Tag Archives: Forgiveness

My Christmas

Yesterday was pretty sweet. My cousin from Montreal was home for Christmas, and my grandmother got me a super competitive board game called Cathedral. The point is to place more buildings on the game board than your opponent by strategically blocking off territory. I love games like this because for whatever reason, I’m obnoxiously competitive. We also played a game called Password. We decided that we would do sibling teams because we knew it would end badly. It was my two cousins against my brother and me. My two cousins think nothing alike, and my brother and I think nothing alike, so it was hilarious. I got a lot of great presents from my family, but I’m most excited about my new bass guitar, and my copy Saint Faustina’s diary.

I realized something rather embarrassing when everyone had left, though. I had gone to Mass the night before, but I had not had a particularly Christ-centered Christmas Day. In my defense, my grandmother had stayed overnight and we had had company all day, so I didn’t exactly have much time to sneak off and do much. I had some, though, and I should have recognized and used it. I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary today, and she wrote something that I think is helpful. I don’t remember the exact quote, but basically she wrote that the future scared her and that she realized the past is unchangeable and not really worth thinking too much about. I empathized with her being a little freaked out by the future, and I’ve realized over time that I have a tendency to dwell on the past. It used to drive me crazy, but it has died down quite a bit. When I went to bed last night I prayed through the Joyful Mysteries of the Rosary, and then I crashed. My mistake bothered me last night, but that was last night, and I can’t do anything about it now.

One really cool thing was that my cousin (not either of the cousins I played Password with) told my mom that he really liked the Christmas Mass because our Priest’s homily was basically a history lesson. Apparently there has been preserved, what is believed to be, the wood from the manger that Jesus was placed in as a baby. My cousin asked my mom why they didn’t teach that kind of stuff in history class at school because, he said, it might convince more people to believe, even just a little bit. I’m my cousin’s Confirmation sponsor, and unfortunately, I’ve never really been able to figure out what he believes or how much he believes. This sounds to me like he at least wants to believe. I’m going to start being more of a pest, I think. By “pest” I pretty much mean Catholic nerd.

Anyway, I’ve had an otherwise pretty relaxing day today. I was going to work on my book, but I’ve decided to take a little vacation. As I said, I started reading Saint Faustina’s Diary, but I also wrote a little in my own “Honesty Journal,” which I will be sharing with no one, and I started teaching myself the bass part of “Man On The Moon” by R.E.M. I may not have it exactly the same as the original, but I’ve figured out a fair amount of it primarily by ear, which has been great fun. It took me forever, though. I was using a pick instead of finger picking because I’m just used to that, but it actually sounds right, and at least for now, I might stick with that style, just for goofing around. I haven’t just sat in my room and played music for several hours in a long time. The crazy thing is, it seems like I almost forgot how much fun it is. Ironically, I’m wondering if I’ve accidentally become a bit of a workaholic, and in some ways, a perfectionist. I think taking a break will be good.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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I Can’t Lose

Yesterday I realized two very important things. The first is that I keep making the same mistake over and over, which leads me to commit the same sin over and over. I already knew this much, but yesterday I discovered the root of the problem. The world terrifies me and pisses me off, and I’ve been absolutely terrified of making the same mistake, so I make it, and in making that mistake, I’m afraid I’ll lose Jesus. The second thing I realized is that as long as I believe, I won’t lose him. He knew ahead of time that most of his followers, including his closest friends, were going to get scared and abandon him at the worst possible time. He doesn’t abandon sinners, though. He forgave friends and enemies, and many went on to spread his message of mercy.

Last night I thought of the incident when a crowd brought the woman caught in adultery to Jesus. He told them that if there was someone present who had not sinned, they should be the one to throw the first stone. Eventually everyone left. He asked the woman if no one had accused her. She said that no one had. He said that he didn’t accuse her either and told her to sin no more. He tells his disciples to forgive seventy times seven times. To him that meant infinite.

The fact of the matter is, the world is scary, and sin sucks, but the fact of the matter is that God is scarier, more powerful, and infinitely loving. I’m not perfect, but I am loved, and I can change.

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.

Politics

I didn’t vote. Many of you will be incredulously wondering “Why?” For me it was a matter of conscience. I did not feel that either candidate deserved my support. Of course no one is perfect. Everyone has some “dirt” on them. However, it seems to me that Mrs. Clinton is far too untrustworthy, and Mr. Trump has said far too many offensive, and quite frankly, disturbing things about far too many people, and I for one, believe that language matters.

What has been more disturbing to me, however, is how this election has affected relationships. Long-lasting friendships have fallen apart because of a presidential race. The fallout has even reached my fourth graders. Truthfully, I don’t know much about Hillary Clinton outside of what I’ve seen on TV, but I thought she gave a really great speech today and accepted her defeat honorably. I can honestly say I’m proud of her for that.

What I would love to see is the rest of society doing the same. I don’t like Trump, but the fact of the matter is, he’s my president. That isn’t going to change now for at least four years, so whether you’ve been a life-long Democrat, young progressive, Independent like myself, Republican, or anything else, it’s time to face facts. It’s time to band together. Our president is not our country. We are our country, and we make America what it is. Quite frankly, I don’t like the party system. It makes politics exactly that: politics. It takes the focus away from real people and real issues and narrows in on the superfluous competition. It becomes a question of who will win and who will lose, rather than, what can be done to make our country better.

What will make our country better? The short answer is: love. The longer answer is uncertain. It’s really up to us. Among other things, we certainly need to be kinder on the internet. We need to pay attention and learn what it means to be good Samaritans; we need to really see people. We need to recognize the significance and effects of language. We need to forgive. We need to be ready to speak and fight for what we believe in, and be kind while doing it. We need to learn how to take a hit. We need to learn how to graciously and quietly accept defeat. We need to laugh. We need to accept that jokes are meant to be taken as jokes. We need to celebrate. We need to read. We need to have fun. We need to stand behind our president and support our government when they make good decisions and be ready to fight when they don’t. We need to recognize, love, and use our freedom.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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!

Breaking Up

I’ve seen a lot of break-ups lately. They haven’t all been very close to the heart, but they’re never easy to watch. I’ve seen siblings break ties. I’ve seen relationships fail. I’ve seen parents fail their kids, and I’ve seen people give up on their parents. Still, I’ve never really been directly involved in a break-up until today. I haven’t wanted to be.

When I was in middle school I broke ties with a kid because he was being a turd to one of my friends. If you mess with my friends, you mess with me. He moved to our town when we were in seventh grade or so, and that’s a hard time even of itself. We were misfits, so we sort of “adopted” him. It took almost a year for me to completely “break up” with him. I didn’t want to. The truth is I always want to make someone better. I always want to make things right. By the end of eighth grade, though, we were done. I just couldn’t do it.

Today I broke ties with someone else. It was a different kind of break-up because I’ve tried to fix things. The issues weren’t between me and (?). The issues were between (?) and (!). Once before I was able to make things better, and I’ve never broken ties because (!) hasn’t wanted to, and hasn’t wanted me to. We’ve both wanted things to be better. It’s just gotten so bad that (!) decided to stop trying completely, and to cut (?) out of her life. She asked me to, as well, so I did. The hard thing is that (?) was never angry at me about anything, and even though she’s been really crappy to (!) through the years, I’ve never really been angry at her.

I’ve just wanted things to be right. I guess they simply can’t be. It’s not my fault, it’s not (!)’s fault, and I don’t think it’s (?)’s fault either. The truth is, though she’s never been diagnosed, she obviously has serious mental health problems. I think (!) will take this harder than I will. She’ll think about it. She might regret it. I’ll probably think about it from time to time, but there’s nothing I can do, so I won’t regret it. I’ll pray about it. It’s a complicated situation because there are other people involved, but I think the more we do, the more complicated it will get. It doesn’t feel wrong. The whole thing just feels weird.

I’ve been thinking about forgiveness today. I had to ask myself if I forgive (?) after the latest crap she’s pulled. It took me years to forgive the kids who were nasty to us in middle school, but I ultimately did. The truth is, I forgave (?) a long time ago. I just hope (!) can. I don’t really know how to go about the whole thing. I don’t think talking about it will help. I don’t want to talk about it anyway. It’s just weird because it’s like (?) doesn’t exist or something. I now have to live like a real person who was once part of my life was never even in the world.

Our families used to have a ton of fun together. I don’t know how things got weird. I won’t let the memories be tainted. They were good memories. I think that’s the trick. Relationships often don’t work out, but I think a lot more people could at least forgive each other if they just remember the good things. The people don’t have to stay “together,” but the good memories become ugly far too often because the present disfigures the past. Unfortunately, what’s worse is that sometimes the past can disfigure the present. I’ve seen this happen, too. Bad relationships end, and even when the future looks brilliantly bright, it’s hard to see it.

The one thing I do know is that love always wins. Ultimately, I think it’s better for all of us if the ties stay cut. That never has to mean that we don’t love (?) and her family. If trying only makes things worse, then not talking to them is the best way to love them, and that’s weird and kind of stinks, but it’s the best course of action. Love will win. I don’t know what that will mean in the end, but I do know it’s true.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Things I’ve Learned

Do not hate the haters. Hate feeds hate.

Do not withhold from the ungrateful what they do not deserve. Give anyway. Charity feeds love. Love feeds gratitude.

Do not be negative. There is always hope.

Do not judge yourself. Have faith.

Love everyone. Forgive everything.

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!

My Enemy

Last night we started dropping bombs on Syria.
Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and others have joined us in the effort to destroy ISIS.
Civilians will die.
Civilians are dying.
Countless civilians have already died.
We will train “moderate rebels” to be our ground forces.
This will take a year.
What will happen in that time?
Who else will die?

Israel drops bombs on Palestine.
Palestine fights back.
We were born into this.
We have never seen the beginning of war.
It’s all we’ve ever known.

We watch it on TV, and change the channel
because we don’t want to see.
But it’s still there, somewhere.

Countless little countries whose names we’ll never know;
who we’ll never bother with because they’re not a trade partner
or a threat,
fight each other;
fight tyranny;
fight against themselves.

Here in America it’s a constant game of checkers
with our present
and our past.

We pretend we’re sophisticated.
We pretend we’re above it.
We hold conventions
and make movies
and write stories,
But somewhere there’s a riot.
Somewhere there’s a protest gone wrong.

Somewhere a white man has killed a black boy.
Somewhere a mean man yells and beats his wife.
Somewhere a straight man breaks his brother’s heart.

And someone somewhere is alone.
In every high school it’s the same.
There are the ones who hate each other
and the ones who hate themselves.

There are those who feel alone
and those who are constantly told.
“Kids are cruel,” they sometimes say
and write it off.
They won’t read between the lines.

History is the great master of bitter irony.
It’s hard to deny that the nicest men,
the one’s who want the world at peace:
John Lennon
Martin Luther King Jr.
Christ,
are the first to die.

Someone once asked Jesus,
who is my neighbor?
who is my brother?

And Jesus told him.
Our brothers are the ones fighting far away.
Our brothers are the ones we’ll probably never see
and never agree with.
Our brothers are the ones who, like us,
need love.

But we fight in the name of God.
We fight about semantics.
We fight about technicalities.
It doesn’t make sense.

Forgive the people.
Don’t forgive the deeds.
People are wrong.
People are human.
It’s all a matter of degrees.

The Buddhists believe that one should never harm a living thing.
One should love the least of these.

But the rhetoric is wrong.
We say we have to fight for peace.
We talk about what it will take to destroy the enemy.
Destroy,
break down,
eradicate;
these are people we’re talking about,
and I have no enemy.

Good In Things

I’ve been trying to write this song for weeks and for some reason it wasn’t working. It will probably need a few changes in the future, but this is what I’ve come up with. At the moment I like it as it is.

Remember when we built castle walls
With colored bricks to the ceiling of our sky?
Our friends and brothers came and knocked them down
But we built something better from the wreckage somehow
And we made peace as we made a bigger mess
And that was how we learned to forgive and forget
I believe that we are all forgiven
And I believe that we are all redeemed

I will sing Hallelujah
‘Cause there is good in things
And I believe it
I can see that it’s true
And it’s beautiful

I’ve heard you say that we’ve seen better days
And you’re just waiting for the right time and place
You’re seeing shadows dance before your eyes
And what you’re looking for is passing you by
So let it go if you want something to hold
And you will have a treasure that can’t be bought or sold
It won’t go away like a taste in your mouth
It’ll go to your head and erase your fear and doubt

Chorus

Count to six and start again
And slow down time ’till you hear the refrain
Memory and hope will be a harmony
Yo might be surprised at the things you will see
‘Cause there is beauty in black and blue
Walk far enough and you’ll wear down your shoes
You’ll find good in the places you go
God made the world and he said it should be so

Chorus X2