On Frugal Living

Shared on a Facebook frugal living page, originally, but it’s long and it got good response, so I’m also posting it here. Because it is, after all, my own original content:

Reading conversations in this page over the past few weeks, I’ve noticed that there’s a lot of disparity in how people view frugality. Some seem to see it as looking for the cheapest way to get whatever you want, while others have a more wholistic view on the subject. 

I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. My mother’s family didn’t suffer so much because of my grandfather’s town business (he owned a gas station and was a mechanic) and their farming background.  Mom was a bit of a spendthrift, in fact.  She liked brand labels and shopping in nice department stores and having her hair done every week at the salon.  If there was something she wanted, she bought it, if it fit within certain categories (clothes, groceries, books, etc.)  Of course, she also saved everything — when my sister came along when I was ten, she wore my old socks. I kid you not.

However, my dad’s family had it considerably rougher; my grandfather died a year before the Crash, and the family lore is that Grandma had a dime in her purse — just a dime! — when she got word that the local bank had failed. They had the farm, several miles from the nearest town, but Granddaddy’s estate was in probate and . . . things were a mess for them.   The rule in Dad’s family was that you took the cheapest route possible, within reason: if you were buying a couch and a really lovely one was $25 more than a plain brown, uncomfortable one, you bought the cheaper one and put aside that $25 — even if you hated looking at that sofa every day for the rest of your life.  

So I grew up between two different mindsets, and I’ve been torn by the inner conflicts all my adult life. All this to give you some sense of where I’m coming from in this reflection. 

Frugality isn’t on a continuum, somewhere  between avarice and parsimony. It’s about developing a set of values that influence how we use all our resources, including money. Yes, living within our means is part of that. Not so long ago, society was scandalized by anyone who got into avoidable debt. Then homes had to be built by professional builders to meet ever-tightening code (some of which are not really necessary), leading to debt, and cars were marketed as a necessity, leading to debt, and credit was established first to cover emergencies or to simplify bookkeeping, but then luxuries were marketed as necessities. . . leading to more debt. And things snowballed. 

The old saying “Use it up, wear it out, make it do, do without” is unheard of by a younger generation that’s being stuck with a truckload of debt and no savings. And too often no skills. Back in the day, money was HARD to come by. Farming tobacco is exhausting, dirty labor. — if that’s how you earn your main income, farming with mules instead of a tractor (with milk and egg money and maybe the sale of a bit of produce rounding out the corners), you have a lot more respect for that money than what we — okay, I confess:  I — have earned while sitting comfortably beside my piano in air conditioned and centrally heated comfort, teaching piano, or even teaching school or working in an office.  You used what you had rather than buying a new convenience or “Bigger and Better” “New and Improved” because you based your spending on need rather than want or convenience because the money for those things was bitterly hard to come by, so much of the time.  And, back then, you took great care of your possessions, because although repairing an item was a lot cheaper than replacing it, it was still an avoidable expense. So that’s what responsible people did. 

Now, Madison Avenue is telling us that we’re not attractive or socially acceptable if we don’t possess certain THINGS. Obsolescence is built into our appliances, cars, even our clothes. It costs more to repair a broken toaster than to throw it out and buy a new one at Wally World, even if overflowing landfills are a moral quandary that challenges our conscience when we toss items out so carelessly. The talking heads tell us that we are being environmentally irresponsible not to drive an electric car, even though those cars are outrageously expensive, the lithium for the batteries is mined by child slave labor in environmentally disastrous conditions, and the cost of replacing the battery compares with the cost of a brand new car. 

Who do we believe? What values do we embrace? 

 I remember Gramma Lottie for her feisty temper, her habit of trotting rather than walking everywhere she went around the farm, and her whistling, more than from that ugly brown sofa. And she had the sweetest face and twinkling blue eyes, even if her clothes sometimes hung on her like a sack. And I remember Mama more from watching her make and decorate beautiful cakes, and her sewing, knitting, and tatting, and letting me “help out” in the church nursery, not from the beautiful china she served Christmas dinner on. And I thought she was a handsome woman, even if her only cosmetic was Jergins lotion, religiously applied to hands and forearms and elbows immediately before bed, each night. 

If I cherish the memory of my grandmothers for these things, rather than their possessions, I am challenged in what I base my own life on. How do I want to be remembered by my own children, grandchildren, friends? Frugality has to begin with a deep self-assessment, what we value, and why, and where have we let our values and spending habits be dictated by artificial and frivolous standards (there’s a reason I mentioned Mama’s Jergins lotion; I have a weakness for makeup, as well as for books and music and flowers and. . . .)  

When we start with trying to save pennies on frivolous expenditures, without having consciously evaluated what is important to us, and what is reasonable and responsible, then we’re getting the cart before the horse (or mule, for my family) and we’re just going to be frustrated by recurring failure.  Pennies here and there can’t compensate for absence of a clear vision of the authentic people we are, and the life we want to live. 

People are more important than things. A 1-year old baby doesn’t care about how many different refreshments or decorations you have at her party; she just wants to get her hands in that CAKE!!!  YUMYUMYUM.  And the adult guests aren’t going to remember those things, either; rather, they’ll remember the laughter and the conversation and how much you all love one another.  So don’t waste money on disposables and trying to impress anyone; We aren’t trying to out-Martha Martha Stewart, here! Make a regular cake for everyone to have a clean slice, but a special small one for Baby to get her eager little hands and face in (ad have a couple of wet washcloths close by for an easier clean-up!).  And get some store brand ice cream to go along with it.  Maybe some nuts or mints. And serve it in your real bowls, even if washing them will take five extra minutes, instead of using disposables, because the people you love are worthy of your “good dishes” even for a baby’s first birthday.

Or you’re worried about keeping costs down on a wedding, but the standard you’re trying to meet apparently comes out of Bride’s Magazine — more marketing influences telling us what we “need.” When my cousins got married, they started a couple weeks ahead of time, making and freezing sandwiches, the cake, special cookies and so on.  Nothing was hired out. Even the flowers, they picked at home, and they were gorgeous.  And it was so very personal!  A generation ago, a “nice” reception included cake, mints, nuts, maybe cookies . . . and a punch.  No one had a full catered affair!  You don’t have to impress anyone — what really matters for your wedding is that you and your Beloved are publicly declaring your intention of being and making a family together; everything else is nonessential, no matter how much fun it is, so you can make do and have a lovely, homey reception without breaking your budget — you can create your own memories liberated from the artificial Brides Magazine standard.  One of the most fun weddings I’ve been at, the reception had live music by three friends of the couple, and we all enjoyed New England Contra dancing.  Guests who’d never heard of this old folk form picked it up quickly and were dancing away and laughing  at themselves and having a wonderful time right off the bat.  

The point is that we don’t have to out-Martha Martha Stewart (I liked that so much I’m saying it twice!) in order to create an environment of love and warmth and hospitality and joy, or to make memories that will make people smile for decades ever after. 

It’s the attitude that comes first. God bless y’all. 

Acadiana Diary

I’m now in my third year living in Acadiana, the “Cajun” region of southern Louisiana. The move was an enormous step for me, involving not just a relocation but even more cutting the cord to the safety net of the family and family property in North Carolina. Some people would probably think my decision was rash and ill-considered. Some think making such a huge change when most people are settling into a more comfortable retirement zone was exciting and heroic.

A major move like this required a lot of decisions. I was moving for the sole purpose of creating a new and more authentic life for myself, to get away from the more toxic elements of my old home and its multitude of unhappy memories and to start again, building a new life, exploring different aspects of my character. . .

There were decisions about where I was going to move. That wasn’t so hard; I’d fallen in love with Louisiana when I was here, albeit in a different part of the state, twenty years ago, and now I had friends in the area who would provide an immediate emotional safety net and, as needed, practical help (can you recommend a solid mechanic? where do you find your vegetable starts in the early spring? etc.). I could come to a completely new part of the country but not be utterly alone, and that was important.

I had to decide what to bring and what to leave behind. I had very limited space for moving, so I decided that I would only bring what I absolutely love (my antique bed frame, a particular chair) or needed (all my kitchenware). This would allow me to furnish a new home and new life without the residue of the old clinging to me.

I had to look HARD at what I was leaving behind (the constant reminders of unhappiness) and recognize that some of that, I would be bringing with me internally, in my mind. I had to make peace with my pain and acknowledge that some of it would continue to accompany me, no matter where I went. So would my personal flaws and faults. But I also couldn’t shake off the confidence that much of the past’s power over me would be greatly reduced without the constant reminders and associations.

I had high expectations, and I’m grateful to say I’ve not been disappointed; in fact, the goodness of my life here has exceeded what I’d anticipated it would be.

A move like this is an enormous risk, but it’s an even bigger opportunity. New work, through the Church Militant Resistance program, has shown me skills and gifts I didn’t know I possessed. A treasured friendship has grown and given me a lot of room to grow and deepen. My world and my range of interests and passions has grown immensely in the past two years.

I’m happy.

What I Wish I’d Heard At Mass (WIWIH) — May 2-3, 2020

For years I’ve thought of doing this series, week after week of dealing with insipid sermons, uninspiring sermons, sermons that wasted glorious opportunities, sermons that had nothing to do with the Readings . . .  “I could have done a better job at that!” I’ve thought more times than I can count.  Well, let’s give it a whirl, shall we?

It was Good Shepherd weekend: the Readings centered around “The Lord is my shepherd,” and “I am the Good Shepherd.”  Sheep are funny animals. Until fairly recent history, their wool was an economic staple throughout Europe and probably the New World as well, so they were an investment in their owners’ livelihoods.  But they aren’t particularly smart animals, not at all like dogs or horses or even cows.  I visited friends who had sheep, one weekend several years ago, and the dumb creatures entertained me no end:  if one got spooked and leapt up in the air over some invisible spookiness, every single one of them would leap into the air, after her. Nothing there — just that one jumped over something, so we all have to jump over . . . where was it? Doesn’t matter, just JUMP!

There are two parts to this scenario that I want to point out as edifying. No, three  —

1. The Good shepherd lays down his life for his friends.  A hireling, on the other hand, is looking out for #1, and so long as he’s safe and comfortable, the fate of the sheep doesn’t bother him so much. In fact, he’ll abandon the sheep to their brutal fate rather than be inconvenienced or made uncomfortable — much less endangered.

During the covid-19 shutdown, some very good priests have been frustrated at the shutdown of the Mass and the prohibition of visits to shut-ins, hospital and nursing home patients.  They are aware that their vocation mandates that they serve the flock, even if it costs them their lives — as it did Christ. To be thwarted in the celebration of Sacraments and the service of the Faithful is painful to them. They are concerned for our spiritual well-being, even more than of our physical health, and they are willing to do whatever it costs them to see us draw closer to The Shepherd, and to get to heaven.

2. The sheep know their shepherd’s voice.  That means we listen attentively, and obey promptly so as to hear His voice more clearly, in future.

3. Sheep follow one another, which means we have a duty as well as a privilege to follow close to the Master’s feet, so those who are watching US will be faithfully led.



Why all this talk about the home?

I’ve known it all my life, but only recently begun to practically achieve it:

A woman’s primary function is caring for her family, which care includes creating a loving home.

My father was largely absentee. He was a long-distance truck-driver and spent most of each week on the road, driving up and down the Eastern seaboard for a major textile company. When he was home, he was rarely home. He’d get in his pickup and come out to the homeplace to visit his sister and her family, visit with neighbors, go to town before bed and drink coffee with the locals and catch up on local news and gossip. My mother resented his absenteeism enormously and complained about it frequently —

But she gave him nothing to come home to. Our home was in a constant state of chaos. Dishes sat on the counter, dirty and unwashed, until the cabinet was empty and it was wash dishes or do without a meal. Laundry sat in piles — dirty on the floor by the washer and dryer, clean on the picnic table that served as the folding table where the ironing board was set up (and rarely used). I’m ashamed to say it but my dad’s room (he and Mother had separate rooms) stank. Mom didn’t change his sheets or make his bed or air the room or collect his dirty clothes — when I got to be old enough I tried to take care of him but it was more than I could manage. He didn’t complain much, he just put up with a lot that no man ought ever to have to put up with.

If my mother had put forth even minimal effort to signal to my dad, her husband, that he was important and respected and appreciated, he would have thought he’d died and gone to Heaven.  Instead, he went where his stories were enjoyed and his generosity toward others was appreciated. Never “another woman.” He was very old-fashioned and principled. But he occupied himself away from home as much as he could. Our house was not a home for him. Or for me: I couldn’t wait to escape.

Nowadays, we talk about our rights as women, and men sharing in the drudgery of keeping a house in order. I suppose it’s not unreasonable when both spouses have full-time jobs, but oh! what a cost!

The idea of women, especially mothers, working outside the home is another issue. But let’s think about this:

You know of the idea of love languages? That people have different ways of experiencing, demonstrating and receiving, love. Quality time, physical touch, words of affirmation,gifts, acts of service — one or maybe two of these convey love in ways the other methods don’t. My two big ones are physical touch (hand on the shoulder, one-armed hugs, hand-squeezes. . . ) and quality time. I have a friend who goes all mushy in the stomach and brain when a man gives her a nice gift. I like getting gifts, am downright childish about it, in fact; but I don’t miss it or feel any deficiency when I don’t. But I’ve never met a man for whom acts of service didn’t rank HIGH on his love language list. He goes out to work, to provide for his family, to fight dragons in the public square so his wife and children, his loved ones, can be safe.  “Of course I love you – I work to make a home for you, don’t I? To give you nice things –” etc.

But too many women don’t recognize acts of service as Love. They don’t realize that, when they demand their husbands help with the laundry and the dishwashing, they’re demeaning his acts of service already rendered. They’re nonverbally conveying that they don’t love him so very much. We think men just want sex? Men want respect and appreciation. They want to be loved in ways that they can interpret as Love.  Daddy sometimes complained, “I don’t bust my butt driving up and down the Eastern seaboard to live in a mess like this. Can’t you even see that I have clean clothes to wear to work?”

He showed his love for his family by working; he needed to be loved back in a similar way. She could have done it, too.

This is an idea that very decidedly goes against the grain, against modern feminism. Women have protested for generations that they are good for more than scrubbing toilets. Women have fought for generations for the right to use their God-given gifts and abilities alongside men. Women serve the world as doctors, lawyers, educators, business executives . . .  and I admit that I’m not saying this is necessarily a bad thing for society as a whole, and certainly not for the woman, herself. After all, I know from personal experience how frustrating it is to have no outlet for one’s gifts and abilities, to have them bottled up inside with no visible hope of an outlet.

But the fact is that we’ve paid a high price for our so-called equality. Children raised in commercial daycare don’t, can’t, have the same emotional and moral grounding achieved by children raised in the family. We have a generation of young adults who cannot function with any degree of maturity; they are demanding, whiny, quick to violence when they don’t get their way. This is behavior learned in commercial child care, where the undesirable behaviors get attention, and good ones are not rewarded as vigorously (attention is the sought-after reward).

We are seeing men emotionally emasculated by women’s demands and ascension to power. All this talk about “toxic masculinity” — what nonsense! Toxic feminism, yes! The demand for the “right” to self-fulfillment, even at the cost of the destruction of one’s own children is a curse upon our nation. Toxic loss of authentic masculinity, yes! as men, influenced by infusions of female hormones into the environment and even more by a deliberate suppression of masculine energy and drive, by this toxic feminist culture, become more and more insipid, uncertain, indecisive, and immature.

Society is collapsing, and at the root of this collapse is the loss of a strong sense of family and the home.

The only way to save ourselves is to restore a sense of proper order. Let women be willing to recognize that we are not inferior to men, only different in function. A woman’s innate instinct is to protect her children and to serve her Beloved; this is the very heart of Home. And we are the heart of home and family! Men, by nature, are dragon-slayers. Individual women might wield a sword well enough, but it takes a grave toll on us, emotionally and spiritually, when we have to wield it again and again and again. When we don’t have to, but choose to wield it, we can become warped. Distorted.

I teach piano, and several of my students are from military families. I’ve observed that the military wife serves the Nation as surely as her husband does; by providing a solid place of Home — of refuge and rest  — for her soldier husband, she helps make it possible for him to better do his job in the field. Usually, she’s not really aware of those wider-reaching influences she exerts, though; she’s just thinking about being sure things don’t fall apart while her husband is on deployment. But, when he returns, she usually helps him find a restored balance to daily life at home.

We are engaged in an even greater battle for souls. The Church is called the Church Militant because of this battle. I call it the Great Battle. And in the past few years it’s heated up to an alarming fierceness. Women need to raise their own children — and frankly, to be directly engaged in their education — in order to help protect them from diabolical influences. Yes, I advocate for home schooling. Best students I’ve ever had were home schooled — and the most mature, overall.

Our men also are engaged in these serious battles. Men have to deal with a lot of nonsense in the public square.  Having unpopular opinions can result in repercussions with a man’s career. They might enjoy the battle to some degree, but when they are done for the day, they want (and deserve) to be able to lay their sword down when they walk in the door of their own home. They ought not to have to be competing with their wives for dominance, or having to fight her for a sense of sanctuary in that home.  It’s not fun scrubbing toilets or folding laundry, but by golly! These are the chores that help to create an atmosphere of calm, peace, and order in a home.  They are tangible ways of saying “I love you,” to our families.





Success so far . . .

So far — I have dumped some 30+ bags of trash:

Paper trash – documents I can access online if I ever really need them again.
Owners manuals for appliances that died and left the house years ago. Incoherent scribblings that may or may not have been transferred to one of my many notebooks. Old gift bags and tissue paper I have not, in however-many years, pressed to look fresh and new, and probably never will.  I have some OLD tax papers that I’m going to burn now that cooler weather has arrived.

Plastic. I was raised by parents who grew up during the Great Depression. One is not supposed to throw anything away because it can come in handy at some point. Well, I threw away bags of plastic — custard cups, lunch meat containers. . . mismatched and incomplete sets of “nice” plastic bases without lids, lids without bases. . .

“Nice” stuff. Under the kitchen sink I had some glass jars that I probably could have washed, sterilized in boiling water, found new rubber rings for, and reused.  But I don’t think I would ever get past remembering that mice had climbed (and pooped) all over them. . .  and it’s not so easy to find replacement rings for german jars as ought to be . . . so into the trash they went. I hereby apologize for my prodigal squeamishness.

Broken stuff and the misc. bits to fix them. The small bedroom of my trailer had become my “junk” room. A couple of plastic coffee cans filled with misc. hardware bits and pieces are now gone — as are the broken bits of the drawer I haven’t fixed in x number of years and am not likely to do.

Old textile stuff. Some old pillows I’d thought of recycling or upcycling to some other project are now gone, as are some very old, torn clothes that — I had thought I’d hang on to them to wear when I need something grubby to put on, but let’s face it: one is always creating new worn grubby clothing. So out they went. I lost track of how many bags came out of this room.

Old food. My “pantry” shelves are also in the junk room, and I had a few cans of things that are not only past their expiration date, but they were rusting, so they went. Some other items had been infiltrated by mice (such neat round holes they make!) and those are now gone —

I mentioned sorting out several hundred books? Some went to a friend in Raleigh, who jumped on the chance to have some more Catholic books and some resources she can use with her homeschool setup. More are going to another friend who enjoys these particular novels. A few particularly academic theological works are going to a new friend who is working on a Master’s Degree in Theology. A few things like the old dish drain, duplicate and unused cookware, a craft gadget, a coffee pot, a couple of pictures I quit loving a few years ago . ..  in the car to be distributed as I go by the destination locations.

I still have a couple of pockets of disorder to sort out, and my big closet needs to be tackled, too. But I feel I’m in control — and will be even more when a friend comes this weekend with his pickup to haul some of the big things away for me. I’m so grateful for the improvement.

I have to admit – I hate my trailer; it’s never been what I wanted, but it is what I could get after going through the divorce. But I remind myself that there are people even in this wealthy, over-privileged, resort county who would consider themselves rich as Croesus to live here, and I thank God for what I have.

And, with the clutter out of the way and access to run the vacuum and to mop and generally keep things clean(er) and tidy/tidier, I find that I love my home.

Battle fatigue

I’m tired. That chronic, pervasive sort of tired that just saps everything I try to do.

It might be age-related insomnia, with night-time overactive bladder depriving me of sleep. It might be that summer heat just drags on and on and hardly any respite in sight.

But I have come to believe, since a verbal spar with a member of a well-known Catholic agency, yesterday, that I’m mostly just plain tired of control freaks.

I’d pointed out that an item said agency had published was rather florid for a news item, and that this was a distraction, and I got hammered.  Actually, I was understating when I called it “florid.”  It was a matter of purple prose, which ought never to be permitted in what is supposed to be journalism.  And the team member — two team members, actually — criticized me for not recognizing that the piece was an “opinion” piece.  Well, no, you have it posted as a World News Item; you are promoting it as news. . .

Then I saw another piece, a YouTube video in which another well-known Catholic celebrity was — boasting? — that Personality X had treated their invitation for a conversation with less than the respect and consideration Catholic Celebrity seemed to think is his due.

Add to that the heartbreaking release of news of a bishop embroiled in the midst of the sex abuse scandal ordering his seminarians not to associate with a group formed for the support of victims of that abuse — or, if they disobey, they will face absolute consequences.

I think the bishop is acting ill-advisedly. But the other two, who have no real authority, are just being petulant. Getting too big for their britches.  The one hosting purple prose in the name of journalism boasts of being journalistic. I expect more authentic journalism in that setting. The other party is just another layman opining (however well or soundly) on matters of Church and Culture.  Personality X owes him nothing.

I have felt for some time, since resigning from a couple of activities and organizations that I found were not living up to expectations, that I probably work better as a lone wolf. It’s hard. God knows, it’s lonely. But I don’t have the energy to deal with egos, incompetence, and nonsense any more. It’s just less stressful to go it alone.

That actually puts a lot more pressure on me to live up to the standards I expect of other people. I’m probably the world’s worst for making excuses for my own failings; that won’t fly in this arena.  But I’m also not presenting myself as an authoritative voice in any subject, or as THE representative of faithful Catholicism.  I’m just one woman struggling to make some sort of difference in the world — while fighting with myself about what I have to give and whether it even matters.


A Prayer of St Benedict

Grant to me, O Father,
most holy and most merciful,
wisdom to understand Thy intentions with
regard to me, a heart to share Thy feelings,
courage to seek Thee alone, and a way
of life that contributes to Thy glory.

Give me, O my God,
eyes that see only Thee,
a tongue that may speak only of Thee,
and a life devoted entirely to Thy will.

Finally, O my Savior, grant me the joy
of seeing Thee one day, face-to-face,
with all Thy saints in glory.

Who were the Gentiles? (and why should I care?)



Paul, this Jewish zealot who was tagged by God, knocked off his horse, you might say, embraced Jesus as Messiah and became the Apostle to the Gentiles.  Thirteen of the Books of the New Testament — right at one-half! — are by Paul; nine (one-third of the New Testament) are Paul’s letters to the Gentile churches (the remaining four are “Pastoral Epistles” written to individuals).

So. Who were these Gentiles? And what does it matter for us?

I’m only mildly embarrassed to admit that, for many years, I had this mental construct of the Gentiles as something akin to “protestant Jews.”  People not so very different from the Jews, but not on the inside track to knowing God.  Not the “cool kids.”

It’s a bit deeper than that, though.  Put plainly, the Gentiles were pagans.  They were a polytheistic people.  Remember your Greek and Roman mythologies from school?  Those myths developed out of other myths, which simultaneously reflected and shaped whole cultures of polytheistic peoples who lived all around Israel, even before the first time Abraham said “Yes” to God and went forth to the land promised to him by God.  Later, ass Greek and Roman civilization spread throughout the Mediterranean world, the various smaller nationalities and their deities became absorbed and influenced …

From the earliest days, the Gentiles were a very different people from God’s own people.  We see in the Old Testament that they worshipped gods called the Baals and the Ashteroths — fertility gods, in polite parlance, but they also represent all sorts of sexual activity and depravity.  There was the demon god Moloch, to whom these people sacrificed children.  In fact, I don’t think I’m speaking out of turn when I say that the two major points of pagan culture from which the Israelites, the Jews, were to separate themselves were sexual depravity and human sacrifice.

The Greeks, and later the Romans, expanded the old pagan deities.  They (the gods) became a bit more sophisticated. Complex stories were developed to tell of their various exploits.  The stories we read as literature in school were the tamer ones;  Zeus, then Saturn, was not only a capricious and jealous deity, he had insatiable sexual appetites that extended not only to beautiful girls, but to boys, to beasts, to inanimate objects.  The citizens of these cultures that celebrated these myths lived much the same way as the deities they worshipped.  The decadence and depravity of Rome — remember your arenas and the gruesome events that occurred there; remember the massive banquets where people would go and vomit in order to be able to gorge some more? — spread in influence throughout the Empire.

It’s out of this environment that those early Gentile converts came to Christ.  Boy, talk about a major paradigm shift!!!  from the decadence and depravity of Rome and the pagan world to the radically different life of the Christian disciple – Whoa! When Paul writes to the Roman Church, in Romans 12:1 “present your bodies as a living and holy sacrifice…be transformed by the renewing of your minds,”  they knew exactly what he was talking about.  This Christian discipleship wasn’t just a nice philosophical construct; Paul’s talking about bodies that had been indulged in every possible way, now being given to God and disciplined and sacrificed to chastity and moderation, concepts quite alien to the Gentile, pagan, mindset — hence, the call to “be transformed by the renewing of your minds” in the very next verse.



We live in a world that has come full circle.  Western Civilization, also known as Christendom, now has more in common, in terms of pop culture, with the ancient pagan empires of Bible times than with the Christian America my parents knew and loved when they died just over twenty years ago.

We have a major radical feminism campaign promoting a woman’s right to sexual depravity without consequences of pregnancy, and her vulnerability to becoming pregnant is identified as a War on Women.

Major television shows like The Tudors, The Borgias, Game of Thrones, etc., are really little more than dressed-up pornography.  At least, when I was growing up, such graphic depictions of sexual intercourse would be considered pornographic; now we’ve become so desensitized that people, even good Christians, look askance when I say something about the utter inappropriateness of a depiction of oral sex on television.

We sacrifice our children through abortion. Child abuse and murder are on the increase — and this despite the propaganda, more than thirty years ago, that if we only legalized abortion, child abuse would no longer occur.  What lies.

WE, we Christians, we disciples of Jesus Christ, have become a remnant, a countercultural minority living within a vast, increasingly-depraved world.  Many of us have had experiences, have been distracted and seduced into a worldly lifestyle and are finding our way back to Christ.

The words of Paul to his Gentile converts are so very vividly applicable to us, today, Christians living in a post-Christian, newly re-paganized world.  If we pay attention, if we put our hearts and minds into it, these counsels will see us through, just as they did two thousand years ago as the Church was being born throughout the world.

Beginning a Bible Study – Part Two

Part Two: Other Considerations

In Part One, I gave you my ideas about choosing a translation for your personal Bible reading.  But translation is just the first step in the decision-making process. When you get to the bookstore, you’re going to find a vast array of publishing differences within each translation:  print size, cover type, paper thickness…  cost.

You can actually buy a paperback NAB for less than $7.00.  Sounds like quite a deal, doesn’t it? It is… until you discover that the fine newsprint pages tear easily when you turn the pages, and the spine of the book is glued and the whole thing comes apart easily.  Then you’re going to set the thing back on the shelf and what good will that do anyone?

By the same token, unless you’re Daddy Warbucks, you don’t want to run out and spend a couple hundred dollars on your first Bible, either. Even if you were Daddy Warbucks, I wouldn’t recommend throwing money away like that; it’s bad stewardship.

You can get a decently-bound vinyl (imitation leather) cover NAB, or a quality paperback RSV, new, for less than $20.00.  That’s probably a reasonable place to start.

You see, there’s an aesthetic consideration to this business.  You want the Bible to feel good in your hand while you’re holding it. You want it to feel balanced.  You want the cover, whichever you choose, to feel pleasing to your fingertips.  A cheaply-bound Bible will have you clutching at it, trying to prevent it falling to the floor in a scattering of loose pages. A cheap cover feels tacky to the hand. You’ll find yourself fidgeting with it, and that will distract you from reading.  It will create in your subconscious mind an aversion to reading, which defeats the purpose (but the Enemy would delight in).  A quality paper cover or a well-made “imitation leather” cover will feel secure and comfortable as you hold it; you almost won’t notice it at all. And that’s good.

And since no one has money to waste in this day and age, I do recommend going with one of those options while you get started. Once you know you want to stick with a particular translation, you can invest in a quality leather-bound Bible for … a bonded leather Bible RSV, Compact Edition (be warned: SMALL PRINT) can be bought new for less than $30.00. The prices go up from there.  Ignatius Press has a leather-bound RSV that feels like butter, it’s so soft and pliable, and it just drapes in your hand in the most luxurious manner…  Sigh.  I don’t have that one.  I have a mid-sized, standard-print bonded leather RSV and a heavy, real-leather Douay.  They’re not luxurious, but they are very comfortable, and they are standing up well to the hard use I give them.

I also have a leather-bound Compact Douay that I tuck into my suitcase when I travel.  But compact Bibles have small print, and I’m almost at the age of having to abandon that one, even with bifocals (I’m too impatient to hold a magnifying glass).

So – those are the things I think about when recommending a Bible to someone.  Take your time. You don’t have to sneak in and sneak out (one hopes) as if buying a Bible had become an illicit activity. Stand there a minute – or sit, if the store is courteous enough to have chairs – and handle the Bibles.  Read from them – a Psalm, a portion of a Gospel. If you find yourself reluctant to stop once you’ve started, that’s a very good sign you’ve found a good Bible for you, but the whole point here is to feel comfortable, not intimidated by reading.  Okay?


Next up: How to read this new Bible.