Friday, December 4, 2009

Where is Your Child?

My first goat Alf came to me on a cold spring day. He was two days old. I held him in my arms and cuddled his soft, warm body. He looked very much like Bambi. An emergency call from a friend brought the baby to me and I began my adventure in goat herding.

His mother came with him on loan. Her udder was malfunctioning so I learned to milk her and feed Alf from a bottle. He was so cute butting the bottle as he would an udder. This brings the milk down in an udder but sends the baby bottle flying out of the unwary hand! Still it was great fun watching him eagerly suck at the warm liquid.

When I took mom and baby on walks, Alf would cavort around in the funniest ways. He would suddenly jump and twist like an acrobat. Every leaf needed inspecting and nibbling. Fallen trees were great tightropes to be conquered. I enjoyed watching him sampling all the verdure.

Fast forward this image about three years. Adorable little Alf is a two hundred pound buck. His horns remind me of a weightlifter’s biceps. He stands as high as our pony. And does he stink! As an unaltered buck and herd sire, he is quite proud of his musk. In fact, he believes that because the girl goats love it that I must also! He takes every chance to rub himself all over me. The stench can be overpowering, especially on a warm day.

Then there is rut season. My cuddly little Alf bellyaches day and night. The raucous noise echoes throughout the farm until I am crazy. His other goal is to destroy all my gates by using his elegant horns as a battering ram. (Pun intended). There are many other things that are unprintable in his repertoire.

Juxtapose this with my childhood. When I attended St Anthony’s in the fifties, I got to go to Mass every morning. Because of fasting restrictions, my parents had to make my breakfast and lunch. I remember my mother remonstrating with me one day when I repeatedly brought back my breakfast untouched. My reply was, “Jesus fills me up. I’m not hungry.”

Later, in fourth grade, while singing hymns at St Pius Catholic school I felt such an ecstasy of love for God. We were singing “Holy God, We Praise Thy Name”. I felt sure that there was no greater place to be or any other greater song to sing than that at that moment.

When I received my first Holy Communion I was so excited I got sick. I barely made it through Mass.

Remembering these things used to cause me great sorrow. Where did that child go? I have always loved God but where did that purity and innocence go? How did I fall off the track and trade my Beloved for other’s opinions and attention? It seemed I could never go back. The path back to innocence and great love was barred.

But Jesus says to me, “Become like a little child.”

“What?” I reply, “You mean I can go back? I can become what You once made me?”

My childhood memories are not photographs but realities of who I am and who Jesus made me to be. This is what is offered. When He told Nicodemus that we must be born again, this is what He offered. It is a return to all that was best and holy in me when I was unspoiled.

As I pondered this truth today, I couldn’t help but feel a kinship with Alf. He annoys me terribly, especially when I have to repair his damage and wash my clothes. But he now reminds me that I don’t have to remain smelly and destructive with sin. The Lord of Life loves me enough not to just repair me, but transform me. Where is your child?

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Sex is not a Verb

Ever thought about how our language has been copped? Key words have been stolen in order to confuse us. God created us male and female for a reason. Formerly the word sex (and still is) a noun depicting what gender we are. Sex isn't something we do, it is something we are. And that is very key in the way we are able to let God complete us with Himself. Theology of the body brought this to the forefront of my mind and heart after many years of it's truth pinging off of my soul.

If I understand sex as a noun, then I am of the female sex. My gender is not a mistake but the path by which I will only understand Jesus Christ. I realized (and you might find this odd) that as Jesus is male - the perfect God/Man - He alone can fulfill me as a woman. If fact that is exactly what the Creator had in mind when He formed me in my mother's womb. My femininity is how I can love Jesus. Every woman as such is a tabernacle - capable of producing an immortal being. Jesus is the only man who can and wants to fill this tabernacle with Himself. I am only a complete and new woman by His inhabiting my womb as such, the very being inside of me. How he completes the male gender I know not. However, I feel that for the first time that I am not on the outside wistfully looking in but inside Christ Himself. He lives so fully within me now that to go to Eucharist is consummation.

Now if in your mind, as it was in mine, that sex is a verb and a stolen, corrupted verb at that, this whole reality is a bit disgusting. That sex is a noun is the key. Explore it yourself. The Father created us male a female so that we might find full communion not only with Him but with each other. What is gender in me, my heart, my reactions, my deepest longings.....Jesus fulfills these every bit as wonderfully as the Song of Songs....I didn't understand that because I was corrupted in my very being myself.

This is all new, I have pink skin, I have a vulnerability that I have never known. But Jesus is real, this direction, this surrender is growing more strongly every day. When I said, early on to Him, "Why did I take so long?" He replied, "You were worth waiting for." And I said later on, "What if it goes away?" And He replied, "Over my dead body."

So much becomes clearer now and so many puzzle pieces fit. Further in and Higher up is my I throw off the shackles of this earth and all my rubbish....

Friday, October 23, 2009


He was obedient for my sake. Now I will obey for His sake. That is the inspiration, that is the motive of religious obedience.

Okay so I don't put pictures on my blog. You have to really be a student of the word to get through these! But think about the quote at the top. Jesus was obedient for my sake. Not I will obey for His sake. Wow! God always initiates. He always loves us first. He always doesn't ask anything that He hasn't already given. It is almost incomprehensible. And what is even more incomprehensible is that we turn our backs on this great love.

Lately, before the Blessed Sacrament, I have been peeled like an onion. It is very frightening but I trust in what He is doing. He is getting to the bottom of what makes me tick and showing me along the way. But the great thing is that He is not only showing me but showing me how He can fix it. The layers go all the way down to when I was a child. Before I discovered what people can do to you, I used to be happy. I used to love Jesus and wanted to live for Him. But after a few turns with humanity the seed of anger got planted. It got watered by betrayal, cruelty, mockery, and failure. Because all I saw were the branches of the above, I never realized that most of my life I have just been angry. But because I am a Christian, and because I do love Jesus, I covered it up, pressed it down and shaken it together and guess what - it spills over when things get tough. The Lord showed me that one coping mechanism for this anger is to turn it in on myself.

So I wriggle a little as the Lord shows me what a sin this is. I do not love myself and find it impossible too. But it is essential that I do. So it has become a great comfort to know that anger fuels my life. It is behind all the frustration and inability to deal with society and mostly my own shortcomings. In order to work out my anger towards others, I thought it a virtue to turn it in on myself. So the Lord, in his mercy, showed me that I have to get rid of it altogether. And it has taken Him so long to clear out the thorns to get me to this point. It has been painful but wonderful. I see now how I can be like Him and not act like Him only. I see now how He can heal me thoroughly and there are things I can't confess here that I see for the first time that will be transformed and healed. I see it now so clearly! It is the face of heaven. It will be my first chance to really obey and serve Him.

And it isn't as if all I have done has not been worth anything. But for the first time I will enjoy serving Him. I will be empowered like never before to suffer and serve and be filled with joy. I see it now so clearly. I see what He is about in all of us. I understand freedom for the first time.

Blessed be Our Lord Jesus Christ. Someday I will be able to share the bottom of the well. There is mud there that I didn't think would ever become gold....I thought that I would have to die before I could be whole...but Jesus is about preparing us every day to live with Him forever...why wait until we get there? And when healed and transformed what power to light up this twisted, sad, bound world! I understand Pentecost for the first time. There is no end to His power and goodness and light. There is no end to the amount the Lord can divinize us if we let Him.

I will obey, for He obeyed that I might learn to obey.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Faith for the Impossible

In the reading from Romans today, Paul talks about Abraham. In fact he has been talking about him for the last few days! But today was struck me is that Abraham's unfailing determination to believe that nothing is impossible for God. The Blessed Mother has that unfailing character also. In the face of our fleshly eyes that see the problem, that see only our failings, that see only what man can do, they put themselves into the heavenly hands and eyes that do not fail but bring about His Holy Will. This, on the face of it, seems so logical and easy! But the flesh is a strong horse and it harnesses its mighty strength to pull me backwards into my own depths of despair and shortsightedness.

The psalmist says, "Don't put your hope in the strength of horses"! That is why Paul says we need to be transformed in our hearts and minds - total transformation in the why we think - only then can we see with His eyes and hope with His hope. Then, only then can I love with His love. I am incapable of being like Him at all. At the heart of it is not that I don't think that God can do amazing things and answer impossible questions or give impossible hope.....I have witnessed it time and again.

The impossibility lies within myself. That is what I see as God's impossible task - to help me see and know Him. Lately, I have had the distinct notion that the Lord is very concerned with preparing me to really face Him. Not death, although I am sure it is an option! No, He is confronting me with my unbelief; my failure to believe He can transform me and I can put off this major preoccupation with doubt.

Even this doubt is my joy however, because it reminds me second by second of my eternal neediness of The Lord my God. I rejoice in my weakness, the ever present weakness that dogs my days because He has shown me that it is my life link to Him.

Lately, I have revisited my past. Lately, I have been led by Him to review it. Lately, I have journeyed there unwillingly and entered into the sorrows there. And He has shown me how important those snubs, betrayals and own personal failures have been so vital to forming my inmost being. I have seen that without them my ego would have taken me to Hell. My self-centered character was so strong, my instinct for self-preservation so fierce that I would have done anything to protect it. Only by frequent quelling was He able to get my attention. Only by frequent leveling of my edifice of protection has He taught me to throw it away, to trash it, to utterly deny it in my life.

So as the sun shines so warmly and brightly today I can rejoice. Like Abraham I am on the journey from Ur - away from my ego and all my fallen comforts - and I can rejoice in whatever He sends my way because I can absolutely trust what the Maker of the entire Universe decrees! Sounds simple after all!

Sunday, October 18, 2009

The Sacramental Bucket

The dew was heavy on the tall grass as I sloshed my way to the goat pen. Ten inches of wonderful rain had fallen in the last week so even the mushrooms had mold on them! At the gate of the pen, LuLu, one of my hand raised orphans stuck her head through the bars to be first at the bucket. The white bucket is a well known flag for the goats and horses alike. It is the grain bucket. It is, for them, a sacramental.

Soon Pei Pei jostled LuLu out of the way and then Taddy barged her way in as well. The gate screeched a familiar complaint as they threw their collective weight at it. I put the grain bucket on a post, high above their reach because to enter in with it was to court injury. In the ‘body of goats’ there is no such thing as laying down one’s life unless they just happen to be trampled! They love that bucket for what it contains and devil take the hindmost if they are not first at the grain feeders!

The other day, as I was jockeying between goats with the grain bucket, I wondered if I treated the sign of the cross with as much concentration and gusto. I wondered if I treat the holy water font and incense and oils and all the wonderful sacramentals with as much dedication as my goats do the grain bucket. They love their grain and happily push each other out of the way to get to the contents. Am I willing to push incidental life out of the way in order to put it in God’s hands?

The horses, especially the ones on diets, reverence the white bucket with whinnies and hooves as I try to get each one fed in order. All night they have looked forward to the sight of the grain bucket.

Bert Ghezzi, in his book “Sign of the Cross” says this: “Every time we make the sign of the cross, we invite the Lord to bless us, and He always responds…..But most often when we make it, we don’t feel anything. That’s because God is using the movements of our body to reach our spirit and our senses cannot detect much of what He does there.” (page 11). In this wonderful book I have gained not only an appreciation of the sign of the cross but of all sacramentals that I very often take for granted. Working with people in RCIA, I find that their appreciation of what Catholics do inspires me to be more aware of what I am doing.

As I watch my goats and horses revere the grain bucket, their sacramental, I have tried to love and look forward to making the sign of the cross….and say to myself I belong to the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Do I wait in the watches of the night to respond to the simple things our Holy Mother Church has provided for our spiritual nourishment?

Mr. Ghezzi continues, “A sacramental, on the other hand, does not directly confer divine grace; rather it prepares us to receive God’s blessing and disposes us to cooperate with it.” (page 10) I know that I need to immerse myself in the life of God. So much of my life is mere distraction from Him. I want my life to be predisposed towards whatever the Holy Spirit wants of me.

Now you might be saying that the goats get all this grain and they are hungry and that is why they love it so much. Not really. They only get grain because it emotionally stabilizes them. The way my farm Marygate is set up we have ample food for all our animals – in fact too much browse and grass! No – the sacramental bucket is icing on a rich cake and it has taught me to ask the Holy Spirit to teach me how the sacramentals can bring me closer to divine life. By stopping and taking time to realize what I am doing, I am fed so fully! I highly recommend Bert Ghezzi’s book as something so simple that can change us so dramatically in our Christian walk.

Blowin' In The Wind

As I entered the field in the gray light of dawn I was surprised to see the four horses standing at attention. Still as statues they pointed like setters at something far down the pasture. Every once and awhile vapor like smoke issued from distended nostrils. One horse would break rank and pace, snorting, and then resume its stance Curious, I turned to squint at what lay across the distance.

I have to admit it did look frightening. Something white was wafting gaily in the early morning breeze. I couldn’t imagine what it could be and I felt my stomach tighten a bit – could it be an animal? At any rate, the horses felt pretty nervous about it! I slipped through the fence and started to make my way toward the scary object.

Lots of times things I don’t understand or situations that occur frighten me. I know I need to trust in God. I can look back at all the times the Lord has been faithful and taken care of me and my family. In good times and bad He has brought us through. Not always without pain but I have learned that even suffering has its commensurate joy. Still, in my weakness, I dread lessons of life that scare me.

That morning I felt a little afraid as I trudged across the wet grass. The white form alternately stood completely still and then waved frantically again as the breeze touched it. I heard a few snorts and whinnies behind me along with galloping hooves. Then, again, complete silence as only the dawn can provide.

When my husband Leo, I, and our five children moved to Alabama in the mid-eighties, his salary had just climbed to twenty five thousand a year. We felt like kings. Still for a one income household we were scraping by. I didn’t realize it completely then, but we were quite poor. I am sure our children felt it when they saw what others had and how they lived.

When my husband went out on a business venture a few years down the road we had high hopes of betterment. The business crashed a mere eight weeks later and he was out of a job. At the time we were renovating two bathrooms – and they had just been demolished and only partially restored. A friend was doing the work for us. So here we were with no income, regular expenses, and the wreckage about us!

However, six months earlier, my husband’s former teaching partner, Laura, had applied for a job at a big corporation. It took that long to get the interviews and to get a position secured. She made plans to take up the job. The same week it became apparent that my husband’s job was gone, Laura found out she was going to have a baby. It was unplanned- in fact she had trouble conceiving. As her new job required extensive traveling, she decided to decline the offer. But Laura went to the corporation and recommended Leo for the job. So that very week, the corporation did the interviews and hired him. It floored me that all this had taken place before my husband lost his job!

I thought of this as I came upon the pasture ghost in the ever quickening morning light. I paused in my reflections to turn back and look at my horse companions. They still stood, riveted, as they tried to discern the ghostly interloper. At this point, flush with relief, I realized what the specter was: helium balloons moored to a shrub! Somebody’s birthday balloons had taken a little turn. As I got closer, I had to laugh at myself. Most of the giant problems in life, when under the Lord’s control, are wafting in the breeze. I even had time to be a little amused at my horse’s fear. That is until I recollected my own reaction every time God allows a test to come my way!

Thursday, September 10, 2009

Jesus in the Eucharist

I have had the privilege, three weeks now, of spending time with the Lord Jesus in the Eucharist. It is called Eucharistic Adoration. And how Jesus has set me free! I have realized so starkly that He is not about condemnation (the devil's great work) but about setting me free. I have realized that confessing my sins has truly set me free! I know this sounds cliche-ish but I have understood my Savior so much more fully, have felt so much more as His sister b/c I have simply obeyed Him. "To behold the beauty of the Lord and to inquire in His Temple..." (Psalm 27) These are not empty word but alive words that are fulfilled today...all my thoughts, my joys, my duties are His...I hope never to stop listening to Him and asking for His grace, His power, to please His Father. That is all my Lord Jesus was about was pleasing and obeying the Father and what else is there but this? What greater felicity, what greater joy, what greater time spent than feeding on His Word - Jesus Christ. This is all....this is all that matters....this is the pearl of great price and look what we receive! Divinization! I don't know what that will be like but it is is the only REALITY and the only thing worth living for....pleasing and obeying the Father, through the Son and in the Holy Spirit. I pity anyone who finds life on this earth more appealing.

Jesus in the

Thursday, September 3, 2009

The Room of the Soul

Remember that the virtue of humility is the solution of all our troubles, a sure and quick remedy in all our temptations. Let your concern and terror be this, that the devil take advantage of distressing moods and make entrance. Remember that humility is the antidote. Your place at that moment is not on the lofty heights of self or studying wounded self-love but on your knees before the crucifix, seeing what sin has done to Jesus. Stifle the murmuring complaint of whining vanity and blinded pride. Let the recording angels hear this confession: “I confess to Almighty God. that I have sinned exceedingly in thought, word and deed through my fault, through my fault, through my most grievous fault.”(2) Fr Thomas A Judge

I know my blogs are boring - no pictures. But I hope to create pictures in the window of the soul that one may look into that room and see what furnishings lie there. Also what condition they are in. Is the furniture dusty? Is it crowded with knick knacks? Is it so cluttered that the beauty of the room is choked? Is it hard to move around in there - are you prevented from kneeling if necessary? How is my interior life? And does the Holy Spirit find welcome, worship and listening heart there?

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

“If any man think himself to be something, whereas he is nothing, he deceiveth himself.”(Gal. 6:3) Subject to many infirmities, man comes wailing into life, lives in fear, leaves it in anguish. Inconstant by nature, the sport of change, now he is glad, now he is sad. He needs everything, is dependent for everything, can do nothing of himself. He cannot guide himself; he is blind in his judgments. He regrets the past that is gone, is suspicious of the future; he grasps at the present which escapes him. He struggles against adversity. Prosperity intoxicates him, praise makes him proud; humiliation irritates and crushes him, anger makes him insane. Laziness enervates him; sensuality devours him. He is the plaything of his passions. His infancy is spent in helplessness, his youth in frivolity, his mature years in cares and worries, his old age in dotage. His mind is subject to ignorance, his will to uncertainty, his heart is tried by so many deceptions. Ennui inexorable weighs on his existence and he becomes a burden to himself. There is not a sense nor member of his body which does not know sorrow, which is not capable of suffering. There is not an instant of his life when he can believe himself safe, and the grave is always before him.
What, then, is man? Nothing before he came into existence, nothing in revolt by sin, dust when his life ends, misery as long as it lasts. That is the condition of humanity caused by sin. It is this human condition, so infirm, so fallen, which became the condition of the Son of God, clothed in our flesh.
Fr Thomas A Judge

This is so powerful b/c it illustrates so vividly what we are without redemption. And everyday I witness people who have responded to redemption and have climbed out of their grave.

Monday, August 31, 2009

Jesus Christ

All I want is to know Jesus Christ, and the power of His rising, all I want is to know my Lord and in Him to abide....those words of Paul must echo in every human heart if we are ever to know happiness but also to ever know our destiny. Nothing in this whole world or my life makes sense or is worth fighting for if not to belong to Him and to love Him. He is everything. He who poured himself out....we Christians hear it so much without really understanding it.

About eight years ago I had a bad fall from a horse that rendered me unconscious. Yet I led my horse across a large field to a neighboring house. As soon as I knocked on the door my eyesight came back and the real world appeared before me like magic. It is difficult to describe. That incident changed my life in many significant ways. But it was only last week that I realized that the accident was an exact mirror of my Christian life.

Here I am dancing with my immortal soul, doing what I know is right, doing what I have learned, doing what I have seen, but in a large part doing it blindly. I am groping through life and leading others with me. And I had a large fall. Without even realized the import of it I did offend God in a major way - I was truly blind.

Yet as I knocked on the door Jesus opened it and the real world appeared before my eyes. I saw in that moment that even someone like me who follows the Lord and loves Him can fall so deeply and inexorably. I realized that I absolutely cannot gut through my Christian life with what I know and study and plow through diligently. God is pleased with those efforts, don't get me wrong. But it is much harder that way.

At the same time as the utter realization of my helplessness and worthlessness of my efforts, I was completely filled with the mercy of the Lord and knew His love and forbearance.

I had heard from many sources that when I receive the Eucharist that Jesus actually takes us into himself. That was a new thought for me after all these years. I always looked at it the other way around. I was eating, taking in the Lord's body. I realized that I was seriously turned around and in many ways had no idea how to start going in the right direction.

It like teaching a horse to use his hind end to move forward. Horses are naturally front end beasts but when you put a rider on them they must reverse that instinct and learn to move forward from the back. You can do this artificially with draw reins and larges bits but even though you get the collection it is a painful life for the horse. You can get it but they eventually go mentally ill or get just plain angry. Or you can slowly patiently teach the horse to round his back, carry you and move from behind. It takes practice, patience and above all respect for the horse and what he is trying to learn.

In many ways, when I was in control of my Catholic life I was very good at using draw reins, bits, spurs and whips (metaphorically) to get the "Christlike" result I thought God wanted. But once I realized I had no clue to what Jesus is really about and got on my knees and asked Him to teach me about Himself, I was just as blind as wehn I fell off that horse.

Sunday, July 5, 2009

The Maxter

Maxim XL was his formal name. He was bred and born at Colorado State University in 1985. He was part of an experiment to introduce the Salle Francais breed to the United States. Born of great athletic promise, he came to me broken down when he was fourteen. Last Wednesday, July 1st he succumbed to a massive infection. But Max's brain, personality and general ornerieness was totally missed by his former owners. He was passed to me to "use up" and learn from as he was a highly trained dressage horse. Nobody had ever asked him if he liked it at all. It took me four years to communicate with him and find out how much he hated arenas and the whole business.

I was privileged to know him, receive his hugs and smiles, and learn all the great lessons he had to teach me. I really thought there would be so much more! Retired, slowly becoming more arthritic, I really thought he could wile away his time under the sun until at least thirty. I was not prepared to spare him. But oh how I am so glad that I appreciated who he was and let him teach me the important things - the wonderful relationship a human can have with an animal - once the human has their head on straight.

Max I will always miss you! But I am so grateful for the years we had and especially for the two great hours before your death that I will always cherish, my brave big boy.

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Chewing Cud

For the goat herder, there is no more peaceful sight than a bunch of goats placidly chewing their cud. For the ruminant, cud chewing is essential to good health. If you have ever seen a goat demolish dead leaves, bark, twigs and branches, you can believe that it would take an excellent digestion to get nutrition from it. Enter the rumen – that vital bacteria vat that cooks the mass and sends it back to the goat for further mastication. I don’t think goats chew the first time around – it just get inhaled, so to speak. So when I see my fluffy, white does sunning themselves and the steady grind, grind, grind of the lower jaw, I know all is well. It is especially comforting to see in an orphan baby because I know that they are successfully making the transition from bottle to regular food. When you are their “mama” so to speak, you must take great care to transition them as the rumen activates.
It is pretty funny to see their fat, squirrel-like cheeks. I wonder what they think about while they are chewing away. Because for the goats that I observe, cud chewing is not something you do on the run. You do not multi-task while you chew your cud!
It occurred to me that reading scripture must become like that for me. It is not enough to read it daily. Often I forget it almost as soon as I read it. And it doesn’t help, much, to just recall it on the run during the day. No, I must sit, relax and chew it thoughtfully, with the respect with which it is due.
I read the coming Sunday Mass readings throughout the week along with the daily readings. I felt pretty good that I was just getting them read every morning and training myself to recall them during the day. But to really have the Word written on my heart, in fact, to get anything out of it, I had to chew it, send it back into the brain vat, and chew it again. And to do it effectively, I can’t be doing something else.
One way I try to get myself into the daily reading plus the reading for Sunday Mass, is to try to find something new each time I read it. This came about when one Sunday reading was about leprosy and the proscriptions for it. To be perfectly honest, I didn’t really want to read it every day! I didn’t have any way to relate to leprosy. However, by the sixth day I realized that leprosy was very much a part of my life. What leprosy is to the body, sin is to the soul. Leprosy kills the nerves within the body so that injury and pain aren’t felt. Consequently, undetected injuries cause the body parts to erode. Slowly, the person can injure themselves to death. I am sure this is simplistic but it is a basic understanding of Hansen’s disease. It became clear to me how sin works in the same way. It dulls my spiritual sense, opens me to the injurious lies of the devil, separates me from all that is good and holy. From that revelation I have acquired a new hatred for and vigilance against sin in my life.
Stopping, taking time to chew on scripture is very difficult for me. My life tends to be lived, “on the run”, akin to a swift moving river. But God, in His wisdom, has shown me the importance of cud chewing. Goats don’t have a choice about it – they must for a healthy life. Come to think of it – I don’t either.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

The Time it Takes

As Clue, my new pony, kicked up his heels and ran away, I was acutely aware that I had broken my rule of taking the time it takes. Clue has a history that I must learn without using language. I do not know and cannot know through words what he has experienced. I must read that from his body language – so eloquent if I take the time to read it. Now, as he escaped, I realized I had pushed him to fast and to far.

I purchased the pony for my granddaughters. I wanted him to be ready to ride when they come for a visit in a few weeks. I let that pressure take my focus off this little animal’s needs and trust. So as I trudged over the acres to restore the relationship there were some bitter pills to swallow.

It made me think of my relationship with Our Lord. We have an icon above our altar at church that was painted by a saintly Romanian sister. It is Jesus breaking the bread at the last supper. In His hands are the two halves of the loaf, broken, as soon His body would be upon the Cross. I fancied one time Him asking me how much bread I wanted. “All of it,” I replied. Typical of my headlong Christian walk to want a lot more than I can handle. But more importantly, the correct response should have been “whatever You want to give me”.

When I allow pressures or impatience to cloud my judgment, I become blind. I no longer see the fear in the horse’s eye, that his ears are telling me to get back, that he lunges forward to move me out of his space. I forget to take things slowly and to appreciate what the animal is bringing to the table. Sure I can muscle a horse, especially little Clue. But if I am to give him a say in the process, I must give him all the time it takes. Expediency nullifies the relationship aspect. Clue becomes a thing to be processed and not a partner to be gained.

God can muscle me. I can think of God muscling me to perfection. But I am far off the mark if I look at Him this way. Being a relationship Himself, the Lord is not about efficiency but surrender. It is about whatever You want to give me Lord. I absolutely trust in your timetable. Jesus’ own life was always full of surrender. Jesus was very clear that He came to do the Father’s Will. He didn’t lose focus. He wasn’t impatient or anxious because He surrendered and trusted.

There is something electric about having a relationship with an animal. As the human I have the responsibility to teach but more to understand. When I impose my time schedule I lose respect for this special friend. I say, in fact, I don’t care what you are feeling – do what I am telling you to do. And do it now. Any horse person will chuckle a bit and tell you that all you get from that attitude it time lost. When I respect the horse’s contribution to the relationship, it is incredible to see the surrender – willing surrender – and right after that the lesson learned. He licks his lips – a sure sign that he is comfortable and trusting.

I am so grateful that God takes the time it takes to bring me closer to Him. He respects the person He made me. He is willing to take the time to bring me incrementally into wisdom and service. And of course, God has perfect timing. If you ever want to reflect on God’s timing, look back on your life. When I remember my fifty six years I see two things: that surrender has been a process and He has never doubted that I will arrive.

Clue stood in the field, ears pricked forward, as I approached. I could see in his eyes that there was a breach of trust. I offered my hand and my apologies. He came forward.

Monday, June 8, 2009

Loving Them Across

My friend Joanne accosted me as I walked into her barn. She was spattered with mud all the way to her eyebrows. I had seen that look before and it had been on my own face.

“I’ve been trying to get Lily across the ditch for the last three hours,” she gasped, “Will you help me?”

At the back of her property was a very luscious ravine and at the bottom of which reposed a creek bed. Months before, my horse Max and I had a major altercation over this same ditch. To me, the creek wasn’t anything scary at all. To Max it was the Grand Canyon. I can’t pretend to know all the reasons horses take it into their heads to be scared – but you have to figure out how to deal with it.

So Joanne and I took her young filly down the ravine. She explained that she had tried for hours to get the horse to jump over the ditch but was unsuccessful. Judging by Lily’s rolling eyes and tense, twitching muscles, it was going to be difficult. But I had remembered my lessons with Max very well.

“Look,” I proposed, “Let’s do it a different way.”

“What do you mean?” she asked.

I smiled and said, “Let’s love her across.”


“I’ve been through this with Max,” I explained, “Lily doesn’t trust us. Let’s be very calm. We have to accept that she might not cross today….but if we work on it in love she will someday.”

Joanne, fortunately, was open to learning. “Okay,” she said, “Show me what you mean.”

Using my natural horsemanship training, I began to stroke Lily and urged her to calm down and not get so excited about the ditch. We focused on confidence and authority. In fifteen minutes we had her across. In twenty she went back and forth with no worries. Using the same methods a few weeks later, she began to load into a horse trailer with no problem. Previously, you were lucky to jam her in there with a bucket of grain and quick reflexes.

I learned so much from those experiences. You can’t spout formulas or scripture verses to most people. You can’t introduce them to a loving God unless you do what Jesus did: love them across. For so many people, life has splattered them all over the pavement. A ditch is a chasm – truly an abyss separating them from all happiness. They can’t get there by words, only deeds, loving deeds that give them the confidence to ask just the simplest question: do you love me Jesus? Until they get to that point all they see is the unsurpassable ditch.

I have learned from my horses that no tiny deed goes unnoticed. Every stroke, every word builds a relationship of trust. It cannot be rushed and it must be maintained. There must be from me, an absolute commitment to inconveniencing myself for their greater good. And in addition, sticking to the truth of what horses are and what I am.

How much more should I be prepared to love those whom I find across that bgreat divide most find themselves? Every little deed, service or word must add to that bridge. If I focus on loving my fellow beings across the abyss to God’s love, then I have been able to accomplish the miraculous things Jesus promised.

I work with a woman who not only does the receptionist job full time but cleans the office after hours. I know how wonderful it is for someone to do the littlest thing so I began to do the dishes that accumulate during the day. She approached me one day and said, “I think there is an angel in the office.”

“Well, I love you,” I responded. It isn’t like me to just say stuff like that but it was truly what I felt. I wasn’t concerned in that moment about what church she belonged to or where her relationship with Jesus was. She just needed to know that someone loved her and was wiling to do something concrete about it.

I share this not to pat myself on the back. After looking at the computer for eight hours, I look forward to doing dishes! But I was so grateful to have the opportunity to love someone. Formerly, my selfish life didn’t have experiences like this. Now that they do, I am eager to love anyone across the “great divide” that keeps them from knowing the love of Jesus.

Saturday, June 6, 2009

The Persons of Heaven

The massive storm whirled around me six times as I stood trapped in the barn. Trees, bent double in agony, at times were almost invisible through the rain. My horses and I weathered it pensively as lightening and thunder was rivaled only by the onslaught of hail on the tin roof. My dogs, tails crimped, shivered at my feet. But oh the power of God! We think that we have so much mastery – but God can put us in our place whenever He chooses.

The next morning arrived as benign and beautiful as a still pond. The trees shook out their hair and I reveled in the long wet grass as I went on my morning walk. I could voice with the psalmist – how lovely is Your dwelling place – O Lord of Hosts! My heart longs and faints for your courts, and my heart and flesh sing for joy to the living God!

The delight in this loveliness – storm and peace – is always nicked by a realization that this is not my home. But oh my flesh loves it, glories in it and the outer space of heaven does not draw me from this my familiar delight. I want to live with the Triune God more than anything – but what succor does my flesh await?

I realized that my flesh is so comfortable with parameters. She is comforted by even the hugeness of a hundred year old tree or the mighty swell of the Mississippi river. The infinte of the heavens brings no cheer. How, I asked the Lord, can I go to you? From where will my flesh find its comforting boundaries? I realized that my senses and my skin override the deep longings of my heart, especially on a beautiful spring morning.

Then the quirky smile of God enlightened my mind. Silly, heaven is not a place, it is a Persons. I go not to a place but an embrace. And He who created this world I love cups it within His generous hand. This vastly cheered me and I felt like the Lord said to me, “You are finally growing up, my darling.” I had to laugh at God’s ever ready laughter and generous patience.

I remembered my studies of Pope John Paul II’s Theology of the Body. It has taught me to understand that we are unique amongst all of God’s creation. He respects and revels in our created matter and of course has an eternal plan for it. I am like a baby in the womb, comfortable with the boundaries of water, sack and mother’s heart. If I said to a baby – come out into the cold air, bright lights and hunger – they would cling ever so closely to the warmth and safety. Little does the baby know that outside is wonderful, unimaginable growth and laughter. There is a huge family of people to embrace. Yes, there is suffering and sorrow too – but totally redeemed by the Triune God who loves us. Then, the baby is born to an embrace, a warm breast, a tender smile.

This then, is my journey to heaven. I need not fear the unknown place of heaven because it doesn’t exist. I go to the absolute fulfillment of life body and soul. Can you imagine what the Creator of this beautiful world has in store for us?

Monday, May 25, 2009

How much are you under the influence of the Holy Spirit? Or how much are you under the influence of the evil spirit? This is a question which is ignored almost entirely by people, even the most devout. Fr Thomas Judge

This meditation struck me. Even the most devout? How can I be sure what is influencing me? First, I figured out by what goes into me - am I filling myself up with the Word, with Truth, with self-sacrifice, with service. But most of all I need to be humbly broken - allowing Our Lord, in His Holy Spirit, to give me wisdom, to transform me, to Forgive me! Please Lord do not allow the evil one any hold in me!!!Please Lord give me the wisdom of self knowledge and courage to eradicate all that is evil.

Been off the internet for two months due to technical difficulties - however I have it for today!!!

Bless the Lord, O my soul!

Wednesday, April 8, 2009


How anxious we should be to make reparation! This should cause us to suffer joyfully the adverse things of our daily life and to receive in a spirit not only of resignation, but of joy, those painful things that God's providence permits to come to us. Trials we have; some are physical, some are mental, some are spiritual, some are temporal. Who is ever free from trial? No one. It should be our joy, for the sake of the Precious Blood, for all for which it stands, to make reparation. Fr. Thomas Augustine Judge

I guess that sums up the goal of my life and how far I am from it sometimes! How I kick against the inconvenience, the wait in line, the cynical retort, the indifference, whatever I feel is not going my way! O Lord help me to see that all is from Your Hand for my benefit! Help me to suffer everything You permit so that I may count myself as one of Your cross bearers! This Holiest of Weeks let me concentrate on Your Sacrifice, Your Scourging, Your Piercing, Your Forgiveness, Your Reparation for the Sins of the world!

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Confusion, Defeat and Disaster

Fr Judge said that these three things follow, or are a result of disobedience. Wow. It occurred to me that I can use these three things to test whether or not I am being obedient to the Lord. I hope that I am always obedient but as David said, "Who knows all of his faults?" I guess there can be no greater effort, goal or determination in life than to be obedient to God. Jesus gave us that imperative, never diverted from that one goal: to do the Father's Will. Please God that in some small measure I may imitate that beloved goal.

Friday, March 6, 2009

The Cross

We should use the Cross to bless our minds when they lag in study. We should use it in our heart when it is restless, disturbed and tempted. It should be worked into our food. It should begin and end and companion our conversation and activities so that all things will be done in the Name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit; and in adoration, praise and thanksgiving to Him Who was wounded for our iniquities, Who was bruised for our sins, Whose feet and hands were dug and Whose bones for us were numbered on that Cross. Fr Thomas Judge

I have lived with the Cross, the knowledge of salvation through Jesus' death and resurrection my whole life. I am a child who does not understand the hideous death from which I have been saved. I have not grown up before and after. It has always been a part of me. So how in the world can I really appreciate it? How can I understand it? How can I be truly grateful? I have no idea. But one thing I can do is love and serve, love and serve, love and serve - truly impossible for me alone but with the Cross I can do it. With the Cross ever in my mind's eye and my heart I MUST love and serve. If I stay focussed on that, then maybe Our Lord will let me suffer with Him and carry that Cross. This Lenten Season, may it please God to let the cross lead me to love and service, to open my blind eyes and stubborn, stony heart to love and serve.

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Something to Live By

1. Loving Trust 2. Total Surrender 3. Joy

Mother Teresa of Calcutta

I guess that is it in a nutshell! If I am not experiencing joy then something is amiss with the first two items. Ah gee Mom - I wish I could get it right sometimes! But I am confident that as I ponder and live with this saying that it will rub off on me and God's grace WILL change me simply because He will honor my request. I will never comprehend it - The Lord's interest in little ole me but I am so grateful - am I grateful enough to lovingly trust and totally surrender? Apparently sometimes not! Please dear Lord rescue me from myself!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

Who's in Charge?

As I foster two new motherless goats I am made aware of how important it is, as an animal husbandry person, to make right decisions for them. In fact, animal life here is always a question of who is in charge. Animals' god is the belly - safety, comfort and play - and food! They are constantly asking for it. They are constantly manipulating for it. And I know that if they are irritating me it is because I have failed to establish mastery over their appetites. (Oh yes, any animal failure is the human's fault, make NO mistake about it and once you have accepted that then you can fix your problems!)

So the babies - Yuki and Oto - they are about two weeks apart and fortunately buddies, not common since they are not herd related at all! I must regulate their bottles even when they frantically pester me for one. I must take them on long, ambling walks as they maddeningly lip a leaf as they slowly develop a taste for vegetation. I must teach them to follow, comfort them and give them the touching they need. No, I WILL not lick them however my dogs have stepped up to bat!

Oto came to me mostly dead. He was born during the nine degree nights we had and even though he is a big fellow he wasn't eating. My son Bernard helped me and had the great idea of feeding him with a dropper. Within a few days he was suckling and gaining strength. He was totally disoriented. He would shuffle to a corner and stand staring at the wall with a piteous bleat. It was fascinating to watch him learn to get a handle on his surroundings and the safe things to follow. Yuki has given him some goat sense and comfort - God provides!

But as I make life decisions for animals I realize it takes a form of self-mastery. I cannot indulge them, they don't understand it. I must relate to them in non-addictive ways and be not a friend but a kind lord as it were. It helps me understand how I must exert self-mastery over my appetites as well. I am not so very successful at it but I am understanding it better. The more I am a good "shepherd" so to speak, the better I am learning that it starts with me.

What a gift - self-mastery! To kindly but firmly say to myself "Keep your commitments. Develop your relationship with God as MOST important. Serve Him day in and day out. And by all means don't whine!" Goats are terrific whiners - and I can't help but think that I sound awfully like them sometimes!

When I got my Anatolian Shepherd dog Hannah, she upset the delicate balance of my four dog pack. The one male dog, Dozer was the most put out. He assumes he is in charge, a carefully cultivated illusion Darby allows. He would lunge at her, growl, bare his teeth. (Always when she was behind the fence. Hannah is twice as big and could take him out with one bite). I kept yelling at him to stop. Then in the middle of a lunge I saw him hesitate, stop and turn away. He, a dog, mastered himself. And I couldn't help but think that if he could do it I could! And how many excuses I make when my delicate balance is upset! You go Dozer!!!

Tuesday, February 3, 2009


I might be tooling down the road kinda sorta driving over the speed limit. So I watch carefully and in my mind I am trying on excuses in case I get pulled over. I come up with some really good ones but I know that once the lights flash and I pull over I will be stammering out my yes ma'ams or yessirs. But it is a game a play that allows me to laugh at who I really am.

The best excuse is to overeat and promise to make it up the next day. I did that for quite a few lifetimes.

Awhile ago I thought to enhance my attention at mass I would study the readings the week b4 mass. I was pretty faithful to it and have benefited greatly - how can I not? But as time went by I didn't do it first thing. I had plenty of time during the day. Not! So at mass I was asking the Lord what He would have me do and I felt that he grinned a little bit and said, "See if you can read the readings everyday first thing." That is the starting point. Easy! Easy?

You have no idea how many distractions there are at 5:30 am, even with no radio or television. I brew my coffee (yes an article on addictions is forthcoming) and pull out the Bible. Oh - I need to listen to the weather on my walkie-talkie - very important for the livestock! Oh - I need to write that note to remind myself to call so and so. Oh - I need to sweep up that grass that came in with my boots last night. Oh - I need to wipe the counter......!!! You get the idea. And ALL He asked me was to read the three readings first thing. He didn't even ask me to do a Bible study! I am glad that God has a sense of humor.

So I have been doing that. When things try to pull me away I have been disciplining myself to such an absurdly small thing - so that I may earn the right to do greater things for Him.

As I foster two goat babiesrealize that there are no excuses. They need fed, comfort safety and to learn to grow up. They demand it believe me! And if I am responsible I meet those demands without excuses. God doesn't not demand! He asks! So if I am to mature I must respond to the asking and not the demand. Please God help me to grow up.

Posted, picture of goat baby with one of my babies - Bernard all grown up! He is back from Afghanistan and I couldn't be prouder of him! He is such a wonderful man and such a great companion. He inspires me greatly and I am so grateful that he is my son.

Monday, February 2, 2009


There is one advantage of necessity; there is one joy to be found in biting need. There is a consolation even when the darkest clouds overshadow. It is this: we have an opportunity of registering a supreme act of trust and confidence in a Being supremely and infinitely good and loving. It is not so much that we do a thing or get a thing or have a thing or have any prayer answered but that we show an invincible faith and courage in Jesus Christ. Fr Thomas Augustine Judge

"God is my refuge and my strength, ever near to my heart. What should I fear though the earth should shake or the mountains fall in the sea - God will be my stronghold forever! Psalm 46

May I always embrace all that God sends my way! All I ask is for courage b/c I am the biggest coward on the planet - yet God will fill my lack - He certainly knows of what I am made. It is really cool to have the mindset of Fr Judge who was no stranger to insurmountable odds or adversity. He met it all with cheerful faith, never flagging never doubting. I hope that I can demonstrate that same cheerfulness and trust. I believe we are in for many turbulent time when we must choose between God and our comforts. But be at peace, God is ordaining it and we can completely trust in his Fatherhood! May I always be in the hands of God!

Saturday, January 31, 2009


Let us then resolve to practice daily devotion to Mary, our life, our sweetness and our hope. In all dangers and temptations we should fly to her protection as the child flies to its mother and seek our safety and consolation in her loving and maternal care. If we wish to share in Mary's happy Assumption into heaven, we must imitate her example, striving always to be clean of heart.

Let our devotion to her be constant and self-sacrificing as was Joseph's. Thus, by striving to imitate the virtues of the Holy Family, we shall bear in our lives the family likeness and in reality become brothers and sisters of Jesus and children of Mary, to live forever with them in heaven.  Fr Thomas Augustine Judge

Lately, while raising two motherless goat kids, I have been reflecting a lot on motherhood. There are so many things I have to take care of that a mother would simply do by her presence. The correct food, the correct warmth and comfort, and the correct stimulus and guiding to new sustainence. It has made me look upwards as I try to patiently stand around while a baby discovers a grass blade and figures out if it is food or not! I want to be more aware of and take advantage of the wonderful gifts Jesus' Mother has for me. I loved her as a little child and then spent many years ignoring her and rejecting her wonderful love. I am now at the threshold of knowing her - for her mother's love forgave me long ago for my neglect and lack of respect. I am humbly grateful. Jesus' gave us his mother for very specific reasons and that is good enough for me. It behooves me to find out what those are. She is not only His mother - carrying perfectly the perfect Word in her womb - she is His perfect first disciple, our model - but so much more than that. She is my mother - and the more I am aware of the lack in my poor little orphans and the trouble I am put through to replace their absent does - the more it has made me understand that I want all that Mary has to give and I want to respect her and serve her as she brings me to her Son.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Perfect Peace

Be thoroughly convinced that we are the work of the good Master Who with infinite foresight is at all times occupied with His creatures. Under His loving protection nothing can befall us contrary to His Will, nothing can hurt us without His permission. Whatever happens to us is so good that nothing better can be imagined. If He allows desolation to come to us, it is to save us from eternal tears.   Fr. Thomas Augustine Judge

What a way to start the day! Perfect peace knowing that our loving Father has us in the palm of his hand. To rest so wonderfully in His love and care so that no matter what happens I know that He ordains it. I don't want anything outside of his Will. 

The other day my husband Leo asked me to define what being good was. It is to do God's will and be open to His Will for my life. 

Even in these troubled times I can rest and have confidence that God knows what He is doing. This should project me towards whatever He has for me to do and please God may I do it!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Of Dead Squirrels

It is going to happen no matter how much you try to prevent it. I have a pack of rescue dogs and they WILL hunt. My littlest and most committed hunter, Skye came home with an unfortunate squirrel. She was very proud of it but I thought later regretted her decision.

She strutted around with it but found that it took careful, vigilant guarding to protect ownership. She had to take it everywhere with her and warn with stuffed mouth to keep away.  When the others pretended  not to care she stood forlorn as guardian while they ran up and down the field and played. At biscuit time she had to forgo the pleasure b/c her squirrel had her chained. 

This gave me much food for thought. As the day wore on the poor squirrel, minus tail, got ragged and motheaten.  And Skye was still defending it to the death and not getting to do any of her usual persuits. Worst of all, she couldn't be part of the gang. To be an outsider is the worst thing they can imagine. I wondered whether she just wanted to be done with it. But she could not let go.

I began to think about this in my personal life. I wondered what I held onto like that! It was easy - my pride.  It isn't physical things anymore - but my standing, my dignity, my worth or whatever you want to call it. And like the radded squirrel, the more I defend it the uglier it becomes. When I grab onto my destiny, my worth, my reason for being then it surely grabs a hold of me! I defend it and become an outcast (I become so self-centered), when I hold it in my teeth I become very bad tempered (b/c I am worried about sustaining it),  guarding it makes me forgo the pleasure in a simple day.  The answer? I relinquish it to the One who gives it in the first place!

I realize that no matter what my personal dignity suffers (do I feel unappreciated?), am I unjustly maligned (who told that lie about me?), when I worry that God doesn't love the fool that I am (simiple depression), I can't do what I am supposed to do (I fail so often) - you get the idea that the squirrel is very much manhandled - ok womanhandled! So I am taking a page from Skye's book - it's not worth it!!!!

Saturday, January 10, 2009

Ask and Allow

There are those who believe that to work with horses you need to master them. They work on subjugation and intimidation. Some like me, ignorant or taught badly, learn to work against the horse’s natural character and individual personality. I can only say that I thank God I got into the hands of people who partner their horses and lead them with love and authority.

 Once such excellent instructor I had used the term, “Ask and Allow”. As I was riding with her one evening the words began to make sense. Ask the horse. Teach the horse. Allow the horse to learn and take in the lesson. That particular teaching has made a patient person out of me. It began to open up my brain to what the horse was struggling to learn. And it taught me to give him all the time he needed to learn it. Such as in collection, when you ask a horse to soften his neck, round his back and engage his hindquarters. These are all things a horse must learn to do to balance the added weight of the rider. Normally, a horse is front ended. Add a rider and he must learn to go forward from the rear.  To do this a horse must learn it, trust it and change. I must ride balanced, use correct aids to teach and learn to work with the horse.


I used to just get on and use my aids and expect it to happen. Okay, so I am not very intuitive! Horses struggle to learn and trust and must be “allowed” to do so in their own time. So as I ride I whisper this to myself and allow it to help me feel what my horse’s response is to my query. Sam, my Arabian horse, tends to run away when he doesn’t understand what is being asked of him. Or rather, if he doesn’t like what is being asked! I found that he was so unhappy and distracted by having a bit in his mouth I realized it wasn’t the type of bit he objected to. So I found a bit less bridle and there is joy in the camp. Even with this though, it has taken time for Sam to trust and to relax and to answer. The other day I saw him reach downward. He relaxed his neck, rounded his back and responded to my aids. Finally I was getting somewhere in the way I am committed to teach and learn.


This has had tremendous ramifications in my relationship with God as you can imagine.  I don’t think the “ask and allow” phrase had ever entered into my communication process. I am eager to do His will. I take the “command” and either run away with it or force myself through all kinds of anxiety. My head comes up, my neck stiffens and my jaw clenches to “Thy Will Be Done!”  And it isn’t from a bad heart any more than it is from a horse’s blank determination to thwart. It is from misunderstanding and miscommunication.


To illustrate this, I had an experience on a retreat that finally brought me to collection. It was a serious moment of enlightenment. God was showing me ways I related to my past that were very painful to me. He was showing me the difference between how I looked at that girl and how He did. I have never loved my youthful self but have always treated her with scorn at best, disgust at worst. All I ever saw were her failures. And in a blinding moment of revelation He showed me how He looked at my young self. Like the little lost lamb I saw her on his shoulders and being tenderly carried.  And I felt he was “asking” me to look at her that way too.


Right away I strode down the country road, hands in pockets, head hunched between my shoulders to make this happen, to obey. And immediately I ran into a giant hand and a voice that said, “Stop!” I bounced off this imaginary hand and right away I realized something epic. I felt like God said to me, “I am not demanding that you do this. I don’t ever want you to force yourself to do anything I ask of you, even if it is for your own sake. I am inviting you to tear down walls inside. I am inviting you to love yourself as I do. Dear One, I don’t ever want you to look at Me as a demand.” 


Right away I thought of “ask and allow”. I had to laugh at myself. God always surprises me. He is always infinitely ahead of me! So as I patiently explore my horse’s learning ability it effectively mirrors my own ability to accept God’s invitation and not His demand. The demand doesn’t exist.