Friday, September 28, 2012

Send My Roots Rain

The title's a line from Gerard Manley Hopkins, the Jesuit Poet.

His poem Thou Art Just Indeed, Lord hit home the other day. Home being full of struggle, doubt, fatigue with Thou's unfair mystery.

It begins with these words

Thou art just indeed, Lord, if I contend with thee;

After leaving home and dropping our youngest kid off at college, doubt surfaced at a sidewalk cafe in Omaha.

Doubt about God.

And, if He is somewhere, then where?

The conversation crabbed about the Mysterious One's mysterious ways given life's unfairness's and injustices.

But, sir, so what I plead is just. Why do sinners prosper? And must disappointment all I endeavour end?

Disappointment contained mostly in the hidden-ness of it all. A never-ending journey of searching, seeking, attempting to see truth, life, the way. Yet, without confidence. Often fruitless, dry, alone.

Wert thou my enemy, O thou my friend, how would thou worse, I wonder, than thou dost defeat, thwart me?

Indeed, poet. With friends like this why fear enemies?

Might life be any more difficult and challenging with Your hidden and unknowable movements? Why so much mystery for us mystified, struggling humans?

Birds build -- but not I build; no, but strain

A patron at the Omaha cafe finished supper just then leaving an empty chair across the way as a fellow diner, mystified and struggling, on a crowded sidewalk wondered,

"Mystery, why not reveal Yourself more clearly?"

Mine, O thou lord of life, send my roots rain

Then that non-descript chair, ordinary though different from all the others, its place just over there at a different table yet on the same hustling sidewalk, as if prepared for a simple question -- a plea, really -- set alone in silence, now at the ready, beamed a helping of purpose, without doubt, stuffed with Life.

Sending my roots rain.


Friday, August 31, 2012

A Rainbow

Kid #2 sent this dispatch from her post in the Dominican Republic the other day.

It was from a fellow named Rick, a priest who runs the NPH orphanage in Haiti, written the day after Isaac plowed through the place.

The report is a bit long.

And toward the end, there's some real-life emergency-room-street-drama. So, it's for mature audiences.

But, there's a rainbow at the end if you stay with it.


Hope you give it a read this long holiday weekend.


"Storm clouds are never very good news for a country tottering on the edge of survival. Even the super powers brace for super storms, and as we have seen, often do so in vain. How much can we do before the gigantic forces of nature?

Storms bring the obvious problems of floods, mud, and homelessness, trees that crush people and buildings, and objects that deliver their destruction by flying on the wings of savage winds. We saw this again yesterday.

Less obvious problems are the weakening of infrastructures, like our own hospitals when no one can get to work, when power is lost, when the sick are sopping wet and shivering cold because buildings made to protect from heat and sun above cannot protect against rain coming is sideways on high gusts of wind.

I am thinking at the moment of Fr. Francilome, who was brought to us in a coma yesterday after a terrible car accident in the drenching torrent. He came for a CT scan of his head, so we could send him to a private hospital with capacity for neurologists and neurosurgeons. It was pathetic to me, how in such conditions as yesterday, we could not offer him much protection from the same storm that so hurt him.

'Let us pray. His signature words, far from his silent lips now, are now our words for him. Let’s use them full heartedly.

Less obvious still, brought by life’s storms, is the inward journey of storm chaos. We human beings absorb it. We take it in. Some, sadly, welcome it as “home”, as “how it is”, never to be otherwise. Fate. The storm damage is also emotional and spiritual.

"The nearby river rises and rises, fed afresh from the mountain rains, ripping wider canyons along its track, as it is forced to take more water than it was carved to handle. Storms dump whole lakes worth of water on mountains, and these lakes seek the sea.

The river is so fast and furious that if you fall in, even if you are the best swimmer or super athlete, you are lost and taken to your death. On the river banks, hundreds of residents of a tent city, mouths wide open before yet another force of destruction, take the scene deep into themselves and try to make plans for escape, as they clutch their children: plans to go where? With whose help?

If there were such where’s and who’s, they would not even be on this riverbank, almost three years after the earthquake robbed them of even subsistence wellbeing. What is the emotional and spiritual toll these tragedies take on them, in this storm?

Or, think of the children in our orphanages, and the hundreds of orphanages around the country. Young minds and hearts, with damaged feelings and spirits from so many tragedies already at such a tender age, safe in a building but hiding from another manifestation of doom.

And what do storms do to people like me and you? We are helpers, and often enough wounded helpers with our own problems and sorrows.

How many stresses and strains does it take before we become cynical, before we don’t want to hear any more, before we don’t care?

It is to be expected that that can happen.

But let’s not say it is normal.

Let’s never say it’s normal.

It can never be normal for human beings not to care about each other.

I started making my rounds at 4am yesterday, to all our mission sites, winds and rains still railing. At 5am, some police approached St. Damien Hospital just as I returned from St. Luke Hospital and before heading to Cite Soleil. A police car approached, sputtering along, emergency lights barely flickering. Out came a screaming woman. She buckled over in the hospital lobby, dropped to her knees and lowered her head onto the chair.

I ran for the only help anywhere nearby, a clean white towel from my office, since I could see she was about to have a baby. I caught the baby from behind, into the towel, and cleaned off our newborn brother and stimulated his cry.

As I held him, aware that my arms where the first ever to hold him, I was on my knees behind the crouching mother, a woman from a poor tent city, who now had her baby in a bloody public scene, during a hurricane.

Neither of us could move, until we had help to cut the umbilical chord and untangle ourselves from this bizarre scene. It was one of those moments when life seems absurd, cruel, and random of meaning. I looked out at the storm, and knowing full well what life conditions awaited this baby within hours, I cynically said, “Lot’s of luck, kiddo!”

Suddenly, I felt the presence of the kindly forces that guide those who allow such guidance in their lives. Those who deeply understand living faith know what I mean. I was led to understand immediately that my cynicism had no place, and was dangerous to me, to my own path, to the baby in my arms. The kindly forces asked me if I was sure of what I had said. It is not that I heard a voice. But I was challenged and I felt the question put straight to me, “Who are you, to talk that way to a rainbow?”

Noah was given the sign of a rainbow, the sign of contradiction to the destruction of the storm. I was given the sign of a child. Yes, who am I, to talk with such arrogance and cynicism?

So, correctly and gratefully chastened, I murmured this prayer to the little rainbow in my arms: 'I wish you the blessing of even half the love and strength I have known in this life. Welcome to our world, a little rough around the edges, but it’s a beautiful place.'”

Fr. Rick Frechette, CP
August 26, 2012



Saturday, June 2, 2012

Pride on Wine?

Some honcho described his company the other day.

Unfocused was one word he used. Fearful and stuck were other words.

He had a red wine bottle on his desk.

PRIDE was on the label.

Word from the man contained usual business blah, blah, blah.

Sounds like ordinary stuff.

Performance. Results. Innovation. Dedication. Excellence.

"Our culture now stands for Pride," said the man.

Pride on wine?

Man, oh man.

Sounds notorious.

Sounds like the last thing a wandering outfit needs to find its way home in the dark night.

You hear people talk about how proud they are of this or that, especially when things aren't going so well.

You wonder if pride wasn't their problem in the first place, that things might have turned out better if there was less pride, more humility.

What if an organization's culture amplified gratitude instead of pride?

Maybe for this honcho, there's a better buzzword for his business to use.

Like GIFT.

Grateful. Indebted. Forgiven. Truthful.

Maybe they should make that their pithy label.

Not slapped on something like a deep red wine bottle but stuck on a thing like a cold hard rock.

A sound reminder but for the graces of God that thing would be us.


Friday, May 4, 2012

Commencement Address

Kid number-Two graduates college this weekend.

Next month she heads to work in the Dominican Republic.

She texted the other day expressing fear, uncertainty, doubt about her decision, wondering if she was choosing well.

Turns out, a favorite fringe of fatherhood is delivering commencement addresses to my college kids. Kid-One two years ago. Then Kid-Two the other day.

I had zero time to prepare a short commencement address. And, no, a long speech was not delivered instead.

This was maybe the first commencement address ever delivered via text message.

The crowd loved it.

Really. She did.

Seemed fitting, this being the season of commencing, to share it here.

"Well, yah, that's what graduation means. On to living life. Your big assignment is the same as everyone in the world: Go where you find life.

"Now it is not always easy to know where you can and will find life. Often it is confused with where there is no life.

"Take fear.

"Often it is a great trick that gets in the way of finding life. Fear can be a good thing in proper context but it can also inhibit one's dreams.

"You...have learned these last four years how to learn and listen and discern what's in your heart.

"Take time and quiet to hear your soul.

"Your truth is within. Your purpose is within.

"Look for it there and not outside in what others may think or say or status or riches or recognitions or any of that.

"Just look and listen to the quiet within.

"God will speak to you and you will know by the life you feel; the confidence you receive; the peace that will flow around your next step after college..."

God bless you.

Kid number-Two.


Sunday, February 19, 2012

He Woke Up At Home With Nowhere To Go

Here's a trip report from a dusty journey that ended when the road finally turned into hiring on.

Lent is coming up, a time for emptiness.

Maybe a time for keeping in mind and in prayer millions of folks full of emptiness that doesn't seem to come to an end.

He woke up at home with nowhere to go.

Gazed hard
Past his door and his coffee at table,
Just him.
His jam.
One knife and his toast.

He was out of sight.
Winged by, what, who knew.
How distant was kingdom commerce and those slicing the slivers giving all the others
Today's daily bread.
He’s one in a million, a million times eight,
Eight million men: builders, sellers, sailors and soldiers, coders, free lance poets even, all shunned in a hyper networked age
Plugged to the moment
The instant grid stooped
Thumbing, fingering, plugging away.

His kid wonders
How's Dad doing?
And worries,
Dad okay?
He need any money?
Yeah, his kid's one in a million, a million times eight.

He’d tire of questions.

And this one he’d hate
"So, what do you do?"
He’d struggle, strain, stress
Answer the question!

What ought, he thought, I do?

Numb there's no health plan.
So skip your meds.
Though he’d traipse to his buried medicine chests to clear his head.

You ever wonder
When You're fifty four?
Why you’d rise each morning and start in reverse, backed down the drive
Your head full-of-steam running from home and from yourself, for the good life?
Why, after all you did,
Astonishing You
You raised yourself dead.
You ever recognize at first how you expected so much; then how you have no skills to suffer must sufferings,
Shattered shortfalls to your so many hoped fors?

His garden's out back
Shrouded by wood.
It's shaded black back there and a long way away.
Those who have been once
Tell him of a well.
A sacred place.
To journey he knew he must go only
To be near its water and near its space.
Its questions drip drops
Deep. They don't go away.

"What do you seek?"

"What makes you sad?"

"What have you received?"

He found in his well
Poverty down deep.
As in the words Merton once wrote: "Poverty is a success."
He now knew what he knew when he said "God lives in his emptiness like an affliction."

Here he reverenced the Is,
Shushed, unsure, scared of its Grace,
Some Grace.
Whatever it is.

As the day spends itself
He saw or might not
The Tender who's never finished work, clearing his land,
Gently bringing life, hope, a shake of abundance.

He’d go to bed tonight
Aching for rest for the morrow
When he’d wake up at home,

Yes, home.

Nowhere to go.


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Friday, February 10, 2012

It's Lent Again


FRIDAYS POST is starting early this year.

For the same reasons posted back in 2010.

Have a good one.

We'll return in April.


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A book idea: Love, Your Mother

Friday, February 3, 2012


The mystic Thomas Merton was born one day this past week in 1915 (Jan 31).

He once said,

God lives in my emptiness like an affliction.

Three penetrating words from the monk there.

God. Emptiness. Affliction.

This is February, the month when Lent begins, a great period for prayer.

Words of the monk to pray for the season ahead,

Afflict me, God, emptiness.


twitter tjmorin

a book idea: Love, Your Mother

Friday, January 27, 2012

A Rare Lunch -- 2nd Helping

Here's another discussion note from my rare lunch the other day.

This note had some words from Richard Rohr.

He wrote one of my favorite books of 2011, called Falling Upward.

It's about a concept he calls the two halves of life, which may or may not be a literal thing.

Sooner or later Rohr says we all end up moving from the first to second half of life and, when we do, we have big choices in terms of how best to live.

To get a feel for how Richard Rohr can make people think and feel about their lives, here are the discussion notes with his words handed to me during A Rare Lunch with my friend the other day,

1. Life is difficult.
2. I am not in control.
3. I am not that important.
4. My life is not about me.
5. I am going to die.

That last line's a bugger.

Kind of like a frank invitation that lay open on my kitchen table all week asking if I'm up for living right now.


twitter tjmorin

a book idea: Love, Your Mother

Friday, January 20, 2012

A Rare Lunch

A meeting the other day covered rare material for a business lunch.

A sample of the discussion notes handed to me included these words from writer Paula D'Arcy,

This I Know To Be True

I am certain that everything is a gift.

I am certain that we are entitled to nothing.

I am certain that the wells for pain and joy are not separate.

I am certain that bitterness and healing are a choice.

I am certain that my running from darkness leads to greater darkness.

I am certain that darkness is held by the light.

I am certain that “in You we live and move and have our being” is the truth.

Hoping to have rare lunches like these more often in 2012.


twitter tjmorin

a book idea: Love, Your Mother

Friday, January 13, 2012

Textured Life

Those words are from New York Times scribe David Carr in the excellent picture Page One.

He was referring to his life and if you've followed his story, you'd agree. It is textured.

Just like everyone else.

Seems like Someone or something or we or all of the above or some of the above are forever shaking the can, rattling that anxious little precious bead of ours deep within and spraying on a fine coat of life day after day after day.

Mostly without much examination.

Sooner or later it ends up one battered mix or another of textured life.

And with each fine coat there's been a choice of how it's primed.

Fear or trust.

Addicted or free.

Despair or hope.

Greed or charity.

Brooding or giddy.

Hate or love.

Tartuffe or humble.

Indifferent or grateful.

Resentful or forgiving.

Veiled or authentic.

Self or souls.

There's no running or hiding from this. Each life lived is textured.

The project is knowing how each day is ours to prime.


twitter tjmorin

Reading suggestion Love, Your Mother