Tag Archives: Jesus

An Antisocial Outcast in God’s Temple

Today is Sunday, so that means 8:30am Mass! Ask any Christian, and they will say that Sunday is their favorite day of the week: Mass/service, fellowship, hanging out, lunch together…

Unfortunately, I can’t relate.

Don’t get me wrong; I go to weekly Mass and my soul actively participates in worshiping God. It is an exhilarating, mystical experience. By the end of Mass, I sometimes have tears of joy and gratitude streaming down my face.

And then…

I go home.

Believe me, I want to hang around afterwards and chit-chat with people; laughing and smiling is good for the soul. I just have trouble making my body… um, do that.

During the Mass, there is a moment when we greet and shake hands with parishioners around us (No, it’s not some awkward trend that happens only in Evangelical churches). I know exactly when it is coming: shortly after the Our Father and before the consecration of the Eucharist. Since I know when it’s going to take place (think of Bill Murray’s character in Groundhog Day), I dread the moment and wonder each time how I will manage to get through it. Will someone ignore me? Will a husband smooch his wife and then turn to someone else, leaving me out (not that I want to be smooched)? Or will an old woman scowl at me while offering a limp hand?

“I knew this was gonna happen.”

Last week, I have to confess that I did something different for the first time and unbecoming of a Catholic and Knight: During the meet-and-greet part, I clasped my hands in prayer, bowed my head, and shut my eyes tightly. I could hear the greetings die down, so I knew when to open my eyes again and rejoin the Mass.

I know. That was bad. I won’t do that again. Luckily I wasn’t wearing my white K of C name badge. Just like people who put the Christian fish symbol on their car: They are expected to be polite drivers. If not, then it’s full-on scandal mode featured on the nightly news or something.

Right after Mass (*not during), I retreated to the safety of my car and tweeted about how lonely I always feel sitting by myself each week. I even try to avoid smiling at kids in front rows who turn around to look at me, afraid that I would be seen as a pedophile (you know, big tall nerdy guy sitting all alone in church, smiling at kids). (I am not a pedophile by the way.) (Man, I just realized I use a lot of parentheses.)

I mentioned in my tweet that I wished our parish had a section of pews where solo churchgoers could sit; we would feel more secure perhaps. Well, Topaz, um… Why don’t you go sit by someone who is alone?! Duh! Because it’s hard, and I am afraid that they would consider that a weird request: “Hi. I don’t want to look like an idiot, so can I sit by you?”

Anyway, this wonderful Twitter follower of mine responded with: “Jesus was alone in the garden while He struggled with his emotions. Lean on Him.” Wow. That is awesome.

I immediately went back into the chapel (the church was emptied out by this point) and knelt in front of the Blessed Sacrament. I spent some good time there before the tabernacle in the semi-dark chamber lit by gorgeous white candles along the walls with the single red one that symbolizes the presence of Christ.

God always speaks to me in some way — usually in a barely-audible whisper that comes from the far reaches of my soul. He told me basically to take my beatings as I go. He reminded me that, in just a few hours, I would be going over to the grand knight’s house to prepare the food for our pool party to honor the altar servers in the parish. Then God reminded me again — I’m such a blockhead — that I needed to get going because, being the council youth director, I was the one leading this whole event and I had work to do.

(By the way, I didn’t become the K of C council youth director and an officer because I’m so awesome. It’s because nobody else wanted the job.)

So, in essence, God’s reply to my loneliness and anxiety was to get over it and focus on others. Later in the day, when the pool party was in full swing without any major disasters going on, I thanked God for helping me through yet another episode of my depression and anxiety.

So, this Sunday turned out to be the best day of my week. Not because I’m such an important Super Christian ™ and born to mingle, but because I remained faithful through all the pain and torment of my illness.

Hopefully all of you reading this had a good day. If not, there’s always tomorrow.

I am not a trained psychologist or therapist, but if you feel all alone and need someone to talk to who understands, please leave me a message or contact me at: thepsychword@gmail.com. Seriously.

~topaz

*I sometimes think people are blatantly texting or surfing the ‘net on their smartphones, but they could be following the order of the Mass and the readings instead. So it’s probably not the best idea to assume they are the bane of your existence.


Paranoia, Rage, and T-ball

Since Independence Day is a few days from now, I thought I would post this little non-fiction piece about our national pastime that I originally wrote in spring 2012.

baseball

I attended my son’s first T-ball game this past weekend.  I wanted to look over the email attachment of rules that the coach had sent me so I would know what was going on.  How much different could it be than regular baseball?

The rulebook turned out to be 41 pages.

Forget This.  I’ll learn as I go.

Since I teach some night classes, I’m not able to attend practices, so this was my first time to see the coaches and my 5-year-old son’s teammates.  Too anxious to sit, I paced back and forth, waiting for the game to start.

Being from the Midwest, I decided to wear my St. Louis Cardinals cap.  I unknowingly drew attention to myself since it was Rangers country and most parents and several coaches sported the red and blue apparel with the cool-looking “T’ on it.

It wouldn’t be the only time I would draw attention to myself.

Looking around at the other parents, it seemed I was the only male at the game who wasn’t:

1) a Harley rider;

2) a (wanna-be) gangbanger; or

3) a macho bodybuilder.

“I don’t think I fit in here.  Maybe I should have stayed at home and graded essays,” I whispered to my wife.

“You stay here.  Support your son!” my petite wife replied, not bothering to look at me.

Lord, I can’t do this.  Everyone is staring at me.  They all hate me.  I couldn’t get the paranoid thoughts out of my head.  Satan was attacking me with everything he had.

When the game started, our team took the field.   My son started at third base (each inning the kids switch to a different position)and I had to tell him not to stand on the actual base.  No big deal; it was their first game after all.

The first batter hit a bouncer (off the tee) to the pitcher.  The pitcher stopped the ball with his foot and picked it up, but then he just stood there.

“Throw.  The ball.  To first,” I growled to myself through clenched teeth.

“Good job, good job!” said the Harley biker dude, one of the assistant coaches.

Good job?!  He didn’t even attempt to make the play at first!  I thought.

Since all the balls usually don’t make it past the pitcher (it is T-ball after all)I was surprised when a batter on the other team hit one to the second baseman.  The fielder scooped it up and proceeded to throw the runner out.

Awesome!  This is more like it.

The second baseman did indeed throw the ball, but he threw it to third base for some unknown reason.  There wasn’t even a runner on that side of the diamond. 

“Come on!” I growled again.  A few people turned around.

My wife elbowed me.  “They’re only 5 years old!  Settle down.”

This time the dude with the drooping shorts and the Jesus is my Homeboy T-shirt clapped and shouted, “It’s OK!  Nice try!”

Why the is everyone being so darn nice?  These kids need training!

A few innings later (T-ball only has 4 innings), my son hit a grounder that made it all the way into center field.  I relaxed, a smile plastered across my face.

I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

The next batter got a base hit, meaning my son had to advance to second base.  He just stood there, though, picking his ear.

I jumped out of my folding chair like it was in flames.  “RUN!!  MICHAEL, RUN!!”

I’m not sure who else was urging my son to run to second; my voice drowned out all the others, so I didn’t know.  All I remember was that I unknowingly deputized myself as a coach.

“MICHAEL, RUN!!  *@#%*&$!!”

The game came to a standstill as everyone turned to me.  It was as if a pedophile had just walked onto the field buck naked.  Biker couples clad in U.S. flag bandanas and trailer people with mullets and faded Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts covered their kids’ ears.  Athletic muscleheads who could have thrown me like a javelin glared with contempt.

If T-ball had an umpire, I would have probably been banished from the sports complex for the rest of my life. 

I learned a lot about being judgmental that day.  I, the college instructor/ Christian in the polo shirt, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks, turned out to be the true menace to society.

Luckily next weekend is picture day for the team, so I’ll just lie low and send my wife.  By the time the next game rolls around, hopefully everyone will have forgotten what happened.

Yeah, right.  And I’ll be pitching for the Yankees next season, too.

~topaz


About Catholic Confession

This is *not* a good example of confession.

I try to go to confession as often as I can.  At my parish, it’s offered only on Saturday afternoons from 4:00 to 5:00.  Having a family that doesn’t practice Catholicism with me, it’s sometimes difficult to get time away to receive the Sacrament.

My wife, a non-Christian, is very good at tolerating my faith and all of the “extra events” that go along with weekly Mass (i.e. confession, Knights of Columbus meetings, volunteer activities, etc.).  She is from a country and culture that doesn’t place much emphasis on religion or faith; it’s a very secular society that she is from.  However, I’m very thankful that my wife is so open-minded and loving.  Heck, even when I practiced Wicca, she was okay with it — as long as I didn’t do anything “weird” or “cultish.”  (Um, Topaz, dude, witchcraft IS weird.  Shut up.)

Anyway, I just came back from receiving the Sacrament of Reconciliation, colloquially referred to as confession.  I feel better than ever right now.  I always do after confessing all the muck and garbage that builds up inside of me.  It’s so incredible to know that my gross sins are absolved and that I am free to begin again!

But…

What happened BEFORE I went to confession is a different story.

Maybe just by reading the few paragraphs at the beginning of this post, you might think that I’m a Wonder Christian ™ who is always happy and “on fire” for Jeezus.

Ha.

Just take another look at the title of this blog.

Yep.

Now, I don’t want to blame the following on my mental illness which, by the way, includes bipolar disorder, paranoia, and social anxiety.  I am totally responsible for the following.  (Gosh, it sure helps that I’m anonymous!)

I have been taking part in some “binge and purge” type of actions.  As a male, I struggle all the time (yes, all the time) with lust and sexual temptation.  I go to confession, vow not to sin again, and then go home triumphantly.  For the next couple days, I do pretty well: When tempted to look impurely at a woman or to let myself be led to racy Internet images, I stop myself and then pat myself on the back.

It never fails, though.  After a few days of living like a monk, I get tempted beyond my own will power and give in.  Then, as I mentioned, it’s *binge and purge time*.

modern confessional

This is what the confessional at my parish looks like. No dreary dungeon atmosphere or musty smells here.

I can’t believe this happened earlier today (Actually, yes I can, because I’m a sinner.).  I had to stop by Target to get some items that my wife needed.  Mind you, I had already been indulging in lust and impurity before arriving at Target. However, Target, to me, is a palace of pleasure, a Sin City beneath the red doggy logo.

Huh? Target? The retail store?

Guys, I don’t know if you feel the same.  Ladies, I apologize if this seems sexist or offensive (which means I’m about to offend you).  But, it seems like the only people who shop at Target are the most attractive females in the most revealing outfits.

*bracing for all the hate mail*

Walking down the aisles, Satan was giving me left-right combinations to my face and chest, knocking me down and flinging me against the ropes.  My whole mindset inside Target was, “Well, I’m going to confession right after this, so I’ll take in as much flesh and voluptuous curves as I can.”

The impact of my sinful thinking didn’t really hit me until I was praying before the life-size crucifix in my parish after confession today.  It disgusted me that I was in such a pathetic state of mind, seeking out opportunities to fill my lustful heart.  I actually winced when God reminded me in prayer that I was using His gift of forgiveness as sin insurance.

No, I’m nowhere near a “Super Christian.”  Heck, I’m nowhere near a normal Christian.  I’m just a guy who, after lots and lots of studying and praying, became convinced that Christianity, more specifically Catholicism, was the Church of Christ and the way to God.

I’m not here to try to convince you (although I’m convinced) or argue with you.  I’ll leave that to the apologists.  That isn’t my bag anyway.

I’m not here to scream at you that you’re going to hell.  Only God knows the answer to that one.  (Hopefully I’m not going there by the way.)  Shoot, if I told my wife that she was currently on a one-way roller coaster ride to the Eternal Lake of Fire, I would no longer be able to urinate like a normal guy.

Anyway, I’m not a very good example of a Christian.  I (intentionally) sin.  But I always get up when I fall down — sometimes slowly, sometimes even more slowly.

God just wants you to be a person after His own heart.

~topaz