Friday Five – Volume 79

Friday Five-Mere Observations

— 1 —

One cannot help but notice that in this Age of Tolerance that those who are most vehement about imposing tolerance are the most angry. About intolerance, I presume. They are angry to the point where any disagreement, dissent or questioning of their pure, pristine motives is shouted down and ridiculed in the public square. One cannot question their motives. One cannot reason with them through the use of rational discussion.

If it wasn’t so frightening and fraught with consequences the whole thing would be amusingly absurd.

The Angry Man
by Phyllis McGinley

The other day I chanced to meet
an angry man upon the street —
a man of wrath, a man of war,
a man who truculently bore
over his shoulder, like a lance,
a banner labeled “Tolerance.”

And when I asked him why he strode
thus scowling down the human road,
howling, he answered, “I am he
who champions total liberty —
intolerance being, ma’am, a state
no tolerant man can tolerate.

“When I meet rogues,” he cried, “who choose
to cherish oppositional views,
lady, like this, and in this manner,
I lay about me with my banner
till they cry mercy, ma’am.” His blows
rained proudly on prospective foes.

Fearful, I turned and left him there
still muttering, as he thrashed the air,
“Let the Intolerant beware!”

— 2 —

Behold, one angry man of tolerance. (Warning: language alert.)

“I’m sick and tired of Christians being tolerated. You need to do something about Christians on here. I don’t feel comfortable with them.”

Lovely.

— 3 —

New technology – like the computer – freed men and women from all kinds of drudgery, saved them vast amounts of time. . . . And yet the time saved did not seem to mean additional leisure or greater opportunities for meditation and reflection. Instead, with each new wave of technology, the pace of life increased; there was more to do, more choices to make, more things to experience, and people eagerly seized upon those experiences and filled the hours that had only moments ago become empty. Each year life seemed to be flitting past with far greater speed than the year before, as if God had cranked up the control knob on the flow of time. But that wasn’t right, either, because to many people, even the concept of God seemed dated in an age in which the universe was being forced to let go of its mysteries on a daily basis. Science, technology, and change were the only gods now, the new Trinity; and while they were not consciously cruel and judgmental, as some of the old gods had been, they were too coldly indifferent to offer any comfort to the sick, the lonely, and the lost. – Dean Koontz (The Door to December)

— 4 —

In 59 days my oldest son ships off to Marine boot camp. On the following day my plans as of now are to delete my Facebook account entirely. I’ve deactivated before, but this time I plan to delete it altogether so as to avoid the temptation to go back. I find that it’s not unlike the decision we made last November to disconnect our satellite service. One gets addicted to the noise and despite the huge amounts of time and money wasted it’s hard to disconnect from it. Social media is the same. Huge amounts of time (which does equal money of some sort or another) is wasted, but it’s hard to disconnect. I find myself using the same justifications I used for delaying the eradication of 300+ channels into our home.

Everyone has it.

I won’t know what’s going on in the world.

It’s how I stay connected.

What bullshit we tell ourselves.

It’s a time vampire. It’s also the most narcissistic exercise invented by man. Perhaps it’s because I’m getting older, or perhaps it’s because I want more time alone with my thoughts and not the world’s. A big part of it is because this is an election year. I refuse to relive 2012 all over again. I mostly held my tongue and continue to hold it as friends of mine post the most vile, insane crap about people they don’t even know while in the next breath posting a pretty picture of a pristine nature scene with some mantra about how open-minded and forgiving they are. Does no one notice? Are we that unaware of ourselves? Facebook has also seen fit to tell me everything that friends of mine “like”. And I am learning that not a few friends of mine frequently like articles hostile to my beliefs as a Catholic, but also things that insult me as a man of family, self-reliance, natural and Constitutional law.

Do they feel the same way about me as they do other Catholics or conservatives? Am I really an intolerant homophobe because I don’t believe you can simply change a thousands year old definition to suit the whims of the age? Do they consider me a racist for believing in national sovereignty and in a nation that enforces its borders? Am I truly a misogynist because I support the Hobby Lobby decision at the Supreme Court? Do I consider them all hopelessly historically illiterate for not understanding that societies and civilizations have crumbled in the past and will do so again for adopting many of the progressive stances being drudged up again today? Do they lump everyone into the same camp or is it simply laziness or for ease of the click of a button that we “like” something?

I figure they consider me those things by association, while I consider the depths of their thought process as that of a sidewalk puddle after a spring rain. So we’re both guilty.

No one can be bothered to discuss things anymore. I’ve had my comments deleted on Facebook by those who don’t want to think beyond their worldview, or been told that an issue of the day is “just too complex to discuss” while article after image after meme is slapped up on their wall.

This is no discussion. This is akin to babies smearing poo from their diaper on a wall and pointing at it proudly as if to say “See what I did?”

We’re better than this. Aren’t we?

I simply do not need to know those things. Some would say I do. But I don’t. I love my friends and acquaintances, but I do not need to be connected with them so much that I get to see pictures of what they have for dinner every night.

  • 26 out of 45 customers spend an average of 3 minutes taking photos of the food.
  • 14 out of 45 customers take pictures of each other with the food in front of them or as they are eating the food. This takes on average another 4 minutes as they must review and sometimes retake the photo.

Just as I do not need to know  what they had for lunch they probably do not want to know what ballgame I’m watching, book I’m reading or sadness I feel regarding the events in Mosul, the Ukraine or elsewhere.

Read the article. It’s eye opening, yet sadly not surprising. As it says:

We are so engrossed in ourselves and in our technology that we lose sight of the importance of the relationships we have and the importance of experiencing things rather than recording them.

— 5 —

Several weeks ago I’d mentioned my desire to create a writing space in my backyard via the construction of a gazebo. This is what inspired that thought.

gazebo 1

gazebo 2

Here’s what contemporary author Neil Gaiman said about his enviable, Mark Twain-esque writing gazebo in the book Shedworking:

“I had the gazebo built about 15 years ago, and go through phases of using it, and then I’ll abandon it for 5 years, then rediscover it with delight. I love walking to the bottom of the garden, and settling down to write.

Nothing ever happens down there. I can look out of the window and some wildlife will occasionally look back, but mostly it’s just trees, and they are only so interesting for so long, so I get back to writing, very happily.

There are heaters down there, because it gets cold here in winter, and blankets on the chairs, ditto, and I have to try and remember not to leave bottles of ink on the table as they freeze. It’s just out of reach of the house Wifi, too, which is a good thing.”

I’ve got the perfect location scouted out in my yard. Since I won’t be taking or looking at pictures of food I figure I’ll have the time to build one.

Our scapegoats, ourselves

“Parents can only give good advice or put them on the right paths, but the final forming of a person’s character lies in their own hands.” – Anne Frank

Another fable from Aesop…

*****

Fortune and the Boy, illustration from 'Baby's Own Aesop', engraved and printed by Edmund Evans, London, published c.1920

Fortune and the Boy, illustration from ‘Baby’s Own Aesop’, engraved and printed by Edmund Evans, London, published c.1920

Fortune and the Boy

A boy was sleeping very close to the edge of a well. He was a quiet and innocent lad, who was not doing anybody any harm.

But Fortune saw him there and she woke him up.

“Please, child, go and sleep somewhere else. If nothing should happen to you, nobody would say that I had taken good care of you. But if you were to fall into the well, everybody would say it was my fault. And I, poor Fortune, have so much blamed on me already.”

The moral: When things go badly, we blame it on luck. But when they go well we take the credit.

*****

Whether we scapegoat luck, God, our spouse, children, parents, or upbringing, rarely do we hear anyone taking the blame when falling short in whatever task or endeavor undertaken. “When you point the finger of blame remember three fingers are pointing back at you” goes the famous phrase often used by athletic coaches. Yet when success is achieved we are more apt to take the credit. A few years ago I noticed that more and more memoirs were on the book tables at Barnes & Noble. Flipping through a few that caught my eye it was easy to see the dominant theme: My life is really screwed up but it’s not my fault.

“There is an expiry date on blaming your parents for steering you in the wrong direction; the moment you are old enough to take the wheel, responsibility lies with you.” – J.K. Rowling

There does come a time when you have to accept your circumstances and strive to overcome them. You can continue to wallow in the mire and the muck or pull yourself up, wash yourself off and stride forward into life.

“If you could kick the person in the pants responsible for most of your trouble, you wouldn’t sit for a month.” – Theodore Roosevelt

A search on Google for the phrase “personal responsibility” yields 2,240,000 results. It is a concept that appears in Holy Scripture several times. Part of growing up into adulthood is taking responsibility for ourselves. As infants we have none but as we grow into differing stages of childhood more responsibility befalls us.

For each man will have to bear his own load. (Galatians 6:5)

Within the last hour and as I was writing this I learned about a man that I do not know. A husband and father of two young children, mid 30s, by all accounts successful and affluent with everything to live for. Last night he took his own life just as his father had done when he was a boy. A man raised Catholic who rejected his faith and was I’m told an avowed atheist. I’m not going to point a finger or pass judgment on his faith or lack thereof. Just giving the few facts as I know them.

All I know is that today there is a young boy and his younger sister who ache a profound ache along with their mom, this man’s friends and his relatives. All hurting because whatever the demons that drove him to making this choice…this decision…they were a heavy enough burden for him that he chose not to accept his personal responsibility any more. He chose to no longer provide for his family the responsibilities owed to them through selflessness or self-sacrifice, but to instead disown the greatest gift we receive: Life.

I did not know him but as I sit here typing I’m heartbroken.

And even if it be true that I have erred, my error remains with myself. (Job 19:4)

I have made mistakes of all severity and sizes. I have tried to own all of them. I have been low all day because of one I made last night and feeling sorry for myself. As the day passed I’d gone endlessly over what was bothering me. And then I began to take ownership for it and was slowly feeling better.

I made the mistake. Me. No one else. I had a choice and I made the decision. I’ll learn from it.

What lessons are there to learn from this man who determined that he no longer wanted the responsibilities that he had?

Whom did he blame for his perceived misfortune?

Whom could he not see fit to credit for his fortune?

Whom will we blame?

Whom will we credit?

I believe these are important questions.

 

The Motion of Grace

“I think the world today is upside down. Everybody seems to be in such a terrible rush, anxious for greater development and greater riches and so on.  There is much suffering because there is so very little love in homes and in family life. We have no time for our children, we have no time for each other; there is no time to enjoy each other. In the home begins the disruption of the peace of the world.” – Mother Teresa

Continuing with the fables of Aesop…

*****

Disney's "The Tortoise and the Hare" (1934)

Disney’s “The Tortoise and the Hare” (1934)

The Hare and the Tortoise

There was a hare who was rudely poking fun at a Tortoise for being so slow, and at the same time bragging about his own speed in running.

“All right, all right,” said the Tortoise, “let’s have a race and settle this thing. I’ll race you for five miles and bet I win.”

“Ho! ho!” said the Hare, “that is a bet.”

So they picked the Fox as a judge and off they went.

The Hare started off like the wind and was soon so far out in front he stopped and laughed and laughed while he waited for the slow old Tortoise to come into sight.

He waited so long and he thought he was so safely ahead that he said, “Well, I’ll just take a quick little nap here by the side of the road on this grass.” The grass was soft and comfortable and he fell sound asleep. The Tortoise, meanwhile, kept jogging along slowly but steadily without a stop.

When the hare woke, he jumped up with a start and streaked down the road, but he was too late. The slow old Tortoise was crossing the finish line and had won the race.

The Moral: Slow but sure is the quickest way in the long run.

*****

Much has been written on the pace of our lives these days and our desire to slow down. Yet we ignore these longings of our hearts. We’ve convinced ourselves that we need to stay on the treadmill, or in the maze, and keep running faster else we get left behind. Depending upon which truth you have chosen to follow, this is a lie. You can disconnect your cable or satellite television. You can survive without a Smartphone. You don’t have to work all those extra hours.

We’re all journeying along a track. There is a finish line awaiting us all at the end. We can choose whether to run it as a sprint, a jog or a leisurely stroll.

You can choose how you wish to get to the finish line.

There is more to life. It depends upon where it is you are going and whose race you are running.

The latest dates, discoveries, inventions, societies, authors old and new,
My dinner, dress, associates, looks, compliments, dues,
The real or fancied indifference of some man or woman I love,
The sickness of one of my folks, or of myself, or ill-doing, or loss or lack of money, or depressions or exaltations;
Battles, the horrors of fratricidal war, the fever of doubtful news, the fitful events;
These come to me days and nights, and go from me again,
But they are not the Me myself. – from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

I have found that when my brain is running a million miles an hour and have put several irons in the fire that my heart does the same. Too often my heart follows my head instead of the other way around. Yet it is ultimately the heart that must provide the circulation through the pumping of blood, energy, motivation and life that will fuel my race. If I am not careful to keep my heart focused and disciplined I will not only fail to get to the finish line I will get lost along the way. In chasing the world and its enticements I am no longer “the Me myself.”

It is also my experience that by running at the world’s pace we no longer make time to think. To contemplate. The results are bumper sticker slogans and internet memes. Twitter wars of 140 characters. We shout at and past each other. It is a colossal waste of precious time and bears no fruit.

On Monday morning I read these lines from The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus (pages 86-87):

When unguarded, it (the heart) slips forthwith away, it runs to and fro, it is carried toward different objects, according as it is swayed by different impulses of nature.

It is never at rest: when it escapes from one object, it is entangled in another. It is excited by curiosity, it is allured by cupidity, it is misled by vanity, it is defiled by pleasure, it is wasted by sadness, it is tortured by envy, it is disturbed by love and hatred, it is worried by its own misery, and by worrying itself it is broken down.

Thus is my heart busied, thus it is defiled, when I watch not over it, or when I am careless about it.

O Lord, how great the need of being vigilant! How great the need of guarding my heart! It must not only be made to stay at home in recollection, but it must also be kept busy, yet only with Thee or for Thee.

I must examine, then, by what it is impelled, whether by nature or by grace: how it acts, whether according to Thy good pleasure, or according to its own natural likings; what it has ultimately in view, Thee or itself.

And I must watch constantly, until my heart, in some manner, has grown accustomed, sweetly and courageously to follow, for love of Thee, the motion of grace.

Slow and steady.

The motion of grace.

*****

This song was inspired by Walt Whitman’s poem Leaves of Grass and speaks to my heart.

A few light kisses, a few embraces, a reaching around of arms;
The play of shine and shade on the trees as the supple boughs wag;
The delight alone, or in the rush of the streets, or along the fields and hill-sides;
The feeling of health, the full-noon trill, the song of me rising from bed and meeting the sun. – from Leaves of Grass by Walt Whitman

Enough

“These are the times that try men’s souls.” So wrote Thomas Paine in The American Crisis. Indeed I feel at times that I am writing for the very sake of my own sanity. I find I can’t muster the energy needed to write as much of late because of my failure to separate the embracing of insanity by my fellow man from the part of my brain from which thoughts flow to my fingers and pen/keyboard. The blackness spills over the inner wall and I do not write for fear of offending anyone and everyone and appearing mad. Instead I wrap the madness as best I can in a parcel or knapsack and hand it off to God every night in the quiet afforded me while praying the psalms.

In the interim I’ve recently taken to reading from my copy of Aesop’s Fables. I do this from time to time when the world is ripping itself apart at an above normal veracity. I’ll read from The Odyssey or Iliad, The Aenid, the Lives of Plutarch, Beowulf or The Kalevala. Of course there are old friends Ratty, Mole and Toad of Toad Hall. Or I’ll find my way into Tolkien or Lewis, and while in Middle Earth or Narnia visiting someone’s home I’ll reach up to a shelf and find that even there in those worlds there is a dusty copy of Aesop’s Fables at the ready.

The Psalms are where I commune with God. Aesop is where I go to commune with common sense. Common sense is an admittedly much smaller entity than the Lord of the Universe (and is ever shrinking) but a place that we all need to visit nonetheless. God grant us common sense.

Take the fable that follows for instance. Read on, slowly, and I’ll see you once you’ve finished.

city mouse_country mouse

The Country Mouse and the City Mouse

A quiet, good, sensible Country Mouse once entertained an old playmate of his who had recently gone to the city to live.

Though his home was very modest and his life very ordinary, the Country Mouse had saved up in advance so that his dinner for his City Mouse friend would be a good one. He had put away some very nice peas and bacon, a fine dish of oatmeal, a bit of cheese, and for dessert a tasty morsel of ripe apple. When he and his friend sat down to nibble dinner, the Country Mouse didn’t eat any of this fine fare himself, but politely chewed away at an old wheat straw, so that the City friend would be sure to have enough.

When they had finished, the City Mouse leaned back and said, in a very superior way, “Old Pal, how can you bear to live in such a dismal hole as this? Nothing but woods, meadows, mountains and streams around you. Don’t you get bored with just the birds to listen to—no society, no bright worldly conversation? It must be awfully dull. Why don’t you come on up to the city with me tonight? I’ll show you how you can really live and have a grand time all the time.”

The quiet little Country Mouse hadn’t really thought much about it, because he had always been perfectly contented where he was, but he was willing to try anything that sounded so good.

So they set out that evening for the city and about midnight they crept into the large mansion where the City Mouse lived.

There had been a great party the day before and bits of food of all sorts were to be had for the picking.

That sat around on beautiful soft Persian rugs and nibbled a little of this and a little of that until the Country Mouse was pleasantly full and he began to think maybe his life was pretty dull down there in the country.

Just then there was a bang and a rattle that made them jump a mouse mile. The master of the house had come home and with him came two enormous dogs that barked and ran around, nearly scaring the life out of both the mice, who scurried for a place of safety.

“Thank you every so much,” said the Country Mouse to his City friend, “that was fine while it lasted, but as long as I am moving, I think I’ll just keep right on going until I reach my quiet, dull little hole back there in the country. A few dry peas will do me very well as long as I can enjoy them quietly and not have my appetite scared out of me. You are welcome to your exciting city life, I’ll take the country.” And he did.

The moral: It’s a wise mouse or person who has enough and is happy with it.

*****

When do we have enough? How do we define enough?

I admit that in my life I have made a false idol of baseball, of books, of … stuff. We cram our minds, hearts and houses with stuff. And still we’re unhappy. Still we covet. When we covet we stretch ourselves to make more money so we can get more stuff. Or some take the easy way out and simply steal stuff from someone else. Or run down the other person because they don’t have enough of the right stuff like you do. How can they not want your stuff? You wouldn’t covet junk! It’s quality stuff!

Before I turn this into an old George Carlin routine (which was brilliant) I’ll step back.

When do you have enough? How do you define enough?

Enough of what?

______

Addendum: This fable brought to mind an old favorite of mine as performed by Nanci Griffith. When we were first married my wife and I left the urban life of eastern Nebraska and Omaha behind and moved six hours (and a time zone) west to live in a small, western Nebraska town with two stoplights and where the shops were closed on Sundays. The closest mall was over ninety minutes away. Some of our friends thought we were nuts. I used to listen to this song and smile to myself.

Ah but they’ve never seen the Northern Lights
They’ve never seen a hawk on the wing
They’ve never spent spring on the Great Divide
And they’ve never heard ole’ camp Cookie sing

Addendum #2: It seems I’ve written on the subject of “Enough” before in April 2011, though in a different context.

The Ragamuffin Road

Recently I was asked how I’m doing and why I haven’t written much of late. After thinking about it for a moment I reached back into my vocabulary and dusted off this word:

Image source: Google

Image source: Google

Initially I blamed my listlessness on the fact that we had just endured a draining ninety days from March through May. During that time both boys began their respective baseball seasons, my wife underwent major surgery followed by a delicate recovery period, and graduation and a graduation party loomed ahead in May. April brought more baseball, a prom, and graduation planning. And in May I frantically worked to finish up landscaping in the yard, more planning, more baseball, and finally the big events themselves at the same time that my oldest son’s team went on a roll that culminated with them winning their second state championship in three years.

So yeah…June is a time to exhale. Maybe I still am. The month is only half-over after all.

But I’m also numb. And as I watch the events around our country and world spiral out of control while nurtured on by the policies of our current government I grow tense. With the realization that there’s little I can do about it (and being as tired as I am) I shut down. The alternative is to froth at the mouth in angry rage. (That would be the hysterical fanaticism mentioned in the above image.) Rage at the things being done as a result of this government’s policies. Rage at those who voted for it twice while at the same time saying that those who didn’t were on the wrong side of history. Rage at their now being strangely silent. And I wonder: are they silent because they are embarrassed, silent because they are afraid of admitting they were wrong, or silent because deep down they agree with the nation-destroying actions of the man they helped elect twice?

So while numb and wanting to avoid having my blood pressure so high that my eyes bleed I have chosen to stay quiet and listen. Not to the news, social media or the like. But to God and what He is saying for me to hear if I quiet myself and listen. And it is working.

In many ways I’m ready to retire and do some traveling with my wife. Instead I find myself with a suddenly open calendar and time on my hands looking for projects to do. I’ve considered constructing a gazebo in the back corner of our yard, building a second level to the deck, paving a patio extension and firepit area, and building a doghouse. And that’s just in July and for the outside of our home.

But I realize that I’m looking to fill my time and my space with things. My oldest son’s time at home is nearly spent and soon he’ll leave and a hole will exist where he was. Life as we’ve known it and our family’s dynamic since the birth of our daughter will change as he leaves. Son #2 will move into the recently-vacated bedroom downstairs and my daughter plans the complete redecoration of her own room.

“I’m going to paint it pink, purple, red and white Dad.” It’s going to look like a unicorn exploded in there, but I’ll love it.

So I’m looking to fill a hole in my heart with things. Same as it ever was. However, I’ve been around this block already and recognized this road. This is why I’ve stopped all of it and am listening. Stopped all the planning and researching. Because I can’t retire yet. We can’t travel unfettered as we wish or spend all our time accumulating things. We still have two more children to provide for and raise. My work continues.

Because of this my time is spent reading, praying, and listening.

In other words I’m working on filling this hole in my heart with more of what, or who, should be there in the first place. While enjoying the cool spring/early summer days I’ve spent more than a few mornings and evenings sitting outside in conversation with God. I’m listening. Listening to God’s voice in the psalms and prayers of the Divine Office and in the Gospels themselves.

"Morning Offering". Image source: Me

“Morning Offering”. Image source: Me

I’m also reading a book that I inadvertently left off my summer reading list. I first attempted to read The Ragamuffin Gospel by Brennan Manning over ten years ago but quit half-way through. It was brought to mind recently when I watched the movie Ragamuffin: The True Story of Rich Mullins. (As an aside, I plan to write a review of this movie soon. Rich Mullins was, and still is, one of my favorite singer/songwriters. This movie reminded me how much I miss him since his death in 1997.) Unable to locate my original copy of Brennan’s book two weeks ago, I went to Barnes & Noble and purchased another. I’ve been reading it and highlighting it non-stop ever since. Here are but three of the many selections I highlighted within the first chapter alone:

*****

????????And Grace calls out, You are not just a disillusioned old man who may die soon, a middle-aged woman stuck in a job and desperately wanting to get out, a young person feeling the fire in the belly begin to grow cold. You may be insecure, inadequate, mistaken, or potbellied. Death, panic, depression, and disillusionment may be near you. But you are not just that. You are accepted. Never confuse your perception of yourself with the mystery that you really are accepted. – page 28

We want ever-sharp spirituality—push, pull, click, click, one saint that quick—and attempt to cultivate a particular virtue at a given point in time. Prudence in January, humility in February, fortitude in March, temperance in April. Score cards are provided for toting up gains and losses. The losses should diminish if you expect to meet charity in May. Sometimes May never comes. For many Christians, life is a long January. – page 31

In essence, there is only one thing God asks of us—that we be men and women of prayer, people who live close to God, people for whom God is everything and for whom God is enough. That is the root of peace. – page 46.

*****

That is the peace I’m looking for. It can’t be found in social media, the news, the opinions of others or in a gazebo. It is found in prayer. It is found in communion with God. God is enough.

Moses spent forty years in exile before going back to Egypt to demand that Pharaoh let his people go. Israel then spent another forty years wandering in the desert before they were allowed entry into the promised land. Jesus spent forty days being tempted in the desert before launching his ministry three years prior to his death and resurrection.

I’m forty-six. I’ve wandered a long time. Much of that wandering was aimless and without purpose.

I’ve had my long January. I’m listening with purpose and know that action will follow while on this road. Action with a purpose.

I am a ragamuffin.

Friday Five – Volume 78: Summer Reading List

Sleep. I crave it having just run the parental gauntlet of graduation parties, district baseball, graduation itself, and finally state baseball.

We’ve been celebrating this at our house since it happened on May 22nd:

photo credit: Omaha World-Herald

photo credit: Omaha World-Herald

As the second baseman, Nolan was among the first to arrive at the mound and just as he was two seasons ago when they won the title he is at the bottom of the pile. In a nineteen hour span my son and his second-ranked team defeated the #1, #4 and #3 teams in the state to win it all.

Twenty-four hours after it was finished we watched our 10 year old and his team win their organization’s annual Memorial Weekend Tournament. Like big brother his team won three elimination games in one day. The two brothers had a good week on the diamond.

And then our daughter, the social butterfly of the group, started YMCA softball this week.

In order to prepare himself for Marine boot camp in the fall and enjoy his final summer at home he has passed on his summer season of legion baseball. He also wants to watch his younger siblings play, something he’s never been able to do while playing fifty-plus games in the summer. Our schedule has opened up considerably for time at home as a family.

And so he finished his baseball career on top by finishing at the bottom of the dogpile.

All I want to do is sleep.

In between naps I plan on doing some reading. Here are five books I’ve set aside until school starts again in the fall.

summer 2014 books

— 1 —

Witness to Hope: The Biography of Pope John Paul II by George Weigel

This book has sat on my shelf for a few years, along with its companion The End and the Beginning: Pope John Paul II—The Victory of Freedom, the Last Years, the Legacy also by George Weigel. A few weeks ago one of my friends and fellow baseball dads gave me his copy of Saint John Paul the Great: His Five Loves by Jason Evert and I have really enjoyed getting reacquainted with JPII and reliving some of the events in the era of my early adulthood. This book, along with the recent canonization of JPII as a saint, has spurred my interest in finally getting to this biography. And since I try to read at least one biography per summer this acclaimed one will do fine.

A second biography, Caravaggio: A Life Sacred and Profane by Andrew Graham-Dixon will be squeezed in if I read ahead of schedule. (Insert galeful laughter here…I never read ahead of schedule.)

— 2 —

Master and Commander by Patrick O’Brian

I loved the Russell Crowe movie that was as I understand it an adaptation of a later book in the series The Far Side of the World. Yes, this is actually a series of novels about Captain Jack Aubrey, his friend and ship’s surgeon Stephen Maturin and their adventures on the nineteenth century seas in the British navy during the time of the Napoleonic wars. I think I’ve put off reading this book for so long because I was scared of loving it so much I’d want to read the other nineteen books. I’ve decided to take that chance and so this summer will find me sitting outside with this book and a dram (or two).

laphroaig_glass_book 4.9.2014-cropped

— 3 —

Jesus: A Pilgrimage by Fr. James Martin, SJ

This book is designed to be accessible to anyone—from those just starting to think about Jesus to those who feel they may know the topic well. It is designed for people of deep faith or no faith who want to know about Jesus … I would like to introduce you to the Jesus I know, and love, the person at the center of my life. Getting to know Jesus, like getting to know anyone, has been a pilgrimage. – from the Introduction

Released two months ago, I only recently became aware of Fr. Martin’s latest book. A few years ago I’d read My Life with the Saints and it remains one of my favorites.

Again from the Introduction:

Who is he? Why another book on this first-century Jewish man? Why have I spent years studying the life of an itinerant preacher from a backwater town? Why did I spend two weeks traipsing around Israel under the broiling sun to see places where a former carpenter lived and sites that he may (or may not) have visited?

For the structure of this book Fr. Martin presents the life of Jesus sequentially from the Gospels. As he arrives at significant places or locations during Jesus’s life he shares stories of what he saw at those sites during his pilgrimage to the Holy Land, along with reflections on what those particular episodes in Jesus’s life may say to us today. It is not a Bible commentary. I’m looking forward to reading this book.

— 4 —

The Imitation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus by Rev. Fr. Peter J. Arnoudt, SJ

When I made a silent Ignatian retreat two years ago I learned that I was drawn to the devotion of the Sacred Heart of Jesus. It’s not something that I’ve yet learned to communicate well. It’s just one of those things that when you get it, you really get it, and the world begins to fall into place for you. While The Imitation of Christ remains one of my all-time favorite spiritual books this book has come highly recommended to me. Written by Fr. Arnoudt in 1904 as a guide for readers to conform their hearts to that of Christ, I plan on using this book as a devotional and possibly one to journal with. Like The Imitation of Christ this book presents a conversational dialogue between Jesus Christ and His disciple, the reader of the book. There are four “books” within the larger one, each with 26 chapters of four to six pages in length. If I read a chapter a day (there are 104) I should be able to finish this book before autumn and my next scheduled retreat.

— 5 —

The Little Oratory: A Beginner’s Guide to Praying in the Home by David Clayton and Leila Marie Lawler

It is easy when living out the every day busyness of our lives to become lax in our duty as parents to foster and guide our children’s prayer lives. As a father my number one goal in this life is to assist my wife on her journey to heaven and to help my children do the same by equipping them with what they need and creating a home in which they see that their faith does not stop at the doors to church. As I mentioned above this is our final summer together with our entire family and I want a kick start and reminder of the importance of our prayer time together before one of us leaves the nest and enters the world. Based upon everything I’ve read about this book it will provide that for us. Together.

*****

What are you planning to read this summer?

Be there in the moment

Only a few days left until the big graduation party. Sandwiched between games in the district tournament, madcap cleaning and preparing at our home, and next week’s graduation (itself sandwiched between games at the state baseball tournament) this is a time of absentminded bewilderment / laser-like focus on the tasks that need to be completed. After the final out of the spring prep season is made and all of this madness is behind us I may sleep for a week.

In the meantime I watched the video below after it went viral on social media. It contains a good message not unfamiliar to those of us who have been saying similar things for some time now.  It contains a nice delivery, doesn’t rant, and simply states the sad fact that in a time when we are the most connected we are also the most isolated.

I especially like the turn it takes at the 2:27 mark as it chronicles the lives of a couple who met and the lives they lived because they weren’t staring at a smartphone screen. The first time I saw it I was moved to tears. But then again, the first seventeen minutes or so of the Pixar movie Up did as well. (See Carl & Ellie’s story here.) It’s the best four minutes of film with no dialogue that comes to mind.

Give people your love, don’t give them your like.

I also have been enjoying a blog I recently discovered named The Nice Thing About Strangers. The blog’s author, Paige, does a really nice job of writing succinct observations about her surroundings and every day life. Today’s entry is but one example. It seems she travels the world doing this, but at one point lived in Nebraska and taught a college course not far from where I live. Ok, so it’s two hours away but trust me when I say that in Nebraska terms that’s practically a hop, skip and a jump away.

Reading Paige’s blog and watching that video brought to mind a few things I’ve written in the past. And while I am loathe to reblog myself (and don’t really have a clue on how to do so without cutting and pasting the entire thing) I’m instead going to paste the first few paragraphs below and a link to the piece.

I’ll write more when both my schedule and my mind clear. Until such time I am here.

In these moments.

screen capture from "Look Up"

screen capture from “Look Up”

*****

STAYING IN THE GROOVE
(originally posted in April 2009)

Three moments from fifteen minutes of today’s lunch hour:

The NCAA Women’s Gymnastics Championships are in town the next three days. Thus I had the pleasure of meeting a few of the gymnasts from the University of Utah at Subway. They are adorable. And probably more than capable of kicking my ass if I patronized them by calling them adorable in their presence.

While making my turkey breast sandwich Bobby and I consoled each other from either side of the lunch counter about the awful start to our beloved Red Sox’s season. But the season is still young…very young.

Sandwich in hand and waiting to cross the street to my building a short blonde woman stands next to me talking to her small son in a language I did not recognize. She did so the entire length of the crosswalk and once we reached the other side I asked her what language she was speaking. She said, in a delightful English accent, that it was Swedish as she was originally from that country. They had lived in London for years before her job brought them to Lincoln six months ago. There was no time to go into any further detail than that because the little guy (who looked almost exactly like the little boy in “Jerry Maguire”) wanted in on the conversation. I crouched down to his eye-level, welcomed him to town, and asked him what he thought of the move. He replied that he loved it here. We exchanged four or five low-fives in front of my building before we parted. I would have enjoyed talking more to them. You don’t get that opportunity every day.

Or do we? How many moments each day do we miss?

Go here to read the rest.