Tag Archives: Christianity

Absolute Power

When Preaching The Gospel Releases The Power Of God

Chafing under the stifling rule of despotism, my life as a teenager underwent a stunning change in ways I had not expected; more sudden than a car wreck I arrived at University. What I had yearned for since my first sentient thoughts was freedom; expecting to receive it in gradual degrees much like a draftee moving up through the ranks to four star general. What transpired instead was a handshake, hug, and admonition to “make the most of this chance” – off into the waning afternoon sun went my last moorings of childhood, and I was free.

Expectations of liberty are far different than the reality of it; the nascent thoughts of, “I can do whatever I want”, soon give way to the sudden blanket of solitude. Never hearing the maxim “with freedom comes great responsibility”, the veil of yonder gives way, and I realize now that I very well could have uttered such a phrase if I had the erudition; I certainly had the emotion for it. Forty years of reflection gives way to certain conclusions that have matured over the decades like slowly curing Roman concrete; wrestling with life much like Israel and the mysterious Angel, I have as a certainty come through the contest with a permanent  hitch in my get-a-long, but without the victorious memories of pinning my opponent to the ground.

We all are under the illusion of bondage to higher things. Circumstances, be they economic, social, or political, have a habit of binding us with their chains; but these chains are not made of iron, but of brittle clay. There is no power over us in this life: indeed in many ways there is no power over us at all, for we have been given the most precious gift of all from He Who Is,; the power to choose our own fate. There is a wonderful line from the movie Kingdom of Heaven, “Jesus says, CHOOSE.” Through the mystery of fathomless Love comes the gift of absolute power- the power we all have to decide our destiny. There is no greater power than this; no other particle, or combination thereof within the bounds of Heaven and Earth, nor amongst the starry realms of the cosmos can claim this power but man. He who has unleashed this power within us now waits to see what we shall do. We stand as Adam and Eve did- much like I did once, at the edge of the future, endowed with liberty but restrained by the endless venues of choice that radiate from our present. If we fixate upon the past, we lose who we are in who we were; if we covet the future, we lose our sure harbor of security. Only in the present are we assured of making right choices; properly exercising the essence of being the sons of the Most High.

Each day this absolute power is with us, needing to be wielded in our constant skirmish against those who care not. The dark spaces of this world wish among other things, to fool us into the shadows of futility. Each day we must act, for their is no eternal security or damnation within the bounds of time and space. Vigilance is essential: and with vigilance comes the need to move, and movement is the exercise of decision. I know not choice others may take, but for me and my house, we shall serve the Lord


The Navigator

Breakfast this morning consisted of scrambled eggs, waffles, coffee and about six million vitamins(courtesy of Wifey, who is trying to keep me for a museum exhibit). I skimmed the news online (gasp), did some reading, barn chores and finally proceeded to work. These are the choices I undertook and executed as actions before 7am; and I dare say if experience is any guide the rest of the day will be fraught with an astounding array of many other mundane choices- each one part and parcel of daily life. However trite they seem, each decision made is fraught with consequence; and to be sure the more rote the decision seems to be, the more drastic the consequences if made incorrectly (I stop taking my pills and the resultant ire from my beloved, for example).

Life is rife with a wilderness of constant choosing; each change of degree on the helm of our voyage may not seem like much in the beginning. One degree of change is a sixty inch difference at 100 yards; at 1000 miles it is  1,140,480 inches, or almost 18 miles 9 you only can see 3 miles to the horizon: you will never even see your destination). Constant course correction (more choices) are essential to stay on the path that we have originally decided upon. If our goal is the far green country of Heaven, the we must take the steps necessary to achieve a proper execution of our plan. We need first of all the proper charts of the trip, made by those who have gone on before and returned; people who can tell us with a surety that the trip is possible. Secondly and just as important we need an authoritative entity who can interpret those charts and transmit their knowledge of chart symbolism and language along with their knowledge of the seas sky and stars. These class of men we call navigators then assimilate all of this data and translate it into understandable advice for the captain of the vessel. This captain (us) can subsequently order the helmsman (us once again in this crude example) to change course if needed.

The desire and decision to undertake an expedition is a brave and bold thing- to be commended in almost every instance: and much more so when this expedition is that of the most precious thing we possess, our life. However this is only the beginning of a long to-do list – once we decide where we are going, we must plan on how to get there, and it behooves all of us to carefully prepare for such a dangerous task. Some of us pick the right charts; some of us do not. Some of us hear rumors of Golden Lands and decide they can draw their own charts, our use charts obtained from specious sources. There are then others of us who use the proper charts, yet believe we can navigate the way on our own, without any previous piloting experience- or they choose navigators who suit their fancy due to slick advertising, or because said navigators acquiesce to any weird or dangerous choices of ship, crew, or cargo.

These are the choices that so many make– to charge off on our own heedless of the sound advice of others who have made the trip before: ” I’ll just take a rowboat, one oar and a baloney sandwich”, some declare, ” all I have to do is head west and eventually I will get there”. Perhaps. The seas are rough at times and filled with raiding corsairs, enemies more than happy to board your ship and clap you into chains and slavery… . They make their living doing so, and a very good living indeed.

Christ is the Chart Maker; and the Schooling of the Holy Spirit had given His Church the tools, experience and sage ways to get us where we want to end up. Beware of clever imitations! If you desire a short safe journey on this harrowing trek, please choose your Navigator wisely.


The Sixth Crusade

 

When General Eisenhower wrote his memoirs of the Second World War he titled his work, “The Crusade in Europe”. For him perhaps and for a surety, for the ones who bled and caused others to bleed, this was a concrete reality. I remember asking my deceased father-in-law why, when he was 30 years old with a wife and small child and a service exempt job on a military base, did he choose to go to Europe to fight in WWII. I will never forget the look he gave me, nor his succinct response. He actually jumped as though startled and beheld me much as an astronaut would when eyeing a strange new life form for the very first time. He slowly blinked and said in a voice like Cecil B DeMille, “Why, to save the World of course!”

He  fought with the fourth infantry all across the heart of Europe til the very end. Walter was the only man from his company to come home. The stories he told were mind boggling- so much so that many years later I took the time to transcribe what I could remember for his posterity. The best way to summarize these horrors for others is to tell them to watch “Saving Private Ryan”– then multiply it by a factor of three. One story he told was about liberating a concentration camp at the end of the fighting. Walter was a man who, ethnically German, always called the enemies “the Germans” never “the Nazis”: when he saw the camp, and what was in it, and how close it was to the town, he said to me,”Don’t let anybody fool you- those people in the town KNEW exactly what was going on in there. We should have killed them all”.

They went there to win, and win they indeed did– to rid the world of  a carbuncle upon its weary visage like one that had never erupted before. I am sure that he would be delighted to know that after the wreck that was the Second World War, and the scraping away of its terrible growth, even to the point of removing almost all of the scar it created on the rind of civilization, the root remained. And it begins to grow again.

The moral issues that were debated upon those miserable gut strewn fields seemed to be solved once and for all. The Godless States recoiled in ruin from the might and determination of those free, moral, and fundamentally charitable peoples that opposed them. The Good Guys it seemed, DO win when it matters most.

From a political standpoint however, it seemed that the only way to defeat the all-encompassing State was to become similar to one; and we dismissed the principle that States and Peoples, just as individuals are not mechanical, but organic. When they go bad, we cannot just start replacing parts and expect them to work properly. If their (or our) hearts are not properly disposed, if they are filled with envy, greed or hate; no amount of political restructuring or financial aid will help. If Goodness, Truth and Beauty, abandoned for comfort, security, and titillation become merely historical aberrations or the musty furniture of a forsaken past, the future becomes sooty and dim. For us now it remains to look beyond the hills from whence comes Our Help.

Another generation of Crusaders has come and gone .Their deeds mighty, their valor true and their hearts pure. Yet the lands in which they strived have reverted to the Enemy.


HERETIC

“There is nothing that exists outside of matter”. ” The Darwinian model is absolute”. ” The natural world is all there is, and determinism rules all aspects of existence”. ” What is experienced by the senses is all there is”. These are the dogmas of my intellectual foundation. Educated and trained by the finest scientific minds of the 70’s in the hallowed halls of Ivy League academia, it was simple to fall into the slot determined for me by my mentors and society at large…. What the heck happened?

Perhaps it is because I actually listened to what was said– and thought about it. The high priests of science once said that anyone who travelled faster than 30 miles an hour would die from it-OOPS! Man cannot fly- OOPS! Man cannot travel faster than the speed of sound-OOPS! Germ theory is hogwash-OOPS! The New Soviet Man-OOPS! Eggs and butter are bad for you–OOPS! When my children were young, one asked me what a PH.D. stood for; I trotted out the old saw that it meant you “study more and more about less and less until you knew everything about nothing”. When one daughter received her Doctorate in Biomedical Science, she remarked to me that this long ago description was very apt.

I am a heretic. I do not believe that if something is either unmeasured, or unmeasureable, it does not exist. Early on I discovered Love and Hate, Beauty and ugliness; as well as evil and goodness. These were and are still, a part of my daily life. The science of measurement cannot account for these things; therefore they are reduced to unexplainable chemical interactions and electrical static.  The science beyond measurement can and does account for these things, and the greatest intellects of the ages have been commenting upon and charting their existence for millennia. There is no inescapability of empirical determinism; there is decision– and the agency of Will. Yes, the world is brimming with sorrow– yet it was not intended to be so; we ruminate the cud of Eves apple, hence submitting to blinkered halters so as to be acceptable to those similarly blinded plodding along in the traces of bondage: blinded by a hostile force crouching in shadows, laying veiled to our senses. Thus invisible to the eye the enemy and our assent to him proclaims not to exist.

I am a heretic. I believe in things both seen and unseen. If I can believe in air, which cannot be seen, but can be deduced from the effects it has upon me, how much more so can I believe in the world beyond  my senses, which I cannot perceive except for the effects it has upon my life and the life of others such as myself.  If you can believe a physicist through his  mathematical formulae to things such as dark matter or the Heisenberg uncertainty principle, or the speed of light– why not believe a metaphysicist when through his reason, logic, and physical evidence to the miraculous affirms the supernatural? Metaphysical things exist; both in the historical record and in the lives of those who experience them but keep them private for various reasons.

I believe in the Holy Spirit, the Lord and Giver of Life. I am a Heretic.


AGE

In the early 70’sthe Mets were in the World Series for the second time. I was in my early teens, and watched fervently, as my grandfather, a former NY Giants baseball fan, had switched his allegiance to the Mets. I could root for them as a loving grandson could only do; with the demand that they must win for Grampa. The added excitement included two new twists, the hated Baltimore Orioles as an opponent, with Willie Mays in the Mets lineup. The Say Hey Kid! The player who could do anything on a diamond and do it with style and grace. Never having seen him play before, who could resist the pull of watching Willie play in the Series? Not this child.

This was the first time in my life I faced with mortality- and the memory of it is seared into my brain. Willie Mays up at bat in a run situation; he was pinch hitting of course, but this was Willie Mays– the Orioles were dead meat– or so I thought.

Pitch one; a high hard one, right in the wheelhouse; Willie steps in the bucket and swings like my old great grandma. Strike one!

The second pitch; another gopher ball, Willie swings as hard as he can, and falls down(I swear he closed his eyes!). Strike two!

Here comes pitch three, a repeat of the last two pitches. Willie steps in the bucket again, and somehow… SOMEHOW, he nicks the ball and it takes a crazy bounce over the mound, evading the pitcher. In a rage– (this sorry old man miraculously hit the baseball !) the Oriole pitcher takes his glove off and hurls it to the dirt in disgust. The ball squibs into the edge of the outfield very similar to a suddenly freed spiny hedgehog. Willie fell down again after the swing but amazingly reached base safely.

Had I witnessed the destruction of the Second Temple? No, but as a stupid kid, I doubt very much that I would have been more horrified at what I had seen. The Say Hey Kid; Willie Mays; THE number 24; was washed up, and showed it in a spectacular way. The results of the play are eroded away in the detritus of my neural net. Who on or lost the game? Don’t know. Who won the Series? Could not say.

All I can recall is my reaction to that earthshattering episode in my young life:

“When I get to be 41 years old, like Willie is now,” I promised myself, ” I am going to commit suicide, rather than be such a sorry specimen of humanity”.

Every birthday since, with increasing trepidation I remember that moment, and what I had vowed. Of course as I matured the wistful recollections took on a more tragicomic tone, rather than the sanguine horror felt at the time. I can assert here and now that it has been forty two years since then; I have not acted upon that solemn promise of so long ago: nor do I intend to. Thus the monolithic touchstone of Age within my existential realm. I am washed up and a functional shadow of my past. Yet somehow life is just as precious as ever before with substantive differences and yardsticks. I cant bend a horseshoe with my bare hands any more, but I can pray with more concentration and fervency. There is more hair in my ears than on my head; yet I know what true love is. I cant snap a waspy bronc an longer; but I am getting to be a real hand at riding mercy and compassion almost to a standstill. I have shed the costume of a boy, and am in the process of putting on the working clothes of a man.


What a Piece of Work is Man (or Cow)

Evening

 It is late February in Eastern Montana; Thirty degrees Fahrenheit, with no wind. Thus far the weather has been perfect for a high plains stockman; open as we like to say. Though there has been about 20 inches of snowfall so far, several chinooks have come. Their warm summer-like winds bared off the range letting the cattle graze almost every day through the cold. It’s not like most of the world; fall cured native grasses are as good as excellent hay due to the semi-arid climate. The summer was good, pasture saved for winter with natural windbreaks and cover is well sodded over and the grass is as strong as alfalfa hay. All that is needed now is fair weather so the livestock can move out and graze. These are the types of winters that made Montana famous. The haystacks lay silent and still, great snow covered prickly beasts slumbering out the winter on wind scoured flats.

A big dark soggy line in the western sky portends the next move in this cyclical struggle:  wits and courage versus the random unfeeling foe: Old Man Winter. Soon the winds pick up; thin storm streamers sail past like javelins hurled by an advancing skirmish line. And that it just what it is;  the periodic northern invader pours through Judith gap- another Alberta Clipper sends broadsides of blizzard into the unsuspecting Musselshell country.

 All evening and night the snow falls; fast and thin at first, rasping winds blast across the prairie. Cattle reel eastward with the squall till their drifting trek is interrupted by obstacles. Here and there they bunch up like the seventh cavalry surrounded by a shrieking, pelting foe. Outnumbered and outgunned they circle up, tails towards the outside, a big knot of hair. Heads to the ground and tails to the weather they stand numbly and patiently; either the storm blows out, or they freeze where they stand – odds are they will outlast this one as they have all the others:  just another day in the life of range cattle.

 Morning

Twenty below zero; the sun creeps over the horizon as if she has a bayonet at her back. The view in every direction is panoramic; a new white-beyond-white quilt has buried everything in all directions. A dark blue dome has covered the sky with the odd star not snuffed out by the storm vainly twinkling in the through the oncoming dawn. With the sky paling to a glittering light blue and the wind laid to rest, all seems like a Leanin’ Tree postcard from someone who has never experienced such a morning. But you have and you know better- the conditions are ripe for the perfect storm every cowman fears; not a storm of waves and gale force winds but even worse an approaching abortion storm.

The cattle are ravenous, fighting the winter night with all tenacity; stomachs  cry for feed; yet the grass is under ten inches of new subzero snow. When they reach for the grass the snow ascends up to their eyes… this will not do, but they know where they can get some quick energy, even if marginal. Energy that comes with a deadly price this time of year, one month before they are to give birth: Ponderosa Pine branches laden with fresh crunchy green needles. Now the race begins: you send your wife out with the dogs to haze the cattle away from the trees as you race to the haystack cracking it open, quickly taking a load so the cows can eat something else besides needles.

 Afternoon

No one is exactly sure why- there has been little scientific inquiry into such an arcane aspect of animal agriculture, but in the last trimester of pregnancy, ingesting pine needles causes abortion within twenty four hours. Ranchers know this very well but their charges do not; nor do they seem to care. They are cold and hungry and cannot see or think beyond the end of their noses. Most of us groan in frustration when this occur; especially when we did not prepare by moving the cows away from the trees to another pasture, or feeding them before the sun began to rise. Lack of planning on our part and a cow’s propensity to do what feels right at the moment (instinct) can create a biological and business disaster.

 It is very easy to rage on about the stupidity and ignorance of a hairy leather bag with horns; certainly during the heat of the moment one wonders why he has saddled himself with the blistering font of seeming stupidity that is a cow. However at quiet times afterwards stockmen always reflect upon one Great Truth: how similar cattle are to man.


Joy

What is joy? More specifically, how do we in the post-Christian world define joy for ourselves and others as Christ spoke of in the Gospels? Is it an ephemeral giddiness, as we would feel after a hearty laugh, the intimate feeling of an embrace, the flush of excitement after a satisfying victory in a contest? In other words is it a transitory emotional /physical reaction to an external event, or perhaps is it indeed something more?

 This is an enigma for those that lack firm grounding in Church Teaching and Philosophy (someone like me) who most of the time accepts the teachings of Our Lord faithfully, yet when all alone, away from others, when it is just Him and I it seems there is a plaintive refrain emerging from my soul; Lord, what is it You are actually saying? Yes, “my heart is restless until it rests in Thee”; but it merely fathoms not grasps, all there is.

 There are times when I FEEL joy; but do I have it only when I feel it? – Or is it always there, lurking below the surface like a spiritual Moby Dick just before he smashes up the Pequod.  In other words, is this joy Christ speaks of more of a character trait, such as constancy or self-control, than an emotional flush against ones mental outlook in a particular situation? Or is this joy more similar to hope, which to my mind is a rare combination of spiritual resolve and physical satisfaction?

These things I ponder and have never found a way to resolve the question; it remains mysterious. All I KNOW is I have planted my guidon upon the mountain of Cavalry come what may: Here I make my stand; this is the hill I will die upon, amidst the van of Jesus Christ. If I do not feel an emotional high most of the time during this fight alongside Him, nevertheless I am quite sure that this is the place I was meant to be for all time; for emotional high is not after all the height we are to pursue, but the height of the Cross.

Indeed.