28 November 2016

Like a Flower

Man who is born of woman
How few and harsh are his days
Like a flower he blooms and withers
The fate sinners is the rebel's reward.
Like a shadow they fade in the dark.
Remember, life is a breath.
Like a cloud fading in the sky,
Man dissolves into death.
He leaves the whole world behind him
And never comes home again.
The righteous blossom in the sunlight
And the garden is full of their seeds.
These are the wildflowers of Almighty God.
They are not the Devil's weeds.
If they are pulled up from the earth,
It doesn't stifle their mirth.
They rejoice wherever they're sent,
And praise the Lord wherever they go,
And bloom in the desert if need be.
God never betrays their innocence.
He gathers them all to His bosom.
He fills their hearts with laughter.
Cries of joy burst from their lips.
What will be the fate of their enemies?
They go down in shame to fiery flames,
And the wind blows away their memory.

04 November 2016

Tamales del Rancho

Yesterday I received a wonderful gift from my friend Luis Vera. His brother lives on a ranch and every year at the beginning of November around "El Día de Los Muertos" (The Day of the Dead) he makes a bunch of "Tamales del Rancho" and brings them to town to share with his relatives. Luis was kind enough to share some of his with me. Normally tamales are steamed but these are baked in a special oven made of stones and they are fantastically delicious. I realize that they don't look very appealing in the photo but when you heat them up and remove the corn husk they are "to die for." In the winter the farm workers would throw a couple of these into their "morral" (shoulder bag worn by farmers and shepherds to carry food or clothes). Just one of these puppies will keep you going like the energizer bunny. Needless to say, I am a happy camper.


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03 November 2016

Who is and Who Ain't?

During this current presidential nomination and election cycle I am appalled by the stark political differences among people who claim to be “religious” and yet are at times almost at each others throats in dissension and disagreement even within members of the same sect or congregation. Some of this dissension, no doubt, has to do with differences in religious dogma and I must be careful not to “fall into the well of dogma” and drown in the complexity of the trivial. I also don't want to pick and choose denominations but of the three major religions that are related to the belief in one God, who are held in the bosom of Abraham, and who believe in the Ten Commandments and the Golden Rule, I will confine my remarks to Christianity, the sect of which I am most familiar.

While thinking about this conundrum I was trying to separate faith from dogma and I received some help from some old friends, St. Augustine, St Eusebius, St. Polycarp, and St, Irenaeus. All of these men were excellent scholars and teachers and contributed to the basic doctrine of early Christianity. Here is my attempt to explain what separates faith from dogmatic division among people. Christianity (and all spirituality) starts with a seed of faith. The seed of faith is sown in an animal body and it rises in a spiritual body. Animal bodies that partake of life are lost when they succumb to death. Through faith and the Holy Spirit of God the animal bodies of men become spiritual bodies and thus possess a perpetual life. The gifts of the Holy Spirit that we receive through our faith render us spiritual and separate us from carnal men and women.

By hearing the truth of the Gospel, and through God's grace believing it, we are sealed with the Holy Spirit in the conviction of our inheritance which is eternal life. This conviction, which is true Christianity, renders us spiritual even now while we are still living. Because of our faith, we receive a portion of the Holy Spirit which draws us like a magnet towards the honor and joy of uniting in spirit with our Creator through Jesus Christ. Subsequently, through practicing the virtues of Faith, Hope, and Charity, our mortality is gradually swallowed up by our immortality.

Those people who possess the conviction of the Holy Spirit and who are no longer enslaved by the lusts of the flesh and who in all things walk according to the light of reason are "spiritual" because the Spirit of God dwells in them. Those who reject God's grace and His Holy Spirit and are slaves to carnal lust and lead lives contrary to reason and virtue, and who, preferring to worship their own ego without regard for the truth, are subject to the same death as any irrational animal.

There are three entities out of which the complete human being is constituted; the flesh, the soul, and the spirit. The soul is the link that unites the flesh to the spirit. When the soul identifies more with the spirit it is raised up and becomes free of the desires of the flesh. On the other hand, when the soul identifies more with the flesh it is drawn downward and becomes a slave to the flesh. These slaves to the flesh are people whom the Lord was referring to in Matthew 8:22 and Luke 9:60; "Follow Me, and let the dead bury their own dead." They have lost their connection to the spirit and might as well be considered dead while they are yet still living. Christ died on the cross not only as a scapegoat for our sins but also to set us free from the bonds of the flesh that hold us back from a spiritual and eternal life. The blood that He shed is the bond of union between the soul and the body.

How about you, Christian, or Jew, or Muslim? All of you are people of the Pentateuch (the five books of Moses),  and you are all children of Father Abraham. Is your soul free and alive in spirit, or are you already dead but still walking? It's not too late to find out. The Spirit of the Almighty One is waiting to hear from you. If you haven't already done so it would be prudent to reach out to Him. It's like voting. A clean conscience demands that you must participate. I call on all Americans to put this election in the hands of the God in Whom we trust enough to declare it on our money.  As for Christianity, my chosen faith, Jesus says in John 13:35; “By this all people will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.”  Let every person of sincere faith come together this election season and beyond for the greater glory of God, that He may crown our good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea.

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23 October 2016

You Can't Go Home Again

In 1940 there was a book published called "You Can't Go Home Again" by Thomas Wolfe. He took the title from a conversation with the writer Ella Winter, who remarked to Wolfe: "Don't you know you can't go home again?" I think that many people have confirmed this for themselves, perhaps at a high school reunion or even a Thanksgiving gathering of the whole clan. The devil is always lurking in the shadows of suspicion, envy, fear, and doubt. Suspicion and doubt are part of human nature and often serve us by keeping us free of harm. That is why unscrupulous demagogues use it to prey on our fears and bend us to their will. Our Lord Jesus Christ experienced this suspicion and doubt when he went home to begin His ministry, and the demagogue was Satan himself.

The idea of religion and divinity is repugnant to many people because they want to be their own god, just like Satan. Their inflated ego and lack of humility cannot accept the thought that there is a natural law of right and wrong that one must abide by in order for society to function properly. They also do not believe in a divine law which one must follow in order to achieve enlightenment and eternal life in the hereafter. For them truth, humility, tolerance, and brotherly love are stumbling blocks. When Our Lord tried to preach this message to his own people “He was astonished at their unbelief” (Mark 6:6).

After the miracles at Cana, and at His baptism in the River Jordan where the voice from Heaven proclaimed His divinity, Jesus Christ returned to his home town of Nazareth. He arrived as the sun was setting on a Friday evening when the Jewish Sabbath began at the local synagogue, the same synagogue that Jesus had attended since he was a boy. The following morning Jesus went into the synagogue and very likely the news had already been made known to the local people and had brought the people to a high pitch of excitement and expectancy..."And Jesus came back to Galilee with the power of the Spirit upon Him" (Luke 4:14). Jesus then took His turn to read the scriptures out loud, "And the scroll of the prophet Isaiah was given to him. He unrolled the scroll and found the place where it was written, “The Spirit of the Lord is upon me, because he has anointed me to proclaim good news to the poor. He has sent me to proclaim liberty to the captives and recovering of sight to the blind, to set at liberty those who are oppressed, and to proclaim the year of the Lord’s favor” (Luke 4:17-19).

Jesus chose that scripture from Isaiah because it announced Him and it also declared the Jubilee. The laws of Moses provided that every fiftieth year was to be one of special forgiveness and restoration. For example, all debts were canceled and all bonded servants were given their freedom. It was a safeguard against monopolies and imbalances in the community that affected social tranquility. After Jesus read the passage from Isaiah he added, “Today this Scripture has been fulfilled in your hearing” (Luke 4:21). He realized that the people were expecting a political leader who would throw off the yoke of Roman occupation but that was not His purpose. His purpose was to redeem mankind from their sinful nature and prepare them for eternal life.

After Jesus spoke to his home town brethren they rejected him saying, "Is not this the carpenter, the son of Mary?" (Mark 6:3) They found it hard to believe that the promised Messiah was only a carpenter. They didn't realize that He is of the same Being Who created the Heavens and the Earth. He told them, "A prophet is honored everywhere except in his own hometown and among his relatives and his own family" (Mark 6:4). The Jewish people at that time could not conceive of the humiliation of God in the form of a man as even today many people cannot. The truth is that they are right, that a "mere man" could not be God but God could be man while still remaining God. The very nature of God is that with Him all things are possible. Christ as the Messiah is the Son of God Who shares the nature of the Father, but as the Son of Man, the Father is greater than He. Christ had been in Being with the Father from eternity, well before His human nature was formed and He had come forth from the Father to assume a human nature, and when clad in it He was at the same time divine.

The hometown crowd became so upset with Jesus that they attempted to throw him off a cliff. A short distance from the Nazareth synagogue there was a cliff that dropped down to the Plains of Esdraelon about eighty feet below. Tradition has it that there they tried to do away with him but he passed through their midst and escaped. The time for the death and resurrection of Jesus had not yet come and he had much more to do. How about you? Does He abide in you or have you rejected Him too? It is not too late to change your mind. He is knocking at the door to your heart right now. Open it and let Him in. Don't worry about going to church to seek Him, and don't put it off for tomorrow either.  I am reminded of an old quotation of a man named George Cecil that went "On the plains of hesitation lay the bones of countless millions who, when nearing victory, sat down to rest and while resting died." Please don't lie down until you have that chat with Jesus. You never know about tomorrow. It's better to be safe now than sorry later.


21 October 2016

Honorable Mention

Cursed be the work that gets honorable mention,
While necessity awaits to spring forth invention.
What we seek is a fare, a one way ticket somewhere,
But hesitation keeps us marking time where we are.
It's not right and it isn't fair, for all the scratching of my hair,
I can't seem to figure out what the devil goes where,
So what else can one do but wander around searching,
Like a man looking one way and walking another,
Who doesn't sleep deep but wakes up very slowly.
Well why to I mention this? I don't really know.
Ask my computer. It governs me, I govern it not. 
We risk our future to feed desires of social fantasy
And we give our souls short shrift and bad press.
Most decisions can be traced to vanity, food, or sex.
Our food habits go from one stoke hole to the next,
And food passes quite rapidly from the table to latrine.
We live rapidly and we die hard, sad, and often alone.
Then six others carry our carcass, to the grave.
We need to acquaint our body and soul ahead of time,
And make the proper arrangements for separation,
That when the role is called up yonder we'll be there.

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16 October 2016

On Paying Taxes

This is a little story about paying your taxes. In the end you may think that it is only a fish story but I believe that it is true.

Jesus Christ had been traveling with His disciples and they came into the district of Caesarea Philippi, which was located in the area of what we now call the Golan Heights, the area captured from Syria and occupied by Israel during the Six-Day War in 1967. Jesus asked his disciples, “Who do people say that the Son of Man is?” They said, “Some say John the Baptist, others say Elijah, and others Jeremiah or one of the prophets.”  He said to them, “But who do you say that I am?” Simon Peter replied, “You are the Christ, the Son of the living God.” And Jesus answered him, “Blessed are you, Simon Bar-Jonah! For flesh and blood has not revealed this to you, but my Father who is in heaven.”

A few days later, Jesus took with him Peter, James and John the brother of James, and led them up a high mountain by themselves. There he was transfigured before them. His face shone like the sun, and his clothes became as white as the light. Just then there appeared before them Moses and Elijah, talking with Jesus. Peter exclaimed, "Lord, it's wonderful for us to be here! If you want, I'll make three shelters as memorials; one for you, one for Moses, and one for Elijah." But even as he spoke, a bright cloud overshadowed them, and a voice from the cloud said, "This is my dearly loved Son, who brings me great joy. Listen to him."

Not long after that Jesus and his disciples arrived at a house in Capernaum, located on the northern shore of the Sea of Galilee. Jesus had already gone into the house when the collectors of the two-drachma temple tax came to Peter and asked, "Doesn't your teacher pay the temple tax?" "Yes, he does," he replied. When Peter came into the house, Jesus was the first to speak and being who He is, He already knew what had transpired. "What do you think, Simon?" he asked. "From whom do the kings of the earth collect duty and taxes, from their own children or from others?" Peter answered, "From others." “Then the children are exempt," Jesus said to him.

Now you can imagine Peter standing there, puzzled about what Jesus was getting at. He didn't have a clue even though he had confessed that Jesus is the Son of God and he had witnessed the Transfiguration and heard the voice from Heaven, and on top of that, Jesus had given him the clue about the king and his children. Why should Jesus worry about paying the tax if the temple was His Father's house?

In order to show kindness and humility Jesus did not scold Peter so He said, “In order to make sure so that we may not cause offense, go to the lake and throw out your line. Take the first fish you catch; open its mouth and you will find a four-drachma coin. Take it and give it to them for my tax and yours." Peter caught the fish, found the coin and paid the tax. Peter paid it because he felt liable for it and paid it out of a sense of duty. Our Lord paid it not out of duty but out of humility. This is a lesson for all leaders, both spiritual and political. The mouth of the fish, by the way, produced the exact amount. There was no small change involved nor red tape. It was a miracle!


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15 October 2016

Concupiscence vs. Christianity

Today on CNN with Erin Burnett I saw an interview with the president of a major Christian university declare that the alleged sexual conduct of a candidate for the presidency is not an issue and is separate from their ability to lead the nation. The reason that he gave was from Matthew 22:21.  Jesus said "Render to Caesar the things that are Caesar's; and to God the things that are God's." Yes, but for one thing, Cesar was a dictator and we have a democracy. For another thing the United States was formed with Judeo-Christian values or why else would we have “In God We Trust” printed on our money and why was the Creator mentioned by the founding fathers in the Declaration of Independence?

The fact is, that there is no doubt the degree of concupiscence (raw animal lust) by a presidential candidate that we have recently been exposed to is clearly at the level of sexual predation and as such is against the laws of both God and Man. The word assault does not mean that there needs to be physical contact either. It means “causing fear of bodily harm,” and there is little doubt that the victims who have emerged have been assaulted. I would counter the esteemed university president with these words from the Apostle John in 1 John 3:4-8, “Everyone who makes a practice of sinning also practices lawlessness; sin is lawlessness.” He also says, “Whoever makes a practice of sinning is of the devil, for the devil has been sinning from the beginning.” To elect such a person to the presidency would be like electing the devil to be the President of the United States.

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12 October 2016

Aleppo and Christianity

There is no doubt that many people would be surprised to see how closely the City of Aleppo in Syria is related to Christianity. In fact, until the present conflict, Aleppo had the largest Christian population in Syria. Why? Because Aleppo, Syria is only 68 miles from the City of Antioch (Antakya), Turkey where the first Christian church for Gentiles (non-Jews) was created in 41 AD (Acts 11:21). A few years later, in 47 AD, St. Paul and St. Barnabas went there to build up the church in that region and it was from there that St. Paul began his missionary journeys. If you look on a map you will find Antakya (Turkish for Antioch) about 269 miles north of Damascus, Syria, in a little appendage of Turkey that extends down into Syria. You will find Aleppo 68 miles east of Antakya. One interesting note is that Antakya is just outside the border of what was originally the land that God promised to the Israelites and which covered two thirds of present day Syria. To me it is ironic that with all of the people around the world and especially those of the United States who proclaim to be Christians (including yours truly), there doesn't seem to be much action to help our brethren in one of the very first places where Christianity first took root.


11 October 2016

Christianity, Politics, Ethics, and Moral Behavior.

For a Christian, it is the political that serves the divine and not the divine that serves the political. There is a big difference between an "ethical" reformer and a "moral" reformer and it is doubtful whether the political even reaches the level of ethical much of the time. In the political sense freedom is understood as the elimination of tyranny. True freedom, however, is spiritual freedom from the base nature of the human condition and the triumph of intellect and reason over animal instinct and habit. Freedom is the ability to choose good over evil though prudence, justice, fortitude, and temperance which are the natural virtues that promote the good. Locker room banter based upon concupiscence (animal lust) is neither moral nor ethical. It is abnormal.

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29 September 2016

Presidential Debate Hype

After watching and listening to the first 2016 presidential debate I took some advice that St. Augustine, the early Christian philosopher, whispered to me in my "inner ear" from the sidelines of recollection:

There are two basic areas where disagreement can arise among the observers and witnesses to a quarrel. The first concerns the veracity of the matters in question and the second concerns the intention of the protagonists to either seek or obscure the truth. It is one thing to inquire into the origin of the truth about a matter and another thing as to the understanding of the words of the speakers and the understanding of the listeners as to whether or not a statement is true. In regard to the actual truth it is always possible for the listeners to believe the speaker and think that he or she is telling the truth even though they are not. There is also the possibility that the listeners have decided beforehand that everything that a person that they have already chosen to believe is true no matter what. Therefore, in judging the veracity of those who are engaged in a quarrel over words it is best to be charitable in extending the benefit of the doubt equally to both parties but then rigorously test all things and hold fast only to that which is good.

In a democracy it is important that a presidential debate coexist with a consensus on a set of basic elements as a precondition to reasonable diversity of opinion. Before we disagree on anything we should first be clear about what we as a people actually agree upon. If not, then the U.S. is nothing more than a set of regional fiefdoms each headed by a corporate warlord and supported by a local oligarchy. The encouragement of internecine resentments by corporate sponsored news media and the exploiting of temperamental differences that perennially divide conservatives, moderates, and radicals from one another in order to obtain greater profit, is unbridled capitalism at its worst and the work of demonic forces.

In America, this "One Nation Under God," we all have freedom to worship God and set our moral compass by His grace through the  Holy Spirit in order end the hostilities that divide us as neighbors and citizens. The demographics of America is like an equilateral triangle divided into three parts. The upper third contains the wealthy, the privileged, the highly intelligent, the good looking, and the otherwise fortunate. The bottom third are suffering from poverty, ignorance, poor health, a lack of opportunity, bad luck, and little hope. The middle third contains a hardworking but confused and disheartened people who see their dreams of a better future evaporating right before their eyes. Within each of these divisions there are sub-divisions based upon race, creed, national origin, sexual identity, chronic disease, mental disorders, broken families, and many other things too numerous to mention here. It is my fervent hope and prayer that during the next two presidential debates instead of a battle of negative wit, the candidates turn to a positive discussion and show the world that through a process of a democratic spirit and an honest search for truth, the wisdom of the God "in whom we trust" will enlighten us in deciding on a leader who will guide us and bring this diverse flock together like a good shepherd should with "with malice toward none, with charity for all." Amen.

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I was born and raised in Chicago, Illinois, U.S.A. I have been living in Mexico since January 6th, 1999. I am continually studying to improve my knowledge of the Spanish language and Mexican history and culture. I am also a student of Mandarin Chinese.