Saturday, July 13, 2019

Blessed are the Caregivers

Who is at the side of the road in your life and needs a helping hand? For me, my neighbor Maggie enjoys living in her renovated home after receiving grants to remodel her home to make it safe and comfortable.

The next step was to find out what government services were available since she only survives on her social security. This adventure dealing with our government system can be best described with the acronym (YGTBK) “You Got to Be Kidding.”

The Office of the Aging was helpful in suggesting that due to her low income she was eligible to apply for SSI to help pay her bills. However, to our dismay she was denied since she had two life insurance policies. We learned that to qualify for SSI you are not allowed to have no more than $2000 in your savings and/or checking account.

Next step, she decided to surrender her life insurance policies and apply the funds to a pre-funeral account. This decision helped complete her funeral arrangements and her savings would be below the $2000 limit. We waited on the phone for three hours to make a follow-up appointment with social security, but gladly returned and she was approved for SSI.

The next step, no you are never done as a caregiver. We helped apply for in-home care services. After a three-hour interrogation process, she was approved. Then a state agency had to be selected and another three-hour investigation finally approved home care to keep her safe.

Sadly, Maggie is still waiting for the agency to complete their paperwork, but our hope is that these services will bring her a “caregiver” an in-home aide, who will get to know Maggie and make her life safe and comfortable.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who serve as caregivers for family, neighbors and friends. The Beatitudes for Caregivers: 

Blessed are those who sleep poorly because they're worried about their loved one or because their loved one wakes in the middle of the and needs help, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are those who mourn because their loved one, though still alive, is slipping away because of dementia, for they will be comforted. 
Blessed are the meek who force themselves to speak up and speak out to make sure their loved one receives the help they need, for they will inherit the land. 
Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for answers to why this is happening to their loved one and how much longer it will go on, for they will be satisfied. Blessed are those who show mercy, kindness and compassion to their loved one, for they will be shown mercy, kindness and compassion. 
Blessed are those who keep clean a love one who is physically or mentally unable to keep themselves clean, for they will see God. 
Blessed are those who helped their loved one find moments of peace, for they will be called children of God. 
Blessed are those who are misunderstood, not appreciated, and taken for granted in their role as caregiver, for theirs is the Kingdom of heaven. 
Blessed are you whose caregiving efforts are unjustly criticized -- or who are falsely accused of not caring about others -- because of your love for your care-receiver...and your love for God, who has asked you to help his beloved son or daughter. 
Rejoice and be glad, for your reward will be great in heaven.

Sunday, July 07, 2019

Adventure Around the Great Lakes

Let me take you away from your boredom, or fears, or suffering or whatever is plugging up your happiness at this moment and go on a journey. On his bucket list, Ken, my traveling buddy, always wanted to explore the shores of Lake Superior. So, we started our adventure in western New York and drove eight hours until we found ourselves driving over Mackinac Bridge, in Michigan. The image below is captured only after the sun goes down and you have twenty minutes before the sky goes dark. This is the “Blue Hour” and this is a moment that many people miss because they walk away taking pictures after the sun goes down and fail to wait for this magical moment. 

The following morning our travels will include ten locations with waterfalls and coastal scenes along the shores of Lake Superior. The evening ends with a sunset cruise to Pictured Rocks National Lakeshore. The challenge is to find a spot with three hundred people lunging over the side of the boat taking photos with their iPhone. My challenge is to capture the colors of mineral deposits on the rocks. 

As we continue our adventure, my driver wants to see wildlife in Ontario. At each provincial park, he asked where are the moose and bear or wolves. The kind rangers usually respond that these creatures are in the woods but this is not Disney waiting for you to drive by to take pictures. But sometimes you get lucky. So, along the road between Thunder Bay and Sault Ste Marie, guess what was lurking along the side of the highway. 

At the end of our whirlwind 2700-mile journey in five days and taking over 2,000 photos, I get to edit what I refer as my “Editor’s Best” images. They may not make National Geographic, but let be express my gratitude to the Lord for giving us the opportunity to explore and appreciate the beauty of creation.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who get the opportunity to spend time in the woods, or along the shore, or in the sand, or climb a mountain or explore a park. May we learn to conserve and protect Your marvelous beauty and allow the ocean breeze, magnificent waterfalls and nature to calm our weary bodies and souls. Enjoy your summer my friends.

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Clothes Shopping with Your Spouse

The last time my spouse went shopping for clothes was in Walmart a few years ago to pick out something to wear while gardening. She said, you got to be in the right mood before you start looking for jeans, khakis, intimates, or blouses.

When you took your vows and said “for better or for worse” most men would agree that shopping with their partner is “the worse.” Actually. my partner would agree when after two hours walking between Penny’s and Macy’s she stated that she would “rather clean kitty litters all day” then shop for clothes.

I never mind tagging behind her in the store while she browses and engages her basic hunter gatherer instinct. However, my memories take me back when my dear mom, now shopping in heaven, would ask me to take her to Montgomery Ward or “Wards” to help her buy clothes. That was her favorite store because it had the best selection in her sizes. Actually, she wanted my opinion about color and fit. So once again, while I am standing around the women’s section waiting for my soul mate, I get a text to wait outside the fitting room near the swim suits. What’s up? She wants my opinion about color, style and fit. I am now enlisted as the personal clothing consultant. I wonder if Jesus ever took his Mother Mary to the local clothing shop and helped her pick out her wardrobe.

Despite exhaustion and perspiration, my partner found a few items that fit and met her specs. Better yet, after a quick lunch and back in another store she spotted a blouse and asked me “what do you think?’ With a smile, I offered my feedback that it was not too snug and the style would go with a casual look to enjoy at an evening outdoor concert.

On this shopping expedition, I received a “Godwink” from a kind customer service rep. I told my spouse to continue her hunter gatherer adventure while I paid for her selections. While cashing out, the kind lady clerk said “you are very thoughtful helping to find her clothes.” I told this kind lady that it was fun for me while knowing that for my partner it was sheer torture.

For some people, shopping does not get high marks for fun thing to do on a Saturday afternoon. Shopping can be looked upon as a boring chore that a few men endure, the other 80% just won’t come along for the ride. Or, you can interpret this time together as a lesson in patience and generosity. I might add gratitude to spend some quality time with your spouse to help her feel comfortable and look her best. 

I like this take-home thought. When something hasn’t turned out well, don’t give up; keep going, and try different ways of making it work. There is no fixed answer, no single solution. We find the best approach through trial and error.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are facing some difficulties that they prefer to avoid. Shopping is not the worse task in the world, but it goes a lot easier with someone holding your clothes, giving you a thumbs up and using their credit card to purchase all your stuff. Life isn’t about waiting for the storm to pass. It’s about learning to dance in the rain.

Sunday, June 16, 2019

Something Special for Dad

Some things you never heard come out of your father’s mouth:
Number 3 “Well, how ’bout that! … I’m lost! … Looks like we’ll have to stop and ask for directions.”
Number 2 Here’s a credit card and the keys to my new car –… GO CRAZY!”
And the Number 1 thing you never heard your father say: “Would you mind turning that music up a bit!”

Father’s Day can bring up memories & feelings for all of us –some not so good, others bring a smile. My experience of what a father is – was very good. He was a member of the American Legion and liked to volunteer at the Veterans Hospital. He also was my Little League coach who realized that while I was a good first baseman I couldn’t hit a ball for beans.

Every year, I search for a gift to quench the thirst of the nurturing dads in my parish. This year my search took me to Tennessee where I thought I could purchase some old fashion “Dad’s Root Beer.” However, my order came too late, so I had to improvise and sure enough came up with Plan B. With the help of a local beverage distributor, we found another brand founded in 1889 called “Saranac Old Fashion Root Beer.” We invited all our nurturing men to stand in their sits as their loved ones placed their hands on them and I offered this Father’s Day Blessing Prayer based on Scripture.

MY CHILD . . .
You may not know me, but I know everything about you. Psalm 139:1
I know when you sit down and when you rise up. Psalm 139:2
I am familiar with all your ways. Psalm 139:3
Even the very hairs on your head I’ve numbered. Matthew 10:29-31
For you were made in my own image. Genesis 1:27
In me you live and move and have your being. Acts 17:28

You are my child. Acts 17:28
I knew you even before you were conceived. Jeremiah 1:4-5
I chose you when I planned creation. Ephesians 1:11-12
You were not a mistake, for all your days are written in my book. Psalm 139:15-16
I determined the exact time of your birth and where you would live. Acts 17:26

I am also the Father who comforts you in all your troubles. 2 Corinthians 1:3-4
When you are brokenhearted, I am close to you. Psalm 34:18
As a shepherd carries a lamb, I have carried you close to my heart. Isaiah 40:11
One day I will wipe away every tear from your eyes. Revelation 21:3-4
And I’ll take away all the pain you have suffered on this earth. Revelation 21:3-4
I am your Father, and I love you even as I love my son Jesus. John 17:23

Come home and I’ll throw the biggest party heaven has ever seen. Luke 15:7
I have always been Father, and will always be Father. Ephesians 3:14-15
My question is…Will you be my child? John 1:12-13
I am waiting for you. Luke 15:11-32
Come home. Luke 15: 7

Signed: With Love Everlasting – Your Divine Dad, Amen

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, and thank you for the gift of the father of our family. We honor all nurturing men who serve as coaches, teachers, mentors, advisors and thank You for the good things that are ours because of him. His love and concern for us has been a sign of Your divine affection and a sharing in your holy love. May we who have the honor of bearing his family name do so with great pride. May, we, the members of his family, assist him in his holy duties as a parent. With our respect, our obedience and our deep affection bless him, Lord with happiness and good health, with peace and with good fortune,

Sunday, June 09, 2019

Fireworks for Holy Communion

Sitting at the end of the pew are six little people who in a few moments will be receiving their First Holy Communion. Beside them are their proud parents and family. So, I pull up my “preaching stool” and tell them a story.

Once upon a time, my dad announced that we were going to see fireworks. We would pack our blankets and cooler with food and head for the beach. On our way, I noticed that there was a man with a cart who was selling creamsicles. I love creamsicles, especially the orange ones,
I ask my dad if I could have a creamsicle. He said we’ve got plenty of food in the cooler. So, what could I do?  We unrolled our blanket, took out our food and began to eat. As we were eating, I saw that my friend Sammy was sitting with his family a little up the beach. Dad, can I please go and watch the fireworks with Sammy and his family? I worn him down until so he said, go and as soon as the fireworks are done, you come right back here. Understood? Promise? Yes, I promised.

So, I started going but I had an idea! Instead of going straight to Sammy’s family, what if I just went a little bit out of my way to that creamsicle man? Of course, doing that would be disobeying my dad, but I really wanted to taste a creamsicle. I made sure I knew where we were sitting, next to a life guard station with a big red sign on it. So, I started down the beach looking for the creamlike man. However, when I came to the place where I had last seen him, he was not there. He must have moved, so I went a bit further, and then a little bit further and then the fireworks started. Then I realized I better get back to my family.

So, I looked for the lifeguard station but when I got there, it wasn’t the right life guard station. It didn’t have a red sign on it. It was then that I realized that I was lost. I began to wonder whether I would ever find my family again? Would they leave and go back home without me? What could I do? I decided to pray.
“Jesus, I know it wasn’t the smartest idea to go after that creamsicle, but I really need your help. I can’t find my family and if you could lead me back, I promise I will never disobey my mother or father again. I will never tell a lie again. Amen.”

I was desperate and began to cry. After a few moments I looked up to see a police officer. I told him that I was lost and couldn’t find my family. The policeman asked, Do you have any idea where they are?  I said, they’re next to a big lifeguard station with a red sign on it. He said, I know right where that is.

We walked together for a very long time and I saw my family sitting on our blanket and watching the fireworks. They were just coming to an end. I thanked the policeman and ran towards my family. My dad saw me coming. Matty, you’re back right on time just as you promised. Good work. How was Sammy? Then I realized that my dad didn’t even know anything had happened. He thought I was with Sammy’s family the whole time. This was good, I thought. All I would have to do was say, “oh, they’re fine” and I could get out of this mess. But then I remembered the prayer that I made and the promise to tell the truth. Dad, I didn’t go to see Sammy. I went to buy a creamsicle and I got lost and a policeman found me.

Matty, I’m very disappointed in you. Then there was a pause and then dad said, But, you told me the truth, even though you could have gotten away with a lie, right?

Well, that makes me proud and don’t ever do that again. So, we packed up our stuff and just as we were leaving the beach, who did we run into but the creamsicle man! My dad stopped and looked at me, Hey, Matty, how about a creamsicle?

Jesus disciples learned the same thing that I learned when I was at the fireworks—that even when you’re lost, even when you make bad decisions, Jesus still loves you and comes to find you. This is what I told our little folks making their First Communion. You belong to Jesus. He loves you deeply. You are invited to come to His table and share in His very life. Never forget His love for you.

Then I looked at all the grownups in church and said. No matter how lost you feel, no matter how many bad decisions you may have made, you too belong to the family of God. Jesus will reach out with His hand to save you from the messes of your life.

When you come up with your child and put your hand on their shoulder as they receive Holy Communion for the first time, remember that Jesus is with you at your side and He will never stop loving your family.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends, bless our children and their parents with your spirit that brings happiness, understanding and joy.

Sunday, June 02, 2019

Come on Jesus, Light Our Fire!

On Sunday, Holy Family Parish celebrated a “birthday bash.” It was the 8th Anniversary of the rebirth of this Catholic community and as an added incentive the parishioners “burned their mortgage.”

I didn’t want anyone to miss this celebration of our rebirth. I wanted it to be like a” birthday bash” to celebrate their love for one another. Make no mistake, it is their faith, their sacrifices and stubbornness who literally bought their church for $110,000 from the Buffalo Diocese and made it financially self-sufficient. It has become a living presence of Jesus love for everyone not only in North Java but in all our neighboring towns.

On Sunday, I shared that this time of year farming takes precedent to till the soil, fertilize and plant the seed that has been delayed by our soggy Spring. However, this “shepherd’ decided to call each of your homes to invite you to this celebration. I realized that you get spam calls on your cell phones and I worried that if the priest is calling your home it must mean trouble or worse a tragedy. Think about it.  When was the last time your pastor called you on the phone to invite you to have some fun?

So, I made over a 100 phone calls and after two hours either left messages or talked to some nice parishioners inviting them to our birthday bash. The most interesting response was a voicemail that had the Notre Dame Fight song on their phone to take a message. Then there was a person who answered while in their locker getting ready to start their shift work. Another response: “What can I bring to the party, do you want cookies or mimosas?” Someone shared that they were so happy that a family member started coming to church with them and that brought them much joy and comfort. Yes, a few calls were dropped, or went to a fax machine instead of the phone. And then there was this sarcastic voicemail: “You know what to do. Go ahead and when I get time I will call you back.”
I always tell people that the real celebration takes place after the last blessing at Mass. No one leaves this church early because the celebration continues with our social gathering after Mass. While all the other Catholics are running over one another in their parking lots, at Holy Family people stay to chat and share their stories about what’s happening on their farms. This is a sacramental moment in which we are transformed into a community that really cares about one another. People want to know how they can help each other in life. We are a community brought together by food, at the altar in the bread and wine and at the table in the back of church with our kirsch, cookies, brownies and breakfast pizzas.

This is what I know a pastor is supposed to do - show his people how good God is in his creation: "Look and see, taste and see, touch and smell and hear and see that God is good." That is my role as shepherd of this wonderful, generous community to help you taste and see the goodness of the Lord.

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends that includes all these amazing people at Holy Family. They have discovered the secret of your teaching. Love. "Where charity and love prevail, there God is always found. Brought here together by Christ's love, by love are we thus bound.” Next week, six of our children will be making their First Holy Communion. Why not come and experience another sacred moment? We would love to have you join our family.

Saturday, May 25, 2019

Stop Soldier Suicide

On this Memorial Day celebrated with lots of ceremony, parades, picnics and placing of flags at the grave of our brave family members, let me share this tragic soldier story. 

A story is told about a soldier who was finally coming home after having fought in a war. He called his parents from San Francisco.  “Mom and Dad, I’m coming home, but I have a favor to ask. I have a friend I’d like to bring home with me. “Sure,” they replied, “we’d love to meet him.”

“There’s something you should know,” the son continued, “he was hurt pretty badly in the fighting. He stepped on a land mind and lost an arm and a leg. He has nowhere else to go, and I want him to come live with us.” “I’m sorry to hear that, son. Maybe we can help him find somewhere to live.” “No, Mom and Dad, I want him to live with us.” “Son,” said the father, “you don’t know what you’re asking. Someone with such a handicap would be a terrible burden on us. We have our own lives to live, and we can’t let something like this interfere with our lives. I think you should just come home and forget about this guy. He’ll find a way to live on his own.”

At that point, the son hung up the phone. The parents heard nothing more from him. A few days later, however, they received a call from the San Francisco police. Their son had died after falling from a building, they were told. The police believed it was suicide.
The grief-stricken parents flew to San Francisco and were taken to the city morgue to identify the body of their son. They recognized him, but to their horror, they also discovered something they didn’t know, their son had only one arm and one leg.

The parents in this story are like many of us. We find it easy to love those who are good-looking or fun to have around, but we don’t like people who inconvenience us or make us feel uncomfortable. We would rather stay away from people who aren’t as healthy, beautiful, or smart as we are. Thankfully, there’s someone who won’t treat us that way. Someone who loves us with an unconditional love that welcomes us into the forever family, regardless of how messed up we are. 

Tonight, before you tuck yourself in for the night, say a little prayer that God will give you the strength you need to accept people as they are, and to help us all be more understanding of those who are different from us!

Lord, I pray for all our Sonshine soldiers and veterans who have made the sacrifice to defend our freedom. We remember and give thanks for those who have given their lives in the service of our country. Help us to honor their memory by caring for the family members they have left behind, and that all our wounded comrades are properly cared for. Lord help us to remember that freedom is not free and though their names may fade with the passing of generations may we never forget what they have done.
Contact STOP SOLDIER SUICIDE at 844-889-5610 for help.
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