Friday, November 23, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 53) Thanksgiving edition

1. I’m thankful for my baptism. Even if I can’t remember it, I hold it dear to my heart, and I seem to appreciate having it more and more as I get older. I also appreciate being raised in a wonderful church family that taught me how to love God, care for others, and seek answers to my questions. 

2. I’m thankful for my wonderful, wonderful parents who show me nothing but love and support. And now that I’m an adult, they’ve also proven to be pretty awesome friends. 

3. I’m thankful for the Church and the hundreds of tiny, illuminating steps that lead me to her. And I’m thankful that she continues to illuminate my path toward God. 

4.I’m thankful I live in a country where I don’t fear attack daily, where I can worship how I want, where I can say what I think, where I can participate in elections, and where I have access to so much education.

5. I’m thankful for my extended family. I’m particularly grateful for my 92-year-old granddad and his excellent health.

6. I’m thankful for literacy. I can’t imagine my life without authors to meet, worlds to explore, or a concrete way to express myself.

7. I’m thankful for the wealth and security I live in and for the ability to distract myself with such things after a pretty rough/emotional week. Speaking of distractions, NaNoWriMo count: 39597.

Friday, November 16, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 52)

1. I read about the Vatican’s Latin academy this week. I miss taking Latin. I’m not very good at learning new languages, but I really do enjoy studying them nonetheless. I learned a lot about language, culture, history, and geography in my Latin classes.Gallia est omnis divisa in partes tres.

2. On the subject of languages, I tweeted this earlier this week: 

3. I don’t know how I did it, but my sleep schedule got all out of whack, meaning I’m tired all day, but can’t nap and can’t get to sleep until 2 or 3 (hence writing this at 2 a.m.). But my Friday class got cancelled, so I’m hoping three days of sleeping in will at least help me catch up on missed sleep.

4. I just realized I have a three-day weekend, followed by two days of class, and then a five-day weekend. Suddenly, life is more optimistic! (And I immediately calculated how many of those days I could stay in pajamas all day.)

5. I normally gripe about people celebrating Christmas early, but I must say, I’m ready for it to get here already. Maybe it was walking through the mall already decked out or maybe it was watching Love Actually with a group of friends last night, but I’m ready for Advent. I want to decorate and bake and listen to Christmas music, but I won’t do it until the proper liturgical season gets here. 

6. Plus, when the birth of Christ comes with a Doctor Who special, how can I not be impatient for Christmas?

"Hello, Sexy." And by sexy, I mean the TARDIS, obviously.

7. Current NaNoWriMo word count: 30,115. Writing has been a bit slow this week, but I’m still ahead of schedule. And I have a three-day weekend to catch up/get ahead (though, really, I should probably catch up on homework first…).

Sunday, November 11, 2012

St. John of the Cross

St. John of the Cross was a Spanish mystic born in 1542. Influenced by the Counter-Reformation, he worked with St. Teresa of Ávila to bring strict reform to the Carmelite Order.  He was arrested in 1577 by fellow Carmelites (who opposed the reforms) and imprisoned in a monastery, where he began writing Spiritual Canticle. He escaped nine months later. He continued to write and build Discalced Carmelite communities until he died of illness in Úbeda in 1591. He is now a Doctor of the Church. 

His Spiritual Canticle and The Dark Night of the Soul both talk about the soul seeking Christ. The Dark Night of the Soul is divided into two parts: the purification of the senses and the purification of the soul. The term “dark night of the soul” has come to mean a spiritual crisis that occurs during one’s journey toward God. Frankly, I’ve always been a bit afraid of the mystic path because of the “dark night of the soul” business. I don’t want to go through years of feeling as if God has abandoned me. Of course, I’m sure nobody wants that. While I want to delve into the mystics and try to understand their writings, I don’t think I can. The mystic path is one of those things you can understand academically and still not get. You can’t really talk about it until you have traveled it, and if you have traveled it, words are inadequate.

Salvador Dali's Christ of St. John of the Cross, 1951

Friday, November 9, 2012

7 Quick Takes Friday (vol. 51)

1. Congrats to Nate Silver: the real winner of election night. I like when nerdy professions get to be cool for awhile. Also, the twitter account @nateDRUNKsilver is the funniest thing I've read all week.

2. For the most part, it seemed pretty civil on facebook on election night (at least compared to 2008). Maybe I just did a good job blocking the extremists throughout October.

3. I loved South Park’s take on the election/ Disney’s acquisition of Star Wars. South Park may be crude, but it does a good job at pointing out the absurd in current events. Also, it aired Wednesday night with a dead-on representation of Obama’s acceptance speech from early Wednesday morning; that’s just impressive.

4. I got a piece of candy in one of my classes for correctly identifying what significant event happened on January 28, 1986. My interest in space is finally paying off in my business classes.

5. Registration for spring is next week, and I’m really hoping it goes smoothly. I don’t want to reorganize my schedule six times just to get into classes I need.

6. I know there’s still a month, but I’m seeing a light at the end of the semester tunnel. Yay!

7. Current NaNoWriMo word count: 17,619. I made a pretty awesome excel sheet to track daily word count goals, actual daily word count, total word count, and some other writing stats. I don’t know if I’m more proud of my writing or my spreadsheet. 

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

The Right Kind of Motivation

I put this up by my door a couple of weeks ago. I thought it would be a good reminder for me to see as I headed out each day. I thought it would be a motivator to have more confidence and be kinder to others. But I've had a rough few weeks, and more often than not, this little self-written sign has just helped me get out of bed. Not a motivator to be "more" anything, but just to be what I can that day and try my best when my best feels far from good enough. Because even on bad days, I'm worthy and loved.

Saturday, November 3, 2012

What Do I Do with Miracles?

My mom always says that if God is going to speak to her, He should use English, and I've always agreed with that sentiment. Subtlety leads to ambiguity. If God is going to tell me something important, I want the message to be completely clear so I can't mistakenly ignore Him. I want burning bushes and winged seraphim, something obvious. That's why I've never really known what to make of miracles. In general, I believe they occur, but I don’t like labeling what is or isn’t one. My skeptical side tends to believe there is most likely a reasonable explanation for a seemingly unreasonable occurrence. But I realized recently that deciding whether something is or isn’t a miracle is not my real problem. My problem is how to respond.

I experienced two instances which I was hesitant to call miracles, but I have decided they are. Even if I can find solidly logical explanations for them, I still consider them miracles. While the most common definition of miracle means that it transcends scientific explanation, that doesn’t have to be the only definition. From “miracle: …2. such an effect or event manifesting or considered as a work of God. 3. a wonder; marvel.” God can send messages and marvels through events that have explanations. If I receive the message, if I’m stopped in complete awe trying to process the magnitude of what’s happening, it’s a miracle in my eyes. 

I guess it would be unfair to keep going and not mention what these miracles actually were. I’ve never shared them before because I feel protective of them. Yes, they can be dismissed quite easily as not miraculous. But they are part of my personal experience. It doesn’t matter if anyone else wants to consider them miracles, and honestly, I’d be a bit skeptical if anyone did. The miracles occurred more in my reaction than the events themselves. 

The first was almost two years ago. It was Lent, and I had just started having those inklings to look at Catholicism, but I was still a far way from picturing myself actually converting. I had gone out of town to celebrate a friend’s birthday. I wound up at another friend’s apartment where I intended to spend the night, avoiding a long drive home, but we stayed up talking for hours and hours. At 7 a.m., I looked at the clock and realized that there was no point in going to sleep now that it was light out; I might as well head home and make it to church. I got home, showered, and made it to the 10:30 service on time. I sat in the pew I always sat in, surrounded by the people who always sat in the same pews around me. Other than it being Lent, I don’t recall anything particular about the service. But that was because I was distracted. The gold cross that hung above the altar didn’t look like a cross to me; it was a crucifix. I could see Christ’s outstretched arms, his pierced feet, and his hanging head bearing the crown of thorns. I knew it was a trick of the sunlight, but the sun had never made it look like this before, and I was in the same position as I had been for years of Sundays. I knew it was because I hadn’t had any sleep, but the illusion didn’t go away. I spent most of the service blinking, leaning one way then another, trying not to see a crucifix where an empty cross should be, but the image wouldn’t go away.

The second occurred just yesterday. It was All Souls Day, so I drove over to the Church of the Brethren where my grandparents were buried to say a prayer as part of gaining an indulgence. I had between three-quarters and a half a tank of gas when I got there. I didn’t bother to park in the lot behind the church; I just pulled a bit off the drive. It was a pretty day, so after my prayers, I wandered around the small cemetery for a bit. When I got back in the car and turned it on, I had a full tank of gas. I just stared at that little red arrow for a long time, trying to figure out what it meant. Was it just the meter malfunctioning or was there actually more gas in the tank? My car is pretty new, and a malfunction is unlikely (but not as unlikely as extra gas appearing). I knew a logical explanation was that parking on an incline off the road might angle my gas tank, triggering it to read as full. After about 15 minutes of driving, the meter dipped back down the level it had been at previously. But that didn’t shake the feeling that such an odd occurrence had happened at that time on that day for a reason. The experience was sticking in my chest. There was some sort of message I was supposed to be getting.

I say supposed to, because I have no idea what that message is. I don’t know what seeing crucifixes mean (although the whole converting to Catholicism thing is probably related). I don’t know what an arrow pointing to full means. It’s like I’m reading a language I don’t speak. I can recognize symbols and gleam context from pictures, but without translation, I don’t know what I’m reading. I can see God reaching out to me, but I don’t know what He wants me to do. I can freak out, tear up, and ask God what this is, but then the moment passes, and I don’t know whether I just accept the event for the personal encounter it was, or if there is accompanying instruction that I’m ignoring.

So that’s it. No interpretation. No conclusion. Because I don’t know what those would be.