“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

Tuesday, April 19, 2022

CHRISTIAN FATHERS AND SONS

 


After reading an article in the Human Life Review blog about Fathers and son, [1] I’ve been reflecting on the fact that God the Father sent God the Son to save the world, through faith, enabling us to become children of God.[2] The love of God the Father and God the Son was prepared to go to such extremes—even crucifixion on a cross—to make us his children by adoption.[3]  He gave us the template for fatherhood. It is a fatherhood of stability and order, nurture, tenderness and support, a love for one’s children that lifts them up to find the meaning and purpose for which God created them the night they were conceived. That purpose may not be lofty or august or majestic, but whatever their purpose and meaning may be, it must be rooted in divine love, obedience and surrender to His will. 

 If possible, fathers must help make that discovery as easy as possible for their sons (and daughters). If we have brought our sons up in an environment based on loving Christian morality that has the Bible as our guide. From early childhood we must teach them to listen for the leading of the Holy Spirit—they will be well on their way. Without the indwelling of the Holy Spirit, they will be confused by an evil world, its clever but wrong temptations, and hostility to all that is Holy. They may be drawn away from Christ and that is the great tragedy. Christian fathers want their children with them in Christ’s eternal love in this life and the next. — MDP



[1] Jason Morgan, Fathers and Sons, 05 April 2022 in The Human Life Review blog. https://humanlifereview.com/fathers-and-sons/

 

[2] John 1:1, 12, John 3:16-17.

[3] Romans 8:15 & 23, Galatians 4:5, Ephesians 1:5. 

Saturday, April 16, 2022

IS THERE A DARK SIDE TO ELECTRIC VEHICLES?

 Are electric vehicles really clean? See video below. Is the reporter correct? If so, we must demand manufactures of electric vehicles stop purchasing cobalt (apparently a stabilizer in the production of lithium batteries) from sources that involve child labour and put children at risk! The move away from fossil fuels is good but we must not allow the embrace of electric vehicles to be sullied by scandal—especially when it hurts people. If it does that, then it's not clean at all. If zero emissions are to be achieved and the Paris Accord goals met, it must not achieved at the expense of the poorest and most vulnerable people on the planet.



Sunday, April 10, 2022

DOCUMENTARY ABOUT TEEN SUICIDE

 Watch for this documentary My Ascension about Emma Benoit and teen suicide. Show it to the teens in your life. Arrange a teen suicide prevention event for your community. Life is so precious. God bless. — Mark






Friday, April 8, 2022

SPEAKING OF MIRACLES

This past November I was interviewed by award-winning American television journalist Kristi Leigh about a miracle that happened to me. I walked after 15 years in an electric wheelchair with MS.  A link to that interview is below that says "Kristi Leigh interview." 

It has been viewed primarily by U.S. audiences and been shared over 3,000 times on Facebook. Kristi has a wonderful online show at Kristi Leigh TV. You can find it on Facebook.

[NB: I contracted COVID in March which put me back in a wheelchair. The COVID is gone now, and I am walking again.]

Kristi Leigh interview


Tuesday, April 5, 2022

I THINK I NOW UNDERSTAND THE WHY OF MY SUFFERING




An atheist once told me that Christianity is a crutch for weak people. He sneered and referred to Jesus as my imaginary friend. Having had

aggressive MS for decades, I think I know a thing or two about weakness, crutches, braces, and wheelchairs. Jesus is not my imaginary friend – His presence came into clearer focus the more I sank into the abyss of neurological degeneration. 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.

In my search for meaning in my suffering, I got a hint in something Saint 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.”[1] 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 regardless of what is happening to me. 

The answer to the “why” of suffering ultimately depends on our ability to comprehend the perfection of divine love, beginning at the cross. The Pontiff said 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. John Paull II said 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.

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 to be understood.

I was being called to set aside self-interest and ego and follow Christ with complete abandon. This is 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 a Golgotha. It leads to the understanding that Christ raised human suffering to the level of 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, 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. 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 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, 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, a useless arm and wheelchair could take that from me. 

As I move into the last phase of my life, I think I understand the Why of my suffering and the meaning of my life. I was born to love God and my neighbour as myself. Christ wants me to take the hope that is within me, and the message of Christ's divine love, to others in their suffering, whether it be physical, emotional or spiritual. — Mark Davis Pickup


[1] Saint Pope John Paul II, Apostolic Letter, Salvifici Dorolis, On the Meaning of Human Suffering, 11 February, 1984. https://www.vatican.va/content/john-paul-ii/en/apost_letters/1984/documents/hf_jp-ii_apl_11021984_salvifici-doloris.html

 

Saturday, April 2, 2022

CREATIVITY THAT TRANSCENDS SUFFERING AND DISABILITY

In 2012, I was scheduled to give a keynote address in Newark, New Jersey about disability and creativity. The address was not delivered. I had to cancel because my mother-in-law was dying. Below is part of that address about the vast treasury of contributions people with disabilities have given to the world.

__________________________

It is important for society to help the chronically ill and disabled to reach their full potential. While adversity or suffering with a disability may have the terrible effect of isolating people, it’s important to realize that their creativity may continue unabated and even blossom in the midst of suffering. 

I think that suffering can sharpen creative perceptiveness and expression.  Art, literature, music, the sciences have records of suffering people making colossal contributions to human creativity despite their suffering (or maybe because of it).  History records many suffering people whose creative contributions enriched our world. They have so much to bring to the table of human experience despite their disabilities – and sometimes because of their disabilities. 


John Forbes Nash Jr. Brilliant American mathematician and Winner of the 1994 Nobel prize for economics. He suffered from paranoid schizophrenia. The movie A Beautiful Mind was made about his life.

Virginia Woolf (1882-1941) English Novelist, is widely acclaimed as one of the great innovative novelists of the 20thCentury.  She was manic depressive (which we call bi-polar today). Her psychosis ultimately led to her suicide in 1941. 

Maurice Ravel's Pianoforte Concerto for the left hand was
written for an Austrian pianist (Paul Wittgenstein) who lost his right arm in the First World War. 

Imagine Wittgenstein's grief! Music was the centre of his world. He grew up in a prominent Viennese household visited by composers such as Johannes Brahms, Gustav Mahler, and Richard Straus: as a boy, Paul Wittgenstein occasionally played duets with them. He was close to 30 years of age when he lost his arm. It must have been a terrible shock! 

Despite losing his arm, Wittgenstein did not give up and went on to a successful career as a concert pianist. He commissioned various works that he could perform from composers such as Benjamin Britten, Paul Hindemith and Richard Strauss. Wittgenstein was a wonderful example of the human capacity to triumph over adversity. 

Paul Wittgenstein was probably just as skilled a pianist before he lost his arm as after. Yet the public loved him most as a one-armed pianist. (Everyone loves an over-comer!) Did Paul Wittgenstein play Ravel's Pianoforte for the left hand better than any two-armed pianist. Probably not, but the public wanted it played by someone who had earned the right to play it. 

The musician's suffering was as important to a composition for the left hand as the notes themselves; together they made the music more beautiful and compelling - and that was true. It's still true. 

Thomas Alva Edison (1847-1931). He lost almost all his hearing at the age of twelve. Yet that is not why we remember him. We remember Thomas Edison for inventing phonograph, the movie camera, the light bulb.

Henry Ford – (1863-1947) American industrialist and pioneer automobile manufacturer. He also had a severe hearing impairment.

Vincent Van Gogh (1853-90) His career as a painter began at the age of 27 and lasted a brief ten years ending in 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. 

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.”[1] Van Gogh produced over 2,000 pieces of art.  Do you know how many of those pieces he sold during his lifetime? One. His 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 Van Gogh cut off part of his ear. 

Van Gogh captured the suffering of mental illness in glittering, agitated canvases.  His internal turbulence and anguish is clearly evident seen 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 fruits in the form of a remarkable gift for perception - seeing powerfully what most others did not observe at all He projected onto the canvas what he experienced internally. [2]

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 Vincent Van Gogh’s life, it’s great literature.

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

His last dark Painting was entitled Wheatfield with Crows.  That’s the field where he shot himself in July 1980 at the age of 37. He died three days later. Van Gogh’s last words summed up his sadness. He said, simply, “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 humanity! 

John Milton (1609-74) was blind when he wrote Paradise Lost – the story of Satan’s rebellion against God and the expulsion of Adam and Eve from the Garden of Eden. Paradise Lost is generally considered the greatest epic in the English language.

John Keats (1795-1821) Is considered one of England’s greatest poets. He died at the young age of 25 with tuberculosis. His poetry is unequalled for dignity, melody and richness of imagery. He once said, “I have loved the principle of beauty in all things, and if I had time, I would have made myself remembered."

He didn’t need more time to create beauty. John Keats is remembered.

Elizabeth Barret Browning (1806-61) An invalid and recluse, yet her gift for lyrical poetry is with us to this day.

Some scholars have speculated and surmised that Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have suffered from Tourette syndrome.[3]

Robert Schumann (1810-56) A leading composer of the Romantic movement. As a young pianist he damaged his right hand, which ended his dreams of becoming a concert pianist, but his output as a composer for piano, orchestral works and chamber music was prodigious.  Schumann suffered from depression and mental illness that worsened with age. Robert Schumann suffered from auditory hallucinations. During one of his bouts of mental illness he attempted suicide. He admitted himself to an asylum where he died in 1856. 

Ludwig Van Beethoven (1770-1827) Is universally acknowledged as one of the greatest composers who ever lived. Most people are aware that he was deaf when he wrote his 9th Symphony. It was his crowning achievement. 

I want to bring to your attention to the fact that Beethoven was going deaf when he wrote his 1st symphony.[4] It was detectable when he began composing his 1st symphony in 1798, and when it was completed in 1800, Beethoven’s had become quite anxious about his malady. By his own words, Beethoven had noticed his hearing loss beginning in 1796 at the age of 26.[5] By 1801 his physicians began various therapies, to no avail. His deafness increased to be near total, yet his creative prowess did not falter. 

All 9 symphonies were composed with some level of deafness! His mind was so muscular. How could it be that the standard bearer of the Romantic era was a composer who was deaf! Despite this, he rose above his predicament to reach unequalled human achievement. His beloved Moon Light Sonata was composed in serious deafness. The same is true for his opera Fidelio and Creatures of Prometheus.  It is doubtful he heard much of his 5th Symphony, his concerto for violin and orchestra, his Masses. 

Beethoven was tormented by his inner and outer troubles, his disappointment with life, his isolation brought on by his disability. He mentioned this in a letter he wrote to his brother Carl in 1802.

“[F]orgive me when you see me draw back.... for me there is no relaxation with my fellow man, no refined conversations, no mutual exchange of ideas. I must live almost alone, like one who has been banished. ...But what a humiliation for me when someone standing next to me heard a flute in the distance and I heard nothing, or someone standing next to me heard a shepherd singing and again I heard nothing. Such incidents drove me almost to despair; a little more of that and I would have ended my life – it was only my art that held me back.”

In that same letter, Beethoven prayed, “O Divine One, thou seest my inmost soul thou knowest that therein dwells the love of mankind and a desire to do good.”  At the end of his letter to Karl and Johann, he wrote in his despair, “Farewell and do not wholly forget me when I am dead.”

These words were written at a point of crisis for Beethoven about his deafness. Happily for us, the crisis passed and the great man rose above is deafness to eventually write his 9th and final symphony at his peak of creative power. Although Beethoven used Schiller’s Ode to Joy, there is a spirituality or mystical quality to the 9th. Symphony. It has a note of authentic life experience. It contains energy yet a peace and acceptance only won by strife, and a wisdom only suffering can teach. 

In this symphony we see a triumph of human spirit over adversity sustained by a spark of God’s love in a silent world. Yes, above a starry canopy dwells a loving Father who can reach into the silent world of a deaf genius and touch us even 185 years later. 

Now, for the next 30 minutes please enjoy the 4th movement of Ludwig van Beethoven’s 9th symphony, The West-Eastern Divan Orchestra, conducted by Daniel Barenboim.




[1]John Rowan Wilson, The Mind, (New York, Life Science Library, 1964) p.146.

[2] Vincent Van Gogh, The Art History Archive, Biography and Paintings. Accessed online at http://www.arthistoryarchive.com/arthistory/expressionism/Vincent-Van-Gogh.html

[3] Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart may have suffered from Tourette's Syndrome,  The Medical News, 31 August 2004. Http://www.news-medical.net/news/2004/08/31/4423.aspx. Accessed from Internet 6 February 2011.  

[4] Peter Latham, “The Music Masters: From the Sixteenth Century to the Time of Beethoven”, ed. A.L. Bacharach (London: Pelican Books, 1957), p.66.

[5] Ludwig van Beethoven – The “Heilgenst├Ądter Testament”.