Tag Archives: Humans

Beautiful Now

Salvation is a hard thing to understand, let alone, explain. This morning I couldn’t sleep, so I read an article about how God just wants us to be ourselves. God loves us just the way we are. He created us, he knows who we are, and he doesn’t expect us to be anything other than who we really are. Whether we know it or not, we have a tendency to put on a facade a lot of the time. Even around our best friends, we emphasize certain things about ourselves, and hide others. God loves even the worst parts of us.

Our family recently bought a house in Naples Maine. My mom has loved this house for five years, and at first, I had no idea why. It looks like it’s about to fall down. We officially owned it last Friday. It’s not exactly wheelchair accessible yet, but I can get into three of the rooms on the first floor as it stands. Last Friday, I went into the house for the first time. It smelled. Everything was covered in dirt, dust and mouse crap, and it was filled with trash that had been left there by the previous owner.

The house hadn’t been lived in for twelve years. The guy who lived in it before was an alcoholic, and just let everything fall apart before eventually leaving. While he was there he had said he wanted to fix the place up, but had only really managed to pull some things off the walls. His drinking habit was evidently so bad that he had literally lost track of where he had stored away some of his beer.

We stayed there for a couple of hours on Friday and began cleaning some things up. I had brought my rosary with me, so I hung out in the kitchen and went through the Divine Mercy chaplet, which is part of a devotion that was first introduced in the 1930’s. In one of the rooms I couldn’t get into, my mom found a broken piece of something that had a piece of one of the psalms written on it. It read something like, “He who puts his faith in God is safe.”

This past weekend, my dad went up and camped in the house to start cleaning it up some more. On Tuesday, my mom and I went up to see how things were going. We had hired a clean-up crew to just get everything out of there, and they spent the entire morning and most of the afternoon there. My dad had kept the windows open, so the place already looked and smelled significantly better by the time my mom and I got there. On Wednesday someone came to see if the septic system was going to work for the house, and he said it would. Later, the architect came to see if the house itself could be “saved” and remodeled for what we need. He said it can. He’s already started working on plans, and my mom has enlisted her cousin, who is a builder, to take care of a lot of the work.

When my mom first saw this house she loved it. She wanted to save it. She wanted to make it her own. I didn’t get it for the longest time. A while ago I wrote a post about how we were debating about buying a house in a town closer to our family, or in Portland. My mom kept coming back to this house. When we finally decided on this one, and we were coming closer to buying it, I realized I wanted it, too. I was getting excited, but I still didn’t really know why. Now that we do own it, I can truthfully say that I love it now. I obviously don’t want it to stay the way it is, but I love this house, and I can’t wait to see how awesome the finished product is going to be.

This house to me is what salvation looks like. It was broken and empty before, but now it’s got people who love it living in it, and we’re going to fix it. Obviously it’s not a perfect analogy because we’re not there all the time, but I think now the house has hope in it. I recently wrote a post about what home is. Home isn’t just where a person’s primary residence is. Home is found in people and memories and various places all at once. I’ve barely known this house, and quite frankly, it’s still disgusting, but on Wednesday I sat on the porch in the sun, listening to music, and I definitely felt at home.

God asks us if we will let him into our souls, even if we’re really messy; even if we’ve said “no” to him time and time again. God loves us just the way we are. He always wants us to be better; Jesus said, “Be perfect, as your Father in Heaven is perfect,” but he knows it’s a process, and I expect he loves the process, just as my family is already loving the process of fixing up our house. It’s easy to feel like we’re not good enough, and therefore, wonder how we can let God in, and even if we do, how we’re going to hide the ugly things from him. The fact of the matter is, we don’t have to. The ugly stuff is what makes the finished product so beautiful, and the fact of the matter is, God made us. He thinks we’re beautiful now.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

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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!

Life, Liberty, Happiness And Animals

Life, liberty and happiness; these are more than human rights. They are natural rights, belonging to all living, beings, especially beings that are able to distinguish between pleasure and pain. I believe that although different creatures feel pleasure and pain as well as many other sensations differently, it is undeniable that on some level, it is the same for all beings; pleasure is good and pain is bad.

Furthermore, I believe that since these are natural rights, given to all beings, they should be protected. The rich are meant to protect the poor as the strong are meant to protect the weak. This means advocating for those who cannot advocate for themselves and who don’t have a voice or the capacity to use language. I am talking about the millions of animals that are tortured and killed every day for our food, clothing and enjoyment.

To put it bluntly, if you’re not a vegetarian now, you’ll be one after watching this movie. Just a fair warning, it is horrifying, but I think it’s important to know what really happens in the world, and it didn’t really hit me until I watched this.
http://vimeo.com/1753971

The Food Chain And The Human Component

I didn’t sign up to take Environmental Ethics for any actual, important reason. I signed up for it because I like the teacher and it was the only class he was teaching this semester; that and it fulfilled one of my “thematic core” requirements. However, it is a philosophy class, and I like philosophy classes because they make me think, and it’s a different kind of thinking than what I do in English classes.

One of the issues Glenney mentioned in class that we’ll be discussing later is the significance and status of animals. Something I think I’m going to have to deal with is a dual philosophy that I’ve had about animals. I eat meat because I like it and because it’s available. Granted, for the most part I try to eat organic, free range chicken, but a) I don’t really know much about that chicken, and b) I have often said that I think of animals as people when talking about my guinea pig or my bird or my friend’s dog. Is it therefore wrong to eat animals? I’m not sure. Many animals eat other animals. Humans are animals, so in some sense we’re not doing anything different. Is it right to say that animals are people? What does that mean?

There’s no way I’m going to come up with answers at this point. I just got thinking about this earlier.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

The Ice

I was having breakfast with my mom and cousin, and we were watching the news. I normally hate watching the news because there are never any good stories. One in particular seriously pissed me off this morning and my family were unexpectedly subjected to one of my angry hippy rants.

Today reporters said that the arctic could be expected to have an “ice free summer by the middle of the century and although that could have devastating effects ecologically, it could create great opportunities for tourism.”

Tourism… Because apparently all we think about these days is making and spending money. All that matters is our own entertainment at any cost. Humans aren’t the only species that matter in this world just because we can talk and we walk funny. I believe that God entrusted us with the care if his creation, and this news story was a prime example of how we are failing.

This is more than a matter of faith, however. It is simply inhumane to let that ecosystem die because we are too lazy or selfish to do anything about it. In all cases, not just this one, Nature was there first. We ought to respect that and fight to preserve the life that is there; not exploit it for our own ends.

The natural world is beautiful. My brother and I spent our childhoods learning about it and experiencing it first hand. My parents took us hiking and camping every summer. When it was too hot or too cold, we would go to the Museum of Science or the Aquarium in Boston. We grew up on Animal Planet and the Discovery Chanel. I want my future nieces and nephews to be able to experience these things the way we did. Maybe the problem is indifference, or maybe it is a lack of education about these issues, but something needs to change.

If you agree, please reblog this.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!