“Get Over It”

The world deals us crap and then dares us; maybe even expects us to smile, and fight a battle we can’t win. It’s like a game, or some kind of twisted performance that we have to take part in. As soon as it seems like things are okay, something terrible comes along that’s worse than the last one. Survival instinct or contemporary culture or something tells us to “get over it,” because the consequences are even worse if we don’t. We have to keep our eye on the prize, or at least keep our heads above water, because no one’s going to help us, and we can’t be left behind.

Jesus doesn’t expect you to fight. He doesn’t expect you to keep going. When all you can see is darkness, and all you want to do is fall, he says, “Go ahead. I’ll stay with you. Take your time. Cry. Scream. Do what you need to. I love you.” He doesn’t even expect you to “get over it.” Sometimes you can’t get over it. Sometimes the darkness is so overwhelming that it’s hard to see any light at all. Sometimes it’s almost impossible to see the good in things, but there is good in things. The world dares you to see it, but sometimes you just can’t. Jesus says, “If you can’t trust anything else; if you can’t trust what’s beautiful and good in this life, just trust me. Just trust that even if it doesn’t happen in your lifetime, the world will be made perfect. Your world will be made perfect. You will live. Everyone will live, and there will be no more hurt. I promise you that.”

This has been a bad week. I’m tired, and I’m honestly having a little trouble being the unshakable optimist I usually am. The world has been looking a little darker than usual. At the same time, I see a light on the horizon. Honestly, sometimes I’d rather let the darkness take over, but the fact of the matter is, it can’t. There’s simply too much life and light and beauty in this world. It’s sometimes hard to look at, but it’s there nonetheless. I know that God created a perfect world, and no matter how badly we screw it up, it can never be utterly lost because Jesus saved it, and he’s still saving it. I simply can’t ignore the fact that it was a perfect summer day today. I can’t ignore the sweetness of freshly-picked strawberries. I can’t ignore the strange, but good smell of my bird. I can’t ignore the way my favorite songs make me feel, whether I’m happy or sad. Love is alive in the littlest things, and that’s a fact.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Big News!

I’ve had insomnia off and on lately. I’m not sure why. It’s not so bad. If I can’t sleep I read stuff on my phone and talk at God. If I were him I would have probably told me to shut up and go to sleep by now. It’s nice to have someone to talk to at 3, 4, or 5 in the morning. Usually if it’s at it’s worst I’m able to fall asleep and get a few hours in before I have to get up for the day.

I’ve come to think of God kind of as a storyteller. Often, if I can’t sleep, I just read Scripture, and I find that I like reading God’s stories, even if they’re not exactly happy. I don’t mean to imply that I think any part of Scripture is fictional or false. I just mean that a lot of it is narrative, and I like those parts. I’ve also really come to think of Jesus not just as my Savior, but really, truly as my friend. I’ve recently finished reading all four Gospels, and I feel like I’m really getting to know him. Last night I was at a worship service at my church, and I sort of realized in a truer sense–I came to know and maybe feel, not just believe–that Jesus is alive. It’s kind of hard to explain how I feel about that, so I’m just going to go with the simplest option. In my twenty-three-year-old-twenty-first-century mind, it’s incredible and amazing and spectacularly weird. I know and actually love someone who I’ve never seen in person. I worship a man-who-is-God whose voice I’ve only heard in dreams.

I’m writing this because I’m on the verge of an extremely important decision. Rather, a decision I’ve already made is quickly becoming more solidified. I’ve begun talking to my priest about what it could mean; what it really looks like to dedicate myself entirely to God. I am prepared to make sacrifices. I am prepared to do what it takes. That doesn’t make it any less scary. I’ve got questions. What does it really mean to take up my cross and follow Jesus? What does it mean to love him more than I love anyone else? What does it mean to pray without ceasing? How do I do what he wants me to when a million things, including myself, get in the way, or at least try to? While I’m awake at stupid 0’clock in the morning, I find myself asking “why” a lot. Why did God do X, Y, Z? Why did he tell his peeps to do X, Y, Z? I have to work some of that out, too.

Admittedly, some of this does cause me to worry, and I’ve had to remind myself just to worry about this moment and let God lead. Just in the past couple of days or so, several things have been sort of showing me that I’m headed in the right direction–mostly things I’ve been reading generally by accident. It seems like a lot of my spiritual milestones have been happy accidents until I look at them in retrospect.

So here’s what I’ve been leading up to… This is my formal declaration to all my friends and family, and of course, to the readers of this blog. I am giving my life entirely to Jesus. My next move is to figure out if that means becoming a Sister. I think some of you probably saw this coming. You now have license to make all the jokes you want. Admittedly, it’s kind of funny. I did not see this coming. Know that this will change me. How, I don’t know yet, but it will change me for the better.  Also know that I will always be a giant nerd. I will always be kind of weird. I will always be a writer. I will always be a total rock star. I will always be a space cadet. I will always be me.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Celebrate Anyway

I’ve come to understand that some Christians do not celebrate Christmas because it has some traditionally pagan aspects, and because it has become too secular and too commercialized. I do not deny either of these facts. In fact, there are things about the modern, mainly Western take on Christmas that thoroughly annoy me. However, there are reasons that I feel Christmas should be celebrated anyway. At its core, the purpose of Christmas is to commemorate the birth of Christ, and to acknowledge and enforce the hope we have for his second coming. Strip everything else away, and it is nothing more or less than that.

Christianity entered Europe in the first few centuries A.D. They wanted to convert Pagans to their religion, but they were also interested in their traditions and culture. I have heard the argument that this is dangerous. Prying too deeply into non-Christian ideas might lead one to believe in those ideas. However, what one believes in is ultimately a choice. There are many aspects to faith. Though it would be easier if it did not, it usually requires some form of evidence for its truth, but this evidence almost always comes after an initial willingness to believe in the first place. It needs to be relational, meaning that ideas and emotions and even messages go both ways between us and God. Most importantly, it needs to be intentional. There will always be conflicting ideas in the world, and yes, it is possible to be tempted to question one’s own faith. It is the choice to stay steadfast that makes it real, and makes it stronger. Studying other religions and ideas is not dangerous as long as one is capable of discerning what is fact and what is fiction.

However, there is a difference between studying other religions and incorporating some of those ideas into one’s own practices. Admittedly, this can be dangerous, and I think, has honestly become detrimental over time. Though it is still celebrated by Christians, Christmas has become a largely secular holiday. There are several reasons for this. While some traditions were adopted with good intentions, over time, they morphed into new ideas entirely. Saint Nicholas, who was a real, historical person, and a saint in the Catholic Church, eventually became known only as Santa Clause to many people. He is nothing more than a magical dude who hangs out with elves and brings presents to kids once per year. I do personally believe that this particular aspect of the modern rendition of Christmas is a problem because it takes the focus away from Christ and puts it on this character who, for kids, is generally more fun.

Music causes similar problems, at least for me. Many so-called Christmas songs are only about the secular aspects of Christmas–giving gifts, partying, etc. This is a very personal issue for me. Music and faith are very closely entwined in my mind, and I dislike songs that claim to be about Christmas, but have nothing spiritual about them. To be honest, it’s also just a matter of preference. The majority of them are musically annoying, and lyrically stupid, and I can’t help being a snobby art critic. However, this issue, and the issue of Santa Clause are personal issues for me. If I had kids I simply would not play secular holiday music or introduce the concept of Santa Clause. I would still get a tree, give gifts and eat too much food.

You might ask why things like the Christmas tree or the practice of giving gifts are not problematic. I do not see these as problematic because they are passive. They can be and symbolize whatever you want them to. In contrast, music actively introduces and perpetuates ideas, as do stories and fictional characters. A Christmas tree can symbolize life–the life that Christ promises to us. The lights and colorful decorations can symbolize hope and joy in an otherwise dark and cold time of year. The list goes on. Jesus received gifts at his birth, so why shouldn’t we give gifts to each other? Jesus loves us, and God is within all of us. Inventing your own symbolism for old ideas and concepts is absolutely permissible, and is exactly what the early Church did with Pagan ideas. For example, they celebrated a festival commemorating the birth of the New Sun, which we recognize as the Winter Solstice. The early Christians took this idea and used it to commemorate the birth of Christ. This made it understandable and relatable to their early converts.

Lastly, I would like to say that I do not condone the exploitation of a religious tradition for commercial gain, nor do I think it’s something that is worth getting totally stressed out about. I do not appreciate the trivialization by Western culture in general of something that is so beautiful and meaningful. However, I do not condemn the people who do these things. What they do is their business. Furthermore, I find that condemning people for what they believe is right, or at least permissible, is not productive. It only creates divisions and perpetuates the same problems. Take the Starbucks cups for example. Every year a handful of bored, militant atheists get worked up because Starbucks puts snowflakes on their cups, which simply is not a religious symbol. This year, Starbucks didn’t want to deal with it, so they made their cups plain red, which pissed off a bunch of bored, militant Christians. The most productive thing for Starbucks to do would be whatever they very well please. The snowflakes are kind of festive and fun, so if they want to, they should put them on the cups. They’re not going to go bankrupt because a few people with too much time on their hands are annoyed with them.

It literally does not matter what Starbucks puts on their cups, so Christians should have simply ignored the issue. There are certain things we simply cannot compromise about, but this is not one of them. We can be friends with a-religious peeps and Atheists, and Agnostics, and Muslims and Buddhists and people of any other religion while still not believing in or adhering to their faiths and practices. In fact, I argue that it is our duty as Christians to lead by example, and show people what it’s like to know Jesus. We can’t do that if we’re constantly fighting about trivialities. To bring this back to my original point, I would like to say that I don’t think there is one right way to celebrate Christmas, but I do think it should be celebrated because of its true purpose. Its pagan and secular aspects are not things that we need to necessarily be worried about. As I said, some things are problematic for me, so I personally ignore them. If they are not problematic for you, go ahead and enjoy.

For whatever reason there seems to be a sentiment around this time that tends to lead people to good thoughts and nice actions, whether they are religious or not. That alone is a good thing, and most likely ultimately stems from the original purpose of Christmas, whether people know it or not. There tends to be an increase in charitable donations. People tend to be more generous and more patient. Friends and family who often don’t see each other for months get together and enjoy each other’s company. People can stop and relax for a while. None of this is spiritual, but it’s all healthy and good for society in general. If you couple the warm and fuzzy feelings with a spiritual purpose, they can become permanent–not unbreakable, but more clearly defined, and purposeful far after Christmas is over. Christmas symbolizes a beginning, but what it began is still in progress, and we are a part of it. We need to remember that beginning, in part, to keep in mind where we’re going.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

We Should Be Nice

My friend asked me to help her with a research paper. The topic is whether or not the U.S. should welcome Syrian refugees into our borders. I told her that I don’t know a lot of the details, and honestly, I don’t know the extent of the dangers that this could cause. All I know is that I am 200% for helping these people. All I can give right now is a moralistic argument, but here it is.

A lot of people in this country don’t want to let refugees into our borders for one reason: they’re scared. They are afraid that potential terrorists are hiding among the people who honestly just need a safe place to go. One argument I have repeatedly heard in favor of admitting the refugees is that their situation appears very similar to that of the Jews during World War 2. The counter argument is that it is actually a very different situation because the Jews were a clearly defined, and clearly innocent group of people. It would be absurd to expect any of them to do anything violent and troublesome. However, I think many who are opposed to bringing in any refugees forget that the majority of these people really are innocent. We can’t lock the doors to all of them just because some of them might be bad. We must help the innocent and needy. We need a proper and effective screening process that is also efficient so that we can get these people into a stable situation as soon as possible.

While there is and always will be a threat of terrorists sneaking in among the refugees, we have to remember that it really isn’t all that difficult for ISIS to influence American citizens to do their work for them. They target isolated and marginalized people who are seeking an outlet to express their frustration. Many isolated people simply want to belong to something, and if they are convinced that they are important to a holy war, and that they will be greatly rewarded, they may and have been led to do horrible, violent things. These could be French, English, or American citizens who feel that they belong nowhere else and that they can succeed at nothing else. ISIS recruits these people through commonly used social media sites like Facebook and Twitter, and through other less known outlets as well. They have people who are very technologically savvy and can communicate and transfer funds and information across the globe without being detected via the dark web (a closed system that avoids using sites that are detectable by search engines–for more information on the dark web, go here: Dark Web). So while there is a danger of radicalized Syrians coming into our country, there is always a danger of ISIS radicalizing our own people.

Lastly, the U.S. has seen a lot of violent crimes perpetrated by American citizens. Young American people who are frustrated with life go into schools and movie theaters what seems like several times a year sometimes, and kill as many people as they can. While we don’t know their motives, we have to realize that this is a result of isolation. People who have healthy relationships, stable home lives, and a network of support to help with any mental health problems they may have, don’t do these things. It is the people who are neglected and ignored who end up resorting to violence. In this situation, we can all take some of the blame. Our citizens simply don’t want to deal with these people because we’re too busy or because we don’t want to get into an uncomfortable situation, our government doesn’t help because they don’t have enough money, or because they don’t know how, and our religious institutions, Christian, Muslim, or whatever else, don’t get involved because of the complicated theological and existential implications, and because their leaders are inadequately trained to deal with these kinds of issues. Refusing to accept refugees is not going to stop violent crime in this country.

The ultimate solution to our problem is to be careful, but also to be loving. We can increase productivity and the overall happiness of our people, including those we help from other countries, by developing a more inclusive, more caring society. Ultimately what will solve our problem is a change within ourselves. We need to be willing to do two things: get over our fear, and sacrifice a little of our time. We can be kind and loving while still being practical, but we need to be intentional about it. We need to make conscious choices about how we act toward every other person. I’ve had this conversation with my dad over and over: if we could just show our enemies how prosperous our nation is and how happy our people are overall, we might change their minds about us. Our country was built by immigrants and refugees. By not helping our Syrian friends, we are proving our enemies right about us.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!I

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!

Just A Quick Thought

earlier today my dad and I were talking about terrorism. I don’t rember what he said, but it was something like: “The terrorists should all be put in a box and given guns so the rest of the world can wait until they all eventually all just kill each other, and then they can all just go to hell.” It was more subtle than that, but that was what he meant.

My dad is very patriotic, and a little old school Catholic. In some ways, so am I. I mean my dad no disrespect. Jesus said to pray for our enemies. I don’t feel like it’s my place to condem them. They are bad people. They are wrong and broken. My dad said, “Not everyone gets saved, Katie, I know you want them to, but a lot of people aren’t getting past Saint Peter.” I do want them to be saved. I especially want the criminals and terrorists to be saved. I want the atheists and agnostics and people of other faiths to be saved. Not only that, but I believe they can be. Because I have to.

Justice And Mercy

I don’t know much about Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, who, today, is facing his convictions. He is charged on 30 counts in total, and will likely be found guilty of all 30. 17 of these are death-penalty charges. I remember that the Marathon Bombing took place on my 19th birthday. Tsarnaev was also 19. When the nation heard about what happened, we were outraged. Some were sorry. I was sorry. Tsarnaev’s defense was that his brother pushed him into it; convinced him to do it; forced him even. Most don’t believe that now. I don’t believe it. At 19, people have minds and wills of their own. He could have said “no.” He could have defended himself. Maybe he was influenced, but his decisions and actions were his own.

Still, I was; I am sorry. Tsarnaev is my age. At the time we were both college Freshmen. We both had plans. We both had futures. Tsarnaev ruined his own life. He destroyed others as well. He deserves to die. What I want for him is mercy. What I want for him is justice. I want him to live. I want him live in prison and live with what he did. Maybe he will never be sorry, but if he is given the death penalty, he will never have the chance to be. I want him to be sorry. I want him to know who he’s hurt. I want him to have to look at it and see it. I want him to have to know that Boston is stronger than anything he, or anyone else could ever do to us.

I ask all of my readers to pray, in whatever way is right to you, that Tsarnaev would live, and that he will come to understand what he’s done and have to face it.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!