Tuesday, 17 December 2013

Are You Going to a Christmas Dance?

First of all, I would like to go on record to say that I have no objection to fun (the concept or the music group).

Nor do I think celebrations or parties are evil. (Except if by parties you mean drunken lust-saturated revelries.)

I do not believe that fun = going straight to the devil. I take leave to disagree with certain saints who were anti-dancing. (Guess what, saints’ opinions aren't infallible, which is good because otherwise the fact that different saints sometimes contradict each other would be a bigger deal than it is.)

I don’t even think alcohol is the devil's brew. (Which is a shocker for those who know I don’t drink any alcohol except Bailey’s, and probably assumed I have a moral objection to all alcohol.) But of course, moderation.

 GK Chesterton, awesome as always

As a Catholic, I believe there is place for both feasting and fasting. And Christmas is definitely the time for celebrations, feasting and joy.

But. But. But.

You knew there would be a but, didn't you?

In my city, Christmas is celebrated by many Catholics in pretty expected ways- there’s Midnight Mass (or Christmas Day Mass if you’re old and cold), there’s a family lunch celebration which usually includes sorpotel if you’re Goan, and roast chicken with stuffing if you’re my family... and then there’s the Christmas dance/ball/party in the night.

Christmas lunch with family (Don't even ask about the hats)

Christmas dances are quite often organized by the parishes, or the PGI (Poona Goan Institute) or private individuals. They involve DJs, loud music, drunk people, fancy clothes (quite often the shortest skirts, the lowest tops and the most non-existent backs, yay Indian Catholics), food, drink and dancing. Most people from my social world go to these parties, because they want to do SOMETHING on Christmas night, and that’s where all their friends will be.

So what’s my problem?

Quite simply, the fact that these are ‘rich people’ events. With the passes, the clothes, the shoes, the food and the alcohol, you may land up spending thousands of rupees. A lot of people I know are very well-to-do. They are earning well, so they are used to spending a lot. Eating out at restaurants very often, a lot of movies, every new model of their phone of choice as it comes out, nice cars, etc. They are also very generous.

The thing is, we’re called to give till it hurts, not give a little, but make sure I have enough for all my expensive habits and hobbies. To be trite, Christians are called to live simply, so others can simply live. We’re not called to give a lot. We’re called to give everything. As much as we can. The only eternal value our money has is when we use it for love of others.

 And no, I don't think buying Toms really counts

I've been reading most of the Advent readings from Mass and from the Liturgy of the Hours. One of the big themes of Advent seems to be ‘justice’. You probably know that we’re not just waiting for or commemorating the First Coming of Jesus, but the Second Coming too... you know when ‘He will come again in glory to judge the living and the dead.’
‘The Savior will not come to be judged again, but to judge those by whom he was judged. He will address those who committed outrages against him... and will remind them: You did these things and I was silent. His first coming was to fulfil his plan of love, to teach men by gentle persuasion. This time, whether men like it or not, they will be subjects of his kingdom by necessity... ‘ Cyril of Jerusalem (313 – 386 AD) 
What outrages? ‘I was hungry and you gave me no food, I was thirsty and you gave me no drink’ (Matt 25: 42) ‘There was rich man who was clothed in purple and fine linen and who feasted sumptuously every day. And at his gate lay a poor man named Lazarus, full of sores, who desired to be fed with what fell from the rich man’s table.’ (Lk 16:19-20)

If Jesus’ Second Coming happened to be on December 25th, 2013, what would he find us doing or being? How would He expect His believers to be celebrating? How can I glorify God even in my celebrations, ESPECIALLY when I’m celebrating the birth of the King of Justice?

Picture this:

Rich people eating and drinking at parties that cost hundreds or thousands of rupees, while AT OUR GATE lie communities of people shivering in the cold, eating their meagre meals cooked over open fires on the street.

Migrant labourers living down the street from my parents' home

Does this look like justice to you?

Okay, I guess you can tell I’m pretty fired up about this. You might say, “Well, Sue, so what are YOU going to do about it?” Good question.

This year, I’m not going to an expensive party, but I am going to celebrate, both with my friends and with the poor. I’m planning to invite anyone who doesn't have the money, or doesn't feel comfortable spending a lot of money on the professional parties, to come over to my apartment for some singing, dancing, Bananagrams, Pictionary, Christmas charades, hot chocolate, and food. Each one could bring something to add to the dinner. But before we eat, we are going to buy some packed hot biriyani meals (with the money we would have spent on a party), and take it to the poor community living AT OUR GATE (yeah, I know I’m doing the caps thing again, it’s called emphasis).

I know that making choices like this sometimes comes across as judgmental to people who ARE going to those expensive parties. And I know that I’m not really in a position to judge, because I know exactly how selfish I am. I know people can have other reasons for going to parties like that- maybe they feel like it’s very important for them to be with their non-Christian friends who ARE planning to be at those parties. Or maybe they have been giving away a lot of their income to the poor, and living simply otherwise, so they are okay with splurging this one time.

But maybe they’ve never thought about this. Following Christ means more than paying him lip service, or showing up at Church or even having a personal prayer time. It means holding up our every decision and plan to the light of Truth and judging them based not on our world’s standards, but by His.

And sometimes that means making new Christmas plans.

Tuesday, 10 December 2013

Reflecting on the Immaculate Conception

(via catholicmemes.com)

It's the feast of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! A pretty big feast in the Catholic Church. Just for you, here's what this feast does NOT mean:

It does not mean that Mary was born without her parents having sex. That was Jesus, whose conception we celebrate at the Annunciation. (Also the virgin birth does not mean Catholics think sex is bad. Quite the contrary.)

It does not mean Mary was so perfect that Jesus didn't have to save her. She was conceived in a state of grace, because Jesus saved her BEFOREHAND. That's crazy, you say? Well, since God works outside of time, he kinda isn't controlled by our conceptions of time. (I wonder whether my fascination with time travel movies and predestination are connected.)

The reason we believe she was immaculately conceived is because the bible, Tradition and reason lead us to believe so. Since she was to carry the Holiest of Holies, God Himself, she was prepared to be a holy, pure and thus worthy Tabernacle.

Here's a slightly more detailed explanation. And another one.

Sometimes Mary has seemed kind of distant and un-relatable to me. She seemed so perfect as to be devoid of any human weakness. Most of the pictures I've seen of her didn't help. She seemed distant, cold, emotionless.

But over the years, I've come to know a little of the real human and yet sinless Mary, especially when I've been struggling.

And today when I was reflecting on the Immaculate Conception, I realized something else. Sinless doesn't mean she wasn't human, or that she had no human weaknesses.

She was tired. She probably dropped things. She might have been clumsy. (Full of grace didn't mean physically graceful.) She probably had stomach aches and headaches and blisters and morning sickness. She must have laughed a lot. Maybe she was a little girl who daydreamed. She probably gazed in wonder at a beautiful sunset. She might have danced and definitely sang.

She definitely had moments where she said, "God, what are You doing? Is this really Your plan?" She must have gazed with joy at her Baby, and kissed His plump tummy. She must have thrown Him up in the air. (Or maybe she looked on smiling and half-protesting when Joseph did.)  She must have mothered the neighbourhood kids too. She was ever Mother. Maybe she cooked well. Maybe she burned the food sometimes.  She must have had friends, who she opened her heart to.

She said 'Yes' once at the Annunciation, but she must have had to say many more 'Yeses' every day till the end of her life. She must have cried. She must have been scared sometimes. She probably had 'up' days and 'down' days. Maybe she felt angry. (Be angry, but do not sin.) Maybe she felt hurt. Maybe some days she sang aloud as she worked.

She was a real woman,  a girl who lived in the real world. She didn't sin, with the help of God's grace. All that meant is that she chose to trust Him, and to keep herself open to His grace. God gave her a special grace at the moment of her conception, and through her life she she fully accepted and embraced His gift of grace.

I didn't always realize it, but Mama Mary really is a gift not only to the Church, but to me personally. Maybe someday I'll share how.

Madonna with the Christ Child 
(via commons.wikimedia.org)

Happy feast.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

Yeah, God Really Speaks To Me

... but not always when I want Him too. And not always with the kind of message I want to hear.

Last week I was asked to give a talk about using our words to glorify God. I had to cover stuff I had heard before... how criticizing people, speaking negatively, talking about people's problems or issues, complaining, or gossiping could really hurt and even destroy relationships.

Anyone who knows me well knows that ME speaking about this proves God has a sense of humour. If there is a vast expanse of white sheet and a black spot on it, I need to exhaustively talk about the black spot, analyze its reasons for being there and point it out to anyone who's willing to listen (and anyone who isn't). If I have a little paper cut, I feel like it's worth sharing with everyone who asks me how I am. It takes a lot for me to wholeheartedly praise a person. Sometimes I want to physically leave a talk or a show (or a homily, but I resist the temptation) because I feel like it's so badly done.

I have justified having a critical mind. But as I studied the outline of the talk I was going to give, I was convicted again. It's so easy to say I'm being 'realistic' when I'm just being negative. It's easy to make up reasons why it's not a big deal for me to 'analyze' someone... out loud, to the people who have to live with me. It's actually a lot harder just to keep my mouth shut when an uncharitable thought pops into my head. Especially when I feel like I'm justified.

Anyway giving the talk reminded me that negativity, pessimism and judging have no place in the life of a Christian. And realism is not equal to negativity. Because perspective actually does matter.

In case I didn't get the message, God re-sent it. I came home, opened my Facebook and saw this:

(Not sure what the protocol on screenshots of other people's statuses is, but I blacked out names just in case. Excpet for Joseph Prever. Because he has a public blog, and can be followed on FB by strangers.)

Joseph Prever (this feels weird, I still think of him as Steve Gershom) doesn't usually write posts like this. But this was a down to earth, very practical post with some very insightful reasons not to gossip-

  • When you say bad things about somebody, especially somebody that I don’t know very well, it makes it more likely that I will grow to hate them a little more. You are teaching me how to hate that person. 
  • When you say good things about somebody, especially somebody that I don’t know very well, it makes it more likely that I will grow to love them. You are teaching me how to love that person better. 
  • I am good at discovering the evil in other people. I don’t need your help. If it’s true that they’re bad, I’ll probably find out for myself. 
  • I’m not nearly as good at discovering the good in other people. I need your help to do that. If it’s true that they’re good, I might never notice it unless you show me.

(Read the rest here.)

I have probably influenced so many people through my life... and often negatively. And quite often the negative aspects of people's personalities that I feel I MUST comment on, most likely have a good side. Someone who I call 'bossy' could also be called 'willing to take the lead and get things done'. A 'mousy' person may just be 'quieter and better at listening'. A 'people-pleaser' may be 'sensitive to people's feelings'.

I'm not saying that my negative conclusions don't have an element of truth in them. But words have power- that means if I voice a negative judgement about a person, I am more likely to start seeing them differently, treating them differently, and waiting for them to prove that they are as bad as I thought them to be. And so do the people who heard my assessment. And if criticized people hear or feel my judgement, they are more likely to see themselves like that, and behave like that. How often have you noticed yourself behaving the way you think people see you?

So. Advent resolution. 'If you can't say anything good, don't say anything at all.' And if you CAN say something good, SAY IT!

Tuesday, 3 December 2013

Castle- Pros and Cons

Have you noticed how much I love listing pros and cons? That's how we INTJs roll.

So. Castle. I realize that this post would be of no interest to non-Castle viewers, but it's my blog, so I can write what I want. Ha hah. Feel free to skip.

I started watching Castle a month ago or so, and loved it at first. Here's why (the pros)-

1. I love the breezy, happy vibe. Even though it's all about solving gory murder mysteries, they don't seem to let dead bodies get in the way of the light-hearted feel. Perfect for unwinding at the end of a day, and not adding any stress or worry or things to mull over to my mind. Movies like Blood Diamond, and even Gray's Anatomy did. They think and talk about REAL issues (whether or not you agree with their conclusions). Castle doesn't really.

2. I love (most of) Castle's unconventional one-liners. You know when you've watched a bunch of detective/police shows, you know exactly what the expected and typical lines are going to be. And they have those lines... followed by Castle's ridiculous comments.
BECKETT Okay, Mr. Mystery-Writer-Man, what's your bestselling theory?
CASTLE I'm gonna go with the butler.
BECKETT The butler? (There IS no butler.)
CASTLE That's who we always go with when we run out of ideas. How about Alexis? (That's his teenage daughter, a main character on the show)
BECKETT Oh, Alexis.
CASTLE She's perfect. She's peripheral to the case, we don't suspect her, she has no alibi...

A show that actually makes me laugh aloud with it's dialogue, is a show I'm probably going to watch more of.

3. Beckett is cute, and makes me think of Laura Holt from Remington Steele.

Even the Castle-Beckett  relationship is kinda similar to the Remington Steele-Laura Holt dynamic. Smart, strong woman, and flirtatious, funny and slightly clueless but cute sidekick guy.

4. Growing up on Agatha Christie mysteries has given me a taste for those kind of shows. Plus one gets to mildly exercise the little gray cells and figure out the murderer and the motive before they reveal it to you, I mean, one. And then if one does, one can feel smart. A definite pro.

BUT THEN (the Cons):

1. Have you noticed those extremely creepy innuendo-loaded comments Castle keeps making to Beckett? How is that okay? I'd probably yell 'sexual harassment' if any guy said that to me. Fine, I know, some people call that flirting, but they sound  perverted to me. And I don't feel like it fits with his character really. Yes, he's flirtatious, but he's also a good dad, and supposedly a decent guy. I guess the show writers have a new meaning of what a decent guy is like.

The question is, how do you like the guy, and dislike some of his comments? I guess if he was a friend, I'd still like him, but I'd let him know his comments are out of line. Unfortunately you can't do that with a TV show character. It's take it or leave it... you can't give feedback.

2. Also in the last show I watched he jumps into bed with some actress who is trying to use him, which he only finds out in the end. Fine, people make mistakes, but he's supposedly attracted/ in love with Beckett. Real trustworthy actions there. I guess again, people equate sleeping together with having a mild infatuation with someone. And the worst of it was, he ends the show telling the actress, "Use me any time you want to." WHAT? Really! Grr. Lust vs. Love 101! And then the grandmother who is supposed to be the fun type, has dates that lead to one night stands.. that's when their fun, lighthearted vibe rings false. Yes, those things happen, but they're not just a normal part of life, like spilling hot coffee on yourself or misjudging a new guy that you meet. I mean, how do things go so far? How has casual sex become such a 'normal' mistake to make? And why don't we ever see the real consequences of irresponsible choices?

3. After a little while you realize that most of the cast are not super awesome actors. The two cops who they work with ALWAYS have the same expression on their faces. Esposito ALWAYS says 'Yo', and Ryan ALWAYS looks confused. Captain Montgomery (I had to look up all their names) has no personality whatsoever, and is VERY predictably frowny and you'd-better-solve-this-case-pronto most of the time.

4. Beckett is often mean. When she's interrogating people, she uses such a sharp tone. I watch her, and I'm afraid that's how I come across to people too. She's always efficient, always crisp, often superior and mocking, always rolling her eyes at Castle's stupidity... and it just seems like her character doesn't show depth or authenticity. There has to be more to the woman than that.

5. Even though I often love Castle's lines, his and Beckett's interaction often lack subtlety. There find out something shocking or new, and they both turn their heads and stare at each other with exaggeratedly shocked faces. And then they say obvious things like, "Looks like we got the wrong guy!"  C'mon. Subtlety, people!

Okay, finished analyzing a show that most of my readers probably don't watch, and probably don't care about. Happy Tuesday!

Saturday, 23 November 2013

7QT: On Writing, Lullabies, Being 28 and More

1. On Writing

Have you come across Zen Pencils? This guys takes inspirational quotes and makes them into comic strips. They're really well done even though I don't agree with the philosophy of all the quotes. Just because something sounds wise, doesn't mean it is. Anyway, I found one that I loved:

Advice For Beginners (click to see the whole thing)

I remember writing stories (The Adventures of Alicia, Cecelia and Shantel, my three favourite (mis-spelled) names at the age of 10)).  I would read them a few weeks or months later and be EXCRUCIATINGLY EMBARRASSED at how bad they were (and often destroy them). The same thing happened when I re-read my first blog that I started about six years ago. Ugh. Such bad writing. I often read other people's writing, and I think "Yes! This! This is good writing!" It's easy to identify good writing, but not as easy to create it. But of course you have to get through plenty of bad writing before you can produce even a little good writing.

I'm still at the in-between phase where the stuff I create is often (not always) kind of a disappointment to me. But I have learned something... Write anyway. My mom used to say, "You want to be good at sketching? Sketch!" Seems obvious, huh? But as a struggling perfectionist, I want to do it right the first time or not do it at all. The recipe for failure. Anyway, one good thing about this blog is that I actually do write every now and again, instead of just telling people I love writing, and I hope to write a book someday.

2. On Oral Traditions

Jen talked about songs that have passed down for generations in her family, as bedtime lullabies. My family has a lot of songs which we sing at family gatherings, only as a 'not very Indian' Indian, the songs that have passed down seem to have come from sources other than India. They have passed down several generations, but I have a feeling they must have come through the different foreign priests and nuns, missionaries and friends that my family met through the British, Portuguese and other colonial powers in India, as well as American music and movies that were popular here in certain circles generations ago.

It's pretty funny when I break into a super-familiar lullaby in front of American friends, and they say, "How do YOU know THAT?"

Here are some of the songs I remember from my childhood:

Chi-Baba, Chi-Baba (My Bambino Go to Sleep)- Created in 1947, and popularized by Perry Como, an American singer.

Shortnin' Bread- Known as a traditional Negro plantation song, it was originally written by American poet, James Whitcomb Riley in 1900.

Morningtown Ride- a lullaby, written and performed by Malvina Reynolds in 1957

3. On Unexpected Glimpses of Beauty

As Carlos Whittaker, a musician, was filming God of Second Chances in Atlanta, a homeless man named Danny randomly walked up and knelt down... and joined in the song, with some awesome impromptu vocals. This is one of the times when I think the word 'awesome' is actually appropriate. (Found this in Steve Gershom/Joseph Prever's 7QT... one of the advantages of posting so late is that you can steal quick takes from other people :-))

4. On being 28 (which I'm not yet)

From: Each Year of Your Twenties Ranked from Worst to Best
Whew — 28 is the best year of your twenties. Not because of the spectacular partying (see: 22) or because you’ll magically have everything figured out (see: never), but because 28 is the year when you’re finally able to accept that no one actually “feels” like a grown-up and it’s OK that you don’t either. And it’s also OK that you never want another Jägermeister shot and that crowded shows make you want to crawl under a blanket forever. Just enjoy that blanket, 28-year-old you.
Not like I really need buzzfeed to tell me anything about my life, and not like most of the article was relevant for non-Americans who don't really party or drink, but still, reading this made me happy. I WILL enjoy that blanket, thank you very much.

5. On Fiction Becoming Fact

Does it strike anyone else as cool that the moving photos of Harry Potter fame are not just a cool piece of imagination? They're real! Technology IS pretty crazy! (I know, I know, of all the crazy technology I choose to be excited about, I choose gifs. Whatever, I'm easy.)

This is still my favourite gif:

6. On Not Letting Possessions Possess You (or Me)

I used to think I didn't care much about 'stuff'. The choices I've made in my life mean that I HAVE to live simply, and I'm mostly happy about that. One of my favourite quotes by a holy friend was, "Never own anything you can't give away" and I tried to live by that. But greed creeps up on you. You think you're immune, and suddenly you're obsessing about EVERYTHING-  that cute pink dress on limeroad, bookshelves, Balderdash, and then you're scheming and planning and wondering how to make them yours.. Christmas? Birthday? Praying for a friend to get married so she can choose the SAME dress for her bridesmaids? I need to remember to step back, and say, "No. I don't need that. No matter how much I think it will, that bookshelf will NOT complete my life."

7. On Begging for Christmas Cards

Hey, anyone else loves receiving REAL Christmas cards? I have a plan to decorate one wall of my new apartment with Christmas cards, but I have to receive some for that. (Second hands ones are not as exciting.) This is my plan: if you promise to mail me a card, I will mail you one back... yes, this applies to non-Indians too (provided there aren't too many, which is unlikely). Leave your email id in the comments if you want to join, and we can exchange postal addresses.

Here's a picture of the last time I made Christmas cards (2009):

More Quick Takes at Conversion Diary... oh I forgot to post HOW excited I am that Jennifer's book is finally done! That is one book I'm SURE I'm going to want a bunch of copies of... to give away.

Monday, 18 November 2013

Christians! Blend In or Stand Out?

I’m here to address one of the questions that Christians who take their faith seriously have all thought at one time or another: Are Christians called to stand out, be different, be counter-cultural, be radical? Or are they called to blend in, be one with the world, stand with the ‘others’, be more identifiable as loving humans than outspoken Christians? Most Christians have strong opinions on this, one way or another.

Camp 1: Stand-Outers 

These guys have read Romans 12:2, and are convinced that they need to be counter-cultural. Like someone I knew once said, “If Christians watch all the same movies and listen to the same music as the rest of the world, they’re not really living as Christians.” The basic premise is that if Jesus has changed you, your values and priorities have shifted, and your choices of how you spend your time, how you dress, and what you talk about (among MANY other things) will reflect that. Such Christians see the harmful patterns of behaviour that have become acceptable to much of the secular world, and they want to take a stand against it. They WANT to stand out, and are willing to be mocked for being ‘different’ (which they often are). There are so many possible pitfalls to an unadulterated stand-outer attitude.

The big danger of Stand-Outers is spiritual pride. Much like the Pharisee who thanked God that he was not like that sinful tax-collector, it’s easy to categorize oneself and others according to the outward choices and behaviour, without realizing that no one can judge the heart of another human being. Sometimes Stand-Outers don’t seem happy unless there is something to rebel against. In some ways, it probably gives them a feeling of security- which an us vs. them mentality often provides.

 But the worst danger is that Christianity has stopped being relatable to the rest of the world. If you ONLY watch movies that are explicitly Christian, or only listen to ‘Christian’ music, if you automatically assume that everything in the world is evil if it doesn't have a Christian label, if you only talk about ‘ministry’ and your scriptural reflection of that day, only hang out with friends at Christian events, then you've cut yourself off from the world that everyone else is living in. How can you love people that you can’t have a conversation with? How can you build relationships, when you have NOTHING in common?

There is much that is good and beautiful in the world, and Christians don’t need to be scared of that. If it’s really good and really beautiful, it has originated from God, whether or not it has been labelled ‘Christian’. There is also much that is ‘morally neutral’- it isn't good, or bad. Like multiple ear piercings. Or watching White Collar. Or dancing. (Yes, I know, that depends on the kind of dancing.) Or sports. Or eating ice-cream. Or flash mobs.

Camp 2: Blenders-In

Now these guys' favourite bible verse is ‘Jesus ate with sinners!’ Okay, just kidding, that’s not really a bible verse... but it’s in the bible- Jesus really did eat with sinners. Also, ‘Judge not, lest ye be judged.’ Blenders-in don’t want people to think that they are judging them.

Quite likely, if you say “I’m not a fan of Twilight”, it sounds like you've just condemned all Twilight-readers to hell. So they read all the books, watch all the movies, laugh at all the jokes, download all the pirated music, and if they are making any ‘different’ choices, try to make them as secretly as possible so as not to offend anyone. These guys won’t mention their personal prayer time in public, and will avoid all controversial topics like the plague. (I don’t mean that the plague is a controversial topic... okay whatever, you get it.) You’ll rarely if ever see them post a religious FB status. They will also be supportive of their friends’ decisions no matter whether they agree with them or not.

SO many downfalls in unadulterated ‘blending-in’. Witness the spread of Nazism. There must have been plenty of people who were a little worried at the beginning, but didn't want to rock the boat, and then it was too late. Sometimes the world needs a few prophets, to say things that people don’t necessarily want to hear.

I've needed a few prophets in my own life, who've shaken me up, and caused me to re-examine my priorities. Disagreeing with your friends can be done in a gentle and loving way. A friend of a drug-addict isn't being much of a friend if his addiction never comes up in their conversation, or worse, if he knows he can come borrow money to feed his addiction. When the desire to blend in comes from a fear of being rejected, or a fear of confrontation, it is not a positive thing. It was people who were not afraid to be different who were able to be agents of change in the world.

Even worse, if blending in is your highest priority, it is very easy to allow the world to change you, instead of allowing God to use you to change it. If you believe in everything, you most probably don’t believe in anything. Christians, we are called to place our minds and hearts in the hands of the Potter, who will form them and change them according to His ways, which sorry to tell you, often looks like foolishness to the world.

So what’s the solution?

Blend in, or stand out?

Well, here’s another famous line referring to another bible verse (what, three bible verses in one blog post?? You, Christian, you!) We are called to be in the world but not of the world. (referring to John 17:14-15)

We are called to do BOTH. We must live our lives IN the world, not in a little Christian bubble cut off from the world. But also we cannot allow ourselves to be controlled by the world. We are NOT ‘of the world’. The world, with its fashions and philosophies is not our god, or our final destination.

Practically speaking, how does a Christian do both? How do I wear my ‘I’m a fool for Christ, whose fool are you?’ t shirt* and my Mumford and Sons t shirt* at the same time**? Do I go out with friends for a movie, or a go out with other friends for Adoration? Do I post FB statuses about how God answered my prayer, or about how ManU won the match?***

Well, to a certain extent I can do both. But here a few tips to help figure it out:

God knows. I think every Christian has to bring their life before God, and ask HIM. Most of us need a kick in one direction or the other. Most people who know me in real life know that I have definitely been a stand-outer, to the point that I either argued with or avoided anyone who didn't believe what I believed. So God had to remind me that I needed to chill out a bit, open my heart to people, and work on the love part of speaking the truth in love.

On the other hand, plenty of Christians I know could afford to stop being undercover. Some people need to be reminded to love, and some need to be reminded to be more outspoken with the truth. Some need a push to go have a beer with their friends****, and some need to explain to their friends why they're Christian. Some people need to start using Whatsapp, and some people need to sell their fancy phones, buy cheap ones, and give the money to the poor.

Examine your motives. Are you standing out because you feel good about being different from those sinners? Are you keeping quiet about your faith because you’re afraid of being mocked? Are you a people-pleaser, or a compulsive debater? Whatever we do should be done out of love for God, and love for neighbour.

Allow the Holy Spirit to prompt you. (Yes, that’s one of those weird Christian things.) Different situations require different responses. Sometimes you need to say something, and sometimes you need to shut up. Sometimes you need to offer to pray with someone, and sometimes you need to nod sympathetically and change the topic.

So here's your spiritual nudge for the day- go forth, and either blend in, or stand out! Whatever the Top Man says. You're very welcome for the clarity.

*I actually don’t have either, but Christmas is coming, right? 
**Actually I could wear both, because it’s a frigid 9.9˚C! Brr! 
***Both those statuses might be combined. (Also, this is me pretending to know anything about football.)
****Or a coffee, because some of us don’t like beer. Sue me. (Pun intended!)

Friday, 8 November 2013

7QT Friday: Happy Home Things

Did I tell you I recently moved out of my parents' place and into an apartment with my roommate and coworker, R?

Well, here are a few of the things around my home that make me happy...


Now, am I talking about my quirky friend, M, or my awesome camel embroidery wall hanging from Kolkata? Is she the foreground, or is it the background? You guess.


Pink roses on our dining table! I was walking along the street yesterday, when I heard someone call out my name. My friend S was in a rickshaw, but she stopped long enough to hand me a bunch of pink roses! If only I had just asked St. Thérèse for a sign...


Our Lady of Guadalupe appears on a wall in Pune, India! Alert the press!


Beautiful, soft and warm quilt-bedspreads donated by my two thoughtful sisters, L and J. Even more exciting, because the India winter is creeping up on us- there's a chill in the air, and I've already pulled out my sweaters. (Fine, cold in my city is summer in other places, laugh all you want, but a minimum of 17 degrees Celsius gets us all excited.)


Bathroom rug woven by friends in the Philippines. (This is beginning to feel like a home shopping catalogue or something.)

---6--- and ---7--- (and even ---8---)

Go.. Jen's...

Monday, 28 October 2013

Cruisin' The Streets... For Jesus

You know those high-pitched screeches you sometimes hear late at night as drunk young people (I'm trying to be inclusive here, but I'm pretty sure they're usually male people) cruise the streets looking for trouble?

Well last night I and a bunch of friends did the same thing.

Except exactly the opposite. Our Catholic singles group was doing a little outreach, trying to encounter Christ in the poor, just like Papa Francis asked us to do.
"Please do not withdraw into yourselves! This is a danger: we shut ourselves up in the parish, with our friends, within the movement, with the like-minded... but do you know what happens? When the Church becomes closed, she becomes an ailing Church, she falls ill! The Church must step outside herself. To go where? To the outskirts of existence, whatever they may be, but she must step out. Jesus tells us: “Go into all the world! Go! Preach! Bear witness to the Gospel! ... Go out, go out! In this “stepping out” it is important to be ready for encounter. For me this word is very important. Encounter with others. There is another important point: encountering the poor. If we step outside ourselves we find poverty."
Pope Francis at the Vigil of Pentecost

We knew that there are many homeless people on the streets of our city, so we bought a bunch of packed biriyani meals, piled into a small car, and took to the streets at about 8 pm. The smell of the hot biriyani wafted through the car, and tantalized our empty stomachs. But we were on a mission. We were going to find 'the poor'.


The poor were nowhere to be found.

We drove to a small railway station, knowing that that is where homeless people are often stranded, but no, it was mostly deserted. We scanned people sitting on a bench on the streets with eagle eyes: "Homeless? Or breathing in some fresh polluted air after dinner?"

My clue was whether they had some sort of scrappy belonging with them or not. Mostly they didn't.

"Where'd all the poor people go-o-o?" I sang. (Yes, I AM talking about Jack Johnson.) It was slightly incongruous to be so disappointed that there were apparently no poor people in my city. But the thing is, we knew they existed... we just didn't know where. Maybe the city authorities had gotten better at hiding them. We got drove halfway across the city, and on an unfamiliar street we saw them. About six figures lying parallel wrapped up in some sheets... on the pavement. A young man and woman with a baby were the only ones awake eating a plate of rice. We stopped the car, and two of us approached them. We didn't want to scare them with all six.

We looked them in the eye. We smiled. We struck up a conversation. We asked them their names. (Yeah, my limited Hindi is good for something.)
"When I used to go to hear confessions in my previous diocese, people would come to me and I would always ask them: “Do you give alms?” — “Yes, Father!” “Very good.” And I would ask them two further questions: “Tell me, when you give alms, do you look the person in the eye?” “Oh I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it”. The second question: “And when you give alms, do you touch the hand of the person you are giving them to or do you toss the coin at him or her?”
Pope Francis
They were knife-sharpeners from a neighbouring state, who had come looking for work a few weeks before. They were very grateful for the food. We prayed with them. Okay, I didn't, but one of the guys from our group uneasily said he would try to pray in Hindi. I don't think I have ever heard him pray aloud in English. But as the best Hindi speaker from our group, he was nominated as the pray-er. And the most beautiful prayer flowed from his lips.

When we told them we were Christians, the knife-sharpeners told us they knew who Jesus was, and in their village they would go the church. "In our religion we have many gods, but we pray to Jesus."

Huh. Things I didn't expect to hear. We told them where the closest church was, in case they wanted to go.

We bid them farewell, and they waved as our car drove away. We continued our search, and were rewarded. We met one drunk, or possibly mentally ill man who grabbed the food, but chased us away. We met one old garbage picker, with a wrinkled face, and suffering eyes. The stench of the garbage was disturbing for the few minutes we spent talking to him. I imagined spending all my time rooting through stinking garbage.

We saw real smiles. We met real people. One man blessed us. And then we went home. It was 10.30 pm, and we hadn't had dinner.

You know what, it wasn't much. But it was a start. We took a little foray out of our comfortable well-fed world, where the only time we've felt hunger is when we've either fasted or had to do without... for a few hours. We don't REALLY know what it's like to be them. But we took the first step to finding out.

And plus,

"If you can't feed a hundred people, then feed just one," says Mother Teresa.

So we did.

Small Family = Happy Family... Really?

Implied: Big Family =Unhappy family... Really?

A few days ago at our after school tuition (tutoring) class in the slum, I was ‘taking up’ one girl’s Hindi answers. All the kids had Hindi or Marathi exams the next day, so I was roped into helping them prepare for their exams. And as all Indians know, the way to prepare for an exam is to memorize a bunch of answers given by your teacher. But that’s a rant for another day.

My Hindi isn’t awesome, but I can read and write (even if I don’t always know what I’m reading or writing... I used to fake it when I had to read passages in class). My students know that I’m not comfortable in Hindi or Marathi, so they were fascinated to hear me read Hindi aloud. (They still haven’t decided whether I’m really Indian or not.)

So I was taking up an answer based on a story in their Hindi textbook. I was mindlessly following the words to make sure she said the right ones, when my attention was caught by the last line: ‘Chota parivar sukhi parivar.’

Or ‘A small family is a happy family.’

My eyebrows shot up. “What? What is this lesson about?” My thirteen year old student explained. It was a conversation between a man who had three daughters in the quest for the elusive son, and a man who had just one daughter. The man with one daughter was explaining to the man with three that a daughter was as good as a son, and he didn't have to have a son in order to be happy. He was addressing a very common problem in India: gender inequality. It is not unusual for people to keep having children... until they get their boy. In fact, someone who heard my dad had five kids, assumed that the four oldest were girls. Because of course, boys are the ones who bring in the dowry, are likely to get jobs and financially support the parents when they are old. Whereas girls, those useless creatures, are nothing but trouble- parents have to PAY to get rid of them, and once they are married, their allegiance is to their new family.

I have heard of these attitudes, but never experienced them personally because I grew up in a family that doesn't do dowry, and values both sons and daughters equally. But my student looked at me and said, “Boys are bad. But everyone think girls are bad. In my place it is like that.” Girls occupying an inferior place to boys in their families is still a reality.

Well, it’s good that the text book was trying to attack this unhealthy and unfair and very prevalent attitude through the story. But the next line mixed a very different moral into the lesson – a lesson that has been permeating all of Indian education for many decades: A small family is a happy family. Or the root of all India’s problems is TOO MANY CHILDREN. Or the population. Overpopulation, population control, population problems, we never heard the end of it. To the point that, any family that had more than two kids is considered unpatriotic, anti-progress, and probably kinda uneducated.

Now, I do realize that there are legitimate reasons to limit the number of children in one’s family. If you really can’t feed or care for the children you do have, or you are struggling with sickness, or mental health issues, or any of a number of difficult situations, then it would be responsible to attempt to limit your family size. But that isn't the situation of most people I know in middle-class India, nor is it what the government is suggesting. The government says ‘Hum Do, Hamare Do”- “We two, our two.” Have only two children, get yourself sterilized (or we might forcibly do it to you*) and never commit the sin of having a third child... let alone a fourth or fifth. “You can improve your quality of life with less children” is another not even subtly selfish reason. And with a better 'quality of life' (a TV? a car? going on holidays? a bigger house?), of course, your family will be happier.

I’m one of five. And my parents received a certain amount of flack for that, and so did we. A Catholic teacher in my Catholic school publicly mocked my sister (a fourth child) for coming from a large family and asked if her parents were uneducated.

People around us had been brainwashed into thinking that another baby is a CURSE, not a BLESSING... to their family, to their country. Especially for those of us who are Christians, we should recognize that as a lie. The bible tells us that children are a blessing from God. All children, not just the first two. Every child is precious, valuable. Whether they are the fifth, the tenth, or the only child. Whether they are physically or mentally challenged. Whether their parents are struggling to make ends meet, or have just upgraded their Maruti 800 to a Scorpio**. The child isn't the problem.

And you know what else, having a bunch of kids in our family didn't make my family an unhappy family. I never wistfully imagined how much happier my family would be if only they had stopped having kids after me. I may have had more of a choice about which movie to watch (Rose and the Slipper over the A team, but I had to compromise many, many times), and more pocket money. I may not have had to wear as many (ugly) second hand clothes. But I definitely can’t say I would have been happier without my three younger siblings.

Family time circa 1998 :Early attempts at photography

Humans are not just resources, or burdens, or things. You can’t reduce them to ways to help or hinder a country. A country is after all not just a piece of land, but is made up of every citizen... even if he or she happens to be a fifth child. Instead of saying ‘Have less children, and all our problems will go away’, let’s look for ways to use the resources we do have better.

If you can afford to, have another baby. If you can’t afford to, and another baby comes anyway, welcome him or her with joy. Because the happiness of your family doesn't depend on how many or how few children you have, or even how much or how little money you have, but on how you value each unique, lovable, irreplaceable person that God gifts you.

Good (Related) Reading

Why My Big Family is Not Overpopulating the Earth by Jennifer Fulwiler

"More people means more ideas, more workers, more love, and more hope. And so, I don’t see my children as adding to the problem; I see them as contributors to the solutions of the future."

Snappy Answers for Stupid Questions About Your Big Family by Simcha Fisher

"Q: Don’t you have a TV? A: If you think TV is better than sex, then you are doing it wrong."

The Earth is a Nursery by Simcha Fisher

But the only reason it's here -- the only reason it's in the Goldilocks Zone, which makes it possible for a planet to support life, is so that it can support life. It wants to support life. Why else would a planet exist? It's here so that people can live on it.

*It happened in 1976 and it's happening still-coercive female sterilisation practices.
**Yeah, I know nothing about cars.

Monday, 21 October 2013

God Chooses Uncomfortable but Effective Ways to Change Me

Change begins with me! That’s what they say, but you know, it’s really OTHER people who need to change. It’s because they’re so annoying. And most of the time, they don’t even know it!

Right? You with me?

Actually, God knows what a self-centred, full of myself brat I am, so He tried to get me to change, using that most useful and blunt instrument (pun intended): my family.

“Sue,” my mother told me, “You need to talk less and listen more. Sometime you come across too strong.”

“What!” I replied, offended. “I can’t help it if I’m passionate about some things.”

“Yes, but you can overwhelm people with TOO MUCH. You have a lot going on in your head, but you need to give other people a chance to talk.”

“Hmmph!” I replied and stalked off.

My sister would throw me annoyed stares sometimes when I started off. Once she told me, “It feels like you’re always preaching at me.” I was really hurt. “I’m just thinking aloud. I thought I could share what I was thinking with you at least. So what if I’m always thinking about finer points of theology?”

Once we were talking about someone who talks too much, and who people feel like backing away from, and my mum told me, “Maybe that’s how people feel around you sometimes.”

Ouch. That might have made me cry.

Still, mostly my family was just insensitive and hurtful. It wasn't really my problem. Maybe I talked a lot, but at least I talked about things worth talking about. And anyway my personality type includes ‘iNtuition’ which means I live in my head a lot, so technically it’s not really my fault.

God apparently needed a more heavy-duty instrument.

I once met someone to whom I wanted to say ALL THE SAME THINGS. She was insensitive. She was overpowering. She would dominate conversations. She would grab a conversation and turn it into a monologue or a diatribe. People really did want to run away from her. (And did, quite often.) There was no communication at all. It would just be her DRIVING home some point or the other. She was so caught up in her own thoughts, and trying to prove that she was right, that it was like she was almost unaware of anyone else around her, except as an audience. She would look for the smallest excuse for a controversy, and then JUMP in and take over the conversation. I was SO annoyed and frustrated and upset. I might have even said some direct and perhaps too pointed words of correction.

But guess what? It made me take a good look at myself... and promise I would NEVER do that to anyone ever again. I almost promised that I would never talk theology again, and stick with conversations about how the monsoons have been so unpredictable, how Gravity freaked everyone out including Sandra Bullock, and how much oil bais use when they cook. (I hear that’s what other people talk about.)

Actually, I didn't go that far. But I did decide that my mum had a point, and that I was going to (try anyway to) be a LOT more sensitive to other people in a conversation. You know, by taking a pause, and saying “What do YOU think?” every now and again, and then really listening to the answer.

 Yeah, painful, but effective.

Saturday, 28 September 2013

Seven Quick Takes # 16


I seemed to have gone into overblogging mode in the past week and a half... I mean, five blogs in ten days? That's a lot. Of course, I could say I was making up for the previous three weeks of blogging just once. But really, it was because I got so much feedback, interest and shares from my Marriage post (including a job offer and two offers to be set up with single men), that I began to feel like a Blogging Goddess, who needed to start a Facebook page for the blog, and then churn out blog posts for my adoring audience. You did know that INTJ's tend to arrogance, right? In case I forget, I have my sister to remind me.


Anyway, I realize that a blog is just a blog. You know, a place for someone with an internet connection and an opinion to spout off. It's okay, life will return to normal this week, because I have so many things going in real life, that blogging will have to take a back seat. But i can't promise I won't blog about them once they're over.


Blogging a lot is not really difficult for me, because my mind ALWAYS has something to blog about, but I don't always make time to sort out my thoughts and make them pretty and presentable and funny. But when I do, oh, the joy. Jennifer recently wrote about it as a way of de-cluttering her mind. Unfortunately, once I get into hyper-blogging mode, I can't seem to stop. A few nights ago I couldn't sleep because my mind would take every thought and try to turn it into a blog post. I would firmly tell it to shut up, but the next moment I would be at it again.


I've also been dreaming a lot about my blog posts, including marriage, being set up by my friends, and meeting the love of my life (who turned out to be my first crush). Interspersed with those dreams were other very significant dream themes like the night I sat bolt upright in my bed, freaking out, because the DAMN RHINOCEROS WAS RIPPING THROUGH ALL THE BOOKS IN THE BOOKSHELF. At least I wasn't dreaming about mice, like one of my commenters.


I've also been obsessing about personality types. Along with my sister, and my room mate. In the middle of a conversation about someone, suddenly I stop, and go, "I..... S..... T or F, do you think? It's hard to know... But definitely J!" I've also started seeing connections between myself and different people. People who I used to think were extremely similar to me tun out be INTJs too. Some people are very similar to me, except for one ofe the four letters, and it's interesting to see how that plays out in our attitudes and personalities.


I've been refreshed and impressed by the way many of the Catholic bloggers have been responding to Pope Francis' words. They are not just rushing to interpret it according to their own inclination, nor are they dismissing his words as his personal (and not very enlightened) opinion. Plenty of people have taken his words the wrong way- the media and the uber-traditionalists getting together for a change and acting like he just dismissed Catholic moral teaching, and dissed Pope Benedict.

“I remember, when I used go to Germany in the 1980s and ’90s, that I was asked to give interviews and I always knew the questions in advance. They concerned the ordination of women, contraception, abortion and other such constantly recurring problems. If we let ourselves be drawn into these discussions, the Church is then identified with certain commandments or prohibitions; we give the impression that we are moralists with a few somewhat antiquated convictions, and not even a hint of the true greatness of the faith appears. I therefore consider it essential always to highlight the greatness of our faith – a commitment from which we must not allow such situations to divert us. ” – Address of his Holiness Benedict XVI – Thursday, 9 November 2006 #HermeneuticOfContinuity

But many bloggers are humbly listening to what he's really saying, and what he's calling for- a change of focus and a change in our methods. The love and mercy of Jesus first, which open the hearts of people to see that His moral laws are expressions of His love and mercy too.

Here are a few of the articles I liked:
The Mission of Pope Francis S.J. by Michelle Arnold, Catholic Answers
Pope Francis Has Unsettled Me by Matthew Archbold
A Tale of Two Popes by Calah Alexander


I love how Simcha Fisher pushes the limits. The title of one of her recent blog posts in the National Catholic Register was 'Can We Spell "Evangelization" without an "f" and a "u"?' She's definitely taught me a lot about chilling out and being less uptight. (I still try to watch my language though.) And the article itself is quite the thought-provoker.

Over and out. Drop by Jen's, because you know, she's the hostess.

Thursday, 26 September 2013

A Tale of a Mouse in da House

There comes a time in every woman's existence where she looks deep into herself, searches her soul and asks:

'Which is worse- a live mouse or a dead mouse?'

It all started about ten days ago when something large shot across the kitchen floor and disappeared under a cupboard. I leaped back screaming and hoping against hope that our house lizards had just gotten larger and quicker. Yes, a strange hope, to be sure, but compared to the alternative, the only hope one could cling to. I followed this up by ignoring what had just happened and hoping that by not thinking about it, the problem would cease to be. Anyway, I live on the second floor of an apartment building, and we all know that mice can't scale walls, right? Right?

A few days later my mother ignored my strong denial vibes, and confirmed the existence of a mouse. In the house. In MY house. Running around in the kitchen. Feasting on leftovers. Making a home in the dishes that we cook in. Leaving droppings in random places. BLEAAARGHHHH! (If that doesn't translate, please insert your preferred expression of strong disgust.)

Still, even though I had to face the fact of the mouse's existence, I didn't feel the need to ACT on that knowledge. Until a few days later when the kitchen started smelling. Bad. Still, Indian-style-shoulders-shrugging-what-to-do-life-sucks-so let's-ignore-it, I didn't react.

Until Monday morning, when my mum peered into my room, and said "The kitchen smells. We need to find the source of the smell."

Overcoming my initial reaction of saying "Go for it!" and firmly shutting my room door, I correctly interpreted my mum's statement as a cry for help. A few similar experiences from living away from home helped me remember what the correct response was: Jump up, ready to do battle, with the words "Do you need some moral support?" (A small part of me was hoping moral support was all that was needed, by which I mean standing in the background and screaming- I excel at that.)

Unfortunately, my mum's usual partner in pest hunts, my dad, was sick, so I manfully (!) straightened my shoulders and strode into battle. We first sniffed around a lot, and came to the conclusion that yes, the smell stench definitely was reminiscent of rotting flesh, and it definitely seemed to be coming from in or behind the oven/ cooking range. We convinced my dad to come out and pry the (huge and heavy and tightly jammed into place) oven out of its place, which he did and then retired back to bed with his book. Then we peered in and around all the crevices of the oven. Nothing.

By that time we had reinforcements of the moral support variety- the lady who cooks for us, and her daughter-in-law (who comes to keep her saas company) arrived and got into the spirit of the thing, sniffing around, and very confidently pointing out the corner of the oven where the stench was worst.

I then took on the role of my dad and awesome-at-emergencies sister (who was at work), and unscrewed the back of the oven, while my mum held the flashlight. We gingerly poked around the back with a screwdriver and a knife once it was opened, while I kept my body poised to jump back three feet if in fact I actually did discover something. This was when I faced that ultimate question: Did I WANT to find a mouse? And if so, would I prefer a live mouse jumping out at me in a bouncy joie-de-vivre ENFP manner? Or a dead mouse which would overpower me with the disgusting sight of its rotting flesh and sickly stench, which would of course be 100 times worse once I could SEE the body?

Both my mother and I were disgusted and a little scared, but tried to hide our fear so as not to annoy the other. But then my mum took a quick break from The Hunt. She returned in a few minutes to let us know that she had called her ladies to ask them to pray. Yup, it had reached that level of seriousness. Christian ladies were now storming heaven for the end of the Evil Mouse Stench.

You do want to know how this ended, right?

Well, we did NOT find the body. We would have to take apart the oven into little bits to get further in, and I doubted my ability to put it back together. So we finally gave up... until, the next morning when my mum conceived of Her Ultimate Deadly Mouse Killing Plan: It consisted of three steps:

1. Switch on the oven.
2. Bake mouse.
3. Hope that mouse disappears.

Her plan was carried out, and the inhabitants of our home almost threw up when we realized that the strange and disgusting smell wafting through our home was Baked Mouse.

We were doubtful about how exactly baking the mouse would make things better, but when we replaced the word 'baked' with 'incinerated', we all felt much more hopeful and logical.

Two days later, the smell has almost gone. All that is left of the mouse is a charred heap of ashes in some corner of the oven. (Please don't disillusion me if that's not how it works.)

The End. (Please, Jesus.)

Tuesday, 24 September 2013

How To Successfully Set Up Your Friends

I once fancied myself a matchmaker. Unfortunately, my attempts ended very unsuccessfully, so take the 'successfully' part of my blog post title with a large tablespoon of salt. Still, I have theories, and opinions about everything, and set-ups are no exception. Plus to try to combat my 'lone wolf' personality, I even asked for the input of other single girls, especially since their experience in such matters was wider than mine. So here is the expert advice of some random single girls with a laptop and an Internet connection. Heed it well.

 1. Subtlety subtlety subtlety. I'm serious. Just because setting up two friends sounds like a great idea in your head, doesn't mean you need to discuss everything in your head with both your friends. Also the following method would not go down well with people like me:

Acquaintance from church, cornering me: Do you want to get married?

Me: No.

Since she was female and married, I assumed it wasn't a marriage proposal. I did want to get married. But since she asked me point blank, my answer was a flat “No.” What I really meant was “Not like that, thank you very much.” Which brings me to my next point-

 2. Don’t tell the girl. I am much more likely to be awkward and not myself with a guy if I know that both he and presumably you, and maybe others are all aware that a ‘set-up’ is taking place. Talk about extremely awkward social situations. And mystery- and romance-killers. If both the guy and the girl are aware that the other is looking for a marriage partner, and they have been selected as suitable for each other by a friend... well, why not just do the whole arranged marriage thing and suck out all potential for romance? It’s just a practical ‘arrangement’. I said I didn't have a problem with arranged marriages, but my prejudices are showing through. Okay, that may work for some, but not for me.

3. Tell the guy. Yeah, yeah, call me sexist, whatever. I think the guy is the one who should be pursuing, taking the initiative in the relationship. I think that men and women were designed differently, and men become the best version of themselves when they fight passivity and the fear of rejection, and actively seek out the woman. And I think women need to be romanced and pursued, that a woman who knows she’s worth fighting for, is the happiest, most at-peace woman. However much people blame that on socially imposed roles, in practice it seems to make for happier, more fulfilled men and women.

 4. Arrange a casual meeting in a group setting. Movies don’t really work, because you don’t have much of a chance to get to know anyone while watching a movie. Plus there’s the whole awkwardness of trying to get the right people to sit next to each other, without breaking the subtlety rule. Not easy. A trek could work. (P.S. Friends who went on a trek with me last month, I promise I wasn't setting anyone up.) Or perhaps an outreach a group can do together. The focus isn't on each other then, but you can definitely learn a lot about a person by the way they tackle work, deal with uncomfortable situations, and love the weak. Ooh, game nights are a great way to get to know people and have fun, but preferably there shouldn't be TOO many people. Activities and group settings provide the necessary buffer, so it’s easier to be yourself. I feel sure it would work better than two strangers sitting face to face in a coffee shop and trying to get to know each other.

 5. If the couple are from different cities, arrange a trip (with a suitably subtle reason) to the girl’s city. However much the Internet has helped us to meet and connect with new people or old friends, nothing can replace the authenticity of a face to face, physical meeting. Facebook and email can be a very tricky way to get to know someone, because even if they’re being honest, they are still only showing one facet of themselves, and obviously presenting their best side. It takes a special skill to be completely yourself online. (I strive for it on this blog.) Meeting physically can be a very accurate indicator of whether ANYTHING is possible, or not. I remember texting and chatting with a potential love interest for a while years ago, but as soon as we began to physically hang out, it became obvious to me that there was nothing there.

 6. Make it easy for it to amicably not work out. Don’t make it a big fat deal until both the guy and the girl have actually met and been attracted to each other. Like someone reminded me, you only need to find ONE right guy. Which implies that there are plenty of nice guys, who aren't the right guy. You can meet them, like them, and decide that you would never want to pursue anything romantic with them... and that’s okay. If you follow Rule No. 1, it’ll be much easier for it to end easily, without unnecessary awkwardness. (Avoiding awkward social situation is my most absolute law.)

 7. Give the guy the girl’s email address only after checking with the girl. If there is absolutely no way to casually and subtly introduce the couple in real life, because they live too far apart, but you still feel very sure that they would hit it off, shed the subtlety, and talk openly to both sides about the other. An introduction of some sort is essential. You notice I say email address, and not phone number. That’s because I cannot conceive of a worse form of torture for myself than to have to get to know someone by talking on the phone. It’s like physically blinding myself and going to an art museum. I’m sure there is much to know and appreciate, I just CAN’T do it without the necessary senses. Okay, that was a totally random analogy. (And for some people, it’s exactly the opposite- they would much prefer phone calls to emails or letters.)

 8. Check the basics before even starting with the set up. Everybody has a list of non-negotiables. It’s not really a ‘Wait till you meet this person, and you’ll forget your list!’ Respect that they have some things that are important to them, and not even the nicest guy is going to change that. If your friend wants to marry a guy who loves Jesus and His Church (i.e. if your friend is me, or my sister, or my roommate, or most of my singles group girls), then hey, that’s it. No agnostics, so atheists, no Hindus, no Protestants... no matter how awesome. (No offence to you agnostics, atheists, Hindus or Protestants, we know there are plenty of awesome yous out there.) I know, I know, we've already been told we’re being too picky, setting the bar too high, not giving a chance to some perfectly nice guys. And I know that some mixed-faith marriages have worked. But my desire to walk in the same direction with the same priorities with a potential future spouse and father of my children is a bigger deal for me than the possibility of never getting married. Also, if you’re introducing people from different states or countries, you probably need to check that at least one of them is willing to move. Practical details, but important ones.

Alright, go forth and set up your friends! (If it’s successful, I take complete credit, and demand a wedding invitation!)

Monday, 23 September 2013

6 Reasons You Should Do the Myers-Brigg Personality Test

So you have no idea what I'm talking about? Clink the link and do the test!

Do the test!

I first read about the personality types when I was reading a blog by a woman named Elizabeth Esther, and she would be all 'Oh, how ENFPs love a good party! I love flitting around, be-bopping in and out of conversations, laughing uproariously, yammering on about a million subjects. I always feel like I’m my very best self during a party. I sparkle. I shine. I make happiness. I connect! I leave a party feeling energized!' and I was like "Wow, I REALLY don't identify with that."

I eventually did the test myself, and found out that I am an INTJ. And my life became awesome!

Here's why you should do it too-

1. You get a major insight into your own personality, and realize that maybe you're not alone, maybe there IS a reason why you do the things you do, and think the way you think, that's God really does make people differently, that we're not all cut out of the same mold... and that's okay! "Imagine a giant chess board where the pieces are constantly moving, trying out new tactics, always directed by an unseen hand – this is what the INTJ’s imagination is like." OHMYGOSH YES, that is EXACTLY what my brain is like, all. the. time. Even though I don't play chess.

Reading my personality description was fun because the descriptions tend to be written in very upbeat, positive words, and I was able to see myself with a bunch of strengths that come with my personality, and then as an extra, things I need to work on. So the name for INTJs isn't 'Narrow-Minded Bossy Loner' but 'The Scientist' or 'The Strategist' or 'The Mastermind'.

2. You get to read aloud descriptions of yourself to your friends, and see them gasp with amazement at how your personality has affected so many of your relationship issues of the past.

Me: "INTJ personalities also often shoulder the burden of making important decisions without consulting their peers."
Anyone who works with me: "Oh really? Behold how surprised I am by this piece of imformation."

Me:  "INTJ personalities loathe inefficiency and imperfection, trying very hard to iron out all the flaws and analyze all possibilities – if left unchecked, this trait can easily become a weakness, slowing down their work quite significantly and frustrating people around the INTJ."
People around this INTJ: This is why I'm so frustrated around you!

Me: "It is quite unlikely that the INTJ will enjoy physical manifestations of feelings (hugs, touches etc.), even with close friends."
My ENFP sister and INFP roommate: "Awwww" (climbing onto my bed and giving me a big big) (Not really)

3.  Personality Type Theme Songs: Jennifer Fulwiler sparked this recent obsession with personality types when she asked readers in her last Quick Takes what their personality theme song would be. I excitedly scrolled down to find out what the INTJs' offerings were, and was hysterically amused by the options they offered.
  • 'Mother Knows Best' from Tangled- that's what it's like in this head. It is BOSSY up in here.
  • As an INTJ, I would more likely to write my own song rather than being constrained by something already written…(It’s a curse, really.)
  • INTJ-  I’d have to go with “The Impossible Dream” for my personality song: idealistic defiance, the desire to do great things, and fierce independence taking the form of a devotion to higher laws supplanting mere conventions.
  • INTJ here—wait, music? Who has time for that when you can be listening to podcasts and absorbing/integrating information? Heh : )
  • I thought good and hard, and I think my theme song might be “We Will Rock You” by Queen. I don’t even like it that much, but I think it basically lists the INTJ traits set to music… 
  • INTJ… no lyrics here though. Just Wagner’s Ride of the Valkyries.
  • I’m an INTJ, and I was going to agree with the earlier comment suggesting we write our own song because no song in existence is likely to be truly accurate. (Gotta come up with the perfect solution, right?) But then I saw GeekLady’s vote for Ride of the Valkyries, re-listened to it, and laughed out loud. It’s perfect. All far-reaching and all-encompassing and marching relentlessly forward and mastermindy.
4.  Hanging out with other 'N' types (introspective, iNtuitive thinkers, yes I'm talking to you, R and J) and gleefully guessing the personality types of ALL our friends, family members, romantic interests, people we've had issues with, and people who we've worked closely with. We actually spent three hours last night talking about this stuff. For the 'S' types who thinks introspectors (yes, I made up a word)  are overly analytical, obsessive idiots, this exercise would not be fun.

5. It really does help you to look at people with traits you find annoying in a new light. They just think differently, process information differently, have different strengths and weaknesses, and can complement you if you let them. There is not just one right way to look at the world.

6. These pictures:

Disclaimer: Fun and helpful as all this is, don't let your personality type box you in, or stop you from deciding how you want to live. You can develop different parts of your personality, and grow in the areas where you might be weak. As an INTJ, I need to work on being sensitive, and expressing affection, and also not making my 'natural self-confidence' an excuse for arrogance. The negative and sometimes insensitive or hurtful parts of our personality can be redeemed by grace.

Simcha Fisher writes an interesting post called 'The Unlabeled Life': "None of these (labels) can describe a person in his entirety, and none should limit what we can expect out of ourselves."

Wednesday, 18 September 2013

A 27 Year Old Atypical Indian Girl's Thoughts on Marriage (The Post You Were Waiting For)

Mandatory wedding picture for any blog post about marriage

Okay, not all my thoughts, because that would be indiscreet, and this is after all my third blog (yes, blog, not blog post) and never let it be said I don't learn from my mistakes.

Also, since my ADD has not decreased, this will of course continue in my usual style of random thoughts, strung together by nothing, and masquerading as a blog post.

In urban India, 27 is pretty much your last chance for people to consider you marriageable (at least if you're a girl.) After that, you've moved to the Desperate and I Wonder What's Wrong With Her shelf. Also, in India, marriage is not considered an option, or a good thing that happens if it happens. In fact, 'if it happens', is just not an acceptable phrase. One MAKES it happen. You're of marriageable age? Then get married, beta! Of course I come from the Great Land of Arranged Marriages, or Glorified Set-Ups, whichever degree of control or involvement your family exerts.

Now this social system has pretty much been totally mixed up by the strange world that I live in. I come from a family that not only hasn't had arranged marriages in generations (which is very uncommon even in Catholic families in India), but has not the least idea HOW to arrange a marriage. I am not exactly opposed to arranged marriages. In fact, I am a supporter of arranged marriages... for other people. So a 'love marriage' is pretty much my only option. Millions of girls all over India turn green with envy at that statement, because guess what? Most of them don't have that option at all. In fact, plenty of them have been hunted down, along with their husbands, and even killed for the sin of choosing their own husband. So, I promise I'm not complaining about my lot in life.

But back to MY problems, because it's all about me. And I'm not complaining, just explaining. So I'm 27 and single. One of the reasons is that we don't have a good social system in place to meet eligible men. Where do you go? Pubs? Most likely you're not going to meet the kind of guys you want to marry at pubs. Well, you might, I won't. And anyway, what constitutes eligible? The bare essentials- similar goals, similar beliefs, similar worldview. For people who know me, you know that that already narrows things down a good bit- apart from faith, even my cultural background is very unusual.

You may notice I am approaching all this from a very practical viewpoint, not because I don't believe in the importance of 'being in love', but because I don't think emotional attachment isn't enough to make a marriage work in the long run. You need to be heading in the same direction. You need to have the same foundation that you are going to build your life on.

But... I'm a Christian! Doesn't that mean I should just trust God to take care of it? I do believe in God's plan for my life, but I also believe He respects free will. You would know that if you watched Bruce Almighty (the one theological fact that they got right). And that means the pool of possible eligible men can get significantly smaller by men making bad choices. You choose to ignore God's plan for your life, live a hedonistic lifestyle, and exchange marriage and commitment for instant gratification? Fine, that's your choice. Free will, baby. But guess what? That affects not just you, but that awesome Catholic girl who would have been your wife and the mother of your children. (Yes, I did just call myself awesome. Definitely gonna be picked as the patron saint of humility.) Just because desiring marriage is a good and holy and natural desire, doesn't mean that it will be fulfilled.

Fact: It's a fallen world.

We're all going to suffer one way or another because of that. For me, and for many other Christian and Catholic girls, that means the strong possibility of doing everything 'right', and not receiving the earthly reward that we hope for.

The good news is: that doesn't mean we're doomed to a life of loneliness and cats. Life is GOOD, single or married. And since we're made for heaven anyway, we get to see whether God alone IS enough. (Spoiler: He is.) I have it on the best authority (read: married people) that marriage DOESN'T satisfy every desire of your heart, and solve all your problems. I know, whaaat? Married life has its own burdens (never being alone EVER again), as does single life (no cute squishy babies of your own). Married life has its own rewards (sex and babies) as does single life (full nights of sleep and independence).


I'd like to say that the reason I've been thinking so much about marriage is because my cousin just got married last week, and a good friend is getting married this week, but that would be a lie, because I think about marriage even when I have absolutely no excuse to.

Funny and very true story: An sweet, simple, older woman from my church was asking whether I'm planning to get married, and my mum asked her to pray for me to find the right person. I met her a couple of weeks after the conversation, and she gave me a VERY meaningful look and asks, "Any good news, beta?" Lol! I said, "Yeah, Auntie. The new programme we started at church is going very well." "No, no, any OTHER good news?" Me, giving up "No, Auntie." "Don't worry," she said, consolingly, "It will happen." I met her a few months later again at the steps of the church when my cousin was about to get married. I was in a hurry, but she stopped me and asked "Any good news?" I cheerfully answered, "Yes! Jesus Christ!" and rushed off. Heh. And it's true!

Any marriage thoughts or opinions? Go for it!