Thursday, April 28, 2016

On Being Lukewarm


Many Catholics no longer believe Jesus is truly present in consecrated Hosts. It is very, very sad because He is no longer shown the proper reverence. The lit red lamp signifies that our Blessed Lord is in the Tabernacle. We are close to Jesus, just not in the same manner as He was 2,000 years ago. So we must get the fundamentals right. When Jesus broke and blessed the bread, He said, “This *is* My Body.” And if this is not true, then nothing else is either.
We are beloved sons and daughters of God. Jesus died for you and me and all the others. So we don’t want to be minimalists, as in seeing how far we can get to the edge before falling off the cliff.
In Revelations 3:16 it’s quite ugly what will happen to lukewarm people: So then, because you are lukewarm, and neither cold nor hot, I will vomit you out of My mouth.
Yikes! So what does it mean? You are neither hot or cold, but being lulled into spiritual drowsiness. You lose the horror of sin, settle for mediocrity. Little by little you lose a moral life and will fall into mortal sin.
Our Lord says that those whom He loves, He rebukes and chastises. At times He is harsh but it is to jolt us out of lukewarmness. He doesn’t want to lose us.
So change. Begin again. Ask the Lord to help you. Ask the Blessed Mother. Your guardian angel. Ask the saints, especially the Little Flower.
Jesus, show me how to love with the little things. We have to start with little things because that is how we fall into lukewarmness, by despising the little things.
Father Bob shared a story while he was in Rome. All the priests need to do some sort of work, whether it is fixing cars or painting. Alas, Fr. Bob had no talent for the mechanical. So they asked him to work as an exterminator of the woodworm. It has a little beak and it makes a clicking sound so you have to look for little holes with fresh sawdust and listen for the clicking with a stethoscope. When you find it, you fill the hole with varnish using a syringe. It’s very satisfying work because you look and listen and you make progress inch by inch. There was a gilded wooden frame around a picture of Our Lady. It looked perfect … but when he picked it up, the frame crumbled. It was hollow on the inside. That’s what happens to us when we’re lukewarm.
There is no zeal, no heart, no real love. We are easily satisfied. Feel cynical about true piety. Faith diminishes. There is no charity. How many people miss the presence of angels?
Fr. Bob recounted another story. When he went to Sri Lanka it was hot, steamy, and everything grows and millions of critters that made him jump. If you walked even a little distance from your hut, you’d be in a jungle with 8 ft crocs, bats with a span of a meter, and 8,000 elephants. But the most difficult thing to deal with aren’t these, but the little mosquito. You have to do a thorough check before you settle into bed because it’s no fun being trapped with a mosquito.
And such is life. It’s always the little things. Murder is not a typical temptation, rather it’s the snide comment. It’s a lazy prayer life. Judas didn’t become a traitor right away. He was stealing small amounts of money. He went into a self-destructive mode because he had no real love.
A little act of love is worth a lot. So be a little flower. Be like the Little Flower.

Saturday, April 23, 2016


The last couple of weeks Max has slowly been preparing for prom. He picked up this corsage after school on Friday and let me tell you, it smells heavenly! A small thing of beauty. Here he is getting ready -- please do notice the cufflinks! Almost ready to head out the door ... doesn't he look dapper? I love that men's clothes never go out of style.

The three young men and three beautiful young ladies wanted to go together. One of them had the idea to meet at this beautiful private garden belonging to Mrs. Whaley (and now I must get the book!). Don't the young ladies rival the flowers? 



Ahem ... this whole prom preparation is a first for all of us! Neither Michael or I ever went, nor were we friends with anybody who did (we sound like such misfits and you'd be right in thinking so). But I wouldn't have minded dressing up to go dancing in a garden like this. It has a few private areas for stealing a kiss :) How do I know? Grin.

The kids are actually dancing at the USS Yorktown, docked at Patriot's Point. I wonder whether they'll also get a chance to tour it. We'd gone a couple of years back and I posted a few pictures here

Thursday, April 21, 2016

A Spiritual Retreat

I went to my first religious retreat. Silent. Even our meals were taken in silence. There was a lot of praying. I didn’t think I could hear Mass, pray the rosary, the stations, adore the Lord and meditate for this many hours every day for three days but the time flew. I was grateful for the 5-hr drive so that we could transition to our normal lives. 

The Carmelite retreat center was beautiful. There were paintings to lift our minds to God, even in the bathrooms. I copied a couple of sayings:
Count your blessings. (I have a pillow that says this too and Salina Yoon wrote a beautiful PB J). This little saying should be tattooed upon our hearts.
Seven days without prayer makes one weak.

What you are is God’s gift to you. What you become is your gift to God. ~ Hans Urs van Balthasar.
I loved this opening prayer before each meditation.

My Lord and my God, I firmly believe You are here, that You see me, You hear me. I adore You with profound reverence. I beg pardon for my sins and the grace to spend the time in prayer fruitfully. My Immaculate Mother, St. Joseph my father, my Lord, and my Guardian Angel, intercede for me. Amen.

Meditation on the Samaritan woman in John's Gospel:

We are like her. What is our encounter with Jesus like? He longs for a deeper relationship. And when we allow this, we are transformed. The Samaritan woman drops her water pot and announces to everybody that Jesus is the Messiah. It’s important to note that Jesus chooses imperfect people to spread His Word. Think about Mary of Magdala.
Another point is that God puts specific people in our lives, not just random people. We will have the greatest influence on the people in our immediate circle – our children, friends, parents. They are all here in this time and place by design. So be salt and light to them!

On Examination of Conscience and Mercy:
We belong to God. He made us. He knows us. So have no fear and anxiety when we go to make our confession.
On the cross, Jesus is not focused on His humiliation but how we are hurting the Father. “Father, forgive them for they know not what they do!” He cries.

And so, we too need to forgive those who’ve wronged us. And be quick to ask for pardon as soon as we realize we’ve done a wrong. “Don’t say, ‘he made me do it!’”
Funny story: A nun hauls in a boy because he bit another’s finger. “Did you bite his finger?” she asks. “Yes, sister,” says the boy. The nun is pleased with the boy’s forthrightness. “Why did you bite the finger?” The boy replies, “He put it in my mouth.”

Fri Mass – Homily

Feeding of the five thousand. It’s an impossible problem, but Jesus tells us what to do (sit down and distribute the food) and He provides the rest. He far exceeds our expectations. We must trust in Jesus.
And who is this Jesus? He is Son of the Living God! In Acts 5:34-42 a Pharisee observes what has happened to previous so-called prophets. He then advises the Sanhedrin, "have nothing to do with these men (the Apostles), and let them go. For if this endeavor or this activity is of human origin, it will destroy itself. But if it comes from God, you will not be able to destroy them; you may even find yourselves fighting against God."
That's enough to chew on for now :) More meditations to come later.

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Easter Break: Beaches and Books, Saints and Schools

We rarely take vacations -- our preferred thing is to stay home and relax -- but a change of scenery is lovely. I didn't know some hotels folded their towels like our fur-babies :) We had another goal this time: to check out Ave Maria University. What a gem! I will never forget the air so thick with the sweet smell of orange blossoms. Heady stuff. 

I was so impressed with both the students and faculty. Michael has already fallen in love with the town but it's a good decade before we can even think about retiring. I'm in awe of Tom Monaghan who had this great vision, putting Christ first and center. The oratory is a masterpiece; I could've spent all night there. The open steel-lattice work is an engineering feat. I love how the crucifix makes two shadows; as I was contemplating, the organist began to play When I Survey the Wondrous Cross. I love these sorts of coincidences. I wish I had decent pictures of the front of the church depicting the Annunciation -- take a look here

There is also a Mother Teresa Museum in town, I believe the only one outside of Calcutta. I loved seeing the letters she wrote in her beautiful handwriting to the current president of AMU. Imagine Mother Teresa needing a lawyer! But it's her sari that moved me most of all. Threadbare, her mending visible. It reminded me so much of my mother. I imagine those two chatting it up in heaven, smiling down upon us, praying for us. 

There was good eating and hanging out at the beach, as well as touring the Everglades, not a place you want to get lost. There are crocs. Lots of them. We did quite a bit of reading too. My favorites: A Call To Deliver: Tom Monaghan, Founder of Domino's Pizza and the Miracles and Pilgrimage of Ave Maria University by Peggy Stinnet; Write Away by Elizabeth George; Answering Jihad by Nabeel Qureshi.

On our way home we stopped in Port St. Lucie to venerate the relics of St. Maximilian Kolbe. I am so grateful that over this past year we've come in such close contact with holy men, women and children. The Saints are a gift to the Church. We picked up half a bushel of juicing oranges and boy is freshly squeezed OJ a treat!


Thursday, April 14, 2016

A Conversation with Kristy Dominiak

What am I doing reading a mid-life crisis book? My friend, Kristy Dominiak wrote it, that's why! It's not the typical thing I read, but I was surprised to find myself swept up in a tale that could happen to anybody. A general dissatisfaction with "is there all there is?" along with the desire of having some excitement in a marriage led Kristy deeper into discovering who she really is.

We met four years ago because both our daughters were in Mr. Z’s 5th grade class together and became friends. I still remember the first time I went to their home, and heard the story of how they acquired it. Kristy told me she was writing a book about their journey. That night I didn’t want to leave … I was enjoying myself thoroughly out on their back porch, rocking gently on the swing-bed. And today we complete the conversation that started more than four years ago. She has published The Shaken Snow Globe  and life as a published author is busy with speaking engagements! So I am grateful Kristy took the time to write to me.

I enjoyed your book very much Kristy, and have a new respect for having come through the challenges of dealing with your past without wrecking your marriage. I have an even greater respect for your husband.
Congratulations on the publication of The Shaken Snow Globe. It is a very intimate portrait of a woman trying to find meaning in her life. You have bared yourself. Did you have any fears going public with this? What do you hope for?
Most of my fears came from wondering if the story was well-written. Since I am not a trained writer I was insecure about whether or not my story would read smoothly and resonate with readers. Ironically, I did not have fears about going public with the personal nature of my story. Unlike the woman in the beginning of the book, my self-worth no longer comes from what others think I am (external labels), but from who I am on the inside. Since my husband and children supported the telling of my truths and love me for who I am, I had nothing to fear. My hope was to bring light to those who are living in shame and show that all humans can stop living in fear and are worthy of true joy. 

Well, I’d say you are a natural storyteller! You needn’t have worried one bit.
Whilst reading your book, I got the feeling that “Is this all there is?” is not as uncommon as we’d like to think. I have thought this very thought at various stages in my life – as a student, a scientist, and a stay-at-home mom. Do you think our culture is setting up our girls for disappointment? I am concerned that young women nowadays are not preparing even remotely for marriage and motherhood.
I believe the thought “Is this all there is?” stems from a culture that has emphasized the pursuit of happiness as an external thing. As a culture we have a tendency to think, “Once I get this or do this, then I will be happy.” I don’t believe true happiness can be found in the external, but only within our own faulty skin. If we continue to promote looking outside of ourselves for happiness and love, then yes we are setting our children up for disappointment. If one can learn to unconditionally love her imperfect self, then she can unconditionally love another imperfect human. One cannot give what she doesn’t have for herself. I learned to love myself exactly where I am, and thus can truly love others exactly where they are, including a husband and children.
Your faith is very important to you. Yet I was surprised that even being raised in the Church did not prevent you from flirting with the “near occasion of sin.” Do you think the preparation you received as a young woman enough? What do you wish you’d been taught or told that would’ve saved you from some of the heartache you went through? What would you do differently for your own children?
I think my religious preparation focused on the rules of the church, not the heart of the church. My faith stemmed from knowing about God, without really knowing God. Religious rules defined my self-worth and I believed I could earn love from God and others. I wish I would have been taught love is not earned - it’s unconditional. We try to teach our children there is a balance between rules and heart, and we need both. Without compassion, rules are just rules we will eventually break, because no human is perfect. The God I now know loves us as perfectly imperfect humans. Heartache and failure are inevitable, so the key component we talk about in our family is grace and the true meaning of unconditional love. Love is not earned; it’s only received with our free will.
You make an excellent distinction between knowing about God vs knowing God as a personal Father. As a convert, I found myself falling in love with the Person of Jesus Christ and it has made all the difference in the world.
Forgiveness is a huge part of your book. I’ve heard that it is one of the hardest things to live with – a sense of betrayal. Please share some tips on truly forgiving, even if you cannot forget.
In order to forgive, I believe you have to forgive yourself first. I learned it is not my fault if someone wrongs me. I am not to blame if I love a person who then betrays me. I cannot predict evil acts nor expect perfection from human beings. When I was able to acknowledge my own faults, forgive and love myself, then I was able to do the same for others. True forgiveness can come to light through humility and compassion. I learned to love my perfectly imperfect self the way God loves us all. When I experienced that kind of unconditional love, I could truly forgive others of their imperfections, because mine are forgiven too.
PTSD. I’m coming across this more and more in casual conversations. Are you discovering that more women have experiences like yours they bury in a closet? Do you still struggle with it?
Unfortunately, more women than I care to count have come forward with their stories of assault. Some are speaking their truths out loud for the first time. I see a common theme for the secrecy – shame. Women ask themselves the same questions, “Could I have prevented this?” “How could I love someone who would do this?” “Why didn’t I stop it?” Buried thoughts like these can fester like an undetected disease effecting every aspect of life. My trauma had stopped me from feeling worthy of being loved and trusting my heart, and unbeknownst to me, I was self-sabotaging my relationships. I did not have internal self-worth. PTSD treatment shed the light needed to see my hidden wounds and be able to address healing them. By not hiding in shame, I hope to give other women courage to escape the darkness. We can’t heal what we don’t acknowledge; we can’t acknowledge what we can’t see. Life is always evolving, and I am always learning more about my true self. My challenge is to stay vulnerable and open, despite my fears of being hurt or feeling shame. There is no shame or fear when you live in the light.    
Shame. It’s a terrible thing to live with. I know this too well … and I still struggle. Perhaps your book will give me the courage to be honest and humble as well.
What’s next? Are you writing another book?
To be honest, I’m not sure what’s next in the big picture. For now, I am enjoying meeting the wonderful women that have come out of the shadows to discuss their lives with me. It has been a humbling experience and I am blessed by the positive feedback from so many women. I haven’t ruled out writing another book, but for now I am peaceful letting God lead me down my next path. In the meantime, I’ve been asked to write short inspirational tips for 30 Second This endeavor will keep me writing and fully engaged with my spiritual journey.
Yes! I’m glad you will keep on writing. The world needs your voice.
Is there anything else that you’d like to talk about?
Thank you for this opportunity to express myself beyond the book. People often ask, “Why put your family in the public spotlight and share all the intimate details of your life?” It is a fair question and one I do not take lightly. Going public with the good, bad and ugly of one’s life is not for everyone. I would not have shared mine without the blessing of my entire family. I could have led a happy life without making my life public; however, I would have not felt fulfilled. I want others to feel the same peace that has graced my life. Since my prior worth had been defined by my pride, self-righteous rule following, and external attributes, I had to demonstrate true transformation is possible by setting pride aside and providing for others the hope of change. Life is a never ending journey, and despite our flaws, all humans are worthy of peace, joy and love. Thank you for taking an interest in my story.
Kristy Dominiak

Thank YOU, Kristy for taking the time to write such thoughtful and beautiful answers to my questions. I pray that Shaken Snow Globe will find its readers and give them hope and courage and joy.
You can learn more about Kristy at her website.

Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward by Nabeel Qureshi

Answering Jihad: A Better Way Forward by Nabeel Qureshi is an excellent primer for all people 14 yrs and older who desire to understand what we must do to fight jihad. Dr. Qureshi was a devout Muslim, who in his search to understand his faith better, came to Jesus. This is a man who deeply desired to know Truth and has found it, which he has documented in another book: Seeking Allah, Finding Jesus. I haven’t read too many conversion stories of Muslims so I’ll be interested in reading this. But I digress.

In AnsweringJihad, Dr. Qureshi answers the common questions he’s asked and the Q&A format works very well. He begins with the origins of jihad by going to the source – what Islam is and what the Quran and the life of Mohammad command. Many politicians are quick to say Islam is a “religion of peace” after the wake of any Muslim terrorist attacks for fear of retaliation upon the peaceful Muslim. However, any Muslim serious about his faith has three choices: to become apathetic, radicalized, or become an apostate. And more and more, many young Muslim men and women are becoming radicalized.
It is clear from the many questions answered that a secular humanist society cannot be the answer to the people who are passionate about their faith. A culture of moral decadence cannot appeal to a devout Muslim. Only another faith can truly fight Islam and that is Christianity. Not watered-down Christianity but the one that Jesus taught – to love even your enemies. Dr. Qureshi says, “This means living life with people who might be different from us. It means integrating communities and social circles. It means stepping out of our comfort zone and loving people unconditionally, perhaps even loving our enemies. And it means doing this from a place of genuine love, not ulterior motives.” The author gives examples of the recent Christian martyrs who became a witness to the faith.
This book was written quickly, in the span of three weeks, shortly after the attack in San Bernandino, which came on the heels of the one in Paris, but the book is not only highly readable, but accurate. Just a couple of weeks ago, the Brussels train station was the site of a suicide bomber. We must ask the question what to do about Muslim refugees – are they here to stay; will they impose sharia or will they assimilate? I believe the reason Europe is becoming Islamified is because Europeans have turned their backs upon their Christian roots. Simple demographics say that within a couple of generations, Muslims will be the majority. Can the same happen in the US? I believe so, if we stay on this insane path to godlessness. Dr. Qureshi proposes a way that upholds both truth and compassion, but it requires living like a true Christian, which I admit isn’t always easy.
Do give this book a read if you are unfamiliar with Islam. If you already have some background, this book will bring some clarity to the matter. If you really want to dive deeper into what we are struggling with, read Christianity, Islam and Atheism:the Struggle for the Soul of the West by William Kilpatrick. I reviewed it briefly here:
A big thank you to BookLook for providing a review copy of Answering Jihad.

Tuesday, April 5, 2016

First Robotics Competition

I am so proud of these kids from Team 4243! They are a young team but with the help of their amazing teacher, Mrs. Pickett, and the Boeing mentors, these kids are learning about making robots to specification. Each year, the team gets better and better, even as they add new kids. These are the results from the Palmetto Regional Competition: ranked 27 out of 90+ teams. Not shabby at all. I hope to watch these kids play in the finals one year.

I remember the first year Max started -- he was in 9th grade and overwhelmed at all the things he had to think about. He started on the programming team because that's what Michael helped with, but realized he didn't like it much. Next year, he made a quantum leap working on mechanical side. Now, in 11th grade, he is one of the older and more experienced kids and I see how easily he takes responsibility. From the beginning he has enjoyed photography and moviemaking, so do take a look at his latest from the competition: He's been staying up much too late editing the video clips. And of course, when I sell my novels, I'm going to have him make a trailer for them :) He's read my contemporary YA and already has ideas for the cover! Fire will be involved.

Monday, April 4, 2016

Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide

The Catholic Catalogue: A Field Guide to the Daily Acts that Make Up a Catholic Life by Melissa Musick and Anna Keating is exactly what it says, a field guide. For many cradle Catholics, this might not be necessary but given that only 30% of professed Catholics go to Sunday Mass, I am not sure. A brief conversation with some Catholic friends made me realize that many are Sunday Catholics who are missing out on the riches of the Church, the daily rituals and prayers that lift our hearts heavenward. As a convert, I am constantly learning about various traditions from devout Catholic families but this book is a wonderful primer for a neophyte on what it is to live a Catholic life. I suggest giving this beautiful and accessible book as a gift to the neophytes who are received into the Catholic Church at Easter.

The book is organized in such a way that it’s easy for a neophyte to begin anywhere, whatever piques his or her interest. It begins with what I think is a difficult subject: relics! So many people are appalled by the idea of keeping the mortal remains of a person, let alone venerate them. But the authors do a wonderful job of explaining how it can be a “doorway into the divine.” Just as you might keep a photograph of your grandparents to remember them by, so Catholics keep pictures of favorite saints to remember their lives, or go on pilgrimages to visit their tomb or touch a favorite rosary to the relics. “What we choose to keep tells us what matters to us.”

This section of the book is “Smells and Bells” and covers the sacraments and sacramentals, like holy water, oils, candles, clothes, medals, daily prayers, etc.

The bulk of the book is on the “Seasons of the Church Year” and is especially helpful for neophytes in learning the different ways of celebrating the various feast days in the life of Jesus, Mary and the saints. I do wish the authors had mentioned some of the older traditions before the changes made in Vatican II so that neophytes get a better sense of history but that is just a quibble. The very end of the book is devoted to seasons of a person’s life – childhood, adolescence and adulthood – and how to navigate them, including such things as finding a parish or making a spiritual retreat. It ends fittingly with the funeral liturgy. This book is a great resource for anybody who is interested in living a more vibrant and liturgical life, as well as a person who is simply interested in what it means to be Catholic. I highly recommend the Catholic Catalogue and thank Blogging for Books for providing me with a review copy.

Note: This book came about after a highly successful blog. Check it out.

Saturday, April 2, 2016

Ten Easter Eggs Signing at B&N

It was such a thrill to introduce kids to Ten Easter Eggs at our local Barnes & Noble Holy Sat. Their happy faces made me happy, not that chocolate eggs had anything to do with it. LOL. My daughter made the beautiful wreath, which I can now use for every TEE event.

The children were very attentive and loved counting the eggs and chicks. I had brought some Ukrainian pysanky designs for coloring and several children busied themselves with it. I now have a box of well-sharpened colored pencils for my own coloring :) After the children were gone, I signed stock. Gosh, I just love this writing life.