Wednesday, October 31, 2007

remembering nora moulton

My grandmother died last October at the age of 96. She was an amazing woman and a wonderful person. At the age of 89 she kept herself busy by "feeding the old people" at the local mission. In her last year, as she was losing her memory, the most important thing on her mind whenever we were at a family gathering was "who is driving me home", a question she would repeat every five minutes. Have been thinking about her today, and thought I would post the eulogy that was given at her funeral mass last year.

Who is driving Nonie home?

Yes, we’ve had a lot of laughs at Nonie’s expense over the years. And that’s probably because we realized early on in life that Nonie was not like the rest of us. I remember playing a game with my cousins when we were kids… one of us would pretend to be Nonie and the other would try to come up with something so terrible to make Nonie mad.

“Heh Nonie, I just robbed a bank”
“That’s okay dear, did you get home in time for dinner?”

And of course, the game would escalate from there, but whoever was playing Nonie would always have to stay cool, calm and collected – no matter how horrible the crime. And it’s not only that Nonie never seemed to get upset… you got the sense that she never took it upon herself to judge someone else’s life.

It wasn’t until many years later that we truly came to appreciate the life our grandmother chose to live. I remember one day in church, and my friend Lou asked me why I was smiling. And I said Lou – every time you turn the page of the Bible, there’s another story about my grandmother.

And it’s true. Whether she was being our babysitter, acting in a play, telling an old Irish riddle, feeding the old people or taking a shot at the pot with a jack and a deuce, our grandmother did it with love, peace, goodness, kindness, gentleness, humility, joy and self-control.

Now I don’t know a lot about heaven, but I do know two things. It’s a really cool place and Nonie is there. But I do have a picture in my mind of Nonie showing up at the Pearly Gates. And St Peter brings her over to the Book of Life, where Nonie sees that a seat has been reserved for her at the table, buttered roll and all. And Peter says, “I’ve got great news for you Nora Jack. You finished at the top of your class.”

“And what does that mean?” Nonie asks. And St. Peter says, “It means you can choose any job in heaven that you want, Nonie. You can be the one who turns on the stars at night. Or if you like, you can paint the daisies in the field.”

And Nonie replies, “If it’s alright with you Pete, I would be content to scrub the floors. And take out the trash. And polish the railings from time to time.”

And just then, there is a glorious sound as God himself comes down to the Pearly Gates. And he comes up and takes our grandmother in his arms and says “Welcome, my good and faithful servant.”

Then the Lord looks Nonie in the eyes and says, “There’s a lot of people you know who’ve been waiting to see you. How about I drive you home tonight”.

Wednesday, October 24, 2007

rule #1: you do not talk about fight club

Tyler Durden: How's that working out for you?
Narrator: What?
Tyler Durden: Being clever.
Narrator: Great.
Tyler Durden: Keep it up then.

I started getting serious about my walk with Christ about six years ago. And if I were truly honest with myself, I would have to admit that my heart has grown over this time. I certainly DO more – whether it be spending time with local seniors, handicapped children, church ministries or giving money to church and charities. But I am not really sure that I FEEL more. And I know with certainty that I am often not willing to SHARE many of the feelings I do have.

Some may be surprised by this. I certainly have emotions – I feel for people in need, I can get angry and frustrated quite easily, and the ending of many a movie will bring tears to my eyes. But few of these feelings are long lasting – just as quickly as I can wipe a tear from my eye, I am on to the next thing, rarely looking back.

More often, I present a fa├žade – using cleverness, intellect, analysis and organizational skills to create a wall around my heart. In fact, I started this blog to HONE those skills – to see if I could focus my brain on matters that were meaningful to Christ.

This is certainly how I am wired. Back in August, TK sent me a link to a personality test, and my profile included terms like strategic, intellectual and logical. Good stuff, right!

But over the past few weeks, I’ve been hearing voices pulling me in another direction. At church this month, we’re being encouraged to go a bit deeper. As it says in Proverbs: The purposes of a man's heart are deep waters, but a man of understanding draws them out.

And last week, Kansas Bob left the following comment: Most of us long to hear those transparent and vulnerable heart stories... but sadly we only get to read the brainy ones.

But the truth is, brainy is safe. While the heart can be dark… and disturbing… an unsettling. More on this topic next week (maybe)… but for now, one more quote from one of my favorite movies.

Tyler Durden: It's only after we've lost everything that we're free to do anything

Monday, October 22, 2007

how i got my son into college

In my small group at church, most of us have kids in high schools—so I wasn’t surprised when the topic turned to the process of college selection. And to be honest, I just don’t get it.

Trips to schools. Help with applications. Rewriting essays. Keeping track of due dates. Schedules. Charts. Research. And this is what parents were describing as their rolls.

Here’s a recap of how my parents were involved in my college process:
- we’ll give you $2,500 to help pay for tuition, room and board
- oh, and dad will drive you to Penn Station so you can catch a train

And you know what… that was perfectly fine by me. I think I picked a pretty good school (Wahoo-wa!)… I typed my own essay… I remembered to apply on time… I worked throughout college… and I eventually paid off my student loans. (OK, my wife helped.)

So I wonder… why do we treat our 17-year old sons and daughters like little kids these days?

College applications are not that hard. My grandmother left her family when she was 16, got on a boat for three weeks and landed in a country where she knew no one. That was hard. But she took ownership. She did it.

So when will our kids grow up? When we stop doing everything for them.

The same could be said of church.

Over the past six months, the leaders at my community of faith have been less concerned with “feeding the masses” and more focused on teaching people how to feed themselves spiritually. And that’s a good thing.

The leaders at Willow Creek recently came to the same conclusion after research showed that increasing participation in church-run activities wasn’t increasing spiritual growth. At some point, people need to own their faith.

But not all churches are convinced. My friend Bob’s son is getting ready for confirmation, and one of his son’s tasks is to get the church bulletin signed and dated by the reverend every week. Bob wants to know… why is it that no one trusts him to attend church on his own? They say he’s ready to be a soldier for Christ, but they don’t believe he can answer a question honestly unless he has written proof.

When will we grow up?

Friday, October 19, 2007

nothing

When a once-active blog suddenly goes dark, it makes you wonder.

Sometimes it’s frustrating. You’re humming along through this really cool novel, getting your daily fix, and you wake up one day and find that the story is over – with no warning whatsoever.

Sometimes it’s worrisome. Is he OK? Maybe she’s sick. Is he having a meltdown? Why don’t they tell me what’s going on! It’s true – I don’t really know this person, but they shared something that touched me – and the connection was real (at least to me.)

And you wonder… how long should I keep this link up on my blog… after all, I don’t want to send my friends to an inactive site … how long should I click through, holding out hope that the words that once inspired and motivated me will return?

Certainly, the two-week hiatus since ita, missa est has been the longest gap between posts since I started this blog-journey last May. It’s not like I’ve been too busy or disinterested. I’ve simply had nothing to say.

There was nothing new this morning. No insights. No inspiration. But as they say, sometimes writers just need to write.

And as the word “nothing” came up on my screen, letter by letter, it suddenly occurred to me that this two-weeks-of-nothing-to-say coincided with two-weeks-of-not-reading-His-word. Not a coincidence, you say? Well inspiration is sitting on my desk, just six feet away… so gotta run…

PS – what’s up at bit of smoke?

Thursday, October 4, 2007

ite, missa est

Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.
As a youngster in the Bronx, I was involved in Sunday services at St. Nicholas of Tolentine as both an alter boy and a soprano in the boys choir. When I wasn’t serving and actually had to “attend” mass, I guess the routines and repetition of the liturgy didn’t mesh well with my childhood sense of what God was all about. In those years, my brothers and I would often go up for communion, and then instead of returning to our seats… we would continue down the aisle right out the door.

Looking back, I think we missed the most important line that the priest would recite every week: Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord.

Fast forward 30 years. In recent months, I’ve tried to spend more time with God – and will even stop into church to pray during the week. And before I leave, I can hear a voice saying “Go in peace, to love and serve the Lord." The very words that I glazed over for so many years are suddenly taking on a new meaning.

GO. Yes, it starts with an action word. Kind of reminds me that when we leave the church, that’s when the work needs to begin. Go. It involves movement. Go. Do something. Go. I’ve got a mission for you.

IN PEACE. Has Jesus given us any greater gift for our time on earth? Sometimes I struggle to explain to others what Christ means to me. But the gift he provides is so simple. Peace. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid.” It’s not surprising that I’ve felt Christ’s presence most in my “darkest hours.” Lost my job (peace). Relationship strained (peace). Child sick (peace). Oh, what a gift!

TO LOVE THE LORD. It’s our first mission – and one we should cherish. V'ahav'ta eit Adonai Elohekha b'khol l'vav'kha uv'khol naf'sh'kha uv'khol m'odekha. You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your might. OK, right now I would need to add "when I remember" to the end of this, but I'm working on it!

TO SERVE THE LORD. Yes it’s more than a feeling (Go!) there’s action required. I know that a lot of times, I sit and wait… asking God to fill in the blanks… how can I serve?... what is my purpose, Oh Lord?... speak to me… answer me… and while I’m sitting there, the world and all of its needs go by. I need to constantly remind myself that when JC came onto the scene, God had big plans for him. But he didn’t wait – the first thing he did was grab a few friends and help individuals in need. Go.

Interestingly, when the Catholic Mass was said in Latin, the final words the priest said were “ite, missa est” – which roughly translates into “you are now dismissed.” And while the English translation used today says a bit more – I used to treat it like “ite, missa est” as in “good, it’s over… I’m done with church for another week.”

But I think we can all agree that it’s really just the beginning. Go. I have a mission for you this week. Go.