Friday, September 29, 2006

Here's what I wish: (Teri)

I wish this blog were as intellectual as I'd like to be. Each post would address one specific point of doctrine and include my response and some thoroughly-researched information illuminating the issue. Then all who read it would stand in a nice neat row lining the path between my current location and my confirmation day and applaud my decision. Loudly. Perhaps even cheer. Confetti-throwing would not be too over-the-top for my ego, or lack thereof.

Alas, although I'm a smart woman, my thoughts and emotions are all over the place when it comes to considering Catholicism. (I really would make a great famous columnist. It would already be established that people like to read what goes on in my brain, and I'd have an editor in my employ to do all the nasty organizing.) So on with the considerations...

After a visit with Rich and Kristi, and lots of conversations about everything from family planning to the mysteries of the church - we have arrived home with plenty of homework. Rich and Kristi have given us tapes, CDs, videos, and other papers. Some kind folks at St. Francis have given us more CDs. We have ordered books and a tape or two ourselves. We're up to our eyeballs in resources. I'm still making my way through Tiber and that leads to lots of scripture reference and catechism checking. I'd really like to just go to Mass some more, but that has gotten complicated and I am waiting on God to simplify it for us. I have no doubt he will. Then, imagine that we become Catholic. It sounds good to me. So what's with the confetti-throwing stuff?

In addition to wanting to work through some questions about Mary, especially, and the Saints and so forth - I also have to work through just being Teri and making big life-changing decisions. In describing this to Magan, I used my beliefs about birth and it worked in my brain so I'm going to do it again here.

When I got pregnant, I absorbed LOTS of information on birth. This included reading numerous books, watching videos, attending births (yes, while pregnant - egad!), and interviewing basically every woman I came in contact with including my OB at the time. My research led me to decide on home birth. It went FABULOUSLY. I loved my birth. So, baby in hand, what does a well-researched gal like me expect to do next? Well, I expect that just EVERYONE I ever come in contact with for the rest of my life will choose home birth. Guess what? I think of all the friends I have who are child-bearing age, ONE decided to give birth at home as a result in part of her contact with me. ONE. Out of fifty-three million. (I have a lot of friends!) WHAT THE HECK? I don't get it. You find a great way to do something, you have proof it works, why don't more people choose to do it that way, too? All these women-friends keep pushing out babies and I still sit here puzzled about their methods. Time goes on and I'm learning that some just don't care how the baby gets out. Others do their own research and (gasp!) come up with different methods. As I struggle to understand these women, and our friendships, and the ins and outs of my own decision, I realize that it's okay to birth differently. However, I still relate better to the woman who makes informed choices about her birth than to the woman who worships her doctor and isn't even sure where her own birth canal is.

WHAT does this have to do with this church decision?

Well, here we've done all this research and discovered all this priceless stuff about the Catholic church. And I'm not getting the sense that everyone is going to want to join along with us. And WHY NOT??? The answers are as varied as they were with the birth decision. But with this, it seems a bit more dangerous to be relative. So I'm discouraged. Why? Do I just want everyone to join the party? Am I so weak that I really do need everyone to agree with everything I do? I don't know. I think I'm just afraid to be wrong. With the birth decision, there was the possibility that all could go awry and my baby could die. Or I could. With this decision, I suppose I fear the possibility that all this stuff is just baloney and I'm going awry and I might die. Plus, since the Protestant to Catholic conversion is a noticeable one (people are going to pick up on it when I start hanging crucifixes and crossing myself in prayer just like they noticed that I never packed a bag for the hospital to give birth) I have to figure out where I fit in among all my brothers and sisters both Catholic and non-.

Thursday, September 21, 2006

In Memory of Tony

Tonight I want to thank God for Tony's life.
It has been one year today since his death, and he is remembered with love by Mom, me, James, and all his family and friends.
It's difficult to revisit the events of a year ago. It's painful to miss him so much. But I'm so glad he was my step-father, and I take the difficulty and pain along with the joyful and loving memories.

Tony, I know you're proud of this search we've been a part of. I'm grateful to God for all he did in your last days, especially - but also just for making you you.

Thank you, God, for Tony's life - that's the purpose of this post as I said at the beginning.

And, to end with, a note to my step-father now in heaven: I believe you were right about your church. (And I use that wording "you were right" intentionally --- and humbly --- in light of numerous conversations about the wide variety of things I got to be right about.)

I love you. We miss you. Can't wait to see you again.

Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Maybe a few things...(Teri)

Uh-oh. I respectfully disagree with my husband. He asks "What is left to think about?" and answers, "Nothing."

Apparently he hasn't had a look inside my brain. In the world according to Teri, when is there EVER nothing left to think about?

But I get what he's saying. For Kevin and I, the Catholic church is offering exactly what we've been looking for in a church for years (not just the last month)... YEARS! And there are flaws, and issues, but for us - it's the best we've found. Hands down. I'm ready to sign up for RCIA, and perhaps have wonderful plans for Easter --- but none of this assured talk means that I'm done thinking, researching, and analyzing. Yes, I get what Kevin meant. And I even appreciate it. Further, I'm thankful for him in my life - he keeps me from spinning out of control in my thought life almost daily. But I'm still thinking. Kevin will be, too. And his might be more productive because he'll be thinking about the new stuff. And I'm still having a bit of a hard time letting go of the old.

For example, we left that class last night saying we were ready to start attending Mass. We're more than ready to quit going to our current non-denominational church. But this conversion is more difficult if I have to explain it to my circle of friends at our current church. Our upcoming out-of-state move would make the church change so much more convenient. But if we leave our church sooner, I'm sad. I'm sad for our son who is finally opening up in Sunday School. If I'm honest with myself, I have to consider two truths:

1) This isn't really about my son. I am scared to death of telling these folks I'm converting to Catholicism. I'm afraid they won't believe I'm a Christian or that I follow Jesus. I want to avoid having uncomfortable conversations and rocking any boats. It has occurred to me that boat-rocking and honest conversation might be good for me, but I'd rather avoid.

2) Our son has grown over the past two years. His age and exposure to a variety of things have both contributed to his "opening up" in his church classes. So we won't really be taking him away from something irreplaceable, it's just sentimental to me. Read that. It's more about me. I'm admitting it, 'kay?

Convenience aside, I really want to go to Mass. Really. So stay tuned to see what happens.

Tuesday, September 19, 2006

What is Left? (Kevin)

Teri noticed an announcement in the Mass program this past Sunday that announced a "Mass Class" for all interested. We thought it would be good to learn more about the Church from a source other than the written word so we went. Well, it was great. The organization of mass is inspired by and filled with scripture. There is a marriage between the old testament and the new testament and remembrance of teaching that has been taught for centuries. One of the readings was written in the 3rd century. THE 3RD CENTURY. What a spectacular history and lineage there is in the Catholic Church.

So, now we are left with one question...what is left?

What is left to question?

What is left to do?

What is left to research?

What is left to think about?

I want to answer emphatically, "Nothing."

Sunday, September 17, 2006

After The First Try (Kevin)

So, we attended Mass for the first time since our research into the Catholic Church this morning. It was a great experience. Contrary to what some may think or expect, there was nothing in the service that I could take exception to. In fact, the reverence given to the Bible was much greater than any reverence I have seen given in any Protestant church I have attended.

Bottom line is that we liked it and we will be going again with friends next Sunday.

The First Try (Kevin)

Today, Bethanie is still a bit sick so we have decided to make our first trip to Mass since this all began. I don't know what to expect. We have only been to the Catholic Church for weddings, funerals, and Christmas Eve once. This comes at a time when both Teri and I have been researching the "other side" of the issue. We have been reading the CRI essays and considering some of the more heated topics of discussion (or should I say dissention?). I keep coming back to the fact that there are undoubtedly issues within the Church, but, thus far, all Protestantism has provided is identification of these issues without a corresponding solution.

For example, Protestants do not believe the Pope is an authority and, therefore, should not be listened to. However, no sufficient response to this problem is provided. There is no consistent authority in Protestantism. Of course, they cite the Bible as their lone authority, but the differing interpretations of portions of the Bible have led to the numerous denominations, sub-denominations, and non-denominations - not unity. Make no mistake, I believe that the Bible is the inspired Word of God and should be read, studied, and followed, but I believe there should be a corresponding body (the Church) to go along with the Bible. To paraphrase Steve Ray, the Bible and the Church are not set up in a false dichotomy of "either/or." Rather the Church and the Bible are set up in a "both/and" relationship. We need (and were given by God) both the Church and the Bible with the Church flowing from the Bible.

I look forward to attending Mass and seeing for myself what "goes on there" for the first time since I have begun to seriously research the Catholic Church with fairness.

Thursday, September 14, 2006

Both sides (Teri)

My brother converted to Mormonism a while back, and I told him I was surprised that he didn't research more before he made his decision. I thought he would have investigated information against LDS theology in order to make a more informed decision. But, ah, the complications of a faith question.

Ever since Kevin started reading and sharing from Crossing the Tiber, as we've considered conversion, I have been thinking, "We really better read what the 'other side' says about some of this stuff." In some ways, we already know because we've been on the "other side" the entire time we've been followers of Jesus. But I want more in-depth consideration of, say, what exactly we're talking about when we discuss "sola fide".

Voila!--- today I finally found some "good" stuff (as in---not hostile, and not "the-Pope-is-the-anti-Christ") detailing problems with Catholic theology. I began to read some of the information on this particular website and have listed it over to the left under "Links". It's from the Christian Research Institute. I respect CRI and if I could get my brain around some of the crucial issues, I'd be in a good place. Truth be told, Kevin set up the "Links" section of this new little blog of ours. Because not only can I not grasp the topic of justification, I also cannot grasp how to edit our blog very well - ARGH! I do NOT need two things in one day to make me feel dumb.

Since we are providing a link to CRI's site, we're also including a link to Steve Ray's --"Defenders of the Catholic Faith". As Rich said, he looks just a little bit like Indiana Jones in his photo. He's the author of Tiber, and he's got a brain on 'im. For kicks the other night, I looked up what he had to say about purgatory and it was the first time I wasn't impressed - I think I already blogged about that. But everything else I've read of his has been helpful. Not the least of which would be this oh-so talked-about Tiber.

After today's reading of CRI stuff, I'm discouraged. I'm an impressionable gal, I guess - and I have two really smart groups of people on both sides making convincing arguments. I believe both. So what makes the decision? The Mormons would tell me to wait for a burning in my bosom, but that proves faulty just a little too often. If the decision is purely "feeling" I'm going to convert - then about five years from now, I might just switch again and become an Orthodox Jew. Then, if the feeling changes, perhaps I'll try a little agnosticism. Okay, I'm getting snotty. Let's see if I can list the major stuff my overloaded brain took away from today's reading:

1) Catholic theology bites itself in the butt. It's emphasis on sacraments and tradition ends up overshadowing it's otherwise right-on theology and tremendous history. This provides the answer to my question of the last two weeks: "Why so much nominalism?" Because certainly this butt-biting leads to many of its members having a hard time getting to know Jesus, pure and simple.

2) I read the best definition and explanation for a cult EVER! And the Catholic church is not a cult. I now know, though, more about who considers it so and why.

3) The Vatican II decision, or whatever it's called, about who gets to go to heaven is freaking me out a little. I need to really read up on this one. It was outlined in the CRI article I read today, but I need more. Background: Julie attended a seminar led by a nun in a hospital and gathered from some of what the nun said that the Catholic church no longer believes Jesus is the only way. Hm. Totally contrary to all we've been reading, but Julie brought it up and I asked Kristi about it last night. She said her understanding of the church's position is that they acknowledge what they know from scripture about Jesus and salvation, but also that God's grace is bigger than we understand. He can save who he chooses to save. No argument. Dandy. But this decision outlined by Protestant CRI makes it sound MUCH more ---what's the word?---well, can't think of it, but freakin' scary!

Perhaps tomorrow I'll take a break from the reading and do some listening to God. Not sure I'd dare blog the outcome of that, but ya never know.

Saturday, September 09, 2006

Too much information (Teri)

Last night we watched "Luther", the movie about Martin Luther and what his thinking and actions brought about way back in the 1500s. Nothing like a picture of all those years of history to mess up my brain. I finished watching with lots of thoughts that I agreed with him - that scripture should be the foundation of truth, not a pope - not a bunch of men. I also felt bummed about all the corruption in the church. I find myself thinking we have two choices: 1) Join this church run by humans with way more history and therefore way more skeletons in the closet or 2) Join a newer, shinier, church run by humans just waiting to pile up the skeletons in the closet.

Right now (like, as I sit here typing) Kevin is reading Crossing the Tiber and there are lots of references to the Ante-Nicene books. So, I looked 'em up on Amazon - tidy little set of 12 books for $300. if ordered new. Further down the screen I noticed a book for sale claiming to show certain New Testament passages which refute the Ante-Nicene stuff. Ugh!!!

AND, just for a little more blibber-blabber - I asked Kevin a question about purgatory today and he gave me some background but then referred me to Steve Ray's website to read his article on purgatory. So I read it. In my understanding, it sounds like hooey. Sure, fine, it doesn't hurt anything to think there might be this time of preparation before appearing before God - but it doesn't hurt anything to think there might not be. I thought our preparation to meet God was Jesus. Plain and simple. I'm starting to think that if I want to be plain and simple about the gospel, the Catholic Church might not be for me.

At this point, here's what it all comes down to for Kevin and me (in my words):

Kevin: "The Catholic Church is it. Jesus started a church and here it is. I see evidence. This stuff makes sense. Logic, logic, logic."
Teri: "The Catholic Church sure has been around a long time. Hard to argue with thousands and thousands of years. Plus there is much that appeals to me. Longing for tradition here, longing to belong to something bigger than we've found in the past. I like the symbols. I like the ceremony. Emotion, emotion, emotion."

I just have to do some more wading. I'm standing here in a river that's moving pretty fast and is dang deep. And floating by are books and movies and websites and lists of sacraments and conversations and testimonies and RCIA and concerns for my children and countless words to look up and history I never concerned myself with before. Funny thing, as I'm picturing my little river here - where do you think Jesus is in the whole thing? Duh, obviously walking on the water! Where else would he be?

Friday, September 08, 2006

Jumbled thoughts (Teri)

One thing I need to do is get "out" all the different thoughts I'm having that make me wonder or doubt so I can deal with each of them individually rather than in a big jumble, which gets confusing and gets me nowhere.
One big thing on my mind is that I perceive the Catholic church to be so "watered down", and so full of "nominal" believers (to use a word describing believers in India that I think applies here) that even if I join for great theological reasons, my kids don't stand a chance to become real followers of Jesus.
Right off, my fear annoys me, because when I hear other mothers make it sound like their childrens' salvation is all dependent on what they do or don't do as moms - I think they're ridiculous. The Holy Spirit is the key player here, I believe. But surely my decision(s) - and particularly something so huge as a conversion to Catholicism play some part. So what difference would it make? I'm getting a picture of the depth of the doctrine and the "rightness" of the theology - but what about the week-to-week stuff?
A friend of ours visited night before last for dinner, and - crazy as this is - has become really "disenchanted" (her word) with the churches she has been a part of over the past 5 or 6 years. We started talking about Catholicism and last night she called me. She talked to a Catholic co-worker yesterday and ended up "touring" the Catholic church building close to her home with her co-worker. They met the deacon's wife and she answered some of their questions (like, what are those 3 oils up front near the altar?) and gave her information on RCIA. Well, she can't think of a reason not to, and enjoyed listening to the Scott Hahn CD we loaned her - so she's thinking of diving right in and getting to ask all her questions. Right off, she wondered if children in the church get to grow up hearing the stories of Jonah and Moses and so forth. Good question. What exactly IS the emphasis on scripture? And do Catholics believe in a literal interpretation? See?--- the questions come pouring once I start writing.
Last note - I started Crossing the Tiber today, so I'm looking forward to that - it will be a careful read - especially with the miles of footnotes he includes. My, my, my.

Monday, September 04, 2006

Where it began (Kevin)

Teri is an excellent "detail" person and I applaud her effort in the original post. I will fill in my part excluding the time from my birth to when we got the book from Rich and Kristi.

I am not sure what specifically interested me about the book (Crossing the Tiber), but I began reading it upon our arrival home from Las Vegas. It hit me at a time when I had been researching the theology of Calvin because I was leaning toward our family joining a Calvinist church. I had recently become disillusioned with the churches we were considering for our impending move to Texas. In fact, I had nearly given up hope that we would be able to find a church. Anyway, back to the story...

I began reading the book and was amazed at the Catholic Church's solid doctrine based on the Bible and the apostles' teaching. As my reading continued, I concluded that my research of and interest in the Catholic Church was not a simple task of addressing issues and checking them off my list of concerns. Rather, it was a search into the history of the Catholic Church to confirm it was founded by Jesus. Nothing else mattered if the Church had remained true to Jesus and the "founding fathers."

More later as it develops.

Where it began (Teri)

I was raised by a Methodist mom and an Evangelical dad. We attended church pretty regularly, and I have memories of Sunday School and so forth. But when my parents divorced in 1978-ish, the church-going came to an end. From junior-high on, I went by myself. I tried Methodist, Lutheran, Presbyterian, even went to a Mormon dance or two. I "settled" by high school on a non-denominational church because it had the coolest youth group, guitar music in the worship service, and that's where all my friends went.

It was during college that my faith and relationship with Jesus were cemented. God worked in my life through the ministry of InterVarsity Christian Fellowship first as a student then as staff.

I met Kevin through InterVarsity. He had a Baptist background, and we were married in his hometown church. In eight years of marriage and in the midst of five moves, we've attended an American Baptist church, a Presbyterian, a Conservative Baptist, and two non-denominational churches.

My step-father, Tony, had a devout Catholic background, but hadn't attended as long as I'd known him. Then about two years ago he got more serious about "going back". My mom had always said if he went back she'd go with him. They started attending at Eastertime, 2005. This was the first I heard about RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults): a class just for them to learn (or re-learn) about God and the Church. Well, curious me thought it would be fascinating to learn what they were learning, even if we were in different states, so I called up our local Catholic church and got connected with Sister so-and-so who gave me the day and time for the RCIA meetings and told me I'd be welcome. I worried that Kevin would think I was cuckoo, but he was supportive and so I started going.

RCIA was interesting. I learned a lot and it was fun to talk about with Kevin, but especially with Tony. Since my "classes" started before theirs, I enjoyed giving him pop-quizzes to see how much he remembered.

My biggest impression of that time was how quickly all my stereotypes --- some of them quite negative --- fell away. I was surprised that these people talked about the same Jesus and appeared to really love and worship him. And they never said anything that I could argue with. Admittedly, I was disappointed when one of the sponsors had a difficult time finding the book of Acts when he agreed to read a passage, but I kept observing.

From discussions with my Presbyterian-Pastor's-Wife close friend, it seemed in some ways simply that different churches emphasize different aspects of faith, but that doesn't make them wrong. Perhaps my non-denominational church emphasizes scripture more than anything. And a Pentecostal church might emphasize the Holy Spirit. And the Catholic Church might emphasize tradition. But, news to me, those emphases don't mean the other aspects of faith are unimportant --- not at all. The whole sola-scriptura- Bible-only - thing will come up later.

Unexpectedly, Tony died just a week or two after he and my mom started their RCIA. She continued to go, and I was able to travel to witness her confirmation at this past Easter Vigil. It was a special time, and I couldn't deny how meaningful it all seemed. How "deep", I guess. But that was it.

Through my time in RCIA, I asked questions of Tony, but sometimes also of our friends Rich and Kristi. They are Catholic, and we know them from college. It was helpful to have their current perspective, and that they are our peers.

A month ago, we attended an InterVarsity reunion that Rich and Kristi coordinated. While there, Rich mentioned a book he had told me about during my time in RCIA written by a man with a Baptist background who converted to Catholicism. Honestly, I have a basketful of books I'm looking forward to reading, and I couldn't understand Rich's persistence here, but I had no reason to tell him not to loan it to me. When he came to say goodbye before we left the reunion weekend, he forgot it (so had I). We said goodbye and then I hopped in the shower. He remembered the book, and returned with it. Kevin answered the door and took it. Later, on the road, he told me Rich dropped a book off and what was the story? I told him and thought now there was pressure to read it since he went out of his way to deliver it - I'd add it to the basket.

Once home, it never made it to the basket. Kevin started reading it. This is especially noteable because Kevin rarely reads books. And I had finally talked him into reading a book on Calvinism which he had finished just days before. Now he has picked up this book and suddenly he's exclaiming about the interesting scriptural truths he's learning. Bigtime. And calling Rich to ask more questions, and referencing scripture and joining message boards where he can ask more questions. Wow.

Rich and Kristi ordered some tapes and a CD for us and they arrived last week. We already listened to one. It is the testimony of a Presbyterian pastor who converts to Catholicism. Rich had mentioned how good it was ages ago but my thought was, "For every convert to Catholicism, there must be 9 million out of it." I meet people in every church who are former Catholics. So what gives? I have a few theories, but I'll end with a Fulton Sheen quote I heard on the testimony CD: “There are not a hundred people in America who hate the Catholic Church. There are millions of people who hate what they wrongly believe to be the Catholic Church— which is, of course, quite a different thing.”

Hate is a stronger word than I could use to explain my feelings about the Catholic church. I'd use "confusion", "disinterest", "stereotype", "arrogance", "judgement" and, in capital letters, "MISCONCEPTION". It might be fun to read this blog as those things continue to change.