Killing dandelions

Spring has sprung. Not to say there won’t be a couple of pop up weather situations that will make us groan, but for the most part, we’re here. Hope you had a tolerable winter. I know that for myself with the therapies I was on, I didn’t enjoy winter much this year. I’m trying to make up for it now that spring is here.
I hope you are making the most of this time of year, and like me, have found an activity that gets you outside enjoying the fresh air and getting a little dirty. I hunt dandelions in the yard in the morning, trying to keep everything pretty while all around me, the forces of the Great Dandelion gather and spread. I putter around in the gardens making sure everything is ready for the great arising just around the corner.
I couldn’t help but reflect on how much pulling dandelions is like my life. All the things I do   expecting they will stay done, I find that I have to revisit and redo   tomorrow or the next day. With weeds you kind of expect it, but with life we have a tendency to think that a job done, is done once and for all don’t we. It irritates us when we have to correct something we just “fixed” the other day. But like weeds, life is an endless circle of doing and then doing again.
Don’t be discouraged. Everything is a circle, a cycle if you will. You fix something in your relationships today, and you will be doing it again soon. Can’t escape it.
Perhaps the key is to expect change and be ready for it. Know that you will correct your kids for the same thing you got on them today, soon. Perhaps knowing that the cycle will repeat itself can allow us to prepare for it in our hearts so when it does reappear we can handle it calmly and with an open heart and compassionate spirit.
That’s what I do with the dandelions. They pop up, I dig out. Today, tomorrow.

In our faces …

Sometimes you read something that is so true you wish you could share it with as many people as possible. Today is one of those days for me. Following is an article a friend sent  me and while speaking truth, it also kinda made me laugh, you know, that laugh of “Boy, that’s obvious, isn’t it”? It’s a bit long, but please read anyway. The photos and videos that accompanied this article did not carry over to this site. The meaning is still there.

Posted on November 24, 2013
by theboeskool

When I was a kid, there were Christians, and then there were Catholics–The two were mutually exclusive. I knew OF Catholics (You got your Pope John Paul II, you got your Mother Teresa…. Actually, that’s probably about it), but in the little Dutch-Reformed-Calvinist-Protestant nook of the country that I grew up in, I don’t think I ever met an actual Catholic. I may have met one or two and just not known about it–In those parts, it wasn’t the sort of thing you advertised. But as far as I was concerned, Catholics were about as foreign to my version of Christianity as the Buddhists, the Muslims, and the Jews.
It’s weird thinking about that now–How, for most of the world, “Catholic” was synonymous with “Christian,” but for me (and many others), they were just that screwy religion who prayed to Mary for some odd reason, and had all those saints, and the priests forgave your sins in a confessional after they told you to go rub a pearl necklace…. It all seemed about as far-fetched as Scientology. For so many other people around the world, the face of Christianity was the Catholic Church, but for me and many others, “Catholic” and “Christian” were very different, and the face of the Catholic Church was the Pope. And all I really knew about the Pope was that he was the dude with the pointy hat who looked vaguely like Johnny Carson….

 “Heeeere’s Johnny Paul 2!” –The US Women’s Soccer goalie, Francis, and Sarah Palin…. *opens envelope* “Name a Hope, a Pope, and a Dope.” HeyOOOH!!!

My how things have changed. If you can’t admit that Pope Francis is awesome, there is either something wrong with you or you just haven’t been paying attention. Just in case you haven’t been paying attention, here is a short list of 10 things (in no particular order) of some of the amazing things Pope Frank (his friends call him Frank) has done so far that make me consider converting to Catholicism:

 Renault–The Donkey of cars….

1. GETTING RID OF THE POPE-MOBILE It’s really hard to love people from behind a thick sheet of bulletproof glass. After Pope JP2 got shot, they tried to keep the Pope safe by constructing the PopeMobile, but Francis has ditched it. When he was elected, he rode with the other Cardinals in the minibus. Not only that, but instead of riding around in the the Mercedes PM, he got himself this 20 year old Renault with almost 200k miles on it for when he wants to drive to the Vatican City Taco Bell for a late night snack. It’s not near as safe, but something tells me this Pope is not too concerned about dying. In the words of Obi Wan Kenobi, “You can’t win, Darth. If you strike me down, I shall become more powerful than you could possibly imagine.” Makes sense…. Jesus rode a donkey.
2. SUGGESTING THAT HE MIGHT SEE ATHEISTS IN HEAVEN This one might ruffle some feathers. In a Homily, Pope Francis suggested that doing good might be more important than believing the right things and he said, “The Lord has redeemed all of us, all of us, with the Blood of Christ: all of us, not just Catholics. Everyone! ‘Father, the atheists?’ Even the atheists.” I know, right? Where would he get such a blasphemous idea?!? Answer: Jesus–who suggested that the Priest and the Levite (who believed all the right things) weren’t doing as good of a job of keeping the commandment to “love your neighbor” as that godless Samaritan. Another answer: The Bible–That says, “He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world.” (I John 2:2)
3. HE IS NOT TOO COOL FOR TWITTER
4. FIRING “THE BISHOP OF BLING” When a German Bishop named Franz-Peter Tebartz-van Elst spent $42.7 million on a house renovation (with $475,000 for walk-in closets and a $20,000 bathtub), Pope Francis suspended him. And then sent his ass to a monastery. And now they’re thinking about turning his lavish residence into a soup kitchen to feed poor people. Awesome.
5. NOT FREAKING OUT WHEN THIS KID INTERRUPTED HIS TALK
Makes sense. Jesus said, “Let the little children come to me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of God belongs to such as these.”
6. PISSING OFF SARAH PALIN If you are making Sarah Palin feel uncomfortable, you are probably doing something right. Sarah said, “He’s had some statements that to me sound kind of liberal, has taken me aback, has kind of surprised me.” You think THAT’S liberal, you should hear some of the things this Jesus guy said….
7. TOUCHING, KISSING, AND PRAYING WITH THIS DISFIGURED MAN
You’ve probably seen this picture before, but look at it again. Imagine being this man and living with this skin condition. Imagine learning to expect the horrified looks as strangers see you. Imagine getting used to people keeping their distance. Now imagine this little old man smiling at you and calling you over. Imagine him touching the sides of your face. Imagine him pulling you in, and kissing your forehead. It is just too much for me to handle. But it makes sense…. Jesus didn’t just heal the lepers–He TOUCHED them.
8. NOT TAKING “THE POPE SUITE” AT THE VATICAN
Pope Francis asked to reside in a more modest apartment at the Vatican, and even makes his own meals. He sticks to the plain white robe, and has asked the other people in leadership to tone it down as well. He said, “This I ask you: Be shepherds, with the ‘odor of the sheep.’ Make it real.” He works hard at portraying modest living and staying humble. It’s hard to relate to the common man when you’re sitting on a golden throne. When he found out that they put up a statue of him outside a Cathedral in Buenos Aires, he asked them to take it down.
9. HE WASHES FEET.
Not just any feet–He is the first Pope to ever wash a WOMAN’S feet (Yeah, I know, he is not calling for women to be able to be priests yet, but still…. This is a pretty big deal for the traditionally patriarchy of the Catholic Church). And it wasn’t just any woman’s feet that he washed–She was a MUSLIM woman. And it wasn’t just any Muslim woman’s feet that he washed–She was a Muslim woman who was an INMATE at a nearby PRISON. Completely, totally, and in all other ways–KICK ASS!
10. SPEAKING OUT ABOUT HOW CAPITALISM  SCREWS POOR PEOPLE
Just recently, Pope Francis released an “Apostolic Exhortation” that laid out poverty and economic inequality as two of the main concerns of this Papacy. He used strong terms like “idolatry of money” (reminds me of someone) and speaks of unfettered capitalism as “a new tyranny” while praying and pleading with lawmakers to work toward  providing all people with “dignified work, education, and healthcare.” Look at this crazy, Palin-Pissing-Off quote from the document: “Just as the commandment ‘Thou shalt not kill’ sets a clear limit in order to safeguard the value of human life, today we also have to say ‘thou shalt not’ to an economy of exclusion and inequality. Such an economy kills…. How can it be that it is not a news item when an elderly homeless person dies of exposure, but it is news when the stock market loses 2 points?” Seriously, Francis? Where do I sign up?

 So yeah…. I just love this guy. But just about everybody is loving Pope Francis right now. And here’s the thing: It’s not Catholicism that is so attractive to people. It’s looking like Jesus. Isn’t it interesting how a simple little thing like acting like Jesus can get the whole world excited about the Pope? I mean, I get excited when ANYBODY–regardless of their creed–starts acting like Jesus! Gandhi, the Dalai Lama, you name it…. The truth is the truth, no matter where you find it. Christianity does not have a monopoly on the truth.The Bible DEFINITELY does not have a monopoly on the truth. The power and significance Jesus’ life is NOT limited to the words that are written in the Bible. 

Anyway, I love how this Pope is being an example of Jesus’ love for the world. We may have very different theologies and views on some really important topics, but our sames are way bigger than our differences. He is walking the walk. And he is a walking reminder to me that what you do and how you love is way more important than what you believe. Keep up the good work, Francis.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Advent

Being relatively new to the Catholic Church, there are many things that fascinate me as I learn the tenets and traditions of the faith, but nothing quite like Advent. This is a season that just started last Sunday and will continue  to/through Christmas day. I have been trying to do some research on the subject so I could sound like I knew what I was talking about, but so far haven’t found the magic book. My basic understanding will have to do since that’s what I rely on anyway.
Beginning last Sunday we will be spending half the time between now and Christmas day preparing for the feast of Christmas by absorbing the cold outside and identifying with any cold that lies within our souls. We spend this first part contemplating the darkness within and giving this darkness over to God. About halfway through this period we begin to see that as the days are about to start getting longer again, so too the light is available for our souls. We begin to prepare for the feast that STARTS on December 25th and goes for twelve days. “The Twelve Days of Christmas” isn’t just a song. Finally on December 25th, we celebrate the birth of Christ with food, and song and family.
I bring this up, because quite frankly I like it as an alternative to what the business community on this globe offers. Spend, spend, spend. Buy, buy, buy. I like to give my children and loved ones gifts as much as the next guy, but I don’t think it should be the basis of a holiday that has it’s beginnings in antiquity.
Prepare yourself. Do a little reading about the early celebrations of Christmas starting in the  4th and 5th centuries. Get some good out of this shopping nightmare.

Peace to you and yours,

St. Nick

Because of the consequences of side effects, I found myself unable to enjoy Thanksgiving from the traditional eat too much, feel miserably stuffed and watch football perspective. Rather, I found myself listening to everything swirling around me. Nancy and her sisters catching up on all the latest happenings, Erin playing piano, and my nephew Marshall and his girlfriend talking about nothing. It had a softer, slightly warmer vibe to it. I liked it. Of course, the food was over the top and everybody else managed to get too full, but I was warmed by the glow of “other” things, things most people don’t pay as much attention to.
This morning after walking the dog and feeling the emptiness of the streets, I sat down to review emails. I received one from a member of a team I’m on. We are the “giving” team for a four day retreat, where men come together and spend four days disconnected from lives, phones, and computers in order to spend time with the deeper things of life. It is a wonderful experience. I went on the retreat last year, and feel honored to be asked to be a part of a giving team this year. Dan was letting us know that the team’s leader, Barry, lost his son yesterday. What !!??!!
I have no idea what happened, and at the end of the day it doesn’t really matter. On our national day of thanksgiving, a man lost his son. His name was Nick. I don’t know much about him except that his dad was awfully proud of him, and spoke warmly of him. This whole thing makes me wonder if when opening my heart to gratitude for all the things I have, I am including my children and wife. Does my gratitude start just outside of my family, or do I have a sufficient awareness of their presence in my life to be enormously grateful that when I wake up in the morning, my wife and babies are all safe and alive. If I have been remiss in being propoerly thankful for them, I won’t be anymore.
Please take a second if you are reading this to send up a small prayer for Barry and his wife. They need it. Then go talk to your babies.

Have a blessed holiday, and, thanks for listening

Here comes the bride

I got married yesterday, again. Fifteen years ago when Nancy and I originally tied the knot, I was not qualified to get married in the Church, so we went to another church where the pastor was more open, and got married there. No big deal, end of story, I thought.
Two years ago when I decided to join the Catholic church, I really didn’t give our wedding much thought, after all, it was done. At that time, we’d been married for thirteen years. Pretty well locked in. Then came the diagnosis and the last two years. The deacon who guided me through the process of joining the church and helped me with all the paperwork (you haven’t seen bureaucracy in action until you deal with the Catholic church) says,”why don’t you get your marriage blessed. It’s the equivalent of a Church wedding for married people”. Knowing that Nancy would like that, I said “sure”. After we got all this paperwork done, we had our ceremony yesterday. In attendance were our daughter Erin, Nancy’s sister Mary Lee, her husband Bill, and Nancy’s other sister Peg. We gathered in the chapel to renew our vows. In the Catholic church there is a practice of “exposing the Blessed Host” where a communion wafer, already blessed is put in a monstrance and displayed on the altar. It represents the living Christ among us. It’s a very powerful symbol of all that is Eternal and present in our lives. We chose to have the Host among us for this ceremony. It went pretty much as you would expect, until it came time to renew our vows. When I was invited to say, “I, Eric, take you, Nancy, to be my lawfully wedded wife, to have and to hold from this day forward, in good times, and bad; for better, or worse; in sickness and in health, till death do us part, I was overcome with such a powerful sense of gratitude to this woman that I could not speak for a moment. It’s one thing to say these words in the uncertainty of the future, but it’s something else altogether to say them when you  know “until death do us part” is sitting out in front of us just a little ways. I have always loved and appreciated Nance, even though I do a horrible job of showing it sometimes, and part of me would have understood if she had said, “I can’t”. But she didn’t. She looked me right in the eye and repeated the same vows. My heart had so many words it wanted to say, but couldn’t, that I started leaking all over.
When a man and woman face each other and declare their love and commitment to being there “until death do us part”, they are voluntarily taking on the pain and suffering that will come with the inevitable departure of one of them. One has to go, one has to stay. The one who stays will deal with the loss of their love, their partner. And I will submit that it is cold comfort at best in that moment of separation to know that you will be reunited again someday. If you believe that.
I’ve spent a lot of time the last two weeks looking at those who have so much less than the rest of us do, and hoping that together we might make some small degree of difference. I still carry that hope. But today, I’m celebrating. I’m celebrating that the west side Irish Catholic, beer drinking girl I fell in love with in 1997, and married on April 25, 1998 agreed to live with me “in sickness and in health, till death do us part”. What better gift could one get this time of year? May God, however you understand him/her, give you peace this Holiday season and fill your heart with the Love and Gratitude that knows no boundaries.
Grace and Peace,
E

Thanks for listening

Why are we surprised?

I received this email this morning. It was sent to a long list of men I meet with on Saturday mornings. In part it says:
“Hi friends, I am asking for your prayers. A family member of mine has 4 kids and struggles financially. They work hard, but ends don’t always meet. A family member of theirs is going to prison for drugs and child abuse, now leaving 3 kids behind ages 7,6,4. My family is taking in those 3 kids so they don’t become wards of the state. They only came with the clothes on their back. The kids needed clothes, beds and a lot of help from the life they have experienced. The stories are awful.The oldest girl, Emma, doesn’t sleep well because she is used to her younger brothers crying. She doesn’t want baby dolls because she takes care of her brothers and that is enough. The middle boy, Jack, hides his clothes because he is used to everything he has being taken from him …”
Quite frankly, I was amazed that I had a first reaction to this as strong as I did. How often do we hear stories like this? Once a week? Every other day? And of course it always seems like we hear more of them this time of year, while the sad reality is, this kind of thing  happens every day all over this planet. I wish I had an answer, but I don’t. At least nothing that fixes this today. When I read this story earlier today, I snatched a couple of gift cards and ran them over to PeeWee who will be leading a coordinated charge in this case.  But I couldn’t help but wonder, how many other places is this same story playing out and we don’t even hear about it? I know some of you reading this are not in the Cincinnati area. Let me suggest this to you, and really to anyone reading this post. If “He who cannot be Named”, so favors you with the knowledge of a situation like this with people you are familiar with, consider doing two things. One, find out if gift cards for groceries, or clothes would be helpful. If yes, consider a gift that you can afford. Secondly, sincerely pray the following words, …”Thy Kingdom come, Thy will be done on Earth as it is in Heaven …” because I think until that day comes, this will never stop.
I’m not one to  believe in pie in the sky, but when I hear of the ugliness perpetrated against kids everyday, I can’t help but wish for a better way. Clearly the way we have chosen is not getting the job done.
In the meantime, find some time in your Sacred place and sit quietly, holding these and all children in your heart, and by extension, His.

Thanks for listening.

the Horizon

It’s Tuesday and you know what that means. Pretty soon, i’ll be visiting Nurse Amy and her buddies to get my weekly infusion of life juice. I’ve decided to quit thinking of it as poison, because it puts my head in a bad place. Thanks to these cocktails Dr. W has come up with I sit here typing 16 months after getting a death sentence. I think that’s pretty cool actually.
Attitude. Seems to be the flavoring that gives everything it’s taste. Mine was horrible last week at this time, and it showed. Nurse Amy had to call me out and beat me up a bit. She ended up typing a little verse of sacred writ on a piece of paper and laminating it for me so  I could carry it with me. It says essentially: “Do not be anxious about anything … and the peace of God which transcends all understanding, will guard your heart … ” Good stuff.
I had a book recommended to me by Zen Master Dae Gak this past week. It’s titled “Search for the Meaning of life; Essays and reflections on Mysticism”. Written by Willigis Jager, a German Catholic priest it is a treatise on seeing beyond our normal line of sight. I am only about three chapters into it, but am really impressed. Here’s how he starts chapter one: “Everyday human consciousness may be compared to a passenger on a ship. the passenger can see only as far as the horizon. But what lies beyond the horizon is greater and mightier by far than everything in front of it”. Sometimes one sentence has the ability to sum up what some of us have been struggling to say with paragraphs. This was one of those sentences for me. We have so much all around us that is not visible to us. What is required to “see” is a heart that is still and open. The open heart is simply a matter of making a choice and saying to the Universe/God, “open my heart and fill it with love today”. The stillness is something that does have to be worked on. Do you have a place where you can sit quietly for five or ten minutes a day. Perhaps with a cup of hot tea. A place where you can hear life and all it’s richness around you? If you don’t I hope and pray  you will create such a place and find the time every day to sit and listen.

Thanks for listening.

Old wisdom?

From a book of wisdom and sacred writing that predates Christianity by at least 3,000 years come the following words. The author modernized the text.
Chapter 46
When a country is in harmony with the Tao,
the factories make trucks and tractors.
When a country goes counter to the Tao,
Warheads are stockpiled outside the cities.

There is no greater illusion than fear,
no greater wrong than preparing to defend yourself,
No greater misfortune that having an enemy.

Whoever can see through all fear,
will always be safe.

I have come to believe that only two facts rule our lives. What we love, and what we’re afraid of. With this season of Christmas coming, let’s make a decision to see fear for what it is, an illusion, and love for what it is, all that truly matters.
Treatment is working on me, gonna go take a nap.

Thanks for listening.

 

Tis the season

Today is Wednesday. I was supposed to have a treatment yesterday after a week off, but due to computer malfunctioning, I elected to go in this morning. While I was waiting to get in, one of my oncology nurses, Amy, noticed I was being a bit of a pickle puss, and wanted to know what was going on. I said, “nothing really, just don’t look forward to this infusion. It’s harder on me than the first round was.” Of course she was sympathetic, but encouraged me to  keep my eye on the prize and to stay as open and positive as I can. She’s right of course.
So I’m sitting there pondering what she said. I started thinking about the last week and the marvelous things I’ve seen, and wondering how I can bring any practicality to these experiences. Then it hit me. The commercialistic (made that up) world is already celebrating Christmas with sales, sales, and guess what, more sales. Those of us who see within the season  a bit more,(and still call it Christmas) are always irritated by this, because we believe the season is about love, love, and more love. And these two never seem to meet. What if this year, we started loving a little earlier? I started thinking about that and the question arose in my mind, how? Then I started thinking about The Lord’s Prayer. Specifically, this line: ” … and forgive us our trespasses as we forgive those who trespass against us … ” How many trespasses are built up in our mental catalogues that have never been forgiven. Odds are, if you have any, it’s going to be against a family member. After all, someone we trust and let inside our inner defenses has the greatest ability to hurt our feelings. How many trespasses are built up from brothers, sisters, moms, dads, aunts, cousins, etc. Some have been around so long we’ve forgotten about them.
I say, this year, we start Christmas today. We start it by taking a couple of minutes to examine our hearts and let those old wounds show themselves. When they do, what would happen if we made an attempt to reach out and make it right? Some good things may just manifest. Of course, we all have those relatives, or friends who aren’t going to make up. They’re still plenty hurt and they aren’t going to let go of that bone. But forgiveness, like generosity, isn’t about the other person. It’s about the condition of our heart. Are we willing to let go and forgive those who have trespassed against us? I would suggest that if we can, we may have the best Christmas ever.

UPDATE:  In the Northern Kentucky area, the Society of St. Vincent De Paul has a coat distribution program. If you have a coat(s) to donate, they can be donated at:

St Vincent de Paul Thrift Stores in: Erlanger, Newport, Dayton and Falmouth.

Gold Star Chili Stores accept coats in: Alexandria, Bellevue, Burlington, Covington, Crescent Springs, Wilder, Hebron, Newport, Independence, Latonia, Mt. Zion, and Florence – Mall Road.

These Area Fire Departments also accept coats: Alexandria, Covington, Florence, Ft. Mitchell, Ft. Thomas, Hebron, Newport.

If you would like to help with the coat distribution, please join us on November 23rd 9:00 – noon at the following sites:  John G. Carlisle School, and Covington Latin School.  And again on December 7th 9:00 – noon at Blessed Sacrament Church and the Newport Primary School.

If you can volunteer please sign up by calling Carolyn Ashcraft at 859-341-3212 Ext. 2

Perhaps we can help a few more angels keep their wings warm.

Thanks for listening

Grandma shouldn’t be hungry

After my encounter with the angel Christopher last week, I had another opportunity to interact with the saintly this weekend past. I got to serve dinner at the Sister Mary Rose house in Florence KY. From 4 until 6 pm on Saturdays, hot meals (with seconds and thirds) are offered to anyone who needs one. I don’t know what I was expecting. I was trying not to expect anything per se, but what I found nearly broke my heart again. Can you imagine your grandmother having to eat in a mission, because it helps stretch her budget, and, it gives her an opportunity to enjoy a conversation? Your grandmother. Can you imagine young working families who come here to make sure their kids are getting enough to eat, because jobs are scarce and money is tight, and at least this one night, their kids will get some hot soup  and cold milk? These were not homeless people. They are about a half a step up. They have a place to sleep, but often times have to choose between eating and medicine. Between eating and utilities. Where have I been?
In the next couple of weeks I will be investigating this area to see what I can do to get engaged and help. I’d say make a difference, but frankly I think this problem is larger than any of us can possibly imagine. We are looking at the tippy toppest point of the iceberg. How does this happen in a country like ours. Did we fail as citizens, or, did we fail because we listened when our government leaders said, “hey, we got this”. What really irritates me about myself, is that it took this long to even notice. It’s not like the signs aren’t all around us. And you know, people need help all year round, not just at Christmas. Today I want to encourage us all to think about a couple of things. Where can we take used coats, and good used blankets to help those who truly need them? Where is the nearest soup kitchen where we can get involved to be blessed by the angels who eat at these places? I’ll be working to compile a list of opportunities around the Northern Kentucky area, and I hope those of you reading at a distance can find some place close to you to pitch in. I have been blind for so long to the suffering all around me. May God forgive me.

Thanks for listening.