March 14, 2011

A Few Random Thoughts

Ducio's Temptation of Christ (at the Frick)
Well, week one of Lent is done.  How did we all do?  I really love lent, but I feel so distracted and busy this year that I have a hard time focusing on what I'm supposed to be doing.  I did accomplish quite a lot this weekend.  But, alas, not enough.

What did I accomplish? Well, I bought and built new bookcases.  And fabric for curtains for my room.  (fixing my room is a lenten resolution that I haven't admitted to because I am sure I'll fail.) Also, buying some new spring/summer clothes. And I learned how to remove blood from fabric! I always thought blood was the hardest stain to get rid of, but it is actually quite easy.  Just rinse under cold water as soon as you possibly can.  Use regular bar soap as necessary.  Isn't that amazing?  I always thought it was impossible, and therefore was totally desolate yesterday morning as I got ready for Mass and stained my brand new white blouse. But I cleaned it and am wearing it today! Hurrah!

--Speaking of Mass, is anyone else troubled by the story in the Gospel of the temptation of Christ? It always sets me on edge.  The mere fact of the story is scary, right?  But then apply it to your own life and think how easy it is to be tempted, and it gets much worse.  And then there's the tangle in my head as I try to figure out how Christ could have been tempted the same way I am--where it comes on so strong I think I must be sinning already by simply being tempted (perhaps I am too scrupulous).  But Father gave a marvelous--short!--homily, starting with a fantastic quote from Mark Twain about that same story:
Satan must have been pretty simple, even according to the New Testament, or he wouldn't have led Christ up on a high mountain and offered him the world if he would fall down and worship him. That was a manifestly absurd proposition, because Christ, as the Son of God, already owned the world; and, besides, what Satan showed him was only a few rocky acres of Palestine. It is just as if some one should try to buy Rockefeller, the owner of all the Standard Oil Company, with a gallon of kerosene. [source]
Haha! That set my heart at rest--what a marvelous thought. Clearly, what the Devil is tempting Christ with is, in fact, already His--that last line of the story "and the Angels ministered to Him" is assurance of the grace of Christ's obedience. But what a marvelous additional consideration: everything the Devil tempts us with is so much less than what we have in Christ.

--This theme of obedience and the bounty of a life dedicated to Christ is at the heart of In This House of Brede, which I finished yesterday morning.  I will write a full review next week, I think, and you'll see more quotes this week.  But, if you need some fiction, and want something absorbing, thoughtful, and semi-Lenten, then I recommend it whole heartedly.

--Japan.  I am fascinated and horrified by everything I see there.  It feels much more powerful than the similarly grave Indonesian quake and tsunami--perhaps because I know more about Japanese culture and  art and life than I do of Indonesia.  Also, it affected me, in that I spent all friday morning's commute worrying about whether I should call my parents or not.  Thank goodness for J, who calmed me down and sent me all the FEMA links and emergency alerts.  And though the brother will probably tease me forever about waking him up at 6 am for a little blip of a wave, Dad said, later, that he was very glad that I called.  Anyway, I really am writing about it to direct you to this fascinating and somewhat terrifying photo series showing before and after satellite images of Japan.  The extent of the damage is really stunning. Here is a 6-minute eye witness video, as well (and the exact point where it was filmed).

The facts of the case fascinate me. To put it in perspective for this California girl, the Loma Prieta quake in 1989 was 6.9 on the Richter scale--and the touchstone moment of my generation of Californians.  That is 474 kilotons of pressure.  This, at 8.8, is 238 megatons (or 238,000 kilotons!).  It moved the Earth's axis by nearly 4 inches, and shifted Japan's coast by 8 feet!  There were 160 aftershocks in the first 24 hours, 140 of which were above 5.0 Richter (one can feel about 4.5 and up). And the aftershocks continue today. It was also the first time the trans Pacific tsunami warning system was used and worked as designed. So that's good.

Enough babbling for me.  If you are interested in helping the people of Japan rebuild, go here or here.

The Cherry Blossom Festival here in Washington will have special meaning this year--it originated because of a gift
of 4000 cherry trees from Japan in the 1920's. Here are some first blossoms, from martha_jean via WeLoveDC

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