Thursday, July 18, 2019

Trading My Yoke for His

Today's Gospel is three sentences, three.  Yet there is so much packed into those three sentences we
could spend days talking about it.

Jesus said: "Come to me, all you who labor and are burdened, and I will give you rest.  Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for yourselves.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." (Matthew 11:28-30)

My initial thoughts are: Who isn't burdened and laboring in some way?  What sort of rest?  What do you mean by yoke?  What does meekness and being humble have to do with labor, burden, and rest?  Why the yoke again?  So, am I trading one burden for another?  What makes your burden better than the one I currently have?

I believe it's good to ask these questions.  It's good to read the passage a few times, image yourself sitting, listening to Jesus, and then ask questions.  That's what people did when He walked the earth.  Read any chapter from the books of the Gospel and you'll see this.  Keep in mind that Jesus also asked questions of those around Him and He'll ask questions of you and me as well.

I think His questions for me would be:  Why are you carrying around that burden?  And for so long, how many years now?  Is that a yoke you really want to be attached to?  Would you like for me to help you carry your burden?  What sort of rest would you enjoy most?  Is what you see as a heavy burden actually one that is really light?  Does your view of burdens need to shift?

That next to last question is the one I find most interesting because throughout my life I've found that the way I view situations makes a big difference as to whether I think something is a burden or not.  I would even go so far as to say that my view of burdens can dramatically change depending on the state of my soul.

For instance, when I am living a grace filled life of prayer, sacraments, and trying to love every person as though they were Jesus, I find the Church's teachings on sexuality a great joy.  At these times I fully embrace the teachings and find inexpressible beauty in their wisdom.  However, when I am living a selfish life, when I am not in a state of grace, when I am not loving others as though they were Christ...these very same teachings are a heavy burden.  I feel myself writhe and struggle under their weight.   I resent them and even hate them during these times.  The teachings are the same.  It's I who have changed and so how I perceive the burden changes.

To me this is a great example of what Jesus is talking about in the Gospel.  The burdens of life won't change.  They won't magically disappear because I pray or go to Mass.  No, rather, they will become bearable, light even with the help of the Lord.  The grace of God gives us a new vision, a new strength to bear our burdens.  Only through the power of God's grace can we see difficult situations as light burdens or even gifts!  Think of those suffering with unbearable pain from injury or sickness who see their situation as gift from the Lord!  How can this be except by grace!!

So how can we get better at carrying our burden and embracing our yoke?  The obvious answer is frequent confession, frequent communion, and frequent, daily, conversation with the Lord.  It is during that daily conversation with Jesus that we can learn to be "meek and humble of heart."  Therein lies the answer, the key to seeing even the most heavy burden, the most brutal yoke of the cross as easy and light.  We must learn to be like Him, meek and humble of heart.

FROM THE SAINTS - "Any other burden oppresses and crushes you, but Christ's actually takes weight off you. Any other burden weighs down, but Christ's gives you wings. If you take a bird's wings away, you might seem to be taking weight off it, but the more weight you take off, the more you tie it down to the earth. There it is on the ground, and you wanted to relieve it of a weight; give it back the weight of its wings and you will see how it flies!" - Saint Augustine

How to get better at prayer.
  1. Set a prayer appointment - Set a time on your calendar each day to meet and speak with God.
  2. Slowly increase your prayer time. - Don't jump in with an hour right from the get-go.  Build up your "tolerance" so to speak.
  3. Commit - to praying and slowly increasing your prayer time for 30 days.  Mark off the days on your calendar.  If you miss a day, jump right back in, don't give up.
  4. Pray - praying is talking to God, it's spending time with your attention focused on Him.  I enjoy spending time with my children regardless of their level of development.  God is the same way.  Spend time praying as best you can.  Use formal prayers if you want or simply speak in conversation.  Don't forget to listen!
  5. Journal - Our newly revised 4 Simple Steps to Better Scripture Meditations: Guide, Workbook, and Journal walks you through 4 easy steps that will help you go deeper in your prayer life.  It includes 31 days of workbook and journal pages too!
  6. Read other good books about how to pray better - Prayer PrimerDeep Conversion, Deep PrayerTime for GodThe Spiritual Life: A Comprehensive Guide to Catholics Seeking Salvation.
* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Moses and childlike faith

The conversation between God and Moses at the burning bush in modern (social media) form.

God: Go to Pharaoh and tell him to set my people free

Moses: Wait, what?

God:  I've heard the cry of my people and I have chosen you to go address Pharaoh and demand their freedom.

Moses:  You know I'm a wanted man in that country right?  Murder, etc?  I'm probably not the best choice for this gig.

God: I'll be with you and will give you the words to speak.

Moses:  Okay, but, sorry for asking this, how will I know you'll be with me?

God:  The proof that I will give you is that when my people are free, you'll worship here on this mountain.


God: What?

Moses: You are asking me to go to Pharaoh and "demand" that he set free your people, his slaves?

God: Right!

Moses: ...and you'll be with me to help me with this task?

God: Yes!  Every step of the way!

Moses:  ...and the proof or sign you will give that all of this is your will is that when they are free we'll worship on this mountain.

God: Exactly, ready?


God: Problem?

Moses: Just so I have this straight...I'm to go to the most powerful man in the land and demand that he let your people go and the proof that this is your will is that when it's all said and done everyone will worship here months or even years from now.

God: Not real sure of the time frame but yes!


God: Just trust me, Moses.  It will all work out....

Have you ever felt like Moses in conversation with God about His will for your life?  Is God asking you to do something that seems impossible, outrageous, or ridiculous?  Is the only "sign" He's giving you is His promise it will be successful?

Who trusts a God like this?  Who walks solely by faith?  Who steps out onto the water regardless of the wind, waves, or (hello) water??

Jesus gives us the answer in the Gospel today - those who are childlike.  When I asked myself the questions above I immediately thought of my 2 year-old son or even my 9 year-old son.  Both would look at me like I was crazy for asking them to do something that seemed impossible.  However, they would do it!  Why?  They have childlike faith in me.  They have faith that I would never ask them to do something that would bring them harm.

Do you have that sort of childlike faith in the Father who would never ask you to do something that would bring you harm?  Do you trust Him?  Abraham trusted in God's promise of countless children though he never saw it fulfilled in this life.  Moses trusted in God's plan for him though he couldn't understand how it would happen.  Mary trusted in the words of the angel.  Jesus trusted in the Father even to death.

In each case God fulfilled His promises ten-fold.  Although it may not have happened as we would have imagined it playing out, He was and is always faithful.  Will you trust Him?

Lord, give me childlike faith.  Help me to trust you, Father.

Click here to read more from James M. Hahn - Blog  -  Books

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

Real Life Rosary Grand Re-Opening

 After six agonizing months we have prayerfully decided to re-open Real Life Rosary.  We're excited to continue this journey with you and your family.

Our newly edited website has all of the great products that we had before plus some new features we think you'll enjoy.  We'll also be adding new products in the coming months.  Thank you for your patience and kind words, we're happy to be back.

To celebrate the Grand Re-Opening we've created a discount code for 20% off of your entire order.  Simply enter "Open2019" for the code or click here and it will be added automatically.

Also, today, July 16th, 2019, the feast of Our Lady of Mount Carmel, add Rosary Meditations for the Family eBook to your cart and get it for free!

If you are looking for particular items, here's a list of our most popular products and services:

Traditional Cord-Knot Rosaries

Rosary Workshops


Free PDF Rosary Pamphlets

Rosary Making

Saturday, July 13, 2019

The Prodigal Father: Part 1

The Prodigal Father

The Story of the Prodigal Son

The Demand

"Father, give me the share of your estate that should come to me," said Jude as he stood sternly before his father in the failing sunlight.  He had never spoken to his father in this way, but he had made up his mind the night before, with the encouragement of his friends, to do so.  It was the only way to get what belonged to him now while he could enjoy it. "Why should you wait until you're an old man," his friends asked.  "Yes, you'll be too old to enjoy it or your brother may take it all after your father passes," they all agreed.

Old Abbas looked up slowly taking in the full frame of his youngest son.  He loved Jude and Reuben, Jude's older brother, equally.  Yet there was something about Jude that made his heart leap and sing.  Maybe it was his youth, his exuberance, or his smile that reminded him so much of Jude's mother who had passed away nearly 10 years ago.

"I'm sorry son, what did you say," said Abbas.  "I was deep in prayer and didn't even hear you approach.  What can I do for you?"

Jude looked into the old man's deep, dark, penetrating eyes, and felt his will begin to tremble.  Those eyes always seemed to be looking into you rather than at you.  It was as if he were reading the story of your soul or the thoughts of your mind just as they were forming.  The voice of his friend, Saul, echoed in his mind from the night before and he began again, "I want my share of your wealth, my inheritance, now when I am young, so I can enjoy it."  The words that sounded so strong and reasonable the night before under the influence of good wine fell limp into the dust at the feet of his father.

Abbas continued to hold Jude's gaze.  Jude felt like his father was strolling leisurely through his mind looking for something or perhaps leaving something.

"Sit down beside me my son," said Abbas as he slowly closed his eyes and lowered his head.  Not wanting to upset the old man, Jude did as his father asked, seating himself in the dirt at his feet.

"Do you wish I were dead, Jude?," Abbas said directly.  "Do you wish I were now walking with our Lord and God in paradise so that you may have what rightly belongs to you?"

The young man was startled, not ready for such a question.  "No father, why would you say such a thing?  May your Lord and God give you a long life," answered Jude firmly.

He was embarrassed that he had even approached the subject but his embarrassment gave way to anger as he waited on his father's response.  After all, wasn't that what he was in fact saying, that he wished his father were gone?  The old man had amassed all this wealth and for what, to sit by his tent day in and day out fingering beads and studying fairy tales?  He could have lavish feasts, nicer tents, and concubines but instead he gave to the poor and paid his servants far too much.  Saul was right, "his father was wasteful and Jude needed to get his inheritance before it was all gone."

The change in wording was not lost on his father.  "So, you no longer believe, my son?," he said, almost whispering the words as though he were in agony.

His blood began to rise and flood Jude's mind, "I no longer believe in the stories of old, in fairy tales of parting seas or magic bread.  I no longer believe in a God who rescues his people.  If such a being exists, why didn't he rescue my mother?  Why did he allow your own flesh and blood to destroy your wife even before the vile little creature saw the light of day or drew a breath!"  Jude rose quickly to his feet, "no, father, I no longer believe in your God."

The old man watched intently as his son wrestled with the thoughts inside his head.  A great battle raged inside the young man.  He walked back and forth in the twilight before his father's tent kicking up little clouds of dust.  The anguish was palpable.  Abbas sat quietly waiting for Jude to finish this interior war.  He prayed for the better Jude to win the struggle.

"I love you father," Jude began, "but you are wasteful.  You could do so much more with your wealth.  You could double the size of the flock in a year but you give all your earnings to the poor and the hired help."

Abbas looked up at Jude but Jude turned away, "is that what you are planning to do with your share, my son.  Are you going to invest it, purchase a flock of your own?  Take some of my flock then.  I give them to you to start your venture."

Jude stopped in his tracks and turned on the old man.  Abbas could see the dust settling upon Jude's sandals.  The first stars of the evening twinkled in the purplish-black sea above Jude's rugged frame and curly hair.  "I don't want your flock and what I do with my money is my business," Jude said through clenched teeth.  "If you being dead is what it takes to get my share, then fine, you are dead to me.  I'll collect my share of the inheritance in three days.  Good night, Abbas."

The father watched as Jude made his way through the flocks and into the darkness.  He heard him call out over the field for his friend, Saul.  Abbas entered his tent and prepared for sleep.  In the distance he could hear the laughter of his beautiful but lost son.  He fell asleep with prayers of blessing for Jude upon his lips.

The Collection

“Do you really want to do this, my Lord?," asked Baruch directly.  “Send the young man away with a thrashing and not one third of your entire estate!”

The old man looked kindly on his secretary, “he is my son, Baruch.  Do you think a thrashing would knock sense into him or push him far away from me?  No, give him all he asks for and perhaps a little more if you can find it.”

Though twenty years his junior, Baruch was Abbas’ secretary and trusted advisor.  The patriarch always allowed him to speak freely to him in private and attached a great deal of weight to his counsels.  But in this case Abbas’ mind was made up.  He trusted that the Lord would provide for both he and his son in due time.

“Baruch, thank you for your devoted service and I know you only say these things out of love for me, with no thought to your own commission but I trust that our Lord and God will do all he can for Jude,” the old man said firmly as he sat in the tent, eyes closed, caressing his long beard.

Outside the tent foot falls of half a dozen men could be heard approaching the patriarch’s spacious tent.  Their shadows could be seen as they stopped just outside the entry.

“Permission to enter, my Lord,” came a voice from outside the tent.

Abbas opened his eyes and rose, “you may enter, my son.”

A tall silhouette entered the tent and advanced toward the old man.  Baruch watched in amazement as the two men embraced.  To him it was as if young Abbas was greeting the now much older Abbas.  The men were mirror images of one another yet one reflection was young and vibrant while the other gave way to the passing of time.

“Ah, Reuben, my son, come sit with me.  You were not expected back with the flocks for another two weeks,” said Abbas as he lowered himself onto his mat.  “Is everything okay, my son?  Are the flocks and servants well?”

Reuben was a rugged man in his late 30’s.  Dark, curly hair fell almost to his broad shoulders and his black beard hid the sharp, high cheek bones, a gift from his mother.  His bright smile was irresistible to any woman he looked upon and his dark brown, almost black eyes, seemed to pierce the very soul of everyone he encountered.

Those dark eyes turned from his father toward Baruch who at that moment gave Reuben a slight nod.  Baruch had secretly sent for Reuben hoping that he, of all people, could make Abbas see the folly of giving away so much to the ungrateful, selfish Jude.  Reuben would never reveal his source to his father.  Baruch need not worry about that.

Reuben’s gaze returned to his father, “all is well with me, the flock, and the servants, father.  I alone have returned, leaving the flocks to graze on the Eastern border.  How are things with you my father?  May the Lord our God bless you and keep you forever!”

Abbas smiled at the young man, his younger mirror image.  He uttered a silent prayer of thanksgiving that Reuben had kept the faith in the one true God.

“I am well, Reuben,” said Abbas with a genuine smile, “but I have a feeling you are not here merely to check on my well-being.  No, a bird has carried a message to you from the nest and you have returned to see if it is true.”

Abbas turned and looked at Baruch who stared blankly at the scrolls before him pretending not to notice the conversation nor the weight of the old man’s gaze.  Baruch was grateful for the darkness of the tent as his cheeks began to redden.

“You speak truly, a word of concern has traveled many miles to my ears,” said the young man calmly.  “I wanted to hear it from your lips though, father.”

Abbas smiled, “it is true Reuben.  I have decided to honor Jude’s request for his inheritance.  What good will it do to deny him?”

Reuben shifted his legs slightly on his mat and sat more erect.  “Father, I love you but this seems like folly.  Even the ewe doesn’t submit to every request for milk from the lamb.  It helps the lamb grow and learn to forage on her own.  Do you think this will help Jude to grow, to mature?”

“Jude is no longer a lamb,” began Abbas, “he is a man and am I not free to do with my property what I wish?”

“That’s right, brother, I’m not a lamb,” came a voice from outside the tent.  Jude moved the flap and entered unbidden with Saul at his side.  “I am not a lamb, nor am I asking for milk.  I only want what father had intended to give me anyway.”

Reuben jumped to his feet and resisted the urge to step toward his younger brother.  “Little brother,” the words seethed out from his clenched jaw, “you are mad!  What could possibly posses you to ask for such a thing?  Has the love of wine, pretty birds, and all that glitters destroyed your mind or has this snake at your side done so with his forked tongue.”

Saul slowly moved his hand to the hilt of his sword.  Luckily for him, Jude was standing between Saul and Abbas or such a gesture, in full view of Abbas, would have been cause for banishment if not death.  Reuben stood motionless staring at Saul.  The corner of his mouth lifted in a half-smile revealing the white of his teeth.  Saul shuttered and moved his hand away from his sword.

“My sons,” began Abbas as he fingered his loop of wooden beads, “my mind is at peace with what Jude has requested.  I will honor it and pray that he profits from all he does.”

“I am not at peace,” blurted out the secretary as he rounded his corner table filled with quills, ink bottles, and scrolls.  “I am not at peace at all, Jude.”  Baruch stood toe-to-toe with the young man.  Jude could feel his wrath beginning to rise.  “You are not only taking your portion, Jude.  Do you not realize that in order for your father to ‘give you what belongs to you’,” the secretary said this with so much sarcasm that even Abbas had to restrain a smile.  “Do you not realize that entire flocks of sheep must be sold?  Do you further realize that if there are no sheep, we cannot pay the shepherds?  Flocks, shepherds, perhaps even land must be sold off for your selfish request.”

“That is quite enough, Baruch,” said the old man still fingering his beads.  “What Jude has requested, I will honor as I have said.”

Jude stared hard at the secretary who was still so close he could feel the heat of his anger upon his skin in the cool of the tent.  Baruch took one step back, bowed toward Abbas, then toward Reuben and then excused himself from the family affair.

“I too must go, Father,” said Reuben knowing his father’s word was final.  “I have many responsibilities to attend to on both the Eastern and Northern boarder.  I will also being inquiring about work for those who will be displaced.” Reuben too turned toward Abbas and bowed.  As he moved toward the exit he looked hard into Jude’s face.  Jude’s stomach turned as he watched murderous rage flash across Reuben’s countenance.  Reuben continued his exit but as he passed Jude he slammed his shoulder hard into Jude, knocking him off balance.  Saul caught the young man and set him upright as he watched Reuben exit the tent.

“Leave us,” Abbas said into the nearly empty, silent tent.  Saul knew the words for meant for him.  He hesitated, wondering if Reuben might be waiting just outside in ambush.

“Go!,” said the old man raising his voice slightly.

Saul turned quickly and left the tent neither bowing nor contesting.

As Abbas began to rise he said, “do not speak my son.  I ask only that you embrace me and know that I love you.”  With that the old man advanced and embraced Jude before he could think of resisting.  The old man held him close and rested his greying head upon Jude’s shoulder, “I love you my son and I shall never stop loving you.  Go, and may our Lord and God lead you along the path wherever it may go.  Speak not, go.”

The old man released Jude and returned to his mat.  Abbas bowed his head and suppressed the desire to cry as he continued to wear down the ancient string of olive-wood beads.  Jude remained transfixed as if a dream.  He stood there for a long time looking at the old man sitting on the floor with his bowed head.

He began to question his motives when something scraped across the outside of the tent wall.  This faint scratch was followed by a rapid succession of three more scratches.  It was Saul.  They had used this signal numerous times before when it was time to make a speedy retreat from a poorly placed bet or a “pretty bird’s” tent.  Jude continued to look upon the old man.  The three quick scratches came again.

“You should go, Jude,” said the old man on the floor.  His voice was still warm but distant.  “Go before that fool Saul scratches a hole in my tent!  Your letters are there on Baruch’s table.  All is in order.  Go in peace my son.  May God be with you.”

Anger welled up deep inside Jude and boiled over into rage.  His father’s kindness was almost too much to bear.  He had expected a fight but not this.  Saul told him that if his father didn’t fight him on this request it was only a further sign of his weakness of mind.  This weakness of mind would ruin the old man and leave Jude penniless, homeless, and no better than a beggar or a slave.

Jude bounded to the secretary’s table and found his letters.  He placed them into the folds of his cloak and with one swift move turned the table on it’s side scattering quills, bottles, and scrolls upon the dirt floor.

“You are fool Abbas and am willing to bet all that I now hold that you will squander all that is left before long on the fools you have working for you,” spat Jude as he looked at the ink spilling across parchments and into the dirt.  “Your God has never been with me and I care not for his company.” With that Jude turned his back toward the old man and left the tent to join Saul.

READ PART 2 (Available if highlighted)

Click here to read more from James M. Hahn - Blog  -  Books

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Tuesday, July 09, 2019

30 Pieces of Silver

Stephen stared across the desk at the nurse as she checked off items on her iPad with a black stylus.  Nurse Rebecca, as she introduced herself, was in her late 50s with short-cut brown hair that had been dyed one too many times.  Stephen thought she would have made a good drill sergeant in the Marines with her stocky, muscular build, rigid cheek bones, and squared chin.  Her mouth was a flat thin line that Stephen thought had been placed there simply to underline her glasses.

As Nurse Rebecca continued to tap and scroll on the device Stephen let his eyes wander around the room.  The shelves behind her desk were filled with technical books: Osborn’s Brain, 15th Edition, Encyclopedia of Intensive Care Vols I-V, 2030 Edition, Human Life: Recycle & Renewal - HHS Edition, and many more.  On the shelf above her right shoulder were two pictures in flat black plastic frames.  One picture was of her with an older lady in a wheelchair with a blanket over her lap.  The other was of Nurse Rebecca with two dogs, a Boarder Collie and what looked to be an Australian Shepherd.

“Is that your mother,” said Stephen.  The words had left his mouth as if he had simply thought out loud.  “Sorry, I just thought I saw a resemblance,” he continued as Nurse Rebecca began to look up.

The nurse looked him full in the face without turning to reference the photograph, “yes, that is a picture of me and my mother a few days before her procedure.”  She returned to her work on the iPad.

“Ah yes,” thought Stephen, “the procedure, that’s what we’re here for isn’t it.”  He watched the nurse continue her work.  He thought she looked almost superhuman or not human.  She reminded him of a primitive robot, the ones that came out in the early 2000s before AI and facial recognition was perfected.  He laughed to himself as he imagined how he used to move with rigid body movements imitating the robots portrayed in old movies.  He remembered how his mother would act when she saw him play acting in this way.  She would play along and ask the robot questions about her son, if the robot would clean Stephen’s room, or if the robot wanted oil or cookies.

“Will I be able to see my mom before the procedure?” he blurted out again without thinking, lost in his memories of happier days.

Nurse Rebecca placed the stylus to the right of her iPad, took a deep breath, and leaned back in her chair.  She eyed Stephen for what felt to him like hours.  He could hear the buzzing of a light somewhere in the room that needed a ballast replaced.  The nurse took off her underlined glasses, placed them on the table and rubbed her eyes and face.

“Can I give you some advice,” she began as glanced from Stephen to her iPad and back to Stephen.  She had forgotten his name.  Why try to remember the name of someone who would be replaced by another face with a worthless name in less than an hour.  Names had no utility with this job, at least not in her mind.  She would never see Stephen again.  Why waste brain power on this pathetic idiot.  They were all idiots.  Patients, idiots.  Family members, idiots.  Renewal team members, idiots.  If the families weren’t idiots, they wouldn’t be here in the first place.  The Renewal Team members were idiots but at least they were smart enough to make it through the training school and provide for themselves but they would never amount to anything.

“Stop calling her mom or mother or mama or whatever terms of endearment you like to use,” she began with her cold, mechanical voice.  She’d practiced this speech hundreds of times, maybe thousands.  “It makes it more difficult for you.  The woman who gave you life doesn’t even know who you are at this point.  She doesn’t know if you are the doctor, a janitor, the president - ‘may he be honored forever’ - or her son.  You can call her mom, Sheila, beeboop, your honor, or whatever you like but she has no clue who she is either.”

Stephen sat up in his chair ready to confront this robot, person, devil or whatever she might be.

“Stephen, hold your breath.  I know this might sound cold to you but it’s the truth,” she appeared to soften a little.  “I’m only trying to make this easier for you in the long run.  Hold on to the memories, the good times, the little boy memories of mama, but she’s already gone up here,” she said gently tapping her temple.

The man squirmed in his chair, “even if she doesn’t know who I am or who she is, I’ll still call her mom, thank you very much.  If that’s truly the case, what difference does it make to you?”

Nurse Rebecca placed her glasses and a faint smile passed over her face.  “It doesn’t make a difference to me.  I’ve seen it time after time though and I’m only trying to make it easier for you.  Forget I said anything.”  She picked up the pad and stylus and began her work again.

“Forget I said anything?” he thought as he wrestled with feelings of pain and shame knowing what was about to take place.  His internal struggle continued, “is this the right thing?  I know it’s the law but is it right?  We’ve been doing this for years and years now but…  Yet, I know I can’t afford to keep her here.”

“Do you want me to have the doctor prescribe something for you, Stephen,” said the nurse as she continued to write and tap on the pad.

“I’m sorry?”

“Do you want something to help you relax after her renewal process?  Something to take the edge off for a while?  It’s a common practice these days.  It helps a lot of people in your situation.”

“No.  I don’t know.  Maybe.  Does it cost anything?”, he could feel his stomach start to churn at the thought of money, the job he recently lost, and his mother.  He felt terrible for even thinking about money right now at this very moment, literally less than an hour before her renewal process.

“Not much, we can simply subtract it from the final balance.  I think you should at least have something in hand.  You can decide later if you want to take it or not.” said the nurse, again, a faint smile passed through the thin line below her glasses and disappeared.  “They always took it eventually,” she thought.

“I guess so,” he said as he again shifted in his chair.

There was a faint knock at the door of the windowless room.

Nurse Rebecca looked up at Stephen and for the first time a smile did appear on her face.  It was cold and calculating.  She knew the fear and trepidation of those sitting across from her.  She could smell it.  She enjoyed it for some reason.  To her, that palpable fear and struggling was like a drug that gave her an inexpressible high.

“I guess it’s almost time,” she said as the smile disappeared and she picked up the iPad and turned it for Stephen to see.  “You’ll have as much time as you need to say good bye to Sheila, I mean your mother, after we’re finished here.”

Stephen swallowed hard and sat up in his chair leaning toward the large metal desk between him and the nurse.

She began coldly and methodically, “according to our tests Sheila’s gestational age is 3,754.29 weeks.  We use gestational age to account for various elements and consumption.  We multiply this age by $153 which gives us $574,406.37.  The AGEA, Adjusted Government Extended Age of someone in her condition is 4,706 weeks.  We subtract the gestational age from the AGEA and that leaves us with 951.71 weeks.  We then multiply that by $750 which gives us $713,782.50.  Are you following me so far?”

A bead of sweat formed on Stephen’s brow and rolled down the side of his face.  “I am following,” he said in a barely audible voice.  Both he and the nurse wondered if it was because of the staggering amount or because of the cost to both he and his mother.

“Great,” she continued.  She always loved this part.  The struggle was different for each one but in greatly intensified at this point.  She was almost giddy, high on the emotional turmoil rolling in the person across from her.  “Here’s the best part.  You’re going to love these numbers.  If we take the $574,406.37 for the life she’s lived and add to that the $713,782.50 for the future weeks recycled, we have grand total of $1,288,188.87 that will be in your bank account first thing in the morning!”

Stephen stared at the number on the screen before him.  The numbers danced before his eyes as if they were alive on the screen.  He didn’t know if it was the software or his mind playing tricks on him.  Each number paired up and danced together.  The number sign led them around the screen and back into place.  They switched places played leap frog and then returned to their rightful spot.  He stared on.

The numbers disappeared completely and were replaced by what appeared to be a video of his life.  He saw his mother nursing him at 3AM.  Another scene showed her in a bathrobe on the sofa with a cup of coffee watching young Stephen unwrap and play with his Christmas gifts.  He watched helplessly as he saw he and his mother sitting at the kitchen table working on algebra problems.  The next scene was a split scene that showed his mother working her second job while on the right he was studying in the student lounge at the local technical college.  The numbers flashed back on the screen - $1,288,188.87.  The buzzing ballast stopped suddenly, a light flickered and went out darkening the room slightly.

Stephen tried to speak but his mouth was parched and his lips felt cracked, “I...I...need….”

“You need the money,” interrupted the nurse.  In her 20 years in this role she had never once let one of these idiots off the hook and she wasn’t about to with this one. She knew his pressure point and began to apply a slight bit of pressure.  “We know, it’s all in the file.  I know it’s not easy.  It was tough for me too.  Like I said, that picture was of me and Marleen, my mom, right before her procedure, before her renewal.”

The light flickered on again, this time without the buzzing.  The room was dead silent.  The screen was still.  No images, no life-videos, only numbers stared blankly, coldly back at Stephen..

“Can I ask you a question, Stephen,” the nurse began in her most practiced empathetic voice.  “Would you want to live like that?  What kind of life does she have now?  She doesn’t know who she is, where she is, or who anyone else is.  What type of life is that?  She’s already gone.  Now it’s time for you to let go.  Let this number be her legacy,” she said tapping on the cold screen.  “Do something great with it.  Create a fund or name a building in her honor.  Turn this into something positive, she would have wanted it that way.  Don’t you think?”

The charity approach always sealed the deal.  Their guilty conscience was assuaged for a moment by the intention of doing some grand charitable work in honor of their loved one.  They never did and hardly ever did the money last more than a few years.  Eventually Stephen’s children, if he had any, or an assigned government case worker, who received only a commission, would be sitting in Stephen’s seat.  The process was perfect and saved the government millions if not billions of dollars each year in health care costs for the aging population.  A hefty sum of money, an appeal to charity, and some state-of-the-art mind altering drugs kept the system purring along like clockwork.

Without thinking Stephen nodded in agreement, “I could help the poor or contribute to some charity in her name, I guess.”

“That’s it, yes, make it a positive,” said Nurse Rebecca as she handed Stephen the stylus.

With a trembling hand he signed on the line and tapped enter.  The numbers disappeared and screen appeared stating,

“Thank you for your help in this important endeavor.  The Department of Aging and the Department of Health and Human Services sincerely appreciates your contribution to a better system of care for our citizens and for the planet.
Your funds will arrive within one business day.”

Nurse Rebecca took the iPad back from Stephen, tapped a few tabs on the screen and the system reset, ready for the next patient.

“Well, we’re all finished here,” she began in a strangely pleasant voice, “any questions for me or are you ready to start the renewal process.  I mean, are you ready to say farewell?”

Stephen’s mind was a jumbled mess and he was emotionally exhausted, “I’m ready”, he said while he stared at his open, sweating palms.

The nurse walked over to a metal cart in the corner of the room and typed in a few numbers on a keypad.  A moment later a small package was dispensed into a receptacle at the base of the cart.  She bent down, picked it up and walked back over to Stephen.

“Here, you’ll want this later,” she said handing it to the man and placing a cold hand on his shoulder.  “They’re usually $1,000 but I pulled some strings for you, no charge.  Trust me, it will help.  Take the first one when you get home, then one a day as needed.”

The pair left the room, turned right, and walked down the brightly lit hall.  They passed through many different corridors before stopping at room 2749.

Nurse Rebecca gently tapped on the door.  A voice from within told them it was okay to enter.

“Hi there,” said a young nurse with dark hair and radiant smile.  “I was just checking Sheila’s vitals and helping her go to the bathroom but we’re all finished.”

Nurse Rebecca glared at the young upstart, “thank you nurse.  Sheila will begin the renewal process shortly, please notify the Renewal Team.”

The young nurse’s smile quickly disappeared, “yes, Nurse Rebecca.  I’ll let them know.”  She glanced sideways at Stephen who had not taken his eyes off of his mother since he came through the door.  She looked back at Nurse Rebecca who was still glaring at her.  The young nurse cast her gaze to the ground and quickly exited the room.

“I’ll leave you here, Stephen.  Take as much time as you like.  If you need anything push the red button, otherwise push the blue button as you leave.” she said as she closed the door behind her.

The old lady sat in her wheelchair staring at the young man.  Her soft, pale hands were lying gently on the blanket that covered her legs.  She had aged well physically.  Her eyes were still a brilliant blue and her smile seemed to light up the room.  Though her mental processes were fading quickly she made the nurses who cared for her feel happy just being in her presence.

“Good morning, doctor,” began the old lady.  “Or is it evening.  I can never tell.  I’ve asked for a room with windows but they tell me they are all booked up.  They put that picture of a window on the wall but it’s not the same.   Haha, that bird somehow just hangs in the sky.”

Stephen fought back tears as he listened to the woman who had shown him so much love as he was growing up.  He wondered if he was doing the right thing?  The nurse was right, her mind was gone.  He wouldn’t want to live that way.  There was also the money, but…  He reminded himself that he was going to do something good in her name.  It had to be this way, it was the best for everyone.

“I’m not the doctor, mom, I’m your son,” he said kindly and firmly.

“My son, hmm,” she sat staring at him trying to recall something that no longer existed.  Trying to upload a file that had long been erased.  “I’m sorry, I’m just not myself today.  These darn medications have my mind all mixed up.  What is your name again, doctor?”

Stephen dropped to his knees before his mother and looked up into her beautiful blue eyes, silently pleading, begging her to recognize him.  She looked back and smiled.

There was no mistaking the likeness.  Their physical features, mannerisms, and gait of speech were all eerily similar.

He struggled to find the words, “I’m Stephen, your son.  Don’t you recognize me?”

His words struck a cord with Sheila, she stirred a bit in her seat.  She sought again, struggled, but ended up simply being embarrassed.  She didn’t recognize him.  Every person that walked through the door was someone new to her.  The same young nurse introduced herself every time.  The government appointed doctor, whom she had for three years now, was new to her every time.  It was as if she were a little child meeting someone for the first time.  For those who didn’t know her as her former self it was an endearing trait.  Her joy, excitement, and pleasant conversation kept them in her room longer than was needed and for many it was the highlight of their day.

Stephen rose, walked to the bathroom sink, and splashed water on his face.  As he wiped it with a paper towel he resolved to say goodbye to Sheila, his mother.  He didn’t want any of these painful memories of her mental decay to override his good memories.  He wanted out of that room as soon as possible.

“Mom,” he began before catching himself, “I mean Sheila.  It’s time for me to go.  Thanks for everything.”

The old lady smiled sweetly at him, “Oh, you’re so very welcome.  Do come again when you can stay longer.  I’d love to get to know you.  You remind me of someone I used to know but can’t think of right this moment.  Oh well, I’ll remember for next time.”

Stephen grabbed the door handle and began to open the door when he saw the blue button.  The blue button was final.  There was no turning back.  When he pushed that button in would make an electrical connection that would cause a bell to sound somewhere in the building.  It would alert the Renewal Team and they would began preparing to for the process.

He mustered his energies and placed his index finger on the blue button careful not to press it.  All he had to do was push the button, go home and take his meds and it would all be over.  Nurse Rebecca even said he wouldn’t remember much of it.

Something stirred deep inside him and he walked over to the old lady, said nothing, but simply kissed her soft cheek as he had done thousands of times.  He fought back tears as she looked up and smiled at him.

The son opened the door and placed his finger once again on the blue button.  Stephen pressed down on the button.  It lit up and he thought he could hear ding off in the distance, down a hallway somewhere.

As he turned the door handle to leave the old lady spoke up, “Oh, now I remember, you are my son, I remember, I remember.”

Stephen’s face went white and his knees began to buckle.  His hand was stuck to the door handle.  The handle, the door, the building had become and extension of him.  He stared in horror at the old lady, at Sheila, at his mother.

“Yes, it came to me as you pushed that button,” the old lady said with the giggle.  “Yes, you are my son, Judah.  Am I right?”

The door handle burned in Stephen’s hand as he looked upon his mother.  His throat went dry and stomach turned.  He fought back the urge to vomit.  He glanced at the blue button and back to her.  He felt the package of medication in his right front pocket.  He looked again at her in horror then turned and stumbled down the brightly lit hall out the front door of the building and into the night.

Monday, June 03, 2019

Father's Day Gift Ideas

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Father's Day is right around the corner and if you are like me, you are probably reading this on the Saturday before Father's Day wondering why Amazon hasn't got that whole delivery within an hour or drone thing going on.  If it is the day before Father's Day, I may be able to help you out but I'd suggest bookmarking this article for next year.

Below you will find a list of ideas for dad on Father's Day.  These ideas are based on the things that I've received, bought, or coveted over the years.  They may not be right for your dad or baby daddy, or grandpa or baby grandpa (is that even a thing), but then again, they might.  If they are right for you and yours, you are welcome.

#10* - A Rugged Rosary from Real Life Rosary - Yes, am starting with a shameless plug for my own rosaries.  I'm not only the owner, I'm a customer.  Seriously though, this picture shows the rosary I carry with me everyday.  These rosaries will stand up to anything dad can throw at them.  They won't snag on stray thread in the pocket, rattle in the woods and spook that big buck, or make you think there's a cat in the dryer if it gets washed and dried.  If it ever breaks, send it back and it will be replaced, no problem!  Where else can you get a rosary that will last a lifetime for $7?

#9* - Nalgene Wide-Mouth Loop-Top Water Bottle - I've had my Nalgene for 10 years and I use it everyday.  It's rugged, I've even used it to roll on when trying to crack my back or massage my legs.  You can put warm or cool liquids in it.  I've put hot coffee in it with no ill effects on it or me...  Even if dad isn't a camper or backpacker, it's great just to have on the desk.  It holds 32 oz so dad can keep track of his daily water intake.  The only thing that has happened to mine is that the lid loop broke.  I bought a new lid for a couple of bucks, good as new.

#8* - French Press Coffee Mug - Yeah, that's right, a French Press MUG!!!  I have two and I seldom drink coffee any other way.  These mugs work just like a regular French Press but it is a mug.  So, put in your coffee grounds, pour in some boiling water, wait a few minutes, stir, put the press/lid on and begin pressing the grounds down, drink, and enjoy.  It makes incredible tasting coffee for one at a fraction of the cost of those sissy Keurig things.  This mug even has a hidden compartment for storing more coffee.  Dad will love long as he doesn't like cream and sugar with his coffee, if that's the case, move along to the next idea....

#7 - Wilderness Expedition with Wilderness Outreach - Does your dad love the outdoors?  Does he love the mountains of the American West?  Does he love his Catholic Faith or growing in his Faith?  Does he enjoy work, asceticism, camping, praying, hiking, and brotherhood?  If so, an Expedition may be something to offer for Father's day. I've been on three expeditions and they are life-changing.  Click on the link to learn more.

#6* - A gift subscription to Audible - I love to read but I love it even more when someone reads to me. I don't always have time to read all the books I want to so thankfully there's Audible so that I can listen to the books while doing other things like walking, driving, or making rosaries.  The audio books are very affordable and yearly subscriptions make them even more so.  Plus, dad can listen on his phone, computer, tablet, or MP3 player!  My Audible library has hundreds of titles that I've purchased over the years.  With over 180,000+ titles, dad is sure to find a great book.  I'd recommend The Gates of Fire and The Count of Monte Cristo to start.

I hope these help you with your Father's Day shopping.  If this link is highlighted, that means you should click it and read on for the top 5 gift ideas.

Wednesday, April 17, 2019

Into the Night

The sadness of Christ,
For the coming sin,
This one shared his table,
His cup, once a friend.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

One who sits and sups,
One who witnessed all,
One who values passing things,
One who Satan calls.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

Upon his breast his beloved,
This morsel do you see,
To him whom I give,
One last attempt a friend to be.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it Lord?
Surely, it is not I?

The sin completed,
If only in the heart,
No turning back,
The night that here did start.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it master?
Surely, it is not I?

Back to the Son,
He follows shadow low,
The silver loses glimmer,
Upon the path he chose.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it rabbi?
Surely, it is not I?

It was night, as always is,
When going away from Him,
Away from the Light, into the darkness,
The black pit of selfish sin.

Betrayal, deceit, and lies,
Who is it LORD!?
Surely, it is I.

FROM THE SAINTS - "These things are written that we bear not malice towards those who injure us; but rebuke them and weep for them; for the fit subjects of weeping are not they who suffer, but they who do the wrong. The grasping man, the false accuser, and whoso works any other evil thing, do themselves the greatest injury, and us the greatest good, if we do not avenge ourselves. Such a case as this: some one has robbed you; have you given thanks for the injury, and glorified God? by that thanksgiving you have gained ten thousand rewards, just as he has gathered for himself fire unspeakable. [...] Wherefore Christ also repaid him who was about to betray Him with everything opposite. He washed his feet, convicted him secretly, rebuked him sparingly, tended him, allowed him to share His table and His kiss, and not even by these was he made better; nevertheless (Christ) continued doing His own part." - St. John Chrysostom Hom. on St. John #71

Click here to read more from James M. Hahn - Blog  -  Books

* Contains affiliate links.  No, that doesn't mean that the kids should leave the room.  Rather, it means that if you click on a link, and if you purchase something, I may get some financial remuneration for that click and buy.  All that means is that my kids will finally get to eat, just kidding but I may get something, just so you know...

Trading My Yoke for His