A letter to a friend

A letter to a friend

A letter to a friend, somewhat edited to remove various contextual details. It occurred to me as I re-read what I wrote that there could be something within edifying to others, for in most things the introspections are specific to me and not to us, per se. Soli Deo Gloria.


Pine Mountain storm looking over the Lockwood Valley from Pine Mountain Summit, 30 SEP 2010

My Dear Friend,

There is much to be said for a Sunday afternoon nap, but I woke up this afternoon absolutely beside myself in a puddle of tears that seemed to be the collective emotional response of many weeks or months of being far too brave about far too much while being entirely discouraged about everything else.


I come from very dark places, and there are dark days when those places I won’t let myself go do whisper to me from those dark corners of the world where God’s light is not easily found…I don’t REALLY think I belong in the light, do I?  No, I’m not sure I’m any more comfortable in the light than the roaches that have completely taken over my life, but God says I belong in the light whether I think I do or not.  That is my “Sunday School” answer, but there are six other hellishly in the week NOT Sunday.

I was going to say that some of what tempts me is a lot darker than envy, which is true, but then I was reminded that envy has it’s grip on me too…just in a completely different area, regarding something I’ve — essentially — been required to give up.

I don’t know if I will ever be trustworthy to be given it back, truly God only knows.

Because cars are easy — no one is going to question your sanity, your humanity, and your wholeness as a human being for lack of a [specific very fun sports car]  (and if they do, question theirs).  [Many in my world] are so materialistic I’ve been all but innoculated against greed for what their greed has cost me in my life.  Truly, whatever it is in this world, whatever “thing” I have, if you can give me a compelling reason why you need it more than I do, it’s yours.  Envy is, of course, in lock-step with setting up idols.  Better your idols be things than relationships.  Because a life lived in battle with God and self over relationships can look a very lot…like mine.

And there is nothing in this world that sounds sane about my extended 2011 conversation with  God over why the answer to  the long-time prayer for a conventional life was not necessarily “no” for always, but is clearly “no” for now.  There is a lot “to” that conversation, and there were certainly conditions and terms on both sides (not an ultimatum per se, but more along the lines of an explanation for why things need to be the way they are as they are, instead of the way I would wish them).  School, actually, is part of it…so there really was no possible sane emotional reaction to the idea that — after wrestling for a year to give up pursuit of the possibility of children of my own issue — any thought of any life BUT solitude was just automatically extended for no good reason by a block to getting to school.  The dream, the plan, the vision was stair-steps.  That’s not a dream deferred, that’s a door resolutely shut and locked.

And [yet I watch one friend] in a place so dark that she’s basically given up on her own life and family.  The darkness of her mental illness and war with God rules (and attempts to destroy) the house and everyone in it.  Watching what this is doing to [her family] is wearing me down.  Only God can fix this.

Echo similar sentiments with what [another person I love dearly] has been given and blessed with…and watching everyone’s mental illness curse that as well.

In all cases prayer seems so inadequate.

I am firmly disquiet in the knowledge that those I love –some already gone…forever — are in separation from God…  And you almost lost me this morning in the same moment you wavered a bit yourself on the question (well, not a question) of eternal condemnation (I notice these things, sorry, and I was among the closest in proximity).  If the question is whether I love people as Christ loves them, yes.  I’m not even sure where God keeps all my prayers and tears…some great otherworldly ocean perhaps.

The dark side comes that I truly love others FAR more than I love myself.  I am quite certain I do not “deserve” or “merit” any of the grace or mercy that has been given to me.  But I am the girl who jumps in-front of snakes and would happily give away anything to those who need it more.

Grace and mercy are non-transferable.

I have met so many darkly broken and shattered people in my life — many of whom touch my life daily — that maybe you can see how it would be that I would give up everything for the sake of not merely those I love who are close to me, but for the strangers I meet even briefly who so desperately need, want, long for and seek (in all the wrong places) the love and peace I have in Christ.  The dark truth is that lack of peace for the love of these broken people erodes my own peace.  By no means do I hold for a moment  the idea of the intercession of the saints, but you better believe I recognize St. Monica as a kindred spirit in all this mess that is my life: to keep praying forever and NEVER give up on those you love.

I hope it goes without saying that part of my praying forever and NEVER giving up is praying for those you love too…because, I do.

And it was a hellish week that found me standing before God on Friday completely empty (my rather dark take on my dark week to be found here).  I’m still pretty empty, most days I just feel so lost.  Every day I feel very “done,” so completely drained as if I have nothing left to give, while at the same time so achingly desperate to serve God I’m all but inconsolable.  I feel so…useless.  I have so many gifts and so much to give I’ve been cut off from giving and using, it’s horrible.  It’s like the opposite of apathy — please, God, use me…I don’t feel like a blessing to anybody.  All I have right now are words, are my mere words enough?  I won’t lie that I feel good to help people in the world, but I feel good to have been useful to God that he could somehow use me, not because I’m stuck on myself and get off on an ego trip over it.

I didn’t bless a single person on Friday.

Bless YOU my friend, and bless you for being my friend.  I think maybe you “get” where I come from and how I see the world better than many, but I’ve known that well for the past year.  I do cherish you my friend, know that…but also know that I am desperately ever-mindful to keep perspective to not…over…cherish you (and so many I love).  Because the truth (perhaps unfortunate…perhaps a guised blessing) about loving all we love so dearly in this world, is there is not a single one of us — no matter how close or how intimate the connection, be it friend…relative…spouse…or even child — who truly “belongs” to another: we are only stewards, custodians, and beloved recipients of love for each other in a clouded reflection of Christ’s love for us.  For the unfortunate element is the “not yours” element of it…which is arguably also the blessing in disguise, for “not yours” also absolves us of bearing the full weight of responsibility of and for those we love (though, as I’ve previously mentioned here, I’m crazy enough to think I’d want to sign on that line).  And as for that, the truth is that most days heaven is more than I can handle because my focus isn’t so much on looking forward to promised glory as it is looking around at those I love so desperately without any such hope…to the point that there have been moments of doubt as to whether I can handle heaven at all for the sorrow of those I love so desperately who are “missing” from the roll call of the saints.  If one were to go categorically with respect to mortal sins, I’m as absolutely and unquestionably ( and irredeemably) damned as any can be.  Hence putting down ecumenical roots in Camp Calvin, well part of the reason anyway.  I’ve argued through the argument of how God isn’t God and Christ isn’t Christ if one can fall out of salvation.  But I have no delusions why I deserve grace or mercy any more — or less — than so many I love so dearly.

And it was good to see [your husband] this morning, though it did NOT seem the thing to say: “I don’t really KNOW you, but please know you’re always in my prayers” (it’s true though).

I miss you my friend as I treasure your company.  We should do something sometime, don’t care what, my treat even.  Your call, your terms.  Let me know.  I’m very free.

Blessings for your week my dear friend.  Yes, valleys are hard, but at the very least know that the crazy and frantically-waving creature of questionable sanity with the Bohemian hair waving down from the far hillside of yours (when she gets a rare break from being in the dark pit of her own) is cheering you on with as much love as any human can give.  Hugs to you sister, hang in there, and know that you’re loved and you’re in my prayers.

Much love in-Christ,


P.S. — Eleanor was a very special little pig, and Wentworth is her only child.  He was always the most special little pig: I was there when he was born, I taught him and Eleanor how to nurse, and I have been almost his whole world since he was three weeks old (when he was separated from Eleanor without a friend or sibling in the world).  Annie is a very special pig because her tiny baby self was trying to get out of the cage at the pet store to get to me when every other guinea pig and rabbit in the place was hiding.  She is not like any other sow I’ve ever had because even though she is within days of having pups (I will be separating her from Wentworth tonight), she is still DESPERATE to be held and touched and cuddled.  Annie has never been alone a day in her life, this may not go well.  I may be quietly and desperately heartbroken on a dark level not easily understood by many for childless solitude (yet immersed in so many beloved children doubly labeled “NOT YOURS!!!”), but you better believe that there are many children in this world less loved and less blessed by the parents in their lives than these already-loved baby pigs already are by me.  That’s a horrible thing to think and say, but my prayer for all children is that they never in their life for a moment doubt that they are loved.  I have not been given children, but if even small guinea pigs are what has been trusted to my love and care, with everything I have to give, I will honor that until death do we part (and Eleanor had the most heartbreakingly beautiful death yet).  And hey, you may or may not be super gifted at visiting folks, but that’s one of the things I love best (and miss terribly), and though it takes me to the razor’s edge of perceived sanity in the minds of many, I don’t draw a line between my commitment to the people and the creatures in my care.  Tonight?  Care is going to be noisy and traumatic.

Bless you my friend, in all things.  I love you. — VKS


Never Alone

Thoughtful words about the reality and presence of the one more than worthy of “Hosanna!” this day and always. Blessings for your Palm Sunday with some words that blessed mine.

Poetic Dialectic

On a lonely path in the evening woods

Walked a lonely girl

The trees her companions

Their Branches and their leaves bending to her

Like listening ears

Life already meaningless

For someone so young

Love was not to be found

The future held no bright hopes

Of love and dreams

The world offered nothing she wanted

There was a tale she was told

Of a man beyond her world

Who loves her and

Who will never leave her

She doubts this is true

But with desperate words

She shouts to the man

Beyond her world

If you are real

I need you now

The forest was silent

The grazing cows raised their heads

The girl was surrounded

By the presence of love from beyond her world

She shouted for joySnapshot 1 (12-3-2012 10-59 AM)

The cows came to her and shared her joy

The forest sang for it knew

All God’s creation is never…

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The artist’s caption on “Healing in New Light,” by Imaculate Heart High School student Katie Ganz, reads as follows: “We all bear scars, whether they are from childhood accidents, surgeries, or even from self-inflicted injuries.  From these scars, no matter what their source is, we learn.  Scars are a sign of healing: new skin covers the wound and protects it from future harm.  The scars in my piece are from self-harm.  They show suffering, while also symbolizing healing and new life.  The water, both in the hands and on the scars, represents healing and the washing away of pain.  My piece symbolizes new life, healing, and rising from pain and suffering, as Jesus did when he was resurrected.”

The image of the scars, the hands offering the rosary — which could represent prayer, but which also contains a crucifix — combined with the water stopped me in my tracks as I walked through the cathedral student art galleries; it’s a powerful symbol regardless of whether or not the viewer is Roman Catholic.  The power of this image haunts me on a level that only one who understands it intimately can be haunted. — VKS

“Vanity of vanities, says the Preacher, vanity of vanities! All is vanity…I have seen everything that is done under the sun, and behold, all is vanity and a striving after wind.” — Ecclesiastes 1:2, 14

I’ve not stopped thinking, but my health still really isn’t quite what it ought to be this week, so it’s been a lot of “resting quietly” as my body has finally allowed me to sleep for more than an hour or so at a stretch (thus there were some days when I was too exhausted to do much else).  Sleep can be a grace, but only dreamless sleep, for sleep is the place my mind goes where all of the unspeakable evils it works so hard to block all day (to keep me sane and functional) no longer have a conscious “block” to keep them in-check.  It’s not always or every day, but nightmares can certainly play a bold part in making my attempts at sleep anything but restful.  It’s my body at war with itself and the devil; illness and roaches don’t help.


There is living, there is thriving, there is merely existing. Life is a rich and beautiful thing, precious and not to be wasted. We are not called to muddle through, we are called to live.

I am not living, this is something else.

There may be a difference between “resting” and “losing days,” but in many ways they seem the same. I can’t get the days I’ve slept through back, and no one was blessed for them, not even me. I can’t answer for them, only that if we who are human are composed of both “soul” and “dust,” it was my “dust” that failed.

I’m Type-A. Type-As don’t take failure well…nor easily.

Things were in a lull for awhile, but the promise of aid has faded before my ability to work has been regained. Not that I was particularly desirable as an employee before the accident, but presenting a newly more broken version of myself as a candidate for employment is not a winning plan. There are thousands of applicants out there for the entry-level stuff I’m fully-qualified to apply for — no one in this job market needs to extend a single bit of grace to accomodate me, there are only to many behind me happy to fill the spot without exception. I am a number, not a name.

At least I’m not “just a number” to God.

I am fully-capable to do better things, but the requirement of a four-year degree keeps me barred from much. I am gifted, yes, but what in the world good to me are gifts I’m not allowed to use?

The neighborhood was on lockdown again the other night — three-and-a-half hours of helicopter patrol, cop cars galore. Not sure what happened or if they ever found who they were looking for. The key problem is again. I am very blessed to have a place to be, but when there seems to be no place safe in that place, it doesn’t always seem like a blessing. Roaches don’t help, they are the vilest sort of company. Guinea pigs do help, but it is dangerous to pin so much hope and love on such dear little fragile creatures.

Hard news seems — once again — to be coming from every quarter. I pray much for those I love, and God does hear my prayers, but my poor petitions seem so small compared to the very great and dire needs, the profound physical and spiritual brokenness, of those I so dearly love. My cranky Calvinist self holds no belief to the intercession of the saints (Christ alone is our intercessor), but that does not make me shy in the least to fall down and weep at the feet of St. Monica when I’m at the cathedral (as a bonus, she is standing next to Francis and Clare of Assisi). Monica in real life would understand the prayerful tears shed for those I love — tears for wandering souls, broken spirits, broken relationships, broken bodies. Francis would understand the kind of crazy love that can make loving others in the name of Christ seem like an insane proposition.

Friday afternoon I did, in-fact, retreat to that place in the Cathedral downtown, but I was so completely drained I couldn’t think, pray, or have an emotional response. I could just “be”…and no more.

Does the fact that I took the time to take myself out of my life — with the intent to go “be” quietly in a place where I went to seek God’s presence — “count,” even though I was too tired to function when I got there? Normally I would have found a quiet corner for a nap before prayer, but there isn’t one in a place like that.

In my day-to-day life, there isn’t a quiet, well-rested corner for God anywhere. In my day-to-day life, there isn’t a quiet, well-rested corner for me either. I love life, I just don’t happen to love my life.


Broad Museum of Contemporary Art, LACMA. 21 May 2012

I feel like a horrible person to have argued against my friend about this, but I did…she commented on a dripping-with-discouragement social networking status the other night:

“Remember your gifts, Val. You have much to offer. Healing will come, then you’ll reach out again. Maybe God has granted you the gift of time to gather your thoughts and count your blessings. You are a bright, intelligent woman with insights many people twice your age don’t possess. People love and support you. Keeping you in my prayers every night my friend.”

And while she is right on many levels, I still feel like — on some level — it isn’t quite that simple. My reply to her was:

“You can’t eat time my friend, and as I have had many long years of forced solitude, “time” really wasn’t something I needed. I have spent most of the last seven years in solitary confinement. “Time to gather my thoughts” is kind of like telling someone in Seattle that they need more rain. All of this is also serving to cut me off from ministry, and that is certainly not from God. I understand your point, but those insights only serve to further alienate me from people. Every day I say the way I am I become more irredeemably odd and alienated from people. Bless you for your prayers my friend. If you have any prayer requests, send them in a private message or e-mail if you wish.”

I also added as a bit of post-script:

(And what good are gifts I’m cut off from using????)

I have yet to find a satisfactory answer to that one, because it’s been bugging me for a long time.


St. Val the Eccentric with a very dead bear at the Los Angeles County Museum of Natural History, MLK Jr. Day 2009

In-case you were wondering? In-case it was not already clear? This is the blog of “St. Val the ECCENTRIC,” not the blog of “St. Val the Socially-Acceptable.” Irredeemably odd, unfortunately intelligent on levels that make people back away slowly. I was recently accused of a tendency to “irritate people without realizing you’re irritating.” No, I was not brought up on a planet without social cues, I know, but my sanity and your civility very often depends on me pretending I don’t. If I didn’t know, I’d probably never shut up actually. My “silent mode” exists because I know.

But sitting home reading mystic theologians and learning yet more when I arguably already know too much for anyone’s good in the first place?

And gifts I can’t use really are no use.

I sometimes feel like the author of Ecclesiasties, that all is just…vanities.

It was a dark and frustrating week with little promise and less hope. I had a picture in my mind, that what this feels like is that day when a ride was supposed to pick me up and is really, really, really late…with no explanation.

Still here, God…scars, prayers, and all…still here, waiting…

Dave Gregory on the Cross as our only hope

Wonderful, thought-provoking, and worhy of a reblog here.

The Ignatian Educator

Dave Gregory contributes another beautiful and eloquent essay, this one on finding meaning and hope through dark times. 

Perfection and Crucifixion

March 20, 2013

By Dave Gregory

“When the All Holy enters this world, evil suddenly crystallizes…. It makes a fist and nails the All Holy to the cross.  It releases all its anger on the person of Jesus, unto his death; but in the death of Jesus, evil has expended all its energy and thereby lost its potency.

– Sebastian Moore, O.S.B.

Within the past month, two families at Xavier College Preparatory lost parents, and two colleagues lost their mothers. In the middle of writing this post, a senior suffered a traumatic brain injury from a skateboarding accident and currently lays in a coma. Lent for our community has been a particularly somber one, full of tears and questions unanswered, marked by intense vulnerability. The melancholy of recent events…

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Treasure what is precious, desire what is best

Treasure what is precious, desire what is best


Travertine leaf fossils, The Getty Museum (external walls), Los Angeles, CA (taken May 2012)

“This thing all things devours:
Birds, beasts, trees, flowers;
Gnaws iron, bites steel;
Grinds hard stones to meal;
Slays king, ruins town,
And beats high mountain down.”

— one of the “Riddles in the Dark” from The Hobbit by J.R.R.. Tolkien

When I was a girl, perhaps five or six, a book came in one of the boxes of mysterious oddments from my father’s mother, or perhaps it was received among my Christmas gifts that year.  Honestly, I am not certain.  It was an odd sort of book — fantasy stories, mostly about children, with seemingly no particular significant origin.  These were not collected tales from an author or place, they were just…stories.  As I am more widely read now, these stories remind me somewhat of George MacDonald’s work.  It was a hardcover volume, illustrated in color.  The book itself — along with too many others — eventually ended up at the local Friends of the Library bookstore in a particularly traumatic move.  I remember little of this book but the vague outline of one particular tale:

There was a girl who somehow came upon an enchanted ball of silver string (I believe there was an odd old woman or a witch involved).  What the girl discovered about her magical ball of string was that if she pulled the loose end, it caused an instantaneous and enchanted passage of time: a tug for a moment, a pull for a span.

The ball could not be rewound.

The girl began to use this string in small — and later large — ways to affect the passage of time: first to avoid small unpleasantries and waiting, later to grow up more quickly.

Only too quickly, however, the impatient girl found herself a very old woman at the end of her life…holding a very small length of silver string…facing death.

The girl woke up and found she had been dreaming  (to her great relief), but forevermore considered time a much more precious commodity.


Footprints in the sand, Carpenteria, CA, 8 SEP 2010

Could we all but be so wise.

In America our society tries to both escape death by attempting to eternally cling to the spectral shadow of youth…while also avoiding life by running at a break-neck frantic pace — without rest — in pursuit of “progress.” Time affects us all, and death is the great equalizer. After love and life, time is the next most precious gift we have in this life.

Time cannot be bought…sold…or stopped.

I have held four beloved guinea pigs in my arms as they breathed their last breath (most recently, of course, my beloved Eleanor…Wentworth’s sweet mama). The story was that after a prolonged (but gradual) terminal illness — with baby Annie as her beloved friend — Eleanor was actively dying the Tuesday morning after Thanksgiving. I could not get out of my stupid shift at work. I helped her drink some water when I came home at lunch, and miraculously (by greater grace than can be quantified), I found her barely clinging to life when I came home that day. I helped her drink more water, wrapped her in a towel, and held her on my chest.

We both fell asleep that afternoon; only I woke up.


Eleanor Wigglewhiskers, 12 MAY 2010

Time is precious…


measured in breaths…

in sunrises and sunsets…

in grains of sand…

in waves on the shore.

It cannot be bottled, nor saved…

nor kept, nor held —

only savored, cherished, remembered…or else merely regretted for its passing.


Carpenteria Beach Sunset, 8 SEP 2013


Me and Eliza, 11 JAN 2013

Thus far, 2013 has been a rough year. A friend of mine remarked yesterday morning:

“Wish you could wake up in 2014…it’s got to be better.”

My reply to her was:

“No guarantees to that. My Lord and my God is good and sovereign. Against all odds he has still preserved a place for me in this world. His providence brings hope worth anchoring my life on. But there is this — the question of St. John of the Cross — if life with God and Christ comes with NO blessings, is who God is still enough to merit faith in him? (*Hint* — the answer is “Yes,” but a person can’t “own” that from a theoretical perspective. Sometimes the path to heaven neans you have to pass through hell first.)

My friend meant well, I know she did — and I love her well — but even such a well-meant statement given in love and sympathy is downright horrifying when considered from an eternal perspective.

Would I really rather sleep through the next 9.5 months of my life?!?!?!?!

My precious, beloved baby niece is now eight weeks old. In developmental terms, the first year of life encompasses a lot. Infants come into the world as scrunchy little grublings — a novelty for their tiny perfection, but on the whole not very engaging little creatures; by a year old they are well on their way to being their own unique little people — shreiking, squeaking, playing, engaging with the world, expressing opinions.

To sleep through 2013, I would miss all of that my friend.


Annie Wigglewhiskers, 31 JAN 2013

My beloved little Annie is expecting pups. She and Wentworth are the two nicest guinea pigs I’ve ever had in my life — not a trouble-making bone in either of their bodies (Eleanor, on the other hand, was an absolute imp of a pig!).

Have you ever seen a baby guinea pig? They are about the cutest baby anything on the planet — like most herbivorous herd animals, they are born “ready to go” — all feet and ears and fluff. Eyes open, ears open, alert, they begin to explore their world from the moment they are born. Every day I watch Annie change as we wait together. She’s never had babies before, she doesn’t know what exactly is going on. There is nothing in this world more amazing than new life, and these little expected friends are already beloved.

A second generation of beloved tiny friends? I wouldn’t miss raising those little ones for anything in the world.


Pine Mountain Thunderstorm, 30 SEP 2010

And as for so many I love? None of us are getting any younger, and the future is never certain. Last night I watched a man nearly run down by a car ten feet in-front of me, as I crossed in the same intersection from the opposite corner. I’ve had many close calls, and several instances where I was spared from certain death. I’ve lost dear friends who were not old and still had much living to do. That any of us will live to greet the following morning is neither known nor certain. Every moment of every day in this life is a dear and precious gift. Time cannot be bottled, nor saved…nor kept, nor held — only savored, cherished, remembered…or else merely regretted for its passing.

Life in this world is to short and too precious to live with regrets.

Life and time are dearly precious, but love is the single greatest gift in all creation. Do you know it? Do those you love know you know it? Do those you love know you love them? Seriously. Those you hold dear and love — all of them — do they know without question that they are loved? Do they know without question they are loved by you???

It’s a valid question, though perhaps a disturbing one: Do you say “I love you” enough — and mean it unquestionably — such that there can be no room for doubt in the minds of those you love that they are loved?

It’s not that hard (unless you don’t mean it). If a loved one suddenly comes to mind, pray for them, and drop a very quick line or two of love and encouragement in their direction (not that complicated, don’t overthink this…). Most of us have camera phones, if you see something fun or beautiful that someone you love would particularly enjoy, send the moment along.

Because the truth is, the greatest cost to you will be a few moments of your time.

There are likely a few among my own close friends reading this with a wry smile at this point.

The truth is, “just because” is the most wonderful, beautiful, important reason in the world to love and bless someone. Let the sun never set on your anger, truly, but just as important? Never part company with those you love lest your parting words be that you love them — you never know if or when you may ever meet them again (and life in this world is too short and to precious to live with regrets).

I wouldn’t be a good friend to opt-out of the chance to love, bless, encourage, share wonder, and pray for all those I love (especially if I am opting-out of 9.5 months of life for the expressly selfish purpose of potentially avoiding personal suffering — that’s inexcusably shallow!).


Sylmar hill walk, 8 MAR 2013, Santa Monica Mountains

Whether I am a good disciple or not I will leave for Christ to work out, but it does not follow for a good disciple to be one self-seeking comfort for one’s own sake in a way that divorces herself from life, love and all humanity. I simply love life — and love my Lord and my God — too much to ever wish such a thing. And if my friend only meant that by my sleeping my life away, that she wished it so that I may be further protected from suffering and harm? I remind that to be so-protected from harm not only means I will be unable to experience pain and suffering in my slumber…but that I will be unable to experience all the joy and love possible in this life as well.

In the First Week of his Spiritual Exercises, Ignatius of Loyola wrote:

“Man is created to praise, reverence, and serve God our Lord, and by this means to save his soul.

And the other things on the face of the earth are created for man and that they may help him in prosecuting the end for which he is created.

From this it follows that man is to use them as much as they help him on to his end, and ought to rid himself of them so far as they hinder him as to it.

For this it is necessary to make ourselves indifferent to all created things in all that is allowed to the choice of our free will and is not prohibited to it; so that, on our part, we want not health rather than sickness, riches rather than poverty, honor rather than dishonor, long rather than short life, and so in all the rest; desiring and choosing only what is most conducive for us to the end for which we are created.”

Now, my friend’s wish for me had two clauses…the second part being that the reason for sleeping until 2014 would be because “it’s got to be better.”


Cathedral of Our Lady of the Angels, 12 MAR 2013

Does it? I’m not sure that’s actually true. I’m not signing up for a lifetime of masochistic asceticism, but “being comfortable” isn’t on the list of promises associated with being a faithful disciple of Christ. The Bible has a lot to say about suffering, we are also promised comfort for our afflictions, and we are promised glory both in heaven and when Christ comes again…but there are no promises that following Christ will be a comfortable journey. To be clear, I’m not seeking suffering, but I also do not seek (nor do I explicitly prefer) a life of insulated apathetic comfort.

Because like it or not, life is under no obligation to “get better,” and God is under no obligation to “make things better” in accordance with our particular requests. However? My Lord and my God is a good God, a loving God, a merciful God, a gracious God — a God who keeps his promises. If I strive to live my life prayerful that my desires be in alignment with God’s will for my life, “better” becomes completely beside the point because living life in alignment with God’s will is already “best.”

And can anything I wish for myself possibly be greater than what God wills for me?


Wildwood Park, 12 SEP 2010, Thousand Oaks, CA

Q. 1. What is your only comfort, in life and in death?

A. That I belong — body and soul, in life and in death — not to myself, but to my faithful Savior, Jesus Christ, who at the cost of his own blood has fully paid for all of my sins and has completely freed me from the dominion of the devil; that he protects me so well that without the will of my Father in heaven not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, that everything must fit his purpose for my salvation. Therefore, by his Holy Spirit, he also assures me of eternal life, and makes me wholeheartedly willing and ready from now on to live for him.

— The Heidelberg Catechism

By no means would I ever say I don’t want life to get better — I absolutely do — but I also believe life is only worth living when you can find God in all things (sometimes a stretch, but always possible). “Life always getting better” didn’t make the list for “only comfort, in life and in death,” but God’s love, mercy, sovereignty, and providence did.

I can live with that. — VKS

Do you know what hell looks like?

Words of hope on a dark morning from the pen of a dear friend and sister-in-Christ. May our Lord Jesus Christ be your hope and your way out. Blessings for your day.

Poetic Dialectic

Do you know what hell looks like?

i think I saw it

it is a place where you are lost

and there is no one there to find you

it is a place where there is no hope for tomorrow

it is a place where lies live and thrive

it is very confusing and full of misunderstanding

it takes all your money and gives nothing back

it is hollow, like an empty house or a corpse

there is no joy

no laughter

it is the end of things

all things being unfulfilled

goals never accomplished

where our failures define our worth

forever falling in utter darkness and never hitting bottom

is there a way out?

Jesus, is the hope for the lost,

He is the truth,

He is peace,

He is our daily bread,

He fills the house with life everlasting,

He is the living water and joy forever,

He is…

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Viewpoint: What It Means to Have a Jesuit Pope

From one of my favorite contemporary Roman Catholic voices, Rev. James Martin, S.J.


When I entered the Jesuit order 25 years ago, several friends — including the Catholic ones — scratched their heads. “You’re entering the what?” was the most common response.

When I slowly repeated the name of the Catholic religious order that I had decided to join, only a few registered a flicker of recognition. Tell your average Joe (or Joan) that you’re a Jesuit, that is a member of the group formally known as the Society of Jesus, and they’ll often ask “But aren’t you a Catholic?” Among Catholics, Jesuits may be best known for founding universities like Georgetown, Boston College and Fordham, and all those schools named Loyola. (We tend to have great basketball teams as well.)

Despite our high-profile schools, the general confusion about Jesuits persists. My all-time favorite reply came from a reporter who once asked, “Were your parents Jesuits?” Um, no.

(MORE: Pope of…

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