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The Church is a huge organization, made up of human beings who are broken, flawed, sinful. As such, She has been deeply wounded by the implosion of the disordered culture around Her, just as individuals have been hurt. Let’s let God do the work of reviving Her from above (yes, we church-mice can stop trying to be God, the Pope, the Bishop!) and see what can be done to revive Her from where we actually stand.
Down here, at the level of the individual believer, the family, the local community, there’s so much we can do to effect real change, real revival – but we don’t do it. We don’t, because a) it’s easier to theorize about what the higher-ups should be doing and b) we don’t believe small things can make any difference until big issues are resolved. Idealism doesn’t make it into actuality and pessimism gives in to what is already real in the situation. Neither has potency, and neither is worthy of a Christian person.
The very message of the Incarnation is exactly that the small, the lowly, the local is what changes all the greatness of the world! You may still have opinions (I do!) about what the Pope or God could do, but the real power is in your own free action here, now. Through the actuality of your smallness comes the Actuality of God’s greatness. Real calls to real, Deep to deep, Light to light, and you are at the center of this movement of the Holy Spirit – invited merely to obstruct or conduct the flow of that power by your own action. Your sphere of response-ability grows as your freedom grows, by each free act (but it won’t likely grow to become the Whole Church or the World, or even Kansas!)
In that light, your little self is just one of many little ‘switches’ in the Body of Christ, saying ‘yes,’ or ‘no’ to His work in the world. Please begin your work of revolutionizing the world by learning to let your yes be your yes, and your no be your no. It is sad to me when this simple, Scriptural admonition seems beyond the capability of a fellow Christian. We ask “How’s your prayer life?” but not “Can you make a commitment and keep it?”
If you say you will do something, can I count on that? Can you make a promise and keep it? Is it enough to have your word, or do I need a signed contract and the force of law?
If you’ve broken a promise to me, I forgive you, but it did hurt. I’m more worried about what it means about you. I notice that what seems to weaken us is lack of memory, and confusion or disorganization in time management. These can be cultivated, so I suggest this in all seriousness as a better use of our time and energy than complaining about whatever God, or the Pope, Bishop or parish priest is doing, or not doing.
I have other ideas for very small, powerful things you can actually do (they are in your sphere of response-ability) that will have actual, revolutionary, kingdom-bringing effects. Watch this space!
It’s hard being a boy these days, in a sanitized, feminized environment where it’s so unsafe to run around on your own.
I just finished a list of ideas to help a mom help her boys, and thought it might be helpful for others. For what it’s worth:
A book our boys enjoyed with their dad: Backyard Ballistics…backyard explosive, potato canons and such…a real hit!
The Dangerous Book for Boys – ’nuff said!
Visits to manufacturing places…what’s available near where you are?? We have a marble factory that allows tours, and boys have historically enjoyed shooting marbles
For older boys: helping with Special Olympics…sports even for the relatively non-athletic, and such a beautiful way of serving
Chess – a game of war, strategy, and taking-territory
Martial arts, sports, gymnastics (boys-only teams, if possible)
Camping, hiking, building and playing with fires – time in nature to roam and build and go crazy and get dirty (and, yes, to get hurt) are essential
Orienteering and Geocaching with Dad and pals
Garden work, especially raising family food
Raising earthworms for castings to sell (great for houseplants) and worms to sell fishermen
Fishing, snorkeling, scuba lessons, sailing (especially if reading Swallows and Amazons!)
Shooting sports, indoors or out – target shooting, archery is even more physical
Cooking – top chefs have always been men…creative, service, demanding, skill with knives
Taking apart things – find at garage sales or buy cheapo power tools, alarm clocks, toasters, motors…
Science experiments – just don’t make it ‘school’
Woodworking projects, his own set of tools, maybe a small workbench in garage
Dog training…first, watch The Dog Whisperer videos with Cesar Milan, plus somewhere is a monastery that specializes in training dogs – would be an interesting adjunct, and somewhere hardened prisoners are being brought back to humanity by raising dogs…must research this
Plan an imaginary trip across the country by rail, trail, bike, hike, air, car…map to mark up, write off for tourist info from states, figure out budget, gas mileage, etc..
Non-electric push mower – get to work!
Work: move this pile of woodchips over there using shovel and wheelbarrow; scrub the floor with this brush; whitewash this fence, Tom! (Tom Sawyer can be a difficult read, with the dialect indicated phonetically…might be better as a read aloud…a good one for boys); tape off and help paint an actual room (start with the garage!)
Dissection! All critters and equipment easily available from science supply places…yukky, and so, awesome!
Habitat for Humanity project with Dad
Offer help weeding, harvesting, helping around a working farm/garden
Canoe trip with Dad, or guided rapids tour – water parks just aren’t the same!
Bike riding with Dad along one of the longer rails-to-trails routes, with packed-in food and water, maybe camping along the way
We all loved the K-nex Bridge Building set…great teaching material about various kinds of bridge construction
David Macaulay books, especially The Way Things Work and Building Big (BB great with the bridge building, above)
Rocket stuff…tons of kits and books available – and do watch the movie October Sky, and maybe the movie Apollo 13
Models, model trains if grandpa has a barn or somewhere a space can be dedicated
Paths – laying out pathways with rope, leveling, filling with sand/gravel/paving stones
New flower beds….lay out with rope or garden hose, then dig up, amend, plant…install borders
Get a simple bookcase from IKEA and ask him to follow the instructions and let you know when it’s done….then leave him alone to deal with it…inexpensive, might be handy somewhere
Remember that boys tend to grow ‘in tension,’ I’ve noticed 2 years physical/2 years mental…and when in one phase, the other suffers until they are more fully integrated.
Work on a life timeline together so he can see that you intend to release him into the world, that you fully believe he’ll be able to drive himself around (in 6 years…brace yourself!!!), could perhaps drive a tractor at Grandpa’s even earlier (best possible training for driving), could take a friend all around a town like Lawrence on the bus at 12, needs a class in car repair at about 15, might start his own collection of home repair tools at 13, will need to take the ACT at 16 or 17, might go ahead and take some classes he finds interesting at JCCC at 15 or 16, could sign up for the entire Adobe suite to teach himself for $20 a month if interested at around 14, would cook the family dinner once a week at 14, would take on responsibility for all the mowing at 14 and be able to offer mowing for money in the neighborhood at 15, should be doing his own laundry at 12, might get on a plane by himself for a visit to somebody at 13, could be at the next world youth day in 2020, etc…, etc…, etc… . Boys need to see that mom is excited about their growing up even though it means growing away…otherwise, they may break with mom by being awful and having her kick ‘em out!
Camera – equipment, buttons to push, creative, online gallery – professional photographer hands his kid an expensive digital camera at 5 years old: I took his advice and was so glad!
And, one of my favorites: go to the zoo (best: Omaha) and let him loose with a map, a camera, a watch, and a backpack of food or whatever he might need (and, maybe, a phone that would just be for emergency and practice answering when you call to check in, or calling you at specific times). Let the leash be short at first – see you in an hour right here, and then longer with practice…see you for a picnic lunch in three hours…can’t wait to see your day in photos, stay on main paths …maybe even, here’s some money in case you want to get something at the food place….the zoo is a great place for this!!! Much better contained than a city, or mall. I would feel entirely safe allowing your ten-year-old to do this, and it would be great training in “more freedom comes, the more confident I am you can follow directions and stay within the limits I’ve set”.
The movie It’s a Mad, Mad, Mad, Mad World; the movie Glory (never understood why it was rated R – violence, yes, not much cussing, no women or sexuality or nudity…less violent that Iron Man and the like…about the first black regiment in the Civil War – one beautiful scene among men just before battle)
Books on my list of favs for 8-12 year old boys (some have sequels, not listed, and many of these authors have other good books):
Arthur Ransome’s Swallows and Amazons series
Smoky, the Cowhorse – Will James
The White Stag – Kate Seredy
Call it Courage – Armstrong Sperry
The Matchlock Gun – Walter Edmonds
Adam of the Road – Elizabeth Gray
Johnny Tremain – Esther Forbes
Twenty-One Balloons – William Pene-dubois
King of the Wind – Marguerite Henry
A Door in the Wall – Marguerite D’Angeli
Amos Fortune, Free Man – Elizabeth Yates
The Wheel on the School – Meindert Dejong
The Story of the Treasure Seekers – Edith Nesbit
Owls in the Family – Farley Mowat
Warrior Scarlett – Rosemary Sutcliff
Snow Treasure – Marie McSwigan
The Yearling – Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings
Rifle for Walter – Harold Keith
Carry on Mr. Bowditch – Jean Lee Latham
He Went With Marco Polo – Louise Kent
Little Britches – Ralph Moody
Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis
Einstein Anderson – Seymour Simon
The Swiss Family Robinson (unabridged, please) Johan Wyss
Encyclopedia Brown – Sobol
Asterix series – Goscinny
Tintin series – Herge
The Black Arrow – Robert Louis Stevenson
The Perilous Road – William Steele
The Wonder Clock – Howard Pyle
The Marvelous Misadventures of Sebastian – Lloyd Alexander
The Indian in the Cupboard – Lynne Reid Banks
The Bronze Bow – Elizabeth Speare
The Sign of the Beaver – Elizabeth Speare
The Boxcar Children – Warner
Everything by Willard Price!
Henry Reed series – Robertson
By Secret Railway – Enid Meadowcroft
On to Oregon – Honore Morrow
The Hoboken Chicken Emergency – Pinkwater
Gentle Ben – Walt Morey
Humbug Mountain – Sid Fleischman
The King’s Fifth – Scott O’Dell
The Hobbit – Tolkein
Twenty and Ten – Claire Hutchet Bishop
The Prince and the Pauper – Mark Twain
Escape from Warsaw – Ian Serralier
Jackaroo – Cynthia Voigt
The Voyage of Dr. Doolittle – Hugh Lofting
A Boy’s War – David Mitchell
Readers: Add your ideas in the comments box!
This is taken from:
“Communication and Mercy: a fruitful encounter
The choice of theme this years has clearly been determined by the Celebration of the Extraordinary Jubilee of Mercy, and the Holy Father undoubtedly desired that World Communications Day would provide the appropriate occasion to reflect on the deep synergy between communication and mercy.
In the Bull of Indiction of the Jubilee Year, in paragraph 12, the Pope affirms that: The Church is commissioned to announce the mercy of God, the beating heart of the Gospel, which in its own way must penetrate the heart and mind of every person. He adds: Her language and her gestures must transmit mercy, so as to touch the hearts of all people and inspire them once more to find the road that leads to the Father. It is helpful, in this regard, to remember that our reflection is situated in the context of an awareness that communication is a key element for the promotion of a culture of encounter.
The Pope, on this occasion, refers to the language and gestures of the Church but the context makes it clear that all men and women in their own communications, in their reaching out to meet others, ought to be motivated by a deep expression of welcome, availability and forgiveness.
The Theme highlights the capacity of good communication to open up a space for dialogue, mutual understanding and reconciliation, thereby allowing fruitful human encounters to flourish. At a time when our attention is often drawn to the polarized and judgmental nature of much commentary on the social networks, the theme invokes the power of words and gestures to overcome misunderstandings, to heal memories and to build peace and harmony.
Once again, Pope Francis is reminding us that, in its essence, communication is a profoundly human achievement. Good communication is never merely the product of the latest or most developed technology, but is realized within the context of a deep interpersonal relationship.World Communications Day, the only worldwide celebration called for by the Second Vatican Council (“Inter Mirifica”, 1963), is marked in most countries, on the recommendation of the bishops of the world, on the Sunday before Pentecost (in 2016, May 8th).
The Holy Father’s message for World Communications Day is traditionally published in conjunction with the Memorial of St. Francis de Sales, patron of writers (January 24).”
So, why plan? Life…it’s what happens when you’re planning something else, right??
Much of my adult life has been spent learning to balance the idealism of planning with the realism of life. If I give up on time management, I lose things that need time in order to build up – like community, tradition, books, gardens. If I can’t roll with the punches of lived life, I’ll end up reacting against reality, instead of responding creatively to it.
Fr. Giussani (yes, those who know me well should have this memorized!) says that freedom is “correspondence to reality in the totality of its factors. My projects, hopes, ideas, desires and energy level are factors, and so are the needs of others, the weather, the response-ability of other people, and all the other externalities that interfere with my idealistic scheduling.
I’ve found that good planning practices provide a structural framework that allows me to maintain interior freedom. That freedom brings capacity to absorb life’s punches and ride life’s waves better. My practices currently look like this:
Right after Thanksgiving I print out my list of Standing Dates, and 12 blank monthly calendars for the next year. Transferring the birthdays, tax deadline, Holy Days, annual and monthly chores and other ‘every year’ dates to the months provides the basic ‘landscape’ for the year. Here are indicated our In School days, and my At Work days, without any details about specific tasks.
Next, I take out the bulging file marked ‘Next Year’ and ‘map’ any commitments to specific dates. Finally, since that file contains everything I’ve hope to fit in ‘next year,’ I sort all the little slips of paper, articles and other to-do reminders into quarterly files – a rough idea of the season when it makes sense to consider scheduling them into real dates. I put “check Q file” on the last Saturday before each new quarter, and then forget about all this. A system won’t work if my mind stays preoccupied with what’s in files for later!
During this relaxed weekend (all leftovers!) I lay out my work priorities for the coming year from a separate ‘Work Basket.’ This sequence keeps home and family obligations ahead of my part-time ‘job’ of writing, speaking, etc…. Doing the ‘next year’ planning now gives me a much more relaxed Advent and Christmas. During December, I can let go of the new year completely, knowing it will come in its time, instead of having that mountain of to-dos looming threateningly on the horizon.
On the last Saturday before each new quarter, I take out the Q file and list each item on the Notes area of one of the next three months. The actual scheduling will not occur until I plan those months. I toss all the slips of paper, keeping only backup material that is needed for an item, such as a coupon, or how-to article, in the Q file – noted by an asterisk on the list of tasks. A few things get pushed into the next Quarter’s file (I use 3-hole-punched plastic envelopes in a binder).
The last Saturday of each month is Plan Next Month day (on the list of Standing Dates, and so now already marked on each month’s ‘map’). I transfer the month to a Weekly layout. Behind the tab ‘Weekly’ is a blank week to copy, and a weekly chores list. (I’ve also used a purchased calendar with both Monthly and Weekly spreads. The key is that the weeks stay pristine and blank until I consciously plan them.) Taped to the back, or behind each month’s tab in the binder, are any slips of paper kept as reminders of tasks to fit into the more finely detailed weekly plans. Anything new that comes in after the weeks are laid out must either be scheduled directly on a particular day, or put off until the next month. You may want to re-read that last sentence!
If it cannot be scheduled within the details I’ve anticipated for these next 4-5 weeks, it is a Next Month task. Either I note it directly on the future month’s map as a scheduled item, or tape a note there to be considered during that monthly planning session. I have to trust my system to keep hold of all this future stuff so that I can walk away from it without worrying about it! I don’t want to get bogged down in the future, or to allow my current weeks to get overburdened. Those near-to-now days and the buffer allowed in them for the intrusion of unavoidable realities must be protected.
On Saturday, I transfer my Next Week to a daily list. This provides one more chance for a reality check, some shuffling and the addition of a dinner menu for each day. Over the years, I’ve sometimes created monthly meal plans, and could pull this week’s menu from that plan and make adjustments as necessary. Today, I’ll also look through The Basket, where all week I’ve been tossing tasks that come in after my week began. The Basket protects my whole week from unnecessary interference, and I trust it to hold all the slips of paper that represent new tasks that arise during the week.
Sunday is Sabbath (you did read Souls at Rest, right??) – no computer on, no email, no schedule for tasks (perhaps a tiny reminder: ‘Dance at 3 today,’ ‘thaw chickens for dinner,’ ‘serve at soup kitchen 1-3,’ ‘HB for dinner.’) Your Sunday may be different – be acted upon more than you act upon the world, please!
The better I get at just doing whatever is on my day’s list, the smoother everything runs. I get into trouble when I rebel against the system at this lowest level, where the heights of idealistic planning meet the smallness of actuality. On my day, the structural elements are in in (such as ‘School Time: 8-12,’ ‘Dr. Appt. 10:00,’ or ‘Blocked for Writing Project’) and flexible-time tasks are in pencil. (I love to erase them when done, thus making my visual ‘day’ more and more open and spacious as I do what needs to be done.)
Information about, or for, other family members appears on my day only if it is my responsibility to manage/remind/supervise them – off to the side of ‘my day,’ if possible, and in a different color ink. Sometimes I take time to play with markers, decorating the six next days and placing them in strangely shaped ‘boxes,’ and at other times I want my days in plain, symmetrical boxes, or on separate index cards instead of on one page. I have found that a little playfulness with the physical ‘day’ can help me approach a ‘next week’ with a greater sense of freedom and enjoyment.
What about all the new to-dos that crop up when I check mail and email, take phone calls, remember something urgent, or get a new idea? Those, if not right now scheduled for a specific date, get tossed into The Basket. They wait until my planning for the next week, when I either fit them into specific days, or send them into the next month, quarter, or year. Most of what comes in during a day is not of an emergency nature, and will only derail me if I let it. Much more is just information to file away after weekly planning – not a matter for scheduling at all.
Physical vs Electronic
I have experimented with electronic calendars and it was a miserable failure for me. I felt lost without the actual handling of the ‘materials’ of my life and the physical maps of time. I felt utterly disconnected from the reality I was trying to order. It didn’t surprise me that the plans I carefully entered into the computer failed to prepare me, as my physical handling does, for realizing those plans in Real Life. There is something about moving tasks around, knowing they are physically stored, touching my own past thoughts and future time, and letting a calendar or list make a space of time a vessel to be filled creatively that requires real paper, scissors, tape, files, markers, pens, and ink!
Well, that’s the basic framework. The details have changed drastically over the years (‘Daily’ chores may now be ‘monthly,’ many new birthdates have been added to the Annual list, my work days are now ‘official,’ I do ‘Bills and Budget’ once a month now instead of weekly), but the basics have continued to serve me well even as I’ve adjusted and improved them. I recommend you gradually begin while the kids are little, but expect very little until the average age of your children is about 10! The test of any organizational system is whether it supports the realities of our human lives effectively. I am able to ‘find time’ for quite a lot of ‘unplanned’ reality within my own near-future-picture, because I keep it spacious and realistic. I invite God to surprise me, and welcome the adventure of each new day.
Whatever planning you do, I wish you freedom in and through it!
You may go through life with nary a thought about how you think, or what you think, or how well you think. But life without ‘meta-cognition’ is flatter than life with at least a bit of it. So, here’s a little ‘cognition cocktail’ to sparkle up your day.
How Do You Think?
In a nutshell, your brain is like a little kid, constantly trying to get your attention. Movement, scary antics, chatter, funny faces – whatever it takes, it keeps up a running display of ‘ads’ or concepts – shown on your mental screen as words or visual images. Like a child, it wants your engagement. The fun isn’t in standing on the edge of the wall, but in standing there while Mom goes ape and runs over to grab you. Only if you actually engage with one of the concepts being advertised do you have the fun of thinking. Your emotions might react to images and words even faster than you can attend to them. Sometimes, what draws your attention to thought is some feeling you can’t account for. You wander into the mental theater wondering why your tummy is tied in knots, or why you suddenly want to run and hide. There, you can ask for a playback of the last few minutes to help you figure this out. Basically, ‘how you think’ is ‘pay attention to what’s going on in the Brain Show’.
What Do You Think?
If asked, “What do you think?” many people will say, “I don’t know.” It hasn’t occurred to them to check in on their own interior goings-on. Once you ask, they can usually begin considering the question. If you’ve posed a topic, they turn inward, looking through the Brain Database for material on that topic. Your question may seem like a pop-quiz (i.e. – they might not enjoy this process), or an assignment to write an essay extemporaneously on the topic (see ‘hate this process,’ above). Thinking will be loads easier if there has been some ‘reading about,’ ‘talking about,’ or ‘related experience’ beforehand. “What do you think?” is largely a function of what’s in your database. People whose database is filled with smut think about smut. Those whose vocabulary is limited think mostly about things that can be expressed in a small number of words. Full of movies? No doubt you’ll regale us with a complete rendering of the cast list, or script of your favorites. For good or ill, what you talk about emerges from what you think. Which brings us nicely to:
How Well Do You Think?
Hmmm….Maybe I don’t think well enough to do this one justice, but I’ll give it a go.
The quality of your thinking, in general, comes before the quality of your thoughts about a particular subject. Memory plays a huge role in thought strength, but real thinking goes beyond fact storage to the building of networks of information. Good networks help make up for weak memories.
Good thinking involves good source material. Stronger and more resilient networks will be created from reading Shakespeare and Chesterton and Aquinas than from reading comic books, People Magazine and cereal boxes. The best networks have paths that are used frequently. So, either think about particle physics a lot (alone), or pick a topic that’s more likely to come up in general conversation, like “Catholicism,” “What’s wrong with the world?” “male-female complementarity,” or “reasons for hopefulness.” (Did that remind you you’re always supposed to be ready to give a reason for the hope that is in you? Scripture is a great network-builder!)
Good thinking emerges from overlap and interlinking between topics and experience. New networks develop where, for instance, one author cites another’s work, a book about the Sabbath references economics and the environment, or a play by St. Pope John Paul involves questions about social justice and art. A good thought-network can provide hours of mental hiking through interconnected pathways, or help you move a conversation from territory no one has thought about (say, ‘quantum physics’) into a more thought-populated zone (such as ‘amazing medical discoveries’).
How well do you think? How much hiking have you done for exercise in this mental landscape? If one node of your mental network is stimulated, how many others light up, raising their little hands and hopping up and down wanting into the conversation? Quality of though also depends on the self-disciplines of not-thinking-about and intentional-thinking-about.
More on all this later. I’m thinkin’ about it!