Sunday, March 29, 2015

A Special Palm Sunday

I knew we were in trouble when the deacon told me that the palms on the altar had shriveled up and look liked they were dead. Not a good omen before the start of Holy Week services. Perhaps, our fresh palms were picked too early and didn’t survive the trip from down south, or more likely,  the church heat went off during the week and the palms froze.

No time to worry about small details, I had invited our religion teacher to bring the kids up to the altar and bless palms and have the kids walk the procession. Later, I would ask this same teacher to walk the Stations of the Cross with the children in place of the traditional long Passion reading. Of course, rubrics were stretched in this matter, but I had observed two weeks earlier before the parish retreat, the children walking the station with much reverence and wonder. Now I'm sure you remember the typical Palm Sunday service that includes your infamous response to the question: what shall we do with Him? and you shout back or more likely, mumble your response: “crucify him, crucify him.” So for a change of pace, I asked the parishioners to imagine themselves as a child  listening to this passion story for the first time.

This is exactly what happened this Palm Sunday, as the children’s teacher explained each station and asked the kids what each story on the walls of the church was all about.

There was one difficult moment for this teacher when she started to explain the moment "when Jesus meets his mother." She shared this was her favorite station and started to cry-holding back the tears. I learned what all women must be feeling at that moment. To look into the eyes of your son and realize that you have no  power to save your son from the pain of cruxificion.  I’m sure our children noticed how upset their teacher was feeling but they could not understand why. Yet, the humanness of that moment brought tears to the congregation. I cried with them. For no mother wants to see her child suffer at any age. With great courage and determination, this teacher continued her lesson and she was simply "awesome."

After the services, as the parishioners were leaving the church, they shared their profound appreciation for the creative way the Passion had been brought back into their life. Interesting, no one complained about the shriveled up palms.

God loves us into eternity as we pray: “But you, O Lord, be not far from me; O my help, haste to aid me.” (Psalm 51: 14).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends this Holy Week that they remember Your love for them despite the personal pain and suffering that sometimes makes them weep. 

Sunday, March 22, 2015


Sometimes Jesus says something that might baffle us. For example, “anyone who loves his life will lose it; to gain your life, you have to be like a grain of wheat which brings forth much fruit only by falling into the earth and dying.”

In other words, if we should like to see Jesus, we need to look for the fallen grains of wheat around us, the sick and impoverished, the abused and oppressed. Last week, I gave a talk about balancing work and personal life and when I sat down after the presentation, the man next to me said, “you area hard act to follow.” My response was, “you will do great.”

This is a father’s story about how he transformed the darkness moment of a parent’s life into the life of Easter

On January 17, 2009, we received the worse phone call that every parent is afraid of. I never imagined losing my child to carbon monoxide poisoning. There is no worse feeling than losing your child and feeling completely lost and not knowing what to do or even wonder if your own life is worth living anymore. I made the worse decision a parent could make by taking my daughter there that night and now that will forever haunt me.
Shortly after Amanda died I received a phone call from Amanda’s school and that phone call changed everything for me that day. Amanda’s principal had told me a story about one of the teachers whose daughter wanted her friends to sleep over and she told her only if your father goes out and buys a CO detector which he did that night. Three hours later the CD detector went off and the fire department was dispatched to their home and had found high levels of carbon monoxide in their house. So the next day she called me to thank me for saving her family’s life I knew that is what Amanda wanted me to do so I made a promise to Amanda that we would never let another child die from this silent killer.
Since that day I realized that Amanda didn’t die for nothing. Her death was going to save lives all around the world. First thing I did that day was call my assemblyman Mark Schroder and said we need a law to require all homes to have a CO detector and with lots of hard work we had Amanda’s law passed in record time.
As we were working on the law we decided that we would pass out some CO detectors to the community so I contacted Home Depot and asked them if we could pass out some CO detectors at their store and they loved the idea so we told them we will pay for how many we hand out Well much to our surprise and to our bank account 800 people showed up and we made sure everyone got one that day.
At that point we knew we had to start the Amanda Hansen foundation to help raise money to purchase the CO detectors. Once we started the foundation the first thing e did was start the Amanda Hansen scholarship fund where we award $1,000 every year to a deserving girl on the West Seneca swim team that Amanda was so proud to be a part of. After that, we started getting phone calls to do different events and talk to different groups about the dangers of carbon monoxide and pass out more CO detectors.
After the first year, our foundation was growing so fast and we were amazed art how much impact we had already made in their community. Soon we were getting phone calls and emails from all over the country thanking us for saving their family’s lives. But at that point I didn’t feel like I made an impact until I received a phone call from the British government asking us to come to the UK and help bring Amanda’s law to them. So Kim and I took our campaign over there. The whole trip was amazing and fulfilling. We started in London and Wales and then Scotland. Not too long after we came home we were gratified that Amanda’s law was enacted in London and Scotland.
Since that trip our foundation has not stopped moving forward. We now work with many agencies to help spread the word about the dangers of this silent killer. So far we have passed out over 17,000 CO detectors to the public. We have purchased and donated 4 CO pulse omter to local fire departments at cost of $4,000 each. And this year alone we donated over 22 furnaces to those in need. We helped get Amanda’s law in California and now my biggest task is to make Amanda’s law a federal law and keep her name alive.
With running the foundation comes very little sleep especially when it involves your own child. I spend many sleepless nights trying to figure out my next move. Many of times I sit back and feel I have gotten nothing done and am I failing my daughter again. And yet everyone tells me different. But in running a foundation I don’t think about what I did but what I can do. And in maintaining a foundation I always have to think where can I get that next dollar from to continue this path that Amanda has put me on. With the help of my wife we raise money by ourselves we don’t get government grants or subsidies we rely on the community to support us. And without the support of this great city Amanda would be just another statistic.
So in closing please help us keep Amanda’s name and foundation going strong. We are always looking for new ideas and help in fundraising. And most important of all please make sure you have A CO detector in your home I don’t want anybody to have the life of my wife and I have now.
I would like to thank you all for hearing my story and I know Amanda thanks you for not forgetting her.
Contact Ken or Kim Hansen (716) 380-1468

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends whose children have died from some tragic event. Give strength and healing to these parents and help find a purpose that will end their suffering and bring new life and hope.

Sunday, March 15, 2015

Bringing the Light


Who will be Cyrus, the liberator of God’s people? Who will be Christ, saving God’s people by joining them in their suffering? Who will bring light into this world of darkness? Who, if not the follower of Christ, will “turn hatred to love, conflict to peace, death to eternal life”

We live in a world that is in need of salvation. God sends messengers to us such as Gandhi and Martin Luther King, and we scoff at these prophets.
There remains, however, the challenge of Christ, who “brought us to life when we were dead in sin, and who came not to condemn the world but that the world might be saved.

The poor are an exiled and oppressed people whom God will rescue (Isaiah 51:21-23) as well as a faithful remnant who take refuge in God (Zephaniah 3:12-13). Throughout the Bible, material poverty is a misfortune and a cause of sadness. A constant biblical refrain is that the poor must be cared for and protected and that when they are exploited, God hears their cries (Proverbs 22:22-23).

God watches over us as we pray: The salvation of the righteous is from the Lord; he is their refuge in the time of trouble.  (Psalm 37:39

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who serve as caregivers for family members, neighbors and the community. May the sacrifices of their time and talent bring hope to those in need of God’s salvation.

Sunday, March 08, 2015

Making Pancakes

He didn't know what to do next, whether to put it all into the oven or on the stove and he didn't know how the stove worked!. Suddenly he saw his kitten licking from the bowl of mix and reached to push her away, knocking the egg carton to the floor. Frantically he tried to clean up this monumental mess but slipped on the eggs, getting his pajamas white and sticky.
And just then, he saw Dad standing at the door. Big crocodile tears welled up in Brandon's eyes. All he'd wanted to do was something good, but he'd made a terrible mess. He was sure a scolding was coming, maybe even a spanking. But his father just watched him. Then, walking through the mess, he picked up his crying son, hugged him and loved him, getting his own pajamas white and sticky in the process!

That's how God deals with us. We try to do something good in life, but it turns into a mess. Our marriage gets all sticky or we insult a friend, or we can't stand our job, or our health goes sour. Sometimes we just stand there in tears because we can't think of anything else to do. That's when God picks us up and loves us and forgives us, even though some of our mess gets all over Him. But just because we might mess up, we can't stop trying to "make pancakes" for God or for others. Sooner or later we'll get t it right, and then they'll be glad we tried...

God watches over us as we pray: “What does the Lord require of you but to do justice, love kindness and walk humbly with your God.” (Micah 6:8).

Lord, I pray for all my Sonshine Friends and wondered if they had any wounds needing to be healed, friendships that need rekindling or three words needing to be said, sometimes, "I love you" can heal and bless!

Sunday, March 01, 2015

Spark of Love


This past Friday, Gannon, a Roberts Wesleyan college student, asked for a ride home from school so that he could play his piano at our Mass. On our way, I spotted an outdoor church sign that had this message:  “Make a 180 and turn away from sin.” Interestingly, there was a study that suggested that the best way for people to change their behavior was not telling them what not to stop. Stop drinking or stop smoking or lying, but success comes in focusing your energy on doing things that you really want to change. Practicing patience might mean simply listening to your partner about their stress at work. Calling your elderly neighbor to make sure they are all right after a storm. Forgiving an in-law who hurt you in the past.

Every time I’m behind the lens of my camera, I’m looking to capture the moment, that instant when the ordinary becomes extraordinary. To love like Christ, might have new meaning if you focused your energy on being the best person you can be. Offering a ride to a neighbor to get some groceries or take them to an appointment.

For Lent, I am reading:“30 Lessons for Loving Advice from the Wisest Americans.” It is a survey of hundreds of couples ages 60 to 100 and how they found peace and joy in their relationship. Marriage they will tell you is not easy, but the years of living together have offered advice that can help any of us grow into the love of Christ.

The author shared a moment that he loves about gift-giving holidays and birthdays. He says that he may be one of the few people over the age of fifty who eagerly looks forward to his birthday. In parochial school at St. Stanislaus, my birthday fell on the same day as my classmate Andy, whose father owned the local ice crème store. So on our birthdays, Andy’s dad would bring ice crème cups for all the kids and my mom would bake cookies and sister would allow the kids to share our treats. Our classmates loved it when Matty and Andy’s birthday came along.

What I like to suggest for Lent is to ignite the spark of love by practicing some of these suggestions from our wisest Americans.

You walk downstairs one spring morning and on the table are fleshly baked blueberry muffins and a vase of daffodils. You supposed to pick up the kids after work, but your husband emails you saying he knows you’ve got a busy day so he’ll get them instead. You mention your interest in going to a concert you read about—and your wife surprises you that weekend with a pair of tickets. The dog is scratching at your bedroom at six am, on a cold winter day. It’s your turn to walk him, but your partner quietly gets up and lets you sleep.

For Lent, I recommend that you keep the spark alive in the unexpected kind gestures. In fact there is nothing more effective in keeping a relationship warm, supportive and fun then making habit of doing, small, positive things.

God watches over us as we pray: “Whoever pursues righteousness and kindness will find life and honor.” (Proverbs 21:21).

Lord I pray for all my Sonshine Friends who are searching for ways to make this Lent a season of growth and peace. Get outside with the birdseed or put out some warm water for the stray outdoor kitties.