Wednesday, August 27, 2014
That’s all it took.
I felt the tears welling up in my eyes and a sudden rush of emotion as his prophetic words penetrated me to the core. “A woman of great faith,” I thought to myself as I sighed deeply. “She certainly was.” I admired her and I understood her.
St. Monica knew God intimately, and she relied on him completely. She was a woman who believed in the power of steadfast, unbridled prayer. She was a wife who kept a hopeful heart during intense and prolonged suffering at the hands of her abusive husband. And she was a mother who allowed God’s grace to carry her through the torment and pain triggered by her prodigal son.
St. Monica put her faith in God every single day…and she never took it back. She remained faithful to God, and he remained faithful to her. During 17 years of suffering, St. Monica grew her faith and as a result, God grew his grace around her. And in time, he manifested the miracle St. Monica had been praying for; the conversion of her addicted son, St. Augustine, who is now revered as one of the most influential doctors of the Catholic Church.
Yesterday I completed a novena to St. Monica which I dedicated to my five sons. I prayed for God’s intercession in their daily lives because it is my hope that each one of them will come to know the Lord intimately, powerfully and joyfully so that nothing and no one will ever get in the way of that relationship.
Like St. Monica, I am relentless in my prayer life, remaining loyal to a daily disciplined rhythm of prayer that invites grace and feeds my faith. I know no other way to make it through the rigors and rainy days of life in a world that is beautiful, yet challenging, gifted yet exhausting.
Personally I have so much to be thankful for having experienced the power of prayer through the return of the prodigal son. I have watched the resurrection of the dead and I have felt God’s amazing grace flow through me as I've navigated some pretty horrendous situations.
Through it all I have come to understand that God is completely faithful. And as St. Monica so clearly represented, when we remain faithful to him, the inevitable burdens will eventually be transformed into precious jewels of grace that will strengthen and sanctify us.
I’d like to close with these words from “Confessions” by St. Augustine….
“Too late have I loved you, O Beauty of ancient days, yet ever new! Too late I loved you! And behold, you were within, and I abroad, and there I searched for you; I was deformed, plunging amid those fair forms, which you had made. You were with me, but I was not with you. Things held me far from you—things which, if they were not in you, were not at all. You called, and shouted, and burst my deafness. You flashed and shone, and scattered my blindness. You breathed odors and I drew in breath—and I pant for you. I tasted, and I hunger and thirst. You touched me, and I burned for your peace
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
So you can imagine my surprise when I opened my email today and found a letter from Johnny-from Liberia no less! Johnny lives in a remote section of the country that is without electricity...so this email transmission is really amazing!
I am gratefully sharing his thoughts with each and every one of you in thanksgiving for your love and prayers!
GOD IS FAITHFUL!
"I want to express my gratitude to all who have interested themselves in my own safety and well being here in Liberia. Thank you for your concern. I think it’s only right to respond in some capacity and inform you of my current situation. I’ve been in Liberia as a Catholic missionary for over eight months. Here at our mission we have twenty children, some of whom are orphans and some of whom come from very difficult situations that have caused the parents to ask us for help in taking care of their children.
So when the Ebola situation became very serious, we were asked if we wanted to leave by our superiors. As of right now, all fourteen of us have elected to stay. I myself have not yet felt personally endangered. That is not to say that Ebola isn’t a serious issue, but we are taking no risks here at our community. We are taking all the precautions necessary to protect the children and ourselves.
I also had to weigh the presence of the children in my decision. I made a choice to come and serve the Liberian people, and I can’t in good conscience leave for my own safety. Without trying to sound fanatical, I’m just trying to put my faith in God right now; and I feel at peace. We are, however, also exploring every possibility for each possible scenario that may eventually present itself. For example, we are exploring the possibilities of acquiring passports for all the children in the event that we might have to flee the country. All I can say about this process is that it is very, very difficult.
Hopefully the whole Ebola situation will be under control soon. I’ve come to understand that the involvement of the international community in battling this problem is key, and I’m very proud of America and its response to this global emergency. Once again, thank you all. God bless New Orleans!"
-John F. Young III
Saturday, August 2, 2014
I admire my 29 year old son Johnny.(He's in the blue shirt) He is not jumping ship, running for the hills or taking the easy way out. He is staying in Liberia, standing on faith and stepping up to the commitment he made to care for the orphans entrusted to his care. Johnny and I spoke by telephone for over an hour this week about life under the threat of the Ebola Virus.
“We are taking precautions,” my son assured me. “The fruit bat carries the virus, so fresh fruit is off limits”… “We can’t go to the open air market and shop for food, and we aren’t supposed to shake hands with people.” Shaking hands is apparently a very important custom.
Johnny told me the virus, which is not airborne, is carried by fruit bats which some locals eat. A man apparently ate a contaminated bat that had not been thoroughly cooked and because he came in physical contact with people before his death, the virus spread. If the bat had been cooked all the way the virus would have died along with it.
“I know the news is scaring people,” he said. “And for sure we have to be careful…because a lady from a nearby village, who had been hospitalized with Ebola left the hospital in a cab and returned to her village.” “People here are superstitious about medical care and the government.” “They believe in getting prayed over.” “So now the government is posting fliers everywhere, warning people about Ebola.”
“Are you scared?” I asked. “No,” he replied. “But I got sick again with malaria and it was really bad and lasted a lot longer than the first time I got malaria.” I took a deep breath and listened as I felt my son’s pain.
Johnny is amazing no doubt. He is part of a family of missionaries at an orphanage started by a Catholic nun, Mother Elvira who also founded Comunita Cenacolo. Since 1981, the community has resurrected the lives of countless drug addicts around the world, including my oldest son. Now he is giving back by raising and renewing a family of 20 children and babies who have no one else to care for them.
The kids and the missionaries are family, and as a mom of five sons, I can understand why Johnny is refusing to abandon his family and his responsibilities.
Five years ago I gave my son to God in trust…When worry creeps in, I know I am taking back the power and the control. So I pray-often…at daily Mass, during adoration…I surrender in trust to my awesome God who so beautifully carried my son out of the darkness of addiction and into the light of his sacrificial LOVE! Johnny is a miracle child and there is nothing that will ever diffuse the power of his anointed life!
Our local TV station WWL TV reported on Johnny and the Ebola Virus outbreak. The link is below…you can click it or paste it into your internet search bar. My friend, Meg Farris is the reporter. Please pray for Johnny and the rest of his missionary family.
Friday, July 25, 2014
I believe firmly in that principle.
Sometimes God tells us his will during prayer, at a conference, through someone else-in any number of ways. And in that one illuminating moment we often respond with a resounding yes, even when we want to say no. Our hearts, our heads, our entire being understands that God has given us his word, his will, his way. No amount of worry or worthless speculation carries any weight at that moment. God has spoken!
Then lo and behold-time slips away and slowly, temptation slips in. We begin telling ourselves tales of desire that tempt us into listening to that gnawing voice in our head. “I want this, I deserve this, I need this!”
It’s as old as Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, or Cain and Abel in the field of dreams. Jealousy, anger, prideful poverties push us into following our will and not the will of God. Instead of stopping the enemy at the gate, we romance our thoughts, rationalize our desires and eventually seek council to support our backsliding! Our will is being hi-jacked!
When we open to the door to God with our “yes” he can enter into our hearts and manifest his will for our lives. When we close the door with our “no” God is unable to tell us his plans. Our spiritual growth is stunted!
Saying yes can be uncomfortable, exhausting and even scary because of our fragile, fragmented human nature. But believe me when I say this-staying the course and going with God is absolutely imperative if we want to grow in spiritual wisdom!
It’s a lot like brain science. Scientists tell us in a baby, the brain over-produces brain cells (neurons) and connections between brain cells (synapses) and then starts pruning them back around the age of three. The process is much like the pruning of a tree. By cutting back weak branches, others flourish. A second wave of synapse formation begins along with a spurt of growth in the frontal cortex just before puberty (age 11 in girls, 12 in boys) and then the pruning back starts again in adolescence.
The brain actually consolidates learning by pruning away synapses and wrapping white matter (myelin) around other connections to stabilize and strengthen them. The period of pruning, in which the brain actually loses gray matter, is as important for brain development as is the period of growth.
Spiritual growth, like brain growth is progressive and the process of pruning however painful-will strengthen our spiritual muscle. God is removing all the heavy hurts and haughty attitudes that eclipse his love and block us from growing toward him.
God is challenging us to change. He is asking us to choose good over evil, selflessness over our own selfish desires, humility over pride. When we cooperate God is guiding us out of our inner darkness into his illuminating light, so that we will become exactly the person he designed us to become! A light for others!
Today’s scripture explains just how beautiful the pruning process can be.
2 Corinthians 4:7-15
Monday, July 21, 2014
Bruised and broken, soulful and searching, loving and hopeful, beautiful women of courageous faith and extraordinary lives. A “Hedy Conference,” guided by the Holy Spirit, nudged us to Natchez Mississippi, into the old world charm of The Elms B & B, where we descended into the warm embrace of our heavenly father.
We came seeking greater intimacy with Christ, to humbly enter into his passion through the dusty details of desperation and darkness, which have drifted in and out of our human experience. In return we slipped into the, cascading river of hope that pours forth every time we are graced with the glory of our amazing God!
As I sat in this circle of faith, I felt the illuminating movement of spiritual muscle-pushing through the pain, pausing only to reflect on the pride that often keeps us prisoners to our own self-imposed sentences.
We entered the most intimate chambers of our heart, peeling away the layers of our lives, unveiling our vices and our virtues, honoring our gifts and our gratitude.
I marveled at the surrender and acceptance among the weary, as the spirit of wisdom-winding through our weaknesses, weaved its way deep into our wounds, and then ever so slowly, began to free us from the weight of worry.
It can be scary to dig deep, frightening to face ourselves, exhausting to exhume the details that sabotage lives. But with authentic honesty, these marvelous women braved the rocky terrain…Praying through the jagged and disjointed memories, and eventually reaching the summit of serenity that always comes when we seek God with an open heart.
Great movement happens when women of faith move together. The rhythm of truth and humility harmonizes so powerfully that lives are transformed.
It is my prayer as these beautiful women move through their lives, they will continue responding to the movement of their hearts and that they will take great comfort in knowing that Christ is with them, intimately, powerfully and eternally!
Friday, July 18, 2014
As an Iconic actor, Neeson may not know it, but he’s part of the genre known as “super peers.” Popular public personalities who together with the mass media: movies, music, television, the internet, influence adolescent health-related attitudes and behaviors, like the use and abuse of legal and illegal drugs.
Neeson got honest about drugs and alcohol during an insightful cover story that appeared in the April issue of GQ magazine. The single dad of two sons said, “A teenager can take it and suddenly they can be hooked, and it changes their life and their family's forever. That's my constant worry. And I trust them, and they're sensible boys, but it can be just that chemistry that doesn't work.”
What powerful insight! When youth mess around with drugs, including alcohol, they’re playing Russian roulette with their brains! The science shows that a teenager who starts drinking at 15 years of age or younger is four to five times more likely to become addicted than if they waited until the legal age of 21 when their brains are almost fully developed.
Alcohol and other drugs like marijuana, hi-jack the brain, by rewiring and sabotaging development. The progressive and long term use and abuse of mind altering chemicals often leads to the brain disease of addiction. That’s when a normally healthy, active and bright person becomes so physically dependent on their drug of choice, that they will go to any lengths to continue drinking or drugging.
It’s no secret that being a teen is already risky business, but that’s because the risk taking part of their brain develops first and judgment develops last. So it’s critical that we protect the adolescent brain through healthy habits until it’s fully developed.
In the ‘90’s I produced a documentary in Russia and Ukraine and I interviewed a young man protesting the sale of alcohol. He told me, “The communists used alcohol to oppress citizens.” Another powerful insight! Oppression is slavery and addiction literally enslaves the mind, changes behavior, and turns a human being into someone God never intended them to become.
It’s cunning, baffling and powerful! It’s up to all of us to fight this battle because whether you know it or not, everyone in every community around the world, is affected. And besides, in Neeson’s words, “Everybody matters. Everybody.”
Tuesday, July 1, 2014
She leaves a searing mark on whoever she meets, on whatever she does, wherever she goes!
Like rapid fire flashes that streak across the sky during an electrical storm, Hedy literally illuminates her world with an extroverted confidence that burns desire. A deeply rooted conviction that there is no force, no love, no purpose greater than the will of the almighty God!
Intimately, powerfully and joyfully-Hedy’s life breathes an intense passion that is both persuading and providential. She is determined to share her God with anyone and everyone! “To ignite like fire and spread like wildflowers.” One human being at a time, one conference at a time, one conversation at a time, Hedy is changing lives.
I have been privy to countless discussions with Hedy and her overarching goal is always focused squarely on sending souls to God. I have never seen anyone quite like her!
So this week, we who cherish Hedy give thanks for the vibrant blessing that is her life, as we celebrate that pivotal point in history, when the heavens cracked open and the good Lord let down his guard…by delivering a colorful lightning bolt to light up the world!
HAPPY, BLESSED BIRTHDAY WEEK MY FRIEND!!!