Thursday, June 25, 2009

Are You Saved?

This is an interesting response, from an Orthodox perspective, on how one approaches the Evangelical question, "Are you saved?" or "Have you been saved?" I found it fascinating. I'd love to hear your thoughts or push back.

HT: Fr. Stephen Freeman

more about "Are You Saved?", posted with vodpod

Wednesday, June 24, 2009

The Bizarre Bazaar

I was smoking on my porch the other night. A spider had spun her web over the steps of the porch and a firefly was bound in the center. Wrapped up, intoxicated, it continued to blink for more than 30 minutes in an ever-weakening pattern, or so it seemed to me: Blink. Blink. Blink. Pause. Blink. (Roughly including four or five seconds at each period.) It was the first time I'd ever seen a firefly in a spider's web, and the spider never left it. I've seen spiders wrap up their prey before and simply leave it hanging for a bit. But for whatever reason, this spider stayed on top of the firefly the entire time, stayed with it. Perhaps the starts of bioluminescence surprised the spider as well, making the spider doubt the efficacy of her drug.

Saturday night, I watched Peter Jennings host a special on UFOs, an older special, and they began speaking about abductions. Some scientists said, as a counterpoint to the personal testimonies to abductees, that these experiences could be attributed to a sleep disorder called Sleep Paralysis (SP). As they described Sleep Paralysis, I was shocked to hear them describe a personal experience from when I was a teenager. They described it nearly perfectly, with the same words that I have used to describe it - it was uncanny and enlightening. This was my experience: I woke in the middle of the night terrified. I heard footsteps coming down the stairs toward my bedroom. I knew someone or something was coming for me, meant me terrible harm. I couldn't move. Then a presence was in my room. It rose up next to my bed - I couldn't see it, but only feel it. The silence of the room roared at me. A knife was raised, so I felt, and I prayed, "Lord, receive my spirit." And it was gone. It was terrifying, and terrifyingly real.

I've always thought of the experience as something demonic. That is my worldview and how I would naturally explain the inexplicable. Apparently, others don't see demons, but aliens. That's the scientific consensus, at least. In the past such night visits were thought to be demons, old hags, succubi/incubi, or even vampires.

I did some reading on SP and learned that some people also experienced the feelings of floating through the air (being taken up into an alien spacecraft, being swept away on a witch's broom, etc.) and realized I could count another case of SP when I was much younger: I thought I was fully awake, but was floating near the ceiling of my bedroom. I explored my entire house that way. And that's it.

Anyway, I am intrigued by stories of cryptozoology and UFOlogy, though a skeptic. But I was thankful for that particular program, which seemed to explain two moments in my life that I had been unable to understand. Those are the only two times I am aware of experiencing SP. Some few people experience it often, some even weekly. Honestly, if I were in their bunny slippers, I'd be scared shitless to go to bed - especially if I thought aliens were abducting me or some strange demon was straddling my chest and choking me. Absolutely bizarre.

Tuesday, June 23, 2009

Jon & Kate Plus 8

Laura and I have six kids. It is not eight, and it is not multiples, but it is a bunch. So we have watched Jon & Kate since its inception. We don't watch it religiously, but fairly often - we enjoy seeing the Gosselins facing their ups and downs. They are a refreshing family to watch, in many ways, unplagued with the disease of so many believers thinking they must appear to be what they are not. Of course, they have their own problems. We love seeing them take their family places and into situations where we fear to tread with our own. And, frankly, it is fun watching someone else dealing with a truckload of kids. It has helped me remember that I am not alone. It is cathartic, and it has become a cautionary tale.

This is reality television. It is the good and the ugly together. It is finding inspiration and it is making a spectacle of dissolution. It is making a family part of your family without any of the "messy" obligations and responsibilities that friendship brings: prayer, support, loyalty. (It's a lot like Facebook.) It depersonalizes persons. And yet it has gotten me to think quite a bit about personhood.

I am sad for the Gosselins. I pray for them and hurt with them. I wish they understood that their marriage is their vocation. I wish they understood that they are being deceived, fed platitudes that enable divorce and empower self. I wish they wouldn't have bitten. I wish, even though they have filed for divorce, that they understood that it is not too late. That they realized the best thing for their children is not the "peace" that comes from no longer being with the other person, but for them to humbly bear up under this part of their journey - together, no matter how separate they feel. To be humble and obedient - this is often the task set before a marriage when feelings and people change, when time passes. But don't quit. Learn to love in the suffering, through the suffering. Pour out yourself for the other person. Autonomy is still the forbidden fruit.

Marriage is hard. It is not made easier by having a television crew follow you around, I imagine. So pray for Jon and Kate and their children.

Friday, June 19, 2009

Whore of Babylon Puts Out

I saw this headline in one of my feeds yesterday: "Benedict calls for new world economic order." It made me chuckle. This is the kind of headline that, not so long ago, would have screamed to me, "End of the world nigh - Pope is Antichrist." Take it with a grain of salt, everything used to be such a sign.

Pope Benedict XVI has called for a new world economic order that promotes human dignity and solidarity.

Addressing the financial crisis that has swept the world this year, Pope Benedict said that "economic and financial paradigms that have been dominant in recent years must be re-thought".

A new model of development should take its place that is "more attentive to the demands of solidarity and more respectful of human dignity", he told members of the Centesimus Annus Pro Pontifice Foundation, an organisation which promotes Catholic social teaching."

Read the whole article here. It's really a tease for Benedict's third encyclical, this one on Catholic social teaching, titled "Caritas in Vertate" (Love in Truth), that is due to be released at the end of the month.

Wednesday, June 17, 2009

Simon Bears the Cross with Jesus

As I pray the Rosary, I add certain relative clauses in order to help me meditate on the particular mystery of the decade I am reciting. So an Ave would run as follows for the fourth sorrowful mystery: "Hail Mary, full of grace, the Lord is with thee. Blessed art thou among women and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus, who bore the heavy cross for us. Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death. Amen." (The words in italic, of course, being the added relative clause.)

Adding these clauses aren't my idea or invention, but have been around for centuries. (Read von Balthasar's Threefold Garland for more - it's a phenomenal little book.) I have been thinking about this particular clause, "Who bore the heavy cross for us," as I meditate on the sorrowful mysteries of the most holy Rosary. Whenever I say it, or hear or read the story of Jesus' bearing the cross, I am always, and always have been, struck immediately with a qualification - something ridiculous along the lines of "with Simon of Cyrene." But this involuntary (literalist crazy) qualification strikes me as constitutive to our Christian life. Simon bears the cross with Jesus for a purpose. Ultimately God goes before us, bears us, encircles us with his grace so that it is He who acts. But I also act.

"Good works" is not a dirty word, not heresy unless I believe that it is my good works - outside and apart from Christ's work - that reconcile me to God. (There are variations of the heresy.) I cannot act righteously without God's grace. But God's grace is always present for good works. Always. Sometimes I don't allow it to work in me. (The permission itself is an act of grace. All is grace.) But God has given us human persons the dignity of freedom to respond in step with the Spirit or to quench the Spirit.

God invites us to work with him, by his grace, that we might, working with him, redeem all of creation. That we might, by his grace, do greater things than he himself did. (I don't understand this word of Christ, but believe that each of us - and not simply the Church entire - is called to these "greater works" since the Greek uses the singular "you" rather than the plural. Though it is still only by his grace.) This is not because Christ doesn't cut it or that the Father needs help, but because we are invited to participate in his Divine Life. This is conversion. This is salvation. We become - we must become - by grace, all that Christ is by nature.

Glory to God for all things.

Wednesday, June 10, 2009

If You Sent Me on a Cruise

Such busy weeks, the past one and the one before. Last Week: Two birthdays prepared for and celebrated, two first Communion practices, one First Communion, and one big celebration of all of those things on Saturday. That was all piled onto the normal busyness. It was Anna's first Communion - and it was beautiful (pictures and more, later). It was Will's fifth birthday and Sophie's tenth. (I also had two articles due, which were turned in late. My bad.) The Week Prior: My mother had a stroke. Thanks be to God only a minor stroke, but my week was tumbled by it and I was drained emotionally waiting and praying and being more anxious than I'm supposed to be. My mom seems to be back to normal and the kids and I are looking forward to another visit from Grandma and Papa later this month.

All I feel like doing is sleeping, and that's precisely all that I would do if someone sent me on a cruise this week. Unfortunately, no one has. But I suppose that's OK, since I would sleep through it anyway.