Tuesday, January 22, 2008

a life is a terrible thing to waste

The car had two bumper stickers: "Compost -- a rind is a terrible thing to waste." And "Keep abortion safe, legal and rare."

The irony apparently escaped the car's owner but has haunted me for months now. My husband and I compost. With a little effort and the passage of time, kitchen scraps and leaves become a rich blend that enhances the ground and helps us grow healthy plants. I feel a little smug about composting. It is a good thing.

How can someone who can recognize the potential inherent in food waste simultaneously support denying millions of people the opportunity to live? Even if one doesn't believe that life begins at conception, surely it is easy to recognize that an embryo will become, if nature takes its course, a living, breathing, loving human being in a matter of months. The progression is much clearer than an orange rind becoming plant food. Abortion denies a person the right to live no less than intentionally ending the life of a person post-birth -- what we call "murder." (Unless, of course, we call it "euthenasia" -- simply another step down the path of playing God and deciding who has the right to live.)

Aside from the question of abortion's safety -- women continue to die in abortions, even legal ones -- abortion cannot be considered "rare." Sadly, the 1.2 million abortions that took place in 2005 have been acclaimed as a record low since 1974 -- and still represents slightly more than one in five pregnancies. There have been 45 million abortions since the legalization of abortion 35 years ago -- that's twice the population of Texas, I heard on the radio.

It is hard to mourn for people you don't know, but it is horrific to think of 45 million babies -- children, people -- dying, and for what? Because their parents didn't want them? Motherhood isn't easy. Neither is having a baby and allowing him the opportunity to be adopted by a family who wants him. (6 million couples struggle with infertility -- I wonder how many of those 1.2 million babies killed in 2005 could have been adopted). But millions of people are choosing the "quick fix" of abortion to the morally right choice of having a child.

How can we help others choose to do what is right rather than what seems like the easy way out? Perhaps by choosing to do what is right rather than what is easiest -- something like volunteering at a local crisis pregnancy center. How can we express with our assets -- time and money -- the value we place upon life? I confess I don't know what I'm going to do. But I'm wondering what kind of Christian I am if I'm not willing to do something on behalf of those who are too vulnerable and weak to defend themselves against death.

Thursday, January 10, 2008

Slowing Down

Ironic, isn't it, that I have to take up jogging in order to learn to slow down? I've been jogging -- slowly -- for two months now and really enjoy it. I've been pushing myself to go a little faster, go a little further, as much as I can. And my left knee, the object of surgery a decade ago, has been stiff and aching a bit the last six weeks or so. I've noticed the ache but have ignored it because, as I said, I'm enjoying jogging and I didn't want anything to change. I realized that there was something compulsive about this but I was feeling good about exercising and I figure there are worse things I could be compulsive about than exercise.

Last weekend I got a book out of the library about running. The author, a coach and former Olympic runner, emphasizes that running moderately is essential to avoiding injuries, which is key because if you are injured, you cannot run. He suggests that you have some rest days, other days where you have easy workouts, and only once a week have a long run or a fast run. According to this author, you can do this even to train for races such as the marathon and run faster than if you were to push yourself more. Not least important, running moderately helps you to enjoy running more and avoid burnout.

This book helped me see that I could benefit from a "less is more" approach to jogging. This week I've run slower, run less, and walked more. And my knee doesn't hurt!

Al-Anon has a slogan that says "Easy does it." When I first came to Al-Anon, I had no idea what that meant. If "it" needs to be done, then doesn't it need the full-court press? I'm slowly learning that sometimes "easy does it" better it than "hard" does. "Hard" may satisfy my compulsive urge but it leaves me open to getting injured. And when I'm hard on myself, I'm hard on others too. I am glad to be learning to be more gentle with myself and others and to enjoy the journey rather than just racing to the finish as fast as I can.

Saturday, January 05, 2008

a late Christmas post

It is sunny and 72 degrees in Dallas today -- glorious. This morning I raked leaves in the back yard and John "helped" me by putting a few leaves in the bags. It's much more fun when we can do things together like that instead of just my doing things to him. A couple of days after Thanksgiving, Michael, John and I were all sitting in the living room, each of us reading (or looking at) a book, and I had a sudden moment of recognition. This was what I had imagined having a child would be like! Until that moment I hadn't realized that that had been my mental image of family life, and once I recognized it I realized how naive I'd been. Still, it was nice to have that ideal moment once. And Michael and I are both happy that John enjoys looking at books so much -- he certainly belongs in our family!

A few weeks ago I was raking leaves on a chilly but sunny late morning. Raking leaves hadn't been in my plan for that day, but John had fallen asleep in his car seat on the 5-minute ride home from the gym at 10:30 am, and I knew that if I woke him he wouldn't go back to sleep inside. I couldn't leave him alone and I didn't feel like reading in the car, so I started raking.

Around noon, a neighbor drove by and stopped to say hi. He is 88 years old and has told me a number of times that his wife of 64 years died in June 2005. (I am amazed that he is still alive.) He was on his way to get a sandwich for lunch, he said, and would I mind raking his yard too? I saw that his yard was already leaf-free and laughed and said I'd be happy to!

As he went on his way, I had a weird moment of clarity -- an insight of sorts. I tend to have an underlying nagging suspicion that life is passing me by, that there is really something more important/interesting/better that I should be doing if I only knew what it was. In this moment, though, I felt as if I were doing exactly what I should be doing. I thought, "THIS is the meaning of life -- to have a pleasant word with a neighbor as we go about our inconsequential business." After all, the leaves will never stop falling, so it's hard to think that I've really accomplished anything by raking. But in that moment I felt satisfied by spending my time on the modest achievement of making our home look a little more presentable for a few days and having momentary contact with a fellow human. I realized that I tend to have too high expectations for myself: I always think I am I not doing enough or what I'm doing isn't good enough. Wouldn't it be wonderful to have modest expectations for myself that I could actually achieve?

It occurred to me (not for the first time) that God views my life much differently than I do and has different expectations of me. And he, not I, knows what will be the end result of my life. I think I tend to take for granted that when Jesus was born, various people (shepherds, magi, Simeon) recognized that he was special, Israel's King, Son of God, etc. They knew that only because they'd received a revelation from God. At that time Jesus would have appeared to be an ordinary baby doing ordinary baby things. In fact, most of Jesus' life was not spent on the miraculous or spectacular but on doing ordinary things. So now when I find myself thinking that God must be disappointed with me because I'm not doing anything special with my life, I remind myself that even the Christ living in me spent most of his earthly life modestly. (And I know, bringing up a child is very special . . . it's just hard to keep that in mind when I'm cleaning cereal off the floor or loading the dishwasher or whatever grunt work I'm doing.)