Tag Archives: Religion and Spirituality

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

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Why we dont fight

 

 

 

la puchelle

We are in the midst of a tumult not seen in decades. Our culture, freedoms, and prosperity, built upon the foundations of a dissolved belief system are at stake (as well as our very lives). Periodically through the ages, civilization has been buffeted by incursions of anarchy and barbarism; previously there have been those who stood in the breach between  that darkness and the light ( Gandalf the Grey at the bridge of Moria vs. the Balrog, for those of you who dislike history). Each time, the darkness has receded unwillingly, due to the efforts of those who witness with their lives for the sake of others, and for their larger ideals:  the shimmering values of Christendom.  Each time, Evil slunk back into its greasy dim lair, and morning came… again.

But no more.

Every value held dear for the last twenty centuries has been abandoned in favor of subjectivism and materialist understandings of reality. There is no longer Evil: hence there is no longer Good. No system, be it spiritual, economic or political, is inferior to another, therefore none is superior. The State reigns supreme over all principles and doctrines; what is good for the government is The Good for all. Marxism may be dead, but its skin has been scraped,  salted and tanned; it now envelops the earth. Here and there are the unseemly wrinkles of resistance- no matter, for when you are covered up as a blanket, you cannot access the sun. Civilization has withered into a skeletal caricature underneath; like a vast stuffed behemoth displayed as the grand exhibit in The Museum of Diabolical Achievement.

Weak and flaccid, starved for meaning, we can find nothing worth fighting for due to the conclusion placed in our minds that there is nothing to win. Is indeed there anything worth fighting for beyond free health care, free sex, cell service and Facebook?. As “God” is a menu item selected from an ala carte raft of customized “one size fits one” mentality, any one is as good as another–  differences that makes no difference, ARE no different. A devout Catholic is no better than a devout Muslim; the only place for them is in same back alley margins of society with the trash cans, winos and stray cats. Convictions result in decisions, and it is decisions that change the world. Islam has decided, and  now we all shall pay the price. The world no longer wishes change- especially from within; but change is coming, if it is not already here. Those who sacrifice their lives for the lost cause of Christ are both marveled and snickered at; for every gain they died for cannot be seen by those who roam the earth blindfolded. The West is a ripe fruit, its stem weak and withering: more than ready to fall into the hands of those who have envied and hated it for the last fourteen centuries. What Hitler and Stalin could not do with rockets and tanks, mad monks of an evil religion are accomplishing with swords and smart phones.

There indeed are those willing to fight back; however there are none to lead them, none to supply them and none to support them. This time the soldiers will stay home, for no one is willing to shout “save us”.  Indeed most of us do not realize that we are all but beyond  saving. Remember one thing: every time you bow your head to pray from this day forward there is a good chance someone is going to remove it from your body: and there will be no one around here on earth to prevent it.


Death

 

 

It was his last candle; and the night pressed in on its flickering hope.  The darkness was like an invader seeking cracks amidst the ruins of an ancient castle. Cold and blackness seeped in from the edges of the yellowed perimeter; the lone taper emitting a thready illumination. The forlorn paraffin stub dissipated what little heat it produced at about two or three inches away. Yet it was alive, the last living symbol of what he remembered from the time before Evening.

There was nothing to see beyond, and he readily imagined that outside his dwindling hemisphere there was nothing at all. It came down to him, his pathetic little candle and his unfocusing memories of what was; and what is supposed to be. In his heart he knew that the candle was just a shield, while his patience and intellect were his true weapons against what assaulted him. No matter–the candle became much more than just twinkling depositions of photons jetting out into the night. The candle became more precious to him than all things he ever knew. Every dance of the flame or drip of wax became an element of profound consternation. The dwindling length of this wax taper caused alarm and terror as each minute passed.

All his life he was told by others about Morning, when a huge warm glowing light would arise from a place called Horizon. There would be light everywhere for all time; light that would banish all darkness forever. Standing there with just his candle alone for one by one everyone else’s’ candle went dark and they disappeared, doubt crept up from his toes and washed around his head in a howling shriek of terror…

“When this candle is gone, I am to be consumed by the Dark- this is what I perceive with my senses, and so this is what must be”.

“Stand when you wish to run” is what he had learned long ago- it had always been good advice before: in addition to the fact that all along he was told everything else was just a preliminary for one supreme moment in his life– and that moment was now. His hand started to get hot, so hot it sent searing pain up his arm; there was nothing left but a small pool of liquid wax with the tiniest bit of wick left. He screamed in pain, flicking his fingers without thinking. The light went out, but the pain stayed with him.

Blackness.

There was after a bit, a thin line far off in the distance, somehow less dark above than below. In an slow instant he saw it: this beautiful, brilliant glowing, climbing above the line– it was just as everyone told him– Horizon appeared; Morning came; and the Son rose up shedding His light everywhere.

He could see. With a shout of glee, he wiped the old dead wax off his hands in the grass below, and ran off into the distance.


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.


The one that (almost) got away pt2

When two rough edges achieve proximity there will be friction- and perhaps eventual annihilation unless a light, sweet lubricant is interposed; cooling and smoothing the way to a mirror sheen and eventual union. Such is a consolation of Religion in general and the Holy Spirit in particular. For some Great Good reason, the Almighty decided to squirt this Grace between my wife and I. Experiences and life progressed  and we intuitively realized that Faith and its practice (an organized religion)was to be an essential ingredient to our life.

 Regular Church attendance being a prerequisite our first question was which denomination.  We were married in a Methodist church; therefore we began attending the nearest United Methodist Church in our new community. While my wife was comfortable at first in these surroundings we both seemed to sense the lack of sacredness. Jesus was a Great Guy though; we were all supposed to be really nice, accommodating to anything that seemed incongruent to what we would foolishly deem Holiness. Life was just a serial misunderstanding of people’s true needs and we were to work at our lack of perception of these needs. Once in a while we would get a cracker and some grape juice and pretend that we understood the symbolism of this inconsequential episode.

 We were even given the chance to truly understand our Pastor, who confided during one sermon that he was not convinced of the Divinity of Christ- he only became a Pastor because that is what his father did and it seemed like a good idea at the time. I assume most of the congregation could feel his pain. We could not: this place was not for us. Ever since, the image of a Cross enveloped in a bright red flame- the emblem of the United Methodist Church- had taken an entirely new meaning for us.

With a nudge from above my wife( a former agnostic with an anti-Catholic legacy) agreed we should now go to the Catholic Church up the road a bit. This church was a pleasant community of believers which had two added bonuses- the first being that our employers worshipped there; while the second perk was the fact that it was a bit closer to home. Immediately I was swept up in the remembrance of things both mysterious and sacred, while to my quiet surprise so was Diane.  Not really knowing why, she felt a strong attraction to the liturgical practices of Orthodoxy-most especially the celebration of the Eucharist. In a rare display of prudence I refrained from my secret elation that I had “won the War of Religion” in our nascent family tradition.

A practical Germanic woman of southeastern Pennsylvania, my wife held these things close to her heart and pondering them, occasionally asked questions about Catholicism. Her questions stunned me, and in an even more abrupt turn my answers were revelatory to her.

No, Mary is not worshipped

No, Sins are nor paid for

Statues of Saints are just reminders of heroes, nothing more.

We aren’t FORCED to go to Mass, but firmly reminded what the consequences are if God is put aside in life or treated in a cavalier way.

 Confession to a Priest is scriptural; and Sacred Tradition is an essential part of Faith- for is not Scripture itself born of this?

 It’s NOT about the sermon (homily)!!

 These answers came unbidden to my mind and I was surprised at what I could glean from those lessons poorly taught from the past. While answering her questions I began to search for myself and to wrestle with conundrums lodged within my own intellect: What is Papal infallibility? What does the Immaculate Conception signify?  However I first decided where to plant my flag: what Hill was I willing to die on and most importantly why?  So I did indeed dig a fighting position and the WHY HERE? I  was borrowed from Diane- her essential decision for Catholicism was rooted in the most basic illumination of what Faith really means and does. Her practical mind moved like this- Who do I take as role models in this world? Whose lives do I wish my own to mirror? With each of these questions came the same answer: Catholics she has/had known.

And THERE was the rub- an itch started by Christ which transforms the world.


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.