Friday, December 14, 2012

Stop Feeding the Evil

Words are inadequate when thinking about the parents and children in today's tragic shooting. Only a visceral sense of pain and anguish can come close.

We can't make sense of such violence, no matter how many people the media interview or how much it is reported over and over.  In fact, living in an area where one of the first school shootings took place--Thurston High--I know the impact it will have on the community and the people involved for the rest of their lives.

I have come to the conclusion, however, that we as a people would be far better off if we didn't headline such events. Yes, they are news and as a journalist I understand the need to maintain the news cycle, but when we give so much attention, so much time and so much energy to such horrific events, it seems to me, in some odd way, we encourage them.  For a psychopath, and such killers have to be psychotic, the idea of becoming world-famous has to be incredibly appealing. To go out in a blaze, if not glory, at least notoriety. It's not at all surprising that two shootings have occurred within a few days. Copycatting for fame is all too common. (Incidentally, The brilliant Sherry Weddell puts it better than I here.)

What I do know is that the more we put our focus on such events, the more we feed the evil. And make no mistake, evil is a consummate consumer of negative human emotion. The more fear we generate, the stronger the evil becomes...and the more fear it desires. It's true on a personal level and it's true nationally and globally.

I can't stop the media reports, but I can stop my own feelings from becoming part of the current of fear and pain. I will not watch tv.  I will not read on the Internet.  I will not continue to talk about what has happened.  I'm not pretending it didn't occur, but I will not continue to feed the evil.

I will pray for the victims.
I will pray for the shooter.
I will pray for our country.

But I refuse to give evil the constant attention it wants.
I will stop feeding the evil.


Thursday, December 13, 2012

Gratitude versus Thanks

Gratitude versus Thanks

Happy. Holy. Jolly. Merry. Tra la la la.

‘Tis the season, right?

For many of us, Advent and Christmas are more stressed than blessed. We have all our normal work, plus a slew of extras, mixed in with expectations, dreams and desires, all bathed in the glowing light of Thomas Kinkade memories of things that never were.

This year, in particular, is tough for a lot of people because of the economy. Even modest traditions may have to be modified because of financial reality.

Which brings me to Gratitude versus Thanks.

While the dictionary suggests these are the same, I maintain there is a very real difference.  Thanks is our response to something good, nice, pleasant, kind or generous.  Basically, giving thanks is a reaction to something that has been done to or for us. We give thanks for the tangible, even if it’s an ephemeral tangible like a compliment. Thanks can be heartfelt and deeply emotional but sometimes, thanks is no more than just a quick, tossed-off word. Regardless, thanks is a temporary experience, a momentary surge of emotion, soon to be forgotten by the next new concern that presses upon us.

Gratitude, on the other hand, is a state of being. It has nothing to do with what we have or what is happening to us. It is rooted in the essence of life and of love. And in the essence of Life and Love.

This Advent and Christmas, you may feel as if trying to dredge up thanks is an exercise in Pollyannaism—looking for tiny gold needles in haystacks of moldy straw. However, no matter what your circumstances, you can still live in gratitude—gratitude for the Divine Love that gives you breath; for your body, mind and soul; for life, all life, itself. You can make your very existence into a hymn of gratitude, even as you recognize (and maybe even grumble a bit) about some of the details.

Living in gratitude doesn’t mean you have to prance about with cheery, happy feelings all the time. You can experience any emotion—even sorrow—and still be grateful, because gratitude stems from a decision, not a feeling. You decide to be grateful. Gratitude is what the prophet Habakkuk expresses when he writes:

Though the fig tree does not blossom,
and no fruit is on the vines;
...though the produce of the olive fails
and the fields yield no food;
though the flock is cut off from the fold
and there is no herd in the stalls,
yet I will rejoice in the Lord;
I will exult in the God of my salvation. (Habakkuk 3:17-18)

The woodworker mystical English poet Caryll Houselander called Advent the “season of the seed.”

This Advent, I encourage you to plant a seed of gratitude deep within your heart so that no matter what happens—unblossomed fig trees and barren fields or rich harvest and filled storehouses—you will be at peace—that” peace of God, which transcends all understanding.”

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Our Lady of Guadalupe

In honor of Our Lady of Guadalupe and 12-12-12, my book on Mary, 365 Mary, is one of my favorites. It came from a deep place in my heart. You can find it here.

Gifts that Give Back

This first appeared in Our Sunday Visitor. You can see the original online at

 Christmas gifts that give back


Homemade or eco-friendly items can touch the heart of the recipient

It’s the signs of the times.
Because of the economic climate, many of us are cutting back on gift-giving this year. But none of us want to be seen as the Grinch. As the Neiman-Marcus catalog once said, “Tokens of affection don’t have to be extravagant to be brilliantly received,” but most of us already know that. The best gifts are those that reflect the personality of giver and touch the heart of the recipient, regardless of monetary value.
If a gift can have a positive (or at least neutral) effect on the environment, that’s an additional bonus. The catch is that coming up with pocketbook-easy and eco-friendly gifts isn’t as easy as going to the mall and pulling out a credit card. But in today’s world, spending limited resources on one more easily forgotten tchotchke isn’t feasible. And it isn’t in keeping with our calling as Christians, who are here not just for our own personal pleasure but to create a loving relationship with our God; to build strong, virtuous families; and, as Pope Benedict XVI so often reminds us, to be stewards of our planet.
Here are a few ideas for gift giving this Christmas that can help us celebrate with joy and responsibility.

Going green

Soy wax or beeswax candles: Regular candles are petroleum based, so by using a renewable resource such as soy or beeswax, you can still enjoy the glow without the waste.
National Parks Pass: For $80, four adults and all the children under 16 you can fit in the car can visit any of America’s 391 National Parks, monuments, battlefields, military or historical parks, historic sites, lakeshores, seashores, recreation areas and scenic rivers and trails for one year. It even includes entrance to the White House.
Bamboo: The fastest growing woody plant in the world is now being used for everything from flooring to bath towels, clothing to dishes. Bamboo is not only a quickly renewing resource, a bamboo forest can make a substantial difference in reducing carbon dioxide in the atmosphere as well as restoring nutrients to depleted or overused lands. Check out some unique gift ideas at:
Antiques: The ultimate prestige green gift, an antique combines the best of history and recycling. Give a family treasure or find a new heirloom at a flea market or tag sale.
Local food: Look for an agricultural co-op in your area to see what sorts of foods are available. You may be able to get farm fresh eggs, root vegetables and meat even in the dead of winter.
Visit to find farms and farmers’ markets in your area.
iTunes or Netflix gift cards: Eliminate the plastic cases with downloadable music. For movies, let the post office handle the delivery and return, saving gasoline, travel time and overdue fees.
Metal water bottle: We all should drink more water, but plastic bottles aren’t very earth friendly. A metal water bottle and/or a water tap filter can provide clean water at a fraction of the cost of bottled.
The Splurge : If you want to spend a bit more on an environmentally friendly gift, consider a solar charger. Use the sun to juice up your GPS, camera, iPod, cell phone or anything else that needs to be plugged to recharge. It might not replace all your plug-in time, but it can certainly reduce electrical use.


Crocheted or knit scarf: Even if you are craft-challenged, knitting or crocheting a scarf is an easy, almost foolproof project. With some of the gorgeous yarns out there, even a beginner can make something that looks couture.
Baked goods : Who doesn’t love real chocolate chip cookies, a fresh pie or a homemade chocolate cake? As long as you avoid fruitcake, treats from the kitchen are always welcome. An added bonus — you and your children or grandchildren can do the baking together and build treasured memories.
Soap or candles: It’s not difficult to make either soap or candles from supplies at your local craft store. Pick a signature scent such as lavender and create a unique and practical gift.
Personalized recipe books: Every family has favorite recipes that shouldn’t be forgotten. Create a personalized recipe book for adult children. If you are feeling generous, include the ingredients to make one of the dishes along with the recipes.
Chocolate spoons and coffee: Dip plastic spoons in melted chocolate, let dry and wrap with colored plastic wrap. Include some fair-trade coffee and maybe a handmade mug from a craft fair (or paint your own at a pottery painting store) for the caffeine lovers on your list.
Flavored cooking oil: Nothing could be simpler for the chef in the family. Drop a few spri gs of rosemary into a bottle of extra virgin olive oil and let sit. Gourmet taste at a fraction of the cost.
Photo album: Create individual photo albums of their childhoods for your children. If you don’t want to break up your own albums, have copies made and give each one the story of their own life.
Jewelry: What could be easier than stringing a few beads and adding a clasp for a one-of-a-kind necklace or earring? Craft and bead stores have all the supplies and will even show you how to create your masterpiece.
The Splurge: For a truly one of a kind handmade gift, consider a quilt made of memorabilia. For instance, use outgrown sports jerseys for the athlete in the family. Or doll clothes for your too cool daughter who isn’t quite ready to give up her Barbie collection. Or incorporate a favorite theme, like cats or beer mugs, into the design for an adult. If you aren’t a quilter yourself, paying someone to make one out of your memory materials can create a lifelong treasure.

Timely Gifts

Sometimes it’s more difficult to give of your time than it is of your money. Giving of time requires a commitment of self and an engagement with others that simply buying something doesn’t. Because of that, gifts of time can be some of the greatest you will ever give. A few suggestions:
Cleaning: New moms, elderly parents, sick or disabled friends would all be delighted if someone took on some of the truly “dirty jobs” like cleaning the toilet, scrubbing the kitchen garbage container or sweeping out the fireplace ashes.
Yard work: Another area where elbow grease is appreciated is the yard. Shoveling snow, clearing away debris or helping plant flowers in the spring can all be made into gifts.
Laundry: Washing and drying isn’t usually too difficult, but ironing is another story. Unfortunately, we all have something that needs ironing. Offering to do that task can put stars in your crown here and in heaven.
Home repair: What seems simple to you may be impossible for a tool-challenged relative or friend. So, adjust that shelf, hook up the VCR or adjust the hinges on the door as your gift this year.
Monthly date: Nothing is more treasured than one-on-one time. Make a date with your parents, your children, your adult children, your grandchildren, your nieces and nephews, your close friends and spend time just “being” with each other.

For Kids

Crazy crayons: Melt down used and broken crayons, pour swirls of color into a design and create your own unique “crazy crayons” that will color multiple colors at one stroke.
Handmade coloring book: Most computer graphic programs will change a picture to a line drawing, so make a unique coloring book featuring a child’s own family members, pets, friends, house, school.
Baby’s album: Put copies of pictures of a child’s first days of life into an inexpensive photo album and let them have their very own “book” of life.
Book on tape : Read a favorite storybook onto a tape recorder or make an MP3 file and give both your “book on tape” and the actual book to a child or grandchild.


Some families love giving each other donations; others feel cheated with only a slip of paper under the tree. If your family is one that enjoys donating in each others’ names, be sure to pick charities that the receiver would want to support, not the causes that you love. A good clearinghouse for international charities is, but don’t overlook local charities, like your humane society, museum or women’s shelter. To check out the validity of a charity, go to

Ralph Waldo Emerson, the great American poet, said, “The greatest gift is a portion of thyself.” This Christmas, as we give thanks for the greatest gift of all — the coming of God’s own son — let us give a portion of ourselves in every gift we give.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Prayer Scorecard.

The road to hell is paved with good intention and certainly the road to blogging is paved with good intentions of regular entries.  I'm trying to ignore how long it's been since I last came here.  I must have good reasons, right?

One thing that I have meant to do for several weeks is give an update on the Prayer Scorecard. Since last May I've been keeping a record of my prayers: Yes, No, Not Answered. I've wanted to see just how many prayers were answered and what those answers are.

Now many of them have been relatively minor and immediate; sort of "daily bread" prayers. Others are much larger and more major. Not surprisingly, the more major prayers are still in the Not Answered category. These deal with relationships, finances, restoration after theft, life direction and other BIG things. Sometimes I'm not quite sure if I will actually know the point when these prayers are answered or if they will sort of just gradually unfold.  However, I do know that at least some of them--like the restoration of my property after a theft--is either going to happen or it isn't so there will be a definite yes or no at some point.

I'm not any more sure now than I was last May why some prayers are answered and others aren't. And I don't understand why some prayers that I've prayed with heart and soul have been denied. (I didn't pray to win the mega-lottery!)

So with that, the 7 plus month tally is:
38 Yes
13 No
13 Unanswered