Sunday, February 27, 2011

Academy Awards

Since apparently I'm watching them...

It's been a long time since I watched the Oscars - I hardly ever see movies anymore, and I hardly ever see movies that get nominated for Academy Awards.  The show always seems to be, especially since 9/11, to be a forum for a preening, self-centered, self-righteous, morally depraved, Godless Hollywood to dress trampily, spew vile language and offensive political rhetoric, and generally mock average America. 

So why bother, right?

But I do like Anne Hathaway - she has such an old-world charm to her, and so I ended up tuning in just to see if she would live up to that in cohosting the Oscars.  She seems to be doing a good job.

I forget who it was from The Fighter, who felt the need to go on some "f--- rant."  I never understand this.  You get 45 seconds to say thank you and recognize co-artists and people you love, upon receiving your industry's highest award, and you need to show off by swearing?  My mother would be so embarrassed if I did that.  And besides, since when is vulgar language "edgy"?  What are you, in the seventh grade?

Kirk Douglas.  Awww...  What a sweet, sweet man.  Another throwback to the days of yore.  I love old men, especially the ones that are cute and flirty without being disgusting.  (See White, Betty.  An old woman, but still...)

Reese Witherspoon is simply delightful.  She always looks joyful, no matter what she's doing, even when she's playing an angry or sad role, there's just a heart, and soul, and playfulness that underlies her, almost an innocence, which is rare to find in town that I suspect does its level best to steal one's innocence on a near-daily basis.  The dress she wore tonight was stunning - very modest, absolutely gorgeous in that old-fashioned, formal way.  And her hair in a high, shiny ponytail.  She was - is - just classically beautiful.  And as she presented the award for...I don't even know what...there was no screwing around, being gross or vulgar, condescending to tasteless language or behavior.  She was just her captivating self.  She is, in every way, exquisite.

In other news, Matthew McConaughey is still hot. ;-)

Colleen Atwood, for Best Costume Design in Alice in Wonderland.  Hey look!  A woman who's not a size 2.  Of course, she's not onscreen, but still...  (For the record, not that anyone cares, I wear the same size clothing as Marilyn Monroe.)

Um, hello...who is that cute boy singing with Mandy Moore?

What are these "short films"?  Some of them look kind of interesting, but where does one find them to actually watch?  Oh hey, iTunes! 

Eew, Oprah.  I just switched over to Everybody Loves Raymond reruns.  I can't handle that woman.

Holy buckets, Peter.  Billy Crystal is getting old.  He's still cute and funny, though. 

Since when is Gwyneth Paltrow a country music singer?  Good call on Randy Newman, though.

I didn't know Lena Horne or Lynn Redgrave had died. 

I'm sure it's an honor to be chosen to host the Academy Awards.  But I would hate any job that made me change clothes as many times as Anne Hathaway has.

You know, the more I watch, the more it seems like "traditional" and "classy" are in for eveningwear this year.  Praise God!

Aww, I love the Lifetime Achievement Awards.  Back to when Hollywood was, well, a different place, it seems.  Eli Wallach was adorable in The Holiday.

Is Natalie Portman pregnant?  Well, she's adorable in that dress. 

Aww, Sandra Bullock.  Love her.  Again, such a classy, classy person.  And beautiful. 

I guess I'm going to have to see The King's Speech. 

All in all, not bad.  Now time to get ready for another week...

New Year's Resolution, February Edition

So last month, I wrote that I had made a few New Year's Resolutions, one of which was to, basically, start doing the things that people who have a life do.  To stop putting my life on hold, just because it's not the life I thought I would have. 

Alison recently wrote a post wherein she stated that "life doesn't come with odometers."  It wasn't really about this topic, but it was a great turn of phrase, and in my mind, brought with it a very interesting perspective.  An odometer does several things - it tells us how far we've traveled how much longer until we get where we're going, and it tracks certain expected maintenance tasks - refueling, changing the oil, replacing the timing belt and tires, etc...

I was thinking about how this applies to life: I think that we (ok, well, me anyway) tend to view birthdays as miles on an odometer, with all the attendant expectations.  College.  At 18.  Graduate school at 22. Good job at 25.  Married at 26.  Kid at 28.  Second kid at 30.  And while some of that is perhaps changing a bit, as average age of first marriage goes up, I think that general narrative still exists in many of our minds.  I think I sometimes view life as, "Hey, I forgot to fuel up at 25.  I'm getting on toward 30, and not seeing anywhere to get a new timing belt.  Etc..." But it occured to me today, as Alison said, that "life has no odometer." 

Life is just life.  And even though everybody tells you that you need to change the oil every 3000 miles, the reality is that if you use Mobil One, you can wait 7500 miles.  And I always use Mobil One.  :-)

So cheers to that! And on to the February edition of my New Year's Resolution...

Saturday, February 26, 2011

Advantage: Singles

I'm pretty sure if I was married, I wouldn't be allowed to eat Taco Bell cinnamon crunchies in bed at midnight. 

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Professional Politics

I've come to the conclusion that professional politics is basically just pretending to accomplish morally sanctimonious ends by means of immoral thoughts, words, and deeds, and whose practitioners (most of them, anyway) attempt to self-justify via large amounts of alcohol and illicit sex.

I'm tired of losing friends to this.  I'd like them back.

Sunday, February 20, 2011

Cancer Sucks

So, the thing is, I'm a cancer survivor.  As a little kid, I had bone cancer, which ultimately resulted in the amputation of my left leg, at the knee.  I finished chemo 18 years ago yesterday, and - Deo gratias - have been cancer-free and long-term-side-effects-free ever since. 

But the other thing is, I don't often know how to talk about this.  It's the sort of thing that there's just never any good time to bring up, with anyone.  It's the kind of thing that you don't just want to lay out there too early in a relationship of any sort, and yet, if you never mention it, at a certain point it's more awkward, and almost too late to bring it up. 

Also, there's no good way for anyone to ask about it, especially because I pretty much only ever wear long pants.  "What's wrong with your leg?  Why do you trip up stairs?  Or skip down them?"  "Um, it was amputated.  When I had cancer.  When I was 10 years old."  "Oh."  And then the person feels embarrassed for bringing it up and ends up saying something stupid like, "I never even noticed." (Obviously you did, Skippy, or you wouldn't have brought it up.  But I digress.)  And then I feel awkward for making you feel embarrassed.  Like it's my fault.  Which it's not, but it sort of feels like it. 

And I think that's really the crux of the matter.  Objectively, I know that there is nothing I did that caused my cancer.  And yet, I feel like it represents some sort of moral failure on my part.  Like I have to constantly apologize for my medical history.  Like it presents an inconvenience to the rest of the world.  Like I have to keep it hidden and not talk about it and act like it's not a big deal, because if other people found out, they would realize what a failure I am and not want anything to do with me. 

I have no idea where these feelings come from - rationally, I know that they are irrational, and I express them here not to incite pity or sympathy, but because it's my blog, and I need to talk about this stuff for my own mental well-being.  (This is probably something I should have explored in CPE, but I was too busy having to help my supervisor deal with the fact that she hates Lutherans.)

Of late, I've tried to be better about just putting this info out there - in, for example, my internship applications, and my "member profile" during a short-lived, ill-conceived venture into online dating, and my pre-arrival, written introduction to my internship congregation. 

I was actually inspired in this regard by an acquaintance at school who, on perhaps the second time we met, informed me that she was a recovering alcoholic.  I was a little taken aback, because I felt like she was sharing some personal information with me, someone she didn't know all that well (and the info was entirely irrelevant to the situation at hand). 

But I realized later that it's a decent strategy because, as awkward as it is in that moment, then it's done and over with, everyone's cards are on the table, and we can all move forward.  And then months or years later, no one feels like this big important thing has been hidden from them, and you don't feel like you're expending all this energy to keep it hidden, and you don't question what is going to happen when so-and-so finds out.  Are they going to stop being friends with you because it's weird?  Are they going to be mad that you haven't told them before now?  Are they going to decide that it's more drama than they want in a friendship?  Etc... 

Ugh.  This sucks.

UPDATE: I should add: I don't feel this way about other cancer survivors or patients.  If someone told me that they are a cancer patient or survivor, I would never assign any moral value to that whatsoever.  Cancer just happens.  To way too many people.  And I have compassion for the people that it happens to.  'Cause I know what it's like.  So why do I place that moral disvalue on myself?

Thoughts on Prayer

So, I was visiting a parishioner in the hospital the other day, and I dropped by the hospital chapel, just too scope it out.  I picked up a brochure detailing the services offered, and was interested to find that it contained some general "Prayers for Healing."  Here, I will give you two of them - see if you can identify the differences:

Prayer One:
"In the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit.  Lord Jesus Christ, my Redeemer, by the grace of the Holy Spirit, cure me of my weakness, heal me of the sickness, and forgive my sins.  Expel all afflictions of my mind and body.  Mercifully restore me to full health.  You are my Lord for ever.  Amen."

Prayer Two:
"O God, the Source of all health and healing, so fill my heart with faith that with calm expectancy I may receive Your power to help me in this time of my need.  By Your grace and mercy through Jesus Christ, our Lord and Savior, forgive my sin, heal my spirit, mind and body, and be present with me.  Guide my doctors, nurses, and other staff by Your counsel so they will have skill, wisdom and ability to help me.  Amen."

Okay, ready? 

Monday, February 14, 2011

Happy Singles Awareness Day!

So, I actually did pretty good vis-a-vis Valentine's Day this year.  I didn't sit around and mope, or feel sorry for myself.  I just kind of...did what I needed to do.  Independent of the day, however, I'm starting to feel like I have some icky Single's Disease, such that my married or almost-married friends ought not come near me, for fear of catching it.  Of all of my married or almost-married friends, I can count 3 (couples) with whom I feel comfortable, welcomed, not pitied, and having value independent of my relationship status.  I say this not to sound pitiful or pathetic, although that's probably how it's coming off. 

I say this to those with other halves, on behalf of singles everywhere - cultivate real, actual friendships with your single friends.  Let them know that, in a world that defines you by who you last kissed, and in a church that defines you (especially women) by your marital status, you love them for who they are.  Let them know that you love the gifts God has given them, that you cherish their heart and soul and personality.  Let them know that when you see them, you see them not as single, or an old-maid, or a Norwegian bachelor farmer, but as a real-live person with contributions to make to the world, interesting things to say, Christian love to give, neat experiences to be relayed...someone who is valued for his or her own sake. 

Invite us to birthday and anniversary parties, encourage us to meet your kids or join you for dinner, let us know that you refuse to ostracize us from society.  We'll celebrate and laugh and weep and mourn with you.  We'll meet you for coffee after church, and discuss current events over the dinner table.  We'll go Christmas caroling with you in the snow, or stay in and watch A Christmas Carol if it's too cold to go out.  Don't worry - we won't latch on and become an awkward third wheel to your family.  We won't rely on you to fulfill all our emotional needs, or expect you to be our only friends.  But we will be your friend, if you'll be ours. 

Happy Valentine's Day - next year in Paris!

Friday, February 4, 2011

And Another Thing...

I'm on a roll right now, so I might as well keep going.  But we'll switch up the topic, and I promise no gruesome pictures this time.  Mostly, I want to give a shout-out to Fr. Dwight Longnecker, who wrote a post entitled "The Smoke of Satan" the other day for Patheos.  His post is addressed to Catholics, although he mentions that mainstream Protestantism has nearly succumbed to the same problem.  Basically what Fr. Dwight is talking about here is our modern tendency to strip the Bible, and the Gospel message, of everything supernatural.  To bring it down to something nice and easy and soft, what I call "Fluffy Jesus," virtually devoid of meaning.  Of course, the good Father puts it much better than I:
So, the feeding of the five thousand wasn't a miracle. Instead the "real miracle" was that everyone shared their lunch. Everything had to be questioned and "re-interpreted" in such a way that it could be accepted and understood by modern people. So when we call Jesus Christ "God Incarnate" what we really mean was that he was so fully human that as he reached his potential as a man, he showed us what divinity looks like. When we speak of the Blessed Virgin we mean she was "a very good and holy Jewish young woman." When we speak of the "Real Presence" we mean that we see the "Christ that is within each one of us."

I hate this crap.
Me too, Father.  Me too.  But in a brilliant move, Fr. Longnecker doesn't just rant about the watering-down of our proclamation - he also declares what is so particularly heinous about this - the fleecing of the laity:
The reason it is so obnoxious and disgusting is because priests and clergy of all sorts still use all the traditional language of the liturgy, the scriptures, and the creeds, but they have changed the meaning of it altogether. They never actually stand up and say that they have changed the meaning, and that they no longer believe the faith once delivered to the saints. They don't discuss the fact that they have not only changed the meaning, but robbed it of meaning altogether. Instead they still stand up week by week and recite the creed as if they think it is true, but what they mean by "'true" is totally different from what their people mean.
Which leads to:
The faithful don't know why their church has become like a cross between a Joan Baez concert and a political activism meeting.
Amen, preach it, Father!  And you, my gentle readers, should go read the whole thing.

But now for the real question (because he's right that this is destroying contemporary Protestantism): How do we fix this?

Deal Me Another Hand, Skippy

So, here we go again.  I don't want to harp on this, but - oh, who am I kidding?  I do want to harp on this.  We - the ELCA - all three "expressions" are complicit in the murder of children and the emotional slaughter of women.  I do not understand how anyone thinks support for and/or encouragment of and/or acceptance of abortion is in any way witnessing to the hope and new life found in Christ. 

It is particularly frustrating because we are so consistently anti-war and anti-death penalty.  As we (basically) should be.  No one likes war, and although I don't believe pacifism to be a viable national security strategy, I do think that a very thorough moral analysis regarding use of force in international relations is called for.  Neither do I believe that the death penalty is inherently immoral and that it should be automatically classified as "cruel and unusual punishment."  However, I personally have come to oppose the death penalty, as a Christian, because I believe it denies that Christ has the ability to redeem anything and anyone. 

(Those of you who wish to yell at me about mixing the "two kingdoms" can keep it to yourself right now.)

Given all that (and that our "expressions," particularly the national one, pride themselves on being antiwar and anti-death penalty), I don't see what's so hard about abortion.  Is the thing here that we have simply abdicated all substantive teaching authority?  Or that we don't believe in authority at all?  I heard an ELCA pastor say today that, "We as a church have decided that how you feel about abortion doesn't matter." 

Well damn it, it should matter. 

Heartlander points out in this post that

William Wilberforce was only able to get the slave trade abolished in England when he started showing people the insides of the actual slave ships.
An excellent point. Desperate times call for desperate measures. So I give you the picture that she posted, one that is not overly graphic, but is in fact accurate. This is what abortion is:

Ok, yes, this is what a 2nd or 3rd trimester abortion looks like.  A first trimester abortion is much different. 

It looks like this:

But if those are a little difficult to process, perhaps the tried and true "saline method" is more palatable to the faint of heart:
In a saline abortion procedure, the abortionist injects a long needle through the wall of the uterus and removes the amniotic fluid which provides a safe and nutritious environment for the developing child. It is replaced with a hypertonic saline (salt) solution which is toxic to the unborn child. The baby swallows the salt and is poisoned. Within one to one-and-one-half hours, the baby’s heart stops beating. The corrosive effect of the salt solution often burns and strips away the outer layer of the baby’s skin. The mother soon delivers a burned, shriveled and dead baby.

I feel like I'm starting to turn into one of those "crunchy cons" who makes lots of arguments about certain things being "natural," but here's the deal:  None of these procedures are in any "natural."  When a woman becomes pregnant, her body goes into full-on Mommy Mode, and does everything it can to protect and nourish the baby.  In addition to the creation of amniotic fluid (see above), the cervix positively hangs up a "do not enter" sign:
According to Dr. Nardone, the cervix is the structure that is intended to protect the fetus during its development. It is designed to remain firmly closed and provide resistance to pressure from the growing structures above it (e.g., the fetus and uterus).
The first two procedures detailed above literally involve taking big long sticks and inserting them into the cervix to force it open in order to force baby out.  I can barely handle going to the doctor's office once a year - letting someone forcibly rip my cervix open does not sound safe, healthy, or pleasant.  Abortion is supposed to be pro-woman?  Are you kidding me? 

I still cannot believe that this is even a serious question among supposedly serious Christians.  For all of you pro-choice pastors who have been charged with the shepherding of your flock: can you look at any of those pictures above and honestly tell me that recommending - or even remaining "respectfully neutral" towards - any of them actually fulfills that charge?

What I Am Not Saying: I am not attempting, in any way, to argue that anyone who has had an abortion is disqualified from being a Christian.  I not attempting, in any way, to question the faith or salvation of Christians who are pro-abortion. I am not attempting, in any way, to suggest that unplanned or otherwise difficult pregnancies are not really tough cases that require a ridiculous amount of pastoral care, support, and sensitivity. 

What I Am Saying: As Christian leaders, teachers, pastors, and lay people, we have to be better than this.  We need to so unequivocally love Jesus, moms, dads, and babies, that we can't but help witness to the fact that each and every human being is created in the image and likeness of God, and is loved and valued by Him, and by us.  Period.