Monday, December 27, 2010

A Thought for the Quiet Period

Since I am reduced to silence for what would appear to be a few weeks, I would like to invite followers to guest post. Just send me a post (, introducing yourself, your blog if you have one (and a link if you would like), and post about something you would to share. You can re-post something from your blog or talk about something new -- whatever tickles your fancy. Let others get to know you. I think it will be fun for readers to discover who is behind the pictures under the follower list.

Here Yesterday, Gone Today, Back after Several Tomorrows

Just as I took vacation time to work on my next book, my computer died. This is called Leaver luck; it has happened to us on so many occasions that I was not surprised. You see, Murphy's home is on a cloud right about our house, and whenever we start to feel comfortable with life as it is, he drops some raindrops, hail, blizzard flakes, and the like. The computer repair shop said that the computer was too dead for emergency CPR, so they have to send it to a hospital far away to see if it can be resurrected (perhaps not). That is going to take "weeks," they assured us. How many, they cannot say. Happily, the computer is under extended warranty. I am glad I had the foresight to purchase that. So, if it cannot be resurrected, I will be sent a brand new baby.

In the meanwhile, Donnie has loaned me his very old, but functional Macintosh laptop. I used to know how to use Mac; I am re-learning. The problem is that the computer is so old, it cannot handle even my Word files, and every single document I want to use, Donnie has to convert on his machine. Internet is difficult. I seem to be able to get onto blogger and publish comments, so please feel free to explore and comment on old posts. What is difficult to do is write new ones because I have no access to my graphics, no way to upload graphics, no way to handle large files, etc.

So, it looks like I am out of commission for some weeks. I can get online to read your blogs, and I will continue to do that. Posting on my own blogs, though, is, unfortunately, on hold until my electronic life returns to normal.

I am indeed still working on my next book. Donnie was able to convert the book file, but all my notes are not available. :( Well, I thought of those ideas, they will come back, or God will plant some new thoughts. I actually ended up drastically revising the table of contents while waiting for Donnie to convert the old document on his desktop computer, put it on disk, and pass it along to me in a format that the laptop will recognize. I also changed the title of the book: A Believer-in-Waiting's First Encounters with God. I seemed to be getting more inspiration coming my way now that nearly all I can do computer-wise is work on that book. (I am also getting more family and friend time, which is not all that bad, either.)

As for posting anything on my blogs, I am afraid I will have to wait until I am past the computer crisis and my electronic life is back to normal, which looks like nearly the end of January -- right after the book is due. Interesting, how dates and tasks work out that way!

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Few Brief Steps Away

As this goes up (automatically), I should be on a plane for Hawaii, where I have some end-of-year business to conclude. After that, on Saturday, I will fly back home, just in time for the Christmas season to descend in full tempo. This year, though, Christmas cards will have to wait until February (January if I can manage a trip to Korea and card writing). We have no tree -- our cat Intrepid eats all plants, including artificial ones, and nearly died from the latter a few years ago so we have given up on a tree -- therefore I will not be distracted with tree decorating. Some holiday activities will, of course, take place as they should and as we want them to. However, I will be stepping back a bit from my normal kinds of blogging posts and the normal tempo of my blogs.

I have taken some days off from work to do a second edition/sequel of my book, Blest Atheist. Unfortunately, over the past two years, the title has been snagged for a variety of odd things, none of them having to do with the remarkable kindness of God, which is what the book is about at its core. Even a furniture store has taken it, along with an atheist reading group! In fact, although it is a spiritual book, essentially Christian, most bookstores carry it in the atheism section. (I guess no one reads books before categorizing them!) That has caused some angry, even rude, reviews from atheists who got a conversion story, rather than a confirmation of their atheism -- which must have been quite a surprise for them. (Christian readers and believers belonging to other religions generally review the book well.) So, the book needs a new title, which I am working on, and since time has passed and my spiritual experiences have continued on a path of deepening conversion, I plan to revise the book dramatically, as well as include those new conversion experiences.

For publication and marketing purposes, I need to turn in the manuscript no later than December 30, so I will reserve most of my writing effort for the book. Monday Morning Meditations will continue, and I will post excerpts from the book as I go along on Mahlou Musings. So, for the next 15 days, my posts may be sparse in spite of having prepared a few backups in case of situations like this.

I will indeed take time to enjoy the Christmas season. San Ignatio, as you can see from the pictures above and below, goes all out for Christmas. (Note: the placard under each lighted wreath/halo is the story of a saint important to this town: St Francis for it was founded by the Franciscans, St. John the Baptist after whom it was named, the real name of this town being San Juan Bautista -- I used San Ignatio as a pseudonym in my book and so I have continued to use it in this blog.) If this town has a year-round sacred feel to it, at Christmas that feel intensifies, beginning with the lighting of the streets, intensified by the daily performances of La Virgen de Teyepac (Our Lady of Guadalupe) by our local El Teatro Campesino, and concluding with our midnight Mass, which usually really is at or near midnight, depending on how you count the caroling.

So, please forgive my moments away. I will catch you when the book muse takes a recess and will be back on full-time blog duty in January.

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Please Help Us Choose

For years now, after our children grew up and became adults, rather than spending money on gifts that are neither needed nor particularly wanted, we have taken a family collection of the money we would have spent on each other and have instead spent it on things that others both need and want. For example, last year we gave visa cards to all the staff (cooks, janitors, librarians, handymen, monks, etc.) at the St. Francis Retreat Center, who do much to make sure that retreatants are able to devote their time exclusively to spiritual matters.

Each year we select a charity that has some special meaning to us. The retreat center is a place where both Donnie, my husband, and I have spent time that has contributed to our spiritual growth. Years ago, floods in India destroyed the homes of relatives of Appu, the college roommate of my daughter, Lizzie. When we were living in Jordan, we gave the money to the only animal shelter there, one which took in more than two dozen cats that I rescued from the streets of Amman. And so on and so forth. Family members nominate various options, and we all vote on which we would like to support in a particular year.

This year we have four "charities" from which we are choosing. Before we take a family vote, I thought it might be interesting to hear what readers thing. Here are the options we are considering:

(1) Afghans for Afghanis (see the link in the right sidebar under Ways to Help). Having spent time earlier this year in Afghanistan, I have developed a soft spot for this very impoverished nation. While factions in the leadership may have been working toward mutual extinction for decades, if not centuries, the everyday man is the one doing the greatest suffering. From the little I could see, by Western standards they have very little, even considering that their desires, values, and concepts of what a "normal" life looks like is quite different from those same concepts in the USA.

(2) Adopt a Box. Our parish has collected Christmas gifts for troops in Afghanistan. Ah, there's that Afghanistan soft spot again! The amount of gifts collected has far exceeded what the parish member who headed the drive anticipated. She was prepared to pay for the mailing of the gifts, assuming that if the collection can were entirely filled, it would cost her about $100 in postage. Well, our parish donated not a can-full but a truckload of gifts, and the postage will be about $1200. So, our pastor has asked that individuals offer to adopt a box of gifts for mailing. As a family, we could adopt a number of boxes. (There is an additional option, as well. I have told the parish member that I would use God's credit card for any orphan boxes.)

(3) Bennie's Homeless. Our friend, Bennie, works with the homeless in a nearby city, providing them with blankets, clothes, food, and personal articles, thanks to the generosity of his friends and neighbors. In return, the homeless work to clean up the local river along which they live. Thanks to their efforts, the salmon, which had nearly disappeared, are now returning "home" to spawn.

(4) Hope. Doah works for Hope, which gives work to the handicapped, who do janitorial and other kinds of simple tasks that they are capable of handling. Doah mentioned that Hope is short of money this year, so it seems that this is a charity that truly "touches" home.

We will take a family vote very soon. In the interim, I would love to hear readers' opinions: which would you choose if you were a member of our family? (I will let you know the result from all the blogs and from our family's vote.)

Monday, December 13, 2010

Voice IX

In one of my earlier posts, I related the story of a friend who did not understand why she could not (or was not allowed to) feel God's presence in the same way I have sensed, felt, and known the Presence. God to me is the Presence; the Presence is God. Like Br. Lawrence (Practicing the Presence of God), if I do not palpably know that God is with me it is because I, unlike Br. Lawrence, have chosen for the moment to focus my attention away from God. Otherwise, I do feel the Presence nearly all my waking hours, and I find the Presence not only comforting but also increasingly necessary and thirstily desired. Therefore, of course, I wanted my friend to have this same kind of experience and relationship, and I pestered God about it. After much pestering, I received another of those locutions that startled me. "She is fragile," I was told.

Huh? Fragile? What was that supposed to mean? Well, when I told her, I found out what it meant: fragile personality disorder. More details are given in the earlier post: Voice IV.

This friend later came to visit me, spending a week here. Every day she accompanied me to the Old Mission, where I had made a habit of an early evening walk, basking in the Presence of God, sometimes listening, sometimes talking, but mostly just being together with God, which is usually enough for me.

My friend immediately began to have the same experiences I did, but, fragile personality disorder or not, they did not frighten her. Rather, she began to look forward to our long evening walks, and she often sat on a bench in one of the rose gardens, just being with God, as I love to do although, being a very kinesthetic person, I prefer to walk with God, rather than to sit.

My friend had experienced a traumatic childhood. Without going into details, I will say only that the result of this difficult and horrendous childhood had led to years of regular psychotherapy as an adult with very slow and extremely incremental progress. After her week's stay with me, she returned home more comfortable with herself and accepting of her past as being in the past, more filled with genuine forgiveness for those who had either harmed or failed her, and met with her psychologist for their routine session. My friend reported that her psychologist was amazed by how she had changed, saying that such changes either take many more years of psychotherapy than she had had or come about as a result of Divine intervention. It is remarkable what communing with God can do! (And, I suppose, that fragile personality is now a bit less fragile, thanks to God.)

Wednesday, December 1, 2010


Last Friday, I had lunch with Fr. Terry who had come to town for that purpose, bless his heart. I had not seen him in months, and it was wonderful to catch up and share thoughts. He had not known about the spontaneous healing of my torn rotator cuff during Mass. I don't know why that particular event came up during lunch, but it did.

Afterward, I got to thinking about miracles. Why do I seem to get so many of them? Then I wondered if I really did get a disproportionate share of them, or have I just learned to recognize them. My conclusion? I think miracles happen more often than people know (or recognize).

On a related topic, there has been some lively discussion on some blogs recently of distractions during prayer. This is, of course, not a recent or uncommon discussion. It's been a problem throughout the centuries, and I, of course, do experience such distractions. I try to follow the advice to ignore them and return to contemplation, but sometimes these distractions take on a life of their own.

Similarly, but with a happier result, sometimes while I am in the midst of work, particularly boring but important meetings, I become intensely aware of God's presence in the room. The result is that I become quite distracted from the business of hand, sometimes embarrassingly so. Nonetheless, if you had the choice of being present to your colleagues and supervisors or present to God, which would you choose? Is there a choice?

Perhaps God would talk more often to all of us if we took the time to listen more often, more intently, more openly. The signals are sometimes so slight that it is easy to miss them if we are not tuned in, don't pay close attention, or just dismiss the unusual as a curiosity. I might have dismissed the blue light that ran through my body while driving to the doctor for a pre-surgical examination had he not found upon arrival that I no longer needed surgery. I had temporarily stored the experience of the light as unusual, and only the doctor's near-immediate finding helped me to put two and two together. Similarly, the light touch on my torn-rotator-cuff shoulder during Mass might have seemed to be a figment of my imagination had not Doah, my mentally retarded son, not been with me and said "we no alone" and had not I been able to immediately move in all directions an until-then immovable arm (healing confirmed by MRI a few days later). And the warm hands and image of a male figure in sandals and robe I would have attributed to a dream except that I was wide awake, fell asleep only AFTER the warm hands lulled me to sleep, and found the urine infection that had been torturing me into the wee hours of the morning totally gone when I woke up. (See earlier post on these events, Healings, and other miracles in my life, Miracles in Real Life.)

I wonder how many miracles we miss through inattention, let alone through disbelief. I wonder why God would keep sending them to us when we treat them so cavalierly...

Double-posted on Modern Mysticism and 100th Lamb.