Tag Archives: Education

Back In Time

Not everyone, but a lot of people re-watch or re-read the same movies/stories again and again. I am one of those people. I wrote this story a long time ago, but I want to re-visit it. It’s a bit sensitive, so I won’t explain why. This is the story of my move away from, and back to my Catholic faith. When I wrote this story the first time, it wasn’t really focused specifically on the Catholic aspect of my faith. It was much more about how I simply didn’t think I needed Jesus, and how He proved me wrong. This will focus more specifically on why I believe the Catholic faith is the true faith. Without further adieu, I’ll start at the beginning.

I was born and baptized Catholic. I was raised loosely Catholic. I went to Catholic education classes once a week after school or on Sundays, depending on the year, and I received the Sacraments of initiation (Eucharist and Confirmation), but faith wasn’t emphasized in our family. We didn’t pray together, and even though we went to church, its significance was never really explained. My education was poor at best, so it felt like a tedious obligation that I didn’t understand.

For a long time I believed in God, and I believed in Heaven, but I didn’t know that I should or even could have a relationship with Him, I didn’t know that He loved me personally, and I didn’t really know what salvation was because I didn’t know what sin was. Despite all of that; despite not knowing who God was, at least when I was a child, I had a sense of what God was. I at least maintained the notion that God made the Universe and everything in it.

As I got older, this slowly faded away for a few different reasons. I went to public school, and because faith wasn’t emphasized at home, I never understood that faith and reason could coincide. I never understood that, for example, things like the “Big Bang” and evolution could be friends with Biblical Creation. I slowly began to reject Christian (though not specifically Catholic) ideas. I simply didn’t know what Catholic interpretations and doctrine were.

I have always been an eccentric person. I always had imaginary friends as a kid, and I have always loved stories. When I was especially young, I found the real world to be boring. I couldn’t run around like other kids, so I often projected things from my imagination into the real world. This, too, I think, led me to at least implicitly reject Christianity, so by the time I was in middle school–around the age of eleven–I was agnostic, though I didn’t have a word for it until later.

Middle school, naturally was terrible. It’s terrible for everyone, but it was more so for my friends and me for a few reasons. I was “off limits” because I was “the kid in the wheelchair,” but some of my friends were mercilessly picked on. Even though I did not know Him for several years, God made me with an empathetic heart, and this meant the bullies were chased by the kid in the four-hundred-pound wheelchair. If I caught them, I would park on their feet, and not move. Therefore, I was the recipient of less direct bullying. I was simply treated as if I did not exist.

It did not help my self-esteem that I was in the “special-education” program, even though this simply was not necessary. Through elementary and middle school, I had an “assistant” in the classroom with me even though, as I said, this was unnecessary. If I dropped a pencil, or what have you, I was fully capable of asking a fellow student for assistance. It was not until my freshman year of high school that I was taken out of the program after I personally wrote a letter explaining why their “assistance” was simply annoying.

This is an important part of the story because when we got to high school, one of my friends was getting more and more involved in sports, and therefore had less and less time to hang out, while another of my friends ended up going to a private high school. The first friend also ended up getting a girlfriend, and I realized that boys could be more than friends. I also realized almost immediately that, being “the kid in the wheelchair,” I had about zero chance of ever having a relationship beyond friendship.

My self-esteem was low, and my friends had less time for me. In middle school, we spent nearly every Friday night together. When high school began, that was not the case, and I spent many Fridays alone, and I cried a lot. I was lonely, though I didn’t want anyone to know, so I kept it in, which was obviously not healthy.

I didn’t make my Confirmation until my Junior year of high school, so I was going to Mass with my parents, but again, to me it was little more than a tedious obligation. After making my Confirmation, I still went, largely out of habit. I eventually learned the word “agnostic,” and I remember the moment when I acknowledged, in a sense, prayerfully, that I didn’t know if God existed or not, and I didn’t think there was a way to know. At the same time, I think there was a part of me that always hoped He did.

That year, I also started looking for colleges. I didn’t really want to go to college but that was just “what you did.” I had been playing guitar and writing (mostly terrible) songs for two years at that point, and although deep down I knew it was unrealistic, I wanted to be a touring artist. Luckily, the realistic part of me won, so I looked. I knew I’d have to commute, so I looked at places nearby. I immediately hated several of the places we visited. I can’t even explain why. Then we ended up at Gordon college.

Gordon was a Christian school, which made me a little nervous, but there were students there, and they all seemed weirdly happy. The faculty we met were also weirdly happy and weirdly nice. It was like they had something that I didn’t, and I didn’t know what it was, but I wanted it, so I applied. I got in, and because of my GPA, I got a scholarship.

Nothing about the “Christian-ness” of the school was off-putting, though I initially thought it was “weird.” We were required to go to “chapel” three times a week, which was fine, and eventually, I came to look forward to it. It was there that I discovered actually “good” Christian music. The only Christian music I had ever encountered was liturgical music, which was, at least at our parish, uninteresting and poorly “performed.” I eventually became a fan of a handful of Christian artists. I also learned to pray. My thinking rather quickly became, “If all these people believe, then maybe (eventually ‘probably’) God does exist.” My thinking also quickly became, “If God answers prayers, then I should pray for a boyfriend.”

That was my desperate prayer from August to mid-October. Despite this, I still didn’t actually know who God was. One night in October 2011, I was at a really desperate place. I was very lonely, and I was praying, as usual, that God would help me find love. It seemed like a prayer from me to Him because the words came very clearly, and seemingly from my own mind, but for the first time in prayer, the words “I love you” came to mind. I think, actually that He used my thoughts to say that to me because after that I felt a sense of peace that I had never felt before. That was the moment when I definitively became Christian.

That “I love you” was what I had been looking for all along. I was able to see clearly that I had empty spaces that only God’s love could fill, as cliche as it sounds. As I said, that was the definitive moment when I became Christian, but it took some time to decide what kind of Christian I was. I began “curiosity questing” on YouTube. I eventually came across a talk by Father Mike Schmitz entitled “The Hour That Will Change Your Life.”

That talk convinced me of two things: first, God quite literally loves the Hell out of me, and second, that the Eucharist quite literally is the body and blood of Christ, and if I receive the Eucharist, I am receiving God Himself into my very being. That meant I was definitely Catholic. It also meant I had a lot of learning to do, so I did more “questing,” and paid more attention at Mass. Our priest kept mentioning “Adoration,” and I eventually became too curious to resist, so I went one Thursday night, and was hooked. I had no idea what was happening, so I just sat there for an hour.

Confession was also available at the time, but I didn’t go for several weeks, or more likely, months. I still didn’t entirely understand what sin was, but I was beginning to learn what things were sinful, and I at least understood that sin was offensive to God. One night in Adoration, I was in a bad mood. I had learned at this point that Adoration was simply a time to sit and talk, or simply be with Jesus. I don’t remember why I was in a bad mood, but seemingly on an impulse, I asked, “Who am I to You?” His response came to me as a thought in my own head. He said, firmly but kindly, “My daughter.” If I remember correctly, I think that was the first time I went back to confession, and really the first time I had ever gone completely voluntarily. The relief I got from that was inexplicable. It was after that that I began to live my faith as my own person.

Looking back on this journey is strange because sometimes I feel like I’ve gone nowhere. When I look back, it’s relieving to see actually how much I’ve changed. In a song I wrote earlier this year I express this in the line: “I never thought I could fall this far.” I mean I never thought I could fall this far in love. In another song, a backing line expresses the idea that you have to fall to fly. I like Saint Therese’s “Little Way” because it’s largely about falling trustingly and letting God catch you.

Weakness

We don’t like weakness. We especially don’t like our own weaknesses. We pray that God will take them away, and sometimes he does, but a lot of times, he says “I have something better in mind.” Saint Paul begged God to take away the thorn in his side, whatever that might have been, and God told him, “My grace is enough.” So often we find ourselves asking God, “Can’t you just make this easier?” Maybe when we don’t get a clear response it’s because his answer is the same in the twenty-first century as it was in the first.

God chooses the weak and the messy. Think about his twelve apostles. They weren’t perfect by any standards. Ten abandoned him when he needed them most. One sold him out altogether. Only one stood by him at the cross (and there’s a theory that this may have been Lazarus, and not John the apostle). Later, he chased down Saul, a nasty persecutor of Christians, and asked him–didn’t make him, but asked him–to be his apostle to the Gentiles. If it weren’t for Saint Paul, we wouldn’t have most of the New Testament. He consistently chooses the least likely people to do his work.

He consistently chooses the uneducated, the humble, the simple, the sorrowful, the weak, to show the world that his ways are not our ways. That actually kind of freaks me out. What does that actually mean for me? I want to be a saint. I don’t say that lightly. I really do. That means really figuring out my weaknesses. I know what some of them are, and I don’t like them. The fact of the matter is, though that saints embrace their weaknesses. Jesus embraced human weakness. The fact that God decided to take on a human body that could get sick, and feel sorrow, and get hurt, and die, is insane. Still, he embraced that human weakness out of love.

Not many people know this about me, but I flipped upside-down before I was born. My mom was carrying me around so my head was upright. They were going to have to do surgery, but somehow I “miraculously” flipped back around so I could come out naturally. When I was about a year old, around the time I should have been learning to walk, I wasn’t, so a tiny piece of muscle was taken from my leg, and they figured out that I have MD. I wasn’t supposed to live passed the age of five. In fact, the likelihood of my even existing were very slim. Both of my parents somehow had the same defective gene that meant my body would be “weird.”

At times I have celebrated it, and at times, I have resented it. Had my body been “normal,” I probably would have played sports. I probably would have had very different friends and different interests. I also probably wouldn’t have figured out how to play guitar upside-down. I probably wouldn’t paint abstract pictures or make abstract mosaics. I probably wouldn’t have become an author, and I probably wouldn’t have come very close to God. I probably would have gone to a secular school half way across the country to get away from the boring suburban town I live in, and I may have lost my faith altogether. Instead, I went to Gordon, a small Christian school within driving distance of my house, so my mom could get me to my classes and then home. It was there that I learned that, not only does God notice my existence, but he loves me. It was also there that I learned nearly everything I know about writing. God’s love, reading, time, and failures have taught me the rest.

Yesterday’s post was about trust. I wrote about how God chooses to trust untrustworthy people. He’s made it quite clear to me that he loves me. Trusting someone with your love is a pretty big deal. Both of the priests at my church know that I think God is calling me to religious life. I asked one of them: “Why does God choose who he does? I mean, why would he choose me? There’s nothing special about me.” He effectively said, “I don’t know.” I know my weaknesses. I also know my strengths. I have physical weaknesses and I’m a sinner. I also deal with a few leftover insecurities from when I was a kid, but I know how to manage that stuff. I’m not just a writer; I’m a good writer, and I know that. I’m loyal. I know how to prioritize, and how to manage my time, even though I fail to do this as I should sometimes. The point is, I’m human, and so are you. For the remainder of Holy Week, this is my advice, from one messy human to the next: look at your weaknesses, and try to see them as God sees them; let him use them for his glory. Write about it, sing about it, cry about it, scream about it, and especially, pray about it because sometimes our weaknesses end up being our strengths.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

You Are Time

Imagine you know you’re part of an army but you don’t know who your allies are. You know you’ve got enemies, but you don’t exactly know who they are. For all you know, they’re invisible. They’re often smarter than you, and they’re masters of trickery. It’s dark, you’re tired, and you know your side is losing. You start to wonder if resistance is futile. Eventually it really starts to seem that way. Then something drastically changes. Defeat seems inevitable until a new ally suddenly appears. He fights valiantly and he teaches you his ways. He heals your allies and defeats innumerable enemies.

Then, once again, something changes. He warns that it is only a matter of time before his death, but your victory. He is captured, tortured, and killed, and you are forced to fall back, but miraculously, just days later, he is alive and your enemies vanquished. He was right, and he celebrates your victory with you because now that enemy you faced is conquered for good. He eventually says that he has to go, but he will send his spirit so he can always love you and guide you and help you, and he keeps his promise.

Centuries go by until it seems that the whole world knows him, or appears to know of him. He is glorified in acts of heroism that mirror his own. He is honored in acts of love and goodness. Fantastic works of af art are created by those who love him still. You find, nonetheless, that things inevitably change. Slowly but surely, in many places he is forgotten; in many places is made into a laughing stock; even his very name is dishonored, thrown into the mire of language with unutterable words.

And you ask, “what does it matter? What is a name?” A name is how you are known. You are known by your name as a writer or a thinker or a worker or a finder, or something else that makes you who you are. He is a hero, still here, still living, and his very identity is used as a curse. His name has weight; it is precious.

Complementary

I had an interesting conversation with a new acquaintance a few weeks ago. I haven’t really thought too much about it, but I thought it would be worth sharing. Our conversation, of course, started with small talk, but for some reason, we both felt very comfortable with each other, and I found out in a fairly short amount of time, that this person was also Christian.

The interesting part of this is that she and I had very different views of things like science, philosophy, mythology and logic going into the conversation. It also turned out that she and I came to faith through very different means, had different upbringings, and were part of different denominations within Christianity. All this being said, I want to explain, in particular, my view of science and logic, as well as some broader sociological issues from my personal Catholic point of view.

As I mentioned in a recent post, there was a time (mostly through middle and high school) when I was Catholic in practice, but Agnostic in belief. I went through the motions without actually knowing what any of it meant. A lot of this has a lot to do with where I grew up, who I hung out with, and what my education was like.

I grew up in a suburban town in Massachusetts where the political standpoint on many issues tends to be relatively liberal, and the line between church and state is drawn boldly. When I was a kid, the most important things in my family’s life were our extended family in Maine, and my education, including the cultivation of my imagination. Often, these things superseded God entirely, so our church attendance was infrequent, and we didn’t really talk about God at home.

My education as a kid was delivered from an atheistic standpoint. I went to public school, and no one, kids or teachers, talked about God. Therefore, my initial understanding of Truth was from a scientific and mathematical standpoint. 1 + 1 = 2. The Big Bang created the Universe. God was there somewhere, sure, but at the time it didn’t really matter to me. Then when I got what you might call the equidistant of an internship in high school developing a disability advocacy program, I ended up working with a devout Jewish guy, my brother’s age, and a Muslim woman,  who I’d guess was in her twenties, and it was interesting to work with people of other faiths who were also far more invested than I was.

Then I went to a Christian college, as I have previously mentioned. Although we were saturated with the culture and Christian worship, I ended up taking a few philosophy classes where the whole point was to think logically and atheistically. All of this comes back to my conversation a few weeks ago. My acquaintance was surprised that I put so much faith in physics, for example. However, this also relates to another question she asked me. She asked, “So how do understand Greek mythology, since it was once an actual belief system?” I told her that this was a belief system based on what was inferable and observable at the time. I put faith in science because it can prove what is inferable and observable to be true. I also explained that I have never thought God and science were at odds, and that God often works through, natural, scientifically verifiable means.

One last thing I would like to add is that I have come to understand that a belief system has stages, and is personalized invariably by everyone. What I mean is that the primary stage of one’s belief system informs their secondary, their secondary informs their third, etc. Specifically this refers, in my case to my understanding of science through Christianity, my understanding of politics and culture through both, and my understanding of economics through all three. In other words, certain beliefs hold priority over others, but they all inform each other to some degree. If science can help me understand what God is doing, then great.

To My Ten-Year-Old Self

I saw a post on Facebook by an acquaintance who was going to be speaking at a fifth grade “graduation”. He asked for people to comment on what they would have liked to know when they were ten. I think there are quite a few things I would like to tell my ten-year-old self. I don’t remember a whole lot about that year in particular, but I know things now that would have been helpful to me then.

I didn’t feel very confident in myself back then. I allowed people to make bad decisions for me, mostly regarding my education. Granted, I was ten, but I think even then I knew that these decisions were wrong. I didn’t protest. I didn’t complain. I just assumed that everything would turn out the way it was supposed to. It wasn’t until I was fourteen that I learned to say “No” on my own. Part of the problem was that I was lazy, and this perpetuated the problem. I could have, and should have complained much sooner. I would tell my ten-year-old self not to be lazy, and to protest loudly.

I don’t know if I would have re-done my eight years from middle to high school. I like the way I’ve turned out. If I had to re-do it, though, I would probably tell myself to try and be more outgoing. The fact of the matter is, I’m shy, and back then, I was downright anti-social. I probably would tell myself to be more forgiving, too. I had fairly good reasons for it, but I tended to be a bit of an angry kid sometimes. This contributed to my anti-social tendencies. People didn’t often directly pick on me, but they did pick on my friends, and I took it as a personal offense. I would tell myself to try and be a peacemaker.

I also would tell myself not to care what other people thought of me. I would tell myself to be as weird and imaginative as I wanted, and I would tell myself to write my crazy ideas down. I would tell myself to keep a journal. I had a journal in my computer through middle school, but for some reason, I never wrote down anything happy. I only wrote miserable stuff, so I would tell myself to focus on the good. I also would tell myself to read more, even though it felt tedious at the time, because stories are soul candy.

Along with that, I would tell myself to read the Gospels, and I would tell myself to ask questions about God. I would try to explain to myself that Jesus is alive, and that he’d always be my friend. If I had known that back then, I would have been a lot happier, especially through high school. I would try to tell myself that the Gospel isn’t just another story. That’s how my church made it sound. CCD was just extra school, and the Gospel was just another myth. I would have liked to hear about Jesus’ human relationships; his interactions with other people; his friends; his parents. He was always distant. Sure, he was God, but I never really grasped that he was and is a man, and a friend. I don’t know how I would explain that to a ten-year-old, but it’s definitely something I wish I had known.

I would like to tell my ten-year-old self that she’s a nerd, and that it’s totally okay to be a nerd.

I would tell my ten-year-old self that being a girl doesn’t mean you have to be “girly” by default (I wanted to be a boy when I was a kid).

I would tell her that miracles are totally a thing, but they don’t always look like what you’d expect.

I might also tell her that God has a plan for her, but it most likely doesn’t involve getting married. I wasn’t even thinking about boys when I was ten, but it would save me a lot of pain later.

I might tell her that her brother was going to like metal, and that no matter how hard she tried, she would never like metal–ever.

That’s all I can think of for now.

 

The Language Of Love

Words are very powerful. They can change our entire outlook on life. They can inspire us. They can make us feel good. They can change the world. Words spoken with authority make things happen. Words spoken with love can make you fall apart. Words can move us even if we don’t understand them initially. Still, sometimes words cannot express the beauty or tragedy of certain situations or artistic expressions.

I spent four years of my life essentially studying words. I learned how to write poetry and stories. I learned about the difference between heard and read language, and its emotional impacts, as well as its artistic value. I learned that words really can make someone immortal. I discovered my love for Seamus Heaney the year he died. His poetry is perfectly put together, even when its subject matter is ugly. It isn’t always fluid, but even when it seems stylistically cold or even rude, there’s some kind of life in it. I still find it beautiful.

I’ve been trying to make sure I work on my novel every day now, and I’m getting a lot done. I like what I’ve been coming up with, both in terms of where the plot is going, and in terms of style. There are parts of my novel that are intentionally very technical. Admittedly, I like sounding smart, but these very technical explanations are also simply necessary for the potential audience to understand what’s going on in the world and how things like psychic abilities work. I’m very grateful for what I learned at school, through practice, and for all the great writer’s I’ve been introduced to. Not all of them are well known. These include fantasy writers, movie script writers, and songwriters, as well as some of the “greats” I was exposed to at school. As a science-fiction writer, some of my greatest influences have been amazing, underrated movies.

As a songwriter, poet and composer, I’ve also come to realize that sometimes words have the most meaning in their absence. In my latest musical composition, there’s a lot of silence, but it’s certainly not dead space. The meaning is in the silences. Truthfully I haven’t thought a whole lot about it, but I think it’s evocative of the idea that we don’t realize how much value something has until it’s gone. The leading part of it is the violin. There is a part of this piece that is meant to be uncomfortable. All other instruments cut out and the violin part seems almost faulty, like a flickering light that could go out at any moment. The point is that the light doesn’t go out. The piece is called “Love For You.” True love doesn’t die. True love is immortal.

Over the past year I read the Bible cover to cover. From an artistic standpoint, it’s not pretty. From an artistic standpoint, it seems downright chaotic. If one were to put it into musical terms, it might turn out to be something like free form Jazz with lots of augmented and diminished chords. It would probably sound rather jarring. This is according to a strictly aesthetic reading. Christians believe that the Bible is the Word of God. This is particularly important for someone who calls herself an artist and a writer. Quite frankly, I can’t stand Jazz, particularly free form. I don’t read the Bible from a strictly aesthetic standpoint. If I do, it sounds like free form Jazz. However, the Word of God isn’t simply what’s written in a book.

A lot of things about God, and quite frankly, about life in general are paradoxical. For one thing, spirituality is both objective and subjective. It is an individual striving for objective Truth and Beauty. In a Christian context, we believe that Jesus is alive and that he is the Word of God, and we believe that the Bible is the Word of God. We also believe in the Holy Spirit who works in us individually and collectively. God is one nature in three people: Father, Son, and Spirit. The Church is the body of Christ, so ideally, it’s one nature in a heck of a lot of people.

What does all this mean for an artist, particularly one whose main medium of artistic expression is written word? What does it mean in a broader context? Language matters. There’s no way around it. We can’t relate to the world outside of language. We can’t really even think outside of language. I’ve noticed that Saint Paul emphasizes the impact our use of language has when relating to other people. We’re meant to speak wisely and not offensively. At the same time, we’re meant to relate to other people in order to teach by example who Jesus is. This presents an odd dilemma when it comes to writing my novel. Most of my language when I speak is pretty mild, depending on who I’m with. I hardly ever swear, and when I do, it’s because I’m making a joke and I know the person I’m with will find it funny. On the other hand, some of my characters have very dirty mouths.

In some ways I find myself in my characters. It’s probably impossible not to. In fact, I initially intended to model Kithryd, my first character, very much after myself. However, I think she had absolutely no intention of being me. At some point, probably even earlier than I could identify, she took on her own identity. She’s very assertive and vocally bitter about things, but she is like me in that she’s introverted. I find myself more in another character I had not even entirely intended to create. Iris has a great love for her friends and her little brother, and she greatly desires to work for the greater good. However, she deals with a lot of mental illness, which simply isn’t a problem for me. I find myself least in Tabby. Tabby has no real love for the world as it is, but does keep the greater good in mind. However, she’s a generally angry, pessimistic person. She’s also very impulsive and does not care who she offends. For some reason I find her to be one of the easiest characters to write.

I created Tabby. I created an angry, offensive woman. She came from me somehow. She is somehow part of my soul. All of my characters, in one way or another, represent some part of my soul. They’ve all lost someone or something very important to them. They’ve all been shunned for one reason or another. Some of them are angry. Some of them are scared. Some of them, like Aven, are peaceful and unafraid. My novel as a whole presents the world as a dark, scary, Godless place. I don’t view the world in this way, but I know a lot of people do. I’m writing this for a few different reasons. I’m writing because I can and because my parents told me to. I’m also writing because I think God wants me to, though why he wants me to write this particular novel I don’t know. “Why” isn’t a question he often answers. In some ways it’s a thought experiment.

I don’t know if we become our words or our words become us. Maybe it’s both. The same could be said for any art form. Jesus is the Word of God in the most literal sense. This means a lot. For the record, I’m stealing several of my next points from Bishop Robert Barron because he’s smarter than me. Jesus is alive. In other words, he is active in the world. What does it mean for the Word to be active? It means he is causal. He is authoritative. He’s making stuff happen. Two points that Bishop Barron brings up are that God’s Word is active by nature. God creates simply by speaking things into being. He also emphasizes the opening lines of John’s Gospel: “In the beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” This means that whatever Jesus does and says is necessarily true in an active sense.

Words, like music are significant and often causal in their absence. The absence evokes ideas and emotions. In fact, we can’t have language without the absence of words. The Word of God is living language. It is the Language of love. What is significant about this is that a language can only be “alive” if it is shared, i.e. spoken among living people. Jesus said that after he went up into heaven he would send his Spirit. Bishop Barron suggests that the best way to understand the Holy Spirit is that it is the love of God, both between the Father and the Son, and between God and humans. This love can never die because it is shared in the Trinity. We don’t have to participate for this language to live. Jesus allows us to participate when he introduces the Eucharist. John 6:56 says, “If you eat my flesh and drink my blood, you are one with me and I am one with you.”

Just before this, he talks about how one has to eat his flesh and drink his blood to have eternal life. God is eternal and infinite. Jesus is God. If we share in the Eucharist we are one with him. We become one with him in the way that a family can be seen as a single unit, for example. If we are one with him, we have eternal life. If Jesus is the Word of God, i.e. the Language of Love, then by extension, the Eucharist is the Language of Love. I said that words can make a person immortal. The words of Shakespeare endure to this day. The difference is that Shakespeare’s words are not truly “alive” in the sense that they do anything other than entertain and perhaps inspire good writing. However, Jesus invites us to speak his language.

Language is not simply expressed in what we say or what we write. Ideas are conveyed through body language and actions. A principal I learned at school is that in good writing, less is often more. In order to convey an idea, we should show, not tell what a character is feeling or what’s going on in a particular situation. We know that certain facial expressions, for example, can be understood and translated into actual words, but they are not needed. Love is like this. A feeling or a spiritual prompting turns into an art piece or an act of charity. Love has no reason. It just is. Because of its nature it cannot simply be expressed in words. Love in words alone is empty. It isn’t love at all. True love entails action, and on some level, it always entails sacrifice. To truly love someone one must give one’s self to the other. This always means different things to different people at different times. John 15:13 says, “No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.”

Jesus is referring to his very literal sacrifice of love for all of us. However, because God’s Word is eternal, he is also telling us what we must do as his friends for the rest of humanity. Love entails some kind of sacrifice. Maybe it means sacrificing some comfort. Maybe it means sacrificing some excess money. Maybe it means sacrificing time we could be spending having fun. Maybe it means sacrificing our pride. As I said, it means something different for every person.

Love and life are synonymous. Without love, life is not worth living. The fact of the matter is that everyone is loved, and this is why it’s so important that people know Jesus. It’s not about where we end up when we die. It’s not about judgment. It’s not about religion or where we’re supposed to be on Sunday morning. That stuff is secondary. It’s about knowing that we are loved. When Pope Francis was visiting the U.S. a little kid asked him, “What did God do before he created the world?” He answered, “Before God created anything, he loved.” God created the world because he loved the world. He created each of us because he loved us first. That’s the message Jesus wants us to tell the whole world. That is the most important thing in the Christian faith. Without love, nothing else matters.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

What Can And Can’t Be Done

Saturday was a rather musical day for me. We got home late from Maine on Friday, accompanied by my new friend, Ivan (Romanian violin). I didn’t have much time to play with him that night, so after lunch on Saturday I spent a while experimenting with different ways of holding the instrument and fingering the neck. As I’ve mentioned before, I can  play it sort of like one would play a cello. I hold the neck of the instrument up near my neck and reach down with the bow to play the strings. I was having to worry too much about it sliding, so yesterday my dad built me a little metal brace that holds it steady. As it is, I can almost kinda sorta play a major scale. I initially thought the lack of frets was going to be more of an issue, but my ear is good enough by now that it doesn’t seem like it’s going to matter that much. Yesterday I played for several hours because I can’t really even go outside at the moment. I’m allergic to something that’s in bloom right now, and it’s killing me. I figured out how to play a very squeaky version of Ode To Joy, as well as some improvised melodies. I quite glad with the progress I’ve made so far.

Nobody thought this was going to be a good idea. A lot of people thought I was going to waste a bunch of money on an instrument I wasn’t going to be able to play. I will most definitely be able to play it and make pretty things happen, so eat it, doubters! I love proving people wrong. It’s one of my favorite things to do. I’ve been able to figure out how to do just about everything I’ve wanted to–with the exception of skateboarding. That one would probably be a little tricky.

The guy who made my violin was super helpful and encouraging. He had a whole bunch of suggestions and was completely open to me finding an alternative way of playing. We need more people like him in the world. Picking out a violin and doing some experimenting at the shop reminded me of my first guitar lesson almost eight years ago. In short my teacher’s approach was: Well, this is how you’re supposed to do it, but it looks like we’re gonna have to do things your way, so let’s get down to business.

That’s the point. I don’t do things “the normal way.” I do things Katie style, but the fact of the matter is, I do things. There isn’t just one way of doing anything. I open doors with my feet more than half the time. My bird has learned to climb up my wheelchair to get off the floor. The more people are convinced that I won’t be able to do something, the harder I will try to get it done.

I find that people, especially people in the school system, are way too quick to assume that people are incapable. The special education department at my school practically controlled my life until I went to high school when, in fact, they simply wouldn’t listen to me. They thought I was incapable of focusing or getting anything done, so they assigned me an aid and hovered over me for eight years when the truth was I was bored. I was a normal kid who would have figured it out eventually. I would have got some bad grades, my parents would have nagged me, and that would have been the end of it. Instead I coasted and school took care of itself. For many years I didn’t care because I was a lazy kid who thought she was getting a free ride. You start to care about what other people think of you in middle school, though, and I realized that people were seeing me as broken. In my freshman year of high school, I wrote a strongly worded letter, using the best English I could possibly muster at age fourteen, and I fired them. After the first few weeks of my freshman year, I was free.

Don’t underestimate people, but more importantly, don’t crush their will. I’m a stubborn, outspoken person. My “issues” are only physical. Things can be harder and more intimidating when people have intellectual issues. This isn’t always the case, but it seems to be at least somewhat true from what I’ve seen as a mentor. Don’t tell anyone what they can and can’t do. Don’t talk to their parents about them while they’re standing right there. Don’t assume anyone can’t do something just because it looks difficult or even impossible. Especially don’t do things for people without even letting them try. Be encouraging. Be annoying even. Make people step outside their comfort zone. Make them try things. They’ll surprise themselves and they’ll surprise you.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Things Conservatives Get Wrong

I’ve been thinking about politics lately. I’m starting to do some research into the presidential candidates, and I’m also thinking about starting to get into politics myself. I think our system is broken, and I think I could help fix it–at least I think I would like to try.

I’m generally conservative. I think a lot of more “progressive” ideas haven’t worked for our country. At the same time, it seems to me that a lot of the republican candidates are a little too conservative. It’s frustrating to me that politicians must choose a side and adhere to the agenda of that side while, it seems, jeopardizing their individuality. There are a few issues that I disagree with many of the republican candidates on. The big three are education, abortion and gay marriage.

Firstly, many of the conservative candidates advocate more private/local control of schools. While I have some issues with the way schools are run, I tend to think that this is generally a bad idea. I know for a fact that some schools do not teach evolution, and some instill ludicrous ideas that are scientifically false. I heard about one school (I forget where) that taught that dinosaur fossils were put on earth by God to test our faith. First of all, I don’t think God would intentionally mislead us. Secondly, science and faith are not opposed. Science is a means by which we can better understand where we came from, and by extension, better understand God. I personally think that it should be made sure of that certain things are being taught in schools. The purpose of education is to equip kids for the real world, where science presents undeniable facts whether we like it or not. I’m not good at science, but I still think that, especially in this day, it needs to be taught properly.

Secondly, I think many of the republican candidates take too conservative a stand on abortion. Don’t get me wrong, I am opposed to it, but when it is medically necessary to save a woman’s life, exception should be made. Many of the candidates either avoid this issue, or are opposed to it, even in this case. On the other hand, there are candidates like Carly Fiorina who would outlaw abortion but make exception for rape victims. This is a tricky issue because the law is often dictated by those who have no personal experience. I personally believe that every life is sacred, including those that start violently. Even a child whose human father was a psychotic asshole that he will never know, is still a precious child of God. As I said, I might feel differently if I had more personal experience with the issue, which I thankfully don’t.

Lastly, many of the conservative candidates would allow civil unions but ban gay marriage. While on the surface this seems like a reasonable solution, I doesn’t solve some of the deeper, more important issues. This issue is largely a religious one. What ever happened to separation of Church and State? I feel that certain religious principals should govern the land: the common sense laws that are necessary for a successful society–don’t murder, don’t steal, etc. However, gay marriage is more complicated. It’s not necessarily a moral issue, and therefore, I don’t think it should be dictated by the government. It is more specifically a religious issue. Therefore, I think, it should be kept legal. I also believe that the right of religious organizations not to marry gay couples should be protected. Religious freedom, along with our other freedoms, should be protected. Many believe that marriage is a sacred covenant. What about the gay couple who wants to seal their bond of love in this way? regardless of the actual spiritual implications, which I won’t get into, shouldn’t they be allowed to do so if they can find a church to do it?

One other issue that I’m on the fence about is gun control. I tend to agree with many of the candidates that automatic weapons should be banned, but I’m not as convicted about it, and I understand the arguments on both sides. The thing is, my godfather owns an assault rifle, and we blew up a pineapple with it. In the wrong hands these things are dangerous, but in the right hands it’s just good clean fun. I tend to be against prohibiting things just because a few idiots misuse them.

In any event, I’m currently thinking of voting for Ben Carson. I agree with him on a lot of things, especially foreign policy, and I think we need new blood in the political system. I’m going to look into volunteering for him if I can.

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!

Stop. Just Stop.

Honestly, I hadn’t been following the Ferguson story very closely until just a couple of days ago. I knew what was going on but hadn’t been keeping up with it in the News. However, I think I knew enough to give an at least somewhat educated opinion on the whole thing.

We were watching the other night when they made the decision to not press charges against officer Wilson. I had the suspicion they wouldn’t, and I had the suspicion that things were going to get really messy really fast. I was correct. There are people on either side of the argument who believe that justice was not served. Here is what I think:

I think Mike Brown really did rob a liquor store. I don’t know, based on the evidence, whether he assaulted the officer or not. I also think that the officer could have stopped him without using the amount of force that he did. As far as I know, he shot at Mike Brown 10 or 11 times, and honestly, that sounds excessive. Do I think he did that because he was racist? I don’t know. Do I think that he did it because he was scared? I don’t know. I think in that situation they were probably both scared.

Regardless of what really happened, people are rioting. People are destroying businesses and steeling things. This kind of behavior doesn’t solve problems, and it doesn’t make anything better. It doesn’t change the fact that officer Wilson got off free. It doesn’t change the fact that a young man–my brother’s age–got killed. Honestly, these people are just perpetuating the problems. They are pitting police against civilians and blacks against whites, and they are not offering any kind of solution. This is a free country, and it’s completely reasonable for people to offer their opinions.

The fact of the matter is, though, that people need to listen. People need to honestly pay attention to what their fellow countrymen and women are saying, and they need to try and compromise. I don’t live in Ferguson, so I don’t know the situation well enough to make judgments, but there is an obvious problem there: otherwise people wouldn’t be making such a mess. Some would like to argue that race is no longer a problem in our country, and that’s simply not true. I think it’s much less of a problem than it once was; and it’s a much more subtle problem in many cases, but there still needs to be change. There will likely always need to be change. However, I think there more underlying problems that are actually more pressing.

Poverty and problems in the public educational system need to be addressed. Certain demographics tend to fall under the poverty line, and these same demographics tend to get a worse educational experience. The government has been attempting to standardize education, and maybe this helps a little, but in other ways is causes more good than harm. Not all students are capable of learning the same way, and I don’t think this is the answer. We we really need is well educated, well motivated teachers who are willing and able to come together and work in schools where there have historically been problems and negligence. Colleges need to work with these schools and work with their potential teachers, and it needs to start in elementary schools. Furthermore, they need to find ways of teaching that aren’t going to cost lots and lots of money.

Parents also need to be taking more of an interest in their children’s educations. Obviously it’s very difficult to stress this enough to the parents themselves, but people need to find a way. They can’t just keep making excuses and taking the easy way out. Children simply shouldn’t be made to drop out of high school because their families want them to work. Obviously there are cases where there is simply no other way for the family to survive. Perhaps schools should provide night classes.

Education and poverty are very closely linked. If people are well educated, they will be more likely to get a well paying job and will therefore be able to help their children move a head or help their community in some other way. Engineers and technology oriented people are in high demand right now. Perhaps schools in poorer communities should be encouraging their students to pursue these kinds of interests.

These changes are slow and not nearly as satisfying as breaking windows, but breaking windows doesn’t solve problems. Actually, it just makes the people who do it look like a bunch violent assholes. I want them to know that. They’re not doing any good by being violent and stupid. What they are doing is incredibly stupid. It’s not helpful, and it’s not kind; it’s not loving, and it’s the exact opposite of what Mike Brown’s parents what them to be doing. I hope they read this and know that what they’re doing is pointless.

I understand that very few people who are doing this are completely malicious. Some people are just frustrated, and some people are caught up in the hype. I just ask that they would stop and think about what they are doing. They are hurting innocent people who wanted nothing to do with this. Change can happen.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!