Saturday, December 30, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, III

Let's examine the Ave Maria itself, that which makes it distinctively Marian:

Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee.

The first line of the Hail Mary with the addition of "Mary" is Scripture (Luke 1.28), as are the next two clauses with the addition of "Jesus."

Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus (Luke 1.42).

In the first half of the Ave Maria, we are simply praying the Scriptures - what was said by St Gabriel the Archangel and by St Elizabeth, who spoke filled with the Holy Spirit.

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

As I've already discussed the idea of praying to Mary, I won't reiterate our reasons here. Instead let's deal with calling Mary "holy" and calling her the "Mother of God." All of us in Christ, St Paul calls "holy ones," or saints. In Christ, there is a certain sense of this. The Church also differentiates those who have led exemplary lives as Saints. There are requirements that must be met before these men and women can be canonized as such. But, ultimately, the idea is that the Church recognizes these people as holy, standing in the presence of God. Their intercession therefore is powerful and effective (James 5.16).

Of all the Saints, Mary is our ideal - she is the prototype of what we all may be (though she is unique in other ways) and there is no question whether she is holy. If Scripture commands that we be holy (1 Peter 1.16), then certainly Mary is holy.

Mary is also called Theotokos (God-bearer, literally), or Mother of God. I've already gone into the explanation of this title. But here it is again: If Mary is not the Mother of God, then Jesus is not God. And I do not wish to go there.

(Interestingly, the title Theotokos came about at the Council of Ephesus in A.D. 431. The debate was a christological debate and it concerned whether Mary should be called Christotokos [Christ-bearer, as the mother of merely Jesus' humanity] or Theotokos. The Council decided that to call her merely Christotokos rather than Theotokos would be to separate his inseparable natures.)

That is the Ave Maria - the heart of the Rosary. There is nothing in it that ought to offend. Let me deal next with the Salve Regina (Hail Holy Queen), which is the prayer that normally concludes the Rosary, and which might also offend.

I do not normally pray the Salve Regina for a practical reason more than anything theological - I simply have not memorized the prayer as of yet. I'm still struggling to disentangle the Apostles' and the Nicene Creeds. So be patient with me.

But let's look at it before discussing the concepts of repetitive and meditative prayers.

Salve Regina

Hail, Holy Queen, Mother of Mercy,
our life, our sweetness and our hope.
To you do we cry,
poor banished children of Eve.
To you do we send up our sighs,
mourning and weeping in this valley of tears
Turn then, most gracious advocate,
your eyes of mercy toward us,
and after this exile
show unto us the blessed fruit of thy womb, Jesus.
O clement, O loving,
O sweet Virgin Mary.

I will not spend a lot of time defending this prayer. Mainly because I see nothing offensive about it if you read "advocate" primarily as "intercessor," which I do. The only problem I see anyone having with this prayer is the title "Holy Queen" - if we set aside the whole idea of praying to someone other than God, of course.

Mary is our queen because she is the real mother of the real King. She is the queen mother, as it were. Just as Bathsheba was the queen mother of Solomon and interceded or advocated for others to her son Solomon. She is not queen in the sense that she is divine or on an equal footing with the Blessed Trinity. The Church in no way teaches or condones this belief. The Church calls such an idea or practice idolatry.

We must understand Mary properly. We do not worship her. But we respect her more highly than any other creature. The Greek words differentiate our feelings and practices quite adequately: Latria is adoration and is reserved for God alone. Dulia is respect. I show my parents dulia, I show kings and presidents dulia, I show all the Saints dulia. Hyperdulia, (or great respect) however, a universe below what we consider worship (latria), is reserved for Mary. And as the Mother of God, such respect is due her. It is because of her Yes that God became man. All others throughout history have born witness to Christ, but she actually bore him. And as His Throne, she bears Him still. It is right to call her Theotokos, or God-bearer.

I will attempt to address the repetitive and meditative aspects of prayer this prayer in the next post.

Thursday, December 28, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, II

The foremost resistance to Marian prayer, or to praying to the Saints in general, is the idea of our prayers being directed to someone other than God. I understand this hesitancy since, for many, prayer is only a Godward activity. And while I agree that prayer is primarily a Godward activity, the Church correctly views prayer as entreaty. And one can entreat both God and man.

Others can and do intercede for us. Indeed, Samuel says, "far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray for you" (1 Sam 12.23). The Lord's Prayer is a prayer of and for community - a prayer of and for "us." And so we go to our mother and father, brother and sister, friend and neighbor, and pastor and ask them to pray for us. We ask them to intercede for us. Is their mediation on our behalf, is our request for their mediation, sinful or idolatrous? Of course not. Does our request for their intercession preclude our going also directly to Christ? Of course not.

And so it is with the Blessed Virgin Mary, the Apostles, and the Saints - they are not dead, but gloriously alive. They are not deaf and dumb and lame, but gloriously aware and active. We believe in the communion of saints: past and present, militant and victorious, on earth and in heaven. We believe they can and do pray for us and because of this, we ask it of them.

A common objection to prayers to Saints is our inability to figure out the How of it - How do they hear our prayers along with millions of others? How do they manage? And my answer to that question is that I don't know. But I also do not know what it means to be glorified, to be holy, to perfectly partake of the divine nature. Yet it is so. And the Church has always professed it to be so. I have no reason to doubt her authority, who also, carried along by the Holy Spirit, gave me the Scriptures.

Mary holds a special place for the Church because she is our Mother - Christ gave her to us and us to her at the cross (John 19.26,27). She is also the Mother of God, the Theotokos (God-bearer). This title does not imply that she is the Mother of the Father, but as my five year old, Anna, said, "Mary gave Jesus a birthday." The simplicity and profundity of Anna's statement is spot on. She is the Mother of God because Jesus is God the Son, and her Yes allowed Him to be born. His humanity is from her, just as mine is from my parents.

And so we pray to Mary, though, of course, not exclusively. She is not the mediator between God and Man - Christ is. But she mediates for us, in an intercessory sense, just as my earthly mother mediates for me, but more greatly and more profoundly. She acts as she acted at the wedding at Cana, bringing our needs (They have no wine) before Jesus, and instructing us, the Church (Do whatever He tells you).

I pray to God, of course - daily, hourly, moment by moment. And within the Rosary itself we praise the Trinity, pray to the Father, and cry out to Jesus.

Wednesday, December 27, 2006

Marian Devotion: The Rosary, I

The Rosary is a Marian prayer that is centered around Christ and is, as Pope John Paul II said, a compendium of the gospel. The Hail Mary (Ave Maria), which is the bulk of the Rosary, and the Hail Holy Queen (Salve Regina), which concludes the Rosary, set the prayer apart as Marian. But what makes it a compendium of the gospel? Or Christocentric?

Let me share with you, in a series of posts, how and why I pray the Rosary. I am only a beginner, and I am still struggling with praying and learning this wonderful devotion. Indeed, there are many of you out there who could teach me a great deal about the prayer, and I pray that you do.

In this first post, let me give a brief overview of how the Rosary is prayed. There are variations, of course, but in general it is prayed as follows.

  • We sign ourselves with the cross, beginning our prayers in the name of the Blessed Trinity.

  • We then recite the Apostles' Creed. This ancient creed is a summary of our faith, our baptismal creed, and all Christians accept it, though some play with the definitions of certain words.

  • The Our Father, or The Lord's Prayer, follows the creed.

  • Following the Our Father, we pray three Ave Marias. (We pray: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen.") From my understanding, these three Ave Marias represent faith, hope, and love - that which makes us Christian.

  • The Glory Be follows. We pray: "Glory be to the Father, to the Son, and to the Holy Spirit, as it was in the beginning, is now, and ever shall be, world without end. Amen."

  • We then begin our five decades (sets of ten beads), which are true meditations on five mysteries. I'll explain in detail what these mysteries are later.

    For now, let me give a brief example of the mysteries upon which we meditate. Today is Wednesday - the Glorious Mysteries. The first glorious mystery is the resurrection of our Lord. During the first decade (set of ten) of Ave Marias, we meditate on the resurrection of Christ.

    So before each decade, we announce the mystery on which we'll be meditating - and this is where the "compendium of the gospel" truly gets rolling, as well as the Rosary being a Christocentric prayer - and begin with an Our Father.

    It is important to remember that the Rosary is a prayer of meditation: As we pray, we meditate on five mysteries surrounding the life of Christ (revealing the Mystery, Christ).

So what makes you uncomfortable about praying the Rosary and why? Most of your questions and reservations, I have probably felt for myself. I plan to try to answer them in the subsequent posts, though I will be happy to have a conversation with you about your questions or objections at any time.

For more information: How to Pray the Rosary.


Monday, December 25, 2006

O Holy Night

Oh holy night! The stars are brightly shining,
It is the night of the dear Savior's birth.
Long lay the world in sin and error pining,
Till He appear'd and the soul felt its worth.
A thrill of hope the weary world rejoices,
For yonder breaks a new and glorious morn.

Fall on your knees! Oh, hear the angel voices!
Oh night divine, Oh night when Christ was born;
Oh night, Oh night divine, Oh night Divine.

Led by the light of Faith serenely beaming,
With glowing hearts by His cradle we stand.
So led by light of a star sweetly gleaming,
Here come the wise men from Orient land.
The King of Kings lay thus in lowly manger;
In all our trials born to be our friend.

He knows our need, to our weakness is no stranger,
Behold your King! Before Him lowly bend!
Behold your King, Behold your King.

Truly He taught us to love one another;
His law is love and His gospel is peace.
Chains shall He break for the slave is our brother;
And in His name all oppression shall cease.
Sweet hymns of joy in grateful chorus raise we,
Let all within us praise His holy name.

Christ is the Lord! O praise His Name forever,
His power and glory evermore proclaim.
His power and glory evermore proclaim.

- Adolphe Charles Adam, 1847

Friday, December 22, 2006

“I pray ... that they may all be one.”

A new article of mine, concerning unity, is up at Tyndale's New Living Translation site. I normally don't point them out to you because most of you know that an article mysteriously appears every week or so like magic. If you want to read, you read. And if you don't want to read, you don't. And that's cool.

But I wanted to point out this article that posted Wednesday because it is a big part of who I am, of where my heart lies.

I know, speak, and listen to people with a diversity of beliefs on a fairly regular basis. We, all of us, love Jesus and have orthodox beliefs about Him. But we are different in many other ways. And we are divided. We do not always see eye to eye. Still, we respect and love one another because each of us is in Christ.

It seems to me this being 'in Christ' should have more bearing on our unity than our polity, how we define justification, or whether we recite the filioque.

I know. It's more complex than that. Even so.

Check out the article.

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Unlawfully Absent

Yesterday, I received two letters for each of my girls about absences. It was shocking to receive them since I was not aware that they had any absences. The shock increased, on this first notice of our girls' truancy, with its wonderful quotation from the North Carolina Compulsory Attendance Law that spoke of unlawful absences and court dates.

"Unlawful," while technically accurate, seems to be tonally extreme on the first notification that your children have had several absences - especially when their absences are due to sickness or being stranded in Michigan due to a broken vehicle. But perhaps I'm being oversensitive.

Regardless, I called the school social worker this morning - where, Did I mention?, my wife teaches - and was told that all their absences were excused. Furthermore, the second letter that said they had three 'unlawful' absences was a glitch in the computer. I can only assume they use PCs.

I suggested they work on the tone of their first contact letters, and maybe not bring up the whole "We're going to haul you off to jail and send your children to live with Jimmy Jack and Annabelle Guthry in western Appalachia" bit until at least the second letter. I mean, we barely know each other.

I was kind, of course - but when am I ever not?

Monday, December 18, 2006

This and That

I got the news from the garage concerning my pimped Mini,uh,van: Apparently I need to replace a gasket. Depending on whether we're talking about the intake or the head gasket, the repairs will run anywhere from $500 to $1200+. It's fortunate that I'm uber-wealthy. That's like maybe a quarter for me, relative to what you all make. Not to rub it in or anything, I'm just saying good for me and all.

Speaking of wealth, I need to start searching for at least one more freelance job. I'm looking primarily for a writing gig, but I suppose I'll accept editing crap. And speaking of crap, can you believe Peter Boyle is gone? Holy crap. (That's not "Catholic, XXII: Sacramentals," by the way, just an exclamation.)

Saturday was 30 weeks for the baby boy. Woo-hoo! I think he's already done, though, because Laura's belly button looks like a spent plastic pop-up turkey timer.

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Catholic, XXI

The feminine within Catholicism is difficult to miss. The Church, of course, is a she: We are Christ's bride. But the feminine is present, primarily, within Mary, the Theotokos, who nourishes her children as a river nourishes the earth, re-creating and nurturing beauty. (Indeed, Advent itself is a Marian season within the life of the Church, as we wait with her for the birth of her son, our Lord.)

And we honor Him when we honor her.

One More Happy Birthday

I need to send out another Happy Birthday, this time to my favorite dad in the whole world - who's less embarassing every year. Even, dare I say it, in a Quality Dairy. Today my dad is 64 ... I believe. (It's always hard remembering my parents' age - I just know they're old.)

I love you, Dad. Happy Birthday! And many, many more.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Happy Birthday

I need to send out a Happy Birthday to my favorite sister in the whole world - even if she was born on Friday the 13th. Tania is 38 today; she is a wonderful sister and friend.

I love you, Tania. Have a great one!


Sometimes there's so much I want to say about so much that I wonder if it's best to say nothing at all. Life is ... too hard to describe at times - concurrently dark and light. It is no wonder that so many live gray lives.

"You are the light of the world," Jesus said to us.

Only empty us of our darkness, of all that is not you.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

"Truthiness" - Word of the Year

Congratulations, Mr. Colbert. Saw the news on CNN and had to pass it on:

"Truthiness" was credited to Comedy Central satirist Stephen Colbert, who defined it as "truth that comes from the gut, not books."

"We're at a point where what constitutes truth is a question on a lot of people's minds, and truth has become up for grabs," said Merriam-Webster president John Morse. "'Truthiness' is a playful way for us to think about a very important issue."

. . . . .

Colbert - who once derided the folks at Springfield-based Merriam-Webster as the "word police" and a bunch of "wordinistas" - was pleased.

"Though I'm no fan of reference books and their fact-based agendas, I am a fan of anyone who chooses to honor me," he said in an e-mail to The Associated Press.

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Festival of Vomit

Vomit's not really my thing. Nevertheless, the boy vomited in the car today as we set out to see the Festival of Lights at Tanglewood, just west of Winston-Salem. Thank God for a wife who loves to clean up vomit. If it weren't for her, I don't know what I'd do.

Afterward: "Will, does your tummy feel better?"

"Yeh. Seesbuhr! Seesbuhr! Wah seesbuhr!"

I think the boy gets carsick. He threw up three times on our trip to Michigan, none of which made it into a bucket. (Though we weren't sure of the cause of that vomiting due to the Plague smacking down the entire family over Thanksgiving.) Regardless, I'm going to begin keeping a supply of Dramamine on hand for him.

Friday, December 08, 2006

No More Coffee for the Yellow-Haired Child

Yesterday, while she was taking a bath, the yellow-haired child commented that she thought she was growing hair on her butt.

. . . . .

Also, I just got back from Mass - today is the feast of the Immaculate Conception. (Boy, there's a can of worms.) It was nice - Sophie and Anna made the trip with me and we talked and sang. But they came along mostly, I think, for the ice cream afterward.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Novena to St Joseph

O St Joseph, whose protection is so great, so strong, so prompt before the throne of God, I place in you all my interest and desires.

O St Joseph, do assist me by your powerful intercession, and obtain for me from your divine Son all spiritual blessings, through Jesus Christ, our Lord. So that, having engaged here below your heavenly power, I may offer my thanksgiving and homage to the most Loving of Fathers.

O St Joseph, I never weary contemplating you, and Jesus asleep in your arms; I dare not approach while He reposes near your heart. Press Him in my name and kiss His fine head for me and ask Him to return the kiss when I draw my dying breath.

St Joseph, Patron of departed souls, pray for me.


Monday, December 04, 2006


Greetings from the pigpen.

More later, but for now it's enough to say that my family and I are all well. I apologize for the zero postings in the last two weeks. There was Thanksgiving, of course. Then, when we finally were able to come home (long story involving the Plague and the minivan), I plugged my Mac in and it just crackled at me darkly. It was probably pissed at being left alone for so long. Regardless, I drove down to Charlotte and picked up the repaired machine from the Apple Store tonight. The Geniuses (that's not sarcasm tonight, by the way) had to replace the logic board and the power supply. It was all covered under our Apple Protection Plan (APP), praise God. The APP is usually of no substantial help, since most of our problems with the computers are child related, but it worked in our favor this time.

I have loads of freelancing due Friday, so I won't have much of a presence posting this week either. But you'll be OK.

I'm looking forward to catching up on my blog reading, but it may take some time.

I hope your holidays were happy.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

"Michigan Seems Like a Dream"

In the next couple of hours, we'll be leaving for Michigan. I'll be driving through the night. We covet your prayers - especially for our safety and my wakefulness - two sides of the same coin I suppose. I have David Sedaris's Me Talk Pretty One Day, which I'm looking forward to. If the library is still open on the way out, I may stop and look again sans children. It's easier finding something when you're not chasing and shushing a toddler and a yellow-haired child. (I had also picked up Bill Bryson's A Short History of Nearly Everything, but one of the tapes is broken. Nice. This is why you put these things on CD.)

I'll see you on the other side.

Monday, November 20, 2006

Catholic, XX

We are baptized into Christ, into one body (Gal 3.27; 1 Cor 12.13).

It is in receiving this sacrament, because of our belief, that we are saved (Acts 2.38; Col 2.12; 1 Pe 3.21). In it, our sins are washed away (Acts 22.16).

Baptism is God's most beautiful and magnificent gift. ... We call it gift, grace, anointing, enlightenment, garment of immortality, bath of rebirth, seal, and most precious gift. It is called gift because it is conferred on those who bring nothing of their own; grace since it is given even to the guilty; Baptism because sin is buried in the water; anointing for it is priestly and royal as are those who are anointed; enlightenment because it radiates light; clothing since it veils our shame; bath because it washes; and seal as it is our guard and the sign of God's Lordship.

- St Gregory of Nazianzus (A.D. c 325-389), Oratio

Sunday, November 19, 2006

Winter's Eve

Leaves and ribbon race across the ground, frustrated
By passing whirlwinds, holly and chain-link.

A snake scribbles over red clay, like a memory,
Crawling under the sun and the bare river birch.
The sun shines in gold indifference. It's untroubled
By fading linens, by daydreams and bright lipstick.

From the window I watch the sky slip into color.
Sunlight and clouds conspire beauty. And the wind
Chases dead leaves in fitful bursts of curious
Distraction. My hair, old wire, plays gray. And brown
Leaves huddle against the diamond hem of your fence.

I close my eyes imagining you, and I breathe.

Friday, November 17, 2006

Evening (draft)

Leaves and frayed string race across the ground, distracted
By cars and transitory whirlwinds and chain-link.
A snake scribbles through gravel like a memory,
Writing something old and dusty, half-forgotten.

The sun shines on unaware and gold, distracted
By cars and cool water, by lipstick and chain-link.
From the porch I watch the sky slip into color
As sun and clouds conspire beauty. And the wind

Chases dead leaves in fitful bursts of curious
Distraction. My hair, old wire, plays gray while brown
Leaves huddle against the diamond hem of your fence.
I close my eyes imagining you, and I grieve.

Thursday, November 16, 2006

Catholic, XIX

The sacraments are ineffable. They are true, and not mere, symbols - they are God's presence and the presentation of His efficacious grace. In faith and love we receive them, bowing before the Mystery.

Catholic, XVIII

In the sacraments of the Church the transcendence and the nearness of God collide. And it is in this collision of the mystical and the physical, in this incarnation of the other and the familiar, that we feel the hand of Christ upon us, uniting us to Himself.

They, the sacraments, are the activity of the whole Christ, the head and the body acting as one, giving and receiving.

Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Catholic, XVII

The sacraments are life and are shaped to life, and the Church is shaped by them. It is through the sacraments, principally, that Christ meets with us. And it is in these encounters that we are healed.

Leona Choy

Leona Choy, evangelical missionary to China, writer, and publisher, converted to Catholicism in 2005 (at 79). I saw her last night on Journey Home - she has a beautiful and moving testimony. Check out the interview if you have the time. You should be able to find it this week at


Me and the Crue are heading to Michigan in a week, braving the cold and the gray, braving two holidays being pressed into one.

We'll be celebrating Christmas with my side of the family after Thanksgiving (I imagine it will be on Saturday, though Who knows?).

We're driving through the night, we've decided. It usually works out well: Kids sleep, wife sleeps (if only fitfully), Dad sleeps (if constantly interrupted by those annoying rumble strips). We get to Michigan the next morning, and, for the most part, it's as if the trip never happened. Then I collapse on the couch and nap until it's time to drive home again. All around, Good Times.

Maybe I'll pick up a DVD player so I can watch movies while I drive. Or maybe get some movies on CD at the very least. Or do they just do books?

I suppose coffee is always a good option, or a 2-liter bottle of diet Mountain Dew with loads of chips and candy. ("Ew," he shudders.) That just doesn't sound as appealing to me as it did when I was in college. But I'll make it work - suggestions are welcome.

Monday, November 13, 2006


My soul is occupied,
And all my substance in His service;
Now I guard no flock,
Nor have I any other employment:
My sole occupation is love.

- St John of the Cross (Canticle of the Soul and the Bridegroom, 28)

Saturday, November 11, 2006 Me

I mowed today. Yeah, you heard me - November 11. I hope it will be the last time I need to this year, but it was 81 today and now I hear it beginning to rain - I wonder.

. . . . .

I go through bouts of depression. My spirit rains, my soul drizzles. I usually don't recognize the depression until I'm on the other side. Once, several years ago, I realized it had been four days since I'd brushed my teeth. That was a rather serious bout as I do try to regularly brush my teeth. This summer I didn't mow the lawn for two months. It seemed like the right thing not to do. I was so busy, after all.

I don't like being depressed. Though I do. I like to shrug it off on my being a classic melancholy, but that is a box smaller than who I am.

I'm not glum. I would even describe myself as "very happy." Most people who know me know my smile. And the smile is not hiding anything, though sometimes it co-exists with something blacker.

. . . . .

My mom sent me some jokes this week. Here's one of the three - with some cussing:

A man went to church one day and afterward he stopped to shake the preacher's hand. He said "Preacher, I'll tell you, that was a damned fine sermon. Damned fine!"

The preacher said, "Thank you, sir, but I'd rather you didn't use profanity."

The man said, "I was so damned impressed with that sermon, I put five thousand dollars in the offering plate!"

The preacher said, "No shit?"

The last of the three jokes was funnier, about penises and such, but that's probably already too much for this blog.

. . . . .

I have beautiful children. I'm just stating a fact. They're beautiful. They're monkeys, the whole lot of them, but they're beautiful monkeys.

I was wondering today what the state of my soul would be if Will had been twins. I whispered a profound prayer of thanksgiving. I cannot imagine the sheer destructive potential of twin boys. If you have twin boys, let me know so I can daily pray for you.

. . . . .

Although I could have sworn I had locked the door, a few months ago my oldest daughter walked in on Laura and me, uh, conjugating. She opened the door, her eyes saucered, and - like an old reel-to-reel playing backward - she exited.

A little while later, Laura was sitting out with the kids and Sophie asked for a drink.

Laura said, "Daddy's in the kitchen; go ask him."

Sophie said, "That boy better not be naked!"

Friday, November 10, 2006

Mea Culpa

It has been a rough week - one of those weeks where I've seen too much of myself. I've been angry and impatient. I've been depressed and tired. It's been a week where everything, no matter how well-intentioned, has turned into crap. I sing with Joe and Blue, "I did that."

I am a maker, a little creator, fashioning my world with these two hands, with this mouth, with anger or peace. My children suffer under such a creature as me. They deserve so much more.

I am less than I ought to be.

I want to make the days better. I want to fashion them through the freedom that is given through grace - to laugh without resistance, to smile without this downward tug.

I am less than I ought to be.

Puppets and cartoons and sing-songy songs saturate my brain, turning it into crap. But I still know one thing: Elmo sucks. I used to love him, but a half hour of the furry red bundle of cute makes you wonder how Dorothy keeps from going belly up. Or at least vomiting little goldfish vomit all over the multi-colored pebbles that line her cell.

While we're speaking of excrement, I changed a dirty diaper today. And then, fifteen minutes later, realized that the boy was just revving the ol' engine. Tuning the orchestra, if you will. And the movement that followed was less than sublime. So I changed that one too. Last diaper. I call Laura and ask for more diapers - my only request. I don't request a book by von Balthasar or a CD, no newly released movie, not even a pack of new pencils (I love new, wooden pencils). Just diapers, please. And hurry.

O Lord Jesus, I am less than I ought to be. Heal me.

Praise for Little Things

This morning I took a shower with no interruptions. I dressed with no interruptions. No one pounded on the door. No one cried. No messes needed to be cleaned when I came out to check on the two ephemeral angels.

. . . . .

It is 82 today. Yesterday it was in the low 70s. Tomorrow it is supposed to be in the low 70s - a little island paradise in a sea of 50s and 60s. North Carolina ain't so bad.

Catholic, XVI

Dostoevsky said that God will save the world through beauty.

As I enter the church, I dip my fingers into holy water and cross myself. Icons, sculptures, and stained glass surround me, proclaim the Good News. Indeed, the very architecture speaks in cruciform.

Beauty silences me. I breathe in deeply and kneel before the Mystery of God. And I am saved.

For a Caramel

We took drives in the country. We'd first stop to pick up something to drink, and a snack, and we'd drive. We'd normally head east, though we'd rarely reach Williamston; we'd drive and we'd look and we'd talk.

Once, when my sister had her driver's permit, we almost died over a caramel. My dad, sitting in the passenger seat, took one of Tania's caramels. She tried to stop him, reaching suddenly for him and for the candy, and the van followed. We swerved sharply onto the shoulder of the road and back.

We didn't die, I'm pleased to report, over the caramel. Though it would have made an excellent story.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

Got my blog back.

Blogger Beta

I am officially on Blogger Beta. That does not mean, however, that I can now view my blog.

So I'll be staying with you all until it's fixed. Get that guest room ready! Yee-haw!

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Catholic, XV

My wife and I light a votive in remembrance of our unborn daughter as we pray for God to hold her and whisper our love to her. Our prayer dances, en croix, warming and illuminating us.

Tuesday, November 07, 2006

Hey, Hey, Hey!

Ever have a

Cashier: Did you find everything you need?

Me: Unfortunately for my arteries.

kind of grocery experience?

Such was mine, not half an hour ago. In my defense, it takes a great deal of work to stay as conditioned as I am. And, uh, my wife is pregnant? ...

More for Tim, Jerry, and Hal

G.K. Chesterton says, concerning John's Revelation, "Though St. John the Evangelist saw many strange monsters in his vision, he saw no creature so wild as one of his own commentators."

Why I Am Catholic, XIV

In Catholicism, I love that one can dedicate his or her life to Christ, and that this radical devotion is encouraged and respected within and by the Church.

Monday, November 06, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, XIII

Extra Ecclesiam nulla salus - Outside the Church there is no salvation. All salvation comes from Christ the head through the Church His body. The Church is necessary for salvation.

Section 838 of the Catechism says the following:

"The Church knows that she is joined in many ways to the baptized who are honored by the name of Christian, but do not profess the Catholic faith in its entirety or have not preserved unity or communion under the successor of Peter." Those "who believe in Christ and have been properly baptized are put in a certain, although imperfect, communion with the Catholic Church." With the Orthodox Churches, this communion is so profound "that it lacks little to attain the fullness that would permit a common celebration of the Lord's Eucharist."

(A proper baptism means baptizing one who believes - the faith of the parents in the case of an infant - using the trinitarian formula: In the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit.)

The Compendium puts it like this:

171. What is the meaning of the affirmation “Outside the Church there is no salvation”?

This means that all salvation comes from Christ, the Head, through the Church which is his body. Hence they cannot be saved who, knowing the Church as founded by Christ and necessary for salvation, would refuse to enter her or remain in her. At the same time, thanks to Christ and to his Church, those who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ and his Church but sincerely seek God and, moved by grace, try to do his will as it is known through the dictates of conscience can attain eternal salvation.


I am up too late again. I am tired and so, in my delirium, must write. Confusion or clarity ensues - be forewarned.

I went for a hike about a month ago - on Avery's birthday. The knob we hiked around is a favorite place of ours to visit. On my visits to Pilot Mountain, I love to touch the trees and the bare, cold face of the mountain itself.

The stone is real. It is hard and cold. And when I touch it I know that I am, and that it is. And I come away from the experience thinking I do not touch enough.

I carry the yellow-haired child to bed. I embrace my children and kiss them. I pray with them. Similarly, my wife. They stand apart from the natural world in their warmth and life. Touching them is wholly better, but familiar.

The stone is not warm. The tree does not create heat. They are other. I touch both and I am educated. It is difficult to put into words. But I am a creature - made from the clay under my feet. This rock, this mountain, whispers something to me about myself. It whispers to me about our brotherhood. It whispers something to me about our Father. And I fall in love.

We are not brothers as you and I are brothers. But there is an affinity between us. Life is the difference. The Breath of God is the difference. The imagination of God differentiates one thing from another.

As we grow, we hear it often enough: Do not touch. It is said for our protection. I say it to my own children. But when I am on the mountain with them I tell them to touch. To smell. To see. To hear. And, on occasion, to taste.

We are creatures, you and I. And we know in creaturely ways. And I fear it would be sacrilege to wish it different.

We do nothing of worth abstractly. The worthwhile is concrete like the rock and the tree. If I feel love for God but do not obey Him, do I love Him? No more than I would love my wife or children, if I merely felt love for them. I love as I am able, as the creature I am, or I do not love.

The cold seeps into me. Given time, it could overpower me, but it will not. Not today. Today I stand on the cold rock under the burning sun beneath the shade of the trees and I live.

Touching the mind of God, I praise Him.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Waiting for the Boy to Fall Asleep

I notice I've been including the writings of a particular Anglican in all of my most recent reasons for becoming Catholic. A little ironic, I suppose, but it's just the way it is. A more contemporary Anglican who has done and is doing the same for me, at a different level, is N.T. Wright.

I believe their thinking can be so transitionally profound because the Anglican Church is, of sorts, a transitional body.

. . . . .

I replaced my water heater today. I'm still praying the pipes hold up. At one point, when the water heater was almost entirely hooked up, one of the old pipes and all its soldered joints simply fell apart. (Nothing I had soldered.)

Then Sophie said she'd pray for the angels to help me (she was watching Angels in the Outfield - such was the source of her superb catholicity). And, it was at that point, I realized I could circumvent the sweat soldering that I thought was inevitable with my flexible pipe and compression valve. I still don't know if the pipe's going to hold. But it's not leaking.

For now, we have hot water again. The dishwasher and the bathtub have been popular since.

My prayer for this project has simply been, "I am not strong enough, Lord Jesus. Strengthen me." Perhaps I will now pray, "Lord Jesus, establish the work of my hands." And, "Praise be to you, Lord Jesus Christ."

Friday, November 03, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, XII

"I believe in ... the communion of saints." This statement, pulled from the Apostles' Creed, means two things to me currently: (1) Believers are to be one, and (2) When believers die, they are not wholly lost to us.

Love necessitates prayers for or to or about the dead. And if we close off such an important part of our life from Him, how are we to be honest with God? Or do we simply die piecemeal with those we love, as they die?

"Of course I pray for the dead ... At our age, the majority of those we love best are dead. What sort of intercourse with God could I have if what I love best were unmentionable to him?" (C.S. Lewis, Letters to Malcolm, 107).

Why I Am Catholic, XI

There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilization - these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit - immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of that kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously - no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner - no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses. If he is your Christian neighbour he is holy in almost the same way, for in him also Christ vere latitat - the glorifier and the glorified, Glory Himself, is truly hidden.

- C.S. Lewis, the final sentences of "The Weight of Glory"

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, X

I am compelled to be Catholic, or at least not Protestant, because the Eucharist is no mere symbol, though it is symbolic. It is a true symbol, just as C.S. Lewis called the incarnation a true myth. It is, churching up my speech, a sacrament - indeed, it is the Most Blessed Sacrament for it is Christ's Body, Christ's Blood.

Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, IX

"The Lord Jesus, on the night he was handed over, took bread, and, after he had given thanks, broke it and said, 'This is my body that is for you. Do this in remembrance of me.' In the same way also the cup, after supper, saying, 'This cup is the new covenant in my blood. Do this, as often as you drink it, in remembrance of me'" (1 Cor 11.23-25).

The Didache - one of the earliest Church documents (A.D. 70, written while John was still living) - identifies the Eucharist as the sacrifice of Malachi 1.11.

"Take note of those who hold heterodox opinions on the grace of Jesus Christ which has come to us, and see how contrary their opinions are to the mind of God. ... They abstain from the Eucharist and from prayer because they do not confess that the Eucharist is the flesh of our Savior Jesus Christ, flesh which suffered for our sins and which that Father, in his goodness, raised up again. They who deny the gift of God are perishing in their disputes" (Ignatius of Antioch, "Letter to the Smyrnaeans" 6:2-7:1 [A.D. 110]).

St. Vincent of Lerins, a fifth-century French bishop writes, "[I]n the Catholic Church itself, all possible care must be taken, that we hold that faith which has been believed everywhere, always, by all. For that is truly and in the strictest sense 'Catholic,' which, as the name itself and the reason of the thing declare, comprehends all universally. This rule we shall observe if we follow universality, antiquity, consent. We shall follow universality if we confess that one faith to be true, which the whole Church throughout the world confesses; antiquity, if we in no wise depart from those interpretations which it is manifest were notoriously held by our holy ancestors and fathers; consent, in like manner, if in antiquity itself we adhere to the consentient definitions and determinations of all, or at the least of almost all priests and doctors" (Common, 2 [italics added]).

Why I Am Catholic, VIII

I truly worship in the Mass, because the Mass is worship - a higher form of worship than that formerly available to me:

"Protestants, in their worship services, offer songs and praise and prayer to God; this is their highest form of worship. Since they don't have a priesthood, they have nothing else they can offer. Catholics on the other hand, offer the Sacrifice of the Mass to God. Our offering of sacrifice is made only to God and is our form of worship. This allows us to give lesser things such as songs and praise and prayer to those who can pray in our behalf before God: the saints and especially the Blessed Virgin Mary. When the Protestants see us offering what is their highest form of worship to someone other than God, it appears to them that we are worshiping someone other than God."

St Charles Borromeo Catholic Church

This quotation does not necessarily address a Catholic's nearness to God - there are countless Protestants who are nearer to God than I am - but it addresses, rather, the offering itself. And Protestants are unable to offer the true and proper sacrifice of the Mass, the Eucharist (Malachi 1.11). This reality left me questioning myself as an evangelical - If Christ is here, why am I not?

(And through the transition this quotation provides, I will next enter into the following reasons why I am Catholic: the Eucharist, which is the primary reason for my catholicity, and the communion of saints.)

Why I Am Catholic, VII

Mass is profoundly beautiful.

Friday, October 27, 2006

For Tim and Jerry, Hal, Walvoord, and Others

"In the daily exercise of our apostolic ministry, we are often offended when we learn what certain people are saying, who are filled with religious zeal yet lack correct judgment and level-headedness in their way of seeing things. They see only ruins and calamities in society’s present situation. They are used to saying that our day and age has worsened profoundly in comparison with past centuries. They behave as if history, which is the teacher of life, had nothing to teach them and as if at the time of past Councils, everything had been perfect where Christian doctrine, customs and the Church’s just freedom were concerned.

"It seems to us that we must state our complete disagreement with the prophets of misfortune, who always announce catastrophes as if the world were close to its end.

"In the present course of events when society seems to be at a turning point, it is better to acknowledge the mysterious plans of divine Providence which, through the succession of times and the work of human beings and most of the time against all expectations, reach their goal and arrange everything with wisdom for the good of the Church, even the events that are in opposition to it."

- Blessed John XXIII, Pope (Address for the Opening of Vatican II)

Why I Am Catholic, VI

As a Protestant, I sometimes lived under a misguided suspicion that if it was not necessary, it was not needful. There is no such confusion in Catholicism.

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, V

I love the liturgical calendar within Catholicism. Every week, season, and year I am pressed up against the reality of Christ. His heart beats in my ear; I learn its rhythm. I rest my head upon his breast.

Why I Am Catholic, IV

Catholicism stretches across time and space to embrace her history, the history of the Body of Christ. She embraces her sins and learns humility. She embraces her saints and learns wisdom.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

On Differentiating between the Sexes

"She has big boodies," Avery began, explaining to Will that the mermaid was indeed a mermaid. "She has long hair," she said, caressing the glistening lengths. "And she has a fin. That's how you can tell she's a girl."

"Na! Me(r)hmah!" Will, uh, countered.

Why I Am Catholic, III

I am a sinner, and Catholicism knows it. As a real sinner, I freely ask and freely receive His real mercy, each moment, every day. I am no longer burdened with the nonsense of my improbable though obligatory saintliness. Instead, I begin Mass saying, "I confess to Almighty God, and to you, my brothers and sisters, that I have sinned through my own fault . . ." And the acknowledgment of my sinfulness frees me to become genuinely holy.

Confessing that I need so much mercy is not oppressive, but liberating. It allows me to laugh, to smile, to live again. It broadens me, making me small enough for joy - simply because there is mercy.

Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me.
Lord Jesus Christ, Son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Why I Am Catholic, II

Catholicism is the substance of which my Protestantism was the shadow.

Monday, October 23, 2006

Why I Am Catholic

I love the concreteness of Catholicism, the reality of it. In it, I touch and smell and taste. Yet it remains faith. Invading me through my senses, it captures all of me.

It embraces things created and, through them, sees its Creator, refusing to separate the material from the mystical. It is ash, leaf, and oil; it is water and fire; it is bread and wine - and these very material things are the vehicles and accidents of the mystical. The tangible conveys the intangible. The visible unveils the invisible. Catholicism is incarnational.

The formative years of my faith were spent as an evangelical Christian. There, I learned of Jesus' love for me. Now, as a Catholic Christian, I am staggered by His touch.

Annie at Large

Anna was admiring her reflection in the oven door. Then she bent over and pointed at it and said, "Hey! What are you looking at?"

. . . . .

On the way home from church, we passed some young trees that had already lost their leaves. Anna screamed, "Look! Those trees are barefoot!"

Saturday, October 21, 2006

A New Series: Why I Am Catholic

On Monday, I will begin a new and somewhat-unusual series titled "Why I Am Catholic." Each day will contain a post that includes a sentence or short paragraph about some richness I have found in Catholicism.

(I will still post about other happenings in my life, of course.)

This series will run for some time - perhaps a month. And it will most likely appear intermittently after it is officially over as I discover more about the richness of my faith.

I hope you enjoy it and take the time to understand, each day, what I am writing. Each post will be concise, and, hopefully, rich in its concision. Nothing will be posted on the series on Saturdays and Sundays.

Please feel the freedom to engage me, to agree with me, or to disagree with me. Your thoughts are, as always, welcome.

In short, the series will be an explanation of something so difficult for me to define. It will be an attempt to help you, my family and my friends, understand that I have fallen in love.

Thursday, October 19, 2006

Flannery: On the Eucharist

I saw the following Flannery O'Connor quote on "Martha, Martha" - and straightaway had to steal it.

"Well, toward morning the conversation turned on the Eucharist, which I, being the Catholic, was obviously supposed to defend. [Mary McCarthy] said when she was a child and received the Host, she thought of it as the Holy Ghost, He being the 'most portable' person of the Trinity; now she thought of it as a symbol and implied that it was a pretty good one. I then said, in a very shaky voice, 'Well, if it's a symbol, to hell with it.' That was all the defense I was capable of but I realize now that this is all I will ever be able to say about it, outside of a story, except that it is the center of existence for me; all the rest of life is expendable."

Wednesday, October 18, 2006

An Education in Plumbing and Prayer

After my parents left, my squat water heater under my kitchen counter broke. I've got two water heaters, one on each side of the house. The other water heater services the girls' bathroom. My dad and I (mostly my dad) changed out the girls' water heater last summer. I had to change the heating elements in the kitchen water heater about a year ago. And now it's busted.

I put a compression valve on the cold-water pipe (neither of the water heaters had one for some, er, odd reason) when I noticed it was slowly leaking yesterday. And I drained it this morning.

When we get the extra cash, we'll go out and buy another R2 unit for under the kitchen counter. This water heater heats the water for the washing machine, our bathroom, and the kitchen - which includes the dishwasher. So, let's just say we're roughing it for a few days. We stocked up on paper plates, cups, bowls, and plastic dinner ware. We're learning that there is more than one way to heat water.

And I learned something else.

On the first of two trips to Lowe's hardware (which is about 30 minutes from us - and, yes, two trips - I bought the wrong valve the first time [doh!]), I was praying about the situation - when my freelancing money would be arriving, disrupted plans, etc. As I was praying, I was meditating on our Lord's passion and it struck me how insignificant this mess is. Sure it's frustrating and inconvenient, but some people don't have clean water to drink, much less running hot water in their homes. I'm just camping in style, as it turns out.

Trust isn't really trust until life turns south, until you've prayed to no apparent effect. It is at the moment you choose to trust in spite of your circumstances and unanswered prayers that trust is truly born. Trust would be a little thing without trouble.

Monday, October 16, 2006

Sacrament of Faith

Sunday, my children were baptized into the Body of Christ. Their heads still smell of balsam.

Friday, October 13, 2006

Fridays Are for Fear and Trembling

The house is still a wreck. I've been working on it, and there are sections that look nice. But I've got a long way to go.

We're counting down to the baptism - it's going to be crazy with all four kids, but it will be memorable and emotional and fun. And I hope it will draw others to(ward) Christ. I'm excited. And shaking (as my Dad would say) like a dog trying to pass a peach pit. We've been waiting a long time for this.

My parents are getting in late tonight or early tomorrow. It'll be nice having them here to witness such an important event for our family. And it'll be nice having them here.

(By the way, two dresses down, one to go - the girl's going to make it! And I'm going to lose a butt-load of money.)

Hospitality: Opening My Eyes

We are called to hospitality. Peter tells us, “Cheerfully share your home with those who need a meal or a place to stay” (1 Peter 4.9). Hospitality is motivated out of love for our neighbors and reveals itself generously and sincerely. It’s aware of the need around it, and it looks for ways in which to give.

In your communities of faith, family, and work, you know people who have babies, who have lost jobs, who are moving, or who have had a loved one die. All of these are situations that open the door to hospitality.

And we offer hospitality. We set up a date to clean a home or prepare a meal. We make a pie, and then ask when we can bring it over. We drop off non-perishable groceries when no one is home. We give, and we give creatively and secretly. I have been blessed by others’ hospitality.

But hospitality doesn’t end with our community, or with our friends. We are also supposed to love the neighbor who smells, who dresses strangely, who is uneducated, who is different: “Instead, invite the poor, the crippled, the lame, and the blind. Then at the resurrection of the righteous, God will reward you for inviting those who could not repay you” (Luke 14.13,14). Are we hospitable to the poor, to those our society has rejected?

I turn on the news and I hear about immigration. I think about the pregnant women who risk everything that their children might be born on American soil. I think about men wanting a better life for themselves and for their families. Then I hear our angry speeches. I understand the issue is complex, but I still wonder if the wealthiest nation on earth has an obligation toward its impoverished neighbor – if the Rich Man has an obligation toward Lazarus. Shouldn’t our obligation to love one another and to care for the poor be the driving factor in our discussions?

My own great-grandmother emigrated from Poland not so long ago.

“Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you. This is the essence of all that is taught in the law and the prophets” (Matthew 7.12), and, “You must not oppress foreigners. You know what it’s like to be a foreigner, for you yourselves were once foreigners in the land of Egypt” (Exodus 23.9).

Few of us know the bitterness of watching our children suffer. What would that be like? What would we do to alleviate that kind of suffering? There are people in our world who need a meal, who need a place to stay. There are people who have hungry children and no way to feed them.

We must stop talking about what comforts opening our home to those in need may steal away from us. Instead, we must begin talking about how our indifference and prejudice may steal away our souls.

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

Dad Is Great | Green Poo

The children ate cheesecake for breakfast.

. . . . .

The boy was dirty. I took him to the bed to change his diaper and the little girl followed. She sat on the bed, crisscross-applesauce.

"What are you doing?" I said.

"I want to watch," She said.

I raised an eyebrow and opened the diaper. Green poo the size of a baseball lay in the soft Luvs cradle. The girl began gagging.

She said, "I can't look!"

I said, "That's my boy!"

Tuesday, October 10, 2006

Then Again

Tuesdays might be for bathrooms. I tackled my bathroom today - just finished around 10:00 p.m. Yeah, it was that bad - and I'm not quite finished, either. No, it's not a ginormous, Hollywood thing. It's itty bitty. Well, I painted it too. It's amazing how many little areas you have to tape up and paint around in a little bathroom. Ugh. I won't be painting in there again. Ever.

Since today was a bust for trash. We'll make it "Wednesdays Are for Waste" tomorrow. As long as we understand that by waste I mean trash.

Tuesdays Are for Trash

Today I'm going to go through my house and see what I can throw away: Old junk, old clothes (no, too old for giving away), old food (ditto), old people, old toys. Well, any number of things - old textbooks, notes, and books too. As much as that will hurt. I figure if I haven't looked at it since I graduated, it just ain't worth keeping. All within moderation, of course.

Clean with me, children. Clean!

Monday, October 09, 2006

My Calendar

This week is a busy one, but it will also be, we hope, a very, very good one.

The yellow-haired child turns four on Thursday. Ugh. Man, knocked on my ass again by the progression of time. Having kids will do that to you. It's one thing to turn 36, it's another thing entirely to have the near-preemie you were just rocking in your arms be nearly as tall as your wife. Or to have your little one with the shock of fuzzy orange hair - that became yellow - be old enough to start Kindergarten next year. (Not that that will happen - not sure she'll be ready.)

My parents are coming on Saturday because Sunday all four of the kids will be baptized. Now while we've talked with the potential screamers about what they will be doing so they will not appear to be demon possessed on such an important day, we're still praying, crossing fingers, and tossing salt - generally covering our bases. Please do likewise.

So we have our regular schedule of Crazy Wednesday (choir and faith formation after school, which with the giant drive home and homework means no free/family time on Wednesday.) Added to that mid-week madness is (1) mowing the lawn, because if I wait much longer I'll have picketers protesting the destruction of an old-growth forest; (2) cleaning the house - I'm thinking of putting a burn barrel in the yard to handle this project, and (3) sewing the girls' baptismal gowns (this last one is Laura's job).

Laura finished Sophie's dress yesterday and it looks beautiful. She wanted to do this project - I was ready to buy some simple dresses. So it'll be special. She has this week to work on the other two dresses, but she never has much extra time anyway. And she's already always tired. Will she make it? I've started a kitty - let me know if you want in.

We also need to call our sponsors and try to meet with them this week. It's difficult becoming Catholic without knowing anyone Catholic - you need other Catholics to stand up for you for certain things - a role generally filled by family and friends. But when your family and friends are Protestants, that becomes problematic. So the church eeny-meeny-miny-moes a couple of people to stand in. It's well-intentioned, but kinda funny/quirky regardless.

I don't know these people, they don't know our legion of children and they're making commitments toward them. Now the local body does this sort of thing for every baptism (same as Protestants will do in a dedication service) in a general way, but the specificity of it in our situation is been a source of some chuckles for me.

Stay tuned.

Friday, October 06, 2006

Best News of the Week

Best news of the week came yesterday to the Lyons household - we're halfway through the pregnancy and we found out that our soon-to-be new addition is a boy! I'll see if I can post a couple of the ultrasound pictures (I don't have a scanner) - we got a good profile or two.



Yes, yes, yes - a new season of Lost began this week. (If you missed it, check out to watch it online.)

It was an intriguing episode that raised even more questions and answered none. I suppose that's one of the reasons I like the show. I hope they'll wrap a few of those answers up for us throughout the year.

If you have never watched this show, watch it. Get the first two seasons from Netflix or Blockbuster or even Wal-Mart and catch up - it's a good way to spend your time in front of the TV, if you're disposed to doing so.

Asking Forgiveness and Justification

Just a question more than anything else: If all our sins (past, present, and future) are forgiven when we become justified or saved, then why do we need to ask forgiveness when we sin?

To me this article on forgiveness smacks of Love Story sentimentality - "Love never means having to say you're sorry." And of Dr. Bannister's reply (to himself, as it were - both characters are played by Ryan O'Neal) in What's Up, Doc? - "That's the dumbest thing I ever heard."

And if we need to ask forgiveness (Lord's Prayer, 1 John 1.9, etc.), what are the implications concerning justification?

Wednesday, October 04, 2006


Our world is broken. It is drenched in sorrow. And though we mourn, though we stand with those who mourn, all of life is not grief. Indeed,

There is joy even in the mourning.

. . . . .

From the breakfast table this morning, across the house, I heard the yellow-haired child yelling, "Stella! Stella!" in her husky shouting voice. (So it sounded to me, anyway, even though it turns out she was only calling the name of our cat, Tula.) This one is anointed with joy. She shines so brightly. Her eyes like the ocean, her hair like the sand. Her smile remakes the world.

. . . . .

There is wonder in our world still. Above and around all the evil that dandies up our news, that illuminates their boring texts, lies joy. Not joy in evil, but joy that evil is neither the first nor the last word. Evil is small and temporary. Joy is boundless. And

Joy comes in the morning.

Joy, which was the small publicity of the pagan, is the gigantic secret of the Christian. ... The tremendous figure which fills the Gospels towers in this respect, as in every other, above all the thinkers who ever thought themselves tall. His pathos was natural, almost casual. The Stoics, ancient and modern, were proud of concealing their tears. He never concealed His tears; He showed them plainly on His open face at any daily sight, such as the far sight of His native city. Yet He concealed something. Solemn Super-men and imperial diplomatists are proud of restraining their anger. He never restrained His anger. He flung furniture down the front steps of the Temple, and asked men how they expected to escape the damnation of Hell. Yet He restrained something. I say it with reverence; there was in that shattering personality a thread that must be called shyness. There was something that He hid from all men when He went up a mountain to pray. There was something that He covered constantly by abrupt silence or impetuous isolation. There was some one thing that was too great for God to show us when He walked upon our earth; and I have sometimes fancied that it was His mirth" (G.K. Chesterton, Orthodoxy, final paragraph).

We live in the first day of the new creation, in which Christ has already inaugurated his eschatology through His resurrection - the Kingdom is now and not yet. We, as Christ's ambassadors, as His very Body, are to redeem our world. We carry the Kingdom within us. Oh, Christ! Ah, joy!

Morning has come.

St. Cyprian says, "It may even be ... that the Kingdom of God means Christ himself, whom we daily desire to come, and whose coming we wish to be manifested quickly to us. For as he is our resurrection, since in him we rise, so he can also be understood as the Kingdom of God, for in him we shall reign."

And so Christ inaugurates His Kingdom with Himself, inaugurates the new creation of which He is the first fruit. And He is with us today. He is Emmanuel. He is with us in our brothers and our sisters - in us - for we are His Body, we are becoming His Body. He is with us in the Blessed Sacrament. (Holy God! Holy Mighty! Holy Immortal! Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy. Lord, have mercy.) And though we wait for the consummation of His Kingdom, we glory in Jesus Christ who stands here with us even today.

Christ is among us! goes the Orthodox greeting. And we respond in like fashion, He is and shall be.

Brother, Joy has come. Sister, He is here.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

On Mariology and Purgatory

On the Catholic Catechism Dialog Blog (CCDB) I've expressed some thoughts I never would have imagined I'd be expressing a year ago, yet they seem so sensible now. One post is on Mary and her treatment within Catholicism and the other is on Purgatory. I'm thinking through both subjects at the moment - the last obstacles for me, if you like, of my journey into Catholicism.

So, for those of you whom I love who remain Protestant, check them out (and don't skip the comments). I don't imagine you'll be convinced, but perhaps they may help you consider questions you have never before considered. They are not exhaustive posts, by any stretch of the imagination, but they may just get a conversation or two started. And conversation, for me at the moment, is more important than persuasion.

If you have questions for me, ask them here or there - here may be less threatening for you since you will not have a gallery of Catholics peering over your shoulder (though there are, thankfully, some).

Monday, October 02, 2006


We've been sick around our house for a few weeks now - a couple of months if you count swimmer's ear. It's been one thing after another, but, then, some seasons of life are like that. In spite of the germs, I've been enjoying fall the past couple of weeks.

Yesterday, we went up to Pilot Mountain. We stood looking at this beautiful hunk of rock thumbing out of the flat earth around it; we were overcome by the beauty of this bit of creation on the clearest of days. It was magnificent. We may have been wheezing and coughing as we tried to express the beauty of it, but it was worth every interrupted sentence, every half-thought, worth the exhaustion that followed the hike.

It's a necessary occasion, walking into the wild (or semi-wild). Ungangly trees, feeding on rock, praise in their inhibition. They achieve an Oriental beauty and call us out of ourselves. Their struggle achieves a splendor, a uniqueness, that could not be, given a more perfect environment.

The struggle and sheer difficulty of life do not destroy God's irrepressible creativity, but reveal it.

Friday, September 29, 2006


I hear songs on the radio telling me to cry out to Jesus in my pain. And I do. But songs are sometimes like sitcoms: They try to resolve too much in too little space. They don't let pain be. Sometimes pain has just got to be. Some of us live with pain and will live with it for the rest of our lives. Someone loses her father or her child or her spouse - you don't recover what you lost from that kind of pain. It becomes part of you. It molds you. From that point forward you are someone changed, someone other than the person who had not experienced the pain.

We think of pain as something evil. And maybe it springs out of that darkness, but it mustn't remain there. Like the pain of labor that brings forth a child, so all pain can be. The pain in my heart, the wound on my body, the humiliation of my mind or my strength - they can become something beautiful. Christ calls us to something beautiful, something greater, something less about us and more about him. Christ calls us to suffer, to share in his suffering that we might, with him, be participants in this world's redemption.

Pain is redemptive. Suffering is purposeful. That doesn't mean we don't cry out for release - it is pain, after all. But we must find the peace of Christ in it.

Sometimes I think that to be a real Christian is to be in real pain. But that's mostly just being human.

Real pain is the death of a loved one, the rejection of family and friends. Real pain comes from being a failure at what you were sure you were meant to do. Real pain is an illness that overshadows your very life; it is bleeding. These are the kinds of things that bring pain in our lives. But pain is not the question - we have pain. What will we make with our pain?

Some lie wrecked upon mountains too high to climb. Their souls bleed out of them because what they thought was the thundering voice of the Almighty turned out to be the voice of a crossed carpenter stumbling into Jerusalem. (But they cannot tell the difference when they hear the call - they can only choose whether to heed it.)

Persevere. Christ is in the pain; Christ is born out of it.


Do not be afraid.

Love your enemies. Pray for them.

Monday, September 25, 2006

A Little Trollope

I picked up a novel tonight. It's my first novel in forever. I've been reading a lot of theology lately. And, frankly, I need a break from all the preaching. I've gotten to the point where I can only read a paragraph before falling asleep. So I picked up The Warden by Anthony Trollope. The Warden - slim for a Victorian novel at 160 pages - is the first of his Barchester novels.

I'm looking forward to it, having never read it. I saw it on the floor of my girls' room and figured they probably weren't working their way through it.

Trollope started churning out novels when he was in his late 30s. (The Warden, his first successful novel, was published when he was 40.) He would write between the hours of 5:30 and 8:30 before going to work at the post office. He averaged 1,000 words per hour during that time. That's roughly four typed, double-spaced pages per hour - twelve pages total every morning before work. And that's without MS Word or, I might add, a typewriter. He wrote with *gasp* a pen. I know, seriously postal.

Trollope thought that the most important thing a writer should have was a piece of "sticking plaster" (adhesive) with which to fasten one's pants to a chair. I probably need to write that above my computer. Or on my chair.

Anyway, looking forward to the little novel and getting myself into Story again. Looking forward to Trollope inspiring me.

Friday, September 22, 2006

The Awkward Silence

He runs through his blogroll looking for something interesting. Quite frankly, a lot of you people out there are simply disappointing him. "Write!" he would yell, but for the great branchy limb hanging out of his own eye.

Monday, September 18, 2006

Tit for Tat

Little teeth, little mouth, little bite - caterwauling ensues. The biter is back in town. I'm not sure why the boy has taken up biting this week. But he's bitten the yellow-haired child twice. He's bitten Annie once. He tried biting me today, while laughing. I told him in no uncertain terms that I would bite him back, slowly removing his too-near mouth away from my left nipple.


Friday, September 15, 2006

The Darndest Things: The Series (a.k.a. my life)

In profound irony, our Willow Tree "Angel of Learning" figurine lost her head this morning. The Raccoon threw it on the floor, busting it off.

I swear I need to duct tape this child down; if I leave the room to take a pee he begins his pillaging. And - Free Fun Fact #118 - it doesn't take me long to pee. Anyone else have children like this? (No wisecracks, Mom.)

Anyway, as I was cleaning up the angel within the puddle of water that he had also spilled onto the floor, I muttered it: "We can't have anything nice around here."

The yellow-haired child, who was beside me - conversing with my angry mutterings (another reason to rein in the cussing) - shook her head and said, "Nope, we can't have anything nice."

Some, like, Heady Stuff, Dude

(Fr) Al Kimel, over at Pontifications, has a couple of good articles on Catholicism up. (He always has something interesting and intellectually stimulating on his blog.) Just go on and link to the site if you haven't yet. Go on, I'll wait.

There are three contributors at Pontifications: (1) Alvin Kimel (the Pontificator) is a former Episcopalian priest of 25 years, and was received into the Catholic Church in 2005; (2) Fr. Stephen Freeman, an Orthodox priest, is also a former Episcopalian priest; and (3) Michael Liccione, a cradle Catholic, holds a PhD in Philosophy.

A couple of articles (I'm playing catch-up) I enjoyed reading this morning: "Who Are God's Favorites?" and "Why Do I Remain in the Church?" (by Hans Urs von Balthasar, 1972). Check them out.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Quick Note

Though I have been busy with some freelance work, I finished it last night. I hope to pick up on more regular posting here later today or tomorrow. At the very least, I'll try not to leave up a post with cussin' in the title for nearly a week.

Besides freelance work, I've had the oldest home feverish, since Tuesday. She's a trooper though, and seems to be pulling out of it. So far no one else has gotten sick.

Sunday, September 10, 2006


The fam and I were in a McDonald's Drive-Thru today (killing them softly) before church; we were about an hour early due to the general incomprehensibility of time-measuring devices as well as going to a later Mass. While waiting in line, we saw a sign telling us to turn off our cell phones. In the top corner of the sign was a little no-cell-phone symbol and above it, in small letters, was the following:

Bikers Against Dumbass Drivers"

And I was like, what the... this is a McDonald's sign (with the McDonald's logo) that has the B.A.D.D. logo on it! Blew me away. I mean, for the love of all the children of the world!

Anyway, I filed a complaint with the manager, whose exact response was, "Nuh-uh?!" or something like it.

I need to start keeping my camera with me in my pimped miniVANilla. Fo' shizzle.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Church-Sign Theology

A couple of churches in our area are getting out the Good News with the following message on their signs:

Stop, Drop, and Roll
Doesn't Work in Hell

Friday, September 01, 2006

Long Weekend

Laura skipped out the door today: No kids waiting at school to be taught, none to take with her.

I dumped myself out of bed because the Raccoon was crying for want of a bracelet. And then for "see-yohl."

I don't know what all the fuss is about these long weekends - they just seem like more work to me. I'm going to have to pack them into the Mini Moto Box and let them run around a Chick-fil-A for an early lunch. (Do they serve lunch at 8 a.m.?)

Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Responding to Grace

While there are beautiful analogies between God's love and faithfulness toward us and our relationships with our own children, we receive God's grace as men and women - not as children.

And we cannot afford to forget it.

We relate with God maturely, as he's created us to do. Therefore, we make decisions freely, for better or worse, that affect our relationship with him. He is faithful; he is ever faithful, but we are free. That is not to say that our decisions are not empowered or motivated or enabled by his grace, they certainly are - but they remain our decisions. And we must, as men and women, receive Christ this day and each day into our hearts and lives.

I don't believe God's grace can be over-inflated, but we can misunderstand and pervert it if we try to revise the story we are in, the story that God's grace has been written into.

. . . . .

I'm trying to order my thoughts on grace and our response to it - or how we respond to it (in snatches, moments stolen away from the children). And while many of you are scratching your heads on this one since I've failed to contextualize my thinking, I'm simply beginning to write in response to Calvinism and a kind of Universalism, both of which seem to be gaining some momentum in our pews. I'm thinking out loud on this one. I'd love to hear your thoughts.

Monday, August 28, 2006


My wife is 35 today.

Laura loves well. She is lovely and lovely and lovelier. She is beyond compare; she satisfies my heart.

Laura is pregnant with our sixth child, which brings the Mongol Horde up to five, since our daughter Torey lives with Jesus. She's about 14-weeks pregnant and is due near the end of February. These children are blessed to have such a mother.

Alack! what poverty my Muse brings forth
That having such a scope to show her pride,
The argument, all bare, is of more worth
Than when it hath my added praise beside!
O! blame me not, if I no more can write!
Look in your glass, and there appears a face
That over-goes my blunt invention quite,
Dulling my lines and doing me disgrace.
Were it not sinful then, striving to mend,
To mar the subject that before was well?
For to no other pass my verses tend
Than of your graces and your gifts to tell;
And more, much more, than in my verse can sit,
Your own glass shows you when you look in it.

- Shakespeare, Sonnet 103

Laura, my life, I love you.

Montezuma, You Blackguard

Let me make a general note: Childcare with the flux sucks. They mix as well as oil and water, neither of which I want mentioned in my presence at the moment.

Friday, August 25, 2006

Tyndale Articles: A Quick Note

True asked about my Tyndale articles on spiritual disciplines/spiritual journeys. So if you're interested, here's the information: The articles consist of two columns on the following Web site (I also have it linked under "Links" on the right-hand side of my blog, "NLT: Spiritual Disciplines"). Each column runs for two weeks, alternating, so that there is a new article up each week. I'm not sure which day the new article is posted, but I imagine if you checked the same day every week, you'd find a new article in one of the columns. Currently there are two articles posted: One article concerns Stewardship, the other Evangelism.

You can also rate the articles, which I'd love for you to do - and not just by giving me five stars because it's me. Some don't deserve five stars, so be honest. I'd also, even more, love to hear your feedback via an e-mail - What appealed to you? What stunk? What would you like to see different? Is there a discipline you'd like to see discussed, or one that I discussed but went in a different direction?

Another nice thing in each column is the ability to look at the archives for that column - so you can read on Confession or Fasting or Compassion whenever you'd like.

I hope you enjoy the articles.

Thursday, August 24, 2006

The Head, the Heart

I find it sadly ironic that in order to prepare to write or speak or preach about prayer, we busy ourselves with books and journals and lectures rather than quiet ourselves in the mystery and rest of prayer.

It's as if we believe that God can be quantified, demystified. As if we believe that we can explain the journey without ever having walked the road. We cannot give what we do not have. So we must be careful not to make an idol of study, or knowing; and we must pray.

. . . . .

Mysticism is necessary in our relationship to Mystery. It is necessary in our union with Mystery.

. . . . .

Our relationship with God is a relationship with the Other. And while friendship or marriage are wonderful metaphors for such a relationship, they can only take us so far into the mystery of the Other. Stories will always reveal more about God than propositions. But even stories are inadequate. We go deeper into Mystery only to realize that we are where we began. And so we pray with the Church, "Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on me."

On Blogging

I haven't been blogging much lately due to several factors: (1) I'm very busy with freelance work now, (2) I no longer have the convenience of my iBook - the children don't like Daddy spending time on the machine upstairs, and (3) I'm making cookies.

And even when I have been adding to my blog, the additions are more informational than they are explorational, which is frustrating for me.

I should have more free time in about a month, though I still won't have the convenience of a laptop. That's probably for the best, however, allowing me to spend some time with these little hoodlums-in-the-making.

On a positive note, I have been reading some excellent books.

Ack! The kids have found me and I've gotta go get those cookies out of the oven. Until later, imagine that you've read something funny or thoughtful or thought-provoking while you were here.

(And browse my links - there's some funny, thoughtful, and thought-provoking stuff out there.)

Sunday, August 20, 2006

iBook News, Final Installment?

The Apple Genius opened up my stickly little laptop. He peered inside and said that it was at least tier-3 damage, which means repairs would cost anywhere from $800-$1,000. And it could even be worse. So I'm selling the laptop on eBay, for parts, and hope to get $200-$300 for it. (The display alone, he said, was worth about $400 and the battery and keypad are also still functional.) It's what we non-tinkerers must do with our machines that no longer function. After all, for the price of repairs - especially added to the profit of the sale of the iBook for parts - I could easily get a new MacBook. Repairing it is not cost-effective. I will lose some work and some photographs, but it's simply not worth the price.

It appears a MacBook or a used PowerBook is on the horizon - though perhaps not for a few months. While a laptop is far more useful and convenient for freelance work than my iMac, it may need to wait while we recuperate from summer expenses.

So here ends my iBook odyssey. Goodbye, little computer. My memories of you will be short-lived, but sweet.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Color Me Stupid

I sent a short note on a Sticky to Sophie's teacher yesterday about some problem-solving Sophie was required to do in her math homework. It involved knowing words like digit and being able to understand the concepts of division and multiplication. I told the teacher of the problems' complexities and wondered about the process she used to teach these second graders how to solve such problems - in order that I might use the same process at home. You know, consistency and all.

Today a note was in Sophie's folder assuring me that I had gotten the answers correct and that such questions were "to help Sophie (and [parents]) better problem-solve."

I suppose the next time I write a note, I may need to specify that the problems are difficult for a second grader so that the teacher doesn't assume I'm a complete idiot.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

iBook Down - Mayday! Mayday!

The homeowner's insurance won't cover the iBook. So I'm going to run the sticky thing down to the Apple Store in the next day or two and see what the damage is. That trip will take me down to Charlotte - about an hour or an hour and a half from here. And, hey, won't that be fun with the kids!

I'm thinking it might have to get listed on eBay for parts (not the kids).

The good news is that when I become rich I can trade up to a MacBook or maybe even a MacBook Pro (since I'll be rich and all). Interestingly, while it's all rather disappointing, that's all it's been. It just hasn't blipped that loudly on my emotional radar. And while I'm not certain whether that's good news or bad news, I'm going with good.

. . . . .

In other news, the yellow-haired child is now receiving medication for Swimmer's Ear just like me, and her sister before her. I took her in to the pediatrician today and she has officially joined the club.

Did I walk under a ladder or something?


Tuesday, August 15, 2006


Today I learn more about the fate of my iBook. It is definitely stone-dead as of now, though I haven't taken it in to the Apple Store yet for them to examine the extent of its deadness. I have, however, put in a call to my insurance company and they said they'd let me know today whether its covered.

I'm hoping for the best, but expecting the worst.

Friday, August 11, 2006

A Catholigism: Ritual and Justifisanctification

It strikes me, concerning the liturgical calendar, how our whole lives are being sanctified within its ritual.

(Whoa, I see that flag. Yes, I see that red flag in the front. And I see several in the balcony. Red flags are popping up all over the place at the mention of liturgical calendar and ritual, and cords of wood are being gathered as I speak of sanctification occurring in ritual. But hold off on the matches for a moment, if you would.)

What I mean by my statement is that when we live our lives consciously within the liturgical calendar, within liturgy, our lives begin to keep step with the Church. The patterns of the Church then become the patterns of our lives. Every Friday becomes not, principally, about the weekend, but a remembrance of Jesus' passion and death. We become participants in the life of Christ when we become participants in the life of the Church.

And through this participation we receive grace, not because of some magical mumbo-jumbo, or because of something we have earned, but because we have become fixed upon our God - the source of all graces. By His grace, we participate in His life and so become more like Him. (It is not a matter of 42 years of liturgical participation + 5,000 Eucharists + 1 baptism + 1 confirmation + 600 reconciliations + 1 anointing of the sick = a justified life. It is not mathematics or economics, but it is friendship with Christ - which leads to repentance and reconciliation and peace.) And as Moses' face shone from YHWH's presence, so our lives begin to shine in the presence of Christ and as His Body.

Fridays fix our minds on the resurrection we celebrate on Sundays. And so - week after week, season after season, year after year - our lives begin to beat with the rhythm of Christ's.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

Thing 3 and Thing 4

A two and a three year old are not to be trifled with. They are not nothing. They are elemental forces of nature, moving from one hemisphere of the home to the next. None are safe. The Raccoon and the yellow-haired child, creatures of destruction and curiosity, move with deliberation. All things must be learned hands-on, and no thing shall be left unturned lest they be deprived of their precious knowing.

They drink all my soda, and for that, even when they are 80 and I am 115, they are indebted to me. What is more, they consume large amounts of pizza. I wake some nights in a cold sweat thinking of it.

The yellow-haired child spends the day plotting in her panties while the Raccoon forages for sticks and steel bars.

They root for Captain Hook.

It is true that I am not without my own powers. I have data on these creatures: I know their weaknesses, their greatest desires, their fears; I know where they are ticklish. And I am bigger - for now that is sometimes sufficient. But these urchins are intelligent and their data changes with the rapidity of the Raccoon's diapers.

I wake some nights in a cold sweat.

I sit hear, typing furiously, wondering what they're doing now, afraid of what they're doing downstairs. Three eyebrow hairs pop into gray thinking of it. I am frightened. Where is their mother?

Drums, drums in the deep. They are coming. I cannot get out.

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

The Academicians: Firsts and a First

Anna: Paper Towel and Horsefly

So here's Anna when she got home. Not only was it her first day of Kindergarten, but she also lost her first tooth today. This picture was taken about two hours after it happened - she wouldn't let me take the paper towel. I finally had to tell her that the Tooth Fairy was pretty strict about not leaving her fairy coins with kids with paper towels in their mouths. She lost the tooth at school and that's why the paper towel is vintage brown-industrial. I bet you can almost smell and taste that paper towel, can't you? (She drew a horsefly when she got home. I'm not sure where that came from, but it was pretty funny.)

Anna: First Lost Tooth

To the right is Anna without the paper towel. You can see which tooth she lost and her beautiful silver crowns. She's still a little concerned about that "red spot," but I hope the novelty of tasting her own blood will wear off soon.

Sophie: First Day in Second Grade

And Sophie is looking all growed up in this picture. The pretty girl had a good day in second grade even though half her class are hoodlums. She's our social butterfly, and going back to school is a real bonus for her. She's starting out with a sub this year until her just-had-a-baby, real teacher can get off her lazy backside and get to school.

(That's just a joke, Laura. Don't hurt me.)

A Big Day

Today I dropped off Anna at her Kindergarten room. She was a little shy, but all business. As soon as we got to the room, she marched in and found her desk and began unpacking her supplies. Earlier, she had almost lost control of that sea of emotion as she tried to unfold her new mat and in doing so knocked over a can of pens and pencils in her mommy's room. But she didn't cry. It's a big day.

I remember my first day of Kindergarten. I cried, I'm sure. My mom cried, I'm sure - her baby, her little caboose, was entering school.

Kindergarten is a big step.

Then I took Sophie to her second-grade classroom. These are strange times, growing up. She was fine, of course, and I'm sure more than a little happy about the beginning of school. She was interested to see who would be in her class, looking forward to seeing her compadres.

First Day of School is tough on the entire family. Laura is being introduced to a whole new batch of kids herself today while working under the rule of a young, new administrator. Sophie and Anna are faced with new situations. Avery is the oldest at home now and no longer has her sister to play with. She'll have her own responsibilities and stresses to deal with.

Not much has changed for the Raccoon - too much to do, to explore, to destroy.

It's an emotional day for me. It's nice having only two around. They are the work-intensive two, however, so I'm not sure it'll be any easier. It's hard, however, not having Anna around - wondering what she's doing, how she's doing. And I was getting used to having Sophie around again, but with only a month off, Summer flies.

So here I am. I think I'm ready for this year. I have more freelance work than I've ever had before (overwhelmingly so at times). But that's a good problem.

I'll try to get pictures of the two academicians when they get home. I hope they're all smiles.

Saturday, August 05, 2006

Jaws, the Raccoon, and the Mighty Kraken

So Shark Week 2006 is over. In the short span of a week, I've restructured, intensified, and ever-so-slightly re-formed my quite-rational fears of swimming in the ocean (fears first formed while watching Jaws at six - so deep-seated were my fears that swimming alone in our pool frightened me). Sure we humans kill millions of sharks a year. But the real questions are, "Do sharks know this fact?" and, "Are they going to exact vengeange upon me?" Important questions as we wade into waters, even waist deep, that are filled with sharks big enough to rip your limbs off of you - to drag you out into the ocean for some Sue-shi or Scott-shi or You-shi.

Granted, when I go to the ocean, I swim. No matter how murky the water, or how close to the pier, I swim. This past beach trip, however, I swam in the ocean only twice. First, because the beach house had its own pool and watching the Raccoon try to swim in the pool beat the ocean hands down.

Digression: The Raccoon is crazy aquatic. He's two and he'd jump into the water whether or not I was looking or even around. He'd push my hands away from him and try to dog paddle while holding squirt guns and squeeze toys in his hands. By the end of the week, he was able to swim from the shallow end of the pool to the deep end and back by himself (with a noodle). Pretty good for two. The fearlessness with the water surprised me. I'd like to say it's because he trusts me intrinsically, but I fear it's because there's something wrong with his instinct toward self-preservation. I'm wondering if the Raccoon will be BASE jumping from the garage when he's four.

The second reason I stuck to the pool was because the ocean was freezing for most of the week (Sand = 150°F, Water = 25°F). The only reason there weren't floes of ice in the ocean, I imagine, was due to its eye-ball-scalding salinity. The pool on the other hand was warm as a bathtub (there were, after all, twelve kids swimming in it).

And the third reason, I get out to the ocean more than I ever have before since my in-laws live in Virginia Beach. It no longer has the basic attraction of a once-per-every-couple-of-years event.

So sharks do not keep me out of the ocean, though they probably ought to. I figure if I ever am attacked by a shark, which is probable given their love of blubbery animals, and if I survive said attack, then what a story! I'm considering chumming myself. I could be on Shark Week someday talking about how I bear no animosity toward the mindless killing machine that attacked me and that I was aware of the risk I was taking wading into the bastard's backyard. Mea culpa.

And finally, tonight, I got to see the first pictures ever taken of a giant squid. Very cool. They brought the tentacle up on the hook, which the monster had ripped off of its own body in order to be free of the hook, and the giant tentacle, though detached, was still moving and the toothy suckers were still suckering. I can't muster up fears of the mighty Kraken the same way I can my shark fears though. If the monsters came nearer the surface and started attacking boats and people again, well maybe then.

Thursday, August 03, 2006

Fifteen (or so) of my Favorites

I think the food items are mostly carryovers from childhood.

  1. Candy: Gummy Bears (the harder variety, such as the Haribo brand) and Tootsie Pops; chocolate in general
  2. Ice Cream: Orange Cream (Orange Sherbet and Vanilla Ice Cream)
  3. Foods: Pizza (Now there are other foods that I would probably like better than pizza with more complex flavors, but I'd sit down to a pizza any day of the week. Eating pizza makes my brain giggle; it makes me want to dance), Cheeses, Toasted and buttered Polish Rye bread, Poached Eggs on Toast
  4. Drink: Diet Coke, alas no more - the caffeine, it hurts
  5. Computer: My Mac, of course
  6. Car: Corvette
  7. Color: Blue
  8. Video Games: Halo (currently, not that I play video games), but I loved Quake, Doom, Donkey Kong (and the whole Mario Bros. franchise), Pac Man, Joust, Frogger, and Asteroids in their days
  9. TV Shows: 24 and Lost
  10. Movies: The Mission; Braveheart; Lord of the Rings; The Passion of the Christ; Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon; and loads of others
  11. Most Nostalgic Movies: Karate Kid, Star Wars, Raiders of the Lost Ark, Goonies
  12. Books: Shakespeare's plays, Lord of the Rings, Till We Have Faces by Lewis
  13. Poets: Gerard Manley Hopkins, Shakespeare (his plays), and Emily Dickinson; Contemporary poets: Seamus Heaney and Billy Collins
  14. Musicians/Bands: U2, Nicklecreek, Sufjan Stevens, David Crowder* Band
  15. Songs: "With or Without You," "Beautiful Day" (U2); "The Fox," "Sweet Afton" (Nicklecreek); "Kathy's Song" (Simon & Garfunkel); "Carolina in My Mind" (James Taylor)

Mock away, dear reader. Did I miss anything?

The Raccoon, 4:15-5:00 A.M.

He was up four more times. Measures must be taken; traps must be set.

Raccoon Attack

The boy has skillz is all I'm saying. At the beach, he slept in the same bedroom as his sisters and parents in his wonderfully portable, though seriously out-of-style, Pack-n-Play. He learned, the very first night that with a heave-ho and a jaunty leg toss that he could escape his tiny prison, much to his parents' dismay.

Now the beach trip is over. Tonight, he remembered his grand beach achievements and crawled out of his crib five times. He finally stayed down around 10:00 after multiple conversations involving some light Biscuit Straight Talk (BST). The BST will have to become a little more "persuasive" if he continues this behavior.

The Jig Is Up

I wish I had a picture of the little Raccoon. He would come downstairs and sit in the corner chair with his blankey and play quietly as I watched Shark Week on the Discovery Channel. When I would look at him, he would lower his face and look at me shamefaced through the top of his eyes. He couldn't fool me. I knew on the inside that he was really opening wide his eyes and waving his hands like Skipper the Penguin from Madagascar: "You [don't] see anything . . ."

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

Every Day Is Saturday® No More: The Beach Trip and Hope

This afternoon I opened my eyes long enough to discover that I was dead. I am joyless, hopeless, and, it is entirely possible, depressed. I have placed my hope and found my joy in entirely the wrong places. No person has the strength to sustain me.

. . . . .

I won't bore you with the litany of problems that I am either truly or imaginatively weighed down by. But right now, with a double ear infection (Swimmer's Ear) that hurts like the dickens - which, in consequence, has given me four or five consecutive nights with very little sleep due to the pain - I find myself to be someone whom I do not like very much.

Monday, Laura went back to school. Tuesday, Sophie and Anna will be in school (second grade and kindergarten). This week it is just me, the kids, and my Swimmer's Ears. I've had no patience with my children, even though they have no one else to be patient with them.

I've had no desire to do anything, really. I only wish I could wake up from, what has become, a strange distortion of what I thought life was.

Anna's Last Day

Last week, we had our family vacation in Nags Head. The picture was taken Sunday morning before we left. Anna appears wistful in the picture, though it is, perhaps, only my projection onto her.

I wish I could say the beach trip was relaxing and generally incredible, but I'd be lying. The anticipation of the trip was far better than the actual trip. I would take the anticipation over the trip any day. It was the family's Christmas present this year from my parents. Honestly, far more than they could afford, but we appreciate their generosity and have been looking forward to the trip for nine months or more.

I expected a lot from the trip - I anticipated a lot to happen relationally more than anything. I'm close to my family and love spending time with them. But this trip was not a "close" trip, or at least it didn't seem so to me. Time was when we got together we'd stay up late each night playing Trivial Pursuit and talking. This trip saw everyone going to their rooms by roughly 9:30 each night. There was a felt distance among us. And I imagine I am to blame for some of it.

One of the conversations that did not happen, that I desperately needed to happen, was the Catholic conversation. I did not want to spend the entire week talking about Catholicism, by no means. But this is the first time I've been face-to-face with family (an evangelical family) since my conversion to Catholicism. I expected it to come up. It didn't.

My oldest brother, with whom I can usually talk for hours, was oddly distant, at least from me. We never really sat down and talked but maybe once or twice. Awkward.

Several times at mealtimes the old family prejudices were hung out in front of God and everyone - so I'm glad you were not there. I tried to stay quiet, but had to say something once or twice - by the time I spoke, I was angry enough to forestall any true conversation. And so I must apologize to them for my bluntness. But I hate to hear that kind of hatred, however passive, coming from my family, who proclaims Christ. (I am not trying to sound as if I smell of roses - I have my share of prejudgments that I routinely, though quietly, make. Lord, have mercy. And there were others at the table less-inclined to engage in the discussion.)

And so it went. Several hurtful comments were said to or about me, which I'd rather completely forget. Which I'm trying to completely forget.

My laptop was killed, which hasn't angered me nearly as much as I imagined it would (perhaps an indication of my world right now). My oldest daughter and I, by the end of the week, were suffering from Swimmer's Ear. And everything was so quiet. So quiet.

I did read two books my oldest brother brought by Ted Dekker: House, which Dekker co-wrote with Frank Peretti, and The Martyr's Song. The first two-thirds of House was fairly engaging, but right around Chapter 35, it all went to pot as thriller became conversion story. I hate that. There's really nothing worse, in my opinion, than a good yarn of one genre being yanked into a stilted tract - however creative. The Martyr's Song, however, is altogether different because, though fiction, it's a Christian story all along - and it's quite a powerful one at that. It had me crying through most of the hour or so that it took to read. A good, made-up martyr story. And while the fact that the martyr story is fiction only detracts from the total read fractionally. I think my wife felt it detracted more than me, but I found it quite moving.

. . . . .

And so this afternoon, I awoke for a moment, while reading Henri Nouwen, and realized that my joy and my hope have been misplaced. And because of the misplacement, I have become dead. I realized that the beautiful people around me were not made to sustain me. Reality, even a reality of which you are always intellectually aware, can be shockingly harsh.

It's been a rough few months, this waking-up process. I pray, and hope - I must hope in order to come alive again - that it is purposeful. It's as if God has opened up a divine can of Whup-Ass on me - and relationships have shifted. People treat me differently now, there's no denying it. Most, I believe, just feel awkward around me.

I pray someday that they will feel less awkward and more confident in their knowledge of who I am. But it may be a long road. It's worth it, though, for these relationships. I will wait for them gladly. In the meantime, I will begin to hope again.