Thursday, February 28, 2013

Rules

Watching the Catholicism DVD series with Father Barron this week.  This is an outstanding DVD set if you ever have the chance to see it.  It is educational but not boring.  They go to a variety of beautiful locations around the world and explore different aspects of Catholicism over the 10 parts.

In one of the parts, he explores the idea of rules.  He discusses how we don't like rules; we feel they limit our freedom.  And he points out this is simply not the case by using language as an example.  He notes he has freedom over language and can say whatever he wants to say, but only because he follows the rules of English.  He doesn't just throw out words and do whatever he wants as that wouldn't work.

God's rules do not limit our freedom.  They allow us to live more freely for God's will.  Even if we don't understand them, when we follow them they have this effect.  They make it more possible for us to serve God, which is our ultimate goal.

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Wisdom 13

The beginning of this chapter reminds me of our own society, so certain we understand the universe but refusing to acknowledge its creator.
But all men are vain, in whom there is not the knowledge of God: and who by these good things that are seen, could not understand him that is, neither by attending to the works have acknowledged who was the workman: But have imagined either the fire, or the wind, or the swift air, or the circle of the stars, or the great water, or the sun and moon, to be the gods that rule the world. With whose beauty, if they, being delighted, took them to be gods: let them know how much the Lord of them is more beautiful than they: for the first author of beauty made all those things. Or if they admired their power, and their effects, let them understand by them, that he that made them, is mightier than they: For by the greatness of the beauty, and of the creature, the creator of them may be seen, so as to be known thereby.
(Wis 13:1-5 DRB)
Again, we rely on our own skills and ability and neglect to see the hand of God.

Sunday, February 24, 2013

Pride

If I seem kind of hung up on finding God's will of late, it is because I'm thinking of some big decisions. 

For who among men is he that can know the counsel of God? or who can think what the will of God is? For the thoughts of mortal men are fearful, and our counsels uncertain. For the corruptible body is a load upon the soul, and the earthly habitation presseth down the mind that museth upon many things. And hardly do we guess aright at things that are upon earth: and with labour do we find the things that are before us. But the things that are in heaven, who shall search out? And who shall know thy thought, except thou give wisdom, and send thy holy Spirit from above: And so the ways of them that are upon earth may be corrected, and men may learn the things that please thee? For by wisdom they were healed, whosoever have pleased thee, O Lord, from the beginning.
(Wis 9:13-19 DRB)
I've heard that pride can be defined as the inaccurate view of one's own abilities.  If everything comes from God, then we must recognize that nothing comes from us.  We can only use the gifts and talents God has provided to us to use.  Those still come from God though, and do not match (or even come close) to His wisdom
Pride goeth before destruction: and the spirit is lifted up before a fall.
(Pro 16:18 DRB)

Monday, February 18, 2013

More on God's Planning Skills

The chain of command is the order of authority.  Most people are familiar with this term relative to the military.  Generals are in charge of Colonels, who out rank the Majors, who are in charge of the Captains and so on.  Sergeants are above Privates in the scheme of things.  This is how good order is attained and everyone understands what is going on.  Society expects it to work this way, and we all understand something has gone wrong if it doesn't work.

I mention this because when I first started reading the Bible, I thought the idea of a wife submitting to her husband was something random men made up.  Actually, based on what I'd heard about it, I thought women were supposed to submit to men, be they their husbands or not.  It was all very men-oriented.  And of course, very wrong.  Men and women should be equal!

Problems came when I noticed both Paul and Peter said women should submit to their husbands...
Eph 5:22 Wives, submit yourselves unto your own husbands, as unto the Lord. (That's Paul, writing to the Ephesians)

1Pe 3:1 Likewise, ye wives, be in subjection to your own husbands; that, if any obey not the word, they also may without the word be won by the conversation of the wives; (There's Peter in his letter) 
Hmm.

Though I am not a wife and not planning to be one in the very short term, I thought it was important to clarify what these passages meant.  I wanted to make sure I got a very conservative opinion, so I went to my super conservative friend, who I assumed A) knew all about it and B) would tell me what I already knew crazy conservatives thought in that women were less than men and should submit to them all.

Turns out that isn't the thought.  She explained it firstly as a chain of command, which I am familiar with due to the military.  The General isn't more important than the Colonel.  He isn't smarter by default.  He isn't morally superior.  He's not even always right in his decisions.  He's just in charge.  Someone has to be in charge.  This doesn't prevent the Colonel from having an opinion or being a very, very important part of the army.  But when a decision has to be made, the General gets the final "vote."

Now as I've said, I'm not married, so I need not get all the details as to how this would work in my particular family army when I get a husband.  But the explanation totally made sense.  Two people having entirely equal votes would lead to a lot of opportunities for no-win conflicts.  When we take out all of our worldly demands of equality, the system God gave us makes a lot of sense.

I realize this doesn't sound very popular in today's culture, but God didn't come up with it to be popular.  Jesus got Himself crucified, so popularity doesn't appear to be a motivation. 

My friend also pointed out that it is only to one's husband this applies.  The idea that all women should be subject to all men is false.  It only establishes this chain of command in the context of marriage.  Everywhere else, we are just subject to the chain of command of that particular situation.  So at work, I report to my boss.  She happens to be a woman.  If I was a manger, I could have men reporting to me, and that would be just fine.

This was several years ago, and I found it interesting at the time and now see it as yet another example of God's wisdom in decision making.  And also how we try to sidestep that with all of our "logical thinking."  We come up with what we think will work instead of trusting in what God wants.

One very wonderful advantage in doing what God wants instead of what I want is it is easier.  It may not seem easier (or even make sense initially as in the above example), but it is easier as we know it will work.  We don't have to reinvent the wheel every time we do something.  How wonderful is that!

Who can find a virtuous woman? for her price is far above rubies. The heart of her husband doth safely trust in her, so that he shall have no need of spoil. She will do him good and not evil all the days of her life. She seeketh wool, and flax, and worketh willingly with her hands. She is like the merchants' ships; she bringeth her food from afar. She riseth also while it is yet night, and giveth meat to her household, and a portion to her maidens. She considereth a field, and buyeth it: with the fruit of her hands she planteth a vineyard. She girdeth her loins with strength, and strengtheneth her arms. She perceiveth that her merchandise is good: her candle goeth not out by night. She layeth her hands to the spindle, and her hands hold the distaff. She stretcheth out her hand to the poor; yea, she reacheth forth her hands to the needy. She is not afraid of the snow for her household: for all her household are clothed with scarlet. She maketh herself coverings of tapestry; her clothing is silk and purple. Her husband is known in the gates, when he sitteth among the elders of the land. She maketh fine linen, and selleth it; and delivereth girdles unto the merchant. Strength and honour are her clothing; and she shall rejoice in time to come. She openeth her mouth with wisdom; and in her tongue is the law of kindness. She looketh well to the ways of her household, and eateth not the bread of idleness. Her children arise up, and call her blessed; her husband also, and he praiseth her. Many daughters have done virtuously, but thou excellest them all. Favour is deceitful, and beauty is vain: but a woman that feareth the LORD, she shall be praised. Give her of the fruit of her hands; and let her own works praise her in the gates.
(Pro 31:10-31)

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Two Standards

I was listening to a podcast the other day about the Two Standards mediation from the Spiritual Exercises of St Ignatius.  Before you start thinking I'm knee deep in spiritual exercises, I feel pretty accomplished when I manage to do my reading each day and keep up with the blog.  The podcast was talking about it though and so I looked it up.  You can find the whole thing here.

The idea is that of a standard, or flag.  The standard is the flag one would follow in a battle.  The two standards refer to that of the enemy and that of our Lord.  Which standard will we follow?

We are born into, and tend toward, the army of darkness.  Without God's grace, we'd be trapped there and not have the freedom to choose another employer.  Thanks to Jesus, we can switch sides and join the forces of good.  This is an excellent thing, since we already know which side is going to win!

Of interest to me is how the meditation explains how Satan goes about keeping people in his army or recruiting them back.
The third, to consider the discourse which he makes them, and how he tells them to cast out nets and chains; that they have first to tempt with a longing for riches—as he is accustomed to do in most cases that men may more easily come to vain honor of the world, and then to vast pride. So that the first step shall be that of riches; the second, that of honor; the third, that of pride; and from these three steps he draws on to all the other vices.
This is contrasted later with the plan of Jesus.
The third, to consider the discourse which Christ our Lord makes to all His servants and friends whom He sends on this expedition, recommending them to want to help all, by bringing them first to the highest spiritual poverty, and—if His Divine Majesty would be served and would want to choose them—no less to actual poverty; the second is to be of contumely and contempt; because from these two things humility follows. So that there are to be three steps; the first, poverty against riches; the second, contumely or contempt against worldly honor; the third, humility against pride. And from these three steps let them induce to all the other virtues. 
If we look at what we most often want, what society tells us to want, it is not in the second category.  It is indeed a battle to keep our eyes on the right standard, as it is despised in our world

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Is it going to work?

When approaching decisions, we tend to wonder what will work.  Is the plan I'm considering effective?  Will it work?  Is the outcome positive?  We weigh the various risks, rewards, costs, and benefits.  We compare advantages and disadvantages.  We throw all of our intellect at the problem.

There's a more important question than "Will it work?"  That question is "Is it what God wants?"  Is this decision in line with God's will?  Is it perhaps against God's will?  These questions are far more important than determining if something is effective.  In fact, it really doesn't matter if something is effective if it is opposed to God's will.  And it doesn't matter if it is going to be entirely ineffective, if it is God's will. 

Abortion is actually very effective at its goal.  I'd say its effectiveness rating is very, very high.  It clearly accomplishes what it intends a high percentage of the time.  Abortion = effective.  Is that the most relevant criteria here?  Is it in God's will?

The effectiveness of torture is up for debate.  It may or may not work as well as some people say.  And we can also debate how likely it is we'll have the chance to torture a terrorist as the only means by which we could save a city from certain destruction.  We do debate this a lot though.  I think they've had whole hearings on it.  I won't make a claim on its effectiveness, because I don't believe that's the first question we should ask.  Is it God's will?

On the flip side, prayer doesn't seem very effective when we think about it.  Does me asking God to help you actually help you in some sort of measurable way?  I'm a process engineer.  I frequently will only call things effective if I can measure them.  Does my church here praying for aid to some other country actually bring about some sort of change in the other country?  If I pray another might find God and they don't, doesn't that mean prayer is ineffective?  Again, there are a lot of thoughts on this one.  I've asked a priest this and I've looked online and I've tried to figure it out.  In the end though, it doesn't really matter.  The important question is if it is God's will.

Does giving money to the poor guy on the corner allow him to eat or are we just enabling his drug habit?  What is God's will for us in that moment?

Is downloading music I haven't purchased an effective method of expanding my music collection?  Does it matter?  What is God's will for me?

Will selling everything I own and becoming a missionary give me a more effective life?  Is God sending me?  (No, I don't think He is at this point - this is just an example).

We ask our questions in the wrong order. God's will is the only thing that matters.  If the decision is morally neutral, then of course we can use our God-gifted reason to come to a conclusion.  But we must always examine the moral aspect first.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

Planning

When we make decisions, do we consider the effects of those decisions?  Do we wonder how much it will cost, how long it will take, and who it might affect?  Usually the answer is yes, of course we do.  We can spend a lot of time thinking on the cause and effect of our actions.  This is a good and healthy thing to do, but how often do we assume that our analysis is complete?  That we have enough information to know how it will go?
Go to now, ye that say, To day or to morrow we will go into such a city, and continue there a year, and buy and sell, and get gain: Whereas ye know not what shall be on the morrow. For what is your life? It is even a vapour, that appeareth for a little time, and then vanisheth away. For that ye ought to say, If the Lord will, we shall live, and do this, or that.
(Jas 4:13-15)

Boast not thyself of to morrow; for thou knowest not what a day may bring forth.
(Pro 27:1)

And he spake a parable unto them, saying, The ground of a certain rich man brought forth plentifully: And he thought within himself, saying, What shall I do, because I have no room where to bestow my fruits? And he said, This will I do: I will pull down my barns, and build greater; and there will I bestow all my fruits and my goods. And I will say to my soul, Soul, thou hast much goods laid up for many years; take thine ease, eat, drink, and be merry. But God said unto him, Thou fool, this night thy soul shall be required of thee: then whose shall those things be, which thou hast provided?
(Luk 12:16-20)

Only God knows all that has come before and all that is to come after.  Only God knows where we are going and what will happen to us.  We cannot possibly know enough to ascertain for certain anything.  Our predictions are hindered by lack of information and clouded by our feelings and motives, which may or may not be entirely holy.  God has a plan for us.  It may not be what we want or expect, but it is God's plan.

I heard a priest describe God's plan like a tapestry.  He brought to mind a tapestry you might find in a hall of a castle.  The tapestry might be huge and very complicated.  From the back, it would appear to make no sense.  There would be threads appearing to go all over in a random fashion.  From the front, the tapestry would have a beautiful picture.  We only see the back of this tapestry when we are here on Earth.  God seen the front.  And while we may feel like a part of our life is just a random thread, God may be using it for a very amazing part of the front picture.

What we think will or even should happen may not contribute very well to that front picture.  Our plans may not align with God's plan for the big picture He's building.  We don't understand this very well as we think we can plan out the big picture fine enough on our own, but God's plan is infinitely better than anything we could possibly come up with.

I'm a planner myself.  I like thinking about plans and making them and then trying to see them through.  I like controlling all aspects of the planning and finding out what needs to be known to continue.  So this has always been hard for me!

So does this mean we should all stop making decisions and just wait for God's picture to fall on us?  Of course not.  But looking to God instead of ourselves for our decisions will help to ensure the decisions we make are in line with the Grand Plan.  I have personally found the more I read and study, the more often my thoughts go to what God would want when I'm making decisions.  And we must always pray.

Now we exhort you, brethren, warn them that are unruly, comfort the feebleminded, support the weak, be patient toward all men. See that none render evil for evil unto any man; but ever follow that which is good, both among yourselves, and to all men. Rejoice evermore. Pray without ceasing. In every thing give thanks: for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus concerning you.
(1Th 5:14-18)

Trust in the LORD with all thine heart; and lean not unto thine own understanding. In all thy ways acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy paths. Be not wise in thine own eyes: fear the LORD, and depart from evil.
(Pro 3:5-7)
If any of you lack wisdom, let him ask of God, that giveth to all men liberally, and upbraideth not; and it shall be given him.
(Jas 1:5)

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Behind

It has been a few days since I've been able to write.  I was out of town visiting family, and work has been quite busy with audits and big, Big, BIG news on the horizon for us.  God took thousands of years revealing His divine plan, and I think my company must be taking His lead as they have been quite slow going in explaining future changes.

As a result of my work commitments, I've not been doing as great with my plans for 2013 as I'd hoped.  Never fear though, there's always tomorrow.  Or in my case, the past few days.  I had been keeping up with a minimum amount of reading and I returned to the Y to lift (ow).  I over did it on the elliptical machine yesterday though and today when I attempted to run my calves turned into angry bricks.

I don't have much for today except for some links!  You should click these links.  It would make me happy and you'd find interesting things to read.

Restless Pilgrim has a good post on Bible Translations.  I like my RSV and don't care for the NAB.  If you don't know what that means, head there to find out!

On a frighteningly more serious note, You Have to Be Terrified to Justify Murder.

In the almost too strange category, family survives for 40 years without contact with society.  Wow. 

An entry on what draws people to Ash Wednesday and Lent while avoiding media frenzy.

In case you're wondering about that HHS compromise the administration of our benevolent leader has provided for us, it might actually be worse than what came before.  This is by Archbishop Chaput.

For something more uplifting, head to the Like the Dewfall entry by Simcha Fisher.