The Eternal Question

About a week ago, I was in the car. I do a lot of praying in the car because the car is boring, and I don’t drive, so I don’t have to pay attention to the road. At the time I had been thinking about the difficulty of balancing work and prayer. The Lord reminded me of the time he spent with Martha and Mary. Martha had been working to make everything perfect for the Lord, while Mary just sat with Him. Martha got annoyed with her sister, and Jesus said, “Martha, Martha, you are worried and distracted by many things; there is need of only one thing. Mary has chosen the better part, which will not be taken away from her.”

At the time, I had been thinking about spending too much time producing art or music, even if it is for God’s glory, and not actually spending enough time with Him. Earlier today, I was worried about a deeper, spiritual problem I’ve been facing, so I went to my room and prayed, but I did something that was definitely out of the ordinary. I said, “Can you just tell me a story?” I don’t really know how I did it, but I sort of let Him take control of my creativity, and this is the story He told me.

There was once a little girl who lived in a house with her mom and dad. They were loved by their friends and neighbors and they lived a very normal life. On an ordinary day, the little girl came home from school and sat on the floor to play. All of a sudden everything disappeared except for the square of floor she was sitting on. Above her there was nothing. Below her there was nothing. Behind her there was nothing, and in front of her there was nothing. To her left and her right, and in every direction besides, there was nothing. Everything she had ever known was gone. She was there, and the square she sat on was there and that was it. She was sad because everything she knew was gone, and as the square started to disappear, she became scared. She was worried because if the square was gone, she might fall into nothing forever. As the square disappeared, she reached out for Me, and I caught her, and brought her to myself and kept her there.

Then he asked me a question.

Is that okay?

I thought it was a weird story, but the strangest thing was that when everything disappeared, I felt this sense of peace. His question really seamed to be: “If literally everything else was gone except Me, would you be happy with that?” I’m realizing as I write this how weighty a question that is. That is literally a life or death question. When we die, we literally lose everything this world has to offer: everything we own; the place where we live; all the money we may have; even the identity this world gave us. When we die, we’ll face that question. Our answer determines where we spend eternity. I didn’t fully realize that when He initially asked the question, but I didn’t have to think about it. My answer was, and still is absolutely “Yes.”

I mentioned in my previous post that I deal with scrupulosity. It kind of means I have spiritual OCD. I get caught up in the “rules” while trying to be perfect, and I lose sight of the actual point of my faith, which is to have a loving relationship with the Lord. For a while now, I think it’s been like when Peter walked on water. He had faith enough to try something that absurd. For a moment, he was able to do it, but he saw that the water was getting rough and the wind was picking up. He lost sight of Jesus for just a moment, and he started sinking, but all he had to do was ask for help, and Jesus caught him. I’ve been so busy trying to be perfect, that I lost sight of the Person I’m trying to be perfect for. With His weird little story Jesus reminded me that He will catch me when I fall.

“Where Do All The Roads Go?”

My Godmother once told a story about when my dad was teaching CCD. We were six or seven, and at the time, we had class at my house. I don’t actually remember the lesson, but when my dad was finished teaching, he said, “Does anyone have any questions?” One of the kids in my class asked, “Where do all the roads go?” It had nothing to do with the lesson, but actually, it’s a really good question.

I’ve recently come to love the song “When It Don’t Come Easy” by Patty Griffin. It’s a sad song, but I think a hopeful one, too. A few lines that invariably get stuck in my head are:

You’re out there walking down a highway
And all of the signs got blown away
Sometimes you wonder if you’re walking in the wrong direction

Followed by the Chours:

But if you break down
I’ll drive out and find you
If you forget my love
I’ll try to remind you
And stay by you when it don’t come easy

Today at Mass we got some bad news. One of the priests who serves at our parish is being re-assigned. He’s a fabulous priest. He exudes true Christian joy, and you can tell he’s truly in love with the Lord. I’m really going to miss him.

This afternoon I’ve been thinking about that little kid’s question. “Where do all the roads go?” Two decades later, all I know is that they all go somewhere. I do know that my Guide knows where they all go, and if I trust Him, He’ll lead me down the right ones. Sometimes I don’t exactly follow His directions, and I get a little lost. I find myself wandering down that highway where the signs got blown away, but I know He’ll come and find me.

Earlier I was angry about our priest’s re-assignment. Now I’m just sad. I prayed about it, and I told the Lord that I don’t like this, but I know He can bring even more light out of any darkness. Hopefully our priest can be a help to whatever parish he’s going to. They’ll be getting an absolutely inspiring priest, and apparently we’ve been assigned someone who has just recently been ordained. I may not like the situation, but I am hopeful. Our parish has been going through a lot of change in the past year, and I really just want a sense of permanence.

This One Thing

I haven’t been sleeping well this week. It happens from time to time. Sometimes it’s for no particular reason, and sometimes I’m just thinking or worrying too much about something. I just keep waking up ludicrously early and something pops into my head, and I can’t stop thinking about it. Two or three days ago a really disturbing question popped into my head. Helping the poor, the sick, and the needy is a big deal to Jesus. I don’t even drive a car. I have to ask for assistance to get basically anywhere unless I’m going to one of my friends’ houses or church, and even then, getting to church by rolling there takes time.

I feel bad about inconveniencing my parents, and I don’t make any of my own money right now, so I can’t even donate to charity. I teach three CCD classes, and I pray for people who need help, and I write stuff here, but is that enough? If I’m not actually there in person to help out, in other words, If I’m not doing what Jesus said to do (according to how my mind works), am I actually Christian? I have no idea how this popped into my head. It was dumb, but I had to get an answer. So, like usual, at 6:00 in the morning (which is WAY earlier than I like to be awake), I was researching on my phone.

Before even looking, though, I prayed, and I tried to find a concrete answer somewhere in scripture. I wasn’t sure where to look, so I ended up searching for what made someone a Christian somewhere else on the internet. I found an answer pretty quickly that really seemed to make sense. To be a Christian, someone has to believe in Jesus, and try to do what he did. Jesus doesn’t expect us to do more than we’re able. This is so simple, really, but I think the simplicity of it makes it easy to forget.

I’ve talked about my hero complex before, and I’ve realized something more. Sometimes I wonder why God made me the way he did. Sometimes I wonder why he made me so I can’t drive myself around or fully control my epilepsy, and therefore, can’t get a normal job. I think part of the reason is so I can’t feed my ego. If I was able to do things the way I want to do them, I might not be so interested in helping. The fact of the matter is, I don’t like being dependent, and if I were totally independent, I probably wouldn’t be so empathetic towards people who are also dependent on others.

I realized something else through that whole experience, though. When I woke up with that horrible question in my head, it terrified me. I realized that my entire identity rests on the fact that I am Christian. I could write a substantial list of qualities that contribute in some way to who I am, but they’re just not important to me. I never fully realized this until my identity in Christ came into question. It was like questioning whether I exist or not.

Realizing this has actually made me feel pretty good. I know who I am. I’m not sure how many people can confidently say that. For many, I think it’s hard to track down one’s true identity. I used to think the fact that I was a fantasy writer was my true identity. The problem with identifying myself so much with that was that there were so many questions and variable factors. Am I actually any good? Is anyone going to like my book? Am I ever going to get published once I finish this thing? Is this thing just totally crazy? Is it only ever going to make sense to me? How long is it going to take to finish this? Am I always going to be writing fantasy? Even if this does go well, what do I write next? This is so complicated, and I have so many ideas! Some days this is so fun, and some days it’s such a drag! Luckily, none of that really matters. All that matters is that I believe and I’m trying.

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

Who Do You Trust?

Yesterday massively sucked. Our house cleaner comes every other Tuesday, which basically means I can’t work every other Tuesday because I’m out all day doing mind-numbing errands with my mom and brother and by the time we get home I’m kind of fried. Yesterday was a house-cleaning day. Usually we’re up and out of the house pretty quickly, but for whatever reason, we took what seemed like over an hour to leave. On top of that, we had decided to go to Flat Bread Pizza for lunch, which for us is in Salem. Salem is a pretty long ride for us, and by the time we got to the restaurant I was famished. This is probably sounding like whining so far, and under normal circumstances, it probably would be.

Shortly after we got to the restaurant I started feeling sort of sick, so I just sat still and figured I’d be fine once I got some pizza in me. Flat Bread is my favorite. However, shortly after I got my first piece down, my head started spinning, I started feeling faint, and then I got sick in my plate. We left after that and went to a gas station next door where I tried to keep down some chips and some Gatorade. I couldn’t even keep down the chips, and I could keep down the Gatorade for a while until we got almost back to our house. Then I got sick again in a container of wet wipes.

I was so dizzy I could barely make it to the bathroom on the second floor of our house (which is across from my bedroom) to get cleaned up before I slept for several hours. I did finally get up around nine PM and was finally able to eat some crackers and drink some Gatorade. I was also, thankfully, able to get my epilepsy pills down, and then I slept pretty well last night.

Today I got up feeling almost back to normal. I ate a pancake and some cheese and crackers and a bit of fruit before going to get my blood drawn (to make sure I’m not, you know, dying or anything), which went swimmingly, and then I got coffee with my mom, and I just finished writing the fifteenth story in my mythology.

It kind of seems like I’ve had more weird health issues lately. I had a thought a little bit earlier today. Is a cry for help a kind of worship? I’ve learned to say, when I ask God for help that I trust him. He did get me through yesterday, and yesterday was one of the worst days I’ve had in a quite a long time. A little while after we had left the restaurant I was feeling really crappy, and I told my mom I thought I should go to the hospital. Willingly going to a hospital is like admitting the worst kind of defeat for me. I have to be almost convinced that if I don’t I’m going to die. I’m not exaggerating. My whole family (on my mom’s side, anyway) is like that. Luckily my dad talked me out of it, but I prayed to God before we got home, and I said, “I don’t want to die, but I trust you, and whatever happens, I’m ready. Just please help me.” Now reading it, it sounds absurd. I’m twenty-four, but yesterday I was ready to die if that was what it was coming to.

I suppose this needs a bit of explanation. The symptoms I was experiencing yesterday seemed to be the result of really low sodium levels. One of my epilepsy medicines does deplete my sodium, which stinks because I’m also kind of a health nut, and a lot of salty things aren’t particularly healthy. Sure enough, though, once I got some crackers and Gatorade down, I was a lot better. I should also say that I’m only a health nut in the sense that I try to eat fairly small portions and ration the amount of actual junk food I eat. I also prefer, in general, to snack on fruits and vegetables, but I certainly don’t go overboard to the point that I feel like I’m missing out on something.

Still, none of this really answers my question. Is a cry for help a kind of worship? After yesterday I’m inclined to think so. I think it depends on whether one trusts God, and if one remembers that he’s there in the good times as well as the not so good ones. I remember our priest talking about this a handful of times in church when I was younger, before I had ever even accepted Christ, really. He said it’s so easy to remember God and to call out to him when we need something, but he’s not just here to give us whatever we need or want. He seeks our worship when things are going well because he loves us and he wants us to love him back.

While I was waiting for my appointment today I was trying to work through this in my head, and ultimately I had to realize that I keep asking myself the same questions over and over, which all boiled down to one: Am I worth dying for? In the opinion of the God I worship, I am. Part of that question is: How am I, one out of millions, and nothing special, worth it, and why am I worth it? I’ve decided to stop asking, though. I told him that in the waiting room. I’m done asking, and instead I’m just going to say, “I love you, too.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly!

We Took A Walk

Yesterday’s meandering started with resentment. I was annoyed about something, and I almost wrote about it, but that would have been unfair to the people involved. Instead I decided to leave it alone and putter around on Craigslist. I’m hoping to start a new ministry at my church for young adult types, so I figured I’d advertise a bit. After posting there and on Facebook, I was sufficiently distracted.

I thought maybe I’d try designing a new “thing.” Visual art isn’t exactly my strong suit, but I have a pendent that I designed that came out really well. It’s designed around what the Eucharist represents. It’s two hands together, holding a flower with a butterfly on it. It represents life, sacrifice, change, redemption, and togetherness with God.

I didn’t come up with a new design because a question occurred to me. If Jesus is really present in the Eucharist, what does that actually mean? What does it mean for us, and what does it mean for him? I googled a few things and watched a few videos on YouTube, but I couldn’t really find an answer, so I decided to go for a walk. Sometimes when I have a question, I look high and low for the answer and forget to ask God.

One thing I did find before I left was that when we receive the Eucharist we receive the body, blood, soul, and divinity of Jesus. That sounds great, but what does that actually mean? I started thinking about when he said “I become one with you, and you are one with me.” I also read that we become “vessels for the Lord.” All of this together was sounding very complicated.

So I left my house and started asking questions. We took a long walk. I don’t remember all of what we talked about. Something that bothered me at first, though, was the idea that a perfect God would become “one” with an imperfect me. What does that do to or for him? I started working with the analogy of someone taking care of a sick friend. The sick person isn’t necessarily going to make the healthy person sick.

My analogy started to get a little muddled, though, because I started thinking about how taking care of a sick person makes a healthy person better in other ways. They become more patient, or more compassionate, or what have you. But Jesus is already perfect. So what does he get out of it? What does he want to be with us for? Then it hit me. God is love. By necessity, he loves. It’s just God being God.

While figuring all this out, I was talking out loud. I would have looked like a crazy person, but I live on a busy street, and no one was around. I had been talking and asking questions the whole time, but at this point I was speechless. We got down to my church, and I thought I’d just see if the door was open. It wasn’t, so I started heading for home.

We wandered along for a little while, but I had to ask: “So, I still don’t get what it means that I’m a vessel. I mean, what does it mean for me that we’re ‘one?'” It means that he’s making me more like him. It means that he’s always with me. It means that I can do things I wouldn’t otherwise be able to.

It also means that I have a job to do. I have to love like a crazy person. I have to forgive the unforgivable. I have to tell people who God is and what he does and why he does it. I finished off last night with this: “Lord, if you are light and you’re with me, let me be a light, too.”

Because in my world guinea pigs can fly

I Made Up A Conversation!

“Jesus saved us from our sins.” Okay… so what does that actually mean? What is sin?

It’s basically two things: rebellion against God, and by extension, death.

How does one rebel against God?

Basically, “in the beginning,” however you want to interpret that, humans were told to obey and trust God… we didn’t do that. Thus, evil entered the world and was passed down through the generations. Later, Jesus tells us that the most important thing for us to do is to love our God and to love our neighbors (friends, family, etc, as well as our fellow humans in general). We’re generally pretty good at loving our chums, but peeps tend to forget about the first part.

Why do the actions of some people a wicked long time ago affect us now? How is that possibly fair?

It’s more like a genetic defect than a crime we inherited the guilt from. It’s not your fault per se. It’s just a part of you. It’s really your choices and actions as a result of the inherent evil within you that matter.

Who or what defines “good” or “evil?” Some things that are good for, or help some people hurt other people, so isn’t it all relative?

If morality is relative, one has to assert that nothing is good or evil. Therefore, things like murder should have no repercussions other than perhaps they would be seen as distasteful. Therefore, morality cannot be relative. If it is not relative, it has to be defined by someone or something. Only someone or something that could understand the concept of morality could define it. Therefore, someone intelligent must define it. Furthermore, absolute morality must be defined by someone who could understand how a small action in Boston could affect someone in Afghanistan. Only God can see the whole of humanity through all of time. Thus, God defines morality.

Can you prove God exists?

Not without using some personal experience (my own and that of a lot of others).

Okay, fine. Assuming God exists and sin is a thing, why did we need Jesus to “save” us, and what does that mean?

This gets a little complicated. We don’t just have evil in us. We think evil things and do evil things, even if they’re small and we don’t mean to. Jesus is God in human form. He died in our place so that we would be forgiven. He taught us how to be good in the eyes of God so that we wouldn’t do evil things. We have to believe in him and follow his example because he is God, and is, therefore, the ultimate good.

What happens if you don’t believe?

I think it depends from person to person. I can say that I’m much happier knowing Jesus than I was when I didn’t know him, and faith matters in this life. What happens when you die? I have only a very vague idea, and I can’t really say. All I know is that God judges everyone. How he does that, I don’t know. I do know that Jesus died to save everyone, and I figure we at least owe him our faith.

Humans! Send me more questions and I will attempt to answer them!

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