Wednesday, April 30, 2008

When is a Christian Successful?

Today's epistle reading (Acts 17:22-34) reminded me of a teaching I once heard. I don't remember who gave it, or whether the person was Catholic or Protestant. But today this teaching struck me as being completely off-base. The gist of it was that Paul had made a grave error in appealing to the Athenians through their philosophy, pagan religion and culture in his attempt to present the gospel to them. This error was supposedly obvious from the fact that his preaching was a complete failure. People scoffed and blew him off, and all of three converts (out of how many hundreds of hearers?) followed him.

Perhaps whoever gave this teaching had an ax to grind against inculturation. But of course it makes every bit of sense for Paul to draw on what people already knew in order to present new information to them. With Jews or those familiar with the synagogue, speaking about the Hebrew Scriptures makes sense. But what sense would it make when speaking to pagans?

And what is great preaching success, anyway? Fr. Michael Scanlon, in his homily today, pointed out that humbling is often exactly what a preacher needs to receive as the fruits of his efforts. One can have all truth and still fail completely to reach others with it, he said. Whether others are reached or not just is not our concern.

It can be so hard for me sometimes to accept a completely indifferent response to something over which I have intense enthusiasm. And then again, sometimes I have an experience like yesterday's.

I happened to read a pregnancy announcement on the Catholic Fertility list. Towards the end of it, the woman mentioned that she'd read my pregnancy success story in the group archives, and since our health outlooks were so similar, she decided to incorporate everything I had discovered in my journey into "alternative" medicine. And a couple of months later, here she is, 7 weeks pregnant. It surprised me, especially because I only happened to read that particular message (I don't regularly read all the posts there any longer). Once I had become detached from whether I could persuade anyone that my ideas had merit, I find someone crediting me as her inspiration towards this mighty joy in her life.

So, the lesson learned is that if I really want to do people good, an across the board stepping out of the path of self-aggrandizement is in order. We offer what we can, how we can, with our eyes firmly fixed on, transfixed by, the Lord, pouring out all we can to the person, the need in front of us. And forget about how it all turns out.

Truth Must Be Lived

In reading The Risk of Education I've come across this idea of Giussani's that truth is ultimately something lived, not a body of knowledge to be mastered, committed to memory, or expounded in handy formulae. To pass on the Christian faith, one must live it. And one cannot live the Christian faith apart from an encounter with Christ, apart from conversion to Christ in a daily, on-going, life-exchange kind of way. I must live Christ.

I remember when this truth first sparked into awareness in me. I can see myself, a 20 year old college student, sitting in my pastor's study in the Lutheran church in which I was brought up. I was telling him, essentially, that I was leaving Lutheranism and joining a charismatic fellowship, because I'd had a dramatic encounter with the Holy Spirit, and I wanted to live this experience that had gripped me. My Lutheran Synod did not accept that what had happened to me happened in this modern age (and had apparently lost all sight of the fact that it had ever happened in any point of history).

Like any good Lutheran pastor, mine counseled me from the Bible to follow sound doctrine (it might have been Titus 1:9 to which he referred; Lutherans are somewhat prone to yanking verses out of context). It then dawned on me with crystal clarity that "following sound doctrine" was far more about the way one lived, and in whose company, than mental assent to a list of beliefs. Rather than focusing on the "doctrine" part, or the "sound doctrine" part as was my pastor's concern, the word "follow" lit up in my heart. I wanted fiercely to be on my way with others who were drawn through a similar encounter. That dwarfed every other desire of mine.

Was I living the fullness of truth then? No, I wasn't. Some of my pastor's concerns were well founded. But I was following, and was open to God's guidance. Five years later I made another transition into full communion with the Catholic Church. And even after that, I followed through some very rocky terrain in my heart. Living the faith became a very solitary, painful, confusing experience for many of the years after this memory at age 20.

But here, the words of a friend of mine a few years back ring in my ears. He and his wife had just lost a son at nearly six months gestation. "This is an awful cross," he said, "but the only thing that makes it possible to endure is that it is Jesus' cross." The only thing that makes it possible to live the Christian life is that it is Jesus' life, and it is with Him we walk, and after Him we follow.

Employment, Freedom and Real Education

I saw something very clearly during Mass today that almost seemed to come out of the clear blue sky. All about jobs, education, human dignity and money.

Here's the insight: a "good job" is one where we are well-positioned to expand our humanity, to grapple with the things that enable us to give glory to God. And as St. Irenaeus said and Pope John Paul II liked to repeat, the glory of God is man fully alive. A "good education" toward a "good job" is one where we are in training to fully possess our humanity, to become fully alive, aware of ourselves, our capacities for good, our limitations, and to enter the true freedom of possessing ourselves in order to give ourselves in utter commitment to Christ and His Church.

When I faced college graduation, I struggled with my prospects for employment. The tacit assumption that a good job meant one that would pay me a lot of money made me very uncomfortable. I had nothing else though, except a vague sense of altruism and idealism as I launched out. Certainly I had no conscious conversations with others about discovering any personal goals. It was all so vague and murky.

So, I wanted only a good-enough job, and that's what I found. I earned enough money to keep my body and soul together, and I was very content to live in a dumpy, inner-city apartment building. Within a couple years of graduation, I was making what I considered a decent amount of money. As I recall, it was about 15k a year.

And there I was: a good enough job, using skills derived from my college degree. But I was so far from being fully alive, or even from having a clue about what that meant.

I had a college degree, and I had some important intellectual skills, but I had a great poverty when it came to possessing myself, let alone freedom to give myself. I could do what was required of me, but did not know how to require something of myself except for within very narrow confines of academic exercise.

I believe my truest education has come in the last nine years of marriage, and has increased exponentially with the entry of each of my children into our family. The job meant for me is to be a wife and mother, which is exactly what I longed to be since childhood. Only I didn't realize how ill prepared I was for that fresh out of college, and God in His mercy had many years of remedial Humanity 101 through which to walk me.

So, that's me. But I think these thoughts today in conjunction with my children and their intellectual, personal, and spiritual formation. If I am to train them at all, I want to train them to be free, in the Christian sense of the word: able to possess and give oneself. I frankly don't care whether either of them enter a career where they become wealthy. But because a human being fully alive tends to be extremely interesting, I'll bet that the ways they discover to live in this world will be well worth someone's investment.

Tuesday, April 29, 2008

Veni Sancte Spiritus

Have you heard about the 2008 worldwide Pentecost Novena?

“As we give thanks for past blessings, and look to the challenges of the future, let us implore from God the grace of a new Pentecost for the Church in America. May tongues of fire, combining burning love of God and neighbor with zeal for the spread of Christ’s Kingdom, descend on all present.”
Pope Benedict XVI, Papal Visit to the United States, April 19, 2008

Friday, April 25, 2008

Our Tasty Dinner

I made the following recipe for dinner tonight, and I'm happy to report it was rather tasty! It also is a rather inexpensive and simple dish to make. And it is relatively blood-type compliant for both O and A. This winning combination merits it a blog post!

Linguine with tuna, white beans and dill

12 oz linguine (I substituted spelt spaghetti)
1 tbsp olive oil
2 tsp crushed garlic
1 can (19 oz) white kidney beans, drained (I used 1 cup dried great northern beans)
4 tbsp lemon juice
1 3/4 c. cold chicken stock
4 tsp flour
1 can (6.5 oz) tuna in water, drained
1/2 c. chopped fresh dill or 1tbsp. dried
1/3 c. sliced black olives
1/4 c. chopped green onions


1. Cook pasta in boiling water according to package instructions or until firm to the bite. Drain and place in serving bowl.

2. In a large nonstick skillet, heat oil; add garlic, beans and lemon juice. Cook for 2 minutes or until hot.

3. Meanwhile, in a small bowl combine stock and flour until smooth. Add to bean mixture; simmer for 3 minutes or until sauce thickens slightly. Pour over pasta. Add tuna, dill, olives and green onions. Toss to combine.

The Recipe is from The Beans, Lentils & Tofu Gourmet

Reality of Miracles

Today as I prayed the Angelus, I was struck by the oddity of the opening line: The angel of the Lord declared unto Mary, and she conceived by the Holy Spirit.

It can be so easy for these Biblical images to go through our minds, spill off our tongues, without shocking. It struck me that the day the angel came to Mary was a real day, a day perhaps like the utterly beautiful spring day I enjoy today. This miracle of miracles, the Incarnation, happened. Really. In the life of a human person, Mary.

I was struck by the amazing fact of the miraculous being the foundation of the day-in, day-out living of the Christian life. It all requires a miracle, and it all is a miracle.

And then I heard today's gospel: "...And they went forth and preached everywhere, while the Lord worked with them and confirmed the message by the signs that attended it" (see Mk. 16:15-20).

More miracles, recorded as the normal modus operandi of the Church.

And at the Eucharist, again I was struck! Here is one of Christ's perpetual miracles given to the Church, which (pardon the clunky term) builds from the first miracle that caught my heart today, that of the Incarnation. What a web of grace God constructs! It is His way. God's grace comes to me, and when I respond with my heart and His purposes are fulfilled and his glory shines forth, that affects who-knows-what. And that who-knows-what is taken up into the life of someone else, and the cycle continues. I cannot wait to see the other side of this tapestry in heaven. However, I also want to live faithfully to what I am given now, knowing and trusting that every stitch, meaningless as it may momentarily seem, is filled with purpose by God's grace. I want to be as faithful to every stitch as I can.

The web of grace, the web of miracles is real. I suppose you could say it is another name for the Church. It's as real as this day is real, and true as Mary's and Jesus' days were real.

Monday, April 21, 2008

Papa Ben and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day

I have a tendency towards depression. I know of several things that can set it off for me, including hormone crashes and ingesting large quantities of wheat. But I also know there is the insidious kind of depression that is simply due to good old unresolved issues.

And that's basically why I've had a really awful day today.

Let's just say there is a situation I've faced recently that is by no means new to me, but somehow the person I am while facing this situation is not quite the person I was the last time around. "Why should this be so difficult now?" I thought to myself. Like a chicken on a roasting spit, I have turned this thing over and over and over again today. All I knew was that some very old pain, pain just a few years younger than myself, was getting rolled into this situation.

And then my children got into a fight. The ninja had temporarily left his helmet on the kitchen floor, and Cinderella thought it was her crown, only to discover that the ninja felt a strong attachment to this helmet. Crying ensued. I had just gone to see if I couldn't sit down for a few minutes of quiet reading, when I heard Cinderella scouring the opposite end of the house looking for me. Papa Bear tried various means of consoling and reprimanding, increasing the overall domestic volume. I came to scoop Cinderella up to her chamber, to calm her and quiet at least 45% of the volume, when I realized I had been trailed by a ninja. In all the clamor and hollering and distress of others, the ninja earnestly and urgently wanted his new karate jacket frogs done up.

Who cares about what a jacket looks like when the whole house is engulfed with chaos? With great consternation I beheld the ninja's audacity and I blurted out (and I paraphrase): "I wish I could consider what I want so danged important to ignore everything going on around me and demand that someone jump into action for my need!!"

And suddenly I realized what I'd said.

With those words, I kicked free the dammed up area in my heart that was causing me such a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day.

So, what does all this have to do with Pope Benedict? Nothing, yet.

But I did mention in a recent post that I was struck by something the Holy Father said in his comments at the White House (the only address I have been able to listen to in its entirety yet, papal slacker that I am!). And it was this idea of bringing one's convictions and values to public debate.

I have convictions that I hold be to absolute truths, and I have other convictions and values that I hold to be my best take on certain issues. And while some people may discuss absolute truth in a relative sort of way, I have been more of the type to discuss "spectrum values" (I'll call them) in an absolute sort of way. At least among those who share the same values. Let's take unschooling, holistic medicine, and home birthing as three such examples. I'm not going to unpack all those things just now, but what I see is that when one is either not capable or not open to frank discussion or reasoned debate about values such as these, there's a big loss. There's a loss of good information that could be shared, but there is also a loss of something of the humanity of the one holding these values, because of espousing something as more of an ideology than a reasonable, human, holy approach. Boy, that was as clear as mud. Let's just put it this way: if I can't give you a short list of benefits of unschooling as lived in my family, as compared and contrasted with other options, then I am probably not living our unschooling consciously enough to be doing it well, or to be living it to the full.

The goal of debate is not to conquer others or even to change minds or hearts; we debate in order to live life to the full. That's the call I hear.

Ok, so what does this have to do with my terrible day? Without wading deep into my psyche (for once), let me just say that speaking out, with audacity, what is in the heart, is an ability that I think is innate to the human being, especially very young human beings. Most people spend their lives tempering that ability, I suppose. I think I have spent my life thus far trying to tap it. I get lots of fissures that leak into subterranean caverns and cause a bunch of mess. But there is something that has been calling all my life for a straight tap, heart-to-world, via my mouth. And woe unto me until I get all these parts of the call to line up in peace.

I need both the raw passion of my heart to be free, and the reasoned intellectual approach to know that it is not the intensity of my passion that makes truth true. So, my need is simple: basic strong doses of ora et labora.

*My apologies to Judith Viorst for stealing her title.

Saturday, April 19, 2008


Maybe you have a person like this in your life, too.

Someone who reminds you how ultimately, one human being cannot have power over another apart from actions that are truly inhumane.

Someone who reminds you that what is created is created with a tendency toward its Creator.

Someone who reminds you that the souls of the innocents desire what is right, and are deeply pained when they make mistakes and do the wrong thing instead.

Someone, who for some reason, biological or otherwise, is a child in an adult's body.

Someone whose actions grate on your heart for an hour, and then reduce you to awe for a moment.

Someone who reminds you that we all need patience and tenderness and chronic forgiveness.

Someone who reminds you to meet all people as they are, and not as you wish them to be.

Someone who will never stop calling you on to greater virtue just by existing.

Jesus, show me how. Give me your heart when mine wants to go and hide.

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Papal Piercing!

I was able to watch the Pope's official welcome at the White House Wednesday morning. I was particularly struck, called, by the following quote (in italics, but given with a line of context):

The preservation of freedom calls for the cultivation of virtue, self-discipline, sacrifice for the common good and a sense of responsibility towards the less fortunate. It also demands the courage to engage in civic life and to bring one’s deepest beliefs and values to reasoned public debate.

I will have more to say about this, but this just pierced me as a personal call, first within the context of education. I've been involved in some interesting conversations on this topic lately, and I have my eye on other ongoing discussions, like on Willa's blog and on Unschooling Catholics.

I'm excited!

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

"Come and See" Evangelization Endeavor in NYC This Friday!

This story from Intentional Disciples makes me want to be in New York!

Tell me, why hasn't Catholic street evangelization caught on, exactly?

Monday, April 14, 2008

And by the way, if you want to follow the Pope's every move (or word) in the upcoming days, check out this site.

Is Catholic Education in a State of Crisis?

Pope Benedict XVI is expected to say something about, well, practically everything under the sun, depending who you ask. But as he will be meeting with heads of Catholic colleges and universities, education is sure to be one of these somethings.

Here's an article with an interesting perspective. I quote in part:

The educational system in the Catholic Church in the United States is not in crisis, it is in a period of transformation. With the increased abilities of global telecommunications and technologies, the process of Catholic evangelization and catechesis needs to adapt and adopt these modern methods of communications. The educational format of the 19th and 20th centuries is no longer appropriate as the sole vehicle to communicate Catholic truths to our developing young Catholics and our established community of believers.

The primary role of responsibility towards the education of children rests with the parents of young Catholics. The continued emphasis by the Church on the importance of a traditional family structure is perhaps the key component towards educational success in the new millennium. Catholic traditional teaching of the sanctity of marriage and the importance of raising children in a Catholic environment are the principles that need to loudly get the attention of Catholic clergy, laity and educators. As a collective Catholic Church, we need to return to the traditional (and by that I do not mean antiquated) doctrinal and dogmatic formation for all of our Catholic youth and faithful. The new spirituality that is advocated by Benedict XVI should include a thorough and complete understanding of the precepts of Catholicism, from the Apostolic era, to the post-Vatican II Church.

and later:

The so-called educational crisis in the Catholic Church is in reality part of the natural progress of the organic Church that is constantly growing and changing to fulfill the needs of the Body of Christ. We cannot spend time with lament about the glories of past Catholic educational activities. As a Church, we need to seize the global opportunity we have with the dynamic power of the Holy Spirit and become faith filled educational pioneers of the message of Christ’s Sacraments and love. Our Catholic educational activities are indeed not in crisis, but in a state of kairotic chaos, that is leading the Church to a new age of catechesis and evangelization in a dramatically changing world.

It is refreshing to think in terms of opportunity for growth, not loss, sin and decay.

"The Insurance Mafia"

This article by Jonathan Kellerman in the Wall Street Journal makes a very good point about the role of insurance (whether private or government-run) in health care.

Saturday, April 12, 2008

To Live in Tune with My Heart's True Love

So, Friday was a bit of a break for me in my meal planning saga as my husband took our kids out to an event. Come to think of it, I never did eat dinner! No wonder I'm hungry....

I'm thinking I'm on to something. I'm discerning a gentle theme developing in my life. It started with Willa's post on acedia that I wrote about here. And I focus in on Piper's defining the term as closing oneself to the demand that arises from one's own dignity.

Then, I'm back at that meal planning. "Demands that arise from one's own dignity..." Not demands arising from external sources...

What I'm feeling is this gentle call to invest and work with the graces God has put in my life. Why does this strike me as a bit of a heavy thing? I think it is a positive way of saying God is exposing my sin of acedia in my life and drawing me to repent. I'm reminded of pulling up ivy out of our side lot, as I have been doing this week. You yank at one tendril and find it pulls up something three feet away. I'm just in the process of seeing what all is connected by this thread.

Some of the connected stuff: suffering a bout of feeling unique. I have never been one to be afraid to be different or to stand out, but sometimes I just get weary. I go through my life, happy as a clam, walking in step with the Spirit as best as I can, and then every once in a while a curtain is pulled back and I realize how vastly different my life is compared to not only almost everyone in the world, but even almost everyone I know. I know there is divine purpose in my "different" path (of eating, of education, of family building, of spiritual focus, of parenting, you name it). I know it is about me drawing near to Christ, and being able to draw nearer to my brothers and sisters, despite what I perceive as either our similarities or our differences. Sometimes I just get weary of the "she has two heads" kind of reaction.

Then I hear John Michael Talbot's words reverberating in my ears: When you follow the Lord, you will be different from everyone else. So do not be afraid to be different.

I think the Lord makes us not only different from "the world," but different from Christian brothers and sisters -- unique, I should say -- because we need to find our communion in and with Him, ultimately. Our hearts can never correspond to other loved ones, not entirely. We are made for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in Him.

Maybe you do this too: sometimes when Our Lord puts a challenge before me, I test out how it would be to just ignore His proposal for a little while. Then, life starts to suck, and to keep my sanity I have to go back to the Lord and say "to whom shall I go? You alone have the words of everlasting life."

Well, what do you know. It is the wee hours of Saturday morning, the Saturday when I'm due to go to confession. Gee. Amazing coincidence.

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Two Days' Worth of Planning

Yesterday and today I made dinner with aforethought. I'm not getting too excited about this yet, because I know I can plan and execute anything for a little while. Here's what I've learned so far:

  • The same amount of effort is necessary to make dinner whether I came up with the idea two days ago or two minutes ago.
  • I am still cranky at dinner crunch time even if I'm not making dinner right then.
  • It is relaxing to me to make dinner right after lunch. It seems this is a natural time for my kids to be involved in something that holds their interest.
  • I love the lingering smell of cooked food during the afternoon.
  • I love being free to do other things just before dinner.
  • Planning meals makes grocery shopping make more sense.
  • Most of my default dinners are not make-ahead foods, so when I fall back onto "normal" meals (say, baked fish) I'll have to adjust accordingly.
In general, it has been a positive experience so far. The proof comes later, like when we have company stay with us next week. I know I sound inhumane, but for some reason having company is a "recipe" for complete lack of planning in my book. I think it has something to do with a very old "yikes! anxiety, run and hide" mental tape that I should probably dump out with the Spring cleaning this year.

Tuesday, April 08, 2008

Those Best Laid Plans...

I consider myself a highly adaptable person. I handle change well. Ok, there was the time when the spot where we always sit for daily Mass was roped off as reserved for several days in a row for seemingly no reason (the spot was filled with random latecomers for the first few days). So, let's just say that I normally handle change easily if I understand that there is some reason behind it. I don't even mind changes for reasons I don't completely understand, but yet accept, like day light savings time. I tease my husband because he frequently is still suffering the change two or three weeks later. "Oh come on," I say, "what's a little shift in routine?"

But today I have realized a distinction. I handle change well, as long as I am responding to a change that has happened to me, something coming in from an external source. I've mastered coping that way quite well. (Have I said that enough yet?)

What I haven't mastered is the ability to discern, plan, and implement change from the inside out. Perhaps I have even insisted, or over-emphasized, that God was calling me in a certain direction, because if I can pin the call the change on God, it is easier for me to handle. I am reminded of a 10 year old girl I knew who was being asked on a date by a boy at school. She asked her mother if it was OK to tell him "my mom won't let me" because it made her feel safer than refusing him on her own behalf.

But dear me, I'm not 10 years old. And God's life is not external to my own. (There are certain sectors of my soul which haven't gotten this memo yet.) God animates me by His Spirit to live my human life. I have long recognized the vanity in composing my own agenda and and asking God to "bless it," or take it as His own, but perhaps I have made the error on the opposite end of the pendulum -- waiting for specific orders from God about details of my life that He has entrusted to my ability to use my brain. Or somehow feeling there's no reason to change until "pushed" from the outside. And that is a lack of the use of reason.

I've tried, you see, to put myself on programs of great change and have failed miserably and repeatedly. Even as a child I struggled with my night-owlness, for example, and planned to wake early every morning, with a schedule to the 5-minute interval of what I'd do. I always set excessively high standards and desired a quick rise to perfection. Obviously, quick failure ensued. But I think these impossible goals were fueled by fear and insecurity, and I had plenty of this fuel to keep me trying again and again. Eventually, I think it is accurate to say, I developed a strong case of learned helplessness: I just can't make myself change.

But what does Christ have to say to this? What did He say into my life? Christ became my hero, bursting through the locked door or flying in through the window (or so I perceived), to bring me out of helplessness. In the last fifteen years or so, the deepest lessons I've learned have been baby-step lessons on how to stand on my own feet and walk, "by the Spirit," in what I have come to see as God's direction of leading.

But what I dug down into today, meeting as a CL Fraternity, was this thing of stumbling upon my ability to choose to change, when change is discerned as necessary, or even possibly helpful. This seems so simple it should almost be embarrassing to admit. But Jesus is concerned with restoring my humanity down to the most basic elements.

Let's take an example: meal planning. I generally decide what to make for dinner a few hours, or less, before dinner each day. I know that many highly organized women, whether by necessity or habit, plan their meals on paper two to four weeks ahead of time. I have thought to myself, boy, that's really just not me. I've thought that so much planning really would impinge on my freedom. But something in the back of my head knows that on the days when I get things ready for dinner earlier than usual, I feel freer, in fact, because I don't have that crunch time pressure to suddenly become creative, and I'm free to be with my kids, or to relax if they are otherwise occupied, in what seems to be a rough time of day for us all. I also consider that if I planned, it would be a way of showing love to my family by adding special touches of various sorts, including needing the help of my kids who like to help cook. Not to mention, I know that planning is a skill that I want my children to be able to develop.

And yet, I cling to this vision of myself as too much of a "free spirit" to plan meals. If I look intently into the vision, I see the fear: what if I fail. What if I can't do it. I fear becoming a slave to a plan, rather than using it as a tool. I fear my latent inflexibility will cause me to break when I need to tweak the plan. Ok, change IS very difficult for me!!

As an unschooler, I know need to embrace the truth that I am human, and I can learn! Moreover, I have grace, and I can grow. All of my day is given to Christ, and it is Him I serve, not a plan, and not some menacing specter demanding perfection. I can experiment! I can keep what serves me, and dismiss what blocks.

This is such a mundane thing, but I am shaking in my boots. But I know that if I tell you, my faithful blog readers, of my self-challenge, I will be far more likely to take courage and follow through.

On the dire importance of goofing off with your children

A hefty hat tip to Helen at Castle of the Immaculate for pointing out this gem from St. John Bosco on the importance of taking interest in children's interests to truly win their hearts and help them be open to truth and love. I have been thinking lately about how we humans can either be helps or hindrances to each other in our journey to God. I cringe to think of how severely this is true of parents. This piece convicts me of the wrongness of fobbing off my children with some non-reason for not sharing in their interest or game.

“Well then, what is needed?”

“That they be loved in the things which they themselves like by a sharing in their youthful interests; in this way they will learn to see your love in matters which naturally speaking are not very pleasing to them, as is the case with study, discipline, and self-denial: in this way they will learn to do these things also with love.”

Saturday, April 05, 2008

A Trip Down Memory... Street

We've been having a lot of fun at home with this one lately. This is one of the grooviest tunes that you might ever get stuck in your head.

And while I'm at it, here's another golden oldie that my kids think is hilarious.

Isn't it amazing how you can not see something for over 30 years and then have memories triggered like it was yesterday?

Friday, April 04, 2008

World Day of Prayer for Vocations

Click the icon, sign up and participate in the World Day of Prayer for vocations.

Thursday, April 03, 2008

Happy Birthday, Dad

Today would be my father's 80th birthday. He passed away on April 7, 2001, having just reached 73.

A strange hodge-podge of emotions comes bubbling up when I think of my father. His presence in my life was marked by much pain, confusion, and awkwardness. And yet in many ways, many of the deep, true elements of my life experiences can be traced back to our relationship.

My father was an alcoholic, and my parents were divorced when I was small. Even before they divorced, my father lived apart from us for long stretches as he struggled to support our family as a teacher, often boarding during the week and returning home only on weekends. Somehow I remember being excited to see him when he was home, but there were many layers of reality that I completely did not understand. All I knew when my parents divorced was that something that was meant to hold up my life shattered into thousands of irreparable pieces.

I blamed my father, and began to hate him. I knew that when he drank, he became very strange, but even when he was sober, his mental health was rather fragile. His social skills were poor, and his self-concept was one of complete failure. He had failed everyone he cared about and felt unable to succeed at anything important to him.

When I was about 19 years old, I experienced a grace of forgiveness. This was rooted in another great grace of healing in my own life, which I wrote about here. I suddenly realized that my father had not intentionally hurt me, and in fact, he had always attempted to make up for specific hurts by apologizing and telling me he loved me. I realized that I could forgive him, and I did. As a result, my life began to heal.

I can look back now and see my father through such different eyes. He was very committed to AA, even though he went in and out of sobriety throughout his life. I know his commitment to the principles and practices of AA was why he bothered to try to make amends to me. Even though I never saw my father as much of a spiritual or religious example, I can see now that his humbling himself to make amends had an impact on my own desire to seek out and act on truth. He did not feel comfortable enough among "normal" people to attend church regularly, but he always told me he prayed the Our Father (well, he was Protestant, so he said "The Lord's Prayer") daily.

He had a great love for music, especially Big Band and swing music, which of course came back into vogue before he passed away. When he knew he would eventually succumb to his cancer, he packed up his extensive collection of pristine and highly organized band music (that he had collected when it was brand new) and donated it to a local high school which had started a swing band. The band director was beyond ecstatic. He estimated the music to be worth over $40,000. The school honored my father with a concert of the music for which they asked him to be guest conductor, which I know was more than a dream come true for my father, who had always wanted to start his own band. This kind of "giving everything and thinking it to be nothing" of my father's is a legacy I am deeply proud of.

After he passed away, I received all of his personal affects, including his photo albums. He had only three of them with which he summarized his whole life. These photos started with his childhood and captured his love for the Old West, Indians, and big band stars. In the middle one, I found mostly family pictures, pictures I or a sibling drew, birthday cards and other mementos, especially around the time of his divorce. The last album was filled with pictures from my wedding, where I was privileged to have him give me away, and which he graciously and unexpectedly paid for.

A hodge-podge of emotions. But strong evidence of the grace of Christ, our Redeemer.

Wednesday, April 02, 2008

Baby Queen: "We're Out of Pampers"

Check this out. These babies could be a lot more comfortable if their parents knew about EC!

Tuesday, April 01, 2008

Love, Service and Weariness

When I read this message from Jesus this morning (via Anne, a Lay Apostle), I got tears in my eyes. I almost felt like Jesus might have stopped in to my blog, read my last post, and left this message in the comments box.

April 1, 2008

My dear apostles, I speak to you from My heart, the seat of love. I speak to you freely at this time to teach you about love. I desire that each of you accept My love, which includes the love of all of heaven. Those who are lukewarm and do not accept my love cannot help Me in My goal of renewal.

Those who are concerned with establishing their kingdoms on earth will lose opportunities to seed the renewal each day. Those who postpone a full commitment to My goals will find that they are sadly disappointed later, when they realize how important their service was to Me. I rely on My apostles to be passionate about service, seeking always to store up heavenly treasures in the souls of those around them. Truly, no kind word, no compassionate silence, no act of love is lost. Each of these is both used immediately and preserved eternally. I understand that you are tired at times. I understand that you become discouraged. I understand these things because in My humanity I experienced these things. I allow these feelings in My beloved apostles because their service to Me then becomes even more beneficial. Rest assured that you have been given all that you need in strength and courage for each day’s service. There is no difficulty, from heaven’s perspective, in an apostle serving in weariness.

Most apostles served in weariness and the weariness that an apostle feels does not mean that the fire of the Spirit is at risk of being extinguished.

Have no fear about this because I Myself tend to the presence of the Spirit in your soul. This fire has been expertly banked so that it will burn for as long as it needs to burn. Some day you will be finished with your service on earth. The tasks that I need from you will be completed. This will be a joyful day for you. You will see all that you have accomplished for Me. Yes, weariness comes and goes, but love creates stamina that keeps the servant and the service steady. In the time to come I intend to increase the capacity for love in each apostle. This is necessary for heaven’s goals and will enable My beloved ones to serve with even greater dedication and humility. I will teach you more and instruct you closely in the use of this gift as time passes. This heavenly concession will greatly increase the effectiveness of My presence in your soul. I am so grateful that you seek to remain close to Me. Rejoice, dear apostles. I am with you.