Author Archives: Tom

Turn Me On, I’m A Radio

Months ago I would have laughed at you. Last year, I would have dismissed the very idea. But a few weeks ago, in very little bits, I started listening to Christian radio. It doesn’t hold first position on my dial, but it has a spot on my presets. In fact, this station provides some needed refreshment.

Like many of us, my commute takes me through the same locations twice a day. My coffee may vary in temperature. I could be less tired than the day before. Sometimes the sun hides behind a cloud or doesn’t rise until I have parked. But my daily ritual remains unchanged.

The radio is the great variable, my tool to an enlightening ride. For most of my life I have taken pleasure listening to the radio. I have even gone so far as to install a shortwave receiver in my car so I can pick up broadcasts from around the world. Unlike print or television, radio acts a companion on the journey. Distant outposts broadcasting exciting new music on long trips, sometimes offering just the right song, or conversations that might expose some new insight or point of view. I sincerely believe in the transformative power of radio.

Mostly I listen to the morning news to catch up on the stories that work or life precluded me from following. Aside from “college radio”, real variety is limited since a number of stations play some form of rotation whose selections differ solely based on genre.

I have found that the most promising stations are often out of range, in a foreign language, or on the AM band. And since I can only get reliable shortwave reception at night, I decided to give K-Love a shot.

Since I was surprised at the content and tempo of the songs, I could only listen for a minute or two at a time. Returning to contemporary music and talk provided a comfort rooted in familiarity. In honesty, I was not used to hearing the promise of God’s love or other Christian themes presented with such cheer and simplicity. After listening for a week or so I made a discovery: I had forgetting the need to trust in God.

Our maker has made mankind promises, it is contingent upon each person satisfying mankind’s commitment. The covenants of the Hebrew Scriptures form three concentric circles. God promises His presence, love, and gifts, in successive order, to man, his family, and his people in exchange for man’s trusting obedience in Divine Providence. Scripture repeatedly illustrates that God keeps his end of the bargain.

Our own concerns easily make this message unnecessarily complex. We approach the guarantee of God’s love with exceptions, scenarios, and what-ifs attempting to find some gap. In His goodness, God will not exclude someone for his fault. God isn’t the IRS or some cranky librarian. He loves us, accepts us, and welcomes us back home.

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#22 – Discovery During a Self-Imposed Exile

Cherie recently posted an insightful reflection on “Roll Away Your Stone” intertwining addiction, discovery, and redemption. I strongly suggest reading her piece (or revisiting it). Her words allowed my mind to wander inward enough so to spark my first entry in a long while. I’m sure this pleases my fellow writers.

Some close friends know that I take great pleasure in listening to the radio. I find that my daily commute is ideal for reflection while exploring new music on my local independent radio station. For the past few weeks a particular song has haunted me. Bon Iver, a folk group, released “Holocene”, a song that has received praise and noticeable airplay. Without Cherie’s post I would not have considered writing about this song. Deliberately I avoided interviews with the group and the interpretations of fans.

After neglecting to follow through on a commitment, or forgetting a task, there is no worse feeling than being reminded of that particular broken promise.

The little shortcomings and great failures both nag one’s confidence. For a moment we question ourselves. If left unchecked theses cracks in confidence could potentially send fissures deep into one’s sense of self worth. And then we feel as if we have drifted away into uncomfortable territory, far away from familiar waters. We feel alone.

In the lovely refrain, Bon Iver describes these realizations of inadequacy as instantaneous:

“…at once I knew I was not magnificent
strayed above the highway aisle
(jagged vacance, thick with ice)
I could see for miles, miles, miles”

How do we regain our confidence after it has been shaken? Some people dive into favorite activities (like escaping to radio land). But only by facing the reasons why broke our word, and then taking steps to address them, can return on the path toward regaining one’s self-confidence and sense of worth.

Lent provides us with opportunities to voluntarily subject ourselves to various instances of loneliness. Knowing that many Catholics spend this season exploring their own lives and hopefully making needed improvements, we can take comfort in knowing that we really are not alone in encountering our foibles.

The video:

 

Snow and the fall of winter

Outside of my window snow has been falling for the past two hours. As autumn’s colors slowly shift from auburn to gray and white, I find myself curious to understand snow’s appeal. Sure, after a lifetime of living in the northeastern United States snow is already nothing new, but I haven’t really asked why a certain anticipation haunts just behind the clouds.

Snow is an excellent hider. Beneath even the slushiest mixes, snow quickly obscures the death that autumn brings. The fall leaves, once golden and crisp, fall to the ground as winds blow in colder weather and darker days. Once the leaves have settled into their new location nature dries them out, sapping the last of their vitality. Now the leaves are truly dead, as if they were not already. As the early snowfalls cover the dead leaves with a stunningly reflective coat of white, snow begins its quiet work. The dead leaves break down beneath the snow and reenter the earth. This disintegration happens away from our view, but we know that new life will arrive once the spring sunshine returns.

Thus it is fitting that in our part of the world Christmas falls in the winter, amidst the snows. Not just at its outset, but a few days after the winter solstice, the longest day of the year, God sent his son, our savior, into the world during this period of slumber and death. As the winter’s cold snaps and warmth returns, the melting snow returns to the earth and brings new life out of the dead leaves. We hope, as Christians, that God, through Christ and the Holy Spirit, can set our spirits afire with his love.

Forthcoming post (soon)

Dear Readers,

My apologies if I have been quiet over the past week or so. But expect a follow-up to my initial piece on prayer in the next couple of days.

Since we know that prayer can take many forms, the next step is getting comfortable being pray-ers (those who pray!).

Warmly,

Tom

PS – Feel free to comment and guide us toward new topics. We welcome responses from our readers!

Have a talk with God

Inside of my bible there is bookmark with Jesus giving a child the Eucharist. Across the top reads, “In remembrance of my First Holy Communion.” For long time I thought that it only had one side. Awhile back I turned over the bookmark to find a simple prayer for after communion. It’s obvious that this is intended for a younger age group, but I was struck by a simple invitation to prayer. After suggesting that we should thank God for their parents, and talents, the prayer invites us “whisper a request to Jesus.”

With that little thought, I felt my conception of prayer refocus – quickly.

It can be a common conception that our prayers to God should be somewhat formal in order to “get it right.” Maybe we rely on old standards or mimic the sayings of a holy saint. These “canned” prayers are comfortable to pray because we are familiar with them.

But the suggestion I whisper something to God of our choosing, explaining how I may feel right now seems equally freeing and daunting. Suddenly the mind whirrs into action by asking the common questions like, “What if I say something wrong?”, or worse, “What if I have nothing to say?”

Simple unfamiliarity can provide fertile soil for the development a personal relationship with God. Start the conversation like you would with a friend. Talk about your day. Tell God about your feelings, desires, and doubts.

The Holy Spirit might respond by moving within you and pointing the heart in a certain direction. Or there might be no response, except the anxiety over what to pray is replaced with a certain peace from praying.

Whether we use familiar prayers, contemplate in silence, or speak freely, our individual moments of prayer rest our selves and reconnect with God.

A healthy and vibrant prayer life is not the sole domain of priests and religious. Even the person in the world can be a monk by setting aside the time to pray.

Our whispers can be at anytime. We trust that God will whisper back.