Friday, January 30, 2009

If Our Lives Are Ugly

can we accept beauty?

A portion from Theodore Dalrymple in City Journal:

Leys was sitting in a café where other customers were chatting, playing cards, or having a drink. The radio was on, tuned to a station that relayed idle chatter and banal popular music (you are lucky these days if popular music is banal only). But suddenly, and for no apparent reason, it played the first movement of Mozart’s clarinet quintet, transforming the café into what Leys called “the antechamber of paradise.” The customers stopped what they were doing, as if startled. Then one of them stood up, went over to the radio, and tuned it to another station, restoring the idle chatter and banal music.

There's a grocery store I frequent that plays orchestral or chamber music, most often Vivaldi, while all the others in town play some sort of pop music. There are both contemporary and traditional liturgical worship services at the church in which I belong. Why is there only one grocery store that will play Vivaldi and why are there more folks in attendance at the 11 AM contemporary worship than at the 11 AM liturgical service? Is it that beauty makes us stop? Is it that it refuses to stay in the background, or is it that one must pay attention when there isn't the constant rhythm of popular music?

I may be wrong, but I have a suspicion that beauty takes us outside of ourselves to see the possibility of something greater, and that, in our current culture, makes us uncomfortable, because if what is reflected back exposes the dreariness of our lives, it is almost too much to bear.

Below is Winter from Vivaldi's Four Seasons. My heart always aches from 2:17 - 4:33. Take time to listen.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

The Bi-Partisan Vote

was against the Fleecing of Future Generations Bill. All the Republicans and 11 Democrats voted against this bill, and for good reason. It is not a stimulus bill, it is a pork bill where future generations are funding pet projects of the majority party.

It is interesting that for all the post-partisan talk of President Obama, the bill was written without any input from the minority party. The President very kindly listened to them, but at one point ended up reminding them, "I won.". It seems that his idea of bi-partisan or post-partisan is "Vote with us whether you agree with us or not.".

Here is an alternative.

For more indepth reasons why this "stimulus bill" will not stimulate the economy, look here.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Children: The New Scapegoat

From Drudge:

Sun Jan 25 2009 22:13:43 ET

Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi boldly defended a move to add birth control funding to the new economic "stimulus" package, claiming "contraception will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government."

Pelosi, the mother of 5 children and 6 grandchildren, who once said, "Nothing in my life will ever, ever compare to being a mom," seemed to imply babies are somehow a burden on the treasury.

The revelation came during an exchange Sunday morning on ABC's THIS WEEK.

STEPHANOPOULOS: Hundreds of millions of dollars to expand family planning services. How is that stimulus?

PELOSI: Well, the family planning services reduce cost. They reduce cost. The states are in terrible fiscal budget crises now and part of what we do for children's health, education and some of those elements are to help the states meet their financial needs. One of those - one of the initiatives you mentioned, the contraception, will reduce costs to the states and to the federal government.

STEPHANOPOULOS: So no apologies for that?

PELOSI: No apologies. No. we have to deal with the consequences of the downturn in our economy.


Here we have taxpayer dollars possibly going to pay for contraception so the government won't have to pay for a child that may be born. Is this appalling just to me? If one were being crass enough to simply look at children in terms of economics, I would think one would want as many children born as possible in order to add to the tax and social security base. Anyway, not all children are birthed, fed, educated and cared for at the taxpayers expense.

But, let's not be crass. Children are not commodities. Have we for so long looked at children as either financial burdens, or accessories that the Speaker of the House can regard children with such disdain? Are these contraceptions to be given to everyone, or to only the poor, and if only to the poor, is this not a form of temporary sterilization of the outcast? I find this all very disturbing.

Friday, January 23, 2009

Psalm 23

This is my favorite musical arrangement for the 23rd Psalm. The music was written by Howard Goodall.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

On the Anniversary of Roe vs. Wade

Here are a couple of quotes from Camille Paglia from her Salon article in September.

But the pro-life position, whether or not it is based on religious orthodoxy, is more ethically highly evolved than my own tenet of unconstrained access to abortion on demand. My argument (as in my first book, "Sexual Personae,") has always been that nature has a master plan pushing every species toward procreation and that it is our right and even obligation as rational human beings to defy nature's fascism. Nature herself is a mass murderer, making casual, cruel experiments and condemning 10,000 to die so that one more fit will live and thrive.

Interesting that she sees nature as being fascistic. Is it not humans being created in the image of God that thwart, what Christians see as nature broken or gone awry? When we see disease, do we not try to heal? When we see catastrophe approaching, do we not try to stave it off or find protection for those in harms way? When humans do not do these things, don't we sense that something has gone very wrong with their humanity?


Hence I have always frankly admitted that abortion is murder, the extermination of the powerless by the powerful. Liberals for the most part have shrunk from facing the ethical consequences of their embrace of abortion, which results in the annihilation of concrete individuals and not just clumps of insensate tissue. The state in my view has no authority whatever to intervene in the biological processes of any woman's body, which nature has implanted there before birth and hence before that woman's entrance into society and citizenship.

While I most strongly disagree with Ms. Paglia in her support of abortion, I appreciate her honesty. There is nothing much more frustrating to me than listening to someone speak as though abortion is the morally superior choice. There is nothing moral about that choice. It is a tragedy for all involved.

There are many pro-life groups out there if you'd like to learn more.

Feminists for Life
Libertarians for Life
Atheist and Agnostic Pro-Life League
Priests for Life
Consistent Life
Rachel's Vineyard

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Mr. Schiff is Making Sense

In a video over at The Wall Street Journal, Peter Schiff makes several good points, two of them being: people need to spend less rather than more, and government needs to stop bailing out companies run incompetently and let those companies that are doing well expand by picking up the gap left in the market.

Can you imagine Jesus telling the parable of the talents with the poor manager gaining the praise and greater responsibility? Can you imagine telling a family drowning in debt that the way out is to keep spending? That's just what our government is doing.

We are in so much trouble.

Saturday, January 17, 2009

New Economic Blog

There's a new economic blog you may want to check out, called The Humane Economy. Here's a taste.

Foundational things, like human dignity, trust, independence, self-reliance, a moral sense . . . things which seem to be fast fading from today’s economic and social landscape, and whose absence, I believe, lies at the root of the current economic crisis we are now facing. Roepke’s proposal was that there is a definite and strong connection between culture and economic systems. As the culture goes, so goes the economy.

Roepke, who almost single-handedly rebuilt the postwar German economy, published A Humane Economy in 1960 - the same year that Bernard Madoff founded Wall Street firm Bernard L. Madoff Investment Securites LLC.

Clearly, ol’ Bernie didn’t read the book . . .

H/T to Rod Dreher over at Crunchy Con.

Which reminds me. In a post last month I wrote that I thought Madoff was probably a halfway decent chap who let pride in his acumen get in the way of good judgment. Turns out I was wrong. The Financial Times reports that he probably never made a trade. Unbelievable.

Since It's So Cold

I wish it would just go ahead and snow! Here's a fun quiz to take while you're waiting for the fun, flaky, white stuff.

Your Snow Test Says You're Independent

You feel like something good will happen to you eventually, but not soon.

You don't really like to work, unless work feels like play. You only are successful when you are doing what you love.

You are an independent, individualistic person. You thrive when you're doing your own thing.

Your biggest worry in life is your family. You stay up at night thinking about them.

When it comes time to relax, you always go the extra mile. You take relaxing as seriously as anything else in life.

Thursday, January 15, 2009

The Quest for Freedom

Today is the birthday of Reverend Martin Luther King Jr.. It is a good time to think about what strides we as a country have made in the struggle for freedom and liberty for all people. I think in some areas we have done quite well, such as voting rights and the openness of the political process. In other areas, not so well, such as in education, economic freedom, health care and the right to life.

Reverend King's niece, Dr. Alveda King has taken up her uncle's mantle, especially in the area of the basic human right to life. Read her open letter here.

I don't believe any society can have true freedom without Judeo-Christian values, and I don't believe the Civil Rights movement, Sufferage movement, or the Abolitionist movement could have occurred without the knowledge that all humans are created in the image of God. It was the foundation of these movements, as it is the foundation of the Right to Life movement today.

Here is Rev. King's sermon on the National Mall.

Wednesday, January 14, 2009

Unsustainable Education

From Andrew Kern at Quiddity.

If you were to spend one hour writing notes about what makes us human and what makes life worth living, and then you examined what happens to a child in school, you would find considerable evidence that the developers of modern education hate human beings - hate the human soul, just as you would find evidence that the captains of industry hate the earth and the soil. As a mistress, sure; as a covenanted bride? Forget it.

Would be a good, but discouraging exercise. What does it mean to be human? If we deprive our children of things which help make up our humanness, do they become less human? If we deprive ourselves of things which help make us human, do we ourselves become less human?

Human Shields

H/T to Jonah Goldberg over at The Corner.

The god Moloch is still being appeased.

Golda Meir once said, “We will have peace with the Arabs when they love their children more than they hate us.” Let us pray for love to prevail, and not that mushy warm feeling kind of luv, but the real I will put your needs above mine kind of love.

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Another Refreshing Column

by Camille Paglia. Really, it's her answering a number of letters from her readers. You can tell when a writer is honest, and she is honest, which is part of the delight in reading her work. Of course, I found her answer to Sam sad, but I'll just keep praying. Click here to read this month's column in Salon.

Saturday, January 10, 2009


Try this.

wingsuit base jumping from Ali on Vimeo.

God's Economy

God’s Economy

God’s economy is so radically different from the world’s economy!

The world’s economy is based upon consumption and selfishness. Buy,
buy buy….. Spend money you do not have to purchase things that you do
not need has been the American philosophy for decades. People have
been tripping over themselves for decades to fulfill selfish desires
and procure what the world says that they “need” to live happy and
fulfilled lives. The entire world economy is collapsing as the fruits
of cheap credit have evolved into a black hole of debt that is pulling
the entire world into it’s gravitational vortex. Sin always has

God’s economy is the opposite of the world’s economy. It is based upon
giving instead of consuming. Jesus Christ in His perfect love and
obedience gave everything for us, as He died on the cross. He lived
the only perfect life that has ever been lived. He died the only
perfect death that has ever been died. We are called to emulate Him.
We are called to empty ourselves of our own desires and agendas and
possessions. We are called to lay down our lives, pick up His cross,
and walk after Him. God’s economy commands that we give--- that we
give our time, our money, our love all in God’s service. God’s economy
commands that we not only give but that we give sacrificially as Jesus
gave sacrificially for us. If we are giving only what it is
comfortable to give, I would suggest that we are not emulating Jesus.
After all, we are called to share in His sufferings that we might also
share in His glory.

There are so many beautiful paradoxes in God’s Word and in Christian
practice! This is one of them. The paradox is this….. The more that
we give, the more that we have to give. This is true of love, of
talent/skill and of time. The more love that we give, the more that we
are filled with God’s love and overflow with His abundance. The more
of our talents & gifts we use in His service, the more talents and
gifts we find we have to use in His service. And time--- I do not know
how He does it but He always manages to multiply my time--- somehow
supernaturally it seems to me. I have discovered over and over again
that the more time that I spend serving others, the more time and
energy that I have to spend serving others.

God’s economy even works when it comes to money. When our tithe is the
first expense of the month, instead of the last, God does open the
floodgates of heaven and shower down blessings (not necessarily
financial blessings). God’s own word says that we can test Him
regarding this….. And, again I do not know how He does this but when I
spend above and beyond my monthly budget in seeking to financially help
others, my budget is balanced at the end of the month.

Please do not misunderstand me! I am NOT preaching prosperity gospel,
which I consider to be an awful misunderstanding/misapplication of
scripture. God does not take the $500.00 that you give to the shady
televangelist and multiply it into $10,000.00. That is NOT the way
that He works. His economy is far more perfect, compelling, mysterious and

Jesus praised the widow who gave her last penny to the church. She
gave her last penny knowing that it was everything she possessed in the
world and not knowing where her next meal would come from. And she
gave more than all of the wealthy who gave a tiny percentage of what
they owned….. God calls us to give everything to Him, both literally
and figuratively.

I wonder, how is this going to look in our lives in the year to come? When the world's economy tells us to hold onto every penny, for dear life, God's economy suggests that we trust Him completely and continue to give. God tells us to seek His kingdom first and that He will provide for our other needs. How much more difficult it is to take Him at His work when the sky is falling around us and our every instinct is self focus and self preservation....

God and the Economy

God & the Economy

Like many people, I have been greatly preoccupied with thoughts on the
economy for the last few months. Like almost everyone else, I have
been worried about the future. I received a 12 ½% pay cut and have
been worried about whether or not I can pay my bills. With the 40%+
hit my investments have taken, I have been worried about whether or not
I will be able to afford to retire—25 years from now. As always, my
mind drifts naturally towards seeking God’s perspective on such things.
As always, He loves it when we seek His perspective and is always
prepared to speak, through His Word.

Yesterday He really spoke to me thru Matthew 6:25-34.

25 "Therefore I tell you, do not worry about your life, what you will
eat or drink; or about your body, what you will wear. Is not life more
important than food, and the body more important than clothes? 26 Look
at the birds of the air; they do not sow or reap or store away in
barns, and yet your heavenly Father feeds them. Are you not much more
valuable than they? 27 Who of you by worrying can add a single hour to
his life[b]?

28 "And why do you worry about clothes? See how the lilies of the
field grow. They do not labor or spin. 29 Yet I tell you that not even
Solomon in all his splendor was dressed like one of these. 30 If that
is how God clothes the grass of the field,
which is here today and
tomorrow is thrown into the fire, will he not much more clothe you, O
you of little faith? 31 So do not worry, saying, 'What shall we eat?'
or 'What shall we drink?' or 'What shall we wear?' 32 For the pagans
run after all these things, and your heavenly Father knows that you
need them. 33 But seek first his kingdom and his righteousness, and all
these things will be given to you as well. 34 Therefore do not worry
about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has
enough trouble of its own.

Reading this caused me to feel convicted over how much I have been
worrying. Also, my focus has begun to subtly shift from worrying to
wondering what it means to seek God’s Kingdom first, even within the
context of the current economic mess.

As always, I feel greatly comforted when my perspective begins to shift
from the temporal to the eternal. My sense that this life truly is a
“vapor” returns and my trust in God’s provision is reignited. (He has
never failed me yet.)

Our God is an all Sovereign King. The failure of the world economy,
and all of it’s repercussions for nations and individuals, is no
surprise to Him. I wonder if the way that God is pulling the strings,
behind the scenes, has everything to do with Jesus’ words in Matthew.
I am convinced beyond the shadow of a doubt that God is moving
powerfully in the most minute details of this economic storm. I know
that He is causing me to refocus my eyes on His beautiful Kingdom
instead of my retirement plan.

How woefully shortsighted and blind I have been! I have been trusting
so deeply in my retirement plan, for my provision. Yes, God absolutely
works to provide for us thru our good, or bad, stewardship over the
resources that He gives us. There is a big problem though when we come
to trust in those resources and our own abilities to manage them,
instead of trusting in the living God who both gives and takes away.

Friday, January 9, 2009

An Apologetics Lesson

from Ratty.

A couple of days ago I was reading our next portion of The Wind in the Willows, by Kenneth Grahame, to Olivia. She got the lesson immediately and we had a very good discussion of the law of cause and effect, although that is not how she would have phrased it. Here's that part of the story:

Mole and Rat are lost in the woods where a deep snow has fallen.

Mole: I must have tripped over a hidden branch or a stump. O my! O my!

Rat: It's a very clean cut. That was never done by a branch or a stump. Looks as if it was made by a sharp edge of something in metal. Funny!
(Rat then inspects the surrounding area.)

Mole: Well, never mind what done it. It hurts just the same, whatever done it.

(Rat continues to look around as Mole becomes more impatient.)

Rat: Hooray! Hooray-oo-ray-oo-ray-oo-ray!

Mole: What have you found, Ratty?

Rat: Come and see!

Mole: Well, I see it right enough. Seen the same sort of thing before, lots of times. Familiar object, I call it. A door-scraper! Well, what of it? Why dance jigs round a door-scraper?

Rat: But don't you see what it means, you - you dull-witted animal?

Mole: Of course I see what it means. It simply means that some very careless forgetful person has left his door-scraper lying about in the middle of the Wild Wood, just where it's sure to trip everybody up. Very thoughtless of him, I call it. When I get home I shall go and complain about it to - to someone or other, see if I don't!

In despair at Mole's obtuseness, Rat: O dear! O dear! Here, stop arguing and come and scrape!

Rat goes on to find a doormat, and a similar discussion between he and Mole occurs. Then...

In the side of what seemed to be a snow-bank stood a solid looking little door, painted a dark green....

Mole: Rat!, You're a wonder! A real wonder, that's what you are. I see it all now! You argued it out, step by step, in that wise head of yours, from the very moment that I fell and cut my shin, and you looked at the cut, and at once your majestic mind said to itself, 'Door-scraper!'....

Here's Olivia's interpretation of Michael Foreman's illustration.

So, what have you been finding lately?

Thursday, January 8, 2009

Father Richard John Neuhaus, R.I.P.

Today, a little before 10 A.M. Father Neuhaus passed on to rest in Jesus. Read more here.

I learned of Father Neuhaus while still a college student at Harding University. He and Alan Bloom had two new books out that Professor Raymond Muncy kept going on about, The Naked Public Square, by Neuhaus and The Closing of the American Mind, by Bloom. Both were great and timely books. Later, Father Neuhaus would help start and become editor of First Things. I always loved to hear him speak, both because he was so logical, but also because he spoke out of love, Christ's love.

Well done, Father Neuhaus.

Tuesday, January 6, 2009


Ever had an epiphany? You know, one of those aha moments? I have had a few along the way.

The word epiphany comes from the Greek, epiphaneia and means that the divine is manifested or appears, or alternatively, a striking appearance. I wonder what it must have been like for those who encountered the Christ, Divinity manifested in a little child.

First of all to Mary, having God himself growing from a tiny zygote to a newborn babe needing to be nursed and dressed and cleaned and loved. Then Joseph, whose part in Christ's life was first and foremost a protector and adopted father. How humble, selfless and trusting were the two of them. Of course there were the shepherds. I guess when one of God's messengers brings you news of the Lord and Savior's birth, (complete with directions to the location), and a whole host of them begin praising God, the sheep can wait. The epiphany for them was so great, they couldn't keep quiet about it, and there was Mary again, "treasuring up all those things and pondering them in her heart".

How long the wait must have seemed to Simeon, having been promised by the Holy Spirit that he would see the Messiah, the Salvation of Israel before his death. So then, the promise fulfilled, he prophesied wonderful and disquieting words over the child, that the salvation will be for all people, even the Gentiles, many would rise an fall in Israel, hearts would be revealed and a sword would pierce Mary's heart. Dear Anna the prophetess was there also, 84 years old and long since a widow. Faithful in her devotion to the Lord and he rewarded her with this epiphany and she spread the word.

While all these manifestations of our Lord amaze us and cause us to wonder, today is set aside to remember the revelation to the Gentiles. Here is the scripture from the ESV, Matthew 2:1-12.

Now after Jesus was born in Bethlehem of Judea in the days of Herod the king, behold, wise men from the east came to Jerusalem, saying, "Where is he who has been born king of the Jews? For we saw his star when it rose and have come to worship him." When Herod the king heard this, he was troubled, and all Jerusalem with him; and assembling all the chief priests and scribes of the people, he inquired of them where the Christ was to be born. They told him, "In Bethlehem of Judea, for so it is written by the prophet:
"'And you, O Bethlehem, in the land of Judah,
are by no means least among the rulers of Judah;
for from you shall come a ruler
who will shepherd my people Israel.'"

Then Herod summoned the wise men secretly and ascertained from them what time the star had appeared. And he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, "Go and search diligently for the child, and when you have found him, bring me word, that I too may come and worship him." After listening to the king, they went on their way. And behold, the star that they had seen when it rose went before them until it came to rest over the place where the child was. When they saw the star, they rejoiced exceedingly with great joy. And going into the house they saw the child with Mary his mother, and they fell down and worshiped him. Then, opening their treasures, they offered him gifts, gold and frankincense and myrrh. And being warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they departed to their own country by another way.

There has been a great deal of speculation regarding the wise men. How many were there, what was their profession, how did they know it was His star? There are even folk tales that have sprung up about their travels, one captured here in this children's book.

What we do know that they knew, was that the babe was a King whose arrival was foretold, to see him was worth a long and dangerous excursion, he was worthy of great and expensive gifts, and that he was to be worshiped. I hope I come to better understand what the Magi knew, whether they new it through the revelation of the stars, Holy Scriptures or direct Divine revelation. I, who am indwelt with the Holy Spirit, have several copies of the Holy Scriptures and receive Christ himself, manifested in the bread and wine, am a weak witness to such an Epiphany.

Monday, January 5, 2009

Twelfth Night

Tonight is Twelfth Night, the end of the Christmas season. Traditionally it is the night of taking down the greenery and decorations, but also of one last party. Christmas is such a joyous time. A time of recreation and rebirth. Yesterday's Gospel reading was from John 1:1-18.

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God. All things were made through him, and without him was not any thing made that was made. In him was life, and the life was the light of men. The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

There was a man sent from God, whose name was John. He came as a witness, to bear witness about the light, that all might believe through him. He was not the light, but came to bear witness about the light.

The true light, which enlightens everyone, was coming into the world. He was in the world, and the world was made through him, yet the world did not know him. He came to his own, and his own people did not receive him. But to all who did receive him, who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God, who were born, not of blood nor of the will of the flesh nor of the will of man, but of God.

And the Word became flesh and dwelt among us, and we have seen his glory, glory as of the only Son from the Father, full of grace and truth. (John bore witness about him, and cried out, “This was he of whom I said, ‘He who comes after me ranks before me, because he was before me.’”) And from his fullness we have all received, grace upon grace. For the law was given through Moses; grace and truth came through Jesus Christ. No one has ever seen God; the only God, who is at the Father's side, he has made him known.

There is something so exciting about Christmas for me which is not always easy to explain, but it has to do with things being put to rights, as Lewis or Wright would say. Christ has broken into our broken world, not to destroy it, but to recreate it - to save it! That is true for everyone, which means there is a purpose to every life and everything. Where we have gone wrong, God can make right, and will make right for those who trust in him. There is no reason to despair, no existential angst that we must bear if we are to face reality, because God the Father through God the Son is making all things new, and has given us a glimpse of what is the real reality. Even more amazing is that we, through the power of the Holy Spirit are a part of that work even now.

This is hard to remember as we plod on through our everyday activities, which is why I love Christmas. Christmas reminds us that God is, has been and will be at work in the world, even when things aren't so clear to us on this side of time.

So, make merry tonight. Fill a wassail bowl to share with friends, sing a song and say a prayer. May God bless your days this year and may you walk in His steps.

Gloucestershire Wassail

Thursday, January 1, 2009

Please Pray

for Father Richard John Neuhaus. This from First Things

Update on Fr. Neuhaus’ Health

So many have asked after the health of our editor-in-chief, Richard John Neuhaus, that it seemed best to post this note on our website.

Fr. Neuhaus is in the hospital here in New York. Over Thanksgiving, he was diagnosed with a serious cancer. The long-term prognosis for this particular cancer is not good, but it is not hopeless, either, and there is a possibility that it will respond to the recommended out-patient chemotherapy treatment.

Unfortunately, over Christmas, he was taken dangerously ill with what seems to be a systemic infection that has left him very weak. Entering the hospital the day after Christmas, he was sedated to lower an elevated heart rate and treatment was begun for the infection. Over the last few days, he has shown some signs of improvement, and there is a reasonable expectation that he will recover from this present illness—sufficiently, we hope, that he will be able to begin the chemotherapy for the cancer.

Fr. Neuhaus is not able at the moment to receive visitors or speak on the telephone or answer his mail, and he has requested that no flowers, candy, or other get-well presents be sent—just your prayers for his quick recovery.