Wednesday Witness: Private Little Wars

Last weekend I was blessed to make my fourth annual silent retreat at the Jesuit Retreat House at Demontreville, near Lake Elmo, Minnesota. My two eldest sons went with me for a weekend of rest, reflection and spiritual rejuvenation.

The music that is played over the weekend ranges from Gregorian chant to sax-and-bongos praise music that too frequently causes my sons and I make eye contact and stifle laughter. Over the past few weeks, the three of us had been trying to recall a particular song from the late 1960s that seems to be played at every retreat, every year. It isn’t a bad song, but a little too…’60s…for us to really enjoy. We couldn’t remember the name, but knew that the instant it started our eyes would meet, for better or worse. And sure enough, they did, on Friday—the first full day of the retreat. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Is This Seat Taken?

Blogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, August 1, 2018.

Have you ever been a guest at a friend’s home and found yourself standing at the dinner table, trying to decide where to sit without being presumptuous or disrupting your hosts’ plans? This situation is common enough that Jesus references it in His teaching:

“When you are invited by someone to a wedding banquet, do not recline at table in the place of honor. A more distinguished guest than you may have been invited by him, and the host who invited both of you may approach you and say, ‘Give your place to this man,’ and then you would proceed with embarrassment to take the lowest place. Rather, when you are invited, go and take the lowest place so that when the host comes to you he may say, ‘My friend, move up to a higher position.’ Then you will enjoy the esteem of your companions at the table” – Luke 14:8-10

That moment of awkward hesitation around the table stems from the recognition that there is a natural order to a dinner party: the head of the table is a place of honor; the host knows who is invited and who should sit where; we should follow his or her lead. Once the guest of honor or the head of the household is seated, the other guests generally move quickly into place. Continue reading

Wednesday Witness: Learning to Surrender

Blogger’s Note: Originally published on the Saint Andrew Catholic Church and School website, July 25, 2018.

Last weekend was a whirlwind. We hosted a graduation party for our second son, Gabe, which meant that my parents, their dog, and my eldest son’s girlfriend, Becky, joined the seven of us and our dog in our three-bedroom house Friday through Sunday. The Engels—six in number, and as much family as our blood relatives—spent much of the daylight hours and a few after dark with us as well. The house was packed to the rafters and filled with laughter; the weather was wonderful, the turnout was great, and a joy was pervasive among almost everyone.

Almost everyone, except me. Continue reading

Heartstrings II

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

301091_2215092411351_1388302_nAs with my first “Heartstrings” post, I keep noticing little connections to the Sacred Heart from earlier in my family life.

Posted to Facebook, Sept. 4, 2011: “A little end-of-summer love: Gabe saw it first; Emma noted that she was wearing her Burning Love t-shirt (featuring 1 Corinthians 13:4-7: ‘Love is patient, love is kind…’), and Trevor noticed it has three nails in it, just like Jesus…”

This is the shirt Emma was wearing in the post above. Notice the image of the Sacred Heart on it. I picked it for her.

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Spiritual Cardio, Part 2

Blogger’s Note: This is the latest in a collection of daily posts outlining my journey to the Sacred Heart over the past year or more. See an overview and links to past posts here.

My departure from home to the Engels was bittersweet, of course. I was sad but resigned to going solo and making the most of my time alone with God. Even as I drove, I prayed for the ability to forgive my family, for Jodi (and Emma) to forgive my anger and hurtful words, and for God to have mercy on us all.

I arrived after dark, opened things up and turned on the lights, then turned Bruno and Dusty loose in the house together. Immediately they began tearing around the house, wagging, snarling, rolling, and wrestling. I began streaming the Friday night blues programming from Jazz88 and opened the windows to the lake breezes and nightly noises, then cracked a beer. I sat, watching the dogs, listening to the blues, nursing a beer, and feeling calm but discontented. Continue reading