“Our once great western Christian civilization is dying. If this matters to followers of Jesus Christ, then we must set aside our denominational differences and work together to strengthen the things that remain and reclaim what has been lost. Evangelicals and Catholics must stand together to re-establish that former Christian culture and moral consensus. We have the numbers and the organization but the question is this: Do we have the will to win this present spiritual battle for Jesus Christ against secularism? Will we prayerfully and cooperatively work toward a new Christian spiritual revival ― or will we choose to hunker down in our churches and denominationalisms and watch everything sink into the spiritual and moral abyss of a New Dark Age?” - Mark Davis Pickup

Friday, August 31, 2007

For Mark Pickup's latest blog entry, "A princess and a saint" go to http://markpickup.blogspot.com

Thursday, August 30, 2007

International anti-euthanasia organization comments on Mark Pickup's blog reflections

The following appears on the Compassionate Healthcare International website http://www.chninternational.com/AUTHORS%20LINK.htm

MARK PICKUP Disability activist who has MS

Mark Pickup is a Canadian writer. His commentaries are widely published throughout North America. He is incurably ill and disabled with multiple sclerosis.
Mark Pickup is a much sought after speaker. His writings are both inspirational and motivational and have been widely published. If blogs were being rated on scale of one to ten, I would rate his blog a perfect ten. Anyone who struggles with their health will profit from reading his articles. Mark speaks eloquently and softly from his heart and bravely asks and answers some of life's most difficult questions. Like Rembrandt used his eyes and brush, Mark uses his eyes and then pens those visions down for us to read...and before our very eyes appear a vision of remarkable beauty that perhaps we have never thought of in the way Mark has. Consider this example from a recent post wherein Mark gives us a most visual imprint. He begins with a question:

"Have you ever wondered why God put his precious gift of life in such fragile packaging? If life is so sacred and precious - as the Scriptures proclaim - then why did God place it in bodies made of flesh and bones? Skin and flesh tear and bleed; bones and hearts break."

At that point, I paused, I was visually stuck on his words "such fragile packaging" and the picture of the small child, with skin that can 'tear and bleed', and whose bones and heart can be broken. I read on, Mark asks another deep question,

"Why didn't God encase his precious gift of life in bodies as tough as granite with the human psyche safely guarded, as though behind some fortress? Such thoughts occasionally arise within me from a desire to protect loved ones from life's pains and sorrows. After all, there would be no need to wipe away tears if none are shed. But then, humans encased in bodies like granite, with hearts like stone, would be of no use to God or man. Granite is impenetrable. Hearts of stone would never ache, break or melt."

The above is a small snip from, Love will ultimately prevail dated Wednesday, April 4, 2007.

Visit Mark Pickup's blog reflections often at http://humanlifematters.blogspot.com/ or http://markpickup.blogspot.com/ .

Monday, August 27, 2007

Choose Life - in all its states

Alberta Pro-Life Society sent me a link to the most profound 1 minute video called "In the Blink of an Eye." (See http://www.aish.com/movies/blinkofeye.asp) . It moved me beyond words. I sent it to the HumanLifeMatters email address book. Go to the web link and view it for yourself.

A Jewish man named Dr. Rachamin Melamed-Cohen is completely immobilized with Lou Gehrig’s disease. He exhorts us to "Choose Life." Why would someone in such a difficult physical position choose life? The world of modern bioethics would assert he does not have a life worth living, that his quality of life is insufficient – an yet he says only one thing: “Choose life.” Why?

Dr. Melamed-Cohen has said elsewhere,
"I feel at times that G-d has allowed me to live in order to show the world that even in such a condition one can continue to be creative and contribute to society... The message of Judaism is that one must struggle until the last breath of life. Until the last moment, one has to live and rejoice and give thanks to the Creator." (See Rabbi Yisrael Rutman, Mercy Redefined, http://www.torah.org/features/firstperson/mercyredefined.html)

As a Christian disabled with MS, I am in complete agreement with Dr. Melamed-Cohen's profoundly simple statement.
Every life has value, not just healthy lives. Life’s greatest teacher is life itself. Life is a journey that involves the ecstasy of mountain tops as well as the shadows of deep valleys. Just as God said to Joshua, He also says to you and me:

“Be strong and of good courage; do not be afraid, nor be dismayed, for the Lord your God is with you wherever you go.” (Joshua 1.9.)

We must accept the path given to us with faith that God will be with us until we reach the Gates of the Celestial City and stand before Christ. Saint Paul told Timothy:

“This saying is trustworthy: If we have died with him we shall also live with him; if we persevere we shall also reign with him.” (2Timothy 2.11-12).

The world does not understand the spiritual refining capacity of human suffering. The Scriptures speak of suffering in terms of a refiner’s fire purifying precious metal (Job 23.10, Psalm 66.10, Malachi 3.3.)
Saint Peter said,

“In this you rejoice, although now for a little while you may have to suffer through various trials, so that the genuineness of your faith, more precious than gold that is perishable even though tested by fire, may prove to be for praise, glory, and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ. Although you have not seen him you love him; even though you do not see him now yet believe in him, you rejoice with an indescribable and glorious joy, as you attain the goal of (your) faith, the salvation of your souls.” (1 Peter 1.6-9.)
Suffering produces qualities God wants us to develop -- like perseverance, character, and hope that does not disappoint. Why? "[B]ecause the love of God has been poured out in our hearts by the Holy Spirit who was given to us.” (Roman 3.3-5)

We must not despair. We know we will one day stand face to face before Christ and we will know just like we are known (1 Corinthians 13.12-13).

Mark Pickup

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The human journey

August 21st 2007 was an uneventful day for most people, but not me. My fifth grandchild was born. To most people, baby Erin Marie is just another wrinkled, nondescript newborn--but not to me. She’s my granddaughter! Baby Erin (and millions of other newborns) represent hope for the future.

You may remember the 3-D ultra sound image of Erin at six months gestation I included in a previous blog entry this past June. It generated a lot of responses from readers asking if they could share it with others as an example of the dazzling new technology of chronicling life in utero. If you missed it, here’s another copy.

Although Erin made her grand entrance on August 21st, her humanity began long before that date. From the point of her conception, Erin became a member of the greater Human Family, just like we all did at the point we were conceived.

The human life journey is represented by words like embryo, fetus, newborn, child, teenager, young adult, middle-age, elderly and aged. Each phase is marked by physical and mental changes but the humanity of each individual remains intact throughout every stage.

The exact day a baby became a toddler is hard to pinpoint. It’s not when the baby takes his or her first step or necessarily when they walk. It happens almost imperceptibly. One day the parent realizes their baby is a toddler. It is the first of many realizations.

One day, years from now, when Erin is a mature adult, she will notice that her mother is growing older. Perhaps Erin will notice crows-feet lines around her mother’s eyes or the first hints of grey hair at her mother’s temples. Whatever it is, Erin will probably be saddened by the realization. She will undoubtedly wonder how she missed her mom’s signs of aging until that day. It seemed to happen overnight. But it did not. A gradual transformation was occurring all along, unnoticed (or denied) until then. It will bear silent witness to the fact that time is slipping away, even for Erin.

Protecting life journeys
Growth and aging are gradual and continual regardless of when it is noticed. They are the two constants every member of the Human Community experiences in their life journeys.

If there is such a thing as a human community to which we all belong (and there is), then each phase of human development, each individual, must be protected and cared for by our mutual nurture of each other. Our collective embrace must encompass life beginning in the womb through to its end nearing the tomb. The greater human community depends upon it.

This concept is what the great English metaphysical poet and divine John Donne (1572-1631) meant when he penned those immortal words:

No man is an island, entire of its self; every man is a piece of the Continent, a part of the main; …any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in Mankind; And therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;
it tolls for thee.

To arbitrarily interrupt another’s life continuum is an assault on the greater community and weakens our bonds of interdependence.

Abortion is an abomination because it cuts off the possibility of a future, and the prospect of growth, for the particular individual in question. It is the preposterous presumption that an individual – just beginning its life journey – can be sacrificed because it will inconvenience another life further along the same continuum. Abortion is the denial of hope and interdependent community. Abortion weakens the bonds of the human community, and severs human connectedness for one life and frays it for another. The same is true about euthanasia of the sick or aged.

A year ago my 92 year old mother was dying of cancer. During the last few days of her life she ate and drank nothing. She was unconscious. The nursing staff asked if the family still wanted meals brought for her. I said, “Yes” even though the meals remained uneaten, only to be taken away later. I did not want the routine maintained for my mother’s sake – she was unaware of the meals being brought – I wanted the nurses to continue bringing the meals for their sake. Even though it did not for my mother I believe it might have helped to refine the humanity of her nurses.

By going through the motions of bringing meals to an unresponsive, dying old woman was like making small stand against the notion that there is such a thing as care that is futile. There is no futile care, only futile treatments. Food and water are not medical treatment.

Today, my granddaughter baby Erin Marie came home from the hospital to the loving and ready home of her parents. I will do my small bit, as her grandfather, to help nurture her through her childhood to be a well adjusted young woman capable and willing to participate in the gentle art of human nurture to others she encounters.

The need for care and nurture never stops from the beginning of life until death arrives and the human journey is over.

Mark Pickup

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

Opus Dei - a work of God.

I was having a telephone discussion with Wesley J. Smith. He’s a good friend and confidant. At one point during our conversation, he asked me if I had ever considered joining Opus Dei.* As a matter of fact, I have flirted with the idea; I’ve been receiving their electronic newsletter for a few years. With Wesley’s prompting, I attended an Opus Dei meeting. Quite frankly, I did not know what to expect.

The Opus Dei website says,

Opus Dei is a Catholic institution founded by Saint Josemaría Escrivá. Its mission is to spread the message that work and the circumstances of everyday life are occasions for growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.” (see http://www.opusdei.ca/)

The church where the Opus Dei meeting was held had a number of people quietly praying before the Blessed Sacrament. A priest delivered a half-hour reflection. He spoke about time: The difference between wasted time and time well spent serving God, our families and communities. Good stuff. There was opportunity for confession for interested participants.

In an adjacent room to the chapel, an Opus Dei member gave his insightful thoughts about prayer. Then there was more meditation in the chapel before the Blessed Sacrament and a final reflection by the priest to assist those present in their Christian walks.

There were no sinister monks (albino or otherwise) lurking in the shadows. That was the bigoted anti-Christian fiction of Dan Brown’s novel The Da Vinci Code.

I think I might join Opus Dei. Granted, I have been unable to work in years because of multiple sclerosis. Still, I believe that even my circumstances of everyday life -- relegated to a wheelchair -- can be fertile ground for growing closer to God. Already in my personal disability journey spanning more than 20 years, I have been able to serve others facing the consequences of catastrophic disabilities or chronic illnesses. And in my small and impotent way, I hope I’ve been able to serve society. Perhaps my service to society takes the form of bearing witness to inviolable dignity of all human life – even imperfect human life, like me.

A contribution to make?

We, the incurably ill and disabled, are not life unworthy of life. We have contributions to bring to the table of the Human Community, even if it is only by our presence.

We can challenge society to include those who may difficult to include, or those who bring discomfort to sophisticated or polite company. We call those around us to a higher standard of love and friendship. We can knock at the door of mainstream society and demand admission and reasonable accommodation so that we can find our rightful places in the world. If the disabled and incurably ill despair of life, we need people to lift us up as indispensable members of society and worthy of life. We do not need the abandonment of a utilitarian society eagerly agreeing to assist with our suicides, or euthanasia of those who can't communicate to defend themselves.

Contrary to what bioethics may promote, our rightful places in the world are not graves or crematoriums.

A man like me is increasingly viewed as a liability to society. I need an organization like Opus Dei to encourage and mentor me to use my circumstances of everyday life for “growing closer to God, for serving others, and for improving society.”
Mark Pickup
* Opus Dei (Latin for the work of God).