Monday, April 25, 2011

Crazy Love

"L'amour de Dieu est folie."*
(taken from the French Easter liturgy)

* "The love of God is crazy."

It's been a crazy week. Lots of pulling around. (Georgia-Florida-California.) Lots of activities and emotions. Lots of interactions with lots and lots of people.

Milestones, celebrations, commemorations.

A misunderstanding or two.

But much joy.

And that crazy love... that covers it all.

For more Easter photos, click below...

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Monday, April 18, 2011


“Children of the same family, the same blood, with the same first associations and habits, have some means of enjoyment in their power, which no subsequent connections can supply; and it must be by a long and unnatural estrangement, by a divorce which no subsequent connection can justify, if such precious remains of the earliest attachments are ever entirely outlived.”

 Jane Austen

Recently, my husband and I were exposed to a situation in which there is estrangement between members of extended family.

 Awkward doesn’t even come close.

Tragic is more accurate.

1. to turn away in feeling or affection; make unfriendly or hostile; alienate the affections of: Their quarrel estranged the two friends.
2. to remove to or keep at a distance:

from Old French estranger,  from Late Latin extrāneāre  to treat as a stranger, from Latin extrāneus  foreign; see strange

…see strange, indeed.

Real strange.

Speaking of, my memory vault is a strange, chaotic place. Like my messy closet, there seems to be little rhyme or reason to what’s stored there. I’ve forgotten major events that everyone else remembers in detail, while retaining bizarre little snippets of extraneous information.

For instance, one obscure phrase has stayed with me for over 30 years.

I was teaching a high school English class. It was back in the day when we used mimeograph machines and thick English textbooks instead of free-lancing it with individual novels. Our textbook included a Nordic lay, an early medieval heroic epic poem similar to the Anglo-Saxon Beowulf. I don’t remember what it was, or much about it. This is all I remember: one band of Vikings was welcomed, hosted, and entertained at another king’s hall on their way to fight some major battle or slay some foe. An alliance was made. Friendship. Kinship. Toasts and celebration. Eternal fraternity and camaraderie were pledged.

But on their way back through the land, something had changed. Revisiting their friends on the way home, the band received a very different reception. Their hosts were completely alien. Remote and removed. Sinister subterranean nuances replaced the warmth of convivial relationship.

“…And they were strangely cold…”

I don’t know why that line reverberated. Why it almost gave me chills. Perhaps it was because of the starkness of the unadorned words.

Maybe it was because I was going through some sort of rejection at the time.

There has always been something exquisitely disconcerting to me when a relationship inexplicably changes. When you think you really know someone, but you discover that you don’t know them at all. When things turn out to be completely different from how they seem, and you are left stunned at your naivety.

Or when a rigid wall erects itself, and intimacy is replaced by isolation and rejection.

Warmth by frigidity.

Love by aloofness.

Especially within families.

Estrangement is strange.




Because we were created for relationship… for union… communion.

For joining, not severing.

For harmony, not discord.

We are here for relationship.

We are here to learn to love. For some of us, it takes practice.

Our nuclear family has always been fairly overtly affectionate with each other. In a house of three daughters, we had plenty of cat-fights. My husband and I have had our share of marital spats. But there’s always been a lot of kissing and making up. A lot of “I love you’s.”

Since we almost lost our Katherine, it’s gone to a different level.

We say “I love you” at every parting. Every ‘bye” on the phone. We text it before taking off on a plane, the last thing before the flight attendant makes us turn off the gadgets.

Because you never know what might happen next.

Sometime after Katherine’s AVM rupture, a grieving mother shared her story with me. She was praying for us, although she was bearing an even greater sorrow. She lost her only daughter in a tragic car wreck. The daughter was going through a period of rebellion at the time. The parents were exercising tough love.

There was no time to say goodbye. One last, “I love you, no matter what.”

We don’t have time for estrangement.

Because time is not ours.

The apostle Paul advised, “If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone.” (Romans 12:18)

It’s not always possible. And it doesn’t always depend on us. Things such as addiction, abuse, or mental illness might make certain relationships difficult, if not impossible.

I can’t control anyone else’s behavior. But I can work on my own.

I’m a very imperfect person with many, many flaws and weaknesses. Sometimes I have a feisty little temper that can strike back at the jugular of anyone who messes with me. A sharp tongue that uses sarcastic barbed humor for retaliation. I “miss the mark” daily, if not hourly. But I take those words of Paul’s more seriously than I ever have before. I desperately want to live at peace with everyone. Every other poor sinner who’s trying their best with the cards they’ve been dealt. Every other lovely, flawed child of God.

Especially those whom God has entrusted to me as the gift of family.

I don’t ever want a slammed door to be the last sound I hear from someone I love. 

Or a harsh word to be my final word to them.

Or, perhaps even worse,

for a strange icy-cold silence to scream between us from now until the grave.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

A Little Recommendation for Morning Quiet Time

“…It is Love that causes us to rise up from spiritual sleep and open ourselves to God. Love is the call; and Love is the transforming power… God begins His greatest work when the inner man is opened to Him. He touches us with His Spirit, and His touch sends out flames that we perceive in flickers of holy awe, wonder, overwhelming beauty. God works to draw our will into His own, so that we come to want with all our heart to be made one with that flame—and the flame is Love. This is how the very life of God enters into us.—when our selfishness is consumed in the unquenchable love of the Father.”

St. John of the Cross (1542- 1591)

Searching for a book to loan a friend, I came upon a collection that has had great significance in my spiritual life.

David Hazard’s devotional series Rekindling the Inner Fire was (is) transformational.

In it, the author has unlocked the riches of Christian classics spanning the centuries, making them accessible for even the least cerebrally-oriented among us.

When I first started my spiritual quest in earnest, it was highly unlikely that I might grab St. Augustine’s Confessions or Thomas a Kempis’ Imitation of Christ off the shelf of my local bookstore. Much more of a chance that I’d be drawn to something contemporary and conversational with a flashy cover and title.

But then I stumbled upon the first of Hazard’s small but intensely powerful devotional books. They are thin, unassuming little paperbacks. You’d never imagine what deep treasures lie within.

Hazard has prayerfully chosen passages from Christian classics, both ancient and more recent, and edited and paraphrased them into contemporary English.

He introduced me to great thinkers such as St. Augustine, Theresa of Avila, Julian of Norwich, John of the Cross, Francis of Assisi, Thomas a Kempis, Amy Carmichael, Hannah Whitall Smith, and Andrew Murray.

But he did it in such a way that a harried mother of three busy young girls could work it into her daily schedule. Each book contains a collection of short devotionals from the works of the author in question. Around two pages each, followed by a short prayer. I could handle that, even with an 8:00 a.m. carpool.

I will be forever grateful. For when those girls got older, I was drawn to go back and dig deeper into those classics of which Hazard had given me a little tempting taste.

I was thrilled to discover that most of them are still in print and available on Amazon.

As you can see from the top, I’m back into John of the Cross. Maybe I’ll go back through the whole series again.

Something new comes out every time.


Does anyone have other recommendations for deep devotionals on the run?

Sometimes it seems like all the forces in the universe join together in order to prevent a morning quiet time.

For instance, the peaceful scene at the top has just been marred by a goose fight.


To see how loud a goose fight gets, turn up your volume. (Didn't grab the camera 'til it was almost over.)

Now there's a jack-hammer next door. Guess that's my signal. Bye for now.

Friday, April 8, 2011

Light From Darkness Comes

 I love my adopted second home.

Los Angeles has unique beauties. Tall palm trees sway against a background of snow-capped mountains, taking my breath away as I round a curve. Frequently, there is that rarified heavenly air: gentle, warm sun accompanied by a brisk, sprightly breeze. Summer in the sun, and fall in the shade. Delicious.

(View from church in LA)
Oh, and there are the cliffsides that swoop right down to the sea as you wind your way from Santa Monica to Malibu. Breathtaking views from high or low. Blindingly bright water sparkles on your left, boats bobbing; craggy cliffs loom over you on the right, houses hanging by a thread as they lean towards the sea.




There is nothing on earth like a Southern spring.

For me, specifically a Georgia spring.

I have been driving around this fairyland, wondering how in the world anyone could remain an atheist in such screamingly overt glory? They must be tough birds. Way tougher than me.

A Georgia spring does me in. Brings me to my knees. Brings tears to my eyes.

Every single time.

It is a Technicolor miracle taking place right before our eyes.

If we'll open them to see it.

To notice.

How does life come back from death every single year?

Light come back from darkness?

Fecundity from barrenness?

Joy from mourning?

Hope from despair?

It was a long, hard winter.

But joy comes in the morning.

Spring life comes from winter’s death.

A reminder that we are being renewed every day, just as the earth is every year.

I don’t take things like spring for granted anymore. 

I hope I never will again.

I am trying to pay more attention. Get out there in it.

(Thumbing my nose at pollen allergies.)

And rejoice.

And thank.

And praise.

And fall in love all over again.


Here's another one of Mimi's scrapbooks, celebrating spring. (With a large dose of "Grandma's Brag Book" thrown in.) If you're bored at work, feel free to share our family's photos. But please be kind. I don't claim to be a real photographer.

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