Author, Be Radiant

A Radiant 4th!

A Radiant 4th

I dare suggest that the Fourth of July is truly a radiant holiday.  It has always been one of my favorites, that patriotic sense of community, the celebration of America, that knowledge that we all love this one country of ours.

This deep sense of patriotism and community was inspired in me as a very young girl.  My father had grown up in Blue Island, Illinois, right outside of Chicago.  Every summer, around the fourth, we would take a road trip from Middletown, OH to Chicago to see our grandparents, cousins, and all sorts of extended family.  While for this little five year old the six-hour drive seemed never-ending, the results were always worth it.  Days upon days of playing in new spaces, with cousins I didn’t get to see nearly often enough, and grandparents who doted on us; those trips were sacred.

Blue Island to me, was the quintessential American town.  We would celebrate Independence Day there, starting the morning with the parade.  Standing along the parade route I would watch my parents talking to so many people as they made this annual pilgrimage home .  If Mom and Dad were talking, my grandmother was always there, hoisting us up so we could see, or holding our hand so we wouldn’t get lost.

I loved the parade, though the fire engines were so noisy I would always cover my ears.  We all cheered the bands and laughed at the clowns.  The parade had to be the best in the country, at least to me.  We all waved flags during the parade and if I couldn’t find mine, there were several people jumping to give me theirs.  That day, in the town of Blue Island, I felt what it meant to be American, to be part of this great country of ours.

After the parade had ended, we would find our way back to my grandmother’s and cousins’ homes for a cook-out.   The men manned the grills so that hot dogs and hamburgers were in constant supply.  We spent our afternoons eating and playing until it was time to get ready for the fireworks.  There was only one place to go for fireworks in Blue Island, Eisenhower High School.  We would get there early and Mom would put a blanket on a patch of the football field.  We would lay down on our backs and wait for the explosions of colors to light the sky above us.  I was always a little bit afraid, what if the embers came all the way down on me?

I wonder if I knew the word radiant at the time?  I don’t really know.  But, as I remember those nights, the sky was radiant.  The deep, dark night, spotted with bright, little stars would explode in color.  We would all gasp and ooh and aah at the same time, without even trying.

And now, I ask myself, isn’t the fourth of July the definition of radiance?  We are one nation, under God, with the beautiful light of fireworks connecting us all as we jointly sing God Bless America.  On the Fourth of July however, it is not just the fireworks that are radiant, but it is us.  We, the people, are radiant as we celebrate this country of ours.  We are the light, given by God, that shines most brightly at the celebration of our country’s birth.  As freedom rings, let all of us shine….

 

faith

God Bless America

God Bless America

I started my day at Mass, asking that God bless America and especially all those who have given their life for our freedom.  Truth be told, I usually start each day at Mass.  But, there is something about Memorial Day and remembering our fallen troops at church that is always so profound for me.

But, Mass today, wow was that special.  Let me explain.  Every morning when I attend Mass, there is an older man, maybe 94 or so, who always attends.  We call him Briggs.  He still drives and brings with him everyday, a woman from their retirement community, who just turned 96 herself.  Briggs is such a gentleman, always a kind word, opening doors for each of us.  I don’t know him well, but I have heard a few stories.  One story in particular is that he fought at the Battle of the Bulge during World War II.  When I asked him about that a few months ago, he simply smiled and asked how I had heard that.  I took that as confirmation that indeed he had fought for us there.

But, back to this morning.  We are at Mass and there is Briggs, in his usual place, on Mary’s side of church.  As Mass was drawing to a conclusion, our Pastor suggested that we sing, as a closing song, God Bless America.  But, he offered, that he can not carry a tune and would someone be willing to lead us in song?

There are easily 50 – 75 people at Mass, but not a soul was willing to start, except for one strong voice.  Yes, it was Briggs that immediately led us in song.  The 94 year old man who fought for our freedom, ever so proudly led us in singing God Bless America this morning.  There was a hush for a second as we all realized who had started the song, and then we all joined in.  I don’t know if I ever heard a more beautiful rendition of that great song.

I think about the gifts that his man has provided us; from his days in battle, to his work in our community, to his gentleness with all he meets, to his beautiful humility.  Perhaps his greatest gift is the example he sets for us each and everyday, an example of faith, honor, commitment and loyalty.   That gift was so profoundly evident today, as the 94 year old veteran stood tall and sang out God Bless America for us and for all those who have served.

God Bless our troops and God Bless America…

 

 

 

Be Radiant, faith

Finding Radiance in the Rain

Rain on Leaves

This author and speaker did a bit of a mid-west tour this past week, driving from St. Louis to Indiana to Iowa, back to Indiana before heading home.  I tried to tell myself I was doing one big loop through the upper mid-west, though truth be told, it was more of zigs and zags, through the rain most of the way.

It was a rainy trip and I was slogging through downpours and thunderstorms as I drove.  During one part of the journey, when the rain didn’t seem like it would ever let up, I challenged myself to find the radiance, in the rain.

Surely it was there, I just needed to be present and look for it. I pulled off the highway to get some gas and a little bit to drink.  As I checked out with my beverage in hand, the clerk, never-looking up, murmured “Thank you and have a blessed day.”  I automatically said thank you and turned to leave.  No, I thought to myself, really thank her for saying that.  I turned back to her.  “Thank you for saying that.  That was really lovely.”

Words can not describe her reaction.  She lifted her head up and burst into the biggest smile I have seen in awhile.  Standing  a bit taller, she looked me in the eye and said with a shoulder shrug and that beautiful smile, “I always say that, it is sort of my thing.”

“I am so glad” I replied, “It is a wonderful thing to say.  Thank you so very much.  You have a blessed day as well.”

I stepped outside, into the rain and realized I had seen the radiance I was looking for that day.  Right there, at a little Speedway gas station in Indiana, by a shy, beautiful cashier who wanted to remind me, and all of us, that we are blessed.

 

Be Radiant, faith

Till Death Us Do Part….

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St. Mary’s Cathedral; Photo Credit Jamie Thompson

I had the wonderful fortune to witness my nephew and his fiancee get married on December 30.  The church was beautiful, so peaceful and holy.   In the quiet of the church, what was palpable was the love these two had for each other.  Yes, they are young.  But, they had found each other and as I watched the sacrament of marriage, one thing was clear, they truly complete each other.

I headed back to my home town and later that first week of the New Year, finally got to finishing up all the mail that had accumulated during my absence.  Magazines are always piled on the bottom of the stack, so it took me awhile to get to them.  As I started looking at the two or three magazines that had collected, I was stunned.

There, boldly staring up at me was a cover and headline that shook me to the core.  Above the name of the magazine in fact, was this headline “A Guide to Divorcing Well”.  Are you kidding me?  There is no ability to ever divorce well.  None.  Marriage is a lifelong commitment and if it is ending in divorce, there is no way that can be good or done well.

It took me a few days to calm down enough to pick up the magazine and read the article itself.  I did not make it through the article very well.  I didn’t have to – much as I expected, it was about taking advantage of the spouse.  It had tips for minimizing the cost of divorce and simplifying the process.  What?  Divorce should be hard and painful; it should not happen.  How have we as a society gotten to this point where national magazines scream headlines on how to divorce well?  The magazine used that headline because they knew that it would draw people in, it would sell copies, it would speak to people.  But, in selling more magazines, how many people became intrigued, excited even by what divorce could be for them?

When I was at my nephew’s wedding, it was a radiant event.  They were so clearly sharing their love with each other, we all witnessed that in their marriage.  And, they were embraced by a large family, showering them with love as they began their life together.  There is nothing radiant in divorce.  There is no light, no joy; only brokenness and pain. Divorce is not good.  It can not be done well.  Town and Country Magazine, you may have been genteel in the day.  But, any magazine that espouses “divorcing well” is far from genteel,  far from classy. By the way, you have just lost one more subscription.

 

 

Be Radiant, faith

The Sounds of the Season

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There is nothing quite like attending a Christmas music concert.  The sights, the smells, the sounds, the heavenly sounds that lift our spirits and remind us what this season is all about.

Last night might have been one of the most spectacular concerts I have attended in awhile.  The Daughters of Pauline, a religious order of Catholic Sisters have a traveling choir that performed here last night, and were they ever wonderful.  Their voices were individually so beautiful and collectively, simply breath-taking.

But it wasn’t just the voices, though I could have listened to them all night.  It was so much more.  These Sisters wear habits, but they had fun dressing them up a bit with a sparkly red scarf here or a Santa cap there.  Between most of the songs, they each shared little ditties, how they became a nun, or a little about their life in a habit.  Each story entertaining, insightful and with a little nugget of spirituality.

Their program was intentional, it was about showing love, dare I say, it was about being radiant.  They brought the children in the audience on stage to sing with them.  In the next breath, they sang a tribute song to all of the loved ones in all of our lives who have served as angels to each of us.

There I sat, with my book club, soaking in the sounds and realizing that the tribute to the angels was a tribute to each of them.  As I went through cancer, it was that very book club that I referred to as some of my dearest angels through that journey.

What a spectacular way to enter into this beautiful season. Each song was carefully chosen, intentionally shared, beautifully choreographed, and exquisitely sung. The angelic sounds of Christmas music, reminding us of why we celebrate, of the love and promise Christ brings to each of us.   No wonder I couldn’t help but smiling with great Joy to the World!