Not Exactly a Christmas Carol …

Not exactly a Christmas carol. But it fits the way I feel.

Merry Christmas, my friends.

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Faith Challenges of 2013: Repenting of My Self-Sufficiency

This has been the year of two living popes.

It’s been a year of new mass shootings, government shutdowns, spies turned whistleblowers and the revelation that our government is doing everything but looking up our skirts and down the fronts of our blouses in its efforts to spy on and criminalize the entire American populace. I’m not ruling the skirts and and blouses part out, but we have no confirmation of that.

It’s been the year when the Supreme Court drop-kicked DOMA and took gay marriage off the leash, the year when we the people actually got our fill of senseless war and stopped the bombing in Syria. It was the year when the economy rotated in place and a big piece of my part of the world was blown to smithereens.

There’s been the flop of the Obamacare start up; the push for gun control and a nervy stand-off in Texas over a commonsense pro life bill that would simply require abortion clinics to provide the same levels of safety to their patients as any other free-standing surgery clinic.

My brother-in-law died, leaving my sister as one of the walking wounded. My mother has been in and out of the hospital.

And me, I’ve just kept on passing bills and writing blog posts. I still haven’t lost weight and I still can’t make my hair do one single thing that it doesn’t want to do. I have taken up piano lessons, and I am the proud possessor of a new camera.

Life, as they say, goes on.

One surprise to me has been how hard it is to blog about matters of faith and still keep my religion. I’ve spent years dealing with that very thing as a legislator. The process of getting whammed around because of my beliefs has toughened my faith and made it stronger. But I’ve also found, as I’ve started writing about it, that it has made me more than a little impatient with people who aren’t as willing to go out there on the ice for Jesus as I am.

I’ve forgotten how I was before the pro abortion people made me the target of an orchestrated campaign of character assassination. They forced me to choose over and over between them and Jesus, between the Democratic Party and Jesus, between having friends at work and Jesus, between anybody even speaking to me on the job and Jesus. I’ve forgotten what it was like back in the days when I hadn’t been called every ugly name I can think of.

Who was I back then?

I honestly can’t remember.

All I know is that talking about these things with you good people here at Public Catholic and witnessing your attempts to work through them yourself has acquainted me with the simple fact that I’m different now than I was before these things happened to me. I see the world differently than I did before I chose Christ in an active way during adversarial politics.

One of the purposes of this blog is to provide a forum where we can work through the process of finding our voice in the face of the often daunting ugliness of attacks on the faith in this post-Christian society of ours. It’s ironic how often the blog and I get targeted by people who make it their business to attack Christians and Christianity. That can be disruptive to what I’m trying to accomplish here, but it is, in its own backhanded way, a great privilege.

Whenever anyone targets me for personal attacks and vendettas because of my stand for Jesus, I am blessed.

But this blessing leads me to the faith challenge that has troubled me most of this past year. It is easy to get caught up in these attacks and start feeling besieged. Instead of drawing me closer to Christ, that kind of thinking can build a barrier between me and Him.

It’s easy to fall into the trap of regarding these things as being about me. It’s also easy to fall into the parallel trap of trying to deal with them on my own.

One of the surprising pitfalls of blogging about faith is that I can spend too much time talking about Jesus and cheat myself of time spent talking to Him. It seems some days that the more I talk about Jesus the less I talk to Him.

This tendency to talk about Christ without talking to Christ is a dangerous road to take. I think it would lead me inevitably down the path of becoming my own little g god. I could eventually come to a point where I lose my relationship with Jesus and begin to lecture and hector about Him without any guidance or input from Him. These attacks from the Christian-bashing peanut gallery — and my own temper — push me hard down that path.

That would be disaster, not for you who read the stuff I write, but for me. I can not allow anything to come between me and my relationship with Christ, even if that thing is my attempt to stand for Christ. I can’t because to lose Christ is to lose life itself and all that matters.

The only way I know to avoid this is by retreating. I don’t mean by not writing this blog. I mean by not making the writing of this blog into what passes for my relationship with Christ. The life of a Public Catholic should be mostly Catholic and only a little bit public.

What I mean is that any public statements or actions about my faith should be the outflow of a fruitful walk with Christ that is mostly hidden and that is nurtured, sustained and informed by the quiet times of simply being with Him. If most of my faith is what people see, then it is an anemic and ultimately destructive excuse for real faith. The way to achieve this kind of fruitful walk with Christ is not by pushing on, but by making regular, nourishing retreats away from the public part of life.

This is similar to the lesson that I learned in how to live a real life while in public office. I had to withdraw and go home to my real life. You have a real life by living one. By the same token, you have a real relationship with Jesus Christ by spending time with Him.

I am not talking about going to mass, although going to mass and partaking of the Body and Blood of Our Lord is essential. I am talking about spending time in prayer, and by that I mean mostly just being with God. I certainly don’t mean dumping out a laundry list of wants and needs and then going back to your busy-busy life. Prayer is, or it should be, mostly companionship. Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament is a wonderful way to get some alone time with God. But it’s not necessary, if it’s not do-able.

I experienced the profound conversion that changed my life while I was driving my car on the way to Enid Oklahoma to make a speech. God is with you, always. You only have to start talking to Him.

I’m still learning the blogging ropes. At the same time, I’m also trying to learn how to live my first vocation, which is simply and always to love Jesus and let Him love me. The challenge to my faith in 2013 has been the surprising reality that I need to learn how to speak about Jesus in a public forum and then just go home to Him the rest of the time.

I think talking about this on this blog is highly appropriate. It is, after all, called Public Catholic and is dedicated to helping all of us, you and me both, learn to live our faith in the public side of our lives. We live in a society where the public debate, the media and most educational institutions are dominated by an anti-Christian viewpoint that is not the least bit ashamed to engage in Christian bashing that rises to a discriminatory level. We have reached the point where at least in some quarters verbal abuse and hazing directed at Christians is considered a form of righteousness.

Every one who stands for Jesus is going to pay a price.

The only way this blog can help to empower Christians to find their voice for Christ in the face of that overt and ugly resistance is if we talk honestly to one another. We need, all of us, to base our efforts to speak for Jesus on a real faith that is nourished and sustained in the private side of our lives.

Nobody told me this rock was out there under the blogging water when I began doing this. I did not realize that I would learn that I had to repent of my self-sufficiency. I had to hit the rock of spiritual dryness and feel the unpleasant thunk all on my own.

For all I know, the other Christian bloggers here at Patheos have never come up against this. I tried a few months ago to talk to a priest about it because I thought that, of all people, a priest who has to go out there and wear his faith on his collar all the time would understand. He just stared at me like I was speaking Klingonese.

I decided then that I was on my own with this, or, rather, I was on my own with Jesus. But that’s how I became a Christian in the first place; just me and Jesus.

What that means for me is making time for the simple things: Pray the Rosary, read the Bible, go to mass. I can leave the heavy lifting to the Holy Spirit. I don’t have to sustain my relationship with Christ by my actions. All I need to do is stop ignoring Him in my zeal to defend Him and simply talk to Him. I am a child of God, and like all true parents, He will always answer when I call.

I Got My Best Christmas Present Early This Year

I got my best Christmas present early this year.

My mother is home from the hospital today, after a close encounter with a stroke that would have left the right side of her body useless to her.

She is ok, with no visible after effects, due to quick action and great medical care. One of my sons asked me how I knew that this was a stroke and what to do about it. I had to think for a moment. How did I know?

Then, I remembered. We had a group of speakers from one of our hospitals at a Rotary meeting. They gave information about the warning signs of a stroke, and also told us which hospital in the area was equipped to treat strokes.

It’s important to know these things. Strokes don’t just happen to elderly people like my mother. They can happen to anyone, at any time in their lives. The disability that strokes cause can be devastating. The great thing is that there is often a way for medical people to stop the stroke and prevent this tragedy. But you have to get the person who is having the stroke to medical care early enough.

I’ve put together a few videos about strokes. I hope you’ll take the time to watch them and then find out where the best facility for treating a stroke is in your area. The most important thing to remember is an acronym: FAST.

Here is a copy of a warning card describing FAST from the National Stroke Association. To get a copy to print out and put in your wallet, go here.

Here is additional information that I found on the National Stroke Association website. I think it’s important to note these more subtle symptoms. I decided my mother needed to go to the er because she had a tingly feeling on the right side of her face and her right arm. She also had sudden dizziness and a headache.

Learn as many stroke symptoms as possible so you can recognize stroke as FAST as possible. Click here to download the FAST Wallet Card to keep a reminder of stroke warning signs with you wherever you go!

Stroke symptoms include:

  • SUDDEN numbness or weakness of face, arm or leg – especially on one side of the body.
  • SUDDEN confusion, trouble speaking or understanding.
  • SUDDEN trouble seeing in one or both eyes.
  • SUDDEN trouble walking, dizziness, loss of balance or coordination.
  • SUDDEN severe headache with no known cause.

Call 9-1-1 immediately if you have any of these symptoms

Note the time you experienced your first symptom.
This information is important to your healthcare provider and can affect treatment decisions.

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HHS Mandate and the Complete Loss of Religious Identity

HHS Mandate = Totalitarianism.

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2013 Favs: The Gospel in Six Words

During the next couple of weeks, I’m going to review my favorite things we’ve done in 2013.

This is my absolute favorite You Tube.

God bless this young man and his conversion from gansta to Christian rap. His talent is incredible.

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Pope Francis: Living Our Faith Publicly in the End Times

These words of Pope Francis are especially important to those of who are living in post-Christian America.

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Did You Hear the One About the Franciscan and the Jesuit?

I could use a laugh? How about you?

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Christianity Helps Women Rise Out of Poverty, Domestic Violence

Jesus Christ is the world’s greatest revolutionary.

People who believe Him and follow His teachings are empowered on every level of their existence. It is impossible to be a true follower of Christ and not realize that you are worth something, no matter what the larger world has to say to the contrary.

This revolutionary aspect of Christianity is most evident in its impact on marginalized people, including women.

The women who are part of the “untouchable” or “Dalit” class in India are currently experiencing and demonstrating this powerful revolutionizing effect of Jesus Christ. It begins, as Christian revolution always does, with one individual who says “yes” to Jesus. This “yes” starts this person on the life-long walk with Christ that slowly changes who they see themselves to be and what they want to do.

Jesus doesn’t change what you do. He changes what you want to do. And by changing that, He works through you to change the world.

This power of conversion is what is so sadly lacking in the hearts and minds of tepid Christians here in the West. The rich-kids Catholic school in Seattle that I wrote about earlier today is an example. These people are salt that has lost is savor and is no longer of any use in the work of Kingdom building.

On the other hand, the Spirit is moving and empowering the “untouchables” of India to be more than their society has allowed them to be. That is the power of Jesus Christ. He levels the mighty and elevates the cast-offs.

Perhaps no one is more cast off and marginalized than the women of the bottom tier of a caste society. India is a caste society where women are so far down the scale that baby girls are routinely murdered both before and after birth simply because they are girls. A Dalit woman occupies the bottom of the bottom in that world; the place from which there is no arising.

Yet, by the grace of God and the leavening influence of Jesus Christ, these women are rising. They are seeking education, buying homes and reporting domestic abuse. They are exercising their freedom as full human beings made in the image and likeness of the living God.

That is the revolutionary force of Christianity when we live it as it is given to us instead of trying to shape it to fit the society in which we reside. We each face a choice every day of our lives as to who or Whom we will follow. We chose. And we make this choice one day, one moment, at a time every day of our lives.

In course of living out our choices, we become what we do. You can not turn your back on God when it is socially convenient and use Him for your puny purposes when you need a dose of feel good. That is an illusory Christianity, a “cheap grace” as Bonnhoeffer called it, that avails nothing.

From CNA/EWTN News:

From CNA/EWTN News:Rome, Italy, Dec 20, 2013 / 05:04 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- A researcher at Washington D.C.’s Georgetown University has found that impoverished women in India are more likely to improve their economic circumstances after converting to Christianity.

“Conversion actually helps launch women on a virtuous circle.”…  said Rebecca Samuel Shah, research fellow at Georgetown’s Berkley Center for Religion, Peace, and World Affairs.

Shah presented her initial findings of a pilot study looking at “patterns and directions where conversion had an impact” on Dalit women in Bangalore, India at a conference on “Christianity and Freedom” held in Rome on Dec. 13-14.

Dalits are considered the “outcasts” of or “pariahs” of society in India.

“One is actually born a Dalit, you cannot leave a Dalit status. You’re born and you live and you die a Dalit,” Shah explained. “Dalits are employed in the some of the worst jobs…they scavenge, they sweep, they’re tanners. They do the smelliest, dirtiest work, and therefore they ‘polute’… they’re ‘untouchables.’”

… Shah’s study yielded some surprising results about the impact of Christian conversion on the lives of Dalit women in “a very violent urban slum.”

The majority of Hindu, Muslim and Christian Dalit women interviewed were illiterate. Many belong to a microfinance program which gives them access to loans which they then use towards their children’s education or to run a small business.

The first “unexpected pattern” Shah encountered was in housing. “The converts converted their loans to purchasing houses, and turned dead capital into resources to generate additional capital.”

…  The impact of home ownership is crucial, since “by being able to own a house, these poor women were able to get bank loans, commercial loans, which they didn’t have access to before that. When you have a house you can get a loan at 3 percent, instead of from a money lender at 18 percent.  So having a house is a very important investment in your future, so you can have access to very affordable credit.”
The second “dramatic” finding in Shah’s study concerned domestic violence.

A national family health survey in India in 2005-2006 indicated that 86 percent of the women interviewed nationally had never told anyone that they had been abused.

According to Shah, this large scale study indicated that a woman’s religion was an important indicator of whether or not she would seek help. “Only 24 percent of Hindu women sought help, and 22 percent of Muslim women, but 32 percent of Christian women sought help,” she noted.

Shah’s own study “echoed” the national health data, in that “57 percent of women – a very large number of women – actually tell their pastor” about domestic violence.

…  “It was a unique finding. We were not looking for this,” added Shah.

The Georgetown researcher then pointed to the underlying factors that accompany an improvement in circumstances after conversion.

“Conversion activates in the converts a powerful new concept of value and initiative,” she explained.

It offers “a radically different way of seeing themselves: seeing themselves as a new creation, a new identity, made in the image of God, seeking a better life for themselves.”

“Poverty is inherently depressing. It’s discouraging. It’s debilitating. It breeds hopelessness: ‘why bother?’” she reflected.

Yet with a new Christian vision, “The future is not terrifying. It can be achieved. Because God is with them, they can invest in the future. It’s not something to ignore, not something to be terrified of.”

Dozens Protest Catholic School for Firing ‘Married’ Gay Vice Principal

According to news stories, Eastside Catholic High School in Seattle dismissed its vice principal because he was a gay man, ‘married’ to another gay man. This action resulted in what news stories have characterized as a walk-out by students of the school.

I looked on the school’s website and found that tuition at this school is almost $19,000/year. The motto, Discover You, is emblazoned on the web site. That motto would seem to fit in with the overall sense of entitlement that goes with privileged kids, whose parents pay high tuition to buy them an education that shapes them to fit into a narcissistic secular world.

It also points to a failed Catholic school. Based on the behavior of its students, this school appears to have failed in what most people think is the real mission of a Catholic school, which is raising up young people who can stand for the faith.

We live in a post Christian America and we need Catholic schools to equip our young people to follow Christ in a hostile world. From the behavior of these students, I would guess that this school has been equipping young people to follow the world within the Church. It would appear that it has succeeded so well that their first loyalty is not to the Church, but to the trendy morality of the larger culture. That equals a failed Catholic school in my books.

This post ties in rather nicely with an earlier one about the Vatican’s call for Catholic schools to maintain their Christian identity. Based solely on the behavior of its students, along with photos and verbiage on its website, I’m guessing that Eastside Catholic has fallen rather short of this. Their website portrays a glitzy school with high tuition and white bread students who are being prepared to fit in with the secularized Christian-bashing post Christian larger society.

I wonder if any of these students at this school are being prepared to follow Christ and be the leaven that actually converts the world?

The students who have walked out should be dismissed from the school. If that means temporarily closing the school, or maybe even lowering the tuition a bit so that a less entitled group of young people can study there, so be it.

From KOMOnews.com:

According to Eastside Catholic attorney and spokesperson Mike Patterson, Mark Zmuda has violated a signed contract that states he would follow the official teachings of the church. Patterson maintains that gay marriage is against the Magisterium of the Catholic Church.

After meeting with Patterson, Zmuda resigned his position – for personal reasons – with the school, effective Friday, Dece. 20, 2013.

Zmuda was a good administrator says Patterson, and they plan to give him a good reference.

Students are outraged, and have protested the resignation by walking out of school on Thursday.

“We are standing outside the school protesting for equality in the church, and equality everywhere,” high school senior Alex Kovar said.

The students say Zmuda is a great man and a great faculty member.

“We’re all here because we love him and we want to feel like we can accept people for who they are here at Eastside, and I think by firing him because he’s gay is not portraying that message,” Eastside Catholic senior Julia Troy said.

The students say it is widely known that Zmuda is gay, and they aren’t sure why the school has decided to act now.
“What a lot of us are questioning is why it took them this long to decide to fire him, because this man has, and continues to make a really big impact on our school,” Troy added.

All grade levels are reflected as dozens of students currently stand outside the school, and voice support for Zmuda.

Judge Calls NSA Spying ‘Almost Orwellian’

A federal judge has ruled that the government’s latest sally into police statism is unconstitutional.

Calling the practice of sweeping every phone conversation of every American into a government database “almost Orwellian,” Judge Richard Leon ruled that it also violates the Fourth Amendment to the Constitution of the United States.

Here, for those who’ve forgotten, is the Fourth Amendment:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Reading that amendment, I can’t help but wonder if the founding fathers might not have agreed with Edward Snowden, the much-maligned, man-without-a-country whistleblower who made the American people aware of what was being done to them. Who, in the final analysis, is more dangerous to our freedoms? Is it Mr Snowden? Or, is it the people in our own government who are building a huge storage facility in Utah to house the data they’ve accumulated from turning every American citizen into a suspect?

Governments all over the world have complained about NSA spying on their citizens. But until Judge Leon stepped into the fray, the only one who was willing to take the risk of speaking up for the American people was one lone whistleblower.

From the Guardian:

A federal judge in Washington ruled on Monday that the bulk collection of Americans’ telephone records by the National Security Agency is likely to violate the US constitution, in the most significant legal setback for the agency since the publication of the first surveillance disclosures by the whistleblower Edward Snowden.

Judge Richard Leon declared that the mass collection of metadata probably violates the fourth amendment, which prohibits unreasonable searches and seizures, and was “almost Orwellian” in its scope. In a judgment replete with literary swipes against the NSA, he said James Madison, the architect of the US constitution, would be “aghast” at the scope of the agency’s collection of Americans’ communications data.

The ruling, by the US district court for the District of Columbia, is a blow to the Obama administration, and sets up a legal battle that will drag on for months, almost certainly destined to end up in the supreme court. It was welcomed by campaigners pressing to rein in the NSA, and by Snowden, who issued a rare public statement saying it had vindicated his disclosures. It is also likely to influence other legal challenges to the NSA, currently working their way through federal courts.

The case was brought by Larry Klayman, a conservative lawyer, and Charles Strange, father of a cryptologist killed in Afghanistan when his helicopter was shot down in 2011. His son worked for the NSA and carried out support work for Navy Seal Team Six, the elite force that killed Osama bin Laden.

In Monday’s ruling, the judge concluded that the pair’s constitutional challenge was likely to be successful. In what was the only comfort to the NSA in a stinging judgment, Leon put the ruling on hold, pending an appeal by the government.

Leon expressed doubt about the central rationale for the program cited by the NSA: that it is necessary for preventing terrorist attacks. “The government does not cite a single case in which analysis of the NSA’s bulk metadata collection actually stopped an imminent terrorist attack,” he wrote.

Teacher Dismissed for Refusing to Allow Planned Parenthood in His Classroom

An Oregon teacher has been fired for refusing to allow Planned Parenthood in his classroom. It is important to remember that Planned Parenthood receives enormous amounts of government money for coming to schools to “educate” young people about their sexuality. Much of this money comes in the form of pass-through money from the Federal Government.

However, it is up to the state government to determine which contracts will be awarded.

Planned Parenthood also stands to receive huge financial benefits from Obamacare through block grants, again, for “education” in their ideas about sexuality.

This is indirect funding for abortion, since Planned Parenthood is the nation’s number one abortion provider.

From The Oregonian:

Bill Diss, the Benson High School teacher who had accused the district of retaliating against him for his pro-life views, was formally dismissed from the district.

The Portland School Board approved his firing by a 6-1 vote, with Steve Buel as the sole dissenter.

Buel said he did not agree with the process that led to the dismissal.

Liz McKanna, the attorney for Diss, said on Monday before the vote that they would “certainly” consider pursuing further legal action if he were fired.

Several supporters on Monday spoke up to defend Diss, attacking the board for pushing him out of the district. Others clutched “We Love Mr. Diss” signs.

Diss, who taught at the district for 11 years, had been placed on administrative leave in March. He had been suspended for “unprofessional, intimidating and/or harassing behavior,” according to documents from the district.

Diss challenged his dismissal Nov. 14 at a pre-termination hearing, where he insisted the district was unfairly targeting him. He also said they should have placed him on a plan of assistance before firing him.

Diss was reprimanded by the district in Sept. 2012 after he refused to allow employees of teenage pregnancy prevention initiative to speak to students because the employees were from Planned Parenthood.

Vatican: Catholic Schools Must have a Catholic Identity

“I’ll accept you, but only if you leave your identity aside.”

This statement sums up the challenge a lot of Christians are facing in their walk with Christ. The Vatican’s answer is that Catholic schools must retain their Catholic identity in the face of it.

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Winning the Lottery

What would you do if you won the lottery?

My husband and I had a dinner conversation about this last night. The lottery had gotten up to some stupendous number and he’d gone all in and bought a $5.00 ticket. Or maybe he bought five $1 tickets. I’m not sure.

All I know is that he came home and told me that this was our one chance to have a happy life. After we finished laughing, we slipped into the what if? talk that surrounds things like this.

What if we won?

Here’s the interesting part. I couldn’t think of anything I would want for myself. We’re not rich, and I have all sorts of things I am hoping to save up for and buy eventually. But, the wanting and saving are part of the fun. I think that if I couldn’t want things and if I wasn’t forced to save and plan in order to be able to get them, the acquisition itself would become a bore.

Here’s a for-instance. I would love to buy a piano with a prettier sound than the one I have. The one I have is plenty of piano for me and my talents. But I just want a piano with more possibilities built into it. Just in case, I suppose, I ever get to the point in my playing that I can tease those possibilities out of it and create the music I long to create.

If I won the lottery, I could buy just about any piano out there. But the whole idea seems flat. I’d honestly much rather save up and buy a nice used piano in a year or two — after I’ve mooned over them and longed for it the whole time — than just do it like getting ice out of the refrigerator. I enjoy the process of earning things. It makes them mine in a fuller sense when I eventually get them.

The camera I bought is a case in point. I’ve looked at that camera for two years now. I waited and saved and then, when it came down in price, I finally got it. Now, I am sooooo thrilled with it. I can’t keep my hands off it. I don’t even want to sleep. I just want to play with it.

If I’d been able to just go get it when it first came out, how much fun would that have been?

There were three things I came up as my husband and I mused our way through this what if conversation.

1. I would give a whole pile of money to All Things New, which is an organization that rescues trafficked women.

2. I would donate the money to build a new Catholic Church in deep South Oklahoma City.

3. I would donate the money to build a new Catholic Church in inner South Oklahoma City.

The Catholic population is growing rapidly in my part of town and, even while the numbers at parishes climb, quite a few people are leaving the Church because they feel crowded out. We simply need facilities to create and preserve Catholic communities here.

Other than these things, the only thing I could come up with would be to use the money to fund a foundation and then decide later. In all honesty, I delay things until I have the money, but I eventually get around to doing most of the things I want. I am having a blessed life, and I know it.

What would you do if you won the lottery?

Would you quit your job the next day?

Would you move to a new house?

Would you take your family on a cruise?

The amount of money that was on the line in the lottery yesterday — hundreds of millions of dollars — was beyond my comprehension. My husband told me that if we won it, we’d have to move and go incognito for our own safety.

My reaction to that was thank you, but no. That doesn’t sound like a gift. It sounds like a sentence.

My home/family/community give my life structure. This is my place, my spot in the world. What could money possibly give me to compensate for losing that?

What-would-I-do-if-I-won the lottery is a great dinner conversation game to play. It also can have a certain value to it. I had no idea that I am so content with my home/family/life until I tried to think of ways that a lot of money could improve it.

What would you do if you won the lottery? Would it be a gift to your life, or a sentence?

 

 

Planned Parenthood Received $453,000,000 in Government Funding in 2013

Forty-five percent of Planned Parenthood’s 2013 budget, or $453,000,000, came from direct government funding.

In addition, another 25%, or $305,000,o00, came from “non-government health services revenue.” I can’t say definitively, but based on my years of dealing with government budgets, I imagine that a good bit of this “health services revenue” is actually indirect government funding in the form of pass through monies.

Does that make it clear why the head of Planned Parenthood campaigned so assiduously for President Obama?

Planned Parenthood has become a quasi government agency. Anybody who takes $453,000,000 in government funding in a single year is not a private organization. I would include a fair number of corporations in this same boat.

The government trough has become big business for a lot of big businesses, and the enterprise of trading on “women’s health” is no exception. That is why this organization pushes dangerous chemical birth control, like depo provera and the morning after pill, on unsuspecting women. Unlike the completely safe barrier methods of birth control, women have to keep coming back to Planned Parenthood to get their dose of hormones.

These hormones are powerful. They bathe every cell in a woman’s body in a bath of artificial hormones. In the case of the morning after pill, this is a high dosage, which, if the woman uses it repeatedly, must have a multiplier effect. With birth control, the constant exposure of women’s entire bodies to dosages of artificial hormones can go on for decades.

In the meantime, women have to go back and get their scripts. Every visit is a Ka-Ching! for Planned Parenthood.

Planned Parenthood lobbies aggressively all over the country to allow abortions to be performed by personnel other than doctors. They are fanatic about blocking requirements that abortion clinics conform to the same regulations that are applied to all other surgical centers. I don’t think this is because they are supporting “women’s health.” I think it’s a better, more profitable, business model for them.

It is not an indictment of the regulations that so many abortion clinics in Texas had to close because they could not comply with the legal requirement that they function as normal surgical centers. It is an indictment of the clinics.

Planned Parenthood has made the practice of prescribing the most dangerous forms of birth control and selling abortion into a big, government-funded enterprise. They’ve managed to spin this with their claims that “women’s health” equals dosing women with these dangerous forms of chemical birth control and allowing any abortion at any time for any reason.

Four hundred, fifty-three million tax payer dollars say that this is government policy, right up there with roads, national defense and education.

It’s your money. Is this how you want it spent?

From the Susan B Anthony List:

 

 

Blasphemy for Breakfast: God our Father

Scott Hahn describes a conversation he had with a Muslim scholar. The point for me in this conversation is the great beauty of what Jesus did for us.

Jesus is God made Human. He gave up His deity to become one of us in order to redeem us. By doing this, He became the Way by which we can enter into genuine communion with Our Father Who Art in Heaven.

No other faith has an empty tomb. No other faith has a Brother God Who has suffered as we suffer, been tempted as we are tempted and who understands with the knowing of personal experience what it is to be human.

There is no other Way except Jesus. We are the children of God, and He tells us to call Him our Father. Think about that, and rejoice.

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Sony a77: My New Keeper Camera

Oh me. Oh my.

I gifted myself a with a Sony a77 — that’s a whopping big slt camera, for those not in the know — as they’d finally come down from the stratosphere in price. I’ve been using an a55.

I got the camera Saturday. As soon as the battery was charged, I fired it up and took a few shots. Oh wow. I used the same lens I’d been using on the a55 — a 17-50 f2.8. It was supposed to be a good lens, but it had always underwhelmed me on the a55.

On the a77, it’s like … I can’t even describe the difference. People have been underselling this camera. Either that, or the a55 is a point and shoot in disguise. I hated to put it down to go to mass. In fact, I thought about taking it to mass and annoying my pastor by snapping him during the homily. He’s a good sort and could probably surf through the annoyance. He is also already accustomed to my weirdnesses.

I have a plan that I’m going to record a year of a legislative session from the inside with this camera; that and take a full set of the people of District 89 as they go about their business.

I think these are worthwhile projects because not many people have the vantage that I do for recording either of these things.

I love cameras. It’s more than the gear, more even than the photos. It’s the ability to look through a viewfinder and, by changing a few things here and there, capture something more than is there. The camera can, once in a while, when you get lucky, capture the meaning of things.

My camera obsession goes all the way back to a Brownie I bought with my allowance when I was a little girl. When I got my first real job, I bought a 35mm film camera with 3 prime lenses (35mm, 50mm and 100mm) and a teleconverter that I used for decades. I was stubborn about not going to digital. I liked the plain and simple methods of setting the aperture and shutter by turning the dials. I even thought I liked using a light meter.

Then, on a trip to Hawaii, I watched as others used their new-fangled cameras, and converted in one afternoon to the its-all-in-the-box complicated simplicity of digital. I’ve been looking for a berth in the digital world that really fits me ever since.

My first jump into digital was a point and shoot Leica D-Lux2. I did good, buying that camera. It’s ten years old and I have no quarrels with it whatsoever. I’ve taken it all over the world and shot tens of thousands of photos with it. It will shoot raw or jpeg and offers fully manual control all the way through to fully automatic, all alongside a lot of pre-sets that I’ve never bothered to use. It has a fast lens that gives a lot of shooting leeway and tends toward a soft clarity that flatters both people and art. I love what it does with light.

I have no desire to replace the Leica. I may never replace the Leica.

But I had a lot harder time replacing my 35 mm. I really hated the digital dslrs I tried. They felt wrong in my hand, for starters. And they seemed limiting in a way that the film camera with its stark simplicity just didn’t. The Sony a55 was my first turn to the digital dslr (or, as purists like to point out, slt) world.

I bought it because — you guessed it — it felt right in my hand. Also, it could use my old lenses. Even though I liked the a55, I couldn’t seem to get the alive quality in my photos that I got with film. Then, I unboxed the a77 and that changed in one snap.

The a77 isn’t a perfect camera. But it’s pretty close. It’s water sealed, which may mean no more wrapping it in plastic on gnarly days. But the main thing is the detail and the aliveness of the photos.

With the Leica and the a77, I may just have found two cameras that I will never want to replace.

Oh me. Oh my.

Forgiveness

Forgive.

It sounds easy. People often claim that they have forgiven, when, in fact, they are a long way out from anything that approaches actual forgiveness.

To forgive when there is no love is a practical impossibility. To forgive when the person or people who have harmed you refuse to admit that they’ve done anything wrong can seem as if you are agreeing with them. To forgive when they are actively continuing to harm either you or other people feels as if you are cooperating with your own abuse.

The greatest challenge of forgiveness in the face of truly horrific harms against you as a person such as rape, battering, murder and prolonged, vicious slander is that it raises the specter in your mind that you are in fact acquiescing to the thing that was done.

Too often, people say they have forgiven when what they are doing is becoming passive in the face of crimes against their own person. Forgiveness of horrific crimes against your humanity has to count the cost and know the full measure of the crime which is being forgiven.

People oftentimes push forgiveness on a victim of great violence and trauma far too soon. Everyone deserves the dignity of their anger. Anger can cleanse and heal. It can be an assertion of your humanity in the face of actions and people who have denied by what they have done to you that you are human. Anger is a necessary claim to your own worth and to the fact that those who hurt you were and are deeply wrong to do this to you.

It harms people to try to deny them their anger and push them into a faux forgiveness. When this happens, the forgiveness is not real, and the anger festers and turns inward.

Forgiveness comes after anger, not before it. Anger comes after numbness and shame and denial. Anger is the first step out of the darkness, and it is, at this point, a righteous assertion of your right as a child of God not to be treated this way.

But anger, if it takes on a life of its own, can become pernicious. Anger, if you stay there in it and just wind and rewind yourself around the shame and bitterness of what happened, becomes a cancer, eating at your soul. It can separate you from God. It, and the denial it feeds, the shame it covers, can isolate you in a small room with what happened to you. Either that, or it can push you into little enclaves of fellow sufferers who seem to be the only people who “get” you, who understand what you’re about.

The antidote for this illness — and at this point, your anger and shame have become a spiritual and emotional illness — is to face what happened to you in its full, hideously painful ugliness, and forgive.

But how to forgive without implying that what was done to you was nothing? Many times, victims of violence, in particular such things as rape, are faced with a world that belittles both them and what happened to them. They are sometimes called liars, or told that it was their fault. People back away from them and treat them as if they are not the same as they were before.

Rage is the only defense they feel they have. The humiliated rage of the victim is a shield against the claims that what happened was nothing and that they are nothing.

How do they lay down this shield of rage, which has been for many of them their only defense? When anger and resentment are the slender shards of broken self-respect that you hold onto in the face of what feels like public disregard, it can be more than you can face to lay them down and forgive.

That is the point where the grace of God is your only friend. The human portrait of that grace is Jesus, your fellow sufferer of injustice, shame and pain, hanging on the cross. The grace you need to forgive is found in the memory of God, almost bled out from a savage beating, staggering under the weight of the cross on which He was going to be murdered while the crowds jeered and the soldiers beat Him more.

You don’t need a circle of fellow sufferers to understand you and what you are going through.

He understands.

And because He forgave those who murdered Him, because He forgives you now of everything, including your anger and the hurtful things it’s made you do, you can forgive too.

Forgiveness, at this level, isn’t an act of will. It is an act of trust.

That trust is in Jesus Who tells you that even the hairs on your head are numbered, that there are many mansions in His Father’s kingdom, and He has prepared one for you.

You are a child of God, and this brutality you have suffered is an offense to God.

The world needs forgiveness. Without it, we will eventually destroy everything we love, including our civilization.

On an individual scale, you need forgiveness. We need to forgive one another and lay these heavy burdens of shame and bitterness down. We need to forgive. And we need to be forgiven.

This is Advent. Emmanuel is coming.

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Book Review: Things That Go Bump

To join the discussion about The Angel Affect We are Never Alone,  or to order a copy, go here.

My husband and I have knocked on a lot of doors.

I can drive up and down the streets in the district I represent and tell you who lives behind most of the doors. I know their faces and thoughts. They’ve told me their fears, shared their joys and come to me for help, sometimes when they were at the extremities of life.

This is a deep privilege, knowing these people in such depth. Their trust is a gift.

I don’t spend a lot of money on my political campaigns. I substitute knowing them and letting them know me for the piles of cash that other candidates use to get elected. Every time I have a campaign, I go to each and every door and ask them if they will vote for me again. That’s a lot of doors. It takes time and effort and the expenditure of calories.

My husband has knocked on almost as many doors as I have, a lot of them for me. He comes from a political family. He cut his teeth on campaigns.

We got into a discussion a few weeks ago about the phenomena almost every politician who has done this knows. When you walk up to a house, you know if there is someone inside it. They can be asleep or watching tv, but you know if there is someone inside that house. By the same token, if they’ve gone to the grocery store, you know that no one is home.

The question is, how do we know that? Why does a house without a person in it give off such different and identifiable vibes than one where somebody is home?

I don’t have any idea how we know. I don’t even have any idea if this is something that is peculiar to people like politicians who knock a lot of doors and are deeply attuned to observing and understanding people on an unspoken level, or if it’s something that happens to most people.

I only know that we know. And that this knowing has been confirmed time and time again when we knock on the door.

This phenomena fits my personal belief that there is far more to us than you can find in an autopsy lab. In fact, there is far more to us than science will admit.

The Angel Effect is about this simple fact. Scientists have a tendency to dismiss a whole side of human potential as delusion, or worse, confabulation.

There are things we can see and do that simply do not line up with the limited, one-dimensional understanding of who we are that science tries to project onto us. The Angel Effect is about one small aspect of that great sea of human dimension that scientists have tried to either ignore or bully into silence.

The author called this the Third Man in an earlier book he wrote about the same phenomena. In The Angel Effect, he describes his own experience with the third man, and then goes on to share with us what are the beginnings and somewhat tortured “explanations” of various people of science concerning this phenomena.

I, for one, am gratified that scientists are at least moving off their ludicrous contention that this is all either delusion or lie. The idea — which I’ve heard proclaimed as fact all my life — that literally billions of people throughout history from all over the globe who do not know one another are telling the same stories because they are having delusions or making up the same lie is preposterous. It’s hubris, not explanation.

The Third Man the author talks about is one isolated phenomena in a whole range of human experiences that fall outside conventional explanation. The Third Man is when a helpful other, a person or being, appears without explanation to offer assistance in times of stress.

The author lumps all sorts of experiences of the other in this category, things which I think are discreet and different from one another. For instance, I don’t think Marian apparitions such as what happened in Fatima are the same as the Third Man. For that matter, I don’t think the experiences people sometimes have of seeing their dead loved ones are the same as the Third Man.

Here’s a for instance. Loretta Lynn wrote in her book, The Coal Miner’s Daughter, that she heard her father for a moment. She was on the west coast, while her father was all the way across the country. She learned later that her father had died at the same time she heard him. In another instance, Sebastian Junger wrote in The Perfect Storm that one of the small children of one of the fishermen who died in the storm saw their father at about the time he died.

Something a little bit like that happened to me when my father was dying. I woke from a deep sleep when I heard my father’s voice say “Becky!” I called my parents, and my mother told me that Daddy had suddenly become desperately ill.

Loretta Lynn, the fisherman’s child and I weren’t in distress when these things happened. We didn’t seek them. They came to us.

How does this happen? Is it our brains, reaching out across the miles at the time of our deaths or, as in the case of my Daddy, when we are in great distress, to communicate to the ones we love? Or, in the case of those who have died, is it our immortal selves, making a stop on the way to that next place to say good-bye?

We’ll all know the answers to these questions in good time. But in the meantime, it’s enough to say that there are too many of these occurrences for them to be delusions or confabulation.

The point I’m making is that there is a lot more to us than our current understanding of who we are will admit. An admission that the Third Man phenomena actually happens is a baby step in the right direction of understanding ourselves for real.

I could go on for a long time, describing things that people have seen and heard. After all, I am the mother confessor for tens of thousands of people. But that would violate their confidence.

What I will say is that these things I’ve described are just the tip of it. We are immortal beings with an eternal lifespan. There is in us the transcendent. God has given us brains to match that. Not only can we conceive of eternity, we have within us the equipment, both spiritual and — I am convinced — physical, to reach out to it.

I look forward to the day when science begins to understand how our finite brains can do these things. But I also know that scientific explanation will never touch the essential knowing of the transcendent that our experiences reflect.

The Angel Affect is one man’s attempt to explain his own brush with transcendence. He looks at the nascent attempts by a few scientists — mostly medical people — to explain the Third Man experience. He also seems to find a lot of people who are not religious who these experiences have happened to. I wouldn’t be able to do that in my community, since almost everyone is religious, whether they go to church or not.

However, the fact that this happens to all people, whatever their beliefs, is just a reflection that this is a human and not a dogmatic experience. We are all made of the same earth and the same breath of God. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, we are endowed by our Creator with certain abilities and ways of knowing that reflect that.

I have put the author’s first book on hold at the library so I can read it, too. The Angel Effect is a thought-provoking book that raises more questions than it gives answers. If you ever wonder why and how you know the things that you don’t have any way of knowing, or if you’ve ever felt the presence of a helpful Other when you were in trouble, then it’s definitely worth your time to read it.


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