Redwood Journal

Writings by Harry Martin

Welcome to Redwood Journal

Redwood Journal is a collection of writings authored by Harry Martin, including book and article publications and blog postings collected from earlier websites. It is, in a very real sense, a journal of the author reflecting his life and work, much among the Coast Redwood country of Northern California.  But it is, even more, a journal of his tasks as a servant of the Cross, a douloscross.  It is a journal of one who follows He who died upon the Cross, made red by His blood  and arose from the tomb through His holy love.

Over the years these tasks have included firefighting, restaurant and camp cook, disaster medical planner, Protestant pastor, Permanent Deacon in the Roman Catholic Church, fire services chaplain, mental health advocate, Beeswax candle maker, writer and husband and father.   All of these tasks, privileged assignments, for this simple servant of Christ have been sought to be done gloria Dei, for the glory of God.


Featured post

Words from Pope Francis for our times

“Like the disciples in the Gospel we were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other. On this boat are all of us…

The storm exposes our vulnerability and uncovers those false and superfluous certainties around which we have constructed our daily schedules, our projects, our habits and priorities. It shows us how we have allowed to become dull and feeble the very things that nourish, sustain and strengthen our lives and our communities. The tempest lays bare all our prepackaged ideas and forgetfulness of what nourishes our people’s souls; all those attempts that anesthetize us with ways of thinking and acting that supposedly “save” us, but instead prove incapable of putting us in touch with our roots and keeping alive the memory of those who have gone before us. We deprive ourselves of the antibodies we need to confront adversity…

…we have gone ahead at breakneck speed, feeling powerful and able to do anything. Greedy for profit, we let ourselves get caught up in “things”, and lured away by haste…we were not shaken awake by wars or injustice across the world, nor did we listen to the cry of the poor or of our ailing planet. We carried on regardless, thinking we would stay healthy in a world that was sick.” 

Pope Francis, Urbi et Orbi blessing in an empty St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican, 27 March 2020

Sensing God ~ Knowing God

Redwood Journal

The cyber-version of my homily for the 5th Sunday of Lent

I shared this homily first during Lent of 2011.  It was at Mass for the 5th Sunday of Lent.  Our community was together in faith.   After the Liturgy of the Word we shared in the Body and Blood of Christ so Present in His Eucharist.  None of us would anticipate that just a few years later we would be called, together,  to grow, separately, in our senses, our knowing of God in ways that we would never imagine.  Yet GOD knew.  And today, during this very unique Lent, Jesus calls us to acknowledge the real sorrows and fears of the pandemic and economic crises.  Jesus calls us to grow, closer to Him in ways we never would have planned.  Today Jesus calls us to sit, share with Him, to LISTEN to His Words. He then calls us to grow…

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The Help of the Angels of God

Psalm 91. [RSV]
[1] He who dwells in the shelter of the Most High,
who abides in the shadow of the Almighty,
[2] will say to the LORD, “My refuge and my fortress;
my God, in whom I trust.”
[3] For he will deliver you from the snare of the fowler
and from the deadly pestilence;
[4] he will cover you with his pinions,
and under his wings you will find refuge;
his faithfulness is a shield and buckler.
[5] You will not fear the terror of the night,
nor the arrow that flies by day,
[6] nor the pestilence that stalks in darkness,
nor the destruction that wastes at noonday.
[7] A thousand may fall at your side,
ten thousand at your right hand;
but it will not come near you.
[8] You will only look with your eyes
and see the recompense of the wicked.
[9] Because you have made the LORD your refuge,
the Most High your habitation,
[10] no evil shall befall you,
no scourge come near your tent.
[11] For he will give his angels charge of you
to guard you in all your ways.

[12] On their hands they will bear you up,
lest you dash your foot against a stone.
[13] You will tread on the lion and the adder,
the young lion and the serpent you will trample under foot.
[14] Because he cleaves to me in love, I will deliver him;
I will protect him, because he knows my name.
[15] When he calls to me, I will answer him;
I will be with him in trouble,
I will rescue him and honor him.
[16] With long life I will satisfy him,
and show him my salvation.

Healing of The Man Born Blind

Healing of the Man Born Blind
(Reflections from the Gospel for the 4th Sunday of Lent ~ 2008)

From birth his eyes had never
seen his Mama’s face
as she held him
in her arms
with tears
for the blind mistake.

Or his Papa’s
worried love
as he came through the door,
those sights his eyes
never did behold.

He had never seen
the sun
shining gold
through the trees.

Never saw the birds
In Spring’s
green joy
to wing.

He never saw the grapes
at violet harvest crush.
Nor see the red of wine,
to cheeks bring a blush.

He never
but felt,
those who at him
long would stare.

He heard,
but never saw
those who at his faults,
would glare.

He never saw a smile,
for a job
that he had done.
He never saw a dog
that with a child did run.

No color he liked best.
For black was all he knew.
The thought of red or green,
he could not even construe.

He never saw a friend,
with him together sit.
Never saw a laugh,
a smile,
or a loving kiss.

The awe of holy places,
in beauty white and gold,
his blinded eyes
had never to behold.

The orange and red of sunrise,
awakening in him hope,
his eyes had never seen.
Darkness only spoke.

So that day in darkness,
he sat along the way,
begging for the alms
that might his hunger stay.

The commotion he did hear.
A crowd was coming near.
He hoped some coins might come.
But better did he fear.
Alms of pride and arrogance,
more likely would be flung.

The crowd he heard go quiet.
A man he felt nearby.
And in the blinding darkness
The sound of spit
did fly.

He never saw the hands,
he only felt.
The mud upon his eyes,
a strange, but holy help.

The Voice, The Man,
did say,
with words
of love and hope.
the pool of Siloam go,
for there to wash and pray.

He stumbled to the pool,
to the waters edge he went.
The mud
he washed away,
in faith’s
blind assent.

His eyes,
he then did open.
And looking
he then saw.
The light,
The day and
in wonder and in awe.

What followed happened quickly.
he saw,
he was

The people were
To many
it seemed
but a dream.

But others were unhappy.
They did not
They judged
this man so sinful
his seeing
they could not stand.

His critics now,
he saw,
their righteous

The man born blind,
he saw.
In humble truth,
he spoke.

“The Man who made the mud,
and to my eyes did place.
His Word I did obey.
And now before you face.

I do not understand.
But blind,
yes once,
I truly was.

But now
I know that Man,
a Prophet
is to all.”

So out they did him throw.
And hatred,
he did see.
Out into the streets,
from blindness did he flee.

Outcast once again,
alone he did go.
But streets no longer dark,
he walked,
alive in hope.

A Man,
he then did see,
who smiling,
toward him came.

The Voice
he recognized
t’was He
the mud had made.

And looking
in His eyes,
of He who
saw him blind,
he heard
His Words
and saw
the Son of Man
and Love.

Lord come
to us
blind also.

So clearly
we think,
we see,
the sins, the faults
of others,
whispers spread,
with glee.

we proudly see ,
so better for to be,
in holiness and deed,
in loving charity.

truth be told
and heard,
we’re really in a mess.
So please Lord,
Please do come,
Bring light to our darkness.

My eyes do cover all,
with mud’s humility,
that at repentance’s pool
your mercy may then free
and open wide our eyes
to truly love and see
each other in Your Light
but most importantly,
Your eyes
Your smile,
Your Love,

By H. Martin

A Journey of Healing & Mercy ~ A Lent and Holy Week Like No Other ~ A Retreat For Our Times

LIKE many parishes and places of faith around the world it was planned to have a Lenten Retreat and Day of reconciliation that would be shared in our faith community amidst the holy graces of Mass and the other sacraments. All that has changed for most of the world as the onslaught of the Covid 19 Virus has become a growing and harsh reality.
We are called to grow through a Lent, an Holy Week and very likely many more weeks of our faith, our family life, our world in a time unlike any before. This has been brought with both the risks, and for some realities of serious illness.
At our parish our retreat had been entitled : “Raise the Roof ~ A Journey of Healing and Reconciliation”. With the challenges and changes we all now face an online retreat is now being offered and the title, the theme has been broadened to: “A JOURNEY of HEALING and MERCY ~ A LENT and HOLY WEEK LIKE NO OTHER ~ A RETREAT for Our TIMES”. You are invited to share, from your heart and home in this journey for God in these difficult times. You are invited to grow in the truth and eternal realities of God who loves us and, not surprised by these sorrows of this world, who will lead us on a lasting journey of hope, healing, love and mercy.
You are encouraged to very prayerfully join in this journey, read the Scriptures, make a simple journal of your thoughts, difficulties and insights to what we share. You are encouraged to share this retreat and to allow opportunity for reflection and response. You may leave a comment in the comment section or contact me on the Contact Page.

Let us begin. In the the Name of the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit. Amen.
Peace be with you
The sharing of God’s Peace seems almost absurd or even hypocritical for many. In our own area of Northern California we have been through intense fires, extended power outages and other experiences both as communities and as individuals where our circumstances of life are anything but peaceful. Many have asked…

Take a few moments to note your concerns and problems with the Presence, the promises of God during these and other trials. God is neither surprised or offended if we but ask these questions and share our heart with a honest willingness to allow God to respond.
When Mary and Martha lost their brother Lazarus to illness and death they were devastated. Especially as they had asked their friend Jesus to come and heal Lazarus. Their faith, their love for Jesus was deeply wounded and confused. When Jesus did finally come, three days after Lazarus had died, Martha did not hesitate to let Jesus know her disappointment. AND… it was in response to that wounded heart Jesus invited and revealed the promise and soon the power of His resurrection. [Prayerfully read; John 11:1-44]

This story of Lazarus brings us to recognize that trials, suffering, sorrow are a part of life, this side of eternity. Jesus clearly taught that IN this world we would face conflict and struggles. But He also made very clear that through these difficulties we would , IF WE CHOOSE, be able to grow in healing and mercy.
This element of choice is very important to understand. We are created by and for God who is Love. [Genesis 1-2; John 1; I John 4]. Created in the image of God we are created to…for love. However this very holy and beautiful reality has a critical element. Love requires that we be free to choose.
This gift of choice includes the ominous difficulty of the opportunity to choose…GOOD or EVIL. FAITH or DOUBT?. LOVE or HATE? GOD or SELF? This saga of life has resulted in the great spiritual conflicts between the enemy of our souls, and all that God treasures, or the lies, despair and destruction of the evil one. Let us explore a Biblical account of a journey where these realities were encountered.
The Gospel of Mark shares an amazing story of courage in facing great obstacles, of faith, love and ultimate healing and mercy. [Prayerfully read: Mark 2:1-12]. Jesus was sharing in Capernaum. He was teaching in a house and the place was packed with His followers , seekers, and also Pharisees and scribes hoping to catch Jesus in error. So great was the crowd that no one could get in. Yet there was, approaching the house four men carrying a young man who was paralyzed. But it would appear that bring him to Christ was not going to happen. The crowd was too great. However, there faith and love would not be stopped. They went to the house top and literally began to tear open the tiles on the roof above where Jesus spoke. Imagine the reactions of those in the house! the homeowner! the Pharisees! Of Jesus! Opening the roof they then work to carefully lower the paralytic before Jesus…unsure…not knowing what Jesus would..could do.
Christ then does what seems absurd and sacrilegious. He tells the young man his sins are forgiven. The Pharisees are furious. In livid hate they tell Jesus that He cannot forgive sins but only God. Responding to their ignorance, doubts and fears He then tells the young man to take up his bed and walk. To the amazement of all He does. He carries his bed through the throng and goes to meet the four men who brought him to Jesus, who brought him to healing and mercy.
This profound account shares many lessons for our heart and journey.
Sin clearly can cripple and destroy life..souls.
The journey of faith for healing and mercy will face great challenges.
Enemies of Hope will seek to rob and dissuade us from God’s grace, God’s Presence.
The young man shows we must ultimately choose to hear and obey….trust God and His Word.
That for the faithful there is eternal power to bring to God those crippled by sin for healing and mercy. The healing love of God will prevail where faith and love seek Him.

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The Panic Virus or the Promise of God’s Peace

As the world faces the difficult realities of the Covid 19 virus we are also encountering some very difficult lessons of human nature. There is much uncertainty in the clinical matters of the virus but the clinicians are working hard to work through the crises.

But the uncertainty is also causing many people to be fearFUL and panic and for others to fuel the fears and panic, for either financial or political profit. The irrational epidemic of panic buying is sad evidence of how people respond to a threat without sound information. It is a reminder of the old panic equation :


As the media and social media flood the minds and hearts of people the virus of panic becomes evident. That fear is a very popular and profitable part of the news media is a well known but an often ignored fact. Fear sells. And fear can generate intense sales in business and votes in politics, however irrational the fear may be. In the current health crises panic buying of toilet paper and bottled water is rampant. Yet this virus has no evidence of causing bowel problems or of affecting the drinking water.

To be informed, objectively, to take precautions, to exercise common sense is clearly needed. To listen to realities beyong the virus is also very important. To invest and exercise truth and courage is also very essential. To choose faith in God over faith in the media of the moment or feelings of fear is also paramount.

We need to remember: “God has not given us a spirit of fear but of power, love and a disciplines mind.” We need to dwell in the truth that WITH GOD: “All things work together for God for those who love Him (Romans 8:28-38). It is a hard reality that sometimes that life can bring us uncertainty and fear. But it is a greater reality that courage is a choice and virture God would share as we realize: “There is no fear in love but perfect (complete) love casts out all fear, (I John 4:16-19).

Finally, as we encounter the virus of panic and fear may we respond in the promise and power of our Lord and Savior: “Peace be with, my peace I give unto, not as the world gives...”(John 14)

LENT & CLIMATE CHANGE… To repent of a culture of waste and destruction

Pope Francis, in his encyclical on the environment, LAUDATO SI’, has prophetically called Catholics and the entire world to wake up to the reality of waste and destruction that has spanned climate change, social upheaval and strife. Greed-based values battle for the cheapest resources at the lowest cost with profits for a very small select few. Meanwhile weather and climate are frought with unprecented changes. Millions of refugees seek refuge from war, gang violence or simply a place to live while they struggle to work and maintain a family. So much of this is rooted in a culture of waste based upon a gospel of what is cost effective. What follows are just a few illustrations of that wast and those deadly, greed -based values.

Be Perfect, Be Holy, Be Loving


Homily – Seventh Sunday of Ordinary Time

We gather this Sunday before Ash Wednesday and the blessed time of Lent.  We would, commonly, be pondering a traditional question for this time. What am I giving up for Lent??  The question is well worth our consideration if we want to better experience the holy graces God longs to share during this time.  But let’s take to heart the Word of God this Sunday as we seek to renew our hearts in God. Let us realize God longs for us not to just “give up” but… to become far more. 

The true Christian life is infinitely more than learning and just heeding  a series of…DON’TS.    Indeed there are clearly things, sins that we are NOT to be in our life, if we are sincere in our longing for God.  But, sadly, sometimes our focus on the negative has led to a neglect and loss of the greater positive truth that is Jesus.  This season of Lent can bring us a power-filled awakening in that which God has created, called and redeemed us …TO BE.

BE PERFECT!  Our Gospel reading today from the Sermon on the Mount brings us these extraordinary Words of Jesus.  “BE PERFECT…AS YOUR FATHER IN HEAVEN IS PERFECT”!   Is God setting us up for failure?  Is Jesus calling us to the impossible?  The temptation can be very strong to explain, minimize or simply read on to something perhaps more realistic.  But, as always, IF we are but willing to humbly listen to Jesus we would realize He is simply calling us to BE…to BECOME that person, in God we are redeemed to be.  PERFECT!  Impossible?  No, not if we listen to the word used in the Greek, ”telios”..BE PERFECT…BE COMPLETE..BE OF FULL AGE..MATURE!  In other words Jesus is calling his disciples, calling us to “GROW UP” in the fullness of the Father!  Let’s now explore two ways, from our readings, as God would help us realize where we should be GROWING this season of Lent, and eternally.

BE HOLY! The Holy Spirit, through Moses, in our Old Testament reading shares in a concise eloquence the words…BE HOLY!  Again we can look to the ancient language, the Hebrew, to better experience this essential word.  “Be sacred,, set part, clean, wholly..”.  This essential grace for the true Christian is eternally more than a set sort of attire, Mass attendance or prayers.  Those each may partially express aspects of an holy life.  But true holiness is a matter of HEART and LIFE. To BE HOLY is to be encountering and sharing the infinite majestic power, beauty and power that are all expressions of God.  Words, alone, can never proclaim the beauty of God’s holiness.  And true holiness can be hidden by misunderstanding, ignorance, by sin.  But it is as we allow our hearts to grow with God that Jesus will reveal to us the beauty and joy of true holiness. To grow in true holiness is to grow in God…who is LOVE.

BE LOVING!  Both the first reading and the Gospel emphasize the eternal necessity that we are to be growing in LOVE..In God.  Moses stated clearly that we are not to hate but to love our neighbor.  But Jesus on this new mountain commands us to be even more..LOVE YOUR NEIGHBORS AND ENEMIES!  It would have been priceless to see the faces of His disciples as Jesus proclaimed these words.    Jesus calls, commands,  us simply, clearly to love as He does.  It is inevitable that if we continue to follow Jesus the exposure to He who is Love will reveal to us our sins, failures that would damage, destroy that beauty of holiness and the completeness He has created us to be.  Jesus will bring us to GROW UP in the perfect completeness..maturity we are made for. 

This Sunday we are preparing for the holy opportunities of Lent.  Yes there may be that which God would lead us to “give up”.  But more importantly let us, together GROW UP to into the PERFECT COMPLETENESS, of His HOLINESS AND LOVE. 



The deep darkness and hunger that we encounter in our world cannot be ignored.  Humanity is locked in struggle of eternal results.  Human souls hunger for security, a sense of control, of power, of belonging, of being loved.  This hunger is seen in the conflicts infecting the politics and culture of our nation and world.  It is seen in the desperate hunger of appetites feeding on materialism, and appetites of the body that rule instead of serve the human soul.  Strong is the temptation to believe that the forces of darkness are in control and will prevail.  Even in the Church the dark forces of strife, division scandal and doubt are felt.  It has been this way ever since the battle of lies began in a garden long ago.

While our times are truly intense and challenging they are part of the conflict for which or Lord, our Savior came to redeem and call us to follow Him.  This call, this new covenant of promise and mercy is especially proclaimed in the Sermon on the Mount our Gospel focuses upon for the next several Sundays.  This personal, power-filled call was shared by our Lord early in His earthly ministry as He encountered the intense hunger, conflicts and needs of the human soul.  It is in that context Jesus would speak to each of us today.   “YOU are the salt of the earth….YOU are the light of the world.”  Now for many of us these words of Jesus can be heard with concern.  We know we aren’t always light and besides Jesus said said HE was the Light of the we are off the hook….or are we??

SALT…YOU are the salt of the earth. What a statement!  I mean come on, we need to live low salt or salt free!  Right?  Actually salt is one of the most essential minerals for health.  Modern medicine makes extensive use of saline solutions both for IV fluids and for cleansing of wounds.  Many of us remember it was common place in our jobs to have salt pills available on those pre-Gatorade/sports drink hot summer days.  Those pills were essential to replace the salt lost in hard sweaty work.  Now in our modern culture where the reality of hard physical work is often replaced by desks and computers, along with high sodium infused processed foods we suffer from excess.. salt.  But we need to remember as it was in ancient times we need to live and be..”worth our salt”.  The Old Testament reading explains what this means.  We are urgently needed to live our faith responding to and meeting the urgent needs of the hungry, homeless, the naked, the refugee.   We cannot afford to be so heavenly minded we are no earthly good! This clearly applies to the physical world as we see these souls more and more.  But it also applies especially to the spiritually starving, the soul robbed of garments of worth and dignity, of the soul-sick and afflicted.  We are called by Christ to be the cleansing agent the flavor of true hope through souls and “TASTE AND SEE THE GOODNESS OF THE LORD.

LIGHT..YOU are the light of the world. We live in a world beaming with endless radiance of ARTIFICIAL  LIGHT.  People work long hours in environments empty of real sunlight to go home and focus on the light of HD television, video games or computer screens.  IF..WHEN we go outside we smear on the sun screen block what is considered harmful..then wonder why we need vitamin supplements for ur well-being!  Spiritually this is even more visible.  The false light of artificial glare and pretend gospels blind the human soul to the radiant simplicity and hoe we have in Christ.  These distracting lights cause us to focus on feelings, external practices and our human perceptions.  When what is needed is to be able to see the exquisite  clarity of Jesus and His mercy, love and hope. And many struggle with the blinding lights of the world that long to see..the beauty of holiness and love of God in their darkness.

So it is that Jesus calls..command..commends each of us that we are the salt of the earth, the light of the world.  He would go with us, empower us to help others to taste His see His and May we each taste ..see the goodness of the Lord and then live our faith and love for God that others may see know God’s grace in their lives.

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