Thursday, January 28, 2010

International Treasure

I like the movie National Treasure.

I like the Catholic Church.

I can put the two together. I don't know if it should be done, but I do it anyway.

There is an issue that arises on a semi-frequent basis in conversations that I have. It is the issue of where the Church teachings come from. I say they come ultimately from Christ and can be found from the beginning of the Church's development. A non-Catholic (and in every recent conversation that I have had about this, it has been a non-Catholic that has done some serious study and whose opinion that I really respect) will say that there are things that have been added to the Church's teachings or changed from one thing to another.

The pope is the prime example of this in a couple of the different situations. In reading Acts of the Apostles and in the writings of the Church fathers (I am thinking specifically of Clement of Rome and Ignatius of Antioch before 325 and Augustine around 400) there is evidence that supports or at least implies that the Bishop of Rome was seen to have had a special authority. It does not directly state a role that is exactly like that of the pope today, nor do I think it was exactly the same in the beginning as it is now. I would say that this is a development of what was already there, like a baby has a personality that is present from the very beginning, but it grows and develops with them as they grow to adulthood. The non-Catholics would say that this represents an addition to what was present; a change in direction, and therefore we should not follow the pope.

This is the point that I could go into a scholarly explanation of specific reasons supporting the development of Christian doctrine. I could try to address the specific points and counterpoints of each position. Instead, I'm going to use the movie "National Treasure" to try to illustrate why the development of Church teaching makes complete sense to me. I'm not out to prove anything. (Duh. If I was going to be serious, I would have picked a serious source... like the Lord of the Rings trilogy.) All I hope to do is to try to provide a little insight into why I believe as I do. If not, it will at least likely provide further insight into the fact that I am a dork. (Or maybe a nerd. Wait, no. Not a nerd; that has intellectual connotations. Dork it is.)

(Also, I think I'm going to go for a record number of parentheses. I'm off to a fantastic start!)

My thoughts about National Treasure and the Catholic Church begin as the movie ends. (Spoiler alert! I'm going to give away the ending! Hmm, except that the whole concept of the movie is kind of a spoiler... Still, if you haven't seen the movie yet- though it's years old- and you would rather not know that there was a treasure and that the main characters did find it, then you probably shouldn't keep reading this post.) The characters put the final pieces together and finally figure out how to get into the treasure room. There is a pause. A breath. Will the treasure really live up to all that was told of it? It was a treasure that was fought over for centuries. Initially, the value was primarily for the intrinsic properties of the items; the gold that they were made of. Now, these values were far outweighed by their historical significance, for the wealth of knowledge that they contained about civilizations past, for a glimpse into another time.

The characters stepped into a modest sized room crammed with odd statues, at least one treasure chest, scrolls from an ancient library, gold artifacts and so much more. They start to explore the objects before them, in a haze of awe over a treasure that is surpassing their wildest imaginations. The father, who had doubted the treasure and all the clues for most of the movie, finds a medallion that showed the origins of the clues that he had doubted. The scholarly character (and obligatory love-interest angle) found the dozens of scrolls from an ancient library.

But the geeky Riley is my favorite. He steps up to a statue with wonder all over his face. He's so beside himself with joy that he can barely speak in full sentences.

"It's a big... bluish-green. Man. With a strange looking goatee... I'm guessing that's significant..." At this he is too overcome for words and gives the statue a big old hug.

Then main character steps up and finds a trail of something flammable and lights it (always a brilliant plan when you can't see where it leads or for sure why it was there; lucky for him that he's the main character and a movie like this always leads to only good things for the main character). This causes the entire place to light up and you see that the "room" they were in was only a little balcony of an enormous cavern, and the whole thing is chock full of untold treasure.

Then the movie cuts away to wrap things up in a nice little bow for the viewers. My mind is back in the treasure room with Riley's bluish-green man. What is he made of that makes him bluish-green? Is it a precious metal of some kind? What civilization made him? When was he made? What did he mean to the makers? And what was the significance of the goatee?

It's exciting to think of the discoveries that will be made by the people that catalogue and sort and study this treasure (by the way, what kind of a job do you have to have to be one of those people? Historian? Museum curator? Professor? Archeologist?) There are probably some of the things that will be immediately obvious to them what they are, like the scrolls from the library. There are others that will likely be very obscure, especially at first and will take a lot of studying from other angles. For example, maybe they will find an object that they can't figure out, but if they set it aside and study other things for a while, maybe the knowledge that they gain on related things will finally clue them in. Or perhaps study of the scrolls with shed light on it.

Most likely there will be times that they have some working theories about what some of the treasure is. Sometimes further study will prove them right, other times it may prove them wrong. There may be times that their theory is right as far as it goes, but they may make a new discovery that shows that they were completely missing something. I don't really care about the monetary worth of the treasure that they find. I'd be far more excited about the journey of discovery. (Look! A whole paragraph without parentheses!)

Oh, right! I was supposed to bring this back to the Church at some point. Here it is. From the very beginning, there was a treasure of faith that was entrusted to us by Christ (by "us" I refer to humanity in its entirety, and not specifically Catholics). This wealth of grace is enormous, and the movie's cavern could never contain it. This international treasure is the deposit of faith left to us. It is all there from the very beginning, but the process of figuring it out is one that takes a very long time. The Catholic Church is not the source of the treasure. It is the guardian of the treasure. When there is development of doctrine, it is not because we have made new stuff up, it is because we have better understood the treasure that has been passed on.

**As I look back over this post, I realize that if you get nothing else out of this, you will at least see that I have an extraordinary talent for being long-winded on things that deserve a much smaller amount of thought, if any at all!

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Chaining Bibles and Other Catholic Atrocities

Did you know that Catholic Churches used to chain their Bibles to their churches?

And that the Council of Trent forbade Catholics from reading the Bible?

Not until the last 40-50 years was a Catholic allowed to read the Bible!

Okay, so these are some of the accusations that I've heard regarding the Catholic Church and the Bible. I love the Catholic Church and I love Scripture, so I don't love these accusations. Actually, in kind of a twisted way, I do like them because they fascinate me.

I haven't done extensive research, but I am pretty sure that it is true that Catholics chained their Bibles to their pulpits. That sounds horrible given our current culture, and the accusation is then made that Catholics were trying to prevent the guy in the pew from really getting to read what was being said. The implication is that this gives the priests more power to teach whatever they or the pope wants without having to deal with Joe Smith's questions about what Scripture actually says.

Let's look at the culture at the time that they did this. There was no printing press, so each Bible had to be meticulously copied by hand. Scriptures were regarded as precious, and this was shown in part through "gilding" the Bible, so it often had a fair amount of gold in the pages of Scripture. There were those that wanted to steal these large, heavy books for the gold. Further, Bibles were not cheap or easy to come by. If you lost one, you were not going to be able to get a new one quickly. In chaining Bibles to the churches, they were not trying to keep Scripture away from the people, but were rather trying to preserve it for everyone.

And I recently got to read a rant about how the Council of Trent forbade Catholics from reading the Bible, put the Bible on a list of forbidden books, and made it a mortal sin for Catholics to read the Bible. The conclusion was that Catholics were not able to read the Bible until Vatican II.

I am equal parts annoyed and amused at the rant, because it is so over the top. I just read some of the documents from the Council of Trent regarding this. If you would like to check them out, they are here and here. The Council did not forbid Scripture, it forbade certain translations of Scripture, especially translations that were being done in a hurried and sloppy manner and without appropriate accountability. Yes, it did have a low view of vernacular translations of the Bible. Not because it wanted to keep people from reading Scripture in their own language, but because they wanted to keep people from reading incorrect translations of Scripture. Yes, it did say that reading books from the forbidden list did constitute a mortal sin, but not that reading Scripture itself from a credible translation was a mortal sin.

And therefore, I would submit that perhaps the charges against Catholics in history regarding the Scriptures are not so heinous. In fact, given that they were done out of such high regard for the purity of Scripture, perhaps there was even a certain nobility in their actions, whether or not you strictly agree with their methods. Personally I do agree, but then we all know my bias!

***I saw this over at Dawn's. I thought it sounded like fun, but I honestly don't plan ahead enough to usually participate in things like this. It turns out that the post that I happened to write today fits in well with the theme, so I'll link up. Head over there if you would like to see some other things that Catholics have to say about the basics of our faith.

Monday, January 25, 2010

Snow Showers

There was a prediction in the forecast for today for "snow showers". That sounded kind of innocuous, but what we got instead was plenty of snow and howling winds and very little visibility. There was supposed to be a make up basketball game tonight, but it got cancelled. The sad thing is, I've had so much time on my hands recently that I don't know what to do with myself anymore. When things get cancelled due to weather, it's not like I can go find other fun activities. I'm so tired of my apartment! On the other hand, it does good things for the checking account. Less gas, more eating in, and fewer opportunities for impulse buys.

I wish I could say that I made the best of another day in, but I don't think I did one productive thing. However, it's hard to complain too much. I have a warm home. I have electricity. I even have some connection with the outside world through the internet. Anyone that has time to be bored does not have any room to complain.

Nonetheless, I think we're going to have to have a party in April to celebrate the fact that it's no longer winter. (I'd say March, but we can still get some freak storms then.) Hopefully, my friends will still recognize me and I won't be completely feral by then from lack of human contact!

Sunday, January 24, 2010


I do not understand. Sometimes I think I do, but then I realize I still don't. What is the deal with prayer? You want us to pray. Sometimes prayer makes complete sense, but other times I just don't get it. Pray for healing, pray for job situations, pray for this that and the other. Sometimes You answer our prayers with stunning swiftness. Other times You answer them so softly and unexpectedly that we barely recognize that they've been answered. Sometimes we ask for one thing, and You send the other. Then there are the times we pray until our knees are worn out and the separation between heaven and earth seems impenetrable. Neither yes nor no coming back to us from above. Just... nothing.

I love You and I know that You love me more than I can imagine. I know Your answers and non-answers are always the best for me. But then, why do I pray? If You're going to do whatever You know is best anyway, then what is my part in this?

And there's another thing. How do I pray with faith and surrender at the same time? There are several things on my heart right now, the very ache of which is my prayer to You. I love to bring those to Your feet, but I'm confused. I lay them down, believing that I should lift up my complete faith in Your ability to answer them. Then again, I also believe that I should work on surrender to You; complete trust in Your love to answer "yes" or "no" according to what is best for me. But when does "faith" become an excuse to push for what I want and not what You want? And when does "surrender" become an excuse for complete lack of faith that You will answer according to Your ability and love?

Nonetheless, You know the prayers on my heart today for my deepest desires. You know the prayers that I have for my family, my friends, colleagues, and so many others. I do not understand, but I lift them up to You anyway. I do not understand Your ways, but I know that Your hands are the best place for all of these. Take them. Amen.

Friday, January 22, 2010

I'm Tired.

What a day! I got to the clinic at 7 am to get the message that my patient that I was supposed to see then had to reschedule. Awesome. The whole schedule was a little weird somehow. I don't know why. I also saw several high schoolers today. What is it about high schoolers that makes them so much fun to work with, but they also make you crazy? Then at 5:30, it was time to go to the basketball games. Girls won, guys lost to a buzzer beater. It stunk SO MUCH. That's all I have to say about that.

And a kid broke his ankle tonight. He rolled it like kids often do in basketball, so I figured it was probably sprained. Got him to the bench; took of his shoe. Yeah. Not sprained. It could have been worse, but it wasn't right. Congrats, you've just won a free trip to the ER! Oh, wait. Definitely not free. Poor kid.

More basketball tomorrow. And Monday. Then wrestling on Tuesday and Thursday. It's not so bad if I just sit there, but there have been a lot of injuries recently, and I would like for that to stop. The seasons are starting to wind down. Part of me is excited. Part of me is sad (since I won't get to do it next year). Part of me is wondering what the heck I'm going to do with myself when I don't have to sit at the school all evening long.

Excuse my ramblings and mutterings. I really should get a goldfish. Then I could mutter at it instead of writing silly posts like this. Nah. Then I'd mutter at it AND write posts like this, and I'd have to clean the tank.
Given that I started off making little sense and have gone downhill from there, I'm going to sign off and head to bed. Yay, weekend!

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Lent Is Coming

Too early for a post about Lent? Probably, but it's starting to creep into my awareness. At church last weekend they were trying to get everyone to sign up for small groups; and they reminded that it would be a good activity for Lent. I got an email today that I have only two more days to take advantage of getting Lenten materials on sale. It's coming, and it's coming pretty soon. Less than a month!

In some ways, I kind of dread Lent. If you do it up right, it's not exactly fun. I wouldn't say that it's tremendously difficult or anything, but as a pansy, anything requiring any sort of self-sacrifice is kind of hard. On the other hand, I look forward to it. A lot of times I can get stuck in a rut, and Lent pushes me out of the rut and back on track. I'm starting to notice the rut. I'm starting to be ready (albeit grudgingly) for my push.

Lent is an interesting discussion these days. It's not just for Catholics anymore! Well, I guess it never was, but growing up, we were about the only denomination in my small town that celebrated it. No Anglicans or other more liturgical types that also celebrated it. Now there are a lot of other more evangelical type churches that are jumping in and getting involved as well. This annoys some. I've heard of people saying that they're not going to celebrate Lent because they don't want to follow the herd mentality. I guess I don't see it that way. I see it as unitive, a shared experience that can give us some common ground.

Others see it as too many rules. For one thing, they don't want anyone to tell them what to give up. If they do give something up, then what? Do you count Sundays? If you don't count Sundays, then do you gorge on that day? What if you're at someone else's house? I heard one person with a Greek Orthodox background that gave some great insight to some of those questions. They said that in their family, if someone gave something up, they did so quietly without announcing it to the rest of the world. If they gave up TV, and everyone was watching it as they were visiting friends, then they watched, too. They didn't want to make their sacrifice paramount. Charity towards friends came first. On the other hand, if someone gave up chocolate or alcohol, then they just quietly didn't have any while others did. I love the balance in that kind of a view! Also love how that view of Lent is not about bragging about what you gave up.

I know that Lent is still not something that's observed by everyone. I think that's fine, but it kind of makes me sad. It has meant so much to me each year as a preparation for Easter, and as a renewal of my commitment to Christ, that it always takes me by surprise when someone has never observed it or thought about it. Easter is so huge for me, that it's always a little shocking when some people only take that day to celebrate it. I'm Catholic! Liturgically, we spend the 40 days before solemnly preparing for and remembering Christ's sacrifice. Then we celebrate the Easter season; 40 days of rejoicing!

What's your experience? Do you "do" Lent? Do you like to give something up, or do you like to add something to your routine, like prayer or spiritual reading? Any tips for things that have made Lent especially meaningful for you?

I'll have plenty more to say about this, though I'll probably wait until much closer to when it actually starts (unless places keep throwing it in my face that it's coming).

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Seriously! When will it be Spring??

I woke up this morning to the sound of frozen rain hitting my windows. Yuck!

My 7:00 patient is someone trying to get in before school. School is cancelled. Therefore, my 7:00 patient will probably cancel. However, unless I actually hear from them, I still have to get on the icy roads early enough to be at the clinic at 7:00 just in case. (I have my calls forwarded on days like today, so if only they call in time, I will get it. Please call in time!) My 7:30 will also probably cancel. All of my little old ladies will probably also cancel.

The good news is that I will have a short day. The bad news is I won't get to do anything fun with it, because it's not smart to be out and around on icy roads. Tomorrow is also supposed to be bad, but I hope it's not. There's supposed to be wrestling tomorrow, and I want it to happen. Not because I love wrestling so much, but because if they don't have it tomorrow, they'll have to reschedule to another evening, possibly one where I could have done something fun.

I'm really getting tired of winter. Is it over yet?

Sunday, January 17, 2010

Mary, Mediatrix

There are days when I belong remedial Catholic education of some sort. Those are the days where I know, to some extent, what the Church teaches, but as it starts to dawn on me what the teaching actually means I realize that I am a Catholic flunky and have been for years. This is no more obvious than in the way that I left Mary in the box.

I assented to the teachings of the Church. I felt that Mary should be honored. I knew that we didn't worship her. At the same time, I always had a vague discomfort about Mary. I didn't like the way that she was treated as some sort of "super creature". These things seem a little contradictory, but I got around it by ignoring it. Oh the beauty of unexamined thoughts! No need to worry about whether they make sense or not.

This only worked until it became glaringly obvious that I was facing a contradiction in my thoughts and actions. I could say that Mary should be honored, but I ignored her. I also fully recognized that honor of Mary should never interfere with our relationship with Christ, yet I belong to a Church that unabashedly calls Mary "Mediatrix" of graces.

I have not been a fan of that title. Outwardly, I could explain that Mary is a conduit of Christ's grace, and not the source. Therefore, it does not interfere with fact that Christ is the one mediator (1 Tim 2:5). Inwardly, my reaction was more along the lines of, "What. The. Heck. Just because you technically can call her that, why would you?"

In the last month or so, the whole thing started to make a lot more sense. One thing that helped me a lot was Young Mom's post here, as well as some of the great comments that she got. In the last couple of weeks, I am moving past seeing this title as merely acceptable, and starting to see how it is an amazing gift.

It is true that Mary has special graces and privilege; she is the Mother of God. There is no other. There is another part of the reason that we honor of Mary that I have somehow missed. The clue is in Luke 11: 27-28:

"As Jesus was saying these things, a woman in the crowd called out, 'Blessed is the mother who gave you birth and nursed you.'
"He replied, 'Blessed rather are those who hear the word of God and obey it.'"

We do and should honor Mary as the Mother of God, a unique role that no one else can fill. However, our greater honor is due to her words recorded in Luke 1:38:

"Behold, I am the servant of the Lord; let it be to me according to your word."

It is her faithfulness we prize most highly; her "yes" to God that holds nothing back. That utter abandon to His will does not make her something other than human, it is what makes her perfectly human. It is what we strive for as well. We honor her as we hope to emulate her and become a conduit of His grace to the world as she was.

When I thought of Mary as Mediatrix, I was stuck on this verse:

"For there is one God and one mediator between God and men, the man Christ Jesus" (1 Timothy 2:5).

As a Catholic, I am very familiar and comfortable with intercessory prayer. One of the words in the thesaurus for "mediator" is "intercessor". If Paul is saying that we have no part in Christ's mediation, then he would be saying that we should never be praying for anyone else. Clearly he is not saying that, especially since verse one of this very chapter says, "I urge, then, first of all, that requests, prayers, intercession and thanksgiving be made for everyone." He is talking about prayers to bring all to salvation in Christ, "This is good, and pleases God our Savior, who wants all men to be saved and to come to a knowledge of truth." (v. 4). I don't know about you, but to me, that sounds like we are all to have a part in the mediation of Christ. The source of salvation is always Christ. I could finally see that Mary was not something different than this type of mediation, but rather the perfect human example of it for the rest of us to emulate. That is why she was honored with that particular title.

These is something else. In a general audience given by John Paul II in October of 1997, he said, "We recall that Mary's mediation is essentially defined by her divine motherhood." She is Mediatrix because she is mother. She is the Mother of God; as such, her "yes" is intimately connected with Christ's life on the earth and therefore all of the graces that come from Him. It is true that God did not need her, but He chose her.

She is also my mother in a spiritual sense. Think for a moment of physical motherhood. A woman receives a seed of new life. For the next 9 months, she nurtures that life within her, and when that child is born, she continues to nurture that life. She will do anything for that child, including giving her life if necessary. How many mothers do you know of that spend hours on their knees for their children? Interceding for them. Mediating for them. Because of their love for that child. Our spiritual life is only possible in Christ, but Mary's mother-heart is constantly interceding for us, nurturing us. Again, we do not need her like we need Christ, but what an amazing gift!

There you have it. Suddenly a title that has bothered me for years has led me to a greater understanding of Mary, which in turn leads to a greater understanding of who we are to be in Christ. What do you think of this title? I love to hear thoughts of those that agree and can lead me to deeper understanding, but I also really love to hear thoughts from people that don't agree or understand. Either way, I think further discussion would help my understanding of this!

Note: I also recommend Lumen Gentium, chapter VIII, if you want to see a little more about what the Church actually says about this title.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Where Have I Been?

No, I'm asking you. Well, maybe not you (how would you know?) but someone. Surely someone can tell me where I've been all week. I mean, it's been busy, but it doesn't seem like it should have been so busy that I've barely blogged. I don't know. I guess I've been working a lot. And having fun; though work seems to predominate. Huh. I guess I didn't work Monday. How was this everlasting week only 4 days long?

Let's see. Monday I had the day off and went shopping. I spent too much; and I have to go back tomorrow to spend more return/exchange one of the shirts that I bought. I also made cookies. (My favorite- Mrs. Fields' cookies.) I have officially eaten way too many cookies this week. And I finally got to hang out with a friend that I see far too little of these days! Monday was good, but it honestly feels like I'm telling you about something that happened 2 weeks ago.

Tuesday was a basketball game. Basketball days pretty much shoot the rest of the day for me. Heh heh. Shoot. Get it?

Gimme a break. It's been a long week and the ol' synapses are NOT firing real well.

I got to try to get a band aid to stick on a sweaty face that really needed stitches. I couldn't get a butterfly stitch to work due to the sweatiness of the face and the fact that it had to be fully covered if he was going to keep playing. The cut didn't bother me. The fact that I couldn't find any way to hold the edges together for the remainder of the game; that kind of grossed me out. I'd say more, but I know there are a few people with weak stomachs that sometimes read this and I've probably said too much already!

Wednesday I went out to eat with my coworker. Have I mentioned that my receptionist is the sweetest girl ever? She is. The only reason that I'm not heartbroken about her leaving in May (she's getting married) is that I'll be leaving in July. Anyway, the food was good, but not great. For the price we paid, we wanted great.

Thursday night was fantastic! Too short, but I got to hang out with a lot of my friends and their amazing kids. After spending too much time trying to think at work all week, it was great to play a game of "chase" with a 2-year-old, where all I had to do was run with him from one room to the other while listening to him giggle. Best game ever! Also enjoyed a nice conversation with his 7 month old brother (how is he 7 months already?) Here's how the conversation went down:

Him: "Aahh."
Me: "Aahh?"
Him: "AAHH."
Me: "Aahh!"

He is seriously cute. Ridiculously cute. And not many guys are so open and honest about their feelings. He's a rare find.

Today I was at work at 7 am, and didn't leave the high school gym until 9 pm. I wasn't exactly working the entire time, but I was at the clinic most of the time. I was supposed to get some paperwork done from the time the patients left to the time that I headed to the school for the game. I did to a little, but ultimately decided to spend time on food, a few exercises, and pulling out the hot packs for the ginormous knot in my back. The good news about the long day is that the boys finally won a basketball game. No injuries, so that was a plus as well. I did have to cover up the cut again, but this time it was stitched up tight, so it was fine.

I got home today and didn't know what to do with myself. My brain was too tired to think, to read, to process a movie, to write. It was also too wound up to sleep. I decided that MORE cookies and catching up on some blog reading was the way to go. Then the sugar kicked in, and I decided I could write something, too. Now I'm still not quite ready to go to bed, but I'm going to have to, because I want to go to morning Mass tomorrow.

Here's hoping that

a) I didn't bore you too bad with this run down of my week and

b) that you all have a FANTASTIC weekend!

Sunday, January 10, 2010

I Can't Do Anything

And I would like to tell you why this is a good thing.

I have a truly petty beef with a coworker right now. I don't think he's done much to deserve it, but when I have to move this summer, he's the one taking my place. I don't want to move, so I don't like him very much. This resentment towards him (and a little still carrying over to my boss) is not right. I understand the situation behind this move. It makes sense. Maybe if I were a male I could comfort myself with the cold, sure logic behind the move. The fact is, I am not a male and I don't want to move. I can't compartmentalize this emotion about the move, so it spills out onto the people involved in the move.

It's really not right to feel this way about this colleague. And there's not a single thing I can do about it. I've been struggling with it off and on. Or I shove it off to the side and try not to think about it until I realize I'm still constructing scenarios in my head wherein, for some reason, he will not take over where I am and I will not have to move where he is right now. Then I realize that I'm not facing reality and I need to grow up, be mature, professional and logical, but in the back of my head there's still a little voice asking, "But wouldn't it be great if that really did happen?" I've tried to pull it together. I've tried to grow up. I'm making no progress whatsoever.

That's a good thing.

No, really. I realized this in Mass today. If there is something wrong with my attitude (and there obviously is) and I can't do anything about it, then I have no choice but to turn to God and rely totally on Him. Talk about a reality check. I can't do anything without Him anyway, but sometimes I think I can. When I live up to a goal or do something good, I give myself a little pat on the back. Sometimes I remember that God is ultimately responsible, but other times I'm only impressed with myself.

Because we had our staff Christmas party the other night, I was confronted with this situation numerous times. So in Mass today, general frustration and resentment rose up, and I suddenly was happy about it. Happy because there wasn't a thing I could do but dump it at the altar. Happy because that's all I had to do. Happy because I know that whatever changes happen are a result of Him, and I have no cause at all to be impressed with myself.

It's a very relaxing place to be. It doesn't make the negative feelings go away, nor does it explain why I feel so strongly about it all or why I'm being so immature about the whole thing. It does mean that I no longer have to wrestle all those things that I can't figure out. He knows exactly what's behind all of it and how to fix it. All I have to do now is be still and let Him have at it.

Saturday, January 9, 2010

A Series of Blonde Moments

I am so excited about a book discussion that's getting ready to start soon. In the course of introductions, it came out that I am blonde and have been known to act like it on occasion. There was a comment or two that people didn't see me as a stereotypical blonde. That's good. I hope I'm not, but I have my moments. Like the time that I wore two different shoes to work (in high school, so we had blondeness, high school flakiness and weekend all at work in that moment of brilliance). Or the time that I tried to help cover a dance team competition, and ended up at a pigeon show. (I've never seen so many pigeons in my life!) That was in college. Or the ultimate blonde moment as I was trying to change my tire. But I can't tell that one. It's just too, well, blonde.

Today there was nothing too crazy, but it seemed to add up. I was working on my grocery list plan, and decided to go with Shrimp Creole for this week. I was proud of myself for getting my list done on Friday night so that I could stop at the grocery store on my way home for morning Mass. On my way to Mass, I realized my list was on the table.

Oh, well. I figured the list wasn't very long, I could probably remember most of it. So I stopped at the store and walked in. Then I had to turn around and walk back out, because I realized that I left my money in the car. Nice.

Then I got home, and decided to start fixing the rice. I got it all measured out, and started working on some other things while I waited for it to boil. For one thing, I started working on a new grocery list. You see, I remembered most of the important stuff, but realized that I had to cash a check, which was right by another grocery store. I figured I could pick up the couple of things that I missed, and I added to it, because I want to make some oatmeal chocolate chip cookies. It was taking a really long time for the rice to start to cook, but then I realized I could speed up the process if only I turned on the burner.

I thought the second grocery trip went off without a hitch. I remembered my list, I took in my purse, everything. Then I got halfway home and realized I forgot the eggs. They were even on the list! How did I skip one thing?? It's not like it was a long list; it was my second trip to the store for the day! I am so not going back to the store today. I wasn't planning to bake until Monday. I guess I'll just have to make a stop at the store before I can start.

And I just realized that I decided that I would type this up quick before I did the dishes; but maybe I should have put the perishables away before I picked up the computer. I sort of forgot about those.

Hmm, now that I think about it, maybe I shouldn't post this! Maybe I should just let everyone that thinks I have it together keep laboring under their delusions for a while longer... Oh, well. It is what it is. If you'll excuse me, I have to go put away some groceries.

Thursday, January 7, 2010

The Way It Goes

I have a goal. That goal is to someday write a blog post (this one doesn't count). I don't know when it will happen ever again. I have had posts that I have struggled with, either how to word it, or whether I really wanted to share it. I have had posts that I started to say one thing and another thing came out, so I had to write another post. I have had writer's block, and literally had nothing to say. Sometimes I would try to say something anyway, not always a good plan. Other days I would just not say anything at all. Nothing wrong with that.

I have never had a situation like this. I have several things that I would love to write about. Things that have been brewing for a while and are pretty well boiling over. They demand an outlet, and I can't seem to oblige them. I have started post after post after post. I have tried different angles. I've started over numerous times. I've come close to finishing the posts, only to get stuck and delete the whole thing in frustration. I am not exaggerating when I say that I've hit the "New Post" button 2 or 3 times per day since January 1st, but the only things that have gotten published have had nothing to do with those topics.

I'm only telling you this because I like to complain. And because I wanted to see what it felt like to follow up "New Post" with "Publish Post", even if I still didn't get all my jumbled up thoughts straightened out. Also, if my brain finally explodes from either the gallimaufry or from the frustration of not being able to put things to words, then I wanted you all to know what happened.

Wednesday, January 6, 2010

A Prayer Request

A cousin of mine was recently in a car accident, and broke his back. There is a pretty good chance that he will not walk again, though nothing is certain at this point. I'm sure he and his family would really appreciate the extra prayers!

The Good News and the Bad News

The good news: the temperature made it into the double digits above zero today! Heat wave!

The bad news: It's snowing. Again. Blizzard conditions. Again. How many blizzards can be fit into one winter?? Wait. Maybe I don't want to know the answer to that...

The good news: I likely won't have to go to a wrestling meet tomorrow night! Yes!

The bad news: I likely will still have to try to get the Corolla through the snow to the clinic for regular clinic hours. The Corolla is a really great car... in all but winter driving.

Happy January, everyone!

Saturday, January 2, 2010

New Year, New Plan

I am the poster child for poor resolution keeping. It's because my balance is dreadful. Either my goals are wide and vague and impossible or because they are so detailed and specific that I will fail as a matter of course.

Example of the first:

1) I will exercise more.
2) I will eat healthier.
3) I will spend my money more intelligently.
4) I will keep my place cleaner and more organized.

Example of the second:
1) I will do at least 40 minutes of cardio 6 days per week and 20 minutes of strength training 2 times per week for each body area; so arms are Monday, Thursday, core is Tuesday, Friday and legs on Wednesday and Saturday.
2) I will monitor specific serving sizes of my well-balanced, whole foods, unprocessed diet, cooking everything from scratch in all my free time.
3) I will track every single penny I spend and cut out all the extra books, splurge spending at the grocery store, make a plan for cutting back and carefully budgeting every dime.
4) I will meticulously clean out all my files, and closets. I will keep my floors constantly vacuumed and scrubbed. My dishes will be done at all times.

The first are so vague that I don't get started. The second are so burdensome that I don't get past making a to-do list for the first day. That or I do them one day, and am too physically and mentally drained to consider doing them a second day.

This year is different. Yeah, yeah. You've heard it before, haven't you? Well, I'm not kidding. This year is different.

The same basic 4 apply, but some I've already started. Also, instead of aiming for what I think I should be doing, I've decided to focus on what I know I can do.

1) I will work out 30 minutes 3 times per week.
2 & 3) I will do my grocery shopping from a list.
4) Besides normal maintenance cleaning, I will try to spend 10 minutes a day doing whatever cleaning needs to be done.

So far, I started #1 a week ago. That's only 2 workouts so far (hopefully 3 by the time you this). As for 2 & 3, I haven't started yet, but I plan to make the list tonight so I can shop tomorrow. I've determined that my biggest money drain is my groceries. The same impulse buying that drains the cash when I'm tired and hungry doesn't lead to smart nutritional choices either. One simple action to address two problems? I think I can handle that. Number 4 is the reason that my spare room is no longer a huge disaster! I started that a month ago, and it took the whole month to get it to where it is today, but it really is in a much better place. I wouldn't be mortified if my grandma were to poke her head through the door.

In some ways, I feel like I'm cheating. The goals almost seem too easy. Not challenging enough to make me a better person or whatever. Oh, well. If I'm cheating, then I will gladly be a cheater. I have a sense of accomplishment for what I have gotten done. I don't have a huge load of pressure of all that I have failed. And I know I can do it again tomorrow. I love being able to focus on what I have done, rather than what I haven't done.

Happy New Year's, 2010!

Friday, January 1, 2010

The Mary Box

I am coming to realize that there were a lot of boxes in my faith life. When I started become interested in my faith in high school, I was learning a lot of things and most of them fit neatly into those boxes. There's the Marriage box, the Eucharist box, the Bible box, the Mass box, the general Sacraments box, the Afterlife box and so many more. I was very excited about what was in all of the boxes. Each had their own set of teachings, and came with a general instruction manual included supporting biblical text. There was one box that I rather avoided. I knew the basic instruction manual and supporting biblical texts, but I didn't pull the Mary box out much. I kept it on the shelf with a label: "Mother of God; Important Historical Figure Who Will Pray for You if You Ask Her to."

As my faith has grown, the box system is not working so well. The more I learn about one of these areas, the more it spills out and enriches the entirety of my faith and my life. The Mary box stayed on the shelf, however. It wasn't a conscious decision to ignore Mary. I just wasn't that interested. I felt no connection. At first, I kind of felt that way about all the saints. I gradually came to LOVE the communion of saints. Instead of reading about the saints, I began to read some of the writing of the saints. I finally realized that they are human just like the rest of us. They have had the same struggles and have trusted God through it all. Even then, the Mary box stayed on the shelf. In the back. Behind the scrapbooking supplies and random knicknacks that are too ugly to display and too sentimental to toss.

Ironically my cousin L, in trying to convince me to toss out the Mary box altogether, was the one that shook things up and led to the beginning of some change. Although I had serious reservations about the way some Catholics look to Mary and chase apparitions, I knew the answer couldn't be to toss her out altogether. Unfortunately, as in all good housekeeping, if you aren't going to toss something, you need to pull it out and put it where you can use it. No more ignoring the vague sense of discomfort.

I pulled out the box and blew off the worst of the dust. I still didn't know what to do with her, but I knew someone who did. As I eased open the box top, my prayer was that Jesus would show me the way to honor His mother the way HE wanted her honored. Not long after that, I was reading the first chapter of Luke with new eyes. You can read about that here.

One thing that I knew (because I had read the instruction manual) was that what we knew about Mary pointed to Christ. I could parrot that fact, but I didn't start to really understand it until later. I still feel that I have a lot to learn in that regard, but some of what I learned so far is here.

One thing that has been on my mind recently is how Mary fits in with the teaching of Theology of the Body. (Yes, yes, I do have a certain focus- or obsession!- with that teaching. Why do you ask?) One of the things that it makes clear is the way that Mary is the embodiment of all we hope for as Christians. As Catholics, we believe that she is sinless (because of the grace of Christ). We believe that we, too, will one day be sinless when we are in heaven on the last day. We believe that Christ has assumed her into heaven, body and soul. We believe that on that last day that we will also be given the fulness of eternal life, in our perfectly glorified body and soul. She is the model and blueprint for all of us who hope to follow Christ. Her most definitive moment is our most definitive moment: the moment that she gave her complete "fiat" that the will of God be done in her.

I have always accepted Mary. I have never had a huge fight with the teachings of the Church about Her. But neither have I had much excitement for her. That love, that relationship has been missing. Oh so gradually I am starting to see what it means that she is His mother, and what it means that she is my mother. Not just to be able to recite what it means, but to know profoundly and personally what that means to my faith. Though I am far from finished on this journey, I'm happy to report that Mary is out of the box and that the box is long gone.

L, thank you for your questions, even if they didn't lead me in the direction you thought I should go. I also was fortunate to get to read someone else's thoughts on Mary recently, and it was really great timing for me. She has some well thought out words on the positive aspects of Mary here, and some equally well thought out words about some of the more confusing aspects of Mary here. It's always nice to know that I'm not the only one sorting through these things, and it's really helpful to me to read the thoughts of someone who has not grown up with all of this.