Sunday, December 23, 2007

Oops

I've got a novelty Christmas tie which features Santa lounging on a beach in shorts and sunglasses, enjoying the warm sun.

Today while leaning over the oven door to remove a casserole, I accidentally let my tie make brief contact with the hot metal of the door's inside, and instantly the cheap fabric returned to its primal state and became one with the door, leaving a gaping hole on the bottom of the tie. Here's me being sad:

So I've learned two lessons: First, tuck in your tie when you lean over a hot oven door, and second, don't buy cheap neckties.

By the way... with the demise of this tie I am now without a novelty Christmas tie (o woe is me!), in case anybody's scrambling for a last-minute gift idea. If you read this too late for Christmas, don't worry - my birthday's in January. :)

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Lazy Season

Some of my readers may be familiar with the ancient, obscure tradition of Advent and Christmas. This is the celebration of the incarnation of the living God into human form, come to save us from our sins.

Faithful adherence to this religious holiday season has long faded into the past, and I suppose many of you are completely unfamiliar with the holiday, as its active celebration is practiced only by a tiny minority of those populating the Western world.

I am one of them. Shocked?

With the business of the season, all the parties, the Christmas pageants, the shoveling snow, the Masses, the gift giving, and the year-end duties to which I must attend at work, I hereby grant myself a reprieve from my unwritten self-expectation to blog every 2-3 days for the next few weeks. I also hereby grant my readers a dispensation from reading my blog regularly during this season.

Not to say that I won't publish at all - if something worthy comes my way, you'll be the first to know. Or at least the first person to read the post will become the first to know. But I digress.

Once things are back to normal and our priests are wearing green again, I expect you all to return and resume your faithful reading of my mindless rantings.

Merry Christmas, and Happy Festivus.

Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Ballistics From the Bullet in Your Foot Match the Gun in Your Hand

Barry Walters, an associate professor of obstetric medicine at the University of Western Australia, expressed his wish recently that his country would stop paying a baby bonus to women who have children, and would instead levy a carbon tax against families when they have more than 2 kids.

Mr. Walters wants to follow reproductive role model nations like China, because "every newborn baby in Australia represents a potent source of greenhouse gas emissions for an average of 80 years, not simply by breathing but by the profligate consumption of resources typical of our society." What, do Australian kids fart a lot?

I wonder if he's familiar with TFR - Total Fertility Rate. This is a measure of how successfully a nation is replacing its population. If the average woman has 2.1 children (2 to replace her and her husband, and 0.1 to replace the fraction of infertile or celibate women and women who die before having the opportunity to have babies) then the country's population will grow; if any less, it will shrink.

So one must assume that comments from such a learned individual imply that Australia is well over the 2.1 mark. Not so. As of 2005, they were hovering around 1.70, and aren't projected to climb back to 2.1 for the foreseeable future. Were it not for immigration, their population would be shrinking (look about halfway down that page and imagine what the graph would look like if the immigration number was 0 for each series). Much like Canada - we're less than 1.50. Britain? 1.60. France? 1.89. Italy, Germany, Spain? 1.23, 1.35, 1.15 respectively. What about the US of A? They're at a solid 2.11, the best rate in the Western world. This is one of the prime reasons why America continues to dominate on the world stage.

I get so tired of these talking heads who see children only as an expense on society. If, as Mr. Walters claims, a child does nothing but consume oxygen and resources, producing nothing but CO2 for the duration of his life, then I could see where he was coming from. But the child is solely a consumer for only the first 20 years or so, at which point he becomes a productive contributor to society. So when we have more kids, sure we have some short-term pain in regards to forking over the dough for the investments in the future they represent, but in the long run it pays off big-time.

If I felt like it, I could continue to crunch numbers for you (because I know how much my readers like math!) and prove economically that it's a better idea to have more children than fewer, but the argument should not hinge on economics. We must realize as a species that the mystery of new life is too amazing to pass up; we participate in God's creative design for the universe when we bring a new baby into the world, and to de-mystify the glory of this with mere money would be shameful.

This is what Mr. Walters has done. Fortunately, others have already put him in his place:

Australian Family Association spokeswoman Angela Conway said it was ridiculous to blame babies for global warming.

"I think self-important professors with silly ideas should have to pay carbon tax for all the hot air they create," she said. "There's masses of evidence to say that child-rich families have much lower resource consumption per head than other styles of households.

Wednesday, December 05, 2007

Hockey Lives Here

Tonight gives me two good reasons to continue to cheer for the Ottawa Senators: First - they finally snapped their historic losing streak by defeating the - ahem - "mighty" Florida Panthers 5-4.

But second, their wives & girlfriends - known officially as "Sens Better Halves" - will be donating proceeds from their Christmas fund raiser to the Ottawa based First Place Pregnancy Centre, a pro-life counseling centre which leaves the hideous option of abortion off the table.

Heather Mallick, a CBC columnist, takes issue with the donation. Her opinion is really no big surprise, I mean, it's not like the CBC is teeming with pro-lifers. She is full of petty spout-offs like how the FPPC and its ilk have websites "designed to appeal to teenage girls, lots of advice about boys — giggle — and sites on MySpace. They take great care to look like kindly counselling centres. In fact, they exist solely to prevent abortion." Oh, the horror of it all! A group of people who work together to prevent the murder of innocents! We share your outrage, Heather. And your patronizing attitude. Puh-tooey.

It wouldn't take a lot of changes to make that exact phrase refer to what a Planned Parenthood website does - just change "prevent" to "encourage" and WHAMMO you're done.

But the real kicker of her piece is this: "Revenue Canada tells me that First Place is not a registered charity."

Read to the end of her tirade, and you'll see that her editor has added this: "Editor's note: Ms. Mallick clearly states that Revenue Canada told her First Place is not a registered charity. Links on the website's donation section show that it operates under a different name as a registered charity: Crisis Pregnancy Centre of Ottawa, registered as number 890251382RR0001."

That's real sloppy, Ms. Mallick. You're caught in that questionable void between a real journalist and a dedicated blogger: Both check their facts, and try to avoid tainting their writings with a closed mind. You did neither. Shame.

I strongly encourage all my readers to let the Sens and their Better Halves know how positively you view their choice of this charity. Follow this link for their Contact Form.

[UPDATE 12/7/07 09:33 - it seems the Better Halves have removed the FPPC from their list of recipients of the money... investigating...]

[UPDATE #2 - 12/7/23:34 - According to FPPC, they voluntarily withdrew their name from the list of recipients. A tough call, to be sure. If you want to support them in their mission, please donate.]

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Advent-ageous

Sunday Mass this week was a rather dry and gloomy affair; winter had dumped its first criticism of global warming on us, music had been mostly cut out of the liturgy, and the decorations were the sparse inside joke of Advent purple.

In reading David Warren's recent column on Advent, I was struck by a saddening reality: we are a wretched people, obsessed with the latest electronic means of communication. The TV ads this time of year are all about the latest cellular phone (does anybody even call them that anymore?) or MP3 player.

They are also encouraging us, the lowly consumer, to be less concerned about receiving gifts, and more concerned about creating an excited reaction in those to whom we give our gifts. The Best Buy ads are a classic example - a husband is shopping for his wife, and asks the store employee where he can find an "I can't believe it! I can't believe it! How did you know? This is perfect!" There are a handful of other companies taking the same approach to advertising this Advent.

But looking for that reaction in itself creates an unhealthy dependency on the person to whom you're giving. It makes the giving a primarily selfish act.

This was not how God gave us his son. The Incarnation of Jesus was an event of mercy and love, not of a vainglorious praise-seeking exercise from the Father. Yes, our response is one of love, gratitude, and worship, but it's not our reaction he seeks - rather, it is our relationship.

That is the advantage of Advent: we are called to live austerely, and to prepare for the Lord's coming. We must not get caught up in the hype of our consumerist culture, buying and buying and buying. A great feast approaches us, and we must be ready to dine.

Saturday, December 01, 2007

Preparations For War

Regarding building a missile defense radar in the Czech Republic, which is part of American plans for a European missile defense shield, American artist Kevin Kihn asks the compelling question, "Why not build a Peace Dome in its place?"

Uhh... gee, Kev, I dunno, uh... maybe because it won't shoot down missiles?

I invite my readers to come up with a punch line for what could soon become an old joke: What do you call a guy who thinks he can win peace by building a geodesic dome (aka Nature's Healing Secret!) under the flight paths of enemy WMDs?

To get you started, here's a few:

Put yours in the comments.

Wednesday, November 28, 2007

Who Can Battle With the Lord?

I learned a Nigerian worship song by that title tonight: quite a catchy tune. I listened to it and meditated on its words:

Who can battle with the Lord?
Who can battle with the Lord?
Who can battle with the Lord?
I say nobody.


Yeah, it's pretty simple. But I was struck by the answer to the question, for on one hand it is a statement of security and protection under the Almighty, and on the other hand, it's a testament to being unable to reconcile my selfish desires with God's plan for my life. Much like my etymological namesake, Jacob (of Genesis 32:25-31 fame), I frequently wrestle with God. Well, maybe not "much like" as for me it's not a physical match where he tweaks my sciatic muscle and causes me to lose the fight. My struggle against my carnal urges is really a battle of my corrupt will versus my sanctified will.

Some days are better than others - sometimes my foe takes a cheap shot and I'm crippled, other days I gain the upper hand and drive him into the sea like an Irish serpent. I'm at a crucial point in my spiritual growth, and he doesn't like it and is scrapping harder than ever.

All the more reason to put the fight into God's hands, for who can battle the Lord?

Sunday, November 25, 2007

Of Rider Pride and Inevitable Vandalism

Any time you display your Green & White colours in a town like Winnipeg, especially when snow and grass are your medium, you just know it won't last. The Riders won the Grey Cup not more than 30 minutes ago, so I doubt if this particular rendering will last into the morning.


But I had to do it. All Blue Bomber fans who come to our home must trudge through their shame if they want to eat our waffles.

Unless they use the back door.

Saturday, November 17, 2007

"That They May Be One"

My title is the phrase which Jesus prayed, for unity among the believers who would come after his disciples, as found in Luke 17, verse 22.

Specifically, he prayed that the unity of the next generations of Christians would be as intimate and as deep and as authentic as the unity between his very self and God the Father.

So when I hear other Christians say, "Sure, we disagree on some stuff, but we agree on the core fundamentals of our faith, and that's good enough."

Really? REALLY? Do you think the Father and the Son agree on a few key fundamentals of how life and universe matter but disagree on some of the more petty things? Of course not; when it comes to Truth - and God is Truth - there are no petty things. All Truth, whether a tiny morsel of it or a seven course dinner, is Truth, and it is complete and absolute and cannot be divided from itself any more than we can divide the persons of the Trinity.

So it's quite obvious that in claiming that we can abide the "petty" differences between the churches (and I'm talking about doctrine and matters of faith & belief, as opposed to matters of style) that we are only making an excuse not to examine the merits of all sides in this debate. If you are a Protestant reading this and have never even considered the possibility of becoming Catholic, I invite you to pray for the Holy Spirit to guide you through a discernment of opening your heart to it. Seriously.

This train of thought was chugged into motion when I read a fabulous article by Damian Thompson in merry old England's Telegraph online (and a tip o' the hat to my buddy Darwin for sending it my way). Seems that Pope Benedict is really shaking things up with his vision for liturgical reform in the Church. He's making a lot of the right people get very nervous.

For example, in July of this year he issued an apostolic letter, Summorum Pontificum, authorizing the use of the Latin Mass without having to obtain special permission from the local bishop. Note that the link provided above is to an unofficial, yet trusted, English translation, as apparently some wag in the Vatican thought it would be ironic to have the official document available in Latin only.

Winnipeg own Archbishop James Weisgerber almost immediately produced some thoughts on the letter, and he published them in the diocese's monthly newsletter in October. It's pictured here should you feel so inclined to read it in its entirety (click it to make it larger).


I first met his grace a few years back when I made some light inquiries into becoming a Catholic deacon (still not done discerning that, and it's quite far down on my priority list of important things to discern), and on every occasion that he's encountered me after that meeting, he has always remembered my name (which I suppose is easy, as it's his too) and that I'm a fellow son of Saskatchewan. I've heard him deliver some excellent homilies, and have witnessed him involve himself deeply with the Catholic youth of the city. As well, he never ends a sentence with a preposition, something I've always admired him for for which I've always admired him.

But I gotta tell ya, after I read this piece I felt a little queasy. He's essentially saying that we don't need to implement the Latin Mass here because there is no interest in it. Repeat after me... there is no interest. Keep your eye on the pocket watch, now, and say it again... there is no interest. Noooobody wants it..... shhhh.....

In retort, I refer to Damian Thompson's article. He says that Benedict has a "conviction that the Catholic Church must rediscover the liturgical treasure of Christian history to perform its most important task: worshiping God. This conviction is shared by growing numbers of young Catholics, but not by the church politicians who have dominated the hierarchies of Europe for too long."

So for Archbishop Weisgerber to claim that "there is little evidence of a 'strong attachment' and there are no stable communities with a continued experience of celebrating the Tridentine rite" misses out on the possibility that this new generation of Catholics is really wondering what the Latin liturgy is like. I've never been to a Latin Mass, but I constantly hear hushed reminiscences from the old guard of what it was like; quiet, reverent, profound, larger than life itself, full of spirit and mystery. The bishop says "our Sunday worship reflects who we are," but how can we possibly have it reflect us as a Latin-loving people if we are denied the opportunity to love it?

He may be right though, about not being able to sustain a genuine interest among the laity in a regular Latin liturgy in the archdiocese. But I would suggest that this is not due to a lack of appetite on the part of the faithful, but rather to discouraging messages like this one that encourage us to rely on the force-fed, reconstituted liturgical baby food we've known for the last forty years. Far too many of our priests give up on us far too easily, and we really need them to step up and make us feel uncomfortable until we listen to them.

Archbishop Weisgerber goes on to state:

I believe that the desire of some to return to the Tridentine Mass expresses a deep discontent with aspects of contemporary celebrations fo the Eucharist. Some people rightly long for a more reverent celebration, one that focuses on God's presence. Others remember the wonderful choirs, moving music, greater periods of reverent silence. Those are important aspects of our worship, elements which we are trying to recapture with our liturgical renewal. As you know, liturgical renewal is our Archdiocesan priority for 2006 to 2008.

It's obvious that for some reason he doesn't want to see the Tridentine liturgy make a comeback, and wants to supplant it with this liturgical renewal. It has, however, produced not a heck of a lot. True, the time line planned for the renewal is not yet complete, but in reviewing the archdiocesan website on its progress, I can find scarce little other than commentaries on the symbolic references inherent to each part of the Mass. For example, this snippet on the importance of the opening Procession:

Each Eucharistic celebration begins with procession. The movement from our homes to our church, down the aisle to the Eucharistic table. The procession is never simply about moving from one place to another but is a profession of who we are and ultimately where we are headed. Each procession reveals who we are as church. Looking at the procession reveals who is part of this community and who is included in the journey. The procession tells us something about our destiny, the Kingdom of Heaven . The joy, the music and the dance anticipate what heaven is all about. Each Sunday we are called to join in the Great Procession of God’s People who make their way from lives of individuality to lives of community. As each person joins in the perpetual movement of the Church’s procession, our lives and our world are transformed by the vision of heaven.

I see no renewal here. All I see is a documentary, and a poorly made one at that. What's this about joy in the procession? Music? Dance? This Sunday at Mass, look around during the Procession and try to find joy. How many smiles do you see? How many people still have their jackets on so they can save precious seconds on their way out of Mass when it's finally over?

What I expect in a renewal is a real call to change the way we worship. I want to walk away from a discussion on renewal with some practical things to do differently, not some clever insights. Is our bishop really calling us to dance up the aisle with the procession? Does he really perceive joy on the faces of his own parishioners at the Cathedral? Is God the object of the musical lyrics, or does the music reek of recycled feel-goodisms from the 60's?

We've got something precious in our Catholic tradition, folks. I don't fully understand what it is, as my time in the Church is far outweighed by the duration of the Latin suppression, but I know that there is something deeper there which churned out saints and martyrs for us in all ages past but doesn't quite resonate with us today.

The real corker here, as Thompson writes, is that about 400,000 Anglicans in the British Commonwealth and America are so upset with their own church's trailblazing into Hell that they have done the prodigal son thing and are asking if they can move back in with us.

Bring 'em back, I says. That we may be one. And let's make it a place they'll be delighted to rejoin.

Thursday, November 15, 2007

Thought Of The Day

(Not that I do these every day, mind you, but the title works, so bear with me)

Forgiveness is not like bird poop. You can't just release it and let it fall on the shoulder of somebody who has hurt you, then declare as you swoop off into the sunset, "I have forgiven him! We are now reconciled!"

This was spawned by reading a review of the book How Can I Forgive You? by Janis A. Spring, and by commenting on one of the comments.

Tuesday, November 13, 2007

Until Death

Meditating on the Gospel reading from this Sunday's Mass, I stumbled across an amazing truth.

In Luke 20 we are told of those pesky Sadducees, who were known primarily for not believing in the resurrection of the body, trying to "catch" Jesus with a fictional scenario of a man who married a woman and had no children through her before he died. According to Jewish law, that man's brother would have been obligated to marry her and produce an heir on behalf of his deceased brother. But in this scenario of the Sadducees' concoction, that brother also dies heir-less, and again with the third brother, all the way down the line of seven brothers.

The Sadducees thought they had him there - for which of the brothers would be her husband in the afterlife? What a pickle. Jesus, true to his divine form, blows their minds with his answer - "The children of this age marry and remarry; but those who are deemed worthy to attain to the coming age and to the resurrection of the dead neither marry nor are given in marriage."

What? No marriage in heaven? How can this be? How can she who is my soul-mate, my beloved, my better half, be apart from me in paradise? This makes no sense.

What we fail to comprehend, however, is that we fail to comprehend. There is no marriage in the next life because it is not needed. The very next thing Jesus says is, "They can no longer die."

The purpose of marriage is thus somehow inextricably connected to death. Sounds morbid, eh? But it's not... when you look at it from a particularly Darwinian perspective, it actually makes a ton of sociological sense. Marriage, when entered into properly (the only sense in which I'll ever refer to it), secures the family structure. The stable family structure is the most beneficial method of producing healthy, well-rounded offspring. Offspring, as any manatee, pigeon, or paramecium will tell you, are what keep our hope for the future alive.

This is especially so when you know you're going to die, be it 5 minutes or 5 decades from now. It is frequently quipped that nobody, on his deathbed, wishes he had spent more time at the office. I would expand that, and quip that nobody on his deathbed surrounded by his 8 children wishes that 5.7 of them didn't exist to be there. On the contrary, many dying people wish that more of their children could be with them, and that they hadn't burned so many bridges in their short spans on earth. [Heh... bridges - spans... a made a pun!]

I know that I have some readers out there who have opted not to have children, and I don't presume to judge any of you on that choice; judgment rests with God alone. Please don't absorb my thoughts on this subject as a condemnation, but rather as an invitation to consider the miracle of new life. The primacy physical, corporeal purpose for getting married is not for the unbridled pleasure of constant sex (and if any of you single & chaste people think that's what marriage is like, you're absolutely right - for the first few months), but rather to produce offspring. Why do you think God made sex so damn fun? So we'd have fewer kids?

No - he has always intended for the sexual act to include an openness to life, if not an outright intention to create life. Look to the animal kingdom for wisdom in this matter: rats enjoy sex. When given the options of stimulating their pleasure centers or eating, they invariably choose stimulation over food, until they die of exhaustion. So why do they enjoy it? What evolutionary advantage does "fun" have, if not to promote an activity frequently? And why, for a plain animal, would frequent sex be a good thing? For no other reason than it ensures that when momma possum passes on, there is a slough of baby possums to keep possums around.

Not that I'm a die-hard evolutionist, mind you, but usually the critics of Catholic teaching on sexuality also reject the concept of a Creator God. So I like to turn their own arguments inside-out against them. They don't like it when species go extinct, and they are constantly harping about how many species we haven't yet discovered which will disappear because Uncle Pélé cut down some trees around his farm in Uruguay to make room for his cattle. So if extinction is a bad thing, and if we're concerned about an obscure type of gnat never being cataloged for posterity, should we not be all the more concerned about our own species propagating prudently?

The one thing which confounds my thinking on this matter is the fact that the command to Adam & Eve to be fruitful and multiply came before the Fall (the moment they brought death into the world). Creation of new life is not therefore only something which sustains our species; it also shows us something of the nature of God, in whose image we were created perfectly. He created us as male and female - initially as man, with woman taken from his very being - and then gave us an urge to reunite. That reuniting creates new life. So what can we discern of the nature of God from this truth?

Remember that the words he spoke at creation were, "Let us create man in our own image." (Gen 1:26) Every other act of creation was an external statement: Let there be light; let the earth bring forth vegetation; let the water teem with an abundance of creatures; etc. But the creation of man was a uniquely self-involved proposition: Let us.

It is also undeniably plural. God is a triune being; Father, Son, Spirit. The interplay between the Father and the Son is a creative one, and what they create is the Spirit. The Nicene Creed states that the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son. Thus there is a constant creative act and a constant creative product within the very persons of God, and we are created in that creative archetype.

That, by the way, is called the Theology of the Body. Check out Christopher West for more info on it.

Monday, November 05, 2007

Peer Review

I'm an avid reader of Discover magazine, despite the overt atheism and anti-religious dogma they frequently spew on the editorial pages, articles, and interviews. A few months back I recall an interview they had with a scientist who - gasp - professed her Christian faith and did not see a contradiction between her belief and her career.

Then the magazine published letters from several readers commenting on the interview. One of them said that until proof of God's existence is published in a respected scientific journal, is subjected to peer review, and achieves consensus as authentic from the majority of the relevant scientific authorities, he will not believe.

That makes me think two things: firstly, what will God's response to that be at the Last Judgment? "Oh, wow, I never thought of that. Touché, buddy - good point! Enter in to the joy of your maker."

But second, and more important, what if the proof for God's existence happened, say, 2000 years ago? What if God defied all logic, all space and time, all physical & natural laws, and became a man? What if he cured countless diseases, healed the blind and the lame, forgave all sins, died and rose from the dead, then visibly ascended into the sky? What if all these miracles were witnessed by thousands of people over a three-year period? What if they wrote these events down to ensure future generations would know the truth of them?

Let's flip that around a bit.

What if God appeared to this letter writer, and to the scientific community as a whole, and presented proof of his existence? What if it were published in a respected scientific journal, reviewed and accepted by the majority of the relevant authorities across the world? What if everybody who encountered this proof suddenly dropped all skepticism and believed in the incarnate, triumphant Lord?

You'd imagine that the word would spread like wildfire all over the face of the earth. Hordes of people would turn to Christ and receive his saving love. The Church's numbers would swell, and the response to the touch of God in the lives of these new Christians would spurn vigourous missionary activity towards those who stubbonly remained outside that love. New saints would be called to a special breed of holiness to help fill the needs of this spiritually starving people. The Kingdom of Heaven would achieve an almost earthly incarnation of organization & structure as the Church struggled to hold to the Truth which had been revealed to it and to cast away all distortion and lies.

Our letter writer himself would become a spiritual leader in this movement; as one who had encountered the Risen Lord in such a powerful and personal way, he would have lots to say, and his heart would burn for those who were still as lost as he used to be. He would pen countless letters to these new believers, and would encourage them to uphold the Truth and to distance themselves from their former deeds of darkness.

He would eventually die and be taken up to Heaven, to the joy of his maker.

From there he could watch & intercede as time passed.

Some would see the power of this rejuvenated Church and covet it; some would see this love and hate it. The enemy of old would writhe in supreme discomfort at the thought of so many people turning to God. He would raise up his own movements to try to discount the Truth; he would spread lies, he would inspire individuals and even nations to persecute the believers, who would only hold on to their faith all the more tightly as it was tested by fire. Then this enemy would learn a thing or two, and would let the believers do their thing for a season.

He would let up the pressure, as it was directly backfiring against his plans. Instead, he would let time pass, and would let the believers grow and spread. He would instead work behind the scenes, subtly, injecting his poison into a strategic vein whenever possible. The Body of Christ remained strong, but over time he knew he could wear them down, if only they didn't detect his intent.

Let's say this happens for another 2000 years or so.

Our original letter writing saint would espy from the heavens a modern skeptic composing a letter to a widely-read periodical about how belief in this outdated belief system was naïve at best, and dangerous at worst. He would wince as the man wrote virtually the same letter he himself had penned 2000 years prior. He would pray for the man's soul, that he would be shown the Truth, and that he wouldn't require any more proof than had been provided to the world already. Fully aware of the workings of the great enemy over time, our saint would pray especially that these evil plans be revealed to the light.

He would pray that this lost sheep would realize that to believe in anything, you have to start with a single step of faith. He would pray that somebody would tell this man: "You have be willing to risk being wrong about everything, before you can know you are right about anything."

What more could God do to prove his love for his people? The very reason he came to Earth as man was to put an end to the cycle of second-generational disobedience as witnessed in the spiritual history of the Israelites. Read through the Old Testament books of Exodus, Judges, Kings, and the Chronicles. Every time God interceded in the lives of his chosen people, they believed in him, but were never successful in passing the faith and the truth of his miracles down to the next generations - at least not with any consistency. Then a generation would fall into sin, be conquered by the closest Philistine/Hittite/Persian/Babylonian/Roman army. They'd suddenly remember the stories of old, how God saved their ancestors from the same suffering, and repent and cry out to him. He would raise up a mighty warrior/prophet/king to lead them to freedom and then they would enjoy a period of peace, secure in his love, with hearts full of worship. They would tell their children and their grandchildren the tales of what God had done for them, and the kids would think to themselves, "Neh, that's just old stories where actual events are confused by the passage of time and re-telling."

Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Shampoo, rinse, repeat.

Ad infinitum.

Christ came to break that cycle. Believe, and be transformed!

Thursday, November 01, 2007

The Second Annual Report on Hallowe'en Candy Takers, Spreadsheet Style

I did this last year too, where I kept track of my Hallowe'en visitors. This year I've grouped the categories a little more closely.

Caterogy Quantity Notables
Fictional & Entertainment Characters 39 Harry Potter, Shrek, Optimus Prime, Brent from Corner Gas
Fantasy/Undead/Supernatural 39 Zombie, troll, witch, angel, devil, vampire, skeleton
Real People & Animals 17 Cat, ladybug, construction worker, ballerina, doctor
No Effort 5 Kids sure are lazy these days
Food 2 Salt Shaker, Box of Popcorn
Total 102

Last year we had 79 visitors; this year 102. I noticed a lot more vehicles escorting their children around this year.

The single most popular costume was that of the zombie (7) followed by the witch, vampire, and "no effort" all with 5.

The most impressive ones were the box of popcorn and the salt shaker - and they weren't even together.

Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Of Horses & Rider Pride

It's a little known fact that some horses love the taste of car paint. I think it has something to do with not having enough zinc in their diets and finding it in the either the paint itself or the protective coating on the car's body applied prior to painting.

My dad's truck, which for a time was frequently in the company of horses, received countless teeth-scrapings by the zinc-starved equines, which exposed a lot of the bare metal underneath.

The truck, while not a beater by any means, has almost 300,000 KM on it. It is a rear-wheel drive long-bed, and it's fifteen years old at least. In short, it has little to no re-sale value for the Saskatchewan ruralite (he's had a For Sale sign in the window for the past nine years).

He was in a playful mood the other day and decided that he'd demonstrate some of that German ingenuity and efficiency by both repairing the paint job and cheering on the Green & White (12/5/0 so far this season).

Let me state for the record that yes, while I live in Winnipeg, I am not a die-hard Blue Bomber fan. Being a son of Saskatchewan, I have an inbred (is that the right word?) need to cheer for the Riders when the two teams meet. Ultimately, however, I am somewhat indifferent to football, being more of a stick-and-puck sort of guy. GO SENS GO!

But my dad's paint job is pretty impressive, seeing as he's never done a lick of creative painting before in his life, and all he used was canned spray paint.

I wish I had a "before" picture, but I don't. You'll have to trust me: the hood was about 25% grey before he did this:


Good job Dad! You'll turn a lot more heads on your trips into Regina now than you ever did.

Friday, October 26, 2007

Night of the Living Ed

Ed being my brother-in-law, I have to acknowledge his feature premier.

Check out parts 1 and 2, as well as the bloopers.

Part 1:




Part 2:




Bloopers:

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Education

For those of you who missed our talk on Education at Wednesday's prayer meeting, I invite you to visit David Warren's site for his perspective on the topic; we appear to think alike:

Get yourself a real education, in what you can find of the world, and see what you can accomplish without participating in the credentials racket. Make your “core relationship” with God, rather than with some Kafkaesque bureaucracy. Discover a vocation in which you can advance the cause of the good, the true, and the beautiful. And raise children -- in poverty, if necessary -- who will also defy the zombism of our post-modern age.

Monday, October 22, 2007

Evan Sayet

Evan Sayet - I've only just heard of him - is a Jewish Hollywood writer and producer who has launched into a career of satirical political speaking. But wait a second and put your stereotype away - he's no liberal (at least, not anymore). The conservative blogosphere is abuzz with a recent talk he gave at the Heritage Foundation in which he picks apart the mindset of the modern liberal. Quote:

The modern liberal looks back on 50,000, 100,000 years of human civilization and knows only one thing for sure: that none of the ideas mankind has come up with - none of the religions, none of the philosophies, none of the ideologies, none of the forms of government - none have succeeded in creating a world devoid of war, poverty, crime, and injustice. So they're convinced that since all of these ideas of man have proved to be wrong, the real cause of war, poverty, crime, and injustice must be found, can only be found, in the attempt to be right. See, if nobody ever thought they were right, what would we disagree about? If we didn't disagree, surely we wouldn't fight. If we didn't fight, of course we wouldn't go to war. Without war there'd be no poverty, with poverty there'd be no crime, without crime there'd be no injustice. It's a Utopian vision, and all that's required to usher in this Utopia is the rejection of all fact, reason, evidence, logic, truth, morality, and decency. All the tools that you and I use in our attempts to be better people, to make the world more right, by trying to be right, by siding with right, by recognizing what is right, and moving towards it.

This is an amazing insight, and because liberals have rejected reason & logic, they fail to see the inevitable conclusion of that Utopian vision. As soon as John Utopiaman punches a liberal in the face because he feels it's the right thing for John Utopiaman to do, the liberal is left without recourse to the morality which would have stated, in the pre-Utopian world, that it's wrong to punch people in the face (even liberals). This concept of an amoral anarchic world goes out the window when the liberal is himself the victim of war, poverty, crime, or injustice. Suddenly he insists that the standards he has rejected for the world at large be applied to him.

The above linked video is long but is well worth it, if you have the time.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Won't Fade Away

Welcome to the first (and probably only one ever) review of a new music album on Convert Man.

If you've ever looked at my Blogger profile (near my picture on the right), you'll see that the only artist I've listed for my favourite music is Rick Cua. I've got other artists I appreciate, but my love for Rick Cua's songs go back to my teens (the early 90's).

He released his last album Like A Cool Drink, collectively from Rick Cua and the Ah-Koo-Stiks, a whopping ten years ago. Seriously - he's got grey hair now; gone are the bouncing Italian shoulder-length locks. But last month he suddenly released Won't Fade Away, his 12th album, and true to form, it rocks.

The bass subtly injects a pounding rhythm into the tracks, the percussion is robust and energetic, and the worshipful lyrics are plucked straight from profundity itself, with minimal evangelical clichés.

It's all I've been listening to for the last few weeks. You know when you can't get a song out of your head and it drives you crazy? It's actually more unbearable not to have one of these tunes stuck in my head, like the adoration-themed title track Won't Fade Away to the enchanting whimsy of the duet Mercy Seat to the desperate soul cry of Be God.

If you buy just one new album this year, buy this one. Listen to the title track at Rick's site, then purchase it there, or from anywhere fine Christian music is sold.

Wednesday, October 17, 2007

Hello Again

This is one of those things you can take or leave at your discretion.

At a community bonfire and prayer gathering held near Wadowice in southern Poland to commemorate the second anniversary of the passing of Pope John Paul II, a local shutterbug snapped a bunch of pictures. In one of them, taken at 9:37 PM, April 2, 2007 (two years to the minute after he died) the flames appear to show the form of the late pontiff, arm outstretched in blessing.

Click here for the image.

This photographer shot a lot of pictures that night, and apparently the rest of them showed just a regular bonfire. Only in this one does anything other than the random shape of flames appear.

Monday, October 15, 2007

Good Morning

I've been working the dreaded closing shift, which lasts until 2:00 AM, for the last few days. Last night (aka yesterday morning) I came home and cleared my head for a bit, then crawled into bed around 4:30 AM.

At 8:30 I awoke to my 7-year old daughter leaning over my face, chirping, "Daddy, wake up! We made you breakfast in bed!"

I pulled myself into a sitting position and blinked away the sleepiness as she lovingly placed a Teflon cookie sheet on my lap. On this makeshift tray was one of the kids' oversized Disney Princess plates with two pieces of (cold) peanut butter toast on it, and a large plastic tumbler of water.

My 5-year old daughter repeated this for my wife, except that she got jam on her toast and milk in her tumbler.

They stayed and watched us eat and drink and returned the trays to the kitchen when we finished and let us go back to sleep after.

Understand that this was far from the most elaborate breakfast I've ever had, but by George it was probably the most delicious one ever. I think I've got some good kids.

Thursday, October 11, 2007

The Urgency of New Life: A Meditation

Several months ago I received a geranium, and it has spent the summer happily in our sun porch, soaking up the warmth and getting watered on a fairly regular basis.

With the approach of autumn we brought it inside. Sadly, in that placement it has received less care than it deserves. But while I was on my retreat last weekend, it started to bloom again:


The thing I found so interesting about this is that the rest of the plant is dying. If you look closely, you can see that only the top few leaves are green, while the rest have withered and are crackly brown. In such a state, it instinctively sent up a flower in an effort to reproduce.

Also, a few weeks ago I was walking my daughters home from school when the elder one picked a flowering plant from the curb. She managed to get the roots intact, and was eager to plant it, so I found an old sour cream container and gave it to her. She found some loose soil and gave the plant another chance to flower in our home. Lo and behold, today it too started to send up a blossom.


This strikes me as amazing, for we live in an age where we view reproductivity as a burden and something to be shut down in order to enjoy life. Yet the flowers of the field know that producing offspring is the difference between life and death; between eternity and obsolescence. Without a next generation, there is no hope on earth for the living.

It pains me when I hear of married couples - Christian ones at that - who say they don't want children. I'm sure that many of them eventually give in to the biological instinct to reproduce, but even to start from that barren perspective is foolishness. Creating life is miraculous; plants and animals do it all the time and each time is a full-blown miracle. How much more so for we people who are created in the very image of God? If God creates us to be like him, we instantly know that we too must create, for that is what he did. It's like looking at a reflection of a reflection; it goes on and on and on.

Tuesday, October 09, 2007

God Is Good

For those of you who didn't already know, TEC is addictive. And I'm not talking about this kind.

I've just made my fourth consecutive retreat, and I can't enough of this. It's funny; my wife made her first TEC a couple years back and when she returned she was the most calm and peaceful I had seen her in all the time I've known her. There was a serenity and a tranquility to her spirit that warmed my soul from her mere proximity, and when she told me I should go on the next retreat, I initially refused - I wanted her to go so she could be like that again and again.

But I guess there's an advantage to me being serene and tranquil for my wife. Mostly due to the restrictions placed on her social flexibility by newborns, I have gone on every retreat since hers, leaving her to care for the children. She's a trooper and I love her for it, although it's probably her turn next time, as our youngest will be a year old and well within my ability to handle on my own. Sigh. It'd be neat if we could both go, but who's going to babysit for a whole long weekend?

Anyway, what God did for me this weekend was incredible. While I'm in no danger of losing the faith, I had lost my faith. By which I mean that I knew in my head what the love of God means for me, but my heart was disconnected from that truth. During a period of prayer & meditation, I had an image in my head of the crucified Christ, but something didn't look right. His eyes were, well, to put it bluntly, kinda freaky looking. They looked too big and too bright and too colourful. I zoomed in for a closer look, and saw that his eyes were filled with the scenes from my life where I had felt the most rejected and abandoned. He told me that he had thought of me - of ME! - during his Passion and that he bore my hurt on his shoulders along with the cross.

He also told me that if he were to reveal the fullness of his love for me right then and there, I wouldn't be able to handle it; it would shatter me. He promised to take me deeper and deeper into the depths of it if only I would give him the chance to do so with every today. I look forward to what he has in store for me.

Friday, October 05, 2007

Once Again

So I go off on retreat again this weekend, on TEC #74. For those of you unfamiliar with TEC, check out the website. In a nutshell, it's a weekend of intense prayer and sacrifice, and I've been looking forward to this for months.

Lately I've been coming to terms with some serious healing that God is trying to impart into my life, and it's the kind of healing that involves peeling back layers of scars to remove a centuries-old thorn. Painful, unpleasant, and all around nasty. My faith is being tested through this process, and it's difficult not to let life grind to a halt while I work through this. Still, this healing is a good thing, and I need to see it through to its end.

So please keep me in your prayers, dear reader, this weekend and the months ahead. I'll post again once I'm back.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

I've Got A Better Idea

The president of Afghanistan, Hamid Karzai, is responding to the latest Taliban attack, a suicide bomb which killed 30 Afghans, by inviting the Taliban to form the government with him.

Apparently, he's just plain sick and tired of all the fighting. "If I find their address, there is no need for them to come to me, I'll personally go there and get in touch with them," the Star quotes him as saying. "If a group of Taliban or a number of Taliban come to me and say, 'President, we want a department in this or in that ministry or we want a position as deputy minister ... and we don't want to fight any more' ... If there will be a demand and a request like that to me, I will accept it because I want conflicts and fighting to end in Afghanistan."

So do we all, Mr. President. But please allow me to suggest an alternate plan of action if you do happen to get Mullah Omar's address.

St. Jerome

Today is the feast day of St. Jerome, who seems to be the front-runner for the patronage of we bloggers. From Catholic-forum.com:

Jerome

Also Known As
Eusebius Hieronymus Sophronius; Girolamo; Hieronymus; Man of the Bible

Memorial
30 September

Profile
Born to a rich pagan family, he led a misspent youth. Studied in Rome. Lawyer. Converted in theory, and baptised in 365, he began his study of theology, and had a true conversion. Monk. Lived for years as a hermit in the Syrian deserts. Reported to have drawn a thorn from a lion's paw; the animal stayed loyally at his side for years. Priest. Student of Saint Gregory of Nazianzen. Secretary to Pope Damasus I who commissioned him to revise the Latin text of the Bible. The result of his 30 years of work was the Vulgate translation, which is still in use. Friend and teacher of Saint Paula, Saint Marcella, and Saint Eustochium, an association that led to so much gossip, Jerome left Rome to return to the desert solitude. Lived his last 34 years in the Holy Land as a semi-recluse. Wrote translations of Origen, histories, biographies, and much more. Doctor of the Church, Father of the Church. Since his own time, he has been associated in the popular mind with scrolls, writing, cataloging, translating, etc. This led to those who work in such fields taking him as their patron - a man who knew their lives and problems.

Born
347 at Strido, Dalmatia

Died
419; relics at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major in Rome

Patronage
archeologists; archivists; Bible scholars; librarians; libraries; schoolchildren; Saint-Jérôme, Quebec; students; translators

O Lord, show your mercy to me and gladden my heart. I am like the man on the way to Jericho who was overtaken by robbers, wounded and left for dead. O Good Samaritan, come to my aid. I am like the sheep that went astray. O Good Shepherd, seek me out and bring me home in accord with your will. Let me dwell in your house all the days of my life and praise you for ever and ever with those who are there.

-Saint Jerome

Friday, September 28, 2007

Backbone

Uncle Diogenes raises a good point today.

The state of Connecticut has been considering Bill 1343 requiring all its hospitals, Catholic ones included, to administer the "Plan B" "emergency contraception" for victims of rape and for women who have had "unprotected" sex. Pardon the overabundant quotation marks; I just can't bring myself to justify the existence of these concepts by showing them the level of respect I have for real words.

The Catholic Bishops of Connecticut, during the planning & review stages of this law, urged the state's governor, M. Jodi Rell, to either veto the legislation or add a clause requiring an ovulation test before administering the drug. Not to do so, they claimed, would be in "direct opposition to our religious belief that life begins at the moment of conception and as such is a serious violation of a basic tenet of the Catholic Faith."

Such a test, easily administered in the ER, would determine if the woman was in the ovulation phase of her monthly cycle, as pregnancy is only possible in the 5-6 day window around the release of the ovum. The bishops had previously urged the lawmakers in that state to take this into consideration, as they saw a distinction between using contraception to prevent ovulation and using it to prevent the implantation of the fertilized ovum (AKA a tiny human).

The Most Reverend Bishops who authored (or at least signed) this letter are Henry J. Mansell of Hartford, William E. Lori of Bridgeport, and Michael R. Cote of Norwich. They cite certain moral ambiguities around the issue of when it is ethically allowable to use the "Plan B" contraceptive.

Maybe I missed the memo, but the last time I checked, there was no ambiguity around the morality of contraception: "every action which, whether in anticipation of the conjugal act, or in its accomplishment, or in the development of its natural consequences, proposes, whether as an end or as a means, to render procreation impossible is intrinsically evil."

And don't throw the "What about rape?" question at me; the whole justification for the "Plan B" pill is based on the fact that there are 37 million "contraceptive accidents" in the US each year, and at $27 a pop, that's a quick profit for the drug companies. Rape, by contrast - while harder to track due to underreporting, is well below the 1 million mark annually; horrific to be sure, but it's disingenuous of the pushers of this pill to claim that rape victims are their chief concern. I'm no venture capitalist, but I know which demographic I'd target were I selling something. There's a clear distinction between people who live irresponsibly and have the disposable income to cover their tracks, and people who are legitimate victims of assault. If the drug companies were really that concerned about the welfare of humanity in general, they'd handle the AIDS epidemic in Africa a little differently.

What makes this even more absurd is that the bishops were saying they would only allow Catholic hospitals to administer the drug to women who were not fertile at the time of intercourse. Think about that. They would only provide "emergency contraception" to women who don't need it. That's like saying they'd only throw you a life preserver if you're on land.

The Connecticut bishops also urged the government to allow them to outsource the administration of the drug in the cases which caused them the most moral concern. So they're saying that while the behaviour is morally reprehensible, it's OK by them if somebody else does it. Far be it from them to take an actual stand and state that "Plan B" is an unacceptable concept, as it violates the sanctity of the marriage act by nullifying its effects, endangers and often takes the life of single-celled humans by preventing their implantation, and encourages irresponsible behaviour by supplying an easy consequence-eraser.

No, that would be an offensive, intolerant message, and our bishops are much too caught up in the politics of their offices. Heaven forbid they get removed from the Christmas card lists of the prominent liberals who are unwittingly (one hopes) engineering the fall of Western civilization.

Heaven forbid that our bishops are numbered among that same group.

Please heaven, return to our bishops their spines, that they may stand up tall against the offenses in which this mad world revels.


Oh, in closing, I should mention that the bill was passed with no changes, and the bishops did not get what they wanted. So they decided instead to want no changes and are now acquiescing to the government. Wouldn't want to end up in jail, after all.

Monday, September 24, 2007

Journey With You

I've been popping my old '80s and '90s Christian rock cassettes into my van while I drive to work for the last few weeks. These tunes (from artists & groups like Rick Cua, Petra, Guardian, Whiteheart, Bryan Duncan, Eric Champion, etc) take me back to the Golden Age of my personal faith. My teenage years, like those for any boy, were filled with emotional turmoil, confusion, and heartache, but it was above all a time of sending deep roots into the soil of God's love. My faith came alive, accompanied by lyrics set to synthesizers, and to this day this music holds a special place in my heart.

Recently I've sensed God's call to let him take me through some intense personal healing, and the song which resonates with this call is Eric Champion's "Journey" from his 1994 album Vertical Reality. The album itself has a Matrix-like theme of a small group of outcast rebels who are striving to resist against the massive pressures to conform to the society around them. Its principal characters are the Orphans of the Undergrid, who were orphaned in the War of Liberation. They are trying to avoid the all-seeing GovTrol which is constantly hunting them down, and are turning to the faith for which their parents were killed.

In this setting, the main character, an inventor named Sam, speaks of a fantastic machine he has built to help him find God. Check out these amazing lyrics:

I've got the hard drive modulated
And the tube gate on even flow
Inside the time-space continuator
There's a flux mount that's set to go

This thing is vertical, retractable, reversible, submergible, and jammin' it
And the mechanizing, cross-dividing, multiplying disk drive is jammin' it... is jammin' it.

Plug the main out into the AC
I've got the steam pre to heat it up
If there's a drive valve inside the time piece
Then the jam sync will lock it up

I've been building it, planning it, dreaming it, mannin' it and jammin' it
And if I pull a switch and nothin' hits I'll do it all again

Right now
I'd give everything I've got to journey with you
No doubt
I believe in everything you are, I'll journey with you
Take me

There's more, but the concept is quite clear: In his God-less age, this inventor believes in God so much that he is willing to expend all his personal capital to create a machine to take him into the next dimension to find him.

Some would argue it's a quixotic quest, and indeed such a literal machine would be a waste. What's important is Sam's burning desire for intimacy with God which presses him into actions which the world around him sees as irrational.

That's what I feel called to, and I look forward to seeing where God would have me journey with him.

Friday, September 21, 2007

Simplicity

I walked my girls to school this morning.

This is no mean feat; often our mornings are so rushed and everybody is so far behind in terms of hair brushed, lunches packed, eyeglasses forgotten, etc, that we usually have little to no time to spare to allow for the kid-paced ten minute walk to the school, and end up driving instead.

But this morning things clicked a little better, and we were able to leave in plenty of time. It's a cool fall day here, with the ground still wet from last night's rain and the neighbourhood elm trees beginning to shed their leaves. The sun is behind a thick layer of cloud, and the birds and squirrels are chattering at each other, often drowning out the constant thrum of distant rush-hour traffic.

We walk hand in hand, me in the middle. The younger comments how warm my hand is, and her hand feels small, cool, and safe in my grasp. As we make our way to the school, I feel like I'm in an earthly slice of heaven - a very pure, clear moment of serenity. Just me and my girls.

I drop them off, exchanging kisses at their classroom doors (I plan on enjoying that for as long as they let me). Another mom there hands me a bag of clothes which don't fit her kids any more and I gratefully receive them and return home. This is just one example of how God provides for us, for those of you who wonder how a single-income family can possibly get by in today's world.

As I write this, my third daughter is playing with her Thomas the Tank Engine set (don't worry, we checked for the leaded paint recalls) on the low table which I built for her on the eve of her birthday. The used track pieces we received had been glued down previously, and many of them are still glued together or had broken in the disassembly process, so I had repaired some and set them aside to dry; today I add a newly-repaired bridge component to her set, generating squeals of delight.



This, I tell you, this is the life.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

Holes

I caught a snippet of a sermon given by a Protestant speaker named Charles Price on TV today. He was talking about the Crucial Christian Conviction about Scripture, second of a four part series.

As a man who left Evangelical Protestantism for the embrace of the Roman Catholic Church based on the convictions I gained from Scripture, I was immediately intrigued. "Perhaps," I thought, "he can shed some more light on the Protestant understanding of Sola Scriptura." This, for those unfamiliar with the term, is the belief that the Bible alone is our supreme authority when it comes to authentic teaching on faith and morals.

When I was on my way to becoming Catholic, I remember pleading with my friends, family, and pastors to show me the error of my interpretation of the Scriptures which had aroused in me the conviction that I should convert. But try as I did to beg them for this aid, they would not give it to me. I realized only after that this is because they could not. It doesn't exist to be given. Once I was shown the light and the truth, nobody could purge the impact of that moment from my mind.

But today, on the off-chance that there was some theological nuance which all my Protestant contacts had missed, I listened attentively to what Pastor Price had to say.

To my disappointment (for his sake and not for mine) he had nothing new to add. He did surprise me by giving an honest summary of the historical church and what the Reformation's divisions did to the structure of authority in the universal church. He also gave a very accurate rendering of the Catholic understanding of Scripture's place alongside the living Tradition of the Church and the Magisterium in conveying to us the messages God has for us.

But when he got to the crucial point of why Sola Scriptura is the superior understanding, he simply indicated that any clear reading of Scripture, accurately interpreted via Scripture itself, provides the sole source of matters of faith and morals, and it is sufficient. He added that if it's not in Scripture, we don't need to know it.

That of course, is based on Matthew 7:23... or wait, no, that's not it... Galatians 5:12... no, that's not it either... Proverbs 22:9... hmm, I can't seem to find that concept elucidated in Scripture anywhere. It must be there somewhere... mustn't it? Or is the extra-scriptural statement that Scripture alone has supreme authority supremely authoritative in and of itself? Go ahead, read that one again.

Then he made what I refer to as leapfrog logic - he took one unproven premise and used it to vault into another premise even more unfounded. Apparently the phrase "the word of the Lord" is used 330 times in his Bible. [I'm not sure what the count is if you count the rest of the books, but that's a moot point.] So therefore the word of the Lord is something which we should hold in high esteem. Sounds good so far.

But he jumps right over the point of how to define "the word of the Lord." Is the word only that which is written? The last time I checked, I continue to use words in spoken communication. But according to the introduction to John's Gospel, the Word is best defined as Jesus Christ himself. The very will and mind of God, spoken through the Breath of the Spirit, becomes the Word made flesh. To have one's brain auto-correct the phrase "the word of the Lord" to "only what's written in the Bible" is a massive logical and theological error. God didn't create the world through writing, "Let there be light." He spoke it, and it became so.

But if we interpret this Word as a set of written instructions, guidelines, or core beliefs about the faith and its structure - which is the mistake that Protestants make - then we are in direct contradiction to the command of the apostle Paul. He wrote in II Thessalonians 2:15, "So then, brothers, stand firm and hold to the teachings we passed on to you, whether by word of mouth or by letter." (NIV) Were these spoken teachings ignored or forgotten, in direct contradiction of the apostle's instruction? Further on (II Thess. 3:6): "In the name of the Lord Jesus Christ, we command you, brothers, to keep away from every brother who is idle and does not live according to the teaching you received from us."

Whatever this teaching was, it's clear that it wasn't all written down. Much of it had been delivered orally in a previous visit from Paul to the Thessalonians. And since we don't have a book in the Bible entitled The Thessalonians' Letter to All Other Christians, Based on What That Paul Guy Told Us A While Back And We Figured You Should Probably Know Too, we can presume only one of two things: Either the teaching was lost at some point in history, or it was preserved and has survived in the other sources of our faith's authority, parallel to Scripture.

For anyone who genuinely seeks the Truth, such holes in reasoning are clear signs of selective theology. When we can interpret Scripture by our own means, well-formed methodologies or not, we face a massive temptation to disregard the things we don't like, like that pesky John 6:53-55, which has a curious lack of footnotes in the Evanglical Protestant's NIV but not in the Catholic's NAB.

Once we ignore certain truths long enough, we start to feel comfortable only in the company of those who choose to ignore the same truths. And those groups don't like to have leadership which makes them aware of these holes in their belief; instead they tolerate only leadership which allows them to continue in their self-imposed ignorance.

That theme was in another Bible passage upon which Pastor Price expounded in the same sermon: II Tim 4:3. Now that's irony.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Poll Results

All I can say is, wow, have I ever been overwhelmed by the response to my poll on Catholic men's viewing of online porn. The results themselves are full of meaning, but the fact that as of writing I've got almost 400 votes is remarkable; my humble little blog has rarely been so busy before.

The question was: "FOR MEN ONLY: How often do you view pornography online, against your better judgment?" The participants in the poll were mostly sent to my site by The Curt Jester, whose blog type implies that most of his frequent readers are faithful Catholics who strive to live the fullness of their faith. Here are the results so far:

First, I must confess my own vote, which was the very first one cast, and I see I'm in the company of 20.2% of my fellow faithful Catholic men: Frequently. I chose not to put in specific phrasing like "once a month," "twice a week," or "every day" simply because men like us know our adverbs well, and we presumably have consciences formed well enough that we know when is too much.

The Catechism, as my commenters noted, does indicate that even rarely is too much:

Pornography consists in removing real or simulated sexual acts from the intimacy of the partners, in order to display them deliberately to third parties. It offends against chastity because it perverts the conjugal act, the intimate giving of spouses to each other. It does grave injury to the dignity of its participants (actors, vendors, the public), since each one becomes an object of base pleasure and illicit profit for others. It immerses all who are involved in the illusion of a fantasy world. It is a grave offense. Civil authorities should prevent the production and distribution of pornographic materials.

And as another commenter with the curious name of amdgbvmh noted on the poll site (scroll down to the comments), when you know that an act is considered "a grave offense" and freely do it anyway, that constitutes mortal sin. A person in a state of mortal sin is in danger of losing his salvation, although only God can be that judge. We are given this clear message out of love, to help us to avoid sin, and to seek reconciliation with God who cries out for reunion with us when we distance ourselves from him.

It is an entirely charitable act to ask each of the 76.3% of you who voted anything but Never, have you confessed your sin? Have you received the peace and tranquility of absolution?

I have. Time and time again. And again. And again. Priests must get quite tired of me. And yet I still go.

In viewing my site's incoming traffic this past week, I noticed one fellow with a blog named "A Sex Addict's Recovery." This brave soul has publicly borne his burden on the information superhighway, and that is a hard thing to do. I think that he's on to something... accountability is a profound tool God has given us as we travel this narrow road together. Proverbs 27:5&6 tells us, "Better is an open rebuke than a love that remains hidden. Wounds from a friend may be accepted as well meant."

Another thing that blows me away about this poll is how it demonstrates that we Catholic men aren't afraid to admit our failings, especially if it's in a "safe" environment with a reasonable assurance of anonymity. Whether an online poll or the confessional, we know our sin and do not try to hide it from God.

But the biggest benefit to a poll like this is how much comfort I draw from it. I AM NOT ALONE. When I sin, the devil tries to compound my shame by telling me that I'm some kind of freak. And he's very good at it. "You're 32 years old, you should know better." "Geez, you just went to confession like a week ago. What's wrong with you?" "Don't tell your wife - she'll flip. Don't tell her anything." "You don't see your friends stuck in the same sinkhole."

He's a liar. Don't believe him. All his lies are based on a grain of truth which he distorts completely. Yes, I am 32 and should know better. Yes, something is wrong with me. Yes, my wife will be upset. Yes, I don't see my friends look at porn (although according to this, 75% of them do). The only shame I will accept is from the fact that I've disrupted my communion with God. Everything else, even my relationship with my wife, is secondary. Once I restore communion with God, everything else is tolerable. I must remember that he is jumping off the rooftop to embrace me as soon as he sees me turn back to him.

So take heart, my dear faithful Catholic men. You are not alone. I struggle with you. We all struggle with each other. May God bless you, and I will keep you in my prayers.

Friday, September 07, 2007

Animator vs. Animation

Found this while poking around the web. Pretty cool.

Animator vs. Animation

A Poll

All right men, it's time to find something out about ourselves. Be honest - this is completely anonymous.

[UPDATED]

The only way to see the results is to vote, and I implore you ladies who view this not to vote - instead, summon your husband (or find some other man), close your eyes and let him vote.

Thanks to The Curt Jester for the web traffic to get more than my tiny of circle of friends to contribute to the poll. So far the results are quite surprising, given that presumably only men committed enough to their faith to read Catholic blogs are voting.

I'll do a follow-up post in a week or so.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Leland Chee

For those of you who don't know that name, I must confess that I only learned it today.

Leland Chee is the official canonical coordinator for George Lucas' Star Wars franchise.

[Bear with me, I'm going somewhere with this.]

In other words, Mr. Chee is in charge of maintaining what is known as the Holocron, which is a sort of organized collection of all the Star Wars mythology, ranging from the six movies to the TV shows to the novels to the fan fiction available at numerous sources on the Web. Part of his chief duties is to discern which stories can be considered part of the official storyline and which cannot, as well as everything in between. Producers and manufacturers call on his knowledge and expertise when developing a new video game or product in the Star Wars universe to ensure every i is dotted and every t is crossed. This is, of course, a job bigger than the man himself, as the canon of Star Wars already had much momentum when he was assigned the task of organizing it all in 2000.

For anybody remotely familiar with science fiction, you'll know that with any new story a legion of fans (most of whom are without lives yet mysteriously aren't dead) will strive to poke holes in the continuity of the overall series. This is the one trait of sci-fi fans which irks non-sci-fi fans the most. Who cares why Anakin Skywalker's boots had three buckles on them in one shot and two buckles in the next?

It's Leland Chee who reveals the answers to vexing questions like these.

He is known as The Keeper of the Holocron and believe you me, the real die-hard Star Wars fans take him very seriously. On the Star Wars official website forums, he fields questions and directs fans to established sources of "truth" when it comes to their inquiries. But he also has at his beck and call a legion of co-moderators who keep the fans - who can be a little irrational in their quest to understand the official storyline - in check and allow only the most urgent of questions to filter up to him. There is a distinct hierarchy within the Star Wars community.

Allow me here to demonstrate my point: When George Lucas instituted the continuity checkers, he constituted them in the form of an assembly, at the head of which he placed Leland Chee.

Sound familiar?

That is a quote from the Catechism of the Catholic Church on the role of Peter, and the Pope, among the 12 Apostles, and the rest of the bishops. Obviously I've replaced some of the names and tweaked the sentence structure a bit, but I find it remarkable how the search for absolute truth is so core and elemental to our human forms that we cram it into the silliest of pursuits (no disrespect to the Star Wars fans out there).

Now for fun, go back to the beginning and re-read this, substituting Pope for Chee, bishops for co-moderators, faithful for fans... you get the drift.

In this frivolous exercise, I see that there is a little bit of God in everything created by man, even Star Wars. We truly are created in his image, and cannot help but include his impression in all that we create ourselves.

Sunday, September 02, 2007

Proud Father

My daughters, age 5 and 6, played host to a neighbourhood girl around their age the other day. She stayed for supper and I dished up spaghetti for them and let them eat it in our screened porch while I relaxed and watched Everybody Loves Raymond.

During the commercial break, I muted the TV as is my usual habit, and was delighted to overhear the following discussion between our guest and my eldest daughter:

Guest: "What do you want to be when you grow up?"
Daughter: "A mommy."
Guest: "No, but what do you want to be?"
Daughter: "I want to be a mommy."
Guest: "No, everybody has to have a job to make money."
Daughter: "I don't need money. I have $8.64."
Guest: "Really?"
Daughter: "Yeah, let's go look at it."

From there the discussion frittered off in the typical meandering direction of prepubescent girls - it wasn't long before they were talking about princesses - but WOW. My daughter's aspiration mirrors her mother's at that age. I receive it as a point of pride to know that for my girls it's a perfectly normal thing to stay at home and squirt out babies, and especially to want to stick around while they grow up.

There are days when I wonder how my life would have gone differently if I had changed my mind on that park bench beside the Rideau Canal in Ottawa and not asked for my wife's hand in marriage. Would I have gone back to school? Would I have been hired on as a parliamentary aide to a right-wing MP from Saskatchewan and launched my own career into politics? Would I have explored a calling to the priesthood? Would I have regretted my decision not to pursue marriage with an elegant Dutch beauty?

On those days I am always drawn back to two things: the intimate relationship I share with my wife, and the wonder at seeing our children develop into thinking adults, all the way from the spark of the wedding night to our bittersweet parting on my deathbed. I had a part in making real people, and even after only a few years, it's been amazing. May God grant me the strength and the wisdom to continue down this path well.

Friday, August 31, 2007

Do Not Laugh

Apparently there is a Japanese game show in which the only rule is you cannot laugh while watching your fellow Japanese try to speak English (one presumes the contestants themselves are fluent). If you do laugh, you are taken off to the side and masked men beat you with a rod.

!!

If you appreciate slapstick humour (no pun intended) you WILL find this funny.


Tuesday, August 28, 2007

"Done Our Part"

I get very tired of people who are completely uninformed as to what our troops are doing in Afghanistan and the good they are bringing to that troubled land.

Popular conception of the mission there is that our troops either sit around in our bases, waiting for mortar attacks launched from who knows where, or else they're driving in between bases and hitting the occasional improvised explosive device or IED, AKA a home-made bomb.

You want some education? Browse the Army's discussion forums. Look especially for the topic of Canadian politics. A thread on a poll from last year which asked Canadians about their feelings on the war displayed the following results:

1. Should a decision to send troops to Afghanistan require parliamentary approval?
Yes: 73%
No: 20%
Don't know: 7%

2. If you were an MP would you vote in favour of sending troops to Afghanistan?
Yes: 27%
No: 62%
Don't know: 11%

3. Would your position change if you knew it might lead to significant casualties?*
Yes: 31%
No: 64%
Don't know: 5%

4. Do Canadians think Canada should be participating in the war on terrorism?
Yes: 48%
No: 43%
Don't know: 9%

*This question asked only to those who voted yes to the previous question.
A commenter on the thread noted the inconsistency between items 2 and 4; most Canadians feel we should participate in the war on terror but don't think we should send troops in the effort. I'm not exactly sure how else a nation could participate in a war.

This thread is a year and a half old, but is still getting new comments. Newer polls cited indicate support for the Afghan mission is holding steady at around 50%.

But screw the polls - they can be worded to elicit any response desired. Besides, a government which forms policy based on polls is like a man walking backwards through a maze. He is ignoring the urgent need to plan ahead; he is also only finding his path after bumping into dead ends several times. Real leadership surges on through criticism and adversity, and it must be grounded in a conviction of what the truth is before it can weather that storm. Real leadership knows that if there's a wall in between you and your destination, it's sometimes necessary to go through it by whatever means necessary. But not everybody in our Parliament is capable of real leadership.

Take Liberal Party leader Stéphane Dion - please. He thinks that Canada should pull its troops out of Afghanistan. "The fundamental point is that Canada needs to be clear about its commitments, and that after three years of difficult and dangerous combat missions, Canada will have done its part," he said to reporters last Thursday. “It’s not lacking honour to state that well, we’ve been there two years, there has been an effort deployed, and that another country should replace us.”

We've done our part and now it's somebody else's turn. I've heard that same sentiment recently... where was that... oh yeah! It was my 5-year old lamenting that her sisters weren't doing as much work as her. Is that how you're trying to sound Stéphane? "Norway and Poland only picked up one toy, and I picked up two!" Give me a break. The room's a mess and somebody has to clean it up; if we don't, nobody will. That's how life, how responsibility, and how good old fashioned rural common sense work. We're done when we're done.

How do we translate that into the purpose for the Afghan mission? David Warren:

We misconceive our role, in Afghanistan, if we think it is to bring democracy. Instead, our job is the modest one, of helping the Afghans re-establish their own way of life, by killing as many of their Jihadis as possible. In this cause, we are truly the allies of the peoples of Afghanistan. In any other, we are foreign imperialists, playing into the hands of the enemy who flew aeroplanes into Washington and New York.