Wednesday Witness: Confirmation Pep Talk

Note: Last Saturday evening we had an informational meeting for Confirmation students and parents. Not everyone was able to attend, so I am attempting to recreate the brief Confirmation pep talk I gave, in writing, for those who missed out.

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I want to start with a question: Why are we here? Does anyone know? Is it just because I called a meeting?

I’m wearing one of my favorite shirts today: It has a drawing on it of two hands knitting what looks like a DNA strand, and if you look closely at the helix, you’ll see the word HANDMADE. At the bottom is a reference to Psalm 139:

You formed my inmost being; you knit me in my mother’s womb. I praise you, because I am wonderfully made; wonderful are your works! My very self you know. My bones are not hidden from you, when I was being made in secret, fashioned in the depths of the earth. Your eyes saw me unformed; in your book all are written down; my days were shaped, before one came to be. – Psalm 139:13-16

What does this tell us about why we are here? It tells us that God created each of us individually, with a specific purpose in mind, that He knows us intimately and loves us completely. Genesis tells us we are made in God’s image, and the Gospel of John tells us God is Love. We are made by Love, from love, to give and receive love. This is our whole purpose: to learn to love as God loves and ultimately find our way back to Him. The meaning of life is no more complicated than that. Continue reading

What I Couldn’t Say

Yesterday was Bethany’s wake; today will be her funeral. For me, the wake was a flurry of hugs and tears; I had an evening meeting to attend and wanted to see as many of my Poland daughters as possible, along with Bethany’s family, before I left.

It was hard to feel the heartache of people you care for in your arms and chest as you hold each other in sorrow. I wished aloud more than once that I could say something to ease the pain of her passing (I believe that, in the moment, the words were actually “to make this suck less”)—but I don’t know why this happened, and I miss her, too.

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Imagine the thing that matters most to you in all the world—beautiful, precious, perfect in your eyes. Imagine that you crafted this thing yourself, putting all of your attention, skill, and loving care into every detail. Imagine holding it in your hands, gazing at it in joy and wonder, and seeing how good it is. Continue reading

Lucifer Lamentatione (Lightbringer’s Lament): A Christmas Poem

He whispered fiat lux, and I appeared

To split the darkness with my brilliant light.

He sat upon the clouds and stroked his beard,

As lesser angels praised him day and night.

 

His vision too naive to comprehend—

Non serviam! I swore with righteous pride.

For how can one so perfect condescend

To serve a muddy meatling and his bride?

 

And now a virgin ripens with his seed,

And should the elders fail to have her stoned,

The girl will whelp a son of earthly breed

Who nonetheless will mount a heavenly throne.

 

And all the fires I’ve kindled for man’s doom

Are shadows to that spark within her womb.

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Blogger’s Note: The featured illustration is Gustave Dore’s famous depiction of Dante’s Satan, frozen in ice for eternity in the deepest circle of Hell.

All Is Gift

ChestertonThanks

I wanted to tell you yesterday all the things I’m grateful for this year. I rose at 4 a.m. to stretch, pray, and write—but the Bearded Wonder (my eldest son Brendan) is home from college and rose at 4:30. We sat in flickering candlelight and visited for a couple hours, until Jodi got up to start the turkey. Then I left her and her boy alone and greeted the dawn with Bruno. Our walk was unusually peaceful: silent except for the whine of the distant freeway; we saw a total of four cars, a jogger, and a neighbor with the same idea: walking his dog in the quiet of the new day.

The rest of the household was stirring when we returned home, and the rest of the morning was spent going to Mass (the Feast before the feast) and preparing for dinner. We cooked, we ate, we watched the Lions get trounced by the Vikings. (Sorry, fellow Lions fans: to me, the game didn’t feel close.) My folks were supposed to be here, but Mom got sick and they returned home—we arranged for a friend to bring them Thanksgiving dinner, and enjoyed a beautiful, grateful phone call with them in the early afternoon.  We laughed and listened to music; we napped, walked Bruno again, and ate pie.

And yet, when evening fell, I felt unsettled. The one thing I hadn’t done was write. So while the family played games in the dining room, I attempted to journal. Instead I listened to Jodi and the kids joking, arguing, and laughing together. After a while, Brendan stepped away from the games and took up the mandolin, picking and strumming snippets of songs we knew. I closed my journal and vowed to write this morning.

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Today Brendan turns twenty. I rose again at four, acutely aware that I have now been a father for two decades—nearly half my life to date!—and unsure about what that means for me. I went downstairs to let Bruno out; stepped into the cold, black morning, and breathed in the clean air. I need to write, I thought.

About what? About all of this.

I brought Bruno back in and shuffled into the bathroom. I stood in front of the mirror to see myself. At 4 a.m., I look lived in: a little worn and disheveled, sagging here and there, but comfortable and still functional. I leaned in closer to peer into my own eyes—windows to the soul, they say—and in an instant, they filled with unexpected tears.

Gifts. All of it—my bride in our bed, our beautiful offspring, the pup downstairs. Our aging suburban split-level. The still unfinished tree house out back. All gifts.

I am working harder these days for less money, and yet I feel better—freer—than I have in years. Gift. We have friends who never get sick of our company, family who love us, and a great God in Heaven who keeps the very rhythm of our hearts in time with His own. All gifts.

The tears brimmed but didn’t fall; my chest swelled but didn’t burst. Sure signs that I have not yet fully grasped the magnitude of my situation: the all-powerful and ever-present Creator of the universe is making room enough in me so He can dwell there. The One who is Love is carving a God-size hole in me, chipping away, flake by flake, at my stony heart.

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With all the many gifts I enjoy in this life, perhaps the thing I am most grateful for this year is perspective. I’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again: Look around you. Have you seen this place?

Where were you when I founded the earth? Tell me, if you have understanding. Who determined its size? Surely you know? Who stretched out the measuring line for it? Into what were its pedestals sunk, and who laid its cornerstone, while the morning stars sang together and all the sons of God shouted for joy? — Job 38:4-7

We are so very blessed and have done nothing to deserve it. Sure, we’re good people, as far as that goes. But lots of good people suffer, and a fair number of not-so-good people seem to thrive. I cannot earn these blessings or somehow make them happen—I cannot avoid illness, accident, or tragedy—any more than I can make Brendan’s beard grow. I can only look on with wonder and thanksgiving, and join my song to Mary’s: The Almighty has done great things for me, and holy is His name!

 

Dust Bunnies and Mud Bubbles

“A puddle repeats infinity, and is full of light; nevertheless, if analyzed objectively, a puddle is a piece of dirty water spread very thin on mud.” ― G.K. ChestertonManalive

Scripture tells us that God took a bit of dust from the earth, shaped a man, and breathed life into him. The breath of God—spiritus—brings the unliving to life.*

I have seen what this windy world conjures when its breath stirs the dead earth: dust bunnies and mud bubbles. Continue reading