Life Lessons From Lynn

By Kristina Batalden

What I want to first do today is swear.  I would love to scream Dammit! Son of a Biscuit! Mala Fala, Dad, why did this happen now?  It is much too soon and I had plans for you and I.

But now we all have to move forward- past this moment, past the graveside, past the reception. Because our dad is in a much better place.  One where there is sunshine and warmth, one with old friends and new, one without pain and an abundance of fresh air.  I imaging my father in a place that is like standing in the middle of pine trees and a light breeze wriggles the branches and touches your face- the sunshine squints through the stands and all there is, is peace.

You know, there is just no way today to make sure that I encapsulate our dad and grandpa’s life without leaving something or someone out.  But he would say- “just do your best”.

Today, I want to share with you, some Life Lessons from Lynn

When I was younger, I would often hear my father say to himself in front of the mirror as he combed his hair or shaved: Lynn you handsome devil you, I hope you never die.  It was like sweet music- combined with a little whistling and a twinkle in those sky-blue eyes of his- I can almost hear it now… in fact, I have tried to say it to myself in the mirror- it just doesn’t sound right.  The lesson: don’t give up on yourself, every dang day YOU are a handsome devil, as long as you believe it.

Once upon a time my dad was a young adult trying to make some money raising lambs.  He had all these lambs he was taking care of to sell and make quick cash, but my dad also had a dog.  And this dog like to chew on soft little lambs’ ears.  Apparently, my dad learned, and I have learned as a result, when little lambs ears are chewed on, they don’t live long and my dad lost every single lamb except one. My dad was devastated- all that work and money down the tube so he gave that last lamb away to a friend, who picked it up in his convertible and my dad’s last vision was that lamb sitting in the back seat with his ears a flapping.  The lesson- admit failure when you have failed.  The only way you will get better at anything is admitting when you make mistakes.

When my dad had his shop west of town and owned his drilling businesses, he always had a group of young men working for him.  He took them under his wing, taught them skills, mentored them, helped them.  Once, an employee needed a vehicle to get to work and my mom and dad had an old Jeep, sitting at the shop.  My dad gave that man the Jeep and told him to pay him back, X amount… the man took off with the Jeep and was never seen again.  Years later, that story stuck with me as I was struggling with charity and the charity of others…I asked him, Dad, didn’t it make you mad that he ran off and never paid you back?  Doesn’t it just ‘get’ you when people do that to you?  He said, babes, (he always said ‘babes’ or Baybay) you have to keep giving and not let it harden your heart.  The lesson- always give to those who don’t have. 

My dad loved to tell me how his teachers were so eager for him to leave high school, they put him in a room to take the test, gave him the answers and said, hurry up and pass.  With that kind of experience in high school, one would think he would be an education hater.  But he wasn’t.  My dad was very educated but in a way that no one would think- in fact, he taught me how to read by using the comics- some of my greatest memories.  My dad believed in improvements.  He believed that you should always be a life-long learner.    He expected my sister and me to get good grades, graduate and get a degree.  Although the traditional set up of school was not what worked for him, he believed everyone should learn and keep learning.

The lesson: improve yourself.  Improve your life.  Don’t sit stagnant not making improvements or you will never make a move.

My dad had this dog Jack, a springer spaniel and my dad’s best friend.  Jack would loyally sit in my dad’s truck for hours when my dad was frequenting his favorite watering holes.  One day at my dad’s shop while the men were moving pipe- a pipe fell right on Jack’s head and popped his eye out.  Jack ran around the shop with my dad chasing him and when my dad caught him, he poked the eye back in.  Things didn’t look too good for Jack, but my dad had faith.  This was a Saturday afternoon and the vet would not be available until Monday so my dad put him on the deck, gave him food and water and shut the door (and curtains).  Two days later, Jack jumped up ready to go to work with my dad with a googly eye and a dent in his head.

Lesson:  don’t give up on anyone. 

In our vehicle, on our family trips -which by the way were only to Yellowstone to the West or Rapid City to the East and anything in between we only listened to a cassette my dad bought on a TV commercial.  It included trucker songs, the song “Green Door”, some Johnny Horton songs, to which I know all the words.  But one summer I said, “Hey dad, can I listen to this tape?” and I hand him my Madonna tape.  The song “Like a Virgin” starts playing and when my dad hears the lyrics, he pops the cassette out of the player, rolls his window down and throws my cassette out the window. The lesson: don’t share your music with your parents.

15-2, 15-4, 15-6, 15-8, and I’ll take a point for your mistake.  If you have ever played cribbage with my dad, then you have lost points for your inattentiveness, your lack of math skills, or in my case, I always forget about the point for turning up the Jack.  Imagine when you are young and trying to learn a new game, it is super frustrating- just ask my four children that all experienced learning Lynn’s game!  I will say one great thing about my dad is he never ever let me win- even when I was a young whipper-snapper- no one is entitled to win, we must all work for it.  The lesson:  There’s no room for whiners – especially in Lynn’s cribbage.

There is no whining in moving pipe, either, as my oldest will attest to.  He took a summer to live with grandpa and work on the ranch moving irrigation pipe.  My oldest didn’t really enjoy it but he learned the hard work ethic my father had.  The very next year, my next son came out for the summer, but dad had finally decided to ‘retire’ – probably his first try at that word.  That summer was an absolute joy.  My son learned how to be a retired person.  My dad taught him about naps in the daytime, coffee with friends in the morning and shopping for four-wheelers like retired people do.  My son didn’t want to come home.  My father enjoyed his retirement buddy and the two of them were not ready to part.  But all good things must come to an end. The lesson:  enjoy your time off- find your time off- relax, have fun and play.  There must always be a balance between work and rest.

My dad worked very hard and was so excited when he purchased The Glen Haven ranch with his brother.  I remember the phone call while I was at college- he was giddy.  There is something magical about the fruits of one’s hard labor, right?  He had found his serenity.  I want you to know that my father’s wishes, when he owned the ranch, were to be buried on the top of this one hill with accoutrements of his life- whatever those were at the time, a gun, a cribbage board, an elk mount, a drill bit— many things.  His hope was that a thousand years from now a future archaeologist would find him and pronounce- oh my gosh, this must be a great king!  The lesson:  dream big, my friends.

This last story is probably more myth than reality, but the only one in the room that might know the truth is my Uncle John- so you’ll have to ask him.  My dad and his older brother Preston were out late at night and wrecked their car- see, they had to share a car and we all can admit it is no fun to share a car with a sibling, but that’s another therapy session. So, they left the wreckage, lit it on fire and hid over a nearby hill and watched it blow up.  Needless to say, they didn’t get another car when their dad found out.  The lesson: Don’t let your parents find out when you do stupid things.

I could go on and on…there are so many stories.  But they all end in a lesson for life.  Lessons we all should consider if we want the memory of my father to be everlasting.

This week has been devastating for many of us.  But my dad has been training me for this day.  Look, this is hard and I don’t know if crying is what I should do or just keep on trucking. So, I am going to take a lesson from my dad.  He couldn’t handle my sister crying, so I am NOT going to cry.  I am going to think about my dad every day and the amazing gifts of the spirit he has given my sister and myself and our children.  Last night, as I felt my lowest, my children finally arrived in town.  While I listened to them tell their funny stories of their grandfather and laugh and as we discussed how to go forward to make grandpa proud, I realized, he would have been his proudest watching our crazy in a hotel lobby.  I can see those twinkling blue eyes.

As Christians, we believe that all our ties of friendship, affection, good times and bad times, knit us as one wonderful sweater and that sweater does not unravel at death. We are in communion with my dad.  We, as Christians, are all part of one body that moves, grows, loves, lives, and dies together.  When one is gone, we feel the absence, but know the certain rewards.  My dad didn’t ask for anything from anyone.  But right now, he might ask for your prayers and I would ask you to take a moment today, or tomorrow…when you see that blue Wyoming sky, think of my dad’s beautiful eyes, do good for others and enjoy this life we have been gifted.

Lacking Drama & Pageantry

1st Sunday of Lent, Gospel of Mark 1:12-15

Mark’s account of Jesus’s desert journey is in stark contrast to Matthew’s and Luke’s account.  In typical Markan fashion he refrains from including the details which he considered non-essential.  Readers of his Gospel are not privileged to Jesus’s dialogue with Satan or the specific nature of the temptations.  Instead, Mark only states that Jesus was “drove” out into the desert, he was “tempted” by Satan, and surrounded by “wild beasts”.  This account lacks the drama and pageantry of his Synoptic Gospel counterparts.

Yet, strangely, Mark’s concise account of Jesus’ 40-day desert trial has a certain attraction.  The idea of going off into a deserted and desolate place, with the opportunity to overcome personal weakness, and draw closer to God is, too me, quite appealing.  I do know that I am not alone in thinking this way, because throughout the history of the Church men and women have left off the trappings, possessions, and distractions of “normal” daily life seeking a deeper more dependent relationship with God.  It started with St. Paul of Thebes, followed by St. Anthony of Egypt, who was then followed by thousands of men and women seeking God in the deserted places.

However, I must confess that the idea of leaving the complications attached with possessions is, for me, an extremely attractive idea.  In fact, I once asked a monk if there was any precedence or protocol that would allow for a Deacon to join their order.  He just looked at me and walked away mumbling something about “being disordered” and the “dismal state” of the Church.

Now, that was not the worst of it, because, for some reason, I chose to ask my monk friend this question in the presence of my wife.  It did not take too long after those ridiculous words left my mouth before I felt the cold icy stare of my wife’s enchanting blue eyes piercing the back of my skull.  Oh, she waited… and once we were together in our “isolated place”, absent witnesses, she had a few things to say about how I might find living in a monastery with a bunch of old men more appealing then living with her.

In today’s Gospel we find clear instructions to those who seek to follow in the footsteps of Jesus.  Jesus ventured into the deserted places out of obedience and necessity, and in so doing clearly established the model.  Without the encumbrance of detail, Mark clearly communicates that those who seek Jesus must too also venture out into the desert.

Using today’s Gospel as a guide I am proposing 3 reasons why, as followers of Christ, we too must venture out into the deserted places.

The 1st reason is obedience.  Mark clearly states that Jesus was “drove out by the Spirit.”  The literal Greek wording for this phrase is translated, “impelled to step out”.  The Spirit of God “impelled” Jesus to step out… away from… the normal routine of life and go into a place where necessity was the priority.

Recognizing that we are all called to live in the state and in the place at which we exist we must not allow to be an excuse to abandon our responsibilities.  Rather it is an opportunity to identify specific things, habits, practices, and behaviors that are unnecessary, and then set them aside.  Out of obedience we are obligated, with the guidance of the Holy Spirit, to honestly examine ourselves.  To identify that which encumbers us, and then, in faith, step away from them.

The second reason we are called out into the desert is for ministry.  But, not in the way in which you might think.  Rather, we are called to enter the desert so that God can minister to us.  Mark’s Gospel is clear when it states, “and the angels ministered to him.”

Let not my words be confusing.  The desert is difficult.  When one ventures out into the deserted places one will encounter temptation.  One will encounter hardship.  One will encounter struggle, difficulties, and discouragement for, after all, it is a desert.  However, by God’s mysterious design, and in his infinite mercy, when we enter the desert we are allowing God to minister to us in a way which was not been previously available.

In the original Greek, which is translated in English, “the angels ministered”, portrays the image of a servant serving at a table.

I recall a time when Kristina and I spent one Valentine’s evening in Chicago, Illinois.  We were in Chicago visiting a friend who happened to be a Sommelier at this ultra-fine eating establishment.  He had made arrangements for us to enjoy our Valentine’s dinner at his restaurant as his guests.  First, I will tell you the food was magnificent and second, the service was amazing.  Our glasses never went empty.  We did not even have to pour our own wine.  The magnificently prepared and presented plates of food were brought and then removed as if by magic, and not once did we have to ask for anything.  Although the restaurant was entirely full of paying patrons we felt as if our table was the only one that mattered.  It was an absolutely wonderful experience… and that is the image that comes to mind when I read the phrase, “the angels ministered to him.”

The third reason why we must go out to the desert is found in the 14th verse of Mark’s gospel; “After John had been arrested, Jesus came to Galilee proclaiming the gospel of God.”

When we go out into the desert we do so for a period of time.  A time of refinement.  A time of preparation.  A time with purpose.  God does not call us out to the deserted places on a whim.  He calls us out to the deserted places because he wants us to return to a purpose.

Following John the Baptists arrest, Jesus returned from the desert and began to preach and to proclaim that the Kingdom of God is at hand.  Jesus’s time in the desert; the trial, the temptation, the ministry of the angels, prepared him to engage in the mission for which he was called.

Today, this 1st Sunday of Lent marks the beginning of our desert journey.  When we respond in obedience to God’s calling, we do so in the knowledge that we too shall encounter trial and temptation.  We too, do so in the knowledge that God will not abandon us.  He will not turn his back from us.  And when, at the completion of our 40 days Lenten journey, we return from the desert we will be prepared to engage in the mission for which we are called.

Our challenge this day, my brothers and sisters in Christ, is to approach this Lenten desert journey in the full knowledge that upon its conclusion God will have prepared us for his service.  There is a unique and vital ministry awaiting each one of us this coming Easter morning, and I for one eagerly await the great work for his Kingdom to which we all will be called.

We Believe

Homily 4th Sunday in Ordinary Time
Gospel of Mark 1:22-28
I thought I would begin this morning with a short catechetical teaching. This short lesson is fitting as today, our Parish, has accepted 3 individuals into the order of the Catechumen, therefore, what better time to give a short refresher on the traditions and doctrines of the Church. So here we go.
The Liturgy of the Church is governed by its own calendar which is identified as the Liturgical Year. A fact that is most obvious when Catholics greet one another with the phrase, “Happy New Year!”, though it is not on January 1st. On what Sunday does the Liturgical Year begin?
The liturgy of the Church has two cycles, a weekday cycle and a Sunday Cycle. The Sunday cycle is divided into three years, labeled A, B, and C. 2020 was Year A. 2021 is Year B, and 2022 will be Year C. In Year A, we read mostly from the Gospel of Matthew. In Year B, we read the Gospel of Mark and chapter 6 of the Gospel of John and in Year C, we read the Gospel of Luke.
Now for the 2nd question of the morning; Does anyone know why Year B is my favorite cycle? (Because the Gospel of Mark is my favorite Gospel!)
Mark’s Gospel is a Gospel of action… what Jesus does.
In today’s Gospel account Mark tells us that Jesus went into the synagogues of Capernaum to teach, and that he did so with authority. An authority that was not typical nor had been previously experienced. Mark emphasizes that reality when he relates an incident when, while Jesus was teaching, he was confronted by a man possessed with an unclean spirit. Jesus commanded the unclean spirit to be quiet and to come out of the man, and those who witnessed this event, Mark reports, were amazed.
To help put this into context, today’s account in the Gospel of Mark is beginning of Jesus’ public ministry. Following his baptism, and sojourn to the desert for 40 days, and after his recruitment of Peter, Andrew, James, and John, Jesus travels to Capernaum, and sets up “home base”. He starts teaching in the synagogues and does so with a supernatural authority. And it is here, in the 25th verse of first chapter of Mark’s Gospel, when Jesus demonstrates that he came to humanity for our salvation and overcame evil.
Evil’s power is in its disguise. It hides itself in the world and in ourselves. In today’s Gospel account we hear how evil disguised itself and hid among those who were seeking Jesus. We hear its challenge to the authority of God in a human voice and we see its futility and powerlessness when confronted with the entirety of God’s revelation of his goodness in Jesus Christ.
Do not be mistaken there is a worldly evil. St. John Paul II introduced the terms “structural evil”, “institutionalized sin”, and “corporate evil” to describe groups, organizations, and institutions whose policies and actions are intended, either by design or by default, to destroy life, exploit creation, and dehumanize the poor and vulnerable. Groups, organizations, and institutions possess no soul and so cannot be held responsible for the evil that is propagated by its members, yet the effects of the evil that is instituted are no less mitigated.
Abortion, euthanasia, and the death penalty are evil… They are disguised in political parties, institutions, and governments and are falsely professed as necessary for the good of society.
Poverty is evil… It is disguised in platitudes, empty acts of charity, and practices that, in the end, benefit the rich and exploit the poor.
Greed and lust are evil… Both are disguised through the culturally accepted attitude that the possession and the manipulation of both things and people are symbols of influence and power.
There is personal evil. This evil is evident in our personal sin and is often disguised in self-created false personas of personal piety and righteousness.
We disguise our sin behind words of empathy and concern. Which are but thinly veiled evils of gossip and rumor.
We disguise our sin behind words of correction towards others. When in reality, we are just calling out our own sins which we only can see in those around us.
We disguise our sin with words of exclusion. Demanding that others adhere to our self-created and self-imposed standards of perfection and holiness.
We disguise our sin behind isolation and withdrawal. Instead of reaching out in love and compassion we push away, reject, and ignore the woundedness of others. We build walls of division and deny the grace and mercy of God to those who are in most need.
And, finally, there is Evil. The Catechism identifies evil not just as an abstract concept, but as a person; Satan, the Evil One, the Fallen Angel. This Evil disguises itself with light. The very name, Lucifer, means the Bearer of Light, and he will often appear as light when in fact he is the very darkness which the light of Christ came to expel.
Yet, in spite of these evils we need not, dare I say must not, fear evil. Evil has no power over those who confess Christ as their savior. The power and authority over evil, which Jesus displayed in that Capernaum synagogue some 2000 years ago, is given to us, those who are called to the Supper of the Lamb.
So, I ask, what is our response to this evil? Do we continue to allow evil, in all its various forms, to wound, divide, and overpower? Do we shield our eyes and stop up our ears to a world which is crying out for healing and salvation?
The Church provides us the answer when it states, “there is not a single aspect of the Christian message that is not in part an answer to the question of evil.” (CCC 309)
Therefore, our response to evil is entirely contained in our response to Christ. When we say “we believe” we are in fact professing our faith in Christ who overcome the evil in this world. “We believe” that evil has no power over us! “We believe” that goodness will prevail, and we accept our responsibility of being the good in this dark and lost world.
Today, we are challenged to overcome evil. To do good, to be the good, in this dark and divided world. Will we respond in the confidence of the supernatural authority of Christ? Will we believe?

What are you Looking for?

2nd Sunday in Ordinary Time, Gospel of John 1: 35-42

The past few weeks have been a bit of a whirlwind.  The Advent and Christmas season typically have that effect, right?  The buildup, the preparation, the anticipation, followed by Christmas Day, the New Year, Epiphany, and finally the Feast of the Baptism of our Lord can make one feel rushed and hurried.  The season, with all its goodness and blessings, also brings a certain degree of upheaval and disruption.  Eventually, and thankfully, Christmas decorations come down, mangers get packed away, and our homes and, hopefully, our lives once again take on a sense of normalcy.  Yet… this has not necessarily been the case, so far.

The pandemic is still rampaging through our homes, neighborhoods, schools, communities, and nation.  The political anger, upheaval, and strife dominating our thoughts and our conversations have divided our households, our workspaces, our church, and our nation.  The Angel’s chorus “Joy to the World”, which we sang just 3 weeks ago, is now but a bitter reminder of our fragile and fickle human nature as we have denigrated into accusation, rebuttal, and condemnation.

This level of anxiety and concern wears on our human psyche.  We tire of the rhetoric.  We succumb to the stress and withdraw.  The reality of illness and death lurking, infiltrating, and altering daily routines restricts our movements and limits our relationships.  This period of time between the end of the Christmas Season and the beginning of Lent has traditionally been an opportunity to pause, recoup, and breathe.  So, today, let us not abandon this opportunity and instead endeavor to strengthen our hope, solidify our resolve, and commit ourselves, by the example of St. Andrew the Apostle, to the pursuit of truth and love.

In today’s Gospel we are presented with an account of the beginning of Jesus’s ministry and so… let us insert ourselves into this story and examine our own response to the call of our Lord.

John the Baptist opens the story as he directs our attention and calls out, “Behold the Lamb of God!”

We too, along with Andrew and the other disciple, leave the comfort and routine of our spiritual mentor and follow Jesus unsure of the destination or purpose.  Jesus, turning, fixing his gaze upon us, asks “What are you looking for?” 

Here we stop, take a moment, and contemplate his question.

Jesus’ question to the two disciples was a relevant question, especially in that time and place.  First Century disciples looking for rabbi to follow, did so for several reasons.  It is possible they were legalists, looking to debate subtle and nuanced differences of the law, such as the Pharisees or Scribes.  Or… they were ambitious Sadducees seeking influence and position.  Or… they were Zealots, hoping for a military leader or political demagogue capable of ridding the Romans from the Promised Land.

However, Jesus’ question, “what are you looking for?” is as relevant today as it was 2000 years ago.  What are you looking for?

Are you looking for an affirmation of righteousness?  Like a Pharisee, are you seeking a stamp of approval that what you say and what you do is holy and good?

Are looking for relevance or influence?  Like a Sadducee, are you desiring validation of your opinion and an acknowledgement that your voice has been heard?

Are you looking for victory over those whom you perceive as enemies?  Like a Zealot, are you needing to prove that you are stronger, smarter, and better than those whom you oppose?

We are all challenged with the same question.  We all must answer, “What are you looking for?”  so… what is your answer?

Our guide, St. Andrew the Apostle, responded to Jesus’ call honestly and sincerely.  His reply, “Where are you staying?” is absent of selfish ambition.  Andrew’s intent is not one of manipulation or exploitation.  He is not seeking Jesus for his own benefit.  He did lot leave the routine and familiarity of what he had known to further his own career, or garner fame or prestige, or obtain influence or power.  Andrew, and the other disciple, were seeking Jesus.  Desiring to stay with him, to learn from him, to know him.

In a short moment from now, those of us present at his altar will hear the very testimony of John.  The priest, holding up the body and blood of our Savior, will proclaim loudly and boldly the words of John the Baptist, “Behold the Lamb of God, behold him who takes away the sin of the world!”

Will our response this day be free from personal ambition and selfish pride?  Will our response this day, be free from false ideals or misguided pursuits of self-righteousness? Will our response this day be free from doubts, divisiveness, and delusion?

I say, let our answer be our own personal fiat.  May we, in full confidence and in perfect humility, reply, “Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word and my soul shall be healed!”

We shall then continue in the example of St. Andrew.  We will not let our conversion end with our declaration of faith.  Just as Andrew sought out his brother Simon and proclaimed, “We have found the Messiah”, so too must we share the Good News of the Gospel with those whom we encounter.

Now… is the time that we must leave the distractions and the diversions behind.

Now… is the time that we must cast aside false loyalties, misguided ambitions, and diluted promises and steadfastly hold to the truth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

My brothers and sisters in Christ, today is the day to be encouraged.  Today is the day to find hope.  Today is the day we sing, with the Chorus of Angels, “Joy to the World.

Not a Homily… A Podcast

I apologize for using this platform for a bit of self promotion, but I wanted to let you know that Kristina and I have a podcast. It is called 3 Things Podcast, and the first episode posted today.

3 Things Podcast 3 is about 3 things; drinks, books (music, movies, art), & stories. We will be having conversations with friends about how these 3 things have inspired and encouraged them on their journey of faith. We will be posting 2 episodes per month and a bonus episode titled, 1 thing.

I will resume posting my homilies here and will not bother you about the podcast again. If you like what you hear and/or read please feel free to share with a friend.

Thank you & God bless you

Deacon Jason