Saturday, November 28, 2009
The book Curly Girl by Lorraine Massey is not one that I personally would invest money in buying. A turn at it from the library should be all you need. It is mostly inspirational for people who need emotional therapy after years of fighting with their hair as if their fitting in with the human race depended on it. Here's the book in a nutshell: Give up shampoo (except perhaps for once a week for folks like me whose hair is more wavy than super-curly), wash instead with conditioner that isn't primarily chemical goo. Get moderately frequent cuts; don't brush, especially when it is wet; some tips and tricks for drying and for sprucing up curls on a bad day.
I got my hair cut today, and finally the last vestiges of the really bad haircut I got just two months before starting the Curly Girl routine were left on the beauty shop floor. Finding someone who can cut your hair decently is half the battle. I've really never been the sort of person to care much about things like this, but I realize that this is why I have always been dissatisfied with having either short curly hair, or long bushy hair. I've always wanted long, curly hair but lost hope that it was possible. It is possible, but sometimes one has to step out of conventional wisdom to find the way.
Friday, November 27, 2009
We are within the last 24 hours of the liturgical year and Advent is right around the corner. I am really hungry for Advent this year. When I think about what Fr. Dominic preached about today, I hear what he means. We cannot replace the path Christ calls us to with a beautiful but fake religious picture that pleases us. We cannot be so hung up on our own desire to contribute, or control, that we start to imagine supposed fruits of our ministry in every beat of our neighbor's eyelashes or, conversely, get upset at the apparent lack of fruit. All of this is wood, hay and stubble that will be burnt in fire. We need to simply follow what is given, always asking for the grace to be as obedient as possible to God's every directive for our lives.
The kicker to me is that as we focus on our ultimate destiny, and live Advent this way, we are suddenly met by Him, our ultimate destiny, right here and right now. Bam. Emmanuel. This is the surprise that I hope I never live long enough to get over -- the Christmas Eve Surprise of meeting Christ as He is suddenly and powerfully present right before me. Faith, gift that it is, gives me the eyes to see that there He is: look, the Lamb of God! The kicker is that the eschaton is already here, and to see it, to behold Him, is to desire nothing else, for what else compares?
There are so many waves and layers of paradox in contemplating Advent and I need to be immersed again. Come, Lord Jesus. Maranatha!
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Last night I was perusing a few websites on the subject which I had not read previously and found once again that all of the examples given of famous INTPs were men. Funny, that. I remember as a kid -- a Protestant kid at that -- thinking that I would really like to be a monk, or at least live with monks. Now, I believe I have actually gotten very comfortable with the fact that I am indeed a woman, but in some ways my brain still resonates a bit more happily with most men than with many women. Funny, that.
So today I watched the movie Daddy Daycare with my son at his request. It's the one where a non-swearing Eddie Murphy and his friends open a daycare after losing a job. It's filled with stereotypical the-way-men-parent-in-the-21st-century scenarios, and it's a cute movie and all. Throughout the day I couldn't help thinking of several ways that I could relate to these Daddies in my own parenting journey. It was cute how they gave copies of their mission statement to 3-and 4-year-olds on their first day of business, and sat down to go over it point by point (asking for a volunteer to read). It's pretty lame, but in spirit at least I could actually relate.
Anyway, I am grateful for the work of Katharine Cook Briggs and Isabel Briggs Myers. It really and truly fascinates me to see how people differ in basic personality hard wiring. What an amazing idea God had to create one human race with so much variation in the details. Sometimes we are drawn by the ways someone else is just like us; we feel understood. Sometimes we are fascinated by someone who is quite opposite us in some way; we feel completed. It is interesting to me to notice temperament differences within my family and to learn more about people this way.
Yeah, ok, so you can tell I am an introverted thinker, huh? Some people like browsing through craft stores to look for pretty decorative ideas. (This would be my daughter.) I prefer browsing through lovely ideas and picking out the ones that I think I could really do something with!
I, meanwhile, found myself face to face with a statue of the Holy Family (our parish's namesake) not entirely unlike this one:
This sacramental earned its keep by me this morning. Contemplating these figures I was struck by the poverty of spirit that Our Lord engenders in His followers. What do you mean by that, you might ask. When I say poverty of spirit I am thinking of the virtue of receiving something from the Lord, yet not grasping, possessing, reckoning oneself as the controller or owner of that which God gives. It is holding God's gift with an open hand. It is always being ready to honor God and His purposes and not imposing our own schemes and designs upon what God gives. It is acknowledging God's gift as His gift, given to me, and held by me with a spirit of worship, which is all about the act of self-giving, of freedom, of sacrificial love.
I looked at Mary, holding baby Jesus. She was given the most amazing, unique vocation as the Mother of God, the Mother of the Savior, the Messiah. I think of the incredible urge for a mother to hold tight to her beloved child, and yet Scripture shows us Mary being called from the very beginning to open her motherhood, and not to just anyone: shepherds, uncouth and unkempt; wild-eyed prophets in the temple; Magi and Egyptian neighbors. Mary knew this Child was the Mystery her whole life had to bow before. Although she was given a mother's authority over Him, I can only imagine how her life was molded and sanctified by exercising that authority.
Then there's Joseph. Contemplating him made me grab my copy of Guardian of the Redeemer off my bookshelf this afternoon. Joseph has no recorded words in Scripture, and doesn't that seem fitting? What can you possibly say when you realize your vocation is to father the Son of God and be husband to the Immaculate Virgin? I sure couldn't think of any appropriate words. John Paul II's aforementioned Apostolic Exhortation makes it clear that before Jesus was conceived, the legal portion of Mary and Joseph's wedding had already taken place. Theologically speaking, it is also pretty clear from GR and from Scripture that Mary's words to the angel "how can this be since I do not know man" indicate that her consecration to the virginal life was certain at the time of the Annunciation. It isn't completely clear, to me at least, whether Joseph was as certain of this arrangement. I hope those of deeper theological persuasion than myself aren't offended if I say that I wonder if some of the popular piety about St. Joseph scrubs this issue just a bit: was he really the old man who knew he was "just" a legal figure in a divine drama? But whenever it happened, it did indeed transpire that Joseph surrendered to God, in an act of self-giving, the whole reality of a normally consummated marriage with Mary. And he accepted what any sane man would run from: ultimate responsibility for the human formation of the Son of God. Why? Because this was what God placed into Joseph's open hand.
Think about what the marriage of Joseph and Mary must have been like. Jesus was not the product of some dysfunctional family. This was the Holy Family. (By the way, I am keenly, sharply aware of the difference in contemplating these things as a Catholic Christian. Mere textual analysis here is like eating flour instead of freshly baked bread.) And Jesus, Mary and Joseph being the Holy Family requires three persons' humanity fully and completely open to the power of the Holy Spirit. I cannot accept Mary and Joseph as automatons or neutered beings who lived in the same household as if they were each married to a cardboard cut-out. Guardian of the Redeemer points out that Joseph's love for Mary was molded to perfection by the Holy Spirit, yet, I'm sure, with all the more effect due to the graces given this couple for their exceptional vocation. Theirs was a true exclusive gift of self one to another, a true image of the communitarian life of the Trinity, fully human, fully spousal, yet virginal. Upon their relationship the reality of the Church is based, She who is Virgin and Mother. Did I mention really, fully human? This is poverty of spirit, receiving indescribably rich gifts from God and yet holding them with an open hand, offering them back to God for His purposes. If this seems too amazing to believe, I think it is because you have the collision of two "impossibilities": God made flesh, and grace elevating and transforming, not abolishing, nature.
And what of Mary at the foot of the cross? Did she not need Joseph then? Why could Joseph not have lived to see the public ministry for which Jesus came? Poverty of spirit does not make the calls of or arrangements for what we need and what we deserve. It accepts a plan which doesn't feel good. It accepts death when death comes, change when change comes, and always looks to God for meaning.
And He never fails in supplying and revealing that meaning!
- Regina caeli, laetare, alleluia:
- Quia quem meruisti portare. alleluia,
- Resurrexit, sicut dixit, alleluia,
- Ora pro nobis Deum, alleluia.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
I've been thinking a lot lately about one of my most dear patron saints, St. Cecilia. There's a story about how we first met.
The primary turning point of my conversion to Catholicism came at a Christmas Eve midnight Mass in 1991. I was there with my friend Keith and a handful of his friends, and before Mass began one of them asked me when my birthday was, and I answered November 22. They all tried to remember whose feast was celebrated that day, but none could remember. On the morning of the 27th, having surrendered my heart to the Lord's presence that I experienced that night at Mass just the evening before (after two whole days of trying desperately to ignore what His presence meant to me), I entered a Catholic bookstore. I was seeking a breviary, because one of Keith's friends had given me a magazine that contained an article about lay people praying the Liturgy of the Hours. I thought it was incredible to have a book with which I could pray in union with Catholics everywhere every day. But after locating what I came for, I was drawn to a corner of the store that held all sorts of saint stuff. At that moment, the Communion of Saints was one of the most difficult Catholic doctrines for me to stomach. I just really didn't understand how honoring human beings did not detract from the worship of God. Everything had taught me to think these two were mutually exclusive. But I remembered what Keith's friends were trying to remember about the saint whose feast was on my birthday, and I found some sort of a saint-of-the-day book, and began to search November. I found November 22, and read St. Cecilia, Patroness of musicians. I was overcome. For the first time in my life I had this sense, deep down in my soul, that my life, my coming into existence, had not been a mistake, an error, a goof. It was as if St. Cecilia said to me "Welcome! I've been praying for you for a long time. And I have so many people to introduce you to!" It was the beginning of a whole new way of looking at relationships for me within the Body of Christ.
So, even though we celebrate the Feast of Christ the King today, I wish all of you also a happy feast of St. Cecilia.
Tuesday, November 17, 2009
And What Can Be Done
The primary purpose of this article is to encourage a stronger commitment from doctors and parents to consider using safer medical care for infants and children FIRST before resorting to more dangerous treatments. One would hope and assume that doctors and parents would have a natural inclination to make the safety of these young human souls a significant and sincere priority, but sadly, the power and propaganda of Big Pharma has inappropriately turned this equation around and made it seem that doctors and parents are putting their children at risk if they don’t prescribe powerful drugs first. I personally disagree with this assumption and sincerely hope that people consider this health issue to be of primary importance today.
I certainly realize that the evidence that I present below on the epidemic proportions of “medical child abuse” is somewhat inflammatory, but due to the fact that this issue is presently being ignored by so many doctors and parents, a little “inflammation” may be a necessary symptom that will lead to great attention to this problem and perhaps to some concrete solutions to it.
Although many people consider American health care to be “the best in the world,” the World Health Organization has ranked the United States to be the 37th (!) in the world in the “performance of the overall health system” and 72nd (!!) in “overall level of health” (of the 191 member countries). American health care may be the most expensive, but there is no evidence to prove that increased expense leads to improved health status.
When one looks at the countries where health status and overall health scores the highest, they are countries in which there are a significant number of physicians and other health care practitioners who use herbal medicines, homeopathic remedies, acupuncture and nutritional treatments. Perhaps American doctors and patients would benefit from a significant change in health care practices that are not only considerably safer than modern medical treatments, but that also seem to create better health care status.
A newly published review of the six leading medical journals uncovered a truly shocking observation: “No information on severe adverse events and withdrawal of patients owing to an adverse event was given in 27.1% and 47.4% of articles, respectively.” When one considers that this review only analyzed the “best” medical journals, we can and should seriously worry about the safety of many drugs that are used today, and we should express real indignation when doctors prescribe two or more together (unless they were formally tested together) or when doctors prescribe them for conditions for which they have not been tested (called “off-label”).
Ultimately, although physicians assume that they are practicing “scientific medicine,” most drugs today are not tested on infants or children, and most children and adults are prescribed more than one drug at a time (and drugs are very rarely tested for efficacy or safety when used in combination with other drugs). These common practices lead one to assume that modern medicine is not adequately scientific, and these practices may be part of the explanation for the poor health status of Americans.
The Very Real Problem…
We all know people who have children who have benefited from conventional medical care, but sadly, we all also know people whose children have been harmed by it. The most famous words of the father of medicine, Hippocrates, are “First, do no harm.” This dictum was directed at doctors, but it is as appropriate for parents. Sadly, however, our children are being put in front of harm’s way with our present, almost callous overuse of powerful drugs for our young ones.
The bottom line is that too many physicians and parents are giving drugs to children that have not been proven to be either safe or effective for them. It is important for parents to know and to remind doctors that it is widely acknowledged that drugs act differently on the bodies of infants and children than on adults. And yet, it is extremely common for doctors to prescribe powerful drugs to infants and children and even prescribe more than one drug at a time, despite the fact that drugs are very rarely evaluated scientifically in combination with other drugs.
The FDA recently withdrew from the marketplace many popular cold and cough drugs that were marketed for infants and children, but the problem of doctors over-prescribing other more dangerous and unproven drugs for children and the inappropriate overuse of over-the-counter drugs in children by parents is a very significant health problem. One must wonder if the increase in psychiatric disorders, immune dysfunction, autism and various other chronic diseases result from the use of the drugs that have not yet been proven to be either safe or effective for our infants and children.
Most consumers do not know that many drugs commonly prescribed for children today are not tested on them. A 2002 survey in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) found that almost one-half of children were prescribed a drug that was “unlicensed” or “off-label” prescriptions for children. A 2007 study of over 350,000 children found that a shocking 78.7% of children in hospitals are prescribed drugs that the FDA has not approved for use in children. If this isn’t shocking enough, it is seriously problematic to report that a survey in England found that 90% of infants were prescribed drugs that were not tested for safety or efficacy in infants.
If the off-label use for drugs was not found to be dangerous, it would not be a problem. However, the use of off-label drug use is significantly associated with adverse drug reactions. In fact, there is almost a 350% increase in adverse drug reactions in children prescribed an off-label drug than children who were prescribed a drug that had been tested for safety and efficacy. The use of drugs for infants and children that have not been proven to be safe constitutes a type of “medical child abuse.”
Despite some significant gaps in research and knowledge about the safety and efficacy of drugs for children, the number of drugs prescribed for children has jumped significantly in recent years. In the U.S., the number of prescription drugs for children with asthma increased 46.5% from 2002 to 2005. In this same time, the number of prescription drugs for children with ADD/ADHD increased 40.5%, and even the number of prescription drugs for lowering cholesterol in children increased by 15%.
In 2007, the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) reported significant increases in childhood chronic diseases. Since 1960, there has been a 280% (!) increase in the “limitation of activity due to a health condition of more than 3 months’ duration.” This article also noted a shadow side of increased vaccination usually ignored by physicians and the media: “decreased exposure to viral infections in early childhood…may provide less and less normal stimulation of the immune system with more susceptibility to allergies in later years.”
Read more at: http://www.huffingt
What can be done and what is being done…
First and foremost, physicians have to STOP prescribing as many drugs as they are prescribing, and must significantly reduce the number of off-label prescribing of drugs for infants and children. I am not suggesting that they stop the use of all off-label prescribing, but that they work to significantly reduce these more risky prescriptions.
Because they sometimes feel pressure from patients who want drugs (or something) to help their infant or child, doctors need to warn parents that many drugs have not yet been adequately tested for safety and efficacy for children. Doctors need to become better educators so that parents can better decide which risks they wish to take either with conventional drugs or various safer alternatives.
Doctors also need to begin learning about safer treatment methods. Although some “alternative” methods may not yet be adequately tested for efficacy (usually because Big Pharma cannot make as much money making and selling these treatments), natural therapies certainly have a much better safety profile, and there is a body of experience historically and internationally to suggest that many (not all) natural treatments can aid in the healing of many pediatric ailments. In honor of the Hippocratic dictum, “first, do no harm,” doctors need to explore and even exhaust safer methods before resorting to the highly risky treatment modalities.
Because the FDA recently withdrew from the marketplace many popular cold and cough medicines, more parents and physicians should explore safer homeopathic and botanical alternatives. One of the books that I co-authored with Stephen Cummings, MD, Everybody’s Guide to Homeopathic Medicines, has been the most popular guidebook to using homeopathic medicine. Besides explaining how to choose a homeopathic medicine that fits the sick person’s unique syndrome of symptoms, this book is also widely appreciated because it provides detailed guidelines that define when it is medically safe to use a safer alternative treatment or when medical supervision is recommended.
Another useful, though more technical resource was just published by Oxford University Press (OUP), one of the most highly respected publishers of medical textbooks and medical journals. OUP has begun to publish a series of textbooks on “integrative medicine,” which is the emerging field of utilizing the best of the various natural treatment modalities and the best of conventional medicine. OUP just published an Integrative Pediatrics (edited by two pediatricians, Timothy Culbert, MD, and Karen Olness, MD).
Nowadays, virtually every leading conventional medical school in America has a course in “integrative medicine” (or alternative and complementary medicine). Although these courses are generally just an overview and introduction to the various “alternative therapies,” they provide good seeds for the medical students to determine which treatments should be a part of the medical care they will later provide. One way to predict the future of medicine is to ask medical students what interests them.
In 2008, the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) published a position paper acknowledging the widespread use of alternative and complementary therapies for children and encouraging doctors to discuss options with parents. An AAP survey found that 54% of pediatricians in the US agreed that “pediatricians should consider the use of all potential therapies, not just those of mainstream medicine.”
Doctors, however, need to understand that alternative therapies are not just a different “treatment,” but also a different approach to understanding and treating whole person health care. Acupuncture, ayurveda, and homeopathic medicines provide time-tested and historically verified benefits that deserve the investigation of doctors and parents everywhere who want to use safer methods before resorting to more risky treatments. And there is a small but significant (and growing) body of research to confirm the efficacy of these systems of medicine, despite the strong tendency for skeptics to ignore this body of evidence.
Parents have to START asking their doctors if the drugs they are prescribing for their children have formally been found to be safe for them. If more than one drug is recommended, parents should ask for the evidence that these two drugs, taken together, are safe and effective. Parents will benefit from learning when some type of medical treatment is truly necessary because many common ailments do not require medical attention, therefore safer home treatment methods can and should be considered.
The bottom line is that there is increasing interest in alternative and complementary treatments for children. A survey in Canada published in Pediatrics (2007) found that more than half of the children who visited a university-affiliated hospital had received alternative and complementary medicines. Homeopathic medicine was by far the most popular treatment, used by 39% of the families.
In 2002, the British Medical Journal (BMJ) reported that 75% of Germans have used complementary or natural medicine. They also reported that 5,700 doctors received specialized training in natural medicine, with this number doubling to 10,800 by 2000. Homeopathic medicine is practiced by 4,500 medical doctors in Germany, almost twice as many as did so in 1994. The German government conducted this survey, discovering a 33% reduction in sick days if people used natural therapies, especially homeopathy or acupuncture.
Although homeopathic medicine is not well known in the U.S., homeopathy has maintained a unique international presence that has included appreciation and advocacy for many of the most respected cultural heroes of the past 200 years, including 11 U.S. Presidents and scores of world leaders (ranging from Gandhi to Tony Blair), six popes, numerous European royalty, literary greats, sports superstars, corporate leaders, as well as a wide range of first class physicians and scientists.[
In reference to homeopathy, it is common for skeptics of homeopathy to purposefully misinform others that “there is no research that proves that homeopathy works.” Such misinformation is typical of Big Pharma shills and closed-minded skeptics who revel in confusing the public.
In fact, one of the most serious public health problems in the developing world today is diarrhea, a condition that claims the lives of several million kids each year as a result of dehydration. Three double-blind and placebo-controlled trials have shown efficacy of treatment from homeopathic care. The number one reason that children in the U.S. seek medical treatment is for ear infections, and the American Academy of Pediatrics has sought to discourage doctors from prescribing antibiotics due to their questionable efficacy and potential problems. There is some good evidence that homeopathic medicines are effective for this common ailment. There have also been several trials showing efficacy of homeopathic treatment for children with ADD/ADHD.
Ultimately, both doctors and parents need to educate themselves about safer methods of treatment for the short-term as well as long-term health of our blessed young ones.
(Dana Ullman, MPH, is America's leading spokesperson for homeopathy and is the founder of Homeopathic.
 Pitrou I, Boutron I, Ahmad N, Ravaud P. Reporting of Safety Results in Published Reports of Randomized Controlled Trials. Arch Intern Med. 2009;169(19)
 Aguilera L. Pediatric OTC Cough and Cold Product Safety. US Pharmacist 2009;34(7):39-
 Australian Parliament’s Committee on Children and Young People—Inquiry into the Use of Prescription Drugs and Over-the-counter Medications in Children and Young People.Report 11/52. May 2002.
 Jong GW, Eland IA, Sturkenboom MCJM, van den Anker JN, and Stricker BHC. Unlicensed and off label prescription of drugs to children: population based cohort study. BMJ. 2002 June 1; 324(7349): 1313–1314.
 Shah SS, Hall M, Goodman DM, et al. Off-label Drug Use in Hospitalized Children. Arch Pediatr Adolesc Med. 2007;161(
 Conroy S, McIntyre J, Choonara I. Unlicensed and off label drug use in neonates. Archives of Disease in Childhood - Fetal and Neonatal Edition 1999;80:F142-
 Horen B, Montastruc JL, and Lapeyre-mestre M. Adverse drug reactions and off-label drug use in paediatric outpatients. Br J Clin Pharmacol. 54(6); Dec 2002, 665–670. doi: 10.1046/j.1365-
 Cox ER, Halloran DR, Homan SM, Welliver S, and Mager DE. Trends in the Prevalence of Chronic Medication Use in Children: 2002–2005. Pediatrics. 122,5 November 2008, e1053-e1061. doi:10.1542/
 Perrin JM, Bloom SR, Gortmaker SL. The Increase of Childhood Chronic Conditions in the United States. JAMA. 2007;297:
 Consortium of Academic Health Centers for Integrative Medicine. http://www.imconsor
 Kemper KJ, Vohra S, Walls R. The Use of Complementary and Alternative Medicine in Pediatrics. Pediatrics 2008;122;1374-
 Jean D, Cyr C. Use of complementary and alternative medicine in a general pediatric clinic. Pediatrics. July 2007; 120 (1):e138-e141.
 Tuffs, Annette, Three out of Four Germans Have Used Complementary or Natural Remedies, BMJ, November 2 2002;325:990.
 Ullman, Dana. The Homeopathic Revolution: Why Famous People and Cultural Heroes Choose Homeopathy. Berkeley: North Atlantic Books, 2007.
 Jacobs J, Jonas WB, Jimenez-Perez M, Crothers D. Homeopathy for childhood diarrhoea: combined results and meta-analysis from three randomized, controlled clinical trials. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2003; 22: 229-234.
 Jacobs J, Springer DA, Crothers D. Homeopathic treatment of acute otitis media in children: a preliminary randomized placebo-controlled trial. Pediatric Infectious Disease Journal 2001; 20: 177183.
 Frei, H, Everts R, von Ammon K, Kaufmann F, Walther D, Hsu-Schmitz SF, Collenberg M, Fuhrer K, Hassink R, Steinlin M, Thurneysen A. Homeopathic treatment of children with attention deficit hyperactivity disorder: a randomised, double blind, placebo controlled crossover trial. Eur J Pediatr., July 27,2005164:758-
Read more at: http://www.huffingt
Monday, November 09, 2009
It was one of those ripping the needle off the record album moments for me. Sanctuary. A place of safety. Hmmm. Holiness. Safety. Hmmm.
In the God-vocabulary recesses of my mind, the word holiness/sanctuary and the song itself (which I learned many years ago) conjured up images of being clean, scrubbed, no junk, "picture perfect," flawless, immaculate. These certainly are not evil associations, but I realized that these also suggest to me the idea of effort, striving, and -- especially -- great potential for loss. When my son mentioned this concept of sanctuary as a place of safety, entirely different images come to mind: love, comfort, peace, acceptance, freedom, relaxation, fullness, joy. These associations suggest to me that this is a gift, not something I have to struggle to maintain or earn. And there might even be a scrap or two of junk lying about.
Somehow the idea of safety brought my mind to my friend Joe. He has been, in ways simultaneously great and small, a catalyst in my life this year both just as himself and as our parish choir director. But there is an interesting twist for me with this concept of safety as I think about this friend. Now, I think of my husband as one who gives my life its solid foundation. He is a steady-Eddy, and the face of loyalty and security themselves. I am blessed to have a husband with whom I don't have any concerns of volatility or that leaves-you-guessing sort of sense. He is the face of Christ giving me certainty, constancy, hope. But when I think of Joe I think of a dynamic that is understandably very different. Actually, the image that came to mind right away was of the taxi ride to the top of the Mount of Transfiguration. If you have ever taken that trip, you cannot forget it. The roads are far too narrow for tour buses to climb, so they all park at the bottom of Mt. Tabor, and tiny little taxis pack in the pilgrims while grinning cabbies take hairpin turns at what seem like horrendous speeds, and deposit the pilgrims at the top of the mountain, where I'm sure many stumble out with racing hearts and prayers of thanks on their lips. They are safe. The drivers know it all along, but the passengers aren't always so sure. Joe is like this face of Christ, grinning at me reassuringly while I soar with exhilaration (but not without questioning whether I'm actually about to die).
Singing in and of itself is not really something that I feel takes a great deal of courage, but singing either with a choir or cantoring with an organ requires a certain kind of unity, a tiny kind of death to oneself. I have always been used to singing any which way I feel like in church; inventing harmonies, switching octaves, etc. But the kind of singing I do now calls for the sort of courage that is not about standing in front of others and being heard (yawn), but the courage to contribute what is mine in coordination with someone else, and not as a freestylist. Maybe you can grasp how this is requires an act of courage for me. The other people involved become important to me, and I to them. I, who have had such a habit of living in a solitary way, even among people. It just brings me a sense of wonder again and again. And I've found many implications for my broader life, well beyond music, but born within this meaning: politics, interior life, relationships. Singing doesn't generally make me question if I'm so close to the edge that I'm about to plummet to my death, but these other things sure do!
So, I look at Joe, and I see Christ telling me I am safe. I am in a sanctuary, a safe place. It is a gift to me, this love, comfort, peace, acceptance, freedom, relaxation, fullness, joy. It is given to me not as an end in itself, but so that I face the challenges of life with courage and thereby make it possible for others to find a sanctuary as well.
And I wonder... maybe this is what holiness is actually all about after all.
Wednesday, November 04, 2009
paid tribute to Marshall Fritz as a champion of the liberty movement. Suddenly it clicked in my mind that the man Ron Paul was praising and my friend's father were one and the same person. And I realized how modest Annie was being when speaking of him.
Marshall was the author of the famous World's Smallest Political Quiz. He was the founder of Advocates for Self-Government and the Alliance for the Separation of School and State. But beyond these accomplishments, what has moved me to ask for his intercession daily is the testimony of his daughter, and of another friend of his whom I have met, Jim Babka.
In late March of this year when I found myself scrambling to put together the Steubenville Tax Day Tea Party, I called everyone I could think of who might be able to suggest a speaker for me, including Annie. We spoke about her father, and I was struck with how the paschal mystery of Christ was evident in his life. That alone motivated me to seek the intercession of someone who, it seemed, certainly understood the challenges I was facing.
The speaker I did secure was Jim Babka. While we ate dinner after the Tea Party, I mentioned that I knew Marshall Fritz' daughter, and she thought maybe she knew of Jim. When I mentioned Marshall's name, a visible change came over Jim's face, as if he were in the presence of the Sacred. He told me the stories of his encounters with Marshall, which I have serendipitously found he also blogged, almost verbatim as he told them to me. Here is an except, but please go read the whole thing:
What was striking in Jim's telling of this story was not so much that Marshall was able to procure what they needed, but that his attitude towards life was one of being a connector of people. And that's putting it blandly. He and Annie both emphasized that there simply was no one like Marshall. Like this: "No, you don't see what I mean. I mean literally -- you have NEVER met anyone anything like him."
I’d first met Marshall in person back in 1999, but it was only in passing at a mutual friend’s house. We were re-introduced in 2004 when he was looking for someone to do some writing and other consulting for him. One thing led to another, and I was on a project that required me to meet him at a conference of 16,000 people in Indianapolis. We arrived at the convention knowing what we wanted to accomplish, but unsure just how we would do it, starting with how to get into all the events. Marshall paused as we passed the press room.
He had an idea.
Marshall pulled out his organization’s newsletter, which hadn’t been published in months, and like the boy who shouts, “Eureka!” he declared, “We’ll get press passes. I’m a member of the media. I’m a newsletter editor. And now you’re my reporter.”
“Marshall,” I protested, “I’m not a reporter. And that newsletter doesn’t make you a member of the media.”
“Sure, you can be a reporter. Aren’t you planning on writing a report for my donors describing why I brought you here and what we accomplished?”
“Well, yeah,” I replied uncertainly, while realizing there was some logic to his point.
“And as far as whether or not this newsletter makes me a member of the media, shouldn’t we let them decide that? After all, it can’t hurt to ask.” With Marshall, it never hurt to ask. In fact, it might hurt if he hadn’t asked.
I followed him into that media room, but stayed a few paces back, perhaps somewhat out of embarrassment, as he approached the attractive secretary at the desk. She greeted him. He greeted her. Now Marshall was always interested in where you came from. He told me that it helped him remember people better. And so he found out where this young lady was from. But then he struck pay dirt.
He found out that she used to work in Fresno — and that was where Marshall was from. And he knew someone from Fresno that he thought she might know — a man named Phil. It turned out she did know Phil, though it had been a few years since she’d seen him. Marshall whipped out his phone, ran down his speed dial, told Phil who he had sitting in front of him, and the secretary caught up with Phil for five minutes right there on Marshall’s phone.
Then Marshall asked her if she knew a particular clergyman. It turned out that he had been her pastor. Marshall opened his phone again, slid down the speed dial, and told the Pastor who was sitting in front of him. Just like before, she caught up with an old acquaintance.
And it was only then that Marshall told her he needed her help. She was thrilled to be of assistance. We got those press passes, along with access to the press lounge which had free books, adequate space to sit and write on your laptop, Internet connectivity, and free beverages (donuts at times too).
I have heard it claimed that Libertarianism is inconsistent with Catholicism because it lacks a component of solidarity. I think that for anyone knowing Marshall, who was an ardent Catholic and to many, the face of the Libertarian movement, one could not even think that. It seemed he was solidarity personified, and he inspired it in others. (One could just as easily dismiss Catholicism as nothing but a bunch of legalistic rules and practices -- certainly one would think that if one had only met Catholics who lived that way. All mere ideologies fail; truths are for being lived.)
Marshall had a website which celebrated his impending death. It states: "I'm terminal. So are you. We need to sort out what's important and get it done."
I ask for Marshall's prayers because I desire to be a truly free person who is invested in others, not bound by societal dictates and petty fears, but by truth. As Annie's email signature line says:
Tuesday, November 03, 2009
Being with the way things are calls for an expansion of ourselves. We start from what is, not from what should be; we encompass contradictions, painful feelings, fears, and imaginings, and -- without fleeing, blaming, or attempting correction -- we learn to soar, like the far-seeing hawk, over the whole landscape. The practice of being with the way things are allows us to alight in a place of openness, where "the truth" readies us for the next step, and the sky opens up.
Rosamund Zander and Benjamin Zander, The Art of Possibility, p. 111.
Monday, November 02, 2009
Imagine you are in the desert. Now think, what happens to you in the desert. If you have no water, you die, right? You could have all sorts of other things with you, but if you have no water you will eventually die. Now imagine that suddenly you see, walking by you, a man who is saturated, dripping from head to toe, in water. What is the truly human response to seeing him? You run. You have one goal. You run to this man and you say "You have something that I need, that I desperately need so that I can live. Where did you get this water? Show me! Can you take me there?"
This is the truly human response, the truly holy response. But are there not many other responses possible?
One can truly be in the desert but not realize the danger of the desert. One can convince oneself that being parched, being hot, being listless, is all part of the normal course of things, because, after all, this is the way everyone around me seems, too. Human beings can adapt tremendously and endure all sorts of hardship and learn to just suck it up. Who needs water?
One can see the wet man and be interested, but think "Well, I guess he's just one of life's fortunate ones. I'm not like those people. Things don't go well for me. Look -- he's got water, I don't. Poor me." One could, I suppose, hate the person who has been to the water, approach him and kill him if self-pity morphs into hatred.
One could see the wet man and think, "Wow. He has water. I wish I had that. That's amazing. I wonder when I'll find water." It could be fear, passivity, self-hatred, or some other factor that that keeps his heart closed to approaching the other.
One could run to the wet man and say "Just let me lick you! Let me wring out your clothes... give me everything you have!" But this is so unreasonable, for certainly the small amount that is evident on this man is nothing compares to what has filled him and what the other needs, and even less compared to the source that was able to drench and quench him so.
No, the only thing to do is to take the human need seriously enough, and to understand human limitations well enough, to have the courage and humility to go to the wet man and ask to be taken straight to the source.
Now, what can the wet man say? He might be an idiot who doesn't realize he is wet and that the desert is hot. He may have a short memory that he's been somewhere wet. He may simply live among drenched people and not get out much, not realize that there are people out in the desert who are dying. He may be a proud man who assumes the dying man's need is all about him. He may then be scared off by the man's desperation and struggle with his inadequacy to meet his need. But what needs to happen is that he knows the irreplaceable value the water source is to his life and to everyone else's. He needs to simply say "Come. I'll show you."
When I think of how God has established His kingdom to be dependent upon our cooperation with His grace, it seriously boggles my mind.
Sunday, November 01, 2009
November 1, 2009
My dearest apostle, how pleased I am with your efforts. Shall I tell you all that pleases Me? I am pleased that you accept My words and welcome them into your heart. I am pleased because as you welcome My words into your heart, you welcome My graces into your life. Many come and go in My service. But you do not do this. You remain in My service. It will take eternity for Me to show you My gratitude. When I say service, you no doubt think practically. You think of work, of heaven’s work, which includes the tasks that you complete for Me and for others in My name. This is good. I so badly need those who are willing to work for Me. But when I say service, I want you to also think of love. You see, we need bridges built that will transport God’s children safely into My heart. But the invitation to cross the bridge from isolation to the love of God will be extended through your love, through My presence in your heart. My love will flow out from you to others and they will find out that the wounds they suffer are vulnerable to love. Wounds melt away when they are exposed to love. Love, rooted in Me, is always selfless. It is quiet rather than boisterous. It waits patiently, willing to accept suffering for the greater good of the soul in front of it. The greater good will always be reconciliation with Me but this reconciliation between the Creator and the created is deeply personal and takes place in the privacy of the soul. Dearest children of God, you have been chosen to accept My love and to use that love to draw others back to Me. I am watching closely as you struggle for greater holiness. I am watching closely as you advance. I am with you in your own suffering and I allow loneliness for every serving apostle because it is only through this loneliness that you understand how badly you need Me. Your loneliness then becomes a heavenly port in a storm of activity through which you draw graces down into the world. You see that you suffer. When you return to Me forever, you will see that your suffering, accepted in My name, advanced not only My intentions, but yours. Be at peace, little apostle. I am involved in all that occurs in your life. I am with you. I will not leave you.