Friday Five (Vol. 27)

— 1 —

I’ve not had the time nor energy to write for the past two weeks and the harddrive folder in which I save ideas is beginning to overflow. Life has kept me gloriously busy and to be honest I’ve found myself questioning both my writing ability and the need for the blogosphere to be further diluted with said scribblings. My heart and my mind are full, as are my schedule and my journal. I vacillate between a permanent vacation or a break and am thinking that my life is not to be spent at a keyboard, at least not unless I’m working on my book or book ideas.

My last five Wednesday evenings have been spent with 100 people, Catholics and non-Catholics, leading the Catholicism study series at our parish. It has been to this point a very rewarding and energizing experience. We are taking a “halftime” break during Holy Week but will reconvene April 11 to begin our final five sessions. You always wonder if what you do makes a difference and this morning I received the following email from a husband and wife who are attendees:

Thank you Jeff for the email and for all your leadership and information you present at our weekly meetings.  We appreciate all your efforts and for you being such a great witness in spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ. May God bless you.

I think that this may be the single most affirming and humbling email I’ve ever received. Never have I considered that in some small way I’m being a “witness” or “spreading the Gospel”. In fact some may consider this entire series of paragraphs to display an incredible lack of humility on my part. I guess I am placing it here to say this: if you are like me at all you consider giving up so many times with writing about matters of faith because there are so many who do it very well. And not just well, but they are fantastic and tireless and never at a loss for words. And so you wonder: what in the world am I doing? Why am I doing this? Who cares?

  • What am I doing? I’m witnessing through example.
  • Why am I doing this? To spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ in my own very small way.
  • Who cares? Someone does. They really do.

— 2 —

Six years ago I lost one of the best friends I’d ever had. Last Sunday we welcomed a new member into our family and while I’m having to relearn my puppy parenting patience skills Buster appears poised to fit right in with the family just as Fenway did.

Yesterday I drove to my vet with a little dog sitting in the passenger seat next to me. It was the same stretch of highway to the same veterinarian that I took my old companion in the last days, and on the last day, of his life. Suddenly six years washed away. As Buster and I sat in a room very much like the one where Fenway breathed his last while sitting on my lap (my vet moved two blocks to a new space about a year afterwards) I was unprepared by how easily the emotions of that sad day washed over me. Below is what I’d written on March 31, 2006, as he and I prepared to make the same drive I took yesterday:

Fenway turned 11 today, but I’m taking him to the vet in a few hours…we think his lungs and heart are failing…it’s not looking too good at the moment.

I sat him on our bed last night and curled up with him, petting him and talking to him. I can tell he’s just getting old and weaker…I can’t imagine our house without him.

Funny how I can still see him bounding across my in-laws tall grass when he was 6-weeks old, being released from my parents car (who drove down to deliver him to us) and seeing him make a bee-line STRAIGHT towards me…and getting halfway there before getting high-centered in the grass.

Below is a photo of Fenway (left) on his last morning with us; Buster (right) during his first afternoon with the family.

— 3 —

My quote of the day…week…lifetime…is below. Because so much of what I see in the media today is absolute rubbish. You wouldn’t eat out of the trash unless you were starving or the poorest of the poor. So why do a supposedly enlightened and affluent citizenry do the same? I would argue because the media’s pablum doesn’t make them think. It is the ultimate reality TV show. I first became familiar with the phrase “yellow journalism” in junior high and in my insulated and idealistic bubble thought it was a term of the past. I figured that we’d learned our lesson and would never return to those days. Pick up any newspaper, turn on any news channel, or open any news-based URL today. What you will read (if you are able to be honest and separate yourself from your prejudices and ideologies for a moment) is a most urine-stained shade of yellow. It’s written by children to be consumed by adults with a child’s comprehension. Do yourself a favor and shut it off during Holy Week until after Easter.

“The curse of all journalism, but especially of that yellow journalism which is the shame of our profession, is that we think ourselves cleverer than the people for whom we write, whereas, in fact, we are generally even stupider. . . . Journalism is popular, but it is popular mainly as fiction. Life is one world, and life seen in the newspapers another; the public enjoys both, but it is more or less conscious of the difference…. But the, people know in their hearts that journalism is a conventional art like any other, that it selects, heightens, and falsifies. Only its Nemesis is the same as that of other arts: if it loses all care for truth it loses all form likewise.” ~ G.K. Chesterton, All Things Considered

— 4 —

Yet another quote: I’ve never seen the movie Fight Club, and I don’t remember what led me to this quote a few weeks back, but it fits in very well with what I was discussing above.

“…an entire generation pumping gas, waiting tables — slaves with white collars. Advertising has us chasing cars and clothes, working jobs we hate so we can buy shit we don’t need. We’re the middle children of history, man. No purpose or place. We have no Great War. No Great Depression. Our great war is a spiritual war. Our great depression is our lives. We’ve all been raised on television to believe that one day we’d all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won’t. We’re slowly learning that fact. And we’re very, very pissed off…”

Does anyone reading this recommend the movie? Should I watch it?

— 5 —

I do want to say something about that quote from Fight Club. While I don’t discount the fact that too many people may feel that way and that it would be very easy myself to fall into that trap, the simple truth is that it is a worldview that is incompatible with my faith. It is because I do not buy in to the product being sold by the news or by celebrities that I am able to retain any sense of optimism at all. Theirs is a message of cynicism and angst and envy. I know it well because I was right there with them over twenty years ago. But by the grace of God I found an alternative message and way. And it has made all the difference. The video below illustrates a significant portion of that grace.

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