Monday, November 30, 2009

Roots

It was so great to see my family this weekend.  What is it about family?  There are so many ways that we are different and so many things that we disagree on, but it's so great to see them, to be around them.  We catch up on all the new things and remember all the old stories.  We eat way too much food, play cards, and always some people go out to play football.  Sounds a little Norman Rockwell-y, but it's the way it is and it's magic.

After I left my grandparents' house (my mom's parents), I started to drive home.  On the way, I made a little side trip to the town where my dad grew up.  It's only a few miles out of my way.  We haven't gone there regularly as a family in the last 18 years since my grandpa died and my grandma moved away.  Even though it's so close when we visit my mom's side of the family, my dad never wants to go there.  I think that part of the problem is that he is not sentimental enough to want to walk down memory lane; he'd rather get home.

It may also be too depressing.  It's a teeny tiny town that is slowly dying.  Only a couple of the public buildings are open for business.  Every 3rd or 4th house seems to be boarded up and falling down.  My dad has a lot of great childhood stories, but they never had much money.

I could easily get a little depressed by the decay of time, but I'm too busy being fascinated by the idea that this is where my dad and grandpa grew up.  I'm trying to imagine what the town must have been like at that time.  I love that the little church is still there and (relatively) thriving.

I don't go there because of the town, though.  My reason for being there takes me east, over the railroad tracks and up the dirt road.  A mile out of town, on top of a hill, is a little cemetery.  That is my destination.  It is now the only place that I can go to visit my dad's parents.

I miss them a lot.  When my grandpa first died, I was sad, but not too much.  We lived too far away to visit often, and I remember playing with my cousins much more than hanging out with the adults.  The older I get, the more I miss him.  The more I got to be old enough to know and appreciate my other grandparents, the more I wanted to know him.

My grandma died a year and a half ago.  I am finally beginning to realize that she is not just a phone call away; that I can't run down over the holidays to see her.  I can't say that I have grieved horribly for her.  I love her and miss her more than I can say, but she was in so much pain in the last months of her life.  I really don't wish her back.  I do wish for one more hug, one more smile, to see the sparkle in her eyes again.  I know that it will happen someday... but I've never been accused of being overly patient.

Some people are weirded out by cemeteries.  They have never bothered me.  Somehow it is a tangible connection to the people that I have lost.  It is a way for me to honor them in the only way that I have left.  I like to leave flowers there if I remember to bring some.  Maybe the fake flowers are not that meaningful, but I like to leave the visible proof that these people are important and still remembered. I didn't have time to get anything this time, but was gratified to see that someone else had left some there recently.

It is often not grief that I feel there, but peace and hope.  I think the real reason that I go is to say "Until we meet again."  I don't know why it is that the cemetery is the place that I am most likely to realize that they are not lost to me forever, but it is.  Whatever the reason, I am grateful for it, and I am grateful to God for my wonderful grandparents.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Lessons from "The Karate Kid"

I posted this before, but I've decided to re-post with a little editing.  A lot of my posts during the first few months should be deleted, but I happen to like this one a lot.  The problem is, to really appreciate this post, you have to be familiar with "The Karate Kid".  I feel like that should be a given, but I realize that it's not.

~~~
  Yes, I have spent time and brain waves thinking about the movie "Karate Kid" and how it relates to my life as a follower of God.  I do a lot of driving for work.  Also, I spend too much time daydreaming while I ignore things that I should be doing, like dishes.  One of these days maybe I will learn to daydream while I do dishes, since it is a relatively mindless task.  Then I could think profound thoughts and decrease potential mold habitats. I don't think I currently have any mold, but let's just say I need to get on it.  Soon.

Right.  Where was I?  Okay, so one of the things that I have been thinking about a lot is atheism.  I'm talking about the good kind, the kind where these people have thought it through and have made their decisions based on the evidence as they see it.  This is opposed to the bad kind, the kind where atheism seems easiest or seems smartest, so they go with it, actually spending very little time thinking about the why of it all.

Recently, I read some discussions back and forth between atheists and Christians.  There were some really good points on both sides, and there were some really heated points, but what struck me is that what one wanted to use as "proof," the other would turn around and use essentially the same "proof" about their own position.  Confused? I was. (I think the conversation I am referring to was at theravingtheist's site.) As I composed my own brilliant replies in my head, I realized that I didn't have much to contribute:

Harry the Atheist: "Prove to me there's a god."
Me: "I can't."
Harry the Atheist: "This conversation is over."

But it led down a side path in my train of thought. (Do you start to see how often my train of thought gets derailed?  The sheer numbers of parenthesis and side notes and afterthoughts on this site should be a hint.)  I realized that the reason that Harry and I can't have a conversation about God is because our approach to karate is different.  

Yeah.  Let that sink in a moment, because it's true.

Harry wants proof.  He wants it now. He goes to Kreese's dojo: "Strike first, strike hard, show no mercy!" (I am not saying that atheists are bullies.  Harry is a figment of my imagination, and because I feel inadequate to explain myself, I feel as overpowered as Daniel looks in the movie.)

The problem is, approaching God is a lot more like approaching Mr. Miyagi. First off, you don't meet Mr. Miyagi as a karate instructor.  He's the fix-it man.  When Daniel first asks him to fix the faucet, there's barely any acknowledgement.  Daniel then asks when Miyagi will come.  The response is "After".  

Daniel: "After what?" 
Miyagi: "After! After!" 

 I feel your pain, Daniel.  

Me: "God, did you hear me?  Are you going to fix this? When?"  
God (not in so many words): "After!"          
Me: "???"

Okay.  I realize this is a post of non sequiturs, but my point is that when we picture and all powerful God, we often have this picture that is something like Kreese, the dojo instructor.  Strong, powerful, smashing through anything that gets in the way.  The reality, like the true karate master in the movie, is something far more subtle and confusing, but powerful in a way that is beyond all of our stereotypes and preconceived notions.  

Friday, November 27, 2009

TOB for the Single Person

I said I would get to this, and I will.  I am.  It's just a little hard for me to write.  For one thing, I don't want to contemplate what Theology of the Body means for a single person.  I want to live it out as a married person.  For another thing, I don't exactly know what it means.  So far, I only have a few vague ideas.  And finally, the little light of understanding that I do have is very personal.  I don't know how to walk the line between sharing what's on my heart, but also not divulging some things that are between me and God.

TOB brings two things clearly to the forefront.  One is that we are called to live out a love that sacrifices itself for another.  Married people to their spouses.  Nuns to Christ. Priests to the Church.

The second is that this self-sacrificing love brings new life into the world.  Marriage leads to children.  Religious vocations lead to new life in Christ.

Where does that leave me?  I have been to Christopher West talks, and when the topic of singleness comes up, he doesn't pull any punches.  He acknowledges that not all single people will get married, and this may not be due to a choice of theirs.  He doesn't have much to offer, but reminds us singles that our ultimate purpose is not realized in marriage on earth, but in heaven.

But what of my purpose here on earth?  How could I be created to give myself in self-sacrificing life-giving love, and have no outlet for that? It's devastating.  Not only have I not been chosen by any man, but neither has God chosen me for religious life.  He has forgotten me, because how else could it be He created me for a purpose that will not be fulfilled?

You don't need to tell me that I still have a purpose (unless you have some specific suggestions as to what that purpose is- I'd love to hear it!)  Nor do you need to tell me that God could never forget me.  Definitely don't tell me that eventually I will be married.  Because even though I agree that you are probably right, you don't know that for sure.  My logic knows all this, but my feelings do not care about my logic.

What I have learned is this.  Self-sacrifice is not always the choice that you think it is.  If you choose to get married to a person, then you choose to give yourself to them in a self-sacrificial way.  If you choose a consecrated religious life, you choose to give your life to Christ or His Church.  If you are single by circumstance, your choice is different.  You may not have a choice about who you are specifically giving your life to, but you have a choice about whether you are going to offer your life in the moments that you have right now.  It may be a very general offering, or God may call you to a very particular ministry because you have the time and energy to focus on it right now; time and energy that you will later need to focus on your family.

The reality is, if you are single like me, you are not forgotten by God.  You are chosen for a unique purpose at this moment.  


Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The Rest of Psalm 1

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor the sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

I don't have a lot to say about these last three verses.  It made me ponder a moment the deeds of mine that are not worthwhile that will be driven away; I hope there is more wheat than chaff among my deeds.  I won't lie, I thought about just skipping a post on these verses, but I had to finish, even though I don't have much to say.

Also, if you get a chance, please pray for a situation that I have at work.  I don't think its a huge deal, but it stirs up my crazy mess of insecurities!

Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Psalm 1, Verse 3

So, about the memorization.  I think I have the first 2 verses about memorized.  Now for the third:

"He is like a tree
planted by streams of water, 
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all that he does, he prospers."

I like the image of the Word of God being like streams of water that we can draw our strength from.  I also like the idea of yielding fruit at the proper time.  Not all the Scripture that I read is going to be perfectly applicable to the particular day or situation that I am in, but if I soak it in, it will be ready for that time.

Let's talk about the last line.  That's what I really want to talk about.  We all love the prosperity gospel (if by love, you mean hate), yet here is the perfect verse "supporting" it.  Just Thursday one of my friends brought up the idea of prosperity.  Her question was why "prosperity" should always mean "wealth".  As she said, of all the gifts that God gives us, that is one of the least.

What is prosperity?  If we are truly living our lives in order to grow closer to God, then prosperity is anything that brings us closer to God.  That may mean that we prosper the most during hardship, because we turn to Him and hold on tight.  At least, we do if we meditate on His law day and night, and don't walk in the counsel of the wicked. 

At any rate, the potential is there in all moments of our lives, easy and hard, to prosper and grow closer to God.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Psalm 1, Itself

I decided I wanted to meditate a little on these words.  Seemed kind of silly to memorize some verses about meditation on God's Word without actually meditating on those words.  Here are some of my thoughts.  I refuse to edit for ADD, so deal with it!

"Blessed is the man" 

Terribly un-PC of me, but I don't mind this at all.  It doesn't bother me when the word "man" in the Bible sometimes stands for all humanity.  I do not feel left out as a woman.  I'm sure if it really got to me, I could find a translation that used "person" but I don't have time for that...only time to bring it up and point it out on a blog post!

"who walks not in the counsel of the wicked"

What does it mean to be wicked?  What does it mean to follow the counsel of the wicked?  I always think that wicked people should be relatively easy to spot.  They should be so obviously bad that oozes out of their pores; then you could tell by the smell to avoid their counsel.  Maybe at the very least, it should show in their eyes.  And if their skin is green.  I mean, we all know the Wicked Witch of the West is wicked!  

But maybe the wicked are not so obvious.  Maybe they are family, friends, neighbors, and coworkers.  Maybe they are not wicked people, and maybe their counsel is meant for our benefit.  Think about it.  If good is anything that brings us closer to God, then evil would be anything that would take us farther from God.  Maybe in a sticky moral situation a friend would offer counsel to compromise a moral conviction in order to save pain.  But maybe that compromise would bring us farther away from God

"Nor stands in the way of sinners, nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is the law of the Lord,"

Oh, baby!  This is good stuff!  The "law of the Lord" could easily be seen as a turn off.  If we are Christian, then we often like to think that the law is pretty meaningless for us and that we should do all things for Christ for the sheer love and joy of Christ.  (By "we", I mean "me".  You're only included if you want to be).  Law is duty, obligation, all those things that drag Christians down.  Ah, but for this blessed man, the law of the Lord is his delight.  Speaking as a Catholic, I can tell you that there are things from Scripture and the Church that I have followed all my life.  There are some of them that I have done because they were required of me.  For example, Mass on Sunday.  I remember going to Mass on Sunday because it was the rule.  A rule of the Church stemming from the 10 Commandments.  I'm glad the rule was there to make me do it whether I felt like it or not, but it is now my delight to go to Mass on Sunday.

"and on his law he meditates day and night."

Maybe that's part of my problem.  I don't really meditate (think deeply) about the Scripture that I read most mornings.  I certainly don't take the time to think much about it later in the day.  Maybe before I can truly eat the Word of God, I need to meditate on Scripture (some interesting implications for the Mass, eh?)  Also, that meditating day and night brings to mind the idea of the Liturgy of the Hours.  I don't pray that often enough, but I love that.  I love that it comes (probably) from Jewish custom.  I love that it involves praying the Scripture.  I love that all over the world, people are united by praying the Liturgy of the Hours, praying, meditating on, feasting on, the Scriptures morning and night.  I love when a phrase of Scripture is literal and concrete!

Anyway, I have more to say about the rest of the Psalm, but it's late as I write this, and I'm tired.  I'm going to bed.  Maybe I can meditate on the rest of the Psalm for 30 seconds or so before I fall asleep tonight! :)

Sunday, November 22, 2009

Story Time!

Some people are a little too cool for love stories.  Fortunately for me, "cool" has never been one of the top ten adjectives used to describe me.  Others are too cynical and jaded for love stories.  I hope that my inborn idealism, over the top and a trial at times, will at least keep me from that fate.

I am a sucker for love stories.  I am an even bigger sucker for true love stories (both stories of true love and love stories that are true).  Throw in some royalty for good measure... Oh, yes.  How could it not be a good story? Let me share one I just heard.  It's my new favorite.

~~~
There was a king that fell in love with a peasant girl.  Normally, in fairy tales, this peasant girl is some renowned beauty.  In this case, there's no real consensus on what she looked like.  She was likely decent enough looking, but there was something about her essence, about who she was that drew the king to her in an irresistible way.   It wasn't that he saw blinding beauty or looked past outer ugliness to see inner beauty, it was simply that he saw her.

The obvious thing to do was to ask her to marry him.  He was the king, and he could make her marry him, but he didn't want to force her.  However, as he considered asking her to marry him, he became concerned about how she would fit in.  Granted, as the king he could give her all the riches that she lacked.  That didn't mean that she would be able to mentally and emotionally cross that gulf to meet him where he was.  He was also concerned that she might only say yes because she felt compelled to say yes since he was the king, or that she might say yes only to gain access to the riches he offered and not out of love for him.

Another option came to mind at this point.  That was the option to renounce his kingship and join her in peasant-hood. This would remove the gulf between them, and allow him to be with her where she was.  Still, if he did this, he might lose it all.  Once he had renounced the throne, she might not say yes.  She might see him as no more than any of the other peasants, and choose another one instead.  She might think he was a complete fool for giving up the throne and reject him because of his foolishness.  She might simply not love him and say no.

He had  a quandary.  Eventually he decided that she was worth the risk of losing it all, and that he would renounce the throne for her.  

The End.

~~~

You want a resolution?  That's not the point of the story.  The point of the story is the illustration of true love that the king offered.  True love is not dependent on whether it is returned or whether they lived happily ever after.  Because this is a true story, keep in mind that if she did say yes, the story is ongoing.  "Happily ever after" is going to contain a lot of bumps in the road.  Her yes is not just on the day of their wedding, but every time something tough comes up, every time the hard work of living seems overwhelming and she wishes that instead of joining her where she was, he would have simply moved her into the palace with him.  Will she chose in that day to keep loving him?

You still need an ending?  Write it.  Christ the King has renounced his heavenly throne.  He has given it all up for love of you.  His offer is placed before you; will you accept it?  


~~~
Note: I didn't make up the story (though I told it with my own words, since I don't remember it all perfectly), it was a part of the homily today.  The priest mentioned that he got it from Kierkegaard.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

JPII Generation

There is an older man at one church that I go to that always prays for young people as "we send them out into this culture". I can't remember exactly how he words it, but essentially he is praying that the youth will be somehow protected from this horrible culture that we live in and that somehow those that have gotten sucked in might get pulled back.  I commend his intent, but it makes me want to throw down in the middle of church and face off.

Here's want I want to say to him:

"Have you met this generation??  The JPII generation is a generation that is not defined by age so much as by a new understanding of the power of God.  We have met God, and we have fallen absolutely in love with Love Himself.  We came for healing and we found Life Himself.  We are not a generation that is trying to follow the rules against all odds.  We are a generation who has found Christ, and are trying to follow Him.  We lose battles all the time, but we are full of hope, because we know Who is going to win the war.  We are on fire, and we are living in a world that is dry and begging for the life we have found.  It will be a firestorm beyond what you can imagine.

"When you pray, you sound as if our only hope is to remain somehow untouched by this culture of death.  We have already been touched by it.  We have been shaped by it, the pain resides in each of our hearts in one way or another.  It is our reality.

"Do pray for this generation.  I thank you for your prayers; we need them.  But do not pray that we will remain separate from this culture.  We are exactly what this culture needs.  We will not only touch this culture; we will engage it full on.  We will reshape it.  By the grace of God, we will heal it."  

I don't think that this generation needs to look out for the culture so much as the culture needs to look out for us!

Friday, November 20, 2009

Psalm 1

The other night at Bible study, we discussed the Bible. (I know you come to this blog for profundity... Just trying to oblige!:)  To be honest, our current study is not exactly a Bible study, more of a book study, but the Bible does get brought up some.  This particular chapter was all about reading the Bible.  One verse that was quoted particularly caught my eye:

"Thy words were found, and I ate them, and they words became to me a joy and the delight of my heart..." (Jer. 15:16)

There was something about the idea of the total absorption of God's Word that caught at me.  I try to read my Bible.  Every morning I try to read it.  I don't always make that goal, but it is the goal that I have.  The problem is that often I allow my eyes to follow the words on the page to the pre-decided stopping point, then I check Bible reading off on my list for the day.  I look at the words on the page, but I'm not sure I see them very often.  I'm ashamed about the number of times that I go to Mass and have no idea what the reading was for the day.

We discussed the ways that we take in the Word of God, and the idea of trying to memorize some verses came up.

Umm, memorization?  I'm Catholic.  I don't do that! I don't even know how to memorize anything.  I might be able to beat some verses into my brain by rote...but it doesn't really fit the bill of eating the Word of God and having it become my joy and my delight.

The upshot is that a few of us decided that we are going to try to memorize Psalm 1, all 6 verses, before we meet again in 2 weeks.  Those of you that actually know how to memorize Bible verses: tips are appreciated!

I don't know how to memorize, but I can read.  I've been reading and loving this Psalm:

Blessed is the man
who walks not in the counsel of the wicked,
nor stands in the way of sinners, 
nor sits in the seat of scoffers;
but his delight is in the law of the Lord,
and on his law he meditates day and night.
He is like a tree
planted by streams of water, 
that yields its fruit in its season,
and its leaf does not wither.
In all he does, he prospers.

The wicked are not so,
but are like chaff which the wind drives away.
Therefore, the wicked will not stand in the judgment,
nor the sinners in the congregation of the righteous;
for the Lord knows the way of the righteous,
but the way of the wicked will perish.

I think I have some more to say about Psalm 1, but I'll save that for next time!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Jumping Ship

Today's Gospel was Peter walking on water.  I love that Gospel.  I love that Peter, one of Jesus' apostles, the one that He gave the keys to the kingdom of heaven, sank.  Sorry, Peter!  I love knowing that I'm not the only one.  Sometimes, even when I start out strongly, I still end up failing.

The priest gave a great little homily.  He said that he'd been to the Holy Land a number of times and has been out to the site of this miracle.  He told us how he'd closed his eyes to imagine the setting, imagine that he was on the boat in the storm, and that he sees Jesus walking towards him.  Then he tried to imagine getting out of the boat to walk toward Jesus.  He said that he could see himself throwing one leg over the edge of the boat.  It was the second leg that he had a hard time imagining!

I think about the places in my life where I'm holding back parts of myself from fully responding to God's call (for example...).  Sometimes I like to congratulate myself on what I've managed to do, while ignoring the part that I'm still not embracing.  Problem is, one leg over the boat is still on the boat.  

Here's praying for the grace for us all to jump ship! 

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Your Cross

I was talking to one of my sisters a couple of weeks ago.  She has a lot on her plate right now with finishing school and contemplating trying to get a job in this job market.  She made a comment that is very typical of her.

"I know that God won't give me anything more than I can handle, and that He'll help me get through all of it."

Pause.

"Is it wrong to wish that He'd help a little less so He'd have to let up a bit?"

~~~

I found this quote by St. Francis de Sales today.  It was something that I needed to hear, and I thought I would share.

Your Cross

The everlasting God has, in His wisdom, foreseen from eternity the cross He now presents to you as a gift from His inmost heart.
The cross He now sends you He has considered with His all-knowing eyes, understood with His divine mind, tested with His wise justice, warmed with His loving arms, and weighed with His own hands, to see that it be not one inch too large and not one ounce too heavy for you.
He has blessed it with His holy name, anointed it with His grace, perfumed it with His consolation, taken one last glance at you and your courage, and then sent it to you from heaven, a special greeting from God to you, an alms of the all-merciful love of God.

~~~

A couple of thoughts on that.  One is that there are times that the cross will be too big for us.  I remember my aunt talking about her struggle with depression.  She ended up in the hospital because of it, and felt betrayed by God because He promises not to let the crosses become more than we can handle.  She held on to her faith despite her hurt, and I really respect her for that.  

I think that God's definition of "handle" is different than mine.  I want to be able to handle something with grace, dignity and courage.  That's handling it, and handling it with style.  Instead, in my case anyway, there is complaining, some sulking, begging for Him to make the pain stop, and flat out ugly crying.  I know God is with me all the time, but it's the moments of brokenness where I really meet God.  You want to meet God?  He's in the midst of that ugly cry.  Copious amounts of snot don't scare Him in the slightest.  

Handling a cross doesn't mean being able to carry it one arm while you jog with ease to the finish line, with no more than a few muscle aches to show for it.  It means blood, sweat and tears. It means dragging it along with every ounce of strength that you have.  It means that strength giving out, leaving you to fall flat on your face, not knowing how you will get up again... and not even being sure that you want to.  It means you will need help to finish, both from God and from fellow man. It means pain and brokenness.

In the middle of the worst of the pain, there is nothing to do but live with it and hold onto God.  He doesn't make the pain go away, but meeting Him there makes it worth it.



Saturday, November 14, 2009

In the Image and Likeness of God

If we are created in the image and likeness of God, and specifically if we are created as male and female in the image and likeness of God, and if God is love, then what does that say about sex?

It says that Puritans and hedonists need to take a whole new look at the subject.

There is a tendency to think that when we are in church, the only way to talk about sex is to talk about the do's and don't's.  Do when you are married and with your spouse.  Everything else is bad.  Why is it bad?  Well, the Bible says not to do it, so don't do it.  What more do you need?  I have to be honest.  I need a lot more than that.  If I didn't have some kind of answer to the why, my life as a single person would be a lot different.  I can intellectually acknowledge that what the Bible says is true and right, but that doesn't get me through lonely days and nights.  More on that later.  The point is, sex is much more relevant to our search for God than we would like to imagine.  In religious circles, we still sometimes feel that sex is "dirty" or "base" or something.

Hedonists also have to take a new look.  They are right in saying that sex is good, but they are wrong in saying that they can define sex any way they want.  As long as it gives pleasure and everyone involved is consenting, it's okay.  If we are created as male and female, and if that creation is a revelation of the image and likeness of God, then sex is bigger than us.  We don't get to define it.  On the days that diesel is cheaper than unleaded, I can't decide that I prefer to run my car on diesel.  I can put diesel in the tank, but it will ruin my car.  In the same way, I am physically able to try to define love and sex as whatever makes me happy and feel good, but if I try to fill up this deep desire in my heart with that, I will cause destruction to the very core of my being.  Because I was not made to run on counterfeits.  I was made to run on true love.

What is true love?  I'm single, and in many ways, that probably leaves me with a little bit of a fairy tale definition of love.  Sunshiny, happy, rainbow feelings that cannot be denied nor overcome by any of the problems of life.  At least, that's how I see people trying to define love.  That's how they know that it's not real love; when the feelings run out.  I think that true love is grittier than that.  I think that it takes those knocks and it is precisely when the feelings run out that it is the strongest.

I think that true love is free.  I think that each Person of the Trinity gives their love freely and fully to each other.  I think of God's true love for us is manifested in His freely choosing to come to earth for no other reason than for our salvation.  I think that true love among all people is only when it is freely offered with no coercion, whether that be love among friends, relatives, spouses, whatever.  And I think that sex only truly expresses love when it is given freely from each person to the other.

I think that true love is total.  Can you imagine God holding anything back?  He clearly didn't.  He committed His only begotten Son.  Jesus gave up His life for us, and no suffering was too much in His search for us.  Sex is a total commitment.  It means holding nothing back.  It means giving your very life to another.  Not just at the moment of sex, but in every moment of life.  It doesn't mean until divorce, or until something better comes along.  It means until death do us part.  It's not just a lofty goal.  It is part of the true meaning of sex, the way that sex can reveal God.

I think that true love is faithful.  If true love is total, it must be faithful.  You can only totally give yourself to one other person at a time.  When I think of the faithful love of God, I love the images in Hosea.  God presents Himself as a faithful husband, because He is.  God is always faithful to His promises and love for us, even when we are not faithful in return.

And true love is fruitful.  Love is life.  Can you imagine any other life for the Trinity than love? God is Love, and this love is life itself.  The true love of Christ on the cross ended death for us and brought life to the world.  True love brings forth new life.  And I would say that real sex, the kind of sex that we all really want, has to be open to life.  Not just some of the time, but all of the time.  It doesn't mean that it always has to bring forth physical life (like having sex during infertile times, or people that have fertility problems), but it means being open to it at all times.  But don't dismiss how powerful a child is in this whole picture.  Remember that our God is often more concrete than we are.  As Scott Hahn likes to say, when the two become one flesh, nine months later you will need a name.

Notice that none of those earmarks of true love have anything to do with feelings. Obviously feelings are very important, but they are not what makes it true love.  Rather than looking at feelings to drive true love, I think we need to have true love, even when it's difficult, drive the feelings.

I would say that sex is a very powerful sign of love.  If you ignore the signs (like puritanism) you're going to have a very hard time recognizing where you're going.  If you distort the signs or point them in other directions (redefining sex for our own purposes), you're going to be heading the wrong direction.  And there are some dangerous places when you get off the path.

Right.  So maybe I have talked about all that before.  Eh, well.  What are blogs for if not for blathering on about the same stuff over and over again?    

Thursday, November 12, 2009

I Love People

Today I loved the fact that my bosses continue to strive for excellence both in business and how they care about their employees.

I love that I drove past a 15 passenger van full of men in business suits wearing Santa hats.  


No joke.


I would like to know the story behind that one.


I love the little old lady that walks her cat at the assisted living facility.

I love the four-year-old at the daycare where my sister works.  He couldn't get into his milk carton and whined to her about it.  She gently prompted him to ask for help by saying, "And what do we do about that?"  He rapidly grabbed a fork and stabbed the milk carton, sending milk everywhere.  Well, I guess he got the milk out, right?

I love the guy in the town where I work that putters around in his electric wheelchair.  He stops to ask everyone "Has anyone told you you're beautiful today?  Because you are."  

He is, too.  You should see his smile.

Today I love the people.  

I could live without paperwork, though!

How God Is too Ordinary and too Extraordinary

I think God is much more of a concrete thinker than we are.  We have a lot of grand ideas in the abstract.  God's ideas are much grander than ours, but sometimes I think they catch us completely by surprise because they are so concrete, and sometimes seem so ordinary.

I think of the Jews waiting for the Messiah. They imagined a great and powerful king.  What they saw instead was a man.  An ordinary man, the son of a carpenter and his wife.  A man who lived among them much like any man would.  Some came to recognize the astounding truth about this man that went far beyond their wildest imaginations about the Messiah.  I always have some sympathy for those that didn't recognize Him, though.  Outwardly He was so much less than they expected, and in reality He was beyond their wildest expectations.  I mean, they knew that the Messiah would be a great man, but did they realize that He would be God? They knew the Messiah would be establishing a kingdom, but did they realize it wasn't some political kingdom, but the kingdom of heaven for all eternity?

What about the miracles?  I have already told you that I have sort of an abstract idea about miracles.  I have this feeling that they should come out of nowhere and be explainable by nothing.  Yet I do believe that God often works His miracles through other people.  I may not like to call them miracles, but sometimes they are.

The sacraments.  Now there's an example of a God who thinks more concretely than I do.  God can give the grace of Christ crucified any way He wants.  I think that He certainly does give His grace to us at all times and in all ways, but I also believe that He gives His grace to us in a special way through the sacraments.  By the work of the Holy Spirit, we are born again of water and the Holy Spirit.  Could our re-birth really come about through the use of ordinary water?  Could the forgiveness of our sins come through the priest?  Could bread become Jesus' very flesh?

I don't know about you, but when I think of "spiritual" moments, somehow I make them much more abstract in theory.  Maybe I think that they could be connected to concrete realities in a secondary way, but not in such a primary way.

Now let me ask you this.  Did you ever stop to think about Genesis 1:27?

"So God created man in his own image,
in the image of God he created him;
male and female he created them."

We are made in the image and likeness of God.  God created us exactly the way He wanted us.  We are not just spirits, and we are not souls trapped in bodies.  We are people with a body and soul.  It is not just our soul that is created in the image of God.  Our bodies are an essential part of the image.  Our masculinity and femininity are an essential part of the image.  Our bodies, with all their flaws and imperfections, BO, extra hair where it doesn't belong, baldness, bulges, flatness, weird noises and all, is an essential part of the revelation of God to those who will take the time to see it.

Praise God for JPII, who shared this vision with the world.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Theology of the Body

I've been thinking a lot about how there are so many things about Theology of the Body that I would like to talk about on here.  And then I have no idea where to start, so I end up saying some version of: TOB is great!  Really!  You should believe me!  I'm not going to tell you anything about it, exactly, but it'd change your life if only you knew what it was!

I don't know where or how to start talking about TOB.  Books and books are being written about TOB, and it's only the beginning of the ink that will be spilled on it... How can I distill any of it into a blog post, even an unreasonably long one?

Thinking about writing anything is a little like chasing a greased pig.*  I no more than get a handful of what I think I might want to say than it squirts through my fingers and runs squealing through my brain in all different directions.  I go chasing these thoughts, but they change directions so quickly that I'm a half step (or 3 or 4 full ones) behind when I try to pin them down in writing.

This is on my mind, though. Hopefully I can get it down on my blog.  Until then:

TOB is great!  Really!  You should believe me!  I'm not going to tell you anything about it, exactly, but it'd change your life if only you knew what it was!

*At least, how I'd imagine that it would be.  I haven't actually done such a thing.


Tuesday, November 10, 2009

One Day, Three Rants

Breathe.  Just breathe. No, no, no! Don't HYPERVENTILATE!  Just nice easy breaths in and out.

Continue to breathe nice and slow, and realize that the lady where you work probably thought you were some kind of trainer.*  She probably didn't realize that you were a physical therapist when she confided in you that she thought physical therapy was a WASTE OF TIME while she asked for free advice!!  She couldn't have known, right?  I mean, in my boots, dress pants and ruffled shirt, I must have looked just like any personal trainer, right?  And the name tag with my title, too ambiguous, right? Of COURSE a trainer with their one lousy certification, if they're actually certified, is MUCH more qualified to give you one quick exercise that will solve all your shoulder pain.  They're so smart they don't even have to evaluate your strengths and weaknesses or anything!  Too bad you were wrong about who you were talking to, lady!  'Cause I'm a worthless therapist with 3 years of post graduate work and a doctorate in physical therapy.  I'm so bad, I actually have to evaluate your problem before I can fix it for you!!  And I'm paying off all that pointless schooling, so no free advice for you!

Mmm, and how about the sweet girl that is now my patient rep.  She's great.  She's been working a week and I'm so glad she's there.  But I kind of know her from before, so we already feel very comfortable about talking about all kinds of stuff.  Like Catholic stuff.  Like how she knows former Catholics that just didn't prefer "all the repetition".  Yeesh! My breathing just got shallow again!  That's the liturgy you're talking about!  The Mass!!  I understand that you don't understand it; that's okay.  But don't casually dismiss it as mere REPETITION! It's beautiful!  And holy!  Ancient and always new!  The Scripture come to life!  Heaven on earth!!  AHH!  I can't take it!  My head explodes when I think of someone seeing the Mass as a merely one style out of many to worship, and a tedious one at that!  How can so many see it like that??

I'm not upset with her like I was with the lady.  I just wish there was some way that I could strip away the misconceptions and show her what the Mass really is.

Finally, there's my mother.  Wonderful, smart woman.  Who refuses to use any kind of technology.  She's convinced she can't use the internet (self-fulfilling prophecy).  I can't leave her voice mails on her cell phone, because she doesn't check them.  Text messages?  You're hilarious!  She also insists on writing me checks every time she owes me for something. Checks.  You know those paper things that you have to take to the bank and sign the back to get something useful out of them?  Those things.  Do you know how often I go to the bank?  Never!  Between automatic deposit, ATM's, etc. I never need to go to the bank.  In fact, there's not even a branch of my bank in my town or in the town where I work and I don't even miss it.  Until my mother writes me a check!  Why does she do it?!  The last check she gave me is still mouldering around here somewhere.  I just don't have time to drive 30 minutes to a bank!

Okay, okay.  I'm done now.  I think...

*My clinic is attached to a fitness place, so I often take my patients in there to do their exercises.

Monday, November 9, 2009

What Is a Miracle?

I'm not going to lie.  I've been watching a LOT of TV recently.  Hulu and I have been spending some real quality time together.  I'm not proud of it, but there you go.  Mindless activity has been working pretty well for me recently.

I recently came across "White Collar".  It's a show about an FBI agent that teams up with a criminal to help solve white collar crime.  I think there's only three shows out so far, but what can I say?  USA comes up with some fun shows.

There is a point to this, I swear.  (Okay, first I tell you that I'm a couch potato with nothing better to do than watch TV, and now I'm swearing.  I may not be the kind of company your mama wanted you to hang out with.)  The most recent episode was when a priceless old book got stolen from a church.  First they thought it was a Bible, but it turned out to be a "book of hours" (for the liturgy of the hours).  Turns out that there were people that believed that the book had healing powers.  It saved a bunch of people from the plague in the Middle Ages.  This particular church had not lost anyone in a particularly nasty epidemic of some kind in the 1800's, which was also attributed to the book.

The FBI agent was highly skeptical that any miracles had occurred.  The criminal, on the other hand, was inclined to believe that maybe miracles were happening.  Regarding the church not losing anyone in the epidemic, the agent said they probably just closed their doors and practiced better habits to keep from spreading the germs.  The criminal agreed, but still called it a miracle.  He was going to take his miracles where he could get them.  The agent was not about to back down.  He wanted more flash and lightening with his miracles.

It's a very interesting discussion.  When is it a miracle?  My mom has been known to call it a miracle when something unexpectedly works out in a way that she could not have foreseen.  We've all heard about medical miracles when doctors said someone couldn't survive who then did survive.

I admit to having sympathy with both characters.  I get a little frustrated when all kinds of things are called miracles.  To me, a real miracle is completely inexplicable.  In the case of the epidemic, if that particular church practiced good hygiene and also closed its doors to prevent the spread of disease, then there's an explanation for it.

On the other hand, God is working in our lives all the time.  It's certainly isn't an exaggeration to say that all of these things come about through the hand of God.  I just think He often uses intermediaries.  Sometimes it's prudence (like the epidemic), sometimes it's generosity of someone giving an unexpected gift.  Do you call them all miracles?  I don't know.  I guess I don't, but I do call them the work of God.

What do you think?  Am I too picky in my definition of a miracle?  What do you call a miracle?

Sunday, November 8, 2009

Ignation Indifference

Have you ever heard of Ignation indifference? Ignatius of Loyola taught that we should have a certain indifference about all things in life.  Rich? That's okay with me, as long as it's God's will.  Poor? That's okay with me if that's God's well.  Sick? Healthy? Job? Unemployment? Which job? Where to live?  Ignatius' view is that none of that is important.  Only following God's will is important, so none of the rest of that is really important.

I first heard of this concept from some friends of mine back in high school.  This one friend would often plead "Ignation indifference" if we were trying to decide what to do (and clearly, I only hung out with the coolest kids).  Ignation indifference, my hind end!  Don't try to pass off your indecision as virtue!  Okay, maybe her intention was good, but it always came out as a little smug and then I had to make a decision.

I fight the concept now, too.  One of the things that has been really bothering me is that I'm supposed to move in 8 months.  I don't know why it bothers me so much.  I'll be working for the same company, which I love.  I'll be working with people that I've worked with before and enjoy working with.  I'll still be in the same general area.  I'll actually be closer to a lot of my friends. 

I really, really don't want to move.  I absolutely love the community that I'm working in now.  I feel like I've been able to become a part of the community.  It's the first time I've felt that way. All the other clinics I've been in, I'm just a therapist working in a clinic.  That's how it will be in the hospital that I'm being transferred to.  I love the people that I am now working with.  They're definitely more than a job to me.  The doctors in town know who I am and respect me, and I really respect them.  Before this, I've never had the doctors be that familiar with me.  I don't want to give that up.  I also abhor the idea of leaving the church I have been at for the last 4 years.

Jonah and I could be pals.  Remember the plant that grew up to shade Jonah? Then remember how mad Jonah got when the worm ate it?  God let him have the plant for a while, then took it away so He could teach Jonah something important. God let me be a part of this community for a time, but maybe He has a different plan for me in a different place in 8 months.  Ignatius would tell me that's fine and I should be content wherever God lands me.

Ignatius is right, of course.

I'm still hanging out with Jonah:

(After the plant dies and the sun is beating down on him)

"It is better for me to die than live."

God: "Do you do well to be angry for the plant?"

Jonah: "I do well to be angry, angry enough to die."

~~~
I laugh so hard at Jonah's response to God because it is so childish, so petulant.  I'm guessing that Jonah knew as well as I do what his answer should be, but I'm really glad he went with what he was feeling instead.  At least I wasn't the first one! :)

Every time something happens that makes me think how much I like working in the clinic where I am now, I'm going to work on being thankful for the "shade" I'm getting now rather than worrying about when I have to leave it.  I'm going to get Ignatius to pray for me on the indifference thing, because I'm not sure I can honestly pray for that right now.  I'd rather pray for God to work on finding a way that I wouldn't have to move. 

 I don't think this kind of indifference means not being sad if I have to leave the people and the community that I've come to love, or not being happy if I did get to stay for some reason.  I think it means being just as willing to stay or go despite the feelings.  

Yeah.  I've got a long ways to go.


Thursday, November 5, 2009

Mass

Yesterday, I left work with a ton of paperwork left to do still.  It wouldn't have mattered, I was too fried to think anyway; it would have been a disaster if I tried to do any of it.  Besides, by leaving when I did I got to go to Mass.

Oh. Baby.

The particular church that I went to is a pretty, older church.  It's one of those where you can small the sacredness.  Others might describe the scent as a mixture of lingering incense and with a touch of mustiness, but to me it just smells holy.  I love that smell.  I love how the incense has soaked into the walls, leaving traces of the prayers of those that have gone before us.  I love that I am enveloped in the ongoing worship of the Church.  I love the way that the sights, the smells, and the quietness of the church immediately take me away from my current craziness into a new place.  A holy place.  A place that all of my other nonsense can be set aside for a half an hour for worship of and communion with my God.

I love that in the moments before Mass, our fellowship is not one of talking to each other, but of private prayer.  Of course, each of these prayers is our own, but we are not alone in our time of prayer.  Does that make any sense?

Then there is the Mass itself. I love hearing the Scripture, the familiar prayers of the Mass.  All leading up to that one moment.  The moment that time and eternity meet.  The moment of consecration.

I wish I could tell you that I was able to participate in Mass in such a way that I soaked up every moment.  The truth is, I was still easily distracted, and I couldn't tell you exactly what the Scriptures were yesterday if my life depended on it.  Also, when I was done with Mass, I was still stressed, I still came home and avoided dishes and laundry, and whined on my blog instead. I was still so tired that I didn't even make myself dessert (which would have taken 30 seconds) and contemplated sleeping on the couch because it seemed like a lot of work to go to bed.  Primarily because I can't get into bed without brushing my teeth.  The tooth brushing was more the sticking point than the 20 feet to my bed.  

You know, that's one of the other things that I love about Mass.  Even though I can leave Mass and immediately fall into whining, even though I can be in the midst of heaven on earth in the Mass and still be distracted by the least thing, God is there.  He is still offering Himself to me in the Mass and He will be offering the same love, grace and forgiveness at the next Mass that I get to go to, no matter that He knows that I will fall short that time as well.

Mass. Is. Amazing.


Wednesday, November 4, 2009

WARNING: Whining Ahead. Read at Your Own Risk.

God and I got in a fight Monday.  We do that sometimes.  Well, it's more like God is right and I pitch a fit.  Or God knows what's going to happen in my life, but I don't yet, so I pitch a fit.  Or God is doing something in my life that I don't like, so I pitch a fit.  Or I think He might do something in my life that I might not like, so I pitch a fit. Oh!  Or how about the one that He answers a prayer and but there's something about the way that He answered that I don't like, so, well, you know.

I know, the maturity level 'round here is astounding, isn't it? 

It happens some days.  And some weeks.  Especially weeks that start with an appetizer of stupid Medicare policies, an entree of a slew of new patients (great, but the accompanying paperwork is a little chewy), a side of I-want-a-family-so-bad-I-can't-stand-it, and for dessert, the monster dish of hormones with a cherry on top.  And I've been reminded I have to move in 8 months and I DON'T WANT TO.

I bring this up because I am a pansy and a whiner.

Side note, I found out today that a player at the last football game lied to me.  He got a concussion one night and lied to my face saying that all his symptoms were gone.  I guess he had a headache all week, including at the game.  I suspected it, but I'm glad I didn't know for sure.  Idiot.  I don't care how big the game is.  You don't mess with concussions.  It could lead to symptoms that last for months.  Sometimes years.  It can interfere with football season next year. Not to mention the risk of coma or death. It may be a small chance, but I've had to rehab people coming out of a head injury.  Next year I propose that the football team take a field trip to meet some people just coming out of a coma.  Then maybe they won't be so stupid as to risk it by lying to their doctors and athletic trainers.

Sunday, November 1, 2009

It was the best of times, it was the worst of times... it was the spring of hope, it was the winter of despair, we had everything before us, we had nothing before us...

I don't have words for this weekend.  Dickens probably comes closest, but I suppose that's a little melodramatic to try to apply it to my small corner of life.  Certainly there is no history hanging in the balance.  Let's just say in my case that there was a depth and richness to parts of this weekend that was thrown into sharp relief by the contrasting emptiness.  That there was contentment, but also unspeakable yearning.  In some ways, I wish I could have the "good" without the "bad", but the good wouldn't be nearly as good without its counterpart.  

Maybe someday things will change, but for now I will just keep breathing.

And also go get some chocolate.