Friday, April 29, 2005

Living into the calling

Abraham and Sarah: The effort of calling

The distance between the call and the fruition of the call is measured in great effort. The calling is given freely, but it takes everything we have to live into the calling.

When God called Abram and Sarai, He called them from a life of comfort, away from the urbane center of civilization, its running water, indoor plumbing and social prestige. He called them to cross a barren desert, to live in caravan of animals, frail tents on burning sand, following the stars until He showed them a land.

“What is this Lord, a game of divine hide and seek?” “You call us and then hide the map?”

The call cost them everything of their comfortable life, but in the effort God called them His own. God gave them new covenant names. Not only did God call them from former Ur-bane life, God called them from former selves to new selves, from false selves to true selves: Abram to Abraham, Sarai to Sarah.

Step by step in the calling, faith called from ‘deep to deep.’ The Lord showed up on their doorstep and promised them a son – a whole new level in the call. The first level took everything they had, this level took more than they had…and Sarah just had to laugh.

“Lord, have you lost your mind? Does a woman bear a child when her body is incapable of bearing?”

“How can you promise something that is impossible to accept…and then call us to accept that impossibility?”

Living into the calling took everything they had: body, soul and spirit.

Yet, the great call wasn’t through. After the miracle, after the promised son, God asked for that son. “Now that I’ve given you the son, sacrifice him to Me on the Mountain.”

“But God! His name is Laughter! We called him Laughter because you called us to the impossible! And now you ask him in sacrifice?”

How can God be so cruel, so demanding in the calling?

As one rabbi said, “G-d, you treat your friends this way -- it’s no wonder you have so few of them!”

But by now, Abraham knows God well enough to know that this is a God who calls to the impossible: This is a God, who when He deigns to call a person, calls that person not to the possible, but to the impossible. As Kierkegaard put it, “Abraham believed God by virtue of the absurd.” Only God could call to something like this…

Whatever else could have been said, Abraham saddled the donkey with firewood, sharpened his knife and headed up the Mountain of God. “Abba, where is the sacrifice?” asked Isaac.

“God will provide, my son!” replied Abraham. “God will provide!” “He always does.”

Abraham couldn’t tell Isaac of the years of knowing the God, this God who always called to the impossible and then provided. Abraham couldn’t tell Isaac that the holy calling always took effort that went beyond human ability. But Abraham could show him.

And he did. The rope. The wood. The descended knife…and Yhwh fulfilled the calling.

In that moment Isaac learned more of calling than mountains of books or money could have brought him.

Living into the calling takes everything we call our own. But it makes us children of promise in the process.



Thursday, April 28, 2005

The mystery of the chili finger

A fresh bowl of Wendy's Finger ChiliTM anyone?

The jury is in, and Anna Ayala is a fraudmeister. By now her chili finger claim is coast to coast, where she claims to have bitten down on a human finger in the Monterey Wendy’s Restaurant. But look at the logical case:

  • No one in the food management chain is missing any fingers.
  • The finger was not a cooked finger [I know this sounds really gross when talking about a human finger, but there is a difference between meat that is cooked and not cooked, lol].
  • Independent witnesses say she appeared to put something in the chili from a bag.
  • She has a juicy history of fraud and attempted fraud.

But the mystery remains: where did she get the finger? The question needs to be asked: Who gave Anna the finger?

Suffice to say that law enforcement is stumped on this one, lol.

They’ve traced deceased family members and digitless humans, but so far can’t finger the donor.

[This is too much fun, lol!]

But more on the serious side, no one seems to be noting the obvious: This partial finger could have come from an illegal immigrant. Anyone with connection to the high level "coyotes," human [and narcotics] smugglers who transport illegals from Mexico to CA [and the U.S.], would have an unlimited supply of human body parts. The criminal "polleros" are some of the most cold and remorseless humans on this planet: they rape, extort and deal in death almost daily. Providing a few body parts on ice would be nothing for them – for the right price. If the DNA can somehow be identified with Mexican descent, then the likely reality is that this is from an illegal immigrant, now dead.

But back to the lighter side, I think Wendy’s could make a killing from this [pardon the expression, lol]. Think of how many people travel thousands of miles so they can drink a Yukon Sourtoe Cocktail, touching their lips to pickled human toes. Gross, I know!

But if Wendy’s picked up on this, they could offer the “Finger Chili Special” with fake fingers in it, as a gag treat. Just think of the hordes of drunken college students that would flock to Wendy’s to try it! Every frat party for the next few years would feature Wendy’s Finger Chili
TM. Shoot, I’d try it myself…maybe treat the youth group to a Finger Chili night, lol!

Turn a negative into a positive, that’s what I say.

Dave Thomas, can you hear me? Turn the chili finger nightmare into a multi-million dollar windfall: bring out the “Finger Chili Special” with Fake Wendy’s Fingers included in each bowl! Charge a dollar or so more, with a little certificate that says, "I ate a bowl of Wendy's Finger Chili

I promise to buy a bowl and treat my friends too, lol.

Ad campaign slogan: Stand up against fraud! Buy a bowl of Wendy's Finger Chili


UPDATE: They've fingered the donor! :-)

And, they've found at least 13 cases where this woman filed suits in her or her children's name. She's given herself a multi-million dollar lifestyle [nice home!] through fraud. Litigation lawyers are such great Americans! Yakov Smirnov would say, "Vat a Country!"

Tuesday, April 26, 2005

The task of true love

The Paradox of Love

Thinking recently about the meaning of love, I realized that there are many impulses in me that hinder true love. I am someone who likes to figure things out, always analyzing, correcting, training or instructing. But this ‘figure it and fix it’ mindset is not the real task of love. It may be a human, default mode for me, but it is not true love!

Love is related to the work of God. Love is related to the purposes of God, the desires of God being worked out in the lives of others. On this level it is not something to figure and fix! It is only something that can be discerned and approached in prayer. As the will of God is vast and mysterious, yet also that which brings abundant life -- so the highest love is to pray and obey, to enter the mystery through faithfulness. And, Christ promises that in some inexplicable way, this will work out holy will in the lives of those for whom we pray. The Holy Spirit works in true love what our lesser love could never do.

It is easy to speak of love as laying down one’s life for the other, but when this demands obedience in prayer, obedience in silence…oh! It is then that the price of love is revealed. True love is revealed in the secret place of prayer. The task of true love is faithfulness in this silent place.

Lightly we speak of true love. But our lips are silenced when the real thing is shown to be so far above comfort and easy emotions! But even then, looking back, we say, “Oh, it was nothing!”

It is the paradox of love: Love is at once the easiest and hardest thing we can do; it is at once the most desirable thing, and also the thing which we most flee.

Thus it is great comfort when Jesus says, “Child, leave the fixing to Me. Leave My work to Me and occupy yourself with the task to which I call you!” “Daughter, let love be that which fixes your difficulties, let love be that which builds up your spirit.” “Son, let Me work love, just do your work of love!”

True love is impossible in human terms. But through the Holy Spirit, in faithfulness in the silent place, such a thing still happens in human time. A paradox. Yet the most real thing in the universe…



Prayer: Lord God, Abba! When my natural impulses rise up against the task of true love, please consider me in grace, and heal me. When I would rather know and fix than pray, please speak to me through your Holy Spirit, and renew me. When my fallen nature resists the silent place of true love, please view me in Christ, and renew me in high calling, through your good Spirit. This I pray for the glory of your kingdom, and for your Name’s sake, O Holy God! Amen.

Saturday, April 23, 2005

Prayer as the path to true self

Facing the Intended Self

Kierkegaard defines the human condition as the struggle to become a true self. He claims that most humans never become true selves...hiding, shielding their soul from high calling. Kierkegaard roots the problem in despair, where sin reveals itself in self-abdication -- the silent refusal to become a real self in the eyes of God.

The human condition is a paradox of despair: We cannot cope with what we are intended to be, and so despair. Yet we cannot cope with despair, so we desperately try to convince the self that we are not really in despair. So we lead lives of distraction, luxury and success…

But something within us flees from the calling. And we can’t even understand why! All we know is that our daily life builds barriers and defenses against the true self, choosing rather to mimic the life patterns and apparent happiness of others: It is the path of despair, the "sickness unto death." In following this path, we live a packed and titillated life, but never become our intended self.

What a convicting analysis of human reality! It holds up a mirror to our soul, measuring the weight of despair. But for this paradox of despair, Kierkegaard offers a paradox of grace: despair is the human condition, but it can also be the very thing God uses to bring us to our true self.

Here, in despair, we turn toward God, learning to relate to our true self by relation to God: abandoning and embracing self in God. In grace, we “transparently rest in the Power that established us.”

There is sure hope here, but such a conceptual answer leaves us hanging. What does it mean for our spiritual practice? What changes for daily life? Is there a practical path that leads from the despair of self to realization of self?

The Path of Contemplative Prayer

Thomas Merton offers an answer.

Like Kierkegaard, Merton analyzes the problem in terms of the illusory [false] self vs. the true self. The illusory self wars against the true self, much like a baby wars against the good things that take away its ‘comfort,’ or, as an unborn child would deny birth if given the choice.

An unborn baby that could think and have its way might choose not to be born. The violent wrenching from its dark, warm world into a horizon beyond its fingertips might seem like a transformation too great to bear. Yet, mercifully, there is no choice given. The child finds itself, screaming in protest, flung by the heels into an unfamiliar world.

This harsh, cold new world is the real world where real dreams must come…but one that every sense of the child screams against. Such is our spiritual life, where we war against ourselves when faced with the good, the true, the real calling that demands new birth.

When God calls us to our true intended self, at first it is a hard path, one that is less comfortable than our current desires would have it. So, we erect all kinds of barriers against that true self! “Oh! Give me the comfortable, the known, illusory self made happy by lesser things!” we cry.

Most people live their entire lives here: making empirical identity into the false self. “My own self then becomes the obstacle to realizing my true self.”

And, like Kierkegaard, Merton realizes that religion can be a drug used by the false self – a powerful barrier placed against the true self.

In Jesus’ day it was the religious people, the Pharisees, and not the prostitutes and tax collectors, to whom Jesus directed His most caustic accusations. It was the whited sepulchers, the religious people, who had Jesus put to death. Of course, being religious, they felt no guilt for what they did because they did it in the name of God.

In our day, nothing enables the false self as much as that ‘good feeling’ that comes from religious observance. Following Sunday worship, we immediately re-saturate and re-define self in relationships, activities, positions, control and cosseted ego -- yet feel *good* about it because we 'went to church.' Sunday is not nearly over before we slide [or leap!] back into full illusory-self mode. Ah, but we are religious! And this is how other Christians do it!

Such despair -- which we justify with religious language!

Is there help, a practical path out of this trap?

Both Kierkegaard and Merton say “Yes!” Kierkegaard answers with a philosophy of abandonment to God [transparent resting in God], and Merton answers with a practice of abandonment to God: transparent prayer with God.

Merton’s simple answer to the illusory self [despair] is a path of prayer. By this he refers not to perfunctory or rote prayers, but a commitment to know and encounter God in continued relational, contemplative prayer.

He says that the self that prays truly is the true self. “It is in prayer that we discover our deepest reality from which we have strayed like runaway children becoming strangers to ourselves.”

This prayer is an utter relation, where we dare to see and receive ourselves in God. In this kind of prayer we open up to the pruning of the Vineyard Keeper, not hiding our eyes, but unveiling our heart ‘allowing it to be cut by God’s delicate touch.’ “This communion is the…fruition of our deepest self.”

In this kind of prayer we “journey forward into our origin.”

This kind of prayer takes as much energy, thought and time as our most valued relationship.

The journey into this prayer is a “return to the heart, finding one’s deepest center, awakening the profound depths of our being in the presence of God who is the source of our being and our life.”

Our false self is exposed, gradually cut away; we are pruned by fire, and so discover true identity in fire: contemplative prayer relation, self before the holy Other.

If you hear the calling in these words, this is for you!

The commitment to this kind of prayer might be painful at first [all spiritual births are], but it is here you will find yourself!

Journey to the place of fire, to consuming, contemplative prayer, with these promises on your lips:

  • The secret of my identity is hidden in the love and mercy of God.
  • The place of my communion with God is the place where my identity will become real.
  • Serious prayer will excise my false self, and reveal my true self, my high calling in Christ.
  • Prayer is a journey forward, a response to the call of the Father to become perfectly like His Son through the power of the Holy Spirit.
  • God calls human persons to union with Himself, then with one another, in Christ Jesus.

This is Merton's answer to Kierkegaard's despair -- that lurking darkness which appears as an angel of light...that blight [false light] which creeps around the edges of our spirit and defends the illusory self. The first answer: contemplative prayer: prayer as work, prayer as life, prayer as relation.

It is a simple answer: practical, and true. A good answer!

So, friend, let us meet in this place of Holy fire, and discover our true self...and then one another!




Note: Thanks to Christopher for pointing me to Merton's thoughts on this. Good call, Christopher!
Also: Some of the quotes here are from Merton, and others from James Finley, a disciple who explicates Merton's thought.
And: There is always danger in writing truths such as this, that one comes across as having 'arrived' spiritually. Please! I do not write as one who has 'arrived,' but rather as one of the afflicted writing to my culture of affliction. I do not claim 'true self' -- only that perhaps I've been given a vision of what that means, and it is that toward which I strive with all my heart, for myself and those I love. 'Brothers and sisters, I do not count myself as already having apprehended, but this one thing I do...I press toward the prize of the high calling in Christ Jesus!'

Friday, April 22, 2005

Kierkegaard: Thou Spirit of Holiness


We have our treasure in earthen vessels, but Thou, O Holy Spirit, when Thou livest in a man or woman, Thou livest in what is infinitely lower.
Thou Spirit of Holiness, Thou livest in the midst of impurity and corruption;

Thou Spirit of Wisdom, Thou livest in the midst of folly;
Thou Spirit of Truth, Thou livest in us who are often deluded.

Oh! Continue to dwell in us, Thou who dost not seek a desirable dwelling place, for Thou wouldst seek among humans in vain -- so Thou Creator and Redeemer, make a dwelling fit for Thyself, make us a vessel fit for Thy Spirit.

Oh! Continue to dwell in us, that one day Thou mightest finally be pleased by the dwelling which Thou didst Thyself prepare in our hearts…foolish, deceiving, and impure as they are

This we ask for the glory of the eternal Son, Jesus the Christ! For Thy name's sake, strong Son of God!


A vessel of honor for God
A vessel of honor for God

Sanctified wholly that I might be
A vessel of honor for God.

"A vessel of honor, sanctified, useful to the Master, prepared for every good work..."



Tuesday, April 19, 2005

A note of grace in Benedict XVI

Ratzinger the right choice for postmodern challenges

"We are moving toward a dictatorship of relativism which does not recognize anything as certain and which has as its highest goal one's own ego and one's own desires."

So Joseph Ratzinger charged the cardinals before the conclave, and so they responded in choosing him. It is a good choice, a gracious choice, an ordered response for a postmodern generation. Ratzinger, now Benedict XVI, will do his best, before God, to theologically orient the Roman Catholic Church.

Anyone that can see this clearly into Liberation Theology will do well to speak to the world as pope.

I doubted that he would be chosen because of his age [78], but even a short term of Ratzinger will be a good thing for the RCC, and for the world.

Congratulations, Christopher! Your site was prophetic...

Many of your prayers were answered today!

God bless,


Monday, April 18, 2005

With all due respect for RC friends...

Here is Popapalooza 2005!

:-) [click to enlarge]

A friend sent this to me today, and I just had to chuckle. It's slightly sacrilegious, but I present it in the long Judeo-Christian tradition at seeing irony and humor layered into all of life.

Hopefully it will bring a smile to you...

And, not take away from the seriousness of what is riding on this Papal election.

Let us to our prayers, but with a smile in our hearts!


Mr. L. D. Iconclastian R. Mershimer


UPDATE: Whoever created this and made Ratzinger a 6 seed totally missed the boat! C'mon! No way was he less than a 2, and this only because of age! But he had enough hops in those 78 year old legs to win the day. Grin again. :-)

Saturday, April 16, 2005

Meditation on the covenant sign of life

Then the dove came to him in the evening, and behold, a freshly plucked olive leaf was in her mouth; and Noah knew that the waters had receded from the earth.

Then God spoke to Noah, saying, "Go out of the ark, you and your wife, and your sons and your sons' wives with you. Bring out with you every living thing of all flesh that is with you: birds and cattle and every creeping thing that creeps on the earth, so that they may abound on the earth, and be fruitful and multiply on the earth."

Then Noah built an altar to the LORD, and took of every clean animal and of every clean bird, and offered burnt offerings on the altar.

And the LORD smelled a soothing aroma.

Then the LORD said in His heart, "I will never again curse the ground for man's sake, although the imagination of man's heart is evil from his youth; nor will I again destroy every living thing as I have done. While the earth remains, seedtime and harvest, cold and heat, winter and summer, and day and night shall not cease."

And God spake unto Noah, and to his sons with him, saying: “Behold! I establish my covenant with you and with your seed after you, and with every living creature that is with you -- of the fowl, of the cattle, and of every beast of the earth with you, from all that go out of the ark, to every beast of the earth. And I will establish my covenant with you; neither shall all flesh be cut off any more by the waters of a flood; neither shall there any more be a flood to destroy the earth.”

And God said, “This is the token of the covenant which I make between me and you and every living creature that is with you, for perpetual generations: I do set my bow in the cloud, and it shall be for a token of a covenant between me and the earth. And it shall come to pass, when I bring a storm over the earth, that the bow shall be seen in the cloud: And I will remember my covenant, which is between me and you and every living creature of all flesh. And the waters shall no more become a flood to destroy all flesh. And the bow shall be in the cloud -- and I will look upon it, that I may remember the everlasting covenant between God and every living creature of all flesh that is upon the earth.”

And God said unto Noah, “This is the sign of the covenant, which I have established between me and all flesh that is upon the earth.”

Meditation of spirit

I see the descended dove,
Leaf in her mouth:
Above storm, night and fire,
Dove of starlight, dove of life.

Yet I see the darkness, sign of storm,
And I tremble.
So from my altar lifts this smoke:
My sacrifice, prayer, request.

Favor, my God!
Life, my God!
For love, my God!
Your promise, my God!

The heavens are silent:
Darkness, brooding clouds,
Grey, scudding storm --
Smoke, blood, and silence…

I wait, head bowed…
Silence. Darkness. Night.
Then heavens are rent
With crashing, dancing light!

Lord God, what is this?
Sign of favor, sign of life!
Fire in the clouds:
Transcendent hope!

I hold Eternal hand
And the storm passes by --
But with a blessing!
Holy sign, heavenly Light

Here on wings of storm,
Mystic peace!
In face of wrath, mercy;
In judgment, favor…

Mercy and truth,
Have met together,
Righteousness and peace
Have kissed each other!

I sing again: Holy sign,
Heavenly dove --
Your heavens are opened
And I dance, for love!

The sign is in the clouds,
The storm carries favor:
The covenant is mine
Throughout all generations!



Kierkegaard: Thy life is the judgment


O LORD Jesus Christ, Thou who indeed didst not come to judge, but wilt come again to judge the world. Thy life here on earth is in reality the judgment by which we shall be judged.
Wherefore everyone who calls himself a Christian must test his life by this judgment: to discern whether he loves Thee in Thy humiliation, or loves Thee only in Thine exaltation, or simply whether he loves Thee, for if it is in only one of these two ways that he loves Thee, he loves Thee not.
But if he loves Thee, he surely shall experience humiliation [for he loves Thee in Thy humiliation], but not as when the worldly mind succumbs to humiliation -- for it was not thus that Thou didst walk here on earth in humiliation.

No, such a lover, though humiliated, is raised above humiliation: his mind, his eye being directed to the high places wherein Thou hast entered, and where he looks forward to being with Thee -- who from on high wilt draw all to Thyself


LORD Jesus Christ, there are so many things to keep us and to draw us to themselves; each one of us has his or her own particular attraction, yet all of us have many.
But Thine attraction is eternally the strongest! Draw us then the more powerfully to Thee.
We call Thee our Redeemer for Thou art come into the world to break our bondage to the vain cares which we have imposed on ourselves, to break the heavy chains of sin!
We call Thee our Savior that Thou mightest save us by freeing us from all these fetters.

For it is God’s will that Thou should accomplish this and make possible our sanctification. That is why Thou hast descended into the lower regions of the earth and that is why Thou hast returned to Heaven in order to draw us to Thine own dwelling place


Thou alone, O Lord, art able to move a man; Thou alone art able to move a woman!
From the moment I think of Thee, my life is at Thy service; my weak talents are perhaps great in the eyes of men, but for Thee they are nothing and in every case they are the gifts Thou has given me.
When I think of Thy sufferings, Thou, my Lord and Savior, I do not want to spend my days whimpering in a pulpit, but I want to be surrounded by insults, losing everything which is of earthly order -- if it is Thy will.


O LORD Jesus Christ, Thou didst not come into the world to be served, but also surely not to be admired, or in that false sense to be worshipped. Thou wast the Way and the Truth – and it was followers only Thou didst demand.
Arouse us therefore, if we have dozed into this delusion, save us from the error of wishing to admire Thee instead of being willing to follow Thee and to resemble Thee

This we ask for Thy kingdom’s sake O Lord, and for the glory of Thy name!



Thursday, April 14, 2005

Wicked Women choppers on the way

Customized Bikes for Wayward Women!


Just kidding about the wayward women part, but the name is for real: Wicked Women
TM choppers!

The company's unofficial motto is, "Well-behaved women seldom make history." CEO Christine Vaughn seeks to build choppers fit for women, right down to the pink flames. As for the Wicked Women
TM name, Christine says it is inspired by the bad girls of the Old West.

The first model will be called the Shady Lady, sporting a 96 cubic inch -- 1,600 cubic centimeters -- S & S motor, custom pipes, and 'enough chrome to cause blindness.' All topped by heart-shaped flames in fingernail polish pink!

Really, with 635,000 female bike owners, it is a brilliant idea -- a gold mine in the waiting.

All except for the
Wicked WomenTM part, that is! But, come to think of it, what better way to honor that esteemed female in your life? The perfect gift, lol! "Hey baby, here's your own Wicked WomanTM chopper just to show how much I care!"

Her response: Slap! Smack! Oooooooooohhhh! It's a female Harley! Thaaaaank you! Um...I didn't hurt you did I?

Somehow I think there is a flaw in that marketing strategy somewhere, lol.

But I guess until we get
Righteous WomenTM bikes, these Wicked WomenTM ones will have to do!



Wednesday, April 13, 2005

The religious destruction of true selves

American Christendom and Despair of Self

Kierkegaard is highly prophetic when he talks about the role of religion in the destruction of the human self. If Kierkegaard were alive today, he would see glossy TV ministries, a mega-church and consumer spirituality that ravages the human person like a cosmic tsunami. He would probably weep Jeremiah's tears: We are living examples of what he talked about -- how good people can use religion to hold God at arms length and destroy the true, destined self.

In order to understand just how pervasive, how insidious such temptation is, we have to understand the great struggle of fallen human nature. The titanic human struggle is in becoming a true self before God, i.e. the true person intended before the world began.

This is what grace provides for us, and calls us to in Christ.
But this reality is too much for us
. We see ourselves in the divine mirror and despair: we cannot stand the picture, it is too high. So we flee from it.

Kierkegaard talks about despair on three levels.

  • Spiritlessness, the failure to realize one’s self, possibility;
  • Weakness, the move to escape from one’s self; and
  • Defiance, the attempt to affirm and master oneself by denying dependence upon God.

These are incisive, layered levels which must be discussed further, but the point is profound: despair hinders us, and then moves us from spirit destiny.

We flee into quiet despair. We cannot cope with what we are intended to be, and so despair. Yet we cannot cope with despair, so we desperately try to convince the self that we are not really in despair. This is the human paradox of despair.

For good people, the fatal temptation is to create religious justification for this condition. How does a person of faith deal with a denial of her true self? She learns to mimic popular and acclaimed “Christendom” to convince herself that all is well.

She [the person in despair] now acquires a little understanding of life, she learns to copy others, how they manage their lives -- and she now proceeds to live the same way. In Christendom she is also a Christian, goes to church every Sunday, listens to and understands the pastor, indeed they have a mutual understanding; she dies, the pastor ushers her into eternity for a few dollars -- but a self she was not, and a self she did not become.

This is Kierkegaard at his most prophetic.

The most deadly form of self-abdication is the religious form: The cultural, managed Christendom which always seems to result in self-comfort and acclaim, is yet that which robs the spirit of its true role before God: A cultural Christianity that offers mimicked success is the most deadly weapon against the destined self.

This religious claim assuages the conscience even while it attacks the spirit. Thus it is revealed as our enemy: The levels of despair reveal that fleeing from true self is really fleeing from God.

Our only hope is in the turn to God and destiny.

And here, the paradox is one of grace: Despair can be the very thing God uses to fulfill, to make us our self!

In despair, we can only “transparently rest in the Power that established us.” We learn to relate to our true self in relation to God: Before God, in grace, we will with all our power to be that which He shows us we are.

Regardless of the consequences, we choose hope. We helplessly live toward God.

With nothing but God, we choose our destined self before God.

And this is hope!



Sunday, April 10, 2005

For those who drink out of coke cans...

Beware Leptospirose!

A friend just sent me this forward, which I was stupid enough to read just before popping the top of a chilled Diet Coke. Needless to say, it ruined the drink for me...I had to pour it down the sink!

But, let me pass along the warning for your benefit [er, enjoyment, lol]:

This incident happened recently in North Texas. We need to be even more careful everywhere. A woman went boating one Sunday, taking with her some cans of coke which she put in the refrigerator of the boat. On Monday she was taken into Intensive Care Unit and on Wednesday she died.

The autopsy revealed a certain Leptospirose caused by the can of coke from which she had drunk, not using a glass. A test showed that the can was infected by dried rat urine and hence the disease Leptospirosis.

Rat urine contains toxic and deathly substances. It is highly recommended to wash thoroughly the upper part of soda cans before drinking out of them as they have been stocked in warehouses and transported straight to the shops without being cleaned.

A study at NYCU showed that the tops of soda cans are more contaminated than public toilets, i.e. full of germs and bacteria. So wash them with water before putting them to the mouth to avoid any kind of fatal accident.

And, darn it, it just cost me an ice cold can of Diet Coke, which I poured down the drain after visions of Leptospirose danced in my head, lol! Seriously, I was so freaked that I couldn't bring myself to touch my lips to the can...

That last line made me think, so I did a quick Snopes on it. It turns out that this is an urban legend. It didn't really happen. Coke tops are not the most germy things in the world, 'worse than public toilets,' lol! But, we should still probably be careful with our drinking habits! Don't drink after people who send you Leptospirose forwards. :-)

So score one for the urban legends: Urban Legends 1, Loy 0

lol! :-)

Now, back to another Diet Coke...


Wednesday, April 06, 2005

The concern of John Paul II

A friend, after watching several media presentations on John Paul II, remarked that John Paul II stood against communism in Eastern Europe and Poland, yet refused to stand with Liberation Theology in Latin America.

In the mind of the media, it was a contradiction, evidence of perhaps self-serving interests. In their wrapping, it was a case of John Paul II defending his ‘own’ people against oppression but refusing to defend others against oppression.

My answer is that this is no contradiction at all. This ‘contradiction’ of the media radically fails to understand John Paul II, and it radically fails to understand Liberation Theology.

John Paul II was, above all, a theological pope. And this in the classical sense of properly grounding action in metaphysics, understanding truth in revelation.

He saw to the heart of communism, and stood against it first in metaphysics. John Paul II understood as clearly as Dostoevsky, when Dostoevsky said in one sentence: “Socialism is atheism.” Socialism, and its communistic face, is not morally neutral. It is not just a socio-economic, political movement. In metaphysics, it is a coiled snake that strikes at the heart of transcendent faith. Thus John Paul II realized that communism must be adamantly opposed, even though it cost his life – and it almost did.

Turn now to the Latin Americas and the march of Liberation Theology. In theological naïveté, those looking on could say, “This is a socio-economic, political movement that seeks to defend the poor!” But is that it, really?

John Paul II incisively realized that Liberation Theology was no friend to the poor, though it cloak itself in rhetoric of poverty. He saw behind it the exact metaphysic of socialism, which would use the poor as a door of anti-Christ power.

Liberation Theology was a movement that offered the poor a carrot at the cost of their soul -- a twin to the coiled serpent of socialism.

I’ll never forget the chill that ran through my soul when I read Gustavo Gutierrez, the flagship Catholic theologian of Liberation Theology. Here was the most insidious challenge to apostolic faith that I had ever read. It redefined faith terms as powerfully as Satan had in the wilderness, toward the destruction of the person of Jesus as Christ. My spirit was shocked. I sensed I was reading a practical atheist.

My inner response was that which Dostoevsky judged the Grand Inquisitor: “Sir, your great secret is that you no longer believe. You are an atheist.”

Imagine then my concern when I realized that academia was in love with Liberation Theology, and even ‘Christian intelligentsia’ could not see the spirit behind it, so theologically naïve as to not understand its metaphysic.

But John Paul II was no theological or spiritual novice. With spiritual wisdom and theological intent, he acted decisively against Liberation Theology. The poor of Latin America will thank him one day.

It is only a sign of the great intellectual and spiritual bankruptcy of world media that they do not understand the stand against both communism and Liberation Theology.

These are two mirror coils on an anti-faith snake that would wrap itself around our world, and kill faith in Christ Jesus if it could.

There are other coils of this cosmic serpent that the next pope must face: cosmetic American Christianity sold out to a gospel of materialism, Islamic and satanic jihad, and the postmodern spirituality of self-idolatry. This response was a concern of John Paul II. He knew that Satan exists and is desperately active in our world, and worse still, desperately active in the Catholic hierarchy. He expressed concern that the next pope would be the ‘Black Pope,’ or anti-pope, sold out to the fallen principalities and powers…in practice if not intent. John Paul II knew, perhaps more than any of us, just how easy places of power – specifically church power – can become dark places of predatory abuse and control. So he prayed that the next pope would not be the anti-pope.

This concern of John Paul II should be a matter of prayer for us all.

“Pray that your flight be not in winter,” said our Lord.

“The Son of Man must be betrayed, but woe to Him by whose hand He is betrayed! It would be better for him if he had not been born.”

Let us pray that the next pope, like John Paul II, serves Christ and not anti-Christ.


Langer: Meeting the Master at the Masters

Twenty years ago this week, Bernhard Langer surged past Curtis Strange to win his first major golf tournament...the Masters. Still feeling the rush of victory, he stepped into the Butler cabin for the winner's interview -- a destined, fateful moment! Doug Ferguson puts it this way:
Imagine the excitement he felt when he was presented the green jacket in the Butler Cabin. Then came the live interview with CBS Sports, and an innocuous question about whether he looked at the leaderboard.

The response, best Langer can recall, went something like this:

"I looked up for the first time after nine holes and I thought I was playing well, but Jesus Christ! Curtis Strange was four shots ahead.''

When Langer said the words, "Jesus Christ," he really didn't mean offense. It was just a phrase in the culture, a phrase he had grown used to saying. But now he said it on national TV!

Only later did Langer realize what he had said, and the number of people he offended.

"I was not a Christian at the time,'' he said. "It was a powerful expression, and a lot of people used it. A few weeks later, I had a number of fan mail -- well, anti-fan mail -- that said who am I to be swearing on national television? To be using Jesus' name in vain?''

When the outraged fan mail poured in, Langer, being the thinker he is, didn't react in anger. He stepped back and asked himself, "Why should people be upset with what I said?" What is going on here?

The letters didn't make him defensive. They made him think.

He began to ask himself who he was, what was important, what was meaningful to him. One of his friends on the PGA Tour was Bobby Clampett, who routinely invited him to Wednesday night Bible studies.

This time, Langer took him up on the offer and brought his wife, Vikki, whom he had met at the 1983 Inverrary Classic and married a year later. The message that night was one of faith, not good deeds.

He started reading his Bible and asking more questions.

"I thought I was doing all the right things,'' said Langer, who grew up as a Catholic altar boy. "I was taught to be a good person, and if you did good things, God will say you've been good enough and you can go to heaven. But that's not what the Bible says.''

Within three months, Langer became a born-again Christian.

He often wonders where he would be without that Masters and that off-the-cuff winner's comment in Butler cabin. It was a life-defining and life-changing moment. And as skilled as he is, he has become known as much for how he lives than tournaments he has won. "My faith has helped me not only in difficult times, but in good times -- in all times," he said.

Langer made it back to the Butler Cabin in 1993 with a four-shot victory at the Masters, the widest margin of victory in 10 years at Augusta National. This time, he was ready for the live interview with CBS. They asked him how it felt to win the Masters for the second time, and Langer talked about faith and honor.

Yes, it was quite an honor to win what he considers the greatest golf tournament in the world.

Langer couldn't help but mention that he won on Easter Sunday, and how important that day is to Christians.

He now reflects on his two visits to the cabin and draws a conclusion that makes him smile.

"I sometimes joke," he said, "that I'm the only one to mention 'Jesus Christ' in Butler Cabin twice."


Now that is an honor!

God bless Bernhard Langer!

Friday, April 01, 2005

In Memoriam of Terri Schindler

Tennyson for Terri

In 1833, Alfred Lord Tennyson lost a close friend -- a loved one struck down in the prime of life. Tennyson fell into that dark 'valley of the shadow,' death valley full of questions and loss, loss of meaning and faith. But he emerged from this desert of grief with many verses of
In Memoriam --
his most famous poem of faith. The theme of injustice...yet faith, echoes much of Terri's battle. I'm sure that Tennyson will not mind me borrowing such rich structure of art and faith to celebrate Terri. We are fellow travellers in that dark valley, and Tennyson is great enough to share...

In Memoriam of Terri Schindler

Strong Son of God, Immortal Love,
Whom we, that have not seen Thy face,
By faith, and faith alone, embrace,
Believing where we cannot prove;

Thine are our lives of light and shade;
Thou madest Life: human and brute;
Thou madest Death; and lo, Thy foot
Is on the skull which Thou hast made.

Thou wilt not leave her in the dust:
Thou madest her, she knows not why,
She thinks she was not made to die;
And Thou hast made her: Thou art just.

Thou Jesus, human and divine,
The highest, holiest manhood, Thou.
Our wills are ours, we know not how;
Our wills are ours, to make them Thine.

Our little systems have their day;
They have their day and cease to be:
They are but broken lights of Thee,
And Thou, O Lord, art more than they.

We have but faith: we cannot know;
For knowledge is of things we see
And yet we trust it comes from Thee,
A beam in darkness: let it grow.

Let knowledge grow from more to more,
And more of reverence in us dwell;
That mind and soul, according well,
May make one music as before,

But vaster. We are fools and slight;
We mock Thee when we do not fear:
But help Thy foolish ones to bear;
Help Thy vain worlds to bear Thy light.

Redeem our grief for one removed,
Thy creature, whom we found so fair.
We trust she lives in Thee, and there
We find her worthier to be loved.

Forgive the ‘legal,’ unlawful lies,
Confused injustice so uncouth,
Forgive them where they fail in truth,
And in thy wisdom make us wise.

'So careful of the law?' but no.
From unjust judge and hearts of stone
She cries, `A thousand dreams are gone!’
They care for nothing, she shall go.

'So makest thine appeal to Me:
I bring to life, I bring to death:
The spirit does not pass with breath:
I know her still!' And she, shall she,

Live! Her last work, who seem'd so fair,
Such splendid purpose in her eyes,
Who roll'd the psalm to wintry skies,
Who built God fanes of fruitless prayer,

Who trusted God was love indeed
And love Creation's final law --
Tho' demons, red in tooth and claw
With hatred, shriek'd against His creed --

Who loved, who suffer'd countless ills,
Who battled for the True, the Just,
Be blown about the desert dust,
Or seal'd within the iron hills?

No more! A monster, dismal dream,
Selfish dragons of our time,
That tore at Terri in their slime,
Are weaken’d whispers match'd with Him!

O life as futile, then, as frail!
O for Thy voice to soothe and bless!
What hope of answer, or redress?
Behind the veil, behind the veil!

Dance in the presence of the Lord, Terri. The day approaches when ‘justice will roll down like a mighty stream.’