Friday, September 28, 2012

One parish's plan for the Year of Faith

I received an unexpected email yesterday from an Alabama parish telling me the pastor had "placed a large order" for copies of my Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism for use as a text in his parish program for the Year of Faith. Obviously, that news made my day, but it also got me thinking...

Are there other parishes out there look for interesting ways to approach the Year of Faith, which begins on October 11 and coincides with the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council and the 20th anniversary of the Catechism of the Catholic Church.

In Porta Fidei, his apostolic letter announcing the yearlong celebration, Pope Benedict XVI wrote that it should be a "summons to an authentic and renewed conversion to the Lord, the One Savior of the world."

"The 'door of faith' (Acts14:27) is always open for us, ushering us into the life of communion with God and offering entry into his Church," the pope wrote.

What will you do this year to deepen your relationship with Christ and perhaps walk through the
"door of faith" anew, as you did at baptism? If you or your parish are looking for resources to help you with this endeavor, consider my Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism, which explains the catechism in plain English, was vetted by a theologian, and carries an imprimatur.

Or, you might want to try my Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass, which covers not only popular Catholic devotions but silent prayer, pilgrimage, and a host of other prayer methods. In addition, it includes an entire section on the Mass, covering the new language as well as the whys and how-tos for those who'd like to refresh the Catholic teaching of their youth or deepen their already strong faith. It, too, carries an imprimatur.

Click HERE to read a review of my Complete Idiot's Guide to the Catholic Catechism. Click HERE to read a review of my Essential Guide to Catholic Prayer and the Mass, which one reviewer likened to a "textbook for Catholics."

Amazon is showing a short wait for the Complete Idiot's Guide, but I believe that's a momentary glitch. You can also order via Barnes and Noble. And, of course, both books are available for Kindle and Nook, so you don't have to wait at all! The catechism book is also available in Spanish. If you have any questions or want to know more about either of these books, feel free to email me at

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Review: 'Cravings will leave you satisfied.'

Dennis spotted this early review of one of my new books, Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God, coming from Ave Maria Press on December 17.

Here's what the reviewer at GoodReads had to say in her five-star review:
"Cravings will leave you satisfied." This book addresses issues with food, low self-esteem, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. Shows you ways to improve your life with food and God. Prayer, mindfulness, and meditation are essential for all of us as we walk this path.

"At this point, most of us have tried everything but the one thing that can truly change us: God. When we shift our focus away from our false perceptions and onto the love poured out for us in the person of Jesus Christ, we begin to take those first steps away from the path of self-hatred and self-destruction, out of the darkness and into the light of life." (NSS note: This is taken from page 34 of Cravings.)

Each chapter follows with questions to ask yourself and meditation. This is an example:

We are so willing to believe
the negative voices that echo
in our hearts and head,
the labels that make us think
we can never be good enough,
the words that cut like glass.
But our God has called us by name.
Our God holds us, treasures us,
loves us without conditions.
Is that enough for us?

"Thank more and need less." This is a book for all to read and apply to your everyday life
Cravings is now available for pre-order at Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and through Ave Maria Press

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Life in My 50s: Off to a Good Start

 My 50s are off to a delicious start thanks to the Milestone Restaurant in Glenmont. Where else could I celebrate my milestone birthday than at the Milestone?

I had this awesome, not-to-be-believed pumpkin pie martini to end my spectacular dinner. I'm not usually a fan of sweet drink concoctions, but this one? Unbelievable. So good I can't possibly do it justice. Go now before it's too late and order one for yourself. I plan to go back soon to get another taste.

Of course, our dinners were all that we expected and more of this local gem. I couldn't resist a repeat of my seared scallops on mini risotto cakes. I go for the big size (two sizes are available) and I ate every bite. Every. Bite. (See that photo? See what I mean? I dare you not to eat it all.)

Everyone else was thrilled with their meals as well, so the night was a success. And what a way to ring in this new decade.

Life in My 50s: The Adventure Begins

I hit the half-century mark today. I have to admit, this birthday feels different but not for the usual reasons. Dennis wanted to get me a fabulous "milestone" gift -- an iPhone, a supercharged juicer for my green juicing, some sort of gizmo or gadget befitting a major birthday event. Much to his chagrin, I kept saying, "No." Nothing seemed right, or necessary. There is no material thing I want or need, certainly nothing I equate with reaching 50 years old.

I think it's because this birthday calls for something much harder to grasp and impossible to buy, a new perspective, perhaps, rather than a new phone. In the not-so-distant past, my birthdays were cause for what I called the "Birthday Triduum," not one but three full days of celebration. If my birthday fell on a Friday or Monday, even better because the Triduum could include an entire weekend. Now I'm not sure I need even one day to mark the event. And it's not an age thing. I long ago came to terms with the fact that it's downhill from here in most departments. Maybe it's the notion of turning point. It seems as though 50 years presents a nice, self-contained package of sorts, something to be archived in the basement. And today I'm unwrapping a new, empty box just waiting to be filled, but with what?

My grandmother, who still lives on her own, will soon mark her 100th birthday. As I have said time and again in recent months, if I've inherited her genes and determination and strength, I get to live my entire life over again from start to finish. What would I do with another half-century of living?

I don't want the rest of my life -- however long I get -- to be only a time of fading, even though part of me welcomes that idea. (I'm continually threatening to live like a hermit in my basement office, but then I have to lead a Girl Scout meeting or drive one of the girls to dance or speak at a Catholic gathering and that idea goes out the window.) I think whatever comes next should be a time of growing in the important areas of my life, as a spiritual seeker, as a wife and mother, as a human being, and maybe in some of the less serious and more fun areas as well, things I haven't yet had a chance to try but have always wanted to tackle.

I'll see how post-50 life begins to develop in the months ahead, and you can come along for the ride. In between, I'll share bits of half-century wisdom about everything from the ridiculous to the sublime. Okay, mostly the ridiculous since sublime is way above my pay grade. Just watch for posts tagged with the "Life in My 50s" headline.

Now I'm off to blow out some candles. Anyone have a fire extinguisher?

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Remembering the 'people's priest'

Photo by Marcus Yam/New York Times
From today's "City Room" over at the New York Times online comes a story/obit that will make you stand back in awe of those Catholics -- Father Flynn, in particular -- who go out and walk the walk, no matter the cost or danger or difficulties.

Be sure to click through to the rest of this story and read more about Father Flynn, who used to tell those who visited him at his nursing home: "I can’t remember my name and address but I can remember we are supposed to be helping poor people.”

Here's the story by Winnie Hu:

The Rev. John C. Flynn could have been a monsignor, but as he told the story in later years, he refused the elevation because he already held a title more to his liking: the people’s priest.
Father Flynn, 83, who spent a half-century championing the poor, the disadvantaged and the forgotten of the Bronx, died on Monday at the Schervier Nursing Care Center in Riverdale after a long debilitating illness, according to his family.

“He did not need any title, he did not need any accolades, he just wanted to be a parish priest,” said Heidi Hynes, the executive director of the Mary Mitchell Family and Youth Center, who used to receive regular visits from Father Flynn asking what could be done to help the needy. continue reading HERE.

Friday, September 21, 2012


A sign? An omen? A "God breeze," as one Facebook friend suggested? I don't know if it's any of these things, but this butterfly certainly made my night last night. The doorbell rang around 9 p.m., and, when I answered it, this beauty was fluttering around under one of our Adirondack chairs. As I took the manila folder full of medical forms my son's Boy Scout leader was dropping off for our weekend camping trip, the butterfly flew out from under the chair and landed smack dab in the middle of the folder I was holding.

I was thrilled, calling for the kids to come look before it flew away. No worries there. It flew right into the entry way of our house and landed on the slate floor. Olivia gently picked it up, which is when I snapped that picture above. We brought it outside but it didn't want to leave. We had to pry it -- ever so softly -- off Olivia's hand and back onto the arm of the Adirondack chair.

I have to admit that it's hard not to think of this little God moment as a good sign. I've never had a butterfly land on me, much less fly into my house. And at this time in my life, when so much is changing and expanding and challenging me, it feels like a very good omen. "Metamorphosis," as another Facebook fan wrote.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

Gratitude for the ordinary

Today I am grateful for so many seemingly ordinary things....

For rain pouring down and the sound it makes as it hits the roof and drips from tree branches...

For a battery candle flickering as if it is real, for an electric fire "burning" as I write, for incense rising to the sky like my silent prayers -- unspoken but always echoing from my heart to a God who is so distant and so close all at once...

For hours of quiet and solitude stretching before me so I can write, think, pray, be...

For my family, off at school and work but safe and happy and healthy (save for one broken arm)...

For this beautiful month of September, my favorite month of the year (and not just because it includes my birthday). For all the things this month promises...crisp apples (if you can find them this year), crisp air that is just around the corner, and crisp leaves that will soon be underfoot waiting to be raked silently and slowly and mindfully beneath a bright autumn sun...

For the half-century mark of my life that is fast approaching. How did I get here? How much further will I go? Will I be like my grandmother and get to do this entire life all over again until I celebrate a century? I have already surpassed my own mother in terms of years. The mystery of it all can be overwhelming...

For every day I get, for however long...

For every person who loves me, faults and all...

For a Creator who loved me into being and loves without condition for all eternity...

Saturday, September 15, 2012

Is it food you're craving, or something more?

One of my two new books being released this fall is heading into final production. Here's a big stack of covers just waiting to be wrapped around the pages of "Cravings: A Catholic Wrestles with Food, Self-Image, and God" over at Ave Maria Press.

The official release date is December 17. You can pre-order at all the usual places. Click on the title above and you'll get Amazon. Click on the cover image below and you'll get B&N. You can also go straight to Ave Maria Press by clicking HERE.

Here's the description of the book that's up on Amazon, along with three "blurbs" from other important Catholic folks:

In this first book on the topic written from a Catholic perspective, award-winning writer Mary DeTurris Poust offers personal, hard-won wisdom on the complex relationship between food and spirituality.

Mary DeTurris Poust draws on the rich appreciation of meals she first gained at the tables of her childhood in an Italian-American family, leading readers into reflection on the connections between eating, self-image, and spirituality. Like Geneen Roth in Women, Food and God, but from a uniquely Catholic point of view, Poust helps readers spot ways they use food to avoid or ignore their real desires -- for acceptance, understanding, friendship, love, and, indeed, for God. Poust draws from scripture and the great Catholic prayer forms and devotions to assist readers in making intentional changes in their use of food. She also offers reflections on fasting, eating in solidarity with the poor, vegetarianism, and the local food movement.
 And here are the blurbs:
"Whether you're tired of being obsessed with your weight, are hungry for inner peace even more than you're hungry for food, or are desiring the freedom that comes with self-acceptance, Cravings will leave you satisfied." --Kate Wicker, Author of Weightless: Making Peace with Your Body

"This book opens a doorway to hope for anyone locked in a struggle with food. It is a refreshing guide to freedom in Christ." --Jeff Young, Podcast host of The Catholic Foodie

"Another excellent tool in Mother Church's hand to help feed God's children with what they crave most: truth, the food of saints!" --Rev. Leo Patalinghug, Author of Grace Before Meals

Friday, September 14, 2012

The space between fear and trust

This morning I returned to my beloved early morning yoga class after a very long hiatus due to a physical condition/injury. I won't bore you with details. Suffice to say, I had and will have for the rest of my life a situation that prevents me from fully doing yoga the way I like to do it.

I was supposed to be starting 200-hour yoga teacher training this month. Instead, my favorite yoga teacher is recommending I learn to be satisfied with taking classes in "chair yoga" and "water yoga." I'm not good at being satisfied with what I view as "less than," but perhaps therein lies the lesson. Another thing I really don't want to hear.

For the past few months, I have seesawed between anger and sadness -- that I can no longer do yoga the way I have always done it, that I have to accept limitations, that I have to let go of my ego in class and sometimes not do what everyone else can do, even people much older than me.

So, anyway, back to this morning... I looked at my bedside clock and saw 5:14 a.m. and realized that, if I hurried a bit, I could get to the Y in time for 5:45 a.m. class. I went back and forth in my head for at least a few minutes before I finally jumped up and starting hunting around in the dark for my yoga clothes. I got to class, settled in, and, as is always the case when I start to bend and stretch into poses, began to unwind, for the first time in months. After class, my teacher stopped to ask how it went since she knows my physical issues and worked with me when I first discovered them.

As we chatted, the conversation turned from yoga to life in general, and I let slip that I really need yoga at this point in my life because there is so much looming ahead of me that scares me. Yoga helps me quiet down long enough to pray. That's the bottom line here. I need yoga in order to enter more deeply into prayer and, as a result, enter more fully into my own life.  And this is what my yoga teacher said (more or less):

Imagine that you're swinging on a trapeze. You can see the other bar you need to grab; it's right there. But you can't get to that bar unless you let go of the one you're holding at the moment. Fear is that space between, that moment when you're not holding onto anything. You have to trust that if you let go and reach, you'll get to the other bar. And she's exactly right. I am holding onto my current trapeze bar for dear life, watching the other bar swinging and swinging and swinging just ever-so-slightly beyond my grasp. I can almost feel it, but every time I stretch in that direction, I get a bit unstable and pull back, looking down to see if the net is still there, if I have a safe escape hatch.

"What's the worst that can happen?" she asked me. Oooh, that's a question you don't want to ask someone like me. She doesn't have enough time to hear my litany of What ifs.... So I said the first thing that popped into my head: "I'll make a fool of myself." And she looked at me in the sweet and peaceful way that she has about her (because she does yoga all the time) and reminded me that fear breeds fear and that I need to let go and let the Universe accept all the fear that's weighing down my shoulders and mind and heart so I can focus on something positive.

She said "universe," but I heard God because that is my Universe. And that is what God asks of me: Don't be afraid. Surrender. Trust.

What's the worst thing that can happen? I guess the worst thing is that I'll miss the bar after all and fall to the net below. Am I willing to risk falling? Do I believe in my heart that God will catch me if that happens? Can I let go and fly through the air with nothing holding me up but trust in God, in the Universe? I guess we'll find out.

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Remembering like it was yesterday

Here's the Life Lines column I wrote just about 11 years ago, in the days following 9/11. So much has changed since that horrible morning, and yet, for me, this column still resonates with things that feel very much in tune with our world today. Here's wishing all of you, all of us a future of peace -- peace in our hearts, peace in our homes, peace on our planet.

By Mary DeTurris Poust

Noah plopped down on the floor next to me the other day and asked me to read one of his favorite books, “There’s an Alligator Under My Bed,” by Mercer Mayer. As we turned the pages and followed the little boy on his quest to capture the elusive alligator that kept him up at night, I had an eerie feeling that the story was an allegory for what I’d been feeling since that terrible morning a few days before.

The night after the World Trade Center attack, I lay awake in my bed staring at the ceiling, filled with a sense of dread that I could not quite put my finger on. I was scared, but not by the images of horror that had flashed before my eyes for hours that day. Instead my fears seemed frivolous, not at all unlike the little boy’s alligator: Had I left the dryer on in the basement? Was the window over the kitchen sink still open? Were the kids’ pajamas warm enough? I felt a childlike fear of the dark, of things no one else can see, things we parents usually try to hush with a goodnight kiss and a night-light.

When morning finally arrived, I realized that my sleeplessness wasn’t really about what might go wrong within my four walls. It was about what had gone wrong in our world. Long after I had wiped away the tears of sadness that fell as I watched the World Trade Center collapse over and over again on television’s seemingly endless loop of horror, I fought back tears of a different kind -- as I rocked Olivia to sleep for her nap, as I kissed Noah good-bye at preschool, as I hugged my husband, Dennis, at the end of a long day. Those were tears borne of fear, tears for tomorrow, tears for a world we don’t yet know. And I didn’t like how they felt.

Despite the fact that I have spent almost two years writing a book on how to help children deal with grief, the events of the past weeks left me in the unusual position of struggling for words. On the day of the attack, when Noah, asked if “bad people” might knock down our house, I reassured him that they would not. When he made a logical leap – at least for a 4-year-old – and worried that they might knock down his grandmother’s apartment building in New York City, I told him he was safe, that no one was going to hurt him or the people he loved. All the while I found myself wondering if I was telling him a lie.

But that kind of thinking leads to hopelessness, and when we lose hope, we leave a void just waiting to be filled by fear and despair and alligators of every kind. Through stories on television and in newspapers, I had seen unbelievable hopefulness in the face of utter destruction. How could I not believe in the power of the human spirit and the ultimate goodness of humanity and a better world for our children?

That night, as a soft rain fell, our house seemed wrapped in a comforting quiet that was interrupted only by the reassuring hum of the dishwasher. With Noah and Olivia asleep in their rooms, I lay down and looked up. For the first time in days I didn’t notice the enveloping darkness but saw instead the tiny glowing stars that dot our bedroom ceiling, a “gift” left behind by the previous owners. As I finally closed my eyes to sleep, I whispered a prayer of hope, a prayer for a world where the only thing our children have to fear are the imaginary monsters hiding under their beds.

Copyright 2001, Mary DeTurris Poust

Monday, September 10, 2012

Good vs. evil is often a subtle choice

This Monday morning got off to a hectic and somewhat frustrating start. Nothing major, just the usual mayhem with a couple of extra inconveniences added in. But that's all they were really -- inconveniences. Unfortunately, my glass-half-empty perspective makes mountains out of these kinds of molehills, and that just leads to more frustration, more mayhem, and all around unhappiness.

So after everyone left for school and while I was waiting for the repairman to show up and replace our smashed-in windshield, I decided to whip up some serious green juice and park myself in a deck chair for five minutes of sunshine and silent prayer along with my shot of chlorophyll.

As I read through Morning Prayer (in Give Us This Day), I got stuck on one line from Psalm 20:

"May the Lord answer you in time of trial."

When I first came back to that line, I thought, "Yes, Lord, why don't you help me in this time of trial?" As I reflected a little more and sat in silence looking up at the trees, I next thought. "Trials? Really? Nothing about your life is a trial." And then I thought about all those people I know who have real, true, heart-breaking trials in their lives. Even at its absolute worst, there really isn't anything about my current life that can be classified as a "trial." I am blessed beyond measure and recognize that true trials could come at any moment. Yet I still tend to look at what's around me and see the negatives.

So I asked God, "Why am I like this? Why did you make me this way?" Seriously. I said that out loud to the trees and sky and birds. Why can't I express my gratitude with joy rather than fear. And that's what it comes down to. Again. Fear. I'm always waiting for the other shoe to drop, always trying to prepare for the day when the blessings are pulled out from under me.

And I wondered -- as I do on a regular basis -- if it's possible to change such a central part of my personality at such a late date. Not to change my true self but to become my true self, which I think is hidden under my cynicism and doubt and fear. I've made minor advances here and there over the years, but never a major breakthrough toward joy. Joy tinged with fear, but never straight-up joy.

As I sat, hesitant to go inside just yet despite lots of work piled up on my desk, I flipped to the day's readings, which basically focus on good vs. evil, and a subsequent reflection by Sister Gail Fitzpatrick, OCSO. And I stopped cold. Clearly this was the line I was meant to read today, this was the reason I had lingered outside beyond my self-imposed time limit:

"Each of us knows the agony of daily choices that can lead to life and love, or to darkness and debilitating relationships. As individuals and communities we become who we are by the choices we make."


So I think that was the answer to my question about whether it's possible to teach an old dog new tricks. Now I just have to focus on making the right choices, not necessarily when it comes down to the big stuff (I think I've got that part down for the most part) but when it comes down to the minor details, the stuff that makes or breaks everyday life at home with a family. In a sense, it's my own personal battle with good vs. evil, light vs. dark. Not the stuff of superheroes, or even supermoms. Just the simple -- and yet sometimes oh-so-difficult -- decision to choose love.

Today, choose joy, choose life, choose blessings -- even those blessings disguised as trials.

Friday, September 7, 2012

Cardinal Dolan's closing prayer

In case you  missed it (as I did because I just couldn't stay up that late), here is Cardinal Timothy Dolan's prayer to close the Democratic National Convention (this link will take you to written version, if you prefer that over the video).

Thursday, September 6, 2012

I'll cross that bridge...

I have a bunch of projects in the works right now that, well, to be perfectly honest, scare the crap out of me. We're all friends here. I can be honest, right?

Although I can't say much about anything right now, I'll tell you this: Every single new work-related thing staring me in the face is going to push me farther and farther out of my comfort zone. And, just to be clear, my comfort zone is the corner of my basement, where I can remain an invisible entity who quietly -- and sometimes not so quietly -- writes all alone, save for the company of my two cats.

I am perfectly content to be faceless. I don't need a giant following. I don't want to get into online arguments with rabid fans. I just want to be. But apparently that's not what God has planned for me.

Why do I think it's God behind all this and not my own selfish desires? Because I have had nothing to do with anything that has come my way. I have been minding my own business, going about my mostly anonymous writing, but every week, it seems, I get another email asking me to be part of something I never would have considered for myself. I keep asking, "Is this where I'm supposed to be going?" I guess I'll never know for sure, but all I know is that I didn't choose the course. It's not like I'm sitting here with a Ouija board pushing that little wooden indicator thingamabob toward the answers I want. (Please refrain from writing to me about the dangers and sinfulness of using a Ouija board. I don't actually own a Ouija board. The image was for effect, but now it's ruined.)

I keep telling Dennis I just want to disappear, become a hermit. At almost 50 years old, that seems like the more logical path for me. Imagine a little hermit cave at the end of that bridge path in the photo above. I can see myself there quite easily. But, no, that's not where that little bridge is leading. The other side of my bridge will be filled with traffic and long car rides and occasional plane or train rides, but definitely no cave. And I'm a little panicked over that. Part of me knows I can't pass up the opportunities, and the other part of me wonders, as I always do when I find myself in this place, why not go get a little job at Hewitt's garden center? Because that's not where God keeps pushing me to be, although it's definitely my Plan B.

For now I'm trying to take it one day at a time and not let things that are weeks or months away destroy my peace today. But I'm not very good at living in the moment. I like living in a moment at least two months, maybe two years down the road. "I'll cross that bridge when I come to it" has never been my motto. I like to cross the bridge at least 50 or 60 times a day in my mind so that I'll be ready when the real bridge is finally in front of me. You can imagine how tiring it gets crossing bridges all day long.

I'll keep you posted as things progress, but, for now, if you have a minute and a prayer to spare, please put in a good word for me, that I cross the right bridge at the right time, especially if it's during rush hour.

To Rome, With Love

Two years ago at this time I was in the midst of a once-in-a-lifetime trip to Rome. Soon after, I wrote this travel story for the Albany Times Union. It is my love letter to Rome. (Be sure to click through my photos at the top of the TU link):

When in Rome...

By Mary DeTurris Poust

From the moment my plane touched down in Rome, I was in love.Visiting the country where my grandfather was born was the fulfillment of a promise I'd made to myself. I was awed by the prospect of standing in St. Peter's Square, walking through the Coliseum and soaking in the artwork of Michelangelo, Caravaggio and Bernini as I wandered through churches and piazzas.

I had 10 days to explore Rome on my first visit to the Eternal City, a trip that involved a weeklong university seminar for journalists who cover the Catholic Church. Armed with my favorite guide books, an Italian phrase book and an appetite for adventure, I set out to make the city my own. But I quickly learned that without a willingness to think outside the tourist box, my pilgrimage could deteriorate into a parade of indistinguishable ancient churches and artistic masterpieces.

So how to experience Rome like a Roman? When my wristwatch stopped working on the first day of my visit, I took it as a sign:....continue reading HERE.

Wednesday, September 5, 2012

'Love them anyway...'

Missionaries of Charity in Rome. Copyright Mary DeTurris Poust, Rome 2010.
On this feast day for Blessed Mother Teresa, I got to thinking about Mother Teresa moments in my life. The photo above is one. I had just arrived in Rome and was a little lost, when I came upon these two Missionaries of Charity. They were walking down the street, saw this homeless man and immediately knelt down beside him, took pizza bianca from their bags, and gave it to him with such tenderness and care. Of all the basilicas and great works of art I captured on camera during that trip, this image remains one of my favorites from my time in Rome.

My other Mother Teresa moment actually involved Mother Teresa. I was a young, 20-something reporter working for Catholic New York when I met her in St. Patrick's Cathedral. It was after an anniversary Mass for the late Cardinal Terence Cooke. Someone introduced me to Mother Teresa, and she reached over and touched my arm. For the longest time I held onto that sweater, not because I liked it very much (I didn't) but because Mother Teresa had touched it. Finally, somewhere along life's way, it got passed on or tossed into a donation bag. I'd like to think some person at a shelter or salvation army store got a whole bunch of unexpected grace when they picked up that used sweater.

I was having a hard time trying to decide what Mother Teresa quote I would include here today. There are just so many pearls of wisdom. Then I opened a book of daily reflections on peace (not a Catholic book) and found these words from a sign that was posted on the wall of Mother Teresa's Shishu Bhavan children's home in Calcutta:

People are unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered,
Love them anyway.
If you do good, people will accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives,
Do good anyway.
If you are successful, you win false friends and true enemies,
Succeed anyway.
The good you do will be forgotten tomorrow,
Do good anyway.
Honesty and frankness make you vulnerable,
Be honest and frank anyway.
What you spent years building may be destroyed overnight,
Build anyway.
People really need help, but may attack you if you help them,
Help people anyway.
Give the world the best you have and you'll get kicked in the teeth,
Give the world the best you've got anyway.

And in case you just want one short keeper of a Mother Teresa quote, here you go:

"What can you do to promote world peace? Go home and love your family.”

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Revelations by the light of the moon

Taken at 4:45 a.m. in my backyard

I couldn't sleep last night, so at around 4 a.m. I came downstairs to sit by the window and stare at the moon. Weird? Perhaps. But that's me. As I sat in our darkened family room looking out at the eerily bright backyard, lit only by the full moon, something occurred to me. The strange exterior landscape just beyond my window looked the way my interior landscape deep within my soul feels -- a dimly lit shadow world where nothing is absolutely certain and everything has vague edges and sketchy details. There's nothing to grasp onto, it seems. 

When the moon finally moved a bit in the sky and came into view from behind some tall maples and pines, it was as though it was shining its light right into my heart, asking me: Who are you? What do you believe? And what are you going to do with that information? But I had no answers. Only awe for the beauty of this particular moon on this particular night at this particular moment. Awe for the world we don't often see but is there nonetheless, hidden in the shadows of a suburban backyard, or in the dark recesses of our souls, places waiting to be explored if we put aside our fears.

As I continued to sit in the moonlight, I kept hearing the first line of an Emily Dickinson poem in my head: "I'm nobody. Who are you? Are you nobody, too?" Maybe it's okay to be nobody. Maybe it's okay to be uncertain. Maybe it's okay to spend time in the moonlit shadows of my soul.