“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

Monday, March 28, 2022

TIME SENSITIVE: RE-AIRING TELEVISION INTERVIEW


 In October 2021, I gave an interview to Canadian national Christian talk show, 100 Huntley Street. At that time I spoke about a miracle God gave me in 2018. He answered a prayer from me to walk again, even briefly, after many years in an electric wheelchair.  I've walked for four years. 

Earlier this month I contracted COVID, which triggered the MS and put me aback in the wheelchair. I wrote about this disappointment in the US based Christian online magazine The Stream. Tomorrow, March 29th, 100 Huntley Street is re-airing the October interview when I was still walking. See the schedule and links below.


Will I have to stay in the wheelchair or will I return to walking? I have asked myself if it really matters? My hope is not in this world. If I remain in my wheelchair, I will praise God for giving me these four years. If my legs regain their strength, I will praise God for letting me continue to walk. Either way, I will praise God. 

"For we know that if the tent that is our earthly home is destroyed, we have a building from God, a house not made with hands, eternal in the heavens. For in this tent we groan, longing to put on our heavenly dwelling, if indeed by putting it on[a] we may not be found naked. For while we are still in this tent, we groan, being burdened—not that we would be unclothed, but that we would be further clothed, so that what is mortal may be swallowed up by life. He who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a guarantee. So we are always of good courage. We know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yes, we are of good courage, and we would rather be away from the body and at home with the Lord. So whether we are at home or away, we make it our aim to please him. . . . " (2Corinthians 5.1-9.)

This is my hope whether I walk or not. And regardless of my state, I must use whatever tools are at my disposal to proclaim the Good News God entrusts to Christians to take the same eternal destiny given to us through Christ to a lost, hurting and loveless spiritual landscape

" ... in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.  Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (2Corinthians 5.19-21)

Either way, I will use whatever tools are at my disposal to witness for him. We are called to bring others to God through Christ.

Wednesday, March 23, 2022

TO WALK OR NOT TO WALK: THAT IS NOT THE QUESTION. I'M BACK IN MY WHEELCHAIR


 

I have contracted COVID. It has effected my lungs — that's to be expected — but it has also raised havoc with my multiple sclerosis (MS). My legs are so weak and spastic again that I can't walk. I'm back in my wheelchair. It is emotionally difficult to go back in it. But then I remember my prayer in 2018, before Christ in the Blessed Sacrament: "Lord, if it is possible could you let me walk again, even for a short time, even with a cane(s) or a walker." 

I had been in an electric wheelchair for so many, many years—I wanted to feel what it was like to walk again, to use my right arm and hand and hand-write love letters to my wife LaRee again before the end of my life. I wanted to dance a slow dance with her. We did that, dancing in our living room one cold Canadian winter night. Two life-long lovers slowly moving in the low light of flickering embers of a dying fire in our fireplace. Our bodies moved to the gentle rhythm of her favourite love song. It was the last song that we danced to many decades ago before the cold bars of crutches, wheelchairs and leg braces put an end to it. LaRee is once, twice, three times a lady to me, even if we come to the end of our rainbow.

I've written love letters to LaRee every day since I got the use of my arm and hand back in 2018. She has dairies full of them.

God granted my prayer. I regained the use of my arm and hand and walked from 2018-now. It was longer than I expected. Was it a miracle or a sign that God has always been in control? What happens to me is for my own spiritual good. 

Hopefully when COVID passes, I will get back the use of my legs. If not, and I must remain in the wheelchair, I will still praise God for letting me walk again, for giving me back the use of my arm and hand, for being with me throughout 38 years of aggressive and terrifying MS. 

I will one day understand Why?

"For now we see in a mirror, dimly, but then face to face. Now I know in part, but then I will know  just as I am known. And now abide in faith, hope, love, these three; but the greatest of these is love." -- 1Corinthians 13:12-13. 

Sunday, March 20, 2022

THE MOST SERIOUS CRISIS THE WORLD HAS EVER FACED!

 

"We are at a really dangerous point in human history, probably the most dangerous time since the end of World War 2. ... He [Putin] is a Hitler with nuclear weapons." -- Dr. Malcolm Davis, Senior Nation Representative, Defence analyst, Australian Strategic Policy Institute, in 60 minutes Australian panel discuss on the Russian war against Ukraine. (See below.)

"This is the most serious crisis humanity has ever faced." -- Dr. Robert Horvath, Russia Specialist, LA Trobe University, quote from same video link below.

There is a very real threat that the war Putin is waging against Ukraine may spread into an international conflict. This will open the terrible possibility of thermal nuclear war! I am convince that Putin is unhinged—and as stated in the documentary panel in the video link below—a very dangerous psychopath. Are we facing the threat World War III, or are we in the early days of World War III? 

I fear we are in the latter. If my suspicion is true (and I hope it's not) then all human life is in danger. Does this sound alarmist?  I hope I do. This is time for serious alarm.

Each one of us must examine our conscience to see if there is anything we need to set right with anyone, or with God—through His Son Jesus Christ. Lay everything at the foot of the cross, including your future, whatever that might be. If you give your life to Christ and live for Him, whatever happens in coming days and months will become quite secondary to the knowledge that the perfect love of God waits for you and me in eternity. I want you to understand this. The state of our relationship with Christ is whole point of your lives and deaths. 

Now, I ask you to view the 60 Minutes panel discussion on implications of Russia's war on Ukraine. -- Mark



Wednesday, March 16, 2022

UNITE YOUR SUFFERING WITH CHRIST'S REDEMPTIVE SUFFERING

 Many years ago I was asked to give a workshop at a U.S. Catholic conference dealing with assisted suicide. I was at a particularly harrowing point in my own journey with multiple sclerosis so thought I shouldn't go. On the other hand, I felt that was possibly the best time to speak to why disabled and incurably ill people consider suicide (assisted or otherwise). As I had done on other occasions, I thought that if I went, it was the for the Lord's business so He would take care of me and get me back to my home in Canada, just as He had done so many other times. At the same time, my wife's mother was in a nursing home and she was afraid to leave her mother for fear she would die while we were away. We didn't go. I did not give my presentation. What would I have said? Below is part of what I wanted to say.

_______________________

For people with degenerative disabilities or terminal conditions, life can be filled with terrifying twists and turns. We need to know that we are part of a community that places God’s unconditional love at its center. We need to know the touch of love (both human and divine).

I remember in the Spring of 2005, Pope John Paul II made his last public appearance on the balcony of the Papal apartment above St. Peter’s Square. He tried but could not speak. For a few agonizing moments the Pope struggled to say something to the expectant and adoring crowd ― but he could not. The Pontiff was wheeled back into his apartment. It was evident that he was near death. To me, it was his most eloquent moment, yet he did not say a word I could understand.

But even though he was clearly dying, Pope John Paul showed, by his example that Christ is always near, especially in what may seem like hopeless circumstances. I believe the chronically ill, disabled and dying of the world took notice. I know I sure did.

Pope John Paul proclaimed, through his faithful witness, Christ’s solidarity with the world’s suffering people. His final witness was for a culture of life and inclusion ― and that blessed witness continued to the end of his life. It still resonates with me. To know that Christ stands in union with the world’s disabled, chronically and terminally ill, is of profound importance to us.

Pope John Paul told us that Jesus Christ is the path to authentic personal freedom, the source of love and joy, despite our physical circumstances, and no matter how desperate life’s circumstances may become or how close we may be to death’s door. Christ and his Mother wait for his followers at the end of our last hour as we step across the threshold from this life to the next. And I remember my rosary: “Holy Mary Mother of God, pray for us sinners now and at the hour of our death.”

Many of my observations and conclusions about suffering are rooted in the wisdom and truth of Pope John Paul II as he his 1984 Apostolic Letter Salfivici Doloris on the Meaning of Christian Suffering.

At Pope John Paul’s funeral, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger and later Pope Benedict V1, said that John Paul showed us that by “abiding in the love of Christ, we learn at the school of Christ, the art of true love.”

The true love of Christ and His Mother, is there anything so sweet to the human soul? Their love has existed beside a crimson thread of human suffering that can be traced throughout the course of human history for the last 2,000 years. Suffering seems to be inextricably linked with the essence of the nature of humanity. We are ultimately drawn to ask a fundamental question: What is the meaning of suffering?

If there is no God, then there is no purpose to suffering. The logical response to suffering is suicide. If there is bad or sadistic God, then the response of Job’s wife is reasonable: “Curse God and die.” If, however, there is a good God then there must be some redeeming value to suffering. For nearly 30 years I have contemplated and meditated upon the meaning of suffering, from a Christian perspective.

People suffer in different ways. Suffering encompasses more than physical sickness. This because there physical, emotional, and spiritual aspects to human beings. It is imperative that a distinction to be made between physical suffering and emotional, moral and spiritual suffering. I have experienced all of these forms of suffering. It is my opinion spiritual suffering is the most excruciating.

Physical pain is easiest to treat with modern pain medications and techniques. Emotional, psychological or moral suffering cut to the soul. They are more excruciating and harder to reach and treat.

Psychological, emotional or spiritual suffering often show up in sadness, disappointment, or despair. Psychological or spiritual can develop physical manifestations such as elevated blood pressure, heart attack, ulcers and digestive disorders, insomnia, weight gain or loss.

Chronic suffering creates its own world for the individual. It is like an internal exile in which the sufferer of disease or sickness feels cut-off from his community, friends and even those he loves most. This suffering is highly personal, and his deepest agony is inexpressible which intensifies his sense of isolation. It is a dangerous state because it can spawn despair of life.

It is even possible to find a perverse solace with despair of life. Despair can masquerade as destiny. It is twisted and distorted perception whereby death is preferable to life. Fait accompli.   Suicide is seen as deliverance from physical torment or a way of stopping psychological or emotion agony.

There is a 3rd lower level of despair which the medical and psychiatric professions have referred to as chronic melancholia. People in this horrible form of mental illness cease to take an interest in their own existence, the existence in the rest of humanity, or anything in the world. They cannot be roused or moved to care. For these people suicide is a very real possibility.

The brilliant Catholic apologist and author, G.K. Chesterton (1874-1936) said that suicide is not sin, rather the sin, precisely for the reasons I have just mentioned. He felt that suicide was an affront and defilement of all creation by the person’s sheer disinterest. Chesterton said that suicide insults everything on earth. Chesterton said this about the suicidal man: “There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer.” I am a huge fan of G,K, Chesterton, but on this point I think he was uncharitable and quite possibly erred in his harshness. He presumed there is no despondency below a final sneer at existence. In fact, there is and it is that dreaded state of chronic melancholia. The individual is utterly defeated; he cannot muster even a passing sigh at existence let alone a sneer. His despondency permeates every corner of his mind, every cell of his being. Regarding such cases we must reserve comment and trust those people to the tender care of the Almighty.

However, to assist in their suicide (or any suicide) is to endorse the abyss with a cruel bon voyage. People who advocate or participate in assisted suicide act with the logic of darkness. They are brutes sniffing over the waiting graves of the defeated. Any civilized society must always condemn assisted suicide in the strongest terms and never legalize or permit it.

The isolation of the sufferer is observable by others, especially his family. This creates an isolation for them too. They feel cut-off from their loved-one’s suffering. It can be excruciating for them to helplessly watch the sufferer.

Loved-ones of the sick can confuse their sorrow and pain with their loved-one’s pin. The family of the sick or dying person can perceive agony where none exists or is much less than they perceive. 

Let me illustrate this with an example from my own life. My mother was dying of bone cancer. Her physical pain was well controlled. Her suffering was of an emotional and spiritual nature – but overall her symptoms were well controlled. Yet I heard family and friends talking about her terrible pain. When I roused her and asked if she was in pain, she consistently said, “No.” Friends and loved-ones observed my mother’s dying through the lens of their own sorrow. Sorrow and grief can distort reality. My mother passed away without the agony in intractable physical pain, thanks to a skilled doctor who knew modern pain control techniques.

With my own disease, gradual paralysis has been the main issue. Earlier LaRee said she believes that her pain of observing my situation and struggles, unable to alleviate them is as excruciating as my pain. I think she is probably right. To imagine things the other way round is too unbearable for me to contemplate.

Reflected or observed pain contributes to families considering euthanasia or assisted suicide. I cannot state this too emphatically.  Reflected pain can create a vicious cycle of torment for observer of degenerative disease or disability; on the other hand, fear of being a burden for the actual victim of the debilitating condition.

Throughout my decades with MS there have been times when it was only Christ who kept me from sinking beneath the waves of my circumstances. In moments of my deepest fear it has been the real presence of Jesus Christ that has consoled me.

An atheist told me that Christianity is a crutch for weak people. He sneered and referred to Jesus as my imaginary friend. Having aggressive MS, I think I know a thing or two about weakness, crutches … and wheelchairs too. Jesus is not my imaginary friend – his presence has come into clearer focus the sicker I become. He is truer and more faithful to me than I have been to Him. He continually advocates to the Father on my behalf.

I have always slept well, But a few years after being diagnosed with MS, the attacks were so erratic and vicious, I found myself being awakened in the middle of the night by a presence. It was Him. His message was unstated but clear: “It is I, be not afraid,” or more precisely, “I am. Be not afraid.”

In the first chapter of the Gospel of John, the Apostle tells us that Christ has always been with God and that all things came to be through him. He wrote, “Eternal life is in him, and this life gives light to all mankind. His life is the light that shines through the darkness – and the darkness can never extinguish it.” (John 1.4-5.)

The triune God is the Creator of all reality, life, understanding, and the source of all authentic illumination. I had to trust that Christ would somehow light the darkness of my fears and outright terror. That marked the beginning of my search for meaning in my suffering.

Again, I got a hint for my search from Pope John Paul who once said, “[I]n order to perceive the true answer to the ‘why’ of suffering, we must look to the revelation of divine love, the ultimate source of meaning of everything that exists.” He told us that love is the richest source of meaning of suffering and that it remains a mystery.

If God is love then I must turn to Him for illumination in the midst of my slow destruction. The answer to the “why” of suffering ultimately depends on our ability to comprehend the perfection of divine love, beginning at the cross.

The reason for Christ’s Passion, and death on the cross was to settle with God the problem of human sin and evil. People suffer whenever they experience evil. The ultimate suffering is the loss of eternal life. Christ’s atoning sacrifice, his suffering and crucifixion, offering himself in our place to pay the penalty for our sins – liberating from evil all who believe this. Notice how closely evil is bound to suffering – specifically the suffering of Jesus Christ at Calvary. How we respond to His sacrifice for our sakes, can open the possibility of rebuilding goodness in the life of the person who suffers. This is the beginning of discerning the idea of divine mercy. In my case the idea of divine mercy broke my heart because I was/am so undeserving of it. It called me anew to repentance and keeping short accounts with God. It introduced me to the blessing of being “poor in spirit”. This state of spirit poverty is the forerunner of internal transformation and transcendence.

It was important for me to resist the temptation to become bitter, not to focus on my predicament, and simply surrender to the perfect and divine love of Christ. Through my Redeemer’s outstretched arms on the cross, He invited me to unite my suffering with his suffering.

Imagine that! I was invited into Christ’s redemptive suffering. This marked a critical transition point in my acceptance of suffering and stop resisting what I could not control. It required me to relinquish to Him ownership of my pain.  It required that a shift take place in my spiritual mindset in order to realize that it is more important to understand than be understood.

I was being called to set aside self-interest and ego and follow Christ with complete abandon. This is in complete antithesis to my egotistical and self-absorbed nature. Christ was calling me, in my sorrow and pain, to transcend beyond myself and unite my suffering with his at the Cross (just as he calls you to transcend yourself). 

Jesus told us that we must be willing to take up our cross daily and follow Him. It is not easy for us to take up our cross but it is necessary, if truth means anything. It requires us to daily recommit ourselves to bear up under the weight of our cross and follow him. But follow Him where? 

I my own weakness I have been so irrationally afraid to take up my cross and follow Christ because I feared it might lead to a Golgotha. Yet divine logic assureds me I can rest in Christ’s embrace as a child of God. I remember those words: “Be not afraid. I am with you.”

If I carry my cross of suffering in union with Christ’s redemptive suffering, it does not lead to the understanding that Christ raised human suffering to the level Redemption in him – if we will accept it – a sharer in Christ’s redemptive suffering.

This is what Pope John Paul called the eloquence of the cross. Death for the believer completes the eloquence of the Resurrection.

Suffering in unison with Christ has helped me to see Resurrection in a whole new light. My hope in, and anticipation of the Resurrection helps me to go through my darkest days of humiliations, my agonies, my doubts and my fears.

The Apostle Paul said, “to present your bodies as a living sacrifice, holy and acceptable to God.” We can, through faith, discover that Christ’s redemptive suffering gives us insights into our own suffering.  I am convinced this is what St, Paul meant when he wrote: “I have been crucified with Christ; yet I love, no longer I, but Christ lives in me; insofar as I now live in the flesh, I live by faith in the Son of God who has loved me and given himself for me.”

A suffering heart can rest in the hope of God and comfort of the Holy Spirit. The sufferer begins to realize they are mysteriously being transformed and made fit for heaven. If we open our sufferings to Christ’s love it will inevitably begin a spiritual transformation. 

Throughout the ages it has been observed that suffering has the concealed power to draw the sufferer toward Christ, if the sufferer allows it. I have discovered that Christ grants a special grace that transcends my suffering. As I said before, suffering has the capacity to strip away all things extraneous to life leaving only that which is essential.

Suffering has taught me that at the center of existence lies a beautiful mystery. Once that mystery has been glimpsed everything else becomes an irrelevance, a diversion. That mystery is the light of Christ which creates a renewed quality of Christian conversion. Many people throughout history have discovered this truth including, Saint Francis of Assisi, John Milton, John Donne, and millions of ordinary people. 

The 17th Century metaphysical poet John Donne wrote his immortal 17th Meditation while convalescing from an illness that nearly killed him. Most people are aware of that’s Meditation’s passage: “No man is an island entire of itself; 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.”

Later in that same Meditation he speaks about the refining effect that suffering can have on one person but wasted on another. He wrote, “No man  and hath affliction enough that is not matured and ripened by it, and made fit for God by that affliction.” Is this the case for all people who suffer? No, and Donne acknowledged this a few lines later when he wrote, “Another man may be sick too, and sick to the death, and his affliction may lie in his bowels, as gold in a mine, and be of no use to him.” 

John Donne’s believed that suffering could be a blessing to the individual or others, if allowed to ripen a person’s spiritual character.  These were insights from a man who defended suicide 15 years earlier in a scurrilous book Biathanatos. Why the change of heart ? Could it be that his suffering, an interior throes of his soul, had a purifying effect on his spiritual character? 

Suffering is not what defeats people, suffering without meaning is what does that. All humanity longs for belonging. Our true belonging lies in surrender and resting in in the light of Christ. That is all I really know. In my suffering I have received a glimpse of the truth and the truth is setting me free. Not even crippled legs and wheelchair can take that from me. 


Sunday, March 13, 2022

A MORAL IMPERATIVE FOR LIBERTY AND FREEDOM OF UKRAINE

 

This photo was not taken during WW2. It was taken
in 2022 of citizens evacuating Kharkiv, Ukraine.

The message below was sent by Twitter to the President of the United States
and the British and Canadian Prime Ministers, 13 March, 2022.
__________________________________________________________________

To: Joe Biden, President of the United States, The Rt. Hon. Boris Johnson, Prime Minister of the United Kingdom, The Rt. Hon. Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada.


Sirs: It is time for your most decisive and dramatic action of your presidency and as prime ministers. You must immediately send air-support to assist Ukraine’s air force to establish a no-fly zone.  Defence of human liberty and freedom beg for your response.  

 

The free world must no longer watch the mass killing of Ukraine’s civilians and destruction of its cities. For the sake of human liberty, dignity and freedom, America, Britain and Canada cannot— and must not —watch the overthrow of Ukraine’s republic by the jackboots and iron fist of communist Russia and brutal subjugation of its people. 


Have we not learned from history? The only difference now is that a Swastika has been replaced by a hammer and sickle!

 

We are called by our collective humanity to do unto others as we would wish them to do for us if we were in their position. Ancient wisdom resonates across the ages. The United States, Canada and Britain must go to the military aid of Ukraine to enforce a no-fly zone, just as President Zelensky has begged the world for. Let us rise to help Ukraine in their hour of need. Set aside political differences and help Ukraine to enforce a no-fly zone for the sake of their republic, its people, its fleeing refugees, and posterity.  

 

You must immediately send air-support to assist Ukraine’s air force establish a no-fly zone. Granted, It carries significant risk, doing the right thing often does

 

Respectfully,

 

Mark Davis Pickup

Canada


Tuesday, March 8, 2022

WITHOUT LOVE, THERE IS NO ULTIMATE MEANING OR PURPOSE

"Why love, if losing hurts so much? I have no answers anymore, only the life I have lived.  Twice in that life I have been given the choice: as a boy, and as a man. The boy chose safety. The man chose suffering. The pain now is part of the happiness then. That's the deal." — C.S. Lewis, Shadowlands movie (1993)

 

In 1993, a movie came out about the love and marriage of C.S. Lewis and Joy Davidson, under the title Shadowlands. Sir Anthony Hopkins played the role of Lewis and Debra Winger starred as Joy Davidson. I enjoyed the movie very much. Some critics said that the movie lacked focus on the towering literary and Christian contributions of C.S. Lewis to the world. Okay.

 

But the question remains: "Why love, if losing hurts so much?" My answer is this: Because it is the only thing really worth having or pursuing. Like the the line in the movie, I have only the life I have lived. That life has been marked by dissipation, mortification, introspection, confession, redemption, divine intervention, prayerful meditation, internal revelation and spiritual adoption. 


At the foundation of my life I have found God's love. In my sin and selfishness, my disease and paralysis, I found suffering. It was all changed by love (human and divine).  

I'm a deeply flawed man: I have grieved and caused grief, betrayed and been betrayed, mocked and been mocked, cursed and been cursed, ignored and been ignored, hurt and been hurt, forgiven and been forgiven. 

It is in forgiveness—both giving and receiving it—that the sun breaks through the clouds; more importantly, the Son breaks through the clouds. I have only the life I have lived. Without love it would not have made sense. It would been without purpose or meaning. Purpose and meaning. Without it, people lose hope. Without hope, death can seem preferable to life. 


Near where I live, people have died needlessly. The man in the house across the street committed suicide. A neighbour's son overdosed, another died of alcoholism, another essentially gave up on life. Someone else I know recently attempted suicide. Fortunately, she was unsuccessful. 


You can blame the isolation people experienced through COVID lockdowns, or the way social order seems to be collapsing around us. Both of those things are true, but they miss the central point of why people are in such despair. People need God in their lives through His Son Jesus Christ.[1] 

 

Somebody may howl in protest and indignation at this assertion. I believe it with all my heart! It has been the truth of my life and the life I have lived. I have not been dissuaded from this by multiple sclerosis or cancer, serious disability or extensive paralysis, rejection, loss, disappointment with life or clinical depression. The light of the Son has shone through the darkest of clouds. Tears of sorrow and tears of joys flowed together simultaneously.[2] It is Christ's love that has prevailed. 

 


Why love if losing hurts so much? Because through love of, and for Christ the sorrows of this world will be no more,
[3] God Himself will wipe away every tear we have shed, our grief will turn to eternal joy.[4] The only thing worth having is His love. 

 


[1] John 3.16, 

[2] 1Peter 1:8.

[3] John 16:22., cf. Luke 6:21b

[4] Revelation 21.4