“Whatever you do, think of the glory of God as your main goal.” St. John Bosco

Do you want to romanticize your life? Here’s a way to do it. It’s not the burden I once thought it might be. I was the burden. My pride, my striving, my need to produce worthwhile things for the fleeting praise I’d receive. I didn’t believe in a yoke being light. A yoke meant work and I was certain it had to be done one way. My way. The idea of bringing glory to anyone but me seemed disappointing. Yet the glory was short-lived, elusive and exhausting. I wasn’t even doing things I felt called to do.

"Come to Me, all you who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.  Take My yoke upon you and learn from Me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For My yoke is easy and My burden is light.” Matthew 11:28-30

When you are called to something, the suffering should not make you more and more miserable. You know those times when you decide to do the right thing and yet it doesn’t feel right to you at all? I’ve done that more times than I can count. Sometimes I would even convince myself that God had commanded me to do such and such a thing when he hadn’t said a word.


The feel of God’s yoke is the difference between feeling content in the flow and feeling miserably tired, frustrated and angry. I’ve tried putting mini horse harnesses on sheep. They just don’t like it. I’ve often ended up like my sheep when I’ve avoided what I’ve been put here to do. The things I’ve done that seemed more selfless sometimes have been the very worst things I could have done because my motives were wrong. Often the noble things I’ve picked for myself are carefully disguised ways to avoid the fear of creating something authentic — that might not please others or be any good at all.


The world needs people who are doing things for the glory of God. So often I’ve taken on tasks that are horrible as a way of doing penance for time spent creating things I love and enjoy. This inner exchange system has usually put me on the losing end of things. What’s worse is that there’s been no glory for anyone involved.


I could say I was trying to please God, but that’s a lie. I was afraid of being me. Afraid of being called selfish or lacking in talent. So I chose things that either impressed others or filled my days with drudgery. No one asked me to do this. Even on great days of peak creativity I sought to downplay the joy of following the call that had always been there.


Why do we do this to ourselves? Life on a micro scale, minus the news (which I’ve been fasting from) is pretty incredible today. September makes everything golden. There’s a breeze outside my window. The flower seeds I scattered with glorious abandon this spring are calling in the bees and Monarchs. I never put limits on scattering flower seeds. I don’t think of myself as a gardener so my ego stays put. The flowers bring glory to God not me. I love them. I don’t need them to reflect me at all.


I thought I had to make my creative call burdensome even after years of reading about the Pharisees! Bringing glory to God is taking those pictures because you love taking photos. It’s that page written because you love your characters the way God loves you. Oxen clearing fields of old tree stumps for the gentle farmer who knows just how to carve the right yoke and how to give the proper feed and encouragement are happy oxen.


Of course we all have a certain amount of drudgery in life, but I noticed today that without the added burdens I place on tasks, I can do them more effortlessly. I’ve realized that doing things you love with gratitude instead of fear and guilt brings the most glory to God.


How about you? I’d love to know if you have struggled with guilt as a creative Do you “even things out” by taking on more than you can handle? How do you get in God’s flow?

The Cry of the Deer (St. Patrick’s Breastplate)

I arise today 
Through a mighty strength, the invocation of the Trinity,
Through belief in the Threeness,
Through confession of the Oneness
of the Creator of creation.

I arise today
Through the strength of Christ's birth with His baptism,
Through the strength of His crucifixion with His burial,
Through the strength of His resurrection with His ascension,
Through the strength of His descent for the judgment of doom.

I arise today
Through the strength of the love of cherubim,
In the obedience of angels,
In the service of archangels,
In the hope of resurrection to meet with reward,
In the prayers of patriarchs,
In the predictions of prophets,
In the preaching of apostles,
In the faith of confessors,
In the innocence of holy virgins,
In the deeds of righteous men.

I arise today, through
The strength of heaven,
The light of the sun,
The radiance of the moon,
The splendor of fire,
The speed of lightning,
The swiftness of wind,
The depth of the sea,
The stability of the earth,
The firmness of rock.

I arise today, through
God's strength to pilot me,
God's might to uphold me,
God's wisdom to guide me,
God's eye to look before me,
God's ear to hear me,
God's word to speak for me,
God's hand to guard me,
God's shield to protect me,
God's host to save me
From snares of devils,
From temptation of vices,
From everyone who shall wish me ill,
afar and near.

I summon today
All these powers between me and those evils,
Against every cruel and merciless power
that may oppose my body and soul,
Against incantations of false prophets,
Against black laws of pagandom,
Against false laws of heretics,
Against craft of idolatry,
Against spells of witches and smiths and wizards,
Against every knowledge that corrupts man's body and soul;
Christ to shield me today
Against poison, against burning,
Against drowning, against wounding,
So that there may come to me an abundance of reward.

Christ with me,
Christ before me,
Christ behind me,
Christ in me,
Christ beneath me,
Christ above me,
Christ on my right,
Christ on my left,
Christ when I lie down,
Christ when I sit down,
Christ when I arise,
Christ in the heart of every man who thinks of me,
Christ in the mouth of everyone who speaks of me,
Christ in every eye that sees me,
Christ in every ear that hears me.

Vastness by Alfred Lord Tennyson

MANY a hearth upon our dark globe sighs after many a vanish’d face,
Many a planet by many a sun may roll with the dust of a vanish’d race.
II.
Raving politics, never at rest—as this poor earth’s pale history runs,—
What is it all but a trouble of ants in the gleam of a million million of suns?
III.
Lies upon this side, lies upon that side, truthless violence mourn’d by the Wise,
Thousands of voices drowning his own in a popular torrent of lies upon lies;
IV.
Stately purposes, valour in battle, glorious annals of army and fleet,
Death for the right cause, death for the wrong cause, trumpets of victory, groans of defeat;
V.
Innocence seethed in her mother’s milk, and Charity setting the martyr aflame;
Thraldom who walks with the banner of Freedom, and recks not to ruin a realm in her name.
VI.
Faith at her zenith, or all but lost in the gloom of doubts that darken the schools;
Craft with a bunch of all-heal in her hand, follow’d up by her vassal legion of fools;
VII.
Trade flying over a thousand seas with her spice and her vintage, her silk and her corn;
Desolate offing, sailorless harbours, famishing populace, wharves forlorn;
VIII.
Star of the morning, Hope in the sunrise; gloom of the evening, Life at a close;
Pleasure who flaunts on her wide downway with her flying robe and her poison’d rose;
IX.
Pain, that has crawl’d from the corpse of Pleasure, a worm which writhes all day, and at night
Stirs up again in the heart of the sleeper, and stings him back to the curse of the light;
X.
Wealth with his wines and his wedded harlots; honest Poverty, bare to the bone;
Opulent Avarice, lean as Poverty; Flattery gilding the rift in a throne;
XI.
Fame blowing out from her golden trumpet a jubilant challenge to Time and to Fate;
Slander, her shadow, sowing the nettle on all the laurel’d graves of the Great;
XII.
Love for the maiden, crown’d with marriage, no regrets for aught that has been,
Household happiness, gracious children, debtless competence, golden mean;
XIII.
National hatreds of whole generations, and pigmy spites of the village spire;
Vows that will last to the last death-ruckle, and vows that are snapt in a moment of fire;
XIV.
He that has lived for the lust of the minute, and died in the doing it, flesh without mind;
He that has nail’d all flesh to the Cross, till Self died out in the love of his kind;
XV.
Spring and Summer and Autumn and Winter, and all these old revolutions of earth;
All new-old revolutions of Empire—change of the tide—what is all of it worth?
XVI.
What the philosophies, all the sciences, poesy, varying voices of prayer?
All that is noblest, all that is basest, all that is filthy with all that is fair?
XVII.
What is it all, if we all of us end but in being our own corpse-coffins at last,
Swallow’d in Vastness, lost in Silence, drown’d in the deeps of a meaningless Past?
XVIII.
What but a murmur of gnats in the gloom, or a moment’s anger of bees in their hive?—
.     .     .     .     .
Peace, let it be! for I loved him, and love him for ever: the dead are not dead but alive.

THE LIVING AND THE DEAD AND ALFRED LORD TENNYSON

Is There a Perfect Age to Die?

Is it better to die young or old? Isn’t it true that when we hear of a young person or a child who dies we feel it to be terribly tragic? On my travels this past summer I visited my dead relatives in a forgotten cemetery surrounded by state forest where the trees are planted in far more uniform lines than the grave stones.

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An uncle of mine was the cemetery sexton over a century ago who’s job it was to dig the holes when the ground was thawed for burial of the little community’s dead. In his neat 19th century script he kept records of the friends and family he helped to bury for a fee, making sure to note who had paid and who had not.

My grandfather (4x) was all paid up in 1860. In that same year his four-year-old son had died and his married daughter too.  On my summer trip I met distant cousins who made a picnic for us by the pond so when we went to the cemetery I wasn’t really able to soak it in as much as I would have liked (though meeting my  cousins and feeling instantly attached to them made up for the little disappointment).

XVXW1091I made sure to take a solitary trip in the fall to commune with my dead. People talk of soul mates but do they talk of soul places? The place my soul is drawn to is a bleak and beautiful county in Upstate New York. If I could live beside the cemetery I would be quite pleased.

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On this second trip, with the wind causing the pines to whisper all around, not a soul stirred for a mile. So much of the county is deserted now and all of my family farm land is owned by the grabby hands of the state. All of the woods chopped by my New England ancestors are back to “forest” though there is hardly a wild feel to these managed rows.

Back to the dead.

I entered the cemetery through the opening in the rock wall that surrounds the place. Once an iron banner stood over the entranceway, but someone had carried it away for their antiques collection or had destroyed it for fun. Nobody knows.  The stones stood white for over a century until acid rain  became a thing and turned the limestone black.

IMG_0098And still I avoid talking of the dead — though I have no fear of death because of the very people I came to visit. As the wind picked up and the loneliness of the place heightened my awareness of the longing I always have to time travel I found my grandfather’s stone. My grandmother’s had broken in two and lay beside her husband’s.

No one believed way back then that this grandfather would keep the faith after his conversion but he did and made sure that his stone would declare this faith with the Holy Bible carved at the very top. He had one made for his wife and even his adult daughter. Of course in a God-fearing community of Baptists the style of stone could have been the basic model, but not everyone in the cemetery have such stones.

My aunt (4x) and even the sexton who was her husband are buried close by, but little Jesse, my Grandfather’s son who died at the age of four, lies close beside his grandfather’s stone. Jesse’s stone is ornate in comparison to many of the others and has a long and hard-to-read epitaph. I knelt before it in the moist grass and scratched the moss from the stone to get a better look. Much of the epitaph has been worn away but there are words about eternity, sorrow and love.

What is the most tragic age to die?

Is it even a tragedy? As a mother of adult children I still pray that I die before my children do, yet I totally believe in the eternity of souls. I was thinking the other day that a long life carries with it far more suffering than a short one. I was reminded of this idea  when reading The Brother’s Karamazov:

“Add to that that he was to some extent a youth of our last epoch — that is, honest in nature, desiring the truth, seeking for it and believing in it, and seeking to serve it at once with all the strength of his soul, seeking for immediate action, and ready to sacrifice everything , life itself, for it. Though these young men unhappily fail to understand that the sacrifice of life is, in many cases, the easiest of all sacrifices …”

This is not to say a child is seeking after all of this. The cuteness of children, the holy innocence of them is maybe why we hate their loss the most and miss them more terribly (if that is true and I’m not certain) amidst this worldly corruption. When young men and women (but still mostly men) sacrifice themselves for causes and wars the thing is terrible, but glorified. But to live on and die an average age, to experience the death of others, to be diagnosed with disease, to fail at work, to be stuck in deep depression or chronic pain … most of these things are reserved for the middle-aged and the elderly.

In the Catholic Church it is not a sin to talk to redeemed souls, to ask after them, and to beg them to pray before God’s throne for us. We can also pray for them. This absolutely thrills me. I’m in no hurry to die, but I long for the day when I will meet generations of family.

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By the road side where my soul lives …

I feel strengthened especially by those who lived long and hard lives, who learned things from deep suffering and carried on with mystic purpose. In ways that I can’t explain, I feel especially close to some of my dead. I know and have experienced signs that we loved each other deeply in another place. Some people would say it’s a coping mechanism or the product of an active imagination, but the older I get the more I feel it’s true and the less I worry about the end.

Have you ever been in touch with dead souls? Let me know in the comments!

 

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

IMG_4252A few weeks ago I visited with a lady who rescued a cream-colored dairy goat from a farmer who had bred the goat multiple times. No problem there, but when the goat waddled out of her cozy, straw-filled stall into the main section of the sweet-smelling barn I saw right away why this woman had felt the creature needed to live with her.

The goat had deformed front hooves that caused her to walk on her knees. She also had a huge under-bite which made her look funny. My first thought was that most people would have put this animal down at birth. Instead the farmers bred her multiple times (maybe a financial necessity) before agreeing to give the goat away.

At this point when the lady was telling me the story  the goat had come up beside me, giving me soulful look. It leaned in like a Golden Retriever would waiting to be petted. The lady told me that many adults and children have found peace and some healing from emotional wounds just by sitting with this little beam of sunshine. Who is to say that her life doesn’t matter?

For you have formed my inward parts: you have covered me in my mother’s womb.

I will praise you; for I am fearfully and wonderfully made: marvelous are your works; and that my soul knows right well.

My frame was not hid from you, when I was made in secret, and skillfully wrought in the lowest parts of the earth.

Your eyes did see my substance, being yet unformed; and in your book they were all written, the days fashioned for me, when as yet there were none of them.

How precious also are your thoughts unto me, O God! how great is the sum of them!

Psalm 139:13-17

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Pray for New York

 

 

Sunday at Middlemay Farm

Enlarge Within Us a Sense of Fellowship
By St. Basil (300? – 375 A.D.)

The earth is the Lord’s and the fullness thereof.

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Oh, God, enlarge within us the sense of fellowship with all living things; with our brothers the animals to whom Thou gavest the earth as their home in common with us.

We remember with shame that in the past we have exercised the high dominion of man with ruthless cruelty so that the voice of the earth, which should have gone up to Thee in song, has been a groan of travail.

May we realize that they live not for us alone, but for themselves, and for Thee, and that they love the sweetness of life even as we, and serve Thee in their place better than we in others.

The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

 

Ring Out Wild Bells by Alfred Tennyson

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Ring out the old, ring in the new,
Ring, happy bells, across the snow;
The year is going, let him go;
Ring out the false, ring in the true.

Ring out, wild bells, to the wild sky,
The flying cloud, the frosty light:
The year is dying in the night;
Ring out, wild bells, and let him die.

Ring out the grief that saps the mind,
For those that here we see no more;
Ring out the feud of rich and poor,
Ring in redress to all mankind.

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Ring out false pride in place and blood,
The civic slander and the spite;
Ring in the love of truth and right,
Ring in the common love of good.

Ring out a slowly dying cause,
And ancient forms of party strife,
Ring in the nobler modes of life,
With sweet manners, purer laws.

Ring out old shapes of foul disease;
Ring out the narrowing lust of gold;
Ring out the thousand wars of old,
Ring in the thousand years of peace.

Ring in the valiant man and free,
The larger heart, the kindlier hand;
Ring out the darkness of the land,
Ring in the Christ that is to be.

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***“Ring Out, Wild Bells” is a poem by Alfred, Lord Tennyson. Published in 1850, the year he was appointed Poet Laureate, it forms part of In Memoriam, Tennyson’s elegy to Arthur Henry Hallam, his sister’s fiancé who died at the age of twenty-two. Wikipedia

$.99 SALE NOW! ENTIRE SERIES! READ IT TODAY!

The Tenafly Road Series
“Characters so deep you follow them into the abyss, hoping to come out unscathed, but never returning the same. They will haunt me forever.”

The Return of the Heroes (In Honor of Veterans)

When late I sang sad was my voice,

Sad were the shows around me with deafening noises of hatred
and smoke of war;

In the midst of the conflict, the heroes, I stood,

Or pass’d with slow step through the wounded and dying.

 

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But now I sing not war,

Nor the measur’d march of soldiers, nor the tents of camps,

Nor the regiments hastily coming up deploying in line of battle;

No more the sad, unnatural shows of war.

 

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Ask’d room those flush’d immortal ranks, the first forth-stepping
armies?

Ask room alas the ghastly ranks, the armies dread that follow’d.

(Pass, pass, ye proud brigades, with your tramping sinewy legs,

With your shoulders young and strong, with your knapsacks and
your muskets;

How elate I stood and watch’d you, where starting off you
march’d.

Pass—then rattle drums again,

For an army heaves in sight, O another gathering army,

Swarming, trailing on the rear, O you dread accruing army,

O you regiments so piteous, with your mortal diarrhoea, with your
fever,

O my land’s maim’d darlings, with the plenteous bloody bandage
and the crutch,

Lo, your pallid army follows.)

Walt Whitman

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Sunday at Middlemay Farm

“Ask the animals, and they will teach you,

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or the birds of the air, and they will tell you;

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or speak to the earth, and it will teach you, or let the fish of the sea inform you.

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Which of these does not know that the hand of the Lord has done this? In his hand is the life of every creature and the breath of all mankind.” (Job 12:7-10)

 

HAVE A PEACEFUL WEEK!