Day 142: Turning 33

Tonight I decided to have a little fun for my birthday. After selling a car and getting paid today, I went back to my old haunting grounds for a bit..Ye Olde Poker Room. I decided I wouldn't spend a large amount of money; rather I'd enter the tournament and have several hours of poker fun for $60. I lasted through 3 rounds before I went all in against pocket aces. I left a loser, but I was happy to see many of those faces once again.

Mom made me a cherry cheesecake, something she's done for me since I was 16 years old. I don't remember ever having many birthday parties; maybe because I was always a solitary kid and chose to enjoy my cheesecake alone. Who knows the psychology behind it, but I take breaks between my typing to get a forkful of this delicious cake. Wow, already at 1/4 of it!

Bill Hugo, the Vocations Director for the OFM Caps gave me a call this evening to wish me a happy birthday. He thanked me for coming out to the retreat and let me know that all my paperwork had been submitted for my application to the Order. We talked about a few other things, things I will discuss as we get closer to August, and wished him well.

I'm still waiting for pictures to share with everyone. I know a LOT of pictures were taken, and I am hoping to get some great shots of myself, the postulants, and everyone else having a great time at the Triduum Retreat. If you just can't wait any longer to see my experience over the Easter weekend, the new Capuchin Vocations Update is available for download. Vocations Update.

I will do little in the way of celebration tomorrow. I'm not sure if it's good or bad, but for my birthday is just another day. I turn a little older, I hope I became wiser, and I push forward in my life. Maybe I feel a little distant from other people, or maybe it's a reminder to me that I don't have many close friends.

A birthday is just a day where I'm lucky to get some cheesecake. I just wish I weren't already halfway finished with it!

The Trouble With Women, Part III

During this Triduum weekend, we had time for some faith-sharing. Around 5AM, we began to talk about our discernment stories, and how we've gone from "where we were" to "where we are."

As the 6 or 7 of us listened to each other's story, I soon found myself talking about my life - not just as a salesman, but as a man who'd admitted to having an unhealthy attitude towards women. While all of my relationships with the opposite sex are strictly platonic at this point in my life, I spoke of my desire to fix women: this idea that love and intimacy could be shown strictly through my charity and sympathy. To say I don't understand women is a great understatement.

One of the people in this circle was a woman from Cap Corps, a full-time volunteer program for men and women to help serve the needs of the poor and live as St. Francis told us. She works with men and women who have a history with abusive relationships. She has great wisdom, is a wonderful poet, and I was happy to have met her.

Today she sent me an email, along with another poem. While it was written long before we ever crossed paths, reading it made me feel as if it had been written by the thoughts and minds of every woman I've ever been close to. It was as if the voices of multitudes scolded me in my mind.

"See. See. This is the pain you don't know of. This is the heartache and the longing and the hope we have in love." I could almost hear it with my ears.

While I usually reserve the words of songs for my discernment & music series, the words of this woman are louder than any song and hit harder than any drum. Thank you again, Marcia, for sharing your words.

Sometimes I think you want me to right a poem about you,
put your dustashes and glimmersmiles into words so that you can feel them and determine if you are real.
Sometimes I wish that I could write you that poem,
share it with you,
and let you know that you are worth it.
that we could laugh and cry and dance and struggle through it-together,
until the poem becomes ours and I am no longer writing.

But now I write so that I can determine if we existed at all,
and determine how to let you go.
How to right my poem,
so that I can laugh and cry and dance and struggle until I am no longer writing.
But even as I attempt to right you out, I want to write you in,
put you into words that I can hold on to.
Keep you with me to be engulfed in the warmth of God in your spirit,
enveloped in a shared hug and intertwined fingertips,
I want to be able to feel you in the spaces between these words,
and be able to hold onto
what was never mine.
I want to hold onto the part of me that wants to still believe in possibilities,
that wants to still believe that maybe one day you will just show up,
or send a letter or a million other romantic possibilities that I see in the movies and invent in my head while I am telling myself not to believe in them,
or at least not in you being them.
I want to believe that you will continue to pursue me,
to pursue us,
even when all the evidence speaks otherwise.
Or at least love me enough to speak to me other-wise.
To share words that you have found a space that is yours
and that the role that I held in that space has changed,
and you have changed,
and we have changed.
I want to hold onto the part of me that still believes that you will call me,
maybe now, maybe ten years later,
and tell me that I am worth it.

I want to hold onto this belief that love can be forever.
That our poem does not end only in the words between spaces
or the spaces between the words.
even as the evidence in my life speaks other-wise.
I cling to crumbs of possibilities that I do not want to let go of.
Do not want to believe that you or I or he or she can only love sporadically,
only say I love you when it is convenient,
that one day there is and another is gone.
Wanting to believe that even if love changes,
there is still a shadow of it that is strong enough to say in words instead of only spaces,
“I am leaving, and I am changing, we are growing, and it is apart,
but I still respect you and I love you, pray the best for you,
and you are worth it.
and you are worth it.”
maybe that’s all, at the root, is just wanting to be worth it,
to be given the gift of certainty not only from your spaces but from your words,
not only from your words but from your spaces,
that I am worth it.
that I am worth enough to give of yourself in uncertain certainty,
whether it be words of leaving or spaces of self.
I want to hear you,
your words,
in more than your spaces,
so that I can be strong enough to move on.
Even as my hope speaks otherwise.

So I guess, in the end, I am just trying to push my choice onto your actions,
so that I do not have to decide on my own,
to let go,
when all of the evidence speaks of-wise.
Because I too, can say
"I am leaving, I am changing, we growing, and it is apart, but I still respect you
and I love you, pray the best for you, and you are worth it.”
my excuse for not giving you these words? I am tired of always having to initiate this, because you are not the first to leave without leaving,
to speak only in spaces between words and expect me to only hear with my mind that is
when the essence of love is more than logic.

And maybe this is my cross, and maybe this is my burden,
because I am the one that needs both words between spaces and spaces between words. Needs to hear the sound of the spaces to know that they are real,
and to feel that I am worth it.
but I still question,
if you were to right my poem, would you want to be given only the spaces or only the words? Would you want to be given the gift of certainty, in words that are honest to where I am?
or is it better to leave without leaving?

I know that it takes courage to leave,
courage to change,
and maybe for you, spaces without words are all that you can give
or maybe for you, spaces without words would be enough to leave you,
but would they be enough to affirm you?
To affirm that you are worth confronting a situation that is difficult or not working,
to wrestle through it, instead of fleeing?
Fleeing and hoping that if you leave enough spaces,
that I will understand and I will not ask you for the courage to face what is difficult and you
can just flee,
until the next time you are asked to confront if I am worth it.

so I ask you,
I beg you,
please, try to feel the words between the spaces in my poem,
the one that I am writing to determine if I exist at all.
try to put my dustashes and glimmersmiles into your spaces,
determine if I am real,
and if I am, please, please,
allow yourself to be in the spaces that remember how we laughed and cried and danced
and struggled-together,
and find inside yourself the courage to just say that this part of our journey is over,
I am here and you are there, and it is time to go along our separate paths.
have the courage to take in and let go of what I will give you in return for your courage, whether it be understanding, denial, or explosion.
Have courage in the righting of your poem,
because you are worth it.

And so, with this words and with these spaces, I am trying again,
as I do with each writing,
to leave you here so that I will no longer hold you
in the crevices of me that are hopefulled for a you and me combination thats time has passed. I am gathering the courage to approach you and let you know that I am leaving,
that it appears to me that the lines in our relationship have shifted,
that it is what it is and that I love you-even as we shift,
because we will still be connected-in one form or the next,
and that is worth it.
I am placing those holding holes in between the spaces of these words,
allowing time to seep into the holes and patch them in new and creative ways that allows
them to flourish into changing spaces and different words,
allowing myself to let go,
because I am worth it.

~praying for the Grace to allow God to be the moment.

-written by Marcia Lee

Bitter Sweet

The day after Easter, I find myself back in the saddle after spending the entire Triduum weekend in Burlington, Wisconsin with the Capuchin Noviciates. I'd expound on the weekend more, however I'm waiting for pictures to share the experience with everyone. There was singing, prayer, soccer, snowball fights, faith sharing, and most of all fraternity. I'll give a detailed account as soon as possible.

A funny thing happened this morning: I realized I didn't miss my life in the "real world." While it was good to be back amongst people, I realized that when I go home tonight, there would be no brothers to share my day with, no one to tease as we make dinner, no one to share evening prayer with.

I realized I would miss my brothers. Perhaps I didn't need to wait to become a Capuchin. In my heart, I already belonged. It is 146 days until Postulancy begins (I realized that August 1st wasn't the start date, rather August 17th) and I can't wait to live with community once again.

Tonight, if there's enough time after work, I plan on buying a book of the Divine Office so I can pray the Liturgy of the Hours every morning and evening. While I may not be chanting canticles with anyone else, I'll know that my brothers are doing so.

Triduum Retreat

This morning I leave for Burlington, Wisconsin to spend the Triduum Weekend with the Capuchin Franciscans of the St. Joseph province. This will be one of the last requirements for applying to the Order. When I leave Grand Rapids, I will bring all of the required documents, forms, and doctor's reports that were asked. After this weekend everything is completely in God's hands as to whether or not I'll be accepted.

Often I try to compare it to joining college, since it's the only experience that comes close. The recruiter knows me well, I've visited the campus several times, I've met my possible classmates already, and I already know which dorm room I would get if I attended. The last and final formality is the acceptance. At college, it's done by an Admissions Board. It is much the same in the Capuchin Order, except the Head of the Province has the final say on who joins and who doesn't.

While there are many other colleges that await an anxious high-school graduate, to be turned down by the Capuchins would feel far more devastating. Admissions boards look at GPA, extra-curricular activities, your essays, and the evaluation of the recruiter. In a religious order or a diocese, the Provincial or Bishop must also discern what God's plan is for each applicant and whether or not this is where God is actually pointing us. Sounds like quite the task...understanding and acting on God's wishes for another.

I am nervous, but I am happy with where my life is now. I realized that the goal of this road wasn't just about becoming a priest at all costs, but to understand God's place for me, and simply to travel the road with my spirituality as a more important part of my life. If indeed God is pointing me in the direction of the Capuchins, I pray that God share that bit of info with the Head of the Order. If not, I will keep traveling this long road.

Since I am leaving for the weekend, I will most likely not post again until after Easter. Until then, I leave you all with the most appropriate song for this Holy Week. God Bless and have a wonderful Easter.

The Final 3000

I have less than $3000 left to pay in total debt, with a little more than 4 months to go until the start of Postulancy. While the Order has already told me they would help with some of the medical bills, I'm still doing everything I can to be paid off before entering.

As I look back through some of my earlier blogs about my debt, I find it interesting how the actual amount keeps fluctuating. Last year at this time, my total debt $6500. Yet I've spend almost $8000 on nothing but bills and past debt. Now, I've found every little bill and debt, and I merely need to pay off the rest to be done and ready to go.

One of those bills I mentioned before; I have an old ambulance bill that no one wanted to collect on. I did everything I could to contact the creditor, yet I couldn't call, email, or fax. In a last ditch effort, I wrote up a business letter. The order said they felt I did everything proper to try and find the creditor, but if I could not get it paid, that would be fine.

This weekend, I got a letter back. I'd found the creditor, and they said they were "more than happy to set up payment arrangements with me."

$3000 seems like so little money, especially now that I'm selling cars once again. I only work until Wednesday this week; Thursday I leave for Wisconsin for the Triduum Retreat Weekend with the Capuchins. Even with the short work week, I'm estimating I'll make $850. I have a dentist's appointment before I leave for Wisconsin (cost: $200) and I have rent coming up as well ($250).

Perhaps it's part of the plan that my life has gone "there and back again." This time around, I'm interested in money only to the extent of paying off my personal debts before entering the Postulancy. I feel more at ease with customers, I'm less stressed, and even though this is a temporary job, I feel that I am doing the best I can for Bossman and his business.

137 days, and $3000 to go!

Meme: Seven New Sins

Undoubtedly everyone's heard about the new sins decreed by the Vatican this week. As always, there are those who are either ignorant or patronizing of anything related to the Catholic Church. As such you get comments such as: "Who does the Pope think he is to make up new sins?" or: "Why is the Church meddling in social issues instead of concerning itself with the souls of men?"

As a "left-leaning" Catholic myself, I feel that the social injustice sins have been a long time coming. We're connected like never before in the history of the world, able to affect so many people at once. As far as I can tell, they've simply expanded on the idea of the Seven Deadly Sins to include those acts which affect others on a much broader scale.

What is a good Catholic with a sense of humor to do when everyone around him is taking these new sins either too seriously or no serious enough? Come up with a list of my own.

While I don't foresee becoming an Archbishop or Pope anytime soon, this is the list of sins I would add. They aren't really "deadly," let's call them something else:

The Seven Vexatious Sins

1. Sending Email Spam - I can't stand weeding through endless amounts of junk sent to my email address. If you're spreading fallacious emails like "Barack Obama is secretly a Muslim," you're bearing false witness. If you're trying to convince me I won the lottery in Nigeria, you're stealing. For those of you spamming porn emails, I think you know where you fit in.

2. Not Merging In A Construction Zone - You've been there. You see the "Lane Closed Ahead" sign, you merge into traffic like a good Catholic driver, and while you sit patiently in your vehicle, you watch others speed by and try to sneak into the lane at the last possible moment. If you are one of these drivers, you better go get absolution right away...but you can only drive 20 mph.

3. The "English Only" Movement - Just a bit of history, when scared Americans try to "push" undesirables out of this country, language is one of the tools of the trade. We did it after World War 2 on the West Coast with the many people speaking Japanese, we did it with the French after the Louisiana Purchase, we even did it to the Germans in colonial Pennsylvania. Oh, and those pesky natives that were around, we kinda alienated their language as well.

The "English Only" movement stems from fear of the unknown. When we turn that fear into oppression, we're not being open to all of God's people. That and I have a hard time dealing with pretentious folk who think that language makes them "more American" than someone else.

4. 24" Rims - While on the road to Damascus, Saul of Tarsus was blinded by a brilliant light. While Jesus chose this time to reveal Himself to Paul, the blinding light came from an '87 Cadillac Fleetwood rollin' on 24" wire-wheel Daytons.

Perhaps there's no Biblical foundation for the sin, but cars with oversized chromed-out rims look ridiculous. It lowers the gas mileage (if such a thing is possible for a Caddy), it's a stiff ride, and it's a waste of money. If Moses were around today, he would've given us the commandment: "Thou shalt not throw D's on it!"

5. Half-Eating Snacks From the Lunchroom - It's someone's birthday; they brought in doughnuts. But you don't want a whole doughnut, just a small bit to satisfy your sweet tooth. Whether you pull off a piece or use a knife to cut off a small part, you feed your craving. Meanwhile, the next person who comes in sees a half-eaten treat which looks completely gross.

Please, if you're gonna take something from a community food basket, don't leave half of things behind. I know you didn't take a bite out of it and put it back, but we all work with someone that could. Either share, eat it all, or have a Mentos instead.

6. Watching South Park - While I not only find this show devoid of any comedic value or original ideas, I think the viewing public has become less intelligent after watching too much of this show. Since this abomination could last even longer than The Simpsons, we must protect mankind from turning into a society of bumbling idiots.

Keep in mind this sin is soley in regards to South Park. Family Guy, American Dad, and Futurama (yes, new episodes of Futurama are coming!) are perfectly acceptable.

7. Wearing a Blue Tooth Mic - I get the fact that you're trying to be "hands-free" and that it just looks cool to just talk without holding a phone to your ear, but I'm sick of feeling stupid cause I think someone is talking to me, and they turn their head and I see the big electronic piece in their ear. Instead of talking with a Bluetooth, get a big sign on a string and hang it around your neck that says "I am cool." It's the same thing.

Consider thineselves tagged, and feel free to let loose.

Back In The Saddle

I know my returning to the car business is probably not the prime example of discernment in action, however life has its own twists and turns, and rather than try to understand everything that's happening, I've accepted that things are in motion, and God's Will shall lead me wherever I am bound. For now, I will re-educate myself with the tricks of my trade.

Walking back into the office this morning felt no different than it did 5 months ago. I stopped by Speedway for breakfast and a drink; it was the first real urge I had to buy a Monster Energy Drink since giving it up for Lent. I walked into the office and frantically tried to pick up the pieces from where the other sales guy had left off. There were new finance companies, new inventory, customers already waiting to come in and purchase a vehicle. I was finishing deals I'd not even known existed.

I called all my car sales buddies. Yes, I was back in the business. No, I hadn't given up on the "priest thing." I'm only planning to help Bossman for a few months, and then I'll continue on my path.

I had to call and cancel some other arrangements I'd made. When you have all the time in the world, you can promise your time to everyone. When you have a full-time job once again, it makes it hard to do simple tasks during the daytime.

By the time 7PM rolled around, I wished I had more time to finish up some projects. Just like 4 months ago, I was swamped with work, I was busily handling customers, inventory, outside sales reps, cold calls, and trying not to screw anything up.

In a brief moment of irony, as I stood outside the door to the car lot and looked at "my" lot of cars, I realized I'd made more money today than I made all last week, and I felt like I did 1/10th of the work. They say when you are doing a job you love, you never notice the time go by.

It's good to be home...if only for a little while.

Everyday I'm Hustlin'

Car sales is the closest thing to the mob. Everytime you think you're out, they pull you back in. Everyone knows everyone else, you're always watching out to make sure no one's cheating you, there's always plenty of drama, and the money...oh the money.

One of the first things I learned in training so many years ago was that a car salesman never had to look for a job very long. If you're a good salesman, there's over 1 million dealerships in this country to choose from. Sales is a trade skill, and as such that skill is highly marketable and always in demand. A good salesman can improve company profits, create new business relationships, expand present areas of service, and build a loyal customer base ensuring years of continued profits.

In a way, I'm not surprised when I got a call by Bossman at the old dealership, asking me to come work for him again for a few more months. Apparently his last salesman left him high and dry, and the past few days he's had no one there to talk to customers or process transactions.

I stopped by the dealership yesterday to talk to them about a few things. "My postulancy is the most important thing," I told them, "but I can help out up until the end of July." There are a few dates I asked for time off in advance, just because I'd already made prior plans. He said that was no problem. "When can you start?" he asked me. "You're old office is ready and waiting!"

I told him I'd already made plans for Saturday, but that Monday morning I'd be there bright and early. Spring is an excellent time to sell cars. People are getting their taxes back, as the weather warms up people look for the the sportier vehicles, and especially for this car lot, as the price of gas keeps shooting up the demand for more fuel-economic vehicles goes up as well.

Overall, I feel I'm helping a friend. I did miss the sales business, and I've grown continuously agitated with the poker thing. I found it ironic how poker players, loaded with money, could find far more to complain about than homeless people at the soup kitchen.

What have I learned? The road to my vocation has many paths, and while there may be no right and wrong, some roads are easier and more exciting than others.

Good Legal Advice

I mentioned a few weeks ago about a pesky bill collector that wanted to keep charging me more money on a debt I'd already paid off. Over the weekend I was served a Summons. I'm being sued. Interestingly enough, it's for the full amount; I have receipts from paying them. Maybe they're just being annoying?

I knew I had to say something in my defense, but like most people I know little about legal recourse and I'm not financially equipped to have a personal lawyer on retainer. Fortunately someone I know through the charity work I do happens to be a lawyer, and was willing to help me out free of charge.

He sat and listened to what happened, gave me a few pointers, and by the end of the talk I was almost ready to counter-sue! It was wonderful to have his assistance. Now when I respond I feel confident that I will either be awarded a Satisfactory judgement or that their lawyer will want to settle. If not, I feel I gave it my best effort, and that I was lucky to have someone willing to help someone else.

People ask me "What does it mean to be a Capuchin? How are they different from a monk?" Little things like this, doing small things in your life to help make someone's life a little better, that is what Capuchin life is about. It's the ability to see someone in need of help and recognize that God's will is that we help each other. I'm not sure he's even Catholic, but the fact that he wanted to help me in my time of need, as simple a thing it was for him, means something huge to me.

Keep that idea in mind during the rest of this Lenten season. While acts of kindness may be small and you may feel you're not doing enough, remember that the gifts you offer are better judged by those in need. You'd be surprised how the littlest things mean the most to those in need.

21 Weeks To Go!

I've started counting backwards now from when the Postulancy begins in the fall. 21 weeks is all that is left of me being on the "outside." 21 weeks to finish paying off $1600 in debt. 21 weeks to get my affairs in order. 21 weeks to prepare myself for a year of community living, soul searching, and ministry.

It's funny...all this time I wanted to hurry up and be in the Order; now I'm feeling nervous. Am I ready to share my life with 9 other guys as well as the other professed brothers in the friary? Am I still doing this for the right reasons? What if I meet a woman between now and then?

The Order requires all paperwork to be submitted no later than March 3tTh. I still have transcripts that need to be sent, a dental exam to take, and I need to get a notarized affidavit regarding my personal debts. Simple letters that need to be sent, except my mother's printer decided to take a dump and now I think I'll have to email my friend a few .doc files to help me out.

My days are pretty much the same at this point: I practice guitar, I do housework, I work at the poker room. On Fridays I help at God's Kitchen, On Sunday's I spent most of the day at church. I pay on my bills, I network with other people, and I offer myself to anyone in need...whatever that means.

Perhaps now that my life has settled into a rhythm, time is moving faster and faster. Near Christmas I couldn't wait to get closer to August 1. Now, I wish I had just another month to get everything in order.

Oh how the time flies.

I've been excited about this for over a year. But for the first time in my life, I think I'm not just getting nervous. I might be getting a little scared.

Discernment and Music: Life By the Drop

The only reason I put down the guitar to give a blog update was my mother's complaining I was interrupting her sleep. I know my mother is thrilled to see me pick up my guitar again, however the sound of an acoustic can resonate through walls, and my mother is a light sleeper. I'll be happy when I get my Les Paul (hopefully Monday) when I can practice through my headphones and no one else can hear.

One of the acoustical songs I always wanted to learn was by blues great Stevie Ray Vaughan. I first heard the song in high school, when a buddy gave me a CD of his. It's easy to find guitar tablature for most any song these days, and if you're still confused, youtube usually has people playing the song for you to watch. Technology has made the chore of relearning guitar a lot easier.
I'd just started working through the blues intro when I was "kindly" asked to put the guitar down until the sun rose.

The song has real meaning, especially since the song wasn't written by SRV, but was written about him by another bluesman named Doyle Bramhall. Doyle grew up playing with many other legendary blues rockers in Dallas, TX, yet he seemed to be the guy that was in the back, out of the spotlight. Helping to write songs and music for Stevie Ray and his brother Jimmy Vaughan, Doyle would not put out his own album until after Stevie's death in 1990. It wasn't until after his death that Doyle even heard the recording of his song.

At first listen, it sounds like a blues song about living dry after dealing with booze and drug addiction. It is true that SRV had a problem with whiskey and cocaine during his life, however the song was not written by him. When looked at again from the standpoint of Bramhall, a guy who never was in the limelight, the song takes on a different meaning altogether.

For me, it's a sad song about regret-the regret of not living life to the fullest. The title almost screams that the song is about a drinking problem, but I think the metaphorical meaning is more about living "safely" as opposed to Vaughan who truly lived in the fast lane. It's not a song of jealousy or envy, rather a song of sadness that he chose not to chase the same dreams.

Today Doyle is recognized as one of the staples of the Texas blues scene and can often be seen at the Austin City Limits Festival. He's released several albums to date, some of which have been nominated for a Grammy. On occasion, he will even perform Life By the Drop as a tribute to SRV, since the song was written for him.

I don't know that the song has any huge personal meaning, other than I am happy with where I am, and I am here because I chose to follow my dream. I'm sure if I tried hard enough I could ignore this whole religious life idea and try to live my life like everyone else. I would have nothing to risk, and I could never be let down if I did not have a priestly vocation.

I no longer want to live with any regrets. I still struggle with things I should have done differently in the past, but if I look back on this time in my life, I can live without regret, knowing I followed my dreams. No matter the outcome, I'll always remember this chapter of my life as the time where I gave up everything to follow what I believed in.

Hello there my old friend
Not so long ago it was 'til the end
We played outside in the pouring rain
On our way up the road we started over again

You're living our dreams, oh you on top
My mind is aching, Lord it won't stop
That's how it happened living life by the drop

Up and down that road in our worn out shoes
Talkin bout good things and singing the blues
You went your way and I stayed behind
We both knew it was just a matter of time

You're living our dreams, oh you on top
My mind is aching, Lord it won't stop
That's how it happened living life by the drop

No wasted time we're allowed today
Churning up the past, there's no easier way
Time's been between us, a means to an end
God it's good to be walking together, my friend

Living our dream
My mind stopped aching
That's how it happened living life by the drop.

As always, the song can be found in the media player at the bottom of the page.