Recapturing the Awe

Lent is here. It’s a big deal to the faithful, the biggest deal of all.

Fasting. Prayer. I don’t think I need to get into what Lent is. How about we chat about what Lent isn’t?

Lent is not suffering for suffering’s sake.The purpose of fasting for 40 days (Eastern tradition) or giving something up for 40 days (Western) isn’t to make you miserable. It’s to provide focus and clarity.

The Resurrection is the central tenet of Christianity. If it were false, if it never happened, all would be, as St. Paul wrote to the Corinthians, in vain:

But if it is preached that Christ has been raised from the dead, how can some of you say that there is no resurrection of the dead? If there is no resurrection of the dead, then not even Christ has been raised. And if Christ has not been raised, our preaching is useless and so is your faith. More than that, we are then found to be false witnesses about God, for we have testified about God that he raised Christ from the dead. But he did not raise him if in fact the dead are not raised. For if the dead are not raised, then Christ has not been raised either. And if Christ has not been raised, your faith is futile; you are still in your sins. Then those also who have fallen asleep in Christ are lost. If only for this life we have hope in Christ, we are of all people most to be pitied.

–1 Corinthians 15:12-18

So yes, Easter, the celebration of the Resurrection, is a big deal. Millions, like St. Paul himself, have died for it. This is why the Lenten period is so important. Continue reading “Recapturing the Awe”

Book Review: Vigil by Russell Newquist

If pious, globe-trotting, gun-wielding demon-hunters aren’t your thing, this review won’t mean anything to you. But if the are, I think you’re going to enjoy Vigil.

Vigil by Russell Newquist continues the tale he began in War Demonsalthough is more of a side story than a direct sequel. Michael Alexander, the hero of the previous book, is nowhere to be found. Instead Vigil features Peter Bishop, the bearer of the sword of St. Michael, and his demon-hunting friends in pursuit of the dragon that terrorized Athens, Georgia in War Demons. This dragon absconded with Peter’s girlfriend Faith. Or at least the girl Peter wouldn’t mind being his girlfriend.

Tracking the dragon to a small village France, Peter and his friends discover that the church in town covers dark, ancient secrets. And I don’t mean the kind of dirty laundry that tends to pile up in small towns. I mean actual, literal dark and ancient secrets that threaten more than just the down. While Faith tries to keep her head in the dragon’s layer, Peter and his comrades fight a desperate battle while under siege in the church during the traditional Catholic Easter vigil. Unfortunately, the church’s old priest is not quite as Godly as one would hope, and threatens to sabotage the whole operation . . .

Author Russell Newquist
Russell Newquist

Yes, as in War Demons, Christianity plays a central part in Vigil‘s story. And like in that book, as well as the other Tales of Peter Bishop short stories, Russell is able to pull this off because the religious elements are a part of the story, and the book is not preachy.

And you know what? I see what Russell is trying to do here, or at least I think I do. And I approve: Continue reading “Book Review: Vigil by Russell Newquist”

Confusion is the Enemy

Nobody likes being told what to do. But we can shrug most of it off.

“I like your hair better short.”

“Maybe not the red tie?”

“You should do your lawn like this.”

“Your breath stinks, man! Chew some gum or something!”

No big deal.

But when it comes to questions of morality or right or wrong? Things that we maybe should be willing to listen to outside input about?

“You know, maybe sleeping with fifteen girls a week, sans protection, isn’t the best idea.”

“Fraud is wrong. Knock it off or I’m turning you in.”

“Crack is wack, yo.”

We go nuclear!

Why?

The mere mention of anything touching these dimensions can make even the most self-proclaimed, brave, “I-never-get-offended” free-speech proponent go bonkers and try to shut you up.

Why? Continue reading “Confusion is the Enemy”

What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?

Today is Palm Sunday, marking Jesus’ entrance into Jerusalem at the beginning of Passover. It marks the beginning of Holy Week, Jesus’ final ministry, the Last Supper, His passion, crucifixion, and Resurrection. 

It also kicks off the season of “Muslims bombing churches in the Middle East,” but I digress. 

Maybe I should write about this instead of my intended topic–after all, we’re suddenly beating the war drums over Syria because the President was supposedly swayed by his daughter’s heartbreak over the latest gas attack. What about this? This, also, has been going on for years. Is it the type of weapon deployed that makes the difference here?

Yeah, I’m heated. 

But this does tie into what I wanted to write about in a way. 

According to Matthew, as Jesus rode into Jerusalem on a donkey and the people spread palms and their garments on the ground as though he were their king, the children in the Temple cried out, “Hosanna to the son of David!”

Indignant, the chief priests and scribes asked Christ if He heard, and to which He responded,

“[H]ave you never read, ‘Out of the mouths of babes and sucklings, you have brought perfect praise’?”

This has entered the culture as the saying, “From the mouth of babes,” denoting that children have some kind of wisdom to offer. 

So what gives? What does this mean? When do we listen to children? Even adult ones? Continue reading “What Should We Listen To “From the Mouths of Babes”?”

Fasting From What?

Based on my calculations, we’re about halfway through Lent. And every year certain aspects of Lent get easier, while others prove more difficult. 

Take fasting. No, please, take it. It’s an inconvenience and kind of a drag. But that’s the point. 

When we were kids, at least in the Greek Orthodox tradition, it meant going meatless more often, and sometimes everything-less, especially during Holy Week. We don’t do the “give something up for 40 days” as our Catholic brethren do, but I understand the idea behind abstaining from certain foods and certain things. It’s a great way to introduce children into the concept of fasting. 

So fasting from what? What’s more challenging than not eating the things that you love?

A lot. Three points;

  1. Christianity is one of the only faiths I can think of that has no dietary restrictions. Nothing God made is unclean. Have at it. 
  2. Related to point one, Christians don’t go to heaven or hell based in a checklist of ritualistic behaviors. What you eat, what you say, and how many times a day you pray aren’t the final arbiters of your place in eternity. It’s much more personal and far less mechanical. In other words, it takes hard work, far harder than adhering to a checklist. 
  3. How sad a state we are in when fasting becomes such a deal breaker for many! Americans are surrounded by food. We are drowning in it. Is it really that hard to put the fork down for 40 measly days?

But the food let has become easier for me. Age and maturity will do that to you. And it’s good because a little physical discomfort can sharpen your mind for the things you are truly supposed to abstain from. 

Sinfulness. Your flaws. Things you do that you know you shouldn’t do but that you do anyway. 

These are the things Christ was crucified to help us overcome. 

Okay, if you’re not a Christian, or even religious, I am aware of how silly his may sound. But roll with me here.  Continue reading “Fasting From What?”

True Truthiness

Today, for both Eastern and Western Christians, marks the start of Great and Holy Lent, the 40-day fast culminating in Easter Sunday and the resurrection of Jesus Christ.

But this post is not about religion per se, and is intended for a universal audience regardless of your religious proclivities (if any).

I’m inclusive like that.

You see, what strikes me about Lent and Easter is its thematic link to most other major Christian holidays in that they all seem to be about renewal and rebirth.

From Christmas–the conception and birth of Jesus–to Epiphany–the baptism of Jesus Christ by John the Baptist–to the Transfiguration–the Revelation of Jesus’ true nature to John and James and Peter–these events involve humanity being able to overcome its fallen nature and put on a new form, new wine in new bottles.

But if this isn’t a religious post, then why am I writing about religion?

Because this focus on rebirth can also be seen as a quest for truth. And as a blogger I very much enjoy named Insanitybytes22 put it recently, absolute truth is difficult to come by, but us Christians like to think we have a starting point:

However, human flaws aside, objective truth and Absolute Truth are still real things in the world. Jesus says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life: no man cometh unto the Father, but by me.” -John 14:6. The truth is important in the Christian walk, and it is an objective, tangible thing, outside of and beyond ourselves, our feelings, and our sentimentality.

This is what I try to use as my starting point as well: If you are going to have a standard, it’s better for that standard to be as immutable and true as humanly possible. And since “humanly possible” is not always best, I think the teachings of Jesus Christ–who us Christians consider to be God on Earth–are a good place to start.

This all still sounds religious. Where am I going with this?

I am going to a place that may seem disproportionately mundane when compared to the resurrection of the dead: My own life.

Specifically, my purpose.

Specifically, what am I doing here.

And by “here,” I mean blogging. Writing. Anything. Continue reading “True Truthiness”