14 February 2012

American Catholicism's Pact with the Devil by Paul Rahe
This (above link to the article at Ricochet.com) is a must-read for Catholics, and I am not, never have been, a Roman Catholic. No, Rahe is not accusing Catholics of evil. He has nailed the reason why Catholics are confused by the executive order to buy something for themselves that is against their teaching: They arrived here by promoting state paternalism and undermining their own teaching that charity is an individual responsibility. Instead, Catholics have fostered the notion that it is our Christian duty to confiscate money from some and hand it to others. This writer, though, also gives the history of the dilemma. You may not agree with his politics, but you can easily see how the present situation evolved. I would be happy to see something as well-written that defends the President's position, but nothing so coherent as this has appeared.

28 January 2012

Civil Union or Church Sacrament?

My regrets for the length of this piece, first published at DamnYankee.com, but so much is at stake and much needs be said. I originally wrote this to The Weekly Standard after its 2006 article, "Banned in Boston - The coming conflict between same-sex marriage and religious liberty" by Maggie Gallagher, 05/15/2006, Volume 011, Issue 33. The magazine did not publish or acknowledge my letter. And so, I offer it here.

In Maggie Gallagher’s engaging and informative article [alternate link] about Catholic Charities of Boston in the wake of Goodridge [Massachusetts Supreme Court], neither she nor any of the legal beagles she interviewed so much as mentioned the simplest solution of all. Churches can simply restrict themselves to performing the sacrament of marriage and forgo acting as agents of the State (with a capital 'S' to use Nock’s catch-all term) in certifying a couple’s intentions. Then, those churches interested in marrying same-sex couples but located in states that only recognize male-female marriages can confer the sacrament of marriage on any couple the church alone approves, and likewise for churches that recognize only male-female marriages in states where same-sex civil unions are sanctioned. Never mind that people, such as myself, who are not interested in the government’s sanction of anything we do, can even exchange conventional male-female vows in a non-controversial church ceremony and save the fee downtown.

If a church turns in its permit to certify the civil status of a union, couples married in the church but seeking government sanction as well can then go downtown, right after the wedding or years later, pay the fees, repeat their intentions before a state official if need be, and submit to the State’s blessing at their convenience.

People do the opposite all the time: They save a trip to the church alter and get their civil union, commonly called a marriage, certified at the town office after a religion-free ceremony at a banquet hall. Some even show up at a church years later and ask for a church ceremony, to make it right in the eyes of God.  (And some never bother with either ceremony. This is tolerated more in today’s American culture than ever before; we are collectively unperturbed by any arrangement of co-habitation.)

In this country, perhaps more than in others, we have adapted to a concept that a marriage is one thing and one thing only, that it is the exclusive privilege of the State to sanction, and that, as an option, a church can be called upon to bless it. Gallagher and the experts she interviewed do not seem able to shake this misconception, and thus they predict endless debate and litigation. I wish they had re-examined the common American concept of marriage, which has been confused with the wedding ceremony and all its trappings. Marriage is the union of two people – perhaps even three or more if the state becomes whimsical about it; a wedding is the ceremony and party that result in a marriage.

As for Catholic Charities and the mess they’re in in Boston, it only proves that no good deed goes unpunished. In this country, a church that wants the State to stay out of its affairs will stay out of the government’s affairs. A church that engages in commerce, as Marc Stern pointed out to Gallagher, invites the State’s scrutiny and interference. So too for a church that provides community services cooperatively or under contract with a government agency.

Why, then, does any church assume the civil authority to certify a marriage on the State's behalf? It may well be rooted in the Middle Ages I suppose, but a joint statement of intentions made in a civil hearing and an exchange of vows in a sacramental ceremony are two distinct things with two separate purposes. And, in spite of what legislatures or courts may declare about the civil certification of a union, if churches in the United States would just stick to the sacrament and stay out of the civil certification process, they could always be entirely free to perform the sacrament of marriage, according to their own rules and with couples they select and approve, without asking the government’s permission to do so! People who desire a religious blessing are free to marry in a church and may decline to register the marriage with the civil authorities. And any couple of any description is free to decline Allah’s or God’s blessing and find a civil authority willing to register their pledge (and willing, later, to accept their revocation of it), which the State is free to refer to as a marriage. It is when the church functions as an agent of the State and combines the civil arrangement with the religious sacrament that the State has an interest in who is denied the State's arrangement by being denied the sacrament.

A church may choose not to acknowledge a marriage certified outside its rules, and the State may choose not to recognize the marriage of a couple who have not paid the registration fee and obtained, of all things, a license. (Is that still required?)

A marriage not recognized by the State is no less a marriage in the eyes of God.  Americans seem more concerned with the definition of marriage according to the IRS than the definition according to sacrament. But, in spite of what the Internal Revenue Code may say about it, and I’m not going to waste time searching the Code, even the IRS makes no demand of proof that a couple filing a joint tax return produce a civil license to call themselves married.

I submit that Catholic Charities of Boston, if unable to reconcile the two definitions of marriage, must remain true to its own traditional definition. The church’s standards remain constant, or one can hope that they do, while the State is free to write a law declaring the union of peanut butter and jelly a marriage (requiring a permit), if it wants to. Not realistic? What about the union of three people, then? Is that so far-fetched? And how would a church handle a legislative or court definition like that? If some rich socialite can will her estate to her terrier, what’s to prevent the State from taking the next logical step and permitting her to marry the dog first?

If Massachusetts loses the services of the Catholic adoption agencies because the State has a better definition of marriage, and thereby a better definition of family, then let the State do a better job of handling adoption. That is, let the people of Massachusetts, who presumably are unperturbed by their elected representatives’ fiat in allowing the court to correct the church’s stodgy and now-erroneous definition, fork over the revenue that the State will need to go it alone in adoption services. The people of Massachusetts have said, through their representatives, that they don’t need the church’s help. Let them live with that decision.

It is plain that Massachusetts has, until now, consigned a number of children to Catholic Charities to be placed according to the church’s standards, or according to some standards jointly agreed upon. (And once placed, the children live under the parents’ standards.)  The State now chooses no longer to consign children to that agency, (chooses in the sense that the agency felt compelled to close), because the agency’s standards, which are not changing with the whim of popular culture, were set centuries before there was a fickle legislature in Massachusetts with the voters’ assent to write ever-changing law.

Perhaps the next step will be for the State (of Massachusetts in this case) to follow up by visiting the homes where children have been adopted and ensuring that the adopting parents have the proper non-discrimination notices posted, thus assuring that the children rescued from Catholic Charities are subsequently protected from Catholic influence at home.

This is not a tirade against the exchange of marriage vows by homosexual couples, nor against adoption by homosexual singles or couples. This is merely a defense of the church’s right to remain unaffected by the State in its practice and promotion of its beliefs, and likewise an insistence that the State practice its shenanigans without regard for the sensitivities of any church. In either regard, that is as it should be.

Do I believe that homosexuals should not be parents?  No, I do not believe that.  Do I believe that homosexuals should endure State-sanctioned persecution?  No, nor any persecution. Do I believe that the State, by prohibiting discrimination, will put an end to persecution? No.  And that is where the State’s “solution” becomes insidious, for it is the State’s apparent belief that, by prohibiting discrimination and assiduously enforcing the prohibition, unlawful discrimination will evaporate. In its zeal, the State will neglect certain of its children, perhaps its most vulnerable citizens. It’s a legislative victory on behalf of those who feel stigmatized by society for their sexual orientation. It’s a tragedy, perhaps, for someone more vulnerable.

I do believe it is the duty of those whose activism brings about anti-discrimination legislation to concede that the law will not instantly change people’s perceptions or end discrimination overnight; to concede also that, while unlawful discrimination is not OK, not every corner of the Commonwealth can adapt instantaneously – (just consider the continuing and probably permanent exemptions from the ADA now more than a decade after its enactment), and that there just may be a population more vulnerable than those whose grievance is redressed by a single act of a sacrosanct State, in this case, the Supreme Court of Massachusetts.

A vocal cadre of indignant activists, whatever cause they advocate, and a complicit legislature or crusading court, should always consider these realities. That’s not to say that they should jointly search out all possible affected parties and concoct grievances for them too, but only that they should jointly acknowledge, and let the law make allowance for, the fact that, as a society, we are somewhat like a small crowd jammed into an elevator. I shouldn’t be expected to accept having the point of your umbrella jammed into my foot, but I should accept being jostled a little. You should accept my unintentionally offensive odor, but I should take care to bathe daily so that there is at least a limit to how smelly I can be from day to day. And when the door opens and opportunity presents, we should put space, but not hatred, between ourselves.

What’s missing here is tolerance, or, as Maggie Gallagher quoted Marc Stern, “‘Live and let live’ is the only thing around the world that works.” Isn’t it fair to say that those protected by the anti-discrimination law, (the entire body of those protected, as distinct from their most vocal advocates), are chiefly seeking tolerance for what sets them apart? Isn’t it also fair to say that those thus protected owe their fellow citizens tolerance for their various beliefs and standards as well, however distasteful? That was briefly the objective in America, when the law set out to prohibit harmful acts and promote responsible action – before law became the monster it now is, dedicated to the eradication of any notice of obvious differences, the police state of political correctness. It should shame the Massachusetts legislature, and indeed, the people of Massachusetts who permit that body to represent them, that the chief beneficiaries of this new mess will be the lawyers, who will likewise miss the point of tolerance, to the considerable expense of the people of Massachusetts. For a lawyer’s role is to prosecute or defend (or do the research and write the briefs), not to rectify nor even to propose what would make the law better.

A church’s only role in American society, in order to assure First Amendment protection, is to preach its doctrine and exhort its listeners to faith and right action.  Marc Stern agrees when he says, “Beyond speech, nothing is safe.” People exhorted may then individually put their faith into practice without too much threat of State interference. But churches have become big business in America, some, no doubt, with more paid accountants than clergy. Concerted action, in contrast with individual action, makes a church appear very effective in its doctrine and charity, but it also calls the church to submit, account, and justify. I do not disapprove the State's legitimate scrutiny of many churches' big-business affairs, since the Constitution calls upon the federal government to regulate interstate commerce.

For churches worried about whimsical, peanut-butter-and-jelly definitions of marriage, why fret whether federal or state legislators will one day grant religion-based exemptions? This was a development that Robin Wilson speculated on in Gallagher’s article. Why not simply turn in your permits to confer civil status to a marriage and restrict yourselves to conducting religious ceremonies only? And offer newlyweds an instruction brochure explaining, for whatever town or municipality they’re in, how to register for a State “marriage” as well, either before or after the church blessing. For those few couples who still wait for their wedding night, they'll have to choose whether the celebration of the sacrament constitutes the wedding or the hearing on their civil petition. That decision may depend more on whether they’re interested in the IRS benefits, probate, and insurance beneficiary status or in the blessing of God.

Even if the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, or in Massachusetts, gives up certifying the civil status of marriages, the result of Goodridge for Catholic Charities of Boston remains the same. Massachusetts voters have put them out of the adoption placement business. I'm glad I'm not a child-pawn in that state's politics.

2006 ©DamnYankee.com

18 January 2012

WWJD About Global Terrorism?


I first published this in 2005, thus the references to the President at that time. I replay it here because I sense that we may become complacent when there is little happening to alarm us right now.

With the “war on terror” AKA the “war in Iraq” I have wrestled with the question: WWJD? Recently I had to admit being challenged by it from a bumper sticker.

Politics aside, (because one’s fury at or approval of G.W. Bush does not inform my thinking), it would seem that what I’m trying to resolve is a question of religion. And yet, neither dogma nor mysticism inform my thinking either.

Even atheists who oppose the war must admit that they are oddly in league with those Christians who similarly insist upon peace at any cost, that killing is wrong no matter what the provocation, and that the enemy, whoever it is, needs to be approached sternly but with both logic and limits. Atheists-for-Peace (in Iraq), if that describes them adequately, stop short of like-minded Christians-for-Peace, who can be relied upon to add prayer to their solution.

I have some politically liberal friends whom I love and respect and struggle to understand. We avoid arguing, probably because to do so would inform neither of us but would drive us apart, which would be stupid because neither we nor they will affect the course of this war.

I have supported it, in general, since the USA began cleaning up first Afghanistan and then Iraq. Yes, I trust President G.W. Bush, a lot more than I trusted his opponents and his predecessor. But I’m willing to ask myself whether this is right. Am I supporting the destruction of the world? Am I, out of ignorance, in collusion with satan, as my Christians-for-Peace friends might hope I come to realize? What does satan want? Does this war serve satan, or would our avoidance of this war serve satan better? What does Jesus want? What would Jesus do? What is the difference between this and all other threats?

I have sensed, since it began, that it is different. I have accepted that, because it is different, in a way that I could not until now describe, then our response to it has been appropriate. Not because I was told so in a speech or by a columnist. For me to form an opinion I need information and evidence. And if these don’t point to a clear path of thinking, then I need inspiration.

I don’t subscribe to the opinions of people who demand that I believe because they told me so or because they have the more worthy emotions or because they are justified by their superior intellect, connections, or purity of motive. I don’t subscribe to an opinion because it is widely held, supported by polls, or for the common good.

So in searching for the answer to this deepening ethical dilemma – How can I support a war that confutes the teaching of Jesus? – I have drawn upon the evidence that I have been accumulating for decades: the instruction of my own church. For inspiration, I have looked to my own faith. For facts, I have read the Bible. And what follows is what I see.

When Jesus came right out and said Do this and Don’t do that, he confused his followers, including us, more than when he taught by example and parable. I don’t struggle with the counsel to walk another mile and turn the other cheek. That’s illogical because it is elegant and noble and just might do more to confound an individual enemy than resisting. When he invited the holier-than-thous to cast the first stone, he really was inviting them to compare themselves with their intended victim.

When he asked whose picture was on the conqueror’s coin, he was pointing out that money is of the earth (has it ever been different?) and is controlled by whomever is in power, while people are not Caesar’s but belong to God. Resisting Caesar would amount to wasting energy fighting Romans. By their faith in his illogical pronouncement, his followers were able to create something that eventually would rule Rome, not submit to it.

But the enemies everyone could identify with in that era were, for all their power and arrogance, civil people. Throughout history, there have been many organized forces which descended upon the innocent and conquered without mercy, but their objective was to control and subjugate a nation, a region, or the known world, not to annihilate, and especially not to annihilate out of apoplectic hatred for their chosen enemy. In present time, apoplectic hatred of all Americans is the motive of those who started this.

Attempts at conquest involve nation rising against nation, either to settle a grievance or to satisfy a charismatic if arrogant, self-appointed, self-worshipping ruler. Even though Hitler and Stalin were perhaps the most sinister and duplicitous of them all, they still made a pretense of civility and honor. They needed to be glorified and, even though they made mockery of it, they pretended at diplomacy. Kim Jung-Il does the same today, and will probably not rest until he has attempted to bring more of the world into his fold of worshippers. Not that anyone actually worships him, but he doesn’t know it, such is his delusion like that of Hitler and Stalin, a few Roman emperors, and others.

Islam suffers from the same sort of self-destructive forces in the person of a few ruling do-no-wrong clerics. But Islam is not a country or an ethnic group. Nor is it a unified religious body such as the Roman Catholic Church. Islam is a body of ideas, some of them religious, some even grounded in faith (as opposed to religion or dogma), but not the property of any orderly clerical hierarchy. The high priests of Islam don’t even appear to be interested in finding their own common ground or representing their teaching to the world. (Something like that could also be said about the intolerant, hate-motivated splinter groups of so-called Christians, up to a point.)

The high priests of Islam’s most self-destructive splinter groups aren’t interested in civility amongst themselves or representing their teaching to the world because it is not their objective to win converts. They are preaching hatred for anything and anyone who is not themselves. They don’t want slaves. There is no place in their world for converted followers or repentant non-Muslims. It is ironic that they now have a few tools that they did not have a century or even a quarter century ago, and all are the products of civilized societies: Broadcast media to spread their message, money from oil or plunder (whatever the difference might be), the armaments that their money can buy, and most diabolical of all, the open borders that free societies have permitted in the name of humanity. Ironically, too, they have the complicity of a fawning American communications media, motivated not by love for radical Islam but by hatred for a common enemy, George Bush.

It is with the tools made possible by our prosperity and generosity that we are being attacked. This time in history, though, the enemy is anywhere and everywhere. There is no leader who, by our taking him out, leaves the movement stalled or stopped. Since it is not a nationalist movement, there is no single country to overpower to stall or stop the movement.

And since the movement is not interested in our subservience, our gold, our conversion, or our appeasement, there may be no stopping it. It was easier to wipe out smallpox than it will be to put down radical militant Islam.

Regardless which way we react, with guns or with olive branches, we face one choice and that is to wait it out. Turning the other cheek will have no influence on their loathing for all things American or Jewish or Christian. So what do we do while their fury runs its course?


...Duck every time there is a bombing in a civilized part of the world such as Spain or Indonesia or England or the USA, then carry on as if it was another hurricane that can’t be prevented or diverted.

...Send money and suicidal volunteers to the mountains of the Middle East to set up schools for teaching the peaceable tenets of Islam, and hope to have more influence than the radical militants.

...Appeal to the good will and spirit of cooperation of desperately poor and uncooperative nations such as Russia and China and ask them to intervene to persuade the radical militant rabble-rousers to look more kindly on the USA, so we can resume exporting Barbi dolls and Coca-Cola to the Middle East.

No, these aren’t options, and I won’t go on.

War is a great waste of resources and lives, but Jesus did not suggest how to deal with this enemy. Rather, I’m somewhat persuaded that he warned of this enemy and this time. I am not a student of Revelation, nor do I want to be. It accomplishes nothing if I spend the next ten years of my life becoming yet another expert on the end times; (experts on Revelation have come and gone by the thousands). But I could be persuaded that we are there or nearly so.

I’ve tried to discover the rational, productive, and inspired response to the attacks on the free world by this newly-empowered force which, as I admit, we have helped to create. If a military response is appropriate, then it must be everything we can do or nothing at all. Anything in between will be like Vietnam. And damn the United Nations; half the nations involved are state sponsors of terrorism, so it’s no wonder the UN isn’t united on this problem.

If the response is heightened security, then let it rise to a level that will truly thwart homeland terrorism. Anything less will be a waste of resources and an acceptance of random attacks. No security at all is, to me, not an option, especially when the earliest victims of a casual attitude will be slaughtered or poisoned innocents, including more children, and letting our lives ever more be controlled by the fear of another attack now and then. I may be uncomfortable in the summertime wearing long clothes against the insects, but if I want to reduce the bites and stings I live with the extra heat.

Whether we submit to the attacks of those who hate us and regard it as a fact of life in the modern world, or respond with decisive force and intrusive scrutiny, as we have begun to do, I am persuaded that we are in it for a very long, long time. Those whose anger at the USA is so profound that they will commit suicide in order to express it do not represent a passing fad. They represent a still-growing movement. Ignore them and they won’t go away. They will not be satisfied until they have annihilated us.

What does Jesus want me to do? Well, there is frankly little that I can do, personally. I wish there were effective channels for me to do something beyond the borders of my own country, but at least I can look after those in need in my own country. I can and do vote. But I vote with different things in mind than a single issue that has most affected my “consciousness.” I vote based on my understanding of government and how I believe candidates will uphold the Constitution, not based on contrived issues such as abortion-as-birth-control or campaign finance "reform" or fake immigration reform. Candidates dangle their positions on issues before us to attract our votes when they know full well they have little chance of delivering on their promises. We are fools to let their stands on issues influence us. It's their position on government that matters to me – the less of it the better and the less intrusion and money poured into other countries the better.

If I have the opportunity to come face to face with an open-minded Muslim who has yet to form an opinion of Americans, I hope I as an individual will have contributed to a favorable impression. But what are the chances that such an opportunity will fall to me?

America has been attacked by these indistinct forces somewhat due to our own indifference toward the nations that they come from, but moreso due to their envy, the misinformation fed to them by their own leaders, and the machinations of their own minds, steeped in ignorance of us. When mosquitoes swarm, I swat. I don’t kill or chase them all away, but fewer get to poke me. I don't try to talk them out of it. They want my blood. I am definitely less efficient in whatever I’m doing if I’m flailing at them, but the alternative – simply letting them all stick me – is unthinkable. Let that be an analogy.

I wish I could regard the “enemy combatants” as redeemable individual humans. They won’t let me. Jesus submitted to his crucifixion without flailing or fighting back or calling upon his followers to attack his captors and free him. But I argue that he knew that his individual death, so inscrutably accepted by him, would affect the entire world. If I submit to death by a mindless enemy, it will not affect the world as did his, and so I am motivated to resist, on an individual level.

Perhaps we humans have reached the limit of our ability to civilize ourselves, the limit of our ability to cooperate to any greater extent. Perhaps this is as good as it gets. Four fifths of the world still lives in conditions no better than a thousand years ago. It’s America’s delusion that there is a bright future ahead for humanity with disease-free planned communities and sanitary food and free cellular phones for everyone on earth. We tried to show the world that it can be done: Individuals can have liberty and self-determination; and left to choose whether to be selfish or charitable, people will mostly chose to give to those in need. Supply will meet demand when markets are left to take care of distribution and cost. People freed from tyranny will invent and invest. Information will flow.

Well, we have demonstrated all of that. But the rest of the world only stares at us in wonder, then envy, then hatred. They don’t perceive that they, too, can chose what we have. They are persuaded, instead, that they cannot, and they would deny us the same. When they can lash out at us in the name of God, they are justified.

A long war has only just begun. It may cost the USA all that we have left in lives and resources, not to mention money and the destruction that will be wrought wherever we meet the battle. But I can see no alternative. Not to engage them is to invite an equal waste of lives and resources and destruction in a place of their choosing, not ours. It matters not to them who dies, as long as the maximum number of Americans (or Brits or Spaniards, etc.) are destroyed. In a war, however peculiarly it is fought, the individual foot soldiers of the enemy cannot be indicted and “brought to justice.” In a war, they get picked off before they pick you off. They disguise themselves as or hide behind “civilians” and so the innocent in their own countries are victims. So are the innocent in this country.

I find only one clear answer in the Bible. I find no evidence that Jesus dealt with or told anyone else how to deal with humans who turn themselves into mosquitoes or vipers or whatever non-human analogy best describes the plague that is upon us. I am not persuaded that the enemy we now face is even fully human except in DNA. I do not purport to be an expert on evil, so I will refrain from declaring those who would destroy me as evil, in the sense that would make them literally agents of satan. They are evil in the sense that they are fiercely dedicated to opposing the will of God, inasmuch as we, as a society, have constructed our world on the premise that God is love and that the two great commandments should guide our thoughts and our actions.

In the Bible, the answer is in the words of Jesus. Yes, all of his teaching points to faith in God and love of oneself and others, but there is one more dimension to it: You improve humanity by improving the one human unit over which you have control – yourself. He does not preach collective action, the joining of movements or armies or political parties or even churches. He preaches to each individual the responsibility to get oneself right with God. That’s what Jesus would do. Improve your one human unit. Get yourself right with God. And let those who have eyes see your plain example and those who have ears hear your humble words. Jesus does not call upon us to create or join a tumult.

Armies and parties and mass movements do not improve me, as a unit, and they do not help me by showing up on my doorstep, whether with aid or demands. Likewise, I cannot presume to improve any other human being by showing up, as part of a group, on someone else’s doorstep with a demand or with unrequested aid. Those who have joined the armies of this country to defend it are doing me a favor, just as I did by joining up during the Vietnam war, and it is a favor rather than a curse only because the motives of the individual recruits in this country’s armed forces are benevolent and defensive – note I say the motives of the individuals.

I will carry on with my life as best I can. I will think globally and act locally. In thinking globally, I will not regard the hate-motivated, random-destruction-of-anything-that-can-be-a-target as an acceptable norm, therefore I will not oppose reasonable efforts to stop it. I will vote to reduce the reach of government both within this country and abroad. Locally, I will act as I have been inspired to do by my God. Locally, too, I will defend, with adequate force, if an enemy such as this appears personally on my doorstep.

What God has in mind to resolve this conflict and repair this mess I don’t presume to discern, and I will be skeptical of anyone who confidently tells me he has discerned God’s mind on this. I think we will be shown, in the fullness of time. As I await, I will attempt to do what only I can do: Make myself one person who the rest of the world does not have to carry owing to my own irresponsibility and does not have to avoid because I have become a threat.

11 July 2005 ©David A. Woodbury

15 January 2012

Genealogy of Joseph

This seven-minute clip on the genealogy of Joseph, the husband of Mary of whom was born Jesus, is convincing enough to me. Not that it is relevant to anyone's faith; who was Joseph's grandfather is entirely of no consequence to the divinity of Jesus. It is just a little explanation of what at first glance appears to be a contradiction between the gospels of Matthew and Luke. Unfortunately, the man speaking throughout this clip is not identified, and may or may not be the "NathanH83" who uploaded it to YouTube. So have a look.

08 January 2012

Hold This Image in Your Mind

Let me share something with you, and I wrote this spontaneously on December 18 when our good and humble friend, (and next-door neighbor for eleven years), Debbie Lyons was dying.  I sent it to her grandson, Joshua, whom she had raised.  (And she died just a few days later): "Hold this image in your mind: A grand reception room in Heaven, bigger than any room ever built on earth; a huge heavenly host has gathered. A door opens, and a very tired little lady steps inside not knowing what to expect. When she comes through the door, the room erupts in applause and cheers. And a great but gentle voice is heard over it all: "Well done, Debbie. Now come rest beside me and let me hold you."

I have an old friend nearby who is about to slip away.  This is how I imagine his arrival in Heaven, too -- and the arrival of all the weary travelers on this earth who have ever had faith and who have done what they could and at last had to let go and let God.

And when I go that way some day, I imagine being nudged through a doorway, in a dimension beyond our own and in a realm I don't comprehend, and I sort of anticipate the room I envisioned for my friends who went before me, and if it is anything like that, then I am confident I will see Debbie's face in the welcoming throng, and Bob's, and maybe quite a few more.

It's difficult to express just how, but I know that's what happened when Debbie arrived.  I knew it the moment I perceived it.