Me Too?

The song by the same title, sung by Meghan Trainor, is about a woman who respects herself.  Toby Keith also sings a song by the same title about a man who loves his wife.  Both have powerful messages about love and respect for one’s self as well as for a loved one.

The Me Too that comes to mind in 2018 is the “new” Hollywood revelation about the sexual abuse of women by influential men in the industry. Everyone has heard stories of “casting couches” throughout history.  It’s only now that the women of Hollywood have decided to shed light on what should have been exposed years ago.  The stories of their “bravery” include Twitter hashtags and donning designer gowns that costs more than you or I earn in a year. Some members of this movement decided a long time ago to keep quiet even though they knew fellow actresses were being raped and abused.  Their choice silenced victims, thereby enabling predators, in the name of furthering their own careers. The hashtag that should be trending is #Shame.

True bravery is not found on Twitter or in designer showrooms.  It’s found where everyday men, women, and children deal with evil, have systematically called out bias and abuse, and are met with threats, name-calling, blackballing, jail, and even death—but  have never given up the fight.  Two groups were on display the 3rd week of January who claim to do all the above.  We saw the March for Life followed the next day by the Women’s March. The March for Life consists of diverse groups who have been protesting abortion for over 40 years. In fact, their walk is the largest human rights march in the world but goes unnoticed every year with little to no recognition or media coverage.  The Women’s March, on the other hand, is in its second year and is made up of mainly President Trump protestors and promoters of abortion on demand.  This march was covered on every television channel and news outlet for days.

If you watched the March for Life in Washington, DC or even one of the smaller marches held in cities across the US, you were struck by first, the young age of the participants, their contagious enthusiasm, happiness, smiles, and inspiring signs. The Women’s March was spiked with anger, hate, vile signs, hats, and costumes—not by all, but by too many.

I have a question for those members of the #Me Too/Women’s March.  If you can make a stand for equal pay, against sexual assault, and all abuses and injustices against women, why can’t you stand against the slaughter of future women in the womb?  Why?  Or should I ask #Why?

I’d also like to ask that question to most of the Democrats in the US Senate1 and the two female Republican Senators2 who voted down the Pain-Capable Unborn Child Protection Act held January 30, 2018.  Doctors and scientists have confirmed that infants in the womb can feel pain at the 20 week mark and probably earlier, yet these fellow humans still want to murder babies up to and including the moment before birth. This bill excluded cases of rape, incest, and the health of the mother so why didn’t they vote for it?  Why? #Why?

A Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll3 published in January of 2018 concluded that more than six in ten Americans support a ban on abortion after 20 weeks of pregnancy; this includes 56% of Pro-Choice Americans, 56% of Democrats, 74% Pro-Life Americans, 73% of Republicans, and 64% of Independents.  Those numbers are staggering.  So why did they vote against it?  We need to demand an answer.  However, our request will be met with the same disdain and silence as they bestow upon the peaceful protestors who attend the March for Life.

Question: Why does the modern feminist movement only relate to certain women?  Shouldn’t it relate to all women—even those who have had abortions and have suffered greatly because of it?  What about the millions of aborted baby girls?  Who would they have become?  Does it even cross the average Women’s March protestor’s mind that one of those aborted girls could have been their wife, sister, best friend, co-worker, teacher, supervisor, scientist, inventor, or even the organizer of a women’s march? I wonder how many Women’s Marchers even know Susan B. Anthony, Elizabeth Cady Stanton and other leading suffragettes were vehemently against abortion.  Instead they idolize Margaret Sanger, eugenicist, Nazi sympathizer, and racist.

Anger at the indifference for human life is not just targeted at politicians and protestors.  Days before the March For Life a story broke by the Lepanto Institute4, and confirmed by Dutch radio that Lilianne Ploumen was honored by, of all people, Pope Francis, with the title of Commander in the Pontifical Equestrian Order of St. Gregory the Great. Ms. Ploumen is responsible for She Decides, an organization that funded over $300 million dollars to international agencies for the sole reason of performing or promoting abortions worldwide.  Ms. Ploumen was also the Director of Programs and on the Board of Directors for CORDAID, the Dutch Catholic aid relief agency that was caught funding Planned Parenthood and dispensing contraception.4

This action has infuriated and confused many Catholics and non-Catholics alike.  Not only does it baffle the faithful who have been praying and peacefully protesting for an end to abortion, it’s also a direct slap in the face to those millions of marchers who come from all over the world for 40+ years to participate in the March for Life. Not to mention the priests, nuns, and laypeople who have dedicated their lives to end this culture of death and minister to young mothers and babies as well as their parish congregations.

 History will judge us.  More importantly, God will judge us—all of us.  If you haven’t already, it’s time you stand on the side of good, the side of truth.  On that note, I’d like to ask the members of the #MeToo movement and the Women’s March, are you sure your Twitter key phrase is #MeToo, or is it really #Me-NotYou?

 

1 Joe Manchin (D-WV), Bob Casey, Jr. (D-PA) and Joe Donnelly (D-IN) Democrats who voted in favor of Act

2 Susan Collins (R-ME) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) Republicans who voted against Act

3 Knights of Columbus-Marist Poll, January, 2018.  To view all results or to view or print a pdf version of the Poll click here: www.kofc.org/en/news/polls.html#/

4 www.lepantoinstitute.org/pope-francis/pope-francis-awards-architect-safe-abortion-fund-potifical-honor/

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DAUGHTER

The song by the same name was performed by Pearl Jam and is about a child with a disability.  Usually my articles and the titles of the songs by the same name have nothing in common, but this one… If you follow the news like me you may be aware of the Bonnie Liltz story.  Actually, the real victim of this story is not Bonnie but her late daughter, Courtney. You see Courtney was adopted by Bonnie at the age of 2.  Courtney had cerebral palsy and had to have 24-hour care.  However, the young woman was thriving. Speaking, when doctors said she wouldn’t, feeding herself, and using a computer. According to Bonnie Liltz, “she was a happy girl”1.

On May 27, 2015, after twenty plus years of caring for Courtney, Bonnie decided Courtney’s life must end.  She came to this conclusion because she, Bonnie, was battling cancer and other health issues.  Courtney had no say-so in the matter.  Bonnie mixed a cocktail of several drugs and fed it to her daughter, Courtney. She then attempted to take her own life, but was unsuccessful.

Bonnie Liltz, who is still ill, and very much alive is upset because the Illinois courts think she should—I don’t know—go to jail for murdering her daughter.2 You see Bonnie doesn’t want to go to jail.  She is now asking for “mercy” from Bruce Rauner, the governor of Illinois.  It also appears that because Bonnie is so ill the state jail just can’t seem to take good care of her.  Hmmm. Now let’s think back.  Isn’t it ironic that it was for this same reason that Bonnie decided to kill Courtney? Yes, you read that right. Bonnie worried that she couldn’t care for Courtney if she was too ill and she didn’t want to subject Courtney to state care because it wasn’t adequate—so, she killed her out of “mercy and love”. That’s amazing.

Also amazing is how many times Bonnie Liltz refers to God and the “gift” she received from Him when she adopted Courtney, and how “all life is precious”.  Really, wow!  So being Courtney was a gift from God how does Bonnie reconcile that she, not God, would decide to snuff out that gift?  And now that she is the ill one who cannot receive individualized care, it becomes a whole different story?

Bonnie, who is currently out on bond, didn’t like state sponsored jail life and is now asking for clemency to spare her from the horrors of it.  The Illinois Department of Corrections (state) just can’t provide the (individual) healthcare that Bonnie is accustomed to. You know, eating what she wants, taking her medications, and good quality physical and mental care.  She lost 14 pounds in jail! This is the same argument she made for taking Courtney’s life.  The state could not take care of her in the same manner that she, an individual citizen, could.

So far the courts are having none of it. She was sentenced to 4 years for involuntary manslaughter, which is a far lighter sentence then the one she bestowed upon her daughter.  It’s becoming the norm for judges to sentence killers of the innocent to lesser stints in jail and it’s wrong.  There is that slippery slope that pro-life advocates keep spotlighting. If abortion is legal, why stop at the fetus just before it’s born? Why not after birth and maybe up to say, 2 years old or older? And what about the disabled? That leads to the elderly. We’ve already started legalizing suicide for the sick, so why stop there?  You know, all in the name of “compassion”.

Thanks to abortion (the proverbial foot in the door), we are seeing this happen all too frequently. Mothers who no longer want to care for their child will kill them, out of mercy of course, and judges pass on lenient sentences. The child doesn’t have to be ill, just inconvenient. Some cases are more heinous than others, yet it’s difficult for Americans to wrap their heads around a mother who can kill her own child. This must stop or it will end with infanticide and worse.

Christians are taught that all life is precious from womb to the tomb. We are against capital punishment as well. It’s a hard sell when you look at some of these horrific serial offenders.  God teaches us that everyone can change. We must forgive.  St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 12:19 that vengeance belongs only with God.  However, God never said there should be no justice for the innocent and oppressed.  In fact that very thing is mentioned quite often in the Bible.  Jesus summed it all up in one sentence: love your neighbor as yourself. If you follow that golden rule you’ll never go wrong.

Back to Bonnie Liltz.  I’m sure Bonnie was a selfless mother at one time.  She cared for her disabled daughter for over 20 years. Being a mom is a thankless job on a good day. One may have looked at her and thought her a saint at one time. I agree with her thinking that the state could never take care of Courtney like she did. She was worried about her daughter and what would become of her once she was too ill or dead.  However, her end game was all wrong.

It’s very easy to feel compassion for a mother with a very ill child. How can that be murder? The mother thought the best place for her daughter was with God in Heaven. She didn’t stab or shoot her. She just went to sleep and never woke up. There was no pain1. Tell that to the millions of mothers who have and still are caring for their sick children.

Answer me this, would you feel comfortable with another person making the decision to end your life? What happens when you’re too old or too sick to take care of you? If this becomes the norm it will eventually make its way mainstream and come for all of us.  Eugenics is making a comeback.  It seems that the more we forget our history the more it just keeps circling back.

Bonnie Liltz references God so often that I wonder if she belonged to a church or a support group. If she did, she could have talked to her pastor or friends who could have reached out and got her the help she so desperately needed. She was overwhelmed, distraught, ill, and confused. Someone could have counseled her and this tragedy would never have happened.

If Governor Rauner has an ounce of sense, and I’m not sure that he does since he lied to his constituents and just made Illinois the most abortion friendly state in the union, he will uphold the Illinois courts and keep Bonnie Liltz in jail.

 

1 Suburban Mom Who Killed Disabled Daughter in Botched Murder-Suicide Speaks Publicly for 1st Time; Carol Marin and Don Moseley, NBC 5 Carol Marin Reports, August 31, 2016.

2 Bonnie Liltz initially was charged with murder but plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

It’s Not Where You Start, It’s Where You Finish

I was watching AD the Bible Continues, a fabulous series on NBC this spring, produced by Roma Downey, a devout Catholic and her husband, Mark Burnett.  AD dramatizes the first half of Acts of the Apostles.  It’s gritty and extremely well done.  If you’re a Christian and want to grab the attention of millennials used to watching TV shows such as Game of Thrones or Walking Dead, AD is the way to do it.  The show prompts you to pick up the Bible and read it for yourself, which is awesome.

Back to AD the Bible Continues…a few weeks ago viewers were introduced to Saul of Tarsus.  Saul, a devout Jew, wasn’t taking the “blasphemy” of the new believers in Jesus lightly.  He was intent on tracking them down like animals.  He was there when the first martyr, Stephen, was stoned to death and he reveled in the bloodshed and thirsted for more.  His plan was to murder every last disciple.  After going house to house in Jerusalem and pulling out every man, woman, and child and throwing them in prison, Saul finds himself on that road to Damascus committed to find any believers who had scattered after his attacks.  However, things didn’t go as planned.  Instead of Saul finding the followers of Jesus, arresting them, and dragging them back to Jerusalem, Jesus finds Saul and everything changes.  Saul went from being the hunter to the hunted and from persecuting believers to becoming one of them—and not just any one of them.  Saul, or as we know him, Paul1, became the energizer bunny of evangelism.

Out of all the people in the New Testament, I find St. Paul to be one of the most fascinating.  The apostles knew Jesus.  He was their friend.  They lived with Him for three years; they were there through His many miracles, teachings, the crucifixion, the resurrection, and His Ascension.  Paul, like us, did not know Jesus in the physical sense, and like us, he was blinded from the truth.  His letters to the early churches are deep.  How many of us listen to Paul’s words but never truly grasp their meaning?  If you’re lucky to have a pastor who explains in detail or a teacher who has great knowledge of the Bible I can guarantee Paul’s message will leave you speechless.

Paul’s message is great, but what of his life after meeting Jesus?  It was a tremendous journey filled with peril, sacrifice, torture, imprisonment, and the joy of spreading the word of Jesus Christ and converting the Gentiles, and ultimately ending in martyrdom, which he knew he would face.  He knew his mission and he went after it with a zeal matched by few.  Even when his worldly life was coming to a close he kept his eye on the prize, as summed up in 2 Timothy 4:7 “I have fought the good fight to the end, I have run the race to the finish, I have kept the faith.”  How many of us at the end of our lives can say that?  St. Paul began his life as a not such a good person, but he finished as a rock star.  It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Speaking of television shows, there is a new one premiering this summer called Proof.  It’s very similar to its predecessors; They Came Back, Resurrection, and The Returned.  All are fantasies about “life after life.”  Unlike AD, which is Bible based, Proof is based on an actress portraying a doctor who has gone through the fictitious death of her son, a fictitious divorce, and a fictitious rift with her fictitious teenage daughter.  An actor portraying a billionaire with fictitious cancer, who is facing fictitious death, hires her to find answers from psychics, ghost hunters, and people who have experienced near death experiences2.

Yesterday I read that researchers at the Mayo Clinic believe they’ve “cracked the code” to happiness3.  Do you know what it is?  The research shows the biggest hindrance to being happy is too much thinking about one’s self.  Really?  Jesus said that over 2,000 years ago!  Love others as you love yourself.  People in the US are screaming for truth.  They are yearning for God; they are looking for answers but instead of seeking Him, they rely on supernatural fantasy put out by Hollywood because somehow that’s more believable than the Bible?  They’ll take the word of fiction writers over that of God?   I keep hearing about the new evangelization.  How and when do we begin?

The problem is we can’t evangelize unless we actually stand for something.  We can’t preach the Word unless we live it.  You can’t succeed with a church full of “cafeteria-style” Christians and expect to show the world this is what it means to be Christian.  This little light of mine can’t shine under a basket.  You can’t pick and choose the laws that are to your liking.  Several churches that bend to the pressure of the culture find that out the hard way.  Their numbers go down instead of going up.  I believe marriage is between a man and a woman.  It does not mean I hate gays.  I believe in the sanctity of all life, including life in the womb.  It doesn’t mean I hate women who’ve had an abortion.  Nobody wants to offend anyone.  I certainly don’t.  St. Augustine said, “With love for mankind and hatred of sins.”4

In order to evangelize you must believe in something—I mean really believe.  Stand strong in it so firmly that you would die for it because you know it’s true.  I recently heard a story about a father in the Middle East who was given the opportunity by ISIS to spare his children if they converted to the Muslim faith.  He went to his priest for guidance who told him to go ahead.  God will understand if they converted.  The man rushed home only to find ISIS asking his children who they believed in and before the father could intervene the children shouted “Jesus!”

My journey and yours is not yet over.  For years it’s been relatively easy in the United States to be Christian.  Not so any more and I fear it’s going to get worse.  In the words of Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, “The ultimate test of a man is not where he stands in moments of comfort and moments of convenience, but where he stands in moments of challenge and moments of controversy.”  It’s not where you start, it’s where you finish.

Will you fight the good fight?  Will you finish the race?  Will you keep the faith?

#

1 God did not change Saul’s name to Paul, a popular myth.  “Saul was a born Jewish and his Hebrew name was Saul, but because his father was a Roman citizen (and therefore Saul inherited Roman citizenship), Saul also had the Latin name, Paul.  After his conversion he was determined to bring the gospel to Gentiles, so he dusted off his Roman name and became, Paul, a name Gentiles were familiar with.”  Catholic Answers To Explain & Defend The Faith.

2 TNT.com

3 CBS New York newyork.cbslocal.com/2015/6/05/researchers-cracked-code-happiness

4 St. Augustine Letter 211 (c.424)

Bibi, I’ma Want You

Who can forget the cool vibes from the music performed by the 1970’s soft rock band, Bread?  But the song title is Baby I’ma Want You, not Bibi. Yes, except I really mean Bibi.  Benjamin Netanyahu, the prime minister of Israel to be exact.  What does an Israeli politician have to do with me and you, especially as Christians living in the US?

Israel is our closest ally in the Middle East and the only representative democracy and developed country in the region.  Israel shares its borders with Lebanon to the north, Syria to the northeast, Jordan and the West Bank in the east, and Gaza Strip and Egypt on the southwest.  And you think you live in a tough neighborhood?  There are over 8 million people who live in Israel.  Approximately 6 million or 75% of those people are Jewish, 1.7 million or 20.7% are Arabs, and the remaining 4.3% are non-Arab Christians.1 Arabs live in Israel?  Yes, and they possess the same rights as any other Israeli citizen.  Israel is the only country in the Middle East where Arab homosexuals can live without persecution.  77% of Arab Israelis say they would rather live in Israel than anywhere else.2

We Christians share much with our Jewish brothers and sisters.  We both have Jesus—contrary to what some believe—He was a Jew!  The Old Testament is known as the Torah to the Jews.  Both the Old and New Testaments go hand-in-hand.  Jesus fulfilled the words of the prophets.  All of the great stories, historical and otherwise, of the Old Testament foreshadowed Jesus. Without knowledge of the Old Testament you can’t have a robust understanding of our faith.  Many of our Christian practices are symbolic of Jewish religious traditions and our holy days are entwined with theirs.  Despite what you’ve heard our country was based on Judeo-Christian beliefs.  In 1654 Jews arrived in New Amsterdam, now lovingly known as New York.  Many Jews were honored patriots during the Revolutionary War.3

Israel has the right to exist.  Their people have the right to live without others threatening to hunt them down and kill them for the crime of being Jewish, regardless if they practice the faith or not—they’re still Jews.  Throughout history Jews have been expelled, forced to convert, had their property confiscated, synagogues burned, they’ve been enslaved, outlawed, burned alive, massacred, forced to wear badges/hats, mass arrests, victims of the Inquisition, imprisoned, hung, drowned, public torture and this persecution is not limited to the Holocaust at the hands of the Nazis.  This is throughout time4.

Islamist extremists, whether they are Shia or Sunni, ISIS, or the mullahs of Iran, main objective is to wipe out the Jewish people.  This quote is from one of the Islamic Hadiths:  “You will fight against the Jews and you will kill them until even a stone would say: Come here, Muslim, there is a Jew hiding himself behind me; kill him.5” I don’t know of any talking rocks but these extreme zealots take the words of the Koran and the Hadiths literally.  To say they are not Islamic is ridiculous.  However, their form of Islam is psychotic.  This group isn’t satisfied to simply return us to 7th Century existence.  What they really want is to hasten the Apocalypse.  Sound crazy?  It is.  But not to them!

Let’s look at Iran’s recent history.  Persia, as it was known until 1935 when the Iranian ambassador to Germany persuaded the Shah to rename Persia, Iran or “land of Aryans”.  The definition of Aryan in Nazi terminology was a Caucasian, blue-eyed, blond haired race.  Why would German Nazis court Iran? Simple, it possessed lots of oil and they both hated the Jews.  A Hitler envoy also promised a pan-Islamic state stretching from Morocco to Iran, something the Arabs of the Middle East longed for since losing the Ottoman Empire after World War I, and being lied to by the English and French with the Sykes-Picot Agreement, further breaking the region up into the countries that exist today.  Fast forward to November 4, 1979 when Muslim students stormed the US Embassy and held 52 hostages, not releasing them until January 20, 1981.  Iran has been a theocracy ever since and has sponsored countless acts of terror not only against the US but around the globe, and are working with Hezbollah against Israel.

Why would Iran, a country so rich in oil, need nuclear power?  They don’t.  They want a nuclear weapon.  They want to destroy Israel, the “little Satan” and call for death to America, the “great Satan”.  Many administrations have attempted to thwart their nuclear ambition.  The Saudis, Egyptians, and Jordanians are against it as well, but they have let the US do the heavy lifting.  The tough economic sanctions imposed on them, which would be lifted if this deal is signed, have practically destroyed their economy.  This has brought dissension on the streets of Iran in hopes that the people would rise up and over through the mullahs and their oppressive government.  While this has slowed them down, Iran never stopped working on acquiring nuclear power.  Now, they are closer than ever.  And what does the US do?  Negotiate a bad deal while Iran conducts military exercises, blowing up a mock US carrier just last week and denying access to UN inspectors.  These are the same people who danced in the streets and passed out candy after 9/11.  What could possibly go wrong?

While our politicians are naïve at best, Israel and Netanyahu who live in this environment are not.  Netanyahu has information that we, the American people and our Congress need to know before signing an agreement that could bring death and destruction to Israel first—and then to us.  The President says John Boehner dissed him by inviting Netanyahu to address Congress without his permission.  I beg to differ.  We have 3 equal branches of government—emphasis on equal.  We do not have a king.  Boehner, as the head of the legislative branch, has every right to invite who he pleases to address Congress—especially when it means life or death.  Unfortunately, several Democratic congressmen and women decided to blindly obey and boycott Netanyahu’s address.  I don’t care what side of the aisle you’re on—their duty is to serve and protect us whether they like what they hear or not.  This is not a democrat/republican issue.  This is an American issue.  This is an end to civilization as we know it issue.  This is a life or death issue.  This is a moral issue. If it offends our enemies—so be it.

Netanyahu said in his address, the days of Jews suffering silently are over.  They will stand.  As Christians we must stand with them.  What would Jesus do? Netanyahu is facing an election in his country within the next 2 weeks and has a lot at stake.  I don’t believe he addressed Congress to win the election back home.  Contrary, he’s losing ground in an election that was his for the taking.  Why?  Because he’s putting the lives of Israeli citizens first.  He’s putting Israel before politics.  What good is winning an election if within a short period of time, Iran will nuke Israel off the face of the earth?  That’s what a leader does.  He tells the hard truth and doesn’t sell candy-coated lies.  He confronts issues and calls evil by its name.  He tackles issues that are not popular.  We have no right to offer Israel as a sacrifice to lunatics in the hope that they will leave us in peace. Who would you rather have as your leader?  Neville Chamberlain or Winston Churchill?  And if you don’t know who either of those two men were, shame on you.

Do you as a Christian want to be on the right or wrong side of history?  Will you stand as Corrie ten Boom and her family stood?  But even more so, do we as Christians want to be on the right or wrong side of God?  In Genesis 12:3 God tells Abraham, referring to the Jews, “I will bless those who bless you, and curse those who curse you. All the families of the earth will find blessing in you.”  I know which side I want to be on and that’s why I sing, Bibi, I’ma want you.

1The Jerusalem Post, 12/30/2014

2 Arab Israeli Conflict, 10 Facts About The Arab-Israeli Conflict, www.arabisraeliconflict.info

3 Touro Synagogue, America’s Oldest Synagogue, Jews In America From Inquisition to Freedom.

4 Simple to Remember, Judaism Online, Jewish Persecution, Timeline of Judaism, History of AntiSemitism www.simpletoremember.com

5 Hadith Collection Sahih Muslim Book 041, Hadith Number 6981

Right Here Waiting

For those of you not familiar with the 1989 Richard Marx tune, it tells the tale of a man waiting for his true love.  Whatever she does, wherever she goes, no matter how long, he’ll be right there waiting and preparing for her return.

Waiting actually has several meanings.  Most people associate it with sitting around until the something they’re waiting on happens.  Others associate it with customer service, as in a restaurant server.  In all cases the wait is actually preparing for that big something to occur.

Waiting, unfortunately, has become a lost art—thanks to technology.  We rarely have to wait for anything.  News is made and broadcast as soon as it happens.  Fast food establishments give us our fix “freaky fast”.  You can order just about anything online via your computer, laptop, tablet and even your phone and arrange overnight delivery.  Sometimes this is good but other times—not so good.  Remember when waiting was worth it?  We still catch glimpses of it every time Apple releases a new product.

One of my fondest memories was standing in line at the crack of dawn with my sisters and cousin outside the Field Museum to view the King Tut exhibit.  We were so excited and so were all the other thousands of folks who braved the weather.  The anticipation level was off the charts.  And then finally we were lead into the exhibit to see the stunning artifacts.  Was it worth the wait?  Of course.  Why else would I remember it so fondly?

Back in the day, when mom or grandma baked or cooked our favorites we couldn’t wait to eat it.  This was before supermarkets and microwaves—everything was made from scratch and the process could be long.  The aromas and expectations for biting into our favorite foods or desserts would drive us crazy.  It was always worth the wait.

Have you noticed how angry we have become when we have to wait a few minutes for anything?  We’ve all seen the YouTube videos of customers screaming obscenities or reacting violently when their Big Mac is slow in coming.  Not to mention ugly Black Friday sales where people would prefer to trample fellow human beings over a television all in the name of Christmas.

Patience is a virtue, but waiting and preparing can be gifts themselves.  We are now in the season of Advent.  Advent means coming. Who is coming?  Jesus is coming.  Jesus came as an innocent baby some 2000 odd years ago.  But sometimes we forget He’s coming again.  His apostles and followers believed He was coming soon after He left.  But He didn’t.  And we’ve been waiting and preparing ever since.

What do you do when you’re waiting for a very special visitor?  My guess is you clean your house thoroughly and of course prepare a feast fit for a king.  Isn’t that what we should be doing as we await Jesus’ return?  But we don’t know when He’s coming back.  That’s the point.  At least with human visitors we usually know when they’re coming.  But what happens when someone drops in unexpectedly?  Unless you’re Martha Stewart my guess is your house is a mess, the kids are screaming, and there is nothing warm and delicious in the oven.  Remember that old song, If I knew you were coming I’d have baked a cake?  That’s what happens when we are unprepared.

I’m fascinated by a growing group of people who call themselves “preppers”.  If you don’t know who they are, they’re a diverse group of self-reliant people who are preparing for all things great and small, such as a loss of a job right up to a natural disaster.  They stock up on food, water, extra clothing—waiting and preparing—just in case.  They should not be confused with hoarders, who buy massive quantities and keep them squirreled away for no particular reason.

Our country was founded and built on being prepared and self-reliant. It’s the true definition of real freedom.  Early Americans did not want to rely on a king or a big government to tell them what to do or take care of them.  They waited on God, prepared with their own hard work and if their neighbor ran into bad luck, they were equally prepared to help him or her out.

Some people attribute the return to self-reliance to The Church of Latter Day Saints or the Mormons.  If you ask a Mormon why their church leaders counsel them to keep a year supply of food, water etc. on hand they will tell you being self-reliant makes common sense.  They are not only prepared for anything, it allows them to help others as well.  I have a good friend who is Mormon.  Among other things, she always has plenty of pillows on hand at any given time.  Why?  She’s one of the first on the scene of natural or man-made disasters to deliver a pillow to a person who has lost everything.

My grandmother was not Mormon, but she was a product of the Depression.  Today she would be considered a prepper.  She never had one can of anything.  You could always find something edible growing at all times of the year.  Her generation was prepared for whatever life would throw at them.  If you dropped in on my grandmother without an invitation, it was never a problem.  She was always prepared.  An extra plate or five could easily be set at the table and there would still be extras left over.  Being prepared is a good thing.

Waiting and being prepared go hand-in-hand when holding a big event.  As I mentioned earlier, this is what Advent is all about.  We are waiting and preparing for Jesus’ return.  We don’t want to be caught unprepared in a dirty house with no provisions to set before the King.  Or even worse, not home to answer the knock at the door.

Father Robert Barron, in his Advent Reflections, says one of the best ways to get into the spirit of Advent is to read the Bible.  I agree.  You can’t fully understand Jesus as Lord and Savior without the backdrop, prophecies and history of the Old Testament.  This year, why not read a passage from the Old Testament each day of Advent?  You probably have a favorite biblical tale from your childhood.  Revisit it and read it as an adult.  Looking for excitement?  Read Genesis, Exodus or Samuel.  Feeling sorry for yourself?  Read Job.  Crave prayers and meditations?  Try the Psalms.  Looking for wisdom?  Read Proverbs or the Book of Wisdom.  Want to read about fascinating women?  Try the Book of Ruth or Esther.  If you’re a fan of so-called psychics and mediums, read Isaiah, Jeremiah, Ezekiel and Daniel.

I’m a collector of Advent calendars.  From a church with 25 little doors, a Christmas tree with 25 opening ornaments to a mouse that jumps from pocket to pocket—I love counting down the days to Christmas.  As a child I loved being the lucky one who got to the calendar first, peeled back the small door and ate the small piece of chocolate that waited there for me.   I no longer store hidden chocolates behind every Advent calendar door, but what I’ve discovered is there is something much better than chocolate behind each of the 25 days of Advent.

When I’m Sixty-Four

Will you still need me when I’m Sixty-four? All Beatles fans recognize those lyrics. Will you still love me when I’m no longer young, trendy, or attractive? With that in mind, I often wonder what Sunday Mass will look like when I’m sixty-four. Look around any church and see the age demographics. Middle age adults are sometimes the youngest in the group.

This is a far cry from when I was a child. You either went to Sunday Mass or you were sick—very sick. My entire family lived in the same neighborhood. We lived, worked, ate, played, and worshipped together. Mass was a family event and your life revolved around it. If something weighed heavy on your heart—you consulted Father—he always had a solution. After Mass you visited with friends, clambered to shake Father’s hand, grabbed a cookie at the church bake sale, and headed off to Grandma’s house for Sunday dinner.

Family is the key. In the 50’s and 60’s children went to Catholic school. In the 70’s, with the migration to the suburbs, many parents opted to send their kids to secular public schools and sign up for Religious Education at the closest church. Once their children were out of school, they stopped attending Mass because there was no connection to the parish. Grandma, the glue that held the family together, was gone. The 80’s gave birth to the “me” generation. The 90’s brought the internet. With each passing decade the more stuff we acquired: TV, video games, computers, cell phones, iPads, etc. Suddenly there was no room for God. Yet young and old alike, who seem to have everything, realize there is a great void in their lives. They search high and low, work out at the gym, drink alcohol, take drugs, meditate, or whatever they can to try and fill that undefinable “something” that is missing. That something—is God.

It’s sad but many Catholics either have none of my earlier memories or have forgotten them. So what happened? The excuses vary: Vatican II, churches are full of hypocrites, I work all week and I’m tired, God loves me so I don’t have to go to church, it’s boring. Some changes from Vatican II did upset some Catholics, but Church doctrine can never be altered. If you are worried about hypocrites then you’d never partake in any pastime. Everyone is tired, but if someone offered you tickets to an entertainment event you’d find energy to attend. Yes, God does love you, but He was the One who gave us the Fourth Commandment in the first place. Mass is boring? Are you aware of what is happening on the altar? I don’t pretend to know all the symbolism, but the more I find out the more intrigued and caught up in the Mass I become. It leaves me wanting to learn more, and the more I learn the more exciting it becomes.

Last Sunday our pastor spoke about the Catholics Come Home ad1 that is proving to be very effective, not only for Catholics but for those of all faiths or those with no faith at all. He spoke about how powerful the images were and read the wording aloud. It was witnessing similar images portrayed in the ad from my memories that lead me back to my Catholic faith.

So, what will Mass or being Catholic look like when I’m sixty-four? How will parish churches flourish if nobody is supporting them? How do we get young people interested and excited about the faith? Some say it’s a lost cause. We can’t compete with Hollywood and academia expounding the fun of immorality and degradation. But I’m full of hope—we can turn it around. There is no greater role model for a child (no matter the age) than his or her parents. Leave your bedroom door open when you’re on your knees and let them see you pray. Let them see you practice your faith in and outside church. Let them see you making a difference in peoples’ lives. Let them see you serve others. Don’t just talk to your children about values and morals—live them. Grandma may be gone but we need to connect as families again—have Sunday dinner together for starters. We must openly discuss our faith, our church, our Mass, and our love for God. We need to learn how to think again—not take the word of a professor or media outlet.

I read an article recently about Lawrence M. Krauss, cosmologist, theoretical physicist, and professor at Arizona State University. During a speech at the Victorian Skeptics Café in Australia he said, “Change is always one generation away. So if we can plant the seeds of doubt in our children, religion will go away in a generation or at least largely go away—and that’s what I think we have an obligation to do.” 2 Professor Krauss caused a large stir earlier this year when he said teaching creationism to kids is akin to child abuse. This professor and others like him are who our children admire. Remember when role models were people of integrity and honor? We looked up to them and wanted to be like them. Our children look up to sports thugs, radical professors, and celebrities and they are becoming just like them. We need to reverse this.

Our once sacred 1st Amendment Right of freedom of religion is under attack by a small group of extreme atheists, who seem to be supported by our government. It’s no coincidence that the Revolutionary War was aided by the “Black Robe Regiment”. These were not soldiers who wore black uniforms—they were the influential preachers who supported the Patriots cause. They were enemy number 1 to the British because from their pulpits they reassured their audiences that the revolution was justified in the eyes of God.3 We cannot be oblivious to this.

There is a viral YouTube out right now showing a girl, approximately eight years-old, screaming at a young preacher on the street. The child is incredibly rude and vile. A child that age is not on the streets alone. Her parents must be nearby—undoubtedly cheering her on. I saw on Facebook a couple of days ago, a Texas mother walked into her child’s grammar school and saw pictures of Indians, but no Pilgrims. When she asked the teacher she was told that Pilgrims were the first American terrorists. The Pilgrims, through insurmountable odds, left England and crossed the Atlantic Ocean for the sole purpose of practicing their religion without persecution and now our government is branding them terrorists? And they lived harmoniously with the Indians—hence the first Thanksgiving!

Back in 1967 when the Beatles launched Sgt. Pepper’s Lonely Hearts Club Band, radicals were the counter culture. Now those same radicals are in power and teaching our children. Our world has flipped. We are now the counter culture. What was good is now evil, and what was evil is now good. Many adults can’t tell the difference so how can our children? Especially when it’s taught in schools and entrenched in television, movies and pop music/rap? If we don’t stand up now, radical atheists like Professor Krauss and government promoters of nationalized Common Core education will be dancing in the streets, and our churches and Judeo/Christian religions will be asking us, “Will you still need me when you’re 64?”

The Name Game

Today is September 11th. It’s such a profound day for those old enough to remember. As the day approaches my emotions usually take a somber tone. It’s just something that you can never forget. The images are burned into your memory. Each year I try to watch the live coverage of the 9/11 Memorial from New York City and the traditional reading of names. It never fails to bring me to tears. I didn’t know anyone in the Towers that morning and yet I feel I knew every one of them.

I’m writing this while listening and watching the roll call of those innocents who perished in the terrorist attack 13 years ago. I listen to the select group of friends and family chosen to read the names. The very last name they read is that of their loved one. I’m always struck by the diversity of the names read. Every nationality, age, and sex is represented. Evil doesn’t take stock of where your ancestors came from, sex or how old you are.

Many of the older children relay the most personal messages. One of them told the story of how her dad tucked her in to bed the night before never realizing this would be the last time she would ever see him. Another stated while he remembered his father, two younger siblings did not, but he was determined to teach them who their father was.  While another young man, so inspired by his father, decided to devote his life to service and had just joined the US Marine Corps.

And of course there are the parents who lost children and the husbands and wives who lost their spouse. All refer to them in the present tense, as if they are still alive and living within the walls of the waterfall memorial. As it gets closer and closer for them to recite the words they wish to say, the more their lips quiver and they tense up. Many say they know they are with God and they will all be united once again. They are right.

This year I noticed more young people between the ages of 13 and 18 reading the names. They do not speak with the same emotion. As they recite their personal message to their loved one they tell them, mom, dad, grandma or grandpa, uncle Joe, I never knew you… I’m not criticizing them because they are telling the truth.

There are so many lessons to be learned from this day. I won’t touch upon those that our government, intelligence agencies and military need to learn. I’m talking about lessons we can learn from the grieving. There but for the grace of God go I. My own child lives in New York City. Those planes could just have easily attacked Chicago. Last night I asked my youngest daughter if she remembered that day, thirteen years ago. She was only 10 years old but she remembered watching the horrible sequence of events with her 17 year-old sister. When she began to cry, her older sister comforted her. I’m sad my children have to have a memory like 9/11. I’m also happy that they have a memory of it because I know they’ll never forget.

Which leads me to the larger lesson to be learned. I watched a wife give a heart wrenching remembrance of her husband, a New York City police officer. In her hands she clutched an 8×10 photo of him taken on 9/11, leading an injured woman to safety. A nervous young man, approximately 12 years old, stood next to her, waiting his turn to speak. She motioned to her daughter in the crowd and said that her father was proud of her as she followed in his footsteps. Holding up the photo, she said this is who her husband was and this is how he lived and died, laying down his life for a stranger. She then invoked God’s name and His blessing on all grieving survivors and on America and closed by stating her husband was now with God. When it was the young man’s turn, he mentioned his uncle’s name, said he missed him, and God bless America. The difference in demeanor and emotion was striking.

As parents we want to protect our children from evil. It’s a natural instinct. We don’t want them to see atrocities. A college freshman today has no memory of 9/11 because they were too young to remember. News agencies don’t show the images of 9/11 because it might upset someone. I believe those images should be shown every day so we don’t forget. Especially since our education system is not teaching US history.

Thirteen years after 9/11 firefighters can’t wear American flag or Marine Corps stickers on their helmets. Do you remember how each firefighter proudly wore that flag on 9/11? Members of the military can’t go to their children’s school in their fatigues because it might offend a student. All of us are alive and free today thanks to the sacrifice of members of our military.

We cannot allow ourselves to forget and become indifferent. Those younger children who lost their parent on 9/11 have no memories. It’s not their fault. But what will become our fault is if we deny our young people their history and the right to know what happened that sunny day in September, 2001. Sometimes seeing evil is the best defense against it.

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