Rubrics Cubed

This week I read two articles that were thought-provoking and salient given the issues of today’s political climate.  First is the hullabaloo surrounding the mandated birth control, either contraception or abortion paid for by the Roman Catholic church, albeit now through an insurance company intermediary.  This mandate has sparked great debate about “rights” and religious “intolerance” in the public arena.  My thought is this, religion is voluntary.  Nobody makes you believe, nobody makes you wake up on Sundays to go worship.  It is an act of submission to a higher authority, the entry into a covenant relationship.  A covenant relationship is by definition an agreement between a party with the power to protect an inferior party who agrees to follow the rules of the superior party.  So, as the understanding of the rules has been honed by tradition in the Christian faith in Rome for the last two thousand years the “church” has the authority to interpret the covenant relationship it is there that today’s believers turn for clarity.  On the protestant side, for mainstream denominations mostly, if it feels good do it seems to be the theology.  So with that set up let’s look at the articles.

The first is from the arch-bishop of Philadelphia.  He was speaking at a convention for right to life of some kind.  Specifically he was addressing children with Down syndrome.  He was addressing the church’s position that all life is sacred, whether that life is a chromosomally challenged fetus in the womb or an aged parent rack by Alzheimer’s disease.  Here is a portion:

Here’s what that means.  Catholic public officials who take God  seriously cannot support laws that attack human dignity without lying to  themselves, misleading others and abusing the faith of their fellow  Catholics.  God will demand an accounting.   Catholic doctors who take God seriously cannot do procedures, prescribe  drugs or support health policies that attack the sanctity of unborn children or  the elderly; or that undermine the dignity of human sexuality and the  family.  God will demand an accounting.   And Catholic citizens who take God seriously cannot claim to love their  Church, and then ignore her counsel on vital public issues that shape our  nation’s life.  God will demand an accounting.   As individuals, we can claim to  believe whatever we want.  We can  posture, and rationalize our choices, and make alibis with each other all day  long — but no excuse for our lack of honesty and zeal will work with the God  who made us.  God knows our hearts better  than we do.  If we don’t conform our  hearts and actions to the faith we claim to believe, we’re only fooling  ourselves.

And he goes on to say,

My point is this:  Evil talks about tolerance only when it’s  weak.  When it gains the upper hand, its  vanity always requires the destruction of the good and the innocent, because  the example of good and innocent lives is an ongoing witness against it.  So it always has been.  So it always will be.  And America has no special immunity to  becoming an enemy of its own founding beliefs about human freedom, human  dignity, the limited power of the state, and the sovereignty of God.”

God will demand an accounting.  That is the thesis statement of Jesus on earth, he tells us to repent of our sin.  Sin has been defined by God in several places in scripture so that isn’t all that confusing.  This bishop clearly and succinctly articulates the belief in the sanctity of life.  He goes on to describe a friend’s child:

” These children with disabilities  are not a burden; they’re a priceless gift to all of us.  They’re a doorway to the real meaning of our  humanity.  Whatever suffering we endure  to welcome, protect and ennoble these special children is worth it because  they’re a pathway to real hope and real joy.   Abortion kills a child; it wounds a precious part of a woman’s own  dignity and identity; and it steals hope.  That’s why it’s wrong.  That’s why it needs to end.  That’s why we march.”

And we should feel the same way about the aged and infirmed.  We don’t perform an actuarial equation to determine if their life is worth the money to extend.  But the point is this guy is standing up for what he believes, there is a right and there is a wrong and there is a God who will judge us at the end of days.

Now, here is another article about a woman who was denied communion at her mother’s funeral service by a Roman Catholic priest.  I haven’t figured out if the writer of the article was present or this is hearsay.  When the woman came up for communion the priest put his hand over the patton and said she cannot receive communion because she lives with another woman.  And our writer goes on to explain to us,


It is time for Christians of all stripes to stop and think about the teachings of the Jesus they proclaim to love so deeply and revere so much. I spent twelve years in Catholic school and the Jesus I was told about would never have turned away anyone for any reason and certainly not on the occasion of burying a parent. Fr. Guarnizo has a lot to learn about Christianity and the Catholic Church has a lot to learn about the teachings of Jesus if behavior of this sort is tolerated.

I am not about to paint all Christians with a broad brush. There are those out there who understand that the teachings of Jesus boil down to one thing. And that thing is Love. For if you love, you do not deny a person the solace of communion with the Creator, if that is their belief. You judge not, lest ye be judged. Only God knows the true heart of any person and in the end, if there is to be judgment, it will not come from some misguided, prejudiced priest who needs to go back to the seminary and learn the basics. And if he can’t find them there, then he needs to get down on his knees and pray to his Jesus to forgive him the terrible trespass he visited upon a grieving woman on the occasion of the death of her mother.”

Now I really doubt the woman spent twelve years in catholic school.  If she had she would full well understand the entire sequence of events.  There are rubrics in the service books clearly admonishing the priest, this is from the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer; If the priest knows that a person who is living a notoriously evil life intends to come to Communion, the priest shall speak to that person privately, and tell him that he may not come to the Holy Table until he has given clear proof of repentance and amendment of life.”   In this instance it was more public than that.

So, we have an outraged activist preaching to the priest in her article about the love of Jesus.  Let’s take both articles in conjunction and talk about love.  First, the priest may have shown a more profound love than our dear writer of the second article can understand.  The sacrament of communion is sacred and profound, especially in the Roman expression of faith.  The priest may have felt like he loved the woman enough to save her from a mortal sin.  Maybe he loved her enough to cause her to think about her lifestyle.  Maybe he loved the people in attendance enough to give them pause about their lifestyles.  Maybe somebody saw what happened and wondered if their sins will separate them from the body.  Sometimes love is hard, difficult, and arduous.   Raising a child with Down Syndrome must be exhausting, and that is love.  Caring for a parent who is dying is tough, I know from my own experience.

So which is it, tough love or sugar daddy love that we crave and desire?  Do we really want somebody calling out our carefully rationalized behaviors and embarrassing us or do we want somebody to “respect our dignity” however we might define if?  Do we want love that persists even with all of our “challenges” and infirmities of the heart and soul or do we want to be loved in a way that facilitates our own demise?  Like some puzzles it seems very difficult to solve and then with a few twists and turns it is clear.

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A Trail of Two Tales

My oldest child, my daughter has announced on her blog her intention to hike the Appalachian Trail this spring and summer.  So being as obsessive as we are compulsive Missy and I began reading about hikes on the AT.  We read “Becoming Odyssa” by a young lady named Jennifer Pharr Davis who not only completed the trail but went back two more times setting the women’s speed record and then the overall speed record.  Her book was a fascinating read, and my daughter has met Jenn and I read the book she had autographed for our younger daughter.  I then dove into another account of the trail called “A Walk in the Woods” by Bill Bryson.  This was about one hundred ten degree different from Jenn’s account.  I loved both books for different reasons.  Jenn’s story was of a young girl becoming strong and finding her calling.  Her voice isn’t fully developed but the story is enthralling nevertheless.  Bryson’s account is told by a very experienced writer and story-teller with all the polish you would expect of somebody who knows their craft.  Bryson’s story is spit out your drink funny as you read, I mean this guy is bust your gut funny at times.  But Bryson has the jaded quality that comes with age, and that contrasted with Jenn’s total embrace of the experience.  I identified with Bryson in so many ways, and I yearned for Jenn’s unbridled enthusiasm.  Both of these books spoke to me in very different ways.

The fascinating thing is that in two completely different accounts of the trail common themes emerge.  The trail is hard, it is arduous because it is drudgery interrupted by breathtaking moments.  The trail is communal, that is to say everyone undergoing this crucible becomes part of a family and culture.   This encompasses the “trail magic” and the support by the people in the towns along the trail, the common experience binds all the hikers.  The trail changes you.  You are different when you come off the trail.  You get really dirty and stinky, and both writers don’t try to sugar coat that fact.  So both writers wrote about how important time off the trail was to recharge and reload themselves for the next push on the trail.

Bryson tells history, and background as a veteran writer can do, but Jenn shares spiritual growth she experienced on the trail.  I recommend both stories, especially because they are two very different experiences of the same trail.

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The Pill

When I was younger in the height of the women’s liberation movement, abortion and contraception were the hinge points for success.  Getting pregnant became the choice of the woman, and her’s alone, well besides the obvious.  Now we have all hell breaking lose over mandated coverages for abortions and contraception.  This loud and vigorous debate serendipitously follows the Susan Komen Foundation spat with Planned Parenthood.  PP unleashed unhinged women whipped into a fury and forced the Komen foundation to back down.  I saw serendipitous timing in that all this is bound together in our culture.

Breast cancer is an epidemic anymore.  I know that Missy and I have lost friends to breast cancer, have many friends who have survived it, and who know who will be struck next.  I know the scientific community tells us there is no danger in using birth control pills.  But after the global warming hoax and GMO’s in our food, I think the credibility of the scientific community is approaching that of a crack whore so I remain dubious of the claims.  Call me crazy but I wonder out loud if there might be a correlation between the extensive use of birth control pills and the spread of breast cancer.  Anyway, as usual, the frenzy ignored the basic facts that only a handful of PP clinics actually offer mammograms and PP is under investigation which violates the Susan Komen Foundation articles of incorporation.  But hey, why let the facts get in the way of a good screed? 

So when the Obama admistration HHS department issued an order that all employers must pay for abortions and conraception for their employees, the mob was already wound up and ready for a fight.  The Catholic Church pushed back and said this violates our beliefs and betrays the separation of church and state.  Now we have a political and legal controversy erupting, on the heels of the Komen vs PP spat.

But on another level, this hullabaloo has prompted other thoughts, namely religious ones since the Catholic church is in the middle of the controversy.  I read an article, “American Catholicism’s Pact With the Devil” and it prompted some serious thinking about me.  Let me illustrate the essence of the article.

“In the 1930s, the majority of the  bishops, priests, and nuns sold their souls to the devil, and they did so with the best of intentions. In their concern for the suffering of those out of work and destitute, they wholeheartedly embraced the New Deal.”

Which leads us to the point that struck me through the heart.

“And they welcomed Social Security – which was her handiwork. They did not stop to ponder whether public provision in this regard would subvert the moral principle that children are responsible for the well-being of their parents. They did not stop to consider whether this measure would reduce the incentives for procreation and nourish the temptation to think of sexual intercourse as an indoor sport. They did not stop to think.”

The commandment from God to honor your mother and father, including taking care of them in their old age.  One had children as a hedge for the future if you will.  Now, it was up to the government to do that job.  It seemed easy enough, pay in and not worry.  As we ponder the implications a little further, this quote jumped off the page and struck me like a ton of bricks:

“In the process, the leaders of the American Catholic Church fell prey to a conceit that had long before ensnared a great many mainstream Protestants in the United States – the notion that public provision is somehow akin to charity – and so they fostered state paternalism and undermined what they professed to teach: that charity is an individual responsibility and that it is appropriate that the laity join together under the leadership of the Church to alleviate the suffering of the poor. In its place, they helped establish the Machiavellian principle that underpins modern liberalism – the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate other people’s money and redistribute it.”

Whoa!! It is an individual responsibility to carry out acts of charity.  We just write checks and help the poor whenever we see Sally Struthers on TV at night.  No, this statement has challenged me to see my individual relationships with the poor in spirit, the hungry, the naked, the widows and orphans in a sticky messy personal relationship.  How many times have I fed somebody, with food or encouragement?  How many times have I clothed somebody with sweaters or the breastplate of the Gospel?  It isn’t fun to look at this this way.

As the culture wars rage, I have to reflect upon my own actions.  Whether we want to acknowledge it, we die alone and we face judgement alone, without an outraged crowd bombarding the social networks with all kinds of misinformation.  Do I take the Pill of group action, leaving it to the government to care for aging parents and outcasts by taxing me and redistributing it or do I take the Pill of individual acts of charity, fearlessly engaging those I wouldn’t want to strike up a relationship?  I honesty don’t know.

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“…my huckleberry friend, “

I love Johnny Mercer’s lyrics.  In that one phrase he captures the character of Holly Golightly from “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”  His collaboration with Henry Mancini for “Moon River” won an Academy Award in 1961 and was the featured song in the soundtrack of that movie.  Huckleberry Finn was also a wanderer, a rascal, and an opportunist just like Holly.  Holly tells Paul, “You don’t have to worry.  I’ve taken care of myself for a long time.”  And that sums up so many people who are Huckleberry’s, not hicks but shamelessly self-reliant.  They became that way because they had to, they had no choice but to survive.   We are all vaguely familiar with Twain’s character Huckleberry Finn, who Twain describes as,  “In Huckleberry Finn I have drawn Tom Blankenship exactly as he was. He was ignorant, unwashed, insufficiently fed; but he had as good a heart as ever any boy had. His liberties were totally unrestricted. He was the only really independent person–boy or man–in the community, and by consequence he was tranquilly and continuously happy and envied by the rest of us. And as his society was forbidden us by our parents the prohibition trebled and quadrupled its value, and therefore we sought and got more of his society than any other boy’s.” – Mark Twain’s Autobiography.  And that sums up the character of Holly Golightly.  These characters litter our lives and the cinema as they are what we long to be and at the same time give us pause for all the good in our own lives since there is always that dark past in these people’s history.   There is usually a form of abandonment in their history, when they had to fend for themselves.

I have had many huckleberry friends in my life, some were wonderful friends, others saw me as another host from which they could take.  All in all I am glad to have huckleberry’s around, if for no other reason than to inspire wonderful lyrics.  You see I never knew that “Moon River” was written for the movie “Breakfast at Tiffany’s”   What a wonderful discovery!!

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Simply Super

Well the Super Bowl has come and gone.  For the first time in a long, long time Missy and I celebrated the Super Bowl together, alone!  No RHMS football team over with 12 racks of ribs, no nachos for the multitudes, no liters upon liters of Coke.  It was just the two of us.  So I fixed wings from one of my favorite cookbooks in the world, Recipes 123.  All the recipes use only three ingredients.  So use the best, freshest, and highest quality you can find.  In the wings it was a package of wings from the grocery store, 1/2 cup brown sugar, and 1/2 cup soy sauce.  I mixed the soy sauce and brown sugar and poured over the cut up wings on a cookie sheet.  I let that stand for about thirty minutes, put it into a 350 degree oven for thirty minutes, then put turned them before putting them upon a rack on the cookie sheet to let the sauce carmelize.  OMG they were good!  I had made these at Christmas for our “cocktail hour” and everybody loved them.  When I made them for the Super Bowl I ground some black pepper into the soy and sugar to give it some heat.  The game was great, the food was great, and the company was outstanding.  Quality still means something.  Cheers!

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Does the Marlboro Man ride again?

Gentle readers I had stopped posting because I felt like I had turned cranky and I didn’t want this to devolve into some kind of sentimental rant.  I am moved to post today when I saw the news that the Georgia Supreme Court had struck down a law banning those who assist suicide from advertising.   What makes this personal is a friend of my daughters was a lawyer involved in this case.  I had written her after reading a Facebook post she had made proclaiming the injustice of the law, and this was a child that had been in my Sunday School class.  But let me give you some background as to why that would prompt a reaction from me.  I have had several friends, more than I had realized when I began adding them up commit suicide.  Almost always it was a result of depression in one form or another, and by form I mean some of them were on antidepressants when they took their life.  It had been haunting to me, their despair reaching a level of throwing in the towel, even at our ripe middle age.   So this is a topic that is near and dear to my heart, and I wanted to understand her passion for this case.  She explained to me that it is about free speech.  Huh?  I thought commerce was regulated, and those activities deemed “unhealthy” were ESPECIALLY regulated.  Taking your life, after paying somebody to help you go through with it strikes me as the pinnacle of unhealthy activities.  So when I asked her if Phillip Morris et al could re-enter the advertising world under the “free speech” rights she shut down communication with me.  So I ask you, if it is okay to advertise to help somebody kill themselves, what possibly could top that as far as being unhealthy to you?


It is an interesting little circle of control, the bureaucrats give academics and “scientists” money to do research to find out things that are unhealthy.  They bring back the results to the bureaucrats who then proceed to regulate and hire more bureaucrats to do the regulating.  Sugar is the latest, last week the study came out that it needs to be regulated like alcohol, and drugs.  Before that was carbon.  Tobacco.  Fats.   If you think about it the list just perpetuates itself into the inner realms of our lives.  But, helping somebody take their life, for a fee I am assuming, is an act of free speech and cannot be limited by government according the Georgia Supreme court.  Makes me want to light up and ride off into the sunset.

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The Bells have stopped ringing

Christmastide has ended, and I am alone awaiting Missy’s return from her trip with the girls.  The silence after the cacophony of the holidays is like the fading tone of a bell rung.  This time reminds me of the days after you bring home your first baby, the joyous celebrations have subsided, the pink or blue balloons have been taken down and you are faced with the lifelong responsibility of the child.  I wonder if this is what Christmas is really like, the Christ child brought into our lives, the celebration and gathering of the clans to mark the occasion has passed, and then comes the quiet labor of assimilating this child into our lives.  We have to change our schedule, we have to make arrangements for care for the child if we are away, we have to be responsible in our decisions because the baby is totally dependant on us.  I think if we are honest about accepting Christ into our lives this is similar.

Anyway, my wife has done an incredible job raising our children, and it has been her total focus for the last twenty-six years.  She doesn’t have hobbies, or activities, or any distractions that draw her attention away, with the exception of tending to her mother during her battle with cancer.  So it pleases me to no end that three of our four children have found their calling, and are immersing themselves in said calling.  Our oldest has found her voice in art and craftmanship in the world of design and printing.  Our son is starting his new position in the corporate world and has begun the ascent of the corporate ladder, and I unabashedly am cheering for him to become  a “one-percenter” .  Our third child has discovered her passion for working with underprivileged children and especially in an after-school program setting.  So they have all found where they are going to be plugged in and are on their way to following their passion and all the success that happens when you do that.   As a parent this is the reward, the satisfaction of  “a job well done” knowing your chilren are on their way to becoming productive and inspired adults. 

This year is about me, I am able to change my paradigm because of the kids knowing with uncommon certainty what they are supposed to be doing because they are internally motivated toward the goals of their choosing.   So I have resolved to put me first.  I will make decisions based upon what is best, most convenient, and in line with my goals instead of accommodating everyone else first and working with what time or money is leftover for me.  This will be a monumental shift of priorities and won’t be easy.  I need to change the way I use time, and to allocate whatever time is needed for what I want to do,  and then and only then give away what time is left over.  It will be exciting, but a little like that new baby in the house, our situation is here to stay and we will have to deal with it, 24/7.  I hope it turns out as well as the last time we had new babies in the house.

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