Be Lifted Up

As 2010 comes to a close, I felt called from the place of Christ's birth to the cross.  To get there, I went home to Prince of Peace Abbey, where I seek spiritual guidance.  There after Mass, I visited the outdoor stations of the cross, under a clear blue sky and sunshine, the warmth of which was slightly broken only by the brisk late morning gentile wind coming off the coast.  The ground was muddy after local rains and reminded me of our origins; the stations reminded me of our Lord's path, and our destination.   I meditated, prayed, contemplated, asked and listened.  I don't know how long the walk took; at one point I was lost in thought and had to find my way back to the trail I have walked before.

Fellowship with the Lord is very humbling.  For all that one is and all that one could be is exposed.  There is no hiding when one comes to the cross.

Finishing the walk, I was mindful of the seeds scattered in the soil of mind and heart.

It took the better part of the day, thinking and searching for a theme to memorialize today; the theme was found in a song by Paul Oakley, Be Lifted Up.  In 2011 I trust the Lord to cultivate and give root to what is for his good pleasure, in my life and in the lives of dads and moms everywhere, seeking to allow Christ to be lifted up in their lives so they and their children will have a clear vision of their destination.  As the early evening of today is upon us, I find myself reflecting on a section of today's reading:

Do not love the world or the things of the world.  If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. - 1 John 2:15

From this scripture is born the prayer that our fellowship with Christians everywhere be unified to strengthen and cultivate what matters for this generation and the next.

A simple walk under the blue sky of our creator.  A simple purpose guided by the light of his spirit.  May our Lord be lifted up.

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If you are parent, or have had the experience witnessing the birth of a child, you know of the emotions preceding the event, the adrenalin rush, hypervigilance hours before, blood, sounds and concurrent fear of complications hand-in-hand with the anticipated joy of bringing life into the world.  This is an experience not soon forgotten. Most people reading this entry will have had access to some modern day support, hospital, midwife, whatever.  The point is you likely had, or was with someone who was within reasonable distance to aid, attention and access to support for the birth of a child.

As I read the Bible's account of what lead up to the birth of our savior, I am left with a visceral impression of the event's raw nature preceding an arresting event unrivaled by any of the greatest accomplishments found in humankind.  In reading the scripture, I see that  I (we) are at times like the innkeeper with no room for a wondering couple, unkempt, likely anxious, traveled, musty, dirty and obviously going to be needing attention.  Imagine opening your front door and there stands this couple, the pregnant woman on a smelly donkey.  The couple looking at you with pleading eyes that pierce deep.  Your heart opens just a bit, but not as far open as the doorway between you and them; for a fraction of a moment you contemplate the right thing to do.  But then the door closes quickly and tightly as thoughts of all you have to do come rushing to mind overpowering the image of fatigue that stands before you in the uninvited.  As you close the door, the couple looks at each other in amazement and disbelief. You behind the closed door, maybe give them one more consideration, then return to what is important to you.  Yet, you do not realize you have closed the door on the messengers who usher in the greatest event in human history.

The couple presses on, perhaps, one inn after the next.  Nothing to sell, offer or give that would make the pleading more palatable to the next innkeeper.  No, in fact, they need something, want something, anything for the opportunity to stop and bring this child into the world, and to rest from their dusty journey.

If you have ever been to a stable or some place where there are animals of various sizes, you know well before you are ever on the scene, your olfactory senses are way ahead of you.  As you draw closer, your face is likely reacting to the environment, as is your stomach, both graduating toward the emotion of disgust.  If I were Joseph, I would have been concurrently relieved to have a place for the mother of my child to lay, and at the same time, I would likely be feeling dismay at there being no better option. If I were feeling the experience for Mary, I would be wondering only about safety, security and that my love was at hand.

Moments pass quickly, then the whimpering, giving way to perhaps screaming, pushing, clutching the hand of her betrothed.  There is no doctor on hand, no medication to give, no running water, dimmer for the lights or soft music. There is only love in a very, very raw place to be.

But, that is our savior.  He is the example to go to the places we likely would not, accept by God's grace and calling do we have the capacity.  And, when he gets there, he announces by his presence, likely following the drying and salty tears on the cheeks and lips of those witness to his birth (in swaddling clothes no less) he is "sustenance for the world" 1.

Under circumstance likely none of us would choose, similar to many unanticipated challenges (loss of work, illness, aging, etc.) we would not choose in  our lives today, Joseph and Mary found courage to bring our savior into the world and a commitment to deal with anything that would follow.  How did they do this?  Might this birth experience be an example to handle our own lives, given to us by our Lord?

The scriptures reveal both Joseph and Mary were given a command and reason for the command:

  • Joseph was told by an angel in a dream, "Do not be afraid..." (Matthew 1:20).  Why? Because "he [Jesus] will save his people from their sins" (21);
  • Mary, "who was greatly troubled" (Luke 1:29), was told by the angel, Gabriel, "Do not be afraid..." (30).  Why? Because Jesus (31) born from her will be "...great and will be called Son of the Most High..." (32).
What a powerful message in what lead up to the birth of our savior, which can only be understood by not only opening the door, but taking on all that will accompany the birth of a child and accepting there are no clear answers, ideals or helps at times.  And relinquishing one's self to God, who will quell any fear (but not always remove challenges) for the ultimate purpose of salvation from sin by Jesus, who's name "is a Greek form of the Hebrew name Joshua (Yehoshua), which means "Yah is Savior" 2.

What is more important than this child, delivered by a tired and anxious couple?  As innkeepers, if we let them in and accompany them to deal with this pregnancy and birth, we will be distracted, fatigued, taxed and have to deal with the uncomfortable.  However, by embracing the challenge of this child's birth, we are witness to "the most momentous single event in the history of the world" 2.

Now that is an adrenalin rush for any innkeeper.

1. Brown, Raymond, E. (ed.), The New Jerome Biblical Commentary, (Prentice Hall, 1990)
2. Farmer, William R. (ed.), The International Bible commentary, (The Liturgical Press, 1998)

My Treasure

Watching my four year old daughter love her treasure, gets me thinking about what valuable treasure will I leave to her and her sister (age 6) when I am gone.

"There she goes", I think to myself, as my youngest, "Co-Co" blurs past one room to the other, catching my eye, like a cat noticing a bird flutter by to settle on a branch out of reach.  I wait a little while, because I know she is squirreling away, in a place she calls "My Treasure", some new and little thing-a-ma-bob she has found and holds dear to her heart. It could be her sister's bracelet, taken without permission in the hopes it will just be forgotten about, a puzzle piece, a special rock we found at the park, my favorite pen, or something really peculiar like used children's floss!  I learn two very important lessons: 1 - There is no rhyme or reason to what fancies a girl's heart and 2 - If I'm missing something, I know where to look.

Co-Co's treasure got me thinking about My Treasure, too.  My faith.  As one who has explored his faith and lack there of over the course of at least three decades, and having explored becoming an atheist, turned agnostic, and ultimately returning to the Catholic faith of my youth, I am feeling blessed to know more fully in an adult way what a personal relationship with Christ means.

A personal relationship with Jesus is like any other that requires daily attention to remain vital; it includes the "little things" of prayer, mindfulness, scripture reading, and action.  It is these "little things" that amount to a treasure I am adding to daily for my own spiritual edification, that of my community's and eventually to pass along to my children as an inheritance of faith.  With each passing day together, we squirrel away memories in our hearts, that result in a shared history able to get us through any of life's challenges (and we have had our fair share).

By no means perfect, I could do better on many days.  But rather than striving for perfection, I renew each morning a commitment to looking for what is meaningful in our faith, taking the time to explore answers to the questions I had long ago (and currently) and practice being the best I can be in my relationship to Christ. Why?  I determined long ago, I would not allow my children to flounder in all the world will throw at them, without a good faith effort to give them a framework by which to gage the progress of their lives and the progress of the world in which they live. I once heard,

If you will not teach your children, someone will.  Do you think that someone will have your children's best interest at heart in the temporal world or hereafter?
The answer to that question is obviously, "No!"  So apart from my belief in the importance of modeling for my children a relationship they can have hope in and will come to appreciate in their own lives when older, I believe in personal accountability to the knowledge I have of a creator.  To not act on that knowledge would leave me emotionally and psychologically bland.  Not something I wish to be for my children.

During this holiday time, in celebration of the birth of my Lord, I am particularly mindful and thankful for my children and what I learn from them.  And I am thankful for my faith, My Treasure and God's grace that allows it.  This gift doesn't come in a box; it fits from within given by a Savior to last a lifetime and thereafter.  As with so many gifts we are offered, it must be accepted for there to be a continued binding of the relationship between the gift giver and gift receiver (to do otherwise is simply to reject the gift).  To experience the full impact of the love with which a gift is given, it must be accepted with a fully open mind and heart, leading to a treasure of unimaginable value for this generation and the next.

What is your treasure?  What inheritance are you working daily at to leave your own children?  What treasure do your own children enjoy?

Why do Catholics Do That?
How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

Favourite Time of Year
The Florin Street Band (Christmas 2010)


Star of Bethlehem 
Amazing research confirms the book of Revelation

For more information, see The Star of Bethlehem

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I Got Pooh for You!

One of the major life experiences that occurs in every parent's life, which binds you as the parent to your child occurs at "Potty Time" (written about extensively by experts in the field, who offer parents a multitude of suggestions and secrets in their books).  That is the time where bonding really occurs.  Make Potty Time a good experience and my guess is you've sealed the relationship pretty well.  Now, I have just a bit of an aversion to "Potty". But no matter who you are, CEO, M.D., Clerk, Domestic Engineer or Fashion Model, we all deal with "Potty".  Our parents dealt with it, their parents did and every single generation after us will deal with it.  Potty is so serious a matter, there is actually the Real Diaper Association researching the subject. They report, "27.4 billion disposable diapers are consumed every year in the U.S."

Where there is Pooh, there is Pee.  Kinda like Yogi Bear and Boo Boo, or Sonny and Cher or Batman and Robbin  It is impossible to separate the two.  It can't be done.  You cannot have a discussion about Number 2 without Number 1.  They go hand-in-hand, so to speak (Yuck).

The other night, my four year old had an accident (You'd think she was running around in her room and collided head on with another moving object at 1 a.m.  But, that didn't happen and we had to deal with an accident). So I get up, can't find my glasses and take my little one by the hand, mindful of not wanting to have any experience related to Pooh be traumatic and have her end up in therapy some day, dealing with her Pooh and Papa.  So, I take her by the hand, and assure her, "Oh Honey, That's okay, Babe, accidents happen".  I get her cleaned up, and back into bed after removing the fancy bed cover, fearful another accident will occur, but I'm tired, she's dry, happy and enjoys the snuggles before she is back to sleep.  Like any good parent, I can handle the situation without glasses, and in a semi-lighted environment, with the skill and precision of a Navy Seal assembling a weapon on the shores of a foreign beach in nearly pitch black conditions, so quiet as not to wake my other daughter.

This whole experience, reminds me of those times, I actually long for.  Can you believe it?  I long for those times of changing diapers.  Am I nuts, or what?  But, truth be told, I do.  Then I think of the song I made up for my first daughter that served her and my second well.  When I used to sing it, no matter how bad the accident, the song brought a smile to both our faces and bonding was reinforced:

I got pooh, just for you!  Papa, I got pooh for you. I got pooh, just for you!  Papa, I got pooh for you!!

Neat times.

So before she gets up after sunrise, I already have the comforter involved in the accident washing; and I have cup of coffee in hand ready to take on the day.  After the wash is done, I'm struggling to take the thoroughly wet comforter out of the wash (and just at this moment it occurs to me, should that have been dry cleaned?) and my little one walks up to me standing at the washing machine.  She takes one look at the all consumed and dripping wet comforter and says, "Wow, Papa, that's a lot of pee!!"  I bust up laughing, and say, "Babe, I don't think this is all because of you.  I don't think I can even have an accident like this!"

She giggles, not really understanding what I mean, but more so at may laughter.  I pull over a chair, she climbs up and together we finish struggling with the dripping wet comforter to get it to its intended destination, the dryer. With my gentle instruction, she turns a nob and pushes a button.  She's amazed at her near mastery of turning on the dryer; I pick her up, snuggle and we're on to the next morning's task...breakfast (after our morning's prayer of course).


A colleague asked me today to help her with a project that has to do with online teaching, and she needed me to recall when writing became so important in my life.  While I have had many occasions to write to family members of clients in the course of my career for one reason or another, immediately my mind settled on the day I started to blog for my then only daughter, "Baby B".

July 16, 2004 - "Baby B", unbeknown to her was compelling me, by her peaceful existence, to capture an experience I had never known, an experience that was so dynamic I could hardly find the time to write each new awareness that was rushing into my mind, heart and soul, at times drawing from me emotions that most men like myself find it difficult to admit to.  She was in the world for only a little over six month, and as she continued to grow, nurse, move, cry, slumber, wake, I was transformed each and every moment we were both together and apart. I found myself listening attentively to her, trying to learn her language directing me to meet the most fundamental of her needs.  Never in my life did I want to hear something so well, or wanted to get something so right.  Intuitively, I did pretty well.  However, upon reflection, I do recall how overwhelmed I felt.  I was so taken with joy, I could only blog the simple observation, "Baby B takes a break from play to discover her feet".  Today, both she and her sister, "CoCo", at times, still leave me nearly speechless.


Enjoyed playing 123 Number Jumble with youngest who had a cough today, "sneezies" and a runny nose. Life is good for us both, no matter how many tissues we need.

 You are worried about seeing him spend his early years in doing nothing.  What!  Is it nothing to be happy?  Nothing to skip, play, and run around all day long?  Never in his life will he be so busy again. - Jean-Jacques Rousseau, Emile, 1762


Caring is defined in many different ways and is manifested in the seemingly small gesture, as when a friend invites you to coffee to listen to an issue that is troubling you, or it may be in a determined commitment to show you love in ways that will bring tears of joy and admiration, and will be remembered for the rest of your life.

Like you, I am faced with many opportunities to provide care, especially in the work I do (see Profile) and more importantly when my children become ill. Taking care of an ill child (or children) is an honor, for one day that child will care of of an old man, and my hope is she will find the same honor. I am not of the belief we are to put away the burdens that face us in life, for I believe those "burdens" are the very elements that strengthen our character and make us unique physically, psychologically and spiritually. From a refined character, then comes great gifts to those we love and those we may never know.

How do you care? Who inspires you to care deeply? Here is a dad and son who inspire me.