Journal: July 4, 2021

It would not be proper if I did not begin by wishing you all a happy 4th of July! Our nation is now 244 years old. All those years ago we seemed to have been a child that was far too wise for its age, but today… well, we seem to have reverted to some other child, pitching temper tantrums in the middle of the grocery store aisle. That said…

We may not always be happy with the direction of things, but we’ll defend the leaders and the rest of the motley crew to the death.

Yesterday, as I was writing on The Marble Finger and at the end of an intercalary chapter, I added: The Rev. Timothy Powell was always a bit of a coward. And all this talk of the talons of hell had brought on a severe case of nerves in his bowels…. (I’m not going to give things away here!) The question I have: who the hell is this guy? I was minding my own business, writing a book, and then this Rev. Timothy Powell with the bowels shows up! What the heck is he up to? That is one of the joys of writing fiction, but it also makes you feel a bit schizophrenic. There you are, minding your own business, and… BAM!… somebody shows up that you don’t know or someone does something unexpected…. Yeah. It is fun. Tomorrow will be another day of edits… two chapters for that… and writing. I still like Hemingway’s advice on this: “Write drunk. Edit Sober.” Well, I won’t be getting drunk, but the adult beverage on a day off is a given… “Cheers to you!”

For me, with books or movies, if it ain’t no good, I don’t bother finishing. I’ve got other things to do with my time, which is why there is no movie report today. I started several, got a few minutes in (one even 30 minutes) and hit the exit button. Awful. If you’ve got a title, please feel free to pass it along. And, let’s be honest, watching foxes bounce on trampolines are hard to beat, which reminds me… I have discovered the short films on YouTube. Why did I not know they were out there? Between eight and thirty minutes… sci-fi, drama, comedy… some of these are quite brilliant. They are like the “tweet” version of a regular movie. Here’s a good sci-fi short with an excellent moral teaching…

Whichever genre you’re a fan of, you’ll likely be able to find some pretty amazing shorts. I tend to go for the sci-fi or comedy, but there are some that are brilliant, but will break your dang heart.

I’m not real sure how today’s preachy thing went, but I liked the message. Perhaps the Spirit worked in the midst of my ramblings and someone heard a note that resonated with them. Each week I try and do better than I did the previous…. that is accomplished at times and at others… not so much. Like writing fiction, if you are trying to listen, you don’t always know where things are going or the message that is trying to spoken, but the LORD does and I’m confident he will use our most floundering attempts for his purposes. I do know that if I apply myself fully to the task and do the best I can, then I feel that I’ve been faithful to the calling. I’ll find out at the end of days.

I planted rocks a month or so back, but now I’m wondering if I should have planted wildflowers instead. They are lovely… I’m a fan of symmetry, but I think to break it up enhances it in other ways. Thoughts?

What did I learn today? Within each of us is another that is who we truly are. That other wants to be known, because that other is the one that is true. How many layers must be excavated before the other is revealed? There will always be one who knows it… just one… but seek to make the other known, for that is who you were meant to be. Who you were created to be. I said it during the sermon, but perhaps not so clearly: Allow the other one to shine. He / She is your purpose.

Thought for the day: “When I look through God’s eyes at my lost self and discover God’s joy at my coming home, then my life may become less anguished and more trusting.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen, Return of the Prodigal Son // What if… and just play along for a minute, because most don’t believe this to be true… What if God really loves you? What if you are a miracle of God and God desires to perform miracles through you? What if it is all true? Then………….

…………. why are you still sitting there?

Journal: June 30, 2021

Homemade bread… so good when it is fresh out of the oven. This is an artesian round loaf. Very simple. Rises for 24 hours then… deliciousness. Make that fabulous dipping sauce of Italian seasoning, ev olive oil, and balsamic vinegar. Eat until it is time for supper. Oy!

But then, it is not done, because there is… homemade bread sandwiches, homemade bread toast, homemade bread toast with local honey, homemade bread toast with the center cut out and the egg fried in the middle (like they do in Moonstruck), and then there’s homemade toast slathered in butter with peanut butter (and you absolutely must spread the peanut butter while the toast is still hot so that the peanut butter gets all melty and gooey)… Yes, Lawds. M.O.O.N…. that spells Tom Cullen! And Tom Cullen knows what he likes (not the Dark Man!) You’ve got to keep up with the movie references on this blog! Speaking of which….

Hector and the Search for Happiness was a delightful film. I’m going to give this one ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️1/2⭐️. To describe it in terms of other movies… It has got a bit of Lost in Translation, The Secret Life of Walter Mitty, and a touch of The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (all of which are exceptional movies.) Two lines: “All those faces. All those hearts. I am such a lucky woman.” and “Listening is loving.” Simon Pegg (Shaun of the Dead… brilliant!) and Rosamund Pike (I Care A Lot) are great together. “How many of us can recall when we experienced happiness as a state of being?” I can. It was at night, a hallway, a goodbye, tension…. M.O.O.N. If you are looking for something that is more than just a touch twisted, you’ll want the slow-burn, violent (as a priest, I’ve never watched this 😉 only heard about it) and more than slightly deranged… The Loved Ones. Very messed up. That’s it for movie reviews.

For the priesty work… today I preached a sermon on confession (acts of penance) that I felt really good about. Probably more instruction than sermonating, but I believe it worked… so much so that I included it as the cover article for this month’s newsletter. This was actually closely related to the sermonette from Morning Prayer today, which was talking about Simony and how we relate giving to the church in a commoditized culture. I then got to go out and give $1,000 to two organizations in town that are doing remarkable work. One of those gifts purchased 6,000 diapers, which equates to a LOT of dirty bottoms, but happy moms. Love my church!! Tomorrow is Sunday sermon writing time… working title: Limits or Limitless? I feel like it will preach.

Looking forward to a long weekend, although I’m more and more convinced that we would have been better off with old King G., but lets not go down that road. Friday and Saturday, I hope, are dedicated to writing on The Marble Finger and taking some nice long walks… I’m getting fat again: why is this a constant battle {shaking head]…. probably all that bread I talked about earlier!

What did I learn today: my dad is coming up next weekend for a couple of days and we’re going to a baseball game together. Need I say more?

Thought for the day: “And the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” ― Anaïs Nin Still love this quote! We all have options and at the top of the food chain is our decision to Believe (read the sermons if you need to know what I’m talking about [hint: Jesus].) Next on the list is the option to live or die (keeping in mind that many people have died, decades before they are properly dead).


Journal: June 25, 2021

Having completed the Sunday sermon and chores, I have been scanning Amazon Prime for a Friday afternoon matinee. What do the following four movies have in common?

Well [duh]. Daniel Radcliffe. I’ve seen them all and to tell you the truth, I think “Harry Potter” is doing some great work. One not shown is Horns, based on the Joe Hill novel (read it). I’ve seen that one as well, but think I should watch again before I give it an honest review, but even though I’m uncertain about the movie, Radcliffe was good. The Woman in Black was also entertaining, just not all that scary. He’s got about four of five others out there that I haven’t seen yet, but when they pop up on Prime, I will give them a day in court… just like a slice key lime pie (name that movie!) It is also nice to see that these are mostly independent films and that he is lending his talent and name to a new generation of film makers. All that to say, I’m off to watch… not one of these, but my favorite monster movie…

… and that was fun!

Confession: I love to cook and most of the time… kinda tasty. That said, I remember cooking as far back as grade school (boiling potatoes, etc), but I’ve also never really known any pots and pans that were not teflon coated (or teflon peeling, because, let’s face it, with those early teflon coated pans, we ate more of the teflon than what remained on the pan, and you didn’t throw them out until most of it was gone!) So, cooking with all this teflon, I’ve grown up with a great fear. A fear that brought on nightmares of three hour soaks and scouring pads cutting into your fingers from all the scrubbing. Yes. I confess. I have been afraid of the stainless steel cookware, but… not any more!!!

I got my first set this week. Unboxed it and stared at it for a couple of days as it sat taunting me on the stove: “I dare you. I double dog dare you. You’ll be pitching me in the landfill after your first scrambled eggs!” Well, the scrambled eggs worked out ‘almost’ perfectly this morning (the pan was just a bit too hot), but tonight for dinner…

Just say, Yum. Pan came out perfectly clean with a little soap and water. Three tricks: preheat the pan prior to putting anything (no oil, butter… nothin’) in it, let what you’re cooking sit a bit before messing with it (didn’t even look at the chicken for five minutes and could have gone longer), and deglaze all the tasty bits when you’re done with the cooking. There are all sorts of good videos on YouTube to help you along.

What did I learn today: God is good, trolls are real, stainless steel pans are excellent (and add another level to the cooking experience), I am highly entertained by little things, and wild flowers don’t last very long in a vase.

Thought for the day: “The only real stumbling block is fear of failure. In cooking you’ve got to have a what-the-hell attitude.” ― Julia Child. Maybe I’m wrong, but that just might apply to some aspects of life as well.

Journal: June 19, 2021

Today began with a walk, but only in my mind. It seemed like a reasonably good idea when I woke up, but by the time I rolled out (which was relatively early for a Saturday morning with no obligations) all motivation had seeped from my head and my legs, so I propped up in the comfy chair (everyone should have one: it is ugly, should be burned, and you find interesting things from years past in-between the cushions) and finished reading The Plot by Jean Hanff Korelitz. This is a book I’m going to give a solid ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ 1/2. I’ve no complaints other than the cadence of some of the sentences… they just lost their rhythm on occasion and and I had to go back and try again (probably a personal problem). After many hours of reading, I wandered over to the movies and found myself enjoying (once again) The Secret Life of Walter Mitty (2013) with Ben Stiller. I have not watched the 1947 version, but I’ve never been a fan of the black and white films. Hard to believe that it is the same guy in the new Walter Mitty that plays in Zoolander and other goofiness (and I’ve watched that too.) Next on the list to read, In this House of Brede by Rumer Godden. This is the next selection for the Saints’ Book Club at St. Matthew’s. Keep you up to date on how that one goes.

Tomorrow is the Lord’s Day, so will be doing the preachy thing. The sermon was finished up on Thursday, so I’ll have to go back and and look it over in the morning before attempting to preach (I’d do that anyways, even if I had just finished writing it.) The big debate raging at the moment is do I stop for an unhealthy fast-food breakfast or take the time to prepare one myself… we shall see, but sushi does appear to be on the menu for lunch.

Before I forget: I did finish up The Ring of Kerry (Conqueror Series) <– Yes. If you click that link I get some sort of point for referring you over to their site. The Ring was 124 miles and it took me too long to complete, but winter around here did not allow for as much walking as I would have liked… same problem with the heat now (hmmm… maybe I’m finding too many excuses not to walk)… so I’ve signed up for the next one and seriously cut my timeframe. This is the St. Francis Way and is 312 miles. As I get a bit closer to the Camino, I’ll start posting more under that menu item with maps of the walks. For now, I’m happy with the four milers, but hope to add a few more when the heat is not so high.

And then there’s this…. It has found its way to the surface. My goal: before winter sets in…..

It is good to discover who you are and who you are not. When it comes to my vocation, I have come to be very pleased to be a parish priest. I suppose that when we are younger, we all have certain aspirations (for the priest: purple shirts and big rings), but when we become not as young, we discover that what we really want (and need!) are good friends, comfy chairs, and the God who loves us. Ah… Harry Potter… The Mirror of Erised: “The happiest man on earth would be able to use the Mirror of Erised like a normal mirror, that is, he would look into it and see himself exactly as he is.” — Albus Dumbledore

Thought for the day: never pass up an opportunity to pick blueberries.

Journal: June 15, 2021

I thought of beginning by telling you I had smoked chicken for dinner, but what I really had was chicken that basically caught on fire and was burnt to a crisp, because I forgot to turn the grill down before wandering off to consider the square root of a cat’s meow. It was smoked, but not the kind that makes for good eats… there went the rest of this week’s planned meals. Good thing I like Ramen Noodles (I’m sure I’ll figure something else out, but….)

The Queen has been in full chaos mode since about 4:30 this morning when she wanted to begin her game of fetch. Why is it she has the entire house to romp around in, but when she decides to play Queen of the Mountain, I’m the mountain? I’m hoping she decides to sleep tonight, otherwise she may be demoted to Princess. Those eyes say, “You will never sleep again.” Keep you posted (or, given the way she’s wound up, she will.)

For those who remember, I was scheduled to take my sabbatical last year and walk the Camino de Santiago (500 miles across Spain), but a little virus put the kibosh on that, but not indefinitely. We are back on for 2022, so Sir Fat A$$ is now getting out and putting in the steps. I need to drop about 35 pounds and be able to walk up to 15 miles in a day, for several days in a row. That’s going to take some work, so I’ve started working, but my goodness it has been hot out there! 3.2 miles yesterday (95°) and 4.1 miles today (96°). Word for the day: hydrate! Feels good though to begin and to have not only a goal, but a destination. I’m also still enjoying the virtual walks and am about to wrap up The Ring of Kerry (124 miles), but my daily goal on that has been very low, so will be kicking up the game and the challenge. Have been listening to Duma Key as I trudge.

Fermina (Pinot Grigio) is now in the secondary fermenter and looking very tasty. Already cleared significantly, but will not be ready to bottle until July 23. After she’s done, will probably wait until early fall to start a new batch.

About a third of the way through The Plot. So far it is a good read and I can recommend it. Let you know when finished.

Phone calls: you never know which one is next. Will it change the world as you know it, offer you an extended warranty on the car you sold six years ago, or be the fulfillment of anticipation… ring ring…. “Hello…..”

Thought for the day: “Develop an interest in life as you see it; the people, things, literature, music – the world is so rich, simply throbbing with rich treasures, beautiful souls and interesting people. Forget yourself.” – Henry Miller

Journal: June 9, 2021

I have two bathrooms in my house (master and guest: both the same size so you’d never know the difference). Mostly alike with a few differences and the one I noticed today is the fact that I have different smelling hand soap in each. Master = Sea Foam and Guest = Coconut Water. I mention this, because today, as I was about to wash my hands, I decided that I wanted them to smell like Coconut Water, so… yeah… I travelled to the other bathroom to wash my hands. I am afraid to ask which mental disorder I may be currently experiencing.

Fermina… ah, Fermina. The lovely character from Love in the Time of Cholera and also the name of the Pinot Grigio that has been fermenting (Fermenting Fermina) in the closet. She was scheduled to be transferred to the secondary carboy today, but, alas… she is not quite ready. Her specific gravity isn’t quite there as you can tell from the photo. For those who think the wine making is magic… well it IS!!! but they make it pretty easy to know each step. When she gets between the two marks that say “FINISH”, she’ll be ready for the clearing process. I’m guessing Saturday as the percolating has slowed considerably, but you can still see the bubbles on the side of the container. Trivia: what do you use to remove the wine from the carboy for testing? Anyone? A wine thief. Which reminds me, I watched a movie yesterday, Adaptation, based on the book, The Orchid Thief, starring Nicholas Cage, Meryl Streep, Chris Cooper (he did a fabulous job) and Tilda Swinton. I’ll give the movie ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️✩. Never read the book.

As for the priesty things, it has been good to be able to begin the visitations, hospital visits, etc. I mean seriously, how often do you get to compare Robert Heinlein and Stephen King? Almost beginning to feel normal again in that respect… not that I really need normal. In addition, the Sunday sermon did some serious percolating and was even able to get a good bit down on paper today. Not too shabby for a Wednesday. Also enjoyed preaching today, although I mostly shared a few of the legends of St. Columba, but… are the really legends? Hmmm…. I like to believe there is truth (if only a little) in them all. I mean, we all know the Loch Ness Monster is real and Columba saw it!

Today it is way too hot to do much outside, so I recommend staying indoors and playing with your toys. It seems like an exceptionally good idea to me. That said, The Queen is ready for a rousing game of fetch, so we’re off.

Thought for the day based on a line in Adaptation (“I suppose I do have one unembarrassed passion. I want to know how it feels to care about something passionately.”): Thought… care about something / someone passionately.

Journal: 6.5.21

Rise and shine came early this morning (for a Saturday): 7 a.m. Why? Fishing. Fishing is why. If it hadn’t been for the Queen jumping on my chest, I would’ve fallen quickly back to sleep, but apparently she wanted my clothes smelling like bass… and so they did. No pictures for proof, but they were biting. Very nice. If a sunburn proves anything, I’ve got the proof. This particular adventure was brought to its rightful conclusion with a tasty hotdog and a few beers. No complaints.

This afternoon turned into movie time and I can give ⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️⭐️ to Seeking a Friend for the End of the World with Steve Carell and Keira Knightley. I laughed, I cried… what more could you want. It is worth the last two minutes even if you don’t like the rest of it (which you will). Why is it that we wait until the last two minutes of our lives to live? Foolishness! It is never too late, so… live.

The Sunday sermon is in the book and ready to be preached. I worked from the idea: “When God is not enough.” The Saint, the ones with the capital “S”, can always say that God is enough, but it seems that we “s”aints struggle with this one a good bit. We seem to always be looking for something more. I try to work through this one tomorrow, whether successful or not, I’ll let you be the judge (be kind… I’ll never make “S”aint, so I’m doing the best I can.)

Finally, and speaking of the sermon, I’ve recently had a few questions about the black book that I have during the preachy time on Sunday morning. Answer: I am one that writes out the entire text of my sermon. I don’t stand up there and read it (boring!), but I do have it word for word with me in that book… I’ve no idea how many volumes I have, but many of them are on the shelves in my office. I print off the sermon in a format that’ll fit in the book, cut it to size, Elmer’s Glue stick it in, and then mark it up. I don’t always have to look at the book to know where I’m at, but I’ve practiced it enough times on a Sunday morning that I know where it is at on the page should I need to reference something. Below is a page from (I think) last Sunday’s sermon….

Having done this since 2004, I’ve got my system and it seems to work for me. Some say that they would never prepare before hand because they rely on the Holy Spirit to inspire them on a Sunday morning. Me… I figure the Holy Spirit can inspire a couple days before Sunday so that I don’t stand up there babbling like an idiot hoping that I can remember something stupid the cat did that’ll be relevant to the Gospel reading.

That’s it for now. Beauty rest calls and the Lord knows I need it. Pray you have a blessed Sunday.

Thought for the day: take the time to write an old-fashioned letter… pen to paper, stamps, licking the envelope… the recipient can run their fingers over the words and know that you were truly touching them.

Journal: June 1, 2021

On a more serious note….

Photo by Myriam Zilles on Unsplash

Fifth Joyful Mystery:
The finding of Jesus in the temple
“Now his parents went to Jerusalem every year at the feast of the Passover. And when he was twelve years old, they went up according to custom; and when the feast was ended, as they were returning, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem. His parents did not know it… After three days they found him in the temple, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions; and all who heard him were amazed at his understanding and his answers” (Lk 2:41-47).

I was just outside the entrance to the chamber where He was speaking. Out of shame, I could not enter, so I could not hear what He was saying to the teachers. I knelt on the step closest to the entrance with my face to the ground. I could go no further even though I wanted to be seen by Him. I was simply near and that was all I could do.

I knew she was near. She always is. It was the third day and they had finally found him. Once she knew, she did not rush in. It all made sense to her. As she climbed the steps and as she passed me, I did not look up, but she ran her fingers through my hair. She let me know of her presence, though I knew of it already (I should look for Joseph as well, but I think he would point me to her and she would lead me to Him).

When I felt her touch, I tried to bury my face even further into the pavement of the steps. Such shame… how can the innocence of the Queen of Heaven touch something so… unclean, but she did not hesitate, yet like us all, she came for her Son who she thought was lost. She was anxious to be near Him as we all are.

I still could not hear the conversation. Her words or His. She and Joseph came out. He followed, but did not immediately go down to them. He stopped and sat on the step next to me. I could not look up. He placed His hand on my head and gripped… gently.. my hair. He loved me in spite of…. A child, yet He knew all. He did not forsake me.

I will never know how to serve such Love as this.

O my Jesus, forgive us our sins. Save us from the fires of hell. Lead all souls to Heaven, especially those in most need of thy mercy….. ME!

Journal: May 30 2021

How is it that you can go to the grocery store, spend $170, and still have nothing to eat in the house? To heck with enquiring minds want to know… my stomach would also appreciate an answer.

Today I preached (or at least that is what I call it) on the “Nicodemus Hour”. This is a thought that came via Christoph Cardinal Schönborn and refers to time spent with the Lord in the evening as Nicodemus did in John’s Gospel. I ran with that a bit and reflected on how we have some of our most intimate conversations at night… which is true… but what got cut from the sermon was the science / psychology behind “why.”

Photo by Korney Violin on Unsplash

Feel free to search out the sciency terms yourself, but what it comes down to is that, at night, we are physically and mentally pooped out, we become more vulnerable, and less inhibited. Put another way, the fight-or-flight is done for the day, you’ve got a nice warm fuzzy going in your brain and it’s ready for nighty-night time, and all those night time chemicals that kick in to help you sleep are now loosening up your tongue. Bottom line: you’ll confess just about anything if you’re with someone you trust. Sounds very romantic. What I wanted to ask this morning (and didn’t or we would probably all still be there… except for the ones who gave up on an ending to the sermon and had already left): why is it that we have to be perfectly and completely exhausted before we can be honest and open with one another? No. I’m not going to spill my gray matter around on just anyone who wanders by, but isn’t it odd that our brains must be essentially liquored up with tiredness before we can be true to those we care most about? And the point I was making this morning during preachy time: we can’t even open up with God! for the exact same reasons we can’t open up to one another. Maybe this is just reason #1,559 as to why some saints are Saints and I’ll only make it (maybe) if I’m martyred. I think they figured out at least how to be open with God (I mean, let’s be honest, if you’re running around a monastery or convent where talking isn’t allowed, you’re not going to be having too many late night conversations with one another… am I right?) Here’s a thought: try telling someone the deepest thought on your mind / heart while you’re bright-eye-and-bushy-tailed. Could be fun or maybe you just shared too much (and if it has anything to do with dressing up like a unicorn and dancing down the center line if I-35, you may want to keep that one to yourself).

As I once read, “Not knowing is a good place to start.” And I’m drawing a blank on this, so I guess I’m getting started on… well, I was going to say finding an answer, but perhaps I best stick with ‘investigating’ on this one.

Let me know if you figure out the groceries thing… that one I do believe we can solve.

Thought for the day: “People Pleasers Anonymous” would need a stadium size meeting room. “Hello. My name is John and I’m a people pleaser.” “Hi, John! (John… John……) <– that’s the best I could for the echo effect in the stadium.