Friday, April 28, 2017

Well Said: Learning from Children

You can learn many things from children. How much patience you have, for instance.
Franklin P. Jones
Just one more way families help us be better people!

Worth a Thousand Words: Le Morte d'Arthur

Le Morte d'Arthur Cover Illustration, Himmapaan

Through Darkest Zymurgia!

Will Duquette has a new book out.
My latest book, Through Darkest Zymurgia!, is now available in print or as an e-book. It’s a Ripping Yarn of Exploration and Adventure in a faux-Victorian world with some surprising features and a good deal of understated humor. You’ll like it, I promise.

It’s cheaper as an e-book, but buy the print edition—it’s gorgeous.
How much do I love this humorous take on a Victorian tale of exploration and adventure? So much so that I volunteered to do the layout.

I'll do a proper review soon but wanted to give y'all a heads up on this one. Check the link for a longer description. It's highly enjoyable.

Thursday, April 27, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: A Day Full of Rain

A Day Full of Rain, Edward B. Gordon

Well Said: "Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life."

"The English," said Poirot, "are a very moral people."

Lord Dittisham said: "Confound them, they are!"

He added, looking at Poirot, "And you?"

"Me," said Poirot, "I lead a very moral life. That is not quite the same thing as having moral ideas."
Agatha Christie, Five Little Pigs

Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Pope Francis's TED Talk: "The future does have a name, and its name is Hope."

As I meet, or lend an ear to those who are sick, to the migrants who face terrible hardships in search of a brighter future, to prison inmates who carry a hell of pain inside their hearts, and to those, many of them young, who cannot find a job, I often find myself wondering: "Why them and not me?" I, myself, was born in a family of migrants; my father, my grandparents, like many other Italians, left for Argentina and met the fate of those who are left with nothing. I could have very well ended up among today's "discarded" people. And that's why I always ask myself, deep in my heart: "Why them and not me?"
If you'd rather not watch the video, you can read the transcript of Pope Francis's TED Talk.

Worth a Thousand Words: A Parrot Ara macao

A parrot Ara macao, Edward Lear

Well Said: Stories and Spiders

Stories are like spiders, with all they long legs, and stories are like spiderwebs, which man gets himself all tangled up in but which look pretty when you see them under a leaf in the morning dew, and in the elegant way that they connect to one another, each to each.
Neil Gaiman, Anansi Boys

Genesis Notes: What Abraham's Life Means to Us

GENESIS 22 & 23
Abraham's story with all the drama and events and lies and faulty humans is actually a story that shows us God's faithfulness and love. I never would have thought of it this way before going through this study but it is undeniable.

The vision of the Lord directing Abraham to count the stars,
Julius Schnorr von Carolsfeld, 1860
The story of Abraham's life is a story with almost limitless meaning. It includes examples of faith, prayer, and sacrifice. It contains many lessons for those who, like Abraham, live their lives by putting their faith in God. Yet perhaps the greatest significance of the story of Abraham is that it is the story of God in love with man.

From the earliest chapters of Genesis, we have traced out the evidence of God's profound love for the human creatures who bear His image and likeness. The rebellion of Adam and Eve not only did not conquer God's love, it actually became an occasion for Him to demonstrate its depth and breadth and height. For not only did God love humans when they behaved, but He even loved them when they sinned. How? He gave them promises to live by and punishments to purify them. Over and over again, God bent down to reorganize and restore the family life that was shattered in Eden. First, He promised to defeat His enemy through human beings. Then, in Genesis 12, He promised to create, from one man, a whole nation that would belong to Him; through that nation, He planned to reverse the curse of Eden into universal blessing.

The context for comprehending the significance of Abraham's story is the initiative and action of God in pursuit of humanity. His call to Abram in Genesis 12 begins a detailed, engaging account of how one ordinary human being, a creature of flesh and blood like us, is singled out by God to be transformed from sinner to saint. The story of his life is the first extended account we have of intimacy between God and man. It is a story of God's love from beginning to end.

Yes, even at the end, when God asks Abraham to give up, to put to death, that which gives his life its only true meaning, He is acting out of passionate love for him. How can that be? God knows that in losing our lives, we find them. He knew that in Eden. He knew that on Moriah. He knew it on Calvary. The source of perfect human happiness is perfect obedience to God, even if it costs us everything.
All quotes from Genesis, Part II: God and His Family. 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, April 25, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Early Saturday Morning

Early Saturday Morning
by Karin Jurick
The painting is an homage to Edward Hopper's Early Sunday Morning and Summertime. Check out the Hopper painting at the link and you can see what a wonderful homage Jurick's painting is.

Well Said: The Value of Kneestem

"A lot of what you've been teaching me sometimes seems kind of useless. Like that kneestem you've got—I mean, it doesn't have anything to do with magic. It's just a weed. You said yourself it's worthless."

"It is worthless to us and to animals, having no value either as medicine or as food," Ingold agreed, turning the dry wisp in his mittened fingers. "But we ourselves are useless to other forms of life—except, I might point out, as sustenance to the Dark Ones. Kneestem, like you and me, exists for its own sake, and we must take that into account in all our dealings with the world that we hold in common with it.
Barbara Hambly, The Walls of Air
Of course, I'm thinking of this in relation to a lot of issues that have nothing to do with the obvious application, such as our environment. It's a very Catholic way of looking at the world.

Books In the Pipeline

I just realized that between podcasts and my book club I've got a lot of varied reading coming up. I would say this interferes with my 2017 book goals but I tossed them out the window about a month ago.

I'd kind of forced the list this year just because I'd done a reading goals in previous years. Note to self - no need to force a reading list. The books will come to you anyway. And the reading will be both varied and wonderful.

This is my "assigned" reading for the next few months.  (Title links go to my reviews.)
  • THE ROSIE PROJECT - rereading this for my Catholic women's book club. Proof that a book can be light and fun and still say something meaningful.

  • THE HITCHHIKER'S GUIDE TO THE GALAXY - it's been years since I've read this one. It's Scott's selection for our next book on A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • DRACULA - rereading for SFFaudio podcast. I love this book so much. So. much.

  • BURGLARS CAN'T BE CHOOSERS - also for SFFaudio. Never read it but Lawrence Block's "burglar" series is supposed to be good.

  • NOSTRA AETATE (Vatican II doc: The Relation of the Church to Non-Christian Religions) - Catholic women's book club choice. The Vatican II documents are surprisingly easy reading.

  • A TALE OF TWO CITIES - the book that introduced me to Dickens as an adult. This will be my next book choice for A Good Story is Hard to Find.

  • THE MALTESE FALCON - the movie's good but the book is better. This one's also for SFFaudio.
Elements of Faith book club - live in Dallas? Join us!

A short interview about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

In this short Interview Extra, Scott sits down with Julie to discuss her new book Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: Prayers and Reflections for Getting Closer.

Hear it at A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Three Bears

Arthur Rackham, The Story of the Three Bears, 1837
via Wikipedia

Well Said: The Marvels of Rome and the Length of Human Memory

One of the marvels of Rome is that the traditional portraits of St. Peter and St. Paul have been preserved in the catacombs, and every artist who has painted the two Apostles owes something to this tradition. The portraits were engraved in gold leaf on the bases of the glasses or chalices which, as the Salesian Father had told me, were embedded in the plaster round the bodies. There are hundreds of these glasses to be seen in the Vatican Museum, and the type of portrait never varied. Both Apostles are shown as men of middle-age and both are bearded, but while St. Peter has a fine head of curly hair, St. Paul is almost bald. Those who have studied the portraits believe that they embody a tradition which goes back possibly to the days of Nero and to those who knew the Apostles by sight.

I was reminded of a story which the late Monsignor Stapylton Barnes was fond of telling to illustrate the length of human memory. His mother, who died in 1927 at a great age, could clearly remember, as a small girl, hearing Victoria proclaimed queen in 1837. When a child she was often taken to see a very old lady who remembered the French Revolution and the execution of Marie Antoinette in 1793. This old lady had spent her childhood in Philadelphia and had known Benjamin Franklin, who was born in 1706. Thus it would have been possible for Franklin to have described some event of his early childhood--perhaps the great fire in Boston of 1711--to the little girl, who could have told it in her ld age to another little girl, Mrs. Barnes, who could have passed on the story to her son in the twentieth century.

In his book The Martyrdom of St. Peter and St. Paul, Monsignor Barnes refers to the great sweep of human events commanded by such lives, and says 'it would have been possible for a Christian child in rome in the year 67 to have been actually present at St. Peter's martyrdom and to have seen him nailed to the cross, and still to have been alive and able to tell the tale in 150. And the child to whom he told it then could have told the story again in his extreme old age to one who lived to see the peace of the Church in 312 under Constantine.'
H. V. Morton, A Traveller in Rome
This is lengthy but I love the vivid illustration of how few generations it takes to span a very long period of time when passing along memories.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Why You Should Go to Church (Even If You're Not Sure of Your Beliefs)

I'm not sure tho compelling this would've been before I became a believer. Now, though, having gone to church for a couple of decades, I can attest to the truth of this piece from The Art of Manliness. So I can assure you they're on point here.

These are just a few of the topics they touch upon:

  • A Chance to Remember/Reorient/Reflect/Re-center
  • Builds Discipline
  • Rare Chance for Communal Singing
  • Breaches Your Echo Chamber and Connects You With People From Different Walks of Life
  • Contributes to Greater Free-Thinking and Your Diversity of Ideas
  • Ample Opportunities (and More Motivation) for Service

Worth a Thousand Words: Noli Me Tangere

Noli Me Tangere, Lavinia Fontana, 1581
via Elizabeth Lev
Fontana’s version emphasized accuracy: Mary Magdalene mistakes Jesus for a gardener, and so she paints him in a broad-brimmed hat holding a shovel. Yet once she has emphasized the literal sense, Lavinia also evokes a beautiful scene. The atmosphere is permeated with warm golden light as a new age is dawning. A little flashback scene in the distance shows the women who have left the city arriving at the tomb where an angel tells them Christ is gone. Mary’s pose in the further scene shows her with the slumped shoulders of dejection, but in the foreground her face becomes radiant with hope. Christ puts out his hand, ostensibly to tell her not to touch Him, but also in a gesture of affectionate blessing. Mary’s gaze is directed toward the wound on his hand made visible for her, but she seems to look beyond it, trying to gaze at his face under the shadowy brim. Proof of his resurrection is not her primary concern as she sinks to her usual place by his feet. The light, setting, and positions evoke a love story, a compelling language that the Counter-Reformation will employ in its time.
There's more where that came from. I love being shown beneath the surface of paintings for deeper meaning. Elizabeth Lev's piece discusses the goals of Counter-Reformation art and opens another piece up for our edification. Be sure to check it out.

Genesis Notes: Jews, Christians, Muslims ... and Abraham

We know that all three religions have a basic connection through Abraham. A succinct summary in The Complete Bible Handbook shows where they agree and disagree about Abraham's example for us.

Abraham Serving the Three Angels by Rembrandt
A common reverence for Abraham as a model of true human response to God and as ancestor of subsequent believers is one of the prime links between Jews, Christians, and Muslims.

Abraham's responsiveness to God is summed up in his epithet as "the friend of God." This title is first given in Hebrew scripture (Isa 41:8; 2 Chr. 20:7); it is taken up in the New Testament (Jas. 2:23); and in Islam, Abraham (Ibrahim) is known simply as "the friend" (Al Kahlil).

Each religion gives content to Abraham's friendship with God in terms of its own characteristic emphases, on the supposition that Abraham is best understood in terms of that to which he helped give rise. Thus for Jews (appealing to Gen. 26:5 as well as to more general considerations), Abraham is an example of one who was obedient to God's commandments, or Torah, even before Torah was given to Israel at Sinai. For Christians, following Paul's exposition (Rom. 4), Abraham is a model of one who has faith (pistis) in God. For Muslims, Abraham demonstrates islam, unconditional submission to the will of God, as in his willingness to sacrifice his son. Though Jews, Christians, and Muslims differ about the true human response to God as exemplified by Abraham, they agree that he provides a model of how human life should be lived.
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.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel!"

Watch the news anchor's reaction to the forgiveness expressed by the widow of the gatekeeper who prevented a suicide bomber from entering an Alexandria church yard on Palm Sunday, thereby saving countless lives.

It is truly moving. This is why the blood of the martyrs [and the forgiveness of the faithful] is the seed of the church.

"Egyptian Christians are made of steel! These people have so much forgiveness!"
Via The Deacon's Bench.

Worth a Thousand Words: Tea Service

Albert Anker, Tea Service, c. 1910
via Arts Everyday Living

A "Fast Take" Interview on Aleteia

Elizabeth Scalia graciously offered me a "fast take" interview on Aleteia about Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. Aleteia is a worldwide Catholic network with all sorts of fascinating articles.

Among other things, find out what person I identify with most in the book, what writing it taught me, and ... perhaps most importantly of all ... what the ideal beverage is that you should have in hand while reading your copy!

Challenging Opinions Interview: Sticking Up for the Faith

William has relaunched his podcast and I feel honored that my 2016 interview was one he carried over. So I'm reposting this in case you're interested.

Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope.
I Peter 3:15
William Campbell invited me to chat with him at his podcast, Challenging Opinions. The podcast exists to "test all ideas, left and right, liberal and conservative, progressive and libertarian."

That idea in itself is pretty challenging but when I listened to sample episodes William was a fair and impartial interviewer, which is a rare quality these days.

I thought we were going to discuss my post Obedience: The Dirtiest Word in America so I was prepared to talk about being an American Catholic during the political season. I think that post was only what drew me to William's attention. We never actually discussed that topic, but wound up covering everything from faith in God to Catholic misdeeds to the future of the Church.

I was going completely off the cuff, which I think shows sometimes, but that in itself was fair. Shouldn't we be able to shed some light on faith and the Church when we're asked about it? It was a like a particularly invigorating workout and I really enjoyed talking with William.

Listen at Challenging Opinions or iTunes.


The Reason for My Hope and Why I'm a Happy Catholic
This didn't come up in our fast-paced conversation, but I wanted to share it anyway. This quote perfectly echoes my feeling.
I have looked for happiness everywhere: in the elegant life of the salons, in the deafening noise of balls and parties, in accumulating money, in the excitement of gambling, in artistic glory, in friendship with famous people, in the pleasure of the senses. Now I have found happiness, I have an overflowing heart and I want to share it with you. … You say, “But I don’t believe in Jesus Christ.” I say to you, “Neither did I and that is why I was unhappy.
Hermann Cohen, letter to a friend
All my life I searched for Truth, wondering if there were such a thing. And I found it in Jesus.


On the documents I hadn't heard of, allegedly Vatican blueprints for methodically concealing sex crimes, the news articles had responses from both the Church and other experts which point out that they aren't a "smoking gun" and that "it's a church law that deals only with religious crimes and sins. And that the secrecy is meant to protect the faithful from scandal." All this proves is that there are two sides to any issue and that we can't make quick assumptions without very careful study.

A friend of mine is a canon lawyer. I've often heard him speak about how easy it is to misunderstand a law by only a looking at it through one frame, especially when it has been misused so that is the only lens we are using. Often these laws reflect long ago history and problems which were very different than the current issues.

Can such documents be misused? Absolutely. Was there a terrible sexual misconduct and a mistaken idea of protecting the Church implemented by moving predators around? No doubt. These are the sins we, the faithful, mourn and must keep from ever recurring.

But, it is equally a mistake to read our current mindset backwards into documents whose roots lie deep in the past. Jumping to conclusions about intention is as much of a mistake as ignoring victims to protect an institution.

Which is all a way of saying ... it's complicated.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life: "Are you ready to hit the reset button on your practice of the faith? Here it is."

A friend had a relative who’d just turned to God for the first time in the midst of a serious end-of-life crisis, but now what? How do you help someone who’s ignored God for a lifetime to even know how to pray? I recommended this book.

Starting with “Beginning to Pray” as the zero point, Julie walks the reader from I’ve-got-nothing all the way into the depths of the Christian life.
Jen Fitz has a lovely review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life. Please do read the whole thing at the link.

Monday, April 17, 2017

Lagniappe: The ringing bell had a sinister sound, for no reason of itself, but because of the ears to which it rang.

I got a shoulder holster out of the desk and strapped it on and slipped a Colt .38 automatic into it, put on hat and coat, shut the windows again, put the whiskey away, clicked the lights off and had the office door unlatched when the phone rang.

The ringing bell had a sinister sound, for no reason of itself, but because of the ears to which it rang. I stood there braced and tense, lips tightly drawn back in a half grin. Beyond the closed window the neon lights glowed. The dead air didn’t move. Outside the corridor was still. The bell rang in darkness, steady and strong.

I went back and leaned on the desk and answered. There was a click and a droning on the wire and beyond that nothing. I depressed the connection and stood there in the dark, leaning over, holding the phone with one hand and holding the flat riser on the pedestal down with the other. I didn’t know what I was waiting for.

The phone rang again. I made a sound in my throat and put it to my ear again, not saying anything at all.

So we were there silent, both of us, miles apart maybe, each one holding a telephone and breathing and listening and hearing nothing, not even the breathing.

Then after what seemed a very long time there was the quiet remote whisper of a voice saying dimly, without any tone:

“Too bad for you, Marlowe.”

Then the click again and the droning on the wire and I hung up and went back across the office and out.
Raymond Chandler, The High Window

Worth a Thousand Words: The Fantasy World

Column header from Stirring Science Stories, Feb. 1941
via SFFaudio

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Coptic Priest: "To those who kill us. Thank you."

Fr. Boules George, St. Mark, Cleopatra (Cairo, Egypt)

What will we say to them?


The first thing we will say is “Thank you very, very much,” and you won’t believe us when we say it.

You know why we thank you? I’ll tell you. You won’t get it, but please believe us.

You gave us to die the same death as Christ–and this is the biggest honor we could have. Christ was crucified–and this is our faith. He died and was slaughtered–and this is our faith. You gave us, and you gave them to die.



The second part of the message we want to send to you is that we love you. And this, unfortunately, you won’t understand at all. Maybe you won’t believe us when we say we’re grateful. But this–you won’t even understand. Why won’t you understand it? Because this too is a teaching of our Christ. I want to explain to you about our Christ. I want to tell you about how wonderful He is.
There is much more and it is worth reading and reflection, especially on Holy Thursday.

Via Eve Tushnet.

As an additional note on martyrdom, the cause for beatification of Fr. Jacques Hamel, priest and martyr, has been officially opened.

Wednesday, April 12, 2017

What I'm Reading: A Civil Contract by Georgette Heyer

When life gets serious, my reading gets light. As frequenters of these pages already know, for me that often means Georgette Heyer, the queen of the Regency romance novels. I've written about Heyer's novels in general so if you are rolling your eyes over romance novels, please do read it for a bit more explanation.

I've been struggling much more than usual this week over my Lenten penance. So many times I've stepped to the brink and then “So, could you not watch with me one hour?" comes to mind. And I turn away.

Between that and the Triduum beginning tomorrow, I think you could say I'm in a serious mood. Time for Heyer! Though, to be fair, this is a bit more serious Heyer than many.

A Civil Contract 
by Georgette Heyer

Georgette Heyer wrote two types of romance novels. One type was lighter, often verging on farce or containing large doses of adventure, such as Faro's Daughter or The Talisman Ring. The other type was more serious such as These Old Shades or this book, A Civil Contract.

We hear a lot in romances about couples who married for money but they tend to be couples on the periphery of the main action. In this book, Heyer took the bold action of making a distinctly unromantic match the main story. Adam Deveril must marry money or lose the family estate. Jenny Chawleigh's father is vulgar but rich and wants to boost his daughter into society. Complicating matters is the fact that Adam has been in love for some time with their one mutual acquaintance, Jenny's friend Julia who is everything that Jenny is not — cultured, sensitive, and beautiful. Jenny is painfully shy, direct, and plain.

Overall, this is a look at marriage and how one makes one's life work when our plans for the future are torn away from us. I remember when I was a college student, first discovering Heyer, this was one of my least favorite books. Now, with much time behind me and a 33-year marriage, it is one of my favorites.

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

Will Duquette's review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

I'm here to tell you that there isn't any deadwood. If you're interested in learning to pray, or to pray "better", which is to say if you want to draw closer to Jesus Christ, this is an ideal book to spend time with.
Will Duquette's very nice review - go read the whole thing! Thanks Will!

Monday, April 10, 2017

The Curt Jester's Review of Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life

She has a Chestertonian ability to see things afresh and to illustrate that freshness to you. There is gratitude and wonder in her reflections that inspire me to want to imitate that viewpoint more consistently.
Jeff saw something in my book that I certainly wasn't aware of ... but am highly complimented to read in his review. I was especially pleased when Jeff told me he was using my book as intended, as a daily devotional. That makes his thoughtful remarks even more meaningful to me. Thank you Jeff!

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Praying for our Egyptian brothers and sisters

These Palm Sunday church bombings  hit me hard. It's hard not to become inured to a lot of the violence that is epidemic these days. I can deplore it, and do, but not feel it.

Maybe it's because we went to Palm Sunday mass yesterday evening, beginning the holiest week of the year. I felt that ... and when I read about these attacks on these Christians it was as if my own family had been attacked. As indeed it has. We are all one body in Christ.

Let us pray for these victims, who are hated only because they follow our Lord Jesus. Let us pray for the attackers, that their hard hearts may soften and their blind eyes will be opened.

May God have mercy upon us all.

Palm Sunday

Duccio di Buoninsegna, Jesus and his apostles entering Jerusalem

"How different the cries," St. Bernard comments, "'Away with him, away with him, crucify him,' and then 'Blessed is he who comes in the name of the Lord, hosanna in the highest!' How different the cries are that now are calling him "King of Israel" and then in a few days time will be saying, 'We have no king but Caesar!' What a contrast between the green branches and the cross, between the flowers and the thorns! Before they were offering their own clothes for him to walk upon and so soon afterwards they are stripping him of his, and casting lots upon them." (St. Bernard, Sermon on Palm Sunday)

The triumphal entry of Jesus into Jerusalem asks for loyalty and perseverance from each one of us, it calls us to depend in our faithfulness, and for our resolutions to be more than just bright lights that sparkle for a moment and then fade away. There are some striking contrasts in the depths of our hearts, for we are capable of the very greatest things and also the very worst, and so if we wish to possess the divine life and triumph with Christ, we need to be constant and through penance deaden within us anything that separates us from God and prevents us from following Our Lord unto the Cross.

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Seeking Jesus in Everyday Life - Now Available on Amazon!

Order it here!

This book is the fruit of my own personal search to grow closer to Jesus. It is perfect for launching into the Easter season or as a gift.

Don't miss the book that made Elizabeth Scalia say, "I love this book. It’s like taking your Happy Catholic book and making all those quotes spiritually useful!"

To see an excerpt go to Niggle Publishing.

I'll be running samples here in the days to come.

A Movie You Might Have Missed #64: Train to Busan

Soo-an: Dad, you only care about yourself. That's why mommy left.

He's forgotten her birthday, he's forgotten to show up at school for her special song, but Seok Woo is going to make sure his little daughter safely gets from Seoul to Busan to visit her mother, his ex-wife. It's just their bad luck that a zombie virus breaks out while they're on the train. The passengers must fight for their families and their lives against the zombies.

We loved this basic zombie movie with the clever twist of NOT staying on a train but clearly having to BE on a train to get to Busan, where there might be a safe haven ... we hope. It was more thoughtful than the average zombie movie. (Is there such a thing as an average zombie movie these days? Oh, right, World War Z. That was very average.)

I especially appreciated the family themes as echoed through all the characters we really come to know ... from young love through fatherhood and old age. And it isn't afraid to look at how an extended struggle might turn survivors against each other as they trade common decency and humanity for personal security.

No wonder it made $85 million. A solid story, well told.

It just showed up on Netflix which is where we watched it.

What Lenten Penance Has Shown Me

When The Anchoress was failing at her Lenten penance, she shifted gears ... and found herself right back in the same place.
Slightly chagrined, I made an adjustment back to the most basic of basics: fasting. Without thinking much about it, I said, “Okay, no snacks. I won’t eat between meals.”

If you had asked me before this how much snacking I did, I would tell you, “Nuthin’ much . . . I can’t understand why I am having so much trouble losing weight.” But since beginning this fast, I’ve learned how often I would, out of boredom or tension, not hunger, open the fridge and look inside or thoughtlessly grab a cookie. Confronting the difficulty of holding to this simple fast, I have been forced to think about motivation, and anxiety; tension vs. comfort, what it means to self-medicate, and why I feel the need to do so.

And that has caused me to think about what I am “treating” with the eating. The “eat” comes down to the same thing, actually, as my reluctance to “meet-and-greet”
Read it all here at Alateia.

It's funny how it works when you give stuff up. Suddenly you understand just what it means in your life. I gave up listening to spoken word audio (podcasts, audiobooks) and discovered that they soothed me through my day. Without them I was twitchy, irritable, and I began eating more. Snacks, desserts, seconds. Hah! Welcome to panacea #2.

That realization has been hard but good. I am still fighting the good fight, now against both food and audio. I now know more about myself - things I wouldn't have without the fast. And I have been turning to Jesus more and more, asking for the grace I need. Leaning on him has been a great, good result of my internal struggle.

Getting my head in the game for the end of Lent, I've been reading through various meditations on the Way of the Cross at the Vatican website. Cardinal Ratzinger in 2005, Pope John Paul II in 2003. Great stuff is there. And it gets me back to the basics.

So when I read this reflection on when Jesus is nailed to the cross, it stuck with me in my internal struggles.
Let us halt before this image of pain, before the suffering Son of God. Let us look upon him at times of presumptuousness and pleasure, in order to learn to respect limits and to see the superficiality of all merely material goods. Let us look upon him at times of trial and tribulation, and realize that it is then that we are closest to God. Let us try to see his face in the people we might look down upon. [W]e stand before the condemned Lord, who did not use his power to come down from the Cross, but endured its suffering to the end ...


Lord Jesus Christ, you let yourself be nailed to the Cross, accepting the terrible cruelty of this suffering, the destruction of your body and your dignity. You allowed yourself to be nailed fast; you did not try to escape or to lessen your suffering. May we never flee from what we are called to do. Help us to remain faithful to you. Help us to unmask the false freedom which would distance us from you. Help us to accept your “binding” freedom, and, “bound” fast to you, to discover true freedom.
I begin struggling and then (with God's grace) I remember "may I never flee ... may I discover true freedom." And my struggles ease.

Wednesday, April 5, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: The Meeting on the Turret Stairs

Frederic William Burton, Hellelil and Hildebrand, The Meeting on the Turret Stairs
via Arts and Everyday Living

Genesis Notes: Burial and Bargaining

When Sarah dies we see Abraham arranging the funeral by buying her final resting place. This takes us back to customs of an earlier age and different culture as the Life Application Study Bible points out.

Burial of Sarah (engraving by Gustave Doré from the 1865 La Sainte Bible)
In Abraham's day, death and burial were steeped in ritual and traditions. Failing to honor a dead person demonstrated the greatest possible lack of respect. An improper burial was the equivalent of a curse. Mourning was an essential part of the death ritual. Friends and relatives let out loud cries for the whole neighborhood to hear. Because there were no funeral homes or undertakers, these same friends and relatives helped prepare the body for burial, which usually took place on the same day because of the warm climate.

The polite interchange between Abraham and Ephron was typical of bargaining at that time. Ephron graciously offered to give his land to Abraham at no charge; Abraham insisted on paying for it; Ephron politely mentioned the price but said, in effect, that it wasn't important; Abraham paid the 400 shekels of silver. Both men knew what was going on as they went through the bargaining process. If Abraham had accepted the land as a gift when it was offered, he would have insulted Ephron, who then would have rescinded his offer. Many Middle Eastern shopkeepers still follow this ritual with customers.

Four hundred shekels of silver was a high price for the piece of property Abraham bought. The Hittites weren't thrilled about foreigners buying their property, so Abraham had little bargaining leverage ... The custom of the day was to ask double the fair market value of the land, fully expecting the buyer to offer half the stated price.
All quoted material is from 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, April 4, 2017

Worth a Thousand Words: Girl with a Book

Pietro Rotari, Girl with a Book
via Arts and Everyday Living

Lagniappe: The roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world

So you understand the roaring wave of fear that swept through the greatest city in the world just as Monday was dawning--the stream of flight rising swiftly to a torrent, lashing in a foaming tumult round the railway stations, banked up into a horrible struggle about the shipping in the Thames, and hurrying by every available channel northward and eastward. By ten o'clock the police organisation, and by midday even the railway organisations, were losing coherency, losing shape and efficiency, guttering, softening, running at last in that swift liquefaction of the social body.
H.G. Wells, The War of the Worlds
One of the things that's hitting me this time through the book is just what a talented writer Wells was, not only in his plots but in his craft. Who among us having gotten caught up in a modern exodus from an oncoming disaster has not experienced just what he describes? Albeit without the thoughtful appreciation and imagery of the above.

Julie's coffee stained napkin insults the aliens. Luckily Scott knew she was going to do that ...

... and was prepared to dazzle them with Calculus and Mah Jongg. Rose dons a full hazmat suit to join them in a discussion of the film Arrival (2016), directed by Denis Villeneuve, written by Eric Heisserer, based on the story "Story of Your Life" by Ted Chiang. Episode 155 of A Good Story is Hard to Find podcast.

Monday, April 3, 2017

A Movie You Might Have Missed #63: The Captain's Paradise

Capt. Henry St. James [referring to his two wives]: That, Rico, is my solution to man's happiness on Earth. Two happy women, each in their way perfect, and in between the company of men, the clash of intellects to stimulate the mind.

Mediterranean ferryboat captain Henry St James (Alec Guiness) has things well organized – a loving and very English wife Maud (Celia Johnson) in Gibraltar, and the loving if rather more hot-blooded Mistress, Nita (Yvonne de Carlo), in Tangiers. A perfect life. As long as neither woman decides to follow him to the other port.
A surprisingly feminist movie ... though in our times we often feel we invented feminism which in itself is not a very worthy attitude. In a way, this is a wonderful bookend to How to Murder Your Wife. Both treat women as something which must be controlled in order to preserve man's peaceful life. Of course, what both films show us is that women are not things which can be easily controlled. With hilarious results.

Thoroughly enjoyable and my favorite so far of the Alec Guiness comedies we've been watching.

Worth a Thousand Words: Mute Swan

Mute Swan
taken by Remo Savisaar

Well Said: Jesus is the "very imprint" of the Father

Healy here comments upon Hebrews 1:3 which tells us that "Christ is "the very imprint of [God's] being."
The word for "very imprint" in Greek is charakter, which refers to the impression that a stamp or seal makes on a soft surface. In the ancient world coins were made by stamping hot metal with a die on which a portrait had been engraved; the coin would bear the exact impression (charakter) of the die. The Son, then, is the exact representation of the Father. To see Jesus is to see exactly what God is like (see John 14:9; Col 1:15). In the fullest sense of the term, Jesus has the "character" of his Father.
Mary Healy, Hebrews (Catholic Commentary on Sacred Scripture)