Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Crucifixion

is back in style this year in the Middle East.

On Tuesday, Hamas legislators marked the Christmas season by passing a Shari'a criminal code for the Palestinian Authority. Among other things, it legalizes crucifixion.

Hamas's endorsement of nailing enemies of Islam to crosses came at the same time it renewed its jihad. Here, too, Hamas wanted to make sure that Christians didn't feel neglected as its fighters launched missiles at Jewish day care centers and schools. So on Wednesday, Hamas lobbed a mortar shell at the Erez crossing point into Israel just as a group of Gazan Christians were standing on line waiting to travel to Bethlehem for Christmas.


This from Caroline Glick at The Jerusalem Post.

The whole article is frustrating, but important. I have never understood why so many don't seem to take the words of world players like Ahmadinejad or Kim Jong Il seriously. When found to lie, the Western governments intensify negotiations. When told of their desire to destroy the West, it's freedoms and faith, the West's leaders refuse to understand, even spoken with such clarity. Does this come from arrogance? I don't know, but I certainly do not understand it.

Right now, many dear friends from our congregation are touring Israel. Please pray for their safety, and for wisdom, justice and mercy to overwhelm the foolishness, corruption and treachery so often on display in this world.

Philokalia

-to love what is beautiful. It's been over a year since I've picked up my Mounce, so this new to me Greek word comes not through study, but through an attempt to deepen my prayer life. I've begun reading The Way of the Pilgrim, and for those of you who've read it, you'll know the book which is given the Pilgrim by the starets is titled Philokalia. I've not gotten far into TWotP yet, but this new word has been on my mind.

The "ancient triad" I try to keep before me when homeschooling is truth, goodness and beauty. Anyone who has studied philosophy or education has come across these ideas. Actually, anyone who has lived would know these ideas, even if in their current life they are in short supply. Oftentimes, when teaching or just going about with daily life, beauty is given the short end. We often see the value of truth, as much for utilitarian means if not for the truth itself, and we also often see the benefit of goodness. How else will society function if not some sort of goodness or morality guides our actions? Beauty seems more elusive. We desire it and often envy it. Some pursue it. Others try to ignore it, though I don't think they can. And, at least to me, unfathomably, some try to destroy it. God has placed in us a desire and attraction for beauty, for He is beautiful, and no matter how corrupted those desires may become, their purpose is to draw us to Him. Being created in His image, we are also able to create, or at least make the attempt, things of beauty, whether in art, music, architecture, design, or even an appealing meal.

Before Christmas break, I had decided that the girls and I would spend an afternoon when there was nothing pressing, (no dance or piano lessons, and no church meetings), to paint or draw. I hate that the busyness of our lives too often get in the way of these pursuits, which means perhaps we should reevaluate our priorities. Anyway here are some samples of what was accomplished, without formal lessons and just having fun. Unfortunately, I don't have anything of Emma's to show because she hasn't completed them.

Olivia's Cross



My two attempts





I leave this idea of philokalia for now with a quote from C.S. Lewis. from his sermon, The Weight of Glory.

If we take the imagery of Scripture seriously, if we believe that God will one day give us the Morning Star and cause us to put on the splendour of the sun, then we may surmise that both the ancient myths and the modern poetry, so false as history, may be very near the truth as prophecy. At present we are on the outside of the world, the wrong side of the door. We discern the freshness and purity of morning, but they do not make us fresh and pure. We cannot mingle with the splendours we see. But all the leaves of the New Testament are rustling with the rumour that it will not always be so. Some day, God willing, we shall get in. When human souls have become as perfect in voluntary obedience as the inanimate creation is in its lifeless obedience, then they will put on its glory, or rather that greater glory of which nature is only the first sketch.




Saturday, December 27, 2008

For To Preserve This Day

Today is the Feast of the Holy Innocents for much of Christendom. It is a time to remember the baby boys in Bethlehem under the age of two who were killed by order of King Herod the Great in his attempt to kill the new King, Jesus. (Matthew 2:1-18) These were not the first to be killed by this jealous tyrant. Herod was a man so consumed by jealousy and fear that he had several wives and sons killed. Augustus Caesar upon hearing of one of the prince's demise said, "It is better to be Herod's hog than his son.". If only King Herod had read the prophets, he might have known that this new King would be his salvation - if only.

It is difficult to think of today as a feast day, indeed we've already celebrated the first martyr after Christ's ascension, Stephen. How seemingly incongruous that within this season of the Holy Birth, we must look to those who have suffered for our Lord. Of course this is exactly what he has taught us, that perfect love is sacrifice, a pouring out of oneself. Christ is not called a Man of Sorrows for no reason. He has not told us to take up our cross for no reason. I think to remember these witnesses who have gone before us is so important, both as a reminder that evil is real so that we are not surprised when faced with it, but more importantly, so that we may learn how to face that evil with faith and love.

Let us also remember the innocents today who are martyred or maimed for Christ's sake, such as Namrata Nayak, a ten year old girl from Orissa where violence against Christians is great. Namrata was burned over 40% of her body which was also imbedded with shrapnel by a homemade bomb.

She says:

"[W]e forgive the Hindu radicals who attacked us, who burned our homes," she told Asia News. "They were out of their minds, they do not know the love of Jesus. For this reason, I now want to study so that when I am older I can tell everyone how much Jesus loves us. This is my future."


Probably the best answer I have heard as to why men and women do evil. They do not know the love of Jesus.

A carol to commemorate the day.



Coventry Carol

Lully, lulla, thou little tiny child

O sisters too, how may we do
For to preserve this day
This poor youngling
For whom we do sing
By by, lully lullay?

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By by, lully lullay

Herod, the king
In his raging
Charg├Ęd he hath this day
His men of might
In his own sight,
All young children to slay

Lully, lullay, thou little tiny child
By by, lully lullay

That woe is me
Poor child for thee!
And every morn and day,
For thy parting
Never say nor sing
By by, lully lullay!

Once in Royal David's City



Once in Royal David's City

Once in royal Davids city,
Stood a lowly cattle shed,
Where a mother laid her Baby,
In a manger for His bed:
Mary was that mother mild,
Jesus Christ, her little Child.

He came down to earth from heaven,
Who is God and Lord of all,
And His shelter was a stable,
And His cradle was a stall:
With the poor, and mean, and lowly,
Lived on earth our Saviour holy.

For He is our childhood's pattern;
Day by day, like us, He grew;
He was little, weak, and helpless,
Tears and smiles, like us He knew;
And He cares when we are sad,
And he shares when we are glad.

And our eyes at last shall see Him,
Through His own redeeming love;
For that Child so dear and gentle,
Is our Lord in heaven above:
And He leads His children on,
To the place where He is gone.

Friday, December 26, 2008

Just Another Ponzi Scheme

The recent disclosures of Mr. Madoff who made off, (sorry, I couldn't resist), with many billions of dollars has produced much lamenting. Actually, he didn't really make off with other people's money in the sense that he just wanted to get rich and retire in anonymity to some tropical island, as much as didn't want to lose face as the investor guru. I can imagine him thinking, "Just a little more time, just a little more money, and I can turn this thing around and all will be well.". (That's how most of us think about money when we borrow it, isn't it?) And we are all so appalled,aren't we? (No, I don't mean the nuts out there with anti-semitic conspiracy theories.) Many of us also think, "How stupid could these people have been to not know this was just a scam, a Ponzi scheme?".

For those of us who are tempted to think this way, why do many of us still hold on to the idea that Social Security is any different? There is no "lock box" which keeps our withholdings safe until we retire. It is spent before it is even collected. Our government requires those in the work force to give over 12% of their income to pay, not only current Social Security beneficiaries, but also for what other spending the legislative and executive branches have passed into law. This is the ultimate Ponzi scheme, and yet the majority of the country and special interest lobbyists complain when there is an attempt to reform it. With Social Security, the deep national debt, (which just gets bigger with every financial institution in trouble demanding a bailout), and pet projects of Congressmen, we are bankrupting our children.

Here are some statistics from the government's Social Security website:

The main reason for Social Security’s long-range financing problem is demographics. We are living longer and healthier lives than ever before. When the Social Security program was created in 1935, a 65-year-old American had an average life expectancy of about 121/2 more years; today, it is 18 years and rising.

In addition, more than 80 million “baby boomers” started retiring this year, and in about 30 years, there will be twice as many older Americans as there are today. At the same time, the number of workers ­paying into Social Security per beneficiary will drop from 3.3 today to about 2.1 in 2034.

These demographic changes will severely strain Social Security financing.


And

Many people think that the Social Security taxes they pay are held in interest-bearing accounts earmarked for their own future retirement needs. The fact is that Social Security is a pay-as-you-go retirement system—the Social Security taxes paid by today’s workers and their employers are used to pay the benefits for today’s retirees and other beneficiaries.

Social Security is now taking in more money than it pays out in benefits, and the remaining money goes to the program’s trust funds. There are now large “reserves” in the trust funds, but even this money is small compared to future scheduled benefit payments. In 2017 benefits owed will be more than taxes collect­ed, and Social Security will need to begin tapping the trust funds to pay benefits. The trust funds will be exhausted in 2041. At that time, Social Security will not be able to meet all of its benefit obligations if no changes are made.


Notice the word reserves is in quotations.I actually think the statistics on the demographics are optimistic. My reason for that is as of 2006, America's birthrate was hovering around 2.1 per woman, (which is replacement rate), and a good portion of this is due to immigrants from Central and South America. As our economy weakens, there are fewer immigrants willing to risk coming for a job that may not be here, and statistics show that second generation immigrants birthrates fall to the level of most Americans. I also think, that unfortunately in our culture, children are seen as an expense rather than a gift, and couples will limit the number of children they have out of fear. Oh, there's that word again!

Mr. Madoff seems to have been afraid to lose face and ended up costing others, including charities, billions of dollars. The economy is self correcting, but we are afraid of the short term pain, so we are going into massive debt in order to delay the inevitable. (We could really learn a lesson from Germany right now.) We are relying on our children to supply our Social Security funds, so that we may retire in some comfort, but we are afraid they're too much of an expense or burden, so we won't have very many. At some point, we are going to need to face reality with integrity, logic, intelligence, hope and love. If we don't, I believe we will end up with a country so paralyzed with fear and pain that we will allow things that remain unthinkable to occur for a sense of comfort and order. I pray we do not come to that. Indeed, I am hopeful, because I know it need not.

Kyrie eleison

On the Feast of Stephen



Good King Wenceslas

Good King Wenceslas looked out
On the feast of Stephen
When the snow lay round about
Deep and crisp and even
Brightly shone the moon that night
Though the frost was cruel
When a poor man came in sight
Gath'ring winter fuel

"Hither, page, and stand by me
If thou know'st it, telling
Yonder peasant, who is he?
Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence
Underneath the mountain
Right against the forest fence
By Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh and bring me wine
Bring me pine logs hither
Thou and I will see him dine
When we bear him thither."
Page and monarch forth they went
Forth they went together
Through the rude wind's wild lament
And the bitter weather

"Sire, the night is darker now
And the wind blows stronger
Fails my heart, I know not how,
I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps, my good page
Tread thou in them boldly
Thou shalt find the winter's rage
Freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod
Where the snow lay dinted
Heat was in the very sod
Which the Saint had printed
Therefore, Christian men, be sure
Wealth or rank possessing
Ye who now will bless the poor
Shall yourselves find blessing

Thursday, December 25, 2008

Fear Not

This Christmas Eve, I had the occasion to read two articles, both regarding the Biblical command , “Fear not!”. The first comes from Fred Sanders at The Scriptorium Daily. He relays a sermon that uses Linus’ speech in A Charlie Brown Christmas to illustrate how when we look to Jesus and take to heart, “Fear not!”, we can let go of our false securities, (Linus drops his security blanket.), and live freely in Christ. The second is from Joseph Morrison Skelly at National Review Online. He demonstrates how when our faith is strong, we are free to stand up to wrong, even when the consequences mean imprisonment or death.

Fear has always dogged me. Like Linus, I have moments when I drop whatever security blanket I am using at the time, but soon pick it up again. Oh, to have a faith like Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who at every step placed his faith in Christ, hopeful of a full life, yet realizing that death may very well be thrust upon him by the Nazis, as indeed it was. Professor Gerry McDermott once said in a sermon that there isn’t really a problem in a Christian’s life that wouldn’t be improved or solved by more faith. Most of us who are Christians have seen the truth in this, yet we still seem to fall back on things that are without foundation strong enough to withstand the real dangers that face us all. We use money, friends, family, status, popularity, education, etc..., and they have all failed us, just ask a former lottery winner.

N.T. Wright points out in his concise book, Following Jesus, that, “Do not be afraid.”, or, “Fear not.”, is the most oft given command in the Bible - more than to love, serve, or even worship. Not a believer in coincidences, I suggest that we resolve this Christmas season, as we celebrate God incarnate, Jesus Christ, and look forward to His second coming, to keep dropping our blankets and to boldly fight the wrongs of this world so that we will be a light in the darkness and live in real freedom.

Here’s a clip of Linus’ speech.

For Unto Us A Child Is Born

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

A Blessed, Merry Christmas to You All

Light of the World

It's Christmas Eve and one of the most exciting times on the Christian Calander. Jesus is coming- in the form of a tiny, helpless baby. On this night 2000 years ago (give or take a few) God wrapped Himself in human flesh so that He might walk among us. Today and Christmas are the celebration of the light of the world descending into our darkness. Every year, at this time, I am overcome with thoughts of gratitude and awe. What if He had never come? What if He had allowed the darkness of the world to consume us?

Thankfully, such thoughts are the realm of the most extreme fiction because God did not leave us alone in the darkness to perish. He loves us so well, and so intimately, that He deigned to enter our darkness Himself-- transforming the darkness for all eternity by the very act of entering in to it.

Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Our Real Santa

We have been going to see Santa Claus at the History Museum since Emma was just two years old, and we haven't missed a year since. It's like seeing an old friend once again, and it's especially nice because he remembers us. If you have a chance to go, do. This isn't your typical mall Santa. This Santa, aka Tom, sings songs, tells stories, reminds the children to use their manners, and makes it clear that Christmas is about giving and love. My girls both say that he's the real Santa.

Here are our pics from a few days ago.





Shout out to Sid, who took the girl's pictures when my camera wouldn't work. Thanks!

Friday, December 19, 2008

Majel Barret Roddenberry, R.I.P.

Actress Majel Barret Roddenberry died in her sleep yesterday. Many of us who grew up with Star Trek in syndication and then The Next Generation will remember her in roles as Nurse Chapel and the amorous mother of Deanna Troi, Lwaxana Troi. She was a delight on screen, particularly when pestering Captain Picard.

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Do you want to know?

Daniel Henninger from the Wall Street Journal on the Maddoff scandal. He asks, Why we don't ask where our money comes from, where it's going, or how can we afford this mortgage? Unfortunately the answer too often is that we don't want to know because of the moral dilemma we'd have to face.

Watch an interview with him here.

My apologies

for any frustration with the format. I think I have figured out the problem and perhaps after this post it will be solved. Thank you for your patience.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

The problem with Compassionate Conservatism

John O'Sullivan has a great article in National Review. In the article he posits that President Bush is not a true conservative, nor a populist. That while there is a thread of conservatism on the issue of life, much of his governing stemmed from his own personal morality and not a core philosophical understanding of conservatism or freedom, or even of compassion.

Here's a portion.

To begin with, the idea that libertarian conservatism ignores or despises the poor is a libel. Some eccentric libertarians may do so, but the single most distinguished and influential libertarian conservative in our lifetime was the late Milton Friedman. His focus was on limiting government power — in everything from budgetary policy to narcotics regulation — but Friedman was also the inventor of the negative income tax, education vouchers, and a thousand other schemes to lift people out of poverty.

Second, there is nothing in compassionate conservatism to compel governments to prioritize. All the pressures in government are to finance new social projects (especially when opposing them is the sign of a hard heart). Without the restraint of a “small government” ideology, the easiest course is to choose them all. Overspending, inflation, spiraling deficits, and finally severe fiscal retrenchment are the results. But maybe that point need not be stressed just at present.

Third, compassionate conservatism is myopic. It responds to the victims in view but ignores the invisible victims of its generosity. Thus, the white-male victims of affirmative action are not considered in its debates about racial preferences. Bush’s proposed immigration reforms ignored the interests of low-paid, often minority, Americans. Prudent savers today are enduring the economic consequences of policies designed to help imprudent non-savers. And, of course, the taxpayer is the ultimate invisible victim of this cumulative warm-heartedness. As William Graham Sumner said, compassion is A getting together with B to decide what C shall do for X.


I'm afraid we're about to experience more compassionate something or other with our new President, minus the protection of the most innocent and vulnerable.

Kyrie, eleison.

Monday, December 15, 2008

I now understand

why we became a nation that eats junk food. It is because of the culinary delights of the 1970's. Oh, my. Just check out these Weight Watchers recipe cards and you will no longer have any doubt as to why families ate their meals at McDonalds, Burger King and A&W. The cards are extreme, but go to a used book store and find a cookbook from the seventies. While there may be a few gems, most make you scratch your head or just laugh out loud. Probably the greatest culinary achievement to come out of that decade was Chex mix, and even that is a little weird. Anybody remember Koogle, or Pepsi's "The Boss", a gallon bottle of soda, not Springsteen.
H/T to Rod Dreher over at Crunchy Con.

Memory Book

For those of you personally educating your child, either by homeschooling or afterschooling, here is a helpful book by Drew Campbell. Many of us have been waiting for Memoria Press to publish it. I'm not sure what the hang up was, but it is now being published through Lulu.

Here is Drew's description:


Tantum scimus quantum memoria retinemus: We only know as much as we retain by memory. Now you can give your students the benefits of classical memory training with Living Memory. This comprehensive K-12 resource for memorization, copywork, and dictation can be used with any classical curriculum or as a handy reference for home or school.

Gaudete Sunday

I'm a few hours late, but hope you will still enjoy.



Gaudete, gaudete
Christus est natus
Ex Maria virginae, gaudete.
Tempus ad est gratiae hoc quod optabamus
Carmina laetitiae devote redamus.
Deus homo factus est natarum erante,
Mundus renovatus est a Christo regnante.
Ezecheelis porta clausa per transitor
Unde lux est orta sallus invenitor.
Ergo nostra contio psallat jam in lustro,
Benedict domino sallus regi nostro.


Translation:

Rejoice, rejoice! Christ is born.
Of the Virgin Mary, Rejoice!
It is now the time of grace that we have desired;
Let us devoutly return songs of rejoicing.
God has become man, and nature marvels;
The world has been renewed by Christ who is King.
The closed gate of Ezechiel has been passed through;
Salvation is found there whence the light rises.
Therefore let our assembly now sing a hymn of purification;
Let it give praise to the Lord: Greetings to our King.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Interview with D'Souza

Here's an interview with Dinesh D'Souza in Salvo Magazine. D'Souza's book, What's So Great About Christianity was a delightful surprise when I read it about a year ago. Too many times when an author delves into apologetics, the arguments are weak or they build up straw men to tear down. Not so with WSGAC. Find the book and read it, it's worth the effort. In the meantime, check out the interview. Here's a sample:

If you really look at the motivations of contemporary atheists, you'll find that they don't even really reject Christian theology. It's not as if the atheist objects to the resurrection or the parting of the sea; rather, it is Christian morality to which atheists object, particularly Christian moral prohibitions in the area of sex. The atheist looks at all of Christianity's "thou shalt nots"—homosexuality is bad; divorce is bad; adultery is bad; premarital sex is bad—and then looks at his own life and says, "If these things are really bad, then I'm a bad guy. But I'm not a bad guy; I'm a great guy. I must thus reinterpret or (preferably) abolish all of these accusatory teachings that are putting me in a bad light."

How does one do that? One way is liberal Christianity—you simply reinterpret Christian teachings as if they don't really mean what they say. The better way, of course, is to ask where morality comes from. Well, it comes from one of two places. It either comes from ourselves—these are the rules that we make up as we go along—or it comes from some transcendent source. To get rid of God, then, is to remove the shadow of moral judgment. This doesn't mean that you completely eliminate morality, but it does mean that you reduce morality to a tool that human societies construct for their own advantages. It means that morality can change, and that old rules can be set aside. You can see why this would be a very attractive proposition for the guy who wants to live his life unmolested by the injunctions and prohibitions of Christian morality.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

St. Nicholas

Here is a great blog post by Fred Sanders at The Scriptorium Daily from last December. I remember it so fondly, I had to look it up again this year. Here is one small part:

Back at Nicaea (to the tune of “Up on the Housetop”)

Back at Nicaea, Three-Two-Five
When St. Nick was still alive
He was a bishop wise and gracious
Hanging out with Athanasius
Ho, Ho, Ho! You oughta know
Ho, Ho, Ho! You oughta know, oh
Santa was not on the roof, roof, roof,
He was defending the gospel truth.

He came to stop a renegade
Preacher who taught the Son was made;
Nick knew that it would be quite odd
If the redeemer were less than God.
Ho, Ho, Ho-Mo-Ousios!
Hey Arius, Don’t you confuse us,
Santa was there with verve and moxie,
Taking good care of orthodoxy.

Arian doctrine was so bad
It made poor old Santa mad
Laying a finger aside his nose,
Up from his seat bishop Claus arose.
“Ho, Ho, Ho, sub-ordination?
Ho, Ho, Ho, there goes salvation.”
Then with some mighty pop, pop, pops,
Saint Nick was busting the bad guy’s chops.

Demographic Winter

Take an hour to watch this documentary which I'll post below.
There has been a confluence of information in my life this year related to love, family and children. Reading P.D. James' The Children of Men ">The Children of Men, Spengler's articles over at Asia Times, Rod Dreher's Crunchy Con blog; also studying Theology of the Body has led me to a greater understanding of what love really is. It is sacrifice.
I've known this to some degree for a long time, but am learning it in a much deeper way. If someone ever tries to tell you that true love is easy and comfortable like your favorite slippers, they either don't know what they are talking about or are telling you a bald faced lie. Love is wonderful, but at it's root is self-giving. The problem of a demographic winter that our world is now facing has everything to do with a lack of love, an unwillingness to sacrifice for another. In this season of Advent, when our Lord, Emmanuel, became one of us to bear our suffering out of His great love for us, I pray to be more loving in the truest sense of the word.

Wednesday, December 3, 2008

Economic Advice

Here's some sound economic advice via Rod Dreher's blog, Crunchy Con. The best part:

ONE OTHER THING: Fear is endemic to bad economic times. Exercise caution, but don't give into fear. I try to counter greed with temperance in good times, and fear with prudence in bad times. Take Matthew 6:20 to heart.

Tuesday, December 2, 2008

Christmas movie




Your Christmas is Most Like: A Charlie Brown Christmas



Each year, you really get into the spirit of Christmas.

Which is much more important to you than nifty presents.

SNL Bailout Skit

Check out SNL's bailout skit. It's dead on.