Friday, November 15, 2019

I'm Not Dead Yet. . .

You may have noticed that I've been pretty scarce around these bloggity precincts.  There are a variety of reasons.  I'l try to give you a decent accounting. . .

-------------------------

In June (probably not long after my last post before Halloween), I woke up and couldn't get out of bed.  Not sure exactly what happened, but my back and my legs (especially the left one) were in excruciating pain, as bad as any I've experienced in my life.  I did eventually manage to get out of bed, but it was something like a 10-15 minute ordeal.  Life persisted in that vein for a couple weeks before I finally decided that, whatever it was, it didn't seem to be transitory, so I went to see my doc.

Turns out I had a couple of herniated discs in my lower back, which were pressing on my sciatic nerve, which responded by sending intense, shooting pain signals down my leg.  I got a cane for myself, which at least allowed me to gimp around and not be bed-bound, which was handy.  I started  throwing pain-killers at it; it turns out to be more challenging than you might expect to find pain-killers that will actually deal with the pain without killing YOU in the process (especially since I told my doc I didn't want any opioids).  I eventually got on a combination that would just keep me functional if I rotated them every four hours, but that wasn't a good long-term strategy (after a while, your liver and/or kidneys start to object).

Anyway, one of the features of the pain I was experiencing was that it was very uncomfortable to sit still for very long periods of time ('very long' meaning 'more than 5-10 minutes').  And at least for me, blogging means sitting.  Besides which, when you're in more-or-less constant pain, even if it's being somewhat managed, the creative juices just don't flow as freely as when you're not.  Among other things, I couldn't put my own shoes on; if I planned on leaving the house, Jenn had to put my shoes on for me.  So, those were not the happiest of days.

I started Physical Therapy, and got referred to an orthopedist.  I was fairly certain that back surgery was in my future (honestly, at that point, my basic attitude was like Rocky in the first movie - "cut me, Mick!").  But the doc suggested an injection before we went straight to surgery, which made sense to me.  So I got the shot, and almost immediately, I felt a LOT better.  I could get out of bed almost normally, and if I had a chair that was at least a little bit padded, I could sit for a decently long period.  After a month, the doc checked me out.  I was doing so well that he asked me if I wanted another shot.  I thought about it for about three milliseconds and said, "Oh, hell yes!!"  So I got another shot.  And the next day, I set my cane aside.  And put on my own shoes.

And it has continued to get better from there.  I quit one of my pain-killers entirely (the one that was most likely to cause liver damage), and started weaning myself off the other one.  It was prescribed for three doses a day, but for a couple weeks now, I've been taking one in the morning, and that's all.  I've had a few days that make me think that I can start skipping days pretty soon.  So my health is much better, and 'normal life' is looking pretty darned normal, indeed. . .

-------------------------

We're also doing a fresh round of grandchildren, this time with married parents, which is a new thing for us.  1F and her husband welcomed a baby boy in mid-October, and he is a certified cutie.  Jenn is cutting back her work hours so she can take care of him three days a week while 1F goes back to work.  So we're entering a new phase of life, which carries the promise of being really delightful.

4M and his wife are expecting a little one in March, so there's that to look forward to, as well.  On top of that, he just took a new job, which will have them living in Michigan again by spring.  So, exciting times on that front, too.

We haven't seen or heard from 3M for a year-and-a-half, but we did hear 'through the grapevine' that he begat a little guy this past spring, who we haven't met (and likely won't for quite a while, if ever).  So, you know, we haven't totally gone out of the grandchildren-from-unmarried-parents business.  If you're keeping score at home, we now have eight grandlings (at least by DNA, counting the one due in the spring; there are other ways of counting that would say eleven or six). . .

-------------------------

Besides all that, we finally got around to getting our bathroom remodeled.  We had some, uh, water issues with the old one, and the floor was getting mushy to the point that I worried about punching a hole in it one of these days.  Besides which, it was just generally badly executed (the previous owner was, to put it gently, a cobbler).  So, our remodel was down to the studs and floor-joists (which could be a bit of a thrill if you got up to use the non-existent bathroom at, say, 3AM).

Without going into tedious detail, I'll just say that the new bathroom is spectacular - an open shower, with no tub, two sinks and Jenn's piece de resistance, a laundry chute that deposits the laundry in a basket next to the washing machine in the basement.  It wouldn't even be an exaggeration to say that our friends have been asking us if they could shower at our place. . .

We went back-and-forth on whether we wanted a master bath for our 'private' use, or whether we needed it to be more 'public' than that.  We finally hit on what I think is a really clever resolution, involving a pocket door that we can lock, so it's a 'private' bath when we want it to be, and 'public' when we want that.

The whole project took two months to finish, but absolutely worth the wait.  The other day, 2F was over, and when she walked into the new bathroom, she sighed, and said, "Every time I walk in here, it just makes me smile."  I know what she means. . .

-------------------------

We also paid off our mortgage.  And bought our gravestone (not, you know, that I'm more in touch with my mortality, or anything like that).  At least future generations will know that we were here, and when, and for how long.  Because, you know, genealogy. . .

-------------------------

Four years ago, Jenn and I signed up for a Biblical School that was being offered at our church.  It was a four-year program, taught by folks with seminary degrees in Scripture.  I jumped at the chance to actually be taught the Bible, instead of just gleaning what I could on my own, and I loved the  program.  But that was in the days when I was still working, and still driving an hour-and-a-half there and back.  So when the first year was completed, and it was time to sign on for the second year, we just couldn't manage it.  But ever since, we've been on the lookout for the same school being offered at another parish close enough for us to get to.

So this fall, it's being offered at another parish maybe ten miles from our home, and my calendar is a lot freer than it was last time, so we signed on for another shot.  Hopefully, this time we can finish the whole four-year program.  So far (nine weeks in), it has been wonderful, every bit as good as the first time.  And this time, we actually have the time to do justice to the workload.  So our days are filled with reading and studying Sacred Scripture with real direction, and praying and meditating on it in deeper ways than we've had the opportunity to do before.  So that's been occupying us, too.

-------------------------

So, that's what I've been up to, and why you haven't seen much of me around these parts.  I'm not sure how much I'll be posting here in weeks and months to come; possibly not much at all.  But I do still read your blogs (those of you who still blog), and even leave comments from time to time.

And may God bless you all richly. . .

Saturday, November 2, 2019

Blessings On Thee, Little Man. . .

A couple days ago was Halloween, our culture's annual ghoul-fest-cum-candy-grab.  Jenn and I have typically taken a somewhat detached approach to the festivities, but we'll play along good-naturedly, and have a stash of miniature sweets on hand to pass out to the costumed youngsters who make the effort to venture down our one-block dead-end street.  When the weather is nice enough (a relative term, to be sure; Michigan in late October is rarely what you might call 'nice' in any absolute sense), we'll flip up the lower pane on the storm-door and poke our heads out to greet the youngsters who come to our door.

This year, the weather was not even 'nice', much less 'nice enough'.  Temperatures were in the low 30s, the wind was howling, and spitting rain turned to snow as the evening wore on.  So, we wimped out.  Rather than greeting the costumed kids who came to our house, we turned on the porch light and just left a big bowl of candy by the door, with an invitation to the kids to help themselves.  Incredibly lame, I know. . . Of course, that approach has certain, um, vulnerabilities attached to it, but the weather was so nasty that we wouldn't have been surprised if there had been no trick-or-treaters at all.

Alas, in a fallen world, vulnerabilities like that are almost guaranteed to be exploited, and sure enough, at one point, we heard a ruckus from the front porch, and when we glanced out the window, the candy bowl, which had been full enough just a few moments before, was empty, and a rowdy group of revelers was scurrying away from our yard.  I went out to retrieve the empty bowl, preparing to turn off the light and pull down the curtain on this year's observance of Halloween, such as it was.

As I did, a young fellow, maybe 7 or 8 years old, was coming up our steps, his dad waiting back on the sidewalk.  He and I stared at the empty bowl, and I lamented that some greedy folks had bogarted the entire supply of festive candy (God knows who you are. . . just sayin').  As I surveyed the porch, I noticed that three pieces of candy had been strewn across the porch in the frenzy, and so, with an apology, I suggested to the young man that he could take those, since it was all we had left.

He bent down and picked up the three pieces, thanking me, and then placed one piece back in the bowl, "in case somebody else might want one."

There may or may not have been a tear in my eye as I looked at the dad in silent acknowledgement of a young man of exemplary character. . .

God bless you, young man. . . I wish there were more like you. . .

-------------------------

It's five months since I last posted here (and more like six since my last 'substantial' post).  I might post something in the next little while, explaining my absence.  But, neither do I want to give anybody (possibly) false hope that 'I'm back'.  It is certainly not the case that nothing worth posting about has happened in our lives. . .

Saturday, June 8, 2019

Words to Live By. . . Or, You Know, Not. . .

Stuff I've come across on the way to someplace else. . .

"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."
          -- Mark Twain

"It's funny how falling feels like flying. . . for a little while. . ."
          -- Jeff Bridges

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

DNA

My son (4M) gave me a DNA test for my last birthday.  I've been meaning to do that for a while, just waiting for life (and my budget) to settle down a bit, what with three weddings and all.  I've subscribed to Ancestry.com for a couple years now, and I've been looking forward to what I might learn.  So I spit in the little tube, and sent it off.

About a month ago, I got the results.  I don't know exactly what I was expecting to find; I've been doing genealogy, at varying levels of activity, for over 30 years, on both my adoptive and birth families.  I have a pretty good idea of what ethnicities are intermingled in me.  I suppose I hoped to make some connections with parts of the various and sundry families that I didn't know very well, and maybe fill in the picture in greater detail.

Ethnicity-wise, there were no surprises - 45% England and Wales, 30% Norway/Sweden, 15% Ireland/Scotland, and 10% 'Germanic Europe'.  I guess I'd have expected a bit more German, but none of it took me by surprise.  My birth-father's mother was full-blooded Norwegian (both her parents were off-the-boat), so the large Scandinavian component wasn't surprising.

The thing I was most interested in was the connections with other people - cousins, etc, who could connect me with families I didn't yet know very much about.  And boy, was that interesting!

They gave me a list of people in their database whose DNA matches mine, along with an estimate of how closely we're related.  At the top of the list was my birth-mother (I had been at her house in California when she sent her test in last year), who was duly identified as "QQQ is your mother".  Which was no surprise, but still, it was a small measure of validation that all the detective work I did 30 years ago had been correct.

The second name on the list was one of my birth-father's daughters, my half-sister.  Again, nothing I didn't already know, but a small validation that Mom had told me the truth about who my birth-father was.  Not, you know, that I doubted her. . .

The third name on the list was a man I'd never heard of, who was called out as a 'likely first cousin'.  In checking his other connections, he was also closely connected to my half-sister, so I surmised that he was from Birth-Father's side of my DNA.  I asked my sister if she knew who he was, and she said, "Never heard of him."

Well, that was a surprising response, to say the least.  'Likely first cousin' is a pretty close connection to have 'never heard of him'.  Even if his family was somehow estranged from hers, you might suppose that she at least had some inkling of who he was.  So I did a little poking around on-line, and found his mother's obituary, and his step-mother's obituary.  Connecting a few dots, he was about the same age as 1F.  He'd been born in Utah, and now lived in Virginia, where his mother had moved after divorcing his dad when he was in high school.

Long story short, the father of DNA-Match-Guy was also born in Utah, about a year before I was.  I called my sister again, and asked if her dad had ever been in Utah.  Why, yes, she said, he'd been stationed in Utah while he was in the Air Force.  In fact, she went on, he'd told her a story about having to get a quick transfer out of Utah - something about 'woman trouble'.

Holy shit.

Of all the possibilities of things I thought I might encounter from a DNA test, it never occurred to me that I might find another unknown half-sibling (DNA-Match-Guy turns out to be a half-nephew to me, which falls into the same range as 1st cousin).  It shouldn't have been all that strange an idea to me - I mean, my own existence was evidence of certain, uh, self-control deficiencies on Birth-Father's part.  But somehow, I'd framed this story in my head that I was the only one - a few years after I was born, he'd gotten married, and had his two daughters with his wife, and la-la, how the life went on.

But I wasn't the only one; I wasn't even the first.  Turns out, he had, uh, cast his seed farther and wider than I'd suspected.

Birth-Father died a year-and-a-half ago.  For nearly 30 years, we had a good (though not particularly close) relationship.  I still appreciate having known who he was, and gotten some sense of what his life was about, even if it was quite a different life than mine (I mean, he went to the University of Michigan, for heaven's sake).

On one level, this 'new information' shouldn't matter, and it really doesn't.  I already knew of, and made my peace with, his rakishness as a young man; heck, that's why I'm here.  But somehow, knowing that it happened twice (at least; who knows if there are others?) makes me a little sad.  One thing to have a fling with my birth-mother when they were in college; another to blithely hop from woman to woman, leaving out-of-wedlock children in your wake.  But, it is what it is, and it doesn't materially change my life. . .

Yeesh.

I'd love to actually meet my erstwhile half-brother; I've had a lot of fun with my two half-sisters, even having only met them when we were all adults.  But honestly, I have no idea what his life is like, or what sort of person he is. I'm not sure what kind of rude surprise I might be for him, or why he'd ever want to meet me.

La-la, how the life goes on.  4M is sending Jenn a DNA test (he was going to send it for her birthday later this summer, but we talked him into giving it as a Mother's Day gift).  We already know of a few rather significant 'unknowns' in her genealogy, that we're (I think) looking forward to learning more about.  We will see what we will see. . .

-------------------------

On a more unambiguously happy note (and not unrelated to DNA), 7M got married a week-and-a-half ago, so our cycle of three weddings in a year is complete (1F and her husband celebrated their anniversary the day after 7M's wedding; we're looking forward next year to Mother's Day weekend without a wedding in it).

There is something really happy about our kids (three of them, at least) getting married.  In my mind, it is something like a marker of a degree of strength and stability in their lives, a kind of 'well-done' to us as parents, but even more, to the lives they've made for themselves, so far.  Not that I suppose there are any guarantees - I've been around WAY too many blocks by now to think that - but it is a very good thing.  Between 7M, and 4M and 1F, I am enjoying the dynamic of bringing in-laws into our family.

1F also told us recently that she and her husband are expecting their first child together this fall.  Hmmmmm. . .  A grandchild born to married parents - how does that work?

Sunday, April 21, 2019

Victory!

"Lo, I tell you a mystery.  We shall not all sleep, but we shall all be changed, in a moment, in the twinkling of an eye. . . When the perishable puts on the imperishable, and the mortal puts on immortality, then shall come to pass the saying that is written:

'Death is swallowed up in victory.'
'O death, where is your sting?
O death, where is your victory?'

. . . But thanks be to God, who gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ."

          - The First Letter of St. Paul to the Corinthians, chapter 15

Wednesday, March 6, 2019

Love Hurts

Lent is upon us once more, so in its honor, I've decided to re-post something in a 'penitential' mood. . .

-------------------------

“If I never loved, I never would have cried.”
Simon & Garfunkel, I am a Rock

“Love in action is a harsh and dreadful thing, compared with love in dreams.”
Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov

“[Jesus], having loved His own who were in the world, He loved them to the end.”
The Gospel of John, chapter 13, verse 1

-------------------------

Mother Theresa was fond of saying that our main task in this life is learning what it really means to love. She was also fond of saying that there is no spiritual growth without suffering. And I’ve come to understand that the two – love and suffering – are not so very separate from each other.

I think we’re sort of conditioned by our culture to think of love in terms of mellow warm feelings toward another person – taking pleasure in their presence in our lives, wanting to do things together with them, or give our time and energy for their sake. But if warm-fuzzies is all that we mean by love, it winds up being pretty shallow and lame.

In a fallen world, it comes to seem that any love worthy of the name inevitably has a tragic aspect about it. We are all fallen, broken persons, and our fallen-ness and broken-ness redound to the pain of those who love us. And hobble our ability to love others as we ought. We inevitably hurt and disappoint those who love us, and in many ways, the measure of love is the manner in which it deals with those hurts and disappointments.

Our kids have taught some of this to Jenn and me.  Some of our kids have been pretty amazing at various points in their lives, and it was pretty easy to soak up the accolades we received for being 'such wonderful parents'.  But those same kids have also hurt us more deeply than we could ever have imagined.  In my worst dreams, I never imagined one of my daughters being pregnant out-of-wedlock, and now all three of them have.  Others of our kids just defied us in every possible way, and left us wondering why God had entrusted us with the task of raising children, since clearly, we knew nothing at all about how to do it.  Still others just got lost in the chaos swirling around their siblings, when we simply lacked the resources to keep all our 'balls in the air' at once (how many of you are old enough to remember the plate-spinning guy on The Ed Sullivan Show?  Raising kids can be a lot like that).

All of our kids, in one way or another, have suffered from my (and, I suppose, Jenn's, although even to say so evokes thoughts of The Log and The Speck, besides which, it feels like talking behind her back) failures of love.  I could go down the list, from 1F to 8M, and give instances of how my love was conditional, or weak, or insufficient; how I've paid more attention (whether positively or negatively) to some of them than to others, and on and on.  Every one of them has suffered because I, whether out of my own sinfulness, or just my human limitations, simply didn't love them as much as they needed me  to.  But perhaps we are learning, just a little bit better, what it means to love. Perhaps we can dig a little deeper, and give our kids the love they need, where once we’d have come up short. Perhaps. At least, I hope so. . .

It’s not just the kids, either. As much as I love Jenn (and she me), there is, even still, a tragic aspect to our love. She has not avoided disappointing me (or, to be certain, I her), even though she is still the most amazing woman I’ve ever known. Some part of the measure of our love is coming to know – really know, where it hurts to know – each other’s weaknesses and character flaws, and keep moving forward. Even to cover for each other’s weaknesses (whether or not we ever thought we should have to).

So, again - the measure of our love is not the absence of our disappointments with each other. The measure of our love is what we DO with the inevitable hurts and disappointments that we inflict on each other – can we let “love cover a multitude of sins” (I Peter 4:8), or not?

And then we have the example of God Himself, who “demonstrates His own love for us in this – while we were still sinners, Christ died for us” (Romans 5:8). Jesus didn’t wait for us to get our shit together in order to make a gift of Himself for our sake. He loved us, “to the end,” even in all our fallen, broken, garbage.

In his book, The Cost of Discipleship, Dietrich Bonhoeffer famously said that, “When Christ calls a man, He bids him come and die.” And I think it’s likewise when it comes to ‘learning what it really means to love’. To love greatly is to risk being hurt greatly. To ‘pour ourselves out’ for the sake of the beloved, with little or no regard for what we have left when we’re done.

“And greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.” (John 15:13)

Jesus, with all trepidation, I ask of you. . . teach me how to love. . .

Wednesday, January 30, 2019

Wedding Wishes

Our son 4M got married a week-and-a-half ago (so now we have both a son-in-law AND a daughter-in-law; woo-hoo!).  As part of my toast to the newlyweds, I read this passage from St. John Chrysostom:

-------------------------

“Say to [your wife], ‘Our time here is brief and fleeting, but if we are pleasing to God, we can exchange this life for the Kingdom to come. Then we will be perfectly one, both with Christ and each other, and our pleasure will know no bounds. I value your love above all things, and nothing would be so bitter or painful to me as our being at odds with each other. Even if I lose everything, any affliction is tolerable if you will be true to me.’”

To my son and his bride: Further Up and Further In!

Tuesday, December 25, 2018

God With Us. . .

This is a conflation of a couple of Christmas meditations I wrote in my 'paper journal' back in the day (20 years ago and more. . .), and a partial re-post of what I posted here a few years back. . .

-------------------------

"Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son,
     and they will call his name Emmanuel - 'God With Us'."
          - The Gospel According to Matthew, chapter 1, verse 23
              (ref. The Book of the Prophet Isaiah, 7:14)

"The Word became flesh and dwelt among us."
          - The Gospel According to John, chapter 1, verse 14

"In the past, God spoke to our forefathers through the prophets
     at many times and in various ways;
But in these last days, He has spoken to us by His Son. . ."
          - The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 1, verses 1-2

"For we do not have a High Priest who is unable
      to sympathize with us in our weakness. . ."
          - The Epistle to the Hebrews, chapter 4, verse 15

I recall a sermon I heard once, in which the preacher made the point that, in the Incarnation God, who is greater than the Universe, willingly confined Himself in human flesh.  The One who created the Universe, who called it into being and sustains it by His merciful love, emptied Himself of his infinite Divine prerogatives and lived among us, as one of us, knowing, in His own body, our finitude, our weakness.  It's as though I, in my compassion for worm-kind, became a worm, to live as a worm among the worms, to understand in my own life and experience, what worm-hood is like.  Except that God taking on human flesh is a bigger existential 'leap' than me becoming a worm; I already know what it's like to live in a body, for one example. . .

So then - God is no longer remote from us; He has come to us - God is with us.  He's One of Us (I think of the Joan Osborne song from the 90s; she asked a better question than perhaps she knew. . .)

How differently would we understand our lives if we were more consciously aware of this foundational truth - God is with us.

How differently would we relate to our minor trials (or our major ones, for that matter) if we knew - really knew - that God is with us.

How different would our sins look to us if we really understood that God is with us?

What a privilege, what an awesome possibility is laid before us - God has become one of us, that we might become like God.  And yet how little do we - do I - take hold of it and venture so bold as to live by means of God's grace?


And then this -

"He who did not spare His own Son, but gave Him up for us all - 
     how will He not also graciously give us all things?"
          - The Epistle of St. Paul to the Romans, chapter 8, verse 32

God didn't have to send His Son, the Eternal Word, to be incarnate, but he did.  And if He did that, what won't he do for us?  Can I even grasp what this - the Incarnation - means, in terms of how God wants to relate to me?  With what gracious favor, what kindliness, what gratuitous, extravagant, profligate love, He regards me/us?  The 'plans He has for [us], plans for good and not for evil, to give [us] a future and a hope?' (ref. Jeremiah 29:11)

It reminds me of what CS Lewis said in 'The Weight of Glory' - "We muck about with drink and sex and ambition, when infinite joy is offered us."  We just don't get it. . .

**********

O God, have mercy on us; help us to see clearly, and to know, really know, the lavishness of your love for us.  Let it change us, purify us, make us holy, make us more like you created us to be in the beginning, to be your presence in the world, to shine as lights in the darkness. . .

Thursday, November 22, 2018

Gratitude

In honor of Thanksgiving, I'm re-posting a pair of (I hope) pertinent posts from bygone years. I mean, I think they're not too bad. . .

-------------------------

Sometime around the year 1420, a monk named Thomas a Kempis wrote a book, The Imitation of Christ (in the original Latin, Imitatio Christi), which in the fullness of time would become the most widely-read Christian book besides the Bible. And, in its turn, it also became one of my own all-time favorite books.

The Imitation reads like a medieval Christian Book of Proverbs - wisdom for living the Christian life from a wise old monk. It is simply dense with rich and challenging quotes, several of which have made their way into my 'Book of Favorite Quotes' (not available in stores). One of my favorites, which I commend to the attention of all my blog-friends, is this, from chapter 6 of Book 3:

"A wise lover does not so much consider the gift of his lover as he does the love of the giver."

I first came across this many years ago, but it has become one of the favorite 'bywords' that Jenn and I will quote to each other. It bespeaks a kind of humble gratitude, which has served us really well in building our marriage over the years.

On the face of it, it's pretty simple, really - sort of like etiquette for opening presents on Christmas morning - be grateful for the gifts you get, even if they're not exactly the ones you were hoping for. But you know, Thomas doesn't present it as etiquette advice; he just says, "A wise lover. . ." More like, "this is wisdom beyond what meets the eye. . ." And it works, on multiple levels. . .

As most of you know, I'm adopted. At some point when I was in college, I connected the dots, and the realization dawned on me that I had been somebody's 'unwanted pregnancy', once upon a time. It occurred to me that my very existence was due to somebody I'd never met, taking the trouble to see me through nine months of pregnancy. Jenn and I got married and began having our own children (1F was actually the first person I ever knew who was genetically related to me), and all the while, the realization of what it had cost my birth-mother for me to be alive was growing stronger. Until finally, the sense of gratitude for my own existence became my strongest motivation to find and meet my birth-mother.

My birth-mother and I have always had a great relationship. Not so much because either of us are such wonderful people, but because at the bottom of it all, our relationship is one of mutual gratitude. I'm grateful to her for giving me life, and putting up with everything that went into that, including relinquishing me to be adopted by a family that could raise me. And she's grateful, even after all the years, to have a relationship with the son of her womb (and a fine son he is, if I may say so myself). We're both fairly quirky individuals (shocking as this may seem to you, I know), and there could be a lot to be annoyed with in each other, if we were so inclined. But from the beginning, our relationship has been founded on gratitude, so the quirks just seem really minor.

And likewise in my marriage. I'm so grateful to Jenn for throwing her life in with mine, for the love she gives me every day, and for the richness of the life we share together, that her quirks (and yes, alas, she has one or two) just aren't a very big deal by comparison. And I know it works the same way from her end. It's not just a matter of 'seeing the glass half-full' or 'looking on the bright side', although both of those are good advice. Temperamentally, I'm just not a 'glass-half-full' person. But being able to receive with joy 'the gift my lover brings' (Beatle-lyrics-reference alert!), just because I know how it's expressive of her love for me (quite a separate question from how good a gift it is) (but let me be clear - it is a most excellent gift), brings deep joy to my whole life. I'm certainly not meaning to hold myself up as a shining example of superior virtue, or anything like that. But I do believe we've learned something really good and valuable. . .

*************************

The conviction has grown within me, over the years, that gratitude is, on a very fundamental level, the most appropriate response we can make for our lives. Gratitude to God, certainly, and most fundamentally. But even on a more mundane level, gratitude to our parents; to our teachers, coaches and mentors; to our brothers and sisters, and our friends.

Existence itself is a gratuitous gift, for which there is no appropriate response except gratitude. Loving relationships; food, clothing and shelter; all the mundane, daily circumstances that, individually and collectively, bring joy and meaning to our lives.

Every one of us has his/her own set of things to be thankful for, and people to be thankful to. Rather than riff off into my own 'list', I'll just encourage all my blog-friends, however briefly, to give some thought to what you're grateful for, and to whom. . .

Thursday, October 25, 2018

With My Body, I Thee Worship

Re-posting one more of my best. . .

-------------------------

A while back, a phrase came into my mind (phrases do that to me, from time to time; it's my cross to bear), and it hasn’t left me alone ever since. It’s from an old, traditional form of the Catholic wedding service (incredibly geeky, I know, but what can I do?). Anyway, at one point during the vows, the bridegroom says to the bride: “With my body, I thee worship.”

With my body, I thee worship.

There is a real depth there, a real richness, that goes beyond merely “I love you,” or even, “I want to have a life and a family with you,” although those things are certainly included in it. It captures very well how I feel about my wife, and how I aspire to have my life be joined to hers.

On multiple levels, sex is an act of worship – Catholics would invoke the grace of the sacrament of Matrimony. But in a simpler, earthy sense, I can simply say that I mean to worship Jenn. Not, obviously, in the same sense in which I worship God – I would mean something like ‘reverence’, or ‘venerate’, or ‘honor’ or ‘esteem’, but none of those words capture the full sense of what I mean the way that ‘worship’ does. Jenn is worthy of veneration, just like, say, Catholic theology would say the saints are worthy of veneration, but she is the saint whose life is bound up with mine.

GK Chesterton wrote that being constrained to one woman was a small price to pay for the privilege of having even one woman, and that sense of reverential gratitude resonates deeply with me. Getting to know Jenn – really know her – is like being let in on a great mystery. As a Christian, I want to go “further up and further in” (to borrow a phrase from CS Lewis) – grow deeper in my love of God, and give myself more fully to Him. In an analogous way, I want to ‘go deeper’ in our marriage, and the life we have together. I want to know Jenn better, be known better by her, give my life more fully to her, and that begins to get at the ‘worship’ I aim to give her.

I have often remarked to Jenn that reproducing ourselves together is the coolest, most amazing thing we could ever do. In a way, it is the biblical 'one flesh' in its most concrete form (or, if you will, in our case, eight fleshes). I mean - think of it - we're making another PERSON out of the substance of the two of us, and our love for each other.

In Holy Communion, Catholics believe that we receive Christ directly into our bodies (there is a very earthy aspect to Catholic theology that I find immensely appealing). In an analogous way, we give ourselves, and receive each other, directly into our bodies when we make love, under the covering of the sacrament of Matrimony. It’s all so rich, I can scarcely say what I really mean.

With my body, I thee worship.

Utterly, completely awesome. . .