Archive for November, 2015

November 30, 2015
Follow me

Follow me

 

Today is the feast of St. Andrew the Apostle.  Andrew was the brother of Peter, and, like Peter, was martyred by crucifixion.

Jesus ran into (?) Andrew and Peter on the shore of the sea of Galilee as they were mending their nets.  He said to them “Follow me, and I will make you fishers of men.”  Guess what –  they dropped everything and followed Jesus.

I paid particular attention, for obvious reasons, to the way that Matthew was invited to follow Jesus as well.  “He saw a man named Matthew sitting by the customs post. He said to him “Follow me”, and he got up and followed him.”

For Andrew, Peter and Matthew, there was no hesitation.  They gave up their known lives and followed this man to ends of which they knew not.  They didn’t stop to think about it; they didn’t work out the orderly disposition of their goods; they didn’t sell their businesses or make some phone calls cancelling appointments.  They got up and followed him.

Could I do that?  To some extent, I did when I came to work for the Diocese of Cheyenne.  I sold a business that took many years to build. I left the known for the unknown.  Jesus called, and I heard him, and I answered.  I wasn’t nearly so trusting as Andrew, Peter and Matthew, though.

What would happen if Jesus called us to do something really hard?  What if he asked us to suffer persecution, or ridicule, or death, because of him?  Would we say yes?

Frankly, I don’t know if I could.  I have had to defend my faith in groups before, and it was never easy.  Could I really answer the bell? Could I drop my nets, or leave my business to follow Jesus? How would I react if I was given the choice to renounce Jesus – or die?

I want to say “yes” to those questions, but I’ll never know unless confronted with those choices.  I haven’t abandoned Jesus to this point, so maybe I’m stronger that I believe I am.  Maybe – no, definitely – I should trust in the Lord.  He will guide me, and help me in my times of trial, and not abandon me.

Let’s be like Andrew, Peter and Matthew.  Let’s get up, and follow him.

Happy New Year

November 29, 2015
Morning light on poinsettias

Morning light on poinsettias

The Liturgical year, that is.  Today things start all over. Again.  What a refreshing, cleansing event.

We prepare for the birth of our Lord, our Salvation.  Called for from ancient times, the Messiah is to be born in humility. The Son of Man, Word made Flesh, King of Kings.

I think poinsettias are such worthy symbols of the season.  Their vibrant red contrasts with the monochrome of winter, making them stand out in the crowd and giving us hope. In a world as troubled as ours, where hope is in short supply, even the sight of a single red leaf against the bleakness of a frozen landscape foreshadows the coming of great things beyond our imagination. That would be the coming of Jesus Christ.

Today’s reading from Lauds says this so well:”  And do this because you know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep. For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed;ithe night is advanced, the day is at hand. Let us then throw off the works of darkness [and] put on the armor of light;jlet us conduct ourselves properly as in the day,* not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy.kBut put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provision for the desires of the flesh.”

Wear your armor of light today, and throughout this Advent.  Praise be our Lord!

November 28, 2015

Tomorrow- Sunday – is the first day of Advent, a time of anticipation.  For most of us in the US, however, it’s Christmas season.  I don’t like the fact that it seems to start earlier every year, but it’s impossible to avoid.

In Cheyenne, the Saturday after Thanksgiving is the time for the annual Christmas parade. In the past, the weather has ranged from mid 40’s to 40 mph winds to blizzards to cold. Tonight it was cold. Single digit cold. It didn’t dampen spirits, though.  It seemed that people just dressed warmer, including these two little people here.  I want to say they are boys, but I can’t be sure.

The Wyoming Air National Guard flies C130 planes, and this is their entry into the parade.

Finally, Santa made it tonight as well.

It’s tough to shoot a night parade. The changing light makes a mockery of my ability to meter anything, and I was just grateful to get a few shots that could be seen and were in focus.

The season is upon us.  Let’s not forget that fact that it really isn’t about parades, presents or parties.  This is the time to get ready to celebrate the birth of our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.  The Son of God was born as one of us, to live, to teach and to die for the forgiveness of our sins.

While we are celebrating between now and December 25th, let’s not forget that we aren’t waiting for Santa – we are waiting for Salvation.
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Wood shop

November 27, 2015

I love working with wood, in all its forms.  Every time I cut a piece of wood, or glue two of them together, it is an expression of love in the creation of something useful.

We live in a house that is 110 years old, and is in constant need of repair.  When things need repair or replacement on century old parts, Home Depot doesn’t carry them. Instead, they must be fabricated, and if it involves wood, it is done in my shop.

As I write this, I have a couple birthday / Christmas presents that I am making in various stages of completion.  My shop carries the fragrance of cut pine, and that smell is like an intoxicant to me.  My hands are an honorable rough, as a carpenter’s hands would be, even though the vast majority of my time is spent at a desk tapping out words on a computer.

Wood, however, is near and dear to me, and has been for a long while.

My Dad was not much of a handyman.  He always had tools laying around a work bench, but they were there for emergency purposes, not for hobby.  He taught me some things about woodworking, but it didn’t go much beyond “this is a hammer, and this is a saw.”

My first real foray into woodworking was in the 9th grade, when I signed up for a woodworking class with Mr. Weild.  He never told us if he was in the army, but from the way he commanded a group of 15 year-olds, I’m pretty sure he was a drill sergeant.

But I loved to learn what he was teaching.  I made a sanding block as a first project, because that’s what we were told to do.  It looked like someone’s first project, and I’m pretty sure I got a C on it.  It went uphill from there, and I would spend as much time in the shop as Mr. Weild would allow.  He would come in after school and open the shop, and I would be there until he kicked me out.

The next year I took a Building Trades class with one of my two favorite teachers ever, Karl Nimphius.  Sadly, Karl recently died, but his legacy lives on in every project I undertake.  He taught me how to frame a house, wire a circuit and solder copper pipes.  Every time I hang drywall, I hear him say “Don’t break the paper!”

A couple years ago, I found a new woodworking venue in carving.  I took a class at a Woodcraft store in Loveland, Colorado. When we started, it was the sanding block all over.  I had no knowledge, and less confidence in my ability to make a block of wood look like something recognizable. After a few weeks of making lots of sawdust, a pair of ducks started to appear out of a chunk of basswood.  There is also a bison and a rough Madonna, both of which will make it out of the shop and into my home at some point.

In woodworking, I discovered a love of expressing myself through a 3 dimensional medium.  Carving is like poetry one can hold in one’s hand.  It really doesn’t do much except look pretty, but it can express the emotions we carry in our hearts for the world to see.

My shop is an organized mess, and it never really gets clean. There are always some tools out, and sawdust lingers everywhere, even after vacuuming. Mr. Weild would not be pleased with that. However, both he and Karl Nimphius would be smiling right now if they were reading this.  Their willingness to teach, and my excitement to learn, went into giving me the skills to make the things I love.
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Thanksgiving and snow

November 26, 2015
Color into white

Color into white

Thanksgiving is a wonderful holiday, full of warm memories are so comforting in the cold weather.

For many years as a child, our family would celebrate Thanksgiving with the family of my mother’s twin sister.  We would go to their house for Thanksgiving, they they would come to ours on Christmas.  The next year we would do the reverse. It was  a great time, and I always enjoyed my time with them.

When I moved to Montana in 1980, Sherry and I were not yet a thing, although I was working on it.  We shared that first Thanksgiving together with our two roommates. We had no money to speak of, but we pulled together what little we had and made a trip to Safeway to buy potatoes, which were the main ingredients for potato soup.

When I would come home for Thanksgiving vacation from college, word got our before the advent of social media that a football game was to be had at the HS football field in South Milwaukee.  20 guys, most of whom were ex-football jocks, like me, showed up about 10 O’Clock in the morning, in the snow, to try and relive their glory days from HS and play in the Turkey Bowl.  It was always competitive and a lot of fun, and real good to see old friends.

These are memories that fill my heart with joy.  Those guys I played football with are still my friends, and Sherry and I have been together more than 35 years.

Speaking of a long time, these geraniums are on our front porch.  They are nice and warm, while on the other side of the window its in the single digits.  The flowers are more than 8 years old and bring color and an ever-so-subtle hint of a spring that will inevitably come.

November 25, 2015

I was praying this morning when I noticed the sun starting to show itself.  I thought that with a storm coming in, the sunrise might be pretty special.  When I looked outside, I could see it was something special.

When the colors of the sky are so intense, you get a very small window of opportunity to capture that intensity.  I grabbed my camera, my tripod and went out on our front steps in my bathrobe and started shooting.

Sometimes we have the good fortune to be prepared for these events. Sometimes we have to make do.  I would rather have taken these shots with some interesting foreground, and plenty of time to choose my settings and carefully line up everything for the perfect shot.  However, what was presented to me was my neighborhood.

It’s a beautiful place, really, populated by some of the best people I know.  When I look at this shot, it looks like a lot of nice shots of magnificent sunrises.  But the thing that makes it so very unique, so very close to my heart, is that this is where we live, and we are blessed beyond measure with the people who live nearby.

I don’t usually shoot photos in my bathrobe, but you have to take what life gives.  Thanks be to God that he gives us so very, very much, and right off my front steps.IMG_1412

Hard work, honest work

November 24, 2015

We are having our sidewalk replaced.  It’s a job I considered doing on my own, and then I remembered that I am 58 years old, and sidewalk replacement, on my own, would not be a real good idea.

 

We hired a concrete contractor to do the work for us, and they have been hard at it for a couple weeks now.  Ours is not the only job they have, so they aren’t here 8 hours a day.  When they are here, it is all business.  They work in the cold and snow, kneeling in the mud while setting forms, moving huge blocks of broken concrete, and then today, when the poured the concrete, they moved that stuff around like it was water.

If you’ve ever had a chance to move concrete with a shovel, you can appreciate that last statement.  It’s indescribably heavy, and it takes some real strength and stamina to push it around.  Not only did they put it on the ground today, but they finished it as well. It takes a lot of skill to finish concrete well, and these guys did that.

That would be Marcello on the chute and randy on the rake.  Nice men, and really hard working.

Somehow as a people we have shown less appreciation for hard, physical labor.  The politicians talk about giving people a free college education, which means there will be fewer people like Marcello and Randy to do this kind of labor that is so very necessary.  I am personally very grateful to them for the sweat of their brow and their cheerful demeanor.

I was a teacher at a Catholic school a long time ago, making a wage that was a long way below what was necessary to raise a family.  I worked summers for a construction company driving dump trucks, semis and concrete mixers.  I loved the work, mainly because I felt like a kid playing with very big toys.  Their is great satisfaction in seeing one’s work to completion, and then being able to see it for years to come.  Every time I stop at the rest area in Chugwater, I think to myself “I helped build this.”

I carried a Rosary with me when I drove those trucks, and it had a wonderful effect on people.  I would walk into the batch room, the place where we got our assignments for the day, and it would be filled with men drinking coffee, smoking and cursing up a storm.  Upon my entrance, people cleaned up their language and stood up a little straighter.

There was a crew that was building foundations for a housing project where I was frequently sent.  I got to know them pretty well over the course of a summer, and I thought they were different than other concrete crews because they were always cheerful and didn’t curse.  They were all Mexican, too, and they saw the Rosary and told me they thought it was great that I carried it with me.

I found out later from one of the other drivers that they did, in fact, curse, and they were just like any other crew.  They changed their behavior when I showed up because they thought I was a priest trying to earn some extra money. Little did they know that I was just a young Catholic school teacher trying to make ends meet.  I was pleased that I could bring them a little evangelism and peace in their day.  I’m just glad they never asked me to hear their confessions.

I love hard, physical labor, and I appreciate those who engage in it.  Randy and Marcello are pros, and I admire their skills.

Thanks be to God for those people who toil for the benefit of all.  May He bless them always.

Hard work

November 23, 2015

Tonight at Lions Park in Cheyenne.  The sunset, the clouds, the geese flying around was incredible.  I really don’t have anything to add to this, except thanks be to God for his gifts!Lions park

The Golden Hour

November 22, 2015

Photographers call the hour before sunset “The Golden Hour” because of the soft, golden hue of the light as the sun begins to dip below the horizon.  The colors are soft, the light is indirect and subdued, and the shadows create depth in the subject.

I knew I wanted to shoot at that time today and taeg advantage of a cloudless sky and a sun that keeps moving farther to south, giving more horizontal and friendly light. My thought was to take a short drive to a park and capture the reflections on the lake.  The problem was that I didn’t really want to get in the car and go anywhere, so I stayed home and took this shot of the last leaves to turn color and fall in our yard.

These are the leaves on our hedges, their gold capturing the gold of the sun and giving us this gift.  Like so many things in life, they were right under my nose.  I didn’t have to travel more than a few feet from my front door to capture them and share them.

There are times in our busy world where what is in front of us seems ripe for overlooking.  I thought I needed to travel to get the “right” shot, but it turns out that all I really needed to do was open my eyes.  How many times do we do this, thinking that the place over the hill will be much better than the place I am now; the job in the paper would certainly be better than the one I have; or the person who is not with me would certainly be better than the one who is.

Yet if we look at the beauty that literally surrounds us, or the opportunities that present themselves each and every day in our work, or realize that person we are with at this moment is perfect for me, we begin to appreciate the fact that all we need is what we have right now.

What appears to be the ruination of many people is the desire to always want more, to want something different.  The very act of accumulation seems to be the scorecard used to gauge success. The problem with that is when our goal is to have more, by definition it is impossible to ever reach our goal and success will only ever be an unattainable pipe dream.

Why would we forsake the leaves in our yard for the reflections on the lake?  The leaves are just as beautiful, and they are here right now.  Really, that’s all we can ever have is what is here right now. Everything else is either a memory or a fantasy. If we focus on the memory or the fantasy, we lose the gift we have right here, right now.

The Golden Hour is not really an hour long. Depending on conditions, it can last a few minutes or a few seconds.  If we wait for what we think will be the perfect moment to catch the perfect shot, more often than not we miss it entirely.  Yet if we are focused on the here and now, we are able to see the beauty of the light and how it enhances the beauty of our subject.  If we focus on those things that might be, we miss the glorious nature of what is ours, right here, right now.

Happy Feast of Christ the King!

Golden hour leaves

Golden hour leaves

 

Happy Thanksgiving!

November 21, 2015

I know that its not until Thursday, but some things require modification.  Our daughters and their families are going to their in-laws for Thanksgiving on Thursday, so we had our today.  It was wonderful and chaotic, noisy and poetic at the same time.

Our little family has grown to 10, and 4 are small children – 4, 2, 2 and 1/3.  I can’t believe how small a large house feels when it is filled with 4 children, 6 adults and a German shepherd.

We chose to forgo the traditional main course and cooked marinated venison tenderloins.  They were fantastic, and what made them even better was the fact that we harvested them, prepped them in the field, butchered them, wrapped and ate them.  This all part of the food honesty I wrote about recently.

This is what 45 pounds of venison burger looks like as we were getting it ready to be wrapped and frozen.  It is more convenient to buy it at the store, but this is better.

Headed to the freezer

Headed to the freezer


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