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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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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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.

Do You Believe Jesus is Alive?

 

Never forget that we are resurrection people.

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Making a Holy Advent: Allow Christ to Enter into Our Lives

Don’t waste Advent. It’s a wonderful season that allows us to prepare for the coming of Our Lord, as well as look forward to His coming again.

The words for Advent are: Peace, Hope, Joy, Love.

Don’t waste Advent. Live it and allow Jesus to be born again in your heart.

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Pope Francis Trades Caps with Boston College Students

I have got to go to Rome. I just want to see my Papa, even if it’s from a distance and I have to stand on tiptoes to get a glance.

Boston College students Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, got a lot more than that. They actually traded caps with the Holy Father.

From The Boston Globe:

Two Boston College juniors walked away from the Vatican with a treasured memento Wednesday, after Pope Francis gave them his white papal skullcap.

Philosophy majors Katherine Rich and Ethan Mack, who are studying in Rome this semester, waited along the barricades with a skullcap, called a zucchetto, and a note attached that read, “Boston College loves our Jesuit pope,” the students of the Jesuit-run university said Thursday in e-mail messages from Rome.

“We thought he wouldn’t see us, but we both yelled, ‘Papa!’ and at that second he turned around, saw us, and asked the driver to stop,” said Rich, 20, a native of Minnetonka, Minn.

They extended the zucchetto, bought for 50 euros, or about $68, the night before near St. Peter’s Square, and the pope sent over a guard who carried it to him, they said.

KATHERINE RICH

Francis smiled at the note and donned the cap after making sure it was the right size, they said, then handed his own zucchetto to the guard.

“The pope then gave a nod and smiled right at us,” said Mack, 21, who is from Portland, Maine. “He took off with the one I bought, and the guard gave us his original one.”

If You Want to Convert People, Don’t Throw Dirt in Their Eggs

Long before New Mexico was a playground for the rich and famous, it was a playground for my family.

My Daddy’s family hailed from there, going back to before statehood, when it was a dangerous and unsettled wilderness. Edward Arlington Robinson’s line “We count our past backwards by the gravestones and the apple trees” fits my feelings about New Mexico perfectly. All I have to do is change “apple trees” to cacti.

My Daddy’s family liked to go camping, again long before camping was an in thing to do. It was a time when the mountain roads were not paved and the winter air was so pure and cold you could see all the way to tomorrow.

The whole bunch of us — grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins — went on one of these camping trips when I was a toddler. I have no memory of this event, but I’ve been told they cooked breakfast. I have experienced a lot of these campfire breakfasts, eating scrambled eggs, hash browns and bacon, all cooked over a propane stove. The taste of food like that, when you’re shaking with the bone-numbing morning cold and your family is all about you, surpasses any other gastronomic delight I have ever experienced.

Even though I have no memory of what happened that day, I’ve heard about it often enough to feel as if I remember it. Right in the middle of the cooking and laughing and sleepy-morning good times, I picked up a handful of gravel and tossed it onto the cooking eggs.

Fortunately for me, my family wasn’t prone to spank children. The adult consensus was that I had gotten tired of not being the center of attention and made a move to focus attention on myself. So, they picked me up and laughed about it, tossed the eggs and had a breakfast of hash browns and bacon, instead.

That was also the camping trip in which my cousin, who was six months older than me, fell into the ice-encrusted mountain stream and had to be rescued and cuddled for warmth. There was evidently a lot of baby cuddling and laughter on that trip and it was the beginning of glorious memories of the mountains before they were trendy for both my cousin and I.

I’m telling you this story, not to confirm your suspicions that I was an indulged and adored child (I was) but to point out that two-year-olds behave a certain way, and when they behave that way, it’s ok … for two-year-olds. Anyone with half a brain knows that baby people act out the primitive cravings for attention that never leave any of us in primitive, baby people, ways.

Anyone with half a brain also knows that certain maladjusted people, who maybe didn’t get their fair share of cuddling and adoration when they were babies, don’t grow out of this. Back before the internet, these jerks (there is no better word) visited their boorish behavior on those long suffering souls who had to work with them or have them over for Thanksgiving dinner. In short, the same families who’d messed them up in the first place had to pay the price of putting up with them for life.

But family fracturing and social isolation has deprived these folks of their traditional outlet. At the same time, the internet has given them another one. Far from being isolated on line, they’ve formed themselves into virtual clubs for the socially inept. They hang self-congratulatory monikers on themselves and spend a lot of time telling each other how special they are and how totally second-rate the rest of the world is.

But this constant verbal back-slapping and repetitive proclaiming of their own superiority to one another doesn’t give them enough attention from the larger world. Staying in their own little clubhouse and high-fiving one another until their palms bleed doesn’t — nothing can — satisfy their hunger for attention. They need more.

They sally forth from their little enclaves to toss verbal sand into everyone else’s eggs. Then they go hopping home to brag about their exploits.

One of their members recently wrote an accidental confession of sorts, based on his astounding discovery that you can’t get people to dine with you if you throw sand in their eggs. What worked for me when I was two, just doesn’t get the same loving tolerance from people who aren’t your adoring family and who are operating under the (evidently inaccurate) assumption that you are an adult.

This little essay, titled “Why I’m quitting the online atheism community,” is one atheist’s discussion about how he has learned that he can’t “convert” those “morons” who believe in God to his way of thinking by dashing onto our blogs and inserting himself into our conversations and calling us, well, morons.

I don’t know exactly what led this young man to this flash of astounding social enlightenment, but, to be honest, I am more than a little amused by his belief that he’s had some sort of interpersonal epiphany. I keep wanting to ask: Who raised you fella?

This atheist’s essay interested me for a couple of reasons, other than the fact that it’s accidentally funny.

First, it is a frank admission of what I think most of us already know. These clumsy trolls are trying to convert us to their way of thinking.

Second, these clumsy trolls actually think that their insults and tiresome verbal wanderings are some sort of discussion rather than an affliction and an intrusion.

I imagine that the idiotic billboards they hang up at Christmas fall into the same kind of activity. They think billboards with insults on them are saying something to people of faith. For our part, all we see are a bunch of adult two-year-olds, running around, pulling their pants down and tossing sand in our eggs.

When they cross the line from insults and adolescent grandiosity into coercion and discrimination, the laugh track dies. But that is a discussion for another post. Right now, I’ll confine myself to the question of questionable behavior by those who are so lacking in social grace that they think yelling insults and annoying people will appeal to and “convert” them.

The moral of this story is that if you want to convert people, don’t throw dirt, including verbal dirt, in their eggs. It applies to rude Christians as well as atheist trolls.

If you didn’t get your loving as a child and feel an aching need for it that won’t fill, turn to Jesus. His love is the love you were made for. Everything else is a faint copy.

 

Pope Francis is Person of the Year and It Doesn’t Mean a Thing

Time Magazine named Pope Francis their ‘Person of the Year’ for 2013.

This honor, which is usually a signal event in the lives of most of its recipients, was probably more of a bemusement to the Holy Father.

He walks in the shoes of the fisherman.

I have always loved the power of that first call to Peter. It is an incredible story. Here it is, in all its stark simplicity.

As Jesus was walking beside the Sea of Galilee, he saw two brothers, Simon called Peter and his brother Andrew. They were casting a net into the lake, for they were fishermen. Come, follow me, Jesus said, and I will send you out to fish for people. At once they left their nets and followed him.

Think about this story for a moment. Simon and his brother Andrew are going about their daily work as fishermen. They are casting their nets into the lake. Then this stranger comes up and says, Follow me … and I will send you out to fish for people. 

What would you do?

I’ve dealt with a lot of crazy people in my time in public office. Many of them have pulled me aside to share their delusions. I’ve always handled it as gently as I could. But I never considered dropping everything and following them off to Mars or wherever they thought they were going.

You can tell when someone is delusional. It’s not difficult at all.

But this carpenter’s son was different, and those who, as He said, had the eyes to see, picked up on it immediately. Simon and his brother dropped their nets, left their livelihood, and followed Him.

Why? What did they have the eyes to see?

I think it was more of an intuition and an instinctive response to the presence of God than knowledge and understanding. The Gospels make it clear that all the Apostles, including Peter, (who was called Simon until Jesus changed his name) slowly and often reluctantly came to an understanding of Who Jesus was and what His call meant. They were still quarreling among themselves as to their position in what they thought was going to be an earthly kingdom a few days before the crucifixion.

But the same Jesus Who others humiliated and murdered without fear for themselves or their immortal souls, was, for those who had the eyes to see, a transcendent figure from the first.

The seeds of His crucifixion were sown early in His ministry among those who were offended by His teaching. This was not a simple miracle man. He challenged the jots and tittles of the weighty interpretations of the law that the priests had layered on the people. He laid bare the priests’ pretensions while opening His arms to the displaced and despised.

They accused Him repeatedly — and accurately — of healing on the Sabbath. They “grieved and angered” Jesus with “their hardness of heart.”

Is it better to save a life or end it? he asked them, and they responded by plotting to kill him.

He could have quibbled and shuffled his feet and obfuscated His way out of the danger. He could have watered down the Gospel so that it fit the teachings of these fallen priests.

But He didn’t. Instead, He went right in their faces with his challenge to their mis-use of the law to control and weigh people down. The son of man is lord of the Sabbath He told them. The Sabbath was made for people. People were not made for the Sabbath, He said.

And they killed Him for it.

The crowds loved Him. They followed Him everywhere, even going so far as to knock a hole in the roof of Peter’s house to lower a crippled man for Him to heal. Less than a week before they yelled “Crucify Him!” the crowds shouted Hosanna! and laid palm branches in the road in front of Him.

Pope Francis is the Vicar of Christ. When he — or anyone — speaks out for the Gospels, he will be dealt with in a manner similar to what Jesus Himself experienced from human hands.

Is the servant greater than the master? Jesus asked his disciples. If they persecute me, they will persecute you. 

Today, as 2,000 years ago, high profile followers of Christ are subjected to the same push-pull of adulation that is placed on them instead of Him as well as the attacks and smears that are also placed on them instead of Him. In truth, both the love and the hate are focused on Jesus.

These high-profile followers of Christ are just the temporal targets through which people express their feelings about Jesus and their understanding of the Gospels. Pope Francis, as the Vicar of Christ, get this treatment, raised to powers of ten.

On the one hand, he is named Person of the Year. On the other hand, he is attacked as a heretic and compared — with absolutely no basis in fact — with the most corrupt popes of history.

Why? Because he says that Jesus came to seek the lost, that we must not walk past Lazarus, that the prostitutes and drug dealers and homosexuals will enter the Kingdom of Heaven before the pharisees of our time.

He is accused of being a sell-out because known sinners are attracted to him. He is called outrageous names because he says blessed are the poor.

This honor of being named Person of the Year will almost certainly further inflame those who are so bitterly angry with him. After all, the honor — in all its temporal nothingness — comes from public sinners.

Who is Pope Francis to tell sinners that Jesus loves them? Who does he think he is, insisting that Christ the Lord meant what He said?

Maybe, he thinks he’s the Pope. Perhaps the Holy Spirit had a thing or two to do with his election. It’s possible that he was put in this position because what he’s telling us is what we need to hear.

I wrote a post declaring my loyalty to this good man.

I ended up deleting a number of disturbing comments on this post. The comments came from people who wanted to rage at  the Holy Father — and at me, for standing with him.

They came from Catholics whose Catholicism has devolved down to a Gospel according to them as explicated by some false internet pope they are slavishly following. They repeatedly cited this or that cult-leader of a fallen priest or political guru to explain why the Pope is a heretic, a fool, or worse.

They chided me for following the Pope instead of their fallen priest or political guru. They explained to me why there is no responsibility for Catholics to follow the teachings of the Holy Father when it conflicts with the teachings of these internet tin gods.

Each of these rageful, bitter people appeared to be convinced — absolutely, foaming at the mouth I’d like to kill you for disagreeing with me convinced — that the teachings of their fallen priest/political guru trumped that of the Pope. They were, in a word, demented. They were, in a phrase, in the grip of a virulent form of self-deluding, self-righteous evil.

This is all First Century stuff. It is the same old story, re-told with living actors who don’t seem to know they are playing a part. I know that the chock-full-o-nuts attacks on the Holy Father for being named Man of the Year will arrive soon. I’ve read enough attacks claiming that the Pope is a heretic because public sinners are attracted to what he’s saying to know they’re coming.

For those of you who are interested, here’s my take on the Person of the Year deal: It doesn’t mean a thing.

Those same people who are so in love with Pope Francis today can turn like they were on ice and begin attacking him tomorrow.

What does matter — and is of eternal consequence — is whether or not those who hear his message will be convicted by it to turn to Jesus. The Pope is in the business of saving souls, not gathering honors.

He’s the Pope. He stands in the shoes of the fisherman. Which makes him a fisher of people.

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