Friday, August 31, 2007

Bible Reading: Psalms

Psalm 71(72): 12-17

For he shall rescue the poor man when he cries out, and the afflicted when he has no one to help him.

He shall have pity for the lowly and the poor; the lives of the poor he shall save.

From fraud and violence he shall redeem them, and precious shall their blood be in his sight.

May he live to be given the gold of Arabia, and to be prayed for continually; day by day shall they bless him.

May there be an abundance of grain upon the earth; on the tops of the mountains the crops shall rustle like Lebanon; the city dwellers shall flourish like the verdure of the fields.

May his name be blessed forever; as long as the sun his name shall remain.

In him shall all the tribes of the earth be blessed; all the nations shall proclaim his happiness.

Bible Reading: Psalms

Psalms 17(18): 32-35

For who is God except the Lord? Who is a rock, save our God?

The God who girded me with strength and kept my way unerring;

Who made my feet swift as those hinds and set me on the heights.

Who trained my hands for war and my arms to bend a bow of brass.

Bible Reading: John

John 10: 40-42

And again he went away beyond the Jordan, to the place where John was at first baptizing; and there he stayed. And many came to him; and they were saying, "John indeed worked no sign. All things, however, that John said of this man were true." And many believed in him.

Fr. Groeschel on Eucharistic Devotion

Excerpt from "In the Presence of Our Lord: The History, Theology and Psychology of Eucharistic Devotion" by Father Benedict J. Groeschel, CFR and James Monti (1997) Our Sunday Visitor Publishing Division:

Eucharistic devotions of all kinds are coming back. A legitimate question is why. One may give many reasons, from the inspiration of the Holy Spirit (if you are pleased by this comeback) to the decline of society (if you are not pleased). There is, I think, a historical reason that needs to be considered-especially by those interested in the pastoral life of the Church. We live in very lonely times. Modern people have more solitude in their lives than people did in the past. With the virtual end of the extended family, with the modern preference for privacy, with the solitude in the midst of a crowd that one sees as an obvious necessity in the multitudes of large cities-people spend much less time interacting in a personal way with one another. The impersonal one-way communication of the media now substitutes for the shared recreation and cultural activities of the past. One might compare the lively paintings of farm life in Pieter Bruegel or the friendly taverns of the Dutch masters to the lonely but commonplace urban scenes of Edward Hopper to get some sense of the loneliness of our times. There are still great public events where people experience each other with shared feelings, and they range from papal visits to rock concerts-but all in all we live in lonely times, and it appears that the coming age of virtual reality is even more likely to be an age of the solitary.

It should be no surprise then that the mysterious and personal presence of Christ should have a profound human appeal. Nor need there be any fear that this devotion could lead to any kind of spiritual isolation, so long as we carefully keep the Eucharistic Presence linked with the Paschal Mystery, which encompasses all men and women, and with Holy Communion, which draws together all the faithful disciples of Christ (page 173).

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Bible Reading: Genesis

Genesis 6:12

And God looked upon the world and saw how degenerate, debased and vicious it was, for all humanity had corrupted their way upon the earth and lost their true direction.

Great set bought from Ignatius Press

I just received a shipment of books from Ignatius Press, and highly recommend them. Their quality is already known and obvious to those of us in the Roman Catholic faith, but I wanted to blog about them as a great resource for other people who might want to purchase a great book about the faith. Books can be ordered from their web site.

I bought the four volume "The Sunday Sermons of the Great Fathers: A Manual of Preaching, Spiritual Reading and Meditation" translated and edited by M. F. Toal, D.D. I love this publication! It is a collection of the week by week Sunday sermons of many of the Church Doctors, Early Fathers, and Great Fathers of the Catholic Church. For example, this past Sunday was the 21st Sunday after Pentecost and there are readings by St. Basil the Great ("Against the Angry" how interesting and timely lol), St. John Chrysostom ("Homily on the Servant Who Owed") and St. Ephraim ("On Calumny and Oppression"). Each Sunday also has the accompanying appropriate exposition from the Catena Aurea of St. Thomas. Each page of these books is like a banquet.

Where are likable people?

People just are not likable anymore. I'm old enough to remember what friendliness and sociability were like. People were relaxed around each other, and enjoyed each other's company, without judging them. The most a person would do is roll one's eyes at a friend's habits or affectations, while at the same time maintaining that warm fondness in your heart for your friend, your neighbor, your acquaintance. Everyone has an agenda, everyone has a secret identity, and everyone has an ax to grind nowadays. Like the ancient Greek who searched for the one honest man, I feel like I am increasingly searching for people who are just plain honest likeable. And trust me, I have pretty low standards for the accomplishments and verbosity of my friends. I miss the people I knew as a child who were farmers, auto mechanics, who did not even know what erudite means, but knew how to be a friend.

Favorite sayings of mine by Fatima

Imam Hassan (AS) said, on the Friday night I saw my mother [Fatima (s.a.)] standing in her arch of prayer. She was continuously kneeling and performing prostration till the dawn broke. I would hear her pray for the faithful men and women, but she did not at all pray for herself. I said, 'Oh mother why did you not pray for yourself like you prayed for others?' so she replied, 'Oh my son, first the neighbor and there after your own house.'

One day a lady came to Fatima (SA) said 'I have a weak old mother who does not know a few problems about her service (prayers). She has sent me towards you to question you (about them). Thus Fatima answered her (questions). And the number of her queries reached to ten and Fatima (SA) replied to all her questions. Then she (the woman) got ashamed because of the high number of her questions. And said, 'Oh daughter of the Prophet (SAW), I do not put you to more inconvenience than this.' Fatima (SA) said, 'Ask me what you do not know. Have you ever seen a person who is one day hired to carry a heavy thing to the roof top from ground for an amount (equal to) a thousand dinnars [nearly a hundred thousand Miskal (unit of weight) of gold] and he may feel himself tired.' She said 'No'. Fatima (SA) said, 'I have been hired by Allah to get a wages which if the space between the earth and sky is filled up with pearls still (That wages) would be more than it for each of the questions I may answer you. Therefore, I deserve it that I must not feel tired exhausted.'

The link takes you to a lovely page about Muhammed's youngest daughter, Fatima. I've copied here two of my favorite sayings/stories about her.

I have never understood why anyone would say anything negative about her, and when I have heard of such, it hurts me very deeply and angers me. She lived an exemplary life, even allowing herself to be married into a poverty situation by making a choice based on love among the many richer hands she could have had. Her devotion to one God was flawless. She had all of the qualities that certain "modern women" claim to have, but do not, in truth, because Fatima was virtuous and pious, in addition to being learned and independent.


Two years on, memorial hurricane
had raised ocean, angered seaweed
and body slammed the coast.

Bible Reading: Sirach, and historical context

Sirach 34

Empty and false are the hopes of the senseless, and fools are borne aloft by dreams. Like a man who catches at shadows or chases the wind, is the one who believes in dreams. What is seen in dreams is to reality what the reflection of a face is to the face itself. Can the unclean produce the clean? Can the liar even speak the truth? Divination, omens and dreams all are unreal; what you already expect, the mind depicts. Unless it be a vision specially sent by the Most High, fix not year heart on it; for dreams have led many astray, and those who believed in them have perished. The Law is fulfilled without fail, and perfect wisdom is found in the mouth of the faithful man.

A man with training gains wide knowledge; a man of experience speaks sense. One never put to the proof knows little, whereas with travel a man adds to his resourcefulness. I have seen much in my travels, learned more than ever I could say. Often I was in danger of death, but by these attainments I was saved.

Lively is the courage of those who fear the Lord, for they put their hope in their savior; he who fears the Lord is never alarmed, never afraid; for the Lord is his hope. Happy the soul that fears the Lord! In whom does he trust, and who is his support? The eyes of the Lord are upon those who love him; he is their mighty shield and strong support, a shelter from the heat, a shade from the noonday sun, a guard against stumbling, a help against falling. He buoys up the spirits, brings a sparkle to the eyes, gives health and life and blessing.

Tainted his gifts who offers in sacrifice ill-gotten good! Mock presents from the lawless win not God’s favor. The Most High approved not the gifts of the godless, nor for their many sacrifices does he forgive their sins. Like the man who slays a son in his father’s presence is he who offers sacrifice from the possessions of the poor. The bread of charity is life itself for the needy; he who withholds it is a man of blood. He slays his neighbor who deprives him of his living; he sheds blood who denies the laborer his wages.

If one man builds up and another tears down, what do they gain but trouble? If one man prays and another curses, whose voice will the Lord hear? If a man again touches a corpse after he has bathed, what did he gain by the purification? So with a man who fasts for his sins, but then goes and commits them again: Who will hear his prayer, and what has he gained by his mortification?

The Book of Sirach was written by Jesus, son of Eleazar, son of Sirach, in Hebrew, between 200 and 175 BC. The text was translated into Greek by the author’s grandson, who also wrote a forward to the text. Read what he wrote and remind yourself that this grandson wrote this introduction sometime around 132 BC, very near to the time of the birth of Jesus of Nazareth just over a hundred years later:

Many important truths have been handed down to us through the Law, the Prophets, and the later authors; and for these the instruction and wisdom of Israel merit praise. Now, those who are familiar with these truths must not only understand them themselves, but a lover of wisdom, be able, in speech and in writing, to help others less familiar. Such a one was my grandfather, Jesus, who, having devoted himself for a long time to the diligent study of the Law, the Prophets, and the rest of the books of our ancestors [comment: he means here the Sacred Scriptures of the Old Testament written before the time of Sirach, according to the threefold division of the present Hebrew Bible], and having developed a thorough familiarity with them, was moved to write something himself in the nature of instruction and wisdom, in order that those who love wisdom might, by acquainting themselves with what he too had written, make even greater progress in living with conformity with the Divine Law. [comment: Though not included in the Hebrew Bible after the 1st century AD, nor accepted by Protestants, the Book of Sirach has always been recognized by the Catholic Church as divinely inspired and canonical, except for this forward, which is important for its information.]

You therefore are now invited to read it in a spirit of attentive good will, with indulgence for any apparent failure on our part, despite earnest efforts, in the interpretation of particular passages. For words spoken originally in Hebrew are not as effective when they are translated into another language. That is true not only of this book but of the Law itself, the Prophets, and the rest of the books, which differ no little when they are read in the original. [comment: Are you not amazed to read the words of the translating grandson of an author of a Bible book, 2139 years after they were written? And how plain and relaxed they are about the problems of translation that the holiest men of their times faced then? It makes the harshness and rigidity of argument on this subject nowadays even more painful in comparison. The holiest people of the time of the Bible authorship did not act as though every word was life or death in its exact accuracy of translation. Instead they kept their priority on conveying the divine wisdom.]
I arrived in Egypt in the thirty-eighth year of the reign of King Euergetes and while there, I found a reproduction of our valuable teaching [comment: this is the source of the 132 BC date for the writing of this forward.] I therefore considered myself in duty bound to devote some diligence and industry to the translation of this book. Many sleepless hours of close application have I devoted in the interval to finishing the book for publication, for the benefit of those living abroad who wish to acquire wisdom and are disposed to live their lives according to the standards of the Law.

Is this not a wonderful forward by a religious and charmingly open grandson? Bless his heart, along with of course his grandfather, the author of Sirach, for their holy work. By reading this you are first hand experiencing the thoughts of the grandson of the author of a Bible book that has contributed to the Catholic Church liturgy. Read Sirach 1: 1-13 here:

All wisdom comes from the Lord and with him it remains forever. The sand of the seashore, the drops of rain, the days of eternity: who can number these? Heaven’s height, earth’s breadth, the depths of the abyss: who can explore these? Before all things else wisdom was created; and prudent understanding from eternity. To whom has wisdom’s roots been revealed? Who knows her subtleties? There is but one, wise and truly awe-inspiring, seated upon his throne: It is the Lord; he created her, has seen her and taken note of her. He has poured her forth upon all his works, upon every living thing according to his bounty; he has lavished her upon his friends.

Fear of the Lord is glory and splendor, gladness and a festive crown. Fear of the Lord warms the heart, giving gladness and joy and length of days. He who fears the Lord will have a happy end; even on the day of his death he will be blessed. The beginning of wisdom is the fear of the Lord, which is formed with the faithful in the womb. With devoted men was she created from of old, and with her children her beneficence abides.

**Notice the beautiful last few sentences that refer to the preborn baby as having the beginning of wisdom in the fear of the Lord! I’ve alluded to this in my writings that the soul is received by the baby upon its conception and quickening, and also the accompaniment and instruction of its guardian angel. People two thousand years ago understood the sanctity and perfection of preborn life. How smart are people today?

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Extrasensory Abilities, Do Not "Fortunetell"

Extrasensory Abilities: Quick guidelines

I listened to some people conversing about psychic, fortunetelling, and how it relates to God’s will and prohibitions against divination in the Bible. As I’ve mentioned before, I spent about four years undercover immersed in this world, when I decided to accept the “hint” when a “friend” told me about a certain really cool astrology website. What I learned still makes my hair stand on end. For example, right after the September 11 attack, “psychics” posted that the souls of those who died were “trapped in a gold dome” over the ruins of the World Trade Center, and needed “help” from psychics to “push them over into home.” That’s all you need to hear to know how certain New Age practitioners put themselves over God. Sure, uh huh, God is so inept and has such a poor system in place that he needs the help of blunt smoking New Agers to get souls to heaven. Anyway, the people who were talking today were well meaning, trying to understand how to think about and utilize extrasensory gifts that are real, without confusing them with activities prohibited by God.

I don’t feel like writing a lot tonight; I’m more interested in some sewing that I’m doing, because honestly, I’m tired of having to yell so much. But when people ask I do respond, glad that at least they are asking. First of all, there is a difference between having some sort of extrasensory ability and calling oneself “psychic” while performing divination or fortunetelling. Everyone has some sort of extrasensory gift, because that simply means that one is obtaining knowledge through a mechanism other than the normal senses. Intuition, foreboding, extreme inspiration, and mental connection with some people are all examples of extrasensory activity. For example, while grocery shopping one day years ago I knew the exact moment my best friend’s mother died, because I both saw and heard her soul pass. For those of you curious about it, you know how many report racing down the “tunnel” toward the light? I heard the “whoosh” and saw her soul zoom down that tunnel as I looked up to the sky. That’s an example of extrasensory knowledge. The difference is that I made no effort to predict when she would die. Even if I “knew” I neither would say so nor would I allow myself to even think about it (I have great mind control; better than anyone I know) because everything is possible in God until the very end. Diviners and forecasters manipulate themselves and others to narrow down the many options in life that God places on the table. So here I am role modeling for you that it is alright to allow and not deny the existence of extrasensory gifts, but it is wrong to play the psychic.

One thing I need to clear up is what is a prophet? A prophet is someone who is empowered by God to speak on his behalf. You can read about prophets in the Bible; there is no mystery there. The vast majority of them in the Bible were consecrated priests, so their calling to being a prophet was grounded in 100 percent fidelity, humility and orthodoxy of belief in God. No one has the right to call themselves a prophet today, to be honest. I mean, this isn’t even a hard concept to understand. There is no such thing as a prophet who is not 100 percent in submission to the God of Abraham. Prophets were not fortunetellers; that is an abomination. Read the many stories of the prophets in the Old Testament and you will notice one thing. The vast majority of them are reporting on behalf of God that “if this or that person or nation does not repent” “then this chastisement or disaster will happen.” Often the person or people do change their ways and God does not allow the chastisement or disaster to take place.

Fortunetellers try to usurp God by saying what will happen in the future without any options. They in truth cannot even begin to see the many options that exist at every moment to change a future consequence of current acts. I will give a prosaic contemporary example that I think helped “astrologers” that I was working with to understand the limitations and damage of what they are doing.

Often people ask about auspicious times to start business ventures, based on astrology. One day I was so tired of reading over and over the astrology “rules” for setting up a “successful” business, because it was obvious that the success of business was assumed to only be how long it lasted and how profitable it was. I posted on this bulletin board the point that even if one believed their own assumptions about the validity of astrology as a tool, they were ignoring many business “success” scenarios. What if you had a new business that lasted only four years, for example, but provided diapers, baby food, and other necessities in an underserved area during that time? Is that not worthy for those four years? And what about the jobs that employees had during that time? Must the business make you rich and last for decades to be a success? What if your business lost money but saved lives? Is that not a reason to have the business? I never got a reply from these folks (since they were busy thinking I was too stupid to realize that I’m reincarnated somebody) but using my “extrasensory prowess” ha ha, I do believe that this helped some of those who read it to have a huge light bulb light up.

There is no mistaking true knowledge that comes directly from God, but many people think that they are in touch with God, when they experience extrasensory perceptions, but they are not. Extrasensory abilities are totally earthbound. In other words, one is not accessing heaven or hell, or any of the residents of those places, nor God nor angels when one has extrasensory information. The fact that some people think they are receiving divine direction ought to be a big alarm bell to themselves and others, because it is their own minds that are providing the “wrappers” around their extrasensory information. They project God, angels, dead people, and so forth as the providers of information around the valid information, thus making it invalid. Part of it is understandable, because the human brain strives to fill in invisible space with an image. There are a lot of studies about how people’s brains fill in the gaps in one’s eyeball vision so that one sees complete scenes and pictures. It is the same with some people who have an extrasensory experience. Their brains in human and ego frailty wrap the image of a divine being around their experience so that they feel they are latching onto the source of their information, plus there’s some attempt to glorify and validate there. But it is incorrect. Again, the prophets in the Bible saw on earth the format that God chose to utilize, and sometimes it was only a “small voice” (one of my favorite passages in the Bible.) People have a responsibility to not inflate the extrasensory experience to personify it with a divine entity; that is the way to madness and disaster. Just because an extraordinary gift of information is received does not mean that it is sent by a divine being.

I will give an example. Suppose that a “psychic” “knows” that someone is pregnant before the lady herself knows. Putting aside the cold reading phenomenon, or falsehood (the “psychic” spying on the activities and intentions of the lady) if this is a genuine reading, here is how it is done. Like birds that migrate and animals that exist in their habitats, humans grew up over millions of years in connection with their worldly habitat and each other. There is a lot of information that is stored in what scientist Rupert Sheldrake calls “morphic resonance,” but what I think of as a combination of extrasensory film library, body of knowledge, and extrasensory data that is like a web or a soup that humans live within. For example, thousands of doctors have diagnosed pregnancy. Certain hormones are secreted upon pregnancy. A “psychic” who accurately discerns an existing pregnancy is picking up the extrasensory data threads of the woman’s hormonal changes. God, angels, or the lady’s dead auntie are not “telling” the “psychic” about the baby. A “psychic” may honestly make the mistake of wrapping a visual image around this hormonal/diagnostic because they lack understanding or mental control to avoid the ego mistake, or they make a false claim simply to glorify themselves by claiming a divine connection. But it’s all in their own heads, once they perceive the extrasensory data which is accurate when they must “add on” a glorious source of this information. There are no prophets of God who are receiving information directly from God in heaven. There are some people who have a deep, orthodox Christian faith and prayer life who perceive wisdom from the Holy Spirit (for example, the cardinals who select a Pope who are not being political.) But even this speaking of the Holy Spirit in ordinary people is often contaminated by people who either abuse substance, practice unorthodoxy, or who are pursing agenda. An example of valid movement of the Holy Spirit is the growing interest of the Chinese people in Christianity. Distorted examples of the Holy Spirit are people who claim the spirit tells them how to boss someone else around.

Let’s be honest; nearly everyone today is plastic and agenda driven, seasoned alternately with desperation and inflated self importance. There is hardly anyone who does not think they are more important than God. (God is like some sort of choice in towels at Wal-Mart, to be assessed for “correctness,” “aesthetics,” “ease of use,” and “price.”) Today one can’t even trust a Republican to write a fair article about a Democrat, or vice versa. So how can any “fortuneteller” be, first of all, sane, and second of all, unbiased? Here’s another hair-raising story. During my sojourn I became intrigued by a very prickly and talented “psychic” I had come to know. She kept the relationship strictly phone and computer based. I decided to pay her for readings in order to better analyze where she was getting her information and how she was using it. First of all, she’s, like unfortunately too many women these days, a very cynical, burned by bad family, non Christian hardened lady. So it does not take a genius to see that she is never going to be able to “see” a future for a client that involves baby powder, gingham curtains, and lack of fashion style. People who have been very burned by life, rather than being able to “call it like it is,” are actually too damaged to give positive direction to their clients. Here’s a specific example. While “reading” me over the phone she was distracted for a while. I asked her what was happening, and she told me her “guides” were going all gaga over me with “New Age mumble jumble.” She would not say more, thinking I did not know exactly what was going on. (Since I’m such a dummy who does not know who I “really am” ha ha.) But I knew what was going on because I knew that my identity had been somewhat compromised by her “guides.” And here’s what is so cheesy. Instead of saying, “Oh wow, you are such a holy person! All I see is manifestation of your divine connections” she refused to be generous. This is an example of being envious of someone else’s spiritual goodness (a grave mortal sin against the Holy Spirit by the way.) So even though I maintained my “aw shucks” persona with her, I knew exactly what I was dealing with from that point onward. People who claim to be “psychics” are wounded, damaged, agenda driven, and both consciously and unconsciously bias their reading to the negative and severely edit the information they give their poor sucker clients.

One final thought. I don’t care what astrology, tarot cards, “guides,” pendulums or other trappings of pseudo extrasensory abilities say- there is NEVER a bad time to do a good deed or be righteous. There are no “bad astrology times” to be honest, righteous, provide charity or alms, or love God and neighbor. People who postpone good deeds and rectification of injustice in order to have “the right time for success” are performing a grave sin. They are bearing false witness by stating that there are times when it is OK to delay righteousness, and they are also stealing because they are robbing the person of relief that they are entitled to have. This is the most arrogant of taking of God’s place. The Bible is explicit on this matter, and there are quotations about the need to rectify injustice and provide for others on the spot, both in the Old Testament and in the New Testament. And I have to be honest. I found out quite a bit what politically well connected “psychics” are up to over the years I hung around as the “dummy” who “didn’t know who she was” and they have set themselves up for whacking, some of which will be of the most severe. When you pollute the water that you also drink out of, it’s not karma or psychic wars; it is sheer dumb physics that poisoning the well will catch up with you too.
So that is the difference between being a human being who is blessed with some extrasensory abilities, and a user and manipulator who is going to pull doom and loss upon large parts of society along with yourselves. I keep a close eye upon astrology charts on a daily basis, just like checking the locks on my door each night before bed, because I know how many people are manipulating individuals, society, politics, and the global economy based on astrology. They better have a care soon because God is going to give them conjunction of a flaming asteroid with their Uranus alright.

Bible Reading: A root of sacrament of Penance

Why Catholics believe in the sacrament of Penance and Reconciliation

One helpful passage from the Old Testament showing its valid roots in the Jewish Law

Sirach 34: 23-26
If one man builds up and another tears down, what do they gain but trouble? If one man prays and another curses, whose voice will the Lord hear? If a man again touches a corpse after he has bathed, what did he gain by the purification? So with a man who fasts for his sins, but then goes and commits them again: Who will hear his prayer, and what has he gained by his mortification?

Jesus Christ is the purification, the fasting mortification. Humankind is widely known to be the ones who "touch the corpse after bathing" and "commits them again (sins)." So long as there are sins committed there is need for purification and mortification by touching back to Jesus Christ in the sacrament and striving not to sin again, but being humble in the knowledge that it happens more than most admit.

The rancor of some reformation vs Catholic

I just posted this on a blog where someone considering "swimming the Tiber" is doing some very worthy and polite responses to some of the polemics from the reformed church side.

Hi there. I continue to not see the reformation vs Catholic Church question for an individual as either a debate or a legal/evidence taking endeavor, though I understand your light hearted analogy. I also observe the deadly earnest in which some engage this question like it is combat.

My position is that if one is content where one worships, what is the problem? If one is serene and fulfilled in one's belief as articulated by that place of worship, why consider a change and more so, why attack those who are not there with you? Does not a person's soul know the truth and be serene with it? Does not argumentativeness come from a not admitted inner uncertainty? If the reformers feel they are right, why are they angry at those who sit in a different pew? Catholics do not spend all of their time grinding their teeth over the faith of their distant Christian brothers.

If the answer is that there is a lack of serenity and fulfillment in one's choice, or in the choice of one's brother or sister, what does that actually mean? That is the action of the Holy Spirit upon a person's soul. The Holy Spirit is the teacher and intercessor that all believe in. So is not disquiet the sign of the Holy Spirit's wings, urging one to move?

Acts 20: 22-24
And now, behold, I am going to Jerusalem, compelled by the Spirit, not knowing what will happen to me there. But I fear none of these, nor do I count my life more precious than myself, if only I may accomplish my course and the ministry that I have received from the Lord Jesus, to bear witness to the gospel of God.

Monday, August 27, 2007

A Good Qur'an Reading for this Week

Surah 10: 55-58, 67, 82, 101-102

Now surely Allah's is what is in the heavens and the earth; now surely Allah's promise is true, but most of them do not know.

He gives life and causes death, and to Him you shall be brought back.

O men! there has come to you indeed an admonition from your Lord and a healing for what is in the breasts and a guidance and a mercy for the believers.

Say: In the grace of Allah and in His mercy-in that they should rejoice; it is better than that which they gather.

He it is Who made for you the night that you might rest in it, and the day giving light; most surely there are signs in it for a people who would hear.

And Allah will show the truth to be the truth by His words, though the guilty may be averse (to it).

Say: Consider what is it that is in the heavens and the earth; and signs and warners do not avail a people who would not believe.

What do they wait for then but the like of the days of those who passed away before them? Say: Wait then, surely I too am with you of those who wait.

Great recovery story from Peru

CARE-trained entrepreneurs make tents for hundreds of families

LIMA, Peru (Aug. 24, 2007) - The global poverty-fighting organization CARE has called on the talents of two Lima-based women entrepreneurs to produce hundreds of tents for earthquake survivors in need of shelter. As an estimated 40,000 families have lost their homes, and most continue to live in the open streets and fields under tarps and teepee-like structures, Maria Esther Landa and her sister Elvira Landa have gotten to work welding together heavy steel tent frames and stitching together durable covers. Each tent is designed for a family of six.
As in-country tent supplies have dried up, CARE looked for options to fill this need while also contributing to the local economy. The making of these tents in Lima comes at a critical time for quake survivors.

"I think a lot about people who were affected by the earthquake," says Maria. "I don't have a lot of resources, but by making these tents we can provide some comfort to people in their time of need. We can make big things happen with a lot of little things."

This is a great story; congratulations, best wishes and blessings to these ladies and their company who are setting such a great example and helping their people with tangible skills.

This is an example of what I was blogging about a few months ago when I suggested that every young person learn a craft skill in addition to their academics, by the way. New Orleans would be a different place if large parts of the population knew how to drive a back hoe, carpentry, masonry, pollution control and other building/craft skills. Previous generations have all known you can't rely on the government and the political and corporate mandarins.

Downsized Homosexuals Out of My Prayers

Downsizing My Prayer Intentions: Homosexuality

I have a pretty important internal prayer life in that those I pray for tend to get some pretty good results. I've prayed for many people, individuals and groups, and I tend to specialize in praying for people who have no one else to pray for them, to love them, or who feel blocked in reaching out to God on their own.

I've spent years - decades really, going back to the late in 1970's when my ex and I had a gay roommate - caring very deeply for people who happen to be homosexual. This is how I think of them: they are people, real people, who happen to be homosexual. I was there when this was a great burden to them, and loved them, cared for them. Over the years I have been there for homosexual friends, as they were sometimes there for me. But things have changed.

Many homosexuals are no longer people who happen to be homosexual. They are active forces for the homosexualization of society. They are no longer individuals trying to lead a worthy life, but they have been taken over by their "cause," to the detriment of themselves and others. Instead of carrying their own cross of their own relationships, they have traded their individuality and their one on one relationships to be the new Communists. Everyone has to belong to the party or they are purged.

So I think much of the individual flourishing of people I loved who happened to be homosexual was because I included them in my prayer intentions. But now that they have traded their individuality and monogamous secular relationships for a totalitarian attack on the foundations of life that the rest of the world depends on, I can no longer pray for them, as a group or individually. For example, I counseled someone I thought was a friend, for years, about homosexuality, and he left without thanks, and without words, and I was encouraging him in his relationship no less. It has become the new Communism of lifestyle, with the same betrayers and informers as the USSR at its worse. So I'm sorry to say, the individuals I know, and the group as a whole, has been struck from my prayer intentions. This is the only time I've ever struck people from my prayer intentions.

Cannot invoke Jesus without obeying God first

Disgraced athlete Michael Vick is the latest to say he "found Jesus," thinking that just saying so makes it so. It is only the past several decades that people, either Catholic but mostly the Protestant and non denominational churches, have thought that just saying you are a sinner and found Jesus is somehow the free pass to forgiveness. You've got to be kidding. Is that the Venusian version of the Bible that you are reading? Or more likely the Neptunian version. Jesus preached to the Israelites, a nation of pious people who sins aside, well understood that they are responsible to God for their conduct and that they will be chastised. In addition, even the poorest and least lettered of Israelites studied the Torah and knew full well their obligations for living under God's law. Jesus was preaching to and calling to him people who were already pious and devout, humble before the Lord, excesses of faith aside. Jesus is not anyone's "pal" or get out of jail free card. Jesus was the Messiah, the one who brought a more intimate understanding of God to people who already knew God really, really well. Jesus brought and was, in his physical form, the New Covenant with God, fulfilling the Old Covenant, but not erasing the need for total obedience to God's will. People who ask for things in the name of Jesus have to know who God is first; Jesus makes that abundantly clear as he pointed back to God the Father in everything he said and did. This was NOT A TECHNICALITY. When Jesus said that all goes back to God the Father he meant it. So who is someone who says he "found Jesus" if he has no clue about God and his will? I was shocked when I first heard years ago that some believe saying the "sinner's prayer" and designating Jesus as their personal savior was all that they had to do. I must have missed that in my extensive knowledge of the Bible. (And the great great grandparents of folks who make this claim would have missed that in their Bibles too.) Where did God fearing go? And the recognition that one must walk continuously in God's presence? Not just calling on Jesus as pal when there is a whoopsie. Unbelievable. A lot of people are going to have a very unpleasant surprise.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Bible Reading: Part Two

There is one more statement by Jesus in the story of the rich young man discussed in Part One.

Matthew 10:31:

But many who are first now will be last, and many who are last now will be first.

Jesus summarizes his discussion of what is needed to guarantee eternal life with the statement that many who are first now will be last (in achieving eternal life) and many who are last now will be the first (in achieving eternal life.) I want to bring this back to what I opened Part One with, which is the observation that liberal wishful thinking does not change the ways and means for achieving heaven. You can see in this reading that Jesus could guarantee during his lifetime eternal life in heaven to those who kept the Commandments and followed him. Jesus also made clear that riches cause difficulty not because of an inherent problem with wealth (and I remind people that many pious people work hard to provide a treasury for their family, especially in those days when it was often invested in their flocks and grains) but because wealth has such power that it can cause a person who has a guaranteed ticket to heaven offered to him by Jesus turn away. Notice that the teaching of Jesus, so succinct in a few sentences, is like an ever expanding ripple, or like the layers of an onion, or the petals of a flower, starting at the center and working outward, to go from the nub of the question to overarching principles and universal information:

1. He observes that the man is pious, so he is implicitly following the first and second commandment, though Jesus reminds him that “No one is good but only God.”
2. One must keep the Commandments, and he summarizes them in a way that makes a certain lifestyle clear: no adultery, no killing, no stealing, no false witness, honoring one’s parents, and how interesting, notice he says “thou shalt not defraud.” At the time of Moses there was not much fraud, but in these increasingly commercial times, fraud was a big concern of Jesus. So while there is no commandment against defrauding, Jesus interprets the admonitions against coveting as implicit to defrauding. The cleansing of the Temple by Jesus is a concrete example of his outrage. So it is not surprising that he highlights this when in discussion with a wealthy person.
3. For the iron clad guarantee, if all of the above is kept, then sell what one has, give the proceeds to the poor, and follow Jesus as a disciple.
4. When it was not an option for the rich man, and he departs, Jesus expands the discussion from those who are alive with him at that time to all peoples who are wealthy. He points out that there is a great difficulty because of the temptation of wealth for the rich to achieve eternal life.
5. Jesus points out that it is in God’s hands for all possibilities of salvation.
6. Jesus then states that there is one “family” “house” “children” and “lands” that is the one united universal Church.
7. Jesus points out that along with this family comes persecution of this family, meaning both of individuals and of the family overall of the Church.
8. Those who make the one true Church their family (as he himself once when told his mother and brethren were waiting to see him, and replying that those who heard and believed were his family) and who cope with persecutions will achieve life everlasting.
9. And many, who think they are first in line for salvation, or first in line of power and or possessions, will find themselves last in line, and those last in line will find that they are first in line.

So I’d like to make a few points that are very important not only for personal salvation, but understanding what Jesus is explaining is God’s will. Jesus did not conclude this important discussion with the disciples by saying that anyone is not spotless cannot achieve heaven. He does this in two ways, one by reminding the rich young man that “No one is good but only God” (and this is from the one man who could accept claim to the young man’s calling him “Good Master,”) and two, by reassuring the disciples when they say among themselves, “Who then can be saved?” By reminding the young man that “No one is good but only God,” he is reassuring people and warning them at the same time. Jesus is saying that obviously, God knows that no one is good (and Jesus himself would not accept the title from the young man) because the state of being mortal man and woman negates absolute goodness. People are flawed and fallen both from their own choices, but also because the pressures of mortality and uncertainty negate one of the flesh from being “Good” with a capital “G.” So in a way, Jesus is reassuring people that God understands that people and sin cannot be totally separated, something God knows all too well. But it is also a warning, because if Jesus himself would not take the title of being “Good Master,” then whom among humans should rest on their laurels and think of themselves as “good” with satisfaction?

This then ties back to his summation, where Jesus says, “But many who are first now will be last, and many who are last now will be first.” Many people who think they are “good” and who are wealthy will fall when it comes to judgment. I can think of many examples today. Within the Catholic Church, those bishops and priests who sinned in abuse and cover up think they are “good” and are “wealthy” with the potential for grace, yet they will find themselves last in line. This is especially true if like that Australian bishop they are blaming the Holy Father and the Church itself for them not having the spine to do the right thing at the time the abuses came to light, without waiting to be told what to do. Outside the Catholic Church, those Protestants and non denominations that take glee in being separate from the Catholic Church and highly praise their own goodness ought to remember that Jesus himself would not accept “Good Master,” and so I ask, who are you to do so? Jesus made abundantly clear that he intended one Apostolic church, not a bunch of solo acts, and certainly not ones who call themselves “Good” and call the Catholic Church “wicked.” Get ready for your place in the very end of the line. Another example of those who are first who will be last are those who think that they have purchased their way into eternal life through funding or performing “good deeds,” but which very deeds are anathema to the Christian life. News flash: funding abortions for poor women, rather than funding ways for them to have and raise or adopt out their babies is not going to be a “good deed” that merits heaven, far from it. Funding ways for children to “explore their sexuality” is not going to result in finding oneself in front of the real pearly gates (not the icy ones on Mount Hood, by the way.) Funding music and film programs so that young people can trash talk and sexualize children at an earlier age is not quite the same as funding the Harlem Boys’ Choir. So there are many people who think that by giving much of their wealth to liberal programs and causes that they are offsetting their sinful lives (like it is some sort of swap and hedge fund) who are in for a very abrupt finding of themselves in a not nice place. And yes, those of you who peer and peep and condemn some young couple having extramarital sex, and glorifying in your own self proclaimed virtuous life, may find your “first place ticket” is really there at the very end. Gossipers, defrauders, bearers of false witness… Jesus took special aim because those are the “white collar” sins that even then people thought they could justify with their otherwise “good” lives.

It is incredibly easy to get into heaven, yet in these past two generations I’ve never seen more people who defy the way to heaven and will find themselves in that other place. The false and phoniness of life today, the oppression of religion, and the degradation of preborn and born children are the three main reasons for so many people who will die and go to hell, not purgatory, but hell. I do not mention drug and alcohol abuse because those are tools to those philosophies (drugs as an affectation for those who refuse to live a real life, for example.)
People on both ends of the spectrums are in real trouble. Those liberals who try to dilute the need to obey and love God, including those dictates of the Church that they find onerous, not only jeopardize their own individual salvations, but seek to be the Pied Piper of others to sin. There is a false “safety in numbers” belief that if everyone thinks a forbidden lifestyle choice is OK that somehow God is looking at election ballots, or the bully pulpit. Nothing has changed from the time that Jesus outlined what is necessary to obtain the Kingdom of God to the current deeply troubled times. The path is the same as it always was. Liberal bishops, priests, nuns and laity ought to be in horror of leading others astray, rather than wrapping themselves in a smelly and false cloak of virtue. They are in the lead of the “first now will be last” because they have responsibility for religious formation, and there is no greater responsibility on earth than that, except for parenthood.

And the fundamentalist and/ or hypocrite side of the spectrum is in equal trouble. Those who are outside of the Catholic Church and take glee in being disobedient to the intentions of Jesus, priding themselves in their selective scripture quoting like modern day scribes, are going to find themselves in the back of the line right next to the polluting liberals. Where in the Bible did Jesus say to take scriptures and full of pride, with lack of love and charity, beat down your opponents with them like lines of scriptures are nailed clubs, and hoist yourselves into holiness? I must have missed that line. Far from it, for when the disciples came to Jesus complaining that someone who was not one of them was casting out devils in the name of Jesus, Jesus said to them that he is not against them is for them. The nerve of people who are religiously self righteous amazes me. I have had personal experience with this, where every move in my “love life” and even my childhood has been examined by spiritual and physical perverts who look for evidence of the sinfulness of Catholics. Putting aside that they don’t know who they were messing with when it comes to me, how vile it is to think that you hold some special position in the “good” and “holy” line when Jesus Christ himself would not accept the title “Good Master,” which only belongs to God!

John 8:1-11

But Jesus went to the Mount of Olives. And at daybreak he came again into the temple, and all the people came to him; and sitting down he began to teach them. [Comment: Notice that Jesus is about to teach and preach in a public place, so basically, the incident that happens next is contrived as a way to interrupt his teaching and test him. Good thing for the woman involved, but it is an important point that it was not exactly virtue that brought the group that will interrupt the teaching to Jesus.] Now the Scribes and Pharisees brought a woman caught in adultery, and setting her in the midst, said to him, “Master, this woman has just now been caught in adultery. And in the Law Moses commanded us to stone such persons. What, therefore, dost thou say? Now they were saying this to test him, in order that they might be able to accuse him. [Comment: like I said, people who tattle out others sexual sins and practices are doing so to test the faith, not from some position of great virtue.] But Jesus, stooping down, began to write with his finger on the ground. [Comment: people have speculated about this that Jesus was writing down the accusers sins, or showing his lack of interest in the subject. What this was in fact was a gesture that lifestyle sins like the woman was living, and the testing of the accusers, were like markings in the sand. They can be erased and are not indicative of inherent evilness of the person. Also Jesus was reestablishing control, because they interrupted his lesson and expected him to be trapped, flustered, and conflicted in his answer. Jesus made them wait until they asked again and he answered them in his own sweet time.] But when they continued asking him, he raised himself and said to them, “Let him who is without sin among you be the first to cast a stone at her.” And again stooping down, he began to write on the ground. [Comment: Again, this is both Jesus establishing who is in control, and also putting the sin in perspective, for it is a sin, but like a line in the sand, one that can be erased.] But hearing this, they went away, one by one, beginning with the eldest. [Comment: Notice the eldest went first. Ha ha, how true… those who have lived the longest and understand the most about human frailty and sin, remembering in themselves, are the first to recover some shame and leave off of accusing. The young are often the most judgmental and mouthy!] And Jesus remained alone, with the woman standing in the midst.

And Jesus, raising himself, said to her, “Woman, where are they? Has no one condemned thee?” She said, “No one, Lord.” Then Jesus said, “Neither will I condemn thee. Go thy way, and from now on sin no more.”

Notice Jesus did not give her condoms for safe sex. Ha, sorry, I could not resist. He told her to stop sinning from now on, so to make the modern day parallel, it’s not like he sighed and said, “Humans will be humans, so here, have some condoms so at least you will have safe sex.” On the other hand, he also did not give a fire and brimstone sermon to her because it was not needed and also because lifestyle sins do happen and do not shock either God or Jesus. It does not make them OK, but they are not reasons to “interrupt the teachings of Jesus Christ.” Like I said, it’s a good thing for the woman that they did interrupt Jesus’ teaching, and it is a great thing for Christians, who learn so much from this encounter. But to derive fullness of understanding of this event, you must remember that the self righteous Scribes and Pharisees were using a very common sex sin to “interrupt” the teaching of Jesus Christ. This is a trick and an affectation as old as the hills, as you can see. People have sex outside of marriage, but don’t have a cow over it, you self righteous ones. And especially do not cloak yourselves in righteous indignation when your objective is simply to challenge and disrespect Jesus’ teachings and God’s mercy. People who on an individual self righteous basis are excessively nosy and self involved in other people’s sexual sins and acts are nudging very closely to one of the unforgivable sins against the Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit warns that it is a sin against the Holy Spirit to envy someone else’s spiritual goodness. If a person is being gossiped about or persecuted because of a sexual practice that they are keeping to themselves (that is, it is not slavery, procuring, corruption of children, etc.) by people who are attempting to make a “godly” decision about spiritual goodness, in either themselves or others, they are well on the slippery slope of acting out of envy of another person’s spiritual goodness. Either these people seek to pull down the goodness of the other person by exposing them, or they are seeking to falsely elevate their own spiritual goodness by means of “comparison.” Both are false and both are sins against the Holy Spirit, and will be very harshly judged. We know this because it is stated in this part of the gospel that the people were testing Jesus, rather than having true concern about their own or anyone else’s sin. This is a very serious warning for those who are navigating in today’s very complex problem of sexual mores. It is one thing to have a set of standards in the community, society, and to obey the Commandments of God, and the teachings of Jesus. It is another thing to persecute an individual as a way to rob the other person of some spiritual goodness, and amplify one’s own. That is a very mortal sin against the Holy Spirit, to envy another’s spiritual goodness.

Bible reading and comments (Part One)

How would people feel if Jesus was imprecise about how to actually be saved and have eternal life in heaven? Suppose he just told people most of what they needed to know, but not all? How would people feel about that? And they would not even know until it was too late.

Fortunately that is an impossibility. The only purpose of Jesus coming to earth was to not only guide people toward salvation, but give them the hard and true facts about how to obtain it. God the father spoke through Jesus and God does not lie. That is a key difference between God and his prophets and humans, both religious and secular. God wants people to achieve heaven, but there is one way, the only way, and liberals cannot change that. God does not change because He IS. His creations may utilized Big Bangs, but God himself is steady state, eternal, and unchangeable. And the way to heaven is one fixed way, while the way to hell is the other way.

Look again at the story of the young rich man. There are two things that many miss in this much beloved and analyzed event in the life of Christ. The first missed point is that this young man was asking Jesus what to do in order to "guarantee" his entry into heaven. In other words, the young man wanted to know a checklist of what to do that he could live not just in hope of salvation, but to be rock bottom certain that he would achieve heaven. The second missed point is related to the first; the young man was not as naive and dumb as people today sometimes portray him. He was not asking Jesus to be told once again that the way to heaven is through obedience to God's will and law. And while we can read into this event that the dialogue illustrates that Jesus is the way, there is more to it than that. Here is the passage:

Mark 10:17-30
And as he was going forth on his journey, a certain man running up fell upon his knees before him, and asked him, "Good Master, what shall I do to gain eternal life?" [comment: See, this is a very precise question; the young man is asking for a guarantee. People miss this because the next sentence from Jesus is a bit inscrutable at first glance and so attention is diverted from understanding that this man was asking for a list of what to do to have an iron clad guarantee of heaven. Notice Jesus did not reply that this was a dumb or impossible question!] But Jesus said to him, "Why dost thou call me good? No one is good but only God. [comment: Many wonder why Jesus questioned the man calling him "good." The reason is just as it appears if you think about it; Jesus is reminding the young man before he even replies to him that just because Jesus is giving the answer, the goodness and the way to heaven comes from God alone. Jesus constantly reminds his followers that he is speaking on God's behalf. In other words, worshipping Jesus, as the man did by falling on his knees, is not a substitute for obeying the will of God the Father.] Thou knowest the commandments: Thou shalt not commit adultery. Thou shalt not kill. Thou shalt not steal. Thou shalt not bear false witness. Thou shalt not defraud. Honor thy father and mother. [comment: Following up on my previous comment, the first reply that Jesus makes is to reiterate some of the Commandments that were given to Moses for the Israelites by God the Father. Notice that just because Jesus does not list all the Commandments, including the first and second, that does not mean they aren't important. Mark is recording a conversation where Jesus realizes of course that this man is already holding great love and fear of God and his name. Jesus focuses here on the "day to day" possibilities of sin, one might call them the lifestyle sins.] And he answered and said, "Master, all these I have kept ever since I was a child. And Jesus, looking upon him, loved him [comment: By the young man's reply, you can tell that he was someone very special, and it is no wonder that Jesus loved him on sight and would have wished to have him as a disciple accompanying him] and said to him, "One thing is lacking to thee; go, sell whatever thou hast, and give to the poor, and thou shalt have treasure in heaven; and come, follow me." [comment: You see, the clincher for the iron clad guarantee of heaven would have been if the man had left behind his previous life and followed Jesus. This is what Jesus means by "one thing is lacking to thee," because Jesus is answering the man's question about the guarantee. Jesus cannot guarantee eternal life, even for the worthiest of man or woman, so long as they are on earth, because they are in a fallen world surrounded by temptation. If the young man wanted an absolute 100% certainty of heaven, he could have achieved it by following Jesus. But this passage does not mean that the young man is not 95% likely to attain heaven, due to his very worthy life so far! This conversation is recorded in the Gospels and is of such import because of the special "asking for a guarantee" information given in reply by Jesus.] But his face fell at the saying, and he went away sad, for he had great possessions. [comment: Notice that Jesus did not call after him, threatening him that he will not get to heaven. That is because while the young rich man could not get the guarantee, he was living a worthy and pious life, and Jesus knew that while the young man could not do the one thing that would give him the 100% certainty, it's not like he was going to run back home and start sinning like crazy. In fact, don't we wonder if this conversation changed this young man's life to even further alms giving? I bet it did.]

And Jesus looking round, said to his disciples, "With what difficulty will they who have riches enter the kingdom of God!" [comment: See, now that the rich young man departed, Jesus turns his attention to teaching those around him to learn what Jesus observed in the man he would have loved for a disciple.] But the disciples were amazed at his word. [comment: The reason the disciples were amazed is that remember, there was nothing wrong with being rich in those days, even from a piety point of view, because a richer man could afford great donation to the Temple treasury and fatter more perfect and numerous holocaust offerings at the Temple. So rich was good because more could be tithed to God, in their cultural and religious eyes.] But Jesus again addressed them, saying, "Children, with what difficulty will they who trust in riches enter the kingdom of God! It is easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle, than for a rich man to enter the kingdom of God." [comment: Again, this is not a statement against wealth, but the hold that wealth and avarice have upon humans. Notice that a man was able to stand in front of Jesus, be offered a 100% iron clad guarantee of heaven, and walk away. That is the power of possessions and wealth. It is that power that Jesus is pointing out, not an actual wrong with wealth itself. If wealth is powerful enough to turn a pious and good man from a 100% guarantee of heaven, what does it do to the average sinner?] But they were astonished the more, saying among themselves, "Who then can be saved?" [comment: This is understandable shock. After all, a good family patriarch works tirelessly to increase the wealth of his family, so this is why they understandably wonder who can be saved at all? They weren't saying everyone is wealthy, but they were astonished that there is a conflict between accumulating wealth and goods for one's family and attaining heaven.] And looking upon them, Jesus said, "With men it is impossible, but not with God; for all things are possible with God." [comment: Again, notice that Jesus constantly points men and women back to understanding and obeying God's will, and trusting in him. A wealthy man who puts God first in his life has reason for hope and trust.]

Peter began to say to him, "Behold, we have left all and followed thee." Answering, Jesus said, "Amen I say to you, there is no one who has left house, or brothers, or sisters, or mother, or father, or children, or lands, for my sake and for the gospel's sake, who shall not receive now in the present time a hundredfold as much, houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands-along with persecutions, and in the age to come life everlasting." [comment: It is great that Peter made this implied question, because it elicits one of the most important statements you can imagine from Jesus. Jesus succinctly points out that those who follow him personally while he is alive 1) will receive substitute family in the community of the Church, 2) will be persecuted, and 3) will be guaranteed of heaven. So Jesus is affirming that he has the power to guarantee heaven to those who personally followed him in his life time. He also is affirming that the Church is to be lived as a community and a substitute family, united into "hundredfold as much houses, and brothers, and sisters, and mothers, and children, and lands." Jesus is making a statement about a unified, one true family Church here, a point that is sometimes lost in overly individualized interpretation of Jesus' phrase to "Come, follow me." Jesus is not inviting a bunch of solo acts following him, but in the new family of the one unified Church.]

A new favorite perfume Guerlain Insolence

I just bought the Shimmering Body Milk and Eau de Toilette and am totally bowled over by this fragrance. I've worn Guerlain L'Heure Bleu for many years, and Shalimar for a couple of years, and this fragrance stands on its own among them. When I sampled it in the store tonight my first thought of its structure is that it is like a kiss. Later I read the reviews and see that it has some sort of spiral structure; well, that is what I feel, like the consistency of a good wonderful old fashioned kiss on the lips. The fragrance itself is wonderful, and I am very partial to violets, red fruits, and iris. The bottle is great. Whether it is intentional or not it reminds me of a European multi-tier fountain. Created by Maurice Roucel; the first time I've bought one of his fragrances that I know of... wonderful!

Reading Orel Hershiser book

"Between the Lines: Nine Principles to Live By"
Orel Hershiser with Robert Wolgemuth, foreword by Tommy Lasorda

A wonderful book by a great guy and one of my favorite baseball pitchers.
Great advice for people who are trying to balance their priorities yet still be achievers.

Friday, August 24, 2007

"Pope needs to tell bishops to report crime" (snips)
The Sydney bishop who helped write the Catholic Church's sex abuse policy in Australia has urged a fundamental reshaping of the church's power structures, warning papal authority has gone too far and calling for a review of compulsory celibacy for priests and the church's teachings on sex....In the book, Confronting Power and Sex in the Catholic Church, Bishop Robinson says papal authority has gone too far, local bishops have been marginalised and the faithful of the church rendered powerless....John Paul II had left the church to deal with "one of the ugliest stories to emerge from the Catholic Church" without appropriate levels of direction or guidance....Pope Benedict's failure to even consider a review of priestly celibacy was to "lose credibility even before the discussion has begun"....There was a need for the church to review its commitment to priestly celibacy and its "extreme" teachings on sexual ethics, in which the church treats as a sin sex before marriage between committed couples....And the attire of bishops and priests needed to be modernised - the bishop's mitre abandoned because of its "bad body language" and the priestly collar replaced in some circumstances with a distinctive tie....Priests and bishops should be appraised every five or six years, as was normal in every workplace, and parishes would get a say in the priests appointed....Specifically, Bishop Robinson has called for an elected parliament of bishops to be established, from which properly representative church leaders would elect future popes.

I never cease to be amazed by the spinelessness of certain bishops and priests. If one of them saw someone being mugged in the street, would they have had to call the Pope to ask him whether or not to call the police? The blaming of the Pope for the past criminal molestations and cover ups that took place in dioceses is despicable. Thank God weak men like this bishop and others like him were not alive when the Church was being formed. They would have called St. Paul to ask him whether to wipe after taking a dump in the bathroom or not.

And when did the Church become a governmental bureaucracy or socialist entity, with “representatives” and “performance reviews?” Answer: when poorly formed bishops and priest open their mouths and expel bilge and utter ignorance. They forget that the structure of the Church and the election of the pope is not the result of “focus group” thinking. The Holy Spirit guides the Church and obviously Robinson does not have a hearing aid so that he could hear the Spirit.

The church reorganizes sexually and politically because there are too many spineless bishops and priests who cannot be lawful, faithful, walk, and chew gum at the same time? I think not. There is nothing wrong with discussion but there is everything wrong with insulting and ignoring the role of the Holy Spirit. At times like this I don’t mind the dwindling number of priests and bishops if the ones who remain are righteous, faithful and have spines. Sometimes a weedy plant has to be pruned back to its roots, even if the cost is having a paucity of offering the sacraments in some locations. I’d rather they were offered less sacraments and Masses and at greater distance than if there are revisionist priests and bishops that offer sacraments on a garbage can’s lid.

Priests and those wishy washy on God's law

Here is a conversation that God had with priests who became lax in their duties and beliefs. This had happened after they were restored to Israel from the captivity in Babylon, yet they offered imperfect sacrifices and did not keep in full the law of Moses. The message was so tough and so necessary that the prophet who delivered it used a pseudonym.

Malachia 3: 13-23

You have defied me in word, says the Lord, yet you ask, “What have we spoken against you?” You have said, “It is vain to serve God, and what do we profit by keeping his command, and going about in penitential dress in awe of the Lord of hosts? Rather must we call the proud blessed; for indeed evildoers proper, and even tempt God with impunity.” Then they who fear the Lord spoke with one another, and the Lord listened attentively; and a record book was written before him of those who fear the Lord and trust in his name. And they shall be mine, says the Lord of hosts, my own special possession, on the day I take action. And I will have compassion on them, as a man has compassion on his son who serves him. Then you will see the distinction between the just and the wicked; between him who serves God, and him who does not serve him. For lo, the day is coming, blazing like an oven, when all the proud and all evildoers will be stubble, and the day that is coming will set them on fire, leaving them neither root nor branch, says the Lord of hosts. But for you who fear my name, there will arise the sun of justice with its healing rays; and you will gambol like calves out of the stall and tread down the wicked; they will become ashes under the soles of your feet, on the day I take action, says the Lord of hosts.

Remember the law of Moses my servant, which I enjoined upon him on Horeb, the statutes and the ordinances for all Israel.

Lo, I will send you Elijah, the prophet, before the day of the Lord comes, the great and terrible day, to turn the hearts of the fathers to their children, and the hearts of the children to their fathers, lest I come and strike the land with doom.

I love fragrance, perfumes and colognes

I love fragrance. I grew up in a poor family so I did not have access to the “great scents,” but we liked to smell nice and took it for granted. My mother is a life long wearer of Jean Nate, partly because she cannot tolerate sweet fragrance, or in fact, any other fragrance but Jean Nate. My first fragrance was No. 4711, the redoubtable, wonderful German cologne. I still love it. It is a refreshing, classic, and totally unique fragrance, worn by men and women. In high school I added two other fragrances, one called “Meadow” that I found in a pharmacy when visiting my best friend near Rochester, and “Evening in Paris.” My sister in law bought Avon, but she did not share! My niece works for Mac and she does not share! Speaking of Mac, I love “Asphalt Flower,” which I bought as a necklace that carries a slide in glass tube of fragrance.

My first upgrade in perfume was with my first job, when I started wearing Channel No. 19. My ex was walking by a fragrance counter with me in Macy’s and detecting a fragrance he loved, he tracked it down and found it was “Cinnabar,” which he insisted I buy and I wore for quite a while. I also wore “Anais, Anais,” “Pavlova” and after some trepidation, did go for the power fragrances, such as “Opium” when they became popular in the 1980’s. I bought the obligatory “Ralph Lauren” and while I consider it a very good fragrance, it never became a favorite of mine. I love the Caswell & Massey “Number Six,” which was George Washington’s cologne. I really went into a phase of collecting fragrances, since I enjoy so many of them and consider them a part of my day to day wardrobe (including to athletic practice. Once when at my fencing lesson in college one of the fencers stopped his bout and ran around trying to sniff out who was wearing the great fragrance; when he found me he pointed saying, “It’s her! It’s her!”) I bought and still wear these fragrances: “Royal Secret,” “Metal,” “Coriandre,” Guerlain’s “L’Heure Bleu,” “Giorgio Armani,” “First” by van Cleaf & Arpels, “Winter Sweet” by Molton Brown, “L’Air du Temps” by Nina Ricci, “Oscar de la Renta,” “Calvin Klein,” "Tresor" and others that I can’t think of now because I’m listing what is in my “train case” and I have much more in storage. When Giorgio Beverly Hills came out with their signature fragrance I could not stand its sweetness and it was so heavily promoted that it was sprayed all over department stores at that time. But I liked their later entry, "Gio," in a beautiful bottle that just reminds one of the acqua seas. I have a bottle of “Red” that I bought when I was having a jones to buy some perfume a few years ago. I buy Carnation scented fragrances when I can find them.

For years I wore Jean Paul Gaultier because it was given to me by an ex. I liked the fragrance, but hated the headless woman bottles. Sometimes, just because it is possible to do something “edgy” and “arty,” it still is not the right thing to do. I know why people design things like that, and it’s not the sex or sensuality (which I have no objection to) but it’s the schizophrenic implications that have been baked into “art” and “culture,” to everyone’s detriment. When the relationship went defunct I threw away the remaining perfume and bottles.

I’ve bought a few vintage Avon bottles with product remaining: Hawaiian White Ginger, Bird of Paradise, one that’s shaped like an upside down bell shaped flower, Island Parakeet Moon wind Cologne, Her Prettiness Cream Sachet (in a wonderful jar that is shaped like a blue fountain with a gold fish in waves leaped on top), and After Shave Spicy (in a large silver container that is a reproduction of the Indian Head Buffalo Nickel.) I guess you could call that last one a Spice Buffalo Head.

One of my favorite fragrances was a gift to me by a friend, who thought it would be perfect for me, and it was, “Apple.” I made that bottle last to the very final drop. My best friend knew I wore “Poison” so she gave me “Poison Light” to try, which I liked. She also brought a perfume back for me from France which was great, but got thrust in storage in my haste of selling my house. I treasure the bottle of “Realm” that I bought in the shop in the mall in the World Trade Center as a reminder of that sad place that I commuted through daily for many years. My favorite all around fragrance is “Pheromone” by Marilyn Miglin. I’ve recently worn a lot of “Shalimar,” but am outgrowing that now.

Recent fragrances I’ve bought and like: Doce & Gabbana “light blue,” Estee Lauder “pleasures delight.” I stopped having high paying jobs before I could try such great fragrances, recommended to me by celeb acquaintances, such as the Creed line. I’m reading about them to enjoy the ingredient list. Living jobless in Mississippi I’m not finding many samples handed out in department stores ha ha ha.

Thursday, August 23, 2007

Bible Reading: laundry soap in the Bible

Laundry suds mentioned in the Bible

Just for fun, here are two passages from the Bible that mention nitre, soap (washing soda), and vinegar, which were used for laundry suds in those days.

Proverbs 25:20
As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre: so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.

Another version of that proverb:
He who sings songs to a heavy heart is like him who lays off a garment in cold weather and like vinegar upon soda.

Now, it's interesting that two of my Bibles have the above proverb, but in my other Bibles it is replaced with:

Like a moth in clothing, or a maggot in wood, sorrow gnaws at the human heart.

This is an example of two completely different conclusions from what is supposedly the same proverb. So I went online to give you all the variations listed on the web site:

NASB: [Like] one who takes off a garment on a cold day, [or like] vinegar on soda, Is he who sings songs to a troubled heart. (
NASB ©1995)
GWT: [Like] taking off a coat on a cold day or pouring vinegar on baking soda, so is singing songs to one who has an evil heart. (
KJV: As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart.
ASV: As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon soda, So is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
BBE: Like one who takes off clothing in cold weather and like acid on a wound, is he who makes melody to a sad heart.
DBY: As he that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a sad heart.
JPS: As one that taketh off a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
WBS: As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre; so is he that singeth songs to a heavy heart.
WEB: As one who takes away a garment in cold weather, or vinegar on soda, so is one who sings songs to a heavy heart.
YLT: Whoso is taking away a garment in a cold day, [Is as] vinegar on nitre, And a singer of songs on a sad heart.

There is a variety of opinion as to whether it is good to sing songs on a sad or heavy heart. Vinegar upon nitre is a foaming and agitating action (used to lift out stains) so one could interpret the proverb as being advising to sing to the sad (to lift out the stain and agitate into a response) or as a corrosive effect. People who thought of it as a corrosive effect are those who then translated the "one who takes a garment in cold weather" as being symbolic of a moth (who eats wool in winter) and oddly, interprets vinegar on nitre (washing soda) as like a maggot eating away at wood.

This is an example of how translators can give actually what seems like opposite spectrum interpretations of what is presumably the same simple phrase. Is "he" who takes a way a garment in cold weather a heavy and contrived symbol for a moth being destructive, or a man who sheds a heavy outer garment in order to feel more refreshment in the cold? Is vinegar being added to washing soda to remove a stain, or to eat away at the substance of something? I'm voting for the more positive interpretation, that singing to a heavy heart is a positive cleansing treatment.

Here is the second mention of washing suds:

Jeremiah 2:22
For though thou wash thee with nitre, and take thee much soap, yet thine iniquity is marked before me, saith the Lord God.

Another version:
Though you scour it with soap, and use much lye, the stain of your guilt is still before me, says the Lord God.

There is not too much trouble understanding the washing, sudsing and scrubbing imagery in this passage! Sometimes soap is not the only answer. I suspect that some of the old time folks of last century who only had their once a week "Saturday night bath" but held the Lord close to them are cleaner than some people I could mention who compulsively shower and worry about antibacterial soap! ;-)

See, scripture is so interesting and rich in thought, even when the subject I decided to search for was the use of washing soap.

Mother Teresa's aridity of faith

Book about Mother Teresa's aridity of faith,8599,1655415,00.html
And in fact, that appears to be the case. A new, innocuously titled book, Mother Teresa: Come Be My Light (Doubleday), consisting primarily of correspondence between Teresa and her confessors and superiors over a period of 66 years, provides the spiritual counterpoint to a life known mostly through its works. The letters, many of them preserved against her wishes (she had requested that they be destroyed but was overruled by her church), reveal that for the last nearly half-century of her life she felt no presence of God whatsoever — or, as the book's compiler and editor, the Rev. Brian Kolodiejchuk, writes, "neither in her heart or in the eucharist."

That absence seems to have started at almost precisely the time she began tending the poor and dying in Calcutta, and — except for a five-week break in 1959 — never abated.
I am totally not surprised at the news that seems to shock so many others, that Mother Teresa had a nearly lifelong period of spiritual aridity that coincides exactly with her work as tending the poor and dying in Calcutta. Here is why.

Being close to Jesus and hearing God is not the same as being "the ultimate social worker." This is a colossal error that has developed during the liberalized laity and religious of the Church. The more one fills one's head and one's hands with the sorrows of the world, to the exclusion of lengthy sabbaticals of prayer and living life for one's own good and one's own relationship with God, the farther apart one can grow from God. God means for people to live fulfilled vocations, either personal or religious, and not to recreate within oneself an extended and inflated period of "trying to be Jesus" or "carrying the burdens of the world on one's shoulders." When one wallows, no matter how well intended, in the hardest aspects of life, everyone knows that "compassion fatigue" sets in, among both secular and religious care givers. The same is true when one turns into a societal workaholic so that your family partner - God - can no longer be heard. God was speaking to her, Jesus was speaking to her, but like the kid who plays his music too loud, her hearing was damaged by being saturated in the woes of the world, and not allocating the majority of her life to her relationship with God. This is an ego inflation that those who seem the most humble must guard against. Trying to be exactly like one imagines Jesus to be in a literal lifestyle choice is impossible and not desirable.

Thinking that you have a special mission to solve the world's problem is also an ego inflation. She fell into the very human tendency to measure herself by her achievements, rather than by her peace of mind and relationship with God. This is one of Satan's interesting spins. He tempts the good to think that they must be more and more and more "good" in what soon becomes a hamster wheel of endless carrying of the burdens of the world. (Is that not God's job actually? Are people called to love and obey God first, and love neighbor, and give charity and alms, and serve... but are they meant to be a slave to a societal cause?) I have felt uneasy about her for her entire life, because you could see that love of God was an effort for her. Remember: blessed are the poor of spirit. This is because if you empty yourself with humility, God will fill that space with holy spirit and grace. She crammed so much of unrelieved social work into her spirit, that there was really barely a finger's space for God to infuse spirit. This is why I've been against classic liberation theology and other dogma that tempts people to fill their hearts with exclusively works of social merit, thinking one is imitating Jesus, and what is instead happening is parched aridity of communion with God and the Holy Spirit. Who is holier? The average Joe or Sally who has a religious or secular vocation, devotion to community, love of the Lord and a tithed of time donation of service to social causes, or the person who swaps devotion to their community, love of the Lord, and care giving to their own self for a one hundred percent struggle against social forces and ills that no one person can hope to solve? I think the answer is obvious. Whenever I looked at her over the past decades, I was troubled by her struggle and how the model she was setting was not the way to communion and personal relationship with the Lord. Well, rest her soul.

Outrageous rape of child in Afghanistan

Outrageous rape of child in Afghanistan
Two brothers—identified only as 18-year-old Ismat and 24-year-old Mohammad—allegedly asked their teenage sister to lure the girl to their home in the Jaghuri district of Ghazni province and raped her until she lost consciousness, according to human rights officials and advocates handling the case.
The two suspects' 15-year-old sister knew the 7-year-old because they grazed sheep together. The sister invited the girl to eat cheese and then left her with Ismat and Mohammad, said Jamila Zafar, a social worker who is counseling the girl and her family.
After attacking the child, the brothers left her unconscious near the family home. When she came to, she went home and complained of stomach pains for a few days, Zafar said. The family then took her to the hospital, where doctors examined the girl and determined she had been raped.
The men were promptly arrested, but Naderi and Zafar said they believed bribes were paid to free them. Human rights commissioner Hangama Anwari said the brothers were released because "there was some relationship" between them and district authorities.
These two rapists and their abetting sister are an outrage to Islam and human rights and decency. They have no honor. They should all three be punished to the maximum under the secular law, since they do not deserve either religious or traditional tribal consideration. What kind of sick men rape children? And what kind of sick sister helps them? They disgust me. Child rape is a disgust and abomination to Allah. They should be hunted down like dogs, as all who disgrace children.

Blessings and prayers for the child, for her brave and honorable family who are doing right by her, for the human rights commission helping her, for honest government officials who will help, and for the social worker treating her. Prayers for her recovery.

Qur'an and Bible do not disagree: Jesus

Explanation why Qur'an and Bible do not disagree

I am often asked why the Qur'an states that Jesus did not die, though he was taken up to heaven by God, in seeming contradiction to the Gospels who witness that Jesus did die before he was taken up to heaven by God. Here is the passage from the Qur'an:

Surah 4: 157-159
And their saying: Surely we have killed the Messiah, Isa son of Marium, the apostle of Allah; and they did not kill him nor did they crucify him, but it appeared to them so (like Isa) and most surely those who differ therein are only in a doubt about it; they have no knowledge respecting it, but only follow a conjecture, and they killed him not for sure.
Nay! Allah took him up to Himself; and Allah is Mighty, Wise.
And there is not one of the followers of the Book but most certainly believes in this before his death, and on the day of resurrection he (Isa) shall be a witness against them.

And this passage is important for understand my explanation of the difference:

Surah 5: 110
When Allah will say: O Isa son of Marium! Remember My favor on you and your mother, when I strengthened you with the holy Spirit, you spoke to the people in the cradle and when of old age, and when I taught you the Book and the wisdom and the Taurat and the Injeel; and when you determined out of clay a thing like the form of a bird by My permission, then you breathed into it and it became a bird by My permission, and you healed the blind and the leprous by My permission; and when you brought forth the dead by My permission; and when I withheld the children of Israel from you when you came to them with clear arguments, but those who disbelieved among them said: This is nothing but clear enchantment.

When the Qur'an was revealed to the Prophet Muhammad (Peace be upon him) hundreds of years had passed since Jesus Christ had risen to heaven. Christianity had been rejected by the large majority of the Jews (this is observed and commented on in the last two lines of verse 110 above.) The Jews, who had seen their own temple in Jerusalem destroyed, claimed that Jesus either never existed or was just a man who had died and been buried. Christianity had great faith, and these early Catholics had withstood great persecutions and martyrdoms, and did not waiver in their faith of the resurrected Jesus. However, there were many heresies that had to be argued through and put down, and more were coming. Some heresies dealt with whether Jesus had a divine nature, but they foreshadowed a time when there would be Christian heresies that Jesus was simply a wise man who had lived, died and was buried.

God is the greatest source of wisdom about human nature, and knew that there would be a time when the resurrection of Jesus would be denied. It is almost as though he knew back then that there would be "DaVinci Code" books and heretical influence of secularism that would deny Jesus in all of his divine and prophetic aspects (impugn the virgin Mary, declare that Jesus "must" have had secret sexual relationships, call Jesus a great teacher but completely a man and not sent by God nor fathered by the Holy Spirit, and, most recently, claim to find the buried body of the man Jesus and deny the resurrection.) You will notice when you read the Qur'an that it is actually a stouter defense of the sanctity of Mary, Jesus as sent and empowered by Allah, the purity of Jesus' message and the truth of his miracles, and the resurrection of Jesus to Allah in heaven than many who consider themselves Christian and yet dilute the message with heresy. Therefore the Muslim people were entrusted by Allah with the definitive statement that Jesus did not die (that is, he did not die in body, and decompose in the grave) but that Jesus ascended into heaven, both body and spirit. This is why there seems to be a disagreement, but it is really a matter of where the emphasis is placed. Islam was entrusted, almost like a treasury, with the unwavering belief and truth that Jesus was not a man who died. Because Allah was so firm on this point with the Prophet (PBUH) the Qur'an wording assumes that witnesses to Jesus' death must have been mistaken. But whether or not the body of Jesus spent time as one dead was not the objective of the holy message given to the Prophet Muhammad. The objective was to state unequivocally for the ages that Jesus did not die as a man but was raised to Allah upon fulfillment of his ministry, and that Jesus did indeed live a virginal and miraculous life. Rather than denying the miraculous and Allah granted life of Jesus, Islam actually affirms it in the most firm way, as a treasury to both faiths, because the Muslims are unshakable that Jesus was not a human body buried set of bones to be found by modern nonbelievers and publicity seekers, but that the truth is that he did not "die" (into the earth) but was ascended by Allah when the message of Jesus was rejected by the Jews and so his ministry was completed. This is why there really is not a difference that is one to be quarreling about because both the Bible and the Qur'an are divinely inspired and serve God's will. The Qur'an spends much time affirming the sanctity of the Virgin Mary and the role of Jesus as Messiah, who was rejected by the Jewish priesthood, and so ascended to heaven to God, bodily and in spirit.

Muslims state the Qur'an has never changed and take appropriate pride in that, as they should, as the word of Allah. I take great pride that they record also the unchanging truth that Jesus was sent by Allah to be the Messiah, born of the virgin Mary, ministered and performed miracles, and was raised physically and spiritually to God when he was rejected as the Messiah. I hope this posting helps bridge some of the gap of misunderstanding that exists among the faiths, much of the gap being one of misunderstanding and not of fact. God inspires emphasis according to the needs of humans at the times of the prophets through the ages, and what Moses recorded differs in focus (the law) than what the Gospels recorded (the ministry of Jesus) and what Muhammad recorded (the oneness of Allah and his will.) Just because there is different emphasis does not mean that the truth is changed; it means that people of the time need to be reminded by God of what is important to them, especially if there is danger of straying.