"Fifteen is a gloppy age," my family used to say, although when my sons reached that age I found them beautiful, full of ripening energy and eminently interesting. This month, The Word Shop passed our 15 year mark, an amazing accomplishment given the continual shakedown within the publishing industry. We have made it thus far due to the grace of God, the faithfulness of our staff, the generosity of our sponsors, donations from friends, and everyone of you who bought a book or two from us. Thank You.
In every town there is the Church. She decorates the skyline with bulbs or spires topped with crosses and roosters; the largest building invariably holding court in the center of old-town, a must see on the quick tour through yet another charming location along the Rhine River.
Maybe there's something in the air that whispers, "Get the harvest in before winter comes." Maybe it's the back to school ads, compounded by years of gearing up for the new school year. Maybe it's the thick fog that covered our coast most of August, making me feel that I never had this summer which is now over. Whatever the reason, I've spent too many days overwhelmed by things to do, feeling attacked by details, being frozen by the multitude of possible actions, and wondering if it is even possible to successfully accomplish all the projects lined up in front of me.
There is an altar, round which a few are gathered week by week; an altar made of driftwood burnished bright. I would love to sit within the branches, a small feathered thing; a baby owl nestled in the woven wood, tucked in safe with treasure held above; surrounded by song and His wondrous love.
Helping each other is the axis on which the world turns; both the satisfactory exchange of goods and services, (which can get muddled enough, God knows) and the freely offered aid to someone in need. In this time when terms like "self-sacrifice" are bandied about, the question arises, "To what extent am I supposed to sacrifice my time/money/self on the altar of someone's sin and selfishness?"
Some years ago I sat stuck in a parking lot, immobilized by the turbulence within. Trying get a handle on the swirling abyss, I sought a word, a name for the feelings. What came to mind was "powerless." I had been wounded at depths I barely knew existed, had lost the treasure wherein I had invested my heart, and there was nothing I could do about it. I felt utterly powerless.
Held as we are by the cords of our sin, it is a great mercy to find not only forgiveness, but a loosening of the bonds, a freeing from the cycle of degradation--from continually finding ourselves doing again what we know is not good.
This active forgiveness is more than, "there, there, it's all right, nobody is perfect;" more than the sentiment which is often served up by well meaning friends. Instead, true forgiveness is the power of the resurrection blasting through the wages of sin, creating an entirely new reality.
It was a great retreat: Large swatches of time alone where the silence sank deep into my bones. Anointed scriptures, quotes and questions that stirred the quieted heart. Ample time to share with others--in the large group, in small prayer groups, in casual time around the table. Creative nudges through various artistic tasks that expressed more than we knew we were saying.
"I don't really know what I want to do when I grow up," said my high-schooler as we discussed college possibilities.
"Me either," I said.
"Well, you're running out of time," he grinned.
One of the loveliest things about getting away is returning home; returning to those particular comforts you'd grown accustomed to that others don't seem to deem necessary. After two weeks in climes held captive by the sun, I greeted our fine feathered fog with the delight of a long lost lover.
"I hate it already," my son said after negotiating the annual schedule screw-up a few days before school started. "I hate it already," I thought a week later as I affixed my signature to the requisite stack of papers. (You can always tell how asinine an organization is by how many papers are required to cover its ass.)
Opus Dei means work of God, the work that we all hope to take part in. Opus Dei is also the name of a group within the Roman Catholic Church and a secret-society bogeyman in Brown's DAVINCI CODE. Founded in 1928 by Josemaria Escriva, Opus Dei focuses on the holiness of ordinary, everyday work--both as a means for personal transformation and as a way to transform secular society. Primarily a "lay organization" Opus Dei currently has around 85,000 members worldwide, over half of whom are women.