Just Say “NO”


Pope Francis is quoted as saying, “Every time we give in to selfishness and say “no” to God we spoil His loving plan for us.” Wise words indeed. But when we say “no” to someone in our community does that necessarily mean we are also saying “no” to God? This is a conundrum I think many earnest Christians grapple with, myself included. We try to banish the word “no” from our vocabulary. Or if we do say no, (SHOCKING!) we are racked with guilt. Is this healthy Christian thinking? And exactly how often are we required to say yes? Are there times when it is perfectly OK to say no? What’s at the source of this prejudice against no? Scripture has something to say about the concept of avoiding selfishness. Jesus has set the bar a teensy bit high.

Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, Who, though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found human in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross.                                       —Philippians 2, 5-8

Then, He ratchets it up. 

This is my commandment: love one another, as I have loved you. No one can have greater love than to lay down his life for his friends.                                     —John 15, 12-13

It’s right there in black and white. He expects us to lay down our lives for our friends. With those seemingly incriminating scripture passages in mind, the panic sets in. As the thinking goes, if the Almighty wants us to be willing to martyr ourselves, what would He think of us saying “no” to helping out with some random Church ministry? It’s hard to even equate dying for someone, with contributing to the cleanup crew for a Lenten fish fry. Yet, this is the reality of the daily grind and if you’re human, which my husband regularly confirms I am, you have to say no occasionally, right? Before further investigation into the Land of NO, let’s consider its inverse territory, YES-ville.

When is a resounding “yes” a good thing? Let’s start with, the most undeniably impactful “yes” of all time: Mary’s “yes” to God, her beautiful fiat, in which she let go and put her life and future in God’s loving hands and became the Mother of Christ.

Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Then the angel departed from her.                                       —Luke 1, 38

Had Mary NOT stepped up with that amazing yes, where would we be? It’s crucial to note that her yes was said with trust, humility and most importantly charity. I think charity, or Caritas, the Latin word for love of humankind, goes hand in hand with any yes. It is an integral component of the affirmative. Without that beautiful combo of deep love and the confident yes, we are falling short. Remember that New Testament reading from EVERY Christian wedding you’ve ever attended?


If I speak in human and angelic tongues but do not have love, I am a resounding gong or a clashing cymbal. And if I have the gift of prophecy and comprehend all mysteries and all knowledge; if I have all faith so as to move mountains but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give away everything I own, and if I hand my body over so that I may boast but do not have love, I gain nothing.         —Corinthians 13, 1-3

This Bible passage is so applicable to our every day lives, not just in seasons of syrupy-sweet romantic love. (My apologies to all you newlyweds!)  When Mary said yes, it was a profound salvific gift only because it was coupled with a higher love of God. When I’ve said yes to things after some careful, prayerful discernment and with real profound love and no expectation of getting anything in return, the results are downright radiant.

But, have you ever said yes without that underlying love? How’d that work? I don’t know about you, but I’m usually left holding a big old bag of resentment. I’ve grudgingly said yes to things and the whole time the recipient of my “kindness” could feel my seething bitterness. AWKWARD! Consider that sometimes by saying yes, rather than no, we may actually be thwarting God’s loving plan.

I’ve come to realize that I say yes a lot, rather indiscriminately, in fact. And not purely for charitable reasons, but because of my sinful pride. By saying yes to a friend or even a random stranger, I reap the benefits of being seen as a good person. “Wow! Thank you so much! You are amazing! What would I have done without you?” See, I come off smelling like roses. Meanwhile, these extraneous demands can undermine my God-given vocation of wife and mother, where I am realistically less likely to receive the outward praise and affirmation. I heap more sin on by resenting my family for requiring so much of my time. “I’ll grocery shop and make dinner, but don’t’ expect me to be happy about it! I’m wiped out after a long day of being the hands and feet of Jesus!!” Huh?! This cannot be what God had in mind.

Is it possible then that a “no” is sometimes the best answer, even the most Holy and righteous answer? When we say no, we have to deal with disappointing another person. This is hard for me, a serial people pleaser. Saying no can have a humbling effect. It’s hard to admit you can’t do it all. It can sometimes feel so much nicer in the short term to say yes, swoop in like the superhero and brighten someone’s day. But is our answer pleasing to God? That is the million dollar question. In a world where we make ourselves crazy with busy-ness, it is infinitely more challenging, yet more admirable and ultimately rewarding to step off the conveyor belt and truly discern what God asks of each of us. He doesn’t want a pat yes or a pat no. That said, it’s ok to say no. It’s sometimes necessary to say no. It’s occasionally the most loving thing to say.


While Pope Francis is certainly right, we can’t oversimplify his words! A no to God is undoubtedly giving in to selfishness and will put us on the wrong path. But a no to one of God’s children isn’t always a no to God. Don’t think this is a free pass to deny a person in need. We all need to help, especially when it’s challenging. That’s sacrificial love. But if we’re free from mind clutter caused by spreading ourselves too thin, we can better discern real need and our own capabilities. We’re able to prioritize our lives according to His will, not our own, or that pushy neighbor who has us on speed dial. Avoid the knee-jerk response to please the world, especially if you know yourself to be prone to it. Most importantly, stay in communion with God through daily quiet prayer. We’ll make selfless decisions when consulting God. He promises to lead us in the right direction, whether that means exclaiming yes or asserting a big fat no. Either way, it will be according to His divine path for our lives.

Am I now currying favor with human beings or God? Or am I seeking to please people? If I were still trying to please people, I would not be a slave of Christ.                       —Galatians 1:10

Of Germs and Laughter


If you’re a parent or just your average germ-obsessed adult, there are certain times throughout the year, like right now, when you think a lot about the spread of sickness. Maybe you wash your hands more frequently or avoid certain high-traffic areas because you’re convinced everyone is transmitting contagions. I classify myself as a mom who also happens to be mildly germ-obsessed, which is not an easy cross to bear, especially when your kids could care less. No parenting book ever written could prepare you for the things that you hear yourself saying.

“Put that filthy toilet plunger down now! Sheesh! This is a DISGUSTING public restroom.”

“Did you just pick up and handle a USED tissue off the floor of Walgreen’s?! We’re in the pharmacy, for mercy’s sake!”

My OCD panic has little-to-no effect on my kids. Yet, I continually react, knowing the real threat of catching a ferocious flu.

“Where’d you get that dirty plastic whistle?”

“It’s a treasure I found on a pile of dirt on the playground!” TWEEE!!!

And the next thing you know, I’m up all night with sick kids as an illness works its way through our whole family over the course of a VERY LONG month. (Read a previous blog post about our tango with the flu this year.)

Continue reading “Of Germs and Laughter”

Look to the Light


There’s a time in the late afternoon when the spectacular Denver sun streams through the windows of my kitchen, casting an illuminating beam across the expanse of floors and countertops. The light hits at such a precise angle as to expose a blanket of crumbs lurking near the toaster, the layers of dust hidden in a corner under a cabinet and the otherwise invisible stains near the base of our wastebasket. It’s as if nature’s very own high-powered S.W.A.T. searchlight pours into the shadows, revealing the hidden, dirty underbelly of the kitchen. Once in a while, I delight in the chance to wipe out a smattering of crumbs or rub out the trail of sticky spots on my laminate floor.

Continue reading “Look to the Light”

Predicting the Future


I often get antsy and impatient thinking about my future or my family’s future. When I have a really sick kid, when I go for a mammogram, when I’ve hit a rough patch with a friend or a family member, I desperately want to know what’s on the horizon. Maybe as the youngest of three children, I was ingrained with a deep suspicion that I was being left out of the plans, and woefully in the dark. I recall being the only one excluded from a shared “wink-wink, nudge-nudge” moment after I realized Santa always used a fireplace and yet, “Hey, wait a second! We don’t even HAVE a fireplace…”

“In those cases, he uses a magic key,” my mom assured. I remember the weird smiles plastered on everyone else’s faces. My instincts screamed there was a lot more to this story, but I just couldn’t grasp it. It drove me nuts! As an adult, I still have a strong desire to know how things are going to play out. And I’m just as frustrated when I don’t. What will things look like in 10 years? Where will I be? I find myself even getting impatient with God. I consider how nice it would be to be able to look into a crystal ball to have every answer laid out in front of me, just to get a quick glimpse of what to expect, what to not stress about, and what treacherous pitfalls to be prepared for. Continue reading “Predicting the Future”

Who’s Your Man?


My 11-year-old son’s regular basketball season ended this week. Their record was an inauspicious 0-11. Not a single win. But their dismal results in no way reflect the amount of heart and tenacity this scrappy team of underdogs displayed on the court. They played to win, even when the scoreboard told a different story. They held their heads high in the face of imminent defeat and kept going to the hoop. On many occasions, I would tell the boys the loss wasn’t due to a lack of shots. In fact, they were crashing the boards like champs, but the ball just wasn’t breaking in their favor. This is something that will undoubtedly begin to coalesce after more time playing as a team. Continue reading “Who’s Your Man?”

That Time Christmas Break “Flu” By


If fun could be measured in dirty kleenex and cough drop wrappers, our vacation has been a real blast. Look no further than our overflowing trash receptacles. While everyone else was watching the ball drop on New Year’s eve, we watched the thermometer rise. It all started the day after Christmas. My husband was the first to fall. When he coughed, his whole torso shook sending reverberations across our home’s creaky floor boards. 

“Was that an earthquake?” “No. Daddy’s just a little sick, kids.”  Continue reading “That Time Christmas Break “Flu” By”

A Free Christmas Game For You


To all my We’re Late For Church readers and followers, a heartfelt Merry Christmas! I hope your holiday is filled with the beautiful peace of this holy season. And I pray there are plenty of laughs to go around at your Christmas gatherings. While the holidays can be stressful, I always try to make time for some comic relief. Mother Angelica understood the Herculean effort required to be a good Christian during the holidays.  She once sagely quipped, “If it wasn’t for people, we could all be holy.” In an effort to spread some Christmas laughter with all of your people, I’ve created a game that has the potential to create some good-natured tomfoolery at your table. Thank you to my lovely group of “Sisters in Christ” who helped me road-test the game at a recent get-together.

I hope it brings lots of laughter to you as well.  In the words of St. Ignatius Loyola, “Laugh and grow strong!” Lord knows he was a real wimp. 

Christ’s blessing of laughter and strength for you and your family!

Introducing: The Saints and Sinners Game. It’s a twist on the game of Balderdash. You will need to print the two, easy-peasy PDF documents I’ve created to learn how to play. Enjoy! And may you experience one of the greatest gifts of all, laughter!

Saints and Sinners Game

Saints and Sinners Rules

If you feel so inclined, let me know in the comments section how it went over with your brood of holiday revelers… unless it didn’t go well. That you can keep to yourself so I can blissfully go on thinking it was a good idea.