Friday, September 27, 2013

"Frank"ness is next to Godliness

I don’t normally write my opinions about organized religion in general or Roman Catholicism in particular.  I was born catholic, raised catholic, and educated in catholic schools.  I am an active member of a catholic church and belong to the music ministry.  That is not to say that practicing catholicism is simple or easy.  It’s not.  There are rules, you see.

For the past 15 years or so, I have had an extremely hard time keeping the faith, as it were.  While growing older and perhaps even a bit wiser, I find there is little in this world that falls into the black or white category.  Most things are gray by nature.  We are taught to have opinions, black or white, yes or no, all or nothing, good or bad, but I have to assume that God gave each of us a brain for a reason, and that He expects us to use it to the best of our ability to discern what is black, what is white, and what is gray.

We sometimes become so focused on a single issue where we take a black or white view, that it distorts our ability to see anything else in the big picture.  Life is not about one issue.  Life is about the greater good.  When Jesus walked the earth as a common man, he raged against the money lenders while he ministered to sinners, fed the hungry, helped the poor, and healed the sick.  He told us to do the same.  It seems the lesson he taught has been forgotten.

I watch in disbelief as those with agendas use our zeal about a particular issue (such as abortion or homosexuality) to sway otherwise intelligent human beings into basing their politics and their votes on that single hotbed issue.  Make no mistake, an enormous number of Christians, whether they are catholic or protestant, have been swayed to vote for questionable candidates based on abortion or gay marriage.  But you don’t just get a politician who does nothing but back your point of view.  You get someone who stands up and says “Vote for me because abortion is a sin, and homosexuality is a sin,” then turns right around and votes to stop those in need from getting healthcare, to stop children and the elderly from receiving much needed food assistance, cutting funding to schools that educate our kids, and putting money in the coffers of the rich. 

The catholic church is more than a little outspoken about the issues of abortion and gay marriage, and that is fine with me…be as outspoken as you like.  It’s a free country.  But trying to guilt people into voting only for pro-life, anti-gay marriage candidates is not fine.  The Roman Catholic church, with all its highly educated priests, and bishops, and cardinals wants to cut the dead tree in the middle of the billion-acre forest, and they’ll fell every last tree in the forest to get to it.  We are stuck on our own rhetoric, hoisted on our own petard.  I was very close to thinking that there was no hope for my church.

Then along came Pope Frank.  He does not don the ceremonial garb of the papacy.  He refuses to live in the papal quarters and lives in a regular apartment.  He left the Vatican and went to a regular church to pray the day after his election.  He bought himself a little car to drive around, just like an average guy.  He preaches the gospel of Jesus, not the rhetoric of the church. He has called out the church hierarchy for dwelling on issues like abortion and gay marriage while ignoring even more pressing issues that need attention.  I like this Pope.  And I am not being disrespectful in calling him Pope Frank.  I am honoring his actions as a common man, trying to live and act as Jesus would.  Perhaps he can change the direction of the church to more closely fit what Jesus intended.  Pope Frank, I hope you have a long run.


Monday, September 23, 2013

It is what it is...

How often have you uttered that exact phrase when the unexpected happens?  Those words sooth my ego when something occurs that I have no control over, can’t stop, or can’t change.  Sometimes it seems that almost everything in life “is what it is” in one way or another. 

We can steer our lives in a particular direction, but the universe often intervenes and sends us galloping down a different road. Sometimes it just seems crazy that we find it impossible to continue in our original direction, but for some reason, if you don’t fight the change of direction, everything works out…not necessarily as planned, but many times with a better result.

When I was young, I was determined to be a nurse. The universe intervened.  But I still leaned toward the medical sciences, so I became a medical technologist.  The universe intervened again, and I used my medical knowledge and my English expertise to become a biomedical/pharmaceutical writer and editor.  The really funny thing is, after all these years, the absolute last thing in the world I would want to do is nursing.  Had I stubbornly ignored the nudging of the universe, I could still have become a nurse, but just about now I would be regretting that decision.

So the next time the universe intervenes in your life and completely turns your plans into balled-up paper in a trash can, you might want to look around the new path and consider the possibilities rather than stubbornly heading back to the previous road.  You might even be pleasantly surprised at the outcome.

Friday, September 20, 2013

Things I Wish I Had Known Before Adulthood...

With time and age comes perspective.  I was thinking about the things I wish I had known or at least acted on when I was younger.  Here is my list.

1)         Junk food has long-term consequences.

2)         You can’t escape your own genetics.

3)         Your kids pick up your bad habits and language faster and remember it longer than your good habits and a civil tongue.

4)         If you need a long-term product (homes excluded in the present climate), figure out how to buy it now.  Whatever it is will increase in price much faster over time than your income will increase.  Fifteen years from now, you’ll feel like a genius for getting in on the ground floor.

5)         Don’t leave school until you have the degree.  The time you think you’ll have later to finish your education never seems to materialize.  And again, it will never be as affordable as it is at this moment.

6)         Circumstances change…get over it.

7)         You can’t change others.  You can only change yourself so others react differently toward you.  As the saying goes, if you keep doing the same things, you keep getting the same results.

8)         Try something new every day, or every week, or every month.  Even if it is as insignificant as taking a street you’ve never driven.  Everything in life is a matter of perspective.  Either change how you look at something, or look at something you’ve never looked at before.

9)         Put yourself out there and meet new people.  More is accomplished by networking than you can possibly imagine.  

10)     There is no shortage of mean, nasty, cruel, vindictive people in this world.  If one angers you, do not sink to his or her level.  Just walk away. 

11)     There is a universal law of reciprocity.  What you put out eventually comes back to bite you, so only put out positive thoughts and actions.

12)     Always listen to that quiet voice inside your head.  Its name is intuition.  When it tells you to go for it, then go for it.  When it tells you beware, then stop.  Intuition is your first line of defense.  Learn to use it.

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

The Unanswered Phone - A story that bears repeating on this sad day...

I was running a few minutes late for work that Tuesday morning, and I pulled into the parking lot just as the announcement came over the radio that a passenger airliner had stuck the one of the World Trade Center towers.  I grabbed my purse, hurried into the building, and raced to my office.  I announced to all who would listen that a plane had hit the World Trade Center and everyone started searching the web for information and turning on their radios…everyone but me.  I was dialing my phone, desperate to reach my son.  When the second tower was struck, I dialed faster.  And so began the worst 5 hours of my life. 

My son Chris was in New York City on job interviews.  We talked before he left, and he told me that he was very excited to have an interview at 9 a.m. on Tuesday morning in the World Trade Center.  He thought it would be a neat place to work.  I tried to stay calm as his cell phone remained unanswered.  I stood with my fellow workers around the computer monitors and watched news film of the towers collapsing, mortified at the massive loss of life.  My fears grew.

Soon we heard that a plane had targeted the Pentagon and that another plane, heading to the White House, had made a u-turn over Cleveland and subsequently crashed in a field in Pennsylvania.  I watched in horror, but I kept dialing.  My husband got through to me around 11, wanting to know if I had spoken to Chris.  By that time, I was on the verge of hysteria.  Needless to say, no work was being done as we continued to take in with disbelief the events unfolding on the East Coast in real time in our virtual backyard.

Around 2:30 in the afternoon, I dialed for about the thousandth time.  Chris answered. 

“Oh my God, Chris, where have you been?  I’ve been calling you for five hours!”

“What’s up, Mom?”

“What’s up?  The world is ending!  Can’t you look out the windows in Newark and see the smoke?”

“I’m not in Newark.”

“Where are you?”

“I’m in Perry.  I just woke up.  What’s going on?”

“Then you don’t know.  Terrorists flew planes into the World Trade Center towers around 9 this morning.  They both collapsed, killing thousands.  The towers are gone.  The Pentagon was hit, too.  And a fourth plane crashed in Pennsylvania.  It was headed for the White House.  I thought YOU were in one of those towers.  Dad and I have been frantic trying to reach you.  Didn’t you have a job interview this morning in one of the towers?”

There was long moment of silence.

“Yes, I did have an interview, but I finished yesterday’s interviews early, so I called the guy at the Trade Center and asked if I could come in right then, rather than wait until this morning.  He said yes.  So I interviewed late yesterday and headed back to Ohio.  I got in around 2:30 in the morning. I didn’t want to wake you or Dad, so I went to Brian’s and crashed there.”

My relief was palpable. 

Chris was profoundly affected by the events of 9-11.  He made a trip to Ground Zero as soon as it was plausible to do so.  I am sure that he still wonders, as do I, about the twist of fate that kept him so far away from a place he was scheduled to be at the exact moment of that most awful catastrophe.

I am eternally grateful that my son was spared on that horrible day.  As a parent, I experienced 5 hours of the most intense fear I have ever known.  And because of that intense fear, and the memory of how it felt, I am haunted by thoughts of the thousands of mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, sisters, brothers and friends who spent hour after agonizing hour, on that day and in the days that followed, dialing phones that were never answered.