The power went out amid the wind, rain, and intermittent hail. With each candle that was lit, the room was filled with softness as light bounced off the walls, wrapping us in a welcomed coziness. I don’t think of lightbulbs as harsh or overpowering, but being suddenly engulfed in hazy candlelight, the shift was tangible. A peace and calmness was present, a stillness that said more than that the air conditioner was retired due to the lack of energy.
The shift, produced by a simple cessation of electricity, seemed considerable. The house was quieter, the atmosphere more serene, and my desire for it to remain so more intense. What if we could live this way? Or what if we could live this way some of the time? Armed with a taper candle, I retreated to my bedroom for the night, reading a little by candlelight and admiring the warmth on the pages which was quite different from the typical glow of my bedside lamp. I admired the flame, simple and powerful, as it embraced the room in a flickering of radiance.
My fearful and practical side saw how this situation could be fatal, with people falling asleep before blowing out the candle beside them. And yet, my romantic and traditional side wondered what we lost with the ease of flipping light switches and beams of light that made us think it was daytime in the middle of the night. Could there be a way to recover the naturalness of following the rising and setting sun? Could there be a way to enter this peace wrought by a flickering flame in a way that didn’t mean upending the advantages of living in the modern era?
Continue reading “Candlelight”
Peace is my farewell to you, my peace is my gift to you; I do not give it to you as the world gives peace. Do not be distressed or fearful.John 14:27
I feel obliged to keep somewhat informed about the spread of COVID-19 (the coronavirus) and as I was looking on a news website, I saw a link that said “Should I be panicking?” My students, naturally, are buzzing with news about the spreading virus and beneath the nervous excitement, some are truly concerned about getting sick. It is understand that fear should start to set in when it seems like very little time passes between various people mentioning something else about the coronavirus.
Apart from practical common sense attempts to not get sick, there isn’t much I can do. Yet similar to how listening endlessly to political news reports can fill me with unrest, countless stories and updates about the virus can begin to make me stressed. Jesus, despite showing concern for the poor and the suffering, doesn’t want us to be pools of despair, overcome with anxiety and worry about what may happen. We have an intellect that we ought to use, but He doesn’t want us to be frozen in isolating fear. Christ came to set us free, even from the slavery to fear.
Continue reading “Peace Not From the World”
Ruth Bader Ginsburg and Antonin Scalia were good friends.
In a world where rational discussion and respectful dissent is viewed as semi-impossible, these two Supreme Court justices demonstrated how it could work. They didn’t simply clash over minute details: one could say they had almost fundamentally different views of the law and that translated into different worldviews.
My friendship with Judge, later Justice, Scalia was sometimes regarded as puzzling, because we followed distinctly different approaches to the interpretation of legal texts. But in our years together on the D.C. Circuit, there was nothing strange about our fondness for each other.
Scalia Speaks Foreword by Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg
Despite differences in opinion, they were able to have a genuine appreciation for each other. In several sources, Ruth Bader Ginsburg speaks of Antonin Scalia’s wit, grand presence, and shopping skills. I don’t believe she is merely coming up with things to speak about for the sake of maintaining some public reputation of a friendship. It has all the hallmarks of genuine sincerity–as evidenced by Ginsburg speaking at a memorial for Scalia following his death.
The friendship they share is significant to me because I, too, share a similarly surprising friendship. Of my friends from elementary and high school, there are only a few with whom I keep up. (Keep up is used rather loosely because I’m not really known for excellent communication where distance is concerned.) Melissa was a close friend in high school and yet, in the years since, I think the friendship has deepened, though we speak infrequently. Our friendship was born of mutual interests of theater, classes, and a desire to learn. As the two ladies in calculus, we forged a deeper bond from confusion and frustration with the class. Many of my memories from high school involve Melissa, whether it be laughter we shared, scenes she caused, or stories we told. Continue reading “Unlikely Friendships”
A few days ago, I attended my sixth high school graduation as a teacher. The following day, I attended the first funeral of a former student.
I had wondered before, briefly, at a few sporadic moments, what it would be like to go to the funeral of a former student. Of course, I hoped that it would be several more years before I would find out. At the graduation, I watched the students parade by, diplomas in hand, with an unknown future filled with a thousand moments they couldn’t expect. As a whole, they were excited, ready to leave the halls of their high school and venture into a bigger, bolder world. The next day, I stood before a woman who had crossed that same stage three years earlier, but, too quickly, now rested in a coffin.
My beautiful, wonderful, frustrating, and interesting students have a million possibilities in their lives. Some will go on to achieve great things, things that will cause them to be well-known and highly esteemed. Some will go on to achieve small things, things that will make them loved by a few and yet will impact the world in an authentic way.
And some won’t last very long at all. They get caught up in addiction or depression or violence. It was no secret at the funeral that we shouldn’t be there and that there should be a very different ending to the story that was before us. It was also no secret that drugs were responsible. As I watched her mother in a mournful embrace with her husband, I wanted a picture to show my students. I wanted to tell them, “This is how drugs impact your family. This is what you are doing to your parents.” Continue reading “A Million Possibilities and Infinite Desires”
Satan, the father of lies, loves division.
It matters very little what the division is actually over. In fact, I think the more religious-oriented the division, the more it pleases Satan. But he will take any dispute, so long as it seeks to divide.
Knock down drag out brawls over the liturgy? Disputes over the placement of the altar? Feuding over Lenten fasting? Frustrations with priests and bishops? Sides forming over who is more Catholic than the pope?
Satan is delighted.
We spend our time considering what we think is best and we tend to lose sight of the Lord. I’m not arguing for an “anything goes” mentality. Far from it, I am encouraging us to focus on what is the most important rather than repeatedly increasing the divisions within humanity.
For the bonds which unite the faithful are mightier than anything dividing them. Hence, let there be unity in what is necessary; freedom in what is unsettled, and charity in any case.
(Gaudium Et Spes)
In The Great Divorce, C.S. Lewis portrays Hell as a place of isolation. The opening pages start in a town that is approaching the evening hours but seems empty of people. Yet the narrator finds people waiting in line at a bus stop. As the minutes pass, people leave the line because they keep quarreling with each other about one thing or another. The town is empty because the inhabitants cannot bear to be in such close proximity to other people with all their flaws and imperfections. So they keep moving, distancing themselves from others until they find themselves in complete isolation. Continue reading “A House Divided”
Eight years ago, I sat in my college dorm room, watched election results, and cried.
I’m not particularly political by nature, but it was the first presidential election I could vote in and one that I had campaigned for despite personal discomfort. [Two words: phone banking.] As the “worst” happened, I couldn’t help but feel sad for our country and a concern that we were doomed.
Yesterday, I knew election results would not go the way I wanted, because I found it difficult to even voice a strong preference for president, other than, “Can we have different options?” While I care about my country and I know it is important to be active politically, I have chosen to remain a bit removed from the fray. It has given me a greater sense of peace over the past few months and I am grateful for that.
Walking out of the polling place yesterday, I just felt tired. I feel a bit like I voted for the election to simply be over. Question #1: Would you like the campaign season to end? Yes! Continue reading “In the Midst of Chaos: Peace”
A couple weeks ago, I made a trip to my parents’ house to celebrate the 4th of July with a nice homecooked meal (and since I didn’t want to be eating leftovers for the next while, I needed more than one person at the meal). While my dad was outside, my sister and I were working on the meal as my mom looked through some mail. We were chatting about different things and my mom was reading a letter from an organization defending religious liberty. She mentioned that 100-something people were killed in a horrible manner recently in a country in the Middle East. I don’t remember specifics. I just remember how I felt.
My heart ached. She finished her sentence and I asked if we could talk about something else…and then I just broke. Continue reading “Pursuit of Peace”
This might be premature, but I find it interesting that what has motivated me to take up running is teaching. More specifically, my students. “Take up running” means I’ve gone for four runs in the past week. It could all fall apart very soon (definitely has happened before), but I think this might be here to stay for the time being.
A couple weeks ago I came to a realization: I don’t sacrifice for my students. They come up in my prayers and I hope the best for them. However, I don’t often find myself tangibly offering things up for them, other than allowing them to keep living after a particularly trying class period.
I’ve realized this lack of sacrifice before. This time I was compelled to do something about it. Running is something good for me and good for them. I find myself thinking about them as I run and offering up my labored breaths for them.
Yet the more I run (think: slow jog), the more reasons I find to keep doing it. I’ve run twice through my neighborhood and while I don’t like it as much, I think I might keep it up because it gives a new perspective and new prayer intentions. I run past a home and I hear the muffled sound of a man and woman arguing. Or I run around a bend and see two kids in front of a house, a larger pre-teen girl slapping the head of a smaller pre-teen boy. The girl looks belligerent and the boy has his defenses up but is angry. She glances at me and there are no more blows while I run by the house.
I find myself praying for peace as I meander the streets of my neighborhood. This little heart inexplicably finds itself aching for situations I will never know about, fights I will never see, hurtful words I will never hear, but that are happening in these places so near to me. I prayed for peace to flow through these houses. For homes to be places of peace, not places where we take up arms against our flesh and blood. For parents to show their children how to love. For people to experience the love and peace of Christ that I have experienced.
It is not that much, and I should in all rights probably be doing far more. But for now, I am running for my students. For their addictions, depression, relationships, struggles, and hearts. When I nearly convince myself to not go for a planned run, I remember them and realize I’m not doing it for me, but for them. And it makes me run.
Time for a milestone, time to begin again
Re-evaluate who I really am
Am I doing everything to follow Your will
Or just climbing aimlessly over these hills?
So show me what it is You want from me
I give everything, I surrender
To whatever You’re doing inside of me
It feels like chaos but somehow there’s peace
And though it’s hard to surrender to what I can’t see
I’m giving in to something Heavenly, something Heavenly
-“Whatever you’re doing (something Heavenly)”