How That Book Cover Totally Threw Me Off

        I should know better than to judge one of them.  I DO know better.  After all, one of the things I discuss with my students about the issue of judgment is the predicament it puts us in, and the consequences that follow.  So you would think I could practice what I preach, especially when it comes to them.  Well, I try; I SO do try not to judge a book by its cover.

        Our society has raised us to judge on the basis of many things:  sex, race, religion, appearance, you name it.  And I admit to you that I for one am guilty of conforming to this more often that I care to, occasionally jumping to conclusions about people when I know I shouldn’t.  So as part of my responsibilities as a Christian, I talk to my students about the problem that judging is — and I call it a problem because that’s exactly what it is.  Just like us grown-ups, except actually at a higher level, teenagers get caught up in what our society feeds them about looks, behaviors, relationships, etc.  Their need to fit in and be accepted often distorts how they view and treat others.  So my students and I discuss this.  I think I’ve been discussing this with them for most of the 30 years I’ve been teaching, so you would think I have it down.  Yet, every once in a while I get caught up in that awful trap too.  After all, as fitting or not as the judgment may be, the cover is still the first thing a person sees.

        Recently, one of my students showed up to class with her bottom lip pierced, twice over.  Right…ouch.  Given that it was just the second class of the term, and I didn’t know much about this group yet, I was immediately consumed by judgment.  She happens to also dress a bit gothic.  So right off the bat, I labeled her.  Not much was revealed about her in the couple of weeks that followed, as she kept to herself, and so the label stuck.  Then came the class during which I give them an assignment to write about an encounter they have with Jesus, detailing when and where it takes place, what is said, describing Him, etc.  As you can imagine, I always get back very interesting essays.  But let me just say without beating around the bush any longer, that hers blew my mind.  I found myself reading the name on top of the page more than once to make sure it wasn’t someone else’s paper I was reading.  I wish I could show you, but I don’t publish my students’ writings, only quote excerpts.  I can tell you, however, this essay was almost grammatically perfect, well structured, and most importantly, imaginative to the tenth power:  “…[He] opened his hands and formed them into a bowl…showed me…the light flashing at my face…said if I can spread the word of God and follow his laws, I will go here…he closed his hands and the kingdom of God disappeared…He smiled and said ‘be candid and love everything and everyone around you’…then he disappeared.”  This essay that to me appeared to be written by such an unlikely source, was full of hopeful connotations sounding well beyond the author’s years; a piece containing lines contradicting of her appearance.  “Tisk, tisk,” I thought, “shame on you Connie.”

        As Christians we are supposed to see, or at least look for, the godly side in our fellow human beings, first and foremost.  Despite the pressures society puts on us to form these preconceptions, we should, we must, try our darnedest to overcome the temptation to judge others and set them aside from the outset because they don’t seem to meet our prerequisites.  Sometimes the judgment fits but other times it doesn’t.  And think of what’d be at stake if we erred; what we’d risk losing — the opportunity to get to know someone; the opportunity to make a life-long friendship; or even the opportunity to learn from a student.  

Thank heavens for the continuing reminders that life throws at us.
– by Connie Perez

Never judge a man by his umbrella. It may not be his.
– Anonymous

If you judge people you have no time to love them.
– Mother Teresa


Invoking Those Interceders

The other day my son asked me to help him with a project on saints that he was asked to do for his religion class. He had to choose three saints and write about them, and he said there were so many of them that he wanted to know if I thought the ones he had chosen were good picks. I suggested we go down the long and distinguished list of saints and see who was who.Saints, as some of you may know, are those people who were persecuted and martyred for their Christian faith, or who lived their lives generally as holy people. Those who through their extraordinary lives of virtue, upon entering Heaven, are believed to share in what is called the Beatific Vision, a face-to-face experience of the presence of God, and are thereby able to provide assistance to us mortals when we ask through prayers directed at them. My son was amazed to see how many there are and that there is a patron saint for practically every area of life you can think of — St. Jude, patron saint of desperate cases; St. Christopher, patron saint of travelers, St. Mark, patron saint of lawyers (what? lawyers?) — and the list goes on.

To some people this might seem almost comical, I know. But I must tell you that I believe in them. I am a devout follower of some of them and carry their prayer cards around in my wallet. Sort of a security blanket deal. I have friends who do as well. Recently, one of them was in dire need of selling her home, and began praying to the patron saint of this cause. She prayed and prayed and prayed, but became discouraged when time went by and her prayers seemed to be to no avail. It is quite frustrating when we think our prayers are falling on deaf ears. I’ve been there. And as I told my friend on a day when she was experiencing that frustration, I am still waiting to see the results I want from some of my petitions…the results “I” want…which lack thereof could only mean they are not the results God intends. Because in the end, our beloved saints are merely interceders who, like us, have to plead our cases to a higher power. This sometimes takes a long time, and even then, they may be turned down by Him for a better result for us.

So why pray to the saints then? Well, why not? Don’t you ask friends, sometimes even strangers, for help? I for one like believing there is someone besides me, someone out there in the spiritual world, pleading my case and pulling for me. Listen, life gets rough sometimes, and if you believed there were saints out there who’d be more than willing to work for your cause, you’d pray to Santa Barbara, San Lazaro, y la Caridad del Cobre if you could.

Although we are strong in our faith in God the Creator, the omnipresent, omnipotent, all knowing, all wise and most merciful Heavenly Father, and through our prayers we intend to give our troubles to Him, some of us choose to call upon the saints as well for assistance. After all, they are mentioned in the Bible, and for the faithful, they are there for the taking. In time, my friend’s prayers were answered; allowing her to move to the next chapter of her life, but it took much faith and patience on her part. It is said that patience is a virtue. But darn, how much patience we gotta have to have patience! Especially when invoking those Interceders.

“God creates out of nothing. Wonderful you say. Yes, to be sure, but he does what is still more wonderful: he makes saints out of sinners.” – Soren Kierkegaard


Book List 2

More books I recommend (most current read on top). You can click on the link to read about them. For you Spanish speaking folks, those titles marked with an asterisc are a better read in Spanish.

Taming Your Gremlin: A Surprisingly Simple Method for Getting Out of Your Own Way
by Rick Carson

The Valkyries by Paulo Coelho

– A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

– The Last Lecture by Randy Pausch

Chronicle of a Death Foretold* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

Of Love and Other Demons* by Gabriel Garcia Marquez

What Jesus Saw From the Cross by A.G. Sertillanges

Eat, Pray, Love: One Woman’s Search for Everything Across Italy, India and Indonesia
by Elizabeth Gilbert

A Thousand Splendid Suns by Khaled Hosseini

The Kite Runner by Khaled Hosseini

Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light by Mother Teresa and Brian Kolodiejchuck

The Power of a Praying Woman by Stormie Omartian

Night by Elie Wiesel

The Road by Cormac McCarthy

The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. Salinger

The House on Mango Street by Sandra Cisneros

Seeing* by Jose Saramago

Blindness* by Jose Saramago

Death With Interruptions* by Jose Saramago

When the Heart Waits by Sue Monk Kidd

– The Fifth Mountain by Paulo Coelho

The Devil and Miss Prym* by Paulo Coelho

By the River Piedra I Sat Down and Wept* by Paulo Coelho

– The Alchemist by Paulo Coelho

The Book of Confidence by Father Thomas de St. Laurent

Stop Thinking This is All There Is

I read something the other day that struck a chord.  Well, much of what I read does, but this in particular goes to how I think many of us feel about our world today.  It read:  

                “Stop thinking this is all there is…

            Realize that for every ongoing war and religious outrage and environmental devastation, there are a thousand counter-
                balancing acts of staggering generosity and humanity and art and beauty happening all over the world, right now, on a
                breathtaking scale, from flower box to cathedral.

            Resist the temptation to drown in fatalism, to shake your head and sigh and just throw in the karmic towel.

            Realize that this is the perfect moment to change the energy of the world, to step right up and crank your personal volume;
                right when it all seems dark and bitter and offensive and acrimonious and conflicted and bilious…there’s your opening!

                And, finally, believe you are part of a groundswell, a resistance, a seemingly small but actually very, very large impending
                karmic overhaul, a great shift, the beginning of something important and potent and unstoppable.”  

                -Mark Morford

Okay so not so easy to do when much of the world around us is falling apart it seems.  I know all the adversities and tragedies we witness, and those we personally face, sometimes take us to the brink of hopelessness.  They are buckets of cold water thrown on our spiritual flames.  We get down on the world, and that feeling just trickles down to our personal lives.  

There comes a time, however, when regardless of what is going on in the world we live in, and in our own homes, we have to look deep inside and we, ourselves, have to take care of keeping that flame burning.  Doing what we must to keep that light going or we will live in inner darkness.  Sure, the world may seem chaotic some days, especially if you watch any one of the news channels, where grim images are continuously shown, and yes, some of it in truth is just that grim.  But like Mortford points out above, we must resist the temptation to give up, because there are other things, wonderful things, taking place as well in the world today — most of them triggered, ironically, by these dark moments of human and environmental activity.

Thinking this is all there is can be a form of inadvertent expectation, and expectations, right off the bat, set us up to self-induced predetermined outcomes.  I’ve always been big on expectations and have felt its wraths.  At the same time though I’ve always been big on hope.  Fortunately, because we live and learn, I’ve learned to turn my expectations into hope instead, as much and as often as possible, and I have seen how looking at things through a hopeful eye can make a difference.  

At a time when “change” is what most people seem to think we need and want, maybe that change should be to start believing that the darkness of this world cannot extinguish our inner light, as long as we spend most of our time controlling the environment within us, and what time is left on the environment around us.  Let’s realize that this is not all there is…that there is more to this world than meets the eye. 

-by Connie Perez

            Most of the important things in the world have been accomplished by people who 
            have kept on trying when there seemed to be no hope at all.  — Dale Carnegie

            Courage, it would seem, is nothing less than the power to overcome danger, misfortune,
            fear, injustice, while continuing to affirm inwardly that life with all its sorrows is good;
            that everything is meaningful even if in a sense beyond our understanding; and that there
            is always tomorrow.  — Dorothy Thompson

In the News: Controversial Drug

There is much concern with this drug and its possible medical side effects in later years. Aside from that, the Catholic view is one of worry in that the vaccine may give young girls the wrong message: not only is it “okay” to be sexually active, but now it is also safe! Undoubtedly, the ultimate responsibility will rest on us parents. Check out the linked article below.

The Dangers of Gardasil 7/10/08

Travel for the Soul: Exploring the National Parks – Colorado

Colorado is home to the Rocky Mountain National Park, where you can drive on Trail Ridge Road, the highest continuous highway in the U.S.  It is also home to Black Canyon National ParkMesa Verde National Park, and Great Sand Dunes National Park.  We just returned from our trip to Colorado and totally loved it.  

Rocky Mountain National Park:

Rainbow Curve Overlook                                     Trail Ridge Road
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights         Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Rocky Mountain National Park is located in the north-central region of the Colorado.  It features beautiful mountain views, lots of wildlife, and different climates and environments—from wooded forests to mountain tundra —and easy, moderate and strenuous trails.  The park is split by the Continental Divide, and it contains over 60 peaks higher than 12,000 feet.  The quaint town of Estes Park is at the eastern entrance of the park.

General information:;
                                     Estes Park –

Accommodations:    Solitude Cabins in Estes Park

Black Canyon of the Gunnison:

Painted Wall shows ancient lava flow.                Black Canyon’s wild flowers.                        
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights       Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights  
reserved.                                                                                      reserved.

Black Canyon National Park is so named because of its steepness which makes it difficult for sunlight to penetrate very far down the canyon, and as a result, the canyon walls are most often in shadow, so this causes the rocky walls to appear black.  The Gunnison River is primarily responsible for carving the Canyon into that extreme steepness and depth.  This Park is the least visited of all National Parks, and on any given visit, it can feel and seem like you are the only one there.  You can see a vast variety of wild flowers there, as well as wild life.  The main attraction of the park is the scenic drive along the south rim. 

General info.:

Mesa Verde National Park:

Cliff Palace                                                        Mesa Verde Plateau
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights      Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                   reserved.

Mesa Verde National Park was established in 1906 as concern grew over the archaeological well being of its ruins.  The Park features numerous ruins of homes and villages built by the ancient Pueblo people known as the Anasazi, who made these stone villages their home in A.D. 1200s. The Park is best known for several spectacular cliff dwellings, these structures built within caves
and under outcroppings in cliffs.  One of these dwellings, Cliff Palace, is thought to be the largest in North America.  

General information:
                                 Inside the Park accommodations:                                 

Great Sand Dunes National Park:

View of the dunes from the Visitor Center      View from atop one of the dunes
Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights    Photo by CCPerez. Copyright © 2008 Connie Perez. All rights 
reserved.                                                                                 reserved.

Great Sand Dunes National Park contains the tallest sand dunes in North America.  They rise about 750 feet from the floor of the San Luis Valley, and cover about 19,000 acres.  The dunes, which are believed to be about 12,000 years old, were formed from sand deposits of the Rio Grande flowing through the San Luis Valley.  Over time, west winds picked up sand from the river and as the wind lost power before the range, the sand was deposited on the east edge of the valley. This process continues today, and the dunes are slowly growing.  The shape of the dunes change dailey because of the winds.

General info.:   


Worth Watching: Our Savior

        This video was forwarded to me by a friend (thank you, thank you).  It is an awesome dramatization.  And so powerful.  It hits home because it reminds me of how often God has rescued me when I’ve turned away from Him, or have been on the verge of doing so.  We face so many forms of temptation nowadays, it’s hard to stay focused and godly.  The Lord is always fighting for our souls because He doesn’t enjoy seeing us suffer the consequences of our sin.   It is only futile to turn away from God.  Seek Him with all your heart and soul, and you will be better for it.

Video Title:  Lifehouse Everything Drama


In the News: The Shroud going on display

The Shroud of Turin, which as you may know is believed by many Christians to be Jesus Christ’s burial cloth, will go on public display again in the Spring of 2010. Pope Benedict XVI made the announcement today at the Vatican. The Shroud was last on display in 2000. After many years and many scientific tests, it has not been proven that it is specifically the shroud of Jesus. However, what all that research has established is that the Shroud image cannot have been man-made using any of the techniques of art or science used throughout history, and that it does not have the makings of a phony or fake or imitation. Scientists cannot explain to date with any certainty how the images came to be.

Personally, because I believe in the resurrection of Christ, I choose to believe the Shroud of Turin is real, and that it confirms the Passion story. Imagine, this could mean that we have an actual picture of Jesus. Click on the linked article for more.

Pope announces new display of Shroud of Turin June 2, 2008
Source: Reuters    shroud-of-turin-face


Note-Worthy: Understanding Stem Cell Research

For a comprehensive explanation of the facts and controversies surrounding stem cell research, I recommend you look into the article linked below.

Understanding Stem Cell Research
February, 2008
Source: Knights of Columbus

Let me tell you something…

friends, in the words of (and a flashback to 80’s TV is needed here) Sergeant Esterhaus, “Hey, let’s be careful out there.”  Because it is a dangerous world we are living in.

        The more one reads or watches the news these days the sicker one gets.  While switching through the news channels last night, my hubby and I were talking about how incredibly bad things have gotten.  So many people, all ages, disappearing or being found dead, if they are found at all; kids, teenagers, being abused, assaulted, and so on.  No need for statistics here, it’s simply sickening.

        When it comes to the issue of safety, typically, with us, it has been the practice to keep our children at arm’s length at all times, and consequently why we usually travel in a pack.  Aside from the fact that we have always enjoyed our kids’ company, we feel a bit more relaxed when they are with us, under our blanket, if you will.  I realize this borders paranoia sometimes, but we can’t help it, we seemingly haven’t been able to “let go,” much to the criticism of some, but we like it that way.  So we’ve always thought ourselves as cautious parents, aware of our children’s surroundings and what have you.

        Then, last night while talking about some of the horrific cases we had watched while channel surfing, we flashed back to some of our hotel stays during our travels when we have sometimes let the kids go down the hall to fill up the ice buckets, and other times, although seldom, go up to the room by themselves to get something while we wait inthe lobby.  All of a sudden, panic set in upon the realization that what has seemed in the past like such a harmless and safe thing to do, can be so life-threatening nowadays. Let me tell you something:  we are NOT doing that anymore.  We can’t.  Particularly since during our long trips we often travel through many small and peculiar towns where we make stops.  Just thinking about that last night made the hair in back of my neck stand up.  I came out of the TV room and called them both to the hall and stood them there and said to them with the utmost level of urgency:  “Listen up kids, new rule in effect:  from now on neither one of you is to…… specifically when you go out or travel with someone other than us.”  I mean, when things are meant to happen, undoubtedly they will happen, but I don’t want to put ourselves in a position where we would facilitate these occurrences for the evil doers out there.  Not on our watch if we can help it, you know what I mean?

        It is unfortunate that we have to live so afraid for our children, for their safety and wellbeing.  But that’s the reality.  Some of you reading this have teenagers, who, as it turns out, are the hardest ones to educate and/or convince about this safety issue, as well as other issues, particularly the dangers they are exposed to through technology, i.e. the internet.  That, in and of itself, is a nightmare and something we must stay on top of constantly.  Don’t ever think that danger can’t reach out of a computer screen and grab your kids.  It most certainly can, just watch the news, namely last night’s segment regarding 8 teens accused of kidnapping and assaulting another teen, resulting from comments posted on MySpace.

       Often our kids don’t want to understand the restrictions we impose on them, be it social or intellectual.  They think they know everything and believe themselves invincible and immune to any of the dangers lurking about.  Be that as it may, we must educate them and open their eyes to what’s out there and help them stay safe.  Even when our children don’t live with us anymore, are away at college, or whatever the case may be, as parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles, we must not think twice about staying involved and drilling our kids on these issues.  No matter how repetitive they say we sound, it is critical that we remain relentless.

        Of course we pray, of course we trust God and put ourselves and mostly our children in His hands.  But at the end of the day, it is our responsibility to keep our children’s safety and wellbeing on the front burner, all the time. “Train a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” Proverbs 22:6.

        Let’s be conscious of this privilege, and duty, given to us by our Lord, and teach and train them well.  And most of all people, let’s be careful out there.

-by Connie Perez

Children miss nothing in sizing up their parents.  If you are only half convinced of your beliefs, they will quickly discern that fact.  Any ethical weak spot-any indecision on your part-will be incorporated and then magnified in your sons and daughters.  Their faith or faithlessness will be a reflection of our own.
Dr. James Dobson

          P  Please consider the environment before printing this article.