Writing: The Success is in the Offering

Writing: The Success is in the Offering

The first blog I started was in the early 2000s.  Way back then, I didn’t call it a blog and neither did anyone who read it.  It was a very short list of distinguished people who read it, but it was there, a precursor to what I would do here and now.

I was imitating my older sister.  She sent emails to her friends about life ponderings that she had during the day.  There were religious reflections, philosophical musings, and simply ideas she had as she went about her ordinary high school life.  Wanting to be like her, I started my own little email list.

While I don’t remember how many emails I sent out, I do recall one topic.  Blue toilet paper.  My mother purchased blue toilet paper and, for some reason, this was the thing I felt most compelled to write about.  I know that I sent at least two emails about it.  The first had an intriguing subject line of “Blue” and the second was titled “Still Blue.”  And then, for one reason or another, I stopped sending the emails.

My next foray into the world of writing was in eighth grade.  Apparently, my English teacher thought I had something to offer the world and contacted the local editor of the town newspaper.  The editor agreed to let me write occasionally for the paper about virtually whatever I wished.  I wrote about my sister entering the convent, the death of a classmate, summer church camps, dream jobs, my dad’s retirement, the holocaust of abortion, and my trip to Ireland and Scotland.  The writing continued sporadically until my graduation.

In college, I wrote a couple of times for a few different campus publications.  I was too busy writing papers to publish many articles just for the enjoyment of it.  College also had the knack of tempering my perceived self-importance.  I’d been told for years that I had a gift for writing, largely from family and friends who are supposed to say those kinds of things.  In college, however, I received authentic criticism from my Honors and English professors.

Admittedly, it took me by surprise. Continue reading “Writing: The Success is in the Offering”

A Beauty Filled Life

A Beauty Filled Life

As I walked the Camino, I found within myself a longing for beauty.  Mile after mile passed beneath my feet and I made commitments to myself about how I would like to live my post-Camino life.

Read poetry every day.
Look at new artwork.
Listen to classical music.

All of those commitments and ideas didn’t translate as neatly into my reality as I had hoped.  In the rush of the daily grind, it is difficult to intentionally set aside time to experience beauty.  Most days, my taste of beauty happens when I remind myself to take in the fall foliage before winter sets in.  But an intentional pursuit of beauty?  Generally, that is non-existent.

Last night, I flipped through a book of poems entitled Poems You Ought to Know.  My English degree (with a concentration in British and American Literature) meant that I recognized most of the names in the table of contents.  Some of the poem names even sounded familiar, but few were ones I could stop and say, “Oh, I love this one!”

Edgar Allan Poe’s “Annabel Lee” was there and I recalled that in college I taught a lesson on this to a classroom of high schoolers during an education class.  It is a beautiful poem, I think, even with the natural morbidity found in Poe’s works.  The poetic devices that I had reviewed with the class came to mind dimly.

It makes me wonder why I don’t read poetry like my heart desires.  Why do I not sit down and read a Shakespearean sonnet in the evening?  Why don’t I learn about the famous classical composers?  Why don’t I use the gift of the internet to virtually explore art museums and learn about the different periods in art history?  I desire it.  Why don’t I do it?

Because it is easier to not.   Continue reading “A Beauty Filled Life”

Are You Envious Because I Am Generous?

Are You Envious Because I Am Generous?

The Gospel reading from this past Sunday is one that I find intriguing.  Jesus presents a parable that speaks to the nature of God.  Yet it is a nature that we struggle to understand since it is far beyond what seems natural to our humanity.  The line that stood out to me was near the end.  It was a lovingly spoken parting blow from Jesus, aimed at the egos of His followers down through the ages.

“Are you envious because I am generous?”

Sometimes.

The situation that came to mind was from a recent class as we discussed a few attributes of God.  We spoke of the limitlessness of God’s knowledge, love, and power.  As we waded into what it means that God knows all, questions arose, as I was certain would happen.

“If God knows everything, then why did He…”

You can fill in the blank with whatever you would like.  Sometimes they questioned why God would create specific people, knowing the hurt and pain they would inflict.  Other times they questioned if we truly have free will since God knows everything we will do.  They are interesting questions and ones I try to wrestle with for my students.

The closer to home I can make the examples, the more they seem to understand.  Why would God create people who do evil things when He knows they will do them?  I connected it to free will and asked, rather than answered, another question.

“Is it free will if God only chooses to create the people He knows will be good?  What would it mean if God surveyed our lives and then only created the people who would follow Him anyway?”

While still a difficult concept, I believe they began to see that God loves and creates people regardless of their future actions.  As humans, we are quick to separate ourselves into different groups.  There is Hitler and other really bad people on one side.  On the other, good people like you and me.  So I decided to pose another question to them, one that tries to pry into their idea of “good people.”

“If God chose to only create the people who were good, would we have been created?”

Our instinctual reaction of “I’m a good person” kicks in, only to be checked by, “Am I?”  I do not know what I will do in my future, maybe it will be something awful.  From my vantage point of the present, I can see the mean and sinful things I have done in the past.  I want my students to realize that appearances can be deceiving and goodness difficult to measure if we use subjective standards.

“I am uncertain that I would have been created if God only made the good people.”

This is where I think it connects to St. Matthew’s Gospel from Sunday.  At times, I question why God permits certain things to happen, certain atrocities to be committed by other humans.  Why does He create them at all?

Granted, this is a different situation than the Gospel, but it makes me pause and wonder.  Am I envious that God generously creates everyone, even when I find it difficult to love people who willingly hurt others?  Do I wish He applied a stricter test to people’s futures before He made them?  I don’t think I do, but I question His level of generosity. Continue reading “Are You Envious Because I Am Generous?”

Cosmically Important

Cosmically Important

The other day, I was listening to a TED radio talk.  Their topic was endurance and one man spoke about the endurance of the human species.  He indicated that he would be surprised if there was no other intelligent life in the universe.  However, he left the possibility open and said we might be the only ones out there.  Then he, roughly, said the following, “If we are the only people to have ever existed, than what happens here is cosmically important.”

I don’t intend to dissect this from the context, but it means far more to me when I do.  He was referencing the survival of humanity and the hope that we won’t be the cause of our own destruction.

What grabbed my attention, however, was the phrase cosmically important.

If what is happening here on Earth has never happened anywhere else, than what we do and how we live is important for the entire cosmos.  I don’t think we should all freak out about every action, but it gives me a different perspective if I think about my actions impacting a cosmos.

Image result for memes phenomenal cosmic powers

How would we live is we viewed our lives on a cosmic scale?  That doesn’t mean we become self-inflated or overly consumed with ourselves.  Instead of giving myself pass after pass for living lower than I ought, seeing my actions as cosmically important might force me to shape up and live well. Continue reading “Cosmically Important”

Monday Thoughts

Monday Thoughts

Thoughts for this day:

The God who created this vast universe with numerous solar systems and millions of planets and stars, also created the intricate design found within each cell in our body.

Sometimes a pan of sliced almonds set on broil (and forgotten about for eight or so minutes) will start a fire.  And it will cause you to call your dad into the room who will blow out the fire and dump out the ruined almonds.  It will also be a good dose of humility and remind your mom that things don’t matter–because you ruined her lovely new baking sheet. Continue reading “Monday Thoughts”

Mild Profundity

A couple mildly profound thoughts that I have had today through the inspiration of the Holy Spirit.

Driving into work I was praying and the Lord brought a prayer to my lips that I didn’t understand until I had said it.  “Lord, bring about a deeper conversion at my school, beginning with my own heart.”  I prayed that and then just sat there thinking, “Whoa.”  What if I actually lived that out?

Great, I forgot the other one.  But something else I was reminded of was that we never know the hearts of everyone around us.  Many have secret burdens that we cannot know about by looking at them.  Yet if we love each person as if they are Christ, then we can’t go wrong.  Therein lies the task.  Let’s get to it, Christian soldiers.  Go be Christ’s hands and feet.  And I’ll see you in the Eucharist.

P.S. I remembered my other “profound” thought.  I was stopped at a red light and as it turned green a firetruck with its lights on came from behind.  It got in the opposing lane and went around us.  Since my dad was a firefighter for so many years I have a fond place in my heart for them.  However, this time I was thinking about how beautiful it was that everyone stopped and waited for the truck to pass.  It was as if for a moment we were all in one accord and realized, if only briefly, that someone else was more important than ourselves.  Our mad rush to whatever location was placed to the side as we watched others race to the aid of those in need.  It was a small but great moment for humanity.