Month: February 2016

In honor of this milestone, I’ll share some of the lovely comments that have filled my inbox. I’m sure real people will read this stuff eventually, and leave comments, but for now…

If I judged solely on responses, I would categorize my “readership” into a few categories:

1. Site Engine Optimization companies trolling for business. This is the most common reply.

Hi my name is Sandra and I just wanted to drop you a quick note here instead of calling you. I came to your The Black Paternoster – Brother James’ Airs page and noticed you could have a lot more traffic. I have found …


Hello Web Admin, I noticed that your On-Page SEO is is missing a few factors, for one you do not use all three H tags in your post, also I notice that you are not using bold or italics properly in your SEO optimization. On-Page SEO means more now than ever

2. Viagra or cialis resellers. This is probably the second most common.

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3. A lot of messages about weight loss advice.

These target your abs so well you will likely be sore for your first week.

An effective and balanced meals are important for your system to operate efficiently and you may also feel more energetic.
Sleep deprivation can also be associated with
several health problems, including heart problems.

4. Word salad generated by robots. This can be quite fun to read sometimes.

No litigation to find out who gets what for his role in the venture was ever instrumental in aiding an undertaking succeed.

If you have a place that other people are feeding, you will not ought
to wait long. There are portable finders such as
the Fishin’ Buddy Series and also the Smart – Cast series. Nevertheless, it
is really an excellent reputation for this kind of incredible
little bird, now don’t you think.

Almost done. Got image instead of imago and failed on taboos but quite pleased with myself as the best for a while. Don’t get why “Bravo” is “bee on the radio”

Every once in a while you get a random pshcyo in the middle of a break-up ranting and raving against women on here .it’s a little funny but mostly I feel bad for them because I can tell they’re just having a bad time with women bacause they’re mysogynists

I got a little fed up with that anecint language that, beautiful though it may be, has little relevance to our modern age. Lines like:Christ in the fort,Christ in the chariot seat,Christ in the poopWhile working on The Dark Sacrament, a book I co-authored in 2006, I decided to do a fresh translation for the 21st century. Here it is.

Great list Hans! Let’s see .don’t shoot the messenger here ok? The first Transformers movie has a great scene on Air Force one..does that count? What about We are Marshall? I know it’s desserping that they all die on the plane but what a great movie! Does Independence Day count as that flight with Will Smith and Jeff Goldblum is..well kind of funny anyway. I know it is not a movie but I cannot help but mention the Airport episode of Seinfeld Elaine gets stuck in Coach while Jerry rides first class .it’s hilarious.

Speaking as a heterosexual man, and being quite faiilmar with the human bone structure, the “gap” is not an indicator of sexual prowess nor medical abnormality ladies. Please don’t obsess over it. While some men may see it as a sexual “feature” ..unlike a smile, collar-bone, breast size or even IQ, many do not. (me included). I’ll do my best as a Chiver to uphold the “tight-end” versions.I really do need to pop over here occasionally. Quite an eye-opening discussion. Kcco everyone.

Hi Melissa! Thanks for the kind words; late or not, so glad you stopped by. I love that rush and sirpruse too when I read some of the stuff that comes out of me, truly mystifying and oh yes, very powerful incentive to continue showing up to write more hoping it happens again.I just told Cinnamon he has a new admirer and he’s struttin’ around here all full of himself tonight That little guy is truly a precious soul and has encouraged me more than words can say. Did you perchance notice that the background wallpaper to my website is a picture I took of his fur?

(photo by “R4vi” from London, UK, obtained from Wikimedia Commons and used in accordance with Creative Commons 2.0 license)

“Would you like me to take a picture for you?” I asked a group of 20 somethings, who seemed to be struggling to get a picture. I was at the Grand Canyon, snapping photos with my family. “No thanks,” one replied, “we’ve got a selfie stick.”

At every turnout, the magnificent colors and jagged contours of the canyon were a backdrop for people who seemed to be standing, alone or in groups, wielding their telescopic wands with smartphones stuck on the end. It looks goofy to my old fashioned eyes (I still lug a cumbersome DSLR around when I go to places like the Grand Canyon). But I must grant that it is simple and effective. It’s a brilliant invention. I will probably own one at some point.

The selfie stick has exploded in popularity in the past couple years. “Invented” in 2014 (though similar devices date from many years ago), it is now ubiquitous. The selfie is ubiquitous. According to Travel Weekly, 300 million selfies have been uploaded to Instagram as of June 2015. Never has snapping a pic of yourself been easier.

And just like that, one more way of interacting with others is gone. No one needs an outside person to stop and do an act of kindness–“no thank you, we have a selfie stick.”

As a society this may be seen as emblematic of a fundamental problem with our growing addiction to mobile technology: as individuals we are self absorbed (these tools have apparently been dubbed “narcissticks” according to this New York Times editorial), and some would say that we now have a “selfie culture”. Technology has allowed us to become increasingly disengaged from others, even as ironically we are addicted to the facebook posts and Twitter feeds of countless “friends” scattered across the globe. Unless we fight it, our focus is ever drawn down into our devices, into an endless reverberation of our own likes, thoughts, and desires.

By the way, I mean it when I say “we”–I am no cyber saint here. I must cry “mea culpa” as well: I take selfies. I have had dates with my wife in which I can’t resist the urge to get out my iPhone–and that isn’t because she is not lovely and interesting (she is!). My own kids tend to spend most of their vacation days looking at their devices regardless of how breathtaking the scenery around them may be.

If this self absorption is a problem, it is not new. Self-centeredness is a primordial element of the human story (recall the tale of that wretched apple seized by a man who wanted God’s knowledge for himself). The selfie is but a new and more democratic iteration of the time honored self portrait, or the bust, or the thrill of being on-stage. Although, given its intentional impermanence and nonchalance, it might be more accurate to say that the selfie is reminiscent more of “Kilroy was here”, scratched on pixels rather than walls (variants of this sort of thing can be found in antiquity). It is humans saying, “look! I was here! I matter!”

This brings suddenly to my recollection the fallen statue of King Ozymandias, whose decaying selfie was powerfully memorialized by poet Percy Bysshe Shelley:

I met a traveller from an antique land
Who said: `Two vast and trunkless legs of stone
Stand in the desert. Near them, on the sand,
Half sunk, a shattered visage lies, whose frown,
And wrinkled lip, and sneer of cold command,
Tell that its sculptor well those passions read
Which yet survive, stamped on these lifeless things,
The hand that mocked them and the heart that fed.
And on the pedestal these words appear —
“My name is Ozymandias, king of kings:
Look on my works, ye Mighty, and despair!”
Nothing beside remains. Round the decay
Of that colossal wreck, boundless and bare
The lone and level sands stretch far away.’

Most of us (fortunately) aren’t tyrants. We know that our selfies are destined for nowhere glorious. Our “friends” will glance past them in a microsecond, or maybe linger long enough to click the “like” button. If really fortunate maybe someone will pause and comment, perhaps just to say, “OMG I was at the Canyon a week ago!” Then they will move on. It will take seconds, not centuries, for the significance of the selfie moment to fade. We know this but can’t resist the urge to keep doing it. It is the way of the self absorbed. It is our way. “Look, I was here. I matter!”

This is why Christians have a story to tell. Have you become a Christian? Have you been adopted into God’s family? If so, you matter, because you have God as an audience. When you become a Christian, your cosmic portrait will never fade. Unlike your snapshot of yourself against the Grand Canyon, you won’t disappear from God’s in-basket in a few minutes. Your name won’t be blotted from the great Book of Life.

But, the next time you are at the Grand Canyon or Niagara Falls or wherever, if you see a handsome bearded 40-something with a charming family approach you at a scenic overlook, don’t run. Instead take pity on us and agree to snap our picture. I’ll show you how my clunky DSLR camera works.


One of the memorable educational moments of my junior high years was reading Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird, then watching in class the 1962 movie with Gregory Peck. The powerful portrait of racial division and the intricacies of southern life were fascinating then and remain so today. Her Pulitzer Prize-winning novel has been called “The novel of the century” in a poll by The Library Journal.

Her portrait of Atticus Finch resonated through the culture and created an archetypical modern hero. Atticus is an object lesson in integrity, and inspires us to stand up for what is right despite the cost. A great quote has Atticus telling his daughter, Scout, “This case, Tom Robinson’s case, is something that goes to the essence of a man’s conscience-Scout, I couldn’t go to church and worship God if I didn’t try to help that man.”

After writing her great novel, Harper Lee shunned publicity and lived a life of semi-seclusion. We know little about her private life and thoughts, other than what she chose to share. One of the reasons she gave for not publishing more novels is “I have said what I wanted to say, and I will not say it again.” (Interview available here).

She died this week at age 89. She was a lifelong Methodist.

If you have friends like mine on Facebook, then this bit of drivel has probably been tossed your way:

“Because you know, when the Bible was written, and then rewritten, and then edited, and then re-edi -ted, then translated from dead languages and then re-retranslated and re-edited again, then re-re-re-edited, and then re-translated, and then given to kings for them to take their favorite parts out, and then re-edited and re-translated and given to the pope for him to approve, and then re-edited and re-written— all based on stories that were told orally 30 to 90 years after they had happened to people who didn’t know how to write… I guess what I’m trying to say is, the bible is literally the world’s oldest game of telephone.” (David Cross, comedian)

We could respond soberly, but I have an idea that is more fun. What if, in the middle of his comedic diatribe, Mr. Cross got smacked with the facts. The result might be something like this:

“Because you know, it seems that something might have happened in Jerusalem, but of course all we have is oral tradition and hearsay–oops, scratch that–well, apparently we have written eyewitness accounts, but we are stuck with only 1–oh? Goodness me–make that four eyewitness accounts, written 90 years–Oops, I’m sorry–30 years from the event (and–who knew? Turns out there are some mentions within the letters of Paul penned only 15 years afterward); Of course all of this was written in dead languages (like Greek–who can speak that?) by people who were clearly illiterate–like that Pharisee scholar Paul and Luke the physician–ok maybe not so illiterate but hey, let’s not let facts ruin a good narrative, eh?–And of course that information only survived in a few manuscripts–oops, turns out it’s actually tens upon tens of thousands of manuscripts, hmm–but these are obviously from centuries –oops, correction–as early as decades after their writing; still, probably they have wildly different information, which of course is because of later editing and endless re-translations and due to the activities of kings and medieval popes, and–oh wait–I guess it turns out that these copies are all virtually identical and differ only rarely in insignificant ways such as missing punctuation marks. Well, shucks, I guess it looks the Bible is more like honest reporting than like a game of telephone. But hey, I’m a comedian, not a scholar, and I still don’t like the Bible, so feel free to ignore it and ridicule any of your friends who feel differently. (Christians are fun to ridicule, because they are nice and won’t behead you like certain other scary religions we won’t mention).”

Valentine’s Day brings the annual punctuation of Winter’s cold by the arrows of Cupid. We are put in mind of romance and love, as we wander the rows of pink and red cards, and navigate the bewildering assortments of chocolate and flowers. We may find ourselves reading delightful poems by Donne or Byron, or perhaps thinking of tragic love stories from ages past.

Since we are observing the holiday this year on a Sunday, this is a good time to recall the deepest and oldest, and perhaps most tragic love story of all time. This story eats Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet” for breakfast. It is more intriguing than the pathos conjured by Tolkien’s “Lay of Beren and Luthien”. The story in view here, of course, is the tragic tale of God’s deep love for humanity, for his created beings whom he made in his image, and endowed with the gift of life. He has loved us despite our rebellion and waywardness. God has endeavored to woo us back. The shocking finale is that God wrote himself into our story, taking our humanity and all its joys and sorrows upon himself.

As in the words of an old Lutheran hymn (Adapted from Thomas A Kempis)

“Oh, love, how deep, how broad, how high,
Beyond all thought and fantasy,
That God, the son of God, should take
Our mortal form for mortal’s sake!”

Sadly, that love often has gone unrequited. In the end, a soul that says, “leave me alone” gets its wish. In the title above, I invoked the idea of Hell, which I won’t try to fully define here. An important aspect of the definition is that the ultimate curse is the precise opposite of the ultimate blessing, as expressed in the famous “Aaronic benediction”. Instead of God’s presence, there is absence. Instead the light of God’s countenance shining upon his beloved, there is only darkness and loneliness.

Some might ask us how we square the idea of a loving God with a concept like Hell. I was recently listening to an old message by Tim Keller, of New York’s Redeemer Presbyterian Church, and was struck by a statement, that we will never really understand the depth of God’s love for us without believing in Hell. What did it cost God to love us? Was it nothing? What did Jesus actually endure on our behalf?

It turns out that what really makes Jesus the “man of sorrows” arises from much more than the mere physical tortures inflicted upon him. It wasn’t just the weight of the cross that bore him down. Christian theology teaches that Jesus had to endure abandonment and forsakenness, the sudden disintegration of his relationship with the Heavenly Father. In other words, Hell.

I recall wasting a couple hours in 1997 watching “Event Horizon,” a science fiction horror film that is almost exactly like “2010” crossed with “Friday the 13th”. It begins creepily enough with a ghost spaceship returned after disappearing into a black hole, and a team of astronauts and scientists travel to investigate. From this promising start, the movie degenerates quickly into a fairly brainless gore fest. The spacecraft is orbiting what turns out to be a portal to Hell, and one of the characters gets possessed by a demonic entity. But there is an interesting point: At the end of the movie, one of the remaining crew members willingly enters the portal to Hell, in order to save the others.

That’s exactly what Jesus did. He took on Hell so that we might escape it. That’s a love that is astounding and unfathomable. However, if we try our best to understand it and embrace it–to take it into our hearts–it will be life transforming.

So, reflect on that, and happy Valentine’s Day.

There are different ways to measure the height of a mountain. It is typical to list the elevation above sea level. By this measure, Mt Everest, at 8848 meters (29,029 ft), is clearly “the rooftop of the world”. However, if you measure from base to peak, other mountains are taller. Everest emerges from the already very high Tibetan Plateau, and from base to peak is a mere 4000 meters or 13000 feet (of course, this is still pretty impressive!). Mt. Denali (formerly McKinley) in Alaska beats this with a base to peak height of about 5500 meters (18,000 feet).

Today, many churches celebrate Ash Wednesday, the beginning of the season of Lent. Lent is a Christian observance that dates to around 325 or so. The season of Lent, like many of the Christian observances we know and love, isn’t mentioned anywhere in the Bible. Previous to this, the early Christians mainly just celebrated Easter. Easter, spiritually speaking, is Christianity’s Mt. Everest. This is the highest height, and the greatest summit for us this side of Eternity. Easter heralds the ultimate victory of Christ over death, and the triumph of Good over Evil. We glow as the risen and glorified Jesus says, “Lo, I am with you always, to the end of the age”.

How do we do justice to something like Easter, when we remember it in our hearts and meditate upon its meaning? How do we do it justice in our yearly cycle of celebration? What could we do to make something that spectacularly good even just a little bit more special? What I take to be the genius of Lent is that it is a human attempt to make the Easter commemorations even more grand by deepening the depths from which our Himalayan summit rises, thereby creating a larger base-to-peak journey. We descend to the deepest depths and darkest darkness before emerging blinking into the blazing glory of Easter.

How do we do this? Lent begins with the admonition that recalls our mortality: “Remember, O man, that dust thou art, and to dust thou shalt return.” Many Christians observe a season of fasting, or abstaining from certain foods or beverages. You can read more about fasting here. Many Christians delve into exercises of spiritual disciplines, such as bible study. Some will try to do more acts of charity.

However you choose to prepare for Easter, I commend to you the season of Lent as a time of prayer, penitence, reflection, and discipline. By scooping out a deeper valley, Lent helps Easter rise that much more gloriously ahead of us.

The new socialist government in Alberta, Canada has put forth new “guidelines” (really mandates) on gender identity that must be enforced in all schools. Rules include gender neutral speech codes, and insist that children have the right to decide their own gender identity, and which washroom to use. The mandates are binding upon all schools, including (apparently) church run parochial schools. Boards that don’t comply could be dissolved by the ruling government.
(The guidelines can be read in entirety here).

The bishop of Calgary did not mince words with his reaction to this, as posted below. Let’s hope and pray that our Canadian brethren can successfully fight back against this madness.

Calgary’s Roman Catholic bishop has denounced as “totalitarian” and “anti-Catholic” the province’s new guidelines for respecting students’ gender identity.

“This approach and directive smack of the madness of relativism and the forceful imposition of a particular narrow-minded anti-Catholic ideology,” Bishop Fred Henry wrote in a blog post on the website of the Catholic diocese of Calgary.

“Such a totalitarian approach is not in accordance with [Canadian law] and must be rejected,” he added, in a post titled “Totalitarianism in Alberta.”

(Read more at CBC News)


Look up Paul Anderson in Wikipedia and you’ll see the story of a man of amazing strength:

In 1955, at the height of the Cold War, Anderson, as winner of the USA National Amateur Athletic Union Weightlifting Championship, traveled to the Soviet Union, where weightlifting was a popular sport, for an international weightlifting competition. In a newsreel of the event shown in the United States the narrator, Bud Palmer, commented as follows: “Then, up to the bar stepped a great ball of a man, Paul Anderson.” Palmer said, “The Russians snickered as Anderson gripped the bar which was set at 402.5 pounds, an unheard-of lift. But their snickers quickly changed to awe and all-out cheers as up went the bar and Anderson lifted the heaviest weight overhead of any human in history.” The Russians referred to him as a “wonder of nature”.

Disappointingly, the remainder of that Wikipedia article somewhat underplays the role of faith in his life. More than a mere “wonder of nature”, he was also a man of deep faith in Christ.

He went on to win the gold medal at the Olympics the following year, despite an ear infection and a high fever. As one source put it, a weakened Anderson, facing defeat, decided to “call upon God’s strength”:
Before his third and final attempt, Paul Anderson called on God for extra help and strength. Later he would say, “It wasn’t making a bargain, I needed help.” As those tree-trunk legs and massive arms moved into motion with renewed strength he hoisted the bar high over his head. The once sick, frail boy from the foothills of the Appalachian Mountains was now the “Strongest Man in the World.”(read more here).

He devoted much of the rest of his life to sharing his Christian testimony. After impressive feats such as back lifting 6270 lb, or benching 480 lb, he would say, “I am nothing without the strength of Christ.” He married a devout Christian woman named Glenda and devoted himself to raising money for a youth home in Vidalia, Georgia. He died of his kidney ailment (Bright’s disease) in 1994.

More information about this remarkable man can be found at the websites for Fellowship of Christian Athletes and the Paul Anderson Youth Home.