Tuesday, April 10, 2007

He Is Risen!

"He is not here; he is risen, as he said."
- The Gospel of Matthew, chapter 28, verse 6

"and if Christ has not been raised, your faith is in vain."
- The First Epistle of Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15, verse 17

This past Sunday was Easter, or, as it might more truly be called, the Feast of the Resurrection. My Eastern Orthodox brethren call it Pascha, which is wonderfully evocative of the imagery of the Jewish Passover, and all the connections that evokes - the Sacrifice Lamb, and all that.

Easter, or, more to the point, the Resurrection, is the very crux and focal point of Christianity, its sine qua non - without the Resurrection, you don't have Christianity. With it, you have everything.

Over the years, I've had many rich meditations related to Christmas and the Incarnation - it has been an almost limitless source of deep and textured thought for me. Not so Easter and the Resurrection, and I'm at a bit of a loss to explain why. I mean, theologically, and all sorts of other ways (except commercially, I suppose) the Resurrection is a much bigger deal than the Incarnation, so why should I be so full of thoughts on Christmas, and so reticent about Easter?

I think, when you come right down to it, that there really isn't all that much to say about Easter - it is what it is, or it's nothing at all. Very stark, very cut-and-dried. Either Christ is risen, and Christianity is true, and we all owe our lives and our very being to the God who raised Him, or He isn't, and 2000 years of Christianity is a lie and a sham. Those are pretty much the only possibilities. Yes or no? And all of life hangs on the answer you give to that question.

It is easy for me to get rather overly 'theological' about it, but the basic fact of the matter is straightforward - either the tomb was empty, or it wasn't. If it wasn't, then there really is no particular story to tell - a good man died unjustly, a sad story, but history is full of those. But if the tomb was empty, then that demands that we come to terms with that very brute fact, and its implications for our lives. There is no in-between position available.

For myself, I can say that, "I know whom I have believed." (II Timothy 1:12). And I am only too happy to encourage any of you to make His acquaintance. I can honestly say that knowing Christ has made all the difference, and "the power of His resurrection" has transformed my life.

But each of you must reach his/her own conclusions - "what do you make of Christ?" And the whole Universe hangs in the balance. . .


As my Orthodox brethren say,

Christos Anesti! Alethos Anesti!
Christ is Risen! He is Risen indeed!

Happy Easter, everyone!


Monday, April 2, 2007

A Few Questions From a Friend

One of my blog-friends asked me a few questions, which I believe will help you all understand me better (and I'm just vain enough to think that you would want to). So, forthwith. . .

- What moved you to embrace Catholicism?

This demands a bit of a complex answer; you would be very kind to bear with me. I’ve posted about it, way back when, but perhaps I can expand a bit here.

I suppose it started the first time I went to a Catholic Mass, when I was in high school. My Jesus-freak buddy and I took on a project of visiting as many different kinds of churches as we could find. When we visited the Catholic church in town, I was very surprised by how much scripture was woven into the liturgy (I’d been told that Catholics just didn’t ‘do’ scripture), and how prayerful it was. So, my first impression was, “hey, this is a lot cooler than I expected it to be.”

When I went away to college, I was sort of ‘rootless’ in a church sense. I went to the college-town church of my ‘home denomination’ once, and was quite underwhelmed. I started going to a charismatic prayer meeting, and felt immediately at home. I took up with a young lady, who happened to be Catholic, and she began regularly inviting me to go to mass with her. Which I did, quite a lot, and it mainly reinforced my first impression.

At the same time, I took up an independent study of Church history – I was interested in what had happened to Christianity in the generations immediately following Jesus and the Apostles – how the second generation of Christians received the gospel from the Apostles, and how they, in turn, passed it on to the third – and I wondered how it had gotten from Bible days to my own. I don’t say that such a project would affect everyone the same way it affected me, but I came to see Catholicism (and Orthodoxy) as being in historical continuity with the first Christians, and if I wanted to be in that kind of ‘spiritual continuity’, I had to at least deal with that question.

I undertook to be received into the Catholic Church when I thought that the young lady (GF2, if you recall her) and I would get married, but for various reasons, we broke off our romantic relationship while I was in instruction (we are good friends today, tho). By then, though, I was already thinking of the Catholic Church as my spiritual ‘home’, and I completed my instruction on my own initiative, and was received into the Catholic Church.

Once I was safely Catholic, a few things sort of ‘cemented’ my conversion. Catholic sacramental life turned out to be a good deal richer than I’d anticipated. I recall hearing a Pentecostal preacher talking about a trip he’d taken to Poland, and he drew a fascinating parallel between communion and an altar call – “people standing in line to receive Jesus”. That thought has never left me, and to this day, I will often quietly hum ‘Just As I Am’ in the communion line.

I also discovered what I’ll call the ‘Catholic Intellectual Tradition’ – Thomas Aquinas, John Henry Newman, GK Chesterton, the whole Natural Law tradition – and I was instantly smitten. This was only reinforced when John Paul II became pope. I had never encountered anything quite like it (aside from CS Lewis, I suppose, and to a lesser extent, Francis Schaeffer).

- If you could change one thing about yourself what would it be?

I wish I weren’t so selfish. It is altogether too easy for me to go through life thinking about myself and my interests and what I want/need, when Molly and the kids need more of my ‘brain space’. I can do OK where Molly is concerned, especially when I’m feeling horny. But I really need to give more of my thoughts and attention to the kids. It’s altogether too easy for me to retreat into my ‘private world’ and tune them out. And that is not unrelated to the troubles that a couple of them have had. . .

- What is the best and worst thing about having a large family?

I want to say that they’re the same thing – you’re rarely alone. There’s never a dull moment, for sure. It’s very gratifying to see the relationships they have with each other – much as they bicker with each other, as they grow up their relationships really do develop some depth and affection. With eight kids, that’s 28 separate relationships of the kids with each other (45, if you throw Molly and me into the mix). And, as the kids get older, it’s very gratifying to see them cultivating a ‘family identity’ – all that shared experience has started being a ‘bonding’ thing. And, I’ve definitely improved my odds of having grandchildren. . . ;)

But, the bickering can reach truly epic proportions, and sometimes I just want to lock them all in the basement and let them have at each other, and then we’ll just go on with the survivors. I’m also a guy who seems to have a more-than-average felt need for some low-key solitude, and that just doesn’t happen very often. And I won’t even get into the grocery bills. . .

There has been a certain good-news/bad-news aspect when it comes to the troubles we’ve had with 1F and 3M – in the course of dealing with those situations, there are six other kids who get sort of short-changed in the process. But, they can also soften the grief for us, if we’re paying attention. . .

So, there you have it. I'll gladly entertain any follow-up questions any of you might have.

I enjoyed this; I hope you all enjoyed it, too. . .


Monday, March 26, 2007

Make Me Think

I've been nominated for a Thinking Blogger Award by Christian Husband, Recovering Soul, and Therese In Heaven. I'm truly flattered, and honored that folks like that count me as thoughtful. But, since, the protocol of the award is such that I'm not supposed to nominate the people who nominate me, I'd better hurry up and get this posted, while I still have some folks left whom I can nominate. . .

Here are the rules pertaining to the Thinking Blogger Award:

1. If, and only if, you get tagged, write a post with links to 5 blogs that make you think.
2. Link to this post so that people can easily find the exact origin of the meme.
3. (Optional) Proudly display the ‘Thinking Blogger Award’ with a link to the post that you wrote.

See, all three of the folks who tagged me are folks whom I'd be happy, even eager, to tag. XH challenges me all the time to think through what I believe, and be able to articulate it to someone who might not share all of my prior assumptions. RS and Therese are an absolute breath of fresh air in blog-world for their commitment to their marriage, and for their determination to tell the truth about the real nature of marital infidelity. But, according to the protocols, I'm not supposed to nominate any of them. So, let's see if I can come up with five nominees without them. . .

1. FTN. His was the first blog I followed regularly. His newer readers might not even know that he started his blog to talk about his commitment to stay out of porn and masturbation, but that's how I met him - while surfing for some not-too-grody porn (ahem!). FTN, my friend, you challenged me to do better, and for that I thank you. Over the last year or so, you've also become a good friend. And for that, I thank you even more.

2. Flutterby. She blogs very poignantly about her own interior life and struggles, but I would nominate her for a TBA on the strength of her comments on FTN's Blogger Bible Study alone. She brings some amazing insights to the table in that one. . .

3. Different Kind of Girl. OK, technically, her name includes the prefix, 'For a'; lots of folks call her FADKOG, but that seems a little too 'Rage-Against-the-Machine-ish' for me. I hardly knew her before we spent a week together in FTN's Real Blogger World House, but I've come to know her for a real kickass friend. She writes very well about daily-life, marriage-and-family stuff, which means we share a fair bit of turf. It's been a pleasure gettin' to know ya, DKG.

4. Emily. Another RBWH veteran, altho I'd known her for a while before that. She's another blogger with a real ear for the poignant in human life. Sometimes her posts just break my heart, but she's a woman of real substance, and the integrity with which she comes at her life is highly admirable.

5. Finished Last. He's only become one of my regular reads in the last few months, but I really appreciate his posts. He's brutally honest with himself; I'm sure he's a very poor liar, and I mean that in the most complimentary sense. I must be drawn to poignant blogs; his definitely falls under that description, too. Anybody who has Charlie Brown for his icon deserves some kind of attention. . .

I want to make a couple of honorable-mention shout-outs - first to KJ, who started my blog for me nearly a year ago; she's not blogging anymore, but I wish her well (and her husband, and their marriage), wherever she is, and whatever she's up to. Also O272 (yet another RBWH vet), who still technically has a blog, but seems to have gone on hiatus. She was the master (mistress?) of the incisive question, and I always looked forward to her comments.

Gee, that wasn't as hard as I thought it would be. Thanks again to the folks who tagged me - I sincerely mean it when I say I'm flattered. And those of you whom I tagged - YOU'RE IT!


Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

An old hymn, from the 4th-century Liturgy of St. James (translated from Greek into English by Gerard Moultrie):

Let All Mortal Flesh Keep Silence

Let all mortal flesh keep silence
And in fear and trembling stand.
Ponder nothing earthly-minded,
For with blessing in His hand
Christ our God to earth descendeth
Our full homage to demand.

King of kings, yet born of Mary,
As of old on earth He stood.
Lord of lords in human vesture,
In the body and the blood.
He will give to all the faithful
His own self for heavenly food.

Rank on rank the host of Heaven
Spreads its vanguard on the way,
As the Light of light descendeth
From the realms of endless day,
That the powers of Hell may vanish
As the darkness clears away.

At His feet the six-winged seraph;
Cherubim with sleepless eye
Veil their faces to the Presence
As with ceaseless voice they cry:
Alleluia! Alleluia!
Alleluia, Lord Most High!


Friday, March 2, 2007

Holy Shit

And [Jesus] told this parable: “A man had a fig tree planted in his vineyard; and he came seeking fruit on it and found none. And he said to the vinedresser, ‘Lo, these three years I have come seeking fruit on this fig tree, and I find none. Cut it down; why should it use up the ground?’ And he answered him, ‘Let it alone for one more year, sir, while I hoe it and manure it. And if it bears fruit next year, well and good; but if not, cut it down.” (Luke 13:6-9)


It being Lent, I am in a ‘penitential’ frame of mind – taking a ‘spiritual inventory’ of my life, and trying, with God’s help, to address areas of weakness and sin. This Parable of the Fig Tree has always had a certain poignancy to me.

There are many ways in which this parable has been interpreted over the centuries, but I’ve always tended to read it as though the fig tree is me, and my life. And I ask myself, have I borne fruit? When my Master comes to me, does He find the fruit that He’s looking for?

And I get a certain chuckle from the last couple verses. Loosely re-translated (call it the DJV – Desmond Jones Version), the vinedresser (the Holy Spirit?) says, “Let me whack on it and throw some shit on it, and see if it bears fruit.” And I get a wry smile at the metaphorical notion that our lives become more fruitful when we get some shit thrown on us. Maybe we get humbler, as the ‘shit’ that comes our way breaks down our pride. Maybe we finally begin to address some weakness or character flaw when the ‘shit’ that gets thrown at us makes it apparent. Mother Theresa said that ‘there is no spiritual growth without suffering’, and whether she had this parable in mind or not, this is essentially how I tend to understand her. Throwing some shit on my garden makes it more fruitful; is it possible that the ‘shit’ that gets thrown at me has an analogous effect on my spiritual life?

And, I look at the shit that’s come our way over the last few years, and I hope so. . .


Tuesday, February 13, 2007

You Got to Have Friends

OK, it seems that the corporate info-trolls have repented of their decision to put Blogger ‘under the ban’. Which many of you have known for a while, since I’ve been leaving comments on your blogs for the past couple weeks. Which means that I can post again, from time to time. I won’t be posting terribly regularly – once or twice a month, at most, and probably not as extensively as before – but, from time to time, as thoughts occur to me, I’ll throw ‘em out here. Hope you all don’t mind. . .


So, here’s a bit more ‘backstory’ for you all; perhaps it will shed just a bit more light on who I am, and where I’m coming from; it might be a little convoluted, so I'll ask for your patience in advance. . .

In recent months, I have blogged quite a bit (here and here) about our recent struggles with a couple of our kids, and about the life of our community. I think I've mentioned, maybe in passing, that, until a few years ago, I had a 'low-level' pastoral position in the community - I led a small men's group (maybe 6-8 guys, at various times). I was also involved in leadership of music for our worship meetings, and I had my fingers in a few other 'pies', as well, including leading music for the community's kids' summer camp. When things with my kids got so intense, I stepped down from leading the men's group. The music leadership also got a fair bit more demanding of my time/energy around that time, and so I stepped down from that, too. All with the agreement and approval of those who had been my 'peers' and 'leaders' in those things. Then, at the same time, the directors of the summer camp asked another guy to lead music for the camp (there was a complex set of reasons for their decision, and they talked about it with me beforehand; they didn't 'spring it on me'; at least not completely). So, in the space of a few months, I left pretty much every significant role I had in the life of the community, except that of 'member'.

The trouble is, those 'positions' provided me with most of the context for my friendships in the community. So, when I left those positions, I lost most of my close friendships. Not in the sense that they weren't my friends anymore, but, the context I'd had in which we encountered each other was gone. They weren't any less busy than they'd ever been, and so the net effect on my life was, that I lost most of my closest friends; or at least, I lost virtually all of the day-to-day contact that I'd had with them. Now, I'm a person who forms a few really deep friendships, rather than lots of shallow ones, so that was a very painful set of events in my life. I've tried hard not to be bitter about it; I don't think I've succeeded as well as I wish I had. I keep plugging away, but the pain hasn't just gone away like I wished it would.

Since the first of the year, Molly and I have gone to counseling (separately, for our own issues; the woman we’re both seeing has been counseling 1F for the last six months or so). I think it’s been good. We’ve covered a fair bit of ground already. It will probably take a while for it all to ‘take shape’ for me, but I will say that both Molly and I have been addressing things from our pasts that we’ve always known about, but never particularly felt the effects of (my parents’ divorce, for my part). But, of course, just because we didn’t feel the effects, didn’t mean that there weren’t any effects; only that we didn’t feel them.

When Molly and I were ‘courting’, I laid out my life story for her, with the adoption, the divorce, etc, etc. She said to me, tongue only partly in cheek, “How can you be normal?” (saying what’s on her mind is one of Molly’s very endearing qualities). Well, it turns out I’m not! Sorry about that, Sweetheart. ;)

So now, we’re starting to understand what some of those effects are (and how they’ve worked to the detriment of our kids), and how we can begin to undo them. And we’re seeing positive trends already.

As far as my friends go, I’m finally figuring out that a large part of my ‘friendship need’ is up to me to address. Rather than just wallow in my own hurt feelings and self-pity (it is so easy to just say “to hell with it,” and wallow; as unpleasant as it is, it’s incredibly tempting), I really can just go initiate some contact. Which takes a bit more work on my part than it used to, when I could just go to meetings, and my friends would be there, without me having to do anything. But – it is what it is. And we’ve revisited a few ‘older’ friendships that had sort of ‘lain dormant’ for a while – people who, ironically, I’d fallen out of touch with as I got too busy to spend much time with them. And it’s all good.

The whole counseling thing is really just getting started, and there’s still a lot of territory left to be explored in my psyche. But, based on the early returns, I’m hopeful. And, when I can, I’ll keep you all posted. . .


Edit, Feb. 15 - I should add, by way of tying things together a bit, that one of the 'issues' that this all brings up is a 'weak sense of myself', to use my counselor's psycho-jargon. Which is to say, that I think of myself in 'social' context - I understand 'where I fit in', and who I am relative to others, but, when I'm 'left to myself', so to speak, my inner resources aren't so strong, and I start to feel 'lost'. Which actually makes sense of several things in my life. So, as I said above, I'm hopeful. And hope is a good thing. . .


Tuesday, January 16, 2007

Time and Space; and Farewell

. . .

Alas, this will be the last post at Desmond's Place. The corporate info-trolls at my company have placed Blogger 'under the ban', so I can no longer post from work, or manage my blog, or even comment on your blogs. Since I do virtually all of my blogging from work (other things fill up my time at home), that fairly effectively renders me a blogging non-entity (or, no more than a silent lurker). So, farewell.

Truth to tell, I've been preparing to ease my way out of blogging anyway, for a while now. When I restarted this blog in August, I thought that perhaps I could do it in a less obsessive way. In the end, I couldn't. As I said the last time I shut down this blog, the Real World trumps Blog-world. So, it's time for me to go. Again. The info-trolls just gave me a necessary kick in the backside.

I will miss my little group of blog-friends. There are too many of you now for me to make individual call-outs, but you can all consider yourselves thanked. It's been fun.


Tuesday, January 9, 2007

The Love of My Life

A blogger recently wrote me an e-mail, in which she said, among other things, “You entered into marriage with the love of your life.” And I know what she is talking about. Molly is indeed The Love of My Life, and blessed am I because of it.

A few years ago, Molly began a little daily tradition - when I would come home at the end of the day and she heard the back door open just before dinner-time, she'd call out, “Is that The Love of My Life?” Which was (is) wonderfully heart-warming for me. I usually respond by saying, “I sure hope so!” And in recent years, the younger kids have joined in the fun. So that, these days, when I open the back door, 8M will usually come running; when he sees that it’s me, he’ll run to Molly, calling out as he goes, “Mom! It’s The Love of Your Life! The Love of Your Life is home!” It doesn’t get any better than that, let me tell you.

But, truth to tell, I didn’t marry the Love of My Life; I’m married to the Love of My Life, but she wasn’t that when we got married. Some of you actually did marry the Love of Your Life – your high-school sweetheart, maybe, or someone whom you just knew, within minutes of your first meeting, would end up sharing your life with you. That wasn’t the case for Molly and me. When we got married, I was marrying a very good friend, someone with whom I shared several important life goals and aims, with whom I got along very well, and whose company I enjoyed enough to think that we could actually have a life together. She agreed with me enough to accept my proposal; we got married, and la, la, how the life went on.

It’s almost funny to look back on it now, but Molly still tells people that our first year of marriage was the worst year of her life. Her adjustment to the new ‘life-together’ was a bit harder than mine, I guess. . .

But, somewhere along the line, over the ensuing 25 years, she became the Love of My Life. We put in the necessary work, we shared our lives, we suffered together, and in the process of all that, our two lives became one, to the point that I can’t imagine my life without her. This woman, whom I liked and admired way back when, has proven to be even more solid, more admirable, and more amazingly wonderful than I thought she was.

God is good. . .


Friday, January 5, 2007

My Other Old Flame

A while ago, when I posted about my 'old flame', I referred to her, very cryptically (if not terribly creatively) as 'GF1'. And I'm sure that the more perceptive among you were asking yourselves, "Why did he call her 'GF1' and not just 'GF', or 'OGF' (for 'Old GirlFriend, I suppose), or something like that? Does 'GF1' imply the existence of a 'GF2'?" To which I reply - you are very clever bloggers; you figured me right out, you did.

When I was a freshman in college, I met a young woman, with whom I shared a couple classes, and who also, as luck would have it, lived in the women's wing of my dorm. She was witty and clever, and very bright - interesting, and lots of fun. She was also a strong Christian - she went to the same charismatic prayer meeting that I did, and, when the community began, she was part of it, as well.

As I got to know her better, I found that we had quite a bit of other common ground, besides. Both our families had moved during our senior year of high school, uprooting us from schools and friendships we'd had for years. And, coincidentally, our families had both moved to the suburbs of the same midwestern megalopolis; in fact, they lived about twenty minutes from each other. We began to spend a lot of time together, and by the time spring break rolled around, we were a definite 'item'.

Our parents' proximity to each other meant that, even when we returned home for the summer, we could easily get together pretty much whenever we wanted to, which turned out to be quite a lot. It also meant that we got to know each other's families very well. Which is a very helpful thing, if you mean to build a solid, long-term relationship. Which I certainly did.

GF2 effectively introduced me to the Catholic Church (which I actually mentioned in this post, without referring to her by name; or pseudonym; whatever). I began the process of being received into the Catholic Church when I thought that I would marry her someday (I mentioned it before, but it bears repeating, that I wasn't far into the process before I made the decision to become Catholic on my own behalf, and not just for her).

But ultimately, I think we were mismatched in a few significant ways. For one, the whole time we were together, she was never completely certain that marriage was what she wanted for her life. From time to time, she would get a strong urge to be a nun. Which was certainly her prerogative, but definitely not what I wanted to hear.

I also think that we were somewhat mismatched temperamentally. Both Molly and GF1 are very outgoing, sanguine personalities, and very complementary to my more brooding, melancholy tendencies. But GF2 is temperamentally very similar to me, at least in terms of brooding melancholy. The problem with that being, that whenever one of us got 'down-in-the-dumps', the other one tended to follow them down into the dumps, rather than help them get out of their depression.

Anyway, between those factors (and a few others, like the fact that that we were both still teenagers at the time we were together), our relationship, at least in romantic terms, ended after a bit more than a year. I think we both agreed that our relationship was distracting us from things that we needed to be paying more attention to, like finishing our education(s), growing stronger and more mature in our Christian lives, and just growing up in general. (She probably agreed more than I did, but I could admit the truth of it.) And so, we broke off our romantic relationship.

That was incredibly painful for me, and made all the moreso by the fact that I was still in regular contact with her in the life of the community. For a few years afterwards, we practically ignored each other in public, just because neither of us could figure out how to treat each other 'normally'.

An interesting epilog to this story is that, after we broke up, Molly joined the community, and she and GF2 became very close friends. To the point that Molly asked her to be a bridesmaid in our wedding. Which GF2 accepted. And which my mom thought was very weird, but whatcha gonna do? By the time Molly and I were engaged, GF2 was also in a serious relationship with a guy who, in the fullness of time, would become her husband. In fact, they more-or-less announced their engagement at our wedding reception. So, our lives have been intertwined in some interesting ways over the years, even though we never revisited our 'old flame'.

Today, GF2 is happily married to the same guy (they just had their 26th anniversary), and the mother of seven kids, all of whom she has home-schooled (five of them, so far, through high school). In recent years, she and her husband have become one of our closest friend-couples (the 'big-family' thing, no doubt), and one of her sons, a theology student, has become a good friend of mine in his own right. Somewhere along the line, all of our kids have found out that "Our mom and your dad used to date each other," which is the object of great mirth among them. We would both be tickled pink to have two of our kids marry each other - if we can't have kids together, maybe we can have grandkids together.

But that's another story, yet to be written, if at all. . .


Tuesday, January 2, 2007

Holy Family

This past Sunday was the Feast of the Holy Family on the Catholic liturgical calendar. In recent years, Molly and I have taken on a certain 'devotion' to the Holy Family. I mean, on a completely basic level, we aspire to holiness for our own family, so there's a certain 'identification' there - here's a holy family; we want our family to be holy; let's pay attention to them. I mean, if you can't take some lessons on family life from Jesus, Mary and Joseph, whatcha gonna do?

Our priest, in his homily Sunday, made what I thought was a very rich, deep point - that, when Christ came to earth in human flesh, he didn't fall out of the sky in armor, riding on a horse; he didn't duck into a nearby phone booth, like Superman; he was born. Born of a woman, and, more to the point for the feast at hand, born into a family. The Incarnation itself happened in the context of a human family. . .

. . . It can seem a bit daunting to measure our family against the standard of Jesus, Mary and Joseph - we aren't saints (and, if you lived with us, you would know just how saintly we really aren't). When I look at our family, the whole concept of 'holy family' and what it might look like applied to us, can become painfully, almost mockingly, abstract. It's hard to see it happening in any kind of 'concrete' way, and sometimes I come close to despair that 'holy' and 'my family' would be utterly oxymoronic if referred to each other.

And yet, even Jesus, Mary and Joseph were fully and completely human, with human lives and human challenges, and their sanctity - their holiness - lies in how they met the challenges they faced, not in the absence of challenges.

And so, for me, might it be that holiness lies not in living so virtuously that nothing bad ever happens to me or my children, but rather in responding virtuously - with goodness and truth - to the things, both good and bad, that do happen to me? And in loving my children when they screw up (like Jesus, who 'while we were still sinners, died for us'). That is holiness on a very earthy, down-and-dirty level. But more and more, it seems to me that that's the holiness I need to pursue.

Lord, have mercy.