You can’t find joy if you’re ignorant of the world, hiding from the troubles and the rot.
You can’t find joy hiding in your home, pretending all is right when it is not.
You can’t show joy when you’re drowning in your sorrows, making misery your spouse or your best friend.
You can’t show joy when doom is all you see, and all you are awaiting is the end.
Joy is not the reckless son, as he feeds ungrateful swine, wishing he could dine upon their waste,
And Joy is not the sullen son, as he watches through the window at his brother, but he will not join the feast.
Joy is the penitent son, in the Father’s strong embrace, with rings and robe and smile upon his face.
Joy is in the now, as we watch the crazy world asunder, and know the Father keeps us in his place.

The Four Areas for Marital Communication

Some of us are good at planning. Some are good at sharing our feelings. Some good at resolving conflict. Others at having fun together. Much of the time we think, when we are communicating well in one area, especially the latter, that our marital communication is good overall. But if we aren’t communicating well in all four areas, we leave ourselves open to marital conflict.

Planning and Coordinating

Life is complicated, and when kids enter the picture, especially as the family gets larger, the complications can grow exponentially. Good planning and coordination between a couple is critical. One of you is probably better at planning, but don’t leave all the responsibility on that person. That’s a ticket to an imbalanced marriage. We plan our day every morning over breakfast, before the kids get up. We plan our week every Sunday. We plan our month at the end of the month prior. We even do yearly strategic planning, which I highly recommend. These are conversations that have to happen to keep stress at bay.

Fun Times

Fun in a marriage never stops being important. Sharing a movie or play or sporting event or family outing is a form of communication. It is shared experience, and each shared experience adds one little thread to the ties that create the marital bond. Even CNN, not the most marriage friendly organization, realizes the importance of couples spending time together.

Conflict Resolution

Hundreds of books have been written on conflict resolution. Bad conflict resolution or, worse, conflict avoidance can end up in broken marriages. One of the key skills a married couple must learn is good conflict resolution. The Marriage Book by Nicky and Sila Lee is one book with an excellent section on conflict resolution. The key, though, is not to think there is one magic technique that works for everyone. Each person, and each couple, is different. Read widely in this area. Try different techniques as long as they are rooted in respect for God and your spouse. Find the parts that work and build them up into your very own personal conflict resolution technique.

Sharing Your Feelings

I put this one last because, to some degree, it’s first. The key to sharing your feelings with your spouse is to communicate with her who you are at this very moment. We are constantly changing and growing, and we must communicate those changes to our beloved. And just as importantly, we must receive those communications from our beloved and learn who she is today.

This is the root of communication. When we know who each other is, intimately, then we can plan effectively. We can enjoy each other’s company. We can resolve our problems with love instead of acrimony. So we need to spend time each and every day in intimate communication of our innermost selves. We must hold back nothing, and we must provide a safe refuge where our beloved can share her innermost self without fear.

There is no doubt. Communication in marriage is hard. But if we approach it with respect for God and our spouse, and if we pay attention to our communication in all these four areas, we can build a strong and stable marriage.

Showing Your Wife You Love Her

From Catholic Exchange:

“The causes of this breakdown of marriage are many, but really, the solution is simple. We who are called to the vocation of marriage must love our wives. Let’s face it, we ultimately can’t change anyone’s marriage but our own. In the face of marital collapse on a massive scale, our Catholic marriages must be a prophetic witness of joyful life, fidelity, and love.”

The author gives 25 ways to show your wife you love her. Some samples:

  1. Listen to her and care about what she has to say
  2. Show her physical, non-sexual affection
  3. Surprise her with flowers
  4. Take her out to dinner (without the kids)
  5. Buy her a book she’s been wanting

Follow the link to read them all. I think, however, that a list like this, while a good starting point, won’t fit the bill in the long term. No checklist, can truly tell us how to love our wives. Christ did, however, through St. Paul. He said:

Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish.
Ephesians 5:25-27

Total self-sacrifice, putting our wife’s needs before our own. It’s impossible, of course, being only human, but the more we strive for that ideal, the stronger our marriage becomes.

Creating Ourselves Through Our Actions

The Gospel of John says the following:

(John 3:16-21) For God so loved the world that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whoever believes in him should not perish but have eternal life. For God sent the Son into the world, not to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him. He who believes in him is not condemned; he who does not believe is condemned already, because he has not believed in the name of the only-begotten Son of God. And this is the judgment, that the light has come into the world, and men loved darkness rather than light, because their deeds were evil. For every one who does evil hates the light, and does not come to the light, lest his deeds should be exposed. But he who does what is true comes to the light, that it may be clearly seen that his deeds have been wrought in God.

Note the action verbs. “He who does what is true COMES to the light.” It doesn’t say “He who believes does what is true.” The light is Christ, and doing what is true – that is doing good rather than evil – brings us to Christ. In other words, our actions dictate who we become, not the other way around.
We have a certain amount of control over our destiny. We can choose, through our actions, whether to walk toward Christ or to walk away from him. This is true in the aspects of our life other than spiritual. We can become good spouses by acting like good spouses. We can become good parents by acting like good parents. We can become happy people by acting like happy people. If I despair that I am not the person I wish I was or that other people wish I were, then I am being disingenous unless I decide at that moment to start acting like that person I want to be. If I act that way, then eventually – and it takes time because “coming to the light” is not a sudden switch but a gradual and oftentimes painful transformation – I will BE that way.
Modern psychology glimpses this through CBT, cognitive behavioral therapy. They teach people with emotional issues to change their thought patterns, and the feelings will follow. More importantly, we change our actions, and the nature of the person will change to adjust to those actions.
This highlights one of the dangers of allowing ourselves to be immersed in the corrosive culture in which we are currently living. If I act the way our culture dictates – by enjoying the same hedonistic entertainments and pursuing the same self-centered goals – then I will become the kind of person that the culture celebrates, a secular moral relativist with no love for God. I have to reject the culture and live a counter-cultural life not BECAUSE I have achieved some level of holiness, but because I WANTto achieve some level of holiness.
If I want Christ, I have to act like it first.

Helping Jesus Perform Miracles

The Blessed Mother instructs us, “Do whatever He tells you.” At Cana, this was as simple as filling stone jars with water. For spouses, it may be doing the dishes or coming home from work a little early. For parents it may be as simple as changing a diaper in the middle of the night.

The servants in Cana must have been shocked when the water they had procured (180 gallons, so it was a task that required hard labor) became wine. We will be shocked, too, when our seemingly thankless labors – the endless piles of laundry, the monotonous yard work, the daily effort of loving and forgiving our imperfect family members – yield miracles we never could have imagined. Jesus can do miracles with our simple acts of obedience to Him, if we only trust.

Visiting Ghosts

We’re not big on long vacations. We haven’t flown as a family in 10 years, and since that time our longest vacation was probably a four or five day weekend. Our heart is at home, and that’s where we are happiest as a family. Vacations for us are a few days in the mountains, or a few days on the beach, or a few days at Disney.

But my eldest daughter will be 16 this year. A rising sophomore. One day it hit me the way mortality hits you when you first go on heart medication: I had three more summers left with her in the home. Three more chances as a complete family for those bigger vacations we always said we would do “sometime”. Now I’m not talking the standard fare like Caribbean cruises or trips to Hawaii. I’m talking about the stuff I want to share with my kids that will hurt if I never embrace the opportunity. I’m talking about showing them where I grew up, showing them where we got married. I realized how important it was to me to share parts of ourselves, Cheryl and I that is, with our kids. Those parts of ourselves they’ve only known through anecdotes and yellowing pictures.

So the Ludlams descended on Boston. It was easily our best vacation ever.

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Medieval Comic Books!


The British library on its medieval manuscripts blog posts digitized reproductions of medieval books, parchments and other manuscripts. Recently they posted two fun collections of manuscripts that they humorously referred to as medieval comic books, here and here.

The above photo, from an early 14th century Bible picture book, depicts Joseph learning about Mary’s pregnancy. There are some creative enhancements, including speech balloons with dialog just like in modern comic books!

Also posted are other Bible narratives, dancing camels, the lives of saints, and a man falling out of a tree!

I encourage you to follow the links, then poke around. The British Library has made a true treasure available for us all.

The First Amazon Review for Aachen is Four Stars!



“A wonderful story for adolescents”

That’s the title of the very first review, 4 stars, no less, of Aachen. You can read it here.

I had three key goals when publishing Aachen:
1) hold the book in my hand;
2) know that my wife and kids could hold and enjoy this labor of my love; and
3) touch at least one other person in a positive way.

I feel like I’ve accomplished those goals. Everything after that will be God’s providence.

Is it Worth Taking the Recent Story of Demonic Possession and Exorcism in Indiana Seriously?

home where demonic possession and exorcism occurred

Earlier this year there were a flurry of articles about a well-documented case of demonic possession and exorcism in Gary, Indiana. It’s described in this article in the Indianapolis Star and in an interview covered in this article on the blog Roman Catholic Spiritual Direction.
It is a recent interview with the priest who performed the exorcism, and reports of a movie deal being signed which have spurred the recent spate of interest.
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Aachen, a Coming of Age Novel Set in Medieval Europe


My historical fiction novel Aachen is finally available for purchase in either trade paperback or Kindle. It will be exclusively Amazon for the next 90 days, after which I will make it available on Nook, iPad and other outlets.

Check out the “Look Inside” feature or download the first couple of chapters free on your Kindle, and tell me what you think! If you do like it, please consider leaving a review on Amazon.
I hope you enjoy it!

The life of an 8th century peasant is, as they say, “nasty, brutish, and short”.

Young Stephen of Orlans, though indentured and in poverty, has been raised from childhood to want something different. He longs to be a man of learning and dreams of studying at Charlemagne’s famed Palace School at Aachen.

After returning from a traumatic campaign, Stephen has the chance to attain his dream. But how can he take monastic vows when the sins of war have shattered his faith in God? And how can he leave Orlans when he is falling in love with a beautiful milkmaid with a scandalous reputation?

In the 8th century, scandal and betrayal are concealed by the thinnest of veils, and the path to reaching your dreams may be the most treacherous path of all. In his quest for redemption, Stephen will be forced to make decisions he will likely soon regret.

Decisions he will have to live with forever.