Things That Will Lead Me to Spend a VERY Long Time in Purgatory

1. Plastic packaging. I swear, I stab, I tear, I swear some more. I still can't get the &*%# stuff open.
2. Legos. Stepping on those things creates a feast of cursing.
3. Chocolate. I crave it. Dream of it. Let's just say it: I lust for it.
4. The instructions for a new purchasing program at work. I am 99% sure aliens wrote this, then it was translated to English via Swahili by someone who spoke neither language and was just using a dictionary.
5. My own stupidity and sinfulness. Why, oh why, do I do the same dumb, thoughtless, arrogant things over and over?

The Perils of Being Catholic

Frankly, I don't have time to list all the perils of being Catholic. Suffice it say that I wholeheartedly agree with Flannery O'Connor's assessment: What people don't realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross. It is much harder to believe than not to believe.

One peril of being Catholic is that you must attend Mass every Sunday, regardless of where you are at. That means, in the olden days, when we were on family vacations, the first thing Dad would do upon checking into a hotel is haul out the Yellow Pages to find the nearest church and Mass times. Now, things are a bit easier with the internet, but you still gotta go.

When I was in Louisville a few weeks ago, my friend and I decided to visit a church she had never been to. We found the address and Mass times, and off we went. It was a captivating church: lovingly restored, thoughtfully and tastefully done. It wasn't large, but there was much to please the eye - a beautiful domed altar, vaulted ceiling, incredible tromple l'eoil on the walls and around the altar. 

And in this glorious setting commenced one of the most inglorious Masses in which I've ever participated.

It was Saturday night, and there were not a lot of people there. The ones that were there could hardly be bothered to participate. There was no musician, and the cantor struggled, a capella, to get everyone to join in hymns that apparently no one knew (I certainly didn't). The elderly priest was clearly uncomfortable on bad knees, and his microphone caused such terrific feedback in the sound system that an usher rushed to shut it down. That meant the poor old man was left to shout the Mass and still, no one could hear him.  It was rushed, perfunctory, stilted....horrid.

Afterwards, my friend said, "I am so glad I didn't bring a non-Catholic with me. Imagine what they'd think of the Mass!"

Clearly, this was not one of our team's better efforts.

That's one of the perils of being Catholic: you have to go to Mass every week, and it's a crap-shoot. Sometimes you get sublime and sometimes you get ridiculous. One week, the sermon is thoughtfully crafted, articulate, and stirring. Another time, you wish you could bottle it as a sleep aid. One Sunday, you get the joyful music of a pipe organ and well-managed choir, and another week, you get a guy with an acoustic guitar and a dream of being the next American Idol. Ah, well. The perils of being Catholic.

But you see: it doesn't matter. Those are all just a bunch of accroutements.Yes, we are supposed to have the best music, the best atmosphere, the best sermon. It really is all supposed to come together in one outstanding human effort to bring us in touch with Eternity....but we are, after all, human. Some get what you get. But always always always - despite wretched music and dismal participation - what we get is the Eucharist, Christ's own Body and Blood, that which is the Saving Food and Drink. The true peril lies within each of us:

Therefore whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord unworthily will have to answer for the body and blood of the Lord. A person should examine himself, and so eat the bread and drink the cup. For anyone who eats and drinks without discerning the body, eats and drinks judgment on himself. (I Corinth. 11:27-29)

Good to remember the next time you want to complain about that inglorious Eucharistic celebration.

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff.

I am reading Fr. James Martin, SJ's book The Jesuit Guide to Almost Everything, and thought this was good:

Christian theology holds that God became human, or "incarnate", in the person of Jesus of Nazareth. (The word incarnation comes from the Latin root carn, for "flesh".) More broadly, as incarnational spirituality means believing that God can be found in the everyday events of our lives. God is not just out there. God is right here, too. If you're looking for God, look around. To this end, one of the best definitions of prayer is from Walter Burghardt, a twentieth-century Jesuit theologian, who called it a "long, loving look at the real." Incarnational theology is about the real.

Should we boycott everyone we disagree with?

There is a town not far from where we live that is known for its outstanding food, fun shops, art culture and great beaches. You will also find, if you wander the streets, a number of business that fly a rainbow flag, signifying support for gay culture. My husband and I like to go there once in awhile.

I live in a rather small, town - typical Midwest. I bank at a local establishment, pick up my prescriptions from a locally-owned pharmacy, my paint from the locally-owned hardware store. We rely on a volunteer fire department for our safety. My husband and I eat dinner frequently at local restaurants; one in particular is a favorite.

When I go to these places, I never ask the owners who they voted for in the last election. I don't wish to hear their stance on birth control. I don't ask them their marital status, or if they are living with someone. I don't enquire about their views on gun control, the war in Iraq, Chik-Fil-A, electric cars, recycling, adoption, the state budget, whether Martin Luther was right, if they believe in transubstantiation or consubstantiation, if they think putting elderly parents in nursing homes is morally evil, or if the moon landing was a government hoax.

Maybe I should. But I don't.

Do we really want to live in a country where we boycott everyone we disagree with? If this is the case, I am pretty sure I would be down to one or two Facebook friends, my own kids would have to move out of the house and most of my family would be forced to cut ties. I have deep, abiding, long friendships with dear, good people and we vehemently disagree on big issues. Should I cut ties with them?

There is no Chik-Fil-A in my area, but I'd probably eat there if there was. And I'd eat at the restaurant down the street owned by the gay couple, if the food was good and the prices were decent, so long as they didn't toss me out for being against gay marriage.

I don't want to live in a world where I have to boycott everyone I disagree with. I don't want to spend my time arguing with every single person I meet, nor do I wish to have relationships with only those people who agree with me 100% of the time on 100% of the issues facing us as a culture and as a nation. I do want to have civil discourse in appropriate places at appropriate times in appropriate ways. I do want to be loving, kind, considerate and give the benefit of the doubt to those folks that cross my path, and those that stay in my crazy life. Pardon me for not boycotting. Where would it end?

Modern Art Monday

Psalm 23, John August Swanson

Pain in the neck

Van Gogh's "Pieta"
I was recently diagnosed with arthritis in my neck - yes, I literally am a pain in the neck, as my brother was quick to point out. It's really not all that surprising that I developed arthritis. It runs in both sides of my family, and my paternal grandmother was crippled with rheumatoid arthritis. My father, even in high school, had to care for her most basic needs.

I've been in pretty constant pain for months now, despite receiving on-going treatment at a pain clinic. It's not debilitating, but it's more than annoying. We have a great tradition in the Catholic Church of "offering up" our pain. There's a really great post at Fisheaters on this:
...we "offer it up" by simply asking God in our own words to use a suffering as it occurs; we often do this for specific intentions (ex., "Use this pain, Lord, for the salvation of my brother..."). We might follow the example of the young St. Thérèse of Lisieux and make use of Sacrifice Beads, or the extraordinary among us might make the Heroic Act of Charity for the souls in Purgatory. 
It's quite a discipline to react to suffering this way! In mental or physical pain? Drop something on your toe? Putting up with a co-worker who is making your life a living Hell? Enduring the constant ache of arthritis? Standing in line at the grocery and hating every minute of it? Spill the milk? Accept these things in peace, and ask God to use them for the good of the Church or for a more specific intention close to your heart. This isn't easy to do (and I in no way claim to be good at it), but it does make the suffering more meaningful and less -- well, less insufferable!
All easier said than done. It's no fun to be in pain, especially when it is constant - whether that pain is physical, mental, or spiritual. However, recognizing that we suffer with intent (specifically the intent to be in harmony with God's will) makes our suffering purposeful. To suffer with no purpose is crazy. To suffer with Christ is Love.

Olympic Fever!

Watching the Olympics is a favorite sport at our house (except for the ice skaters - they make me too nervous.) With the Summer Olympics just a day away, we are getting our popcorn bowls ready and anticipating each victory and heartbreak that the Olympic games bring.

Can't wait to see more of Lolo Jones, a 29 year old runner who's been getting press for her life off the track as well as on:

In an interview with Access Hollywood , Lolo - who emphasized that she's single by choice -- admitted that she gets tired of people on Twitter asking why she's not dating anyone."That's one of the main reasons, because literally there are so many people who aren't willing to wait for their future spouse. They want to have sex now, they want to hook up," Lolo - who has openly spoken about being a virgin -- said. "That's their life. My life is something else."
Beauty, brains, commitment, speed: can't wait to watch Lolo take on the world!

Three Good Things Thursday

(Confession: It's a little hard to come up with these today. Feeling a bit blue...)

1. Road trips, good friends, the gift of time together. I got to visit a dear friend in KY this past week. What a joy!

2. America's heartland. For some reason, my GPS decided I needed to travel through the countryside of Indiana on my way home. I was a bit annoyed at first, but frankly, away from the truck traffic on the interstate, it was such a joy to go through small towns, with the American flag flying, local businesses, roadside stands with farm produce, and everyday people doing everyday things in the best country on Earth.

3. My kids. They are funny, sweet, annoying, thoughtful, smart. Turning out better than I ever dreamed during those long hard days of their childhood when I was logging miles between speech therapists, psychologists, social workers and schools.

Meditations on the bus

I work in the city, and that means all the ups and downs of city life on a daily basis. It can be crowded and hot, traffic clogs up, and tempers seem to flare. All that humanity, tightly packed. I get a few blessed minutes every morning on the bus and typically spend it praying and meditating. Today's meditation was from Jean Vanier, the founder of L' Arche. (If you're not familiar with him, visit this lovely site.)

Here's one thought from him on communion:
 Communion is at the heart of the mystery of our humanity. It means accepting the presence of another inside oneself, as well as accepting the reciprocal call to enter into another. Communion, which implies the security and insecurity of trust, is a constant struggle against all the powers of fear and selfishness in us, as well as the seemingly resilient human need to control another person.
Jean Vanier, Becoming Human

Nearly every day, on my way into work, I see a man on a bicycle. I tend to think he is carrying all his possessions on the bike with him. He is dirty, unkempt, always with a cigarette in his mouth, never makes eye contact. He is the sort who makes most of us uncomfortable, wary. I call him Jesus, to remind myself that he is made in the image and likeness of God, even in this most distressful disguise. I pray for him every morning, asking God that all who meet him this day are kind to him, for he must have a difficult life.  I hope that is the communion Mr. Vanier speaks of. I hope for that.

In the category of, "Well, duh....."

Social deprivation hurts child brain development, study finds

Now, if you read this, you'll see that they were working with kids who were left alone for huge chunks of time in a poorly-run orphanage. What I'm waiting to see is if someone will jump on this as fodder for "Here's why homeschooling is bad for kids". Of course, those of us who homeschool, have homeschooled or know anyone who homeschools recognizes that homeschooled kids are not under going the deprivation of a Romanian orphanage. 

And we all know that children, even only children, with loving parents are daily being socialized by the most simple of acts: learning to say "please" and "thank you", interacting with the lady who runs the children's hour at the library, visiting Grandma, going for a walk and saying hello to the neighbors. Socialization is the norm for most children, wherever and however they are raised and educated. (And let's all pray for the children for whom this is not the norm.)

Dear Mrs. Gates: Want to REALLY help women?

Please see this website for more information about this video and more facts about women's health.

Total Rip-Off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice: Phil Lawler on "The Gates Foundation to the Rescue":

Because, you see, they’re worried about maternal mortality, especially in Africa. So with any luck, the Gates Foundation will turn up in South Sudan in time to bring:
  • Food, to keep you well nourished? No.
  • Educational material, to let you know what you need to do to keep healthy? No.
  • Money to pay for a doctor or nurse at a local clinic? Sorry, no.
  • Basic medicines for the infirmary in town? Afraid not.
  • Bandages, clean sheets, and beds for a hospital? Wrong again.
  • An autoclave to sterilize surgical instruments? No chance.
  • Condoms? Yes, sir. All the condoms you want.

"I'm not dead yet"

The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't: I'm not dead.
The Dead Collector
: 'Ere, he says he's not dead.
Large Man with Dead Body
: Yes he is.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't
: I'm not.
The Dead Collector
: He isn't.
Large Man with Dead Body
: Well, he will be soon, he's very ill.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't
: I'm getting better.
Large Man with Dead Body
: No you're not, you'll be stone dead in a moment.
The Dead Collector
: Well, I can't take him like that. It's against regulations.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't
: I don't want to go on the cart.
Large Man with Dead Body
: Oh, don't be such a baby.
The Dead Collector
: I can't take him.
The Dead Body That Claims It Isn't
: I feel fine. 

I am not dead, and neither is the blog. I swear I'll be back to blogging regularly starting today. It's summertime, the living is easy, and I've been traveling. 

Um, if you don't believe this stuff, why are you here?

Kathleen Riley, left, and Alison Carroll resigned as teachers at St. Ann's Sunday School.
It seems some religious education teachers in Washington state are shocked to find out they have to agree to Catholic teaching in order to pass it on to kids. Really? If you don't believe this stuff, what are you doing here? There's a nice Episcopalian/Unitarian/Methodist church right down the street...

Here's the oath they were asked to sign - scary stuff (hey, don't we recite something like this at Mass? Just a thought...):

I, ______________________________________________, with firm faith believe and profess each and every thing that is contained in the Symbol of Faith, namely:
I believe in one God, the Father, the Almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all that is, seen and unseen.  I believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God, eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light, true God from true God, begotten, not made, of one Being with the Father.  Through him all things were made.  For us men and for our salvation, he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit he became incarnate of the Virgin Mary, and became man.  For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate; he suffered death and was buried.  On the third day he rose again in accordance with the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven and is seated at the right hand of the Father.  He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead, and his kingdom will have no end.  I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life, who proceeds from the Father and the Son.  With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.  He has spoken through the Prophets.  I believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.  I acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.  I look for the resurrection of the dead, and the life of the world to come.  Amen.
With firm faith, I also believe everything contained in the Word of God, whether written or handed down in Tradition, which the Church, either by a solemn judgment or by the ordinary and universal Magisterium, sets forth to be believed as divinely revealed.
I also firmly accept and hold each and every thing definitively proposed by the Church regarding teaching on faith and morals.
Moreover, I adhere with religious submission of will and intellect to the teachings which either the Roman Pontiff or the College of Bishops enunciate when they exercise their authentic Magisterium, even if they do not intend to proclaim these teachings by a definitive act.

DON'T put your cell phones away in church...

Most of us are used to checking our phones to make sure they are shut off before Mass. Not so fast, says Archbishop Lori....

Three Good Things Thursday

1. Puppies! Yeah, we broke down and got a puppy. It's adorable, and there's that puppy breath, and puppy barks and a teeny-tiny collar. Yeah.
2. Break in the heat wave. Whoever thought 89* would seem so pleasant?
3. College plans. It's so exciting to watch my daughter get ready for her freshman year: the dorm room supplies, the tentative talking to the new roommate, the thoughts about class schedules, and dorm life. Oh, what great memories for me, and what great memories in the making for her!

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the web. Not taking credit, just sharing good stuff. Today's choice: Matt Archbold on why tambourine playing is dangerous. Really.

A woman was apparently playing a tambourine too loudly during Wednesday night services. When she refused to stop, the woman was escorted out by an off duty Oklahoma County Sheriff’s Deputy.
    (Sheriff spokesperson) Myers said, “He had to physically escort her outside the church. Once outside, she broke free from the deputy and tried to go back inside, there became a physical confrontation.”
    According to the arrest report, the deputy was forced to pepper spray and taze the unruly woman.
    Myers said, “She was not filled with the Holy spirit. She was not being very Christianly and this is why the folks decided to get her out as soon as possible.”
    Witnesses said the combative Christian was staggering and had slurred speech.
I've gotta' wonder if the staggering and slurred speech was post-taze or pre-taze because it kinda' makes a difference.

But let's focus. This is clearly an unfortunate and unique incident. But perhaps we shouldn't allow this unfortunate and unique incident to go to waste. Perhaps we should make it so that some suspect it's not so...unique. I'm not saying we do anything like this but maybe a lot of us should just print out this article and hand it out to the folk musicians at your Church service who make the Mass about them. Hand it out to them and just nod while backing away slowly.

"But we don't have anything in common!"

Curly-haired Daughter received her information about her freshman college roommate and the two of them have been getting to know each other via all the technological stuff they have at their fingertips (I had mail. You remember mail, don't  you?)

Daughter is a bit tentative. She hasn't had to share a bedroom in a really long time, is used to her space, and is....finicky. Particular. A bit spoiled in terms of her comfort zone. Naturally, she is wondering how the whole roommate thing is going to work, let alone how the personalities of two folks is going to shake out.

Last night, she mentioned that she'd been chatting with the young lady who will be her roommate. After a few minutes, she cried, "She's nice but...what if we don't have anything in common?!" I laughed. And laughed. Because I know.

I told my daughter, "I was just Facebooking today with a friend from college. He's gay, married to his partner, and a Baptist minister. How much do you think we have in common? And yet, we're friends." Her eyes drew wide, and she nodded.

I think about my two best friends from college. One is Muslim, lives a rather upscale life, and shares her home with her extended Pakistani family. The other is divorced, her long-time fiance passed away awhile ago and she is tentatively dating again. Her spiritual life has always been a bit more...wandering than mine. And yet, I know if I called either right this moment and said, "I need you" they'd be at my side as fast as they could.

What do we have in common? First and foremost, we all believe the other is full of God's grace and His beloved child. We believe in respect of differing beliefs, even if they puzzle and perhaps anger us. We love each other. Yes, there are shared memories, fun times in the past, but we have also made the very concrete choice to continue to be part of each other's lives. Our commonality is our bond, our choice, our love,

I hope for the same for my daughter, as she launches into this very exciting part of her life. Oh, I how I hope for this. Nothing compares.

Welcome home, Katie!

From  the Huffington Post:

Five years after revealing that she had started to study Scientology, Katie Holmes has officially returned to the Catholic faith, registering as a parishioner at the Church of St. Francis Xavier in New York City.

The church, located on 16th Street between Fifth and Sixth Avenues, is known for inclusive thinking and its welcoming of many gay and lesbian Catholics. Its mission statement indicates that the Roman Catholic Church parish “strives to be a prophetic, welcoming community, inclusive witness to the presence of Christ Jesus in our midst.” Its website proclaims that it is a respectful community, “where seekers and their questions are welcomed, where injustice is challenged, where the poor, the alienated and marginalized find a home, and where people are refreshed, reconciled and renewed.”

Tipping Point?

Really great interview with NRO's Kathryn Lopez and Fr. Robert Sirico:

LOPEZ: “If one ponders the state of our society carefully, one finds signs of human flourishing side by side with creeping desiccation.” Is there more of one than the other? Are we at a time when we are called to choose one over the other?
FR. SIRICO: I fear we may be at a tipping point, and we are going to have to decide whether we can imbibe the myth that we can all live at everyone else’s expense, as Bastiat put it. I understand that we are approaching the point at which the majority of people are living at the expense of the remaining taxpayers. Now, this is complicated, because they usually also pay taxes as well, but at some point it is going to be difficult if not impossible to reverse the trajectory.

The "One Thing": does God have "A" plan for you?

To say that God has a singular, perfect plan for you, and that all you have to do is find it and follow it, sounds a lot like trust. It sounds like the sort of thing a good parent would do: set out the best possible future for you, and make sure you end up there.
But that image implies another. What if you can’t find the plan? What if the parent is terrifyingly vague about what His plan actually is? Suddenly he’s not a good parent at all, but one who’s waiting for you to screw it all up, so that after you’ve made the Wrong Decision he can leap out and blame you for it, saying: You should have known better, and now you’re going to pay.
That’s not a good parent. That’s a cruel, vindictive control freak. But how many of us see God that way?

Great column from a blogger I'm just checking out: Steve Gershom at "Catholic, Gay and Feeling Fine, Thanks".

Train your child in the Way...and they just might resent you for it

"Train the young in the way they should go; even when old, they will not swerve from it." - Proverbs 22:6

Well, I tried.

I read every book there was on raising kids Catholic. We prayed every morning together as a family, and gave homeschooling a darn good shot. We developed a close relationship with religious, and made our parish the center of our social life.

And yet.

My kids have a middling-to-poor relationship with the Faith. Yesterday, I was so happy in Church before Mass started, because four of my kids were there with us. It just felt so good to be in that pew with my family, getting ready to worship. I made the mistake of asking Curly-haired Daughter to stop picking at her nails, and Tallest Son shot back, "Well, she's BORED...." and there went my happy moment.

Bored. That's how Tallest Son is every week at Mass, and he let's us know it. He drags his feet getting ready, he's belligerent and nasty about going, he makes us pay for making him go. (By the way, that's his rent: our rule is that you can live at home rent-free if you're working/in school, but you have to go to church every week and on Holy Days, and contribute to chores around the house.)

Frankly, I left Mass yesterday feeling like I'd failed at the most important parenting role: that of faith-leader, instiller of love of Christ and His Church. In my head, I know I can't force anyone to love Christ, and that is up to the individual, but my mother's heart wonders where I failed. Why don't you love Jesus like I do? Why don't you love the Mass as I do?

Of course, the answer (as it always is) is prayer. I pray that I am gentle with them in "forcing" them to go the Mass. I pray that they will accept the gift of faith lovingly offered to them by God. I pray that they will come to notice that almost everyone whom they value in their life is Catholic...and there must be some good reason for that.

I pray. I pray. I pray.

Modern Art Monday

"Love One Another": artist unknown

Figured this was appropriate, given the heat wave....

The Damned Being Plunged Into Hell; Luca Signorelli, c. 1523
'I saw the torments of hell and those of purgatory; no words can describe them. Had poor mortals the faintest idea of them, they would suffer a thousand deaths rather than undergo the least of their torments during a single day.' - St. Catherine of Siena

What's more Catholic than beer and theologians?

My niece shared this with me, and I thought it was spot-on; enjoy!

"If Theologians Were Beer...."

Three Good Things Thursday

1.  Fourth of July. No matter where you are on the political spectrum, we all are truly thankful for this great land we live in, and the men and women who sacrificed everything to gain the freedoms we enjoy.

2. Fourth of July parties. What is better than food, fireworks and friends?

3. Air-conditioning. I don't know where you are, but here, it is blistering hot. Thank goodness for air conditioning!!

Total Rip-off Tuesday

Wherein I "rip-off" another writer on the Web. Not taking credit - just sharing good stuff.  Today's choice is from Russell Shaw, who thinks that George W. Bush might have a bit of the Catholic in him:

The episode that opens Man in the Middle may also shed light on Bush’s Catholic sensibility since it concerns his capacity for extending forgiveness–in this case, to Goeglein. Well into his White House years, it came to light that Goeglein had plagiarized material for columns he wrote for his hometown paper back in Indiana. As Washington scandals go, this was small potatoes, but Goeglein bit the bullet and resigned.
Summoned to the Oval Office for what he supposed would be a terminal chewing-out,  he got a “miracle” instead.  “Tim,” said the president, who years before had kicked a drinking habit, “I have known mercy and grace in my own life, and I am offering it to you now. You are forgiven.”

A Make-up Lesson No Women Should Have to Learn

  • Females ages 16-24 are more vulnerable to intimate partner violence than any other age group
    – at a rate almost triple the national average.
  • Approximately 1 in 5 female high school students report being physically and/or sexually
    abused by a dating partner.
  • Among female victims of intimate partner violence, a current or former boyfriend or girlfriend
    victimized 94% of those between the ages of 16-19.
  • Between 1993 and 1999, 22% of all homicides against females ages 16-19 were committed by
    an intimate partner.
  • 58% of rape victims report being raped between the ages of 12-24.
  • Half of the reported date rapes occur among teenagers.
  • Nearly 25% of 14-17 year-olds surveyed know at least one student who was a victim of dating
    violence, while 11% know multiple victims of dating violence. 33% of teens have actually witnessed
    such an event.
  • 81% of parents surveyed either believe teen dating violence is not an issue or admit they don’t
    know if it’s an issue.

If you are the mother or grandmother of a teen, and you haven't had a conversation about dating violence, now is a good time.

Geez: harsh, God, harsh!

"Hard Path": artist Fritz von Uhde
Today's readings are harsh. We've got Amos prophesying about God crushing His enemies into the ground, the Psalmist stating, "Hey, you who never think of God? Remember this!" and Jesus telling His followers to get moving and let the dead bury the dead - no time to hang around and mourn.

Clearly, these are not the sweetness-and-light (lite?) verses of the Good Book.

Actually, I think these passages are all about the same thing: staying focused on Truth. God is clear in that first, terrible and sad, reading from Amos: His people have sinned against Him. They've chosen to trample the weak underfoot, profaning the holy and generally forgetting everything they've ever known to be good, holy, just and true.

The Psalmist picks up the same theme: "Why do you recite my statutes, and profess my covenant with your mouth, Though you hate discipline and cast my words behind you?"

Finally, there is Jesus, who reminds us that following Him is a harsh and lonely path. We will have no place to lay our heads, no time to mourn our losses. There is work to be done.

Generally speaking, this is not what we want to hear. We'd prefer to hear, "Hey! Great job! No worries! Keep doing exactly what you're doing, and just coast along."

I have a nephew, Joe, who suffered a traumatic brain injury when he was 11 years old, in a car accident that also killed his mother. Joe still suffers memory loss, a limp, and limited use of one arm. While he's an adult now, he won't ever drive.

He has managed to graduate from college. He's also walking across the Unites States right now with a pro-life group.

Yes, he's walking across the continental United States. WALKING.

Because he fully understands the pressing need to call attention to life issues in our nation. Because even though he has some limitations, he knows his value, and the value of all human life. Because he knows that one must, under the harshest of circumstances, be faithful to God. He knows that Jesus sometimes calls us to get moving, leave everything behind and follow Him, in truth. Even if it means putting one limping foot in front of the other.

Modern Art Monday

"Finding of Moses"- artist He Qi

The Best Laid Plans...

About 20 years or so ago, I stopped giving up things for Lent. It's not that I didn't find it a worthy practice; I did. It's ...