Wednesday, September 30, 2009

More Contagious Than the Swine Flu

I love my mother, but some days she just doesn't get it.  And my grandparents!  I definitely don't think they get it.  My parents and grandparents have a lot to do with me having the hunger, and knowing where to look to satisfy the hunger, but that doesn't mean they understand.  We see the world differently in some ways.

It's very hard to describe what "it" is.  When I talk to fellow members of the JPII generation, I don't need to explain; they know what "it" is. "It" is the true spirit of Vatican II, not the crazy liturgical malformations that came out immediately following the Council.  "It" is a love for the Mass, not because of the promises of the Mass (my grandma can tell you all about those; she has the bookmark), but because of the way the Word of God comes alive; the way the Scriptures are breathed in every moment of the liturgy and because we have come to know Him in the breaking of the bread. "It" is the meaning of life and love through the lens of the human body, aka the theology of the body.  "It" is enthusiasm and excitement that cannot help but bubble out and spread through a brand new evangelization, both organized and spontaneous.  "It" is all over the country and the world.  I have witnessed it in Kansas City and Colorado and Seattle.  I have heard of it in Washington DC, Indiana, and Ohio. I have met members of this generation from everywhere.

We are not surprised when our friends go to seminary and join the convent. It is natural.  We love the liturgy.  Bring on the smells and bells!  The more the better. Mass? Yes. Confession? Yes, please.  NFP? Certainly, it's not a burden but a gift.  Scripture?  Thanks, I'd like some more. Adoration?  Definitely!

We are confused when older folks praise us for taking our faith seriously.  Uh.  How else would you take it?  We are not hanging around Mass because we should be there, but because there's no other place that we'd rather be.  Are we perfect? No.  We fail all the time.  It doesn't stop us, though.

I don't know how to explain it, but I praise God that I live in a time to be a part of it.  I think a lot of it is the vision of JPII, and how he lived that out with love.  I think for me, it makes more and more sense the better I understand his Theology of the Body.  Sometimes I don't know how to explain what I've learned, but I find it soaking in and changing me in ways that I don't even realize are happening.  I don't know how it's changed me, until my mom and I have a conversation, or my grandma and I have a conversation, and they say something that doesn't fit. 

For instance, let's take a hypothetical discussion about the Church's teachings about sex.  All three of us believe the Church's teachings.  As far as my grandma is concerned, what the Church says goes, and that's about all she needs.  My mom knows more about the reasons why, and that's great, but she's still going to go down the list about what's right and wrong, and how what's wrong is going to ruin us.  For me, it has started to become a lot less about what is right and wrong, and a lot more about why it is right and wrong.  It is more about the desire of the heart behind the various acts, and whether those acts can truly lead to the love the heart is longing for.  I really don't care that it's wrong.  I really don't.  I care that it is causing pain.  I care that hearts are crying out, longing for a love that is real, and despairing that they can't find it.  I follow the Church's teachings because they have the answer that my heart is craving, and because I have found healing there.  And that's what I want for others.

Anyway, that was not a very well organized post.  That was the thoughts that came tumbling out of my head and my heart as fast as I could type them.  I don't know if they make any sense or not, but I can summarize it for you. I love JPII.  I love Theology of the Body.  And TOB is more contagious than the swine flu.  I think that about covers it.

Tuesday, September 29, 2009

Chosen

Let's see if I can manage to mash a bunch of thoughts into some sort of coherent post.  Wish me luck!  (And good luck to you as you attempt to read whatever comes out.)

Today I almost threw a book across the room because it made me mad.  Okay, I'm exaggerating.  I wanted to throw it a little bit, but I wasn't that close to the actual act.  Partly because it was a crowded waiting room (let me tell you how much I love my car dealership waiting room right now; I'm sure my frustration had nothing to do with my little impulse).  Partly because I recognized that I was just being extremely immature and pouty and that throwing things probably wouldn't help.  

Anyway, it's a new book that I got about Theology of the Body and essays about how TOB and Mary come together.  I haven't gotten very far, what with the whole pouting, throwing thing and the fact that car dealerships are not that conducive to reading, even though there's nothing else to do.  The sentence I didn't like was this one:

"Through baptism, all Christians make of their body a sacrifice to God, but each has a particular call as to how to consecrate his or her body to God-- in consecrated life, sacramental marriage, or consecrated virginity."*

Where does that leave me?  I'll tell you.  In limbo, chosen by neither God nor man.

...

I know this is not the truth, and after I decided it was time to move past my pouting, I was thinking about this.  "Coincidently" I was reading Romans 9 last night at adoration, and there were a few things in there that directly pertain to this.

Verse 20:
"But who are you, a man, to answer back to God? Will what is molded say to its molder 'Why have you made me thus?'"

Actually, Paul, that is exactly what I'm saying.  This is not my choice.  So many things in my life are not just the way that I would like them.  Work is good, but there are changes coming, and I don't want them to.  I don't want to be single.  And I want my full two days back on the weekend.  Also, my car not trying to buck above 50 mph would be pretty sweet.  This is not how I want my life molded right now.

Verse 21:
"Has the potter no right over the clay, to make out of the same lump one vessel for beauty and another for menial use?"

So you're saying there's reason for all this; there is a purpose to this molding process?

A little later in the TOB book, it mentioned that we are all called to spiritual fruitfulness, even single people. (Oh, hey! I do exist! --Sorry.  Bitter much?)  I really, really get the feeling I need to stop complaining and fighting and let God work out His purpose in my life

I hope someday God can say the words of v 17 to me: "I have raised you up for the very purpose of showing my power in you, so that my name may be proclaimed in all the earth."**


*The Virgin Mary and Theology of the Body, edited by Donald Calloway, p. 11
**In the interest of full disclosure, you should know that I'm still much more in a pouty, whiny mood than really giving it up to God.  I can't even tell you the number of opportunities that I've had to work on this today, or the number of times that I've failed to work on this. (Here's a hint: the numbers are roughly equal).  Good thing it doesn't depend on my will or exertion, but on God's mercy (Romans 9:16). 

Monday, September 28, 2009

A Little Post Script

And then I went to Adoration.  An hour in His Presence that was made all the sweeter by how much I needed Him tonight.  My little problems still seem overwhelming to me right now, but I'm going to bed knowing that all in all it's a good day.  Monday beat me, but Jesus kicked Monday's butt.

Dear Monday,

Do you remember when we used to be friends?  Do you remember in elementary school when I used to wear my favorite outfits on your day because I liked you so much?  Not anymore.  Now if I wear my favorite outfit, it's not for you.  It's to get me through the day.

What was up today?  I've tried and tried to put up with you for old times' sake, but the older I get the more obnoxious you get.  I got out of bed this morning and I tried to be nice.  I didn't even dread you that much, but then you piled it on.  Why?  What did I do to you?

One crazy situation at work wasn't enough, there had to be two?  And the thing with my car.  And the first and last patients of the day not progressing like they should.  And why so many situations where I feel like a complete social schmuck? Also, thanks for making me totally incapable of coherent speech by the time I was trying to leave a message for the car dealership.  That was classic.  

Fine.  Okay.  You beat me.  Are you happy?  Now leave me alone.

Signed,

Your Former Friend

Sunday, September 27, 2009

The Wound Inside

We all have it.  Every single one of us.  Sometimes we are painfully, completely aware of it.  Like Antonio in The Merchant of Venice, we may not know "What stuff 'tis made of, whereof it is born" but we know it's there.

We may choose to ignore it.  We may have to work really, really hard to try to ignore it.  Maybe drugs.  Alcohol.  Food.  Work.  Sex.  My drug of choice is usually TV or a book.  Anything that makes the mind turn off or refocus.  Anything to make the pain, or at the very least the awareness of the pain, subside for a little while.  

It's amazing how many times we use very good things to try to chip away at the pain.  Marriage.  You may have noticed some of this in some of my posts.  If only I were married, then everything would be better.  Or kids.  That will take care of it.  Maybe if I'm in really bad shape, exercise is what I need.  Maybe what I need is social acceptance.  Maybe if I wasn't so horrifically awkward at times, then there would be no more pain in my life.  Maybe organization.  If I can kick my procrastination habit, maybe that will take away all my feelings of inadequacy and being overwhelmed.  Maybe if I can cure the physical pain of every patient that walks through the door.  That will make this indefinable pain go away.

Sometimes we don't know that there is pain there.  Everything feels fine.  Life is good.  The nerves to the pain have been numbed, deadening the pain.  We don't take care of the wound, because we don't really know that it's there.  That or we can't take it seriously, because if it was serious, it would hurt more, right?  It only means that there is more healing to go when we do finally face up to that wound.

I'm not talking here of all the wounds that are inflicted on us by others, or the tragedies that carve out new realities in life.  I'm talking about the underlying wound that makes these even more unbearable, or the one that makes more manageable hurts completely overwhelming.

Have you ever seen people doing strange things, and wondered what they were thinking?  There's all kinds of examples in the news all the time, completely crazy, twisted things.  Sometimes it's excess in spending, action, or dress.  Sometimes it's crime. I'm not going to drag anyone through the mud here, but I want to ask sometimes, "What pain drove you to this? What made you hurt like this? What is the ache that drove you to this reaction?"

I have theories about this pain, but I don't want to talk about them right now.  Instead, I want to join the cry of my heart to everyone else who is crying out, whether their cry is an agonized scream or wordless, nameless desperation.  Maybe it's an old pain that you really think you have "handled", or maybe it's new and bewildering.  No matter what, you are in my thoughts and prayers tonight.  You are in my heart.  I want to bring you with me to the foot of the cross, to the One who heals. 

Friday, September 25, 2009

Football!

Today was homecoming at our little school.  Good times all week long.  Wednesdays I go up to the school to check on any athletes that might be injured, and apparently it was Costume Day.  I actually don't know what the official name of the day was supposed to be, but that's what I call it.  I was most impressed by the the full teddy bear suit.  Who has a teddy bear suit that they keep handy?!

Anyway.  Today there was a homecoming parade. That was fun, and way better than the paperwork that was my alternative option. The parade goes right by our office, so we watched as the town started to gather, then went outside when the parade started.  There was the band, fire trucks, ambulances, police cars, pick ups with sports teams spilling off, convertible Corvettes for the entire homecoming court.  You know, just a small town getting together and celebrating.  It was a good time.  The football "float" (in my opinion, there has to be some sort of decoration to truly qualify as a float) led to some yells of "There's the trainer!", followed by handfuls of candy.  That's right boys, keep the chocolate coming.

The boys are "my" team, so of course that was one of my favorite parts, but they were not my favorite.  

My favorite was the little kids doing the chant from Remember the Titans.  "We are the 3rd grade, the mighty, mighty 3rd grade."  I died, and they totally beat the high school apes on cuteness.  Besides the 3rd grade is not regularly a pain in the rear. (Seriously, those boys can be a major pain in the patooty some days, but for some reason I still really enjoy working with them.  Go figure!)

Moving on.  Last week, I mentioned that I thought one of the guys might have a fracture.  The good news is that it was just a sprain.  Monday he came in on crutches and could barely move the ankle.  By Wednesday, he was moving quite a bit better, and the crazy thought occurred to me that there was a chance he could play Friday.  I thought it might be an outside chance, but a chance nonetheless.  Thursday, we taped him up and let him run some routes, and it looked really good.  He actually played tonight!  I still can't believe the difference in the last week.

Okay, the last thing that you have to know is that the team we were playing was top ten ranked.  This is the third team that we've played that was highly ranked, and the last two were not that fun.

On to the game itself. The first half was frustrating.  We couldn't move the ball for love nor money.  I don't know who decided to grease the ball, but there were fumbles like crazy. (Given the dew, I blame God for those.) Our long snapper had a few issues, so we fumbled some punts and that's never fun.  For example, one of our early possessions ended in a botched punt attempt that resulted in a safety.

Then one kid went down  because of an ankle.  When he got up and tried to walk off, he fell over and had to have help to the sidelines.  He was hyperventilating and I was a little worried he was going to pass out.  Get him calmed down, and guess what.  It's an ankle sprain.  Not even that bad of one.  He did get some swelling, and I have to give him that after all his dramatics, he really sucked it up and went back out there and played well.  He's hurting, for sure, but probably a little extra drama at the beginning.  At the half, coach's laconic comment to the kid was "First ankle sprain?"  I just laughed, but the kid picked up that maybe he'd over-reacted a little.  Oh, well.  He's tough.  Next time he'll probably limp off on his own.

The second half started quietly.  We were down 23-7. (Like how I throw that "we" around?)  We had another turnover from a fumble, and then... I don't know exactly what happened.  All of a sudden things just came together.  Big plays; a touchdown.  The other team helped us out by picking up some penalties at key points.  We were up with four minutes left, the other team had the ball and the opportunity to score, but they didn't.  When the clock finally ran down, they won!  It was fantastic!  

The kid, you know, the one that wasn't supposed to play?  He was everywhere.  On defense, he was blocking passes and tackling like nobody's business.  On offense, he had two or three long catches that set us up for scoring, and one touchdown. I sincerely do not think they would have won without him in the game.

All I can say is that I'm not a screamer, but if I were, I would have no voice right now.  Even though I am not a yeller, they still had me yelling part of the game.  There's no stopping it sometimes (and it's not like I try to stop myself, I just usually don't feel compelled to be loud).  The adrenaline was a little crazy, and I still don't quite feel like going to bed.

Great game.  Big win.  And on homecoming week, no less.  Love it.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Exciting Midwestern Driving

Waaay back in June when I was driving out to the Grand Canyon, I knew that there were some not so exciting midwestern states to drive through to get to my destination.  This time was a little different story.  For all of you that have already heard this a time or two, feel free to disregard this post.

I had to work Wednesday, and then I was going to start driving out to Colorado.  After lunch, my coworker asked me if I was leaving tonight or tomorrow.

"Tonight."
"Oh.  Drive safe."
"Uh, why do you say that?"
"There's supposed to be storms tonight.  Maybe tornados."

I wasn't about to worry about things that hadn't happened yet, so I flippantly thought to myself that I was going to be seeing a lot of things on this trip that I hadn't seen before; maybe a tornado would be one of the things.  

That evening I was driving.  And driving and driving and driving.  My sisters were going to join me for the trip, but not until a couple of days later, so I was in the car by myself.  I decided that even if this was just a "boring" state, I was going to enjoy as much of it as humanly possible.  You know what?  It was not a bad drive.  The sun played off the leaves and the grass in some really cool ways, and there were some impressive clouds in the west that were building in front of me and then going over.  I could tell that people somewhere to the north and east of me were going to get some storms and maybe even the tornado that my coworker was concerned about.

One storm was particularly impressive.  I was just on the edge of it to the south.  Let me tell you, those clouds were TALL.  Furthermore, the clouds to the north were very dark.  Storms are fascinating to me, so I was trying to look at all of it.  I could see quite a long ways, because it's the midwest, and it's flat.

Then I started to notice one cloud that was just in front of me and off to my right a little.  Huh.  That cloud was not just dark.  It was black. My little pea brain just thought that it was interesting to see the number of different shades in all the clouds.  Give me a little slack; I was also distracted by the fact that my ears were popping, even though I was nowhere near the mountains yet.

Then I started to notice that there were three little fingers of the cloud coming down.  Suddenly it occurred to me that I might want to be a little wary of that black cloud.  Those fingers were definitely just cloud and nothing else, but it was finally coming together for me.  I started to think about all the radar pictures that I have seen when there are tornado warnings, and a lot of the time they show you a spot of "rotation" and it seems to be on the edge of the storm.

So I keep driving, but I have my eye on this cloud.  Right before I pass a semi and my view is obscured, it looks like one of the fingers was moving.  

Sure enough, when I got around that truck, there was definitely a funnel cloud.  It was close enough to see, but far enough away that it was fascinating.  I had a little surge of adrenaline, but mostly I was just thinking, "Yes!  I've always kind of wanted to see one."

I keep watching.  I don't know how long it took me to notice what looked like a black cloud on the ground.  It took a little longer for it to register what it was. Debris cloud.  That was no mere funnel.  Even though I couldn't see it all the way to the ground, it was definitely a tornado.

Now I was trying to drive, watch the tornado, and figure out if there was any way that I could safely pull out my camera.  It did start to get to the point though, that the tornado was starting to look bigger and/or closer, and the adrenaline did start to kick in a little there.  I wanted out sooner rather than later.  It wasn't so close that I was worried about trying to find a ditch, but I definitely didn't want to stick around too long either.

It was really weird.  After I got to the point that the tornado was definitely behind me, suddenly the wind was much worse and was throwing the car around.  Also it was much lighter.  It was late enough in the evening, that I just thought night was coming on.  I hadn't realized how dark the storm had made it.  There were a couple of people stopped on the side of the road, and I kind of wanted to join them and get pictures, but I decided just to get out of there and go find a place to spend the night.  If another tornado was coming through, I wanted to be in an inner hallway away from doors and windows; not in a ditch.

And so it was that I survived that portion of my trip.  Who knew then that  killer chipmunks were still to come?


Tuesday, September 22, 2009

My Sink and My Soul

They have a little in common right now.  My sink has been draining slower and slower.  It's the gradual accumulation of crud; just little things, but they're gradually adding up to the point that water can barely get through.  I clean the surface of the sink, but I can't even tell you how grossed out I feel about the idea of getting deeper inside to clean out the root of the problem.  In fact, I don't think I can do it.  I'm going to have to call the landlord.  Poor guy.

Then there's my soul.  You ever get that feeling that the little things start to build up?  If sins can be called "little things".  Definitely got some crud going on in there.  I have a feeling that it's pretty slimy and gross as well.  The grace that God is ready to pour through me is slowed up by this nastiness.  You know, I do clean it.  I do go to God to ask for forgiveness.  But what I really need is confession.  I tend to get the surface by myself, but with the accountability and grace of confession, God helps me go deep and get rid of the real nastiness.

I don't exactly look forward to confession, but I'm ready.  Let's get the slimy, gross nastiness out!

Sunday, September 20, 2009

The Type That Makes Sense

I have spent time in my life being a little confused about Mary.  Well, that's not technically true.  I would have been confused about her, but instead I chose not to think too much about her one way or the other.  It's not that I have a problem with her being honored, or that I have any huge problems with the Church's teachings about her.  What left me just this side of indifferent was the way that those teachings sometimes get lived out.  When I was in high school, I heard someone flat out say that they were more comfortable with Mary than they were with Jesus.  I saw others that lived as though that were the case.  I talked a little more about my feelings on the subject here.  Anyway, with that kind of background, I had a tendency not to be all that interested in Mary.

Here's the problem.  Clearly, when someone feels more comfortable with Mary than they do with Jesus, they need to get that straightened out, and quick.  However, there's another side of it that I've started to see more and more.  Those people that I know that have a deep and real relationship with Jesus, and who also deeply honor Mary, have a depth, texture, dimension, something in their relationship with God that I don't understand and want very much to know more about.

When I took the time to actually pull my vague thoughts about Mary out of the closet and examine them in the light of day, I could see clearly that I'm missing out.  I'm telling you that these years of mostly indifference don't go away in a day, but there are things here and there that are helping.

One thing that I've started to see is that when there is a true and right honoring of Mary, it is primarily honoring Christ.  It is because of her relationship to Him that we honor her.  Many of the teachings about her are primarily because of Him.  The teaching that she is the Mother of God is because the Church was clarifying that Jesus, who is both truly God and truly man, is still one person.  As the mother of this person, Mary is the Mother of God, even though she wasn't around from all eternity and even though she is a creature created by the Word, her Son.

The other thing that I've been thinking about a lot is a certain type from the Old Testament.  I don't know how many of you have heard of or are interested typology, but I love it.  You have to be careful not to get too carried away, but essentially, God prophesied in many ways.  He spoke through His prophets, but He also spoke through real events that happened.  For example, Isaac was an only son, taken up a mountain to be slaughtered.  In this way, he is a type and foreshadowing of God's only Son, who was also taken up a mountain to be slaughtered.  Only, Isaac was saved, and Jesus completed the work He had taken up.

There are some types of Mary, too, and the one that I love is the ark of the covenant.  Think about it.  What did the ark contain? The word of God, the commandments, written on stone.  The miraculous manna from the desert.  The staff giving the authority of the priesthood to Aaron's line.

In her womb, Mary carried the Word of God in the flesh.  She carried the true Bread come down from heaven.  She carried the eternal and perfect High Priest.

Scott Hahn, in his book Hail Holy Queen (chapter 3) points out this interesting set of parallels between David's journey to bring the ark to Jerusalem and Mary's visit to Elizabeth. (ESV)

2 Sam 6:2 "And David arose and went"
Luke 1:39 "...Mary arose and went with haste to the hill country"

(Hahn points out that both were proceeding to the hill country of Judah.)

2 Sam 6:9 "And David was afraid of the LORD that day, and he said, "How can the ark of the LORD come to me?"
Luke 1:43 (Elizabeth says) "And why is this granted to me that the mother of my Lord should come to me?"

Hahn points out that similar expressions are used for the way that David danced before the ark, and the way that John leaps in his mother's womb (2 Sam 6:14, 16 and Luke 1:44).  Furthermore, both Mary and David remain in the hill country for about three months (2 Sam 6:11, and Luke 1:56).

Now, if you're looking for some kind of proofs about Mary or the doctrines about Mary, I don't have them, at least not tonight.* However, this is the image that finally made some things click into place for me.  Think of how the Jews in the Old Testament treated the ark, because it was so holy (set apart), so sacred.  It was not what it was in itself that made it holy, but because of what it contained. This is why we call Mary blessed (Lk 1:48) and this is why we recognize the place that God has exalted her to (Lk 1:52).

Think of what the ark was made of: acacia wood and the purest gold.  This is why we believe that Mary was untouched by sin, so she could be the purest possible vessel for Jesus.** 

Think of how the ark, during the time of exile, was hidden in a safe place, to be kept holy and untouched.  Mary, body and soul, the new ark of the covenant, was also hidden in a safe place, so she was not touched by the corruption of death.

If the ark of the covenant was so holy, and it contained only symbols, how could we not treat the ark of the new covenant, the ark that contained God Himself with at least as much love, respect and devotion***?

When I think of the holiness of Mary, and I think of why she is so holy, it gives me even greater awe of Christ.  Sometimes, since He makes Himself so available to us, since He loves us so much and so personally I forget how holy He is.  

He. Is. God.

That, my friends, is what the doctrines about Mary teach me.



*If you want a lot more about Mary as the new ark of the covenant, or more about Mary and Scripture, check out Hahn's book.
**We do believe that she was only sinless by the grace of Christ crucified.  The rest of us fall into the pit of sin and are pulled out only by grace.  We believe that Mary was saved only by grace, but that she was saved by keeping her from falling in.
***"Devotion", as I am used to using the word, is NOT the same thing as worship.

Friday, September 18, 2009

Some Days I Just Don't Know...

Another week, another possible fracture.  It's not good when one of your go-to guys is on the sidelines with a fracture.  It's really not good when 3 of them are there.  The one that got injured today may not be a fracture, but I have a bad feeling.  If there are three fractures in three weeks, I'm going to hang up my fanny pack.  This is stupid and it has to stop.

Also, we lost.

Thursday, September 17, 2009

A Few Little Things

[7_quick_takes.jpg]
I have a bunch of little things, but nothing too big, so I thought I would try joining the crowd at Jen's for the 7 Quick Takes.

1) I don't think that I'm in Coach's top 5 right now.  There are a whole slew of injuries on the team, and it's my job to tell him that some of his players can't play.  We had this highly productive conversation the other day:

Me: "I'm not sure he's going to be able to play."
Coach: "But I need him."
Me: "He can't hold his leg against resistance."
Coach: "But I need him."

What, Coach, you think that if you finally convince me that you really need him, then he'll be less injured?  

2) I bit into a Baby Ruth today.  I know, I know, my life is full of crazy excitement.  No, the point is that it was one of those mini candy bar things, and the wrapper was just fall colors.  It was exactly the same size and shape as the Butterfinger that I thought I was reaching for.  I was expecting crunchy, but I got soft.  I don't always think logically in unexpected situations like that, so I would have liked to have been able to see my face for the split second that I was trying to figure out what on earth could go that wrong with a Butterfinger and how it could spoil that badly.

3) Being single is not that fun.  Some days are better than others, but the last couple of weeks have been a little tough.  They haven't been really bad. (If they had, you'd have seen all kinds of "woe is me" posts before now.)  It's just been there, this constant ache.  I can feel it in every fiber of my being (and also in my teeth- they're not really fibers) but yet it's not really a feeling, either.  I don't know how to describe it.

4) My apartment is a mess.  I have alternated between too busy or too tired to take care of it.  There may also be some apathy.  This is a problem, because they're supposed to come tomorrow to spray for bugs.  I'm supposed to have 24 hours notice, but that doesn't work if they slide it under my door after I leave, and I don't get home until 10:00.  I have less than 12 hours, some of which I will be sleeping, some I will be getting ready for work, and obviously some of that time I'll be blogging (I have my priorities straight).  Maybe I can squeeze in a few minutes to pick up as well.

5) I have been listening to a great seminar by a man that has spent his life learning Judaism and the eastern culture.  The insights that he brings to the biblical text are amazing.  Some seem way different than what I'm used to thinking.  I can't wait to share some of it, but I feel like I need to soak it in more first.

6) I'm really not ready for another football game tonight.  On the one hand, I really enjoy them.  On the other hand, it's really hard keeping up with the injuries...maybe we should skip a week.  Then most of the injured players should be back in and ready to go.  Yeah.  Right.

7) Well, I'd love to add something else really great here, but I seriously have to go try to do a little picking up. I hate spray day!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Only Half My Head

I'm not sure if I got subjected to a medical student today or if he got subjected to me.

I realized a month or two ago that I don't really have a regular doctor.  That's not so good.  It means that I let things go longer than I should because there's no one I feel that comfortable with. I usually get away with it, and things go away.  However, I work in the healthcare field and know that's not really the best way to do things.  So I decided that I should get some routine bloodwork and a physical done at the local doctor's in the town where I work.

First issue: the town where I work.  As I was sitting in the waiting room, one of MY old patients came out of the back.  It wasn't too bad, but I had to bite back the urge to blurt out "There'sreallynothingwrongwithme!" Apparently I feel much more comfortable on the other side of the desk.

Also, there are some weird art deco things on the wall.  I won't decorate with that kind of stuff, but I don't object to other people that do, unless they have creepy faces on them, like the painting "Scream".  Anything reminiscent of "Scream" does not belong on the wall of a doctor's office.

Then the nurse called me back.  No nonsense, no real talking besides "step on the scale" "get measured" (I'm only 5'4-1/2"!  All this time I thought I was 5'5"!), "I'm going to check your pulse."  

I like how I told her that I needed my thyroid checked and she drew the blood before the doctor even came in.  I was ready to go before I saw the whites of the doctor's eyeballs.  But that's not how it worked.

There was a knock on the door.  I thought that was a little weird.  Most doctors just walk right in.  It turned out to be a med student.  Now that makes perfect sense.  Students are typically quite polite.  They haven't gotten to the point of in and out and on to the next one.  I also knew that I was in for a little longer haul.  Students do not tend to be very efficient.  That's why they have to practice.  In this case, I didn't mind being a guinea pig.  It wasn't so long ago that I was the fumbling PT student sprung on unsuspecting victims patients.

First he went through all the history.  There was really nothing to tell him.  Poor guy; it kind of threw his interview when there was nothing to pursue.  He did fine, though.  Then he did the physical exam.  He checked cranial nerves (the ones that move the face)!  Cranial nerves?! Really?  I guess it's good practice, but I don't think he'll use that in real life on most patients.  I don't like getting cranial nerves checked because it involves me making lots of faces and I keep thinking about how goofy I feel, so then I make the wrong face.

It was kind of funny when he checked my reflexes; he knows PTs check those, so I think it made him a little nervous that I might be critiquing his technique.  I was.  He didn't do so bad with the standard patella (knee kick) one, but when he tested the ones in my arms I highly doubt that he got much, if any, response.  He didn't put me in a position where I could relax enough for a true reflex to occur.  On one arm, he held my forearm, but that's the part that supposed to move if there is a reflex.

Then there was the part that he was checking my scalp for moles.  That's good. I usually don't wear hats or sunscreen on my head, and I'm single, so it's really hard for me to check that.  The only problem was that I suddenly had a vision in my head of chimps searching through each other's fur to pick the bugs off.  I was so weirded out by that mental image that I didn't bother to say anything after he stopped with the right side and never looked at the left side or the back!

Finally the doctor came in, and she was great.  She worked to make a little of a personal connection and seemed thorough.  I hope I don't have much of a need to go back, but I'll be happy to go there if it's necessary.

On a serious note, it was sobering to go through a physical and have such a clean bill of health.  I know/know of/work with a lot of people that cannot say that.  There are a lot of people that live with pain as a daily fact of life.  Seeing how graciously many of them live in the midst of their struggles and hard days (and I always think of my grandparents), I always hope that if for some reason I do find myself with injury/illness/pain that I can live life to the fullest even when "fullest" comes to have a whole different definition.  I work in a profession where I know that it is possible for the state of one's health to change very rapidly, so I never want to take health for granted.  Please pray for those whose pain is as much a part of their life as breathing!

Sunday, September 13, 2009

I Could Use a Few Prayers

I don't know exactly what my problem is right now, but I have been really stressed out.  There are some things at work that are stressing me some, but I don't think that they should account for the level of stress that I feel.  I don't know for sure what's causing this, but I do know that I could use some prayers.

Thanks!

Expectation and Reality

So, I was thinking.  One of these days I plan to give that up, but so far I haven't been able to kick the habit.  Instead, I keep thinking, and then I have to come to this blog to dump it.  Here's what I've been thinking about this last week.

Have you ever had a vague idea or an impression of what something might be, but when you saw it, you didn't even recognize it.  I remember a story about one of my cousins taking a trip to the mountains for the first time when he was about 3 or 4.  As they started to get in the foothills, his parents and two older siblings started to exclaim about the mountains.  He got upset.  He wanted to see the mountains, too, but he couldn't because all the "hills" were blocking his view.

I think sometimes about the Jews at the time of Jesus.   They studied the Scriptures.  They had intimate knowledge of Scripture in ways that we cannot understand.  Not only did many of the males have the first five books of the Bible memorized, but they also knew the culture and the language that the books were originally written in.  They knew the Messiah was coming.  They even had some idea that he was coming soon, but a lot of them didn't recognize him.  Do you think they were trying to look past the "hill" to find the mountains they were looking for?

I think that happens with the Church sometimes, too.  We know that Jesus established a Church, but we don't have a great idea of what it looks like.  If it looks kind of institutional at times, it really turns us off. I don't know what the mountain of Christ's Church looks like, but that particular hill can't be it!  That's just one of the ways that the externals of the Church can really obscure the way we see the reality of what the Church is. (We won't even get started on how unimpressive the Church can look after you put a bunch of sinners like me in it.)

I think of my cousin, looking for a church that interprets the Bible according to the teaching of the Apostles' and the subsequent teachings of the early church fathers.  He wants to find something that bases all of its teachings on these sources.  And I wonder if he will ever realize this "hill" in his way is actually the mountain he's been looking for all along.


Saturday, September 12, 2009

Another Week. Another Game.

The injuries seem a little less serious this week, but there were still a fair number.  Once again I managed to find plenty of sweat.  Also spit.  That was pleasant.  Tomorrow I will make my way down to the clinic for a veritable party of injured football players.  Nothing like a bright and early Saturday in the clinic.  Yay!

Today, right before the guys were getting ready to go on the field, I was standing around the corner of the locker room.  I wasn't in it, but I could hear everything: cleats skidding on the concrete floor, kids coughing, the occasional muted burst of laughter or the guys razzing each other.  They had to do it quietly, though, because Coach seems to like everyone to be quiet so they can get focused on the game.  Every 5 minutes or so, Coach would give them the update on how much time they had left to get ready.

Then Coach started talking, quietly but with intensity.  It wasn't quite time for the pre-game talk, so it was a little surprising.  

The first thing that I noticed was what a nice voice he has when he isn't yelling.  I think I noticed because I could only listen, and I couldn't see him.  Then I really started to hear what he was saying, and I noticed that they were words that I really need to hear sometimes, too.

"Don't be afraid of turnovers.  Go all out, and don't let fear change the way you run, the way you do things.

"When you make a mistake let it go.  Learn from it, and let it go.  You can't carry all those with you, it's too heavy a burden.

"Keep your head up and keep playing, every single play.  You never know what's going to happen in each play, so stick with it to the very end."


Preach it, Reverend Coach.

Friday, September 11, 2009

Liturgy and Me

Raise your hand if the word "liturgy" brings up all sorts of feelings.

Now, raise your hand if you can give me a precise definition of what "liturgy" actually means.

The point of this exercise is to point out that there is something about the word liturgy that raises strong opinions and prejudices, but we don't quite know what it is that we're talking about. (The other point of this exercise is that I get a kick out of the idea of people sitting at their computers by themselves raising their hands. Even better if there's a confused family member or pet watching.  I know that no one actually raised their hands, but the idea amuses me.)

As usual on this blog, when I say "we", I mean primarily "me".  I say "we" because it makes me feel better.  All I can tell you is that I didn't know exactly how to define liturgy for a long time.  I was comfortable with the word, but I didn't quite know what it was.  The simple definition of liturgy is the form of public worship.

I can think of two people in particular that I know that have some very negative connotations of liturgy.  One, my cousin L, was trying to get a handle on it and asked if I meant the order that they do specific things in.  Actually, that is a pretty precise definition.  Another told me that she had been to Masses before at weddings, and she really didn't like them because everything was out of a book.  She didn't feel that there was any "room for the Spirit to move."  As I think about it, there're several Christian fiction authors that portray liturgical churches as dead churches with people blindly moving through the motions, but never finding God.  They seem to see liturgy as dry, dusty rules and formulaic prayers that almost act as a shield to keep the true life and grace of Christ from reaching the people.

STOP THINKING LIKE THAT!!  THE LITURGY IS AMAZING!!

Sorry to yell at you like that, but these are the things that want to come bursting out when I'm having these conversations or reading these books.  For the sake of politeness in conversation, and because I like to maintain a facade of sanity when I'm sitting quietly reading, I push those feelings back in.  Here, they have to come out.

Let's talk about the form of public worship.  If you write it all out, it sounds like a bunch of rules.  Liturgy is not about rules, it's about praying as a community.  By following this form, we can all worship as one throughout the world.  I will never forget one Sunday when I was in one state, my parents, grandparents and 3 siblings were in three other states, and two of my sisters were in Germany.  It occurred to me at that time that we all had the same Mass that day.  We all had the same readings, we all worshipped together, even while we were separate. That is one of the many beauties of having a formal type of worship.  

(As a note, I have not traveled out of the country, but my sisters have been to Germany and Mexico, and they point out that they always know where they are in the Mass, even if they don't precisely understand the words.)

For some reason, people get the hives about anything with to do with religion (whoops, excuse me; that's a naughty word) anything to do with their relationship with Christ being "routine", no matter how sacred that routine is.  But think about it for a minute.  Friday night before football, there is a routine.  Tape and dress at 5. Pep talk.  Stretches at 6. Line up to go out on the field by 6:30.  Specific warm up routine on the field.  Timed. Precise. Orderly.

Why?  Because they are acting as a team.  They are preparing to go out as a unit.  This familiar routine helps them to get focused and warmed up for the big event that they've been preparing for all week.  Why wouldn't we take the same care and preparation in getting ready to worship God?  Why couldn't those same principles of order help us to get mentally and spiritually focused?

One final thing.  I think that people tend to dislike the liturgy because they think of it as nothing but external ritual that has nothing to do with true worship.  What precisely do you think that worship is? It can't simply be a feeling.  Worship is something that we should be able to offer to God no matter what we're thinking or feeling.  It is true that without a relationship with God and without knowledge of the Bible, the liturgy will never come to life.  It is NOT true that a personal relationship with Jesus and a knowledge of the Bible renders liturgy superfluous.  It's exactly the opposite. Once the innermost part of you is set on fire with the Word of God, then that can overflow into the external ritual, and every last part of that ritual becomes a part of the worship.  Finally the liturgy begins to make a little sense, and you start to see it for what it really is: a glimpse into heaven.



 

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The Restroom Situation

The clinic that I work in is just a little tiny thing.  It has one big room with a cubby hole that I can use for semi-private treatments.  That's it.  No closets or anything.  We are connected to a 24-hour gym next door.  That's where the bathrooms are, that's where the vacuum cleaner is ('cause they're special and they have closets).  Actually, that's where a lot of the equipment that I use is, too.

Let's go back to the bathrooms for a minute.  There is a men's restroom and a women's restroom.  (Both small, single room affairs.) For the last week, the women's restroom has been out of order!  Do you understand what that means??? Not only do I have to use a men's restroom, but it's a men's restroom at a gym.  Is that worse than usual?  Somehow it seems worse than other random places, though not nearly as bad as a locker room.  You understand that I have very little basis (i.e. no basis) of fact for my speculation as to which men's rooms would be better or worse, but somehow these seem so much worse than an office building or something.

The first day that I discovered this problem as I was heading to use the facilities, I decided I could hold it a while.  I was not about to use this particular men's room (again, not that I had anything to base it on; I had never been in there).  Of course, after a while, I needed to do something.  So I grabbed a disinfectant wipe from the gym, took a deep breath and headed in.

I turned on the light, shut the door, and turned to the toilet.

Then I threw away the wipe, and left.

It was all I feared and SO MUCH WORSE.  As I told some of my friends, if I took the disinfectant wipe, followed it with bleach, then covered the seat in alcohol so I could BURN IT OFF, I still wasn't sure I could sit on that seat. 

Of course, that still left me with an issue of finding a restroom or facing some serious embarrassment.

So I took a look at my schedule and realized that I had a home patient that I had to go see that was a few miles away in the town where I live.  I quickly called to get that set up, and made a stop at home.  Since that day, I have not been making lunch, ensuring that I have to leave the premises in the middle of the day.  And I've been limiting the fluid intake just a little.  And I've been very thankful that I don't have the smallest bladder ever.

I can't wait until the women's restroom is fixed.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

Do I Look Stupid?

Here's the thing, I know a lot more than you think I know.  You know a lot less than you think you do.

Don't try to fake an injury.  It'll just make you look bad.

For instance, when I told you I'm going to measure your knee, you only bent it 80 degrees.  When I put you on a bike, what you don't know and I do is that it takes 100-105 degrees to bike in full revolutions, and that's if the bike is properly adjusted.  So if it's too close, and you can still bike in full revolutions, that is what we call an inconsistency.  We can't call it a lie, because we can't feel for sure where your pain is or how bad it is, but it is definitely an inconsistency.

When I was young and dumb less experienced and more naive, I had a lot harder time telling the difference between normal variations in injuries and certain inconsistencies.  Now I can't always prove it, but I can usually tell if:

You are really injured, but are milking it a little bit.
You are really injured, but are just a big baby about pain (12/10 on a pain scale is a big hint).
You are really injured, and you're actually hurting more than you want to tell me.
You are really injured, but the pain is referred from something else.
You are not really injured.

In a situation like this, it's usually a combo of the first two. There were enough things in your case to make me seriously consider the last one.  I don't think I've ever seriously considered the last option.  Really. Don't try to fake it. You're no good at it.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Romans

I was reading Romans again.  Today, I'm not going to share all kinds of thoughts with you about the book of Romans.  I'm going to share the verses that touched my heart last night.  (Really, from verse 18 on, but I'm going to narrow it down a little.)

"Likewise the Spirit helps us in our weakness; for we do not know how to pray as we ought, but the Spirit himself intercedes for us with sighs too deep for words...

"We know that in everything God works for good with those who love him...

"What then shall we say to this? If God is for us, who is against us? He who did not spare his own son but gave him up for us all, will he not also give us all things with him?...

"For I am sure that neither death, nor life, nor angels, nor principalities, nor things present, nor things to come, nor powers, nor height, nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord."

Monday, September 7, 2009

What If...

There were no hypothetical situations?

(I didn't come up with this, but don't know who to attribute it to)

Bible Alone

Sola Scriptura and I are not good friends.  I admit that I am fascinated by the concept and have spent some serious time thinking about it off and on for over the course of more than a decade.  I would say that I still don't understand it in the slightest.  I think part of it is because I have a very, very narrow view of what sola scriptura is.  I'm not sure that it's the correct interpretation, so that may be a part of the issue.

What is it?  If anyone is reading this that believes (or has believed in the past) that the Bible and the Bible alone is the final source of authority for Christian belief, I would love to hear what you believe about it and why.  When I've asked Protestant friends about this belief, they often have simply accepted it as fact for all their lives, and can't tell me anything about the belief itself.  Does it mean that you can find out everything you need to know from the Bible with nothing else at all?  That is to say, some outside sources may be helpful, but if all you had was the Bible, you wouldn't absolutely need anything else?

I mentioned my cousin earlier.  L is a truly great guy, and I love it when I get a chance to talk to him.  Within the last 5 years or so, he began to feel a deep hunger for God, and has been truly inspiring in his desire to follow that hunger wherever it leads him.   In the course of this, he decided that the Catholic Church was not the place for him, and he believes that the Catholic Church is very wrong.  We have in the past directly discussed some of the issues that we disagree on, but mostly we focus on the things that we both really agree about.  We both have a fascination for the early Church, and the writings of the Church fathers.  I have to admit that he has read way more than I have, but I at least know enough that we can have a conversation.  We also both have a desire to learn a greater understanding of the Jewish roots of our beliefs.  When I was down there this time, he gave me this talk from a guy that has done a lot of Jewish studies at Jewish universities (including in Israel it sounds like).  It's fascinating!

Anyway, back to the Bible alone.  Right now, I think L has gotten seriously sick of the back and forth between Protestants and Catholics, and he doesn't really want to read much that either one has to say.  He wants to get back to the source.  The main thing that he wants to do is to learn from Scripture alone.  He wants to dig deep into Scripture and nothing else.   He feels when he understands Scripture better, then he can go on from there.

I had to ask how he was going to do that.

He kind of stops.  He looked at me like I was a little off my rocker. "Umm, you mean how am I going to read the Bible and nothing else?"

Okay, so it did sound a little ridiculous when he put it like that.  The thing is, we come to the Bible with certain thought processes.

For example, take the word "worship".  What is worship?  What does that mean to you?  Is it singing songs of praise?  Is it a sermon? Is it sitting on the beach at sunset? Is it the Mass? Is it prayer?

Now read Acts.  When it talks about believers coming together to pray, to have church, what does that mean to you?  Is your definition the definition that the early Christians actually would have had, or is it just your experience coloring what you think is truly happening there?

I read the Bible through the view of the Catholic tradition.  Many read with a Lutheran view, or a Calvinist viewpoint or a Baptist viewpoint.  I'm not trying to knock any of them, but only to make the point that each of these viewpoints is a tradition of interpreting the Bible that colors how we see what we read.  How can we say that we believe in the Bible alone, when our entire lives touch how we see the words?

What was particularly interesting to me when I was talking to L was that he talked of reading the Bible only, but one of the things that he is doing to help understand the Bible better is to read more of the history written by Josephus.  I think that's fantastic, and I think it's going to give him a great perspective about what he's reading in the Bible, but the point is that it is NOT the Scripture alone.

Any thoughts?

This Weekend

I got to spend the weekend with my family.  I left early Saturday morning and got back this morning.  It started when I asked my grandparents if I could come for a visit.  I also talked to my cousin, L., to see if he would be around, so we could get together.  He came down, too, and did we ever have a talk!  I'll have to tell you about it, but not now.  My sisters knew I was coming, and decided to drive 3 hours to Grandma and Grandpa's rather than 5 hours to my parents.  They have class today, so they didn't have as much time as the rest of us.  They also brought another cousin of mine that goes to the same school as they do.  His parents and 3 of his siblings then came to see everyone as well.  Then one of my other uncles heard about people getting together and came with three of his kids.

It was actually slightly on the small side for one of our gatherings, but it was a lot of fun.

Now I'm going to take a nap.  (And then after that, I have all kinds of things to say about Bible reading, Judaism, liturgy, spirituality, open/closed mindedness, and maybe a story about a wasp.)

Friday, September 4, 2009

What. A. Game.

I am officially a fan of the team that I'm working with.  Not just because I have to be, but because I really am a fan.  They lost tonight; but I swear they played harder than any losing team I ever saw.  After a while, you start to see resignation and frustration reign supreme.  These guys didn't let it.  They let their heads hang a little a couple of times, but picked them right back up.  The guys that were dinged up were just as anxious to get back in the game in the 4th quarter as they were in the 1st.  I can't decide if they're all heart or slightly insane.

I had a much busier night than I would like.  Not because I'm lazy, but because it's not good when the athletic trainer is busy.  I was covered in sweat when the game was over; but it wasn't my sweat. (Too much information? Sorry.) Our quarterback got injured right at the end of the first quarter, and may be done for the season.  A couple of guys were somewhat dehydrated and cramping by late in the second half, so I was trying to get them stretched out (thus the sweat), and one guy may have pulled a muscle a little bit.  Hard telling, because he wouldn't stay out of the game long enough for me to check.  It couldn't have been too bad, because he could run without limping.

Bottom line is that there are going to be a lot of sore guys tomorrow.  Also good news for the team is that the backup QB did a pretty decent job, especially given the opponent.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

When Heaven = Boring

Oh, c'mon.  Give me a minute before you judge me.  Tell me that you never thought that heaven sounded boring.  I did.  I wasn't really sure that sitting on a cloud playing a harp sounded that interesting, but it did sound a lot better than the fires of hell.  I guess I didn't literally believe that we'd be playing harps, but I couldn't think of what we'd be doing that would be interesting for an eternity.  Then, when someone said something about worshipping God for eternity, I thought, "Great.  Church all the time."

The long and the short of it is that there is no way that we can know what heaven will be like here on earth. "Eye has not seen" and all that jazz.  It is interesting to me to realize the ways that my views of heaven have changed as I have gone on.  Actually, I think it was my idea of hell that might have changed first.  Someone mentioned eternal separation from God.  I suddenly realized how horrific that was. Fire seemed very minor and secondary to the point that if you're in hell, there is no repentance, no reconciliation with God, no growing closer to Him.

I think the other thing that has changed is starting to realize that all the good things of this earth are not things that we "give up" in order to gain something better in heaven, but rather are the things that point us to heaven and prepare us for it.  I love the mountains, and there is something about them that speaks to my soul.  I don't live in the mountains, but when I am there, something just feels right.  One day, I realized that there would be mountains in heaven.  Okay, there may not be actual mountains, but I realized that whatever it was about the mountains that called to me would not only be present in heaven, but perfected there. 

I guess little by little I have stopped seeing the afterlife as an afterthought, if that makes any sense.  My lack of understanding used to see heaven as a consolation prize for those that had to die.  Now I'm starting to understand a little better how this life not "real life" so much as a preparation for real life in heaven.  I still don't really grasp what all that means.  When my grandma died last year, though, it made me see her death as beginning.  It was like she had graduated.  It was not the end. As much as I miss her sometimes, I don't want her back here.

This is slightly changing directions, but I also found (and love!) this passage in the Dialogue of Catherine of Siena.  This is written as the heavenly Father speaking to Catherine about the people in heaven:

"Forever they rejoice in love at the sight of me, sharing in that goodness which I have in myself and which I measure out to them according to the measure of love with which they have come to me...They rejoice and exult with the angels... And though they are all joined in the bond of charity, they know a special kind of sharing with those whom they loved most closely with a special love in the world, a love through which they grew in grace and virtue.  They helped each other proclaim the glory and praise of my name in themselves and in their neighbors.  So now in everlasting life they have not lost that love; now, they still love and share with each other even more closely and fully, adding their love to the good of all."

So, friends, know that this is talking about you.  (I think that creepy amounts of love would count as "special love in this world", right? Or is that not the same kind of "special"?)


Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Why?

There was an interesting homily at Mass tonight.  The Gospel reading was about when Jesus healed Simon Peter's mother-in-law.

"Why?" the priest asked.
"Why did He heal her and not others?  Why today do some live and some die?  Why do some people lose their jobs and their homes?"

Then he told us all that we're asking the wrong questions.

He told us that we should rather ask whether God truly loved us.  If He truly died for us.  If we really believe that He has prepared a place for us in eternity.

He said that it doesn't mean that the hard times will suddenly become less difficult, just that we would have our focus more in the right place.

I dunno.  The way he said it, it sounded a little harsh.

It also sounded a lot true.

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

Insecurity. Ain't It Grand?

Some days I feel like I know what I'm doing.  I don't know everything, but I know as a general rule what I'm doing, where I'm going, and how I'm going to get there.

Then there are the days like the last couple of days.  I'm not sure I'm making the right decision on one thing, and all my other decisions suddenly feel suspect as well.  Sometimes I grind to a paralyzed halt, because I'm frozen in second-guessing mode, and can't seem to move forward.  Nothing I seem to do is the right thing.   Good news is, there's Mass this evening.  That's a guaranteed right choice.