Testimony

     

Ladies and Gentlemen,

I’m here to testify.

“Amen,” you say, “Amen.”

I cross my hands and cry

The Lord, our God, is here

I see Him in your eyes

with a fire hot to sear

and drown out all your cries

He loves us, don’t you know

He calls us to follow

His straight path and to grow

in love.  He brings a glow

a radiant glow of love

so pure, so strong, so fine

that we look up above

and are blind by His shine

but don’t worry, my friends

for we can easily

cross over, make amends,

climb the heights, dizzily

basking in His wondrous

gift of spiritual life

spreading a bounteous

blessing to man and wife

children, bow down, I pray

I place my hands and sing

calling His love your way

and the joys He will bring

Halleluiah, Amen

Halleluiah, my friend

Halleluiah, again

Halleluiah,  the end.

Night Dream

Death came knocking upon my door

‘cause I was feeling mighty poor

and then I gazed in that firm face,

the scariest in human race.

“Come, my true friend,” to me She spoke,

to which in tears I quickly broke.

“Please, not now,” I heartily cried.

“This must not be the day I died.

For I have much I want to do

to better live all through and through.”

“Come, my best friend,” She said again.

And soon the room commenced to spin.

Around and around we both went

until my life was nearly spent.

“Arise,” Miss Death quietly said,

and lifted me from the still bed.

Golden rays shone around my head

telling me that I sure was dead

settled in a heavenly place

staring straight at God’s kindly face.

Smiles lit up my worshipping eyes

“Come to me, child,” He softly cries.

Into His open arms I fall,

breaking Dream’s terrible dread pall.

I arose with first light of dawn,

knowing I was not yet Death’s spawn.

But given chance to live again,

I choose to be full free of sin.

So praising God, to whom I sing,

of goodness that the Lord will bring

to simple souls who promise love

with our heavenly Father above.

The Saints Went Walking

The saints went walking down my street

waving flags and shouting, “Amen.”

They marched to a steady beat,

calling children, women and men

to join God’s growing army squad.

Beaming bright with an inner glow

they stood, maybe forty abroad

and aligned in six even rows.

“Come, join our ranks,” they loudly cried

and sang the most heavenly tune.

My neighbors hopped aboard the ride.

I waited, not brave to commit too soon.

Just as the parade passed me by

a rainbow appeared high in the sky

and a horde of angels asked, “Why?”

I fell upon my knees to cry

and beg for forgiveness so kind.

One young saint raised a mighty hand

and grace flooded my trembling mind.

I knew then, that in all the land

I was called to follow God’s way.

I stood, strong from heavenly grace.

With steady legs I did not sway

as I rushed to find my own place

among that blessed saintly band.

So now with them I proudly say

to doubters across all the land,

“It’s time to jump aboard God’s way.

It’s now or never,” I demand

of all who just bow down to pray

without sincerity at their hand.

It’s not enough just to obey.

So with the saints I now march by.

Open your heart, ears, hands, and eyes.

Don’t stop to think or question why,

Just step right up.  Win the great prize.

To be Yours

God came to me today

In the form of a tiny child

Whose fragile hands

Reached up to mine

Crying

Love me

Care for me

As if I were your own

Mary walked with me today

As a lowly washer woman

Whose wrinkled hands

Caressed my soul

Weeping

Help me

Touch me

Stay with me

As if I were your own

Jesus spoke to me today

Through the eyes of a blind man

Whose stumbling walk

Came near to me

Calling

Guide me

Trust me

Worship me

As if I were your own

Take time to see

To truly see

The Spirit deep inside

Of every man and woman

Walking by your side

For Jesus Christ may

Come to you today

Faith: a Personal Definition

One aspect of faith is the belief in the inherent goodness of humanity.  It may be a naïve way of thinking, especially considering these troubled times.  It may be a bit misplaced in terms of focus considering the quantity of murders, robberies, beatings, and home invasions that take place every day.  However, if we cannot believe that the bulk of those traveling through life with us do so with goodness as a driving force, then we cannot live as faith-filled people. 

Back when I was still teaching something occurred at my high school that challenged my faith in humanity.  An article appeared in the school newspaper referring to a group of students as “Tard Kart.”  In itself, the label does not seem offensive.  However, the members of this group described themselves as crazy misfits who were not accepted by the school population at large.  Hence, to them, “Tard” was a derivative of the word retard.  Kart referred to the food carts which were staffed by Special Education students, the connection, to me, was quite obvious.

Believing that it was a simple mistake, I contacted the teacher who oversaw the Journalism students.  The teacher found nothing offensive about the inclusion of the name in the article.  When I asked her what she would do if a group called themselves “Spics” or “Wops.” Would she print that?  Of course not, she said, as those are ethnic slurs.

The teacher herself had been subjected to ethnic slurs over her entire teaching career.  She had been found crying, many times, over the cruelty of students who mimicked her accent and who left insults on the white board in her classroom.  One would think that if anyone would be sensitive to negative stereotypes, it would be she.

Earlier in the same week a student was attacked outside my classroom.  He was a relatively small freshman compared to others in his class. When I heard loud thumps outside my room, I went outside to see what was happening. My student was on the floor curled up in a fetal position, holding his groin area.  Large tears coursed down his cheeks.  He was unable to speak or move for more than thirty minutes. When I found out what has happened, I was horrified that two very large seniors had slammed the smaller boy against the wall and kicked him when he was down.

I believe that it was a prank that got out of control.  Yes, the students involved tended to be aggressive, defiant, and general malcontents.  Yes, they were not on track to graduate in June.  Even so, my faith tells me that this “beating” was not a planned act of violence, but rather an opportunistic reaction.

In my seventy-one years of life, I have not only witnessed, but also been a victim of comparable events.  As an abused child, I grew up in an environment that was not conducive to the development of faith.  It’s hard to believe in a God that allows physical beatings, verbal harassment, and emotional debasement.  I prayed, every day, for salvation.  My prayers went unanswered, or so I thought.

It was not until I went on a trip to the mountains of southern California with a Catholic youth group from my university that I understood faith.  Looking at the towering mountains and walking amid the amazingly tall trees, I realized that there is a God who loves the world so much that He gave us places of solitude and introspection. 

God does not always our wishes for He knows that we need to be forged by our experiences.  We may not want to walk our given path, but we have to believe that the journey somehow leads us to a clearer understanding of who we are meant to be.

When I stood in that forest I knew that I was not the horrible child that my parents saw.  Faith allowed me to witness the goodness inside myself, the goodness inside my parents, and the goodness in those sharing the moment with me.  It sounds like a cliché, but I truly felt a golden glow spreading through my body.  That glow was faith.

Since that day, my faith has been my rock.  It gives me the strength to transcend the travails of daily life.  It opens my eyes to the good intentions of others and allows me to feel generosity of spirit.  When disheartening or disturbing events rise forth, it is through faith that I am able to process what is happening.

I do believe that all humans are capable of living lives ruled by basic tenets of kindness and generosity of spirit.  Even when the news is filled with stories of turbulence, I do not let my belief waver.  That is my belief in the goodness of humanity. That is my faith.

Faith in Those Little Things

Whispers in the silent night

Tender touches by starlight

Words unsaid in angry voice

Actions fulfilled by free choice

Love’s strong arms held open wide

Know that God walks stride by stride

Watches like a parent proud

Mistakes expected: allowed

Understanding, patient, kind

Always there for us to find

Calls our names in winters wild

In spring, He gifts breezes mild

Summer’s heat sends us outside

God’s gifts in flowers abide

Rains remind of deep pain felt

Tragic death, deftly dealt

All these things, of faith speak

Comfort to all those who seek

God’s good grace, offered free

Sin’s release, for you and me

Faith defined in little things

Given by the King of kings

Saving Beat

Deep in my heart a drum strongly beats

An elixir for a troubled soul

Rhythmical thoughts, transported on cleats

Cutting, biting, pointing toward goal.

Rutted, strewn with boulders humongous

Life offers no simplistic, free ride

Discard now those thoughts superfluous

Escape into religion’s strong tide

Believe, believe the whispers demand

Strive toward the heavenly target

Faithfully follow the narrow strand

Requiring just one golden ticket

Open my eyes to glorious sights

Halos as light for the proper path

Discourse with me about faith’s delights

Immerse me in refreshing cool bath

With God as my Savior, blessings fall

Comet showers of hues glorious

Heeding Jesus’ soft spoken call

I harmonize with angels’ chorus

Radiant rays, my soul, surround

Arms extending to God’s holy feet

I beg to let ecstasy abound

As in my heart, continues the beat

Reflections on Faith

My parents were Catholics when convenient. They baptized us as infants because it was expected and demanded by family. Going to church, however, didn’t begin until it was time to enroll my older brother in Catholic elementary school. The parish checked tithing records and saw that my parents didn’t donate regularly. Once they established a pattern, then my brother could attend.

I enrolled a year later, no questions asked.

School began with daily mass. Prayer occurred at regular intervals. Massive school-wide processions took place with regularity, rain, snow or shine. Students were disciplined with ruler, clicker, social isolation and words. We studied the saints and wrote countless reports about our favorites. All art was related to church and church teachings. No frivolous country scenes. Only crucifixions or stained-glass windows.

We read the bible, not contemporary literature except for the occasional Dick and Jane and see Spot run. We were conditioned to believe that church was our life now and in the future. Every year priests and nuns and missionaries spoke to our entire school about a life of service.

Throughout all these years I often attended Sunday Mass, but only if there wasn’t an excuse to skip it. It crops had to be planted or harvested, no Mass. If it was too snowy, icy or rainy, no Mass. Too hot? No Mass. Memorial Day? No Mass only endless visits from one cemetery to another. Relatives to visit? Well, you get the picture.

My parents made sure we received our first Communion. We processed in with our classes, hands neatly folded with a white prayer book nestled between and a white plastic rosary draped over the tips of our fingers. My brother got by with a white school shirt but I was stuffed into a stiff Communion dress and a tight-fitting veil pinching my puffy cheeks.

Once that milestone was accomplished we once again attended Mass when my dad saw fit. Interestingly enough, ten cents out of the quarter weekly allowance was handed back to my dad as our donation to the church we never attended.

My brother and I stayed at the Catholic school through Confirmation. My teacher, a strict nun, made sure I understood that this sacrament sealed my commitment to a life of service to God and church. I took it quite seriously. When the annual recruitment took place, I was ready to sign up for a monastic life of solitude and prayer. I envisioned myself in a place of peace, a place of reflection, a place devoid of the tension which was my home life. My parents wouldn’t let me go.

When we moved to California in 1964 my dad began his search for the fastest mass in town. He took us over the hills to Half Moon Bay and Pacifica where the priests spoke of fire and brimstone, damnation of everlasting hell. They terrified me.

We tried churches in San Mateo and Burlingame. We didn’t fit in those well-to-do parishes due to our extreme poverty. He found one in San Bruno that he liked until the priest asked for regular donations. There were two in South San Francisco:  one which was supposed to be our assigned parish and the other, a tiny one, with a thirty-minute mass. That’s the one my dad chose. In and out, over and done.

When away at college I discovered the Neumann Center, a tiny chapel on campus with a welcoming atmosphere. The music was contemporary with drums, guitars, keyboard and cymbals. Dancing in the aisles. Hallelujahs and lots of praise be to God. I fit in.

My husband grew up in a family that attended mass faithfully regardless of whether even when they had to sludge to church through downpours.  Going to church was part of who he was. It influenced his thinking, his behavior, his attitude toward others.

His beliefs built our family into who we are today. If we were camping, he found a church. Skiing? Church. Traveling? Right, church. Sometimes we drove for miles to find a church, but we got there nevertheless.

For almost 46 years Sunday Mass has been an integral part of our relationship. In fact, when I travel on my own, I seek out church and attend.

Not being able to attend due to the coronavirus takes me back to my childhood days of any excuse to miss going to Mass. Except for one caveat: this isn’t voluntary, but enforced.

We found a Mass on television, which is a nice substitute, but there’s a huge difference between sitting in your family room and being in the church building. There are stained glass windows in the TV church and statues and the readings and the service, but the lack of physical presence takes you away from the reverence, the spirituality.

Today things changed for me. I was asked to be the lector for today’s Sunday Mass. I put on a dress and necklace. Studied my readings. Made sure my hair was neatly combed. Put on my mask when I entered the church. Three others were there: the parish secretary, the parish office manager and the choir director. The church felt hollow. Voices echoed.

But the pews were there. Candles, flowers, statues, stained glass windows, all the things that identify that church as mine. When the priest entered and the service began I was filled with awe. Several times my eyes filled with tears. Singing with the director took me back to a few weeks ago when I’d be standing with five other choir members, lifting our voices in praise. Now there was just two of us.

The priest shared a time when he had strayed from God and how, when the call came, how powerful it was. His words carried me back to  my childhood when it wasn’t me that chose to stray, but circumstances beyond my control, and how powerful it was when I found God in my late teens. He spoke for all of us, reminding us to talk to Jesus.

Next Sunday we’ll watch the television Mass once again. It won’t be the same, but I’ll share the experience with my husband, the man who taught me that attending church was a powerful connection to our faith in God.

In these times we need reminders that there is someone up there, someone ready to listen when we’re ready to pray.

 

Morning Prayer

Sunshine washes over my face

as I stand greeting morning’s rays

warming my mother, the earth

brightening skies and lifting hearts

soaring above the lofty clouds

with emblazoned lacy wings that

move with graceful exuberance,

carrying me closer and closer

to the blessed One who made it all.

 

Praise to the Lord, Halleluiah

for His gifts enrich all people

filling us with the everlasting

warmth of His dreams and hopes.

 

Sunshine washes over my face

giving me the supernatural strength

to follow the path chosen for me alone,

the golden steps of righteous living

that demand that I support my fellows

in their struggles and rejoice in triumphs

large and small, wallowing in the sunshine

of goodness streaking all over the earth.

 

Praise to the Lord, Halleluiah

For His kindness toward us all

Allowing us to err and arise from the ashes

As a phoenix soaring to the sun.

A Simple Request

Wishes wasted on what-nots and

Wing-dings wear away in time,

While fabulous fantasies of futures

filled with wondrous windows of

opportunities allow for nothing

but disappointments.

 

Instead innocence insulates believers,

inspiring individuals to dream devilish

dances, daydreams of defiance, dramatic

challenges coursing through lives

unbroken, undefiled by demons of despair,

hearts healed and whole withstanding

weather-related attacks against

conformity.

 

Dream on, dreamers.  Dance with the stars,

sending sparks spiraling through the universe,

understandably lighting lustrous lives

leavened by luminous love,

spirited souls searching for something

of substance, something to shatter

defamations and destroy doubters.

 

Give me guidance, goodness, graciousness,

generosity that I may share my successes, spreading

goodwill and good cheer whenever my tired feet tread.

Help hinder the disbelievers, doubters, nay-sayers,

never noticing nothing that threatens to toss around

their firmly held convictions, no matter how mundane,

how mutinous.

 

Grant me the ability to appease, appreciate, applaud

those whose talents top mine, to see the dedication

and hard work woven into each wondrously crafted

creation, recognizing remarkable determination to succeed.

Allow me to march with those who mark places,

who work with the angels, who weave satisfying stories

and craft perfect poems, earning the everlasting

satisfaction of success.

 

These things I ask.