Sunday, May 16, 2010

We Did It! We Graduated!

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers,

I am officially a candidate for the Bachelor of Arts from Loyola University of Chicago.  And it sure feels good.  This weekend was graduation weekend for College of the Arts and Sciences students.  Many of my friends joined me in finishing their undergraduate careers at Loyola.  Here is a post that tries to summarize our commencement ceremony:


The forecast for the Rogers Park neighborhood called for cloudy skies on Friday, May 13.  But noonday sunshine proved local weatherpersons wrong during the College of Arts commencement ceremony at Loyola University Chicago.  Some five thousand people gathered in the Gentile Center---mainly spectators sitting in the stands cheering on the students sitting on the basketball court slated to receive undergraduate degrees from Loyola.

Immediately following the singing of the Star Spangled Banner, a small bird (who must have snuck into the arena without showing his ticket at the door) soared above the heads of the students.  It was very apropos on a day where students are metaphorically released from the years of tests and exams and paper writing. 

The undergraduates, all from the College of Arts and Sciences but receiving candidacy for a Bachelor of Arts, came from a variety of cities, states and even countries.  Michele Eken, a Cameroon native, was fortunate to be able to spend the graduation weekend with her parents who flew in for the ceremony. Her facebook message for fellow graduates read, "Congrats to all my fellow graduates no matter where you are and how you chose to celebrate!!!! we did it!!"  Michele plans to attend the University of Chicago law school in the fall. 

Lawrence Tyrone Williams, a political science major from California, offered the student address.  In both delivery and appearance, Williams resembled a young confident Barack Obama.  Several students sent text messages to friends asking if indeed Obama had been invited to speak.  Students may very well be casting a vote for Williams in the future if he continues to polish his political savvy.

Dr. Kevin Bales, president and co-founder of Free the Slaves, the US sister organization of Anti-Slavery International, was conferred the honorary degree and addressed the crowd.  In his speech, Bales discussed some of the startling statistics in regards to modern slavery.  For instance, 27 million people are currently enslaved.  However, Bales managed to provide the students with a sense that their generation could be the one that works to eradicate slavery for good.  

Loyola University prides itself on providing students an education that opens young peoples eyes to injustice while also providing a place to brainstorm ways to bring about a more humane world.  The institution seeks to offer students a "faith that does justice," regardless of the faith tradition in which the student comes from or subscribes to.  The selection of Bales as speaker promoted Loyola's stated values.  Over a dozen students took an opportunity to make a political statement with the top of their graduations caps.  Over a dozen students wrote sayings such as, “Do I look Illegal?” on the top of their graduation caps in protest of Arizona’s recent controversial laws which seek to crackdown on the amount of illegal immigrants living in that state.

As students walked across the stage, their names announced, some members of the crowd could not help but vocally show support for the graduating loved one.  A father screamed “that’s my daughter!” when his child's name was announced, drawing laughter from people in the arena.

Reverend Father Michael Garanzini concluded the ceremony with a traditional prayer for graduating students.  As students were reminded several times during the graduation ceremony, now is their time to put their four year Jesuit education into action. Ignatius of Loyola, founder of the Jesuits, the religious order who established Loyola University, described the mission of followers in this way: they are called to “go forth and set the world on fire.” 

Amidst the anxiety of paying off student loans and sailing the uncertainty of an economy still struggling to reclaim itself among the world market, students might find some hope in Ignatius’ words of wisdom.  Fortunately, the new graduates have almost five thousand spectators who are cheering them on along the way, and one soaring bird encouraging them to take flight. 

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Walking Through the City/Feeling Free/An Ode to my Evoke Community

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

This blog comes from a journal entry written several months ago. During the past year, I was fortunate enough to be a part of a group on campus at Loyola University Chicago called "Evoke Scholars." We were (are) a group of seven students who met once a week, generally sharing a meal together every Tuesday night. After the meal, we would share a bit of our lives with one another–––the group was part faith sharing, part story telling and complete moment making; each of us transformed each other through the vehicle of intentional community. Though the seven of us did not choose to make ourselves part of a club we became an Evoke family, a set of incredibly close allies. Through my connection with the seven members of my Evoke family, Daniel, Dave, Molly, Kylie, John and Laura, I am fortunate to know people who I consider lifelong friends.

As a token of my appreciation to them, I want to share some stories from Evoke. This first blog post comes from the journal we passed around as a community activity. Over the course of several weeks, one Evoke scholar was responsible for maintaining the pages of our Evoke journal. I had the journal in early March; the following excerpt comes from a subway ride through the city on a particularly mild March afternoon, from what I recall. It is a reflection on the earlier walk I took through the city, and the way in which the energy from the walk seemed to me to resemble a type of prayer.

March 12, 2010: Evoke Scholars Journal:

I wanted to write briefly about the continued inner peace I find just walking through the city and being with the flow of Chicago. I feel super free strolling down the streets of Chicago with (or without) my I-pod buds in my ears. For me, moments of walking the streets elicit images of mantra type prayer---but instead of sliding your fingers from one bead to another, or repeating a phrase in honor of a Higher Power, the walker finds spiritual moments in movement. In motion, I feel a sense of exodus and liberation. Prayer can involve movement. The spiritual exercises need not be passive, sedentary activities. Movement of any sort can be Spirit-filled. Ecstatic, exuberant, blissful---Spirit-filled movement is a forward-thinking prayer that invites the mover to move on and ahead. A dot in the city, so let it be. I love feeling free---like a swinging someone, lost and found in a willow tree.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Monday, May 10, 2010

Mother's Day Miracle in Baseball World

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I wanted to share with you this morning a story about perfection. While as humans we might never reach perfection in every facet of our lives, Oakland Athletics pitcher Dallas Braden reached perfection during the course of a baseball game he will never forget. I hope you enjoy this story and the relevancy it carries on Mother's Day Weekend. Braden, having lost his mother while he was in high school, pointed to the sky at the end of the game, thanking her, in a sense, for the gift of life. And Braden said the holiday, one that has not been easy for him since his mother died, is made a lot better with the perfect game and with his grandmother in the stands cheering him on.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Oakland's Braden is perfect against Rays

By JANIE McCAULEY, AP Baseball Writer Janie Mccauley, Ap Baseball Writer – Mon May 10, 12:50 am ET

OAKLAND, Calif. – Dallas Braden definitely owns the mound now.

Braden pitched the 19th perfect game in major league history on Sunday, shutting down the majors' hottest team and leading the Oakland Athletics to a 4-0 victory over the Tampa Bay Rays.

Braden threw his arms in the air after Gabe Kapler grounded out to shortstop for the final out, his simmering feud with Yankees star Alex Rodriguez merely a footnote to the first perfect game for Oakland in 42 years.

The closest the Rays got to a hit was Jason Bartlett's liner to third leading off the game. Evan Longoria tried to bunt leading off the fifth, drawing boos from the small crowd.

"Pretty cool," Braden said. "I don't know what to think about it just yet. There's definitely a select group. I'd like to have a career more than today."

Before this gem, Braden was best known for his enraged reaction to Rodriguez walking across the mound on April 22. Still angry after the game, he told the slugger "to go do laps in the bullpen" if he wanted to traipse across a mound.

The squabble was still simmering last week. On Friday in Boston, Rodriguez said he didn't want to extend Braden's "extra 15 minutes of fame."

A-Rod struck a far more conciliatory tone Sunday.

"I've learned in my career that it's always better to be remembered for some of the good things you do on the field, and good for him," Rodriguez said before facing Boston. "He threw a perfect game. And, even better, he beat the Rays."

That said, Braden's grandmother may have gotten the last word:

"Let's forget it, uh huh — and stick it, A-Rod," said a chuckling Peggy Lindsey, who was in the stands watching.

After the Yankees' 9-3 loss at Boston, Rodriguez was told a comment — presumably referring to Lindsey's remark — was made following Braden's perfect game.

"Uncle. No more guys," Rodriguez said.

Asked about it later in a different way, he said: "Uncle. Uncle." And then, Rodriguez walked away.

This was the majors' first perfect game since Mark Buehrle did it for the White Sox against the Rays on July 23, and the second no-hitter this season after Colorado's Ubaldo Jimenez accomplished it in Atlanta on April 17.

"I'm a bad omen. That's the third perfect game and fourth no-hitter I've been on the wrong side of," Rays manager Joe Maddon said. "When Kenny Rogers threw his I was the bullpen coach. If you want to see another one, just follow me around."

Braden pitched the A's first perfect game since Hall of Famer Jim "Catfish" Hunter's gem on May 8, 1968, against the Minnesota Twins. Only 6,298 were there to witness it. Sunday's crowd at the Coliseum wasn't much better: 12,228.

Braden (4-2) wasn't fazed by anything, locating his fastball in every spot, throwing two-strike changeups and getting quick outs against a Rays team that lost on the road for just the third time this year. He struck out six in the improbable 109-pitch performance, throwing 77 strikes in his 53rd career start and first complete game.

Braden's teammates mobbed him when the Mother's Day masterpiece was over, leaving bats and gloves scattered on the field. The left-hander pointed to the sky in honor of his single mom, Jodie Atwood, who died of skin cancer when he was a high school senior. He shared a long and tearful hug with Lindsey, who helped raise him, in front of the dugout.

"It hasn't been a joyous day for me in a while," Braden said. "With my grandma in the stands, it makes it a lot better."

Braden's perfect game was the sixth no-hitter in Oakland history. The 26-year-old Braden, a native of nearby Stockton, was a 24th-round draft pick by the A's in 2004. He improved his career record to 18-23.

"Little League, I got a couple of them under my belt," Braden said. "In the bullpen, I'm damn near perfect every day."

His grandmother gets the game ball, the Stockton Hall of Fame everything else (Click here to finish story).

Saturday, May 8, 2010

Happy Mother's Day Weekend to Everyone!

A Mother’s Day Prayer

by Maureen McCann Waldron

Creighton Online Ministries website has many prayers by and for mothers. Click here. Here is a Mother’s Day prayer:

I [we] thank you, Creator of us all, for my [our] mother[s].

I thank you that she gave me life and nurtured me all those years. She gave me my faith, helping me to know you and to know Jesus and his ways. She taught me how to love and how to sacrifice for others. She taught me that it was okay to cry and that I should always tell the truth.

Bless her with the graces she needs and which you want to give her today. Help her to feel precious in your eyes today and to know that I love her. Give her strength and courage, compassion and peace.

Bless her this day with your love.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )

Friday, May 7, 2010

New Posting after half a year

Greetings fellow Network of love lovers!

I thought I would post because, well, it has been months since I last blogged! Things have changed in my personal life since I last signed on blogspot. I just finished my last term paper as an undergraduate student yesterday! Horray and on to freedom from academics for a little over a month---and then I begin graduate studies at Northwestern University's Medill School of Journalism. There, I will work toward my masters of science in journalism. It will be one year of intense studies and rushing around in a city I love and cherish. Further, I will be following my passions, polishing my writing skills and learning from some of the best journalist in the area. I am looking forward, believe it or not, to have professors absolutely tear my writing apart---I need professionals to really edit my material and humble me to the point that I realize writing is as much of a discipline as it is an art. And yet, I am at peace with taking this journey. I am excited about the opportunities that lie ahead in the coming months and hopeful despite the challenges I will inevitably face.

My change from seminary studies to journalism is not as shocking as one might imagine. I see both professions (ministry and journalism) as being related insofar as members of each, when lived authentically, try to find truths embedded deep in reality and provide people with a glimmer of hope at its core. My spiritual director in seminary always told me that the best preacher holds a bible in one hand and a newspaper in the other---well, perhaps I will someday provide a preacher with content to draw her sermon from! I want to continue to blog either here or elsewhere as I continue this journey toward the life of a journalist.

Today, I offer a heartwarming story about Toby Williams, a 30 year old Chicago man who lives in the southside Englewood neighborhood and who recently graduated with his masters from Northeastern University. Toby has cerebral palsy---the article from the Sun Times describes the obstacles Williams has overcome in his pursuit for a higher education. Toby has succeeded---and his story made the front page of the Chicago Sun Times yesterday! Congratulations to Toby; I wish him the best in his future endeavors. He is an example of hope for our city and hope for our world.

Follow link below to read how Toby Williams mastered at Northeastern University:,CST-NWS-toby06.article

peace and wishing you all good things,

your friend bob : )

Friday, October 30, 2009

Part Two: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

Today is Friday...thank God its Friday (but there is a whole lot of rain here in the Windy City...a heap of rain has reigned downed on us). Enjoy your weekend all and I look forward to talking with you soon!

Here is the conclusion of Compassionate God, a posting I started in my previous blog (if you haven't checked out this blog in a while, I suggest you read the previous posting before starting this posting).

I’d like to consider God being revealed through my dead mother. This woman who gave birth to me is by all accounts physically dead. What does she physically have left to give? What compassion exists in her if her life ceases to exist? Something happens when I return home from the hospital. I am still angry, frustrated, guilty and above all feeling a complete sense of loss for having missed the opportunity to say goodbye to my mother. Before going to bed alone (my wife has moved out), I happen to notice a card on my desk. It is not as if the card was not there before, but it just so happens to catch my attention tonight. The outside of the card is a picture of a dove carrying an olive branch–––the inside is a message from my mother. It is a Christmas card she had given me last year. Even though I am middle-aged with children of my own, she writes the same conclusion in all my cards: “you will always be my child–––my baby forever. Love, Mom.” It always seemed like a sappy ending until now–––at this moment that somewhat cliché “I love you” message mysteriously triggers a reconciliation that becomes multiple reconciliations that begin to refocus my life. The written words of my mother seem to say from far away that she is still near and that she loves me–––for who I am and for who I fail to be. This woman, who gave birth to me–––who is dead¬¬¬¬–––seems to live.
Through rereading my mother’s card at a most crucial time, I recognize God. For what other way might I describe why I looked at that card the night my mother passed away? Though my mother’s heart stopped beating, her heart lives on in her memory and in her words. Can this phenomenological experience sustain me (does it provide me with ample faith)? It does seem to point to an even deeper truth–––it reveals a God who is fully compassionate. I conclude that the night my eye happened upon the card was a phenomenological experience: a revelation from a God who works subtly and is elusive while nevertheless pursuing me. God did not want me to feel angry or guilty or sad because I could not say goodbye to my mother. God seems to say, “I recognize your pain and I feel it along with you.” The moment I read the card triggers reconciliation with the life of my mother that begins a transformation in me. I realize selfishness and my ego was holding me back from the relationships I most cherished. The seeds of change are planted through a revelation that neither shocks nor awes but deeply mystifies.
In conclusion, I have painted a portrait of God that is not a theological proof for the existence of God or justification through scripture or tradition. The God I reveal in my story does not appear in wind or fire, but rather in the silence of a most lonely night. The God revealed suffers with me as I mourn the loss of my mother and wipes the tears from my eyes while crying along with me. I need not wipe the tears from God’s eyes because God is fully giving to me–––the tears God cries reveal the full compassion of God. The revelations of God’s fulfilling love come in ways that I don’t always see through my fragmented, sometimes suffering existence. However, when I reach outside of myself, I can collect the images and experiences that will serve as a foundation for beginning to sketch a picture of God. But alas, the sketch will remain incomplete.
Scattered though it may remain, the revelation of a fully compassionate God is one that calls for a transformation of heart and mind. William Reiser, S.J., in my opinion, puts the matter quite well. He discusses the crucifix (the sustaining tree of life of the Christian tradition) as a haunting, yet sacred image. A crucifix “draws attention to a haunting solidarity with the suffering humanity of [Jesus’] time and place that Jesus had demonstrated both in his living and in his dying.” In considering the death of Jesus–––what his death means if we put stake in the words and actions of his life–––we come to see an image of an unselfish person who gives of himself for the sake of others. Does he give fully? That is a question of faith that I simply can’t tackle in the context of this paper. But I would say that if we believe that God really could enter into life fully as a human person and then die fully as a human person, we could conclude that that God is fully self-giving. If we accept the idea that God might indeed have chosen to be revealed through the suffering of Jesus of Nazareth, then who is to say that God would not enter into our own sufferings in a most intimate and compassionate manner? This revelation would be a self-giving sacrifice from the Creator that would redeem our personal sufferings. If one believes in the resurrection of Jesus, one sees the plan of a person carried out in fullness. From life to death to resurrection of body, the Christian tradition believes in a person that becomes someone who conquers death.
Consider once again the narrative I used as an allegory throughout this paper: my mother who died is fully alive and recreated in a redemptive act that remains to be seen by me but exists within the confines of a mysterious God who does not hide behind a transcendent, Kantian kind of wall (nor high in the sky like my five year old brain conceived of it), but who actually exists in our midst as an elusive, yet fully compassionate God.


Thanks for reading my blog! Let me know if you have any questions or comments about what I posted; I'd be happy to share further.

peace and blessings!

with love,

your friend bob : )

Monday, October 26, 2009

Part One: Compassionate God

Greetings fellow Network of Love Lovers!

I want to post a paper I wrote for my Philosophy of Religion class. It has to do with the idea of God as all-compassionate...feel free to comment on it.

Part One:

When I was five years old, I vaguely recall drawing a crayon picture in my kindergarten class of a God who sat high in the sky at a computer desk. This Zeus-like man sported a flowing white beard and programmed the life of people on earth through his masterly computer programming skills. Obviously, the drawing was an innocent sketch of something or someone–––God–––that remains as much a mystery to me now as that moment I drew my old friend on the computer. I guess the difference between the me that thinks about God now verse the me that thought about God in kindergarten, is that the me now has more ideas and life experiences to draw from when trying to construct an image of God. But I concede that I am still much like the little boy with crayon in hand.
Nevertheless, I now, ironically enough, will consider God through a paper typed on a computer. The God I plan to discuss is not one who sits high in the sky at a computer desk (that would make God some kind of control freak computer geek–––not to offend anyone with computer expertise!). Rather, the God I will discuss is one who is fully compassionate, unselfish, and completely lacking in moral defect. God is not playing any games with anyone or entering codes or cheats to challenge or control. Instead, this God has to find a way to creatively enter into the humanity God created and make a revelation that is potent enough to touch the human heart enough that the human experiencing this God understands and seeks to turn away from her or his own selfish fears and desires. The mysterious interaction between the divine and the human would have to convince the human both in the existence of the divine and in the incredible call to the human to enter into the mystery of the divine, thereby forever intertwining the created with the Creator. What type of evidence might a fully compassionate God give to humans in order interact with them? How might God become present to humanity?
Faith traditions from around the world seek answers to such questions, relying on prophets, tradition, scripture, and phenomenological experiences, among other categories, to form belief systems. However, if I may be so bold, I want to attempt to step outside the doctrine and beliefs of major monotheistic traditions and seek to answer the question of how the God I have described might interact with humans like us from an existential standpoint. Leaving aside my Christian identity, I turn to an allegory to consider a modern Godly revelation.
Say that today I would like to go shopping for a birthday card for my mother only to find out, after walking to the local drug store, that the store is closed for the day, I would feel as if my set task was not fulfilled. Maybe I could shrug that off (with an example like that it wouldn’t be hard to do) and reason that I can walk to the store and get the card another day. But what if I take this to an extreme situation: my mother is on her deathbed and that card symbolizes a last chance to say I love you to a woman that gave birth to me. I run to the store only to realize that it is closed for the day. Dejected, I drive to the hospital to visit with my mother. I get to the hospital only to hear the terrible news from the doctor that my mother has passed away. In this instance, I feel a lack of fulfillment that comes from not only not having a card to present to my mother, but also a feeling of regret at having not been able to at least personally say goodbye. Tears maybe even swell my eyes as I realize that my mother is no longer alive. My desire to say goodbye to my mother, to tell her I love her, has not been fulfilled.
Following the doctor’s announcement that my mother has passed away, I cry out “why!” I am feeling as if I have somehow been betrayed by someone–––though I don’t know who. No one answers. I feel forsaken, shook and angry. My lack of fullness is becoming apparent to the nurse and doctor who are with me. They understand my struggle because they have had similar experiences of loss, and yet anything they say won’t make my pain go away. The pain feels lodged inside of me, as real as the blood that flows through my veins and keeps me from death. In this moment, I am seeking an answer to the question of why my mother had to die before I had the opportunity to tell her I love her. Just to make the situation even more difficult, let’s say that before she died, I had told her something very difficult–––that my wife and I were going to get a divorce. This is something my mother cried about–––I felt terrible telling her on her deathbed. Nevertheless, I felt like I had to tell her, to get it off my chest so to speak. The card I wanted to give her was something more than just a birthday card then; it was an apology and a sign that I sought forgiveness from and reconciliation with her. I was part fearful that if I didn’t apologize it would sting me more and continue to hurt her even as she struggled with the pains she was experiencing while slowly losing her battle with cancer. Giving the card to my mother was more than a way to say sorry; it was also a hidden way to restore some of the pride I had lost after telling her about the breakup with my wife.
To interrupt, it is now evident that the “I” in the narrative is not fulfilled, not fully compassionate and not without moral defect. He struggles with fear, pride and guilt among potentially other things. Moreover, his lack of confidence in relationships and his struggle to find peace in them seems to suggest a further lack of fulfillment. Establishing this, I want to now interject (abruptly) with a revelation from God. It seems to me that God would have three general ways to be revealed: (1) through a place, (2) through a thing, or (3) through a person. Let’s consider God appearing first in the form of a place in our narrative. To speak metaphorically, we might consider the place that a compassionate God appears in the told narrative is the drug store where I intend to buy the card to give to my dying mother. The place seems to represent an attempt of my wanting to reconcile a broken feature of the relationship with my mother. But the place is closed.
Second, let’s consider God appearing through a thing–––the card in itself. God might speak through the compassion, the words of kindness and love to the person who gave birth to me. But the card is never bought and God therefore does not appear in this thing in the case of my narrative.
Lastly, let’s consider God appearing through a person in the narrative. Does God appear through me? Is God revealed in my attempt to reconcile my relationship with my mother? Partly, I would argue, but not fully. For instance, I show signs that I wish to be closer to a God who is fully compassionate and unselfish and to be trusted, insofar as I want my mother to understand my love for her. I express this desire through my desire to give a birthday card. Still, as I have said earlier, the giving of the card is not completely unselfish–––there is an underlying pride because I want to receive–––and implicitly expect–––some kind of forgiveness and acceptance in return for the work I put into buying and giving the card to my mother. A fully unselfish and completely self-giving person would not want anything in return for the gift. Further, I am not giving of myself in giving the card–––I am giving a symbol of how I feel or who I am, but I am not physically giving myself. Would God have to be revealed through a full act of physical giving?

I'll post the second half in my next blog posting. Take care and God's blessings.

peace and with love,

your friend bob : )