Sunday, September 30, 2012

Faith in a Del Monte Jar

This morning as we prepared to leave for church, my husband handed me a small jar and asked me if I would mind carrying it in my purse for him.  This was a little unusual.

Granted, we each have slightly different routines for preparing to attend separate churches on Sunday mornings; and this is understandable in light of the fact that he is a life-long Catholic and I am a died-in-the-wool Protestant.  

For example, I almost always have a cup of tea and a bowl of cereal before leaving for church, as I don't want to listen to my stomach growl during the sermon, much less inflict that on anyone sitting near enough to overhear the gastro-gurglings when I have not eaten in over twelve hours.

The *LOC on the other hand, does not eat before attending Mass on Sunday mornings due to his convictions about not eating prior to receiving the Eucharist.  It is an old-fashioned stance that the Catholic church no longer insists upon, from what I understand, but he has followed this practice his whole life and does not intend to change at this late date.  

Tomato, tomahto - potato, potahto.....

Despite our different church backgrounds, I occasionally attend services with him as I enjoy going to church together.  Thus, after nearly a quarter of a century of being married to a practicing Catholic, I was fairly certain that taking an empty Del Monte jar to church was not standard practice.

And then I remembered ...

Several months ago, the *LOC was diagnosed with skin cancer.  He has had several relatively harmless growths removed from his face, but there is one on his arm that is deeper and more serious.  His dermatologist has been treating it with what he casually called "chemo-cream" after the biopsy confirmed it was basil cell carcinoma.  

Thankfully, it is not melanoma, the much more serious form of skin cancer; but it is not anything to play around with either. If the chemo-cream does not do the job, he will have to have some minor surgery near the end of the year.

He has followed the doctor's instructions to the letter. But he has also prayed for healing and he puts "holy-water" on it when he prays.  He does this privately and with no fuss; but he is consistent about it.  Thus, he had used up his small supply of holy-water and needed to refill his supply from the fountain at his church.  He decided to use a clean Del Monte jar to carry it home.

I smiled to myself as I realized the significance of the jar in my purse.  Not because I dismiss his prayer practice, but because it is another example of how similar, and yet how different, our faith practices can be.

In my church background we also practice prayer for healing, but we do so accompanied with anointing oil.  Some Christians I have known keep a small bottle of "anointing oil" in their home, to accompany such prayers.  

The skeptic would scoff at both:  holy water, anointing oil ... tomato-tomahto ...
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As I sat in the pew this morning and listened to their Polish priest give his quiet homily, in his heavily accented English, on living the Christian faith in a simple but practical manner, I heard another small sound nearby.

The whisper quiet whoosh-whisp, whoosh-whisp had first captured my attention during silent prayer.  I looked around to identify the sound and realized that not only one, but two, elderly worshippers nearby had brought their oxygen apparatus with them, and the whisps of sound I heard coming from their direction was their oxygen pumps delivering breathing assistance to them.  They obviously saw no contradiction in using whatever medical help is available to them, accompanied by the help their faith offers them.  Neither do I.

Atheists would declare our holy-water and/or our anointing oil equally useless as a recovery tool; of course, they would also denounce prayer as a delusion.  

Fair enough. They have a right to their opinion.  We each have choices to make about how to conduct our lives and whether to accept the gift of faith, and if so, how to practice that faith.

For myself, I want to become better acquainted with the One who originated the "breath of life."  He sustains my faith through whatever life throws at me.  And He continually teaches me to respect both my own traditions and those of other Christian believers.

I believe in being practical in facing life's challenges, while practicing a faith that sometimes defies all earthly logic  Sometimes faith comes in a Del Monte jar.  Sometimes it comes accompanied by an oxygen tank. Sometimes it is accompanied by an awareness of how fragile we all are.  And that is okay too.
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Until next time ... Marsha
(*Lovable Old Coot)

Saturday, September 15, 2012

To Write - Perchance to Spell

I was disturbed today.  Perhaps it would be more accurate to admit that I was simply more disturbed than on other days. (I suspect I barely beat you to the punch on that one.)  

Various things disturb me:  the landscaper who makes unscheduled stops while missing most of the scheduled ones; the deer who have now eaten pretty much everything in the backyard except the stone bird bath, and it shows teeth marks along the rim; the young woman at the fast food drive-through who could neither take my order nor deliver it correctly; a peach with a bad spot, which is always a pity; a dust mote ... okay, now I am just being petty.

However, the specific thing that truly disturbed me occurred this morning, before I had even finished my first cup of tea.  This is never a good way to begin the day.

The particular fly in my early morning ointment was this - an article in the Sacramento Bee.  John Hechinger reported that in recent national academic testing, "nearly three quarters of eighth and twelfth graders" could not pass a standardized writing test, despite being allowed to use a computer to take the test and being allowed to use spellchecker.

As one might expect, he then decried the over all effects of tweeting, texting, and other shortcuts that our students currently use instead of learning to actually write.

They cannot spell (even with a spellchecker), they cannot punctuate, and heaven defend us if they ever were called upon to diagram a sentence (which goes a long way toward explaining why they cannot decently construct one either.)

I must be getting old if this comes as some sort of surprise to me.  After all, I knew we were on the slippery slope to the intellectual waste lands the first time I heard "valley girl" speak.  I mean, like, you know, it was like, really, like scary.

I couldn't decide whether to laugh or cry, or do both.  I distinctly recall deciding not to do either one; because if I do both, I always get the hiccups, which can last for hours.  It just wasn't worth the risk.

There was, however, one tiny little bright spot in Mr. Hechinger's article.  Unsurprisingly, studies show that "...students who wrote more often at home did better on the test."

And there you have it.  Those of us who grew up keeping diaries, and journals, and making lists, and even just writing penmanship exercises somehow ended up actually learning how to write.

Can it come as any surprise that young people who grow up asking -
              war r u?  
              mt me at 8?   
              Il b ther 
misconstrue the above to be poetry, perhaps haiku?

Here is something even more frightening; often function follows form. Thus, the time may not be far off, if this revolting decline in the level of writing skills continues, when we will all be reduced to just pointing and grunting, as that is all we any longer know how to do.

And anyone who thinks that the engineers who keep the power grid up and running communicate by pointing and grunting had better think again, my friend.  We could be looking at another dark age, and all because Susie couldn't be bothered to learn to spell, much less write .

Dear me, who would have guessed that those brilliant innovators who gave us laptops and tablets and e-readers would eventually lead to a society who will not even be able to turn the things on.  How do I know this?

Because in order to operate such devices, one must be able to read and write! (Pointing and clicking notwithstanding.)
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Quite honestly, I had almost gotten past this morning's disturbance.  However, in recounting it for you I have now ended my day nearly as disturbed as I began it.
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Hope you are influencing any young folks you know toward learning to take pleasure in the simple art of writing a note, without using the word "like".  

Until next time .... you know, like, have a good evening.