Fitting Our Journey to God’s Map

You must have a map, no matter how rough.
Otherwise you wander all over the place.
~ J.R.R. Tolkien

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What God Can Do with Our Measly Loaves and Fishes: King St. Olaf (d. 1030)

A man’s faith is put to the test on the day God’s will is not his.
~ Sigrid Undset

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4 Agonizing Movie Scenes and What I’m Still Learning From Them

There’s so many good things.
 ~ Peter Falk

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In Gratitude for a Fresh Glimpse at Dorothy Day

I didn’t become a Catholic because of Dorothy Day, but I don’t think I would’ve become a Catholic without her.

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Beach Trip: Lessons from a Chevy Express

“C’mon, who’s up for a jaunt to the beach?”

It was hot – but not too hot – and the Weather Channel hinted that it wouldn’t last long. So I pleaded with my family, cajoled them, bribed – “Ice cream! We’ll get ice cream! And Oreos!” – but no dice. Other obligations and inertia and “just not feeling it” had set in, and I was on my own.

But summer, for me, is the beach, and it was already July, and we’d been up there only once – not acceptable! I grew up in Jersey, and the identification between the summer and the shore is pretty ingrained. Lake Michigan isn’t the Atlantic Ocean by a long shot, but there’s enough of an equivalence between Silver Beach and Point Pleasant to satisfy my childhood cravings for sand and surf that are irrepressible this time of year.

So, with the acquiescence of my wife (who understands [but doesn’t share] my beach obsession), I got ready to go solo. And since my college-graduate son was making use of my Camry during his interim stay at home, the only other transportation choice was our mammoth Chevy Express – a 15-seater and a gas guzzler, but functional and available. Besides, it was already loaded with beach gear from the last time we made the trip up to the lake.

Just to be sure, though, I ran down the list: Umbrella (check), folding chair (check), gaudy beach towel (check), floppy hat and sunscreen (check, check). I also snagged a decent book to read (and snooze over) and went around the house one more time to make sure I didn’t miss any last-minute changes of heart. No takers? So be it. I kissed my wife goodbye and hit the road.

Another of my odd summer proclivities is a constitutional aversion to air conditioning – except under extreme conditions. Consequently, instead of turning up the Freon, I rolled down the windows to enjoy July’s warmth and the bypass breeze. At a stoplight, I slathered my left arm with SPF 50 since it would be planted out to the side and in the sun for the drive up to Michigan. I cranked the classic rock station, merged onto highway 31, and headed north.

I got to thinking that taking the big white van for my journey was especially appropriate because driving it demands a fundamental attitude change that’s commensurate with a beach day. Unlike zipping around in a Camry, when you’re behind the wheel of a Chevy Express behemoth, you automatically slow down, plan further ahead for turns, and generally become more acutely aware of your surroundings. You learn these things from experience – or else you just stop driving the big white van.

Merging into traffic with a 15-passenger is a good example. When I got up to St. Joseph, Michigan, I made a stop at the Family Dollar Store for water and snacks. Back in the van with my snacks, I headed to the parking lot exit and put on my left blinker. The traffic flow in both directions on Niles Avenue was solid, which ordinarily wouldn’t pose a problem. With an Accord or a Camry, you anticipate that sweet spot, bolt out there, and meld without causing any disruption or danger.

With the big van, however, you have to be considerably more cautious and deliberate. Because the Express is so long, your turning radius has to be all the more generous, the since the thing weighs in at something like a Jurassic Park critter, it requires a jolt of juice and power when the traffic opening presents itself. Fortunately, it boasts a hefty V8 engine, there’s plenty of pep when it’s needed, but you still have to make sure that there’ll be enough room to blend in without cutting anybody off.

Accordingly, when I moseyed over to that Family Dollar exit lane, I’d already determined that I might be sitting there a while – that it might take a few minutes (or five, or ten) before the traffic stars aligned and I could safely lumber left and merge. And when the torrent of vehicles is especially thick, it’s best to turn left by turning right a few times and getting to a traffic light. That takes more time, sure, but safety first – and I’m not in any rush. I’m going to the beach!

When I finally arrived at Silver Beach and parked – way back from the beach because of the van girth/turning radius thing – I lugged all the junk down to the sand and plopped down in the first spot. Up went the umbrella, out went the towel and chair, and down I went with my water bottle and book.

As planned, I nodded off….and when I woke, I closed my eyes again to soak up the moment: The smell of the sunscreen, sweat, and my neighbor’s cigarette smoke; the sound of kids splashing and screeching in the water, moms calling out, a Spanish music station on the radio, a gull flapping down to scavenge discarded snacks nearby; my feet sunk in the sand, and my shoulders bearing the sun’s sweet radiant gift.

What a gift.
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The Childlike Appeal of Murder Mysteries

There is something in the universe more mystical than darkness, and stronger than strong fear.
~ G.K. Chesterton

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Our Lady of Good Help

Go and fear nothing. I will help you.

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Of Gerrymanders, Brain Death, and Birth Control

Jahi has forced the world to rethink the issue of brain death.
~ Nailah Winkfield

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The Communion Fast: An Essential Element of Eucharistic Rapport

Frequent Communion is not magic.
~ Dom Hubert van Zeller

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A Bibliochaotic Encounter with 3 Celtic “M” Saints

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There is nothing Celtic about having legends.
It is merely human.
~ G.K. Chesterton

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