Saturday, June 29, 2013

Steep Learning Curve

Heading out on a training hike in the Alpine Lakes Wilderness Enchantments Area

Thriving and surviving on a 50 mile, 3-mountain pass backpacking trip in August is a goal that each member of our family hopes to achieve.  Tim and I agreed to lead a Scout crew over the Cross to Ross trek, along with our boys and several Scout friends.  For Zachary, this adventure has met once with a successful crossing, and once with a successful turning back due to unfavorable and dangerous conditions.
Reading signs and following directions
As with many big goals, the price to pay along the way can be quite steep.  Setting aside an entire day for a grueling training hike; leaving behind a lazy day at camp or a day in town for ice cream cones and playtime can seem fairly extreme, unless the ultimate goal of being prepared for the big trek is foremost in our minds.  The temptation toward taking the easier, softer way beckons; the reality of hard work doesn't always seem appealing.  But big goals have big payoffs, and big payoffs cost.

In big things and in little things, our ultimate aim should be toward reaching the ultimate goal of spending eternity in heaven with God.  May all the paths we take lead us toward heaven.
Mama mountain goat on a cliff with her young

A steep learning curve
Keep your gaze fixed on heaven.

Monday, June 24, 2013

Senior Patrol Leader

Offering a real-life training ground for leadership skills is one of the key features of Boy Scouts.  Our Life Scout, Joseph (15), currently holds the title of senior patrol leader for his troop.  An elected position, the senior patrol leader is the top junior leader of the troop.  Under the direction of the Scoutmaster (who happens to be his dad), Joseph takes charge of troop meetings, the planning meetings (PLCs), and the outings and adventures.

Joseph demonstrates lighting a camp stove before fixing dinner at Eight Mile Campground in the North Cascades.
With the title of senior patrol leader (SPL) comes heightened expectations for setting a good example for all the Scouts in the troop.  Practicing leave no trace on outings, wearing the uniform correctly and living the Scout Oath and Law are responsibilities of the SPL.

Joseph as exhibit A
Joseph's natural comfort zone does not include being on center stage or drawing attention to himself, yet as the senior patrol leader he has the opportunity to stretch his comfort zone a bit.  Not normally known as a morning person, Joseph as SPL holds the responsibility of rallying the troop for camp activities, including an early morning departure for river rafting on a recent camp-out.  Stalking near the tents where Scouts lay sleeping, Joseph clanged the pots and pans as an alarm bell and early warning system.  Prank-like yet necessary, this duty may go down as the highlight of his term!
Joseph on the shores of Icicle Creek
SPL Joseph serves as MC for the flag retirement ceremony at a recent campfire.
Following a script and enlisting assistants for important ceremonies in Scouts, the SPL takes charge.
Holding the key junior leadership position in the troop, Joseph has many opportunities to learn from his successes and from not-so-successful experiences.  Hopefully his six month term will prove to be fun and rewarding as well as challenging and effective.  May Joseph the SPL leave a lasting mark on the troop, as the troop leaves a lasting mark on our Scouts.

Friday, June 21, 2013

Step It Up America! {Fortnight 4 Freedom}

The bishops have urged an intensification of penance and prayer for religious freedom in our country.  Further, during this Year of Faith, these resources are provided to help the faithful learn more about our courageous forebears in the faith and to follow their example. (

Educational Resources ~ use these to teach your children or increase your own knowledge.

Prayer for the Protection of Religious Liberty

O God our Creator,
from your provident hand we have received
our right to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.
You have called us as your people and given us
the right and the duty to worship you, the only true God,
and your Son, Jesus Christ.
Through the power and working of your Holy Spirit,
you call us to live out our faith in the midst of the world,
bringing the light and the saving truth of the Gospel
to every corner of society.
We ask you to bless us
in our vigilance for the gift of religious liberty.
Give us the strength of mind and heart
to readily defend our freedoms when they are threatened;
give us courage in making our voices heard
on behalf of the rights of your Church
and the freedom of conscience of all people of faith.
Grant, we pray, O heavenly Father,
a clear and united voice to all your sons and daughters
gathered in your Church
in this decisive hour in the history of our nation,
so that, with every trial withstood
and every danger overcome—
for the sake of our children, our grandchildren,
and all who come after us—
this great land will always be "one nation, under God,
indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
We ask this through Christ our Lord.


Thursday, June 20, 2013

Unlock Your Life

Deliver us from evil

About a year ago, I ordered Neal Lozano's Unbound at, but it never arrived and I lost $1 plus shipping in the failed transaction.   I placed a second order and finally owned my own copy by late July 2012.  With the chaos of preparing for Zachary's 18th birthday and Eagle Court of Honor, and subsequent family drive to and from Notre Dame, I shelved the book as a 'must read soon.'  In what was labeled "a classic Bridget move," rather than read it myself, I passed it off on Tim, who completed it in fairly short order.

Again the book gathered dust, almost picked up when Father Straz mentioned Unbound as a must-read and highly recommended I set aside a weekend (many months in the future) to attend a local conference being given by the author. 

Flash forward a few more months, and you'll find me recommending Lozano's book, still unread, to a dear friend. She mentioned her Presbyterian pastor's suggestion to put on 'spiritual armor' when embarking into jail ministry, and Unbound popped into my head, so I offered to loan her my copy.  When she found out I hadn't read it yet, she was reluctant to take it.  I told her that the author would be presenting at a local conference soon, and encouraged her to read it in the event that the two of us might attend the workshops together.

Within a matter of days, she returned the book with a short note tucked inside "Thanks ~ loved the book!"  She found the material so enlightening and intriguing that she made plans to attend not only the conference, but the 2 day pre-conference training as well.  Talk about a kick in the pants, I finally picked up the book myself and began to read it. From the first few pages of the introduction I was captivated with the concepts put forth and found it difficult to put down.
We are set free from the devil's influence when we pray, read the Bible, participate in church services or receive sacraments.  Deliverance is not a one-time event but an ongoing and normal part of the Christian life. ~ Unbound, p13
Together with two friends, I attended the conference 'Finding Freedom in Christ', as well as the 2-day pre-conference training in Unbound Ministry.  I picked up (and read) a copy of Lozano's Resisting the Devil: A Catholic Perspective on Deliverance and Unbound Ministry Guidebook.  Very infrequently do I post a book recommendation, but I am convinced that reading Unbound has the potential to positively and dramatically change someone's life forever (into eternity).  My advice: read it, learn how to pray for healing, share the message, and reap eternal benefits.

  • Check out Father Jim Northrop's 11 minute sermon on the life-changing power of deliverance prayer taught in Unbound: Getting Free From Sin
  • Visit: for Unbound resources and testimonies.

Wednesday, June 19, 2013

Reluctant Christians

Pope Francis releases a reluctant dove in St. Peter's Square (Photo:
I found this photo floating around the Internet today, and it caught my eye as the mother and personal photographer of a few budding pigeon trainers.  A little research revealed that this image was captured on May 15, 2013, in St. Peter's Square, after a pilgrim in the crowd asked Pope Francis to release two doves from a cage.  Turns out Pope Francis brings bird handling experience to the job, having owned parrots in his younger years.

Will you take a moment to open your heart to the words and deeds of Pope Francis, a holy Christian pastor?  His clear, challenging, and extremely Biblical messages are spoken for our spiritual benefit and sanctification.  May I present exhibit A (below) given to all of us on the very day of the famous dove release.  Reader, be warned ~ he poses a handful of very challenging questions:
Dear Brothers and Sisters, Good morning!
Today I would like to reflect on the Holy Spirit’s action in guiding the Church and each one of us to the Truth. Jesus himself told his disciples: the Holy Spirit “will guide you into all the truth” (Jn 16:13), since he himself is “the Spirit of Truth” (cf. Jn 14:17; 15:26; 16:13).
We are living in an age in which people are rather sceptical of truth. Benedict xvi has frequently spoken of relativism, that is, of the tendency to consider nothing definitive and to think that truth comes from consensus or from something we like. The question arises: does “the” truth really exist? What is “the” truth? Can we know it? Can we find it? Here springs to my mind the question of Pontius Pilate, the Roman Procurator, when Jesus reveals to him the deep meaning of his mission: “What is truth?” (Jn 18:37, 38). Pilate cannot understand that “the” Truth is standing in front of him, he cannot see in Jesus the face of the truth that is the face of God. And yet Jesus is exactly this: the Truth that, in the fullness of time, “became flesh” (cf. Jn 1:1, 14), and came to dwell among us so that we might know it. The truth is not grasped as a thing, the truth is encountered. It is not a possession, it is an encounter with a Person.
But who can enable us to recognize that Jesus is “the” Word of truth, the Only-Begotten Son of God the Father? St Paul teaches that “no one can say ‘Jesus is Lord’ except by the Holy Spirit” (1 Cor 12:3). It is the Holy Spirit himself, the gift of the Risen Christ, who makes us recognize the Truth. Jesus describes him as the “Paraclete”, namely, “the one who comes to our aid”, who is beside us to sustain us on this journey of knowledge; and, at the Last Supper, Jesus assures the disciples that the Holy Spirit will teach them all things and remind them of all he has said to them (cf. Jn 14:26).
So how does the Holy Spirit act in our life and in the life of the Church in order to guide us to the truth? First of all he recalls and impresses in the heart of believers the words Jesus spoke and, through these very words, the law of God — as the Prophets of the Old Testament had foretold — is engraved in our heart and becomes within us a criterion for evaluation in decisions and for guidance in our daily actions; it becomes a principle to live by. Ezekiel’s great prophesy is brought about: “You shall be clean from all your uncleannesses, and from all your idols I will cleanse you. A new heart I will give you, and a new spirit I will put within you.... And I will put my spirit within you, and cause you to walk in my statutes and be careful to observe my ordinances” (36:25-27). Indeed, it is in our inmost depths that our actions come into being: it is the heart itself that must be converted to God and the Holy Spirit transforms it when we open ourselves to him.
Then, as Jesus promised, the Holy Spirit guides us “into all the truth” (Jn 16:13); not only does he guide us to the encounter with Jesus, the fullness of the Truth, but he also guides us “into” the Truth, that is, he makes us enter into an ever deeper communion with Jesus, giving us knowledge of all the things of God. And we cannot achieve this by our own efforts. Unless God enlightens us from within, our Christian existence will be superficial. The Church’s Tradition asserts that the Spirit of truth acts in our heart, inspiring that “sense of the faith” (sensus fidei) through which, as the Second Vatican Council states, the People of God, under the guidance of the Magisterium, adheres unfailingly to the faith transmitted, penetrates it more deeply with the right judgement, and applies it more fully in life (cf. Dogmatic Constitution Lumen Gentium, n. 12). Let us try asking ourselves: am I open to the action of the Holy Spirit? Do I pray him to give me illumination, to make me more sensitive to God’s things?
This is a prayer we must pray every day: “Holy Spirit, make my heart open to the word of God, make my heart open to goodness, make my heart open to the beauty of God every day”. I would like to ask everyone a question: how many of you pray every day to the Holy Spirit? There will not be many but we must fulfil Jesus’ wish and pray every day to the Holy Spirit that he open our heart to Jesus.
Let us think of Mary who “kept all these things, pondering them in her heart” (Lk 2:19, 51). Acceptance of the words and truth of faith so that they may become life is brought about and increases under the action of the Holy Spirit. In this regard we must learn from Mary, we must relive her “yes”, her unreserved readiness to receive the Son of God in her life, which was transformed from that moment. Through the Holy Spirit, the Father and the Son take up their abode with us: we live in God and of God. Yet is our life truly inspired by God? How many things do I put before God?
Dear brothers and sisters, we need to let ourselves be bathed in the light of the Holy Spirit so that he may lead us into the Truth of God, who is the one Lord of our life. In this Year of Faith let us ask ourselves whether we really have taken some steps to know Christ and the truth of faith better by reading and meditating on Sacred Scripture, by studying the Catechism and by receiving the sacraments regularly. However, let us ask ourselves at the same time what steps we are taking to ensure that faith governs the whole of our existence. We are not Christian “part-time”, only at certain moments, in certain circumstances, in certain decisions; no one can be Christian in this way, we are Christian all the time! Totally! May Christ’s truth, which the Holy Spirit teaches us and gives to us, always and totally affect our daily life. Let us call on him more often so that he may guide us on the path of disciples of Christ. Let us call on him every day. I am making this suggestion to you: let us invoke the Holy Spirit every day, in this way the Holy Spirit will bring us close to Jesus Christ.
~POPE FRANCIS' GENERAL AUDIENCE, Saint Peter's Square, Wednesday, 15 May 2013

Thursday, June 13, 2013

Speaking in Tongues

Zachary crosses a stream near Maple Grove campsite along Baker Lake.

The longer the hike, the more I pray along the way.  How else could I possibly keep up with a group of teenage boys and grown men?  Some of the prayers are formal; others are spontaneous.  My little prayer at each stream crossing on our recent trek was a simple, "Come Holy Spirit," as the flowing water inspired me to recall the waters of baptism and the power of the Holy Spirit.

As we hiked along, a Protestant friend and I were discussing prayer and I asked him if he prayed to the Holy Spirit.  "No," he replied, explaining, "I try to base all of my praying on the Lord's Prayer.  Not so much word for word, but in the general meaning of my prayers."

In another discussion about the Holy Spirit and the gifts of the Holy Spirit, my friend revealed a great curiosity about what the benefit of praying in tongues might be in today's world.  He reasoned that on the day of Pentecost, speaking in tongues would have been beneficial for preaching to the people assembled from many lands and many tongues.  But to hear someone speaking in tongues today, he said, just sounds like a made-up language and many speak in tongues without an interpretation of tongues to validate or translate their tongues legitimately.

St. Anthony of Padua, whom we remember in a special way today, discussed speaking in tongues in one of his many notable sermons:
The man who is filled with the Holy Spirit speaks in different languages. These different languages are different ways of witnessing to Christ, such as humility, poverty, patience and obedience; we speak in those languages when we reveal in ourselves these virtues to others. Actions speak louder than words; let your words teach and your actions speak. We are full of words but empty of actions, and therefore are cursed by the Lord, since he himself cursed the fig tree when he found no fruit but only leaves. Gregory says: “A law is laid upon the preacher to practice what he preaches.” It is useless for a man to flaunt his knowledge of the law if he undermines its teaching by his actions.
But the apostles spoke as the Spirit gave them the gift of speech. Happy the man whose words issue from the Holy Spirit and not from himself! For some men speak as their own character dictates, but steal the words of others and present them as their own and claim the credit for them. The Lord refers to such men and others like them in Jeremiah: So, then, I have a quarrel with the prophets that steal my words from each other. I have a quarrel with the prophets, says the Lord, who have only to move their tongues to utter oracles. I have a quarrel with the prophets who make prophecies out of lying dreams, who recount them and lead my people astray with their lies and their pretensions. I certainly never sent them or commissioned them, and they serve no good purpose for this people, says the Lord.
We should speak, then, as the Holy Spirit gives us the gift of speech. Our humble and sincere request to the Spirit for ourselves should be that we may bring the day of Pentecost to fulfillment, insofar as he infuses us with his grace, by using our bodily senses in a perfect manner and by keeping the commandments. Likewise we shall request that we may be filled with a keen sense of sorrow and with fiery tongues for confessing the faith, so that our deserved reward may be to stand in the blazing splendor of the saints and to look upon the triune God.  ~From a sermon by Saint Anthony of Padua, priest (1231+)

Looking back with fond memories on our pilgrimage to visit St. Anthony's grave in Padua, Italy and on our little backpacking trek in the mountains, I am grateful for virtuous Christian friends who speak in tongues every day, even if they don't realize it.

St. Anthony of Padua, pray for us!

Monday, June 10, 2013

Pity the Home Schooled

Joseph whittles away at camp
Following our Sunday afternoon return from backpacking, we worshiped with the lively Newman Catholic Campus Ministry crowd at their Sunday evening Mass at Western Washington University.  Our pastor, Father Altenhofen, chaplain, completed his first school year with NCCM at last night's Mass.  Father preached boldly, encouraging his flock to depart from campus with great missionary zeal into whichever parish community they land ~ whether on summer break or as graduates.  He exhorted them to take their flame of faith and keep it burning brightly to help build up the fires of faith in their homes and workplaces.  He reminded us that the message of the Gospel, the whole Truth, will be contradicted at every turn, especially in the so-very-secular Pacific Northwest, and rallied the troops to be a voice for Jesus in every situation.

One of these boys attended the camp-out despite great fear of the unknown and anxiety over the physical challenges.
After Mass, the 20+ graduates lined up to speak to the congregation.  After a brief introduction stating their name and degree, each one shared what their 'next step' would be and offered words of wisdom.  With great clarity and conviction, these young Christians inspired us with their wisdom:
  • take your prayer time very seriously
  • grow more in love with Jesus every day by scripture reading and prayer
  • reach out in love to everyone you meet; the depth of loneliness on campus is appalling 
  • be true to who you are and how God is calling you to serve Him
  • play to your strengths ~ they are God given and meant to help you fulfill your unique mission
  • stay close to the sacraments, stay grounded in prayer and connected to a faith-filled community
  • don't let fear and anxiety control you ~ these are not from God
Zac on water duty at the lakeside
This morning one of our boys joined an off-season early morning work-out, and the topic of the weekend's mountainous adventure came up with one of his teammates, who replied:
"Is that how you poor home schoolers have to spend your weekends?  The rest of us are using drugs and partying!"

Pity the home schooled. 
Peter leads the charge for firewood retrieval as fire building forces gather.
A Scout is brave.

A Scout is cheerful.

Joseph seeks old growth support for his hammock.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Backpacking Adventure {North Cascades}

Peter, Tim, Joseph and Zachary at departure, ready for the 9 mile trek to camp
Our family's outdoor adventures often intersect with troop trips, and this weekend's trek along the shores of Baker Lake was no exception.  This particular backpacking route finds its way onto the annual must-do list most years, but this was the first year that our whole family made the trip all together.  Our boys and Tim took the long route to camp (9 miles) with a group of Scouts and dads, and I shuttled the Baker's Dozen 15 passenger van to the south end of the trail and hiked the 4 mile trek with the younger set. 
Tim and me along the shores of Anderson Creek
Ice cold creeks and the chilly Baker Lake provided for our drinking water, recreation, and therapy for sore feet.  We could not see the glorious Mount Baker on this trip due to cloud cover, but the weather was perfect for camping.  Swimming weather?  Depends on whom you ask.
Two cooks at supper time

Camp life on the shores of Baker Lake
Old School Scouting

Peter prepares for a very cold swim in Baker Lake.
Joseph secures his hammock on the trunk of an old growth cedar tree.

Bragging rights
Fire building always makes it to the very top of the to-do list at our Boy Scout camp-outs, and this was certainly no exception.  At one point in the afternoon of day one, there were four fires burning with various levels of success simultaneously.  The grand finale came after dinner when the successful hunt for dry wood fueled a giant tee-pee style fire along the shoreline.  Years of dreaming and plotting for a floating fire were finally realized, and the spectacle at dusk drew a crowd of onlookers from the adjoining campsites at Maple Grove.

A dream come true~the boys finally secured adult permission to launch a floating fire onto the lake.
Floating fire at sundown on Baker Lake
Hiking out on day 2, the boys doubled back to offer assistance with our packs.
The boys' physical strength, endurance and super competitive natures means that the hiking pace they prefer often leaves us in the dust.  However, after completing the hike out on day two, they doubled back in comfy shoes and offered to haul our packs for us on the final stretch of the trail. Sherpa service on the mountain trails ~ doesn't get much better than this!

Tuesday, June 4, 2013

Finding Direction {Pigeon Training}

Pigeon release; close to home
Set free
near home

finding direction
flying toward food

incremental challenges

predators stalking
security in numbers
prayers for safety

one resists release
clings to cage
urged out


the strong return
and feast