Friday, March 30, 2007

new picture posts:

the buds on the lilac get greener and bigger every day- hurray!


see the hopeful bit of green?

snowdrops- our mystery plants last year have
finally been named. They're the first flower anywhere!

Spring is come!

newsletter article

Sue says I can use other writing (like this article I wrote for our parish newsletter) as blog entries, and that counts... so here goes:

When I was young, every time I got into the car with my parents, they turned on their favorite radio station. It proudly proclaimed to play “The Music of Your Life”- which for my parents was the dreaded Big Band Jazz. I hated it, and whined and complained every time, but every time we would ride along listening to Benny Goodman and Glenn Miller and the Andrews Sisters. I seethed along to the music, vowing that someday I would have my own car with its own radio and I’d never listen to the Chattanooga Choo-Choo song again.
I grew up some and went off to college, and did finally get my own car and radio, and set all the buttons to my favorite stations. But somewhere in my 20’s, I was flipping through the radio dial and heard one of those Big Band songs that I had hated so much. I found that I remembered all the words, and before I knew it, I was singing along with this really great music. I must admit (although don’t tell my parents please!) that I now have a big band station programmed into my radio, and I just love that music, the songs that have now become the Music of MY Life.
Studies have been done over the past several years to figure out how we can raise our kids to be Catholic adults. They came back with so many suggestions and ideas for programs to use, and lots of interesting data. But the overwhelming conclusion to this challenge of keeping kids Catholic was this: parental involvement. Specifically, families who attend Mass together regularly (that is, weekly) create young people with strong faith and Catholic identities.
I have related that fact to many parents at speaking engagements, and am always met with looks of dread. Parents say to me “my kids won’t go”, or “my kids are too busy”. Some parents say “I’m too busy to go to Mass every week with my kids”. They ask, “How am I supposed to get my kids to go to Mass?” They worry that if they haven’t been to Mass with their children since First Communion, they won’t be able to start again, and get their kids on board.
But the reality is this: it is vital for kids to see and know what is important to their parents. If you are not attending Mass regularly, your kids know that, and understand that it is not a priority for you. If you are attending Mass regularly, your kids know and understand that too. And even if they grumble about going, you can have faith that they are absorbing something each and every time your family joins the community in prayer- much the same way that I was memorizing the words to those songs years ago. Kids will have their own phases and stages in their faith development, and may celebrate their first week at college by sleeping late and skipping Mass. But your example will stick with them, and will come to them again at surprising moments in their adulthood- just like my parents’ big band music did for me.
If you haven’t been going in years, come on back. Your kids may give you a TON of grief for adding this habit to your life- they may call you a hypocrite- they may refuse to go with you- but because you know that your actions affect the faith of your kids, keep on going, and keep on inviting them to go with you. It’s a one-hour-a-week investment in your child’s faith.

Wednesday, March 28, 2007

baaaad Catholic

Lent is a busy time for Youth Ministers- there's something about the season of Lent that lets people feel okay, even righteous, about adding on some spiritual focus and discipline to their lives. We YM's grab the chance to offer great ways for kids and families to do just that, and in my case, that has meant a constant rush, full-on run from Ash Wednesday to Holy Week. I've had something every night, and have been even double-booked, home late and dying to sleep in mornings. But I promised for Lent that I would get up every morning and walk to Mass at my local parish. Okay, Mass is at 9- not really all that early- but in the throes of Lenten exhaustion, it's darned near dawn.
So, I have done a terrible job at this promise this year- I skip when it's too cold (it's been below FREEZING!), or there's a funeral at the parish (which really is only kindness to the poor mourners, as I look like hell in pajamas at AM Mass), or I am just too flat- out tired (did I mention I've been tired lately?), or I have an early morning meeting (hey, what can I do about that?). And as if it isn't hard enough to be disciplined for myself, this year Scott has joined me and we've been terrible influences on each other.
My OTHER Lenten promise, which was giving up flour and sugar, has also been a dismal failure. And the worst part about that is, it's JESUS' fault! Well, here's what happened. For Lent, I offered a study of the Gospel of Mark for my adult leaders. The study has been fascinating, and really rewarding, and one of the themes I've glommed onto is Jesus' confrontation of the leaders for missing the point- for focusing more on the rules than on the relationship with God- like here: "The sabbath was made for man, not man for the sabbath." (Mark 2: 27) See? He says the fasting and the rules are not the point to dwell on. Concentrate your efforts on your faith and relationship, not on trying to lock-step in time with the rules. And because I am such a good Christian, I have definitely NOT focused on the rules.
I was planning to get back on the horse tomorrow and walk to Mass, but I hear it's going to be wicked cold. Maybe I'll do an Easter devotion of walking to Mass. That would be nice...

Thursday, March 15, 2007

I hate Lent.

This is the talk I gave at our youth group night a couple of weeks ago.

I hate Lent.

I used to really enjoy Lent, and there are still some things about it that are really special for me- I love how it makes me pay attention, I love how Spring comes with Lent, how the days get longer and brighter and warmer. ForLent every year I walk to daily Mass near my house and in the first week Iwalk across snow and ice and think about how, when Easter comes, everything
along this mile will look different- the snow will melt, the ice will start to turn white and bubbly and crack when I step on it, and then little rivers will form on the sides of the street- tiny shoots of green will poke up from the ground, crocuses, and tulips- the trees will start to bud out and everything will start to smell greener, even. I love that!

But like I said, although there are some special and great things about Lent (it is really the only time of year I can be disciplined about ANYTHING) I really feel differently about it from how I used to feel.

I used to look forward to it at Church, too- the drama of the telling of Jesus’ story- you know- from Ash Wednesday’s reminder that we’re sinful… to the story every weekend at Mass of Jesus’ ministry and miracles- to the emotions and drama of Holy Week. I really used to get into the flow of it.

But, three years ago, things changed pretty dramatically for me. At Christmas time that year, I was pregnant- just a month or so- not yet showing or anything, but definitely THROWING. I was a sick sick sick pregnant lady. Christmas was different for me that year because I could relate to Mary’s story in a whole new way- I was going to be a mother like her, as bewildered as she sounded in the story- “What? ME?” See, I had not been “trying” to get pregnant- I never did want to have a baby or be a mother- but here I was, with an unexpected miracle. My emotions were mixed- sort of excited but mostly scared and… freaked out!

As Lent started, I was really relating to Jesus, facing his DOOM- I felt a little doomed myself, to be honest. But, I was trusting God- if he thought I could handle this then I guessed he was probably right. I started to get “on board” and looked forward to my ultrasound. That day, though, we saw no heartbeat. The technician said she was sorry and showed us what looked like a little gummy bear, just drifting there with no movement.

Two months later, I was unexpectedly pregnant AGAIN. I was so mad! It was
the beginning of Holy Week, and now I could REALLY relate to Jesus’ story in
a whole new, and unwelcome way. Like Jesus in the garden, I pled with God:
“please, take this cup away from me- but not what I will, but what you

And when, on Wednesday of Holy week came, I was right there with Jesus, calling out to God “ My God, My God, why have you forsaken me?”

After a dark 40 days of ups and downs and a difficult sort of “recovery” from these experiences, Easter came to me- the “greening” came back, I felt better (no more throwing up), my marriage was- believe it or not- stronger than ever. It was truly tested and Scott was like an angel for me- better than I could have dreamed.

Why am I telling you all this? I guess because I really want you to pay attention during this season- there is something here, in these stories at Mass every week, in the drama, in the changing of the season. The message may not be as deep or earth-shattering as it was for me that year, but there is something for you.

And I want you to know, too, that Easter Always Comes. That’s a mantra of mine… EASTER ALWAYS COMES. Even for Jesus, who literally met his doom. God always has hope in store for you.

Jeremiah 29:11
"For I know the plans I have for you," says the LORD. "They are plans for good and not for disaster, to give you a future and a hope.”

Tuesday, March 13, 2007

I'm rich

Today my spiritual director gave me the shocking news that not only does God want the best FROM me, He wants the best FOR me. This is something I should have known. I reckon it's a case of "physician, heal thyself"...
Last month when we met, she gave me the scripture (really, she seems to pluck these things out of the air. Well, that's what it looks like but it is clearly NOT random) about the rich young man with many possessions. (that's Mark 10:17-22) I put off reading up on it because I knew it would... well, I knew it had a message for me. And, so, being the eager learner and communer-with-God-that I am, I stalled.
In the story, Jesus tells the young man to sell off his possessions in order to follow him. The young man turns away, sad because he has a lot of bitchen stuff. I always thought that this particular scripture was a gimme for me, because I don't make a lot of money, and don't have all that much stuff. (I recently updated from a Daewoo to a Ford station wagon, for crying out loud!)
But when I finally did look into my assigned scripture, I realized that the money and possessions weren't the point. The point was, Jesus asked the young man to sacrifice the things that he valued over God's plan for him. So the question is, when God asks me to go, to do, to move, to act- what am I holding on to instead? What is God asking me to let go of in order to fulfill His call to me?

Sunday, March 11, 2007

for the love of pod

Just in case you're wondering, here are the podcasts I download regularly onto my ipod:
*60 Second Science, a daily one that really does last 60 seconds, is fascinating, and starts with a bitchen comet-sound that seems like it's orbiting your head.
*A Prairie Home Companion's News from Lake Wobegone- just his news monologue, without all the silly music they play on the show. Okay, sometimes I like the music, but really I'm in it for the plays and the News.
*Weekend America- good one! It's two hours long so I never do get to hear all of it on the radio.
*Grammar Girl's Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing- this is a new one for me, brief and to the point, and always grammatically correct.
*Car Talk's Call of the Week- One good call. I like that! I don't download Cartalk because it is ubiquitous, playing constantly on the 3-5 PR stations that I have access to, so that by the end of any given weekend I've heard pretty much the whole show.
*NPR's Driveway Moments- they're the stories that you sit in your driveway to hear the end of, they're so good. I once sat in my car before work listening to one about how octopus (...pi?) can learn to open the screw tops on jars. Can you believe that??
*NPR Playback- brand new, I haven't even listened to one yet- they're stories from the archives, and the first 6 I downloaded are from the early 80's. Should be interesting, no?
*NPR Story of the Day- "the one story NPR's editors think you won't want to miss!" So far, they've been right!
*This I believe- quick little essays written by everybodies, about what they believe, or believe in.
*Wait Wait...Don't Tell Me! NPR's news quiz and my absolute favorite NPR show.
*Slate Explainer Podcasts- explaining interesting things like "How do clothes wrinkle?" and "was Britney's hair full of drugs?"
*This American Life- my other absolute favorite NPR show.
* WNYC's Radio Lab- best science show EVER!!!! Very, VERY cool. New season coming up soon, and I can't wait!
Happy listening!

Friday, March 09, 2007

sleep-deprived theology

...I am. Sorry about the scant posting, but Lent is upon me and I am sta-raight out. Just glancing at my calendar makes me feel tired, and this week was one of the worst, with a retreat at the beginning and a 13-hour day at the end.
Tonight I went to a meeting for a young person who I am "mentoring" in preparation for a mission trip she's making in the Summer with the Episcopal Diocese of MA. I was speaking to a man at the coffee table, who told me he is the "token protestant" at our parish's Men's Group. I said "I know how you feel, being the token Catholic here tonight" and he said "no, we're all catholic, you're just the only Roman Catholic."
ahhh, right. Nice little faux pas. I also had chicken at the dinner they served. On Friday night, IN AN EPISCOPAL CHURCH.
I was like a rebel without a cause tonight.
I've been doing a Bible Study with some of the teachers from high school faith formation program. We're doing the Gospel of Mark- the shortest one. It's been kind of fascinating, actually- we're looking at each story with a new eye, and reading lots of little study books to help us understand. One story that really caught my eye, this being Lent, was Mark 2:23-27. Jesus and his buddies are walking along, plucking wheat, and they are accused of breaking the sabbath. Jesus tells them that "The Sabbath was made for man, not man for the Sabbath."
I remember hearing in college that what was so radical about Jesus was that he told the Jews that the rules were not the point. That the Jews of that time had become so caught up in and dependent on their rules and regulations, that they had lost touch with the point of it all. The conversation that they have with Jesus, asking him "which is the most important commandment?" is an illustration of that. They don't ask him "what does God want of us?" but instead, they focused on the rule- wanting to know which rule they should follow even more than they follow the others.
Now here we are in the season of Lent, being careful not to eat meat when we're not supposed to, give up something and stick with it, color inside the lines. Is it silly?
The girlies in my OTHER Bible Study group, who are mostly of the protestanty type, asked me to explain Lent to them last year. I told them that Lent can be thought of like a wedding anniversary. On our anniversaries, we remember just what we fell in love for- we celebrate all the things we love about each other. We try to be the best spouse we can- loving and kind and generous. Just like we should be every day. Lent, for Catholics, is the same kinda thing (imho)- we remember why we are Christians, why God loves us, and try to be the best Catholics we can be. It's not about the rules, it's about wanting to return in love, the love we've been given.
At least I hope that's what it is all about, or I'm going to burn in hell for eating overcooked, mushy chicken in a flourescent-lit Episcopal Church hall on a Friday. Yikes.