Saturday, March 28, 2009

Truth

"What is truth?"  This is the question that Pilate asks of Jesus as recorded in John 18:38.  

I think that we live in a world that swings between relativism (everyone's divergent beliefs are fine as long as they don't hurt anyone else) and groups of people that all "know" that they are right and all of the other people that don't agree with them are wrong.  Rather than look at things objectively, positions are based on slogans and rabid ideologies.  It leads to a point where "truth" becomes majority opinion, and whoever fights long enough, loud enough, and has the most standing at the end "wins".  This problem comes back to a Cartesian principle: "I think, therefore I am." My thought becomes the center of my universe.  Reality is what I perceive it to be.  Therefore, it becomes impossible to judge what is true or if there is truth.

I see it differently.  Because I exist, I am able to think.  I am able to explore the world around me and discover what it has to show me.  There are many realities that are larger than my perception of them.  I cannot change them to fit my view, I can only change my view to fit reality.  

I recently ran into the analogy of the courtroom when we are looking at the case for truth.  As the jury, we are required to be impartial.  We have to listen to what both sides of an issue are telling us.  We have to use our intellect and the resources available to us to cut through the obvious biases of the prosecution and the defense.  At the beginning, we have to be open minded to either outcome of innocence or guilt.  However, we cannot remain open minded forever.  Eventually we have to weigh the evidence that is placed before us and decide one way or the other.  Then the case is closed.  If there is new, compelling evidence that is presented the case may be re-opened, but this is the exception rather than the norm.  

All this to say that there is truth.  It can be found.  Rather than striving to be so open minded that we have no convictions, we should strive to know the reasons why we believe as we do.  We should not shy away from differences in opinion, but be ready to listen to other evidence that is presented.  Then we need to use the brains we've been given to make a decision.


Friday, March 27, 2009

Opinions, Impartiality and Respect

Religion and politics.  You know, all those things that you're supposed to avoid in conversations to keep it civil.  Doesn't matter.  It's my blog and I'll write what I want to.

Here's the thing about me and politics.  I have more opinions than I do facts.  In this, I join roughly 93.5% of the population of the world.  My ambition at this moment is to try to do at least a little research as I write about some of the political issues that concern me.  I don't know exactly what form this would take, but I think I would like to write a post about an issue that concerns me and then do a follow up to find 3 reputable sources that confirm and 3 that deny my opinion.  Of course, reputable is a relative term, and I do not intend to go farther than I what I can find on the internet.  Still, there are sites on the internet that are more reputable than others.

I want to try to find some degree of impartiality, but in this world I don't exactly know what that means.  There are so many different issues: pro-life and pro-choice, liberalism and conservatism, opinions about the economy and healthcare.  These are all so divided and so important to each of us.  Take for example the pro-life/pro-choice issue.  By mentioning the simply the words, people are typically violently for one and violently opposed to the other.  To be impartial would mean to judge the issue on the terms of objective means.  Yet, I can think of little that both sides would agree is objective.  I will talk more about truth and being open minded in the next post, but I will say that even though I don't think I can meet everyone's terms for impartiality, I can try to be respectful of everyone whether they agree with me or not. That would involve listening to what they are trying to say rather than listening for words that I can use to turn against them to tear them apart.  It would mean avoiding name calling.  It would also mean avoiding slapping labels and sweeping generalizations on others.

Respecting others does not mean that I can't disagree with them.  I respect a lot of people that I disagree with.  It doesn't mean that I can't give my counterpoint to a point that they are making.  It means that I am respectful in doing so rather than tearing them down.

I know myself well enough to know that I can't always live up to my ideal.  But it's worth striving for.  

Thursday, March 26, 2009

More of the Amazing Family

My cousin, who we will refer to as L., knocks my socks off.  He really impresses me.  Occasionally he makes me want to beat my head on the nearest hard object, but mostly he really impresses me.

About 4 years ago, he started to really look more deeply into his faith.  When I say deep, I mean deep.  He is not ready to accept any kind of surface answer from anyone.  He is passionate about following God in the best way he possibly can, and I love it.  I can't tell you how much he has influenced me to take a deeper look at the early Church fathers in particular, and recently some of the struggles that I had with Mary.  The thing is, he decided to leave the Catholic Church because he doesn't think that the truth is there.

First of all, I really respect his decision.  I know that he did not make it lightly, and he did a lot of study.  He has told me some of the concerns that he had.  While I look at things from a slightly different angle than he does, I can't help but admire the seriousness of his study and willingness to follow God wherever it leads.

We had a great discussion over the weekend, and I really enjoyed hearing some of the things that he was studying recently.  It always amazes me, given that he is staunchly against the Catholic Church, and I am firmly for it, how many things we agree on so completely.  I love those parts of the discussion.  He has a lot of really great insights.

The part that I get frustrated is the part where he will describe what he is looking for (the truth, the correct interpretation of the Bible) and it exactly describes what I have found.  For instance, he mentioned that he doesn't like to listen to anyone that don't include the scriptural references or some of the documents of the early Church fathers.  He wants to be sure that if he is listening to someone, they are speaking with good authority.  I wanted so badly to point him to the Catechism of the Catholic Church, with it's indices that include 31+ pages of Scriptural references, nearly 12 pages of references to Church fathers (and more recent doctors).  Not to mention pages and pages of references to Church documents that are built on Scripture and the preceding generations of Church fathers.  I tried to mention it, but I couldn't get it into the conversation.  Very well could have been the Holy Spirit telling me to shut up.  Oh, well, L.  Eventually you will see what I mean.  You're too smart to miss where these Church fathers are leading you.  Plus, I will be praying.  Btw, I think you will make a great priest someday.  Because I really think you will be once these pieces that you're looking for fall into place.

Wedding Grinch

Maybe it's just sour grapes, I don't know.  I really don't think that it is, though.  I can't imagine getting excited about centerpieces and invitations and decorations if I were getting married.  I'm in two weddings this year and have two other close friends getting married (by the way, the pale yellow dress for one of the weddings...not good at all with my skin tone!).  Three of those people are at my Bible study.  When we're not talking about the Bible, we're talking weddings.  Or babies.  There are three of the women that are already married that are pregnant.  Anyway, today it was primarily weddings.  Seriously! Literally hours of talk about menus and centerpieces (the centerpieces are killing me!) and wedding music.  I made a decision today that if I get married, we'll be lucky to have cheap tablecloths on the table.  I JUST DON'T CARE ABOUT THAT STUFF.  Luckily all of my friends will have lots of ideas and leftovers, so it probably wouldn't look as bad as if it were all up to me.

Things I want for my wedding:
1) A groom :)
2) Mass
3) Family and friends present
4) The dress
5) Good pictures

Reception:
I honestly feel like I could live without it, but then I would be afraid that I felt like I had missed out.  Seriously, I would skip the reception just so I could skip the centerpiece discussion.  Also, how bad would it be to ask guests to bring a covered dish in lieu of gifts?  And I don't really like the dance (maybe 'cause I've been to too many dateless dances...and I have no rhythm), so that doesn't seem too necessary.

Ahh, well. It's all moot right now. It was just a long night.  Usually my friend's 20 month old son is there, so I spend time building block towers for him to knock down or something fun like that.  But he was home with his dad tonight, so there were no distractions from the endless details.  I really don't care whether there are going to be assigned seats or not!

I guess we'll have to see someday whether a prospective groom makes my heart grow three sizes toward all things wedding.  I really think I'm going to hate the details even more if I'm the one making those decisions.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

True Worth

I don't intend to blog on being single all the time, but it is clearly very applicable to my life right now.  There are all kinds of mommybloggers.  But there are people leading a single life as well.  Some do so by choice.  Either they want to be focused on themselves and do not want the sacrifices inherent in a relationship or with a family, or they want to have time to focus on a higher calling of some kind.  Something that they need to devote their lives to and would not be able to give a relationship or family the time that they deserve.

Then there's me.  And many others like me.  We're the ones that desire to be in a relationship but are not.  I don't know the reason for this, but I try to find all kinds of rationalizations.  There has to be some reason that I'm still single.  But what?

The reasons that I come up with aren't very pretty most of the time.  Maybe I'm just not attractive enough to get someone's attention.  Maybe I'm too opinionated and too independent.  Maybe I'm not very interesting.  Maybe I'm too much of an introvert.  Could it be my awkwardness?  Maybe I don't go out in enough places to meet people.  Maybe I don't go to the right places to meet people.

I don't know why I'm single, only that I am.  And I started to realize something.  I  see myself as something less because of my singleness.  All of the "reasons" above, reasons that in some way I see as being true, are that I have too many negatives and not enough positives.  My worth does not add up to very much, and that must be the reason that I am still single.  I don't know if the rest of the world perpetuates that or if it is just the tinted lens of this bias, but I interpret a lot of things as adding to this.  When I joined my church, there was no place for a single person, so I had to fill out the blank for "wife".  In my head, that felt like there is no place for me.  Sometimes, when people find out that I am single, they want to reassure me that there is nothing wrong with me... apparently with the assumption that there is something wrong with other singles-that-don't-want-to-be-singles?  Maybe you just don't know me well enough to know about my bag of fingernail and toenail clippings in the closet (Fever Pitch reference:)).

Anyway, in the last year, this has all come to a head.  My remaining single friends are all now planning weddings, and many friends and acquaintances are having children in the next few months (I think there are about 10 babies due).  My aloneness has been thrown in relief and I have been becoming one of those desperate single people that I never wanted to be.  And I realized that a large part of my desperation was stemming from the fact that I wanted that confirmation that I had worth, that someone would actually want to spend time with me, that I was loveable.

Then, on the suggestion of a friend, I read Captivating,  by Stasi and John Eldredge.  I realized that this struggle for worth that I was having was not just my own struggle.  It is the struggle of every woman in a variety of different ways.  It is as much a struggle for many married women as it is for single women.  And I realized that while I still want to be married, and while a relationship will have a wonderful impact on many parts of my life, no man could give me the true meaning of my worth that I have been looking for.  Part of me would always wonder if he just hadn't figured out yet what was wrong with me.  The meaning of my true worth comes from God.

My desires, my struggles and my questions about my worth have not all gone away.  But the desperation has gone away, because I am starting to see what I am worth to Him.  I used to think that He loved me because He had to love everyone because He said He would. In the stillness of my heart, I finally begin to see that He thinks that I am worth loving.


Monday, March 23, 2009

Crazy Amazing Family

It turns out that I have a wonderful family.  I always knew it, but this weekend was especially great.  My parents and siblings were going to visit my grandparents for Spring break.  I made the drive down to join them over the weekend.  I thought it would be just us (a total of 9), but I thought wrong.  A lot of my aunts, uncles and cousins who live within a couple hours were also able to join us.  I was a little paralyzed and overwhelmed the first day.  I love to see my family, but I need a little time to mentally prepare for 20+ people in one small house.  Sunday was great, though, because I had adjusted a little more to the noise level and the idea that we were going to be playing sardines for the weekend.

Let me introduce to a few of the people in my crazy amazing family.

Grandpa.  No one can ever accuse my grandpa of being a slacker.  When he visits my parents at their acreage, he can't wait to get out and help mom with all kinds of handyman projects.  He may not be able to do it all, but I am constantly impressed by the amount of practical knowledge that he has.  He is also very opinionated, and very happy to share his opinion.  He used to be a banker, so you can imagine that we heard a few views on the economy this weekend.  He loves to golf, and he golfs almost year round on their little local 9 hole course that he helps mow.  One of my other favorite things about my grandpa is the way he sings in church: out loud.  Mind you, he has a singing voice a crow wouldn't envy, but that does not stop him from participating.  It is truly a joyful noise.

Grandma.  When I think of Grandma, I think of quilting.  She loves to quilt.  I don't think that she started until she was a few years older than I am now, but it has become an art form for her.  I love the way that she puts together colors and shapes.  I am amused sometimes how she will interrupt any conversation to pull you aside and show you one of the projects that she has been talking about.  I would love to have one of the large quilts that she has made, but she doesn't have time to make one for each of her 26 grandkids.  She has been making sure that we each have one smaller project that she has made.  Mine is a wall hanging that I got for my graduation.

Dad lives by the words that you have to get older, but you can be immature forever.  He's really pretty mature (we won't burst his bubble by telling him that), but he does think that burping and farting are still funny.  Age really is just a number for him.  He's more fit than he has been in a long time.  He will tell you that he has had 31 years of married bliss to my mom... and that she is up to 7 or 8 years of marital bliss now.  He loves to garden and work out on the acreage.  He loves to joke, but he is much less likely to open his mouth to spill his guts.

Mom is always busy and always moving.  She doesn't like to watch TV because she would rather be getting something done.  Get her a good book, though, and you couldn't blast her out of a chair with a stick of dynamite.  My mom has a lot to do with what my faith is today.  I remember a time that we were pretty typical Catholic pew warmers, but then she was set on fire with a real love for God and brought us along for the ride.  Eventually it became our own decision, but she really instigated it.  I also appreciate the way that she presented the differences between her (Catholic) side of the family and Dad's (Protestant) side of the family.  I don't remember specific conversations, but she was made sure that we understood though we may not go to the same church, we worship the same God and have essentially the same faith.  On the other hand, she also made sure that we knew the reasons that we were Catholic and why the churches were not interchangeable.  How's that for a balancing act!

Clearly there are a lot more people in this family of mine, but that's probably enough for now.  I'm sure there's more to come.

Thursday, March 19, 2009

On Being Single

Somehow, I am 28 and single.  I know that's not real old, but I have been wanting to be married for a long time and it hasn't happened yet.  Not only that, but there are no prospects.  Not so much as a speck on the horizon.  Sometimes it really hurts.  That sounds a little over dramatic, but that's how I feel, and this is my blog, so I'll say what I want.  When I hear about people my age with two or three kids, I wonder if it will ever be my turn.  Part of the pain is about wanting to be loved, but a lot of it is having a lot of love to give and wondering if I'll ever get to share it.  Sometimes the little things are the worst, like going to a party alone.  Again.  Or wanting to cook a meal for others to enjoy.  Those kinds of things.

Anyway, I'm not married and there's nothing that I can do at this moment to change it.  So I was thinking about the single thing, and here are my hopes for being single (besides the hope that it won't last that much longer!:))

1) I hope that I will never be a bitter spinster.  I now begin to understand why it is so easy for that to happen.  We women are relational people and not having deep relationships can leave us feeling unfulfilled.  (I suppose that's too much of a sweeping generalization.  Let's just say that's the case for those of us that do want to be married with families).  I hope that this pain, no matter how short or long it is leads me to be a deeper person with more empathy with others.  Maybe not just other single people, but other people with pain.

2) I hope that I will use my single time wisely.  Time to grow closer to God while I depend on Him completely, time to build stronger relationships with friends.  Time to improve in my profession.  Time to pay off at least a small part of my crazy grad school debt.

3) I hope that I will learn to be more open to other people.  I am an introvert that has a hard time letting people into my thoughts and feelings.  It finally occurred to me that there would always be loneliness if I didn't let the inside out, no matter whether I was married or single.  I promise I won't go spilling my guts to you if I meet you in the grocery store.  I only subject my sister and my close friends to that!

Yikes!  Look at where this blog is heading!  Straight down the road of schmaltzy attempts at profundity.  Yuck!  Well, it is what it is.  I will simply have to revel in the relative newness of the blog and the fact that hopefully no one's reading yet.  I could just not post the entry, but if I can dump the thoughts here and not have them on my mind, so much the better.  Hopefully by the time someone stumbles across this blog, the writing will improve.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

Catholics and the Bible

Catholics have a weird relationship with the Bible.  The whole Church is based around the Bible.  The Mass is based on Scripture, not to mention that several Scripture passages are read during the first part of the liturgy.  Dogma itself (according to Cardinal Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict) is nothing more than an interpretation of Scripture.  Yet, we're often afraid to open the Bible and read it.  Why is that?  What makes us think that we're going to understand a single thing about the Church without some understanding of the Bible?  Or is it that we're afraid if we do read the Bible we'll misinterpret it?  Or maybe there is some fear that we will somehow be immediately convinced that the Catholic Church is a lie and we'll need to leave.

I think that most Catholics I know are at least somewhat familiar with Scripture.  They couldn't tell you where to find most of the verses that they recognize, but they've heard it.  The biggest thing that I hear is "I'm not smart enough to read Scripture."  What does that mean??  So you don't understand it the first time through.  I guarantee you won't understand it all the second or third time through either.  Reading the Bible isn't about knowing it all, it's about learning and growing in the Word of God.  I don't think that Catholics are really too dumb to read the Scripture.  I think that they're just uncomfortable with something that's unfamiliar.  The only way that we're going to get better is to open the Bible and start reading.  

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Setting up a blog

All this set up stuff is kind of annoying.  I just want to write posts.  It would also be really nice if the blog looked good, too, but that's some work.  They say the devil's in the details.  Always thought that was a good reason to avoid the details, actually.

On the other hand, blank spots drive me crazy so I have to do some of it.  It'll just have to look like a new blog for a while.  It is, so that works out well.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The First Post

There always has to be a first one, I guess.  I don't know exactly what to say.  Hmm, well I guess since I just started blogging like everyone else, I guess it doesn't matter if my first post sounds like everyone else's.  Like all of you, I wondered if there was any point in adding my voice to the millions of voices already out there.  I wonder who will ever find this blog, and if they do find it will they want to read it?  That's a question I can't answer, but I did realize that I wanted to write it even if no one ever read it.  I already talk to myself (yes, I'm much too young for that, but what are you going to do?).  Might as well write to myself, too.  At least with this there's always a chance someone might find it!

By the way, you now know that blogging has peaked and is starting on the downhill side.  I'm never on the cutting edge of anything.  I tend to get in while it's still popular for a while, but definitely not while it's new.