Monday, August 31, 2009

My Weekend

To make myself happy, I took the weekend off.

Meaning, I did a whole lot of nothing. I did everything around the house I needed to do on Saturday morning, and then I spent the rest of the time watching Merlin and Leverage and Supernatural eps and went to the movies and saw District 9 (which I enjoyed).
I drove around a bit too. I *like* driving around in Myrddin. I talk to him a little. :)
The picture above was my brunch on Sunday. You fast for at least an hour prior to receiving Communion, so what I usually do is just eat a slightly larger meal after Mass, instead of getting up earlier to eat.
I made myself scrambled eggs with cheese and ham (it was supposed to be an omelet, but I got distracted and didn't flip it in time) and fried potatoes. Now, you may look at that and think, 'hmm...not very healthy' and you'd be right. Mostly. However, I make it with EggBeaters, reduced fat cheese (I forget the percentage, but it's good stuff), low salt/fat ham, 2% milk, the 'special' heart smart butter, and I don't fry the potatoes in grease. I make the eggs and then fry the potatoes in the leavings of the egg pan, with a little Season All.

Older v. Younger Siblings

Right, so I'm doing a *slow* read through the Bible. And when I say slow, I mean, a chapter a day. I'm still in Genesis. And this is on purpose. I've read the Bible several times, and the last time, I set myself a schedule, and read it in a couple months. But this time I just wanted to start the day with a chapter and that be it.

I'm certain I'm not the first person to notice this, but God really seems to like the younger siblings.

I guess there could be myriad reasons for this theme in the Bible, such as societally (earthly) the oldest son inherits everything, and God blesses the younger because His rewards are not of this life, but the next...

But of course my brain goes to weird places:

Humanity is preferred to the angels - angels were created first (first born sons), but humanity was the one 'created in God's Image'. We got free will and the ability to (basically) spit in our Father's face and then repent later on. It's unclear whether or not angels get this.

Hm. Yes, this is sort of random.

Friday, August 28, 2009

This Rant Brought to You By the Letter 'O' or Maybe 'C'

I was going to do a death penalty post, and why I still (and will always) totally support it, but it's all my frothing at the mouth and handing out examples of why I'm 'death penalty YAY!'. Which I doubt anyone really wants to read.

And then I watched Anna's latest post over at Veiled Glory. And...well. She said something about their decision to convert to Orthodoxy 'not being a head trip', and...Okay, this is like, confession time:

I like to be right. *All* the time. I know it's arrogant, I know it's bad, and that no one is right all the time, and I've gotten *much* better about not being an arrogant know it all, because I know that I don't know it all, and well, no one likes a know it all, right? But still, I like to be right. I like to be able to stand at a defensible position and hand out my ingenious arguments, and go, 'See! This is why you're wrong and *stupid* (which is, of course, implied but never stated), and I and everyone who agrees with me is right.' :p *mental raspberries are blown at the 'wrong' party. And to be perfectly honest (however arrogant it might sound), I am quite often right. It's just the way the world works (the world, you see, revolves around me).

Right. So. Go back a couple of years. My mother remarries a Mennonite man, and his parents live with us in the house. His mother is a little...odd...and she doesn't like me. She thinks 'there's something wrong with her'. Seriously. And to be honest, I was practicing magic at the time, so there was probably a few things 'off' about me, but whatever. Plus, I'm coming from an abusive house, and, and, whatever. I admit to having issues. And I am forced, for the first time in *years* to attend church. Their Mennonite church. Which just...annoys the crap out of me. Because the pastor there is quite often *wrong* (but a very, very nice man), especially when he talks about things outside of Christianity. So. Must. Get. Out. Of. This. Church. Thing. Before I start actually jumping up and *correcting* the pastor, which I know is not right to do. to do this...ah! My brilliance! Crazy Gramma and Grandpa are ex-Catholics, of the 'the Catholic Church is EVOL' sort. Heh. So...'I want to go to the Catholic Church'. And, no one bugs me about religion or church in the house again. *Feel* my clever. Feel it. Of course, because I'm supposed to be attending Mass (but I wasn't, really) I felt I needed to be able to speak like I was, so I studied. And, along the way, believed. But that's been told elsewhere, so. (I just left out the part about choosing the Catholic Church at first to piss off the crazy old woman - it didn't seem very nice, you know?)

The deacon, when I was having my interview before RCIA asked me why I wanted to be Catholic. My answer was, essentially, 'because I want to be a part of the *original* church, the oldest faith around, because that's the one that's lasted. that's the one that's true.' to which he, jokingly, responded, 'why not be Jewish then?' to which I responded, (perhaps a tad more seriously than he realized at the time) 'because I like bacon'. ha ha. Anyway.

But now I wonder, is this just another way that I need to be right? Is it? Am I doing this wrong?
Do I want to be in the original church because then I'll be right, or because I want to do what God wants me to do? I DON'T KNOW!

I *believe* that I need to belong to the original Church, the one that Christ founded and left behind. I *believe* that it is either the Catholic Church or the Orthodox Church. Why? Because they have the history. They make the most sense. Of course, they don't agree with each other on many things, but that's another post. Protestantism is a fractured morass as far as I'm concerned. There's no historicity, no *foundation*. They've cut themselves off at the knees in so many ways, and it shows. (For a personal pet peeve, where *do* you guys think you got the Bible? Really? You remember, that book that tells you you're right and that the Church is wrong? Oh, yeah, that would *be* the freaking *Church*!) Don't like the theology taught at your church? That's okay, go start your own! The Holy Spirit will tell you what to do!

*shrug* I decided on Catholicism because it was the oldest, and made the most sense. But now... I don't know. And I'm reading, and studying, and in some ways I look at Orthodoxy and go, 'Yes! I don't have to bend through theological hoops! I don't need to quantify and scientifically explain everything so that it makes sense! I don't need to freaking *justify* my faith to science, because some things are *beyond* science, and theology and science don't have to fight, they're two different spheres!' and I see *more* historicity to it - I see a unity of belief, as opposed to an empire (I'm not knocking the Pope, I happen to like Benedict XVI), I see something that more closely resembles what I understand of the church at the time of the Apostles and the Early Fathers. I see something that even my deacon admitted 'kept to the original way of things' when the Catholic church changed with the times. But it's all *head* right now, no *heart*. And now I'm afraid that it's need to be *right*. And I might *feel* something about it if I went to an Orthodox service, but my *extreme social awkward* won't let me, and the only Orthodox Church in town is Serbian, and I'm terrified that I'll go there, and they'll all *look* at me and talk about me behind my back. And I'll be embarrassed and humiliated and...

*throws up hands*

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Yes, I *Am* That Fabulous

Susanne at This & That recently gave me this blog award, for which I am happily grateful. It's always so nice when people acknowledge your genius. ;) Susanne is, ( I just went and checked), my longest running commenter. She is fantabulous (fantastic/fabulous, for those who don't know), in many ways, and you should all go and appreciate her blog too. :) She posts, most often, about what she reads, and they're always, without fail, things that make you think. Plus, she went to Damascus earlier in the year, and took enough photos to almost make you feel you were there!

Here are the rules:

List five current obsessions.

Pass the award on to five more fabulous blogs.

On your post of receiving this award, make sure you include the person that gave you the award and link it back to them.

When you post your five winners, make sure you link them as well.

Don’t forget to let your winners know they won an award from you by leaving a comment on their blog.
My current obsessions:
1. Books -- I know, I know, control your shock. :) Books are my eternal obsession. I love books, I love everything about them. I don't read books on line, or or Kindle, or whatever, because it. is. not. the. same. I like to hold the book, feel the weight. I love the smell of books! I love reading! I cannot comprehend people who don't read. I just can't.
2. Religion -- Again, try not to collapse in shock. I've always found religions and philosophies fascinating, even when I myself didn't believe. The way humans have always known that there was something higher than them, and the ways they interpreted the events around them that they couldn't understand, the manipulation of mythology to express deep human truths that we're still discovering. It's all endlessly interesting.
3. Sharks -- What can I say about sharks? I saw Jaws and was terrified. I wouldn't swim in pools that weren't perfectly clear. I had nightmares about a giant shark swimming up the canal behind my grandparents' house. And somewhere along the way, I started learning about sharks, and I fell in love.
4. Merlin -- It's a BBC show that NBC was playing over here during the summer. Now, I've always loved Arthurian legends (not that the two have *all* that much in common - you're happier with Merlin if you forget everything you know about Arthurian legend, trust me). It's a fun, fabulous show, and I spend *way* too much time reading fanfic about it lately. But the boys! I just want to *squish* them! Arthur and Merlin are just so cute! *wibbles at them* Hmmm... and Anthony Stewart Head as Uther...ah...well...I don't want to squish him, but I do love him, once I got over the 'It's Giles!' and giggling.
5. Vampires - Ones that Do Not Sparkle! Vampires should NOT SPARKLE! I'm a vampire fan, I admit it. I don't run around all in black, all emo and goth, but I like vampire mythology, I love vampire fiction, and Dracula is one of my favorite characters of all time. Ever. And I will hear nothing to the contrary! I want to travel to Transylvania and visit the real Castle Dracula. Yes, yes I do.
Five blogs I want to pass this on to...well, to be honest, anyone I read should get the award. I wouldn't read 'em if I didn't think they were fabulous, but to stay in the rules (and if I don't pick you officially, consider yourself chosen unofficially), and in no particular order...
1. Barei Lev - Sanil, I don't recall how I found her, but she's a seminary student who wears hijab, and is my long lost nerd sister. :) I hate stuff like this, because I never really know what to say. What do I like about her blog? Everything. I like reading about other peoples lives, and how they think, because they're not me, so it makes me think about things differently.
2. Non-Muslim Niqabi - Heather's new to the blog world, but, okay, a non-Muslim niqabi? How can you pass that up? It's just so *interesting*.
3. Answering Life - Again, I can't recall how I found Candice, but she's a newly Muslim wife and mother living in Canada. Can we just take as written that I follow/read people because I find them interesting and different from me? Because I have a hard time quantifying and breaking down why I read people other than that. Do I *need* another reason? I think not.
4. Farm Hijabi - Michelle's blog is private, but basically, she lives the kind of life I want, on a farm in the middle of nowhere, she writes about the realities of it, and she's another Catholic hijabi. She says what she thinks, and isn't afraid of hurting peoples feelings with the truth. Again, not brain surgery to figure out why I like her.
5. Morning Coffee - I read Alana for the smartness. (Shut up, I just made it a word.) She posts on a variety of topics, but they never fail to make me think, even when I don't comment. Plus, she's the first Orthodox blogger I'd ever found, and since that's a (growing) interest for me, it's all her fault. All of it.

Monday, August 24, 2009

Hit and Run Thought Post

I always hear people (who are usually criticising someone, sometimes me) saying, 'but we have to have faith like a child' - which apparently translates into - 'DON'T QUESTION! JUST OBEY!'

Umm...apparently these people have never spoken to a child.

'Why?' is one of their favorite words. (Along with 'no', but that's another matter)

My grandmother swears my first word was 'why', and that it'll probably be among my last, too. I question things, endlessly. Beat a dead horse, whatever. I don't always understand the explanations for things, I just want to know that there is one, and that someone else knows it and I assume that eventually I will understand it.

My grandmother loves telling this story:

We were in the car, driving somewhere, and I asked her a question. She can't recall the question, but she does remember that she didn't know the answer, and so proceeded to make some long answer up. At the end, she says I said, 'Grammy, if you didn't know the answer, just tell me.'

Anyway. :)

Kids are *always* questioning. It's how they *learn*.

So I don't see any problem with questioning everything, up to and including God. The problem with kids is, eventually we realize that adults don't have all the answers, and the power in the relationship begins to shift, little by little. The thing with God is, He does have all the answers (whether He shares them with us or not, and whether we understand the answers we get or not), so there's no fear of the power structure shifting.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Picture Dump!

Toadstools. I just think the picture on the right looks kind of neat.

Some plant that's growing all tangled up with another tree. I like the way it's fruit looks. But I don't think it's edible.
Various pictures of the sky and clouds and the sun behind them. I just think they're pretty. :)

I'm a ninja! *cough* Sorry, I couldn't resist. But I really did feel ninja-esqe all in black. :) My first attempt at making niqab out of a shayla. The scarf is (clearly) too thin, and I didn't get it loose enough over the face, but for a first attempt, not too bad.
Less ninja. :) I took one of my new sparkly hijab and layered it over the black hijab/niqab, to add color. A little rough, not as elegant as those who do it all the time, but again, I don't think it turned out *too* bad.
Sparkly purple-ish hijab. I watched a video on YouTube, by the Non-Muslim Hijabi, which gave me some very helpful hints. I think this is one of my most successful shayla hijab attempts.

Sparkly purple-ish scarf tied in a 'crown'. I mastered this one early on, the tricky part is getting the knot on the side to lay semi flat so it doesn't stick out like some bizarre horn. I got the instructions for tying it here. They have directions for a variety of styles.
p.s. one of the women from church found me on twitter & is following i feel like i have to be careful what i say...not that i talk about them or anything...*crap* can't recall if she linked to blog from that even an option...gotta go see...

Friday, August 21, 2009

5 Things About Me

Sanil did a 5 Things post and tagged anybody who felt like it, so now I feel like it, and am doing it. See the logic? :)

1. I've had the same job since I was 14. Clearly, I don't do change well. :)

2. I like round toed shoes more than any other kind of shoe. I know, it's a weird thing, but I think pointy toed shoes make my feet look very, very long, and they're not. On a related note, I have tiny (short n'stubby) toes, so a long, open-toed shoe just looks silly on me.

3. I hate shopping. I hate it. I don't spend hours going through the racks. I go in, I look through the sales racks, if I like it, I try it, and I either buy it or I don't. I shop with purpose. Conversely, put me in a book store, and I will spend *forever* wandering around, picking things up, putting them back, stroking the covers, weighing my options. I cannot leave a bookstore in under an hour. Ever.

4. I grew up believing that I was going to marry one of my step-father's friends. No worries, he was just joking, but he'd always play He-Man and She-Ra with me, and one day he asked me if I'd marry him when I grew up, and I, of course, said yes, and spent many years telling people so. :)

5. Half the time I think I'd like to be a second wife or something, just because I've always lived with multiple women in the house, and I cannot imagine living with just me and a husband. It's just this vague...'and what do you do with just the two of you?' kind of thing.

Thursday, August 20, 2009


So, I begin to suspect that part of the problem between Catholicism and Orthodoxy on original sin involves baptism. Bear with me, because this is a thought I just had, so it may or may not be coherent to people who are not me at this stage. :)

I've heard baptism described (in Catholicism for Dummies) as a vaccination - but I don't know that that analogy really works. When you get vaccinated, you don't get the disease that you're vaccinated against. Yes, the Flu Shot seems to wreck my issues with this, until you recall that they're about a billion strains of flu, and the Flu Shot only vaccinates against the ones that are felt to be the most prevalent that year. Think more like polio, etc. People don't get those anymore, in places where we vaccinate for them.

So, baptism as vaccination, if we carried that analogy, once baptised, people wouldn't 'get' sin. Clearly, that's not what happens. Though I suppose, now that I've typed it out, the Flu Shot analogy *does* work a little better - baptism only vaccinates against a particular 'strain' of sin - original sin. *However*, as I have been assured by other Catholics, and the Catechism, the Catholic Church teaches that we don't actually inherit the original sin. (I have a bit of news for them, in that apparently most people -including many Catholics- think that the Catholic Church *does* teach that...) In that case, the vaccination analogy *still* doesn't work, because you're vaccinating for a disease that doesn't exist anymore - it's impossible to catch it.

And it's also not like some giant 'reset' button, because if we don't inherit original sin it doesn't wash it away, and it certainly doesn't undo the inherited consequences of original sin... so what, exactly, does baptism do?

I still think baptism makes the most sense as 'circumcision of the soul' - the sign of the new covenant, bringing us in. Baby Jews are circumcised, and also adult converts (which, ouch, you know?) and, in the case of the babies, there's not this 'believe first' element, or they'd wait until the children were older to do it. Instead, they're circumcised, which brings them into the covenant, and then expected to live by it their entire life. They're brought up observing the Law. So, you know, that makes sense to me.

Tuesday, August 18, 2009

The Gospel Is Dangerous to Hear

Let Us Attend, pg. 41 - 42:

"It is a dangerous thing to hear the words of the Gospel, for to whom much is given, of him much is required (Luke 12:48). If we hear the truth of Christ, we will be responsible to God for what we do with it. We must not be like the man given a talent by his lord who went and hid it in the ground, doing nothing with it (Matt. 25:18). When we hear the words of the Gospel, we are being entrusted with a treasure, and we must let these words bear fruit in our lives. Otherwise we will hear truth to our condemnation on the Last Day. That is why, before the Gospel is even chanted, the priest prays the Gospel prayer for all who are about to hear it: 'Illumine our hearts, O Master and Lover of mankind, with the pure light of Your divine knowledge. Open the eyes of our mind to the understanding of Your Gospel teachings. Implant also in us the fear of Your blessed commandments, that trampling down all carnal desires, we may enter upon a spiritual manner of living, both thinking and doing such things as are well-pleasing to You.'

"In this prayer, the celebrant lifts up his voice to God that He may shine His light upon our hearts so that, as we listen to His Gospel, we might know Him better. Understanding the Gospel is not an intellectual exercise, but a spiritual operation. It requires not so much a keen mind as an open and humble heart. We need a fear of God's commandments, a reverence for His Word. 'But on this one will I look,' God says, 'On him who is poor and of a contrite spirit,/And who trembles at My word' (Is. 66:2). If we listen to Christ's words with a true and and trembling heart, eager to learn and accept correction, eager to receive a commandment that we may zealously perform it, then we will indeed listen to our salvation. Then the fruit of hearing the Gospel chanted will be that 'we enter upon a spiritual manner of doing,' pleasing God in work and word. We will be not forgetful hearers, but effectual doers (see James 1:25). With so much depending upon our response to hearing the Gospel, no wonder the celebrant first prays for us!"

Sunday, August 16, 2009

What I Think Of Original Sin

This is the Adam and Eve painting I like best. It's by Titian. Yes, there is breast, but we're all adults here, yes? I like to think we can be grown up about artwork. The reason I like it is the conceit of the portrayal of the devil. He's a cherub with little horns, and the back half is a snake.

Like the title says. This's been a long time coming, and I've rewritten it by hand a couple times. It's not some huge theological treatise or anything, this is just me, and my opinion, but...I've had a hard time writing it. I tend to veer off into tangents. So, please bear with me. :)

I don't think that there can be a discussion of original sin without mentioning Lucifer. I feel that he represents an integral part of how humans exercise free will. After all, if there is only one choice - God - what's the point of free will? How can you know what good is, if there is no evil? Humans experience, and define things, in many ways, by what they are *not*. Dry, wet, cold, hot, heavy, light. What's something 'dry'? It's not wet. See?

So, without the evil that is represented in Lucifer and his fallen angels, would we understand the goodness of God and His angels the way that we do?

And I'll admit, 'sympathy for the devil'? I have it. I suppose it's from a feeling that it isn't *fair* that we can ask for, and receive, forgiveness, and most people hold that he and the other angels can't. Of course, we don't really know the details of the Rebellion, if that's really what it was, but could what they did be any worse than what we, as humans have done? And then there's Job - I read that, and I see Lucifer as someone performing a *job*, in wreaking havoc and tempting. It goes back to my whole, you need both good and evil to define either one.

I happen to like this quote, for a philosophy on this entire matter:

"Concerning this 'war in heaven' (Rev. 12:7) we have only cryptic references in
Scripture; we are not told in detail what happened, still less do we know what
plans God has for a possible reconciliation within the noetic realm, or how (if
at all) the devil may eventually be redeemed. Perhaps, as the first chapter of
the Book of Job suggests, Satan is not as black as he is usually painted. For
us, at this present stage in our earthly existence, Satan is the enemy; but
Satan has also a direct relationship with God, of which we know nothing at all
and about which it is not wise for us to speculate.
Let us mind our own
." - Kallistos Ware, The Orthodox Way, pg. 57 - 58

So. Why begin with Satan when I'm supposed to be talking about Original Sin? Because, to my mind, without him, there wouldn't have *been* an original sin. The *original* original sin was his. Before we even came on the scene, the Devil and his angels had rebelled - they had defied and sinned against God. If Lucifer hadn't rebelled, he wouldn't have been in the Garden, whispering to Eve and Adam. And without his whisper, would they have eaten the fruit?

Ah, but he was, and they did. So. What was the original sin? I don't think that it was a shiny red apple, that's artistic representation. It wasn't even a literal fruit. What does the Bible actually say:

"Gen. 2: 16-17 - And the Lord God commanded Adam, saying, 'You may eat food from every tree in the garden; but from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you may not eat; for in whatever day you eat from it, you shall die by death.'"

"Gen. 3: 2-5 - And the woman said to the serpent, 'We may eat the fruit from the trees of the garden; but from the fruit of the tree in the middle of the garden, God said, 'You shall not eat from it, nor shall you touch it, lest you die'.' Then the serpent said to the woman, 'You shall not die by death. For God knows in the day you eat from it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like gods, knowing good and evil.'"

Okay, so. If they weren't literal trees, which I don't think they were, what were they? And what was the 'fruit'? I can't tell you what the 'trees' were, but their 'fruit' was knowledge. Different 'fruits', different kinds of knowledge. God told them they could gain any knowledge, except for this one, the knowledge of good and evil. Why? Well, once you can see, good is this, evil is this, then, as creatures with free will, we have a choice. Before that, we have a choice, but we don't really *understand* it. Would we have gained that knowledge eventually?

I like to think, yes. I believe that the end goal was always the deification of mankind. We would have been given the knowledge, eventually. *However*, we weren't ready for it, when we took it. Our ancestors attempted to do an 'end run' around God and gain knowledge that we weren't prepared for. They thought of what *they* wanted, and not what God wanted, and *that* was the first sin. Self-centeredness.

And what happened, to them, to us, as a result?

1. Death - prior to the Fall, mankind was immortal. No death. After the fall, we became mortal. God told us death would be the result - since Adam and Eve didn't drop dead immediately, the aging and death that we know as normal must be what was meant, along with the spiritual death that is the separation from God we experience in sin. I believe it is a *mercy*, actually, that we die a mortal death. After all, if we were still immortal, but fallen, we would have to suffer as we do for all eternity. Death is a ending, and a new beginning. We can leave this struggle behind and go on to where we were always meant to be.

2. Propensity to sin - I cannot believe that we carry any of the guilt for the original sin. We weren't there, we didn't eat the fruit. However, as we are descended from those who *did*, we suffer the consequences of it. The inclination to sin is one of these consequences. When given two choices, one good, one bad, our first impulse is often to the bad. Why? Because it (nearly always) *feels* better, in the now. It's *easier*. It feeds our selfishness.

3. Man is a tarnished Image of God - We were created in the Image of God (Gen. 1: 26 - 27), but after the Fall, that Image is a little stained. We're not totally evil and depraved, or we wouldn't even be able to realize that we were in need of saving. Rather, I think it's like a veil that's covered us. We see through the veil, which tints and reshapes the world that we see. The world God created is still there (there is only one reality - we lack the power, even from the beginning, to change what God made from good into evil), but our perception of it is not as it should be. When we reside in the grace of God, struggling against our own selfish natures, against the propensity to sin, we lift the veil a little, and see the world as it really is.

4. Hardship - all the pain, suffering, hard work, and agony that we live with, came through the fault line of that original sin. And now we can use it, and how we react to the problems of the world, can be used to help us back into the grace of God.

5. Our Intellect - we were always meant to be thinking creatures, so the questioning, pushing parts of us are natural. The fact that someone invents a new energy source, or a new drug, doesn't make them (or what they've made), evil. It's neutral. It's what we *do* with our intelligence, what we do with what we make that is either good or evil. We have the capacity for both.

So. That's what I think. I hope that makes sense. If not, I'm sure someone will let me know. :)

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Notorious: John List

First off, I like true crime stories, and I have a particular love (which is a weird word for this, but it's true) of serial killers. Which is not to say that I'm one of those creepy groupie people. I don't write to them, I certainly don't want to date and or marry them, and I will die quite happily having never actually met one. However, I find the stories of them fascinating. They're like rogue sharks - an animal that acts outside of the ordinary nature of its species. I even used to have a theory that the sheer numbers of serial killers, mass murderers, etc. (which seems to get higher all the time) is a sort of function of the over population of the planet - not that they didn't have these sorts of killers back in 'the day', but there seem to be more of them. Of course, this could just be that we're more *aware* of them, which is why I say I 'used to' have this theory. :)

Anyway...I say all this to say I watch a lot of true crime shows on TV. I was watching Notorious (I think that's which one it was) the other day, and they did a feature on a man named John List (and here's another, longer article). I'd say (as always) read them for a good idea of the events, but for those who don't want to, here's a brief recap:

On November 9, 1971 Mr. List murdered his mother, his wife, and their three children. He planned it quite carefully and calmly - he laid groundwork for his family being 'out of town' for quite some time - he *asked* his kids what they wanted done with their bodies. On the day of the murders, he sent the kids off to school as if nothing was different, shot his wife in the kitchen and then went upstairs and shot his mother in her attic apartment. Then, as his kids came home, he shot them as well. In the mean time, between killings and attempts to clean up the blood, he mowed the lawn, ate lunch (at the table he shot his wife at), and wrote out some very long letters to different people detailing what he wanted done with the bodies, etc. He also wrote a six page letter to his pastor (who would *understand*, he felt) explaining why he did it.

He slept in the basement of the house that night, while the bodies of his entire family lay in the ballroom (except for his mother, who was too heavy for him to move downstairs). The next day, he got up, turned on all the lights in the house, turned on music, and left. And disappeared for nearly 18 years. He went off, started a new life, married again. He was caught, eventually, because one of his neighbors saw him on America's Most Wanted. He received five consecutive life sentences and died in prison in 2008.

All very gruesome and sad. But here's the bit that actually caught my attention - when he was explaining himself to his pastor, he said that he had to kill the family because they were badly in debt, they were living beyond their means, his wife was ill (syphilis from her previous husband apparently), his daughter was rebelling against him, and he didn't want them to suffer the moral decline and evil that he felt they would descend into if they were poor. This way, he felt, they would definitely be going to heaven. So he shot them to save them.

Why didn't he 'save' himself? Well, suicide would get him sent to hell. So he ran. He felt that he'd sent his family to heaven, and when he died, they would all be reunited. Either they wouldn't remember him shooting them in the face, or they'd have forgiven him. One of the two.

And, as far as I can tell from the show and the reading I've been doing, he *never once* said that he'd done anything wrong in killing them! *Never!* He didn't seem to have any emotional connection to the killings at all in the interview they showed. But, and this is the kicker, he *still expected to get into heaven*. After all, he was a good Lutheran, he was *saved*, so it didn't *count* or something, that he'd committed murder. (The best part of that segment was John Walsh being interviewed, cursing this guy. Of course, child murders are especially painful for Mr. Walsh, even more so than for everyone else.)

Now, I understand that even a murderer may be forgiven, by God. However, this guy seems to have missed the part where you have to realize that you've DONE SOMETHING WRONG! And then, repent, honestly, and truly. And even then, you've got to *pay* for your crimes! (Bullet to the back of the head, people - I don't hold with this let 'em live for decades crap).

Don't get me wrong, I *know* that this is not what Christianity teaches, what this man thought, but it's what he claimed. He claimed a religious justification, in a sense, for murdering people - or at least he never thought that he'd done anything wrong, based on his faith.

Just one (extreme) example of the way people can manipulate their faith to justify just about anything if they want to.

Tuesday, August 11, 2009

The Sky is Falling!

Perhaps I'm a bit simple about some things, but I do not get this obsession that people have with the 'End of the World'.
Look, all recorded civilizations have had an 'apocalypse' in their theology. It's hardly a new concept.

Yes, we are told that this world will end, and a new one (in some manner and form) will be put in its place. *After* the Second Coming. We are also, however, told that *no one* knows when this will be.

So....why all this obsessing with it? If you know the world's ending tomorrow, what changes? Do you suddenly start living by the principles you've espoused all along? Do you try to stop it? Do you rejoyce in the damnation of those who don't agree with you? Do you tremble in fear in a corner? Or go on living your life, because there's nothing to be done about it?

We know the world will end, for us, personally, if nothing else. (Death puts an end to this world for us.) We don't know when, we don't know how. So stop looking for the signs! Just live out your convictions, because it's going to surprise you no matter what happens.

Friday, August 7, 2009

Quoted Post: Why God Became Man

Have you ever run into something and you keep reading and rereading, and rereading it because you can feel there's some important concept in there *just* outside of your grasp?

I'm having one of those moments, so I foist it off on the rest of you. :)

I found this at A Catechumen's Tale, which is a blog I have newly discovered. Very interesting stuff. I'd even ask the poster for clarification of the point, if I knew what point it was that was just out of my reach! *grr*

The following is by Saint Maximos the Confessor, and is from his Fourth Century of Various Texts, found in volume two of the Philokalia.

Once human nature had submitted to the syndrome of pleasure freely chosen
followed by pain imposed against one's will, it would have been completely
impossible for it to be restored to its original life had the Creator not become
man and accepted by His own free choice the pain intended as a chastisement for
man's freely chosen pleasure. But in His case the pain was not preceded by
generation according to the rule of pleasure. In this way, by accepting a birth
which did not originate in pleasure, it was possible for Him to liberate birth
from the penalty imposed on it.

After the fall the generation of every man was by nature impassioned and preceded by pleasure. From this rule no one was exempt. On the contrary, as if discharging a natural debt, all underwent sufferings and the death that comes from them. None could find the way to freedom, for all were under the tyranny of ill-gotten pleasure, and so subject to justly deserved sufferings and the sill more justly deserved death which they engender. Because of this, another kind of suffering and death had to be conceived, first to destroy the ill-gotten pleasure and the justly deserved sufferings consequent on it - sufferings which have pitiably brought about man's disintegration, since his life originates in the corruption that comes from his generation through pleasure and ends in the corruption that comes through death; and, second, to restore suffering human nature. This other kind of suffering and death was both unjust and undeserved: undeserved because it was in no way generated by preceding pleasure, and unjust because it was not the consequence of any passion-dominated life. This other kind of suffering and death, however, had to be devised so that, intervening between ill-gotten pleasure and justly deserved suffering and death, it would completely abolish the pleasure-provoked origin of human life and its consequent termination in death, and thus free it from the pleasure-pain syndrome. It would then recover its original blessedness, unpolluted by any of the characteristics inherent in beings subject to generation and decay.

This is why the Logos of God, being by nature fully God, became fully man, with a nature constituted like ours of a soul endowed with intellect and a body capable of suffering; only in His case this nature was without sin, because His birth in time from a woman was not preceded by the slightest trace of that pleasure arising from the primal disobedience. In His love He deliberately accepted the painful death which, because of pleasure, terminates human life, so that by suffering unjustly He might abolish the pleasure-provoked and unjust origin by which this life is dominated. For, unlike that of everyone else, the Lord's death was not the payment of a debt incurred because of pleasure, but was on the contrary a challenge thrown down to pleasure; and so through this death He utterly destroys that justly deserved death which ends human life. For the cause of His being was not the illicit pleasure, justly punished by death, through which death entered into human life.

The Lord is wise, just and mighty by nature. Because He is wise, He could not be ignorant of the way in which to heal human nature. Because He is just, He could not save man, whose will was in the grip of sin, in a tyrannical fashion. Because He is almighty, He could not prove unequal to the task of completing His healing mission.

The wisdom of God is revealed in His becoming by nature a true man. His justice is shown by His assumption, at His nativity, of a passible nature identical to our own. His might is shown by His creation, through His suffering and death, of a life that is by nature eternal and of a state of dispassion that is immutable.

The Lord revealed His wisdom by the way in which He healed man, becoming man without the slightest change or mutation. He demonstrated the equity of justice when in His self-abasement He submitted deliberately to the sentence to which what is passible in human nature is subject, and made that sentence a weapon for the destruction of sin and of the death which comes through sin - that is, for the destruction of pleasure and of the pain which pleasure engenders. It was in this pleasure-pain syndrome that the dominion of sin and death lay: the tyranny of sin committed in pursuit of pleasure, and the lordship of the painful death consequent upon sin. For the dominion of pleasure and pain clearly applies to what is passible in human nature. And we seek how to alleviate through pleasure the penalty of pain, thus in the nature of things increasing the penalty. For in our desire to escape pain we seek refuge in pleasure, and so try to bring relief to our nature, hard pressed as it is by the torment of pain. But through trying in this way to blunt pain with pleasure, we but increase our sum of debts, for we cannot enjoy pleasure that does not lead to pain and suffering.

The Lord gave clear evidence of His supreme power in what He endured from hostile forces when He endowed human nature with an incorruptible form of generation. For through His passion He conferred dispassion, through suffering repose, and through death eternal life. By His privations in the flesh He re-establsihed and renewed the human state, and by His own incarnation He bestowed on human nature the supranatural grace of deification.

God became true man and bestowed on human nature a new or second form of generation leading us through suffering to the pleasure of the life held in store for us. FOr when our forefather Adam broke the divine commandment, in the place of the original form of generation he conceived and introduced into human nature, at the prompting of the serpent, another form, originating in pleasure and terminating through suffering in death. This pleasure was not the consequence of antecedent suffering but, rather, resulted in suffering. And because he introduced this ill-gotten pleasure-provoked form of generation, he deservedly brought on himself, and on all men born in the flesh from him, the doom of death through suffering. Thus, when the Lord became man and created in human nature a new form of generation, accomplished by the Holy Spirit, He accepted that death through suffering, justly deserved in the case of Adam, but in His case not deserved at all because His own generation was not provoked by the ill-gotten pleasure introduced by our forefather through his disobedience; and by doing so He destroyed whatever in the origin and doom of human generation according to Adam was not intiially from God, and made all those who were reborn spiritually from Him free from its guilt.

Thursday, August 6, 2009

What Is Original Sin?

(There's another picture I like better, but Eve's breasts are bare, so you get the clean pic.)
So, what is Original Sin? What *are* the consequences for us, as the descendants of Adam and Eve?
I'm looking for what any of you think.

Tuesday, August 4, 2009

Myrddin the Car

Ladies (and any gentlemen who may be out there),
Allow me to introduce Myrddin, my new car.

And not just new to me, but *new* new.
*pauses to squee*
Myrddin is my first brand spankin' new car, bought with no (monetary) help from anyone else (read, parents). Just me, the Handbasket (previous car), and the credit union.


Monday, August 3, 2009

What If God Doesn't Bless You? Do You Still Obey?

a/k/a If I'm Not Getting Anything Out of It, Why Bother?

So, a comment to a post by Susanne reminded me of a post on another blog (I've looked but can't locate the post, sorry) from a while ago. The basic premise of the post, though, was what if you *knew* that no matter what you did, you were not going to be admitted to Heaven. As in, God Himself came down and said, 'Look, I appreciate what you're doing, there, obeying all my laws, worshiping. All in all being a great person. It's all very nice. But here's the thing. You don't make the cut. Sorry. Ta.' Would you, with certain knowledge that you're not getting the reward at the end of the race, keep playing by the rules? Or would you cut loose and indulge?

Most, if not all, of the people who responded said, no, of course I would still obey! Because it's God, and He deserves our worship, no matter what! And I'll be honest, I laughed myself silly and didn't respond, but the answer was, 'hell no! and if ya'll'd be honest, you'd say no too!' I mean, what's the point? If, no matter how good I am, no matter how perfectly I believe and keep the laws (whichever covenant you think applies), I'm damned? Hah. Then I'm going to live it up down here, because there's no frickin' point in denying myself! Drink, steal, sex *all over the place* because I'm not hurting myself! Mwahahahaaaa....*runs rampant over the earth*

And I forgot all about it. Then I saw the comment on Susanne's post. And the mention of the people who are promised that good things will happen to them if they just believe! If you just convert and join my church, all your troubles will dissolve! It's only because you lack faith that you lost your wife and your car and you job and your health is terrible! If you had faith you would be rich and powerful and healthy! Mental illness? God is *punishing* you for your lack of faith! *pauses to spit and gnaw on the furniture some more - jackasses* And these people, rightly, leave the church after they join and, lo and behold, their lives don't magically get better! We're not *promised* perfect lives, if only we believe. No, we're promised hatred and suffering as Christians in this world. So where in all the hells did these 'name it-claim it', 'prosperity gospel' yahoos get this idea? I mean, I know why they do it, they're all sleazeballs who want to get rich, and do. So, clearly, believing in God and following His commands is not done to get an earthly reward. Nope.

But isn't that, to a certain extent, what we do if we obey and believe just because we want to go to Heaven? It's not an earthly reward, no, but if that's the *only* reason we do it, because God dangled the shiny carrot in our faces, how is that better? Because you don't ever really *know* that you're going to Heaven. Not until it's all over. We have faith, yes, and we trust in God's mercy, but you have no concrete *assurance* of it. God doesn't hand you a key at some point and go, 'Okay, very nice. Your place is assured. Carry on.' Not until it's all over and there're no more chances to repent *or* to screw it all up.

So why *should* we believe and obey?

Because He is God, and is deserving of our worship and obedience.

Because we don't want to go to Hell.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Books: 1st Half of Kusheline Cycle

Jacqueline Carey is a fantasy author. I adore her, truly. She's not for everyone, but I find that she writes a world so rich and detailed that you want to (and half believe that you can) reach out and touch it.

She has three series (four, I guess, if you separate the Terre d'Ange books, but I don't) - Terre d'Ange, The Sundering, and Santa Olivia. I *love* the Terre d'Ange books. Love, love, love. The Sundering...I found...dry? Ah. High fantasy, but it was missing *something*. Santa Olivia I have but haven't read yet. Though it has werewolves (or werewolf-like characters), so how can it go wrong? Don't answer that. I have faith in Ms. Carey.

But we're talking about Terre d'Ange here. The first three books in this universe are Kushiel's Dart, Kushiel's Chosen, and Kushiel's Avatar. They're the story of Phedre no Delaunay.

I don't want to say too much about the actual plot of the books, because it's thick and complicated. If you like adventure and political intrigue set in ancient times, these books have it in spades. Sword fights and great battles, invasions, magic, trips to distant and fantastic lands only recognisable through the veil of fantasy. There is, however, a lot of sex in the books. Believe it or not, it's important to the plot. I promise, it is. And it's handled delicately - not there for titillation. And violence. And violent sex. No one should take what occurs in the books as realistic. It's a fantasy novel, fiction, and the society is very permissive. And still, it's part of the plot. Really. Phedre is... different, and necessary.

But here's the basic set up of the universe:

About 800 years ago, Yeshua ben Yosef, the only begotten son of the One God was crucified. When his blood and the Magdalene's tears mingled in the earth, they created a child, Elua. Elua was divine, through his father's line, but also part human, through his mother. He wandered the earth, claiming no place for his own, and was eventually imprisoned in Persia. Eight angels (Naamah, Cassiel, Kushiel, Anael, Azza, Camael, Eisheth, Shemhazai) took exception to this state of affairs, and descended to earth. Naamah lay with the King of Persia for Elua's freedom, and then the nine of them wandered the earth, looking for a place to settle. They were run out of every country because the people feared their old gods' reaction to Elua and the One Gods' angels' presence in their lands. They came to a land without a name, where the people had no gods. And they settled there and began to breed into the population. *Eventually*, the One God sent an angel (and then another, both of whom failed) to call them all back to Heaven. Otherwise, he said, their offspring would over run the earth, since they were essentially immortal. Elua refused on behalf of himself and the Companions and their children - they weren't meant for his Heaven, Elua claimed, as it was bloodless, and he was not. So the One God made for them a separate place, the True Terre d'Ange to Come, where they could go and all their descendants.

So that's the creation myth of Terre d'Ange. Of course, eight centuries later, the D'Angeline's don't show a whole lot of the angelic bloodline, except that they are all unfailingly beautiful and haughty and healthy. Left with the one precept of Blessed Elua - Love as Thou Wilt. They have their own intricate society and...Phedre is born. God-touched. Kushiel's Dart mars her eye. And she's born with a deeper purpose that no one can guess. The Companion's playing a gods' game with their offspring, to preserve them from a fate they don't know is coming.

The second half of the Kusheline Cycle is Imriel's story (I can't explain who he is, it's an integral part of the first half of the Cycle). It starts with Kushiel's Scion. And the first two lines of the book always speak to me:

What does it mean to be good?

When I was a child, I thought I knew. It was easy then.
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