Sunday, May 20, 2012

Plenty of Fish in the Sea

People really like their metaphors. Seriously. We hardly ever say something just how it is. We would much rather tie in an image of something else to help us illustrate our point. Our entire language is saturated with metaphors. Cute as a button. It's raining cats and dogs! He's my knight in shining armor *sigh*. Life's a stage and we are the actors (maybe we've been watching too much "reality" TV?). It's a dog-eat-dog world (seriously, do we ever think about how gross this is?). Running like the wind (or in my case a weak breeze). Catch my drift? (<= Hey, whaddaya know, there's another one!)

Don't think that umbrella will help much...

One that we seem to have a particular affinity for is the image of fishing. I don't know how many times I've heard "there are other fish in the sea..."Or what about the phrase, "fishing for compliments?" I especially like the one "hook, line, and sinker." Even Katy Perry is all about the fishing metaphors (The One That Got Away).

When I think about all of the metaphors, I think of what my writing professor would have to say about them, "CLICHÉS. Don't use them. Come up with something cool and original." But how did these phrases become cliché in the first place? Somebody said them once, and everybody else was all like, "Yeah! That's great! I'm going to use that now," and it spread like wildfire. (<= metaphor. Or simile?) Now, I don't know where most of our clichés derived from, but I have a guess as to who may have started the whole fishing craze. Yeah, that's right, the big JC, Jesus Christ. I mean, He was the one who dropped a bomb saying, "Follow Me and become fishers of men." And how could people NOT think that that was an awesome metaphor?

"I used that metaphor BEFORE it was cliché."
Let's look at what that actually means. Back in the day, fishing wasn't just a relaxing way to pass the weekend off with your buds out on the lake, having a good ol' time and hangin' out. For those called out of their boats to follow Jesus, it was completely different. They were fishermen. Fishing was their career.

According to Luke's gospel, Simon was the first to be called to follow. He was cleaning out his nets one morning after a rather unsuccessful night of fishing. Now, here in this world today, cleaning out nets after a night of fishing doesn't really hold much significance. First of all, I would just like to point out that he had been fishing all NIGHT. Because that's what they did back then. The nets that they used for fishing were pretty visible in the water during the day, and all Galilean fishermen knew that fishing during the day was just straight up foolish. Cleaning his nets didn't just mean splashing them with water. The linen nets used back then were pretty fragile. They required both washing and complete drying, which was quite time consuming. Since he had been out all night, he was just waiting for his nets to be clean and dry before he could go home and finally hit the sack. To top it off, he didn't have much to show for his night of work.

As he was cleaning, he probably noticed a crowd gathering on the shore listening to a rabbi preach. He may or may not have noticed it growing in size--so much so that the man speaking couldn't see all of the people around him. Whether or not Simon was interested in what this man had to say, he was undoubtably tired and rather unconcerned about this mass of people, just wanting to go home. He was probably finishing of the tedious task of cleaning, when Jesus walks up to him and is all like, "Hey man, I see your boat all tied up here, and it is in just the right spot. Mind if I preach from up here so I can see my whole audience?" Simon, respecting the authority of the rabbi consented, but I'm sure he was not too happy about it. That meant he would have to stay in the boat until the man was done speaking. And of all boats on the shore, couldn't he have found a different one?

Jesus continues to preach on Simon's boat, and finished with the cleaning, Simon can't help but listen as the nets dry. Wow, this guy really sounds like he knows what he's talking about. Jesus finally ends his speech for the morning, and as people began to talk amongst themselves and clear out, Jesus looks at Simon and, noticing there aren't many fish in the load from the previous night, says something like "Thanks for letting me use your boat. Kind of an unsuccessful night last night, huh? Here, take your boat back out and throw the net over again."

At this point, Simon must have been incredulous. You want me to take my net that is practically dry, go out into the deep water, even after the sun is up, and cast it into the water again?! You are a rabbi, not a fisherman. Do you even know the slightest thing about fishing?! Even with your help, I would need two more of my friends to help us out. That kind of job requires two boats and four men. Do you WANT me to look like a complete idiot?! Maybe it was his preaching, maybe it was the people on shore watching what would happen, maybe he just wanted to prove Jesus wrong, but something told him he should listen to to this rabbi, and he grudgingly consented to this seemingly daft endeavor. He called over his partners James and John (who no doubt were questioning Simon's sanity) and threw the now dry net into the water. All three men were utterly amazed at what happened next: they caught enough fish to fill both boats to the point of nearly sinking! In broad daylight! It was truly nothing short of a miracle.

"Just keep swimming!"

Simon fell to his knees and said, "Go away from me, Lord; I am a sinful man," (Luke 5:8), for he was ashamed that he had doubted this man. With that, Jesus just looked at the men in the boats and said, "Follow me and I will make you fishers of men."


Now do you see why that metaphor rocks? It wasn't like some random guy walked up to the apostles and was like, "Hey, drop your jobs, your family, your lifestyle, and come follow me and you'll catch lot's of men." No. He proved himself through this amazing miracle and said "Through Me, you can do this again, only next time, you will bring in people, not fish. If you follow me, you can become the world's greatest evangelists, bringing people to God." How do you say no to that?!

The best part is, just think, if Simon (later Peter) had not listened to Jesus to cast out his net once more, if he had decided it wasn't worth the effort, if he had put his own interests (going home, not cleaning the net again, etc.) above listening to Jesus, we wouldn't have Peter, the great apostle and first pope. He became who he was all because he decided to first of all let Jesus preach from his boat (he could have very easily turned Him down), and secondly he risked his own reputation and pride to throw that net in the water just one more time.

So, all metaphors aside, next time God asks you to do something that you don't necessarily see as a good idea, logically speaking, like Nike, just do it. You never know what big plans God has in store for you. He might just be setting you too up to become one of the greatest fishers of men.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

Facebook Frustration

It's been a long day at work. I dealt with some cranky customers and some irritable co-workers. I didn't get a lot of sleep the night before, and I think that I'm beginning to catch a cold. I slump into my room and plop down on my bed, grab my laptop, and connect myself to the wifi. My finger darts across the sensor pad more like a nervous twitch than a deliberate navigation. With one tap of the finger, I am now staring at the familiar image of my homepage on Facebook. Without waiting for my command, my eyes already know what part of the page to find: the top left corner. They pinpoint a small little image in the corner of the screen. Noticing a disappointing lack of red, my heart falls. That's right, no new notifications. Yeah, you know exactly what I'm talking about. It's completely ridiculous, but you have undoubtedly experienced this sometime before in your life (unless you don't have a Facebook, in which case props to you!). It's that little indication that nobody has interacted with your internet presence that can really bring you down. But why? How completely ridiculous is that?! But it's true. Sometimes, I just wish that I could be more like Ryan Spoon... (see image below).

Now THIS guy's virtual life is bumpin'!

Why am I so obsessed with Facebook?! It has become a major hinderance to my life. I open up my laptop, and without thinking, it is the first page that I open up, regardless of when the last time I checked it was. There is something about that little shortcut up at the top of my screen that activates the muscle memory in my finger. It's not just something that I look at for one second, however. Even if there is a depressing absence of notifications, that doesn't stop me from perusing the entire newsfeed. I just scroll, scroll, scroll, until I have sufficiently stalked all of the daily (or hourly, depending on when I last checked) happenings. I spend literally HOURS on Facebook every day. EVERY STINKING DAY!

Now, you might think, hey, what's the harm in a little Facebook. It's interesting, and you are just catching up with what's going on in your friends lives. Well, is it really that harmless? I have been thinking about it, and I have come to the conclusion that Facebook can really be detrimental to anyone. Let me give you some examples to help illustrate my point.

Susie get's home from school Monday afternoon. She's not the most popular person in her grade, she is kind of shy and doesn't talk much. She signs in to Facebook, and sees that there are no new notifications. BAM. Blow to the already low self-esteem. She then continues to scroll down through the newsfeed and sees all the pictures and statuses going up from the weekend before. She happens upon a picture of the group of friends that she talks to at school. Apparently, they had all gone to the beach over the weekend, but she hadn't been invited. Strike two to the self-esteem. As she browses through all of the other pictures that people are putting up, she can't help but notice how happy they look. They all look so carefree. All of the other girls look so beautiful, and there is no lack of comments on their pictures telling them so. Why doesn't she look as pretty? She checks her own pictures, but she already knows that there is not going to be any comments on any of them, except the one that her mom had found kind of cute. And she was talking about their dog. Just like that, her whole day is ruined as she continues to scroll through the pages and profiles, hating herself more and more.

Stephanie has a similar problem. She has friends and is featured in many pictures on Facebook, but she is self-conscious about something else: her weight. It's the Monday after the warmest weekend of the year, and every time she logs in to the site, she sees picture upon picture of skimpy bathing suits showing off the toned, "sexy" bodies of her peers. She looks down at her own body and starts to cry. Now that summer was arriving, she wouldn't be able to hide under baggy sweatshirts and loose-fitting pants. She was already trying to eat less, but it wasn't the calories so much as her dang genetics that were keeping her from that perfect "beach body." She shut off her computer and promised herself she would skip dinner tonight.

Carl, a friend of Stephanie's, is also on the computer this lovely June afternoon. He heard all about a trip to the beach this last weekend, and he was kind of bummed that he wasn't able to go. Stupid job. He hops on Facebook to see what's new in the virtual world when he sees the pictures of the beach adventure. Flipping past pictures of the guys messing around, he finally stops on one just like what he was looking for. There we go. He stares at the screen in front of him, ogling at the two girls in their bikinis. I knew that Jess was pretty hot, but dang! I didn't realize what kind of body Anna has. He makes a mental note to see what she was wearing the next day at school. Maybe she would be showing a little cleavage, or those nice legs of hers. I love shorts and tank top season.

This very same Monday, Anna gets home from her shift at work after school, and she too goes on Facebook. She notices that Jessica had put up pictures from the weekend. Why did she put that one up? Doesn't she realize how skanky we look? She goes to untag herself in it, but little does she know the picture has already been saved in Carl's folder on his computer. At least I have been working out recently, I don't even look half bad. She keeps clicking through the album when she sees one that she doesn't like so much. Gross! Why did she put THIS one up? I have a gigantic roll in this picture! I look so chubby! She probably just put it up because she looks incredibly perfect. Typical. She can be such a brat sometimes. I wish I had her body. I think that she put this one up just because she looks good and I don't. What a b****! She decides that she will confront Jessica about it the following day at school.

She put that one up?!

Jessica (yeah, see how this is coming full circle?) started all of this Sunday night (or Monday morning?) at 1:00 am. Excited to put up the pictures of the weekend, she uploads each one and makes sure that she doesn't look bad in any of them before publishing them. Between the uploading and the photoshopping (because she had to make sure nobody could see that awful zit on her face!) she spent 3 hours on the whole ordeal, skipping her math homework that she had put off until that night. I'll just copy Greg's tomorrow. Finally satisfied with the now nearly flawless pictures, she hits "publish album" and goes to bed.

See all of the problems that arise? Now this is just a hypothetical, multi-perspective scenario, but all of these are no doubt really happening somewhere in the wonderful world of Facebook, and I'm sure you are already aware of most if not all of these. Now, I'm not saying that Facebook in and of itself is evil, and everyone should cancel their accounts. It wouldn't be a bad idea, but I know I could never do that. I'm simply saying that it is one of the obstacles to our happiness here in this day and age. It consumes so much time that can be spent so much more productive. If I spent the time that I do every day on Facebook in prayer, I think that I would care a lot less about what my peers thought of me, be closer with God, be more peaceful and less anxious, and I'm sure much more. Even if I didn't want to spend that time with God, if I found SOME other productive use of my time I would be better off, whether that be cleaning, doing homework, reading, talking with my friends, or anything really!

So, why doesn't everyone stop spending so much time on Facebook? Because it's so HARD! Not only that, it's addicting and habitual. And, there are some benefits with being in touch with a mass amount of people all at once. I can't delete my account. I just can't. But for now, I'm going to delete the shortcut and try to limit my time wasted on it. Like no more than 10 minutes. At a time. I think I need a little Facebook rehab.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

Love Like Jesus

First of all, let me just start off with an introduction. For all of you who don't know me (which is probably everyone since this is my first post) I will give you some background on myself. I am a college student home for the summer. In the past year, I have had a complete conversion of heart. When I say a complete conversion of heart, I mean COMPLETE CONVERSION. It's like a light bulb finally went on inside my little head and God was like, "Hey, guess what. I love you. Not only that, everything that has ever happened in your life I did for you. On purpose." BAM. So, now I am searching for ways to share this spark that has been fanned into flames. I was sitting around distressed about my lack of an evangelical venue when voila, I happen upon this wonderful thing called the blogosphere. (Thanks to my good friend Bridget who gave me the idea. She has a seriously awesome blog called The Catholic Maiden that you should definitely check out!!) It dawned on me that, hey, I can share with everyone who is willing to read all of the insanity that brews inside of my mind (muahahahaha) mixed in with a little bit of Evangelization (thus the name of my blog... I'm pretty proud of it. It even amounts to a good acronym (TEN).). See, I have a lot of great ideas bouncing around on my neurons like a funhouse, but NOBODY ELSE EVER GETS TO HEAR THEM! My ideas are trapped. And they. want. out. Disclaimer: I am new to the whole concept of blogging, and I am amateur at best, so take pity on my inexperience and whatnot. Let he without a bad blog cast the first stone. If you have never blogged, you don't count. You just shouldn't be casting stones. So, anyways, here goes nothing!

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"Hide it under a bushel? No! I'm gonna let it shine!" As a kid I sang this song with such fervor and spirit (mostly just so I could shout the word NO! in church...) and these words hit me now as I prepare for the summer ahead of me. Sometimes I feel like going back home is like approaching a trap set up for me. There is this giant bushel (just waiting to hide my light) propped up by a stick. Sooner or later, BAM. I hit the stick and my flame has been smothered by this giant bushel-trap. But how can I avoid this happening? Your guess is as good as mine, but let me tell you, this summer, I am going to try!

This is what a bushel looks like if you were wondering... I was.
(Who decided on a bushel for the song, anyways??)

"Love one another as I have loved you." We hear this phrase over and over again. But what the heck does it mean? It's not exactly something we analyze. We just sing along and look at our friends and family and say, yeah, I totally love everyone, just like you do, God! Watch, I'll even give a friendly smile to the random stranger sitting right next to me in the pew today. Golly, I'm so loving! No. Wrong. Just think about that request for a second. Love each other as I have loved you. Woah. That is crazy. How did God love us? Well, for starters, He died for us. Not just for the general "us" as in the collective group of humanity. No, He died for you. And He died for every other person specifically as an individual. He would die for you alone if you were the only person in the world to save, but He would also do the same for that person who cut in front of you during rush hour traffic, the guy who beats his wife, every single woman in a strip club (and man for that matter), the drug dealer on the corner, the mass murderer, the politician, the lawyer, the crazy cat lady, you get the point. He loves everyone. No exceptions. Not just loves as in I-will-cast-smiles-in-your-direction-to-let-you-know-how-holy-I-am. No, He loves with the kind of love that takes every single one of our sins and says, don't worry, I got this. You just stole a pack of gum from the store. My bad. I will take a lash in the back for it. You looked lustfully at one of my daughters? Put another thorn in my head. It's okay. I will take the blame.

Talk about setting high expectations.

Let's look at the humility of His love next. Jesus did not care about the standards set by society when it came to whom he loved. He treated every one with equal respect and dignity talking to them and spending time with them, no matter if they were a Jew, Samaritan, tax collector, woman, etc. How often will we refuse to even give someone the time of day if they are "socially inferior" to us. How embarrassing if people saw us hanging out with THAT person. Once again, God is setting the bar pretty high for us. He is asking us to throw pride out the window and simply LOVE others without any regards to social status, personal hygiene, political stance, etc. Because, let's be real, we in no way are worthy to chill with God, yet that's exactly what He asks us to do! If put on a social spectrum, He would be so far away from us, we wouldn't even be able to look in his direction. (He is the author to the most popular book written in the history of ever.)

Lastly, I want to bring up the whole forgiveness factor of God's amazing, undeserved love. He has paid the price for every single stinking sin we commit, but does He hold it against us? Never! As He hung on the cross, He knew every sin every person would ever commit. If someone treats me with disrespect and it really hurts me, I hold on to that. That person is blacklisted in my mind. They become a victim to countless cutting mental remarks and the object of a certain amount of passive aggressiveness. Would Jesus ever do that? No. In fact, the first thing He did after He was hung on the cross was forgive those who had put Him there.
        "Father, forgive them, for they no not what they do."
So, let's think about this. They put Him through the most horrible death imaginable, mock him, fight over his clothes, and spit at His feet, all while He is thinking of every single sin that you will ever commit over the course of your lifetime and also bearing the burden of literally the entire world, but yet He looks at those who crucify Him with compassion and pity, asking God to forgive them. Wow. Seeing as some people would not even be so gracious if the offense was merely a missed appointment and their only burden was not having their Starbucks that morning, I think there is seriously something wrong with our grasp on the concept of forgiving love. We will probably never have to endure what He went through, but if we did, could we respond with forgiveness, the way God has asked us to so directly?

I'm with the Black Eyed Peas, where is the love? Love isn't just a feeling sought after by one too many poets and artists, it is something that we are all called to do. Love one another as I have loved you. That is our mission in life. We are called to love. I look around, even at my Catholic friends and family, and what I see is not the kind of love God is asking us to give to others. Every single day, He asks us to follow in His footsteps and just LOVE. Can we do it? Can we love as He loved us? If not, how can we ask Him to love us? This is His commandment, this is the rule that trumps all else. While it is such a simple, commonly heard phrase, it just might be one of the the most difficult things that will ever be asked of us.