Sunday, July 20, 2014

Traveling Mercies

Yesterday, my husband and I drove to Nashville, about 5 hours from our home, to meet my daughter who was arriving on the Megabus from Louisville. There are Megabus routes to and from Louisville, and there are Megabus routes to and from Memphis, but there is no point at which these routes meet, so Nashville is the closest she could get.

This is where the Megabus drops people off in Nashville.

Across the street

so you can understand why I wanted to make sure we were there when the bus arrived.

Of course, I knew from experience that we would probably end up waiting, and wait we did for over an hour. The lot was filled with cars full of people who were also waiting. In the car next to us was a family from Murfreesboro, TN, an older couple and two mid-30ish men. After a while, I got to talking with the older man. He was very thin and pale with a black cowboy hat, a cross hanging from his neck, and a fancy belt buckle. His wife, sitting across from me in the car, was fairly heavy and both of them looked like they had had a very hard life. They were there to pick up somebody on the bus from Chicago and then they were all driving to Atlanta.

Before very long, they began to tell me about the mercy of the Lord--how He is the God of second chances, and how good He had been to them. The man (I never knew their names.) told me about how they had been in a head-on collision in their old car but as soon as he knew no one was hurt, he started thanking God for His traveling mercies because it didn't matter that the car was destroyed because the car was immaterial next to life. 

Then they were without a car for three months, but a preacher had told them that if they planted a seed, God would make it grow in 3 months. So, they planted a seed and 90 days later, they got this 2013 car--the newest car he'd ever had. Not only that, but they had been living in a place that you wouldn't believe for the past 3 years. Previous to that, the wife had prayed for someplace to live even if it was a shack, and, said he, "You better watch what you pray for because you might get it." About the time they got the car, though, the Lord got them a one-room apartment, and they were happy as they could be. They were about to start working in their church, he teaching the young kids, and she in the nursery, and the Lord had blessed them with traveling mercies that day, and he would pray for them for us, too.

Encounters like this continually humble me. I sometimes think of myself as having had a difficult life--we frequent lived fairly close to the edge financially--but it was never anything like the penury these people have experience. I wonder why I am so blessed in so many ways, and it makes me feel like God must expect a lot from me in consequence of this. It's a little scary.

And also, their faith humbles me. I have had a fairly good education and I've read quite a bit of theology, and I can discuss little thorny details of the Faith, but these people just believe. I'm sure there's technically a good bit of error in their belief system, but I'm sure it does not matter a whit. They are grateful and they know Who they are grateful to, and they are filled with a degree of innocent trust that I'm sure I will never attain.

Finally, the buses arrived and we waited for the passengers to disembark. I began to worry that they might be holding them for ransom. While we stood around the parking lot, I struck up a conversation with a woman from another car, and then Bill told me that someone else, a young black man in his late 20s, needed our help to jump-start his car, he would come help direct me while I moved the car into position as soon as he got his cell phone back from another man who was borrowing it. 

While I was sitting in the car after having maneuvered it onto the sidewalk, I was thinking about how 2 or 3 years ago, I would have been terrified at the idea of sitting in that parking lot for an hour. I would never have gotten out of the car or talked to the other people there. And how much I would have missed.


Monday, July 14, 2014


I don't know what is the matter with them. Sometimes if you try more than once, you can get it to work. I've taken to copying my comments before I send them in case I have to try again--and again.


Saturday, July 12, 2014

Mud, Mark Twain, and Myth

I have to begin with this boat. The movie begins with these boys, Ellis and Neckbone, and this boat in the tree. A boat which is, we soon discover, stamped in mud with the sign of the cross.

The boys, of course, lose no time in boarding the boat and claiming it for their own, but they soon find evidence that someone has been there before them. That someone is Mud, wearing a shirt with the eye of a wolf sewn in it for protection, a tattoo of a snake down his right arm, and a cross made of nails in the heel of shoe. He's in danger, and on the run, but he's waiting. Waiting for a beautiful woman with bird tattoos on her hands, a woman who saved his life when he was bitten by a snake. Juniper.

I first became aware of the the movie Mud when I saw a poster for it at the theatre where I went to see To the Wonder. At the time, I don't think I more than noticed it, but when someone commented on a blog that it was the, "Best film consciously set in the South that I've seen in a long time," I filed it away for future reference. 

I don't have much time to watch movies nowadays, and when I do have the time, I usually prefer to read, so it's taken me over a year to get around to Mud. A couple of weeks ago while I was on vacation, I finally sat down and watched it, and I enjoyed it very much. It was a good story, the characters were well-drawn, and the actors did a great job. And that was about all I thought about it until later.

After a while, I started thinking about Mud and why he was named Mud. And I got thinking about how the Lord God formed the man out of the dust of the ground. And here was this man named Mud living alone in the woods with a snake on his arm to remind him, "... to watch out for the snake," and waiting for this woman from whom he had been separated. "Hmmm," I thought, "that's kind of interesting." And the more I thought, the more Bible references and types there seemed to be from beginning to end.

There is this boat. There is a man who has no parents that anyone remembers, not even Mud. There is a sort of garden, the kind of garden that you might find east of Eden if it were in the rural American South and had been left untended for, say, fifteen and half minutes.There is an enigmatic, fatherly figure who raised Mud as much as he was ever raised, and who is removed from the community, but who is observing what goes on. There are snakes. There is a redemptive act. There is a sort of Baptism. There is a rescue by boat.

And there is a woman. When I thought about the woman, it seemed as she was not the best type of Eve--maybe Lilith--maybe a combination between the two. Tom, the fatherly figure, says of Juniper that, "She’d bed down with the meanest snake she could find, then when things went bad she’d go runnin’ to Mud."

After thinking about all this for a while, and deciding I would write this post, and what I would write in this post, I thought I'd go looking around the internet to see if there was any indication that anyone connected with Mud would mention the biblical aspects of the movie. I wasn't too surprised to see that there wasn't. 

What I found most often was that Mud was a coming of age film. An article in The Guardian  says, 
It's a film that wears its influences on its sleeve: this "big ol' story", as [director Jeff] Nichols calls it, is Tom Sawyer and Huck Finn rewritten for modern times. Nichols is happy to acknowledge it. "I first read Tom Sawyer when I was in 8th grade, 13 years old. I realised since that Mark Twain just bottled what it felt like to be a child. I wanted to check back in with that and see what a modern-day boy on the river is like."
In another interview, Nichols says, that he was making a getaway film but stumbled backwards into making a coming of age film. So, "this 'big ol' story,' but not The Story.

Several times I have come across movies, books, and even one ballet, in which biblical or specifically Christian references or analogies--sometimes very profound and beautiful--seemed very obvious to me, and yet it also seemed obvious that there was nothing in the creator's knowledge or experience to account for them. It makes me wonder. Is the Story of our Fall and Redemption written so deep in the nature of all things that it seeps through unsuspected? We see it pre-figured in ancient texts, so it must be. It reminds me of Tolkien's On Fairy Stories.

I did finally find a blog post in First Things which mentions the biblical analogy. The author, Carl Scott, is mostly writing about misogyny in the movie. I very much noticed this myself, although it's not something I consciously look for. And a few other good blog posts from Scott and Peter Lawler on the movie here, here, and here. There is some comparison of Mud and one of my favorite recent movies, True Grit going on in their blogs, too.


Thursday, July 10, 2014


One day I was praying in church and I said to the Lord, "You can't imagine how much I love you." Then I thought, "Well, that's a really stupid thing to say. He knows exactly how much I love Him better than I do." And then, this is what came into my head, "You are the imagination of My Love for you." 

And so are you.


Wednesday, July 9, 2014


I'm pretty busy going back and forth to work and the hospital, so I thought I'd post a few pictures of some clouds I saw a couple of weeks ago. Of course, the pictures are woefully inadequate to show what I really saw, but they are kind of nice. This is a two-lane country road, but thank goodness they have built an extra lane in front of a housing development that got started, but stopped cold when the bottom fell out of the housing market. This made it possible for me to pull over and walk up and down the road taking pictures without risking my life--not that I haven't risked my life to take pictures for you before, but it's nice not to have to. Remember to click on them once to enlarge them. They look much better, I think.

I love the moon in this one. I didn't even realize it was there until I'd taken the picture.

I wish I could describe the way these clouds look. The big one on the right, just over the horizon, was glowing with a turquoise light.

Before I got to the country road, when I was still on the expressway, there was a full double rainbow running parallel to the road. The lower rainbow was one of the brightest I've ever seen. Sorry I was to big of wimp to take a picture. If it had been in front of the car, I might have done it, but on the side, it looked to risky.


Monday, July 7, 2014

Once More Unto the Breach

For those of you who don't already know, my mother broke her hip last night. She had surgery today and did well, and her prognosis is good. Still, we could use your prayers. Thanks.


Sunday, July 6, 2014

Called to the Supper of the Lamb

The retreat master of the retreat that I attended in January was very tall, well over 6' tall, so when I received Communion, the paten was about at the level of my head, and when Father presented the host to me it came from above, and for a moment, it was as if I were seeing the Eucharist for the first time. It wasn't just a host like thousands of others I'd received. Oh, it was the same, round wafer I was used to. But it just wasn't. It was, just in that moment, illuminated for me in some way. It's hard to explain, really, but the best that I can say is that it was so very definitely the Lord, and it was so very definitely for me.

In the Office of Readings for the Solemnity of Corpus Christi St. Thomas Aquinas tells us,
[W]hen he took our flesh he dedicated the whole of its substance to our salvation. . . . to ensure that the memory of so great a gift would abide with us for ever, he left his body as food and his blood as drink for the faithful to consume in the form of bread and wine. O precious and wonderful banquet, that brings us salvation and contains all sweetness! Could anything be of more intrinsic value? Under the old law it was the flesh of calves and goats that was offered, but here Christ himself, the true God, is set before us as our food. What could be more wonderful than this? No other sacrament has greater healing power; through it sins are purged away, virtues are increased, and the soul is enriched with an abundance of every spiritual gift. It is offered in the Church for the living and the dead, so that what was instituted for the salvation of all may be for the benefit of all. Yet, in the end, no one can fully express the sweetness of this sacrament, in which spiritual delight is tasted at its very source, and in which we renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion.
For the past year, I have been receiving the Eucharist almost everyday, and the longer this goes on, the more aware I am of the truth of this passage. What can be more wonderful than this? Nothing. The more often we receive this precious and wonderful banquet, the more we hunger for it. I often want to stay home on Saturday mornings because I have so much to do, and I can get more done before 10 in the morning than I can the rest of the day, but most of the time I just have to go. 

I remember a conversation that I had with a friend many years ago. She said that the thing about going to daily Mass was that if she stopped for some reason, she missed it, and then after awhile she, didn't miss it anymore, and this spurred her on to be faithful. I've really experienced the truth of what she said.

When we lived in Memphis, I used to go to Mass almost every day. It was easy then. There was an early evening Mass and I only lived a half mile from the church. Once I was in the habit of going, I didn't really even have to think about it. It was just what I did. There were years when I went alone, but there were also years when the whole family went.

Then we moved to rural Mississippi and there was only one Mass during the week at our parish. We would go to that, and sometimes go to another parish about half an hour from home, but that took such a huge chunk out of the day that we didn't keep it up very long. Then I started working and the only time I could go was on my lunch hour, and it frequently took more than an hour and I had to bolt my lunch in the car. So I didn't go often. After awhile, I didn't really miss it anymore. Thankfully, I kept going on Saturday to the parish where I now work, which was how I ended up working there where I am able to renew the memory of that surpassing love for us which Christ revealed in his passion, everyday. 

Could anything be of more intrinsic value? And could anything be so very undervalued? 


Saturday, July 5, 2014

A Series of Unfortunate Fortunate Events

...or maybe I should say Fortunate Unfortunate Events. I can't seem to make up my mind.

Today, July 5, is the first anniversary of The Day the Tree Fell on the House. Ever since that day it has been one thing after another. Some of the things that happened have been very good indeed from the very beginning, but even those that started out on the down side either resulted in things returning to normal, or things ending up better than they were. I'm still a bit sad about the pool, but I'm more happy than sad about it, so that's okay. All-in-all, we have a lot to be grateful for.

One of my favorite days this year was the day the grandchildren (or half of them) conquered the tree.

This is what the tree looks like today.

For those of you who aren't from around here, those tall weeds that almost look like trees--the shortest one is a bit taller than I am--are pokeweed, as in:

Not my favorite song, but I thought I'd put it in perspective.

I don't think you can tell by looking at the picture--the sun was too bright behind it--maybe if you clicked to make it bigger--but the easiest way to recognize pokeweed is by it's bright red stalk. We don't really want these big weeds in the yard, but it's been raining so heavily and so often lately that we're lucky if Bill can keep the grass from engulfing the house, so we haven't been able to worry about extraneous weeds. And really, I kind of like weeds.

Here's something else that has popped up in the yard.

I believe these little cocktail umbrella mushrooms are parasola plicatili. The gray part is translucent, and they look as if someone sliced off the top of the cap and left only the gills.

Since the birth of my newest grandson on Monday, things have begun to slow down around here a bit, and since the next big event is my youngest daughters wedding which won't be until next spring, and my vacation is over, and the hall closet is cleaned out, and my mother is well and has a place to live, I might be able to find time to write more often. I certainly hope so because there are several things I really want to write about, but I guess that remains to be seen.

By the way, the weather today was the exact opposite of the way it was on July 5 of last year. It was very nice, not too hot with mostly clear blue skies. 


Friday, July 4, 2014

For Lack of Vision

From today's first reading from Amos:

Yes, days are coming, says the Lord GOD, 
when I will send famine upon the land:
Not a famine of bread, or thirst for water, 
but for hearing the word of the LORD. 
Then shall they wander from sea to sea 
and rove from the north to the east 
In search of the word of the LORD,
but they shall not find it. 

While I was reading this passage this morning, I kept thinking about how often I read things online, hear things on the radio, and see things on television (granted since I don't have a television, this last doesn't really happen often) and am sadden by the fact that so many people seem unable to see, hear or speak with any amount of clarity. I guess that having read scripture, I shouldn't find this surprising.

The idols of the nations are silver and gold, the work of human hands. 
They have mouths but do not speak; 
they have eyes but do not see; 
They have ears but do not hear; 
nor is there breath in their mouths. 
Their makers will become like them, 
and anyone who trusts in them.
Psalm 135:16-18 and a similar text in Psalm 115

Make the heart of this people sluggish, dull their ears and close their eyes; Lest they see with their eyes, and hear with their ears, and their heart understand, and they turn and be healed.
Isaiah 6:10

Pay attention to this, you foolish and senseless people, Who have eyes and do not see, who have ears and do not hear.
Jeremiah 5:21

Son of man, you live in the midst of a rebellious house; they have eyes to see, but do not see, and ears to hear but do not hear. They are such a rebellious house!
Ezekiel 12:2
Do you have eyes and not see, ears and not hear? And do you not remember...
Mark 8:18

It's pretty obvious that for a large segment of our population there is, "...a famine...for hearing the word of the Lord." It's not that the Word isn't out there, it's that in many cases there is a deliberate blindness and deafness like the reverse of the three monkeys that see, hear and speak no evil. Why open yourself to a truth that will get in the way of your plans? Along with this there is the darkening of the intellect that follows the abandonment of ourselves to sin. Saddest of all, and maybe the largest group of all is that which has been literally educated out of their senses. They cannot see, and they cannot hear, and they cannot think because their values have been clarified beyond all faith and all reason. These are the people that disturb me the most. They have a facile but false or meaningless answer for any argument, and they seem absolutely incapable seeing how baseless and frequently self-contradicting their opinions are, or of processing what any opponent might be saying. They are impervious to the Word.

Even people of faith (and reason) sometimes find themselves adrift in the miasma rising from our culture of misinformation and foggy thinking. We can be brought up short by the discovery some prevalent idea or way of thinking has wended it's way into our consciousness as I was yesterday when I read Maclin Horton's post on the true role of the Supreme Court. It's not that I don't know what the Court is supposed to do, it's just that I have spent so much time listening to people who get it wrong that I sometimes find myself falling under the spell of those who, like the Lady of the Green Kirtle in C. S. Lewis's Silver Chair mesmerize us into losing our connection with the real world.

The Fourth of July can be a really fun holiday. It's great to get together with friends and family to celebrate, cookout and blow things up. I wonder, however, how many people who are celebrating today, have any idea of the kind of government which they are celebrating, or of the underlying virtues that are required to make this kind of government work, or of the fact that we are currently bereft of many of those virtues. I wonder if they realize that it is slipping out of our hands.
May the eyes of [your] hearts be enlightened, that you may know what is the hope that belongs to his call, what are the riches of glory in his inheritance among the holy ones...
Ephesians 1:18