Monday, August 30, 2004

Gradual School

In the John Irving Book "The World According to Garp" there is a great line about Graduate School, actually being 'gradual school’ because that is where you go to gradually learn that you no longer want to be in school.

Unfortunately for me, I'm not even through my first year of gradual school and I am fast approaching never wanting to go back.

I say that in a half hearted way. I love my school. I am learning so very much, and the people I attend classes with have become so very special to me. I just don't like feeling pressured constantly, and there are days when all I feel about school is pressure.

I know that God wants me to be there. I know that everything I am learning is going to benefit not only me, but also those to whom I minister. I just don't like constantly feeling under the hammer.

So I have decided I need to begin a new prayer novena (for those of you not Catholic a novena is nine days (weeks, months) of prayer for a specific intention. This comes from the nine days between Jesus' assension into heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit on Pentecost during which time the apostles and Mary and others prayed together in the upper room. My new novena will be for the intention of having the will to survive in Gradual school.

I have also decided, that from now on I am going to try to remember that I am there to learn, not to be top Dog, not to get the highest grades, but to learn everything I am capable of learning while I am there.

Oh well, back to reading about divine revelation. If I can stay awake.


Sunday, August 29, 2004

End of Summer Tale

School has begun for my children, so summer must be over. If that is true why am I sitting here contemplating my final weekend of my summer school class? And if summer is over on Sunday afternoon when my class is over, then what does that mean for Labor Day, which is still a week away? Isn't that supposed to be the final summer weekend?

Technically summer isn't really over until September 21st. Then there is still the promise of Indian summer; warm summer like days in the midst of falling leaves and other signs of autumn. We all perceive summer as beginning and ending dependent upon our own lives.

This is a lot like the way we perceive God's grace, or God's action in the world. If one is more aware of God's action, then one perceives its abundance much more clearly than someone who doesn't know or has never had a personal experience of God's grace. Some can see God's grace very clearly in thier own lives and in the lives of those they know and love. Others can see God's grace, but explain it away as coincidence, or chance or dumb luck. Others can't see God's grace at all because they refuse to believe that there is a God.

I guess what I am trying to say is that summer is as long as you perceive it to be. If summer is what you love, then let it linger; enjoy and extend it. See it all around you in its many forms.

See God's grace in the same way: be aware and keep it with you.


Wednesday, August 25, 2004

What Have I Been Reading?

I have been an avid reader since I learned to read at the age of three -- one of the benefits of having older sisters who wanted to play school. My sister Ann was so good at the game that she taught me how to read.

I usually have at least four books in the process ov being read, but I have to preface this entry with the caveat that I have spent the past summer in grad school, so most of my reading time was devoured by required text. I am sure you all can't wait to read The Christian Faith in the Doctrinal Documents of the Catholic Church by Neuner and Dupuis (Alba House 2001), or Jaroslav Pelikan's exhaustive document on Creedal forms called Credo (all 647 pages of it). While both are compelling reading I wouldn't recommend them except as a resource.

Prayer and Temperament by Chester Michael and Marie Norrisey, Open Door Inc, 1991 --- If you know your Myers Briggs Type Indicator score (I am an INFP) this book will help you to explore prayer forms that fit your type. I found it very interesting to read about and explore prayer forms for other types as well.

The Creed What Christians Believe and Why it Matters by Luke Timothy Johnson, Doubleday, 2003 -- This is a wonderful article by article explanation of the Creed in everyday language. It was very easy to read and had many wonderful insights.

Finding God in All Things by William A. Barry, SJ, Ave Maria Press 1991 --- This is a companion to the Spiritual Exercises of Saint Ignatius. I found it to be very enlightening. It has some amazing correlations to my current spiritual journey, and thus was much help as I try to walk with God at all times. I know I will go back to this little book often.

Father Joe by Tony Hendra , Random House 2004 --- This was my summer reading choice book. I took it on vacation and spent a wonderful week reading something that wasn't assigned. I loved this touching story of one man's search for meaning, and the spiritual guide who helped him find his way. I am not sure I would call it Confessions of Saint Augustine for our time, but it was very good.

I am still reading Beyond the World of Pooh (Dutton Books, 1998)the selected writings from the memoirs of Christopher Milne, the son of A. A. Milne who wrote the Winnie the Pooh books. He has a very readable and enjoyable writing style. This is a book I can pick up and put down, so it gets thrown in my bag for those moments when I can escape into a world that is unfamiliar to me.

So, read what I have read, or don't. I do encourage reading.

Monday, August 23, 2004


I looked around my office this morning and realized that I am probably the least organized person working in my field. My desk, really my entire office, is a mass of piles and boxes, and stacks and books, etc, etc. I am beginning to chip away at the disorganization, and it actually feels really good. But, I feel as though this task may be way over my head in terms of getting it right.

So, I have a plan: each day I will endeavor to work on streamlining one area of my job. I have given myself a month to get things so organized that I can find anything on the first try, and nothing gets lost in the mass of piles on my desk, which hopefully won't exist.

I am declaring this my goal. I will get organized, or die trying. I have to get organized, I just looked over the syllabi for my two classes this semester, and I will be working very hard to keep up in both classes. Unless I want a stress induced stay in the rubber room, I must get things in ship-shape order as quickly as possible.

As I have always told my children, how to do complete the largest task in your life? One step at a time.

Step one: admitting I have a problem and am powerless to overcome it without divine intervention.

I know that God is watching over me, and will guide my work. I can be at peace, and get through this without going to pieces, because God is with me.

So, I only have one final statement to make before I begin the monumental task of organizing my life's work. . . HELP!

Anybody? Can you hear me?

I bet if I asked for volunteers to organize my chocolate collection there would be a stampede toward my door.


Sunday, August 22, 2004

Out of the Fog

I drove to work this morning in the most amazing fog. It was beautiful and terrifying at the same time. There are stretches of road between home and work where the fog gets to zero visibility very quickly.

As I was driving I noticed that while I was cautious, I wasn't the least bit afraid. I tried to figure out why I wasn't afraid and I made some interesting inferences, which could easily be applied to my spiritual life as well.

We have all had those foggy spiritual experiences, where we know that we should do God's will, but we can't see much of what is ahead of us, and we become scared to take those steps of faith for fear of losing our way. I hope these few tips I gained from my drive this morning can help you the next time you are in a situation like that.

When the fog gets thick it really helps if you know where you are headed. This isn't the time to try that new short cut or side road that someone told you about. Stick to the main road, because it is usually clearly marked and you have traveled it before, so you have some sense of where you should head. In you spiritual walk, when it gets foggy it’s probably not a good time to take on an entire new devotional structure.

Slow down when driving through fog. When your visibility is limited, take things more slowly so that you have time to react when you come upon something unexpected. Don't barrel ahead full throttle to get to the other side. In foggy spiritual times, slow down and become more aware of God' guidance in your life.

Use your headlights, they don't much help you see, but they do make you more visible to others around you. In the spiritual sense this would mean being true to who you are, not pretending to be someone else.

Trust in God to see you through. In the fog panic is the worst reaction you can have. Trust your instincts as gifts from God and follow them. Fear of any kind is a lack of faith. Have faith and move cautiously.

Eventually the fog will lift, and things will be clear again and you will see the sun. In the spiritual case I hope that you see the Son, clearly after the fog. And remember to thank God when you come out of the fog. It is so easy to call on God when we need strength, but then when the time of trial is over we often forget to thank God for getting us through. Or we begin to fool ourselves that we got through it on our own power.

So, like I said: I drove through the fog this morning, and when I got through it the sun (Son) was shining as if to remind me that all was right with the world.


Friday, August 20, 2004

They will still outnumber us four to two

Tomorrow we will pack up our van, and our oldest daughter's car and help her move into her dorm at college. This will be the first of our children to live away from us. While we are a little sad, in a way we are improving our odds around here.

Our son's ambition is to move out before he turns 30, so we are looking at at least ten more years with him. Our other angel girls all have some schooling left, two are in high school and one still just in second grade. If they all go off to college, then we will be looking at sending the angel baby to college in 2015, abut the time our son finally gets himself his own apartment.

I have always wanted my children to know that faithfulness to God's plan for their lives is much more important than earthly success. Our oldest daughter has chosen to study theater. I think Mr angelmeg would prefer her to go into something a bit more stable, but I realize that she can only be who God wants her to be if she is faithful to his plan and uses the gifts He gave her.

So, Mr angelmeg and I will be sad tomorrow, and then we will return home to our four other hungry, fighting offspring and realize it just doesn’t make that much difference.

Only kidding. We will really miss her. She helped drive her brother and sisters around.


Thursday, August 19, 2004


I am having a hard time thinking today. I am so overtired from the unrelenting hot and muggy weather, and I just can't seem to rub two brain cells together with enough energy to process anything.

I call days like this "thinking optional" days. For most of the day I felt as if I was just going through the motions, doing what I had to do to get through the day, but without the energy and spirit that I usually expend. I realize now that some of my problem today came from a distinct lack of energy that was generated in a meeting I attended. It is hard to keep up ones spirits when others are very negative.

As I look back over the day I see four very bright spots:

One was my prayer time with my prayer partner. We meet once a week and go over our previous week and see how we have been obedient to God and where we were able to bring God's love to others. This short period of time each week has become so important to me. I can't imagine not having that check in each week. In fact the past two weeks due to circumstances we didn't get to meet and I know I missed it a lot. I got to hold my friends lovely baby daughter for a while too. I love babies so much.

The second came from three different women who all talked to me this afternoon, and each one in her own way gave me hope, and a glimpse of a future not yet in focus. I will be forever grateful for those three short conversations, each lasting less than five minutes, but each so important to my ministry and to me personally.

The third flash of inspiration came just before and then during Mass today. Prior to Mass I talked to a woman on the phone who really helped me to set the direction of one program at the church where I work. I have been struggling for nearly three years trying to figure out how to do something, and I think after the phone conversation tonight I am on the right track finally. Then at Mass I saw a young couple I haven't seen in about a month. It was very nice to see them, and I was reminded how important our new young adult ministry is going to be.

The fourth was the monthly meeting of Catholic Women in Faith, a group at the church. It wasn't just seeing all of these wonderful women, and hearing of their journey's of faith, it was also knowing that I was in the right place, doing the right thing. There was so much wisdom in that room.

So, I end the day looking back over one negative spot in an otherwise exceptional day. I need to work on not allowing someone else’s negativity to sap my strength, that happens all to often to me. I need to trust more in the Lord, and learn to let go of the bad feelings and energy drainers as quickly as I can.


Tuesday, August 17, 2004

One of Those Days

I love my job. It can be exciting, and rewarding and draining, and challenging, and disturbing, and just plain hard work. Today was one of those days when it was all of that and much more.

This was one of those days I wished could have been punctuated with fireworks like you get at the ballpark when someone makes a home run. BAM! KABLOOM! Something really great just happened. Why should ball players get all the great support?

I have one of those jobs where I wear a lot of hats. I never spent more than an hour doing any one specific part of my job, so I was constantly changing hats: at times it felt like I was juggling them.

As frustrating as that can be, today was one of those days when I was so aware of how awesome God is, and how carefully He watches over my work. God's answers came so immediately today that I didn't even have time to wonder how things were going to get done. When I looked back at my day before I left the office I had done so much more than I had ever expected to in one day.

The coolest thing was that I actually realized all day as I was working just how awesome this day was going to be. Each phone call, each personal conversation, each piece of paperwork was propelling my programs toward the event horizon where Kairos becomes my time, and all things happen as they are supposed to happen.

I love my job! Tomorrow everything could go horribly wrong and I will hate my job. But even at the end of a bad day, I can usually see how my bad day made it possible for God to do awesome work in someone else's life.

God is good, all the time!


Monday, August 16, 2004

Coincidence? I think not!

Some people call it a coincidence; some people call it serendipity, which roughly translates to a happy accident, others just call it dumb luck. What all of these people have in common is a distinct lack of faith in a loving God who has counted every hair on our heads, and has so carefully ordered our steps so as to keep us on the right path.

I no longer believe in accidents, nothing is outside of God’s careful plan. When things seem to work out despite our best efforts to thwart them, what other explanation could there be?

One time I was rushing home from work, thinking about what I was going to cook my family for dinner. Just before I reached my turn off of the highway I decided I wanted something else for dinner, so I drove to the store instead of home. As I was walking through the store I ran into someone that I had been trying to get in touch with for days. Coincidence? No way.

The day our youngest daughter almost drown in our pool, I was trying to reach a priest to come to the hospital. Our pastor, who had a special place in his heart for our daughter was on vacation in Canada. In desperation a friend of ours left a message on his rectory answering machine hoping someone was screening his calls for emergencies. An hour after she left the message, who should walk into the hospital but our Pastor. He had in fact left for Canada three days prior, but not 100 miles from home his nephew’s car had horrible transmission trouble and the trip had to be scratched. He had just gotten back into town that afternoon and had gone out to dinner with a friend and returned home just as the message was being left. Would you call this a coincidence? I would call it God’s tender care. Fr. was with us when our daughter opened her eyes a few hours after he got to the hospital and prayed with us. She looked right up at him and said hi.

I have seen too many happy accidents to think of them as anything but God’s tender care. I know He orders my steps carefully, and He makes allowances for my short comings. I am always in awe, but seldom amazed at what God can do in this world.

God can even use totally unwilling messengers. My one brother professes not to believe in God. In fact he has said before that he stopped believing in God when he was 6 years old. Yet, there have been many times when I have read something he wrote which has answered a prayer in my heart, or has helped me to see something more clearly. My thought at those times is my brother may not believe in God, but God believes in my brother; thank God!

I dare you to go through an entire day keeping track of every happy accident, or coincidence, or piece of dumb luck that you experience. Perhaps you will begin to feel a sense of awe at how carefully God takes care of you.


Sunday, August 15, 2004

Extending Family

Our oldest angel daughter will be leaving for College very soon, and one last time wanted to get our closest friends together for a meal. So we called around and set up a pitch in where everyone brings something to share and we grill burgers and talk and laugh and the house just bursts with joy.

It was so nice having these friends around us. They are closer than friends, they are family. A family God has chosen for us, and we are so appreciative. We can all be ourselves around them, we don't have to be Martha Stewart perfect with everything. And no one looks at the messes behind the closed doors.

I know that the angel daughter will miss these people as much as she misses her angel family, but in a way that is good because it guarantees that she will come back often to see them.

It is amazing how much joy one house can hold. We are very blessed.


Friday, August 13, 2004

Olympic Spirit

Was it just me, or was Bob Costas having a really hard time keeping it together by the end of the parade of athletes? Some of these countries spend the equivalent of ten years salary to send three athletes and he makes jokes about their color scheme!

I love the Olympics, the first one I remember is the '68 games in Mexico City, and then '72 when Mark Spitz tore up the pool, but what a sad year that was. I love to watch all the sports, even Badminton; those shuttle cocks can really fly.

We have our favorites, but we also look for that amazing athlete who has a personal best and still comes in 35th. This year we are so excited about the Afghanistan Women, Go Girl Power!

The next 14 days will be so overloaded with Olympic spirit at our house. The Medal count will be the first thing the angel kids look at in the paper, edging out the comics for two whole weeks.

My prayer this year is that all politics is kept outside the games. We saw a good start of this when Korea marched in the parade of athletes as one unified Country.

All I have to say is “let the Games begin”, and may God watch over all the athletes.



I wonder what this word means anymore? We have Friends like the TV show, pseudo family groupings of people who care about each other. We have circles of friendship, radiating outward from ourselves at the center. We have bosom buddies, those close enough to know who we really are. We have acquaintances; people we work with or know casually enough to say hi.

Then there is that rare person in our lives who defies these descriptions, they are as close as family, but have no blood relationship to us. They are as intimate as can be in a way that sexual intimacy will never come near to approximating. They understand when we need encouragement, and when we need chastisement, and are willing to give either when called for.

These people will stand up for us when our last shred of dignity has been callously stripped away. They will hold us in their arms as we grieve. They will share their wisdom and their last quarter when they know that is what we need.

They know exactly who we are, and love us in spite of our bad points. They take into consideration what is happening in our lives before being offended when we can't be what they need, because they know that we understand when they can't be what we need. Small annoyances don't even faze them, they just know and understand.

I count myself lucky; I have a few of these in my life. They know who they are. They will tell me to snap out of it when I am wallowing in my pity party, and they will dry my tears and hold my hand when there just aren't words to help. These are people whose friendship reaches right down into my soul.

THAT'S IT! Not my girl friend or boy friend, or best friend, or closest friend. These people are soul friends! Without them I could never see myself as clearly; because of them I am able to be soul friends in return.

God is good, all the time, especially when He gives us soul friends.

Thursday, August 12, 2004

Forgive Me

Jesus is pretty careful throughout his public ministry to let everyone know that one of the most important qualities for his followers is mercy. In fact with all the wonderful imagery and instruction in the Lord's Prayer in Matthew, Jesus only comments on the fact that if we cannot forgive our Father in heaven will not forgive us.

It used to be very hard for me to ask for forgiveness. I don't mean saying, "oh my bad" or "I’m so sorry" but really asking for forgiveness for things I had done or failed to do.

Then I went through a period where some people in my life hurt me very deeply, and I realized just how much pain unforgiveness causes. I have to forgive those who have hurt me, not because they deserve it, but because Jesus asks it of me. Carrying around pain and hurt from a slight or an overt act of betrayal doesn't hurt the person who did it to me, but it does hurt me.

It was during this time of forgiving those who hurt me that the Lord allowed me to see some of the people I had hurt with an offhand remark or a disloyal sharing of their secrets. I was in such pain thinking I had caused others to feel just as bad as I had felt in their place. That was when I realized that I needed to ask for forgiveness.

I am not saying I had to go up and say I am sorry. I had to go to these people and say I need to ask for forgiveness, so that I can make right what I caused to be wrong between us. It isn't easy to do this, but things of value are rarely easy.

I tell you what; this being perfected is hard work. But some day, I will be a mirror image of He who lives in me. Like Blessed Mother Teresa, I will be exactly what God had planned when he created me.

Some day.


Wednesday, August 11, 2004

To Not Remember

I am losing my mother. It has been happening for a few years now, she is in the clutches of that ugly monster Alzheimer’s disease. I call her and talk to her and I realize that nothing I say is sticking. I go to visit and she gets very upset with me over some bad thing I did years ago, or how not one of her children ever come to visit her.

Very early on, just after her diagnosis, she was at least appreciative of the little time we had left together. In these later stages she has become selfish, demanding and bitter and someone I don’t recognize. But I still call, and I still go for visits, and when I hang up or leave I cry.

I am learning a new way to love my mother; an unselfish, undemanding way. When I visit it isn’t about me, or what is going on in my life anymore, it is about her disease, and what she still has left. I want to honor her for being who she is; the woman who not only gave me life, but gave me the courage and faith to live the life I have.

It is from my mother that I get my skill at writing. Dad couldn’t write a grocery list. I get my looks from my mom, well maybe not the excess weight, but certainly the hair and facial features, I look nothing like my German Irish father. It is from my mother that I get my contemplative heart. Dad’s prayer was more restless and roving.

I still have my memories: I cherish them every day. I try to spur mom on to remember, but the disease won’t let her remember what she wants to, only what she finds.

It saddens me that the next time I see all of my siblings together in one place will be at my mother’s funeral. We missed the chance to all be together while mom could remember because two of my brother’s had other plans.

I have placed my mother in God’s gentle care, and have faith that after this, her exile she will rest in his loving embrace for eternity. I wish she didn’t have to live her purgatory here on earth. I hope when my time comes I have half the faith and courage she has.

I love you mom, even though you don’t remember.


Tuesday, August 10, 2004

When Sleep Won't Come

After twenty years of sharing a bed, it can be really hard to get to sleep when my love is away. I find myself avoiding getting in bed because I know that I will toss and turn trying to find the equalibrium that only his counterweight on the other side of the matress provides.

It's pretty amazing the things that keep us together. Mr. angelmeg and I love the song "Happy to be Stuck with You" by Huey Lewis, because it said in a slightly comical way what we feel at times; lucky for us that the things like shared checkbooks that never quite balance, and lumpy matreses best slept in by two bodies keep us from going our separate ways.

I would stay up and think up more lyrical poetry about my love, my other half, my counterweight, but I have a meeting in the morning. Believe me, I don't want to be yawning in the faces of a room full of priests. It would not be taken in the proper context.

So off I go. The only thing that will help me to finally get to sleep is knowing that somehwere out there in this great big world, someone is trying to find the right curve in a hotel bed matress so that he can get to sleep without me by his side.

Ah, love. May God watch over me and he until we can again create the perfect balance, at least on the matress.


Sunday, August 08, 2004

My Time or God's Time?

I get so excited about all the new aspects of my spiritual journey that I tend to race way ahead of the Holy Spirit. I learn about a new prayer form and I jump in with both feet, abandoning all my old devotional tools to put all of my effort into this new form. Or I get an idea for something that would be awesome and I forge ahead with the idea before checking with anyone else let alone God, to see if this is the right time to do what I am planning.

I used to get very frustrated by this pattern in my life. I used to think that God's timing stunk, because things always seemed to either happen when I wasn't ready, or take so much longer than I thought they should. Then I developed a deeper understanding of God's Time. The Greek word for God's time is Kairos, and from now on I will be using that word.

In my time I am woefully underprepared for something, but am called upon to do it. In Kairos I will act in faith no matter how ill prepared I feel, because God doesn't always call the equipped, sometimes he equips the called.

Moses is a great example of someone who was willing to step out in faith because it was Kairos. After meeting God in the burning bush, Moses made every possible argument against his being the one God wanted, and each one God refuted. Moses was willing to step out in faith, without feeling he was prepared to do what God asked of him. Moses had faith that if it was Kairos, then everything would work out.

Conversely, in my time, I forge ahead when I am ready without a care in the world of anyone else's journey. In Kairos, the souls of those who will be on the receiving end of my program are carefully prepared to accept and receive the insights that will be gleaned from the message. This can take a long stretch of my time, but Kairos doesn't care about minutes or hours or weeks or months, Kairos cares about hearts.

In my time I do what God has asked of me, I receive extra training, I read the right books, I learn all I can from other people, and I am ready to offer what I know to others. In Kairos my head is filled with knowledge and my heart is filled with longing, but my human emotions clog up the delivery system and must be cleared away. I must be made so that I don't feel superior to those to whom God will send me. I must be made to be aware of their needs, and not my wants in every situation. I must be honed, and humbled and carefully molded. This process can take a very long stretch of my time, but Kairos only cares that the process is complete, not how long it takes.

In my time all of my affairs are in order, so this would be a great time for me to act. In Kairos events I haven't even considered are foreseen, and my waiting will assure that I am not deep into something when my services and energy are needed elsewhere.

Saint Peter the Apostle, and our first Pope is a great example of someone who had to learn about Kairos. In story after story in the Gospels we see Peter jumping ahead with a thought or action and having to have Jesus set him straight or pull him out of the water. And then just before Jesus ascends into Heaven, He reminds the Apostles not to act until the Holy Spirit comes to them. Peter and the other apostles and Mary the Mother of Jesus return to the upper room to wait. For nine days they pray and wait, ready to act, but not called to it just yet. Then the Holy Spirit descends upon them in the Wind and Fire and they are called out of the upper room to preach the Good News to those who are waiting outside. Kairos has arrived; it is now God's time for Peter to speak.

Acting outside of Kairos may be in some ways considered successful as the world views success, but it is never faithful as God views faithfulness. So our job is to prepare and then wait and pray so that when we act it is in Kairos.

In the immortal words of that great theologian Tom Petty "The waiting is the hardest part"!


Saturday, August 07, 2004

Get it in Writing!

I have kept a journal of one form or another for most of my adult life. I distinctly remember the first time I got a diary as a Christmas present. It was one of those leatherette ones with the little lock and key. I was nearly frantic with anticipation for New Year's Day to come so that I could write in it for the first time.

Over the years I have written in notebooks, blank books, for a time I had a computer journal in word that was password protected. I have been given journals as gifts and have purchased them on my own.

I know exactly what type of journal I like to write in too. It can't be one of those bound books; it has to have a spiral binding. But not just any spiral notebook will do, it has to be at least 8 by 6 inches and have hard cardboard covers so that it lays flat in my lap as I write. The Spirals have to be those big thick metal ones that barely move when you bend them. I have to write in pencil as well, and mechanical pencils are the best, they are always sharp, so long as you don't run out of lead.

Having said that I will admit that someone gave me a bound empty book as a gift one time and I began to use it as my journal. I really didn't like it at all, the paper was too thick, and it never sat in my lap the way I liked. But being the person that I am I felt that I should keep using it, even though I didn't like it, because someone had given it to me. I am not sure what finally broke me of that feeling, at some point I just realized that resenting having to write in my journal just to fill it up was becoming a common theme in my entries. I tell you I felt completely set free when I put that half-filled book on the shelf next to my old journals and began writing in a new spiral bound one I purchased at a discount store.

Presently I have three ongoing journals. One is for general use, I write in it most evenings if I think about it. It is like a trusted friend that comes with me wherever I go. I have one that I keep with my Liturgy of the Hours book, so that I can write my reaction or reflection when I am praying. The third journal I have right now is my current retreat journal. I just came back from retreat a few weeks ago, and I keep my little notebook/journal from that retreat nearby so that if anything I gleaned from that retreat needs to be commented on or thought about I have it handy.

The strangest thing about my journals I have found is when I go back and re-read parts of old journals. In some ways I can see just how far I have come in my spiritual walk. Or I can re-experience some incident in the lives of my children or husband or myself. Or I can become extremely frustrated that no matter how enlightened and evolved I think I am; I am still struggling with the same temptations that I struggled with six or ten or fifteen years ago. That really used to get me down until I thought about how far I have come in terms of understanding my own weaknesses and sinfulness.

The amazing thing I find when reading old journals is how struck I am by the beauty of something I wrote years ago. I hope as a writer that I never lose that sense of awe at the gift God has bestowed upon me.

I guess in a way this has become like journal entries for me. Odd to think, I really don't like when other people read my journals, and here I am writing this blog for the entire world to see. I guess that could be considered growth on my part.

Through all of my journal writing one theme has been the most constant: Lord give me the will to do your will in my life. The difference between my early entries and the more current ones is that I am so much more aware of God's will in what happens than I used to be. God has ordered my steps very carefully. And I will follow Him, wherever He leads. Just last week I was given a chance to begin to mend a broken relationship that I have been praying about for years.

So I wait, and pray, and write in my journal. God is good, all the time.


Friday, August 06, 2004


My spiritual life is like a jigsaw puzzle. When I was young the pieces of the spiritual puzzle came spilling out all around me and I was at a loss as to where to begin that daunting task of creating a relationship/picture from the many pieces.

I begin to realize there is a way to start. I should get the outline pieces in place first. The outer edge of my spiritual journey consists of family, community, faith traditions, scripture reading and the first stirrings of personal prayer. These pieces all have very strong boundary lines, and are easy to distinguish, and once one puts them in order they form a framework for the rest of ones spiritual life.

The next step is filling in the middle of the puzzle. This is a little bit harder, because while doing a traditional jigsaw puzzle, all I had to do was look at the picture on the box to see what the final picture is supposed to look like, the box to my spiritual puzzle is gone, so I grope along trying piece after piece until one fits. In the spiritual life this is like using new forms of prayer and reading spiritual books without any guidance, you can really get far in the wrong direction very easily.

It is only after a long frustrating session of trying so many ill fitting pieces that I begin to understand that pieces not only fit together because the edges match, but also because the colors of the pieces surrounding it are similar. In my spiritual life I equate this to turning to trustworthy sources as I seek the truth. Why go to a source that only knows what they have been told about the truth when there are those who know the truth.

Then I find that having someone more skilled at puzzles to guide me really helps as well. In my faith tradition we call this spiritual direction. I have been blessed with two wonderful official spiritual directors and a few others who took on the task in an unofficial way. My Spiritual Director helps me to see the patterns in each tiny piece of the puzzle, and when I can see the patterns clearly it becomes so much easier to see where they fit into the framework.

Even the most experienced puzzle assembler can be tricked though. Have you ever seen two puzzles cut with the same die at the factory? They may have totally different pictures, but each puzzle has exactly the same shapes of pieces in exactly the same place. If two puzzles of this type have their pieces mixed together it can mean chaos to the puzzle assembler.

In the spiritual life, the world is full of similar puzzles. I go around picking up prayers and other devotions, and groups and other ways of experiencing God and I try them out in my puzzle. When a piece fits, I am so happy that I don't even realize that the piece has a totally different design than the surrounding pieces. It fits; it should be part of my puzzle. This is when that wise spiritual director can help me to see the error of my strategy, and help me to remove the piece that fits the shape exactly but totally clashes with the pattern.

When I complained to my spiritual director that God had thrown so many puzzle pieces into my stack, she reminded me that all I had to do was look a little more closely at the pattern on each piece and make sure the pattern matched before I moved on.

But I lament all of the little holes in my framework that removing the dissimilar pieces have created. I will have to go back and find the pieces that fit in these spaces. When I moan about God's lack of good puzzle keeping, my spiritual director chastises me for being so ready to pick up puzzle pieces meant for other puzzle assemblers.

Stick to your own pattern, she says, adding someone else’s pieces to your puzzle will only lead to dissatisfaction when you have every space filled and the picture is something unrecognizable.

So, I carefully add piece after piece to my framework, and something that looks familiar emerges. As my spiritual journey progresses I see that what I am constructing is a picture, of something I know quite well. For if I am careful, and assemble my puzzle with all the correct pieces meant for me, I will construct a picture of LOVE!

Happy puzzling, and by the way have you seen a piece that looks like morning prayer, I think that is supposed to fit right over there in my framework.


Thursday, August 05, 2004

The Truth about Men and Women

While I don't ascribe to the maxim that men and women are from two different planets, there are some very fundamental differences in the way men and women look at the world that cannot be ignored. I would just like to share a few questions and comments that you might like to ponder as you go through your day:

Why is it that when a woman exercises, she will cover herself from head to toe if she feels she has an ounce of fat on her body, but a man no matter what shape he is in will strip his shirt off for all the world to see if he happens to be on the "skins" side of a basketball game?

Why is it that men feel compelled to tell each other what gas mileage they got on their last tank, but get upset that women discuss the cost of their newset dress?

Have you ever gotten driving directions from a man? They tell you to turn right exactly 2.2 miles from the intersection of such and such street and the other street and continue on till you come to this cross street and then veer left for .4 miles till you reach the driveway of the place you are going. Women on the other hand will say, stay on the road you are on till you pass the Convenience store on the right and then at the next stopligt turn right. You will then drive through a really nice neighborhood with some beautiful flower gardens. When you have gone past the big stone house with the wisteria growing in the side yard you have to veer left toward the brick house with the Francis statue on the patio and then the driveway of the place you are going is right across the street from the fire station. Think about that for a while.

I heard once that men and women have different limits of words to use in any given day, with a man's limit being thousands of words fewer than a woman can use. So when your husband doesn't talk to you at night, don't take it personally, he may just have used up all his words at work that day.

What would posess a man to do yardwork (outside, for all the world to see) in clothing that is so falling apart that it barely leaves anything to the imagination. My guess is this is the same principle as in my first example.

Why is it that a man will drive around for blocks before he will admit that he either took a wrong turn or has no clue where he is?

I wish someone would tell me how to coexist with a man whose taste in music is alarmingly dissimilar to my own. Oh sorry, that one was meant as an internal musing, I didn't mean to print it, but if you have any ideas I am sure that mrangelmeg and I would be appreciative.

Do you know what though, God created us man and woman alike to live together loving each other despite and in some cases because of our differences. There must be some purpose in the grand design for the ways in which we relate to each other. I do know that when I am troubled and can't figure something out, I will let mrangelmeg think about it for a while and he comes up with a solution that I never would have seen. Maybe the eyes with which we see the clearest are not one set, but two pair.

So, God love them, and so do I. But please someone buy some jerseys for them to play basketball in.


Wednesday, August 04, 2004

It's a Family Thing

Aren't families interesting? We all belong to one (or more than one). No matter how messy ours is, it would be very hard to think about living in this world without it.

My sisters and brothers can drive me crazy, but I love them none the less. I have a relationship with my siblings that could best be described as toxic when fewer than two states separate us. I think I like email and internet connections to my family the best. I can love them and keep up with their lives from a very comfortable distance.

God placed me in my family for a reason. I can accept that statement at face value, but I still wonder what He could have been thinking! These people are nothing like me; and don't even get me started on their politics. And yet, would I have become the writer that I am had I not spent so many hours imagining myself somewhere other than the attic in which my loving brother used to lock me? Hmm. Would I have any understanding of intercessory prayer if my sister hadn't needed so much prayer when she went off to "find herself" and trouble seemed to be her constant companion?

Don't get me wrong, I have wonderful memories of the years I lived with my brothers and sisters. I can still remember camping in that big tent on hot summer nights. We could hear the crickets and owls and other creatures, but we were safe in our canvas home because we weren't alone. Some of those camping trips are my best memories, and we never really went anywhere exciting, but we were together.

God is our eternal Father. He is eternally Fathering us as we wander through this wasteland searching for the promised land. But at least he didn't create us to wander all alone, he gave us families so that while we wandered we could fight over every little thing every moment. So you see, we have finally come to the answer to that age old question.

He started it! It's all God's fault.


Tuesday, August 03, 2004

Bumper Sticker Theology

We all have seen them, those short pithy statements that are meant to render God-talk into something readable from the car behind while traveling at 60 plus miles per hour. Most true theologians hate them. I'm a big fan of what I call bumper sticker theology - I find that there are times when the best one can offer a person in distress is one of these. We throw them out like life-lines in an attempt to keep our friends from sinking into the abyss of despair that some of us know so well.

Today was one of those days for me. I was hurting because I missed an absent friend too soon taken from us here below and I really needed reassurance. Amazingly, this little piece of wisdom came from a Homily given at a Mass I attended today. Father told us a story of a 12th century saint; Francis of Asissi.

The story goes that he was showing a novice of his order how to preach in the town. They walked through the town, the younger monk following a few paces behind. The entire day Francis spent helping the poor, offering a hand where needed, and in one case his cloak to someone who didn't have one. When they came back to their starting place the younger monk asked "But Master, where did you preach?" to which Francis replied, "Preach the Gospel at all times, if necessary use words."

Our God is a God of presence. I AM -- the God of the present moment. If we want to offer our best to our friends, the most important thing we can give them is our presence. I got through this day because I had friends around me who gave me a hug, or a smile, or shared their tissues when I needed them. It was then that it occurred to me that my absent friend isn't forever lost to me, she lives in that wonderful congregation the Communion of Saints. She now lives in the Love that is God, and that love extends to me through the people who love me, and those I love. It still may hurt to think of her, but each time the memories are sweeter.

So I guess my end of the day bumper sticker should be: We are an Easter People, and Alleluia is our Song.