Monday, August 25, 2008

Baby Rowan

I just read about Rowan, a story that both touched and horrified me. Rowan was born alive in an abortion clinic after a botched second trimester abortion. He lived for 11 minutes. His mother, Angele, tried to save him, but was ignored by the clinic staff. The pictures of Rowan were difficult for me to see. His body was perfectly formed. Other than his tiny size, he looked like any other baby sleeping, with fully formed hands, feet and facial features. The thought that this little one, so clearly a human being, was destined for the dumpster was like a nightmare, but it is a real story, played out many times every day. What kind of culture is ours?

I was going to post a picture of Rowan, but I hesitated, because seeing him is not for the faint of heart. This is not because he is gruesome, but because he is not. He is beautiful, not worthy of such death. Please click on the link above for the story.

We must stop the killing of our most innocent life. Rowan did not do anything to deserve death. His mother, Angele, regrets the decision she made and will now live the rest of her life with the knowledge of his untimely death. Lest you think I condemn her, I don't. I was there once, too. Poor Angele. Poor Rowan. What is happening to us, that we kill those who do not harm us? Blood is on our hands.

Too many have died. Too many are wounded. Abortion kills, yes, but it also maims the souls of those left behind, of those at whose hands innocents have been destroyed. We must stop it. As Mother Teresa says, "It is a poverty to decide that a child must die so that you live as you wish."

Please, help stamp out this poverty. Let's not let another Rowan be left to die. And let's protect the other Angeles from being wounded. What can you do to help?

May Baby Rowan be carried to our Lord's bosom by our Mother, Mary. And may Angele know the peace only our Lord can give.

For help after an abortion, see here for Rachel's Vineyard.

Wednesday, August 20, 2008

Only That

I only want to say one thing: I'm grateful. Grateful to God. Just that... only that. The more I walk through life, the more I look back on the things that have occurred from my birth till now, the more I see God's direct hand of involvement in the events of my life. God is now so palpably real to me that His presence feels like "heavy air." (Odd description, I know, but strangely apt at the moment.*)

Yesterday as I transitioned from one job to another, I took a moment to enjoy a cup of coffee on an outdoor patio. I was lost in thought when my eye glanced at a small but vibrant berry-laden tree. I noticed that someone had fashioned the dirt around it so the tree was literally growing from the center of a heart. What a beautiful image! A heart rooted in Christ, like that patch of soil, would sprout life from its center, and such fruit-bearing life would nourish others, pointing them to Christ. Dare I hope for this?

Focus on the soil reminded me of the Parable of the Sower. While it is recorded in all the synoptic gospels (Matthew, Mark and Luke), something caught me as I reread Luke's version. Luke 8:15 says, "But the seed on good soil stands for those with a noble and good heart, who hear the word, retain it, and by persevering produce a crop." " persevering..." ! The crop (my image of the berry-laden tree) is produced by... persevering. Hearing and retaining the word are necessary, but I must also persevere to produce the desired crop.

In the Parable of the Vine and Branches, Jesus says, "I am the vine; you are the branches. If a man remains in me and I in him, he will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing." I must persevere at remaining in Christ. I must seek Him through everything life brings, both the good and the bad. Only then will a tree of life with berry-laden branches spring from the soil of my heart. I dare to look forward to that with great anticipation.

God is good.

*After I wrote this, I remembered that CS Lewis described the presence of God in a somewhat similar way in one of his science fiction books, "Out of the Silent Planet."

Monday, August 18, 2008

The Scent of the Violet

Mark Twain said: "Forgiveness is the scent of the violet on the heal that crushes it." Isn't that beautiful? I have been blessed with this fragrance; it wafts toward me, though undeserved. I am drowning in a sea of gratitude... and the most beautiful aroma surrounds me.

Truly God is good, and, in His goodness, anything we suffer with Him becomes good as well.

Sunday, August 17, 2008

A Day at the Monastery

I am in a state of peaceful exhaustion after spending the better part of the afternoon at the Carmelite House of Prayer to witness a friend's temporary promise to the Secular Order of Discalced Carmelites.

I have written about my attraction to this form of spirituality here. My heart, full of exuberance, longs to grow closer to our Lord, yet my path is often void of sustained direction. Taking deliberate steps to develop a deeper prayer life is something I desperately need. For this reason, I am contemplating joining their aspirant program, which begins in November. The intellect-stretching nature of Carmelite spirituality appeals to me. I will devote a lot of prayer to this; it's not something said lightly.

I feel a bit like the children in the final book of CS Lewis' Chronicles of Narnia, The Last Battle, when Aslan encourages them to go "further up and further in." Throughout my life, Christ has drawn me to Him in deepening stages. I cannot remember a time I did not desire Him, even before I heard His name. He called me to join Him "further up and further in" when my agnostic father read stories from the Old Testament to my brother and me (a reluctant offering to my maternal grandmother, who wanted us to receive religious education); through answers to childish prayers I offered, often in desperation, while growing up; through friends who invited me to the youth group at the local Baptist church, where I first heard His true name; through commitment to Him in baptism at age 17 after being drawn by a song. Five years ago, He drew me again, this time to the Catholic Church, through an unquenchable desire to receive Him in the Eucharist after a journey of reading. And now, as if that were not enough, He draws me to go even "further up and further in" through contemplating the secular Carmelite order. Certainly this pearl of great price I have found has no end.

In unrelated news, God gave me a beautiful gift yesterday, like an unexpected butterfly of hope that landed on my open palm. Its wings open and close as I watch. I dare not breathe lest it fly away. It has lighted gently and the recognition of answered prayer spreads warmly through my chest.

God is good.

Saturday, August 16, 2008

Bobby and Ivan

Here's my son, Bobby, who's officially off to college now. He, my other son & I drove down to drop him off yesterday. He took the lead in his "new" 74 Camaro with his brother riding shotgun; I drove behind them, wondering how in the world they graduated so quickly from their two-seater tricycle to the car in front of me.

This mother has a terrible ache in her heart; Bobby has left a screaming absence behind. His brother misses him; even the dog is confused. Billy mentioned this evening that he feels he's in a different family, as though he's visiting relatives, rather than being in his own home. The familial scales have been tipped off balance a bit. I just returned from their room where I prayed with Billy; seeing Bobby's empty bed left my heart feeling the same.

But I feel selfish in my grief. I attended a funeral today for Ivan Wilson, a Marine killed in the line of duty in Afghanistan. His grieving mother knows she will never see her son again (at least, not this side of Heaven). Denise, his mother, has told me more than once how much she misses him. She will never be able to pick up the phone to call her dear Ivan, she'll never receive another letter from him, she'll never greet him at the airport with a hug. Ivan died bravely in the line of duty, leaving his mother with unquenchable sadness. When I think of her grief, I dare not dwell on mine. Lord, forgive me for my smallness.

Today I prayed the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary twice. Our sorrows unite with Jesus'. The scriptures tell us:

"He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young."
(Isaiah 40:11)

We are in His arms, close to His beating heart, in both our sorrow and our joy. Our Savior walks with us.

Rest in peace, Ivan Wilson, and may God comfort your family.

Sunday, August 10, 2008

Our Day

We went to outdoor Mass on the mountain. As we turned into the drive that leads to this little chapel, I remembered that five years ago, on the evening of our 15th anniversary, we had our marriage blessed by the Church in this very place. It is so refreshing to attend Mass in the woods. It is peaceful in every way: sight, sound and Sacrament.
I love watching the sunlight play among the leaves in the canopy of trees when I'm there. The shade makes it cool even in the summer.
We stopped at a little creekside deli for smoothies. A creek in summertime in California is a rare treat!
Hmmmm... which is the orange and which is the peach? We couldn't tell, even after tasting!

Russ loved the food at Molly Brennan's Irish pub.

Isn't this town lovely?

Later, we stopped for coffee. The artistic chairs at our little table were beautiful, hand-carved by someone local. They seemed to belong in a church.

Here's the entrance to the beautiful Mediterranean inspired winery on the lake.

And here's the courtyard. The lake is in the background.

Lovely flowers spilled out of containers everywhere!

This is the entrance if arriving by boat.

It's a treat to walk to the end of this pier to catch the breezes from the lake.

A small sliver of a big, beautiful lake.

We walked through the garden. I fell behind, poking around taking pictures!

I love doorways. They intrigue me! I just had to take this photo.

I consented to having my photo taken.

Good-bye, winery. Until next time!


My husband and I are taking the day to celebrate our wedding anniversary (which is number 20 on the 13th). In happy anticipation, here are some things to which I look forward today:

1. Mass outdoors on the mountain (a first for us this summer)
2. The fresh, pine smell of the "chapel"
3. The play of shade and sunlight in the trees above us
4. The crunch of gravel beneath my feet as I go to receive
5. Kneeling in two favorite places at once: church and the outdoors
6. The possibility of seeing old friends there
7. The comfortable togetherness that 20 years brings
8. Astoundingly beautiful surroundings as we drive around the lake
10. Trying the Irish pub
11. An ambling, unscheduled pace and freedom to be spontaneous
12. Stopping for walks
13. The over-the-top Mediterranean style winery on the lake
14. Bees buzzing about lavender and the sparkle of sunshine on blue water
16. Trying a new wine
17. Knowing our boys are OK (and even enjoy being) on their own
18. Home at the end of an adventure

I hope to have some photos for a post-celebration report.

The photo above was taken 8 years ago*. I didn't realize it was taken on our anniversary, but when I looked closely I saw the pin I wear every year on that day, so it must've been taken on our 12th. What serendipity! :)

* My photo files are sparse... sorry!

Monday, August 4, 2008

First Friday

I look forward to First Fridays, when we have an hour of Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament at our little parish. It brings peace to sit before our Lord. The smell of incense lingers in the hush of the church, sunlight filters through stained glass and prayer candles gently flicker. If I arrive there with questions in my soul, I find His presence brings quick answers. He is generous in this way, allowing His wisdom to enter me. Here is what I wrote in my journal Friday while sitting with Him:

It is far better to be one with the Creator - to seek His face - rather than the creation. We so often seek the creation in this world, often without recognizing we have placed what we desire in God's place. It is Him alone we must seek. All else must flow from this: marriage, children, friendships, family, housing, jobs, ministry, interests, material goods, secret desires, even paths of spirituality.

He is our sun. We cannot exist without Him. I can see why the ancient Irish monks chose this symbol for Him. Without Him, there is no life. He is the center of our universe. All is dependent upon Him. His goodness is like the warm rays of light - visible and palpable - that break through clouds and dark forests, revealing what is real but often not seen. His mercy is like the warmth on one's face when turned upward toward the sun, and His grace is like the effect of the light that makes plants grow, thereby nourishing our world through a vast chain reaction.

Like sunlight on plants, His grace enters our lives, poured on us in endless quantities, nourishing our souls. When we pass this on to others, we cause unknown chain reactions of God's mercy, goodness, grace and salvation in the lives of those we affect, perhaps in quantities as great as atomic energy. (In other words, the movement of grace.)

Similarly, one bad choice can set off a chain reaction in negative ways. We run from the Lord - I imagine racing away on a bicycle - and when we tumble, we must limp back to Him. Because our God is one of second chances, He doesn't want us to wallow in our mistakes; He wants to help us get it right. Our bicycles may be battered and twisted from our fall, but He makes them ridable again. He heals our bumps and bruises.

If I am journeying on my bicycle, I want Jesus as my pilot. I invite Him to sit on my handlebars, telling me which way to go. I pray I may see the encouragement of His strong back before my eyes. Decisions about direction are to be His, not mine. I need only watch, listen, seek and follow.

I have returned again to the place in my heart when I first asked Jesus to be the driver, to take His rightful place in the front seat at the wheel of my life.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Jewels in the Dark

One recent night I went outside before bed and sat under the stars. There was no moon, and it was the first time in many weeks that our California sky was not heavy with smoke. The blackness above was sparkling with jewels. Perhaps it's because it's been a while since I gazed at them, but the stars seemed larger and brighter and "jewelier" than I remembered. There were plenty of them, strewn thickly through the heavens like spilled salt. A shooting star sped by as a special treat. I saw bright orbs that could only be planets, though I'm not sure which ones.

Some folks complain about the lack of streetlights in our small community, but I am thankful there are none. Our skies are so clear that the Milky Way is visible; a rare sight, from what I understand. I thank God for the mountains that keep the coastal fog at bay and for the "cleanest air in California sixteen years running." Those things make the clear, bright beauty of a starry night accessible.

Below is Psalm 19, my favorite when I was in high school. I enjoyed the beauty of a night sky then, too. (And the last strophe has become a favorite prayer of late.)

1 The heavens declare the glory of God;
the skies proclaim the work of his hands.

2 Day after day they pour forth speech;
night after night they display knowledge.

3 There is no speech or language
where their voice is not heard.

4 Their voice goes out into all the earth,
their words to the ends of the world.
In the heavens he has pitched a tent for the sun,

5 which is like a bridegroom coming forth from his pavilion,
like a champion rejoicing to run his course.

6 It rises at one end of the heavens
and makes its circuit to the other;
nothing is hidden from its heat.

7 The law of the LORD is perfect,
reviving the soul.
The statutes of the LORD are trustworthy,
making wise the simple.

8 The precepts of the LORD are right,
giving joy to the heart.
The commands of the LORD are radiant,
giving light to the eyes.

9 The fear of the LORD is pure,
enduring forever.
The ordinances of the LORD are sure
and altogether righteous.

10 They are more precious than gold,
than much pure gold;
they are sweeter than honey,
than honey from the comb.

11 By them is your servant warned;
in keeping them there is great reward.

12 Who can discern his errors?
Forgive my hidden faults.

13 Keep your servant also from willful sins;
may they not rule over me.
Then will I be blameless,
innocent of great transgression.

14 May the words of my mouth and the meditation of my heart
be pleasing in your sight,
O LORD, my Rock and my Redeemer.