Friday, March 21, 2014

Racing the Sun


Since Daylight Savings a couple of weeks ago the boys and I have been out the door and on our way to Busha's before the sun is up; it's typically getting light as our car pulls out of the drive, but she hasn't officially peaked over that horizon. I entice them to hurry getting their boots and coats on and getting buckled into their seats by promises of racing the sun (Side note: did you ever read that book as a kid?). Our goal is to get to Busha's road before she arrives. The 20 or so miles there are filled with lots of ooohs and aaahs as we watch the sky turn from pink to yellow, the light expanding by the minute to the north and south.  
Keaton commented on our way home last night about how it was still light out, even at dinner time: the days are getting longer, mom! And he's right, the days are getting longer and it's never been so evident as it is in those few minutes in the morning as we race the sun - two weeks ago we had no problem beating her; this morning, you can see, it was a different story.  

Happy weekend, everyone!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The Dig: Week 2 (Zion & His Fathers House)

Welcome to Week 2 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excepts directly from the book.

***


Zion


Chapter 2, Zion, starts out having the same sort of affect on me that Chapter 1 had; I kept finding myself thinking, wow, that is not how I pictured it.


Mount Zion, the City of David...I always pictured....what's the word I'm looking for, grandeur? Surely not "five acres of land covered by a heap of huts that were indistinguishable from the slopes on which they were erected, a number of grey hovels on grey earth, an anthill without the glory of a meadow." But I love how the author follows this up with "the reader need not be surprised or disappointed" and continues to describe life in those days; a life that really, in almost all aspects, is so entirely different than the life I know today. He goes on to say "greatness is not measured only by dimensions" and gives some examples of some of the worlds greatest places/books/paintings that take up very little space. In reading these words I immediately thought of the Mona Lisa. I remember seeing the Mona Lisa for the first time and being so taken aback by how small of a painting it was. The Mona Lisa, I mean, everyone knows that that is, right?  In my mind it was so well known that it had to be grand. Have you ever had an experience like that, where the reality of what you saw was so off-base from the picture you had in your mind simply by size alone?


In some ways it makes sense though, that Zion would be smaller than expected, I mean look at Israel in general, the author describes it perfectly "the paradoxical history of a tiny people that radiates power over the entire human race." So many great things took place in this small land.  That brings me some comfort - sometimes it's hard to imagine the Lord having the time (for lack of better word) to worry about small little ol' me when there are so many bigger, more pressing issues in the world but this reminds me that size is not a determining factor for Him.


The author notes that Zion "is not only the place of preparation; it is also the place of prophecy." He goes on to quote some passages from the Bible in which prophets, psalmists, etc. foretell what is to happen here. But it is the last line of this chapter that about brings me to my knees:


"That which the joyous Psalmist announces in exultation, Christ fulfills in pain." 


Em, you talked in our last discussion about how horribly we behave when we are in pain (I am guilty of the same!) - I acted horribly this past weekend because of mental anguish, I wasn't even in physical pain and yet I couldn't hold it together.  Jesus knew was was to come, He knew the pain He was going to endure and yet He didn't run and He didn't lash out at his disciples in those last days.  He continued to love and when the time came He quite literally "took up His cross" and bore it all.....for us.  


This past Sunday I sat in the pews and listed to Father's homily and he said those very words: "Take up your cross and follow me." I missed pretty much everything after that because I realized I was doing the very opposite of "taking up my cross" I was standing around the cross, complaining, whining, yelling, doing just about everything I could to avoid picking it up. Father's closing line (which I did happen to catch) was this: "Anything, anything is possible with God." So with a renewed commitment I'm trying hard this week to pick it up, trust, and follow.


His Father's House


Wow, this is already getting pretty long so I'll try to keep this discussion on the shorter side...


I really appreciated this chapter for the history of the temple; the building and the destruction, a cycle that was on repeat.  At the time of the crucifixion the author uses the words "marvelous" and "dazzling" and says that "at the sight of it, the heart of an Israelite pilgrim glows with pride." It was a bustling place with large crowds and great feasts, it's noisy and busy....


It was after reading this that it first hit me....destruction and rebuilding, ups and downs, noisy and busy yet marvelous and dazzling....man, the temple sounds like a metaphor for my life.  Maybe for all our lives...maybe for all of humanity. 


***


Previous Discussions:

Week 1

Next up: Wednesday, March 26th: Chapters 4 & 5 (The Upper Room & The Mount of Olives)

Tuesday, March 18, 2014

a walk in the woods





Clockwise from top left: deer, squirrel, squirrel hole, mouse, possible bear den









Two weekends ago, at the first taste of some decent-temperature-weekend-weather, we packed the boys up and headed to Papa and Busha's with our snowshoes in hand; it was time to take a little walk in the woods. I've been waiting all season for this. 

Over Christmas my family spent a few days up at the cabin and on one of those days we all spent a couple of hours together snowshoeing across the lake.  Well, except that when we were packing we were a little rushed and we couldn't find our snowshoes.  So we weren't so much snowshoeing, we were just walking. It was still fun, but before I can consider the winter complete I have to do a little snowshoeing. And two weekends ago was the perfect weekend for it: blue skies, decent temps, not too crusty snow.

Collin led the way with Keaton on his heels; since Day 1 Keaton has liked this sport.  Hutt and I trailed behind; since Day 1 Hutton has been.....less enthusiastic about this sport.  Snowshoeing with Hutton is kind of like this: take 6 or 7 steps, throw body face first into the snow, I caaaaaan't waaaaaalk! He did make it about 3/4 of the way, slowly, but he made it. We looked at various animal tracks, wood piles, and trees. We saw the neighbor hauling wood in his tractor and spied a farm and barn in the distance.  And for the last part of the trek Hutt got a ride from Daddy, which made him happy.  Nolan stayed behind, working with Papa chipping ice from the driveway and hauling his sled around the yard, and when we got back all three of them spent some time sliding down the snowbanks. Winter's not over yet, but looking at our schedule I'm not sure we'll be able to get another snowshoe adventure in before it is. But that's okay, I'm at peace knowing the next time we hike in those woods we may very well be leaving the snow boots behind and heading in wearing our work boots and gloves instead.

Monday, March 17, 2014

Erin go Bragh

Per Wikipedia: 
Erin go Bragh /ˌɛrɪn ɡə ˈbrɑː/, sometimes Erin go Braugh, is the anglicisation of an Irish language phrase, Éirinn go Brách, and is used to express allegiance to Ireland. It is most often translated as "Ireland Forever."
Busha had cupcakes for the boys this morning that had little signs that said: Erin go Bragh. I couldn't remember what it meant, so I said I'd look it up.

We had our St. Patrick's Day dinner last night, just as soon as we got done making our Leprechaun traps. I cleaned off the dining room table (big deal!) and the boys brought the silverware and napkins and plates and bowls over for me.  They love eating at that table.


Before bed they set their traps and we read the book The Night Before St. Patrick's Day where those sneaky little leprechauns make a mess out of Tim and Maureen's toys. The boys went to bed with dreams of catching a leprechaun.  Really. Keaton woke up this morning and his first words were: we didn't get one.  I had a dream, we didn't get him.

They walked out to their traps and immediately saw that a leprechaun had been here though.


But unfortunately, Keaton was right.  We didn't get one.  But he had been here. Oh!  He had been here....the gold proves it.


Happy St. Patrick's Day!


Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Dig: Week 1

Welcome to Week 1 of our Lenten Dig where we will be reading and discussing the book What Jesus Saw from the Cross. Feel free to join the discussion at any time. Please note, all items I've put in quotations below are excepts directly from the book.

***

Two years ago after Good Friday mass I remember walking out of church into a drizzle; it was a dreary day, overcast, dark, and wet.  I flipped the hood up on my coat and as I stepped into my car I remember thinking: how appropriate.

I think that's kind of how I've always looked at this day: dark, gloomy, depressing. I pictured brown, barren ground and loud, unattractively sounding, squawking birds. So what was so startling to me in reading this first chapter was the author's claim that "there was nothing gloomy about the prospect." There was vegetation: olives, citrons, nuts and figs "giving off their honey scent." While I have always pictured birds, in my head they were more like crows, not birds "making merry in the springtime". But maybe what struck me the most odd were the flowers: "the place was carpeted with cyclamens, the flower of rocky ground, wild daffodils, irises, fennel, poppies, and daisies, and especially the red anemone, perhaps lily of the field, and the famous flowers of Calvary - those tiny blossoms that never seem to die...." I mean, reading this description of Calvary it sounds.....beautiful, inviting, enjoyable, which is in such stark contrast to what was taking place there that day.

Another thing I found extremely interesting in this first chapter was the description of the cross, of it's height and weight.  The author notes that "the length of the beam had to be limited because it had to be thick, and yet the criminal must carry it. Therefore limiting the weight." He talks about the demands of balance and handling and says "it was possible to engage the shoulder against the crosspiece; but to drag the wood on the ground behind would have been out of the question." I have always pictured Jesus dragging the cross on the ground. 

Can you imagine? After having just suffered the scourging, being beaten and having open wounds on your back, I would assume that simply walking alone would be a struggle but now you add the weight of this large wooden beam that you must balance lest it hits the ground and you will, likely, topple over with it.

I think, for me, it has always been easy to form a simple picture in my mind of Jesus hanging on the cross, I mean we see the crucifix hanging over the alter every Sunday. And, on the surface, I think I can talk about his agony but to really dig in and try to to imagine what that must have been like....well, that's a little harder.

The cross had a "wooden projection at some height above its base. This structure, the antenna, formed a sort of saddle and was designed to prevent the hands and feet from being torn under the weight of the body." Being torn under the weight of the body. He was nailed to the cross. Obviously, we all know this, but when I just sit and let that thought sink in....nailed...."His legs drawn up high enough for His feet to rest flat against the beam: a frightful position, but for that very reason the more probable....the first spasms shake the body already mercilessly torn by the scourging and by a night of torment...blood flows in thin streams from His hands and feet, oozes from his forehead....the cruelly strained position allows no movement...." And then there is a "terrible jolt as the cross falls into its rocky hole, sending a shudder through the beam and through the members of the victim". I can't read these words without wanting to cry and without feeling a physical ache inside my body.

The chapter ends speaking of the "noises of the city" a reminder that even in the midst of tragedy the world just keeps on spinning; people keep on moving.  I remember after the fire feeling like my life had come to a complete halt - it was tough for me to get on social media and see people talking about the everyday aspects of life when I felt like our life had just been completely shattered - I would imagine this would be the case with most anyone suffering through some sort of difficult time.  It brought me some comfort to  know that our Lord experienced something similar; as he suffered on the cross, below him the city just kept on moving along.

I'm excited to hear your thoughts on our Week 1 readings.

***

Next up: March 19th, Week 2 - Chapters 2 & 3 (Zion & His Father's House)

***

Before I sign off for today I just wanted to make sure you saw the comment Karma left on our last Dig post and share it (in part) with you again here because I loved it so much.

"Our ash Wednesday mass sermon gave 4 "weapons" to fight the distractions of everyday life and to help make the Lenten season a success. I thought I'd share with you and any of your readers that are interested: 

1. Live intentionally- each day the thought of God and lent should be as second nature as going to work on Monday morning. 
2. Love fully- if you're doing it right it should hurt, love those that irritate you. 
3. Learn humbly- have an open mind to really learn about Jesus. 
4. Leave boldly- at the end of 40 days be different and show that you're doing it through God."

Wishing you all a pleasant week!

Thursday, March 6, 2014

White





It warmed up around these parts yesterday; I'm not sure what the official temp was, but around noon my car was reading 18 degrees. There was a breeze, and it was cool, but the sun was out so it felt warmer than it was.  The boys came barreling out of the school doors decked in hats, mittens, and snow pants - they had gotten to get out in it for a bit at school and were hoping to do some more at home, in the afternoon. (That didn't actually happen because after a week of everyone being sick in this house we are on the upswing; but obviously still in need of sleep.  Naps lasted all the way to the dinner hour.)

Temps dropped again overnight though; this mornings readings were single digits, and all of the thawing that happened yesterday was instantly suspended - frozen in time.  As the sun came up this morning all you could see was white, from the ground to the very tips of the trees and reaching into the sky, white.

I like this part of winter, these wonderlands that happen overnight. These crappy cell phone pictures don't really do it any justice, the beauty is jaw dropping. It's been a couple of days since we've had any snow and the roads are clear, this weekend they are calling for temperatures in the mid-twenties to thirties - the first weekend in a long time that we'll be able to be outside because of this year's frigid temps - and I'm dreaming of snowshoes and a trek through the woods followed by hot chocolate and a book by the fire.  Yes, even I have had those beginning itches for green, but right now I'm enjoying the white.

Monday, March 3, 2014

The Dig: Preparation

Oh! I'm so happy I've got some takers on the Lenten "dig" (book study, book club, bible study...I have no idea what to call it so we're just going to call it The Dig, how does that sound?)

What Jesus Saw from the Cross is the book we'll be reading/discussing. If you still want in, it's not too late! (It'll never be too late, feel free to join at any time.) I see the paperback is no longer available on Amazon, but Jill did some looking around and found it on christianbook.com and (with shipping) the price is about $20 (thanks, Jill!). Kindle and Nook versions are also available and each look to be about $10.  I tried our local library and didn't have any luck, but you might also be able to try that route.

I'm going to be honest and say I don't exactly know what form these discussions are going to take - but I think that is okay - let's just go with it, we'll figure things out as we go; they can be fluid, changing from week-to-week.  That being said, I thought it'd be a good idea to have a general framework for discussion dates/chapters.  I was thinking it might be best to have the posts go live on Wednesdays - the thought behind that is that Lent starts with Ash Wednesday and I'd like to have our last discussion on Wednesday, April 16th, before we enter the Holy Triduum.

If you're a non-Catholic and you just read that and now you are thinking, what in the hell is she talking about?  Do not fret.

Brief side discussion happening in 3, 2, 1...while Triduum is a term I've only become familiar with since converting to Catholicism, the practice is not new to me (I was raised Methodist, but I think this is common with other denominations as well, correct me if I'm wrong) Long story short, the Triduum is a series of three masses/services that begins with Maudy Thursday (or, the Last Supper and the washing of the feet), includes Good Friday (the time the Lord spent on the cross) and ends with the Easter Vigil/Easter service (Resurrection).

Okay! Back to business.  Discussion dates:

Wed., March 5th - Ash Wednesday, start of Lent, start of The Dig.
Wed., March 12th - Discuss Prologue & Chapter 1
Wed., March 19th - Discuss Chapters 2 & 3
Wed., March 26th - Discuss Chapters 4 & 5
Wed., April 2nd - Discuss Chapters 6 & 7
Wed., April 9th - Discuss Chapters 8 & 9
Wed., April 16th - Discuss Chapters 10 & Epilogue, conclude The Dig

Anyone that would like to write a guest post at any time during this just let me know - the stage will be yours :)

****

While this post is being written to prepare us for our "dig" I can't hit publish on it without discussing some other ways in which we can prepare for this upcoming season.  I have no intention of going into any of these discussions throughout the season, these are personal in nature, but I know, each year,  I'm guilty of not thinking through this enough before Ash Wednesday is here.  And so, I'm discussing this mostly for myself.

Prayer, Fasting, and Almsgiving: The Three Pillars of Lent.

I find it kind of funny that we're "preparing" for Lent when Lent, itself, is a preparation; a preparation spiritually for the celebration of Easter. Just like when I throw my kids a birthday celebration and I need to clean the house, cook the food, and decorate, in order to more fully celebrate our Risen Lord we also need to prepare; and we can do that through these pillars: prayer, fasting, almsgiving. There is no one size fits all when it comes to this; this is going to look different for everyone, but here are just a few things I'm thinking about as I get ready for Wednesday.

Picture from Best Catholic Posters


Prayer - I've been continuously working on spending more time reading, using my devotional, and praying. I've been working on the Rosary, literally one decade at a time, and I will confess I have YET to make it though the entire thing in one day....but one easy thing I could do this season is commit to saying an Our Father once a day.  Did you know the Our Father is the only prayer the Lord taught us?

Fasting - There are many thoughts behind fasting during Lent, and as a Catholic I'm required to fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and to abstain from meat on all Friday's throughout the season, but the one I like to remember is that by making a sacrifice we are reminded of the ultimate sacrifice of the Lord. Also, as I heard a priest once say, it's good to feel hunger pains; it reminds you of all those in the world who have to go without on a daily basis. So what about taking it one step further, what about giving something up? I've given up lots of things during Lent throughout the years, including your "traditional" soda, chocolate, desserts, ketchup.  What?  Ketchup isn't traditional?  Well, if you have known me for any length of time then you know that giving up ketchup is like the ultimate sacrifice for me. One year though, I gave up the snooze button, and that might have been the best and worst decision I've ever made.  I haven't figured out yet what I'm going to give up this year, but whatever it is, I think it is going to tie in with pillar #3....

Almsgiving - Giving to the needy.  Helping the poor. Proving aid to those who are the less fortunate.  I'm not even going to elaborate on this any further, but I will say this, do what you can. That might not be as much as what your neighbor can do and it might not be as much as you were able to do last year, the importance is that we do something.

Involving the Kids - Our kids are still little so I don't expect them to totally "get" all of this, but I was listening to Catholic Radio (go ahead and judge :) ) the other day and Danielle Bean was on as a guest and she had a really great suggestion for kids and Lent that I just wanted to share with you - we're going to be doing it here - grab an empty jar and a bag of rocks and for each time your kids do something....how do I word this....something that might be difficult for them? Around here that will look like: not fighting, sharing with your brother (voluntarily!), picking up your toys, and starting the prayer at dinner, they will get a rock to put in the jar.  The purpose is to fill up that jar full of rocks during Lent with the promise that Jesus will do something miraculous on Easter Sunday. What will he do?  Turn those rocks into jelly beans, of course!

The other thing I'd like to do with the kids this year is make Resurrection Cookies.

***

Two days....we've got two days and then lets Dig Deeper this year; I'm so excited to do this together.