Wednesday, May 28, 2008

Questioning God

Holly's latest blog entry on Today's Christian Woman magazine's website is now up:

Questioning God
Is it OK to wonder why he allows suffering?

To ponder:
1) What are some questions you have for God?

2) Which ones have you asked? Which ones are you hesitant to ask?

3) Do you agree or disagree that it's OK to be completely honest with God?

4) Consider the last sentence of the blog post: "To get to real faith, I need to start with real doubt." Do you agree or disagree? How do you back up your answer?

Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Mystery Grab Bag

I've been in a happy-dappy celebration mood for the past week. Last Tuesday, I took my last exam of my first semester of seminary.

Didn't think I'd make it. School is significantly more challenging (read: more work) than I thought it would be. When my professor said to me on my second day of classes, "How are you?" I looked at him with glazed, dazed eyes and replied, "I don't know why I'm here."

And I meant it. I'm not sure how I landed in seminary, and my emotions have fluctuated from unworthiness to awed gratitude. Mostly the latter. So last Tuesday, I handed in my exam and waltzed out of class. I pumped my fists in the air and squiggled around a bit. (I would have danced, but unfortunately my school frowns on that practice unless it's choreographed. And my happy dance would have been entirely ad lib.)

Suddenly, I felt very wiggly, and realized this wasn't the happy dance--it was the potty dance. Apparently, exams have that effect on me.

I popped into the ladies room and immediately was drawn not to the potty, but to a basket full of polka-dotted goody bags. Above them was a sign that said "take one," and explained these were from the women's activities coordinator. Exuberant, I grabbed one.

As soon as I had the bag in my hand, I noticed there was one open bag. Hmm, I thought, looks like someone's been choosing which goodies they wanted in their bag. I was tremendously tempted to peek inside, but decided I liked the idea of this surprise gift. So I completed my bathroom tasks and went on my way, my goody bag in tow.

I'm not so great with surprises, so as soon as I was out of the bathroom door, I ripped into my goody bag. Inside was a pack of cheddar crackers, snack-size Snickers and Butterfinger candy bars, and a full-size bag of Skittles. Jackpot! I'd already crammed three crackers into my mouth when the thought hit me: What was in those other goody bags? Were there things I would have perhaps enjoyed even more?

I shook my head at the silly thought. This bag was a gift. I didn't do anything to earn it, really--I just showed up in the gals' bathroom at the right time. And when I'd ripped it open, I'd been thrilled. It was crummy that the thought of "what did other people get" was ruining my goody bag experience.

Then I took a hard look at the bag. The bag itself was beautifully cheerful; it even included my favorite colors. The crackers were incredibly satisfying; after taking that long test, I'd been ravenous. And Snickers is my favorite candy bar. Everything in the bag had been good, and some things were particularly delightful to me.

Having just taken my last seminary exam, I naturally made a quick spiritual application: My fabulous goody bag was like the gifts God gives me. They include stuff I like and stuff that helps me. In many ways, I can see how God's gifts to me are perfect. But sometimes, I wonder about those other "goody bags." What did God give to others? Would I have enjoyed their goody bags more than my own?

Then I thought back on my first semester of seminary. I was immediately filled with that familiar awed gratitude. The goodies God gave me--my talents, my personality, my appearance, my God-given blessings--are perfect for me. They are treats, and they are also gifts; I wasn't entitled to any of the goodies. I'm gonna work on being happy with my own bag. And I'm gonna work on being happy that everyone else has treats, too, without begrudging that theirs are just as good as mine.

To ponder:
1) Do you ever feel dissatisfied with the life God's given you? Do these feelings ruin your enjoyment of stuff you know is good in your life?

2) Why do you think it's so hard for people to be content?

3) What are some things that remind you life is good?

4) Make a list of 10 things for which you're grateful. Try to include a mix of internal (stuff you like about yourself) and external (stuff you like about your circumstances) blessings.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Vatican Welcomes ET Into the Fold

Father Gabriel Funes, director of the Vatican Observatory, says it's possible intelligent beings exist in outer space.

Funes' article, "Aliens Are My Brother," was recently published in the official Vatican newspaper. Funes says belief in aliens doesn't contradict belief in God, since aliens would be part of God's creation.

Some years ago, my husband and I were watching a documentary about UFOs on the SciFi channel. I'd never given any thought to whether aliens exist, but my ears perked up when a Christian theologian said that if aliens were discovered in outer space, their planets would be a new place where Christians should take the gospel. The words popped out of my mouth, "Honey, I could be an alien missionary!"

So if we ever do make first contact, I guess I've got my calling.

Full Story:
Vatican Says Aliens Could Exist

Thursday, May 08, 2008

What Would Jesus Donate?

I came down with strep this week, so you'll have to pardon the cheesy post title ("What Would Jesus Donate?"). At least, I can only assume it's cheesy since I've taken four Advils (doctors orders), and at the moment, every word I type seems inspired. Erudite. Shakespearean, even. Which can't be true.

In any case, I momentarily feel fabulous and life seems grand. (Someone should call my accountability partner and have her make sure I'm not still taking four Advils next week.)

Getting sick is a good reminder of how awful it is to be sick. I've been trying to prevent the pain of illness for others by not touching doorknobs and by washing my hands every five seconds. (OK, not literally five, but close enough. Remember, I'm on Advil--time and space have no meaning.) Pain, bad. This week, I discovered a FREE way to alleviate the pain of others ... well, it's free for the next eight days.

Tara Tierney, a gal from the National Marrow Donor Program, has asked me to post the link to on my blog. (Lookee that, I just posted it!) And she asked me to tell you something about how it's a national registry that matches up marrow donors with patients. Something about how you could save a life. And something about how it usually costs $52 to register (to cover the cost of the test that types your marrow), but thanks to a generous donation, it's FREE ... for the moment. So act quickly.

At least, I think Tara wrote something like that. I only half read her email because the words were dancing the tango on the page. Again, the Advil.

To make sure, you might check out yourself. I plan to register, since I can't resist anything that's free. Saving a life for free is way cool. But I plan to wait until I'm strep-less; nobody wants anything out of my body until I'm germ-free. Free is good.

I'm going to make sleepy now, until it's time to take more Advil. You go look at the linky.