Prepare the Way

Today is the First Sunday of Advent, and even though I promised in my last post to continue my thoughts on the mess in Ferguson, I am going to put that off in favor of a reflection. After all it is Sunday, and Advent is one of the two most important seasons in the Liturgical calender.

Advent is when we get ready for the birth of our Lord Jesus Christ. In these times I would propose that many people have forgotten the real reason for Christmas, the reason we celebrate it. Advent is a good time for us to think of this. Instead it has become a time for sales and black Fridays, small business Saturdays and Cyber Mondays. It is about which stores have the best deals on things we might want but don’t really need, things which marketers have convinced us we cannot live without. We deck the halls, the malls, the streets and our homes with plastic Santa Clauses, “Holiday Trees”, blinking lights and music about reindeer with red noses and drunk grandmothers. Maybe there might be the odd manger in a public place, or in one’s home, but there aren’t many.

Advent however is about more than just the birth of Jesus, it is about Christs’ Second Coming, when He will come to save us, the day when the final judgement will be made and He will decide where we will spend eternity. The secular definition of the word advent is the “coming into being or use” almost like a beginning or preparation. We should be preparing for this Second Coming.

We don’t know when this will be, even though many have claimed they know the date, they have all come and gone and we are still here. Jesus told us we “will not know the day or the hour” but we need to look for various signs. Many believe these signs are already here, but whether or not they are, we should be prepared. Today’s Gospel reading tells us to be watchful, to be prepared, to not be sleeping. when the Lord returns.

Jesus said to his disciples:
“Be watchful! Be alert!
You do not know when the time will come.
It is like a man traveling abroad.
He leaves home and places his servants in charge,
each with his own work,
and orders the gatekeeper to be on the watch.
Watch, therefore;
you do not know when the Lord of the house is coming,
whether in the evening, or at midnight,
or at cockcrow, or in the morning.
May he not come suddenly and find you sleeping.
What I say to you, I say to all: ‘Watch!’” (Mk 13:33-37)

Preparing doesn’t mean getting the best deal on a new notebook computer, although if you find one you could certainly send it to me. It means to be virtuous and help others, to live the way Christ teaches us.

It is now the hour for you to wake from sleep, for our salvation is closer than when we first accepted the faith. The night is far spent; the day draws near. Let us cast off deeds of darkness and put on the armor of light. Let us live honorably as in daylight; not in carousing and drunkenness, not in sexual excess and lust, not in quarreling and jealousy. Rather, put on the Lord Jesus Christ and make no provision for the desires of the flesh. – Romans 13:11-12

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Judge Not

Warning: I am about to go political,

There are so many things wrong with this whole Ferguson mess, I really don’t know where to start. Here are just a few of them in no particular order.

Justice Served (or not): I have to wonder why we even have a justice system in this country when it appears that the rules are now that whenever a criminal jury or a grand jury makes a decision contrary to the one the people believe to be “right” those who believe they have been wronged can now loot and burn at will. Whether or not I agree with the grand jury’s decision, and not I did not use the word verdict as it isn’t a verdict, I applaud them for having the courage to do what they were asked to do, come up with what they believe was the right decision. Even though they more than likely knew the consequences if they didn’t indict Officer Darren Wilson for the fatal shooting of Michael Brown, they decided they didn’t have enough evidence or clear evidence for an indictment. They weren’t intimidated by those who were calling for justice or else.

Racism (or not): Let’s turn this whole case around. What if this was a black cop shooting a white kid, it happens. Would there be violence, would there be riots? Would it even make the mainstream media news? No. Why? Because for whatever reason, the media isn’t interested in talking about that because it doesn’t fit with their racism narrative, the one that has been fed to them by the Al Sharptons and Jesse Jacksons of the world, where all blacks are held down by the white man. First, I will say that, yes, there is racism in America, and it shouldn’t be tolerated. But when is racism actually racism? Why can’t this be a case where a young man went after police officer like the evidence suggests and the cop felt his or someone else’s life was being threatened? It really does happen where police officers are attacked, and sometimes even killed by unarmed people.

And let’s go back to people like Al Sharpton et. al. Have they really advanced the causes of blacks in America? Do they really think the unemployment rate among young blacks is okay? Do they truly believe that the crime rate among blacks is higher that that of whites is because the white police are just picking on them? When will they address the problem of “black on black” crime and the fat that the murder rate in that group is through the roof? Have you been to Detroit lately?

Fair Media coverage (or not):Then there is the question of whether the media coverage is fair or actually adding fuel to the fire (pun intended). Here is one example: A blog post by Laura Turner. First. let me say that this blog was edited from it’s original publishing. The first line read used the word “murderer” instead of “killer”, why? Could it be that she decided she should tone down the language as murderer is more inciteful than killer? For some reason she also removed a remark in the first paragraph about the murderer walking  away with a large sum of money. But let’s leave that alone, instead let’s look at one more biased statement Ms. Turner makes.

If you haven’t heard by now, black Americans have to go to sleep another night in fear for their lives, reassured that walking in the street may be reason enough to be gunned down by the people who are meant to protect them.

What about all the citizens of Ferguson, white and black, who can’t leave their houses for fear of the mob violence that is now occurring? What about the business owners who have had their businesses (and possibly their lives) destroyed by the mob violence? Why doesn’t Turner talk about them?

Finally, what should we as Christians do? Should we be the “first to mourn” as Turner suggests? Should we ignore the fact that the justice system works as it is intended? Should we believe her when she states that the system is “always broken?” I think not.

Should we work to fix things – absolutely. But let me leave you with this question:Is violence going to fix it or just make it worse? Think about it. More to come…

Has Satan Won?

I have to admit that lately I have been neglecting my blogging duties. In fact, I have been neglecting a lot of my spiritual duties as well. I am not sure why, but I can only explain it as being in a spiritual drought. I haven’t given up or lost faith or anything like that, I am just, for the lack of a better word, “Dead.”

I think much of it has to do with a feeling I have lately of just general hopelessness. Every day we hear more and more stories of how the world just seems to be spiraling downward, out of control, with what seems to be no morality or even common sense left anywhere. The latest example of this is the recent death of Brittany Maynard, the young woman who decided to end her life “on her terms” because she was suffering from terminal brain cancer. There are many things which bother me about this including the opening of a door which should remain closed (that of making euthanasia legal), suicide being a sin and against Catholic teaching, and that we should not have the right to play God. But this isn’t what I am the most upset about.

What bothers me the most is how people are reacting to those of us who don’t have the same view about suicide as others. For the record, I think suicide is wrong, but with that being said, if someone makes that choice that is between them and God. However, just because true Catholics think she should not have made this choice they are accused of judging Brittany. “You shouldn’t judge” we are told. “It is her choice, not yours.” Ah yes the choice word. The thing is who exactly is judging who? Like with the abortion and gay marriage debate, it is not about the sinners, it is about the sin. No one is judging Brittany, just her action, or sin.

Then of course, as usual those who think it is okay for us to kill one another, to eliminate those who are no longer useful or contributing to society, have to throw in the old argument of how the Catholic Church  should not be forcing their views on everyone, implying they are using some kind or martial law to do so. Again, I ask, who is forcing their views on who? Is it the church or those who believe in this culture of death? No where have I read anything “judging” Brittany, only her actions. No where have I seen any one from the Catholic Church trying to impose any kind of law on anyone.

How can we continue to defend killing as being a good thing? How can we justify either our killing of the unborn, the elderly or sanction the killing of ourselves? When did we decide what was once morally wrong is now right? Is Satan finally winning? Has Satan finally won?

Back to my spiritual drought, I think this is part of the reason I am in it. We are told we should pray and God will make things okay, but things just seem to get worse. I wonder if my praying helps. In the end I know it will all work out, it is part of God’s plan, He knows what He is doing, but it is hard. When we don’t see change, we think there is none.

I won’t give up however, I will continue to do what I can.

It’s a Dog Love People World Out There

Are you talking about me?

I never was much of a dog person. We had a dog when I was young (actually two, but the one who ate the corner off the house doesn’t count), but after I was married that was it. I guess I figured they would be more trouble than they were worth. That was until Buttons came into my life.

Buttons is a rescued dog, who was adopted by the woman I love from a shelter in North Carolina. As with so many people I talk to who have also rescued dogs, we all say the same thing about our dogs, it isn’t exactly clear just who actually rescued who. Now I know this isn’t a dog blog, just bear with me. A couple of weeks ago now, Buttons was diagnosed with a tumor, something with a lot of letters that I can’t pronounce. The vet told us we could operate on it but it would mean Buttons would have to go through excessive rehabilitation as he would need to have many muscles cut and sewn back together. And after all that there was not any guarantee as to how much longer this would extend his life.

Faced with a difficult decision, we have had to do a lot of thinking about this. During this thinking, I have come to realize something, dog is God spelled backwards. I look at Buttons and I realize he is just like God is some ways, or more accurately, like God wants us all to be. Here are some examples:

  • A dog believes in treating others in the same way he wants to be treated. Buttons wants to be loved and in turn, loves everyone. If they mistreat him, he will turn away from them and not bother them. He can sense who will love him in return. and who will not.
  • Dogs do not judge anyone. Buttons doesn’t care who you are, what you do, whether you are rich or poor, what religion you practice, or if you practice any at all, he loves everyone the same, unless you give him reason not to. Even then, he will let you make amends to him, and he will love you again, just like God.
  • A dog is always happy to see you. Buttons will always welcome us home, no matter what time it is, no matter what kind of day we have had, no matter what kind of mood we are in, he will meet us at the door, or if he is outside run to meet us as we get out of the car, and welcome us home. Just like God.
  • Dogs don’t expect anything in return for their love. Buttons is happy just to be in our lives and is just as happy lying next to us, not being pet, as when we are loving on him (which is all the time). Like God, he loves us unconditionally.
  • A dog is fiercely loyal to the ones who love him. Buttons will be the most passive dog until he thinks someone is going to hurt one of us. If he perceives some kind of danger, he will go into action. There are various levels of this action, from raising his ears and giving us a little bark that someone is coming down the road, to a full scale waking up the neighborhood alert that something isn’t right, and to a “You better get away from my people now” mode. Just like God who alerts us to dangers, sometimes passively, sometimes more aggressively, but He is always there to protect us and fight for us.

Now I understand all dogs are not the same, but I also believe it all comes down to how you are to them. While we don’t know Buttons’ history, we are pretty sure he was abused in some way and we can pretty much guess by whom from the way he acts towards a small percentage of people with certain characteristics. But I have learned much from Buttons. In his own quiet way, he teaches us the same things Jesus taught us about how to live our lives.

We don’t know how much longer Buttons will be with us, but each day, I see Buttons and I can’t help but see the connections. Dog id God spelled backwards.