The epiphany of the Epiphany: The Wise Men r Us

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Copyright: Wonderlane used with permission.

The wise men r us.

By that I mean they are that vast reach of overlooked humanity that had no part in God’s Covenant with Abraham. The wise men are you and me, who will be, at long last and as St Paul put it, “grafted” onto the original tree of life that God planted when He raised up first a man and his wife, then their family, and finally, a people, to be the flame of flickering light in the darkness of fallen humanity.

We sorta know the story of the Wise Men. We’ve seen it acted out in Christmas pageants when, at the end of the story of Jesus, Mary, Joseph and the manger, three little boys walk in to the tune of We Three Kings. They are wearing bathrobes made of shiny fabric and carrying three boxes marked “gold,” “frankincense” and “myrrh.”

The little boys put their boxes next to a makeshift manger which holds a doll wrapped in a baby blanket. Meanwhile a little girl, dressed in a her mother’s bathrobe and a little boy dressed in his dad’s, look on. The shepherds are already there, along with a couple of little girl angels.

It’s Christmas and the people rise to sing Joy to the World with the gusto of those who know in their hearts that this story, however simply it is told, is true.

These Christmas pageants are simple, fun and they do tell the essential story. But the layers upon layers of meaning that the story holds are not touched. That’s to the good, of course, since belief lies not in layers of understanding but in the simplicity of ultimate truth.

Christmas is about the end of the endless night of ultimate hopelessness. It is the story of The Light breaking into human history. As such, the simplicity of small-church Christmas pageants are all we need to tell the story.

But for those who want to look past the dust jacket on the story, the questions and the answers are there. Before Jesus, God’s direct work with humanity had been limited to this smallish family turned nation that He had settled smack along the most important trade route of the ancient world. The bread basket of Egypt, the spices and riches of the East, traveled along this narrow way near the sea on their journey to Europe.

Rome fed off this route, as had numerous empires before it. Of all the places in the ancient world, the one most likely to be fought over, invaded, battered and beaten, was this one. Why did God put His people here?

My guess is that it was because the story of the Jews is not just the story of the Jews. It is the story of Jesus’ family. The Bible itself is, from the first page to the last, the story of Jesus, of God’s redemption of us, all of us, everywhere. He chose to send His redemption first through a man and his wife, then through a family and finally through a single nation.

When Jesus was born, He repeated the story and went back, once again, to a man and woman, a husband and wife. It seems that God always begins His beginnings with humanity with family.

The Chosen people were chosen, as God told Abraham, “to be a blessing.” They job was to bring that first flickering point of light to the world at large. The nation of Israel was in the one best place best situated for sending the message of redemption to the whole world. The location that made it a perilous location of great political and economic interest, also made it the perfect jumping-off place for spreading the Good News outward until it met itself circling the globe.

Thus Jesus, when He finally came, was a Jew, born to Jews in a vassal Jewish nation residing in the crook of the elbow of the ancient economy.

He was, from the beginning, the Light of the World. Not, notice, the light of the Jews. Jesus, a Jew, born of Jews, came for every person who walked the planet. Salvation came from the Jews, but it was for us all.

That is the meaning of the Epiphany. It is the underlying message of God calling three wise men to, as the hymn says, “traverse afar” in their quest to find Him. These men were not Jews. They were us, the unsaved sea of humanity that had been, up until then, standing outside the door.

The epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are part of the story now. Salvation came from the Jews, but it is no longer theirs alone. From the beginning of Jesus’ earthly life, He called all humanity to Himself. It began with three men who followed a star and it is unfolding to this day.

Pope Francis surprised the pundits this week by raising up cardinals from far-flung locations about the world, many of which are places where Christians suffer desperate persecution. The mustard seed is just being planted in some of these lands. Those cardinals are the successors to the wise men.

… the Gospel must be preached to all nations, Jesus told us.

And it will be.

And it is.

Like every other story of humankind, the story of our salvation begins with a man, a woman, and a baby. It begins with a family, and it ends with eternal life.

Mixed into this story is the tale of three wise men who “traversed afar” to pay homage to a newborn king laid in a manger in a stable. They visited the Romans’ vassal king of that land, King Herod, on their way to Him. In doing so, they alerted a ruthless and insecure man to a potential threat. Their indiscretion cost the lives of innocent children, executed by King Herod in a drive to safeguard his throne against prophecy. They were the trigger that sent Mary, Joseph and the baby Jesus into exile in Egypt.

Their part in the story of salvation, was germinal in every way. But the most important part of it is also the most often overlooked. The wise men were not Jews, they were not of the Chosen people. The blood of Abraham did not flow in their veins. But God called them and guided them and over a long journey led them … to Him.

In this way, the epiphany of the Epiphany is that we are welcome at the table now. The doors to God’s salvation opened wide on that night when He was born, allowing any who will take the step to enter in. It began with a star, a journey and a baby.

Because the wise men r us.

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Left the Puppy. Pet Her and Stuff

My son left his puppy in our back yard early one morning before anyone got up.

He texted this message: Left the puppy. Pet her and stuff.

The rest was rock n roll.

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Copyright: Rebecca Hamilton. All Rights Reserved.

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Maternity as a Masters


Is motherhood equal to a master’s degree?

I think it’s much greater than that. Employers are missing a bet by punishing both mothers and fathers for putting their families first. Not only are they aiding in the destruction of our society, but they are cheating themselves out of employees who are the kind of people who can and do commit and go the distance.

Giving motherhood the respect it deserves is a much needed antidote for the the sins of this world. The video below describes a movement that began in Italy which seeks to do just that. This movement and those like it are an important step in the right direction.

The evil of abortion — and through it a plethora of life-destroying movements — found traction in the public imagination precisely because child bearing and motherhood had been used as a means to justify discrimination against women and to limit their lives.

Women don’t need the “right” to kill their own children. They need respect and support for motherhood. No woman should be forced to chose between a murdered child and a ruined life. I believe this so passionately that I’m currently writing a whole book about it.

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My 24/7 Mama and Zombie Days

mama.jpgMy mother is doing a new thing with her dementia.

A couple of years ago, she stopped eating. It took all sorts of finagling to get her started again. Now, she eats and demands ice cream (which she always tells me she hasn’t had “in years”) in between meals. Yesterday, she asked me how I was doing. “I haven’t seen you in a long time,” she said.

A few months before she quit eating, she stopped drinking water. We had to put her in the hospital a couple of times because she got so dehydrated. Then, we managed to get her going again on drinking water, and now it’s like it never happened.

The new deal is that she won’t sleep. She was up — and me along with with her — all night Sunday night. Just refused to go to bed. All day yesterday she was hyper confused and weepy. But she wouldn’t take a nap and when bedtime came, she flat-out refused to lie down and go to sleep.

I managed to get her down by being very firm with her. I scolded her like she was a two-year-old (which makes me feel like a rat) and told her to lie down and go to sleep. She slept, but I didn’t. I was up until almost four in the morning, and then I didn’t sleep when I finally went to bed.

Long story not so short: I’m taking a zombie day. I had all sorts of things planned that I needed to do, but I don’t think I’m going to do them. My brain is mush and I feel all sorts of jangled and disconnected. I don’t care about anything right now.

This is what caregiving for the elderly can be like when it gets choppy. My mother is unfailingly sweet. The whole time she was up during the night, she was chirpy and jazzed. She kept greeting me with delight and wanting to go for a drive, get ice cream or just chatter.

The bad part was the next day, when the exhaustion left her confused and unable to function. She was in one of those down moods when she knows that her mind is haywire and she feels demoralized because of it.

But as night came on, she started shifting upwards, ready to roll on into dawn again.

I’ve learned that we can get her past these things. Overcoming the refusals to eat and drink taught me that. It takes a concerted effort and lots of imagination, but it’s possible to flip the switch back into place and get her going again. Right now, I’ve got to re-teach her night and day. Odd as it seems, night and day have been an increasing challenge for quite some time.

I’m not sure why, but she forgets that night is night and then gets upset when other people don’t respond to her in what she thinks is the proper manner. She can go for hours, waking you over and over every minute or so with the same request. It’s usually that she wants to get ready to go to adult day care.

I just dealt with it as best I could. But an all night elderly romper room is too much. We’ve got to flip the switch back. I may ask the doc for sleeping pills, if nothing else works. I hate to do that, but, hey, she can’t go 24/7 for very long. For that matter, neither can I.

In the meantime, I hope you’ll bear with me. I’ve got cotton brain.

 

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Advent: Come Lord Jesus

 

The Bible ends with a poignant verse.

Come Lord Jesus, cries in a voice that resounds in the heart of every Christian.

Two thousand years ago, the conquered children of Israel looked forward to Him, even though they didn’t fully understand Who He was, and they certainly misunderstood what He would do.

The prophecies of the Christ begin in Genesis when God tells the serpent He will set enmity between the serpent and the Woman, that she would crush his head, and he would strike at her heel. This was not, note, a prophecy of Eve’s life, but of Mary, the New Eve whose quiet birth, unmarked as it was by the larger world, was the door opening on our salvation.

With Mary’s Immaculate Conception, the primal hope of the garden before the fall reawakened in human existence. It was given back to us as a free and totally unmerited gift by God. It set the stage for the coming of His Son, the long hoped-for Messiah.

Prophecies of Jesus began at the beginning, in the Garden, and are woven throughout the many thousands of years of history that tell the tales of His family in the book we call the Old Testament. It is the story of God, raising up a people by first calling one man to leave his home and go out into the wilderness.

It began, as these things always do, with a family; in Abraham’s case, a troubled and often sinful family that nevertheless trusted God. Not everything Abraham did was right, but he believed the Lord’s promises, and Scripture tells us that God “reckoned that to him as righteousness.”

There is a message in this for all of us. That message is simply that we need to trust God and follow Him without placing the unreachable burden of perfection on ourselves. Righteousness is found in trying to do God’s will and trusting our lives and our salvation to His mercy. Whatever we lack in ourselves and our efforts, He will supply. All we need to do is trust Him and do our best.

But how does God supply the lacks? How does He reach across the unfathomable gulf between our finiteness and His infinite transcendence? He did it by doing the unthinkable, by taking on human flesh, being born of a young woman and living, suffering and dying as one of us. Jesus was foretold over and over again throughout the Old Testament, but, as Steve Jobs famously said, it’s impossible to connect the dots going forward; you can only connect them looking back.

In the case of the many prophecies of Jesus the Christ, the prophecies of His second coming are intertwined with those of His first coming. The triumphant Lord of all history is foretold alongside the Suffering Servant of Calvary. Connecting those dots going forward was as confounding to the people of that day as connecting the dots of the Second Coming are to us. Theories and theology abound, and all of them are, to a great extent, educated guesses.

People of Jesus’ day skipped over the Suffering Servant prophecies and misinterpreted the salvation prophecies to weave together an interpretation of a warrior king who would make the nation of Israel into the dominant world power. They tried to connect the dots going forward and came up with a political interpretation which, while it comforted them in their sufferings as a conquered people who occupied the bottom rung on a significant trade route for the Roman Empire — The trade route mattered to the Romans. The people who lived there, not so much. — was wildly inaccurate.

They took comfort in the promised messiah of their own interpreting who would place his foot on the back of the Roman neck and make the Israelites the rulers of the world. Although this inaccurate interpretation comforted them in their daily problems, it led them into the mistake of missing the real Messiah when He actually came to them.

Nothing in their grandiose imaginings came close to the lowly carpenter’s son, born of a virgin in a stable and then forced to flee into exile soon afterwards. They were unprepared for parables and stories urging them to love and care for one another and talking about a Kingdom that would grow like a tiny mustard seed or the leaven in bread into something they could not fathom.

The idea that the Messiah would be executed like a common criminal and then rise from the dead only to leave the whole enterprise of Kingdom building in the hands of 12 men chosen from ordinary fishermen and tax collectors made no sense according to the false interpretation they had believed for so long.

And so the cornerstone of the new Kingdom became the stumbling block for God’s chosen ones. They, the apple of God’s eye, the ones from whom salvation comes, turned aside from their own salvation while the prostitutes and sinners, the rabble and riff-raff of outsiders, walked right in.

Advent is the season we set aside to consider these things. We know about the first coming of Christ. The dots are in our past, where we can see the pathway they form with clarity. We have the Church to explain these things to us, and we have 2,000 years of Christian teaching to make them clear.

So long as we confine our Advent meditations to mulling over the First Coming of Christ and think about our personal piety and our need for repentance and conversion, we are on fairly solid ground. We know what is expected of us as His followers. We know the story of God made man for our salvation.

But we are not at the end of the story. We still await the fulfillment of the prophecies. We are somewhere along the long row of dots that connect the planting of the mustard seed and the final harvest. We are, all of us, awaiting the day when He comes again.

Perhaps more to the point, we are traveling along our own road of life, journeying from birth to grave. We know — know — that our end of time is always imminent. One day our souls will be required of us, and none of us knows the day or the hour that will happen. That will be our end of time, when we go to Him, even if He has not yet returned to us.

Advent is the prophetic pot, simmering. It is a few weeks set aside for us to contemplate the mystery and the majesty of Christ coming. We have the history of His First Coming and the probably seriously misunderstood promises of His Second Coming, all intertwined with the certainty of our departing and going to Him.

We can’t — any of us — connect the dots looking forward. But we don’t have to. All we have to do is follow in the footsteps of Abraham, or Mary or Stephen or Priscilla or Paul or the woman with the hemorrhage or the blind man who would not deny Him and was put out of the Temple for his fealty. All we have to do is just believe Him and follow Him and trust that, even if the dots don’t connect in meaningful ways for us looking forward, they will be form a pattern of salvation when we look back.

Advent is a good great time to consecrate however much of our lives we have left to His Mercy. Trust and obey the old hymn says. There is no other way to be happy in Jesus. 

Truer words were never spoken.

Spend a few minutes this advent contemplating the dots going forward into your eternity as well as those going back to the Immaculate Conception and to the stable. Are we living in the End Times? Perhaps. But in truth, it doesn’t much matter if we are.

Each and every one of us is living in his or her “end times” every single day. There is absolutely nothing to fear in this if you trust and obey. God’s mercy, which was poured out on all humanity from the wounded side of Jesus, is greater than our weakness, stronger than our failures, more loving than all our fears.

Just put your hand in His and let Him lead you Home. There is no other way.

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The Family Drug Addict and Thanksgiving

 

I don’t know what it is about the holidays. All I know is that the family alcoholics/drug addicts cannot stand the happiness that might happen at this time of the year.

So, they rouse themselves from their self-absorption and go to work, manufacturing crises and doing everything in their power to pull the rest of the family into the traumas of their own devising. They won’t stop until you stop them, or until they’ve made such a mess of the holiday that everyone — Every. Single. Person. — from the littlest baby to the senile old lady is a frazzled wreck, and sullenness and misery hang over the turkey like a fog.

The holidays are their deal. You can set your calendar by the oncoming train wreck that your family drug addict/alcoholic will provide.

I missed it this year. Things have been so lovely lately. I’m deep into a prayer time and I am free of the weight of public office and I just got my piano tuned, and my kids are doing great and my husband loves me and my Mama is precious and, and, and … all is well. Sigh. Close your eyes and breath in the peace.

All this contentment made me a sitting duck for the family drug addict and her annual permutations on holiday-destroying crisis creation. I missed it entirely when I got the calls about going to the hospital. Now, I wasn’t so stupid as to actually drop everything and rush over to the hospital to do some grade-A emergency hand holding. Been there. Done that. Not doing it again.

No, I listened and then started rationing my answers to the phone calls. That helped. But it’s still peace-destroying to have 10, 20, 30, 40, 50 (I kid you not) phone calls in a few hours. I put the phone on silencer, but even the constant buzzing sound of the vibration can make me tighten up inside.

When none of that got me involved, it became a matter of me making decisions which would have gagged Solomon, decisions which I flat-out refused to make. Drug addicts are manipulative to the max, and I got a full dose. Every button that love can create got punched.

It was at this point that I finally realized that, hey, Thanksgiving is this week and this is the Annual Ruin the Holidays whatever. After I finally “got” it, things simplified.

I no longer feel harassed because I no longer feel pulled in two directions. My normal instinct to go and save someone I love is disconnected now. I realize that this is just her, doing her druggie thing that she does every year and I have no reason to feel conflicted about not allowing her to jerk me into it. I am actually doing the responsible thing for myself, my family, my guests and for her.

As soon as Thanksgiving is past, she will go back to her usual drug doing life and all will be quiet until she ramps it up again for Christmas.

Because nothing any of us can do will “fix” the family drug addict/alcoholic. That’s all on them. There is so much help out there for them; our whole society runs around with its hands out, trying to convince them to take treatment.

I’ve done the deal with my family drug addict. We’ve been through the phoney-baloney-hyped-up uselessness of the most expensive treatment center in Oklahoma. It did no good, largely because it catered to its privileged clients and went in for touchy-feely puff and stuff instead of demanding the raw grit of honesty.

For my money, AA — which is free — is the single best program. It works. I’ve seen it work.

But nothing is going to do any good unless the drug addict/alcoholic wants it to work enough to swim through the misery of change. Change, even without alcohol and drugs, is never easy.

Giving up an addiction to a substance is both physical and mental. It requires going through some unpleasant detoxing and some even more unpleasant honesty and then topping that off with leaving behind the warm bath of your old drug/alcohol supporting friends and lifestyle and jumping into the cold snow of living life naked, without the drugs/alcohol to blur out the edges.

I know people who have recovered from addiction. They did it the hard way. It began by making a decision that they didn’t want to die. That’s a wise and realistic decision, because alcoholism and drug addiction are killers. First, they destroy your personality. Then, they destroy your family. Then, they lay you in the ground.

I’m not writing this to vent about my experiences with the family drug addict. I’m writing it to tell you what you must do with your family alcoholic/drug addict this holiday.

Send them away.

Shut the door and don’t let them in. If you have children, you must keep them away. Children deserve and must have a stable environment to be able to grow into the people they were meant to be. Children deserve a Thanksgiving free of the manufactured and utterly unnecessary drama that alcoholics and drug addicts inflict on people. As their parent, it is your job to protect them from the crazy destructiveness of the drug and alcohol addicted.

If you have children, give the family drug addict/alcoholic the heave ho. I mean that. Kick them out and nail the door shut behind them. They can stop when they want to stop. There is a whole world of help out there, begging them to allow themselves to be aided in their recovery.

But you can not stop them. You can not help them.

What you can do is save yourself, your family, and most importantly, your children from the chaos and complete destruction that will happen if you let these people in.

Just to make my point clear, I’m going to repeat it: If you have children, your first responsibility is to keep the kids clear of the drug addict/alcoholic and their soul destroying behavior. Protect your kids: Kick the drug addict/alcoholic out.

I’m going back to my retreat now. That may sound a bit counter-intuitive, after this rant. After all, aren’t Christians supposed to forgive? Aren’t we supposed to lend a helping hand?

In truth, forgiveness doesn’t enter into this. I love the family drug addict, and love always forgives. I’ve forgiven her already. It’s not a matter of forgiveness, it’s a matter of accepting reality. And the reality is that until/unless she really wants to stop using, I can’t help her.  My only choice is whether or not I let her destroy other people along with herself.

I have a lot to pray about. The one thing you can do for drug addicts/alcoholics is pray for them. That does work. Again, I’ve seen it work. Pray for them and for yourself and the rest of the family. And then trust them to God. You’ve done all you can do.

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Voice of the Child of Divorce

 

Powerful and true.

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Raising Kids with a Super Spiritual Foundation

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The Word Exposed: The Christian Family

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The Synod, One More Time

 

I was bugged all day long yesterday by one of my own posts. The post in question in this one. It was the post in which I compared the recent Synod on the Family with the United States Congress.

I tried twice last night to write another post, essentially taking back some of the sharp-edged harshness of that one, but I couldn’t get there.

Here’s what I finally came around to.

I was wrong (and this is what was bugging me) to paint all the bishops who participated in the Synod with one brush. In truth and in fact only a smattering of the participants managed to set things on their ear with their reinterpretations of the Gospels along popular lines. The Synod participants as a group backed away from this and issued a final report that stood in accordance with 2,000 years of Christian teaching on the family.

The reason I couldn’t write a major I-was-wrong about that post as a whole is that I don’t honestly think I was wrong. I believe the Synod was a failure, and the reason it was a failure was the polarization among the bishops themselves. Faithful Catholics read that final report with a massive “thanks be to God” that it didn’t do harm. Unfortunately, it also didn’t do much good.

The things I said in the post are my honest assessment of a few of our bishops. The major positive accomplishment of the Synod is not the final report. It is that it may have shone the light of reality on some of these woefully out-of-touch men. Since the whole of Church governance is built on the bishops, that is, if it’s true, a significant and healthy thing. It is also why ducking our heads and pretending that they aren’t, in fact, out of touch and trying to lead us down the broad way, is a form of disloyalty to the Church.

Powerful people need the truth more than most for the simple reason that they so seldom hear it.

I may be wrong, and if it turns out that I am, I will not hesitate to say so. But for now that’s what I think and I can’t unthink it just because the people in question are bishops of my Church.

We need to thank the bishops who stood against all the nonsensical ideas and backed away from the theological cliff. Hopefully next year we will see developments that actually support and aid the family as well as develop pastoral practices to heal the reality of those who are living the lies of our broader culture.

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