Sunday, February 26, 2012

Real Heroes

It's easier to train Navy SEALs to be actors than to train actors to be Navy SEALs. That's what the directors of Act of Valor decided, and it was a good decision.

I saw the movie today, and it will take some time to recover. It's about 90% action, and it's not mere Hollywood special effects. These guys are the real deal, firing real bullets, portraying themselves in situations that SEALs must handle on a routine basis. The legendary rigors of their training requirements make more sense to me now. In the field, they need every bit of it.

The SEALs in Act of Valor won't win any Oscars, but they did an okay job of acting. It would never work the other way around. No actor could even begin to do what the US Navy SEALs do. Thanks to the SEALs and all our military heroes for their service. The world would be a much worse place without them.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Mark His Words

I had read that a fragment of Mark's gospel had been discovered recently, but scholarly caution was keeping the information shrouded in mystery, pending verification. Then tonight, on my drive home, I heard an interview with Dallas Theological Seminary's Daniel B. Wallace. Wallace is involved in the Mark's gospel fragment project.

Wallace couldn't say too much, bound by confidentiality, but he did state that the scrap of papyrus was discovered in Egypt. There will be a book, to be published in about a year, with full details. This newly discovered document dates to the first century, decades before the earliest known gospel documents. John 18, dated to 125 A.D., is currently the earliest known fragment. Therefore any verifiable document that predates it will be a highly significant archaeological find, from both biblical and scientific perspectives.

It makes me wonder. With all the upheaval, hatred, and problems in the world today, maybe the time was right for a reminder of something greater than ourselves. A refresher course on the reliability of truth and goodness would come in handy just about now. I'm going to be looking for that book next year.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

A Story for Lent

You shall not take vengeance, nor bear any grudge against the children of your people, but you shall love your neighbor as yourself: I am the Lord.

You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I say to you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you

The Christian season of Lent begins today, with many of the faithful commemorating the occasion by receiving ashes on their foreheads. The ashes symbolize man’s mortality and remind us that one day our physical bodies will return to the dust from which they came.

It’s a rather somber ritual, receiving ashes, but one worth pausing to acknowledge. In our fast-paced modern world, where everyone is multi-tasking and never quite finishing all we need to do, it’s easy to forget that “we’re all on God’s doorstep.” Nobody gets out of life alive, and any one of us could be gone at any moment. Ash Wednesday reminds us of that fact of life.

To make the most of our time on our conflicted planet, we should try to let go of our grievances. Lent is a season that prompts us to work on that lifelong self-improvement project through prayer, good works, and sacrifice.

The following story was printed in my Sunday church bulletin, and it’s timely to the challenge of Lent to become a better person.

A Cherokee story tells of a boy angry over some slight. His grandfather said, “I have known hate. It wears me down.” He continued, “It is like two wolves inside me. One is good, does no harm, and lives in harmony with others. He rarely takes offense. But the other wolf is full of anger. The smallest thing sets him to fighting anyone for no reason. He cannot think for his hate and anger. It is hard with these two wolves trying to dominate my spirit.”

The boy looked intently at his grandfather. “Which one wins, Grandfather?”

The old man smiled and said, “The one I feed.”*

The lesson in both Cherokee and Judeo-Christian traditions is clear that forgiveness, as difficult as it is, is our path to peacefulness. May your “good wolf” win your inner battles, this Lenten season and beyond.

Monday, February 20, 2012

$4 Sticker Shock

This link really made me chuckle, in a sad way. No, four-dollar gas isn't "next"--it's now. I stopped at one of the lower-priced gas stations on the way home from work and paid $3.99 per gallon. I've read that this is a record high for this time of year. Yippee.

Just wait until the pricier summer fuels start filling up the pumps. Bring on the lawn chairs; I think I'll be spending a good part of this summer on my own patio.

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

A Couple of Valentines

I looked up Valentine on the saints calendar, and I found that there's two of them with a February 14 memorial. Well, maybe two. Valentine of Rome and Valentine of Terni may be different people. But depending on which account you read, either "most scholars" or "some scholars" think these two Valentines are the same person.

Their dates vary by about 95 years, and Terni is 64 miles from Rome, but they suffered very similar gruesome deaths. Valentine of Rome was "beaten and beheaded," while Valentine of Terni was "imprisoned, tortured, and beheaded." Ouch. Those ancient Romans give new meaning to the expression "love hurts."

I suppose we'll never know for sure if one or two Valentines brought us the romantic holiday that has endured through the centuries, but it really doesn't matter. Like true love, Valentine's Day is forever.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

A Voice to Remember

Whitney Houston
August 9, 1963 - February 11, 2012

Tuesday, February 07, 2012

The Fairness Question

President Obama enjoys raising the issue of "fairness," usually when he's pushing higher taxes. In today's Wall Street Journal, Stephen Moore poses some questions for the president. His article, "A Fairness Quiz for the President," linked here, is suitable for framing.

Question President Obama? It's only fair.

Friday, February 03, 2012

An Alienable Right?

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof…
~ The Constitution of the United States: Amendment 1

The “free exercise” of religion? In the United States? Not anymore, not for Roman Catholic institutions.

President Obama has sold the Catholic Church down the river. After luring American bishops into support of his monstrous federal healthcare program with the shiny object of “social justice,” he has slammed the door on religious freedom by ordering church institutions, such as Catholic hospitals, charities, and universities, to offer contraception coverage to their employees.

This is tantamount to ordering a Muslim or Orthodox Jew to eat pork. It is a blatant violation of the right to the “free exercise” of religion. And then this demogogue has the stunning gall to attend a prayer breakfast and tell the audience that Jesus would want him to tax the rich, citing Luke 12:48, “For everyone to whom much is given, of him shall much be required."

Obama is very selective in quoting scripture. I doubt we’ll ever hear this pro-abortion president quoting Matthew 19:14, which describes the kingdom of heaven as belonging to little children. Maybe Jesus told him he could skip that one. And while I’m on this particular rant, I have a rhetorical question—can you imagine the media frenzy if George W. Bush had been using the Bible to frame his public policy at a prayer breakfast? To be ecumenical about it, oy vey.

But back to the crisis du jour, Obama’s brazen war on religious freedom. The argument that “a lot of Catholics use contraception” is beside the point. The Catholic Church says its wrong. There are a lot of Catholics who lie, steal, and commit adultery, but it’s still against our religion. As for the non-Catholic employees working at these faith-based institutions, they were aware of the moral restrictions when they took the job and, unlike the federal government, these employees respect the religious requirements of their employer.

Don’t be fooled—the issue is not about birth control; it’s about government control. If government gives you a right, then government can remove that right--or otherwise trample it, as with the contraception mandate in the “right to healthcare.” But if people “are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights,” then our freedoms come from God and government has no “right” to interfere.

Letters of outrage from betrayed bishops were read in Catholic churches last weekend. Despite media indifference, that’s not the last we’ll hear of this latest travesty from the Obama administration. The Supreme Court ultimately may have to decide if private faith-based organizations in this country will remain free to follow their own religions, or if the “religion” of government has successfully established a mandatory secular creed positioned to eventually enslave us all.

With each passing day of the rolling disaster that is his presidency, Barack Obama is increasingly successful in “fundamentally transforming the United States of America” into an unrecognizable totalitarian state. At least he’s good at something.