Friday, March 10, 2017

Homes here and there




"And we might, in our lives have many thresholds, many house to walk out from and view the stars, or to turn and go back to for warmth and company. But the real one-the actual house not of beams and nails but of existence itself-is all of earth, with no door, no address separate from oceans or stars, or from pleasure of wretchedness either, or hope, or weakness, or greed."

- Mary Oliver, Upstream


In my fifty-five years I have lived in many places, in many homes. Some of them filled me with joy and I couldn't believe my good fortune. Others filled me with longing to be anywhere else but there and I couldn't wait to leave.

I love my home in Breckenridge. Not the house, because it belongs to someone else and I am only a temporary (albeit very grateful) tenant.

It's the place, Breckenridge. The mountains, streams, and most of all the people, who have enabled my wandering heart to rest and call this place home.

Will this be my home forever, I'm not sure yet. It depends on whether I will be able to purchase my own home here and create an income to support my living expenses.

But it is the closest I have come to saying yes, this is my forever home.

I hope I will be able to stay longer.

Then my people will live in a peaceful habitation, And in secure dwellings and in undisturbed resting places ~ Isaiah 32:18

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Shhhh....dry your tears, God has not forgotten you






Dear You,

You know you've reached the end of your ability to hide your fears when the tears begin to flow as you sit in your car in the parking lot of the post office.

You know you no longer have the strength to worry what strangers think about you when you walk into the post office with eyes red from crying and cheeks wet from tears.

And when you are back in your car alone again, you let out a sob and cover your mouth because you are afraid that if you start crying you may never stop.

And what will people think?

You drive away,  and you hear a voice in your head saying, "God loves you."

It's difficult to keep going when nothing seems to change.

But keep going.                  

God has promised that he hears our prayers, that he will dry our tears, that he knows our needs.

Today plant your seeds, tend your crop, and in God's time you will discover your harvest.

Don't give up. God loves you.

God has not forgotten you.

Monday, March 6, 2017

Proving God's Existence in a Few Words

“Our heart is restless until it rests in you.”

“Our heart is restless until it rests in you.” 
  The most compelling evidence for the existence of God is this simple quote by Saint Augustine. We might call our restless heart by different names: our search for meaning, our desire for significance, the fuel that drives our accumulation of money and power, but I believe it is our soul longing for its creator.  
I feel so strongly about this metaphor that I included it my last novel, A Map of Heaven. My main character travels to hell and is surprised when instead of fire and brimstone, she discovers a place of absolute silence and cold darkness. When she askes a woman standing nearby, the woman explains:
“If God is described as the light of the world, then I can only conclude that hell would be the absence of light. Our souls know there is a God, even if we spend our conscious lives denying His existence. The soul understands the unbearable torture of forever being separated from its Creator. This isolation where the singular craving is for unification, becomes the eternal torment that is more unbearable than any punishment. After all, one can assume that a flame might ultimately consume itself, whereas longing lasts forever.”
That longing lives within us until we find communion with God and experience his love. It is only in God that our restless hearts can rest. Otherwise, we spend our days trying to silence our longing with food and drink and money and sex and power. None of it works.  
Pope Francis defined St. Augustine’s restlessness, our restlessness, as: “the restlessness of spiritual seeking, the restlessness of the encounter with God, the restlessness of love.”
The restlessness of spiritual seeking is what we find in the hundreds of names we have for God. The myriad religions, spiritual practices, we may have dabbled in throughout our lives. As a college student, I sought God as I read books on Eastern spiritual teachings, New Age books, and visited countless churches. Eventually I found my home in the Catholic Church.
But I still lacked a personal encounter with God and an intimate understanding of God’s love for me. Recently, I told a friend that although I’ve been a Christian my entire life, it feels as if only in the past year have I begun to encounter and experience the richness of life with God. A life of faith.
What changed between then and now? I believe it happened when encountering God became a daily priority in my life. Spending a few minutes in prayer in the morning. Seeking God as I read the Bible each day. Father Michael once suggested we keep a Bible next to the place we sit down each morning and spend just a minute or two reading a few verses from one of the Gospels. As we walk out the door to begin our day, reflecting on what we’ve read, we ask God to show us Himself as we move through our day.
  These briefest encounters create a thirst for more of God, which grows each day. “As a deer pants for water, so my soul longs for you, O Lord.”
At the center of of this longing for God is the most essential: we must experience God’s love. It sounds easy, and for some it is, yet I have often found it elusive. My easy ability to condemn myself causes me to doubt that God could love a wretch like me. My doubt is akin to turning my back on God’s open embrace, not realizing that the antidote for this emptiness is Love. Pure love doesn’t see our flaws as we see them. We were created by the source of love to be loved. God’s love for us cannot be anything but love, because God is nothing but love.
If we are to walk with Jesus to the Cross, we must experience Jesus doing this as love poured out for us. Each step being love freely given. Let’s endeavor to walk so closely with Jesus that our pain is consumed in the flame of his heart, so we are freed to experience his perfect love. Let’s offer our restless hearts to God and rest in his love for us.


Wednesday, March 1, 2017

Smoky Fish Chowder - Ready in Less than 20 Minutes!




It's Ash Wednesday, the start of our 40-day Lenten journey. 

It's also a no-meat day...and for the next 40 days, Fridays will also be no meat days.

But that doesn't mean you have eat fish sticks for the next six weeks. I've got a better idea. Let's use this as an opportunity to try out new seafood recipes that are easy to prepare, healthy, and best of all delicious.

Ingredients:

2 medium leeks, washed thoroughly and sliced into half-inch rings

2 Tablespoons butter

1/2 cup dry white wine

2 cups fish stock (or you can use chicken stock)

1 cup of heavy cream or half and half

1 1/2 lbs cod, salmon, or other firm fish

1/4 lb of smoked salmon


Directions:

1. Saute the chopped links in butter until they are softened.  Sprinkle in 1/2 teaspoon Smoked Paprika, salt and pepper to taste. Add wine and cook it for a minute or two.

2. Add two cups of stock, one cup of cream, and allow to heat. Then add the fish. Cook at medium low heat until the fish is cooked through. The time will depend on whether you are using fresh fish or frozen fish.

Enjoy!

Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Prepare Yourself





This passage from the Book of Sirach was one of the reading for Mass on Tuesday, February 21st. On that morning, facing another disappointment, I sat in the 8am Mass and hearing these words, I felt as if God was speaking directly to me.

What a consolation to know that I was not forgotten. That God was encouraging me to stay the course.

TRUST IN GOD
1
My child, when you come to serve the Lord,*
prepare yourself for trials.a
2
Be sincere of heart and steadfast,
and do not be impetuous in time of adversity.
3
Cling to him, do not leave him,
that you may prosper in your last days.
4
Accept whatever happens to you;
in periods of humiliation be patient.
5
For in fire gold is tested,
and the chosen, in the crucible of humiliation.b
6
Trust in God, and he will help you;
make your ways straight and hope in him.
7
You that fear the Lord, wait for his mercy,
do not stray lest you fall.
8
You that fear the Lord, trust in him,
and your reward will not be lost.
9
You that fear the Lord, hope for good things,
for lasting joy and mercy.
10
Consider the generations long past and see:
has anyone trusted in the Lord and been disappointed?
Has anyone persevered in his fear and been forsaken?
has anyone called upon him and been ignored?c
11
For the Lord is compassionate and merciful;

forgives sins and saves in time of trouble.

Sirach 2:1-11

Don't Give Up Chocolate for Lent!







My 55th birthday is in March. Which means I’ve been planning the festivities since January. Do you know what else I’m planning for in March?
Lent! I love Lent!
While some will spend Wednesday, March 1st nursing the aftereffects of Mardi Gras, I will head to Mass at 8 a.m. for Ash Wednesday and the beginning of my forty-day journey toward Easter.
Like my March birthday, I’ve been thinking about Lent for weeks. I can’t wait to get started and to share the Lenten journey with you.
You might ask why I’m talking about Lent today when it doesn’t begin until Wednesday? Well, like my birthday, important events should be planned for in advance.
I don’t want you to reach the beginning of Lent and be caught by surprise. I don’t want you to make some lame pronouncement like, “Well, I guess I’ll give up chocolate again this year,” without thinking about the true meaning and value of Lent.
Lent is not a diet plan.
Lent was not thought up by the Seafood Council of America.
Lent is not a conspiracy to force you to go to church more than once a week for no reason, so that you end up resenting church so much by Easter, that you don’t darken the door again until Christmas Eve.
When I was in my thirties I had a best friend, such a kindred spirit that we were like sisters. We had a standing Saturday evening itinerary that consisted of a sushi dinner, then coffee at the bookstore, and finally shoe shopping. Every week. Our conversations were always the same and we knew exactly what to say to make the other one laugh. It was lovely.
But, as these things happen, over the years we moved to different parts of the country and lost touch. Oh, we’d reconnect from time to time, but it was never quite the same.
I believe our relationship with Jesus can feel a lot like this.
In our hearts, we know we love Jesus, but things get in the way. We rush to get out the door in the morning. Then spend the day running from one appointment to another. By the time we get home, we’re so tired we’re lucky if we eat dinner in front of the television and then stumble back to bed to begin the entire cycle six hours later.
And as with that friend we promise to call, but never do, our relationship with God becomes a fond memory.
I like to believe that God provided Lent to give us a chance to re-connect with our real best friend, God himself. Which is why I want us to think about the next forty days in a new way.
Instead of giving up something for Lent, join me in leaning in for Lent. Let’s spend the next forty days pursuing our most important relationship, the one we have with God through his son, Jesus Christ. Let’s approach it in the same way we would if we were re-kindling a relationship with a long-lost friend.
Where to start?
Instead of picking up the phone, speak out loud with God. Share what’s on your heart. Don’t worry about saying the wrong thing, God welcomes your honesty.
If you want a model to follow, try the outline of the Lord’s prayer:
1.     Give thanks to God for everything in your life and for your heavenly father.
2.     Ask for your needs, your daily bread.
3.     Ask God to forgive your shortcomings, just as you forgive others in your life.
4.     Pray that God will keep you safe as you go through the world.
5.     Finish by thanking God again and acknowledging that his is the power, the glory, and honor, forever. Amen!
If you believe that spending five minutes with God each morning can’t make a difference, try it for the next 40 days and see what happens. Imagine how happy you would feel if you received a phone call every morning from someone you loved, for no reason, except they wanted to say hello and wish you a good day. That’s a glimpse of how wonderful your brief prayer feels to God.
Let’s start right here. Let’s journey with Jesus for the next forty days. Let’s see ourselves walking toward God, toward a closer relationship that will change our lives forever.
Let’s start now.
During the coming weeks of Lent, I will share my Lenten journey to a closer relationship with God. I hope you will share yours, too. Write to me, tell me how it’s going.
As for my big 55th birthday celebration? I’m heading home to Florida, borrowing a friend’s beach condo, and spending a week with Mom. Sounds perfect.


Monday, February 27, 2017

Hot and Sour Soup - Slow Cooker Style






The other day I had the pleasure of have a bowl of hot and sour soup at our local soup store. It was delicious and the first time I'd had this soup outside of a Chinese restaurant.

It got me thinking that I'd like to make a pot of it myself.

It turns out that it couldn't be easier, especially making with a slow cooker. Making it at home also allows you to control the ingredients and it's much less expensive than buying it in a restaurant.

Best of all, it's very easy.

Here's my recipe....you'll notice that a I've used "to taste" quite a bit, because this soup really is to taste. So, taste frequently as you go along.

Into a medium size slow cooker add:

One green cabbage chopped into small pieces

Two pints of mixed mushrooms

One 14 oz block of extra firm tofu

Vegetable or chicken stock or water to fill the slow cooker after ingredients have been added

Low sodium soy sauce to taste

Rice Vinegar to taste

Ground hot pepper to taste

Ground black pepper

Set slow cooker to low and let it go for 4 - 6 hours.

At the end of the cooking time, taste and adjust seasoning again.

It's delicious!