Beyond the Moon and Stars

I always have such a hard time with the Christmas season.  I have some sort of “missing” that I feel each year at this time.  I can’t quite put my finger on it, but for most of my life, I actually became quite sad at Christmas time.

I have traveled to over 88 countries in my lifetime and spent Christmas in several of them.  The traditions are rich and the people I have seen in these countries seem to be really happy about the season.  Here at home, in the USA, most people seem just as happy too.  But as for me… I sort of missed that happiness of Christmas for years.  40+ years actually.

Yes, I know the reason for the season.  Advent and the celebration of our Savior’s birth.  I get that.  But for whatever reason, it always made me sort of sad at the anti-climatic experience that has been Christmas to me for so long.  It certainly wasn’t for a lack of trying, by those in my life, to make me happy.  I was just unable to be happy for some reason inside me.

Sure, there is time spent with family; opening of gifts; spending time having a meal together; playing games together; eating all the goodies that my dear mother would cook each year; etc.  I understand all that and thoroughly enjoy that part of it.  But I still have had a recurring sadness each Christmas.  Sadness to the point of tears on some Christmas days.

I am having a very hard time explaining what it is, that has been missing for such a long time in my life.  Then like an unexpected uniting with a long lost friend, it finally hit me.

For the past several months, Ranae and I have been attending Mass at a church about 20 miles from our little piece of land that we now call home.  We have been blessed with one of the best Priests I have ever encountered.

I mean no disrespect to the other great Priests that have been such an important part of our lives over the years, but this particular Priest has impacted us both in ways I doubt he will ever know the depth of.  I don’t like to share details about location or mentioning people by name in my posts, so I will just call him Father L.

Keep in mind, Ranae and I spent several years on what some people would call our own personal quest and mission.

We spent nearly five years living full-time in our fifth-wheel trailer.  We spent most of that time volunteering all across the western states and even lived full time at an orphanage serving as missionaries in Guatemala for about 15 months.  Only recently did we purchase our little six acres here in Texas and have decided to make it our final stop on this big blue marble called Earth.

I can honestly tell you, that my wife has had her feet grounded properly and knew the reasons we had to do all these things.  I, on the other hand, had no idea.  I have been looking for something during all these travels.  I have been trying to see God in as many different people and places as I could.  I had some void I needed to fill.  Ranae knew what I needed and supported me in the quest to find whatever it was that I was looking for all these years.

I can easily see God in my beautiful wife.  That is easy.  What wasn’t easy though, was being content in a single place with a single focus.  That focus being glorifying God and living an honorable life that causes people to say “That’s Vern… a good guy and a very devout Catholic Christian.”

I was able to see God in some wonderful places and have the photos to prove it, but it took my wife’s prayers and the no-nonsense type of Priest as Father L to finally make me enjoy being in one location and working towards a bigger plan.  My wife was unable to get through to me and prayed for years that God would send someone who could.  I believe that man is Father L.

I will save you all the details, but his Homilies are astounding and this past Sunday was one of his best!  He was teaching on the parts of the Mass and how the entire celebration of Mass prepares us to receive God’s very body in the Holy Eucharist.

During this Mass, one of the songs we sung was called “Beyond the Moon and Stars” written by Dun Schutte in 1970.  This song really touched our hearts.  It made it very clear why we are here on Earth and what the purpose of not only this season is, but also, for me, the reason for life…. to seek and glorify God.

Lately my wife and I have been preparing for our funerals and planning for our exit.  I guess a lot of people do that at this age?  But this song, which we had never heard before, touched my wife so greatly that she sent me the following email the next day…

This is the song, we sang in Mass yesterday. I really liked it…a lot! I want it to be sung at my funeral. It would be really good if Andrea Bocelli could sing it, in person 😉 Love you ! XXOO

I don’t know if I can get Mr. Bocelli to sing it in person (LOL), but I can absolutely promise it will be sung at her funeral Mass!  Here is the song, please turn up your speakers and give it a listen.  I hope it blesses you this Christmas season.  It has certainly blessed us and so accurately describes my wife to a Tee.

One of the best lines in this song is “so great our hunger, Lord, to see your light”.  I love that line more than any other because it’s so true!

I am so incredibly thankful and blessed that I can indeed see His light… in my dear sweet wife and in Father L.   I thank God for them both daily!




10 thoughts on “Beyond the Moon and Stars

  1. Vern: I was moved to tears twice. First at your blog and then at the song which I had never heard. You are an amazing man, Ranae is a wonderful woman. I love you.


  2. Ah, Father Frank… you are so kind. Who would have ever thought all those late night discussions about being a Catholic would get me past all my bias? Those sure were the good ol days and I will always cherish the memories you and I made together.

    Seeing God was a difficult thing for me, as you know, but somehow you and He got through to me. 🙂

    You would sure love Father L. He is a great priest and I am enjoying getting to know him. I wish you could meet him someday. I just know you two would hit it off wonderfully.

    Be well my dear friend! Merry Christmas!


  3. Vern,
    As usual, your comments are both interesting and thought-provoking. I was raised as an Irish Catholic thanks to my mother’s roots. Her maiden name was Murphy and our ancestors came from County Cork in Ireland. I went to catholic schools up to my first year in University, I have two cousins who are priests today. So, being a catholic is certainly not new to me.
    I have always found it interesting how everyone seems to be looking for that “thing” (whatever it is) that seems to be missing from their lives. Why? Because humans for the most part are weak and need a crutch to get through their life. When things in your life hit rock bottom and you don’t know what to do next, what do most people do? They find Jesus and all seems to be better after that. I certainly believe in the almighty but I pray to him thanking him for giving me the will power to correct and run my life with a free will. I don’t go over board with the “praise the Lord” types or the “born again” crowd in order to get through my life. To me, that is the human weakness at it’s peak. The fact that one needs to “find” religion in order for it all to make sense! I just don’t agree with that assessment and I certainly would not try to push my feelings concerning the almighty on others. In fact, while a student at St. Mary’s University in San Antonio in 1969, I wrote a paper in my Christian Ethics class which took the position of who was responsible for introducing communism in Africa. The paper went on to explain that it was primarily the influence of missionaries that caused it. Until these missionaries took it upon themselves to go to these third world countries and push their views on religion to the ignorant masses, the natives were happy with their existing religions, witch doctors, etc. They had used them for generations and were quite happy with it that way. Under the guise of economic aid, housing development, civic development and rural development, there lies a cost. This is where the missionaries gradually push their religion on the natives. This means that the masses are exposed to learning through reading, writing, etc. With this comes the influence of reading articles about political systems throughout the world. In their eagerness to discover, some of the “brighter” natives are sent to universities (tuition paid for by the church influencing them at home). This education sometimes goes towards more radical extremes and this is where communism and other forms of government enter the picture to influence the person. These new ideas are then brought back home and used to influence others. If that form of government is used, the missionaries have lost their jobs because that form of government is atheist and they will not be tolerated. I got an “A” on the paper that was graded by my priest instructor (who was a former missionary). He told me to edit it a bit, polish it up and submit it to a prominent catholic publication. I didn’t do that. Even though mission work makes a person feel good inside, the much broader picture of what that can do to a group never seems to be considered?
    The bottom line for me is whatever makes life’s journey easier for you… do it. But don’t do it by pushing that on others. Use your “crutch” for yourself and don’t be overly verbal in discussions or writing explaining it.
    I have always felt that you, Vern, are a strong willed individual with good ethical standards. You are a good and honest husband and friend and I consider it an honor that I can call you a friend of mine as well. However, I treat my religious views as I do my voting preferences… a private matter between the Almighty and myself and I never discuss it with anyone.
    Please know that I am not against anything you have said. As I stated before, if it is good for you… do it. Whatever gets you through life as easily as possible.
    I’m sure I’ll get an overflow of negative comments on my position but I really don’t care. If, by downplaying what I have said makes a person feel better, go for it. These people need to learn how to develop a stronger will power and move on. Self-discipline is the key to it all.

    Life’s too short my friend…I think I’d prefer a simple Irish Reel at my funeral followed by one hell of a wake. I even have an envelop set aside with enough funds to finance that wake. Remember the good times. See ya soon…


  4. Ahhh Mike… for someone who doesn’t want to talk about their religion, it sure sounds like you just did. LOL

    I wouldn’t call religion a crutch at all. I have had my ups and downs in life, no doubt! I have hit rock bottom and still came away from those situations as a non-believer. I didn’t find God at the end of a heroin needle or in the bottom of a whiskey bottle. In fact, I didn’t find Him until much later in life.

    I found Him in other people and places. I can look at my dear sweet wife and see Him each and every day. The grace He has created in her heart is simply the most beautiful thing I have ever seen in my life. How she cares for the people she encounters; the animals under her care and even the very soil that we walk on… that’s God’s grace and love active and alive in my wife’s very heart and soul.

    She lives a life that tells the world she believes in the teachings of her Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ. She has a personal relationship with Jesus that is very similar in many respects to the relationship between any other two people. She talks to him daily. She reads what He has written and tries her best to live life the way He has said to live it.

    Is that a crutch? I don’t think so. I think it’s simply a woman trying to please her Father in heaven and when she falls short (in her own mind, heart and feeling) she feels badly for having offended her Father. She makes an internal decision to do “better” in His eyes and moves forward in a positive manner.

    Crutches conjure up a negative feeling of fixing the person using a crutch. ie: When I had all my back issues I used them and to this day I often use my cane just like you use yours.

    We can talk all day about salvation and that aspect of religion, but I wrote a better piece a few months back than I could write in this reply. Here is a link, I think you should read it. I really think you will like it and how it references the “human condition” you speak of.

  5. One more thought, Mike. I wasn’t saying I had to find religion to make it all better. I was simply saying that I believe I was missing something each Christmas. I was acknowledging that my happiness in my spiritual walk doesn’t have a pinnacle day or season. It should be every day.

    It should be the days when I take time out to notice a lady bug landing on my window sill and it should be the days when I am sitting alongside the roadway with a flat tire, and all the days in between.

    This article was about my feeling some sort of lacking that everyone else appeared to have during this season. I always felt like it was supposed to be some climactic experience and I never experienced that. It took understand that to make me not sad this Christmas season.

    Does that make any sense? I hope I worded it well enough. 😉

    Love ya man! And I am honored to have you as a dear friend!


  6. Oh dang it… I have to comment one more time, Mike. You’ve brought up so much to think about it. LOL

    As for mission work… often people don’t understand what missionary work is really. As for Ranae and I, it was to help homeless children as a result of Hurricane Stan (I believe that was the storm name) and the mudslides after that killed thousands and orphaned countless children.

    We went to that country to help build an orphanage. We lived there among the nuns and children. We didn’t go to share our religion, but to help the dear sweet children. They already had the religion part down, living in a city (Esquipulas, Guatemala) that was declared “The Spiritual Center of Central America” by Pope John Paul II.

    In situations like we witnessed there first hand I am reminded of an saying that my Grandfather Jim used to say “The only sermon someone is going to listen to is the one you live.” I never knew my grandfather to be a particularly religious man, but his words stuck with me. To be honest, I am not sure he believed in God whatsoever. I simply do not know.

    But Ranae and I wanted those dear sweet children to know we loved them and Christ loved them, despite their feelings to the contrary for whatever life had thrown at them at such a very early age.

    Here is a link to our ministry site if you’re interested. Look at the photos section and look at the one entitled, “Guatemala: Hell on Earth” Those are a collection of photos all from a single week while we were living there and nearly four years AFTER the hurricane.

  7. I love that you are living life – not the life people expect, but the life that is right for your family.

    I love that you’re reflective – you don’t take for granted where you are but reflect on where you’ve been and where you’re going.

    I love that – while I’m a Protestant through and through – you’re looking to Christ and his body as your treasure.

    I love that you are so in love with your wife.

  8. Pingback: My Home | Vern the Hermit

  9. Hi Vern,

    Thank you so much for sharing this. I thought I was the only one who felt this way at Christmas time. I have also found myself in tears around this time of year. I never knew quite why…but I think it was the tug of God at my heart strings. That and missing the Christmases of years past. I sincerely appreciate your being so open and candid with us. We are all not so different are we? I absolutely LOVE the song, one of the most beautiful I have ever heard. I would not have even known about it, had you not shared it. God Bless both you and Ranae always.

    Your Friend, Kris

Leave a Reply