Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Can we talk?

I mean, I know it's probably not good, what I'm about to say, but, well, that never stopped me before.

What's up with people and ashes?

We must have had thousands of people come through our church today for ashes since it's Ash Wednesday. If I wasn't taking a CCD class to Mass tonight, I would never have gone to Mass. I hate Ash Wednesday.

Hate is a strong word. And I don't have a problem with the day. I think it's great, actually. What I dislike is people coming in the church door for ashes and then not coming back until next Ash Wednesday.

Is it because we're giving something away?

Well, guess what, folks? We give Jesus away at every Mass. And He's way better than ashes.

Monday, February 15, 2010

The Baby Gianna Story

Matthew and Patrick Archbold at Creative Minority Report are running a series about baby Gianna. The first part is quite compelling...

Rebecca didn’t keep the appointment at the Planned Parenthood clinic that Friday. And finally Rebecca told Jessica that she chose to keep the baby. “We all breathed a sigh of relief,” she said. “It had been such a long process but she made a decision for life.”

But the relief would be short lived. When Rebecca's boyfriend learned of her decision he repeatedly and savagely kicked her in the stomach. While examining her, hospital doctors said they saw something alarming in the baby. There was no amniotic fluid which would likely cause the baby's lungs to not develop properly.

Please go read the whole thing, and go back every day this week for further installments of this story.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

Turn, turn, turn...

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for every affair under the heavens. (Ecclesiastes 3:1)

There is a boy in my 7th grade CCD class, whom I will call T. (not his real initial). T. has a medical condition that causes him a great deal of suffering. I didn't know about it until 2 weeks ago. I mean, it's on my class list next to his name, but I have to confess that I hadn't paid too much attention to it since the beginning of the year and T. had never exhibited outward signs of his condition.

Last night, I got the chance to talk to T.'s mom. We'd distributed report cards in the last week of January and had parent-teacher conferences and she wasn't able to make it. (Her family's been having a tough time right now, so they can really use all of our prayers.) Here is part of our 20-minute conversation:

T's mom: A few weeks ago, I don't know what you were talking about, but T. came home and said something to me...
Me: Oh, gosh, it could have been anything...we've been talking about a lot of stuff in class lately that's got some of the kids talking in school outside of our class time...
TM: Yeah... I don't know what it was, but he came home and he said to me, "I know why God let me have [this medical condition]. It's so I can show other people who have it that you can have it and be ok. That's what God wants me to do, to show other people with [it] that I'm OK and they can be OK too."
Me: Oh, wow.
TM: So I don't know what you said...
Me: I don't know either, but it was the Holy Spirit. Praise God. That's just so beautiful. Praise God for that.

On further reflection, I know what we were talking about in class. A week or two before Christmas, we were talking about why God lets bad stuff happen. It's the eternal question, isn't it? Why did God let 9/11 happen? Why hurricanes and earthquakes? Why doesn't he just put his hand down and stop it?

I was frank: I don't have all of the answers. I know that we all have a great gift from God: free will, and God does not interfere with that. But, I firmly believe what I told them next: even though bad, terrible things happen, God works immense good out of the results of those bad things.

I told the kids that I have lost three babies, two to miscarriage and one to an ectopic pregnancy, where I had internal bleeding and had emergency surgery. And I don't know right now what good came from those miscarriages. I do know that if those babies had been born, I probably would not have my younger two kids right now. But I know that I have three children in heaven who pray for me and I know that God will bring much good out of that suffering my family endured.

And T. was listening. And the Spirit moved him, at the age of 13, to do some REALLY deep thinking.

It's not easy to tell with teens when they are listening to you. They act too cool for you and what you have to say. But I am starting to figure out that they are listening ALL THE TIME and that the Holy Spirit moves them when we least expect it.

But all things happen in His time, don't they?

What I have learned is that I have to be open, to witness, and to try not to get in the way of the Holy Spirit doing His thing.

Praise, to you, Lord. Thank you for letting me be T.'s teacher. Thank you for letting me be in their lives this year. And please keep me out of your way.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

unscholarly book reviews

Because you never asked, I am going to rant about, erm, discuss some books.

This is precipitated by the fact that I just read one to my daughter.

We were given two books for children by this author. These are the only books by him that I have ever read, so what I am about to type may not be completely fair as I have not read a large sample of his work.

I have never liked children's literature that was cloying and sickly sweet-not even when I was a kid. I don't think it respects the mind or imagination of a child to spoon-feed them pabulum. Give me Roald Dahl and Shel Silverstein every time.

These books by Max Lucado are everything I don't like about children's stories.

Maybe it's because we talk about God at home and we've talked about what we think heaven is like. Maybe it's because I think my kids already know how much I love them and how much God loves them. They just rub me the wrong way. This crippled lamb story makes me want to vomit. And when I read the other one and it talks about the parent being in heaven to meet the child there, I think to myself, "Through God's infinite mercy, I will be there, but I am not absolutely sure I will be there. It's mine to lose." I don't want to start shoving questionable theology down my three year old's throat.

Speaking of questionable theology, I read and re-read this book recently. It's really a page-turner. It was recommended to me by a friend and I have passed it on to other people because I think, on the whole, it has a lot of good things to say to people who are suffering or who have suffered. I think that on the whole, the way it represents the Holy Trinity is very good.

But the author's treatment of organized religion gets my hackles up. In the book, he frequently asserts (from God's point of view) that organized religion is useless and set up by humans as a way to assert control over others. I'm not saying religion not used that way by some people, but I think that the Catholic Church is really where it's at, warts and all. Plus, it was founded by Jesus Christ HIMSELF. I would never pass this book on to, or recommend it to, someone whose relationship with the Church is on shaky ground.

So, there you have it. End of rant.

Thoughts on these books/authors? Is there something I'm missing?