Archive for February 2011

A TALE OF TWO SUNDAYS

February 27, 2011

For many, many centuries, over a thousand years,  this Sunday is Sexagesima Sunday —  “Sex-”  for six;  “Six” Sundays;   a symbolic “sixty” days to prepare ourselves for  so great a Redemption that we celebrate on Easter.

We can do nothing to save ourselves, but our offense is so great that so much was needed to be done!  

I am so small and weak and unable to do what needs to be done to save my own soul. I don’t even have it in me to live a beautiful life   (like the ballerina!)  and to do what I’m supposed to do in this life.

Apparently St. Paul felt that way too.   In the Epistle for us today we heard about St. Paul’s account of all that he had been through while proclaiming the Good News to people –  and though he gives the glory to God, he tells us that he still has an affliction, a weakness,  an imperfect “thorn in the flesh”  that leaves him unable to fully be in charge of his own life.   It’s some lacking that gets in the way of being able to do everything he would otherwise do.

And then Paul tells us that God’s grace will cover any insufficiencies he has, and so he will be happy with his weakness, because then there will be “room”  for the power of God to work in him.      As they say,  “Let go and let God….”

My weakness manifested itself today in an inability to pull myself into reality;  and although I managed to get myself into a church,  it was one that has abandoned the ordinary rhythm of the seasons and is off in another direction.    This Sunday they weren’t having Sexagesima, but I still paid attention to their readings.

And yet —   one reading was about God’s fatherly care of us, making sure we will have everything we need.   And the other reading was about God’s motherly tenderness towards us:

From the book of Isaiah, chapter 49,  just when God’s people were feeling helpless and abandoned and too weak to help themselves, God tells them this: “Can a woman forget her infant so as not to have pity on the son of her womb?  And if she should forget, yet will not I forget thee.”

Oh, yes.  As St. Paul writes centuries later,  God says “My grace is sufficient for thee.”   

Uncertain about the future?   Vulnerable?   Unable to make our world perfectly safe and good?    That’s when we can humbly kneel and adore our God as we let Him step in and be our Father and our Mother.   He is Sufficient.

In my weakness this morning,  He led me to hear another set of readings.   All I can say is:     Deo gratias.

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A SMILE FOR THE NEXT HOUR

February 25, 2011

Some wisdom through the mind of #1  Son today:

That big Scottish Ox doesn’t look so big from this angle, taken from slightly uphill,   but when I tossed our six-year-old son on top of that beast I wondered for an instant what I was doing!    Big ox – little son!

This took place somewhere out in the Dakotas, many  years ago.     “Ox rides for $1 !”     Might be the last time Son would ever get a chance to ride an ox!   (Might be the last time he’d ever want to…..)

The four of us were together then.   And now we’re not.   Only Mother, Son, and Daughter far away across the country.    But we’re all doing…okay.      We’re all going through many stages of loss right now, and I have the added uncertainties of maintaining the household on about three-fourths of the income.    From time to time the future looms over me like  a big menacing beast.   

Ha!  And maybe like that big ox!   Son and I were discussing matters like this recently and remarking how the “scary” mail was slowing down and the whole household was beginning to settle down in its new circumstances.     Sometimes I could take a breath and afford to smile.      I could almost see an okay future.

And Son agreed.  He said,  Just see the future as So Far-So Good.   A little at a time.    We don’t need to see the whole future, but it’s okay to relax – and smile – for now.   Just this next hour nothing is probably going to go wrong.   We’ve got the next hour covered!  

And he reminded me that that’s true about the whole rest of the day, probably the next day too, and probably nothing is looming on the horizon for the next week….or month.   

I can’t actually see any real beasts in the near future, at least none that I can’t take care of.   Like Son, the little boy sitting on the big ox,   some beasts are not really that much to worry about.

So, as Our Dear Lord told us:  “Don’t worry about tomorrow….Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.”   (from Matthew 6:34)    It’s enough to take care of the problems as they occur.   “Don’t borrow trouble,”  my Grandma used to remind me.   

I can relax and smile….and least for the rest of this day….or at least for this next hour.

SEVEN AGES OF OUR WORLD

February 23, 2011

During this past winter Son and I walked in a meteor crater of about 57 thousand years ago, and we hiked on surfaces that were purportedly 3 billion years old, and we climbed a volcano that was active 103 million years ago…something like that.

Timelines of Earth Ages:

Doesn’t matter if the scientists are right or wrong about their timing.    It’s their best estimates.  But it gets a person thinking about how long  this earth has been here, and how many earlier civilizations came before us.  And –  how much longer…..
The Church itself brings us to this season of the year which prepares us for the Passion of Christ and His Resurrection.   The Church began our preparation with this week, which started last Sunday and which was called Septuagesima Sunday.   Sept is for Seven.   And this Sunday is symbolically “seventy days” or “seven weeks”  before Easter.

Seven, the number of Completeness

“Seven Sundays”  to prepare ourselves for Easter, and then follows Seven Joyous Weeks after Easter to celebrate properly and deeply.

In  classical Christianity it is taught that this world will pass through seven stages, or Ages,  until the creation of the New Heavens and the New Earth.   It’s just a way to organize our thoughts about where we’ve been and where we’re going,   and it’s also a reflection of the completeness – or seven-ness –  of the Ages of mankind.

So for our information,  I’d like to list those Seven Ages here. 

First Age:  From the Creation of Adam until Noah

Second Age:   From Noah and the Renovation of the Earth’s surface by the Flood until the Calling of Abraham

Third Age:   From the formation of Abraham’s descendants into a nation to their enslavement in Egypt and their rescue by Moses

Fourth Age:  The time between Moses and David

Fifth Age:    The time between King David and the Babylonian Captivity

Sixth Age:  From the Return of the Remnant of Jews back to Jerusalem all the way up to the coming of the Messiah

Seventh Age:  From the life of our Savior on Earth, His going away, all the way until His Return to us, ending with the final judgment of all things.

 Kind of interesting to think about where we are along the march of time.

WARM AND COZY

February 21, 2011

Well, “warm and cozy” can be what you feel when you’re on the inside, looking out –

That’s the deck table that didn’t get put away last November.    It has served as a kind of snow depth measurement this winter.   About 10 inches is what we got on Sunday afternoon and evening.

I’ve had my years of having to get out onto the roads after a snowstorm to go to work;   I had the occasional run to the clinic or pharmacy for children’s minor medical emergencies;  and now I have my years where I can pretty much plan to stay indoors during stormy weather.  

Whatever you have to do,   staying home or finally arriving back home – there is nothing like looking out your window after a big fresh snowfall to make you feel warm and cozy….if we  only take time to enjoy the feeling. 

Here is our back deck,  prepared for continued bird-feeding:

There is a little bird, right behind the snow on the railing, just so you can compare the sizes.

And for those of you who’ve asked,  our hockey rink is buried again too, as well as the bench right below, which is covered in a mushroom of snow.

10 inches of snow have a way of smoothing out the contours.  

Warm and cozy.   “Shelter in a time of Storm.”    There are a few good hymns running though my mind right now.     I learned much from a Grandma who loved the Lord, and didn’t mind sharing it!

WEATHER MATTERS

February 19, 2011

The little guy is up in the mountains for skiing this weekend.

Cooper is actually up there for his Mom and Dad’s snowboarding, but he goes along to keep them company.    With that shirt, it still looks like Football is going to be his favorite sport – until he grows into baby-size skis….I’d say 8 months from now.

I was talking to Cooper’s Mom last night – who is somewhere up in those mountains of Lake Tahoe.   It occurred to me that Cooper’s little family is right where I saw on the Weather Channel that a snowstorm was delivering five to eight FEET of snow this weekend.

Mom   (who is the Daughter of this household)  cheerfully informed me that that is true.     Many new feet of GREAT POWDER!      Oh….hurray.

Well, speaking as a new Grandma,  I sure hope Cooper likes “many feet of great powder.”

We’ve had some “weather matters” here too in the Midwest.  We’ve had almost a whole week of a Taste of Spring.    Nothing edible as that phrase might suggest,  but several warm breezy days with temperatures soaring to almost 60.   The effect on us was quite remarkable.    Elevated moods, more energy, optimism, confidence, plans for the future.

I don’t ever remember feeling the weather changes quite so much.   None of my present circumstances have changed, the past has not changed, and the future is still a little scary;   but the “feelings” about things have lightened up a bit.    

How fickle feelings can be.   How confusing.    How motivating.    They would like to be in the driver’s seat of our lives.     God speaks to our hearts:  Cor ad cor loquitur, as the saying goes.    Thanks be to  God that He has made our hearts to be more than mere “feelings.”

Tomorrow the Weather Channel promises us some more “weather matters.”     The warm breezes are gone;   the clouds will end our brief experience with sunshine;   and we are promised a new little snowstorm of our own:   Not five to eight feet, but five to eight inches.  Cooper can take the “feet” — I’ll be happy with the inches.

ALL THE GOLD IN THE WORLD

February 16, 2011

Ever wonder how much gold there is in the whole world?    You can look it up easily on any Search engine, and most of them will try to help you visualize it.  I have a fuzzy image in my mind of a giant cube taking up about one-third of a football field.

“You can have some”

Son and I were discussing this a few weeks ago.   It turns out that, by weight,  there is enough gold for every single human being alive today to have just about one ounce of gold, if it were distributed among us equally.

A few days ago we were discussing it again, inspired by all the budget proposals that are currently in the news.   Now that we know how much gold there is in the world,  it was easy to calculate, at approximately the current price of gold, that  the man who is currently living in the white house proposes to spend an amount of dollars equal to the worth in dollars of ALL the gold in the world.

ALL of it.    “Our country”  proposes to spend all the world’s gold – in just one year. 

I guess we just have to give up our valuable possessions to the people who are currently in control of our government spending.   

And so would everyone else in the world.  

I’ve got to get busy now and prepare for tomorrow’s Bible study class.   You know,  sort of “laying up treasures in heaven where the moths can’t eat it and the thieves can’t steal it..”(Matthew 6:19)

Heh heh.

TWO VALENTINES

February 14, 2011

Today, on the liturgical calendar,  we remember the martyr named Valentine.   So, Saint Valentine he would be called.

We know from tradition that his martyrdom occurred in about the middle of the third century, somewhere in the 200’s  anno Domini.   (A.D.)     And that is all we know for sure about him.  Dom Prosper Gueranger, whom I quote from time to time, says this:    “The ravages of time has deprived us of the details of his life and sufferings, so that little is known of our saint.”

That’s it.   That’s quite honest.   Everything else that is written about him is actually conjecture, inference, and extrapolation from what we know of Christianity under those first three centuries of severe persecution.

It’s also the “other”  St. Valentine’s Day today.   Or just Valentine’s Day.  

That’s an important day for us too.   It elevates and honors romantic love, that special tender attraction that a man and a woman have for each other.    It can be fun, it can lead to real love, and it can be a reminder that real love is present.     I kind of think this is one modern holiday that can be encouraged.   

But let’s not forget that the man for whom this day is named was not thinking quite these same thoughts.   He was in love;  and deeply in love.       But it was Jesus, His Savior, that he was in love with.  Enough to spend his life to  help others find their way to Jesus;  and enough to give his life, in the end, on February 14.

So.     I feel school-teachery today, not sentimental.   Sometimes it’s like that for people.   Under the circumstancs….

6th SUNDAY After Epiphany

February 13, 2011

The Gospel today, from Matthew 13, had two tiny parables and then the  interesting remark that Jesus did most of His teaching in parables.

As I hope a couple of my classes know by now,  “a parable is a little story about things in everyday life, that uses a comparison  to teach a single lesson.”

Small story.   Familiar situations and objects.  A comparison is made.  A lesson is intended.

The problem is that the lesson was seldom apparent to the crowds of people who gathered around Jesus.

Even the disciples weren’t always sure of the meaning of a parable.    They were always asking Jesus for an explanation, and one time Peter even asked:  “Uh…was  that parable for us or was it for all the people?”    (Luke 12:41)

So why all the parables?    We still have a problem with Jesus’ answer:  “Those who have ears to hear, let them hear.”   

 Understanding the teachings of Jesus seems to be up to us.    How much do we want to understand?    How earnestly do we want to understand?  What will we be willing to do to begin to understand the things of God?

That’s why I always include a little study of Jacob when we begin the parables:

It’s a familiar story, in Genesis 32:22-32.   Jacob wrestled with the Angel all night long.

Jacob wrestled.   Contended with great effort.   All through the night.    Even after he was intentionally injured and disadvantaged.   

What was he contending for?     A blessing from God.    And he was eventually found worthy.  His name was changed to Israel, for he had fought with God with perseverance and with his whole heart, and thus proved himself worthy to be the father of the Twelve Tribes of …Israel.

Seems almost too early to be thinking about Lent,  but this 6th Sunday after Epiphany today is  the last Sunday before we start the three pre-Lenten Sundays, which allow for the gradual descent into Lent itself.     

And Lent is the time of the Christian calendar which offers us some of the deepest lessons regarding our salvation.    It’s a life and death matter, as Jacob knew.     I hope to know more this year…..using my “ears,”  of course.

    .

SUNLIGHT, SATURDAYS, AND SUFFERING

February 12, 2011

Well, unlike yesterday’s posting,  I did go out to the Spruce Tunnel today.   It was another sad, mopey,  I-want-to-be-alone day, so I knew my body needed some “medicine.”     The Good Lord offered Sunshine, so I had a choice,  take it or leave it.

And  once I went to the park and approached the Tunnel,  I had another choice:

On a whim,  I took the “one less traveled,”  the one on the right.

It was a good choice;  a beautiful pathway crossed with sunlight:

It was a busy day out there today.     There were skis, snowshoes,  running shoes, boots, paws, and hooves, skiing, snowshoeing, running, jogging, walking, and trotting.   

I didn’t think to put on my skis, but I think the walk was good for my physical self.     Good to get sunlight in the eyes too.

The walk was  long and  nice along this relatively unfamiliar pathway.   But then I circled around and entered the familiar path of the Spruce Tunnel….and the current  familiar thoughts came back so I can’t say I left the park any different from how I entered it.

But that’s okay.    It’s Saturday.     I was thinking — “randomly” — in the Tunnel that it is Saturday.     This is the day that  Christendom has traditionally set aside to remember and to meditate on that sad interval of time between the Crucifixion and the Resurrection.      Long ago I gave little thought to the pain and suffering of Passion of Christ.   We told ourselves that we are “Resurrection People”  but we had little idea  of the depth of the pain and horror of sin.   Now I know there is a wealth of writing and prayers that help us see the Crucifixion and most helpful of all, we  can see and feel,  through the eyes of Mary,  what the Price of our salvation was..   

In addition to being Saturday,  it is coincidentally February 12, the day set aside to remember and honor the Seven Holy Founders of the Servants of Mary,  that apostolate that was begun in a century that was turning  to worldly pleasure, wealth, novelty, and  entertainment.   Their work was to turn us back to Christ – in full appreciation for everything He did for us.

750 years later,  I take time to  think of the insights they gained by their contemplation of the Sorrows of Mary and of the Sufferings of Christ.    And I offer up my own sadness and loss, knowing that in the end, all will be made right, and this time will give way to joy.

 It’s  a thought you could have during a walk in your own Spruce Tunnel.

WOOL-GATHERING

February 11, 2011

I didn’t go out to the Spruce Tunnel today – it warmed up to 21, but … I didn’t go.

I think I had plenty of “random” thoughts anyway.    Wool-gathering, as they commonly said a hundred years ago.    Day-dreaming like they often said fifty years ago.  

Only I can’t gather up the “wool” into usable balls of yarn;   and I can’t turn the dreaming into coherent thoughts.

I used to read lots and lots of blogs, and then I’d wonder why sometimes the author of a blog would not post for days or weeks on end.    What happened?  Did they run out of things to say?   

Maybe.   

So….the deer in the photos.     They were there in our back yard today, across the pond  (or ice hockey rink, as it’s known during these months).    Hubbie or I used to notice the deer and call out to each other to watch them.  

I would look and then buzz around doing things and then pause again at the window to check on the deer every once in a while.    Hubbie would just sit in his big swivel-easy-chair and just stare out at the deer.   Probably just thinking.   Day-dreaming.   Wool gathering.     10, 15, 20 minutes later, when the deer left, then we’d say something about them, probably the same kind of something each time.

After these past many weeks of sudden change, a multitude of   decisions, situations, duties, things to learn, new circumstances, after all that,  I guess it’s natural for the mind to come to a screeching halt….and just simmer for a while.     Don’t feel like communicating;  but I do feel like it.   Don’t want to see anyone;  but it’s okay when I do.    

Two random thoughts today catch my attention right now:   One was something a lady said in one of my classes this week.    She said she had learned from this class how important it is to just slow down and take advantage of the present moment;  just to “be” and to “feel”   where you’re at, right at the moment, because then you can feel the help and presence of God.

The other random thought came during Book Club this week.   We were discussing Deep Survival – a highly recommended book which I discussed over at The Reading Shelf last year.    Why some people survive in extreme situations and why others do not.    One recurrent lesson is  ‘Be where you are.”      You have to draw a new “mental map” of your surroundings or of your situation to deal with the emergency or the unexpected.   

“Just slow down and be.”    “Be where you are.”

I guess,   maybe,   this is what it feels like.    Gather in all the “wool.”     Let the “dreams” come in, in the daytime.

My mind will do something with all these Random Thoughts eventually.     Then I’ll go take a walk in the real Spruce Tunnel.

TOLERANCE FOR CONFUSION

February 6, 2011

Truly:  “confusion”   or “obscurity”  is what the Gospel was about today.

I went to this church this morning.  It’s not  my usual place.   I thought the trees obscuring the building was kind of a metaphor for the “modern ideas and practices” inside that church that work to obscure the traditional teachings of Christianity…of which there is evidence that it’s not being taught….or practiced.   It’s a little confusing in there.

Nevertheless, the Gospel for today concerns the wheat and the weeds growing up together in the field.   The lesson of the parable is to be not too quick to sort things out – it’s not our job anyway.     We need to have a little tolerance for “confusion” and patience with ourselves and others.

As I said in yesterday’s posting, today – and every day – is the day to find out and to affirm what we truly believe.    If we’re still alive — we have some time to work on it!

Now,  off to the Super Bowl!    (via long distance)       

In case you don’t know, the Bears aren’t playing.

AFFIRM WITH JOY

February 5, 2011

This new photo is compelling:

The photo is making the rounds on the Internet sites I read, and I hope I’m within copyright regulations, by linking to one of the places where I found it.

It’s a photo of a partial eclipse of the sun over Europe, January 4, 2011 – just a few weeks ago.   It has made many people contemplate its shape, a shining, golden Crescent….rising over Europe.

In the last century, Hillaire Belloc (an eminent English literary personality) wrote that he foresees in the soon-coming decades that the Western world will be confronted by yet another rise of the Islamic world.   At the time, the events around World War II were taking up everyone’s attention.  The Middle East escaped nearly everyone’s notice.

Here are Belloc’s words: “”It has always seemed to me … probable, that there would be a resurrection of Islam and that our sons or our grandsons would see the renewal of that tremendous struggle between the Christian culture and what has been for more than a thousand years its greatest opponent.”

A recent study was done  in the United Kingdom, following other similar studies in Europe, to find out how many people were converting to Islam.   The results were astonishing, much higher than was estimated.

Now, I’m not going to state any conclusions or recommendations here;   you all have a mind of your own and a good intellect which God gave you to search out the truth.      But I will tell you that on this eve of a Sunday, the night before the Lord’s Day,  I am thinking of Hubbie.   I witnessed his last hours of life, and I saw him turn his whole heart and mind and soul to Jesus, affirming his faith in his last hours. 

He didn’t turn  generally to  “God.”    He turned to Jesus, of Whom we sing at Christmastime “Emanuel,”  meaning God-With-Us.     God with us in human flesh to become our Savior.      Hubbie’s faith on that last day was strong and acute and he affirmed it  wholeheartedly.

If indeed that beautiful golden crescent of a sun reminds us of anything so serious as a clash of civilizations based on very different faiths,  then we, now, the living, have a chance to affirm our faith – wholeheartedly – individually – deliberately.

According to one article that discusses the conversions to Islam in previously Christian England,   some are noticing – briefly – and then just shrugging their shoulders, not knowing the difference one way or the other, while they are still busy and  living.

Well, tomorrow is Sunday.   A good day to affirm our  faith with joy and strength and determination.     

“Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind and with all your strength.”

Love.    Not “submit.”     God is Love and came to us  so that we might have joy in Him, and that our joy may be full.   (see John 15:11,  John 16:24….)

2 DOVES

February 2, 2011

On this date, 2-2-11,  there are a lot of “2’s.”    

This is Day 2 of the blizzard, of course;  preparation and approach and then the storm itself,  which turned out to be a Baby Blizzard for us:

I shoveled off the deck and the railings and the table last night, just to make room for more snow – and its weight.   Don’t want the deck to collapse.   That’s our overnight snowfall, 12.2 inches, officially.

Looking out the front window,   we don’t have a driveway today:

It’s okay.  I wasn’t going anywhere  anyway.    The only vehicles I saw today was a snowmobile and a  Hummer 2 that someone in our neighborhood enjoys.  I saw tracks leading away from the house across the street, but the lady is a doctor —   she got out somehow, although I talked to her husband later and he said he had to rescue her from a snowbank on her return home.

      View of the road tracks – with our “covered birdbath.”      Which reminds me….

I saw a dove huddling against the snow on our back railing where the birds find their food.   It reminded me what day it is today:   February 2nd – the Purification of Mary.   

February 2nd is also Groundhog Day.  I knew that.    There are a lot of elementary school art projects and science lessons I used to do with my classes when I was a teacher on this day.   Groundhog Day is fun, for children,  for child-like delight in silly little predictions.

Far more significant and satisfying it is to commemorate the other reason why this day is special.    We commemorated Christmas 40 days ago;  today we remember that under the Law,  40 days after a son was born, the child is presented to the Temple as belonging to God;  and the mother presents sacrifice as part of her own Purification ceremony.

A lamb and a dove;   that is what was required.

My little dove had found a friend.    But not a lamb.

The Infant Jesus, the Lamb of God,  would be sacrificed 33 years later.    For now,  if a family was too poor to afford a lamb for the sacrifice required by the Purification,  the Law allowed 2 doves to be offered.

How could I fail to think about that when Nature reminded me of the Holy Family’s sacrifice all afternoon!  

And why a dove?

Doves had always stood for purity.    Here are the words of Dom Prosper Gueranger:  “Innocent birds!     Emblems of purity, fidelity, and simplicity!”     

And the sacrifice is to be made in the Temple at Jerusalem, a city whose name means Peace.    Innocence, Purity, Blamelessness, Fidelity will be sacrificed at Jerusalem.  

 Innocence sacrificed for Peace with God.   

 February 2nd:    One day is surely not enough to contemplate all those words.