Friday, May 30, 2008

My Other Rock

This guy's my rock with skin on. (Jesus is my heavenly rock.) Russ and I will celebrate our 20th wedding anniversary this year. Wow! It seems only yesterday we were getting married on August 13, 1988 in front of our family and friends in Petaluma.

We have two incredible sons, and their security in themselves is due in large part due to his commitment to them as their dad. (He is kind enough to say it's because I'm a great mom. That's just the kind of guy he is!)

When Bobby played high school football, Russ arranged his work schedule to be home early every Friday night so he could see his games. He goes to every school awards night and every Boy Scout Court of Honor, even when Billy's not ranking up.

He opens the car door for me. He encourages me in my whims, like my short-lived attempt to play the saxophone, and then again a few years later when I picked up the guitar. And he never makes me feel stupid about it.

With Russ, chivalry is not dead, and I love feeling as though he'd throw his cloak down to cover a puddle for me, or pull out his sword and defend my honor.

He is my safe harbor, my voice of reason, and the one I count on to do the right thing. He is pragmatism to my idealism. He is cynicism to my naivete, and I need that balance!

He's one of the hardest working people I know, and always captures the admiration of those on the job with him. He's the one who'll visit a co-worker in the hospital or help one of them move. And he's done it plenty of times. Although he's a pretty smart guy, he'd have been happy being a farmer. I love that about him. He never feels as though he's better than anyone else.

We have a fun little phrase we say when we want the other one to speak the absolute truth: "sodium pentathol" (truth serum). Here's some sodium pentathol: You're our family's calm and steady anchor. The boys are blessed to have you as their father. You're always there for us, and what you do every day for our family is deeply appreciated!

Love from your wife, Edda :)

Thursday, May 29, 2008

For His Sake

We who believe are people of the dawn. In Christ there is hope of the morning light; the sun will always rise to shed light on the darkness. Take heart! Resurrection awaits beyond the pain of the cross.

The last year and a half has brought much refining of my faith; there have been struggles I would not have expected. This has been especially true over the last few weeks when trials have come related to the things that are most precious to me, my relationships and my reputation. Relationships bring me deep joy, especially those that point me to Christ. I try to structure my life in such a way so that people come first, so it's particularly tough when there are rifts, misunderstandings and hurt; even more so when I've hurt others. I try to represent Christ well (though I often fail), and that makes my reputation important to me.

I have been crushed by events that have come my way recently and have walked in a lot of condemnation over the past few weeks, even to the point of wondering whether I should continue on in ministry. But then I realized that's the point. Satan would seek to crush and condemn me in order to thwart the work I might do for the Lord. I believe it is no coincidence that all this began when I stepped out in faith to take on the Respect Life ministry of our parish. The good news is that God prevails. What Satan intends for evil, God uses for good (Genesis 50:20). God's plans will not be thwarted if we remain steadfast.

Satan messes with people where it hurts the most. Were any of these situations my fault? Yes. My judgment was bad, even if well intentioned. But Satan takes misunderstandings and blows them out of proportion. He seeks to make us ineffective when we step out in faith to serve the Lord. The important thing for me to remember is that it is not people who are our enemies, it is something else:

"For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the authorities, against the powers of this dark world and against the spiritual forces of evil in the heavenly realms." (Ephesians 6:12)

God turns these situations around if we persevere, even if it means pressing forward at great expense. This is how we embrace the cross and walk with our Lord.

I recently posted a picture (on "Compelling Life Thought") that spoke to me deeply, though I didn't quite understand why at the time. Now I know. It encapsulates exactly what I'm talking about here. If we cling to Christ on the cross as we carry ours, it comforts us. More than that, it brings comfort to Him! We share in His sufferings when we bring ours to him.

While I was praying for a friend who I hold in my daily prayers, the center of each palm began to tingle. This immediately made me think of Christ on the cross; I felt God was telling me that the power of Christ's sacrifice is intimately involved in our struggles.

God reigns; He controls events on earth. Even if battles are lost, ultimately the war will be won. And while we are fighting, God never stops doing sweet and wonderful things. Resurrection comes after struggle! A friend was completely healed of cancer by the laying on of hands and prayer, but that wasn't the biggest miracle. God did a tremendous work of healing in his heart. Other friends are rejoicing in a pregnancy after much disappointment and after being told it was unlikely it would happen. God can do anything, and He will, sometimes at the most unexpected of times and in the most unexpected of ways.

Times of trial, whether from Satan or from plain old life, are always for our benefit. God refines our faith through trials; adversity chases us into God's arms. Satan seeks to shame, condemn and scorn; God seeks to give us a royal robe, put His ring on our finger, and throw a feast in our honor (Luke 15)! I especially love Luke 15:20: "But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him." That's how much God loves us, even in our mistakes, even in our imperfect humanness!

The enemy almost stopped me this time, and that's a scary thought. But, through God's grace, he didn't. I must die to self on the battlefield, over and over again, as I become a member of God's army.

Sunday, May 25, 2008

It's All About Him

God's hope for me (and for all of us) is to discover more of and burrow ever deeper into His love through whatever we experience in life. Sometimes it's the tough things of life that teach us this. Trials are all about my growing closer to Him; adversity is designed to chase me into His arms. It refines my faith.

I love this picture of the woman washing Jesus' feet with her hair and tears. This Biblical story is special to me, especially now.

I gave a recent, painful mistake to God, and in exchange he gave me hope for healing. God's will is always reconciliation with those we've hurt. I gave God my shame, and He gave me honor, just as He did to a woman who was "unacceptable" in the eyes of others when she scandalously washed His feet.

"My Lord, what love is this, that pays so dearly? That I, the guilty one, may go free? Amazing love, oh what sacrifice, the Son of God given for me. My debt He pays, my death He dies, that I might live." (From the song Amazing Love by Graham Kendrick)

Saturday, May 24, 2008

That Sneaky Devil!

It's hard to believe we're in a spiritual war, but we are. Each of us who is human, especially those of us who love Christ, has a sneaky, beguiling enemy. Because he hates our Creator, he attempts to destroy God's most beloved creation, namely, us.

The Scriptures tell us this about our adversary: "Be self-controlled and alert. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. Resist him, standing firm in the faith, because you know that your brothers throughout the world are undergoing the same kind of sufferings."

I have made some mistakes recently. God offers grace and forgiveness, but Satan wants me to walk in shame and condemnation, head held low. He wants me to be fearful to approach Christ's "throne of grace" to seek healing and forgiveness. He wants me to be kept from healthy relationships with my brothers and sisters in Christ, making it impossible to move forward in the work of our Lord. Satan seeks to keep me in such shame that I cease seeking Christ in the Eucharist, even cease going to Mass. May that never be so! I am never too far from God's grace to ask for His help. Reconciliation is always God's desire, not only with Him, but with my fellow Christians and the world at large. In contrast, the sneaky devil seeks to divide!

A friend pointed me to the Prayer to St. Michael the Archangel to counteract the devil's work just when I needed it most. Here's how it goes:

St. Michael the Archangel defend us in battle. Be our protection against the wickedness and snares of the devil. May God rebuke him we humbly pray. And do thou, oh Prince of the Heavenly Host by the power of God, cast into hell Satan and all the evil spirits who roam throughout the world seeking the ruin of souls.

The rest of the verse about our adversary quoted above goes like this: "And the God of all grace, who called you to his eternal glory in Christ, after you have suffered a little while, will himself restore you and make you strong, firm and steadfast. To him be the power for ever and ever. Amen." (The reference for both parts of this scripture is I Peter 1:5-10.)

Boy, am I glad it ends this way, with such encouragement! The purposes of God will NEVER be thwarted so long as I remain steadfast in trust, love and prayer.

This is what I will hang onto through my current trials, along with the verses below that tell me that God's purposes can be fulfilled through hardship:

Genesis 50:20
Jeremiah 29:11
James 1:2-4
Romans 5:1-5
Romans 8:28
Philippians 1:6
Hebrews 12:1-3 and 7-11

Here are God's words from Genesis 50:20 in relation to Satan: "You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives."

Our Lord trumped death and suffering on the cross; though they remain, Love (God is Love) is a much bigger force!

Thursday, May 22, 2008

Feeling Clean

“Forgiveness is the fragrance the violet sheds on the heel that has crushed it.” -Mark Twain

I love the imagery of this quote. To think that we can become something beautiful even as we are being crushed brings such hope. The martyrs offered the "scent of the violet" to those at whose hand they died. May it be so with me.

My recent life has been full of themes, in which seemingly unrelated situations teach me similar things from different angles. The relentless onslaught of lessons lately has been stunning, like a spiritual accelerated learning program.

The theme now and over the last weeks is forgiveness, both in seeking and giving it. Hurt from others has come unexpectedly and more frequently than I would have expected in a short amount of time. Am I willing to offer the scent of the violet to those who hurt? I try. Releasing my right to feel hurt is like being led into healing sunshine from the dark forest; like clean, cool water flowing over and through me to purify me from grime.

Worse than this (and completely unrelated), I have caused harm to a friend and his family. Regret and concern have lived in the pit of my stomach since I found out. Though my intentions were good, my actions brought discomfort and pain. I pray that they recover swiftly from the unintentional crushing of my heel; I dare not hope for the scent of the violet, only to know that they are OK.

I have learned this: I'd rather release the scent of the violet than be the heel that crushes.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

My Hungry Soul

This morning a simple line in a song struck me:

"I am the beggar, You are the table"

Indeed I am a beggar. I come to Him at every Mass with nothing but open hands, and, miraculously, His Body is placed within my palms. He is indeed the table and He fills me. Always and unconditionally.

I am ever grateful that we have a God who desires to unite with us in this way. I come to Him empty and I leave with fullness in my soul.

What a beautiful table He sets!

Friday, May 16, 2008


Every Sunday morning I join my heart with Catholics around the world and recite a magnificent statement of faith, the Nicene Creed. The creed in its current form dates from 381 AD, but it expresses what Christians have believed from the dawn of our faith.

I love what songwriter Rich Mullins says about it in "Creed," his appropriately titled song:

And I believe what I believe
is what makes me what I am
I did not make it, no it is making me.
It is the very truth of God
and not the invention of any man

I feel a longing to write about it, line by line, in a series of posts over time. I'm not sure how long it will take; I can see at least three potential posts in the first line alone! I'll learn more about the ancient beginnings of our faith, as well as have an opportunity to express my deepest heartfelt feelings about the statement I recite each week.

The Nicene Creed

We believe in God, the Father, the Almighty,
maker of heaven and earth, and all that is seen and unseen.
We believe in one Lord, Jesus Christ, the only Son of God,
eternally begotten of the Father, God from God, Light from Light,
true God from true God, begotten, not made,
one in Being with the Father.
Through him all things were made. For us men and for our salvation
he came down from heaven: by the power of the Holy Spirit
he was born of the Virgin Mary, and became man.
For our sake he was crucified under Pontius Pilate;
he suffered, died, and was buried. On the third day he rose again
in fulfilment of the Scriptures; he ascended into heaven
and is seated at the right hand of the Father.
He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead,
and His kingdom will have no end.
We believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord, the giver of life,
who proceeds from the Father and the Son.
With the Father and the Son he is worshipped and glorified.
He has spoken through the Prophets.
We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.
We acknowledge one baptism for the forgiveness of sins.
We look for the resurrection of the dead,
and the life of the world to come.

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

A Particularly Fine Jewel

Today something precious was lost to me. I understand the reasons why; even so, there is a great weight in my heart.

And yet there is an abiding peace inside. I know that "all things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purpose." (Romans 8:28) Within me there appears to be room for both sadness and the comfort of the Holy Spirit.

This evening as I was preparing my family's dinner, a soft breeze wafted in from the open kitchen window and gently touched my skin, and after dinner, the clouds wore late sunset colors of pale pinks. The biggest oak tree is still outside, a guardian in our yard, as though protecting his smaller brothers. Crickets chirp, their methodical rhythm occasionally mixing with the faint ring of wind chimes. All these things bring assurance. They keep me connected with our Creator and help me know that the world is still running under His command. Our God's great love permeates all circumstances and this is no exception. I willingly submit myself to the refiner's fire and the loving hands of the potter.

This particularly fine jewel has my deep respect, now more than ever.

"No eye has seen, no ear has heard, no mind has conceived what God has prepared for those who love him." (I Corinthians 2:9)

Monday, May 12, 2008

May I Live Like This

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;
and 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; and it is in dying that we are born to eternal life. Amen

(Prayer of St. Francis)
Lord, may I be so overflowing with You that I live in harmony with this prayer.

Sunday, May 11, 2008

Happy Mother's Day!

Happy Mother's Day!

I made dozens of Mother's Day floral arrangements over the last few days, putting stem after stem in vases that were ordered with love for mothers and wives. (I enjoy moonlighting at a florist.)

There is something lavishly extravagant about giving such a creation, one that will last a week, perhaps two, but while it lasts it fills the senses with such fragrance, color, shape, and texture. Perhaps that's why women love them so... they are the ultimate statement of living in the present and enjoying each moment as it comes. I have found that to be very important in motherhood.

Our life is like an empty vase with each act of love in Christ's name a flower. The more we love, the more we bring beauty to the world... and, like flowers, each loving act is a statement of the present moment. Continuing on the path of love keeps our vase full.

"But thanks be to God, who always leads us in triumphal procession in Christ and through us spreads everywhere the fragrance of the knowledge of him. For we are to God the aroma of Christ among those who are being saved and those who are perishing." (II Corinthians 2:14-15)

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Little by Little

Lord, thank you for answering my prayer, for revealing bits of your wisdom each day. You give us what we need to know. The scripture says "now we see through a glass darkly, but then we will see face to face." Thank you for allowing me to peer through the darkened glass a little for now.

Thank you for scripture that inspires, heals, brings comfort and resonates within the deep places of our souls.

Thank you for friends that speak the truth.

I love you,


Compelling Life Thought...

This isn't what I intended to write about at all, but I saw the picture and just had to.

Isn't it compelling? I wish it were possible in a physical way.

In a spiritual way, it begs a great question (how?) and offers an appealing challenge (live your life this way).

How may I embrace Christ on the cross? How may I share His burden? How may I bring Him comfort? How may I join my life's work with His?

Fulfilling this is my greatest calling and deepest wish.

(Something to ponder as I work among the flowers with St. Therese today. ;)

Friday, May 9, 2008

Psalm 37

Do not fret because of evil men or be envious of those who do wrong; for like the grass they will soon wither, like green plants they will soon die away.

Trust in the LORD and do good; dwell in the land and enjoy safe pasture.

Delight yourself in the LORD and he will give you the desires of your heart. Commit your way to the LORD; trust in him and he will do this:

He will make your righteousness shine like the dawn, the justice of your cause like the noonday sun.

Be still before the LORD and wait patiently for him; do not fret when men succeed in their ways, when they carry out their wicked schemes. Refrain from anger and turn from wrath; do not fret—it leads only to evil. For evil men will be cut off, but those who hope in the LORD will inherit the land.

The days of the blameless are known to the LORD, and their inheritance will endure forever.In times of disaster they will not wither; in days of famine they will enjoy plenty.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

Song by Casting Crowns

"Praise You In This Storm"
(Words by Mark Hall / Music by Mark Hall and Bernie Herms)

I was sure by now
God, You would have reached down
And wiped our tears away
Stepped in and saved the day
But once again, I say "Amen", and it's still raining
As the thunder rolls
I barely hear Your whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

And I'll praise You in this storm
And I will lift my hands
For You are who You are
No matter where I am
And every tear I've cried
You hold in Your hand
You never left my side
And though my heart is torn
I will praise You in this storm

I remember when
I stumbled in the wind
You heard my cry to you
And you raised me up again
My strength is almost gone
How can I carry on
If I can't find You
But as the thunder rolls
I barely hear You whisper through the rain
"I'm with you"
And as Your mercy falls
I raise my hands and praise the God who gives
And takes away

I lift my eyes unto the hills
Where does my help come from?
My help comes from the Lord
The Maker of Heaven and Earth

When this song came on the radio yesterday, the words struck me as being both real and faithful, and since it was exactly what I needed to hear, it brought cleansing tears. We all have stormy times, some more severe than others, and remembering to trust God through and despite it all is important. This song encourages that. He is with us, our provider in times of trouble. Storms always pass. Sunshine is coming, bringing with it the most incredible rainbow!

Wednesday, May 7, 2008

Manna from Heaven

Jesus feeds us heavenly food. Spiritual sustenance is given through the physical.

What a treasure to discover I was called to a deeper closeness with Christ through the Eucharist, a hidden secret previously unknown, like gold shining in a dark corner of a cave. I desperately desired this communion with Him, to share the experience of ancient Christians and all who followed through the centuries. In the same way that one can be married without its consummation, one can follow Christ without the Eucharist. But there is more. Much more. Christ awaits in the deep, rich, real experience of the Eucharist which draws us close to Him.

When I first became Catholic, I sought Christ in the Eucharist daily. He met me there, filling me with palpable peace as I had never known.

Heavenly Bread

Heavenly bread, heavenly wine
Through the grain and cup,
We partake of the Divine
This is my Body, this is my Blood
Poured out for you, a new covenant

Blessings to the One who feeds His church this way
Blessings to the One whom we sup with today

Heavenly bread, heavenly wine
Through the grain and cup,
We partake of the Divine
This is my Body, this is my Blood
Poured out for you, a new covenant

Through Christ's sacrifice and the grace that He gives,
We reap eternal life through this food that makes us live

Heavenly bread, heavenly wine
Through the grain and cup,
We partake of the Divine
This is my Body, this is my Blood
Poured out for you, a new covenant

(Copyright Esther Oertel 2004)

Tuesday, May 6, 2008

Greater Love Has No Man

This is the love of my life, my true Valentine. There is no one who loves me more fully, completely or passionately.

Here's what He did as recorded in ancient scripture:

"Who, being in very nature God, did not consider equality with God something to be grasped, but made himself nothing, taking the very nature of a servant, being made in human likeness. And being found in appearance as a man, he humbled himself and became obedient to death— even death on a cross! Therefore God exalted him to the highest place and gave him the name that is above every name, that at the name of Jesus every knee should bow, in heaven and on earth and under the earth, and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord, to the glory of God the Father." (Philippians 2:6-11)

He gave up who He was to commune with man. (Still completely and fully God, he took on the nature of man when He "made himself nothing...") The Divine, a fully dimensional being living outside time and space, limited Himself via time, space, flesh, blood and three dimensions, all for the sake of revealing love to us. Love being the motivator, and knowing we could not reverse the process to go to Him, He came to us. Nothing but love would give up so much... "even death on a cross!"

A human infant is utterly helpless, with its survival depending upon the good will of those around them. Jesus came into the world, making Himself helpless. He experienced formation in the womb, birth, growth, learning, pain. All for us.

We must see everything in our lives with the backdrop of the incarnation, the cross and the resurrection.

The incarnation changed the world.
We were important enough to God for the Divine to become human. And we are still. We are the apple of His eye (Deuteronomy 32 and Zechariah 2); His thoughts toward us are more plentiful than all the grains of sand (Psalm 139).

The cross revealed great love. "Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends." (John 15:13) Whatever happens, however painful, we must see it in the light of the cross and know that "greater love has no man" for us. St. Catherine of Siena said, "Everything comes from love; all is ordained for the salvation of man. God does nothing without this goal in mind." Sometimes God's "severe mercy" (CS Lewis) is what preserves us in love. We place ourselves in His hands and even "what Satan intends for evil" (Genesis 40) becomes the course of His love for us.

And finally, resurrection. Resurrection is the conversion of heart after the struggle. Resurrection is transformation. Resurrection is the promise, the hope, the rainbow in the clouds after the flood. Resurrection is real, both now in our earthly lives and forever in eternity. Christ equals the resurrection. He bought it for us, He lives it in us, He gives it to us.

Truly there is no love greater than this.

On My List

I really want to go here before I die.

Monday, May 5, 2008

Moments with God

While in high school, we lived in a coastal community. Our home was literally across the street from the ocean, and redwood forest surrounded it on three sides. Each day after school, I'd spend time on the cliffs overlooking the Pacific that stretched for untold miles before me. That ocean, and time alone there with God, was peace for me in an otherwise tumultous existence. Basking in the presence of God in those moments (or hours) allowed me to walk in calmness through whatever else surrounded me.

That was a long time ago in a different world. But nature still speaks to me. We live inside a kaleidoscope of sensual imagery that stimulates us toward God. What we see is physical (mountains made of rough, hard rock, blades of grass that are soft or prickly depending on the season, clouds misty and damp on our skin were we to fly through them), but the physical draws us to the spiritual, causing us to embrace (or question) the "beyond," the "more than what we see." Or at least it should. God has instilled a longing for Him in our souls, and His reflection in nature stimulates that longing like hunger pangs. "The heavens speak of the glory of God, the firmament shows His handiwork." (Psalm 19)

This evening my son's meeting ran long, so I had unexpected time to spend in a beautiful setting. The air was that perfect balance between warm and cool, meadows and mountains were drawing in their colors for the night, and clouds were wearing their dusk-time formal wear (tonight's color was orange). I hung out the vehicle's window, dog-like, craning to see the beauty. All this was set to the backdrop of Christian music on the radio. "You speak with thunder and lightning, Your voice shakes the mountains, the foundations of the earth... speak to me, speak to me..."

That was an unexpected stolen moment in an otherwise busy world, and what better way to spend it than to have the Word of God spoken in three dimensions all around me?

Saturday, May 3, 2008



Take flight, my soul!
Free from the bonds
That have held you fast

Never again let anything damage you
Rest in the reality of who you are,
A child of God, and it is God
Who has always called and beckoned you

You remember Him from your childhood
When He first called your name

From the time you were a thought in God's mind,
He knew who you were, who you would be,
And how you would get there
Live this now without any apologies
You only need please Him...

Dance in the meadow of God's love
Where it is always springtime,
Where birds always sing,
And where your favorite flowers abide.

You are always loved by Him
Always cradled in His arms
Always gently encouraged to be your best for Him

Abide only in Him
For this is true freedom


Friday, May 2, 2008

Lapse in Judgment

In my need to reach out for advice amidst some recent turmoil in my life, I made an error in judgment and someone who's completely innocent of the situation may have read the words I wrote. They were not words that disparaged, nonetheless my confusion in a difficult situation came through. And there's no way I can directly repair the damage...

...except pray.

And pray I will. I will pray that my lack of discernment will not make this person question their faith in any way. And that God will use it for good. He's good at that.

In the book of Genesis, Joseph, Jacob's son, encountered many trials. He stood strong through them, always trusting God, and some of them were amazingly difficult. At one point he had the presence of mind to say, "You planned to harm me. But God planned it for good. He planned to do what is now being done. He wanted to save many lives." Genesis 50:20

How absolutely counter-intuitive those words are! What temerity to say and believe them! But how true. God is in the redemption business. There is nothing we have done, are doing or will do that cannot be redeemed in some way, however small, when given to Him in faith. He redeems souls, He gives eternal life; how much more can he redeem the other issues of our lives? "All things work together for good to those who love God and are called according to His purposes." Romans 8:28

Maybe this will be used for good in this person's life. I pray it will be so. Until then, Lord, I will pray, trust that you will redeem it, and learn to do better next time!