Monthly Archives: March 2013

Easter

There are some things that need no commentary – that can’t be adequately described much less explained by any human.

Easter is one of them.

Enjoy. Count your blessings. Give thanks to God. Do something special for someone.

Saturday – A Day of Rest

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

Church of the Holy Sepulchre

In the Old Testament, God the Father rested from Creation on the seventh day.

I suspect that it was no coincidence that after His death, Jesus His Son also rested on the seventh day.

God always shows us how His plan flows together in such a beautiful manner.

Sundown, Good Friday

PietaMichelangelo Buonarroti1499

Pieta
Michelangelo Buonarroti
1499

Satan had never been particularly fond of sundown on Friday, since it marked the beginning of the Jewish Sabbath. Perhaps, two millennia ago he was more comfortable because the Sabbath had become a burden, rather than a cause for joy. The Pharisees had defined most activities, including how far you could walk before you were violating the Sabbath. It was a set of complicated rules rather than a day of rest.

This particular Friday had to be especially disconcerting. Satan had seen Jesus ridiculed, beaten, abused, and tortured. No doubt this pleased him while simultaneously frightening him. Even he knew that things were not as they seemed. He had to wonder what was going to happen.

Many believe that when Jesus cried out, “My God! My God! Why have you forsaken me?” was the point at which Jesus took on all the sins of the world. For the first time in eternity Jesus was not completely connected with the Father and it was terrifying and disorienting.

At that moment, Satan saw countless souls he had seduced, cajoled, lied to, and threatened slip through his very fingers. The justice they deserved was now paid in full, and they were reunited with God.

Jesus told us He had the ability to lay down His life and pick it up again. I think that once He had paid our debt, His job was done and He laid his life down. It was His choice to save us, and His choice to return the Father.

Satan had known from the very beginning that his quest was unachievable, but his ego was such that he continued anyway. I’m sure that even with our redemption, his arrogance demanded that he redouble his efforts. Even today you can see his efforts.

But it doesn’t matter. We have been saved. We have been forgiven. We are loved by our God and by His only begotten Son.

Give thanks. It is right and just.

An Imperfect World

This is an imperfect world.

It has been imperfect for thousands of years.

It was imperfect two millennia ago as Jesus was betrayed, unjustly condemned, tortured and killed.

But we are charged to be “in the world, but not of it.”

In other words we’re just passing through on our way to a better place.

Thanks to the love of a perfect Messiah.

Today’s Prayer

JESUS-NETWORK-MARKETING

We see in the Bible Jesus taking time and finding someplace quiet in order to pray. It’s a safe bet that prayer was part of His daily routine.

What might His prayer been like on this particular day many years ago?

“Well, Father, it starts soon. At sunset tonight it will be Thursday and …, well, let’s not talk about that until We have to. Today is My last normal day.

“I’ve tried to be a devoted son. I have spent my life among your Chosen People. I’ve reached out to Your other children, too, but I tried to do it in a way that didn’t minimize Your love of the Jews.

“It has been both strange and wonderful to spend My time here. Some of these people are really, really special, and it has been a joy to have spent my time with them. John has been a very good friend. I’m planning on asking him to look after My mother. Peter will be a great manager after, well, in the future.

“I plan on sharing the Passover preparation with my closest disciples tomorrow. Your special feast to share with those who have been special to Me. I’m focusing on the good things and trying not to dwell on what follows.

“Please, Father, let me enjoy my last normal day, if that is your will, and give me the strength for what I need to do after that.

“I love you, Father, and I know you love Me. For a few more hours, I am going to celebrate your love and the love of my friends. I’m afraid that when we talk tomorrow, I’ll be completely distracted by the task ahead of me. But for now, just know that Your Son loves you.”

The Women of Holy Week

Vladimir BorovikovskyThe Crucifixion

Vladimir Borovikovsky
The Crucifixion

Holy Week teaches us many things. Peter, James and John couldn’t even stay awake while Jesus prayed.

Peter, the “Rock” crumbled at the hint of danger and denied that he even knew Jesus.

Caiaphas the High Priest used his influence to maneuvers procedures so that Jesus was tried and condemned in an illegal proceeding before most people were even aware of it.

Herod was so shallow he that all he wanted was signs and wonders. In other words, he wanted Jesus to perform some entertaining magic tricks.

The most powerful man in the area, Pontius Pilate crumbled before the crowd. If their discontent had been aimed at Rome, he would not have hesitated to have the soldiers take care of them in a heartbeat. In Jesus case he took the easy way out.

Judas – and we can only wonder about Judas – betrayed Jesus, despaired and then died.

So many weaklings. Who was strong for Jesus?

The women.

His mother, of course. How heartbreaking for her to see her son treated this way, especially since she had known all along who He really is.

Mary Magdalene – who was as devoted a disciple as any of the men.

Veronica – who wiped the sweat, blood and dirt from Jesus face.

The women of Jerusalem who wept for Jesus on his trip to Calvary.

The only man we know to have stuck it through to the end was John, the apostle “Jesus loved” – Jesus’ his best friend. He entrusted his mother to John’s care, and John, friend that he was, took her into his home.

When Jesus cured the ten lepers, only one returned to thank him. Of the eleven remaining apostles, only one remained with Jesus throughout His ordeal.

But the women were there.

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Christian Holy Days

There are those who say that Christian holy days bear no relation to when the original event actually occurred. Instead, they say, as early Christians spread the faith, they co-opted existing pagan holidays. Christmas was placed at the time of the Winter Solstice, and Easter replaced pagan fertility celebrations held at the beginning of spring.

I can’t say the same for Christmas, but Easter, at least, is where it belongs. In Luke 22, we learn: “When the hour came, Jesus took his place at table with the apostles. He said to them, ‘I have eagerly desired to eat this Passover with you before I suffer, for, I tell you, I shall not eat it again until there is fulfillment in the kingdom of God.'”

Passover-Meal

This year, Passover is celebrated from 25 March until 2 April, so in the Jewish reckoning of days, it begins at sundown tonight. Since the Jewish calendar is lunar based, while our calendar is solar based, and since we adjust dates so that we can commemorate Christ’s death on Friday and His resurrection on Sunday, there is some variance, but not much.

The celebration of Passover, or, if you prefer, Peach, is called Seder. A few years ago some friends shared a Christian Seder with us. I wanted to celebrate the traditions that Christ had shared with his family and ultimately with his apostles. I found the Seder to be very moving, and a wonderful tie between the Old Testament and the New.

It also reminded me that Jesus the Messiah was sent to the Jews. That He and his apostles were Jews. But, fortunately through the grace of God He was shared with everyone.

So, Chag Sameach! (KHAHG sah-MEHY-ahkh) Literally, “joyous festival.” This is an appropriate greeting for just about any holiday, but it’s especially appropriate for Pesach (Passover). For more information, I linked the previous to an interesting site on Jewish beliefs.

The Rocks and Stones

Tomorrow is Palm Sunday, commemorating when Christ entered Jerusalem.

palmsunday

I think his apostles had been waiting for this day, especially Simon the Zealot. Jesus the Messiah, the leader, the man who would lead the crowd to victory.

His welcome was a hero’s welcome. Palms and cloaks were laid on the path as a sign of homage and honor.

Jesus was the only one who truly understood what was happening. On the one hand He knew how important the trip to Jerusalem was for not only the Jews, but for the whole world. He knew that it was so important that if the crowd hadn’t cheered Him, the rocks and stones would have.

On the other hand, He knew that He would be beaten, abused, ridiculed and abandoned. He would face the very worst that Evil could throw at Him.

He knew that the crowd cheering Him would be replaced by a crowd calling for and then celebrating His death. He knew that the evil crowd would include many of those who cheered His arrival into Jerusalem.

But the rocks and stones didn’t turn on Him. They didn’t betray Him. They didn’t deny Him. They didn’t kill Him.

The rocks and stones remained loyal.

You, Me and the Pharisees

Christ_PhariseesAs we approach Holy Week, we might think about the Pharisees, busily plotting how they would stop Jesus. We shake our heads and ask ourselves, how could they be so evil?

But were they?

These men were pillars of the community – they worshipped at the temple (THE Temple), faithfully studied scriptures and followed the Law to the letter.

If they were around today, we’d consider them good Bible reading, churchgoing men.

The law given to Moses prescribed many aspects of everyday life, and these men were law abiding citizens. In terms of that time in history they were the good guys. On the other hand, this Jesus was, in their eyes, and in the eyes of the Law, quite the sinner.

Imagine how we’d react to someone who had no visible means of support. Someone who wandered around the countryside, crashing on the couch of anyone who’d have him. A guy who hung around with hookers, street people (and diseased street people at that) and other seedy types.

That’s exactly how the Pharisees reacted.

Is it possible that without Faith we’d be just like the Pharisees?

Buzzards & Swallows

BuzzardTShirtToday is the day that the swallows return to Capistrano. Every year, like clockwork, they arrive on the feast of St. Joseph – March 19th.

Yesterday was Buzzard Day in northeast Ohio. That is when the buzzards return to Hinckley, Ohio – just a bit south of Cleveland. Buzzard Day is the Sunday following March 15.

Isn’t it amazing that all these birds know the exact date and where they’re supposed to be? Especially the buzzards who know to wait until the Sunday following the date.

I’m not buying it.

We have multibillion dollar airlines with state of the art airplanes and a federally operated air traffic control system. We have GPS, radar and autopilots.

Do we hit our scheduled arrival times as accurately?

Not a chance.

Most of the time they can’t even get you and your luggage to the same place at the same time.

Of course, the buzzards and swallows don’t have to print out their boarding passes at home, arrive at the point of departure an hour ahead of rime, pay for each piece of checked luggage and be searched by security.

Maybe that’s why they can keep a schedule.

(and, no, I don’t know why the font isn’t consistent!)

Bloggers’ Block

writerReal writers claim that they’re successful if they write a predetermined number of words per day before they quit. This is often split between whatever book or other project they are working on, and the cash cow writing. Cash cow writing includes the brochures, instruction booklets, magazine articles, or whatever that they’ve been able to attract; this type of writing provides a baseline income and makes the more creative writing possible without the need to starve.

Of course, if someone commissions a writer to produce a document extolling the virtues of Acme Tire Tread Enhancer (patent pending), there are usually some fairly explicit expectations as to what the writing will include. The creative works, on the other hand, are far more nebulous. It’s a sad fact that most writers have started a project, invested substantial time and effort only to realize that it either needs to be completely redone or abandoned altogether.

Bummer.

On the other hand, bloggers, or this blogger at least, can sit down and decide to write about nothing (as in not writing that day) or to write about nothing (as in some meaningless extemporania) or, on occasion to write something meaningful, pithy and inspiring.

Today is obviously a day of extemporaneousness.

Honor Thy Father and Thy Mother

tenThe Ten Commandments are a pretty good guide for life, even if you’re not a believer.  The adultery and coveting things are pretty much ignored these days, but it’s hard to argue that either should be encouraged.

When I was a kid, I thought the fourth commandment (yes, I know that there are two numbering schemes) was aimed at us youngsters. “Honor thy father and thy mother” seemed to say “Do your chores! You’re your bedroom clean! Don’t sass your parents!”

As I’ve gotten older, though I realized there was far more to it. When you read the Ten Commandments, first are the commandments referring to God Himself. The very next one is to honor your parents. How could it be more important than “Thou shalt not steal” and Thou shalt not commit murder”? Those are pretty nasty things, especially murder.

But why such an emphasis on honoring our parents when growing up is pretty much defined as the point at which we move away from our parents?

I’ve come to believe that the commandment is not meant for when we’re in grade school, but for later. Just as God created us, looks after us and loves us, so it is with our parents. Those of us who are parents know how, no matter how old are children are, we still worry, we still advise, we still care. We love them at least as much, if not more, than we did when they were little. This is probably true of all of our parents.

When we were children, we had little choice about respecting our parents. However, once we’re grown that changes. We no longer live under their roof and their rules. We often no longer live in the same region, much less the same town. It may take an effort just to stay in touch with them.

Honoring our parents is an active requirement, not avoidance of a negative.

Do something in that spirit.

Yet Another Magical Story

If you’ve heard the story once, you’ve probably heard it a thousand times. Guy goes down to thrift store, buys an old lamp, sometimes he thinks it’s a teapot, doesn’t matter. In any case he buys it and takes it home. Once home he decides it looks a little grungy so he starts to clean it up. Next thing you know, there’s a genie coming out of the lamp, or the gravy boat or whatever it actually is.

“You have released the Genie of the lamp! You are now entitled to a wish!”

“A wish? I thought it was three wishes.”

“Hey, times are tough. We had to cut back. You’re lucky we didn’t outsource everything back to India.”

“Okay, one wish.”

“And no wishing for more wishes, or…”

“Got it. I did my college thesis on Arabian Nights.”

“I read it. Pitiful! That’s why I thought you’d need the whole explanation.”

“Just what I need, a Genie who’s a critic.”

“I was adjunct faculty in literature for three thousand years. Old habits die hard.”

“I understand.”

“So your wish?”

“Hmmm. Give me a minute.”

“Take your time. It’s good to get out of the lamp and stretch my legs.”

“You don’t have legs.”

“Talk about critics.”

“Okay I’m ready. Here’s my wish. I wish I was satisfied.”

“Sounds like you’re wishing for more wishes.”

“No, I don’t want everything to go my way or have everything that I ever dreamed of. I just want to realize what I have is what I’ve always wanted.”

The genie thought for a minute, then snapped his fingers. “Done!” he said, and disappeared.

At the same moment the front door opened and my wife walked in with the kids.

“Daddy!” my daughter cried and gave me a hug. My son, being a teenager, offered a fist bump.

“And how are you?” my wife asked as she leaned over our daughter to kiss me.

“Satisfied,” I replied.

IMBY NIMBY

Const

Sometimes we have the negative form of a word, but not the positive. George Carlin mentioned the need for “chalant”; we have “nonchalant,” so the concept is there.

Same for NIMBY – “Not In MY Backyard!” I want reliable electric power, but not a transmission line much less a power plant.

IMBY – “In My Backyard” has led to many earmarks, set asides and other pork in various forms of legislation including bridges, highways, defense contracts and whatever.

Want to find the nearest college stadium? There’s an app for that. Want to build a new college stadium? There’s an earmark for that. If it doesn’t get a direct grant, funding will qualify as a charitable contribution and be a deduction.

We look at places like Afghanistan and laugh at how they identify themselves according to tribes and villages, but are we any different? It’s my city and my industry I’m interested in. Those are my village and tribe writ large. If the rest of the world goes down the tubes, so be it.

Once upon a time, so long ago that we still capitalized nouns, a bunch of guys got together and after a lot of hard work, drafted a document that begins:

“We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, so ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”

Like every other person who has or is serving in the military, I swore an oath to protect and defend the principles in that document, from enemies foreign or domestic. An oath, once taken, stands. I am just as proud today as I was thirty some years ago to stand by my commitment.

How much stronger are we as “We the People” instead of “me”? Don’t we together have a better chance of maintaining domestic Tranquility and an effective defence?

Don’t we all want Justice so we’re all treated fairly and to see the general Welfare promoted so we all benefit?

Let’s look past our tribes and our villages and be a part of “We the People.”

What the Elder Son Teaches Us

It was another soccer tournament weekend. It’s Monday and back to work, where at least the schedule is more predictable.

At least the games were spaced so I could catch church on Sunday.

Rembrandt van Rijn

Rembrandt van Rijn

The Gospel was the story of the Prodigal Son, which is often dissatisfying because it just doesn’t seem fair.

If the Prodigal Son story played out today, I’m sure there would be at least one lawsuit.

Our deacon gave the homily, and pointed out that the son who stayed home figured may not have merely been loyal and altruistic. The way he looked at it, he was taking care of his upcoming inheritance, so in effect, he was working for himself. Since he was focused on what he expected to get, he didn’t realize and appreciate all the things he had every day.

However, what he said next was what struck me. The deacon suggested that every night when the family gathers for dinner, we should start a litany of all the things we have to be thankful for. He suggested starting small, with such things as life, spouse, children. Each day add a couple of more things. By the end of Lent we may all realize just how blessed we are.

I thought it was a good enough idea that I should share it.

Daylight Savings Time

grill

We’re coming up on the time to “Spring Ahead.” I’ve never figured out if it’s a good economic decision or not. Supposedly they compared parts of Indiana from before they shifted to DST to after their shift and decided that instead of saving money, it cost money.

Who knows?

Who cares?

All I know is I get to cook outside on the grill without the need for my halogen work lights and things cook better when the ambient temperature is above freezing.

I guess that means I’m somewhere at the bottom of Maslow’s hierarchy.

It’s probably because when I grill, it smells good, tastes good, the dog is very attentive and I can play guitar while I’m watching the grill.

Works for me.

Judas Didn’t Get It

Superstar

As you may recall, during Lent, one thing I do is to listen to “Jesus Christ, Superstar.” The rock opera is entertainment, not scripture, and tells the story of Jesus final week from the perspective of Judas Iscariot, the betrayer. Although Tim Rice and Andrew Lloyd Weber took significant artistic license, I believe the Holy Spirit takes every opportunity to speak the truth to us. Besides, some stories are just so awe inspiring that the true message comes through no matter what.

The play begins with Judas singing “Heaven on Their Mind” which starts with the following lyrics.

“My mind is clearer now; At last I can see where we all soon will be.

If you strip away, the myth from the man; You will see where we all soon will be.”

I was always uncomfortable with the reference to Jesus as being part myth, and didn’t like these particular lyrics, until I had another thought.

Matthew, Mark and Luke all relate how Jesus asked who people thought he was.

“13Now when Jesus came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, He was asking His disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” 14And they said, “Some say John the Baptist; and others, Elijah; but still others, Jeremiah, or one of the prophets.” 15He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” 16Simon Peter answered, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” 17And Jesus said to him, “Blessed are you, Simon Barjona, because flesh and blood did not reveal this to you, but My Father who is in heaven.”  (Matthew 16)

Jesus then warned them to tell no one that He is the Christ, at least not until after his resurrection.

Judas was never given the faith to believe in Jesus. I don’t think he ever could realize that Jesus was in fact the Messiah. He, like many others, wanted a Messiah who was a great leader in the manner of Moses, Joshua or David. In Jesus, without faith, Judas could only see an itinerant teacher with an interesting message. To Judas, Jesus divinity could only be myth.

How sad.

It makes me think of how blessed we all are who have been given Faith and been able to see the truth so easily that we take it for granted.

Vatican Installs Jamming Equipment

It just makes you wonder.

The “Princes of the Catholic Church” are meeting to elect a new pope, but they (whoever “they” are) need to install jamming equipment because they don’t trust the cardinals not to smuggle in a cell phone.

Huh?

BREAKING NEWS!!!!!!

chimney

Reporters seen here sniffing around the chimney of the Sistine Chapel, anxiously awaiting the first sign of smoke.

This just in. Cable News Headlines has just been informed that the Catholic Church still has no Pope! Reliable sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity have reported that the College of Cardinals has not even voted once!

Our reporter, Felix Paparazzi is live at the Vatican.

Felix: “It’s looking pretty grim here as the Catholic Church wanders aimlessly, leaderless, without direction. Catholics around the globe are distressed and in despair with the Church’s hierarchy refusing to act. It’s rumored that the cardinals’ paralysis is a direct result of global warming!

Earlier today I was able to interview Monsignor Nino Fabreze and here’s what he had to say.”

[Pre-recorded video]

Felix: “Why do the cardinals refuse to act? What are they waiting for?”

Monsignor Fabreze: “Well, this is a process steeped in hundreds of years of tradition. The first thing they are waiting for is for all of the cardinals to arrive here in Rome. Once everybody is here, then they can start the process.”

Felix: “Well, there you have it, the Catholic Church in crisis! Back to you in the studio.”

[Cut to commercial]

Decorating

Not my real home.Accessories such as turret, moat, etc. not included.Not to scale.Tax, title and dealer preparation charge not included.

Not my real home.
Accessories such as turret, moat, etc. not included.
Not to scale.
Tax, title and dealer preparation charge not included.

My wife is decorating.

I know what you’re thinking, and no, it’s not nesting and we’re not expecting.

However, the experience is interesting.

I’ve lived in houses, apartments, hooches, tents, pods and whatever. As a guy my criteria is quite different from hers. I’ve slept with 40 of my best friends in a tent in some God-forsaken country. Her? Hasn’t happened. Never will.

Looking for houses I have been guilty of the following. Roof? Yep. At least four bedrooms? Yep. More than two bathrooms? Check. Kitchen big enough for me to play in? Okay. No restrictions on ham radio antennas? Good, let’s move in.

She chose this house based primarily on the school system and a good place to raise our kids. While the kids were in elementary school, her main focus was on them. Now that one is in high school and the other middle school, we’re both still busy, but in a different way.

She and her muse have been able to commune around soccer, dogs, cats, school meetings, etc. She started moving things around and for the most part the progress has been an accessory here, a lamp there as opposed to major remodeling. Okay we did replace the couch and chairs that the kids and pets had made unusable, but that needed to happen anyway. Bottom line is it just keeps getting better.

The part I like is that it feels even more like home. Our home. I see her in the way the rooms look. It’s a touch of class that makes my life more enjoyable. I think what I like best is the fact that it feels like her rather than some professional decorator who is a stranger.

I work hard, and cherish my time at home. With her touch, I cherish it even more.