Thursday, September 30, 2004

Charismatic?

Reading the excellent article about Discernment by Peter Kreeft, I was struck by this:
I assume that many readers of this page are (1) Catholic, (2) orthodox and faithful to the teachings of the church, (3) conservative, and (4) charismatic. I have had many friends -- casual, close, and very close -- of this description for many years. In fact, I fit the description myself.

I kept coming back to it. Peter Kreeft called himself charismatic? Wasn't that speaking in tongues, shouting "Hallelujah, Lord!" with hands in the air, possibly holy rolling? Snakes? No, probably no snakes ... that seemed too extreme. But, he had mentioned also being conservative, orthodox and faithful to the teachings of the church. That did not seem to go with being charismatic.

Worse, yet, when I thought about it, I suddenly realized that I might have some of those charismatic characteristics. I prayed out loud with my CRHP (pronounced "chirp) sisters, we would "pray over" someone who needed it for whatever reason by crowding around and laying our hands on her, we are very into the Holy Spirit ... I really didn't like where this seemed to be going. So I thought that I'd better get a few facts. A short Google later, I was in possession of some very interesting information ... a real definition of a charismatic Christian.
Charismatic is an umbrella term used to describe those Christians who believe that the manifestations of the Holy Spirit seen in the first century Christian Church, such as glossolalia [speaking in tongues], healing and miracles, are available to contemporary Christians and ought to be experienced and practiced today.

The word charismatic is derived from the Greek word charis (meaning a grace or a gift) which is the term used in the Bible to describe a wide range of supernatural experiences (especially in 1 Corinthians 12-14).

Often confused with Pentecostalism (which it was inspired by), Charismatic Christianity tends to differ in key aspects: Charismatics reject the preeminence given by Pentecostalism to glossolalia, reject the legalism sometimes associated with Pentecostalism, and often stay in their existing denominations ...

While Charismatic Christians are not exclusive to any single denomination, Charismatic theology is not uniquely Protestant. There is a burgeoning Charismatic movement within the Catholic Church, and Pope John Paul II is reputed to have a Charismatic Priest as his personal pastor. wordIQ Dictionary & Encyclopedia
So, not necessarily speaking in tongues but primarily very open to the graces, miracles, power and presence of the Holy Spirit. And even the Pope might be on board with this. Ok. I was feeling better, less freakish anyway. In fact, thinking about it, I realized that definition could be used on practically everyone who has gone through the Christ Renews His Parish retreat and formation.

Christ Renews His Parish (CRHP), to which I have referred repeatedly in this blog, is an amazing process. It begins with a two-day retreat held in isolation from the world, but on church premises. The main emphasis during that time is a series of witnesses telling of their personal encounter with Christ based on one of a series of topics, such as Renewal, Reconciliation, Discipleship, etc. There are various other activities that I won't go into here but suffice it to say that you almost can feel the Holy Spirit flowing during that time. The retreat participants can then go on with their "team" to a series of weekly meetings that go on for six months while they study Scripture and prepare to give the next retreat.

Nothing I say here can adequately describe how close that CRHP team becomes and how God works in and through their lives. We shared miracles, graces, answered prayers ... and no speaking in tongues. During that time is when I realized that I suddenly felt about the Holy Spirit as I did about God and Jesus. He was an active participant in my life. The Holy Spirit used CRHP to change my life so much so that sometimes I feel like a different person ... and have had people who knew me before mention it independently.

Mulling all this over and continuing on my Kreeft readings in Fundamentals of the Faith, I came across this passage that pulled it all together for me.
When Paul visits the church in Ephesus (Acts 19), he notices something missing -- I think he would notice exactly the same thing in most of our churches and preach the same sermon -- and he asks them, "Did you receive the Holy Spirit when you believed?" (Acts 19:2). Why would he ask that unless he saw a power shortage? Why did twelve fishermen convert the world, and why are half a billion Christians unable to repeat the feat? The Spirit makes the difference ...

We have received the Spirit by faith and baptism. "Anyone who does not have the Spirit of Christ does not belong to him" (Rom 8:9). But we need the release, the empowering, the anointing of the Spirit. Such empowerment is probably what the New Testament means by baptism in (or of or with) the Holy Spirit. It is supposed to happen at confirmation. Apparently, it usually does not. Millions of confirmed Catholics receive it afterward, usually in charismatic prayer meetings or seminars. The charismatic movement is obviously God's answer to Pope John XXIII's prayer for a new Pentecost. Popes Paul VI and John Paul II both blessed it but said that it will fulfill its purpose only when, like the early liturgical movement, it ceases to have a separate identity of its own and is absorbed into the whole Church. In other words, every Catholic should be a charismatic, baptized in the Spirit, empowered like the apostles.

The difference this baptism in the Spirit makes is not primarily in any particular charismatic gift, such as tongues. Paul clearly says not to get hung up on tongues (1 Cor 12-14). The difference is far greater: like the difference between a picture and a live person, between dead orthodoxy and living truth, between words and power. If we are not certain that Jesus Christ is present in us, working, acting, making a difference, rather than just being a teacher, an example, a lovely but remote historical figure, then we need Pentecost. And when that happens, the world will be won again.
What CRHP does is just what Kreeft describes above ... it brings a new Pentecost. No wonder people come out of there glowing. Like the apostles they just can't stop telling people the Good News. When you find something like that you want to share it with everyone. Now I finally understood why the apostles had to have the Holy Spirit before they could accomplish anything. It literally changes you from the inside out. No wonder it is called Christ Renews His Parish ... and our priest and deacon are 100% behind it. And I understood why Peter Kreeft could call himself orthodox, conservative, and charismatic. It turns out that is what I am myself.

Now we just need to find a new word that doesn't carry all those negative connotations ... because I know what I thought about charismatic Christians. "Spirit filled?" Kinda crazy but not as bad. "Full of grace?" Hmmmm, no one is going to understand that at all and ... still kinda wacky. Well, I'll keep working on that part. All I know is CRHP made me into a charismatic Catholic and I couldn't be happier. If this is the future of the Catholic Church I can't wait to see the day when all Catholics are charismatic Catholics.

UPDATE: I think the best alternative to the term charismatic is one that a CRHP sister suggested. How about a whole heartedly practicing Catholic?

UPDATED UPDATE: I have been pleased to get response from CRHPers in other parishes. And, I think we have a winner from a person who is familiar with CRHP and the Holy Spirit, "I think it's a Catholic who has finally stopped practicing and started really living it!" I like that ... fully living the faith!

This person went on to add: "I describe the process this way: think of a jar filled with water. Now, put a lid on that jar and put it under a flowing faucet. What happens to the flowing water? It does not enter the jar at all but bounces off. Unscrew the lid, however, and the constantly flowing water flows into the jar and the water in the jar overflows. The jar is constantly filled to thee brim and overflowing with fresh water.

We are the jar...the water is the Holy Spirit. The lid is how we close ourselves off to the workings of the Spirit. CRHP, the charismatic renewal, or any other kind of real and profound experience of God causes us to allow God to unscrew the lid and let the Spirit flow. For some of us, God has to take one of those instruments used for unscrewing a lid that is on real" tight! For others, the lid comes off easily."

Wednesday, September 29, 2004

There They Crucified Him

LUKE 23:32-38
This is the crucifixion where Jesus was between two criminals, the soldiers cast lots for his garment, and the inscription, "King of the Jews" was placed over him. William Barclay tells us the common way this was done. There was no new "aha" moment for me in reading this but it served to reinforce the horror of crucifixion. I have read that crucifixions commonly were done through the wrist instead of the hand but for all I know there may have been more than one way it was done.
When a criminal reached the lace of crucifixion, his cross was laid flat upon the ground. Usually it was a cross shaped like a T with no top piece against which the head could rest. It was quite low, so that the criminal's feet were only two or three feet above the ground. There was a company of pious women in Jerusalem who made it their practice always to go to crucifixions and to give the victim a drink of drugged wine which would deaden the terrible pain. That drink was offered to Jesus and he refused it (Matthew 27:14). He was determined to face death at its worst.

The victim's arms were stretched out upon the cross bar, and the nails were driven through his hands. The feet were not nailed, but only loosely bound to the cross. Half way up the cross there was a projecting piece of wood, called the saddle, which took the weight of the criminal, for otherwise the nails would have torn through his hands. Then the cross was lifted and set upright in the socket. The terror of crucifixion was this -- the pain of that process was terrible but it was not enough to kill, and the victim was left to die of hunger and thirst beneath the blazing noontide sun and the frosts of the night. Many a criminal was known to have hung for a week upon his cross until he died raving mad.

The clothes of the criminal were the perquisites of the four soldiers among whom he marched to the cross. Every Jew wore five articles of apparel -- the inner tunic, the outer robe, the girdle, the sandals and the turban. Four were divided among the four soldiers. There remained the great outer robe. It was woven in one piece without a seam (John 19:23-24). To have cut it up and divided it up would have ruined it; and so the soldiers gambled for it in the shadow of the cross. It was nothing to them that another criminal was slowly dying in agony.

The inscription set upon the cross was the same placard as was carried before a man as he marched through the streets to the place of crucifixion.

Tuesday, September 28, 2004

Miracles as Evidence of God's Existance

If I were an atheist, I think I would save my money to buy a plane ticket to Italy to see whether the blood of Saint Januarius really did liquefy and congeal miraculously, as it is supposed to do annually. I would go to Medjugorge. I would study all published interviews of any of the seventy thousand who saw the miracle of the sun at Fatima. I would ransack hospital records for documentated "impossible", miraculous cures. Yet, strangely, almost all atheists argue against miracles philosophically rather than historically. They are convinced a priori, by argument, that miracles can't happen. So they don't waste their time or money on such an empirical investigation. Those who do soon cease to be atheists -- like the sceptical scientists who investigated the Shroud of Turin, or like Frank Morrison, who investigated the evidence for the "myth" of Christ's Resurrection with the careful scientific eye of the historian -- and became a believer. (His book Who Moved the Stone? is still a classic and still in print after more than sixty years.) Peter Kreeft, Fundamentals of the Faith

Interesting idea isn't it? Just go check out the facts for yourself on those miracles and trust the evidence of your own eyes. It takes someone with a very open mind or a determination to prove the miracles false to go check them out. I think such people are much rarer than is commonly believed. Certainly, most atheists I know would not investigate but just argue from what they already know to be true.

Monday, September 27, 2004

The Road to Calvary

LUKE 23:26-32
Jesus carries his cross and Simon of Cyrene was impressed by the soldiers to assist. When I read the details about this I remember that when studying Acts it was mentioned that a certain Simon may actually have been the same Simon of Cyrene. I wouldn't be a bit surprised if what started out as a bad experience wound up being the saving of his soul. William Barclay tells us the history to go with this segment.
When a criminal was condemned to be crucified, he was taken from the judgment hall and set in the middle of a hollow square of four Roman soldiers. His own cross was then laid upon his shoulders. And he was marched to the place of crucifixion by the longest possible route, while before him marched another soldier bearing a placard with his crime inscribed upon it, so that he might be a terrible warning to anyone else who was contemplating such a crime. That is what they did with Jesus.

He began by carrying his own Cross (John 19:17); but under its weight his strength gave out and he could carry it no farther. Palestine was an occupied country and any citizen could be immediately impressed into the service of the Roman government. The sign of such impressment was a tap on the shoulder with the flat of the blade of a Roman spear. When Jesus sank beneath the weight of his Cross, the Roman centurion in charge looked round for someone to carry it. Out of the country into the city there came Simon from far off Cyrene, which is modern Tripoli. No doubt he was a Jew who all his life had scraped and saved so that he might be able to eat one Passover at Jerusalem. The flat of the Roman spear touched him on the shoulder and he found himself, willy-nilly, carrying a criminal's cross.

Fasting

I know that fasting is one of those things that is good for you. Jesus did it. The saints have done it. It is one of those voluntary mortifications that not only offers a chance to gain discipline but also to unite ourselves to Christ in suffering that can be offered up for an intention.

I'm probably like most people when it comes to fasting. No one likes to be hungry and no one I know looks forward to the Church's few fast days during the year. They make it as easy as possible with an allowance of one full meal and two small meals (which should not add up to one full meal). I've always taken full advantage of those loopholes. I never stopped to apply Father B's reminder from my RCIA classes, "Remember, the Church gives you the bare minimum of law. That doesn't mean you have to stop there." He was talking about the strictures to make a Mass "count" (you must get there when they begin reading the Gospel and you can leave after the Eucharist). As with most of Father B's reminders, this is one that applies to much more.

After doing a real fast for 24 hours I've gotta say, what a sissy I've been. It was much easier to go cold turkey than do those "two small meals." The only problem I had was that because Alexa's inspiration was so sudden I had no "gearing up" time as I usually do for regular fast days. I kept forgetting I was fasting ... reaching involuntarily for that chip or finding myself getting ready to pop that bit of cheese in my mouth. The amount of nibbling I barely stopped in time was very revealing ... way too much between meal snacking going on here! Just because of the timing of Rose's drum lessons, I wound up going over the 24 hours but it was no big deal. I found that once I was in the zone there might be hunger pains (which are reminders to pray) but even grocery shopping was no big deal. This time at least the key was my mental attitude and, no doubt, some extra grace.

I'm glad I did this not only because of the opportunity to sacrifice something for Terri Schiavo. I learned some things about myself as well and it took some of the dread out of the idea of fasting in general. The next time I'm inspired to fast or a regular fast day comes up I'll remember this time and just plunge in (at least I hope so).

Friday, September 24, 2004

A Well Designed Logo


BL logo
Originally uploaded by Julie D..

I always wondered why the BL school colors are black and white. Its a nice combination and stands out among the other schools but it is odd. It never occurred to me to wonder about the logo itself until Hannah told me that a teacher actually filled them in on the origin.

Bishop Lynch High School originally was founded by Dominicans. In the winter they wear white robes with a black cape, fastened at the throat (see the resemblance in the logo?). I bet you can guess the colors ... that's right, black and white. I just love it when a logo design actually means something!

Fasting for Terri

Alexa at Domestic Excellence and Specialty Housekeeping talks about fasting in general and the fact that Terri Schiavo's husband again has the legal nod to starve her to death. Alexa is fasting for Terri and invites anyone so inclined to join her. Time to put my prayers where my mouth is ... from 1:00 p.m. today to 1:00 p.m. tomorrow. Anyone else?

The Traitor's Kiss

LUKE 22-47-53
This scene is the famous betrayal by Judas. William Barclay tells us just how significant the traitor's kiss was.
When a disciple met a beloved Rabbi, he laid his right hand on the Rabbi's left shoulder and his left hand on the right shoulder and kissed him. It was the kiss of a disciple to a beloved master that Judas used as a sign of betrayal.

This makes Jesus' words, "Judas, would you betray the Son of man with a kiss?" even more poignant. The Navarre Bible points out that there also is an implication of trying to save Judas in these words. I never had contemplated Judas' long companionship with Jesus in terms of the constant forgiveness that Jesus was offering but it becomes clear when reading this.
In contemplating this sad betrayal by an apostle, Jesus treats Judas in a very gentle way and yet shows up the malice and ugliness of his treachery; for the last time he tries to win Judas back.

... "Even to Judas," St. Thomas More comments, "God gave many opportunities of coming to his senses. He did not deny him companionship. He did not take away from him the dignity of his apostleship. He did not even take the purse-strings from him, even though he was a thief. He admitted the traitor to the fellowship of his beloved disciples at the last supper. He deigned to stoop down at the feet of the betrayer and to wash his feet with his most innocent and sacred hands Judas' dirty feet, a fit symbol of his filthy mind [...]. Finally when Judas, coming with his crew to seize him, offered him a kiss, a kiss that was in fact the terrible token of his treachery, Christ received him calmly and gently ... if we see anyone wandering wildly from the right road, let us hope that he will one day return to the path, and meanwhile let us pray humbly and incessantly that God will hold out to him chances to come to his senses, and likewise that with God's help he will eagerly seize them..."

Wednesday, September 22, 2004

What Happens When You ...

1) have nothing to do

2) own a sharp knife

3) have a large lime

4) own a patient cat

5) drink too much tequila

6) and it's football season?




Originally uploaded by Julie D..

Conscience

I'm working my way through Fundamentals of the Faith by Peter Kreeft. This book is a series of essays in Christian apologetics. I'm toward the beginning but so far I believe it would be valuable to every sort of Christian, not just Catholics.

ARGUMENT FOR GOD'S EXISTANCE
I always perk up my ears most at arguments to prove God's existance. As the daughter of two atheists I'm always looking for that key bit of logic that will open their minds just a little to even bother to wonder if God is real. I hadn't read the argument about conscience before but it really hit home. Conscience, God's little internal beacon of right and wrong, is an interesting angle and one that hadn't occured to me before.
Nearly everyone will admit not only the existance of conscience but also its authority. In this age of rebellion against and doubt about nearly every authority, in this age in which the very word authority has changed from a word of respect to a word of scorn, one authority remains: an individual's conscience. Almost no one will say that one ought to sin against one's conscience, disobey one's conscience. Disobey the church, the state, parents, authority figures, but do not disobey your conscience. Thus people usually admit, though not usually in these words, the absolute moral authority and binding obligation of conscience.

Such people are usually surprised and pleased to find out that Saint Thomas Aquinas, of all people, agrees with them to such an extent that he says if a Catholic comes to believe the Church is in error in some essential, officially defined doctrine, it is a mortal sin against conscience, a sin of hypocrisy, for him to remain in the Church and call himself a Catholic, but only a venial sin against knowledge for him to leave the church in honest but partly culpable error...

Of course, we do not always hear that voice aright. Our consciences can err. That is why the first obligation we have, in conscience, is to form our conscience by seeking the truth, especially the truth about whether God has revealed to us clear moral maps (Scripture and Church). If so, whenever our conscience seems to tell us to disobey those maps, it is not working properly, and we can now that by conscience itself if only we remember that conscience is more than just immediate feelings.

INFORMED BY TRUTH
I think its interesting that once we admit our conscience is so important our first obligation is to ensure it is informed by truth. It makes me think of a brother-in-law who left the Church and is obviously still angry at it, seeking confrontation about religion at every opportunity within the family. It also makes me think of people I know who vehemently disagree with those Church teachings that are most at odds with modern society (I'll bet you know which ones). They are constantly trying to change things to be more up to date and then complaining and disgruntled when that doesn't happen.

In these cases it seems as if they are acting based on what they want not over what they have found to be true through study and seeking. I also have a friend who is a self described "liberal" but who is an honest seeker. She disagrees with some Church teachings but couldn't bring herself to leave the Eucharist, something I am totally in sympathy with. In an effort to reconcile her conscience with her Church she started reading various apologetic works by faithful Catholic authors. Now she is much more at peace with the Church teachings. She has an understanding of the logic that led to them. She no longer rails against them but can see them more as a legitimate viewpoint, even if she does not fully agree.

God speaks to each of us in different ways but the constant is that internal beacon, our conscience. Our obligation is to make sure we give it the full truth upon which to act. That is the only way we will each find our own way of following that beacon homeward.

Tuesday, September 21, 2004

Interesting Reading

Pillars of Unbelief

Just as we have pillars of Christian faith, the saints, so are there individuals who have become pillars of unbelief. Peter Kreeft discusses six modern thinkers with an enormous impact on everyday life, and with great harm to the Christian mind:

* Machiavelli - inventor of "the new morality"
* Kant - subjectivizer of Truth
* Nietzsche - self-proclaimed "Anti-Christ"
* Freud - founder of the "sexual revolution"
* Marx - false Moses for the masses, and
* Sartre - apostle of absurdity.

(Originally written for National Catholic Register, Jan-Feb. 1988)

I just found these at Peter Kreeft's website. I don't know much about these philosophers beyond the average stereotypes so this is going to be an interesting overview.

The Jews' Blackmail of Pilate

LUKE 23:13-25
It is crystal clear from this reading that Pontius Pilate did everything in his power to keep from condemning Jesus to death. However it is equally plain that the Jews were able to force Pilate to do their will in this matter. How was that possible? What did they have on him? William Barclay explains.
It is literally true that the Jews blackmailed Pilate into sentencing Jesus to death. The basic fact is that, under impartial Roman justice, any province had the right to report a governor to Rome for misgovernment, and such a governor would be severely dealt with. Pilate had made two grave mistakes in his government of Palestine.

In Judaea the Roman headquarters were not at Jerusalem but at Caesarea. But in Jerusalem a certain number of troops were quartered. Roman troops carried standards which were topped by a little bust of the reigning emperor. The emperor was at this time officially a god. The Jewish law forbade any graven image and, in deference to Jewish principles, previous governors had always removed the imperial images before they marched their troops into Jerusalem. Pilate refused to do so; he marched his soldiers in by night with the imperial image on their standards. The Jews came in crowds to Caesarea to request Pilate to remove the images. He refused. They persisted in their entreaties for days. On the sixth day he agreed to meet them in an open space surrounded by his troops. He informed them that unless they stopped disturbing him with their continuous requests the penalty would be immediate death. "They threw themselves on the ground and laid their necks bare, and said they would take death very willingly rather than that the wisdom of their laws should be transgressed." Not even Pilate could slaughter men in cold blood like that, and he had to yield. Josephus tells the whole story in The Antiquities of the Jews, book 18, chapter 3.

Pilate followed this up by bringing into the city a new water supply and financing the scheme with money taken from the Temple treasury. (This was referred to in Luke 13:1-5. Pilate had decided rightly that Jerusalem needed a new and improved water supply. He proposed to build it and, to finance it with certain Temple monies. It was a laudable object and a more than justifiable expenditure. But at the very idea of spending temple monies like that, the Jews were up in arms. When the mobs gathered, Pilate instructed his soldiers to mingle with them, wearing cloaks over their battle dress for disguise. They were instructed to carry cudgels rather than swords. At a given signal they were to fall on the mob and disperse them. This was done, but the soldiers dealt with the mob with a violence far beyond their instructions and a considerable number of people lost their lives.)

The one thing the Roman government could not afford to tolerate in their far-flung empire was civil disorder. Had the Jews officially reported either of these incidents there is little doubt that Pilate would have been summarily dismissed. It is John who tells us of the ominous hint the Jewish officials gave Pilate when they said, "If you release this man you are not Caesar's friend" (John 19:12) They compelled Pilate to sentence Jesus to death by holding the threat of an official report to Rome over his head.

It is also clear that Pilate had a record of making terrible decisions and the way he handled Jesus' case was just such another example.

Monday, September 20, 2004

An Intrepid Captain, A Spunky Girl Reporter, and Some Rockin' Robots

SKY CAPTAIN AND THE WORLD OF TOMORROW
I'm not sure what to say about this movie that hasn't already been said better movie critics. How about this: GO SEE IT!

This has to be one of the best movies of the year. For those who don't know, it is a loving homage to the long ago Saturday morning serials such as Buck Rogers. It is exciting, funny and thoroughly enjoyable. It has been compared to Indiana Jones but I think that's unfair as it is a totally different style of homage. I especially liked the details that kept it true to the "Buck Rogers" genre: the sepia tones, Polly always wearing high heels because that's how they did it back then, the way characters communicated emotions through glances without having to talk us to death explaining how they feel, the fact that The Wizard of Oz was on screen at Radio City Music Hall ... oh, and did I mention the coolest robots ever? My favorites were the ones with the wiggly arms. I know that sounds weird but you'll know what I'm talking about when you see this movie ... and you will go see it, right?

If you want more detailed reviews, go to Jeffrey Overstreet or Roger Ebert. But you don't need them. Just go and enjoy.

Doesn't Everybody Read While Brushing Their Teeth?

I just got an Amazon box full of exciting books ... just take a look at the sidebar (except for the David Weber book - that's a reread). All are so good I am buzzing like a bee to each and then back again.

That made me think of Zelie at A Call to Adventure who recently had a good series of posts pondering the usefulness of giving up things in order to concentrate on reality and, ultimately, be more in touch with God. If we make ourselves too busy, too involved with things then it is very hard to hear God. She made some great points and it all sounded good except the main thing she was talking about giving up was books. *blink in astonishment*
When I get a little money, I buy books. And if there is any left over, I buy food.
Desiderius Erasmus
This is the story of my life. I actually do read while brushing my teeth. As my family and friends will tell you, I am passionate about books. I get embarrassingly enthusiastic when telling about the greatest book I just read.

Is is possible to read too much? Absolutely. I'm no stranger to putting something off so I can read just one more chapter. And, there is a real value in just doing what you're doing as Zelie kept bringing up. My problem is that I find that impossible. My mind always is thinking, thinking, thinking. If I ask someone what they're thinking and they say, "Nothing" (which actually happens a lot), I am dumbfounded. How can this be? Is this even possible?

My "reading and brushing" confession brought up a lot comments at Zelie's place but it didn't bother me a bit. I have problems with balancing my life just like everyone. It used to be reading, then it was playing Baldur's Gate I and II (Shadows of Amn is addictive and has no specific ending point so it just sucks you on forever), and right now ... well, its blogging and surfing the internet ... oh, and trying not to buy every book I want. It all goes back to finding that balance of moderation. None of these things are bad ... just as with alcohol or the other "baddies" that some faiths forbid in an attempt to control them ... but moderation is key.

The questions that Zelie and other commenters raised are all good ones because without evaluating your life and habits you can't be aware of where you should focus effort ... in work, with your family, and most importantly in your "walk with the Lord" (that always sounds so corny to me but its perfectly right here). We should always be open to the nudgings of the Holy Spirit and where God is moving us. We have to do the work but He'll give us all the help we need.

Also, we must keep in mind that God knows how to use the things we love to reach us. In fact, he may well have given us this love to use somehow for His glory ... we just have to figure out how to use it properly. I can't tell you how many times I've flipped the Bible open when pondering a serious question and had my eyes fall on the perfect guidance. I know how weird and coincidental that sounds but I've had this happen so many times that coincidence has nothing to do with it. With that in mind, I'll leave you with the results of my latest Bible "flip" ... the one I did when pondering this question of loving books and finding balance in our lives.

Like a stream is the king's heart in the hand of the Lord;
wherever it pleases him, he directs it.
All the ways of a man may be right in his own eyes,
but it is the Lord who proves hearts.
Proverbs 21:1-2

Saturday, September 18, 2004

Progressive Bifocal ... er, Trifocal ... er, Eyeglasses Progress

Ok its been two weeks now since I got the bifocals that I hoped would make life easier but that were making me (literally) sick to my stomach. I realized a couple of days ago that I even could use the computer without taking my glasses off. Evidently I adjusted when I wasn't noticing (very sneaky, those eyes). Alexa, you were right. I do love them! It really was great to be able to hem Hannah's jazz pants without having to take my glasses off to see up close and then not being able to see Futurama (although I don't think that Alexa would count Futurama as progress!)

Friday, September 17, 2004

Signs and Wonders

SEPTEMBER 17
OUR FAMILY'S MEMORIAL OF MARY'S MIRACULOUS ROSE

Today a single, pink rose sits in a vase in front of our statues of the Holy Family and Mary, next to a small jar that contains dried rose petals. It is our tribute to a miracle that Tom and I experienced.

We told a few people when it happened. They greeted this story with reactions of belief or skepticism depending on their natures. I told my CRHP retreat team when we shared our faith experiences with each other. Later I was privileged to share this as part of my witness to the next CRHP team during the retreat we held for them. Now I am sharing the story here and you may make of it what you will. All I know is that it happened and was miraculous enough to render my extremely practical husband speechless.

I could write much more than anyone would care to read and not be able to convey all the memories and emotions that this day holds for me of that time. Below is part of the witness I shared.
It has seemed good to me to publish the signs and wonders which the most high God has accomplished in my regard. (Daniel, Chapter 3, Verse 99)

When Tom and I went to Houston on the Friday after his father had his stroke, we were in for a terrible shock. We had been told the stroke was minor but, in fact, it was major. We checked into a hotel that adjoined the hospital and never stepped outside again until we left on Monday afternoon. There were many moments of total despair and raw emotion … it was a terrible time. I prayed ceaselessly and finally threw myself at the feet of the Holy Family. It was a huge moment of realization for me ... I will never forget sitting there realizing that we were totally helpless and only God has control.

Finally Tom’s father seemed to improve and we were really happy as we got ready to leave. As Tom drove the car around to where I was waiting with the luggage, I saw a flash of pink. A friend had given me a rose to take to Tom’s mother. It was just opening perfectly when we arrived. I left the rose in the car thinking I would give it to her later. Of course, the way things turned out we hadn't been back to the car the whole time. That rose had been forgotten in a closed car in a parking garage in 90° weather for close to 4 days.

When I walked around to my side of the car, I told Tom, “I forgot all about that rose. There’s a trash can over there. I'll throw it away.” He just looked at me and said, “Julie, you’re not going to believe your eyes.” and opened my door so I could see. The rose was perfect. It had not changed a bit since we left it in the car. It was unwilted and the heart was just opening. It was as if time had stood still. I held it on my lap all the way back to Dallas and in a half an hour it had wilted to exactly the state I expected to find it in originally. It was like watching time lapse photography in front of our eyes.

Thursday, September 16, 2004

Jesus' Trial Before the Sanhedrin

LUKE 22:63-71
Anyone who is at all familiar with the Gospels knows that the Sanhedrin told half-truths and lies to Pontius Pilate to get him to consider Jesus' execution. What I didn't realize until now is just how far the Sanhedrin subverted their own judicial policies in order to do this. It becomes crystal clear when we compare Jesus' treatment with William Barclay's explanation of typical court procedures.
The Sanhedrin was the supreme court of the Jews. In particular it had complete jurisdiction over all religious and theological matters. It was composed of seventy members. Scribes, Rabbis and Pharisees, priests and Sadducees, and elders were all represented on it. It could not meet during the hours of darkness. That is why they held Jesus until the morning before they brought him before it. It could meet only in the Hall of Hewn Stone in the Temple court. The High Priest was its president.

We possess the rules of procedures of the Sanhedrin. Perhaps they are only the ideal which was never fully carried out; but at least they allow us to see what the Jews, at their best, conceived that the Sanhedrin should be and how far their actions fell short of their own ideals in the trial of Jesus.

The court sat in a semi-circle, in which every member could see every other member. Facing the court stood the prisoner dressed in mourning dress. Behind him sat the rows of the students and disciples of the Rabbis. They might speak in defense of the prisoner but not against him. Vacancies in the court were probably filled by co-option from these students. All charges must be supported by the evidence of two witnesses independently examined. A member of the court might speak against the prisoner, and then change his mind and speak for him, but not vice-versa.

When a verdict was due, each member had to give his individual judgment, beginning at the youngest and going on to the most senior. For acquittal a majority of one was all that was necessary; for condemnation there must be a majority of at least two. Sentence of death could never be carried out on the day on which it was given; a night must elapse so that the court might sleep on it, so that perchance, their condemnation might turn to mercy. The whole procedure was designed for mercy; and, even from Luke's summary account, it is clear that the Sanhedrin, when it tried Jesus, was far from keeping its own rules and regulations.

Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Unappreciated Comedy Detected

WITHOUT A CLUE
Friday we watched Without a Clue which we all know so well we can almost say the lines along with the characters. I'm always surprised at how many people have never heard of this comedy much less seen it.

Without a Clue features stellar teamwork by Michael Caine and Ben Kingsley, who are at their best here. Kingsley is Dr. Watson who actually is the genius at deduction. He has written his adventures as stories with a fictional detective, Sherlock Holmes, so as to not hurt his chances at being named to a prestigious board. When the stories got so popular that people wanted to meet Holmes he hired actor, Reginald Kincaid to act the part. The problem: Kincaid is a two-bit, drunken, skirt-chasing actor (Caine) which causes no end of trouble and comic delight whenever "Holmes" tries to improvise his way through a case. Watson is ably assisted by Mrs. Hudson and the Baker Street Irregulars who all know that he is the true genius and barely tolerate Holmes' shortcomings.

It is a real delight to watch these two great actors throw themselves into their parts with wonderful comic timing. Caine gets a lot of mileage out of Holmes' efforts to appear a genius. This movie is especially good for any children who understand how twist works on the classic detective stories.

Tuesday, September 14, 2004

New Age Grannies

THE LADIES OF COVINGTON SEND THEIR LOVE by Joan A. Medlicott
This book often is compared to the Mitford series by Jan Karon and it is easy to see why. Both are gentle stories set in small towns that dwell on small adventures that allow personal growth. I can heartily recommend the Karon books, particularly the first four. Sadly, I cannot do the same for The Ladies of Covington.

On the surface this is a gentle story of three widows in their 60s who band together to make a new, better life in a house that one has inherited. The ladies all grow in unexpected ways, each has personal moments of experiencing God, and the story moves along pretty well. So why did I feel like a prude by the time I finished the book? Basically, this book is a package of modern morality charmingly presented through three old ladies who are learning to spread their wings.

Every personal problem always is someone else's fault, usually involving male bashing. In varying degrees, each was the victim of a neglectful, selfish husband who sacrificed the wife's individuality and desires to their own needs. This excuse is treated as carte blanche for the wives to do whatever makes them happy in the name of finally getting to express their individuality. As soon as these decisions are made, immediate gratification is the reward. There is no such thing as weighing consequences or responsibility, except in one situation with a grandchild who drinks. Grace is the poster child for this philosophy. Her feelings of having been trapped in a bad marriage lead her to reject an offer of marriage from the man she loves. Instead they agree to become lovers, leading Grace to the first satisfying sexual experience of her life. This pattern is echoed in practically every relationship in the book.

Although each "experiences" God once during the book (whatever that is supposed to mean), it is evidently so that the Lord may reassure them to find themselves. In what is meant to be a climactic foot washing scene, two women marvel that they both realized how much they love each other as friends. I suppose God already gave them the seal of approval earlier so He's staying out of the way.

As sappy as the Mitford books can be, there at least is honest examination of the consequences of one's actions. God is never viewed as a supporting character who encourages everyone to do whatever feels good at the time. I certainly don't require this from every book I read but, no matter how light the fiction, I do require honesty and a sense of responsibility. This is the essence of good story telling. Some of my favorite "popcorn for your brain" books such as the girl, bounty hunter Stephanie Plum series or the wizard, detective Dresden Files series have the characters giving in to extreme, feel good temptation (or, to be honest, sometimes casual temptation). However, it is never without a price and the characters always come to grips with the consequences of their actions. Without these conflicts, The Ladies of Covington are nothing but navel-gazing indulgence. Avoid this book at all costs.

Monday, September 13, 2004

The Value of Life

JOHN DAVIS, d. June 2002
Today is the 4th anniversary of they day my father-in-law had a stroke. His struggle with that Cross lasted for nine long months. During that time I saw his suffering used to raise him and his family to heights I had never dreamed of seeing in people so close to me. A lesson I will never forget is my dear mother in law's total devotion and unwavering love shown through every sort of trial and pain. It was a time of suffering but a time of great blessing also.

When I think of that time, I realize part of what I gained was a respect for life in all forms, even if we can't see the immediate benefit. I also gained a much deeper understanding for the value of suffering. Never have I been more thankful to be Catholic than during that time when I could see that the Church's emphasis on uniting our suffering to Christ on His Cross is what gives meaning and redemption to pain.

What we experienced during that time is nothing compared with this story, courtesy of Alexa at Domestic Excellence and Specialty Housekeeping. However, our experiences opened a window through which I can see and appreciate the truth of what that story teaches: we are not wise enough to weigh the value of a life and God's plan for us.

The revelation Alexa shares in that story about what is being done to our youth is one that transcends that story and circumstance. I believe what she felt at that moment is what God feels when He looks at our society and how lightly some parents take the awe inspiring responsibility of caring for the souls He has entrusted to us.
I was flooded with sadness that this innocent and intelligent young man with such seriousness and such a thirst for truth, for THE TRUTH sat there in front of me; I saw him as a child raped by the menacing Father of Lies who prowls the ranks of the society in which we live. In that short moment a holy anger overpowered me that Satan would dare infiltrate the precious mind and supple heart of this innocent youth, probably through the media, and through the mindset of this Culture of Death that we live in.

Sunday, September 12, 2004

Is Man Good or Evil?

Neil at Digitus, Finger & Co. has one answer.
If I have a purpose in life, a story that I want to tell the world it's this: people are not "basically good", they are "basically evil". It's not because I hate people that I want to tell them this (because, I would have to hate myself), but because every wrong turn and dead end in the political, religious, theological, philosophical, and sociological spheres, from education, to gun control, to the justice system, to the justification for war, is directly attributable to the idea that people are "basically good".

It is a well written, scholarly article. There is so much to it that you really must read it for yourself to understand the depth of his argument. Neil elaborates in the comments boxes.
I believe humanity is qualitatively "totally" depraved, but obviously does act with civility and relative goodness quite often, so we are not "absolutely" depraved. Meaning, I don't believe we do all the evil we possibly can all of the time. I have a saying about this: "Not all rancid meat stinks, but all stinky meat is rancid." I believe that all of humanity is all rancid meat, whether we stink or not.

However, I disagree passionately with Neil. I have another answer. Man is not wholly good or wholly evil. Man is both.
Man is not evil by his nature, which God created, but by his own free choice. Human nature is the best of all God's creations, for it is made in his image...

Both the cause of evil (man's misuse of his free will) and the cure of evil (the death of Christ on the Cross) are deep mysteries, not simple problems. They are not wholly transparent to human reason. Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity

I have a feeling that a good deal of my disagreement with Neil's viewpoint comes from the fact that he is Protestant and I am a traditional Catholic. But when have I ever let that stop me? So I will just forge ahead as best I can from the Catholic point of view. I am leaning a good deal here on Peter Kreeft as I find it hard to improve on the way he explains concepts.

Neil's examination does not go far enough because it stays firmly in this world. It is not really possible to examine the question of man's nature and, ultimately, the question of evil, without using a supernatural point of view. There must be less psychology and more theology to understand ourselves. We must look farther than what we can see, touch, and understand because our vision is not big enough. We must look, as best we can, from God's angle. When man submits to the temptation to do evil there are two reasons. The first is original sin.

Original sin does not mean that we are "totally depraved" (Calvin's term) or wholly evil or more evil than good (how could that be measured?) or that our very being is evil or that we are no longer infinitely valuable and infinitely loved by God. It means that we are mortally wounded, a defaced masterpiece. The greater the masterpiece, the more terrible its defacement.

Original sin is a difficult concept for us because we cannot appreciate the great difference between our present state and mankind's first state of fallen innocence, which we have never experienced. Our instincts spontaneously take our present state of selfishness as the norm rather than the abnormality. But our faith and our reason tell us that the good God could not have created us selfish by nature; that we are all now "abnormal".

Original sin, the inborn state of all humanity, explains why all of us commit actual sins. If we were all born sin-free and innocent like Adam, surely some of us would have chosen to remain so. Yet none does. (And the better and more saintly we are, the more readily and clearly we admit it.) Why?

Because we were not born innocent of original sin, only innocent of actual sin. And our original sin leads us to commit actual sins. Our being conditions our actions. We sin because we are sinners, just as we sing because we are singers. Our nature conditions our acts, as an alcoholic's brain chemistry and chemical dependency condition his act of drinking.

This does not mean we are not responsible for actual sins, for the will's choice is also involved in the act - sometimes a lot, sometimes a little. We are not determined, but we are conditioned - led, pulled, influenced - by our sinful nature and instincts. But we also are free to choose to obey our instincts -- for instance, when we fast or sacrifice...

The origin of sin may be mysterious, but its existence, its reality and presence now, in our individual and social experience, is very clear. The dogma is confirmed by the data. "What Revelation makes known to us is confirmed by our own experience. For when man looks into his own heart he finds that he is drawn towards what is wrong and sunk in many evils which cannot come from his good creator" (GS 13), or from the wholly good world he created; so it must come from man's own free 'fall' ". Peter Kreeft, Catholic Christianity

The second reason we do evil is not popular today. We must not forget that we are not just struggling with our own fallen nature. There is a supernatural element to all this. Satan is our implacable and steadfast enemy. He will not sit idly by without trying to influence us to do evil. In fact, the mere idea that I am slightly embarrassed to write about Satan is proof of how well he has managed to disguise himself in today's world; a real triumph for evil.
Christ took Satan very seriously (though not obsessively). If we do not, how can we say or minds are on line with the Lord? If we claim to have matured beyond belief in Satan, we claim to have matured beyond Christ. If we scorn the fear of Satan as foolish, we are calling Christ a fool, for he told us to fear him (Mt 10:28). And if we think of Christ as in any way a fool, we are either denying the Incarnation, denying that Christ is God, or else saying that God is a fool. For if fear of Satan is foolish, and if Christ taught it, and if Christ is God, then God is foolish.

Christ commanded us to conclude the only prayer he ever gave us, the model prayer, with "Rescue us from the evil one" (Mt 6:13). The Greek word is a singular noun, not a plural or a participle, and it has a definite article. The proper translation is not just "evil" but "the evil one." Peter Kreeft, How to Win the Culture War

What is the answer to the problem of evil and sin? We must be Christians as fully as possible. That means we must strive to be saints. One of the main points in Neil's argument, in fact his launching point, is his belief that Hitler was not the monster that everyone makes him out to be. We are happy to elevate Hitler to a monstrous level because it makes us feel better by comparison. We are not so evil as Hitler after all. In answer to this I can only say that every person is more complex than history would have us believe. I can perfectly well believe that a hideously evil person loved dogs or enjoyed dinner with friends. That does not make them less monstrous. In fact, that almost makes them more so by contrast as they have absolutely no common feeling with their fellow men after exhibiting perfectly well that they have such feelings themselves.

Neil says that Mother Teresa is not really a saint. We idealize her and elevate her to the level of nearly perfect behavior in order to make our ordinary, fallible selves feel better by saying that no one can be as good as she is. The quote by Kierkegaard used as evidence of this really does not support this hypothesis. He merely is defining what we know to be true of human nature. This goes back to our fallen nature (original sin) that insists on the pride of wanting to think ourselves better than we are (I'll be like God? Gimme that apple!).

Mother Teresa left her comfortable teaching job at a private school in order to rescue dying people from the gutter and give them death with dignity, picking maggots out of their flesh if necessary. To define that as "not doing all the evil we possibly can all of the time" is an almost willful denial of evidence. There is nothing to make anyone do such a thing but the deliberate desire to positively act for the common good, to die to self, to serve God. Yes, Mother Teresa was human and not perfect. However that only serves to make the testimony to the fact that man's soul contains good all the greater. Evil is not all that we are; it can be overcome by our good.

We must remember that saints are striving to be the ultimate Christians. It means being like Christ as much as humanly possible. Christ is perfect. He is Kierkegaard's ultimate "ethical man". He was the most humble man who ever lived, constantly doing everything for the glory of God and deferring His will to His Father's. He was loved by multitudes. He was passionately hated by those who did not want to hear that they could be like him if they gave up their preconceived ideas of who God is and what he wants.

The example of saints that Neil uses is the real life example that knocks the legs out from under the argument. The very fact that people do exist who can mirror Christ well enough for us to recognize them as saints speaks volumes to the fact that we are not "basically evil", "rancid meat" if you will. For anyone to achieve those heights of mirroring the ultimate good that is God the Son means we also are good in our selves ... not "all good" but that if we really try and unite ourselves to Christ on His Cross, we can be good enough to serve God as fully as possible.

Saturday, September 11, 2004

This is Why We Fight

11 September 2001
Dedicated to the men, women and children who lost their lives;
those brave people who gave their lives,
and the Heroes that responded to the emergency.

I will never forget.

Friday, September 10, 2004

Leaving Nothing to Chance

LUKE 22:7-23
I really never thought of Jesus making arrangements ahead of time for the Passover until I read what William Barclay had to say about the arrangement for the upper room. Then I wondered why I never noticed it before.
Once again Jesus did not leave things until the last moment; his plans were already made. The better class houses had two rooms. The one room was on top of the other; and the house looked exactly like a small box placed on top of a large one. The upper room was reached by an outside stair. During the Passover time all lodging in Jerusalem was free. The only pay a host might receive for letting lodgings to the pilgrims was the skin of the lamb that was eaten at the feast. A very usual use of an upper room was that it was the place where a rabbi met with his favorite disciples to talk things over with them and to open his heart to them. Jesus had taken steps to procure such a room. He sent Peter and John into the city to look for a man bearing a jar of water. To carry water was a woman's task. A man carrying a jar of water would be as easy to pick out as, say, a man using a lady's umbrella on a wet day. This was a prearranged signal between Jesus and a friend.

Thursday, September 9, 2004

More Favorite Goofy Movies

A few more favorites that I remembered. I can't believe I forgot Monty Python yesterday.
  • All of Me

  • Strictly Ballroom

  • Crocodile Dundee

  • The Man with Two Brains

  • Monty Python's Life of Brian

  • Monty Python and the Holy Grail

  • The Nutty Professor (Eddie Murphey)

  • Stripes

Wednesday, September 8, 2004

These Old Books

TIME-LIFE FOODS OF THE WORLD SERIES
One of the best things about sorting through books to donate to the school carnival is the rediscovery of books that I haven't read in a very long time. In this case, I'm enjoying rereading the Time-Life Foods of the World series. Believe me, I have looked at a lot of current cookbooks that purport to cover different countries and none do a better job than this series. These books are around 30 years old but they still are au courant in telling the foods and customs of practically every cuisine that exists. Each country has two books, a large hardback book and a smaller spiral-bound book that only contains recipes. Different authors were used for each book and they lend their own special styles to each. Most libraries have a set of these classics and you can often find various volumes in used book stores. If you are at all interested in either reading or cooking food from other cuisines, these are the books to go to.

My Favorite Goofy Movies

I was surprised at the response to my School of Rock review. It seems that everyone has a favorite dumb comedy. Except I can't really call them dumb because I almost didn't mention some of these (like Mars Attack) because I thought they were too smart to include (that's right, too smart, which tells you how I justify it!). So I'm going to call them goofy comedies. These movies are the ones that get you a funny look or that you have to explain when you mention them. Some are classics but that doesn't make them any less goofy. Here, in the order that they sprang to mind, is my list of favorite goofy movies:
  • School of Rock

  • The Blues Brothers

  • Young Frankenstein

  • Mars Attack

  • My Blue Heaven

  • This is Spinal Tap

  • Waiting for Guffman

  • Beetlejuice

  • Caddy Shack

  • Shanghai Noon

  • Ghostbusters

  • The Princess Bride

Passover

LUKE 22:1-6
This passage deals with Satan entering into Judas. However, from a historical point of view what I find most interesting is Barclay's description of Passover preparations.
There were elaborate preparations for the Passover. Roads were repaired; bridges were made safe; wayside tombs were whitewashed lest the pilgrim should fail to see them, and so touch them and become unclean. For a month before, the story and meaning of the Passover was the subject of the teaching of every synagogue. Two days before the Passover there was in every house a ceremonial search for leaven. The householder took a candle and solemnly searched every nook and cranny in silence, and the last particle of leaven was thrown out.

More importantly, William Barclay sets the scene of why the Romans were worried about the possibility of a riot after Jesus' arrest.
Every male Jew, who was of age and who lived within 15 miles of the holy city, was bound by law to attend the Passover. But it was the ambition of every Jew in every part of the world to come to the Passover in Jerusalem at least once in his lifetime ... Because of this vast numbers came to Jerusalem at the Passover time. Cestius was governor of Palestine in the time of Nero and Nero tended to belittle the importance of the Jewish faith. To convince Nero of it, Cestius took a census of the lambs slain at one particular Passover. Josephus tells us that the number was 256,500. The law laid it down that the number for a Passover celebration was 10. That means that on this occasion, if these figures are correct, there must have been more than 2,700,000 pilgrims to the Passover. It was in a city crowded like that that the drama of Jesus was played out.

Tuesday, September 7, 2004

Rock On

SCHOOL OF ROCK
I don't like dumb comedies. I'm not particularly a Jack Black fan, although I loved him in Mars Attack. I'd heard so much from so many different people praising School of Rock that I went ahead and rented it this weekend. (Also, Rose told me in the video store that all the kids played their own instruments ... very important to me as one of the things that I hated about Freaky Friday was watching that girl pretend to play her guitar twice as fast as the music was going. Thinking about this I just realized I constantly am asking Hannah to tell me if guitar players are really playing or Rose to do the same with the drums whenever we watch movies. I loved About a Boy but would have loved it much less if Hannah had told me that Hugh Grant was faking the guitar ... which he didn't and which was why the music was so simple I'm sure.)

What surprised me was that it was not what I expected at all. I expected the vulgarity and stupidity of Orange County with attempts for a laugh a minute. School of Rock actually was a sweet movie with rockin' music and ultimate respect for the characters. Yes it was a little stupid and predictable but those are forgivable faults compared to the entertainment we got from watching it. Most of all I liked the stubborn adherence to the purity of rock. Dewey Finn (Black) repeatedly gets the kids on track when they don't remember what rock is all about (scoring chicks? getting wasted?) ... rock is about "stickin' it to the man" and "givin' an awsome, rockin' show." Can't argue with that.

Sunday, September 5, 2004

Doctor My Eyes Have Seen the Years

Many, many years ago my opthamologist told me that everyone in their 40s winds up with reading glasses or bifocals. I held it off pretty well but on Saturday picked up my progressive bifocals. I am very willing because for the last few months I couldn't see when I was writing a check but *ughhhh!* the adjustment period. I'm not one to wish my life away but I can't wait for the next two weeks to go by so I'm used to them. My head is like one of those car ornaments bobbing up and down trying to find the right range. There's nothing so annoying as trying to get a really, really good look at Aaragorn and Legolas and tilting my head the wrong way so I miss them altogether. Oh, the pain! Good thing I'm Catholic so this annoyance isn't wasted ... something else to offer up!

ALSO: I can't believe I forgot to say that I have motion sickness which starts up at the drop of a hat so you can imagine just how much fun I had at the bookstore and grocery store where there is a lot of back and forth looking. I could tell it was time to go when the nausea would set in. On the plus side, I didn't buy any books and wasn't tempted with forbidden foods.

Friday, September 3, 2004

If You Ever Need to Know

Tom stuck his head in my office this afternoon and said, "If I'm ever in a situation like happened in Russia, just tell them to storm the building. I'd rather take the bullet than let terrorists get away with anything."

Its funny how we run these scenarios through our heads that never would have occurred to us a few years ago. First I think of them as "what if" situations and then it gets brought up by someone.

    "If your children were at Columbine would you have wanted them to say they were Christians?" [yes]

    "If you were in the towers would you have stayed behind to help someone in a wheel chair?" [yes]

    "If you had to choose between leaving one child behind and taking one to safety, would you do it?" [That's my question to myself after reading this morning about a Russian mother who was allowed to take only one child out of the school and left her 6 year old with her sister in law in the building. Answer: No. I'd stay with both children.]


Of course, none of us know what we'd do until we are put to the test. Those answers are what I hope I'd do. I'd want to be noble. I'd want to do the right thing. I sincerely pray none of us ever are put to that test. Its a sign of the times that these sorts of conversations go hand in hand with thoughts about refilling the 3/4 empty gas tank, "Just in case ... terrorists."

I used to play "what if" games like this after reading some of my favorite end-of-the-world books like Lucifer's Hammer or Alas Babylon. It was fun. I still love those books but I don't play that game any more. Its too real. I don't dwell on it because I suppose it still doesn't seem really real, but in the back of my mind "what if" comes and goes.

"Would you want them to storm the school if you were inside?" [yes]

Jesus' Anger

LUKE 19:45-46
I have to back up for a minute in the progression through Luke as I realized I forgot to include a very interesting bit of historical clarification. This is when Jesus cast out those who were selling in the Temple. When we know how things really worked, then we can see why Jesus reacted with such violence to the money changes and sellers of animals. Again it is William Barclay who provides these historical insights.
First, let us look at the money changers. Every make Jew had to pay a Temple tax every year of half a shekel ... it must be remembered that it was equal to nearly two days' pay for a working man. A month before the Passover, booths were set up in all the towns and villages and it could be paid there; but by far the greater part was actually paid by the pilgrims in Jerusalem when they came to the Passover Feast. In Palestine all kinds of currencies were in circulation, and, for ordinary purposes, they were all -- Greek, Roman Tyrian, Syrian, Egyptian -- equally valid. But this tax had to be paid either in exactly half shekels of the sanctuary or in ordinary Galilean shekels. This is where the money changers came in. To change a coin of exact value they charged one maah, [1/6 of a shekel]. If a larger coin was tendered a charge of one maah was made for the requisite half shekel and of another Maah for the giving of change ... it was an imposition on poor people who could least of all afford it.

Second, let us look at the sellers of animals. Almost every visit to the Temple involved its sacrifice. Victims could be bought outside at very reasonable prices; but the Temple authorities had appointed inspectors, for a victim must be without spot or blemish. It was, therefore, far safer to buy victims from the booths officially set up in the Temple. But there were times when a pair of doves would cost over fifteen times inside the Temple as they did outside. Again it was a deliberately planned victimization of the poor pilgrims, nothing more than legalized robbery. Worse, these Temple shops were known as the booths of Annas and were the property of the family of the High Priest. That is why Jesus was brought first before Annas when he was arrested (John 18:13). Annas was delighted to gloat over this man who had struck such a blow at his evil monopoly.

Thursday, September 2, 2004

A Favorite Poem

I'm not fond of most poetry and the sort I do like is either funny or tells a story, which probably is akin to admiring Elvis painted on black velvet. Nonetheless, I muster courage to offer a favorite.

MY RULES
If you want to marry me, here's what you'll have to do:
You must learn how to make a perfect chicken-dumpling stew.
And you must sew my holey socks,
And soothe my troubled mind,
And develop the knack for scratching my back,
And keep my shoes spotlessly shined.
And while I rest you must rake up the leaves,
And when it is hailing and snowing
You must shovel the walk ... and be still when I talk,
And -- hey -- where are you going?

Shel Silverstein