Thursday, July 27, 2017

Well Said: Terrorist Attacks, Media, and Humanity

"[The terrorist attack is] all over the TV. If you try to watch anything else, you feel ... like you've lost your humanity."

"Damn if we'll watch it," Jess said. "It's not tragedy, the way they report it, not horror, certainly now war reporting. It's all spectacle, and once you let yourself see it that way, your soul begins to turn to dust."
Dean Koontz, The Silent Corner

Worth a Thousand Words: Bearded Tit

Bearded Tit, taken by the incomparable Remo Savisaar

Genesis Notes: The Importance of Isaac and Jacob

As observed earlier, Isaac is so passive seeming compared to Abraham before him and Jacob who follows. Pulling away from the observations of their personal lives, we can compare Isaac and Jacob on a much larger scale. As so often happens in Scripture, in looking at the big picture we get yet another lesson for our own lives.

Isaac blessing his son [Jacob], Giotto di Bondone
Isaac is the most passive of the Patriarchs. In Genesis 22 he is silently bound by Abraham (though much subsequent Jewish tradition ascribes to him a more active participation). Isaac plays no active role while Abraham's servant acquires a wife for him. A blind and bedridden Isaac is deceived by his wife and younger son. Only in Genesis 26 does Isaac act in his own right -- and here, all the stories are reminiscent of earlier episodes in Abraham's story. Perhaps one implication of Isaac's story is that God's purposes do not necessarily need strong, active, and distinctive people for their continuation and fulfillment.

Jacob is different. His name becomes that of the nation Israel, and his 12 sons become the ancestors of the Twelve Tribes of Israel. In telling of its eponymous ancestor, one might expect the Israelites to tell of a courageous, faithful, God-fearing hero. But Jacob's faults are shown along with his virtues. In his youth, he connives in deception and is a liar as well. When, later in life, he is transformed by a mysterious encounter with God and his name is correspondingly changed, he is still no model. He is a poor parent, showing favoritism among his children and provoking deadly sibling rivalry. The Bible's portrayal of this man as Israel's ancestor is remarkable. It is a reminder that God can use even the weak to do good things. It is a story acting as a reminder that there are many baffling paradoxes in the encounter between God and humanity.

In these narratives, it is made clear from the outset that Jacob and Esau represent the two peoples of Israel and Edom (Gen. 25:23, 30; 27:29a). However much the stories embody the historic rivalries of these two peoples, the chief figures are important in their own right. Their difference is most obvious when Esau forgives Jacob, for in Israel's history -- and especially in Obadiah -- Edom is particularly remembered for its ruthless exploitation of Jerusalem when the latter was overthrown by the Babylonians.
All material quoted is from The Complete Bible HandbookThis series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Wednesday, July 26, 2017

Road Trip - Duluth (updated)

The Str. American Victory (then, the Middletown) passing beneath Duluth's aerial lift bridge
We went to a wedding in Duluth, Minnesota, of a good friend of Hannah's, who is also very dear to us. It was moving to witness this moment of promise and joy in her life and, as is often the case, to reflect upon how we have seen her grow during the eight or so years we've known her. It was really wonderful.

It was also the occasion for us to plan a road trip. The idea of spending two days of solid driving to get somewhere can be daunting but ever since we took our youngest daughter to California for her first job (U-Haul and Boxer in tow), I've felt differently. 

There is something about seeing the land change as you drive by. About meeting the different people on the way, hearing new accents, seeing food specialties change. You understand the country a little differently.

That slow evolution also is reflected on the people traveling, as Tom and I have found. Listening to music or audiobooks, letting silence fill the car, watching miles slip away - these are all conducive to reflections that we just don't have time for in regular life. We may never have the time to develop the thoughts, much less carry them through into conversation. Long hours in the car lend themselves to such things. 

So we embrace any chance for a road trip. I get my knitting, we pick out audiobooks and podcasts, pack up the cocktail kit, and hit the road. Plus, you have the chance for side trips which indulge at least one person's special interests. 

Mike Breitbach and me!
He's hardworking - see the glove? When we met him,
he was refilling croutons at the salad bar.
Cindy Breitbach and me!
She took time away from the kitchen just for a second —
pies wait for no man (or pictures!)
That meant we took to the back roads so we could sample fried chicken and pie at Breitbach's Country Dining, which was one of the three restaurants featured in the Spinning Plates documentary (a great favorite of mine).

It was truly worth the trip. We met both Mike and Cindy Breitbach, who were gracious and charming. Community is key for them, as we could see, and the food was definitely worth the trip. (We should've taken pictures of the place, but check here.)

And you really do have to want to take the trip. We saw lots of little roads and communities as we made our way from Balltown to Duluth. Thank goodness for Google Maps!

William A. Irvin tour
On Saturday we had all day to be tourists and it was Tom's chance for special interests. We walked around Canal Park looking at the lighthouses and, most of all, the aerial lift bridge which excited no little interest when a ferry came through so we could see it working. Afterward, we met up with our son-in-law who was also at loose ends. Naturally that meant we needed to take a tour of an ore hauler which the guys found fascinating. I especially was interested in the living quarters and galley. Thinking about living and working on that ship, often in extreme winter conditions, was fascinating to me.

Gin can be more flavors than juniper - who knew?
But this Juniper Gin has underlying flavors that never
made it into my favorite brand
We were intrigued to find the Vikre distillery not too far from where we were staying which had cedar and spruce gins in addition to the usual juniper flavoring. I liked the cedar but the spruce was too much like chewing a Christmas tree for me. Most interesting was that when I added the tonic water, the flavors really bloomed in my mouth, as opposed to the straight sip I'd taken initially. I've heard about the effect water can have on a liquor but it was the most vivid example I could've asked for.

Overlaying the entire trip was our repeating our Beyond Cana marriage retreat along the way. Once you've done the marriage retreat, you refresh the basics on your own once a year. We first did the retreat in 2005 so we've had plenty of practice and could talk over the various steps at different points on the trip. We'd put it off for longer than we should have so it was a really wonderful renewal of our marriage.

A great trip, all in all!

Guest Interview on Among Women Podcast

I have the pleasure of being a guest on the Among Women podcast where Pat Gohn and I discuss my book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. It leads us to the every day life of a believer… grounded both in the interior life — the life of prayer — and the call to do good works. Join us!

Thursday, July 20, 2017

Gone Fishing

John Singer Sargent, Two Girls Fishing, detail, 1912
via Arts Everyday Living
To be honest, I won't be dressed like this. And I won't be fishing.

But I will be gone until the middle of next week. We're taking a road trip to the wedding of a friend of our daughter's ... who is also dear to us.

I'm really looking forward to the trip because there is nothing for having great conversations and time alone with your spouse like 10 hour travel days together! I know it sounds like a nightmare for some but we both enjoy it. And with audiobooks, podcasts, music, and knitting we will be living it up!

Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Well Said: Christianity thoroughly approves of the body

Christianity is almost the only one of the great religions which thoroughly approves of the body — which believes that matter is good, that God Himself once took on a human body, that some kind of body is going to be given to us even in Heaven and is going to be an essential part of our happiness, our beauty, and our energy.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Geraniums

Geraniums, Childe Hassam
via Arts Everyday Living

Genesis Notes: Laban's Resume

I never really thought about Laban much except as an obstacle to Jacob's plans. But he's more than a stereotypically difficult father-in-law. I have really enjoyed the insights about how gave Jacob have a taste of his own medicine by tricking him so thoroughly. And he was the instrument God used to help humble Jacob and make him stretch himself in different ways.

Jacob reproaching Laban for giving him Leah in place of Rachel, Hendrick ter Brugghen

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • Controlled two generations of marriages in the Abrahamic family (Rebekah, Rachel, Leah)
  • Quick witted
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Manipulated others for his own benefit
  • Unwilling to admit wrongdoing
  • Benefited financially by using Jacob, but never fully benefited spiritually by knowing and worshipping Jacob's God
Lessons from his life:
  • Those who set out to use people will eventually find themselves used
  • God's plan cannot be blocked
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran
  • Occupation: Wealthy sheep breeder
  • Relatives: Father - Bethuel. Sister - Rebekah. Brother-in-law - Isaac. Daughters - Rachel and Leah. Son-in-law - Jacob.
Key verses:
"If the God of my father, the God of Abraham and the Fear of Isaac, had not been with me, you would surely have sent me away empty-handed. But God has seen my hardship and the toil of my hands, and last night he rebuked you" (Genesis 31:42).

Laban's story is told in Genesis 24:1 - 31:55.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 18, 2017

When it comes to the life of a child, should parental devotion be disqualifying?

Let us stipulate a distinction between removing someone from life support, as the hospital proposes, and taking active measures to induce death. Put another way, if Connie Yates and Chris Gard —Charlie’s parents—decided to remove their son from his ventilator and allow nature to take its course, it would be a difficult but eminently defensible position.

But the claim asserted by the representatives of Britain’s state-run health care system is more sweeping and insidious: This is our call, they say. Such is the Great Ormond Street Hospital’s sense of dominion, says Ms. Yates, that it refused to allow Charlie to come home to die, wrapped in the loving arms of his mom and dad.
Bill McGurn wrote a really excellent editorial, For the Love of Charlie Gard, for the Wall Street Journal. It is hidden behind the WSJ's paywall but if you click through from his Facebook post then the whole article may be read.

Well Said: God Likes Matter. He Invented It.

There is no good trying to be more spiritual than God. God never meant man to be a purely spiritual creature. That is why He uses material things like bread and wine to put the new life into us. We may think this rather crude and unspiritual. God does not: He invented eating. He likes matter. He invented it.
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Worth a Thousand Words: Evening on the Meadow

Evening on the Meadow, taken by Remo Savisaar

Monday, July 17, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence

Arthur Robertson,
Drawing for Alfred Gilbert's project for the tomb of the Duke of Clarence
via Lines and Colors

Lagniappe: Dating girls in Thrall to Creatures from the Void

"Something's been calling her," he said. "In dreams. Someone that wants to be let out. I'm afraid she's going to get hurt."

"She's not worth it," said Gaspode. "Messin' around with girls who're in thrall to Creatures from the Void never works out, take my word for it. You'd never know what you were going to wake up to.
Terry Pratchett, Moving Pictures

Thursday, July 13, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Yellowstone Park

Yellowstone Park, taken by Colorado Nature Photography

Well Said: The "Prince of this World" is a great P.R. man, a great master of the media

It is not brains or intelligence that is needed to cope with the problems with Plato and Aristotle and all of their successors to the present have failed to confront. What is needed is a readiness to undervalue the world altogether. This is only possible for a Christian... All technologies and all cultures, ancient and modern, are part of our immediate expanse. There is hope in this diversity since it creates vast new possibilities of detachment and amusement at human gullibility and self-deception. There is no harm in reminding ourselves from time to time that the "Prince of this World" is a great P.R. man, a great salesman of new hardware and software, a great electric engineer, and a great master of the media. It is his master stroke to be not only environmental but invisible for the environmental is invincibly persuasive when ignored.
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Light

Tomato-Basil Soup

This has become a classic soup during my lifetime. I recall when La Madeleine restaurants in Dallas served it to rave comments, sold it bottled at grocery stores, and yet ... I never tried it. And then came Rose, who insisted we try it ... check it out at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

The Hauntingly Beautiful Music of the Trees

Instead of a vinyl disc, Traubeck's record player uses a cross-section of a log or tree trunk, using light to translate the different colors and textures of the tree's rings into musical notes and instruments. Because every tree has its own unique configuration of rings, every tree has its own unique "song."
For details about the technology, read the top comment at YouTube.

Wednesday, July 12, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Inside the Church

Inside the Church, Franklin Booth

Well Said: Marriage is a colossal gamble, or rather, a very great adventure

You and I are faced with one of those situations (which fortunately are not very numerous in one lifetime) which cannot possibly be adequately judged beforehand. It strikes me as a colossal gamble, or rather, a very great adventure. And personally I am considerably exhilarated by the risks! ... The greatness of the adventure perhaps consists partly in the fact that as a Catholic I can marry only once! But, as with being born, perhaps once is quite sufficient! In the Church, you know, there is a great heightening of every moment of experience, since every moment is played against a supernatural backdrop. Nothing can be humdrum in this scheme.
Marshall McLuhan in a letter to his future wife, 
The Medium and the Light

Genesis Notes: Rachel's Resume

My favorite story about Rachel is when she hides the household gods that she stole from her father by sitting on them and saying, "It's that time of month!" A plea that any father of teenage daughters has heard many a time to excuse lots of different behavior. It makes that father-daughter dynamic so real to me.

All that aside, it is when Jacob encounters Rachel that he has met his equal (also his true love). Rachel is strong-willed, determined, and not above bending the rules to get what she wants.  I always felt so sorry for poor Leah.

The resume digs deeper into Rachel as a person.

Giovanni Battista Tiepolo, Rachel sitting on the idols
Jacob's love for Rachel was both patient and practical. Jacob had the patience to wait seven years for her, but he kept busy in the meantime. his commitment to Rachel kindled a strong loyalty within her. In fact, her loyalty to Jacob got out of hand and became self-destructive. She was frustrated by her barrenness and desperate to compete with her sister for Jacob's attention. She was trying to gain from Jacob what he had already given: devoted love.

Strengths and accomplishments:
  • She showed great loyalty to her family
  • She mothered Joseph and Benjamin after being barren for many years
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Her envy and competitiveness marred her relationship with her sister, Leah
  • She was capable of dishonesty when she took her loyalty too far
  • She failed to recognize that Jacob's devotion was not dependent on her ability to have children
Lessons from her life:
  • Loyalty must be controlled by what is true and right
  • Love is accepted, not earned
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Haran
  • Occupation: Shepherdess, housewife
  • Relatives: Father - Laban. Aunt - Rebekah. Sister - Leah. Husband - Jacob. Sons - Joseph and Benjamin.
Key verse:
"So Jacob served seven years to get Rachel, but they seemed like only a few days to him because of his love for her" (Genesis 29:20)

Rachel's story is told in Genesis 29 - 35:20. She also is mentioned in Ruth 4:11.

All material quoted is from the Life Application Study Bible. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 11, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Future

The Future, by Chris Turnham

Well Said: The Church is a Superhuman Institution

I never came into the church as a person who was being taught. I came in on my knees. That is the only way in. When people start praying they need truths; that’s all. You don’t come into the Church by ideas and concepts, and you cannot leave by mere disagreement. It has to be a loss of faith, a loss of participation. You can tell when people leave the Church: they have quit praying.

Actively relating to the Church's prayer and sacraments is not done through ideas. Any Catholic today who has an intellectual disagreement with the Church has an illusion. You cannot have an intellectual disagreement with the Church: that's meaningless. The Church is not an intellectual institution. It is a superhuman institution.”
Marshall McLuhan, The Medium and the Light

Julie and Scott get staggered by a statue, straightened by the Holy Ghost, and stabbed in the heart by Jesus.

And that's just three Flannery O'Connor stories. Episode 162 is their third Flannery O'Connor podcast! We discuss The Artificial Nigger, Greenleaf, and The Enduring Chill. Join us!

Monday, July 10, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Golden Winged

Golden Winged, taken by Remo Savisaar

Blogging Around: Biblical Art, American Causes for Sainthood, and My Conversion Story

Summula Pictoria: a Little Summary of the Old and New Testaments

Second Dream of St. Joseph, Daniel Mitsui
Daniel Mitsui is an artist I greatly admire and whose paintings I have featured here occasionally. I especially enjoy his "translations" into Asian styled art, although not all of his work is done that way.

He's got an ambitious new project planned.
Over fourteen years, from Easter 2017 to Easter 2031, I plan to draw an iconographic summary of the Old and New Testaments, illustrating those events that are most prominent in sacred liturgy and patristic exegesis.

The things that I plan to depict are the very raw stuff of Christian belief and Christian art; no other subjects offer an artist such inexhaustible wealth of beauty and symbolism. Were I never to draw them, I would feel my artistic career incomplete. I hope to undertake this task in the spirit of a medieval encyclopedist, who gathers as much traditional wisdom as he can find and faithfully puts it into order. I want every detail of these pictures, whether great or small, to be thoroughly considered and significant.
Find out more here. Be sure to browse Daniel's website to see his gorgeous art and read his thoughts and inspirations as an artist.

US Causes for Canonization

We've got more holy Americans than you might think. Certainly than I was aware of when reading this National Catholic Register piece about the causes underway for canonization. I was impressed by the timespan since the causes range across a time period from the 1500s to 2006.

Venerable Pierre Toussaint
I also enjoyed looking through the list and seeing the wide variety of holy people represented. I was happy to see a particular favorite of mine included, who is relatively unknown: Venerable Pierre Toussaint (1853). He's a former slave from Saint-Domingue whose charity for the poor made him well-known and loved in NYC. He and his wife opened their home as an orphanage, employment bureau, and a refuge for travelers. They also organized a credit bureau, an employment agency, and a refuge for priests and destitute travelers. And that's just the tip of the iceburg.

Also I was pleased to see Servant of God Mother Rose Hawthorne (1926) listed. Does that last name look familiar? Yep. She's Nathaniel Hawthorne's daughter who converted to Catholicism, trained as a nurse, and began a charitable organization to care for impoverished cancer patients. Later, in 1900, she founded a new order which was then named the Servants of Relief for Incurable Cancer. I admire her intensely.

This is the summary of a two-part story so if you are interested in more details be sure to check out their links.

My Conversion Story

I met fellow convert Nancy Ward at the Catholic New Media Conference when it was in Dallas a few years ago. She's a lively go-getter, a Catholic writer, and a very kind supporter of my blog and writing.

I'm honored to have her featuring my conversion story at her blog, JOY Alive, in preparation for an interview she'll be doing to help get out the word about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. While you're there be sure to check out her site, which:
... reaches out both as an expression of my desire to share my own experiences and an invitation to those of you who want to explore a life of joy. As we share our stories we share the joy of our hearts with one another. We will learn more about each another, more about our true selves and more about how intimately the Lord loves us.

Well Said: Testing the Church's Claims - With Prayer

At every turn, while he was investigating the background for his study of Thomas Nashe, he would encounter the Church — what Chesterton called (another book title) The Thing. It was everywhere. At one point, he later told me (and he was never very specific just when that point occurred), he decided that the thing had to be sorted out or he couldn't rest. Either it ws true, or it wasn't. Either the entire matter was true, all of it, exactly as the Church claimed, or it was the biggest hoax ever perpetrated on a gullible mankind. With that choice clearly delineated, he set out to find which was the case. What came next was not more study, but testing.

The matter had to be tested — on its own terms: that is, by prayer. He told me that the principal prayer that he used was not some long or complex formula, but simply, "Lord, please, send me a sign." He reported that, almost immediately, not one but a deluge of signs arrived. And they continued to arrive unabated for a long time. As to just what the signs consisted in and what happened next, well, some things must remain private. The reader may deduce the rest from the fact of his conversion. ...
Eric McLuhan, introduction to 
The Medium and the Light by his father Marshall McLuhan

Optional Memorial: Saint Augustine Zhao Rong and his 119 companions

This feast day is actually on July 9, but since that was a Sunday when celebrating Christ trumps all, I thought it would be nice to just push it off one day.

Icon of the Martyrs of China (1900)
Christianity arrived in China by way of Syria in the 600s. Depending on China's relations with the outside world, Christianity over the centuries was free to grow or was forced to operate secretly.

The 120 martyrs in this group died between 1648 and 1930. Most of them (eighty-seven) were born in China and were children, parents, catechists or laborers, ranging from nine years of age to seventy-two. This group includes four Chinese diocesan priests.

The thirty-three foreign-born martyrs were mostly priests or women religious, especially from the Order of Preachers, the Paris Foreign Mission Society, the Friars Minor, Jesuits, Salesians and Franciscan Missionaries of Mary.

Augustine Zhao Rong was a Chinese soldier who accompanied Bishop John Gabriel Taurin Dufresse (Paris Foreign Mission Society) to his martyrdom in Beijing. Augustine was baptized and not long after was ordained as a diocesan priest. He was martyred in 1815.

Beatified in groups at various times, these 120 martyrs were canonized in Rome on October 1, 2000. ...

The fact that this considerable number of Chinese lay faithful offered their lives for Christ together with the missionaries who had proclaimed the Gospel to them and had been so devoted to them is evidence of the depth of the link that faith in Christ establishes. It gathers into a single family people of various races and cultures, strongly uniting them not for political motives but in virtue of a religion that preaches love, brotherhood, peace and justice.
I am not sure why but I have always been fascinated by the witness of these brave Catholics in China. Perhaps it is because I've always been interested in China anyway and so these saints naturally draw my attention.

You may read more about the individual martyrs.

Friday, July 7, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Sun Protection

Sun Protection, Karin Jurick

Well Said: No such thing as supernatural

There's no such thing as the supernatural. Everything, by definition, is natural. But you have to find out what the rules are.
Jack McDevitt, The Devil's Eye

Thursday, July 6, 2017

We are about to become missionaries.

Yep. That’s it, in a nutshell: You and I, and the people in our parishes, and the whole church, are about to become new missionaries in a new land — in the vast, untamed and often faithless jungle where “live streams” leave no room for casting out into the deep, and bear no relation to living waters. In the neighborhoods, towns and cities where people have been so long subjected to relativistic engagement, that almost everything has become unfamiliar and strange to them.

Taking our cue from the Incarnate Word — who chose not simply to preach to us about right and wrong, but to live among us, and know us in the fullness of our humanity before he saved us — we are going to purposely push past where we are now, out of our bubbles and our safe-feeling familiarities, to meet others where they are.
The Anchoress boils down the Convocation of Catholic Leaders for us. A great piece. Read it and become inspired. I did.

Hash Brown Frittata

This one's a real find and perfect for meatless Fridays — easy, filling, cheap. Oh, and delicious!

Get it at Meanwhile, Back in the Kitchen.

Worth a Thousand Words: Visit in the afternoon

Visit in the afternoon, Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: Taking Christ into the world

Sometimes it may seem to us that there is no purpose in our lives, that going day after day to this office or that school or factory is nothing else but waste and weariness. But it may be that God has sent us there because but for us Christ would not be there. If our being there means that Christ is there, that alone makes it worthwhile.
Caryll Houselander, Reed of God

Wednesday, July 5, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: El Cementiri Vell de Poble Nou (Barcelona)

El Cementiri Vell de Poble Nou (Barcelona)

Well Said: God and religion

It is a great mistake to think that God is chiefly interested in religion.
William Temple

Genesis Notes: Wrestling With Faith and a New Name

GENESIS 31 - 33

These are action-packed chapters. Jacob realizes it isn't safe to have such success when Laban can take it away. He packs up for home, faces down his angry father-in-law, prepares for meeting his presumably angry twin, and ... most famously ... wrestles with an angel, who gives him a new name.

Jacob Wrestling with the Angel, Léon Bonnat

One thing you've got to say about Jacob. His life was never boring. Or was it? I bet that during those years of exile, working to win Rachel, supporting a growing family, finding a way around unreasonable father-in-law demands, life must have seemed mundane. Frustrating probably. Just like the way we feel when working every day, dealing with family issues, and so forth.

What becomes really clear is that those long, boring, mundane years wrought a change in our trickster.
Several things stand out about God in these chapters: First He keeps His promises. He stayed with Jacob as He promised at Bethel, even though Jacob was gone for a full 20 years. Also as promised, He gave Jacob descendants and is taking him back to Canaan safely, protecting him from Laban's wrath. Secondly, God does not depend on perfect people but uses even human failings to advance His plan. And third, He protects His own, intervening if and when it is necessary. ...

What Jacob does with his fear [of Esau's anger when they meet again] shows how far he's come in 20 years. He takes immediate action to protect his family and herds by dividing them up, and then attempts to pacify his brother and perhaps hold him off a bit by sending ahead a series of herds as presents to him. But most importantly, he prays.  ...

The young Jacob longed for what God promised him and did anything and everything in his power to get there. The mature Jacob continues to want what God has for him and does what is prudent to move ahead, but his prayer shows that he knows he is in God's hands and wants to work with him.
Genesis, Part II: God and His Family
Even though Jacob is a changed man, that doesn't mean he is done wrestling. As he is alone, the night before his meeting with Esau, a man wrestles with him. Later it is revealed that Jacob has been wrestling with God (or at the very least God's messenger). This evokes a lot of images for us, even if our own wrestling is less physical than Jacob's. Doesn't our own wrestling with God and faith leave us changed, even if our name remains the same?

I myself never realized just how imbued Jacob's story is with wrestling. Right down to the moment when Esau's wrestling hold turns into something very different.
the image of wrestling has been implicit throughout the Jacob story: in his grabbing Esau's heel as he emerges from the womb, in his striving with Esau for birthright and blessing, in his rolling away the huge stone from the mouth of the well, and in his multiple contendings with Laban. Now, in this culminating moment of his life story, the characterizing image of wrestling is made explicit and literal. ...

Esau ran to meet him and embraced him and fell upon his neck. This is, of course, the big surprise in the story of the twins: instead of lethal grappling, Esau embraces Jacob in fraternal affection.
Robert Alter, translation and commentary on Genesis

This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Happy Independence Day

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
A flash of color beneath the sky:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

Blue and crimson and white it shines,
Over the steel-tipped, ordered lines.
Hats off!
The colors before us fly;
But more than the flag is passing by.

Sea-fights and land-fights, grim and great,
Fought to make and to save the State;
Weary marches and sinking ships;
Cheers of victory on dying lips;

Days of plenty and years of peace,
March of a strong land's swift increase:
Equal justice, right and law,
Stately honor and reverent awe;

Sign of a nation, great and strong,
To ward her people from foreign wrong;
Pride and glory and honor, all
Live in the colors to stand or fall.

Hats off!
Along the street there comes
A blare of bugles, a ruffle of drums,
And loyal hearts are beating high:
Hats off!
The flag is passing by!

(Henry Holcomb Bennett)

Childe Hassam, The Fourth of July, 1916
Let the Fourth of July always be a reminder that here in this land, for the first time, it was decided that man is born with certain God-given rights; that government is only a convenience created and managed by the people, with no powers of its own except those voluntarily granted to it by the people. We sometimes forget that great truth, and we never should.
Ronald Reagan

Monday, July 3, 2017

Well Said: Fireworks in your brain

The Library didn’t only contain magical books, the ones which are chained to their shelves and are very dangerous. It also contained perfectly ordinary books, printed on commonplace paper in mundane ink. It would be a mistake to think that they weren’t also dangerous, just because reading them didn’t make fireworks go off in the sky. Reading them sometimes did the more dangerous trick of making fireworks go off in the privacy of the reader’s brain.”
Terry Pratchett, Soul Music

Worth a Thousand Words: Philippine Duman

The makings for Philippine duman
via EatingAsia where you can get details on this artisanal product.

Feast Day: St. Thomas, Apostle

I posted this in years past and find I cannot improve on the basics it presents for my reflection and celebration of this apostle who spoke so forthrightly and acknowledged Truth as soon as he found it.

Thomas has been my companion throughout the few years as I have devoted myself to a private project with him at the center. I have made lamentably little progress yet find that the time has not been completely misspent from a personal point of view. My life is considerably enriched thanks to my growing friendship with this great friend of Jesus.

And the beauty of personal projects is that it gives me great practice in beginning again with great resolve.

The Incredulity of Saint Thomas by Caravaggio.
Via Wikipedia.
Gospel JN 20:24-29

Thomas, called Didymus, one of the Twelve,
was not with them when Jesus came.
So the other disciples said to him, “We have seen the Lord.”
But Thomas said to them,
“Unless I see the mark of the nails in his hands
and put my finger into the nailmarks
and put my hand into his side, I will not believe.”
Now a week later his disciples were again inside
and Thomas was with them.
Jesus came, although the doors were locked,
and stood in their midst and said, “Peace be with you.”
Then he said to Thomas, “Put your finger here and see my hands,
and bring your hand and put it into my side,
and do not be unbelieving, but believe.”
Thomas answered and said to him, “My Lord and my God!”
Jesus said to him, “Have you come to believe because you have seen me?
Blessed are those who have not seen and have believed.”
I became very attached to Thomas when reading A Doubter's Novena: Nine Steps to Trust with the Apostle Thomas. It's a little book that packs a big punch and I have read it three times. This is not because I especially needed a novena for doubting but because I was so fascinated by Thomas's story as told by tradition. Also, truth to tell, I could relate to many of Thomas's other various traits. Stubborn. A bit gloomy. You know ... the whole package!

And yet, Thomas's early insistence on proof made him one of the first witnesses for Christ. Ultimately he did marvelous things for God as he learned to trust and step out in faith. May we all do the same.

Here is the collect for today:
Grant, almighty God, that we may glory in the Feast of the blessed Apostle Thomas, so that we may always be sustained by his intercession and, believing, may have life in the name of Jesus Christ your Son, whom Thomas acknowledged as the Lord. Who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.
St. Thomas, pray for us.

Friday, June 30, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: A Study for a Horse and Rider

Peter Paul Rubens, A Study for a Horse and Rider
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: My stories affect my Christianity, restore me ...

I stray, and then my stories pull me back if I listen to them carefully. I have often been asked if my Christianity affects my stories, and surely it is the other way around; my stories affect my Christianity, restore me, shake me by the scruff of the neck, and pull this straying sinner into an awed faith.
Madeleine L’Engle, Walking on Water

Wednesday, June 28, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Five Bighorn Sheep

Five Bighorn Sheep, Colorado Nature Photography

Well Said: Say a prayer, not an editorial

Crater didn't know why the captain wanted him to say a prayer, but he gave it some thought and said, "Dear Lord, I didn't know Tilly, but I hope You'll take her into heaven. She messed up here at the last but that doesn't matter now, not to her and maybe not to You either."

"I said say a prayer, not write an editorial," Teller growled.

The gillie jumped in. For dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return. Dust to dust, ashes to ashes, blessed be the Lord thy God who loves thee still. Amen and good-bye.

Teller stared at the gillie, then said, "Well, at least that thing's got some sense."
Homer Hickam, Crater

Genesis Notes: Growth and Testing

GENESIS 29 & 30

These chapters are interesting. Jacob, avoiding Esau's anger, is off to seek his fortune. He's been used to getting his own way through trickery and his own wits. but now he's going to come up against other people who are just as wily as he is. And who are also used to getting their own way.

This doesn't make Jacob any less determined, but it does mean it's an opportunity for growth and change. When the chips are down, how do we react? It is this which forms our character.

Also in these chapters, the focus is on family. Jacob falls for Rachel, works to earn her and then is fobbed off with first-born sister Leah. We greatly feel the injustice for Jacob and Rachel. But we also now have Leah in the mix. She longs for her husband's love and is denied repeatedly. And Jacob is continually dealing with his tricky father-in-law who wants nothing more than to cheat him. This is both humbling and serves to teach lessons.
It is not done thus in our place, to give the younger girl before the firstborn. Laban is an instrument of dramatic irony: his perfectly natural reference to "our place" has the effect of touching a nerve of guilty consciousness in Jacob, who in his place acted to put the younger before the firstborn. This effect is reinforced by Laban's referring to Leah not as the elder but as the firstborn (bekhirah). It has been clearly recognized since late antiquity that the whole story of the switched brides is a meting out of poetic justice to Jacob—the deceiver deceived, deprived by darkness of the sense of sight as his father is by blindness, relying, like his father, on the misleading sense of touch. ... *
Jacob has a visceral sense of just what his actions felt like to Esau.

God shows himself in this family struggle as he has through every family we've encountered in Genesis. I think about how he reveals himself through the everyday like breeding sheep and the big events like Leah's children. No special dreams or spoken voices are needed. God's there through everything in this story of our long-ago ancestors in faith.

Jacob and Rachel at the Well, Francisco Antolínez
*Quote from Robert Alter's translation and commentary of Genesis. This series first ran in 2004 and 2005. I'm refreshing it as I go. For links to the whole study, go to the Genesis Index. For more about the resources used, go here.

Tuesday, June 27, 2017

Well Said: The common people and the high lords

The common people pray for rain, healthy children, and a summer that never ends. It is no matter to them if the high lords play their game of thrones, so long as they are left in peace. They never are.
George R.R. Martin, Game of Thrones

Worth a Thousand Words: Return from fishing, dragging the boat

Return from fishing, dragging the boat; Joaquim Sorolla y Bastida

Save Send Delete Review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

Danusha Goska has published a thoughtful and generous review at her blog, Save Send Delete.

Here's a bit:
Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer is one of the weightiest little books I've ever read. There are just 209 pages of main text, and each page has few words. I open randomly to page one hundred and I find a three-sentence quote from the Gospel of Luke, a brief, one-paragraph quote from Saint Augustine, and ten sentences of reflection from Davis. The few words that appear on each page, though, like the words in a rich poem, are dense with meaning. They are the kind of words that cause the reader to pause and ponder. [...]

Davis wants this book to be an aid to other Christians in their prayer life. Online reviews attest to its value and success at just that. ...

I think Seeking Jesus has another use. I think this would be a great gift to an open-minded Christophobe. There are a lot of people these days who insist that all Christians are violent bigots. Jesus is certainly the main character of this book, but Davis is a very appealing sidekick. She is humble, eager to learn, thoughtful, and patient. I think giving this book as a gift to someone trying to understand a modern American Christian's interior life would be a very charitable act.
Do go read it all. It gives a wonderful overview coupled with Goska's feelings about the book.

Then stop by Amazon to pick up your own copy!

Hansel and Gretel - on SFFaudio

Jesse, Maissa, and I discuss the classic fairy tale, Grimm Brothers style, at SFFaudio. Our discussion is preceded by my unabridged reading of the folk tale.

A good time was had by all. (Except, of course, by the wicked old witch. That goes practically without saying.) Join us!

Julie and Scott attend a wedding in India.

It took 1 hr and 54 minutes, exactly and approximately. 

We discuss Monsoon Wedding (2001), directed by Mira Nair, in episode 161 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, June 26, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Snow, Moon, Flowers

Sakai Hôitsu; Snow, Moon, Flowers

Well Said: Love and marriage and the right room

It seems like people make the mistake of thinking love is about the bedroom. It's not. It's about the emergency room. Love and marriage are about who will sit there and wait.
Stephen Tobolowsky
Truer words were never spoken.

National Catholic Register Review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

A lovely review from Sarah Sarah Reinhard at National Catholic Register.

Among other things she says:
"This is about forming a friendship that will last through eternity," Davis writes. And that's exactly the foundation she's set for each reader of this volume.
Go read the rest at NCR and then stop by Amazon to pick up your own copy!

Saturday, June 24, 2017

Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

This feast, a segment of Advent in the season of Ordinary Time, makes us aware of the wonderful inner relationship between the sacred mysteries; for we are still in the midst of one Church year and already a bridge is being erected to the coming year of grace.
The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch, via Catholic Culture
I've always respected John the Baptist's role in salvation history.

But I never really appreciated his role fully until reading this in Magnificat a few years ago.
I want to show you a sun that shone more brightly than all these, a soul that was truly free and detached, cleaving only to the will of God. I have often wondered who is the most mortified of the saints I know, and after some reflection I have come to the conclusion that it was Saint John the Baptist. He went into the desert when he was five years old and knew that our Savior and his came on earth in a place quite close by, one or two days' journey perhaps. How his heart, touched with love of his Savior from the time he was in his Mother's womb, must have longed to enjoy his presence! Yet he spends twenty-five years in the desert without coming to see our Lord even once; and leaving the desert he stays to catechize without visiting him but waiting till our Lord comes to seek him out. Then when he has baptized him he does not follow him but stays behind to do his appointed task. How truly mortified was his spirit! To be so near his Savior and not see him, to have him so close and not enjoy his presence! Is this not a completely detached spirit, detached even from God himself so as to do his will and serve him, to leave God for God, and not to love God in order to love him better? The example of this great saint overwhelms me with its grandeur.
St. Francis de Sales

Memorial of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

In the midst of the second world war Pope Pius XII put the whole world under the special protection of our Savior's Mother by consecrating it to her Immaculate Heart, and in 1944 he decreed that in the future the whole Church should celebrate the feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. This is not a new devotion. In the seventeenth century, St. John Eudes preached it together with that of the Sacred Heart; in the nineteenth century, Pius VII and Pius IX allowed several churches to celebrate a feast of the Pure Heart of Mary. Pius XII instituted today's feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary for the whole Church, so as to obtain by her intercession "peace among nations, freedom for the Church, the conversion of sinners, the love of purity and the practice of virtue" (Decree of May 4, 1944).
As always you'll find a lot more information, prayers, and activities at Catholic Culture.

I particularly like this reflection which reminds me of why Mary was not only the first and best of Jesus' disciples, but why I should ask her for help in my own Christian journey.
The Preface of the Mass attributes a number of qualities to the Heart of Mary. It is wise, because she understood the meaning of the Scriptures as no other person had ever done, and she kept in it the memory of the words and things relating to the mystery of salvation. It is immaculate, that is, immune from any stain of sin. It is docile because she submitted so faithfully to God's will and to every one of his wishes. It is new, according to the ancient prophecy of Ezechiel  -- a new heart I will give you, and a new spirit -- clothed in the newness of grae merited by Christ. It is humble because she imitated the humility of Christ, who said Learn from me; for I am gentle and lowly in heart. It is simple, free from any duplicity and full of the Spirit of truth. It is clean and thus able to see God according to the words of the Beatitude. It is firm in her acceptance of the Will of God when Simeon announced to her that a sword of sorrow would pierce her heart, when persecution broke out aginst her Son or when the moment of his death was a hand. It is ready, for whilst Christ slept in the sepulchre she kept watchin the expectation of his resurrection, just like the spouse in the Canticle of Canticles.

As we consider the splendour and holiness of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, we can examine today the depths of our own soul: whether we are open and docile to the graces and inspirations of the Holy Spirit, whether we jealously guard our heart from anything that could separate it form God, whether we pull up by the roots our little feelings of resentment, of envy ... which tend to bed themselves down within it. We know that from our heart's richness or its poverty our words and deeds will speak. The good man out of his good treasure brings forth good things. (Matt. 12:35)

Friday, June 23, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Elisabeth of Bavaria

Elisabeth of Bavaria, Empress of Austria (1865).
Franz Xaver Winterhalter (German, 1805-1873).
Look at that dress! I know she was a great beauty of the time but that dress is the star of this painting to me.

Lagniappe: Cooking With Actual Food

It was lovely to be cooking with actual food. There's something so grounding about it. It's not that I was doing any magic, beyond the magic it is to take big flat mushrooms and raw potatoes and turn them into something totally delicious. I was just making dinner. But I wonder how much of cooking for someone else is magic anyway, more than I know about. I think it might all be.
Jo Walton, Among Others
This evokes a sense of place and activity that speaks strongly to me, even if it is "just making dinner." And she's right, cooking for others is magical though it is usually felt most strongly when you all come together for the meal.

Solemnity of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

If it ain't broke, don't fix it. So I'm reposting. The links may be old, but they're tasty.

On the feast of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus, we give special honor to the source and symbol of the love Our Saviour has for us. Celebrated the Friday after the feast of Corpus Christi, the feast day celebrates the devotion to the Heart of Jesus; one of the oldest devotions of the Church, dating back in some form to the Patristic Era, the era of the early Church Fathers. Sr. Mary Jeremiah, O.P., S.T.D. Describes the importance and significance of the devotion:

“Jesus Christ is the center of the universe. His pierced Heart, as the symbol of His infinite and divine charity united to his human affections and love, is the focal point of all time. Those who lived during the long period before his incarnation and redemptive death and resurrection waited with yearning for the promised redeemer. Those who witnessed the piercing of his side, as well as all people who will live, are invited to gaze upon and contemplate this mystery. . . As Christians lovingly gaze upon his Heart, they are given the grace to believe in God's mercy and forgiveness.” - from the book The Secret of the Heart
Read the rest of this excellent article at Aquinas and More
The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is a moveable feast, which means that it depends on the date of Easter Sunday. It is celebrated 19 days after Pentecost Sunday, which falls on the 50th day of Easter.

I personally have a special love for the novena to the Sacred Heart of Jesus.
O Lord Jesus Christ, to your most Sacred Heart I confide this intention. Only look upon me, then do what your love inspires. Let your Sacred Heart decide. I count on you. I trust in you. I throw myself on your mercy. Lord Jesus, you will not fail me.

(Mention your request)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I trust in you.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I believe in your love for me.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, your kingdom come.

Sacred Heart of Jesus, I have asked you for many favors, but I earnestly implore this one. Take it, place it in your open heart. When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus. Sacred Heart of Jesus, I place all my trust in you. Let me not be disappointed. Amen.
There is something about this part especially that gets to me: "When the Eternal Father looks upon it, he will see it covered with your Precious Blood. It will no longer be my prayer, but yours, Jesus."

I tend to forget about the Litany of the Sacred Heart but it is very useful for prayerful meditation on the perfection that is Jesus' heart with which we try to bring our hearts in line daily.

Other Good Thoughts about The Sacred Heart of Jesus
"In the best apologetic manner the Catholic lady said, "Well, you know how you Baptists accept Jesus into your heart? We Catholics ask Jesus to accept us into his heart.
He also has a nice piece which reminds me that one of my very favorite churches, La Basilica de Sacre Coeur in Paris, is dedicated to the Sacred Heart. Go. Read.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

3 Myths (and 1 Truth) About Grain-Fed Beef

I've been a fan of the Nutrition Diva for a long time. I especially love the way she looks into facts versus what "everyone knows" (a.k.a. "myths) on different topics.

This time she's looking at grain-fed beef, In particular 3 myths and 1 surprising truth about the impact of various feeding programs on the health of the cow and on the environment. That's an area where there are a lot of misconceptions. And I was really surprised by the truth ... also pleased.

You can listen her podcast episode or read the transcript — both are at Nutrition Diva.

Worth a Thousand Words: Sun and Sundial

Sun and Sundial, Wettenhausen monastery emblem

To go with today's quote!

Well Said: May the gods confound the man ...

May the gods confound the man who first found out how to distinguish hours, and the man who put this sun-dial here to cut my day to pieces.

Wednesday, June 21, 2017

Well Said: If you feel like fighting fire with fire ...

If you feel like fighting fire with fire, remember real firefighters use water.
I love this. It goes hand in hand with the quote someone used at dinner last night.
An eye for an eye will make the whole world blind.
(attributed to many, confirmed for none)

Worth a Thousand Words: The Hours of Jeanne d'Evreux

Matins : Arrest of Christ - The Annunciation
Jean Pucelle, 1324-1328

This is via French Painters where there are a wealth of images from Pucelle's fabulous creations of breviaries for private devotions.

I'm always fascinated by these sorts of books and wish something like them were readily available today. They combine the best of words and images to help draw you out of yourself and into an encounter with God. There is also usually a playful element that I really love, as witness from this closeup.