Five More Minutes With Spends Five Minutes With “Someone Who Understands”

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on September 16, 2013

Inspiring Moment: Florida Lake

Today our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, reflects on how all of us need someone in our daily lives who understands us. Thanks, as always, John Paul!

Someone Who Understands

Another of my heroes died the other day, John Graves. Most said that he was our finest contemporary Texas writer. Graves was one of my heroes because he wrote from his own physical experience with a river and a patch of land in country that we both loved. More than that, in person, he was one fine human being.

A. C. Greene once said that Graves’ first book “Goodbye to a River,” a narrative of his 1957 canoe trip down the Brazos, is “the finest piece of Texas writing ever done.” The book paints an unforgettable word picture of the river’s past and present as it flows through Palo Pinto, Parker, Hood, and Somervell counties.

In 1960 John Graves bought a 380-acre farm on White Bluff Creek in Somervell County, reclaiming the abused land and building his own house and barns. He called the farm “Hard Scrabble” and wrote a memorable book by that name about his experience of bonding with the land. He lived, worked, and wrote there until his death.

In the seventies, inspired by reading “Goodbye to a River,” my friend, Doug Ezell, and I made several memorable canoe trips down the Brazos – once with our young sons. Then, having fallen in love with the Brazos country, several friends and I bought a pristine piece of land on the river near Glen Rose. Using Graves’ account of “Hard Scrabble” as our guide, we camped, worked, and dreamed of building a retreat center and homes overlooking the river. We affectionately called it “The Land.” Although those dreams weren’t realized, the 15 years I spent roaming the land and the river, taught me valuable lessons about nature, myself, and God that I couldn’t have learned anywhere else.

Of all John Graves’ writings, my favorite is a brief chapter in “Hard Scrabble” in which he gives a moving account of his encounter with a dying fellow marine on Saipan in 1944. He and the young rifleman, both badly wounded, were deposited side by side on cots in a field hospital. As they drifted in and out of consciousness, the marine – a Southern farm boy – talked to his fellow Southerner about home. Finally, reaching out from under the mosquito net, he asked Graves to hold his hand, saying, “You want somebody that knows what you’re talking about….Thanks, mac.” And he died.

For me, the power of John Graves’ writing is that he “knows what you’re talking about.” He has traveled the river and lived on the land in our part of Texas. His observations ring true. And his reflections enlighten and inspire.

To have such a friend is a priceless treasure. To be such a friend to another human being is a high calling, indeed.

The good news of the Christian faith is that in Jesus of Nazareth “the Word became flesh and dwelt among us” (John 1:14). That is to say that God lived in our world and, therefore, knows what we’re talking about. And He is there to listen and take our hand in life and death!



Five More Minutes With Spends Five Minutes Thinking About Tightrope Walking

Written by John Paul Carter on July 29, 2013

Angel detail

Today our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, reflects on how many of us “walk the tightrope” in our daily lives.  Thanks, as always, John Paul!

Tightrope Walking In Real Life

Last Sunday night I was glued to the TV watching Nik Wallenda walk across the Little Colorado River Gorge on a 2-inch-thick steel cable, 1,500 feet above the floor of the Grand Canyon.

He had only a 43 lb., 30 ft. flexible pole for balancing and no harness or safety net to catch him if he fell. Once he began, there was no turning back on a perilous journey in which one miss-step would almost certainly result in his death.

A seventh generation member of the famous “Flying Wallendas” circus family, the 34-year-old braved the wind gusts, fatigue, and fear, only pausing twice to refocus because of the wind and an unsettling rhythm in the cable.

With Nik’s family tensely looking on and his father encouraging him, he made the breathtaking quarter-mile walk in slightly less than 23 minutes.

The splendid camera and audio work put his world-wide audience on the wire with him. It reminded me a little bit of how it might have been to watch Peter’s perilous walk on the stormy Sea of Galilee. I was a nervous wreck!

Wallenda, who had trained intently for this attempt ever since last year’s daring walk above Niagara Falls, prayed audibly almost every step of the way.

His successful crossing was a brave example of the merging of careful preparation and trust in God. The stakes were too high not to both prepare and pray.

Although a death-defying feat like Wallenda’s walk on a wire over the Grand Canyon without a safety net is remarkable, it pales in comparison to the dangers we face in our everyday living over a lifetime.

Indeed, life is often like walking a tightrope without a safety harness – a high stakes balancing act. Whether we’re keenly aware of our vulnerability or oblivious to the risks involved to ourselves and those around us, we’re all real life tightrope walkers.

Even when we diligently prepare ourselves for life’s demands and meet its challenges with prayer, we sometimes lose our balance and plummet to the rocks below.

The reasons for our tumbles, great or small, are as varied and complex as life itself – ranging from our own willfulness to those random, unforeseen, violent gusts of wind.

Some of our falls have more lethal consequences than others. Our faith carries no guarantee against harm. What it does promise is that whether we are in green pastures, beside still waters, or walking a tightrope over the valley of the shadow of death, God will be with us, working for good in every circumstance of our lives – even when we fall.

Our faith promises both guidance and support for our journey and restoration when we stumble. As the Psalmist says: “If we fall, we will not stay down, because the Lord will help us up.’’ (37:24 TEV)


Guest Columnist John Paul Carter: Our Uncut Pages

Written by John Paul Carter on October 11, 2012

Today our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, reflects on how, in our busy lives, we often overlook the obvious answer or solution to a problem.

Perhaps time to slow down and search for answers close at hand? Thanks, as always, John Paul!

Because my mother worked for the Baptist Book Store in Dallas, helping set up church libraries, I never wanted for good books. I think it must have taken half her monthly salary to pay for the books she brought home to me.

One of my favorites was a volume of sermons entitled “Iron Shoes” by C. Roy Angell, a Florida pastor, whose forte was the well-told stories with which he illustrated his homilies. One of those tales is as fresh in my memory now as when I first read it over 50 years ago. This is the story:

A father had given his student son a book for Christmas, some of whose pages were uncut. He urged the boy to read it as soon as he got back to college. The young man returned to his campus, disappointed because his father had not offered him money that he needed for extra expenses. He put the book on the shelf and forgot about it.

Several years later, pocket knife in hand, the boy got around to reading the book. Between two of the uncut pages, he found a generous check from his father.

I can identify with having unread books that I need to peruse – a few with uncut pages – but none with checks for book marks.

Angell’s story reminds me of John Bunyon’s Pilgrim who was locked away in the dark dungeon of despair. After days of anguish, he found to his surprise that the key that could unlock the prison door had been in his vest pocket all the time.

Sometimes, like the boy in the story and Pilgrim, I miss out on God’s grace by becoming so anxious about my problems that I fail to do what is at hand. Often, I later discover that the unknown answers about the future were hidden in the undone tasks of the present.

This month’s emphasis on scripture has reminded me that my Bible has too many uncut pages, although I’ve read it many times in my seventy-three years. I’ve sometimes missed God’s comfort and counsel when I needed it most because I foolishly assumed that I already knew what was there.

The curious thing about the daily reading of even the smallest amount of scripture is that you keep finding undiscovered treasures and reconnecting with old friends – light for the present and the future journey.

“Lord, thank you for the gift of your book about Jesus, your Word. Help me to leave none of its pages uncut. Amen.”

Five More Minutes With His Mother

Written by John Paul Carter on August 27, 2012

Today our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, reflects on how our own life experiences continue to shape our memories of our parents in his story entitled, Still Getting to Know Mother. 

“How they do live on, those giants of our childhood,” writes Frederick Buechner, “and how well they manage to take even death into their stride because although death can put an end to them right enough, it can never put an end to our relationship with them….they live still in us.”

My mother, who was born in 1903, has been dead for 32 years now. But strange as it may seem, I feel I know her – and my father – better now than I ever have in my life.

After my parents’ passing, I became aware of so much I didn’t know about their lives – especially their growing-up years and ancestry. This led me to trace their genealogy and learn more about the people and historical context that shaped them.

However, apart from this more recent gathering of data, knowing my parents better has been a long and gradual process, like the fermenting of grapes into fine wine.

As the events of my own life have unfolded and I’ve had time for reflection, a deeper understanding of my parents has evolved.

“Memory is more than a looking back to a time that no longer is,” says Buechner, “it is a looking out into another kind of time altogether where everything that ever was continues not just to be, but to grow and change with the life that is in it still.”

Many memories of my mother were my perceptions of her from a child’s perspective.

Some of what I remembered was accurate but other impressions were distorted.

As the Apostle Paul said, “When I was a child, I spoke like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child…”

Only later, as an adult, when I had children of my own, did I really begin to know my mother better.

One of many unforgettable insights happened as I drove home alone after leaving my daughter Kristen at A&M at the beginning of her freshman year.

From 25 years before, my mother’s face flashed into my mind as she weakly waved goodbye to me while I excitedly drove away to attend graduate school in Scotland.

After the guilt of my insensitivity had receded, I was grateful to better understand my mother’s mixed feelings.

When over the course of our lives, we, like our parents, have loved, worked, struggled, achieved, lost, rejoiced, grieved, enjoyed good days, survived hard times, aged, and looked death in the eye, then – and only then – can we come close to understanding and appreciating our parents and those who have loved us from the beginning.

Our own experiences continue to shape our memories of our parents.

To borrow a phrase from the title of a well-known book, sometimes it’s like meeting our parents again for the first time.

And, Buechner would add, “If they had things to say to us then, they have things to say to us now too, nor are they by any means things we expect or the same things.”

Lord, thank you for my parents and our still growing relationship.




What to Make of a Diminished Thing

Written by John Paul Carter on July 30, 2012

Our frequent guest columnist, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes for the Weatherford (Texas) Democrat, cites both Robert Frost and Alfred, Lord Tennyson, as he tackles the tough subject of growing old. 

Among creatures “both great and small,” the poet Robert Frost seemed to have the greatest affection for birds. A good example is his tribute to “The Oven Bird,” a woodland warbler who builds its covered nest (which resembles a Dutch oven) on the ground. To the poet’s ear, the Ovenbird’s distinctive song heralds the waning of the seasons and makes a pertinent query:

The question that he frames in all but words

Is what to make of a diminished thing.

It’s easier to sing in the early stages of life when things are on the upswing – when life seems to stretch out endlessly before us. But it takes a special bird with a different song to sing when things are winding down and the season is changing, as in…

…the close of a bountiful peach harvest,

…the shrinking of a beloved village and congregation,

…our children leaving after a long anticipated visit,

…declining energy, endurance, and health,

…the loss of loved ones and friends,

…the evolving of a world we once knew.

What shall we make of our diminished things?

Is it possible in the midst of grief to give thanks for what is fading away and allow those “diminished things” to become a foundation for the future? As the clutter and busyness subside, might we find our heart’s delight? Could we develop long neglected gifts? Could less become more?

Could we discover that the bridge between the land of the living and the land of the dead is love? Might we become more aware of opportunities to share the blessings that have been ours? Could we find a depth in life that we were too busy to plumb before? Could we grow to trust God rather than His gifts?

For this stage of life, Alfred, Lord Tennyson gives a good answer to the Ovenbird’s probing question, “What to make of a diminished thing?”

Tho’ much is taken, much abides; and tho’

We are not now that strength which in old days

Moved earth and heaven, that which we are, we are;

One equal temper of heroic hearts,

Made weak by time and fate, but strong in will

To strive, to seek, to find, and not to yield.

Father’s Day Remembered

Written by John Paul Carter on June 21, 2012

After all the wonderful Memory of Dad stories that we published last week in honor of Father’s Day, I couldn’t resist one last one. It’s courtesy of one of our frequent guest columnists, John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who pens a column entitled, “Notes From the Journey,” for the Weatherford Democrat newspaper near Fort Worth, Texas. Thanks, as always, John Paul!

From the time I was 14, my parents insisted that I find a summer job. By the time I entered Baylor in 1956, I had labored as a grocery-sacker, soda-jerk, shipping clerk, and metal worker. At the time, although I did my work well, I saw little connection between it and my future vocation as a minister.

As my sophomore year at Baylor drew to a close, having failed again to find a summer church position, I hired on as a counselor at the Dallas Big Brothers’ Camp Tammi Babi. The wilderness campsite was located in the rugged cedar-brakes near Cedar Hill (later the home of Northwood Institute).

It consisted of a base camp (dining hall and swimming pool) and several outlying campsites, each housing 8 boys and 2 counselors who lived in tents, cooked most of their meals over a wood fire, and “roughed it” for a month at a time.

I had lived in the city all my life, never been a Boy Scout, and only been camping once or twice. Looking back, I’m not sure who was more desperate, me for a job or the camp director for counselors.

Before the boys arrived for camp, we were required to complete a grueling, two week orientation during which we prepared the campsites and ourselves. There was a thick counselor’s manual to be mastered, new outdoor skills to be learned, and lots of back-breaking labor – all in 100 degree weather.

What had I gotten myself into?

The first Sunday at camp was Father’s Day and we were allowed to go home to do our laundry and enjoy a few hours in air-conditioning with our families before taking up our cross again. None of us lingered at the front gate that morning and some of us doubted we would return!

As soon as I got home, I began to describe my ordeal to my father – sleeping on a cot in a hot tent, digging latrines and fire-pits out of solid rock, exhausting heat, snakes, spiders, horseflies, and very little pay.

I painted a miserable picture and asked his permission to quit and search for another job.

Daddy listened patiently and was sympathetic to my plight. After a brief silence, he said, “I want you to go back out there and give it your best for one more week. Then, if you still feel the same way, come home and I’ll help you find another job.”

Reluctantly, I agreed.

To my amazement, after another week of hard work with the other counselors, I wanted to stay and spend the next two months in the cedars as “Chief Paul” with a bunch of eight-year-old boys I’d never met before.

Although I couldn’t imagine it at the time, that summer turned out to be one of the best times of my life. I learned more about life, survival, grown-ups, children, myself, and nature than I ever would have learned in a church – lessons that have lasted a lifetime.

Surely God was where I didn’t expect him and I almost missed it!

That summer might not ever have been, had it not been for my dad.

As he often did, Daddy listened, understood, encouraged, gently guided, and then let me make my own decision.

That’s why, on Father’s Day, over fifty years later, I still give thanks for my dad!


A Prayer for Spring

Written by John Paul Carter on May 21, 2012

Here are the latest inspiring words–and a poem from Robert Frost–from our frequent guest columnist John Paul Carter, an ordained minister who writes his “Notes From the Journey” column for the Weatherford Democrat. Thanks, as always, John Paul!  

Last Wednesday afternoon I ate a late lunch of beans and rice on our back porch. It felt unseasonably warm – almost like summer. Only a steady breeze made it bearable and I wondered if spring was about to make an early exit.

I love spring because when the trees and shrubs leaf out, our backyard recovers its privacy. The neighbors’ houses fade from view and it takes on the ambiance of a lush, green wilderness. It’s a great place to relax and reconnect.

On this sunny afternoon, the squirrels were stretched out on limbs, napping – exhausted from their morning frolics. A bright red cardinal and his mate were perched in a tree near the creek, saving their songs for twilight.

But it was four Red Admiral butterflies who stole the show – silently flying, floating, and flitting from plant to plant. The delicate beauty of their jet black wings, ringed with brilliant orange, and tipped with snow-white spots was breathtaking. What a wonderful reminder of new life all around me!

Wednesday was the first occasion this spring that I’ve made time to sit on the porch and become a part of my surroundings. Lately when I’m outside, it seems like I’m always working to finish some task – feeding the birds, raking leaves, mowing the lawn, or planting the garden. To make matters worse, because I keep remembering last year’s extreme drought and heat, I tend to be pre-occupied with what the approaching summer might bring.

However, my few minutes on the back porch on Wednesday with the squirrels, the birds, the butterflies, and the trees has reminded me that I’m missing a blessing that I desperately need – spring and all its delights.

So, trusting our Heavenly Father for summer’s needs, I’m returning to the back porch, praying with my favorite poet Robert Frost:

Oh, give us pleasure in the flowers today;

And give us not to think so far away

As the uncertain harvest; keep us here

All simply in the springing of the year.

You’re welcome to join me!


How Do You Balance Freedom and Constraint?

Written by John Paul Carter on April 9, 2012

In these days when mayhem is rampant all across the globe and civility is something we’ve almost totally lost in our lives, how do we balance liberation and constraint?

Our frequent guest columnist John Paul Carter, whose “Notes From the Journey” column appears on The Weatherford Democrat‘s Religion page on the second and fourth Fridays of each month, probes this question in the following essay. John Paul is an ordained minister who attends Central Christian Church. Thanks for your wise words, John Paul!

I remember as a teenager longing for more freedom and constantly pushing against the limits placed upon me.

Looking back, I realize that those resisted restrictions were as significant in shaping my life as the independence that I managed to gain.

In the years that have followed, my life has been enriched by the continuing interplay between liberation and constraint – both inwardly and outwardly imposed.

In my little red book in which I’ve recorded bits of truth that have guided my life, there’s a quote from the Quaker theologian Elton Trueblood: “Freedom is found only in the voluntary acceptance of discipline.”

This tension between freedom and regulation, liberty and restriction, self-determination and restraint, autonomy and limitation has been an issue in human affairs from the very beginning. Although the pendulum sometimes swings wildly from one extreme to the other, history seems to confirm that we humans function best when there is a good balance between freedom and constraint.

The stories from our faith history provide some perspective into this ongoing, paradoxical struggle.

In the Old Testament, the first thing God did after freeing the Israelites from Egyptian slavery was to lead them to Mount Sinai. There, before they entered the Promised Land, the Lord made a covenant with them based on the Ten Commandments. Ironically, Moses, the liberator, became the law giver.

When Jesus came centuries later, the law had been so expanded that the people were being crushed by its many rules and regulations. Although Jesus fought to free them from those excesses, he also adamantly maintained, “Think not that I have come to abolish the law and the prophets; I have come not to abolish them but to fulfill them.” A faithful reading of the Gospels cannot deny the tension between freedom and discipline in the ministry and message of Jesus.

Indeed, the early church, as reflected in Paul’s letters, was often engaged in lively discourse about where to draw the line between free grace and required morality–between faith and works.

If we believe in humanity’s god-given potential and creativity, then we must champion freedom. On the other hand, if we believe in our sinfulness and selfishness, then we must affirm the necessity of communal-restrictions and self-discipline.

History, reason, and faith all witness to the need for both freedom and regulation in every facet of our lives, personal and corporate. The fullness of life that we seek as individuals, families, and a nation depend on our resisting the temptation to lapse into an “either/or” monologue. Our future welfare rests on improving the quality of our “both/and” dialogue between autonomy and constraint as we seek our common good.

Photo by Braiden Rex-Johnson 


A Jar Full of Bullets

Written by Braiden Rex-Johnson on April 5, 2012

Sue and Colon Johnson


My darling father-in-law, Arthur Colon Johnson (known as A.C. to most; Colon to me), and I hit it off from the moment we met more than 30 years ago.

Like my wonderful husband Spencer, he was a tall drink of water (as they say in Texas, where he was born, raised, lived most of his life, and died)–6′ 4″ and 160 pounds soaking wet.

Perhaps it was the fact that we were both writers–me professionally and him a never-published, but still-believed-he-might-one-day-be sort of writer whose work included a fair amount of Louis L’Amour-inspired western ramblings, a smattering of mysteries, and a bunch of plain, ol’ tall tales.

Colon could spin a yarn longer than almost anybody I ever knew. Half the time you knew he was lying through his teeth, but just in case he wasn’t, you had to keep listening.

Colon and his wife, (known as Bobbie Sue to most; Sue to me), spent the last three years of their lives in a nursing home just a few blocks from their small, dark, 1980s-era trailer home that seemed to grow backyard sheds and storage areas as quickly as Colon could construct them.

Toward the end of their lives, Sue suffered a series of mini-strokes, broke her hip, and eventually lost her memory completely. She knew Colon was in the bed beside her, but often referred to him as “her.”

During those final long, sad years of her life, Sue never recognized us when we’d come to visit.

On the other hand, Colon always came alive whenever he knew we were on the way from Seattle. In fact, on four occasions when we visited, he was supposedly on death’s door. Once we got there, he made miraculous recoveries, much to our (and his selfless caregivers’) relief.

The fifth time he was at death’s door, he had broken his hip after falling in the middle of the night on the way to the bathroom.

“Take care of Sue,” he said to the nursing-home staff before he got into the ambulance.

After being examined at the hospital, his doctor encouraged mending the joint, even though  his heart was weak.

He was on his way to the operating room, in the elevator with his baby sister, Mary Ruth. He squeezed her hand, told her he loved her, and died with a smile on his face.

We always thought he just didn’t want to undergo another operation and months of rehabilitation. Strong man that he was, he’d simply decided it was his time to go. . .


After Sue and Colon went into the nursing home, Spencer and I had to clean out the trailer and all the storage sheds, something that was a true labor of love as the mercury was sitting near 90 degrees that weekend in the “big, little town” known as Itasca, Texas, and we both hate to be out of doors on grass.

Spencer’s cousin, John Paul Carter (who is a frequent guest columnist on Five More Minutes With), and wife, Carole, came down from their home in Weatherford, Texas, a suburb of Fort Worth, to help us clear out a lifetime of “treasures.”

When the four of us told Colon we were going to be cleaning out the trailer, he got very serious and said we had to look for the jar full of “treasure” he’d hidden in a very secure place.

He described a cement tube he’d sawed in half and topped with a wooden wagon wheel to make a “table” he used for additional storage in the trailer’s carport. He said the wagon wheel was very heavy–it would probably take two people to lift it–so we were glad we had Spencer and John Paul to handle that job.

Once the top was off, Colon promised we’d find all sorts of “good stuff” within. I hate to admit it, but I think that dollar signs of what the treasure might be danced in all of our heads.

After the four of us had spent an appropriate amount of time visiting with Colon, we headed back to the trailer to look for the hidden treasure.

As mentioned before, the temperature that day hovered around 90. Under the carport’s metal roof, with nary a breeze blowing, it seemed closer to 100.

As Spencer and John Paul found the hand-made table and cleared off spent containers of motor oil and antifreeze and dried up cans of paint, Carole and I looked on, full of hope.

It was not an easy task to remove the wooden wagon wheel. . .lots of bad words ensued from both men. . .Carole and I laughed at the display of profanity and frustration. . .

Finally, we held our collective breath. . .Spencer reached into the depths of the cement cylinder. . .and pulled out. . .a jar full of bullets!

We broke into a fit of laughter. The discovery was so like Colon!

Tall tales, bullets he’d undoubtedly collected in the military during several tours of duty in the Marines and Merchant Marines during World War II, a grimy jar to protect his “treasure.”

It was so perfect.


Years later, John Paul and I were e-mailing back and forth and I asked him if he still had the jar full of bullets. His reply?

“I still have the jar of bullets sitting on the table in my shop. It makes me smile when I see them. If Colon is watching, he probably wonders why I haven’t put them in my safe-deposit box!”

What is Crazy Love?

Written by John Paul Carter on March 5, 2012

“Crazy Love” was the original title of this column written by our frequent guest columnist John Paul Carter. It was first published in his twice-a-month column, “Notes From the Journey,” in the Weatherford Democrat, and we appreciate him allowing us to run in again for our FMMW audience.

Thanks a million, as always, John Paul!

Reporting on the news from Lake Wobegon, Garrison Keillor describes in agonizing detail the ordeal of Johnny Tollefson as his proud but eccentric family drives him to St. Cloud to help him register for his first semester of college. When they are unable to find a parking place, the mortified boy seizes his opportunity to escape, bolts from the car, and races alone toward the registrar’s office.

Keillor observes that, although the Tollefson boy doesn’t know it, it’s love that he’s experiencing. “What else,” he asks, “could make us behave so badly, if not love? What else could cause us to be so easily embarrassed, so self-conscious, so humiliated than just love?”

As anyone who’s ever loved can tell you, love can be crazy and painful. Most of us, like Johnny, at times have felt like we were being “loved to death.” And more than once, we’ve been baffled when our love and concern has been taken as something less.

Garrison Keillor’s tale reminds us that just because we do something out of love doesn’t mean that it will be perceived as love. The family meant well but in their exuberance they forgot the feelings of the one they loved. To the boy, their loving efforts felt like anything but love. On the contrary, he saw it as a potential threat to his new life that was just beginning.

An essential part of loving is paying attention to how those we love want and need to be loved. Loving another doesn’t make us all-knowing and even the knowledge we have often changes. We have to keep on finding out what says “I love you” to our beloved, and then do it!

The story also illustrates that just because it doesn’t feel like love, doesn’t mean it’s not love. Ill-conceived as their efforts were, the Tollefson family’s heart was in the right place. Although the boy could only feel embarrassment and fear in the moment, love and support for him was what was intended.

We sometimes mistakenly assume that if someone loves us, they will know exactly what we feel and need – without us having to tell them. If they don’t, we may question their love for us. However, whether or not we are loved is better discerned when we reflect on the other’s intent and their quest to know our heart.

If we are to love and be loved, we would do well to pray with St. Francis: “Grant that we may not so much seek to be understood as to understand.” Even so, we can only know in part. Learning to love is a lifelong process – a wonder-full mystery to be lived into, not a problem to be solved once and for all.


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