Archive for September, 2012

A Detour

I had the opportunity to get away from the heat and step into the mountain air for a few days. There is just something about pines, aspen, and the crisp anticipation of fall…even if it is only an interlude.
Colored leaves, cool mornings and fresh breezes that propose and hint at imminent transformation.
A few years ago I was back in Chicago for a conference and I got the chance to visit some old friends. It was a lovely time to play catch up. We reminisced over the years that had passed since the kids were small. On Sunday we ended up in Barrington for mass and as we started to exit the parking lot I noticed the plethora of trees that surrounded us, each filled with leaves of varying degree of brilliant red, burnt orange and sunny yellow. I asked my friend Sue to pull over while I ran from tree to tree plucking the most select representations of fall. I simply couldn’t help myself. I was like a kid in God’s candy store running barefoot amid nature’s glorious display.
I must have looked like a lunatic…but I got my leaves.
Every fall since then a little package arrives in the mail from my friend and it is a collection of vibrant leaves, freshly picked just for me. I am immediately transported back. Back to my youth in Colorado, back to Illinois as our kids grew, back to that moment with my friend.
Priceless flashes in time forever burned in my mind. Untouchable, unchangeable, invaluable.
Life moves at a rapid, unceasing speed.
I am happy I pulled out of the fast lane, rolled to a stop, got out and sucked in deeply the spectacle. All around us lays the work of the Artist. His brushstrokes are evident in all we behold.
Go run in the park, pick some leaves, sit still and ponder. Celebrate the beauty of each passing day, each smile. Embrace, love, be kind…make the world a better place.
After all, isn’t that why you were created?
Work will always be there, but leaves will not wait.


Chivalry is Not Chopped

By: Barbara Lishko

I got the rare chance the other night to watch the Food Network show, Chopped. I have seen the show maybe two or three times. It’s an interesting premise. Professional chefs challenge each other to create something delectable and wildly authentic using the most ridiculous combination of ingredients, in a constrained, high pressure feat of culinary excellence.

Being a mother and generally nice human being, I consider everyone a winner that participates by giving their best effort. I don’t much like that someone is “chopped” in a close race because their radicchio is askew or that they didn’t use enough pastrami in the chocolate mousse.  These professionals who already excel in their fields are made almost pawns in a cruel game of the petty, subjective tastes, of their distinguished judges. Maintaining ones composure as some pompous, so-called expert sneers and quibbles about the crispness of your crepes, is a feat all in itself. I imagine it takes an iron will, not to wield your filet knife and make tongue sausage.

In each episode we get to meet the competitors and hear a little bit about their story. Chef Lance has piqued my attention and is returning after losing a previous show. What intrigued me as he described himself was that he “used” to be a total jerk before he found God, and would not hesitate to walk over any one in his way. Well, let’s see what the competition brings out, shall we?

In the second round, one of our chefs was running with a pot of boiling water, not recommended in any kitchen, slips, and douses her legs receiving second degree burns. True to her character however, she does not stop and continues onward to advance to the final round and compete against Chef Lance. For her this competition is about winning so she can take the money and go see her grandmother in the old country.  My sincerest apologies, I cannot remember her name.

In this final round, the competitors have to make a dessert out of grasshoppers, squid ink and duck eggs or the like. After each concocts something edible out of such bizarre but apparently gastronomic delights, we are ready to reveal who will be chopped; but not before we get to listen in on the chefs back stage. Chef Burned Legs, not her real name, is saying to Chef Lance that no matter who wins, they are both winners. The long awaited moment has arrived and wha-la Chef Lance has won. With poise, the other chef gives him a hug congratulating him and starts to walk away.

The producers could not have scripted what came next.

Chef Lance thanks the judges and says he did not expect to win and would like to give the $10,000.00 prize money to the other chef so she can go and see her grandmother. Clearly everyone is taken aback and visibly shocked, most especially the recipient of his generous gift.

Here we see a very rare and poignant display of true Christian manhood. Chef Lance is truly what he says he is. He is not about the prize money, he is well grounded in who he is and whose he is. That is satisfaction enough for him. I have to tell you I was surprised to see such an authentic demonstration of generosity…on TV no less.

Will I stay tuned for next week and see what clever culinary cookery the chefs will come up with using wildly exotic ingredients like spider eyes, wild Jamaican oats, and yak honey; I don’t know.

This I do know, it is nice to be amazed, to see real live Christians in various situations quietly,(and sometimes not so quietly), going about doing good. Well done Chef Lance.

A Misunderstanding

It has happened to all of us…more than once. More times than I can calculate.

We think we are helping, but sometimes we are not…and a big ‘ol ugly mess ensues.

Hurt feelings, lost tempers, words that cannot be taken back. They are out there in the oxygen floating around and the more they are repeated the more damage that happens. Little bubbles bouncing around in an enclosed container spreading the words that contaminate the whole project.

This project however, is no simple high school science experiment…no, the container is the world and we are the bubbles. How we interact, collaborate, forgive…it all makes a difference. When we hang on to that hurt, when we let it fester; we turn the whole mix sour and affect the air we all breathe. Green poisonous plumbs infecting mankind, making it hard for us to see clearly through the intoxicating fumes.

When we forgive we allow the purifying ruah of God to refresh our souls, cleanse our very air, making whole and new everything in its path.

Once again anything and everything is possible. We can start fresh, inhaling deeply the profound love of the Father,  permeating every cell of our being and spilling over into our dealings and doings and whispers.

May the light of the new day be filled with His hope, love, and merciful tenderness.

Jesus meek and humble of heart- touch my heart and make it like your own.

Barbara Lishko-

Passed on the Reins

After 11 years in youth ministry, I have officially retired and have set my face in the direction of marriage preparation.
I must say it feels good.
Good in the sense that God helped set things in motion and I listened.
But not only me, the young man who he called to step up and lead.
Lead in his own unique style, create his own team, and do the good work necessary.
It was a joy to behold, to see all the teens taking a chance on God, on the program.

It made my heart swell with pride that someone could care as much. That I could entrust these families whom I had grown so close to…to another.

I could breathe a collective sigh and know that the foundation that I had built on, that which others before me had laid, and others before them, was now being raised again.

As I walked away, it all felt right…
and good
and hopeful.

May the Almighty bless the work of our hands, to whatever task he calls us, to whomever we are to serve
ALWAYS…..For His glory.

I have a very dear friend I have known since high school. We were both baptized Catholic as babies, raised in Catholic homes, and received all of our sacraments. I was in her Catholic wedding and she was in mine. We are Godparents of each other’s children.

Where we stray is in our political convictions.  It is a topic that I have avoided discussing with her for decades.

Call me a coward, gutless, ignorant. I was all of those. Was I simply unwilling to risk breaking up our friendship and perhaps driving a wedge into the very heart of it? Yes. Did I consider myself too ignorant of political matters to even broach the topic? Yes.

Notice the past-tense reference.

One of her lifelong dreams was to one day be involved in politics. This year her dream was realized. She worked her tail off, sought funding, and walked the hot summer streets going door to door, getting the necessary signatures and votes. She was hoping for my support; but to back her party’s platform for me would go against everything that I hold non-negotiable as a Catholic. Apparently I was naive to think she held these same beliefs.

It was her running for office that finally made me realize the lost opportunities I could have had so many years ago. However, in the big scheme of things, it is never too late to do the right thing, to say what is on one’s mind, to educate and spread the Good News. So I prayed and I sent her a letter outlining each and every reason why I would not and could not ever vote for what she stood for.

What I received back emanated from a true politician; a redirect, a deflection, and deft counter of carefully worded questions designed to take the offensive. They also had little to do with what I had shared.  I guess it was rather green of me to hope that two long-time friends could have a genuine honest dialogue.

I rather loathe the election years. It is for me exhausting and terribly divisive. People who I normally have great respect for seem to turn into something out of Jekyll and Hyde.  Tempers flare almost immediately, lines are drawn; words fly like arrows aimed to silence an opponent.

The other issue I find most confounding is how intelligent people who appear to know right from wrong, good from bad, ignore that and stick with party lines to the detriment of the family, society, our nation and deeply held American beliefs. How can you say you care for the poor, and at the same time have disdain for the unborn? Pay little or no attention to Catholic teachings on homosexuality, life and freedom of religion?

If we are Catholics, doesn’t that suggest that we hold the same values and beliefs? Are we Catholic first or are we foremost Democrat or Republican and lock our Catholic beliefs out of the public square?

Remaining charitable in the face of those who seem to have a deliberate indifference to Catholic teaching, perverting and twisting it to fit political leanings is a real cross to bear, and I pray another opportunity to grow in holiness.

So to all the other men and women out there who have held their tongue out of fear, rather than risk a friendship or persecution at school or work; I urge you to speak out. Do not delay in sharing the truth that we hold in the Catholic Church, to know it and live it yourself as a tangible, charitable witness.  When we do not speak, evil advances, and more minds and hearts are lead astray in the cryptic, illusory, murmurings of the serpent that always leads to destruction.

Finally, pray with all your strength. It is the mightiest weapon we have in our armory. In the months leading up to one of the most important elections of our history, use all the weapons at our disposal; fasting, novenas, rosaries, acts of mortification. Pray that God will clear the fog that clouds judgments and obscures vision. Join Catholics all over the nation in praying the Novena to the Mother of God for the Nation from September 27th to October 7th. Spread the word of this Novena and entrust our country to the powerful intercession of Our Lady of Guadalupe, Patroness of the Americas. May she come to our assistance in this time, to convert hearts, change minds and intercede for us at the throne of her Son.


Seven Months Later

By Barbara Lishko

“Where did all the time go” we often comment as we wonder out loud. I might say the same thing as I look at my dusty, neglected, first attempt at blogging and my sadly forgotten writing.

What’s the deal? How could so much time pass by without as much as a peep, rant, or whine?  Well I might start by stating that we prepared for and married one daughter. Not just hired the whole event out, kind of wedding. NO, I am referring to the hand-made, stamped, glittered, glued, folded, licked, iced, sewed and painted 200 mason jars kind of preparation. You can be sure what I mentioned only “chips snowflakes” off this iceberg. If that isn’t enough, I am the kind of fool who has to make my own desserts too. Why, because I can. I am snooty that way when it comes to sweets. Pathetic? Yes. It’s a sickness, someone has to have it; and I have it in spades.

From the seven hundred, triple variety cupcakes, to the veil. I got my hands on all of it. Did I mention the six-hundred chocolate dipped strawberries? Well actually I did just the one to give an example, and my excellent team of family and friends punched out so many we were eating fermented, intoxicating “strawberry wine incased in chocolate” for weeks.

What we didn’t get to was the toilet paper. We had toilet paper alright, but we actually didn’t do something to pretty it up. For Pete’s sake, you gotta draw the line somewhere.

I blame Pinterest. Our daughter got into that “black hole of crafty creativeness gone mad” and didn’t surface for months. I had to finally scream “STOP!” You simply cannot have infinitesimal choices.

So back to the topic at hand, time loss. That endeavor took us through May, and the blessed and totally wondrous event was June first. May I state for the record that we live in Phoenix. Do the triple digit math.

In addition to the above mentioned social event of the year, I was double dipping at work trying to succeed at two full time ministries with the same zeal I have always given to just one. That endeavor of “pouring myself out as a gift” took me to the edge of crazy. You know that place where we take ourselves when we forget the “no” word. It is there that I usually run face first into the reality that I am not super woman; stupid woman or ignoramus woman perhaps, but definitely not a super hero. The good news is of course that God is there. He is in fact everywhere and that is the very place I was reminded that I don’t have to be and do everything on the planet.

It took a few months of discernment, lots of prayer and here I am now happily working in marriage preparation and have left the teens in wonderful, capable hands. It is however, September. Dare I say that the triple digit thing hasn’t changed, but I have.

The funny thing was I thought I would have to work so much harder teaching and talking to adults. Would they accept what I had to say regarding the Church teachings on marriage? Would I need to exercise and enlarge my vocabulary so it would adequately stimulate their minds rather than lull them into a coma? I learned pretty quickly that the same things applied to them as to teenagers; build relationships with energy, love, patience and little words. Many of them I found are after all the tragic victims of lapsed faith and under nourished when it comes to matters of the Church and her wisdom.

They are spiritually hungry and don’t know it. They are eager to make their future marriage a success despite coming from broken homes and lacking in authentic, joy-filled witnesses to emulate.

That’s where the rest of us need to come in. Our public witness of happy, faithful, lively, and dedicated marriages is crucial for those who need something to appraise and strive for themselves. I can tell you it is exciting work in this arena. It energizes me getting to know these young adults, and they are ready to do whatever it takes not to become a statistic. Conversions, transformations, changed hearts are flourishing I assure you.

So that is my last seven months in a nutshell. I ask your prayers for all of us who minister to those preparing for marriage and for the couples themselves. When we pray for our marriages and live them in truth and fidelity, being faithful in good times and bad, we are showing the world that marriage between a man and a woman is the best thing for society, for families, and for growth in holiness. As Blessed JPII said, so goes the family, so goes the world in which we live.