Two Thousand Years Ago

In 2026, we will celebrate the 250th anniversary of the birth of our country. Let’s hope we make it. In 2017, Protestants celebrated the 500th anniversary of the Reformation. Around 2030, we will celebrate the 2000th anniversary of the ministry, death and resurrection of the Greatest Life that walked this “terrestrial ball”. The anniversary of His physical life and death is worth noting, and celebrating, because of Who He was and Who He is.

I am amazed when I think that Jesus Christ, Who Christians believe to be the Incarnate Creator God, physically walked this planet exactly two thousand years ago. The Son of God was walking around Incognito in Nazareth two thousand years ago today. Since the year of His birth is said to be by scholars about 6-4 BCE, then He’d be, in the flesh, twenty something.

There is no written record of what He was doing as a young adult. Before He began His public ministry, He most likely worked as a carpenter like His step-father, Joseph. An interesting, creative, simple, sweat-of-the-brow occupation, one that my family knows very well. Sweat-of-the-brow.. how ironic, that’s not something He should have been doing. That curse was reserved for Adam and his descendants. Yet, within ten years, He would bear more of Adam’s curse, He would bear his sins as well as the sins of all of his descendants. Today we remember that sacrifice, that gift, His Passion.

Today we remember the darkest day of human history, the day when Jesus Christ was murdered for political expedience, so it seemed. He was inconvenient, He was uncontrollable and He was very popular, definitely on Palm Sunday. Unfortunately, the voices, the sentiments, on Palm Sunday – “Blessed in He Who comes in the name of the Lord” – were replaced by the voices and sentiments on Good Friday – “Crucify Him!” Perhaps even by the same voices, how fickle is man!

Two thousand long years have passed since This Man walked the dirt roads of Galilee and Judea. Two thousand long years, His followers have tried to live out His last command, often imperfectly. Two thousand long years have passed while the Church awaits His return.

We are blessed by the sacrifice He made that Good Friday almost two thousand years ago. Our sins have been paid for, we have been redeemed, we have been forgiven of the very object that kept us separated from God, the Father.

God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. – 2 Corinthians 5:21

Therefore if any man is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come. – 2 Corinthians 5:17

We are blessed by the new life He gave us through this sacrifice.

Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ! In his great mercy he has given us new birth into a living hope through the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead, and into an inheritance that can never perish, spoil or fade. – 1 Peter 1:3-4

And we are finally blessed with a living hope, the confident hope of His return. A verse that is engraved in gold on the mausoleum that my grandfather built and where he and my grandmother rest – the Holy Cross Mausoleum in Colma, California – shouts, if you will, over all the gravestones at Holy Cross, some which include my parents and many other friends and relatives:

Looking for that blessed hope, and the glorious appearing of the great God and our Savior Jesus Christ…- Titus 2:13

Our Savior is a living Savior, a living Friend and as Thomas solemnly declared after putting his fingers upon the wounds on His hands and His side, “My Lord and My God.” Today as we remember His great gift to us, and on Sunday we will remember His resurrection, we will remember our Lord and our God is not dead. He is a living Savior poised to return to the earth He trod two thousand years ago. He will tread the earth again.

And in that day His feet will stand on the Mount of Olives, which faces Jerusalem on the east. And the Mount of Olives shall be split in two, From east to west, making a very large valley; half of the mountain shall move toward the north and half of it toward the south. – Zechariah 14:4

One day we shall behold Him, one day we shall see Him face to face. If you don’t know this Jesus, crack open a Bible and read the book of Luke or John and get to know this incredible Person, this Person who died for you nearly two thousand years ago and this Person Who will be your greatest Friend, your Lord and your God.

“Blessed is He Who comes in the name of the Lord!”

“Oh, Mystery of Life…”

“Look among the nations and see; wonder and be astounded. For I am doing a work in your days that you would not believe if told.” – Habakkuk 1:5

I was recovering from COVID last month. COVID was kinda scary. I was sick last fall – non-COVID – and wasn’t worried about recovering. But with COVID, I didn’t know what was gonna happen. I was pretty sick for a few days, and slowly, got my strength and health back. But I did get somewhat depressed. I was holed up in my room for days, couldn’t really go anywhere and got bored of watching TV. I began to feel despairing. I felt that there wasn’t anything left to do. Hopeless, if you will.

Then there has been some domestic turbulence since we landed into our new house, and that grieved me. And maybe some subsequent grief from my parents’ passing still tugged at my heart. You know when you’re sick, your mother is the only one who can take care of you, who wants to take care of you. And, possibly, the fact that my youngest turned 18 last year, and she and the others no longer needed me. Probably all of these combined with being sick had me feeling down in the dumps. I mean “depths of despair” dumps.

On top of all that, I’m the kind of person that looks forward to things. I had been looking forward to buying a house for a long time. I spent a lot of time browsing through Redfin. And then the big moment came when I took the plunge and bought a nice house. And now that I’ve committed to staying in one place for awhile, all that energy I expended looking and dreaming for the next thing (which, of course, was greener grass syndrome) needs to be redirected because the next thing is here. And now I have to deal with the reality of these choices. And that’s not a bad thing, but it is an uncomfortable thing. It is a different thing, a thing I’m not used to. I always liked feeling that I had an exit plan. Even though I’m not going anywhere soon, Lord willing, I am still feeling Unmoored.

So here I am in this funk when I hear David Crosby died two weeks ago. I wasn’t a big fan of his, I don’t think I even liked him. I heard he was a difficult kind of character. But I did like CSN and CSN&Y, had most of their albums, and listened often when I was young. I was too young to be a real hippie, but, in the ’70’s, I did appreciate the folk music of the ’60’s. “Teach Your Children” was my graduating class song. I, eventually, became a real Neil Young fan. All my kids know “Four Strong Winds”.

From this great music that I listened to in my youth, a branch broke out which became the Contemporary Christian Music movement. A natural by-product of the Jesus Revolution of the ’60’s and ’70’s. So significant was this movement that even the great Bob Dylan dabbled in it for a time. Many of the artists at that time became Christians.

So while I was down the CSN and David Crosby rabbit hole, I remembered the music I listened to when I was a new Christian. I remembered Barry McGuire. He had been entrenched in the whole ’60’s scene and was famous for his songs “Green, Green” (which I learned in my favorite Sixth Grade class) and “Eve of Destruction”. Although I was faintly familiar with his folk music, it was his music after he became a Christian that impacted my life…even to this day. His “Cosmic Cowboy” album was one of my first Christian music records along with Don Francisco’s “He’s Alive” and John Michael Talbot’s “Come to the Quiet”. This music was so much a part of a happy time of my life. I loved most of the songs on “Cosmic Cowboy”. I remembered particularly “Mystery of Life”. Folky, beautiful and filled with Christian truths that compels one to worship.

So, I switched over to his music and relistened to some of these old favorites of mine. And guess what? While I remembered those fun times as a young Christian adult, I remembered the joy and excitement of having found Christ. Even though I was raised in a Christian household, no one exhibited the joy I found as a young woman. This relationship with Christ has been the living constant of my life for the past 43 years.

Oh, Mystery of Life
I’ve seen Your rivers flowin’
Rollin’ through the windows
Out along the edge of time
Looms of living light
Your solar winds come blowin’
Weavin’ through the patterns
Scattered here within my mind

Behind the brush, the Master Painter
Picks the colors that He uses
Red and gold, green and blue
Colors just for me an’ you
Why, every pattern has a meanin’
That the Pattern Maker chooses
Every line is so revealing
Givin’ us a special clue.

Oh, Mystеry of Life
I’ve seen Your rivers flowin’
Rollin’ through thе windows
Out along the edge of time
Looms of living light
Your solar winds come blowin’
Weavin’ through the patterns
Scattered here within my mind

Everywhere His hand has written
Everywhere I see His name
Through the skies across the mountains
Thunderin’ lightnin’ fallin’ rain
From His hand all life is molded
In His breath a livin’ flame
He lit the stars and gave His Son
Through Him all life has come

Writers: Barry McGuire, Mike Deasy

I listened and listened to these old songs, and I remembered the woman I was in those years, before I was married, before I had kids, before the waves of difficulties swept over me. And I began to hope again, I began to feel that joy again as I remembered Him Who is the same yesterday, today and forever. Like being reintroduced to my First Love.

The point is, is that through difficult times, through unknown times and times of uncertainty when our anchor feels wobbly or untethered, there are devices, there are tools to help us get through.

There are the Scriptures, of course, which always re-anchor us to our foundation. And then there’s our music, the soundtrack of our individual lives, before and after Christ. And those songs that somehow, in that wonderful power of art that taught us about ourselves and revealed ourselves to ourselves, they can renew us during dark times, hopeless times and unsettled times.

The Song of the Lark & The Power of Art

“The Song of the Lark” by Jules Breton 1884

The power of art is no small thing. I’ve been moved all my life by music, film, paintings and literature as well as the Biblical Stories by the greatest Artist. Strands from all of these disciplines make up the person I am . When I encounter a familiar piece of art in an unexpected place, I feel like it is a divine smile…wink, if you will. I believe God uses art to communicate to us personally as well as through the Bible.

I wrote in “La Dolce Vita” of the time I went to Rome with my mom, and the one thing I had to see there was Michelangelo’s “Moses”. For some unknown reason, our hotel accommodations were lost, and the travel agent rebooked us in a hotel on the Via Cavour….across the street from my Moses. My mother got to see the Pope, and I got to visit Moses many times.

The same thing happened when I viewed “Of Gods & Men”, the beautiful French film by Xavier Beauvois. I learned that the seven monks were kidnapped on my birthday…the one I spent in Rome.

There are numerous songs that I enjoy. But there are a few that minister deep down, releasing unknown emotions. “Broken Vow” by Lara Fabian is one of them. If anyone has been left, or betrayed, this song will release those cisterns of pain and make them seep out of your eyes. This song assuaged a great deal of pain.

Karl Paulnack, in an address to a freshmen class at Boston Conservatory, spoke about the power of art, music in particular: “I have come to understand that music is not part of “arts and entertainment” as the newspaper section would have us believe. It’s not a luxury, a lavish thing that we fund from leftovers of our budgets, not a plaything or an amusement or a pass time. Music is a basic need of human survival. Music is one of the ways we make sense of our lives, one of the ways in which we express feelings when we have no words, a way for us to understand things with our hearts when we can’t with our minds.

That is the power of art. The other day, I was just laying on my bed. I bought the above painting, I think, from some garage sale. I didn’t know who painted it, but I liked because it reminded me of Millet’s works. So as I was laying on the bed, I looked up at the painting, I wondered if the sun was setting or coming up. I couldn’t tell if the young lady was going to work or going home.

Now….not a half hour later, when I was looking at reels on Instagram – my latest shortcoming – there was one of Bill Murray talking about an experience he had with a piece of art. I listened. I like those stories. He tells how in a desperate moment he ended up in front of the Art Institute of Chicago. He decided to go in. And there was a piece of art that affected him so dramatically, he says it saved his life. That piece was “The Song of the Lark”, the same piece I was just looking at and thinking about. Wow!! I love when those things happen.

“The Song of the Lark” was painted by Jules Breton in 1884. Willa Cather wrote a novel by the same name. The consensus is the young girl pauses on her way to work at daybreak to listen to the song of the lark. Maybe she is the lark…but regardless, this is the painting Bill Murray said that gave him hope, a second chance.

For me, as one who is looking to a new kind of future – a new day – with my kids all grown, I sense hope and a second chance to maybe do some of the things I wanted to do before I had kids or confidence or competence. I encourage everyone to not only let a little Bible in your life, but let some art in too. You’ll be in for some nice surprises.

A man should hear a little music, read a little poetry, and see a fine picture every day of his life, in order that worldly cares may not obliterate the sense of the beautiful which God has implanted in the human soul. – Goethe

Ditching the Helicopter

It’s time to hang up my helmet…

Helicopter graphic by the incomparable Breena Nuñez

I’ve been a mom for almost 35 years. I passed Helicopter Parenting 101 with flying colors. My friend admirably remarked once that, “You always know where your kids are!” I was proud of that….but it’s time to retire the whirlybird. My youngest just graduated from high school last week, and promptly moved to LA. What!!!???

I thought I was doing well…trying not to care where they were or when they’re gonna be coming home. Trying to mind my own business (which for three and a half decades was them). But tonight, a friend of my daughter’s was over and they were going out….I “kneejerked” suggested they get something for their brother….their brother who is 28 years old….”a grown man” he always reminds me. Shoot, I can’t undo my meddling or their embarrassment.

So….I am going to retire the helicopter, and entrust these birdies to God. Y’all pray for me because worrying and fretting is in my nature, I inherited it from the best – my dad. We are so thankful he never had a cell phone. But he did just fine with a landline. We all have stories of him tracking someone down who he was worried about. I think Katie has the best stories, he called hospitals, police departments and the CHP looking for her once.

Uhm…I haven’t gone that far…except, maybe, when Eva and Nonnie missed their train stop in San Bruno. They were young, about 14. They both had phones, and both their phones, of course, had died. And it was 10:00 at night. A perfect worrying storm. How I lived through those years, I don’t know. A good and gracious God, no doubt, helped his anxious daughter.

Anyway, I am waiting at the train for these two girls. The 10:00 train, heading towards the City (the only real City – San Francisco) comes…and goes. No girls get off. Huh? Oh no…

I don’t have my phone because I left it with Espi at the house in case they called. OK, maybe they’re getting off at South City. So, I race over there. Nobody is to be found in that scary, desolate station.

So as I was beginning to hyperventilate, I run over to the nearby 7-11 and call Espi to find out if she had heard from Eva. She responds, “Yeah…all she said was that the next station is ‘Bayshore'”.

Oh crap….

Anyone familiar with San Francisco knows that the Bayshore area off 101 isn’t the best neighborhood, especially for two young teenagers, and most especially at night. It’s almost 11:00 now. I race over to the Bayshore station which is not far from a few, uhm, well, uhm, unsavory areas of the City. There is NO ONE there. It’s a large, dark station and I don’t even know where they would’ve even gotten off at. It’s almost 11:30. My blood pressure is climbing. I don’t know what to do.

I run back to San Bruno to my trusty pay phone at 7-11, and call Espi again for any update. None. So what could I do, but go full blown Dad Mode. I call the police, I call the San Francisco Police, the South San Francisco Police and the San Bruno Police. Did I miss anyone? Each of those agencies went and looked for two teenage girls at their respective stations and found no one.

So I go back to the San Bruno station and wait in the parking lot trying to figure out what to do next, fighting off the worst that possibly could go wrong. Not long after midnight, the last train pulls into the station, the train from the City, and off pops our girls.

And in an indignant, but relieved, imitation of my father, I take a deep breath and ask pointedly, “Where the hell have you guys been?”

They weren’t too keen on all the story details when I told them on our way home. Well, too *&^##! bad.

I should’ve ditched the helicopter then…yet, I still had another decade of mothering to go. But, it’s time now to retire the worry, the anxiety and the overseeing. They are on their own. Mission accomplished.

It’s time to let them go, let them go out “the gate” and live their own lives. Their lives which were so much a part of mine. I knew from the beginning I was only a temporary guardian, and that role is complete now. Though they were the stars of my show, I must be happy to be only a supporting character in theirs. It’s okay.

I’m looking forward to a new future…with new experiences and new freedoms. But I will always miss my littles, and I will continue to watch – and pray – from afar, just not overhead. – Hope for the Helicopter Mom

Sunrise, Sunset

Is this the little girl I carried?

Is this the little boy at play?

I don’t remember growing older

When did they?

When did she get to be a beauty?

When did he grow to be so tall?

Wasn’t it yesterday

When they were small?

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly flow the days

Seedlings turn overnight to sunflowers

Blossoming even as we gaze

Sunrise, sunset

Sunrise, sunset

Swiftly fly the years

One season following another

Laden with happiness and tears.

I was listening to Pandora, I think, just yesterday, and “Sunrise, Sunset” sung by Roger Whittaker came on. Of course, the poignant memories of little children begin to seep out of my eyes just like when I hear Joni Mitchell’s “The Circle Game”. I know this is a wedding song…but I cannot but feel it is an appropriate song for today, February 15, 2022, the 18th birthday of my youngest child.

It’s been over 35 years since I started this journey of child rearing. Despite the longevity of this career, I feel like I am still such a novice, that the only thing I succeeded at with my kids was to worry about them. I oughta get an award for that, and they’ll agree. “You’re just like Papa!”, they say. That accusation doesn’t bother me anymore, there are other areas I wish I were “just like Papa”.

It’s been a long and winding road…laden with happiness and many tears. I bungled my way through. I feel so much like Gideon, so ill-equipped innately for the calling I chose. Yes, I chose them all. But…yes, but…I know Gideon’s God. And He has helped so very much.

My happiness wasn’t theirs. My happiness consisted of when they said profound things like when I offered Ricky some money, and he said, “No you keep it, you need it more than me.” Or when Chico gave five dollars to a homeless person at Richmond Bart, “he looked like he needed it more than me.” Or when Emilio texted, “I was just thinking of all you do, and your a really strong woman.” Or when Ellie stole Kevin Durant’s MVP speech, and wrote lovingly in a Mother’s Day card, “You’re the real MVP.” Or when little 8 year old Eloisa, always joyful, always thankful, declared, “I am thankful for having a great life.” Even when she shared a room with her mom and a number of sisters, even when times were tough.

Or when they did amazingly quiet, but extraordinarily kind things like when Eva scheduled a massage for me minutes after the ER doctor suggested it. Or when 14 year old Elizabeth stayed two nights at the hospital with her youngest brother so he wouldn’t be scared. Or when Espi, who during a hard time in her life, kept my anxious father company. He was comforted knowing she was in the house with him. Or when Evaristo apologized sweetly to his sister after an ugly fight. Or when Eugene wrote song lyrics about his grandmother watering her plants on the porch of the river cabin. “The Closest Place I Call Home.” She is there in his dream.

My cup runneth over with love (Ed Ames is singing right now)…these are but examples of the many, many happinesses I’ve reaped. Yes, there were many tears…but I hope those tears are what caused these seedlings to turn overnight to sunflowers…blossoming even as I gazed. They are a good bunch.

So, happy birthday, Eloisa! As you look forward from the sunrise of your life, I begin to gaze at twilighted sky unsure of what lies ahead. But, that’s OK, because I go with Gideon’s God.

Pacifica Sunset

“The Christmas Express”

Hop into the holiday season with this quaint, family-friendly live performance at the Bay Church, Concord.

What’s not to love about a local holiday theater production? “The Christmas Express” written by Pat Cook and performed by the Performing Arts Ministry of the Bay Church in Concord whistles with nostalgia, humor, profundity and a mixed-up bag of memorable characters.

The old train station in Holly had seen better days. Station Master Hilda still pines for the old days while grumbling in the present. Her assistant, Satch, is no help to cheer her up. Homespun characters make their way to the station and try to brighten up the season. It’s not until a mysterious stranger appears from a mysterious train and proceeds to transform the station and the town.

Friday night’s performance was just what the doctor ordered for local, entertaining holiday fare. The comic cues were on point, the characters were well developed, and the staging and costumes contributed to the nostalgic feel of the story. A young audience member exclaimed, “I liked it. It was funny!” Rick Kerns noted, “Great expressions, the cast was extraordinary!”

Come and see for yourself! Start out your holiday season on “The Christmas Express”.

Two more performances next week, Thursday and Friday, November 11 and 12, 7:30 PM curtain time, 4725 Evora Road, Concord.

“It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas!”

The Ministry of Nature

Healing Memories of the Russian River

Russian River in the Autumn

At church today, the sermon was about Genesis chapter one. The pastor did a great job breaking down the first six days of creation. His premise had to do with the “formless and void” description of pre-created life. Along these lines, he traced how God took that which was formless and void, and then he broke down the work of creation into two categories: form and filling, and showed how the creation days related to one another. It was great.

He showed how Day 1’s creation was form building not unlike concrete form making, however, on a mega-macro level, and Day 4 was its “filling” mate, like pouring in the concrete. Same with Day 2 and Day 5, and Day 3 and Day 6. I have never seen that before. It was so exciting. However, his comments about creation are what prompted this blog post, and how it relates to the River for me.

At the end of the sermon, he wrapped up his message with these points, that creation was like a temple where heaven and earth come together, that creation is a gift, a gift to see and receive from God, and finally that creation longs for Emmanuel. Now, I guess for a long time I discounted physical creation as something of this world, temporal, if you will, and that it might be a little anti-spiritual. I did appreciate creation, and knew it was God’s handiwork, but I didn’t realize there was something more to it than physical beauty. I didn’t look close enough nor long enough at the mountains and hills, I didn’t listen long enough to the soothing cadence of the ocean’s tide. I enjoyed the river growing up, but it wasn’t until life got pretty hard did I benefit from the divine ministry of creation, particularly, the Russian River. These are a few of my memories of healing by God’s creation.

Back in 2006, I was at the river attending a summer party memorial for my life long river friend’s dad, a sweet and kind man. It was during one of the lowest times of my life. I was emotionally and physically spent. After the party, my little ones and I went for a swim, it was really hot that day. As I lay in the river, looking up at the redwoods, redwoods that have probably seen much worse than what I was going through, I allowed the river just to hold me, and soothe me. I felt like I was melting into its cool caress. I didn’t understand it then, but this was the healing ministry of nature.

Another time, about ten years later, I came to the river. At this visit I declared to my niece, I am here for the ministry of nature. I knew I needed a rest and I knew how powerful time spent at the river was. I know it was before my dad passed away because my niece and I were exhausted and saddened with his deteriorating condition. The last year of his life was difficult, had he been able to come up to the river, perhaps his anxiety may have lessened. Perhaps. My dad loved the river. He first started coming up here when he was a little boy. I have yet to find out how my grandfather discovered the river. And how he met my life long river friend’s grandfather. The same redwoods I looked to for comfort and peace watched my dad with my friend’s mom and uncle scooting up and down the river in his boat. Those trees sure have seen some things.

Finally, the summer after my father died, I came up. Again, my niece and I sat at the pier watching the kids swim…like what her parents did, like what my parents did, and like what my grandparents did. But one of the river’s faithful friends was no longer with us. It was a somber visit, yet still beautiful because of what the river is.

As we sat there, my niece suddenly jumped out of her chair, “Oh my gosh…!” I jumped up as well thinking maybe there was a drowning down towards Roland’s. “What…what?” I asked.

“It’s a bald eagle!” she said stunned, pointing down river.

I have been going to the river for most of my 59 years, I have NEVER seen a bald eagle this far up river. I don’t think I’ve ever seen a bald eagle. After we scurried around with cameras and phones, and took as many pictures as we could, we looked at each other and knew. This eagle was a divine visit, a divine gift that perhaps my father, her beloved papa, wasn’t so far away. And that perhaps he was keeping an eagle eye on his family and the river he loved. Another little gift, a blessed gift that comforted those who were mourning.

I don’t know what seismic convulsions or riparian residue caused the Russian River to wend and wind its way down from Willits to Jenner in the manner it presently does. I don’t know how my grandfather stumbled upon this place nearly ninety years ago. I don’t know how he met my life long river friend’s grandfather. But I do know I belong here, albeit a newer arrival compared to this slender body of water and her tall, beautiful, evergreen guards. This is my inheritance, this is my children’s and grandchildren’s inheritance not just as a Moore, but as Christians. My father may have given us this place and these memories, but I must thank my Heavenly Father, the Creator, the One Who actually designed all this beauty, the One Who formed and filled this void that we enjoy visually and physically. He also empowered His creation, this creation, with healing, joy and peace. Thank you, Lord.

“But blessed is the one who trusts in the Lord,
 whose confidence is in him.
For he shall be like a tree planted by the waters,
Which spreads out its roots by the river,
And will not fear when heat comes;
But its leaf will be green,
And will not be anxious in the year of drought,
Nor will cease from yielding frui

Jeremiah 17:7,8

La Dolce Vita

He does look like Charlton Heston.

While waiting in the car at the DMV, Ellie asked about getting her passport. “Where does she think she’s going?” I thought…but then I remembered she was 19. Anyway, I told her I had my passport and looked in my purse. I didn’t have mine, but I did have Baby Evangelina’s from 1996 when she, my mom and I went to Rome. Twenty-five years ago. The last time I was in Europe, the last time I flew, the last time I went anywhere as exciting as Rome with my mother, except maybe JoAnn’s. We had a great time. And there are stories.

First story background. When I was a student at Simpson College in San Francisco, I had to take three semesters of Western Civ. Ugh…I loved the history part, but dreaded the Art section. Surprisingly, Dr. Humphries made the material very interesting and found works with compelling stories. During the Renaissance period, Dr. Humphries presented the works of Leonardo DaVinci, Michelangelo as well as many others. I was smitten with Michelangelo’s Moses. Dr. Humphries said it was called “Moses on Mt. Nebo” with the understanding that Moses was looking at the Promised Land, the land he wasn’t permitted to enter. The intensity of his gaze was powerful. And, I thought then, if I ever go to Rome…I must see this Moses. One of those little whispered spontaneous prayer-desires that only God hears. And remembers.

In 1996, my father was given a trip for two to Rome for his retirement. He wasn’t keen on going, but no one was going to stop my mom from going. I offered to accompany her, but I would have to take baby Evangelina. Everyone was OK with that, so off we go. First flight from SFO to Newark, New Jersey, then after the long flight from Newark, we landed in Rome, the Eternal City.

After we gathered our luggage, we went to get our ride to the hotel. But, the hotel transportation never arrived, and, as it turns out, there were no reservations at the hotel we thought we were booked at. Of course, we had to call my father when we landed, and he, par for the course, flipped out that we had no lodgings. We, on the other hand, were so tired from flying that we just sat and waited for the travel agent to take care of the mix up. Which she did. And so, remarkably, providentially, and delightfully, we were rerouted to the Hotel Palatine on the Via Cavour. Across the street from the staircase that led to the San Pietro in Vincoli chapel…the home of Michelangelo’s Moses, which we happily visited many times. I love the Lord for remembering my barely breathed wisp of a prayer more than ten years earlier. He does those things, you know. I love His surprises. I love the fact that He knows me, He knows my thoughts.

A chuckle of a story has to do with my, at the time, quasi-rigid Baptist dogmatism. Before we left, my mom told me the Archbishop of San Francisco, a friend of the family, arranged for us an audience with the Pope, Pope John Paul II, who my mother really admired. Wow…that’s cool. But then my aforementioned dogmatism gripped me when, in the fertile imagination of my mind, I imagined a generous Pontiff offering to baptize three month old Evangelina. In my fantasy scenario, I would have to kindly decline his gracious offer, because of my strong adherence to full immersion. Perhaps even discussing the finer points of the sacrament. My mother, in my imagination, would be rightly horrified. This low grade fear followed me throughout the trip until the scheduled audience. Imagine my relief and wry embarrassment, when the audience was not an intimate gathering of congregants at all, but a crowd of over 5000. I laughed to myself while I watched my mother run hither and yon trying to get a picture of John Paul in his Pope-mobile. She was pretty spry for nearly 67.

Our first stop in Rome was, of course, McDonald’s up the street from our hotel room. We went there a lot, food tasted the same. One night, we had room service prepare a fish dinner which we both enjoyed. We also agreed the best Chinese food was the meals we had in Rome. We ordered a meal for my birthday. The only Italian cuisine I remember was the ice cream from a street vendor. Ten days was not nearly enough time to see even a fraction of this great city. But we made the most of it. We flew through the Sistine Chapel, we paid homage to the Pietà in St. Peter’s which was my mother’s wish to see, and we shuffled our way through the winding crevices of the catacombs of St. Callistus. We visited the Colosseum, which was only three blocks away from our providentially placed hotel. We had a great time.

Years later, my trip to Rome gained new meaning. Often, I come across a piece of art whether it’s a song, a film, a book or evidently a sculpture that mysteriously resonates with me. That’s what happened when I watched the movie “Of Gods and Men” in 2012. This film tells the story of seven French Trappist monks living in a small village in Algeria who were abducted, and eventually killed. During the night of March 27th. In 1996. The night I was enjoying a birthday dinner with my mother and Evangelina in Rome.

This film tells their lovely, but tragic story while incorporating all that is beautiful in the Catholic Church. The simple liturgy, the acapella worship, the spiritual academia and the rich art history. Never has a movie so holistically moved me. These brothers – my brothers in Christ – lived and ministered to the townspeople of Tibhirine in the Atlas Mountains of Algeria. They were caught in the clutches of a brutal civil war, and were killed. To this day, their murderers are unknown, except to God, in Whose presence these monks are now basking.

THIS is Christianity. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends, and that is just what my brothers did for their friends in Algeria. This, my friends, is a modern example of walking “in His steps”. I am not glorifying their deaths, I am glorifying their lives.

My trip to Rome and the story of the monks of Tibhirine have taught me how much God knows me, and how much He loves me. David wrote in Psalm 139: “O LORD, You have searched me, and known me. You know when I sit and when I rise; You understand my thoughts from afar. You search out my path and my lying down; You are aware of all my ways.” What makes this life so sweet is being known by God, by being loved by Him. I am seen. I am known, and I am not alone. My brothers that served in Algeria knew this too. My mother knew it as well.

Easter is the great event that makes this relationship possible. For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Our Lord bridged the gap between God, the Father and man. There is nothing sweeter than knowing Jesus.

Oh, taste and see that the LORD is good! Blessed is the man who takes refuge in him! Psalm 34:8

What to Really Expect…

Jean-Honoré Fragonard - The Good Mother

Like many moms-to-be in the late ’80’s (which extended to the mid-2000’s for me), I had a copy of the now maternity classic, What to Expect When You’re Expecting by Heidi Murkoff and Sharon Mazel. They gave us the low down on what to expect in the first, second and third trimesters, what to expect during labor and what to expect afterwards. But, if I recall, there was a lot of information missing. As a experienced mom of way too many kids, I have gleaned some things that were unexpected. So here are a few things to really expect….

A Newborn’s Smell

I think the book may have mentioned that a newborn smells nice. I’m not talking about how they smell after they are bathed. Just their essential smell. A new sweet presence. A smell that instinctively causes you to draw them near. To cuddle. No one told me about that sensation. No one told me how emotionally powerful that simple smell would feel like. Also, nobody said how transient it would be. You only get a couple months of newborn smell….drink it in!

Intense Joy

There are times when I’d watch my kids and be overcome with a joy that was mingled with contentment, wonder and love. They do things that tap into that well of joy, and sometimes so unexpectedly, you are in tears while you drive. One of my kids, one of the very frugal ones, was on his way home. I was picking him up at BART. You have to understand we rarely had extra money. But this kind-hearted, sweet soul of a son, parted with a five dollar bill to one who according to him, “I just thought he needed it more than me.” When my kids do things like that, a wellspring of joy, pride and admiration spring up and seep out my eyes. I don’t think the book mentioned that feeling.

Terrifying Fear

I had always been fearful. An anxious and highly imaginative father, a deep connection to Catholic guilt and a hyperactive constitution was a perfect recipe for anxious foreboding. As much as I was afraid of things temporal and eternal before I had kids, after I had them, things got worse. All of a sudden I became acutely aware of the dangers that preyed on little kids. We lived in Northern California at a time where many little girls were kidnapped…often out in the open. My kids were not allowed out the gate because of that. They still don’t get it. The book didn’t mention how worried you’ll be. And that doesn’t go away. I like the line from “What a Girl Wants” with Amanda Bynes, Kelly Preston and uhm, the handsome Colin Firth. He calls Kelly’s character, Amanda’s mom, and complains their daughter went off on a motorcycle with her boyfriend. He then asks her, “Does it ever go away?” “What, Henry?” she responds. “Worry.” “No, Henry, it doesn’t” The book doesn’t really mention that you’re gonna worry about your twenty-three year old as much as you worry about your three year old. Just different circumstances. Be prepared!


I had ten kids. Grandchildren were never on my radar. Many of my kids, especially my oldest, declared they were not having children. “Mom, don’t expect grandkids.” more than one announced. Uhm, I was still raising kids so I didn’t really care. Not until one March afternoon when I received a downloading photo text from my son-in-law. What could James be sending me? A picture. A grainy, black and white sonogram image with the message “Congratulations, Grandma!” My coworker thought there was a death in the family when she heard my response.

The book didn’t tell me what to expect when I was expecting grandchildren. Maybe that was out of their purview. But, after the scream, I wept. I didn’t think I was going to respond that way. And I pretty much did the same thing with the three others that came after little Elena.

What to really expect when you’re expecting…expect intense, joyful emotions, fierce protective instincts, love that you didn’t think you were capable of and unimaginable blessings.

“Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.”

Design clipart squiggle, Design squiggle Transparent FREE for download on  WebStockReview 2021

Rodents, Roaches, Reptiles and Resilience

This image has an empty alt attribute; its file name is frankie.jpg

Well, here we are in the east East Bay. We’ve rented a nice four bedroom house. Not a place I thought I’d ever live; but, alas, here is where He has led us. And Amen to that.

I knew I’d be facing torrid temperatures, but I was confident in all of the AC systems at work and at home. I knew I may be facing adverse attitudes from children about the extreme relocation; however, our new place has had surprisingly nice blessings. My son has found a very sweet girlfriend who lives down the street, and my youngest is pretty happy at the local high school. I’m close enough to all my grandchildren and see them on a regular basis. My job is not only challenging, but also pays well. My desire to move northward yet remains. That I will rest in the Lord’s hands, rather than wrest it from His hands which is normally my modus operandi.

However….what I did not consider…what I did not even anticipate, nor even think about was the indigenous creature population of this region. I thought maybe roaches and was kinda worried because I’m not the greatest housekeeper, but rats, reptiles….little ants that bite?? Yikes! The roaches over here are giant, and play dead for a second, but if you move, they scurry away to some nearby hideout. Only a few have come into the house, they mostly stay outside or in the garage. An agreed detante.

When I first looked at the house, I noticed some rodent activity. I brought my concerns to the property manager, and she assured me that steps were being taken to mitigate the problem. Because I was so excited to be able to afford a four bedroom house and finally have my own room, I took a step of faith and signed the lease agreement. First night, though, we had visitors…I saw the evidence the next morning. I called the property manager right away..and she sent the exterminator. Problem solved…right?

The rodents had been gnawing under the kitchen cabinets, and one night – first night I was all alone – I went into the kitchen late for some warm milk, and I heard the gnawing…ugh! I texted my daughter and asked if I could come over there to Martinez, since I was a big wimp. She responded that everyone was asleep. So, instead of disrupting my oldest’s household, I manned up and put on my Eowyn face. Eowyn wouldn’t be scared of some rats…she fricking faced the Nazgul. I can do this…and I did. I called the property management the next day…and for now, our problem has been abated.

I am a jumpy kinda person, much like the hare I relate to. Well, I have a friend who keeps me on my toes. His name is Frankie, and he is a lizard who lives in the the front yard, and his mission in life is to see how high I can jump when coming from the car. I don’t even walk on the walkway anymore, he has taken over like he owns the place. Come on, Frankie, give me a break! Evidently, Frankie has friends.

Rats, roaches, even lizards are creatures I am sort of familiar with. Please refer to my story “The Day I Shot the Rat”. What I never imagined, never anticipated was rattlesnakes. Yep…a rattlesnake. Right at the start of Shelter in Place, I came home for lunch one very warm Friday. Work had been stressful at the District and our office was managing how to do school in the new normal. I parked my car, got out, did the Frankie dance, and, voile, there’s a snake at the front door. Whattt!!!??? I looked close and saw a little rattle…a rattlesnake, are you kidding me?? I immediately called the girls and told them not to open the door. I called the property manager, no response. I texted people. One colleague said call animal control which I did. While waiting in the 90+ degree heat for animal control, Frankie came out to taunt me. Not a good time, Frankie. Give me a break!

I texted my boss, and told him I’m not coming back today. I waited for over two hours for animal control’s 45 second visit where he grabbed the snake, bucketed it and went along his merry way. I went inside and, no doubt, ate carbs and watched movies for the rest of the weekend. I don’t even really remember.

These creatures sure have wrecked havoc on my nervous system, but I am acclimating to this new environment. I’m mindful now when I go into the garage that I may run into a bug or two. I’m not ignorant that I must co-exist with my geography and its inhabitants, so I have developed some resilience and am not so jumpy anymore. If I see a roach, I don’t scream or call for my son, I grab the broom and sweep it outside or pick up a handy bazooka and blast it into eternity. When I go into the backyard, I don’t anticipate seeing deer like I did at the old house or a little bunny, but dead rats or, perhaps, a lion, tiger or bear. Oh my!

Next up: My Nemeses: Pincher Bugs, Pharoah Ants and Swooping Barn Swallows