Wednesday, December 21, 2005
Monday, December 19, 2005
Thursday, December 01, 2005
Today's Gospel reading can be both a source of comfort and distress for us. On the one hand, it could hardly be more straightforward. Jesus tells us that we are like wise men if we hear His word and do it. He tells us we are like foolish men if we hear His word and do not do it.
The great comfort in this passage is that Jesus really does lay out the way for us to be wise. He shows us all that we need to do to survive amid the storms and trials that afflict us in life: Listen to His word, and do it.
The distressing element in this passage is that we so often fail to do all that He tells us. But even there we can take comfort, for we are His little flock. Thankfully, one of the things He tells us to do is seek forgiveness. We can turn to Him in our failings and weakness, and He will forgive and restore us.
Thursday, November 10, 2005
This is a Schoenstatt book, and I find myself really growing in appreciation of three aspects of Schoenstatt:
- Its focus on growing in holiness, pouring out my life for God, through my responsibilities as father, husband, worker, and friend;
- Its practical nature; Not only does the Schoenstoatt movement encourage holiness in general, but provides a number of specific practices geared towards people living in families, in the world.
- The call to holiness is deep and "radical." This is not just an admonishment to be good or avoid serious sin. It is a call to live every moment with burning love for God, for the Church, for Mary, for our families. This call, if fully answered, can be as heroic and self-sacrificing as any other. More importantly, it is the call of God, and it is what He wants for us.
Tuesday, November 08, 2005
Thursday, November 03, 2005
Wow. It has been incredibly difficult to get back into writing lately. I'?m not quite sure what the problem is. I suppose that fact that we have this wonderful little baby is a little distracting. But there is more to it than that.I'm continually drawn to the "attractive nuisance." I like to fiddle and tweak my system endlessly. I am working hard to focus (at least at work) on the task at hand, and not optimize, defrag, scan, repair, or fiddle with my perfectly-fine working system.
I am one of these people who will spend hours messing with productivity-enhancing and time management systems (like my favorite these days, Getting Things Done) but will avoid doing the actual work. It has been a great relief and inspiration to find that I'm not the only one.
There is much to write about. Let's see what the next few days actually brings. Some topics to consider:
- Our lovely new daughter, Kathryn.
- A really interesting course on Agile Development that I'm taking today and tomorrow.
- Two fascinating articles on differences between races and genders.
Wednesday, September 14, 2005
Monday, September 12, 2005
The title caught my eye because we had recently finished re-watching all of the Lord of the Rings movies. I dove into it with relish, and found that it was something very different from what I had expected. It was defense of the literary seriousness of Tolkien's works, but Patrick Curry was really coming at it from the point of view of a Post-Modernist literary critic. His attempt is to show the relevance and deep meaning of Tolkien to an audience that does not give much currency to ideas of absolute truth, organized religion, or authority.
Because he was coming from this point of view, I had a hard time relating to him. I appreciate that he was defending one of my favorite writers from unfair criticism, but at the same time I felt a little uneasy that Tolkien could be so effectively rallied to some causes (like radical environmentalism) that I tend to regard with deep suspicion, if not outright hostility.
Thursday, August 18, 2005
Thanks to all of you for your encouragement and prayers.
Wednesday, August 17, 2005
Monday, August 15, 2005
Thursday, August 11, 2005
- Total number of books I own:
Hard to say. Certainly it is in the many hundreds. I wish the number of books I continue to read was as great.
- The last book I bought:
Defending Middle Earth by Patrick Curry. Watch for a review here soon.
- The last book I read:
The Unmasking of Oscar Wilde by Joseph Pearce. See my thorough, detailed, and insightful review in the "Book Log" entry below.
- Five books that mean a lot to me:
I'll fudge this a little and list several series that mean a lot to me.
- The Children of the Last Days series by Michael O'Brien. This series starts with Father Elijah and continues with a number of prequels. His portrayal of the lives of poor and suffering spiritual giants is amazing. The books are amazingly edifying.
- The Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit by J.R.R. Tolkien. (A negative reviewer on the Amazon site said that most of the positive reviews of the series were "undoubtedly written by overweight, sarcastic, 'intellectuals' who spent their youth playing 'Dungeons and Dragons', watching 'Star Trek' and 'Dr. Who' and dreaming that some day a woman might actually look at them." Let me shatter that negative stereotype by noting that I have never watched an entire episode of "Dr. Who".)
- The Chronicles of Narnia by C.S. Lewis. For those of you who have never read it, let me give you this word of advice: In the past few years, the publishers have re-issued the series with the numbers changed to follow the chronological order of the story, rather than the order in which they were written. Read them in the order they were written! (You can tell which ordering you have by the first book. In the original series, the way I think you should read them, The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe is the first book.) Get an old set from a used book store. It really is better this way.
- Theology and Sanity by Frank Sheed.
- Tag five people, and have them do this on their blog.
This is a little difficult, since my circle of blogging friends is rather small, and some of those have already been tagged. I tag Emily and Greg.
Monday, July 18, 2005
You Are Incredibly Logical
(You got 100% of the questions right)
Move over Spock - you're the new master of logic
You think rationally, clearly, and quickly.
A seasoned problem solver, your mind is like a computer!
Friday, July 15, 2005
Tuesday, July 12, 2005
The only real down-side of this book is that now that I've looked it up, Amazon apparently thinks I'm gay.
Friday, July 01, 2005
Wednesday, June 15, 2005
Friday, June 10, 2005
Wednesday, June 01, 2005
I found the advice given to be generally very sound and useful. There were few surprises for me (I've been programming for more than 20 years), but it was good to be reminded of some of the neater tricks of the trade. The most useful section for me was on estimation. I really liked the idea of consciously adjusting the units used for time estimates according to the length of the estimate. This table from page 65 has already come in handy:
|Duration||Quote estimate in|
|30 + weeks||think hard before giving an estimate|
Monday, May 09, 2005
Thursday, May 05, 2005
For many years now the chief shepherds of the flock of the Lord have been speaking boldly about the "culture of death" and the "dictatorship of moral relativism." They remind us that the tasks ahead are not easy ones, and that the consequences of ignoring them are grave. Our fathers in Faith have taught us that the spirit of murder and the spirit of falsehood are always in partnership, that the culture of death is necessarily a culture of lies. This present age ("this present darkness," St. Paul calls it) tells lies to us all the time. Whenever the lie is not a boldfaced inversion of truth it is a distortion of truth, often manifesting itself as a vast cloud of impressions that weaken our understanding of the ultimate real. The overwhelming forces that spread such falsehood in our times are the communications and entertainment industries, which by and large have become the dominant form of culture, with a subsidiary assist from state-funded arts and mammon-motivated newspapers.I particularly appreciate the phrase that we live in a "vast cloud of impressions that weaken our understanding of the ultimate" reality. It reminds me of C.S. Lewis' Space Trilogy, where the demon undermined the understanding of the new Eve by repeatedly telling her different stories. No one story was particularly bad, but there was something small wrong with each of them. Taken as a whole, they had a very powerful effect.
Wednesday, May 04, 2005
Speaking of pharmacists who refused to fill prescriptions for birth control and abortifacients, the Strib says, "[State law] does not allow Pamida or any other pharmacy to let pharmacists 'exercise their consciences,' which a spokesman for Pamida said is company policy." Think about this statement. Think about the sneer quotes. For activists on the Left, the conscience is a trump card which supersedes any and all moral codes. We are constantly told that it is admirable for students to defy school authorities, or women to get an abortions, or soldiers to refuse to follow orders, if their consciences tell them to do so. (And, except for the case of abortion, there are certainly times when such actions could be demanded by conscience.) Conscience is repeatedly invoked as an excuse to ignore or break a moral law. But as soon as a person's conscience actually convicts them of a wrong and, by following their conscience they follow a moral law, then all Hell breaks loose.
The hate speech from those who oppose orthodox Christianity is growing more and more strident. Pharmacists who refuse to materially participate in grave immorality are labeled "mavericks" and are told they should find another trade. This is extremely disturbing.
The article also states that one of the main dangers of allowing pharmacists to follow their consciences is, "Especially in small towns, maverick pharmacists can thwart the delivery of professional health care, not to mention violate the privacy rights of people attempting to fill a perfectly legal prescription." Their solution is that these people should instead not be allowed to be pharmacists. Tell me again how removing the pharmacist completely will help these people in small towns do get their prescriptions filled?
Sunday, May 01, 2005
Wednesday, April 27, 2005
Tuesday, April 26, 2005
This has been a period of discernment for our family as we are seeking the Lord's direction regarding a deeper involvement with Schoenstatt. I found this book to be particularly helpful in this matter. It gives a solid, clear, well-organized summary of the movement's history, teaching, organization, and spirituality.
The book is not published by a large house, so it can be difficult to find. Please contact me if you have trouble locating a copy and I'll try to see if I can get one.
Thursday, April 21, 2005
Wednesday, April 13, 2005
Wednesday, March 30, 2005
Monday, March 28, 2005
Wednesday, March 23, 2005
Tuesday, March 22, 2005
Monday, March 21, 2005
This is a book on prayer written by Fr. Raoul Plus during the early part of the last century. One of the things I love about the Catholic Church is something written fewer than 100 years ago can still be considered a relatively recent work. Fr. Plus's goal is to provide guidance and inspiration for lay people who which to take seriously the biblical admonition to "pray without ceasing" (I Thess 5:17).
The message of this book can be summarized in three principles:
- It is psychologically impossible to focus on God (or any other idea) continually, without interruption, throughout our day.
- It is more important that our will be aligned with God's, that we do all we can do for His glory, than it is to think directly about God.
- It is very beneficial to think of God as often as possible throughout the day.
The book starts with the very encouraging observation that, except for cases of direct supernatural intervention by God (as seen in the life of St. Theresa of Avila), no one case "pray without ceasing" if the only meaning of "prayer" is to consciously be directing thoughts to God. Our human nature is not made up in such a way that we can concentrate on a single topic without break. Additionally, even if we could, we would not be able to function in life in such a state. The many demands of our duties could not be performed.
Fr. Plus then observes that it is much better to have our will in alignment with God's will then to have our thoughts consciously directed to God. If we are doing whatever we are doing with the goal to please God, we are offering it up as a prayer even if we can not think directly of God while we are acting. We are consciously doing what He wishes us to do, and that is prayer.
My first thought in this was relief: Hey, if we can't focus directly on God 100% of the time, then we don't need to worry that much about prayer. But Fr. Plus makes it very clear that doing everything we do in life to please God is no small task. It calls for a complete renunciation of our own will.
There is much more to write but, ironically, duty calls. I strongly recommend this book and would love to hear your comments.
Saturday, March 19, 2005
Friday, March 18, 2005
Friday, March 04, 2005
Thursday, February 24, 2005
Friday, February 18, 2005
Sunday, February 13, 2005
Steven Vincent wanted to do something after the attacks of 9/11/2001. Being a journalist, he felt the best thing he could do was explore and chronicle the struggle going on inside this war-torn country. However, Vincent is an arts and culture reporter. He knew that no paper would be sending him in to do news stories in a war zone. So he went on his own. This turned out to be a remarkably good thing, because it allowed him to travel as an individual into parts of Iraq that are normally not covered by reporters.
Vincent has not produced a systematic history of Iraq or of the war. Rather, he has told the individual stories of the people he met. He does a fantastic job of laying out the complexities of Iraq culture. It becomes apparent very quickly that when you ask questions like, “What do Iraqis think of America?”, you get very different answers depending on who is speaking.
Above all, Vincent explores the painful paradoxes and contradictions in much Iraqi culture and thought. For example: Iraq under Saddam was a horrible place, filled with unspeakable tortures and terrors. Iraqis are very, very happy to be freed from Saddam, yet they are filled with shame that it was a foreign invading force that freed them. The apparent ease with which U.S. troops crushed the supposedly mighty Arab army is humiliating. It leaves many people simultaneously wishing to emulate the United States while filling them with shame-based hatred of it.
The crushing victory of America also gives Iraqi citizen a convenient scapegoat for all problems. To many Iraqis, America proved in the war that it was practically omnipotent. We could kill with such precision and force that it seems nothing must be impossible for the U.S. armed forces. But if America is so powerful, surely it can restore water, power, government, police, hospitals, law and order, and a thousand other services overnight as well. The only reason American forces would not bring all of these things back to full operation immediately was to further humiliate the Iraqi people. Many Iraqis constantly feel that America is simultaneously doing too much and too little.
A very refreshing aspect of the book is Vincent's willingness to diagnose cultural pathology when he sees it. He notes how the combination of militant Islam (with its antisemitism and anti-Americanism) and tribalism (especially with its attendant misogyny) is deeply destructive. These two forces are, in his opinion, the key obstacles to the formation of a peaceful and just society.
Sunday, February 06, 2005
There are (at least) two types of trials that beset modern man in America. The first is common to all men through history, and that is dealing with suffering. When we are given suffering, we must endure it, grow through it, and, if we have been blessed with the gift of faith, we can redeem it by offering it up to Jesus and joining it with His suffering.
But modern Americans have another trial that has not been so common to so many: Dealing with surplus. Most Americans (certainly including myself) have been blessed with more material goods than we need. We have been blessed with security, clothing, shelter, education, and general opportunity beyond what most of the world has ever known. One of the things the distinguishes a great life from the life of mediocrity is what a man does with this excess. It is so easy to get swallowed up in it, to see life in its terms. No matter how much we have, we can always want more. There are endless amusements and diversions that can pull us away from the deeper things of life.
I really see the wisdom of God in ordaining marriage. Very often, the one thing that keeps me from being completely absorbed in trivial amusements is the call of my family upon my time. I'd like to play video games, watch movies, go dancing, and many other things that would serve no purpose other than to amuse me for a time. Yet I seldom get to do any of these things because I need to work, change diapers, read stories, tuck into bed, and a 1,000 other things that need to be attended to when one has four young children.
At the time, each of those obligations can seem a burden. But when I am faithful to them, I am so much happier than I would be if I had just played. There are men throughout history that have accomplished amazing things by keeping laser-focused upon accomplishing some task or completing some work. They staid single and used their lack of attachment to achieve great things. I would not have been such a man had I never married. I am so thankful to God, my wife, and my children from drawing me into a much deeper life than I would have ever lived on my own.
Along these lines, please pray from my wife, Denise. She is pregnant with our fifth child, she is in the yucky first trimester, and she has a bad cold. Please hold her up to the Lord that she might receive healing, hope, and strength.