Tag Archives: Christmas

Merry Christmas (and Happy Holidays?)

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I took an extended vacation from work (and blogging) over the Christmas and New Years holidays.    I sincerely hope everyone has found joy thus far in the Christmas Season.   Also, as a reminder, in our Catholic faith the Christmas Season begins on Christmas Eve – and it doesn’t end the next day!

I love Christmas.    I encourage everyone to find time to continue to celebrate this season through Saturday, which is the end of the official celebration of Christmas (the baptism of our Lord).    Keep in mind that we have not yet celebrated Epiphany, which is really the feast celebrating the first time representatives outside of the Jewish world met our new King.

It’s really easy to forget to continue this celebration because we all start off the New Year, we get back to work, and life resumes somewhat back to the normal that it was in the days preceding Christmas.    Keep it up!

Since I took a break, I have not had my follow-up on the Pope and Climate change.   There will be one, if not two, follow ups to that post.    I not only believe it is an important topic, but it has always been a scientific topic of interest of mine, and so I will be spending time on it, both from a scientific perspective but also from a faith perspective.

In the meantime, I wanted to just place a few thoughts down regarding the annual weirdness around whether or not people should say “Merry Christmas” or “Happy Holidays” or anything else.

I find the whole thing an odd mixture of political correctness, and also a sincere recognition that not everyone believes all the same things.   So here is a litany of thoughts on the subject:

  • Christmas is on the calendar. To not mention the word at all, or to be unwilling to wish someone else that you know celebrates Christmas is simply stupid.   We wish people a good Memorial Day or Labor Day whether or not we actively celebrate the meaning or intent of that day (most of us really don’t.   Maybe some of us do on Memorial Day, and fewer yet could even come up with an explanation as to how Labor Day came to be and why.   And yet, none of have any issue wishing each other well on those days.   That’s because there’s no religious association attached to it.   Well, for those people who are not believers, it still doesn’t negate the holiday itself, even as a secular celebration.   So there should be no issues with wishing anyone a Merry Christmas, but even if you want to be sensitive to the matter of religious affiliation, if you know someone religiously or culturally celebrates it, just say it.
  • We’ve reached the point where wishing people a Merry Christmas almost feels like you’re taking a stand on something. That bothers me.   I say it because I want to, but I, too, have been browbeat with the political correctness to the point where it somehow feels bold or courageous to wish someone a Merry Christmas.   I hate that feeling.   It’s messed up.    Further, people who read an e-mail that says “Merry Christmas” probably feel like the person sending it just took a risk of offending people.     That’s even more messed up.
  • Having said all that, I don’t have anything really against “Happy Holidays,” under certain conditions:
    1. If someone has no idea whether the people they are addressing are believers, celebrate Christmas, or are Jewish, Muslim, or anything else (and there is a more than reasonable chance that the situation exists) then see nothing wrong with a generic salutation.
    2. If I know with certainty that someone doesn’t celebrate Christmas then I would give them a generic salutation. I would have no issue with talking about my own faith or celebration of Christmas, but in this situation why would I purposely wish them a happy celebration of something they don’t celebrate?   While I may wish in my heart they did celebrate it, it would be somewhat pointless outside of any other evangelization effort.   It would be like wishing someone in another country a happy US Independence Day.
  • If I make the mistake of wishing someone a Merry Christmas who doesn’t celebrate it, the appropriate response is “Thanks.” Don’t be a jerk.    It is also appropriate, in the case of someone you may be running into more often, to clear up the misunderstanding charitably by saying, “Why thank you.   Just so you know, though, I don’t celebrate Christmas but I certainly hope you have a Merry Christmas.”    There’s nothing wrong with that response.
  • If you are a Christian and you know that someone celebrates Hannukah, then wish them a Happy Hannukah, for crying out loud. It is not against your Christian religion to acknowledge someone else’s celebration.   I’d say the same thing about Kwanzaa, but I’m still convinced that’s generally made up and I know of nobody who actually celebrates it.   But for the five people that do, if you find them, then by all means extend a Merry Kwanzaa, or whatever the appropriate greeting, is.
  • The most annoying thing to me in this whole thing is that a number of good Christian people now seem scared to wish anyone a Merry Christmas. It’s one thing to take some precautions around more general audiences, or in uncertain situations.    But if you are a Christian, and I know you’re a Christian, and you know I’m a Christian, and you wish me a “Happy Holiday” then I want to whack you upside the head.   You have now officially conditioned yourself into being in “safe” mode and you aren’t even thinking about it.

 

In the end, does it all really matter?   Well, yes and no.   What clearly matters most is what’s in the heart and what your intent is.    Some people, in my opinion, turn this a bit too much into a war against political correctness, while some do go too crazy on the political correctness.   And there are tons of ancillary issues around Christmas that lead to all of this – arguments about displays on public property, songs sung in schools, etc.    But most people just want to wish people well, and we should recognize that.    But that doesn’t mean we can’t push back when we reach the point of silliness.    It’s good to not get overly dogmatic about things, but it’s also good to stem the tide of cleansing Christmas from Christmas.

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It’s Just a Joke!

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So, on my Facebook news feed I saw an article about some woman named Brandi something or another who is some real housewife of something that I don’t care about, and even though I’m going to write about it now I don’t even care enough to find out her name or why she’s in any way famous.

Anyway, this woman took an Instagram photo of herself squatting over the baby Jesus in a Nativity scene, simulating (I guess) giving birth.   She had some caption on the pic along the lines of “Remember the reason for the season.”

The whole thing is stupid and childish, and offensive.   But whatever – it’s a free country, and I feel dumber for even knowing about this woman.

The more interesting side of the article to me was that she received really negative feedback about the picture even from people who claimed to be fans, and people who claimed that they were neither Christian nor religious.

Apparently she’s an atheist, but her initial response was along the lines of “It’s a joke people.   Get a sense of humor.”    I think her version included an f-bomb, because as we all know f-bombs make your argument better and clearer.

I mulled this over a bit, for some reason that even I don’t understand.   I am a Christian and the picture offended me.   I also realized that I don’t really care what she thinks all that much and the picture reflects on her quite poorly.    I don’t even know who she is and I don’t care enough to find out.   I actually just pity her and hope she finds her way.   It should be noted that she did eventually take the picture down.   I guess she didn’t apologize, which was fine because most of those apologies are insincere anyway, and are usually along the lines of “I’m sorry all you stupid people who can’t take a joke are offended.”    Simply taking the pic down is probably more honest.   She probably realizes it’s not worth the hassle, she alienated some fans, so it’s time to move on.   She’s really not sorry for it, so why say otherwise?

But what held my inner attention the longest was this idea that whenever people mock other people in a degrading way, they rely on the “it’s just a joke” defense.    It’s worth considering what that means.   We have probably all walked the line between harmless joke and potentially offensive joke at one time or another.   I can remember getting into an argument with some woman who is blond who said “Blond jokes are never funny, ever.”    I disagreed.   And I still do.   Some are funny.    But some are mean.    And I think what happened there is she had personal experiences from utterly mean individuals who mercilessly teased her about her blondness and beyond.    While it is probably true that good people will disagree on exactly where that line between “have a little sense of humor, don’t be so politically correct, and don’t get offended by everything” and “that is offensive and inappropriate” I do think that reasonable and good people can agree that there exists such a line, and we should do our best to not cross it.

Some take the attitude that we should never even go there.   We should, at all costs, avoid any potential offense.   I personally believe this is entirely wrong and problematic.   I understand the reasoning and I think the intentions are good.   But it’s part of what ails our country.   We’ve reached a point where we can’t say anything offensive at all about anybody on anything, and the judge of what constitutes offense is the progressive left.    In their view, religion itself is offensive.   The bible is offensive.   And so on.    We are a much healthier society if we learn to live with a little stereotypical humor about ourselves.   And yes, even if it crosses a line, we should be willing to brush it off and move on with our lives.    Better to err on that side of the equation than to try and muzzle all potentially offensive words universally.

Some take the attitude that everything is “just a joke.”    That’s a cop-out, and it’s not true.    The real question one should ask is whether or not engaging in stereotypical humor serves as its main purpose a good and funny joke, or whether the main intent is to demean and mock.    This really isn’t a difficult question.    When an atheist squats over the baby Jesus in a Nativity Scene only an idiot doesn’t see that as a statement that says “I’m mocking the Virgin Birth and what Christians believe.”    If you tell the joke about the kid praying for a bicycle for Christmas by telling Jesus “If you ever want to see your mother again…” while putting a Mary statue in a drawer, then that is funny.    Could that be taken offensively by some?   Sure, I suppose.   Should we really be joking about holding Mary hostage?     Well, the joke is more about what the mind of an innocent kid who desperately wants a bike for Christmas is like.   It’s funny.   The other is a crass mockery.   In the one case, most Christians will either be outright offended or not find it funny at all, and even non-Christians find it tasteless.   In the other case, many Christians will see the humor.

Here’s a hint:   if you hate Christians or consider them stupid, then there is a high degree of probability that your “joke” is not “just a joke” but is demeaning and offensive.  I’m not saying that is universally true, but you probably should be more careful about whether or not that is the case.   And if you get that kind of reaction, then the blindness is yours, not others.    I’m not saying that Christians can’t cross that same line – they can.   They are just less likely to.

The same is true whether we’re talking about Christians, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Women, Men, Blondes, or Eskimos.    If you have a hatred or distaste for any group of people and you are “just making a joke” then are probably at higher risk of crossing a line.    Just accept it, and maybe do something about that by looking inward.

But let’s not get crazy.   Jokes are good.   Not taking yourself too seriously is good.    I mean, if you’re blonde and can’t find the humor in ANY blonde joke, then I think you are doing yourself a disservice.   Or, perhaps, more accurately the fault lies on others who killed your sense of humor on the subject.   And I am sorry if that is the case.   But try to move on.

I still have a copy of a bulletin from the Wisconsin Department of State, bulletin 91-92 issued January 1, 1992.   Subject: Automobile Dimmer Switches.  (I’ll skip over a lot of it, so it will lose a bit of the feel of authenticity)

  • Pursuant to the WI Dept of Motor Vehicles Act… All motor vehicles… will be required to have the headlight switch mounted on the floorboard. The dimmer switch must be mounted in a position accessible to operation by pressing the switch with the left foot.  The switch must be far enough from the left foot pedal to avoid inadvertent operation or pedal confusion.
  • …all other vehicles with steering column mounted dimmer switches must be retrofitted… Vehicles which have not made this change will fail … safety inspection…
  • …This change is being made in the interest of public safety… A recent study … has shown that 95% of all Wisconsin nighttime highway accidents are caused by a blonde getting her foot caught in the steering wheel while attempting to dim the headlights.

Come on…   that’s funny!

A Medical Year to Remember

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The last year has been an interesting one for me on the medical front.   While this is getting somewhat personal, there really isn’t anything I feel needs to be kept to myself on it.   And there’s a couple reasons I’m sharing, from just thinking that my experience may help others figure out some other options in their health care to a spiritual component, keeping all things in perspective.   Kind of the theory that there are no true coincidences – everything has a purpose.

Around October 2015, I started feeling tired all the time.   Nothing specific, just didn’t feel right.   I decided to schedule a hair mineral analysis test and then do a consult with a Doctor who specializes in that area.   My consult, though, wasn’t until the end of March 2016.   OK, whatever.   I can deal.

It was Christmas 2015.   Anyone who knows me knows that Christmas is my favorite day of the year.   I love absolutely everything about it.   I love what it means from my Catholic perspective – the birth of the Savior of the World, the humility in how He came to us, the joy that accompanied His arrival…  everything.   I also love all of our celebratory traditions.   I am not a person opposed to the gifts, the treats, the decorations, the lights, the music…   oh, the MUSIC!    I find it all enjoyable, awesome, and in no way detracting from the real meaning of Christmas.   Yes, people can go overboard and lose focus, but that is an issue with the person, not the thing.

So, it’s Christmas morning and…   I’m in pain.    And I know the pain.   Kidney stone.   I’ve had them a few times and have become intimately familiar with the drill.

OK, so in the past I’ve gone to the E.R., but now I know what to do.    Get ahead of the pain with pain meds.   Except this time I have an accompanying symptom.   My bladder feels so full I swear it is going to explode, except that I have continually emptied it.   This did not alleviate, and it was a tossup as to what was more uncomfortable – the pain associated with the stone itself or the unceasing feeling of a bladder that has no more room at the Inn.

This whole thing concerned me to the point where, once again, it was off to the E.R.    You need to understand here that I am cheap (I personally believe it should be lovingly referred to as prudently frugal).   A trip to the E.R. costs money, which now also causes psychological distress.   But it is what it is, and I needed to find out what was going on.

So, while the kids were celebrating their new presents I was in the hospital, as was my wife who was there to pretend she wanted to be there with me on this most celebrated day of our Lord.

OK, fast forwarding a bit, the docs were concerned about the bladder symptom as well and I had a CT scan.   The good news was that my bladder was in no danger of exploding, the bad news was that this was apparently my body’s current reaction to having the stone near it.   Yay.   In other words, suck it up and deal with it because there’s really nothing to be done, and there are no drugs that really take away the sensation of needing to urinate.

Oh, and by the way, it looks like you have some fat in your liver.   Eat less fat.

And so it was.   And I passed the stone that night, and life went on.

I had my hair mineral analysis.    And then my consult in late March as scheduled.    My analysis showed some interesting things.   Most of my readings were either low, or at the low end of normal range.    A few things didn’t show up at all.   I began a general protocol addressing my HMA results, along with the general knowledge of the Kidney Sotne issues, my propensity towards headaches, my general fatigue issues, and general GI/stomach issues.

Around that time, I had pain in my lower abs area.  OK, yes, near the groin if you must know.    I also had a bulge in the area previously unknown to me.   I’m thinking possible tumor or a hernia.   So I scheduled a doctor’s appointment for late April.

The night before my doctor’s appointment, I passed another kidney stone.   I didn’t go to the E.R. this time – I got ahead of the pain with the leftover meds I have.   Man, those things suck.

Doctor’s appointment – good news…  no hernia or tumor.   Looks like a fatty tissue deposit that I don’t really need to worry about, and the pain is likely a groin muscle strain.

Oh, but we need to talk…   the CT scan you had…  the diagnosis is SEVERE fatty liver.

Um…  what?   They just said I have some fatty liver and to eat a little better.

No, it’s severe.   Which is a bit odd, since all liver function tests are normal.   So, I want to run some more detailed tests to see what’s going on that aren’t as typical.   Oh, and by the way, back in 1996 when you had knee surgery your orthopedic surgeon ran a blood test that showed borderline underperforming thyroid function,.    I have no idea why an orthopedic surgeon would have run that, but since he did let’s do that too and see what’s going on there.

I won’t go into how I pass out with blood tests.

Fast forward to results:   (1) My thyroid is wonky.   Hypothyroidal.  (2) Copper is low.   Weird.   Alpha-1 % and Alpha-2 % are both low.   Weird again.   Outside of my doc’s expertise – see a GI doc.   Oh, and suddenly my blood pressure is really high.

GI doc – normal overall liver function, nothing to see from physical exam.   Probably nothing, but let’s run a couple other tests to rule everything out and be done with it all.   And, oh by the way, anyone reading a CT scan and trying to proclaim liver conditions as anything specific and assigning severity is guessing.   You can only do that from a biopsy, which we’re not going to do.   So don’t lose too much sleep over it.  And, oh, you need to pee into this bucket for the next 24 hours.

Fast forward to further tests:   Wilson’s disease, no.   But you actually do have low antitrypsin.   Interesting.   We need to do a genetic panel.

Final answers: (1) Thyroid is likely contributing to fatigue issues – I am not doing medication yet.   Talked the doc into giving me a few months.   Working with the hair mineral analysis doc on ways to address that, including putting iodine tincture on every day.  (2) I have a genetic condition that I won’t even try to describe in medical terminology.   Basically, I only produce 60% of normal antitrypsin levels.  Antitrypsin is produced in the liver.   I also produce a defective protein that is not recognized by the liver.   This might be difficult for the liver to eliminate, and could produce scarring and liver damage.    Antitrypsin also is what protects the lungs from all sorts of things.   A deficiency could lead to lung problems, including emphysema.   The good news is that 60% production should be enough for a normal and healthy life as long as I minimize my exposure to things that can cause lung issues.   No smoking for me…    I also may be more susceptible to prolonged cough symptoms that accompany colds and flu and may have more difficulty recovering, so I need to do my best to stay healthy in the first place and avoid as much of those circumstances as I can.  (3) High blood pressure is not quite where they’d recommend medication (I wouldn’t go on it anyway) but I need to monitor.   Buy a band.

Since then, I have no passed any more kidney stones.    I have a follow-up thyroid function blood test in November.   I have been on varying protocols with the HMA doc as new information has emerged from all these tests.

Here’s what is interesting to me.   There is almost no way under normal circumstances that I would have ever looked into or otherwise discovered that I have this genetic condition.   But now that I know I have it, I can eat certain foods and take certain supplements and do certain things that will really help me live a healthy life with this condition.   This all came about because of bladder sensation while passing a kidney stone, combined with thinking I had a hernia that I didn’t have.   Also, had my orthopedic surgeon 20 years ago not done a TSH test, I likely would not have pressed for one, and I probably didn’t give my doctor enough general information that would have led him to believe I needed one.   But now I know I have that issue and can deal with it.

I guess you never know what to expect, but I feel that this all came about in such a unique way that there was some guiding hand out there that decided it was time for me to get healthy and deal with these somewhat hidden issues.   As uncomfortable as it was, as much as I didn’t want to spend Christmas Day curled up in pain, and as much as it cost me I am nonetheless thankful to be where I am at.

I am a believer in both conventional medicine and alternative medicine.   I want to find a way to cure or help my body first through natural remedies, but also think there is a time where you accept the blessings of modern medicine as well.    I have followed the advice of the HMA doc and been doing some interesting things.    I feel better overall, my recent Hair Mineral Analysis shows improved mineral readings, and I think this is the first major step to getting back to where I need to be.   I’m drinking a juiced lemon every day that I can and taking a number of supplements.   I am using tanning beds to get natural Vitamin D and avoiding D supplements.    I have learned that the Vit D/Vit A/Vit K needs to be in balance, and it is likely mine was not.   I need to produce D naturally and I need A to remove excess D, and I need K to deposit my Calcium where it is supposed to go, and not in my Kidneys or arteries.    I am supplementing with copper to get that level up.   Exercise and sleep are very important – I am trying to do better with both, but old habits die hard.    Interestingly, my blood pressure is now back to normal levels.

I am also having my amalgam fillings removed.   I know this is a point of debate, and to be honest I am not certain how convinced I am that it is necessary.   But I’ve decided that if I do it, then any question about it is gone and I don’t have to worry about it.

I am willing to try just about anything that makes some kind of potential sense to me.

So, to finalize my thoughts on this, why did I blog about this today?   Well, first, from the standpoint of faith and trust, i am not saying there is no such thing as coincidence, but I think we tend to overstate what might be coincidence because – for whatever reason – it is difficult for us to believe that God is directly intervening in our life to bring something about.   What I think is interesting about this aspect of God in our lives is that seldom does He just give us a direct answer via a dream or something.   It’s not like He sent me a note, saying “Get your antitrypsin levels checked.   And your thyroid.   K, thx…   God.”    He finds a way to bring it about that may not even be all that pleasant, but nonetheless gets us where we need to be.   It’s almost like His price tag to giving us this information is an opportunity for us to join in Christ’s redemptive suffering on the cross.   Even on Christmas!

The other thing that is interesting to me is the timing.   I have been referring to Charlie Johnston and what he says is coming.   I don’t want to overdo it with that, but it’s worth keeping in mind.   If he is right, then the timing and the timeline needed to get all this straight for me is difficult for me to write off as entirely coincidental.   It could be that the time has come to prepare myself for the times ahead and be ready physically for whatever it is my family and others will need me for.

In any case, interesting times for me, and for all of us.

 

 

 

 

It’s Still not too late to say “Merry Christmas!”

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One of the things I love and appreciate about our Catholic faith is that we know how to celebrate! Now, many of you non-Catholics may be confused. After all, aren’t Catholics the ones who have these penitential seasons of Lent and Advent? Aren’t we the ones who have that “Catholic guilt” that drives us to confession? Aren’t our Masses, in general, not all that charismatic and – if not properly understood for what they are – boring?

Well, it is true that we give things up for Lent. And Advent is also penitential. And we do go to confession. And, unfortunately, Mass can all too often lack enthusiasm. Without going into an in-depth theological and philosophical musing on all this, let’s just say that to those Catholics who fully understand why we do all the things we do rather than just “following the rules” all these things have a purpose, and bring us joy. They may not be fun, and they may involve self-sacrifice, but the end result enhances the spiritual life and is a net positive on the “joy” meter. As for Mass, I personally wish we would be more enthusiastic as a whole about attending and participating in Mass. But again, for those who understand the Mass, our enjoyment and appreciation of it are not from charismatic singing and pulpit-pounding preaching. The Mass can certainly be enhanced with good music, a joyful congregation, and a good preacher, but the true joy of the Mass is the Word of God in both Scripture and Eucarist. Those elements are always there, and it is that from which our joy comes.

But, believe it or not, the Catholic faith not only encourages prolonged celebration, it outright demands it! Advent, for example, is a period of preparation and anticipation. It is not dissimilar to the rest of the world, both religious and secular, who decorate and buy presents and wrap them and make plans – all in anticipation of Christmas. Much of the rest of the world celebrates Christmas on Christmas Day, and then put their trees out to the curbs and take down their lights and start thinking about other things the day or two after. For the Catholic, though, Christmas Day is simply the first day of Christmas! Many Catholics I know exchange gifts throughout the 12 days of Christmas, culminating on Epiphany. In fact, some make Epiphany the major gift exchange, since that is the actual celebration of the arrival of the wise men.

Even more pronounced is the celebration of Easter. After our Lenten sacrifices, we’re told to celebrate for the next 50 days! Unfortunately, too many of us do not carry through with the call to continue celebrating Christ’s resurrection, even though we faithfully heed the call to sacrifice during Lent. I think we sometimes do lose sight of the importance and need for celebration of our faith.

So, while everyone is saying “Happy New Year!” tell them to have a Happy New Year and a Merry Christmas! It is still not too late to wish them a Merry Christmas.

And, by the way, Merry Christmas!