“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, March 27, 2015

WHAT ARE CANADIAN VALUES?

In my country of Canada I keep hearing about "Canadian
values". What are Canadian values? Do Canadian values include abortion? Canadian women can have an abortion for any reason, or
no reason. and they can have as many abortions as they want -- all paid for by taxpayers. No questions asked. It has been that way for decades. Is that a Canadian value? 

In 2012 Parliament gave UNANIMOUS support to the idea of a national suicide prevention strategy. In 2015, Canada's Supreme Court voted UNANIMOUSLY to support physician assisted
suicide for the sick and disabled. So, suicidal healthy and able-bodied people get suicide prevention: suicidal sick or disabled people get help killing themselves. Is that a Canadian value? Apparently it is. Most Canadians support suicide prevention programs yet  80% of Canadians also support physician assisted suicide for the terminally/chronically ill. 

From the 1960s-1990s, people who fancied themselves as 'progressives' wanted to throw off long-held moral restraints of western Christian civilization. They rejected the established order of community standards. The progressives said there was no longer a consensus of community standards therefore there could be no accepted community standards. Their argument went something like this: "What you think are community standards, I reject,
so whose community standards are we talking about?" The progressives started promoting "values clarification" (which only muddled values) and "situational ethics" (which legitimized human brutality and abandonment and made moral responsibility relative). 

Now the progressives talk about new 'Canadian values'. Who decided there was no consensus about the previous community standards? Who decided there is a consensus of new Canadian values? If Canadian values include killing unborn children or physician assisted killing of suicidal people, then I reject the progressives' new Canadian values.  

Tuesday, March 24, 2015

FOREVER MOMENTS

Every so often things happen that change a man forever. They are profound events that make an indelible mark on his heart, and even his soul.  They have such a powerful effect on him that he will never be the same again -- in this world or the next. I call them these events “forever moments.”

Usually “forever moments” are longer than a moment. They may come in the form of the birth of a child or watching a loved-one die. Both these events happened simultaneously to me a number of years ago.

My grand-daughter was being born in the maternity ward of a hospital. At the same time, on a different floor of the same hospital, my terminally ill mother was receiving treatment. I shuttled back and forth between floors where events at the two ends of the life spectrum were being played out. It was a strange irony.

There I was, suspended between congratulations and consolations. On one floor there was great jubilation to welcome a new life into the world; on the other floor I had to shift internal gears to comfort, console and reassure my 92 year old mother. She was preparing herself mentally, emotionally and spiritually for the prospect of death.  The difference between the two situations was striking and obvious.

Different yet similar

The biggest difference between the two lives was age.  But that's a puny human perspective. In the eyes of God, the difference between my mother’s 92 years and my granddaughter’s two hours was insignificant. The Psalms tell us that to God a thousand years are like a day that has just passed (Psalm 90.4). The similarities between the birth of my granddaughter and the dying of my mother
were less obvious but equally striking and poignant.

Struggle marked both events. The baby was so fragile, so dependent on others. My mother (the baby’s great-grandmother) was racked with cancer. She was frail and dependent on others too. 
My mother was moved to a palliative care bed in a local hospital closer to her home. My granddaughter was moved to a cradle in her home.

People were entrusted with the care of both lives: they were called to embrace both lives with tender and unconditional love and nurture.

(It’s easy to identify nurture with children, but an aged person? Absolutely! The need for human nurture never stops until a person draws their last breath. The opportunity to give nurture is always present.)

Spiritual life-lessons

God was using the two events I mentioned to teach me critically important spiritual truths:

  • Life on earth is transitory, like a brief vapor, then it is gone. That is why we should invest in matters important to God more than matters important to man. We should build treasures that last in heaven and not treasures that rust and rot on earth. We are here such a brief time.
  • Take every opportunity to lift up and nurture the lives around us.
  • Give reverence to the innate dignity present in every human being.
  • Love life in every state and stage that we find it.

Never equate time with value. God loves an old woman on her death-bed as much as a newborn baby in a cradle. God’s immense love envelopes both lives equally. God does not discard or abandon lives that are broken or worn-out in favor of the new lives with potential galore. That may be the way of the world; it may be the way of the cost-benefit analysts or utilitarian bioethicists … but it is not God’s way.

King David wrote, “Indeed, You [God] have made my days as handbreadths, And my age is as nothing before You; Certainly every man at his best state is but vapor.” (Psalm 39.5).

My mother's death vigil was heartbreaking yet it gave me forever moments with her. Those moments brought new depth to the commandment to honour one’s parents. Those forever moments revealed new dimensions of forgiveness and being forgiven. I was given the privilege of joining her suffering to comfort and console her. Those forever moments taught me about generational responsibility to nurture our old until their last breath. My mother has been dead for nearly 9 years but I cherish those memories and forever moments.    

My granddaughter has also been teaching me a thing or two about joy, and generational responsibility to nurture the young. She will have her 9th birthday old soon. Where does the time go? Her great grandmother would have been proud of her.

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BRRlAaX4Pxs for Chopin, Nocturne  21, C minor, pianist Tzi Erez. My mother taught piano for over 60 years. Even as she was dying, I remember her giving final instructions to a favourite student. ]


OLD WORLD COUTURE SKILL

Granted, I've been chronic ill and disability for more than 30 years. Despite this, but there is so much more to my world: Love and beauty grace my life, and it has always been this way. My family could revive the arts and crafts movement![1]
LaRee

My wife LaRee is a dressmaker dedicated to Old World couture skill and quality. She understands the dynamics of fabric, design and drafting, the subtleties of colour and draping, technique and theme, Her well equipped sewing room occupies half the basement in our house. Perhaps a more appropriate term is 'studio'. LaRee has taught sewing for years but her real love is imagining, doing, creating. 

We have been blessed with five grandchildren (soon to be six) for whom she can create garments with an exquisite "LaRee" flare! Our oldest grandson and  granddaughter have modelled for Sears and The Bay department stores' catalogues in Canada. 

Gabriela Aquarela
similar to LaRee's wotk
I came across the following video featuring the type of children's garments of the style LaRee loves making (often with matching doll outfit). I have seen her amazing creations with my own eyes! The video is intended to show accessories by Gabriela Aquarela. Look past the accessories and the opulent surroundings and see the garments the children are wearing. The opulence is far from most people's reality but the beauty that graces my world could inspire a new arts and crafts movement. (The only downside is I always have stray threads of my clothes). 

The wealth of my family is found in ideas and inspiration.

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RusxiQEW41g&feature=youtu.be ]




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[1] The Collins American Dictionary defines the Arts and Crafts Movement as "a social and artistic movement of the second half of the 19th cent. emphasizing a return to handwork, skilled craftsmanship, and attention to design in the decorative arts, from the mechanization and mass production of the Industrial Revolution."

Saturday, March 21, 2015

THE CROSS IS FOR WRETCHES LIKE ME

In his remarkably profound book, Lift Up You Heart, Bishop Fulton Sheen said,

“The Cross is the most inescapable reality of life. If we will not accept it outside of ourselves, to pardon us and to heal, then we will have it inside, as frustration and despair.”

The life changing reality of Calvary has been that “most inescapable reality” for millions of people. I am included in their ranks.

Wretches like me

For wretches like me, it was the Cross that brought into sharpest focus the enormity of our sin and the enormity of Divine love. God offered his only Son so that a fallen humanity might be reconciled to Him. Such love is beyond my capacity to understand!

“For our sake he made him to be sin who did not know sin, so that we might become the righteousness of God in him.” (2Corinthians 5.21)

For wretches like me, the Cross provided a clear delineation between the holiness of God and our own wretchedness. There was a great chasm between us and the source of all Goodness, which is God. The chasm that separated us could only be bridged by the Cross of Christ. 

Saint Paul tells us in his letter to the Romans:

“For Christ, while we were still helpless, yet died at the appointed time died for the ungodly. But God proved his love for us in that while we were still sinners Christ died for us.”  (Romans 5. 6 & 8)

Wretches like me crossed the chasm through simple faith that what happened to Jesus at Golgotha – that terrible place of crucifixion – somehow paid a ransom to make wretches like me acceptable to a holy God.

We may not have known how it happened; all that many of us knew was that it did happen. All we knew was that by confessing our wretchedness (sin) and believing that God’s only Son would forgive us, our wretchedness fell away. The great and terrible chasm between us and the source of all Goodness was bridged by the Cross! We were made fit through Jesus Christ’s sacrifice, to meet God. Not only that, we were adopted as children of God.
  
Adoption by God

The notion of being adopted by God is not a silly fantasy that we made up in our minds. The Bible assured us of our adoption:

The Apostle John tells us:

“But to those who did accept him [Jesus Christ] he gave power to become children of God, to those who believe in his name, who were born not by natural generation nor by human choice nor by a man’s decision but of God.”

Remember, these words about adoption into the family of God came to us from the disciple who Christ entrusted the care of his Mother, as he hung dying on the Cross! (John 19.26-27).

Paul expanded on this adoption:

“For those who are led by the Spirit of God are children of God. For you did not receive a spirit of slavery to fall back into fear, but you received a spirit of adoption, through which we cry, “Abba Father!” The Spirit itself bears witness with our spirit that we are children of God, and if children, then heirs, heirs of God and joint heirs with Christ, if only we suffer with him so that we may also be glorified with him. I consider that the sufferings of this present time are as nothing compared with the glory to be revealed for us.”” (Romans 8.14-18)

Sufferings of this present time

I have had multiple sclerosis for over thirty years. Only my left arm
remains unimpaired by disease. There is great reassurance for me to know that my present sufferings will pale in comparison to the glory that God will reveal to me.  Outwardly I am wasting away; inwardly I am being renewed daily (see 2Corinthians 4.16-17). Like the fourth figure in the fiery furnace with Shadrach, Meschach and Abednego, Christ is with me in the fire of MS. Make no mistake about it: He is with me.

The slow destruction of my physical body has made me cling tighter to the “inescapable reality of the Cross.”  Like Job, I can rest in the knowledge that my Redeemer lives. Even though my flesh is being destroyed, “I shall see God, whom I shall see for myself, and my eyes shall behold, and not another. How my heart yearns within me.” (Job 19.26-27.)


[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nn5ken3RJBo for the Nordic Chamber Choir singing Lauridsen's "O Magnum Mysterium", (O Great Mystery) 7:00]


Friday, March 20, 2015

A MOVIE THAT ASKS AN ETERNAL QUESTION

In theaters this weekend: "Do You Believe?" Each person's answer to that question has eternal implications. See trailers by clicking on Image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ogIX2Q7tEdc


Wednesday, March 18, 2015

A SMALL CHILD WITH A LESSON ABOUT FORGIVENESS

ISIS drove a small Iraqi child's family from their home. They fled to a refuge camp. Ten year old Miriam has a profound lesson for us all about forgiveness. Listen to her story and song. It will cost your six minutes of your time and bless you immensely.
[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=U3pAxAHT0jg ]


Tuesday, March 17, 2015

VAN GOGH: ACCOMPLISHMENT & MENTAL ILLNESS

Vincent Van Gogh
(1853-1890)
Vincent Van Gogh's career as a painter began when he was 27 years old and lasted a brief ten years, ending with his suicide. His works are, perhaps, better known than those of any other painter and yet during his lifetime he was virtually unknown. He suffered from mental illness.[1]

His mental illness drove his moods from the highest pitches of enthusiasm and creativity -- which he called the "rage of work" to periods of discouragement which he called his "fear and horror of madness."[2] Van Gogh produced over 2,000 pieces of art. Do you know how many of those pieces he sold during his lifetime? One. This brother Theo had to beg somebody to buy it.

Vincent Van Gogh's attempts at romantic love were rebuffed which drove him further into isolation and internal anguish. He often suffered seizures, hallucinations and delirium for days or weeks at a time. On one occasion he cut off part of his ear.

GLITTERING AGITATED CANVASES


Van Gogh captured the suffering of mental illness in glittering, agitated canvases. His internal turbulence and anguish is clearly evident in most of his paintings, which set the stage for the direction of a new style of painting we call Expressionism.

Vincent's emotional turmoil did, however, bear artistic fruit in the form of a remarkable gift of perception -- seeing powerfully what others did not observe at all. He projected onto the canvas what he experienced internally.

Van Gogh wrote more than 800 letters. If you haven't read his collected correspondence, I would recommend it. Not only is it a good autobiographical account of his life, it's great literature.

Vincent lived in barren rooms of rural cottages and the wards of mental institutions. His loneliness and isolation were almost larger than his life. But that is not what most people remember about Vincent Van Gogh. When they think of him they are apt to think of "Starry Nights", "Cafe Terrace" or his stunning series of Sunflowers, just to mention a few.

VINCENT'S SUICIDE


Wheatfield with Crows
Van Gogh's last dark painting was entitled "Wheatfield With Crows". That's the field where he shot himself in July of 1890 at the age of thirty-seven. He died three days later.  Vincent's sad last words summed up his life: "The sadness never goes away. I think I want to go home now."

In one of his last letters to Theo, Van Gogh had written, "I feel ... a failure. That's it as far as I'm concerned ... I feel that this is the destiny that I accept, that will never change."

He was not a failure. Look what he left for humanity! Have we learned so little from his tragic but prolific life? Imagine if he lived in 21st Century Canada. The Supreme Court has ruled that someone like Vincent Van Gogh should have physician assisted suicide available because of "psychological pain."

Christians must stand against such a world! Our Lord's love embraced the mentally ill. We are called to follow His example.  Be life affirming not life denying. Everyone has something to bring to the table of human experience.

[Click on image below orhttps://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Li5oNy4MP9E For Starry Starry Night (Vincent) sung by Josh Groban.]



_________________________________
Notes:
[1] My wife's grandmother suffered from schizophrenia. Forty years after Van Gogh's death she was institutionalized in a mental hospital at the age of 37 years and remain there until her death in 1983.
[2] John Rowan Wilson, "The Mind" (New York, Life Science Library, 1964) p.146.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

CHRISTIANS AND SAME SEX MARRIAGE

Can faithful Catholics and Biblical evangelicals accept same-sex marriage?[1] I assert that it cannot be accepted within the Magisterium of the Catholic Church nor Biblical Christians.[2] Quite the opposite is true. They cannot ascribe, accept or affirm homosexual marriage if they are to remain true to the Christian faith. Having said this, I also emphasize that as Christ's followers we must still be gracious and kind in our witness without compromising God's plan for marriage.  

CATHOLICS: I want to bring your attention to an interview done with the Most Reverend Salvatore Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco by clicking here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=XcS42gWhZ5w Please note how the Archbishop lays out the Catholic position and warns that Catholics who stay true to Catholic teaching may eventually be castigated and falsely accused of being bigots by anti-Christian society. The Archbishop warns of dark days ahead for the faithful.

EVANGELICALS: I refer you to a debate between Dr. James White[3] and Pastor Dee Bradshaw.[4] Alpha & Omega Ministries has prohibited distribution of the video without consent. I will presume such permission was given in order for the following link to be posted on YouTube at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2I9zYCx7JJU  It is long but Dr. White lays out succinctly and articulately the Biblical basis of marriage and addresses many typical objections raised by proponents of same-sex marriage. 

For more on this topic I refer readers of the HumanLifeMatters blog to a First Things magazine essay published in the March 2015 edition written by the organization Evangelicals and Catholics Together, entitled "The Two Shall Become One Flesh".[5] Click here http://www.firstthings.com/article/2015/03/the-two-shall-become-one-flesh-reclaiming-marriage-2

Mark Pickup
________________________________
Notes:
[1] NELSON'S NEW CHRISTIAN DICTIONARY: The Authoritative Resource On the Christian World (Thomas Nelson Publishers, 2001) defines an evangelical as a "Member of a Bible-based Protestant church emphasizing personal salvation solely through being born again and through uncompromising commitment to the person of Jesus Christ."
[2] ibid. "magisterium (Lat., authority of a master) In Roman Catholic theology, teaching authority of the church in matters of faith and morals.
[3] Dr. James White is the director of Alpha and Omega Ministries, based in Phoenix Arizona. He is a professor of Greek and Systematic Theology, and areas associated with the field of apologetics. He has authored or contributed to more than 24 books.
[4] Pastor Dee Bradshaw is the pastor of  Sacred Light of Christ Church of Salt Lake City, UT., (Metropolitan Community Church)
[5] Evangelicals and Catholics Together is an ecumenical group founded in 1994 by Richard Neuhaus and Chuck Colson.

Friday, March 13, 2015

THE DARKER SIDE OF ALBERTA'S BILL 10

Although most of HumanLifeMatters blog readers are American, I want to bring readers attention to the following link by the Canadian Association For Reformed Political Action. If this can happen in Alberta Canada, it can happen anywhere.

http://arpacanada.ca/action-items/current-action-items/2275-speak-up-government-pushes-mandatory-gsa-s-on-all-alberta-schools . 
"Speak Up! Alberta Forces All Alberta Schools to Accept GSAs"

It speaks directly to the Canadian province of Alberta's recent passing of Bill 10 for Gay Straight Alliances (GSAs). But the Bill doesn't stop with imposing GSAs on all schools (including faith centered schools); it potentially infringes on faithful Christian families (not to mention Muslim and other families of faith). Bill 10 is an assault on the very the multicultural, pluralistic and tolerant society Canada's claims to be.

In a previous blog I wrote about a problem with GSAs not being inclusive in protections against bullying. That is one reason why Alberta's government should not have passed Bill 10. Governments must support anti-bullying alliances that do not give special recognition to one small group of vulnerable students. That is not the only problem with Bill 10. The ARPA points to its deeper and darker flaws.

It should be noted that Bill 10 was put through the provincial
legislature by Education Minister Gordon Dirks who is an
Gordon Dirks
evangelical Christian. He betrayed faithful Christian families for the sake of political gain.  
I know Gordon Dirks and even spoke about Life issues at his former Calgary church, at his invitation. 

I am deeply saddened at his betrayal since leaving the church. I am even more saddened for Christian families.

Mark  

Thursday, March 12, 2015

A SHRILL RESPONSE TO MY BLOG ABOUT GAY STRAIGHT ALLIANCES IN SCHOOLS

I received an angry, shrill response to my previous post "A Problem With Gay Straight Alliances". Let me refer to the person as G.T. Part of his email that was sent stated:

"This sir is a step WAAAAAAAAY too far!!  Shame on you.

You may find bullying acceptable, but I do not, for ANY reason.  If governments can address reasons for SYSTEMIC bullying then that is what a civilized society ought to do!   Your argument that fat kids have to live with bullying ... then so can gay kids ..?  When was the last time a fat person was beaten to death with a baseball bat for being fat? ..."


I find bullying acceptable? Read the post I wrote. It's immediately below this entry. At no point did I say bullying is acceptable. In fact, I was decrying ALL bullying. G.T. pretended I was asserting that kids have to live with bullying. I was saying nothing of the sort.  I was writing against all forms of bullying not excusing it. But to clear up the contrived confusion of G.T., I went back to the post and inserted in capital letters NO BULLYING IS EVER ACCEPTABLE. And I think that G.T. knows that was what was being said. I even concluded the post with the tender song by James Taylor, You've Got a Friend.

What G.T. was really mad about was that I dared to say the gay straight alliances are not inclusive enough in dealing with the larger bullying problem that has become so pervasive in school systems.

G.T. IS ACTUALLY A UNIVERSITY PROFESSOR   

It's one thing to receive a mindless knee-jerk reaction, and I have received many over the years, but I did not expect such an email from a professor at a respected Canadian university! That's what G.T. is and I must conclude he is not stupid and can read. He knew that I was not saying bullying is acceptable or that kids need to learn to live with bullying. 

What G.T. was doing is a classic tactic I have encountered with people who may fancy themselves as "progressives" or have certain political agendas.They will twist words they don't like into something other than what was said and then attack it on that basis.

Notice G.T. asserts that  homosexual bullying is worse than other forms of bullying.  Really? Tell that to the parents of eleven year old Thomas Thompson. karl Pearl (16), Gemma Dimmick (15) Phoebe Prince, and many other children who have committed suicide because of school bullying.

Let me conclude with this: G.T. is a university professor. I am sure he expects his students to read material and understand it before commenting. Shouldn't he apply the same standard to himself?

Shame on you G.T.!

To read my post "A Problem with Gay Straight Alliances click here http://www.humanlifematters.org/2015/03/a-problem-with-gay-straight-alliances.html

Mark

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

A PROBLEM WITH GAY STRAIGHT ALLIANCES

In my little corner of the world (Alberta, Canada) there has
been a big push -- championed by the media -- to pressure the provincial government to pass a bill supporting gay-straight alliances (GSAs) in all schools to combat bullying. The bill passed. 

A problem with gay-straight alliances is that they are too narrow in their emphasis and scope.

One Gay-Straight Alliance website stated that GSAs are needed for LGBTQ students (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) because Far too many face pervasive harassment and violence at school because of their actual or perceived sexual orientation or gender identity.”[1] Pervasive harassment and violence (bullying) in schools is not unique to homosexual students. In fact, gay bullying is only one small facet of a larger bullying problem.

Students are bullied for any number of reasons (and sometimes no reason). They are bullied for being too fat or too skinny or too weak, for being too pretty or not pretty enough. Some students are bullied because they are too smart and bookish or being low intelligence and falling behind. Others are bullied because of their race. Disabled students are bullied, so are kids with speech impediments, or bad complexions. Bullies will take any opportunity to mete out cruelty.


Many students are picked on simply because they are deemed “uncool” and "geekish" and don’t fit it. Why single out the LGBTQ students for special protection and higher profile when many more students are bullied for other reasons? Government initiatives against bullying must be wider in scope. NO BULLYING IS EVER ACCEPTABLE. It always hurts the child it targets.

We do not need gay-straight alliances, we need anti-bullying alliances! I don’t want to see any child ostracized or bullied. All our children are precious.


[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dvvJ7MYaK8o]



_________________________________
[1] This quote was taken from a GSA website this past January 27th. The quote can be found on numerous GSA sites from various jurisdictions..


Tuesday, March 10, 2015

A CHALLENGE OF A DISABILITY AND AN ART FORM

http://www.humanlifematters.org/2007/02/shadows-of-suffering-fade-in-light-of.html 

Back in 2007 I wrote a post about disabled pianist Paul Wittgentein. It can be read at the link above. I called it "Shadows of suffering fade in the light of Christ".


Paul Wittgenstein
(1887-1961)
Paul Wittgenstein was a concert pianist who lost his right arm in World War 1. Rather than giving up he went on to a successful career playing piano for the left hand. His story illustrates the vast capacity of human beings to overcome adversity.

I want to show you piano for the left hand. Below is a link to Boris Berezovsky playing Chopin's Étude No. 12 Op. 10, "Revolutionary", as it was written. He follows with Polish American Leopold Godowsky's transcription for left hand of the same étude. There is a vast treasury of piano music for left hand only. It is a distinct discipline for serious students of piano.[1]

[Click on image below of https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X2nMUwdh1Wk 



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Monday, March 9, 2015

CHRISTIAN WOMAN SENTENCED TO DIE


Will Asia Bibi will be executed under Islamic law?

For more information see
 http://zeenews.india.com/tags/asia-bibi.html

http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2847305/Pakistani-Christian-death-row-blasphemy-makes-final-appeal.html
Christian sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan begs supporters "please don't abandon me" as she makes final appeal against her sentence", DailyMail Online.

Please write to your elected federal officials to petition Pakistan to release Asia Bibi from prison and her death sentence.  

______________________________________
Poster from American Center for Law and Justice

THE HEARTACHE OF CAVATINA

Most people associate the beautiful song Cavatina (written by Stanley Myers) for classical guitar with the 1978 movie The Deer Hunter. But Cavatina's heartbreakingly beautiful melody originally appeared in a 1970 a movie called "The Walking Stick". The Heroine of The Walking Stick was a 26 year old woman named Deborah Dainton who walked with a limp because of childhood polio. She used a cane (walking stick).  

The Walking Stick came out the same year my father died suddenly of a heart attack while he and I were downhill skiing. He was 52 years old and I was sixteen. 

Needless to say, 1970 was a fog of inexpressible grief for me, but somewhere out of that fog, and unbeknownst to me, Cavatina embedded itself into my little grey cells. Perhaps that was why I did not go to see The Deer Hunter. Somewhere deep inside, that melody spoke to me about things I could not bring myself to revisit. For years I could not quite identify what it was or why Cavatina caused me such heartache, only that a great sadness overcame me with the opening bars of that melody. I think I know now.  

Music can express the human condition in ways words can not. That is why music has been so instrumental in my grief and disability journeys. 



Cavatina was written for the guitar. There was a time, many years ago, when I was a skilled guitarist -- before multiple sclerosis stripped away my ability to play. At about the same time as I lost the ability to play my guitar, I started using a walking stick. One walking stick became two, then crutches, then a scooter and wheelchair. The MS was attacking many physical functions.


"When you pass through the waters,
I will be with you: and when you pass through the rivers, they will not sweep over you. ..." 
(Isaiah 43:2) 

God said those words to Israel because He was their only savior. God is that to you and me through faith in Jesus Christ. I happen to think that perhaps God might say those words to us too, His adopted children. Grief journeys are fluid like a river that can threaten to sweep over a griever and submerge him beneath the waves of his circumstances. 

At first, grief can be so intense that the griever does not know how he or she can face another day or continue living. A bleak future stretches out before the griever like a barren desert. The griever's reality is distorted. Nothing interests him. He goes through the motions of living. (Daily routines can actually be a godsend that calls the griever to get out of bed each morning.) 

BALANCE BETWEEN SOLITUDE AND COMMUNITY

Whether the griever knows it or not he needs both solitude and community. His "Whys?" are unanswerable. The only responses are tears and love. Solitude brings a needed release of tears and reflection on his new realities; community is needed to maintain human connection and give love -- even if the griever does not want it and just wants to be left alone. 

The griever's desperate prayers may seem to either fall into an empty universe or appeal to an indifferent God. The griever cries, "Where is God?" 

I have learned from experience that although we may not be able detect God's presence, He is still with us. Like an crying infant to hungry to accept the bottle at its lips, the activity of early intense grief drowns out Christ's still small voice whispering to us. We may be too frantic for comfort to actually accept it. 

Do not forget that in his darkest and most anguished hour, our Lord felt abandoned by God. He cried, "Eli,Eli, lema sabachthani?" that is "My God, my God, why have you abandoned me?"[1]  

Those words of Christ meant so much to me at my darkest moments of loss and sickness. They told me that He knows. He knows my anguish even though I may not sense His presence, I had to simply believe God was with me because God said he would not leave me or forsake me [2]. God cannot lie.[3] 

It is in solitude that we begin to detect the first inklings of God' presence; it comes with the re-awakening of the interior life after the shock of grief has subsided. It is at times of solitude that understanding will eventually come. 



Thomas a Kempis
(1380-1471)
In his Christian classic book The Imitation of Christ, Thomas à Kempis wrote about interior consolation as Christ begins to speak to the faithful heart willing to hear:

"I will listen to what the Lord will say to me.[4] Blessed is the soul that listens when God speaks to it[5] and receives  consoling words from His lips."[6]

It is within community that the griever has interconnectedness, and fellowship in his grief. It is in a Christian community of concern that the griever should be comforted with the tenderness of Christ-like love. Sometimes it is loved-ones in the grievers community of concern who can help the dark passage through grief and loss to eventually emerge with a renewed sense of self fostered by Christ. 

I have been the beneficiary of this balance. No longer does Cavatina trigger heartbreaking memories of loss. It is the sheer beauty of the melody, and nothing more, that can move me to tears, even as an old man.

[Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HSECkRnpsDE for Cavatina, played by Ana Vidovic.



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[1] Matthew 27:46. The NEW JEROME BIBLICAL COMMENTARY (Prentice Hall,1990, p.672) comments about this passage: "Eli, Eli; Jesus cry of dereliction comes from Ps 22.1.Mathew may quote it  in Hebrew except for the last word, Aram sebaq, "leave", "abandon." The words express Jesus' feeling of abandonment, but not despair, since they are prayed to God."
[2] Deuteronomy 31:6, Hebrews 13:5. (cf. John 14.18
[3]Hebrews 6.18
[4]Psalm 85:9.
[5] 1 Samuel 3:9.
[6] Thomas a Kempis, The Imitation of Christ: In Four Books (New York: Random House, 1998), Book Three, Chapter 1, p. 73.

Wednesday, March 4, 2015

WE MUST RESPOND TO CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION!

21 Coptic Christians beheaded by ISIS
on a Mediterranean beach 15 February 2015
Our Christian brothers and sisters in various parts of the world are suffering persecution. Depending on where you live, being a follower of Jesus Christ is life-threatening. We are seeing unfold before us news of people who would rather die than renounce their faith in Jesus Christ. 


Western Christians must prayerfully stand with the persecuted church. We must pressure our governments to lobby countries where Christians are persecuted to stop and let them live peacefully. 


Canada and America must open doors of immigration and asylum to persecuted Christians whose lives are in immediate peril. Areas of most severe persecution must be fast tracked for asylum/immigration acceptance. Christian Family reunification efforts increased. Local churches must sponsor families.

According the organization Open Doors USA, the top ten countries of Christian persecution are, in descending order: North Korea, Somalia, Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Sudan, Iran, Pakistan, Eritrea and Nigeria. [1]

As ISIS and militant Muslims continue to kill Christians, even as I write these words, we must comfort their families and show our support. 

I have included below a television interview with the brother of two Christian martyrs executed by ISIS. 

Click on image below or https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-yCmnyzYeW8 for brother of two slain Christians murdered by ISIS prays for the killers on live television.

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