Monday, February 28, 2011

Tomorrow, Tomorrow, I'll Write More, Tomorrow

We're getting close to the end of the quarter here at UCLA, so I'm a little crunched for good writing time.  Did you watch the Oscars?  What did you think?

I'll tell you one thing -- if you're looking for a good movie that got a little Oscar buzz but mostly was ignored, go see/rent Rabbit Hole. Nicole Kidman and Aaron Eckhart as two parents dealing with the recent death of their 4 year old son.  Great acting, great script, very moving -- and yet not predictable.

Here's the trailer:



And if you're looking for something that didn't make the Awards at all, Of Gods and Men is just making the rounds.  It's a French film based on the true story of monks in Algeria who are told to leave as things get crazy there, and debate whether or not to stay and be with the people.  The trailer is quite powerful. Find it a bit down the page here.  

And if you didn't see the end of the show, go find the montage of the best pictures. It will seriously blow you away.

More later...

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Friday Fun on Thursday

Okay, so I've been trying to post pop culture-y sort of pieces on Fridays. And maybe I still will this week, something Oscar-y, perhaps...

But, I just saw the most amazing youtube video, and wanted to share it right away.  This is a 10 year old kid, Maria Aragon covering Lady Gaga's new song, Born This Way (another wonderfully positive Gaga song).  And she is so talented, this kid, I just had to share it right away.  (Here's her page -- she's got another amazing song on here.)

Hope it makes your Thursday. Sure made mine.

Dean Anselment, Dr. Ecklund, Well Done

Within 45 minutes of each other today, two different college friends called with incredible news.  My friend Ken Anselment, a long time member of the Marquette University and then Lawrence University Admissions staffs -- and also great funny man and frequent poster in the comments on this blog -- has just been named the Dean of Admissions at Lawrence U.

Here's a favorite short of Ken highlighting his wit.



And our mutual friend Joe Ecklund, who is in charge of student success at Creighton University (a job title that I endlessly harass him about), has as of today successfully defended his doctoral dissertation, and will undoubtedly insist that we all call him Doctor.

Dr. Joseph D. Ecklund, PhD

If you have kids or grandkids or nephews or nieces nearing college age, let me just say, you're not going to meet two guys more interested in helping them than these two.  I've listened to Ken talk many times about the admissions process, and more than anything what I've gained from those conversations is just how much he wants to love every applicant that walks in the door, and their family.  When looking for someone to take your child's application seriously, you could not do better.

And Joe's about as humble and just plain good as they come.  The kind of guy whose door is always open to students.

So, trust me, check out Creighton and Lawrence. There's a new doctor and a new dean in town, and those schools are in very good hands.

Congratulations, guys. I'm so dang proud of you!

A Cool Take on the Our Father

How many times have you said the Our Father? I'm gonna guess, 3 million.  Give or take.

And yet, I don't know about you, but I always feel like when I'm saying it at Mass or wherever, it still hits me, you know? Maybe because it's a bunch of discreet ideas woven together, it doesn't just blow by. Something usually stands out.  Or just the fact of saying it, with my hands out and open, somehow opens me up.  A very unusual experience for a prayer that we say so often.

So, I've mentioned Dan Harrington a couple times in my comments on Matthew. And you might have thought, wow, I didn't know that poker genius is also a scripture scholar.

Different Dan Harrington.  Not the poker genius, this one, the scripture god.

Dan the Man

Truly, he's written great commentaries (including this one that I use in writing these posts), and he's read just about everything. Really.  He's been the editor New Testament Abstracts for, God, ever? And as editor, his job really has been, read everything (everything) and then give a brief summary of it.  Pretty amazing guy. (He's also written a lot of popular spiritual books, like this or this or this. I highly recommend him.)

In considering the Our Father (which occurs in Matthew in Chapter 6), Dan notes that pretty much every phrase of the prayer comes from the Jewish prayer known as the Eighteen Benedictions, or the 'Amidah (from the Jewish root 'md -- "stand up"), and for the most part the phrases fall in exactly the same order that we find them in the Our Father. Jews says this prayer -- while standing up -- three times a day -- and it is a prayer of blessing and supplication.


Now, knowing what we know about Matthew, we can say that this is another moment where he's establishing that Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism rather than a legitimate reject from it.

But stepping back from that, this insight also affords us the chance to get a glimpse of the sorts of prayers that would have been echoing in the chambers of Jesus' heart on many, many days.  The 'Amidah is a whole set of prayers, too long to print here, but I have included some selections.

If you're looking for something a little different today, try sitting with a couple of them. Read them a couple times, and let them resonate within you.  They're wonderful prayers.  Who knows what new and liberating sounds may be rung within...

Blessed art thou, O Lord,
Our God and God of our fathers,
God of Abraham, God of Isaac, and God of Jacob,
Great, mighty, and awesome God,
God Most High, creator of heaven and earth,
Our shield and shield of our fathers,
Our refuge in every generation.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, shield of Abraham. 


Thou art mighty -- humbling the haughty,
Powerful -- calling the arrogant to judgment,
Eternal -- reviving the dead,
Causing the wind to blow and the dew to fall,
Sustaining the living, resurrecting the dead --
O cause of our salvation to sprout in the twinkling of an eye!
Blessed art thou, O Lord, who revivest the dead.


Thou art holy and thy name is awesome
And there is no god beside thee.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, the Holy God.


Graciously favor us, our Father, with understanding from thee,
And discernment and insight out of thy Torah.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, gracious bestower of understanding.


Turn us to thee, O Lord, and we shall return.
Restore our days as of old.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, who desirest repentance.


Forgive us, our Father, for we have sinned against thee,
Erase and blot out our transgressions from before thine eyes,
For thou art abundantly compassionate.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, who forgivest readily.


Behold our afflictions and defend our cause,
And redeem us for thy name's sake.
Blessed art thou, O Lord, Redeemer of Israel.



Monday, February 21, 2011

One Last Valentine

Over the weekend someone sent me a link to the 3 minute film I'm posting below.  It's actually a trailer for a new video game about zombies. (So, buyer beware, it's a little violent.)

I'm posting it here because, despite the wacky context, it's also this incredibly powerful and moving little story of loss and sorrow, as good as any 3 minute film we're ever likely to see.

Enjoy...



At the end of chapter 5 of Matthew, we get a long list of do's and don'ts about prayer, fasting, personal piety.  In one way, they come down to the general rule, Don't be ostentatious.

Nobody likes a showoff, baby.

But they also put me in mind of this card a Jesuit once gave me:

Look up and not down, 
Out and not in, 
Forward and not back.

Sometimes ostentation signals we're paying too much attention to ourselves.  What a great and challenging goal to try and go it "without a mirror", spiritually speaking -- that is, to keep our eyes on what's going on around us and the needs there, and to truly try and ignore ourselves.

Ignore yourself -- really, there's something to that, I think. Give it a shot.


Friday, February 18, 2011

Friday Fun

No deep thoughts today, just some fun videos.  Consider them my late Valentines to each of you.  

For Dog Lovers:


One of the Great Love Story Music Videos:



For Those Who Love Being Nerds or Those Who Love New York:

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

That %&!* Extra Mile...


The end of chapter 5 of Matthew contains some of the most challenging and controversial material in the New Testament.  It's here that Jesus condemns divorce, that he tells us not to resist those who do us wrong but to offer our other cheek, and that he calls for loving our enemies.

The section has 6 such pronouncements. While each can be taken separately, and often is, it's so important to understand the broader context that informs them all.  We recall that one of Matthew's goals is to illustrate that Jesus is the fulfillment of Judaism, that he's actually more Jewish than the Jews.

And to prove that, what he does here is take the rules of the Torah about revenge, adultery, etc., and amps them up, gives an even more challenging interpretation. The law says don't kill or commit adultery; I say, don't even think about doing those things.  The law says an 'eye for an eye'; today we hear that as permission to fight back, but in actuality it was a statement limiting the sort of fighting back one could do.  (i.e. if they take your eye, yes, you can take their eye; but you can't take their hand or foot, or son, too.) And again, Jesus takes that command to restrain oneself to the extreme -- withhold your lust for revenge completely.

So, what we're seeing is a religious version of a great Broadway tune:



What this all means for you and me: following the letter of the law is not enough. You can be a dirty old man (or woman) and never commit adultery.  You can never kill anyone and still be a total fill-in-the-blank.  And more generally, you and I can check off all the ten commandments and still have lots of sins to confess.  Because there's a lot more to the commandments than the letter.

I used to teach English at Red Cloud Indian School in Pine Ridge, SD, a high school on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation. Great place.  And super challenging -- different culture, first time teacher, lots of mistakes made.

And one of the things I learned out there was that as a teacher I could readily insulate myself from the failures of my students by taking a series of steps -- I gave these instructions; I offered this reminder; I later gave this warning. Having done all these things, their failure is not my fault.

And it's not that that's wrong, everyone's got to take responsibility for their own education.  But sometimes as a teacher you also know, you could have done more. Or done differently.  Yes, you did follow the rules, and so on the surface it appears that you did all you needed to, but that really what you did was about covering your own ass, and not enabling your student to succeed.  And so while you look right with the world, really you didn't do right by your students.

We all have experiences like that, be it as parents, children, spouses, employers, employees, where we are able to appear justified, yet we sort of know that we really aren't.  We didn't go the extra mile, or oftentimes we just didn't go the right mile. And that's what we're called to do.

Put another way, behind the laws that we embrace is the loving God who gave them to us.  If we're following them but we don't look like him, as Ricky Ricardo used to say to Lucy, we got some 'splaning to do.


Tuesday, February 15, 2011

This Little Light of Mine



You know how you can hear a reading a million times, and nod and hear it but not really, and then some day, it's like KA-BLAM, it just hits you right between the eyes, and you will never not hear it again?

Matthew 5:13-17 is a little like that for me.  Here's the passage:

You are the salt of the earth.
But if salt loses its taste, in what way will it be salted?
It is no longer good for anything except to be thrown outside
and walked upon by people.
You are the light of the world.
A city set upon a mountain cannot be hidden.
Nor do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel,
but on a lampstand,
and it gives light to all in the house.
So let your light shine before people,
in order that they may see your good works
and glorify your Father who is in heaven. (Mt 5:13-17)

It's that question, "Do people light a lamp and put it under a bushel [basket]?"  And of course the answer is, No.  Shoot, we don't even have bushel baskets!  

But seriously, we don't hide lamps under beds unless we're 7 and playing fort and/or trying to read after Mom or Dad turned off the lights, right?

What's the story with these two? I'm thinking, hiding out from Dad
after putting Mom through a rough day...
(It never went well at my house.)

But then I don't know, I look at my own life and it seems pretty clear, actually I am pretty much hiding the light.  You wouldn't think it, Catholic priest, dazzling blogger, blah blah blah. (See how I slipped that in?)  But I don't know, it's still so easy never to step outside your own safe little world and show 'em what you got. 

That's the key to the reading for me -- taking a risk.  Why would someone not shine their light, not be the glorious and unique blessing for a world that God made them,  not let their freak flag fly? 

Because they think they don't have one? Yep. Sure. That happens.  

But how about also, because it means hanging your patoot out there for all to see?  

(I tried to find a good photo to go with the patoot line. Let's just say I learned a lot more about "tramp stamps" and plumbers than I would care to put you through.)

The difference between the Emperor who has no clothes and you and me is, when you put us out there to primp front and center, we know we have no clothes! We know our schtick has big time flaws. And so, Jeez, why go out there at all? 

It's the same thing doctoral candidates face.  The more you study, the more you realize how much there is to know, and how easily your professors could squash you like a bug.  (And sometimes they even do. Ah yes, the academic version of getting jumped into a gang. What fun that is.)

So we hide -- I do, anyway -- and convince myself that this is a legitimate response because I know my inadequacies.  

Problem is, end of the day in this scenario, I'm not a part of anything. I'm not out there in the world, which, as much as that's scary, it's also spontaneous and funny and, you know, the world! I'm like a miser, except instead of hoarding what I have I've grown convinced that what I have isn't anything.  Sometimes you don't even know what it is you have until you get out there and see. 

Great questions to ask yourself regularly, maybe in prayer at the end of the day -- where did I let my light shine (or, put another way, where did I let myself hang out a little bit)? And where did I get scared and run away?

I wonder what the world would like if we were all letting our freak flag fly.  I'm sure it would be a lot less rustic than Eden, but in other ways, I wonder if that's not what we mean by Paradise, or the heavenly choirs.

Sure sounds a lot more fulfilling than images like this:



Running away always puts me in mind of this video from Monty Python... 


Could it be, in some aspect of our lives, we've convinced ourselves that something actually benign is incredibly dangerous?

Saturday, February 12, 2011

What Have You Done to My Blog Page?

Welcome to the new (and hopefully improved) Gone Walkabout blog page! For some time now I've been noticing that the words on the page look awfully small and squished together, and I've been wondering whether it might be nice to switch off from the straight black page, too.  So, I'm mixing things up a bit.

Everything's pretty much in the same place you've seen it before.  But the column is a lot more spread out, which hopefully makes it more readable.

I've also added some fun bells and whistles -- a weekly poll to be found on the top right; little boxes at the bottom of each entry that allow you to describe your reaction to the day's column in a word; and a couple lists on the right hand side -- one of books that I highly recommend, one of books that I'm looking to read right now, and one of TV shows and movies that I highly recommend.

I'm also sprucing up by recommended blogs, so check out the newbies. (There's even one, Vyou, where you can ask me a question and get a video response. Wow!)

I'll have my usual Monday post here on Tuesday. Enjoy the site! (And if you don't, I hope you'll leave a comment!)

Thursday, February 10, 2011

Confession for the iPhone: That App is Whack

Have you heard about this? A couple priests and lay people got together and created an app for making your confessions.  It's getting a lot of press right now -- in fact, Maureen Dowd covered it today in the New York Times.



Now, let me say, about 7 times out of 10 when I hear confessions, people don't know what to do.  That is, yes, they know they're going to talk about some things weighing on them, but that's it. How to start, and especially the act of contrition -- they just don't have it.

And so, in theory, the idea of something that reassures them and helps them along, is not a bad idea. Sometimes I walk people through the basic steps before we get started, if I have the sense they're uncertain. In many places today you'll also find a little copy of the act of contrition in the confessional.

But this app goes far beyond that. It offers suggestions as to things you might think about related to each of the ten confessions. And based on your age or career, it offers different suggestions. So, under the 6th commandment, among other things married men are asked about masturbation; men and women are asked about whether they've been guilty of homosexuality. Priests, on the other hand, are asked about flirting. (I kid you not.)

That example alone should warn you as to what to can expect from this app. I'm sure it's well intentioned, but there really is some wacky in that appy.


But if I can just make a more constructive point... or claim... I would assert that for most of us, the best way to use confession is to bring the major things that are weighing on us and share those.  Because, let's be honest, as adults, when we're going to confession, usually we have a pretty good sense of what it is that we've done wrong. We don't needs lists; we need help. We need to be forgiven.

Not that's not to say we couldn't all use a little additional soul searching from time to time -- honestly, I think before they go to confession everyone should ask themselves, do my sins include anything that actually hurt another person? If they don't, 8 times out of 10, you better look again. You're probably missing something important, some area where you need grace and freedom. (And someone else is paying for it.)  And maybe for some people, the confession app will help in this regard.

But in general, a "let's go through the 10 commandments and figure out all the things I've done wrong" model imagines God like a prudish Santa -- he sees you when you're sleeping, he knows when you're awake; he's making a list and checking it twice. As if having a complete list of things I might have done wrong is more important than seeking forgiveness for the major things that are really weighing on you. Or even possible.

In the confessional, we do not have to "watch out"; we do not have to get it "right" or "complete". If anything it's the priest that needs to get it right - how many Catholics have I met that have been scared off confession by a bad experience!

We should just come with whatever we bring, whatever burdens us.  That's enough -- more than enough. And let God welcome us, forgive us and set us free.

I posted a little video on Vyou today about the app, as well. I've posted it below. There are also been some good articles online herehere and here.

       

Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Called

If you had to guess the first act that Jesus would be presented doing in a Gospel, what would you guess?  Healing, right? Or exorcism -- a miracle of some kind.

But in Matthew (Mt 4:12-25), his first deed is to call four apostles -- Simon and Andrew, James and John.  And the calls are mysterious -- we have no reason to believe these guys had ever met Jesus before, let alone had some sort of relationship.  He just shows up, gives a hey follow me, and off they go.

How does that happen? How do you drop your whole life to follow someone you don't even know?  The imagination naturally turns to Jesus; it must have been something about his appearance or presence that made him so attractive.

Jesus says: How you doin?

But maybe it wasn't his person as much as it is was what he was offering. Who knows how these guys viewed their lives up to that point. Whether they were happy or sad in their work, maybe they felt like something was missing, like there was something more out there somewhere for them. Maybe they didn't even know what it was, or that it was;  they just had this little itch in the back of their minds that never went away.  And when Jesus showed up, the penny just dropped, and it was like, well about time!

While I lived in New York, I took improv classes with the Upright Citizens Brigade.  Let me tell you right here, right now, there is nothing scarier than improv. Nothing. Get up, with no idea what the scene is going to be, and just see what happens. For real, pretty much nothing scarier than that.

But when it works, oh boy is it amazing.  The world just opens up in a whole new way, there's laughter and discovery and endless possibility.  And you're just giddy with the joy and spontaneity of it.

What does God wish for us, if not that we might be fully alive? But achieving that, whether it be via a certain career, a certain partner or a certain stand, is all improv, a leap out of comfort, out of certainty, as crazy as leaving your family to follow some dude in a robe. A robe!  I mean, it's the desert, isn't that thing hot?

I once complained to my Novice Director, you know, I don't really know where whole thing is going.

And he responded: Yeah. Isn't it great?



Sunday, February 6, 2011

Could it be...mmm...Satan?

I don't know if you know it or not, but the Devil's getting some good play these last few weeks.  Anthony Hopkins' new exorcist film The Rite was number one at the box office last week. In 10 days it's pulled in about $23 million; that doesn't look great, but it's actually pretty strong for the doldrums of February.

And then Saturday night comedian Dana Carvey hosted Saturday Night Live.  And he brought with him many of his classic characters, including one of his absolute best, the Church Lady, who finds the lure of Satan in every new trend. Even Justin Bieber doesn't emerge unscathed:  



Satan -- in our tradition we understand him to be the absolute embodiment of evil, "The Big Bad" lurking behind every temptation, every violent crime, every horrific act, trying to tear down every good thing that God has set in motion.  God's nemesis, if you will, and we the fragile pieces in between them.


Yet at times in Scripture Satan's role is understood differently -- an adversary, yes, but in the sense of an opposing legal counsel, sent to question and test humanity's case for redemption.  So Job begins not with Satan wreaking havoc upon Job, but in God's court, and Satan a courtier who questions whether Job is really good.

This same vision of Satan is employed in Matthew 4.  Jesus is swept out into the wilderness by the Holy Spirit (note: it's God, not Satan, who sends Jesus out there);  and there he's tested three times by the Devil. Except Matthew's word isn't "diabolos", or devil; it's "peirazon", which scripture scholar Dan Harrington translates "the tester."

And that's what Satan sets out to do -- to test Jesus' faith.  Will he trust God when he is hungry? When someone flatters him, or dares him to do otherwise? When he is offered the whole world?


We know the answers ahead of time. He's the Son of God; of course he's not going to give in.  No spoilers there.

But the story's still important, because it indicates that Jesus is just like us. He's a human being, so he gets tested, too, and in just as big a way as we sometimes are. Satan's pitch isn't hey, Jesus, wanna steal a candy bar? It's, hey, buddy, you're really really in need, really hungry -- can I help you? It's screw your old life, baby, I've got everything you need.

His responses also tell us what being the Son of God is going to mean -- not fireworks and road shows, not look at what I can do, but radical trust. Eyes on the prize -- yep, you've got bread, you've got shiny baubles, but I've got God.  And so rather than try to save myself, I'm going to let myself be saved.  Radical trust.

And when it's over, Satan doesn't run away shrieking, like the Wicked Witch. He disappears. He's had his role and done his job.

Elsewhere, others have failed the same tests and live now with the consequences of their failures. But that's not the end of their stories, either. Satan's not God's equal, he operates within God's world.  And so we will see Jesus call out those spirits of shame and distrust, and bring new freedom.  

And as he does with them, so is that same healing promised to us.

Isn't that special?




Thursday, February 3, 2011

To Christ, Through Dave Matthews


About ten years ago (oh God, can it be that long) I was getting ready to start an 8 day silent retreat with a bunch of other young Jesuits.  And a buddy of mine and I went to a Target -- because what else are you going to do when you know you're going to be in prayer for 8 days, but wander through a big store looking for impulse buys.   

And I came upon a new Dave Matthews Band album, "Everyday".  


Now, I really can't tell you why I bought it.  I guess I was into Dave Matthews at the time, Satellite and all the stuff around then, but it wasn't like I had heard anything from the album. This was long before iTunes (as long as that seems now...).  It might even have been before Napster. 

(Gasp.)

So anyway, I impulse bought the album, and immediately regretted it -- I was going on retreat for God's sake (no pun intended, but hey, I'll take the credit), I was trying to live a simple life. "Ooh, shiny trinket, must have it" really did not live up.  

But there we were.  

Now, some people do not listen to music on retreat. Cone of silence and all that. Or they only do "religious music" -- music you'd hear at religious services or at a Jars of Clay concert.  

At a recent Mass, my Mom asks if she can get seconds.

Me, the older I get, the more spiritual nourishment I seem to get from more popular music, like Broadway or heavy metal. (Okay, not heavy metal, not ever, not even if I were deaf and blind and turned it up really loud so that I could feel the vibrations.  But the Broadway thing is for real. I actually did a 30 day silent retreat where a huge amount of the spiritual nourishment, if you will, came from songs by Stephen Sondheim. Best. Retreat. Ever.)

So I listened to that DMB album on retreat, and this one song just leapt out at me - "The Space Between."  It's the intro that just grabbed me and wouldn't let me go: "You cannot quit me so quickly/There's no hope in you for me,/ No corner you could squeeze me,/But I got all the time for you, love."

That last line, that's the persistent message of the song -- no matter how long it might take, how resistant or far away I might be at any one time, he's not going anywhere. "We're strange allies with warring hearts, what a wildeyed beast you be." "The space between the bullets in our fire fight, is where I'll be hiding waiting for you." 

And all I could think was, what if that were God talking? What if it were okay by him that I'm not perfect, that this movie's more of a chase flick or a romantic comedy where they only meet at the very end? How about that? 

You can decide for yourself whether I've put too much English on the ball, as it were.  (I've put the video version of the song below -- I might suggest turning off your screen the first time, so you can just take in the lyrics. And here's the lyrics themselves.) 

But if you're someone like me, who feels sometimes like they don't live up, or may even be running sometimes (often?) in the wrong direction (to the mall?), maybe this is what God might want to say to you. 



Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Matthew 5: WWSD (What Would Snooki Do?)


Last Sunday's gospel was the Beatitudes, Matthew 5:1-12.  Which was really great timing.  The Tuesday prior had been The State of the Union Address. Did you catch that? Two big phrases came out of it -- the Sputnik Moment (which I think would be a fantastic name for a sci fi flick, sort of a retro "They Came From Outer Space" meets Aaron Sorkin); and "Winning the Future."

Winning the future...it's not Barack's best work.  I mean, if it's the future, how do you know when you've won it? Plus, what is it you win? A rocket pack? A talking dog?  A robot nanny? 

Not a James Cameron concept.

But his clunky phrases aside, the idea of giving a speech that both describes the state of our country and responds, inspires is a great analogy for the Beatitudes.  Like Barack Obama, the gospel writer Matthew was a guy trying to help his Christian community make sense of their situation.   the concrete realities of persecution that were a daily part of their lives.

Today we read the Beatitudes and we think of them as these wonderful abstractions -- blessed are those who mourn, who show mercy, etc. -- into which we can slide our own experience. 

But Matthew himself wasn't describing a general state of suffering, being persecuted, being poor that anyone could relate to.  He was speaking to the very concrete realities that were a daily part of his community's lives, the hardships they underwent because they were faithful, and trying to offer them some reason for confidence and hope.  A state of the union. 

If it were up to you or me to do what Matthew did today, to imagine a beatitude that Jesus would have for our community, what we might come up with?  What would Jesus have to say to us? It's a great question to bring to prayer;  God, what is the word you would have be spoken to us right now? 

Here's one that I've been kicking around: 

Blessed are those who close their eyes and shut their ears, for they shall be led by God. 

It sounds totally counterintuitive, I know.  Let me explain.  

Last week I was watching Jersey Shore.  

Despite the tremendous amount of silicone, also not a James Cameron concept.

I know, I know, you're all huge fans, so you've probably already seen this one. But bear with me: on this episode, Sammi Sweetheart was like, totally ticked off at Ronnie, because Ronnie was talking to JWOWW and Sammi was so not down for that. And so she was like I'm out of here, and she packed her bags, called her Mom. Seriously, y'all, she was like minutes away from leaving the show for good, and everyone was trying to talk her out of it, but she was all, screw this, I hate that chick and I'm going home.  

And I was thinking you know, our lives are not all that different from Sammi's.  In certain situations our lives, too, are bombarded with tons of desires and expectations and insecurities demanding attention and reaction.    

And no matter how hard we try, sometimes it gets to a point where we are no longer able to navigate it in a reasonable way. We can say, oh, I won't get sucked in, but then ten minutes later we're throwing back tequila shots and pulling someone's hair and it's just ON.  


If you're looking for a concrete version of this, think of a disagreement in your family or with friends that got out of hand; or think of the crazy ways that shock jock Republicans and Democrats treat each other.

Or just remember high school. 

In those situations, God is still there, and inviting us to some place better.  But to see him, you have to shut out all that external stimulus, because all of that just keeps baiting you further and further into the crazy. Which is so not God, so not helpful. 

So, what do you do? You have to close your eyes, shut your ears, breathe -- create a space for yourself where God can take the lead.  "Listen".  

At the end of that Jersey Shore, at the very last minute Sammi Sweetheart decided not to go. She actually went on camera and said, I don't know what I've been thinking. I've been acting crazy.  I'm totally missing all the good things that are going on right in front of me.  

She even made up with JWOWW:

I'm getting a little vklempt.

Blessed are those who close their eyes and shut their ears, for they shall be led by God.  

Maybe God has a beatitude he wants to offer to you? 

Probably not this one...