punchy line

...and he (Simon Peter) saw the linen wrappings lying there, and the face-cloth ... not lying with the linen wrappings, but rolled up in a place by itself. - Jn 20: 6-7
-Jn 20: 6-7

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Reading the Signs at Church

I mean the ones that hang on the walls: the information they impart is more valuable than we might think!

Take these two for example:

What these indicate may be obvious, however, a sign's effectiveness lies in more than just its message: its placement, wording and relevance ought to be taken into account, else navigating social protocol at Church can become awkward. Therefore, it's probably not the best idea to situate either of these signs near a baby-changing table where a standing individual's head can easily obscure them. Otherwise disaster of hysterical proportions might ensue. Imagine the following scenario with me, if you will, and yes, it is based on actual events:

A short-statured elderly lady; demure, reverently veiled, perhaps slipping a bit in terms of her situational awareness heads innocently towards the bathrooms. As she nears their vicinity she notices an open door, and a young man changing diapers at the wall station. At his side stands his wife and on his other side: the sign that might have changed what happens next. That poor soul, someone's dear grandmother, doesn't see any sign, only a baby being cleaned and a doorway leading to a sink in a tiled room. She doesn't look around, doesn't even notice that she's passed another door situated adjacent to a blue placard whose white letters spell 'Women.' No, an unforeseen surprise awaits her just through that open doorway, and, before the young man and his wife can stop what has happened, a profusely apologetic, completely cheek colored older women is quickly exiting the men's room before dissolving, along with those around her, into muffled hysterics at the back of a chapel.

Moral of the story: placement of a sign is as important as its message.

But messages are important, take this one, for example:

The fine print, which you can't see in the picture reads: otherwise you look like a weirdo. Seriously though - would that some people really took the time to read this one so that they could avoid looking a bit strange when they sit in the crying room by themselves!

Of course, if they are aware that they're in the crying room, then that's a different story. To begin with,  if you know that you're sitting in a space designated for parents and their screaming children, then why on earth would you want to be there on your own (And further, why be annoyed when children in there are noisy?) Although many crying rooms may be located closer to the altar in some churches, do the muffled sounds of the mass and the raisins flying around the room really lend itself to any sort of profound spiritual experience? Wouldn't one prefer to hear the liturgy clearly and not have to fold one's legs every few seconds to avoid Billy-the-Toe-Crusher ?

I know I sure would.

The wording of signs at Church is also important. It took me a couple of times reading and re-reading this one before I finally figured it out:
At first it may seem like a rather obvious message: don't leave your stuff lying around! But the last lines, "If you would like to make a contribution, please call," reveal the intended message. The sign is actually requesting that any food or clothing items-intended-for-donation not be left in the church or vestibule. There's a St. Vincent De Paul bin somewhere on site, and so please donate there or call the provided number.

Either way, this sign may still come in handy if anyone is ever tempted just to take off their shoes or haul in their groceries and just leave them unattended for awhile. 'Cause you just never know, you know?

As communication with parishioners via posted signs goes, placement, message and wording of cannot be underestimated. But they can also date the church, and we may want to consider dispensing with some altogether. And so I give you this treasure which is still a very common sight in most churches:

I realize that when the Church went all space-agey back in the 1950s and started replacing devotional wax candles with push-button candles, it might have been a bit confusing for some folks who stood before a shrine quite bewildered at what to do in the absence of candle wicks. They may have genuinely needed this placard back then, but, to be sure, we've come a long way. In this day and age we "get" buttons. Just take a look at this sign for confirmation:

Clearly if we know how to be careful with our cell phone buttons, we're going to be okay with pushing the 'candle buttons' at Church. Well yes, but what do we do with these placards you may ask? Meh, keep them, I say. They testify to a different time, and I appreciate that someone had to make a whole mess of them once (are they still made?). I'm just saying that I'm not sure they're necessary anymore.

The cell phone sign, on the other hand, we definitely need. As exciting as it is to hear the theme to the A-Team begin during mass, I doubt Christ ever used a ring tone to impart his message (and, as Catholics, shouldn't we always imagine our lives set to action-themed music anyway? I think so!). So please, please turn off the cell phone! The first 'ring' is annoying; if your phone goes off a second time: there simply isn't a penance for that. A third time and we all have to go to confession for thinking murderous thoughts - unless we're in the crying room, that is, in which case we're stuck in screaming child bliss. Read the signs at Church, please, and make yours and everyone else's experience there a bit more pleasant in a way that extends into eternity or, at least, into the correct bathroom stall!

Sunday, August 21, 2011

100 Steps to Making Pancakes

Sunday is pancake day. This is how we make pancakes in my house. If you know of any way to cut corners on the one hundred steps until pancakes are served at my table please let me know – I’ve tried everything and have resigned myself to this rather breadthy approach (no pun intended…ha):

Step 1: Rouse three year old daughter with a cheerful, “Honey, want some pancakes?” to which she will groggily assent.

Step 2: Head to kitchen where one-year-old son is already removing pans from the cabinet

3: Return pans to cabinet

4: Find die-cast metal car to distract son

5: Return to kitchen. Find appropriate pan. Place on stove

6: Say good morning to still sleepy daughter who walks into kitchen and asks, “Are you making pancakes?”

7: Reassure daughter of the approach of pancake purgatory, I mean, heaven

8: Realize her overnight diaper needs changing

(Steps 9- 20 are all concern potty business)

21: Return to kitchen, grease pan, turn on burner (low heat)

22: Start looking for mix and measuring cups

23: Notice that son has gotten stuck in dining room chair

24: Stop walking over to chair because he’s sorted it out

(Steps 25-31 involve doing this at least three more times)

32: Ask daughter to play with son

33: Whisk ¾ c of water together with 1 c of pancake mix

34: Respond to sudden eruption of crying in the living room

(35- 40 are the steps for resolving die-cast metal car conflict between siblings)

41: Find coloring book and crayons for daughter

42: Return to now heated pan and pour batter (ideal diameter: 4- 6”)

43: Notice that son is back to removing pans and wire racks from the cabinet

44: Return pans and wire racks

45: Admonish son

46: Try to block cabinet with left leg while flipping pancake with right hand

47: Vex son who only becomes more determined and tries to remove your knee with his fingers

48: Admonish son again

49: Flip pancake again

50: Admonish daughter who is telling off son

51: Wipe brow in frustration

52: Physically put son in living room

53: Place chairs to block his approach to the cabinets

54: Find princess plate for daughter and place pancake over Cinderella.

(Steps 55-60: pancake protocol – butter, syrup, slicing etc)

60: Squeeze past chairs, begin cooking second pancake

61: Become distracted by son who has now climbed on chairs and is dangerously pushing them forwards.

(62-75: Steps for preparing breakfast bottle and setting son up at the table to ‘eat’)

76: Realize you forgot to re-grease the pan

77: Say “Okay!” to daughter who is asking for milk

78: Try in vain to flip scorched pancake

79: Say “Okay,” again to daughter’s second request for milk

80: Ask daughter to be patient

81: Scrape half cooked pancake rind into the trash. Clean pan in sink

82: Return pan to burner, repeat steps 21 and 42.

83: Serve daughter milk

84: Cook pancake #3.

(85 – 90: Pancake protocol again)

91: Sit at table.

92: Put son on lap.

93: Instruct daughter who is now asking for water to “Please wait.”

94: Feel guilty

95: Retrieve water

96: Notice daughter also needs a wipe

(97-98 Wipe retrieval steps)

99: Place son on lap and try to feed him pancake

100: When he refuses three times, put him down, watch him and his sister play in the next room while enjoying your still raw-at-the-edges pancake.

Bonus Step: Wonder why you still haven’t bought that electric griddle for pancakes, then file it with the three thousand other things on the ‘to do in the next two years or so’ list.

The End – until next Sunday, when we will be having French toast.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

Saying "Yes to the Dress!" But "No to the Sacrament?" What Gives?

In the last decade, I've attended more Catholic funerals than Catholic weddings. In fact, during that time, those weddings have been: my own, my sister's and a con-validation that took place during an Easter Vigil service (and may I just quickly remark on how beautiful it was to watch a married couple fully enter the Catholic Church in that setting!).

My experience, it turns out, is consistent with the latest statistics on sacramental marriage. In the Bay Area at least, the number of Catholic marriages has sharply declined by almost half in the last twenty years according the San Francisco Archdiocese. And this comes at a time when the Catholic population in the west is reportedly on the rise, and the wedding industry has infiltrated popular culture.

And yet, despite this boom of Catholics and cake shows, many of the lay faithful are saying “Yes to The Dress!” but “No to the Sacrament!”(When they choose to marry at all, that is).   Why is this happening?

In all likelihood, these statistics are the fruit of decades of poor catechesis. Catholics who marry outside of the Church (many of whom attend mass and send their kids to Catholic schools) were probably never taught what the sacrament truly is and I believe that many would choose differently were they properly catechized about holy matrimony.

For me, putting into words how indispensable the efficacious grace of the sacrament is in my life is like the proverbial 'pouring the ocean into a glass.' I personally know how difficult marriage can be. But I also know that the 'marriage state' provides the best conditions for addressing the troubles that arise therein (which is one of the reasons why cohabitation is such an unwise choice - it doesn't provide the certainty of indissolubility implicit within the context of matrimony). Marriage is also one of the very few circumstances where conflict can be addressed in an un-ideologically driven way - in fact the only 'ideology' present between spouses should be the one pulls us closer to faith, and then the closeness to our significant other follows. And there we encounter God's unworldly wisdom in giving us any and all the sacraments to begin with: when we draw closer to Him using the means He has given us, suddenly we've created water-tight confidence in our worldly commitments also.

So how can we go about inviting couples to consider or reconsider marrying in the Church?

Maybe we should ask Mark Wahlberg what convinced him to stand at the altar. Come on, you have to give Marky Mark credit for having a Catholic marriage in the face of all the scrutiny of very anti-Catholic Hollywood! In some ways, it's consistent with his infamous 'go against the grain' attitude - would that we all had a bit more of that handy in our witness at times (and this is one of those times!).

Outside of that, here are three serious suggestions I thought of:

Suggestion 1: Instruct young ones about matrimony before they are engaged. Obviously, many Catholics aren’t going to sign up for pre-cana if they've already decided against a Catholic wedding, so earlier formation, during their teens especially, is crucial. Teachers, why not invite a sacramentally married couple visit your classroom and share the importance of holy matrimony with your students?

Suggestion 2: Parents, take a long, soul searching glance into the mirror. The greatest indicator that your children will have a sacramental marriage is if you are married in the Church. (Just watch, now that I've written this, my kids will be the ones to rebel against it. Thankfully I've already begun the brainwashing by making them watch our wedding DVD repeatedly. Oh no, wait - that's what my three year old daughter forces us to do. "I wanna watch mommy getting mawwied!" If ever a plan did backfire...)

If you are already civilly married, you can have a con-validation like the one I witnessed during that Easter Vigil service or a 'big' wedding like Marky Mark's (isn't that inspiring?). For those who are divorced or annulled, or have a spouse that refuses to marry in the Church, it is still very possible to teach your children a reverence for matrimony and all of the sacraments (whether you are able to receive them currently or not). Why not use your own experience to show how sacramentality or lack-there-of contributes to the strength or breakdown of a marriage?

Last suggestion, and this is for everyone: pray for engaged couples and talk to them.

If an opportunity presents itself, why not probe into whether a couple is open to discussing the sacrament? It doesn't have to be weird. “Is one of you Catholic?” “Do you think you’ll be married in the Church?” you may simply ask. Then, if they are willing to talk, don’t pressure, but respectfully offer your take, “Can you give me just five minutes to share why I think marriage in the Church rocks?” or “Can I just briefly tell you how having the sacrament really helps my wife and I, as a couple and personally?” etc. (Put your own spin on this).

Or simply ask them if they love Jesus, and, if so, gently suggest marrying in His actual presence. Remind them that the reception can be anywhere, and so why not have a Church service? Dispel any myths they may have heard about Church weddings being too expensive (they're supposed to be donation only). After that, assure them that you love them and that God loves them no matter what they decide. You can only plant the seed of truth that Jesus desires to be the guest of honor at their wedding. After that, it's up to them.

You may find these suggestions helpful or not, or you may know of better ones than these (leave a comment!) but hopefully this is a start.

At the end of the day, God created marriage and elevated it to sacramental status for a reason. Clearly He believes that the married state requires a grace that only He can give, so shouldn’t we believe this also?

Marriage is in decline in America, as the Pew Research Center reports and the issues surrounding why are multifaceted. But it doesn't have to be this way; we, as Catholics can do something about it starting with ourselves. A maritally fecund nation can exist again, but we Catholics must believe that marriage in the Church has no worldly substitute. The edification of the common good rests upon how much stock we put in the sacraments and natural law and a return to Holy Matrimony is critical for the recovery of the true meaning of marriage, for ourselves as Catholics and society today.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

The Only Word Not Capitalized on This Billboard is 'God'

Odd. Every word, phrase or hyphenated popular expression is capitalized except for 'god.'  Why might that be, I wonder?
Side note: this billboard is situated where the Walk For Life West Coast begins!

Monday, August 15, 2011

A Teacher's Perspective on the UK Riots

While the riots in the UK demonstrate a barbarism amongst the youth that may shock their parents and grandparents, I'm pretty positive that one group remains completely unsurprised by rioters' disregard for any form of higher authority: teachers.

English journalist, William Oddie of the Catholicherald.co.uk suggests a connection exists between the ability of teachers to enforce discipline and the current wave of crime:

One thing the riots show, however, is that those who looted and burned really don’t believe that there is any objective standard of behaviour by which they are constrained. Why is that? One reason is that nobody has ever told them any different. Not their parents: and probably not their teachers. And at school, even if their teachers are anti-relativists, they almost certainly have very little authority over their pupils (someone should now do a study to see if there is any correlation between the areas in which the rioting originated, and the state of school discipline in those same areas: I bet the correlation is 100 per cent).

Oddie is spot on, at least, in principle. While the imbecilic actions of the protestors reveals a complete disconnect from reality and is rooted in complex issues (especially in post-Christian England), a large social breakdown of civility has occurred in schools regarding student discipline which, as Oddie's quote indicates, we can perhaps correlate to the violence we're seeing now. Teachers today, here and across the pond, encounter unprecedented resistance from students as well as parents when they attempt to hold their classes to basic behavioral expectations.

For many, that schools find their discipline policies consistently challenged comes as no surprise. I've personally known teachers who simply forgo with correcting students altogether due to vehement opposition, especially by parents who often thuggishly demand that they acquiesce to their wishes (versus holding students higher principles of right and wrong). Or the opposite is true: some parents never reinforce the 'higher' lessons learned in school - such as getting along with one's peers or respecting authority - due to sheer laziness or apathy and so some educators simply don't bother anymore with trying to pass on important life lessons in the classroom.

However this treatment of school discipline does not only come from parents. Child psychologists, social workers, family lawyers and other government officials, with enough pressure (or money), will fly into the classroom to 'protect' families feeling any sort of discomfort with classroom management - you know, because discipline is always meant to be a pleasant thing.

But if such 'my will trumps your will' or 'I don't care about character formation for my kid, just pass them' sentiments are so very commonplace amongst adults then why are we so shocked at the degree of violent and pointless mayhem on the part of young rioters? They too are just saying. "My will comes first! Right and wrong...whatever!"

I'm not trying to oversimplify the situation in England; I realize that the collapse of central morality, the family, and a culture of narcissitic victimhood is ultimately behind the UK riots. But I share William Oddie's inference that schools being allowed to hold students to a standard of behavior can be indispensable with staving off senseless disruptions to peace later. Let me put it this way: at one time, not so long ago, when students still cowered in healthy fear when they were disobedient, and the adults rarely dissented from disciplinary decisions – there ran a well-oiled system that ensured harmony in schools, families and society. Rioting was rare then, and only happened in L.A. Generally speaking, children were taught and corrected, authority was respected and violent displays of civil unrest erupting in cities and malls remained anomalies.

Perhaps curbing the current appetite for stealing shoes and watching fire engulf a random double decker bus may be as simple as fostering respect for authority at an early age (um, duh?). And as a child’s formative years typically unfold in the sacrosanct environment of school, perhaps it's also the ideal place to begin instilling reverence for rules and officials. But if a child's first acquaintance with authority in school is mom and dad picketing the teacher’s room when they receive a “B” on a report card, or parents that don't give two hoots for monitoring grades and maturity whatsoever, then please don’t be surprised if those kids grow up to riot and loot in protest over their ‘plight.’

If parents and teachers truly collaborated as allies and endeavored to instruct children with mutual respect, what a genuine partnership for the common good could be formed! It could be a model children that would imitate in their lives rather than the current hullabaloo. More than ever before, civility and recourse to higher principles of morality made present, starting in the home, extending to school and then beyond, is something we need to take seriously.

Read all of Oddie's article here.

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

The Gospel, Hitchcock and Today's Financial Crisis

In Luke’s Gospel, we read:

He who is faithful in a very little thing is faithful also in much; and he who is unrighteous in a very little thing is unrighteous also in much. (16:10 NASB)

It also translates as “He who is righteous or trustworthy in a very little thing etc. etc. and he who is not, etc. ” You get the gist – gotta get the small things right before you can be trusted with bigger responsibilities or graver matters. And as it turns out, those small things aren’t so small as we might think. They’re actually the basis upon which we can have any certainty at all in matters of great importance.

An unlikely source offers us confirmation, albeit fictitiously: Alfred Hitchcock’s "Suspicion"

In "Suspicion," Cary Grant plays Johnny, a mooch husband who mistakenly assumes he's going to live off his wife Lina’s (Joan Fontaine) allowance only to discover it’s too meager and he has to go to work. Instead of holding down a job, Johnny gambles for income and he deceives his wife, who suspects the worst about his depravity of character after she discovers his dishonesty with money. The suspense builds successfully, though, because the audience realizes along with Lina that if Johnny is capable in lying about smaller matters such as money, he may just be capable of worse things, such as murder.

Again, the foundation of trust in larger matters builds on how soundly someone manages concerns of lesser importance.

Now the link to today’s financial crisis.

Not that it’s a small thing, but we’re in a rather serious economic slump here. It’s so bad it’s surreal.

As important things go, however, money is still less important than moral matters. But if money handling is any indication of a more deeply rooted immoral character (as per my Hitchcock example) then how suspect should we be of the government in instances where it attempts to influence life and death matters, the family, conscience formation, and faith?

So far, we know that our current administration's deviously brokered national healthcare plan requires the violation of consciences for medical workers (according to their own admission). They are attempting to mandate that private health care companies cover contraception, including an abortifacient pill (though the majority of Americans oppose this). Add to this, the push for a federal redefinition of marriage despite the fact that individual voting states have historically opposed it - and you arrive at a government which, if you only suspected that it did not have America's true interests at heart before now, then perhaps the plummeting Dow can give clearer picture on how invested 'they' are in protecting the concerns of Americans over non-material issues.

But, to them, voting Americans are the ones who can’t be trusted, and to justify trying to impose their version of morality on the rest of us, they trivialize our values and then try to excise our right to vote on upholding them. What sways our politicians mostly, it seems, is money, which, for them, ranks above morality in importance. But, even so, the Gospel’s message still holds true: if they still haven’t gotten the lesser, ‘mundane’ (to them, anyway) concern of America’s moral compass right, how on earth are they going to know how to invest and spend our money well?

Answer: they’re not. They’re going to bailout the people who don’t need it, make alliances with our not-so-true-blue allies, and invest in causes that no one really believes in. Moral bankruptcy, it seems adequately forecasts financial bankruptcy and, in this case, visa versa. But we don't have accept it, we can do something about it. Suggestion, for what it’s worth: let’s next elect a candidate who “gets” the not-so-small matter of America's Faith and then perhaps we can again have confidence in achieving the grand promise of economic stability on our soil again.

And interesting site, DefeattheDebt.com, link here.
And, of course, Catholicvote.org, link here.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

How Not To Be a Frowny Faced Catholic

When it came to convincing Eve to eat the apple, it was all in the marketing.

“See this? It’s not that bad,” the devil said to Eve (paraphrased, of course). And indeed, to Eve, it didn’t seem that bad. (Pretty tricksie on the devil’s part considering she wouldn’t really have known what how bad bad could get in a prelapsarian state). So she ate. That was all…and that was enough: here we are today still battling our fallen nature.

The marketing hasn’t changed either. “That really bad thing, yeah, it’s not that bad,” comes the monotonously repetitive message of culture.

Only today the ‘fruit’ the devil now offers to tempt us away from God has become more dynamic. A temptation may come disguised as a completely reasonable or inevitable option. And I am personally convinced that the devil still has one last 'fruit' with which to tempt the fully convinced Catholic and that is grumpiness.

But grumpiness doesn’t seem like such a bad thing, does it? We are Catholic, after all, and the world always half expects us to be miserable anyway, right? That and we have so much more to live up to, don’t we, and so many battles on all sides we fight every day? If people only knew what we suffer, they too would see how tough it is to crack out the tidings of good cheer!

See what I did there? I just listed all of the reasons that sometimes enable me to shirk not giving the world a cheerful face and it all amounts to the devil’s most frequently used, base marketing strategy of “it’s not that bad.” Why does the devil bother with making us just plain old glumbots? Because it works; in fact, it’s deadly! Let me explain.

The hedonist is the most boring person for the devil to try to tempt because he knows they’re going to ‘give in’ anyway. A Catholic, on the other hand, who is really trying to adhere to Church teachings and live a faithful life is much more fun for the devil to take down. Therefore, he tempts us with discontentedness, for, just in case we still manage to go to mass, say our rosaries and do charitable works, he knows we can still accomplish those things with downtrodden expressions, feelings of resentment and bitterness in our hearts.

That way, when others see how much ‘doing good in God’s name,’ doesn’t make us happy, they’re put off by faith altogether. And why should people believe if the so-called professed ‘believers’ are just as miserable as everyone else? Not believing, then, becomes an understandable thing and we are back to temptation in its most deceptive form: reasonableness. The stakes are really that high, and that’s why the devil keeps that ‘frowny face Catholic’ card handy (especially on Sundays as you are getting ready to go mass, I think).

Bottom line, without cheerfulness, we neutralize ourselves in our faith, so that we are indistinguishable from the next pagan on the street (and the sad fact is that many such pagans often seem to be more content than we do)! So how do we do it? How do arrive at a genuine, divinely rooted cheerfulness that is not based on our emotions or anything worldly whatsoever?

First of all, accept yourself as you are. If you are like me, you may struggle with being cheery but don't beat yourself up over it! Take a deep breath and realize that God already knows intimately where you are on the lightheartedness spectrum and when we are the most tempted to feel down. And no, I don’t think cheerfulness is just a personality thing – we are all genuinely called to be light to the world, and not groggy swamp things.

Secondly, allow yourself to be ministered to. We all carry wounds within us which may hinder our attempts at cheer, which simply need time, mercy and love to heal. Healing requires patience and the medicine often tastes bitter. But prayer, prayer, and prayer is the way to bear a cross, or sometimes, even a blessing. I realize that it probably feels cliché to hear someone say “Pray!” but, I ask you, do we really know of a better way? Jesus often went off on His own to be alone and converse with God. If He needed it, well, good heavens, I’m pretty sure we do also.

Lastly, but not last by any means (you may even want to start with this) – do something for someone else. If you can, why not sacrifice in some way for someone else? St. Josemaria Escriva once wrote that, "To give oneself sincerely to others is so effective that God rewards it with a humility filled with cheerfulness." While I don’t completely comprehend the mystery of why saints actually prayed to suffer crosses, I suspect it has something to do with how suffering potentially stops us from worrying about lesser, worldly concerns, and compels us to submerge ourselves into loving others.

And is there any greater subversion to the devil’s prerogative than by being conformed to Christ through sacrifice? I doubt it.

Following these three suggestions, if it still seems impossibly hard to muster a smile, it may be helpful to consider the following (it is for me, anyway): cheerfulness is probably the best mindset for accomplishing God’s will. In other words, maybe the moment we stop bemoaning all of the world’s imperfections and injustices, we may actually start acting in a way that genuinely brings a sense of Christ’s kingdom to others. As our Holy Father reminds us in Jesus of Nazareth:
The 'Kingdom of God' is not to be found on any map...it is located in man's inner being. It grows and radiates outward from that inner space.
I suppose I've grown more sensitive to cheerfulness as I get older, mostly because I rarely encounter it 'in the world' these days. Think about it - how often do we actually find someone with a carefree, childlike attitude that pays no heed to bad weather, or being cut off in traffic, or stuck in a slow line etc.?

Actually, I'll tell you where I have found it glimmers of it recently: amongst those with Down Syndrome. One high functioning DS group visits my gym and when I've spoken with some of them, I've been absolutely floored by how friendly and un-selfconscious they are! It's made a huge impact on me spiritually and I'm still praying about how I can model their behavior in my life. More posts about this in the future, I am sure!

As Christians, more sanguiness in our witness is never a bad thing. One of my favorite quotes about this comes from Patrick Madrid: "You can't hear the world laughing at you if you are laughing harder than the world is. But if you aren't laughing, man oh man, can you really hear it loud."

By the same token if you are laughing louder, those around you might just wonder what you have that makes you regard your super-Catholic yoke as light and easy. Then they might try this whole Faith thing, because Faith, it would seem, is not that bad after all. Truthfully, in Faith we have the fullness of life, which is not easy but totally worth it. Now that’s a divine marketing plan that we can all get into!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

In Praise of Google Maps

I remember road navigation pre-satellite power. Most distinctly I recall hastily folded and refolded maps stuffed-until-stuck in the side pockets of the driver and passenger side doors until our journeys warranted their use.  We had maps for nearly every state in the west and southwest from our own California to Texas.  And that was only the state maps.

My parents also kept detailed city maps for several of our favorite haunts and a thick wire-bound US atlas that lived under a chair (mostly because it did not fit in the door or glove box). It was commonplace to stop at gas stops and convenience stores to buy the local map. I admit I loved finding our location on paper maps back then. And I still enjoy 'seeing' where exactly I'm at - only now the map I look at happens to be on my phone and consist of a pulsating blue dot that moves wherever I move.

Say what you will about how Google maps has misdirected you at times, I personally believe that it has added to life immensely, to our ease of navigation now on family vacations or wherever we are. The usual stress over pondering where the next gas station is or whether we are going to run into traffic is gone. And, of course, Google map's greatest attribute is that it does get you where you need to go the majority of the time.

So far, for my husband and I, our family car has never known a paper map... Not that I dislike them, but do you remember the angst involved in trying to refold those things correctly? It always took careful crease analysis and and a few attempts to get it right!

Gone now are the days when one needed to drive around to find a place to eat: now just type in "food" and a dozen red pins drop near your blinking blue dot location.

Gone also is wondering "how long until" we get there. So now when the kids ask "Are we there yet?" You can simply pass them the phone or point to the GPS and wittily retort,"Ask the map."

I also can't emphasize enough just how much it has enriched my whole domestic life being able to type something as basic as "store" and "Starbucks" (c'mon, it's basic, right?) and have all of my options come up wherever I am. It has literally saved us while on vacation or in unfamiliar locations. 

For us, Google maps is a lifesaver ... with a lot less folding involved. Don't get me wrong, I'm all for teaching children navigation but the first map our little ones may behold these days may just be digital and that's okay with me! But the moment they start saying things to a paper map like "school" or "home" or "Starbucks," then we'll have to talk.