From the Desk of Mr. Zissman

The musings of an over-stimulated mind

Archive for the ‘Religion’ Category

May the Fourth Be With You….

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….and also with you. Due to tomorrow (or today, depending on when you are reading this) being May the Fourth or International Star Wars Day, I am re-posting this blog entry I did on my previous blog. Please enjoy.

Christianity’s biggest threat: Christians

If you’ve been following the news lately, you’ve seen that there has been a surge of suicides in gay teens. It seems one can hardly turn on the news anymore without hearing a horrible tale of a young life snuffed out of it’s prime due to bullying and just general harassment. It’s a horrible trend and I whole-heartedly approve of the “It Gets Better” campaign to help these teens. It’s so sad that these kids feel they have no other alternative to life than to take it with their own hands. Absolutely soul crushing.

But then I found an article written by a man identifying himself as a Christian. I’m not going to link the article, nor name the author, because I honestly don’t want to give him any more attention, but I’m sure if you poke around on Google you could find it. Anyway, this gentleman goes on to say that the gay teen suicide spike isn’t such a big deal, as opposed to Christians who have killed themselves due to being “harassed by homosexual activists.” He then goes on to list eight cases where Christians were either bullied, harassed or just downright intimidated. I admit, as I read the article, I was starting to wonder if there was another side to this over-all story. But the tail end of the article caught my attention..

“These eight cases are all true except for one thing: The Christians who were bullied by gays and gay activists are all still alive. Not a single one has committed suicide.”

So yes, you read that right. His argument boils down to “Gay people tease and harass Christians to the point of suicide. Except they didn’t, and yet somehow my point still stands.”

Umm…what? Seriously, this confuses me, but it illustrates my point that the greatest threat to Christianity is actually Christians themselves.

If I may take a step back here, I’d also like to clarify that this blog entry isn’t so much a “everyone should be like me” deal but more of a “let’s take this journey together.” As a Christian, I’d grade myself a D-, at best. So please don’t think I’m trying to preach from some ivory altar and guide people to where I am. Now that we’ve established that, let’s get back to the show.

“But Mr. Zissman,” you might say “how can you possibly defend Christianity considering all the horrible things it has done in the past and present?” Well that’s easy, I can’t defend it. I can’t defend Fred Phelps, or abortion clinic bombings, other than to say they do not have Christ’s message in their hearts and minds.

Look at it this way…think of a Christianity as a lightsaber.

In the hands of a Jedi, the lightsaber represents truth, justice and peace. In the hands of Obi-Wan Kenobi or Luke Skywalker, it protects the weak and the poor and helps bring light to the galaxy. However, if a lightsaber is wielded by Darth Vader or Darth Maul, it represents misery, hate and pain. The lightsaber itself has not changed: it still hums, it still glows, it still looks wicked awesome. BUT what has changed is how it’s wielded and for what purpose. Christianity works the same way.

When lightsabers were first created in the Star Wars universe, their first intention was for good. However, when the Dark Jedi discovered lightsabers, they found a way to enforce their views through intimidation and fear. In essence, the original intention of the lightsabers had been corrupted. In fact, many people actually feared the Jedi due to the actions of the Sith, simply lumping the two together. Well, I’m here to say that not all Christians are Sith Lords.

I’d also like to think part of this poor public perception boils down to the media. Now again, let me make myself clear: I’m not going to say there is some sort of sinister liberal/progressive plan to overthrow Christianity because I simply don’t believe it. Rather, I blame the media because sensationalism sells. “If it bleeds, it leads” as the saying goes. Imagine you’re a producer of a prime-time news show. Which segment do you think would get the most ratings?

LOCAL CHRISTIAN STUDIES BIBLE, DONATES TO CHARITIES, VOLUNTEERS AT SOUP KITCHEN

or

REV. ARCHIBALD NOTGAY CONDEMNS SPONGEBOB SQUAREPANTS FOR BEING PART OF ‘INSIDIOUS HOMOSEXUAL AGENDA’

Again, if the producer chose B it wouldn’t be out of trying to smear Christianity, but rather it’s got more pizzaz than Option A. Let’s be real, Option A is rather boring, at least news wise. But Christians aren’t the only ones getting this treatment, as I firmly believe Muslims are as well. Once more, let’s look at possible news headlines.

LOCAL MUSLIM PRAYS, FASTS AND READS KORAN. WORKS 9 TO 5, PAYS BILLS ON TIME, DRIVES A LEXUS.

or

DEPARTMENT OF DEFENSE WARNS OF ANOTHER POSSIBLE-SORTOF-MAYBE-KINDOF-ALMOST-TERRORIST ATTACK. TERROR ALERT HAS BEEN RAISED TO LIGHT BEIGE

See what I mean?

This is a problem, and the only solution (I feel) is to keep on keeping on. You won’t win anyone over by street corner preaching, but instead following Christ’s example of humility, peace and charity. As Rob Bell (one of my favorite theologians) once said: “Why blame the dark for being dark? It’s far more helpful to ask why the light isn’t as bright as it could be.” This is a good point.

Let’s go back to the Star Wars analogies. There will always be the Force, and there will always be two sides of it: Light and Dark. For every Luke Skywalker, you have a Darth Vader. For every Darth Bane, you have a Yoda. As much as it pains me, I do not see an earthly world where the light is the only source. So instead of complaining about the darkness, instead of blaming others for being in the darkness, why not simply be as bright as you can? Try simple acts of kindness, try listening to someone hurting or who is in pain, teach your kids not to bully or hate and focus on being the best Christian YOU can be, instead of expecting people to join you in lock step conformity to your own personal beliefs.

Christ’s message will never be spread via finger-pointing and name calling, but rather through faith, love and humility. Just like a Youngling trains to become a Padawan and then trains to be a Jedi (more Star Wars metaphors!) let’s train ourselves to be some sort of spiritual Jedi. We’re all in this together.

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Written by MrZissman

05/03/2011 at 10:33 PM

Jesus loves the little children…

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Jesus loves the little children,
All the children of the world.
Red and yellow, black and white,
All are precious in His sight,
Jesus loves the little children of the world.

I remember sitting in Sunday School as a young child, singing this exact song. It served as a musical foundation for my early faith. I remember sitting in brightly colored plastic chairs, sipping fruit “juice” (Seriously, was there ever actually any real juice in those large 3 gallon jugs?) and coloring Xeroxed pictures of a smiling, cartoony looking Jesus. We learned about Jesus, Mary, Moses, The Disciples and Heaven and Hell.

For Young Stephen, the stark contrast between Heaven and Hell made perfect sense to me. You either loved Jesus and went to Heaven or you didn’t and went to Hell where all the bad people go. There was nothing else, just one or the other.

This stayed with me till I grew older and some things began to linger in the back of my mind. The fact that a loving, just God would cast someone into a “lake of fire” because they didn’t believe the right thing bothered me. I never admitted it to anyone because I felt guilty about it, as if I had somehow blasphemed God by having this struggle. “The Lord works in mysterious ways.” I would tell myself.

Even though it was drilled into my head every Sunday morning that if someone hadn’t “accepted” Jesus that they would burn in Hell forever regardless of what they did, the confusion never went away.

This really left me feeling disoriented, because I firmly believe that Christ stands for truth, justice and peace and I had seen works of people whom I felt represented these same ideals. For example, take the late Princess Diana. Here is a woman who, during her short time on this earth, dedicated herself to funding AIDS research and spending time with AIDS patients, even during a period where little was known about it and people thought you could catch it via skin contact. She also dedicated herself to the eradication of land mines, a horrible device if there was one, all the while battling her own personal demons of bulimia, self-harm (cutting) and more.

And yet, I had heard it preached straight from the pulpit that because she had never made a public profession of faith in Jesus, she died “unsaved” to spend an eternity in Hell.

Wait, what?

She’s in Hell?

We know this for sure?

It bothered me greatly to hear all that she had done in her life so easily dismissed. And that’s not to simply single out Princess Di, but other people who have spread peace and love, only to be told they died “unsaved” and went to Hell.

Does anyone else see something wrong with this?

Have we, as Christians, gotten to the point where we look at God’s redemptive, powerful, healing love like a Beverly Hills Polo Club where only the elite can get in? But doesn’t that contrast with Christ’s message of inclusion and not exclusion?

If God is the one who decides if we make into Heaven or Hell and faith in Jesus “saves” us into Heaven, is Jesus then protecting us from God? Why would we need protecting from someone who loves us as much as him? Indeed, God carries such a powerful love for us, that he allowed his only son to die an excruciating death usually reserved for the most hardcore of criminals.

And God allowed it, so that we would no longer be held prisoners of sin.

He loves us that much.

So if he loves us that much, how could he possibly send someone to Hell and still claim he’s a loving God?

Questions, questions, questions.

Let’s look at this from another angle: the basic understanding of Christian behavior is to ‘be good.’ Paul writes in Galatians 5:22 that one of the “fruits of the (Holy) spirit” is goodness.

So goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit.

But then the writer of Psalms 1 states that “all good things” come from God.

All good things.

Come from God.

So goodness is a fruit of the Holy Spirit and all good things come from God, right? So by doing a ‘good thing’ you are, in fact, a fulfilling a fruit of the Holy Spirit, a fruit that originally came from God.

Whether you realize it or not, by doing something good you are fulfilling God’s will and doing what is pleasing in God’s eyes.

“…’I tell you the truth, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers of mine, you did for me.” ~ Matthew 25:40

If how we treat others is how we treat Jesus and if we treat Jesus via other people with love, affection and kindness, then why would God decide this person should experience eternal pain, suffering and torture?

Look at this series of verses from Ezekiel…

“I poured out my wrath on them because they had shed blood in the land and because they had defiled it with their idols. I dispersed them among the nations, and they were scattered through the countries; I judged them according to their conduct and their actions. And wherever they went among the nations they profaned my holy name, for it was said of them, ‘These are the LORD’s people, and yet they had to leave his land.’ I had concern for my holy name, which the people of Israel profaned among the nations where they had gone.

“Therefore say to the Israelites, ‘This is what the Sovereign LORD says: It is not for your sake, people of Israel, that I am going to do these things, but for the sake of my holy name, which you have profaned among the nations where you have gone.  I will show the holiness of my great name, which has been profaned among the nations, the name you have profaned among them. Then the nations will know that I am the LORD, declares the Sovereign LORD, when I am proved holy through you before their eyes.

“‘For I will take you out of the nations; I will gather you from all the countries and bring you back into your own land. I will sprinkle clean water on you, and you will be clean; I will cleanse you from all your impurities and from all your idols. I will give you a new heart and put a new spirit in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh. And I will put my Spirit in you and move you to follow my decrees and be careful to keep my laws. Then you will live in the land I gave your ancestors; you will be my people, and I will be your God.” ~ Ezekiel 36:16-28

So God became angered at Israel for worshiping false gods and making idols to bow down too, so he punished them and drove them from their own land. Enslaved by foreign leaders who held them captive by people who cared little to nothing about them, their lives were hell.

But then God goes on to say that, due to his grace and mercy, he has forgiven them and allowed them to return to their promised land. But nowhere in the verse does it say they specifically asked for forgiveness.

Interesting.

Let’s look at this from another direction. Let’s say we have an atheist named Jane. Jane  has never went to church, was raised in an atheist household and sees no need for Jesus, or God or any other religion.

Now let’s also say that Jane is a drug addict, or more specifically, heroin. Her arms look like a AAA road map full of bruises, sores and scars. She lost her job due to her addiction, her family has abandoned her due to the pain she has caused them, and with no job and no money to pay for drugs, she has resorted to prostitution. Every night she sells her body to strangers and is abused and violated in the most graphic, horrible ways possible. All so she can have a little extra cash for her next drug fix.

The one night, feeling cold, alone and broken, Jane deliberately over doses and dies a slow, painful death on her filthy couch.

She then meets God.

What happens?

Does Jane go to Heaven or Hell?

Here we have this woman’s life whose life was in shambles: depressed and alone, forgotten and miserable. No one had bothered to show her the tiniest shred of kindness or mercy in her last days and she dies in utter and complete darkness.

But would God, in his eternal compassion and grace, give this woman the peace and serenity she never had while living or would he simply say “Sorry woman, but you didn’t believe in exactly the right thing, so off to Hell you go.”

If God is our Heavenly Father who loves and cares for us much more than our earthly father possibly could (and the love a father has for his child is well documented throughout the pages of history) then why would God cast Jane into a “lake of fire”?

Does God get what God wants?

Jane’s life was already in hell. Her life was a hell on earth.

Before we consider Hell as a cavernous lava chamber in which Satan sits upon a throne of skulls, laughing as he puts backwards messages into Ozzy Osbourne songs, we should understand that hell is here on Earth.

From the elderly shut-in.

To the drug addict looking for another fix.

And the alcoholic passed out, clutching a bottle as they lay face down in a pool of their own vomit.

As well as the sex abuse victim huddled in darkness, clutching their knees to their chest as tears trickle down their innocent faces.

And the homeless using a thin, frail newspaper as their own line of protection form a blistering winter cold.

This is Hell. This weeping and gnashing of teeth.

And what do we do about it?

Burn Korans?

Protest Harry Potter?

Become enraged that our elected officials do not pray and worship in the exact specified way we feel they should?

In Acts 1, Jesus commands us to witness “to the ends of the earth.” and in his letter to the Romans, Paul writes that we should be “slaves to righteousness.”

Peace. Mercy. Justice. This is righteousness. This is Christ.

This is Heaven.

God has shown us incredible mercy by sacrificing his only own son for our sake. The veil in the temple has been torn, the sacrificial goat has been set free.

It is finished.

Heaven doesn’t need to be an ideal of golden gates, mansions and angels sitting on clouds while playing harps. It’s a very real concept, a place, a state of being that lives forever, that darkness will never taint nor corrupt.

Heaven lives in every one of us, being God’s perfect gift to us and it’s our job to show Heaven to as many people as possible by showing love and compassion to all.

The promise is for everyone, allowing eternal joy for all of humanity.

THAT is Jesus loving the little children.

Don’t worry if someone, or even yourself, is “good enough” to get into Heaven. Instead, bring Heaven to earth, just like Christ did.

Written by MrZissman

04/25/2011 at 12:42 AM

I’ve gotta have faith-a-faith-a-faith…

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It’s been a while since I’ve felt the urge to do a theological blog entry, but reading the news lately has inspired me to write one. It all started when I heard about the pastor in Florida who had burned a Koran and still continued to prove it, even after it was directly responsible for deaths of Americans. There were some other motivators too, but that’s neither here nor there. They are private ones that I don’t feel comfortable disclosing at this time.

I’ve expressed my struggles with own faith in the past. It’s been something that swirls around me, like a big stew of confusion. At times I felt like I was lost in a fog, desperately trying to follow a voice in this haze that seemed to be coming from all directions. My experiences as a Protestant, or more specifically, a Free-Will Baptist had at times left me feeling disjointed and disillusioned.

Now that’s not to say I came close to becoming an atheist or agnostic. In fact, it only furthered my hunger for Christ, because I felt like I wasn’t getting enough “spiritual food” at my place of worship. True, the argument could be made that I should “feed myself” spiritually, and I agree. But I felt like I was a contractor on a construction site, who after laying the foundation for a building was repeatedly instructed to continue laying foundation with no real attempt to build on it. I attended a Free Will Baptist church, I told folks I was Free Will  Baptist, but in my heart I just didn’t feel any connection with it.

SIDE NOTE: I do not wish this come across as some sort of scolding, holier-than-thou tear down. There is no doubt in my mind that Free Will Baptist’s are Christians and are living their lives as they feel Christ would want them to. Just because I prefer orange juice to grape juice doesn’t mean that grape juice is a poor excuse for juice. Rather, it just doesn’t taste good to me.

One of my biggest qualms is a “with us or against us” attitude. That is, if things weren’t done in a 100% “do as we do” way, it was projected as being wrong or immoral. But I disagree, as Jesus speaks of this. When the disciples saw people preaching and casting out demons, but weren’t associated with The Twelve, they took objection to this and asked Jesus to tell them to stop.

“Do not stop him,” Jesus said. “No one who does a miracle in my name can in the next moment say anything bad about me, for whoever is not against us is for us. I tell you the truth, anyone who gives you a cup of water in my name because you belong to Christ will certainly not lose his reward” ~ Mark 9:39-41 (NIV)

So I continued to wander in this fog, unsure of where I was going, but knowing I wanted something deeper. I wanted something that dove head first into the mysteries of faith and explored with awe, respect and amazement the things of God. And I found that in Catholicism.

Now here comes the tricky park, admitting publicly to my friends and family that in a mere 8 days, the Protestant Stephen Allen Harvey will become the Catholic Stephen Allen Paul Harvey. It’s difficult, not because I am ashamed of my decision, but because this is so different and radical from what my family worships. I fully believe we worship the same God, but for me step out and say “Hey, I’m Catholic now.” is like a vegan to tell another group of vegans, “Oh hey guys, I totally love meat now.” It’s just a huge break from generations of Harvey Tradition.

I did not make this decision lightly. Rather, it took months and months of intense soul-searching, praying and quiet meditation. It was not a sudden rush, but instead a quiet walk into something new. When I  made my decision, I knew in my heart it was the right one when I felt at peace about it. I may have concerns about how my decision will be perceived, but I have no doubts that it was right for me.

So now that we know how I came to believe this, what exactly do I believe?

For starters, let us get the basics out-of-the-way: Jesus Christ, the only son of  God, was born to the Virgin Mary. He lived in what is now Israel for 30+ years and was crucified, buried and risen on the third day. He ascended into Heaven and will return again someday to end this world as we know it and bring about the new eternal world full of Heaven glory. Okay, we got that out-of-the-way. Let’s go deeper.

I do not believe the world was created in a literal six-day, 24 hour period. I’m sorry, but I just can’t ignore the scientific evidence or sweep it under the rug by claiming that fossil records are tests of faith by God or somehow an attempt by Satan to throw Christians a curveball. Could God have created the earth in six 24-hour periods? Absolutely. I even feel God could have done it in less than a second, if He so desired. But as Psalm reads…

“For a thousand years in your sight
are like a day that has just gone by,
or like a watch in the night.” ~ Pslam 90:4 (NIV)

To assume that God follows a 24-hour-7-day work week schedule, I feel, is to severely limit His power. God transcends all concepts of mortal understanding, so things we use to organize and classify the world around us are of no use to Him. We can’t box God in and pretend He follows the same rules we do, because we can’t. Genesis was written by Moses who was trying his best to put down what he interpreted from God. That’s not to say Genesis is wrong or incorrect, but I think we’re missing the point. The point isn’t that God could have created it in six days, but rather that  God created it in the first place. When I look at life and all it’s complexities, I can’t simply believe that life is some random accident as we uselessly float in a big ball of mud in the middle of cold, empty space. Things are organized and done in such a way that I can’t help but feel there is a hidden hand guiding all of this. The Bible is not a text-book, but rather the living, breathing, awe-inspiring, mysterious, powerful, magnificent, life changing Word of God. It is dangerous to take everything written at 100% literal value, as we need to dig deeper and study and find the context in which these words were written.

I also believe that it’s entirely possible for Christians to have wildly different ideas of worship and praise, and yet it still be just as valid as another. I feel it mostly boils down to personal taste. Let me explain a bit more by hopping in the Way Back Machine, Sherman.

Let’s go back 2,000+ years ago to when Jesus walked the earth. Now-a-days, you and I are pretty spoiled because we can get the gospel whenever we want, however we want. As of now, I own three different Bibles, two different translations, as well as having multiple translations loaded as an app on my iPhone. But back then, a majority of the people were poor and illiterate. To even own a written copy of what we now call the Old Testament was the same concept as owning a solid gold yacht today. It was something only the very well off could own. So in order to understand and interpret the gospel, you needed a Rabbi to do it. But just like today, different Rabbis had different ways of interpreting.

For example, it says in the Old Testament to avoid doing any work on the Sabbath. But it never actually goes to on to explain what actually makes up work. So Rabbi Bill might say “On the Sabbath, you can walk up to 5 miles total for the day, but anything past that is work.” but Rabbi Ted would say “Actually, I believe you can walk up to 10 miles on the Sabbath, but no more.” This concept is what was known as “binding and loosening.” You “bind” something by restricting it, but “loosen” it by allowing it. And again, what does Jesus say?

“I tell you the truth, whatever you bind on earth will be  bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth will be loosed in heaven.” ~ Matthew 18:18 (NIV)

That doesn’t mean we can grab a sawed off shotgun and shoot up a daycare and pass it off as “Well, Jesus said I could!” because it doesn’t work that way. But if you feel convicted to not pray with your eyes closed, but your friend does, neither of you are wrong. You are both right, because you both have become a “law on to yourselves”, as Paul writes, and have followed your own personal convictions. How I feel is not the only way to worship, nor is it even the ideal. Rather, it’s my own personal theology developed from my experiences as a Christian and how I perceive the world around me.

I also feel like God does not want us to be some sort of global censorship squad. If Christians were to get into a tizzy over every little objectionable thing out there, it’d be an endless fight till the end of time. And indeed, at times it seems just like that. Book burnings, protests, completely inaccurate anonymous e-mail forwards…it’s pretty bad.

But as much as I talk about peace, love and charity, I hardly follow-up on this, much to my displeasure. I am quick to anger, slow to forgive and am always suspicious of a homeless person asking for change. It’s like what Paul writes in Romans…

“What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death?” ~ Romans 7:24 (NIV)

BUT, where I lack, Christ’s grace over flows. If humanity is the brittle, cracked and broken Highway of Life, then Christ is the tar that fills in the gaps and makes it whole, complete and strong. THAT is what the church should focus on. The world is full of hurt, broken and wounded people who may not be “sinners”, but carry with them a lifetime of regrets, sorrows and pain. It is only when we focus our attention on the sick, lonely, shut-in, depressed, suicidal, ill and show the same love and tenderness to them that Christ has shown to us, that the will of God is truly enacted.

I wish I could go on more, but there simply isn’t enough space on all the internet for me to really unleash. If you’re interested in what I’ve had to say, I have a few books you might want to look into…

“Velvet Elvis” by Rob Bell

“The Jesus I Never Knew” by Phillip Yancey

“My Utmost for His Highest” ~ Oswald Chambers

Jesus Wants to Save Christians: A Manifesto for the Church in Exile” ~ Rob Bell

I hope you walk away from this entry with a better understanding of Who I Am and What I Believe. I’m always open for a respectful discussion, so by all means feel free to leave a comment or send me a private message. Remember, we’re all in this together.

Written by MrZissman

04/15/2011 at 5:18 PM

What St. Patty’s Means to Me

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It would make a pretty sweet tattoo

Ah yes, Saint Patrick’s Day. To some it’s a celebration of Saint Patrick and to others it’s an excuse to get absolutely smashed while listening to the Dropkick Murphy’s or some other Irish band. To me, it was little more than another day to ignore or rather a day to wear green, lest I get pinched by over zealous people. I never really considered much of the Holiday, even with my Irish blood. (My great-grandfather, on my Mom’s side, had immigrated to the USA from Ireland.)

Now two halves make a whole and every person comes from two different families: in this case my Mom’s Side and my Dad’s Side. Growing up I was never really close to Mom’s Side, besides a handful of relatives. Instead my “family” was just Dad’s Side, with Mom’s Side almost like strangers I was close to. Very rarely did I ever spend time with my maternal grandparents and when I did, it was usually a quick “oh hey how are you, only doing this so I don’t feel guilty” type of thing. When Grandpa was dying, it never really struck me till the day of his death, though he was in a long hospital stretch leading up to this. It was the first time I can really remember death hitting me hard.

Years went by and Grandma trudged on, as tough as nails as she ever was, and our relationship never changed, though it was clear she adored and loved me. Every time she saw me, I was always greeted with a “And who is this handsome guy!” followed by a nicotine kiss on the forehead. I always received birthday and Christmas cards from her, though those holidays were never really celebrated with her. It didn’t stop her from showing her love, though.

The years flew by and eventually Grandma had to be moved to a home, where I still continued to visit her. This was a struggle for me because I find nursing homes to be a tad creepy, if not somewhat depressing. Surrounded by people pushing towards the end of their lines, some needing oxygen masks just to survive to see the next day or even hour. I felt as if my very life force essence was being drained from me, just by setting foot in that place.

But it didn’t slow her down, no sir. She still smoked (had a particular brand she had to smoke and nothing else.), still loved her old polka tapes and more. Her mind was starting to slip and it was becoming painfully obvious each time I visited her she was getting worse. Still, even with her mind foggy from the ravages of old age, she still greeted me with that same nicotine kiss and “And who is this handsome man!”

It’s me, Grandma. It was always me.

Eventually the days came and went and her earthly body gave out on her and she passed on to merge with the infinite and holy. Her death hit me deep but not as hard as Grandpa’s passing had been, mostly because I had been mentally preparing myself for The Worst for years now. I, regrettably, could not attend the actual funeral due to my work schedule, but I did attend a special post-funeral ceremony in her honor. It was beautiful, to say the least. My Mom’s family has never been…shall we say, as solidified as my Dad’s, and to see everyone putting aside any differences, qualms or woes they may have in order to simply honor this woman was inspiring.

In the end, I did contribute to her memorial by downloading and burning a mix CD contained of songs she loved. I’ve always felt a deep connection with music so listening to these songs helped me develop a new appreciation for who she was and what she stood for.

Now looking back, I’m nearly thirty years old as I sit here in a new chapter in my life, looking back at the pages I have already written. I feel a fathomless remorse knowing that I could have done more to connect with her. She never wavered nor faltered in her devotion for me, however.

To some St. Patrick’s Day is a train wreck of drunken debauchery, celebrated by a loud, boisterous clique of popped collars and Forever 21 apparel. To others, it’s a time of celebrating St. Patrick himself and what he accomplished in his life. To me it’s a time for me to sit back and remember this woman to whom I played a big part in her life, even if she never played a big one in mine. She had her flaws, sure, but who among us doesn’t? In a sense, we can learn a lot from her love from me. She never stopped loving me, regardless if I gave her a moment of my time or not. And to me, her love is what St. Patrick’s Day is all about.

Till we meet again, Jean McCune-Wagner.

Written by MrZissman

03/17/2011 at 1:00 PM

Posted in Religion

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Lent Me A Hand: Day 4 – Highway to the Manger Zone

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MEAT. MEAT. MEAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAATTT.

Okay, sorry, had to get that off of my chest. Geez, you would think I have never gone a day without eating non-fish meat before. Don’t get me wrong, I like fish. I love fish, actually. I’ll eat pretty much anything that swims, but I have always gotten by knowing that I COULD eat meat if I wanted to. Yet here I was on Ash Wednesday, fasting till dinner time in which I could FINALLY enjoy food.

I’m not gonna lie, by 11 AM my tummy was mad rumbling. The Hunger was coming at me full force and I could feel my stomach loudly demanding why I had yet to fill it full of delicious meats. I may be a Catholic-In-Training, but my gut is an atheist.

By the time dinner was ready, I had inhaled two pieces of fried fish and was working on polishing off my rice before Hilary had even made a dent in her food. I devoured my dinner was such fervor and intensity that it was almost as if I had become the mighty T-Rex, stalking a lawyer as he cowardly huddles on the toilet on Isle Nublar.

Dinner was finished and after changing into some nicer clothes (wasn’t fully ready to wear a Batman tee-shirt to church just yet.) we walked down to St. Pancras for the service. It was beautiful, to say the least. Though it disheartened me to see the mass (no pun intended) of people who received their ashes and immediately high-tailed it out of there.

As of now it’s Day 4 and I think the first adjustment period is over. I decided I’m giving up “brown soda” for Lent, even if it’s diet. So that just leaves stuff like Sprite, 7-Up, ginger ale and more. As for the fish on Fridays, that’s proving to be the easiest transition now that the fasting phase is over.

So far I’m enjoying these last few weeks before my jump to the U.S.S. Catholic is complete. I often struggle with the perception of the Church from those outside it, as compared to how I feel. It does sting a bit when I hear the usual arguments against it, mostly because I was an intense anti-Catholic myself several years ago.

Basically, my stance is this: the Catholic church is far from perfect, this I willingly agree to. Has it made mistakes? Absolutely. In no way can I sit here and type this and claim that the Church has not made mistakes, even some of the most grave matters. But to me, it’s never been an issue of “EVERYTHING THEY DO IS JUST AND HOLY AND HUGHAHAAHHHUHALLAUHUH.” but rather it’s the message of the Church that entices me, not the people behind the message, if that makes sense.

To put it another way, here’s an example I heard just the other day. It sums up rather well how I feel. If we compare my last church/religion with this current one as if they were swimming pools, we see that being a Free Will Baptist is like being in a swimming pool a mile wide, but only two inches deep. Being a Catholic is a pool a mile wide and endlessly deep.

And baby, I am ready to swim.

Written by MrZissman

03/12/2011 at 12:15 PM

Lent Me A Hand: Day 1 – Hail to the King

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HAPPY ASH WEDNESDAY!

Hail to the king, baby

Wait, this is the wrong King for Ash Wednesday

Wait, time-out…that’s the not the Ash I meant. Wait a second…

...dust to dust.

…okay, there we go. That’s better.

So this is my “first” Ash Wednesday, so to speak. By this I mean it’s not the first one I’ve lived through, but it’s the first one I’m actively participating in. For my non-Catholic homies, lemme drop some knowledge on you:

Ash Wednesday derives its name from the practice of placing ashes on the foreheads of adherents as a sign of mourning and repentance to God. The ashes used are typically gathered after the palms or Palm Crosses from the previous year’s Palm Sunday are burned. After the ceremonial burning of the remains of the palms, the ash is mixed with a small amount of water to create a more adhesive substance.

Now at my old church, a Free Will Baptist one, we never did anything of the sort. The only real religious ceremony we observed was the time we had a quasi-Eucharist with saltine crackers and small plastic shot glasses of grape juice. At the time I didn’t know if this was a religious ceremony or a preschooler’s snack time before sitting down to watch Wonder Pets.

Now, years later, I’ve found myself falling away from my Baptist/Protestant upbringing to the point where I never really considered myself a Free Will Baptist at all. To me the Baptists were too fragmented, with too much infighting and cliques about which particular strain was the best. (Off the top of my head, I can think of Free Will Baptists, Independent Baptists, Southern Baptists, Hard Shell Baptists, etc.)

It wasn’t till I attended my first Catholic Mass that I felt I had finally found what I had looked for. It’s hard to describe exactly how I felt, but it was something like a mix of awe and bliss. There was no ranting about demonic haircuts, the satanic values of Pokemon or the insidious homosexual agenda of Bob the Builder. (All real things I had heard preached at one point or another at my old church.) Rather, it was about coming closer to God, of peace, understanding and it was awesome.

So that’s where I’m at right now. This is a huge step for me because I come from a long line of Protestants and I’m not exactly comfortable with sticking out. Still, in my heart, I feel I made the right decision. As Lent goes on, I hope to grow stronger in my new faith.

Written by MrZissman

03/09/2011 at 3:06 PM

Brother, can you Lent me a hand?

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Lent starts tomorrow and for the first time in my life I’m actually going to “celebrate” (for lack of a better term) it as I study and grow in my new faith. With that being said, I thought it might be a nice idea to share some of my thoughts as I go on this forty day journey on a (mostly) day-by-day basis. They won’t all be massive, deep monologues and some may just be a paragraph or two. But they’d be honest, cause that’s what I strive for.

So yeah, tomorrow should have my Day 1 entry up and then the other 39 on a daily basis, give or take an entry here or there. NOW BRING ON THE FISH!

Written by MrZissman

03/08/2011 at 9:17 PM

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