Monday, August 31, 2009

Inside Out

This seems to be the week for thinking about the interior vs. the exterior of a person.  The Gospel readings have been about white-washed tombs and hypocrites, not to mention using religious tradition as a way to sin.  Then there's the whole Romans 7 issue (thanks for the comments, btw; it's great to have some more stuff to think about in trying to make sense of it all).   I don't know about you, but sometimes reading Gospels like these makes me think that the outside doesn't matter; I want to ignore it completely.  Or that verse from Romans that makes me sometimes want to take things to the extreme and say that my body (mind) and spirit are two separate things.  I want to join those that say that the body, the flesh and matter are bad, and we should live only for the soul, the spirit and eternity.

Actually, I don't want to say that, but, given my limited understanding, that's the direction those verses seem to be pointing me toward.  That's when I get confused*, because I know that can't be what they're saying if they're going to make sense with the rest of the Bible, so then I have to try to figure out what it really is that they're saying.

There are two things that have been helping me to make sense of this a little bit this week.  One is Luke 6:45, and the other is Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog. (I seriously love that show! It's ridiculous how much I like it!)

Luke 6:45:
"For out of the overflow of his heart, his mouth speaks."

A few little words, but it makes so much difference.  What the Pharisees were doing was not bad as a general rule (washing their hands, dedicating their money to God), but it didn't reach to the depths of their heart.  Inside their hearts were turned inward on themselves, and eventually this came bubbling out.  Now their dedication of their money to God became more important than caring for their elderly parents.  Perhaps they wanted status in God's sight by giving Him the most money.  They didn't realize that He didn't want their money, but rather their hearts.

The thing is, the external acts we do matter too.  We all know that when our words and actions don't match, nothing that we say can override what we do.  If we love God with all our hearts, the actions follow.

I would like to take a moment to thank Dr. Horrible and Co. for providing a fantastic illustration of this at a very timely moment for me.

++Spoiler Alert++
(Warning: serious discussion about a mostly not so serious show. It will also give away the ending.)

I love Dr. Horrible.  I love that he clearly cares about the world that he lives in, that he wants to make a difference.  I find myself cheering him on to make it into the Evil League of Evil, even though I don't know why, because he clearly doesn't belong there.  Overall, he has a good heart, but instead of doing the external that manifests that, he tries to do good by doing evil.  It doesn't work, and he gets burned.

Captain Hammer.  Oh, the jerk I love to hate.  Pharisee!  Hypocrite!  Whitewashed tomb! Poopy Head!  He does good works externally, but internally there is nothing to back it up.  He is clearly the "bad guy", yet Dr. Horrible, for all that he is the "good guy", is also the bad guy.

The thing is, the actions do not come from the heart and follow the heart.  I don't think that any of the verses are telling us that external things should be ignored, or that matter and flesh are bad things.  I think that the entire point is that what truly matters, what truly makes the difference is the heart.  However, then the inside also has to come out and influence our actions.  Then the external can be good things that reflect what is within.

Well, you all probably have that down.  I sometimes don't have a great grasp on the obvious, so it takes me a little longer.  That, and awesome 3-act musicals help.

*It happens a lot; I'm used to it.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

An Odd Urge

There is this church in town.  I don't know exactly what kind it is.  I think it's E-free of some sort.  The thing is, every time I go by it, I want to make friends there.  I don't know why.  It's a little hard to manage, because I don't want to go to church there.

Huh. It just now occurred to me that I could use this strange desire as a reminder to pray for them, for whatever the needs are in that community.


Other than that, who knows where this stuff comes from.  

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Romans, Lest You Think I Forgot

I started reading Acts of the Apostles today.  Do not think that I am reading all of these different books of the Bible because I'm holy or something.  I'm not.  I have ADD, which in my case does not mean the actual disorder, but rather a bad habit of telling myself that I am "multitasking."  In reality, it means that I have half started 3-4 different things, but I'm not doing any of them very well.  I can't wait to tell you all the stuff I have to say about Acts- I love that book!- but I'm going to try to finish Romans first.  There's no need to drag you all into my "multitasking."

Today, I've made it to chapter 7.  I would like you all to know that I don't like this chapter very well, because it seems to be slightly off base and doesn't make much sense to me.  I especially dislike v. 25.  However, I'm going to go way out on a limb here and guess that the problem is not so much Romans or Paul, but my lack of understanding. 

I get that sin is a constant struggle, and that we have a tendency to fail.  I live that every day.  I get a little confused about dying to the law.  I understand it to a point.  I certainly understand that it is not the law that saves us, but grace in our new life in Christ.  That makes sense.  But that doesn't make the law (at least the commandments) null and void.  At first I understood Paul to be talking about "the law" as in the rules of the Jews, but then he talked about covetousness.  That is definitely in the 10 commandments.

Now, v. 25: "Thanks be to God through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I of myself serve the law of God with my mind, but with my flesh I serve the law of sin."

I think that the reason that I dislike that verse is because of the way that we see ourselves as two separate entities.  We see our souls as being trapped inside sin-ridden bodies, just waiting for death to set us free.  Yet our souls and our bodies are truly one.  I am not a body that is animated by a soul, but rather a body and a soul that are together one person, and that person is me.  I remember my Judaism professor talking about how the Jews never saw us as two separate entities.  When he first said it, it didn't make sense to me; we have come so far in divorcing body and spirit.  Over the last few years, it is starting to make more sense, especially after studying Theology of the Body.

It is true that we have conflicting interests at war within ourselves.  There is the part of us that longs to rise above the earth to love and serve God as He should be loved and served.  And there is the part of us that would rather be comfortable, would rather do the easy thing, would rather sin.  

Given the Jewish view of the human person, I don't (I can't) take this verse as saying that our bodies do one thing while our souls do another.  That's like the kid in the park running away when his parents called him.  His excuse for disobedience? "My body is running away!"  This kid may have chosen to go with his lower, more fleshly instincts rather than obeying his parents, but his body didn't make him do it.  I think the verse has to be more of a method of illustration of the interior battle that we all face rather than literally separating body and spirit into separate entities.

Feel free to enlighten me, disagree,  or share your own thoughts on the subject!  I would love some help making this chapter make a little more sense.

Friday, August 28, 2009

Briefly,

I only have a moment before I have to go drive all over town chasing after padding to go over a cast for a kid in tonight's game, but there's something I have to say real quick.

When babies laugh, it makes my day.

And my week.

Friday Night Lights

I recently found out I would be doing the athletic training at the local school this year.  I'll be honest and admit that my immediate response was a little despairing.  Good bye fun times with friends on Friday.  It also usually means a little clinic time on Saturday for those that got dinged up the night before. 

Last Friday, we had the scrimmage. Refs, taping, fans, everything but competition. It was a cool night, so it felt like fall even though it wasn't.  Once it was dark enough for the lights, it reminded me that there is something that is a little magic about a Friday night football game.

I like the smell of sweaty pads and grass.*

I like the energy and excitement right before a game.

I like that (i.e., I laugh at the fact that) on the football field, the team can hold hands and do rhythmic hand claps as a team unity and warm up thing; when in real life they would see that as more fitting for 2nd grade girls.

I am bemused at how coaches, who seem like normal people most of the time, suddenly  become determined to give themselves a stroke by age 36.

I am alternately amused by and annoyed with the antics of the team. Also, I forgot how flaky high schoolers can be.

I like how the coaches and players frequently refer to watching "film" even though actual film has not been used for years.

Although I'm not fluent in football, I know enough about the game to enjoy watching it. 

I can't really put a finger on all the sights and sounds, but I do enjoy it.  At least, I enjoy it on a mild, clear night when there are no injuries.  Let's see what happens once it gets cold and I have to do some actual work.



*Only when they're mixed, because then the smell says "football". Also, I like some distance between me and the sweaty pads.  I'm not a fan at all when they come see me about an injury.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

What Nursery Rhyme Are You?

I am little Miss Muffet.  I have not sat on a tuffet that I know of, because I don't know what that is.  I have also not eaten curds and whey.  But a little baby spider came down to sit down beside me this morning, and I definitely ran the other direction.

I'm not what you would call a girly girl.  I like feminine things just fine, as long as they are not too much trouble, but I'm generally not the type to squeal or be all high-pitched about things.

But bugs?  I'm having to face the facts here.  I'm girly about bugs.  You should have seen me run when that spider let himself down from the ceiling this morning!  I still didn't react as badly to that as I did to all the ants...

Also bats.  I really, really don't like bats in the house.  Actually, I have a good story about that one.  My first year of grad school, my roomie was kind of a tomboy, athletic type all that.  She was less girly than me, and also what you would call low maintenance.  All year long, we listened to scratching in the walls.  I think we knew it was bats, but I don't remember now how we knew that.  She had to listen to it more than I did, because they were in the wall in her room.  We consoled ourselves that it probably wasn't scratching its way through the wall; and of course it couldn't get in.

After months of this, it definitely did get into the apartment.

I was in the other room on the phone (wow! I just remembered it was a land line, because I still didn't have a cell phone at that point!  I'm so far behind!) and suddenly my roommate starts screaming- high pitched girly girl screams-

 "IT'SABAT!IT'SABAT!IT'SABAT!IT'SABAT!IT'SABAT!"
 
This was followed by the door slamming as S ran out of her room.  Turns out that she had been doing something else, and looked down to see a big "leaf" on her shoe (not a shoe that was on her foot).  As she reached for it, she realized that it was a bat, sent the shoe flying across the room, leaving the bat lying stunned on the floor.  Of course, then I had to look.  Weird thing is, I absolutely had to put shoes on before I could open the door.  Don't know why, but I couldn't handle exposing bare toes to the bat; not sure why it would have a preference biting the toes to anywhere else, but that's my thought process.

When I opened the door, it was lying on the floor looking fairly lifeless.  I'm a chicken, so the mere sight of it was enough to make me slam the door immediately.  When I mustered up the courage to look again, it had moved about a foot, so it definitely wasn't dead.

We then spent some time flapping around being useless.  Adrenaline was pumping, but we didn't quite know what to do.  After the initial commotion, the neighbors checked in to make sure everything was okay.  I think they wanted to be sure that no one was being murdered or anything.  They actually came in to help us, but by then the bat had hidden itself and we couldn't find it anywhere.

No.  It's not disconcerting at all to have a bat hiding somewhere in your apartment.

Later, S saw it peeking out of her shoe, and she immediately found a garbage can to put over it, shoe and all.  We played around with the idea of putting something heavy on top of the garbage can, just to be sure, but that kept tipping the garbage can over.  Not good.  We did find a piece of cardboard to slide under the whole contraption; that was another fun moment, because apparently the bat had climbed out of the shoe and we managed to squish it a little bit.  We definitely heard some squeaks of protest.

After that, we stayed away with the door closed.  The maintenance man we called finally showed up, and took the whole garbage can/cardboard combo with him.  After he got rid of it (set it free somewhere else; I think it's illegal to kill bats), he brought back the shoe and everything.  I'm glad it wasn't my shoe.  Pretty sure a bat would bite your toe if you stuck your foot into the place it was hiding.

Again, the logic is pretty shaky, given that that particular bat was gone, and any shoe would be a good place for a bat.  I was just glad I didn't have to put on that shoe.

Tradition!

I love Tradition!  I like tradition a lot, too, but I LOVE Tradition. (Excuse me while I go doodle "I <3 Tradition" all over my computer screen.)  Man, I really hate when my extreme nerdiness comes blazing through the screen like this.  Seriously!  Who gets that excited about Tradition?  And the sad part is, I mean it!  I only wish I were exaggerating.

The problem is, I don't know how to explain why I'm so excited about it.  I've tried several times, and I keep deleting it.  So far everything I've come up with is so boring, you'd rather poke your eyeballs with a stick than read it.  Trust me on this; I read the drafts. Besides, the stick would take a lot less time.  Did you really want to read a 47-page blog post today? 

It's killing me that I can't write an interesting post, because Tradition is really amazing.  Of the 78, 934 reasons that I love the Catholic Church, Tradition is in the top 5.  I want to tell you all about it.

I'm going to try again. One more time.

I didn't used to love Tradition.  As a Catholic, I accepted it as a fact of life: 

"Why do we believe that?" 
"Because the Church says." 
"Oh.  Okay."  Good enough for me.

Tradition was just something that was there.  I didn't love it, didn't hate it, didn't really think about it one way or another. I suppose it would be somewhat accurate to say that I vaguely thought that Tradition was the accumulation of the stuff that centuries of councils of the Church had come up with, but it's hard to say for sure, because I didn't really think about it.

Then I began to understand what it really is.  I began to see what is called the "deposit of faith".

"Since therefore we have such proofs, it is not necessary to seek the truth among others which it is easy to obtain from the Church; since the apostles, like a rich man [depositing his money] in a bank lodged in her hands most copiously all things pertaining to the truth: so that every man, whosoever will, can draw from her the water of life.  For she is the entrance to life; all others are thieves and robbers.  On this account we are bound to avoid them, but to make choice of the things pertaining to the Church with the utmost diligence, and to lay hold of the tradition of truth.  For how stands the case?  Suppose there arise a dispute relative to some important question among us, should we not have recourse to the most ancient Churches with which the apostles held constant intercourse, and learn from them what is certain and clear in regard to the present question?" - Irenaeus (said to have been taught by Polycarp, who was taught by John the Apostle. This quote from Against Heresies, Book 3, Chapter 4)

Tradition, the kind that we refer to as apostolic Tradition, divine Tradition, sacred Tradition, is that which is handed down to the Apostles by Christ Himself.  The Apostles have handed it on to their successors and the rest of the Church.  This is the Tradition that I refer to with a capital "T" to distinguish it from traditions that are handed down by men. (Btw, I think that traditions that men hand down are often good as well, but only so long as they don't nullify the Word of God.)

I think when I really began to love Tradition is when I began to study the Church teachings in a little more depth.  First, all I knew was that the Church said so.  Then I began to learn more about the scriptural basis for the Church's teachings, and then I began to learn more about the writings of the early Church.  I think that especially as I began to read some of the writings of the early Church fathers, I got really excited about Tradition.  That is when I could recognize the same Church, the same beliefs that I held and had been taught, were the same things they were teaching.  There was unity of belief through all of these things, the Scripture, the early Church fathers, the councils of the Church. That unity of belief throughout time is extremely exciting to me.
 
Tradition tells us which books belong in the Bible, for example.  There were some councils of the Church that formally defined this near the year 400 AD.  Notice that they didn't come together and make something up, but rather recognized and formally defined the truth of which books belonged and which didn't.  They did this by looking at what the Church had always believed.  However, it was necessary to have a formal and definitive statement, because there were some books that are in the New Testament that some didn't think should be there, and a few that people sometimes included that did not belong.  That's what the councils do when there is confusion.  They look at what the Church has always believed and make a formal and definitive statement of that to clear up the confusion.  They don't make up new stuff for us unsuspecting lay people to have to blindly follow.

I once had a friend remark longingly that he wanted a church where everything was based on the Scripture and the Church fathers' understanding of Scripture.  I thought, "That's what I have!"  If you've ever read any Church document, you will find it riddled with Scripture and quotes from the Church fathers to explain why it is that we believe it.

One last quote from Irenaeus for the road (this one from Book 4, chapter 33):

"True knowledge is [that which consists in] the doctrine of the Apostles, and the ancient constitution of the Church throughout all the world, and the distinctive manifestation of the body of Christ according to the successions of bishops, by which they have handed down that Church which exists in every place, and has come even unto us, being guarded and preserved, without any forging of Scriptures, by a very complete system of doctrine, and neither addition nor [suffering] curtailment [in the truths which she believes]; and [it consists in] reading [the Word of God] without falsification, and a lawful and diligent exposition in harmony with the Scriptures, both without danger and without blasphemy; and [above all, it consists in] the pre-eminent gift of love, which is more precious than knowledge, more glorious than prophecy, and which excels all the other gifts [of God]."




Tuesday, August 25, 2009

I Don't Understand

I would just like to say that I do not understand.  Suffering does not make sense.  Not me.  Other people.  Lots of people I'm praying for right now.

And, may I add, multiple sclerosis stinks.

I Am a Slacking Slacker

I feel like such a slacker.  I am not working right now because I have to work a football game Friday, so I get some comp time right now.  It's perfect.  It should be guilt-free.  My internal clock is screaming at me to get to work because it's almost 9 am on a Tuesday, and I'm going to get fired because I'm not doing my job.

Stupid internal clock.  I need to find the off button.  My boss told me to take comp time, and no patients wanted to come in this morning anyway.  I really am not feeling guilty, but it feels so weird to be lying on the couch in my pjs at 9 am on a weekday.  Actually, any day.  I'm always going before now even on a weekend.

Anyway, I have all kinds of posts that have been building up, and today I have time that I need to write them all.  (Why do I suddenly feel the need to practice my evil laugh like Dr. Horrible?)  I may not post any more today, but then there will be posts in the future for those days when I actually go to work before 2 pm.

Btw, I love Dr. Horrible.  Found it this weekend, and it provided about 38 minutes of fantastic entertainment.  (Unfortunately, it's 42 minutes long; the ending was unexpected for me. Well written, and I think it makes it a better flick, but I still didn't like it.  Hard to explain without giving it all away.)  As a slight warning, Captain Hammer does provide some PG-13 moments, just so you know.



Have You Been Born Again?

This has been a topic on my mind recently.  It actually has to do with where I am in Romans (because I haven't stopped reading it yet, even if I'm too much of a slacker to keep going to the actual Bible study). It also has to do with two beautiful babies that recently have been baptized.

You know, it's kind of funny when a Catholic is asked if they have been born again. Stammers, stutters, and mumbles are not uncommon responses. I have been thrown off by this question a few times myself.  In the moment, it can be hard to craft the perfect answer to try to perfectly explain your relationship with Jesus and what that means as a Catholic.  Sometimes you need time to think about it, an two weeks after the question was asked, you have the perfect answer.  After lots of thought, I have prepared the response that I will use the next time someone asks me if I have been born again:

Yes.

I don't know about you, but for me the phrase "born again" conjures images of Baptist preachers passionately asking if the people have been saved.  I think of people saying things like have you "believed on Jesus", have you "asked Jesus into your heart", have you "confessed with your lips that you are a sinner and believed with your heart that Jesus will save you?"  It is that interpretation of being "born again" that had me fumbling with trying to come up with a response.  But if I actually look at John 3:5, Jesus tells us that we have to be born again (or from above) of water and the Holy Spirit.  Remember how I said we Catholics take our Bible very literally?  This is one of those spots.  We understand the water of baptism, through the work of the Holy Spirit, to actually be the moment of being born again spiritually.  Baptism is not just symbolic, but gives new life.  Thus Peter says, "Baptism... now saves you." (1 Pet 3:21)

Now, on to Romans for a moment (chapter 6).  When I think about baptism, I think about new life.  I don't think about death, so Paul's wording here is interesting to me. "Do you not know that all of us who have been baptized into Christ Jesus have been baptized into His death?" (v.3)  I love that baptism is the death of sin, just as it is the new life of grace for our souls.

Incidentally, I have confessed that I am a sinner, and I do believe that Jesus came to this earth to save me from my sin.  Doing so has definitely helped me grow spiritually.  It's just not the moment that I was born again.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Being Little

Do you ever get the feeling that God is trying to teach you something?  I get that feeling, but it usually takes about 47 separate things to get my attention.  Right now, I think He might be teaching me about what it means to be little.  It's an inkling that I'm getting.  Here are some hints:

1) I'm reading "Story of a Soul".  St. Therese is all about the Little Way.

2) At Mass on Saturday morning, Father preached a homily where he talked about the smallest and most helpless among us have the most power in their very weakness (e.g. babies who can't do anything get people to scramble to meet their needs when they cry).

3) I read this post here, and the quote from He and I struck me, especially when it says "My poor little ones, wake up to your power over Me."  That sounded a little crazy at first, but then I thought of a certain two-year-old that can turn me into a pile of mush in an instant.  I'm so delighted when he wants to do something with me that I can't wait to do it.  You want me to swing "wif" you? No problem.  You want to play a puzzle for 2 seconds before we move on to something else?  Sure! Sign me up.  Anyway, then it made a lot more sense as to the "power" that we have over Him.  When we ask for His grace, He absolutely can't wait to give it to us.

Just some things I've been thinking about tonight.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Why I Am a Catholic

I had another wedding to go to this weekend.  In fact, I should be at the reception right now, but I don't really know any of the other guests, and couldn't handle a full evening of awkwardness.  Dang it! I'm a party pooper again.  One of the brides of this summer let me know that she was really sad that I didn't dance at her wedding.  It's not just that I can't dance, but I have no rhythm.  Maybe I should just throw it all in, drink a full glass of champagne, and hop onto the dance floor despite this serious dancing handicap.

Nah.  Not my style.  I might at least dance a few more dances if I ever have anyone to dance with, but we don't need to get into that whole discussion right now.  Anyway, I truly hope the bride doesn't notice my absence.  I really don't think that she will, but then I had no idea that the other bride would notice or care that I didn't dance.  

Right.  Moving on.  The reason that this sparked the whole post was that this wedding was the wedding of a friend of mine that used to be Catholic, but is no longer Catholic.  One of the reasons that she is not Catholic is because she could see the amazing heart that many Protestants had for Christ, and felt that the way that she could grow closer to God is by worship and fellowship with these Protestants. (Btw, I'm not a big fan of the word "fellowship", but don't know what else to call it.)  I respect her decision, and have see her grow closer to God, so that part of it is a very good thing.

I have also been drawn closer to God at times through Protestants like those that she was with, in some cases the same ones, yet I have chosen to remain Catholic.  I love their faith, their zeal for Scripture and their unabashed love for Christ, and I love the way that they have helped my own faith to grow. Still, I am Catholic and will remain so.

How I became Catholic:

Shortly after I was born, my parents saw to it that I was born again of water and the Holy Spirit through baptism.  It is then that I became a child of God, and that is why I became Catholic.  My parents did not just plant the seed, but carefully provided an environment for it to grow.  That is why there is so much more to my remaining Catholic than just because my family is Catholic and it's what I'm used to.  

Why I am Catholic:

Because it had the answers to faith and life that my heart craved.

Because the grace flowing from the pierced side of Christ through the sacraments is life for my soul.

Because of the consistency of each of the teachings with the all the others.

Because it is founded on the capstone, Christ, with the Apostles as the foundation.

Because I have never found another Church that takes the Bible so literally.

Because of the fellowship with all people whose life is Christ, even if they are already in the cloud of witnesses cheering us on to the finish.

Because it gives meaning to suffering, even though suffering will never make sense.

Because it is right where I am wrong.

Because, like the disciples on the road to Emmaus, I have come to know Him in the breaking of the bread at the Eucharist.

Because it is true.


Thursday, August 20, 2009

An Epic Day

One day in grad school, one of my roommates mentioned something about the Goonies.

Pause. During the pause, pupils slightly dilate and jaw goes a little slack. Then:
"You've never seen the Goonies?!?!?!" 

In order to read this correctly, you have to understand that there is a slight pause at the word "never".  That's the point that the brain boggles over what that word means and tries to place it in connection with the movie "The Goonies".

Seen it?  I don't even remember hearing about it growing up.  I don't know why.  It isn't that I lived in a hole under a rock.  I didn't even know what it was about.  I just remember my roomie's response to my offhand comment about a movie that I had not seen.  You know what?  I have seen this exact response more than once.  We can call it "The Reaction." Same pause, same inflection, everything.  In fact, I've seen it every time that fact came up.  It's so weird to me.

Anyway, Wednesday I saw that movie for the first time in my life. My life is no longer Goonie-less, and that's a good thing.  The world is a happier place because of Chunk.

But, it is a little sad that I will no longer be able to elicit The Reaction.

Less Than All, But More Than Nothing

I am an all or nothing person.  When I get ready to do a project, I like to make a list of all the things that I need to do to complete the project properly.

Cleaning day:
Dishes, scrub and disinfect the counters
Sweep and scrub linoleum, vacuum carpet
Scrub all surfaces in the bathroom
Pick up everything
Dust
Take out the trash

All things that are necessary to do, but hard to find the time and left over energy after working a full week- especially if I also have anything fun that I want to do.

When I get ready to get more fit I need a workout plan that includes:
30-40 minutes of cardio, 5-7 days per week
20 minutes strength training each for arms, legs and abs; 2-3 times per week 

If I am going to clean a closet, it means that I have to have enough time and energy to pull absolutely everything out of my overflowing closet so that I can sort and organize in detail.

Guess how well I do on finishing my projects?  

I usually get the list written.  Then, because I'm overwhelmed by the list, I'll decide to do something else for a little while before I try to tackle the list.  Then I never get back to the list.

There have been times where my apartment looks like a bachelor pad, because I simply don't have time to get everything done on my cleaning list.  I never work out, because who has a spare hour every day to exercise?  And my closets!  If you come to visit, please never open a closet door.

Last January, I had a lot of 80 year olds that had the mobility and energy of much younger people.  I also had a few in their late 50's and early 60's that practically needed to go to a nursing home.  I was fascinated in the differences, because sometimes both groups had some of the same health problems.  Why the difference?

Then I noticed the attitudes.  Those that were doing great would do whatever I gave them to the best of their ability.  Even if they were too busy to complete all the reps I gave them, they would at least do what they could every day.  Those that were not doing well always had excuses.  One group focused on what they could do, and the other focused on what they could not do.

I haven't made any lists recently.  I can't do the lists.  I don't have the time, energy or desire to try to tackle those mountains of activities.  Now I try to do what I can and not worry about what I can't do. I got on the treadmill for about 20 minutes one day when I had the time.  
My apartment isn't perfectly clean, but it has a few touches like clean dishes and semi-recent dusting that quintessential bachelor pads do not have.  It's amazing how much more gets done when I focus on the little things here and there that I can do.  

It seems so obvious that it would work better this way; so why did it take me so long to figure it out?

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Scandalizing Little Old Ladies

I do it on a fairly regular basis.  You see, sometimes I go see patients at their homes if they are unable to travel to the clinic.  Home visits are never predictable, except for the treatment.  The treatment is pretty much the same for most of them.  But you never know what kind of situation you're going to walk into.  Some people have very ideal set ups, with grab bars and all the equipment, family close by to help out and so forth.  Some places are really, really clean.  I'm afraid to walk on the floor, because I don't want to mess it up.  Some places are, well, not clean.  And I'm afraid to walk on the floor, but I figure it should be okay if nothing but the bottom of my shoes makes contact with any of my surroundings.  Sometimes the porch is festooned with flamingo and palm tree lights, or the yard is dotted with cement creatures who've lost most of their features to the elements.  You never know.

Anyway, one thing that happens is that obviously these poor souls are not feeling their best.  If they were, I wouldn't be coming to see them.  So they don't always do the cleaning that they are used to doing, and then they hate to have me see it.  They're apologizing and asking that I please not look at their mess.  I can honestly tell them that I don't really notice their mess (it's true, because the people with the houses that I notice have ceased to see the mess and don't make comments like that).  It's especially bad when I tell them that I need to see how they do getting up and down from the bed.  Oh, heavens! If they haven't gotten their bed made, they practically beg me not to judge them for being so sloppy.  And that's when I invariably scandalize them.  I should probably keep my mouth shut.  When I say the words, I probably lose all credibility with them whatsoever.  Better judgement rarely prevails, and the words come spilling out:

"I often don't get my bed made."

Horrors! Scandal! Vapors!

Now, don't get me wrong.  I'm not proud of my sloppiness, but it clearly doesn't bother me all that much or I would do something about it.  I assure them that my mama had better sense and tried all my life to instill a bed making habit in me, but some children are simply too rebellious for good parenting to overcome.

I must not be too much of a crazy sleeper, because the bed is ready and waiting for me each night.  I'm thinking if my sheets were all twisted, I'd get my act together in a hurry.  

You know, I really should try again to make a habit of this.  Someday, I would like to be married, and I really don't want my husband to have to put up with a perpetually unmade bed.  Also, it would be very hard to tell my children to make their beds if mine was never made.

Although, the last time I tried to form this habit, I happened to see a special on TV where they showed a dust mite up close and personal.  Then they told about how a made up bed provided the perfect environment for these boogers to grow and multiply.  They actually have more hostile living conditions when the bed is unmade.  Umm, I dropped my resolution after that.  I don't think it was really the bugs.  I think the bugs just made me feel a lot better about my laziness.

Okay.  I understand if your opinion of me has dropped a little bit.  I mean, who in civilized society doesn't make their bed regularly?  Still, I hope you don't write me off completely.

My poor ladies, though.  I have forever confirmed in their minds why there is so much wrong with the world.  I don't think I make them feel any better about the fact that their own beds aren't made- this once when they can barely move because of the pain- (my intent in saying that to them), but at least it distracts them from their own troubles when they realize how much of a savage beast I am.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Bible Believing Church

I go to a Bible believing Church.  It's true.

Now, typically that phrase denotes a church that teaches that Bible alone is the sole authority for a Christian.  My Church does not teach that, so you could argue against my opening statement if you want.  That's up to you.

I have come to love the Scripture.  I have only recently realized how much my grandpa's example and deep reverence for the Scripture played a role in my desire to know the Scripture better.  He used to take his Bible with him everywhere, and always made a point to have some quiet time with God's Word, no matter what else was going on.  His quiet example has meant so much to my life.

As I have said before, I credit Protestants in a big way for sharing their love of Scripture in helping me to become at home in the Word of God.  I have met Catholics that seem almost a little afraid of their Bibles.  They seem to be worried about misunderstanding the Bible or something.  I guess that's understandable.  Even in my grandparents' generation (my maternal grandparents, the grandpa that I just spoke of was Protestant) they were actively taught that they were not to read the Bible themselves because they were to let a priest interpret it for them.  The Catholics that played the biggest role in helping me to love the Scriptures more were usually converts from Protestantism.

This is not to say that Catholics have had no part to play in my love for the Scripture.  I can think of several priests who have been able to make the Scripture come alive for me.  Also, since Vatican II, there have been more and more Catholics who are taking up the Bible to read it (Dei Verbum is one of the V II documents that has some beautiful words about the importance of Scripture).  

The more important Scripture is to me, the more important that it becomes that my Church is consonant with the Scripture in every way.  And it is! Oh, it is.

There is a claim of the Catholic Church that many find unpalatable.  This is the claim that it is the Church established by Christ.  It is not just another denomination adding its take on Christianity, it is the essence of Christianity.  It is not another church trying to be like the early Church, it is the early Church.  There is a reason that I capitalize "Church" all the time when speaking of the Catholic Church.

I know it sounds arrogant.  If it isn't true, it's beyond arrogant.  It's lunacy.  

Think what this means.  If the Catholic Church is founded by Christ and is His Church, then the same founder of the Church is the author of Scripture.  Talk about the Church and Scripture being in harmony!  The Bible and the Catholic Church are so intertwined, it's hard to tell where one begins and the other ends. Scripture is embedded and interwoven in every single teaching of the Church.  It is the reason and breath of life for these teachings.  Likewise, the teachings of the Church are found from the first page of Genesis to the last page of Revelation.

I love that when I read the Scripture, teachings of the Church becomes more clear.  I love that when I study the teachings of the Church, the Scripture makes more sense.  I love the way that all of the Scripture, Old and New Testament come together in the teachings of the Church.  I love that the teachings of the Church draw from the entire context of the Bible and not isolated spots.  I love that when I have a question about Scripture, it eventually makes sense in this larger context.   The same is true when I don't understand a teaching of the Church.

Like any love-struck fool, I could go on and on about this (more than I already have, I mean).

Instead, I would just like to say that I love my Bible and my Bible-believing Church.


Do Dreams Mean Anything?

I hope not.  I really, really hope not.  I don't know why, but I have the oddest dreams.  For one thing, I have a lot of violent dreams.  It makes no sense.  I'm not a violent person, and I've been around few violent people.  I don't even like to watch movies that are too violent.

Once, I had a dream that my parents were part of the mafia.  Not joking!  That is the weirdest dream ever, especially considering my mom is too innocent for her own good.  She picked up a phrase that was all parts innuendo, and used it all the time because she didn't know what she was saying!  Around children even!  Hopefully, my shock and horror every time she has done it in my presence has finally broken her of it.  If I ever hear her use it again, I will be reduced to explaining it to her.  My favorite part is that whenever I tell her not to say it, she always huffs, "Why does every phrase have to be turned to innuendo anymore?"  I've tried to tell her that phrase has never been anything else, but I don't think she gets it.  No, I will not tell you what the phrase is.  Just know that the only dangerous thing about my mom is that she is dangerously innocent.

In the last few months, I have started to have a recurring dream.  Luckily, it isn't violent or scary, just weird.  In it, I realize that the end of the semester is approaching.  As I am going to class, I realize it's the first time in weeks that I've been to class and I haven't done any of the homework.  I'm always trying to frantically figure out if I can do enough work to pass the class, but realize that I have completely loss the attendance portion of my grade.  What's more, I haven't gone to several different classes.  The first class that I realize I have been skipping is always physics.  I can't even tell you the sinking feeling when I realize that I've thrown away my college career and my future because I didn't feel like going to class.

Then I wake up, realize that I graduated college and grad school, and have been gainfully employed for the last three and a half years.

Monday, August 17, 2009

Life

Can we please talk about the Eucharist?  The readings for the last few weeks have been from John 6, and I love every minute of it.

Here's the thing about the Eucharist.  I feel that if you are Catholic and you have never struggled with this concept at some point, either you've never thought about it at all, or you have absolutely no grasp of what is going on.  My own personal questions were not whether or not it was true.  The readings of John 6 are too overt for me to question: "He who eats My flesh and drinks My blood has eternal life... for My flesh is real food and My blood is real drink."

My questions came down to why? My Lord and my God, why, why, why would You ask me to eat Your flesh and drink Your blood?  You are God. You want me to eat You? I don't understand.

It makes sense to me why someone would prefer that this be symbolic.  Symbolically, it's kind of neat imagery. To take it literally is crazy.  Who would eat their God? Yet, the Jews, His followers, not just His enemies, clearly took Him literally.  It was so over the top that they left.  Have you noticed the number of times in the Gospels that Jesus' followers misunderstand Him?  Normally He clarifies for them what He really meant.  This time, He didn't.  Instead, He simply asked His apostles if they were going to leave, too.

Notice Peter didn't say, "Of course, we're not going anywhere.  That's Your coolest teaching yet! It makes perfect sense."  Rather, he says "Where else would we go?"  He implies that this is a difficult teaching for the apostles as well, but they have come to the point that they understand that Jesus is the Messiah, so they will do as He tells them, even if they don't understand it.

I remember being at that point myself.  I remember a time when I would receive the Eucharist, believing it was Christ, doing so because He had asked it, but the whole time the "Why?" was bouncing around in my head. 

My sister mentioned that she once went to Communion and was asking Jesus why as well.  Why did you come to earth? Why do You come to us in the Eucharist in this way?  Why would You do this for us?  The prayer after Communion "happened" to be John 10:10 "I came that you might have life and have it abundantly."

Jesus is Life itself, and He gives that Life to us in a very substantial way in the Eucharist. Cyril of Alexandria (about mid-400's AD) explains it this way: "So Christ gave his own body for the life of all, and makes it the channel through which life flows once more into us.  How he does this I will explain to the best of my ability.  When the life-giving Word of God dwelt in human flesh, he changed it into that good thing which is distinctively his, namely, life; and by being wholly united to the flesh in a way beyond our comprehension, he gave it the life-giving power which he has by his very nature.  Therefore, the body of Christ gives life to those who receive it.  Its presence in mortal men expels death and drives away corruption because it contains within itself in his entirety the Word who totally abolishes corruption."

Sunday, August 16, 2009

Dear Husband

Are you out there?  Do you exist?  I am trying to be patient (I am!), but it's not easy for me.

What are you doing tonight? Busy night with friends? Work?  Do you like to crash on the couch and watch TV?  What do you like to watch?

Are you older, younger, tall, short? Shy or extroverted? What do you do for a living?  Most of all, who are you?  What makes you tick?  What makes you passionate?  What makes you angry?  What are your quirks?

Waiting for you has been one of the hardest things that I have ever had to do in my life.  Every day when I wake up, I hope that this will be the day that we finally meet, that the waiting will finally be over.  I've heard people say that when you're ready it will happen (and no, I haven't punched any of them in the face, no matter how badly I wanted to).  I am ready, I can tell you that with confidence.  But you know, it is possible to be ready for Christmas early, too, with all the presents wrapped, cookies baked and decorations done.  You can be ready by December 18th (though if you're a typical guy, you probably usually aren't), but Christmas still doesn't come until the 25th.  Sometimes, ready or not, you still have to wait.

I'm actually really glad that I had to wait for you.  I haven't always been glad about that.  There have been a lot of times I've been really upset about it.  But I'm glad that I have had this time to know and appreciate what it is to live life on my own.  I'm glad that I've had a chance to come to a whole different understanding of what it is to be a woman, and to begin to see love as a gift of self.  I'm glad I've had a chance to see closer up what it means to respect a man as well, and I hope all of these things will make you happy about the wait as well.  I'm also very glad that I have had to find God in a deeper way in this last year.  I'm glad that I had to learn in a whole new way that He is enough, that He is the source of my true worth, and that He is worthy of my trust.  Believe me, these lessons that He has taught me have made me ready for you in ways that I didn't know that I needed.

I still need you, though.  God has created this hole in my heart, this place just for you.  I am probably one of the most blessed people on this planet.  He has given me amazing family and friends, a job that I love and plenty of interests to fill my time.  But my life isn't completely full even with all of this.  You're still missing.  I can't wait to share it all with you, and to have you share your life with me.

I hope.  I hope that you are out there and that we will meet soon.  I hope that we will enjoy time spent together, either alone or with family and friends.  I hope that we will have as many children as God as planned for us (whether that number is big or small) and that we will be faithful to bring them up in Him.  I hope that our marriage will be a light for those that are struggling in the darkness.  I hope that our love will spill out to the rest of the world and make it a better place because we are together.  I hope that you are a little goofy.  I hope that growing closer to each other will make us grow closer to God.  I hope that our conversations can range from deep to nonsensical.  I hope that we laugh a lot together, even if no one else thinks we're funny.  I hope that you will stick around long enough to get to know me, even though it sometimes takes a little while to get through my outer shell.  I hope you like my cooking (and I can cook, even though right now most of my meals come prepackaged from the freezer).

And when I say that I hope, I don't mean that I wish really hard that it could be so.  I hope with trustful confidence that God has a plan.  It doesn't mean that I know what will happen (who can know the mind of God), but I hope.

I think that you will be different than what I picture, just because I think that reality rarely meets exactly the picture in our mind.  I think that's most likely because my imagination is too limited to capture the essence of who you are.  I don't know what it will be like to know you, but I think that it will be better than what I imagine.  Not better in a fluffy clouds and rainbows kind of a way, but rather because reality, with all its ups and downs, attributes and imperfections beats fluffy clouds and rainbows any day.

Anyway, just wanted you to know tonight that I'm thinking of you and praying for you. I hope you have a great week.

Saturday, August 15, 2009

Purgatory

I was thinking about this today because of a post here.  It's written by a Protestant who frankly shares her shock and disbelief over the Catholic view of purgatory.  It's worth the read.  She does an excellent job of actually taking the time to look up the teaching so she can specifically respond to the actual Catholic view. In reading her post, the question that I felt compelled to try to answer is this: if Christ took on the punishment for our sins, and we're forgiven, what need could we possibly have of purgatory?  

The first thing that I did was to try to look up some Catholic teaching on the subject.



But those weren't really giving me the explanation I needed.  I mean, they're good explanations, and if you've never heard of purgatory before, it's a good idea to read those so that you can get a feel for what the Catholic Church teaches on the subject.  My problem is that these explanations are so sterile and clinical sounding.  It doesn't really capture the extent of what I believe about purgatory or why I believe it.  I certainly didn't feel that it answered the question.

I guess the main thing that I need to tell you is that I see spiritual life as a process.  Actually, I see it as being a lot like the physical therapy process.  If you come see me with upper back or neck pain, we're going to take a look at a lot of different things.  One of those, of course, is posture.  Bad posture starts a whole chain of crazy events.  Let's say you like to sit at a desk with your shoulders slumped.  If you do it once, it's not a big deal, but if you work at a computer 8 hours a day, 5 days a week, and slump you shoulders the whole time it's going to be an issue.  The muscles that hold your shoulder blades back are going to get long and weak.  When that happens, they may start to spasm in protest of trying to hold up your heavy arms (even skinny arms are heavy for weak muscles).  The muscles in front (the pecs) are going to get stiff and tight.  Then if you try to pull the shoulder blades back with your weak and wimpy back muscles, you're trying to pull against extra tight front muscles.  When your shoulders are rounded forward, it leads to the arm bones lining up differently and pulling you forward even more.  And the neck!  Oh, your poor neck.  The neck comes forward, but since you can't see if your head is down, then you bring your face up level with the world.  That means that the bottom of your neck is too flexed and the top part of your neck is too extended.  And another whole set of muscles becomes imbalanced, weak on one side, and stiff on the other.

The first time you sit in this posture, it will affect you.  If you turn your head, it will not move like it's supposed to and stuff will rub that isn't supposed to and you will cause some damage.  You won't notice that damage.  It's only going to affect a few cells, which your body will be able to repair quickly. Do it over and over again, though.  Do it for years.  The gradual build up will lead to all kinds of fun stuff.  Arthritis, compression of the nerves, to name only a couple of things.

What took you years to do will not be undone in a week.  A week or two could make a difference, but there's still a lot to do.  Also, it will not be fixed in physical therapy alone, each person has the responsibility to actually do the exercises and make the changes.  Otherwise, they will get nowhere.

There it is.  The spiritual life.  The first time that I sin, it may not do to much.  It will cause some damage, but it won't be all that noticeable.  The more I sin, the more it will affect me, the more it will cause habits that lead to imbalances in the way that I see God and the world.  This is going to lead to damage that could cause big problems.

When I first correct someone's posture, they can often hold the better posture, but it takes work.  The first time that they correct the posture, it does not make all those muscle changes go away.  As they work on the exercises, gradually weak muscles get strong and tight muscles get stretched out.

God immediately forgives my sins when I am sorry, but He allows me to be part of the process of correcting the imbalances that are left.  I have to do the work and make the changes.  This is a very important part of His grace, not a place that I have to fill in the gaps where the grace ran out.  We all know that we have much more appreciation for something that we had to put our blood, sweat, and tears into than we do for something that was just handed to us.  God allows us, with free will, to choose Him freely and to take part in the struggle so that we truly have a vested interest in what is going on.

With this view in mind, this is why purgatory makes complete sense to me.  It's the gym where we get to work out the last areas of weakness.  In other words, it's the place where we get to get rid of any of the areas that we are still holding onto our worldly, fleshly view of things and replace them with Christ.  I think that the reason that we struggle with the idea of purgatory is that we have an instantaneous view of God's grace, rather than seeing the entire process as an outpouring of His grace from the cross.  

Finally, I leave you with this.  Whatever I am able to do, I am able to do through Christ.  It isn't that I can do some things poorly without Him, I can do NOTHING without Him.  However, in Him who strengthens me, I can do all things, even participate in working out my salvation. (Phil. 2:12)  All the things that I do in Him is a foundation of gold and precious jewels.  All things that I do without His grace is hay and straw.  Purgatory is simply the refiner's fire that burns away all that is left of me that has not been touched by Him. (1 Cor 3:11-15).

Friday, August 14, 2009

Another Brief Note About Healthcare

I know we're all sick of the healthcare debate.  I have read so much about it in the last couple of days, that I'm going toxic and will soon die from overexposure.  The good news would be that healthcare would be a moot point!

I have seen Republicans tearing apart the bill (by the way, I thought this was one of the most interesting of the things that I have seen so far) and Democrats defending it. I have read the White House's reality check to curb the myths.  I have read AUL's rebuttal to debunk Planned Parenthood's myths. (I get emails from both the White House and the AUL.  You should see my inbox!  It's a brawl in there, and the emails from New York and Company are sitting in the corner, scared and sobbing: "We just wanted you to be able to get cheap pants!  We didn't sign up for a fight to the death!")

One thing that I can gather is that neither Republicans nor the Democrats know exactly what is going to happen if this bill becomes law.  In reading history, I would have to say that the Republicans have a point about the ways that this law would be a huge burden.  Then again, the Democrats have a point that something needs to be done, and I would like to know why the Republicans didn't do more while they were in power.  

All I can say is, this affects you, and it could potentially affect you in huge ways. You need to know what's going on, and you need to be able to look for the merits and the faults in both sides of the debate.  Then do something about it.  This means the whole contact your congressperson and go to town hall meetings and yada, yada, yada, but it also means taking responsibility in big and small ways in our own community in whenever ways we can. (Not just in healthcare, but other ways, too.  Today the issue is healthcare, but if we don't do what we can in all areas, the government will have to step in a try to do something about those areas too.)

The other very important thing I am going to do about this whole mess is read fewer political blogs!

 

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Ways You Can Freak Yourself Out If You Live Alone

I woke up in the middle of the night last night to go to the bathroom and saw that my bedroom door is closed.  This was very weird to me, because I rarely close my bedroom door.  Sometimes I close it if the tv in the upstairs apartment is too loud, but it wasn't on last night. I don't remember shutting that door.  

It's not like I shut the door to change and forgot to open it.  I never shut the door.  Of course, in the middle of the night,  my theory is someone wanted to rob the place, but they didn't want to wake me so they shut the door (either they're very polite robbers or they're trying to make as clean a getaway as possible).  I recognize this doesn't sound too likely, but I really, really don't think clearly in the middle of the night.

I will tell you that I didn't take myself too seriously.  It didn't stop me from going to the bathroom, and it certainly didn't stop me from falling back to sleep quickly.  I was awake long enough to wish that someone else lived here so that I could blame it on them rather than try to figure out how and why the door ended up being shut.

I do have a special note to anyone that would consider trying to rob me.  When I went to get renter's insurance, the agent was going through any "assets" I might have.  By the time we were through, her assistant literally burst out laughing and said "Kind of makes you want to put a sign up that says 'Don't bother!'"  Needless to say, my insurance is quite cheap.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

How They Met

Today someone implied that maybe I should think about trying e-harmony.  Goodness knows I'm on the computer enough.  I can tell you about at least two couples that I know that initially met through an online dating service and are now married.  Still, I tried one such site (not e-harmony) and I'm not all that excited to go down that road again, though I know it's possible for people to meet that way.  I don't like to totally rule anything out, but let's just say it ain't happening this month.

It does make me want to tell a story that I heard of a long distance relationship that worked out long before existence of the internet.

 Back in the 40's, a woman- M- from the Midwest moved to California to live  with an older aunt after her fiance was killed in a hunting accident.  I know that she was in her late 20's to early 30's at the time, which was definitely spinsterhood at that time. (That's my age.  I'm really glad the term "spinster" isn't used anymore; it would not be good for my self-image!)  Anyway, I can't remember if this aunt couldn't read or write at all, or if she was just no longer able to write very well due to health problems.

Therefore, when the aunt wanted to write to a husband's cousin -W- that was currently stationed in California, she asked M to do the writing.  The aunt had wanted to see if W would be able to come for a visit while he was there in California.  It took a while to get any response back.  Turns out that W had been released from the military and returned to his family farm before the letter got to him.  Somehow, in the course of this exchange of letters, M and W began a correspondence.  A time or two, when M went home to visit family, she would stop by the town close to W so that they actually got a chance to meet.

Although they didn't actually meet often, and they had to rely on snail mail, they somehow in the midst of that managed to fall in love and get married.  So it was that M, at the age of 33, left her "confirmed" spinsterhood behind.

I'm really glad it all worked out for M and W.  Partly because they were both such wonderful people that it only seems right that things would work out well for them.  Partly for the purely selfish reason that my existence would not be possible if they hadn't met in this unlikely fashion.

Btw, of all the people that always ask if I've met someone, my Grandma never did.  She knew it could happen at any time in unexpected ways.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Healthcare Brouhaha

I'm not a fan of the healthcare act.  I work in healthcare, and I would like to see less involvement of the insurance company AND government.  The more red tape that has to be sorted through, the less patient time that I have and the more cost it is to provide care per patient.  I think reform is needed, and I think that it is commendable if the government is trying to help cover some of the gaps.  I have a huge problem with the comprehensive nature of the current act.  Sorry, but I don't trust the government.  I wouldn't trust the Republicans to do this any more than I do the Democrats.  I just have very little trust in the government to run anything efficiently. 

As far as all the rumors go, I'm having a hard time sorting it all out.  I spent a little more time today trying to read the bill, but mostly I kept asking what the different things meant.  They refer to definitions or clauses as found in Section 4578 of the Act of Obscurity, subsection G(iii), subparagraph 42, except in the case of a zebra crossing the street at 4:52 pm, in which case, refer to the minutiae in clause (ii) on page 67984 of this bill which will send you on another wild goose chase.  Needless to say, I did not look up all the definitions, which means I don't really know exactly what it says. (I was reading the part that people claim will coerce euthanasia on seniors.)

Is the bill really hiding all kinds of nefarious agendas?  Good question.  It's so hard to get a straight answer.  I see far too many people getting their answers from listening to Uncle Harry jaw at the local corner store. Harry clearly thinks this plan is out to get us.  I have to tell you that I can't trust those opinions.  I also accidently managed to get on an email list from the White House regarding the healthcare plan.  I kind of like that, but I also don't trust their answers, because I don't trust politicians.  They spin everything to suit their needs.  The only politicians I can stand to listen to are the ones that occasionally crop up that say something that might not be popular with the majority, but they say it anyway because it's true.

I don't want government healthcare, because I frankly think they'll stink at running it.  I also have serious questions about how any politician that is so pro-abortion could be trusted to come up with a healthcare plan that is truly fair for all.  Will it be fair for everyone?  Or only those that he feels are worth healthcare?  What if I have a child that I want that requires significant prenatal care?  Will that be covered, even if it isn't a first or second child?

Anyway, we can each stand on our side of the divide and shout to the other side about how "we're" right and "they're" wrong.   Yet, if we would first look to the needs of the others (and realize that there are no "sides" because we're all in this together), stand up for all that can't stand up for themselves (especially the unborn, the dying, and those that are suffering), we would be better equipped to address the problems.  In fact, we might even eliminate some of the problems WITHOUT the government trying to tell us how to do it.  We need to take responsibility and act where it is possible.  For example, CHECK OUT THIS CLINIC. In a country where healthcare has gone crazy, they are not waiting for someone to fix things for them, they are simply doing something about it. Especially check out the page about care for the uninsured

I think I might move to Madison.

Monday, August 10, 2009

What Is Truth?

There are days that Pilate's words echo through my mind.  Every time I hear that part of the John's gospel read, I can hear his tone of voice.

"What is truth?"

Mostly what I hear is cynicism and disbelief.  Pilate is a man of the world.  He is a leader in a land that is constantly fighting.  He is at the role of judge, constantly listening to opposite factions fighting for their version of the story to be told.  He is tired.  He is jaded.  He no longer believes that there is truth to be found.  

Underneath it, I hear something else.  It's a swirl of faint "wouldn't it be nice" longing, mixed with bitterness over the fact that the illusion of such a truth has been ripped away.  The bitterness is toxic when mixed with the longing, and the only remedy Pilate can find is to pour on the neutralizing cynicism to dull the emotions. 

Despite the fact that he has some apparent sympathy for Jesus, despite the fact that he is not comfortable killing Jesus, his lack of belief in the truth leaves him with only one option: do the best he can to maintain order.  For his own sake, and for the sake of peace in his province, he goes ahead and okays it.

Pilate and I, we have something in common.  We both have a longing for the truth that just can't quite be covered up.  The difference is that I believe that the truth exists, and that it will be found out, though sometimes the chances of that seem slim.  At any rate, I'm not about to join Pilate's cynicism.  I'm not about to wash my hands of the responsibility to do something about it, because I'm overwhelmed by the challenges.  After all, I know the Truth, and though my efforts may be small, He can still use them as a part of setting the world free.

Sunday, August 9, 2009

Ringbearer Wrangler

This weekend was another wedding for more close friends.  Lots of fun!  This time I got to be personal attendant.  Sometimes that can be a bit of a stressful, thankless job, but this time it was not.  There were two of us in that role, which helped a lot.  It doesn't hurt my feelings at all to boss people around, so trying to keep schedules somewhat on track is just fine with me.

The only slight downside is that I might have missed lunch in trying to get boutonnieres on everyone that needed one. (PS: Friend, if there are a lot of people with crooked boutonnieres in your wedding pictures, I apologize.  I'm much better at bossing people than pinning flowers!) It's also possible that our table was one of the last ones to be dismissed for supper.  I thought I was going to pass out.  I was probably nowhere close, but I get overly dramatic when my blood sugar's low.  I was reduced to asking my friend for some of her 1-year-old son's goldfish crackers! Pathetic, I know, but it least it helped that slightly dizzy-ish feeling to go away.  

I also told everyone that I would like the additional title of Ringbearer Wrangler.  The ringbearer at this wedding is a very precocious 2-year-old, who happens to be my little buddy (his parents were both in the wedding).  We have bonded in the last year over things like games of chase and hide and seek (really, glorified games of peekaboo) while the adults discussed adult things like upcoming weddings and babies. At the rehearsal, I didn't really have to pay attention, so I got to keep him occupied instead.  Seriously, do you see why I had the best job ever? Playing with 2-year-olds is way more fun than trying to figure out when you're supposed to sit, stand, process in and out and all that jazz.  We spent some time hanging out in the confessional.  The confessionals in that church only had heavy curtains, so first he thought it was great fun to hide there.  Then he wanted to sit on the chairs.  So we sat on the chairs and had an in-depth discussion of what sounds various animals make. We also marched a lot.  He's kind of a one-legged marcher.  He'd high step with the right, then normal step with the left. The right more than made up for what was lacking in the left.  He got some crazy high steps with an added odd mixture of lateral movement and kicking.

By far the most challenging job of being RW is getting the little man to wait until his turn to walk up the aisle and then to go when it is his turn.  Luckily, the flower girl is almost five and held his hand on the way up.  Also fortunate that there were two personal attendants, because it took both of us to keep him from A) wandering off (which one person could do) B) throwing a temper-tantrum because he couldn't wander off (definitely at least a 2 person job!).

Perhaps the most stressful part of this job was the pictures.  We did some outdoor pictures, but it was hot outside.  Worse yet, it was HUMID. It was hot and humid earlier in the day, but then we got a rain before we did these pictures, making it even worse.  There we were. Hot.  Dressed to the nines.  We have a two-year-old in a tux, and he's overheating.  I'm trying to keep him distracted when he's not in pictures.  Normally that's an easy task, but this time there are mud puddles to avoid.  We can't run around or play chase (always a sure-fire way to keep him entertained) because the poor kid was too hot already.  We also have to try to keep him clean, because we were doing pictures before the wedding.   So that eliminates a lot of climbing that he likes to do.  And sitting.  Luckily, one of the groomsmen gave him a teeny tiny pine cone which kept him busy for quite a while.  There were also plenty of sticks on the ground, and he was convinced that it was up to him to get them all snapped. (It was, too, because if he wasn't doing it, those twigs would not have gotten broken.)

It was lots of fun, and as proof, I give you one of our conversations from the day:

R: What's that?
Me: It's an ant.
R: It's a caterpillar.
Me: No, it's an ant.
R: What's a caterpillar say?

Thursday, August 6, 2009

Labels for this Post

Do the examples for possible post labels come up as the same thing for everyone?

On the bottom of my text box, where I can put a label on my post it gives the following examples: scooters, vacation, fall.

I understand vacation and fall being good labels, but scooters?  How did that become an exemplary label?  Is there a lot of scooter talk that I'm unaware of?  When is it appropriate to label a post,"scooters"?

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

It's Exhausting

I find myself with tons and tons of opinions (religious, political) tonight.  Or maybe just tons to say about certain cherished opinions.  I have been reading all kinds of conversations I feel are based less on fact than on perception.

But then I realize that I can't guarantee my perceptions are based in fact.  I'm assuming they're right because they're my perceptions.  I don't have the time or the inclination to do the appropriate research to see what the facts of the cases actually are.  Therefore, none of my opinions tonight.

Instead, I'm going to leave you with an educational "How to" video.  Much more edifying and enlightening.



Tuesday, August 4, 2009

CHAINS! SUFFERING!

I was reading more of Romans last night, and ran across this little theme of Paul's, so I have to talk about it.  This post is dedicated to Mary, who never failed to point this theme out in a certain memorable way whichever of Paul's epistles we happened to be studying at the time.

Chapter 5 verse 3: "More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings..."  Wait, what?  Paul, what are you smoking and where can I get some?  Because I'm pretty sure I only complain in my sufferings, and I have the posts to prove it, though I'm not going to humiliate myself by linking them for you.

"Rejoice in our sufferings."  Such a startling phrase.  I want to keep saying it over and over again, because it's so foreign and ridiculous.  Typically we only rejoice in our sufferings if there's a possibility that someone's at fault so we can sue for cash.

Paul says that the reason that we rejoice in our sufferings is because suffering produces endurance.  Ouch!  I have about the least endurance of anyone you could ever hope to meet: "Eh, that's getting slightly difficult now and/or I don't want to do it anymore. What should I do? What should I do?  Well, probably the only sensible thing to do is to throw up my hands and go watch something on hulu.  After all, there should be something good, and in lieu of that, there's guaranteed to be mindless garbage that I can numb my brain with and avoid anything that smacks of work or difficulty."

If endurance then produces character, then maybe I should work on that.  Who knew that every time my dad told me that doing the dishes was character building, he had biblical back up?

I really love that Paul says that character produces hope "and hope does not disappoint us" because of God's great love for us.  I love that phrase, too, "hope does not disappoint."

I was reading the Navarre Bible, so there were some pretty extensive footnotes.  It cross-referenced several other verses as to why suffering was necessary. (Again with the necessary? But I don't LIKE suffering!)

James 1:2-4 "Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness.  And let steadfastness produce it's full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing."

So clearly James and Paul have the same messed up view of reality, putting "joy" and "suffering" in the same place.

Peter does a good job of making it come together for me.  I hope you can see by now that I am the biggest pansy when it comes to suffering.  I have not had any great tragedies in my life, and the greatest suffering for me has been dealing with the great desire I have to be a wife and mother, and the fact that I am not either one.  Let me tell you, if I am first-timer at the gym, God is my trainer, and suffering is my work out, this is how it goes:

Me: (after a 5 minute warm-up on the treadmill) "Wow, God! That was a crazy workout!  Thanks for all you've taught me.  We're done now, right?"
God: (No words, just smiles and shakes His head. I think He might have smothered a laugh.)

Thing is, God, like a good trainer, pushes me farther than I knew was possible.  He makes me do things that seem ridiculous.  The whole time, I keep trying to explain to Him all the reasons why I can't do this, and He resolutely tells me that I can.  I really am the biggest whiner, at least to God, if not out loud, but He doesn't stop when I want Him to.  Just when I think I've mastered a new exercise, He makes it harder.  When one group of muscles is taxed to the extreme, He starts in on another group of muscles.  And don't forget, this really is a beginner kind of work out.

So why do we subject ourselves to heartless trainers? To get results of fitness.

Why do we rejoice in suffering?

1 Pet 1:6-7,9: "In this you rejoice, though now for a little while you may have to suffer various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold which though perishable is tested by fire, may redound to praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ...As the outcome of your faith you obtain salvation for your souls."

Oh. Right.

A couple of the saints on suffering:

"A person who hopes for something and strives eagerly to attain it is ready to endure all kinds of difficulty and distress.  Thus, for example, a sick person, if he is eager to be healthy, is happy to take the bitter medicine which will cure him.  Therefore, one sign of the ardent hope that is ours thanks to Christ is that we glory not only in the hope of future glory, but also in the afflictions which we suffer to attain it." - Thomas Aquinas

Perfection consists "in the bringing of our wills so closely in conformity with the will of God that, as soon as we realize he wills anything, we desire it ourselves with all our might, and take the bitter with the sweet, knowing that to be His Majesty's will [...]. If our love is perfect, it has this quality of leading us to forget our own pleasure in order to please him who we love. And that indeed is what happens" -Theresa of Avila

Monday, August 3, 2009

Cao's My New Favorite Politician

What?  A politician actually voting with what he believes is truly right? Even though he knows it could mean the end of his political career?  Read it and tell me what you think.

This Morning

I woke up at 4:30 this morning because of a thunderstorm.  Lots of thunder and lightning.  I got up to unplug my computer, then stumbled back to bed (literally; I looked kind of drunk).  I was very content when my head hit the pillow.  I love a good thunderstorm.  Now it's raining, and I can still hear some occasional thunder.

I really wish I could freeze this moment for a while.  Continue to mess around on the computer or read a book and listen to the weather outside.  Instead, I will enjoy the next 5 minutes, because after that, it's time to face the day.  This moment will be over, and it will be time to face Monday.

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Romans Again

So far, this is the most difficult text for me to read (Rom 3:21-5:21). I keep wanting to focus on ways that this does not mean that works are unnecessary.  The thing is, that focus is one that is entirely artificial and based on a conditioned response against sola fide (the belief that faith alone saves us).  I believe that it is true that that is not what the text is saying; if it were, it would not fit into context with other things that Paul says and other things that the Bible says.  But it is far from the main focus of the text and that mindset's going to make me miss what is really being said here.

I would like to talk specifically to Catholics for a minute.  We have overemphasized the role works play in our salvation.  Works don't save us. It's not the teaching of the Church, but it is certainly our understanding, and definitely something that a lot of us have been taught.  Maybe some have been taught that explicitly, but others may have picked it up implicitly.  I see a much greater emphasis and understanding today on the fact that it is grace that saves us, but I also still see the wounds of people that have been trying so hard to earn their way into heaven.  

Maybe you could pray to the Holy Spirit for understanding and healing, and then read these verses in Romans.  These words are life for us all.  

In 3:21, remember that Paul is talking to Christians that are both Jew and Gentile.  When he is talking about the works of the law, he is primarily referring to the 600 some proscriptions of the Jewish law.  Keep in mind that the Jews' history was one of being called by God and answering His call, only to fall away and turn back to sin.  When this happened, God allowed them time to repent, and if they didn't, He usually allowed them to be exiled or oppressed by a foreign political power.  They may have seen this as punishment, but God used this as mercy.  It was mercy, because in their need, they generally turned back to Him.  If He had allowed them not to feel their need, they would have continued in their sin.

At the time of Jesus, the people were no longer in exile, but they were under the Roman law.  They did not accept this graciously, and they looked for the Messiah to return them to their full religious/political status as God's people.  One of the ways that they did this was to be sure that they were following the law.  Did they ever follow it!  Down to the last letter.  This is part of the attitude of the Pharisees that led them to be such colossal pricks at times.  

Paul is announcing the new era brought by Jesus.  All people are to partake in the salvation that was ushered in by the Jews.  God had been giving hints of this from the very beginning when He told Abraham: "You shall be the father of a multitude of nations" (Gen 17:4).  In the time of the New Covenant, there is no longer a distinction between Jew and Gentile.  We can't grasp what this meant.  At that time, a Gentile could never enter fully into Judaism.  He could be a God-fearer and follow the law, but he would never be fully a Jew.  Paul is telling us that this distinction is wiped away by Christ.  We have equally sinned, and we equally have been offered grace through Christ. 

The Jews poured over the Scripture in their quest for God and waiting for the Messiah.  I think part of the problem was that they allowed their quest for God to become about them.  They wanted God to get the glory as long as it led to their glory as well.  They were not seeking God for His own sake.  

You can't tell me you haven't done this.  Okay, maybe you haven't, but I certainly have.  I may be following God, when suddenly something He shows me becomes about me.  Suddenly something that I had been doing for Him, I started doing for me.  It becomes about some other purpose than Him and Him alone.

Moving on.  I have to talk about works for a brief moment.  Sorry. It's a compulsion. Abraham was righteous before he was circumcised, because of his faith.  But what if he hadn't been circumcised?  He would be disobedient to God's command, and it would not be consistent with the faith that he had just professed.  Also, when we think of Abraham's faith, we think of his actions in preparing to sacrifice his only son at God's command.  We are impressed by his faith because of his actions (works).

Okay, so here's what I take from this.  Our walk with God should be one that is based on faith.  We should actively live that faith through our works, but we should be at peace, knowing that we will fail, we will sin, and that God will save us because He loves us no matter what.  Our peace should not be a complacent one... we don't want to be the servant that buried the talent that we were given, but it should be one where we know that God's abundance will supply for our lack.