Sunday, November 08, 2009

No Need of That Hypothesis

I was smitten with the flu on Wednesday and am currently at the tail end of it (Lord willing). I don't know if it is/was porcine or not, but then I don't care much about the variety for my own sake. The good that came out of it was that my entire family was able to find and receive swine flu vaccinations this week (not fully immunized for two weeks, but it's done). The school kids have all gotten the seasonal flu vaccinations at school, so they're as ready as possible for the rest of the season. We hope. I would still like Laura (who is expecting our seventh baby, if you don't already know - a boy, mid-March), Jack and Cate to get immunized against the seasonal flu, but maybe we can work something out this week. Though fever free all day yesterday, a low-grade fever popped up again last night, so I hope I'll be fever free all day today. I'm still tired and weak, but doing fine. The irony of it all is that of the entire family, I get out the least - I'm around the fewest people. On the other hand, my family is around hundreds of others every day and so I was easy pickings.

My parents rent the house across the street from us, though they are not there all the time - maybe one week per month. And so I quarantined myself over there. It was boring and miserable and I missed my family terribly, even though we were only apart for three days and only across the street and still got to talk to each other through storm doors. I had some books that I had requested from the library come in and so I spent most of my time reading - something I rarely get the chance to do. So on Friday I read - and you'll like this - God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything by Christopher Hitchens and on Saturday I read, The God Delusion by Richard Dawkins. I had been wanting to read the two books eventually for a character in my book, though a sympathetic protagonist, lest you get the wrong idea. The books, if you haven't read them, are, well, interesting. Hitchens' book seems more hostile than Dawkins' book, but both are, as you can gather from the titles, not friendly to religion. Hitchens casts his net out broadly and blames all religions with fairly equal robust, while Dawkins turns more toward Christianity, as it is that with which he is most familiar. Both would be gladly rid of any kind of religion, but neither would fight, other than with words, for them to be expunged from the earth. Both seem like fairly friendly gentlemen, as a matter of fact, they just think the majority of evil in our world originates out of our religious impulse. They both often receive charitable Christian mail from charitable Christians who would like nothing better than to see them burn in hell - so perhaps you can understand some of their push back. Ah, the charity of Christians - it does the heart good, does it not?

I am not, after reading both books, an atheist. But I do think they each make excellent cases for atheism and point, in some places, painfully clearly at our sins as Christians. (Here we can only say, as we always say, "Lord, have mercy.") They each have a bevy of narratives that inform their views, just as you and me - though ours are often opposing stories. Both of them seem, at times, arrogant - though I suppose critics often do. I thought it a flaw in their books. Both of them seem, to me, to have missed the point of evil in it all: We are sinners, all of us, of which I am the chief, the first, the foremost, the greatest - the worst. And that it is not the problem of religion, but the problem of evil itself within the heart of all people. And because of religion's ubiquity in our world, and its power, religion is often the greater vehicle. And because of its teachings, its hypocrisy is certainly highlighted. So I think they need to go deeper for their problem - to see that heaven and hell are in every human heart. But overall, and other than their hostility, they seem like decent, well-meaning chaps, and I wouldn't mind sitting down and discussing with them further why they see no possible synthesis between science and faith.

Nevertheless, I had my moments of disagreements with both men. They both seem to - excuse my French - wear shit-colored glasses when it comes to Christianity - and fail to see the wheat for the tares. They pick and choose among denominations and faiths as it suits them - and invariably someone of some faith is erring somewhere in some manner. So while it sounds as if religion does indeed poison everything, they ignore that there are other people of faith (sometimes the same faith) working to stop the same evil. (Dawkins, who tends to be fairer, does point out several minor examples of this.) One of their shared "concerns" about religion was the possibility of faith education as abuse of children - not in a pedophiliac sense, though there is that - but in simply raising children as Christian or Muslim or Hindu or what-you-will. They both thought parents - being parents - rearing their children in their own faith egregious. That children are children and are not Catholic children or Muslim children, but children of parents of those faiths. Now there is something to what they say and it is not simply as crackpot as it sounds. For instance, who would disagree that it is abuse to raise your child to hate a group of people so much that you strap fake bombs to him, making him out to be a suicide bomber, and parade him around? Who would disagree that it is abuse to dress your little ones in white sheets and take them out to a gathering and burn a cross or two? And there are other examples - unfortunately, many other examples, some of which fall in our own laps. And yet, even when I hear, and know of, some of these crazy examples of environments in which children are being raised, I have to stop and wonder about it. No parent is perfect. Many times parents are not even good. Yet the people I know who are people of faith, do a fair job - their best - at raising their children - even while they teach them doctrines that I disagree with, or inadvertently teach them to be racist or elitist or scientifically ignorant. But none of us are perfectly functional; we all fail our children. I imagine that even Mr. Dawkins has failed his children. (Though I also imagine he would be the first to admit it.) I do not think, from the examples he gives in his book, he would have much to say about how I, or many like me, raise my children, if he really knew how we do so - nothing with which he could point a disapproving finger at faith, other than that they are being raised with faith. But it was an interesting charge to read about; a charge I've heard before from other Christians when converting to Catholicism as a matter of fact. But here are my children, even now, out my window, running and playing among golden leaves. Just children. Red-nosed. Laughing. Imagining. Enjoying one another. They do not cower behind closed bedroom doors when I am around. They write notes to me, when I am sick and absent, of how they cannot live without me. They bring me flowers. They share their stories. They love other people. They seem, for the most part, reasonably well children. They do all right. And when they are older, they will choose for themselves whether they will assent to share the faith of our Church, and I will give them the freedom to do so. Of course I hope they choose to share our faith, but even if they choose to become atheists - oh, how I will love them still. Can I do any less?

Thursday, October 29, 2009

A Month Later

Cars is still watched daily in my house. A month ago I was ready to blow my brains out, but I've gotten past it. I've gotten past putting hits out on Steve Jobs (God forbid!) and the entire Pixar staff. I've come to some uncertain peace with it - it is just part of the background for me and Jack - who, while he insists that it sometimes be on, no longer sits to watch it much anymore. He plays with his own cars while it plays behind him.

The pecan tree is golden. I have to mow the lawn this weekend, but then that obligation can be set aside for three months.

I am just beginning to read Gogol's Dead Souls and Cardinal Newman's Apologia pro Vita Sua.

I am still writing, but it appears I only managed an average of two pages per day, five days a week, this past month. Strange how quickly it moves at some points and how it trudges at others. Regardless I'm halfway done with my first draft, if the story cooperates. This morning during my walk I was able to get through some obstacles in the plot and am excited to get that down on paper. Before, the story seemed to be converging on some premature closure, since I didn't see the next move, and now it has opened up before me again. Sigh. The most important thing as a writer, I have discovered, is simply to write. It is in being faithful. How's that for an elementary truth that has taken me entirely too long to learn? Apparently my slowness in learning (and, even still, knowing) is due to my abhorrence of having to wait (as a story slowly develops on the best of days), and my distaste for discipline. As well as my neurotic fear of failure. Other than that, I'm golden.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Stuff

I am sorry that I have not kept up with my blog, but it has been busy and pushing my blog aside has been one of the better things I have done with my time. Since I have been gone, my oldest son started Kindergarten. He cried the entire first day of school. It was a rough couple of weeks. He is doing well now, seems to be enjoying school, but it still makes him a little nervous. Since I have been gone, I also began (with great trepidation) as a catechist for eighth graders at my parish. I teach Church history and mostly blather on and on - it is sort of like beating them with a stick until they're senseless. But if by the time the year is finished they know nothing but God is love, I will be happy. If I know it by the time the year is finished, I will be ecstatic.

Jack, that great lover of the automobile - specifically the truck - discovered the Disney-Pixar film Cars and I am ready to blow my brains out - it is on all the time.

Speaking of the boy, Jack used to answer "No" for every question asked of him - regardless of whether me meant yes or no - I am proud to report that he has finally begun saying, "Yes," which for him comes out quite handsomely as "Yessir." Very respectful and very southern, and it makes me chuckle every time he says it to my wife - everyone gets "yessir," irrespective of sex or age. We also recently discovered that he likes country music. I am considering changing his name to Hank.

Cate is growing too quickly; she has four teeth now. She enjoys time rooting around on the floor - and there are always great treasures to be found on our floors. Our family is in love again.

I have begun the discipline of writing; I sit down at my old green Hermes 3000 and type every morning. Not as much as I would like on most days, since I have other responsibilities. But I have about 100 pages now and am moving forward quite nicely. It is very rewarding seeing and feeling the pile of typed pages grow. It's a nice stack now and is roughly a third of the way into my first draft (my excremental draft, as Anne Lamott would say). If I do die before I finish, please burn it without reading it. "The earth was formless and void" - all that.

I hope all of you are well and I am looking forward to the time when we can simply sit down together for a while. Virtual is fine in the absence of actual, but it sure falls short.

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Resignation to the Will of God

Flannery O'Connor, writing to a friend ("A") about recent criticism the friend had received concerning a book she had written, and the subsequent depression she had fallen into:

No matter how just the criticism, any criticism at all which depresses you to the extent that you feel you cannot ever write anything worth anything is from the Devil and to subject yourself to it is for you an occasion of sin. In you, the talent is there and you are expected to use it. Whether the work itself is completely successful, or whether you ever get any worldly success out of it, is a matter of no concern to you. It is like the Japanese swordsmen who are indifferent to getting slain in the duel. ... The human comes before art. You do not write the best you can for the sake of art but for the sake of returning your talent increased to the invisible God to use or not use as he sees fit. Resignation to the will of God does not mean that you stop resisting evil or obstacles, it means that you leave the outcome out of your personal considerations. It is the most concern coupled with the least concern.

(Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, 25 November 1960.)

And elsewhere, a favorite:

Sit at yr machine.

(Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, to Cecil Dawkins, 11 July 1960.)

Thursday, July 30, 2009

Miss O'Connor and the Idiot

I've been catching up on some Flannery O'Connor short stories that I haven't read for years. Terrific stuff. A reminder: she died of lupus at 39. Significant, powerful writer. I've also been reading The Habit of Being: Letters of Flannery O'Connor, which, if you have not read and you are any kind of fan, you must read. The letters get a slow start, mostly I imagine because of your shifting into an epistolary gear. That being said, you feel as if you get to know this woman, who is hilarious and wise and brilliant and herself. Letter writing ought to be a bigger part of my life, I'm convinced. There's something beautiful there.

I am still reading Dostoevsky's The Idiot, which is excellent. But then it's Dostoevsky. One way in which I prefer Dostoevsky over Tolstoy is that he's an easier Russian writer to follow. I often get mired in all the names (and variety of names) of all the characters in the Russian novel. Tolstoy makes it even more difficult by jumping from one narrative to the next, each with different characters (and all, for an American, with oddly similar names). Dostoevsky is more willing to stick with a single narrative. If you haven't read Dostoevsky, please do so. He's an investment well worth your time.

And, of course, if you haven't read Flannery O'Connor in a while, or if you don't read her because you imagine her stories are too strange or grotesque, give her another try. And read her with the understanding that realism is not her goal as a writer so much as distortion, and distortion that's purposeful. There's something wildly prophetic about her. And something terribly funny. She sticks to the ribs.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Funny Movies

My wife has been picking up movies at the library, on top of our Netflix picks. She recently brought home Young Frankenstein and after watching it again, I've decided it has to be one of the funnier movies I've ever seen. So I'm looking at trying to compile a list of funny movies and to watch them, mostly again. Here are some of my favorite comedies, as they say, in no particular order:

  • Young Frankenstein
  • Napoleon Dynamite
  • What's Up, Doc?
  • The Jerk
  • Planes, Trains and Automobiles
  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail
  • Blazing Saddles
  • Meet the Parents
  • The Pink Panther movies (Peter Sellers)

It's your turn. I want help. Cough 'em up.

Sunday, July 12, 2009

Reading

Last night I finished reading Graham Greene's The Heart of the Matter. It's a fine novel. (I stopped reading Brighton Rock because it didn't hook me.) Greene's novels are fascinatingly Catholic - and I enjoy them immensely. But I also wonder how others approach them and how the Catholicity of the novels affects their readings. The novels are not about Catholicism, but rather about shattered humanity - people who happen to be Catholic. The Heart of the Matter's Henry Scobie, a policeman, wrestles with relationship and sin and peace in the context of brokenness.

At the same time, I am reading Harold Bloom's How to Read and Why. Bloom avers that stories ought to be stripped of ideology and simply be stories. His greatest respect (generally, but specifically here as well) is given to Shakespeare, with whom no personal ideology can be discovered from the stories he tells - he writes about humanity, seemingly without favoritism (though how richly he paints his characters is often telling). Bloom says that we must not pay attention to the one telling the story, but to the story itself. These are good lessons - for readers and writers. Yet Graham Greene's ideology, his Catholicism, at least by the end of his stories, is prominent (always portraying the struggle of one's faith, however, rather than any certainty of faith - always showing us ourselves as fallen men and women). I would like to read Bloom's take on Greene, who does not make Bloom's book - though this list of Bloom's is hardly an effort at exhaustiveness. Bloom covers Graham Greene elsewhere, from my understanding, (I would like to read his opinion) and also believes that Greene has established his place in the "Western Canon."

Greene is a new favorite of mine, because of his Catholicity and regardless of his Catholicity. He writes well. And he is one of the better Christian writers that I've come across in my lifetime. But it is time for a break from Greene, Dostoevsky's The Idiot is lying on my table. And after that I'm going to take a stab at the apocalyptic Blood Meridian, by Cormac McCarthy.

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Just Checking In

I haven't been at the computer much in the past week. Since last week I have had a wonderful visit with my parents and grandmother and celebrated my 17th anniversary with my wife. I had an encouraging meeting at the school my children attend about my oldest daughter. I have enjoyed having my wife and children home for the summer. I celebrated the independence of our country (which is also my anniversary) and I read through the Pope's newest encyclical, a social encyclical, "Caritas in Veritate," or "Love in Truth." (And grew tired of the conservative spin even before I was finished hearing of it.) I watched and heard snippets of President Obama's meeting with the Holy Father - and appreciated that the First Lady and other women on staff were veiled (Which I've completely missed - off my radar - from previous administrations). My yellow-haired child has swimmer's ear and enflamed tonsils (and/or strep?) and vomited twice early yesterday making it impossible to see my brother and his family as they passed through the area on their way to the beach. I feel terribly for her as she's not been herself and cried when she heard that she couldn't swim for an entire week.

It's been busy and good and emotional and difficult and, well, just life. Peace and good to all of you.

Thursday, June 25, 2009

Are You Saved?

This is an interesting response, from an Orthodox perspective, on how one approaches the Evangelical question, "Are you saved?" or "Have you been saved?" I found it fascinating. I'd love to hear your thoughts or push back.

HT: Fr. Stephen Freeman




more about "Are You Saved?", posted with vodpod

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Bizarre Bazaar

I was smoking on my porch the other night. A spider had spun her web over the steps of the porch and a firefly was bound in the center. Wrapped up, intoxicated, it continued to blink for more than 30 minutes in an ever-weakening pattern, or so it seemed to me: Blink. Blink. Blink. Pause. Blink. (Roughly including four or five seconds at each period.) It was the first time I'd ever seen a firefly in a spider's web, and the spider never left it. I've seen spiders wrap up their prey before and simply leave it hanging for a bit. But for whatever reason, this spider stayed on top of the firefly the entire time, stayed with it. Perhaps the starts of bioluminescence surprised the spider as well, making the spider doubt the efficacy of her drug.


Saturday night, I watched Peter Jennings host a special on UFOs, an older special, and they began speaking about abductions. Some scientists said, as a counterpoint to the personal testimonies to abductees, that these experiences could be attributed to a sleep disorder called Sleep Paralysis (SP). As they described Sleep Paralysis, I was shocked to hear them describe a personal experience from when I was a teenager. They described it nearly perfectly, with the same words that I have used to describe it - it was uncanny and enlightening. This was my experience: I woke in the middle of the night terrified. I heard footsteps coming down the stairs toward my bedroom. I knew someone or something was coming for me, meant me terrible harm. I couldn't move. Then a presence was in my room. It rose up next to my bed - I couldn't see it, but only feel it. The silence of the room roared at me. A knife was raised, so I felt, and I prayed, "Lord, receive my spirit." And it was gone. It was terrifying, and terrifyingly real.

I've always thought of the experience as something demonic. That is my worldview and how I would naturally explain the inexplicable. Apparently, others don't see demons, but aliens. That's the scientific consensus, at least. In the past such night visits were thought to be demons, old hags, succubi/incubi, or even vampires.

I did some reading on SP and learned that some people also experienced the feelings of floating through the air (being taken up into an alien spacecraft, being swept away on a witch's broom, etc.) and realized I could count another case of SP when I was much younger: I thought I was fully awake, but was floating near the ceiling of my bedroom. I explored my entire house that way. And that's it.

Anyway, I am intrigued by stories of cryptozoology and UFOlogy, though a skeptic. But I was thankful for that particular program, which seemed to explain two moments in my life that I had been unable to understand. Those are the only two times I am aware of experiencing SP. Some few people experience it often, some even weekly. Honestly, if I were in their bunny slippers, I'd be scared shitless to go to bed - especially if I thought aliens were abducting me or some strange demon was straddling my chest and choking me. Absolutely bizarre.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8

Laura and I have six kids. It is not eight, and it is not multiples, but it is a bunch. So we have watched Jon & Kate since its inception. We don't watch it religiously, but fairly often - we enjoy seeing the Gosselins facing their ups and downs. They are a refreshing family to watch, in many ways, unplagued with the disease of so many believers thinking they must appear to be what they are not. Of course, they have their own problems. We love seeing them take their family places and into situations where we fear to tread with our own. And, frankly, it is fun watching someone else dealing with a truckload of kids. It has helped me remember that I am not alone. It is cathartic, and it has become a cautionary tale.

This is reality television. It is the good and the ugly together. It is finding inspiration and it is making a spectacle of dissolution. It is making a family part of your family without any of the "messy" obligations and responsibilities that friendship brings: prayer, support, loyalty. (It's a lot like Facebook.) It depersonalizes persons. And yet it has gotten me to think quite a bit about personhood.

I am sad for the Gosselins. I pray for them and hurt with them. I wish they understood that their marriage is their vocation. I wish they understood that they are being deceived, fed platitudes that enable divorce and empower self. I wish they wouldn't have bitten. I wish, even though they have filed for divorce, that they understood that it is not too late. That they realized the best thing for their children is not the "peace" that comes from no longer being with the other person, but for them to humbly bear up under this part of their journey - together, no matter how separate they feel. To be humble and obedient - this is often the task set before a marriage when feelings and people change, when time passes. But don't quit. Learn to love in the suffering, through the suffering. Pour out yourself for the other person. Autonomy is still the forbidden fruit.

Marriage is hard. It is not made easier by having a television crew follow you around, I imagine. So pray for Jon and Kate and their children.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whore of Babylon Puts Out

I saw this headline in one of my feeds yesterday: "Benedict calls for new world economic order." It made me chuckle. This is the kind of headline that, not so long ago, would have screamed to me, "End of the world nigh - Pope is Antichrist." Take it with a grain of salt, everything used to be such a sign.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for a new world economic order that promotes human dignity and solidarity.

Addressing the financial crisis that has swept the world this year, Pope Benedict said that "economic and financial paradigms that have been dominant in recent years must be re-thought".

A new model of development should take its place that is "more attentive to the demands of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity", he told members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, an organisation which promotes Catholic social teaching."

Read the whole article here. It's really a tease for Benedict's third encyclical, this one on Catholic social teaching, titled "Caritas in Vertate" (Love in Truth), that is due to be released at the end of the month.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Simon Bears the Cross with Jesus

As I pray the Rosary, I add certain relative clauses in order to help me meditate on the particular mystery of the decade I am reciting. So an Ave would run as follows for the fourth sorrowful mystery: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who bore the heavy cross for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." (The words in italic, of course, being the added relative clause.)

Adding these clauses aren't my idea or invention, but have been around for centuries. (Read von Balthasar's Threefold Garland for more - it's a phenomenal little book.) I have been thinking about this particular clause, "Who bore the heavy cross for us," as I meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of the most holy Rosary. Whenever I say it, or hear or read the story of Jesus' bearing the cross, I am always, and always have been, struck immediately with a qualification - something ridiculous along the lines of "with Simon of Cyrene." But this involuntary (literalist crazy) qualification strikes me as constitutive to our Christian life. Simon bears the cross with Jesus for a purpose. Ultimately God goes before us, bears us, encircles us with his grace so that it is He who acts. But I also act.

"Good works" is not a dirty word, not heresy unless I believe that it is my good works - outside and apart from Christ's work - that reconcile me to God. (There are variations of the heresy.) I cannot act righteously without God's grace. But God's grace is always present for good works. Always. Sometimes I don't allow it to work in me. (The permission itself is an act of grace. All is grace.) But God has given us human persons the dignity of freedom to respond in step with the Spirit or to quench the Spirit.

God invites us to work with him, by his grace, that we might, working with him, redeem all of creation. That we might, by his grace, do greater things than he himself did. (I don't understand this word of Christ, but believe that each of us - and not simply the Church entire - is called to these "greater works" since the Greek uses the singular "you" rather than the plural. Though it is still only by his grace.) This is not because Christ doesn't cut it or that the Father needs help, but because we are invited to participate in his Divine Life. This is conversion. This is salvation. We become - we must become - by grace, all that Christ is by nature.

Glory to God for all things.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If You Sent Me on a Cruise

Such busy weeks, the past one and the one before. Last Week: Two birthdays prepared for and celebrated, two first Communion practices, one First Communion, and one big celebration of all of those things on Saturday. That was all piled onto the normal busyness. It was Anna's first Communion - and it was beautiful (pictures and more, later). It was Will's fifth birthday and Sophie's tenth. (I also had two articles due, which were turned in late. My bad.) The Week Prior: My mother had a stroke. Thanks be to God only a minor stroke, but my week was tumbled by it and I was drained emotionally waiting and praying and being more anxious than I'm supposed to be. My mom seems to be back to normal and the kids and I are looking forward to another visit from Grandma and Papa later this month.

All I feel like doing is sleeping, and that's precisely all that I would do if someone sent me on a cruise this week. Unfortunately, no one has. But I suppose that's OK, since I would sleep through it anyway.

Friday, May 22, 2009

6:00 a.m.

As I arrived home from my morning walk, the tree-removal-service trucks I'd passed at the Village Restaurant pulled into the neighbor's driveway. Well, one did. The others staked themselves out in the street itself. I told my wife that they were going to be chopping trees in a few minutes and we swannied for a bit about babies and loud noises and unnecessarily killing trees. When I took out the trash, I walked across the street and asked the man with the I ♥ Jesus license plate on his big ol' Chevy truck if there was any way they could begin the job later, since I had babies asleep. He said No. And I said OK. And he thought Whatever. And I was like Whatever. At 6:05 they fired up the chain-saws. No children woke up. And if Jack Henry had, he probably would have been spellbound by the big trucks - his favorite thing in the world - outside his bedroom window. All in all, it was a non-issue, like so many issues that we concern ourselves with.

And they haven't cut down the persimmon tree. Yet.

Thursday, May 21, 2009

Mi Casa

Two loads of laundry a day seems to keep up with the flood of clothes in my house. That's not too bad for eight people. And while the loads may increase as the clothes and kids get bigger, I figure it will amount to the same amount of folding, so I'm OK with it. The only real problem I'm left with is where to put all the clean clothes. There's simply never enough room. I need two more systems: (1) finding additional storage for clothes (so we're not overrun), as in old milk crates, and (2) creating a routine of giving clothes away and a place to do so (I'd rather not give to an organization that's going to re-sell the clothes). People have been good to us, always. So much so that we rarely need to pick up clothes for the kids, or that we spend much less money on clothes than you'd expect.

Two loads of dishes each day is too much, however. A load and a half of dishes keeps pace with our family nicely. But we seem to go heavy on silverware - washing dishes is necessary each day simply to make sure there are enough spoons.

Most days I am simply like the Carolina wren that nests nearby, darting about to find food for hungry mouths, who rests now and again outside the window of a rather odd-looking man, to sing for him.

Friday, May 15, 2009

Acedia & Me

I'm currently reading an excellent book by Kathleen Norris titled, Acedia & Me: A Marriage, Monks, and a Writer's Life. It's, at times, like looking into a mirror. And while I've always thought I'm susceptible to depression - a classic melancholy - I think acedia is the demon that I struggle with in my life: a spiritual deadness or sloth or uncaring rather than a physical malady. (Not that it's necessarily either-or.) A blogger friend, Penni, turned me on to Norris by sending me a little book of hers called The Quotidian Mysteries: Laundry, Liturgy, and "Women's Work," which I highly recommend. It deals at some length with the idea of acedia as well and has been a tremendous help as I daily struggle with my own "women's work." She infuses day-to-day work - laundry, dishes, cleaning, and diapers - with her Benedictine sensibility and discovers the sacred rhythm, the liturgy, of such work.

Something I've discovered, and seems confirmed by Norris, is that discipline is discipline, regardless if it's spiritual or physical or mental. In many disciplines, you begin in a garden, but eventually all find you in the desert. And that is the "noonday demon" of acedia. Perhaps the prayers you say seem less meaningful or the exercise you're doing is showing fewer results, acedia wishes to kill the peace and good in your life and to strip away this discipline that is so necessary for you. You begin to wonder whether it's really worth it or if you're simply wasting your time, or a fool. What was as sweet as honey has become a mouthful of sand. This is the time when it is needful to continue. Salvation lies forward, on the other side, not backward. This is the time to pray and sing through the aridity, even when each word seems empty and every note sounds flat. This is the time for waiting; eventually the desert will bloom.

(My one minor criticism of Acedia & Me is that Norris sometimes indulges in her love of etymology. Of course, I'm a sucker for words and their uses and origins as well, but I wonder if some of these purposeful divergences into the meanings of words and the application thereof could have been done in a manner that is less interruptive.)

Wednesday, May 13, 2009

Grr. Dog.

Getting a dog several months back was one of the worst stupidest decisions of my life. I say that with only part of my tongue in my cheek. He's too much for me at this point in my life. He's like a toddler with sharp teeth and claws and who doesn't understand a word a say. And who doesn't take regular naps during the day. And who pees and poops and vomits wherever he pleases. This dog is going to be a good dog someday, I just don't know if I'm going to survive seeing him get there. That's how I feel this morning. Don't I have enough going on without a dog to worry about?

Sometimes I want to strangle him, or secretly hope that he strangles himself on the tie out. And I'm only half kidding. I feel so much anger and stress when he's around or I'm around him and I wonder whether he's been able to dig deeper into my heart than even where my kids go because I've learned to manage my life with children. But then you throw in a dog and the whole machinery comes grinding to a halt (hmm, that's a good idea too) and I'm forced to stare down into the hell of my heart again.

Help. O God, come to my aid.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009

The Love Shack

This review is not a happy review. The novel gets a big thumbs down from me. So if you love this book, you're not going to want to read this post. Keep in mind, it's just my opinion. And I'm sure we've disagreed before.

Many people have been moved by this story. And so was I to some degree. While some would say it walks along the cliff's edge of sentimentality, others would say it took a flying leap off that same cliff - akin to listening to Tim McGraw sing "Don't Take the Girl." You're sobbing as you scream, "You bastard!" because of the obvious emotional manipulation. But there's also something very real here, and I don't mean to underplay it: Young, the author, needs a tragedy in order to spin his yarn. Maybe his wife dying (rather than his little girl) could have helped him better avoid his sentimentality. I don't know. He made his choice and stuck with it. That's his prerogative as the author.

The core of The Shack is fairly simple. It runs along these lines: God is especially fond of you. And s/he does not dig forms.

The Shack is at its best when its simply a story that happens to real people in real places every year - even when it skirts sentimentality. When the fantastic is introduced, the curtain is pulled back and Oz is revealed - and it just plays cheesy, as too much Christian fiction does. And The Shack is entirely about the fantastic - a man, Mack, spends a weekend with the Trinity (Della Reese plays Papa - The Almighty, the Tetragrammaton, He Who Is, etc. - a John Eldredge-y kind of dude wearing a tool belt and leather gloves plays Jesus, and Lucy Liu knocks the Holy Spirit out of the park). And here's where it gets wormy for me, if you noticed. The Shack becomes a kind of love shack - a place for Jesus et al. to be Mack's girlfriend. You can yell at God and be pissed off and, sheesh, if only God would explain himself. Jobian? Maybe, except in Job, if we remember, God doesn't explain himself. He just is and Job gets it - or is satisfied with not getting it. In the book of Proverbs we are told, "Where words are many, sin is not wanting; but he who restrains his lips does well" (Pr 10.19). This is ordinarily true. But when you write a work where half of your novel is about the actions and words of the Blessed Trinity, this becomes extraordinarily true. It's like giving a five year old an Uzi. It's an author using the Blessed Trinity as his mouthpiece, making a god that fits.

Pope Leo XIII wrote, "The Mystery of the Blessed Trinity is called by the doctors of the Church 'the substance of the New Testament,' that is to say, the greatest of all mysteries, since it is the fountain and origin of them all. In order to know and contemplate this mystery, the angels were created in heaven and men upon earth. In order to teach more fully this mystery, which was but foreshadowed in the Old Testament, God Himself came down from the angels unto men ..." This is no mean doctrine. This is the doctrine. And yet Young gets it wrong. Then he builds his theological shack from there, board by rickety board. All authority and religion and institutions and hierarchy are man-made and are sneered at by God in this book. I understand the milieu this kind of thinking rises up out of, but it is sadly mistaken. Apparently Christ did not appoint some as apostles. Apparently all that bit in the New Testament about the episcopacy is just man's garbage/baggage - or perhaps due to the hardness of man's heart. Apparently sheep do not need a shepherd, leastwise none but God.

Wisdom is personified in the novel and is far more awe-inspiring then the Godhead. But then that isn't hard here, because God is not awe-inspiring in The Shack. Lewis's genius in writing about God - Aslan as a type of Christ - is that Aslan is always other and rarely around. His words are few and far between. He growls sometimes. He is wholly wild and wholly good. Reverence. Young's God is rather teddy bearish. Barney-as-God, if you will, singing his theology.

And the book goes on to offend any faith tradition remotely liturgical by rejecting all ritual and hierarchy and ecclesiology. "Nothing is ritual," Papa (bear) repeats. But as I finished reading the book before Mass and walked into my parish and dipped my fingers in holy water and crossed myself, I thought, "No, everything is ritual." (Damn near everything.) Unfortunately some have made ritual to be a godless thing, definitionally - without God, without merit, without hope. Yet ritual is how we as humans live - from how we rise and go to bed to how we celebrate, from how we eat our food to how we make love (or, better, that we make love). It is birthdays and weddings - I Love You's and kisses. Baptisms and bedtime prayers. Ritual can become empty and lifeless. But the answer to that problem is not to toss the ritual, but to renew the heart.

For me, Young reaches his theological low point on the Sunday of Mack's tryst with God. Mack and the three persons of the Godhead sit down together and celebrate Communion: "Without any ritual, without ceremony, they savored the warm bread and shared the wine and laughed about the stranger moments of the weekend." That's what makes it for me, along with the inane chumminess, a bitter read.

Much more could be said, but I've already said too much. There are good things that I haven't talked about. But the longer I think about the book, the less I like it. I did not like it, Sam I am.

P.S.: My wife doesn't much care for The Shack either, finding the depictions of the Godhead ridiculous, interruptive and distracting. She wanted me to tell you.

Monday, May 04, 2009

Shack Attack

I read Wm. Paul Young's The Shack Saturday night and Sunday morning (while waiting for the girls in Faith Formation) and would like to post something about my thoughts on this book. But I'll have to do it later because the kids are needing me now.

Thursday, April 30, 2009

To Jesus, Through Mary?

I could honestly use some help with my Marian devotion. Simple explanations? I've read a book of articles written by Balthasar and Ratzinger about Mary as the Source of the Church and I just received some books on the Rosary (Balthasar's Threefold Garland and St. Louis de Montfort's The Secret of the Rosary) as well as a book by St. Louis de Montfort, True Devotion to Mary. But I just don't understand the "to Jesus, through Mary" thing. And St. Louis de Montfort's language sometimes pulls amens from me and at other times his language about Mary makes me squirm. I'm still only beginning Montfort's True Devotion to Mary so perhaps I simply need to give him the time to better explain. But I feel dense here. Like he keeps talking and his words are just bouncing off of stone walls (i.e. my head).

The thing is, I love the Rosary and I love the place that Mary has in our Church - I suppose my trouble is with St. Louis's understanding of Mary's place in our Church and lives. I'm not saying he's wrong or even that he has a different understanding than the the teaching of the Church. I just don't comprehend it yet - I don't get it. So pray for me. I think I'll be discussing the matter with my priest as well, but any suggestions or explanations you could provide, I'd appreciate. Perhaps I've been too general here to garner any specific response.

Maybe I could put it this way best: I understand the hows and whys of Marian doctrine, but cannot wrap my head/heart around Marian devotion. Maybe that seems schizophrenic, maybe it is. Maybe it's simply hardness of heart. Maybe it's some vestigial Evangelical theology in my brain. I don't know. But that's kind of where I am right now. Any help?

Update: My terminology is most likely skunked on this issue, but I'm just trying to figure out what's going on in my head and heart and Church. I understand Marian devotion - as much as that I pray the Rosary and other Marian prayers and continue to grow in love of our holy Mother. What I struggle with is the idea of, as St. Louis de Montfort, that seems to make Mary a necessary mediator to Jesus. I can understand a love for Mary and a desire to be close with her, but I don't understand the seeming stern necessity that Montfort makes of devotion to Mary.

And either I don't understand Montfort or I don't understand the Church, but Montfort seems to reinforce the typical misunderstandings of Protestants concerning Marian devotion - not to the extent of worship - but a Marian devotion, fervor, that seems absent to me in the writings and concerns of the early Fathers.

Totus Tuus makes some sense to me, but Montfort does not. Does that make any sense to anyone familiar with these things? Can anyone help me with sorting this out?

Update on the Update: I think I'm beginning to see the light on some of this, thanks to the introduction to and writing of Balthasar in The Threefold Garland. I can understand it more easily through the lens of an icon like the "Panagia" (icon shown) and how the Orthodox and Eastern Catholics speak of the Theotokos. I'm not sure I still understand the expression of "to Jesus, through Mary," but I might be beginning to grasp the mind and heart behind it. The Rosary itself is a kind of "panagia" in words, in prayer.

Monday, April 27, 2009

Come Home

On Suffering

In the last years of Pierre-Auguste Renoir's life, arthritis crippled his hands, making it extremely painful to hold a paintbrush, let alone create something beautiful with it. He continued to paint, however, by strapping a brush to his hand. When asked why he submitted his body to such suffering and frustration, he said, "The pain passes, but the beauty remains."

Friday, April 24, 2009

Books

I just finished Graham Greene's The Power and the Glory. Tremendous book. I don't know what to say beyond that, however. This is one of the greatest novels of the twentieth century, even though the Modern Library doesn't list it as such. That's OK, of course, "Opinions are like assholes: everyone has one" (so says my dad).

Currently I'm reading Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light. This book has to be a slow read for me, because of its intensity and subject matter. It makes me stand back and question how much I really love God. And wonder at how much I love myself. It also makes me chuckle at the controversy I heard concerning the book and this great woman. So let me just say it now: If Blessed Mother Teresa tweren't a Christian, then you and I got no hope. Fortunately for you and I, we got hope. And our hope is in the great mercy of God that is poured out on us, even in the darkest holes of India. As Fr. Cantalamessa recently said of St. Francis, I would also say of Blessed Mother Teresa (paraphrased): We do not cultivate St. Francis's or Blessed Mother Teresa's charism by looking at them, but by looking at Christ through their eyes. Who did he see when he looked upon our Lord? Who did she see? What would happen to our world if we began to see Jesus in the same way?

Maybe more on these books later.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Nothing Gold Can Stay: A Catalog

We've seen crocuses and narcissus come and go here in North Carolina. The hyacinth and tulips too. The yellow forsythia have gone for now and the bradford pears have greened. The apple blossoms, sadly, are gone. The dogwood and redbud - those champions of spring - are fading into anonymity on the side of the road and the edges of our lawns. Still now we can point and recognize and say - that's a dogwood, there's a redbud. But soon my sons and daughters will finger the leaves and trace tortured bark and ask what these trees are, and I will scratch my head and shrug. Summer's amnesia. My memory is floral.

My azaleas, bigger than Toyotas, are teaching me this year, this moment, what an azalea was meant to be. They are dressed in vestments of joy and I must cross myself whenever I pass by them - heavy pink blooms with barely a hint of the green rhododendron leaves beneath.

The crepe myrtles are budding tiny red leaves, tuning up for their mid- to late-summer symphony. The Nikko Blue has two great babies waiting for replanting, leaves are green and fresh and she whispers patience and hope.

I've planted another rosebush and pruned the old one down. Ripped up weeds and pruned and pruned. But there are still weeds in need of pulling, and bushes and trees in need of pruning.

Gerbera line the front steps and balloons of fuschia are brilliantly popping into purple blooms over the porch.

But then, "Leaf subsides to leaf." They all dim and die. That's part of their lesson. The gospel is there, too, and they live it annually, perennially. Resurrection, they sing. They trumpet it. And as they preach, I am changed; and though they die, I am changed. They convert me. In another millennium or two, I shall be a saint.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009

That Yellow-Haired Child

Yesterday, shopping in Wal-Mart, the yellow-haired child pointed at a bag of pads (yes, those kind of pads) and started singing, "One little, two little, three little bottom straps, four little, five little, six little bottom straps. ..."

Friday, March 27, 2009

Rosaries

I have an old Rosary that used to belong to my dad. It breaks a lot. I love praying with it, but even last night as I took it to bed, somehow one of the hoops pulled free and I had to set it aside until the morning when I could get out my needle-nose pliers to fix it.

I also have an Orthodox prayer rope that, as I requested it to be made, has beads between every ten knots - a 50-knot prayer rope that also serves nicely as a Rosary (without the introductory beads). I use it to pray the Rosary or the Jesus Prayer or any prayer, such as lectio, where I repeat the prayer. I hesitate to say "count" because it's not counting so much as tracking where I am, especially with a devotion such as the Rosary.

Anyway, all that information to say that I use the prayer rope most of the time - it's what it is with me now, and since it's knotted wool, it's sturdy as I'd like. My question is, do they make Rosaries that are of sterner stuff? I'm looking for something I can carry about with me 24/7, but has more the feel of a Rosary. Quite honestly, I'm perfectly content with my Orthodox prayer rope, retrofitted for my Marian devotion. But I do like the way the Rosary hangs upon my fingers. Sometimes I simply prefer the heft of it. Any suggestions?

Churchy Stuff

Life is full. I miss blogging, but I often feel as if I don't have the time unless I steal it from another place. I feel as if I'm taking something from my family when I walk up the stairs to my little half-storey office and sit down at the computer. At least when I watch TV, I watch it with others - perhaps we're only a group of isolated people in front of the TV, but it still feels more communal to me than the computer. Presence is important. Being present is not everything, but it is something more than absence.

That being said, I woke early this morning and would like to share a few items.

Cate was baptized, in a somewhat private affair, on February 28. The other children were baptized quite publicly, during Sunday Mass, but this was a quiet affair on a Saturday morning. It was lovely, as are all baptisms. And tears, though not shed, were heavy in my eyes. As I get older, I get weepier - rather, I am more easily brought to tears. All the same, sacraments and tears seem ready companions, for how can one be brought into the presence of such grace, the presence of God, without tears? It is at such times that joy or sorrow or repentance or comfort or peace swells into salty sacramentals. Glory to Jesus Christ!

Anna will be receiving the sacrament of Reconciliation (Conversion, Confession, Forgiveness, Penance) tomorrow morning. The children will be singing two songs and doing some readings and meditations before going before Christ to receive peace and pardon. It is a wonderful introduction to their life in Christ, and a sacrament that needs a better exemplar in their father. I hope to make Penance a more regularly sought grace in my own life. This sacrament is too often misunderstood by me, too often pushed away. I imagine because I need it so desperately.

We went to a St. Patrick's Day feast at our parish last weekend (Guinness stew - yum!) and simply had a ball. The kids did some Irish dancing, and I can't remember the last time all of us had so much fun. I was flushed with joy, drunk. During one of their dances, Fr. Al got up and was swinging from partner to partner by his elbow and when he got to Will, the raccoon couldn't do it - the thought of dancing with Father sent him into hysterics. What joy! What fun! It's good being Catholic. It reminded me of the Simpsons clip, if I can be so irreverent, of Homer and Bart's conversion to Catholicism and Marge's vision of heaven - of what Catholic heaven is like. What a great memory (the dinner); what wonderful fellowship.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Brideshead, Revisited

This week I finished the BBC miniseries (1981?) Brideshead Revisited and was thankful for the recommendations to watch it. It's amazingly faithful to the novel and brought home the genius of Waugh again to me. And it made me further think about the differences between Waugh and Hollywood's Brideshead. The difference, it seems to me, is one that orbits about the idea of romance. You see, Brideshead Revisited is a romance, but of an entirely undecipherable kind to Hollywood - it is a love story in which Julia chooses God over Charles. It is a love story that rightly portrays God as one who refuses to lose Julia or Sebastian and Lord Marchmain, or even dear Charles Ryder. And, pitiably, all Hollywood can achieve is to try to portray a cold religion that interrupts and ruins and makes miserable the love between Julia and Charles. But Waugh's love story is vertical. (And it oddly reminds me of the ending of C.S. Lewis's Till We Have Faces.) It is the burning flame near the tabernacle within the chapel at Brideshead that consumes the vanity of Hollywood's version, that burns quiet and faithful until all our vanities are consumed - until we burn as it burns.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

Graham Greene

I finished The End of the Affair and find it terribly fascinating in a variety of ways, not the least of which is the wild freedom that Graham Greene, who was Catholic, enjoys. There is sex here. Adultery. Hate. Prostitution. (Woo-hoo?) It's the stuff of life that has always seemed too hush-hush, and yet Greene, out of such despair and joy and love and lust and spent humanity creates something beautiful that is difficult to describe other than with the book itself. This book is a triumph of God's mercy - a very un-Victorian look at the Victorian Thompson's "The Hound of Heaven." Of the Catholic authors I've read, this book is perhaps the most evangelical, if I can use the word, the most stripped-down, bared-bones call to God and Catholicism without completely crossing the line into a novelized tract (as some miserable Christian fictions cannot seem to rise above, who perhaps lack the freedom to rise above) - and while the narrator resists God's call entirely, you sense that even he knows that he is resisting Something rather than nothing. It's terribly, terribly fascinating to me.

This novel is my first introduction to Graham Greene and he's now on my list of authors with whom I must better familiarize myself with - and the thought of the Waughs and Greenes out there, undiscovered and unread, excite me. When I was younger, I remember hearing of Greene's being a Christian and then hearing that his novels weren't very Christian at all, and so, in my shining purity, I never neared one of his books - what a shame. Although, to be entirely frank, at the time I surely would not have been ready for such a story as this.

What is exciting for me, as well, I suppose, as a man who wants at some point in his life to write a novel, who contemplates such a feat more than works toward it, is the beauty that Waugh and Greene find in life, and the mercy imbedded within it. And how God redeems, woos us, is faithful - best of lovers.

Btw, the novel also corresponded in some odd ways to this past Monday's episode of House, which I'd recommend heartily. "So very many coincidences," indeed.

Monday, February 16, 2009

Brideshead

I watched Brideshead Revisited last weekend and then checked out the book from the library. I rarely do this - watch the movie first, read the novel second. Laura had seen the previews, however, and was interested, so I put it in our Netflix queue. I had heard vague charges of anti-Catholicism about the movie, but knew little of Waugh and less of his faith. I knew the book was supposed to have been borne out of his Catholicism, his being a convert, and after watching the movie, I knew that the film could not be a fair representation of his book. The movie is quite anti-Catholic, which is fine, if you don't mind the story saying the opposite thing the author meant for the story. One thing is sure, the book is profoundly Catholic, with an agnostic narrator, without feeling at all pushy or tract-like. It simply is the story of a family. It's not a story about being Catholic so much as it is a story of grace (which for some of us are the same thing). The movie, just as the book, is gorgeous, and received four stars from me for its luxuriousness. And what the movie could not do, and what a movie cannot do unless written to do so, is strip the mercy and grace intrinsic within characters simply because they are played by actors, by persons. There is sympathy or compassion there yet - an angel stirring the waters even though the angel was not welcome.

The novel is more glorious than the movie. I still found the film quite moving, however, though in a tragic sense rather than in the hope and grace that is impressed upon one while reading the novel. I would love to hear from those of you who have both read the book and seen the movie. What are your impressions? If you're not Catholic, what are your impressions of the novel? If you're unsympathetic to Catholicism, the movie will undoubtedly confirm your worser suspicions of our faith, as there are plenty of cliched Catholics present. Similar characters are also present in the book, but the difference in the book is that the book also has the real thing, and not just the cliche. But I need to re-read it to draw any better conclusions.

I also picked up The End of the Affair by Graham Greene from the library and am enjoying it now. I may say a word or two about it when I finish.

Mistress

I'm having some difficulty writing lately, which is disconcerting. I want to say things and then find it better they remain unsaid, not because they are unkind or controversial, but because they are just words: cold thoughts, too sterile for paper. Just words. Text. The metaphor of language where silence serves better. There is nothing for me to say straight. Writing must be all slant. I cannot describe a flower as a naturalist, only as a painter - even if I must paint in water colors.

I wonder whether my muse is bemused by my pauses, my faltering. So here I am again, caressing, speaking tenderly to her; I miss her. Gentle mistress, quiet, who demands that I be me - perhaps no more than a novice, but certainly no less. Who is patient with my anger and ranting and silliness. Patient with my airs. Who waits. Who simply wants to calm a shaking hand. Who remains silent when I elbow her aside and push my own words forward. For when she speaks, she speaks beauty. Her words tumble down like soft black curls on alabaster cheeks. She is patient, saintly toward her awkward, shy lover.

She deserves better than me, but will not hear of it. It is the only time she is insulted by me, when I tell her so.

Monday, February 02, 2009

On Headaches

I am not a great sufferer, by any means. For me the greatest physical suffering is the migraine. In comparison to what many people suffer, that is, perhaps, something at which one might chuckle. Yet most of the pain I experience, a fractured foot, a bad laceration, or a hurt back can be set aside while I read a book or pray or write. But a terrible headache obscures all of that, it cuts me off from how I naturally function. It torments me because no matter what I desire to do, the pressure is too great to focus, to be faithful. I can't think. I don't know how to find peace there. In the greatest of such pain, I would be a haggler, willing to give most anything for relief. I recall a fever of 105°, while alone in my house - it might compare in its totality of bodily misery. Though in a fever I can find respite in sleep. Often, a headache isn't so gracious.

I wonder at times if the Good Lord sent me headaches for this reason: Too thorny for me to untangle, for me to ignore. Absolutely interruptive.

I don't know what it is to suffer great physical pain, such as that which accompanies serious diseases and the treatments of such. Honestly, I don't want to. But for me, now, anything is better than a headache. Break my arm, bust my nose, kick me in the shin - just don't send a low pressure front my way.

Sunday, February 01, 2009

Long Time Coming

What a busy month it has been. Of course, our sixth child, this side of paradise, was born on January 1. You can see pictures in the sidebar. Her name is Catherine Claire and she's a beautiful addition to our family. She's very precious, though I think she would like me better if I had mammaries. She's a month old today. And I need to begin writing again.

We're shooting for a Valentine's Day baptism, but I'll keep you posted.

We also, rather impulsively and foolishly, have added a dog to our family. Clearly our lives needed more activity in them. The puppy is a husky mix named Charlie. He's quite calm and sociable, while remaining all puppy. We're busy house training and he's busy convincing us that things are better not left on the floor. "There will be consequences," he says, one eye ice blue, the other brown. Our cat hasn't a good thing to say about him yet, though he ignores her. I'm hoping she will one day come downstairs again. Sorry, Tula.

Physically it has been a terrible month for me: Ear problems. Constant headaches. I need to begin exercising again and do a better job eating better foods. I'm writing in the wee hours because my ear hurts too badly to sleep. But I've been able to catch up on my fellow writers and update my own blog - so, there at least, it's a good.

Couple of movies I've enjoyed this month: (1) Kung Fu Panda - my kids wouldn't let me send this movie back for 2 1/2 weeks and we laughed all the way through it even on the twentieth viewing. I suppose we'll need to buy it someday when the price comes down. (2) Henry Poole Is Here - a quiet, but good movie for a man (me) who needs to be occasionally reminded of life's hope.

I've actually finished a couple of books this past month as well. The first, Finding Darwin's God by Ken Miller, is an interesting book on evolution and faith and the celebration of freedom. I really am at a loss for words on this one, though I recommend it highly. Some people will be greatly offended by it, due to Dr. Miller's unapologetic belief in evolution. I found it instructive and inspiring. The second book I finished was The Brothers Karamazov by Dostoevsky, which I've been reading for a year now. What a terrific novel! I can't say enough about this book. This is one I will re-read again and again. It is not only a fascinating story but is also a beautiful picture of our life in Christ. It isn't didactic, by any means, buy simply springs up out of its nineteenth-century Russian milieu and the beauty of Russian Orthodoxy.

Anyway, just a few items to get me re-accustomed to the water. Thank you for your prayers concerning the new baby and her mother. We ask that you continue praying for and with us.

Thursday, January 01, 2009

New Year's Day and Happy Birthday

More to come later, but for now watch this video from our local news station and you can see my wife and new daughter, Catherine Lyons. She just happened to be the first baby born in High Point, North Carolina in 2009.

Glory to God for all things!