why August is a VERY Important Month to the Church

"Why August Matters"
Catholic by Grace diocesan article

It is one more way Protestants and Catholics are different from one another. Someone walks through the door of a Protestant church, they say they want to be a member, and that’s it. They are signed up. Maybe they take a course for a week or two – but probably not. Then, they stand in front of the congregation, profess the faith publicly or present a letter of transfer from another denomination or congregation. And they’re in.

Catholics don’t work that way.

Everything takes time. Lots and lots of time. Potential converts aren’t usually invited to Mass. They sort of wander in. There’s almost no reason for it, except that the Holy Spirit is alive and well.

These converts-in-waiting pop in and out each week, without being bothered very much, and after a few months (or a few years), someone thinks to invite them to RCIA class.

Without knowing why they are saying yes, they agree to give it a try. Something tells them that they are ready for this. It is time. That’s all they know.

And timing is everything.

That’s why August is so very important. It is the perfect month for discernment. It is the right time for Catholics to look around and figure out who they have overlooked. Maybe someone has been visiting for a long time, and they need a nudge. Maybe there is someone who hasn’t even made it to Mass one time, but the Holy Spirit is telling you that person needs Mother Church. That person is craving the Eucharist, and she doesn’t even know it. But when you invite her, you think she will probably sense it as well.

August is the right time to discern where the Holy Spirit is working and who the Holy Spirit is calling. It’s time to step out of your comfort zone. I like the old saying each one reach one. What would happen if each one of us tried to reach just one other person? Some potential converts would say no thank you. But be honest, would that take any time off your life? What have you really lost if that happens? Sure, it’s possible that nothing will happen when you activate evangelization in your sphere of influence.

But then again, maybe something will happen.

And that something is the mightiest miracle on earth. A life is changed. One more person encounters Jesus Christ and His Church. You have brought another human being to the Eucharist, and he has received the Body and Blood, Soul and Divinity of Our Lord.

You have nothing to lose. And they have everything to gain. So, what’s stopping you? It’s August. RCIA classes are forming in parishes all over our country.

This year, discover just how important the month of August really is.

If you take just a little initiative, imagine where your friend could be standing next Easter Vigil – and you, right behind him with your hand on his shoulder. If God blesses you like that, I can tell you from experience, the tears will be difficult to contain.

Miracles are like that. But they usually start in the quiet heat of an August evening. Make a call. Stop for a visit. Send an email. Invite someone to try RCIA this year!

Share the article. Fill the Church. Prepare the Way of the Lord.