Wednesday Witness: Scarcity or Abundance?

Originally published on The Net blog on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, September 5, 2018.

One of the other recurring themes during prayer at my silent retreat in Demontreville last month was scarcity versus abundance. This time of year—with summer winding down, school and activities ramping up, days getting noticeably shorter and cooler, and trees suddenly changing color—it’s easy to slip into a mentality of scarcity.

Not enough time.

Not enough money.

Not enough help.

Not enough of me to go around.

Of course, when we are feeling stressed in this way, it is appropriate to turn to God in prayer for help—but when we start with a mentality of scarcity, it is easy to slip into a spirituality of scarcity, in which our prayer is focused on what we lack and forgetful of all that we have. We become anxious about the present, worried about the future, and instead of asking for the peace, patience, wisdom and perseverance to get through the present moment, we beg for relief or escape. Continue reading

Airedale Chronicles: Rise of the Snow Dog

SkepticalBruno

Skeptical…

When we heard last week that snow was moving in, I told the kids that one of my favorite parts of raising a puppy is seeing his or her reaction to firsts…in this case, Bruno’s first ever snow. When the skies finally opened Friday morning, he did not disappoint.

Bruno wakes up on puppy time, which means he can be a little sluggish until he gets wound up. Usually by the time we take our morning walk, however, he’s ready to go. On Friday, however, I opened the door to windblown white flakes, and Bruno stopped short of stepping outside. He stared a moment and then, as if to feign nonchalance, put his big front paws on the front stoop and stre-e-e-e-e-etched, glancing around all the while. He stepped outside, slowly put his front paws down a step, and stretched again, subtly sniffing the white and windy air around him.

And again with the last step down only to sidewalk: Gotta act casual…but what is this stuff? Continue reading

‘Make Straight the Way of the Lord’

Blogger’s Note: For those few of you who still follow this blog and don’t attend St. Michael Catholic Church, the article below was published in the Sunday, Aug. 24, church bulletin at our pastor’s request as a the first of a regular monthly faith formation column.

It’s been an eventful last few weeks. Early in the month, I survived my first-ever Vacation Bible School, a sort of faith formation director boot camp, helping to wrangle 175 children, age four through sixth grade. I want to thank Kathy Pope for all her work to plan and staff the week’s activities, and the countless adult and teen teachers who worked so hard to make VBS a success. God bless you!

Almost immediately, my family and I headed north to Camp Lebanon, where I was greeted by a throng of green-shirted, high-fiving VBSers who knew me by name (Mr. Thorp, in most cases) and expected me to know them, as well. The weekend was a whirlwind of typical camp activities – water sports and zip line; family meals and fellowship; evening rosaries, confession, and mass—mixed with conversations with a number of parishioners about what to expect from LIFT and other faith formation offerings in the coming years. I am grateful for the opportunity to hear how the parish can better help you and your families grow in faith, and these conversations reinforced a growing feeling I’ve had since beginning in this position: people in this community are hungry for a deeper relationship with Christ.

I left Camp Lebanon for two nights of solitude at the Franciscan retreat center Pacem In Terris, in the hermitage of St. Dominic—a simple, comfortable cabin looking out on a green patch of woods vibrant with the beauty of God’s creation. After more than a week of steady noise and activity, this silent retreat was a welcome opportunity to spend time alone with God and ask Him, With all of the good ideas and works we could undertake here at St. Michael, what would you have me do?

The answer came in the words of Isaiah and John the Baptist: “Make straight the way of the Lord.” Over and over again, the message rang in my heart: Let them come. Help them come.

To that end, although family catechesis will continue to be our model going forward and LIFT this year will be a culmination of what we started last year, we hope to emphasize the importance of relationship: between parents and children, between parishioners and their neighbors, and most importantly, between each of us and Jesus. We hope to be more flexible and do a better job of meeting you where you are and encouraging you and your families toward a deeper relationship with Christ—in prayer, in the sacraments, and in His body, the Church. We hope to find the right balance between the individual path each of us walks with the Lord and the fact that we are called to journey together in truth and charity. We can’t reach God alone—not only because we are fallen and in need of God’s grace, but also because God calls us to communion with him and with each other. 

People are hungry for God. Whether we realize it or not, the longing we feel for something more in this life is our desire for a personal relationship with our Lord and Creator—and it’s meant to be satisfied. I look forward to undertaking this journey with you, hungry but hopeful, toward heaven. See you this fall!

Some Things Never Change

The laugh’s on me:
this year’s man
is last year’s man.”
—Ching An

Today was the first real day of autumn, in my opinion. Yesterday was blustery—windy, damp and grey—but that happens year-round in the Midwest. Today, however, dawned almost crisp—chilly enough to watch your breath curl in the sunlight, and dry enough by midmorning that a walk across campus sent the first yellow leaves skittering from underfoot as I went.

Those who know me know I love this time of year best … so why did I greet autumn with a touch of melancholy?

This summer marked the busiest on record for the Thorp clan. We traveled east and west to see family and friends, we played baseball and soccer, we volunteered, we practiced and performed tai chi, we celebrated and mourned with friends, we closed and liquidated a day care, we freelanced, and we did our jobs. We worked and we played. And occasionally, we slept.

What I didn’t do was write—or at least, not the things I hoped to. I wrote speeches and papers, and I’m mostly done with an article for the Journal of Asian Martial Arts. But my book stagnates, my fiction blog is just a shell, and this … well, you can look to the margin to see how much I blogged.

The truth is, with so many priorities, we scrambled through the summer just getting the day’s “musts” taken care of. When everything is a priority, nothing is.

I’m overextended, but what else is new? I always overcommit, always underestimate the time involved, and never, ever accomplish everything I’d like to. I know this about myself and can’t seem to compensate. This year’s man is last year’s man. Some things never change.