Tag Archives: Jesus Christ

Faith Camp, Bukidnon Youth Conference and the Future

Faith Camp is a one week long camp held for middle school aged students based somewhere in Vermilion Parish. There are currently two such camps held each year. While the kids are the focus it is an event that involves people of all ages. For many who participate in its various aspects it is both an optimistic and fun experience and a deeply spiritual one. The Catholic faith is celebrated in a context which is fairly complete and brings the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the experience of church into the lives of these young people in a complete way.

The last two weeks  before this posting there has been ongoing the 20th year of continuous Faith Camps. This ministry was founded by my sister Susanna whom I saw at Faith Camp last night. At the time she founded she and were regular prayer partners and she was in the area and living at Big Woods during the summer after having started her studies at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. It was a fairly small camp that year but I was deeply impressed with it and shared with her my own memories of a live-in conference  in Bukidnon when she was a child as one of my better memories and so the two things were linked in my mind at the inception although there was not much of a causal link.  Susanna wasalso a small child when the Bukidnon Youth Conference was going on around and near her in various manifestations in Malaybalay, Bukidnon on the southern island of Mindanao in the Republic of the Philippines. I haven’t been back since the 1980s but it was a time which I have always felt had a big influence on the rest of my life and other lives in the family. Many members of my family have played key roles in the success of the camp over the decades. This year a middle school aged child of one of the campers at the second camp was a camper at Faith Camp.

 

 This year my sister Sarah’s eldest daughter Alyse is the coordinator of Faith Camp as she was last year. This is one of the blog posts that I write that is not primarily driven by the news. It is more driven by  a series of important experiences, recollections  and feelings which resonate in my life. This is one of those posts which combines both some vivid recollection and some fading memories: But the hope one felt at key times continues. The possibility of really putting together a history of those years is a daunting and not a very promising prospect. But the prospect of trying to recapture some of the spirit of those times seems a worthy aspiration as it will help me to convey some thoughts about the current times and some of the times in between now and then. I went from New Zealand to the Philippines with my birth family when I was seventeen and arrived there around Christmas. The bottom right hand picture below is of the Maranatha Youth Group in St. Pius X Church Parish in Titahi Bay which I left behind there on those cool windswept coasts. We passed through Australia on the way there.The top set of damaged images are from my time in the Philippines as is my better picture of myself leading my sisters on the carabao. The bottom right hand corner isa picture of the wall of my Household at the Franciscan University of Steubenville.

 

 We were in the Philippines for a couple of years (or so I remember without checking) and Simon was born with difficulties associated with Prader-Willi Syndrome. That was also at Christmas and was at the time of my Bukidnon Youth Conference which is the real subject of part at least of this post. Due to Simon’s condition we came back to the United States. While there I completed my Freshman Year at USL — now the University of Louisiana  — in one semester and in the preceding summer worked in some college and youth ministries in the church. Then we all returned to the Philippines and I renewed my ministry for a while and in the summer just after my brother Joseph was born and having overstayed my visa in a tense time in a country on edge and with a gift of a large and dangerous looking tribal sword I flew back alone to the United States.The picctures I took there for various reasons have not much been digitzed and the ones that were have not al made it into part of the cloud I can access. But the memories that I have of the Philippines are indeed plentiful and meaningful. Many of them were pleasant enough. Although the images in the pair below do not show the day to day life there as I justified that life they do show some of the rewards of the experience. Visiting the sick westerners in trouble, prison ministry, speaking to dozens of groups and working with college ministries all filled most of my days. But the Bukidnon Youth Conference was perhaps the  peak of my ministry there.  Being a 52 year old, divorced, childless near indigent was not the future among many possible futures which I saw as most likely in those days. But the journey since has certainly been a complicated on and rich too in color and texture and that sense of richness makes me feel like an expert on almost everything on some days. While that is not fair to much of anything neither or the days entirely fair when I feel that my onIy efforts to communicate come from having little else to do that is fulfilling and that I only ever feel that I  am well qualified to be a sage because I appear not to be qualified for anything else. My life has not been laser focused in a single direction and my time in the Philippines was not either. I like Faith Camp and I liked the Bukidnon Youth Conference in part because they touched many aspects of life from the arts to sport to socializing over dinner. This reminds me of one of my first Facebook notes when I wrote about  some of the extracurricular activities and hobbies that have enriched my life  and divided them into the big three categories of Faith, Science and Sports which I  chose to denominate as easy issues for that early Facebook note. These Easy Issues are not to be confused with the Easy Essays written by Peter Maurin of the Catholic Worker Movement. His essays were easy,  because he easily guided the reader through the complexities of political philosophy to a simple and cohesive approach which would provide the framework fo the movement he and Dorthy Day were founding. In my Facebook the subjects are easy because of my tremendous insights into the very narrow experience I had in each of those fields — I did not concern myself with the larger picture. There was some tongue in cheek in the use of there terms and words but Faith Camp and the Bukidnon Youth Conference were also founded to give young people a real body of experience that they could claim as their own. A small window of controlled positive experience from ehich to see the world.

During those years when ministry was part of my life I did a lot of work preparing to work . One thing  or another or many things must be left out including almost all my regular Catholic  school time but I now note  the religious education I received. Some I received within the context of the schools mentioned. However, I also took a set of remote preparation confirmation classes in the Diocese of Lafayette within the Come Lord Jesus Program and the brief imediate preparation course at a Parish in the Archdiocese of Wellington, New Zealand. I was confirmed by a cardinal. In the Diocese of Lafayette I also completed instruction in and was commissioned for Evangelism as a Lay Evangelist of my native dicoese. This was also where after college I was certified as a catechist. Beyond those things, I completed the Life in the Spirit Seminar, the Cursillo de Cristiandad (en Ingles), a basic Lector’s training, Prayer Group Leaders Training Course, a salvation history micro course and stdied as a journalist the English translation of the Prelature of Bukidnon’s Alagad course which was a successful lay leadership course. I also read and discussed the Documents of the Second Vatican Council many times and in many contexts. Susanna who founded Faith Camp completed here degree in theology while continuing to build up this ministry. The two things have in common that they communicate to the kids from a depp and well laid foundation.

Like a lot of activity among Christians it is designed to provide an opportunity for a personal spiritual experience. The importance of personal spiritual experience in America is more evident than in some countries. One of the reasons for that comes from a man who was not a Christian but had a profound influence on the Christian and other populations of these United States at a critical time — the Revolution. Thomas Paine, one of the great thinkers of the American revolution basically stated that one of the profound problems with revelation as a basis for any law or covenant is that as soon as it is written down or described rather than existing as a perceived miracle or apparition or Messianic epiphany it becomes mere tradition. Three things can be said about that idea that miracles and revelation become traditions:

1. It is somewhat true and worth keeping in mind.
2. If God, the universe, the gods and Divine Wisdom were communicating with humanity they might not excuse people who said “Well, I needed that direct Apparition your Highness — didn’t get it so it’s your fault not mine.”
3.In places and times such as existed in the Charismatic renewal there was a renewal within the person which was seen to confirm the written Word and the received tradition. It is out of that third connection with the renewal of the background music and lifestyle of our family that the Bukidnon Youth Conference (BYC) and twenty years of Faith Camps have come. The Bukidnon Conference was less part of the Charismatic Renewal than was some of my work in those days and the current Faith Camps only remind one of the renewal. But the tradition is there.

St. Augustine is credited with two sayings that mean a lot to me as far as faith goes. One is “Seek not to understand that you may believe. Seek rather to believe that you may understand.” That saying is not perfect and is easily misconstrued but it remains profoundly true and truly profound.The second saying I will allow to explain itself and to be interpreted without me. St Augustine wrote “The best and the worst men in the world live in monasteries.” The idea that these young people come together to find understanding and to explore a fully lay spirituality does not mean that none will later become monks, priests, scientists or theologians some do and those around usually rejoice.  But the experience is of a different focus of informing a growing faith and living for Christ in the world.

That Filipino journey  in which the Bukidnon YouthBconference was born was one  which only temporarily ended just after the conference itself. But after returning with them from my time at USL and in this region I did not stay but went to enroll at the school where Susanna was studying when Faith Camp was founded.  I returned a bit early and went to live that summer with my paternal grandparents in a larger than most two storey house beside a park. That  is where I lived in that intervening summer have lived at other times and is also where I am living  now as I type this but I have only been here for a few months this go round. Then I enrolled as a sophomore at the Franciscan University. The summer after my sophomore year I returned to the Philippines to visit and overstayed my visa yet again by only a few days and flew home alone. I left school in mid semester for complicated reasons including some to do with problems in the Philippines related to those whom I had invited into the region to help me with the Youth Conference and  shortly after leaving school I met my parents returning to Abbeville where I currently reside. All of that was along time ago and I took a break to do some more ministry and other things before enrolling again at USL and finishing my degree there. Thousands of picture taken during those and subsequent years are unavailable to me here and now on this blog. But the family on the bottom left hand of the set below are the son of Abbeville friends and his wife who have been FMC missionaries where we once served for more than a few years now. The picture on the bottom right hand corner shows my brother Simon and my parents at an FMC Donors Dinner. He clearly survived the ordeals surrounding his birth as did we all.

 

Of the  actual BYC as an event I have no photos to share and never had many photos. Indeed of the conference itself very little documentation was made and far less survives. But there are a few things and here are a pair of snippets of that time. The newsletter Resounding Praise which defined so much of our communication with the rest of the world had a feature on the conference. This gathering so distant in time and space is still near to my memory and sensibility. The sense and vision behind the conference was one of bringing young Catholics and some not sure they were Catholics together to celebrate the gospel and to deal with the real challenges not only of their personal lives but of Islamist and Communist pressures from groups which in several cases were profoundly hostile to their Catholic Christian commitments.  There was also a real openness to finding what could be improved in the generally pro-American, Catholic, free market synthesis that informed the conference. There was not a tone of xenophobia or paranoia but of relatively optimistic participation in the world as it was  for young Catholic Christians. There is something in Faith Camp’s tradition that has always reminded me of that event.

 

 

There are bigger events in the world than Faith Camp or the Bukidnon Youth Conference but bigness is not everything. Nonetheless as America approaches it participation with other countries in the Rio Olympic Games I am reminded that the New testament is full of references to Olympic events. Paul wrote of racing, boxing, archery and of the disciplines of training as well as the glories of victory in those ancient games. For those going to the Olympics who are Christians while they should respect the games and the diversity there it can be both a mission and a spiritual experience in Christ.

A few years ago London prepared to see the wedding take place in Westminster Abbey there was a lot of suffering and pain in the world. Truthfully, there is almost always a lot of suffering and pain in the world.  Whatever their role may be in adding to the sum of distress in the world, the British royals do quite a bit to lessen the sum of woe and that was not the less true in a year when they were planning a royal wedding . That  set of outreaches to those in need is an effort that  is well documented. Prince Charles, Camilla Duchess of Cornwall and Prince William (the bridegroom this weekend) all have long supported a variety of charities benefiting humans, animals, ecosystems and cultural groups in distress.Prince Charles has a substantial income as Duke of Cornwall and donates a great deal of the income to charities in such a way that it leverages and is leveraged by other charitable donations. While it may well be that not a direct penny of that family’s efforts and gifts will go to help those hurt by the tornadoes whch ripped through the South last night it is also true that they are part of a philanthropic community around the world in which helping is informally circulated almost everywhere. Two babies (at least) ago the United Kingdom and the British Commonwealth celebrated on the 29th of April 2011 The wedding of Prince William and Catherine Middleton. This expensive and extravagant occasion was also a Christian ritual and gathering and an expression of faith. The scene was truly extraordinary and the elegant venue and the well prepared  liturgy and preaching were all rather impressive even for those who are not so easily impressed.  The sermon of the Anglican Bishop of London is one which I have found to be a worthy sermon to address our times:

“Be who God meant you to be and you will set the world on fire.” So said St Catherine of Siena whose festival day it is today. Marriage is intended to be a way in which man and woman help each other to become what God meant each one to be, their deepest and truest selves.

Many are full of fear for the future of the prospects of our world but the message of the celebrations in this country and far beyond its shores is the right one – this is a joyful day!

It is good that people in every continent are able to share in these celebrations because this is, as every wedding day should be, a day of hope.

In a sense every wedding is a royal wedding with the bride and the groom as king and queen of creation, making a new life together so that life can flow through them into the future.

uture.

 

The future does flow through families and gathering and weddings and the like. Churches and other communities have an obligation, it seems to me to prepare young people to be conduits of the grace of God and the hope of the future into new generations. They need to be prepared for the task. All married couples, all celibates and many other classes of not mutually exclusive kinds of people have to be educated in that complete humanity. For Faith Camp that is a Catholic Christian experience An I like that best but it also speaks to those not with us in that community. I am not a young optimist and my own view of life can be pretty bleak often enough. But while  I am sorry that when caught up in nearly apocalyptic events I often already have declared myself to have been involved in a number of calamities — sorry but not very repentant. these conferences and other things have not made me boldly cheerful in that sense. But each Faith Camp and its predecessor to my view  have in fact reminded me that how one engages with life may change over the years  but faith filled engagement  and courage remain necessary.  I know that I  was at one time more fully engaged in meeting the world and the changes going on around me with gusto and energy than I am now. I beilieve that some of those now enthused will persevere in doing good but will not have the same zest when they are my age as they do now.  The world is no stranger to my dire assessments and prognostications regarding my own life and future but the truth is I am still in the fight for the same causes and so are some of those who fought with me under that old distant BYC banner. So also is Susanna and her early team.

Faith Camp prayer - 8   But there is a time and a place for looking back on all that has happened in ones life and that place is this blog. The time is spread out over many posts and pages. The truth is that I was not always quite so late middle aged, directionless and chronically despondent as I am now.  There were times when I aspired to other and more things in daily life than a differing serving of a perpetual mix of the routine, the impossible and the trivial. I was working hard at BYC but perhaps nobody got more out of it than I. I rejoice in the legacy I see although nobody else may see it the same way exactly.

The outgrowth of my various involvements and labors over the years are not all that easy to track, however there has been an institution which has grown out of all that activity in one sense or another and which is also dear to my heart for various reasons…  My brother John Paul was the head coordinator longer than anyone else so far I believe. It is also interesting that this year’s head coordinator Alyse Spiehler has a brother who although he only went to the first camp and was abroad on his birthday during the second camp has celebrated his birthday at Faith Camp several years and probably will again. In fact all of my sibling except Simon and my deceased half brother have served ads head coordinators or coordinators although I never have. I did of course at BYC which I consider to be an ancestor of Faith Camp. The family tie is a real one with my family but there are many other family ties as well. This does not make the focus more narrow and our family does not embody any analogous local set of privileges to those that shaped the hosting of the large wedding in London mentioned before. But the family story is part of the Faith Camp story.

 

That is, with everything else already mentioned and many other things not mentioned here  — the ongoing work of Faith Camp. That is the distant legacy of the BYC. And in some way it is the universal call of the Gospel of Jesus Christ. We are called to be the Body of Christ as Church and to celebrate the mystery of the fullness of life Christ came to offer and assure. All of that is part of the Faith Camp Story.

faith camp week 2, 2016 - 4 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 2 faith camp week 2, 2016 - 1

Emanuel, Son of David: Novel Draft Chapters continue to the Baptism of the Lord

credits to my sister Susanna and family

credits to my sister Susanna and family

 

For whatever reason I have chosen to include this next section of chapters by links in my blog. I hope that anyone who wishes to read them finds the situation and technologies sufficiently functional. There really is a novel going on about the Life of Jesus Christ that I find worth reading. Make sure to go back to the last post and read the first chapters of Emanuel, Son of David: A novel of the life of Jesus Christ. But once you have read those you can come here to read the next section.

My Certification as a Catechist for the Diocese of Baton Rouge

My Certification as a Catechist for the Diocese of Baton Rouge

Here we have the links to chapter eighteen, chapter nineteen, chapter twenty, chapter twenty-one, and chapter twenty-two. If you are still moving right along you can read chapter twenty-three, chapter twenty-four, chapter twenty-five, and chapter twenty-six. Jesus’s life is complex subject and this format is not ideal but we can continue with chapter Twenty-sevenchapter twenty-eight, chapter twenty-nine, chapter thirty, chapter thirty-one, chapter thirty-two, chapter thirty-three, chapter thirty-four and chapter thirty-five. Now we come in for the home stretch on this narrative circuit with chapter thirty-six, thirty-seven, thirty eight, thirty-nine and forty. This novel should be 200 chapters when and if it is ever finished. I am not sure how much will end up in this blog along the way.

My Sophomore Class Award from FUS

My Sophomore Class Award from FUS

 

Christmas and New Year’s Eve 2014: Overview

DO I LOVE CHRISTMAS?  I found myself asking myself that question this year a few times. I do not keep it as well, enjoy it as much or find as much hope as I did in years when I could face the suffering associated with the season differently than I find I can now. But I do love Christmas. I hope I will find a way to love this particular Christmas and so will you whoever you are.

Me in front of a Christmas lights nativity scene shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

Me in front of a Christmas lights nativity scene shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

There is a lot to post about and yet not the kind of post to write which fills me with drive and inspiration. I believe in Christ and in Christmas. There is no shortage of  joy in which some memories are lit despite the abundance of sorrows and shadows in the past as well. Christmas will always matter and be important to me.

I like the original Charlie Brown Christmas Special which in the most secular reaches of American popular Christmas culture  reaches out with a reading of the Gospel of St. Luke and the Infancy narrative which  so beautifully captures all of the essence of Christmas.  The classic Christmas story is contained in the second chapter of Saint Luke’s Gospel verses two through twenty. It does not seem like so many words for such a big holiday. This first big quote comes from a translation known as the New International Version of the Bible. Later quotes from the other Gospels come from the New American Bible Translation.

The Birth of Jesus

1 In those days Caesar Augustus issued a decree that a census should be taken of the entire Roman world. 2 (This was the first census that took place while Quirinius was governor of Syria.)3 And everyone went to his own town to register. 4 So Joseph also went up from the town of Nazareth in Galilee to Judea, to Bethlehem the town of David, because he belonged to the house and line of David. 5 He went there to register with Mary, who was pledged to be married to him and was expecting a child. 6 While they were there, the time came for the baby to be born, 7 and she gave birth to her firstborn, a son. She wrapped him in cloths and placed him in a manger, because there was no room for them in the inn.

The Shepherds and the Angels

8 And there were shepherds living out in the fields nearby, keeping watch over their flocks at night. 9 An angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were terrified. 10 But the angel said to them, “Do not be afraid. I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. 11 Today in the town of David a Savior has been born to you; he is Christ the Lord. 12 This will be a sign to you: You will find a baby wrapped in cloths and lying in a manger.” 13 Suddenly a great company of the heavenly host appeared with the angel, praising God and saying, 14 “Glory to God in the highest, and on earth peace to men on whom his favor rests.” 15 When the angels had left them and gone into heaven, the shepherds said to one another, “Let’s go to Bethlehem and see this thing that has happened, which the Lord has told us about.” 16 So they hurried off and found Mary and Joseph, and the baby, who was lying in the manger. 17 When they had seen him, they spread the word concerning what had been told them about this child, 18 and all who heard it were amazed at what the shepherds said to them. 19 But Mary treasured up all these things and pondered them in her heart. 20 The shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things they had heard and seen, which were just as they had been told.

 

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

To write of Christmas is to write of so very much. To write even of the Christmas Days I remember is surely to write of a subject that could fill a book well enough.  When books are needed I think first and foremost of the Gospels. My heart is still moved by those glad tidings. Not so moved as the  heart ought to be perhaps but moved. What does it mean?  Surely, it means several things but what is the spiritual original context?

The first chapter of the Good News of Jesus Christ According to Saint John tells us:  “In the Beginning was the Word and the Word was with God and the Word was God.” After telling a few words of how this mystery operates John assures us that God sent John the Baptist who was not such an eternal being to prepare the way for this Word.  This great mysterious Divine being  had come into Earth and history and is at the heart of the Gospel.  The fourteenth verse gets to the crux of the matter. This being is not a visiting angel or elemental principle, rather:

“And the Word became flesh

And made his dwelling among us,

And we saw his glory,

The glory as of the Father’s only Son,

Full of grace and truth.”

Saint John then is the Evangelist who tells us the most clearly of the Divine Nature of the Christ and how his coming into human flesh through the nature of pregnancy and birth and family brought the Divine and Human into One in Jesus Christ. According to Saint Matthew’s Gospel in the first chapter and eighteenth birth this incarnation of the Divine Word happened in a very specific way:

Now, this is how the birth of Jesus Christ came about.

When his mother Mary was betrothed to Joseph,

but before they lived together,

she was found with child through the Holy Spirit.”

Matthew will soon tell us of how Jesus is born in Bethlehem and visited by the Magi. But all of the story of how they got to Bethlehem and how Mary found herself with child by the Holy Spirit are found in Luke’s Gospel.  Luke is really the Christmas Evangelist above all others.  In the first chapter of St. Luke’s Gospel he describes the Angel Gabriel visiting Mary and her conversation  with him as the time when the Holy Spirit was revealed to be coming upon her. Pregnant she visits her cousin Elizabeth the now pregnant  but long barren wife of a priest at the Jerusalem temple.  She stayed there to  help her cousin be helped and to witness the birth of Jesus’s cousin John who is in the early chapters of all four Gospels.  She and Joseph marry after (according to Saint Matthew) angel had instructed him on the nature of the holy child.

I think of all that Christmas is and not only its origins or even its spiritual aspects.

The quotes from the centuries since the  first Noel which appear in this post are previously collected. Some I read in their original context and some I did not but they come from Goodreads, Brainy Quote and Bartlett’s Famous Quotations.  I will also note that my own writings about Christmas in this blog include this year’s offering here and here. Also earlier years led me to write this and this. These last two posts are not all I have written here they are a good enough sample for those inclined to read them.

Most Americans and most residents of Christendom believe Christmas is and should be a very good occasion. Benjamin Franklin stated, “A good conscience is a continual Christmas”. Franklin expected all his audience to think Christmas was a very nice thing to have.  Hope, peace, rest and good food have meant a lot to many people.   On this holiday of well-known practices one can base deeper meaning and higher hopes as Washington Irving wrote “Christmas is a season for kindling the fire for hospitality in the hall, the genial flame of charity in the heart.”  We all want to find a little Christmas we can keep well if we are honest with ourselves. This is most true for Christians but also for to others who catch the scent of the season.

But we also know it is not easy. Not always do we w feel bettered by the season. Sometimes the most we can do is agree with Lake Woebegone writer Garrison Keillor — “A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together”.

I have run lot of errands and I have bought lots of things on behalf of other people.  I have seen others buying and selling some I think were well enough aware at the  donation boxes for toy drives, Salvation Army kettles and in dealing with lines and hassles that they did not want the holiday to make them too selfish or too materialistic. They and I were aware of the idea in the classic children’s Christmas story.

“Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before! What if Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. What if Christmas…perhaps…means a little bit more!”Dr. Seuss, How the Grinch Stole Christmas!

Even those more interested in Chanukah or Chinese New Year could know that whatever Christmas they kept should be a bit real.  Without having heard it they were concerned about Benjamin Franklin’s other famous quote about Christmas: “How many observe Christ’s birthday! How few, His precepts!” We mostly hope there is some real Christmas joy in the homes where we mark the day.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

The great novelist who gave us the Christmas Carol was perhaps a conflicted Christian at times but he was a man serious about Christmas. It was Charles Dickens I think who wrote his own vow in Ebenezer Scrooge’s vow “I will honor Christmas in my heart, and try to keep it all the year.”  We can remember the best we have seen of giving and receiving between families and children. Those things remind us of the best of the shopping part of the holiday.  In our memories too we remember innocent joys of gratitude and wonder from our own dawn of awareness of the holiday. A chronicler of the American frontier and children’s writer Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote: “Our hearts grow tender with childhood memories and love of kindred, and we are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmas-time.”

We all have a sense of how gifts connect and live across generations.

We all have a sense of how gifts connect and live across generations.

 

But we know the shopping for loved ones is not enough. even the toydrives are not enough.  Maraboli is one of many writers who reminds us ot the teaching of the Man we honor as a baby just now. There is more to do:

Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty,

“Want to keep Christ in Christmas? Feed the hungry, clothe the naked, forgive the guilty, welcome the unwanted, care for the ill, love your enemies, and do unto others as you would have done unto you.”

― Steve Maraboli, Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

 

Christmas is noted by all of us in different ways. None of us perfectly and I do not think parties, drinks and flirting are out of place.  My better Christmases involved more of such things. But let us remember Christmas in all its mysteries.  Merry Christmas to you all.

My niece's early Christmas can be remembered but not recaptured.

My niece’s early Christmas can be remembered but not recaptured.

Then when we get to New Year’s Eve maybe our party will be based on hopes and joys built to carry us into the new year in a more sturdy way. I am not feeling all the glee of the season’s best impulses but yeas I do believe in them.

Christmas is a Coming and a 2016 Presidential Preview

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

An image showing the basis of all this Christmas celebration.

It is still a bit too early but “Merry  Christmas and  Happy New Year!”  This post mixes Christmas wishes with political discussions. That is surely not every one’s cup of tea. It is not always mine. But this blog combines such themes as they are combined in the passage of time in my life. This blog post is another one of those. In some ways it is perhaps an admission that neither  one’s Christmassing nor one’s political life are all that they should be. I have been opposing much of Obama’s agenda in this blog and it certainly seems to have slipped back a few notches in the most recent election.  This Christmas we as Americans can see that the world is in flux. We can hope to find our way forward through these holidays and the coming year without a great catastrophe but we can also know that there are crises afloat and afoot. Americans can find some solace in the stresses endured by the Holy Family on that first Christmas.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

Mom with a Christmas tree in a previous year. Today she is scheduled to buy a tree.

I have not had an exemplary early Christmas and Advent and by some measures I am spoiling whatever moral or religious value it had be sharing it with you. This year I made some new ornaments to replace the missing ones in the old set my parents hang on the Jesse tree which is one of the only objects I still have from when I was married. I also put a few dollars into the Salvation Army kettles out and about, donated a few gifts to the toys programs at dollar stores and discount stores  and posted a bit about Advent. I also went to religious services and participated in the Advent rituals around the wreath and Jesse tree at home.

The celebration of Christmas rates some substantial coverage on the White House’s official website. You can link to some of that coverage here. Wikipedia takes note of the White House Christmas tree tradition here.  So, perhaps mixing up the elements of a Christmas blog post and an early presidential politics blog post is not such an odd idea after all.

Santa Claus is a powerful Christmas symbol in America today.  Santa is certainly part of the landscape of my holiday.

Santa Claus is a powerful Christmas symbol in America today. Santa is certainly part of the landscape of my holiday.

 

Even for a conservative Catholic Christian like me it is getting closer to the time when one might say “Merry Christmas and Happy New Year”. I have used the word “Advent” in two blog posts (as well as the word Christmas in one of them). None of these posts have been as seasonal as some other I have posted here, here and here in previous years. It is also early be discussing the Presidential election of 2016 but  I am doing that as well.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

We all have images of what leadership should look like which are not simple portrayals of reality.

 

The reality of our political life is such that the Presidency is currently our biggest symbol and most important feature of our political life. What we have in our society is a dearth of many of the symbols of the cohesion and sharing of our social values with one another in the way that a great holiday can unite a nation and a society. So Christmas and its presidential aspects have a lot to do with our awareness of ourselves as a people and as a society that stands out as existing in some real way in the world. With ISIS executing American hostages almost continually, Russia flying more military sorties than it has since the Soviet Union was at the height of its Cold War assertiveness, the North Koreans mobilizing large cyber resources against us and real decay of US stature in Europe we are either likely to say what does our Christmas unity matter or we are likely to say that the unity we express is not the most important national concern. That is of course unless we are like millions of Americans who have very little concern for foreign policy. It is also true that some of us think of Peace on Earth, Goodwill to Mankind as a particularly relevant sentiment in times like these. The Angels greeting which came with that sentiment at the first Christmas was joined to their adoration, “Glory to God in the Highest!” Many Americans will be going to a variety of churches to honor God as they celebrate Christmas. Others will go to other places of worship to celebrate other holidays – including Chanukah which is a holiday Jesus’s family would have known. But Nativity scenes and even Christmas trees have become a set of lightning rods in the controversies about Christmas in public life. That discussion in return has become a big part of the discussion of religious expression in public life. What Presidential contenders will think about faith is increasingly a political issue that can be seen from many points of controversy.

Me in a shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

Me in a shot by one of the proprietors on my phone as I walked into the Donors Dinner.

While the President plays the role he does in pardoning turkeys, lighting the National Christmas tree and seeking to embrace a holiday theme that resonates with the nation it is not impossible to think of the Presidency of the United States as part of our Christmas landscape. When we do there is a sense of the way that our society does and does not function which forms part of our  vision of both the holidays and the politics of our nation. So who is likely to be the next President of the United States of America?

 

 

Christmas has long been a political and legal battlefield. The assault on Christmas has been part of the story but so has the defense of Christmas in public life. In the chart featured below which may still have some currency even though I believe it is based on data from before the 2014 Congressional elections we have two Republican contenders for the Presidency in 2016 who have about equal shares of prospective primary votes. One is Mike Huckabee who regardless of what he might say if asked about Christmas is a former Protestant Christian ordained minister who clearly has a likelihood wanting to keep the tradition of honoring the birth of Christ as a nation.  The other is Rand Paul who, regardless of what he might say about Christmas is deeply committed to a libertarian point of view and politics. Such libertarians often find themselves in alliance with Atheists, some other religious groups and liberals of particular strip in undermining America’s traditional Christian holidays.

Early December 2014?

Early December 2014?

There is a lot of shaking out to do if these numbers mean any thing before any Republican can claim the nomination.  But it does indicate perhaps the streams of thought that are shaping the country as regards finding a religious root for values expressed by America’s  “right” in politics.

What then about the left? Where does the other side of American  political energy come down on our connecting with the roots of Christianity.  Unlike the possible GOP nominees, Hillary Clinton has tended to tower over her challengers for the 2016 Democratic nomination. Some people are saying that candidates like Elizabeth Warren are poised to show explosive growth but it would take a lot of growth to challenge  Clinton in the primary.

Joe Lieberman who ran with Al Gore was not a Christian but a Jew who seemed to tolerate a good deal of public Christmas. Mitt Romney belonged to what most scholars consider to be a post-Christian religion but it is one that celebrates Christmas as an American holiday and the birth festival of Jesus Christ. Many presidents have been devout Christians: Washington, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Eisenhower, Jimmy Carter, Woodrow Wilson, John Kennedy and half a dozen others are clearly men who in my opinion must be seen as Christians entirely. Whatever they did not achieve of the Christian ideal is not because they did not adhere to that faith and religion. Richard Nixon was reared as a Quaker and (though many American Quakers seem pretty much to be Christians) Quakers as a whole are not a Christian faith but one which grew up among Christians.  It is hard to say what Nixon was when he was President. With men like Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Jefferson and  a few others it hard to say where they stood in terms of religious classification and identity.

So that brings me to Clinton. She is a favorite enemy of the Christian Right and other religious people in American politics and she may well deserve it. She has a background which is mostly verifiable: Clinton was reared a Methodist Protestant Christian, belonged to a Senate Prayer Group and has spoken at Prayer Breakfasts.  Her profile may seem different to American atheists than to most other people. Here is an atheist site evaluating Clinton’s background and religious values.  It is hard to know how  she would deal with Christmas.

 

Early December 2014? Whenever this is it is Clinton's race to lose at that moment.

Early December 2014?
Whenever this is it is Clinton’s race to lose at that moment.

Christmas and even religion are important but most religious people realize that religion connects to how they see all the world and does so in complicated ways. Real issues like how to evaluate science, how to evaluate ethical policies and how to make peace are informed by our religious background, point of view and  activity. We see this with political issues from funding homeless shelters, to stem cell research to the use of enhanced interrogation techniques. But it goes beyond that.

I am a Christian and many of my blog posts are explicitly Christian.  But my thoughts about science are in connection with my religious thought. So my scientific areas of discussion do seek or do have a harmony with my faith. Here, here and here are some examples.  So my choices of how to use resources here and elsewhere are in connection to my religious values. I do accept and embrace pluralism in America. I see a kind of pluralism in America and the structure of the universe.

The truth about all of life is that it is a bit interactive and interactive and multifocal.  That means that what we do affects what  we see done and there are many other active people and forces creating the continuous drama that is the universe, playing out the great game — or whatever other metaphor might work for you.  Increasingly one  may disagree with what the meaning of different part of the drama or game may mean, how much they will matter or who should care. For example some scientist are feeling sure that they have just recently  found the key to working out the meaning and structure of dark matter in the universe.

I am very interested in Astronomy but probably my use of space exploration money would place low priority on this research until  a better theoretical framework was developed. That also has something to do with Christmas. So Merry Christmas and Happy New Year. Whether or not you are a Christian or an American I think the American experience of the holiday has something to say to us all. Chinese New Year and Chanukah are different indeed but they also represent a reaching for unity, meaning, celebration and often family.  Not just a reaching for money, power and resources. A society with no spiritual moorings seems very close to shipwreck to me. I hope we will never see America in such a condition.

 

Passover, Holy Week and the World’s Insane Savagery not always Progressing Civilization

“On the First Day of the Feast of Unleavened Bread, the disciples approached Jesus and said, ” Where do you want us to prepare for you to eat Passover?” Matthew  26: 17  NAB. During Easter and Holy Week Christians celebrate Jesus celebrating his national and ancestral holiday of the feast of Passover.  Jesus the Redeemer and Deliverer was celebrating a holiday of Delivery and Redemption when  he entered into the suffering and death of his Paschal mystery. According to the Bible the Hebrew had come into Egypt as wealthy administrators whose zenith was embodied in the man Joseph who struck  a shrewd deal to help Egypt through a crisis and secure his people’s survival. Perhaps ties to Hyksos Semitic elements before or after their dynasty and ties to lands as far away as Babylon and as close as Canaan enabled the early Hebrew clans to play a key role as a small part of the Egyptian society and economy. But things change. “Then a new king, who knew nothing of Joseph, came to power in Egypt, He said to his subjects, look how numerous and powerful the Israelite people are growing, more so than we ourselves! Come, let us deal shrewdly with them to stop their increase, otherwise in time of war they too may join our enemies to fight against us and so leave our country.” Exodus 1: 8-9 NAB.

The Hebrews are enslaved (although neither in the systems we have known relatively recently nor in the system for individual war captives in Egypt) and when that doesn’t do the trick infanticide is commanded to keep them down. Doubtless many Hebrews gave children to any Egyptian who would save them. One of those saved was Moses who became the deliverer of the Passover. There are no real vowels from which English translates his name in the oldest texts.   So we may say his name was Mss. The Pharaohs often had names like Ramses (Rmss) or Thutmose (Ttmss). As a Hebrew  reared as an Egyptian Prince he was doubtless possessed of the name of an egyptian God followed by the “mss” name. He then removed that Pagan first syllable and had a new meaning given to the last two syllables of that name perhaps based on an event or perhaps based on a wall known story of Sargon which was in the Pharaoh’s  Palace Library — and so his name tells a story. Moses’s struggles, spiritual journey and growing sense of Hebrew identity filled a period after he fled Egypt for killing an Egyptian and then returned to seek the deliverance of his people. Why would an atheistic team of scholars and scientists say he appeared to confront Pharoah at that time?  Many such say the story is made up. But I say they are lazy cowards.   

A man learned in all the vast science and wizardry of Egypt that an astute Princeling could learn there he added to it ties with Semite and nomads with old ties to his Hebrew Ancestors. He preayed and sought the help of God for a deliverance for his people. Through consultation and study steadied in prayer he became certain enough that a vast volcanic eruption was coming to the Eastern Mediterranean. The first shifting of plate and upheavals of the Earth came after he had already begun to prophesy to Egypt’s leaders. They found the water reddish and discolored and somewhat poisoned after the prophesied first quake. Hebrews rejoiced at this sign that their unique leader could predict the future. Frogs first, then gnats and then flies were driven from wetlands and wilderness and among the flies were stinging water creatures found in new puddles and flats. Moses preached and life got bad. Moses and his agents kept a sense of pace and theater building the tension and soon the bad water, gasses from fault cracks and rotting bodies and waste of insects led to devastating disease.

The Seventh plague of hail came as the first ashes coated with ice and snow stirred up storms with the early eruptions.  These storms stirred up unprecedented numbers of bugs that swarmed to escape the hostile climate. Then the Locusts descended on a blighted land. Finally the main eruption poured forth and the ejecta cloud darkened the skies for three days. Moses had prevented the Hebrews from being victimized in these terrible ordeals — perhaps sacrificed or eaten and instead had made them feared when he preached and predicted all of this. In the Wealthy Houses many if the Heirs lived in areas of the building nearest the outgassing inlets and as the Hebrews gathered to pray, plan, drill at arms and feast these died in their sleep.

Then the Hebrews moved away from Egypt and found water courses diverted and dams of debris creating dry corridors. The crossed over these and when the Egyptians had second thought s the waters were returning to courses and the armies were cut off surrounded, flooded and washed away by the returning waters.  The Hebrews followed a column of cloud near the coast by day as the cloud of the erupting volcano was visible and of fire at night as it glowed. Exhausted birds flying from lands devastated by the volcano fed them and the ashes fell down with humidity from the sea and caused little plants to produce food in the desert for flocks and people and this went on for a while and was called manna.  With courage and faith they risked it all in a world turned upside down and found themselves free at the end. Unfortunately many seminaries are either illiterate or else see only how fairy tales are similar to these stories.

Jesus was also a real man who really healed the sick. He really fed the hungry and preached and led crowds. He came to Jerusalem knowing he would die horribly with the endless courage that typified him and his life. He came among other things to celebrate the Passover. 

I do appreciate the glories of Egypt and Rome. I am not a romantic idealist purist who hates all trappings of power and pomp. But the great stories at the heart of  Judaism and Christianity are also about human greatness. These are not worthless fools serving a worthy God. This is God drawing near to his people.   

In recent posts I have been putting up a goodly number of more or less political postings.  In fact, the last half-dozen have all been political without an exception. I could have interrupted these to do a personal post on my brother’s wedding but I did not.  Having committed to this political expression I have decided to go on with the process for the immediate future. Everyone has got their discontents and their sense of what are the tolerable limits of their civic and social situation before they must take some kind of drastic action to change that situation or remove themselves from it. I am not arguing that whatever I will do is immediately and inextricably linked to what society as a whole will find to be the right and practical response. In fact, in may ways my own place is one of having lost that basic sense of trust in society which would be at the base and part of the very essence of such an assertion as I disclaim here. But on this holiday as we think of our civilization let us remember that civilization is more than power alone. Besides the unique and great criticisms of Moses and Jesus Egypt and Rome retained much of whatever habitability and decency they did retain because of others who sought more than just power in that sense and were also able people who could wield power.

Human Habitat,  Resources, Sex and Reproduction, Military Culture, Bio-diversity,  Really Understood Moral Hazard, Preservation of Momentum and Continuity of Resources are all themes I would like to address in my blog. I would like to draw near to a plan for reforming our society. However, I want to take a break to ponder God’s mercy in the redemptions we celebrate just now. As we move into SPRING, maybe a new springtime of a genuine and intelligent faith can find its way into our policy.

Happy Passover and Happy Easter.

Personal Identity

This is a brief introduction and a reposting of an old Facebook Note.  The Facebook note is one of series about Jesus and the Gospels which I did and which I began to post here within other notes on Veterans Day. I feel the need to get that whole series on to this blog within a reasonably brief period of time. So this is the continuation of that set and is also about identity as I am aware of my own identity today.  I am very aware of all that I have and have not done and all that I have going for and against me today. I also am thinking of Oprah Winfrey’s retirement and Sarah Palin’s book tour. These are two strong personalities whom people relate to as people and who are doing something to define and redefine themselves in the public eye. So I am using this occasion to post this Facebook note and here it is.  

I am still trying to get to a total of 52 Facebook Notes by my June 15 birthday. A birthday is a very personal kind of celebration and is less shared than almost any other. Only twins and other multis fully share a birthday when one is talking about the kind of birthday Americans of my generation celebrate. I have so many varied memories of this day and so many people have almost no significant memories of that day. Then there are a relatively few people who remember sharing it with me. People who happen to share this date of birth are like earth-like planets around other stars — perhaps similar but so far mostly unrelated. A birthday is in large measure a celebration of identity.

Identity is a complex thing. Certainly it can become complicated to discuss and define it.
I wish to discuss some of it now. I think that my parents, who were much younger as my parents than as any other of my syblings’ parents, lived in a generation that were much aware of seeking after their own identity. The search for Identity is certainly on of the great quests of mythology, scripture, history, fiction and ordinary life. Most of us during adolescence have at least some time and inclination to consider who we are and who we would like to become. I have had more than an average amount of leisure for such questions. Partly because of the family and country I come from but partly because of who I am. I have been robbed, assaulted, threatened, intimidated with cut-off electricity and confinement and tempted with all the blandishments of money. sex and power (in a small degree) but I have always remained me — there has always been a whole lot of me that could not lose itself in this process. I still had the problems and flaws that were my problems before and I still had the strengths and accomplishments that were mine before. Many people are less immune to outside influence than I am. There are again various reasons for that fact being true. I will not be able to go through them exhaustively in this note for sure.

However, I am at a point in my life where I know that identity is not the same subject it was for me in adolescence. Like most people I have figured out a great deal more about who I am now that I am 44 than I knew when I was 17. However, there was a lot in my life that was never going to be identifiable and understandable mostly as a question of identity. But identity is important to me.

I think that one part of my identity is that I am willing to make a little trouble. I am willing to raise a little hell, lower a little heaven and then join the fight on Earth when the huge ruckus stirs up. I am not sure that very many people enjoy peace more than I do not am I claiming that I am an invincible super-fighter. However, I am willing to seek out and engage adversaries, opponents, enemies and others with some alacrity and some frequency. I do this in games and sport, in politics and in varied forms of discussion. I do not mind mixing it up.

When we think of all the great power of stars, galaxies, strings and clusters of galaxies we certainly feel small and relatively insignificant. There is a great deal of truth to that insight but it is not the only relevant insight. We are relevant to ourselves and to those around us certainly. It is our responsibility to take ourselves seriously to some extent. It is even our responsibility to be in our corner and love ourselves to the proper (and not to the improper extent). There may be something very wrong with many of us when we get overheated asserting ourselves as Black, white, gay, straight, men, women, Hispanic, Acadian, Mensan, Jewish, Muslim, German, Italian or Buddhist. But there would certainly be a lot more wrong with never trying to figure out who we are, never trying to be loyal to those associated with us, never trying to present our own moral sensibilities to the world around us.

I am the kind of person who is born with a relatively narrow window of approach to both survival and hope . However, I am no one of the very few such people who against almost all odds really find that niche and manage to make it all work out. Rather I am perhaps one of the near also-rans. I look at the unknown relatively numerous outliers who never have known even as close with the world in which we live as I have had upon occasion. I have a good number of friends who have worked far less at paying jobs, have had more trouble with law enforcement and public health officials and have generaly shown more evidence than I of hanging on the very edge of the body politic and public society. We have all go to define ourselves to some degree by our relationship with others.

I think of the song put out a few years back by (then very young) country singer Jessica Andrew that went approximately like this:

“If I never win a Grammy,
That will be all right….
Sometimes I am clueless and I’m clumsy,
But I have friends who love me.
I know exactly who I am —
I am Rosemary’s granddaughter
the spitting image of my father
and my Mama’s still my biggest fan.”

There is a lot of depth and humanity to such a point of view. It is increasingly less credible and relevant today. While it is certainly true that there have always been very serious problems and evils associated with extended family and webs of well-defined relationships it is also true that such relationship networks are valuable at a huge variety of levels and in a huge variety of ways. They are every bit as certain to be valuable and precious to humanity as they are to be poor centers of absolute power. They are part of the very large and important range of troublesome issues and institutions which pay off handsomely when worked well.

We are reminded each day of the value which modern corporations and entrepreneurs put on their identity in business terms and for business purposes. It is simply impossible to overstate how badly a corporate Board of Directors would like to make a manager feel if that manager or executive allows outsiders to write checks on company accounts for their own benefit. However, I think that the struggle of the individual for recognition of his identity socially and otherwise is also a struggle to preserve that which is really precious.

While I have recently disclosed my interpretation that Peter was already important to the Jesus story even before Jesus approached him directly and almost anyone would admit that Jesus developed close ties to him as an Apostle on a variety of occasions. Nonetheless, the moment of the establishment of Petrine Primacy is a moment tied to identity. Jesus asks the famous series of questions about his own identity. “Who do people say that I am?” and “Who do you say that I am?”

Matthew 16: 13-20

“When Jesus went into the region of Caesarea Philippi he asked his disciples, ” Who do people say that the Son of Man is ?” They replied, ” Some say John th Baptist, others Elijah, still others Jeremiah or one of the prophets. ”
He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter said in reply ” You are the Messiah, the Son of the Living God.”
“Blessed are you Simon son of Jonah. For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you but my heavenly Father. And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it.”
(Jesus continues) ” I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on Earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” Then he strictly ordered his disciples to tell no one that he was the Messiah.” {New American Bible, parenthesis mine}.

The faith of Peter which is so fruitful for the Founding of Jesus’s church is tied to Peter’s confession of Jesus’s Identity. Peter had already tied so much of his own identity to the identity of Christ. this confession is fully shared among all of the Apostles and others following him from among the 72 on that occasion. Luke places his account of this event in the ninth chapter of his Gospel shortly after Herod Antipas’s double entendre that Jesus was John the Baptist whom he himself had beheaded. Jesus leads most of his highly committed entourage out of Galilee into the Tetrarchy of Batanea where Philip’s Caesarea was located. This was a central business hub for many interests inside and outside the empire.
Herod Philip’s relationship with his brother Herod Antipas was strained and while I can’t remember what happened to Herod Archelaus when Pilate had already ended all real power and even influence of that Herodian Quarter-king decisively. Batanea had a sizable Jewish minority and some Jewish villages with autonomy but was of the also ancient Lebanese culture.

According to the traditions of my ancient secret society whose interpretations I am disclosing in these end of year notes, Jesus led his disciples on this trip for five reasons. It was typical of him to be extremely efficient and to satisfy several goals with everything he did. Jesus was:
1. Giving Herod Antipas the slip for a while.
2. Bringing the first proclamation of his teaching to Jews in Batanea.
3.Smuggling identifiable good from his two most recent raids on the demon camps which he could currently under with Joanna and Chuza, Herod’s Steward and his wife.
4.Bringing leftover porkfish to be passed out to Batanean Jews and their families.
5. Meeting alone and secretly with the organization he had founded in his first desert raid which were his vassals mostly of the House of David but even including two foreigners and who were different from the church. This group chose and he chose for them a rendezvous outside of Galilee whenever possible.

The context is important because it shows both Jesus’s obvious material strength and success and also his obvious weaknesses compared to this city honoring both Rome and the quarter-king Philip. If a man who was able to build such an important commercial city was in league with the invasion infrastructure the Devil had described to him in detail at Caesarea Maritima and considered his barely Jewish brother Antipas too Jewish and if the resourceful Philip named this city for the Emperors of distant Rome and was himself only a quarter-king then what of a Prince with only a compound and a couple of carpentry shops, what of a Rabbi who had never finished his formal training, what of a Grandee whose wealth was four ovens, six unknown water platforms and a quarter share in six boats? What was a man who had to smuggle his loot to this city to hide even a few bags of mixed gold and silver figurines, insignia, weapons and medals to sell at low prices for secrecy’s sake? If he was dwarfed by the wealth of a quarter-king then who could he be? But in this moment the people still see him as miraculous doing something great and holy. In this moment Peter sees with his enormous practicality all Jesus is asking and yet looking at all Caesarea represents he still proclaims Jesus the Messiah and Son of the Living God. We fail to hear how astonishing it is and to hear Jesus’s confident accepting gratitude.

The Jesus of history was not the holy bum recent centuries have increasingly made him. But after the porkfish were eaten and the fine dinner for a hundred or so disciples at a big house was celebrated he and his followers had a few gifts and unreliable payment deliveries from Joanna to make it to the next big storm. They fished when they could and had the advantages of the bait sites but also shared these opportunities and spent long periods of time in prayer and discussion and preaching. They were warriors hunting and seizing a few times over four or so years and that is vital to understanding everything about them. But they were hunted far more by more than one enemy larger and better armed than they were, living in a manufactured famine and sought out by the needy in large numbers. Few people have ever lived under more strained circumstances all in all. I think most moderns really don’t believe the gospel story and so they do not see how this economic struggle and Jesus’s grace in it shapes so much of the accounts. Yet in his Master’s troubles Peter saw a Messiah and Son of the Living God. Jesus had saved his life and risked his own life for Peter’s already but still many would not have seen things as Peter did.

One of the things that takes shape in these notes is the idea that there has been a line of chiefs among the people who are now Acadians called the Basileus Arkadios and that Joseph Broussard — Beausoleil des Acadiens– was one of these. It is a tradition of my line of the secret society I am revealing that among those Jesus and his Apostles freed from captivity and certain death in the demon camps were a number of girls who were subjects of the Basileus Arkadios of that era. The Arcadians were a somewhat diffused and disorganized people with their days of statehood and wealth without equal (nearby) in a past far more distant than that of David’s reign in Jerusalem. Some Arcadians were then Jews in religion and legitimate line, some were God-fearing Gentiles of whom there were many among the people of Jesus’s time and some were pagans. They lived in there ancestral homes in ancient Arcadia in the North of Greece and in small semi-secret colonies across central Europe and the Middle East it is believed by our esoteric tradition that some of both the God-fearers and the Panist pagans met Jesus and the Apostles around Caesarea and brought him gifts from the king with his declaration of friendship and that some of them also traveled to bring token gifts of wine and bread to his mother at their compound in Nazareth. The gifts given to Jesus were a most rare blank scroll of joined sheets with no writing and a scroll from the Hebrew scripture in Greek as well as two amphorae of fine wine.Jesusit is said sent the scrolls to the Temple in Jerusalem and drank the wine with his gathered disciples local Jews and the emissaries.Some Panist left converted and did not visit the Grottoes of Pan nearby. Others it is said began to copy what they heard and some of it found its way into the lost book “the Sayings of Jesus the Christ” from which many gospel texts are drawn.

Whether or not the story is true it is a valued part of my identity that it is remembered. My identity as an (Anglo-)Acadian is much more precious to me because of the thought of the story. Jesus spoke to many Gentiles but always said his message was (at least chiefly and firstly) for the lost sheep of the House of Israel. On this point there is also an element of the warrior tradition which is relevant and unknown to the public church. The Gospels mention that at the last supper Jesus was told there were two swords and he said that such would be enough. Jesus’s entourage was often lightly armed and sometimes specifically unarmed. they had to sell identifiable captured arms and also to arm freed captives for the journey home. However, the legend is that Jesus had a weapon that was not a sword.

The weapon of Jesus was the mythical Shepherd’s Staff which was frequently carried by a lower ranking disciple attending upon him. The staff was simply shod and round at the bottom but had a concealed tip hidden in the detachable crook. The crook and tip could be joined as an ear planing adze and another adze tip was stored secretly. The whole snapped very tightly together and was wrapped also in a leather cord. This cord was also able to be run through the crook as a bow drill and a drill tip also hidden in it could be attached to one of two dowels joined by a cord which were snapped into the staff and then wrapped in their own cord. These dowels also held blades which allowed for making cuts on timbers in a variety of ways using the cord and the other dowel to manipulate them but ether could be held easily or used as a drill dowel. The whole drill could also be used as a fire drill bow. Jesus could also remove the dowel cord assembly and put it in his belt for close fighting while using the crook and reversed staff as a spear and spear thrower. John’s Gospel has Jesus crucified at Passover but places much of the story on or near the feast of tabernacles. It is in this Gospel that the cleansing of the Temple appears early and Jesus shortly after is approached by those wanting to kill and arrest him and in front of a great crowd retools his living water teaching. He says that he will make living water flow from those who hear him. Jesus actually gave this speech to observing demons and the huge crowd after his only cleansing of the Temple. He was letting them know that he was the one they suspected but did not know whose weapon hit their guards and punctured the heart. John’s distortion of the timeline is also a clue as to the totally extraordinary events of the year that Jesus died. According to some the “We” who rewrote John’s gospel from his original text were disciples who also had been or were Magi. The year when Pilate had begun to encroach each week a little closer to the holy court’s with the insignia of pagan Rome. That and killing the Galileans were signs of all out war and invasion. There is evidence That Jesus and his allies in the Temple maneuvered to have Passover called a month earlier or a few weeks later than the allowable time that year and only part of the usual crowd was there. Jesus entry and defiance in the market was a controlled outpouring of the `frustration before Pilate was ready. Under this theory or tradition Jesus was crucified on the day we would know as April 19 or something that year when there was a partial eclipse predicted by the Magi. I do not know the dates involved in their tradition and can’t find the right eclipses consistently on my search engine. But when one moves in esoteric one meets those who also move in it and the theory when explained properly makes some sense but it is not our theory. These Magi also believe that many unexplainable things happened that day but that he planned his crucifixion to coincide with the eclipse. Such persons would then have Jesus’s birth at about 6 BC rather than 1 AD. That is not the secret society of which I have been speaking rather it is another secret society that believes in Jesus.

It was also this staff’s dowel cord assembly to which Jesus attached the long strings to make the whip with which he cleared most of the Temple Market in front of the mighty Antonia Guard. Meanwhile shouting in Pilate’s establishment’s hearing that even having a market near the Court of the temple was a desecration. He shouted this in a Galilean accent while Pilate thought of how it must be to have killed Galileans offering their sacrifice in the Court of Israel itself. Guards were injured but most humiliating of all He slipped completely away. After that no tradition makes mention with authority of the Shepherd’s staff.

In the first film I ever saw with my ex-wife there is a scene that comes to mind here. In the Rand Haines film “Children of a Lesser God” Marlee Matilin’s character resembles the actress who plays her in being a deaf beauty. The character called Sarah has graduated from the school for the deaf where William Hurt’s Mr Leeds is teaching. He is sexually attracted to her but also wants to teach her to speak. After having rebuffed his attempts to teach her several other times she ridicules the facial expressions of another deaf student when speaking and a bit later says “I never do anything I can’t do well”. The tensions are not resolved there but there is the sum of her reasons. Whatever, the Apostles may have been originally they were suddenly preaching, baking, fishing, raiding, rabbinical students involved with a man with a lifestyle which is perhaps the most unusual lifestyle in history in its final set of combinations. They could not have felt that they were always doing their tasks well. Their belief in the Christhood of Jesus and their embrace of that identity is largely what sustained them through what is quite possibly the most unique apprenticeship in the human record.

As my own birthday approaches I think that we all receive much of our identity from what we have done with and made of our lives. Like Sarah in the movie we spend some of our time in and some out of our comfort zones. I find every physical limitation’s increase with age hard to bear. I had thin eyelashes and eyebrows all my life but now they are already disappearing almost and each wound of youth almost remains. I accept those personal weaknesses as part of my identity. But I also notice them as unpleasant.

I am writing this just before the wedding of some friends. I know that they are reshaping their own identities in the wedding. The two really do become one in so many ways. I have to shower now and get ready for the rehearsal supper. It is part of my identity to try to be presentable when I can. I think that we all understand the importance of identity. To know Jesus Christ’s identity has been a long journey for me and to know my loved ones also. I have rambled aimlessly to an end here. Perhaps I will complete 52 notes to tell you who I am before June 15 or perhaps not. Regardless I will be me and all I do must take that into account.

 
End of  Facebook Note–
 
I hope ye brave, ye few, ye proud — ye readers — will discover more of your own identity and of the identities of those about whom you ought to know more in this wintry season (or summer or otherwise depending on where you live). I hope the identity of Jesus Christ has some meaning for you as well.