Tag Archives: Church

Who Are You?

One day this past weekend I hung out with a twelve-year-old kid who lives on our street. He was playing in his driveway with his six-year-old brother and their five-year-old friend. I was going for a walk and I heard U2 playing. The two little kids left after a little while, and one thing led to another. The kid in question plays, as far as I know, four different instruments, and is a much better guitarist than I am. He also knows how to use protools, which is an audio engineering software that professionals use. I can’t decide if it’s laughable or annoying or scary or what. Anyway, we had fun. He’s a really polite, pretty mature kid, for his age. After the little kids left I actually scurried back to my house and got my guitar so we could mess around for a while. I have no rules about who I’ll hang out with, as long as they’re cool.

I didn’t used to be like that. When I was in high school especially, I hated kids. I don’t think that’s an understatement. Kids were annoying and stupid, and that was it. Of course, at that time, a “kid” was anyone under the age of eight. Now I refer to the high school freshmen I teach as “kids.” It’s kind of disturbing. I think I used to have a much higher view of myself. I used to think I was the queen of the universe. It was entirely undignified to associate with such plebeians as children.

I think I understand kids better now as a writer, too. Kids are much more willing to believe things, so long as their capacity to listen holds up. I think you have to be able to believe something in order to enjoy it. You have to be able to pretend, and be willing to enter into a different universe.

A friend of mine who is older with kids once asked me what I thought about allowing his kids to read the Harry Potter books. He’s Christian, and he wasn’t totally inclined to let them because magic is seen as the highest power, and the battle between good and evil is entirely up to human ability. There is no mention of any kind of God (though the Christian holidays are mentioned offhandedly), and though there is a general sense of morality, like in any fantasy story, it isn’t directly spelled out. For example, I’m re-reading the series now, and I’m actually surprised at just how much the characters lie. Ultimately I advised my friend to let his kids read the books because it’s simply another universe that isn’t governed by the same rules as this one.

As I reread the Harry Potter books, I find myself laughing a lot. I’ve seen the movies a thousand times, but they’re not nearly as good as the books, and I’m finding they cut out a lot of humor. Maybe my sense of humor has changed too, but I think the movies tried to make the story too dark in places where it didn’t need to be, and not dark enough where it’s really creepy. I’m excited because I’m almost halfway through the fourth one now, and it’s after this one that things get serious, and in my opinion, the series gets more cohesive from book to book.

I don’t want this to turn into an analysis of the Harry Potter series, so I’ll make my point. I like these books. They’re meant for a younger audience, but I don’t care. My dad taught me a rule when I was in high school, and I have faithfully lived by it: growing old is mandatory; growing up is optional. I used to get thoroughly annoyed with myself when I did something embarrassing. I used to think I was so dignified. I have no idea why. I’ve gotten used to the fact that I’m clumsy and silly. I spell things wrong and say ridiculous things. I make dumb mistakes. My friends laugh at me about this stuff, and that’s okay.

Mistakes are part of life. Messing up is part of life. Silliness is part of life, and being wrong is part of life. I’m writing this down because kids used to annoy me for the same reasons that my friends laugh at me (not in a mean way). In the past several months my mom and I have been listening to audio books in the car. We started doing mostly contemporary realistic fiction and moved, really by accident, into science fiction. We went for a few weeks without a story because I know she’s not a huge fan of sci-fi, and we couldn’t think of what to listen to. Finally I suggested The Brothers Karamazov. We just started it yesterday.

My point is that it’s okay to love Dostoevski and Rowling. It’s okay that my favorite foods are fancy pasta dishes and fried buffalo chicken wraps (for the record, yes, I also eat healthy food). I’m getting comfortable joining in events at my church where most other people are at least in their fifties, and hanging out with kids on my street who are under ten. The teenagers I teach think I’m kind of weird, which is probably at least a little true, but that’s okay. Lately I’m becoming more comfortable in my own skin. Weird is more fun, anyway.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Happy Easter

 

 

This is a day late, but we had partying to do this weekend.

The Easter Vigil starts in darkness. Everyone takes an unlit candle and finds their place. The priest lights one candle and then, from that person, we all light each others’ candles. There are several readings from the Old and New Testament, and then, after weeks of waiting, the lights come on, and we sing “Glory to God in the highest,” and we celebrate and worship because Jesus beat death.

Happy Easter everybody!

 

 

I Stayed

I recently read a blog post by someone who used to be Catholic and is no more. She said that many aspects of Catholicism were a hindrance to her faith. She learned many things about the Catholic Church through sermons and other things, and never enough about Jesus. This post is in defense of Catholicism. I’m writing this because there was a time when I was in the same boat. I was very close to leaving the Catholic Church for almost the same reason. Ultimately, I did the exact opposite. I jumped right in, and this is why.

Initially, I stayed for convenience. I went to CCD (Sunday School) and grew up in a Catholic Church just a mile from my house. It’s extremely easy to walk or drive to, and it’s right next to the elementary school I attended. Many of my friends went there, and my dad actually taught our CCD class when we were really young. Sometimes, because three of the kids, including myself, lived in the same neighborhood, we would have class at my house. Later, I kept going to CCD and I kept going to Mass because A) my parents made me, and B) because it had become a habit by then. At the time, as far as I can remember, I really didn’t get much, if anything out of it, at least not consciously. The truth of the matter, which I didn’t realize at the time, is that, when it comes to faith, particularly Catholic faith, you have to put in effort to get anything real out of it. I think that’s true of any relationship.

What didn’t matter until some time later is that most of my extended Family is at least culturally Catholic. Many of them don’t practice, but the particulars of Catholicism matter to the ones who do, and that made me hesitant to leave once faith actually started to matter to me. I thought about leaving because, at the time, I was attending a Christian college, and Jesus seemed so much more alive there than at my church. Even during class, people would talk about their personal experiences of God’s love, and I wanted that. During worship services, fellow students would play contemporary worship music, instead of the boring hymns we sang on the weekends. At the time, that mattered. The music at school moved me. The music at church did not.

Two things Christians of other denominations often take issue with are the Sacrament of Reconciliation (i.e. confession to a priest), and the matter of transubstantiation (whether or not, and if so, how Jesus is actually present in the Eucharist). I intentionally went to confession for the first time during Lent this year. The first time I went, I was six or seven. This was before I took my first communion. The second time was about ten years later when I was confirmed. The third time was when I was acting as my brother’s Confirmation sponsor, three years after that. I didn’t want to. I went several months ago because there was something on my mind, and even though I had talked about it with God, and asked for forgiveness, it still bothered me. According to the teaching of the Catholic Church, the priesthood and the hierarchy as a whole, is directly descended from the first priests (the twelve Apostles) not by blood, obviously, but by appointment. Jesus gave them the right to act in his name on this Earth–to teach and to forgive sins. They do not act as God. They act for him. It’s an important distinction. When Jesus sends his disciples to do his work, he says, “Receive the Holy Spirit. If you forgive the sins of any, they are forgiven; if you retain the sins of any, they are retained.” So clearly, they have the right to do this, but it’s important to remember that it’s really God who forgives.

I didn’t go because I didn’t feel like my sins were not forgiven. I went because I wanted to talk to someone. Talking directly to God often feels easier than talking to a person about the darkest parts of my soul. At the same time, I just needed to get it out, and I needed to hear from an external source that I was okay. I don’t like going to confession, but I go now because I can look at someone who is acting in God’s name and hear, quite conclusively, that I am, in fact, forgiven. I need that reassurance. Furthermore, going to confession does two important things: it forces me to really examine myself from an emotional and spiritual standpoint, and it cuts through my pride because it forces me to admit things I really don’t want to. Ultimately, it forces me to try a lot harder to be a better person because I don’t want to have to talk about it again. Pride stops me from doing things that I otherwise would or could. It stops me from doing things that I really want to for God because they’re uncool or weird or what have you. I’m working on this, and I’m getting better. I admit my sins to my priest because I really am sorry. It’s hard to admit that I’m not perfect. God already knows I’m not, so I think it actually matters more in a way that I’m willing to admit it to another person.

To me, the Catholic faith is actually very practical. Personally, I need this. The fact of the matter is that I’m much more willing than a lot of people to believe what sound like ridiculous things. At times I even find myself thinking, “God, that’s completely ridiculous.” It’s ridiculous to believe that Jesus could “magically” bring people back to life or heal people who had been disabled for most of their lives. It’s even more ridiculous to believe that he came back to life after dying. What’s the most ridiculous of all is that a perfect, all-powerful God loves a weird, scatter-brained, broken, sinful kid (i.e. me). He’s shown me practically, and supernaturally that he loves me to an unfathomable extent. It actually doesn’t make sense. This love is one of the reasons I need to really hear “Your sins are forgiven.”

Interestingly, and perhaps ironically, as I grow in my faith, I need practical things. For example, communion was nothing more to me than a habit for a long time. Now I need it. I can’t live without it. I didn’t feel like this until I started to actually feel a strong connection with Jesus. It wasn’t the Eucharist that got this going. It was a completely supernatural experience, and it’s been a long, complicated journey. I can honestly say that I love Jesus, and I need the Eucharist because it’s the one thing through which I can actually see and touch him. Obviously it’s not him in all his glory. Sometimes when I get even a sense of his true nature I get an impulse to hide. I definitely know what it means to fear God. Humans require physical connection and intimacy. God, who is love, makes himself actually, physically present during communion so that we can have that connection with him. I’ve heard that some people take issue with this because of the idea that it’s a sacrifice. This sacrifice is meant to be seen as a perpetual commitment. Jesus perpetually offers himself to his Father, and allows us to also make that commitment, perhaps in a similar way that when a couple is married, they are making a perpetual commitment to each other. His suffering and death  was literally once and for all. The Eucharist is a sacrifice of love.

Sometimes the Mass itself is boring. I get that. It’s very methodical, whereas I imagine the “process” in other churches is less spelled out. I could be wrong. I’ve mostly only ever gone to Catholic churches, with a few exceptions. When I was at school, I thought about exploring other options, but now I don’t just believe, I somehow know that Jesus is there during communion. Sometimes I’m just not totally “with it” during most of the Mass. Sometimes the sermon just doesn’t do anything for me. For just a few minutes, however, I know that the most important thing in the world is happening. It really is amazing to me, and at the same time, it seems so simple.

Sometimes I find that I’m baffled by God. He’s complicated, and sometimes I find myself thinking that he’s so human. That’s actually backwards. God made humans in his image, so actually, we’re like him. I don’t think it’s wrong to equate humanity with goodness. To be human–to be as we really should be–is to be like God: to love, to forgive, to be helpful, to be together, and to be happy. Jesus says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me, and I am one with you.” (John 6:56). He means this literally. He offers himself to us in this way so that we can not only be like him, but so that we can be with him.

I learned these things partly because I stayed, but now I stay because of what I know. I also want to say that not all Catholic churches are alike. Perhaps the church my fellow blogger attended was too hung up on details and really did forget about why they were there in the first place. God loved us first, and he wants us to love him back, both individually, and as a community. If we forget about love at church, then we’re missing the point. Honestly, I hear so much more about God’s love these days because I’m actually paying attention. The truth is that it’s everywhere. It’s kind of overwhelming, and yeah, some of it is found in the “details.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Why I Sing

I have to close my eyes a lot in church now. It’s odd to me, but I kind of have to block the world out. Part of it is because of my relation to music, and how music and faith are tied together for me. At the beginning, I would sing because I liked to and because I could, and maybe because I just thought I was supposed to. After learning more about God and the Church and the reason for meeting together to worship, I sang because very few others did and because I was trying to encourage them to. Now I close my eyes. I pray and sing as if there’s no one else in the world but me and Jesus. Even when I have to look at the sheet music for a song, I sing as if there’s no one else to sing to.

I usually go to church on Saturdays because I’m not much of a morning person, and I came to understand; I came to actually feel something yesterday. After taking the Eucharist, I usually sit in my spot and pray. I pray for my friends, I pray for peace, I pray for our country… So probably all the stuff anyone would pray for at that time. Yesterday I just sat there and, to the best of my ability, thought of nothing except God.

On the way to the car, I found myself involuntarily grinning, and for a moment, it was difficult for me not to cry. I had touched God. Earlier this week I read some prayer tips. One of the tips was (in my words): “Shut up.” Prayer is supposed to be like a conversation. I know I talk a lot when I pray.

Last night I was having issues with my epilepsy. It sometimes doesn’t agree with my girly hormones and… You probably get the idea. I was trying to pray and couldn’t. The only thing I could get out was: “Father!” My brain wouldn’t let me think coherently. Eventually it got a little better and I was able to pray. Then I went to sleep.

This morning I came to an important conclusion. I have to learn how to pray without words.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Trust

I trust everyone. Honestly, I assume that everyone has good, or at least mostly good motives, and really does want the best for the world and for others. That’s not to say I trust everyone 100%. I’m not naive. I know people have evil in them, and I know there are dangerous people in the world. I’m just not afraid of them. From my experience, 999,999 out of 1,000,000 are trustworthy. I believe this for a number of reasons.

I’m young and grew up in a safe suburban town, went to school at a Christian college in the middle of nowhere, and still live in the aforementioned safe suburban town. I’m an optimist. I simply want there to be good in people, and I choose to see the good. I’ve never really encountered any truly dangerous people. I believe that everything happens for a reason, and if I get hurt, I believe that some good will eventually come of it; I’ll learn something from it. I’ve never been disappointed when I give someone the benefit of the doubt, even if I’ve been a little unsure in the beginning.

My contemporaries and I were taught when we were kids not to talk to strangers. We were taught that evil was lurking around every corner. I don’t know when where or why our parents got this notion. To me at least, it seems entirely unreasonable to believe such a thing. You would constantly be living in fear. A friend of mine has told me that it’s better to be a pessimist because you’ll always be right or pleasantly surprised. However, I don’t necessarily view “bad” experiences in a negative light. One must either take responsibility for these experiences, or one must assume that these things were meant to happen and things will eventually get better.

I do believe in destiny to some extent. I don’t think it conflicts with the idea that humans have free will. God has a plan for each of our lives, and we can choose to go along with that plan, or we can choose not to and hope for the best. The trouble is knowing what God’s plan is in a concrete sense, especially in the day-to-day details. It often doesn’t seem to make any sense at all from a human perspective, and the truth is, this can get annoying.

In a recent post I wrote about how I want to belong only to God, and I’ve been exploring the possibility of becoming a Sister or a nun (apparently they’re different). I’ve also been trying to find someone to play music and write with. I’ve mostly been looking on Craig’s list, and haven’t been able to find anyone. I was supposed to meet someone at Starbucks today, but my parents wouldn’t let me. They didn’t trust him for several reasons, but I was willing to give him the benefit of the doubt. I live with my parents because of my disability, and it would be too much of a hassle to figure out how to live on my own. The fact of the matter is, however, that if I did live on my own, I would have met my potential musical copilot this afternoon.

When I was a kid I liked my quiet neighborhood. I could play in the street with my friends and a short walk around the neighborhood was long enough for me. I desperately want to move to a city. I want to be able to go places without having to get a ride. I want to be able to just wander off with an actual destination in mind when I’m bored and need a change of scenery. I want to be able to actually go somewhere for work. Right now I spend my entire day in my bedroom. I work in here. I write in here. I play music in here. I pray in here. I sleep in here.

A few nights ago I was doing research about religious life and for some reason it was making me anxious. Part of me wants to do this because I want to formally dedicate myself to God (i.e. I want to take some kind of vow), but at the same time, I’m starting to feel like that isn’t the life for me. I’m almost certain by now that God wants me to remain single, and I’m really okay with that. However, now I find myself asking “Why?” If he doesn’t want me to be a “religious” person, what the heck does he want me to do?

I’m still working on finishing the New Testament, and it’s like he’s drilling into my head: “Tell people about me!” I desperately want to, but I just can’t find the right words. People don’t want to hear the same old message. People don’t want to hear for the hundredth time that Jesus saved them from their sins and I don’t want to tell them that. I want to tell them about how I never feel alone. I want to tell them what it feels like to really be peaceful. I want to tell them how it feels to not worry or to not be scared. I just can’t figure out how to put the feeling into words.

I was briefly mad at God this afternoon. I was mad because he made me the way I am and landed me in this town. Being angry about it isn’t helpful, though. It doesn’t change anything. Because I live in this town I belong to the church I do, and I love my church. I love the people there, I love the priests there, I love teaching and volunteering there, and I love all the quirks that come with it. My church is definitely quirky. If I didn’t live in this insufferable town I wouldn’t have the friends I do. We wouldn’t have perfected our epic commiseration skills, and we wouldn’t be the people we are today. If I wasn’t born with MD, I most likely would not be nearly as empathetic as I am. If I didn’t live in this town I would have never discovered the culinary masterpiece that is Colombo’s Pizza. Actually, I probably wouldn’t be a confirmed Catholic. It was my music teacher who unknowingly convinced me to go through with it, and I wouldn’t have met him if I didn’t live in this town.

As I said, I trust people, but it’s way more important to trust God. I might just have to accept the prospect of never having a musical copilot. I don’t intend to make music a career, anyway. There’s no point in being mad at my parents either. I just started doing research to start a business with my dad. I think we will work well together. I’m learning a lot about the business world, and I’m finding it surprisingly enjoyable. I’ve hit a roadblock in my novel, and I need to do some reading to help me with that. Strangely enough, I’m finding that I’m busy lately even when it feels like I’m getting nothing done.

The future actually seems much more certain than it did last summer. In May I will have been out of school for a year. I still don’t entirely know what I’m doing or where I’m going, but I have a much better idea. I can comfortably say that I’m an artist, and hopefully I’ll be able to say that I’m a successful entrepreneur in the next few years. Time is a weird thing. It feels like it’s dragging on slowly until you look at it in retrospect. It’s taken me almost a year to get to where I am now, in terms of what I want to do. Realistically, that’s not a long time.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Snow Day Stuff

We’re having a blizzard today! It’s super fun ’cause I don’t have to clean it up. The downside of that is I can’t really play in it either, but that’s okay. It’s still fun to watch. I wanted to drive around in it, but there’s a travel ban still in effect, which in it’s own way is kind of fun.

I felt bad for the birds on our bird feeder. I love to watch the cardinals in weather like this because they’re so pretty against the white snow. I wouldn’t want to be one of them, though. “Blustery” would be an understatement for what the wind is like out there.

I’ve been waiting for this blizzard. I don’t like winter, but my philosophy is that if it has to be cold, it might as well snow. My brother and my mom weren’t super excited about it, but my dad was just as excited as I was. I woke up around 11:00 this morning and looked out my window, and I couldn’t see across the street. There’s a pile of snow on our deck that’s about three feet high.

It’s really nice that our house is super warm and cozy. We have the wood stove cranking in our basement, and I have my little space heater blowing on my feet in my bedroom. I didn’t have school today, which was nice, but it’s crazy because I only have three classes this week, and that’s if tomorrow’s class doesn’t get canceled. It’s not looking like it will, though.

I have some more homework to do because I have a presentation on Thursday, but for the most part I’ve been lazing around today. I was playing Minecraft with my brother and my little cousin. They both got today and tomorrow off, which I’m a little jealous about, but oh well.

I was slightly productive today in that I got in touch with one of the priests at my church about an idea I had for a prayer group. He’s been in charge of the confirmation program there and I’m one of the teachers, so we’ve got to know each other a bit. My idea was that we’d get a group of people together to meet after mass on Saturday afternoons (that’s usually when I go) to pray for issues of injustice in the world. I got the idea because I’m taking a class called “Literature and Human Rights,” and I’m reading this terribly depressing book about what our role is, as Christians, when it comes to injustice and oppression. The author’s argument was that we need to actually go out into the world and do something because that’s what Jesus did. My problem is that I am both broke and physically incapable of being very helpful, but I can pray. I wanted to get this group together because it will be my way of making a commitment, and my way of helping. Plus I’m better at praying with people than by myself.

This book has me thinking, though. It has me asking all kinds of unanswerable questions like:

Why is there still suffering in the world?

Why has it been 2,000 years since Jesus promised he’d come back?

Why doesn’t God just fix stuff?

Why does he insist on using people when it would be faster and easier just to miraculously fix things?

The fact of the matter is that these questions don’t have answers, and I can either get mad or upset about them, or I can just do something. He insists on using people, so I want him to use me. I can at least organize some peeps and make sure I’m there once a week to pray about stuff with them. It’s not much, but it’s better than nothing.

One thing the author did say is that, no matter how small our action is, we can bring our little something, and God can make it huge.

So how we got from snow day to existential social justice what-not, I have no idea, but here we are. Somehow I feel like I always end up here: whether I want to or not. I’m weird that way.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Procrastination Holiday Mash Up

Since high school my Christmas list has gotten shorter and shorter. There’s usually one or two things I want that I’m too cheep to buy, and one or two things I need, and that’s what I ask for. Otherwise I just buy stuff myself whenever I need/want it. It’s partly because I learned how to save money, and partly because I’ve had a mini-job for the past couple years so I can do said saving of money. It’s also because since probably my junior or senior year of high school, I feel weird asking my parents for things that I can afford and don’t necessarily need or that I can wait for.

The thing is, my parents like buying stuff for my brother and me. We have an obnoxiously huge beanbag chair (it’s not actually a beanbag chair but I don’t exactly know what to call it) in our kitchen in front of the TV. Our kitchen is obnoxiously huge, so it’s basically part kitchen, part dining room, part living room. Anyway, two summers ago it was ridiculously hot, and because of that (or maybe just because of coincidence) I got sick and projectile vomited all over the nest (that’s what we call it). We went 4 or 5 miserable months without a nest, but our parents surprised us with a new one that Christmas.

Maybe it wouldn’t have made sense to get a new one if my brother and I weren’t home all the time. Sam and I are both in college, but I commute, and he comes home every weekend. We’re both about half an hour from home in opposite directions.

Last year my parents surprised me with a 5 gallon fish tank and a beta fish for Christmas. His name is Raskolnikov because Dostoevsky is a genius. I know we have a ten gallon tank lying around somewhere, so I’m thinking about upgrading and getting a few more fish. I don’t think I’d move Raskolnikov because he seems quite content all by his lonesome, but it might be nice to have some more little friends. I’m weird. I talk to my fish.

I do need a new set of headphones for my computer. Last year my aunt got me a wireless set, and they stopped working. I’ve decided to ask for a set of wired ones for Christmas because wireless anything and I have never been friends. In fact, technology and I have never really been friends, but that’s a whole different story. I know it’s the thing you plug into to charge them, and it’s not the charger itself that isn’t working because I’ve tried a different one and it still doesn’t work.

My brother and two of my cousins and I did ask for the new Pokemon game for Christmas. Yes, I’m 21 and I shamelessly admit that I like and play Pokemon. There’s quite a bit of nostalgia involved. When we were kids, Star Wars and Pokemon were our obsession. That and, gosh darn it, they’re fun!

Otherwise, that’s about it. My list is short this year. It drives our parents crazy, and it drives our aunts and grandmothers crazy, too. I could use a new amplifier for my guitars, but that can wait. I suppose I could ask people for Guitar Center gift cards. I’d like to go and try things out for myself. That upgrade probably won’t even happen for a few years anyway, though.

I know it’s not even Thanksgiving yet, but it seems like Christmas and Thanksgiving are really close together this year. Thanksgiving is kind of the start to our Christmas season anyway. The past few years we’ve gone up to Maine and gone out to eat with our family. We used to have it at our house, but my grandfather got really sick, and my grandmother didn’t want to go far. We’ve just gotten used to doing it that way, I guess. We used to stay for one night, but last year we stayed for two because my grandfather died two days before Thanksgiving and we had to stay for the funeral. This year we’re staying for two nights again just so we can have time to see everyone and hang out. We usually go and get our Christmas tree the day after Thanksgiving, but since we’re staying for two nights we’re doing that just before we go home. It’ll be fun just to hang out in Portland and play with our cousins. I think we’re going to bring the Wii so we can play Mario Kart in the hotel room.

Our family is insane. My oldest first cousin is 9 years older than me, and my youngest second(third?) cousin is 16 or 17 years younger than me. My mom has about 50 first cousins, which means I have over 100 cousins of varying degrees. On my dad’s side I have 2 second cousins who have no kids, and 2 fist cousins. One is my age and one is two years younger than me. For Thanksgiving this year we’re meeting up with 27 people. Some people have asked why we go out to eat instead of going to someone’s house. Part of it is that we have too many people, and part of it is because it’s significantly less stressful. It makes it fun.

I’ve seen posts on Facebook about people stressing about Christmas already. There are ways of making it less stressful. It’s not that hard. I’ll admit that there are things about Christmas that bug me. It’s almost like there are two holidays going on at the same time, and a minority of people remember the real reason why we celebrate it. The point isn’t to have the biggest tree in the neighborhood (we have the 2nd biggest only because our neighbor has taller ceilings). The point isn’t to get the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to give the biggest and best presents. The point isn’t to have the most decorated house (our mom goes nuts anyway, and it’s fun!). The point is to celebrate the birth of our Savior, and that’s WAY less stressful.

I know some people freak out about the “secular” stuff and say it’s creepy or evil and that Jesus was born in April, which may or may not be true. The same people don’t celebrate Easter for the same reason: it’s become too secular. Honestly, I don’t think it really matters. The point is that we remember the real reason why we celebrate. The other stuff just makes it fun. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t have fun. The only thing I might do differently if I had kids is I’d probably skip the whole Santa Claus story. It just seems kind of pointless to me. I’d still get a tree, I’d still eat massive quantities of junk food, and I’d still get together with all the magnificently crazy people.

I think it’s true that people get a little nicer around Christmas, and a little more generous. Maybe the love gets thrown around for some of the “wrong” reasons, but the point is that the love gets thrown around, and I am perfectly okay with that. So have fun. Don’t stress out. Go to church if you want to. Don’t feel bad if you don’t. Just remember why this holiday exists.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Where I Never Thought I’d Be

Today I got an email about graduation, and if you had told me nearly four years ago that it would make me feel nostalgic, I would have laughed in your face. The fact of the matter is, I guess I am going to miss Gordon a little. Maybe it’s because I don’t really know what the next step is; maybe it’s because this really is the end of school for me (though definitely not the end of learning); maybe I’m going to really miss some of the friends I’ve made (mostly professors); maybe I’m just getting older and I’m starting to realize that I’m really not a kid anymore.

Earlier today I was thinking about marriage. It occurred to me that I literally had no idea what the point of bridesmaids was, so I had to ask my mom–apparently their purpose is to stand there and look pretty. I’m a girl. I can’t help it. I sometimes think about getting married, despite the fact that I don’t, and never have had a boyfriend. I was just fantasizing on the way to class about who I would pick to be my maid of honor. My immediate inclination was to pick my best friend, but then I thought of my cousins, and it might be a little weird not to pick one of them. Again, I have no idea why I was thinking about this.

Last night I had a dream that I was in the English Army, and we were invading France, except for some reason we had to traverse mountains instead of the English Channel to get there. They were also not normal mountains, but Minecraft mountains, which I find really odd because I was not playing Minecraft last night. In fact, I haven’t played Minecraft very recently. Anyway, I got separated from the group I was with and captured. Then I got sent to a correctional facility for the mentally unstable, even though I’m quite ordinary, thank you very much! I spent quite a while trying to escape, and I was finally helped by the son of one of the people who ran the place. Then my mom and aunt and little cousin came and got me. It seems like I’ve spent a lot of time in dreams lately as the damsel in distress. I’m not sure why that is, and I’m not sure I like it. I have no interest in being someone’s damsel in distress in real life. Actually, I’ve spent an obnoxious amount of time fantasizing about being the hero of this story. Realistically, I guess I’ll probably end up being a little bit of both.

At the end of every semester at school, up until probably last semester, I found myself saying “maybe next semester,” meaning maybe someone will ask me out, or maybe I’ll become friends with someone and eventually ask them out. I guess I gave up on finding someone at school. The email I got turned out not to be very relevant to me. One of the things the sender was asking for was pictures from all four years we (the seniors) have been there. I literally don’t have any Gordon College pictures. The second thing was ideas about a class gift: something the seniors would put together to donate to the school. I guess I don’t really care what we donate. The third thing was that they were looking for 12 volunteers to speak at either the baccalaureate ceremony or senior breakfast. I guess I don’t have a whole lot I’d want to say.

I actually had an awesome experience at Gordon. I learned a lot, I read a lot, and I changed a lot. My classes were great, and like I said, I made some really good friends. Gordon just wasn’t home for me. Gordon was school, and to some degree, Gordon was church. I didn’t share a dorm with someone, so there wasn’t a strange girl who, over the years, became my sister. There wasn’t a guy who lived in my building and was in a bunch of my classes who became my brother, or my boyfriend. There wasn’t a club that I got super involved in. Instead, I went to the music studio on Wednesday nights for two years and recorded an album, and Ken became my brother. Instead I hung out with my extended family on the weekends and went up to Maine a whole lot.

Some might say I missed out, but I don’t regret any of it. This is the end of my schooling. After this semester I will never again be a full time student. I might go back to Gordon periodically, though. I do like taking classes, and apparently it’s super cheep for alumni to audit classes there. I think that would actually be a really cool thing to do. It’ll be super laid back, I can take one class at a time, and I won’t be obligated to take classes in any particular program.

I’m a normal 21 year old. I’m nervous about making music work, I’m nervous about finding a job if it doesn’t, and I’m nervous about finding a boyfriend/husband. I’m nervous, but I also know somehow that everything will be just fine. It will be. I will not fail, the world will not end, and everything will be okay.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Church Needs To Stop Being So Churchy

The Catholic Church needs to not try to be cool. It’s not. I know. I’m a part of it. It’s old fashioned and formal and quiet, and I think that’s the way it should be. I’m not saying it shouldn’t be contemporary. I would love to have contemporary worship in my church, and I love that the Church throughout the world uses technology to get the message out to more people. I’m also not saying that the Church shouldn’t be involved in current, secular culture. It absolutely should be. I read an article yesterday about how Pope Francis is planning on doing a lot of work to help the homeless in Rome. He’s already started a project to build public showers for them near the Vatican. This is great because he is someone all Christians can look to and say “That guy practices what he preaches.”

However, a couple of days ago I watched a video about going to confession because I’m not sure how I feel about it. As it is, I currently don’t. I didn’t find the video very convincing for a couple of reasons. The first was that it didn’t give much of a reason why I should go to confession. It mostly just gave an overview of the actual process. The second was that the video itself was pretty doofy. For one thing, it was animated, which isn’t a bad thing by default, but it seemed like it was making light of a serious subject. The animation was not very good, and I just found it annoying because it was downright cutesy. In the description, it didn’t say that the video was geared towards kids, but it might as well have been. It’s this kind of stuff that gets on my nerves. Don’t make this kind of stuff cute or cool. Make it seem important.

I saw another article that I didn’t read because the title was one giant, horrible pun. Maybe this is getting overly critical, but I know that the teachers at my home church tend to be very punny, and they try to create environments for young people that teenagers and young adults will actually enjoy, but then they call them things like Holy Hangout. Not everything the church does has to have a churchy name. In fact, more people might be interested in these kinds of things if they have even neutral names.

There’s an Episcopal church one town over from me that does open mics once a month. It’s very family friendly and performers have to keep it clean, but it’s not churchy at all. The only differences I can see between this open mic and an open mic at a bar or something are that there’s no alcohol, and it’s a bit less out of place for me to play worship songs. Honestly, though, I like playing worship songs in little cafes and bars because it might be the only way some of the people there get to hear about God. We can’t always separate church from other aspects of life. The Gospel isn’t meant to be heard only in church buildings. Maybe it’s obnoxious, but no one’s ever said anything to me, and quite frankly, I don’t care.

I feel like my job as a musician is to make people happy, but also to give them hope. I try not to be a preacher; I just explain my songs as briefly as possible and play. No matter where I’ve been, I’ve never got a bad response.

The congregation at my home church consists of an overwhelming number of old people compared to any other demographic. The next biggest group is families with young children. There are almost no parishioners between the ages of about 12 and 30. I think there are a few reasons for this. The first reason is that this young demographic has a choice. They can either sleep in or go to breakfast/dinner or meet up with family and friends on Sunday morning/Saturday afternoon. Churches tend not to offer services that are super convenient for young people.

However, the second reason this group tends not to go to church is because its not a priority. This tends to be a fairly worry-free period in a person’s life, especially for middle and high school students. People feel they need religion when they have things to worry about. Perhaps this is the reason why young families start going back to church: People have to worry about taking care of children for the first time, and perhaps this worry leads them to look to something bigger for guidance.

The third reason has to do with the first reason. Our culture is obsessed with efficiency. We are basically programmed to constantly ask ourselves “How much can I get done and how fast can I do it?” Because of this, we have to make choices about what the most important things are, and what can be left behind. Church tends not to be a huge priority because it doesn’t seem very productive to sit in a pew and listen for an hour. However, it’s been proven that living with this high-efficiency mindset leads to high stress levels, anxiety and depression in a lot of people. Prioritizing a few “less productive” things at least a few times a week is actually good for our health.

The third reason applies more to the demographic of people with teenage or adult children. There are almost no middle aged people in my parish. This is probably due to the fact that, despite their children being gone, or at least less of a handful, they are still working super hard and still trying to provide for their family; especially if they’re trying to pay college bills.

It seems that retirement age people tend to go back to church for a few reasons. They have time for it, or they don’t have many other things to do. Church becomes a social thing for them, especially if they are not savvy with social media or technology in general. In some cases, they feel worried about where they are in life and worried about what will happen to them on the other side.

This is all fine, except it makes my church feel like a retirement home as opposed to the vibrant community I know it could be.

Why Kids Hate Religious Education

I’ve been teaching CCD (Christian Child Development) for the past 2 months or so. The kids have a class about once every three weeks, and it’s been difficult to get them engaged and get them to like me. You might say that it doesn’t matter if they like me; it only matters if they’re absorbing the information. That tends to be the philosophy of a lot of teachers, at least from my experience, but it doesn’t work.

I had sucky math teachers in high school, which is the biggest reason that I suck at math. They all assumed that we were instinctively good at it, and they taught that way. They looked down on the students who clearly were not getting it, and it made me hate them and hate math. The exception was my trigonometry teacher. I took trig in my senior year of high school even though I didn’t have to because I thought it would look good on my college resume if I did well. It happened to be the one of the best high school classes I ever took. Our teacher liked us, and we liked him, even though some of us really struggled with math. We all ended up doing so well that he didn’t give us a final. He often taught things other than math as well. He taught us self worth, perseverance, kindness, and in some ways, love. Sometimes we would spend half a class not talking about math in any way what so ever, but it helped. It all helped.

So how does this apply to religious education? From my experience, the administration at our church looks down on teenagers. They act like 14 is the new 8, which is actually really bad, since at 14, a lot of people want to be thought of as adults. Because of this, the kids act out, or don’t engage at all. One of my co conspirators–err, teachers, acts exactly like many of my high school math teachers, from what I’ve heard. She says she teaches with rules. She will be taking none of their unruly shenanigans, and because of this, her classes tend to be very well behaved. They get through all of the material, and everything is hunky dory.

And you know what? Maybe it works. Maybe her students are engaged, and maybe they do grow in their love of Christ, but from my experience, this kind of teaching doesn’t work. Again, this is super subjective because I’m going off of my own experience. However, the point is, that I don’t teach that way. I let my students get distracted. I engage in their conversations, I use naughty language in class, and I let them know that we are equal and this is, or at least should be, a fun, safe place. I want to get to know my students, and I want them to get to know me. I want them to know that I think of them as people, not just as kids. I let them talk about their talents, and I talk about mine. I constantly remind them that all this is about is love. I want them to get to know love–of neighbor and self; of so called enemies, and of God.

Another problem I’ve run into is that some teachers assume that everyone at least believes in some idea of God. They don’t acknowledge the skeptical ones at all, and the fact of the matter is, that not everyone in CCD believes. Almost no one wants to be there. On the first day I had my students go around and say why they were there. Maybe peer pressure had something to do with it, but the unanimous answer was “my parents are making me.” I let them know that I get it. That was my answer to. I let them know that being skeptical is okay, and that I’m going to try and persuade them otherwise, but I’m never going to tell them that they have to believe anything. Faith is between them and God.

I decided to teach CCD in the hope that I could be helpful. If I can convince one kid that God is real and that Jesus loves them, I will be a happy camper. If I can’t, I want them to know that that’s fine, too.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!