Friday, July 31, 2009

A Moment of Silence

Our SALT practice was a little fractured last night. We weren't all present -- it's like missing half the family at the dinner table. Last night we were fewer in numbers when we "circled-up" for our opening prayer.

Before the first word of the prayer is ever uttered, I can feel us all take a deep breath and exhale slowly. It's our ritual step into the presence of the Lord and we take it together.

Last night that deep breath was followed by silence and more silence. The silence extended beyond what would be comfortable in most social settings.

That silence somehow renewed me.

Scott led the prayer last night, and his words brought our hearts and minds to the "right" place for last night's practice. But it was the silence that was... well, beautiful.
Maybe it's because in the silence we come closest to being one with God and with each other.

Made to be His Mother

I was thinking today about what the word "mother" means. I was struck with a profound thought: "mother" may be one of the few purely universal terms left.

I was fundamentally changed by motherhood.

In fact, prior to my first pregnancy, I was actually prochoice. Though I never would have considered an abortion, I believed in a woman's right to choose what happened to her body. While I still believe abortion is a WOMEN'S ISSUE, by day 17 of my first pregnancy I had a dramatic paradigm shift in my own life, and today I remain passionately -- albeit not freakishly -- prolife.

I know the day both of my boys were conceived. I know the price I paid physically so they could thrive. I know there is nothing more important for me to do than mother.

Eleven months after delivering Adam, I was taking my Feminist Philosophy class at St. Catherine's in St. Paul. We were -- of course -- discussing abortion.

The majority of women in that class and the lone male were positively pro-choice. They scared me into silence. They so vehemently believed in a woman's right to choose, they were in tears. I absolutely and willfully refused to make eye contact with anyone.

And then.

All eyes focused on me as my professor said, "Kari, you're a new mother. I'd like to hear your perspective."

With my eyes closed, I explained what it felt like to know there was a new life growing inside my body. "I knew he was growing there before I felt him move," I explained. "All I could do was lie on my back with my eyes closed and even then I couldn't stop the vomiting."

I was playing the piano at a pro-life event the first time I felt him move.

I watched the awe and wonder on my husband's face the first time he felt Adam move -- and again when he watched Adam's birth.

I fell in love with my husband -- or recognized love for what it was -- when I woke in the middle of the night to find him cradling my infant son in one arm, a plastic bowl in the other, and resting on a few bath towels (the only things left after a long night of vomitting and diarhhea).

I watched my son take nourishment from my body for the first twelve months of his life.

He was alive from the moment of conception, with a sophisticated system functioning well enough to take what it needed from me.

He deserved the protection of my body for the brief time it took to grow into viability.

He thrived on the nourishment my body provided in his first months of life.

I was made to be his mother.

I said it again, "I was made to be his mother."

When I opened my eyes, I could see that not many of those women could relate to what I was describing.

I'm not sure it matters.

I'm not sure we can mandate responsibility with sexuality or the sanctity of life.

All we can do -- especially as mothers of sons -- is teach respect for both life and the gift of sexuality.

I hope the mothers of daughters do the same.

Thursday, July 30, 2009

A Few of My Favorite Things

I'm not much of a "thing" person, and I don't think losing my things would leave me distraught. I think I'd be more annoyed by the hassle of replacing the necessities than grieving over the loss of possessions.

Still, there are a handful of things I really enjoy possessing.

I have three Bibles, each of which I used at a different stage in my life. I treasure each of them.

I have a notebook Joe and I shared through high school and his first year of college. Those letters we wrote back and forth are irreplaceable, but considering we still have each other, they're not priceless.

I have a blanket mom made for my boys, Adam's first pair of shoes, and Jakob's "My Mom" Haiku.

I have a post-it note Adam wrote when he discovered we were keeping Jakob. It's a sad face with a few tears. At the bottom of the note he wrote, "I hate you, mommy." He was three.

I have a picture of Haleigh and I in the Dominican and another one from New York. I love both of them -- and her.

I have my phone. My entire life is stored on my phone -- pictures, calendars, email accounts, blogs, music. Were I to lose that, I'd be a little... lost.

And I have two pianos.

My grand piano was a gift from Joe on my 32nd birthday. He searched for that piano for two years before getting a loan and making the purchase. Every time I touch my piano, I think of the effort and love he put into finding it for me. It makes my heart flutter just a little.

My second piano is the one I first learned to play. It's an old upright Baldwin. It reminds me a little of a honky tonk piano, and for some reason, The Entertainer sounds better on that little old piano than it does on the grand. I think the tinny sound of the Baldwin suits the piece a little better, while the more melodic, mellow grand sound isn't quite right.

Each of my favorite things is a powerful reminder of the real blessings in my life. Would my life be the same tomorrow if one of those things disappeared? Absolutely! When I have the real presence of the blessings in my life -- Christ, my husband, sons, Haleigh and other family, a full and busy life, music -- I don't really need things as reminders.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

We Can Prove God...

I've been watching a theological "conversation" started by my nephew in Facebook.

It ends the way almost every theological or philosophical debate ends: "hey buddy, what's good for you is good for you and what's good for me is good for me."

A Platonist to my core, I object --passionately -- to that response. Plato's body of work is based on the premise that the world we perceive is defective and full of error, but there is a more real and perfect realm of ideas (Truth, Beauty, Justice, etc.) that are eternal and changeless. Standards of beauty, for example, change in each age and by geography, but Beauty as an idea is eternal and changeless. In other words, we can debate standards of beauty, but not that Beauty exists. For centuries, Plato's thought was part of the Judeo-Christian west's consensus.

Plato would heartily and passionately disagree with the notion that we twenty-first century Americans each have our own notion of Truth or Beauty or Justice. He would say we're fooling ourselves into moral decline with our worship of individuality and autonomy. Christ would agree.

I was so intrigued by my first encounter with Plato I decided my second major would be in Philosophy. I studied all manner of philosophers, from Plato to Nietzsche, Kant to Aquinas. When it came time to write my senior thesis, I found myself studying the loss of consensus in the western world. It occurred, I theorized, in the Nazi gas chambers.

Having read enough historical literature, I knew that more than a race was exterminated in Nazi Germany.

Elie Wiesel writes in Night about seeing a seven-year-old boy hang in the concentration camp. For Wiesel, God died along with that boy. Wiesel's agonizing journey doesn't end in the night; he finds God again. As Nazi activities were revealed to the western world, people were horrified -- and countless people lost their faith. Many of them never again found God.

Nietzsche's famous and repetitive claim that God is dead isn't the sum and total of his thought. His point was that the death of God would lead to the loss of a sense of objective truth. Nietzsche predicted we would retain only our own perspectives with no possibility of consensus. He was correct.

So many things that were Good and True and Beautiful had come from Germany; consider the lengthy list of great German scientists, theologians, philosophers, artists, and musicians. How, I wondered, could all that rich history lead to the gas chamber? How will the struggle to make sense of a world in which races of people can be destroyed on the whim of a madman end? How can we find God again, and does it even matter if we can't?

I concluded then, and still believe that God matters.

So, can we prove God exists? St. Thomas Aquinas did it effectively in the Middle Ages. Posted below are his own words from the Summa Theologia, Reasons in Proof of the Existence of God, 1270.

Article II. Whether the existence of God is demonstrable:

Let us proceed to the second point. It is objected (1) that the existence of God is not demonstrable: that God's existence is an article of faith, and that articles of faith are not demonstrable, because the office of demonstration is to prove, but faith pertains (only) to things that are not to be proven, as is evident from the Epistle to the Hebrews, 11. Hence that God's existence is not demonstrable. Again, (2) that the subject matter of demonstration is that something exists, but in the case of God we cannot know what exists, but only what does not, as Damascenus says (Of the Orthodox Faith, I., 4.) Hence that we cannot demonstrate God's existence. Again, (3) that if God's existence is to be proved it must be from what He causes, and that what He effects is not sufficient for His supposed nature, since He is infinite, but the effects finite, and the finite is not proportional to the infinite. Since, therefore, a cause cannot be proved through an effect not proportional to itself, it is said that God's existence cannot be proved.

But against this argument the apostle says (Rom. I., 20), "The unseen things of God are visible through His manifest works." But this would not be so unless it were possible to demonstrate God's existence through His works. What ought to be understood concerning anything, is first of all, whether it exists. Conclusion. It is possible to demonstrate God's existence, although not a priori (by pure reason), yet a posteriori from some work of His more surely known to us.

In answer I must say that the proof is double. One is through the nature of a cause and is called propter quid: this is through the nature of preceding events simply. The other is through the nature of the effect, and is called quia, and is through the nature of preceding things as respects us. Since the effect is better known to us than the cause, we proceed from the effect to the knowledge of the cause. From any effect whatsoever it can be proved that a corresponding cause exists, if only the effects of it are sufficiently known to us, for since effects depend on causes, the effect being given, it is necessary that a preceding cause exists. Whence, that God exists, although this is not itself known to us, is provable through effects that are known to us.

To the first objection above, I reply, therefore, that God's existence, and those other things of this nature that can be known through natural reason concerning God, as is said in Rom. I., are not articles of faith, but preambles to these articles. So faith presupposes natural knowledge, so grace nature, and perfection a perfectible thing. Nothing prevents a thing that is in itself demonstrable and knowable, from being accepted as an article of faith by someone that does not accept the proof of it.

To the second objection, I reply that, since the cause is proven from the effect, one must use the effect in the place of a definition of the cause in demonstrating that the cause exists; and that this applies especially in the case of God, because for proving that anything exists, it is necessary to accept in this method what the name signifies, not however that anything exists, because the question what it is is secondary to the question whether it exists at all. The characteristics of God are drawn from His works as shall be shown hereafter, (Question XIII). Whence by proving that God exists through His works as shall be shown hereafter, (Question XIII). Whence by proving that God exists through His works, we are able by this very method to see what the name God signifies.

To the third objection, I reply that, although a perfect knowledge of the cause cannot be had from inadequate effects, yet that from any effect manifest to us it can be shown that a cause does exist, as has been said. And thus from the works of God His existence can be proved, although we cannot in this way know Him perfectly in accordance with His own essence.

Article III. Whether God exists.

Let us proceed to the third article. It is objected (1) that God does not exist, because if one of two contradictory things is infinite, the other will be totally destroyed; that it is implied in the name God that there is a certain infinite goodness: if then God existed, no evil would be found. But evil is found in the world; therefore it is objected that God does not exist. Again, that what can be accomplished through a less number of principles will not be accomplished through more. It is objected that all things that appear on the earth can be accounted for through other principles, without supposing that God exists, since what is natural can be traced to a natural principle, and what proceeds from a proposition can be traced to the human reason or will. Therefore that there is no necessity to suppose that God exists. But as against this note what is said of the person of God (Exod. III., 14) I am that I am. Conclusion. There must be found in the nature of things one first immovable Being, a primary cause, necessarily existing, not created; existing the most widely, good, even the best possible; the first ruler through the intellect, and the ultimate end of all things, which is God.

I answer that it can be proved in five ways that God exists.

The first and plainest is the method that proceeds from the point of view of motion. It is certain and in accord with experience, that things on earth undergo change. Now, everything that is moved is moved by something; nothing, indeed, is changed, except it is changed to something which it is in potentiality. Moreover, anything moves in accordance with something actually existing; change itself, is nothing else than to bring forth something from potentiality into actuality. Now, nothing can be brought from potentiality to actual existence except through something actually existing: thus heat in action, as fire, makes fire-wood, which is hot in potentiality, to be hot actually, and through this process, changes itself. The same thing cannot at the same time be actually and potentially the same thing, but only in regard to different things. What is actually hot cannot be at the same time potentially hot, but it is possible for it at the same time to be potentially cold. It is impossible, then, that anything should be both mover and the thing moved, in regard to the same thing and in the same way, or that it should move itself. Everything, therefore, is moved by something else. If, then, that by which it is moved, is also moved, this must be moved by something still different, and this, again, by something else. But this process cannot go on to infinity because there would not be any first mover, nor, because of this fact, anything else in motion, as the succeeding things would not move except because of what is moved by the first mover, just as a stick is not moved except through what is moved from the hand. Therefore it is necessary to go back to some first mover, which is itself moved by nothing---and this all men know as God.

The second proof is from the nature of the efficient cause. We find in our experience that there is a chain of causes: nor is it found possible for anything to be the efficient cause of itself, since it would have to exist before itself, which is impossible. Nor in the case of efficient causes can the chain go back indefinitely, because in all chains of efficient causes, the first is the cause of the middle, and these of the last, whether they be one or many. If the cause is removed, the effect is removed. Hence if there is not a first cause, there will not be a last, nor a middle. But if the chain were to go back infinitely, there would be no first cause, and thus no ultimate effect, nor middle causes, which is admittedly false. Hence we must presuppose some first efficient cause---which all call God.

The third proof is taken from the natures of the merely possible and necessary. We find that certain things either may or may not exist, since they are found to come into being and be destroyed, and in consequence potentially, either existent or non-existent. But it is impossible for all things that are of this character to exist eternally, because what may not exist, at length will not. If, then, all things were merely possible (mere accidents), eventually nothing among things would exist. If this is true, even now there would be nothing, because what does not exist, does not take its beginning except through something that does exist. If then nothing existed, it would be impossible for anything to begin, and there would now be nothing existing, which is admittedly false. Hence not all things are mere accidents, but there must be one necessarily existing being. Now every necessary thing either has a cause of its necessary existence, or has not. In the case of necessary things that have a cause for their necessary existence, the chain of causes cannot go back infinitely, just as not in the case of efficient causes, as proved. Hence there must be presupposed something necessarily existing through its own nature, not having a cause elsewhere but being itself the cause of the necessary existence of other things---which all call God.

The fourth proof arises from the degrees that are found in things. For there is found a greater and a less degree of goodness, truth, nobility, and the like. But more or less are terms spoken of various things as they approach in diverse ways toward something that is the greatest, just as in the case of hotter (more hot) which approaches nearer the greatest heat. There exists therefore something that is the truest, and best, and most noble, and in consequence, the greatest being. For what are the greatest truths are the greatest beings, as is said in the Metaphysics Bk. II. 2. What moreover is the greatest in its way, in another way is the cause of all things of its own kind (or genus); thus fire, which is the greatest heat, is the cause of all heat, as is said in the same book (cf. Plato and Aristotle). Therefore there exists something that is the cause of the existence of all things and of the goodness and of every perfection whatsoever---and this we call God.

The fifth proof arises from the ordering of things for we see that some things which lack reason, such as natural bodies, are operated in accordance with a plan. It appears from this that they are operated always or the more frequently in this same way the closer they follow what is the Highest; whence it is clear that they do not arrive at the result by chance but because of a purpose. The things, moreover, that do not have intelligence do not tend toward a result unless directed by some one knowing and intelligent; just as an arrow is sent by an archer. Therefore there is something intelligent by which all natural things are arranged in accordance with a plan---and this we call God.

In response to the first objection, then, I reply what Augustine says; that since God is entirely good, He would permit evil to exist in His works only if He were so good and omnipotent that He might bring forth good even from the evil. It therefore pertains to the infinite goodness of God that he permits evil to exist and from this brings forth good.

My reply to the second objection is that since nature is ordered in accordance with some defined purpose by the direction of some superior agent, those things that spring from nature must be dependent upon God, just as upon a first cause. Likewise, what springs from a proposition must be traceable to some higher cause which is not the human reason or will, because this is changeable and defective and everything changeable and liable to non-existence is dependent upon some unchangeable first principle that is necessarily self-existent as has been shown.

Brilliant man.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Me, the Cook

My mother was an awesome cook. She could pull a few cans out of the cupboard, meat from the freezer, and a few fresh ingredients and whip up a delicious dinner -- even the nights Staci and I would look in the cupboard and complain "there's nothing to eat!" Mom should have been the queen of semi-homemade instead of Sandra Lee.

I guess cooking isn't one of those hereditary things. When Joe and I first married, I didn't know the first thing about stocking shelves. Every time I'd want to try a recipe, I'd have to go the grocery store to buy every single ingredient on the list, and often many of the "tools" too. Needless to say, I didn't often try recipes.

Instead we ate a lot of grilled meat, baked potatoes, always with a canned veggie. In the winter when it was tougher to grill, we ate scrambled eggs, macaroni and cheese, chicken noodle soup, and any flavor Hamburger Helper. In retrospect, it's not hard to figure out why Adam doesn't care for food.

Gradually I discovered what we should keep on hand. My spice and tool collection grew. I got bored with boxes and cans. Even better, Jakob came to live at our house. Jakob savors his meals. For the first time, I lived with someone for whom food wasn't just fuel, but something to be relished. His favorite food as a toddler was green beans. He would keep stuffing them in his mouth until his cheeks were stuffed.

My first and best recipes were from mom's collection -- spaghetti, chili, tatertot hotdish, goulash. I kept making those dishes until discovering Joe doesn't like pasta or tomatoes. Of course, those dishes are on Jakob's list of favorites.

A decade ago (or so), I started watching the Food Network. My first loves were The Barefoot Contessa and Emeril -- neither of whom create overly simple dishes! I watched them all over the years -- Rachel Ray, Sandra Lee, Paula Deen -- and I fell deeply in love with creating beautiful, simple, and tasty food to nourish people I love.

I no longer blush when I call myself a "cook" but I never claim to be a baker. I cook. There's too much precision in baking for me to enjoy it.

Though I rarely use recipes anymore, when I do it's most often for new ideas. There's a downside: I have a hard time replicating favorite recipes. My spaghetti sauce is the perfect example. My little spaghetti connoisseur and I have a rating system based on how much he eats and his groaned "this is the best spaghetti ever!" comment. So far, I haven't regressed. It just keeps getting better and better. Or he's just really hungry.

My friend, Scott, told me he'd like a batch of my homemade stuffing for his birthday. He thought it was the best stuffing ever. The problem: I have no idea how I made the stuffing he ate. I was smart enough to go home that May night and write myself a post-it note:

I hope that's "recipe" enough to do the trick.

Saturday, July 25, 2009

When Santa Starts a Theological Debate...

Though I'm most often focused on the here-and-now, I've been wondering about heaven. I have no doubt about its existence; at the same time, I do not feel compelled to convince others it exists.
Grandpa Stuart was curious about heaven in the final days of his life.
Last June Grandpa received his lung cancer diagnosis and the prognosis was not good. He started receiving hospice services almost immediately. From diagnosis to death was exactly forty days. And Grandpa made an epic journey from non-believer to man of faith in those forty days.
I wasn't able to see him every day, but when I did, we prayed together. Those moments were somewhat surreal for me; I never thought during my younger years that Grandpa would pray with me. My favorite memories were when we prayed the "Our Father" and we'd take turns saying the lines.
Two days prior to his death, I knelt next to his bed and prayed the Rosary with my head resting on his hand. He lay struggling for breath, but mid-way through the prayer, he wrapped his arm around me. I don't remember who took the picture I've posted here, or even whether I knew someone else was in the room.
I know Christ was there. I think Grandpa knew too.
When I opened my eyes the sheet under my face was damp with tears I don't remember shedding. I watched Grandpa sleep for awhile and wondered what he would see in heaven. Who would be there waiting for him? Would he be able to hear and see again like when he was young? Would it even matter?
I cannot wrap my mind around the concept of heaven; still, I believe.
When Jakob first discovered that Santa Claus was not necessarily a living, breathing magician that visits everyone's home at Christmas, he was livid. He cried and wouldn't be consoled. "You lied to me!" was all he said. His fury lasted a few days. Needing some comfort, he spent time on my lap, but refused to talk to me.
In my own defense, I never lied to my kids about Santa Claus. Whenever they discussed the topic, I always said, "I believe there is magic in the world."
Epiphany Sunday we were on our way to church and I could tell he was tired, and probably more than a little irritated with me.Waiting to make a right on Hwy 25, I caught his eye.
"If there's no Santa," he said in a sad little voice, "How do I know there's a heaven."
There's all kinds of answers to that question.
All I can say, is if I had it to do over again, I would "do" Christmas just a little different.
Am I regretful? Not really. My son started a theological debate with me before he turned nine years old. He wants to know the Truth; his will be an examined and tested faith. I think he'll be all the stronger for it.

Friday, July 24, 2009

Remembering the A-Team

I loved "Howling Mad" Murdock from the A-Team.

In my favorite episode, he was incarcerated and banging on the bars of his cell. He apparently wanted a trash bag because he kept saying, "I want a trash bag! I want a trash bag!"

He was hilarious.

The Girls Are Back in Town...

I'm so happy to have my sister and niece back in town.

That's all.

The Mom in Me

My boys are... boys.

They smell and make messes.

But, they love me. They hug me and include me in their lives. At Mass, they hug me and kiss me IN PUBLIC. They like to share things with me (when I don't push) and talk to me about their lives.

And guess what?????

Tonight I received the following email:

"Kari. You taught your boys well--they both want to help out at VBS (vacation bible school). We're excited to have them help us out-- they are both so fun to have around..."

Yay! They're officially VOLUNTEERS!!!

I have TONS of hopes and dreams for my boys. At the top of the list is something about VOLUNTEERING.

They're happy to volunteer.

They're happy to be MEN of faith.

They're happy to share their love of Christ with others.


And I'm so thankful the Lord taught me how to be a mother.

Thursday, July 23, 2009

At the Altar

I attended a healing Mass once. I was glad to play the piano for the Mass, but wasn't a very willing participant in the healing thing.

I felt obliged to go stand before the altar and let the priest lay his hands on me. After all, the piano is in the front of the church and I would have felt awkward not going forward.

I've never forgotten the warmth and sense of well-being I felt in those moments at the altar. I've also never forgotten the words the priest shared in his homily.

"The altar," he said, "is a place to lay your troubles and failings. Christ's willing sacrifice of Himself for you is only effective if you give yourself -- flaws and all -- to Him."

I love the altar of the Lord. I wish I would remember to let my worries and stresses, failings and shortcomings, blessings and loves rest there.

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Joel Stein is WRONG

I read Joel Stein's article in TIME's July 27, 2009, issue.

Title? "Jesus Walks into a Bar: What's funny at Rick Warren's Saddleback Church? Poop jokes, of course."

His premise is that Christians are too uptight to be funny about anything besides... poop.

Mr. Stein you are WRONG.

Humor does not have to denigrate, degrade, or sink to foul language to make people laugh.

"Christians," he writes, "aren't funny because they tend to be literal-minded."

We do?

He adds: "they're sad about only having had sex with one person."

There are bigger, more important issues. And Joel Stein never addresses those bigger issues.

He assumes that good Christians only have one lover, never swear, and are perfect.

As far as I know, marriages struggle, people -- even some of my favorite priests -- cuss, and no one here on earth is perfect. I find things funny that are irreverent, cussing doesn't bother me, and there are all kinds and sorts of GOOD people in the world.

Joel Stein. You. Are. Wrong.

Monday, July 13, 2009

I'm Mad at McDonald's

McDonalds may have the best brewed iced tea in the world. I can't replicate it at home and haven't found a restaurant that matches theirs.

I love McDonald's iced tea, but only under specific circumstances.

First, I really like the 32-ounce tea for $1.00.

Second, I only like unsweetened tea.

Third, I prefer the sweatless styrofoam cup.

So. The problem.

I ordered the large unsweet tea.

I pulled up to the window and paid $1.59. The $1.00 promotion is only for 32-ounce SWEET tea or 32-ounce soda pop.

At the second window, I was handed a medium-size iced tea. "Boy!" I may have said with just a tinge of sarcasm, "I think I've been overcharged."

The next cup appearing out the service window was a 32-ounce drink. Having ordered my fair share of teas, I knew to check the sweetness factor before leaving the window. Sure enough, SWEET tea. "I ordered unsweetened tea."

The young, young man (with lots to learn about customer service) leaned out the window and said, "No, you didn't."

Thrusting my receipt gently and calmly toward the window while behaving like any mature 39-year-old woman, I said, "Yes, I most certainly did."

Guess what came out the window next?

A lovely 32-ounce unsweet tea in a styrofoam cup.

The tea dripped on my lap from a small hole in the bottom of the cup all the way to work and then dripped where I placed it on my desk.

I'm mad at McDonald's.

Friday, July 10, 2009

The Vengeance of the Lord

After serving as St Henry pastor in the '80s, Fr Harry went on to serve in other ways. He kept ties with Monticello though and is now the music director at the same church. Until recent years, he'd even say Mass from time to time.

A few years ago he was at the pulpit for a month of Sundays. I always loved how he could weave homilies that continued for weeks. He taught me to see the fragments of Gospel presented each Sunday as the life of Christ.

At that time we were hearing about the Sermon on the Mount. He'd talked about how revolutionary Christ's message of love was in Old Testament days. "People were scared. Christ words were revolutionary. Following Him was more than just marveling at His miracles. Christ called for change. He called for love in the face of hatred, joy in the face of doubt. He turned everything upside down. Even in today's society the message of love is tough to get."

Fr Harry invited us to close our eyes. He painted a picture of the day we each reach heaven and first experience the wonders there. It was a lovely, warm picture.

Then he said, "Now you look to your right and there beside you is your most bitter, lifelong enemy walking with you. Are you feeling love?"

That shook me.

First I was surprised: my most bitter enemy had a face. I hadn't been aware I knew someone I could define as "my most bitter enemy"!

Then I was mad: wasn't I entitled to some cosmic justice?? If not burn-in-the-seventh-level-of-hell cosmic justice, then why not at least a few centuries of meandering up the mountain of purgatory?? (Any Dantonians out there?)

Now I'm simply thankful for Grace.

My failures are between me and God. And God loves me enough to cast those failures as far as the east is from the west. I'm so blessed by that, I don't have time to worry anymore about where someone else is in their relationship with God. I can't find the energy to enshrine a most bitter enemy.

Whenever I encounter people who talk about the wrath of God or His vengeance, I find myself hoping they keep reading until they finish the Old Testament and make it to the New Testament--especially the part where Christ shares the Sermon on the Mount.

Thursday, July 9, 2009

For Whom the Post Appears

Subtitled: And Mama, It Ain't You

Today I discovered that the healing words I write have turned on me.

My mother told anyone who will listen that I've stolen vast amounts of money from her. She said I wrote that on the internet. My brother today asked what I've been doing with the money.


Not only can I not find where I said I stole money, I've never done it. In fact, the only time I took something that wasn't mine my mother marched me back in the store to return it. It was a spool of thread, I think.

The difference between her assertion that I stole and my assertion that I didn't? I can provide proof.


So, does that mean I stop writing?

I don't think so.

I don't write for my mother -- although I might write because of her and what she's done to me.

I write to heal. I write to share a story. I write to end a lifetime of shame and secrecy.

I can't stop writting when she tries to use my words against me.

My mother has always attempted to shame or bully me into doing things her way.

She'd do it physically if she were enraged. She'd push into my space, screaming or yelling about the topic of the day. She'd force me backward until I couldn't go any further, a malicious gleam in her eye.

If she were just mad or we were in public, she'd talk louder and louder until I complied with what she wanted to get her to stop whatever shameful things she was saying.

If we weren't physically together, she'd badmouth me to people I respect -- and probably to people I don't even know.

Nothing's changed for her.

Everything's changed for me.

All my life, I've heard my mother saying, "I can't deal with you. I'm going to leave. I won't be here when you wake up tomorrow." I dreaded waking up and finding her gone. What would we do without our mother, I often wondered. I begged her to stay, to not leave us. I prayed as hard as I could to be better, do better so she wouldn't go. As far as I know she never actually left.

After my boys were born we had a respite for awhile. She loved my babies beyond imagining and devoted herself to delighting them. Observing their interaction with her, I remember smiling with my whole body. I didn't know that it couldn't last. Her salvation needs to come from within her -- not from any outside source, no matter how dear that source.

One night a couple years ago, I was worried about her. Dad was out of town and I'd been trying to reach her all day. I went to her house on my way home, and she wouldn't answer the door. I went through the garage, concerned because of her health issues. I discovered her inside the house with a case of empty beer bottles. She was consummed by rage. I have no idea why. She was screaming and ranting and kept pushing me in the chest or shoulder with the phone until she forced me into the rocking chair. In that moment I wished with every part of me that she would go away.

When she finally left in the winter of last year, I was concerned and hoped she was safe. I tried to call her a couple times. I even checked a couple of sources I had to make sure she was okay.

Then I quit checking on her.

It slowly occurred to me that for the first time in my adult life, I was experiencing real peace.

It's okay to rest in that peace and give thanks for it.

Monday, July 6, 2009

There's No Place Like Home

Some thirty-odd hours after starting real labor with Adam I begged Joe to just take me home. I wanted to be home where I was safe and comfortable. Poor Joe just continued his steady stream of encouragement until Adam was finally born twelve hours later.

My mother left home eighteen months ago. She disappeared for a little more than three weeks before briefly resurfacing. Since that time she seems to be living the strangest of all strange lives.

I get glimpses of new life and often find myself wondering if she just wishes she could go home.

I wonder if she knows that safe and comfortable place she might remember as home no longer exists for any of us.

Thursday, July 2, 2009


So much for accounting.

I got to thinkin' today.

One of two things happen when I start to think: either someone ends up with a pile of work to do (myself not exempted) or I get annoyed by interruptions.

Today I'm annoyed by just about everything.

I wonder what that means.

Fill My Cup, Lord!

Richard Blanshard, finding inspiration in John 4:14, wrote a song we used during Lent last year as our seasonal theme song.

Today the melody keeps playing in my mind. It's distracting me from thus morning's accounting activities -- not my favorite way to spend any morning!

I thought maybe if I wrote the lyrics I'd find my focus.


Like the woman at the well I was seeking
For things that could not satisfy
And then I heard my Savior speaking:
"Draw from my well that never shall run dry!"

There are millions in this world who are craving
The pleasures earthly things afford;
But none can match the wondrous treasure
That I find in Jesus Christ my Lord!

Fill my cup, Lord, I lift it up, Lord!
Come and quench this thirsting of my soul;
Bread of heaven, feed me till I want no more
Fill my cup, fill it up and make me whole!

Yes. Fill my cup.

Wednesday, July 1, 2009

And Then There Was Grief...

Adam lost a dear friend yesterday.

His 17-year old friend rolled her car. She wasn't wearing her seatbelt and was ejected from the vehicle. She died.

Joe and I didn't know his friend. She was the friend of a cousin of a friend and their relationship developed and was conducted electronically. At first, I think, there was a little boy-girl flirting. Later it became the kind of friendship we all crave.

I asked Adam what he liked best about his friend. "She was always there for me, whether I was sad or mad or happy. I'd send her a message and she'd always, always respond."

He's lucky he knew her for the two years he did. He's lucky to have found that kind of friendship. He's lucky to have experienced her energetic and enthuiastic perspective, even from a distance.

Adam's first request was for our priest. I'm thankful he rests in his faith.

Still, he doesn't think it's fair that she's dead. Her family probably doesn't either. And they're right to feel that way; it's not fair or right or just. We can all agree.

Our agreement doesn't change facts.

Adam's lost someone with whom he shared his life. Her family and friends will encounter empty spaces she used to inhabit. Joe and I sense the loss of another piece of Adam's childhood.

So now we cope with varying degrees of loss.

Adam's grief is intense. It scares me. I don't know what to say and don't want to say the wrong thing. Most of the time we're just quiet. He lets me hold him a little. As I do, I can't help but think of the parents that can no longer hold their beautiful daughter while noticing how perfectly the son that grew in my body still fits in my arms.

We're so sad.