Barbie Dolls and Bibles

20140309_152544There are some pains only a parent can understand.

Stepping barefoot on a Lego in the middle of the night happens to be one.

But there are also the pains we keep silently in hearts.   Sometimes we do this to shelter our kids.  Sometimes it’s our pride. There are also the anxieties we carry with us like college tuition, cyber bullying, dating and driving to name a few.

For those parenting in a divorced setting there’s the pain of having to split time with your children between you and the other parent.   Letting them go is not always easy.   Time is often the healer and sets one on a path of acceptance.  But acceptance doesn’t always eliminate the pain completely.

My life is filled with paradoxes.  I could not offer a better self-assessment than the words of Brennan Manning who, in summing his own faith journey, declared:  “I believe and I doubt, I hope and get discouraged, I love and I hate, I feel bad about feeling good,  I feel guilty about not feeling guilty.  I am trusting and suspicious.  I am honest and I still play games.”1

Sundays are my paradox.

On a day that’s dedicated to the worship of my Lord, I can also be stricken with a sadness that, as mentioned above, only a parent can know.   The custody I share with my former wife allows each of us to have our daughters on alternating weekends.  Which means on any given Sunday I’m either dropping my daughters off at a place not my own or I’m without them altogether.   And I hate it.

But in my sadness, there’s gratitude.  I’m grateful that not only do my daughters believe in God, they also know Him.  And how I envy their faith…for it is truly that of a child (Matt 18: 3).  So it is with mixed emotions when I return home without them.  A walk up the stairs and a peek in their rooms reveal little reminders of their presence and child-like innocence.  An errant sock that missed the hamper.  A barbie tea party taking place on the dresser.  The pink, leather-bound Girls Adventure Bible with notes from last Sunday’s message.  Oh, and that darn Lego.

There’s a joy and comfort that comes when my daughters return to me.   Much is the same with our Heavenly Father.  The love a parent has for a child is immeasurable.  Greater than that, however, is the love God has for each and everyone of us.  It’s a love Chesterton once described as “furious.”   It’s not a fury in the common understanding of “extreme anger,” but “intense energy….enormous vitality and strength.”2

For parents and non-parents alike, in those moments of pain, anxiety, or doubt because your life is a collection of paradoxes, know there’s a love that awaits you that’s like no other love.   More than a parent awaiting a child’s return, He eagerly wants you to come to Him.

1. Brennan Manning, The Ragamuffin Gospel (Colorado Springs:  Multnomah Books, 1990), 25.                                                                                                                                 2. Brennan Manning, The Furious Longing (Colorado Springs:  David C. Cook, 2009), 29.



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Anything Short of “Justice” Isn’t Cause for Celebration

george-zimmerman-accused-of-second-degree-murderGiven the high profile coverage — and polarizing nature — of the George Zmmerman trial, it was inevitable statements would be made that just could not pass the cringe test with me.

One such statement was made from a very faith-filled, Christian friend on a social networking site who declared, “Justice! Good night y’all!”  Just. Like. That.

Is that what justice looks like?  And should we be so glib about it?

I suppose I’m one of those who betrays both the “self-defense” camp and those who asserted intentional “murder.”  Do I believe George Zimmerman had a right to self-defense? Yes.  I also believe he, through an act of willful stupidity, put himself in an unnecessary position of “self-defense.” Did Zimmerman set out to murder Trayvon Martin? Probably not.  However, his wanton disregard of the 911 dispatcher’s instructions and use of a racial epithet that I haven’t heard used in years indicated to me that Zimmerman was looking for trouble.

This trial has become a platform for those who…well, those who need a platform.  Queue the conceal-carry advocates along with gun control advocates.  We cannot do without those — both white and black — who profit by fanning the fires of racial tension.  And let us not forget the most important player in it all:  The 24 hour cable news cycle with all of their “legal experts” weighing in to keep our minds occupied in their manufactured circus.

Despite the extremely bizarre opening argument made by Defense Counsel, Don West, he happened to be one who probably had the best analysis of the trial verdict when he declared, “Nobody won here.”

A seventeen year old young man had his life taken from him.  A mother and father lost a son.  And sadly for them, even a “guilty” verdict against Zimmerman will not bring Trayvon back.  Was this justice?

George Zimmerman, for whatever you think of him, will have to live with this for the rest of his life.  Perhaps that may give solace to those who believed he “got away with murder.”  But what if everything he and his defense team claim was true?  What if Zimmerman is racked with remorse day after day after day?  Does this constitute justice?

Today violent crimes perpetrated by blacks on blacks goes virtually unnoticed.  The number one cause of death among African American men between the ages of 15-34:  Homicide.*  And yet when it’s white-on-black or black-on-white crime we’re both captivated and agitated.  

If only we became captivated and agitated for all the right reasons.

Now that….That would be justice.

Good night, y’all.



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9/11: Victim #0001 was Uniquely American

While it has been over a decade, the memories and the wounds of 9/11 remain fresh.

There are so many iconic images from the horrific events surrounding 9/11:   Firefighters raising a flag from a makeshift pole, a cross formed from steel girders torn apart in the collapse of the World Trade Center, or the smoldering remains of an aircraft in a field in Pennsylvania.

However, there’s one image that never fails to move me:  It’s that of the lifeless priest being carried by his brother firefighters.

“There is no greater love….”

He would be declared the first fatality of 9/11….Victim #0001.  Fr. Mychal Judge, a chaplain for FDNY, fearlessly ran into those buildings so as to give comfort and last rites to the victims.  This act of bravery would ultimately cost him his life.

Fr. Mychal was all that is good about America.

The son of Irish immigrants grew up during the Great Depression.  He would see his father struggle through illness and later succumb to that illness at a young age.  The circumstances of Mychal’s childhood growing up in poverty profoundly shaped him.  It led him to seminary where he would go on to a life of service for others.

He cared for the homeless, the hungry, immigrants, alcoholics, the grieving, people with AIDS, gays, lesbians, and those rejected by Church and society.

Perhaps Fr. Mychal did all these things because he too was a recovering alcoholic….was gay…grew up poor. Perhaps it’s because he was a Christian and that’s what the Gospels call all of us believers to do.

To be sure, Fr. Mychal was uniquely American:  An ordinary person… from ordinary means….He did extraordinary things.

It’s often said there’s no greater love than to lay one’s life down for another.   Mychal Judge did that throughout his life and in the ultimate way on 9/11.

On this Anniversary of 9/11 we remember the victims.  We pray for them and for their families.

May we also honor them by using our talents and working with each other – rather than against – for the betterment of our nation.

May God Bless our United States of America.

— JC

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Gut Wrenched and a Heart Torn Open

 This Holy Week I was reminded of my days working on my Masters in Theology.  In particular, I recalled our final paper in Christology.  We were to answer the question Christ posed to Peter:  “Who do YOU (my emphasis) say that I am?”  It was an exercise not as easy as I thought it would be.

However, it’s perhaps an exercise that all Christians should do every so often to inentory their faith.

Manning: A genuine Ragamuffin. His recent book and autobiography, "All Is Grace."

During my conversion to Catholicism as a young adult (25 years old), there was a particular author whose writings influenced my own understanding and relationship with The Son of Man.  Brennan Manning’s “Ragamuffin Gospel” gave me a deeper understanding of grace and that all my “narcissistic pursuits of spiritual perfection” could not win me the favor of God:  It had already been given to me through His Son.  Regardless of our pasts — and Manning had quite the past — redemption is available.

Powerful.  As the old hymn goes, “saved a wretch like me.”  Yes, a wretch.  A spiritual “ragamuffin.”  Love and favor has  already been given to me.

As we enter this Easter season — a celebration of the promise of resurrection for all of us — I am mindful of the suffering and sacrifice that led the way to the resurrection.  If, as Christians, we’re unable to know the meaning and purpose of His Passion, we’re missing something as we go through our own struggles:  He not only knows our struggles and pain; He lived it.  And the fact that He did it for the world should leave us in awe.

Life is tough.  And often “life” can get in the way of “living.”  My prayer this Easter is for all who feel abandoned, know you’re not.  For all who feel unworthy, well guess what:  All of us are “unworthy” of God’s favor.  But it does not matter.  Favor was earned for us on the cross.

Who do you say that He is?

I’ve never heard it quite explained like this, but it’s a description that could only perhaps be told by a “Ragamuffin.”   That person is Brennan Manning and I would encourage all to consider the suffering and resurrected Christ in this light:

May you and yours have a Blessed Easter by experiencing His love and resurrection.



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What Mitt….Doesn’t Get

Look! It's a Poor Person.

44 Million. No, it’s not Mitt Romney’s earnings this past year.  It’s the number of Americans living below the poverty line.  According to the 2012 Federal Guidelines, a family of four earning $23,050 a year is considered “poor.”  When considering the poor, however, it doesn’t seem to register for Mitt Romney.

“I’m not concerned about the very poor.”  Those were the words of the man who seeks to be the Republican nominee for President.  He couched his gaffe saying they (the poor) have a social safety net. That was the insult to the injury.

There was a time when the Republican Party — the party I joined as a first-time voter at 18 years of age — was the party of opportunity.  Today though, based upon Romney’s comments, dignity apparently cannot be afforded those 44 million Americans.  Dignity is even further stripped by suggesting the poor simply be reliant upon government.  This isn’t the Republican Party I joined.   

If Romney wants to shed his image as a rich guy out-of-touch with the average American, he should take a page from one of the more forward thinkers of the modern day Republican Party.  I’m speaking of the late Jack Kemp.  The former Congressman, HUD Secretary, and Vice Presidential candidate was a strong proponent of an “Ownership Society.” He believed the way out of poverty was a rising tide created by supply-side economics whereby business would reinvest in capital — both durable goods and human capital.  And as HUD Secretary, home ownership was key to breaking the cycle of multi-generational poverty. 

Jack Kemp pushed the GOP to not concede the inner-cities and the poor.  Sadly, Mitt — in his own words — isn’t “very concerned”  about them.  To paraphrase Senator Lloyd Bentsen, “You’re no Jack Kemp, Governor Romney.”

Mitt has shown a chameleon-like ability to be on multiple sides of such polarizing issues as abortion and gay rights.  His latest gaffe, however, will be a difficult one to overcome.  It’s an inevibility the Obama campaign will exploit this issue to show Romney out of touch.  If Mitt wants to be President, he needs to reconsider those 44 million Americans….”The Poor.”

For a look back at my tribute to the late Jack Kemp, please visit:



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A New Year…And a Promise

My Peace is My Promise.

2011 was not without event of historical significance.  Spring broke out in powerful way in the Arab world.  An earthquake and tsunami shook a nation that had ripple effects on the global economy.  Speaking of economies…Europe teetered on economic collapse and our own economy showed little signs of life as unemployment remained high and possibly higher given the number of Americans who simply “gave up” and are no longer considered part of the labor market.  We became “Occupied.”  And let us not forgot the killing of Osama Bin Laden just 3 months before the 10th Anniversary of the attacks of 9/11.

2012 will likely continue in that vein.  Will we vote to retain the President or will we select someone new?  Will the economy ever rebound?  Or will we just take in London’s Summer Olympics as a distraction from the pressing issues before us? These are volatile times politically, economically, environmentally.  And unfortunately we seem to be in this collective denial.

With every New Year comes that introspective exercise of making resolutions which typically entails some form of weight loss and/or exercise.  Sometimes it’s repairing relationships.  Maybe it’s a career change. For many Americans the anxiety of these times leaves us bargaining with God and grasping for that which gives us security.

With this New Year, perhaps it would serve us all well to consider God’s resolution for us.  And just what exactly is that?  A few years ago I came across something that I believe captures His promise for us and it comes in the form of some previously unpublished lyrics by the inconic folk singer, Woody Guthrie and it’s aptly titled, “God’s Promise.”

“I didn’t promise you skies painted blue. Not all colored flowers all your days through.  I didn’t promise you sun with no rain.  Joys without sorrows…peace withouth pain.

All that I promise is strength for this day.  Rest for my worker and light on your way. I give you truth when you need it, my help from above.  Undying friendship….My unfailing love.”

Guthrie passed in 1967; however, many of his writings live on thanks to the work of modern day artists.  Thanks to Ellis Paul, “God’s Promise” was wonderfully put together to music for all to enjoy:

As for me, my New Year’s resolution is to be keenly aware of God’s promise in my life and in the lives of others.  Not everything will work out the way we want it in 2012 or in 2013 for that matter.  However, things will work out through God the Father.

My wish for you is a healthy, joy-filled 2012.

Peace & blessings,


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Christmas Tears

Go ahead and cry....It's a Wonderful Life.

The holidays can be joyous. For others it can be the culmination of pain acquired over time.

Sometimes it’s the loss of a loved one. A broken relationship. Health issues. Even a test of one’s faith. On a very personal level, this Christmas has probably been the most challenging I’ve ever experienced. It’s the first in the divorce chapter of my life.  Having kids and the loss of that time with them only intensifies the hurt.   

This is, in a way, the first Christmas without my source of wisdom and strength…my best  friend:  Dad.  He unexpectedly passed two months prior to last Christmas.  The loss was so sudden and so close to Christmas chronologically speaking.  When coupled with the scavenging and selling of his things, the visit to his home was surreal.  Those who would sanitize his memory made me question if Christmas even took place last year.   As time moves me further from the loss, I know I must come to terms with how Christmas will be in the years ahead.

And I say, unashamedly, at times I find myself reduced to tears. 

These losses have undoubtedly left a gaping wound in my heart.  But I have a choice:  I can choose to ruminate about my wounds, or I can choose to let loose my grip and let God heal. 

Of course, a key step toward healing is to not forget the blessings.  I am grateful for the realtionships that I do have with my daughters.  For the relationships with my friends. For the roof over my head and the job that pays my bills.  There are so many who aren’t as fortunate.

Knowing one’s blessings, however, doesn’t remove the hurt entirely.  Even people of great faith know the pain of loss.  But it is faith — and hope — in a God who loved us so much, he came to be among us.  Afterall, that is the reason for Christmas, right?

Recently I came to understand the meaning behind a particular song that I had always found to be lyrically and musically poetic.  More importantly, I discovered it’s fitting for anyone who’s lost a loved one and by their faith knows their loved one has reached his/her reward in heaven.  It’s also a charge for those of us who remain to live our lives as our loved ones would want us.  As explained and performed by Sting:

“Sometimes I see your face.  Stars seem to lose their place.  Why must I think of you? Why must I…Why should I…Why should I cry for you?  Why would you want me to?”

Amidst all the commercialism and consumerism of Christmas, we often forget the deeper meaning of Christ’s birth:  That God came to be human among us.  He came to know not just our joys, but also our sufferings. 

My Christmas tears can only be a grieving for myself.   And so, Dad, I can no longer cry for you.  I look forward to that day when we can all join in the celebration.  And as for the here and now?  I shall strive to live that life both my Fathers in heaven want me to live.

May the peace and love of the new born Christ be with you all this Christmas season.

— J


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