“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, February 28, 2014

CHRISTIANS IN A DARKENING AGE SUCH AS THIS

http://www.internationalwallofprayer.org/A-010-Holocaust-Memorial-Day-Stover.html

If you go to the site noted above, you will find a story entitled “Sing a little louder” ― an account of German Christian detachment from the Jewish holocaust in the second World War.  As the story goes, a small German country church was located near a rail line that transported Jews to certain death in a concentration camp. Each Sunday the congregation would hear the train passing their church with occasional cries of people in the cattle-cars. Their response was to sing hymns louder to drown out the sound.  I first heard this story a few years ago whether it’s true or not, I don’t know but it sickened me.

DISDAIN FOR CHRISTIANS: What we do know from the historical record is that much of Germany’s Protestant Christians were too timid to stand up against anti-human racial doctrines and anti-Christian declarations of the Nazis.  Adolph Hitler’s disdain was captured in a comment he made about German Protestants:

“You can do anything you want with them, ... . They will submit. . . .They are insignificant little people, submissive as dogs, and they sweat with embarrassment when you talk to them.”[1]

There were, of course, shining and courageous examples of Protestant resistance to the Nazi agenda, such as Franz Hildebrandt, Reverend Martin Niemöller of the Church of Jesus Christ in the affluent Berlin suburb of Dahlem, Dietrich Bonhoeffer.  Pastor Niemöller and the congregation became symbols of resistance to Nazi racial doctrines and anti-Christian declarations of Nazi leaders.  They internalized Jesus’ exhortations to be “salt and light” in a hostile world? It helped to explain Nazi contempt for the German Protestant church.

But for the most part, a majority of Protestants were too timid to resist the radical cultural climate of Nazi Germany. For years I could not understand such shocking behaviour of Christ’s followers. But then I remember that the Disciples abandoned Christ in his hour of need and Peter denied Him.

How can I be critical of German Christians of the Nazi era when many Christians of my era were silent, during the 1970s – 1990s, about the abortion holocaust, and many still have not found their tongues? How can I stand in judgement of others when I championed the abortion of my first child?  We are all sinful, weak people who must confess our sin. With God’s help, perhaps we will learn from the history of violence against the weak and stand up en masse against the next assault against the vulnerable: Euthanasia and assisted suicide. Put away timidity or indifference, fellow follower of Christ! Put on the armor of God to do battle with the forces of evil that are here!

Take courage, God is with us. Stand and militate for the sanctity of every human life. The sick, dying and disabled do not need euthanasia or assisted suicide, they need proper care and love. People do not need to live and die in unbearable pain.  21st Century pain management can relief all physical pain

Write to your elected officials at state, provincial and national
levels and demand life affirming social policies and legislation be enacted to ensure quality palliative care and pain relief for people when they need it. Develop proactive church outreaches to families facing end-of-life issues or develop respite services for families living with disabilities. Include them in your church life. Develop Christian hospice services that always affirms life and never ends or denies life.

Do not listen to those who tell you to downplay or hide your Christian faith. We must be unremitting witnesses for the Jesus Christ who is the light and life of humanity during this dark and terrible juncture in North American history, and always. -- Mark   





[1] William L. Shirer, The Nightmare Years: 1930-40, (Boston, Little, Brown and Company, 1984) p.152.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

FIRST NATIONAL SYMPOSIUM ON EUTHANASIA AND ASSISTED SUICIDE

MINNEAPOLIS, MINNESOTA, 2-3 May 2014: The First National Symposium on Euthanasia and Assisted Suicide. Register here - https://www.imposeddeath.org/index.php/conferences/minnesota-coference/ 




This symposium is a "must attend" for people of good will who are concerned about stemming the tide of euthanasia and assisted suicide that is rapidly gaining acceptance across North America.  


Pied pipers of assisted suicide
The pied pipers of death are promoting euthanasia and assisted suicide; they will lead vulnerable people to their graves under the seduction of so-called "death with dignity."  Legalization of assisted suicide of terminally/incurably ill people and the disabled has gained a toehold in Oregon and Washington state. Other American states are being pressured to accept assisted suicide. (I fear those states that reject euthanasia through their legislatures will have it imposed upon them through activist courts.)


In Canada, the province of Quebec is on the cusp of legalizing assisted suicide under the wicked euphemism "medical aid in dying." The Liberal Party of Canada has adopted a resolution to decriminalize assisted suicide if elected.  It's really quite frightening for people like me to know we are so unwelcome in society. 

As a chronically ill and disabled person, I plead with North America to reject euthanasia and assisted suicide. I know what's in store for people like me if we become suicidal. We will not get suicide prevention counselling -- that's reserved for the healthy and able-bodied -- we will get help killing ourselves. We will be disposed of with the utmost civility.

Euthanasia and assisted suicide are not death with dignity. They are ways of culling the sick and disabled from society. I grieve for what is in store for people like me, but I also grieve for a once great Christian society that is dying. This is just a symptom of that terrible reality.  --- Mark


Wojciech Kilar, Requiem Father Kolbe





Monday, February 24, 2014

THOU SHALT NOT COVET

I've been guilty the sin of envy. The last of the Ten Commandments given to Moses by God was not to covet. More precisely the Commandment states: “You shall not covet your neighbor’s house. You shall not covet your neighbor’s wife, nor his male or female slave, nor his ox or ass, nor anything else that belongs to him.”

The Hebrew word for covet is hamad and means “to have a strong desire for.” Coveting is an internal sin. One Bible commentary states, “Coveting was not merely an appreciation of something from a distance, but an uncontrolled, inordinate, selfish desire. This tenth command governed an internal matter: the sin of coveting occurred in the mind. This demonstrated that God intended the Israelites not only to avoid the actions named in the previous commands, but also to turn away from the evil thoughts that led to those actions.” (Nelson's New Illustrated Bible Commentary, 1999).

Let me explain how I have violated this commandment. It has been a long time since I coveted or envied other people’s houses or cars ― but I often find myself jealous of other men’s health and physical abilities. When I became disabled with multiple sclerosis in 1984, my children were only five and seven years old. During those early years with the disease there were such wild fluctuations between attacks and remissions that I was either too horrified by what was happening to me or too afraid to be envious. Looking back at the first years with my disease, I don’t remember jealousy being an issue (although I’m sure there must have been times when it was). The issue of envy, coveting or jealousy really became a spiritual issue for me later when I had longer periods of remissions from the MS to contemplate my predicament and losses. 

My sin became particularly acute after I became a grandfather. By that time my MS had changed to one of slow degeneration and I found myself stewing internally. To see other grandfathers swimming, skiing, bicycling or rough-housing with their grandchildren made me jealous. I watched from the sidelines as other men headed off camping with their grandchildren; I sat in my wheelchair burning with jealousy and thought, “Why can’t I be doing that too?!”

I told this interior sin of mine to a friend. He replied, “Well, that’s understandable.” I suppose he was trying to be kind but his comment was irrelevant to the sin. Understanding why someone sins does not lesson, erase or mitigate the sin. You may suspect that a childhood of deprivation may have caused a woman to become a kleptomaniac, but she is still a thief. A loveless marriage may contribute to a man having an affair, but he is still guilty of adultery. Sin is sin.

The reason why we sin is less important than recognizing when we sin and responding with confession and repentance. The grace of my Baptism does not inoculate me from the weaknesses of my nature that lead me toward sin and evil.

We are all guilty of violating God’s law: The gravity of sin – whatever it may be – must not be downplayed or discounted. Sin is destructive to our prayer life and Christian growth, our human relationships, and our relationship to Christ. Sin separates us from God. By Christ’s Passion, crucifixion and resurrection we are offered forgiveness of sin. It’s there for the asking through faith is Christ's atoning sacrifice.
  
For me to allow jealousy, envy or covetousness to take root in my heart is really to doubt the sovereignty and goodness of God. Something far better awaits me in heaven. That should be enough to live contentedly here.

The writer of Hebrews said, “Let your conduct be without covetousness; be content with such things as you have. For He Himself has said, I will never leave you nor forsake you. Perhaps this passage deals specifically with material possessions but I place it in context with my reality of physical incapacity. I must not let my temptation to be jealous of other men turn me bitter. Be grateful for those things I still have? Yes, I still can get about with my wheelchair and my family accepts me as I am. They have not forsaken me and nor has God.


My life is rich and there is every reason to be content. Forgive me Lord for my discontentment.



Thursday, February 20, 2014

FOOLS FOR CHRIST

Saint Gregory of Nyssa
I recently read the homily of Saint Gregory of Nyssa (?-386) on Ecclesiastes. The essence of his message was that Christ is our Head, and wise people keep their eyes upon Him.  To the world this is foolishness because it does not understand that a living Christ really exists and that He is humanity’s final reality.  To worldly understanding, there is no final reality—only individual perceptions of God, or some life force, or no perception of God at all.  People who look to a living Christ – the second member of a Triune God are considered fools to the prevailing secular world.

A tough sell

When God told Moses to lead the Israelites out of Egypt, God identified Himself as “I AM WHO I AM” (Exodus 3.14.) Moses must have felt foolish traipsing in to Pharaoh under the authority of the great I AM to say “Thus says the Lord God of Israel: “Let my people go, that they may hold a feast in the wilderness.” Pharaoh didn’t warm to the idea. (Exodus 5.1-4.)

Christ identified Himself as “I AM” and got an equally cool reception (John 8.58-59).   The crowd wasn’t ready to receive God made Man: The Incarnation! (John1.1&14a)

The Christ who is real

God is who He is, regardless of what the crowds want. The living Christ is real. He is. And this is the Christ that St. Gregory told us to keep in our sight. The world does not understand this; the secular mind thinks Saint Gregory’s premise is foolish. “How can you see Christ?” the agnostic asks mockingly.  The atheist believes that there was no empty tomb and that our prayers fall into an empty universe. To the worldly mind, the Christian is a fool—the more devout the Christian, the bigger the fool. 

It has always been this way. Saint Gregory commented:

”People are often considered blind and useless when they make the supreme Good their aim and give themselves up to the contemplation of God, but Paul made a boast of this and proclaimed himself a fool for Christ’s sake. The reason he said, “We are fools for Christ’s sake” was that his mind was free from all earthly preoccupation.”  (See: Christian Prayer: The Liturgy of the Hours, 1976, P.1699.)

It’s not that Paul was oblivious to the affairs of life, but his focus was on the final goal which was to be with Christ.  I have heard people (usually agnostics) say some like this about devout, or seemingly devout Christians: “He’s so heavenly minded, he’s no earthly good.” It may sound clever but it’s not true.

Heavenly minded people

It is the truly heavenly minded person who prays most fervently, “Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.” He really means it and his actions strive to make it be so. The heavenly minded person understands that if the divine Good of God’s will is reflected in human affairs and society – just as it already exists in heaven – the result will produce an environment ideal for humanity to thrive.  And the person who is truly heavenly minded will work for that end.

Jesus said the greatest Commandment is to “love the Lord God with all your heart, with all your soul, and with your mind.” (Matthew 22.37). If a person really loves God with all their being they will naturally become heavenly minded.  It is a natural outgrowth from this spiritual state that the second great commandment occurs: “You shall love your neighbor as yourself.” (Matthew 22.38).  The closer a heavenly minded a person becomes, they will be drawn nearer to the heart of God. Inevitably they will find themselves aching with compassion for lost and hurting people because of God’s extravagant love for us. (See Jeremiah 31.3, John 3.16, Romans 5.8, Ephesians 2.4-5, 1John 3.1.) 

Infectious love & a Comforter

Christ’s love is infectious (John 13.34-35, 15.10 & 12.) and we use Christ’s perfect love as our model. Perfect love is not competitive or self-serving (John 15.13, 1Corinthians 13, Philippians 2.1-8.)  Seeking perfect love means the world may destroy the seeker, just like it did to Christ.  

By the world’s standards only fools would pursue or value such a love. Yet Christians are called to seek Christ’s perfect love.  We are fools for Christ. 

Do not dismay at this calling. Earth is not our home but you can rest in the assurance that Christ promised to give us a home elsewhere. (John 14.2-3.)

Those who seek Christ’s perfect love will be hated in this world. Count on it. (John 15.18.) Perfect love enlightens but the world prefers darkness. The world has never valued or comprehended His love.

While we are in this world, Christ promised to send us a Comforter, a Helper—the Holy Spirit (John 14.16, 25, John 15.26, Acts 2.4.)  This is the Spirit of God who raised Jesus from the dead and who dwells in those who are restored in Christ’s perfect love (Romans 8.11. Catechism of the Catholic Church (CCC), No.733, 734.).  We are promised that those who receive Christ and are led by the Spirit of God become Children of God. (John 1.12, Roman 8.14. CCC, No. 742.)


We are fools no more. 



[Ubi Caritas, The Cambridge Singers]

Wednesday, February 19, 2014

THE WAR ON HUMANS - e-book by WESLEY J. SMITH

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that God uses people at certain junctures in history to speak to their generations when they've lost their moral way. God used Abraham Lincoln to set slaves free in America. Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. spoke for racial equality. Dr. Bernard Nathanson (and many others) exposed the corruption of the abortion industry.

Wesley J. Smith

During the late 1990s and early 21st Century, God used Wesley J. Smith as an author, speaker and activist, to warn America of the coming onslaught of euthanasia and assisted suicide acceptance of the incurably sick and disabled. His predictions were often ignored or attacked but always startlingly accurate. We are witnessing Smith's predictions coming true with the devaluation of vulnerable populations in areas where euthanasia and assisted suicide have been legalized.

Always quick and insightful about emerging social trends, Wesley J.
Smith also saw the dangers that radical animal rights activists could pose to universal human rights. He began to speak about 'human exceptionalism' to puzzled allies and foes alike. Smith's 2010 book A RAT IS A PIG IS A DOG IS A BOY: The Human Cost of the Animal Rights Movement was ahead of its time. We are now beginning to see the threats he clearly laid out.



Wesley J. Smith latest work THE WAR ON HUMANS comes in the form of an e-book. The online description of THE WAR ON HUMANS states: " ... environmental activists have arisen who regard humans as Public Enemy #1. In this provocative e-book, Wesley J. Smith exposes efforts by radical activists to reduce the human population by up to 90% and to grant legal rights to animals, plants, and Mother Earth." Smith warns that it will be the powerless and most vulnerable members of humanity who will be most in peril if the animal rights movement gets its way. THE WAR ON HUMANS is a must read. 

This e-book can be ordered at http://www.waronhumans.com/

Novelist Dean Koontz says this about THE WAR ON HUMANS:


Dean Koontz
"Within the world of benign and admirable conservation and ecological awareness organizations, an irrational and misanthropic ideology has metastasized that in its own fanaticism is as dangerous as the fascist and communist crusades of the past century. In The War on Humans, Wesley Smith succinctly exposes the "philosophy" and aims of this movement, cites its deep unreason, and brilliantly extrapolates the horrors inevitable should it triumph."

The American historian and syndicated columnist, Nat Hentoff comments on THE WAR ON HUMANS:

Nat Hentoff
"Smith has now written a riveting expose of this multi-dimensional assault on human beings that for life saving reasons—I kid you not—must be read by human beings beyond their political, religious, and all other affiliations." 

See a 31 minute documentary about this subject and e-book THE WAR ON HUMANS by clicking on the image below. Order your e-book copy today at http://www.waronhumans.com/


[ This video can also be accessed at http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RWcEYYj_-rg ]

Tuesday, February 18, 2014

IS THE SUN RISING OR SETTING FOR AMERICA?

Signing the American Constitution
In 1776 the America colonists declared their independence from British rule. The next year they adopted the Articles of Confederation but it proved unsatisfactory because it left the central government too weak. In 1787 a Constitutional Convention was assembled in Philadelphia to draw up the new nation's Constitution. 


Benjamin Franklin
At times it was a rancorous process but the elder statesman, Benjamin Franklin was instrumental in guiding the process along to form a Constitutional document. One of the members of that historical Convention was James Madison. He later wrote that as the last members were signing, Benjamin Franklin looked toward the President's chair. Behind it was a painting of a rising sun. Dr. Franklin said:

"I have, often and often, in the course of the sessions, and in the vicissitudes of my hopes and fears as to its issue, looked at that behind the President, without being able to tell whether  it was rising or setting; but now at length, I have the happiness to know, that it is a rising, and not a setting sun."

And so it was. The sun of American liberty rose bright to give hope and home to oppressed people who believed they could be free and rise to make for themselves a prosperous life by their own endeavors and hard work. They tried to live under the glorious vision of their towering Declaration that stated: 

"We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness."

This human entitlement to liberty was based upon a healthy understanding of the "Laws of Nature and Nature's God" to which the first paragraph of the Declaration of Independence referred. This is both the strength and weakness of the Declaration. Not everyone has or wants a healthy understanding of the Laws of Nature or Nature's God. Inalienable rights also carry inalienable responsibilities.

All humanity has the right to life -- it is the first and highest human right. You can pursue happiness but never on the back or expense of another human being. This is a maxim of human liberty. To think otherwise is licence not liberty. 

Roe versus Wade drove a wedge into the foundations of America's noble vision. The bright sun of human liberty dimmed after began to set on January 22nd 1973. 

I believe legalized abortion is more of a threat to America than terrorism. Violence in the womb fuels violence in the streets because it denies Nature's God and abandoned the ideal of the sanctity, dignity and equality of every human life. It reveals the true poverty of human hearts without God's influence. 

Rampant abortion only hardened the heart of America to also consider euthanasia and assisted suicide for the old and frail, the incurably ill and disabled, and infanticide of defective newborns. It is a short walk from the nursery to the nursing home. 

How could America have lost its way in less than 240 years? It is because 'Us' was replaced with 'Me', liberty was twisted into licence, and the pursuit of happiness was replaced by hedonism. I believe that God is calling America back to its Judeo-Christian roots. It's up to followers of Christ to shine His light across the land and draw the wayward to God who gave America its original blazing vision.

America must consider the same question as Benjamin Franklin did: Is the sun rising or setting for America? Perhaps with God's mercy and a national repentance there can be a new sunrise for the United States of America. I love America and pray God's blessing for Her.

Mark
[Three Irish Tenors, Battle Hymn of the Republic]
(this video can also be accessed  through cut and paste http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nLun-Ca6b6s )

   

  

Thursday, February 13, 2014

SUICIDE PREVENTION OR ASSISTED SUICIDE

In October of 2012, Canada's Parliament gave UNANIMOUS support to a national suicide prevention strategy. The next month BC supreme court "Justice" Lynn Smith ruled in favour of  assisted suicide for an incurably ill woman. Now Quebec is about to legalize euthanasia and assisted suicide. They euphemistically call it "medical aid in dying." 

So which one is it? Suicide prevention or assisted suicide? Euthanasia proponents will respond "Both"! Healthy people get suicide prevention while sick and disabled people get assisted suicide.

That's the bad news. The good news is that assisted suicide clinics in Quebec will be fully wheelchair accessible. 

Mark




Wednesday, February 12, 2014

REJECT PRIDE, RETURN TO CHRIST

When I was young, it was fashionable to grow a beard and long hair, put on a tie-dyed t-shirt, faded jeans and head off to Europe to “find oneself.” Often I wondered what would happen if those searchers didn’t like the inner-self they found? At a personal level, I had already met my inner self, in the comfort of my own home, and was horrified at what I found! What I found was a cesspool of self-interest and self-exaltation. Pride was the underlying motive for all I did, with occasional streaks of kindness which I twisted to bolster delusions that somehow beneath all the corruption I was actually a good man.    

Looking for the god or goddess within

Modern spirituality urges us to look within ourselves and embrace the inner man and the god within. I did an Internet search for “find god within” which identified over 124-million results! It seems that finding the god within oneself is quite a hot topic. There is a shaky assumption that inner peace awaits as we discover the god or goddess within.  On one particular Internet site a fellow who identified himself as a Grand Master (of what I don't know) told his followers (how many I'm not sure): “Yes, there is a God, but not the God you perceive. As Jesus said, “Don’t look here or there for heaven. It is within you.”” Methinks the "Grand Master" was taking a few liberties with Luke 17.21.

In that passage, the Pharisees asked Jesus when the Kingdom of God would come.  Jesus replied that the “Kingdom of God (not heaven) is amongst you.”  Our Lord was referring to the Kingdom of God being internal and spiritual rather than external and physical. Taken in light of other things He said about the Kingdom of God (Mark 1.14-15, Luke 16.15-17), his last comment likely means that the kingdom has arrived in the person and ministry of Christ.

Looking within for God is a dead end rooted in pride and self-exaltation.   It ultimately brings people lower not higher.  The Scriptures repeatedly tell us this. (Proverbs 18.18, 28.25, Ezekiel 28.1-9, Habakkuk 2.4, Matthew 23.12, Luke 14.11, 1John 2.16). Pride is a form of hatred for God. It was pride and self-exaltation that made the devil the devil (Is.14.12-15).  

Saint Augustine

Saint Augustine warned about pride and self-exaltation in City of God:

"For, pride is the beginning of all sin. And what is pride but an appetite for inordinate exaltation. Now, exaltation is inordinate when the soul cuts itself off from the very Source  to which it should keep close and somehow makes itself and becomes an end to itself, … the soul falls away from the unchangeable Good which ought to please the soul far more than the soul can please itself.”

The “Source” and “Good” Saint Augustine referred to is the God of the universe not some puny, make-belief god within us. Saint Augustine was referring to the great I AM WHO I AM of Exodus, the Alpha and Omega of Revelation 1.8. (Also see Jesus’ words in see John 8.57).  The simple fact is that God is who He is quite apart from what Mark,Tom, Dick, Grand Master Harry thinks.

The eyeless “I” of self exaltation

Pride poisons our potential to foster or even care about our relationships with other people, other than how they can puff us up.  We become an eyeless “I”. Self-exaltation kills the potential for a relationship with the great I AM WHO I AM, through Jesus Christ. That has eternal implications.  I want to help you not to overlook this point. We live in a time and culture that celebrates Self above everything. 

Our example

Fellow Christian, place a guard around your heart against self-exaltation lest you fall away from the warmth and light of Christ.  He said, “Whoever exalts himself will be humbled but whoever humbles himself will be exalted.” (Matthew 23.12.) And Jesus practiced what He preached.

Saint Paul wrote, “Have among yourselves the same attitude that is also yours in Christ Jesus, who though he was in the form of God, did not regard equality with God something to be grasped. Rather, he emptied himself, taking the form of a slave, coming in human likeness; and found him in appearance, he humbled himself, becoming obedient to death, even death on a cross. (Philippians 2.5-8)

Live and walk humbly before God (Micah 6.8). If there’s any exalting to be done toward you, let it come from Him.  In such a state, you will find your worth as a child of God.

“But to those who did accept him he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name.” John 1.12

Mark


[Steve Green sings I Repent]





Monday, February 10, 2014

A SONG FOR GRACE ABOUT GRACE

As a grandfather I worry about my grandchildren. It's the cost of love. I worry about their tender hearts being broken by a cruel and heartless world in which they live. There are disappointments they will experience and I won't be there to comfort them or wipe away every tear. I am, after all, only their grandfather and a step removed from their daily lives. Most of all I worry about their spiritual lives. I want them to love Jesus Christ with all their hearts. I fret equally about them all. Tonight I am thinking about Grace. I pray that you choose to love Jesus all the days of your life, serve him and live within His grace.
[Click on image below or  http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8h38V-Bh8U ]].

[Laura Story singing Grace: from her album entitled Blessings]


Sunday, February 9, 2014

PSALM 139 IS LIKE A SPIRITUAL STAIRCASE

Psalm 139 is often called the pro-life psalm, and with good reason. The psalmist says God "knit me together in my mother's womb" and "my frame was not hidden from you when I was made in the secret place." Not only does the psalmist declare that God's eyes saw his unformed body but ordained all the days of his life before any of them came to be.

Psalm 139 is about unspeakable love and intimacy between Creator and created—every human life that has ever been conceived, including you and me. But Psalm 139 deals with so much more than God's tender presence with the unborn child.

In the entire Book of Psalms, the 139th sits as its climax. British biblical scholar, R.E.O. White said "this psalm represents the peak of the Psalter, the maturest individual faith in the Old Testament, and the clearest anticipation of the New."

GOD IS OMNIPRESENT


Psalm 139 speaks of God as omnipresent and all-knowing. This understanding is a hallmark of honest, sensible living and is foundational to developing intimacy with God and living a transparent life. Knowing that God is omnipresent helps believers keep short accounts with God and encourages familiarity with the confessional.

Personal moments of terror with my own journey into advanced degenerative disability (multiple sclerosis) have brought me back, time and again, to the comfort of Psalm 139. God knows my terror; His hand rests upon me!

Lord you have probed me, you know me:
You know when I sit and stand;
You understand my thoughts from afar.
My travels and my rest you mark;
With all my ways you are familiar.
Even before a word is off my tongue,
Lord you know it all.
Behind and before you encircle me
And rest your hand upon me.

The undeniable truth is that an intimate touch of an omnipresent God, who is all-knowing, has soothed tormented souls throughout the ages. It's reassuring to know that I do not even need to blurt out clumsy words - words that always fall short of expressing sorrow and fear.

God understands my thoughts and knows what I want to say before the words leave my lips. He encircles me with divine love and places his hand on my shoulder (just like he did before my birth). What exquisite intimacy! God's word tells me it is so.

And then I realize that God's word is a spiritual staircase: From the beginning of time the Word was with God and the Word was God (John 1:1). The word became flesh in Jesus Christ and dwelt among humanity (John 1:14). The Word will lead me home, regardless of what happens here.

THE PERFECT LOVER

What perfect romance! Charles Wesley's 18th century hymn was absolutely correct: Jesus is the lover of my soul. He has been the lover of my soul since I was conceived in my mother's womb. He embraces me in the darkest moments of my sorrow and pain just as He has embraced generations of humanity in theirs. Our darkness is not dark to God. The psalmist wrote, "Darkness is not dark for you, and night shines as the day. Darkness and light are as one" (139:12).



Christ drives back human darkness. He calls to you and me, "Take courage! It is I, do not be afraid!"

He says those words to me when I find myself in the ̔dark nights of the soul̕. My terror has been a body slowly becoming a carcass. Christ rests his hand upon my shoulder and asks me to let him use my affliction as a vehicle for my spiritual purification. There's so much with me that needs to be purified.

My curse becomes part of my blessing. As I surrender fear and my silly notions of God, and how my life was supposed to be, I can see the darkness of sorrow and bitterness being pushed back for the love of God to flood into my life.

MY DEEPEST LONGING

The lover of my soul knows that my deepest longing is not to walk or run again: My deepest longing is to soar to heaven in his love. Although I didn't know it until now, that's been my deepest yearning since before my birth. God was with me in my mother's womb.

Wonderful are your works!
My very self you knew;
My bones were not hidden from you,
When I was being made in secret,
Fashioned as in the depths of the earth.
Your eyes foresaw my actions;
In your book all are written down;
My days were shaped, before one came to be."

I know now that the MS was no accident. It's just a chapter in that book. The title of the chapter is 'Purification'. My disease does define me, it refines me; it is not destroying my life but preparing me for something and somewhere far richer and more abundant than this life. Christ is true to me; I must be true to him.


Probe me, God, know my heart;
Try me, know my concerns.
See if my way is crooked,
Then lead me in the ancient paths.


Yes, Psalm 139 is pro-life with good reason. The Author of life and love oversees it all. (See below.)



[Fernando Ortega, Jesus Lover of My Soul.]

Friday, February 7, 2014

A CHALLENGING EXERCISE FOR DISABILITY INCLUSION

Disability inclusion has been something I have worked for most of my adult life -- even before I was disabled. It is vitally important for the common good of society to ensure conditions exist that allow all people to reach their full potential. We must help each other thrive. 

Many barriers facing people with disabilities have been removed in recent years but many more remain. It has been my experience as a disabled person that the biggest barriers are attitudes of others (and my own). The human family, under the Lordship of Jesus Christ, must include all its members from the unborn child to the centenarian and every stage and stage between those two points. Everybody has something to bring to the table of human experience.

I came across an interesting video showcasing various visible disabilities. It's creative and unique. It challenges stereotypes of perfection and beauty and encourages disability acceptance among the public and self-acceptance with the people with disabilities who were involved. Great stuff!

Look past the physical and atypical. Include. Encourage. Give loving accept those who live in your circle of influence, even those with twisted bodies or broken minds. Bring the love of Christ to all. -- Mark


Thursday, February 6, 2014

YOUNG PEOPLE PLAYING YOUNG BEETHOVEN

I love to see young people excel in the arts whether it be visual, writing, music, theatre, performing or cinematic arts. It makes my heart soar to see them excel. My whole life I have been surrounded by artists and artisans. They make life so rich.  You may have noticed that I paper this blog with references and examples of artistic endeavor. Throughout my 30 year disability journey music, literature and writing have been a near-constant companion. 

Below are young people's playing Beethoven's piano quartet in C major, I Allegro. An equally young 15 year old Beethoven composed it. Enjoy
  



Wednesday, February 5, 2014

THE GREAT FAMILY OF THE HEAVY-HEARTED

I read about a young man paralyzed in a freak accident. The story gave a glimpse of his grief and sorrow. It's been just a year since his accident. The terrible prospect of permanent disability is beginning to sink in and it's breaking his heart. He told the reporter, "It's really, really hard." And so it is. Life with catastrophic disability is a hard journey. I know, I've lived with degenerative multiple sclerosis for 30 years.

At the deepest point of grieving, life can seem like an endless series of disappointments, accommodations and compromises, lost opportunities, and inexpressible sorrow. One can feel totally alone, even in a crowded room.


Disability is a lonesome journey. As the old song says, It's not that friends are unkind -- just hard to find. Then there are those dreaded moments at the end of each evening and one must make his way to the terror of the bedroom. It's in there that the darkness awaits to engulf a grieving person in fitful sleep-wake torture. A chorus of despair, self-doubts and fear whisper, "You are alone. Nobody understands."


It is there, in the middle of an endless night, lying wide awake staring into darkness, that a bed can become a rack. The horrible truth of life's misfortune can seem too great to bear. A human soul lays open like a gaping wound. Whimpers break into sobs of raw, pulsating grief.

Grievers beware! Emotions are unreliable, they are apt to intensify the feeling of isolation out of all proportion. Tears obscure vision and grief distorts perceptions of reality.

There is no such thing as an endless night. It only seems that way. The longest night must eventually give way to dawn. It is only fear and grief that tell us otherwise. Even the pitch black of arctic winter days will, in due course, transform into a peculiar summer midnight sun.

Many people with profound disabilities have risen above their predicaments and abyss of intense grief to incredible spiritual heights and human achievements.

Perhaps the most famous example is Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827). Most of his vast contributions to the world of music were written in either partial or complete deafness. 

George Frederic Handel (1685-1759) suffered from manic depression. His beloved Messiah was written at the end of a depressive bout.

John Milton (1608-74) was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost (1667). Paradise Lost is generally considered to be the greatest epic in the English language. (Remember that John Milton also wrote Paradise Regained.)

Elizabeth Barrett Browning was an "invalid and a recluse" to use the phrasing of one biographer. There was nothing invalid about her - her gift for lyric poetry is with us to this day.

Franklin Delano Roosevelt was physically crippled from polio at the age of 39, yet as America's 32nd president he led an entire nation through most of the Great Depression and Second World War.


Grief, sorrow and fear are not unique to people with disabilities: they are common to the human experience. Everybody is acquainted with sorrow. Everyone is afraid.

The "No Fear" T-shirt that was so fashionable a number of years ago was not true. With the exception of babies and small children, everyone has fears from the past and fears of the future.


Most people are afraid of serious self-examination lest they come face to face with inner demons, character flaws and emotional handicaps. They might be challenged to go through a difficult process of change. Some people fear being forgotten while others fear being remembered.

We are afraid of committing ourselves wholly to love yet afraid of being unloved. Many people are afraid of committing themselves to lives with purpose -- yet despise those who do.

Some people are afraid of dying outside God's grace yet they are afraid to truly live within it. We may be afraid of being seen as extreme yet afraid to venture outside mediocrity.


Helen Keller
Helen Keller (1880-1968) went deaf and blind before she was two years old. In an era when society restricted the lives of people with disabilities (not to mention women), Keller overcame monumental obstacles to rise to international stature advocating world peace, women's suffrage, human dignity and civil rights for people with disabilities. She said:


"When it seems that our sorrow is too great to be borne, let us think of the great family of the heavy-hearted into which our grief has given us entrance. Inevitably, we feel about us their arms, their sympathy and their understanding."


That's my point. All humanity longs for affinity and the understanding of others. All humanity is longing for belonging. The young man grieving his paralysis may not yet know it but his grief has given him entrance into the "great family of the heavy-hearted." Those of us who are full-fledged members of that "great family" have the Passion and cross of Christ as our chief example and inspiration.

It is to Christ we can ultimately turn with the knowledge his sufferings dwarfed all human pain and sorrows. There is no grief Jesus does not understand. Christ is the ultimate affirmation. He is the ultimate over-comer. He can change us, if we allow it, from victims to victors. -- Mark

[Hillsong, It is Well With My Soul]

Monday, February 3, 2014

CALM IN THE STORMS OF DISEASE

My adult daughter sent me the link below called "Calming Storms" by  Clayton Jennings. Shen and Was 8 years old and her brother was five when I was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). As I have said in previous blog posts, those years were terrifying years. We pulled together as a family.

I have often wondered what impact it had on my children to watch their dad deteriorate from a healthy active man to walking with a cane then two canes, then crutches then a scooter and electric wheelchair. My daughter said her email that accompanied this video "This dude has a story eerily similar to the one Dean and me; I can relate to."

Is there a storm in your life? Trust Christ. He will see you through it. Christ has been with me throughout 30 years of multiple sclerosis. He has brought me calm in the midst of my storms of disease. There can be peace even in pain. Listen to Clayton Jennings story below. 

Mark

(Note: Bookings for me to address your church, college or group about a Christian perspective on suffering or euthanasia and assisted suicide, contact me at HumanLifeMatters@shaw.ca )