The Lopez Old Wive’s Tales

 

San Francisco circa 1985, cousin Diana’s wedding

 

Deuteronomy 1:11 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

11 May the Lord, the God of your ancestors, increase you a thousand times over, and bless you as he promised!

 

We have all grown up hearing old wive’s tales. I am part of the Lopez clan, and my mother and her 5 sisters passed on some wonderful ones to us. I loved sitting around my mother and aunts because they were so full of life and laughter. My mother also had 3 brothers, who along with her sisters produced a total of 50 first cousins.

As a child I truly took these old wive’s tales to heart. When my nose was itchy, I knew we were going to have company. I’ve had allergies most of my life, and I can never remember when my nose was not itchy, but that did not matter. This old wive’s tale always came true.  Another one:  when your left hand was itchy,  you were going to get money. I called my sister Norma to ask if she remembered any old wive’s tales. I reminded her of the left hand one and she said, “Oh, that’s not one: it’s really true, every time my left hand itches, I get unexpected money.” I was left speechless and about ready to call her out, when the Holy Spirit quickened my mind to whenever my left hand is itchy, I purchase a lottery ticket.

I shared with my cousin Nellie that I suffered from leg cramps, and she told me an old wive’s tale. Nellie’s advice: “Didn’t your mother tell you that you need to put your shoes under your bed, but they must be facing down?” She added  “You will never suffer a cramp if you do this.” Our home was built in the early 70’s; it was obviously designed by a man because we have small closets. I store my seasonal shoes in a plastic container under my bed. The other night I suffered a massive leg cramp. It started with my foot and quickly traveled to the upper muscle of my lower leg (tibialis anterior). I struggled to get up, because  my foot was curled under. I wanted to scream but Mike was on a business trip, so it was useless. I finally forced my foot with my hand and planted it on the floor when the cramp moved to my upper thigh (rectus femoris muscle). It was 2:30 a.m. when I looked at the clock. I hobbled back and forth, asking Jesus to remove the pain, but to no avail. I crawled back into bed only to experience another round of torture. Then I remembered the shoes under my bed. I prayed out loud, “Dear God, please let at least one pair of shoes be upside down!” When Mike is home, and I wake up screaming from a leg cramp, he usually gets up to rub my leg, while asking me if I had eaten a banana that day. My reply is always the same, “Really, I’m dying here, and you want to know if I ate a banana?” Take it from me, this old wive’s tale is not foolproof. This walking nightmare lasted over 5 minutes.

I talked to my other cousin Elvia, who is Nellie’s older sister, and she shared with me that her mother, my Tia Margarita, made her attach a safety pin to her underwear while she was pregnant during an eclipse. The safety pin was to keep the child from having any birth defects.

My cousin Delia, daughter of my Tio Leandro, said that our grandmother would cover all the mirrors in the house when her children had the chicken pox. Covering the mirrors would keep the pox from spreading.

The spilled salt dilemma

One of my favorite old wive’s tales: when you accidentally spill salt, meant that something bad was going to happen to you. This old wive’s tale required immediate action:  you had to take a pinch of salt and toss it over each shoulder to avert the bad luck. Every time I spill salt this comes to mind, and sometimes I secretly stick to the ritual. I’m just covering all my bases.

I believe we were all told about the broken mirror and seven years of bad luck. When I was younger I accidentally broke my mother’s compact. It was a horrible day because I thought I was doomed to bad luck. I remember counting the years when this would be lifted from me. No one took the time to explain that this was not true. All I heard was, “To bad for you, seven years of bad luck!”

My cousin Connie, daughter of my Tia Consuelo, reminded me of another Lopez old wive’s tale. This one also required action:  if you did not cover your feet at night, the Devil would lick them. My sister Norma and I grew up yelling, “My feet! My feet!” and running to cover our feet whenever we were scared about something. I honestly believe Norma still covers her feet when she gets frightened. As much as I hate to admit this, in all fairness, my feet are always covered.

Nowadays I cover myself with the Blood of Jesus; that is the only thing that keeps me from fear of the unknown. These old wive’s tales become habits that we carry  from one generation to another. I shared some of them with my grandchildren, and they just laughed. They are not as gullible as we were as children.

1 Timothy 4:7 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Avoid profane and silly myths. Train yourself for devotion,

Many of my cousins are still my dear friends. The Lopez family has strong roots that are too deep to sever. All the cousins I keep in contact with are also serving the Lord. Some have taken the Protestant path, but  in the end we will meet at the banqueting table of the Lord in Heaven. I praise God for them, and am grateful for the love we share. God has blessed us in keeping our faith intact, despite passing on the tales of our ancestors.

The only picture taken from the boat from the not-so-calm sea
Me, Maddie, Wil, Lucas and Jacob 2 Timothy 3:15 New King
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I Confess

James 5:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and pray for one another so that you may be healed. The effective prayer of a righteous man can accomplish much.

St. Norbert Adoration

Our parish has set aside every  first Friday of the month for 24-hour Adoration. As Catholics we pray before the Blessed Sacrament, as it is our belief that we are in the presence of Christ. Every parish holds confessions; at our church we can go once a week. But on this day we have an opportunity to go to Confession after the 8:30 Mass. This Act of Contrition aids us in continuing our walk with the Lord with a clean slate.

A recent Pew Report reveals that over 69% of Catholics do not know that the Eucharist is the living Body of Christ, yet they receive communion when attending Mass. It is through God’s great mercy that a special blessing is extended to those who are ignorant of its true meaning. Receiving the Body and Blood of Christ is the most important aspect in our belief system, going to confession and receiving absolution cleanses us of our sins.

When we confess our sins we are liberated from all our transgressions:

  1. Guilt is lifted;
  2. We are no longer consumed by the sin;
  3. If you have sinned against others, they, too, are released from bondage.
Conflict

Guilt is one of the oldest tools of the Devil. Satan is constantly reminding us of our sins, and we often allow our self-talk to come into agreement with the Accuser of the Brethren. If you allow Satan to dictate your self-talk, he will overtake your mind; before you realize it, you are obsessed with this sin. You are in bondage because you have permitted negative self-talk to control your senses. You are robbed of joy and without joy there is no peace.

Forgiveness

When someone has sinned against you and has broken your spirit, you develop anger toward that person. When you think of these persons, the Devil reminds you of the pain that they have caused you. It is through the act of confession that this heavy burden is lifted off your spirit and forgiveness takes its rightful place. God wants to heal us, and if we have a spirit of unforgiveness, the Holy Spirit will tug at our heart and guide us into the right path. But we must have the will to forgive.  We need to put all of sin’s debris at the foot of the Cross, where we learn to let it go. To a Christian this is the most difficult obstacle to conquer.

Unforgiveness is a heavy load to carry, yet some people carry this baggage for years. It’s like adding a few unwanted pounds on your body. If you do not change your eating, eventually your body will adjust to the added weight. Unforgiveness works in the same manner:  your mind conforms to your way of thinking, and the negative self-talk assures you how right you are to hold on to these unyielding thoughts. Your pain is all that matters.

Our mind was created to know and to serve God. How can God move in our lives if our minds are cluttered with ungodly thoughts?

I experienced full forgiveness by going to confession, because now my heart and spirit are one with God. Many times I find myself repeating the same sin, so until I can fully break that bondage, I will continue to confess the transgressions.

We all have direct access to God, and asking the Maker of us all for forgiveness is act of moving spiritually beyond our capacity to understand. We need to rid ourselves of the separation from God that we created because of our sin. Our conscience is a gift that constantly reminds us when we fall short. Our conscience also works to free us and binds us once again so that we may have communion with God.

Why do Catholics go to a priest to confess sins? The priest is the intercessor and mediator between man and God. Jesus gave the apostles the ability to forgive sins:

John 20:21-23 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

21 So Jesus said to them again, “Peace be with you; as the Father has sent Me, I also send you.” 22 And when He had said this, He breathed on them and *said to them, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive the sins of any, their sins have been forgiven them; if you retain the sins of any, they have been retained.”

I can only express my personal experiences when I do go to a priest and confess my sins. I am completely restored and can continue to serve the Lord with a contrite heart. I am a sinner, and I know that it will only be a matter of hours when something will cause me to fall again. But because I serve a God who is rich in mercy and loves to forgive me, I can ask Him again and again for  forgiveness.  He calls me His friend, and He wants to heal me.

Psalm 103:2-4 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

Bless the Lord, my soul;
    and do not forget all his gifts,
Who pardons all your sins,
    and heals all your ills,
Who redeems your life from the pit,
    and crowns you with mercy and compassion

The sin of unforgiveness has been linked to many diseases: depression, arthritis, obesity, and cancer. Many times the suffering leads to suicidal thoughts. Therefore don’t let the sun go down on your anger. Do not allow Satan to eat away at your spirit, because this weakens not only your mind but your body as well.

Ephesians 4:26-27 New American Standard Bible (NASB)

26 Be angry, and yet do not sin; do not let the sun go down on your anger, 27 and do not give the devil an opportunity.

If you confess your sins to others, make sure that you are doing it to free yourself of the sin, and not for the sake of someone agreeing with you; that would be considered gossip. When confessing to a priest or a pastor you are safe in knowing that a godly person has helped you through your journey to wholeness. I leave you with this fact: the highest suicide rate is among atheists.

Matthew 13:31-32 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE) 31 He proposed another parable to them. “The
Sonja 2nd grade and Mikos 5th grade Matthew 18:10 New American
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The Mustard Seed

Matthew 13:31-32 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

31 He proposed another parable to them. “The kingdom of heaven is like a mustard seed that a person took and sowed in a field. 3It is the smallest of all the seeds, yet when full-grown it is the largest of plants. It becomes a large bush, and the ‘birds of the sky come and dwell in its branches.’”

Praying at the Church of Lazarus

The mustard seed is the smallest seed, yet it is mentioned in the Bible five times. Small things matter in the kingdom of God. Though the seed is small, once it is planted in fertile soil it can sprout within five to ten days. Life is like the mustard seed; we all start small and, depending on how we are nurtured, we grow in the right direction.

The Altar

I had my first encounter with mustard seeds in the small town of Bethany. The Church of Lazarus, located behind Jerusalem stone walls, is a real life sanctuary from chaos of Bethany now know as Al-Eizariya. Once you get through the gate, you must pass through a beautiful garden with lush flowers, and a meandering pathway to reach the main church. This church, like most Catholic Churches in the Holy Land, is run by the Franciscans. The number of Catholics in this parish has dwindled to less than 20 families in this mostly Muslim community.

When we arrived the priest was preparing for Easter Sunday service. He was not expecting a large crowd, yet the church was being adorned with white linens and white lilies on the altar. We prayed and sang a few hymns. The acoustics in this small church even made my flat voice sound angelic bouncing off the interior walls of this sanctuary.  Though I have been to this church many times, my eyes never fail to gaze at the beautiful mosaics; even while praying, I do not want to miss their awe-inspiring allure.  The altar is made of eilat stone, a deep green with blue hues, makes it the focal point of the tabernacle. This particular stone can only be found in Solomon’s mine. The pews are ordinary hard wood that creek loudly when you move. Only a small part of the Byzantine floor remains of the original church.

Steps down to the tomb
Father Leonard exiting the tomb
Me figuring out how to crawl out of the tomb
Robert, Danny, me, and Jim

After we finished our petitions we headed outside the iron gates to get to Lazarus’ tomb. You cannot help but notice the mosque built almost directly on top of Lazarus’ Tomb.

Waiting at the entrance to the tomb was kind Arab man charging 3 shekels to enter the holy site. Going down the steps this time seemed a lot steeper and more claustrophobic. I held on to the walls and some guard railing to guide my footing, but I was still uneasy because the twenty-four steps are irregular, some shorter and some more narrow; even the opening to the tomb seemed smaller. I was with three men from our ministry, and they found it amusing that I had to talk my way into the tomb. When we reached the sacred site, we prayed. We prayed for those who needed to believe God for the impossible. When it was time to leave, I had to really psych myself on how to crawl out of the tomb.

I always feel the presence of God after praying at holy sites, and this was no exception. Just a few feet outside the tomb we saw a mature mustard tree located on private property. There is always someone there to greet us and to sell us some mustard seeds. This is the only place that I know of in the Holy Land where you can conveniently purchase mustard seeds, and depending on who is selling them, they could cost between two to four dollars. I always make it a point to purchase these biblical seeds.

In order to use the mustard seed it must be crushed; it has a bitter taste. The Word of the Lord has a bitter taste to those who do not believe. The Lord is telling  us that even if our faith is as small as a grain of mustard seed, He will take care of our concerns. God can use that small faith that you have to move mountains. God does not measure your faith, nor does He  compare your faith to other’s. He just wants you to have faith so that He can complete the work in you.

We are all called, and each of us has special gifts. God did not leave anyone out when He bestowed His gifts.

the actual size of mustard seed

Look at those around you and you will recognize their gifts. My husband Mike’s greatest gift is servanthood; he cannot help but take care of those he loves, and he does this with great humility. I don’t have that gift, but I do understand my gifts and the calling God has chosen for me. As much as I would like to have a great voice, I do not because this is not one of my gifts. I love to teach the Word of God, which entails a lot of study, and with study comes discipline. I must manage my time in order to fulfill my calling. I teach three different groups, and it would be so helpful if I could use the same lesson plan for all three groups, but that is not how God would have it. Each of these classes has students who are at different levels of faith and understanding.

1 Corinthians 12:7-11 New American Bible (Revised Edition) (NABRE)

To each individual the manifestation of the Spirit is given for some benefit. To one is given through the Spirit the expression of wisdom; to another the expression of knowledge according to the same Spirit; to another faith by the same Spirit; to another gifts of healing by the one Spirit; 10 to another mighty deeds; to another prophecy; to another discernment of spirits; to another varieties of tongues; to another interpretation of tongues. 11 But one and the same Spirit produces all of these, distributing them individually to each person as he wishes.

The mustard seed may seem small and insignificant to the world, but to God it is a tool for us to live by. Even a little faith can grow into big belief. When I taught Bible study in the public schools through “Release Time Christian Education, ” I would always tape a seed to the childrens’ Bibles to remind them to have faith. It did not matter if their faith was as small as a grain of mustard seed because God was going to cause it to grow.

 

 

James 5:16 New American Standard Bible (NASB) 16 Therefore, confess your sins to one another, and
Sonja 2nd grade and Mikos 5th grade Matthew 18:10 New American
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