Month: May 2014

Five Minute Friday: Nothing

In Christian community, I am not left with nothing. Instead, life takes on a richness I never imagined. I had some health difficulties which prevented me dancing and rushing about as I normally did. So, I learned to stroll. To savour the experience of New York City in a way I had never done before. Friends took turns walking with me when I was in a group. It touched my heart. Why would they want to walk with me? They never told me why. They simply walked with me. When a friend walked too quickly, I’d laugh and say, “Don’t worry, I’ll be there soon.” Each time, that friend would apologize and slow down.

But that’s not the way it’s supposed to be. At least not in my experience. Being unable was being dragged along. Being compelled whether there was need or not. Inability always triggered attack. It was worse than nothing. It was hell.

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Five Minute Friday is an ever-growing group of bloggers who write for five minutes flat each Friday on the same prompt that Lisa Jo Baker posts each Thursday evening. It’s five minutes to see what comes out: not a perfect post, not a profound post, just five minutes of focused writing. Those without a blog can post their five minute piece as a comment on Lisa Jo Baker’s blog. For more details, visit Five Minute Friday.

The WRiTE CLUB

DL Hammons hosts the WRiTE CLUB:

It’s a modest writing competition whose inspiration was derived from the movie FIGHT CLUB.  There are numerous versions of this concept around the internet, but nothing like we do it here.  This unique approach, combined with your participation, continues to set it apart from the other writing competitions and is responsible for its phenomenal growth.  Its essence embodies simple, good-natured competition, with lots and lots of fun sprinkled on top.

WRiTE CLUB Logo2Over the course of eight weeks I’ll be holding twice-weekly bouts in which the winners will advance to the play-offs, which will ultimately lead to a single champion.  Bouts between who…or what…you ask.  Anonymous 500 word writing samples, submitted under a pen name by anyone who wishes to take part, that’s who.   The writing can be any genre, any style (even poetry) with the word count being the only restriction.  It’s a way to get your writing in front of a lot of readers, without having to suffer the agony of exposure.

And the winners are determined by WRiTE CLUB readers!

Check DL Hammons’ post for more information. Submit entries to klhtravel@gmail.com. And on June 16th, prepare to read and vote on the best entries at the WRiTE CLUB.

Excerpt From The Last Chapter: It’s All Banquet

In the end, it’s all banquet. Sometimes I hate the dishes served. Sometimes, I respond as I do when DM says, “Oatmeal.” (She says it intentionally.) My face screws up, my entire body shudders, my hands twitch and I attempt, like a baby, to ward off the vile mess being pushed into my mouth. Sometimes, I hate the decor. Sometimes, I want to flee my dinner partners. But it’s still the banquet, the wedding banquet of the Lamb. It’s not something I’ll do in heaven. The Lamb’s wedding banquet is here today. On earth, the Lamb’s banquet isn’t always pleasant. Sometimes greedy people eat all the food, or the air conditioning doesn’t work, or some creepy guy talks about his mom’s health, and there are always annoying line dances that are really the Hokey Pokey in disguise. I can attend. I can leave. Still, wherever I go, I cannot escape the fire, the sword, the discord, or the cross. All I can do is decide: go, avoid. If I go, I inherit the promises: I will not be consumed, I will find my life, I will save my life.

Fallen human beings will continue to be fallen. Once I wished otherwise. God refused to exempt me from suffering. I’m glad He did. If God followed my scripts, He wouldn’t be much of a God. He’d limit me to my imagination but never anything more. It’s too little. I need infinitely more than I can ask or imagine. I’m not big enough to be my own God. I’m not even big enough to know what I need.

Who could imagine that throwing me to the pigs would save my life? Not I. Who could imagine that my curiosity would lead me to forgive the unforgivable? Not I. Who could imagine I could ever be innocent again? Certainly, not I. Nor did I know how to make any of it happen. I would have made radically different choices for myself. If I don’t know what’s best for me, how can I know what’s best for creation? If what I want is often not what I need, then I can’t depend on myself to be the ultimate arbiter of anything. I never would have saved the world with a baby. God did. I never would have included the cross. God did. Many times, I dislike His choices but I know they are right because they allow each of us to choose freely. God loves our freedom so much, that He will allow us to viciously tear each other apart. Yet our choices for others are never the final word.

Those who killed my family made real choices. My parents trusted God to care for me. He has. He does. He made me able to pray for those who made such evil choices. I do. My parents would be proud of me. It hurts to write that. They are proud of me. Those who brutalized me made real choices. They failed. I have so many failings and sins, but I’m not the person they tried to make me. The vampires hurt me but didn’t turn me. Instead, God used their actions to make me more than I ever imagined. I actually love the people who tried to destroy me. How weird is that? I’m excited about the person He is making me? As a child, I tried to kill myself and now, even when life is really tough and scary, suicide has absolutely no appeal. God peeled away my terror. I thought that impossible. My life is filled with impossible things that God wove together using wickedness and evil. The gates of hell have not prevailed. Christ reached down into the hells others cast me into, the hells I’ve created for myself, and set me free. And usually, His hands have been the hands of strangers, the people who hurt me the most.

Five Minute Friday: Close

Theme from Chapter 5:

All my friends were married or getting married and I wanted to get married too. So when a cute, interesting guy and I became friends at work, and became close over ice cream cones and long walks at lunch, I thought, Yes! Here’s my guy. I didn’t think of really knowing him, didn’t know what really knowing him meant — didn’t know myself. I though marriage. From our first “date.” I begged God for him, even told God that I would not ask for anything else. I was stupid. Close is sometimes not at all close. Sometimes, close is physical proximity with utter distance.

Excerpt from Chapter 4: “Child, I Love You”

How will I make it through? I silently inquired of my Friend as I waited in the dedicated cheque cashing queue. My body ached to be walking in the bright, sunny warmth outside. I have three hundred dollars. There’s my utility bill. I need lens solution and tights, and so many other things. It’s not enough. Why is there never enough?

Do you remember when you were eleven and wanted some extra Christmas money? the voice asked. What happened?

I found thirty-eight dollars and bought things for the other kids. The boys said it was the best Christmas since their mother died.

Do you remember when you spent seventeen dollars on your Halloween costume and couldn’t return them even though they didn’t work? the voice asked again.

Oh yes. I found twenty dollars in the sawdust at the lumber shop. When I asked if anyone had dropped it, the owner said, ‘It must be yours.’ I responded my nose almost itching at the memory of the sawdust, my face a smile.

And do you remember this past Easter when your roommate was out of work and you had saved to buy a dress? the voice asked once more.

Of course I do. I really wanted that dress. I hadn’t had a new one in years. But I knew I’d have to help her. She helped me when I needed it. Then, the insurance cheque came, out of the blue. Enough to cover her share of the rent and tide her over until she found a new job. And the dress — it was the kind of silk Marmar used to wear. It felt so wonderful to wear a dress like hers, to feel that fabric again. I was really missing her.

Child, the voice continued, if I have cared for you all this time, what makes you think I would stop now?

I looked down at my shoes as I used to do during church when I was a child.They needed cleaning, Umm… I don’t know.

Child, I love you, the voice told me gently.

My lower lip curled.

Child, I love you, He spoke within my heart again.

1st Donation (Yeah!) & Fighting Complacency

This morning, Elisabetta Zaffroni, a friend from Communion and Liberation, sent me my first donation to help complete and edit Loved As If. After telling friends last week that I suck at fundraising, it was a grand surprise. One, I definitely needed. My health insurance bill is $2000/month. Paying that bill is the “complete” part. If I raise another $6,950, my health insurance for June and July, and the cost of an editor will be covered. So please, seriously consider making a contribution. It matters, a lot.

At the same time, I’m looking for a job. A real, 9 to 5 job (though I understand hours are a bit different in TX), in law, my previous field, as a paralegal or case manager. Writing Loved As If is my primary avocation. But it’s far enough along so that I can work for an hour or two at night and on Saturday and still complete and have it edited by the end of the summer. Spending less on health insurance would also be nice. But that’s not my primary reason for returning to work.

I moved to Houston because I wanted to get better. For the past six months, I’ve been off the medications that caused such bad side affects, I couldn’t work. God is very, very good. He sent the right physical therapist into my life and gave me the patience to spend an entire year slowly tapering off medication when I just wanted to set a date and stop taking them. He also made me someone who enjoys working.

The character, J. P. Huddle, complains in Saki’s “The Unrest Cure”:

We like everything to be exactly in its accustomed place; we like things to happen exactly at their appointed times; we like everything to be usual, orderly, punctual, methodical, to a hair’s breadth, to a minute. It distresses and upsets us if it is not so. For instance, to take a very trifling matter, a thrush has built its nest year after year in the catkin-tree on the lawn; this year, for no obvious reason, it is building in the ivy on the garden wall. We have said very little about it, but I think we both feel that the change is unnecessary, and just a little irritating.(1)

Complacency is deadly. In NYC, I intentionally left my inexpensive apartment on Staten Island and moved back to Manhattan because I realized, my life was too self-centered. Roommates tend to make demands; giving way to others is a good thing. I need to give way now. Being with the same people, day in and day out, is a very good thing. Familiarity may breed contempt in some, but it can also breed so many fruits of the Spirit. Please pray for me as I continue working on Loved As If and search for work. Thank you.

1. The Unrest Cure, Saki (http://eastoftheweb.com/short-stories/UBooks/UnrCur.shtml)

Excerpt from Ch. 5: “You Are Kern”

His plane is landing soon. I rush to the airport. I must see him. When I arrive the gate has been changed. I run to the new gate. Now, the terminal has also been changed. I run through the airport to the new terminal. Each time I arrive, there is a change. I’ll never find him, I mutely tell my Friend as I continue running. Finally, I see him: salt and pepper hair, heavy on the salt, tall, tanned, ice blue eyes. He is dressed in a tan safari jacket and khaki cargo pants, looks as if he’s been traveling a lot.

I approach him, reach out a hand, and touch his arm, “Are you…?” He turns. My heart leaps. He pulls me into a strong hug that lasts and lasts but is still too brief. We sit in the waiting area and talk. “I have been looking for you for a long time,” he tells me. “Where have you been,” I want to know. He is about to answer. A voice announces his connecting flight, “I must go.” “But… at least tell me my name!” tears steam down my face. A huge hole has opened in my heart. He places one finger in my chest and says, “You are Kern.” The morning sun awakens me: “Kern?” I ask my Friend. “Is that my name?”

Warning: America is dangerous for kids

By Bevil Bramwell, OMI   (That Catholic Thing; Sunday, 18 May 2014)
“Michael Petit, president of Every Child Matters, writes that: ‘Over the past ten years, more than 20,000 American children are believed to have been killed in their own homes by family members. That is nearly four times the number of U.S. soldiers killed in Iraq and Afghanistan.’

“I went back to that article on the BBC website after reading another the other day entitled: ‘Who are the fifty-five bodies buried at the Dozier School?’ It describes a real horror: ‘Within the past year, anthropologists working for the University of South Florida (USF) have exhumed the remains of fifty-five children on the grounds of the now-shuttered Arthur G. Dozier School for Boys.’ The rest of the story is a disturbing account of physical abuse at the reform school, which operated from 1900-2011. (In addition, such facts have to be laid out alongside the truly horrific statistics of abortions in the United States.)

“American culture is appallingly hostile to children. Not only does our obsession with power and violence lead to this hostility, but our Enlightenment sense of the mere utility of kids promotes the killing of unborn children because they are inconvenient. The statistics on violence and kids in Catholic situations are probably comparable to those in the rest of society because our institutions show similar incidences for all the other social deviations.

“The deeper problem for Catholics – and all those who have a sane view of such things – lies in the irreplaceable value of children in society. Vatican II taught that: ‘By their very nature, the institution of matrimony itself and conjugal love are ordained for the procreation and education of children, and find in them their ultimate crown.’ Wipe out the children, or abuse them in some other way, and marriage itself becomes a kind of horrible farce, an evil caricature of true union and true love. Our own sin and societal evil will always lead us to underestimate just how much damage is done.

“The Council went on to speak about the treasure of the union of the married couple: ‘As a mutual gift of two persons, this intimate union and the good of the children impose total fidelity on the spouses and argue for an unbreakable oneness between them.’ The good of the children is part of the spiritual and material cement that holds the couple to increased efforts in lovingly relating to each other and their kids, with deep respect as persons imaging the personal God.

“More profoundly still: ‘As living members of the family, children contribute in their own way to making their parents holy. For they will respond to the kindness of their parents with sentiments of gratitude, with love and trust. They will stand by them as children should when hardships overtake their parents and old age brings its loneliness.” (Vatican II) The wonderful interrelationships of parents and kids create a network of grace and truth.

“These are not sectarian values, but are founded within the natural law and elevated by God’s grace. At no point are the parents held as more valuable than their children. What the Council did was to safeguard the interrelationships constituting the family instead of giving overriding priority to the rights of individuals – and thus the priority of adults – and distorting what a family actually is. The Council’s teaching that children assist their parents in becoming holy takes us into the most transcendent dimension of the phenomenon of human family. This may in fact provide the key to the strange connection in the United States between children and violence.

“If the human family is created to bring people to holiness, then of course we will oppose that reality in proportion to our sinfulness. We will also conceal it in proportion to our sinfulness. Notice that the information cited above about the Dozier School came from foreign and not domestic news services. The larger issue is that the spirit of this world does not want our holiness. This is where the Church faces a challenge.

“Putting aside the clergy and laity who are anti-family, the rest of the Church should be engaged in building families at every opportunity. The abuse scandals have seriously disrupted the Church’s work with children. No surprise there. If children are a source of holiness then of course the Evil One will attack the Church through children.

“By making them more expensive to operate, society is squeezing out Catholic schools that usually teach values that are an affront to a corrupt society. Congregations of religious are getting out of caring for children because they are seeking more ‘relevant’ ministries. The choice of what is relevant comes from a sinful society that has no business deciding such things. But that truth has not yet risen to consciousness on any great scale here.

“Family is one thing that Catholicism should be going all out to develop and sustain. Maybe it would lead to a rebirth of the Church and the culture. But for now, ‘the problem of violence against children [is]. . .much more acute in the U.S. than anywhere else in the industrialized world.’ (Michael Petit)”

Fr. Bevil Bramwell, OMI PhD is the former Undergraduate Dean at Catholic Distance University. His books are Laity: Beautiful, Good and TrueThe World of the Sacraments, and, most recently, Catholics Read the Scriptures: Commentary on Benedict XVI’s Verbum Domini.
© 2014 The Catholic Thing. All rights reserved. For reprint rights, write to: info@frinstitute.org

Another Excerpt From Ch. 4: How I Wrote About God Without Mentioning God

I really want to write about You, I mutely told my Friend as I slipped the proposal for my senior thesis through my advisor’s slot twenty minutes before the building closed. You’re everywhere, I continued. Why can’t they see You? I sighed, I hope he accepts it.

My advisor smiled as I walked through his office door the following week, “This is an interesting idea. I can’t wait to see what you do with it.” I let my book bag drop to the floor and took a seat. “Tell me about…,” he glanced at my proposal, “The Development of the Daemonic in Modern English Short Stories.” I took a deep breath and began as I had practiced, “In grammar school, I discovered Shirley Jackson and Sheridan LeFanu. Here, I discovered E. M. Forster, Saki and Yates’ Mythologies. When I compare them, I realize they all wrote of the daemonic. It’s not necessarily evil but it’s definitely another order of life that isn’t necessarily safe, as C. S. Lewis would say. I want to write about the ways the idea of the daemonic changes as the West becomes more industrialized and more culturally diverse. Daemons leave the woods and fields and enter the drawing rooms.” He nodded, “I like this idea. Let me know how I can help you.” I giggled softly as I walked down the hall, He doesn’t know, I can’t write about the daemonic without writing about You. But I can write about You without mentioning You.

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