ReCatholication…

Williams-Catholic-Chapel-Altar4

After seemingly years of struggle we’ve now come full circle and found ourselves content and unashamedly back in the Catholic Church.  This journey has encountered many valleys to cross and hills that need climbing but home again we now are.  For most people this would be less of an issue.  Years of conditioning in the evangelical church found us lacking and uninspired.  Our family has all but found church lately uneventful and dare I say unnecessary.  I find it hard to acknowledge these words coming from me as this doubt was never covered in seminary, but oftentimes the hardest person we have to be honest with is ourselves.

My daughter has been the driver in this homecoming for our family.  A dear child with a passionate seeking heart coming up with many questions and securing fewer answers.  Each Sunday she would ask us about going to church only to be met with a chorus a groans followed but rationals why we need to pass this week.  Top her credit, she kept asking even when the answer was quite clearly not what she desired.

One week we were approached with a unusual request, “can we go to Grandma’s church?”  My wife and I looked at each other with startled eyes.  Unknowingly we both shrugged our shoulders and said  “sure.”  As each of us was raised in the Catholic Church and have been away for an extended period, our quick commitment gave us concern as memories of a brutally harsh church experience of youth surfaced.

Fast forward, it’s been a couple of months and so far the roof of the church hasn’t caved in and we still desire to go each week.  Without getting too caught up into tomorrow, today we still enjoy attending.  Here are a few points I’ve observed of our transition.

  1. Saturday night mass fits our life plan just perfectly
  2. Digging the ritual and ceremony of the service
  3. Priest – humble, genuine, honest, and thought provoking
  4. Watching my family worship together is special
  5. Comfortable taking what I need and leaving the rest for others to enjoy
  6. Fascinated by the mystery/unknownness of God expressed
  7. Love that I don’t have to worry about being a leader in church
  8. The congregants drink wine and beer at gatherings without any concern
  9. Friday fish fry – enough said
  10. Quiet reverence inside the building.

Let’s see how next week goes!

Vintage…

 

The liquid sparkles boldly in the light,

small waves respond to the shaken glass.

Swirls thrust to the side,

releasing an aroma of delight

Ah, the masterpiece lives.

Suggestions…

Show love by being gentle and appreciating the life others live,

find ways to encourage and build up your brother.

Seek another’s excellence and celebrate his strengths,

Live hand in hand with those most unlike you.

Worry little about being right or the most honorable,

words bring little importance to life.

Be led to hug and hold those in distress,

stand along those being persecuted.

Present boldly a life against the stream,

focus on being true to the monkey inside.

Sing loudly with those who have found joy,

even if it’s not yours.

Enjoy the quiet, live without background static,

hear what’s really important.

Start every conversation with a smile,

spend more time listening and much less talking.

Look fully into the eye of the one you converse,

have nothing else to do.

Don’t cheat yourself out of joy, be kind to your soul,

forgive easily personal shortcomings.

Let others win at games, enjoy the time not the outcome,

dance freely to the music.

Let the toast be for others, fill their glass more full,

together enjoy the cause of life.

Smile at children, speak to cashiers and trashmen,

overtip a waitress, let them know they’re alive and valuable.

Stare out a window at nothing in particular,

as rain blurs the view.

Pet the stray, move a turtle from the road, watch a butterfly dance.

When there is doubt, be kind,

enjoy life fully.

Facebook…

I’m growing weary of Facebook.

Each day as I sign in, I hold my breath to see who’s “concerned” about what I’ve been discussing.  Does it have to be like this?

My frustration with Facebook has nothing to do with the connections that have been renewed and restored.  Nor, is my frustration due to the many people who are my “friends” but secretly, I have no idea who they are.  These friends send me messages and updates and I fashionably respond like we’re singing from the same hymnal but secretly I’m just being polite.  Obviously, they know me and the shortcoming surely is on my end, but for the life of me I just can’t recall some of these “friends.

My frustration lies with those who I actually do know and have had a relationship with for many years.  If we are being honest, prior to Facebook, I doubt we would have reconnected and both parties would have lived their lives without a hiccup.

What Facebook allows is a new freedom of expression.  People are empowered to boldly proclaim every thought they’ve previously held captive deep within the depths of common sense.  These same people, who would never utter a disagreeable word publicly roar their disapproval for everything political, religious, and social commentary not falling in the exact shadow they cast.

Worse yet are the stalker fighters who seek out their “friends” to do battle.  Any discussion is fair game for these, even a topic so seemingly benign as the weather can be the epicenter of an all out brawl.  Once word gets out of a fight in progress it’s back to high school where everyone seems to show up and watch and even participate.

*Confession.  I have spent time as a stalker fighter looking for a battle to defend my point of view.  The energy used to engage so many threads of conflict wore on me.  Soon I couldn’t say anything without conflict erupting and armies lining up preparing themselves for the next round of engagement.  I saw the error in my ways.  Actually, my wife kindly point out that the behavior was asinine.  As one who takes the advice from his wife (aka: the holy spirit) seriously, change was on the way.  I soon stopped debating and trying to make corrective points with the opposition instead seeking now only to interact on a friendly level with fun banter and playful jesting.

To quote Michael Corleone, “they keep dragging me back in.”  It’s been well over a year since my efforts on Facebook have stopped participating on battles of right and wrong but those out there can’t seem to leave well enough alone.  A little jab here, and backhanded compliment there, even a sharp rebuttal over there, yet I’ve held my ground and not caved it.  I respect much of this I’ve created, that whole Karma thing and all, but today I’m just tired of the whole thing.

I’m convinced Facebook is one of the markers denoting the beginning of the apocalypse.  Well, maybe that’s a little dramatic, but it’s certainly leading to the downfall of civility if not civilization as a whole.  For all the good that Facebook provides, the reconnection to our past and ability to stay in touch with those we cherish, not to mention the ability to communicate with vast people in levels never before even dreamed.  For all the good that’s possible, I question if the bad is not overshadowing any redemptive possibility that currently exists.

This medium is being used effectively now as a divider of people.  Intentional or not, that’s the reality.  Never before has more information been available to the masses with which opinions and rally points where chosen beforehand. Slowly the machine is creating two camps, not just along political lines, today it’s those in the know and the others.  Methodically, the fabric of our being is being interwoven into a thread that aligns with one or the other grouping.  Carefully, religious belief, political belief, social concerns, and love seem to only fit into two pre-described camps without any room for deviation from any of the topics.  Middle ground has left us.  Compromise is gone.  Acceptance for those not entirely like us has disappeared.  Facebook didn’t create this divide but certainly has worked to magnified it and made the gap wider and thrust it to the forefront so it cannot be denied.  Strike up a conversation with any stranger and within minutes you can see if you share a jersey or are determined to be a future combatant.

I think life is too valuable for immediately sizing up people and quickly determining if they need converting or a handshake.  I hate that we can look at someone’s Facebook and determine everything we think we need to know about that individual, or at least be content assuming that we can know them in this way.  Facebook is creating a generation of surface level relationships that never seek to mine the gold of another’s heart.  Simplicity and expediency, while key parts of Facebook connections, serve little to no value with real souls.

So a tradeoff awaits us.  Do we accept the drama and bullshit that a Facebook account provides?  Or do we jump ship?  Do we go at it the old fashioned way?  The way where we seek to truly know the other before us, appreciate them for what they bring to the table, leave alone that which we disagree.  Imagine if those wishing to do battle with our thoughts had to look us in the eye and be accountable in person as in days of old.  No more paper (or electronic) lions bravely attacking every comment from the safe confines of their homes.  I dare say seeing so many people empowered with disinformation and innuendo leading the charge to save our world really distresses me.

While I can’t change much, I can change me.  Time to go share a glass of wine with friends in person, not just over the internet.

Turnip…

Your appearance is rather unattractive,

your moniker something quite bland.

When your name is suggested,

most quickly turn away.

Even in the store found in a confined space

away from the sexy peppers in their rainbow colors.

Sitting there like an unwanted puppy at the pound,

shoppers never giving you a second glance.

If they only knew the delicacy that awaits

from sampling you sauteed with a little wine.

Instead of a cast-off space filler,

you would be a prominent attraction.

Oh lovely turnip, thank you for showing me the way.

Full Glass…

 

I partake in the spirit of the vine

apologies to none.

Loud opinions voice concern,

the devils brew.

Were they to be alone, a shared communion to follow,

before another angry, temperance reigns.

Handmade beauty, pairing man and nature

creating a tranquil blend.

Each sip a romance best shared with a friend.

Chastity of the glass, an imposed cruel burden,

the unknown gift awaits.

Keep my glass full, my friends nearby,

harmony the song played.

Connection to the gods and all mankind,

from one small grape.

“Wine is sunlight, held together by water.”   -Galileo Galilei

Garlic…

Carefully sliced, ever so thin,

the perfect enhancement to any meal.

Subtile and strong, aroma unmistakable,

seemingly impossible to overuse.

Tossed with care and a dash of oil,

passion flows from the stove.

Stinginess is no friend, generosity a plus.

Whatever the menu, now improved,

interest immediately peaked.

An unassuming clove so benign in sight,

changing a common dinner into a delightful entree.

Demands a glass of wine, the perfect pair,

Euphoria at the table.

Minutia Manifesto…

To all the people in my world, today I’m drawing a hard line between us.   Well maybe not all, but certainly some.  This line will be drawn on the closer side to me of the line drawn by you and the divisive nature of your involvement.  For years I’ve enjoyed your presence in my life but it seems that time has run it’s course.  The hatred and anger spewed forth by you and your comrades is too much to endure.

I admit I was once one of you many years back.  I shared your outlook, passion, and quest for being in the right.  For whatever reason my path has diverged from yours and taken a less ordinary route.  I regret nothing of the journey my life has followed nor the people such a trail has allowed me to encounter.  Good people, loving people, people who I had been taught to avoid and be wary of embracing.  Boy, were they wrong.

Each day I see your anger flashed before me through differing forms of communication, a constant barrage of hate and pettiness.  My mind lacks understanding of how the desire of being right becomes so important that it separates and castigates so many people.  Where is the love?  Is there no value in humanity?  Community?  I had dreams that your life would be overflowing with happiness and joy, full of family, closeness, generosity, and positive impact.  You carried so much promise yet let division invade your soul and thump compassion into submission.

I am but a fragile pile of lumpy clay still working through the potters refinement.  Each day I awaken with hope for a glorious day to share but see the disparaging words you vent hoping I don’t have that option.  When did being part of something so imaginary and uncharitable  become the driving force in your world?  Rhetoric is thrown carelessly out unconcerned by who it encounters.  You demand I either embrace this way of thought or be castigated to the Neverworld of untouchables.  Power seems to reduce calm but fortify anger.

Enough of the demeaning groupings you demand I join, enough of the shouts of preservation you seek, enough of the only means to wholeness by your hands…

One of the first lessons in selling reefer I learned was taught to me by a dear friend.  Don’t smoke your own dope.  It makes you stupid.  Friends, you kid yourselves thinking the world is becoming better for your efforts.  A world of war isn’t a world worth living.  Choosing to fight a straw man instead of looking at ourselves and dealing honestly together on solutions represents more a playground behavior than the adult one we postulate.

It’s a shame that political disunion is what motivates you.  It’s sad that each day you seek to dishonor the character of those around you.  It’s pitiful that people walk in and out of your life but you are blind to them due to the tinted leanings of your glasses.  So much good out there, dismissed because it’s just not enough like you.  (or at least what you imagine yourself to be)

I wish I could say, “It’s not you, it’s me,” but that wouldn’t be honest.  It is you and I’m breaking up with you because your a bore and a mean spirited ass.  Life is too short and complex on it’s own accord to add the angst of you to the mix.  I had hoped for more…maybe I am just a dreamer.

Wrap yourself in your flag and shout your rancor from the mountaintop.  Continue the fight.  Know this, your words fall on deaf ears as the perseveration echos like a banging gong, loud and obnoxious, without impact except to annoy.

Me, I’ll be out smelling the flowers and enjoying long walks in the woods.  If not there, maybe sharing a cup of coffee or a glass of wine with the hodgepodge of humanity providence has offered for my enjoyment.

And no, I won’t be looking back.

Homemade Wine…

The corks conceal the treasure this day,

anticipation of the grape, it’s prized offering flowing freely.

Temptation to unwrap natures present early is a daily fight,

as a child’s desire beneath a sparkling tree.

The preparation by one’s own hands,

of such a bounty, ready to share.

Seeing the bottles stacked high and far,

accepting the dust as a friend.

In time my gift will bring pleasure,

but waiting is a bitch.

A Toast…

The condition of the heart matters.  No, it really, really matters.

If one is so inclined the bible is a vast playground of defense for just about any type of manufactured behavior, both implied good and outright bad.  Centuries of misuse have divided and enslaved humanity both physically and spiritually, separating basic dignities from those needing such.  Sadly, this same book of hope, peace, and acceptance is being used to further isolate and traumatize the weak, ignored, and abused of our society.  In the depths of my heart I’m deeply saddened by the negative direction the evangelical church is taking with it’s militaristic and political overtones.  God have mercy.

As an amateur winemaker I’ve come to understand and appreciate the process of racking wine in the differing stages of fermentation necessary to produce a delicate finish.  Each time the wine is racked (transferred to another holding container) the lees is removed from the fermenter.  The lees is the unwanted sediments found on the bottom of the barrel that takes away from the quality of the finished product.  With wine, the more rackings that are done, the finer the quality of the wine.  With people in the church, this analogy doesn’t hold true, in fact it’s just the opposite.  Each time the church tries to refine itself and make the institution more pure, it lessens the end product and by no means improves it.

People are not like lees which can just be thrown out and forgotten.  Even if they are considered bottom of the barrel by some, there is a basic goodness in all that has to be valued and considered.  The church is well on it’s way to refining itself into uselessness with little or no social impact.  How can this institution be taken seriously by anyone other than the select few who claim themselves holy or good enough to be included.

Consider this beautiful prayer of St. Francis of Assisi…

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace. Where there is hatred . . . let me sow love. Where there is injury . . . pardon. Where there is doubt . . . faith. Where there is despair . . . hope. Where there is darkness . . . light. Where there is sadness . . . joy. O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek To be consoled . . . as to console, To be understood . . . as to understand; To be loved . . . as to love, For It is in giving . . . that we receive. It is in pardoning . . . that we are pardoned, It is in dying . . . that we are born to eternal life.

Raise your glass and join me in a toast…To Love, and the true practice thereof.

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