Prayer intentions
Please pray for the following people. And if you know someone who needs a prayer, by all means feel free to add as many names as you want.

March 31, 2007

One of the reasons I don't blog more often

This little lady in the video at left is Cecilia. Just the other day she demonstrated for the very first time that she knows how to pedal her trike. She just had her fifth half-birthday (she's two and a half years old, heh) on Friday.

Every day she does something that amazes me. She is the smartest and most beautiful child on the planet, and I feel bad for all the little boys whose hearts she's going to break one day.

March 25, 2007

StumbleUpon link: "There are options"

I was out wandering the web this evening, using StumbleUpon as my guide. Now, if you use Firefox as your browser, you know what I'm talking about. If you don't, dump Microsoft Internet Explorer immediately and go get Firefox, then get the StumbleUpon extension. You will NOT be sorry, and you will wonder why you bothered surfing the internet any other way.

Anyway, as I was saying ...

I was out wandering the web using StumbleUpon when I came upon the Found Magazine site. Basically, they take found scraps of paper and photos that have been discarded, such as old shopping lists, personal to-do lists, little love notes, and reprinted/duplicated photos, and post them for public comment. You never know the identity of the person who created them, or the entire context in which they were created, which is part of the interest in seeing them. There is always some sort of conjecture among the folks who comment on them. I don't recommend the whole site, for reasons that will be obvious when you get there, but I ran across this particular found item and, well, I guess I was just kind of moved by it.

FOUND Magazine | There Are Options

March 23, 2007

Sorry, no posts this week

Sorry for the lack of new material, it's just been a busy week and the inspiration to write has suffered. Don't worry, I haven't forgotten y'all, and I've been a good boy praying for those intentions up there at the top of the page whenever I can. Looks like things should be calming down again soon, so I'll be popping in when that happens and giving you something to read.

March 16, 2007

Update: Prayers for the unlikable

Okay, as you may recall, I set a goal of praying for those who seem bent on ticking me off as I go through my day. Just thought I'd recount an incident that happened this morning.

Because my wife's vehicle was in the shop, we had to do a little maneuvering to get us both to work. I was taking her to work, when we got behind someone at an odd but pretty busy intersection that does a bit of a jog to the left as you go through the light. The fellow in front of us, who was at the head of the line, got about halfway through the intersection and came to an almost complete stop, with us right behind him. This is a short traffic light, so we were in the middle of the intersection hanging out in yellow light territory when he moved again, VERY slowly. I was more than a little worried that we would not make it through the light before cross traffic started moving.

Now, this ordinarily would get me pretty upset. But I remembered about my experiment, and started to say a quiet li'l prayer instead. I no sooner "opened the lines" as it were, when I took notice that the car had a wheelchair license plate and that the driver appeared to be a small framed elderly gentleman wearing glasses, and he was apparently scanning the businesses along the side of the road, looking for a particular destination. At last he seemed to locate the place he was looking for and turned off.

What started off to be a moment of anger turned into a moment of compassion for a little old man who was in unfamiliar territory and trying not to block traffic. It apparently didn't matter what I was going to pray for on his behalf - it was the act of praying that did something for me.

Now for my next trick, let's see if I can make this into some semblance of a habit. Keep praying for me, and I'll try to get better at praying for everyone else - deal?

March 13, 2007

Interesting discussion at Share The Word on Sunday

During RCIA, we had a wonderful talk from Sister Maria, our parish's RCIA director, regarding the Eucharist. It is something that I will be thinking on and absorbing for a while. I'll post about it if I feel I've sufficiently digested it enough.

In the meantime, though, I thought I would mention what I call the "other half" of our RCIA class. The RCIA class itself is held from 9:30 to 10:30, give or take a couple minutes. Because we cannot yet participate in the Eucharist, we are dismissed following the Nicene Creed at the 11:00 Mass to what is called "Share the Word." This is where we talk about the day's readings and/or homily and, in a free-form sort of way, discuss what we got from it.

Anyway, this past Sunday the discussion managed to turn to God's will as it relates to man's free will. One of the other class members was having what I might call a Presbyterian moment - wherein it becomes easy to confuse God's foreknowledge of what a person will do, with God's will itself.

In order to help explain it, I offered the following analogies.

First analogy: When my (now two-and-a-half year old) daughter was first learning to walk, she loved to pull up on the coffee table and was, like most toddlers first learning to walk, very unsteady. Now, I knew that she was bound to bean her noggin on that coffee table a couple times, at least, before she completely got the hang of walking. I don't like seeing her hurt, but I also knew that she would not learn to walk if Daddy caught her every time. I had to let her make her own mistakes in order to learn not to make them again.

Second analogy: My wife and I will be saving up as much as possible for her to go to college. It is our will that she should go. However, when she is eighteen years old, it may well be (knowing my girl's independent nature even at her tender age, it is a distinct possibility) that she exercises her own free will to do something completely different, like touring Europe for a year on a motorcycle, or some crazy thing that can only end in a late-night call to be wired some money to come home. I will try to discourage her from going, but I will not stand in her way. I hope that, if this happens, I am effectively able to communicate to her that she is always going to be my girl, I will always love her, and she can come home if she needs to.

Lessons from this are as follows:

  • God knows that sometimes, in order for us to learn something valuable, we have to take a few lumps. Otherwise, we will never learn and we will have less of an appreciation of the life He has given us.

  • God discourages us from doing things that are wrong, but because of His love for us, always leaves the door open for us to return to Him if and when we do.

March 10, 2007

Prayers for the unlikable - an experiment

(As an aside, I don't know how this li'l tag-team thing of Kelly and me talking about prayer got started, but here's another post on the subject ...)

Pew Lady Kelly offered up a simple, yet great idea for all those prayer intentions that come our way during the course of just doing stuff - pray them on the spot so in case you forget during your regularly-scheduled moment(s) of prayer, or for some reason don't make it at all to your moment of prayer, you will still have offered up a prayer for them.

But it occurred to me that not everyone asks for a prayer, and as a matter of fact, probably don't "deserve" prayer.

Two of my primary job duties involve driving a car and working with customers. Now, between the two, I encounter a lot of people whose only goal in life seems to be to tick me off in one way or another. I recall reading the phrase "near occasion of sin" not long ago, and by golly, some of these folks ought to have their pictures in the dictionary next to the entry.

So I'm trying an experiment, sort of a personal challenge, for Lent. I don't expect to be 100% successful - if I can pull any success at all out of the hat, I'll be happy. The experiment is this: if I find myself in one of "those" situations, I am to consider it a de facto request for prayer by the instigator. "Bless those who curse you, pray for those who mistreat you." Luke 6,28

I hope it will also be, in its execution, a means of curbing a favorite "uncontrolled appetite" of mine - letting my anger run away with my imagination. You know, where even if you don't express out loud how you feel, you imagine all the things you'd like to say (and occasionally do, depending on how bad they get your goat) to their face.

Anyway, there's the argument for this experiment. We'll see how this goes. Please pray for me on this one (whether you like me or not!).

March 7, 2007

Prayer intentions - new feature on the site

As you may have noticed, there is something new at the top of the page, and it is titled "Prayer Intentions". The Pew Lady (aka Kelly) wrote the perfect companion piece to this without even knowing I was going to do it.

The purpose of the Prayer Intentions feature is for you to read this list and pray for the people listed there. If you have anyone to add, do so at the bottom. If you are anything like me, I mean to pray for certain people, but I forget. I'm just not that organized. And the more people who pray, the better!

Please note: The feature above uses the Haloscan comments object from this post, so when replying to this post, reply with your prayer intentions ONLY! Thanks bunches!

March 5, 2007

Those Google ads at the top of the page

Hey all, just wanted to let you know that my good bud Kelly has informed me that not all of the Google ads you see up there at the top of the page are "Catholic-friendly", to say the least. There was one that gave me the stone-cold shivers.

This is my first experience with having a Google AdSense account, and I have discovered they do offer filtering of certain URLs. I have already added two URLs to the filter, and I'm sure I'll be adding a few more. I will be monitoring this as best I can, but if you happen to spot a URL that you think I ought to filter out, please drop me a note, 'kay? Much obliged. (Additionally, if you find one that's of real value, please let me know that, too.)

If I find that the AdSense program turns out to be more trouble than it's worth, or if the filters don't work, I'll 86 the whole deal. It's very much a probationary thing, and I'll not have any hurt feelings if it has to go bye-bye.

Kelly, thanks again for the heads up on that!

What we did in RCIA yesterday

Yesterday in RCIA, we took a test ("It's not a test, it's an inventory!" said Bill, our instructor) called The Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory.

According to the website I just linked,
The Catholic Spiritual Gifts Inventory was developed by Sherry Weddell, Associate Director of the Catherine of Siena Institute. Intended for discernment in a parish setting, the Inventory provides a series of 120 questions intended to help readers examine their life experience in light of 24 of the most common charisms of the Holy Spirit.

Very interesting. Unfortunately, we did not get to find out what the results of the test ("NOT A TEST!") were. We have to wait until next week to find out what it all means. Stay tuned ...

March 3, 2007

RCIA class schedule

At the beginning of RCIA, we were given a folder which contained our class topic schedule. Here's how it reads for the remainder of the schedule:

3/4: What Are Your Spiritual Charisms or Gifts? Taught by Martha and Bill.

3/11: Sacrament of Eucharist - Taught by Sister Maria.

3/18: Last RCIA Class, Overview of Year, Call to OLOL Ministry. Whole RCIA team.

3/25: No RCIA Class - Must be present for Easter Vigil practice following 11 a.m. Mass. Lunch will be served. Practice may last until 2:15 p.m.

4/1: No RCIA Class - Palm Sunday.

4/7 (Saturday): 7:30 p.m., The Easter Vigil Mass - Please be at Church by 7:00 p.m., and report in at Chapel. Alleluia Party in the Social Hall immediately following the Mass!

So there you go, there's my RCIA schedule. You know, in case you wanted to keep me and/or our instructors in your prayers (hint, hint - no pressure).

Jesus' tomb, skeptics, and TV preachers

From MSNBC, regarding the James Cameron "documentary" on Jesus' supposed tomb:

Stephen Pfann, a biblical scholar at the University of the Holy Land in Jerusalem who was interviewed in the documentary, said the film's hypothesis holds little weight.

"I don't think that Christians are going to buy into this," Pfann said. "But skeptics, in general, would like to see something that pokes holes into the story that so many people hold dear."
There are reports coming out already (the linked story above being one) that Cameron's flick has logical and/or factual flaws, so I'm not going to address those. I'm no archaeologist, so I'll leave that business to the experts.

I do find that Stephen Pfann's comment here is especially true, though. There is a special level of delight that certain "skeptics" (ahem) take in refuting Christianity, that they would not experience in refuting anything else they considered false. The live-and-let-live attitude that one would expect from otherwise free-thinking people is absent when it comes to Christianity.

But this is not without reason. They believe Christians to be harsh, judgmental, and hypocritical in their approach to others, and they've got cause to think so. When they think of Christians, the first people they think of are guys like Falwell and Robertson - guys who publicly considered the horrible fiery deaths of 9/11 to be God's judgment of America's tolerance of gay people - and the rest of us get lumped in there with them.

Whether or not God was exercising judgment on America was not up to the Falwells and Robertsons of the world to decide. God showed in the Old Testament book of Job that he does things or allows things to happen for his own reasons; and historically God has shown that he has a longstanding policy of non-interference in man's own free will. I find it more likely that 9/11, and just about any other horrible man-made event you can think of, is just that - man-made.

Does God exercise judgment? Of course. But it is not our place as Christians to announce what his judgment is or what it's for, for the simple reason that, as a rule, God doesn't tell us those things. And whenever a person claims to know, we need to speak up against it, lest we all be seen as sitting in God's place as the only rightful judge.

March 2, 2007

Meatless Fridays, and Being All You Should Be

Debbie, my newest visitor (although everyone is a new visitor at this point) writes:

I've been in your shoes, after a fashion. I was raised Protestant, church-hopping for most of my youth. Got baptized in a Methodist church at 15, and came into full communion with Rome at 21. Three years later, I'm still happy here, but so far from being everything I should be.

The short answer is, everyone is far from being everything he or she should be, which is why Lent is such a good thing.

Of course, I'm not going to stick with the short answer. Instead, I'm going to talk about meatless Fridays.


Now, I understand that it was a requirement of the Church to forego red meat on Fridays - every Friday, not just Lent (it still is required for a great many Catholics, often depending on whether or not their local Bishop requires it, and many people of a certain age observe it regardless of whether it is required). As a matter of fact, it was this prohibition of red meat that led McDonald's to come up with the Filet-O-Fish™ sandwich for its Catholic customers.

Until just a couple weeks ago (the beginning of Lent, actually), this was one of those things that mystified me. I knew from everything I'd read and learned that the Church has reasons for doing things. It's not a case of "do this, don't do that, just because we told you and for no other reason." As one of our RCIA instructors told the class early on, "If you don't like or can't appreciate symbols and visible reminders, you might have a problem in the Catholic faith, because the Church relies on them pretty heavily to get its points across."

So I knew there was a reason for it, I just didn't know what that reason was. Those of you who are Catholic or otherwise already know the answer may be tempted to skip ahead, but please, don't leave the tour group just yet.

It is a case of fasting and abstaining - not like we think of it, depriving ourselves completely of food and drink, but a reduction and restriction in what we eat, in order to bring ourselves and our appetites under control. I like the way it is stated at - fasting and abstaining are

designed to make one mindful of Christ's sacrifice, to put the world into perspective, and to discipline the body ... We fast for many reasons. Even if there were no other reason to fast, we fast out of obedience: Our Lord and His Apostles tell us to. We also fast to discipline the body so that we can focus more intently on the spiritual. And we fast to do penance.
So what does any of this have to do with what Debbie was talking about, not being all she should be?

Everything. For you see, it is our uncontrolled appetites that do a lot of the work in keeping us from being all that God asks of us. I'm not even talking about things we might think of as sinful. After all, we need our appetites and our desires to remind us to eat, drink, rest, and procreate; they are gifts from God to keep his people alive, healthy, and continuing into the next generation.

But we must also be reminded that our appetites are not there to rule us, but vice versa. As one who recently went on a diet to lose thirty pounds, I can say authoritatively that appetites are awful bossy and difficult to keep quiet. And most of us are used to obeying them whenever they speak, unaware that they are driving what we do. But they are just tools that are given us by God for us to control.

(Bring it on home, Tim!)

And even if you do not observe meatless Fridays the rest of the year, the Church gives them to you during Lent, partly as an opportunity to learn how to control your appetites, so that you can be all you should be.

Reflections on Baptism

Anyone who reads this blog should understand something - I am not yet Catholic, but I am committed to being Catholic. I am a candidate in RCIA right now, on track to become Catholic in about a month's time. You'll note I'm not a catechumen. This has to do with the fact that I've been baptized before, and the Church recognizes prior baptism, as long as it generally follows the form and the intentions of the Church. There's more specific language in the Code of Canon Law, but that's the gist of it.

And boy oh boy, have I been baptized before.

I was born in a Catholic hospital out west in the '60s. What little my mom could remember of it is that the nurses, who I later found out were also religious in the Sisters of Mercy order, baptized all the newborns as a matter of common practice. She was a little out of it at the time, so my mom's memory was understandably a little hazy.
So I was baptized Catholic, maybe. Probably.

Which was okay with my mom, I suppose, but she was not raised Catholic. So when she got a little more settled in a new town, she started going to a church of the denomination she had been raised in - Lutheran. At about the age of three, I was baptized Lutheran.

But my dad - well, he was raised a Methodist, and he really wanted to join the nearby Methodist church down the road. I was pretty young so I don't know all the details, but I have no doubt that I was baptized in the Methodist church when I was about six or so.

So, that's when things got a little interesting.

At some point, there was a dalliance between the minister and the church organist (or was it the secretary? Not important to the story, I suppose), and the sudden removal of the former minister and the equally sudden appearance of a new minister split the congregation into two camps of loyalty. There were those who felt the former minister got the short end of the forgiveness stick and wanted him back, and those who felt that the presence of a new minister would be necessary if there was to be any forgiveness at all.

Being about eight years old at the time, I didn't understand all the politics. All I knew was, not long after all this happened, we stopped going there.

But there was this Southern Baptist church in town that broadcast its services on a local TV station every Sunday morning at eleven a.m. If I mentioned the pastor's name, some of you might know exactly where and when I'm talking about. So we started attending this church when I was about nine, I think largely because my dad was impressed by its being on TV, and I was baptized there shortly thereafter.

Now, I've been to churches of more denominations than that, and I'll talk later about some of them, too. But those are the ones in which I was baptized.

All these Protestant churches. Doctrines and teachings that are sometimes like a broken-mirror reflection of the original Church - pieces missing, parts distorted. And yet one is able to recognize that the intent of all of them was the same: the handing down of God's grace, the forgiveness of past sins, and the welcoming to a new relationship with Christ.

March 1, 2007

Stations of the Cross

N.B.: This was originally posted as a comment at Kelly Clark's Pew Lady blog.

Our parish's catechumens and candidates, along with those of all the other parishes in the Nashville diocese, gathered at the
Cathedral of the Incarnation for the Rite of Election this past Sunday as Bishop Choby presided.

I had never been there before, so I was struck by the extreme architectural and artistic differences between our parish church and the Cathedral. Our parish church was built in 1999, and the Cathedral was built in 1914.

One of the most interesting differences was in the Stations of the Cross. The ones at the Cathedral are, well, just what you would expect at a Cathedral. Incredible classical-style art, depicting everything in great three-dimensional detail. Beneath each is a short caption describing what is happening in each one. It looks just like this (scroll down about halfway).

By contrast, our parish church has small wooden plaques to represent the Stations. Very modern art, with only the scripture reference to tell you what is going on. They are high quality, and I personally like them. But stylistically, it probably isn't everyone's cup of tea, especially those whose tastes run towards the classic styles.

And that's understandable. But those people probably don't know the story of our Stations. They were created by one of the parishioners (who is a college art instructor) for the new building. The parish had outgrown its old building, and the parishioner and his art class made them especially for the new building.

They were designed and made with love; and over time, it has become one of those countless little things that make our parish "home". So even if a person doesn't like our Stations, you can't argue with their purpose or the sentiment behind them.


There's an acknowledgment and a word of gratitude that's overdue, and now that I have a forum of my own, it's time to make good. I'd like to thank my good pal, Kelly Clark, for her invaluable guidance over the past couple years via e-mail and her Pew Lady blog (and before that, her website at Often, her posts center around things that are happening with the Church in and around her hometown of Boston, Massachusetts; but her overall theme - and the posts that shine the most - center around the Catholic Church as a whole, and her founder, Jesus Christ.

I can't always say I agree with everything she has ever written, and friends probably shouldn't always agree anyway. But I can say with a strong degree of confidence that her heart is always in the right place when it comes to the Church, and she has been a knowledgeable mentor to a newbie in the faith.

Thanks, Kelly! Feel free to swing by any time!

My first post

Yeah, for a post title, it's pretty weak, I know. Certainly it isn't earth-shattering. But what else should I call it? There's a saying that has been going around my neck of the woods lately - "It is what it is." Well, this is my first post, and it is what it is. Now that I've got that out of the way, I guess I can get on to bigger and better posts ...