Thursday, December 13, 2012

A Pilgrimage To The Park?

A pilgrimage to your local park?  Why not?  It's close by, probably has some green stuff (ie., trees, grass, etc.), maybe some water (lake), and probably some picnic tables to eat your lunch at.  Maybe you should throw an old blanket in the car, just in case. 

Once there, take a few moments to breathe deeply, exhale slowly, then see what's for lunch.  Even a couple of rolls and a hunk of cheese can be a feast in these surroundings.  When you finish eating, close your eyes for a few moments and just let your mind drift, while you take slow, deep breaths.  Don't fall asleep!  

Now open your eyes and look around you.  See if you still have time for a brisk walk around the baseball field or other safe path.  Spend your last few minutes taking in the cool greens, the soft rustle of the breeze in the leaves, the still waters of the lake, the innocence of children playing in the playground.  Whatever your local park features, you can most likely use it to relax and unwind for a few minutes, especially if the price of gas is keeping you from venturing much further.

I enjoy visiting the local park wherever I happen to be.  No two are exactly the same.  Some have quirky, creative play areas and trails. Some have lakes and trees.  Some have swimming pools or bike paths or skate parks.  Parks also tend to be kid- and pet-friendly.  A community park reflects its community.

If you don't have the time or money for a longer journey, try your local park!

Monday, November 26, 2012

Julie Carrick - Living The Faith Boldly

Year of Faith Events - Carrick Ministries

Julie Carrick sang her first solo at the age of 5.  Since then, she has devoted her life and her music to Jesus.  Even after surviving a rare form of lung cancer a few years ago, Julie continues to minister and share her faith with Catholics all over the world.  We were recently blessed to once again host one of Julie's fantastic missions:  Living Our Catholic Creed.  

One thing you will notice about Julie is that she is humble and transparent.  She shares freely of her own pain and her own joy.  Her music flows from a wellspring of experience throughout her life.

She proudly tells of how her husband of nearly 30 years bore witness to his Catholic faith to a co-worker.

She shares her agony upon learning that her daughter had been raped and subsequently became pregnant.  Her daughter Edel's courage in accepting and embracing that new life is also a part of Carrick Ministries.

She shares her own story of temptation, when she has to make a choice between a lucrative recording contract with "stipulations" and her own morals and values.

Throughout the evening, Julie performs her award winning compositions, as well as classic hymns, interweaving inspiration with quotes from St. Teresa of Avila and an attentive reading of the Creed. 

This mini concert/mission is perfect for the "Year of Faith".  You will truly be inspired to live your faith boldly, taking a stand for marriage, for life, and for what "We Believe".

For more information on Carrick Ministries, available concert and event dates and to order Julie's recordings, see Carrick Ministries.

No compensation was received for this review.

Monday, November 12, 2012

America, Still Beautiful

On the way to church yesterday, I noticed our veterans from the American Legion hall had installed the flags up and down our two main streets.  It took a while to sink in, because I was stubbornly clinging to the thought that Veteran's Day was Monday.  I made a quick change in the music, substituting "America The Beautiful" for the final hymn I had chosen earlier.

As I struggled to sing those beautiful words without choking up, I contemplated their meaning to me:

O beautiful for spacious skies,

Thank you, Father, for unbelievably blue skies that seem to stretch on forever here in Northern Arizona.

America! America! God mend thine ev'ry flaw,

There are so many...but through the power of prayer and diligent work to amend those flaws, I still believe in U.S.

O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,

The tears are nearly out, my throat threatens to choke up.  I pause and take a deep breath, thankful for the congregation singing.  Thank you to my birth father who served in Japan and in the Korean war.  Thank you to my dad, who served in peace time.  Thank you to grandpa who served in WWII and to Uncle David, who died on the Bataan Death March.  Thank you to my future son-in-law, who served two tours in Iraq.  Thank you to my bestie, who served several tours in Viet Nam.  Thank you to all the veterans who made it possible for us to continue to fight at home, to keep our religious liberty, and our many other rights which are currently endangered.

So rarely do we ever get through the third verse, but do we ever manage to get to the fourth?

O beautiful for patriot dream That sees beyond the years

Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears!
America! America! God shed his grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood From sea to shining sea.


Monday, October 22, 2012

Halloween at Calico Ghost Town

On any day of the year, Calico Ghost Town, in Yermo, California (just outside of Barstow on Interstate 15) is, well, a ghost town.  On Halloween, all the skeletons come out of the closet and dance in the streets.  Residents and vendors alike enthusiastically decorate with creepy cloth, dusty curtains, skulls and other scary stuff, in anticipation of two wild weekends of  "Calico Ghost Haunt".  Apparently, campers at the adjacent campground also decorate, and the Ghost Haunt is supposed to include all kinds of family style Halloween activities, including the recently revived Ghost Tours.  We were unable to make it, as we were there the weekend before.

 In the 15 or so years since I last visited Calico, the town has added museums and attractions that weren't previously available.  Apparently being named California's Official Silver Rush Ghost Town has been good for Calico and for San Bernardino County Regional Parks, which operates it.

The Maggie Mine tour is a kick.  For $2 adults and $1.50 children over 5, we got to walk through one of the few stabilized mines anywhere.  Every room has a mining scene, depicting the daily operation of a silver mine.

Just below the Maggie, Chinatown lies in ruins.  One tiny stone hut is fitted with a cot, fireplace, and table to show the cramped quarters.  Nearby lies a ruin that must have been a multi-family dwelling.  We spent several minutes going in and out of all the rooms.

Another fun stop is the old schoolhouse, with desks
neatly lined up and slates at the ready.  That little building out back (can't see it in the picture) is the outhouse.  My son was appalled when I told him about the wooden seat and the newspaper TP.

 Other restored and/or rebuilt buildings include a blacksmith shop, firehouse, restaurant/hotel, saloon, post office/general store, newspaper office and several others.  Many of these house gift shops, including one with lots of brain teasers, and a couple real leather shops.

Outside the sheriff's office stands a jail cell and hangin' tree.

Though there are several gift and souvenir shops, my
favorite has to be the old time general store.  Complete with "unmentionables" hanging from the rafters, displays of bulk goods and old fashioned candies for sale.  We got a couple of stick candies, and the licorice flavored one tasted more like real licorice than most of what passes for that particular candy on today's market.  With many items of antique clothing and other household goods on display, the general store is part museum, part convenience store, with propane, canned goods and other camping supplies, and part souvenir shop.

Several other museums are in the works in various buildings.  Other attractions in the park include a railroad ride, Mystery Shack, Gold panning and the cemetery.  Admission to the park is $7 for adults and $4 for children.  Kids under 5 are free.  If you decide to camp at Calico, admission is included.

Calico hosts several events throughout the year, check the San Bernardino County Regional Parks website for info.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

The Family Rosary

Lately my 9 year old has been wanting to say the Rosary as a family.  I am thrilled with this new development, as I have been trying to encourage it for years, but I wonder what has brought it on.  Naturally, he has several fairly nice rosaries, as well as some funky plastic ones.  He knows how to say the Rosary, as we frequently say it in the car (with or without his participation) and it is said before Sunday Mass at our church and at the holy hour we attend on Thursdays.  Yet, this family Rosary has been instigated at his request.

He does have a special intention - the healing of his 9 year old cousin who is having open-heart surgery in a few weeks.  But why this particular prayer method?  I can only think that, in addition to divine inspiration at work in his heart, all our family discussions, in which there are many disagreements, seem to meet in agreement on one thing - the power of praying the Family Rosary.  Thanks be to God!

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Case In Point

How timely of this to appear on Facebook after my latest post.  So, what do you think?  Sacrilegious because it's not in the proper building, with the proper vestments, furniture, etc?  I think not.  I think it is even more sacred, due to the circumstances.

Monday, September 17, 2012

Form and Substance

Outdoor altar at the Memorial to the Unborn, St. Germaine's Catholic Church, Prescott Valley, AZ
There is a lot of contention these days about the particular form of things.  What words should be used in the prayers of the Mass.  What gestures should be made.  How we should place the furniture (ie., altar, tabernacle, pews, etc.).  These are all superficialities.  I would gladly attend Mass out in a parking lot, with a tailgate for an altar, and the priest wearing makeshift vestments.  I am more concerned about the substance of my faith. The Holy Eucharist.  The Word of God.  The Homily that touches my heart and gives me new insight, inspiration, or at least food for thought.

The only things I want to concern myself with are - am I ready to receive Jesus into my heart?  Am I trying to live the kind of life He would have me live?  Am I too attached to property, prestige and power in my life? Just give me the Mass, Holy Communion and the Word.  I hate having my faith chopped up by fellow believers who want to nitpick over fluff and stuff.  Who buy into slanders against and focus on the imperfections of our leaders.  Who want to feel superior because they use a certain form of practice which will get them into heaven, while the rest of us roast, simply because we do not subscribe to their "form".  I could well be wrong, but I believe that God will judge on more of what is in our hearts and how we treat others.

I certainly don't mean that form is not at all important.  I am simply of the opinion that there is a committee of guys in red hats who get paid the big bucks to worry about all that stuff.  Whatever they decide for the moment on format, is not going to impact whether I stay or leave the church.  The substance of our faith is, has and always will be the Word of God, and the Body and Blood of Christ.  As long as that continues, we're good.  Don't get distracted by the side show.

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Clover Spring Trail, Williams, AZ

Turn off from Bill Williams Lookout Trail

Took the Li'l Guy up to Williams (AZ) the other day, for some hiking.  We stopped at the Williams District Ranger Station, off Interstate 40, exit 161.  The office was closed, as it was a Saturday, but the trail head was open.  In spite of there being five other vehicles parked, we didn't encounter anyone on our trail until we were nearly back to our car.

Clover Spring Trail Map

The trail to Clover Spring starts at the Williams Ranger Station.  You can also start from Buckskinner Park in Williams, or Sheridan St. downtown.  From the Ranger Station, take the Bill Williams Mountain Trail, #21, for about 1/4 mile, then make a left onto the Clover Spring Trail, #46.  That's your turnoff sign, pictured above.  The 3/4 mile trail meanders through ponderosa pines, oaks, and rare alligator junipers.

The trail is easy, with just a few rock steps set into the path, but it showed me how quickly I can get out of shape.  Even my hiking boots felt heavy!  Note to self - do NOT wear tight denim skirt for hiking - full skirt is a must.  It feels so wonderful to be back in the pines after 4-1/2 months in the city.   Up near the spring, we startled a young deer and enjoyed the sight of it bounding away.

Clover Spring
Clover Spring is a natural spring, once used for domestic purposes, but now only safe for wildlife.  Bring your water purifier if you want to drink!  The water level was almost a foot below the drip pipe when we were there, and didn't look too appealing.

The return trip was all downhill.  Lots of big rocks for young-uns to climb, and side attractions for them to explore.  We were out early enough to hear the Grand Canyon Railway down in Williams blast its farewell for its daily run up to the canyon.

If you want a longer hike, you can continue past Clover Spring to Buckskinner Park - bring your picnic - or take the loop back to the junction with Trail #124, City of Williams Link Trail, and explore downtown Williams.  There are several great restaurants and lots of shops offering everything from Indian jewelry to custom leatherwork to Route 66 souvenirs.  When you're ready to go back to your car, take Trail #124 back to #46 and end up at the Ranger Station.

Monday, August 6, 2012

The Sword - Review

Most of the world has been destroyed by a deadly virus, followed by a nuclear war. Technology is useless without the utilities and infrastructure to support it. Survivors are so widely dispersed that nearly all "modern" knowledge and convenience has disappeared. 400 years later, groups of people have organized into medieval style villages and countries, producing food on small farms and manufacturing all their clothing, tools, and weapons by hand.  If you're a prepper, a survivalist, or just a fan of the fantasy genre like myself, you will truly enjoy "The Sword", by Bryan M Litfin.

To these future humans, we are "the ancients".  Worship of idols and corruption are not only rampant, but taught as the state religion.  While trying to escape from "outsiders", Teo, a royal guardsman for the king of Chiveis, and Ana, a farm girl who saves his life, stumble upon an ancient book that turns out to be the Holy Bible.  As it is translated into their language, they come to know a new God, the Creator, whom they come to understand as the One True God.  Meanwhile, the High Priestess of the common religion takes steps to eliminate the new religion.  The ending is a compelling set up for Book 2 in this trilogy, The Gift.

The deep, resonant voice of narrator Ray Porter captures and holds the attention, while his softer, higher pitched female renditions are a bit humorous, while the listener adjusts to them.  Author Litfin succeeds in creating a future world that stands on its own in a genre which includes some tough competition.  His characters play convincingly, with all their flaws, admirable qualities, and inner struggles.  Ana eagerly embraces the new God, but Teo, accustomed to relying on his own strength and cunning, takes more than simple persuasion.  His road to conversion is fraught with disaster, and when he does come to believe, it may be too late for the fledgling community.

This book does have some mature scenes (without being explicit), so I would not recommend it for the family bookshelf, but I think it is appropriate for a mature 16 year old, and older, use your discretion.  It is entertaining, suspenseful, and illustrates what Christians must sometimes endure, especially in areas where the Word of God has never been heard.

The Sword, The Gift, and the third book in the trilogy, The Kingdom, are all available from for $14.98 each.

Thanks to  for providing me with a free review copy of "The Sword".  No other compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, July 5, 2012

The Atheist Inquisition

By Tribunal del Santo Oficio de la Inquisición (Enciclopedia Española) [Public domain], via Wikimedia Commons

So Happy 4th of July!  Before I even left for 6:30a.m. Mass yesterday, I saw the ad headline in the Los Angeles Times:   "Quit The Catholic Church". I was miffed, but it had to wait until after Mass.  In fact, I made it wait until after breakfast, when I read the whole ad.  Then I just rolled my eyes. 

Somehow, a group that has only been able to amass (pun intended) 18,000 members since its founding in 1978, is running this full page ad as they are able to raise funds.  It appeared in the New York Times way back in March, so obviously, they don't have a lot of support. Still, they are launching the same tired arguments about why the Catholic Church is such a bad guy. I say "tired", because they are calling women, like me, who are loyal to the church "ignorant", while they apparently refuse to acknowledge scientific evidence contrary to their primary argument, which is women's "reproductive rights".  I'm sorry, but as a mother of 4 children, I vote for the right of every woman to practice abstinence if she does not want to conceive, acquire an STD, or be a slave to her hormones.  To lower a woman's dignity so far that you have to call it "reproductive rights", is to say that she does not have the choice not to engage in sexual activity.  It is to say that she is too stupid to realize how babies are made.  That it is better for her to pump herself full of chemicals or extra hormones which will raise her risk of cancer, than it is for her to abstain from sex, or to have a baby. How can a woman possibly be happy and fulfilled if she is not having sex? Personally, that is more of a Dark Ages mentality than what the ad is accusing the church of.

Their other argument is that US healthcare reform is being held hostage by the Catholic Church. Not so. The church has worked hard towards affordable health care for all for years. The current health care law, in fact, coerces a faction of society, Catholics and Catholic Institutions, to pay for what they regard as murder, female oppression and religious persecution. In fact, if a non-Catholic, working at a Catholic Institution, wants free or low cost contraceptives, there are hundreds of family planning clinics they can get them from.

As for the sex-scandal issue, sex scandals and pedophilia, complicity, collusion and cover-ups are not exclusive to the Catholic Church. They are rampant at every level of society and in every institution in the United States.  Pointing the finger at the Catholic Church is just a smokescreen, using the currently popular bad guy, to cover up the fact that this is just an organization, like any other, trying to get more money to promote their agenda, which according to their own website is to educate the public on matters of non-theism.

We Catholics stopped murdering folks that refused to convert to our religion over a century ago. Don't shove your atheism down our throats just because you don't want to have kids to pass it on to.

They say "humanity above dogma".

I say "the truth shall set you free"!

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Bumped by Burros in Oatman, Arizona

It all started innocently enough.  Tired of the monotonous drive between Arizona and California along Interstate 40, I managed to talk my family into a detour to see the ghost town of Oatman, neatly tucked away on Old Route 66 between Kingman and Bullhead City. Indeed, it would add a few hours to the monotonous drive, but they would be entertaining hours, which would give us something interesting to think and talk about as we crossed the great Mojave. 

Just outside of Kingman, we exited I40 at Shinarump Dr.  Following the signs to Oatman Highway, we took in the sights as Old Route 66 led us away from civilization. My 9 year old son and I took turns guessing at locations from the movie "Cars". Sighting several old mine shafts, we discussed the possibilities of venturing out to do some gold prospecting of our own. Soon we were passing the Gold Road mine. (Link goes to a blog with some highlights about the mine.) The mine is officially closed, but every time we take this detour, we see at least a dozen vehicles parked there.

Oatman springs out of the landscape suddenly from this direction, so as soon as I saw the sign I slowed down. The highway goes right through the middle of town, and very likely, there will be some burros wandering the streets. Once a defunct mining town, reborn as a tourist attraction, Oatman boasts a charming Old West atmosphere with its false-front stores, board walks and daily "gun fights". Wild burros roam the streets freely, and have no hesitation about walking up to you and inspecting to see if you have any treats for them. Burro food is available in nearly all the shops. Clark Gable and Carole Lombard spent part of their honeymoon at the Oatman Hotel, (click link for some great reviews), their Honeymoon Suite is still a major attraction. Several ghosts are reported to haunt the town, but mostly we saw other tourists.

 Food is available at several restaurants and shops, and there are quite a few souvenir stands offering a variety of commercial and handmade items.  One vendor, Brenda, was set up in a covered wagon, offering cold drinks, kettle corn and her own self-published children's books and calendars featuring the Oatman burros. I have a soft spot for authors in general and self-published ones in particular, so I stopped to chat and ask a few questions.  As we talked, I kept getting bumped in the behind. I looked around me, but no one was close enough to be the guilty party. As I turned to scold my son, I found that the culprit was actually a jenny, looking for a handout! As our entire party burst into giggles at my expense (which I was more than happy to provide), I scratched the critter behind the ears, then shooed her away to pester someone else.

It was getting time for us to move along anyway. We cast last, longing glances at the hills, then got in the car and turned up the air conditioning. Oatman Highway to Bullhead City is a pleasant drive. From there, it's just about 20 minutes to Needles, California, where we pick up Interstate 40 again, to cross the desolate Mojave desert. Only now, we have a burro bumping adventure to relive, and a host of gold mining dreams and ghost stories to get us across to grandpa's house.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Judgement Calls

This morning's sermon was about making judgements.  The gospel passage today was from Matthew 7:1-5. "Do not judge and you will not be judged..."  The pastor of my dad's church talked about the judgments he had experienced and had made on his recent holiday.  I could totally relate.

Afterwards, another early mass goer was telling Fr. T about one of the masses this past Sunday, which had lacked a priest, so a deacon in attendance had stepped forward to lead a communion service.  I quipped about how that was commonplace where I live, that we were lucky to have a priest.  Fr. T was surprised, as he thought I lived nearby.  So much for my ego, in assuming he knew that I was the "daughter visiting from Arizona".  So, after explaining that I was just staying with dad for a few months, I went on with a brief synopsis of our mission situation in Northern Arizona.

At breakfast, I lamented the situation again.  Didn't the pastor recognize whom he saw regularly and whom he didn't?  Of course, I thought, how busy Fr. T must be, with the responsibilities of a parish of nearly 1,000 people.  How could he possibly keep track of one visitor?  Another judgement.

So, Miss Important, here, next realized how little I know about some of those in my own parish.  I want to be known to a certain extent, yet do I take the time to really know and care about others?  Am I so busy, running here and there, that I don't have time to chat now and then, for a few minutes after Mass, or when I see someone in town?  Surely, that's one of the reasons to live in a small town.

I'm also learning to translate it into some of my experiences during my soujourn here in the Big City.  After hockey practice the other day, my son and I walked through a street fair that was taking place next to the ice rink.  All kinds of wonderful antiques were on display,  but I thought that some were a bit pricey.  I took the opportunity to ask one vendor about a piece that I didn't recognize.  He went on the tell me about the wall-mount coffee grinder, with a large glass jar for the beans, "they used to buy them in big bulk bags, because they didn't have 'em all ground up in cans like we do now".  (Yes, I knew that, it's how I buy mine, but I held my tongue, wanting to hear more of his story.)  "Then they used to put up their extra produce in jars and so they'd have an empty jar that would fit right here", pointing to a bracket under the grinder, "to catch the grindings".  He went on to explain how they boiled their coffee and poured it through a cheesecloth, etc.  Really a wonderful story.  It also made me realize something else.  I asked his wife if they had gotten most of their inventory from the midwest and she confirmed that they did buy from sales on the other side of the country.  Suddenly the price seemed more reasonable, and I noticed that most of their items were also very clean and in good condition, which was also rare in my experience with antiques here in the west.

So by curbing my initial judgement to bypass their table as just another overpriced junk pile, I not only acquired valuable new information to add to my homesteading knowledge, I also had a pleasant conversation with a couple whom I would never otherwise have known to be interesting and wonderful.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Still Bucking the New Translation - Really??

Thanks to Dr. Jerry Galipeau's excellent blog, Gotta Sing, Gotta Pray, I actually have a "keep it simple" topic  for today;)  Due to all the uproar about the New Translation, and also due to my continuing efforts to be a passable music director for my parishes, I try to follow Dr. Jerry's blog.  He has been involved with publishing liturgical music for years, and his posts are usually informative and entertaining.  For several months now, he has been posting on issues with the New Translation of the Roman Missal, on Tuesdays and Thursdays.  I take a look every once in awhile.  The New Translation was mandated for use beginning in Advent of last year.  Six months later, people are still arguing its pros and cons.  Personally, though I like the New Translation, it would really make no difference to me if we went back to the old.

Okay, so I'm an oddball.  Part of me is traditional.  I wear the chapel veil.  I think the music for Mass should be dignified hymns or soft, inspirational melodies and chant, not "praise and worship, rock my world" stuff.  I prefer the tabernacle to be behind the altar, and the church to be dark and quiet, respectful, prayerful.  So I don't always get my way.  I like to hear Mass in my primary language, but I want to share the joy with my friends who don't speak or understand English so well, so I embrace the bi-lingual Mass, and can even muddle through a bit of Spanish.  Luckily I can play the flute and the organ in both Spanish and English. (yeah, some dumb humor;)  As a returned-fallen-away Catholic, I'm there for Mass.  Mass is the sacrifice of Jesus Body and Blood for my salvation.  Holy Communion is the common union with my fellow Mass-goers, and by extension the whole church, and hopefully one day the whole world, as the Body of Christ.

I go to Mass to hear the Word of God proclaimed and taught.  I want to learn how to be a better person.  I go to Mass to receive Holy Communion, Jesus entering into union with me to strengthen and transform me.  To remind me of my connection with that guy over there whose manners I find repulsive ( pride any better?).  And the lady whose dress is too short and too low cut (didn't I used to dress like that myself?)  And the family who only shows up on Palm Sunday (there were a few years when I didn't show up at all).  I don't go to bicker over this word here or that word there.  I'll let the pope and the cardinals and the bishops and their committees worry about all that stuff.  Life is too complicated.  For this simple-minded Catholic, I'll take Dr. Jerry's advice - gotta sing, gotta pray.  Nuff said.

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Price of Truth - Review

How do solving mysteries and restoring vintage quilts go together?  Like needles and thread!  Kidding aside, when Guideposts Books puts together a series, you can bet it will be uplifting, inspirational and always interesting.  Sarah Hart is a vintage quilt restoration expert, and an avid quilter herself, who tends to get tangled up in one mystery after another.  In "The Price of Truth", Sarah's in Boston with her daughter-in-law, Maggie, an antique dealer, for an antique auction.  The Maple Hill Historical Society has asked Sarah to bid on a quilt they believe was owned by one of the town's founders.  But there's something fishy going on with the quilts at this auction.  Sarah has to find out if the desired quilt is even authentic, then discover why other quilts are selling for way above their value, before it goes up for bid.  Meanwhile, an elusive stranger keeps having secret meetings with the auction manager and Maggie's best friend is having marital problems.  Read on as Sarah uncovers the mysteries of the quilts, helps Maggie's friend rethink her divorce plans and saves an auction house's reputation.

The Price of Truth is #20 in the Patchwork Mysteries Series from Guideposts Books

Thursday, June 7, 2012

U-pick, Seattle EMP and Salty's

Before leaving Portland, OR, we went in search of chocolate covered bacon.  We had heard that it was unbelievably scrumptious, but had no luck in locating a food stand that was open, serving it.  This, however, was a common sight along Highway 97 in Washington.  Produce stands everywhere!  We finally stopped at a u-pick orchard and scored 35 pounds of the most luscious sun-ripened peaches, nectarines and plums right off the trees!  Total damage was less than 50 cents a pound.  What we didn't eat, we froze at our next stop, to be enjoyed by our friends long after we are gone;)

The EMP in Seattle, WA is a quirky museum of music, science fiction and pop culture.  Mostly pop culture.  The "gallery companion" is a must.  For $3 you can rent an ipod with earbuds which will block out most of the loud noise (um, music) inside the museum, and give you a self-guided tour, extra stories about the exhibits, and additional music playlists.  We spent much of our time in the Avatar exhibit.  Pulling up the videos we made in the interactive sections was a bit tricky, later, but with a few emails to helpful museum staff we were able to accomplish it.  We passed on the opportunity to perform live onstage; we were far more entranced with the sound labs, where we could go into a soundproof room and jam to our hearts' content on guitars, keyboards, drums and synthesizers.  There's even a rec room for the little (and not so little) ones to play with  guitars and bongos, make buttons and color.  Afterwards, it was time for cocktails at the Pop Kitchen and Bar.  A non-drinker, myself, I had a rare craving for a virgin margarita.  This seemed to baffle my friend.  I had to explain to her how they were made, and still she eyed me with incredulity.  This just made me giggle more.  You'd think I was the one drinking...

No sojourn in Washington is complete for me, without a bowl of Salty's World Famous Seafood Chowder. The hearty mix of potatoes, bacon, clams, shrimp and scallops, with a generous drizzle of sherry at the table, and a healthy sprinkle of pepper is the perfect way to end a day of sightseeing, beachcombing or shopping.  It was the perfect time of day to enjoy our patio table on the water, and linger over a shared mango sorbet.  After that it was back to our friends' house for a movie, and to rest up for our long journey home.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

First Saturday Devotions - Substance or Superstition?

Today is the first Saturday of June.  My dad's roses are blooming profusely.  After so many Marian celebrations last month, my thoughts have turned to the First Saturdays and how they got started.  It's been a few years since Catholic school, and I live out in the sticks, where we're lucky to have "daily" Mass once a week.  So I did a little research on the First Saturdays.

The "official" First Saturday Marian Devotions with their attendant "promises" originated with the apparitions of Our Blessed Mother to the children at Fatima.  But Saturday had already long been a special day of devotion to Our Lady.  According to Marian Devotions in the Domestic Church, by the ninth century, Saturday devotion to Mary had already become popular.  Marian Catechist explains that, according to several theologians of the 12th and 13th centuries,  " Mary continued to believe, demonstrating her deep faith by never doubting for a moment her Son’s promise of resurrection".  They also give several other reasons and traditions for Saturday Masses being dedicated to Mary before Fatima.  So, long tradition.  

Okay, what about post-Fatima?  My favorite take on our current practice of this devotion is at the Bearing Blog.  I can totally relate to the author's reference to superstition and selfish intentions.  I returned to wearing the brown scapular and the chapel veil a few years ago.  As I put on or remove my scapular, I dedicate myself to Mary, and ask her to help me to practice modesty, purity and holiness (I need LOTS of help!).  As I put on my chapel veil for Mass or Eucharistic Devotion, I ask for humility and to remember to try to be of service to the other members of Christ's body.  It really irritates me to hear the scapular promoted as a talisman to protect a person from harm and/or hell.  The scapular in itself is just a piece of brown scratchy cloth.  It is what it symbolizes that is sacramental and only in that is it nourishing to the spiritual life.

In the same way, to complete the Five First Saturdays, including Holy Communion, Confession, fifteen minutes meditation, and five decades of the Rosary, just to benefit from the Promises - that Our Lady will "assist at the hour of death with all the graces necessary for salvation",  seems abhorrent to me.  On the surface.  More on that in a few lines.  For one thing, there is a fifth requirement to the fulfillment of the Promise - that the devotion be performed "with the intention of making reparation for the sins committed against the Immaculate Heart of Mary".  Someone who isn't sincere, will not be able to complete all Five Saturdays without this intention.  Even if one starts without that intention, it seems to grow on you in the practice.  Secondly, look at the promise.  What are the "graces necessary for salvation"?  Ponder that.  This devotion is not just another easy ticket into heaven.

So what about the superficial motive of performing the devotion just to benefit from the Promise?  When I was a child in Catholic school I performed many of the various recommended devotions our rich and ancient tradition makes available to us.  I was sincere and devout about them at the time.  I stored up a few treasures in heaven.  Then I became a teenager and then an adult.  I finally went the way of the world, and even left the church for a few years.  What's my point?  I came back.  I returned hungry for the Eucharist.  Starved for teaching and direction for following Jesus.  I came back with a desire to amend my life and be a better person.  Was it because of all those novenas I made as a child?  Was it because of all the prayers of my parents and loved ones?  

Certainly I'm not any more special than any other child of the Father.  I can't offer any tangible proof, but I'm certainly not going to discount the power of a Promise.  I hope I have a ways to go before I have need of that final assistance.  Making another round of Five First Saturdays would undoubtedly benefit me now, as well as later.

Wednesday, May 23, 2012

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms - Review

I don't normally care for romances but I chose this one because of the Amish twist.  The Amish fascinate and inspire me.  Ms. Woodsmall does an excellent job of introducing and acquainting us with her main characters.  She is generous with information about them and their backgrounds.  She paints pictures of landscapes and situations that play like a movie in the imagination.

Annie comes from a broken Old Order Mennonite home in which her mother has struggled to raise several children amid the shame of her husband abandoning the family.  Aden's Old Order Amish father and brother, Roman, were injured in a farming accident which left them unable to continue to provide for the family in quite the same way as before.  Annie's struggles with her mother are emotionally charged.  Roman's struggle to come to terms with his disability rings very true.  The way these people of faith handle their challenges and ultimately turn to their Creator to help and heal them is inspiring.  The problem of forbidden love between childhood friends Aden and Annie is resolved amid surprising twists and conflicts.

This is just a good old story, with characters who are real people with real problems, which today's Old Order families are not immune to.  They have their warts and their roses (or should I say cherry blossoms?) and it is inspiring to see them grow and improve in the course of resolving their problems.  I really enjoyed this book. It's a pleasant escape to Amish country and a "simpler" life.

Cindy Woodsmall is an award-winning and New York Times Bestselling author.  She has written several other books, including When the Soul Mends and Plain Wisdom.  Her friendships with Amish and Mennonites began in childhood and continue to this day.  She homeschooled her children as they were growing up.

Cassandra Campbell has recorded over 100 audiobooks and is an accomplished actress and high school teacher.  Her narration is clear and expressive without distracting from the story.

The Scent of Cherry Blossoms, "A romance from the heart of Amish country", by Cindy Woodsmall, copyright 2012, audiobook narrated by Cassandra Campbell is available from  Christian Audio for $10.98. 
22 chapters, 335 minutes (6 hours)

I would like to thank Christian Audio, for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook.  No other compensation was received for this review.

Thursday, May 10, 2012

The Many Details of Death


So here I am in sunny Southern California, where the temperatures are rising, the smog is settling in and the humidity is finally down to 59% (from 72% a few days ago).  I am just grateful that I can still breathe and haven't had to use the inhaler yet.  Ah, for the clear, blue skies and dry air of my Northern Arizona home.  I do love my morning walks to and from daily Mass, here.  That's something I do not get to do at home.  There, church is seven miles away and we only have "daily" Mass on Thursdays (and,of course, Sunday Mass).

Grief is an odd creature.  Mom and I finally came to accept and even respect many of our differences in the last few years.  We had begun a new direction in our relationship, I am sad that is over.  I find myself flooded with some of my happiest memories of her and am comforted.

I feel sluggish, sorting through her things.  Having to decide what to dispose of and what to keep is a burdensome task.  Many of her things, mom allocated while she was still alive.  But there are the clothes and shoes and books.  Miscellaneous and sundry.  Helping dad carry on and get back into a routine.  Helping him to take over those dozens of little things that mom always took care of.  And always just wanting to run away and sit on top of a mountain, with my back against a tree, eyes closed, listening to a stream of snow melt trickle softly down to a roaring river in a valley below.  Letting all my grief, frustration, anger and fear melt away with it.  Letting God refill me.  Sigh.  The meditation on it will have to do for now.  Back to work.

Thursday, April 19, 2012

To Mourn or To Rejoice?

My mom died on April 12th.  We'd had over a year to prepare, as she'd been diagnosed with Acute Myeloid Leukemia just after Thanksgiving in 2010.  As a final indignity, we will not be able to bury her until April 30th.  This could also be looked upon as a measure of her importance, as we have striven to coordinate church services, with availability in the military cemetery where she and my dad are entitled to be buried.  One might even compare our trials to arranging for the burial of a great dignitary.  No three days of mourning and then rest in peace, here.  In truth, it is just another case of hurry up and wait on the government.  The mortuary sent the wrong paperwork to Army Records.  When we finally got a date from the cemetery, the church was booked.  The next available date at the church was the day of my oldest son's confirmation.  So we took the following two days for the Rosary and Funeral.  The day of the funeral, Friday, which is also my youngest son's birthday, was not available at the cemetery, so we will have to wait out the weekend until Monday to bury mom.  This has made for absolute chaos.

My daughter-in-law was baptized and confirmed at the Easter vigil on the 7th.  Her husband is receiving the Sacrament of Confirmation next Wednesday.  Mom's Rosary and Funeral are the following two days.  My youngest son's birthday, the same day as the funeral.  Mom's interment the following Monday.  In trying to make sense of all this, we could easily choose to let mom's death overshadow all the joyful celebrations which have surrounded it this month.  I think mom would want it otherwise.  She gave us plenty of time to prepare.  I have grieved much over the past year.  Now her suffering is done.

As I meditated upon the Sorrowful Mysteries of the Rosary the other day, I was struck by how Jesus, after his night of Agony in the Garden, went willingly to His death.  I was indeed questioning "what if this is it"?  I think He knew we needed assurance that "this" is NOT "it".  That He has truly gone to prepare a place for us, so that we may live this life fearlessly and fully.  That we will, indeed, rise with Him to enjoy eternal life.  Mom is already there.

Our celebrations this month, are an answer to years of fierce and determined prayer by her.  I think she would want us to celebrate and not let the agony and frustration of the burial preparations get us down.

I love you, Mom.  You are always in my heart.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Glory to God in the Highest Feast of the Annunciation

One of the few things I enjoy when I'm in the Big City is being able to attend daily Mass.  I usually go early, and the nuns and postulants are among the regulars, as well as several working, retired and possibly 1 or 2 homeless persons.  Today, the Feast of the Annunciation was celebrated, which means we said the Gloria and the Creed.  Now, on Sundays, many of us hold onto the missal so we have the new wording in front of us and our "autopilot" memorization of the old prayers is less likely to kick in.  Today, however, just as on the Feast of St. Joseph last Monday, I found myself scrambling for the right page in the missal.  I was not alone.  It was a bit humorous, really, to hear everyone start out strong at the beginning of the Gloria, then stumble, fumble with their missals, and join back in.  Perhaps another 10 years and we will have all the new wording programmed into our memories.

Today's readings struck me in regards to the interfaith debate about the "Virgin" birth.  I could not help but wonder why there should be any doubt, after careful study of the verses in Isaiah and Luke. 

Isaiah 7:14 - "...the virgin shall be with child and bear a son..."

Luke 1:26-38 - read the whole passage of the angel Gabriel's conversation with Mary.  In particular, verses 34-35:  "But Mary said to the angel, 'How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?' And the angel said to her in reply, 'The Holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you.'"  That does not sound to me like she is going to get pregnant in the usual way.  And why not?  Cannot the all powerful God, who can do all things, cause a virgin to conceive and bear His son?  If He can create the world out of nothing, create a man out of dust, He can surely do that.   

I thought maybe it might have to do with our different translations.  I looked in the King James version.  It says fairly the same thing as I have quoted here, from my New American Bible, St. Joseph Edition.  King James also uses the word "virgin" in the verse from Isaiah.  The Revised Standard Version uses the words "young woman" instead, but the passage from Luke reads much the same as the Catholic translation, including calling Mary a virgin.  

In light of this, I find it hard to believe that anyone could think otherwise, when the Bible clearly states that the "virgin" Mary was "overshadowed by the power of the Most High" in order to conceive Jesus.  Perhaps one day we will reconcile more of our differences and become more truly "one body in Christ".  I hope so.

Friday, March 23, 2012

Oregon's Best for Last - Mt. Hood, Pendleton and its' Woolen Mills

Mt. Hood from back of Timberline Lodge - still has snow in August.

Our last day in Portland, we took a day trip to Mount Hood, our destination, the Historic Timberline Lodge.  Constructed by the Works Progress Administration, during the years 1936-37, the lodge is a masterpiece of old-time craftsmanship.  I highly recommend the free tour of the lodge.  Our Forest Service volunteer guide cheerfully imparted volumes of historical information about the building, as well as pointing out many unique features.  All the rocks and lumber used in the building were procured locally and hand cut and milled on site.  That's not where it ends.  While the men were laboring to build the gargantuan structure at Timberline, the women were ensconced in barracks a few miles away, spinning, weaving and sewing all the textiles to be used in the lodge's rugs, draperies and upholstery.  Men were also handcrafting furniture, light fixtures and other decor for the lodge.  Textiles were made from locally produced flax and wool; rugs hooked from used cotton fabrics; iron railings and lamp fixtures were made from scrap iron.  Mosaics were fashioned from scrap glass and tile.  The creative talents and pride in workmanship of the builders and crafters are still in evidence.

Wall Mosaic in lobby of Timberline Lodge
On our way out of Oregon, we spent the night in Pendleton. The following morning was Sunday, and we attended Mass at St. Mary's Catholic Church.  The service was memorable, in that it was one of the few I have ever attended outside of a Tridentine church, where the women nearly all wore chapel veils and modest dresses, the men mostly wore suits or trousers and button-down shirts, rather than sportswear.  There was liberal use of inscense, and all the music was chanted, as opposed to folksy performance.  The most touching part of the Mass came, appropriately, at communion time.  The Holy Eucharist was distributed, without exception, to those who came up and knelt at the communion rail, with the altar boy holding the paten under the Eucharist, as it was placed on the tongue.  My 8 year old son, having just received his First Holy Communion a few months before, was visibly taken aback, having never experienced this before.  The priest looked at me and I had to nod that yes, he can receive.  It was such a beautiful and sacred experience, that I wondered why it was ever necessary to change the way we receive Holy Communion.

After Mass, though I don't like to encourage businesses that stay open on Sundays, we went to the Pendleton Woolen Mills.  As we would not be back this way for who knows how long, it was now or never.  I got my first Pendleton from my mom when I was in high school.  The quality of workmanship is so fine that they last forever, so I could not pass up this opportunity to visit the factory in person.  We entered the gift shop, and though we could not take an actual tour of the mills, we were able to watch a video about the production of Pendleton's legendary woolen fabrics, and to browse their selection of fine clothing, accessories and yardage.   As much as I would have liked to have brought home a couple of bolts of fabric, the $40-$80 per yard price made me a happy window shopper instead.  From Pendleton it is just a few miles to Washington, but those adventures will take up an entire post of their own.

Monday, March 5, 2012

The Transfiguring Power of Bleach

This morning was beautiful and 70 degrees, with no wind.  A welcome respite from the icy weather of the past week.  I even shed my long johns and winter socks for the day.  Not for long, another storm is due Wednesday. As I hung my clean laundry on the line to dry, the sunlight bounced off some of the whites, causing a glare to irritate my eyes.  As I was wishing I had thought to wear my sunglasses, I was reminded of yesterday's gospel reading - the Transfiguration.  "His clothes became dazzling white, such as no fuller on earth could bleach them." Mark 9:3.

This made me smile, as I reflected upon Our Lord, conversing with Moses and Elijah, with Peter, James and John speechless at His Divine Glory revealed.  If only it were so easy today, to climb the mountain and see Jesus revealed in all His glory.  Yet, there is a way.  Jesus, on the altar at Mass, by transfiguring the bread into His Body, comes to me at Holy Communion, that I may bask in His loveliness. All through the day, His glory manifests itself - in the startling blue of the Arizona sky, the hilarious antics of the new baby goats, the stunning night sky, sometimes so crowded with stars that I can barely make out the constellations.

I may frequently become discouraged.  My soul may frequently become soiled, but with the "laundering" of confession and receipt of the Holy Eucharist, once again, the garment of my soul can become dazzling white and I may just need my sunglasses...

Thursday, February 16, 2012

Pacific Northwest Part 3 - Portland and the Oregon Coast

No luck with any campsites between Vacaville, CA and Portland, OR.  We stayed night 3 of our trip in a motel in Willows, CA and ate a nice dinner at the Black Bear Cafe there.   We stopped for gas just across the Oregon border, and if we thought we were safe from colorful characters, we were immediately proved wrong.  A shirtless young man with shoulder-length dreadlocks came running towards our car with a look of ecstasy on his face.  At the last possible moment he veered off and began singing something incomprehensible at the top of his lungs.  The last we saw of him, he was driving away to parts unknown.

Our first excursion in Portland was to the world famous Rose Garden.  My amateur pictures cannot possibly do justice to the acres and variety of roses there.  The seductive fragrance of thousands of blooms surrounded us and could only have been made more perfect by the addition of a pot of herbal (maybe rose petal?) tea and several squares of dark chocolate.

The Pearl District in downtown Portland, is a must for window shopping, unique souvenirs and artisinal treats.   My friend and I enjoyed the many quirky clothing and jewelry boutiques, stopped in at Lush for a hand treatment and to spy on their all-natural soaps and personal care products, collecting information and ideas for my shop - Mrs. D's Homestead.  We spent just as much time at the Moonstruck Chocolate Cafe, sampling their gourmet cocoas and sinful desserts.

After a day of rest and recovery, we proceeded to take a tour of the Oregon coast, stopping first at the Tillamook Cheese factory for fortification.  Though guided tours are available, we went through the museum on our own.  The high-tech mass production of cheese was interesting to me, however, being a cheesemaker myself, I was more interested in the ancient artifacts of old-fashioned cheese-making science in the display cases.  Somehow 2,000 gallon vats of temperature controlled milk do not seem, to me, like they will ferment and age into the flavorful rounds I enjoy when my cow is lactating.  Although, when she is not, Tillamook is one of my favorite choices, due to its' simple, natural ingredients list.  Exiting the museum, we sampled several kinds of Tillamook cheeses, my favorite being the simple, white, buttery tasting curds.  Of course, we could not continue our coastal expedition without a generous portion of creamy Tillamook ice cream apiece.

When we finally found a spot where we could enjoy the beach, we stopped and spent an hour strolling, building sandcastles, and soaking up the sun.

Nehalem Bay is the place to go for crabbing, crab boils, and general relaxing and people watching by the water.  The bait shop at Jetty Fishery offers full crabbing packages, with license, bait, nets and boat, or you can catch them off the dock if you prefer.  We weren't dressed for a day out on the water, so we had our crab boiled for us and gorged ourselves at the picnic tables in front of the campfire.  After cracking, slurping and sipping for what seemed like hours, we were all ready to take a nap.  So we did, while our fearless driver slurped coffee and took a brisk walk to renew his energy.

The final destination on our coastal tour was Astoria, Oregon, where Captain Robert Gray discovered the Columbia River in 1792 and near where Lewis and Clark camped near the end of their expedition.  The location is marked with a 600 foot tall, narrow tower that can be climbed for a fantastic view of the bay.  Or so I'm told.  I preferred to stay on the ground, and decided I had a perfectly lovely view from there.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Health Care Conscience

So here is our upcoming dilemma.  Buy health "care" coverage and pay for someone else's birth control, sterilization, abortion, etcetera, or refuse to participate in any coverage and pay hefty fines.  Not only are individual Catholics being forced to make this choice, but so are Catholic employers.  Which means bishops.  Which means finally we are hearing about this from the pulpit.  I am not going to ask why this was not such an issue when only individual Catholic faithful were going to be affected.  I am just glad to hear it finally being addressed.

I don't know what the big boys are going to do, but for us little guys, the ones in the pews, who do not have insurance provided by our jobs, cannot afford to purchase our own plan, and do not want to go on the government provided "pofolks" plan, what are the options?  Are there any?

My understanding of the health "care" reform law is that everyone is required to have a "health plan".  This means no more cash-as-you-go negotiations with your doctor.  But does it also preclude "no-insurance" doctors and clinics, sliding scale clinics, and programs such as Samaritan Ministries and Medishare? (see links below)

I want options.  I don't want to be forced into a "health plan" I can't afford, or that goes against my conscience.  I don't want to be forced into a government program which may require me to have procedures or medications I don't want or that go against my conscience.  Or on the flip side, which may deny me procedures or medications which I need.  Our "health care reform" continues to need reform.  It is not good enough to be law yet.  It must be repealed, reworked, and resubmitted for our approval before it is forced upon us.

Yes, I will include the intention to repeal the health care law in my rosaries.  I will fast on Fridays for this intention and ask Our Lady of the Immaculate Conception to intercede for us as well, as our bishop has requested.

In the meantime I will also investigate these other options, as I would like to find some kind of health care that works for me anyway.  I also pray that perhaps our own Catholic Church (gasp) might come up with a plan for individual Catholics to receive affordable, acceptable health care.  After all, haven't our last 2 popes been preaching that to us for years?  Certainly this is not just the responsibility of the government.  Maybe our "Catholic" hospitals can be of greater service to --- Catholics?  Just thoughts.

And some links to investigate.

No Insurance Doctors
For a monthly (very low) fee, all the basics, but you need to find a doc in your area.

Samaritan Ministries
Monthly contribution based on family size and income.  Distributed among members according to need.  Submit any doctor/hospital bill above regular doctor's visit.

Christian Care Medishare
Similar to above.

Still trying to figure this one out.  Appears to be a monthly fee type for basic care, but having a time getting details.  Have not answered my email yet.

Wednesday, January 25, 2012

Simple Music Guidelines

Mass confusion.  That's what music for Mass seems to be these days.  Catholic liturgical music has gone from chant, to folksy, to rock 'n' roll, to chaos.  Well, maybe chaos is too extreme a word.  Whatever happened to good old-fashioned guidelines?  Is it just assumed that we know what we're doing?  If music is the least of the priorities of those who issue guidelines for the Mass, then something is seriously wrong, because there is an awful lot of music in the liturgy.  There are at least four hymns and half a dozen sung responses.

Much is left to the discretion of the music director, which is as it should be, ideally.  My question is, where does the music director turn for direction?  As organist and music director for two small town rural parishes, which share one priest with a third small town parish, I have been searching for over a decade for guidelines in choosing hymns and settings for our services.  I do the usual:  read the readings, psalm and gospel, choose applicable hymns from the missalette and hymnal, try and be consistent with the music for the responses.  With all the choices available, it can get overwhelming.  In my youth, we had a teen group that would play for the teen Mass.  I do believe we occasionally made some inappropriate choices in the music we played for Mass in the name of keeping it "upbeat and lively".  I now have a totally different perspective of what kind of music is in order for our most sacred of services.

This is where I get lots of feedback.  Even though most of our congregation does not sing no matter what type of music is played, some will not hesitate to inform me that the songs were:  "wonderful as usual" (thank God you didn't notice all my goofs), "boring old hymns" (if the words to "Immaculate Mary" bore you, maybe you need a little focus and meditation), "songs we don't know" (really?  This is the 100th time we've done "Be Not Afraid" out of the missalette and you don't know it?), "too much Spanish" (1/2 and 1/2, alternating, for a bilingual Mass), the Our Father is supposed to be said, not sung (still waiting for the final word on this).  Yet the Diocese, for all its' concern with Safe Environment, annulments, fundraising appeals and the New Translation (overly hyped I think), does not seem to think liturgical music worthy of being addressed.  Ah, so I guess this is just part of my personal spiritual journey.

So as I continue to search for answers to the all-pervading question of what to play for Mass this Sunday, I will read the blogs of other church musicians, occasionally check the diocesan website for information, and network wherever I can, to see what other music directors are doing.  And in the end, I'll make sure and clear it with my pastor.  Meanwhile, Holy Spirit guide me, and help me to choose music that will soften the peoples' hearts and lift their spirits.

Monday, January 16, 2012

The Heavenly Man

China is a Communist country.  Christianity is illegal and those who preach it are cruelly treated.  If a family has one child already and is found to be expecting another, the mother is detained and the developing baby aborted.  If the mother manages to escape and have her baby, enormous fines and other punishments are imposed.  Bibles are confiscated and those who possess them are beaten.

When Brother Yun got his first Bible, he read it hungrily, memorizing everything he could, even sleeping with it.  He immediately began proclaiming the Good News of Jesus Christ in small villages across China.  From that moment on, he experienced persecution, torture and imprisonment by the Chinese government.  Brother Yun recounts his imprisonments, tortures and escapes in graphic detail.  Although there are those who question the extent of his reported tortures, his message is clear:  Jesus is love.  Jesus is everything.  Jesus' love is worth dying for.  The way he handles his tormenters, never losing faith, is truly inspiring and heartrending.

In a country such as ours, where so many of us who call ourselves "Christian" are lukewarm at best, the mere thought of suffering torture, blood, pain and death for the sake of Jesus Christ gives pause.  Would I?  Could I?  Or would I deny Him and hide, gradually losing what little faith I had?  Not a dilemma I want to be faced with.  However, Brother Yun's story causes me to question whether I am witnessing to Jesus Christ in my everyday life.  Do I hunger for the Eucharist and the Word?  When presented with the opportunity to attend Mass or read the Bible do I respond with enthusiasm?  Out of duty?  Turn my back?  Is my faith and hope contagious?  Do I radiate peace and love?  Good questions to keep in the front of my mind on a daily basis.  In the end, don't we all want to be greeted with those precious words, "well done, good and faithful servant.  Now enter in and claim your reward."?  Brother Yun concludes by challenging the Western Church to return to basics.  As the theme of this blog suggests, I think that's a wonderful idea.

Christopher Jean gives a compelling reading as Brother Yun, with Jeannie Park as Yun's faithful wife Deling.  The readers lend warmth and truth to their characters and the audiobook (copyright 2008 by Hovel Audio) is a joy to listen to.  The Heavenly Man, by Brother Yun, with Paul Hattaway, (c) 2002, was originally published by Monarch Books.

I would like to thank Christian Audio, for providing me with a free review copy of this audiobook.  No other compensation was received for this review.