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Hilarious Catholic Moment

So, how do you know that you're at a Catholic weekend conference, and not a Protestant one? When the itinerary lists 'Cash Bar' at 9pm on Friday night. LOLOL!

Actually saw that today. It totally cracked me up. :-) :-)

Reinventing Life

So, I've been going through some very intense 'internal work', as the psychology people like to say. I feel sort of like I'm taking my life back down to the ground level and rebuilding it. While that is kind of exciting, it's also completely exhausting (amplified by the fact that I'm sick today... ugh...).

Part of my problem is that once I get going, I don't have an 'off' switch. Case in point - I found a blog post with a 'blogs to check out!' list. It had 124 blogs on it. I spent most of my free time in the last week going through that list. Must... Finish... List!!! It was like a compulsion. Why couldn't I just look at a few and stop? Apparently because 'stop' is not one of my vocabulary words.

Recently I found a neat blog about 'multipotentialities'. It's just a big word that means 'people who can't seem to specialize'. Folks like me, who have way too many interests and to whom the term 'narrowing down' simply means 'which 4 can I work on today, and leave the other 10 for later'? So, this blog (puttylike.com) is about embracing your many interests and learning to actually do all 20 of your things, instead of feeling obliged to specify and focus on one or two. As my friend Chris once said, "Specialization is for insects." I didn't believe him at the time. I think I'm starting to, though. :-)

I'm also searching to find out what my interests really are. This is harder than you might think, as I've been defined my entire life (since kindergarten) as a high-performance intellectual. To get outside that box and look at myself in a different way is pretty tough. I did an interest inventory recently. To my surprise, my highest interest was Artistic. My top 3 recommend jobs (by interest, not talent) were Musician, Forester, and University Professor. Ahem. See earlier comment about eclectic pursuits...

The main thing I learned from this is that I've been short-changing myself for years by telling myself and everyone else that I'm 'not creative' and that my sister is the 'artistic one in the family'. I think I'm going in branch out and get out the oil crayons again and have some fun. In between studying theology, teaching myself Latin, making some money doing web writing, and reading Martha Stewart Living. :-) 

Long live the multi-faceted!! :-) :-)


... And all the Protestants reply, "He is risen indeed!" 

Today was my 'walking in both worlds' day. Easter Mass was absolutely FABULOUS at Cosgrove this morning. I wanted so badly to kneel the whole service! I didn't, but I did kneel after communion. I was totally uplifted, loved the Mass, loved the Eucharist, and worshipped the risen Lord. It was great. After that awesome service, I headed down to visit LDC for their Easter service.

I wasn't sure what to expect - the reactions as I left in January had spanned a wide range - but it turned out to be a great experience. The music was awesome (sorry, but Catholic congregational music and singing can't hold a candle to the Mennonites) and the whole service was music, so it was almost like going to an Easter concert after church. :-) I loved getting to sing some really great 4-part hymns. I miss that a lot. 

Everyone, including the pastor, was delighted to see me and welcomed me very warmly. There were lots of 'I THOUGHT that was your car out there!' (I drive a yellow SUV, which makes my car stand out) and lots of 'Anna!! So good to see you!' with a big hug. When I stuck my head into the sanctuary before the service, the Easter choir was practicing and many of them started waving (some their arms!) to say hi, causing the director to become confused and turn and see me. :-) There were a couple people who asked a lot of questions, seemingly hoping to discover that I was unhappy or that something was wrong with my decision and my Catholic experience, and one friend made a half-joking stab at Catholic 'idolatry', but those were very isolated cases. Overall, it was a very good time, and I plan to visit again in a few more months.

Also, Easter marks the end of Lent, which was the time I had set aside to stop doing. It has been a great but very difficult thing to simply rest and stop striving in spiritual and other ways. It also turned out to be the only thing I successfully 'gave up' for Lent (some new medicine wrecked my original 'no snacks' plan), but I feel that God is very happy with me.

The challenge now is to reincorporate things into my life slowly, something I'm never good at. I get this idea in my head that most people are doing things all the time, and that if I take a nap or just enjoy some good blogs I am lazy. I forget, of course, all of the national statistics about how many hours of TV most people watch and how many people are addicted to Facebook. In fact, I saw folks online talking about giving up TV for Lent, and how it was OK because it 'was only temporary' while others commented 'wow, I could never do that!'. I don't know of anyone who was willing to give up Facebook for Lent, and many mentioned it in the 'not even possible' catagory. Not having TV service or Facebook, I don't quite get it. But it definitely shows that I don't have to be on-the-go constantly in order to 'measure up' (as if that matters anyway).

I have lots of goals - reading, study, teaching myself Latin, trying to work out regularly, organizing my house, downsizing my book collection, getting back to meal planning and cooking, getting a housekeeping schedule re-established, getting some flowers planted on the deck, and of course drinking tea and browsing blogs and magazines I enjoy. I just need to remember that not all of that needs to happen - or even start - in the next week. :-)

This is especially good since I made myself an Easter basket with all this great candy just for fun, and today suddenly realized, 'Oh my gosh, I have to EAT all this? Uh oh.' So much for my health for the next several weeks! 

Please pray for me as I continue my journey in understanding God's standards for my life, and letting go of my false self-constructed ones! 

Blessings - HE IS ALIVE!! 

In case you didn't know...

... I've got a bit of a wild side. And it runs in the family. :-)

My sister and I are brainstorming ideas for future Sister Day get togethers. So far, besides a spa/massage weekend, we also are planning:
  • A trip to Alaska to see the Northern Lights and do some dog mushing
  • Skydiving
  • Hangliding
  • A trip to the Grand Canyon (with a helicopter tour if possible! And a mule ride. And walking out on those glass observation decks)
  • Snorkeling in Florida
  • White-water rafting
  • A trip to Glacier National Park where we can take a hot-air balloon ride
Are we missing anything? 

More ideas welcome!


On Liberals and Conservatives

Happy Palm Sunday Eve! :-) Who ordered snow on April 16?? I need to have a talk with them. :-)  

It's been a good Lent, but I'm getting a bit cabin-feverish in terms of wanting to start sorting things out and figuring out how to move forward.

One thing I'm struggling with most is my desire to be more loving toward people (God's phrase was, "I want you to love people as much as you love truth") without losing doctinal purity. I've noticed very clearly that the most socially activist Catholics and Protestants are all off in doctrinal la-la-land. I've had kind and caring Catholics tell me everyone gets saved, so no one is in hell. They've also told me that Jesus is the most efficient way to God, but really any path will get you to heaven. They don't want to mention Jesus when they're serving people because it might offend them. I've also heard these types of lines from the socially active Protestants I've known. Small problem - neither the Catechism nor the Bible affirms these things. These encounters have made me want to stay far away from justice-related social activity.

I don't know very many doctininally conservative Catholics - one friend, a handful of students and one priest - so I can't know for sure if they are like the conservative Protestants I've known (and been for the last 10 years!) But on the doctinally-conservative Protestant side, I've seen folks that were somewhat suspicious of folks who didn't believe like them (either for fear of being mislead by them, or simply because the others were off-base). We didn't spend much time with people of other beliefs, because we didn't consider it worthwhile. They were wrong, after all, so there was nothing useful to learn. We focused on the Bible and on true doctrine, so that we would know it so well that any falsehood would trigger us to go the other way. This was how we maintained our purity. I, personally, had a great amount of disdain for anyone who's religious beliefs were liberal (see above) or simply cobbled together based on 'what seems or feels right to me'. I had an inherent distrust in my personal feelings, and looked for things that were true rather than things that were convenient or nice-feeling. I was careful to check any new ideas or understanding against the scriptures, and reject anything that wasn't consistent with them. For all its flaws, this system kept me doctinally consistent and close to truth.

But do you notice what's missing in the story above? COMPASSION! The conservative Protestants I've known had great compassion for their own communities and friends, and a distant sort of compassion for the lost in other part of the world. Occasionally Mennonites would send groups for disaster relief, like after floods or Hurricane Katrina, though I never saw this in non-denoms. In general, we rarely got our hands dirty helping the truly outcast or poor face to face.

It's as if the church has managed to separate the mind of Christ from the heart of Christ. On one side we have folks focused on doctrinal purity and intellectual assent, who rarely get outside their own box and actually get involved (especially long-term) in other people's lives. On the other side, we have folks who love to love people and champion the cause of the suffering and poor, and yet they cast aside true Christian doctrine as being cumbersome and unneccesary.

God is telling me it's possible to bring these two together. It's possible for me to maintain the mind of Christ while also adopting the heart of Christ. If I get involved in service and loving and helping people - if I really get involved in other people's lives - I don't have to discard truth to do that. I don't have to believe universal salvation, or Jesus being one way of many. I'll find myself associated with many who do, which will be difficult and uncomfortable to me. But I want to learn useful ways to dialogue with people without compromising what I believe. I want to learn to truly listen without feeling like I have to accept what they're saying. I want to learn to glean truth from among their confusion, and also have my own confusion (I'm hardly perfect - I've been a Pharisee for 10 years!) clarified as I go.

Please pray for me as I muddle through this process - it's a nervous one, for I'm very fearful of ending up like the anything-goes liberals I've known. I have no idea how to truly join the mind and heart of Christ without losing one or the other. But God says it's possible, so I'm going with that. :-)

So, those who know me know that I have a slight tendency toward over-excited perfectionism. Just a slight one. Teensy, really. Heh.

When the Lord tells me to rest, I say, 'Sure, Lord, just as soon as I get done with...' and naturally, there's always more to get done with. More to catch up on. More to make sure gets all set before... and so I never rest. Take this transition into the Catholic Church. That transition was, and is, very difficult for a variety of reasons. I felt very strongly that I needed to take time to settle and to let it all 'soak in'. Did I? Oh, no! There are books to read, ideas to had, soul reforms to be made, interesting understandings to be formed, plans to be made... and so I go on.

God is infinitely patient. And my body and mind are not infinitely excitable. So, I've had a bit of a crash in the last few weeks. I'm dealing with it in good ways, but I've realized that this wall is my final sign - REST!!! I'm going to take the season of Lent as a useful period to just set *everything* aside - all plans, all agitation, all confusion, maybe even all (or most... or a few...) of my books. There's nothing so pressing that it can't wait 6 weeks. I need some time to process everything and I can't do that if I just forge ahead all the time.

Those who read this, please pray for me that I am able to use Lent in this way, and that I emerge from this time more able to understand and move forward in this new way of life.



Sleep as Humility

The other morning I was laying in bed, tired, and struggling with feeling guilty that I don't get up earlier and get more done in the morning. I felt like the Blessed Mother laid this on my heart:

"Sleep is an act of humility. It's an admission that the world doesn't revolve around you, an admission that you're not in control. Resting is an act of dependence on God."

I really liked that! I hadn't thought about how the 'wasted' time resting actually shows that you believe God to be in control of the universe, rather than you. I spend way too much time thinking it all depends on me and my perfection and my obedience. The truth is, it depends on God and His perfection.

What a freeing thing! I might get some real rest this weekend! 

Following Hobbits to Heaven

Have I mentioned enough how much I love the BadCatholic blog? If not, let me mention it again - by way of linking a post Marc wrote about how Hobbits are the ones who show us how to be holy.

Great quote:

The truth is that there is greater adventure in their simple "move-forward" faith than in all the peaks and troughs of the worldly Catholic. The truth is that they wrestle with demons too fearsome for me to handle. The truth is that it is they who will carry the ring to Mordor, that the course of history will be changed by the smallest of heart, not the loudest of voice.

Hobbits remind us that it's all about peace, and lasting peace - that heaven is the Shire, a piece of green and a winding river, so simple and beautiful that it breaks our hearts. We complicate, we complicate, we complicate until we forget that the goal of our religion is to be happy, here and forever. Hobbits remind us that it is a virtue to be content, that the hope of joy everlasting should put to cease all of our quarrels, especially the ones in our own heads.

(tagged on a picture of hobbits in a tavern):
So let's raise a half-pint of The Green Dragon's finest
in the hope that we might all become hairy-footed and holy.

Buzzed in the Spirit

Well, I just had a very interesting evening. One of the ladies from the evening Mass had told me yesterday there was a healing Mass in Hills tonight. She mentioned it again when I saw her tonight. I was going back and forth about whether I wanted to go, and asked if I could ride with her. I figured going with someone would be better. She was busy, so I decided not to go.

After Mass she said, "Hey, there's Father Thom! He's going, if you want a ride." Considering it a fortuitous turn of events, I decided to go and ride along with Father Thom. He was going to assist in the Mass in Hills.

The Mass itself was normal - I was glad of that, because to me Mass is a deeply holy thing and shouldn't be messed with. The only thing odd about it was that it was bilingual - there were a lot of Hispanic folks, and the main priest knew Spanish. Some stuff was repeated in both languages, and some was only in Spanish or English. There was a funny moment where the 5 person choir and musician didn't know to start the Holy, Holy, Holy during the Eucharist because the entire preceding portion had been said in Spanish. :-)

At the end of Mass, some prayers were said to invite the Holy Spirit and to seek protection against satan, demons, and any curse or hex there may have been on anyone there. Mass was formally ended, and then there were three stations of prayer - the head priest had one, Father Thom had one, and the deacon had the other. Each of them had holy oil to anoint with and you were to stand in line, and when it was your turn, state your need and they would pray over you. Some other lay folks had been commissioned in prayer earlier, and so they were also there to pray for you.

I was near the front of the line for the main priest. I was glad, he seemed very experienced in this. The lady in front of me knelt down when she was talking to him because she knew there was no catcher - sure enough, she fell out as soon as the oil was put on. When it was my turn, I mentioned a couple health issues I have, and he anointed me with the oil and started praying.

I had been a bit sceptical up to this point, I have to admit. Although I've been active in Pentacostal style stuff quite a bit in the past, I had kind of gotten away from the emotionalism of that lately. But, when Father anointed my head, I felt the Spirit come on me - not overwhelming, but gently. Enough that I felt it, but not enough that I fell over. He prayed, and then prayed in tongues a bit over me. Then he stopped and said, "I feel like God has given me a word for you. It is 'Trust'." Then he prayed some more about that, and ended the prayer time.

As I went to sit down in the pew, I was a little unhappy with the word, only because it's the exact same thing God has been saying to me over and over and over FOREVER! :-) I keep hoping I'll get there eventually, and this word showed me that God was saying I still had a ways to go.

I noticed something as I sat there - I was a little woozy! I was amused - I wasn't quite drunk in the Spirit, but I was definitely buzzed. It felt nice. I sat there awhile - actually, a long while. I hadn't thought about the fact that riding with one of the priests means you can't leave until everyone is actually done!! 

I had gone to the Newman Center right after work, and I got home around 9:30pm - no supper, just two Masses in a row. I'm pretty happy though. Definitely an interesting experience. Probably not something I'd want to do every day, but worth doing occasionally.

Lord, thank You for Your word. Thank You for Your faithful servants who preach, pray, and minister in Your name. And thanks for sending me to them tonight. Thanks for the touch of Your Spirit. May we all be healed.


Something about Confession

I went to Confession last night before Mass. (Actually, it's not called Confession anymore, it's called Reconciliation. But I like calling it Confession.) 

There's something really interesting I've noticed about Confession. It seems to actually do something to me, both in terms of inner peace and in terms of strength against sin. I've been to Confession three times since I returned to the Church, and I've noticed it each time.

When I was a Protestant, like all Protestants, I couldn't see the point of confessing my sins to a person. Why not just confess directly to God? Isn't that more immediate anyway - no appointment needed? What's the purpose of confessing to a priest? 

I don't have a big theological treatise on this point, but I can tell you one thing as a Catholic - there is a difference. There's an enormous difference between how I felt after praying to God about sin, and how I feel after Confession. After praying to God I often felt no different. I still had issues with the same sin, sometimes immediately. After Confession, I have a great deal of inner peace. I feel free. The sins I confess harass me notably less. Afterward, I often come across explanations and understandings about how to live righteously in those exact areas. It's truly different.

What right does a priest have to forgive sins? Well, the priest isn't acting as himself in this case - he's not the one giving forgiveness. Instead, he steps into the role of Christ to me, and as Christ speaking through him, he pronounces absolution over me for my sins. He prescribes an appropriate penance as a way to help me move further from sin and closer to righteousness. Presumptious? It's prescribed in the scripture, in John 20:23:

 21 Again Jesus said, “Peace be with you! As the Father has sent me, I am sending you.” 22 And with that he breathed on them and said, “Receive the Holy Spirit. 23 If you forgive anyone’s sins, their sins are forgiven; if you do not forgive them, they are not forgiven.”
The apostles had a special responsibility and authority given to them. As the priests today are in that position, their authority is the same.

I'm so grateful for the graces I have access to through the sacraments. It's really a remarkable thing - the things I thought were unimportant are of utmost importance. The things I thought didn't make a difference make a huge difference. And now I'm able to partake of them - and it's awesome.

Thank you Lord!