Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle

Today’s feast day on the Catholic liturgical calendar is important to me. It is the “Feast of the Conversion of Saint Paul, Apostle.”

Paul, originally called “Saul,” was a badass Jewish Pharisee dude who viewed the Way of Christ a serious enough threat to the Judaism of the time that he personally led a vicious persecution of the Church. He was directly or indirectly involved with the arrests and deaths of scores of Christians.

Until one day.

Acts of the Apostles 22:4-8 “I persecuted this Way, even unto death, binding and delivering into custody both men and women, just as the high priest and all those greater by birth bear witness to me.

Having received letters from them to the brothers, I journeyed to Damascus, so that I might lead them bound from there to Jerusalem, so that they might be punished.

But it happened that, as I was traveling and was approaching Damascus at midday, suddenly from heaven a great light shone around me.

And falling to the ground, I heard a voice saying to me, ‘Saul, Saul, why are you persecuting me?’

And I responded, ‘Who are you, Lord?’ And he said to me, ‘I am Jesus the Nazarene, whom you are persecuting.’

Popular tradition holds that he was knocked of his horse, there is however no scriptural evidence of that.

Why is this feast day of the Church important to me? I mean, apart from my being named after St. Paul?

The idea of conversion is central to my identity, especially after 2001. I am both an alcoholic in recovery and a revert to the Catholic Church.

I won’t discuss my alcoholism here, I have a blog devoted to that: Sober Catholic. My reversion to the faith is covered there, too, but not as much as my alcoholism recovery.

I was born and raised Catholic. Educated in a Catholic school from kindergarten through 8th grade. I was an altar boy (no girls allowed back then) at Mass and I had a fairly decent grasp of Catholic teachings.

Turned out my knowledge didn’t include the obvious need to apply it directly in daily living. Somehow I missed the lessons that we were to live out our Faith, not just pray, go to Mass on Sundays and whatnot. The actual, direct infusion into my life of Catholic living wasn’t really there. I mean, there were “daily living” things that I followed, such as no sex outside of marriage, but the Faith didn’t always form my decision-making.

Add that my knowledge of the Faith might have been broad, but it wasn’t deep.

And so I left the Church. It occurred during a rough period in my life when things weren’t going well and I prayed fervently for relief, but got none.

And so I decided that since “prayer didn’t work,” I’ll stop attending Mass. I wasn’t struck dead by lightening and this encouraged me to continue missing Mass.

I never became an atheist. The idea of “no God” is ludicrous. Created things need a creator. Made things need a maker. I instead just came to the conclusion that organized religion was a method of control over the masses.

Life continued, things got better in some ways. However these “better ways” lead to different problems which I won’t bother with here. Life happens, things occur and we adapt and cope or we do not.

I wandered about aimlessly spiritually for 15 years. I finally reverted to the Catholic Church at the same time I began my recovery from alcoholism. It just seemed to “make sense” now, and as AA introduced me to the notion of “applied spirituality,” I decided to explore what the Church actually said. Being confined to a couch for weeks on end because of early sobriety illness and watching the Daily Mass on EWTN also exposed me to a healthy dose of sound theology and doctrine.

Such things have a way of straightening out one’s mind. Truth does that.

I also learned that Catholicism isn’t just something that you do for an hour on Sundays, and off and on through the week when you pray (to get out of a jam? to get something?)

There isn’t much to this post apart from tying my reversion in to the feast day. Paul was hard-headed and stubborn and bent on destruction. So was I. I was hostile to the Church, as was he. (Although I wasn’t murderous with rage.)

After his conversion, he changed his life’s path and became a great Apostle, converting countless Gentiles. He did this by allowing Christ into his life.

And what an example of this!

Galatians 2: 20 I live; yet now, it is not I, but truly Christ, who lives in me. And though I live now in the flesh, I live in the faith of the Son of God, who loved me and who delivered himself for me.”

And this “faith of the Son of God,” he received it:

Galatians 1:11-12 “For I would have you understand, brothers, that the Gospel which has been preached by me is not according to man.

And I did not receive it from man, nor did I learn it, except through the revelation of Jesus Christ.

And so Jesus Himself taught St. Paul His Gospel. (Next time someone says that they looked throughout the entire New Testament and declare that “Jesus never said anything about….” to defend their unholy lives, remember this. He might not have said anything on “whatever” Himself, but He did through St. Paul.)

My conversion wasn’t as complete or intense as Paul’s. Jesus “lives in me” as He does in all of His brothers and sisters, but Paul’s conversion was deep andd critical to the future of humanity.

Mine: it’s good enough to write a blog for Catholic ex-drunks and to perhaps write Catholic-themed fiction.

All Scripture passages via Sacred Bible: Catholic Public Domain Version

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Defending Sanity

My wife got me for Christmas an anthology of essays by G.K. Chesterton. (This isn’t really a book review as I haven’t finished the book.)

Confession: I know a bazillion people online who love GKC. Although I have several of his books, and have tried to read him, I had found them difficult to get through. I attempted “What’s Wrong with the World” and made it through a few essays. As a Distributist, I read “The Outline of Sanity”, one of the basic texts in forming the movement. That, I finished. Understood the gist of it, so what I came for I got out, but there were many references to then-contemporary English life and business I failed to grasp.

I was getting to think that if you’re a Catholic with literary pretensions, not to mention opinions on politics and economics that are contraray to the conventional, you’re “supposed to” like GKC. Sort of how you’re “supposed to” like the film “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” because, well, it stars Redford and Newman, it’s a revolutionary Western and all the critics loved it. (Seriously, “Raindrops Keep Falling On My Head?” In a Western? And the cowboy is riding a bike?) But I hated “Butch…” At the end I was rooting for the Bolivians.

Which doesn’t mean that I hated Chesterton. I just found the material I’ve tried (what’s that word used for when something is “hard?”) “inaccessible.” Yes, I had difficulty accessing Chesterton.

——-

No matter. The book Rosey got for me, In Defense Of Sanity The Best Essays of G.K. Chesterton, is different. I am quite hooked. Perhaps you can’t just start with “any” GKC book. Perhaps you have to start somewhere that I hadn’t.

But I’m loving the experience. Chesterton has a manner of developing his point, which seems to typically involve a roundabout way of getting to. Possibly because it seems he also uses an inverted way of looking at things. Not that I mind. I am finding that Chesterton can take as long as he needs to get to the point he is making and he can look at things from any perspective he chooses, I’m enjoying the ride.

It’s intriguing that you can actually make an entire essay on what you find in your pockets sound interesting.

Posted in Books, Writing | 1 Comment

Sundays and Mondays

A few days ago I blogged about a neat exercise for blogging daily. Entitled “getting stoned,” it involved little bits of writing, be it poetry, haiku, or random thoughts on a specific…thing.

I changed my mind, having found it distracting. I was taking too much time trying to think of stuff to post for it.

{{{sigh}}}

Upon pondering this I decided that I will instead refocus or repurpose the whole idea.

This isn’t my main blogging effort, that “honor” goes to Sober Catholic, which today celebrates its ninth anniversary. This might become my main, or co-equal blog to SC if/when my published works ever grow beyond the two little devotional books I have.

More {{{sighing}}}

So. The refocusing and repurposing. Not sure if either term applies as this blog wasn’t too keen on being focused or purposed. What I am going to do with this is blog here primarily on Sundays and Mondays. These are my two days off and I should have time to gather myself here and write about something. No guarantees, of course (of course!) but I’ll think of stuff. Perhaps more haiku or other poetry. Maybe those random thoughts on random things, taken from random notes scribbled over the week. Maybe novel updates on how it’s going (maybe first on what it’s about?)

We’ll see. I admit to struggling to determine a purpose for this “personal” blog. But at least attempting to commit to putting something here is a step towards giving this place a purpose and a focus.

Later! (For whomever reads this 😉 )

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A guiding light, to…where?

Tried to write a haiku that was Epiphany-inspired.

Nothing was happening.

:-(

A guiding light, leading people across endless lands… to show up in some backwater burgh to find a King to worship, only to see Him in a less-than-kingly estate.

Metaphors abound in that. The idea of a way, a passage, traveling from one place to another for a goal… resonates with me in a major fashion. (Just see my recent posts on Sober Catholic about a movie: “The Way” and Camino playlist.)

The destination being the Messiah… in humble surroundings that were base even in that era; speaks to us who prefer comfort and convenience. Do we have the endurance and desire to “go the distance” to achieve whatever is at our “destiny?”

Would we be willing to traverse the “desert?”

And what will we find there? Our preconceptions fulfilled, or a surprise?

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getting stoned

Several years ago there was a month-long writing activity on another blog where for every day during the month of January you’d write a “small stone” which is described as “…a polished moment of paying proper attention” . The exercise was hosted here: Writing Our Way Home: small stones, a “mindful writing” blog where that link has a much longer and detailed description of “small stones” and how they impact writing.

I’ll wait a few minutes while you click on that link and read the post.

…waiting…

…still waiting…

…dang, you read slow. I’ll continue and for those who dallied over there, you’ll have to catch up.

Since that old “small stones” activity is apparently no longer (it was annual and I did participate for one year, I think it was 2011 or 2012…) I’m going to attempt it here. With two differences:

  • I won’t be calling it “Small Stones” as that name belongs to the originators of the idea (they may or may not have trademarked the term, even if they didn’t I won’t appropriate it as I think that would be rude)
  • I’m not opening it up to contributors. If you’re a writer (published or wannabe), you can do it on your own blog or social media page.

I think this is a great way to get the ol’ creative juices flowing, to blog and write daily, and to use one of my favorite reasons for writing: THERAPY. Yes, I find writing therapeutic. Since I do not (still) write as much as I ought, it proves I’m still too messed up. (Hush up, Jerry.)

I’m adding a new blogpost category for this, see “Writing bits” in the categories drop down menu on the right. That’s also a good category to use for “writing prompts, which I never took advantage of, but think I need to.

It’s exercise. If I’m “blocked,” then I can get “unblocked.” Although it is obvious my problem is discipline. So, this might help with that.

Anyway, I’m going off now to review portions of my novel-in-progress. Before I close for the night I may post my first “small stone,” or “writing bit.” I think I have somewhere the “small stones” I wrote for the exercise. If/when I find them I may repost them here.

Welcome back to those who took a long time to read stuff on that other blog. Please scroll up and pick up where you left off…

EDIT: I’ve changed my mind about this. My eyeballs were bigger than my ability to carry it out. I’m leaving the post up, albeit strikethrough’ed.

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It was brought to my attention by a commenter…

…to the previous post Sticker Shock where I waxed existentially on my blogging efforts that I should, and I quote:

“yea, wellllllll get off fakebook and write something meaningful. Or stupid. You get the point. Do I have to have a point?”

The commenter is an aging ex-hippie jerk-of- I mean jack-of-all-online-and-some-mentionable-real-world-trades named “BroJer.” He used to blog here: BroJer’s Blog.

The dude also happens to be one of my best online friends. Scratch online. One of my best real world friends. Saying stuff like that irritates him and makes his inner child cry. 😉

He also has a point. I can’t think of anything meaningful to write now, so I’m offering this stupid post inspired by BroJer. (Incidentally, I did realize his point a while ago in Becoming antisocial. )

Miscellany:

Update on the hosting issue mentioned in “Sticker Shock”: we renewed with BlueHost for three years; based on some PayPal donations from some people who didn’t get the hint that they shouldn’t, as well as additional monies found here and there as well as from my speaking with BH customer service this morning and getting a nice discount, we felt it worth it to continue with them.

Update on the “Becoming antisocial” post: I’ve reengaged GooglePlus as I heard about the recent design changes there and discovered that I like them and find them to be useful. So, I’m basically sticking with Facebook, Awestruck and GooglePlus, but probably restricted to days off from work and writing/blogging (save for Awe which I plan to checkin with daily for a few minutes).

There! I think this was stupid enough, with a dose of self-absorption thrown in, too, for added effect!

Posted in Blogging, Personal, Uncategorized, Writing | 1 Comment

Sticker shock

I am at a turning point or crossroads in my blogging. I received an email from our website’s hosting service and it was an offer to renew soon before the price goes up.

I had mistakenly assumed that the renewal option was for the price we had last paid for hosting. I was unawares that the cost had gone up to almost double.

Momentary panic-stricken fretting as to whether it’s worth to keep on doing this ensued. “This” as regarding this particular blog? Not really, as I don’t blog here much for now; the potential uses for this blog were probably mostly in the future. But my wife and I have four sites. The hosting is through BlueHost, and they offer competitive packages versus the rest and they excel at one thing: offering multiple domain names per account. This enables us to host all four of our sites through them. My primary blogging effort, Sober Catholic, is worth the cost (at least my wife thinks so 😉 ) and will thus go on. As it won’t reduce costs to quit this blog, this will continue, too.

However, the doubling of the hosting costs did bring to the forefront of my conscience one thing. How serious am I at all this? One good thing about money is that it is a great motivator. One bad thing about money is that it is a great motivator. Money is the motivator for too many things.

So as the old saying goes, “It is time to fish or cut bait.” If we are to pay the hosting fees now as well as the domain name fees later before they expire, I have to make this worthwhile. I have to use this more to justify the costs. I know I have said countless times before (mostly on Sober Catholic) about “blogging more often,” but that was a battle between myself and an inner demon, discipline. And in those battles the consequences were mostly interior ravages and self-esteem issues. But now an element from the Real World has entered the fray. Money.

I will also explore ways to “monetize” this thing. And with that goes more blogging on it as monetization efforts are pointless unless there’s activity to draw people.

The turning point. Or crossroads. Continuing to plug away.

(Donations accepted, please see the PayPal link up above. If you’re amongst the people who donated in June 2013 when we were last up for hosting renewal, you needn’t contribute again.)

Posted in About this Blog, Me, Writing | 3 Comments

Becoming antisocial

Time. Where does it go? Clocks tick, the days pass, and the time we have left for doing whatever we’re supposed to be doing while on Earth dwindles.

And so I’m cutting back on social media use. (Wow, that’s a hard switch from the melancholic opening…) It should have been done quite a long time ago, either excising some uses totally or being more disciplined. But, better late than never.

I’m a writer and a blogger. Not my source of income, my “day job” as it were, but what I will eventually be. (Full-time writer, living solely off writing income. Making progress, but still quite some time away…)

And social media is getting in the way. There are so many distractions….

It seems that almost every writer, published or aspiring, has a social media presence. But, some appear less than others…. Could they be… actually writing??????

I have a wife, a full-time day job, and two cats and a vegetable garden. They all require time and attention. This obviously cuts into time spent writing. So… something has to go.

I know! Social networking!!!! (Well, not all of it…)

There are writing Groups on Facebook, on LinkedIn and on Google+. Not to mention old-school discussion forums going back to the 1990s. Lots of writers writing on them. When do they actually write write, (as opposed to social write?) Maybe they’re full-timer writers, and posting away on Facebook or a forum is just their equivalent of yakking it up with colleagues during break times and lunch at a day job? Maybe they’re aspiring writers getting help, advice, commiseration or just trying to “feel like a writer” by hanging out with others.

But it ocurred to me that no real writer writing is actually getting done (well, in my house.) Some, but not enough. I mean, progress is being made on a novel, but more serious application of planning and research and such has to be made to the draft. You know, writing.

So I’ve begun limiting my time on the social nets. Google+ has largely disappeared from my social habits. Once in a great while I visit it, but mostly for a blog page I maintain, or some Communities. But even that is getting rarer. Google+ was nice, but I always felt like I had to be “cool” or “really intelligent” when on there as Plussers typically dismiss Facebook as riff-raff. Which is silly, but people tend to find a need to justify actions (i.e. not liking one thing or preferring it to something else. If your FB Timeline is full of garbage and riff-raff, that’s your fault.) And even Facebook for me has dropped off, I actually go days without using it. LinkedIn? Hah! Maybe once a week. I do make a daily habit of using Awestruck, a Catholic social network.

So, I have been strengthening the habit of writing. Every day. Not just often. Daily. At first it was just getting off of social networks. I survived that. Now to continue with daily progress of… writing. (This has been an issue with me for decades. And the struggles to do that appear here on this blog once in a while. Give me credit, except for when I was drinking, I never gave up…)

This is a follow up to a post on SoberCatholic.com, right here: The Sober Catholic Trudge Report Will No Longer Be out.

This post (“Becoming Antisocial”) has been planned for a while, but as it happens an impromptu visit to my Twitter account made me discover that I was irritating someone. Anyway, Twitter is another social network I’ve largely ignored. But I’ve been doing that for years. Why would a writer use Twitter? One hundred and forty characters? Seriously? How can a writer limit themselves to that??????

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