7 Quick Takes Friday: Volume 5


Why is it that our eating habits tend to get better or worse according to our stress levels? Well, at least mine do. The whole eating thing intrigues me, especially since I’m seeing it more and more as part of my spiritual journey, not just part of what I will loosely refer to as my health “plan”? I found that when I went on silent retreat and was spending hours in contemplation and solitude, I didn’t really want to overeat, even when there were delicious treats in front of me. I sipped corn chowder in silence or slowly ate an apple as I listened to a babbling brook. No need for cookies or that extra cup of coffee or a handful of almonds. But put me back into what I consider my high-stress world where freelance writing and three children and housework and volunteer responsibilities all collide to leave me blinking back tears, and suddenly I’m ravenous. I need sweet. I need salty. I need pasta, and lots of it. And even as I mindlessly scarf down whatever catches my eye in the pantry, I am aware of the fact that I should stop, or at least slow down and enjoy the food I’m eating. Anyway, this week I’m feeling less stressed (not sure why since the work is still there) and more mindful (maybe it’s the return to yoga) and so I’m finding it easier to slow down my eating and, when I do eat, make better choices. (See that healthy dinner above: baked lemon pepper wild-caught sockeye salmon, stuck-in-pot lentils and rice with pita crust, and fresh steamed string beans.) I’d like to reach a point where I don’t want two helpings or two cups of coffee or two cookies, a place where I can enjoy what I need and stop there, a place where food is not filling my spiritual void.


We had Luau Birthday Party: The Sequel last weekend. Chiara had her first official birthday party (Note: I don’t count her second birthday, when the guest list was made up of two priests and one seminarian. Quite a bash for a toddler. Yes, we’re just weird.) At this year’s party we did the limbo, we passed a coconut around like hot potato, we decorated beach buckets, and ate fruit kabobs and a beach cake, and sipped juice out of coconut cups. It was fun, but I sure am glad the parties are over for a while.


If you are a regular reader of Not Strictly Spiritual, you know that I am on a constant quest to pray the Liturgy of the Hours with some sort of regularity (like when I posted about it HERE and HERE). Even keeping up with Morning Prayer alone seems to be too much for me most days. And some of you have emailed me asking for guidance on how to get started with LOTH. Melanie over at The Wine Dark Sea has a great post on this, sort of a LOTH primer with lots of information and resources. Check it out by clicking HERE. And thanks to Amy at Via Media for bringing it to my attention.


Two days ago in this space I talked about the difficulty I have living in the present moment. Along those same lines, I am always trying to figure out how to blend a Franciscan mindset with my “normal” life, which is not at all Franciscan. I have a tendency to obsess with worry over the future, all while living in the relative luxury of a warm (or cool) home with lots of good food, a healthy family and steady work. How do you learn to trust enough to just let go of the worry and really, truly put it all in God’s hands? HERE is a beautiful story about a group of Franciscan Friars who did just that. They took almost nothing with them and set out on a pilgrimage in an attempt to really live the ideals St. Francis preached and lived.

From the end of the story:

“Their message will be simple: ‘Anything can happen when you live in the moment, one step at a time,” said Mark Soehner, 51, one of the mentors to the young friars. ‘But to find that out, you have to be willing to take that one step.'”

It’s really worth your time to read the whole thing. So, if you didn’t listen the first time around, click HERE to read it. And thanks to Maria Ruiz Scaperlanda for the heads up on this one.


When I went to 5:45 a.m. yoga class today, my teacher reminded us, as she always does at the outset, to think about whether we had any “intention” for our practice. Today the first thing that came to mind was “peace.” I wanted my energy to go toward peace — in my heart, in my family, in my home. As I was breathing in and out and finding that calm, quiet place, I felt confident that today would be a peace-filled day. Well, that lasted about 30 minutes after arriving home. Maybe less. Why is it so hard to let all those minor annoyances roll off us? I would say that I’ll have more peace when school starts in six weeks (SIX MORE WEEKS), but, really, I think I’m supposed to learn how to find peace even in the midst of this circus life of ours. I am a long way from that moment, but I haven’t given up.


I got to see a childhood friend last weekend. It was a highlight of my summer. Kari and I met when we were both in fifth grade and volunteering as “kindergarten aides” in our elementary school. We stayed friends through high school and have kept in touch semi-regularly, more so since we joined Facebook. It was great to spend time with her and her family. It’s amazing how a friendship like that can just pick up where we left off. It’s a gift. And I don’t plan on letting that many years go by again before our next visit.


We actually have nothing planned for this weekend. Nothing. Not. A. Thing. No parties, no picnics, not even much cleaning. We may take on the smallish painting project from our summer “to do” list, or we may just revel in doing nothing at all.

Living in the moment: Part II

So yesterday we covered the whole living-in-the-present issue, with me going on and on about how I’m always doing one thing and thinking about the next thing. I continually read about St. Francis of Assisi and wonder how it’s possible for someone like me, with my tendency to obsess with worry over the future all while living in the relative luxury of a warm (or cool) home with lots of good food, a healthy family and steady work. How do you learn to trust enough to just let go of the worry and really, truly put it all in God’s hands.

Well, here’s a beautiful story about a group of Franciscan Friars who wanted to

It’s never tomorrow

I have always had a hard time making good on the knowledge that to be truly happy I need to learn to enjoy the moment I’m in rather than always looking forward to some other moment in time when I might be happy. It’s that whole idea of finding peace and joy even in the menial things — washing the dishes, sweeping the floor, finishing a work project, driving the kids to soccer camp. Even those seemingly mundane moments can be fulfilling if we approach them with the right attitude, a here-and-now attitude. But, boy, that’s a hard attitude to live with on a regular basis. It’s easy to cultivate it on retreat or on vacation or maybe even on a slow weekend. But day after day, chore after chore, it can be difficult to stay right here, right now. Our minds want to race ahead. Once I finish the dishes, I can relax. After I clean the bathrooms, I’ll go for a walk. If I can just finish this story, I’ll feel less stressed. But what happens? We finish the dishes, clean the bathroom, write the story, and suddenly we are in a new present moment worrying about the next thing.

One morning not long ago, 4-year-old Chiara woke up and asked, “Is it tomorrow?” The night before she had been trying to understand the concept of yesterday, today, tomorrow. I said, “No, now it’s today.” She looked confused. “It’s never tomorrow,” I said, finding myself just as intrigued by that notion as she was.

It’s never tomorrow. It’s always right now. Which is a really beautiful reality, if we can learn to embrace it.

I was working on something for the Benedictine Sisters yesterday and was reflecting on the Rule of St. Benedict and the fact that the great saint did not say, Pray, pray pray. He said, work and pray. Ore et labore. In other words, our lives must be a balance and we must become aware of God’s presence not only when we are kneeling in a chapel or sitting in silence but when we are scrubbing a floor or making lunch for our kids.

Balance. Our lives will always involve chores and responsibilities, moments of busyness as well as moments of rest. If we can enter into each moment with an awareness of God’s presence, every action — even eating a sandwich or washing a window or mowing the lawn — becomes a prayer.

It’s never tomorrow. It’s always right now.

The slippery slope of assisted suicide

My latest OSV Daily Take post:

I held my mother’s hand as she took her last breath in our family room in 1988 after a courageous and difficult nine-month battle with colon cancer. It wasn’t pretty. It wasn’t easy. She was only 47 years old and I’m still not sure what was worse — the chemo or the cancer. She suffered. We suffered less, but we still suffered as we watched her die. And yet, her death was one of the most powerful experiences of my life, right up there with the birth of my children. To watch as she held on to life, fighting — literally — for every breath at the end was spiritual, awesome, sorrowful and life-changing. Even in her suffering, she did not want to leave us, even as we told her she could go.

So when I read about people choosing assisted suicide over a terminal illness, or, even worse, loneliness, I want to cry or scream or both. Renee Schafer Horton has an excellent piece on the frightening progress of the assisted suicide movement over on God Blogging today. Using her own family perspective as a backdrop, she drives home the point that this dangerous attitude — that we should be able to choose our time of death based on increasingly less tragic circumstances — has to be shifted before it’s too late.

“The debate over health care reform is raging and while nothing new will come too soon, one of the scariest things I heard President Obama say in his discussions of the need for reform was that the elderly and those near the end of life account for “potentially 80 percent” of the total health care bill for the nation. OK, so what? Is my father in law’s life worth less than mine? Less than my son’s? Who gets to choose? And will there be pressure, ever so subtle (one imagines ads on TVs played in all the retirement villages across the country with a pleasant voice cooing about the benefits of no more suffering), for the elderly, the infirm, the disabled, to make life easier on the healthy, the young, the able-bodied by visiting their neighborhood “kill-me-now” center?”

Go read the blog post in its entirety by clicking HERE.

True ‘adult faith’ takes courage

When I saw that Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York was writing about so-called ‘recovering Catholics’ in his Catholic New York column, To Whom Shall We Go, I had to stop immediately to see what he had to say. This same group, adults who were raised Catholic but are now separated from the Church for one reason or another, has been the focus of talks I give at various catechetical conferences. I call them the “lost generation,” those Catholics who came of age after Vatican II and often missed out on the core teachings of the faith. Now as former Catholics they buy into the secular world’s version of what the faith of their birth is all about.

Archbishop Dolan writes:

“No, unfortunately, when I hear personalities on the TV or radio, Hollywood stars, newspaper columnists or famous authors remark, ‘I used to be Catholic,’ or, ‘I was raised Catholic,’ they then continue, ‘But, I’m beyond that now. Thank God I’m now enlightened and liberated from those silly, irrational, superstitious shackles, and now I’m a ‘free-thinker’, a mature, adult individual.’ They might then smirk and remark that they are ‘recovering Catholics’ who are trying to ‘get over’ such a dark, oppressive part of their childhood.

“I’m afraid there are a lot of them these days. Recent scholarly religious studies show that one of the largest groups in American society today identifies itself as ‘ex-Catholics.’ While there is also a glimmer of good news in such studies that most people ‘raised’ Catholic faithfully remain so, and that some of those who do leave, in fact, do come back, there’s still no denying that it’s a chilling statistic to read.”

The archbishop goes on to note that Pope Benedict XVI has observed that it doesn’t take much courage to stand against the Catholic faith in general and the magisterium in particular, since that is what society wants to hear. What takes courage is sticking with the faith even when the world is against you.

“Yep, it hardly takes courage to brag that you ‘used to be a Catholic, but have now ‘grown up’ and are enlightened.’ Big deal. Join the crowd. The audience will applaud. The critics will rave about your book. The talk shows will invite you on as a star. You can snicker about the Church and get laughs and cheers,” Archbishop Dolan writes.

“I wonder, though, if the really enlightened, mature, liberated, brave, prophetic folks are those who are humbly, joyfully and gratefully confident in their Catholic faith, who are well aware of the Church’s struggles and imperfections, but still eager to live it sincerely, and pass it on to their kids and those they love.”

Read his full column by clicking HERE.

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