Where Logic Meets Love

Blog Comment Carnival: March 2012

Saturday, March 31, 2012

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Blog Comment Carnival: March 2012 | Faith Permeating Life

Wow, the end of March snuck up on me! Sorry for getting this up a little late.

Lots of awesome discussions going on this month! Here are some of my favorite comments that were left on the blog.

On "The Last Thing I Ever Said to Him...": 5 Tips for Avoiding Last-Conversation Fears, Mórrígan said:
When my dad had a stroke, my little brother (aged 11 at the time) was the only person home. Dad was trying to pack himself a bag while the ambulance was on the way (he was also dizzy and slurring speech), and my brother had to get him to sit still. He just yelled at him, "Dad, sit down and shut up!" so he would stop exerting himself. My brother was so terrified that those were going to be the last words he said to my dad.

This also reminds me of my rule of telling people that I love them, no matter how awkward it feels. The day after the Columbine shooting (when I was 11), my dad stopped us all as we were leaving for school and said he wanted a hug and a kiss and to say he loved us, because "you never know what might happen" (which sounds a lot more foreboding and doomsday-paranoid than it felt at the time, I assure you). From then on, I never left the house without giving my parents a hug and a kiss and telling them I loved them. When I was younger, our neighbor had passed away at age 100. He had meant a great deal to me, but being so young, I didn't take the opportunity to tell him I loved him when he was really sick. These experiences added up for me, and I when someone means a lot to me, I always tell them. That's why I told Husband that I loved him long before we were even dating, because I just wanted him to know how important his friendship was to me.

Everyone really came through for me when I asked for help describing Faith Permeating Life in the post "It's Like... a Christian... Marriage Blog?"

Greg Calhoun said:
I think your blog is about publicly living and sharing your faith, with all its practical implications. That is refreshing because many people treat faith as a strictly private venture, which in my opinion doesn't mesh particularly well with Jesus' public preaching and ministry.

I see the topics (marriage, happiness, career etc.) as being all about how you make choices that fit your understanding of your faith and how you want to practice it in a variety of contexts.

Q said:
I think the diversity of your target audience has something to do with it; the concept of "dialogue" immediately came to me as a unifying factor, although you do touch on a range of topics. You blog from a specific viewpoint of faith (specifically that of Catholic Christianity), education, relationship status, etc., but one of your main strengths is to engage and welcome people who have different viewpoints on those same topics.

Missy said:
I always get a "This is what works for me" feel from your blog entries. The topics are all different (though you do tend to focus on marriage, faith, sex, etc.), but it's always a forum for talking about how you live your life and inviting other people to talk about how they live theirs.

The post I Am a Catholic. I Am Not Every Catholic. seemed to resonate with people from a variety of backgrounds.

Emmy said:
This happens a lot in the Lutheran church as well- heck, the WHOLE church. I can't tell you how many times people have talked to me and have been "most Christians wouldn't say/do that" and I have to say yet again that "I'm not most Christians." Whatever that means. In the Lutheran church it's similar to the Catholics, everyone assumes that we all think and believe the exact same things simply because we are Lutherans. However - NO ONE does and it drives me nuts! We need to learn how to really listen to people and not pass judgement when they disagree.

Jacki said:
I continue to thoroughly enjoy your blog, regardless of the fact that I practice a Neo-Pagan religion. My mother is Catholic and I share my life with a Catholic, yet neither fall into the "stereotypes" and often express similar views as you. Raising my son in a family with a variety of beliefs, the lesson I always have for him is close to your statement " If being a true Catholic meant you had to know and understand and agree with and act upon every little piece of Catholic teaching, there would be no true Catholics." Each of us has our very own unique relationship with the divine and no one else can say whether it is right or wrong. I say I am Pagan because "most" of my beliefs are similar to the tenets of Paganism. My S.O. says he is Catholic because "most" of his beliefs are similar to the tenets of the Catholic religion, but neither of us are in away "All" of that particular religion.

Fire Fairy said:
Love this post! When I tell people I'm a Christian and that I am part of a church I sometimes gets that kind of reaction, especially with regards to science. Thankfully the majority of people don't make those assumptions, but a few seem to jump to conclusions very quickly. It's so frustrating! On the other hand I sometimes worry that I will start to assume that all atheists will jump down my throat the minute I admit to my faith. A few who think one way and shout loudly about it, make us assume that all who hold a similar belief are exactly the same. It's something we need to watch for in ourselves as well. You're absolutely right about needing to listen to each other. One of my best friends is a Pagan, and it's because we both listen to each other, are open about our beliefs, and respect each other, that we've stayed friends for so many years. To borrow you're great statement - I am a Christian, but I am not every Christian!

And finally, earlier this week I posted How I Began to Understand Jesus' Sacrifice, and I appreciated the support and understanding I got on this post.

Gina said:
I think so often Christianity focuses on the wrong parts of the Atonement and Christ's actions. You're so right: it isn't the physical pain that made His crucifixion extraordinary (though, I am sure the pain was extreme, as well). It's the circumstances. The fact that it was unjust and completely unwarranted is what makes it so emotional for me.

Likewise, culturally we tend to focus on the fact that "Christ died for our sins." And while that is true, it is such a minute portion of what He actually did. He did not just "die" for our sins- He lived a perfect life knowing that He would eventually die and suffer for our sins. In a very real sense, every second of every day of His life was for us. Not just the last few hours (or the last few years, even), but the whole thing. And THAT is a monumental sacrifice.

Just me said:
Thank you so much for this Jessica. I relate perfectly to this and it's wonderful to hear it come from someone else - I have always struggled to, in your words, have appropriate awe for Jesus' death, and it's definitely something I still feel very guilty about.. like maybe I don't really believe because I've never cried; like maybe I'm not 'doing Christianity right' because I still don't even begin to grasp the magnitude of what happened. I know it's true but it's like I can't make it true for me in a way that really strikes me. And then I feel awful for not feeling anything because surely I should.

I really appreciate your honesty in sharing this and it gives me a lot of hope to know I'm not alone. And hope that at some point I can get the kind of realisation I need, like you did.

Thank you.

As always, thanks to everyone for your thoughtful, challenging, and insightful comments!


Domesticities

Friday, March 30, 2012

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Domesticities | Faith Permeating Life

After Wednesday's heavier post, I thought I'd talk about something a little lighter.

This is the time every month or two where I pretend like I fit in with the rest of the blogosphere as I talk about domestic-like things going on around our home.

But then it ends up being reflections on my marriage anyway because, hey, that's what I think about.

First, now that I've really gotten into the swing of doing meal planning, it has saved us a ton of money. Like around $100 a month. I used to think Mike's approach to meal planning (make something out of whatever's on hand) was more economical than my approach (make things from recipes that we have to buy ingredients for), but I figured out that's not the case for two reasons:
  • When you cook solely from leftovers, there are going to be things that never get used. Like maybe we cooked a chicken and ate the wings and legs and still have a giant hunk of chicken in the fridge. There are still things we could do with the leftover chicken, but we might not necessarily have the other things we need on hand, so it would just not get eaten. Now, when I'm planning, I first say, "Hm, we have to use up this chicken... Let's see, we've got a can of black beans and an onion. How about I buy some vegetables and taco seasoning and we make this chicken chili recipe?"
  • Now that I've built up my repertoire of recipes, I have a lot more ingredients on hand already. My problem initially was that every recipe I chose needed several spices or other ingredients that we didn't have on hand. Now that I'm reusing many recipes, we already have "herbes de provence" or whatever and I don't have to buy as many things. (Or scramble to find suitable substitutes.)

I've also taken over most of the grocery shopping. I plan meals on Sunday and we usually need at least one thing for Monday's meal and at least one thing for my lunch. Because I've pared my shopping list down so much by using up leftovers and repeating recipes, I can get in and out in 15 minutes and under $50 every week. (Plus I remember to bring coupons. Mike could never remember coupons.)

I think it's a good idea to revisit the division of labor in your household every so often. Remember when I first decided to take over meal planning because I was so frustrated with Mike never having a plan for dinner? We had another one of these conversations recently, about the dishes.

The dishes are Mike's domain because he likes doing them and finds it easy. (Did I luck out or what?) But he had promised to do them every night before bed so I would have the use of the counter and sink when I got up to pack my lunch and make my breakfast, and he had stopped doing that most nights. So we had a conversation about why this was going on and figured out that it was because the pile of dry dishes was stressing him out because they all had to be put away before he could wash.

I had been putting away dry dishes sometimes, but I would get frustrated when Mike would get lazy and just stack the newly washed dishes on top of the dry dishes so then they were all wet again and I had to wait to put any away or else dry them all by hand...

Anyway. It's now my job to put the dry dishes away every morning when I get up. And Mike is back to doing the dishes every night after dinner and said this new setup has made it infinitely less stressful for him.

Mike also took over getting the mail each evening. This wasn't exactly necessary, but I appreciated that he offered to take over more things around the house, and this was something easy to hand over.

As we discussed things last night I found that I need to be better at asking for help with things. I'm perpetually stressed out with things that need to get done, while Mike wants to spend more time doing useful things. I thought we'd already reached the limits of our division of labor, but he said he was willing to help out with my blog and other personal projects. I really appreciated that because I kind of felt like my blog was something he tolerated and read occasionally but wasn't necessarily invested in, so I'm happy to know that he recognizes how important it is to me.

So I asked him to help me figure out what I need to do before all Facebook fan pages switch over to Timeline at the end of this week, and maybe to make me up a cover image. It's one of those things that isn't important enough to get top priority on my time, but that I care enough about to cause a low level of anxiety whenever I think of it.

I'm finding I have a lot of things like that on my plate. Maybe I'll get better at handing them over or letting go of them altogether.

So that's where we are right now. I appreciate having a partner who is willing to revisit our division of labor as often as necessary to make everything go as smoothly as possible for both of us.

If you live with a partner or roommate, how do you figure out how to divide things up? When's the last time you checked in to make sure things are still working well for both of you?

How I Began to Understand Jesus' Sacrifice

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

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How I Began to Understand Jesus' Sacrifice | Faith Permeating Life

I have a hard time conceptualizing extreme suffering.

Without having experienced it -- or anything close to it -- myself, I can't claim to understand what it's like to experience severe physical pain. I can't wrap my mind around the millions of children suffering from hunger and malnourishment. I can't feel the pain of all of the 9/11 victims.

This is why I struggle to have appropriate awe for Jesus' death.

For example, I went to see The Passion in theaters with a friend who cried during the movie, as did many other people. I just couldn't make myself feel whatever I was supposed to. I have no past experiences, no personal scale that I can attempt to magnify in order to feel in my body what it's like to be beaten raw. It's beyond my comprehension in the way that really understanding "a billion" in any real terms is beyond my comprehension.

This is something I felt guilty about for a long time, as if I really needed to feel Jesus' death in order to be a good Christian. I needed to comprehend how horrible it was in order to "appreciate" what He did.

But then there's the fact that, as Madeleine L'Engle points out in her book Two-Part Invention, Jesus suffered physically for maybe half a day, while her husband was in excruciating pain for months on end. We see God allowing Jesus to suffer as somehow justified because it had to happen -- to fulfill Scripture, to forgive our sins, to conquer death -- however you frame it, but we have no easy explanation for why people we know and love have to endure as much or more suffering.

A few years ago, when revisiting the Passion story during Holy Week, I suddenly had a realization that made it all click for me. Something that put Jesus' sacrifice in terms that made real, visceral sense to me.

Jesus' death was unjust. He was free from sin, yet He was treated like a criminal and killed for it.

And He didn't try to stop them. He didn't try to clear His name.

This realization was huge for me as a person who has generally lived my life in fear of getting in trouble. I've mentioned I'm a compulsive rule-follower. And that my worst fear is being wrongly accused of a crime, arrested, and tortured. Truly, as uncomfortable as it is to get caught doing something I shouldn't be doing, few things shake me to the core like getting yelled at for doing something that I didn't know I shouldn't do, or that I didn't even do.

You can bet that if someone tried to throw me in jail for a crime I didn't commit, I would fight tooth and nail. I would get a lawyer. I would do research. I would do anything I possibly could to clear my name and get that stain off my reputation.

What did Jesus do? He let people arrest Him, mock Him, torture Him, and kill Him, even though He did nothing wrong. All He'd ever done was told the truth, and they hated Him for it and found a way to get Him killed. And He just took it. Because he knew it was God's will.

I don't know if I can understand the depth of love it takes to do that. I honestly don't know if I would be able to put myself through that -- not just the physical torture, but the wrongful, completely unjust accusations and consequences -- for my husband. My husband! And Jesus did it for everyone, even the people who couldn't give a damn about Him. Even the people who did it to Him. He suffered for them, and asked His Father to forgive them.

Holy. Freaking. Crap.

That is a love beyond my comprehension. But I do begin to have a sense now of just how great His love must be to do what He did.

This, at the root, is why I am a Christian. You can talk morality and theology all you want, but when it comes down to it, I see a man who came to tell us that loving God and loving each other were the most important things we could do, and then showed us what true selfless love looks like, and that it is greater than death.

Wow.

Checking In On "What Marriage Means to Me"

Monday, March 26, 2012

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I don't have a What Marriage Means to Me post for today, but I do have a few more that should be coming down the pike soon! I thought this would be a good time to check in and reflect on the series so far.

Anyone can contribute, so please, please get in touch if you're interested in participating. The interpretation of the theme is up to you. So far we've had married individuals talk about why they decided to get married, how their view of marriage moved from idealism to realism over time, the effect that big life events have on a marriage, and lessons learned over 13 years of marriage. We've also had single individuals discuss why they want to get married and why marriage seems like a better idea now than it used to.

If the "What Marriage Means to Me" prompt is too broad for you, here are some potential questions to get you thinking:

If you're married...
  • Why did you and your partner decide to get married?
  • How did getting married change your relationship, if at all?
  • Did you choose to have a legal marriage, a sacramental marriage, or both? Why did you make that choice?
  • What about marriage has surprised you?
  • How has your "definition" of marriage changed from when you were first married (or from before you got married)?
  • What lessons have you learned so far in your marriage?
  • How do you see your relationship as different from unmarried couples, if at all?
  • How is your marriage different from other marriages you know?

If you're in a long-term unmarried partnership...
  • Do you want to get married? Why or why not?
  • How do you think your relationship would change, if at all, if you got married?
  • How do other people in your life view your partnership? Do you think that would be different if you were married?
  • How would you "define" marriage?
  • How do you see your relationship as different from married couples, if at all?
  • If there are structural or cultural barriers that prevent you from marrying your partner, what would it mean to you to have those dismantled?

If you're single...
  • Do you want to get married? Why or why not?
  • Has your desire to get married or not get married changed over time?
  • If you have a desire to be married someday, what do you think primarily drives that desire? (e.g., religion, family, friends, culture, individual wants)
  • What do you see as an "ideal" marriage? Who are your models for a good marriage?
  • How is your life different from your married friends (positive or negative)?
  • How do you think your life would be different if you were married? How would it be the same?

These are just what I came up with off the top of my head, so please see them as inspiration and not limits!

Finally, I'd love if you'd take a minute and share your thoughts on the series with me in comments or via e-mail. Have you read all, some, or none of the posts? Do you like or dislike the series? Are there any specific perspectives you'd like to see? I know that I would personally be interested in hearing from someone who had an arranged marriage, from someone whose family disapproved of their marriage, from someone in a long-term polyamorous relationship (like this one), and from someone who has chosen not to marry (in a partnership or not).

The idea for the series was actually sparked by a conversation with a friend of mine who has promised to write a post for it. I am excited that his post will add both a male perspective and the perspective of someone in a same-sex relationship.

One more note: I'm changing up my posting schedule. I will (hopefully) continue to have What Marriage Means to Me posts every Monday, and then I will share my own posts on Wednesday and Friday mornings. I'm trying to be more purposeful about keeping Sunday as a day of rest, and spending several hours on Sundays writing a post isn't conducive to that. I may still have occasional posts on days other than Monday, Wednesday, and Friday (e.g., Three Books on Thursday will still be the first Thursday of every month).

Please get in touch and share your thoughts on the marriage series or anything else! I love hearing from you!

A Review of My Reading Habits

Sunday, March 25, 2012

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A Review of My Reading Habits | Faith Permeating Life

Let's do a fun post today!

I am copying Gina and Melbourne on My Mind, who each recently answered a bunch of questions about books. In case it is not already clear how much I love books... I do. I read about 50-60 books a year. (Yes, I keep track.)

Here are the questions:

If you could live in a fictional world, where would that be?
I don't read a ton of fiction, and even less fantasy, so I don't have a lot of other worlds to choose from. I would probably have to go with the wizarding world of Harry Potter.

Do you read in noisy or quiet places?
Mostly quiet places. I read at lunch, when it's quiet, and I read on the train in the "quiet cars." However, I've noticed that it's far less distracting to read in a non-quiet car when there's a general murmur of conversation around me than to read in the quiet car when there's that one oblivious person talking loudly on their cell phone. Sigh.

What was the first book you ever read?
I don't know for sure -- my mom probably remembers -- but I know that when I first learned to read, I read the book Go, Dog, Go a lot.

If you could only read one book for the rest of your life, what would it be?
I'm going to go with the stereotypical-Christian answer of the Bible, with the understanding that I probably wouldn't have given this answer six months ago. And also that the Bible isn't really a book so much as a collection of books (and poetry and letters and more). One of my goals this year was to read more of The Message //Remix, and I'm loving it. I had read most of the Bible previously through various Bible studies, but this is like reading it for the first time because it takes me out of the trees of individual verses and back to the forest of the message. So if I could literally only read one thing for the rest of my life, I think I'd choose The Message or another translation of the Bible.

Favorite author?
I can't pick just one. No way.

Here are my top 10 (maybe):
  • William Shakespeare
  • Agatha Christie
  • David Eddings
  • Bill Bryson
  • Barbara Kingsolver
  • John Green
  • J.K. Rowling
  • Malcolm Gladwell
  • C.S. Lewis
  • E.L. Konigsburg

Do reviews influence your choices of reads?
Rarely. For fiction, I try to avoid reviews of books I'm planning on reading because I can't stand even tiny spoilers. But if a book captivates me, then the first thing I do after finishing it is to seek out reviews to see if other people noticed and resonated with the same things I did. For nonfiction, I might read a book after reading a review, but more than likely I got the main points from the review and don't feel a need to read the book unless the topic utterly fascinates me.

On the other hand, recommendations have a big influence on me. Most of what I read is because someone or other recommended it to me. This means that many times I will pick up a book having no idea what it's about except that someone thought I would like it. I like reading all kinds of things, so that's fine with me.

Fiction or nonfiction?
Half and half. I would have guessed that I read more nonfiction, but when I counted up last year's books (see the aforementioned tracking of every book I read) it came out almost even.

Have you ever met your favorite author?
Of all the authors listed above, I've only met John Green. Mike and I rode in an elevator with him and his brother Hank on 8/8/08. That was awesome and nerve-wracking. I've met John twice since then. Unfortunately several of my favorite authors are dead, although I would have very much liked to have met them.

Audiobooks or paperback?
Both. I like to have one of each going at the same time, a book to read on the train and at lunch, and another to listen to on my walks to and from the train station. Unfortunately our library has a pretty crappy selection of audiobooks (despite having an amazing collection of paper books) and the last few I've checked out have been broken, so lately I've just been listening to podcasts on my walks. But I love audiobooks for long car trips.

Classic or modern novels?
I like to read a mix. I go through phases where I read a bunch of classics and then I go back to more recent books. I think there's a little bit of a fuzzy line about what's considered a classic.

Book groups or solitary reading?
Solitary reading. Other than Bible study, I think I've only done one book group, when a group of girls from my floor read Boy Meets Girl (see my recommendation here) and then had a discussion about it. I think we were supposed to discuss every chapter but only got through one or two chapters. Other than that, Mike and I have read a few books together, and I enjoy those discussions a lot because he and I have similar perspectives. But generally, I like just reading by myself and occasionally seeking out other readers if a book sincerely touched me in some way.

If you could invite three dead authors to a dinner for four, whom would you invite?
I don't know. I know I said I wanted to meet my favorite authors who are dead, but I can't imagine Agatha Christie and David Eddings having a lot to talk about with each other. C.S. Lewis and Eddings, maybe, since they both invented fantasy worlds. But I wouldn't want it to be all men. OK, we'll say Lewis, Eddings, and Christie.


Your turn! How would you answer? Feel free to link up in comments if you answer these on your own blog.

A Closer Look at Newspapers

Thursday, March 22, 2012

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A Closer Look at Newspapers | Faith Permeating Life

On Sunday, I wrote a post titled, "Does It Matter If We Don't Read Newspapers?" I talked about how I didn't think that a survey question about newspaper reading was an accurate or complete measure of recent graduates' civic engagement, and that it was a previous generation trying to measure something about this generation that they didn't fully understand.

Two people commented, one of my generation, agreeing, and one of a previous generation, disagreeing. Since 'Becca had such detailed comments (which you can read here), my reply ended up being so long that I decided to post it here for everyone. I hope it clears up some of the points I was trying to make with my original post. I don't expect everyone to agree with me, of course, but I do want to make sure that my thoughts aren't misunderstood.

There were two main points I was trying to make with this post. The first is that if researchers are trying to get an accurate measure of how civically engaged today's college graduates are, asking about their newspaper reading frequency is an incomplete measure. I completely get that sometimes we need longitudinal data, but 1) this isn't being cited in conjunction with any comparative numbers; people are drawing conclusions from this one year's data alone, and 2) if a question is not a valid representation of the construct one is trying to measure, and I would argue it's not in this case, then it makes sense to replace it with a different question.

The comparison of Person A and Person B was intended to show that someone can read the newspaper and not be at all active in making change in the world, and someone else can not read the newspaper and take action to make change in the world; therefore the newspaper question is not a valid measurement of the extent to which graduates are taking action to make change, yet that is the conclusion being drawn from it.

It doesn't sound like 'Becca and I disagree that this generation is conceptualizing the gathering of news information entirely differently, just that I take a more positive view of this shift. Given the reality of this change, a measurement that might have been appropriate 20 years ago is now outdated.

Let me be clear: I am not saying that the Internet is a better information source than newspapers. But the kinds of information-gathering that have been made possible by the Internet, in my opinion, should not be ignored as an alternative way that people may become involved in working for positive change in their communities or in the world.

People may become involved in fighting for causes that are never picked up by the mainstream media. There is also now an opportunity for people to gather opinions on a topic from a multitude of experts whose viewpoints won't make it into a newspaper. And a repository of information is built up online on topics long after they've become "old news" elsewhere. The fact that not everyone effectively uses the Internet as a resource does not invalidate the positive role it does have for those who are mindful researchers.

The time I spent studying journalism, working on a newspaper, and being quoted in newspapers made me, as someone who considers myself a careful researcher, become more critical of the newspaper as an information source. Here are some of the reasons I don't consider newspapers to be an ideal source of information:
  • Agenda-setting bias is a huge issue for me. Some stories will never make it into a newspaper because they are not interesting enough, not new enough, or very simply no one at the paper is aware of them. You may find a lot of crazy people on the Internet, but you can find information on almost anything you want to know about, not just what a group of editors has decided is important enough to cover.
  • Perspective bias is real and unavoidable. The perspective from which stories are covered is influenced by a multitude of factors. There are perspectives that will never be covered by newspapers, whose revenue is dependent almost entirely on advertising. On the other hand, some perspectives continue to be covered, such as people who say climate change isn't happening, simply because it makes the issue more controversial and interesting to read and presents a "balanced" view, even if it's completely unrepresentative of expert opinion on the topic.
  • Mainstream media can create hype and fear around things that are actually very rare. Conversely, they can ignore things that do affect many, many people simply because they're not interesting or new. This is why plane crashes and shark attacks make the news way more often than people dying of heart disease. On the other hand, if I sought out information about "How am I most likely to die?" I would find data putting the possible causes of death into perspective.
  • Journalists are notoriously bad at understanding and correcting relaying statistics, as well as accurately reporting research findings. Or they just get facts completely wrong. This was probably the biggest pet peeve of my journalism professors who had worked as editors. I remember the day my one media professor nearly had a fit because the local paper had run a headline about someone getting burned by "sodium chloride." What?? If you read the article, you eventually found that it was actually sodium cyanide. Ever read the piece on the dangers of dihydrogen monoxide? According to my editing professor, this occasionally gets picked up and run in all seriousness by newspapers who don't get the joke.
  • The pressure to break news first is at odds with the need for fact-checking. This is something we discussed a lot in my classes. When some random person tweets about an event, most people know to do some more research before believing it's true. But when a newspaper posts breaking news on its website, people trust it because -- it's a newspaper. In the rush to be the first, though, newspapers get facts wrong a lot, which are then corrected later. So the reputation for being a reliable, fact-checked source actually makes it that much worse when they get things wrong. Not least of all because newspapers often pick up stories from each other, which is how you get things like a ton of newspapers reporting on a scientific discovery that's not actually a scientific discovery, which an actual scientist then feels compelled to take to the web to break down and debunk in excruciating detail.

When I worked at Group Workcamps for a summer, at one of our camps the local paper wrote about us and not only got everything they wrote about the organization wrong, but they quoted the camp director when they'd never even interviewed him, supposedly having said things that were completely false. This just adds to my skepticism about placing too much value in the newspaper.

The Internet has, for me, added a layer of value because I can look up something I've read in a paper and find links to original sources, expert critiques of a subject matter, analyses of bias in the original story, and so on. None of this is to completely invalidate the newspaper as an information source. Nor am I trying to say that no one got passionate about things when they only had newspapers and word of mouth as their information sources. Not at all. But am I glad that it's now possible to seek out a variety of viewpoints and information sources rather than just accepting as fact whatever's in the newspaper or on TV? Absolutely.

There is, I think, a clear parallel here to changes that I see happening in education. This message comes up again and again at the conferences and workshops I attend: No longer can we thrive under a model by which the instructor has all of the knowledge and is imparting it to students via a lecture. Because students can now go on the Internet and find the same information and more, the instructor's role is shifting from teaching facts to teaching information-seeking skills: where to find reliable information, how to determine the validity of a source, how to cross-reference multiple sources, how to spot biased language, etc. This means that students are not limited to learning only as much as their instructor can cover in a semester -- they are taught how to teach themselves using the vast universe of information available to them.

So to sum up my first point: In my opinion, it's a mistake to ask only about newspaper reading and consider that an accurate measure of civic engagement.

The next question, then, and what I titled my post with, is whether it's a problem if the newspaper is cut out as an information source altogether. The question is not "Is every person who doesn't read the newspaper an engaged, active citizen who's making a difference in the world?" That's never going to be the case no matter what group you're talking about. The question, in my mind, is, "Is it possible to be an engaged, active citizen who's making a difference in the world and to never read a newspaper?" And I believe the answer is YES.

I mentioned that I am a very infrequent newspaper reader. About a year ago I started listening to NPR's 5-minute daily news summary podcast. Aside from giving me a post idea once, this addition to my routine has honestly had no impact on my daily life except for one thing: It makes me depressed and angry. (If you are ever downtown Chicago and you walk past a woman listening to an iPod who suddenly yells out, "What?!?" that's probably me.)

Because I have limited time, energy, and money, getting daily information about what's happening in Syria or with the Republican primary or whatever almost never has an effect on my behavior. The last time I took action on something related to current events was to write to my elected representatives about SOPA, which I found out about on Facebook well before it was mentioned on my NPR podcast. The only reason it was mentioned on the podcast at all was to discuss the huge backlash that had happened online in response to the bill. Ditto with the Trayvon Martin case, which only finally made it onto the podcast yesterday, regarding the huge outcry happening online.

I probably would have a better state of mind if I didn't get the daily news summary. Really, the main reason I listen to it is so that I can appear "up on things" when talking to others, which isn't even that useful since the things that come up in conversation are almost always things I've learned about via news articles posted on Facebook, not through NPR.

One issue that is important to me? Gay marriage. So I have a Google News feed set up in my Google Reader of all news articles related to gay marriage. This is what I mean by focused information-gathering. I don't go this in-depth on every issue because I physically and mentally can't. But personally, I would rather go deep and be extremely informed about the areas in which I'm committed to taking action than to be slightly informed about a whole ton of areas that I will never do anything about.

In the same way, I trust my Facebook friends to keep me informed on the issues that are most important to them, some of which will become important to me as well, after I have done additional research on them. My web-programming friends told me about SOPA and did their research on what the most effective way to take action against it was. My friends who are active in human rights organizations are way more informed than I will ever be about the problem of human trafficking, and when there's a way for me to easily help them in their work, they let me know. And they know that if their state is going to have a vote on gay marriage, they probably will have heard about it from me posting articles leading up to it.

Does everyone use social media this way? No. Do I hear about every single possible cause and issue and current event this way? No, but I couldn't devote time and energy to them even if I did.

So does my lack of newspaper reading mean that I am 100%, definitely an unengaged, uninterested, dispassionate member of society? Of course not. And thus, to return to the original question, if one's goal is that I be an engaged, active citizen, does it matter if I don't read a newspaper? I don't think so.

Finally, 'Becca mentioned local elections, so for what it's worth, yes, I do vote in every election, and I voted in the local election this week in Illinois. I set aside a few hours last Saturday to pull up my sample ballot on the county clerk's website and read every candidate's narrative. Because we don't watch TV and I don't read the local paper, I was spared all of the mudslinging that happens leading up to elections. Did I miss some information about the candidates? Probably. If I'd read or heard every piece of information out there on every candidate, would I have had a clearer and more accurate picture of each candidate? Probably not. It comes back to the issue of limited resources and balancing my engagement in my community with my quality of life. I believe this system is the best approach for me.

One final thought: Outside of what I learned in my college courses and have heard other people speak about, I can't say what life before I was born was like. So nothing I say on that matter should be taken as a firsthand account. On the other hand, I regularly hear people dismiss the kind of information-sharing that happens on Facebook who don't have firsthand experience maintaining a regular Facebook presence, and that frustrates me. Rather than arguing over whether old or new ways of communicating are better, I think the most important conversation to have is how we can accurately measure and make use of the way that people are communicating right now, to make the world a better place.

"But to certain Christians..."

Tuesday, March 20, 2012

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"But to certain Christians it is un-Christian to affirm the dignity and worth of human beings. If that is so, then I cannot be a Christian."

~Madeleine L'Engle, Two-Part Invention: The Story of a Marriage


Sorry for the short post! Life's a little crazy this week. Looking forward to getting back on track soon.

What Marriage Means to Me: Courtney

Monday, March 19, 2012

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I am SO excited to share today's What Marriage Means to Me post with you! When I first came up with the idea for this series, I invited my cousin Courtney to contribute. Courtney and I are less than a year apart, so I was blessed to have her as a best friend as well as a cousin growing up. She got married three years before I did (thus winning me a bet we made when we were 10 about who would get married first) and has already experienced both great tragedy and great joy within her marriage, so I knew she would have a wise perspective to bring to the series. See what she has to say about what marriage means to her... and you might want to grab the Kleenex.

~~~

What Marriage Means to Me: Courtney | Faith Permeating Life

Hi. My name is Courtney, and I'm Jessica's cousin. :) Jess, thanks for inviting me to share my view on marriage. It's led to a wonderfully quiet afternoon of reflecting on the gift of my husband and the distinct value of marriage in my life.

I recently had pictures printed for a gallery wall in our dining room. Three of the pictures that are hung side by side are of our hands clasped together during three vastly different seasons of our lives. When I'm standing in the kitchen looking toward that wall I'm reminded of the value of marriage in my life... a gift that has extended over just six years for Shaun and me, but has shaped much of who I am.

The first picture of our hands was taken on our wedding day. Shaun and I dated for just five short months before we were engaged. We didn't know everything there was to know about each other, but we were committed to choosing each other and growing together for the rest of our lives.

That picture takes me back to a time of complete joy, as well as unforeseen disappointments and struggles. But it reminds me most of all of the promise we made to each other to stick with it... that divorce was not, and is not, an option... that every day holds the opportunity to choose love.

And for the past six years I've enjoyed a relationship that is unlike any other kind of relationship in my life. There is something so sweet about sharing every aspect of life with the person who knows you best and still chooses to care for you and grow with you.

The picture immediately to the right of that was taken at a memorial service for our first baby boy. After nine months of a perfectly healthy pregnancy, Shaun and I were devastated to learn that our baby had died before delivery. On May 17, 2009, Zachary Michael was stillborn.

That picture of our hands holding tightly to the other, white at the knuckles, reminds me that, although there were days after losing Zachary when it didn't seem like marriage was worth the emotional investment and it would have been easier to grieve alone than simultaneously with another person, our marriage was cemented in ways we will never understand.

There was only one person who felt so deeply and mourned so openly with me during that time – it was Shaun. He was the only other one in my life who had lost our son. And his presence and vulnerable courage during that time were a gift to me. I was more proud to be Shaun's wife that day at the cemetery than I was at the altar when I said, "I do."

In the third picture, our hands are actually separated by tiny, chubby fingers hanging on tightly. Eighteen months after Zachary died, we gratefully welcomed Kaylee Hope into our family. There is nothing that makes my heart swell with more pride than watching Shaun dance with Kaylee in his arms while the sound of her hysterical laughter fills our house. Having a family together has been one of the greatest blessings of our marriage. Full of its own unique challenges, yes. But watching my husband be a great dad to our daughter makes me so excited to parent as a team with the person I love most in the world.

It feels like we've lived a lot of life together in just six short years, and it's a daily decision to put each other first and choose love, but I'm so thankful for Shaun. I look forward to the days and years we have ahead of us to learn about each other, lean on each other, watch our children grow, and enjoy the commitment we made to each other on our wedding day.

What Marriage Means to Me: Courtney | Faith Permeating Life

~~~

Courtney and Shaun live in Seattle with their daughter, Kaylee, and are expecting their third child later this year. Courtney kept a blog for the first two years after Zachary's death, which you can read here.

Does It Matter If We Don't Read Newspapers?

Sunday, March 18, 2012

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Does It Matter If We Don't Read Newspapers? | Faith Permeating Life

This past week at work we hosted a two-day workshop with a well-known presenter on assessment. I thought the vast majority of the workshop was fantastic, but there was one small portion that I had an issue with.

It's not unusual, working in higher education, to hear people talk about "this generation," usually called Millennials. I always thought I was part of Generation Y, and that that was different, but lately I've heard my own birth year lumped in with current college students more often than not.

This gives me a unique perspective, since when my colleagues are talking about our students, they're also talking about me.

So back to the workshop.

At one point, there was a discussion about what some of the challenges might be to engaging students in meaningful learning to build their critical thinking skills. This immediately led to a "kids these days"-type grumbling session in which participants made sweeping statements about how students don't care about learning, they want to be rewarded just for showing up, they have no sustained attention span, they want to spend all their time texting and Facebooking, etc.

I've already talked about how I am not a fan of generalizations like this, and I'm sure you can imagine the potential problems if any of these instructors truly believes that every single one of their students fits this description. I certainly don't appreciate being told that I apparently have no intrinsic motivation and have an unhealthy sense of entitlement. And I'm pretty sure my boss would disagree.

But anyway.

The presenter then provided several pieces of evidence that ostensibly indicated that most of today's students and recent graduates are not exactly fitting the model of what a college typically hopes to turn out: Graduates with a lifelong love of learning who are active and engaged members of their community. (Also, who are employable.)

The slide that stuck out to me most was the statistic about newspaper reading. Recent graduates were asked whether they read a newspaper daily, weekly, monthly, or never. The presenter said to the attendees that, ideally, we hope our students are reading a newspaper every day, right? So the fact that only about a third were reading a newspaper daily, and another third weekly, somehow indicated a horrific failure of our colleges to create engaged citizens.

This same statistic has been called "troubling" and "dismal" when cited elsewhere.

I'm going to have to disagree.

If somebody asked me how often I read a newspaper, I might say "monthly." But that's because I'm picturing either flipping through a paper newspaper, which I do occasionally at my parents' house, or logging on to a news site like the New York Times to "see what's in the news" -- which I never do.

On the other hand, if you asked me how often I read a news article or a blog post or listened to a podcast about current events, the answer would be Daily.

It amazes me when older generations talk about how different this generation is, what with our text-messaging and our Facebooking and our tweeting, yet they use benchmarks from their generation to measure this generation's civic engagement.

I'm not saying that every person my age is totally informed with what's going on in the world. Or that, if they are, they're doing anything about it. But I also don't think that the situation is quite as "dismal" as you might imagine from the newspaper question.

I've said before that we have a limited capacity to invest ourselves in a cause or causes. Given this, I would argue that there is more value in the kind of focused information-gathering and sharing that happens today than in the passive, broad information-receiving era before the Internet.

Imagine Person A. Every day, he gets a newspaper and reads it at the breakfast table or on his morning commute on the train. He reads about this war, that murder, this political campaign, and that community organization. Then he folds up the newspaper and goes in to work, and puts all the news out of his mind until he picks up the newspaper again the next morning. On the survey mentioned above, he would indicate that he reads a newspaper Daily.

Now imagine Person B. She sees a video shared by a friend on her Facebook newsfeed about something going on in the world. The video intrigues her, so she starts Googling around and finds a bunch of blog posts that provide some background and give a more complex take on the issue. She goes to Charity Navigator to figure out what organization is doing the most to help, and then sets up a campaign on another website to raise funds to donate to the charity.

When she's asked how often she reads a newspaper, though, she says Never.

Who is more civically engaged? Who is closer to embodying that "ideal graduate"?

Let me be clear: I am not suggesting that everyone who reads a newspaper is an apathetic slug and everyone who is on Facebook is a passionate community organizer. Obviously not. Nor am I saying that everyone my age would prefer to get their information from sources other than a newspaper; as I said, the survey cited above found about a third of recent graduates read a newspaper daily.

I just find the conclusions drawn from this survey to be incredibly overblown and out of touch with the exact generation they're attempting to measure. And I want to challenge the notion that broad information intake is the only recipe for an engaged citizen. I think much more could be accomplished if every person had a few issues they cared about and researched deeply and acted upon frequently, even if they were not well-informed about many other things going on in the world.

What do you think? How would you measure whether graduates were engaged with and having an impact on the world's big issues?

I Am a Catholic. I Am Not Every Catholic.

Thursday, March 15, 2012

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I was walking to my car from the train station yesterday evening listening to NPR's 5-minute news podcast when I was suddenly struck by two thoughts in rapid succession:
  1. News anchors and reporters and headline writers so often make generalizations about groups; e.g., such-and-such candidate "has found favor with black Americans" or "gay rights activists are upset" about something or other.
  2. If someone were to say something about Catholics... what is the likelihood it would apply to me?
This brought to mind two blog posts that had resonated with me recently.

First, the always-fabulous Rachel Held Evans (seriously, go read her blog), in response to the Internet erupting over the Kony 2012 campaign, posted this video of Chimamanda Adichie's TED talk on "the danger of the single story." It's worth the watch next time you have 20 minutes to spare.


Secondly, Jackie at Blueberries For Me wrote an excellent post called "Why I am (still) a Catholic" that from now on will be my go-to piece when people ask me this same question.

These two pieces together brought me to this thought: It is dangerous to oversimplify and overgeneralize, whether you are on the outside or the inside.

It saddens me to think that a non-Catholic, upon finding out I was Catholic, might jump to any number of conclusions about me and what I believe. Particularly because the theological aspects of the Catholic faith are not generally what make it into the public sphere. So it's less likely that the person would draw conclusions about my beliefs on, say, the Eucharist or the veneration of Mary than that they would make assumptions about my beliefs on contraception and gay marriage.

And they would probably be wrong.

This means that not only are people making assumptions about me based on my religion, but the things they're assuming about me are the very things that I disagree with the Church about!

This makes me think of a book I read in college called Naked in Baghdad, by one of the few reporters who was in Iraq at the beginning of the war but wasn't embedded with U.S. troops. She talked to many different Iraqis about, among other things, their view of Saddam Hussein, and she found that not only was there not a consensus among the people about whether they wanted him gone, but some individuals couldn't even make up their minds! So how could we possibly have done "what the people of Iraq wanted" when they couldn't agree themselves on what that was? That is the danger of the single story.

Assumptions don't just come from outside, though. My mom is in a Bible study at her church and has told me about women who will constantly share their political views in a way that assumes everyone there agrees with them simply because they're all Catholic. And there are certainly people who believe that I'm not a "real" Catholic (like they are) because of some of the things I believe.

I've said it before, but it bears repeating: If being a true Catholic meant you had to know and understand and agree with and act upon every little piece of Catholic teaching, there would be no true Catholics.

Take two people who both believe themselves to be hardcore loyal Catholics, and even if they each believe every single thing they've ever heard a Church leader say, you could more than likely uncover things that one had been taught but not the other, or that they'd both been taught and interpreted differently how that should play out in their lives.

Think about this: People across the world and throughout time have been taught and believed many, many different things. What are the chances that everything you were taught and everything you believe is exactly right and perfect and 100% true and everyone else in the entire world is wrong in some way or other?

Even the Church has changed over time. And as Jackie said, "We can see and justify changes in the Church in the past, but it is naïve to assume those are limited to the past and we have already reached a state of perfection."

So what's the solution?

If oversimplification and overgeneralization are problems from both the outside and the inside, how do we overcome that blindness?

We listen.

We tell our stories, and we invite other people to tell theirs.

We ask questions out of a genuine curiosity and desire to learn, not in a sarcastic way to put other people's beliefs down.

We pursue truth, rather than assuming we already have it in its entirety.

I am a Catholic. But I am not every Catholic. And you cannot know everything I believe simply from that one identification I give myself.

So I ask that you listen to me tell my story. And in return, I will listen to you tell yours. And then we will each be one step closer to truth.

Where do you see the danger of the single story play out in your life?

P.S. A huge thanks to everyone who left suggestions on my post about describing this blog to other people. I appreciated hearing what resonates with you most about this blog, and I feel much better prepared to tell others about my blog now!

"It's Like... a Christian... Marriage Blog?": Help Me Sum Up My Blog (and Yours!) in One Sentence

Tuesday, March 13, 2012

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'It's Like... a Christian... Marriage Blog?': Help Me Sum Up My Blog (and Yours!) in One Sentence | Faith Permeating Life

Yesterday, Melissa at momcomm posted about the "biggest mistake that bloggers make."

That mistake is being unable to concisely sum up what your blog is about.

Guilty as charged.

This is something I've struggled with for a while. I have a tagline ("Where logic meets love") and I have a pretty good "About This Blog" description (look in the sidebar below the buttons, or click through if you're on a reader).

But I still have no idea how to describe my blog when I'm talking to someone.

When I was at the last Love Drop in December, I met another blogger, who asked what I blogged about. I looked over at Emmy and hemmed and hawed and then said, "It's like... a Christian... marriage blog?"

::facepalm::

Let's be honest: If I heard somebody's blog was a Christian marriage blog, I would not want to read it.

I can list off my categories or my top tags -- marriage, God, happiness, religion, sex -- but that doesn't really tell you anything about why you'd want to read this blog. As Melissa said, "Sure, you may write about all those things. But what does it boil down to? What's the glue that binds all your blog posts together?"

I... don't know. Obviously, there's something, right? Or you guys wouldn't keep coming back?

Then she added, "If you feel a little stuck, think about this: how would you want someone else to describe your blog?"

This made the lightbulb go off: Ask the people who read my blog!

So I'm going to ask for your help, and also challenge you to avoid this mistake for yourself. (And maybe get you some traffic while we're at it.)

In the comments, leave the following:
  • How would you describe Faith Permeating Life to someone, in one sentence?
  • How would you describe your own blog to someone, in one sentence? (If you have one.)

If I'm a regular reader of your blog already, I'm happy to return the favor, if you'd like. And if I'm not, maybe I will become one after reading your description! :)

You can find Melissa's whole article here. Thanks in advance!

What Marriage Means to Me: Krys

Monday, March 12, 2012

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I am thrilled by the variety of perspectives we've had so far in the What Marriage Means to Me series! Today's post comes from Krys, who, like last week's guest poster, is unmarried. She's a great storyteller, and I bet a lot of you will resonate with her evolving thought process on marriage. She tells us how she got to the point where she finally "gets" marriage, and why it might not be such a bad thing after all.

(P.S. I am looking for more contributors to the series, so please get in touch if you'd like to post!)

~~~

"Don't get married until at least thirty!" This came from my married-for-hundreds-of-years parents and my divorced aunt, both sides of the marriage spectrum. Being eighteen and just starting college, thirty sounded like forever away. Having experienced tons of silly teenage relationships, I couldn't imagine liking anyone enough to tether myself to them forever.

It's not like I come from a broken family. My maternal grandparents met at fifteen; my grandpa's paper route took him by my grandma's house and their courtship survived distance and war and culminated in over fifty years of marriage. My paternal grandparents met in high school and were married shortly after graduation, staying together for over fifty years. My grandparents embodied "til death do us part" in a way we rarely see anymore, quite literally staying together until death pulled them apart.

But I didn't get it; I'd been dating since I was fourteen and I knew the butterflies and excitement always went away. How, then, could you be with someone forever? Wouldn't you be bored and trapped and stuck, I wondered? If marriage was so great, why were people telling me to put it off until I was old? For the next few years, I saw marriage as something that ended your life rather than added to it. As a married person, you couldn't travel or spend time with friends. You wouldn't just be you, you'd be so-and-so's wife. Or so I thought.

What I didn't realize was that not only was I wrong, but that marriage is whatever you want it to be. As I moved further into my twenties and started getting into relationships that made sense, I realized that marriage is meant to add to your life. Of course you can travel or spend time with the people in your life, but you have a partner-in-crime with whom to share it. It's about finding someone to go through life with, to grow with. You're still you, you're just sharing yourself with somene you love. Marriage isn't the end of your life, it's another beginning.

And it means making a choice to stay, to commit, to work it out. Once I finally realized marriage isn't a Bad Thing, I then had to accept that a "good marriage" still isn't magic and happiness at all times. I guarantee you that my grandparents' decades of marriage weren't perfect day in and day out; when you are with someone for over five decades, there will be challenges. But when you've chosen a partner you love and want to build a life with, you come together and get through those times.

And then, I imagine, you move back into the happier times. I love the cheesy quote I saw on Facebook that read "Marriage is like having a sleepover every night with your best friend." In a lot of ways, that embodies what I hope for - a marriage full of laughter, adventures, and partnership.

Now that thirty is closer than ever, marriage is a lot less scary. It's become something I look forward to rather than fear. After years of fearing commitment followed by years of unlearning that negative thought process, I know that when I walk down the aisle and say "I do," I'll be ready.

~~~

Krys is a twenty-something blogging (sporadically) about life, work, and cancer-causing gene mutations at either eat this soup or jump out of this window. You can find her on Twitter here.

"The Last Thing I Ever Said to Him...": 5 Tips for Avoiding Last-Conversation Fears

Sunday, March 11, 2012

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'The Last Thing I Ever Said to Him...': 5 Tips for Avoiding Last-Conversation Fears | Faith Permeating Life

I have a fear that I'm guessing some of you share.

It was summed up quite nicely in this xkcd comic: "Sometimes, when people leave, I'm seized by a sudden fear that they'll die while they're out, and I'll never forget the last thing I said to them."

It sounds silly, but I don't think it's an unfounded fear. I've heard more than one story in which someone's spouse or child died and what kept them going through their grief was that the last thing they ever said to that person was "I love you."

Or conversely, stories of people forever haunted by the fact that they had a huge fight with someone and never got to reconcile while that person was alive.

I understand the message behind these kinds of stories: Speak lovingly and forgive quickly because you never know if your loved one will be with you tomorrow.

It's like what Jesus emphasized in several of his parables -- always be prepared because God could come for you any moment.

At the same time, I feel that this fear, taken too far, could lead one to avoid conflict and unpleasantness altogether, which is not healthy for a relationship.

I mean, sure, it's possible that I could get angry at Mike about something and he could suddenly have a heart attack while we're arguing and I'd have to live with the guilt for the rest of my life that the last thing I ever said to him was berating him for forgetting to go to the store for the third time in a row. Or whatever. And then I would go around for the rest of my life telling people, "Life is more important than whether there's a carton of milk in the fridge! Forgive and forget because you never know how long you have!"

But the necessary conclusion from that kind of thinking is that I should somehow overlook it every single time Mike makes me angry or breaks a promise or does something to hurt me. (Which he doesn't do often. Just so we're clear.)

Sometimes you will fight with your loved ones. That's just how things go. And it's not always best to try to resolve conflicts immediately. The saying "Never go to bed angry," as Gina so intelligently points out, is terrible advice if you're both exhausted to the point of being irrational, stubborn, and mean. In some relationships, the best possible thing someone can do is storm out of the house and slam the door, and then come back later after they've taken a walk or a drive to cool down.

Conventional wisdom tells us not to leave hurts unresolved because our time on earth is limited, but sometimes we need that extra time or space before we can truly resolve and forgive.

Here are the ways I deal with this dilemma of "Mike or I might die tomorrow but I'm still angry he did _______":
  1. Fight fair. I discussed this at length in my post on healthy arguments. This means no insults, no verbal below-the-belt jabs, no dragging in unrelated issues, no exaggerating with "you always" and "you never." It means sticking to the facts and making it primarily about how his actions make me feel. I never want to say anything that I would have to take back later, just in case later never comes.
  2. Don't stew or let anger build up. I try to bring things up sooner rather than later, particularly if I can tell I'm not going to be able to let go of them easily. If I get too angry about something, I'm more likely to lose control and violate #1.
  3. Pick your battles. This is something I try to balance with #2. If something is merely annoying and it doesn't affect me too strongly, and it's not like it's something Mike does all the time, then I can usually let it go. That way if my worst fears were realized and the last thing I ever said to Mike was negative, I can at least be sure it was over something serious and not over which way he put the toilet paper roll in the bathroom.
  4. Be loving as much and as often as possible. How can I best ensure that the last words I ever say to someone are positive? By being positive and loving as much as I can. In our marriage, this means making loving words and actions part of our daily interactions.
  5. Realize that the journey is more important than the destination. Yes, it can be comforting to know that the last thing you said to your estranged parent was "I love you" or "I forgive you." But the opposite doesn't have to hold true, that a long and joyful relationship is somehow tainted because the last words were said in anger. We place a lot of significance on people's "last words," but they don't determine whether a life was well-lived, and neither does a last conversation define a relationship.

I realize this might be a bit of a strange topic, but it's the kind of thing I think about every so often, and I don't think I'm alone on this.

Do you ever think about these kinds of things? If someone close to you has died, do you place significance on the last conversation you had with them?

When Is Raising Awareness Valuable?

Thursday, March 8, 2012

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When Is Raising Awareness Valuable? | Faith Permeating Life

I'm going to warn you upfront that this post might make you uncomfortable. You might feel embarrassed, or angry, or defensive. If you start feeling this way, stop reading for a second and know this: I don't think badly of you in any way, and I'm not suggesting that any of the things I'm going to talk about are bad. I'm only going to ask you to consider focusing your time and energy and money in perhaps a different way than you have done in the past.

Are we on the same page? OK.

Let's start with some premises. The time we have on this earth is finite. The amount of energy we have to focus on all of the things we want to (and have to) do is finite. And the amount of money we will ever have access to is finite -- at least, for the vast majority of us.

I would also suggest that it is very difficult, if not impossible, for a person to live and die having had zero impact on the world and the people in it, at least for some period of time. And that, given this fact, most of us would prefer to leave the world better rather than worse because they were in it.

Even though most of us want the world to be a better place, we have a problem, because we can't fight for every cause. There are literally hundreds of different causes we could support that claim to be moving the world in a positive direction, and we just don't have the time, energy, or money for all of them.

I see most people handle this dilemma somewhere on a spectrum between these two extremes:
  • People who are very passionate about one or two issues, and devote time, energy, and money in pursuit of those goals at the expense of everything else.
  • People who are uninvolved in any causes at all, but if something's put in front of them and it's easy to participate, they'll occasionally do so, whether it's posting a Facebook link or putting $10 in the Salvation Army bucket.

Personally, I fall somewhere in the middle of the spectrum: There are a few causes I'm passionate about (no surprise there), but Mike and I also set aside $50 every month to go to whatever cause gets our attention that month. It's a strategic setup because we know we can't put money toward every cause, but we want to make sure we're always doing something, so we've figured out what works with our monthly budget.

As I see it, there are two basic ways to further a cause: awareness and action.

For example, awareness is "let people know that this cancer exists" and action is "give money to fund research for prevention and treatment of this cancer" or "understand and share the specific steps for recognizing this cancer."

You can't get to action without awareness, because no one can fight for a cause they don't know exists. (OK, maybe indirectly. But stay with me here.)

On the other hand, and here's a key point I want to make, we have to make sure we don't get stuck in the "awareness" phase and believe we're doing real good.

(Here's the part where you might start getting uncomfortable. I'm sorry in advance.)

Two months ago, I got several Facebook messages telling me to participate in yet another "women-only" Facebook game, similar to previous ones in which women posted their bra color or where they stored their purse using vague statuses that confused their Facebook friends who weren't in on the "game." (In this case, it was something about saying you were going to another city based on what month you were born in.) If the message had said, "Hey, we're doing this to confuse our Facebook friends because it's funny" -- fine. Stupid, but fine.

What got me is that this, like the previous versions, was sold as being a way to raise "breast cancer awareness."

If this blog post is the very first time you have ever heard that people could get cancer in their breasts, please leave a comment below telling me this. I would be very surprised.

This particular campaign, to my knowledge, did absolutely nothing to actually reduce the amount of breast cancer in the world, or even to educate people about recognizing and getting treatment for breast cancer.

But, you say, it's not like it was doing any harm. It may be a waste of time, but there are lots of other ways to waste time as well.

Sure, all the people who messaged me about the Facebook campaign could have spent 15 minutes watching TV instead of updating their status and then copy/pasting the campaign information into a message and clicking on each of their female friends to send it to. The issue I have is that doing something like this can leave one with the feeling that "I did my part to fight breast cancer by raising awareness" when really... you didn't.

Here's my concern: If we have limited resources and we want to make the world a better place, then we need to try our best to focus those resources in ways that have the most impact. And it doesn't matter which side of the spectrum you're on, whether you've devoted your life to finding a cure for cancer or you simply will put a tiny bit of time, energy, or money toward the cause whenever it comes to your attention.

If you truly want to make a difference, then whatever amount of your limited resources you decide to put toward that cause should, to the best of your ability, advance that cause in some way.

Here's an example of where awareness can actually make a difference. Anne of Modern Mrs. Darcy posted back in December about how they discovered their son had retinoblastoma, a rare eye cancer. How many of you had heard of retinoblastoma before? That's the awareness piece. But Anne went a step further to show us the photograph that first tipped them off, and to encourage anyone who notices this same sign in their own photographs to visit their doctor. That, in my opinion, is a way, way better use of resources than a post simply saying, "Hey, this cancer exists!"

To answer the question titling this post: When is raising awareness valuable? When it leads to action.

In case you hadn't guessed, this post was sparked by the now-viral Kony 2012 video.

I posted this article on Facebook reminding people that as much as we love the story of a single, evil villain, and it's easy and comfortable to believe that "stopping" (killing, more than likely) Joseph Kony would make the world right again, the truth is rarely as simple as it seems. Mike responded that the point of the Kony 2012 campaign was not necessarily to kill Kony but to raise awareness about him, the key point being that Mike had not heard of Kony before and now he has.

What I say to that is if every single person in the world knew about Joseph Kony, but did nothing, it would not do a damn thing for the people of Uganda. (Or Congo.)

I want to be clear that I am not slamming on the Kony 2012 campaign per se. It is raising awareness, and as I said, that is the first step to action. And if you believe that putting your money toward the campaign or toward Invisible Children is the best way for you to make an impact, then I say more power to you. Truly. I simply want to challenge the notion that awareness is enough. I believe awareness needs to be coupled with a call to action, and that call to action needs to be more than "increase awareness some more."

I want to challenge you, before you forward a video or a link or write a post or contribute money to a cause, to ask yourself these two questions:
  • How much time, energy, and/or money am I willing to spend on this cause?
  • How can that amount of time, energy, and/or money generate the most action toward advancing this cause?

That's it. Two questions. You don't have to make every cause *your* cause, but I challenge you neither to do only what is easy because it's right in front of you.


Here are some more links to get you thinking:

Lessons about Sex from a Newlywed

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

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Lessons about Sex from a Newlywed | Faith Permeating Life

Hello friends!

Rather than posting today, I'm going to insist that you go read yesterday's post at Lauren Nicole Love: "10 Things I've Learned about Sex in 6 Months of Marriage." It's so rare to hear positive, honest talk about sex from a Christian perspective that when I find it I feel like I have to drop what I'm doing to promote it.

And if you just can't live without something from me, you can check out these related past posts:

What Marriage Means to Me: Karen

Monday, March 5, 2012

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I am super-excited to introduce this week's What Marriage Means to Me blogger to you! Karen is a talented and funny writer, and she's also our first unmarried contributor to the series. Even though she's single, she seems to have a pretty good idea of what marriage is all about (in my opinion, anyway). She did some soul-searching to outline for us the reasons she's hoping to get married -- the good, the bad, and the silly.

~~~

What Marriage Means to Me: Karen | Faith Permeating Life

Two people promising to be together forever is a simple idea, but in practice it yields an astounding and beautiful variety of results. Marriages are nearly as diverse as people, and likely only less so because there are fewer of them. With so many marriages ending in divorce, that raises the question for single folks like me, "What makes a lasting marriage?"

I would not want to be in most of the marriages I know. This is not an evaluation of their quality, but a symptom of the fact that (happily for everyone, I'm sure) I wouldn't marry most of the people I know. The marriages I find inspiring are those with character and function that fit its partners well and are forums for its partners to glorify God. That's what makes a good marriage, and a lasting marriage, from what I can tell. I am blessed to be witness to many such marriages, and they give me great hope.

I would very much like to be married, but I never have been, so it could be argued that I don't know what I'm talking about. Perhaps you would like even more background information to help color in my perspective a little bit.

I was born in 1986 to a very wise engineer and a Proverbs 31 woman who had been told for the first 9 years of their marriage that they would never bear children. My younger brother and I were born, in fact (woot!), and were raised in cities across the country until we settled in the San Diego area in 2001. I earned Bachelor's and Master's degrees from nearby universities and I'm still living in the area: I thought I'd try my hand at roots for a bit. I worship in Protestant churches of any of several flavors and I enjoy learning from my friends across the spectrum.

I do not think that God guarantees a marriage to anyone who wants one; I think that idea dilutes the meaning of marriages for those who find a partner and represents a focus on our earthly existence rather than our heavenly purpose. Looking at marriage from this side of the fence--keeping in mind that the quality of marriages isn't measured by my preference, but by fit and goals--probably the best way to explain "What marriage means to me" is to list the reasons I would marry.

There are lots of reasons that I would like to get married. Some of these I prefer to acknowledge, and others perhaps not. But this is the Internet. Let's start with the ones I don't talk about; it's more fun.

The Selfish Reasons
  • First, in no particular order, is sex. It is created by God to be awesome and sanctioned by Paul to be a good reason to get married, but isn't all that culturally comfortable to talk about, and particularly frowned on in secular circles as a reason to get married. They have a point: it's perhaps not the best reason to choose a spouse. It's a reason to look forward to marriage generally, though, and eventually, it will be a reason to get married rather than date forever.
  • Next, in less-than-noble reasons, it would be nice to have earthly help. Life is emotionally hard sometimes and so are, like, plumbing and cooking and stuff. I can run to google when my sink doesn't drain, or the cheese is past its expiration date, or I need to learn to do about anything around the house and do it (which I do) or I can call a capable friend, of which I have many (and I do), but being this uncertain can get exhausting. It would be nice to have a partner who could say, "Yeah, we can get that fixed," or "the juice is not supposed to be that color," "it's alright, we can eat out tonight," or "I think we should set it down and back away slowly," or whatever. It would be nice to have someone to supplement my somewhat lacking common sense and ground me when I go crazy. I acknowledge that God can and does provide strength and discernment and safety: that is why it's filed under "not great" reasons.
  • Last, the only truly bad reason in this section of the list, is that I, like many women, sometimes think of marriage as an annuity of affirmation. When we say we want security, we don't often mean that we need financial stability or physical safety so much: these days, we mostly can provide that for ourselves. A romantic partner could provide affection and affirmation. If he were committed to be with me forever, I would get a steady stream of good feelings forever, right? I told you it was a bad reason.

Then, there are the less-bad reasons. There are some really great things that marriage can be that I would like to participate in.

Better Reasons
  • First, I would like a partner to work together for good with. If I could find someone with shared goals and I think we can glorify God more together than we can separately: sign me up!
  • Next, a marriage partner can give me practice loving the way God loves in a way no one else can. If my friend makes me angry, I can stop being around them. I can sleep in instead of going to volunteer. I can opt out of active, godly love in all areas of my life right now with very little risk of being called on it or suffering any consequences. I can't be a jerk, but I can just not love the hard way. In marriage and in a family, that seems required. And I can speculate about how difficult and rewarding that could be, but I bet it wouldn't give me the full-color picture of how much God loves me without the successes and failures of my continued attempts to do so.
  • In a marriage, I could raise children. I hesitate to put this in here because, right now, I'm not so sure about it, but I expect that if I get involved with the right guy, it won't be long before I get excited about the kind of family we could build together. I wouldn't choose to have kids without the reasonable expectation that there would be a good man beside us.
  • Lastly, iron sharpens iron: that's simple and amazing. I have had a few deeply, spiritually productive friendships in my life; they are rare and amazing and life-changing. If I could persuade that kind of friend to stick around until one of us dies, that would be about the coolest thing ever.

It could be that, as a single person, my ideas about marriage are idealistic. I don't think so: I've seen some awesome marriages. I can't see into the future, but I do have at least veto power over what kind of marriage I will enter into. I would prefer to stay single than enter into a marriage that doesn't promise to be, overall, among my favorites.

~~~

Karen is a freshly-minted MBA looking for work and enjoying the sunshine in San Diego, CA. She blogs about Christian singlehood with bursts of unbecoming rants, and tweets when she thinks she's funny.
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