American Idol: A Guide for Hearing God’s Voice, Part 2

stContinued from yesterday. 

While many desires prompt goodness, others trigger evil and thus can’t be signs of our vocation to love. Ignatius called these desires disordered, meaning that a God-given longing—a holy desire—has become perverted.

If you’re a contestant on American Idol, you may have the holy desires to uplift your fans through your singing and to earn a living for your family. But if you sabotage another entrant to better your chances of prevailing, your holy desires have become warped.

When Ignatius was a young man, he happened upon a system for distinguishing holy from disordered desires. At the time, he was pulled by two strong yearnings, one to be a womanizer, the other to become a monk, and when he pondered these conflicting urges he noticed a difference in the feelings each aroused.

[Read more...]

American Idol: A Guide for Hearing God’s Voice, Part 1

american idolI love American Idol and could hardly wait until this month when the fourteenth season began. I’ve watched it all through the years: those judged by Paula Abdul, Simon Cowell, and Randy Jackson; those when Kara DioGuardi stepped in; the stints of Steven Tyler, Mariah Carey, and Nicki Minaj; the reigns of Harry Connick, Jr., Jennifer Lopez, and Keith Urban.

This penchant isn’t easy to admit. My friends are mostly highbrows—educators, writers, and lawyers whose favorite resting pastimes are reading The New York Times or the latest Pulitzer Prize-winning novel, going to the opera or the theatre, listening to NPR or jazz, and watching PBS. I’ve never had the courage to confess to them that I’m an Idol fan.

[Read more...]

An Introvert’s Resolution

womenaloneMy husband and I saw a stage production of Harvey in Milwaukee last month.

The Pulitzer-Prize winner, written by Mary Chase in 1944, certainly evokes a fair share of laughter and inquiry into the realms of belief, reality, and social norms. However, I left ruffled by Chase’s clear intention of presenting Elwood, the best friend of an imaginary rabbit, as a hero for chatting up the people he meets, inviting everyone from telemarketers to cab drivers to dinner.

What a nightmare. Sometimes I’m not even up for having dinner with my family or best friends, let alone the pharmacist at Walgreens.

[Read more...]

Jesus and the Junkie in My Car

Woman anoints Jesus' feetYou learn a lot about your neighborhood when you drive a junkie from the laundromat to the homeless shelter in the next town over. You learn, for instance, that the red house on the corner across from the pizza joint is owned by a man who has a serious crack habit and (though you must take this next part of the story with a large grain of salt) owes the junkie in your car a good deal of money.

You learn there are people who linger behind the abandoned mini-market after the sun goes down. You learn what they’ve been doing there. You learn about the people who’ve recently been arrested in your town and why they have been arrested.

You learn some of the backstories about the three men who were tied up, shot in the head, and dumped into the river a few weeks ago. You hear crazy stories about fights and betrayals and big plans. You hear wild claims and self-justifications that spiral off into so many tangents that, suddenly, you’ve entered a Thomas Pynchon novel.

And then a thought creeps into the back of your mind, the thought that God loves this man. God loves all men equally, of course. It is a big love. But, God loves this man especially. Or perhaps a better way to put it is that God has a special interest in men like this, the junkie, whom we ought to call David, since that is his name. [Read more...]

Dodging Bullets

They arrived as strangers—freshmen at Seattle Pacific University who’d come to take a course in college writing: A tall girl with a flowered backpack and blond hair fishtailed to one side. A brawny boy with a knitted cap and a ready, brilliant smile. An elfin girl in a madras skirt whose black bangs fluttered with her lashes. A lanky boy in soccer shorts whose green eyes lit his freckled face.

Within days I learned some names and habits: Peter* always strode in early and grabbed a seat by the window in the back. Kaitlin routinely said “Good morning!” and sipped a caramel latte during class. Pilar daily sat before the lectern and lined up sharpened pencils on her desk. Abdul was almost always late and bowed when he slipped into the room.

Within weeks I came to know much more—their sufferings, blessings, worries, hopes, weaknesses, and strengths:

Lindsey had mangled her arm when her boogie board was thrown on Maui sea stacks. She hoped to become a doctor, strove to be on dean’s list, and wrote meticulous papers that were somewhat tedious to read.

Yoel had fled his native Eritrea by perambulating deserts through the night. English was his second language, which he spoke with a lovely lilt. His dream was to become a Christian rock star. Writing essays made him anxious, but he loved crafting spoken-word poems. [Read more...]