Archive for the ‘childhood’ Category

Vienna

July 8, 2017

My mama raised me to be a Catholic. Daddy wasn’t into religion much.

After I grew up, and became a man who could/would relate to the world on my own terms–after I had reached the age of reason and I had decided for myself what this life was all about. . . after I had lived life to the full, and managed to do a few things right and many a thing wrong–after I had made a grand mess of my life, then allowed the Lord of the Universe, our Creator, to take hold of me at the ripe old age of 27 and turn me around and plant my wayward feet firmly in the ground of the gospel of Jesus Christ–after all that. . .

I met my wonderful little women, Pat from New Jersey. We got married in 1980 and by n’ by she presented three lovely children to me. Eventually the kids grew up, became responsible adults, etc and, long story short, we have followed each one of them to various points of interest all over the world.

Our current adventure in following progeny has brought us to the wonderful city of Vienna, Austria.

Now I have to say that this is an amazing place. Walking around this city for just one evening has already taught me some profundities about what life is all about and where things came from, long before I was born. Previously unexplained elements of my childhood, my heritage as a Catholic kid who later turned born-again Christian, can now be contemplated from the perspectives of history itself, and the movement of certain people groups at various periods of time from the Old World to the New, which is to say, America.

I mean, we grow up and we see things and we don’t really have a clue where all this stuff came from or how it got here and how we came to be in the midst of it all. In my case, I was a kid in the middle of the Deep South, in Mississippi in the 1950’s. Growing up, snotty-nosed and clueless as I was, now I’m wondering how likely it could have been that I grew up Catholic instead of Southern Baptist.

Well, my mama was a French-American Catholic from Louisiana, and my daddy’s people were from Scotch-Irish stock from up in the piney wood of Mississippi and before that they had come through Pennsylvania and before that from the old country, Ireland or Scotland or somewhere over there on the other side of the Pond.

So now, at this particular moment in time, it just so happens that I wake up this morning on the other side of the Pond, which is to say: now we are in Europe, the Old World, because yesterday (or maybe it was the day before that) we flew from America– formerly the New World– to this Old World, and one plane led to another and now I find myself in Vienna on a sunny morning and thanking God for such a wonderful life a the one we now find ourselves in.

As we strolled along the Karntnerstrasse last evening, we encountered this very impressive big cathedral structure, so I snapped a pic:

Steph-z

The immensity of history–what has gone before–is what I’m feeling as I pondered this structure. The erection of this church building took lifetimes of work and toil and sweat, and devotion, back in the days of the Holy Roman Empire, whatever that was, and its long tails of historical development through Peter and Paul and later Constantine and then all the Popes in Rome and eventually the Austro-Hungarian empire and the Hapsburgs and their hunky-dory relationship to the Catholic Church. . .

Until that fateful day in 1914 when the Archduke Franz Ferdinand got shot in Sarajevo by an angry young Serb and the Empire ended and the Old World ended and World War I dealt the final death blows to the ancient reins of power and the reigns of the royal houses that had ruled Europe for a couple a thousand years or so.

As I was pondering all this, we did stroll inside, into the Church at Stephensplatz. We found there a group of devoted Catholics celebrating Mass. This kind of thing has been going on here for a long time. And I don’t care what you think or say about it . . . This was a good thing.

Steph-in

That devotional setting took me back to childhood memories of being Catholic because that’s the way Mama raised me, even though Daddy wasn’t into it.

So as I contemplated, and in some sense, entered into. . . the devotion of these congregants to their belief in the Lord Jesus Christ, and their expression of that devotion in the sacrifice of the Mass,  and as I reconciled in my mind between those ancient strains of high-church faith and the Protestant Reformation that later changed everything . . . right down to the johnny-come-lately tides of Charismata that had drawn me into my experience of the Christian faith in 1978, and my present appreciation for all that God has done for me and Pat and our grown-up children and their spouses. . . as I stood there in the quiet reverence of a tourist who just happened into a cathedral while other believers worshipped in their strange high-church way . . .

I could relate. I could relate to what they were feeling.

This morning, I can still feel it, devotion.

Devotion goes way back. This is a good thing.

King of Soul 

Time and Towers

March 4, 2016

In this life, things aint what they used to be. In fact, they’ll never be what they used to be. Things are–have always been–what they will be.

My life, for instance began as a gleam in my daddy’s eye. That shining life force moved, somehow, into mama’s domain, then emerged nine months later as me. My entrance into this world was  really a stretch, like maybe a kid passing through the eye of a needle. But I got through it all right, mama did too, and here I am still kicking, sixty-four years ago.

I remember hearing a special song almost a half-century ago; Joni Mitchell sang, “Something’s lost and something’s gained in living every day,”

Which is so true.

Now the something lost could be something small and insignificant, maybe a coin, or a hat, or a credit card. Or the something lost could be something important and irreplacable, maybe a rare work of art, a diamond ring, or a person dear to you.

In this picture from the year 1997, you see two buildings that no longer exist.

NY'97

To reflect on the their absence, maybe we could think of it this way: the two are gone, but today one is erected where the missing two once stood.

This is a little bit like life itself. In my case, probably yours too: there were two that stood for awhile, mama and daddy. But now they are gone.

In their absence, I remain, a tower of my own imagination and God’s enabling grace.  There I am in 1997 on the right side of the pic.

On the other end of the picture, my nephew Erik stands next to my son. But something tragic has happened.  As of yesterday, Erik is gone. Like an early March bud taken by the last frost, he was suddenly taken from us.

But that young man had become a father. So, while he sojourned with us for a while before departing,  now two children–a boy and a girl– remain in his absence.

This is the way it has always been for us. Mothers and fathers can procreate and love their children. Children can honor and cherish their parents.

For the children who remain, life as it is now will not be the same as it was for mom and dad. The world is a different place.

But however it turns out for you, I hope you can agree with me: Life is, by God, pretty dam good. Live it while you can because one day it won’t be there for you any more.

 You may be one of those stubborn persons, like me, who believe life goes on after death.  I know someone who has actually gotten through that whole death thing and lived to tell about it.

As for me and my nephew, I look forward to seeing him again on the other side.

Glass half-Full

The Child’s Laughter

July 19, 2015

ChildLaugh

 

 

Why here’s a sudden torrent of joy

spouting from a toddler boy,

an eruption of laughter spontaneous

provoked by his cousin’s zaniness!

Where in heaven’s name could it come from?

 

 

It’s as if this untrained burst of mirth

hath bursted from some reservoir beneath the earth

maybe from some fountain of amusement so vast

that its flood comes sloshing so fast!

 

There must be some great ocean of mirth

that preceded the boy’s recent birth

a love from which his joy suddenly rises

like in a carnival of silly prizes.

 

Evidence it is, I think, of some vast wellbeing unseen,

as if it’s spurting from a divine dream!

This bright shower of silly serendipity

must be a substance of the happiness we hope will be,

and now we suddenly see.

Yes! now so joyously we hear

a perfect laughter that casts out all fear.

Tussling