Write In Between

Monday, February 27, 2006

Lenten Attitude

From Fat Tuesday to Ash Wednesday, we encounter a shift in attitude from self-centeredness to spirit-centeredness.

We are called do strengthen our spiritual muscles through prayer, fasting and almsgiving. I hope to post about each of these disciplines as we walk through Lent together.

But let's start with a prayerful attitude and a prayer for the waking, and the dawn of this holy season, with special thanks to author Max Lucado, who wrote this prayer, and my sis-in-law Peg for forwarding it to me.

When God Whispers Your Name

It’s quiet. It’s early. My coffee is hot. The sky is still black.
The world is still asleep. The day is coming.
In a few moments the day will arrive. It will roar down the track with the rising of the sun.
The stillness of the dawn will be exchanged for the noise of the day.
The calm of solitude will be replaced by the pounding pace of the human race.
The refuge of the early morning will be invaded by decisions
to be made and deadlines to be met.
For the next twelve hours I will be exposed to the day’s demands.
It is now that I must make a choice.
Because of Calvary, I’m free to choose.
And so I choose.
I choose love....
No occasion justifies hatred; no injustice warrants bitterness.
I choose love. Today I will love God and what God loves.
I choose joy...
I will invite my God to be the God of circumstance.
I will refuse the temptation to be cynical ... the tool of the lazy thinker.
I will refuse to see people as anything less than human beings, created by God.
I will refuse to see any problem as anything less than an opportunity to see God.
I choose peace
I will live forgiven.
I will forgive so that I may live.
I choose Patience
I will overlook the inconveniences of the world.
Instead of cursing the one who takes my place, I’ll invite him to do so.
Rather than complain that the wait is too long,
I will thank God for a moment to pray.
Instead of clinching my fist at new assignments,
I will face them with joy and courage.
I choose kindness...
I will be kind to the poor, for they are alone.
Kind to the rich for they are afraid.
And kind to the unkind, for such is how God has treated me.
I choose goodness...
I will go without a dollar before I take a dishonest one.
I will be overlooked before I will boast.
I will confess before I will accuse. I choose goodness.
I choose faithfulness...
Today I will keep my promises.
My debtors will not regret their trust.
My associates will not question my word.
My wife will not question my love.
And my children will never fear that their father will not come home.
I choose gentleness...
Nothing is won by force. I choose to be gentle.
If I raise my voice may it be only in praise.
If I clench my fist, may it be only in prayer.
If I make a demand, may it be only of myself.
I choose self-control...
I am a spiritual being. After this body is dead, my spirit will soar.
I refuse to let what will rot, rule the eternal. I choose self -control.
I will be drunk only by joy. I will be impassioned only by my faith.
I will be influenced only by God.
I will be taught only by Christ. I choose self-control.









and self-control.

To these I commit my day.

If I succeed, I will give thanks. If I fail, I will seek His grace.

And then, when this day is done, I will place my head on my pillow and rest.

~ Max Lucado.

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Sunday, February 26, 2006

Coffee, tea, or...

I have a favorite coffee mug.

Whenever I look into my kitchen cabinet, as the coffee brews or as the teapot boils, I choose it. I even go in search of it amidst the contents of a dirty dishwasher. I have other mugs--in fact, quite a souvenir collection from my travels over the years. I have matching dinnerware mugs and a hutch of fine china. But, given the choice, I take my ten year old mug with the name of a Massachusetts farm stand painted on it every time.

It suits me. It was handmade by a local artisan. Its stoneware keeps my coffee warmer than any other mug, and I love the curved lip of the cup, that curves perfectly to my own, never leaving a drip. It has weight and heft. And I love cradling its warmth in my hands while inhaling the aroma of my latest brew.

Something about it says “come and sit awhile” to me. It’s familiar, easily recognized, and it’s one-of-a-kind.

Kind of like my best friendships. Without trying to sound like a celebrate-the-moments-of-your-life advertisement, there’s just something tangibly important about the friends we choose, who bring warmth and companionship to our lives. They too provide nourishment, refreshment and the occasional pick-me-up.

Life shared between cups of tea or pots of coffee brings a sense of come-together-ness. I seek out these little consolations, even when life gets messy. And when life is flowing smooth, there’s nothing quite like savoring the aroma of a sweet friendship.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, February 21, 2006


Ever have someone express something to you-- in exactly the right words--that it touches your heart? (Even now you can probably repeat them in your mind as you recall them.)

Did you ever find a greeting card that captured exactly what you wanted to say? It was almost like a holy moment when you sent it, right? (And you prayed that the recipient would "get it?")

I often feel that way when I read the psalms. And I can sense that the Lord is pleased, when I "get it." I can almost hear the Lord speaking to me--the words are etched in my memory. And sometimes, the Lord uses the words of others, and they have the same effect.

In her book, Strong Women, Soft Hearts, Paula Rinehart gives a beautiful chapter on the language of the heart. In it, she talks about trusting God with our desires, our dreams. In fact, two years ago, a question from that chapter stopped me cold:

What would you begin to do, if you thought you could?

After I prayed about it, that little sentence moved me to change. It brought a new optimism to my spirit. It was like God used the exact words I needed to move me out of complacency.


Here's a little prayer exercise that Paula recommended: "In Psalm 63: 1-5, David considered the Lord the focus of his truest desire. Try writing his words in your words."

I did, and I went a bit beyond the number of words that David used, but it was very freeing. At first, my practical side did not want to mess with the scriptures (I am not a sacred writer!) But then, I relaxed and just used the text as a springboard for my own prayer--which was probably the writer's intent all along! This allowed me to enter into that scripture in a very personal way. In it, you'll hear me talk almost casually about my visit with the Lord as with a close friend. What I've discovered is that when I am that vulnerable with him, he does his best work in me.

Oh God, you are my God
and at 45
I am still searching and seeking for you.
My soul longs for you
even tho' you have sought me,
touched me,
and changed me.
But still, I need more.
I need your touch and your kiss.

I have looked at you
in the sanctuary at Mass
and today, as I am with you in the Adoration Chapel.
Your power and glory are truth and love.
Today they are tender and quiet:
allowing me to explore my heart in Your presence,
unafraid that I am not kneeling in pious prayer.
Your everyday steadfast love is easier to handle
than overwhelming majesty.
I can praise and love both, however.
So I will bless your name
and your presence,
whether back-door casual or front-door polite
for as long as I live.

I will lift up my hands
and my head to look you full in the face.
My soul is full with your intimate gaze and touch,
and I will praise you with my lips and with my life.
And I will know joy as I do.

Now, you try it.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Thursday, February 16, 2006

Going it Alone with Jesus

There have been times when I've felt lonely in my life. Usually that occurs because I have taken my eyes off of Jesus.

Since I am a student, besides being a mom, I have alot of "alone time" to study, to write, to read. It's a necessity for me to get all that stuff into my head, or out of it onto paper. Any yet, when I am alone at such times, I feel a sense of purpose--that I am fulfilling what God is calling me to in pursuing this Theology degree. Of course, there are all my chores and errands... most of which I do alone as well. But doing them by myself does not necessarily mean I am lonely.

Loneliness only comes when I turn my gaze away from those I love: family, friends, and the Lord. Lately, I've been bumming about my husband's difficult business travel schedule that has taken him away from home for weeks at a time. I've indulged in more than one pity party about this. But I'm moving into something deeper, when I stop the navel-gazing and lift my head to see what's outside of myself.I understand the deep reality that Jesus said he would never leave me or forsake me. When I am self-pitying, feeling "left out" or "forsaken" by others is usually at the root of it. But if I can raise my awareness of Jesus in every breath I breathe, I understand that He is right there beside me AT ALL TIMES. That knowledge helps me to step out and enjoy life when all I want to do is retreat.

A few examples this past week...

On a family ski trip, for reasons that were beyond me, I outlasted my two younger kids on the slopes. They wanted to return to the lodge, but I felt I could still ski a bit more. My older son and hubby were off on some distant slope. So after our lunch break, I went out on my own... something I never do. Now, I'm not an advocate of skiing alone, which in my mind is akin to the warnings of never swimming alone, but it was a crowded day on the mountain, so I theorized there was safety in numbers. Plus I never ski the black diamonds since I'm really a non-risk-taking, downright pokey skier. I told the kids where I would ski, and then we'd "check in." So I skied solo while being very conscious of the presence of Jesus with me. And I had a restorative afternoon--basking in the glory of creation. (Not to mention the fringe benefit of getting on the lift faster by being in the "singles" line.)

Here's one more. This week I went to my mammography and oncology follow-up appointments alone. Being a breast-cancer survivor, I must have semi-annual "check-ups." Taking my husband or a buddy along always has a calming effect for me as I "return to the scene of the crime." (And of course, the payoff is the opportunity to lunch down in Boston with my escort.) This time, I took a good book as a companion. The medical staff was running an hour late, thus increasing the tension. The delay gave me time to quietly observe the other women who were there no doubt for the same thing. I silently prayed for the anxious faces. If I had a friend along, I doubt that I would have been so mindful of the others around me.

Finally my turn came and then I sat in my robe in lovely little parlour area--most likely designed to keep women relaxed in the face of these exams. Sitting in a room with a bunch of other robed women creates a kind of pajama-party effect. (i.e. People you would never talk to on the street are telling you intimate details about their breasts.) Next thing I know a nervous young women in her 30s strikes up a conversation with me. She just found out she has a lump. I closed my book and offered my encouragement. I remember 10 years earlier being in her shoes. Later on, as I waited to be discharged, I met a lovely woman named Grace (!) who was 87 years old but didn't look a day over 65. Had I been on my way to a lunch date, most likely I would not haven taken the time for that conversation, nor received the blessing from it.

It turned out to be a day when I was very mindful of Jesus being "with" me, despite my aloneness. And even though I had intended to be rather anonymous to the people I would encounter, I was surprized by the encounters that Jesus had planned for my day. That night, my hubby apologized that he was away and a girlfriend who is a frequent support buddy said the same thing. I reassured them both that I knew they needed to be where they were instead.

And I was, in turn, blessed by an Unseen Presence.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, February 14, 2006

From Where Love Flows

Happy Valentine's Day!

OK, that's what the culture wants me to say. In the spirit of the day, I hope you send a card or thoughtful gift or a friendly phone call to those you love. But more importantly, I hope you KNOW the greatest Lover of all time: Jesus Christ.

I gave my heart to Christ on a November afternoon in 1976. I was 16. My "finding" Jesus then just "happened" to cap off a great foundation of faith laid by my family, my Catholic education and a remarkably Spirit-led youth ministry program. When I finally "got it," (the conversion of my stubborn heart to Christ) I had already been "active" in the Church for several years. Jesus is a patient lover.

My love for Jesus, to quote the old band, Boston, is "more than a feeling." And while Valentine's Day, for many of us, is about feelings--which I do not underestimate or take for granted--truly great love has always been about more. It is about something Bigger than ourselves. It is active, and procreative. In other words, love gives birth to something beyond itself.

Over the years, my spirituality (aka my lovelife with Jesus) and active faith response to the call of this Great Lover has taken shape in many ways: living single for the Lord, living a married vocation, as well as becoming mother to three wonderful children. All of which require dedication, vision, and plain old work. Love is service, and not just a feeling. It requires my choice to remain faithful to it, even when I don't feel it.

And so, today, if you do any celebrating with your loved ones, in whatever way you choose, remember from where Love flows. Celebrate that too. And may your day with the Lord, and your loved ones, be an echo of 1 Corinthians 13.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Thursday, February 09, 2006


The more I write, the more I learn about editing.

I recently wrote an article that grew out of a talk I gave at church. I worked on the text on and off for over a month. Once I was working a draft--and really happy with it--and the power went off and shut down my computer unexpectedly. I lost 2 hours of work and an inspired piece because I didn't save early and save often.

Still, some days later, I returned to rewrite the article. After several drafts, I needed to edit, refine, rewrite, and shorten it. The piece went from nearly 1200 words down to about 900. Even the day I sent it off to the editor, I still pared it down some more, hacking away at extraneous phrases and checking my grammar. I finally sent it to the editor when I got it "perfect."

And guess what? After all that work, for a piece I was sure was some of my best recent work-- the editor's reply to me was that she loved the concept --but wanted to suggest some edits! It's always humbling to put your work "out there," no matter what your craft. But if you are going to write for a national audience, you're going to find editors that want to "tweak it."

So, she took to her job and then sent it back to me. At that point, I was grateful that my submission was accepted, and still very much recognizable as mine. And to my surprize, it was better. Really. This editor made merciful changes that made the piece read even better. And I was grateful.

I left home to run a few errands after reading my editor's note and her rewrite, and walked outside to the car. It was a gloriously sunny day and I looked up into the sky and I thanked God for this editor.

And then I thought of all the times that Jesus has had to work on me... pruning me, refining me, editing me. And how much better I am when he does.

And so I have a new prayer...

Edit me, Lord Jesus! I am a creative work in your hands. Let my life reflect your Word, and not (so many of) mine. Amen.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Tuesday, February 07, 2006

Maxing out the Cuteness Scale

Some days you just gotta post what makes you smile....

If you have ever owned a dog, here's a keeper.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Our State of the Union

My husband is a monthly business traveler. How else would I have so much time to blog? It's a strain on our marriage and family life to be sure-- the frequent business travel, not the blogging.

Lately, Bob's position has turned him into a more frequent frequent-flyer. And, frankly, we hate it. There's no getting around it. We suffer through these absences, taking turns being strong for the other, but on some days there's just no getting around how weak we truly feel in the absence of the other. You can't live your marriage vocation in separate worlds, and these weeks of separation are a trial. They seem unnatural--living apart while being vowed to each other in love. (It may sound like I'm having a little pity party right now, but hear me out.)

I recently joked with my girlfriends that I feel like I'm living in a cloister: no male companion, save Jesus. (And I certainly mean no disrespect toward cloistered religious.) It was just my way of saying that my solitary moments are feeling like singleness, and yet I know I'm called to faithfulness in that solitary walk when Bob is away. And when it feels like that, I need a stronger dose of prayer and grace in my life.

Lately, I’ve noticed my usual longing for Bob has morphed into a profound loneliness. Longing is based on a secure knowledge that we are "together" even when we are apart. Longing awaits a reunion. Longing implies faith, hope and love. Loneliness, on the other hand, springs from the well of insecurity. It questions faith, forgets to hope, and turns inward, away from love. I’ve somehow allowed this loneliness to creep into an otherwise faithful heart. And so, as I go to bed tonight, I get to the root of this. I confess this lack on my part, and give over all my cares to the Lord. There’s just no other place to bring this.

And Jesus, ever faithful, supplies his word to me in my moment of need.

Psalm 38: 9:
Lord, all my longing is known to thee,
my sighing is not hidden from thee.
Psalm 16: 7-9:
I bless the LORD who gives me counsel;
in the night also my heart instructs me.
I keep the LORD always before me;
because he is at my right hand, I shall not be moved.
Therefore my heart is glad, and my soul rejoices;
my body also dwells secure.

One thing I’m learning from all this: often our longing for each other is really a symptom of a deeper longing for the Other – the Lord who alone can fill us and sustain us-- until we reach that ultimate reunion with him in Heaven. But until that blessed day takes place, our reality falls short of our ideal. And yet, we cling to Him that he may call us to greater perfection, even through what we suffer, and by what we learn from longing to love with all our being.


I know millions of couples suffer the pain of geographical separation. It is one of the demands of life that we often have little no control over. I’m thinking, quite sympathetically, of those marriages separated by military service, by illness, by political oppression, by God-knows-what. Those situations seem so much more extraordinary than my own lament of a husband away on business. Nevertheless, I offer this prayer tonight on behalf of my husband and myself, and for all those married couples who are apart this night, and bid you a night of peaceful sleep.

Lord Jesus,
grant that I and my spouse
may have a true and understanding love for each other.
Grant that we may both be filled with faith and trust.
Give us the grace to live with each other in peace and harmony.
May we always bear with one another's weaknesses
and grow from each other's strengths.
Help us to forgive one another's failings
and grant us patience, kindness, cheerfulness and
the spirit of placing the well-being of one another ahead of self.
May the love that brought us together grow
and mature with each passing year.
Bring us both ever closer to You
through our love for each other.
Let our love grow to perfection.

This prayer comes from
Catholic Doors Ministry.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Friday, February 03, 2006

Home-made Valentines: A Spiritual Bouquet

Lisa Hendey of Catholic Mom and myself have posted a simple craft for families to give to loved ones for Valentine's Day. Click on the title above.

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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Thursday, February 02, 2006

Book it!

I crossed something off my ten year "to do" list this week. I purged, organized and re-filed our entire book collection.

It started with a dream... more shelf space! But necessity made the dream a reality. We recently built a home office in the basement for my husband to use. This household already supports 4 computers (2 for work) and a wireless internet network. We were running out of desk space!

This space shortage also coincided with my husband's emergency need for office space, after his company closed down his regional division. True weekend "do-it-yourselfers" that we are, within 6 weeks we went from studs to wall-to-wall. (Some folks are weekend warriors on golf courses, at the gym or on ball fields. Not us. If you build it, we will come.)

But the real pay-off for me was the new and improved shelf- space. I've waited years for this kind of library system. I know the internet has its advantages, and you can
Google just about anything, but there's nothing quite like the feel, the texture, the permanance and the presence of a good book.

In 23 years of marriage, I have lived through my husband's Master's program, three children in elementary school, two in high school, three career changes, my own graduate work, and twenty years of spiritual and secular reading. Every room in the house had books in it--even the bathrooms! The basement had shelves and boxes with books; , the attic had more. Now, I love books, but they were taking over usable space in our home.

It was truly cathartic... one part nostalgia, one part archeological discovery, and one part "clean sweep." I reread passages of books that I just had to open once they were in my hands. I got to dump stuff that once-upon-a-time I was too stupid to realize was junk. I got to re-cycle books to younger families who can use them. I got to collect all our devotional reading and place it in one spot. All the reference works are together. Our coffee table book collection now has its own shelf. My son's classic comic books finally have a home. We've got fiction and non-fiction, new authors and the classics. We've got books to teach us, tax us, tease us and tickle us.

I realized how much we have grown and how much we've yet to learn! My "must read" book collection grew from 3 books on my night stand to 28 books (as I've found books I've misplaced over time) that now I can't wait to read! I packed away out favorite story books for our future grandchildren. And I have three boxes of childhood readers that will be donated to an elementary school, hopefully, somewhere in post-hurricane Louisiana. (I'm still working on that idea.)

I am truly grateful for the gift of literacy: the ability to read and write, learn and grow. I reflected on some of our family milestones. I renewed my own commitment to study harder, read more, watch less television, and yes, do less web-surfing.

I found a sense of accomplishment in bringing order to these books, so that others could benefit from their treasury-- now that some have been unearthed from the far corners of the basement and attic. I reflected on some of our family milestones. Like the family photo albums (which also are more accessible) our books tell "our story" as well. You are what you read, as much as you are what you eat.

But most of all, as I sorted our well-used Bible collection, I understood that our family members have the Ultimate Gift: a knowledge of the Living Word, and a relationship with the Author of Life .

Copyright 2006 Patricia W. Gohn

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