Category Archives: Reflection

We Are Not to Worry. But What Does That Mean?

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God is in control.    God is my co-pilot.   God is the navigator.   Not my will, but Your will be done.

I was reflecting on the Gospel reading from this last weekend:   Matthew, Chapter 6, verses 24-34.

I won’t quote it all here, but among the text are a couple key quotes:

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Can any of you by worrying add a single moment to your life-span?
Why are you anxious about clothes?

Do not worry about tomorrow; tomorrow will take care of itself.

The Bible is an amazing thing, because it is all true and authoritative, but at the same time it is quite easy to take things out of context and in isolation.    The Bible has counterbalancing messages throughout.   One of the classic examples is the admonitions to feed the poor, and then Paul’s statement that says that if a man doesn’t work he doesn’t deserve to eat.   It is easy to pick one side and dig your heels in and apply that to everything, when in fact Jesus is talking about the less fortunate poor who either can’t work or would likely desire to earn a wage if offered, whereas Paul is focused on a community of able-bodied people who all need to do their part.

After Mass this last weekend a friend of mine, who knows I scrutinize finances and try to make sound financial decisions and plan for the future (and he is the same way), smirked a bit when asking me “how’d you like today’s Gospel?”    I could tell he was tweaking me a bit, and we engaged in it.   He was conflating “planning” with “worry”.   I disagreed with him, and I think by the end of our talk he was agreeing with me.

I think to read Jesus’ words here as some instruction to forego any and all planning is not only incorrect, but it’s actually counter to what He’s trying to get people to do here, which is to not worry, as in don’t be anxious.

My friend, as we talked, had the personal revelation that his planning is his way of actually not being anxious.    I agree with that.   Perhaps more important, good planning will help your loved ones not have to worry as much.   If I didn’t plan for the future, and didn’t have my affairs in order, it would cause grave headaches for my loved ones if something happened to me.   Stress, anxiety, and probably a bit of exasperation and anger would follow.

I always remember a personal example from our Homeschool group.   My wife was getting frustrated because they would schedule events and then they wouldn’t plan them.    The leader of the group at one point remarked about how they didn’t need to because the Holy Spirit just made it all come together at the end and somehow, some way, the events turned out fine.    While maybe this was true in its literalness, my wife’s observation was that she and a couple other moms always did 90% of the work because they would have been utterly embarrassed had everyone showed up to nothing.     So these three moms ended up feeling like they had to continue taking on this burden while the others extolled the wonder of the Holy Spirit bringing it all together.    There was finally a push for some structure and reorganization in the group that led to some rifts, unfortunately.   I guess my point is, if you think you’re living the gospel by not worrying, but your lack of attention in the name of not worrying leads to the anxiety of others, then you are not properly disposed to what you’re being called to do – in my opinion.

We Christians have struggled with this balance forever.  We are in constant conflict with the opposing ideas of the necessity of what we do versus what that means about our trust in God.    One can actually take this all the way back to the heart of arguments about predestination.

Here’s how I see it:   You should plan for the future and plan for contingencies.   We should do what we feel we need to do in prudent and responsible ways.   This is not lacking trust in God.   In fact, God is likely calling us to do some of these things.    But planning and taking action should ease your mind, and not burden it.    If you are not able to do everything you would like to do, but you are doing what you can, then you need at that point to not worry and trust in God.    If you are moving past prudence and trying to outsmart God by being ready for everything imaginable under the sun by relying only on your own wisdom, then you are trusting in yourself and not in God.   If you’ve planned for X and the unexpected Y happens, you need to trust that God will help see you through – or that this suffering has a greater purpose.   If you are obsessed with perfection, you need to relax and trust in God.

This covers a lot of areas, from finances, to married life, to health, to raising kids, and so on.   One should try to make good health choices.   That may mean you’ve decided to eat in a certain way, avoiding some foods not because they bother you physically but because you’re trying to stay healthy.  But at the same time if you are traveling or visiting and the food choice is not to your general health standards, and you become obsessed with the idea that eating that burger patty is going to take 2 years off your life, then you are not in balance.   That’s worry and anxiety and something of a lack of trust.

If you feel like a store of food and water is a good idea and you take some measures and you sleep well then that’s a good thing.    If you wake up every morning wondering what you haven’t done in the event that X, Y, or Z happens and you are never comfortable with what you’ve set aside or stockpiled, then you are out of balance.

My wife and I actually were talking on Saturday about the responsibility of raising kids.   The discussion turned to her concerns about them becoming godly persons, their salvation, and everything we may not be doing to make that happen.    I was agreeing that we need to do everything we can, but we’re humans and we will fall short and at some point we need to simply ask God to fill in for our deficiencies, and that He is not going to abandon them to the wolves just because we forgot to do this thing or that thing in the overall formation of their faith.    It was almost as if that Gospel reading on Sunday was for us.

So, you see, I may be a planner, but I’m really not a worrier.   My wife is.   I’m not speaking out of turn here – she’d say the same thing.   In fact, she may well say that I don’t worry enough, and I say she worries too much.   We’re both probably right.

If you do absolutely nothing, then that certainly can be trust in God.   But you should also assess whether or not it’s just simple laziness, and whether your lack of concern is affected others.   It could be argued at times that I am lazy.

Finally, I offer my preferred analogy of our participation in life with God.    It’s fine to recognize that “God is in control” as long as you don’t use it as an excuse to eschew your obligations.   I’m not the biggest fan of that phrase, not because I think it’s false, but I think it’s a bit misapplied to our purpose.   God is ultimately responsible for everything we are – He created us, has granted us our very life, has given us our abilities, and has single-handedly opened the doors of heaven to us.    He has all the power in the Universe to control every aspect of our lives.   But that doesn’t mean he exercises that power over all of our thoughts, words, and actions.   He doesn’t.   It doesn’t mean he moves us like pawns on a chess board, maneuvering us through every situation, while at the same time maneuvering those around us.    He may well intervene on occasion because He loves us, but the very fact that some of us end up sick or injured, or dead, is self-evidence that God allows things both in and out of our control to occur that bring with them certain undesirable outcomes.   I acknowledge that God is ultimately in control to the extent He desires it, and that he has the power of full control to the extent He exercises it.    He is also a navigator, but not necessarily “the” Navigator at all times, since we have a say in the direction we go.

The co-pilot analogy is also lacking a bit, since it sort of relegates God to a secondary back-up position in our lives.   I know that “co” can mean partnership and equality, but that’s usually not how co-pilots are referenced.   There is a pilot and a co-pilot.    It may be a better analogy to say I am God’s co-pilot.

I prefer the Navigator analogy, but with a twist.    If you imagine a ship with two rudders, one large rudder for large-scale directional movements and one rudder that allows quick reactionary movements along the broader path, I see God as the Navigator of the big rudder and we are navigators along the path we’re on.    I think God moves us directionally where we are to go.   I think we need to trust and not be anxious about that direction.    But that doesn’t mean all is clear sailing in a straight line.   We may need to navigate some rough waters or around islands or icebergs and what-not as we follow our path.   We can still crash on the path God sends us if we aren’t doing what we are supposed to be doing.   We have responsibilities to uphold to ensure that we get where we are intended to go.    And even that smaller rudder can ultimately change our direction if we continually push it in opposition to the big rudder.    God makes it difficult for us to move off the direction He has chosen for us, but not impossible.

So, don’t worry about planning.

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It’s Just a Joke!

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So, on my Facebook news feed I saw an article about some woman named Brandi something or another who is some real housewife of something that I don’t care about, and even though I’m going to write about it now I don’t even care enough to find out her name or why she’s in any way famous.

Anyway, this woman took an Instagram photo of herself squatting over the baby Jesus in a Nativity scene, simulating (I guess) giving birth.   She had some caption on the pic along the lines of “Remember the reason for the season.”

The whole thing is stupid and childish, and offensive.   But whatever – it’s a free country, and I feel dumber for even knowing about this woman.

The more interesting side of the article to me was that she received really negative feedback about the picture even from people who claimed to be fans, and people who claimed that they were neither Christian nor religious.

Apparently she’s an atheist, but her initial response was along the lines of “It’s a joke people.   Get a sense of humor.”    I think her version included an f-bomb, because as we all know f-bombs make your argument better and clearer.

I mulled this over a bit, for some reason that even I don’t understand.   I am a Christian and the picture offended me.   I also realized that I don’t really care what she thinks all that much and the picture reflects on her quite poorly.    I don’t even know who she is and I don’t care enough to find out.   I actually just pity her and hope she finds her way.   It should be noted that she did eventually take the picture down.   I guess she didn’t apologize, which was fine because most of those apologies are insincere anyway, and are usually along the lines of “I’m sorry all you stupid people who can’t take a joke are offended.”    Simply taking the pic down is probably more honest.   She probably realizes it’s not worth the hassle, she alienated some fans, so it’s time to move on.   She’s really not sorry for it, so why say otherwise?

But what held my inner attention the longest was this idea that whenever people mock other people in a degrading way, they rely on the “it’s just a joke” defense.    It’s worth considering what that means.   We have probably all walked the line between harmless joke and potentially offensive joke at one time or another.   I can remember getting into an argument with some woman who is blond who said “Blond jokes are never funny, ever.”    I disagreed.   And I still do.   Some are funny.    But some are mean.    And I think what happened there is she had personal experiences from utterly mean individuals who mercilessly teased her about her blondness and beyond.    While it is probably true that good people will disagree on exactly where that line between “have a little sense of humor, don’t be so politically correct, and don’t get offended by everything” and “that is offensive and inappropriate” I do think that reasonable and good people can agree that there exists such a line, and we should do our best to not cross it.

Some take the attitude that we should never even go there.   We should, at all costs, avoid any potential offense.   I personally believe this is entirely wrong and problematic.   I understand the reasoning and I think the intentions are good.   But it’s part of what ails our country.   We’ve reached a point where we can’t say anything offensive at all about anybody on anything, and the judge of what constitutes offense is the progressive left.    In their view, religion itself is offensive.   The bible is offensive.   And so on.    We are a much healthier society if we learn to live with a little stereotypical humor about ourselves.   And yes, even if it crosses a line, we should be willing to brush it off and move on with our lives.    Better to err on that side of the equation than to try and muzzle all potentially offensive words universally.

Some take the attitude that everything is “just a joke.”    That’s a cop-out, and it’s not true.    The real question one should ask is whether or not engaging in stereotypical humor serves as its main purpose a good and funny joke, or whether the main intent is to demean and mock.    This really isn’t a difficult question.    When an atheist squats over the baby Jesus in a Nativity Scene only an idiot doesn’t see that as a statement that says “I’m mocking the Virgin Birth and what Christians believe.”    If you tell the joke about the kid praying for a bicycle for Christmas by telling Jesus “If you ever want to see your mother again…” while putting a Mary statue in a drawer, then that is funny.    Could that be taken offensively by some?   Sure, I suppose.   Should we really be joking about holding Mary hostage?     Well, the joke is more about what the mind of an innocent kid who desperately wants a bike for Christmas is like.   It’s funny.   The other is a crass mockery.   In the one case, most Christians will either be outright offended or not find it funny at all, and even non-Christians find it tasteless.   In the other case, many Christians will see the humor.

Here’s a hint:   if you hate Christians or consider them stupid, then there is a high degree of probability that your “joke” is not “just a joke” but is demeaning and offensive.  I’m not saying that is universally true, but you probably should be more careful about whether or not that is the case.   And if you get that kind of reaction, then the blindness is yours, not others.    I’m not saying that Christians can’t cross that same line – they can.   They are just less likely to.

The same is true whether we’re talking about Christians, Jews, Muslims, Blacks, Whites, Women, Men, Blondes, or Eskimos.    If you have a hatred or distaste for any group of people and you are “just making a joke” then are probably at higher risk of crossing a line.    Just accept it, and maybe do something about that by looking inward.

But let’s not get crazy.   Jokes are good.   Not taking yourself too seriously is good.    I mean, if you’re blonde and can’t find the humor in ANY blonde joke, then I think you are doing yourself a disservice.   Or, perhaps, more accurately the fault lies on others who killed your sense of humor on the subject.   And I am sorry if that is the case.   But try to move on.

I still have a copy of a bulletin from the Wisconsin Department of State, bulletin 91-92 issued January 1, 1992.   Subject: Automobile Dimmer Switches.  (I’ll skip over a lot of it, so it will lose a bit of the feel of authenticity)

  • Pursuant to the WI Dept of Motor Vehicles Act… All motor vehicles… will be required to have the headlight switch mounted on the floorboard. The dimmer switch must be mounted in a position accessible to operation by pressing the switch with the left foot.  The switch must be far enough from the left foot pedal to avoid inadvertent operation or pedal confusion.
  • …all other vehicles with steering column mounted dimmer switches must be retrofitted… Vehicles which have not made this change will fail … safety inspection…
  • …This change is being made in the interest of public safety… A recent study … has shown that 95% of all Wisconsin nighttime highway accidents are caused by a blonde getting her foot caught in the steering wheel while attempting to dim the headlights.

Come on…   that’s funny!

A World Undone

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I’ve been quiet lately for a few reasons, but in large part because I decided to spend whatever free time I had working on a Pro-Life song that I’ve been developing for quite some time.    I finally just set aside other things and recorded it.

The song is called “A World Undone.”    The purpose of it is to convey a Pro-Life message, but not to lay blame at others.   We are in this world together and we all feel the effects of abortion.   Most of us have fallen short on doing everything we can do to stop the atrocity of abortion.

The song is a prayer, a reflection, and a call for forgiveness – for all of us.   It is a cry for mercy on us, and for a conversion of hearts.

I hope you enjoy it.    Please feel free to share it with others.

Some Random Observations and Musings

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Having just returned from a trip out East, I reflect on things I find I very often reflect on when I am suddenly in the midst of a lot of people.    When one hails from central Wisconsin it is easy to forget that there are a lot of places with a lot of people.   Around here, one has to travel to get to a “big” city.   Within our state, the only real city that qualifies is Milwaukee, and spending time there isn’t nearly like spending it in other major cities.

Anyway, what my wife and I both found amazing is that when traveling to the East Coast, people are everywhere.  I don’t say this as a good or a bad ting – it’s just a different thing for us.

We flew into Boston, but we actually drove straight up to Bar Harbor, Maine.    Traffic the entire way, even in the rural areas, was constant.   A few times along the way, there were traffic delays.    We spent time in Bar Harbor, Acadia National Park, Booth Bay, Portsmouth, NH and finally Boston.    In every spot, it was impressive to see the multitudes of folks out and about going about their business.

In the past, I’ve had to travel to NY for work, and I’ve visited Chicago a number of times as well.   I am always amazed by the sheer volume of humanity.    I know many see this as a problem – I see it as awesome.   I also view it with a bit of sadness.   I imagine what we could accomplish as a human race if we all worked together in accordance with God’s will and we all truly attempted to reach our full potential (whatever that all means in accordance with God’s will).

But in all these cases, I simply cannot help but consider the fact that every last person is seeing life through a different lens than I am.   Even those of us in the same community – even the same household – see things differently than the next person.   Two people viewing the same event at the same time are seeing it from a slightly different perspective and thinking something slightly different about the whole thing.   Add to that the simple fact that no two people, even married and in the same home, will be with each other at all times, it necessarily means that every person has an unique view of life from anyone else.   All these experiences help form who we are.   This is why different people gravitate to different causes from other people.   It’s why one person sees another person in a positive light while another may not.

This very thought always amazes me.   Sometimes I simply sit and watch a person walking from one place to another, and imagine what they are seeing from where they are.   I often wonder what they are thinking about as they are walking – an impossibility for me to know, but intriguing nonetheless.

Now, I admit that this exercise for me – something I have actually been contemplating for years – has a new wrinkle to it.   It is absolutely phenomenal how many people at any given time are walking around staring at a screen.   I am also guilty of that.   It’s really easy to default to pulling out the phone and checking messages, or putting on music, or whatever.    This is not in and of itself a terrible thing – many are checking in with friends and loved ones in a way that satisfies both parties.    OK, I get that.   I do it as well.    But I also wonder how many people ever take the time to just walk.  And think.    And wonder.  How many people are providing some peace and quiet to themselves and balancing out the noise of constant activity.   But that’s not a new issue – many have discussed this need.   But sometimes the best reminder for oneself is to view the rest of the world and realize how silly it all looks, and then understand that you are often engaging in that same silliness.


Random musing 1:   As a general rule, if a vehicle has more than 2 bumper stickers, it is most often a left-leaning and self-proclaimed socialist.    Most I saw on this trip have either the “Bernie” sticker or a “Coexist” sticker – or both.    A distant second scenario, but still a noticeable one, is a pro-life Catholic.   I’m not a bumper sticker guy, but I can appreciate the zeal for the cause.  But, good grief, I swear that some people slap every bumper sticker they can find, as if to think “Well, if the other 18 didn’t convince everyone, then surely THIS one will do it!”

Random musing 2: How can there be a million cars on the road around Boston, but it’s nearly impossible to find a freakin’ gas station?

Random musing 3:  If you need to smother one substance in another substance in order for it to be enjoyable to eat, then why am I paying $5/oz for it?    I had Lobster twice while in Maine, and it was OK.   I actually preferred it grilled to boiled.   But even with that, I didn’t really get the whole thing.   It doesn’t have a real strong taste either way, so it kind of just tastes like whatever you put on it.   Butter, steak juice, risotto, peanut butter…   A biscuit or a cracker is much less expensive.   I mean, I know it’s cool to crack open the shell of the poor thing that was just boiled to death, so there is that.   But other than the entire novelty of the whole thing, I think I’ll stick with the hunk of beef that tastes like something and weighs more.

 

Choosing between “#%*!@&#!” or “Thank You Jesus, for loving me this much”. Or Maybe a Little of Both…

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So, Saturday was wood-splitting say. I had successfully cut down a few dead trees and chopped them up to approximately 16″ lengths over the preceding couple weeks, and it was time to split the whole she-bang. The young boys begrudgingly put on their work clothes and assisted me with the task that was sure to be seen as encroaching on Lego and Star Wars time. Pity.

All was not lost in the family work. Splitting wood does have its appeal. After all, a year ago I invested in a very nice wood-spitter. The hydraulic kind that runs on gasoline, not the kind that gets swung over the head. While it may take decades to get the monetary payback out of it that would justify the purchase in pure dollar terms, it has nonetheless almost certainly saved a few trips to the chiropractor, and possible purchases of other wood that would have been necessary due to my own limited time and admitted laziness. The boys can appreciate a good hydraulic mauling of a log as well as anyone, and so I keep them engaged by allowing them a turn at the lever that controls the splitter.

The dangers of heavy equipment are never to be taken lightly, and so I overdo the message about keeping hands away from moving parts of things that could crush the fingers – or worse. They do quite well. But it only takes once, so vigilance is needed.

Anyway, we ahd a couple very large logs to split, and these were perfect candidates for vertical splitting. Under this scenario, one raises the splitter to vertical, secures it, and then moves the log to an upright position. You do this by rolling it in place so you don’t kill your back lifting it. And so we did all this with joy and success.

After the conclusion of this task, it was time to move the splitter back to the horizontal position. This is a quite heavy element, and moving it back to horizontal requires some strength and effort. When I first pulled on the handle, the entire base moved a bit. To secure it, I placed my hand on the steel beam under the hydraulic component and gave a good pull to move the top part down. Of course, as the balance shifted, it went from being difficult to move to difficult to stop. There are two metal brackets that stick out of the top unit that are used to secure it to the steel beam. Silly me, I managed to forget to move my hand, which just happened to be right where those brackets come down.

A moment of struggle wot push it back up followed, and I was finally able to remove my hand.

“#%*!@&#!” <== Due to being surrounded by young, impressionable boys, I thankfully internalized any foul language that I really felt like using.

Now, a couple thoughts here:
1) Thank God for heavy-duty work gloves. I do think I may have one or two less fingers at the moment without them, or at least one or two less usable one. Though, the greatest damage was to the top of my hand.
2) Thank God for Guardian Angels, who I will give credit for putting it in my mind to be smart and wear those gloves. Though, it can be noted that an inspiring thought of "um, move your hand, you idiot" would have been appreciated, I will still be thankful for what I did receive.
3) When really heavy things fall on your hand, it hurts. A lot.

So, I need to provide a bit of background on my immediately next thought after "#%*!@&#!"

An internet friend/acquaintance (he used to be an actuary who frequented a forum for actuaries I use) and I used to talk about religion and the Catholic faith quite a bit. He was a convert who loved the Church and eventually became a Priest. During that transition time he shared with me a little tidbit on our little sufferings in life that I never really forgot, and have tried to implent as an expression of gratitude for being able to join my little sufferings with Christ's redemptive work on the cross. He once mentioned that he had the habit of reciting a very simple and short prayer whenever one of life's stubbed toes or pinched fingers or anything else reared its ugly head. That prayer is simply "Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much." This was not his idea, but was given to him by another friend. He loved the idea, and so did I. The idea, of course, is to try to take that painful moment and immediately think of what Jesus went through, and instead of being angry about the pain, be thankful for it. Sounds odd, but if you can get yourself in the mindset, it's a nice way to deal with those sufferings and offer it up for something or someone.

So, I admit that this particular time I had a little bit of a delayed response… this was no mere stubbed toe. This was something where I was afraid to take the glove off and see what I'd find. But, I did finally manage to compose myself and utter that prayer. One interesting way I was reminded to do so was that my entire left arm had a pain shoot up to the top and then felt very weak for a couple minutes. I was reminded of reading a study the crucifixion and about how the nails through the wrists would have been immeasurably painful due to the nerves that would drive the pain all the way up the arms. My pain was not nearly that bad, but it was a reminder for me of the pain that Christ must have suffered.

The hand looked pretty bad. It swelled up to twice its size and I needed to take a break, but I determined that I could continue my work, and so I did until I was finished. I was further comforted by our neighbor – an ER doc. Her son was at our house for the morning and when she stopped to pick him up she checked the hand out. Thanks be to God it seemed like I missed all the worst things that could happen. Probably nothing broken by the pain tests she gave me, and the tendons on the fingers seemed to be strong, suggesting no issues there. Basically, ice it and it will hurt for a while, but I'll be OK with no lasting damage.

Thank you, Jesus, for loving me this much.

The Diabolical Nature of Promoting Gay Marriage

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This post is not a point by point argument against the idea of gay “marriage,” nor is it a defense of traditional marriage. Many, many posts and articles have been written on the topic and will continue to be written on the topic. This post is, at its root, about something else.

The debate is not a new one, as we all know. It has been bubbling and bursting in all sorts of places over the last couple decades, and the pro-gay-marriage side has to be recognized as gaining traction, of influencing the minds of many who previously were against it. Although most states that have taken the issue to ballot have succeeded in keeping marriage defined as between a man and a woman, it must be noted that the margins have declined and the proponents are ever more vocal.

We have now reached a time where it seems that any public figure speaking against it is publicly chastised for intolerance. It is no longer a debate about two philosophies or matters of opinion. The one side has now successfully entered the arena of political influence, public pressure, and political correctness to an extent never seen before.

We saw it coming. Even as ballot measures for same-sex marriage were being defeated in elections and in the courts, more and more companies started to provide “diversity training” related to sexual orientation. Our Universities and Public Schools found new and innovative ways of introducing the same-sex relationship as normal, and warnings that this was part of the slippery-slope were met with scoffs and ridicule of paranoia and prudishness.

Within Hollywood, more and more stars “courageously” came out of the closet, and within a few short years such pronouncements went from being a shocking revelation to a badge of pride to be celebrated.

And then came Massachusetts, where the courts famously legalized same-sex marriage. From there, both sides moved quickly and each had victories they could hold up as emblematic of the way Americans feel about the whole thing. But it was still rather taboo in the political arena to be too vocal about it. We had reached the stage of “respecting” individuals and trying to compromise with the concept of civil unions. Civil Unions seemed like the political dream position, in that they could take both sides of the issue. Support same-sex unions, support marriage – a win-win!

But that still was not good enough.

And here we are today. With a President who not only voiced support for it, but then proceeded to go all-in at the convention to promote it as good, moral, and right. And anyone who dares disagree is not only intolerant, but a bigoted and hateful person.

Of course, we know that is not true. But the idea has grown, and as evidence I challenge anyone to state – in the most benign way you can think of – the fact that you are not in favor of same-sex marriage in almost any social situation. Unless you’re surrounded by entirely like-minded people, there is almost sure to be a very swift reaction. Not a discussion. Not a series of questions to try and gain some insight about your thinking. There will almost certainly be anger, accusation, and dare I say hate. If you are fortunate, you’ll avoid blasphemous charges against religion and Christ, or denigrations of the Bible. You’ll probably be mis-classified as an evangelical or fundamentalist and probably anti-science. It is not at all unlikely that there will be a very quick leap to comparisons to Hitler or Nazis. It all depends on the person.

There is a particular verse of Scripture that I think of nearly on a daily basis. It is not my “favorite” verse. In fact, it’s a somewhat sad and depressing verse. Isaiah 5:20 reads “Woe to those who call evil good, and good evil; who substitute darkness for light and light for darkness; who substitute bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter! Woe to those who are wise in their own eyes, and clever in their own sight! (NAS, Isaiah 5:20-21)”

Every day I see around me the evil that I know to be evil (based on the Bible, Church teachings, and my own conscience) being presented as good, and vice-versa.

But why do I use the term “diabiolical?” To be honest, I am borrowing it from a recent conversation my wife had with a Priest.

It has not gone unnoticed by those of us watching the Democratic National Convention that the issues of abortion, contraception, and same-sex marriage have emerged as prominent positions. And while we always knew that the Democratic Party platform always alluded to such things and gave support to them, there was at least in the past some attempt to do so at arm’s length. The balance was to keep the support of proponents while recognizing that they needed to keep opponents happy enough to not be bothered by it.

This has changed. And it does show the amount of progress those who favor socially liberal policies have made. Even if it is a failed assessment, the Democrats are now willing to – and betting that – a full embrace will not hurt them, and possibly even benefit them. It’s the frog in the boiling water syndrome, and it appears to have merit. After all, to the extent that I have seen some African-American pastors take issue with the emnbrace of same-sex marriage by President Barack Obama, it does not seem to be enough to keep them from selling out to politics due to whatever issues they have convinced themselves are – in the end – more important than what they know in their herats is a moral deception. They recognize the moral problem with it according to their own statements, and yet are still willing to offer their support to the candidate and party. Why? You’d have to ask them. I’m sure they’ve rationalized it to their satisfaction. Whether it’s to God’s satisfaction will have to be between them and God, I suppose.

But I digress a bit. Back to this conversation with the Priest. My wife noted correctly that we are not hearing about “same-sex marriage.” We are being given phrases that everyone knows applies to that, but in ways that are meant to defuse any possible objection to it. Three times Michelle Obama used a phrase along the lines of “Should be able to walk down the aisle to marry the one you love.” This was, in its context, a clear allusion to same-sex marriage. The language is not an accident.

This Priest pointed out something else, and here’s where the word “diabolical” enters the fray. He was not using it to describe the person of Michelle Obama, nor of anyone else. He was using it to describe how Satan works. And Satan is the great counterfeiter. And the use of 3 is his great tool.

Yes, we are getting into that whole “spiritual warfare” thing that us Catholics start feeling a bit uncomfortable about. But what else can it be called when obvious evils to the lot of us start being promoted as just the opposite?

Anyway, you may or may not know that 3 is a very important number in our Catholic life. Most obvious is the representation of the Trinity. But you may or may not know that when a Priest blesses an object or your house, they will often sign it three times. It is a very powerful thing. Christ died at 3:00. With God, there are no random coincidences that are meaningless.

Not to be outdone, the devil counters with his own sets of 3. Now, this Priest would know much more about this than I do, but he immediately caught the fact that Michelle Obama presented this evil as good three separate and distinct time within her speech. He went on to point out how often, if you pay attention, you will notice the diabolical as being presented in threes. It is not by accident. Now, I have not studied the issue, but I felt it a very powerful observation.

Beyond the number 3, the entire process of “converting” minds and hearts to the acceptance of something that is against God’s design is intrinsically diabolical in nature. The word often conjures up images of demons and possession. You tend to consider the diabolical as menacing, scary, and heavy-handed. In reality, it’s a much more appropriate view to see it as the manipulation necessary to convince otherwise good and well-meaning people that bad is good in a way that isn’t any of these things. Through a combination of acceptance of general perversions as normal, desensitivity to a great many moral wrongs, devaluation of marriage in general (starting with easy divorce and use of contraception), devaluation of life and the beauty of child-bearing, language that suggests it’s all about love and goodness, along with a dose of intimidation, guilt and ridicule at just the right dose against any and all who oppose it… it has been a decades-long coercion to acceptance. The diabolical forces had a plan, were patient, and have greatly succeeded.

They will never fully succeed, regardless of what it seems. We know that the ultimate victor in all of this is Christ and His Kingdom. And we should never accept defeat, anyway, up to the last person standing who is willing to profess the goodness of God’s design for us and the institution of marriage. The question is not whether God will be victorious, but what our part will be in seeing that about. Will we be the instruments of victory by pushing back? Or will we allow this to become ever more pervasive and see the victory come about through, well, less pleasant means?

One final comment: the use of the word “evil” is difficult to soften. It is a very harsh word. It is natural to feel a bit uncomfortable or even verbally assaulted when certain beliefs and positions are challenged as “evil.” It is not my word, it is often enough used in Scripture, and is not limited to any particular kind of sin. Evil can be used to describe the general consequences of our fall. Natural evils exist that are not a particular judgment on any individual (war, famine, poverty, etc.). In addition, the source of evil are (generally speaking) not individuals who are sinning. ALL off us participate with evil whenever we sin. That does not make us evil. Satan and the demons are evil, and the source from which we defile ourselves through participation with them.

So, do try not to overreact with the usage of the word here. This being a particularly sensitive subject for many, it can be read incorrectly as a judgment of the person, as opposed to what is really intended – the overall movement in favor of it and the nature of the act itself. Any act that one considers a sin is by definition an evil act, despite the harshness of the word. Some things are more evil than others, and this post is not about the relative nature of our sins. The reason for pointing out the evil nature of this particular topic is not to suggest where such a sin lies on the relative scale of things, but to point out a situation where many are not only dismissing it as not being bad, but actually being good. There are other such sins in our culture as well (abortion and use of contraception are big right now).

It may be impossible to convince opponents of this, but there truly is no offense intended to anybody here, and some language is simply unavoidable in explaining my thoughts on the subject.

Random and brief Diatribes

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I have been out of commission lately due to the fact that my blog ranks in priority behind my wife, eight kids, work, figuring out my bills, working in my garden, and camping on the weekends. Throw in a wedding attendance and an anniversary and you can see where the posting frequency has faltered.

My family and I are planning a vacation to South Dakota later in August, so there will be yet another break in the action.

In the meantime, I have had some random thoughts along the way:

  • I really love really hot weather, but the drought conditions here are staggering.   Those of us with gardens to water can manage, but the farmers and their fields that do not have irrigation systems are scorched.   At this point, many of the fields are past help, but there is still a great prayer need for rain.   We need to replensih the water table, and not every crop is lost.   It’s the worst conditions in my lifetime in my imediate area.
  • Garden corn-on-the-cob is awesome.
  • I do like not having to mow the lawn.   Going on six mowless weeks now.   But I don’t like that it is crunchy.
  • Fish apparently aren’t as hungry when it’s really warm.
  • I’m trying to sell my boat, and by the time I get it fixed up it’s going to cost me what I can get for it.   I should have just given it away, and I’m not the least bit happy about this development.
  • “For Greater Glory” was a fantastic movie.
  • “The Dark Knight Rises” is, in my opinion, the worst of the three “Dark Knight” movies, though I can understand that some people were more troubled with the ruthless violence of the second movie.
  • People shooting multiple other people is clearly shocking and disturbing, but I never understand why we seem to pay little or no attention to the countless other murders across the country just because they happen one at a time.   And this isn’t a political blog, so I’ll leave it at requests for continued prayer for our country and a lamentation about how this is what we can expect from a continuing devaluation of human life in all but the most “perfect” of forms.
  • I can’t hardly believe it’s almost football season.   Go Pack!
  • May God bless all twelve of my readers.
  • I have no problem rooting for the USA in the Olympics.  And yes, I love the Olympics.   USA!  USA!