Friday, November 30, 2007


The cold nights and shorter days make me feel like a bear that needs to hibernate. When my morning alarm clock goes off I am in total disbelief. I feel like a just closed my eyes and now I have to get up and start a new day??? You've got to be kidding me! As I slowly walk to my bathroom all the coming demands of the new day flash through my brain. In the predawn darkness, the return to my bed at day's end seems like a distant dream. Daylight may be increasingly shorter as we approach the winter solstice but it still feels as though I have many long miles to travel before I sleep again. Sometimes on these cold days I duck outside hoping a blast of cool air will revive me and energize me for the remainder of my day. It doesn't. All it does is make me feel cold as it chases me back into the warm and sleepy building where I work. Modern work and our 24 hour culture have no respect for the change of seasons or our biological inner clocks. The demands of life think everyday is the summer solstice and we are at the peak of the summer planting season. I don't mind cold weather. I even prefer it to Kentucky's summer heat and humidity. What I do quickly tire of is leaving home in the dark and then returning home in the dark. Once darkness covers the land I am rarely outside of my home. I am no longer young and my days of running the streets at night and howling at the moon are way behind me. OK, I do occasionally do it now but when I do I must plan a vacation day the next day. As your age increases, so does your recovery time. O well, tomorrow is Saturday and I can hibernate a little longer in the morning.

Thursday, November 29, 2007


My granddaughter amazes me. She has the wonderful childlike quality of truly being in the moment. In this regard she is a true Zen Master. This Christmas season is the first year she really gets the whole Santa thing. The moment I walked into the day care on Tuesday, she immediately started telling me what Santa was bringing her. I doubt that Chloe's parents know about anything on Chloe's personal list. It probably changes everyday. A few weeks ago my wife and I bought her a pink stuffed horse the size of a Shetland pony. I got a lot of stares as I carried this animal through Toys R Us. I'm sure this magical creature will be needed to pull the wagon that will hold all of her other gifts. During a recent five star dinner at Dairy Queen she told my wife and me about her recent visit with Santa. According to her, Santa looks a lot like me! After dinner, when we got to my house, she had to check out all the Christmas decorations. Chloe is also developing memories. When she was at my house on Tuesday, she remembered a bad habit I taught her several weeks ago. "Let's eat sugar, Pa Paw"! In a moment of wondering "What can we do now?" I had taught her how to get her finger wet and then stick it in a sugar bowl. "This tastes really good, Pa Paw"! I guess I now need to let her help me bake a cake so she can learn to lick the extra batter from the bowl. She will be over again tonight. What kind of trouble will we get into?

Yesterday one of my readers sent me an article with suggestions on how to do a better job of preparing for Christmas on a spiritual level in the midst of all the secular and commercial busyness. This coming Sunday is the 1st Sunday of Advent. Advent is a time of waiting and preparation for Christmas and the celebration of the birth of Jesus. I am enclosing the link for those who are interested.

I have often read that who we think we are is not who we are at all. Most people are judged and evaluated by their personalities. Our personality is not who we are. Our personality is one of many masks that we wear as we participate in the great drama of life. As Shakespeare once said, "All the world's a stage". Our personalities are little more than characters we play in life. The personality that the world sees is something all of us have created for ourselves. Of course, it was not a conscious creation. It is our life experience, especially our childhood, that was the inspiration for the face that we present to the world. Psychology tells us that we created our personalities as ways to protect ourselves from the traumas of life. My personality appears on the surface as very laid back, peaceful, and easy going. It's not all a lie but it sometimes masks less desirable traits such as being angry, rebellious, and hostile. The personality you see is a sometimes false image of who I really am. My passive persona masks a very passionate person. It hides how I sometimes feel because I don't want to be angry, rebellious, or hostile. Other times I may seem withdrawn because it is difficult to express what I am really feeling. I am not always happy with my own behavior or needs. I wish that I always felt like I appear to others. So what's the point of this? The spiritual journey is a journey into ourselves, through the maze of false selves and personality characteristics, where someday we hope to find ourselves in God. This finding of ourselves in God will reveal our true self. our true nature, and the essence of who we really are. I'm not quite there yet. Some days I feel like I am on the right path. Other days I feel lost in the forest of my own contradictions with no bread crumbs to help me find my way back. Those are the days where I feel as though I am just wandering aimlessly through life.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

What Is Community?

Yesterday I went outside for a break and some fresh air. I saw my daughter in law, Stacy, who told me that Chloe was looking forward to me picking her up at the day care. I had not seen Chloe for almost two weeks. That's the longest I have gone without seeing her except for the 53 years I waited for her to be born. Because of my son's illness, she missed our trip to the mountains and she was visiting her other Grandma on Thanksgiving. It was great to see her. She missed me and I definitely missed her.

I am supposed to give a reflection tonight on the topic of community. I'm not sure what I am going to say. What is a community and what does it mean in today's world? Well, this isn't 1858 and most of us do not live in small towns or villages where everyone knows everyone else as well as all their business. If someone asked me about my community, I would answer, "Which one"? I am part of the world community of people that inhabits the third planet from the sun called Earth. I also live in a city and a neighborhood. Within my neighborhood, I live in a Church community. I am also part of an extended and nuclear family. In addition to all of this, I am part of a work family and, even though I am a married man, I consider myself part of the extended family of the monastery. In some sense I could also consider myself part of the Internet family because I publish my daily thoughts on a web page for the world to read. Finally, but certainly not least, there is my family of friends. So, when you think about it, defining the meaning of community is not easy. I guess the reality for most people and me is that we are part of a community of communities. I live in many worlds and there is much diversity within these worlds. I sometimes wonder what it would look like to collect all the different kinds of people in my life together in one room. I guess my community is all the people I care about and who care about me as well as all the people I should care about. There should be no one I don't care about on some level. My community is everyone.

Tuesday, November 27, 2007

Slowing Down The Holidays

What a great combination of events I experienced yesterday. It was my first day back to work after being on vacation for ten days, it was Monday, and it rained all day. I also experienced something called "Back to Work Re-Adjustment Anxiety Syndrome". A few cups of coffee, a couple of hundred emails, and a system problem that sent everyone in the office emails telling them they weren't going to get a paycheck this week jolted me back into coherence. Now I feel like I never left. I did enjoy my time off and it was mostly a good experience. I am grateful for vacations and despite my occasional desire to never work another day in my life, I must admit that I am a person who needs structure and a reason to get out of bed. Too many days with nothing to do and I would turn into a human cauliflower.

This is the last week of November. This time of year always seem to be in hyper drive. Before the pumpkins turned to mush we were already thinking about turkeys. At my house we are still eating Thanksgiving leftovers and yesterday I saw my first advertisement for a New Year's Eve dance. Lets all just slow it down a bit! The commercial Christmas season can feel like a runaway train. Every year I tell myself to focus on the true meaning of Christmas and every year I feel run over by the Christmas train. The sad thing is that I don't even do much at Christmas besides take orders from my wife. She drives the train. She's the engineer. I'm riding in the caboose. All of the behind the scenes magic that makes our traditional Christmas morning nice is because of all the work she does. You've never seen anyone crunch the numbers like my wife. Somehow everyone seems to get what they want without my wife and I having our home repossessed. That alone is a Christmas miracle.

If you celebrate Christmas, and not everyone does, it's a good thing to not get totally overwhelmed with the gift buying and multitude of voices telling you what Christmas should be. Seek some balance in your life between the gift giving and the soul searching. Be as generous as you can but not to the detriment of your life. Find some quiet moments in the madness of shopping and wrapping presents. Take some time each day to simply breathe. Don't let the stress of the holidays destroy the joy that should also be there. The greatest gifts are the people in our lives. I can't even remember the material gifts I received last year.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Back To Reality Again

I hope that everyone had a pleasant and happy Thanksgiving weekend. I feel like I have been gone a very long time but now that I am back the time seems to have gone by quickly. I began my Thanksgiving break way back on the afternoon of November 15th. I left work early that day because my oldest son, Mike, who is also Chloe's father, was admitted to the hospital with pneumonia. He had been feeling poorly most of the week and it finally got serious enough to require hospital treatment. Besides the seriousness of the illness, and the annoyance of being in the hospital, it also prevented him, his wife, and Chloe from joining my wife and I on a trip to the mountains. At this time Mike is out of the hospital and on the road to recovery. He managed to be well enough to share in a wonderful Thanksgiving meal prepared by my sister in law, Judy. The torch of my mother in law's culinary skills has been passed to Judy. She's quite the cook and our meal was a feast. Still full of turkey and dressing from Thanksgiving, I managed to see the movie "Beowulf" on Friday afternoon and also take in a blues concert by a fellow named Joe Bonamassa on Friday night. Another highlight of the week was my other son, Nick, being home from the seminary for short vacation. Last night we sent him back to Indianapolis in the cold and the rain. There's still a few weeks left in the semester. He will be home again in a few weeks.

Most of last summer was so hot, and we went so long without a decent rain, it appeared that this season might be the autumn that wasn't. However, on the day I left work early to check on my son in the hospital, I took a slightly different route from work. I drove through the Highlands, along Grinstead Drive to Lexington Road, and down Cannons Lane along the park. While driving I was suddenly and unexpectedly overwhelmed with the beauty of the leaves on all the trees. It was as though the burnt oranges and dull browns has been transformed overnight. I was experiencing the peak of the fall colors and they were as good as it gets in this part of the country. Of course, nothing I've seen compares to New England in the fall. It got even better as I drove the next day to the Great Smoky Mountains in east Tennessee. All the vibrant colors that millions go to see in mid October were present during my trip. The natural cycle has been delayed a month, much to my gain and pleasure. I was there four days and three nights. The weather was perfect and the sun was shining. People were sparse and we had no trouble getting into restaurants or shops. The town of Gatlinburg was all decorated for Christmas and all the lights and decorations were beautiful. The whole trip was relaxing and stress free. I did miss Chloe's excitement but there will be other trips with her.

Now the autumn beauty of last week is over. Most of the leaves have been stripped from the trees by the wind and the rains. We are now experiencing the bleak landscape of late autumn/early winter. The cold is starting to appear more frequently. However, Christmas is only weeks away and with it are dreams of snow that can quickly and quietly convert the barrenness into a winter wonderland. A few weeks ago I anticipated autumn's beauty. Now I am eager for the beauty of winter and snow.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

The Time Has Come Today

When I was driving into the parking garage yesterday I was jamming to an old classic rock song from the sixties called "The Time Has Come Today" by the Chamber's Brothers. I had a few flashbacks to a rock festival I attend in 1970 where I saw the Chamber's Brothers and many others perform. The song's title made me think about time. We are so careless about time. We waste it and squander it. We think we have all the time in the world. I have sometimes been guilty of this since I do have a tendency to procrastinate. I am trying to get over this. When I speak of procrastination, I am not just talking about putting off unpleasant tasks. I am talking about putting off living. I don't think we should live this life in a panic but I do believe we should live life with some sense of urgency. As clique as it sounds, everyday is truly a gift. The present moment is the time that has come today. We should soak up life like a sponge absorbs water. Living well doesn't demand great adventure or exotic travels. Most of my journeys have been within myself. It's a world I have only partially explored. How does one live well while going through a normal, perhaps, unglamorous day? I think it starts with just having a grateful attitude and allowing yourself to become more aware of life's simple joys. Enjoy whatever you are doing or whoever you are with. Let go and laugh more. Don't be so serious all the time. Don't take anything for granted. Seize the day! Spend more time doing what you love. Don't feel like you have to constantly justify yourself to others. It's your life. Follow your heart and your muse. Quit living your life according to other people's agenda's. Be responsible and accountable for the obligations you have in life but do not carry them around as though they are a crushing burden. If you feel this way it might be time to reevaluate your obligations. Travel lightly through life as though you are a backpacker on the Appalachian Trail. Carry only what is essential. Simplify your life. Have a sense of wonder. Don't loose your ability to notice and be awed by the sacred that is sometimes hidden in life. Think on a deeper level. Allow life's little hurts and slights to roll off your back and be a forgiving person. Life is too short to be upset all the time.

My wife recently went to a family wedding shower. At one point everyone had to go around the room and give the bride to be advice on marriage. My wife and I have been married for 33+ years. My wife's advice to the young bride to be was "Each of you needs to find your own space and stay there as much as possible"! It's actually very good advice and I agree with it. There is such a thing as too much togetherness. In my marriage there's my space, her space, and our space.

Wednesday, November 14, 2007

Why Do We Love Vacations?

This coming Friday I will begin a vacation that will include all of Thanksgiving week. As you can imagine, I am chomping at the bit for it to begin. Why are we so eager for vacations? It's not like my life is so horrible that I feel a need to escape it. Yes, I sometimes get weary of it's demands but, in general, I have a nice life. Most of my vacations are not that exciting. They are often just a break from my usual schedule. Maybe we like vacations because they give us the illusion of freedom. We schedule time away from our normal commitments so we are "free" to do as we please. Some of us long for time off to escape the boredom of our normal, and seemingly unchanging, routines. On the flip side, some people I know who are retired complain of being busier now than ever while others are sometimes bored with all their freedom. Most of us are restless souls. We are never completely happy and we often long for something that we cannot actually name. I believe our restlessness and our longing are a form of spiritual emptiness. Even though I try to be a spiritual person, I, too, sometimes feel restless and empty. I certainly have my moments where all of life seems good and my soul is joyful. Because I am human, these moments are sometimes balanced with restlessness, feelings of emptiness, and boredom with life. In these moments I often think of the words of St. Augustine. He said, "Our hearts are restless, O God, until they rest in you"! I guess it is my wonder about the truth of these words that keeps me on the spiritual path. I do not like to feel restless, empty, or bored. When I do, I don't blame life. I look within and wonder why I feel like this. Sometimes, when you feel like this, it is time for a break in your life. It is time to get out of your normal routine, take some time off, have some fun, and renew yourself. This is why we love vacations. Renewal and rest feels good!

When a man becomes a monk, one of the vows he takes is stability. This means that the monk commits himself to a particular group of people and to a particular place. Unless there is a special reason or a need for him elsewhere, the monk will generally live his entire life in the same place and with the same people who persevere with him. Stability is a difficult concept in a culture where 50% of all marriages fail and everyone seems to be on the move. I think what stability might ask of us is to think beyond our own needs. Stability might be challenging us about our own restlessness. Why are so many people unrooted? Why are so many more like tumbleweeds than oak trees? Why are we so reluctant to plant ourselves and take deep root?

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Celebrating Thanksgiving Everyday

Yesterday was one of those partly sunny, Indian summer kind of days. I went out for a walk during my lunch break. The fresh air was delightful and I was happily lost in my solitude. Most of us aren't farmers but this time of year is still a time of harvest and one should count their blessings and focus their heart on thanksgiving. We are little more than a week away from the 4th Thursday of November when we will gather with friends and family to pause from our usual daily rat races to remember all there is in our lives for which we should be grateful. One of my friends told me that every night when he prays he thanks God for what he has...and what he does not have. So often when we reflect on what we do not have, we only think of good things. We fail to be thankful for all the bad things we do not have. I suppose true thanksgiving is a balance of being grateful for the good that is present and the absence of what is bad or distressing. The upcoming Thanksgiving holiday should be about more than just a great meal. It should also be a wake up call to celebrate thanksgiving everyday. We should always be grateful for life and love and family and friends and all things joyful. If we are blessed with some material prosperity, at least those things most basic for a comfortable life, all the better.

I was having a discussion with my wife yesterday when I made a typical male response by saying, "You women want to control everything and then you whine when you have so much work to do"! This response proves I am not always as wise as some people think I am but there is validity in what I am saying about some people's and be in control. If you are a control freak, you are only burdening yourself with more work and unnecessary stress. It is freeing to let things go and to trust other people. An obsessive need to control gives some an illusion of power. There is greater power in letting go. By letting go you free yourself and empower others in a positive way. Letting go does not mean freeing oneself from responsibility. You may be in a position of having accountability. By letting go and trusting others, however, you are sharing accountability. Instead of controlling others, manage their trust. I would rather manage other's trust and accomplishments than to own and be forced to accept all their failures because of my obsessive need to be in control.

Monday, November 12, 2007

I'm Not Ready For The Woods

As of yesterday I have been working for my company 22 years. Where has the time gone? When I started working here I was 34 years old. My sons were seven and three years old. Now one is a parent himself and the other is studying to be a priest. In prehistoric times, when a person got too old to hunt or gather food, the tribe just took them out to the woods and left them. The wild animals took care of the rest. I think I have a few good years left so taking me out to the woods and leaving me there is probably a little premature. Metaphorically speaking, I can still hunt and gather food. I am, however, reminded of a Native American saying that goes, "In old age nothing is better than a warm fire". As one gets older, and much of your life has been "hunting and gathering", the hunt has lost much of its appeal and the comfort of a warm fire is more inviting. Sadly, in our culture doing is more valued than being, and productivity is more valued than wisdom, so many, contrary to other personal desires, continue to hunt and gather into their old age. If you listen to the messages of our advertising industry, it is easy to think that life and work are all about the young. I would agree that younger people may have more energy and enthusiasm for the games of life. However, the numbers don't support the theory that life is all about them. We are a rapidly aging society. My generation, the baby boomers, are now hitting 60 years of age and thousands are crossing that line everyday. I am not quite there but I see the line in the not too distant future. We are a generation that must be acknowledged if for no other reason than our sheer numbers. There's too many of us to take out to the woods and leave for the wild animals. Most of us will fight you kicking and screaming if you try. If you succeed in driving us out to the woods, you will feel our absence. Older people in the future...and the future is now...will not be in the background. We will not go gently into that good night. If I don't get taken to the woods and left anytime soon and I make it here 25 years, I wonder if the company will give me a new bow and arrow instead of a watch? Seriously, I am grateful for my employment and long tenure with my company. Working here has given me many friendships and happy moments. It has given my family and me financial support and reasonable security. I have even learned a few useful skills. There have been very few moments of real regret or unhappiness. I'm happy to still be here and I hope to stay until I decide it's time to leave.

My house looks like the North Pole after a tornado has struck. We managed to get everything into the house but it is far from organized. My greatest contribution was to carry in all the boxes and to stay out of the way. Chloe seemed to enjoy all the hustle and bustle. She was a little apprehensive about the life size Santa head that we have. I think it is supposed to be a table centerpiece but to her it was the disembodied head of Santa. We finally had to cover up the Santa head. It was too difficult to explain why he didn't have a body. She was also leery of the smaller Santa that's called "The Sleeping Santa". He is lying in a bed. When you plug him in his stomach goes up and down and he snores. It's a great imitation of me when I am in bed.

Friday, November 09, 2007

Christmas Is Coming!

The weekend is here so I am not going to be heavy. I won't talk about spiritual transformation or the meaning of life today. When the weekend is here I try not to think too much. I try to relax and live. Thanksgiving is just two weeks away and Christmas is approximately six weeks away. One of the highlights of my weekend will be a visit from my granddaughter, Chloe. She is coming over because my wife has decided that this is the weekend to transport all the crates full of Christmas decorations from the storage shed in the back yard to inside the house. I will be her beast of burden. Once inside the house, the crates will be opened and all the decorations, ornaments, and other Christmas paraphernalia will be spread around the house. Of course my wife, whose memory is at least as poor as mine, will have to get on the computer and look at all the photos from last Christmas to remember where everything goes and what she did last year. We actually have a new Christmas tree this year. It arrived a few weeks ago and has been in the hallway ever since. I trip over it every morning. In the midst of all this I will whine about how we have too much stuff and that we should simplify. She will tell me to get over it, be quiet, and just do what I'm told without giving her a lot of lip service. After all, I am just a man. What do I know? In all of this craziness, Chloe will be all excited. She will pick up everything and ask a thousand questions. Of course, even though I lack enthusiasm for all the work, I do appreciate the final product. My house will look like the North Pole or, at the very least, a Cracker Barrel restaurant. Plus it's almost cold enough to wear my red hat and coat so I can wink at all the children who think I am Santa Claus.

Thursday, November 08, 2007

What Is Contemplation?

What is contemplation? There is mystical theology that speaks of "infused" contemplation. This refers to a direct experience of God that can best be compared to looking into the sun. It's a bright flash that can burn you. It's an experience that can be sweet and painful at the same time. As scripture says, "No man can look at God and live". This type of experience is very rare and I do not think it has ever happened to me. I am certainly not conscious of any such experience. I am a simple person and my understanding of contemplation is a little less mystical. Contemplative moments for me are experiences of gratitude, appreciation, and wonder. I have had many of these experiences. They can happen anywhere and anytime. You don't have to be in a church or the monastery. They can be part of ordinary life. They have happened to me in all areas of my life, i.e. being at the monastery, playing with Chloe, listening to music, staring out the window while at work, doing the family laundry, or being with a friend. You don't have to be sitting in a cave on a mountain in Tibet although I would like to do that, too. Living with a grateful heart opens you to the possibility of such moments throughout your day. The potential for them is always just a breath or a heartbeat away. They come upon you unannounced and sometimes take your breath away as the joy of the moment wells up inside of you. These moments don't always feel spiritual and you may or may not associate them with God. However, any person of faith would most likely see God's hand in such moments. Perhaps I have been so lucky because I generally have an optimistic and positive attitude about life. I tend to always see the good in everything. I can be critical of things I think are stupid but I'm usually not negative. I think people with my attitude are more likely to be grateful than those who always see what's missing in life or who are continually pessimistic about life's potential.

Tuesday, November 06, 2007

My Four Day Weekend

My long weekend was mostly perfect. Saturday and Sunday the weather was beautiful. While I was at the monastery, autumn was at its best. I really enjoyed these days and nights. Way back last Thursday night I went to see Leon Russell at a local bar. Leon is now 65 years old. Think Santa Claus in a Hawaiian shirt and a cowboy hat. He moves a little slow, and needed a cane to walk to the stage, but he still knows how to groove. My friends and I had a very enjoyable time.

Friday was spent at home. Why didn't I go to the monastery on Friday? OK, he's where I need a flow chart to describe my family's current situation with cars. I'll keep this as simple as I can. A few weeks ago my youngest son's car broke down in Indianapolis. I had to go get him so he could have my second car until we got his up and running. My oldest son, and a family friend we call "The Dude" drove to Indianapolis to fix the car and bring it back to Louisville. That mission was accomplished. We decided to keep Nick's car in Louisville as a back up car since my wife and I usually ride to work together. Are you following me so far? Well, about a week ago my oldest son strapped Chloe into her car seat before backing out of his garage. He then proceeded to run into his other car that was parked in the driveway. He forgot that his wife didn't work that day. Both of his cars were damaged. Because of this he needed to borrow his brother's car that was in my driveway which left Mom and Dad with one car....again. All of this is typical of family life. So...I could not go to the monastery until very early on Saturday morning. I got up at the crack of dawn on Saturday. It was cold, dark, and occasionally foggy as I drove the winding roads to the monastery. I arrived just in time for the meeting I was helping to host. As I mentioned before, there were folks from all over the USA and Canada attending this meeting. It was a reunion of sorts for me as many of these people were with me in France a couple of years ago. It was good to see them and re-connect. Monastic meetings are much like corporate meetings for me. They are occasionally interesting and always exhausting. I did have one moment where I had a religious experience. During a wine and cheese social gathering I drank a bottle of beer made by Trappist monks in Belgium. In the late afternoon, on an empty stomach, with an elevated alcohol content not found in domestic brews, I got a small buzz. I walked it off outside in the cool afternoon air. I felt like I was back in France where we drank wine at most meals and sampled the local champagne at night before bed. I did have some truly spiritual moments after I rose at 3:00 AM with the monks for night vigils. The predawn hours are truly a holy time and I soaked in the silence and solitude before the busyness of a new day began.

There was also one other event simultaneously happening while I was involved with my meeting. A group of 15 Muslim scholars were visiting the monks and having a dialogue with some of them. One of the questions they discussed was "What is Enlightenment"? One of the Muslim's responses was that a barometer of your enlightenment was the extent to which you have incorporated attributes of God into your being. The Muslims also expressed an affinity with these monks because of the way they pray seven times a day. As you may know all serious Muslims prayer throughout the day, at certain times, bowing towards and facing the east. This habit of prayer was something they felt in common with the monks.

Friday, November 02, 2007

Time Off to Rock and Roll And Pray

I will be out of the office Friday and Monday. Some of this time will be spent at the Abbey of Gethsemani where I will be part of a group playing hosts to other guests from around the USA. About 20 years ago I was part of a small group that began a relationship with the monastic community. We created a community of lay people who wanted to live more spiritual lives while also living in the world in the midst of the everyday challenges of marriage, family life, work, and our modern culture. We wanted to adapt some monastic practices to our lives. The monks would be our mentors and spiritual companions. Our original group has grown tremendously and other such groups have also begun throughout the United States and the world. In the summer of 2005 I went to France for a meeting of such people from twelve different countries. It was a wonderful experience. A similar meeting will take place next summer in Spain. The meeting this coming weekend is partly to prepare for the meeting in Spain. The monthly meetings I attend at the monastery are part of all of this as well.

Halloween night in my neighborhood was a slow night for witches, ghosts, and other creatures of the night. I had a grand total of two princesses knock on my door. I gave each of them two large handfuls of candy trying to empty the large ceramic pumpkin sitting by the front door. The five pounds of candy that I have left are just what a diabetic needs sitting around. Chloe, who I am told dressed up like a black cat, didn't make it to my house. She went trick or treating with some of her cousins on her mother's side of the family. I hope Dad remembered to take some pictures.

Yesterday was a day the Catholic church called All Saints Day. It is a long tradition in the Catholic church to publically recognize holy men and women. All Saints Day remembers not just these well known and recognized lives of holiness but all the many, many more who are not known. This day calls to mind the quiet holiness and daily perseverance of all those people who will never be known by name except in the mind of God. Today is a day called All Souls Day. On this day we remember all who have died, not just in our own personal lives but throughout history. I wonder how many people have lived and died through all the millennia of history? Considering that number, very few have made it into the history books. Most of us live quiet lives and then we are gone, only to be remembered by the ones we touched.

Last night I got a dose of rock and roll. My friends and I had tickets to see Leon Russell at a local bar. Leon's star has faded a bit but he is still a great entertainer. Many of you may not have heard of him. He is perhaps most famous for being part of George Harrison's "Concert for Bangladesh" benefit concert and Joe Cocker's "Mad Dogs and Englishmen" tour. Both of these events were made into films that were released way back in the 70's when many of your parents were young. Leon is mainly a songwriter, arranger, and band leader. However, many of you have probably heard songs that Leon wrote. This was today's rock and roll history lesson.