Saturday, December 20, 2014

7QT: The Bus-Busiest Time of the Year!

Come Lord Jesus!! Christmas is almost here! Yes, I'm cheating and posting Quick Takes on a Saturday.

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I haven't been getting in much Quick-Taking because I've been either in Vermont or on airplanes for the last several Fridays. In fact, I was on an airplane most of yesterday returning from an annual science conference in California. I thought I would share Skeletor's Best Insults from one of Jenn's previous 7QTs, including his opinion of scientists.

"Why can't I join your gang???" "Cause you were a wimp scientist and you could be a wimp villain!" Is he calling all scientists wimps?

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As Advent preparations reach fever pitch I thought I'd share David Crowder Band's version of O Come, O Come, Emmanuel.

The Lord himself will give you this sign: the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and shall name him Emmanuel.

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As we approach Christmas Day and the season of Christmas that follows (remember it's still Advent!) I would like to remind certain people that the X in Xmas comes from the Chi in Christos, the Greek origin of the word Christ. I don't disagree with the observation that most people have taken the Christ out of Christmas. But complaining about Xmas instead of Christmas is silly. Let it be a teaching moment. "Do you know why it's abbreviated Xmas?"

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Ideally one would spend extra time in prayer and silent reflection during the season of Advent. It's also a season of penitential observance in preparation for the second coming. (This year I only had the heart to stop drinking soda.) But for me, the Advent season is always the Bus-Busiest Time of the Year! The chaos has one thing going for it. I often find myself thinking Come Lord Jesus!! You know Jesus, you could come today if that works. The sea of blood and all that sounds a little scary but I'm pretty excited about the Wedding Feast of the Lamb.

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On December 17th, we start to use what are known as the O Antiphons in the Liturgy, in preparation for Christmas. The December 20th antiphon is:

O Key of David, Scepter of the house of Israel, you open and no man closes; you close and no man opens. Come, and deliver him from the chains of prison who sits in darkness and in the shadow of death.

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Somewhere I Have Never Travelled
by E. E. Cummings

somewhere I have never travelled, gladly beyond
any experience, your eyes have their silence:
in your most frail gesture are things which enclose me,
or which I cannot touch because they are too near

your slightest look easily will enclose me
though I have closed myself as fingers
you open always petal by petal myself as Spring opens
(touching skillfully, mysteriously) her first rose

or if your wish be to close me, I and
my life will shut very beautifully, suddenly,
as when the heart of this flower imagines
the snow carefully everywhere descending;

nothing which we are to perceive in this world equals
the power of your intense fragility: whose texture
compels me with the color of its countries,
rendering death and forever with each breathing

(I do not know what it is about you that closes
and opens; only something in me understands
the voice of your eyes is deeper than all roses)
nobody, not even the rain, has such small hands

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This is our first Christmas without gramma, but I'm blessed to have spent three decades of Christmases with her. They were good and bad. Certainly some were better than others. I do have a sense of peace and a conviction that the Lord delivered her from sin and death and allows her to intercede for us. Call me crazy, but I feel like I've received some special graces since her passing. Now she can obtain for us gifts of infinite value. Now she can love us perfectly. Now we have no reason for guilt. She knows that we love her and that we wish we could have loved her better. May her prayers help us to love each other better.

For more Quick Takes, visit This Ain't the Lyceum!

Friday, November 21, 2014

7QT: More impromptu pilgrimage days

In which I traipse around strange cities looking for Masses at all hours of the morning.

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Stained glass at Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle

Last Saturday was the Feast of St. Albert the Great, Bishop and Doctor of the Church. He was declared a Doctor because he wrote a lot of stuff that affected the way a lot of people understand the faith. St. Albert was a teacher of St. Thomas Aquinas who was outshone somewhat by (and canonized after) his student. But one of the coolest things about St. Albert, in my humble opinion, is that he was a scientist. I mean a real scientist, who conducted scientific experiments.

I recently discovered the website of an old friend from college ( who now draws and sells amazing iconography. In fact, one of his works was commissioned by the Vatican! I encourage everyone to buy a zillion prints from him. But anyway, on the site he gives little anecdotes from the lives of the Saints depicted in his icons. And lo and behold, I found this gem:

"In the bas-de-page I illustrated an old story told of St. Albert: he spent decades inventing a mechanical head that answered questions posed to it. St. Thomas Aquinas, either annoyed or frightened by the automaton, smashed it to pieces."

So I guess I have a fellow scientist/engineer in St. Albert. To echo the words of Fabio, that's "scientist slash engineer, and not the other way around"!

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Blessed Sacrament Church in Seattle

During a business trip to Seattle this summer, I got up extra early and had an easy time finding Blessed Sacrament Church. This is a Dominican parish with Eucharistic Adoration, Morning Prayer, Mass, and the rosary each weekday morning. I wanted to take that parish with me! The Dominicans there have also resurrected the Mass in the Dominican Rite, somewhat like the Traditional Latin Mass. Chanting the Divine Office every morning definitely helped me feel like a contemplative in the modern world.

Blessed Sacrament Parish in Seattle

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St. Lucy's in Newark

My trip to Newark was a little bit more interesting. Let's just say that had it not been a Holy Day of Obligation I would not have attended a weekday Mass in Newark. My first night there I took a little walk to try to locate St. Lucy's Church. According to Google Maps it would be about a twenty minute walk. I dutifully followed my GMaps directions and soon found myself in an area that… well, let's just say that it seemed rougher than Baltimore. So I backtracked and tried another direction, thankful that I'd printed out a little map. After about ten minutes of walking the sidewalk ended. I walked a very short way along the poorly lit shoulder thinking I might be ok because it was a fairly big, four-lane road. Then some guy pulled over on the other side of the road and beckoned me over to his car. I was able to wave him off but I started thinking that maybe it was time to go back to the hotel. I have a guardian angel, but God doesn't want me to be stupid! For the record, I was dressed modestly. I like to think the guy was a Good Samaritan trying to warn me not to walk any farther.

St. Lucy's Newark

In the end I identified a less confusing route to St. Lucy's with sidewalks the whole way. Walking through the slums in the early morning light was less scary. The Church is absolutely gorgeous and worth the pilgrimage to get there. It also contains the National Shrine of St. Gerard. The statue of St. Gerard looked kind of like a vampire being stabbed to death with a wooden cross. But trusting the Magisterium and Gerard's official canonization, I stopped to pray for all of the pregnant ladies I know.

National Shrine of St. Gerard at St. Lucy's in Newark.

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St. Catherine of Siena Chapel
"Chapel on the Rock"

Recently I made a several day work trip to Colorado and somehow my hotel room was only booked for one night. Thankfully Allison lives out there and graciously hosted me for the rest of the week. We saw tons of elk, one of which was almost close enough to pet, and foxes and bunnies and deer. We also stopped at the Chapel on the Rock at the San Malo retreat center. Apparently Pope John Paul II stopped to pray there during his trip to World Youth Day in Denver in 1993. Recently the retreat center was closed due to a devastating fire and mud slides but the chapel, being literally built on a rock, survived. There is an imposing statue of Jesus on a hill and we found a lot of crosses made out of pebbles and sticks and flowers on the ground below. (For the record, these are Allison's photos.)

Sacred Heart of Jesus statue at San Malo

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St. Patrick's in San Francisco

Our annual science conference is always held in the same place in San Francisco, just down the street from St. Patrick's Church. This is a church where you will see all kinds of people. One morning I was finishing my last decade of the rosary after Mass and a young man, covered in tattoos, stopped by and asked "Are you Catholic?" Kneeling after Mass with rosary in hand, I wasn't sure how to answer that. Then he said, "I mean, are you really Catholic?" I assured him that I am and he sat down to ask some questions about the RCIA program and entering the Church. He was an addict, but clean at the time, and living on the streets. I gave him a rosary and bought him coffee after Mass on a couple of other mornings. We talked about Catholicism and he told me some of his story. He never asked for money. On the last day he hugged me and then went his way. Please pray for Daniel!

St. Patrick's in San Francisco

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Portziuncola at National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi

One year in San Francisco I walked with a friend to the National Shrine of St. Francis of Assisi. The website for the Shrine has an extremely cool virtual tour. The shrine includes a replica of the Porziuncola, or "small portion of land", which consisted of the Chapel of Our Lady of the Angels. The original Porziuncola was given to St. Francis for his new order. This replica, tucked away in the middle of the city, provides a place of refuge for the modern day pilgrim.

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Altar window at Blessed Sacrament in Seattle

Happy Feast of Christ the King!! Advent is coming. Here is an explanation of the Holy Mass set to Revelator by Josh Garrels: Marana tha!

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, November 14, 2014

7 QT: A Santa Fe Pilgrimage

In which I reminisce about a business trip to New Mexico that turned into an impromptu pilgrimage.

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The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Of course on any business trip our work days start early so we need to be in town the night beforehand. I arrived in Sante Fe, NM on a Sunday afternoon and took a short walk down town. It was surreal to see widespread use of Christian imagery in a way that mixes gross consumerism with new age spirituality. (Later that week we would visit a small cafe decorated with sacred hearts which also hosted appointments with a local fortune teller.) So I was relieved to see the extremely prominent Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi. I ducked in and lit some candles in front of the St. Anthony statue and rested on a bench nearby.

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Loretto Chapel Miraculous Staircase

A couple weeks before the trip I told the ladies in my rosary group that I would be in Santa Fe. They were so excited and insisted that I visit the Loretto Chapel with the miraculous staircase. I was told that this staircase was built free of charge by St. Joseph. This staircase is supposedly an engineering marvel. No doubt Joseph was a great carpenter, so why not? I committed to finding this staircase and offering a special prayer for the ladies through the intercession of St. Joseph. One of the ladies who has a particularly strong devotion to St. Joseph asked me to leave a prayer intention, which she sealed in an envelope. It's standard that special shrines and chapels have a box where special intentions can be left.

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At some point I got to the chapel and this is what I saw!! The Loretto Chapel is now a tourist attraction that charges for admission. Slipping back into surreality, I paid my $2.50 and looked, bleary-eyed, for a place to leave my friend's intentions. The chapel is beautiful and largely unchanged since the nuns left, aside from the monumental effect of having been deconsecrated. I have to say that it seems extremely well cared for despite the tacky sign out front. I thought about shoving the prayer envelope under the donations box… not appropriate. So I prayed for the ladies and told St. Joseph that I would find some other way to get the prayer to him.

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The Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi

Aside from failing in my divine mission to deliver the envelope to St. Joseph, we started the week victorious. On Monday I woke up early enough to attend Mass with a couple of friends in the side chapel of the Cathedral Basilica. I had just finished RCIA and been Baptized two months ago but I managed to stifle some mild performance anxiety and got through Mass without embarrassing myself or anyone else.

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Thanks be to God, with the help of some ladies working in the gift shop at the Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe, I was able to find the perpetual adoration chapel at their adjacent parish. Being on the grounds of this more modest parish, much less interesting to tourists, I felt more at ease. In the off time throughout the week, I stopped at the chapel a couple of times to sit with Jesus in the Eucharist. In particular, I asked Him what to do with the letter.

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Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe

The actual Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe is a beautiful stucco church with a huge statue of the Blessed Virgin. As I traipsed around the grounds I saw that Our Lady was accepting many written petitions. Back at the hotel I wrote a cover letter for the envelope my friend had given me and put them both into a larger envelope I found in the hotel desk. My letter asked Mary to share the intentions in the envelope with her husband St. Joseph. I left it in the box next to the Mary statue and decided to take a look inside the building.

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Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe in Santa Fe

Inside there is an altar, with a gorgeous altarpiece, that unfortunately doesn't seem to be used for Mass (at least not regularly). It shows scenes from the story of Our Lady of Guadalupe, when St. Juan Diego saw Our Lady and somehow her image was left permanently on his tilma. I recommend the book Maria of Guadalupe to anyone who is interested in learning more.

The following is a Youtube video explaining the appearance and miraculous nature of the image of Our Lady of Guadalupe. The tone of the reading is a little dry but the facts are interesting (Protestants take note: there is a statement toward the end against Martin Luther and Protestant sects).

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Recalculating… a technological fast from Facebook.

"For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven: a time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up what is planted; a time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;" a time to use Facebook, and a time to fast from Facebook.

The other day I found myself scrolling up and down my Facebook feed past a bunch of messages I had already read, mindlessly waiting for the next update to pop up. Finally self-aware, I thought "What am I doing? And for how long have I been doing it?" My wagon wheels have sunken deep into a Facebook rut and every day it's more difficult to steer out of it.

I remembered a talk I attended called "Finding Your Joy" at the Maryland Catholic Women's Conference. The invited speaker suggested that all Christians should regularly fast from technology. Especially internet related technologies expose us to a number of images and ideologies that are extremely un-Christian. St. Paul wrote: "be transformed by the renewing of your mind". I think my mind is in need of renewing. A technological fast is just what I need to fill in those Facebook ruts so that I'm no longer stuck whenever I draw near to it.

It has been a while since Facebook recommended that I might like some sex related song but, just like everyone else, I'm still inundated with advertisements for clothing, engagement rings, Rosetta Stone, diet pills, and a myriad of other material items and products. I don't need constant enticements to lust and materialism, even if none of this has been appealing to me.

Today I see that Keira Knightly has posed topless to make a statement about body image. Although I didn't click the link, I'd imagine that the statement she's making is that a smokin' hot naked body still looks pretty darn hot before being Photoshopped. I don't see how this helps someone who feels uncomfortable about their own body. Each person needs to have their basic human dignity affirmed and to understand who they are in the eyes of God the Father. Pictures of Keira's naked body won't bring about either of those things.

Why would I want to read about rotten fruit born by a rotten ideological tree? That sounds harsh, but it's true. Our foolish culture tells us that we should be open minded about everything. Common sense tells us that "Merely having an open mind is nothing. The object of opening the mind, as of opening the mouth, is to shut it again on something solid." (G.K. Chesterton)

A couple of weeks ago there was a link to an article about how an actress from some hit show and her boyfriend had just adopted a kitten together. Ok Facebook, thanks for keeping me informed… "whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is gracious, if there is any excellence and if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things." [Philippians 4:8] I'm sorry, my mom's kitten adoption is one thing… but some stranger's kitten adoption just doesn't cut it.

While Facebook is in some ways a great tool for keeping in touch with people I never would have otherwise, it has not magically transformed me into a good keeper-in-toucher. I've never been good at that and Facebook hasn't helped me to send the sort of personalized messages that are required to sustain what can be considered a true relationship. I do know other people who maintain relationships over Facebook, and more power to them. My mom has a great Facebook page called Learning To Walk With Jesus, and I encourage everyone to check it out.

I'm not saying that Facebook has no value for me, but it's not something that is a basic necessity. So in order to break free from the Facebook trap that has ensnared me, I will fast from Facebook for a while. If you need to contact me but don't have my email you can always comment on this blog. Anyone interested (probably just mom) can receive email updates for my blog by going to and entering an email address under "Follow This Blog by Email". I'll at least try to do 7 Quick Takes more regularly.

I plan to deactivate Sunday night and expect to return to Facebook some time in the next calendar year. See y'all later!

That said, here's something silly just because:

Friday, November 7, 2014

7QT: Sarah and Allison's German Adventure

In which I reminisce about my trip to Germany with Allison (two years ago?) during which much productive work happened but we also did some exploring.

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We traveled for about eight hours and ended up in Germany on the morning of a brand new day! We decided to power through and not sleep until early bedtime to avoid jet lag. The conference wouldn't start until the next day and we wanted to explore Hamburg. But it was a Sunday and I needed to go to Mass. Allison, wonderful friend that she is, agreed to come with me and we somehow managed to stay awake through Mass in an extremely spartan church called St. Ansgar. (Turns out somebody made a funny about St. Ansgar.) I tried to follow the German in the Missal but ultimately neither of us understood a word. The kneelers were unpadded 2x4s, or whatever dimensions they have in Germany, and during communion our Mass participation turned into a kneeling contest. Allison made a valiant attempt at kneeling and several Germans failed before we did. I'm not sure anyone held out until the ciborium was back in the tabernacle. German Mass #1 was kind of a bust.

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Later we went to Miniatur Wunderland in Hamburg and saw the largest miniature exhibit in the world, if I remember correctly. It was way too crowded but has a nice display with an animated NASA shuttle launch. They had the yellow and black stick figure signs with phrases in German so we each bought one without knowing the meaning. It turns out that Allison's was untranslatable but said something about being fiery drunk.

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Later in the week we went to Kloster Luene in Lueneburg where the meeting was held. It's a formerly Catholic and currently Lutheran convent with lots of nice paintings and a tapestry museum. Now that it's a museum a lot of the Catholicky things have been restored. It was kind of surreal to visit the chapel with an ornate Catholic altar piece but no kneelers or a tabernacle.

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Allison and I took some personal time to visit my friend Felicitas in Duesseldorf. We took the train but it was late so we spent much time trying to figure out how to work a pay phone. Eventually we gave up and through some miracle Allison was able to get Felicitas' email from her Gmail cache and send her the update. We started to get a little concerned when Abfahrt station was announced at multiple stops. Were we going in circles? Or were there several different stops in Abfahrt? Or maybe Abfarht was the end of the line? After a fairly lengthy discussion we finally realized that Abfarht means departure. So we succeeded in our role of stupid Americans. Note: the word abfarht apparently also has something to do with alpine skiing. Don't ask me what.

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Felicitas is an awesome host and tour guide and she marched us all over Cologne until my feet felt like bloody stumps and I thought I might collapse in the street. She even seemed a little bit tired, and that's saying a lot! The central feature is the Cathedral of Cologne where we got to see the abstract kaleidoscope stained glass windows that have apparently caused quite a stir.

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At one point, Felicitas must have noticed me faltering because we ducked into St. Kunibert-Kirche (St. Cunibert Church). I haven't been able to learn much about Cunibert but his feast day happens to be on November 12. St. Cunibert, pray for us!

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St. Maximilian in Duesseldorf

After failing miserably at being engaged in the German language Mass in Hamburg I decided to try out a Latin Mass at St. Maximilian in Duesseldorf. This was not the traditional Latin Mass but rather a novus ordo Mass celebrated in Latin. Allison came along and I hoped that seven years of high school and college Spanish would help me follow a little better. I would say it helped un poquitito. Let's just say I have a new appreciation for Mass in the vernacular. The church was packed when we got there and we managed to cram into the only pew with a little space left, next to an equally foreign looking girl. We scanned the room looking for someone else in jeans (we found one!) and relaxed while taking in some amazing choir music. But the singing kept going. And going. And going. It turns out it was a Mass for some sort of parish celebration. We have no way of knowing what was being celebrated because the only word we understood of the homily (given in German) was Hitler, at which point we loudly whispered back and forth: "Did he just say something about Hitler??" "I think so! I definitely heard Hitler." "Wow! I wonder why he's talking about Hitler!" The Mass was about two hours long--what a tour de force!

After Mass I insistently ordered an Earl Grey Latte at Starbucks without realizing until later that it's not on the menu in Germany. But the baristas made one overbearing American's day by figuring it out on the fly. Overall it was a fantastic German Adventure.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Still small voice.

I long for interior silence to stop the constant reasoning in my mind. I need to listen to the voice of God, but I don't know how. Maybe God will teach me if I just sit in silence for a while. Probably what I need is more silent adoration. Eucharistic Adoration is my refuge where I find peace. I think that perhaps God wants me to rest in His peace and grow stronger. I am a doer and something inside makes me feel guilty for resting. I think God wants to cure me of that. Allowing me to rest in Him is a way that God shows me His love. I need to learn to rest in order to experience God's love. Maybe I can let Him do the 'doing' for a while. Maybe listening to His voice is not always like receiving orders. Maybe I can listen to His breathing. Maybe I can listen to the voice of God singing a lullaby. Maybe His voice is simply telling me that He loves me. And I ignore that voice. I don't believe that voice comes from God. Because I expect the voice of God to be giving orders. I am accomplishment driven. I tend to show love through loyalty and effort. Maybe God just wants me to love, like I did at the beginning. I wasn't trying to accomplish anything. I just wanted to know God. I wanted to be His friend. Can I hear the brokenhearted voice of God as He cries: you have lost the love you had at first ?

Saturday, September 6, 2014

PMS or a call to intercessory prayer?

Christ the Intercessor. Giovanni di Paolo: Christ in the Garden of Gethsemane

I thought I'd start the day with some crazy talk.

I do believe that I have experienced some prophetic calls to intercession. One reason this sounds crazy is that we think of prophecy as a psychic's prediction of the future. But really prophecy is a message from God given to someone to deliver to others or to direct their actions in a particular way. This is very different from having psychic powers that can be evoked at will. And God gives information on a need-to-know basis. If someone delivers me a prophetic message, I don't need to worry that they also know what type of underwear I'm wearing. (For the record, I wear Hanes because I can buy them at the drugstore. They also sell food! I like to kill as many birds as I can with one stone.)

I know people can relate to the sudden feeling of doom that sometimes comes upon us, leaving us feeling like something terrible has just happened or might happen soon. On several occasions this feeling has driven me to prayer for whomever happens to be in danger. Sometimes I have a sense of whom that might be and other times I don't. After praying for a while, a sense of peace comes over me.

One evening several weeks ago, while praying a Holy Hour in the chapel, an overwhelming sense of betrayal and abandonment came upon me for no apparent reason and, so suddenly, that I briefly wondered if I was going crazy. I felt a sort of spiritual deadness and a desire to leave the chapel immediately, but I made a conscious choice to remain for the rest of the hour. After choosing to stay I felt slightly less agitated, but the underlying emotional distress remained.

I felt like I was of two minds, with one mind steeped in desolation and the other calmly reflecting on the situation. Back at home, I remembered my previous experiences with the feeling of impending doom. I wondered if these new feelings could be a call to prayer for someone experiencing emotional distress. A quick Google search led me to this Pentecostal article on Prophetic Intercession. After a period of intercessory prayer, I was back to my usual self again.

The next day I was at prison ministry meeting with the Ratchet guy from my previous post. As usual, I asked him how things had been going since I last saw him. He said, "Last night was the worst night I've had since I've been here." He had been extremely depressed thinking about how all of his friends betrayed him and abandoned him and he felt so alone and like his life had no meaning and he couldn't stop crying. He hadn't cried at all since being 'locked up' but last night he couldn't stop. He'd just wanted to give up. He said it was horrible but today he was feeling better. I told him about my experience and that I think God may have called me to pray for him in a special way last night.

So maybe I was praying for Ratchet or maybe I was praying for someone else or maybe I just happened to be hyper emotional that day. But it's a good reminder that whenever something weird like this happens we can never go wrong by turning to prayer. In fact, if we allow every experience, even our failures, to become an occasion for prayer or sacrificial offering then evil will never win. And that is the Mystery of the Cross. So let's be transformed by the renewal of our minds.

St. Maximilian Kolbe, pray for us!

Friday, August 15, 2014

7QT: Fortifying my temple of the Holy Spirit.

Beloved, I hope you are prospering in every respect and are in good health, just as your soul is prospering. [3 John 1:2]

I think it's good to be as free as possible from beauty products and pharmaceuticals, even while adopting a healthier lifestyle! So I've been taking some steps in this direction. Vanity?

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It seems that in every health-related area, it's good to take any advice with a huge grain of salt. In fact, the more I research these topics using the ever-reliable Google search, I feel that I can say with Socrates "I know that I know nothing."

Take stretching, for example. Knowing that I should stretch before a run and searching for some great stretches I find that "stretching should only be done after the run when the muscles are warm and more flexible." Then the next website tells me that running without stretching beforehand is a pulled muscle waiting to happen. Which is it?? Another person solves the quandary by proposing a light stretch before the run, followed by a deeper run afterward. But several 'experts' sound the alert that stretching after a run puts too much stress on already weakened and sore joints and muscles. Ok… so do the stretching before the run, but take a brief jog first, then stop to stretch, then resume running. But wait! So long as one warms up properly and starts the run at a slow pace, no stretching is necessary. Whatever… so maybe I won't stretch at all!! Sigh.

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Frustrated by the limitless expanse of contradictory information from various internet witchdoctors, I decided to try the most direct and least intelligent method at my disposal: "Can doing this hurt me? Um…. not that I know of. So, how about I try it? Um…. sure! Why not?" Trial and error.

I have a history of experimenting on myself. One of my favorites from graduate school is giving up shampoo and conditioner and just rinsing my hair with water. Eventually I started using a tiny bit of shampoo at my roots and scalp but otherwise I still just rinse with water. As far as I can tell my hair looks the same as it did before but it's much easier to style (as though I do much styling!) because it's not slippery clean like it was before (gross?). Another favorite is the asparagus treatment for UTIs. Admittedly, this did not work on my latest UTI, but I had already experienced about 24 hours of agony by the time I obtained some asparagus. So either I started eating it too late or I imagined that whole miraculous healing a couple of years ago. I'm not giving up on it yet.

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One particularly epic failure was using tea tree oil to prevent/heal cold sores. As far as I could tell there was no benefit to the treatment and I spent the next few hours breathing in tea tree oil fumes, concerned that I would poison or asphyxiate myself. However, I have some hope in L-Lysine supplements which seem to have drastically reduced the severity of my cold sores and hopefully over time will prevent them altogether. Time will tell!

--- 4 ---

Last week I mentioned the raw apple cider vinegar and raw honey concoction I drank to cure my sore throat or cold or whatever that was. One of the types of debris in the raw honey is propolis which is a waxy substance that honey bees use to seal up their honeycombs. The propolis in my honey is dark brown and doesn't really taste like anything. Consuming propolis is apparently another one of the miraculous home remedies that can cure a myriad of ailments.

--- 5 ---

Colgate in Singapore even makes propolis toothpaste! Brushing my teeth with a golden crystal gel? That might take some getting used to.

--- 6 ---

I've jumped on to the oil pulling band wagon! For the last month I've been swishing organic coconut oil around my teeth for 20 minutes each day (sometimes twice) in an effort to stop my teeth from rotting out of my head. Otherwise, I am flossing and brushing as usual.

Admittedly, I haven't been to the dentist in at least two years, after spending literally thousands of dollars on fillings. I got discouraged after going in for fillings just to be told that the cavity is 'worse than it seemed' and there seems to be 'another one over here' that was missed requiring several more appointments for several more fillings. Oil pulling devotees claim that it helps ward of cavities so I figure it's worth a try.

The witchdoctors and gurus have a lot to say about oil pulling, so much that it's impossible to get a straight answer. There are claims that it can cure medical conditions as severe as AIDS and leukemia. And my reading suggests that practically any medical problem that manifests after one starts oil pulling will be brushed aside by devotees as a Herxheimer reaction due to the body undergoing a detox caused by the oil pulling. (Did you have a mild heart attack?? Oh, that's just a Herxheimer reaction indicating that you're being healed of heart disease. Um… no.) Therefore, the more miserable one feels while oil pulling the better?? Clearly not so for one woman who experienced extreme abdominal pain and vomiting after two days of oil pulling, perhaps due to a mild coconut allergy. Seriously, I just want my teeth to stop deteriorating!

After one month of "pulling" (Call it oil pulling and you sound like a newb!), I have noticed three things:

1.) For several hours each day my teeth feel like they've been cleaned by a hygienist.

2.) My teeth look slightly whiter, more so than from any whitening toothpaste I've ever used. (Just cleaning surface stains? Or actual whitening?)

3.) There may have been a small effect on my skin. I think the furrow between my eyebrows is less severe.

If achieving better health is as simple as swishing a little bit of oil around my mouth for 20 minutes a day, they why wouldn't I do that? Then again, is it that simple? That is the question.

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Does everyone know that flossing should be done before brushing? Nobody had ever told me this before and I had never thought about it until a dental hygienist asked if I always floss before brushing and treated me like a buffoon for not realizing the proper order, which would apparently be obvious to anyone with half a brain. Bristles can get between your teeth better after you've flossed all of the crud out.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!

Friday, August 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, mom! I hope it's not ratchet.

HAPPY BIRTHDAY, MOM!! I miss you! Hope you have a lovely day in Wisconsin with adequate rest and photo-worthy sights. I bet Otis and Etta are planning on giving you a fur coat for your birthday. Oops… spoiler alert!!

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Mom has an awesome blog called Learning To Walk With Jesus. I encourage everyone to visit.
We've all heard people say "I found Jesus". […] It could be argued that at the very core of this phrase is our need to feel self directed. It is true that God gave us free will, we can chose to follow Christ or we can chose to turn away. Sometimes, in our knowledge of our right to free will, we feel so full of self importance that we seem to feel that the existence of God is dependent on our belief.  
--Mom, February 25, 2014--
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Mom also has a public Facebook page which I like to call The Memery. She's becoming quite a photographer, mostly with only a cell phone camera.

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Mom always had my back in college.

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Tuesday night I met with a detainee for prison ministry and told him about my experience at the blood drive that afternoon. I was sitting in the cluster of chairs with a bunch of older men in button down shirts, relaxing while our blood bags filled. The team of phlebotomists were listing to their choice of playlist, as usual, and this time it was a bunch of rap songs. I'm not a big rap fan but was happy to have them listen to their music until I heard a totally wretched song that seemed to be called Let's Have Crazy Sex. At least that's the only sentence I picked out. The rest of the 'lyrics' seemed to be a series of adjectives describing the proposed activity. I'm not sure about the title because I refuse to look up the song, as I hope to avoid hearing it ever again. This was a public place and there was nothing stopping a parent from bringing a young child into the waiting area during the drive! The detainee and I talked about integrity and having an undivided heart, being the same person in any company. If I'm on my best behavior around children, or any individual, then why shouldn't I share the best of me with everyone else? Surely they deserve the same respect a child does. And why do we protect the young while at the same time gradually shepherding them into a life of crassness and profanity?

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Everybody remember animated GIFs? Sorry, this could get pretty annoying.

My blood drive story was almost derailed when I said "this wretched song". The detainee started laughing and said, "I've never heard you say ratchet before! That's so funny." Confused, I wondered if this was some Baltimore area way of saying wretched and why the word was funny. Maybe my pronunciation made it funny? Then he said, "Once my little brother asked me what ratchet means and my grandmother said, 'It's a tool.' And I said, 'Get out of here!' He's too young and she's too old to know what it means." Then he laughed some more. It started to dawn on me that ratchet could be some street slang and wondered what I had apparently said. I decided to go along with it rather than make matters worse by getting into a discussion about ratchet, which could mean anything as far as I knew. 

A little internet research brings up a Chicago Sun Times article suggesting that ratchet is just an Ebonics version of wretched. However, the blogger at took offense at the article, saying that the use of the slang ratchet started in Louisiana in 1999 in a rap song about a dance with the same name. He says: "In the original music video for 'Do Da Ratchet' you can see clubgoers and others doing the ratchet dance, and moving their arms in circular ratcheting motions. And true to the dance term’s double meaning as something hood or ghetto, at the 1:24 mark in the video you can see what appears to be a pregnant woman holding a bottle of beer as she dances in the club." I'll spare you the link.

I guess I was calling the Red Cross employees' music ghetto, so I'll take a moment right now to thank the Holy Spirit for working in that situation so that this detainee was amused rather than ticked off--especially when I accidentally said wretched a second time later! (And yes, I realize now that probably everyone else in the world already knows this word, what with people like Miley Cyrus using it.)

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Last week I felt the beginning of a sore throat on Sunday night and it was in full force on Monday. I called in sick from work and tried a concoction (see picture) that was sure to miraculously cure me. After gargling nine times with this stuff my throat did hurt a little bit less, but kind of in the way that it goes numb after the extreme pain of gargling with Listerine. The next day my throat was still sore but since it was my only symptom other than moderate congestion (and I had probably been miraculously cured) I went back to work and continued to drink tea with Bragg's apple cider vinegar and raw honey.

At some point it became clear to me that I was not miraculously cured and, unwilling to accept the fact that the concoction didn't work, I panicked that the raw honey was causing some allergic reaction in my throat. There was some logic to this, since raw honey contains pollen and this honey was produced by local bees and could conceivably contain pollen from the plants that cause my seasonal allergies. However, further internet research revealed that some people eat local raw honey as a means of curing their seasonal allergies without provoking them. (Cool! Another thing to try next spring.)

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On Wednesday I faced the fact that I was just not getting better and stayed home from work again. For the rest of the week I dutifully drank my Throat Comfort tea with vinegar and honey. At times I worried that I might have strep throat, but since I don't have tonsils and haven't known anyone (including me) who has had it in decades it seemed unlikely. Besides, my friend Carl (who may or may not be a medical doctor, I've never asked) took a look at my throat and ruled out strep. But my hypochondria was somewhat relieved when I started to develop a weak cough, and my nose briefly ran (for a few seconds) suggesting I had some nasty post-nasal drip going on. BUT GET THIS: Apparently some doctors don't even believe in post-nasal drip as a medical condition. COME ON DOCTORS!! Let's get the story straight.

Anyway, the happy conclusion is that my symptoms never got worse than that wretched sore throat and I was back to work by Thursday. Miracle cure? No. Powerful treatment? Possibly. Note: after drinking the concoction rinse your teeth with water to keep the vinegar from wrecking your tooth enamel. You probably don't want to brush your teeth right after drinking it either, for the same reason.

For more Quick Takes, visit Conversion Diary!