Monday, July 29, 2013

A Review and a Preview

 I don't want this blog to become simply a "Hey! I wrote a book! Buy it NOW SHAM WOW!" type of experience.  

However, I must give credit and acknowledgement to those bloggers who take the time to read and review The Book of Helen.  Yesterday, I had company visit, a friend I hadn't seen in 15 years, who spent the summer with her husband and two of her five children, biking across country to raise money for Mercy Housing. I am in awe of her family's faith and the way they are living it out.  It was good to see her and it made Sunday a day of refreshment, as I always find seeing friends to be a source of great strengthening and joy. 

So it wasn't until the evening that I had time to really take in the review by Larry D of Acts of the Apostasy, or Karina Fabian's splash page on Fabian Space.  Larry D gave an honest appraisal of a rookie season book and I agree, I could have delved into the details of the historical period more.   They weren't what interested me but I am willing to be more deliberate in my next book, to make sure I anchor more of the story of the book in the gravel and bronze and wood of the place, and let less of it be monopolized by a single character's point of view.  

Historical fiction must deal with the details, and not merely story, otherwise it is simply period stylized fantasy fiction.   Because the characters I lived with were mythic in origin, I did not in the creation of the world around them, focus too intensively on the sinew of the time, but I never want to pull the reader out of the story.  I want them to feast on the experience, and that means serving up the whole meal of the arc of the tale, so I'm hitting the books harder for the Book of Penelope and hoping Larry D will be a beta reader for the next tale so his eagle eye can catch any momentary time slips in language.   I also love his phrase, Greek chick lit, as well as his exposition about some of the deeper themes touched on in the course of the book.  I hoped The Book of Helen would be about more than Helen stories, and based on his review, I succeeded. 

Karina Fabian is an accomplished prolific writer of fantasy, sci-fi and humor/horror. She is a writing machine with a quick wit and powerful Catholic imagination.  I have read her novella Greater Treasures, and enjoyed it immensely.  Vern the dragon detective caught between two worlds is a very enjoyable creature as the narrator.  She used my profile and synopsis to give a fellow Museitup author a push before publication.  Thank you.  

Both writers have lives outside of the internet (shocking I know), and I am grateful to each for giving of their time and space on the internet, to provide my book a little push in publicity and some thoughtful analysis before its slated publishing date of August 9th.  SHAM WOW SHERRY signing off.  

Saturday, July 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes, One Day Late

1.  The past two weeks have been....eventful.  On Thursday of last week, our septic tank began acting up, resulting in an emergency call to Roto-rooter.  Without going into detail, I was happy to fork over the equivalent of two car payments to eliminate the problem.

2. On that Saturday, there was a flash flood resulting in the need to do immediate triage to the home.  Two of the middles were dispatched to keep an eye on everyone younger (they were all in bed) and to report if there was a problem.  Two teens were in the basement, catching water in bins, dumping it down the shower drain and putting down towels.  My 20 year old was in the pit where the water had filled up, bailing.  My three days from being 14 year old and I rotated carrying away buckets from the pit, and  my husband lugged the giant Recycling bin we would fill up away to empty.  It was an efficient system considering we were in pitch black conditions, there was lightning, and the pit was so full, my 5'7'' son could float.  Not fun.

3.  Tuesday my son turned 14! We celebrated at the pool until it closed.

4.  Wednesday I drove Peter to the airport for a two week stay at his grandparents.  I know he was excited!
5.  Friday.  I was so looking forward to Friday.  It would be the last day of summer school, so our schedules would calm down.   My 6 year old was on the playground at the school.  She fell off the monkey bars.  This is the fifth injury from monkey bars in my family.  I have issued a family wide ban on monkey bars that is to be enforced in perpetuity.  

It happened at noon. She cried a bit, she got in the car.  She was quiet, but she IS quiet by nature.  We got her sister from her high school and went home to eat lunch. She finishes and goes to watch a movie with her sisters.  My 11 year old  pops a wire on her braces.  We call the orthodontist who can see her if I can get to them in the next 40 minutes. (Before 2)  Back in the car and across town, we get her taken care of and return home.  It took five minutes!  I'm thinking, the day is still salvageable.  There are two chickens to roast...I am mentally planning dinner.  I get in the house.  Regina is lying on the couch.  She is still.  The Mom radar goes up.  "Too still." my head says.  I ask her what is wrong.  "My arm still hurts." We had focused on her back where there were scrapes and she said her elbow hurt when we first examined her at the school but she could move it, wiggle her fingers, there was no swelling.  I thought her stillness was due to having the wind knocked out of her.  The teacher saw everything and there were collaborative reports that she landed on her back.  It had just happened when I pulled up for pick up.

Upon second examination, I discover it is more serious.  What she wouldn't do, is lift her arm up above as if to raise her hand.  Off at 3 o'clock we go to the pediatrician's.  Which means we go to the radiologist for x-rays.  Which leads to a discovery.  When the radiologist GIVES YOU THE PICTURES, it means it's broken.   Back to the doctor's where the nurse explains this silent protocol.  They send me to the emergency room.  Thankfully these three offices are adjacent to each other, or it would have been a cosmic version of the shell game with me and my daughter as the ball.   They gave her some Motrin and a sling.  It cannot be cast because the break is high.  The orthopedic pediatrician happened to be there and came in to look at the x-rays and explain, she'd be fine in four weeks, and have forgotten she broke her arm in two and to make an appointment for next week.   I fretted and worried except she was in good spirits. That may have been the cherry Popsicle talking.   We got in the car to go home.  I flipped on the radio.  My daughter began singing along.  Really.  She just broke her arm and here she is, belting out Pink.
"We're not broken, we're bent...and we can learn to love again!" she's warbling with a full heart.  Yes, I felt awe and tears at her matter of fact spirit.

When we got home, her 17 year old sister came out.  "Regina??? You broke your arm?  And you didn't even cry?  That's hard core."  She obtained instant celebrity status in the family, complete with homemade ice cream, drawings and a my little pony marathon for the movie selection that evening.

6.  Marcel LeJeune wrote a great post that deserves notice. He discusses the social phenomena of FOMO.  FOMO (Fear of missing out), is part of what drives YOLO.  If You only live once, every second counts.  But how?  And more importantly Why?  FOMO is driven by the fear that somehow, we are letting life slip by without experiencing it.  The reality is FOMO and YOLO are both ways of spending life without turning it outside of one's self.  FOMO and YOLO never get you to the why the seconds count or the how, they only focus on how important it is to be "Living" and "Not missing out."
    Both are variants (external and internal) of the same haunting fear that life lacks meaning unless it is ascribable in a status update or twitter instantly recognizable to others as innately worthy.  If every experience in life is not hyper charged with meaning and import, not jam packed with euphoria or coolness, it is not a day seized. This is not living, it is hyperventilating on life, mistaking only the roller coaster highs as being life worthy, and not recognizing the steady rhythm of every day and the slower moments have infinite beauty and worth as well.  It is a pernicious addiction to feeling that will lead to greater and greater risks and fewer pay offs and eventual despair as all of life not spent red bulling the world, will seem as if it is a waste, and the need for stimulation will become a quest unto itself that never satisfies, because the epic feelings based on experiences (not people) cannot last.

7.   In final thoughts on Friday, I did also make it to confession.  My 11 year old at the end of it all said, "Wow Mom, you really seized the day."  I countered.  "I think the day seized me."  We laughed.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

A Review!

Cheryl over at The Book Connection graciously agreed to review the first chapter of my book.  I hope you will go over and give a read.  Having done book reviews briefly, and now only very occasionally, I appreciate that it takes a lot of time to review anything. Reading for enjoyment is one thing. Reading for someone else is another.  It's a process that requires attentive reading and time, and then reviewing takes additional thought and work to craft a fair assessment of the work.  Stamping your own opinion on a book affects your reputation and friendship, the trust your (blog) readers have in you of your ideas about things.  It is an endorsement, and thus requires some degree of risk on the part of reviewers, that their readers will trust their referral. 

So I am grateful to all those who sink in the time to review The Book of Helen, and for their words.  Thank you.

Click here to see Cheryl's thoughts on the first chapter.  I'm still tripping the happy dance.  "She liked it! She liked it!" 

Wednesday, July 24, 2013

You Might Be a Catholic if...

Everyone knows You Might Be a Redneck from Jeff Foxworthy, today, we'll do a variant, "You Might Be a Catholic..if"  Leave your own at the end. 

25.  If you say "And with your spirit." without having to remember now.
24.  Yesterday you were humming Copa Cabanana.
23.  You've been accused in com boxes regarding political issues of being both a conservative and a liberal, often on the same site. 
22.  There is always something scheduled on Sunday.
21.  You don't think the Rosary is too long. 
20.  Your children have names that are not directions or places, feelings or food.
19.  There are more than 6 stick figure smiley figures on the back of your car, and there are more people than pets. 
18.  You view all sacraments as Sacraments, not Church flavored variants of State licences.
17.   Lumen on your Kindle.
16.  Your understanding of God doesn't always allow you to agree with your political party.   
15.  The Day after Thanksgiving, you start hunting the stores for three purple and one pink candle.
14.  Your DVD collection includes Rudy, LOTR series, Babette's Feast, The Song of Bernadette, A Lion in Winter, Miracles and The Way.
13.  You didn't know there were other colleges than Notre Dame until you started looking at colleges. 
12.  Have radio dial set to EWTN and know the cable channel.
11.  Before kids come asking you to help find their shoes, they state, "Yes, I prayed to Saint Anthony."
10.  There is a Pro-Life Bumper sticker on the car. 
9.  There are at least two prayer cards and a rosary inside your purse.
8. Your kids know the mass times. 
7.  Have eaten a Filet-o-Fish.
6.  There has been at least one heated discussion amongst siblings about taking all the good saints names when the subject of confirmation comes up.
5. The woman in charge of altar serving always puts your kids on the holiday rotation at the early mass. 
4.  You knew it was NFP awareness week before it was NFP awareness week.
3.  Have a favorite title for the Blessed Mother, mine is Undoer of knots. 
2.  You don't aspire to be good, you aspire to be a saint.
1. You know you're a sinner, and there's a sacrament for that. 

Lawn Chair Catechism


The seeker is actively seeking Jesus Christ.  He is not yet following Him, but he’s considering it.  When he makes the decision to drop his net and follow Jesus, he becomes a disciple.
We have found it useful to think of the two thresholds of seeking and intentional discipleship as a whole, as well as considering them as two separate stages.  What both thresholds have in common is that they are active rather than essentially passive . . .Read the rest over at

I think I missed a week.  However the questions this week struck me deeply in part because of a nudged truth.

Here are the questions:
In your own faith:
  • Are you ready, spiritually, to acknowledge that certain leaders in your parish or diocese may not yet be disciples of Jesus?  I know many wonderful people in our parish, but would not be ready to state who is not a disciple of Jesus for multiple reasons.  1) I do not know their faith stories and 2) I am not a person who could/would render that sort of judgment.  Here, it seems the person I should be most concerned with developing into a disciple, is myself and those in my family.  To me, the result would be, others get pulled deeper in, so I guess the answer would be no.  I am not ready to acknowledge such a reality, not because it doesn't exist, but because I am not sure that is my job/vocation within the Parish.
  • Are you prepared to treat those persons graciously?  To let go of past hurts?  To respect them as they make their journey to discipleship?  What I am willing to do, is pray for my parish, and for those I know, peripherally and personally, in positions of authority  and otherwise, as all of us try to make this journey to become true disciples, whether we have yet to take the first real deliberate step, have stopped moving, or are struggling with going backwards, and to trust that being an authentic witness, and working with the Holy Spirit, we will have what within us that is broken be healed, and be pulled toward more authentic following of Jesus.
In your parish:
  • What is the spiritual atmosphere in your parish?  Tired.  Busy. We are a parish of Marthas.  We do everything. We do all the time. There are 11 masses, there are three different languages, there is a 6 day a week soup kitchen, a pantry that gives out groceries, a school, the school is also the Parish Hall and it is open from 7 in the morning until 9 every single day.  We have adoration, but few know of it, and there is a code to get into the room, so impulsive visits to the Blessed Sacrament are difficult.  There is mass and confession 6 days a week.  There is a lot of good. A lot of good, both out of habit and genuine thirst to do what is holy, but there is also a weariness that is tangible.  At first I thought it was the economy, but to me, is a sense that we never merely are, we always are doing.  Again, I may be projecting.
  • Have you noticed any change over the past several years?  Less zeal.  Less energy. Everyone is worn.  We have fewer volunteers.  Our Parish is divided by language.  There are moments of great hope, like the Parish Picnic was a bridge builder, but there need to be more of them.  
  • If God were to ask you to mentor a small group of seeking and new disciples in your parish, would you be ready to accept that task?  Here is the question that struck me hardest. I am not sure.  (That's a rare thing for me to say, I love volunteering, I love people, I love writing/thinking about my faith and sharing it).  However that puts the focus on ME.  And that's something that I know to be a problem.  Great talker, lousy listener.  Not sure I would be a good mentor, because my natural tendency to jump in and explain or talk or share, would crowd others out.  For me to say, I'm not sure is huge.  I can't tell if it is a sign of spiritual growth in acknowledging a fault, or a push from the Holy Spirit to sublimate myself should the situation arise.  I know whenever I am asked to do anything, the first impulse is "Yes."  However, I recently began saying "No." and oddly, the world didn't end, but I did mourn that saying "no." but also know, that mourning was in part ego wishing it could have been the one doing.    
Then I went back and reread the question. And this was my honest response.  If God asks, I would say yes.  

 There is just something in me that always wants to say yes but it does get crowded by ego and my life has been one of passive zeal, if God presented it to me, I went at it. I am the equivalent of God's puppy. You want me to come? I'll come. Yes! Yes! Yes! Yes! You want me to come. Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah! Yeah!  Wait....what are we doing?  Great!  Not very reflective. The key difference, if I would be a disciple, is the active willing it.  I'm just not sure what that means yet in terms of action, as I've almost always simply responded.   

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Hey! I'm Excited because That was Fun!

There's a saying, "Act like you've been there." I've never liked that phrase.  To me, acting as if what is extraordinary is a walk in the park is a joy robber of what makes life so much fun.  So I'm bouncing up in down in my head, delighted to tell you about my first ever podcast. 

Here's the link:

Eat Sleep

It's the premier round robin with Adam Scull (host), and Roy Griffis and me discussing and deconstructing historical fiction.  

I hope you enjoy it, that you let Adam know if you liked it, maybe check out Roy's book, By the Hands of Men, and if you're a writer, consider taking the podcast plunge.  It was a lot of fun and Adam does a great job of walking you through the process and asking interesting questions to keep the ideas flowing.  

I'm not acting like I've been there before.  I'm acting like that rocked, I want to go there again.

Friday, July 19, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Blogging may have been light, but writing has not been.  This week The Book of Penelope got an outline. (Ye Gads!)  She also got two parallel themes.  There are index cards with semi-legible writing on them outlining the journey of the Odyssey with the simultaneous "Meanwhile back at the ranch" plot lines.  She grew from 25k to 31.7 in a week. 

2.  Writing may have been heavy but I'm not.  I've enlisted my second daughter as a personal trainer. She is ruthless. She is motivated, and she gets to boss me around.  I've done 600 more sit ups than I have since I took consecutive years of gym. 

3.   Hello, I'm your mother and I'll be driving you today.  This week we started summer school and so I've been dropping Paul off at one school, Regina off at another, and of course, both start at the same time.  Why oh why have I not received the gift of bi location?

4.  It's less than a week from another birthday.  My son turns 14.  It's funny. When I gave him a sheet of paper and a pen and said, "What do you want?" he drew a blank and wrote chocolate chip cookie dough.  I have some ideas and I'm sure he'll think of some before long, but it was neat that he felt at home enough to simply not have a known heart's desire that he lacked. 

5.  This week, we also ventured into the great unknown, podcasting. Sometimes I get motor mouthed, and the desire to use metaphor to illustrate effect is a favorite tool of mine.  I do wish I'd been a touch more reflective and choosy with my words but for a first try, they liked it.  I'll post it here when it is done being edited.  

6.   Puns.  The other night, we were having dinner and started fruit punning. I can't remember how my daughter got durian to work but we did orange, kiwi, dragon, apple, grape, quince, apricot, cherry, berry, and banana. I do remember my son complaining about not being able to think of some choice ones. He was massaging words to craft one around star fruit.  I told him I was surprised it had stumped him. I'd thought he would be my star fruit punner.  Then I ran out of the room and called it a day. 

7.  Today, my two year old was playing with dolls. She placed the baby in a high chair and went back to the other room.  She brought back a math computer my older daughter owns for multiplication drills.  She opened it up like a laptop, patted the baby doll's head and started typing.  It might be time to put the laptop away. 

Tuesday, July 16, 2013

Things I'd Tell Myself Before I Started Writing

10. I wish you read everything you read with more than half a mind on finishing. 

9. Outline. It's okay to change the outline, but honestly, outline.

8.  Rewrite and surrender your heart. It doesn't matter if it is pure poetry if it doesn't fit or drags the plot. 

7.  Know how your character would get ready in the morning, what they would do first, what they would wear, what they would eat, what they would hate.  Also how they would get ready for bed, if you can go through the ordinary in character, you can place your character anywhere and let them behave in a consistent manner. 

6. Just because it's beautiful, doesn't mean it reads. 


4. Research. No matter how much you've read, you're not an expert or a scholar, you're at best, a rookie who has made it through the first half of the season and knows just enough to be foolish but not know it. 

3.  Don't talk about the book or the scene until after you write it.

2.  Keep a book for reading and a notebook and pen for writing plus post-its on your person at all times.

1.  Write legibly.  Every time.  Even when you think you'll remember.  

Saturday, July 13, 2013

When I'm 64 or how about even When I'm 47

I  have a goal.  It's not impossible, but it will require work on my part.

I dream of being as spry and fired alive as Paul McCartney is at 71.  The man sang and played and conversed with the audience of 40 thousand plus for almost three hours without a real break, not more than 3-5 minutes off stage tops during the course of the whole show.  He sang, he shared, he made jokes, he told stories and played the heart out of a piano and at least 7 guitars plus a George Harrison's ukulele. He seemed to grow younger and lighter as the evening wore on, singing favorites like Hey Jude and Let it Be and Ob-la-di, Ob-la-dah, and rocking out Band on the Run and a fiery Live and Let Die.  

Honestly, I always liked Paul, but this topped my expectations of a concert experience when I'm in a upper section of a baseball park.  I've had closer encounters with performers that felt less emotionally connected and intimate.  Half way through, it struck me, this is a master playing.  This man has been performing and making music for 50 years, and his experience, his pacing, his show revealed the difference between having a hit and rocking on the energy of the crowd and knowing how to bring the audience along with you.  

Marc bought us the tickets after he played "Birthday." for my 47th on the i-pad.   I have fond memories of that song from my brother blasting it on my 24th, the year I got married, to wake me up.  

The concert was a homage to friends and ghosts, performers and friends, celebrities and family that he still wanted to hold onto, and to remind us to remember.  The family photos and footage of his earlier years were especially poignant.   This was Paul's show. 

What I didn't expect, was for his songs to trigger a memory journey for me.  "Let it Be" was the song played on the organ at the end of my Uncle Tommy's funeral.  I could immediately smell the nicotine that always accompanied my dad's oldest brother.   Ob-la-di, Ob-la-dah had multiple connections, from the show "Life Goes On," to my son Paul, to a cassette of songs my then boyfriend made for me when I went to Europe, and sitting in my parents living room with my brothers and a wooden guitar, a toy piano and a drum set made of an oatmeal carton and pots pretending to be three of the four Beatles.   Then there was Hey Jude, and that brought memories of my parents and their friends singing along in that same living room and us playing the record Jesus Christ Superstar to death one summer. 

My one complaint was occasionally the art was a bit too trippy, like when Paul did the silly "All together Now" sing-a-long.  The little figurines on the screen looked like Veggie tales on acid.  Who knows? They might have been.

Sir Paul could have called it quits after two hours, he'd played beautifully, he'd done a ton of favorites and had a show stopping finale.  However this is Paul, formerly of the Beatles.  He came out for two encores.  Regrettably, we had to leave during the second one, as our garage closed at 12 and it was 11:45.  To get home, we split up, Marc taking a cab and me the metro. He won, but I arrived at 12:06.  If Marc had not made it, the evening would have been dramatic, as the metro stops also at 12, meaning once I got off, I was stuck until morning. 

But it all worked out, and today, Paul is preparing to pack up and go onto his next stop in Indianapolis.  One last bit from the concert.  Someone in the expensive floor seats had a sign, "THIS IS THE BEST PRESENT I EVER GAVE MYSELF" and I have to say, it was a pretty awesome present simply  to receive as well. 

Thanks Marc.

Love, Sherry

Friday, July 12, 2013

Boiled Water

Today, one of my teenagers was having a hard day.  One of THOSE sorts of days.  He also was making a late lunch of macaroni and cheese.  He'd set up a pot and started the water, but not before engaging in a bit of sniping at two different siblings, reducing both to tears and making his mother quite annoyed. 

Talking now seldom generates any response worth noting.  I've shown him scripture as a means of illustrating that this problem of needing to have a well trained tongue is something people have struggled with since the beginning.  I've tried separating him, giving back exactly what is given, (that fails majorly), and promises of major chores or punishment for continued backtalk and insults of his siblings.  Yet I know within him is a reverent soul, a generous soul, the first to give to the homeless, to buy a treat for his younger sister.  He's also the most prayerful I've ever seen serve mass, a man with great humor is growing within, he just is as of yet, not fully capable of regulating his thoughts, his words or his deeds.  He is disciplined, he is quiet, he is loud, he is silly, he is competitive, he is courageous, he is a loner who is lonely.  It is a delicate and difficult process, this raising a human being to become a man.  I know his many fine qualities and I know his faults and regrettably, sometimes in the course of parenting, he reveals mine.

After he stormed off insisting on the discussion staying only on the particular incident whereas I was seeking to get him to see a larger pattern, I noticed his pot was boiling over.  I added a dash of salt and then the pasta and set the timer and waited for him to return.   A fleeting prayer not to lose my temper caused me to visualize dashing all my frustrations and even seemingly righteous wrath at his callous responses to me and MY children at Christ's nailed feet.  I knew I was part of the problem, I wasn't quite yet ready to own it.  I too wanted to point to the particulars when Christ was pointing to the larger pattern. 

"Thanks for starting my lunch." he said. It was a teen version of an apology and I knew it. 
"You're welcome.  You know, sometimes, a little thing can cause something bigger to boil over.  It just takes the right amount of heat." 

He nodded.  "Are we talking about macaroni and cheese?"

"We could be.  But sometimes it takes a lot of heat and even boiling over to make something that is hard and impossible into something warm and softer." 

We talked about how bad moods are contagious, how they destroy this place, this family, how they prevent the family from being what it should be, a source of hope and health and warmth and comfort, as well as structure, discipline, guidance and patience.  Bad moods and insults tear down the place, the people that should be your source of hearth and home and love.  No one should have to be on guard in their own house against a barbed tongue or a wrathful spirit, not from a parent or a child, and being a teen or a parent of a teen is not an excuse.  I needed to become softer too. 

He nodded again as I handed him his lunch.  "I love you son."  "Sorry Mom."  and he sat down to eat.  

I can only become softer and warmer by being thrown in the hot water with a touch of salt. Mental note to keep pasta in the house until adolescence passes over, and maybe learn not to be so stubborn and stiff necked myself too. 

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism (I know, back to back)

This week, for discussion at, we are discussing initial curiosity, which is a call of the soul to the Creator, when the soul wakes up to God, and begins to grasp out, desiring to understand and to know Him, more than senses and intellect and experience combined have revealed absent active pursuit. 

In your own faith:
  • Can you remember when you became “curious” about the faith – whether as a convert, revert, or cradle Catholic just waking up to mature discipleship?
  • How would you explain the difference between an active and passive faith?
I know myself in particular, I am constantly being reminded of my appalling dearth of curiosity. But we're supposed to be drawn in deeper, to become curiouser and curiouser when it comes to fathoming the infinite mystery that is God.  

Thus I can state, I grow in fitful and sometimes manic spurts of fervent curiosity, followed by exhausted overwhelmed slack.    At the start the Year of Faith, I was doing the daily rosary, reading a psalm a day, reading the daily readings and then it got to be too much, and like a child made to read something beyond her comprehension, I shut down and fell away to doing nothing.  Then, I got pushed to start again.  I am a lurching runner in this faith marathon, who walks and sometimes just stands, but hasn't quit trying to push through all of it.  

Seven years ago, when I started writing in earnest, I created a file on my computer, the Catholic Apologist Education file, and began collecting articles I liked, websites, and began seeking to know more, to read more, to actually pick up books on faith.  Before then, I admit, I allowed my Catholicism to be formed purely by experience and the senses, but not the intellect.  

So I would argue, an active faith uses everything we have, whereas a passive one allows some part of the mind, body or heart to sleep, so that the soul stays less aware, is less likely to be seized by the words of God and thus called to leap in some fashion, into deeper relationship.   We are always in danger of falling asleep (even the apostles did this on serious occasions), and so Jesus even says, "Stay awake!"  I would also say, the Holy Spirit uses whatever we give Him, to try and wake the whole of us.   So if we are active in the mind in our pursuits of God, He will bring us people, so that we may know Him better.  If we are active in the body in our pursuit of God, He will push us toward prayer.  If we are fervent in prayer, He will push us toward contemplation.  Whatever we are doing, is baseline, God will always draw us to deeper waters, because He longs for us to know Him infinitely. 

How do we keep from slumbering in our relationship with God? Read.  Pray.  Listen.  Act.  Repeat.

An active faith is deliberate, and thus adult.  A passive faith is organic and led only, which eventually leads to not seeking to be led, and then to not following, and then not faith.   

Monday, July 8, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism

In chapter five we explore the first threshold, “Initial Trust."

 This is not the same as an active, personal faith.  It is a positive association with the Church that makes it possible to move closer to God.  It could be a Catholic friend, a good experience with a Catholic school or hospital, or maybe even a positive image of the faith portrayed in a movie or book:
The first task of evangelization is to find out if a bridge of trust already exists.
. . . Many don’t trust God or the Church, by they do trust a Christian in their life.  Maybe they trust you.  You may be the bridge that will one day lead them to a life-changing encounter with Christ.

For discussion: Join the conversation over at!

In your own faith:
  • How was the bridge of trust built for you?
  • Who are the people who helped you to come as far as you have in your personal journey?
  • Have you ever been that link of trust for another person?
For me, the bridge of trust in God was built prayer by prayer, mass by mass, person by person. That sounds a bit trite but it is how faith has grown in me.   People think because I have ten children, I always had a full Catholic life, but to be Catholic is to constantly recognize that your faith life is not full, that it is a drop in the ocean, that it will never be full, that we will never have "made it."  I can see where I have gone from a casual Catholic 2-3 mass or 1-2 if the month was a more conscious Catholic --where the mass became a praying Catholic....where daily prayer became necessary, if not always pious, good or now as I am casting about, holding fast and waiting for firm direction as to what we are to do and the grace to do it.   This growth in devotion has seasoned over years and has ebbs and flows and miracles and times of extreme zeal and of fitful forgetfulness. 

When have I been a bridge of trust to others?   When I have been approached to pray. It is always an honor and a privilege to be asked to pray, and I am always moved, particularly when I am asked by people who do not know me well, and it has happened.  It is a tremendous thing that causes me to tremble, when I am asked.  I take it seriously because it is a charge, and a push both from the person and the Holy Spirit, to deepen my own relationship with God while petitioning for someone else.  

People who have helped me on my journey...aside from my husband, parents and children, there have been people who were pushers to move me to the next level of devotion, to move me out of my comfort zone, to make my "aren't I doing enough?" whiny soul move. God perpetually "moves my cheese."

To begin:  I prayed before going to college, that I would meet someone who loved me for me.  On the third day, I met the man who would become my husband.  I'd also prayed to have lots of people who loved me.  Ten kids constitutes a lot.   Some times I suddenly am struck, this prayer, this prayer you prayed has been answered. The thought comes like lightning, random and yet illuminating and I am dumbstruck in the moment. I knew my prayer was answered with the explanation point that was my daughter Anna, the tenth.  I could hear God laughing, answering, "I will give you all you ask and more besides."  Initial trust led to more intimate trust. 

The story arc continues.  When my oldest son was set to go to kindergarten, we couldn't get into the school, and I was told to get involved in the parish if this was my desire.  Trusting this advice, I signed up. The church came back and asked me to volunteer for a three year commitment of once a week meetings.  Somehow, I impulsively took a deep breath and agreed.  We trusted, and as I was pulled deeper in, my family followed.  We kept trusting as God gave us our fourth and then...when we got to five children, I was introduced to Father Dan.  He pulled us deeper in with requiring more regular prayer out of me, he pulled us to making it to mass every week.  Paul and his needs pushed us further still. 

Now we are here, we are going to mass, we are praying, and I know we're at one of those "Now what?" type moments of our faith, when we don't know how we're going to keep doing this but we're still doing this, and even writing this has made me realize, we're needing someone to help direct us deeper in, to help make the next part of our faith journey, more deliberate.  But to move forward, will once again require on our part, initial trust. 

Friday, July 5, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  Happy Birthday to Me.  It's been a good week, complete with a completely indulgent trip to the bookstore with 120$ in gift cards to run amok spending.  Ahhhh.  A brand new stack of books on the dresser to read.  I feel sooooo much better, I'll go work on reading the book I already started, The Life of Pi.   Then I can tackle Dad is Fat, The Writing Life, Elegance of a Hedgehog, the latest by Terry Pratchett and The Night Circus. 

2.  Prayers for a friend's child who isn't a child, but who suffered a horrible accident this week and today, will lose his leg as  a result.  This is a hard thing for anyone to face, so I ask for all of you to pray for this young man, his sister, his parents, his friends, as they help him through this trial that will affect the rest of his life.   The family has the gift of faith, and they need their friends, both known and unknown, to pray for his healing.

3.  Today, I heard a young man playing a Cello as we walked from the bookstore, it is like the difference between a loaf of French bread you buy in a supermarket, and a loaf you find waiting for you at a bakery.  We forget in this age of saturated stimulation, the beauty of clean clear notes that are simply themselves.  May have to go plink on the piano a bit.  Then I will be reminded that all art is hard until it is easy. 

4. My daughter came in from a walk, she'd caught a boxer turtle.  Thus I spent the morning explaining why we were not going to own a reptile. My son caught some fireflies.  We could not keep them either.  I may have to stop encouraging them to go outside. 

5.  She can't read, but she knows the important things.   I had fallen asleep reading on the couch that always makes anyone who lies down on it fall asleep. She woke me by placing a can of cake frosting on my chest and saying, "Mommy?  I like chocolate."   I have only myself to blame. 

6. Yesterday, to celebrate the 4th of July, I put on some Kate Smith.  Didn't know God Bless America was arranged by George Gershwin.  My younger children gathered around just to listen, they got that this was something special. 

7.  Then I hit them with John Phillips Sousa, and I had a pantomime band going for an hour while we fixed dinner, listening to She's a Grand Old Flag, Stars and Stripes and the Washington Post. 

We topped it with barbecue, fireworks, looking for fireflies and constellations.  All in all, a perfect 4th of July.  I'd thought about writing a post about what we need to consider, discuss, fight and address in this country, but the 4th is a day for counting our blessings, all the rest of it can be tabled for another day, not as a means of ignoring our problems, but as a recognition that we are still, the freest people in the world, with the greatest opportunity, and a proud tradition of overcoming even our own worst impulses after trials. 

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Lawn Chair Catechism

It can be hard to settle our minds on the idea of “cooperating with grace”.  How would you explain the Catholic doctrine on salvation to others?

It is easier to see in my life where I have in the past "cooperated with grace" than to explain how I might be doing it in the present.  At present, I am keenly aware of all the moments when I am NOT cooperating with grace, by omission, or by poor stewardship of time, or by refusing to do the more because I fear the labor will be more than I can bear.  I can know I cooperated with God's grace for example in Paul's existence, in the days leading up to Faith's birth, in all of my pregnancies. Maybe not immediately, maybe not with even a scintilla of the gentleness of Mary, but I came haltingly, grumbling, grousing, shuffling like a sulky child eventually to do God's will.  Grace is God's work in me to which I respond.  The kid who does what the father asks, even if initially he says no, is doing the Father's will.  I am that kid.  

What struck me in this chapter of Sherry Wendell's Forming Intentional Disciples, is that to be a disciple is to will to follow Christ, to put your hand to the plow and not look back.  You have to will to do the work. It is no longer an organic process you fall into, it is a deliberative choice to be set apart, and to act.  I am immediately struck with "How?" and "Where" and "What?" I don't know what God wants. He hasn't briefed me.  Then I am struck again.  Have I asked?  Am I listening to His answer?  I know I will know if I ask.  Am I afraid to ask? 

Yes.  To ask to be a disciple is to be asked again, "Do you know of the cup that I will drink? Can you drink of it?" and to say "Yes." again.   It is a timorous thing.  And yet, who should not want to ask for that drink? 

So I say yes again and hope God will show me quickly and push me on my way so I don't lose my nerve or look back or try to slip back into hoping the sacraments will complete the work in me that God has planned.  The sacraments can complete the work in me, but only if I will to be the work and the word to others.   I'm reminded of Flannery O'Connor's, "She thought she could be a martyr if they killed her quickly."  Cooperating with grace if one looks at today's readings, often requires the very urgent pulling of angels to prevent the sluggish soul from lingering in complacency or sin. 

So how do you cooperate with Grace? What does that entail? What does it mean and how do you know?  You read/study God's word. You look to integrate what God says in your life and your heart, and you stay close to the sacraments and trust.  You trust in He whom the wind and sea obey, that He will calm the storms in our hearts and even in our lives, that to be a disciple of Jesus, is to trust His friendship, to trust his judgment, to follow obediently even when the waters are rough and the temptation is to say, "Lord save us, we are perishing." 

I joked to my husband that to be a disciple is to be a Flying Walinda of faith.  He pointed out that they sometimes use a safety cable, this is harder and more incredible than walking across Niagara falls or the Grand Canyon, this is walking on water and moving mountains.   One has to follow Jesus to get in the boat to go into deep waters, and one has to really Trust Jesus beyond human comprehension, (grace) to get out of the boat.  

...and I didn't even get to the second question, how would I explain the Catholic doctrine of salvation to others...except I would say...Thank God for His Justice, Thank God for His Mercy.  Whatever He wills, is right even if I cannot see the why.  

Monday, July 1, 2013

Light in the Darkness Meme

The writer of Four Blessings Academy (who I met through Small Success Thursdays), created her own Internet meme, Light in the Darkness.  I like the idea. She put a post of a comedian she got to see in person as a gift for Mother's day.  You can join in at her blog.  

1.  Some weekends, it is hard to get to mass.  I mean you oversleep, you can't find shoes, there's a fight going on, someone started fixing breakfast and so the mass time scheduled keeps getting bumped back.  We were going to the 8:30, not everyone was up, how about the 9, same problem. How about 10:00?  Someone started showering and someone else went outside for a run.  How about 11:30? are this kid's one pair of shoes...can we use any other kid's shoes....where are my shoes.... purse....purse...I don't need my purse...what time is it?  What are you doing eating lunch?   So we're going to the 1 o'clock.  I don't like the one. The car needs gas.  We're running late.  We ARE GOING  TO THE FIVE!  Everyone HEAR ME?????  WE ARE GOING TO THE FIVE!   We made it. And for a moment, it was perfect. But there was still a fundamental issue of trying to get all of them to realize that owing to individual impulses, today was spent primarily trying to get somewhere and being mightily thwarted.  

 When we came home... 

2. My husband directed everyone to the backyard.  There is a lot of strangle weed.  He directed us to pull on one vine in particular.  It took all 11 of us (Anna watched but Paul helped too), pulling as one, over and over again, to uproot the weed.  It was over 60 feet long.  But there was something to that 15 minutes of counting and pulling and slipping and ranting at the plant, counting to three and barking about cooperation and pulling and the like, it revealed a truth we'd been trying to drive home, that together, we could accomplish what alone, we could not.  

3.  Some sort of critter got into our garbage last night. I'd made cornbread and chicken for dinner.  This morning, there were drumstick bones and egg shells on the driveway for me to clean up. But the mystery of the moment remained. We'll never know which came first, the chicken...or the egg.   

Leaving a comment is a form of free tipping. But this lets me purchase diet coke and chocolate.

If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!