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IMG_3341Christmas comes like a whirlwind. It starts with the arrival of one family,  then through the morning more families show up. Relatives arrive as well. With each family, there is more chaos. Empty car seats are lined up near the door, like road racers at the starting line.  The couches strain under the weight of winter coats, mounded high, with a few sliding to the floor as the kids fly by.

All the seats are used up and people are sitting on the floor. Chatter and laughter rings through the house. Those who are here are grazing the finger foods, swapping stories and laughing. There is a strong impulse from the toddlers to go down to the basement because that is where Grandma has the big kid toys. It is also where presents like mountain boulders wrapped in Christmas paper and glitter, are piled high around the Christmas tree. The suspense continues as we wait for the rest of the family to arrive.

When all are here, the toddlers, knowing what to expect and not knowing what to expect, stampede down the stairs. What happens next is a cacophony of sights, sounds, and laughter. Time stops as the gift giving continues. I don’t know what time it is. There were excited children, excited parents, excited grandparents.

In my mind I step back and marvel at the gifts I have been given. I have been given the gift of my wife. What an amazing partner she is. As the children have come along, they have taught me how to be a father. Then there are the grandkids. We are just on the cusp of understanding what that means. To have so many little ones so quickly is truly overwhelming in the the best of ways.  I am touched by the thoughtfulness of my children in the gifts they give. I see my children happy, I see their children happy. I see my wife happy.  These are the presents I treasure under our tree.




I watched two movies that on the surface, appeared completely unrelated, and the conclusions diametrically opposed. Yet they depicted two sides of our human condition. The movies were “Philomena”, and “Calvary”.

The movie, “Philomena”, is the amazing true story of a woman who goes on a journey to find her son. When it was discovered that, as a teenager, she was pregnant and unmarried, her family sent her to live at a convent that took in unwed mothers. In order to cover the costs of the order, children were routinely sold to adoptive families of means, and taken from the Convent. The birth mothers had no power to stop the adoptions and were given no records to find them later in life. Philomena’s son suffered the fate of being adopted. The convent gave her no information , and in fact, gave her false information to thwart her search for her son.

The journey takes some interesting turns. When it is revealed what happened to her son, Philomena has to make a choice as to what reparations she will exact.

The other movie, “Calvary”, opens with Father James in the confessional being told that he is going to be killed within a week. The person threatening the priest gives a litany of sexual abuses he suffered at the hands of a cleric. Father James is told that people would not take notice if the abusive priest were killed, but an innocent priest? That would draw some attention.

Father James goes through the next week attempting to divine who the killer may be and what purpose would be served by the killing. The final scene of “Calvary” is as powerful as the climax of “Philomena” and in the opposite direction.

For me, what links these two powerful movies together is the concept of reparation. How do we heal and move past great injustices? Pursuing vengeance, we find that it doesn’t give us the satisfaction we crave. Striking out, hurts others. If the hurt seek vengeance, the curse continues. If we trust in God’s justice, his love, and his mercy, and and allow Him to make things right, the cycle can stop.

The two movies, taken together make a powerful visual observation of two roads and the consequences each choice entails.