Be cautious of the ‘wrapping’



True Story:  Last night I was on my way to give a retreat to teens and their parents on The Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  I’ve done it for years and one of my dear friends is kind enough to come with me and assist.  The church was an hour away and we left early so that we could stop for dinner, it’s become kind of a tradition!

As we pulled into the restaurant, the parking lot was partially blocked by a car.  When I glanced into the drivers seat I saw an elderly man with those heavy-duty sunglasses that the eye doctor gives you after he has dilated your eyes.  I began to feel annoyed….he was blocking the spot where I wanted to park.

He soon pulled into a spot, slowly got out of the car and shuffled into the restaurant.  I felt like cutting in front of him because he was so slow, but we were caught up in conversation and so he went in ahead of us.  When we were seated, he was in the booth across the aisle from us, sitting alone.

I heard him order…..clam chowder and buffalo wings…..he seemed to know the waitress because she spent some significant time with him.

When his soup came, I remember him asking her for some of that cheese that you sprinkle on things.  She asked, “Do you mean Parmesan Cheese?”  He nodded.  I immediately thought, ‘parmesan cheese on clam chowder?????

How weird is that!!!’

Story on pause…

One of the things that I do on the retreat is to try to give some real life situations about using the Gifts of the Spirit.  I talk about a new kid coming to their school.  Someone who looks different, who dressed differently, who talks funny…I go through the story and then end with them finally deciding to befriend the new kid despite what their peers might say.  And then I ask which Gift did they use to get to that point…..  We talk a little about judging from appearances and not looking below the surface…..good talk, nice talk…and then it hit me…..I had just lived that very same scenario at the restaurant….I felt a pit in my stomach!

Story resumes…

The elderly man finished his meal and left.  I glanced at the register when he was paying and I saw him unfolding his money.  I wondered if he was counting his dollars hoping there was enough to cover his meal.

As we were getting up to leave, the waitress came over and I was ready to grab the bill.  It was the least that I could do for my friend who was accompanying me to the retreat.  Instead of handing us the check, the waitress said that our meals had been paid for.


She said that the elderly gentleman who was sitting across from us paid for our meals and also left her a generous tip.


And so I ask you to learn from me…be cautious of the ‘wrapping’.  I judged!

The retreat was a success…a big hit….but, I think that the ‘real’  gift was given to me.  I don’t mean the gift of a free restaurant meal, I was given the gift  of  a Gospel meal….with a side dish of humility!

Lent: action or attitude?


I’ve been thinking about lent this year…

what shall I do,

what shall I give up,

what shall I take on?

Should I try the ‘sweets thing’ again like my friend does?  Why bother, I can never make it all the way through, I start to rationalize…yogurt with chocolate bits, is that considered ‘sweets?’  And then in a weak moment I grab a cookie.  That’s it, I’ve broken my lenten promise, and the guilt sets in…

lenten stress!

How about taking on some extra prayers,

reading the Bible more,

random acts of kindness…..

How about giving up beets and turnips – ok, not such a sacrifice –
but at least I can do that for 40 days!!!

So, in a few hours lent begins and it’s time to make my final decision

This year I have decided that lent will not be ‘action’, it will be ‘attitude’.
When I look ahead to the glory of Easter,
I am humbled by the Gift of the Resurrection.

It’s really all gift, isn’t it?

And so, to prepare myself for the Easter Gift, I will spend lent emptying myself.

De-cluttering my thoughts

surrendering my anger and resentments

throwing away my judgments

detaching from worldly distractions

This lent will be about attitudes not actions… to join me?


The Two Sides…

   I’ve been doing a lot of talking with teens lately about the Gifts of the Holy Spirit.  It’s important that they realize that after a gift is given, it’s up to us whether we use that gift or ‘put it away on a shelf somewhere’. 

I try to give them real life situations that they may face and them have them guess which Gift of the H.S. they could use.  They have fun with the different scenarios and, hopefully, it makes these Gifts real to them and their daily lives.

But…with each Gift comes a responsibility.  The Gifts are for us but they’re not only about us.  These Gifts help us, but if we are to truly use them as God intended, then they are to help others as well.

Understanding – no longer will I be able to judge from the surface.  I will have to look deeper into the heart, and that will have to make a difference in the way that I act.  Strike back or understand???

Knowledge – no longer will I be able to pretend that I don’t see things.  I will have to take action – to speak up sometimes, and to keep silent sometimes…

Right Judgment – no longer will I be able to ignore that quiet voice inside of me that whispers right from wrong.  I will have to listen, reflect and discern….

Wisdom – no longer will I be able to blame…my youth, my life, my circumstance, others.  I will have to take responsibility and have the confidence in myself to make a difference…one person at a time.

Courage – no longer will I be able to sit quietly when I see injustice.  I will have to act, to speak, to be the voice for those who have none…

Wisdom and Awe – no longer will I be able to rush through each day without noticing the beauty of God’s world.  I will have to stop and ‘be still’ and see that creation is a verb.

Reverence – this is the most difficult one of all because…no longer will I be able to keep God out of every aspect of my life, my thoughts, my decisions, my actions, my breath.  No longer will I be able to act upon what I want or what makes me feel good….I will have to ‘decrease so that He can increase’ – not easy!

The two sides of gifts……