Thursday, April 17, 2014

Buffet of Devotions

I am acting as a sponsor for a candidate in RCIA.  She'll be joining the church in just a few days, and it truly has been wonderful helping her through this process.  A few weeks ago she pulled me aside with a question.  Apparently, we had failed to explain all the devotions that we talk about (Rosary, Stations of the Cross, Adoration) are optional.  She was feeling a bit overwhelmed and wanted to know what to do!  We ended up coming up with an analogy that helps explain all these great things we have available as Catholics.  It is like we have a buffet of devotions!  You have to take a tray and a plate and silverware, which could represent Jesus and the Sacraments. But then you get to pick from the huge variety of devotions the people of the Church have developed over 2000 years.  They are all wonderful of course, but different people may enjoy different ones.  And that's okay!  We have the blessing of having many options with which to explore and deepen our faith.

When was the last time you checked out something Catholic other than Sunday Mass and Sacraments?  There's a short little article here that might give you some ideas and explains some of the more common ones.

Saturday, April 12, 2014

Growth through Suffering

If you want to become stronger, you have to lift heavier things.  I know this from CrossFit.  The workouts aren't easy and people can't understand why I volunteer for such suffering, but I see tremendous improvement in all areas since I started.  I'm stronger, faster, and have more endurance.  

We often pray for patience or humility or something else along the lines of becoming better people.  We want God to reach down and turn us into a better version of ourselves.  He can, of course, do that, and does in many ways.  Prayer, the sacraments, and other devotions are used to form us.  But sometimes, we grow through suffering.  When I have to fight myself to be patient with someone, I'm becoming a more patient person.  It is a lot like lifting weights.  Every time I suffer through something difficult, I become a better person.  That doesn't sound awesome though.  At CrossFit when I suffer, I can see the results immediately.  I get a much hotter body and feel much better about myself.  Generic suffering otherwise just seems so… painful.  It is difficult to remember that suffering has a purpose and that God can (and does) use it for good in us.

Count it all joy, my brethren, when you meet various trials, for you know that the testing of your faith produces steadfastness. And let steadfastness have its full effect, that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing. ~James 1:2-4

More than that, we rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance, and endurance produces character, and character produces hope, and hope does not disappoint us, because God’s love has been poured into our hearts through the Holy Spirit who has been given to us. ~Rom 5:3-5

This of course makes perfect sense as I write this blog, but nobody likes suffering and it is hard to keep it in mind when I'm suffering or when others are!

Sunday, March 30, 2014

Zombies Don't Share the Gospel

I like to stay busy.  It keeps me out of trouble!  We aren't supposed to be idle and we're called to use our time wisely for God.  So far in 2014, I've been actively involved in RCIA, I tutor algebra once or twice a week, and I've been taking the excellent Certificate of Theology courses from JP Catholic.  I've been doing CrossFit three times a week, ran three times a week as part of a Couch to 3.1 group, and began a morning exercise program twice a week at the start of March.  I like to visit my Dad on weekends I'm free, hang out with my friends as much as possible, read novels, and write here or elsewhere.  Oh, and there's work too.  I'd not given much thought to this hectic schedule until this month.

The week I began the morning exercise program, I started noticing mild physical symptoms.  I'd just finished an added-sugar fast in February so I assumed they were from the re-introduction of sugar.  As the weeks went by though, they kept getting worse and worse.  Things got really bad when I stopped being able to go to sleep until 1:00 or 2:00 in the morning if I'd worked out that day.  I love my sleep!  I grew more stressed and irritable.  One night (morning) I was still awake at 2:00 and finally decided to throw some research into what might be causing me all of these problems.  Every single result on Google indicated I was WAY too busy and was having a textbook response to too much stress.  I didn't feel stressed before the symptoms appeared, but apparently my body didn't care how I felt.

I was reminded of a few posts Jennifer Fulwiler has made at Conversion Diary regarding scheduling and being overwhelmed.  I'm not a mom with that many kids, but the signs and solutions seemed obvious in my life once I'd re-read her posts.  

I'm in between classes at JP Catholic, so I talked to them about withdrawing from the program for awhile.  They were very supportive.  I also dropped the morning exercise program I'd started at the beginning of the month and skipped a 5k I was signed up for over the weekend.  Just as she experienced a lot of results by making some changes, I've noticed huge improvements as well.  I'm sleeping better which is amazing.  I feel like I have time to do things in my house, like clean the dishes.  I'm in a better mood in general, and I feel like I'm more prepared to tackle the day.

We are supposed to keep away from idleness and serve God with our time, but we can't be so busy that we fail at being joyful communicators of the Good News.  We don't set a good example if we're cranky all the time or too tired to help with anything not on our schedule.   Nobody wants to hear about Jesus from a zombie.

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

Wisdom

I was reading the Book of Wisdom last week.  I think it may be one of my favorite books in the whole Bible.  If you're not Catholic, you probably won't find this in your Bible unless it happens to include this at the end with the six others not considered canonical by most Protestants.  The KJV had these books included as well for a time, though they didn't consider them inspired.  The reasons why for that are best left to a different post, but I do think anyone can enjoy the Book of Wisdom.

This section speaks to the ideas of non-believers, and the idea there is nothing after this life.  I see the treatment of Jesus in verses 2:12-20, and the promises of God in 3:1-8.

Chapter 2

For the ungodly said, reasoning with themselves, but not aright, Our life is short and tedious, and in the death of a man there is no remedy: neither was there any man known to have returned from the grave. For we are born at all adventure: and we shall be hereafter as though we had never been: for the breath in our nostrils is as smoke, and a little spark in the moving of our heart: Which being extinguished, our body shall be turned into ashes, and our spirit shall vanish as the soft air, And our name shall be forgotten in time, and no man shall have our works in remembrance, and our life shall pass away as the trace of a cloud, and shall be dispersed as a mist, that is driven away with the beams of the sun, and overcome with the heat thereof. For our time is a very shadow that passeth away; and after our end there is no returning: for it is fast sealed, so that no man cometh again. 

Come on therefore, let us enjoy the good things that are present: and let us speedily use the creatures like as in youth. Let us fill ourselves with costly wine and ointments: and let no flower of the spring pass by us: Let us crown ourselves with rosebuds, before they be withered: Let none of us go without his part of our voluptuousness: let us leave tokens of our joyfulness in every place: for this is our portion, and our lot is this. 10 Let us oppress the poor righteous man, let us not spare the widow, nor reverence the ancient gray hairs of the aged. 11 Let our strength be the law of justice: for that which is feeble is found to be nothing worth. 

12 Therefore let us lie in wait for the righteous; because he is not for our turn, and he is clean contrary to our doings: he upbraideth us with our offending the law, and objecteth to our infamy the transgressings of our education. 13 He professeth to have the knowledge of God: and he calleth himself the child of the Lord. 14 He was made to reprove our thoughts. 15 He is grievous unto us even to behold: for his life is not like other men’s, his ways are of another fashion. 16 We are esteemed of him as counterfeits: he abstaineth from our ways as from filthiness: he pronounceth the end of the just to be blessed, and maketh his boast that God is his father. 17 Let us see if his words be true: and let us prove what shall happen in the end of him. 18 For if the just man be the son of God, he will help him, and deliver him from the hand of his enemies. 19 Let us examine him with despitefulness and torture, that we may know his meekness, and prove his patience. 20 Let us condemn him with a shameful death: for by his own saying he shall be respected. 

21 Such things they did imagine, and were deceived: for their own wickedness hath blinded them. 22 As for the mysteries of God, they knew them not: neither hoped they for the wages of righteousness, nor discerned a reward for blameless souls. 23 For God created man to be immortal, and made him to be an image of his own eternity. 24 Nevertheless through envy of the devil came death into the world: and they that do hold of his side do find it. 

Chapter 3

But the souls of the righteous are in the hand of God, and there shall no torment touch them. In the sight of the unwise they seemed to die: and their departure is taken for misery, And their going from us to be utter destruction: but they are in peace. For though they be punished in the sight of men, yet is their hope full of immortality. And having been a little chastised, they shall be greatly rewarded: for God proved them, and found them worthy for himself. As gold in the furnace hath he tried them, and received them as a burnt offering. And in the time of their visitation they shall shine, and run to and fro like sparks among the stubble. They shall judge the nations, and have dominion over the people, and their Lord shall reign for ever. They that put their trust in him shall understand the truth: and such as be faithful in love shall abide with him: for grace and mercy is to his saints, and he hath care for his elect. 

 

 

Sunday, March 23, 2014

Third Sunday of Lent

Today is the third Sunday in Lent.  Readings are here.  I just love the Gospel reading from today.  In addition to being a great story of Jesus' interaction with a sinner, the woman's history mirrors that of her people.  Jesus isn't just telling her story; He's telling the story of the Samaritans.  There's just so much wonderful about this story!  There's the woman and her interaction, there's the connection to her people, there is the promise of salvation, and there's the fact this woman who was so shunned she had to go get water when nobody else was out there manages to bring Jesus to her whole town.  I. Just. Love. It.

I love it so much I found commentary on the readings from other, more articulate people just for you!

Go.  Click.  Read.  Everything about the Mass is better when we understand more.

Wednesday, February 26, 2014

The Easy Life

Frequently when people learn of my hopeful career plans, they ask me why I'd want to go to a "harder job with less pay."  Wouldn't it just be easier to remain where I am?  The short answer is yes, of course, that would be easier.   It wouldn't be nearly as dangerous, the hours are much better, and in general I'd lead an easier life.

So here's a question - when did we start valuing easier?  When did that become the standard by which we live our lives and make our decisions?

Even Adam was made to work in the Garden before the Fall.  He wasn't given an easy life.  Noah had to build an ark and then live in it a very long time with his family and a bunch of smelly animals.  Abraham had to travel all over, fight to rescue his nephew, and oh yeah there's that whole almost-sacrifce of Isaac thing.  Moses got to work in the desert for 40 years, lead the people out of Egypt, and then deal with them another 40 years due to their disobedience.  These Biblical figures did not lead easy lives.

David had it hard too; before being in charge he had to deal with Saul trying to kill him.  His suffering during this and other times is how we got a lot of the Psalms.  One time it looked like he was taking it easy was when he didn't go out to war like he was supposed to, leading him into adultery and murder.  That didn't seem to work out too well for him!

There's no pretending Jesus led or advocated an easy life.
And he opened his mouth and taught them, saying:  “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.  Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth. Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied. Blessed are the merciful, for they shall obtain mercy. Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Blessed are those who are persecuted for righteousness’ sake, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.  Blessed are you when men revile you and persecute you and utter all kinds of evil against you falsely on my account. Rejoice and be glad, for your reward is great in heaven, for so men persecuted the prophets who were before you."  ~ Matthew 5:2-12
Well.  Not a lot of easy there, and this is before he starts really going to town on the leadership of the time.  An easy life is not what generally gets one crucified by the authorities!

Tradition holds all but one of the apostles were killed for their faith.  Even John did not have an easy life though.  His Lord's dying command to the very young man at the time was to take care of Mary.  I can't imagine she was difficult to care for, but that's still quite a sudden responsibility.  And although he wasn't killed for his faith, he was persecuted.  His life wasn't easy.

I can't think of any saints who had easy lives.  Nobody I've read about lived a life of perfectly content quiet contemplating before going to their heroic death before the Lord.  Oh sure, some were more academic than others, but they still worked hard.  And let's not pretend for a moment that dying for Jesus is somehow easy or pleasurable.  Getting ripped to shreds by lions probably still hurts quite a bit, even if you're confident you're going to be seeing Jesus immediately afterward.

People would joke in times past they had children so they could fetch the tv remote or another drink from the fridge, but really, who has kids for easy?  Nobody.  Nobody has kids to make their lives easier.  Every day, the parents around us live far more difficult lives because they have children.  There is no easy button for parenting.

There's a lot of talk in the New Testament about helping to carry others' burdens and carrying crosses and being strong in the faith, but I don't remember anything about pursuing an easy life.

Do you know anyone, anyone at all, who has led a successful and happy life following the easy path? I propose it isn't possible.  I would further suggest that for a Christian, an easy life is a sure sign we're doing something wrong.  Our difficulties may take on many shapes and sizes and versions, but as a group our lives should not be easy.  We should not want them to be easy and we should understand it is not possible for them to be easy anyway.  Let's not continue to buy the lie that easier is better.

Sunday, February 23, 2014

Advantages

I want you to be free from anxieties. The unmarried man is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to please the Lord; but the married man is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please his wife, and his interests are divided. And the unmarried woman or girl is anxious about the affairs of the Lord, how to be holy in body and spirit; but the married woman is anxious about worldly affairs, how to please her husband. ~1 Cor 7:32-34
Paul is discussing the advantages of being single.  There are advantages to being married of course, and some day I'd like to enjoy those, but it is important to remember the advantages of being single while in that state.  I (should) have far fewer attachments to the world that distract or prevent me from pursuing God's glory.  I have more time and money to help others.  I have more free time to study and pray.  I can be more open to sudden changes or circumstances that need assistance.

Let's compare this to the popular idea of the primary advantages of being a single young woman.  In that outlook, I (should) have far fewer attachments to whatever that distract or prevent me from pursuing my glory.  I have more money to buy stuff.  I have more free time to enjoy myself.  I can be more open to opportunities to develop my own career.

Buying stuff, enjoying myself, and developing my own career are of course good things and I certainly don't ignore them.  But they are not the primary advantages to being single.  They are not my primary function in any circumstance, including in my time as a single woman.  Serving God is always the primary goal, which makes those goals subordinate to what God wants in my life at any moment.

Thursday, February 13, 2014

Faithful in All

I am such a horrible blogger, I know.  I post daily for a few weeks and then wander off.  A conversation I had with a man the other day about the following story prompts me to write tonight though.
It happened, late one afternoon, when David arose from his couch and was walking upon the roof of the king’s house, that he saw from the roof a woman bathing; and the woman was very beautiful. And David sent and inquired about the woman. And one said, “Is not this Bathsheba, the daughter of Eliam, the wife of Uriah the Hittite?” So David sent messengers, and took her; and she came to him, and he lay with her. (Now she was purifying herself from her uncleanness.) Then she returned to her house. And the woman conceived; and she sent and told David, “I am with child.” (2 Sam 11:2-5)
David first attempted to conceal his actions by inviting her husband home from the war so he could sleep with his wife.  The soldier doesn't cooperate, so David has him killed on the front lines of battle and takes Bathsheba for his wife.

The man I was speaking with noted that if David, a man after God's own heart, could fall, then he as a man could easily fall as well.  He noted how easy this is to do and how entirely hard it is to avoid.  He also noted the context:
In the spring of the year, the time when kings go forth to battle, David sent Joab, and his servants with him, and all Israel; and they ravaged the Ammonites, and besieged Rabbah. But David remained at Jerusalem. (2 Sam 11:1)
David wasn't doing what he was supposed to be doing to begin with.  He didn't go from doing everything entirely right to sleeping with a married woman and then having her husband killed.  He first started failing at other duties.

In today's readings, we read David's son has some troubles too.  His kingdom was grand and wealthy after God granted him extraordinary wisdom.
For when Solomon was old his wives turned away his heart after other gods; and his heart was not wholly true to the LORD his God, as was the heart of David his father.  For Solomon went after Ashtoreth the goddess of the Sidonians, and after Milcom the abomination of the Ammonites.  So Solomon did what was evil in the sight of the LORD, and did not wholly follow the LORD, as David his father had done.  Then Solomon built a high place for Chemosh the abomination of Moab, and for Molech the abomination of the Ammonites, on the mountain east of Jerusalem.  And so he did for all his foreign wives, who burned incense and sacrificed to their gods. 
And the LORD was angry with Solomon, because his heart had turned away from the LORD, the God of Israel, who had appeared to him twice, and had commanded him concerning this thing, that he should not go after other gods; but he did not keep what the LORD commanded.  Therefore the LORD said to Solomon, “Since this has been your mind and you have not kept my covenant and my statutes which I have commanded you, I will surely tear the kingdom from you and will give it to your servant.  Yet for the sake of David your father I will not do it in your days, but I will tear it out of the hand of your son.  However I will not tear away all the kingdom; but I will give one tribe to your son, for the sake of David my servant and for the sake of Jerusalem which I have chosen.” (1 Ki 11:4-13)
Solomon went after foreign gods and worshiped them.  The man with the most wisdom on the planet failed to properly serve God and instead turned to idolatry.  Why?  Let's go back a few verses and see the context for this one.
Now King Solomon loved many foreign women: the daughter of Pharaoh, and Moabite, Ammonite, Edomite, Sidonian, and Hittite women, from the nations concerning which the LORD had said to the people of Israel, “You shall not enter into marriage with them, neither shall they with you, for surely they will turn away your heart after their gods”; Solomon clung to these in love. He had seven hundred wives, princesses, and three hundred concubines; and his wives turned away his heart. (1 Ki 11:1-3)
Again, the prelude is a failure to serve God.  Solomon didn't wake up one day and fall into idolatry.  It takes quite a bit of time to wed 700 women and pick up an additional 300 concubines!

What's the take away?  Sometimes I think it can be easy to relegate some of our duties to God as "less important" or "no big deal."  Maybe I think, "Well, I'm not off killing people, so who cares if I skip a few other things?"  "Who cares if I watch this inappropriate movie; it isn't like I'm out there swearing and sleeping with multiple people."  "It isn't a big deal I gossip about so and so.  It isn't like I'm telling everybody."

It apparently is a big deal.  Small disobedience now leads to big disobedience later.  We need to be faithful in all things.



Wednesday, January 22, 2014

Playing God

I'm working on a novel.  It is safe to say I've been working on this novel for years.  I enjoy the world building and the planning that goes behind the story I want to tell almost as much as I enjoy the story itself.  This doesn't surprise me as I've always loved that about other books.  Look at Lord of the Rings and say hello to backstory.  There is obviously so much going on around the story and before the story!  Obviously that's an extreme example; most authors don't go so far as to develop an entirely new language as part of their world building.  I still sense it in other books though and I love it.  I love there's more to the story.  I love the consistency that brings.  I love the internal logic.  So I have been trying (and enjoying) doing the same with my story. 

The problem with this is it is incredibly hard!  Why does this character exist?  Why is this character in this group?  Why does this group exist?  What prompted the group to be in the situation they are in at whatever point in the story?  What complex connections are there between this group and another group which has all the same complex questions about their history?  I have a fictional world - what is its history?  And of course I have to make sure they all align so that everything is primed and ready and all connected just perfectly at the time of the story I'm actually telling.  It is confusing and exhausting, and these characters don't even have free will to mess everything up for me.

Have you ever played Sim City?  In this game, the player builds a city.  They must manage the taxes and expenses, control crime and pollution, provide education, and ensure there are enough jobs.  This is also really hard.  There are so many variables and so many things that can go wrong.  Disasters happen and buildings are destroyed and the power goes out.  People marry and have kids and move from neighborhood to neighborhood.  Revenue goes up and revenue goes down.  And again, the citizens here have no free will.

If I can't control the characters in my novel or the outcome of my video game, why do I think I can control real life?  And if God can control creating the whole universe and managing everything in it, why don't I trust Him with what I cannot do?  The only logical and safe position is to actually trust God!  Only God can see it all, do it all, and take care of it all.

Monday, January 20, 2014

Surprised by Sin

I've noticed something about sin lately.  We seem surprised to discover it happens.  This is probably old news to those wiser than me, but I just picked up on it.  I told a friend a few weeks ago, "I know people are sinning.  I just don't assume they're the people I know."   What a dangerous outlook!  

I've noticed three types of this surprise:

  1. Surprised by sin in general.  This seems to be when we like to duck our head into the sand and pretend sin doesn't exist.  Oh sure, everybody needs Jesus because sin does exist.  We just live like it doesn't.  For instance, we like to think we live in a wonderful free society that is moral and true.  Then we ignore the millions of unborn we have killed.  We say porn is bad, and then ignore the adult entertainment store going up on the corner.
  2. Surprised by the type of sin.  This is when we're surprised by the type of sin.  Maybe we've accepted the fact that sin, in general, exists.  But surely nobody is actually looking at porn!  And it is ridiculous to think any of the people we know might be engaging in fornication.  Nobody would kill children; that's just crazy.  These sins are just worse than all the other ones and surely don't happen.  
  3. Surprised by the people.  This is the thought that the person you know would never sin.  Like the Catholic beliefs on Mary, this individual is free from sin.  Or perhaps we might acknowledge they do sin, but they're really minor sins. They'd never do that, whatever that is.  We can even do the same to corporations or people - know anyone who once thought our own government wouldn't spy on our phone calls?

Why is this so important?  This is not a case of "what you don't know can't hurt you."  Other people sins do hurt us.  It hurts our families.  Our families' sins hurt us and each other as well, and we have a responsibility to notice when things are going downhill and take action.  And this type of thinking can lead us to believe our own sin doesn't exist, hurting our families and our communities.  The consequences now are horrifying, but the eternal consequences are, well, eternal.  Ignoring it does not make it go away.

There's also the problem this line of thinking causes when we finally do wake up and notice sin is or has happened.  Are we too shocked to do anything about it?  Is our response to a (fellow) sinner in need affected by our blindness?  Think of a fire in a big building.  With warning, the fire might have been prevented.  With no warning, the fire spreads, and the people may be so overwhelmed and confused to do anything about the fire or even escape.  This is the very definition of being caught off guard.

Sin actually does exist. All the sin exists.  It isn't new, it isn't rare, and it isn't minor.  We may live in a culture that tells us sin doesn't exist, but we know better.  We cannot forget this point.

Friday, January 17, 2014

7 Quick Takes

--- 1 ---

Despite my best efforts, I did indeed get the stomach bug last week.  I spent Saturday night and Sunday dealing with that.  Sadly, that means I've not only failed in my resolution to attend daily mass once a week, I've actually skipped the first two Sundays of 2014.  Even though they were both for good reason, I'm still really looking forward to this Sunday.

The stomach flu is also why I visited no blogs this week and left no comments.  I'm a bad blogger!  :)

--- 2 ---

Speaking of Sunday, we will be celebrating the Second Sunday of Ordinary time.  If you're like me, you're wondering where the First Sunday of Ordinary time went.  Last Sunday was the Baptism of our Lord AND the First Sunday of Ordinary Time.  Why?  I don't know.  Perhaps it is to confuse those of us who notice such things.

--- 3 ---

Prior to last week's illness, I was able to participate in the Saturday morning walk/jog for my Couch to 3.1 group. I assume they don't say Couch to 5k for trademark reasons, but it is the same idea.  It was an enjoyable time, if cold.  We ran for 30 seconds and walked for 1:30 for about 25 minutes.  My understanding is tomorrow I'll be able to get with a group that runs more at a chunk.  

I don't have any cardio issues with running.  Apparently I have some arch problems which cause some pain in my inner shin area.  Sometimes I'd call them shin splints and sometimes they're lower.  The podiatrist said I'd over-stretched my posterior tibial tendon, and you aren't alone if it sounds like that's in my butt.  It's actually down near my ankle.  Anyway, I now have better shoes, better arch supports, and a few months of CrossFit making that all stronger so I only have mild discomfort now.  I don't actually like running though.  I'm only doing it so I'll be able to change careers and become a police officer.  Give me a rower, bike, or elliptical any day!

--- 4 ---

On the off chance you're bored, are with a friend, and have a tape measure, would you like to do me a favor?  Sit on the ground with your feet straight out in front of you.  Sit up straight.  Have your friend measure from the ground to the edge of your armpit.  Comment with the measurement in inches.  Why?  It's for a super secret project...

--- 5 ---

I started Scripture II this week at JP Catholic.  It seems to be covering the big picture of the whole Bible, going through each covenant to show God's master plan.  The book is Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History by John Bergsma.  I read it during the break and I like it.  It is similar to the seemingly more comprehensive A Father Who Keeps His Promises by Scott Hahn, one of my favorite books.  Both books do a great job explaining the whole story of salvation in context, which is important if one is trying to read the Bible.

--- 6 ---

What games do you have on your smart phone?  I don't play a lot of games on it because it hurts my neck, but I enjoy Words with Friends and Tower Madness.  Tower Madness is the best tower defense game available, in my opinion, if you're into that kind of thing.  What about apps on your phone?  I most often use Safari to connect to Facebook as I don't like the Facebook app, and I also use the WeatherBug app, Twitter, and Feedly.  I have LoseIt to track my nutrition information, Wodify to see that day's workout, Sunrise for my calendar, and Logos to read the Bible.

--- 7 ---

It should come as no surprise to anyone I'm in charge of the Biggest Loser competition at work.  Who else are you going to get to track your numbers?  We are running two tracks this time - one for people who want to compete for cash and one who just want their weight tracked for encouragement.  I'm only in it for the graphs!


For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Wow

In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.  ~ Genesis 1:1

I'm reading Genesis as part of my Scripture II class at JP Catholic, and earlier I hopped right into Chapter 1.  I was all lined up with the Ignatius Catholic Study Bible and my notes and the syllabus and the other textbook, Bible Basics for Catholics: A New Picture of Salvation History by John Bergsma.  I read the introduction and breezed through the first chapter and then study the notes for each verse.  I nodded along as I read different theories on authorship and date and what the Creation account means and how it relates to the entire rest of human history.  I thought about friends who believe in the literal seven day creation and friends who think it took longer.   It was all very analytical.  And it totally missed one very key point about the beginning of the universe - God created it from nothing.

Oh sure the text mentions that and I usually register that as an academic fact.  But let's think about that for just one moment.  Nothing existed prior to the universe.  This wasn't like taking existing sand and building a sand castle or chopping down some trees to build a log cabin.   Those activities certainly involve skill, but they do not involve the creation of matter from nothingness.  Even if you believe that the whole show was created by a Big Bang between two particles, my mother would ask you where those particles came from.  They came from nothing.  God created it all from absolutely nothing.  You can't even say He created it out of thin air, because air didn't even exist.  

The God we follow, the God who loves us, the God who sent His Son for us, the God who created the universe, is more powerful than we can even imagine.  When we say "all-powerful," we can't even envision what that power looks like.  We have no concept of what it would be like to create something from nothing.  I've heard people say Genesis is over-simplistic - is there some more complicated version that would make sense of this miraculous wonder?  Are there enough words available or pieces of paper ever produced that could explain or contain this truth?  We are so unintelligent we can't even begin to understand what is involved in even the very first line of Scripture.

That's just awesome.  There's really no other word to describe it.  One doesn't exist.  We can take all sorts of lessons and thoughts from this one idea, but really, let's just bask in the awesomeness of it.  God created it all from nothing.  That's how big He is.  That's how powerful He is.  Everything else must pale in comparison.

Bless the LORD, O my soul.
O LORD my God, thou art very great;
Thou art clothed with honour and majesty.
Who coverest thyself with light as with a garment:
Who stretchest out the heavens like a curtain:
Who layeth the beams of his chambers in the waters:
Who maketh the clouds his chariot:
Who walketh upon the wings of the wind:
Who maketh his angels spirits;
His ministers a flaming fire:
Who laid the foundations of the earth,
That it should not be removed for ever.
Thou coveredst it with the deep as with a garment:
The waters stood above the mountains.
At thy rebuke they fled;
At the voice of thy thunder they hasted away.
They go up by the mountains; they go down by the valleys
Unto the place which thou hast founded for them.
Thou hast set a bound that they may not pass over;
That they turn not again to cover the earth
He sendeth the springs into the valleys,
Which run among the hills.
They give drink to every beast of the field:
The wild asses quench their thirst.
By them shall the fowls of the heaven have their habitation,
Which sing among the branches.
He watereth the hills from his chambers:
The earth is satisfied with the fruit of thy works.
He causeth the grass to grow for the cattle,
And herb for the service of man:
That he may bring forth food out of the earth;
And wine that maketh glad the heart of man,
And oil to make his face to shine,
And bread which strengtheneth man’s heart.
The trees of the LORD are full of sap;
The cedars of Lebanon, which he hath planted;
Where the birds make their nests:
As for the stork, the fir trees are her house.
The high hills are a refuge for the wild goats;
And the rocks for the conies.
He appointed the moon for seasons:
The sun knoweth his going down.
Thou makest darkness, and it is night:
Wherein all the beasts of the forest do creep forth
The young lions roar after their prey,
And seek their meat from God.
The sun ariseth, they gather themselves together,
And lay them down in their dens.
Man goeth forth unto his work
And to his labour until the evening.
O LORD, how manifold are thy works!
In wisdom hast thou made them all:
The earth is full of thy riches.
So is this great and wide sea,
Wherein are things creeping innumerable,
Both small and great beasts.
There go the ships:
There is that leviathan, whom thou hast made to play therein.
These wait all upon thee;
That thou mayest give them their meat in due season.
That thou givest them they gather:
Thou openest thine hand, they are filled with good.
Thou hidest thy face, they are troubled:
Thou takest away their breath, they die,
And return to their dust.
Thou sendest forth thy spirit, they are created:
And thou renewest the face of the earth.
The glory of the LORD shall endure for ever:
The LORD shall rejoice in his works.
He looketh on the earth, and it trembleth:
He toucheth the hills, and they smoke.
I will sing unto the LORD as long as I live:
I will sing praise to my God while I have my being.
My meditation of him shall be sweet:
I will be glad in the LORD.
Let the sinners be consumed out of the earth,
And let the wicked be no more.
Bless thou the LORD, O my soul.
Praise ye the LORD.

(Psalm 104)