With 1.6 million people in prison, the incarceration rate is now the highest in American history, a new report says.
Dec 28, 2008
Almost seventeen years of the the best cat I have ever known came to an end today. Her body started shutting down a few days ago, and she finally breathed her last this afternoon.
Molly and her sister Sybil came to live with us from the SPCA after my daughters' fluffy orange tabby Freddie was struck by a car. Anna took to Sybil, and Catherine took to Molly, each naming their kitten for reasons of their own. Molly almost didn't make it, as she had an inability to digest food properly at first (weaned too early?), and went into "kitten decline", which the vet said is almost always fatal. But we pulled her through it.
After the girls had both gone off from home, Sybil contracted a fatal blood disease from hunting wild critters. That left us with Molly, and a strict "indoor only" policy. But a few years later, Molly developed a malignancy in her sinus passage. A biopsy showed it to be an especially aggressive cancer. The vet said she would only live six months at the most, and recommended putting her to sleep. We declined, but we prayed. Really hard. Really.
Molly lived another five good, playful, affectionate years. She often had breathing problems (cats are nose breathers only), but that came and went... just like her.
She was a great gift, and she made it through Christmas so everyone she loved could say good-bye, including our grand daughter June Anne (Catherine's little girl), who really loved Molly.
Dec 24, 2008
Vampire-queen-turned-Christian-writer Anne Rice is answering reader questions about her faith and writing at Beliefnet this week, and many of her answers (and the questions) are quite interesting. One of the obvious questions to ask is how, from her current vantage point in the church, she looks back at the often lurid and grisly vampire novels that made her famous. Here’s her reply to a question along those lines:
I don’t write about the vampires and the witches anymore, not because I regret such work or feel guilty about it, far from it. I don’t write about them because I can’t be them anymore in fiction. I am some one else now. I live in a world where Salvation is a reality and the Light of Christ is a reality. So I can’t enter that old dark world in which my fallen heroes were metaphors for my own lost soul, and my soul grieving for a lost faith in God. I changed. So my work had to change.
A quick Google search turned up this essay at Anne Rice’s website in which she explains in more detail her attitude toward her vampire novels.
Dec 17, 2008
Psalm 119:49-96 (New International Version)
49 Remember your word to your servant,
for you have given me hope.
50 My comfort in my suffering is this:
Your promise preserves my life.
51 The arrogant mock me without restraint,
but I do not turn from your law.
52 I remember your ancient laws, O LORD,
and I find comfort in them.
53 Indignation grips me because of the wicked,
who have forsaken your law.
54 Your decrees are the theme of my song
wherever I lodge.
55 In the night I remember your name, O LORD,
and I will keep your law.
56 This has been my practice:
I obey your precepts.
57 You are my portion, O LORD;
I have promised to obey your words.
58 I have sought your face with all my heart;
be gracious to me according to your promise.
59 I have considered my ways
and have turned my steps to your statutes.
60 I will hasten and not delay
to obey your commands.
61 Though the wicked bind me with ropes,
I will not forget your law.
62 At midnight I rise to give you thanks
for your righteous laws.
63 I am a friend to all who fear you,
to all who follow your precepts.
64 The earth is filled with your love, O LORD;
teach me your decrees.
65 Do good to your servant
according to your word, O LORD.
66 Teach me knowledge and good judgment,
for I believe in your commands.
67 Before I was afflicted I went astray,
but now I obey your word.
68 You are good, and what you do is good;
teach me your decrees.
69 Though the arrogant have smeared me with lies,
I keep your precepts with all my heart.
70 Their hearts are callous and unfeeling,
but I delight in your law.
71 It was good for me to be afflicted
so that I might learn your decrees.
72 The law from your mouth is more precious to me
than thousands of pieces of silver and gold.
73 Your hands made me and formed me;
give me understanding to learn your commands.
74 May those who fear you rejoice when they see me,
for I have put my hope in your word.
75 I know, O LORD, that your laws are righteous,
and in faithfulness you have afflicted me.
76 May your unfailing love be my comfort,
according to your promise to your servant.
77 Let your compassion come to me that I may live,
for your law is my delight.
78 May the arrogant be put to shame for wronging me without cause;
but I will meditate on your precepts.
79 May those who fear you turn to me,
those who understand your statutes.
80 May my heart be blameless toward your decrees,
that I may not be put to shame.
81 My soul faints with longing for your salvation,
but I have put my hope in your word.
82 My eyes fail, looking for your promise;
I say, "When will you comfort me?"
83 Though I am like a wineskin in the smoke,
I do not forget your decrees.
84 How long must your servant wait?
When will you punish my persecutors?
85 The arrogant dig pitfalls for me,
contrary to your law.
86 All your commands are trustworthy;
help me, for men persecute me without cause.
87 They almost wiped me from the earth,
but I have not forsaken your precepts.
88 Preserve my life according to your love,
and I will obey the statutes of your mouth.
89 Your word, O LORD, is eternal;
it stands firm in the heavens.
90 Your faithfulness continues through all generations;
you established the earth, and it endures.
91 Your laws endure to this day,
for all things serve you.
92 If your law had not been my delight,
I would have perished in my affliction.
93 I will never forget your precepts,
for by them you have preserved my life.
94 Save me, for I am yours;
I have sought out your precepts.
95 The wicked are waiting to destroy me,
but I will ponder your statutes.
96 To all perfection I see a limit;
but your commands are boundless.
Dec 12, 2008
Nov 25, 2008
Nov 17, 2008
Nov 9, 2008
Every war when it comes, or before it comes, is represented not as a war but as an act of self-defense against a homicidal maniac.
If liberty means anything at all, it means the right to tell people what they do not want to hear.
In our age there is no such thing as ‘keeping out of politics.’ All issues are political issues, and politics itself is a mass of lies, evasions, folly, hatred and schizophrenia.
In times of universal deceit, telling the truth will be a revolutionary act.
One does not establish a dictatorship in order to safeguard a revolution; one makes a revolution in order to establish a dictatorship.
The nationalist not only does not disapprove of atrocities committed by his own side, he has a remarkable capacity for not even hearing about them.
The very concept of objective truth is fading out of the world. Lies will pass into history.
There are some ideas so wrong that only a very intelligent person could believe in them.
We of the sinking middle class may sink without further struggles into the working class where we belong, and probably when we get there it will not be so dreadful as we feared, for, after all, we have nothing to lose.
To survive it is often necessary to fight and to fight you have to dirty yourself.
Nov 3, 2008
Oct 21, 2008
"When I pray, coincidences happen, and when I don't, they don't."
AlphaDFW held a mini Alpha Conference last Saturday in Bedford. For a change, I got to attend and not work. I got to be ministered to, as opposed to ministering. I got to be the wounded one, the thirsty one, the naked one.
During ministry, I went up for prayer about the burden I place on myself, the burden of shouldering orthodoxy instead of the Cross. The fight for His Way to be exactly my way, as opposed to my way being exactly His Way. I'm not happy with the lack of purpose of my home church. I prayed for the frustrations to be lifted so that I might serve and follow Jesus better. Some tears, some sighs too deep for knowing. Nothing obvious to a mule.
The following morning in Sunday School (we're reading The Shack), I sat in my folding chair with my Bible open on my lap. Sinfully, pridefully, I was trying to look pious and studious, so I flipped my Bible open randomly to the New Testament.
Darn. There it was. Again.
The Gospel according to Luke, chapter 9, verses 57 through 62. Underlined and highlighted, climaxing at verse 60. "Jesus said, 'Let the dead bury their own dead; but as for you, go and proclaim the kingdom God.' " Beside this was written in the margins (in my hand) "Leaving ECUSA".
This was the defining passage to me when I decided to walk away from the Episcopal Church, the only manifestation of the Church I had known. The church into which I had been Christened, confirmed, married, Baptized from above, marriage annulled, re-married, called and rejected. There it was. I paused, chuckled, and moved on to my normal pontifications.
Monday morning brought Morning Prayer in the usual darkness (prayer in darkness is a good thing and highly recommended). The Daily Office (duty), prayed with millions the world over, an overlapping, continuous circle of prayer. Confession, Creed, three Scripture readings and the Psaltery, Intercessions. It's all there, the Christian life in orthodoxy distilled. Praised, confessed, read. First the day's Psalm, then the Old Testament lesson. Then the Epistle reading. And the then the Gospel lesson.
Darn. There it was. Again.
Luke 9: 57-62
The Cost of Following Jesus57 As they were walking along the road, a man said to him, I will follow you wherever you go.
58 Jesus replied, Foxes have holes and birds of the air have nests, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head.
59 He said to another man, Follow me. But the man replied, Lord, first let me go and bury my father.
60 Jesus said to him, Let the dead bury their own dead, but you go and proclaim the kingdom of God.
61 Still another said, I will follow you, Lord; but first let me go back and say good-bye to my family.
62 Jesus replied, No-one who puts his hand to the plough and looks back is fit for service in the kingdom of God.
Don't look back. Let the dead bury their own dead. Germans, too.
Piety, Study, and... Action?
Sep 27, 2008
Sep 8, 2008
I received your email with the attachment about Sarah Palin. While this report might be scary and threatening to some, to me it sounds like the same the kind of trash written about Hillary Clinton, Bill Clinton and even Barack Obama. However, since the Clintons are no longer in the race we can leave them out. But what I wonder is why it’s okay to say that Palin is a fundamentalist Christian but not okay to ask why Obama spent twenty years in the pews of Jeremiah Wright’s intolerant church? And why is it okay to allege that Palin wants to destroy Alaska’s wildlife but not okay to ask if Obama plans to support Hamas instead of Israel? And people can accuse Palin of racism based on rumor and hearsay but not hold Obama accountable for playing the race card, quoting Malcolm X and accusing good people, particularly the Clintons, of racism.
While I may not agree with Palin’s politics, I am unmoved by the smear campaign launched against her. Please do not send me any more political emails. While this e-mail goes to great lengths to appear to be politically correct and to be doing me a favor, it’s actually savaging someone’s reputation based on shoddy evidence or outright lies. After forty years of voting for the Democratic candidate for president, I want you to know that these sexist and hateful lies against Sarah Palin you forwarded go against the reason I am a Democrat. Therefore, under no circumstance will I be voting for Obama.
Sep 3, 2008
Twenty years ago, I told my oldest daughter, Anna, she couldn't ride her bike unless she wore a helmet. I had given her a girl's Raleigh Capri drop-bar bike, and had set her loose on the neighborhood (she already knew how to ride). But the helmet edict came from me sometime later. I believed what I was reading without investigating the claims, that death lurked, waiting to pounce on America's children (why would researchers lie about safety? not for "grants", surely?).
Faced with my edict, she chose to quit riding. I won. My will triumphed.
Twenty years later, now living in a small town south of Austin, with a house and a husband, and two small boys, she is in school again at Texas State University in San Marcos (the university formerly known as Southwest Texas State University). She lives 13 miles from campus, and wants to start riding her bike to school, and to town for grocery items. She asked me to keep an eye open for a good used drop-bar bike for under $150 (Austin's not a good place to look for such).
I found, and bought for her ("Happy Birthday!"), a nice aluminum Trek 1220 from about 1998... with Bar-Cons! I ride an old Trek 1500 (1996? time flies), using the same geometry and cast lugs (carbon fibre main tubes), back from when Trek was an American-made Bicycle Company. We'll get a good rack, a lock, some other small items (maybe a crash hat), and away she goes.
I hope she'll take LAB's Road 1 course, but I'm not pushing it, or her. And not a word about you know what.
(This has been cross-posted from CycleDallas.org. The power of pride... in your kids.)
Sep 2, 2008
Aug 19, 2008
Thank you for giving me your Gift of Life.
Thank you for my mother and father, June and Harry Summer, who not only shared their physical being with me, but also their spiritual being, as well as their love for each other (even in hard times), and their love for you. Thank you for having them show me that love isn’t easy, and it isn’t cheap, but that it is worth the cost.
Thank you for the pain you have carried me through, which softened my heart to feel the pain of others.
Thank you for my wife, Linden, a true child of yours who has helped me to be faithful to you.
Thank you, Lord, for my daughters Anna and Catherine. Lord, you have blessed me beyond my imagination by allowing me to participate in some small way in their lives. Again and again I see your hand in their lives, and I marvel at your works. In them, I can see you, and I can see how you planned and prepared my life to be in theirs. Thank you, Lord, for showing me what being a father is all about.
Lord, thank you for Hosea, for June Anne, and for Jesse, for the opportunity to see life continue and thrive, as you have planned it to.
Thank you for their fathers, David and Riley. Thank you, dear Father, for allowing me to be a part of their lives, too. To be a friend when possible, and a model when needed.
Thank you, Father, for giving me your Gift of Life here, and thanks to your sacrifice on the Cross, your Gift of Life Eternal.
Amen and Hallelujah!
Aug 15, 2008
Within minutes, officials would give a lethal injection to Michael Rodriguez, the first of the Texas Seven to be executed for their infamous killing of an Irving police officer on Christmas Eve 2000.
At 6:02, Mr. Rodriguez was led to the execution chamber.
"May I speak now?" he asked.
"No, not yet," a prison official answered.
He was strapped to the gurney, and then his executioners pierced his arms with the needles, first the left, then the right.
At 6:10, he began his final words.
"I know this in no way makes up for all the pain and suffering I gave you," he began. "I am so, so sorry."
He looked directly at Ms. Dalmolin and Ms. Hawkins-Acosta.
"My punishment is nothing compared to the pain and sorrow I have caused. ... I am not strong enough to ask for forgiveness because I don't know if I am worthy," he continued.
"I ask the Lord to please forgive me. I have gained nothing, but just brought sorrow and pain to these wonderful people."
He kept apologizing, calling the families by name. He thanked a couple, Irene and Jack, for "helping me find Christ's love." His words turned to song.
"My Jesus, my Savior, there is none like you," he sang softly. "All of my days I want to praise, let every breath. Shout to the Lord, let us sing ...."
His song trailed off and turned to a sound like snoring. It was 6:13, and his lethal dose had begun. He was pronounced dead at 6:20.
They pulled a white sheet over his face.
By STEVE THOMPSON / The Dallas Morning News
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Aug 8, 2008
Then the disciples went back to their homes, but Mary stood outside the tomb crying. As she wept, she bent over to look into the tomb and saw two angels in white, seated where Jesus' body had been, one at the head and the other at the foot.
They asked her, "Woman, why are you crying?" "They have taken my Lord away," she said, "and I don't know where they have put him." At this, she turned around and saw Jesus standing there, but she did not realize that it was Jesus.
"Woman," he said, "why are you crying? Who is it you are looking for?" Thinking he was the gardener, she said, "Sir, if you have carried him away, tell me where you have put him, and I will get him."
Jesus said to her, "Mary." She turned toward him and cried out in Aramaic, "Rabboni!" (which means Teacher).From the Gospel According to John
And so it is in most churches in America. They have taken my Lord, and I don't know what they have done with him.
Revisionist theologian John Spong says that after Jesus died, they took his body and threw it in the garbage pit, where the wild dogs ate him. Clearly, Spong was speaking for himself and his cohorts in the Episcopal Church.
But what about the "good" churches? What have they done with Jesus? Locked him up between the heavy covers of a book as "The Word", only to be freed for brief moments at the pastors command? Placed under lock and key in a tabernacle built to imitate Hebrew Temple worship? Memorialized him? Forgotten him altogether? Banned him?
Mary didn't find Jesus where she expected to (tomb = church). Not only did she find him outside of the church building, she didn't even recognize him, mistaking him for "Hey-suess" the gardener. But he called her name. He calls yours and mine.
Shall we exit the tomb and enter The Church?
Aug 5, 2008
"In the beginning the church was a fellowship of men and women centering on the living Christ. Then the church moved to Greece, where it became a philosophy. Then it moved to Rome, where it became an institution. Next, it moved to Europe, where it became a culture. And, finally, it moved to America, where it became an enterprise."
-- Richard Halverson, former Chaplain of the United States Senate
Jul 30, 2008
Jul 28, 2008
The Dallas Morning News
Dallas, Texas 75201
July 27, 2008
Dear Sirs and Madams,
As a native Dallasite, I have had to put up with my fellow Texan's taunts that Dallas was really a carpet-bagging Yankee city all my life. While I would often agree that Dallas' northern suburbs certainly had an Eastern tinge to them, I nonetheless defended the honor of my native city as a truly Texian enterprise.
Alas, I fear that I can no longer make that defense for the Dallas Morning News. Looking in the restaurant section of the Week-End Guide, I couldn't help but notice you have dropped the entries for barbecue restaurants. I saw listings for any number of cuisines that would be comfortable in, and native to, Boston, Philadelphia, and Chicago, but nothing for Texas' best and most popular native dish.
Even poor bbq is better than no bbq.
Jul 26, 2008
Jul 23, 2008
Jul 10, 2008
Jul 7, 2008
"The truth isn't the truth until people believe you, and they can't believe you if they don't know what you're saying, and they can't know what you're saying if they don't listen to you, and they won't listen to you if you're not interesting, and you won't be interesting unless you say things imaginatively, originally, freshly."
-- Bill Bernbach
Jul 3, 2008
- Watch the video (Rated R for Language).
- Agree with it (even where he's wrong, he's right).
- Explain to the people you meet how and why it differs from the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Jun 30, 2008
Jun 21, 2008
Born: June 16th, 2008, Seton Hospital, Austin Texas
Mother: Anna Downing (my daughter)
Father: David Downing
Holder: Linden Summer (my wife)
Praise God, from whom ALL blessings flow... especially the little big ones.
Be VERY afraid.
I thought the Obama Campaign's official "Kids for Obama" website that asked children to draw pictures of Obama as a group activity, and encouraged them to talk to their parents about voting for Obama, was about as over the top as it could be. But no.
This is seriously bad stuff.
Jun 20, 2008
We just realized there are now two issues Democrats can never use effectively against Republicans ever again, because of Barack Obama:
(1) Voting Rights --- On May 31st, 2008, the Democrats lost any moral ground in voting rights, and also forfeited all grievances for Florida's handling of the 2000 Gore Recount. When the Democratic Party ruled against voters in favor of Obama on May 31st, 2008, the Democrats lost all moral authority on the issue of voting rights.
(2) Campaign Finance Reform --- On June 19th, 2008, the Democrats lost any moral ground on the issue of campaign finance reform, when presumptive nominee Barack Obama backed out of his firm pledge to hold to current campaign finance reform law. If the Democrats don't hold themselves to this in 2008, why should the Republicans, in this or any other year?
How many more items are the Democrats going to add to this list of issues they can never use against the Republicans again, by following Obama's lead?
If the Democrats keep adding to this list, they beg the question: "What does the Democratic Party stand for now, under Obama, when everything it stood for before was tossed aside in favor of Obama?"
Jun 6, 2008
Jun 5, 2008
Jun 3, 2008
Wikipedia tells of the origin of the term "Yellow Dog Democrat".
"Let it be understood now and hereafter, that this is to be no joint debate," he said in that high-pitched shrill voice of his. "My friends have arranged for the use of this building and I intend to be the only speaker. But it is a tenet of our faith that in a Democratic gathering no man who calls himself a Democrat shall be denied the right to be heard. If the gentleman will be content to ask his question, whatever it is, and abide by my answer to it, I am willing that he should speak."
"That suits me," clarioned the interrupter. "My question is this: Didn't you say at the Louisville convention not four weeks ago that if the Democrats of Kentucky, in convention assembled, nominated a yaller dog for governor you would vote for him?"
"I did," said Hallam calmly.
"Well, then," whooped the heckler, eager now to press his seeming advantage, "in the face of that statement, why do you now repudiate the nominee of that convention, the Honorable William Goebel?"
For his part Hallam waited for perfect quiet and at length got it.
"I admit," he stated blandly, "that I said then what I now repeat, namely, that when the Democratic party of Kentucky, in convention assembled, sees fit in its wisdom to nominate a yaller dog for the governorship of this great state, I will support him — but lower than that ye shall not drag me!"
But lower than that, you will not drag me.
Jun 1, 2008
May 23, 2008
1492. As children we were taught to memorize this year with pride and joy as the year people began living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America. Actually, people had been living full and imaginative lives on the continent of North America for hundreds of years before that. 1492 was simply the year sea pirates began to rob, cheat, and kill them.
The chief weapon of sea pirates, however, was their capacity to astonish. Nobody else could believe, until it was too late, how heartless and greedy they were.
Kurt Vonnegut, Breakfast of Champions
May 19, 2008
I think it's safe to say that if Obama wins the un-Democratic nomination (based upon skewed caucus results and voter disenfranchisement in two of the nation's largest states), that this is the end of the Democratic Party as we have known it since FDR's New Deal. The Democratic Party was re-built by Roosevelt as a coalition of social progressives, labor unions, Southerners, blue collar workers, and African-Americans.
The drive to pass the Voting Rights Act by LBJ cost the Democratic Party the Southern part of the coalition. It was the right thing to do, but the leadership void was filled (partially) by the Stevenson wing of the Democratic Party. The Labor Union members (and some leadership), having achieved so many of their financial goals, began moving toward the fiscal conservatism of the GOP. As the Liberal wing gained more power nationally, socially conservative Democrats began to waver in their support of the Party (including many Union and blue-collar Democrats).
The once powerful coalition that FDR built became a shell, with dangerous fault lines running across it, and since 1960, has only elected three U.S. Presidents. All three came from the South, all three ran as Centrists, and only one was elected to a second full term (Bill Clinton), a a time when the excesses of the Democratic Party had resulted in losing both the Senate and the House to the GOP.
Barack Obama is the fruit of the devolution. Created as a candidate by those who espoused violence against America in the late '60s and early '70s, foisted by the Party "Elites" as both a sop to their loyal African-American support, and as a way to mask their own essential racism/classcism of the "Elites".
The shell has now been broken. Some see this as a "re-birth", while others see this as a death.
I am in the latter category. It is the death of a flawed, but noble, effort for the common good.
What has been born new is a left-wing neo-facism reminiscent of the late '60s, but now driving Toyota Priuses, wearing $150 Birkenstocks, and shopping at Whole Foods. It has combined the "I've Got Mine" attitude of the worst instincts of some Republicans, with the "I Can Do Anything I Want" and "Power Makes Right" attitude of Anarchists and Totalitarians. The result is closer to Libertarianism than to the New Deal.
From communes, Volkswagen buses, and brown rice, to Roth IRAs, $30K Toyota Priuses, and $8 a pound arugula from Whole Foods... what a long strange trip it's been.
May 12, 2008
Apr 21, 2008
Apr 9, 2008
Mar 21, 2008
Is it nothing to you, all you who pass by? •
Look and see if there is any sorrow like my sorrow,
Which was brought upon me, •
which the Lord inflicted
on the day of his fierce anger.
For these things I weep;
my eyes flow with tears; •
for a comforter is far from me,
one to revive my courage.
Remember my affliction and my bitterness, •
the wormwood and the gall!
But this I call to mind, •
and therefore I have hope:
The steadfast love of the Lord never ceases, •
his mercies never come to an end;
They are new every morning; •
great is your faithfulness.
‘The Lord is my portion,’ says my soul, •
‘therefore I will hope in him.’
The Lord is good to those who wait for him, •
to the soul that seeks him.
It is good that we should wait quietly •
for the salvation of the Lord.
For the Lord will not reject for ever; •
though he causes grief, he will have compassion,
According to the abundance of his steadfast love; •
for he does not willingly afflict or grieve anyone.
Lamentations 1.12, 16a,b; 3.19, 21-26, 31-33
The above is a Song of Lamentations from the English Book of Common Worship, and is extracted from the Old Testament book "The Lamentations of Jeremiah".
A different Jeremiah has been in the news lately, a fiery black preacher in Chicago. Videos have been floating about the internet of Jeremiah Wright calling out God's judgment to damn America, not to bless us. In response to the terror attacks of September 11, 2001, he described those attacks as God's judgment upon America for being imperialistic (something Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson did as well, but for our being libertine). The very different sins of America that both Jeremiah Wright and Pat Robertson listed are indeed sins that I have considered as I look at my country. We should indeed fear God's judgment.
Following 9-11, everyone started putting up signs, banners, and bumper stickers that read, "God Bless America", even though we are materially the most "blessed" nation the world has ever seen. My wife suggested that we shouldn't be saying, "God Bless America" at that time, but "Bless God America" instead. I agreed with her, and produced thousands of bumper stickers to that effect.
And that is where Jeremiah Wright (and perhaps his disciple, Barack Obama) are mistaken. The true prophet's call should not be "God damn America", calling on God's wrath, but "Bless God, America", calling our nation to repentance in seeking God's mercy, as the Biblical prophet Jeremiah did so long ago for Israel's sake.
Bless God, America.
Mar 20, 2008
Prior to Lent beginning this year, I was asked by a children's Sunday School Teacher if I knew what Maundy Thursday meant. She didn't know, but wanted to tell the kids what it meant. I had forgotten.
Here's the Wikipedia definition:
The word Maundy is derived through Middle English, and Old French mandé, from the Latin mandatum, the first word of the phrase "Mandatum novum do vobis ut diligatis invicem sicut dilexi vos" ("A new commandment I give unto you, That ye love one another; as I have loved you"), the statement by Jesus in the Gospel of John (13:34) by which Jesus explained to the Apostles the significance of his action of washing their feet. The phrase is used as the antiphon sung during the "Mandatum" ceremony of the washing of the feet, which may be held during Mass or at another time as a separate event, during which a priest or bishop (representing Christ) ceremonially washes the feet of others, typically 12 persons chosen as a cross-section of the community.A new commandment has been given to us, a new mandate... to love one another as Christ Jesus loved us. Why oh why could I not remember what the word maundy means?
Lord Jesus Christ, son of God, have mercy on me, a sinner.
Mar 16, 2008
Cellphone video from Palm Sunday 2008.
Not long after we first joined our church, we were asked to take part in a committee called "Natural Church Development" (NCD). The NCD process was to develop a picture of where the church is in several areas, and identify the strengths and the weaknesses. One of our great strengths was our "Lively Worship" at our 9:30 AM Sunday service.
Part of the survey was also to identify what one was "looked for" in a church. My response was that I looked for "a palpable sense of the Holy Spirit's presence". The crude cellphone video above indicates why we chose (and choose) Bethel Lutheran Church (warts and all).
[UPDATE] The NCD survey found two places that were weak at my church. The weak spots are often what hold a congregation back form being a Great Commission congregation. Our two weaknesses were/are 1) Passionate Spirituality, and 2) Need-based Evangelism. There was a lot of confusion among the committee members what these meant. Some though Passionate Spirituality meant "Jumpin' Jesus" worship, but that's not it. Some others thought that "Need-based Evangelism" referred to doing good works (food pantry, Habitat, etc.), but they were also mistaken.
Passionate Spirituality refers to an immediate and powerful sense of God's presence in our lives, usually realized through personal prayer. Need-based evangelism refers to be convinced that people need to be told the Good News of Jesus Christ for their salvation. In response to those two needs, I have just one word: Alpha.
Mar 15, 2008
Our relation to God is unrighteous. Secretly we are ourselves the masters in this relationship. We are not concerned with God, but with our own requirements, to which God must adjust Himself. Our arrogance demands that, in addition to everything else, some super-world should also be known and accessible to us. Our conduct calls for some deeper sanction, some approbation and remuneration from another world.
Our well-regulated, pleasurable life longs for some hours of devotion, some prolongation into infinity. And so, when we set God upon the throne of the world, we mean by God ourselves. In "believing" on Him, we justify, enjoy, and adore ourselves.
-- Karl Barth, The Epistle to the Romans
Mar 14, 2008
Since God has so generously let us in on what he is doing, we're not about to throw up our hands and walk off the job just because we run into occasional hard times. We refuse to wear masks and play games. We don't maneuver and manipulate behind the scenes. And we don't twist God's Word to suit ourselves. Rather, we keep everything we do and say out in the open, the whole truth on display, so that those who want to can see and judge for themselves in the presence of God.
If our Message is obscure to anyone, it's not because we're holding back in any way. No, it's because these other people are looking or going the wrong way and refuse to give it serious attention. All they have eyes for is the fashionable god of darkness. They think he can give them what they want, and that they won't have to bother believing a Truth they can't see. They're stone-blind to the dayspring brightness of the Message that shines with Christ, who gives us the best picture of God we'll ever get.
Remember, our Message is not about ourselves; we're proclaiming Jesus Christ, the Master. All we are is messengers, errand runners from Jesus for you. It started when God said, "Light up the darkness!" and our lives filled up with light as we saw and understood God in the face of Christ, all bright and beautiful.
If you only look at us, you might well miss the brightness. We carry this precious Message around in the unadorned clay pots of our ordinary lives. That's to prevent anyone from confusing God's incomparable power with us. As it is, there's not much chance of that. You know for yourselves that we're not much to look at. We've been surrounded and battered by troubles, but we're not demoralized; we're not sure what to do, but we know that God knows what to do; we've been spiritually terrorized, but God hasn't left our side; we've been thrown down, but we haven't broken. What they did to Jesus, they do to us—trial and torture, mockery and murder; what Jesus did among them, he does in us—he lives! Our lives are at constant risk for Jesus' sake, which makes Jesus' life all the more evident in us. While we're going through the worst, you're getting in on the best!
2 Corinthians 4:1-12, The Message
Mar 11, 2008
My church rewarded Sunday School teachers with various gifts last week. Each teacher/facilitator got a little gift box with candy, a $10 gift card (Lowe's for the men, Starbucks for the ladies), and this bookmark.
Works Righteousness, the idea that we can get rewards from God for our good behavior, creeps into every human endeavor. It's the premise behind Islam and Mormonism, and it denies the Cross.
I'm not sure if I should continue leading a Sunday School class after receiving this award, this human stain. I'm not sure if I can. The very thought of this sickens me unto death.
Mar 10, 2008
I attended two events of interest to me over the weekend. First, I attended a Healing Prayer workshop at an LCMS church in far southwest Arlington (next to Pantego). Being as this was a true "hands-on" training session, it really underscored the LCMS church I recently visited where the congregational leaders voted to not touch each other for fear of spreading germs.
I also attended the opening of a old friend's art exhibition relating to a cover she did for the 2005 Neiman Marcus Christmas catalog (this is a really big deal). Pauline is a friend of mine from university days, with whom I exhibited in art galleries in the 1980s. Very talented lady, but one whom I had pretty much lost contact with until recently. Her exhibition focused on the process involved in coming up with the final design for the Christmas Book, not so much the end product. Hence the show's name: "Process".
As God often does with me, He stitched these two events together as a narrative.
First the art. When I was an artist (if that may be said of me), my interest was drawing, but not in the way that people tend to think. Drawing is often seen as a preliminary step to the production of art through the use of studies. A drawing might be seen as preparing the way for the "art" which was to follow, and was of lesser importance. Subservient, perhaps, to the finished product. But for me, the drawing was itself the completion of the thought, almost a snapshot of the brain's activity. In a drawing, especially in the chaotic forms of a sketchpad with multiple compositions intertwined by the desire to save paper, I could see the artist's mind and soul at work. It was as if they had dug deep into their experience and held up large gobs of their life for my inspection.
Preliminary sketches, studies, roughs, thumbnails, and paper napkins all spoke to me in a way that a finished painting or sculpture (or a "finished" drawing) never could. Here was the living process of thinking, chewing, fighting, and loving that would give up its life for a finished product. In the pursuit of the final product, the real would be exchanged for an idol.
The Healing Prayer Workshop dealt with the aspects of living the Christian life "in the Spirit" as was described in the new Testament Book of Acts and the Pauline Epistles. There was no "church" as we think of one today... a place you dress up to go to on Sunday morning. In the first century, one didn't go to church, one was the church. As part of the Spirit of God Filled Life, miracles not only happened, they were expected (if not predicted). The whole point of being a follower of The Way was to have your spirit super-infused with God's spirit, like a sponge soaking up water to the point of leakage. One moved in a community of water-sloshing sponges, constantly being refilled. The idea was to make everything wet.
But as the church (the ecclesia) "matured", it became "Church". The Church became an entity apart from the sloshing-sponges. It became a place of memories and tales of the Sloshing Spirit, but a place where such outbursts might damage the man-made structure. The process of being filled with the Spirit of God gave way to the product of Church. Because God's sponge-filling could be (and usually was) messy, the Church needed to codify it, and make it part of ritual that the Church could control. So, as they focused on the final product of "Christianity", the process of becoming a "Christ-ian" was almost completely lost.
To quote myself...
Preliminary sketches, studies, roughs, thumbnails, and paper napkins all spoke to me in a way that a finished painting or sculpture (or a "finished" drawing) never could. Here was the living process of thinking, chewing, fighting, and loving that would give up its life for a finished product. The real would be exchanged for an idol.Here we now have the real exchanged for the unreal. The Spirit in Flesh exchanged for a lifeless idol.
"The Church welcomes you. Now sit down." No thanks. I must be on the Way now.
Mar 4, 2008
"I'm not a member of any organized political party, I'm a Democrat!"
-- Will Rogers
The caucus was a mess, the worst side of politics. No obvious shenanigans, but I didn’t stay for the whole thing (4:30 AM comes pretty early here). Almost 200 people, pretty evenly split between Obambots and Clintonians. There were only 12 at the last precinct caucus (which exposes the story that Reps were voting for Hill as false… may prove just the opposite). It WAS fun to see the GOP precinct meeting moved to a small room to make more room available for the Dems. Voting was easily 4:1 Dem to Rep at my precinct
I saw the Deaniacs there, and they are all Obamamaniacs now. Perhaps there’s a connection. I’m eager for Hill to get the nomination and show the Quack from Vermont the door. The good doctor represents a myopic view of America.
The “Texas Two-Step” is clearly meant to negate/mitigate the general primary results. It’s a bad system only a pol could come up with.
The GOP-controlled suburbs and the more Dem urban cities all had a roughly 60/40 Obama/Hillary split (urban was really closer to 65/35)… which I interpret as GOP crossovers voting Obama in the burbs, and high AA turnout in the core.
Mar 3, 2008
Feb 28, 2008
Feb 27, 2008
"Ashes to ashes, dust to dust."
Meaning: We come from dust; we return to dust.
Origin: From the English Burial Service. Adapted from the Biblical text, Genesis 3:19 (King James Version):
"In the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat bread, till thou return unto the ground; for out of it wast thou taken: for dust thou art, and unto dust shalt thou return."While I don't recommend it, a glimpse at how an embalmed corpse decays inside of an airtight box might change your mind about having your loved ones cremated (or their having you cremated).
My father specified that he be cremated, and his ashes spread over the graves of my mother and sister. It was a very windy spring day on the Texas plains, so we had to dump his ashes in a small pile. One of my young nieces walked over to the pile of ashes as the adults said prayers, and started poking the small mound with a stick. Her mother told her to stop, as those were the remains of my dad. She looked at her mother, then looked back at the ashes, and said, "That's not Grampa Harry."
Truer words were never spoken. Had she seen an embalmed cadaver, she might not have made the important disassociation.
Feb 25, 2008
Christian Quotation of the Day
February 25, 2008
... for it is light that makes everything visible. This is
why it is said: "Wake up, O sleeper, rise from the dead, and
Christ will shine on you."
-- Ephesians 5:14 (NIV)
We have the means to evangelize our country; but they are
slumbering in the pews of our churches.
... John R. W. Stott (b.1921)
Quiet time reflection:
Lord, awaken Your people to the need for Christ
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Feb 22, 2008
With the emergence of Sen. John McCain as the presumptive Republican nominee, the choice for the Democrats in the 2008 presidential election now shifts to who is best positioned to beat him, in what promises to be a more hard-fought campaign -- and perhaps a nastier one -- than Democrats anticipated.
Sen. Barack Obama's promise of transformation and an end of partisan politics has its seductive appeal. The Bush-Cheney era, after all, has been punctuated by smear campaigns, character assassinations and ideological fervor.
Nobody dislikes such poisonous partisanship, especially in foreign policy, more than I do. I am one of very few Foreign Service officers who have served as ambassador in the administrations of both George H.W. Bush and Bill Clinton, yet I have spent the past four years fighting a concerted character assassination campaign orchestrated by the George W. Bush White House.
Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton is one of the few who fully understood the stakes in that battle. Time and again, she reached out to my wife -- outed CIA officer Valerie Plame Wilson -- and me to remind us that as painful as the attacks were, we simply could not allow ourselves to be driven from the public square by bullying. To do so would validate the radical right's thesis that the way to win debates is to demonize opponents, taking full advantage of the natural desire to avoid confrontation, even if it means yielding on substantive issues. Hillary knew this from experience, having spent the better part of the past 20 years fighting the Republican attack machine. She is a fighter.
But will Mr. Obama fight? His brief time on the national scene gives little comfort. Consider a February 2006 exchange of letters with Mr. McCain on the subject of ethics reform. The wrathful Mr. McCain accused Mr. Obama of being "disingenuous," to which Mr. Obama meekly replied, "The fact that you have now questioned my sincerity and my desire to put aside politics for the public interest is regrettable but does not in any way diminish my deep respect for you." Then one of McCain's aides said of Obama, "Obama wouldn't know the difference between an RPG and a bong."
Mr. McCain was insultingly dismissive but successful in intimidating his inexperienced colleague. Thus, in his one face-to-face encounter with Mr. McCain, Mr. Obama failed to stand his ground.
What gives us confidence Mr. Obama will be stronger the next time he faces Mr. McCain, a seasoned political fighter with extensive national security credentials? Even more important, what special disadvantages does Mr. Obama carry into this contest on questions of national security?
How will Mr. Obama answer Mr. McCain about his careless remark about unilaterally bombing Pakistan -- perhaps blowing up an already difficult relationship with a nuclear state threatened by Islamic extremists? How will Mr. Obama respond to charges made by the Kenyan government that his campaigning activities in Kenya in support of his distant cousin running for president there made him "a stooge" and constituted interference in the politics of an important and besieged ally in the war on terror?
How will he answer charges that his desire for unstructured personal summits without preconditions with a host of America's adversaries, from Mahmoud Ahmadinejad to Kim Jong Il, would be little more than premature capitulation?
Senator Obama claims superior judgment on the war in Iraq based on one speech given as a state legislator representing the most liberal district in Illinois at an anti-war rally in Chicago, and in so doing impugns the integrity of those who were part of the debate on the national scene. In mischaracterizing the debate on the Authorization for the Use of Military Force as a declaration of war, he implicitly blames Democrats for George Bush's war of choice. Obama's negative attack line does not conform to the facts. Nothing could be farther from the truth. I should know. I was among the most prominent anti-war voices at the time -- and never heard about or from then Illinois State Senator Obama.
George Bush made it clear publicly when lobbying for the bill that he wanted it not to go to war but to give him the leverage he needed to go to the United Nations and secure intrusive inspections of Saddam's suspected Weapons of Mass Destruction sites. Who could argue with that goal? Colin Powell made the same case individually to Senators in the run up to the vote, including to Senator Clinton. It is not credible that Senator Obama would not have succumbed to Secretary Powell's arguments had he been in Washington at the time. Why not? Obama himself suggested so in 2004. "I'm not privy to Senate intelligence reports,' Obama said. 'What would I have done? I don't know." He also told the Chicago Tribune in 2004: "There's not much of a difference between my position and George Bush's position at this stage." According to press reports, Powell is now an informal adviser to Mr. Obama.
In his tendentious attack, Obama never mentions that Hans Blix, the chief United Nations weapons inspectors, declared that without the congressional Authorization for the Use of Military Force the inspectors would never have been allowed into Iraq. Hillary's approach -- and that of the majority of Democrats in the Senate -- was to let the inspectors complete their work while building an international coalition. Hillary's was the road untaken. The betrayal of the American people, and of the Congress, came when President Bush refused to allow the inspections to succeed, and that betrayal is his and his party's, not the Democrats.
Contrary to the myth of his campaign, 2008 is not the year for transcendental transformation. The task for the next administration will be to repair the damage done by eight years of radical rule. And the choice for Americans is clear: four more years of corrupt Republican rule, senseless wars, evisceration of the Constitution, emptying of the national treasury -- or rebuilding our government and our national reputation, piece by piece. Obama's overtures to Republicans, or "Obamacans" as the Senator calls them, is a substitute for true national unity based on a substantive program. His marginal appeals have marginally helped him in caucuses in Republican states that Democrats won't win in the general election. But his vapid rhetoric will not withstand the winds of November. His efforts will be correctly seen by the Republican leadership as a sign of weakness to be exploited. While disaffected Democrats may long for comity in our politics after years of being harangued and belittled by the right wing echo chamber, the Rovians currently promoting Obama are looking to destroy him should he become the nominee. Obama's claim to float uniquely above the fray and avoid polarization will be short-lived. He is no less mortal than any other Democrat -- Michael Dukakis, Al Gore, John Kerry -- all untouched at the beginning of their campaigns and all mauled by the end. We should never forget recent history.
In order to effect practical change against a determined adversary, we do not need a would-be philosopher-king but a seasoned gladiator who understands the fight Democrats will face in the fall campaign and in governing.
Theodore Roosevelt once commented, "It is not the critic who counts: not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles or where the doer of deeds could have done better. The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood, who strives valiantly, who errs and comes up short again and again, who, at the best, knows, in the end, the triumph of high achievement, and who, at the worst, if he fails, at least he fails while daring greatly."
If he were around today, TR might be speaking of the woman in the arena. Hillary Clinton has been in that arena for a generation. She is one of the few to have defeated the attack machine that is today's Republican Party and to have emerged stronger. She is deeply knowledgeable about governing; she made herself into a power in the Senate; she is respected by our military; and she never flinches. She has never been intimidated, not by any Republican -- not even John McCain.
Barack Obama claims to represent the future, but it should be increasingly evident that he is not the man for this moment, especially with Mr. McCain's arrival. We've seen a preview of that contest already. It was a TKO.
Former Ambassador Joseph C. Wilson IV was in the Foreign Service for 23 years, and served in Iraq in the years leading up to the Persian Gulf war. He is the author of "The Politics of Truth." His e-mail is firstname.lastname@example.org.