Friday, January 30, 2009

In Memoriam: + Niall Seamus O'Donnell +

Pictured to the left are the hand and foot prints of my son, Niall Seamus O'Donnell, who died pre-term on this day four years ago.

It was the worst day of my life, and I say that as a man who once despaired of life itself and who has been cause of the same.

To see these pictures again, and to remember that day, is to be reminded both of the depth of my own sin and the surpassing abundance of God's grace. It is to be reminded of the truth that God proclaims through St. Paul in Romans 8.28: "For God works all things together for the good of those who love him and are called according to his purpose." 

To see the picture above is to realize that if we had not lost Niall we probably would not have considered adoption. Thus, this picture would not exist:

The O'Donnells in Guatemala
And yet, here we are: six O'Donnells.

On this day in my son's memory I want to thank God for Catherine Marie (nee Allen) O'Donnell, a woman of great faith and courage whom I am humbled to have and to hold as my wife. She has endured things that I cannot imagine and yet perseveres. 

Niall sings in the heavenly choir and awaits with his parents, grandparents and siblings the promised resurrection of all flesh. We who toil here thank the Lord for what we have learned since Niall's passing, and we live in hopeful expectation of that day when we will join him.

The Lord gives, and the Lord takes away. Blessed be The Lord. Amen

Yours in Christ,

For those who may be interested, I published an abbreviation of my funeral homily in the April 2006 issue of For the Life of the World, the magazine of Concordia Theological Seminary--Ft. Wayne, Indiana. Here is the link:

Here also is the picture of the special obituary notice that Cowan and Son Funeral Home of Van Wert, Ohio laminated for my family. Thanks again to John and the family for handling Niall's arrangement with faith, hope and love.

Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 26, 2009

Help! My Refridgerator is Naked!!!

I didn't know what it was at first when this afternoon I entered my home following a shut-in visit. After turning left toward the kitchen from the back door BEHOLD! there was a dazzling bright light. Startled, I almost fell to the floor and said, "Let us put up three tents!"

Then I thought, "Deja-vu," for I had just read the account of the Transfiguration (Mt 17.1-9) at a member's home. (For those of you unacquainted, the Feast of the Transfiguration remembers the special occasion when, in advance of the crucifixion, Jesus revealed His Divine Glory--appearing in dazzling, heavenly white--to Peter, James and John.)

Then I realized the truth: the little curtain-climber in my home had de-nuded the refrigerator.

 "Good gravy," thought I, "This is indecent! My Refridgerator is Naked!!!" 

I was disoriented. I didn't know what to do with myself . . .

Now, fortunately, I have my wits about me. If you'll excuse me, I shall return home and boom out a voice to the 20-month old, "Behold, the refrigerator is naked. Come, let us clothe it again!"
Posted by Picasa

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Christians are Boring

I was reading some poling research recently in the book unChristian which revealed that most 16-29 year-old "outsiders" in the U.S. find theologically conservative Christians "old fashioned, boring, and out of touch with reality." Further, they say that these Christians "do not respond to reality in appropriately complex ways, preferring simplistic solutions and answers." I'm sympathetic to that view. I used to hold it. Christianity in general I thought was a fraud, which made conservative Christians that much more contemptable. "Joyless prudes," I thought of them. They were "weak-minded," etc., etc.

Here's a short video clip of some boring Christian children.

These boring children score well (that's modest) in almost every academic category (presently, at least). They are learning a second language, play youth sports, play well with other children and can converse with adults. They are learning classical piano. One is discovering a particular artistic talent, another learning to dance. They can identify all the continents, and the older ones can speak with respect to some of the basic differences between Greek mythology, first century paganism, Biblical Christianity and atheism. Of their own voliton this past summer they sold lemonade and soda pop at garage sales for the purpose of helping the poor. 

Of course, sometimes these children act disrespectfully of one another and act without regard to the possible consequences. Sometimes they complain. At present they have not watched TV or played video games for two days because of their disrespect for another's property. They are learning that behavior has consequences and that there are varying degrees of responsibility.

Yes, and they laugh and giggle and devour gingerbread. Boring people. Must be missing something.

Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Two Prayers

Contrast this 2009 inaugural prayer by Rick Warren

with this 2009 inaugural prayer by Gene Robinson

One of these men prays with the understanding that God can be known and that he is known by God, the other is sure of the idea, but not of the substance. Both call themselves Christians.

How can that be?

Want to think more deeply about this? See

Thursday, January 15, 2009

Allen-O'Donnell Crew in Florida

To the right is a recent picture of our whole crew in Cocoa Beach, Florida. On the left is the Eric Allen family (Carrie's brother) and to the right is the O'Donnell crew and Grandma and Grandpa Allen on the back-right.

The Allens have been travelling to Las Olas Beach Club in Cocoa Beach for almost 20 years. It is a small family-owned resort that holds RCI's "Gold Crown" designation. Cocoa Beach is just south of Cape Canaveral and the Kennedy Space Center. Pictured right behind us is the Cocoa Beach Pier. I first went down to Cocoa Beach with them in 1995, just before Carrie and I were married. On that trip we got to watch a Delta rocket launch from Kennedy. It was LOUD!

I L-O-V-E the Atlantic side, as I love to watch the sun rise on the ocean. During this trip we got to watch the newest member of the family grow steadily more comfortable on the sand and begin to enjoy the wonders of the ocean. There's no way to adequately thank Grandma and Grandpa Allen for providing us such a magnificent and affordable vacation site, and I say that with renewed appreciation this year. We didn't make the trip to Cocoa Beach the previous two years because we were saving our pennies for the adoption, and in the middle of the winter it is truly delightful to hear the ocean and feel the sand in your feet.

So, here's my thanks to God for my in-law's good stewardship that makes all this possible, and for the hospitality of the good people at Las Olas. This is a trip for which I am now more thankful than ever.
Posted by Picasa

My Favorite Christmas Present

Got this great mug from my wife for Christmas. She found it at, a company that mocks the whole "successories" line of motivational products.

You should check out their web site. It's a great laugh. This particular product is called "The Pessimist's Mug."
Posted by Picasa

Monday, January 12, 2009

The Easy Way to Put a Toddler to Sleep

It took until the third child to figure it out, but I discovered the secret to getting a stubborn toddler to sleep: lay down with them and read scholarly literature!

As I said, I finally discovered this secret with our third child, a daughter. Today the magic worked again on our fourth, a nineteen-month-old son. I was at home for a couple hours while my wife was at an appointment with our youngest daughter. The little man needed a nap but showed no signs of interest in the same. I thought, "Self, I know the trick!" and went next door to retreive the text I'm using to help prepare for a class on St. Paul's Second Missionary Journey. With Dr. Schnabel's "Paul the Missionary" in my right hand, I swooped the little man up in my left and purposefully ascended the stairs to the master bedroom. I prepared the pillows, set the little man down, lay down beside him, and began to read. He kicked and gurgled at me for a while as I read about the second period of Paul's mission (in Arabia) and then I noticed that the kicking and the gurgling had stopped. I hadn't even read a page and there beside me was a blissfully sleeping little boy!

This is a masterful book for me, but as you will see in the short clip, it's a real snoozer for my son. My apologies to Dr. Schnabel (and to the other scholars whose writing has been magical previously), but reading scholarly literature to toddlers has been almost foolproof in its efficacy.

Enjoy the clip, and good luck to you parents who attempt this yourselves!!!

Yours in Christ,