Saturday, April 30, 2011

The Simple Joys of Childhood

So help me if you can
I've got to get back
To the House at Pooh Corner by one
You'd be surprised
There's so much to be done
Count all the bees in the hive
Chase all the clouds from the sky
Back to the days of Christopher Robin and Pooh

I was thinking about this song today.  I'm not much on Kenny Loggins, but this is a great song.  It has a great tune and it has thought provoking, albeit melancholy, lyrics -- a kind of wistfulness of a young adult longing for the simple joys of childhood.

What's unfortunate about the song, however, is that its message -- that adults must leave the simple joys of childhood behind -- is true if one adopts a secular worldview.

However, if one centers their life on God, the message of 'House at Pooh Corner' is wrong; in fact, nothing could be further from the truth.

If you center your life on God, life is full of joy and simplicity.  There is a terrific little book entitled 'Keep It Simple' by Emmanuel de Gibergues that explains living your life with this joyful simplicity:
"Simplicity, or purity of intention, consists in keeping before yourself, in all your thoughts, words, and acts, one and the same end, one and the same object -- namely, the pleasing of God, or, more accurately, the doing of His will. ...
If man sees only God, seeks only God, and attaches himself only to God; if he voluntarily directs his thoughts, his words, his acts, and his whole life toward God; if, in some sort, he passes amid creatures without pausing, if he fails to find in them his repose as in an end, but desires to rest only in God -- then he is in the way of truth and order; he is righteous and holy, because he is perfectly simple.  The catechism expresses the same idea in saying, "Man is created to know God, to love Him, and to serve Him, and thus to reach eternal life". ... 
Thenceforth, simplicity becomes the soul of the spiritual life, ... The simple soul is ever pleasing to God, because it ever looks to Him, and ever seeks Him always, having no ambition other than to do His will in order to procure His glory.  
To be simple is to see, love, and desire God in all creatures and in all things; it is to unify one's life with God."

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Great post from the excellent Conversion Diary blog

The 7 Habits of People Who Place Radical Trust in God

I read a lot of biographies and memoirs about inspiring people who place radical trust in God. (By “radical” I don’t mean reckless or imprudent, but am referring to the difficult, very counter-cultural act of recognizing God’s sovereignty over every area of our lives. More on that here.) From He Leadeth Me to God’s Smuggler, Mother Angelica to The Heavenly Man to The Shadow of His Wings, these true stories are about people from all walks of the Christian life: Catholic and Protestant, consecrated religious and lay people, men and women. And yet they all have distinct similarities in their approaches to life and the Lord.

I found it fascinating to see what common threads could be found in the lives of these incredible people who place so much trust in the Lord, and thought I’d share in case others find it inspiring as well.

1. They accept suffering

One of the most powerful things I’ve read in recent memory is Brother Yun’s story of being a persecuted pastor in China, as recounted in the book The Heavenly Man. After facing weeks of torture, including electrocution, starvation, beatings, and having needles shoved under his fingernails, he was thrown in a box that was four feet long, three feet wide, and four feet high, where he would stay indefinitely. The day after he was put in this mini cell, he felt prompted to pray for a Bible — a ridiculous idea, considering that many people were in prison at that very moment for being in possession of such contraband. Yet he prayed anyway. And, inexplicably, the guards threw a Bible into his cell the next morning. He writes:

I knelt down and wept, thanking the Lord for this great gift. I could scarcely believe my dream had come true! No prisoner was ever allowed to have a Bible or any Christian literature, yet, strangely, God provided a Bible for me! Through this incident the Lord showed me that regardless of men’s evil plans for me, he had not forgotten me and was in control of my life.

Now, the less saintly among us (cough-cough) might have reacted to that a little differently. Had I been tortured and thrown in a coffin-like cell, my reaction to receiving a Bible would have likely been more along the lines of, “Thanks for the Bible, Lord, but could we SEE ABOUT GETTING ME OUT OF THIS METAL BOX FIRST?!?!” I wouldn’t have even “counted” the Bible as an answered prayer since my main prayer — reducing my physical suffering — had gone unanswered.

Yet what I see over and over again in people like Brother Yun is that they have crystal clarity on the fact that suffering is not the worst evil — sin is. Yes, they would prefer not to suffer, and do sometimes pray for the relief of suffering. But they prioritize it lower than the rest of us do — they focus far more on not sinning than on not suffering. They have a laser focus on getting themselves and others to heaven. In Brother Yun’s case, he saw through that answered prayer that God was allowing him to grow spiritually and minister to his captors, so his circumstances of suffering in an uncomfortable cell became almost irrelevant to him.

2. They accept the inevitability of death

Similar to the above, people who place great trust in God can only do so with a heaven-centered worldview. They think in terms of eternity, not in terms of calendar years. Their goal is not to maximize their time on earth, but rather to get themselves and as many other people as possible to heaven. And if God can best do that by shortening their lifespans, they accept that.

The Shadow of His Wings is filled with jaw-dropping stories of Fr. Goldmann’s miraculous escapes from death during World War II, which begs the question, “What about all the people who didn’t escape death?” Fr. Goldmann would probably respond by saying that God saving him from death was not the blessing in and of itself — after all, every single one of us will die eventually. The blessing was saving him from death so that he could continue his ministry bringing the Gospel to the Nazis. He eventually died while building a ministry in Japan, and presumably accepted that God would bring good from his passing, even though there was undoubtedly more work he wanted to do.

3. They have daily appointments with God

I have never heard of a person who had a deep, calm trust in the Lord who did not set aside time for focused prayer every day. Both in the books I’ve read an in real life, I’ve noticed that people like this always spend at least a few moments — and up to an hour or two if circumstances permit — focused on nothing but prayer, every day. Also, they tend to do it first thing in the morning, centering themselves in Christ before tackling anything else the day may bring.

4. In prayer, they listen more than they talk

I’ve written before about my amazement that really holy people seem to get their prayers answered more often than the rest of us. I’d heard enough stories of people praying for something very specific, then receiving it, that I started to wonder if they were psychic or God just liked them more than the rest of us or something. What I eventually realized is that their ideas about what to pray for came from the Holy Spirit in the first place, because they spent so much time seeking God’s will for them, day in and day out.

So, to use the example of a famous story from Mother Angelica’s biography, she had a satellite dish delivery man at the door who needed $600,000 or he was going to return the dish, thus killing all the plans for the new station. She ran to the chapel and prayed, and a guy she’d never met randomly called and wanted to donate $600,000. Her prayer wasn’t answered because she had a personal interest in television and just really, really wanted it, but because she had correctly discerned God’s plan that she was to start a television station on this particular day.

5. They limit distractions

Of all the amazing stories in God’s Smuggler, one of the lines that jumped out to me the most in the book was in the epilogue, when the authors talk about how Brother Andrew’s work has continued in 21st century:

“I won’t even consider installing one of those call waiting monstrosities,” he exclaimed, “that interrupt one phone conversation to announce another.” Technology, Andrew says, makes us far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. “Our first priority should be listening in patience and silence for the voice of God.”

Far too accessible to the demands and pressures of the moment. That line has haunted me ever since I read it. I love technology, but it does come with a huge temptation to feel a general increase in urgency in our lives: I have to reply to that email! Respond to that comment on my wall on Facebook! Ret-tweet that tweet! Read that direct message! Listen to that voicemail! Here in the connected age, we are constantly bombarded with demands on our attention. Periods of silence, where we can cultivate inner stillness and wait for the promptings of the Holy Spirit, are increasingly rare.

One thing that all the people in these books have in common is that they had very little of this pressure of false urgency. It’s hard to imagine Fr. Ciszek coming up with the breathtaking insights about God’s will that he shared in He Leadeth Me with his iPhone buzzing alerts every few minutes, or Brother Yun seeing the subtle beauty of God’s plan in the midst of persecution while keeping his Twitter status updated on a minute-by-minute basis.

6. They submit their discernment to others

People who have a long history of watching the way the Lord works in their lives notice that he often speaks through holy friends, family members and clergy. If they discern that God is calling them to something, especially if it’s something big, they ask trusted Christian confidantes to pray about the matter and see if they discern the same thing. And when others warn them not to follow a certain path — especially if it’s a spouse, confessor or spiritual director — they take those indicators very seriously.

7. They offer the Lord their complete, unhesitating obedience

One of my favorite parts of God’s Smuggler is when Brother Andrew got a visit from a man named Karl de Graaf who was part of a prayer group in which people often spent hours of time in prayer, most of it listening in silence:

I went out to the front stoop, and there was Karl de Graaf. “Hello!” I said, surprised.

“Hello, Andy. Do you know how to drive?”


“An automobile.”

“No,” I said, bewildered. “No, I don’t.”

“Because last night in our prayers we had a word from the Lord about you. It’s important for you to be able to drive.”

“Whatever on earth for?” I said. “I’ll never own a car, that’s for sure.”

“Andrew,” Mr. de Graaf spoke patiently, as to a slow-witted student, “I’m not arguing for the logic of the case. I’m just passing on the message.” And with that, he was striding across the bridge.

Despite his initial hesitation, Brother Andrew discerned that this was something that God was calling him to do, so he learned to drive. It seemed like a complete waste of time, an utterly illogical use of his resources, but he was obedient to the Lord’s call. I won’t spoil what happened next for those of you who plan to read the book, but let’s just say that shortly after he received his license, it turned out to be critical to the future of his ministry (which eventually brought the Gospel to thousands of people behind the Iron Curtain) that he know how to drive.

I often think of how Mr. de Graaf responded when Brother Andrew was scratching his head about this odd message: “That’s the excitement in obedience,” he said. “Finding out later what God had in mind.”


Obviously we can’t grow closer to God by aping the actions of others, but I find lists like this helpful as a starting point for reflection on my own spiritual progress. I hope you found it helpful as well!

Will Unions Clip Boeing's Wings? -

Is the NLRB an independent government agency? -- or the lap dog of Big Labor?

Will Unions Clip Boeing's Wings? -

Monday, April 25, 2011

Didja Ever Wonder ...

... about the people who respond to polls?

For example, I just read this story about Odumbo's free fall in the polls:
According to The Post-ABC poll, by a margin of 44 to 28, US voters believe the economy is getting worse under Obama, with 46 percent strongly disapproving of the president’s handling of the issue compared to just 23 percent who strongly approve. 78 percent of Americans feel inflation is getting worse, with 71 percent agreeing that the recent increase in gasoline prices has caused financial hardship for themselves or their household.
 Considering what an economic dunce Odumbo is, the numbers really aren't surprising.  BUT, consider the flip sides of the numbers:
  • 23% of Americans not just approve -- but strongly approve -- of Odumbo's handling of the economy.
  • 22% of Americans believe that inflation is getting better.
Are these people smoking crack?  Who in their right mind could rationally say "Gosh, gas prices are up, unemployment is up, the stock market is down, the housing market is down, foreclosures are up, etc.  Isn't Odumbo doing a great job!"

Of course, these people aren't (all) smoking crack, but it seems pretty likely that they are such brain-washed liberal ideologues that they are going to support Odumbo no matter how bad things get.

That being the case, I think they we'd all be better of if they were, in fact, smoking crack.  Maybe then they'll be too stoned to get out and vote come November 2012.

Wednesday, April 20, 2011

Didja Ever Notice ...

... how some (well, more than some, a lot) of guys have to be the driver when they're in the car with the wife?

I'm reminded of that almost every day because as I look out the window of my office, a fellow gets picked up by his wife each afternoon.  However, he doesn't get in the car.  She stops, puts their vehicle in 'Park', gets out, walks around and gets in the passenger seat while he walks over and gets in the driver's seat.

What's up with that?

Is his wife such a bad driver that they are in imminent danger of crashing if she's behind the wheel?  Or, is it some kind of man-card revocable offense to let your wife drive while you're in the car?

Friday, April 15, 2011

Reducing the Deficit Talk to "Bite Size"

Monday, April 11, 2011

Ancient Wisdom

"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants. Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis.  Do not build any homes below this point."

Tsunami-hit towns forgot warnings from ancestors
By JAY ALABASTER, Associated Press

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Modern sea walls failed to protect coastal towns from Japan's destructive tsunami last month. But in the hamlet of Aneyoshi, a single centuries-old tablet saved the day.

"High dwellings are the peace and harmony of our descendants," the stone slab reads. "Remember the calamity of the great tsunamis. Do not build any homes below this point."

It was advice the dozen or so households of Aneyoshi heeded, and their homes emerged unscathed from a disaster that flattened low-lying communities elsewhere and killed thousands along Japan's northeastern shore.

Hundreds of such markers dot the coastline, some more than 600 years old. Collectively they form a crude warning system for Japan, whose long coasts along major fault lines have made it a repeated target of earthquakes and tsunamis over the centuries.

The markers don't all indicate where it's safe to build. Some simply stand — or stood, until they were washed away by the tsunami — as daily reminders of the risk. "If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis," reads one. In the bustle of modern life, many forgot.

More than 12,000 people have been confirmed dead and officials fear the number killed could rise to 25,000 from the March 11 disaster. More than 100,000 are still sheltering in schools and other buildings, almost a month later. A few lucky individuals may move into the first completed units of temporary housing this weekend.

Workers at the tsunami-damaged Fukushima Dai-ichi nuclear power complex finally halted a leak of radioactive water into the Pacific on Wednesday, but it may take months to bring the overheating reactors under control.

A natural disaster as large as last month's 9.0 earthquake and tsunami happens perhaps once in a person's lifetime, at most. Tokyo Electric Power Co., the nuclear plant operator, clearly wasn't prepared. Many communities built right to the water's edge, some taking comfort, perhaps, in sea walls built after a deadly but smaller tsunami in 1960.

Many did escape, fleeing immediately after the quake. In some places, it was a matter of minutes. Others who tarried, perished.

"People had this crucial knowledge, but they were busy with their lives and jobs, and many forgot," said Yotaru Hatamura, a scholar who has studied the tablets.

One stone marker warned of the danger in the coastal city of Kesennuma: "Always be prepared for unexpected tsunamis. Choose life over your possessions and valuables."

Tetsuko Takahashi, 70, safe in her hillside house, watched from her front window as others ignored that advice. She saw a ship swept a half-mile (nearly a kilometer) inland, crushing buildings in its path.

"After the earthquake, people went back to their homes to get their valuables and stow their 'tatami' floor mats. They all got caught," she said.

Her family has lived in Kesennuma for generations, but she said those that experienced the most powerful tsunamis died years ago. She can only recall the far weaker one in 1960, generated by an earthquake off Chile.

Earlier generations also left warnings in place names, calling one town "Octopus Grounds" for the sea life washed up by tsunamis and naming temples after the powerful waves, said Fumihiko Imamura, a professor in disaster planning at Tohoku University in Sendai, a tsunami-hit city.

"It takes about three generations for people to forget. Those that experience the disaster themselves pass it to their children and their grandchildren, but then the memory fades," he said.

The tightly knit community of Aneyoshi, where people built homes above the marker, was an exception.

"Everybody here knows about the markers. We studied them in school," said Yuto Kimura, 12, who guided a recent visitor to one near his home. "When the tsunami came, my mom got me from school and then the whole village climbed to higher ground."

Aneyoshi, part of the city of Miyako, has been battered repeatedly by tsunamis, including a huge one in 1896. Isamu Aneishi, 69, said his ancestors moved their family-run inn to higher ground more than 100 years ago.

But his three grandchildren were at an elementary school that sat just 500 feet (150 meters) from the water in Chikei, a larger town down the winding, cliffside road. The school and surrounding buildings are in ruins. The bodies of his grandchildren have not been found.

Farther south, the tsunami washed away a seven-foot (two-meter) tall stone tablet that stood next to a playground in the middle of the city of Natori. Its message was carved in giant Japanese characters: "If an earthquake comes, beware of tsunamis."

That didn't stop some people from leaving work early after the earthquake, some picking up their children at school en route, to check the condition of their homes near the coast.

Many didn't make it out alive. More than 820 bodies have been found in Natori, some stuck in the upper branches of trees after the water receded. Another 1,000 people are still missing.

Hiroshi Kosai grew up in Natori but moved away after high school. His parents, who remained in the family home, died in the disaster.

"I always told my parents it was dangerous here," said the 43-year-old Kosai, as he pointed out the broken foundation where the tablet once stood. "In five years, you'll see houses begin to sprout up here again."

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Hora Zero from Redrocks

Wow! I think the smoke you see if coming off the guitar strings!

Saturday, April 09, 2011

Truth over Ideology by Bruce S. Thornton - City Journal

"Its unbridled license and frequent triviality notwithstanding, the Internet has performed an invaluable political service by breaking the monopoly that the left-leaning mainstream media once held over public information and analysis. In the past, a New York Times or CBS Evening News could impose a narrative that served its political interests; today, myriad websites and blogs respond instantly to every shoddy argument and distortion of fact."

Truth over Ideology by Bruce S. Thornton - City Journal:


Blog Archive