Sunday, March 24, 2013

March 25, The Annunciation: Motivation for Life

Volumes and volumes have been written on the topic of The Annunciation of Mary by far greater minds than mine yet something (or someone) keeps whispering in my ear to write about it and why it is such a big deal in light of the Pro-Life movement. So here goes (and please keep in mind, I am not a theologian, just a loved nothing):
I think one of the most beautiful and incredible texts of the New Testament is John 1:14, "And the Word became flesh and made his dwelling among us, and we saw his glory, the glory as of the Father's only Son, full of grace and truth." Now anyone who is a follower of Jesus Christ understands this is referring the  Incarnation of Christ. It is a truly amazing statement: God Himself came into the world some 2,000 years ago and shared in our humanity, he became one of us.  He ate and drank and slept and laughed and cried and felt pain and sorrow and joy and had friends and family and knew rejection and suffering and even temptation.  Being of two natures, God and man, Christ entered our fallen world to save us from the world, the flesh and the devil and from ourselves I might add. 
Now in Luke 1:30-32 the Angel Gabriel appears to Mary and says, "do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus."  After questioning, "how can this be?", Mary ultimately trusts God and says "yes, may it be done according to your Word." God chose Mary's consent as the door through which the Word, Jesus Christ, entered the world to share in our humanity.  I think Christians could meditate on these two Biblical texts for a lifetime; the humility of God becoming man and the surrender and trust of a teenage Jewish girl allowing God's will to be done.  Amazing!
Now truthfully I believe the Pro-life argument can be made fairly easily on scientific information alone, I have even recently read an Athiest do a very good job of defending the rights of the unborn on that basis alone.  With the advent of ultrasound and advanced embro technology and in utero fetal surgery it is obvious that a real, live human being (with it's own unique DNA) is growing inside the mother. I think the argument can also be made on legal/ethical and historical grounds based on the question of personhood. But as a Catholic Christian, the reason for my belief and passion on the issue of life is mostly based on the Annunciation of Mary and the point at which "The Word became flesh." Jesus Christ entered humanity, "conceived of The Holy Spirit" at the "Yes" of Mary.  God chose homo sapiens/human beings/us, and by chosing us he elevated the worth, dignity, value and beauty of every man, woman and child, ever created and ever to be created from the moment of conception.  That's God's idea, it's His plan, not mine or anybody elses, God is the Author of Life.  God became one of us so we could be one with Him, forever. And that's why I love The Feast of the Annunciation and why I believe every human life is worth the fight.
I love Christmas and I think most of us are attracted to the innocence and simplicity of the King of the Universe chosing to be humbly born in a stable in pursuit of each of us personally.  It's beautiful and incredible.  But for 9 months prior, the person of Jesus was formed and grew and  kicked inside his Mother and she secretly loved Him. The Word became flesh in the womb of a very young girl in Nazareth, Our Blessed Mother.  That simple fact makes every person have inestimitable worth and dignity.
                 Let it be done according to your Word.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Dick Van Dyke, Ducks and Love

The other day I was channel surfing and came across the greatest show in television history, that's right, The Dick Van Dyke show.  Now I think this is the greatest show ever for a variety of reasons: hilarious comedy, timeless stories, superb writing, chemistry of the actors and the sweet innocence of its time.  I also love the show because I literally grew up watching it.  I can remember walking home for lunch from St John's grade school and watching it while I ate a delicious feast my Mom had prepared for me of bologna and cheese sandwiches on white bread with potato chips, those were the days.  The Dick Van Dyke show has always made me laugh out loud, even to this day I still think it's the funniest show in television history.  So I had to stop and watch what Rob and Laura and Richie Petrie were up to that day.

So this episode is the one about the ducks.  Rob brings home 2 baby ducks, much to Laura's chagrin, to keep until they can find them a home.  Their son, Ritchie (about age 7), hears the ducks quacking in the box and begs his parents to keep them. Rob and Laurie agree to try to work something out by keeping them in the garage for awhile and Richie names them Stanley and Oliver.  After the commercial break we see that time has passed and Oliver has died.  Stanley is fully grown now and floating in the kitchen sink. One morning Rob notices that Stanley is shaking and losing feathers and he fears the duck is sick.  Rob takes Stanley to the veterinarian (the scene in the waiting room of the Vet is hysterical) and returns home without Stanley. Rob has to tell Richie that the Vet said Stanley was sick because he belongs in a lake with other ducks so that is where Rob took him.  Richie, of course, is very upset.  He runs to his room and begins to pack because he is going to leave home to "live with Stanley at the lake".  Now I have seen this episode and recalled the jest of it but I did not remember the tender, poignant last scene of the show.  In the last few minutes, in simple yet profound words, Rob explains to Richie what real love is: "Love is not holding on to someone because it makes you feel good, love wants what is best for the other.  Ducks need to be with ducks."  Richie realizes it would be "selfish love" to make Stanley live in their kitchen sink when he would be happier and healthier in a big lake with other ducks. I have to say, it totally choked me up.

I'm wondering if maybe our life experiences and the lessons we learn through time about "letting go" are the reasons I never appreciated the wisdom of that scene before. Or maybe I mistook sentiment as love earlier in my life instead of realizing it's true sacrificial nature.  Or perhaps I was just busy gorging my face with bologna and potato chips and Ho Hos!  My husband and I took the last of our 3 little "ducks" to college last August (my blog profile picture was taken that day) and it's been a steep learning curve each time we have let one go.  Some days I long to hear the piano pounding out "Hallelujah" for the millionth time, I'd love to clean up a skillet that she used to make those ridiculous chocolate chip pancakes in, I wouldn't even mind closing her bedroom door to hide the clothes and shoes strewn about. Somehow, when you're in the middle of homework and carpools and tennis meets and piano lessons and sleepovers, you feel like it will never end, deep down maybe you sort of hope it will never end. Then one day you're trying to figure out what the heck FAFSA is and packing every toiletry and article of clothing they will ever need as if you won't see them again for years. And then the day comes, you load up the car and make sure they know how to get to their classes and help get their books and hug and kiss them good-bye and then you put them "in the lake with the other ducks" before you drive away. It's good and it's right but it's not easy.  Motherhood has been a great privilege in my life, I am very grateful but the older I get the more I realize it's not so much about me.  Love, in a nutshell, isn't about possessing but is simply willing the good of the other.  Thanks TV land. Thanks Rob and Laura and Richie Petrie. Thanks God, for the beautiful gifts of life and love.

Now swim little "duck", swim.   

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Mother Teresa and Ben Carson: 2 people after my own heart

Over 20 years ago I ran across an article in Readers Digest that I will never forget. The story was about a young African American man who grew up in abject poverty in Detroit,was raised by a single, illiterate mother, had a very bad temper, got poor grades and was considered a "dummy" by his peers. As a teen, he was in a gang and one day came close to committing murder during a street fight.  Fortunately he severed his opponent's belt instead of knifing him during the altercation.  After the incident he was very distraught.  He realized he could have taken a life and ran home, got down on his knees and begged God to change his life.  That young man, Ben Carson, grew up to be a brilliant pediatric neurosurgeon at John Hopkins Hospital and has participated in the most difficult brain surgeries in the world including separation of Siamese twins. He also credits his mother's strong work ethic, her unfailing belief in him, her encouragement to read and her refusal to think of herself as a "victim" as the reason for his successes.  I have followed Dr Carson's life and career from afar all these years..... he has authored 2 books, been portrayed in a TV movie by Cuba Gooding Jr and initiated the Carsons Scholars Program to assist students in higher education.  Dr Ben Carson  was the keynote speaker at the National Prayer Breakfast this past week and if you have 27 minutes to watch his speech, I think it is  well worth your time.

And  then there's Mother Teresa who I have also been a fan of for many years. What could I possibly say about Mother Teresa that hasn't already been said?  We know her as a little, humble nun who literally went into the streets of Calcutta to care for "the poorest of the poor" seeing the face of Christ in everyone she served.  Mother Teresa started an order of sisters, The Missionaries of Charity, to care for the forgotten, the neglected, the dying, the "least of our brothers". She established convents in several countries and now has hundreds of sisters serving the poor all over the world. Volumes have been written about her, even the World recognized her contribution to humanity awarding her The Nobel Peace Prize in 1979. 

Mother Teresa was the keynote speaker at The National Prayer Breakfast in 1994, and if I was smart enough to figure out how to post the link to her speech that day I would, but somehow I can't figure out how to do that, but trust me, it was awesome. (I got lucky posting the video, not sure how I did it). Anyway, the jest of her speech was this: to love God means love of neighbor.  We aren't being honest if we say we love God but ignore our fellow man.  She also quotes scripture saying, "what ever you do to the least of my brothers, that you do unto me." She spent a great deal of the speech warning the listeners that, "the greatest destroyer of peace is abortion" and "any country that allows abortion is not teaching love but to use violence to get what they want".  The President and his wife were sitting close to her and to say the least, it was awkward. But if you watch her speak, I don't think she was worried about what her ideological opponents thought, I think she simply came to speak the truth in love.  Whether you agree with her or not, I think any honest person would admit that that beautiful, wrinkly, feisty, holy, little woman had a lot of courage. 

Dr  Ben Carson also said some "awkward"  and uncomfortable things to his audience last week.  He talked about the increasing moral decay in our society, the long term consequences of our 16 trillion dollar deficit, our flawed system of taxation, the absurdness of political correction which limits free the point of  our being afraid to say "Merry Christmas" for fear of offending others. He has some fresh ideas on health care reform and ...well, watch and listen and see what you think.  Basically, he, like Mother Teresa, is worried about the future of our country and of the world.  Both Dr Carson and Mother Teresa had many in their audience that obviously did not embrace their views yet they each spoke fearlessly and passionately and in my opinion, charitably. And both shared openly their love and trust in God and His love for us.  I don't know about you but sometimes I'd prefer to keep quiet or say what is popular, acceptable, and polite, it's so much easier to just "get along". Mother Teresa and Dr Ben Carson are two heros after my own heart.

I found this lovely quote of Mother Teresa:

"Life is beauty, admire it. Life is a dream, realize it. Life is a challenge, meet it.  Life is a duty, complete it. Life is a game, play it. Life is a promise, fulfill it. Life is sorrow, overcome it. Life is a song, sing it. Life is a struggle, accept it. Life is a tragedy, confront it. Life is an adventure, dare it. Life is luck, make it. Life is too precious, do not destroy it. Life is life, fight for it."    Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta
                                    Amen Sister!


Sunday, January 13, 2013

Sweet Irony of Life

There are 2 people who have told me I need to start a blog, the first one is Amy Abbott, a friend from college who is a professional writer and found me on FB a couple of years ago. I greatly appreciate Amy's kind words and encouragement and respect her opinions, she is a smart, funny and an honest woman. I don't know what Amy sees in me but she gets my jokes and that's really about all I'm looking for in my relationships, OK not really, but it's a good start. Thanks Amy and I hope my grammatical mistakes don't send you to an early grave. The other person who tells me I need to start a blog is my daughter Erin. If Erin ever reads this she will probably be shocked because she, more than anyone in the world, knows my limited computer skills. I am constantly asking her how to copy and paste (yes, I'm that bad), how to send an attachment, how to download photos etc. If anyone with a hidden camera could have watched me the last hour trying to figure out how to create a blog, trying to hook my iphone to computer to try to download a photo of me (as you can see, that was unsuccessful) well, let's just say it would make some hilarious reality TV, anyway I am pretty amazed I've made it this far. But the reason Erin thought I needed to Blog is because she says my facebook postings are too long, can I help it if I have alot to say?

So my first blog is about the name of my blog. I notice most people who have a blog have a catchy name that somehow reflects them and I have been trying to come up with something for months. Here are a few examples of ideas I have been throwing around in my head:
1. "A Shy Extrovert", that's fairly apt although no one believes the "shy" part
2. "Octomomo", My grandchildren call me "Momo" and there are 8 of them so that's a clever one that my daughter in law Melissa suggested
3. "Steve's penance", Steve has been serving his time for 32 years with me
4. "Diary of a Mad Housewife", already taken
Or I could have the title have something to do with my career (nursing) but I just couldn't come up with anything that aptly and succintly describes me............ until now.

I recently saw the movie Les Miserables and have been listening to the soundtrack alot in my car. There is one song in particular that really caught my attention, it is entitled, "Who Am I?". In my opinion, this is the most important, biggest question of our lives, "who am I?" What I love about the song is that is looks at the question through an eternal lens, what am I to God? OK, let me come back to that question in a minute.

I am many things to many people. I have a family of origin, I'm a daughter and a sister. I have my own family, I'm a wife, a mom, a mother in law and a grandmother. I work, I'm a nurse and a co-worker. I work hard at my job and at home or at least I try. I'm also a friend, at least I sincerely hope so. I've been extremely blessed my entire life. I was born in August of 1958 so sometime in late 1957, God (with the cooperation of Jim and Lenora) created me and sent me down to planet Earth for a time period only He knows. Now here is the answer to "Who Am I?", the answer is NOTHING. All that I am and all that I have has been lavished on me by God's love and mercy. I am nothing, but the sweet irony of life is this nothingness named Mary Ann McAtee is loved beyond comprehension by God Himself, the King of the Universe.

I am "a loved nothing".

Now if you know me you are probably thinking that I am not the most humble person you know and you are absolutely correct. I have an apron that was my Dad's that says, "It's hard to be humble when you're as great as me", he loved that apron and so do I. I have strong opinions and I think I'm right about most everything. This isn't really about humility or false humility it's simply about Truth. I know who I am and I know who God is: I am nothing and He knows it and loves me (and I might add you, whoever may read this) beyond our wildest dreams.

I am not sure what I am going to blog about, I just know many funny and amazing things happen to me and I guess I like tellling stories. I also like writing because I discover things about myself I didn't realize until I start writing. I promise not to embarrass my family (well, not more than usual). I probably won't write much about politics but I might write about God sometimes because I am quite impressed by His pursuit of me, even in my nothingness.

I wish good things and peace to any and all who read this,
Mary Ann