Category Archives: Religion

An Appeal for Donations

 

Photo of a Collection Plate

CNN reports, “Jesse Duplantis, leader of Jesse Duplantis Ministries and the owner of three other private jets, is asking his followers to chip in so his ministry can purchase a brand new Dassault Falcon 7X, which runs about $54 million.”

I thought that televangelists were on the television, which would seem to mean that their physical location was immaterial, so long as a television studio was available. I believe that, in a pinch, this would include the camera and microphone built into most computers.

But then what do I know?

As the only world’s only Philosopher-without-Portfolio–to the best of my knowledge–I believe I am just as entitled to a personal aircraft as anyone else. However, my needs are far less prestigious. I’d be more than happy with a used Cessna 182, which is available for less than $500,000.

I expect everybody to give this their best effort.

However, if that proves to be too difficult for you, a boat–say a 30 foot cabin cruiser, might be more achievable. Again, used is fine. I can engage in philosophical thoughts in a used airplane or on a used boat without any difficulty.

There is one problem.

Jesse said that God wants him to have the new jet.

I asked God if He wanted me to have people collect money to provide me with a plane or a boat. He didn’t exactly say, “Yes,” but He apparently enjoyed a good laugh.

My How Things Change

The United States Constitution is a marvelous document–a framework for what was a radically new form of government in 1787–but a living document that has changed with the times.

TheNationalArchivesholdstheUnitedStatesConstitutionOriginalDocument

And the times have so changed.

Legend has it that, during the war, a British military commander sent a note addressed to ‘Mr. George Washington.’ General Washington accepted the note and placed it in his pocket saying that he was aquainted with Mr. Washington, who was a planter in Virginia, and he would deliver the note after the war. The next day, a similar–and possibly identical note–was sent, addressed to ‘General George Washington.’

After the war, General Washington appeared before the Continental Congress to return his commission to them. He had done his duty, and no longer needed or wanted the rank of general and handed the paperwork that had made him a general back.

Initially, there was a populist movement to make Washington king. He would have no part of that. There is a place in the Capitol Building that was intended to be his crypt, but he had left clear instructions that precluded his internment there.

Often, he closed his correspondence with “Your obdt (obedient) servant, George Washington.”

Regardless of your political views, it is reassuring that our nation is not based on birthright, caste, or class, but on a set of ideals laid out in the Constitution. It is a set of ideas that bonds Americans together.

 

Ergo Not

The-Thinker-by-Auguste-Rodin

I take my role as philosopher-without-portfolio seriously. We all think all the time–things like “I’m hungry!” or “I want to go have some fun!” but I have tried to think about those things that everybody else doesn’t have time or interest for.

Ideally, thinking follows some semblance of a logical path, ultimately leading to some type of conclusion. My thoughts have led me to such a conclusion.

As near as I can tell, I’m the only person in the world who doesn’t know what’s best for you. I’m in no position to tell you what to think, do, or say. I can’t tell you which medicine you should ask your doctor about, which car you need to buy, or which detergent will get your clothes the cleanest. I can’t even advise you as to which cable news network you should watch.

On the other hand, it seems like everyone else is ready, willing, and able to advise, recommend, and whenever possible, direct your every action and reaction.

So, I apologize, but I’m that one person who doesn’t know what’s best for you. To quote Bob Dylan, “It ain’t me babe!”

Deal with it. I’m too busy thinking.

I Cannot Say It Better

Gary Varvel [garyvarvel.com], the editorial cartoonist for the Indianapolis Star [www.indystar.com] is a genius who can draw a picture that is truly worth at LEAST a thousand words.

In this day of fewer and fewer newspapers, and inevitably, even fewer quality dailies, it is a wonderful gift to still have some publishers and editors who understand how humor can convey a stronger message than even the best written article—and as a writer, saying that does not come easily.

As a Christian, I wish you a Merry Christmas. As a member of this melting pot we call America, I wish you Happy Holidays. As a human, I wish peace on earth to all  people of good will—and I advise everyone to celebrate any and every holiday that reminds you that we are all in this together; there is no “them,” only 7.53 billion of “us.”

XMAS, Improved

My friend, Rick Martinez, with whom I’ve shared wonderful intellectual and philosophical conversations—as well as my writing efforts throughout the years—comments on some of my blogs. This is in response to my last blog, and is a beautiful thought for the season. I formatted it as a blog, but the thoughts and words are Rick’s, unchanged.

Thank you, Steve, for writing about Christmas—the Birth of Christ. No matter of all the “scientific” facts surrounding when Jesus was born and who believes what–there’s at least two general things we all acknowledge and accept as true. At the time and in the area of Christ’s birth, what was true 2000 years ago continues to be true today–some 2000 years later: There were believers and non-believers and warring factions back then as there are now. And–for Christians all over the world, the most tragic words ever written of our Lord are those set down by the Apostle John in the beginning of his Gospel:

He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

Bethlehem had no room for Him when He was born;

Nazareth, no room for Him when He lived; and

Jerusalem, no room for Him when He died.

XMAS

As a Christian, I hold this time of year as a most special time. December 25th has a one in 365 ¼ chance of being Jesus’ actual day of birth. In the absence of accurate records of births circa 003 BCE, and given the significance of the winter solstice—when each day has more light—the early Christian church may have taken advantage of events and combined celebrations. (Since gospel means, “good news,” it should not be surprising that Christians enjoy celebrating all of the good things in life.)

Some Christians take issue with the idea of Xmas, but, as often happens, a study of history enhances understanding. Xmas is not a way of removing Christ from Christmas, but a connection back to a time closer to his life. The “X” is the first letter of “Christos.” the Greek word for Christ.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Many Christians have seen the chi-rho symbol, and because of the prominence of the Greek letter rho—which looks like a “P”, they transpose the first (X) and second (P) letters and miss the fact that Xmas appropriately recognizes the Christ and does not replace his name with a variable.

 

 

 

 

 

 

So, regardless of your religious viewpoint, celebrate a few days of love. History has examples of wartime enemies, laying down their weapons, exchanging food and drink, singing Christmas Carols and playing football (soccer), for one precious, blessed evening. THAT is powerful.

 

 

Going to Hell in a Handbasket

This expression has always puzzled me.

If one were headed to eternal damnation, why would the mode of transportation matter?

You’d expect people to sell their souls for a Lamborghini, at the very least.

 

Pondering the Eclipse

solar_eclipse_nasa

Today’s eclipse – courtesy NASA

In ancient times, an eclipse was a terrifying event. It was often interpreted as God, god, or gods anger. It was a message for people to repent and change their ways.

Naturally, we’re far too sophisticated to let a predictable passing of the moon between the sun and earth concern us. We understand science and math, physics and astrophysics.

But, then again, if you look at the state of the world today, maybe it would be good to repent and change our ways.

Counting Down to Christmas

stamp

Parents count the days until Christmas differently than regular people. Are no golden rings, calling birds, pipers, or even a pear tree (sans leaves, since it is winter). Instead, parents way fo counting down to Christmas includes:

Days needed to get a personalized Christmas stocking from (name of mail order retailer here).

The day for the Christmas band/orchestra/choir concert.

The day that the kids need to bring canned food for the needy or a gift for Toys for Tots.

The day you panic and run to the corner drugstore to print out family pictures to send with the Christmas cards.

The day you should have gotten the photos.

The day you should have sent out Christmas cards.

The day you panic and run to the post office to get stamps for the Christmas cards. (And out of 47 styles of special Christmas stamps, they have only one left—the one you used last year, and the year before that, and—you know).

The day you make a list for next year, which you promptly misplace.

Parents—people with strength, courage, humor–and a totally warped perception of reality, which is how they survive.

Beware of Sermon!

SONY DSC

Today’s Sunrise from Virginia Beach, VA, USA.

Sorry, we interrupt the sunrise over the Atlantic to deal with some totally expected, unsurprising idiocy from the media (as in not too bright….etc.).

Fox News had two stories today;

Is your number of sex partners normal?

AND

Is Christianity really at an end? (Although after the teasing, slightly provocative headline it does state that the demise is overstated.)

First, let’s talk about sex partners. Reasonable people may make mistakes while searching for someone with whom they can share a beautiful interdependence. Others take advantage of this. In a perfect world a shining arrow would appear over them perfect sex/love/sharing kitchen, children, soccer duties, etc. partner.  That partner may not be perfect, but would be a perfect fit for you.

Second, if Christianity were at an end, (and I weren’t a Christian), I’d head for the hills. I mean I’d head for the hills that would make the Mount Everest Sherpas pass out. If God invested his only Son in us and now Christianity is at an end, I think He’d have every reason to say, “That’s it! Let’s throw in the cards and I’m going to open a sealed deck and deal a new hand.

End of sermon.  Back to the sunrise.

Faith vs. Fact

I have no problem with the issue of faith—as a matter of fact, I have relied on faith to get me through the tough parts of life. However, faith is based on my relationship God.

On the other hand, with most other issues, I need to know HOW something works—that pi is just a ratio between the circumference of a circle and its radius. I need to know how margins of error are calculated and what they really mean in the world of statistics.

Today, though, there are many people who accept on faith that cell phones work and always will; that the electric power, cable television, and the internet will be there with the flick of a switch, but they have no idea how they work, nor do they care.

However, when it comes to God, they demand proof that He exists.

Weird.

As Silent as a Tomb

tombHoly Saturday, Jesus’ body has been laid in the tomb. I don’t usually think much about Holy Saturday—it’s kind of the runt of the litter—the unappreciated day of Holy Week.

On Holy Saturday, was Christ aware of His body lying there? I’ve always felt that at death I will discard my body like the first stage of a rocket and launch the next stage. But Jesus wasn’t moving on just yet. When the Risen Christ revealed himself to Mary Magdalene the next day, He told her not to hold onto Him because He had not yet ascended to the Father. If He was aware of his body in the tomb, was he glad for the quiet after the screams of the crowd, first praising him then demanding His death? Was the cool comforting after hours on the cross in the scorching heat?

On Holy Saturday, the Apostles, as far as we know, were busily doing the only logical things—running and hiding from the authorities, frightened, confused, and bewildered.

And what about the Jews who had demanded His death? Did they go home to a pleasant celebration of the Passover Feast as if this was just a normal event? What about the Roman officials and soldiers who knew the whole event was bogus with an illegal overnight kangaroo court? One of the soldiers had been shown the truth and had proclaimed that, “Surely this was the Son of God.” Did Pilate resent being played for a patsy by the Jews, forced to do their bidding even though as governor he was supposed to be the one in charge.

How many had second thoughts and regrets once the mob mentality had passed? How many asked, “What have I done?”

How many didn’t.

And one last thought. I am amazed at places where I unexpectedly find God, one of which seems at least semi-appropriate for today. In the Harry Potter series, Harry and Hermione find Harry’s parents’ gravesite. Included on the stone is the inscription:

 “The last enemy that shall be destroyed is death.”

which plays in integral part in the plot. It is also a quote from 1 Corinthian 15:26 recounting how Jesus conquered death.

Greater Love

Greater love has no man, but to lay down his life for a friend.

Regardless of your faith, religion, or decision against, we all can appreciate this statement.

To Christians, Jesus took on all of our imperfections and died in compensation for all of us.

But there are others to whom this applies. Many have laid down their lives.

God knows, over the past twelve years there have been ample opportunities for young men and women to fall on a grenade or take a bullet for a comrade.

Yet, it does not always require death. Then there are the parents, especially many single parents, who put their own lives aside to provide for their children; not to merely provide essentials, but to prioritized a school event when they’re dead tired or to have more modest meals to allow for a school ring or a yearbook.

How many adults juggle both care of their children and care of their parents?

And what does this mean?

All of these things are heroic, and yet none of them are. We are merely following the example set by Jesus, our Savior. We are called to express our love for others above our love for ourselves.

So, on this Good Friday evening when Jesus was laid in the tomb, in earthly terms to rest; in celestial terms to prepare for the next phase. In any case, to be “put away” in one form, yet to return in another that is more, beautiful, more powerful, more wonderful, with the promise that His next return will be beyond comprehension.

With all that in mind, share a greater love, to someone, in some way. Call someone you loved, with whom you haven’t spoken in a while. Tell a family member what wonderful attributes they have.

You know what to do.

And, as you do, prepare for the stone to be rolled back from the empty tomb and share in the joy.

May the Lord bless you and keep you. May the Lord let His face shine upon you. May the Lord look upon you and be gracious unto you. May the Lord bless you, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, now and forever. Amen.

Today

It’s Holy Thursday, or if you’re Protestant, Maundy Thursday.

What does that really mean?

In the news today the vultures, er, I mean the media, were asking, “Who’s going to pay?” the families of the victims of the crashed German aircraft.

What a stupid question.

Cash will never replace a loved one. A life is something beyond value.

Which is why today, nearly two thousand years ago, Jesus was betrayed by one of his closest friends, was brutally tortured and executed in the most humiliating manner—one reserved for slaves.

No one asked, who was going to pay.

Instead, the very Son of God, died that way to reopen the connection between God and mankind.

It was Jesus who paid. No civil litigation; no arbitration; just a flat out gift for each and every one of us, paid for with the flesh, blood and last breath of Jesus.

Today let’s focus on the value of what we’ve been given. No greater love than this, but to lay down one’s life for a friend.

Not Quite Dead

You may know my name—J. Parrington Morrison, but I tended to mingle only with business associates who could in some way support my goals and objectives. I was always quite focused, which is how I flipped businesses the way others flip houses. I’d convince a venture capital group to buy into a business, kill off any long term efforts like research and development, training, and a lot of marketing. I’d pump what was left into current sales so that the quarterly financial statements looked good, then use a little creative accounting on the balance sheets. It’s the business equivalent of painting and putting in new carpeting—it looks better, but it’s still the same old house underneath.

I’d take my profit and move on while the new CEO, left with hollow company, would take the blame for the company’s demise two or three years later. I figured one good short term deal after another was every bit as good as a long term focus. I lived well, especially since I could write so much off my taxes, but there was one long term project. I invested some money in long term, extremely safe government bonds and treasury notes; I even spread it around different countries since you never know which country will prosper and which one won’t even be in the history books. Given time, it will put a king’s ransom to shame.

Then I bought time. Within seconds of my “death” at a ripe old age, a special team whisked my body away and carefully prepared me for cryogenic storage. Somewhere in a stainless steel tube, my body is now bathed in liquid helium or nitrogen or something, waiting for the day when medical science can bring me back and fix me. I have no idea how long it’s been, but I certainly didn’t expect to be aware while my body is waiting to be repaired.

The best way I can describe myself is “transparent.” It’s like I’m not all here physically, but I’m also very different mentally–transparent. It’s not like being a ghost—I don’t see places or anything living—but I sort of get glimpses of the dead. They also seem faint or transparent, but I only get a glimpse from time to time, almost like seeing something reflected in rippling water at twilight.

I never believed in an afterlife or heaven or anything, but the dead seem to be enjoying whatever they’re experiencing, and they certainly seem to enjoy one another since I never see any of them alone. They’re always together with someone or part of a crowd, and I can tell they are smiling, laughing, and sharing. Sharing is big with them; they share food and drink and who knows what all.

I’ve had plenty of opportunity to think—years? Decades? Centuries? Who knows? I’ve decided that I would be better off dead. Don’t forget—I should be. I should be long dead and forgotten by the world. My plan to be restored seems so pathetic now; why would I want to live in a world that will no doubt be totally different from anything I ever knew? Do I really want to grow old and “die” a second time, or a third? It was a great short term plan, but sucks as a long term plan—as in eternity.

I think what I get glimpses of is heaven, and if there is a heaven, then there must be a God. I never thought I’d ever say that; there must be a God. If God is everything I’ve heard, but always denied, He must know. He must know where I am, what has happened, and what I need. If I pray, maybe He’ll hear me.

God, uh I’m not too sure as to how to pray, but I guess You know that. What I’m praying for is to be set free from my attempt to bind myself to life. Let my frozen body release its hold on me.

He prayed for what seemed an eternity, his prayers eventually showing a bit of wisdom. He began to figure out what should have been important while he had been fully alive. He decided to accept whatever fate God had planned for him.

In a long abandoned laboratory, somewhere in what had once been called “Wyoming,” one of the stainless steel cylinders sprung a pinhole leak and vented the last of its liquid nitrogen. The cylinder began to warm, its contents, the body of someone once named J. Parrington Morrison began to thaw and go the way of all flesh.

Aches, Pains, and the Universe

When I was young, each injury was a minor inconvenience for a short period of time. As I get older, small injuries impact my ability to do things more and take much, much longer to heal.

I recently was sharing some thoughts with Rick Martinez, one of my oldest friends and a fellow philosopher—and I mean that term sincerely. The discussion was based on Sir Francis Bacon’s thoughts on the philosophical differences between youth and aging. Obviously, there are physical differences as well.

I’ve been fighting one of the bugs my kids have brought home, and instead of being an inconvenience, it has altered my priorities for the last five or six days. Fortunately, it is now passing and I am returning to normal. However, it is yet another reminder that our physical state is temporary.

What does this really mean? Not to be smug, but God only knows. I think it reminds us that not only are we spiritual beings in a physical world, but that we have been put here to contribute what we can while we can to make this a better world.

However, I like the idea that God has charged me personally with making things better. I hope I don’t let Him down.

So You Say You Want a Resolution?

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself. www.trendymaal.com photo: elsoar.com

Great calendar! and apparently you can print it for yourself.
http://www.trendymaal.com
photo: elsoar.com

Personally I don’t subscribe to the idea of New Year’s Resolutions.

Every day is an opportunity to do at least one thing better, and we should seize every one of those opportunities as it comes along. Most areas of improvement are like fruit; they ripen at a certain point, and if you wait until the first of January they get squishy and smell bad. You need to grab them at their prime.

Big decisions, in my humble opinion, cannot be accomplished between 31 December and the next morning. Major changes like quitting smoking take time, and may require assistance from medications, nicotine patches or whatever. Most people stumble—the question is, “Do I pick myself up and try again from where I fell, or do I chalk it up to another resolution I couldn’t keep?” Picking one’s self up is hard, but the results—well they speak for themselves.

The closest thing to a New Year’s Resolution I’m going to make is to pick something each day and then try to be a little better husband, father, daddy, lover, friend, worker, or whatever. Not all at once—just one little tiny improvement per day.

When the day comes that I can shave without turning on the bathroom light because of the halo glowing around my head, I’ll stop.

In the meantime, my wish for you is that 2015 (or however you number your years) be blessed; that it brings you closer to God; that it helps you count your blessings, starting with those around you—family, neighbors, friends, and even the people in your neighborhood that you know by sight but have never met; and most importantly, that it helps you overlook the foibles of others that drive you crazy while being of no importance whatsoever. After you remind yourself how blessed you are, share your blessings with others.

And you can start, or restart on any (or every) day from today on.

Thoughts on Getting Older

In the sitcom Welcome Back, Kotter Gabe Kaplan moves and lets out a groan. “That’s my father’s sound!” he exclaims.

Been there, done that. However, getting older is not the beginning of the end. It’s a new beginning.

Our readings as Mass this morning included Genesis 15: 1-6, 21:1-3 in which God tells Abram that he will have descendants more numerous than the stars in the sky. Abram, and his wife Sarai are both well past parenting or even grand-parenting years. Yet God, calling Abram “Abraham” and Sarai as “Sarah” gives them Isaac as their son. Abraham—Ibrahim became the father for Jews, the Muslims and the Christians.

Today’s gospel was from Luke 2:22-40 and told of Jesus presentation and consecration at the temple as a first-born son. The focus, however, was not just on Jesus. The story’s center included Simeon, who was probably quite old, but had been told by the Holy Spirit that he would not die until he saw the Messiah.

He held the baby Jesus and knew he could die in peace, but first he had a message for Mary that the child, “is destined for the fall and for the rising of many in Israel, destined to be a sign that is rejected – and a sword will pierce your own soul too – so that the secret thoughts of many may be laid bare.”

Also in the Temple was Anna, a prophetess who was “well on in years.” She was a widow who had never left the Temple after her husband died. “She came by just at that moment and began to praise God; and she spoke of the child to all who looked forward to the deliverance of Jerusalem.”

We know nothing is impossible for God. He chose an elderly couple to create a people when there were many young couples around. He chose an elderly man and woman at the temple to recognize who Jesus was, and deliver important messages to His parents.

I try to remind myself that as I get older, God has just as much (if not more) for me to do than He did when I was young. Was He waiting for me to gain some wisdom? Was He waiting for me to have more faith? Maybe it’s just that He has something for each of us to do to serve him, everyday of our lives.

 

 

I Heard the Bird on Christmas Day

Alex, the Spirit of Christmas Present

Alex, the Spirit of Christmas Present

Merry Christmas!

In my office/radio/computer/scientific wonders room I have a light for my plants (Currently a couple of Venus Fly Traps and some Shamrocks) that’s on a timer. This is also the room in which Alex the Parrot reigns supreme.

This morning, being Christmas, we slept in just a little; the main advantage of teenagers over toddlers is that they teens love to sleep in—even on Christmas morning,

At 4:00 AM, when the plant light timer clicked on, Alex the Parrot, waited a little while, but by 5:45 AM he was convinced that our lack of activity indicated some type of crisis, so he began to fuss and chatter to wake us up.

So, to paraphrase:

“I heard my bird on Christmas Day,

“”Wake up it’s Christmas morn,’ he’d say.

“And whether born with feathers or skin,

“Share peace on earth, with birds and men.”

 

At least that’s the way I heard it.

The Disappointment of Christmas

Most of us forget that we are spiritual beings on a journey through this material life. I personally forget about it for around sixteen hours each day; the other hours, I’m asleep.

When the Messiah came, people expected someone who would take charge and straighten things out. Lord knows it needed straightening out. The Levant was under military control; the power of the Roman Empire was the only reason that the various tribes weren’t at war, as was the norm. However, the hate was still there, just waiting for the chance.

The rich abused the poor. Innocent people were enslaved, tortured and executed, and most of this was done in the name of one god or another.

“Don’t worry, when the Messiah arrives, He’ll be a brilliant leader; a warrior superior to David and Joshua and a wise leader who would overshadow Solomon,” was the hope.

But Jesus was not that kind of Messiah. Rather than focusing on our “three score and ten” years, he put his efforts toward our eternity.

While His gift of salvation was free, he did give us the dictum to carry on His work—to “Love one another as I have loved you.”

This Christmas Eve the Levant—and the whole rest of the world is still a mess. The rich still abuse the poor. Innocent people are still enslaved, tortured and executed. Great evil is justified as being in the name of one god or another.

But even though we can’t see the big picture, the coming of the Messiah has changed things. While it seems like battles are being lost, we know through faith how things will turn out.

Victory never comes easily or cheaply, but God’s will is paramount.

In the meantime, hang onto your faith, let hope reinforce that these things will happen, and love one another as He loved us.