Inch by Inch, it’s a Cinch!

High on a mountain of ... Dishes?But yard by yard, life is hard.

That’s a terrific saying, but I have a hard time remembering it. That’s why I tend not to do the dishes until we have almost none left in the cupboard.

I know, I know, it’s a bad habit. It’s not like we have A LOT of dishes—it’s just my daughter and I. (No need to call the Board of Health!) It’s just that I really hate to do them.

No, that’s not true. I don’t mind doing the dishes at all. What I mind is doing all the housework by myself. Sophia is working two jobs now to help pay for her upcoming semester studying abroad in Rome (if you want to contribute, see the link on the sidebar), so I’m here alone doing the laundry, the dishes, etc., etc.

And I know if I diligently kept up with everything as I am supposed to (doing the dishes after we eat, putting the laundry away after it’s done, etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., etc., need I continue?), I wouldn’t be faced with a mountain of dishes—or even a low hill. Ditto for the laundry. How about de-crusting the carpet? Banishing the dust-bunnies?

That sink fills up fast! Guess I better get a dry towel…alas…maybe I’ll have to add a line to that saying. “Sink after sink, better pour a drink…”

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part 2)

This is the second part of a two part article/review of Rob Bell’s newest book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived, and if you haven’t read yesterday’s entry, you need to, otherwise this will seem disjointed and probably make no sense.

Definition of GoodnessCase in point:
In the realm of public opinion, there are so very few people who fall so strongly in the good camp that I can only (easily) think of one: Mother Teresa. Most people would think of her as having been so astonishingly good that it’s entirely possible that she is provided as an illustration next to the entry for goodness in a dictionary. However, at one point Mother Teresa mentioned that she was sure that there were good Muslims and Hindus in Heaven. At which juncture some people promptly decided that she was obviously in league with Satan.

As Rob Bell might put it, “Huh?
Mother Teresa.
In league with Satan.
And you know this.

It strikes me that it seems as though many Christians (especially those that call themselves Evangelical—an adjective that strikes me in much the same way that church signs like “Church of the One True God” do—what other kind is there?) like the idea of the title of this book, but they don’t like the practice of it. I think they really believe that love does win, but deep down, they seem like they don’t like it. Most of the people who vehemently disagree with this book seem to be deeply disappointed that being a Christian isn’t like belonging to a very exclusive country club, and that somehow, a sort of Wal-Mart Heaven isn’t what they had in mind. It sort of seems like, well, once everyone can afford to carry a Coach handbag, they’re not going to be cool anymore. If well, just anyone can go to Heaven, we’re going to need to find a different place.

Sorry, but that place sounds like Hell.

Rob Bell’s idea of the generosity of God’s love and the inclusivity of Heaven is one I like. Of course, I’m one of those people who found the gleeful dancing and “he’s-roasting-in-hell-now-just-like-he-deserves” attitude exhibited by some people who call themselves Christians after the death of Osama bin Ladin to be distressing and/or sad. I’m not saying that Osama bin Ladin was a good man. What I am saying is that I can’t believe that anyone who says they believe in Jesus and want to be like Him believes that the same Jesus who wept over Jerusalem is actually excited about the eternal damnation of anyone, even if that person is (was?) named Osama bin Ladin.

Please note that I am not saying that Osama bin Ladin is in Heaven. What I am saying is that I believe no one is beyond salvation. In Matthew 24:35,36, Jesus said, “Heaven and earth will pass away….But of that day and hour no one knows, neither the angels of heaven, nor the Son, but the Father alone.” Now if Jesus Himself doesn’t know the date of the end of the world, how can it be that the average man on the street knows the eternal destination of a specific person? So as to Osama’s status, I just don’t know.

What I believe, and what I see Bell saying is that if Osama bin Ladin is in Hell, God didn’t send him there. God doesn’t send people to Hell. People choose that for themselves. I’ve chosen it for myself from time to time, and I’ll bet you have, too. No one wants to go to hell, even for five minutes. But we do.

But if Christianity is about anything, it’s about hope. So when someone says that some specific bad person is definitively in Hell, I think they must have a finger on the pulse of a god that I don’t recognize, and not Jesus, who is definitely the God of Hope. How can anyone know what happens in the eternal moment (where a thousand years are like a day, and a day is like a thousand years) that happens between when a person is still alive and he (or she) has died? Has hope also died? Apparently so, for some people. But my vision of God is bigger than that. And so, I read, is Bell’s.

Of course, I could be wrong about all this. After all, I am a Catholic.

Stuff Catholics Like: Love Wins (Part I)

If you haven’t already figured it out by some of my earlier blog entries, I’m a Catholic. Depending on which school of thought you fall in, that usually (but not necessarily) makes me one of the following:

Love Wins by Rob BellGiven these possibilities, my review of Rob Bell’s book Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Ever Lived will probably just serve to cement your point of view. In my experience, most people prefer options that reinforce their currently held opinion, regardless of what it is.

When I first ran across this book at the store, my only thought was, “Hey! I didn’t know he’d written another book. Cool!” So I bought it and read it over the course of a couple days. (It’s not a hard book to read, and I could’ve finished it in one sitting, but I was working on another book at the time, which is all too common for me.) I found it well-reasoned, thought provoking, and ultimately, exciting! One of the things I like most about Bell is his willingness to admit that while he might not have all the answers, he’s not afraid to ask the questions.

So imagine my surprise when I posted a brief entry last night mentioning it, and found that there were no less than approximately fifteen thousand separate articles I could’ve used as “Related Articles” that reference this book and the astonishingly strong reactions it’s provoking among some members of the Christian community.

I’ve decided not to reference most of these strong-minded articles. One, because they’re really easy to find on the Internet. Two, because all the ones I’ve read so far completely miss the point of this book, which is, oddly enough, the title.

Because I’m a Catholic, I’m pretty used to being the subject of intense opinion and curiosity. (Maybe it’s because I’m open minded and approachable, and generally come across as an intelligent person with a sense of humor. I don’t know.) There have been people who have asked me, in all honesty and without a hint of sarcasm, why Catholics worship statues. (We don’t.) I know, for a fact, that there are people who believe Catholics worship Satan (we don’t) and are all bound for a justly-deserved hell. (We aren’t. Well, maybe some of us are. But not me. Oops. But not I.) And there are people who believe that if we only accepted Jesus as our personal Savior, we’d finally come to realize that the Protestants are right. (We won’t.) And naturally, there are people who just don’t care about that sort of thing. (I, however, do.)

What’s interesting about most of these reviews is that they seem to completely miss the point of this book. (It really makes me wonder if the writers have actually read Love Wins.) One reviewer basically said that because the book didn’t have copious footnotes and could be read in under two hours, it basically wasn’t worth it, theologically. (Point of reference: the Bible doesn’t actually have any footnotes, and the entire Gospel of John on CD clocks in at only a little more than two hours, and that’s because it’s being read aloud. Hmmm….) Another writer said that if Jesus wasn’t really the only way to get to heaven, and if everyone really does a “get out of jail free” card, then why not live a life of unbridled self-indulgence?

After a thorough reading and re-reading of this book, I can not, for the life of me, see how Bell is saying that what amounts to using people for personal advancement, defrauding the poor, or engaging in wild sexual abandon, is okay with God, and He “lets you in” anyway. What I do see is that Bell’s view of salvation is a lot more expansive than that of a lot of conservative, self-proclaimed Evangelical Christians.

Stay tuned, because I’m nowhere near done with this.

Dental Distractions

Not my teeth!

I’ve been experiencing some dental distractions this week, and it’s rendered me more than decidedly lethargic. Combined with the ongoing sauna-like weather we’ve been having, I’ve not been much for writing.

Also, I just finished the new Rob Bell book, Love Wins, this evening. It’s so provocatively good that it deserves to be written about in a far finer fashion that I’m going to have time for tonight.

All Night Long…

Apparently, disaster preparedness is prophylactic in nature; designed, variously, to prevent pain, prevent sleep, or prevent pregnancy.

Hmmm...Or that’s what this display at a gas station I went to yesterday might have you believe.

Turning down this aisle from a previous one that included the usual blend of snack foods whose ingredients fall into one of two general categories (sugar or salt), I couldn’t help but laugh. I pulled out my camera so I wouldn’t forget what has to be the oddest combination of items ever displayed in close proximity.

Noticing the strange juxtaposition, I immediately began to formulate theories as to how these various items came to be grouped as they were.

Could it be construed as, “If only you’d used a condom, you wouldn’t find yourself up all night vainly trying to sooth your crying baby’s teething pain?”

Or was is more hopeful than that? “Hey! Up all night? Soothe that crying baby and get some action At The Same Time!”

The most intriguing possibility was that using topical “numbing agents” was a sort of poor man’s erectile enhancement, and when coupled with condoms and caffeine, made for an impressively active all-nighter!

I guess if you’re going to be up all night, you have to make the most of it.


Witheringly hot…

Use a wet towel to cool ME!It’s too hot here to do anything….even write. It’s now 10:25pm and it’s still 82 degrees (28 Celsius) out! I feel like a wet rag—limp and not very fresh. Yuck. It’s been like this for a couple of days now and there won’t be a respite for days yet. Blah… The heat index (Makes sense! After all, we have wind chill…) says that it’s 88 degrees here now. It’s actually hotter here than in the Florida panhandle.

I do have one good thing to report! I’m still in a fabulous mood! Obviously cycling up for a little bit yet. Yay!

Stuff Catholics Like: Parish Festivals

Waiting for Salvador Nieves' amazing tacos!Church festivals are perhaps the most underrated form of entertainment ever. For just a few dollars, there’s food and frolic that beats anything else around. Even if you do nothing but people watch, there’s usually some shenanigans that’ll make you laugh.

Today is our parish festival at Saint Joseph’s and I popped over for a couple hours this afternoon. What a riot! I talked with a bunch of people I hadn’t seen in a while, tasted some beverages that I’d never had before (aguas frescas), and cackled with some ladies until I thought I might wet myself. And the party doesn’t end (officially) until almost 8:00 tonight. I’m definitely going back to dance later.

For all the hilarity, this is a pretty tame parish festival. I’ve been to some (back when I lived in Milwaukee) where there was a whole lot of drinking and raucousness that really made it hard to tell apart from a wild beer tent! Of course, that was later in the evening. There’d be live music and pitchers of beer, open gambling and dancing—all stuff that Catholics are well known for, since we don’t tend to separate church activities from the rest of life. Inevitably, there were people from non-carousing denominations who would come to let their hair down in the belief that no one else from their church would be there to witness their unbridled acts of debauchery. I’ve even seen Baptists dancing!

It could be that the best part is that there’s our Saturday night Mass right in the middle of the festival, so you can come party, go to church, and then party some more, all at one venue! What could be better?