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Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Do You Know Who I Am?

Photo Credit:  alexasion78 from
I want to start this week’s Sips with a nice little story from Mikey’s Funnies:

It was the final examination for an introductory English course at a university.  Like many such freshman courses, it was designed to weed out new students, having over 800 students in the class.  The examination was two hours long, and exam booklets were provided.  The professor was very strict and told the class that any exam that was not on his desk in exactly two hours would not be accepted and the student would fail.

Half an hour into the exam, a student came rushing in and asked the professor for an exam booklet.

"You're not going to have time to finish this," the professor said, as he handed the student a booklet.

"Yes I will," replied the student.  He then took a seat and began writing.

After two hours, the professor called for the exams and the students filed up and handed them in--all except the late student, who continued writing.

Half an hour later, the last student came up to the professor who was sitting at his desk preparing for his next class.  He attempted to put his exam on the stack of exam booklets already there.

"Oh, no you don't!  I'm not going to accept that.  It's late."

The student looked incredulous and angry, "Do you know who I am?"

"No, as a matter of fact, I don't," replied the professor with an air of sarcasm in his voice.

"DO YOU KNOW WHO I AM?!" the student asked again.

"No, and I don't care," replied the professor with an air of superiority.

"Good," replied the student, who quickly lifted the stack of completed exams, stuffed his in the middle, and briskly walked out of the room.

Some of us may or may not have done something of the sort.  We will neither confirm nor deny it though, right?  I enjoyed the story, mostly because it reminded me of something wonderful.

The sneaky little student in the story kept asking the professor if he knew him and the professor admitted that he didn’t know him by name.  The student clarified this fact a second time and was elated because his anonymity meant he still had a chance to pass his English course.

Being anonymous might work in certain situations like this one.  BUT!  Oftentimes, we don’t want to be anonymous.  We want to be seen.  We want to be heard.  We want to be needed.  We need to be wanted.  The great news is that there is someone who always sees us, hears us, wants us, and needs us.

That someone is God.

If we would ask Him, “Do you know who I am?”…He will always answer yes.  He will give us a deep, resounding yes to knowing who we are - our strengths and weaknesses, our faults and insecurities, our good and bad habits, our successes and failures…the number of hairs on our head.

Many times, I forget how incredible that is.  Someone knows our moods, temptations, sins, thoughts, and flaws and loves us despite all of that.  We don’t have to explain ourselves to God.  He knows us.  We don’t have to convince God of this or that.  He knows us.  We can just be still with Him in silence because He knows us.  Take a moment to breathe all of that awesomeness in because it’s truly beautiful…and comforting.  God knows exactly what we need even before we ask.

Another thing that I sometimes take for granted is the amazing gift of our Lord, truly present in the Eucharist.  I take for granted the awe of the bread and wine becoming His body and precious blood.  Jesus knows every single thing about us, good and not-so-good, and still desperately wants us at the Eucharistic Celebration.  Wow.

Matthew Kelly wrote an absolutely wonderful prayer about the Eucharist that I’d like to share:  “My Lord and my God, I firmly believe that you are present in the Eucharist.  Take the blindness from my eyes, so that I can see all people and things as you see them.  Take the deafness from my ears, so that I can hear your truth and follow it.  Take the hardness from my heart, so that I can live and love generously.  Give me the grace to receive the Eucharist with humility, so that you can transform me a little more each day into the person you created me to be.  Amen.”  Love it!

During this Lenten season, I hope to take steps in the right direction as I get to know our Lord more and more intimately, like He knows me.  So, when He asks me, “Do you know who I am?”…I want to be able to give Him a deep, resounding YES! 

Won’t you join me?

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

The Knots

Photo Credit:  krosseel from
February is known to many as the month of love.  There are copious quantities of chocolate-covered strawberries, pink hearts, red roses, jewelry, stuffed animals, balloons, and more chocolate-covered chocolate. 

All of those things are certainly lovely, but, is it really only about those things?  Nah.  Not really.  (insert clapping and cheering from the fellas – hee hee!)  It’s wonderful to make sure our loved ones know they’re loved on one certain day because oftentimes we take them for granted and don’t tell them nearly enough.  However, I’m a huge fan of loving on them all year long.

In addition to loving on our family and friends, Father Bentil shared something very interesting in his homily over the Valentine’s Day weekend.  He encouraged us to do something we’ve probably never done before.  He invited us to write a letter…to ourselves.  Yes…ourselves.  He instructed us to address it:  “To my dearest Valentine, [insert your own name].”  He said that the entire letter had to be positive and needed to address our strengths and things that we’re good at.  He mentioned that we couldn’t write anything negative about ourselves or imply anything about our weaknesses.  Hmmm...

I thought it was a fascinating idea.  We’re all pretty good at negative self-talk, aren’t we?  But, what about positive self-talk?  Are we just as practiced at that?  I’m thinking the overwhelming response to that last question would be, “No.”  Sometimes we just feel like we’re a mess of tangled knots and it’s hard to focus on the good stuff.

Pope Francis addressed a crowd at St. Peter’s Square in October of 2013 and shared, “We know one thing: nothing is impossible for God’s mercy!  Even the most tangled knots are loosened by His grace.  And Mary, whose ‘yes’ opened the door for God to undo the knot of ancient disobedience, is the Mother who patiently and lovingly brings us to God, so that He can untangle the knots of our soul by His fatherly mercy.”

For undoing the knots of our lives, Pope Francis has a prayer to honor Jesus’ precious mother, Mary.  Part of the prayer goes like this, “Through your grace, your intercession, and your example, deliver us from evil, our Lady, and untie the knots that prevent us from being united with God, so that we, free from sin and error, may find Him in all things, may have our hearts placed in Him, and may serve Him always in our sisters and brothers.  Amen.”  Beautiful.

Ironically, my friend, Mary Lea, handed me a prayer card last week as I was formulating this blog post in my mind.  God works that way and I love it!  Here’s the amazing “Knots Prayer” that she gave me (Author Known to God):

Dear God,
Please untie the knots that are in my mind, my heart, and my life.  Remove the ‘have nots’, the ‘can nots’, and the ‘do nots’ that I have in my mind.  Erase the ‘will nots’, ‘may nots’, and ‘might nots’ that may find a home in my heart.  Release from me the ‘could nots’, ‘would nots’, and ‘should nots’ that obstruct my life.  And most of all, Dear God, I ask that you remove from my mind, my heart, and my life all of the ‘am nots’ that I have allowed to hold me back, especially the thought that I am not good enough.  Amen.

Oooohh…wow.  That prayer was powerful for me.  Sometimes our knots include all kinds of “nots” like those mentioned in that prayer.  Actually, much of our negative self-talk includes those “nots.”  Whether we’d like to admit it or not, we all talk to ourselves.  Some of us actually do this out loud and answer ourselves too.  But what if, through prayer, we could erase some of those nots?  They’d become these uplifting words instead:  have, can, do, will, may, might, am.

  1. I HAVE everything I need.
  2. I CAN do all things through Christ who strengthens me.
  3. I will DO the will of God each day.
  4. I WILL give testimony to my belief and trust in Jesus.
  5. I MAY not be perfect, but God loves me anyway.
  6. I MIGHT make mistakes daily, but I can still give love and make a difference in someone’s life.
  7. I AM a beautiful child of God.

In addition to connecting to God in prayer, one of the things that helps to undo the knots in my own life is when I get to witness unselfish acts of love.  Last week, I was having lunch with my son.  We both were wearing our “Sydney Strong” t-shirts in honor of my 11-year-old goddaughter who is bravely battling cancer.  My son’s friend asked us about our cool matching shirts.

I told him that a few weeks back, we had a t-shirt campaign to raise money for her medical bills and treatments at MD Anderson.  Without asking any further questions, he reached under the lunch table and pulled a ten dollar bill out of his wallet.  He slid it over to me and said, “Can you please give this to her for me?”  I almost starting bawling, but I held it together and maintained my composure in the school lunch room…you know…for my son’s sake.  Once my tear factory opens up, it can be quite the sight.  Let’s just say that I’m not a pretty crier.

Of course, I thanked this young man over and over for his generosity.  He’s eleven and so is my goddaughter.  It hit home with him, I think.  I was blown away at his unselfish gesture of love for someone he didn’t even know.  I asked him to check with his mom first and she said it was okay for him to donate.  He wanted to send his donation with a card, so I sent one to school for him to sign.

February is INDEED the month of love…THAT kind of love and I just LOVE that!  The month of February also holds a special date for me.  I began this little blog called Sips of Sunshine three years ago on Feb. 16, 2012 and I’m so glad I did.  Thank you for spending time with me in my little corner of the internet.  I’m so blessed that you’re here!

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, February 10, 2015

The Bull's Sunday Sermon

Photo Credit:  Sgarton from
Our family enjoyed Father Bentil’s homily on Saturday evening.  His focus was on the need for prayer.  He reminded us that we can’t change unless we pray.  We can’t transform unless we pray.  Consistent prayer has incredible power in our lives.  Father Bentil attended Matthew Kelly’s event in January and the take-home message he walked away with was the need for daily prayer.  I’m so glad he chose to share that piece of inspiration with our parish family.

I simply adore this gem of prayer advice from Matthew Kelly’s book, A Call to Joy:  “Sit with the Lord and say, ‘Lord, I have this problem.  This is the situation…these are the circumstances…What do you think I should do, Lord?’  Explain the problem to Jesus as clearly and completely as you can and then listen.  Yes, listen.  I am not saying that you will hear an audible voice, but I am sure that in some way God will lead you, direct you, and answer you.  He may just tell you to be patient or to wait.  He may inspire you to take some action.  However He chooses to communicate with you, you will find peace if you listen carefully and follow the inspirations of your prayer.  Peace is the proof that God is present in your plans.”  I JUST LOVE THAT!  Don’t you?

Father Bentil encouraged us to make time for prayer.  We often say to another, “I will pray for you.”  But do we?  Do we actually carve out time to pray for the individual we promised to pray for?  It’s difficult in our sometimes over-scheduled and over-committed day to chisel out prayer minutes.  But, it’s essential.  Oftentimes, we neglect to give prayer a high priority and it’s the most rewarding gift we can give to ourselves, our family, and our friends.  AND, it’s completely free.

Matthew Kelly explains, “In prayer, God reveals to us the plan for happiness that He holds for us.  In prayer, He nourishes us and fills us with hope, giving us strength to continue along the journey.”

A few months ago, my mom sent me a touching prayer about healing from an online publication called Daily Word:

I am whole and well in mind, body, and spirit.  When electrical equipment malfunctions, I first check to see whether it is plugged in.  Similarly, when I experience dysfunction or disease in mind or body, I check whether I am “plugged in” to God.  If I have harbored faulty ideas, I let them go.  If I have given power to beliefs of disharmony or sickness, I disconnect from those thoughts and reconnect to Truth.

Established in right thinking, I allow the light of Truth to heal and transform me.  As I experience healing from the inside out, I feel great ease and aliveness.  I deeply trust life’s divine and perfect unfolding.  No matter where I am in my healing process, I know that perfection and wholeness are my Truth.  God is my health and well-being.

In addition to Scripture, homilies, inspirational books, seminars, and online publications, we can hear God speaking to us in our everyday life.  We can find sermons in the midst of our day-to-day if we open our ears to listen and our eyes to see.  I heard a sermon on Sunday…from a bull.  Yep.  Here’s the scoop:

My sweet husband was working this past weekend so he wasn’t with us on Sunday.  The kiddos and I headed home after CCD only to find that a bull and a cow had pushed through a pasture fence and made themselves comfy in our yard.  My children were devastated when they saw that the bull had crushed our orange tree, as well as our 5-foot pine tree that they had grown from a 6-inch twig.  There was wailing and crying echoing from the back seat of my car.  “How could that bull DO that?!” they hollered.   They were sad.  They were angry.  They watched the cattle continue to trample all over our plants, trees, and grass as we sat in the car feeling so helpless.

Over the past couple of weeks, we’ve had plenty of rain…so much so that the pastures are a sloppy, muddy mess.  There isn’t much grass to munch on, so my husband has been feeding them cattle cubes and hay every day.  But, we all know how the grass appears so much greener on the other side, right?  Well, the cows agreed.  So they headed on over to see what was there.  They probably munched on some clover, a bit of grass, and obviously a lot of orange tree leaves and pine needles.

I’m not a cattlewoman by any stretch of the imagination, so I had NO idea what I was going to do to get those cows back in the pasture.  The bull is gentle, but he does weigh over 2,000 pounds.  Essentially, he could “accidentally” push me down and sit on me and that would be the end of that.  (On multiple occasions, my husband has assured me that the bull wouldn’t hurt a fly…hmmm…)  The bull just stared at me when I drove closer to where they stood.  I called my husband in a panic and he tried to calmly walk me through what to do to corral them.  (For me personally, a one-ton bull and “calmly” don’t belong in the same sentence, but what do I know?)

I knew I would need some back-up assistance from the kiddos.  I gave them tissues to wipe away their tears and we created a cattle round-up game plan.  So, while the bull and cow were checking out the play set swings, I dashed (as much as you can dash in church clothes) to open one of the gates.  Then, as the cattle meandered around, my son and daughters made a bee line into the barn to get a bucket of cubes.  I stared at the bull.  He stared at me.  No one moved.  Time stood still.  That is, until the bull heard a familiar sound.

His black ears flinched and fluttered several times when he recognized the sound.  He and the cow immediately found the open gate and darted toward the joyous sound of cubes.  To them, cubes equal happiness.  To them, there is NOTHING better than delicious cattle cubes.  My son had placed some cubes in a bucket and shook it vigorously over and over to get their attention.  Boy, did it!  With the cattle back in the pasture, I hurried to close the gate and the kiddos ran to the car.  We were all sweating and the adrenaline made our tummies queasy.  But, we did it.  We did it together and we were proud of our teamwork.

That evening, I thought about our cattle fiasco.  The cattle wandered over to see if there was anything better.  The cattle were tempted and strayed away.  The cattle made a royal mess on the other side of that fence.  But, just the simple sound of cubes got them back on track.  They forgot all about why they wandered off in the first place.  They knew that sound.

In a bizarre way, I heard a sermon in all of this.  Don’t we wander off to see if there is anything better?  Aren’t we tempted?  Don’t we stray?  Don’t we sometimes make a mess of things?  Yes, yes, yes, and yes.  BUT!  The simple sound of God’s voice can get us back on track.  The glorious sound of God working in us and through us can help us get re-focused when we stray.  That sound equals happiness.  There is nothing better than the voice of God in our lives and it should have us literally running to Him.

How can we find the voice of God?  It’s simple. 


Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!

Tuesday, February 3, 2015

That Night

Photo Credit:  dantada from
From the outside, it seemed to be a pretty typical January night in Houston, Texas.  There was a chill in the moist evening air and the sun was callin’ it a day just beyond the city’s skyline.  However, on the inside of St. Paul’s Catholic Church last Saturday night, I knew that it was going to be anything but typical.

The day before, Stephen and Diane contacted me to say that they had extra tickets to attend Matthew Kelly’s sold out event, “Living Everyday with Passion and Purpose.”  I immediately knew I was supposed to go.  Diane didn’t have my cell phone number, so she sent an e-mail instead.  If she had my cell number, she said she would have sent a text.  Everyone who knows me and my flip-phone realizes that I would have never gotten that text.  So, with no text response from me, Diane would have probably kept going down her list to see who wanted the extra tickets.  Call it what you want.  I call it a God-incidence.  God wanted me there.

It’s a few days after the event now and I’m still full of it!  (The Holy Spirit that is…)  The evening was more than amazing; it was a life-changing experience.  My husband and I were inspired to be the best-version-of-ourselves and we feel more prepared for whatever mission God has planned for us. 

In this blog post, I hope to share bits and pieces of Kelly’s wisdom with you from that night.  I encourage you to attend one of his four-hour seminars (yes…FOUR hours) if you ever have the opportunity.  Trust me, the time flies by and you’ll be sad to see the evening end (even at 11:00 pm).  With God’s strength, Kelly was able to present not only one, but THREE 4-hour events over the weekend in Houston.  Being the last event, I was thoroughly impressed with his ability to engage us all with passion and purpose.  Surely, he was exhausted.  However, true to his own words, “If you are what you should be, you’d set the world on fire!”  Amen, Matthew Kelly, Amen.

Many of you who have been following my blog may recognize the name, Matthew Kelly.  I’ve quoted his gems of insight and enlightenment numerous times.  It always amazes and encourages me when someone devotes their entire adult life to bringing others to Christ.

Mr. Kelly began the evening stating that people who live with passion and purpose have a great sense of personal clarity.  They can answer these four questions:
  1. What matters most?
  2. What matters least?
  3. Who am I?
  4. What am I here for?
He said that people who have personal clarity are able to say yes and no with confidence.  We miss out on the stuff God created just for us when we say yes to the things we shouldn’t.  Let’s practice real quick…No…NNNooooo…No…N-O.  See, you CAN do it!

How can we obtain personal clarity?  Kelly says that clarity emerges from the classroom of silence.  We can hear God’s voice most clearly in the silence.  In this loud and busy world, do we even make the time for silence?  If we don’t, clarity will be much more difficult.  Kelly says that our culture is increasingly and deliberately noisy.  This noise prevents us from hearing the voice of God in our lives, and without that, we are lost.

Matthew discussed wants vs. needs and I just LOVE this quote, “You can never get enough of what you don’t really need.”  I’ll let you sit with that for a second.  Good stuff right there.  Contentment simply evades us when getting enough isn’t possible.  We can have homes full of stuff and never be content.  Hmmm…

Another point that Mr. Kelly made was about a certain universal talent that everyone has.  I was so curious about this.  What talent could EVERYONE on God’s green earth possibly have in common?  Here it is…the ability to make a difference in another person’s life.  Yep.  It’s true.  We all have it and many of us don’t tap into that talent at all.  We are made for meaning.  We were created to make a difference.  We cannot possibly thrive on the shallow and superficial aspect of this world.  I know that making a difference in someone else’s life can help provide some of that meaning that we’re made for.  Let’s try out that talent this week.

Matthew Kelly has always said that we become the books we read.  “Books really do change our lives because what we read today walks and talks with us tomorrow.”  What books are we choosing?  Are we choosing ones that help us become a better version of ourselves?  We should because everyone in our life benefits as we become a better and better version.  The Bible is a great start.  It has the power to transform lives.  God is certainly in the business of transformation.  But, as Matthew Kelly suggests, sometimes we don’t want our lives to transform, so we don’t read it.  We say we’re okay.  We’re comfortable with how we are.  Mr. Kelly reminded us that God has never turned down a prayer request for transformation.  Let’s try that too.

Mr. Kelly shared many thought-provoking things that night, but there was one that really struck me in a profound way.  He said, “There is NOTHING more attractive than holiness.”  Kelly explained that one of the biggest lies in the history of Christianity is a lie we tell ourselves…that holiness is not possible.

He said that the saints didn’t live holy LIVES…they lived holy MOMENTS.  Now, that breaks it down into something achievable…something attainable.  I like that.  He said that we can strive for one holy moment each day.  Just one.  A holy moment is being who God created you to be, doing what God created you to do.  If we can have one holy moment, then another, then another…we’d be capable of incredible things!  Can you just imagine?  Jesus said that everything is possible for the one who believes.

My heart and soul were so full when I walked out of that event.  Unexplainable.  Don’t even get me started on the absolutely beautiful songs and music by Eliot Morris.  Wow.  I was so eager to get home to share this inspiration with you as well as read a new book I bought for the kiddos called, “Why Am I Here?

As soon as we got home, my youngest daughter curled up on my lap in the rocking chair and wanted me to read the book with her.  After I read it, she responded, "Oh, I just love it, LOVE it, Mommy!"  Then, my oldest daughter begged to take the book to school to share.  Jesus is always right…let the children lead them.  I’m certain that it will be the little ones of our parishes and communities that will bring people to church. 

One final thought is about the upcoming Lenten season.  Matthew Kelly said this, “Whatever you do this Lent, do NOT give up chocolate.”  What?!  He asked us, “Do you want to have the best Lent ever?”  We all said, “Uh-huh” pretty loudly since the chocolate thing immediately grabbed our taste buds' attention.  Kelly challenged us to pick just one of these three things to have the best Lent of our lives:
  1. Get to know Jesus and be able to answer Jesus’ question, “Who do YOU say that I am?”  We can start by reading the Gospels for just 15 minutes a day.
  2. Make a commitment to go to confession once a month for a year.
  3. Take a journal to Mass.  Ask God to show you one way in the Mass that you can become a better version of yourself during the week.  Ask Him to speak to your heart through the gospel, homily, songs, readings, and other prayers.  Every relationship improves when we listen.  Do we really listen during Mass?  Then, Kelly asked us to write down that one thing that speaks to us and date our entry.
I’m up for the challenge.  Will you join me?  Many people can recall something in their lives that they will never forget.  One of mine is, without a doubt…

That night.

Have a wonderful week, Sunshines!