Category Archives: Faith

Rewriting Pope Francis

I’m not normally a fan of dumbing down language, but I think there are some areas where clear and concise communication can be useful.

Religious instruction, for example.

I’m trying to read the “Year of Mercy” Companion every morning (don’t ask me how ‘religious’ I’ve been about it. As with my actual religious faith, sometimes I’ve been more successful with this commitment than others).

I thought I might start tearing out the pages that inspire me and pinning them to the fridge so that the rest of the family can stumble across them.

But, when I read this morning’s except from Misericordia Vultus, I really struggled to understand it. I can’t imagine it would hold the interest of an 11 year old boy (or a 48 year old boy, for that matter).

So I tried to rewrite it in more accessible language. It was an interesting exercise for me, and I’m going to record what I did here. I know I’m on shaky theological ground here, but I wish someone more qualified had done the translation in a  more accessible way.

Here’s the original:

The Church lives an authentic life when she…proclaims mercy—the most stupendous attribute of…the Redeemer—and when she brings people close to the sources of the Savor’s mercy…

It is precisely because sin exists in the world…that God, who is love, cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy. This corresponds…to the whole interior truth of man and of the world which iceman’s temporary homeland. Mercy in itself, as a perfection of the infinite God, is also infinite. Also infinite therefore and inexhaustible is the Father’s readiness to receive the prodigal children who return to his home. Infinite are the readiness and power of forgiveness which flow continually from the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son.

No human sin can prevail over this power or even limit it. On the part of man only a lack of good will can limit it, a lack of readiness to be converted and to repent, in other words persistence in obstinacy, opposing grace and truth, especially in the face of the witness of the cross and Resurrection of Christ. Therefore, the Church professes and proclaims conversion. Confession to God also consists in discovering his mercy….Authentic knowledge of the God of mercy, the God of tender love, is a constant and inexhaustible source of conversion…as a permanent attitude, as a state of mind.

See what I mean? Apart from the twisted sentence structure, the bigger problem is that uses jargon, it is written for a very specialized audience, who understands what “the marvelous value of the sacrifice of the Son” is, and who doesn’t have to search their memory of childhood catechism lessons (if they were lucky enough to have had them) for what the precise definition of ‘conversion’ is.

I understand that “cannot reveal himself otherwise than as mercy” has a certain emphatic ring that “can only reveal himself as mercy” lacks, but it’s also hopelessly convoluted. And I speak as someone who loves a long sentence.

So here’s my attempt to write this more accessibly.

The most astonishing thing about Jesus is His mercy. That is what we, the people of the Church, must be all about. Mercy.

God is love. This world—our temporary home—is full of sin and temptation. The only way He can show Himself to us here, is through mercy.

God is infinite (unending, everywhere and everywhen). So is His mercy. He is always ready to forgive the prodigal child who comes home. We can’t wear him out. The sacrifice of His son is the proof. We can’t change that.

We can refuse his mercy, though. If we can look at Jesus on the cross and say ‘no’ to mercy and forgiveness, we are not walking with God.

The Church’s message is, “Walk with God. Live an authentic Christian life.”

God is mercy. God is an inexhaustible source of tender love. He offers us all the tools we need to accept his invitation to walk with Him.

Accepting Him is a decision we must make all day, every day, with his help. Luckily, we can’t wear out God’s mercy. He is always there, offering us his hand.

That’s my interpretation, anyway.

And that’s a God—and a Church—that, even on my worst day, I could believe in.

How I Made Some New Habits Stick, in January

Habits Update Jan 2016

Last month I was writing about habits over at StoryADay.org and trying out various ways to change my habits — not just for a day or two, but for the whole month.

I had varying degrees of success and I learned a thing or two. I thought I’d share them here.

picture of Asian Zoodle Salad Jar from FoxesLoveLemons.com

photo: FoxesLoveLemons.com

Habits I Was Trying To Develop In January

  • Taking a new medication every morning (Routine? Ugh!)
  • Writing fiction regularly, to a goal of 10K words a month.
  • Reading a spiritual meditation every day.
  • Tracking my food intake.

Things That Went Well

Anchoring

I wrote about this at the start of the month. I had taken part in a study once that used this technique to make habits stick, so I knew it ought to be powerful, but I don’t think I really believed I could make it work so well.

But I did.

Now, every morning when I wake up, I roll over and take the medicine that’s sitting next to my bed. (My incentive to remember this is actually pretty perfect: it has to be take on an empty stomach, so if I don’t stick to this, my first coffee is delayed by every minute I waste. Aargh!)

My 30-day challenge for January was to read a spiritual meditation every morning. I anchored that habit to “the moment my son gets in the shower”.

Logging

Logging My Words

I have had a love-hate relationship with logging in the past. When I set daily goals for my writing, all it did was make me feel terrible. Partly because I was setting ‘best of all possible worlds’ numbers. And partly because I’m not built to write consistently every day.

Realizing this, I settled on 10,000 words of fiction a month, early last year, and made that my goal.

Logging the words (especially on a day when the writing is going slowly) really helps me to feel like I’m making progress.

Unexpected Bonus

My fitness trainer, sick of hearing me whine about how I can’t lose weight, made me promise to log my food intake. He promised he wouldn’t judge me: that we were just going to use what I wrote down as data. (He made me sign something because I was making such terrible faces at him).

And when I thought about it, I knew, from logging my words, that I could use the data to help me feel better. So I did. And I went from losing no weight (or gaining) to losing a pound a week two weeks in a row! (Trust me, for me, this is huge).

The simple act of recording and quantifying a thing is a powerful way to take misconception and emotion out of the equation.

  • Setting a reasonable goal (323 words a day or 1300-ish calories) and trying to meet it MOST days, is manageable.
  • Tracking it, over a month or more, lets you see that you are neither as awesome nor as awful as you suspect you are, on any given day. And that’s OK. Because “consistent” is what will win the race.

Make It Friction Free

Everything that worked to make my habits stick, was based on my lifelong pursuit of laziness efficiency.

If I have to prepare a lot of stuff before I start on The Thing, I’ll never get to The Thing. So I try my best to have a smooth entry into every task.

My medicine

…lives by my bed and my lovely husband brings me a glass of water every day when he gets his first coffee. If I had to get up and go downstairs, find my meds wherever I dumped them yesterday, find my slippers because the kitchen floor is cold, get water, then take the pill, I would not get it right every day.

Spiritual Meditation

My book of spiritual meditations is sitting next to the bed with a hairpin marking the page of the next meditation (because I always have hairpins lying around). As soon as I hear the shower turn on, I grab the book. It takes very little time to read, but having it on my bedside table, and anchored to a specific action is what makes this habit work.

If I had to search for the book every day, my son would be out of the shower and demanding breakfast before I’d even picked it up. If I tried to find a time every day to squeeze it in, I’d end up scrambling to read the meditation as I fell asleep every night, which wouldn’t be nearly as effective.

Fiction Writing

I keep all the notes for my novel in the same notebook I use as my journal and my list-maker and my ‘taking notes while on the phone’ book. This saves me from having to find the right book either when I want to make notes, or when I want to find them again.

I number all the pages and, from time to time, go through and add to the “table of contents” that I create in the back few pages of the book. This helps me scan through the ToC and find out where my latest brilliant idea is, for the next part of the novel. I also have a list of scenes that I know I want to write soon, right in Scrivener. They’re brainstormed and ready to go, which helps me figure out what to write each time I sit down.

Food

Food, ah food. How I love it. But one of the reasons I eat badly is also the reason I hate logging food: I don’t plan ahead.

If I’m scrambling for lunch when I’m already hungry, then whatever is to hand is what goes in my mouth. Lots of it. Then I have to figure out how much I ate and how to log that (I use MyFitnessPal, which is good because it has a massive database of food, but bad because you have to find the foods, then figure out how to quantify your portion, then do it again for every component of a recipe…)

In January I took my doctor’s advice (a lovely woman who struggles with all the same issues I do!), and started making up salad jars. It’s an easy portion-control method and means I always have something to grab. It almost doesn’t matter what I put in there, because of the built-in portion control aspect.

I pick one recipe a week, shop for the small quantities you need to fill four 16 oz mason jars, then spend a little while on Sunday or Monday, making up lunches for the week ahead. (I like this Spicy Peanut Zoodle Recipe and her Chicken and Spinach salad jars with grapes and a mustard-thyme dressing. I know I’m a year or two behind on the Mason Jar Salad trend, but I’m here now. Let’s party!) Even making up your own dressing and chopping veg doesn’t seem so bad when you do it once and feed yourself four times. And I LOVE all the freshness and crunch. I especially love being able to open the fridge and eat instantly (mmm, fooooooood).

The other thing (and why I went off on this rant in the first place) is that if I eat the same thing every day (or rotate a few receipes over a few weeks) I can log the ‘meal’ in MyFitnessPal once and I never have to enter in all those individual ingredients again. I just select “Asian Zoodle Jar” from the “My Recipes” tab, and it’s done.

See? Friction Free.

It doesn’t work for every meal or every situation, but batch-cooking makes it easier to prepare healthy meals and log them. (I know, rocket science, right? Reinventing the wheel, sure. Discovering things for yourself: sometimes essential!)

What I’m Still Working On

Weekends

Our routine goes way out of whack at the weekends. I need to develop different anchors for the some of the habits at weekends.

Also, I get embarrassed about logging my food. I don’t know why, but I do. Any suggestions for getting over that?

This Month’s 30-day Challenge

This month I’m trying to relax for 15 minutes a day, with something unrelated to housework or reading/writing (I’m mostly doing meditation, exercise, knitting, and musical things so far).

I don’t have a good way to trigger this. I’m thinking maybe ‘after lunch’, but that’s kind of nebulous. I do need to take a little sanity break midday, but I haven’t found a good way to anchor it yet. Do you have any ideas for me?

Next month I’ll be back to talk about my Relaxation Challenge and about the Permission To Write theme I’m writing about all month long at the StoryADay blog.

What Happens When You Give Up On Facebook

Flower alone

I gave up Facebook for Lent when I discovered that I was frantically checking it to see who would wish my son a happy birthday, and getting upset when there weren’t enough ‘likes’ for my birthday-related post.

That was when I realized I was losing my mind. My FB use was unhealthy. It was Ash Wednesday. So FB had to go.

At first it was…weird not to know what was going on with all my neighbors and friends.

Then, people started sending me personal emails when they needed me. That was glorious.

Next, I discovered that pushing towards a hard deadline without the distraction of FB was a joy and a privilege.

Now that my deadline has passed along with four weeks of Lent, I’ll admit I’m feeling a little isolated.

The phrase I hear most often these days (from people who don’t live in my house), is “Oh, that’s right! You’re not on Facebook” before they fill me in on something that happened that everyone else knows about.

Yes, we’ve become so reliant of FB that no-one hardly anyone contacts friends directly to talk about stuff anymore.

I’ll admit it’s partly my own fault. I’ve come to loathe the telephone. But one nice friend did text me directly to ask if I’d heard the news about Terry Pratchett. The fact that she texted me (just me, not a random blast of friends on her wall) told me that she had thought about me and conversations we’ve had in the past. It meant a lot, and highlighted just how little we (I?) do this kind of thing anymore.

I have another friend who sends me things she thinks I’ll like *through the mail*. Not expensive things. Articles, fliers, books-she’s-finished-with. But things she knows I’ll like. Me, not some random subset of her audience of social media.

It seems very odd to be saying all this, given that I am the queen of the blog/social media network/text message. But I think my Lenten sacrifice is teaching me something. One-to-one interactions are meaningful. I shouldn’t assume that ‘putting something out there’ is enough. Sometimes a tailored, personal contact is exactly what someone needs.

I will stay strong. I will stay off FB. I will try to be better at taking the narrower path.