Saturday, December 13, 2014

Muslim Go Boom! - WND Commentary by Matt Barber

This is by far the best commentary/op-ed I've come across all week.  Matt Barber (entertainingly) argues the stark truth, that:

Sunday, December 7, 2014

Cleaning House

Do you or have you ever met someone who enjoys cleaning?  I mean really enjoys it, as if there were nothing else the person could see themselves doing more than cleaning.  When someone tells me they do, it automatically raises the question, at least in my head:  Really?  Do you really enjoy it, for it's own sake?  Don't get me wrong, I like love a clean room, clean house, clean garage, clean car, clean name it.  There's just a deep-down, simple, good feeling that comes from having things sorted, straightened, unsoiled, and fresh, especially when it has been returned from the alternative state.  There's just something in the normal, rational, god-fearing human soul that gravitates toward things being that way.  There really is more truth to the old adage, "Cleanliness is next to godliness" than meets the eye.

But, cleanliness is an end state.  The process to get there, of expending time and sweat to put things back the way we wished they had been all along, isn't nearly as fun as being there.  On second thought, it just isn't fun period. Not at all.  For me at least, it usually comes more out of necessity than of choice, and has to be disciplined and enforced (parents, you know how this goes, right?).  I can almost always think of at least a half dozen other things I'd rather be doing, or places I'd rather be, like reading, taking a nice long run, you name it.

One of the greatest motivators to just get it done when it comes to cleaning is the arrival of guests.  Knowing that they are coming to visit suddenly gives us a sort of hyper awareness of everything in the house that isn't absolutely immaculate.  Those dust bunnies that have been hanging out under the bed for a few weeks now?   Odds are the guests will never, ever lift up your covers to see them, but you know they're there and with just the the thought of it, they might as well be screaming out loud enough for the neighborhood to hear, "Clean me.  Clean me!"

Back the the "unfunness" of the task at hand (can you tell how much I haven't felts like cleaning this weekend?)... Heck, we here in American despise cleaning so much--and our time doing anything but is so precious to us--that we even outsource it.   We have an entire industry built around providing cleaning services, both at home and in the workplace.  And even when we don't pay directly for someone else to do it, we consult with others about how to clean up because we don't even have time to think  and plan how to do it.  Sometimes we pay big bucks for this too, for someone to think for us and tell us what needs to be cleaned and how we should do it.

Not only that, but once the end state of having everything clean and in its proper place is attained, it's so easily lost.  I mean it's just downright demoralizing, isn't it?  I don't know how many times I have spent the better part of a weekend cleaning our garage, organized everything, sweeping, re-arranging shelves, and re-establishing a system for maintaining that hard-earned end state, all the while thinking, "This time it will work.  It will stay clean, everything that's used will put back in it's place, I will never have to spend hours cleaning again, and the life of garage storage will go on happily ever after."

Mmm hmm...Riiiight.  Somehow it just doesn't work out that way, and in a matter of days, weeks, or months later, it seems like we are back to square one and needing another round of neatness intervention.  I think we all (sane people anyway) really do like to have things as they should be.  It's the process of getting there that's not fun, and keeping things that way can seem downright impossible.

And so it is with the spiritual life.

The Church, recognizing that we need a periodic reminder to set aside time to sweep and straighten the "house" of our souls, gives us Advent season as a dedicated time to prepare for the arrival of the most important house guest, the King of all creation.

The readings for today, the Second Sunday of Advent, begin with one of my favorite (and perhaps one of the most well known) verses from Old Testament scripture: the prophet Isaiah's message of hope and promise of salvation that flows from the old covenant into the new.  Through the prophet, God speaks to remind us both of our need to diligently and expeditiously "prepare the way of the Lord," to get about the nitty gritty work of cleaning house, so to speak, in our souls, all the while lifting our eyes and hearts to the hope of the future kingdom.

A voice proclaims:
In the wilderness prepare the way of the LORD!
Make straight in the wasteland a highway for our God!

Every valley shall be lifted up,
every mountain and hill made low;
The rugged land shall be a plain,
the rough country, a broad valley.

Then the glory of the LORD shall be revealed,
and all flesh shall see it together;
for the mouth of the LORD has spoken.

A voice says, “Proclaim!”
I answer, “What shall I proclaim?”
“All flesh is grass,
and all their loyalty like the flower of the field.

The grass withers, the flower wilts,
when the breath of the LORD blows upon it.”
“Yes, the people is grass!

The grass withers, the flower wilts,
but the word of our God stands forever.”

Go up onto a high mountain,
Zion, herald of good news!
Cry out at the top of your voice,
Jerusalem, herald of good news!
Cry out, do not fear!
Say to the cities of Judah:
Here is your God!

Here comes with power
the Lord GOD,
who rules by his strong arm;
Here is his reward with him,
his recompense before him.

Like a shepherd he feeds his flock;
in his arms he gathers the lambs,
Carrying them in his bosom,
leading the ewes with care.
- Isaiah 40:3-11 (NAB)

With these words, the prophet points us forward through the trials, difficulties, and flat out spiritual warfare--with our own personal sins and the societal evil that we seem so powerless to cure--to look toward the fullness of time, when the "space" of creation, dragged down through history by man's sin and disobedience, will be restored to its immaculate end, to our promised salvation and the fullness of God's kingdom, as St Peter writes in the conclusion of the second reading:

But according to his promise
we await new heavens and a new earth
in which righteousness dwells.
Therefore, beloved, since you await these things,
be eager to be found without spot or blemish before him, at peace.

-2 Pt 3:13-14

As I mentioned in a previous post from 2/14/2010, Now Comes the Best Part, the most beautiful and concrete way to take up this spiritual house cleaning, and to get rid of the sin that mires and clutters our souls, is to make a good confession.   It is often a very difficult and laborious experience to have to voice our failings and shortcomings, but as with all cleaning work, it must be done, and habit makes it easier.  And the result after this cleaning is complete is joy and encouragement as our soul is swept clean.  So, during this Advent season, let us hasten to make way in our own hearts for the coming of He who seeks to dwell there, and by doing so bring a little light, fresh air, and clarity, to our own little part of his kingdom.


Sunday, August 10, 2014

Identity Crisis

So my girls have completely fallen in love with the Lion King.  Who would've thought, a 20-year-old Disney flick would capture their attention, and so quickly supplant Frozen? Well, partially anyway.  It's their (and, by proxy, my) favorite character story du jor, so...yes I'm going to go there and write about a Disney movie on a blog about cultural warfare.

As we were watching it during one of our recent Friday pizza-and-movie nights, the story eventually came to the scene where the now-adult Simba, who was driven out by the searing indictment of his conniving and power-hungry uncle Scar, begins to ask questions and wonder what he's supposed to be doing with his life.  Sounds familiar, right?  Young man grows up with little or no guidance, and suddenly finds himself an adult groping for direction in his life.  As Simba starts seeking for answers, he is led by Rafiki, the wise sage baboon, to look at his own reflection.  At first he finds it pointless, but directed back again by Rafiki, he looks deeper into his image for that of his father.

Here's the scene:

So...could we consider this snippet from a children's story in the light of our own wandering and groping for identity?  How often have we given into the accusations of the world, particularly of the accuser, the father of lies (cf. John 8:44)?  How often do we believe that we can't do it, that we're not good/strong/handsome/beautiful/holy/worthy enough of the lofty tasks set aside for us from the foundations of the world?    Most of the time this slide into believing the accusations doesn't happen out of malice, so much as it does because we take the easy road out to satisfying our deep-seeded human need for belonging and acceptance.

After all, isn't it so much easier just to allow the answers in through our five senses--from the world--than to take the time to look inside, to recognize and water the seed that our Creator has put in us? Instead of looking to the One who so desires to be the ultimate source of our affirmation, for who we are, we allow noise and din of the world to begin to answer the question for us.  And the answer is... "You are only as (fill in the blank with a desirable trait) as we say that you are."  We can even begin to let the accusations and the anxiety that flows from them define us.  We trade the peace and freedom that comes from grounding in the truth of who we are for the worry and bondage of believing lies.

I know I have.  A lot.  I will forever be a recovering lie-believer.

But those lies are not who we are or what we were made for.

St. Paul gives us what is arguably the most poignant reminder of who we are in his Letter to the Romans (8:14-17):
For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God.
For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba, Father!”
The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him.
Let's rewind and review that one more time.  So, according to St. Paul we are:

1. Children of God.  That is, children of a perfect Father, who wants us to call him "Daddy!" as obedient children do, more than "Master."

2. Joint heirs with Christ.  Our Lord, the second person of the Trinity, by descending into our humanity, now raises us up to a share in the glory of his divinity. Christ came and suffered for us--and the ultimate Father sacrificed his only son--so that we could be like him in all things but being.  (A previous post from June 3, 2013, Gods and Goddesses, has more on that).  The Second Person of the Trinity lowered himself to walk among us as brother and friend.

Think about that.  Let it sink in, and do it often, because that is the point of truth that the enemy most wants us to forget.

Paul also reminded his spiritual son, Timothy, as he gave him encouragement and "marching orders" in his second letter: "For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control." (2 Tim 1:7)

Of course.  That only makes sense.  God doesn't remake us into his children, ask us to call on him as Daddy, then just leave us to our own fallen, weak, broken devices.  That would be the ultimate cruelty, (another of the original lies, the first proposed in the garden:"Does he really want what's best for you, or is he holding out?" [cf. Gen 3:1,5]).

The truth is quite the opposite: He gives us everything we need, although that is seldom what we think we need. The refrain of the old Lonestar song, Mountains, comes to mind. "The good Lord gave us mountains, so we could learn how to climb."

Other words come to mind, from St Thomas More, about how incapable we are of judging our own needs and controlling our fate in this life.
So blind are we in this mortal life, and so unaware of what will happen, so uncertain of even how we will think tomorrow, that God could not take vengeance on a man more easily in this world than by granting his own foolish wishes.
Saint Thomas More

So what are we to do with this?  The implications of being The answer to that could be a whole other book, volumes really, and I'll have to write more about that later (Part 2?).  But for now, let it suffice to say that we only need to follow Mufasa's advice:

Remember who you are.  That is, sons, daughters, and heirs of the living God, the King of kings, who are called to struggle and suffer toward perfection now so that we might rejoice and share in his glory forever.

No more and no less.


Wednesday, August 6, 2014

European court: Gay marriage is not a human right - Lifesite News

This is stunning (for me, a good way) and is the last thing I would have expected to come out of the European Human Rights Court.  The first sentence from the summary paragraphs below almost had me pinching myself:
The court confirmed that the protection of the traditional institution of marriage is a valid state interest—implicitly endorsing the view that relations between persons of the same sex are not identical to marriage between a man and a woman, and may be treated differently in law.
The judgment says that European human rights law recognizes the “fundamental right of a man and woman to marry and to found a family” and “enshrines the traditional concept of marriage as being between a man and a woman.” It explains how no European consensus on same-sex marriages exists, as only 10 of the 47 countries bound by the treaty allow such designations.
Read the entire article here.

Monday, August 4, 2014

"No, Jesus did not bear arms, but..." - The American Spectator

Behind the controversial and attention-grabbing title of Mark Tooley's article, Whom Would Jesus Shoot? in The American Spectator (July 30, 2014) lies his counterpoint and answer to a question that the Judeo-Christian tradition has answered (I believe very adequately, as I wrote about a few years ago in my three-part series, Faith and Firearms):

Does the moral imperative to pursue peace and non-violence automatically trump our responsibility to provide a legitimate defense and repel the assault of unjust aggressors against innocents and those charged to our care, using violence if necessary?

Tooley's conclusion is spot-on:
"No, Jesus in the Gospels did not bear arms. But the whole message of scripture and Christian tradition carefully allows that some of His followers may be called to bear and deploy weaponry in certain circumstances where justice requires. The ultimate question is not so much What Would Jesus Do but rather What Does Jesus Tell Us to Do?"
Read the entire article here.