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Chris Lyford

notes from a pilgrim

An Interview with Charlie Johnston

If you haven’t heard of Charlie Johnston, well I think it’s time  you did! A Lay Catholic Evangelist who is traveling around the country with a message of hope in these times when we seem to see a storm cloud gathering over many aspects of the world, including families. Like my family, he was led on a personal pilgrimage for about a year and a half to focus on learning the practice of detachment (not allowing your possessions to posses you). Our pilgrimage lasted three years (our time without a house) in order for us to learn the truth in a profound way that families make a home; not an address, and that every individual and family needed to allow God into their heart to ‘clarify, purify, and sanctify’ them. Charlie’s message is to Acknowledge God, take the next right step, and be a sign of hope for those around you: something that brings a lot of peace when you’re in a storm and people are freaking out.

Read for yourself from Charlie’s website: https://charliej373.wordpress.com/

A good explanation of Charlie’s purpose is here: https://charliej373.wordpress.com/archives/

Here is a short video of  my conversation with Charlie:

charlie and chris deacon christof vickie chris charlis michael john and mary poirier

Charlie and I Sharing the Joy.                                 Deacon Christof, Vickie, me ,Charlie, Michael John and Mary Poirier.

(below) Jesus Divine Mercy and Our Lady of Guadalupe Across the Street from a strip club in SF. Hey, That’s where he wants us to bring Him!!! Mercy is SUCH a good deal, how can you refuse it? (below right) Michael John and Charlie sharing stories and fellowship.

jesus and our lady of tepeyac in the tenderloin michael john and charlie streets of SF

My son (St.)James and me and Charlie at Little Henry’s: an Italian restaurant owned by a Vietnamese family. Good food, and cheap!

vharlie chris and james with divine mercy and our lady on streets of sf

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What more could you ask for? A perfect Father’s Day gift.

A perfect Fathers Day gift: a special Sunday Mass celebrated for the intentions of our family, and the Baptism of my granddaughter! What more profound gift in heaven or on earth can compare to the gift of salvation in Jesus Christ???

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Father’s Day around the country is often celebrated by taking Dad out for brunch or giving him a gift.  Our Heavenly Father out did us all today by blessing us with His own Spirit! This has to be the best “Father’s Day” I could have ever hoped for!

 

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The Pilgrimage Continues…

carson on the roadHow thankful we are as a family, that after three years of having no place to call home, and having all our things in storage, Our Merciful Lord gave us a beautiful home in which to spend a year of healing, growth, inspiration, and advancement in many ways, especially in the ways of Faith. The blessings are evident to all who know us, but the one that seems to be my favorite, is that my love for my wife (Vickie) has grown beyond what I had ever imagined. Well I guess, the Lord wants to take that faith for a spin again. The owners of our home need to move back in, and have given us notice, so tomorrow, i pick up a uhaul truck, and we will place all of our (recently parred down) possessions in a storage unit (just one this time – like in Vickie’s dream about the three red suitcases, two of which disappeared). Where will we go? Not sure yet. Of course we would like to get back into a home, but the rent in the SF Bay area being $3500 + (not kidding) for a home for the five of us, is above our means. Hotels? Campgrounds? Empty convents? We trust. With prayer, we will not only ‘weather’ this little storm, but will continue to allow our Lord to have His way as he continues to accomplish in us His work – CLARIFY – PURIFY – SANCTIFY.

So pray for us, but please don’t pray in fear: pray in trust – like we do. Just try it. Then you will be walking with us on this new pilgrimage. And please pray for the work I am doing at the Archdiocese, we are under a very heavy spiritual attack, as you might know. I want you to know that what you see on the surface (news, etc.) is only a very thin veneer covering the real conflagration. So pray.

The year of Mercy that Pope Francis has designated to start on December 8th , is not just some ‘liturgical theme’ that was chosen to keep people interested; it’s real. It’s for you and me: it’s our opportunity to avail ourselves of the unfathomable, infinite Mercy of Jesus Christ, as he looks to us to confess EVERYTHING to Him, in trust and humility, so that he can in return give us His Mercy. Because after His time of Mercy comes His time of Justice. Be well covered under His Mercy so that you can be protected.

The Lord is calling me to do a few things, like begin telling people about the grace of this time in light of the new developments in Medjugorje, the 2015 Synod, the year of Mercy, and my 30 + years of working in his vineyard (in the Catholic Church). Please pray I do a good job and get the heck out of His way. Please.

In the meantime, stay tuned here for developments – in the meantime, I share with you a nugget from the past – 8 years ago this August my whole family and my future son in law (who will baptize the second grandchild on Sunday) were, through an incredible miracle, able to make a pilgrimage to Medjugorje for the youth festival. I wrote a song at the end that harvested some of what the Lord was doing in me. The title of the song is “The Storm of his Mercy”. It summarizes my spiritual view of our era, as I croak the song out, please listen to the Holy Spirit – not me. click here to listen

John Paul II at Candlestick Park 1986

We had taken the bus to Candlestick Park from Santa Rosa, and had to be there an hour before the Pope arrived. Since the Pope’s 1986 visit to the City by the Bay was ‘post May 13th 1981’ security was ever presentJPII_CandlestickP

Nonetheless when John Paul came through the tunnel waving from the popemobile suddenly the place got smaller and we were all family. You could almost sense the angelic detail that escorted this loving, smiling ‘father’ as if to say ‘he is special’ we want you to love him too.

MP-head_s2Michael Pritchard whose son I ended up teaching at Marin Catholic and whose bellowing laughter I often heard at St. Vincent’s home for boys in Marinwood as Fr. Daly (now Bishop Daly of San Jose) dalyopened up his Sunday homily with a fr dalyhumorous anecdote, was the family smile; the chosen mc.
For the millions of faithful who ended up seeing him face to face as he traveled throughout the world, we few 70,000 still felt like we were held in his heart like family.

Little did I know that the girl from the ‘young adult group’ on the bus that I sat next usbackthento on the on the way to the ‘sermon on the mound’ was to become my bride three years later, and after almost 30 years, four kids and two grand kids later, dad mary and shainathat I would be producing the (current) Archbishop’s radio hour and taking reports from Rome at the canonization weekend of John Paul the Great!

 

May 1st will be three years “Home-Free”

On May 1st my beautiful, faithful, ‘pilgrim family’ will celebrate 3 full years of fasting from living in a home we can call our own. It’s one of the most powerful experiences and certainly the most pivotal in each of our lives to put everything in storage and 10155611_832448773438068_7220046563533551162_nventure out into the very palm of God’s hand and to watch Him reveal his care for us. Only with a clear invitation from the Holy Spirit, and with confirmation from our spiritual director would we even consider such a radical thing. It’s not for everyone for sure.

Today as I write this I sit in Castle Rock Colorado, at my daughter and son in law’s  kitchen table, my daughter Selah will give birth to her second 10174977_832519520097660_5425372153267661287_nchild, Maybelline Collette Rauwolf. Their little family had been through an amazing pilgrimage of their own, and it’s so comforting to know they are settling in to their new home. Now I am praying with all my heart, and with Blessed John Paul II’s intercession (he can do one more miracle before the 27th right?) that I find a home for my family in the San Francisco Bay Area where my new job of three months is just now beginning to hit second gear. I am sincerely thankful for the 1896814_811566298859649_697046770_nexperience of these past there years, which I promise to now begin to detail in this humble blog, but I think it’s about time we establish ourselves a new address. Our friends have always known that it is a wise thing to ‘only use pencil’ when writing down our address, and the past three years have been even more like that, but we are more than ready and very excited to find a new place to call home. There are so many signs God is moving powerfully in our lives and in the whole world, but we are especially excited about what is in store for the Bay Area, and for this Pilgrim Family.

562219_195015630619694_1883509907_nThe thought of having a PO box for a home address would simply ‘freak some people out”. The feeling of not having a familiar bed to be able to look forward to lay down at the end of the day is an unsettling feeling, especially if it goes on for a week, two months, a year, three years… How on earth could we survive as an intact family three years of this ‘un-settle-ment’? And Why?

One way to describe it is to say “families all around us are falling apart in so many ways because of the pressures of this culture, we wanted to affirm the fact that our family is built on the solid foundation of an authentic, uncompromising faith in God and in the Sacraments of His Church, and yet since we are imperfect, we jumped at the chance to grow stronger as a family, and secure our connection to the foundation of our existence fastening ourselves to that foundation through the gifts of 10154475_832522120097400_9125825754681275877_nhumility, poverty, joy, faithfulness, forgiveness, perseverance, love, and hope”.

St. Luke’s Gospel quotes Jesus as saying: “Foxes have dens and birds of the sky have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to rest his head.” Is Jesus saying you have to be homeless in order to follow him? No.

But He IS saying you have to be willing to be homeless for His sake in order to call yourself a follower. We all as Christians ought to be vigilant in searching fearlessly our inner hearts to test ourselves and see if our faith in God is for real, or if we have unconsciously, if not artfully fashioned for ourselves our own comfortable ‘custom cross’ to carry.

Notice I didn’t say you have to want to be homeless? Who really wants to be homeless? Every Christian has an eternal mansion that Jesus Himself is building in the next world as He promised, so we all have a final destination in mind on this pilgrimage called lifejpii

Even so we are hoping now since I am working back at the Archdiocese of San Francisco in the Chancery I left six short years ago, that we will find a new (albeit eternally temporary) home to move ourselves into. Our hope is to fin a place around San Rafael, CA. Vickie’s Dad is going to start chemo soon and we want to be able to be close to he and Vickie’s Mom an
d their family in Windsor, CA.

So pray for us to find a place wherever God wants us by May 1st, and then we can say St. John Paul the Great, thanks for the
hike! We started on May 1st 2011 the day you were beatified, and we hope to make it a perfect three years to May 1st 2014 within the Octave of your Canonization!

A Catholic High School where holiness is growing

For the past 5 months I have been teaching Juniors and Seniors ‘Morality and Theology of the Body’, at JSerra High School in San Juan Capistrano, CA.  I have taught in Catholic High Schools before, but this is the only one I believe has a fighting chance to not be absorbed into the Culture of Death as so many others have. Having worked as an assistant superintendent of Catholic Schools on an Archdiocesan level, I have seen the full spectrum; teachers living the faith with dynamic orthodoxy, and teachers living with their same sex partners.

JSerra is working for a couple of reasons:

For the most part the people who call themselves Catholic actually believe what the Catholic Church teaches.

There is a high percentage of students from evangelical churches in the area (Orange County = Saddleback, Mariners, Calvary Chapel)

Weekly all school Mass.

Weekly time spent in adoration of the Blessed Sacrament in the Chapel for each and every religion class.

And the fact that, at the centerpiece of the student quad stands this Saint: jpii

Say “Yes” to The Light.

The light was not overcome; darkness was dispelled.548975_534799346573508_724003902_n

This is the story of every soul who ever crossed the threshold into heaven and eternity with God.

Everyone battles the darkness. Some are victorious after a long drawn out struggle. Some advance quickly at the start, then falter for a number of years only to rally in the end. Some allow the light such complete permission to spill into every element of their beings that they burn with such brilliance that even through much suffering the light increases until at last all that is left of the person is a unique soul upon which is exposed the very face of God.

But what constitutes darkness? What is it made of? How can it be defined? Perhaps only in describing it in terms of what it is not.  Truth vs. Ignorance: the Truth exists without need of ignorance. Ignorance is vanquished the moment truth enters. Light dispels darkness, but darkness cannot dispel light. These truths exist whether we agree with them or not.

In speaking of non physical realities (like ignorance) one assumes the presence of the human person. In the human person alone is the arena in which the battle between light and darkness rages until there is an ultimate winner.

God, in creating free will has marked off the confines of a ring into which He will not enter. Though He himself as the Word made flesh lived His whole earthly life in this ring, never allowing himself to be knocked down; the choice was still made completely within the confines of the ring.

We choose with every breath we take which direction we will face; toward light, or away from light. If we chose to turn away from light we pay with our life. Choice by choice, our life is surrendered until it’s completely gone. We give life away with each choice of darkness; we choose to live with less light as a result.

But who would knowingly give pieces of their life away? Who would choose darkness over light? Only by being deceived or blinded to the truth do we willingly surrender our life. We make deals, we set up arrangements all with the intent to make for ourselves a better situation; less suffering, more happiness, security, joy and love. We can even spend lots of energy focused on ‘things of the light’ all for the sake of preventing its penetration into the areas of ourselves that we have been choosing to hide from its presence. Why? Freedom? It is a deception to be convinced that in constantly having to guard an area of our life from being brought into the light that we are freer than letting the light have its way and come where it wills. In the first case there is separation: light and darkness; in the second case there is wholeness: only light.

Sin mutates a person’s ability to reflect the light of God’s presence and brings progressive opacity such that even though there is still a human soul with breath and mind and free will (with hope), the very ability to knowingly choose light has been surrendered, over time, to the deceiver. Where there are lies, there is the Father of lies; where there is truth there is the Way, the Truth and the Life: Jesus Christ.

If your life, your relationships, your marriage, or your family is filled with shadows of unhappiness; depression, doubt, addiction, anger, resentment, confusion, etc. then turn toward the light and give Him permission to bring His transforming love into your whole life without reserve. Let go and let Him have His way so that every fiber of your being is filled with His warm and Merciful presence. He desires it immensely and with such love that He orchestrated your day such that you could read this. He is here with you right now. Speak the words out loud “Jesus I trust in you” and open your heart to Him. You will have experienced the transforming power of the love of God, and your whole life will begin to be re-created. Forget the past, and don’t even think of looking back. Let go, and let God in.

Lyfords moving to San Juan Capistrano: Chris starts work at JSerra High School – The rest of the Family will move as soon as possible.

luke serraFaith and family: such an important part of our lives. Our family began in faith when Vickie and I shared our vows at St Rose in Santa Rosa, CA on September 3rd almost 24 years ago. It’s clear to us that we have been led step by step from that moment into each new vista by the hand of Divine Providence. Our choice has been to consistently choose ‘mission’ over ‘money’ when presented by the opportunity: Catholic radio in Portland in 1994, Steubenville before that, and now years of ministry in the San Francisco Bay Area will become a self contained memory as we will be moving to San Juan Capistrano in the Diocese of Orange as I begin a new position as the religious studies teacher for Juniors and Seniors at J Serra High School. I leave on Sunday. By the way you might not have known that I have been without employment since December 22nd 2012. Not something I had planned.cardinal dolan

A couple months ago I was sitting across from Cardinal Dolan in his office in New York talking about the Family Life / Respect Life Director position for which I was one of the last 3 out of 1500 inquiries. Though the job wasn’t offered to me, during that time Vickie kept saying “well it’s either ‘apples’ or ‘oranges’!” She didn’t know why she kept saying that until this past Tuesday.

So I am asking you to keep me in your prayers especially in the next week as I leave this Sunday to drive down to San Juan Capistrano because my first day is Tuesday the 13th. As of right now, I have no idea where I will be staying for the first 6 weeks as I start school and scout out a place for us to live. Luke and James have already been accepted into the Orange Coast College and start classes on August 26th. I have called the pastor of the Mission and the local SVDP to inquire about a room, but haven’t heard back. I believe in miracles. When we moved from Sebastopol to Portland in 1994 we were inspired by the Holy Spirit to load up the UHaul and just drive. No pre-rented houses, no arrangement other than the permission to stay at Our Lady Queen of Peace Retreat House for a couple of days. We found our house the very next day in the hour of Mercy on May 18th Blessed John Paul’s birthday.

This has been a test of patience and humility for us. Jesus said deny yourself pick up your cross and come follow me.  In this time of poverty of spirit we are grateful for each of you Simeon’s who have helped us carry our cross down this pilgrim path where we can better know love and serve him as his brother and sister in true solidarity with the poorest of the poor.

When we organized the first Catholic Radio Institute in 1996 and had Dr Scott Hahn and Fr. Mitch Pacwa led a rosary rally in St Mary’s Cathedral where nearly 2000 people prayed for the New Evangelization, we didn’t do it for the money; I was a High School teacher at Marin Catholic with a young family. The Culture of Life Conference we hosted where Fr. Spitzer and Tim Staples spoke to a healthy crowd in March of 2000 wasn’t done because of the financial return on investment; it was done with the spiritual return on investment in mind and with a prophetic call for all those who had ears to hear. Now 17 years have passed and it’s time to leave this locale to embark on a new era for our family. As our last child in High School begins her journey in a few weeks, we have a moment to pause to reflect on God’s hand of blessing on our lives.

But it’s only just a moment.

We can testify from personal experience that God is faithful to provide for your ‘daily bread’: if you allow Him. 24 years of marriage christmas pic(which by the way is stronger than ever) and Vickie has had the ability to be home with our kids, never having to work for our survival. We have been able to pay for braces, Irish Dancing, Piano and Violin lessons, Sports, High School and College tuition, years of text books and school supplies, not to mention one wedding to remember: all on one ‘sole provider’ income (though sometimes in the form of three jobs). Most of the time we have lived in brand new homes, near open space, and in safe neighborhoods. Our children now all have a deep personal relationship with Jesus Christ and are fully the-future-is-bright-vickie-lyford-musicconfirmed and selah weddingcommitted Catholics. Though we always were in need financially, only rarely would we be in distress. And as with any investment, our many conscious decisions have placed us in a position to more than capitalize on our returns; for the last 2 and ½ years we have been given the opportunity to ‘double down’ on the already strong faith life we had established and have been living a truly Franciscan lifestyle on purpose, and with permission from God (through our spiritual director).

We truly depend on, and have been humbly blessed by the generosity of our brothers and sisters in the body of Christ over the past few years. Most recently because of a few loving brothers and sisters we were able to pay for some months of overdue rent on our storage unit in American Canyon, CA.  (just imagine all your possessions in three storage units). Otherwise we were getting close to losing our possessions and keepsakes all because we couldn’t keep up with a $310.06 flags whale0 per month storage fee. Our material needs are incredibly small today and yet we have been continually in need like always, in order for Our Lord to continue to  teach us one of the most important lessons one could ever learn in life: “For we brought nothing into the world, just as we shall not be able to take anything out of it. If we have food and clothing, we shall be content with that”1 Tim 6:7-8.

This ‘school of detachment’ is something we have been enrolled in for quite some time, and the message and moral of it all is something we intend to share with whomever will listen. It has many applications for many institutions and families. We have been specifically thinking about our many friends who we see struggling under the oppressive financial obligations while looking over their shoulder as their children leave the home and leave the faith. We have chosen to walk out into the clearing where our emotional insurance is out of reach in order to force ourselves to examine the true nature of what we call our Trust in the Lord. Many of us claim to trust in God, but if we are honest, we would admit that we are paying regular premiums on the emotional insurance of things like a healthy bottom line or income, which rests on the false assumption that our own hard work is what fuels the hand of providence in our lives: we are blessed because we work hard and take advantage of opportunities.

Thoughts like the previous few sentences embody the spirit of what we have named the New Life Family Mission, our 501c3 ministry that seeks to renew family life and the church from the inside out. New wine needs new wine skins; it cannot be contained in the stretched out programs of the past. The message is clear and simple and we have been living it for many years. Now we will turn to presenting it through everything from the digital media arts to silent retreats. More of a movement than a program; more ‘caught’ than ‘taught’. For now, these new developments in our family life will allow us to be closer to the holy ground of 100 acres just North of Santa Barbara where we have already begun building a place of renewal for families and young people.DSCN0280

To those of you who have been following us on facebook or elsewhere we thank you for your prayers and encouraging thoughts and actions. For those of you who have been watching but not engaged, I encourage you to open your heart to what the Holy Spirit is saying through our lives. We are only broken vessels praying that God use us to be channels of His Peace!

Thanks so much for reading this, please stay tuned and stay in touch, and pray for us! We always pray for you!

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I think it worth reflecting on Pope Francis’ recent address on May 16 to the four newly accredited Ambassadors to the Vatican. In his remarks to these new diplomats, Francis argued:

“Certain pathologies are increasing, with their psychological consequences; fear and desperation grip the hearts of many people, even in the so-called rich countries; the joy of life is diminishing; indecency and violence are on the rise; poverty is becoming more and more evident. People have to struggle to live and, frequently, to live in an undignified way. One cause of this situation, in my opinion, is in the 311298_614208181928796_733127319_nour relationship with money, and our acceptance of its power over ourselves and our society. … The worship of the golden calf of old (cf. Ex 32:15-34) has found a new and heartless image in the cult of money and the dictatorship of an economy which is faceless and lacking any truly humane goal.”

The songs of my children

The songs of my children

Every day I become aware that I have had a melody or refrain of a song looping through my mind for hours, and lately the refrains come from a very limited but poignant list of songs; the songs of my children. I have four kids (actually they are all now young adults) and one of the hopes I have always had for these beautiful people is that they all receive the gift of song.music

As humans we are all given the gift of music, both to appreciate as a part of God’s creation, and to elevate our own unique spirits. Everyone has the gift, and with the gift, the invitation to respond. Some respond by developing a taste or an appetite for music in general, and then as a preference to certain genre(s) of music; a preference that matures over time. Others respond with their own song, simply by raising their voice to sing. Of the later, there are those whose song becomes a dialogue of sorts between the ‘music of life’ they hear both internally and externally, and the song they sing as a response to that ‘music of life’.

The music of life is simply a glimpse of the beauty of God reflected in creation, whether that beauty is that of nature itself, or even the ‘beauty’ of the sound of the groaning of creation in human suffering, struggle, joy, and happiness. Since all basic elements in our created world are good in and of themselves because they are created by God, the ultimate good, all these elements of life resonate with the truth, which is implicitly beautiful. So even suffering, when voiced in song is an act of hope, because it’s either someone singing with empathy for those who can’t find their voice because they are paralyzed in fear and loneliness,  or it reflects the confidence in the suffering singer that one day all their tears will be wiped away and the pain will bear fruit somehow.

Hope can’t help but sing. Hope is the assertion that no matter what the trial, there is a destination that will be reached one way or the other. Hope is the gift from God planted deep in our hearts that believes that we all are created worthy of complete fulfillment, healing and wholeness despite our current, temporary circumstances of woundedness and fractured spirits. Hope is truly a gift, and its song rises each morning as a gift from God Himself if we but listen. Yet we are given a choice to listen, and respond in kind, or reject the song of hope.

Yes there are those who sing despair, and whose songs reject the ‘chance for wholeness’ offered by each new day. Yet these songs are based on a lie and those who sing them have been deceived into thinking they have been excluded from the inheritance of hope offered by God the Eternal Mercy who alone has the ability to take that which seems destined for eternal destruction and reveal a straight and clear path of light out from the pit of despair. No one who can sing is a ‘lost cause’.

A friend once mentioned to me that at a very basic level he was happy that he was a musician, because he knew that he would never starve; at the worst he could take to the streets and be assured that by simply sharing his gift of music, he would be able to eat in return. If every shred of civilization was reduced to rubble and we all had only that which we had developed in ourselves or could carry with us, the ones with ‘the gift of song’ would carry a treasure more valuable than gold and silver.

learning-to-play-Guitar-in-a-Band-a

That’s why today it hit me that a great hope of mine had been realized. All my kids have the gift of song. Not just the ability to play multiple instruments well, but the ability to allow themselves to be the instrument that sings. And I know for sure that they can and will always sing, because they have all made the personal connection with the source of hope and the creator of song; Jesus Christ. Because they know Him personally, not as an abstract thought that demands only an ascent of the mind; as a personal, dynamic human relationship to whom they have opened their hearts with trust. I know they will always sing no matter what the circumstances, through the ups and downs in life, until they meet Him face to face.

To have the gift of song is a form of the supernatural gift of hope. So as I have these songs that my children have written run through my mind (songs that I am very confident many many people will also one day have running through their minds) I am confident that long after I am gone, they will be just fine, because I know their songs will lead them to the one of whose beauty they sing. I know because their songs are leading me, encouraging me, and inspiring me to continue to sing, and therefore, to hope.

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