By Ted Furlow
The Oregon females, my daughter, Jen, and two granddaughters, Annie and Kate, descended on the house along with Westlake Furlows, my daughter-in-law, Susie, and a third granddaughter, Faith. For three days, awash in a sea of estrogen, I was outnumbered six to one. It was the “girls weekend.”
My role was concierge/butler, and I loved every minute of it. The conversation between Terri, Jen and Susie never stopped, and there is nothing like getting a cuddle and a blurpy kiss from little Annie. I got to listen to the startling adult ideas of ten-year-old Katie and watch seven-year-old fashionista Faith parade around in her latest creations of the Cruise Director’s clothing. It reinforced my belief that we should be allowed to skip parenting and move directly to grand parenting.
On the last day they set out to raid yet another shopping center and to again pillage the credit cards. I was enjoying the silence that had descended on the house, when the phone rang. They were at a tattoo parlor in the OC and Annie was on the phone, asking if Gramma could get a tattoo. My response was, “put Gramma on the line.” Terri and I had a good laugh, but I did tell her that I’m okay with her getting some ink. Terri responded that she has made it this far without adornment and had no intention of going under the needle. But daughter Jen and daughter-in-law Susie took the plunge.
They were at a Christian tattoo parlor – seems like an oxymoron – and they got faith-based tats. Susie got a discrete cross on her ring finger, and Jen got a Faith, Hope, and Love symbol under her wrist. They chose them not only as a visual reminder for themselves to always be the person that God is calling them to be, but as visible statement to others that this is who they are, and this is where they stand.
I have worn a Creed Medal for almost 50 years for the same reason. It has been a companion through my oft times tumultuous journey of faith, and I find myself touching it through my shirt when I am stressed and will often rub it between my thumb and forefinger when I chat with God. It has been a source of comfort, a sign to others, and simple reminder of the presence of the “God within” who is always with me.
I got an earring 26 years ago for much the same reason. Okay, maybe I need too many visual prompts, but each time I look at it I am reminded that my outer self, the mask I show to the world in the daily grind, is not always the real me. I have an inner self that has embraced Jesus Christ and the good news of the Kingdom of God. I need to stay connected to gospel values of Jesus in my day-to-day life, and each day I am reminded of the challenge for me to seek alignment between my inner and outer self.
Mark begins his Gospel, after the prologue, by reminding us not only of the good news from God, but about God at work in our lives through Jesus Christ. It is the time of the fulfillment of prophesy, and in Mark Jesus calls to us; “The Kingdom of God is at hand, change your lives.”
I wonder how many of us really dwell on what changing our life and seeking an alignment of self really means? What kind of conversion does it call us to? How do we change, and what are the values to which we are called?
My values are found in the Beatitudes and the words in the Gospel of Matthew, the Corporal Works of Mercy. They are how Jesus calls me to live. My change is in the words in the Gospel of Mark, the story of the hemorrhagic woman who reached out to touch the cloak of Jesus to seek his compassion and healing. I too have reached out to touch the hem of Jesus, seeking the same healing of my physical, emotional and moral hurts.
When the God within calls us to the ways of Jesus, the people of God benefit because the Kingdom of God happens when we change our life and seek alignment. It is a conversion that leads to transformation.
Ted Furlow retired as Director of Pastoral Planning in the Diocese of San Bernardino and continues in marriage preparation ministry in the Archdiocese of Los Angeles