“Be kind to one another…”

be kind

That quote is from the book of Ephesians, in the Bible. The above art is by Ramon Lo. It felt right, somehow. “Be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you.” Eph 4:32  I chose the art because even though it has these lovely swirls in it, I also saw it as being said in the midst of explosions. And quite rightly so, in the wake of all the violence we saw this weekend. Unfortunately, it was not just in Paris, but also in Beruit, Kenya, Lebanon… on and on it goes. The common thread? ISIS. Muslims.

I read the most fantastic article today. It appealed to me because it was full of history. I think it should be mandatory! “Christianity & Islam: Are We at War?” by Father Mitch Pacwa SJ (shared online by http://www.stmarkbeaman.org). It was full of information and perspective. I highly recommend it. I learned so much. And it fed my desire to write this all out.

I was chastised for putting up a meme on Facebook recently, by a friend. It made me think, and I am still thinking, and pondering the comment. The meme was posted by a site called, “Dysfunctional Vets.” Dysfunctional Vets Meme

I don’t particularly like violence. I abhor war, because I know up close and personal what being at war can do to a person. So I do not advocate violence. But as a country, a culture, a world, how do we stop a violent people? A people whose agenda requires them to obliterate their enemy? If one of theirs comes to know Christ and coverts, it is required that they be killed, and all those who allowed them to covert be killed. They do not consider Christians or Jews to be “of the book.” The article I mentioned above does a fantastic job of explaining all of the differences in the sects within the Muslim belief system. It is also very important to know that the Muslim faith has no “governing board,” no “ultimate authority” on what you have to believe and what you don’t. It is up to each independent believer to decide for themselves. So when they spout, “We are not a violent religion,” what they are saying is the particular Imam they follow, and the particular verses they believe in, do not espouse violence. But at least half of those who follow Mohammed are violent. And that is who is bombing, beheading, raping, killing, stealing, destroying… throughout the world. So how do we thwart this violence? Because I am fairly certain they will not stop until all of those who are not “of the book” are removed. And they do not believe in living side-by-side. They do not espouse co-existing. It is their way or death. And if you think they will allow a country to be Christian, to attend Christian Churches, have Christian artwork, books (including the Bible) under Muslim Sharia Law, you are kidding yourself. Ask someone in Syria… ask why they are fleeing by the millions.

The Syrian refugees who are trying to escape, the families ravaged by war, the Christians who flee because they know to stay means execution – those are the refugees I would help. Those are the people I would welcome. But has anyone looked at who is coming in?Have you watched in Germany? Switzerland? France? Have you seen the demographics of the refugees storming the borders in Europe? If you can peek through the political correctness and main-stream-media hype, you will see the vast majority are men and boys. Now, sit back and ask yourself why that is. I am not suggesting they are all militant jihadists. (But that does bear pondering over). What I am suggesting is that they do not bring their wives or daughters because women don’t count for much in their culture. They take care of their goats better than their daughters. A wife is disposable, tradable, and definitely replaceable. From what was once a matriarchal society to what the Islamic countries have now become, insofar as the rights of women and girls, it makes you sick to your stomach (especially to me, because I am a woman and a Christian).

In one town in Germany, home to about 100 people, they’ve had 1000s of refugees arrive.(Here’s one link: http://www.wnd.com/2015/10/german-town-of-100-must-take-1000-syrian-migrants/). It’s wreaking havoc as people across Europe try to deal with all these refugees. And Obama wants us to do the same here. And frankly, it scares me. We can barely manage to care for our own. We have homeless veterans who are not cared for. We have the mentally ill who are left to roam the streets. Runaway teens, drug users, the homeless for whom we do not care. We have joblessness already. How are we expected to take in more people, with no discernible job skills, into our already-broken and overloaded system? As a former welfare office manager, I can attest to how we are not ready to care for refugees. We can’t care for the people born here, or already living here. And we are a country that keeps raising its debt ceiling, printing worthless money, and hasn’t had a balanced budget in recent memory. I only wish the government would allow us citizens to balance our private debts and checkbook like they do!! This is a country that devalues human life so much, it is perfectly legal to kill unborn and recently-born children. How are we to care for these refugees? Who will care for them? Will you? Your church?Will you willingly house them? Feed them? Clothe them? What about that disabled veteran who fought for us over in the Middle East, who has to live on the streets or in shelters? Are you caring for him? If not, how can you expect to care for the hundreds of thousands of refugees Obama wants to allow in? Is your city, your town, your neighborhood ready?

“Let your gentle spirit be known to all men. The Lord is near. Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.” Philippians 4: 4-6

I know my friend was surprised by the meme about violence. Because I am generally a Philippians 4 person. I really am. But historically, we have battled with these sorts of zealots before. Many times. As the parent of a veteran, my hackles rise when I am expected to bring in people to care for, when we don’t care for our vets, let alone people who have no discernible skill sets or ways to support themselves. There is so much deeply imbedded in how we divvy out our benefits; costs and Federal requirements no one has a clue about. Did you know that if a certain percentage of the population speaks a specific language, and English is not the primary language spoken in the home, the state requires that all documentation be provided in their own language? That each public entity serving that populace must hire workers who speak that language and are part of that demographic? That banks, landowners who rent, service agencies (even car dealerships, etc) have all documentation available in that language? And it is based on the most current census numbers. Except when the Federal Government sends in hundreds of thousands of refugees from Arabic-only speaking countries. Do you realize the expense incurred for having to translate everything into the various Arabic dialects? And having to hire Arab speakers at all government agencies? Banks? Doctor’s offices? Hospitals? On and on the burden goes.

No, I do not advocate violence. I truly do not. But quite often it is the sole way evil can be stopped. We’ve done it before. Read history. And do the other half of the Muslim believers, those who are bombing places like Paris, expect an outcome wherein they take over? Well, yes; yes they do. They actually think that by bombing, breeding, and otherwise infiltrating the Western World, they will take it over and the Muslim belief system and Sharia Law will rule the world. How do we thwart that, and stop it in its tracks? (Read some history on Vlad the Impaler).

I'll see you

I tend towards being a prepper, and even though we haven’t prepped much, we still believe the ideas are pretty good. Living where we do, it makes lots of sense just from a natural disaster point of view, let alone civil and/or international unrest. It may be necessary with weather, earthquakes, and now violence. And I do favor open-carry laws, and definitely defend the 2nd Amendment. I do not believe we need a national registry for gun owners, or that the government should come and take our weapons from us (look what happened in Paris, a gun-free zone). And I heartily support our troops who are serving and all those who have served before. (Thank you for your service). I do not want to harm the already-harmed refugee families fleeing the enemy – Islam in its ugliest forms. Most especially Christians fleeing from Islamic terrorism. But how do we fix this? Our country’s landscape will forever be changed with this many refugees coming in, all at once. It will no longer be Apple Pie and the American Way. It just won’t be able to remain what we all have loved.

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This weekend, I watched the TV coverage of the Paris attacks and I wept. Why? Because this world is nothing like the world I was born into, or even what it was 15-20 years ago. I cried because I lived through VietNam. The entire saga of the Middle East, historically, and in my time, the Hostage Crisis during the 1972 Olympics clear through to when Operation Desert Storm began in earnest, up to and including lives lost this week. We have a long history in the Middle East. They are against every thing we believe in and stand for. And I cried this weekend because I realized my 16-year-old was too young to remember 9/11 – this was his first view of an Islamic attack on a free people. He only watches YouTube videos from 9/11. I cried because I have no certainty for his future without bloodshed. And when I thought of my little grandbabies, I wept even more. What is the world we will leave to them? What will the world become, my country become, in the next 5-10 years? Will we recover from Obama? We will stop this modern Horde? Can we bring this world, this country, our culture back? I am doubtful. Historically, they were referred to as the Muslim Horde clear back to 710 AD.  [There’s a great article I tried to cite, but for some reason it didn’t let me.  The link is this: http://www.militaryhistoryonline.com/medieval/articles/muslimhorde.aspx  The article was written by Robert C. Daniels (I recommend it highly, too!)]. Hordes tended to come “en masse” and obliterate their enemies. It has been repeated over and over again, throughout history, back to Mohammed himself (570 AD – 632 AD).

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I still think we need to be a Christian people and that we desperately need to cling to the tenets of our faith. But we also need to be prepared to defend our faith, our freedoms, our culture, our way of life. Because if the sects of the Muslim faith who are perpetrating all these atrocities are allowed to continue unchecked, this world, as you and I know it, will no longer exist. Yes, pray for France, for Paris. But also pray for Beruit, Kenya, Lebanon, the entire Middle East… and our free world. Because I firmly believe these people “of the book” are determined that all those of us not “of the book” need to be exterminated. I don’t see a peaceful option out of this. I am so tired of the nice guys being trampled upon. But to my faith, I hungrily cling, as a man in a parched desert seeks water, “O God, You are my God; I shall seek You earnestly; My soul thirsts for You, my flesh yearns for You, In a dry and weary land where there is no water.” Psalm 63:1

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“Rejoice with the man whom you envy…”

“You will be able to check envy if you rejoice with the man whom you envy whenever he rejoices, and grieve whenever he grieves.”

St. Maximos the Confessor

Troy PalomaluNo, that is not St. Maximos, the Confessor! It is a photo of a Pittsburgh Steeler football player, Troy Palomalu.  He had this quote on his Facebook page the day of the NFL playoff games.  I thought it was rather insightful and wanted to share it.

I have been contemplating the role sports play in our lives, especially in light of the impending Superbowl game.  So many people in the world barely understand American football, let alone bother with the players.  For our house, we all love football.  My husband is an avid Denver Broncos fan, and I have been a Kansas City Chiefs fan since I can remember, and recently fell in love with the Seattle Seahawks, as well as other Seattle teams.  My oldest son has labeled me a “bandwagon” fan and accuses me of leaving my team.  He often says it in such a way, that it is, rather hurtful, even if said in fun and teasing.  In fact, for Christmas, my daughter-in-law (his wife) made me a reversible blanket; one side is red with Chiefs’ logos all over it; the other side is blue with Seahawks’ logos all over it.  She told me, “That way, whoever is playing, you can show that side.”  It was pretty funny; even if it was teasing me (and I love it – it’s so warm and cuddly!).  Right now, the Broncos blanket hangs over my husband’s recliner, and the Seahawks’ side of my blanket shows atop of the couch where I sit.  All that being said, a Bronco-Seahawks Super Bowl should be interesting!

But the reason I am bringing all this up is that emotions have become very taut and strong over this.  There was an interview with a defensive player that went viral, because he spoke rather conceitedly about his talents and lambasted a player from the opposing team.  The loosing team is now accusing the ref’s of all sorts of mis-calls, saying the game was robbed from them.  It has created furor online and in the media.  Major media outlets are abuzz!  But why is that?  Why do we even care?  Why do we pay attention to it?

When we lived in the greater Seattle area, the Churches lamented sports’ seasons because the pews would be empty if a “big game” was on TV or being played in town.  If the sun was out, people were outside and not in Church.  The first snowfall, no one was in Church but out skiing or enjoying other winter sports.  Almost any excuse to not attend Church.  Lots of quotes about, “My church is nature,” or “I pray better outdoors.”  Pretty lame excuses to my way of thinking.  The Church we were married in, in Colorado, had windows all across the back and they would open the drapery if the snow was falling or it was a good view of the Rocky Mountains.  In Seattle, the local RC parish had an adoration chapel that was largely glass. It was very pretty.  But there was no sense of “church” or being in a place of worship…it was just greenery and trees, flowers and wildlife.  Yes, those are things of God, but they are not, to my way of thinking, God’s temple. Below is a photo of just the upper walls and ceiling of a Church in Russia.  That is a Church!

ST. PETERSBURG, RUSSIA FEDERATION - JUNE 29:Interior of Church Savior on Spilled Blood . Picture takes in Saint-Petersburg, inside Church Savior on Spilled Blood   on June 29, 2012.Troy was quoting St. Maximos the Confessor to show that he was rejoicing with his fellow football players, and not envying them or wanting to take their glory from them, but rather, to share it with them.  We all grieve when players are injured, regardless of the team they play for.  No one wants to truly, and honestly, see someone hurt.  But why all the emphasis on sports teams and/or players?  And why the heightened emotion regarding all they do and what they do, how they do it, and who wins?  What is being adored here?

There is an old saying, “Those who do not know history are destined to repeat it.” (Edmund Burke).  When I look at football stadiums, when I see crowds devolving into maniacs of sound and even witness fighting in the stands (I recall one soccer stadium actually falling apart and partially collapsing on the fans, as a result of fighting by the self-same fans) I am drawn back in time, back to the era of the Roman Gladiator.  The Roman Coliseum was developed to enhance the viewing pleasure of the Caesars in power.  They would hold all sorts of contests of skill and strength, and often to the death.  These forums were also the scene of untold horror for those who had lost favor with the ruling classes.  These coliseums existed throughout the Roman empire.  Some were small, some were very large, but all held the Senatorial crowds in thrall of the events carried on there.  Eventually, these stadiums became the scene of the torture and death of Christians, who refused the Gods of Rome and devoutly gave their lives for Christ and His Church. When you look at the historical events held in coliseums around the world, you cannot but note the similarities.  Our football, baseball, soccer, hockey, basketball players (and all the other popular sports) are held in the same esteem and fame as the gladiators were.  We root for them; we bet on their talent and the outcome of their “contests;” we fete them at banquets and we foist honors upon them (Hall of Fame, Super Bowl Champs, etc).  We hold events where all the people can come and watch one team, or one player, defeat another.  And the crowds that attend these things are boisterous and unruly, much like the Senatorial crowds at the coliseums in ancient Rome.  Because of the expense of attending these events, it has also become a rich-man’s (or at the very least, upper middle class man’s) event, just as in Rome when only the Senatorial classes could attend.  Even baseball games!  I remember days of getting into Angel Stadium (newly constructed) for $5 and having a hot dog and beer (bad college student that I was) sitting in the nose-bleed seats during a weekday afternoon.  My roommate and I would take our books and study up there, all alone, watching some baseball.  But no more.  A hot dog and beer can cost you $25 or more, let alone the cost of admission.  And where does this leave our culture? Where are our values?

Worth Christ dying forOne of the hardest things for me is to be able to just enjoy watching a sport without the vehemence of others ruining it; of having to be careful of what I say, what I post on my Facebook wall, or how I approach the fact that the team I’ve been rooting for has won.  Because the temperature got pretty darn hot in regards to these playoffs.  The vehemence is what has surprised me.  Trust me, it has nothing to do with having the Seahawks make the Super Bowl.  I truly believe the Broncos will win and I am not usually rooting for the Championship team, so am not accustomed to “backing the winning horse.”  I just enjoyed watching the games.  I can honestly walk away from it because I have security; I know sports and whomever is playing does not enervate my life.  My life is not lived for sports.  It is lived for salvation in Christ.  I love God first, my family second.  I am not even sure where a team would make the list of who I love, if at all.  It is ENTERTAINMENT only.  And not my sole source of entertainment, nor my major source of entertainment.  And even as I type this, I know of people that I could not talk with about any of this because they are so angry, so upset.  On the surface, all is fine. But if the subject would be brought up, the power behind their emotions is a little frightening; the quickness of turning to anger and hotly contesting the entire issue! I am frightened for the confrontation (another instance where silence, as espoused by Elder Thaddeus, gets me through the rough stuff) and so I avoid it at all costs.  And my fear is for their soul, because they are living without the guidance of a life of faith.  They love their families; they love their country; they pay taxes and are decent folks.  But they do not live for Christ.  They have no faith.  And so, sports teams, celebrities, and reality TV has supplanted, and become, their God.

If we are listening to, or paying attention to history, we should all be a little afraid.  At the very least, we should be aware.  Our culture in comparison to Roman culture, and its demise, are eerily similar.  The patterns of despots is also similar.  The way our culture aggrandizes things our parents and grandparents would have abhorred is, in itself, frightening.  Yes, these things happened in darkened rooms and behind closed doors.  However, it was not on jumbo-trons or on big-screen TVs in homes for all to watch. It was not common for young people to adore sports figures and not know basic facts about God.  It was not common for families to steer their children away from vocations to the priesthood or convent life; it was an honor to have at least one child choose a vocation.   It was common for entire families, every Sunday, to attend Church – as a family.  Young people lived at home until they got married.  Young people expected to be poor and have lean years before success, not moving into homes their parents took decades to own.  People took their duty as citizens seriously – they were educated about issues and candidates and they voted.  What is happening?  Why are we so apart from our Christian roots and why have we walked away from our faith?

Abba Agathon

As Abba Agathon warns us, no other labor is as difficult as prayer.  The enemy knows this and is on the prowl for our souls.  Right now, our abhorrent attention the the things of this world has colored our attention to the things of God.  We have friends who have been married for 9 or 10 years.  They have 6 children in their home, all under the age of 12.  They are foster parents, right now caring for two who are definitely a challenge.  They were both married before, outside of Church, and in some difficult situations.  But the thing they wanted the most in life was to share the Eucharist together.  And so they have spent months regularizing their marriage in the eyes of the Church and this weekend, they will have a crowning, with all their children, family, and friends around them.  Why do I mention this? Because it is something bright, something positive, something Godly in a world going haywire.  Two people want to stand next to one another, in a Godly marriage, and receive Christ in Holy Communion.  And guess what?  They have no clue what teams are playing who, who is in what sort of bowl, and they are deliriously happy! They are letting God rule their lives, outside of the rhythm of this crazy world.  And I am so glad to be a witness to it.

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So today, today I resolve to carry on in silence and not tempt the tempers by bringing up sports!  Today I resolve to pray for those who have lost their way and for those struggling to make their way.  I always taught my children to be “sticks in the river, standing strong against the current.”  I want to stand strong for my faith, to share how I feel and what I believe in a soft, gentle, loving way.  I want all of us to love God first, because if we can order things properly in our lives, we can all then enjoy these sporting entertainments, and keep them where they belong.  And they belong in context to a life lived in faith.  And then perhaps we can all live more according to how St. Maximos encourages to live, “You will be able to check envy if you rejoice with the man whom you envy whenever he rejoices, and grieve whenever he grieves.”

St. Maximos the ConfessorSt. Maximos the Confessor