marymcleary

Covering my angst with the soothing wisdom from my mother's prayer journals


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Louise Penny’s Book The Long Way Home and a Lesson on Helping

 

 

 

Louise Penny, a Canadian author of mystery novels set in the Canadian province of Quebec and centered on the work of Chief Inspector Armand Gamache of the Sûreté du Québe, is my current favorite author.

I was introduced to her work by a friend who recommended How the Light Gets In where I met the inspector, and  citizens of the quaint town of Three Pines.

Penny’s characters are complex and Inspector Gamache is always looking for the fly in the honey pot. Methodically collecting clues, he adds them to his innate knowledge of human nature eventually solving the murder mystery at hand.

One of her characters is Ruth, a well know poet who dances on the edge of insanity. Ruth’s bosom companion, a duck named Rosa, came to Ruth as one of two eggs found on the edge of the nearby pond.

The mother duck had been killed and Ruth took the eggs home to help them hatch. When the two started to peck out of their shells, Rosa broke out on her own, but Ruth helped the other duckling emerge and in essence handicapped the newborn for life.

Watching how her good intentions actually led to the ducks early death, Ruth decided that helping others was vastly overrated and vowed she would not do so again.

Before the story ends Ruth does lend a hand to her friend and neighbor, but I was left thinking that good deeds don’t always bring the hoped for results.

Recently I met a young woman in her early thirties who is recovering from a stroke she suffered when she was twenty-nine. This beautiful mother of three is determined to regain the losses she suffered as a result of this significant trauma to her brain.

Because of her fierce determination, she is making the desired comeback, and last week I had the opportunity to work with her on a writing assignment that required her to set three short termed goals for herself and then write a paragraph about each.

She could verbalize her ideas, but writing them down was frustrating. Trying to be helpful I suggested she use her iPhone to pronounce the word she needed and see if Siri could spell it for her.

She replied, “Well, I tried that and it was easier, but it didn’t help me get any better. I have to think for myself. It takes longer but I remember more.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “In living our faith, we may find that rejection, disappointment or hard work has brought us to the point of despondency. But we are still needed. God has important work for us to do which will require the strength attained through the very trial we are working through.”

Often a difficult situation doesn’t require a helping hand but rather an encouraging word that will help us build our own strength and faith.


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Mark Twain, The Apostle Paul and My Friend, Martha Britt

Mark Twain Image

When I was little, all the really great events required me to wait. Dessert came after a meal. Movies were watched on Saturdays. Christmas came in December.

The arrival of my teen years required more waiting for the five minutes in the halls between classes to socialize, Friday night ballgames and senior year.

When I got older, I didn’t wait for anything if I could help it. I was a young bride and a young mother who grew up with her husband and her kids. I wouldn’t change a thing.

Life eventually trained me to more gladly embrace these interludes of anticipation, but I still hate to wait. “Aging up” hasn’t given me any more patience.

Mark Twain stated the same feeling when he wrote, “Life is short. Break the rules. Forgive quickly, Kiss slowly, Love truly. Laugh uncontrollably and never regret anything that makes you smile.”

Actually that sentiment is Biblical, I think. In 1 Thessalonians 5, Paul says almost the same thing to new Christians who were breaking most of the rules of their society which made “life is short” their reality.

Eight years ago a dear friend and boss was taken suddenly as she shared a morning walk with the love of her life. In minutes her sweet spirit was gone, but she left such precious memories because she lived as if she realized life is short.

In her journal Mother wrote, “When we put God first, the wisdom He gives will enable us to have richly rewarding lives.”

My friend, Martha,joyfully lead a richly rewarding life. I’m thinking that’s the only way to do it.


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Quoting From Designing Women and Reading The Western Way by R. F. Stewart

 

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One of my favorite quotes from the TV series, Designing Women, is spoken by Julia Sugarbaker in an episode in which her brother (who has some issues) comes to visit. She says,

“I’m saying this is the South. And we’re proud of our crazy people. We don’t hide them up in the attic. We bring ‘em right down to the living room and show ‘em off. See, no one in the South ever asks if you have crazy people in your family. They just ask what side they’re on.”

Julia was played by the epitome of Southern grace and grit, Dixie Carter.

Though I didn’t know Dixie personally, we both grew up in the same area of the South and during the same era so I wouldn’t be surprised if her character spoke truth from the actress’ own personal experience.

Growing up, I visited an older relative of my dad’s in a Memphis “rest home” where she lived for a few months while receiving treatments for mental illness, and after her treatments she came to live with us for a while.

She was a lovely woman and the only disconcerting memory I have of this time was getting ready for school one morning and not being able to locate an essential piece of clothing.

I asked Mother if she knew what happened to said garment and upon investigating found that our guest was wearing it.

Her decision to share my clothes made no sense, and actually that’s one definition of insane “utterly senseless” behavior.

Fortunately, her treatments and a caring family enabled her to return home and live out the rest of her life in safety.

Many of you reading this blog could share your own family stories that relate to loving your folks no matter the state of their mental soundness.

As a sophomore in high school I was a member of a service club whose sponsor was the English and French teacher. Young and kind, he arranged for one of our community projects to benefit the nearby mental institution.

One Saturday we met at the high school where we boarded buses for the forty minute ride to the front doors of the enormous gothic building that housed the recipients of our good intentions.

We followed our leader through creaking doors and down dimly lit hallways until we reached a community room with large windows and shiny hardwood flooring. A stately upright piano stood on one side of the room while residents sat in chairs on the opposite wall eager to visit.

It turned out to be a pleasant afternoon that was repeated several more Saturdays.

This memory surfaced when my book club selected The Western Way by R. F. Stewart to read in September. It is basically a love story set in the facility our high school group visited.

While there is a is a story of strange behavior for every brick in that imposing building, Stewart spins one with a surprising twist.. Many of the characters are people who have been dealt a bad hand in life, but the author presents their strengths as well as their often senseless and harmful behaviors.

As we discussed The Western Way Monday night, many remembered when Western State Mental Hospital in Bolivar, Tennessee teemed with patients and staff, and a common response to a friend’s silly behavior was, “Stop or you’ll have to go to Bolivar!”

Stewart’s book took us back to a time and place full of broken minds and spirits, and developed a story with acts of touching kindness.

Mother wrote in her journal, “ I have learned to love the darkness of sorrow, for it is there I see the brightness of God’s face.”

The thing is, we are all broken and sometimes that’s the only way The Light gets in.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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My Beth Moore Season

 

The scripture says, “For everything there is a season”, and this seems to be a Beth Moore season for me.

It started a few months ago when my friend, Phyllis, called and said, “Mary, if you are home I want to bring you something. “

A few hours later she rang the doorbell holding the book, Whispers of Hope 10 Weeks of Devotional Prayer by Beth Moore.

In her usual, no-nonsense, way Phyllis told me that it was her intention to read the book herself, and she was halfway through it when she felt a nudging in her spirit to give the book to me – today.

Her reaction to the nudge was, “But Lord, I’m not finished yet!” Still she felt sure I was supposed to have the book and because of Phyllis’ intentional obedience, it became mine. The next morning I started my ten week journey of prayer with Beth.

On the thirteenth day of our trip, we camped in Daniel 6:10 where scripture tells us that Daniel prayed three times a day and had done so all his life. Prayer was not new to him and when in mortal danger he did what came naturally he prayed. God’s answer came during Daniel’s greatest peril not before it. God didn’t prevent his crisis, He protected him during it.

Our modern world seems headed for catastrophe and Beth Moore’s observation  is  timely. She wrote, “We are living in a lion’s den and God, through prayer, will shut the lion’s mouth and deliver us.”

I rejoiced in what God revealed – the awesome power of prayer.

Well while I continue to enjoy my morning coffee with Beth and Our Father, I also get to join a group of ladies on Monday mornings to study Children of the Day (Beth Moore) a study of 1 & 2 Thessalonians.

The study is, again, a timely reminder that believers do not belong to the darkness we are children of light and of the day. What God’s people are experiencing in the world now is nothing new and Paul’s words to the church in Thessalonica express the exact encouragement we need today.

I look forward to spending time with this group of ladies and learning what God has revealed to Beth in her study during the coming weeks.

BUT . . . the highlight of my Beth Moore season occurred on August 22 and 23 in Memphis when our choir sang at Beth’s Living Proof Conference. This blessing occurred because of Travis Cottrell the multi-talented worship leader at our church who for many years has also been the worship leader for Beth’s Living Proof Ministry.

One of the precious people sharing the experience was Phyllis who started this Beth Moore season for me. We shared a ride, a room and, with thousands of others, a taste of heaven at FedEx Arena.

Mother wrote in her journal, “Who of us in certain moments of meditation and prayer has not caught a glimpse of the heavenly gates? Who has not in the secret places of holy communion felt a taste of the blessed joy yet to come?”

My daily walk with God has been enriched by many wonderful teachers and preachers of The Word who gave me a taste of the blessed joy yet to come. This season Beth Moore provided and I’m so thankful for the blessing.

 

 


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A Thought for Today

Ecclesiastes 5:2-3

Do not be quick with your mouth.  Do not be hasty in your heart to utter anything before God for God is in heaven, and you are on earth. Therefore let your words be few. As a dream comes when there are many cares, so the speech of a fool when there are many words.

I read in the newspaper today that a fifteen year old shot another teen over an argument they had earlier in the day. Apparently rash words were spoken and caused disaster.

The scripture tells us to turn the other cheek, and with guns being accessible to so many, it is healthier to take a punch on both cheeks than risk being shot.

Maybe if young people realized God hears every word uttered, they would be more careful in their conversations.

In her journal Mother wrote, “Let us learn from the examples in God’s word not to make rash vows.”

Dear Lord, Protect those you have given me to love.  Make them cautious with their words and strong enough to turn the other cheek rather than speak hasty words they will regret. Amen


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I’m Hosting Shirley Harris-Slaughter, Author of Our Lady of Victory:The Saga of an African American Catholic Community

Our Lady of Victory

 

Since writing In My Mother’s Words, I have had the opportunity to meet many other authors, and one of them is Nonnie Jules whose books Daydream’s Daughter, Nightmare’s Friend and The Good Mommies’ Guide to Raising (Almost) Perfect Daughter’s have become hits with a wide range of readers.

This vivacious and generous lady is also the president of Rave Reviews Book Club, a wonderful place of support for independent authors.

When Nonnie asked me to introduce Shirley Slaughter on my blog this week so readers could get to know her, I was honored.

Author Shirley Harris-Slaughter wrote a compelling story of a growing Black Catholic parish, Our Lady of Victory, founded in 1943 in Detroit, MI. She highlights both the joys and struggles of  parish school and church during a difficult time.

This book gives insight into the journey of the parishioners in this community who persevered in their faith and the progress they made over many years.

When Shirley Harris –Slaughter wrote Our Lady of Victory: The Saga of an African American Catholic Community, she paid a beautiful tribute to the church that obviously made such an impact on her life.

 Her research and attention to details provide an interesting glimpse into the events of the church, the school, and the community.

I am honored to host Shirley on my blog this week. Here she shares the story of a fallen hero – her brother.Author (2)

 

He’s my brother and I miss him terribly, especially around the holidays; in particular Memorial Day. This past holiday had me in a depression again because there was never any closure. So I found myself writing my congressman a FB letter. Here is the gist of it…

Dear Congressman Peters:

Today is Memorial Day and it pains me once again, that I never hear anything about what happened to my brother killed in the line of duty on August 24, 1965. There were 75 men aboard a plane that exploded over the Hong Kong River and Ronald’s remains were never found. There was a military funeral without a body which was the most horrific experience of my life. Only a dog tag was in the empty coffin.

I tried over the years to alert someone about his story. I joined the Michigan Vietnam Monument Commission out of Lansing – nothing there. I told them his story but nothing ever came of it.

The Vietnam Veterans Memorial Fund (VVMF) featured him in a memorial on Facebook and that’s about it. They ask for donations every year and I sent a letter once on August 28, 2012, to attention Jan C. Scruggs, but she never responded back. Here’s brother’s information.

  Lance Corporal Ronald Louis Powell

Killed in Action August 24, 1965

Cause: Plane Crash over Hong Kong River

Assigned: 3rd Service Battalion, 3rd Marine Division

Name is listed on Wall in Washington DC (Panel 5E/Line 60)

Detroit News ran the story August 27, 1965

 I keep wondering (except for the Detroit News article) why there were never any stories or news or memorials about this catastrophic event. The other men’s families must be wondering as well.  Michigan (Oakland & Wayne counties) had the only soldier, my brother, to die like that in that year. There are no memorials mentioning these brave men. My brother’s name is carved on the “Wall” in Washington DC and I got the chance to visit it once in my life in 1992. I burst into tears. It was very emotional.

I’m emotional right now because I feel all alone in my grief but I am not going to plead anymore for somebody to take notice of this event.  Somehow it never occurred to me to contact my state representative until now to help me find out why no one is talking about it – not even the military.

Needless to say I got a phone call the very next day and the congressman’s office started an investigation. It’s going to take some time but I expect to hear back from them with a full report.

In the meantime in the age of the internet, my niece went online and discovered that it was pilot error that killed 56 out of 75 men on board. Funny, my family never heard anything about an error. Nor were we aware of any survivors. As a matter of fact we got no explanation as to what happened period, and therein lies my problem with this whole matter.

Ronald was an amazing person and a natural leader. Everybody respected him because he could stand up against the best of them.

Details of my brother’s amazing story can be found in the book.  There is a photo display of the Wall with Ronald’s name and details on the military funeral. Click here for your choice of a Hardcover Limited Edition(s) or paperback. http://rememberourladyofvictory.com/about-the-book/

In her journal Mother wrote, “The school of sorrows graduates exceptional scholars.”

Thank you, Shirley, for sharing this with us. I look forward to reading  more of your work.

Book Trailer: http://youtu.be/aF3ZBZFn3AY


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A Child From an Orphan Train and the Book, Orphan Train

 

Orphan Train, by Christina Baker Kline..

The book parallels the lives of a wealthy elderly woman, Vivian, and Molly, a teenage foster child. It seems unlikely that the two would have anything in common, but when Molly must complete fifty hours of community service for stealing a book from the library an unexpected bond develops between the two women.

As it turns out, Vivian was one of thousands of children who road from New York City to the Midwest on orphan trains from 1824 through 1929. Through the author’s use of a dual narrative we gain insight into the similarities of the childhoods of children decades apart.

When the author writes, “It is a pitiful kind of childhood to know that no one loves you or is taking care of you.” She’s expressing a feeling both characters know too well.

Monday night our club gathered but instead of discussing the book, we invited a friend whose father and uncle rode an orphan train.

Our friend told a moving story of a five-year old who, after a station stop, was left to ride the train alone after a family chose his older brother but didn’t want him.

Riding to the very last station, the boy and all the other children still  on the train went to live with a  doctor and her husband in a small rural Nebraska town.

He lived there for two years and one day she told him they were going to see another family who had a horse for him. The doctor took him to the family that would eventually adopt him and left him there with no explaination.

Realizing the child’s musical talent, his new parents gave him lessons and demanded he practice. He became an accomplished musician, and as a young man during World War II became a member of General Patton’s band.

He married and eventually became a high school band director.

Our friend made a point of reading  Orphan Train before coming to tell his father’s story, and he posed this question, “So is it just human nature to believe that things happen for a reason – to find some shred of meaning even in the worst experiences?” and followed it with this observation,

“My father was a man of faith and I believe he would say that the hand of God was in the whole experience from being orphaned in New York to being adopted in Nebraska. That being said, his experience left a mark so deep that he was unable to share it with us until four years before he died.”

Mother wrote in her journal, “The Lord watches over us in all the different places, and He will not allow even one trial that is too much for us.”

After reading Orphan Train, I did some research and found that many of the children went on to become public officials, bankers, lawyer, ministers and teachers, wives and husbands.

I choose to believe that He watched over them in all their different places and I pray He will continue to protect and guide all our children.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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