Consider the Birds

Perched bird.

Photo: Julia Ozab

I’m in a bit of a conundrum when it comes to my blog. First off, I’m a writer–if I wasn’t I wouldn’t use the word “conundrum.” And as a writer I need to find an audience. In the 21st Century, that means the Internet. As an up-and-coming writer, I need a net presence (blog and/or social media) or I’m invisible. So I need to put myself out there, but then I see my hits and follows and like stagnating while others’ seem to skyrocket and I wonder what I’m doing wrong.

I get so frustrated that I don’t want to blog or tweet or post or pin (or whatever) anymore. That’s the other reason why I’ve been so quiet. Yes, I was fighting a bad chest cold for most of May, but the slowdown began before that. Because the burnout began before that.

So what does this have to do with birds?

Two weekends ago, I took a day off, got away from my laptop, and drove to the Finley Wildlife Refuge with my wife and daughter. Birds were everywhere. We could see them flitting from tree to tree, but even when we couldn’t see them we could hear them.

At the first stop, while Julia and Anna had their cameras out waiting to spot a bird on a perch or in flight, I stood still, closed my eyes, and listened.

I heard music, a counterpoint of bird songs in surround sound. And through that wondrous polyphony, God spoke to me.

Listen to “the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more valuable than they?” –Matthew 6:26

And I realized that all the worry wouldn’t add one more view, one more click, or one more meaningless web stat. That’s not why I write anyway. I write to capture just a snippet of the profound beauty we all experience in life.

And I was more inspired in that moment than I could be by a year’s worth of tweets or posts. Because in that moment, I got in touch with the Source of everything.

So consider the birds singing, or the leaves whispering their secrets to each other in a nearby tree, or a child praising her Creator in her infectious laugh. Consider the ongoing symphony, sonata, and song multiplied by a million that God conducts for his and our pleasure every day.

And leave tomorrow for tomorrow. That’s how I plan to write, blog, and live from now on.

With God’s help, I pray, at those times that I will inevitably stumble.

Amen.

Quote

Alleluia, He is Risen!!!

Easter Vigil at St. Peter's Basilica

Photo: Associated Press

If anyone is devout and a lover of God, let them enjoy this beautiful and radiant festival.

If anyone is a grateful servant, let them, rejoicing, enter into the joy of his Lord.

If anyone has wearied themselves in fasting, let them now receive recompense.

If anyone has labored from the first hour, let them today receive the just reward.

If anyone has come at the third hour, with thanksgiving let them feast.

If anyone has arrived at the sixth hour, let them have no misgivings; for they shall suffer no loss.

If anyone has delayed until the ninth hour, let them draw near without hesitation.

If anyone has arrived even at the eleventh hour, let them not fear on account of tardiness.

For the Master is gracious and receives the last even as the first; He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour, just as to him who has labored from the first. He has mercy upon the last and cares for the first; to the one He gives, and to the other. He is gracious. He both honors the work and praises the intention.

Enter all of you, therefore, into the joy of our Lord, and, whether first or last, receive your reward.

Continue reading

What’s So “Good” About It?

From a conversation with Anna earlier this week:

“Dad, why do we call it ‘Good Friday?’ What the people did to Jesus wasn’t good at all.”

“No it wasn’t.”

“Well then why do we call it ‘Good?'”

“Well it’s a very old name, and it originally meant ‘great’ as in ‘very important.’ The Orthodox still call it ‘Great and Holy Friday.'”

“Oh, okay.”

She paused for a moment, deep in thought.

“Well it was good that Jesus died for us,” she added.

“Yes it was Anna.”

“And the he loves us.”

“That too.”

Not quite a Five Minute Friday, but sometimes you don’t even need five minutes to say what’s important. All you need is a few moments with a thoughtful nine year old.

Five Minute Friday

And another two-for-one for Holy Week …

Cheerleaders of Faith

The Light is Coming …

Dawn at Trillium Lake

Trillium Lake, Oregon. Photo: William Woodward (CC BY-NC 3.0), 2014.

Anna is back in school this week, which means no more sleeping in for anyone. We are up at 6:20 a.m., and because it’s winter and we live in Oregon it’s still dark.

It’s dark when she says goodbye to Julia, who leaves for work at 6:30 each morning.

It’s dark when she gets her mini-breakfast (the small snack she has when she gets up to hold her until her “real breakfast” at school).

It’s dark when she brushes her teeth and gets dressed.

It’s dark when she feeds our two guinea pigs and checks their hay and water.

It’s dark when she packs her lunch (on the days she packs lunch instead of getting it at the cafeteria).

And it’s dark when we walk to the bus stop together, and she gives me a hug and kiss goodbye.

Every morning now, and for the next month or so, we will start our day in the dark.

But the light is coming and that’s what today is about. The light that came into the world at Christmas is the same light that the Magi sought out when they journeyed to Bethlehem. They were only the first of many who would come to that light. Soon, nations would stream to it and a humble birth in a stable that was probably a cave used for quartering animals at night would become the most celebrated holiday in the world.

The light is coming, as sure as the sunrise. And as at the sunrise, the darkness will flee before it.

Before him.

Something to remember when the darkness gets you down. The light is coming.

Cheerleaders of Faith

Quote

Gloria In Excelsis Deo!

Angel with Gloria banner.

The Song of Bethlehem by J.R. Clayton (1901)

In those days a decree went out from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be enrolled. This was the first enrollment, when Quirin’i-us was governor of Syria. And all went to be enrolled, each to his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, from the city of Nazareth, to Judea, to the city of David, which is called Bethlehem, because he was of the house and lineage of David, to be enrolled with Mary, his betrothed, who was with child. And while they were there, the time came for her to be delivered. And she gave birth to her first-born son and wrapped him in swaddling cloths, and laid him in a manger, because there was no place for them in the inn.

And in that region there were shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night. And an angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear. And the angel said to them, “Be not afraid; for behold, I bring you good news of a great joy which will come to all the people; for to you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord. And this will be a sign for you: you will find a babe wrapped in swaddling cloths and lying in a manger.” And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying, “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace among men with whom he is pleased!”

When the angels went away from them into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let us go over to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has made known to us.” And they went with haste, and found Mary and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger. And when they saw it they made known the saying which had been told them concerning this child; and all who heard it wondered at what the shepherds told them. But Mary kept all these things, pondering them in her heart. And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all they had heard and seen, as it had been told them. (Luke 2: 1-20—RSV)

Merry Christmas!

Venite Adoremus!

Jesus, Mary, Joseph, and the shepherds.

Adoration of the Shepherds by Gerard van Honthorst (1622)

No one is certain who wrote the original four verses of “Adeste Fideles,” known in English as “O Come, All Ye Faithful.” Some have claimed it was Saint Bonaventure, others King John IV of Portugal, and still others an anonymous Cistercian monk during the High Middle Ages. The tune we’re familiar with is credited to John Francis Wade, and may have come to him in some form via the Jacobite Rising of 1745. The most familiar English translation is by an English Catholic priest named Frederick Oakley, and it is this version that will be sung on Christmas Eve in churches both Catholic and Protestant throughout the English-speaking world.

It one of many hymns, carols, and song that have been around for so long that no one knows for sure who wrote it. Many traditions are like that, whether widespread ones or those particular to families. Traditions root us in a rootless era, bringing back childhood memories and connecting us with long-departed predecessors. Celebrate yours this week whatever they may be.

And adore the One who came to make all the old things new.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300

Prepare the Way

Little Mary and Joseph, waiting for Baby Jesus

Little Mary and Joseph, preparing a place for Baby Jesus

Christmas is coming, and it is time to prepare the way. There wasn’t any room in the inn. Will there be room in our hearts? When we see the Mother coming down the road, will we welcome her? Will we welcome her in the poor mother, and welcome him in the poor child?

These are the questions that Advent asks, and more and more Christians from outside the liturgical traditions of Catholicism, Anglicanism, and Lutheranism are finding value in the questions and value in this season.

Our family is Catholic, so we’ve always kept Advent. We’ve lit an Advent Wreath week by week every year of our marriage. And now that our daughter Anna is old enough, she reads the prayers each week. We added an Advent Calendar this year as well. Each night, Anna opens another door and reads a short scripture verse about the coming of Christ.

And we’ve added one more tradition to our observance of the season. One that prepares the way and a place in our hearts through helping the poor parents who in Christ’s eyes are his poor parents, and the poor children who in his words are him. We joined a large group of volunteers helping a local business bring Christmas cheer to hundreds of families who can’t afford to buy for their own children.

We bought for three families, with eight kids total ranging from six months to ten years old. Anna helped us pick out clothes and toys, especially for the girls, and in three hours this evening we made an immeasurable difference in eight lives.

And tomorrow, Anna and Julia will help wrap the gifts. I’m staying home for that part. Given my lack of wrapping talent I’m more help not being there.

Five-Minute-Friday-4-300x300