Sunday, February 28, 2010

The ladies at the Presbyterian church are on retreat this weekend.

I'm not really attending their Bible study this year, yet I was indirectly invited on retreat by one of them who moved to TN almost two years ago. She urged me to attend for the sake of seeing her. I haven't seen her since the last time she was up to NJ more than a year ago. But I always decline their invitation because the format doesn't sound like my style: I got the "skit" approach to spirituality out of my system a long time ago.

As it turned out, the weather affected my Tennessee friend's ability to reach the retreat in, well, they usually go to Valley Forge/King of Prussia,1 for the shopping. She didn't make it. And I had good reason to be at home this weekend as well.

But I am craving a retreat. It's probably been five years. A lady at the C&MA church emailed out their spring retreat brochure the week before last. It's in Cape May at the end of April. I've always wanted to go to Cape May and off-season is probably the best I can do. The schedule or order of the retreat days, however, didn't impress me. Friday night, after a travel day, alright, shouldn't be too involved. But after some announcements and worship and meeting with the weekend's speaker, there's 90 minutes of some icebreaker called "The Amazing Race" Game?! Would it be necessary to have ever seen the show on TV to participate? Then "Pool & Spa Time," which ought to go without saying unless it's said in an effort to entice me.

Next day, morning prayer at 7 for 45 minutes. OK, that's a good start but I bet we won't be kneeling. Then breakfast and another 30 minutes of worship (plus an offering). Then an hour from the guest speaker. Then an hour of "breakout time," which I would imagine is practical application of the speaker's lecture.2 Lunch and then "Missions Hour" which might be a time to pray for missions or hear pitches from missionaries? I don't know. This is a C&MA-affliated retreat. Then after this (but I'd duck out early and have even more time!), there's more than three hours allotted for recreation:
Shopping, Sightseeing, Trolley Tours, Kite Flying, Beach Walking, Bookstore, Indoor Pool & Spa
Plus 75 minutes for dinner. Conceivably, four and a half hours on Saturday afternoon would be "personal time." Almost certainly I would be solo while cliques did "cool things" together. Then worship, the speaker, pool & spa 'til 11. Sunday morning has no church service planned, unless thirty minutes of praise music combined with the guest speaker's 75 minute talk qualifies as "church." Retreat Sunday is basically "the four last things": worship, breakfast, lecture, leave.

I told myself if I could find, through, a 4 o'clock vigil liturgy, I'd seriously consider the retreat. The cost ($400) is a little steep but I doubt I'd spend any more than that, say, shopping. Even the onsite bookstore (Berean Bible Bookstore of Lafayette) probably wouldn't be much of a temptation.

Our Lady Star of the Sea supposedly has a 4 o'clock service. But then I was reminded that we have tickets to hear "Classic Albums Live" perform The Beatles ("The White Album") at NJPAC in Newark that Saturday night, the last Saturday in April. I couldn't imagine missing that show. In other words, I couldn't imagine driving down to Cape May on Friday afternoon, only to return on Saturday afternoon. Next year is another year -- L 'Shana Haba'a B'yerushalayim ... in Cape May!

1 Actually, another retreatant just told me they had The Traber Center, a Christian conference center, to themselves for the weekend.

2 I'm afraid I'm talking myself into this retreat instead of convincing myself it's frivolous!
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

Saturday, February 27, 2010

Angela Marie Skelton

Angela Marie Skelton, 41, of Cranford, N.J., passed away on Feb. 25, 2010, in her home after a long battle with cancer. A Mass of Christian Burial will be on Wednesday, March 3, at 9:30 a.m. at St. Michael's Church in Cranford. Calling hours will be on Tuesday, March 2, at Dooley Funeral Home, 218 North Ave. W., Cranford, from 2 to 4 and 7 to 9 p.m. Angela was born on April 23, 1968, in Utica, N.Y., the daughter of Anthony and Lenore Stoio of Whitesboro, N.Y., where she graduated from high school in 1986. She was a 1990 graduate of Utica College of Syracuse University, and earned her master's of science degree from Seton Hall University in 1993. Since 1990, Angela worked at Schering-Plough Pharmaceuticals as a research scientist, a job she cherished until her disease took it away from her. She played on various softball teams at Schering and loved her time as a member of the Snapshots, a team that allowed her for form friendships that lasted until her death. Angela married Paul Skelton on Dec. 5, 1992, and they lived in Cranford since 1998. She was the mother of two incredible boys, 10-year-old Joshua, and 7-year-old Daniel. Her boys were her sole focus as she fought this terrible disease and the strength she showed will live in them as they grow into young men. Angela was active in school activities as a member of the PTA, and volunteered for many school functions for both Joshua and Daniel. Angela was loved by many and had an amazing effect on anyone she came in contact with. Her love of her husband and her children, and the love they had for her will be her lasting legacy. Angela had an infectious smile and personality that will never be forgotten. Please consider donations to Center for Hope Hospice in Scotch Plains, N.J. Her family would like to thank the dedicated staff at Center for Hope and Memorial Sloan Kettering Cancer Center.

Published in Star-Ledger on February 27, 2010.

Friday, February 26, 2010

For the sake of convenience, then, I went out after dinner to stations at my parish. But I could see, after turning onto Stillhouse Rd., a dark church: nobody was there. Probably due to the bad weather. I drove to Hamilton and arrived just in time to message Jeff where I'd gone to, from the steps of the church.

I had only enough money for one candle so I lit that before taking a seat. Even though it's a very large church and I was seated in almost the back row, I spied what looked to me like a monstrance, way up there on the altar.
Oh, it can't be! This isn't 'First Friday!'"
The priests at this versus populum church (I almost wrote "ad populum!") imitate BXVI's use of a crucifix on the altar and I tried to tell myself the monstrance was that. But, no, there's no mistaking the difference in their appearance!

While we sang a Lenten hymn from the missalette, the deacon entered almost immediately wearing a cape 1 which he didn't remove. He told us there would be exposition and benediction "around" stations according to JPII's '91 version. He went to the tabernacle and we got on our knees and he placed the host in the monstrance. He had a censer and he knew well how to use it. His movements were flawless.

We sang O salutaris Hostia and I know my pronunciation isn't very good. Then the stations which, you know, as partial as I am to Liguori's classic, this other version brought tears to my eyes. I wish I had the text as it appeared in the booklet in front of me for reference. In fact, I just ordered the booklet from Amazon. It's that good. The early stations made use of Psalm 6 which is all about being broken. You have any doubt I was crying? Just read verse 6.

And I wish I could find the lyrics of the hymn by Fr. John Broderick set to the tune of Stabat Mater. Well, the words are in the book that's coming, that I can sing to myself if I can't find a recording.

Then he read the day's Gospel (Matt. 5:20-26) and gave a brief, encouraging homily. Then, I'm fuzzy: Tantum Ergo, which my pronunciation isn't too bad for, benediction and the divine praises with the optional ending that I don't have memorized yet:
May the heart of Jesus, in the Most Blessed Sacrament of the Altar, be praised, adored, and loved, with grateful affection, at every moment, in all the tabernacles of the world, even until the end of time. Amen.
It was a beautiful combination and I left the building deciding I would live for Fridays. At the same time, I had a weird impression of the host as some sort of proctor. Now, I just found this at the US Catholic bishops site, from the Committee on Divine Worship, "Devotions and Eucharistic Adoration:"
Eucharistic exposition and benediction are no longer considered devotions, but rather are a part of the Church's official liturgy. Whereas in the past benediction was frequently added on to the end of another service or devotion, this is no longer permitted. Eucharistic exposition and benediction is a complete liturgical service in its own right and is to be celebrated as such.
So, now I have something to think about.

1 maybe called a "cope."
I've been a bit on edge lately about the phone ringing. Because it never rings. Or there are certain times of day when it doesn't ring. Evening being one of those times.

The phone rang last night and Jeff answered it. I knew who it was and the news. Jeff told me, "That was P---" and I knew immediately. I just said to him, "Jeff, I cannot believe it." And I couldn't. And I can't. It reminded me of another time the phone rang with incredible news, this time at dawn, ten years ago in July. She had delivered their first child a week early. "I can't believe it!" I was happy for them and scared because ours was due later that same month. Theirs made ours "next."

When her second child was due three years later in February, I was concerned about snow storms. The winter had been terrible and Jeff was even out of town for some of it. This time with her illness. I was again worried that snow would hinder her needed care.

Two months after Christmas, a season when they had given her three to six. I think of her enjoying the presence of God, and I cry because I want her to tell me what it's like.

Tuesday, February 23, 2010

I can see this line making the quotes section of next month's CT -
"I thought to myself, 'I'm doing better with the Mormons than I am with the Catholics,'" the cardinal said with a laugh. "I've had a lot harder time getting (Catholics) to sing together."
"Cardinal: Catholics, Mormons must defend religious freedom together" - Catholic News Service, 2/23/10.

Monday, February 22, 2010

The announcement in the diocesan newspaper seemed too good to be true: the religion teacher at a prominent Catholic high school lecturing on the Bible for the next five weeks at a nearby church. I checked the Sunday bulletin of the church but could not find mention of the lecture series. Rather, I saw information about another adult education series geared towards catechist formation and certification. Never could a parish maintain adequate participation in two, simultaneous adult ed. programs!

Suspicious, I called the number in the paper for more information. I didn't recognize that the prefixes for the contact numbers were Red Bank and Eatontown, respectively. The woman who answered passed me off to another woman who immediately asked my name and said she'd not heard of me before and had I attended any previous sessions? I said no. She asked my parish and town and I gave it proudly, expecting her to have heard of them because it is so close. She denied ever having heard of my town or parish! I was utterly dejected.

Then I got an inkling as to the problem, remembering that there are two (at least two) parishes in the diocese with the same name. She was already saying that she had sent an email to the newspaper about printing the announcement incorrectly. "They even put the street address, '251 Franklin.' How did they ever come up with that?!" I knew the address well.

But, the thing is, I'm accustomed to driving considerable distances to attend lectures. Just about anything in the four-county diocese is ... and always has been ... fair game. What turned me off, then, since I am so conditioned, was her rapid discouragement, "I don't even know where that [Perrineville] is, so, no, it's too far for you to travel."

Of course she's correct but should she tell me my business?
Exactly why I'm glad I grew up as I did ... because I'm too old to learn anymore ...

"Redeeming a Dirty Word" - Internet Monk, guest blogger.

Beginning to see where exactly the Church Age parenthesis may be applied ...

Friday, February 19, 2010

We both thought that the first song wasn't loud enough and didn't have enough energy behind it. I also didn't think that the singer's voice captured Plant's sound at all and I was initially disappointed. I expected so much more. Although we acknowledged that its studio production might be too complicated to reproduce live.

The second song was a little better, I suppose as the band warmed up. "The Lemon Song" was welcomed by the middle-aged sopho-morons in the audience who had just recently figured out its innuendo. Tee-hee. The returning lilt at the end of "Thank You" was really, really nice but the song had gotten so quiet that everyone was already clapping.

The misogyny of "Heartbreaker/Living Loving Maid" couldn't be mistaken. The show built it up all along until the climax with "Dazed and Confused" in the second set. I could have sung every (intelligible) word like anyone else there but by this point the singer had keyed in on the right sound and didn't need any help from anybody. Not everyone realized this.

I'm not saying that I understand blues at all, but Zeppelin's take on the genre seems to be Hosea-like: a saintly man tricked and cheated by a vile woman. Does anyone really believe that women are the more promiscuous ones of the two? But anyway, it's a theme I can live with so long as the model isn't extended to all men and all women. So long as it isn't seen archetypically. Unfortunately, not everyone has the appropriate discipline to keep from generalizing.

But as blues music goes, it's just amazingly awesome. I think the band hit its stride with "Ramble On." The instrumental "Moby Dick" was fine, good drum solo. And "Bring It On Home" is just a nice blues number. I've said many times that I love harmonica. Jeff thought the singer didn't do too well with it, with singing around the harmonica, but I just listened to the cut on the album and Plant is doing something scatty with his voice. Something strange. He's imitating someone; I don't know who. So that probably accounts for Jeff's impression: he just wasn't remembering the original well enough.

After the intermission, they opened up with the songs we'd requested in an online survey. They probably could have just come back with Zeppelin's first album and called it a night. "Good Times Bad Times" was first, then as I said above, "Dazed and Confused." In the middle of the second set, they played "Stairway" and I voted for it, I know, I know, but it was good. Some people called out for "Free Bird." I guess that's a classic joke at concerts, no matter the band. Jeff said they played "The Song Remains the Same" but I wouldn't recognize that song. I think they played "You Shook Me" and "How Many More Times."1 The singer's voice failed him towards the end of one song and I was hoping he'd hold it together until he got through it. He didn't and took a break offstage while the band looped through a refrain until he eventually returned. They also played two others that I voted for, "Immigrant Song" and "Kashmir" which closed the show. I really like "Kashmir." It's really different.

And the venue is very nice too. Reminded me, in terms of sophistication, of MSG. I'll be very happy to see The White Album (scroll down) there in April. Jeff said our tickets are in the same place, first mezzanine, but over to the left more. Ça ne fait rien.
1 NJPAC's Facebook page says "Babe, I'm Gonna Leave You," "Rock and Roll," and "Black Dog" instead of "You Shook Me" and "How Many More Times" for a total of nine songs instead of eight. I'd have to check with Jeff to confirm what they actually played vs. what NJPAC expected them to play.
The town has a longstanding problem with trucks running to and from a mine on Baird Rd. The trucks are supposed to exit the mine, turn left onto Millstone Rd., make another left onto Sweetmans Lane and pick up 527A at Woodville to 33.

For many years, I would encounter these huge dump trucks on Baird Rd. when carting my boys back-and-forth to their old school. The trucks would turn right onto Prodelin Way and then go to 33. The terror of encountering these trucks on narrow Baird Rd. was surpassed only when the new middle school opened in the fall of '07 near Conover, and I would encounter a dozen school buses coming at me.

This morning after dropping Chris at school, I came home along Millstone Rd. which I hardly ever do. There were two dump trucks lined up at the intersection waiting to turn left. I waited for the first one but the driver of the second one waved me through. And I got a good idea of how one flipped over last week.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Why I could not be a church secretary:
After bible study this morning, I slipped into a church to spend a few minutes in prayer for my sister-in-law and there was one other woman in there. She was generally quiet but seemed to be reading, the church bulletin, I suppose. It rustled like a newspaper.

Presently, she dialed her cell phone and, as it was lunchtime, I thought she might be ordering some food. Instead, she called the church office which was presumably right downstairs and asked when the midday Ash Wednesday service would begin. I could hear the church secretary tell her that today is Thursday and it was yesterday. I suppose Presidents' Day had thrown her off. To her credit, she didn't immediately leave the sanctuary but stayed a bit.
The season is not entirely without its own peculiar humor.

Wednesday, February 17, 2010

Jeff had a meeting and, therefore, couldn't take Chris to school for me. So I missed the 9 o'clock service in town and, after dropping him off, just went straight to my swim aerobics class at 10:15.

All the while, I was still trying to piece my day together: had to replace Ella's missing earring and give her a ride or two on the merry-go-round. She's been talking about the merry-go-round for days. Once in the pool, I noticed my swim teacher's ashes and thought to myself, "Shoot, this is her second group class of the day so far! If she can fit church in, so can I!"

Now I had an overdue library book with me plus the cash to get it out of hock, a crucial combination that rarely comes simultaneously. So I felt obligated to do that immediately, return the book after swimming because the library is right there. I was gambling on a noon church service someplace nearby, but where? St. Rose in Freehold, an urban church, seemed the most likely place. I got there at noon after dropping off the library book. I've visited the school many times for various events and functions but never been inside the church.

I'm glad I got there when I did because even though I was fifteen minutes early, the place filled up with all sorts of people. Mostly elderly. But plenty of working people too. Not many children, I'd say. My daughter stuck out, well, in too many ways.

She was fine before the service began, quietly flipping through the missal and probably wondering why it looked so familiar when nothing else did. There was no entrance music. In fact, the procession couldn't have been any less disruptive. The presbyter explained that the service wasn't a mass as communion would not be distributed. He understood that people had limited time and he wanted to help people get on their way. There would be three readings, a brief homily and then the distribution of ashes, after which, everyone was free to leave or remain a little while for private prayer.

I remember the first reading and the psalm making an impact on me but after that I just lost it, because Ella was jumping on the kneeler. And, of course, the people in front of her were sitting down so she was right around their shoulders, breathing heavy, I'm sure. I would pick her up to stop her and she would giggle as if I was tickling her. Very, very silly.

I also lost it with the second reading and the Gospel because the wording didn't exactly match my missal. The lector and priest seemed to have more words, and different words, than my book. I have to compare online when I get a chance.1

So, of course Ella declined the ashes without much grace. The minister looked quite perplexed by her refusal but I told her to never mind. Afterwards, we milled around the church a bit. Ella was interested in the stained-glass windows, or rather in the light from windows tucked out of view, behind a large plaster depiction of the Last Supper in bas-relief. I was very interested in the plaster. The church is in a cross shape but doesn't have a long nave (e.g., center aisle). It might be better to call it a "plus" shape. The sanctuary and columns facing the congregation were nicely decorated with leafless branches and barren trees that were backlit and wrapped at the base with purple fabric. I hadn't seen a cry room anywhere but didn't bother to ask either.

Now, someone did slip into our pew during the service from the side door. I don't remember at which part but maybe even as late as after the homily. Ella wasn't really very willing to give up that part of our pew to her and she kept trying to prance along the kneeler as she had been doing. I distracted her with the collection basket. Or rather, by giving her money for the basket which she promptly tried to pocket instead.

There's quite a difference, then, between the urban church which is rush, rush, rush and concerned about getting people back to work on time, and the suburban parish where the pastor reprimands us every year about the "shallow and sneaky" worshipper who enters the service the last five minutes only for the sake of ashes. And imagine moving from one setting to the other? At least I moved in the right direction, expecting quite more than a paltry 15 minute service. What if I were used to the 15-minute Ash Wednesday service at my urban church and visited the suburbs?! I'd be muttering to myself, "And communion too?! What is this?!" Well, not me, but some hardened city person would, you know.

It was what it was and I can't be disappointed. In fact, when I got to the parking lot, I understood the presbyter's concern quite well. The man knows his people and their situation: just tight and busy and hard to get out. And I wasn't even in a hurry.

1 I just checked my missals with what's online at the USCCB website and there's a significant difference. I guess that's one reason I kept losing my place. I'm not aware of any recent revisions but maybe I did know once and have simply forgotten. Oh, well, I'll be buying new missals in a couple of years anyway. To have a slightly different version for two readings on one day a year isn't too terrible especially considering I hadn't really intended to attend in the first place!

Monday, February 15, 2010

Saturday, February 13, 2010

Valentines Day ... a good day to read what the Bible has to say about marriage, huh? It seemed so serendipitous this morning as I began lesson 5 in Precepts's second Genesis study. Last week's snow had wiped out our session on lesson 4.

We plow ahead ...

Serendipitous, right. Yeah, in a couple of ways. First of all, a revisit of the John 21 stuff I had gone over in class Thursday night and posted on. I still really don't think there's anything to it but maybe I should spend more time thinking about it. BTW, this is not Precepts material but supplemental study material that our amazing leader provides us. It's usually original language background from academic references that I can't readily dismiss.

In this case, it's a dictionary. A fair portion of the material is found here, beginning at verse 15.

But the part that stopped me cold was the practical application that followed.
Agapáō and never philéō is used of love toward our enemies. The range of philéō is wider than that of agapáō which stands higher than philéō because of its moral import, i.e., love that expresses compassion. We are thus commanded to love (agapaáō) our enemies, to do what is necessary to turn them to Christ, but never to befriend them (philéō) by adopting their interests and becoming friends on their level.
To be honest, first thing that came to mind is the phrase "Friend of sinners" (Matt. 11:19; Lk. 7:34). Oh, but sinners can't be our enemies. Maybe if I had a precise enemy in view, this would all make sense. "The world" is pretty broad (James 4:4). Short of something concrete, I'm left in the abstract wondering how to distinguish between love and friendship.

Just something quick, then, on "helper," from the Theological Wordbook of the Old Testament:
While this word (‘ēzer) designates assistance, it is more frequently used in a concrete sense to designate the assistant. (Cf. Gen 2:18, 20 where Eve is created to be Adam's help[er].) As to the source of the help, this word is generally used to designate divine aid.
And the fittingness of OLPH occurred to me.
The snow storm last Friday night into Saturday prompted the reschedule of Tim's First Eucharist retreat, blasphemously called "Jesus Day." Jeff would drop him off first thing because the other two boys had tennis clear across the state. But, without Tim, we finished 30 minutes sooner, enough time to pick up Chris's playdate, exchange the boys for Ella and get over to church for the parents' meeting and afternoon pickup. I was even early.

Ella lasted ten minutes of sitting still. I took her to the library where I could still maintain eye contact. We tried a back pew for a few minutes, but no good. I'd heard it all before anyway. It was some parents' first time. The pleading and begging I just can't stand.
"Please don't share your confessional horror stories with your children!"
As if we would.
"It isn't as if you can make up for your sins with penance. Read the Church's teaching!"

CCC 1459-1460 and also Catholic Encyclopedia:
The Catholic doctrine on this point is set forth by the Council of Trent, which condemns the proposition: "That the entire punishment is always remitted by God together with the guilt, and the satisfaction required of penitents is no other than faith whereby they believe that Christ has satisfied for them; ..."
And all the business about "this comes first." Hey, preaching to the converted: I didn't think twice about him missing tennis. But you'd better believe his older brother exploited the occasion, "Why can't I skip tennis too?!"
Sunday Snippets - a Catholic carnival hosted by Rann at "This That and the Other Thing."

Thursday, February 11, 2010

We finished John's Gospel this evening, the final three chapters, and will start the Letters next time. He said that John's Jesus is capable of bearing his own cross without the help of Simon the Cyrenian. He said the inscription is a four-fold tradition but John's detail, the listing of the languages in which it appeared, is the mark of an eyewitness. I wanted to ask, when John describes how Jesus' garments were divvied up, whether John had the same misunderstanding of Jewish poetry as Matthew, taking it literally. But I didn't. Instead it was about how, all of a sudden, John has a bunch of Scriptures that Jesus' death is fulfilling.

Now, Joseph of Arimathea and Nicodemus do such a proper job preparing Jesus' body for burial that there's no need for the women to return in a couple of days' time to do it. So John has only Mary Magdalene come back, even though in 20:2 she speaks in the first person plural ("we don't know where they have put him!"). Kostenberger follows Morris in thinking that Mary Magdalen hardly went to the tomb alone, while it was still dark, with a religious festival in progress. (cf. NAB footnote). And whatever rivalry appears between Peter and the Beloved Disciple is put down to the founding of their respective communities, that the community which produced the Fourth Gospel was associated historically with the Beloved Disciple. The belief in 20:8 is tempered with a lack of understanding in verse 9.

Then, so, the idea that Jesus' resurrected body isn't readily recognizable by Mary (or the disciples on the road of Emmaus) until he calls her name (cf. John 10:3). And he really thinks the Gospel ended with chapter 20 because Thomas' affirmation of Jesus as "My Lord and my God" was a title reserved for Caesar, even though there aren't any extant manuscripts with only 20 chapters.

One lady asked how much time elapsed between the first post-resurrection appearance and the last. And we went into the tradition of it being forty days between the resurrection and the ascension but it could have been as much as a year. The point is that Jesus' followers had experiences of him after his death. And she wondered whether he appeared only to pious people so we reminded her of the Damascus Road experience. Paul was hardly yet believing. And my Scofield Bible had a handy table of post-resurrection and post-ascension appearances of the Lord. (The table is not a part of the original 1917 notes.) And her concern was about alleged appearances of Jesus to people in our own day and time and whether these could be credible. Everyone pretty much said such appearances weren't likely to be genuine.

We moved on to chapter 21 which in my Bible, and in many others, is subtitled "Epilogue." It occurred to me that the text is a reworked "call" (cf. Luke 5). That the story turns over upon itself, repeating again with each new generation. We didn't get into the agape/phileo discussion for which I was grateful because I don't think there's anything there. Scofield's notes do actually dip into that. Jim remarked on the NAB footnote which I think he found schizophrenic, at best. And he told us that even though this study may have been the deepest we've been in the Gospel to date, it only scratched the surface and encouraged us to go to or someplace and read early sermons for even broader interpretations.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010


I know so little philosophy.
"Gen Xers fell in love with this 1994 film about graduates facing life after college."
They got that right ...

"Then/Now: The Cast of 'Reality Bites'" - Fox News.

And they have Garofalo in "Dogman."
"New missal not here yet, but Catholics urged to start talking about it" - Catholic News Service, 2/9/10. rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb, rhubarb.
In an effort to keep the sessions in sync so that members may swing to whichever session fits their schedule, the Cavins study I'm in isn't meeting next Tuesday. Therefore, even though the two little ones will be home from school for Presidents' Day, I intend to visit the study at the Presbyterian church that I'm mostly missing this year.

Since January, the emphasis has been on discipling more than about holding a simple Bible study, using materials from Redeemer. I bought and downloaded the pdfs tonight. I printed out the correct lesson (Acts 4:1-31) and worked on it. I don't really want to reproduce any of the material here because of copyright stuff but the five questions on the pericope are easy. Just observation questions. I may glance at the leader's guide to check my answers, to avoid stupid mistakes.

The second section distinguishes between an outline of the gospel and a summary. I'd have to say that I've probably almost always given a summary in conversations with others. If that much. I am naturally interested in people's objections and enjoy trying to offer an explanation. Plus, I don't like putting people "on the spot."

The outlines include the Crusade tract, "The Four Spiritual Laws," which I have used formally in outreach. It's the most familiar of those discussed. In addition, I have Hybels's book and probably read it long, long ago. I don't remember being impressed.

But, so, attending this session next Tuesday is going to be awkward because I'm not an evangelical and I don't even want to pretend to be one for the sake of the others there who are. Oh, well, maybe my attitude will improve between now and then. Or I'll just sit there with my mouth shut. I'm pretty damn good at doing that.

Monday, February 08, 2010

"Cardinal asks dialogue partners if an ecumenical catechism might work" - Catholic News Service, 2/8/10:
The churches may hold those positions officially, but if their members do not hold firmly to the basics of Christian faith, the dialogue cannot move forward, the cardinal said.

The Catholic Church does believe "there are deficits in the other churches," he said. "Yet on another level there are deficits, or rather wounds stemming from division and wounds deriving from sin, also in the Catholic Church."

Saturday, February 06, 2010

Notice of the prayer event came through Facebook. With all the other cancellations announced yesterday, I expected this one to be canceled also. Nope. So I went and arrived a few minutes late. Music was already audible from the parking lot as I parked my car. The lot was rather full. I didn't expect that many people on a Friday night with a blizzard warning in effect.

I slipped into the amphitheater-style sanctuary from a side door and a few heads turned 'round to see who I was. Nobody recognized me. I sat in the back row with some foreigners from India. Their children kept me entertained, bouncing around on the cushioned pews.

Being late, then, I missed the first song. The second song was All Because Of Jesus by Casting Crowns. Then the pastor got up and greeted us and told us the reason for the prayer meeting. It seems that a missionary family was supposed to speak at a Sunday service a few weeks ago but the facility had a water main break and the service was cancelled. The missionaries told the pastor, "Don't sweat it, this sort of thing happens to us all the time." But the pastor was determined to not let Satan have the upper hand. So, we were to pray for the missionaries during our time together last night. No money was collected however which, I would think, the family would really be after.

Then the music resumed with a favorite of mine, "Come Thou Fount", but a cantor was babbling gibberish throughout the song, kinda spoiling it. He was good at other times with different songs, but not with this classic hymn. The next song was "From the Inside Out" and then "Came to my Rescue," both by Hillsong.

Then another pastor stood up and asked us to be seated. I already was. We were to bow our heads and close our eyes and listen to some Scripture, Acts 1:8 and Mk. 4:35. This isn't an "Open your Bibles and turn to ..." kind of service. Having head bowed and eyes closed eliminates the temptation to follow along in the book.

There was another set of missionaries to pray for, this time in Mexico. If I remember right, they are building guest accommodations so that when teams go down there on mission trips, they have some place to stay. It made me think of Haiti and all the relief workers there needing places to stay too. And then, speaking of Haiti, we also prayed for a group from CAMA Services, the relief arm of the C&MA denomination, who'll be going to Haiti soon.

Back to singing, then, with a song I really like the chorus of: "Revelation Song". I remember that was sung at the church plant preview service, equally well. I think the cantor read aloud Matthew 16:28 -
"I tell you the truth, some who are standing here will not taste death before they see the Son of Man coming in his kingdom."
And hearing that verse sidetracked me because the Precepts lesson this week is about the kind of death Adam and Eve experienced, either just spiritual death (as some Christians supposedly teach) or both physical and spiritual death. I wondered why just physical death wasn't a choice because that's what I think Genesis 3 is on about.

The music resumed with another Hillsong song, Hosanna". Maybe this was Hillsong in concert, would I even know?! Then the pastor came up again and pointed out some latticework fencing on either side of the platform. Congregants were invited to treat it as the Wailing Wall in Jerusalem and place folded paper with their prayers into a spot in the fence. I didn't but many did. People were also invited to come forward and kneel at the front of the platform and the prayer team would pray with them if they wanted. I probably could have knelt in place without too much scrutiny but I didn't out of concern that the young family next to me might want to exit. The first hour of the service went by just so quickly. And Pastor Boyd paraphrased Deut. 4 for us and Mk. 2 when the paralytic's friends raised the roof to get him to Jesus. Boyd kinda said that if we have physical ailments, we ought to first recognize and confess our sins.

Back to the music, again, with "In Christ Alone", and then "How Great is our God" and the cantor just kept saying, "Sing with me!"

There was very little time for Josh to come up for his part about receiving physical healing. I think the guy had five minutes but he took fifteen which was still pretty quick. He talked about the great miracle of raising Lazarus and that Jesus' resurrection was also a great miracle of the Father. He read from Ps. 6:2 - "Have mercy on me ... for I am weak" (NKJV) and he quoted a contemporary song, "You hold my every moment; you calm my raging seas."

He said he had oils up front there and I got to thinking about those retreats so long ago, well maybe five years ago, when we had holy anointing. And how good it was. And how the team could cover a roomful in a matter of minutes and still spend quality time with each one. These guys weren't as efficient; they don't scale.

The last song was "Hallelujah, Our God Reigns" and it turned into such a cacophony, I thought of what St. Paul said about ordered worship. It was getting a little out of control.

Anyway, I spent my time there praying for my sister-in-law. That was my purpose in going.

The pastor announced a repeat of last year's Ash Wednesday service in a week and a half because everyone liked it so well.

The snow hadn't started yet when I left. My side seat got me into the parking lot pretty quick but I was prudent enough to hold the door for another couple and let them go out first. Plainsboro on a Friday night, *shudder*. I listened to Tell Me More on NPR and Michel Martin had on Ted Haggert's wife. Gayle lost some credibility with me when she said that her husband preached compassion towards homosexuals so the treatment they received from the church shocked them. Yes, the treatment was shocking but you make your bed and you sleep in it. Well, figuratively-speaking, of course. Maybe that's too much nuance.

As I turned 'round the jughandle to pick up the Hightstown bypass from CR-571, I saw a huge snow plow with its parking lights on, just sitting in an empty lot waiting for the snow to start. He had probably been there since 5pm just waiting. It had started before I got home but maybe it's just that I drove into it.

I have a sore throat this morning.
This clip is as much about how technology has changed in the past quarter century as anything. In fact, the video isn't very detailed because of the distance.

New video of Challenger crash - CNN.

Actually, I had never watched video of the Challenger's destruction until seeing this clip.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

"Haiti earthquake suffering resonates with twinned U.S. parishes" - Catholic News Serivce, 2/4/10:
"Our relationship with the parish of Notre Dame in Petite-Goave is long. We've been twinned for over 30 years and that bond has not been broken. We will proceed with the trip when the time is right," St. Stephen pastor Father Pat Kibby wrote in a message to parishioners after the quake.

"We will still be there when everyone has walked away."
We twin with a place in Uganda.

Wednesday, February 03, 2010

"Despite collapsed buildings, Haitian parish aids quake victims" - Catholic News Service, 2/3/10:
Father Thomas said 200 people died in the school, which bears scorch marks from fires that recovery workers set to mask the smell of the decaying bodies.

Before the earthquake, the parish had 10,000 members. The three Redemptorists assigned to the parish celebrated five Masses every Sunday. At Mass Jan. 31 in the parish courtyard, a little more than 300 people worshipped.

Father Thomas, 36, is in his first assignment as a pastor; he came to St. Gerard six months ago.

If the best the parish can do is help coordinate the distribution of cards and food under the auspices of the United Nations, Father Thomas is willing to help.

Tuesday, February 02, 2010

The stunt on Friday has prompted the PM to cut off all new adoptions of Haitian orphans.

"Talk of the Nation", NPR, 2/2/10.

Not a good thing getting arrested in a country without a functioning judicial system.

Monday, February 01, 2010

The reason to like this song? Gilmour's guitar, of course.