Monday, October 19, 2009


The sun wasn't up yet, but the charcoal black sky on the eastern side of the lake was taking on a dark shade of navy blue. Abraham's stars hung silently. He sat by the water and breathed deeply, closing his eyes and filling his lungs with the cool morning air. The scent of the water refreshed his mind, and he quietly whispered, “Thanks.

His fishing pole lay next to him, and as the night sounds lingered on. He squinted one eye in the starlight and threaded his hook. The bait squirmed as he placed it upon the barb. “Sorry, little fella.” he murmured. He slipped off his shoes and took a sharp breath as his feet met the bracing water. He waded out a short distance, and tossed out a line. The hook plopped nearly noiselessly into the stillness of the lake.

He waited.

The sounds of the early pre-dawn surrounded him. The gentlest of waves massaging the rocks. Insects singing their repetitive songs. The rustling of a bird's silent wings.

He was unaware of how much time had passed when he finally felt a tug on his line. He jerked quickly on the line, but the tug was gone. “Come on, buddy,” he whispered. The line twitched again, and he gave it another tweak. This time the tug remained, and grew more violent. Carefully and swiftly he pulled in the line as the catch struggled.

He lifted the fish from the water and into his free hand. Its green scales glistened in the remnants of starlight. “Hello, little guy!” he said as he deftly removed the hook from its mouth. The tilapia were common in this lake, and although this 'musht' was a modest size, it was large enough to keep. He waded back to shore and tossed his catch into a small bucket. He retrieved his supply of bait, and in moments he was back out in the still waters.

“Thanks,” he whispered again.

He gazed out at the ever-growing dawn, and spied the first sliver of the sun's circle over the far hills. A lone fishing boat glided upon the open waters. When he once again felt the familiar tug at his line, the sun seemed to be peering over the hills like a small child at the kitchen table. Once again he pulled at the line, chuckling at the vigor of the small fish. A moment later, and two fish were in the bucket.

The sun began to warm his face as he tossed another line into the now golden water. The slightest breeze rippled the surface, and it seemed that another tug came almost instantly. He jerked upon the line, and seemed to lose his prey. Another moment later, however, and the line was taut.

Three fish now lay in his bucket as he gathered dried driftwood scattered upon the shore. He made a small fire, placed some charcoal around the flames, and took out his knife to prepare his catch.

Laying the fish on a flat rock, he carefully cut around its gills, along the middle of its belly, and then along its back. He pared back the skin, and skillfully began to remove the meat. Not a bit of it was missed. After salting and seasoning the meat, he gently wrapped it in fig leaves and placed it on the coals. The scent was delicious, and his stomach rumbled as he took some bread and placed it next to the fish.

He stepped back to the shore and crouched down by the water to clean his hands of blood, salt, and fish scales. The sun was just inches above the horizon now, and the lone fishing vessel had come closer to shore. He stood and held his hand above his eyes to see the boat more clearly. The voices of the people aboard carried clearly across the lake as they went about their work.

He smiled, and returned to his fire and his fish.

The meat was hissing and popping soothingly over the flames when he glanced once more at the ever-nearing fishing boat. He watched the men move about, still silhouetted against the morning sun. He smiled when he recognized the gait and swagger of the bigger man.

With one hand to his forehead and the other to his mouth, he called out to them.

“Hey! You kids catch anything to eat?”

“We ain't caught nothing but a buzz! We've been trying all night!” came the familiar man's reply.

“Try the other side. Over there. I think there's a school of musht there. I caught a few stragglers,” he said, and pointed to his fire.

“Thanks, buddy. We'll give it a try.” the fisherman called out.

Tending to his breakfast, he watched them toss their net into the drink.

“Whoa!” he heard, amidst laughter. “Look at that!”

He was right. A shoal of musht were there, finding haven from the cold waters in a warm current.

He noticed one of the men taking a second look in his direction, and lean in to whisper something to his bulky friend. The burly man raised a hand to his forehead and peered towards the shore. A moment later, and the man was out of the boat, half swimming and half running towards the shore as soon as he could touch the bottom.

He emerged from the lake, dripping and shivering and smiling abashedly.

Jesus laughed.

The two old friends embraced fiercely. Peter snuffled, and Jesus sniffed.

“You smell like booze and dead fish,” Jesus said, smirking. “And you're getting me soaked.”

Peter released him, and stood back, chortling in spite of his quivering lip.

“Hungry?” Jesus asked.


“Let's have some breakfast.”

And the two resurrected men sat by the fire and ate.

Monday, August 24, 2009


Sometimes love is not a feeling in your heart, but a wrenching in your gut.

Monday, July 27, 2009

Fish Heads.

His hands were more than grubby, they were filthy. He covered his laughing mouth with them as he joked with his friends. His face, smiling, was only a little less filthy than his hands. His friends were no more clean than him. The dirt helped them stick together. An angelic-looking, clean child can be tolerated, even thought of as cute, in the presence of a busy grown-up. A scruffy-looking little boy trying to sell you something, or worse, beg you out of your hard-earned cash, can easily be despised and quickly ignored.

Some of them begged, while others made the rounds finding food and sellable garbage. Girls and smaller boys tended to beg. Older boys, whose faces weren't as innocent looking as they used to be, offset their begging by digging through trash. Yesterday they had gathered together a good haul of garbage to sell. If they didn't gather enough, the ones without parents were better off than the others. If you were alone, you'd merely be hungry. Having a parent meant you'd get a beating for not hussling up enough change.

Today there was a huge crowd. A gathering such as this one was a sure thing. Plenty of people to beg from, and plenty of trash to collect. Today he begged, winding through the crowds, his hand outstretched, his face a perfectly polished look of pathetic sincerity. The ones who didn't yell at him or throw things tried their best to ignore him. Those that didn't ignore him may have tossed him a mite or two. Others might hand him a piece of bread.

Today, after several hours, he had collected a handful of coins, a small stack of bread, and a few cooked fish. He liked fish. Especially the heads. He always saved the head for last, sucking out the juices with a passionate slurp. Back in town, there was a nice lady who would let him and his friends eat at her shop. She made the best fish heads, and she didn't mind his grubby paws.

He would stay away from home tonight, though. His father wouldn't miss him, and he avoided being near his father as much as possible. Too unpredictable. One day he would shower his son with warmth, and the next he would be nursing the bruises his father gave him in a drunken rage. He cried sometimes, but he didn't wish for another father. This was simply what a father was, and all that he expected a man to be.

As he made his rounds, he saw that there were some men playing with the other beggar kids. They didn't seem to mind them being around. As he approached the small crowd, he saw a man laughing as the boys took turns trying to tackle him. The boy smiled. He'd never seen a clean-looking man hang around with kids like him. Some of the man's friends were joining in, too, lifting boys up on their shoulders and flipping them safely down on the ground. He giggled at them, and gazed up at one of these strange men, wondering if there might be some flipping for him, too.

The man noticed him and smiled. The boy smiled back, and in a sudden rush of freedom and inspiration, dropped his sackful of bread and coins, and tackled the man. The man fell playfully on the ground and laughed. The man, his accent thick, put his hand to his chest and said, "Andrew."

"Androo," the boy repeated, trilling it slightly.

"You. You name," said Androo.

The boy sniggered at the man's language skills as he told Androo his name. Androo held his hand out for a shake, and proceeded to jiggle the boys arm vigorously, much to his delight. The playing went on for some time, and when the boy grew hungry, he and Androo sat on the ground and sighed together.

He pulled his bread and fish from his sack and started eating. Bits of bread flew from his mouth as Androo made a face at him. It seemed the man and his friends were also getting hungry, and talking about something important. The boy noticed that his new friend didn't have any lunch with him. He liked this man. The boy motioned to him that he could have some of his bread and fish. Androo said something to one of his friends and laughed again.

"I take...? Uhm... Share? My friends... share?" said Androo. He was really doing his best with the language, but he had a very bad accent. This delighted the boy, and he motioned to Androo to please share his food.

The boy watched Androo as he took the bread to one of his friends, who closed his eyes and lifted the lunch to the sky. His lips moved silently in some kind of prayer. He found that kind of fascinating, and he liked the look of devotion on the man's face. Androo showed his friend who had given him the bread and fish, and the man came and crouched down in front of him, still holding the food in his hands. The man smiled at the boy, and said "Thank-you" with an accent that was less severe than Androo's.

"Here!" the man said. "Take."

The boy reached for a piece of bread. There were five small loaves, and as he took one, the man took a little breath of surprise and pointed back at the loaves.

"Five!" he said.

The boy looked at his hand, which was still holding the other fifth loaf of bread. He looked at the five loaves still in the man's hands. He smiled and looked up at the man, trying to figure out how he did it.

"Take again," said the man.

The boy looked up at him, grinning suspiciously. He took another piece of bread, and was delightfully confounded when the man pointed again at yet another fifth loaf, still laying there. The man feigned astonishment again, and the boy giggled again.

"Try fish." said the man.

There were only two fish. If he could pull this trick off with just these two fish, this man was good indeed. The boy grabbed quickly at one of the fish, hoping to beat the magician at his slight of hand. When he saw that there were still two fish laying there, and that he was holding the third second fish in his hand, his eyes widened even more.

"How'd you do that?" he said.

At this point, the trick had attracted a small crowd of the boy's friends. Peering over one another's shoulders, they all smiled with delight at the man's magic skills. The boy tried again with the bread, again with the fish, but always the number in the man's hands remained. Five loaves, two fish.

The bread and fish were making their way through the kids hands, too, with hungry little mouths tearing off large chunks of bread. Outbursts of cackling kids spread more than a few crumbs on the ground.

Androo sat beside the boy, admiring his friends skills, and laughing with each confounded look the boy gave. The man said something to his other friends, and they started calling out and forming groups of people within the crowd. The man handed the fish and bread over to Andrew, speaking and motioning toward the people. Androo smiled and turned to the boy, offering his free hand. They had a job to do, together.

For a long time, the boy and his new friend went about through the crowd, handing out the magical fish and bread. The little helper drew easy smiles from the poorer people, many of whom shared the boy's language. The wealthier ones, who had apparently come out to see someone of some importance, were more cautious with their warmth. The boy noticed, however, that each grouping of people had some of each variety. Never would these have met ordinarily, and the boy thought it funny to see them together.

He recognized some of the faces, especially the mean ones, which he'd been begging from just a few hours earlier. He now handed them his own fish and bread, and smirked magnanimously. Some smirked back, and he forgave them for their previous contempt with a nod of his head.

When everyone had been served, he sat with his new friend on the ground while some of the other men began gathering up the leftovers. He took a bite of his fish, and sucked the good stuff from its head. Androo made a disgusted face at this, and the boy laughed again. Of all the fish heads he'd had, this one was definitely the best.

Monday, June 22, 2009


To say he was sleeping comfortably would have been an exaggeration, but he was sleeping soundly. It had been another very long day, the longest in a series of very long days. He liked days like that. As much as they tired him out, it was a good kind of tired; the kind of tired that comes from a long day spent doing good in the warm sun. The heat of the day had cooled into a perfect evening, and as they set off from the shore, he had soon found a spot to sleep in the back of the boat. The cushion was solid, but soft enough for a tired man.

Of course, other boats had set out to follow the moment they saw his leave the shore. This kind of thing often happened after a big day.

It took only a few minutes for the rocking of the boat to send him to sleep. He dreamed, and the faces of the people he had met that day drifted in and out of his consciousness with the gentle rocking of the waves. A moment of touch. A girl peeking out from behind the safety of her mother's dress. The hearty, toothless, and beautiful laughter of a beggar with whom he had spoken. The open sea of tired and hopeful faces gazed back at him, each one in perfect clarity. He felt his heart taking in each soul, until it all seemed to gather inside him in an immense feeling of affection and heartbreak. A bright light seemed to burst forth from his heart and over the people, scattering and falling as a mist upon them.

And then, screaming.

He awoke, his heart instantly racing. "What is it??" he said, trying to catch his breath. Slumber faintly held on to his mind as he tried to grasp what was happening.

"Don't you care that we're going to die?!?"


"The storm! The waves! We're taking on water! We're going down!"

Setting one arm on the back of the bench, he pulled himself up on one elbow and rubbed his eyes. Men were desperately trying to bail out water while others tried to hold the mast in position. He looked out at the darkness of the sea, and could make out through the rain the lines of at least two other boats violently rocking in the surging waves.

He wiped his face, still bleary-eyed and only mostly conscious, and spoke out, rebuking the wind. "What do you think you're doing? I need some sleep!"

It hushed.

He sighed and addressed the water. "Quiet! Settle down!"

And it did. The wind seemed to lift and travel on to another place. The sea grew gentle, until all that could be heard was the creaking of the boat, and the dropping of his friends' jaws.

"What are you so afraid of?" he said, settling himself back down into his cushion. "Do you still not have any faith yet?"

He turned on his side to the back of the bench. He was halfway to sleep before he heard the hushed voices of his followers drifting away behind him. "What the hell was....? Who is this man...?"

He dreamed again, of a river flowing from his side.

Wednesday, May 27, 2009



Zacchaeus was a little man. Petty. Nit-picking. Trifling. Wealthy. Alone.

It was hard to tell if collecting taxes from his peers had made him this way, or if he was naturally small-minded, which made him such a perfect tax collector. Either way, a person can hold on to their wealth easily if he has no friends to share it with.

Once, he had been a friend of the synagogue, faithfully attending each week, exchanging pleasantries with the rabbis, even sharing in the potluck dinners. But it seemed to him the more time he spent at synagogue, the more he disliked the hypocrisy of his fellow worshipers. When he started collecting taxes, he was politely asked not to come to synagogue any more.

Since then, he was Jewish, but not a Jew; a son of Israel, but not of Abraham. The faith of his fathers meant little to him once he entered the real world. What good was a faith that equated his profession to that of a murderer? Every day, it seemed he would hear the condemnations from the fat, religious prigs, small-minded and ridiculous. There were few people he could stand to be around, and even fewer he could consider friends. But this only increased his income. It was easy to increase the tax upon people he disliked, and he disliked plenty.

Recently he had heard about a popular preacher, traveling from town to town. What he had heard of the man intrigued him. Zacchaeus was no fan of religious celebrities, but this one seemed to get in a lot of trouble with some of his least favourite rabbis. He liked that. He liked that a lot. He laughed every time he heard about the latest insult handed to them by the simple teacher.

When he heard that this man was coming to Jericho, he knew he'd enjoy meeting him. He could see it in his head: with a firm handshake, Zacchaeus would smile wryly and give him a nod. You're alright, he'd say, and the teacher would be impressed by his dispassionate coolness.

When the teacher arrived in town, Zacchaeus had never seen such a crowd of people clamoring for a glimpse of one person. Futilely, he tried to find a place from which to see the man. Though he'd long considered himself above such simple people, he'd always stood almost a foot below them. Zacchaeus was a wee, little man.

He cursed himself and his height. The more he was obstructed from seeing the teacher, the more determined he became to catch a glimpse. He was only passing through town, and would soon be gone. Zacchaeus peered down the road in the direction the teacher was going, and had an idea.

He saw some steps up ahead, just where the teacher would be passing. He struggled out of the crowd and tried to make his way there. He wasn't the only one with this idea, however, and by the time he reached the steps, they were full of onlookers. Frustrated, he cursed himself again. He looked farther ahead, and gave a second glance to one of the trees standing alongside the road. Ridiculous, he thought to himself. You'd look ridiculous.

It was a sycamore-fig tree, the kind whose fruit fed pigs. He sighed. Screw it. Climb the damn tree.

Again, he forced his way through and out of the crowd. He grabbed the lowest branch he could find, and awkwardly climbed up a branch that extended out towards the road. He perched himself as well as he could, spilling what dignity was left with each quivering of the tree branch.

He could see the teacher now, coming down the street towards the tree. He could place him only because of the men around him, twelve or thirteen, trying to keep people from pressing in him. The teacher seemed genuinely pleased to be meeting people, if not more than a little beleaguered. He was getting closer, and in the excitement of the moment, Zacchaeus couldn't help but feeling a little star-struck. When the celebrity rabbi was close enough to spit on, his heart pounded. When the celebrity rabbi looked straight up the tree and into his eyes, he almost lost his breath. When the celebrity rabbi spoke to him, he almost lost his lunch.

"Hello, there!"

The nonchalant meeting the tax collector had imagined quickly disappeared, as he suddenly found his mouth quite dry. "Hi!" he said back, slightly more enthusiastically than he intended.

"I'm Jesus," said the teacher. "What's your name?"

"Zac..." He cleared his throat awkwardly. "Zacchaeus. I'm... I like what you says. Said. I like what you have to say." This had sounded much better in his head.

Jesus chuckled. "Thanks. Not everybody does. So where are you from, Zacchaeus?"

"Mime from here! From Jericho. I'm from Jericho."

"So, Zacchaeus, what is it you do that affords you this fine tree?"

Zacchaeus laughed in spite of himself, perhaps a little harder than he meant to. But he quickly remembered the customary reaction to his profession. He tried not to stammer. "I'm... I collect... tariffs." It came out quieter than he intended. He waited for the teacher's face to change, to take on the inevitable coldness that always came with his answer.

The teacher's reaction was different than he expected. He laughed again. "You know, I'm getting a terrible crick in my neck like this. How about if you come on down, and let me stay at your place tonight?"

Zacchaeus stammered again as his heart picked up its pace. "Uhp...Uh.. Sure! Yeah, that would be... fgood. Fine. Good."

Jesus smiled as the little man inelegantly made his way back down the tree.

"Where do you live?" he asked.

"Just... uh... Just up... Not far from here. Are you sure you want to come?"

"It would be my honour. What's for supper?"

Zacchaues laughed as he led his new friend to his house. He didn't notice, or didn't care, about the scowling and confused looks he and the teacher were getting. For once, he felt unabashed and at ease, if not more than a little exhilerated, with this new friend.

His servants prepared a particularly delicious meal that night, and Zacchaeus and the teacher talked for hours. Zacchaeus complained freely about religion, and the teacher seemed unfazed. He nodded his head and listened. Zacchaeus listened intently as the teacher told stories of the people he'd met, particularly the poor. As he spoke, the teacher seemed to re-write the meaning of the scriptures Zacchaeus had heard recited a million times before. This man, this man's friends, the poor, seemed to give these scriptures a life he had never before seen.

Watching Jesus, he began to realize something. Life could be more than cynicism. Life could be... alive.

There was a moment of silence. His heart was pounding again as he looked intently at the teacher. You can trust this man, he thought. Do it. Do what you know you need to do. He felt something coming up from his heart. He stood, and spoke. "Alright. Look. Right here. Right now.... I give half of my things to the poor," He was trembling, but it felt good. Something more came crawling up from his newly forming heart. "And if I've cheated anybody out of anything, I'll pay it back four times over."

His eyes were red now, his cheeks wet, and he found himself sniffling. The trembling subsided as the teacher smiled at him.

"Zacchaeus, more than any rabbi I've met, more than any scribe or Pharisee I've ever known, you have shown yourself to be a true son of Abraham. People like you are the reason I came here. I came to find people like you, the ones lost in the crowd." The teacher's lip twitched a little. "To find them and free them."

Zacchaeus sniffed, smirked, and had another piece of dessert.

Tuesday, May 05, 2009


Reviewing my entries, I noticed that somehow I missed a letter along the way. So, before we proceed to "Z", here's an "N".


All of them were gone. Every single one. Stones lay on the ground all around, dropped in frustration, forming a circle around the quietly sobbing girl. She was huddled on the ground, covering herself as best she could, both hands hiding her eyes. She was naked, but felt the most shame in showing her face.

One man remained, the one who had sent the others away. The Nice Man. He straightened up and looked around, making a show of his search for the accusers. He met her eyes as she cautioned a glance toward him. He made a shrug with his face.

"Ma'am?" he said with feigned astonishment, the corners of his mouth betraying his dramatic tone. "Where are they? Has no one condemned you?"

She dared to look him in the eye, and in spite of herself, a little giggle broke through her tears. "No one, sir."

He removed his cloak and covered her.

She scrunched up her smile. She lifted her head and said it again. "No one."

"Neither do I," he said. He smiled again, and broke her chains. "Go, and don't do this any more."

“Thank-you.” She wiped her face, all wet with tears and running nose and beauty. "Thank-you."

They stood together for a moment, and there, for the first time, she was embraced by a man.



I yearn for the day when I can just write any time, anywhere. I have to create just the right atmosphere to write. So I come to a nice cafe, ready to focus in and come up with something that means something to me and will hopefully mean something to somebody else. I order my coffee, take a seat in the comfy chair, take a sip. I'm ready.

Then Gloria Estefan decides to go and turn the beat around.

And now Cyndi Lauper's least enjoyable song is blaring in my ear, and it seems she may just go on all through the night.

What ever happened to playing some jazz music? Isn't that what a cafe is supposed to do?

Alright. Maybe I can work with some Peter Gabriel.

I'm just too darned distracted by media. I suppose this is why I do well in monasteries.



Friggin' Michael McDonald. I wish there was a mountain high enough to keep his weird vocals from my ears right now.

Okay. Y.

Y. Y. Wwwiiiiieeee....

Yep. Can't think of a thing. Perhaps if Melissa Etheridge came to my window and whispered an idea, I could write about it. But then she'd have to stop yammering long enough to let me write.

There's a whole big world out there, with many things beginning with Y. I'm a writer. I can write about one of them. If only Rascal Flatts would shut up for one minute. What hurts the most is that horribly annoying build-up-to-the-chorus part.

I suppose we've come nearly full circle, now that Phil Collins is singing Cyndi Lauper.


I yearn for the year when the yammering ends.

I promise, Z will be better.

Wednesday, April 01, 2009



Because I oughtta.

Just letting the four people who still read this blog know that I'm going to make some new entries over at my "Whole World Is My Home" blog.

Monday, January 12, 2009


Mary and I sat out on the picnic table in front of the church. We had planned to spend the day together, to have some fun and refresh ourselves in the mountains of Yosemite. But now there was a heaviness in the air, at least for me. I had something I needed to say. I'd come to a decision two days earlier, and it was time to tell her about it.

We'd been going out for a couple of months. We'd known each other for a few years, and had long had a fun and easy-going relationship with each other. There were a couple of "safeties" that helped keep it that way. I was seriously considering the priesthood, and she was safely in a relationship with somebody. Of course, he lived a few thousand miles away, but it kept a nice cap on what was expected and allowed in our friendship.

But then, one November night, she told me that she and Whatsisname broke up.

Safety seldom lasts.

I was still discerning what God might be calling me to in regards to the priesthood. Considering that I was not yet Catholic, things were still a little unclear. And now there was this beautiful, funny girl, who loves God and laughs with me, who is suddenly and inconveniently... available.

Why couldn't she have just stayed with Doofus? Things would have been much simpler.

Priesthood, huh? You know, there are many ways to be a priest. A husband is the priest of his house. Perhaps this is the kind of priesthood you're called to. But does that mean I've totally misheard everything? Perhaps God was just seeing if I was willing to give all that up, so that he could give me something better. I really like Mary. She's nice in all the right places. I need some time to think.

So I went home to Canada for a month.

I wrestled this priesthood thing to the ground. I pinned it. I was as done with it as I could be. I sat alone in an empty church, kneeling before God and asking him for direction. What do you want me to do? What should I do about Mary? I did the thing that I would never recommend, but everybody's done. I opened my Bible randomly.

When one finds a worthy wife, her value is far beyond pearls.
Her husband, entrusting his heart to her, has an unfailing prize.
She brings him good, and not evil, all the days of her life....

She reaches out her hands to the poor, and extends her arms to the needy....

She is clothed with strength and dignity, and she laughs at the days to come.
She opens her mouth in wisdom, and on her tongue is kindly counsel....

"Many are the women of proven worth, but you have excelled them all."
A good woman is hard to find.

In retrospect, perhaps I was not so much asking for direction as much as permission. Whatever the case, I knew God was telling me I was free to pursue this relationship. After that, I cried with my pastor.

Soon I came home to California, determined to have a little talk with this Good Woman. One evening, as we drove home from Escalon, I knew the time was right. I took a deep breath and swallowed my nerves.

"Well, Mary, I think it's time we had the I.R.C." I said.

"Oh yeah... What's that?"

"The Inevitable Relationship Conversation."

She laughed. I did, too.

We knew it was time to let this relationship have a chance. I told her that I let go of the priesthood stuff, and that I wanted to see if this friendship could become something more if we let it. She felt the same way. We began to date.

Over the next few months, we spent a lot of time together. It was awkward at first, leaving the comfortable security of being "just friends". After all, once you cross the Kissing Bridge, there's no going back. (And cross it, we did.)

We had some very sweet times together. She continued to shine. But eventually, something crept back into my thoughts. The damn priesthood. I didn't want to admit to her that this was nagging at me, but eventually I had to include her in this struggle. I think I had let go of the priesthood, but it hadn't let go of me. Of course, because she is who she is, she handled all this with grace. Full of grace.

We forged ahead, seeking God together. Praying for one another. Holding one another.

Finally, one Saturday, I had it out with God. Please, God, I pleaded, if I just knew that you told me, I would never have to ask for another sign. I would never question you any further if I just knew that you spoke to me. I prayed hard. If I was going to let a woman like Mary pass me by, it would have to be God who told me to let her go.

Finally, in the stillness, came a voice. Clear, inaudible except to my heart and mind, but unmistakable. It cut like the word, past skin and marrow, into the deepest place of my heart.

Marriage is not for you. I have other plans.

I have often thought in the years since that I didn't just need this voice to be as clear as it was for the sake of possible future relationships. I needed it to be that clear for this one. If God hadn't been the one to tell me, I would simply be insane to let this one go. Every time she made me laugh, I'd wonder if I really did the right thing, if I really heard.

But he did speak, and I knew this was right. Few things in my life have ever been this clear, and I knew that this was what God was asking of me. It took 30 years, but I was finally ready to hear it. It's a strange thing, that when your will becomes his will, his command feels like freedom.

Two days later, I found myself sitting at the picnic table with Mary. I told her everything.

We cried a little. "I'm not just saying this," she said, wiping away a tear. "But I'm truly happy for you. I know you've been looking for answers."

We sat there for a minute in silence, letting the moment remain with us. Finally, I spoke.

"So... you still want to go to Yosemite?"

"Hell yes!"

We laughed, jumped in the car, and had the best day we'd had together in a long time. We bought an old tape at a thrift store, cruised into the mountains, and listened without prejudice. We came home late that night, knowing the joy that can override the sadness of doing the right thing.

There are a few moments in your life that mark something significant. There are people that mark those moments with you, the ones that were full of grace at the moment you needed it. You remember how God revealed himself through these people, and you come back to those moments like buried treasure. This is the place where grace was revealed to me.

Mary marks a time and a place in my life in which Grace was revealed to me as never before. She lives her life full of this grace, obedient to God, clothed in humility. She brings Life into impossible places.

And I'm honoured to say, she's my X.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Captain's Log, Supplemental

Yes, it's incredibly ironic that my last post before not posting for months was about how I should write more often. Of course, that was just before "X", so give me a break. I did, however, want to write a little bit about an event that happened the other day.

Chris and I were asked to be a part of a "pastor's prayer summit", a 3-day retreat for senior pastors and youth workers from the Modesto area. Chris and I know the youth workers well, and we were to facilitate their track of the retreat. I knew only one or two of the senior pastors, though, and had perhaps very briefly met a few of them.

I usually approach situations like these with some trepidation and caution. There are a couple of reasons for this. One is I'm naturally kind of shy. Really I am.

The other is that I became Catholic a few years ago. I'm often found in situations many Catholics would not find themselves in. I walk in evangelical and protestant circles most of the time. Sometimes, when it's discovered that I'm Catholic, I can be met with forceful ignorance (people who don't know anything about anything but think they know everything). Fortunately this rarely happens. More commonly, I may be met with well-intentioned ignorance. This is the person who looks at me and wonders how this nice guy could be a Mary-worshipper. Questions ensue, and if the person is cool I tend to hear "Oh.... I didn't know that" or "No one's every explained that to me." The forcefully ignorant, however, care nothing for facts or understanding you better. They just like being right, and you can only be right if the other guy is wrong by any means necessary. The means necessary for that is to forcefully ignore truth. It's very frustrating.

I don't like to hide who I am or be untrue to myself and my beliefs, but I do proceed with caution. Perhaps I cross myself less noticeably (a little cross on the forehead as opposed to the full "spectacles, wallet, and watch" version). I know it's dumb, but it's me.

So here's me, with 22 evangelical pastors and youth workers. Some know me, some don't. A few know I'm Catholic. All seem to love Gaither-era choruses (for which I also feel a warm nostalgia). They bust them out regularly in the prayer meetings.

Proceed with caution.

I love the disciple John. Recently, I've been developing something in which I present John 13-15 in storyteller form, in the character of John. In the piece, I wear a priest's cleric. Well, I shared this piece with the group one night, and everyone loved it. So, over meals and in conversations with people curious about my inspiration, I share some of my story: I am called to the single life and may one day become an actual Roman Catholic priest.

Word gets out, and one of the pastors, an older pastor, Michael, full of kindness, asks me about it. He says he'd like the group to "pray for you before you go..." I wince for a moment before he finishes his sentence, wondering if it will be prayer for me to be delivered from the Catholic Church or something, " bless you in that."

Wednesday morning comes, and as the 20-odd pastors from churches of just about every denomination in town come to the end of their retreat. Pastor Michael announces that he'd like the group to pray for Aaron, who is seeking the Lord regarding a call to the Roman Catholic priesthood. I very briefly share my story, and then am suddenly swarmed by pastors.

I honestly can't remember their specific prayers, because I was simply overwhelmed by the beauty of what was happening. A group of Protestant and Evangelical pastors gathered around a Roman Catholic and blessed him in his calling to the priesthood. Simply incredible.

What will be forever etched in my memory, along with this almost unheard-of laying on of hands, is when Pastor Michael began a rendition of "Spirit of the Living God, fall fresh on... Aaron." The beauty of what this awkwardly-phrased rendition of an old gospel song will forever remind me of what love is.

And love expects the best.