Friday, September 26, 2014

Quick Takes: What? No slippery slope?

1)  So, I think I have at least six readers left, and at least two of them have actually contacted me to ask me if I am okay, since I have been so scarce around here!

Yes, I am definitely okay, and I truly apologize for being such a pathetic excuse for a blogger. My story this time is that I went to visit my second daughter and her new husband in Charleston, SC! So much fun! I am completely, 100% over my fear of flying (I even took the red eye alone to get to the east coast and thoroughly enjoyed it) -- I guess the desire to see one's children can crush a phobia.

Meanwhile, my husband went to his 25th college reunion at Emory University in Atlanta for a couple of days, and then he joined me in South Carolina. And oh my goodness, for a few moments he and I sat blissfully in the lobby of the Francis Marion Hotel in downtown Charleston -- the site of the 2015 Edel Gathering!! It is gorgeous, ladies! Consider making the trip!

Thanks to my wonderful mom and my oldest son (a senior in college) for helping to care for the kiddies while we were gone! It's been a million years since Dean and I have flown off and had a vacation together far away. Usually we do 24-hour getaways just down the street, but now that I'm flying again, we may be going to far-flung places a lot more often!

Anyway, since I've been traveling, it's been hard for me to catch up with everything else in my life and to clear the way for blogging. I trust that will change now that I don't have trips planned for a while.

Also (in case you're interested in my psychology), I find that it's so much more fun to have the interesting combox conversations than it is to write the original post in the first place. I think it's because I'm too picky about my own writing and it takes so long to satisfy the editor in my head. :) Maybe I need to let some of that perfectionism go so that we can actually have some combox conversations again!

2) Thank you to my wonderful son-in-law Dirk for helping my husband fulfill his dream of (finally!!) shooting a gun. More than one gun, in fact. And he was a good shot! Killed a zombie or two, and some bad guys.

We had a wonderful time at the range, and seeing the salt of the earth folks there -- husbands with wives, women alone and with friends, law enforcement and military -- just made me feel good to know that if ISIS comes around, there will be plenty of citizens that are not going down without a very strong fight!

3)  So many people deny the slippery slope when it comes to issues of sexuality and marriage, but I just wonder if they are following the news at all? It's so obvious that one "progression" leads to the next, and it happens with such predictability that I am baffled when people still scoff. Here is the latest, but certainly not the last:

Incest a 'fundamental right', German committee says

According to the ironically-named "German Ethics Council":
“The fundamental right of adult siblings to sexual self-determination is to be weighed more heavily than the abstract idea of protection of the family.”
You got that? Sexual urges are paramount. They trump all.

Look, Germany has the premise all wrong about the truth and meaning of human sexuality, but if you accept the faulty premise, then the logic is sound. If the standard is that "consenting adults" may do whatever they want sexually, then incest is perfectly legit, and should be legal. Marriage equality, y'all. People who say it should mean it, no? And more and more, they do mean it. Just last week I was debating gay "marriage" with a young man, and when pressed, he admitted that he has no problem with incest.

From a German academic, via Professor Robert P. George on Facebook:
"And here comes the best of it: Immediately [after the German Ethics Council's decision] discussions started about legalization of zoophilia. Recently there were reports of increased sex tourism to Denmark where zoophilia is legal already."
Western European nations are the "enlightened" nations, keep in mind, and the legalization of bestiality is being openly discussed and in some places is already allowed.

But remember, "There is no slippery slope!"  ;)

4)  I love this C.S. Lewis quote, posing a conundrum about atheism that has always puzzled me. Namely, why do atheists trust their brains to give them truth?

“Supposing there was no intelligence behind the universe, no creative mind. In that case, nobody designed my brain for the purpose of thinking. It is merely that when the atoms inside my skull happen, for physical or chemical reasons, to arrange themselves in a certain way, this gives me, as a by-product, the sensation I call thought. But, if so, how can I trust my own thinking to be true? It's like upsetting a milk jug and hoping that the way it splashes itself will give you a map of London. But if I can't trust my own thinking, of course I can't trust the arguments leading to Atheism, and therefore have no reason to be an Atheist, or anything else. Unless I believe in God, I cannot believe in thought: so I can never use thought to disbelieve in God.”

Anyone have a good refutation of his argument?

5) What kind of granny would I be if I did not post more pictures of Felicity Virginia??

There is her serious look (much like her own mother, who was always "thinking" at that age):

Three months old! This was taken on her mother's 23rd birthday.

There is also her amused and whimsical look:

And of course, practicing for her future canonization, there is her look (and pose) of sanctity:

6) Lest anyone accuse this granny of playing favorites, here is my second beautiful grandchild! Sex still unknown, but isn't he/she beautiful?? I can hardly wait till March! Ahhhhh!

Thank you to our dear daughters and sons-in-law, for being so open to life! What a gift that is to our whole family!

7) If you or someone you know is open to the gift of a child for your family, please consider happy and lovely seven-year-old Angelina, who has spina bifida:

Click my photo for more info!

From her information page:
From a family who met her in June 2014:  "Somebody come get this girl, Angelina.  She is such an awesome kid.  So happy and smart. She just needs a family and she will thrive. She is 7 and may be in an institution soon. She does not belong there.” 
A family who met her in 2011 says she’s the happiest child, always smiling and laughing.

Please pray for Angelina and spread the word!


Have a joy-filled weekend, and thanks to Jen for hosting!

Friday, September 12, 2014

Ted Cruz blew it.

Honestly, as a Palestinian married to a Jew, I am both compelled and repelled by the situation in the Middle East.

My dad was born in the Holy Land, and he was just ten years old when his mother left dinner cooking on the stove in the rush to get her five children out of the country during the Arab-Israeli war of 1948 (i.e., the establishment of the modern state of Israel). The young Catholic family fled to Egypt, forever leaving behind everything they had and knew. They were even for a while without their husband and father, as my grandfather ended up in a refugee camp somewhere in the desert, his wife and children not knowing for six months if he were dead or alive. Can you imagine?

The situation in the Middle East is delicate. It is complicated. It is nuanced. It has a history going back thousands of years, which is hard for Americans to grasp. I support Israel, but I do not support every action of Israel. I love the Jewish people, and I love my fellow Christian Arabs. I abhor the violence and persecution that is occurring in the Middle East by radical, brutal Islamists with no conscience, and I believe that unfathomable evil must be stopped. I stand with my Christian brothers and sisters who are undergoing hardships that we in the west cannot (yet) imagine, and that is why I am so disturbed by what Senator Ted Cruz said and did the other night at a gathering meant to support those suffering Christians.

I know the organizer of the In Defense of Christians Summit (IDC), and it is heartbreaking that the only narrative coming out of the days-long event are reports of "bigotry" leveled at persecuted Christians who are now being accused of supporting terrorists. This unfortunate outcome is largely thanks to Ted Cruz's stepping in doo-doo, then walking off the stage when his ill-advised comments were not embraced. He continues his self-righteous grandstanding in the regular and social media, and I can't make sense of his tone-deafness, arrogance, lack of finesse, and/or lack of geopolitical knowledge and insight. I honestly thought he was smarter than that.

But I guess I am getting ahead of myself.

If you are not familiar with the story, here's an overview of what happened that night:

Click and read the whole article, but here is an excerpt:
...When Cruz took the stage, however, after two days of declarations of Christian unity and recognition of the widespread persecution of peoples of all faiths, his remarks emphasized his devotion to the state of Israel. The crowd applauded faithfully as Cruz made the argument that ISIS, al-Qaeda, Hamas, and Hezbollah, as well as Syria and Iran, were all equal participants in genocidal bigotry. Cruz then transitioned. After saying, “Our purpose here tonight is to highlight a terrible injustice. A humanitarian crisis. Christians, are being systematically exterminated,” Cruz then turned to the 1948 formation of Israel, a sensitive subject for many Palestinian Christians, and declared that "today, Christians have no greater ally than the Jewish state.” 
It was at that point that some in the audience objected to Cruz turning a celebration of Christian unity into a lecture on a divisive subject that many in the crowd experienced as part of their everyday lives. Cruz returned accusations of hatred. Even then, most of the crowd tried to reconcile with him as Cruz continued on to speak about “Jews and Christians alike who are persecuted by radicals [applause] who seek to—[applause]. If you hate the Jewish people you are not reflecting the teachings of Christ [applause].” As he continued to press the issue, however, the crowd increasingly urged him to “move on” and booed, leading him to lament those “consumed with hate” and depart. 

More analysis for those who are not familiar with the geopolitical realities of the region:

Some highlights:

When Cruz was supposed to give the keynote address and discuss the deadly serious topic of persecution of Christians, he instead insulted a largely immigrant and foreign crowd as a group that didn’t understand their own political situation and stomped out of the room after calling them a bunch of haters.

Yeah, that's not so smart.

Christians who are persecuted have political views that may not align with U.S. interests. Who knew? For many of us, our concern about genocide of Christians isn’t limited to those who are perfectly aligned with our views. 
Ya think?

And this:
One can certainly argue in support of Cruz’s statement — politically, at least — and yet also recognize how fraught the topic is for Christians in the region.

It's worth noting here that Ted Cruz is an evangelical Christian, and evangelical Christians have a different biblical and political understanding of the modern state of Israel than Catholics do. Catholics know that the "new Israel" is the Church. By contrast, evangelicals view the establishment of the modern state of Israel in 1948 as some sort of biblical fulfillment with heavy eschatological implications. Ted Cruz is an evangelical, and that influences (and skews) his understanding of things.

The Church herself is very sensitive to the plight of Palestinians and of Christians in the Middle East. While supportive of Israel's right to exist, the Church has always been prudent and measured in how she speaks of these delicate issues. Catholics must think with the mind of the Church, even more than we think of American or Israeli (or any nation's) interests. American Catholics too often default to the Protestant understanding of things in this predominately Protestant culture, but we would do well to stand with the understanding and experiences of our fellow Catholics -- the bishops, priests, and laity of the actual region.

I regret that the hard efforts of so many people working for unity and to help our persecuted brethren has turned into something divisive. Cruz is no dummy; he should have been savvy enough to know better, and he should not continue to agitate and grandstand this issue now. It's also sad (if predictable) that many in the media have taken to sound-byte sensationalism instead of taking time and care to give us real perspective, real journalism.

But hope springs eternal, and Christ will bring good out of this unnecessary debacle. From IDC president Toufic Baaklini:
For more than 48 hours, our initial IDC conference was successfully bridging divides of faith, language, geography and politics. It has not been easy, and not without challenges. Tonight’s events make clearer than ever, that the [IDC] is desperately needed in a world that remains divided to the point where even the most fundamental value of life and human dignity are cast aside.

Amen, and Lord have mercy.

**UPDATE: Here's an excellent summary of what happened in that room, from Catholic Vote...

What I saw at the "In Defense of Christians" Summit 

And here's an excellent interview with IDC Executive Director, Andrew Doran, who is the brother of a dear friend of mine. He explains all the amazing and seemingly impossible things that were accomplished at the summit, despite the Ted Cruz sideshow:

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Where were you on September 11, 2001?

Such a painful day for America.

Thirteen years later, it almost seems like it was just a bad dream, doesn't it? Then again, it's such a part of us that I don't really remember what life here was like before the terror of that day.

I cannot imagine what it is like for the survivors when this anniversary comes around.

Today, I want to ask you to share your memories of that day. Where were you when you found out what was happening? What did you do? Did it affect your faith? Did you know anyone who perished or lost a loved one? Feel free to mention those people so that we can honor their memories and pray for them.

I was 34 years old in 2001, my husband and I having recently settled into our new home with our five children, all under the age of ten. It was very early in Arizona when the Twin Towers were attacked, and I was awakened by a call from my friend Bethany. She was crying and told me to turn on the TV. Groggily, I did, and what I saw was like something out of a movie: The first tower had black smoke billowing around it. The second tower had not yet been hit. As the second plane hit, and then the collapse of the first tower, and later the second tower, I watched with a combination of shock and horror. The reporters were as stunned as the rest of us.

Somewhere in those first minutes I went downstairs to tell my husband what was happening, and we watched together until the children woke up, at which point we turned off the family TV and denied access to the TV in our bedroom. We didn't tell the children anything as far as I can remember (it was too traumatic and confusing to sort through at the moment), and all but the youngest (a one-year-old) went off to school.

My husband went to work, but within an hour or so I asked him to come home. He worked for the government at the time, and I was terrified that government buildings were going to come under attack. No one knew what to think, so my husband, like so many others, came home. Together, we took our baby to his scheduled Gymboree class, and the few people who showed up were as subdued as we were, exchanging somber, worried looks, but barely talking to one another as we went through the motions of singing and playing with our children. We came home, and the rest of the day was spent watching news coverage in disbelief. I've lost the memory of when the Pentagon was hit, or when the heroes of United 93 took down their plane in a Pennsylvania field. There was much confusion about how many airplanes may have been hijacked, and the nation was bracing for more attacks. I don't remember how or when my older children got home.

It was surreal.

Nothing would ever be the same.

I kept repeating to myself, "Lord, have mercy."

May we never forget the victims and their families, and may we continue to pray for all of those who suffered so terribly at the hands of brutal mass murderers.

Please tell me your story of that day.

Monday, September 8, 2014

Happy Birthday, Blessed Mother!

Today we joyfully celebrate the Nativity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, our Mother! Mary made herself known to me in an extraordinary way when I was just a little girl, and she waited patiently for me, with a mother's love, while I wandered in the darkness for many years. I thank my wonderful parents, and my father especially, for instilling in my heart a deep love for Our Lady.

To honor our Heavenly Mother on her birthday, please leave a comment telling us what she means to you, how she has affected your life and faith journey, or how she has led you to her Divine Son. I can't wait to hear!

"The day of the Nativity of the Mother of God is a day of universal joy, 
because through the Mother of God, the entire human race was renewed, 
and the sorrow of the first mother, Eve, was transformed into joy."

-- Saint John Damascene, Father and Doctor of the Church

Mary, Mother of God, by Tracy L. Christianson

“In trial or difficulty I have recourse to Mother Mary, 
whose glance alone is enough to dissipate every fear.” 

-- Saint Therese of Lisieux, Doctor of the Church