Monday, April 29, 2013

Sunday, April 28, 2013

Another Presidential First


According to the Daily Caller, President Obama became the first siting commander in chief to directly address Planned Parenthood. He proudly bragged that the number one abortion provider is not going anywhere. He concluded his remarks with the remarkable, “God Bless You Planned Parenthood.” Tiny Tim was not available for comment.

Shrewdly, he gave the speech on a Friday, allowing the Saturday lull in the news cycle to bury his highly offensive remarks.  If however next week, people are still disturbed by his asking the Almighty to bestow grace upon those who advocate the death of the most innocent for power and money in all circumstances, I’m sure Jay Carney will come to the podium to assure us that someone just sneezed and the president ad-libbed what any normal person would do when someone involuntarily expels unwanted blobs of cells.

We have come to the point that atrocities of the greatest magnitude no longer hold our interest as a nation.  Or at least, the media has decided, they shouldn’t.  Any attempt by Mark Steyn or others to rouse the imagination of the American public with the gruesome reality of abortion as brought to its logical conclusion via performance abortion artist Dr. Kermit Gosnell is met with a collective yawn. The moral compass of the country continues to mutter in its sleep, the unintentionally ironic slogan of the age, “COEXIST.” At best, we get people to declare the atrocities of the clinic in the city of brotherly love are an outlier, a deviation from the mean, the mode and median of the business of abortion.

However, the response of those who advocate pro-choice positions does not indicate that this doctor’s practices are the standard deviation from the sample, their silence speaks volumes to the reality of abortion, the clinics, the persons who perform these procedures and the aftermath of those “choices.”  If this were unexpected or unusual, they’d be screaming disassociation, demanding that abortionist providers speak out to declare that you cannot judge us by the behavior of a single person who performed badly.   They are not lining up to do this, they are running for the hills, hoping we will be distracted as we easily are, by anything and everything, so that things may go on as normal, meaning clinics like this go on doing what they do and everyone shuts their eyes to the trains that flow by on time every day. Dr. Gosnell is not the Westboro Baptist Church of abortion, he is the poster child of its practices.

We can tell ourselves this isn’t happening. It doesn’t make it so. We can say that the deaths of 55 million nation wide over 40 years has no effect on the people of our nation, but it doesn’t make it true.  We can lie all day to ourselves even when there are feet in jars in front of us, it doesn’t mean we aren’t becoming blind to all that is good, true and beautiful as a people.  It doesn’t mean we aren’t becoming like Gollum, forgetting the taste of bread, the softness of the wind, the smell of grass, even our own names as we allow for more and more of our future to be destroyed for the pleasures and convenience of the present, and we will weep, precious, we will weep to be so alone.

Saturday, April 27, 2013

7 Quick Takes

1.  I'm alive.  I know the blog hasn't shown it lately, but it is nonetheless true.  I'm also here to answer that even when a writer isn't writing, she's still a writer, and she's just as annoyed with herself as the reader is with stopping in and finding nothing to read.  

2.  Saint Mary's College Class of 1988 Reunion Here I Come!

I've got my plane ticket and my reunion reservation so I'm all set. It is May 31st through June 1st and I've already called my favorite teachers to set up a lunch date. Can't wait.  As my dear professor says, she wishes (and so do I), we could visit for years.  We always talk non stop and it is just this amazing gift, to sit with her and laugh over everything and still touch on these very profound truths that get unearthed while musing on the world, friends, art, beauty, children, books and Catholicism over food. Really, short of adding politics, fishing, food and baseball/football, which I'll leave to nosh over with my husband and some of our family and friends, what more could one want to talk about? I always wish I had 10 sets of ears or could write legibly faster when we visit, so I could keep everything she says.   She is like a princess who drops jewels when she speaks.   Who wouldn't want to stop and listen and hold on to all of it? 

3.  The Holy Spirit Connects in Ways We Cannot Begin to Imagine

Yesterday, I listened to More2Life, a Catholic radio program on around noon in the DC area.  It's not my normal habit. In fact, I normally turn the machine off at that point, as my son has just come home from school and wants lunch. But this time, the topic grabbed me. "How do you balance/juggle kids and a spouse, how do you make sure you keep your spouse first?"  Impulsively, I phoned the station to tell them about the datebook wherein I'd written a little something each day to do to cherish/celebrate my husband.  When I got off the phone, a friend from Saint Mary's private messaged me that she'd heard the call and wondered if it was me.  We hadn't spoken since school, but  now I have a friend I can't wait to discover more about when the reunion rolls around.  

4.  There is never enough

These days, there seems to never be enough time, enough money, enough opportunity to do all we would wish that we could do...but the world needs deliberate peace. The world needs deliberate beauty.  Working on an article about blunting the sharper edges of the world brought so vividly to the forefront of our minds by last week's events.   Part of it is fighting back against the idea that everything we would do, we can't because of money or time. Sometimes the act of living itself is a deliberate defiance, not of reality, but of the unrealness of all that the world declares important.   So my motto after April 15th, after the bombings, after 9/11, after all of this evil that seems to rain on every hint of a parade, live defiantly!  As to what that means, that's what the article is in progress. 

5.  Planning vacation.  Really hating these websites that insist I call, they call back, they tell me what I see and want I can't have and then offer a place twice as expensive as comparable.   If they want us, they have to work with us.  Sigh.

6.  Yes I'm still editing. Yes I'm still freaking out trying to get all of Helen just right. Yes I still think what was I thinking when I wrote that sentence?  Yes I'm procrastinating right now because I can blog instead, have to go to a play and drop a daughter off at prom...why? Because it's Friday. That's why. Not a good reason.  But it's the reason.  


In light of recent events in Boston, this still remains relevant. If we are a nation of laws, then at some point, when we bend the laws to allow ourselves to get around the laws, we break the social contract that is the law.   You can apply this to the bombers in Massachusetts, you can apply this to the drone strikes we do over countries with which we are not at war, to the tepid sending of letters to the government of Syria regarding the use of chemical weapons on its people and you can apply this to the trial of Dr. Gosnell. 

The collective yawning of this country at the overwhelming evidence of evil in its midst, at home and abroad indicates a nation determined to be blind, deaf and dumb to all sin that is not politically expedient to rail against.  Ergo, guns, smoking and big gulps, evil, abortion, indefinite imprisonment, martial law, chemical weapons, drone strikes that determine all people wounded or killed shouldn't have been there in the first place, ergo morality problem scrubbed, all of these positions are...complex, nuanced, require more understanding.   The president says, "Planned Parenthood, God bless you." And no one quickly pretends to sneeze, "That's insane!" 

When we can no longer call evil evil, we no longer know what is good. When we no longer know what is good, we'd best be ready for a very rough ride as a society.  

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Understanding God's Love

I saw this video and was overcome by the simple beauty of the policeman holding onto the man afterwards.  Go ahead and watch, I won't spoil it.

Here, there was a soul despairing. Nearby, perhaps anticipating the rash cruel impulse that was tormenting the man, the policeman watched.   I especially love how he continued to hold onto the man afterwards.  God is like that with us when we seek to sin, when we fall into despair, when we find that the world is crushing us.   So God's love is vigilant, muscular, active and holds on long after we think the worst of it is passed.  He holds on until we let go.  

The commissioning of Catholics, at Confirmation, at every mass, is to be like the policeman for all the souls we encounter in whatever situation we find ourselves. 

To me, this video is luminous. 

Love is willing the good of the other first, primary, foremost, always.  The policeman may merely have been doing his job, but he did his job well.  Love simply does and does well, and if love is done properly, it is always treated as baseline.  It is simply, what we are called to do, our job.


Love is always sacrifice.

So love surrenders the body to be grown out, to be changed forever.

Love surrenders the time, all time, every time. Whether the surrender is at the job for years of sacrifice to pay for the braces, camps, tuition and all the treasures of childhood, or in hours of long tedium making sure there are enough socks or we have the right fruit and the prescription has been ordered,  love gives for eternity.

It does not count costs or tally favors, it is poured out lavishly, like water over everything, and all the love given yesterday does not count towards what must be given today. 

It is willingly given, so it is not a burden even if there are elements (toilet training, adolescence, driver's liscences, college tuition, and all the myriad of issues that come from this messy business of just living), that are burdensome.

Sometimes we forget because the messiness of life with the chaos that only humans can bring upon themselves and each other (see last week for prime examples), about the luminous component of living that only come from loving.  

So today, recognize that all you do, if done out of love of God, in response to God's love, be it homework, writing, housework, paperwork, exercise, carpooling, etc, it is a gift of love, to open the hearts and souls of others, to save them from oncoming trains and to hold onto them afterwards to let them know, it will be okay, it is okay, I've got you.  

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Sherry's Writing Rules

Dreaming of writing the next great American novel or at least crafting a story that has been kicking around in your head whenever you get the opportunity to be still?  Writing is all about allowing your imaginary friends in that genre to talk to you and tell you what they're going to do and where and when, and then doing the research to put them in their place for those occasions when you're not on speaking terms. to begin? 

10) Sit in the chair. Yes seriously this is the hardest part for many, for writing cannot be multi-tasked, it is a singular experience.  You can have music on in the background but sooner or later if you are writing, everything else falls away.

9) Have a word limit, but unlike a speed limit, this is your daily minimum.  Make it low enough to meet but high enough to push you on occasion.  I write a poem a day regardless of whether I blog or not, just to keep the brain moving. 

8) Banish the "But what if it's no good" sentence from your brain. You're right, a lot of what you generate will be less than perfect, less than golden, but it is process that generates good quality material. We are working towards improving, rather than perfection.  Inner critics are never pleased, never stated, never satisfied and seldom complimentary. I send them rejection letters all the time.  It is very satisfying.

7)  Corollary to #8, be unafraid and be true.  No one ever got excited by someone who held a tepid opinion. If you're going to write something, make it beautiful, make it about something that matters to you. Otherwise, you will grow bored and stop writing.

6) Addendum to #7 Be unafraid to have fun.  That means, you can make things up,  you can go nuts. Take notes on your life and craft slices and elements into your stories. It's cathartic, it's calorie free provided you don't snack while at the computer, and it allows you to breathe into your characters greater life.  People watch and notice one thing about each person that passes by as you sit at a park bench, make up the history of that item and why it is important.  Airports are awesome for this sort of thing, just past the security check point, when people are putting themselves back together.  Yes, I do this sort of thing and think it fun. That may be why TSA did a private pat down of me last time I passed through the screening.   

5) Edit.  Writing is not a 2nd or even a 3rd draft business. It is a Edit until you hate the damn thing but it sings business.  There's no magic number, but it is always more than 1 and is only less than the number that makes you hit Delete. 

4) Read.  Pay attention to how things are written.  You will start to notice distinctive phrases, cliches, points of view, writing crutches, etc.  You will become aware of the writer, though good writing, really good writing flows such that you only hear the image created by the words.

3) Join a writer's group and/or forum. It will help sharpen your writer's ear and improve your craft.  It will also  help you to grow a thicker skin.  You will discover you can survive the experience of something other than praise.  You will also learn the business part of writing and that can lead to submissions and even (huzzah) paid work. 

2) Read aloud your own writing. Be advised, this is a wounding experience. Ack!  Wooden dialogue...must...stop...Captain...Kirk-like mannerisms.  It's like looking in the mirror in the fitting room, you know where and why you need to hit the gym.

1) Don't quit.  Keep writing. Keep editing. Keep reading, keep rewriting.  There's only one way to guarantee failure, don't try, don't even start. 

Diaper Free in NYC

Call me old fashioned if you wish, but the newest trend in chichi parenting, going commando doesn't send me. Being cutting edge, the New York Times reports on this environmentally conscious attempt to pretend that all things most modern must be whatever makes no sense whatsoever.  Elimination communication as it is called, clearly sends a message to me...stay away.  

This is not to say my children have never been sans diaper, but this was usually due to one of three occasions. 

1) the diaper bag in the car, in the closet, and the spare one that we lost and later found are all out of supplies and I haven't made it to the store and am praying the kiddo's kidneys hold until I can get my 11 year old to sprint into the CVS with a credit card and a mission.

2) The child has mastered the art of taking off the diaper but not told anyone yet. 

3) The baby in question just finished taking a bath and is charging away from me at light speed to celebrate the glory of being au natural, to the cheers and amusement of all other siblings who watch me scramble after said kid with a towel in hand.  

Note that the sister of the woman profiled insisted on marking the bowls used for catching fecal matter, so that they would not make it back to the kitchen.  Given that it is an outsider demanding X mark the spot, how secure would you feel eating cereal with said company in their domicile?  Or anything else for that matter. 

The article indicates that yeah, they aren't purists. The adults in the picture recognize that there is an unsanitary element that comes with this decision, so they don't do this when they go out to restaurants (thank you for that), as though this concession to the rest of the world proves the reasonableness of their "lifestyle."  However these folks do arrange play dates within the  diaper free parenting community to ensure their children may scat and pee without the fear of anything other than smug approval at the unconventional nature of their like minded parenting.  

This is taking the "Chef don't judge YOLO" mentality to a creepy level...not to mention icky. 
One final note, we used to call children who don't wear diapers something other than communicating their elimination, we used to call them....potty trained.  

Monday, April 22, 2013

She Lapped Him

It's been coming for months.  Paul and Anna are deeply connected siblings. 

Two years apart, Paul has been her constant companion as she grew through milestones that every baby en route to toddlerhood does.  Crawling to walking, mush to solid food, talking in single words to sentences.  Paul has been her guide through the jungle of living in a large family, giving her access to bananas via a strategically moved chair and a bit of stealth, stashed sippy cups and teaching her that a band is ready to go within minutes if she opens up the kitchen cabinet. They both ride in car seats, sit in high chairs and aren't potty trained.  These common factors plus their mostly non verbal status made them perfect with each other.

But the same element of time that grew Anna into a perfect companion will grow her out of it, as she has begun speaking in sentences.  The very joy we feel at noticing her "firsts" is twinged with a reminder of someone else not having reached those developmental milestones. 

Last night we had lamb for a family dinner and she daintily put couscous on a fork to get every last grain.  Watching her ask for more and say "Thank you" when she did, we tried to prompt Paul to imitate her.  He gave us a few grunts which we hailed with equal enthusiasm as her full participation, but it aches to know, the tide is shifting, she will go on advancing at this swift pace, noticing and saying colors and animals and shapes, and he will move slowly, pointing at what she now names.  She will be the instigator for a time as they continue this friendship born of family and proximity and age.  She will lead him to discover the world more often, as she laps him. 

Because we have so many ages, I don't often get to marvel at the rush of time and transitions and changes as they happen, I only get to suddenly get slapped by a wave of recognition, a tide has come in or a tide has gone out, the beachhead has changed and I didn't notice until now.  

There is still a long stretch where they will be best friends, but the first whiff of when it won't be, is in the air.  I can't help but feel a bit of the loss, just as surely as when I see my 11 year old starting to peel off from her 7 year old fan who would do anything to stay in that orbit and the 16 year old starting to feel a bit shaky as the world before her looms and suddenly the house she's planned to fly away from for years seems a bit more comforting and desirable than she thought.   It is as if time is the moon and I get to watch this dance go on and on and on with the ocean trying to somehow stop moving and the sand remaining equally resolute in its stillness even as they both collide and mix and keep changing.   They want to grow up, they cannot stop, they fear the unstoppable nature of it.   

I just have to keep saying, "The next step is better. The next step is better."

Wednesday, April 17, 2013

How Do You Write a Book? Helen Update

Step One:  Sit down at the computer.

Step Two: Write story.

Step Three: Edit out all the stupid words.

Step Four: Repeat as needed.

With six years in the making, there have been many chapters that ended up on the cutting room floor of the internet.  I had a shipwreck, a rape and two plays.  They're all gone.  There was a dramatic scene I deemed too out of character with the rest of the story, but it was a pretty scene.   (Nuts).   The gods popped in and out of the story, there was a great conversation with a bored Aphrodite that I was loathe to let go. 

But the story has to be the story.  It has to hold.  Ergo, while you can have coincidence to get into trouble, you can't have it to get out.  That component of deliberate manipulation/mechanical grafting is difficult in a fiction piece.  It has to flow. It has to seem plausible.  It has to pull you further along.

I remember getting lost in the Department of Mysteries in Harry Potter, the ground kept shifting underneath.  I am trying not to give that same unsteady feeling to the reader.  It is not easy.  One scene in particular is vexing.  I still fret over it. I'm still trying to bend Helen to my will, whereas she has shown herself decidedly unyielding on this point. 

Monday, April 15, 2013

Have Mercy on Us and the Whole World

I have read as much as I could stomach of the Gosnell trial, and what I read fills me with both sorrow and revulsion.  The temptation to go all James and John, "Lord, let us reign fire down..." is strong, because the evil is so obvious.  However, James and John are rebuked by the Lord, it is not good for their spirits, and it is not good for mine either.  

While in Texas visiting my parents, I had a momentary glimpse into how grace works, a vision of sorts, while waking, brushing my teeth and getting ready for bed.  I saw a woman, not myself, standing at the edge of a cliff.  Below her were rocks and a fierce ocean. The wind was swift, the sky clear and immense, filled with stars and overwhelming in its emptiness.  The woman was suffering, pain of the heart, worry, every sort of care. 

A cross, a luminous cross came down to her and she threw her arms around it like a lover.  It floated up into the air, over the ocean, away from the cliff and the cares.  Then, it turned so the woman could rest on the cross, holding onto it still in a huge embrace.   The cross flew past the ocean and the stars and all of time with the no longer troubled soul resting as she saw everything fall away.  Grace works that way for all of us no matter what we've done. 

Reading the news, the very sure temptation to say, "Lord, I am grateful I'm not like that sinful man." is fairly obvious.  It is a grave danger to anyone who calls themselves pro-life to presume to know the state of another's soul, or to wish hell, death, pain and damnation upon anyone. Righteous wrath turns quickly to a lust for vengeance, and we do not manage our souls well when tempted with the opportunity to presumably end evil with an evil.  We cannot bring a good out of evil, only God can do this, and it is a great temptation when presented with grave evil, great injustice, and cruel indifference toward the innocent.

The saints did not curse their persecutors, they sang praise while going to their deaths, they focused on their own unworthiness to be martyrs or witnesses to Christ, they comforted others, they prayed.  I am no saint. I will not allow myself to entertain the thoughts I had about this man and what he deserves, because they hurt me.  I cannot call the cross to me, it comes unsummoned, I cannot make the cross fly across the heavens past time, I can only embrace or not.  The cross is a gift.  The grace is a gift, mercy a gift, forgiveness a gift, all of it, unearned by us, merely sought.  

So I focus instead on the reality, that this man, Dr. Kermit Gosnell, is beloved of Christ. 

Boy let that sink in for a minute.  This man is beloved of Christ, ergo, Christ loved him  so deeply, He would and did take the wounds and scourge and pain of death for this man, just as singularly as He did for Hitler or Margaret Sanger or Adam Lanza or Kim Jong Il or me.  

I'll just sit here and sting Ow...for a minute. 

We just know these people's public sins.  We should remember to God, all our sins are public.  All of them count.  All of them wound Christ's heart. Christ wants each and every soul.  We cannot love as Christ loves, so we cannot comprehend this deep ocean of mercy, except to know that the same ocean of mercy is available to us if we are willing to plunge into it, to accept that this ocean is His to give, not ours to dole out.

But...but...but...this is really bad. Really bad. Evil sick twisted wrong bad my soul sputters.

It is a great mystery that Christ can forgive evil, notice I did not say excuse or explain, but forgive. We have to trust, God's justice and mercy are never at odds, it is only our fractured fallen souls that cannot reconcile the two. Which would we want for ourselves, for our children, for our friends?  Justice or Mercy?  Then that is what we must pray for, for our enemies.   (Darn).

If we need convincing, we need only look at the cross.  It is God's answer to our sin, to our evil.  My mercy is the limit of sin's reach.   My mercy is here for you.  My mercy is all if you accept it.  My mercy is yours if you seek it.   My mercy, my mercy, my mercy.  

So I'll be asking all of you to consider praying the Divine Mercy Chaplet for Dr. Gosnell, today and every day as long as he lives, because the souls we save, may be our own.  

Thursday, April 11, 2013

What the He Double Hockey Sticks Happened to this Blog?

I went to Texas.

I saw my mom and dad.  I came home to softball and birthday parties to plan and rsvp and baseball and editing because holy cats the book I'm still editing is out in 50 days cue panic alert.  Meanwhile I have a daughter turning six on Saturday.  I need to get to the book store for her.  My toddler knows how to open doors.  She also flushes toilets. 

So writing new words has gone on the back burner to what I affectionately call, triage parenting. 

Here:  Please...Stand By, blogging will return when brain has been restored.  


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

This Explains Everything, I've Been Playing the Wrong Sport!

This is my 10th time with a two year old.

The battle of the parental will against the irrational mind or is it the irrational parent against the indomitable will never ceases to surprise.

My daughter is a dumper.  She plays with the stuff in a basket, releases everything in it from captivity and then cavorts onto her next mess.  Today, I thought she should assist in picking up the plastic eggs she helpfully scattered across the entire living room after I'd just set them aside.

Now I know all the Parent magazine approved tricks.  Sing a song. Set the timer. Let them do half, make it a game.  She apparently knows them too and wasn't buying any of it.  She went rigid as only a Pilate's instructor or a two year old about to lay down the law can do.

Sensing that this is somehow an important battle, I dig up my special ed tricks, hand over hand, physical prompt, verbal prompt, lots of praise.  Again, I've held children in restraint before who raged, she wasn't raging, she was simply absolute refusing.  Hand over hand, we got down to the last egg, not without her trying at some point to swipe at the basket to show me not only am I not going to do this, I'm going to undo all you made me do so there.  I was fortunate this did not happen.

We got to the last egg.  She refused. I'd tried. I'd offered treats, praise, hand over hand, she would only throw the egg away to show she wasn't doing it.  I placed the basket on the table and the egg next to it.  "Nap time."  I declared.  She knew, this wasn't over.

My only question is is it wise to let her get refreshed before starting on round two of Easter Egg Rumble.

As I ponder this, the bus comes with her brother.  He is upset his sister is asleep.  In a fit of sibling solidarity, he dumps the entire basket and kicks it about with great abandon.  

I didn't realize this was World Federation Wrestling and I'd just been tag teamed.  

Wednesday, April 3, 2013

A Letter to the Older Sons and All Day Laborers in the Vineyard

Inspired by some of the various conversations on Facebook and other places, about the new Pope, the traditions of the Church, the earnest work of living a faithful life, and the hard slow walk to the foot of the cross.

Fellow Older Brothers and Workers who have Been Here since Morning Working...Unite!

Boy do we get the short end of the stick!  We are asked to work, we are promised a fair wage and off we go like the dutiful hard working responsible people we are.  We bear the heat.  We do the grunt ugly jobs of minutia that require day in and day out consistency.  We say our prayers. We are faithful to the Father.  We are honest in our dealings with the foreman of the vineyard.  Then these interlopers show up.  They stay half the day, they only start coming to mass at Easter.  They don’t know all the right responses. They’ve messed up more than 90% of their lives while we’ve been ruled by those ten rules all our lives.  How is it they merit Heaven?  How is it that these are our equals?  Will we honestly be greeted by a cavalcade of great sinners beaming with luminous light, graciously delighted with the joy of having been forgiven?  How is it possible, is Heaven peopled with people like the good thief? 

I don't know.  I only know God's ways...are not ours.  His are better.  

God’s mercy remains a great mystery.   It can be hard to fathom.  Jesus illustrates it to us in that when the end of time comes, we will not know whether we are goats or sheep, wheat or chaff, until He pronounces us as such.   We do not know all the times we are lost, nor do we recognize when we have been idle in the vineyard or when we have fed Him in disguise by our fledgling attempts at loving our neighbor as ourselves.   We only know we haven’t done the glossy sins that make for juicy novels thus far.

However, any sin will keep us from paradise. It is a hard truth for the soul (mine anyway) to grasp and keep, we cannot earn/win heaven, we can only accept God’s grace or not.  If we accept God’s grace and love Him, we must serve. Our lives must become reordered. We will race to the vineyard, eager to gain callouses in the labor He provides, we will only wish we could have come to work sooner.   That doesn’t however, satisfy the older brother in the story who sees the party starting without him or fill many of us for that matter.

Those already working in the field are vulnerable upon the coming of new workers.  

It is the serpent that whispers, "Why didn’t we get to go squander our Father’s inheritance? Seems like we should have gone and partied at least a little with a goat or fatted calf or something before settling in to this gig."  Jesus looks at us with great love and says, “Sell everything you have.”  while we go away sad, because we thought we’d done enough, that we were doing enough. 

For the one deeply in love, service all day is a gift willingly given, and the cost, the tally of time is not measured or weighed or found wasted, it is worth it. 

God always wants our hearts to seek His, to desire more love, limitless love, always love.    

But we are fallen, we older brothers.  We didn’t go doing any great sins or ignore the law, yet, our reward is the same as those who failed spectacularly. Looking through the world’s eyes, God’s justice seems innately unjust to the faithful servant, to those who were part of the 99% of the flock. We feel less special, even though everything the Father has, is ours.  

It is understandably human, we want our moment in the sun, to be recognized and patted for the good and faithful servants we think we are.   But when we fail to rejoice that anyone is being pulled in, we are trying to shut them out, to horde God’s generosity for ourselves and those "like us."  It is a grave spiritual threat to our souls, to entertain this sort of spiritual envy combined with a scrupulous desire for a worldly fairness.  It will push us away both from God and our brothers even if we continue to pay lip service to both by our day in day out duty. 

None of us want to believe we are all both the older brother or the Pharisee complaining about the splinter and ignoring the planks, but we all hold onto our sins as fiercely as those lost out in the world we can easily spot.  When we wrongly perceive the inheritance as already ours, already earned, ours to demand because we are in the field working, we engage in self-justification, grace earned rather than given. 

If we still struggle, we must look at the perfect illustration of why we must be eternally grateful for the gift of faith and service we have thus far been able to eke out in the course of our lives.  We have to look at Christ on the cross refusing the vinegar soaked sponge. Surely, Christ had given everything He had at that moment.  

Why refuse this little tiny, almost minute touch of comfort? Why deny Himself a drink of sour wine after carrying the cross, being scourged, being mocked, spit upon, crowned with thorns, nailed to a tree?  Why not drink from the slender reed the dribble of wine from the sponge? 

Precisely so those of us who are trying (however ineptly) to live out a life embracing the cross, would recognize that we too must deny ourselves the offer of pain relief via something that numbs the heart and body, namely bitterness.   If we drink the sourness of entitlement, that is our reward for a whole life’s work. We opt for the self righteous vinegar of the elect, rather than the better wine served to all at the end of the day.

It is not worth it.  

So if you think that you are in the vineyard, and it is the heat of the day and the bite of the world seems about to devour you, rejoice that you have been given this task, rejoice in the work and know, the wages you will receive, are worth every drop of sweat willingly given.  And when you see a new laborer appear at the 11th hour, be grateful that there are more willing hands to help in the harvest, God wants us all.   

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

Glimpses of Heaven

Sitting around the table after singing "Happy Birthday," someone asked my daughter what her favorite point of the day had been.  She looked around and talked about going to the baseball game with her father.  I looked about and my favorite moment was that one, with everyone around the table.  Even on Easter, we hadn't quite captured the knowing moment of being together, despite going to mass, despite breakfast lunch and dinner.  Today, Easter Monday, for a moment, we caught the experience of being at the wedding feast, when all whether eating or not, were present to each other.

Then someone asked for milk and another, a fork, a text message came which demanded an immediate response, one child vanished to the basement with her kindle while another two raced to finish the video game they'd paused and the birthday girl finished her cake and asked to go plunge back into her new book. The babies needed washing and the moment of communion over pink cake and candles fell into memory, blanketed over by the need to get one back to school, to do the dishes, to fold the laundry, to organize, to clean up the crumbs and keep moving.

If Catholics need a reason for weekly mass, it is that we live in an age that seems forever on the edge of dissolving into permanent rage. The Internet especially trades on the commodity of outrage that can never be resolved or absolved.  Any pockets of peace or tranquility have a singular quality to them, they are unique to the moment, to the post, to the writer or the reader.   Rage against the other side. Rage against the rich. Rage against those in power. Rage over what we do not have. Rage against what others do or do not do. Rage against what is being demanded or not.

Top that with the demand for instant access to our brains via emails and cell phones, i-pads and blackberries and we live in a busy busy angry exhausting world.  Carving out an hour, where we only need be present, we only need come with our needs, our wants, ourselves and all we love, seems like so very little for God to ask. Especially when doing so, would give us His peace even if we're stuck in the cry room with two children who have perfected the art of being both dead weight and oddly boneless while screaming. It is sufficient, God counts if we show up, if we are present, if we come to the table.

But we're busy crazy forgetful creatures, so he gives us moments to remind us, like sunsets, early spring flowers, snow falling and those few minutes after the cake.

And I think to myself, it's a good thing we have 12 birthdays to celebrate, we will perhaps be able to experience a few more slivers of what it is to be in Heaven and remember that the goal of this life is not to die tired and busy, but to be still and live presently.  

Monday, April 1, 2013

Small Stones Monday

Monday's Stone

Just before Dawn

they ran to the windows
Awake and aware
when we could be sleeping
because today
in the week before Easter,
we rose to a snow day.

Tuesday's Stone

Seeing For the Forest

It's due tomorrow
she's done her piece
again and again
and sent us to the store for more

While tucking in her brother
she comes to me
the painting should be a bridge
with water reflecting the bridge below it
I cannot see it.
She cannot either.

Panic is gripping her heart.

Turning it sideways,
I see trees.
"Trees." I point out.
"I don't see trees."
"Trees" her brother says too.
"I don't see it!" she shouts.

She leaves, angry at both of us.
I have to go out grocery shopping
her other sister is holding down the fort
and I fret over what state
my artist child's mind might be in.

Half way through the frozen foods
in between the pot pies
and the microwave pizzas
I receive a text message and a picture.

Wednesday's Stone

He runs for something
He runs from something
He runs because he is 13
He runs away faster
because I am not.
The thing is,
I know he is running
and he will grow tired.
When he does,
dinner will be waiting
I've learned to be the tortoise in this race.

Thursday's Stone

Easter Symphony

The ubiquitous nature
of 24-7 noise
was cut short
by the unexpected beauty
of an Orchestra
of children
noses against the window
each holding their breath
afraid of making a move
when the youngest
caught sight
of the first rabbit of the Spring.

Good Friday Stone

How brave we all feel
saying something daring
when it is popular.
How terrified when
we must speak against the grain.
Everyone loves to think 
they are standing at the precipice
but only those who can see the down side
the great expanse ready to swallow them whole
really are. 

Peter knew the absolute truth
and he ran, he swore, he lied.
I am not ready
I haven't the steel
I like too much to be liked.
I'd like to warm myself by the fire
and be silent.
I could still believe, still follow
if no one noticed me. 
It doesn't work that way
and I knew it. I always knew.
So I will pray not to be put to the test,
or if I am, and I fail, that I return
again and again and again
until I pass. 

The mountain falling on me would be easier.

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If you sneak my work, No Chocolate for You!