Tuesday, January 20, 2009

The Spirit of Service

I have to say that watching the inaugeration, I felt so proud to be an American. I'm excited to see what the future holds. I enjoyed the music before President Obama's oath, with Itzak Perlman. Hope was practically palpable even through the television screen during every part of the event. Every inaugeration is such a testament to the world of a great democracy where power is peacefully handed over every four years. President Obama spoke of a "spirit of service" that all need to have. It will be interesting to see what that means. My husband and I have served in the military, given our time, our tears, and our treasure to the good of the country. By and large, I don't know that the idea of service has really penetrated our culture the way that it did in say, the 1940's. We'll see how that evolves.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Holy Family

This last Sunday the homily was amazing at our 5:00 pm Mass. The priest spoke about how today, the favorite shows of the youth are those about "Friends." Years ago, shows about family were popular because they were believable. Today, shows depicting an intact family with defined male and female roles is so far from reality that they cannot be popular. One of the central problems with our families today is that we are all more interested in personal fulfillment than in what we can give to others. That thought resonated with me, because I worry that I will give too much. I worry about "losing myself." I worry about not being fulfilled professionally. I realize that there probably isn't a "too much" in a marriage, and even if there is, I'm nowhere close to that point. I have chosen to be a wife first, and everything else second. We really want to have a strong family, and I know that in the end, all the worldly accolades will not matter. What will matter is how well I have loved my husband, and hopefully my children. My vocation as a wife is supported by my professional activies, not the other way around. Honestly, though, I wonder what all of that looks like for me. I sometimes feel like I'm just reaching in different directions hoping something will stick. The nice thing about the Navy was that the choices were limited... now my choices are still limited but in a different way. Figuring out what works with being a Navy wife is kind of difficult. You can't really build a career because you move at random times..so I think the solution to this is to figure out what does work with being a Navy wife. Something I like to do, and can feasibly do many places. For now, I think I'm going to stick with engineering, but I'm thinking that something combining theology and teaching will be what I move towards. I'm a little scared of teaching in NY public schools, plus I need a teaching certificate...and I can still make way more money with engineering...so it will make more sense to move to that down the road.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Wise Words

I got this from the following blog: http://joannab-everyday.blogspot.com/

The version found written on the wall in Mother Teresa's home for children in Calcutta:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.

If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Monday, December 1, 2008

The Challenge of James

I'm working on my final paper for my New Testament class, and one of the resources for my paper included a section that I found challenging and inspiring. I have quoted a section of it below:

"...Among James's readers, as well, there were clearly some who considered that believing 'that God is one' (Jas 2:19) qualified them to be considered among God's people, or that believing in 'our glorious Lord Jesus Christ' (2:1) was itself sufficient to consider themselves members of the kingdom proclaimed by Jesus. The propensity to find a refuge in religion and a resting place within a community of faith remains constant and keeps James's exhortation perennially relevant.

The tendency can take the form of compulsive doctrinal correctness or ritual conformity. The mark of a 'good' Christian can become the fervent affirmation of the right confessional formulae or a pledge of allegiance to the inspiration of Scripture or an insistence on the inerrancy of a leader or the dedication to the proper liturgical forms. It can also take the form of an obsessive use of religious language, as though faith were a matter of a style of speech, and that devotion to a person could best be demonstrated by the number of times his name was mentioned. The mark of a 'good' Christian can become the constant invocation of the Lord in every conversation."

More to come...this is all I have time to type at the moment...

From: Johnson, Luke Timothy. The Letter of James. The New Interpreter's Bible XII: A Commentary in 12 Volumes. Abingdon Press, Nashville: 1998.

Tuesday, November 4, 2008

Why I am a Catholic

I have had a somewhat long and winding path to Catholicism. My family is Methodist, and I attended Methodist churches until the end of high school. My first experience with God occurred after the death of my grandmother when I was nine years old. We had moved to Indonesia, and one day I just decided to start praying. This is a perfect example of that part of us that through no conscious decision of our own, but because of how we are made, longs to reach out to God. The next time that I had a significant experience with God was at the age of 14. I was on a mission trip to Mexico with my church youth group, and I had an experience where I felt that in my head, I had a vision of a radiant Jesus. This experience brought Jesus into my understanding of God, and fostered a deep-seated faith. That seed of faith did not really bear fruit until I went to college. I was baptized and confirmed in the Methodist church, but my life remained fundamentally unchanged.

After moving to Austin, Texas for college, I decided that I should join some sort of Christian organization. I can't tell you where that idea came from or what prompted it. For the past couple of years, I really hadn't been much involved in church or my faith. I ended up joining a Christian sorority named Sigma Phi Lambda, and attended several churches until I settled at Hope Chapel, which later planted the congregation of Hope in the City. I realized very quickly at Phi Lamb that there was so much more to relationship with God than I had ever experienced. These people, I remember thinking, were really into this at a deep level, and I knew that I wanted to experience God like that. I read the entire Bible my first semester of college and I just couldn't get enough. Over Christmas break, I went on a mission trip to Waco, TX, and spent the week playing with underpriviliged children and learning for the first time about the poor. I had seen a great deal of poverty in Indonesia as a child, but this was my first experience with the poor in America. Praying with the girls on the trip was a great experience.

After school ended in May, I went with the woman we had worked with in Waco, Janet Dorrell, to India and Nepal for nearly a month. We went to Delhi first, talking to the Gujars, a people group with no written language and low social status, that was being persecuted by the prodominately Hindu government. After a week, we went to Nepal, meeting facscinating people in the hills around Kathmandu. The last week or so was spent in Calcutta with the Mother Teresa's Sisters of Charity. It was a life changing experience, and I was really fascinated by India and God's compassion for people that was unfathomable. After I returned home, I spent the summer volunteering with the youth at a church near my parents' house.

The next year, I volunteered to be the Missions Chair for my sorority, and ended up planning a trip for 20 girls to Philadelphia, again to work with the poor. We spent the week talking to drug addicts, helping out with after-school programs, and praying for Philadelphia. I had no idea that I would learn so much about heroin addiction! Truly though, it was again a tearful experience of learning about God and trying to have a "kingdom perspective."

Throughout the rest of college, I was very involved with my church, went on several more mission trips, and generally continued to grow in my relationship with God. After graduating, I joined the Navy, and earned my commission as an Officer. For the next three years I went to various churches as I moved around, but I struggled a little with experiencing God the way that I did in college.

In the spring of 2005, I met my husband, Sean. He is a practicing Catholic, and after we started dating, we began to attend two church services every Sunday: Methodist or non-denominational, and Catholic. This naturally prompted a great deal of discussion about the sermons and our faith in general. I began to realize that I didn't know much about the doctrinal beliefs of either the Methodist or non-denominational churches. The focus had always been on personal relationship with Jesus, and I didn't know the reasoning behind some of the doctrines. That said, I certainly did not expect to become Catholic. I only knew a few Catholics growing up, and it seemed that they all had strange beliefs about unbaptized babies not going to heaven.

I began to research church history, the founding of the Methodist church, and the Reformation. Basically, I began to wonder- why John Wesley, what makes his interpretation special? Similarly with non-denominational churches (where doctrine is not explicitly taught, but exists nonetheless), what makes one individual's interpretation of the Bible correct? This led me to more historical research, and eventually I came to believe that the fundamental tenents of the Reformation, sola fide and sola scriptura (faith alone and scripture alone), were incorrect. Surprisingly, the more I read of the positions of the Catholic church, the more I began to believe that I was actually Catholic. It made more sense to me to believe in sacred tradition as a correction to individual Biblical interpretation. It made sense to me to believe in a universal Church, not lots of different churches based on the views of different people. It made sense to believe (in the words of St. Paul) that we work out our faith everyday with fear and trembling. Salvation is not a one-time experience, but a daily struggle. I came to believe, and experienced during my first communion, that the eucharist is more than a symbolic meal, but a genuine experience of God. Going to Mass, and participating in Communion, seems to be the "piece" if you will, of God that will get me through the next week. I love the peacefulness of Mass, a sanctuary from the craziness of the rest of the week. I'm thankful for the experiences that I have had, and what I learned during my Protestant upbringing about passion, worship, community, and the words of the Bible. All of that enriches my faith, and my experience in the Catholic Church. I'm a Catholic Christian, and I have found my home.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Can we talk credibly about original sin today?

I think it is important that we do speak about original sin, because whether or not it is acknowledged, it is the common experience of all people. As discussed in the lecture, it is critical to define what is meant by original sin. I think most people in our Western culture hear original sin, and imagine the serpent and Adam and Eve, and do not see any sort of connection with reality. I would argue that the concept of sin itself is not well understood, or at the very least is not taken seriously, and so the ability to distinguish between types of sin is expecting quite a lot.

I do believe that the Church and its teachers should continue to teach original sin because it explains the sense of unease that we live with, even if we do not acknowledge God. Central to the theology of original sin is the concept that it is not personal, moral guilt that is inherited simply by virtue of being born human. I think we understand that intuitively when we talk about the death of unborn children, or the death of children. However, it is the common experience of people that it is a struggle to be good. If it were not, we would not see hurt that arises when we consciously make a bad choice. The problem is not a lack of awareness of good and evil, it is choosing the evil rather than the good. So, either we are struggling because of internal conflict that is inherent to human nature, or we are struggling because of outside socialization. There is relief in realizing that all people struggle to be good, even the saints, and the universality of the struggle would seem to indicate that it is inherent to human nature. Being good does not “come naturally.” In fact, I think we diminish the saints when we assume that being good did come naturally for them. I believe this is what is meant by Paul when he directs the Philippians to "work out your salvation with fear and trembling" (Philippians 2:12). The teaching of original sin is then one not of judgment, but of mercy and understanding. It does not tell people that they are inherently evil or depraved, but communicates understanding of the difficulty and struggle of life. One of the central roles of the Church is to walk with people as they struggle, and to offer the assistance of other people through shared experience and prayer.

As long as we explain the words, the concept of original sin is completely relevant to helping us understand our own lives, and the lives of those around us.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Sorting clutter

I think everyone would love to have less clutter- this is a great starting point with tasks for every month and rules like "if you haven't used it in a year, get rid of it!"