Category Archives: Blog

Why Poetry Does Matter

Can you see the little blue dot we call home passing before the sun?

Dana Gioia’s book, “Can Poetry Matter?” published in 1992, endeared him to both academic denizens and to the literary world in general. It’s subtitle “Essays on Poetry and American Culture” helped to expose the need of retaining poetry as part of our general culture, not as the microcosm of an exclusive academic subset. He lamented that magazines and newspapers no longer review poetry, and that the National Book Awards no longer includes poetry as a literary category.

I had the pleasure of meeting Dana and his wife Mary at a reading he gave in Angel’s Camp this summer. At dinner he remarked how important music was to him and encouraged us to listen to Morton Lauridsen’s “Lux Aeterna”.He has also written librettos for Opera, and other books of literary criticism.

Dana Gioia is the current poet laureate of California, and has published four widely acclaimed books of poetry, “Daily Horoscope”, “The Gods of Winter”, “Interrogations at Noon”, “Pity the Beautiful” and most recently a collection called “99 Poems”. He is currently a Professor of Poetry and Public Culture at USC in Los Angeles, and confesses he has read poetry for as long as he could read, while his mother often recited verse from memory to him as a child. Perhaps that is why he has inaugurated an important program for schools called “Poetry Out loud”in which students are challenged to recite poems from memory and engage in competition with other schools for significant prizes and scholarships on the state and national level.
“Poetry needs to be liberated from literary criticism. Poems should be memorized, recited and performed. The sheer joy of the art must be emphasized. The pleasure of performance is what first attracts children to poetry, the sensual enjoyment of speaking and hearing the words of the poem. Performance was also the teaching technique that kept poetry vital for centuries. Maybe it also holds the key to poetry’s future”.(p.23)

Gioia describes Poetry as “the art of of using words charged with their utmost meaning”, and warns us “that a society whose intellectual leaders lose the skill to shape, appreciate, and understand the power of language will become the slaves of those who retain it”. And just after WW II George Orwell prophetically announced that “the present political chaos is connected with the decay of language”. (p.20)
Though we can see our language shrinking into sound bites and tweets, and reading actual books becoming an anomaly, let’s infuse the love of poetry into our children and grandchildren by reading to them, and encouraging them to read their favorite poems to us. That will be a most delightful music to our ears.

Freedom is the Air We Breathe

THE CROSS OF JESUS HAS PURCHASED FREEDOM FOR EVERY TRIBE,TONGUE AND NATION

The United States of America is rapidly becoming one of the few countries in the world to allow religious freedom. Here we are free to worship God according to our individual conscience. I recently read a UN report that states 3/4 of the world’s governments prohibit and/or punish individuals from exercising this basic right.

This kind of Freedom is an immense privilege that restricts us only in the way we interact with family, neighbor and friend. How do we handle the truths we hold sacred? Do love and respect constrain us? If not, we inevitably commit the gravest of errors: PRIDE, SELF-RIGHTEOUSNESS AND INTOLERANCE resulting in wars, pogroms, ethnic cleansing, hatred, persecutions, fanaticism, and rage against those who don’t think as we do, or who dare to question our standards. There is nothing more dishonoring to God than cruelty done in the name of religion. When EVIL wears the mask of piety, or uses the “God Card” to excuse barbaric mistreatment, the ones who usually pay the price are defenseless women, the elderly and children. I think we have seen more than enough examples of that in our time.

This is an interesting thought: “The doctrine which, from the very first origin of religious dissensions, has been held by bigots of all sects, when condensed into a few words and stripped of rhetorical disguise, is simply this: I am in the right, and you are in the wrong. When you are the stronger, you ought to tolerate me, for it is your duty to tolerate truth; but when I am the stronger, I shall persecute you, for it is my duty to persecute error”.(Thomas Macaulay, poet, historian 1800-1859) In other words, the OPPRESSED becomes the OPPRESSOR.

TRUTH by its very nature doesn’t need defending, nor the sword to enforce it. Truth is defined as: A) 1) the body of real things, events, facts, actuality (2) :the state of being the case :fact (3) :a transcendent fundamental or spiritual reality B) a judgment, proposition, or idea that is true or accepted as true truths of thermodynamics C):the body of true statements and propositions 3) a.the property (as of a statement) of being in accord with fact or reality. b. fidelity to an original or to a standard. Science and Mathematics only work on the premise that there are universal truths underlying the Laws of the universe that are waiting to be discovered.

Our English word for TRUTH comes from a Germanic abstract noun *treuwitho as in TROTH or wedding vow: faithfulness, fidelity, loyalty; veracity, quality of being true; pledge, covenant.
Therefore TRUTH is not necessarily a belief, but an actuality, and integral to a person’s behavior. Both Science and Philosophy attest to the existence of truth, and therefore, the existence of error. Where there is truth there is order, peace, and a rational logic to that order, a harmony that results in beauty and unity of purpose. Where there is error there is chaos, violence, irrationality, and cruelty to one’s fellow man.
There is only one person in all of human history who had the right to claim He was TRUTH INCARNATE….Jesus. And the religious zealots of his day killed him, but could never silence the words of truth He has given to nourish our souls.

The twin gods of Mormonism and Islam

I’ve been reading books on Islam recently: “Seeking Allah, finding Jesus”, and “No God But One”, both by Nabeel Qureshi, (a devout muslim convert to Christianity who recently died at the age of 34 from cancer) in conjunction with some notable books on Mormonism: “Under the Banner of Heaven” by Jon Krakauer (Into Thin Air) and “No Man Knows my History; the life of Joseph Smith”” by Fawn Brodie (biographies of Thomas Jefferson, Richard Nixon).

I was thunderstruck by the similarities I found in each of these religions. Normally one doesn’t say Mormon or Muslim, Joseph Smith or Mohammad in the same breath, but they are rooted in the same unholy spirit, the spirit of Anti-Christ.

Let me explain: (1John 2: 21-23)  I do not write to you because you don’t know the truth, but because you do know it, and because no lie comes from the truth. Who is the liar? It is the man who denies that Jesus is the Christ. Such a man is the anti-christ- he denies the Father and the Son. No one who denies the Son has the Father; whoever acknowledges the Son has the Father also.” 

I have also read the Qu’ran and the Book of Mormon to educate myself in the teachings and revelations they propose. They are both filled with skewed biblical borrowings strung together to create a further and final revelation to man.

The Qu’ran, transmitted by the angel “Gabriel”, denies that God has a Son, and that Jesus was only a prophet like Mohammed. The most important fact Mohammed teaches his followers is that Jesus did not die, either by crucifixion, or otherwise, and that someone, possibly Judas, was chosen to take his place on the cross, because Allah ultimately took him to heaven.

The Book of Mormon, transmitted by the angel Moroni, to Joseph Smith, a handsome, charismatic charlatan turned a “hat trick” revelation into a “native” American religion. The golden plates the angel supposedly transcribed were never seen, or found, and Joseph tried to create a “City of God” on earth he was put in jail and hanged for violating young women.

Both Islam and Mormonism denigrate and abuse women, both Mohammed and Joseph Smith had many wives, and both married child brides. The main functions of women were bringing children into the world or being sex slaves; they had no personhood except in those capacities. Mormonism teaches that Adam was God, and that godhood is the ultimate goal for every male, therefore there is no need for a savior. Women can obtain paradise only they submit to a temple marriage arranged by one of the elders.

 

 

 

 

 

People of the Book

Some of the common misconceptions and downright lies that Muslims are taught about Christianity are: 1. The Bible has been corrupted. 2. We serve three gods. 3. God cannot have a son because he isn’t married. 4. Jesus did not die on the Cross. 5. Neither Jesus nor anyone else can pay for our sins.

The Muslim argument centers on the many translations of the Bible we have from Hebrew to Greek, to Latin, to English, with so many different versions. A scholarly response is that we have many original Greek manuscripts from the 2nd C. and dozens more from the 3rd C., and all the current “versions” of the Bible are based on these original manuscripts. And the Qur’an has been translated into many different languages, and still revered as sacred, even though Arabic is the sacred language. Also, the Qur’an honors the Talmud, and the Gospels as sent from God.

The three gods we supposedly serve are Mary, Jesus and God. Mary may have           been in preeminence during the early church, and the terms, “Queen of Heaven” and “Mother of God”were often ascribed to Mary. Yet, the Qur’an devotes an entire chapter to her and the Virgin Birth. The concept of the Trinity (Three persons in One God) is very difficult to discuss until the scriptures are opened to the Muslim mind. They revere Jesus (Issa) as a true prophet from God, and his teachings.

Calling Jesus the “Son of God” is a stumbling block to Muslims. Yet, the Qur’an states unequivocally that Jesus was born sinless, and conceived by the Spirit in Mary’s virgin womb, without sex being involved. This concept must prayerfully be addressed using the Qur’an as our guide into the full revelation of the Bible.

Proving the historical fact of Jesus’ death on the cross will often dispel the myth that someone else replaced Jesus, or that he was in a “swoon” state, and revived later in the tomb, and taken to Heaven by God.

The death of Jesus becomes pivotal in describing the “blood sacrifice” God used as early as Adam and Eve in the garden as an atonement for sin. The story of the Passover clearly points to Jesus as the “Lamb of God” whose blood paid the ransom for God’s people, delivering them  from bondage and death.

Who are the “People of the Book?”  Both Christians and Jews are labeled this way in the Qur’an, and is not used as a derogatory term. They both had received sacred scriptures the Qur’an says are directly from God, and must be honored by every Muslim. It is ironic that Muslims should rightly receive this title since  they revere their “book” as a sacred entity in itself, that must never be defiled. They view the Qur’an is the last and final revelation from God, adding to what came before.  Hmmm….sounds familiar. Book of Mormon? Mary Baker Eddy’s Key to the scriptures?

Let us pray for the “People of Peace”, those Muslims who refuse to be identified with ISIS or jihad, and especially those women who are brutalized by the heavy hand of Islam. More Muslims are being saved now (since 1990) than in the last 1300 years! Jesus is revealing Himself in dreams, and using the Qur’an to open blind eyes to the reality of Isa al Masik, Jesus the Christ, their Messiah.

The 21st Century seems to be the time of their redemption.

 

 

Jesus in the Qu’ran

PART TWO:

Who is Jesus in the world of Islam?

I. Jesus is called Isa al-Masih (Arabic for the Hebrew, Meshiach, the Anointed One; the Christ, or Messiah), in the Qu’ran. This title is used eleven times, and is usually translated as Christ Jesus. Behold! The angels said: O Mary! God giveth thee glad tidings of a Word  from Him; his name will be Christ Jesus, the son of Mary, held in honor in this world and in the hereafter.and of those nearest to Allah”. (Q.3:45)  “The Messiah, Jesus son of Mary, is the Messenger of God and His Word conveyed to Mary and a Spirit from him”. (Q. 4:170)

II. The Virgin Birth of Jesus .Maryam is held in such high regard by Islam the Qu’ran dedicates a whole chapter to her life. Of course many stories in the Qu’ran are a curious mixture of folk tales, half-truths, and legends (Jesus speaks from the cradle, and creates a little bird from clay) There was no Arabic Bible translation available in Mohammed’s lifetime. His information about Jesus’ followers (Nasara: Arabic for Christians, followers of the Nazarene) was mostly hearsay.

O my Lord, how shall I have a son when no man has touched me?” “He (Gabriel) said: even so, Allah createth what He willeth: when He hath decreed a matter, He but saith to it, “Be”. and it is”. And He will teach him the Book (Pentateuch), the Wisdom (Five Books of Wisdom) and the Injil” (Arabic for the Gospels) (Q. 3:47) And in a chapter dedicated to Maryam (Arabic for Mary) Gabriel says, “It will be so, Your Lord says, “It is easy for Me, and we will make him a sign to people, and a mercy from us”. (Q.19:21) Jesus was created miraculously in Mary’s womb by God’s Spirit, so “sex” was not involved.   “We breathed into her from Our Spirit and made her and her son a sign FOR ALL PEOPLE”. (Q. 21:91) A Muslim will say that God cannot have a son because he did not have a wife.

“God said, Jesus, I will cause you to die and raise you up to me, and purify you from those who denied the Truth, and I will exalt your followers over those who deny you until the Resurrection Day” .(Q. 3:55a)  Jesus speaks from the cradle: So peace is on me the day I was born, the day that I die, and the day that I shall be raised up to life”. (Q. 19:33) This presents a problem because most Muslims deny Jesus was crucified on the Cross, died and then was resurrected.

III. Jesus is both Healer and Prophet in Islam.  “I, by God’s permission, heal men born blind, and lepers, and give life to the dead.” (Q. 3:49; 5:110)) Jesus, son of Mary, remember the grace I bestowed upon you and your mother? How I strengthened you with the Holy Spirit…when I taught you the Book , the Wisdom, the Torah and the Gospel…when I inspired the disciples to believe in Me and my Messenger (prophet)? They answered, We believe and bear witness that we submit ourselves to You.” (Q. 5:110, 111) “(Jesus) said, I am the servant of God; He has given me the Book, and made me a Prophet”. (Q. 19:30)

IV. Jesus is the Way. “When Jesus came with clear evidence, he said, I have brought you Wisdom and to clarify for you some of what you differ about. Be always mindful of God and obey me. God is my Lord and your Lord, so worship Him. This is a straight path.” (Q. 43:61)

V. Jesus is the Truth. Such is Jesus(Isa) the son of Mary-the WORD OF TRUTH-about which they are in dispute. (Q. 19:34)

VI. Jesus is the Bread of Life ” Behold the disciples said: O Jesus, son of Mary! Can you Lord send us a feast from heaven? Jesus answered, Remain mindful of God if you are truly believers. They said, we only wish to eat from it so that our hearts might be reassured that you have told us the truth, and that we ourselves be witnesses to the miracle. Said Jesus, the son of Mary, “God our Lord! Send us a meal from heaven so we can have a recurring celebration (Arabic, eid, or a solemn festival) for the first and last of us, and a sign from You. Provide for us because You are the best of providers.God answered. I will send it down to you, and anyone who denies the truth after this will be punished with a punishment that I will not inflict on anyone else in the world”. (Q. 5:112-115)  Even though this is a mixture of several different accounts, as is typical of the Qu’ran, to a Muslim we can easily point out our celebration of the Lord’s table, in communion.

Of course, Muslims will be quick to explain that Jesus was no more than an Apostle (Q. 4:171), that Jesus was not God (Q. 5:17).

Next week we will discuss the common misconceptions that Muslims have about Christianity, and who are the “People of the Book”.

  1. The Bible has been corrupted.
  2. We serve three gods.
  3. We think Jesus is God’s Son.
  4. Jesus did not die on the Cross.
  5. Jesus cannot pay for our sins.

 

 

Exploring the World of Islam

 

 

PART ONE:

IS IT AN IDEOLOGY OR A RELIGION?

As Christians, I think it is important we become aware of the doctrines, ideas, culture, and practices of the Islamic world in which we have recently been immersed through the historic migration of peoples from Muslim countries, especially Syria, and the emergence of ISIL, a radical interpretation of the Qu’ran, or the teachings of Islam, with the end result being world dominance.

According to the dictionary an ideology is a body of ideas that reflects the beliefs and interests of a nation, political system, and underlies its political action; also, the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program, and “is usually taken to mean a prescriptive doctrine that is not supported by a rational argument”. (D.D. Raphael, 1970)

Broadly speaking, a religion is defined as an organized system of beliefs, ceremonies, and rules used to worship a god, or a group of gods; beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe when considered the creation of a supernatural agency, usually involving devotional and ritual observances, and often containing a moral code governing the conduct of human affairs. Religion is the human response to that which is sacred, holy, absolute, spiritual, divine, or worthy of especial reverence, and deals with the ultimate concerns about their fate after death.

Islam is the Arabic word for “submission”, and a Muslim is any person who has submitted to God, and in a sense, are slaves of Allah ( Arabic for God). The focus of their religion is to do the will of Allah, and please him by good works, known as the Five Pillars of Islam. Hopefully their good works will outweigh their evil works so they can enter the paradise of God. They have no other assurance of Allah’s acceptance before death.

 So Islam is both and an ideology and a religion.

 ISIL operates as an ideology because it sees itself as a nation state, or a caliphate, using violence, cruelty and Jihad (Arabic for struggle) against Muslims, Christians, and Jews, or those they consider apostates and unbelievers. This group teaches its adherents that the only sure way of gaining Paradise is to commit Jihad, or holy war against the infidel. It can be viewed as “Islamism” because it envisions a political solution in terms of a struggle, and demands absolute loyalty from its followers, and a willingness to die for the cause.

The 19th and 20th centuries saw the rise of Communism, Nazism and Facism, and certain forms of Nationalism. We in the 21st century are confronted with Islamism, an ideology wearing the slimy cloak of religion.

I am currently studying the Qu’ran, (Arabic for Recitation) a very difficult book to understand. Mohammed did not know how to read or write, so common in the 7th Century Arab world of Caravan traders like himself. So he transmitted it orally by reciting it to his followers over a period of some 23 years. It has no order, or spiritual coherence, and the linear Western mind sees it as a rambling jumble of half-truths. But it can also be viewed as a steppingstone for Muslims to explore the Bible, the whole truth of God’s relationship to man, from Genesis to Revelation.

What does the Qu’ran have to say about Esa al Masih (Arabic for Jesus Christ, the Anointed One, or Messiah)?

Tune in for next week’s installment. Feel free to comment and ask questions.

 

Part Two of LoveWalk in Spain

It was Tuesday, September 1st around 8:15 when we left St Jean and crossed over the Pyrenees into Spain. Our first ascent of 12 km. and 800 feet into Valcarlos took us until 4:15 that afternoon. Martes or Mardi or Marsday, became a day of war, no matter what the language. The unrelenting rain, and the unending climb hammered me into an oblivion of misery, and the end of my strength and resolve.

I had a breakdown, and met a wall of weakness in my body and soul that nailed me to the ground, and made me crawl over the remaining rocks of this final hill. Sobs shook me out of control until I cried out,  “I don’t have the strength! I can’t do this!”. Still I wouldn’t hand over my backpack to John, who was obviously shaken by the depth of my suffering. He had never seen me like this, and went ahead to secure our lodging.

When Marcos the innkeeper saw me enter, he said to John, “I can see she’s a fighter”. Those words poured over me like oil. How could he say that? Couldn’t he see I was undone and beaten?  I sat down on the bunk, and John helped me take off wet clothing and boots, grateful for a warm place to stay that night. Surrounded by a group of strong muscular women pilgrims, I felt like a whining whimp. Marcos assured us we didn’t have to leave at  the customary 8:30 the next morning. We had dinner together with him at a local cafe that evening, and encouraged him to return to faith in Christ.

As we sat around that table, John said, “Mary, this is Our Camino“. He reminded me about times of conquering and overcoming when we hiked the John Muir trail, Mt. Whitney, and Mt. Shasta. “Those days are over, sweetheart. Nothing, no goal or plan, is more important than our marriage. This is a different season, that needs another kind of strength”. And so we changed our focus, and planned our next steps.

Typically, my desires have always trumped my abilities. And that’s when God would step in for the rescue. It was obvious I couldn’t tackle the steep ascents that remained, and the slippery slopes they entailed. The last thing I wanted to do was fall, or sustain an injury that would upend the joy of our 35th Anniversary celebration.

The next morning as we waited to take a taxi to Roncevalles, we noted an older white haired couple trudging up the path. If they can do it, I can do it,  was my immediate thought as I watched them rest on a bench. When they came over to say hello, I noticed an Irish brogue. Charlotte blessed me by her remark, ” I’m not here to be a heroine, but just a pilgrim”. We invited them to share our taxi, much to their delight, and they in turn, invited us to stay at the hotel they had booked.  Their method of Camino-ing helped us to refocus. Charlotte and Peter sent their luggage on ahead to hotels, and traveled only with a small daypack. From then on we sent our backpacks ahead for a small fee. We joined them in a special pilgrim Mass, and dinner that evening. Their light-hearted humor lifted me out of the doldrums of defeatism.

What’s a pilgrim to do after she’s met her Waterloo?  Since we are free from the burden of doing penance for our sins, and punishing our bodies, we can enjoy this, keep our spiritual antennas up so God’s love can pour through in joy and peace. One day we met these Chinese pilgrims on an ancient Roman bridge who insisted on taking my picture, wild and wooly though I be.

mary on bridge

Many God moments and Divine encounters later we met Emily, who had celebrated her birthday the day before mine. She was exactly 20 years younger and had  been injured descending the Alto de Perdon, a steep outcropping of loose rock and shale, taken to a hospital by ambulance some 20 km away to Pamplona to receive her mark of honor in the form of 8 stitches.  We linked together and spent the next few days on the Camino since her speed had been reduced to ours. Together we visited ancient churches, a hermitage and monasteries, and became soul sisters on the way. Our heart-to-heart meeting became the spiritual high point of our pilgrimage.

roman b

hermitage

church

camino

Then one day John asked me, “Do you want to go home?’ We had been planning to exit at the half-way mark at Burgos, and prayed for the Lord to direct our steps. But John had received a different burden: the Syrian Refugee Crisis across Europe, and was reluctant to share it with me. I was ready to make a change, so we took a bus to Madrid and waited for direction. It was a paradigm shift in our thinking when we received a welcoming email from Bryan Miller and his family who lived in Berlin, Germany, the epicenter of this historic ethnic upheaval, and who were reaching out to Muslim refugees. The next day we flew out.

Part One of LoveWalk in Spain

Our romantic idyll in France slowly came to a happy ending. We had fallen in love again with each other and with France, and now it was time to become true pilgrims. We mailed home a box of our fancy duds, ditched a suitcase, and switched everything into our backpacks: each carrying two changes of trekking gear, toiletries, water bottles and ponchos. John carried 18 pounds. and me, about 13 pounds.

packs
the symbol of the pilgrimage is the scallop shell which we proudly displayed on our packs.

We had a “shakedown” cruise by walking 10 km. in the rain from Malesherbes to Boulancourt, and arrived soggy, sore, and happy with our success to a small BnB.  Our hosts, Bruno and Catherine, were planning their coming wedding day after living common law for 25 years! She had chosen a passage from “Le Petit Prince” for their unique ceremony, and we exchanged rapturous remarks about one of my all-time favorite books, one that had actually began my love for the French language.

From there we caught a bus to Orleans, (where Joan of Arc had finally succeeded in liberating  France from English occupation), and then a train to Bayonne, then another train to St. Jean Pied au Port, to begin our walk.  But we missed our connection because the train was 30 minutes late! The Lord supplied us with “angels” in the human guise of Francois, a war correspondent (who just happened to cover Viet-Nam when John was there!) Latifah his Moroccan wife, and their son Sylvan. They maneuvered us to First Class seats using classy complaints. He regaled us with stories of French history as we traveled.

When we arrived in St. Jean on August 31st, we were surprised at how cool it was. The pilgrims before us had suffered broiling heat  for two weeks. We were eating dinner at an outdoor cafe when a storm rolled in, complete with driving rain, hail, thunder and lightening. We were not dressed properly, and shivered inside the cafe with all the other pilgrims.

That day we had our pilgrim “passports” stamped at the municipal albergue, were blessed with a private room and double-checked  our gear. This hostel was abuzz with eager pilgrims, eager as we were to begin. The next morning, we began our  El Camino, or the “Way of St, James” ( brother of John the apostle), in a rain that continued all day. But nothing could have prepared me for the journey to our first destination in Varcarlos. We had to take an alternative path called Charlemagne’s Route ever the Spanish Pyrenees into Spain because the other primary route’s hostel was totally booked, and with weather life this, we needed lodging for the night. It was supposed to be less steep then Napolean’s Route, and much easier.

This is a statue of St. James in medieval garb, with his staff, and shell.
This is a statue of St. James in medieval garb, with his staff, and shell. The sign reads”From here all the roads to Santiago become one”. 

 

 

LoveWalk in France

“Let’s do something significant for our Anniversary next year!” I said, after watching the movie called “The Way”. Then, with no hesitation and big smiles, we both turned to each other and said in unison, “Let’s do it!”

Inspired by its depiction of an ancient 500-mile pilgrimage, El Camino de Santiago that began in France, and traversed through the Spanish Basque countryside, we began to dream. (John and I had walked the John Muir trail, climbed Mt. Whitney a few times, and Mt. Shasta about 25 years earlier). So we had earned some valid walking credentials in our history.

But when Inspiration comes, you move out with a breath of something new and exciting, many unknowns waiting to be discovered, to create an Adventure par none to celebrate the miracle of our God-breathed Marriage, with its many ups and downs, twists and turns, lavished with moments of mercy and grace.

 John began to organize our route in France: one LOVEWEEK in Paris (a schoolgirl dream of mine), of course, then Giverney (Monet’s garden, John’s favorite artist), Mont St. Michel (a Medieval fortress on an island), the Loire Valley, Rouen and Orleans (for my heroine, Joan of Arc). We planned to spend two and a half weeks in France, enough to resurrect my College French from the dust bins of history.

On Thursday, August 13th, we sat in our Paris apartment, maps in hand, ready to begin. Il pleut. It’s raining. How lovely. But there were learning curves to master: four different keys to the flat, the lift, the stores, the neighborhood, the train station, and the metro!  John masterfully oriented us in one day, and soon we toured Paris via the Seine river on a “batobus” or water taxi.

From our home base we visited Notre Dame for a Gregorian Chant Mass, the Louvre, Montmartre’s Sacre Coeur Basilica, the Eiffel Tower, museums and gardens galore, tasting all the delights this Grand Dame called Paris had to offer.

Then it was time to scale down into pilgrim gear, so we mailed clothes back home, and left an empty suitcase outside the Post Office. While in the Loire Valley we walked 10 km in the rain in ponchos with backpacks as a “shakedown” exercise for our Camino, and decided to train a train from Orleans to Bayonne and a bus to St. Jean Pied au Port. It was time to begin our pilgrimage in Spain.

on the Seine

OmahaMont St MichelMonet's garden

Rouen Cathedral

 

 

 

 

When the Milk of Human Kindness Fails

A review of  “Ghost Boy”, by Martin Pistorius, with Megan Lloyd Davies, Nelson Books, 2013.

Thank God for Martin’s parents who overcame deep personal despair in living with a child who had suddenly disappeared from sight. They had ostensibly lost all contact; his “ghost image” lay on the bed, unblinking, unmoving, and unable to tell them anything. His mother had two healthy children to care for, and after the first two years, the weight of watching her sick child slowly die finally caused her to crack, and need psychiatric attention after a botched suicide attempt. Martin’s father then became the main caregiver until his wife could fully engage again with their boy.

For untold years they would bathe, dress and feed their boy, once active in athletics, but since age twelve, a helpless, oversized baby. Medical doctors were baffled as test after test failed to give a precise diagnosis. Every kind of medical prescription applied gave a zero percent cure rate. He was finally prescribed as hopeless, and sent home to die, until God stepped in with a Resurrection miracle.

“I think my mind started to awaken at about the age of sixteen, and by nineteen it was fully intact once more: I knew who I was and where I was, and I understood I had been robbed of a real life. That was six years ago…I came to understand that my efforts would never be enough: as I came back to life, no one fully understood… I was completely entombed. The only person who knew there was a boy within the useless shell was God, and I had no idea why I felt his presence so strongly…utterly alone and yet aware that God was my companion.”

God sent him Virna, a massage therapist, who was convinced he understood her words. After learning about a communication technology called AAC through computers she asked, “Do you think you could do something like that, Martin? I’m sure you could.” Her faith in him gave him the courage to try. So, more than thirteen years after he had fallen ill, Martin enrolled in an Alternative Communication Center and learned to read, write, and eventually speak through a computerized voice. In 2006 he was the first of two South-Africans with non-functioning speech to graduate from University. He gave speeches, created websites, and fixed computers after his hidden brilliance was unveiled.

But his grandparents taught him the most important life lesson about love: “If it’s true it will last a life time, and if it’s strong enough, it can be passed from generation to generation.” Martin experienced true love through a woman named Joanna. They met on line, and were married in 2009. The next year he started his own business in the UK. They have since been happily dancing together through life there by God’s grace. Though the milk of human kindness often failed him, God’s Loving kindness restored, released, and raised Martin, as a sign and wonder to many.