Monthly Archives: April 2008

Nineveh

John 15:16
“You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

This seems like an apt reflection for the day.  For a while now, I have been pondering a situation which I have found myself in.  Let’s start by using a Jonah analogy (because I love Jonah), and go from there.

God tells Jonah to go to Nineveh.  Jonah’s not particularly excited to go to Nineveh.  Jonah decides to go for a boat ride, because boat rides are fun and then he doesn’t have to think about Nineveh.  He falls asleep, and wakes up with the boat on shore.  God tells him, “You’re in Nineveh.”  Jonah pouts, “What?!?  Are you serious?  I didn’t want to go to Nineveh.”  God says, “Tough.  Here you are.”

 As you may have guessed, I’m Jonah in this story.  As necessary background, I suppose I should say that I have odd views on family, and I tend to “adopt” people into my “family.”  My “chosen family,” as I call them.  And I love them as I love the members of my family:  completely, unconditionally, permanently.  I also have other categories:  such as my close friends, my long-term friends, and friends whom I consider to have been given to me by God.  I tend to feel, for the most part, that I have some active choice in who I designate as my “family.”

Except for this one case.

[Ignore the wrong pronouns, I’m trying to be non-gender-specific….  🙂 ]  I met this person a while ago, and I thought they were fine, pleasant, interesting, intelligent — any manner of things.  But also a little scary, in the way that they seemed to “get me” so quickly and accurately.  There were other factors that went into it, but suffice it to say that I decided that I would keep this person at arms length from me.  Oh, I would definitely interact with them, but I wasn’t about to make it personal.

Critical Steinbeck Error — you know, “best laid plans of mice and men….” ?  Or that other quote, “If you want to hear God laugh, tell Him your plans.”

So, this arms length thing being my decision, God says, “Oh, really?  Nope.  Actually, I’m going to make you care for this person.”  [Okay, God didn’t really speak to me in words as such, so this is my translation of what I got.  I’m sure God can speak much more eloquently than this, but He’s speaking to my level here….]

“What?  No, no, no.  I want an impersonal, working relationship.  Nothing complicated or messy or, well, involved.”  So, I go about trying to minimize contact with this person, to create a bubble between me and them.  My little ostrich head was firmly planted in the sand, and my fingers were in my ears, “La la la, I can’t hear you!”

A little while later, Gods tell me, “You know what?  Not only are you going to care for them, but you are going to love them.  They will be your family.”

But I don’t want that!!!”  I didn’t actually go so far as to tell God “No,” but I made my preference clear.  “I don’t want to love this person!

Then, God laughs.  “Tough.  Look in your heart.  You already do.”

Oh no.  I did.

After that, it’s like a phrase that a friend of mine likes to say:  “You will do it.  You will like it.  And you will like liking it.”  But first, being me, I had to spend at least a little time grumbling about the fact that I didn’t particularly choose to make this person part of my family.  But, what do you do?  When you love, you love.  And God didn’t give me one of these fleeting affections.  It’s like all of me is deeply involved in the well-being of this Other.  And of course, being me, I was concerned about this.  What if it wasn’t something of God, and was instead some personal psychiatric disorder?  What if for some reason, I had developed some unnatural fixation or obsession with this person, and was trying to justify it to myself?  Maybe I just wanted love or approval in return and thought that this person would reciprocate?  Any sort of questioning you can think of — I put myself through it.  Basically, I didn’t trust myself not to be messed up in some way.  I’m not the best at relationships.  Haha, or trusting!

 So, now I have this person.  And they are my family.  And I pray for them every day.  And I worry over them.  I’m okay if they are okay.  I don’t have to be a major player in this person’s life, even though they are a major player in mine.  It’s not necessary or even expected that they would care for me.  And I’m okay with that too.

Sometimes, I wondered about all this, but mostly I just accepted it and went about my business praying for and worrying about and rejoicing in the fact that God made this unique individual, and that He wrote this person onto my heart.

Recently, however, I came across this Vatican document or other.  And it was kind of talking about this:  that sometimes God may give a person to another person, for them to carry spiritually.  To love and nurture and pray for and suffer for.  Sometimes, a person is given an Other to carry, and s/he may have never met the person before.  Or may not ever meet them (until heaven).

Maybe this is what has been going on with me and my person.

Which brings me back to John 15:16, “You did not choose me, but I chose you and appointed you that you should go and bear fruit and that your fruit should abide; so that whatever you ask the Father in my name, he may give it to you.”

I didn’t choose God.  God choose me.  I have no idea why, but God called me from my secular, atheist life and gave me a new heart and faith and a deep hunger to know Him.  And now He’s given me this Other.  So, now I have to go bear fruit.  I had not ever consciously decided to pray for this person every day.  It just happened on its own.  I wanted to.  It is a joy.  And maybe that is a purpose for me.  A task.  A calling.  A something.

And so while I didn’t want to go to Nineveh, I ended up in Nineveh anyway.  And you know what?  Nineveh’s a pretty awesome place.  And I will continue to muddle my way along, trying to discern God’s will.

Thanking Him for this gift.

Teaser Photo

Here’s just one of the many, many pictures that I took over the weekend.  I do not have a great zoom, and was sitting quite high in the stands, so the picture is a little fuzzy (digital zoom will do that).

It was amazing!  It was great!  I need a thesaurus for my superlative adjectives!

One day, when I am no longer tired, I may write more on this.  For now, I have a mountain of things to get done in the office!
Pope Benedict XVI

It Will Never Happen Again

Well, as usual, I was up late and too tired to pack for our trip before I went to bed.  I figured that I would just get up early (as I am used to do) and pack then.

 So, of course, I slept in.

 However!  I still managed, somehow, to be showered, dressed, and packed one hour later.  That is amazing.  Especially since I can be a kitchen-sink kind of girl (for good reason, I can go into later).  Then, I had 30 minutes to try and clean up my house before everyone comes over and sees what a bad housekeeper I am. 

They are running a bit late, so more dishes to do for me!

See you all after New York!!!

A New Examination of Conscience

I haven’t come across this one before!  I found this examination of conscience here:

1. “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.”

  • Do I fear being poor, in spirit or otherwise, and prefer to be rich in money, brains, or influence?
  • Is my desire for poverty of spirit congruent with my lifestyle?
  • Do I use the word of God to rationalize my lifestyle, or am I willing to have God’s word criticize it?
  • Do I cling to my own ideas, opinions and judgments, sometimes to the point of idolatry?
  • Do I contribute my time, talent and money to the poor of the world?
  • Do I make it my business to examine the causes of poverty in our world and work to eradicate unjust systems?

2. “Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.”

  • Do I grieve over loneliness, despair, guilt and rejection in the lives of others?
  • Am I willing to admit my own despondencies and need for comfort?
  • Do I minister consolation and healing, or do I blandly encourage people to “have courage,” thereby avoiding the opportunity to mourn with another?
  • Am I doing anything to dry the tears of those who mourn over war, poverty, hunger, injustice?

3. “Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.”

  • Do I see any value in meekness or nonviolence?
  • Do I cringe at the thought of being called meek?
  • Do I understand nonviolence as a way to fight evil with good, and do I choose to live that way?
  • How much are intimidation and force part of my lifestyle?
  • Do I work for nonviolent social change?
  • Do I foster a cooperative spirit in my children?

4. “Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.”

  • Have I kept myself ignorant of important current events that are manifestations of injustice?
  • Are my energies and passions focused on Christ, or are they scattered, disordered, divided?
  • Am I honestly trying to improve the quality of life around me?
  • Am I trying to improve the environment, racial relations, care for the unborn, sexual equality, the lives of the poor and destitute?
  • Have I decided that I will not be satisfied until justice is fulfilled in my own life, within my family, my church, my community, my world?
  • Have I let fear keep me silent when I should have spoken out against prejudice, injustice and violence?

5. “Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy.”

  • Do I operate on a double standard of expecting mercy but not wanting to grant it?
  • Do I prefer the strict law and order approach, or that of mercy, tenderness and compassion?
  • Are there places in my life where people are suffering because of me and my unforgiving attitude?
  • Am I devoid of a merciful spirit toward those I call “enemy”?
  • What is my attitude toward capital punishment, ex-convicts?

6. “Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.”

  • Am I trusting and trustful?
  • Do I value living without pretense, or am I constantly fearful that someone will take advantage of me?
  • Am I open and honest about who I am and what I do?
  • Do I deflect the attention and honor due to God and claim these things for myself?
  • Have I been untrue to myself, even a little, for advancement, money or good opinion?
  • Have I failed to take time for prayer, solitude, reflection?

7. “Blessed are the peacemakers for they shall be called children of God.”

  • Am I eager for reconciliation, or do I antagonize and yearn for revenge?
  • Do I think apologizing is a sign of weakness?
  • Am I willing to be a bridge in family and community arguments?
  • Do I support violence in films, television and sports?
  • Have I studied peace and taken initiatives to stop violence and war?
  • Have I read, and do I support, the many official church statements against the arms race, nuclear weapons, war?
  • Do I see the Christian vocation as one of peacemaker?
  • Is my presence a source of peace to those around me?

8. “Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven. Blessed are you when people revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account.”

  • Do I criticize or ridicule those who suffer for their beliefs?
  • Am I embarrassed to step out of the mainstream to stand up for a principle?
  • Who are my heroes? Are there any among them who gave their lives without vengeance for what is true?
  • Would I do the same?
  • Do I worship security and fear costly discipleship?
  • Have I called myself Christian without making my life a witness to the teachings of Jesus?
  • Have I openly supported those who defend justice and give their lives for peace?

9. “Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven.”

  • Do I live confident of the promises of Jesus?
  • Do I surrender to pessimism and anxiety?
  • Do I perceive that there is a paradoxical victory in the cross of Jesus that breaks through power structures and conquers in peace and love?
  • Have I become cynical rather than hopeful?

From “The Fire of Peace: A Prayer Book – available from Pax Christi USA; #542-217; $12 plus shipping and handling.

Catching Up, Part I

Well, it has certainly been a while since I posted any of my reflections from the Little White Book.  Have you guys missed my random musings?  🙂

LWB, Saturday 4/5

Today, we talk about the apostles being in the boat in the Sea of Galilee as a storm is going on, and how in the midst of it, they see Jesus walking on the water towards them.  And how this is reassuring (because 1.  He is not conquered by raging storms  2.  He can come to you no matter where you are and 3.  as long as Jesus is with you, there is nothing to fear).

I know I tend to be an odd mix of fearless/wild/reckless and timid/scared/hesitant.  Which pretty much guarantees that I’ll respond inappropriately under any circumstance.  Isn’t that great?!  🙂  Thank God for God.  With Him as my anchor, I can both be confident when I need confidence and strength; and I can be tamed when I am all over the map.  It is so good to have a reference, so that I can come back to center when I drift too far afield.  (Please note:  I am still VERY much a work in progress!)

My original reflection on this was that it goes back to that original question, “Do you trust God?”  Adam and Eve didn’t.  If you believe in God, why would you be afraid?  Even if you would die, you would just be (hopefully) going home.

LWB, Friday 4/4

To paraphrase the LWB, we are talking about the multiplication of the loaves and the fishes, and how the apostles thought the situation hopeless, but that Jesus fed everyone with plenty to spare.  Similarly, we often think that there is no way that we can make a difference in the world’s problems, because they seem so far beyond the scope of capability of one individual.  *I* cannot possibly end world hunger, or gain world peace, or eradicate racism/sexism or any of this.  So, just as the apostles thought that it can’t be done, so too do I often think that it can’t be done.  But the mistake is seeing God as limited.

This is GOD!  He can do ANYTHING!  He created the universe, after all, and I’m thinking that he can’t do….what?

Ah.  I need to come to know, really know, that things occur due to *God’s* initiative, and not of my own merit.  I need to let His grace flow through me, and not be impeded by my personal doubts.

Fr. John was talking the other day of when he was in seminary in Rome, standing before the Pope and getting the impression that he was telling him to simply, “Be great.”  Listening to it then (way back Wednesday, two days ago), I thought of that in the way he presented it.  At the moment, when I think of that story and try to apply it here to me (‘cuz it’s *all* about me), I think that my “being great” has to be about letting God work through me.  If God has no limits, and I do not put a limit on what He can accomplish through me, who knows what good I may do?  His will, not my will.  Seems to be a recurring theme this week.  How about that?  You don’t think someone’s trying to give me a hint, do you?

LWB, Thursday 4/3

Today’s Gospel and reflection deal with the fact that God the Father does not ration His gift of the Spirit.  The LWB goes on to elaborate and show us how none of the persons of the Trinity are anything but ridiculously generous with us in all that is given to us.  And it isn’t just quantity which is heaped upon us, the gifts which are given are of the finest quality.

How can it be then that I can go through my day (week/month/year) and not recognize these amazing gifts?  Oh, yes.  That’s right.  Because of my amazing capacity for taking things for granted.  It gets worse, too.  See, because not only to I take things for granted, but I also am arrogant enough to have…expectations.  Oh, yes.  Jenn definitely has her own opinion about How Things Should Be.  She might not necessarily tell you — she’s contrary like that — but the sentiment exists nonetheless.  Especially when it comes to HER plan for HER life.

Far be it for me to say that Jenn could have had some thoughts like:

1.  At age 18, I definitely should be living on my own with my own house, or at the *very* least, my own apartment.

2.  I *absolutely* wanted to have a husband and start having a family by the time I was 25, although I was fine with starting earlier — you know, like at age 19.  After all, I had already lived so incredibly long that I might as well get on with it before I got — horrors — old.

3.  I *certainly* wanted to be finished having all my children by the time I was 30.  My mom had her last child when she was 30, and she still has enough energy to run around with us.  I wouldn’t want to be so old that I couldn’t play with my children and do all the things with them that I wanted to do.  (Remember, too, that Jenn had grandiose dreams of attending all the Gymboree classes, and Mommy and Me classes, and Toddler Aquatics sessions, etc. etc. etc.)

4.  And somewhere in there, I was going to finish the 4 or 5 degrees that I wanted to complete, have a job that I loved, find time to have an immaculate and well-organized home, start making healthy and well-balanced meals for my family, get all of my childhood photographs into artistically done albums, become really good at ice skating and tennis and skiing and swimming, learn how to dive, write amazing books which would inspire millions, become a doctor, find a cure for AIDS and those cool little hemorrhagic virii while working in a world-class center like CDC or USAMRIID, and generally do all manner of astounding things so that . . . people would love me.

Really, I just wanted to be loved.

I just felt that I had to *do* something — otherwise, there was no reason for anyone to love me.  And the more I wanted — needed — to be loved, the more elaborate the goals (which of course, became fantasies, and the more I realized that I was not living up to what I thought I should be doing, and compared my life to my arbitrary measuring stick of what it should be like and found it wanting, the more depressed I became at the utter failure that I was).

Okie dokie, we are *really* healthy now, right?  🙂

So, current day, where are we?

1.  Well, I *am* living on my own, in a house.  I’m not currently paying the mortgage as I should, but that’s another matter.

2.  I *had* a husband, and a baby.

3.  I am now — oh, my — 30, divorced and working on an annulment, and do not have any (living) children.

4.  Well, I did manage to eke out one degree, but none of the others, although I have added a few more degrees to the list of ones I would like to have.  I *do* have a job that I love; well, at least people who I work for whom I love.  Hahaha, clean organized house — gimme a break!  I *did* start towards that healthy meal thing this Lent.  Um, yeah, photos still in shoeboxes…14 shoeboxes to be precise — at least I did kind of get the shoeboxes grouped into rough categories, although the last years photos…not so much.  And please excuse me while I roll on the floor for a while laughing maniacally at the rest of those items.

And getting those people to love me?  Well, I’m told that some do, and that God *certainly* does — just for me, not for anything that I did.  And I am trying to work on understanding that concept.

So, my plans have largely gone the way Of Mice and Men.  Maybe I’ll be able to start letting go of my vision of my future, and be open to His plan for my future…since, you know, He probably has a better plan than me anyway.    🙂

 LWB, Wednesday 4/2

Today’s Gospel speaks of darkness and light and our choices (Jn 3:16-21).  The LWB reflection reminds us that we are wary of letting others into that core of us, that most of us have some sort of façade that we display in public.  We wouldn’t want to “air our dirty laundry.”  We generally want others to think well of us, and so we promote that which is good, and try to hide that which is bad in our own character.  We can become so good at doing this that we end up lying to ourselves about our inner natures — thinking that we are better than we actually are.  It is so much easier to gloss over the (many) parts of my day where I was sinful or neglectful or apathetic or selfish, and think instead on the (few) times of the day where I actually projected Jesus onto others.  So, I would have to answer the book — no, I don’t often allow myself to look honestly at myself.  Why not?  Because that is quite often a pretty ugly picture.

So here comes the hard part — actually taking a good look at yourself.  Here, too, it can become easy to shift from one extreme to the other, and think that everything that you do is bad or not good enough, or simply that you could have done more.  This in itself *can* be a healthy way to grow into a more holy life.  However, I am a little more messed up that that, and when I do take a look at myself, I see *only* the bad, and start developing this unhealthy disgust with myself, to which I like to combine a little self-loathing and feelings of futility at the whole project that is me.

Which is why the wise people who wrote this little book told you to invite the Lord to this self-inspection.  He knows everything about me, after all.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  And you know what?  He loves me!  No matter how far astray I’ve gone, He just wants me to turn back to Him and work on getting home.  And He’s here to help, and He’s here for the entire journey.  I can’t find my way on my own.  I’m my own worst enemy at times (okay, most of the time).  But if I trust in Him and follow His guidance, I will certainly get to my destination.  But, what will happen if I continue to play ostrich to my faults and failings?  Perhaps the day of my judgment will come before I have had a chance to work out my problem areas (especially given the fact that I *love* to procrastinate, particularly with those chores I dislike the most). 

Now for perhaps the hardest part of all:  tuning out my inner chatter so that I can listen for God when He tries to nudge me in the right direction.

 End of Part I:
Since the next few days begin the “Bread of Life Discourse,” I will end this post here, and finish catching up later.  🙂

Go Ahead, Push My Buttons

Okay, I read in OLGC bulletin that there was going to be a talk on U-M campus entitled “Why Liberals and Feminists Should Be Pro-Life” and decided to stay a little late at work and head over.  There was so much in that talk that I could blog about, but for now I’ll just comment on one thing at the end during the question and answer period.  Hopefully, I’ll be able to give a longer post on the talk over the weekend.

Towards the end of the question and answer period, which kept trying to become a heated debate between students/attendees, a girl (I call everyone girl, regardless of age, just a quirk of mine — she called herself an X-year old woman) was upset at the speaker, saying (essentially) that the speaker was talking of ideals and of a perfect world that does not exist, and that since we are currently in a world where women are still being put down for their sex and still in relationships where the men have control over when the couple will be conjugally active and where rape still exists — that abortion should still be legal, so that these women would not be forced to continue with a pregnancy that they might not have freely chosen.  One of her main points was that abortion was necessary as long as society devalued women [her] because “I have a vagina.”

Okay.  So my interpretation of what she is saying goes something like this:  You are upset because someone [males in power in society, presumably] is not giving you full human rights and dignity due to the anatomical fact that you have a vagina.  However, you do not see any irony in the fact that you are willing to deny someone [the unborn] every human right, beginning with the right to life, due to the anatomical fact that they have an umbilical cord?

And, further, if you are concerned about equal status and equal value amongst the sexes, promoting an attitude where certain people [the unborn] are not valued is not going to promote a societal ethos where that equality will be felt in the heart of the people.  Only if every single person, regardless of age, sex, birth status, mental capacity, etc., is seen as a unique, unrepeatable, special individual made in the image and likeness of God, in whom God is deeply and radically in love, can we begin to live in a society where each person is treated with the respect and dignity that they deserve.

 Yeah, so basically, I tried really hard to fight the urge to want to whap everyone there upside the head with a copy of “Theology of the Body.”

I may have to create a whole separate page on my blog just to talk about this issue, until I have properly vented.  What do you think?  Shall we have a pro-life forum here?  🙂

Most Ridiculous Thing I’ve Heard All Day

Earlier today, one of our nurses came up to me and mentioned that an insurance company denied a patient a PET scan because they only approve so many PET scans per year, and this particular patient (not one of mine) was not on their list.  Nevermind if it’s a medically necessary study, or the fact that the patient hasn’t had one before.  “We gave a PET scan to “Frank,” so “Bill” will be unable to have one.”  What kind of policy is that?  Assuming that you are an insurance company and you have 100 patients and you only approve 5 PET scans a year, how do you determine who gets one?  Alphabetically?  Certainly they do not have the kind of information to be able to know who is worse off from a medical perspective, especially if a PET can tell you about the extent of the disease, and that’s precisely what they are limiting.

But then, she said the best thing of all.  Apparently the insurance representative told her that it was okay to deny the authorization for the PET scan, since, “The pancreas is an experimental organ anyway.”

Really?  Huh.  And here I thought that God had been making people with pancreases since Adam and Eve.  Apparently not.  Since when did people start becoming equipped with a pancreas? 

So, they are saying that God is experimenting with the human body??  (Obviously, they cannot be arguing from a Darwinian model, since random mutation and evolutionary processes can hardly qualify as an “experiment.”  You kinda need sentience for that, in order to evaluate results.)

What?  To see if people with pancreases sinned less than people without pancreases?  But, God is all-knowing.  He doesn’t need to conduct experiments.  If we are truly free-willed, then the presence or absence of a pancreas (assuming that a pancreas affects the decisions that we make, morally speaking) would have to have no affect on our decisions, or then God would be skewing things either in His favor, or out of His favor, as it comes to our choosing to be obedient or not.

So what type of experiment could God be running that He wouldn’t know the answer to already, and that wouldn’t influence our will?

And more to the point, how is it that this insurance company is privy to God’s experiments?  If they have some sort of direct pipe to know His mind on things — I want in on that!  It would save me a lot of grief if I already knew the correct answer/response to things, instead of trying to discern on my own, because I *know* that *my* thinking is flawed.

But okay, let’s examine this pancreas issue for just a moment.  My vote is that the pancreas would increase our tendency to sin.  Why do I say this?  Well, if your blood sugar is either too high or too low, then you are more prone to mood swings, and behaving poorly because your emotions may be erratic and you are irritable.  This of course supposes that the previous system (in the non-pancreas people) worked perfectly.

 Of course, the other option is that the pancreas is *not* an experimental organ, and is an integral part of God’s design for the body.