Creative Nonfiction: Tom Cruise

Ever read a book but have little recall of its content, except for one sentence or thought that finds a permanent place in your mind and heart? I’ve read a book like that; I read it twice in fact. The book was titled The Spirituality of Imperfection; it’s really a number of stories with an introduction. The one thought that impressed me was in the introduction. The author said, ‘God must love stories because each of us has one’. How true of us humans. There are innumerable autobiographies & biographies, each one a story.

One of the most read and most loved is St Theresa the Little Flower’s, The Story of a Soul. I’ve also read that one twice and remember mostly the whole story. Although she passed on to eternity so young and lived her adult years behind the walls of a Carmelite convent in France, her story is known the world over. The story I am about to tell you is a minute piece of my story, not my autobiography. How it fits into the whole of my life, I haven’t figured out, but I believe it will be revealed to me here or in the hereafter. It’s about a turkey.

(On the light side; Stay tuned for the rest of the story!)

Ascension of Jesus

This Thursday we celebrate the joyous feast of the Ascension. For His Apostles it was also awesome yet in a way frightening. They were now left without their teacher and for the next nine days must await word from Him accompanied by the Blessed Mother cloistered in The Upper Room. below is a short excerpt from mu novel followed by a poem.

Excerpt from Ch. 45 of Daybreak:     { Jonathan and his friends Simon and Abraham are returning to Jerusalem after spending the night at the home of Lazareth,  While walking on the Mount of olives they happen to meet  the eleven Apostles of Jesus who have just witnessed a miraculous event. }

“Peter, what happened today?” Simon asked, unable to wait any longer.

“We eleven were in the upper room in Jerusalem south of the Temple where we had observed Passover together. He appeared to us and then brought us here to the mountain overlooking the town of Bethany. He told us we would not see Him again until He comes in glory and He would prepare a place for us in the mansions of heaven. Elijah and Moses joined the Messiah, one on each side of Him. A cloud suddenly covered them and they were gone,” Peter said.

“Two beings, arrayed in white garments that shone with an unusual light, appeared at once beside us,” John continued. “They asked, why are you staring after Him for He will return as he left.”

Peter said, “He told us to go back to Jerusalem with His mother and await the Spirit of truth. The Spirit would give us the courage we needed to spread the good news of His teaching. We are on the way to His Mother and ours, and then to the upper room where we celebrated Passover.”

( Poem written in 2003 )

LORD LET ME BE READY

They stretched their necks and gazed in wonder as their Master was taken from them.  They were not ready  to lose Him; they were not prepared. They cowered to be alone.  But their Lord knew they needed Him. He allowed them to grieve in prayer. They had their mother to console them.; He was merciful to His friends. This Novena would bring them to readiness to receive a powerful gift. Will I be ready, Lord? Will your face knock me from my feet; prostrate my body and my soul? In grief I wait. Prepare me as they were prepared. Lord let me be ready. Keep me close to You through Her; open my soul to receive your gift. Bend my heart that I may look up and see you coming in the clouds with the angel beside me saying: He is coming back just as He left.

Greet Him. You are ready. His Spirit is in you. Alleluia!

On Being a Mother

When growing up as one of  seven children, I don’t remember appreciating what my mother did. There are countless memories that illustrate her great love of family and each of us, her children; while finding time to care for others: a dear Uncle who had a stroke, add to that a baby girl whose mother died in childbirth, our dad through years of cancer, and her own mother who passed on at 103.. These she cared for in her home over the years.

How did she manage this and find time for countless friends and relatives who stopped by unannounced and various children often dropped off for the day. I think this great capacity to serve and be there for so many souls began with her bringing up raised in a Christian home. She continued the practice of her own mother of spending the first hour of the day reading her Bible and praying. She followed the example of her father in generosity of time and possessions for the asking.

We wonder why Jesus bequeathed to friends, like us, His own Mother who can and will help us in every way just for the asking. This ability of the Blessed Mother to render unfailing help is exemplified by the supernatural ability of my mother, only on an even larger scale. Happy Mothers’ Day, Moms!

 

The Gift: Grand Parents, Grand Children

The Swings Hang Vacant Waiting

The frame stands, reinforced, rusty bolts replaced, repainted sky blue
The swings hang vacant waiting for the grand children

From the first the son helped his father
Eager as he held the hundred bolts & nuts
As one by one the metal pipes connected rose
Gifted by grand parents, the box contained glee and motion, flight and wonder
The child grew, joined by a sister and the two flew to lands beyond sight
A few years of togetherness

Abandoned, the blue faded and surface rust marred the magic
Swings sat waiting until the day a  son of our son and his brothers
Caused a grand father to refurbish and rebirth the flying machine
Powered by the energy of little legs and grand imaginings
Flying higher than the sky.

We had a few years as we flew to heights beyond
But one day look to land as grand children in that long awaited time and place
Together, never ending, always waiting wonders ever new
Flights beyond, soaring skyward.

The swings hang vacant, waiting.

DJ Pasternak April 1, 2020

Reflections on Easter 2020: Continued

The Easter season began as in other years with fasting and Mass on Ash Wednesday; however, in April churches were closed and Masses celebrated by the priests were designated private Masses. In our diocese the churches were open and hours of Adoration permitted. Soon the norm became only private Mass allowed. Blessings came to us when our parish and many others set up live streaming of Mass every day of the week. Our pastor also set up Flocknotes where he informed us of news and written homilies and spiritual food for thought through email.

Palm Sunday drew near and we felt an urgency to do something to acknowledge we were about to celebrate Christ’s entry into Jerusalem. There would be no palms. A friend emailed us photos of decorations using greens and flowers for Palm Sunday. I used Yucca plant spears and a couple of branches of an indoor plant for the palms and silk flowers all tied together with a purple waterproof ribbon. It looked great on our door but who would see it? So I made another similar piece for a metal post near the road, added some purple streamers and a bow for the mail box. I placed the sign given to us by another friend from church that said One Nation Under God.

Holy week came and we watched the streaming of the Tridium; Holy Thursday, Good Friday. and Easter Sunday as well as the weekday Masses. We received the grace of spiritual Communion. We happened to have a black wrought iron cross in our garden and my husband had an idea to paint it white, decorate and place it down by the road near the post. He bought a solar spotlight and we put it out on Holy Saturday night. It gave us consolation when we walked down in the darkness and viewed the lighted cross. Our Christmas tree refused to drop it’s needles and we placed it, still in its stand, by our front door. We adorned it with white lights for all to see through the nights of the Easter season.

I had baked a traditional Easter cake, cranberry bread, and cinnamon buns on Good Friday. On Saturday afternoon our son and daughter-in-law came with homemade Italian cookies and a pot of yellow tulips. We sent a bag with the baked goods and a box of chocolates home with them. We missed seeing the grandchildren but were thankful all were well! Another friend dropped off a bouquet and another stopped by with hand made masks we ordered plus a basket of daisy mum plants.

On Easter Sunday we watched Mass streaming on our parish website and enjoyed a pasta lunch. We usually gave baked goods to people on Easter and later in the afternoon brought some of those to our neighbors. We had a plate of the pasta left and brought that to a friend who made our masks along with a box of chocolates. We observed the rules of social distancing and wearing masks.

Although we were not able to be together with our family or invite friends over, we knew the spirit of Easter was present and Jesus dwelt with us in spite of everything. Perhaps the circumstances made us find our way to see God’s love through sharing with each other and seeing Him in others.

All is well. He lives!

Reflections on Easter 2020

In 2014 an idea for a novel came to me. I don’t remember the exact day or time. After many self edits over five years, the 87,000 word Historical Christian novel, Daybreak from on High, now remains stored in micro soft word in my computer, as well as, in a box from Staples. The book is about a young Jewish man named Jonathan who sells doves with his father in the Court of the Gentiles in the Great Temple in Jerusalem. The story begins with the announcement of the birth of a prophet, John the Baptist, on the Feast of the Atonement.

In writing this work of fiction I learned that Jewish life centered around the feast days of their faith, the three major ones being the feasts of Passover, Pentecost and Tabernacles. Our Christian feast of Easter is in proximity to Passover. Jesus celebrated these feasts with his family as he grew up and He celebrated the Passover with His disciples the Thursday before He was crucified.

In reflecting on the life of a Jew I realized our lives as Christians also center around the Holy Days on our calendar. We observe the forty day period of lent leading up to the  Feast of the Resurrection of Jesus. Like the Jews we follow certain customs in the form of fasting, worship, and festivities. This year churches were closed because of the corona virus pandemic. The usual observance of Palm Sunday through Holy Week and Easter in our churches was not possible. In Chapter thirteen of my novel Passover was cancelled one year because of a massive loss of life, not caused not by a virus, but by the Roman Ethnark Herod Archelaus. The Temple was closed and the people celebrated the feast at home.

I will describe how my husband and I celebrated the 2020 Easter in my next post.

The Resurrection: From Daybreak

Nothing could stop me from going to the tomb. The Lord guided my footsteps. Finally,  I entered the garden through a narrow gate and walked along a well trodden path. It was appropriate He rested in a garden. That was His Father’s original intention for all of creation __ to live in the garden of Eden. There were sounds of earth’s awakening all around. Birds singing, a small brook splashing over rocks, a gentle breeze rustling through the trees.

I saw the place where we hid yesterday and then the tomb. The entrance was open, the specially made stone rolled to one side. There were no guards or mourners. I hesitated but could not resist entering. The slab was empty where a dead man should have been. Only the burial cloth and the costly scent of myrrh and aloe remained. The appealing fragrance filled the tomb. It felt sacred. In one corner on a small ledge, I noticed the face cloth of Yeshua folded neatly. The light from the entrance lit up the whole area. He had risen as He said!

Trembling I knelt on the stone floor uttering a prayer of gratitude. The Messiah had come. Born like every man and He died so men might live forever. He conquered death by dying and rising. Who could understand the mind of the Lord?

I left the tomb and walked outside into the light. Everything appeared more intense and vivid. Something made me look down and I saw a patch of tiny white flowers, the kind I picked for Sarai the night we met on the roof of my uncle’s home.

I had to tell my dearest relatives: Yeshua had risen! I had to tell everyone.

Crucifixion: from Daybreak

One of the soldiers used a ladder to nail the sign near the top of the cross which read The King of the Jews, written in Aramaic and below it what must have been Latin and Greek. Josephus, Columba, and I were staring up at Him. We could not look away.

Would Yeshua’s Father intervene? Something was happening. The sky grew even darker than it had been. A terrible storm was coming upon us and the wind caused the executioner’s horses to rise on their front legs A group of soldiers were laughing and casting lots. One of them took Yeshua’s garment. He must have won it. Yeshua hung between the two thieves. Slowly we made our way closer.

The criminals on each side were taunting Him. The pharisees challenged Him to come down from the cross if He was the Son of God. The ones who performed the crucifixion blasphemed Him obnoxiously. This had been going on for some time.

After a short-lived silence as the three on their crosses suffered the pains of the inhumane crucifixion, the Messiah said of those responsible for His suffering, Father forgive them for they know not what they do.

Hearing this, the criminal on His right who had previously also mocked Him, looked toward Yeshua, groaned, and pleaded loudly, Lord remember me when you come into your kingdom.

Yeshua looked at him and said, Amen, today you will be with me in paradise.

But the one on His left spat at Him and swore.

I had to lower my eyes from the sight of His intense suffering. Columba stood next to me. His legs buckled and he knelt on the rocky ground. His face turned ashen and his lips quivered. I dropped to my knees beside him putting my arm around his shoulders.

Coumba cried out: “Jon, will your God rescue His Son? Why must He suffer such pain?”

I knew why and needed to tell my friend the reason. “He suffers for our sins and for those of all men. He pays the price for justice. We know that God is just as well as merciful. The mystery is one of God’s love for us. Yeshua is like a lamb led to slaughter, a sacrifice offered like the lambs that are being slain for the Passover Feast.”

Yet it was even difficult for me, raised a Jew, to accept this. How much more beyond the understanding of a Roman. If God allowed this for His own Son, what would become of the friends of Yeshua?

“He is trying to speak. Listen,” Josephus said.

Woman, behold, your son! Son, behold your mother! He said, looking down at His mother and John who stood close to the foot of the cross.

In His agony the Son of God expressed concern for His mother. It was a human quality, love for one’s mother. This man hanging on the cross was both human and divine.

Yeshua said, I thirst.

One of the guards took a sponge, dipped it in a vessel of wine, and stuck it on a sprig of hyssop. Lifting the sponge to His mouth, they tried to make Him drink, but He refused. The guard removed it from Him.

Yeshua spoke saying, My God, my God, why have you forsaken me?

He felt abandoned by our Lord just as I had at times. I knew He was God’s Son yet also human. We never saw His Father. Now we had seen the Son face to face.

Minutes later he said, It is Finished.

We realized Yeshua would not be rescued by His Father. He spoke from the cross one last time.

Into Your hands I commend My Spirit.

The wind swept over Golgotha. The earth shook, and a chasm in the solid rock surface separated us from our friends. Columba and I were nearer the cross on one side of the fissure and Josephus and Simon on the other. Darkness unlike any I had seen in daytime covered Golgotha and the Temple area beyond.

Excerpt from Daybreak

(Jonathan. the main character in my novel Daybreak from on High. returned to his home after celebrating Passover with a group of friends including a Roman Soldier. During the Seder he felt the presence of his deceased wife, Sarai.)”

When I came to the arbor of my outdoor area, something inside me refused to open the door. Once inside, I felt Sarai would leave and loneliness overcome me. I sat down on a crate and placed the lantern on the table. Despite the wine and food I’d consumed, my mind was clear and alert.

I recounted times spent with her, from the first moment we were alone in my home when she dropped the pottery in the kitchen, and her attraction to me was revealed. Finally after some hours, I grew weary and rose to enter my dwelling.

Distant voices echoed through the Kidron Valley. Was it my imagination? I strained to hear them, but thought it might just be the wind. There were lights barely visible near a garden called Gethsemane at the bottom of the Mount of Olives. By then my eyes were heavy. Entering the dwelling, I stumbled to my cot as the lantern ran out of oil. I fell into a deep sleep and awoke near dawn, but rolled over and fell asleep once more.

During this early morning lapse, a nightmare invaded my rest. Columba was striking a Roman soldier pounding a nail into the wrist of a bruised and bleeding man about to be crucified. The blade of a sword severed my friend’s arm and blood splattered over everything. I must have cried out and suddenly someone was shaking me.

“Jonathan, it’s all right. You’re dreaming,” Columba shouted, embracing me with one arm.

The shock of seeing him brought on hysteria, and I could not stop screaming. Finally, exhausted I fell back on my cot sobbing.

“You scared me Jon. Let me get you some water. What frightened you so?”

“I’m fine now. But I can’t talk about it.”

“Let’s get some fresh air out under the arbor.”

We sat for a while, and Columba brought me water from the well nearby. Then he told me why he came. “I am sorry to be the bearer of some disturbing news. How are you feeling now?”

“I’m fine. Go on, tell me.”

“Simon came back to the apartment of Josephus late last night. I had decided to sleep there and was awakened from a peaceful slumber. In fact, everyone was roused by a pounding on the door. It seems Simon heard from a servant in the Palace of Ananias that Yeshua had been seized in Gethsemane, the garden near the Kidron Valley. A contingent of Roman soldiers and Temple Guards brought Him forcibly to the palace. They struck His head and spat on Him accusing Him of blasphemy. Ananias sent Him to Caiaphas. That’s all Simon could tell us.”

“They will kill Him, Columba. By crucifixion,” I said immediately regretting my words.

“I cannot bear it. I’ve seen it once. How could they do that to one so innocent? I know He is the Messiah.”

The Third Anointing

The third anointing of Jesus took place two days before the Passover which would be Tuesday of Holy Week. The accounts are found in Matthew 26:6-12 and Mark 14:3-9. There are minor differences in these two gospels while basically presenting identical versions of the same event. Both versions tell us they took place in Bethany at the house of Simon the leper.

To illustrate this point compare: “Now when Jesus was in Bethany at the house of Simon the Leper, a woman came up to Him with an alabaster jar of costly perfumed oil and poured it on His head while He was reclining.” Mathew 26:7 and “While He was in Bethany reclining at table, a woman came with an alabaster jar of perfumed oil, costly genuine spikenard. She broke the alabaster jar and poured it on His head.” Mark 14:3

The same objection arose in both accounts: the amount spent should have been given to the poor. In Matthew the complaint came from the disciples while in Mark it was from unknown persons at the dinner. Jesus countered with the woman did this in anticipation of His burial. He went further saying  in Matthew 26:13 … wherever the gospel is proclaimed in the whole world, what she has done will be spoken of, in memory of her.  and in Mark 14:9, …wherever the gospel is proclaimed to the whole world, what she has done will be told in memory of her.

In the first anointing, Jesus defended the sinful woman, when the Pharisee who hosted the dinner objected to the type of woman who did the anointing, saying: …your sins are forgiven…Your faith has saved you; go in peace. Luke 7:48-50. In the second anointing the complaint came from Judas Iscariot that the money should have been given to the poor. John’s gospel plainly gives Judas another motive that he was a thief; he held the money bag for the disciples. Finally in John 12:7 Jesus said, …leave her alone. Let her keep it for my burial. You always have the poor with you, but you do not always have me.

This seems to indicate there was a fourth anointing of Jesus body at the tomb. and also that he desired it be done. Our Lord Jesus was truly human and divine!