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.

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He Holds Us

Christ the Redeemer, Rio De Janiero, Brazil

Photo: Sean Vivek Crasto

He is the image of the invisible God, the firstborn of all creation. For in him were created all things in heaven and on earth, the visible and the invisible, whether thrones or dominions or principalities or powers; all things were created through him and for him. He is before all things, and in him all things hold together. He is the head of the body, the church. He is the beginning, the firstborn from the dead, that in all things he himself might be preeminent. For in him all the fullness was pleased to dwell, and through him to reconcile all things for him, making peace by the blood of his cross (through him), whether those on earth or those in heaven. —1 Colossians 1:15-19 (NAB)

I have never struggled with the supposed contradiction between the Scriptural account of Creation presented in Genesis 1 and the overwhelming evidence for evolution. Perhaps it’s because, like St. Augustine, I always saw the Genesis story as allegorical. And perhaps it’s because, like St. Francis, I picture God continuously willing the whole universe into being as an act of infinite, divine love.

He isn’t Newton’s Absent Watchmaker, who built the machine, pressed start, and walked away. Neither is he Calvin’s Divine Puppeteer who wrote the script and pulls all the strings. He loves us, and everything else, into existence, and he sustains us, and everything else, by a constant, intentional, and ongoing act of love.

He who is Trinity in Unity and Unity in Trinity holds us. He who became like us so that we may become like him died for us. He who made us and all things reconciles us and all things in him.

The visible Son who is the Image of the invisible Father holds us through the power of the Spirit.

Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. One God who is Love.

Amen.

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Conflicting Whispers

There are two different whispers that I’ve heard throughout my life. I wrote about one of them in an essay describing my path to the Catholic Church.

God speaks to us all the time, but he usually speaks in subtle ways. Beautiful whispers that draw us little by little toward him. God spoke to me many times in the most unlikely places, although I didn’t recognize his voice until much later.

There’s another whisper that contends with God. An ugly whisper that feeds our doubts and despair at one moment, and puffs up our pride and self-image the next. A whisper that is confusing because the whisperer means to confuse.

Jesus called this whisperer “the father of lies” and all his whispers are lies. Sometimes he tells us what we want to hear and sometimes he tells us what we dread but everything he says is a lie.

“You are worthless.”

“You are better than everyone else.”

“You will never amount to anything.”

“You can have whatever you want, just take it.”

“Everybody hates you.”

“Everybody likes you.”

“You will die alone and penniless.”

“You will be rich and famous and live a long life.”

It doesn’t matter that his whispers contradict each other. He wants to confuse you, and get you to the point where you don’t know if you’re coming our going. Above all, he has to keep whispering to drown out the other whisper.

Don’t listen to him. Listen instead to the One who tells you what you need to hear.

“I love you.”

“I died for you.”

“I rose so that you may have life eternal in my presence.”

Amen.

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Bloggerhood Etc. 8/11/14

Exit 152. Bucksnort, 1 Mile

Photo: Spencer Hall/SB Nation

It’s been an eventful week here—and not in a good way. But now that the drama has settled and life is returning to normal, it’s time to get caught up. So here’s some of the best from around the blogosphere from the last two weeks in an extra-large edition of Bloggerhood Etc. …

Best List.Staff Picks: Worst Highways in America” by Spencer Hall and the SB Nation staff.

Best Demand.I Want My Christianity Back—Without the Ugly Baggage” by Mark Sandlin at Time.com.

Best Realization.Your Lifestyle Has Already Been Designed” by David Cain at Films for Action.

Best Correction.They Call Us the ‘Nones,’ but We’re So Much More” by Courtney E. Martin at On Being with Krista Tippet.

Most Empowering.Geared Up For Robotics” by Haley Hanson at Huff Post Impact.

Best Dad Post.Hunting Live Dinos” by Don Jackson at Daddy Newbie.

Worst Examples.The Lavish Homes of American Archbishops” by Daniel Burke at CNN Belief Blog.

Best Review of a Bad Product.SPAM” by Spilly at SB Nation.

Best Devotional.His Glory Appears” by Cara Strickland at Little Did She Know.

Best Comic.Outbreak” by xkcd.

The outbreak started with Patient Zero …

Outbreak (Panel 1)

Continue reading

Filled to Overflowing

Salt Creek Falls

Salt Creek Falls (Photo: Julia Ozab)

“How full is your bucket?” This is the question asked by a best-selling book of the same name. It uses a metaphor of a bucket and a ladle to describe how selfish acts diminish the positive outlook of other people (symbolized by water in a bucket), and how self-giving acts replenish not just other people’s buckets, but our own as well.

It’s really a meditation on the infinite abundance of love.

We read the kids’ version of this story to Anna. She picked up on the metaphor right away, and I picked up on a couple of other points that the authors might have missed.

First, that depression is like a hole in your bucket. I know that when I got depressed none of the people or things that normally brought me joy could lift me out of the darkness. There’s a hole in the bucket, and—just like the song—any attempt on my part to patch that hole is futile. That’s why people who suffer from depression need to get help. You can’t will yourself to get better anymore than you can will away an infection or a major injury. Depression is not a lack of faith, in either God or in oneself, it’s a disease.

Second, that God has an infinite bucket filled with infinite water that never runs out. This is what Jesus told the woman at the well—”whoever drinks the water I give them will never thirst. Indeed, the water I give them will become in them a spring of water welling up to eternal life.” (John 4:14)

God is love; a spring of living water that never runs out. And he fills us to overflowing.

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When I wrote this post last Friday, I had no idea how tragically relevant it would become. If you’re struggling with depression and especially if you’ve thought of hurting yourself in any way, please seek help. 1-800-273-TALK.

 

Begin Again

August 1

Every day is a new beginning.

So is every month.

Clocks cycle, calendars turn, and we mark out time in neat little packages. But time doesn’t come in packages. It’s not a calendar or a clock. It’s a river, constantly flowing forward and carrying us along moment by moment.

The past is set.

The future is unknown.

But the present—the now—is where we begin again.

We fall, and we get back up again.

We fall again, and we get back up again.

And the only thing that sets the saints apart is this …

They get up one more time than they fall.

Take His hand.

Get up.

Begin again.

Five Minute Friday

 

Bloggerhood Etc. 5/12/14

Mom and baby

Photo: Pax Christi, USA

A belated “Happy Mother’s Day” to all the moms out there. Hope it was a good one. Here’s the best of the week.

Most Timely.The Original Mother’s Day Proclamation” by Julia Ward Howe (1870), posted at Pax Christi USA.

Best Essay.Three Little Words: Too Many Men” by Michael Farber at Sports Illustrated.

Best Use of Bad Language.Urban Slang Dictionary for Noxious Weeds” by Evelyn Shoop at Momsicle.

Best Parenting Post.The Struggles of Christian Parenting” by Stephen Mattson at Sojourners.

Best Special Needs Post.On Early Intervention” by Robert Rummel-Hudson at Support for Special Needs.

Best Blog Interview. “‘I Just Have To Write What’s on My Heart’: A Conversation with Teryn O’Brien” by Boze Herrington at Sketches by Boze.

Best Guest Post.(De)tale: Plates” by Rachel Marie Stone at Cara Strickland’s blog Little Did She Know.

Best Reflection.A Good For Nothing God” by Zach Hunt at The American Jesus.

Best Comic (and Best Question).WTF is Wrong with Americans?” by Silhouette Man at tickld.

Best Reading List.Pioneers in Pigtails: Remembering the First Heroines Who Made Us Mighty” by Megan Jean Sovern at Huff Post Books.

Funniest.7 Tips for Dating My Three Year Old Daughter” by John Kinnear at Ask Your Dad.

Best Video.Please Stop With the Buzzfeed Quizzes” by Glove and Boots (via YouTube).

“It says I am loyal, kind, and wise.”