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June 1st, 2003
A Little Bible Study Didn't Hurt

For years I’ve recited the same prayer, every morning as I drive to work and every evening before I go to bed: Lord, help me feel your presence and be nicer to people. But my morning prayer is usually interrupted by some nimrod doing 80 in the slow lane who has just cut me off. And more often than not, my evening prayer is preempted by pondering that age-old question: what will I have for breakfast, a smoothie or soy latte?
But hey, God knows what’s in my heart. It’s not like I’m asking to win the lottery or anything (although if you’re listening, Big Fella, that would be nice too). So surely He’d be willing to grant a prayer so selfless.
He hasn’t. And every time I’ve cursed…

May 28th, 2003
Wisdom Culled from a Family Brunch

Stories
—there are so many of them in the world…everyone has one.
I guess I first realized that while attending a college run by the Marianist religious order . They like to help everyone realize that we all have our own story. So I started wondering about my story and where it will end. After all, I only know it up to chapter 26, and how many total chapters there will be I have no idea.
The great gatheringI just finished attending “the Easter brunch,” an
annual gathering of relatives from my father’s side of the family
. My trip home was a whirlwind tour—”Joe a palooza” as I described it to my sister.
I have eight siblings and more cousins than I can count. We are a crazy, huge family.…

May 19th, 2003
A Word on Spectacle and Substance

When famed home run hitter Sammy Sosa got caught with a corked bat, it set off a flurry of accusations and controversy over dishonesty in major league baseball. Slammin’ Sammy (who finished his seven-game suspension last week) has always been known as one of baseball’s flashier players, but that was one time he probably wishes he could’ve sidestepped the spotlight.
But Sosa’s error raises a question that transcends the ballfield.
As a society, it’s as if we’ve become entranced by a spinning disco ball, which glitters and turns but never actually makes us feel like dancing.
The long ball…
Today it seems, if it’s not a home run, it’s just not quite exciting enough.

May 19th, 2003
You Are God's Co-Pilot

If you imagine God as a parent, what kind of parent do you imagine? You imagine your parent.
My God may be distant and uninvolved, always on business trips and only looking my way when I am in deep…trouble. Or my God may be sitting by my bedside at night, holding me and showing me how to slow down my breathing, so I can get over my cough. My God may be angry, always waiting for me to “blow it,” or my God may be understanding, and forgive me when I just don’t get it right.
Most of us, if we think about it carefully, have understood God in terms of our parents. This Mother’s Day might be a good time to think about what kind of God it is we want to transmit to our children. We are (no doubt about it) their first…

May 14th, 2003
Leaving, Learning, Coming Back for More

I know that my mother suffered terribly from postpartum depression after giving birth to my brother Franz and me, yet she and my father weren’t finished. One day, Franz and I were being good and looking incredibly adorable, and it coerced my parents into having Jimmy.
‘You’re adorable’ momentsRight now, I’m on a silent retreat and honestly, I’m exhausted from the experience of living in a community.
However, I’m also having one of those “you’re adorable” moments. We yell at each other, we lean on each other, we’re sick, we’re up, we hate work, we’re down, our family situations aren’t what we want them to be, we’re…

May 13th, 2003

After a refreshing vacation, getting back into the swing of things that first Monday was jarring. Sluggish from a marathon of daytime TV, too much eating, and not enough exercise made the return to real life all the more difficult.
And then.
Thorn and drillI awoke to hear my dog, Elvis, whimpering in pain and licking his back paw. Attempts to check his paw were fruitless. He would bolt in pain, crying as if he’d been physically struck.
That morning I had a dentist appointment to replace two fillings. Nothing like the whir of a dentist’s drill to start the day right. After the appointment I could rush back home, pick up Elvis and take him to the vet. When I called work to leave a voicemail that I’d be late,…

May 12th, 2003

Before I came to live in Arica, Chile, spending a week in silence sounded ridiculous. I love constant motion; I enjoy bumping into people and I gather strength from personal interaction. The idea of voluntarily submerging myself into my thoughts for six days, allowing for a minimum of human contact, appeared to be a terrible one.
But after I completed a second retreat during Holy Week as a required component of my JVI placement, I have never been more comfortable alone. I firmly believe that silence gives someone exactly what he needs, and particularly during the retreat I gained two major guiding principles: acceptance and awareness.
Doubt and acceptancePerhaps the most significant challenge of voluntarily…

May 9th, 2003
War and the Homeless in Nashville

My Iraqi friend, Ali, says that before the first Gulf War, Iraq didn’t have any homeless people. The rich took care of the poor and the sick. It was a disgrace not to.[1]
I feel funny telling him about my work with Nashville’s homeless knowing that we have been bombing his homeland.
John is one of the many homeless Vietnam veterans that I see everyday. Last week he applied for disability for the third time as he was denied the first two. To justify his request, he asked me to help him type the horrifying experiences of his life as a 17-year old soldier in Vietnam. He still wakes up crying in the middle of the night. As I typed, I thought, “Saddam may be a maniac killer, but war is never just.”
War is a…

May 3rd, 2003
Sammy Sosa's Suspended and Back - Why Should We Care?

Sammy Sosa’s seven-game suspension for bat corking ended last week, amidst much snickering and two very respectable singles.
He refers to the incident in which his bat shattered, revealing a chunk of cheating squirreled into the base of his Louisville Slugger, as “the accident.” Oh. I wasn’t aware that the cork had burrowed its own way there.
More shattered than his bat that day, and nobody is talking about it much anymore. This is largely old news, having passed through nearly a month’s worth of twenty-four-hour news cycles.
An old story for a Cincinnati girl
It’s certainly old news to me: I’m from Cincinnati, home of Pete Rose, the team that lost to the 1919 Black…

May 3rd, 2003
Saved provides a smart critique of the evangelical teen subculture

I went to Saved , a new comedy about teenagers in a Christian high school expecting to get a few laughs at the expense of bible-based yokels. What I got instead was an entertaining, intelligent and surprisingly subtle teen comedy that pokes fun at the simplistic thinking and hypocrisy of white-suburban-conservative-evangelical culture.
Jena Malone plays Mary, a devout teen who accepted Jesus as her personal savior at the ripe old age of three. She attends the American Eagle Christian Academy a cliquish school where a towering billboard-esque icon of Jesus greets the students outside of the schoolhouse. Inside the classroom a picture of George W. Bush looms in the background while a buffoonish evangelical…

May 2nd, 2003
Christie Todd Whitman Finds Bush EPA No Place for Moderates

Wind Dummy?
The writing was on the wall for all environmentalists the day Secretary of State Colin Powell called EPA director Christine Todd Whitman President Bush’s “wind dummy .” The term refers to the military practice of tossing a dummy out of an airplane to test which way the wind is blowing over a landing zone.
Powell used the reference in a derogatory way to describe Whitman’s position navigating between environmentalists and conservatives in an administration clearly anti-environmentalist in deed.
Can it be any surprise that after 28 months Whitman has decided to call it quits?
A tale of two Bushes
It was early in Whitman’s tenure that her fate was sealed, and so was that…

May 2nd, 2003
Climbing Out of the Generation Gap

Nearly 14 of us descended on a swanky inn and spa a couple weekends ago for a healthy getaway for women. The participants were divided pretty evenly between twentysomethings and fiftysomethings, all strangers to one another. At first, the age difference was obvious through more than just the design of our clothing or the style of our hair.
“We’d have more in common with Martians.”…
This sentiment occurred to me during dinner on Friday night after we’d all settled in at the hotel. Two tables were set up adjacent to each other, and, in a seemingly natural flow of things, we sat in peer groups. At my table, we tiptoed around polite conversation. In the meantime, peals of uncontained laughter

May 1st, 2003

Several years ago, after I made a pretty self-righteous remark at a church meeting, I was reproached as having “no right to be so flip for someone so young” (I was 24 at the time, in my first year of seminary). Feeling bruised in the ego, I counterattacked, accusing the person of discriminating… against me because I was young. Oh brother.
Things have a way of coming back to haunt you.
I was in Toronto (last summer, pre-SARS) when the Pope came to visit . At an assembly of about 150 college and high school students, a bishop from California was speaking from a prepared text about reconciliation, what it means to turn back to God. He then gave the students a chance to talk to one another in groups and then to report

May 1st, 2003
A Student Activist's Take on Incarceration from the Inside

As my second week in prison comes to a close, it becomes increasingly clear that the prison system serves little purpose than that of a multi-billion dollar industry.
The economics of incarcerationEach federal prison receives $20,000 and up per year per inmate for room and board. This money is supposedly used for the upkeep of an eight feet by nine feet cubicle housing two people, and to purchase our food (despite most of the food being expired, unsellable goods donated by supermarkets for tax write-offs).
In comparison, it costs less than $15,000 per year to live and eat at most private colleges, institutions hardly known for skimping.
The prisons also receive funds for inmates enrolled in GED classes, drug programs,…

May 1st, 2003
The Consequences; Surviving Cancer at 30

With my tongue outstretched and her hand on my pulse, the acupuncturist fired questions and conclusions at me:
“You worry too much. You think too much. Are you angry?”
I groaned to myself; she knows way too much for someone I’d just met.
“Uh…”
“Are you angry?”
“No.” I lied.
The heart of the matterShe picked up on the thing I avoid the most and, thus, the thing that causes me the most pain. I’m 30 years old and in the last 15 of them have battled three different types of cancer a total of five different times. I have every right to be angry but I’m usually better at hiding it.
I’m angry about the fallout of illness. The lasting physical…

April 29th, 2003
The Moral Obligation to Rebuild Iraq

I don’t like President Bush.
There, I said it. I don’t think he makes many wise decisions. I didn’t support his decision to go to war, and I suspect that he has ulterior motives with regard to the oil-rich Middle East.
However, I also think that President Bush means well despite my disagreements with his policies.
I believe President Bush thinks that he’s doing a good thing, that the Iraqi people will be better in the long run than they were under Saddam. He feels that he is triumphing over evil in a way that will bring peace to a region that hasn’t known peace. The citizens who cheered coalition forces and thanked President Bush for overthrowing Saddam show that, in some ways, President…

April 27th, 2003
Some Women Need Not Apply

While my elementary school teachers told me to believe in myself, my parents warned me it was not good to be full of myself. Love thyself and trust thyself, yes, but not too much.
Be confident, yes, but not obnoxious, said mentors. Pride, or “excessive belief in one’s own abilities,” taken to an extreme, leaves no room within the human persona for the priceless virtue of humility.
The wrong pitfall?
Warnings against pride are well and good, but a qualification must be added. When discussing the pitfalls of pride and the honor in humility, it is necessary to nuance the discussion with special attention to gender. The ancient sin of pride was defined during a time in history when women’s experience…

April 27th, 2003
Learning to Live in the Messy World of Relationships

Recently a certain American Catholic bishop, who shall remain nameless, was characterized by a seasoned priest I know as “a man who loves order more than people.”
It certainly wasn’t meant as a compliment, but believe it or not, he made the remark more in sorrow than in bitterness, as part of a general lament about what life has come to in the United States.
In the U.S. we are very attached to order, and most of the time it is to our credit. The mail gets delivered. The fire department comes when called. You can get those grapefruit and chewable vitamins you need from your neighborhood grocery.
The human mess
But the desire for tidiness in our affairs can collide with the messy world of human relationships.…

April 20th, 2003
The Unexpected Wonder of Expecting

My two-year-old presses his ear to the bulge that is my belly.
“She’s not big enough yet,” he informs me, his diagnosis delivered with tiny confidence.
“What will happen when she’s big enough?” I ask.
“She’ll come out,” he says.
I have over three months left in this pregnancy, but already I feel huge and uncomfortable. I dread stepping on the scale and seeing the inevitable upward curve of the little black numbers. When I lament to my husband he pinches the fat newly layered on my arm, thinking I will find him cute. I snarl and make him drive me to Dairy Queen.
But those are the bad days, the times I give in to fixating on the minor inconveniences of helping God…

April 19th, 2003
The April 8 Attacks Demand a Reckoning

No doubt a sad page has been turned as a result of U.S. troop actions that led to the death of three journalists last Wednesday . It’s hard not to think that an unspoken and ominous message was delivered to the profession of journalism by way of the U.S. Army.
If I were writing that message as a news headline it would read: “U.S. to Independent Journalists in Iraq: Is That a Target on Your Head?”
What happened April 8?
Are we to believe the tank round fired at the Palestine Hotel?which killed two journalists?and the two missile attacks on the Al-Jazeera and Abu Dhabi news networks came about as a tragic coincidence?
Three incidents on the same day sounds like two too many.
Or could it be that the U.S. was…

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