Thursday, June 25, 2009

In The Silence of the Night

It is late at night or early in the morning, depending on your perspective of time. It is in this silence that the events of the day are played out in the mind. The little joys and successes parade by as to the failures or faltering steps that I may have taken during the course of the day. It is also a time of peace in which to communicate with God.

During this time, I find myself often contemplating on various events and aspects of the life of Jesus. How would he have handled my day? And I am NOT referring to the WWJD fad of a few years ago! Honestly, ask yourself this question; if Jesus had been confronted with the events of your day, how do you think he would have dealt with them? We can't know for certain, of course. However, there is one thing that we can say for certain. Jesus prayed and prayed often. What would you give to have been in on those private moments that He spent with God in prayer. Divine Father and Divine Son communing in love and glory!

Should we not model our lives after Jesus? Especially in the area of prayer! So often, many of us think to pray when our happiness or comfort is threatened. We pray for success. We pray that an ongoing trial may pass from our lives without ramifications. In short, we often pray in a self-centered way! Jesus did not and we have many examples from Scripture that point this fact out. He was always Father-centered. The love for His Father was always the most important thing in His prayer. He praised His Father, gave Him honor and glory, and was always filled with gratitude and joy.

In the silence of the night, these things become so clear. There are no phones ringing. No television blah-blahing away in the background. Nature is quiet except for those nocturnal creatures who are, for the most part, very quiet. Just before bed, listen to the stillness of your heart. There may be a unique gift awaiting you in this very private moment of the day. In that silence, you may actually hear the voice of God whispering to your soul that you are loved and valued highly. He may or may not grant previous requests, but, as long as you have prayed with a spirit of thanksgiving, humility, and most of all, love, you can be assured that He will hear your prayer and honor you with the blessing of His presence!

Sunday, June 21, 2009


Father's Day. A day set aside to honor those men whose vocation is being dad. A day that is a joy for some and a heart ache for others, depending on their circumstances. Above all, it is a day for celebrating not only dad, but also the entire family.

Today was a perfect example of what I mean. I have had the fortune to marry into a large family, robust and alive. Today, as I sat amidst the hubbub that is the trademark of this family's gatherings, I suddenly became aware of the life around me. Sadly, my mother-in-law passed away a few years ago but her presence is felt at every family gathering. Never does a holiday or birthday go by without some mention of the family matriarch. What made today unique was that all five brothers and sisters were in attendance.

Now I am an only child. Family gatherings for me meant meeting a cousin somewhere on a street corner by accident. It was nice and fun, but not the lively meeting I am talking about here. This is no street corner meeting!

No, in this family, there are very distinct personalities! One common thread among all the characters in the room is passion. Now that can get messy. Little pockets of bickering can break out, not necessarily at the gathering, but throughout the year. Arguments over some of the most trivial things can break out during the course of a simple phone call that was originally ntended to see how the other was doing!

Rivalries from the past still exist to some degree only now they are at adult levels. That just means that they exist at a louder volume! And while there is the bickering and the infighting that goes on from time to time, there is also the love. And this is never so evident as when the brothers and sisters gather around their father. I could see and feel that passionate love that each has for him. Each one of them relates to him differently and I am sure he is swept back in time and can often see the little girl or boy in front of him. I am equally sure that this vision is one of the most precious things in life for him for he clearly revels in his family.

Today, at the Father's Day celebration, several generations of the family were in attendance. Not only was there the patriarch and the siblings, but there were the grand children and great grandchildren sparking the day with youthful energy that we all remember but somehow can no longer sustain without certain aches and pains creeping into the picture! They, too, clearly love the chaotic environment, embracing it with youthful enthusiasm spelling good things for the future of this brood.

The love flows in this family because of one thing. They all respect and love each other very deeply. They may fight from time to time but let some family emergency come up and they rally around to bring aid and comfort to the suffering member. I honestly do not believe there isn't one thing that one of them would not do for the other in times of trouble.

This family is an amazing thing! It lives and breathes. It has its spasms and sometimes becomes ill through misunderstandings and mistrust. It reaches out to others and welcomes and loves the new generations that are either just coming into their own or just starting out in life. Each individual struggles-just as we all do-with the day-in-and-day-out wrestling matches with life. Yet, there is always the pervasive knowledge that they are part of a unit bigger than themselves and that all they need to do is reach out to the other and the strength of this family will be theirs.

This family's life, at times, is not easy and, as I said, can even messy. It can be clumsy and awkward and appear, at times, like the Hatfield's and the McCoys. But they are always welcoming and nearly always smiling. It is a sheer joy to be in and around this dynamic group. Their great gift to me has been a totally different experience of family and I revel in the experience. They have accepted me as part of the clan through no merits of my own. I have never felt like an outsider and that is a tribute to the kind of love they have graciously extended to me simply because I had the great fortune to marry into the family.

And so, to the father of them all, I add my Happy Father's Day! But I also add a heartfelt and monstrous "thank you" for letting me be a part of life in the unique ways you celebrate it. This is what family life is all about, after all. The family brings life into the world, energizes it, encourages it, rejoices in the successes, comforts in the failures, and loves in the darkest of moments. There could be no other appropriate way to celebrate this day than to have the great opportunity to be a part of this family! I am blessed.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

"Who Do You Say That I Am?"

"Who do you say that I am?" This haunting question posed by Jesus to His Apostles echoes down through the centuries to our day and time. It is a poignant question, direct to the point without being abrasive, offensive, or defensive.

Upon their return from one of the first missionary efforts of the church, Jesus asked His Apostles who people thought He was. Jesus was curious, of course, but His question was posed from a place much more deeply rooted than in simple curiosity. He was attempting to open the hearts of the Apostles in order that they may truly come to recognize His true identity.

They dutifully reported that many said He was Elijah. Some said Moses. Some even reported that people thought He was Jeremiah. Others said one of the other prophets. And then Jesus, with what could only be imagined as a penetrating yet loving stare, turned to Simon and asked Him the same question. "Who do you say that I am?" Simon, without hesitation, stated boldly and plainly, "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God!" (cf Mt 15:16)

Jesus' question is clearly relevant in our world today. We live in a world of chaos with peace seemingly a distant, fond memory with little hope of returning. It feels as though we are more abrasive toward one another. We certainly are more cynical and sarcastic than they were twenty centuries ago.

Those of us who profess to be Christians need to answer this very question ourselves. Put yourself in Peter's position. Imagine the Lord looking you squarely in the eye and asking, "Who do you say that I am?" What would your answer be? Your answer can not be in words only. Your answer must also speak through your actions, how you live your life.

Anyone can say "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God." But do we live it? Do our lives reflect the Beatitudes Christ gave us in His Sermon on the Mount? Do we truly seek to love those who sometimes make it difficult for us to move from one day to the next? Are we over-critical of others? As anyone can see, there are plenty of questions that lead us to this self-examination.

Answering this question in our lives is vital for through this acknowledgement we find peace in our lives. If we do not acknowledge Christ as the Messiah then there will be no peace. Before becoming pope, Cardinal Ratzinger once said, "Where God is excluded, there is a breakdown of peace in the world." The same can be said for our lives proclaiming Christ as the Son of the Living God. We must be sure, if we proclaim ourselves as Christian, to be living the answer that Peter the Apostle gave so long ago. "You are the Messiah, the Son of the living God."

Who do you say that He is?

Saturday, June 13, 2009

Letterman vs. Palin

As I start this piece, I must first say that I am not a big Sarah Palin fan. I admire her for what she has done and the public service that she has engaged in all these years. I admire her for her outspoken thoughts in telling us just exactly what it is she believes. I admire her for her family life. It isn't a perfect family by any means, but, clearly, she loves them warts and all and she is not afraid to say so. As for her politics, well, let's just say that she and I don't see eye to eye on several different levels.

Recently, late night comedian David Letterman, an unabashed liberal, cracked a so-called joke about a New York Yankee player and Sarah Palin's daughter who happened to be in attendance at the game that day. During the seventh inning stretch quipped the funny man, a certain Yankee player "knocked up Sarah Palin's daughter." The audience roared its approval of the "joke" by laughing nearly uncontrollable. Letterman basked in the response, obviously thinking nothing of what he had just said was either offensive or embarrassing.

The media (even the liberal media) could not ignore this type of comment. Conservatives protested vehemently with due reason. What Letterman said was in the worst of taste. It is inexcusable. It is also a sad commentary on what he has come to think of as humor. His audience, however, certainly saw it as humor based upon the way they reacted to his statement.

Both sides of the philosophical spectrum lined up and opened fire on each other. Sarah Palin gave several interviews to vent her outrage at the performer's behavior. Common among the comments were that if something in like manner had been asserted about one of the president's daughters, the liberal media would have had a field day with it, demanding the resignation of the "comedian" who uttered such an obscenity. Remember Don Imus? Instead, the liberal media spent the week defending Letterman claiming the remark was "just a joke" as if to say, "get over it! After all, she's a conservative and does not believe in abortion. She and her family deserve such treatment."

On the conservative side of things, we have heard commentators attack Letterman. We have witnessed them bashing him at every opportunity for saying such a thing. They call for blood. Precious air-time minutes are spent debating Letterman's "joke" when such serious issues as Iran, North Korea, Iraq, and, of course, the ever-present economic tragedy receive little attention. It had the feeling of ancient Rome in the Colosseum, the crowd chanting and jeering the combatants on to draw more blood.

I must say that I think Letterman's comment was one of the most vile, disgusting, and filthy statements made by a late night entertainer. Letterman needs to apologize to Palin. Whether it is delivered in public or private matters not. Palin needs to put the subject on the back burner, allowing it to fade into the past where it belongs rather than trying to find ways to use it as political fodder. She admirably defended the honor of her daughter and family on nationally televised interviews and that should be the final word on the whole incident.

This whole event should be troubling to many who try to live decent, moral lives. Our Christian faith calls upon us to live out the message of Jesus, that is to love one another, to look past the sin and embrace the sinner. This is not bleeding heart liberal pablum. This is the message the Savior brought to us. Should we be angry at the remark Letterman made? Yes! Do we have the right to register our anger? You bet! Some would even say that it is our duty to do so. But our anger must stop there. We cannot and must not then turn on David Letterman himself.

St. Paul, writing in his letter to the Ephesians, put it simply. "Be angry but do not sin." (Eph 4:26) He backs this notion up in a verse later in the letter. "Let no evil talk come from your mouths." (Eph 4:29) Clearly, Mr. Letterman has either never heard of this verse or he has chosen to ignore it. However, we must also apply this very same verse to our own lives. We are not exempt from it even though our anger may be perfectly justified. Once again, St. Paul is there to remind us of this very fact. "Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you." (Eph 4:31-32)

These are difficult concepts to live out. Challenge yourself to attempt to follow them for just four hours one day. Be honest with yourself. How many times during those four hours do you say something negative about another person in a mean-spirited way? How often to you roll your eyes at a comment made by someone, feeling that somehow your views are superior to theirs? Does cynicism and sarcasm slip into your speech more often than you realized?

No matter how tempting it is to fire back at our opponents, we must be cautious in our behavior as Christians. People are watching and some are waiting for us to do or say something stupid that they can pounce on as proof that Christianity and Christians are nothing more than moral hypocrites, all too anxious to point out the faults of others while ignoring their own. "Do not be conformed to this world," Paul tells us. "Be transformed by the renewal of your mind, that you may prove what is the will of God, what is good and acceptable and perfect." (Rom 12:2) When we feel that we have the moral high ground, it is very tempting for us to feel very good about ourselves. But, Paul warns us, "I bid everyone among you not to think of himself more highly than he ought to think." (Rom 12:3)

The David Letterman/Sarah Palin war of words and morality will soon pass into the recesses of public consciousness and something else will take its place. But I fully believe that this most unfortunate episode should give us pause to look at our own lives and see if we are actually any better than Mr. Letterman. In order for the acrid atmosphere that now seems to exist in society to be tempered and reduced, we must start with ourselves and those around us. Just because the trend may be towards "getting" the person who may have offended us, we cannot fall into that category of living if we are to lay claim to the title of Christian, follower of Jesus Christ. As Paul so succinctly advises, "Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil." (Rom 12:21)

Seek His Face: Sites that Link

Seek His Face: Sites that Link

Monday, June 1, 2009

The Death of Dr. George Tiller

Dr. George Tiller, one of about three abortionists in the United States still providing abortions in the third trimester of pregnancy was gunned down in his church yesterday morning. The doctor who has provided abortions to women for over twenty-years died instantly.

For years, Dr. Tiller had been a target of the pro-life movement in an attempt to convert him or shut his operation down altogether. Just recently he had been acquitted of charges brought against him involving the abortion process. His clinic was once bombed and he was shot in both arms in one attack. Dr. Tiller insisted that what he was doing was to ensure the healthcare and rights of women.

This event is tragic for many reasons. First, murder of anyone be they be unborn or a mature adult is wrong. We do not have the right to take the life of another human being born or unborn. Dr. Tiller had the right to live just as those babies that he killed in abortion had the right to live. Secondly, those who favor abortion are likely to use this incident as a way to spread fear regarding those who are pro-life by falsely linking the gunman and the movement together. Police have often repeated that the suspect they captured outside of Kansas City acted on his own. Already the mainstream media has provided an outlet for the expression of vitriolic hate for the pro-life advocates and their organizations. MSNBC interviewed a doctor who was a personal friend of Dr. Tiller. At the end of the interview, he declared that "the only difference between the Taliban and the pro-life movement is 8,000 miles." In other words, those who favor the protection of life in every phase are terrorists!

The crime of abortion is a grievous sin that has ushered in an era of violence that is unprecedented. While no abortion doctor has been killed in over ten years, the stage is now set for violence to be on the increase. Violence often begets violence.

What is happening in society because of the sin and divisive nature of abortion makes one sick. People are at each other's throats. One of the problems of this issue is that there are no gray areas. You either believe you have the right to life or you don't. You are either alive or you are not. It is very black and white. There are those who say that we must seek common ground in this issue. Sadly, there is no common ground. There are no compromises. To compromise is to allow the death of at least one baby and that cannot be allowed to happen.

We must pray for Dr. Tiller and his family and all those women on whom he performed an abortion. We must also pray for our country that has been badly, if not mortally, wounded by the horrific sin of abortion. It is an abomination before God and cannot be permitted to continue. Neither can we allow violent means to stop the legalized procedure. If we say we follow Christ then we must act as he did. We must embrace those who see things differently than we do because Jesus has commanded us to love one another.

We must also hold the media accountable. MSNBC has not provided any representatives of the right to life movement during its coverage today. Any time they refer to the pro-life movement, they refer to is as the anti-abortion movement. They have begun to make a martyr of Dr. Tiller when, in fact, he has killed thousands of unborn children over the years.

Cool heads must prevail. Prayer must be offered even more so now in the light of yesterday's events. We must turn to God for wisdom in how to deal peacefully with one another. Else our fate will be one of violence. We cannot let the voices of over 50,000,000 unborn babies be silenced and reduced to an unfortunate, insignificant statistic. May God help our nation!