Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cabin Fever

Feeling the cabin fever, I took our road bikes into the bike shop yesterday to have them tuned up. I am hoping the predictions for 53 degrees and sun on Saturday come true so I can finally get get in my first ride of 2008.

Of course, I have also been daydreaming about the latest model bikes. I was toying with the idea of splurging on an Orbea this year, but I doubt that will happen. For now, that bike remains in the realm of fantasy, but it's fun to think about anyway!

Saturday, February 23, 2008

Bottomless Well

In this morning's homily, my pastor asserted that God's love is like a bottomless well. No matter how many times we go back to draw from the well, it never goes dry -- God's love is infinite and always available. Even when -- especially when -- we experience a dry spell, an inexhaustible life-giving wellspring is there to refresh us, sustain us, and give us life here and in the hereafter.

Assuring us that God's love and forgiveness are always available to us, today's reading from Micah vividly describes a God who is like a loving parent who can't stay irritated at his children for long:
Who is there like you, the God who removes guilt and pardons sin for the remnant of his inheritance; Who does not persist in anger forever, but delights rather in clemency, And will again have compassion on us, treading underfoot our guilt?
Micah 7.18-19a

I especially love the imagery that God is "treading underfoot our guilt". Certainly there are times I feel heavily burdened by my sins, but my sins are so insignificant to God and his love for me so vast, he conquers them as easily as if he were taking a stroll in a garden.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Have Mercy

Today's readings focus on mercy and forgiveness. The readings strike me as bookends to each other -- the first reading from Daniel (9:4b-10) asks God's mercy for humankind, while in the Gospel reading (Lk 6:36-38) Jesus instructs us to be merciful to each other.

Of course, Christian living focuses a great deal on forgiveness. The Bible shows us over and over again that God forgives us, creates new agreements (covenants) with us, and provides methods, such as the sacrament of reconciliation (confession), by which we may be reconciled to him when we make poor choices.

Jesus' parallel teaching -- not only in Luke today, but throughout the Gospel -- says that not only is God merciful, but we are to take that example of mercy and apply it amongst ourselves. Mercy and forgiveness are not the exclusive domain of our Father and Jesus leads us to that understanding. We must strive to be as merciful as God is merciful in our interactions with each other.

Sunday, February 10, 2008


I think about a lot of different things, but as life has gotten more complicated, my ability to do focused contemplation for long periods of time is not what it used to be. When I was younger and my life was much simpler, I used to be very good at it -- those were the days when I would/could go for long walks in the woods or by the creek on my own. A dog or a kitty would follow me now and then, but usually I was alone in creation with my thoughts and each time those thoughts took a turn, I had time and the focus to follow the change in direction until I reached the end of the path, or until a new turn could be taken.

Some days I would climb the Red Bud tree in the yard -- it's where I spent a lot of time looking at praying mantis, butterflies, ladybugs, daddy longlegs, or walking stick bugs.

The thing about walking stick bugs is, they are so well camouflaged, I couldn't spot them easily like a butterfly or a lady bug. I had to slow down, usually come to a stop, and maybe even clamber up into a tree to find one. Then I waited to perhaps catch a glimpse of one as it moved slowly along a twig or branch or hoped my powers of observation would help me discover one. Most of the time, I never saw one, so it was a treat when I did.

Working on my goal this Lent is a lot like waiting for one of those elusive walking stick bugs to come into focus. I must slow myself, focus my attention, and wait patiently. I may even face some disappointment along the way when I don't find what I am seeking, but when the wait is over, I will be richly rewarded.

Wednesday, February 06, 2008

We are ambassadors for Christ

"We are ambassadors for Christ, as if God were appealing through us."
2 Cor 5:20

I could spend all of Lent savoring this single statement from Paul's second letter to the Corinthians. What do Paul's words mean to you? What do you feel when you read that sentence?

For me, this statement is a reminder to keep Christ top of mind and centered in my life at all times. It's easy to focus on Christ today -- Ash Wednesday -- when a physical reminder of his influence is traced front and center on my forehead for everyone to see. Perhaps just as importantly, I see the ashen cross each time I look in the mirror. My smudged reflection reminds me of my Christian faith, my sinfulness, and my Lord who is my savior.

When I read Paul's words, I feel a great sense of responsibility to behave in a Christian way at all times, in thought, word, and deed. That's a lot of pressure! Then I remember Christ's words in Matthew 11:29-30 "Take my yoke upon you and learn from me, for I am meek and humble of heart; and you will find rest for your selves. For my yoke is easy, and my burden light." Notice Jesus doesn't say, "be sinless, just like me!" He says to learn from him. Learning includes lessons, and some of the best lessons come from mistakes!

Even with all my numerous defects and insufficiencies, God still loves me and his love is eternal (which is too much to comprehend!), patient, and forgiving. God knows our mistakes, our inadequacies, our sins, but he still loves us just the same.

Sunday, February 03, 2008

Bike Swap Meet

Went to the Bicycle Swap and Classic Bike Show 2008 last Sunday which is hosted by the St. Louis Regional Bike Federation. Saw a bunch of neat vintage and antique bikes. Standouts were the Lemon Peeler,

and the 1890's ladies' safety bike.
From Bike Swap Mee...

The above photo shows a closeup of the rear tire and chain housing. Yes, the rims, fender, and chain guard are all made of wood. The laces you see are made of some kind of twine-like fiber. Fascinating.

Saturday, February 02, 2008

Mardi Gras!

Headed down to Soulard today to see Gumbohead play at Lucas School House.
From Mardi Gras 2008

Had a fantastic time as I danced my cares away this afternoon. So did a lot of other people:
From Mardi Gras 2008

Outside of Lucas, there were a ton of people partying. I was glad I was on the edge of Soulard and not in the middle of this:
From Mardi Gras 2008

Looking forward to heading to Lucas again soon, and I hope they do the same deal ($10 cover gets you in for three bands for the day) for next year's Mardi Gras.

Friday, February 01, 2008

Bread of Life

Had a busy weekend last weekend, then a marathon this week, so I am just now getting a chance to post something substantive.

Last Sunday I attended the sixth annual Food and Wine Experience, which is a fundraiser for the Repertory Theatre. My main reason for going was to see Fr. Dominic Garramone, who hosted the PBS program Breaking Bread with Fr. Dominic and is author to five cookbooks.

I picked up one of his cookbooks while on a holiday shopping visit to the Hill and am delighted by the way in which he weaves baking instruction with faith lessons and tradition. I have been a baker of one thing or another for as long as I can remember, but only recently (2006) converted to Catholicism. So as a newbie Catholic -- newbie Christian for that matter as I was agnostic before I decided to convert -- but experienced baker, his book has been a fantastic way for me to add more depth and substance to the food traditions I have known all my life.

While I was there, I picked up another book of his, Bake and Be Blessed. I'm not yet done reading it, but its premise is to parallel the bread making process to how we must nurture and develop our faith life.

It was wonderful to meet him in person, and he was just brimming with joy, love, and grace.
From Food and Wine...

I have a neat story that vividly illustrates one of Fr. Dominic's points he makes throughout his work and writing -- sharing our blessings and our bread. As he was giving his talk, Fr. Dominic tossed samples of his breads to the audience.
From Food and Wine...

I caught one of the corn bread muffins (above) and asked the audience members around me if they would like to share. All three said yes so I broke off samples for each of them.

After Fr. Dominic's talk was over, I chatted with one of the women with whom I shared the muffin. Turns out she had a spare complimentary ticket to the "Reserved" area of the event, which offered access to other wines and food samples not available with the ticket I had purchased. She asked if I would like to have the spare ticket since her friend with whom she had planned to attend couldn't make it. I said yes and thanked her for her generosity.

All I did was share a little piece of a humble corn bread muffin with her -- one which Fr. Dominic had shared with me -- and she was so gracious in return. If only we could all take this same lesson -- to give and return freely -- into our daily lives, imagine how beautiful a world in which we would all live!

Whether is is the Bread of Life or a simple corn bread muffin you break and share with those around you, bread is made to be shared.
I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh. - John 6:51