IN GOD WE MUST TRUST
There are so many wonderful quotes that can inspire us to a stronger faith life. Here is one from Leo Tolstoy: "I believe in God whom I comprehend as Spirit, as Love, as the Source of all. I believe that He is in me and I in Him."
Are we true believers? Do we totally trust in Him Who is the Source of all? Can we let go when things don't seem to be working out the way we thought and continue to believe that God is in control?
It is so easy to give thanks to God for the blessings that come into our life. Praising His name is so wonderful when a friend calls unexpectedly and plans to visit, or we get a raise in our pay, or discover that a new grandchild is on the way. Good news warrants thanksgiving prayers.
But how do we react when the opposite happens? If we learn that someone we love has just died, can we take a deep breath and say: "Thy will be done, Father." If we have just been told that the job we are doing has become redundant, can we accept that God will take care of our financial needs? Those are not easy questions. I believe that if we stay close to Him through daily prayer and know how to tune into His direction, His grace will surround us through all the difficult times and we can survive anything that life brings our way.
How do we turn the dial of our spirit to His frequency? The easiest way is through the practice of our faith. Whatever the community or denomination we follow, we can find support through daily prayer. If we begin each new day in thanksgiving, happy to be alive and prepared to face the joys and difficulties that may encompass that new day, then life will become an adventure in faith. We who believe in God, know that He walks through the days with us. He loves us and doesn't cause all the troubles of our day, but instead, is near to us to help us solve them.
Fear is the greatest enemy that we face. Psalm 27 says: "The Lord is my light and my salvation; whom shall I fear? The Lord is the defender of my life."
Believe those words. You are not walking alone. He loves you more than you can imagine. Trust Him in all things.
Joan Levy Earle
One of the best pieces of advice that my father gave to me prior to his passing was that "FRIENDSHIP IS A RESPONSIBILITY AND NOT AN OPPORTUNITY."
If we think about that statement we realize that true friends do not expect anything from us, but instead, they want to co-operate in every way possible to help to make our lives a little better. Perhaps that might even involve helping us face the truth about ourselves, or giving us advice that we really don't want to hear. Above all, they are interested in our welfare, how we are doing and are available when we are in need.
I recall a few months ago when my son died suddenly, I phoned a good friend to give her the sad news. She listened and then stated: "I will cancel my holiday plans for the week and be available for whatever you need." That was a huge gift of her time. There were certainly other people around to also assist but she was a friend from my church community and each morning after daily Mass, she would inquire if I needed help for anything in particular. One morning she took my granddaughter and I shopping for funeral clothes. Another morning, she picked up coffee and brought it to our family. Perhaps they were simple efforts but such valuable gifts of her time. Her presence was calming and comforting. She was also chosen to do the readings at the funeral, just as she had done for my husband's funeral, my second wedding, and then for my son.
Friendship means availability. I am sure you know people who are a part of your lives and seem to be happy to assist when there seems to be something for them to gain for themselves. Those people may have good intentions, but the reality is that they are opportunistic. If it suits their schedule or it doesn't inconvenience them, then they are happy to oblige.
What a blessing it is to have people in your life who love you in spite of your faults and, your weaknesses. They are true gifts from God and their presence in your lives enhances your own journey. Today you might want to say a little prayer of thanks as you examine those people you might consider to be real friends.
My dad also added: "If you can count those who are true friends on one hand, you are rich." With friendship, it is not about quantity, but instead, quality. Even the Bible speaks of that when it says in Sirach, chapter 6: "A faithful friend is a sturdy shelter; he who finds one finds a treasure…. A faithful friend is a life-saving remedy…"
May the Lord bless those who have blessed our lives with true friendship!
Joan Levy Earle
THE DIGNITY OF WORK
So often we hear people comment that they are not sure if they are ready to retire. Wives might say that they are expecting it will be such a big change to have their husbands around the house on a daily basis. The same holds true for some husbands, who seem so lost when they have to leave their regular work routines.
If a person has a hobby that can occupy a lot of their spare time upon retirement, it is an added bonus. We have all been given gifts and it is up to us to find ways of using them. Perhaps it is the gift of patience to spend time with a friend or relative in a nursing home, or a green thumb that inspires you to help a neighbour with their gardening. There are many outreach programs that are always in need of volunteers. Once a person is retired and on pension, the possibility of choosing to spend one's extra time doing something to make another life better, seems a very important job to take on. If our financial needs are being met, then we can work to make our neighbourhood a better place by sharing our time and talents as a volunteer.
In Canada we have just celebrated Labour Day. For us, this is the day that falls just before the elementary and high school students return to classes. Labour Day can be looked at as another new beginning to our daily routines. We think about getting back to regular schedules of activities with holiday time behind us.
There is a reminder too of all of those who are unemployed, and sincerely searching for work. The age of technology has stolen many of the tasks that used to provide jobs for people. Remember the days when managers had secretaries who typed all their letters? Most executives do their own correspondence now, mostly by email. A number of manufacturing jobs have disappeared because of robotic technology. The human element has diminished along assembly lines. Yet, each of us needs to have something satisfying to do each day.
Work is essential to our happiness. Our minds need stimulation and our bodies need activity. For our souls, that sense of satisfaction when a job is completed successfully cannot be duplicated.
If you are retired and feeling just a little bored with your life, take a look around your community and inquire about ways that you can offer your talents. Whether it is serving at a local soup kitchen, volunteering to drive cancer patients or reading to a blind person, your own life will be enhanced by the sharing of your time. That smile of gratitude you will receive is worth the effort.
As it is written in Ecclesiastes 3:1, "there is an appointed time for every event under heaven…" If you have entered your retirement time, why not thank God for the freedom to serve Him in new ways.
Joan Levy Earle
Pope Francis has declared that 2015 should be considered the Year of the Family. There will be a special synod on the family in Rome in October as well as meetings in the United States in September.
For each of us, this declaration can offer an opportunity to make improvements within our own families. After all, a change in the world has to begin within each of our own households. We cannot expect to pray for world peace if there is no peace within our own hearts. We have no peace in our individual families if we are struggling to forgive someone who has hurt us, like a brother or sister, a mother or father, or someone else close to us in our own neighbourhood. Remember how Jesus spoke about forgiveness and said we have to be willing to forgive not just seven times, but seven times seventy. That means we have to forgive one another often.
When we are angry and hold a grudge, it is within our own hearts that there is suffering, sadness and bitterness. The person we are upset with is not feeling all these emotions; we are doing that all by ourselves. So we help ourselves first by letting go of negative feelings and giving these troubles to God the Father, and His Son Jesus. They will take them from us and heal the pain inside our hearts.
Then when we encounter that person who wronged us we do not have a heavy heart. Instead, we can look at them and believe that they deserve another chance. No words need be said. Your relationship can improve through God's grace and your open heart. This is especially true for married couples. Happiness can return with a simple smile and one "I am sorry."
The family is a special haven where we can feel protected, loved and even cherished. In our church community, we can find this same compassion at times when we need it the most. How blessed we are when we are believers, and we practise our faith through regular attendance at a place of worship.
No matter what the circumstances of life that we will have to face, we know we will always find comfort from the family of God.
Joan Levy Earle.
The Family of God
When we hear the word family, we realize that usually this word is referring to blood relatives. When Jesus spoke about the family, He often described another family; His family. He was referring to those who hear the word of God and live it.
During the recent passing of my son John, I discovered again just what Jesus meant when He spoke of those who seek to follow Him. I have been supported through the prayers, cards, phone calls, hugs by acquaintances in the grocery store, sympathetic smiles at the bank and this outreach has helped all of us who are grieving the loss of my son.
The family of God is everywhere. To recognize it we just have to be in tune with His will, and trust that He is watching over us, and will find ways to comfort us through the dark valley of the shadow of death. I have always loved the words of the 23rd Psalm, especially the first line: "The Lord is my shepherd, there is nothing I shall want." In the last couple of years I have walked through this valley with the loss of a husband, then a mother and now my son. Yes, my faith was tested but each time, by the grace of God, I was uplifted and survived the sadness.
The kindness of people who share our world, especially those of our faith community, offers us the tools we need. Time is a great healer, and as long as we continue to put one step in front of the other, with our hand holding tightly to the hand of God, we will make it.
I live in a small community of less than 50,000 people and it is a blessing. My son loved his hometown very much and spent many years promoting it as a great place to live. Although I had moved away for ten years, I am happy that I returned a few years ago and once more, am experiencing the reasons why he never left. He was able to follow his dreams and raise his children here, and left a legacy of friends who are now supporting all of us.
Look around your world today and see the family of God who are supporting you as you travel your journey. Take time to celebrate those friends of God who will be there for you when you are in need.
Joan Levy Earle
Make every day count
I opened my mailbox yesterday to find it full. I hated the reason why, but in time, the pain will subside.
I just attended the funeral of my only son, John Earle, who died on July 18. He was 43. He had been scuba diving, but had surfaced and signaled to his wife that he was in distress. She swam out to him, the paramedics came, but he had succumbed to a massive heart attack.
Hundreds of people came to pay their respects; people of all faiths, young and old. They all said the same thing. We will miss his smile, his ability to listen sincerely, and his passion for life.
How does one survive such a shock? John's older sister Lisa said: "I didn't just lose my brother; I lost my special friend." She is an only child now. She knows too that her responsibility will be to help to keep his memory alive for his two children, a son who is 9 and an 11 year old daughter. John also gained a 20 year old step daughter, through marriage to Alyssa Blais.
Some years ago I learned from the writings of St. Josemaria Escriva that it is not enough to simply say: "Oh well, it is God's will."
Escriva, the founder of Opus Dei showed me that we must truly embrace His will. To embrace means to pray daily that the challenges of life should never be questioned. To question means that we are not living faithfully; at one with the will of Our Father in heaven Who gives us our daily bread.
This new challenge will certainly be difficult for me; we are not supposed to outlive our children, but I know I am not the only mother who has suffered such a loss.
I take comfort that my community loved my son very much, my church continues to pray, which is supporting John's wife, sister, his children and myself as we walk this path of grief.
The grace of God sustains us.
I suggest you hug those you love a little tighter this week; who knows if it might be your last chance.
Sincerely, Joan Levy Earle
We all need a reason to get out of bed each morning. For young parents, the sound of their youngsters awake in their cribs is all the motivation they need. For the middle aged, hopefully, it is a career that they continue to enjoy. Then there are those in my age category; the seventh decade brigade who are retired and still very active.
Five out of seven mornings I am motivated by a visit to daily Mass, and that half hour gives me a great start to my day. I see friendly faces and hear a short reflection on the day's readings;, a perfect beginning. For those who live alone, those short conversations as we leave the church remind us that we are a part of a caring community.
Last week, our pastor gave us a serious subject to ponder for the day. He spoke about the value of a name. One of the commandments states that we should not take the name of the Lord in vain. Well, how many of us have cursed and used His name when we are frustrated and upset? With patience, and as we grow older and wiser, we learn to control that bad habit.
The other fault that often occurs is the way we speak of our neighbour. How often have we been a part of spreading gossip about someone? Although we may hear it, we have a duty not to repeat what we hear. The spread of gossip should stop with us. Our tongues should be used for praise, and never to be a part of passing on information about others.
Friendship is a delicate and precious gift which can be easily tainted by passing along information that was shared with us in confidence. The best way to avoid promoting gossip is to keep private what should be kept to oneself. We are human and therefore, we make mistakes. All of us are guilty of letting our tongues get the better of us at times. Whether it is hurting someone through criticism, or gossip, or indifference, we should always be prepared to start each new day trying to do better.
God knows we are not perfect. He is always ready to forgive us our trespasses. We can pass along that same kindness to those around us who may have hurt our feelings. We can sincerely accept their apology, and then, forget the deed that was done.
Our life here is short compared to the future on the other side. Every effort we make here will give us peace of mind for today and be a bridge to eternal life.
Joan Levy Earle
One of the advantages of living in a smaller city is the proximity of places of worship. In my city in Ontario, Canada, there are two churches offering daily Masses within five blocks of my apartment building. I decided when I moved back home that I would not buy a vehicle. Having not driven for seven years, it would have taken a lot of practise for me to have felt confident behind the wheel. I had only been driving a few years prior to moving to a metropolis of several million people, so I felt it wise to now rely on public transportation.
I manage to walk many of the places I need to go, but a few times a week I treat myself to a bus ride from my studio, rather than walk the twelve blocks home. I find this experience humbling as many people recognize my face from the weekly column I write for our daily newspaper. They will smile a friendly greeting, and it is a reminder to me that I am back in my hometown.
I enjoy attending daily Mass; it's a wonderful way to start a day. Being a widow, I continually adjust to cooking for one person, am without a shared conversation most evenings, as well as finding it necessary to make important life decisions on my own. Within my parish family, many smiles await me before and after the morning service. It is also a privilege to be offered a ride on the days when I am heading to work in my studio. As I have told my 'driving friends', you will always find me a grateful passenger who prays thanksgivings for their kindness.
It may seem a simple thing to some people; the offer of a ride. But it is another way that people can bless their neighbours. Whether it is the need of someone to get to a doctor's appointment, helping a friend to pick up groceries or through a lift to a shopping centre across town, those who have vehicles can bless others by offering them a ride.
There are many other ways that we can assist others. A phone call to an out-of- town relative who is elderly, a visit to someone in hospice care or just a piece of pie to someone in your apartment building, these gestures of love will bless our neighbours. I am sure that we bring a smile to God's face when we do and will reward us in His own time.
Joan Levy Earle
You and I were made in the image of God; that is the essence of our Christian faith. This means that we have many God-like attributes and are capable of loving deeply, caring for others and trying to live a proper life.
As we all know, what happened in the Garden of Eden those many years ago, made it necessary for a Saviour named Jesus Christ to be born. The advice given to our first parents not to eat from the tree of knowledge took away their innocence and has left all of us open to temptation.
It is human to be tempted and we must learn that there is always another chance offered to us. Our God is a God of mercy and love. If we sincerely repent of our mistakes and indiscretions, He will forgive us. The more difficult effort may come in the ability to forgive ourselves.
You have heard the phrase: "To err is human; to forgive is divine". We know this and yet how often in our families have we held grudges? How often do we 'take our time' in saying 'I forgive you' to someone who has hurt us? If we are truly trying to live a Christian life, we must make the effort to accept an apology immediately and sincerely, with no grudges held. As well, when we know that we have hurt someone we care about, let us be ready to offer our own apology quickly.
In the Roman Catholic Church, the Sacrament of Reconciliation is a treasure. To be able to hear the words: "I absolve you of your sins….in the name of the Father, and the Son and the Holy Spirit" brings the gift of peace to a penitent's soul. We walk away from a good confession with a lighter heart, rejoicing that we can begin again to live the way God expects. A monthly confession is the best way to stay on track.
Our future is in God's hands. Only He knows the hour that we will leave this world and begin the journey towards eternal life. We know that our bodies will remain but our souls will continue. We owe it to our souls to be prepared for the end of our time on earth. Confession cleanses the soul; a purified soul is our responsibility if we are trying to follow Christ in our daily living. Of course we will fall; He knows that.
The true secret of happiness is peace of mind and heart. Confession is the best source of that peace. We taste a little bit of heaven each time we offer our souls to be cleansed through the Sacrament of Reconciliation.
JOAN LEVY EARLE
When I became widowed for a second time in 2013, I decided to move back to my hometown where my mother, my son and my two grandchildren resided. The hand of providence assisted because I phoned the landlord of my 91 year old mother's apartment building and was pleasantly surprised that there would soon be a vacancy right across the hall from Mom.
I started packing and booked the mover. My mother and I chatted on the phone each day, and though her health wasn't great, her mind was alert and she was excited that I would soon become her neighbour. Just two weeks before the move, my mother died. She had a short hospital stay, thank God, and she was prepared spiritually to join my father, who had passed away five years earlier.
It was a tough few weeks; settling my furniture and helping my sisters to clear my mother's two bedroom apartment of her possessions. There was comfort knowing my mother had lived with the anticipation that I would soon be so much closer. I also felt that God had chosen this home for me, and I accepted His decision to take my mother home to Him.
I miss her terribly, of course, but the building is conveniently located close to my parish church, and walking distance to a shopping centre. I remember Mom saying that I should try to find a place close to my church, because church is a priority in my life. I had not even considered her building in the beginning, but one day, during a visit with her, a voice in my head said: "Call your mother's landlord." I argued that I didn't have time, with a train to catch, and would do it later. "Call the office now," the voice repeated. Well, I finally gave in, and within a half hour, the decision had been made. With the apartment across the hall soon to be available, it really seemed to have been ordained from heaven. I had checked out a few other buildings but none of them measured up to the place where Mom had lived for twenty years.
I won't ever forget the smile on my mother's face as she said good bye to me that day. There would be no nursing home for her; I would be her caregiver. We were both looking forward to the future. But God had other plans for Mom.
St. Josemaria Escriva said: "It is not simply enough to accept God's will; we must be ready to embrace it." I trust that God saw that my mother was tired, and her time had come. Although it was not easy to become orphaned and widowed within a six month period, I am happy that I can easily attend daily Mass, and the memories of the good times spent across the hall with my parents bring a special joy to my heart.
And when my grandchildren visit, they often remark that their great- grandmother used to be just across the hall. It's a special memory that warms all of our hearts.
Joan Levy Earle