Good Sport

Two of my grandkids play organized sports – basketball, soccer, softball and baseball. There are plenty of good reasons to play: health, socialization, teamwork, discipline and commitment. In my opinion the best reason for young children to play sports is to learn good sportsmanship. Winning is fun but learning to lose with grace is a gift. Statistically most grade school students are not destined to become professional athletes, however most will have to learn to deal with disappointment, failure and loss in their lives. So being a good sport is more about being good and less about sports.

Recently my nine year-old granddaughter played in a basketball game. The coach on the opposing team screamed at the top of his lungs throughout the entire game. He was truly hostile. He berated his players, he yelled at the referees, he shouted direction and correction non-stop. He was a textbook example of poor sportsmanship. How sad for the young girls on his team – several of whom shouted back at him to “shut up!” during the game. I was dumbfounded. This is 4th grade basketball in a Catholic school! It was hard to watch.

My first reaction was to give this guy a piece of my mind and then to send an angry letter to the Athletic Director of his school or the pastor of his parish or the Archbishop. But then I decided my energies would be better directed in a more positive way.

So instead here’s my open letter to Anna’s coach:

Dear Coach,

Anna B-ballThank you for your kindness toward my granddaughter. Thank you for your time and talent with these precious girls. Thank you for helping them learn and letting them have fun. I know that Anna loves her team and loves to play. I also know that she lacks height and talent but she has heart and soul. You are teaching her valuable life lessons: teamwork & team spirit, willingness to try harder, self-confidence, and most importantly good sportsmanship. She may be the tiniest player on your team but you and I both know that she is almost always the first to take a knee when a teammate is hurt. You can teach her to play tough but you are also teaching her compassion. Thank you for your good example.

God bless you,

A Grateful Grandfather

It’s interesting to me that during that awful game, my seven year-old grandson leaned over and said to me, “The other team is winning but Anna’s team is playing a better game, because they’re being good sports.”

Out of the mouth of babes…

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

Lenten Struggles

Growing up Catholic, Lent was mAsh Wednesday 2ostly a time of sacrifice and sinfulness for me. Promising to give up candy or soda or dessert and then not being able to keep the promise. So much pressure to be extra holy and sacrificial and so much guilt when I failed. I was sure that Jesus was very disappointed in me. After all, he suffered and died on the cross for my sins, so the least I could do was live for 40 days without Bazooka Bubblegum®.

As an adult I still struggle with Lent. I’ve given up stuff faithfully through the years: cursing, chocolate, cursing when I could find no chocolate. And I’ve done the “positive” spin on Lent, too. You know, doing good deeds and giving to charity. Being kinder, less judgmental, and not voting for Trump. But somehow it never feels like it makes a real difference. Not deep down. Not permanent.

When Holy Week comes I don’t have a spiritual awakening. When Lent is over I don’t feel like a changed man. Spiritual renewal – easy words to say; much harder to put into practice. Where to start? What to do?

Today’s Gospel helps:

Jesus said to his disciples:
“When you pray,
do not be like the hypocrites,
who love to stand and pray in the synagogues and on street corners
so that others may see them.
Amen, I say to you,
they have received their reward.
But when you pray, go to your inner room,
close the door, and pray to your Father in secret.
And your Father who sees in secret will repay you.

So maybe if I pray in my inner room (my heart) I will be changed. And maybe I have been changed a little each Lenten season and God is just waiting for me to figure that out. Perhaps that’s the little secret that God and I share – spiritual renewal doesn’t come in a flash of lighting or crash of thunder but in infinitesimal ways like tiny droplets of rain that erode the hardest granite after countless drops and unending persistence.

What I have to remember is that Lent is not a time for me to fix me. My only hope is that God will save me and that I will have the courage and humility to allow it.

Peace,

Denis

A Reason for Seasons

I often joke about the fact that no sooner than we rid the house of all the Christmas glitter and tinsel, it’s time to get out the Easter decorations. And then when we finally wipe that last bit of fake plastic “grass” out of the nooks and crannies, it’s time for barbecues and fireflies. And then pumpkins and so on and so on…

Perhaps my need for seasonal change is the reminder that life is indeed in constant motion. I mark time with events – birthdays, holidays, graduations, anniversaries. For me the cyclical nature of seasons is reassuring. It’s comforting to know that with the unknown comes the known. I face change and uncertainty with each passing day but I also have the reassurance of yet another season. Another Christmas, another Easter, another Thanksgiving. I believe the traditions that we celebrate with each season help keep me grounded. I believe that holding on to what I know helps me handle the unknown.

seasonThink about a favorite memory. Was it summer or winter? Spring or fall? That moment will never return but that season will. I’ve been told that we are creatures of habit, but I am also a creature of adventure. I need the security of the familiar, but I long for new experiences. I think that having seasons, those repetitions, those traditions, gives me an advantage while I summit the mountains; while I swim the oceans; while I explore the unknown. My life changes but soon it will be spring again and I will return to a familiar place.

The seasons also remind me that I can’t just expect tomorrow to be better. Life will always be challenging. Disappointment and heartache may fill my days but I must learn to be thankful for what I have. I should find peace and happiness now. I should treasure the gifts of love that I have been afforded in this life. Because winter comes, too.

There is some comfort in the surety of it all. The seasons help me remember to slow down once in a while and savor the moment. I thank God for my blessings (and even my struggles) and then I step out to face the unknown.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

 

 

 

 

Honor Your Father and Your Mother

My parents are old. 89 and 91 respectively. That might even qualify as really old. Of course my idea of “old” changes with each passing year.

One of the commandments (I know it’s in the TOP TEN) tells us to honor our parents:

Honor your father and your mother, that you may have a long life in the land the LORD your God is giving you. Exodus 20:12

mom dad 12-1-17Those are nice words but it’s not always an easy task, this honoring of your parents. Anyone with elderly parents will likely understand. At times it seems as if the roles have been reversed. My parents need more attention. They need more help. They need more understanding. They need more advice. They need more patience. They need more love. Their needs remind me of when we were raising our three children – always needing more than we had to give. And us always “running on empty” just doing the best we could.

Don’t get me wrong. My parents are doing very well for their ages. Remarkably well. And this may be part of MY problem. I still need to be “parented”. I still need their advice. I still need their attention. I still need their patience. I still need their love. And I don’t want to let go.

Recently Mom has had some health issues but she should be fine. Still her recovery at eighty-nine is not like it would have been 10 or 20 years ago and she is frustrated by this. The fact is: she has “Senior Citizen” children that expect her to live forever because she’s always been strong, healthy, active and alive. It’s selfish but it’s true. We need her to be our Mom not the other way around. Just the other day my Dad asked, my wife, Deb if she thought there was life after this life. It’s a startling question but when you’re ninety-one I suppose mortality is often on your mind. Another fact: Dad we don’t want you to leave us. Not now. Not ever.

But reality being what it is, I know that our life here on Earth cannot go on forever. I also realize that I am going to likely be facing some tough times ahead with my parents as they continue to age. Many of my friends and cousins have already lost one or both of their parents. Deb lost her Mom nearly 5 years ago. And none of us is ever ready to let go.

I will honor my parents them by giving them their dignity. I will honor them by helping where I can. I will honor them by “backing off” when I should. I will honor them by allowing them to make their own decisions. I will honor them by respecting their wishes and trying to be patient. I will honor them by remembering that THEY ARE THE PARENTS even if it seems at times that they need to be “parented”.

And I will do the best I can.

Peace,

Denis

 

 

Time and Time Again…

A new year. A new beginning. Again.

Most of us look at January as a time for a fresh start. A time for resolutions. A time to reflect on the past year and plan for the new year. It’s out with old; in with the new! Some years are better than others. Sometimes we are blessed during a specific year and will give the year credit for our happiness. Likewise there are times when we are very happy to see a year end. As if the year had something to do with our misfortune. Thank you 2017! Or good riddance 2017! Whichever it may be.

I suppose there may be a bit of superstition when it comes to the passing of time. My wife insists that we eat black-eyed peas on New Year’s Day. According to her grandmother it will bring good luck. Not eating them, well it’s not worth the risk. Nor the wrath. So I eat them every year. I believe that I’m luckier than you non-black-eyed pea eaters. Why tempt fate? After all I got to eat black-eyed peas for another year with the woman I love.

timeThe reality is that time (or a specific year) has little to do with how fulfilled I am in this life. Of course there have been plenty of crappy years but there have been many amazing years as well. We remember the year our well went dry (literally) – 1997 but we also cherish the memory of holding our newborns for the first time – so 1978, 1980 and 1983 were good years!

Still for me, it’s the countless nano-seconds of time that have most touched my heart and nourished my soul. A smile. A kiss. A gentle touch. A kind word. A thank you. A prayer. A hug. Those are the times that have mattered most. Sometimes fleeting and seemingly forgotten they are embedded so deeply in my psyche that they define me.

Watching the sun come up over the horizon. Witnessing a first step. Watching as a diploma was received. Exchanging vows. Looking on as snow gently falls from the sky. Hearing a song so beautiful that it brings tears to my eyes. Laughing until my sides hurt. This is time well spent. These are my glimpses of heaven.

I’m sure that I could benefit from some New Year’s resolutions. I know that this year could be the year that I finally improve myself (but not likely). Instead of trying to lose that extra 15 pounds or meet that savings plan goal or become fluent in Spanish, I think that I will slow myself down a bit and try to pay more attention to the small things.

Time flies. I just don’t want it to fly away without squeezing a little joy out of it.

Peace,

Denis

P.S. We’ve have managed to share some joyful time together.  (Happy Anniversary Deb)

 

  

Mary Said Yes

Author Joelle Chase writes, “Mary is an archetype of the feminine in all of us—man or woman—sometimes hidden or subverted, but always present and available, inviting us to embrace what appears small, unimportant, embarrassing, weak. She knew her strength, the miracle of her body that would knit Life out of God’s seed.” 

That’s a powerful statement and it runs counter to the image of a helpless, hapless, teenage Mary who is poor, afraid, pregnant, unwed and uncertain. Mary said yes. Not because the angel told her that she should, but because she knew her own strength, her potential and her power.

mother and childMothers are powerful! Ask any woman who has cared for a sick child; wept for the loss of life; fought for her child’s acceptance; guarded her offspring without flinching; celebrated joy and comforted heartache; loved unconditionally. All while saying “yes”.

Ask any man who loves a woman and he will tell you that mothers are powerful. When men can’t – women do. When fathers fail and flail; mothers take charge. No one loves like a mother; fights like a mother for what is right; dreams beyond her own capabilities like a mother. All while saying “yes”.

God could have come to earth on cloud or from a lighting bolt. Jesus could have appeared “poof” out of nowhere. But instead he was born to a woman as an infant. God chose to be loved by a mother. Jesus shared in the joy of being truly human; of being cradled in a mother’s arms; to know her strength and her tenderness.

We can all learn from Mary’s “yes”. Women and men alike. Yes to truth. Yes to courage. Yes to strength. Yes to gentleness. Yes to peace. Yes to love. Yes to life. Yes to God.

Peace,

Denis

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Luke 1:38

When you hear somebody say somebody hits like a girl
How does that hit you?
Is that such a bad thing?
When you hear a song that they play saying you run the world
Do you believe it?
Will you live to see it?

Sister, shoulder
Daughter, lover
Healer, broken halo
Mother nature
Fire, suit of armor
Soul survivor, Holy Water
Secret keeper, fortune teller
Virgin Mary, scarlet letter
Technicolor river wild
Baby girl, women shine
Female

When somebody laughs and implies that she asked for it
Just ’cause she was wearing a skirt
Oh is that how it works?
When somebody talks about how it was Adam first
Does that make you second best?
Or did He save the best for last?

Refrain

She’s the heart of life
She’s the dreamer’s dream
She’s the hands of time
She’s the queen of kings

Refrain

Rejoice Always

Yesterday was the 3rd Sunday of Advent. Pink candle Sunday. We light the pink candle to remind ourselves to rejoice even in times of longing.

Saint Paul tells the Thessalonians to “rejoice always”. I think it’s important to note that while he is making converts in Thessalonica, he was also was being persecuted by their enemies so he decides to high-tail it to Athens. So much for rejoicing.

So how do I rejoice? At times my world seems bleak and there is not much to celebrate. Of course I don’t have anyone trying to chop my head off in Thessalonica, so I suppose I should rejoice about that. Still, often I have anxiety, disappointment, heartache, and sadness. “Rejoicing always” seems to be a tall order. Our government appears to be in shambles. Our president continues to ‘play footsie’ with Vladimir Putin. The number of disgraced politicians, entertainers, and other public figures grows each day. We seem to be on the brink of war with North Korea. There are ever-expanding political, cultural, and economic divisions in our nation. And everywhere I turn, folks seem to be at odds.

What to do? What to do?

The clue for me is in the rest of Paul’s message: “Pray without ceasing” and “In all circumstances give thanks.”

rejoice I’m not that prayerful. Not in the “get-down-on-your-knees-bow-your-head-and-pray” sense of the word. I’m more of a “Oh, God!” “Help me!” kind of guy.

I do thank God for tons of stuff: My beautiful wife, who never gives up on me; my kids, who never seem to grow tired of me; my grandchildren, who never cease to amaze me; my friends, who never have abandoned me.

Still, my prayers of supplication and thanksgiving are more like fleeting thoughts (never fully formed or well articulated). Perhaps I should celebrate that, too. God listens to my prayers – poorly formed and selfish as they may be. I pray and God listens. I cry and God hears me. I try and God accepts my humble efforts.

So on this week before Christmas I will rejoice for all that is good (and not so good). And I’ll continue to work on the ‘always’ part. I may need your help…

Peace,

Denis

Rejoice always. Pray without ceasing. In all circumstances give thanks. 1 Thes 5:16-18