Is Anybody There?

. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Not by might, nor by power, but by my Spirit,' says Yahweh Sabaoth" Zach 4:6 . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Dio di Signore, nella Sua volontà è nostra pace!" . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . They that can give up essential liberty to obtain a little temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety." Ben Franklin 1759

Sunday, January 30, 2005

Apollo 1, Challenger, & Columbia

27 Jan was the 38th anniversary of the Apollo 1 fire. 28 Jan was the 19th anniversary of the Challenger disaster. & 1 Feb will be the 2nd anniversary of the Columbia disaster. The USA has lost 17 people in the pursuit of exploring space. Each of those people gave their lives in the hopes of making this a better world. Like many an explorer before them who died during their journeys of exploration, they didn't look to loose their life. They were looking to expand our horizons. There are those who would argue that their lives were wasted. We could have done more with cheaper unmanned flights. I disagree.

Each of these persons is a hero to me because of what he or she did. I wish that none of them, or the cosmonauts that were lost, had died. But, sometimes this is the price we pay.

So, pause a moment to remember them & thank God for all that their sacrifices have gained for us.

Command Pilot Virgil I. "Gus" Grissom (Lt. Col. USAF)
Pilot Edward H. White II (Lt. Col. USAF)
Pilot Roger B. Chaffee (Lt. Cdr. USN)

Commander Francis R. Scobee
Pilot Michael J. Smith (Captain, USN)

Mission Specialists
Judith A. Resnick PhD
Ellison S. Onizuka (Lt. Col USAF)
Ronald E. McNair PhD

Payload Specialist
Gregory B. Jarvis

Teacher in Space
S. Christa Corrigan McAuliffe

Commander Rick Husband (Col. USAF)
Pilot William C. "Willie" McCool (Cdr. USN)

Mission Specialists
Michael P. Anderson (Lt. Col. USAF)
Kalpana "K.C." Chawla Ph.D
David "Dave" Brown MD (Captain USN)
Laurel Blair Salton Clark MD (Cdr USN)
(born Ames, IA)

Payload Specialist
Ilan Raymon (Col. Israeli Air Force)

& these Cosmonauts:

SOYUZ 1 (24 April 1967)
Vladimir Komarov

SOYUZ 11 (7 June 1971)
Georgi Dobrovolsky
Viktor Patsayev
Vladislav Volkov

There are many other astronauts/comsonauts & ground crew too numerous to mention who have died from accidents illnesses etc who's contributions are also greatly appreciated.

Note: I know that it is mere coincidence but all the US disasters occurred at the sane time of the year within a 6 day spread.

Saturday, January 29, 2005

Death & Taxes

Nothing is sure but death & taxes.

I'm not so certain that the above is an absolute. In fact it fails basic logic. But, after the last few weeks,I can say that both are sure. I have had a couple friends pass away. Both of them were strong in their faith in Jesus. Both of them touched many people. & I can say that I know both left the world a better place by their being here.

On to taxes. I e-filed my taxes Friday & I am ready to take on anybody who says the Bush tax breaks were just for the rich. I am on the lower end of the scale, income wise, less than $20,000. Thanks to the changes I am in a lower bracket & I get a tax credit that people on the upper end can't. This credit is based on a percentage of what you have deposited in your 401k/403b account. This credit (not a deduction, but a credit against your taxes) is for up to 50% of what you put in & is in addtion to the fact that this money is taken out pre-taxes. Only singles making less than $25,000 AGI can get it (higher for couples) & the higher your adjusted income the lower a percentage it is.

Some may say, so what it isn't that much. Maybe not if you make the big bucks. But, for me $500 less in taxes is $500 less. & when you add up all the little breaks on the lower end, it eventually adds up to a healthy amount. I figure that here in DBQ the new lower bottom rate alone made available over $6 million for the economy of DBQ last year. Not exactly small change.

I may not agree with everything that President Bush has done, but, this is 1 area where I am very happy.

Tuesday, January 25, 2005

Here's Johnny!!!

By now I am sure most people know that Johnny Carson, the 3rd host of the Tonight Show, passed away Sun. As someone said, it was the end of an era. I know that phrase can be over used, but, in this case it is true. This is not to downplay his predicessors, Steve Allen & Jack Paar or his successors, Jay Leno & down the road, Conan O'Brien.

Steve Allen laid the foundation in 1954 when he began the Tonight Show & Jack Paar put in the support beams when he took over in 1957. Without them Johnny would never have had his 30 yr showcase.

But, it was Johnny Carson who built the show into an American institution. He created so many memorable characters: Carnac the Magnificent, the (alledged) psychic; Aunt Blabbie: Art Fern & his Tea Time Movies that were more ad than movie. These are the memories I cherish. I could go on & on about the guests, the animals, etc. There are many comedians out there today who owe their start to him.

He started out here in Iowa & as so many have pointed out, he may have left Iowa, but Iowa never left him. That is a huge part of his success.

I could go on & on, but it would just repeat so much that has already been said. Instead listen to Bette Midler's recording of her final appearance on her Greatest Hits album. She sings "One for My Baby" with minor changes. What she sings says it all.

Saturday, January 22, 2005

A Matter of Life or the Truth about Roe V Wade

32 yrs ago today the US Supreme Court made a decision in the case of Roe vs Wade. Sadly it made the wrong decision & since then abortion has been completely legal in the United States. Now, I will admit that before RvW abortion wasn't totally banned, nor will it be immediately after it is finally overturned. It will take a constitutional amendment to do that. But, this 32 yr slaughter of innocents MUST END!

Many people have not heard of Norma McCorvey, she is the Jane Roe in Roe vs Wade. & even though the Supreme Court voted in her favor she never had the abortion she was seeking. About 10 yrs ago she became a Christian. On 17 Aug 1998 she became a Catholic. In 1998 she told a Senate panel: “I am dedicated to spending the rest of my life undoing the law that bears my name.” Recently she announced that she would petition the Supreme Court to overturn that ruling. As a party in the Court's judgement, she has that right under Rule 60. As she said in a recent interview: " I would like to see children stop being killed and women maimed and dead themselves."

She has her own website, Crossing Over Ministry, where you can get more information:

Her cross over from pro-abortion poster child to staunch defender of life is a story that needs to be heard. There are many who would like to keep her story silent. But, it will be told. It is a story of God's love reaching out to her & changing her, starting with a little child. She is truly "Roe no more!" She also works with Dr. Bernard Nathanson, who was 1 of the founders of NARAL, & Sandra Cano, the Mary Doe of Doe vs Bolton the other case tied with hers. Dr. Nathanson has become 1 of the formost medical voices opposing what he once supported. & Sandra Cano was never pro-choice. She never sought an abortion. She was used against her will by those who sought to legalize abortion. She doesn't remember signing the paper that bears her name & was likely never told what she was really signing. More info about them can be found on the Operation Outcry web site:

As those who have read this know, I am staunchly pro-life. & as I have gotten to know more about the true story of Norma McCorvey I have become even more saddenned by what happenned 32 yrs ago. She was used by the pro-abortionists to get their agenda pushed through. They didn't care about her, she was just a tool to be used. & as her story is spread, the true, dark side of the abortion industry will be revealed in all its ugly gory shame. Some day soon, the rights of the preborn will once more be respected & protected. I pray that Norma's story will help speed up that day.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Isaac Asimov would have been happy

Watching the Presidential Inaugural Paryer Service this morning something occured that would of made Isaac Asimov happy if he were alive to see it. No, I don't mean a 2nd Bush term, he was a staunch liberal.

What I am refering to is the fact that at it they sung the 2nd verse of the National Anthem rather than just the 1st verse that most of us are familiar with. "Wait a minute, what 2nd verse?" you ask. "I thought there was only 1 verse."

Well if you thought so, you were wrong. Actually there were 4 verses penned by Francis Scott Key in 13 Sept 1814. The poem was entitled "The Defense of Fort M'Henry." The words came to be sung to the tune of the song "Anacreon in Heaven," the melody of which is attributed to Englishman John Stafford Smith. It was made our National Anthem in 1931 by an Act of Congress.

Isaac Asimov was born in Petrovichi, Russia 2 Jan 1920. He came to the USA on 3 Feb 1923. He died 6 Apr 1992. In 1991 he wrote an article about the national anthem & his love for it. Or to quote him directly: "I have a weakness--I am crazy, absolutely nuts about our national anthem." He loved to explain the background of our anthem as well as sing all 4 verses. He was also opposed to any move to change our anthem to something else. As he said: "(D)on't ever let them take it away."

I have never heard all 4 verses sung, although I have heard a recording of 3 of the 4. So, Isaac, in your memoryhere are all 4 verses:


Oh! say, can you see by the dawn's early light
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming?
Whose broad stripes and bright stars, through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched were so gallantly streaming?
And the rocket's red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there.
Oh! say, does that star-spangled banner yet wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?

On the shore, dimly seen through the mists of the deep,
Where the foe's haughty host in dread silence reposes,
What is that which the breeze, o'er the towering steep,
As it fitfully blows, half conceals, half discloses?
Now it catches the gleam of the morning's first beam,
In fully glory reflected now shines in the stream:'
'Tis the star-spangled banner. Oh! long may it wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave!

And where is that band who so vauntingly swore
That the havoc of war and the battle's confusion
A home and a country should leave us no more?
Their blood has washed out their foul footsteps' pollution.
No refuge could save the hireling and slave
From the terror of flight, or the gloom of the grave,
And the star-spangled banner in triumph doth wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Oh! thus be it ever, when freemen shall stand
Between their loved home and the war's desolation!
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Pow'r that hath made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto---"In God is our trust":
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

Thursday, January 20, 2005

President Bush

“I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”
—United States Constitution, Article II, Section 1, Clause 8

Today, 20 Jan 2005, George W. Bush took this oath for the 2nd time. Like each of his predicessors, he took this oath on an open Bible & added: "So help me God."

Each man began his term facing a uniqe situation. How did they view what their role was. George Washington said this in his 1st inaugural address: " Such being the impressions under which I have, in obedience to the public summons, repaired to the present station, it would be peculiarly improper to omit in this first official act my fervent supplications to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the councils of nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect, that His benediction may consecrate to the liberties and happiness of the people of the United States a Government instituted by themselves for these essential purposes, and may enable every instrument employed in its administration to execute with success the functions allotted to his charge. In tendering this homage to the Great Author of every public and private good, I assure myself that it expresses your sentiments not less than my own, nor those of my fellow-citizens at large less than either. No people can be bound to acknowledge and adore the Invisible Hand which conducts the affairs of men more than those of the United States. Every step by which they have advanced to the character of an independent nation seems to have been distinguished by some token of providential agency; and in the important revolution just accomplished in the system of their united government the tranquil deliberations and voluntary consent of so many distinct communities from which the event has resulted can not be compared with the means by which most governments have been established without some return of pious gratitude, along with an humble anticipation of the future blessings which the past seem to presage. These reflections, arising out of the present crisis, have forced themselves too strongly on my mind to be suppressed. You will join with me, I trust, in thinking that there are none under the influence of which the proceedings of a new and free government can more auspiciously commence."

John Adams concluded his speech with the following: "I feel it to be my duty to add, if a veneration for the religion of a people who profess and call themselves Christians, and a fixed resolution to consider a decent respect for Christianity among the best recommendations for the public service, can enable me in any degree to comply with your wishes, it shall be my strenuous endeavor that this sagacious injunction of the two Houses shall not be without effect.
With this great example before me, with the sense and spirit, the faith and honor, the duty and interest, of the same American people pledged to support the Constitution of the United States, I entertain no doubt of its continuance in all its energy, and my mind is prepared without hesitation to lay myself under the most solemn obligations to support it to the utmost of my power.
And may that Being who is supreme over all, the Patron of Order, the Fountain of Justice, and the Protector in all ages of the world of virtuous liberty, continue His blessing upon this nation and its Government and give it all possible success and duration consistent with the ends of His providence."

John Quincy Adams ended his thus: "I shall look for whatever success may attend my public service; and knowing that "except the Lord keep the city the watchman waketh but in vain," with fervent supplications for His favor, to His overruling providence I commit with humble but fearless confidence my own fate and the future destinies of my country."

Andrew Jackson ended his 2nd speech with this: "Finally, it is my most fervent prayer to that Almighty Being before whom I now stand, and who has kept us in His hands from the infancy of our Republic to the present day, that He will so overrule all my intentions and actions and inspire the hearts of my fellow-citizens that we may be preserved from dangers of all kinds and continue forever a united and happy people."

At the start of his 1st term this is how Abraham Lincoln planned to handle the looming crisis: "Intelligence, patriotism, Christianity, and a firm reliance on Him who has never yet forsaken this favored land are still competent to adjust in the best way all our present difficulty."

& he ended his 2nd address with this: "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds, to care for him who shall have borne the battle and for his widow and his orphan, to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves and with all nations."

FDR ended his 1st address thus: "In this dedication of a Nation we humbly ask the blessing of God. May He protect each and every one of us. May He guide me in the days to come.

We remember JFK's stirring words as he ended his speech: "And so, my fellow Americans: ask not what your country can do for you—ask what you can do for your country.
My fellow citizens of the world: ask not what America will do for you, but what together we can do for the freedom of man.
Finally, whether you are citizens of America or citizens of the world, ask of us the same high standards of strength and sacrifice which we ask of you. With a good conscience our only sure reward, with history the final judge of our deeds, let us go forth to lead the land we love, asking His blessing and His help, but knowing that here on earth God's work must truly be our own."

Jimmy Carter said: "Here before me is the Bible used in the inauguration of our first President, in 1789, and I have just taken the oath of office on the Bible my mother gave me a few years ago, opened to a timeless admonition from the ancient prophet Micah:
"He hath showed thee, O man, what is good; and what doth the Lord require of thee, but to do justly, and to love mercy, and to walk humbly with thy God." (Micah 6:8)"

Ronald Reagan ended his 1st address thus: "The crisis we are facing today does not require of us the kind of sacrifice that Martin Treptow and so many thousands of others were called upon to make. It does require, however, our best effort, and our willingness to believe in ourselves and to believe in our capacity to perform great deeds; to believe that together, with God's help, we can and will resolve the problems which now confront us.
And, after all, why shouldn't we believe that? We are Americans. God bless you, and thank you."

& today George W. Bush said: "America's vital interests and our deepest beliefs are now one. From the day of our Founding, we have proclaimed that every man and woman on this earth has rights, and dignity, and matchless value, because they bear the image of the Maker of Heaven and earth. Across the generations we have proclaimed the imperative of self-government, because no one is fit to be a master, and no one deserves to be a slave. Advancing these ideals is the mission that created our Nation. It is the honorable achievement of our fathers. Now it is the urgent requirement of our nation's security, and the calling of our time. "

Some people today were glad to see President Bush begin his 2nd term. Others who disagree with his policies exercised their constitutionally guarenteed right to free speech & protested. That is the beauty of our Constitution. Each generation has had to fight to maintain them, but the same freedoms our Founding Fathers sought when they declared independence are still there almost 229 yrs later. At times they have been a bit bruised & battered, at times even denied to certain segments of our population. We haven't always used them to the fullest. At times we've ignored the responsiblity that goes with our rights slipping into licence. But, no matter what, the hand of God has protected us. May He grant us the wisdom to appreciate these freedoms & the will to continue to defend them, no matter the cost.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa freed

I'm sure by now everyone has heard the news that Archbishop Casmoussa has been set free by his captives. Praise God for answering the many prayers for his protection.

Wine colored Habits

I'm sure that caught your attention. No, it doesn't refer to drinking. Rather it refers to the habit of a monastic order of Maronite Catholic Nuns, the Hermits of Jesus the Eternal Priest.

OK, you ask, who are they & why are you talking about them? Fair enough. & so I shall answer.

I 1st heard about them several years ago when I was watching Mother Angelica Live on EWTN. Mother Elias, the Spiritual Mother, of the monastery was her guest. Mother Elias was talking about her order & their charism, which was to pray for priests. Having a couple of good friends that were a priest & a seminarian at the time, naturally I was interested in finding out more about them as well as supporting their work. It also helped to peek my interest that the 1 Eastern Catholic Church that I had any experience with was the Maronite Catholic Church.

As a result of writing to them I was put on their newsletter mailing list. & acouple years ago I became a lay spiritual affiliate. Over the years, I have come to know them through their newsletters & their website. I have grown to love them & care about them.

Sow, what type of life does these nuns lead? I'll share a little but for greater detail check out their website which I have put at the end of this blog.

They use 4 words to describe life in the monastery; eucharistic, contemplative, eremitic, cloistered.

Eucharistic means that the center of their day is focused on the Eucharist. This naturally includes the Divine Liturgy, but also time in Eucharistic adoration. Jesus is truly present in an unique way in the Eucharist. It may still look & taste like bread & wine, but it isn't. It is changed (transubstantiation is the technical term) into the body & blood of Jesus.

Contemplative means that they spend time in silence, studying & meditating on the Word of God found in scripture. They call it Sacred reading. They expect Jesus to speak to them through this to mold them into the persons He wants them to be.

Erematic describes their lifestyle, that of hermits. Hermits life a lifestyle of simplicity, silence & solitude. This doesn't mean total seperation from others but it requires of them the time for prayer & contemplation. They also are required to spend some time in manual labor, working, not to get rich, but to care for the monastery.

Cloisterd means they are set apart. This is to enable them to better live the erimatic life. It puts limits on the amount of visits they can have so they are free to have the time to live & follow Jesus & their daily monastic routine.

That is it very simplified. Hopefully I got it all correct. But as I said, to get the full picture of who they & & what they do visit their website. It does a much better job of edxplaining things.

& while you are there why not get their address so you can send them a donation. They depend on Divine Providence to meet their needs. So, consider giving them alms. God will bless you for it. In addition you can print out a prayer for priests they have & join in with them in daily praying for the priests & seminarians of the Catholic Church.

Oh yeah, by the way, if you haven't figured out the reason their habits are wine colored the full explanation is on their website. But it should be obvious that the color is tied into the Eucharist.

Their website:

Monday, January 17, 2005

Syrian Catholic Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa

It was with great sorrow that I heard the news about Archbishop Basile Georges Casmoussa, Syrian Catholic Archbishop of Iraq by insurgents. But, it doesn't surprise me. Sadly, there is a small group out there who will stop at nothing to get their way. & in the end, what they really do is hurt a lot of innocent people. I do not think these people truly represent the Iraqi people or have their best interests at heart. Rather than allow the deomcratic process to go forward, they are trying to force their will on others by means of fear & violence. What they do is truly evil.

Archbishop Casmoussa wasn't harming anyone. Rather as a good shepherd of his flock he was about the business Jesus had called him to. He had been making a pastoral visit when he was kidnapped. The Vatican has righly called this kidnapping an act of terrorism & called for his being set free to be able "to continue to carry out his ministry." Chaldean Patriarch Emmanuel III Delly has called for prayers for his release. & I join in with this call. Most of us here in the USA & elsewhere can do nothing physical to change things. But, Catholics do have a power that is beyond that of any human power, the power of prayer, esp when we are united in agreement as for what we are asking. Scripture tells us prayer can move mountains. So, let us join in with Pope John Paul II, Patriarch Emmanuel & the members of the Archdiocese of Mosul for the safe return of the Archbishop.

I'm sure there are many people out there who still are unaware that the Catholic Church consists of much more than the Roman Catholic Church. The Catholic Church consist of about 22 sui iuis churches of which the Roman Church is 1. They are all of equal dignity, all are united with Pope John Paul II as their head. But, each has its own heirarchy & rites. More information can be found about the Syrian & Chaldean Churches at the following:

US Syrian Catholic Diocese website:
US Chaldean Catholic Diocese website:
Catholic Rites & Churches:

Sunday, January 16, 2005

The view from Titan

"I look up at your heavens, shaped by your fingers, at the moon and the stars you set firm - what are human beings that you spare a thought for them, or the child of Adam that you care for him?" Psalm 8:3-4 (JB)

On 15 Jan 2005 NASA released the 1st color picture taken from Saturn's moon Titan. OK I'll admit it weasn't that spectacular a picture when compared to the pictures of Saturn. But, it still has a beauty all its own. Because of the composition of the atmosphere everyhing had a peach color. Otherwise, it could be a shot from some spots on Earh or Mars.

This is the latest in the successful flight of the Cassini spacecraft, 1 of the latest in a long line of spacecraft that have added so much to our knowledge of the Solar System we are a part of. What we have found is a wonderful & beautiful array of planets, moons, asteroids, etc that make up our spot in the Milky Way. Everything is made up of the same basic elements. It is the varied combinations that make it so wonderful.

I am a child of the space age. I dream of the day when flying to the Moon or Mars is as routine as a flight across the ocean. I can remember when the best pictures were those fuzzy shots taken through an Earth bound telescope. Pluto was just a speck & any nebula was very limitted in detail. I grew up watching the various missions, manned & unmanned, to the Moon & planets etc., as well as the success of the Hubble Telescope. As more & more info comes in we have discovered the wide variations that have raised more questions than provided answers. The beauty of Saturn's rings, Mars red sky, Venus' orange sky, Jupiter's Red Spot, the blue of Neptune, star nurseries, etc

For me it has confirmed the truth of the quote I started this blog with. I do not believe that any of this came about by accident or chance. Rather, as Psalm 19:1 states: "The heavens declare the glory of God, the vault of heaven proclaims his handiwork." (JB) Every picture I look at reveals God's hand in creation. Words fail me to fully describe how I feel. I cannot understand how anyone can see all this & deny the existance of God. From the submicroscopic level to all 116 known elements to the solar system to the cosmos, it all exists to give God glory.

Check the following websites out, or go outside on a clear night, away from the city lights & look at the stars. You'll see the truth in what I say.

The NASA website has plenty of information & pictures;
Here is a section specifically dedicated to the planets:
& finally, at last, the long awaited mission to Pluto:

Friday, January 14, 2005

Chicago Great Western Railroad

1 of my interests is trains & railroading. I grew up only 2-3 blocks away from the Chicago Great Western yards in Oelwein. As a kid I would go to sleep to the sound of switch engines at work. & to this day 1 of the most relaxing sounds for me is that of a train going by in the distance, Its horn blowing at a crossing. Each locomotive seems to have a personality of its own. Trains are probably the most underappreciated form of transportation in the USA.

Many of the Fallen Flags had lyrical names. Some even lent themselves to songs. Most of us remember songs like The Rock Island Line, The Atchison, Topeka & the Santa Fe, the prime examples. Other times it was a specific route of a passenger train like The City of New Orleans that provided the inspiration. John Denver's last album before his death was All Aboard, a collection of train songs. Fom me, that was the perfect swan song to his career (althought I would have been happier if he had lived). & yes, I am listenning to it as I write this.

Most people aren't aware of how a modern train engine works. They think that the diesel engine runs a locomotive just like car engine runs an automobile. But, it doesn't. The engine generates electricity, AC or DC, which runs the traction motors that then put the wheels in motion. (Simplified explanation) That may make it a little clearer to those who wonder why General Electric makes locomotives & GM's are made by its Electro-Motive Division (EMD) .

This little bit of technological info has a purpose. It sets the background for what I am about to share. It is a spiritual lesson God taught me using trains.

Without its source of power, deisel fuel, a locomotive is just a 400,000 + pounds pile of useless junk. But, when it has the fuel it needs then it can be used to move huge amounts of materials accross the country.

Each of us has been created by God for a purpose. We all are called to serve Him. & like a locomotive we need power to accomplish this. It is the Holy Spirit that empowers us. Jesus said: "But you will receive the power of the Holy Spirit." (Acts 1:8) Every christian has received the Holy Spirit. But, for most of us that is as far as it goes. We don't let the Holy Spirit empower us. The Bible talks about the gifts of the Spirit. Some gifts (fortitude, courage fear of the Lord, etc.) are given to enable us to live the life God wants us to. Others, usually called charisms ( healing, word of knowledge, prophecy, etc.) are given to enable us to serve. As a person spends time in prayer, reading/studying Scripture you open yourself to discovering what God has called you to do.

But, if you stop there you fall short. You have to then act, go out & serve. A locomotive, fully fueled is useless if it is just sitting in the rail yard. It needs to be hooked up to a train & used to move that train. We need to go out & let ourselves be used by God. That service starts in your local church, but it also includes the greater community arround you. There is plenty you can do. God, has given you the power, use it.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

On Eagle's Wings

"They that hope in the LORD will renew their strength, they will soar as with eagles' wings; They will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint." Is 40:31

Saturday 8 Jan 2005 was the annual Bald Eagle watch at Lock & Dam #11 here in DBQ. I was down there at a little after 8 am. At 1st there were just a couple of them perching in a tree on the cliff. But, eventually they were joined by others. For a while there were at least 6-8 swooping & soaring over the Mississippi. The beauty of those birds flying is almost impossible to put into words. They also have a beautiful chirp. John Denver in the song "Rocky Mountain High" has a line: "I know he'd be a poorer man if he never saw an eagle fly." There is a lot of truth in that line. My life has been made richer by seeing eagles fly.

Watching eagles fly is for me another sign of God's existence. No way did anything so magnificent pop up just by chance. Their flying also brings out the fact that the quote from Isaiah I started out with is more that hyperbole. It is an apt symbol of what a person can do who puts his/her trust in God. It also involves risk. That is because you have to trust. You have to trust the Holy Spirit to guide you. How do you do this, by waiting upon the Lord.

Waiting upon the Lord is spending time in prayer & reading Scripture. It involves listenning to God, seeking His guidance & then being willing to step out to do it, trusting the Spirit to empower you. This takes time. Yes, you may stumble at times, we all do. But, Jesus is waiting to forgive you & let you start over again. Soaring also doesn't mean doing great things as the world views them. Blessed Mother Theresa said she did small things with great love. This was love of God & of her brothers & sisters in need. Most of us will never become famous let alone canonized saints (although, we all can become a saint if we answer God's call) but we all can serve God. & as we do, we will soar like an eagle.

Friday, January 07, 2005

Let it snow!

This last Tues/Wed we had the 1st real snowstorm of the year here in DBQ. We got about 13 inches when it ended Thurs morn. For the next few days we will be digging out. As I watched the snow cause things to be canceled the thought crossed my mind that despite all the great technological advances we have made there a still things we can't control.

As humans we tend to think that we are in control. But, we aren't always. This snowstorm, the recent tsunami, the hurricanes/tropical storms that kept hitting Florida last year all prove that.

Someone asked: "Where is God in all of this?" A friend of mine shared the following: "Again the question is "Where was God in all this...? I'd like to repeat an image that came to me after the terrible tragedy of Sept 11 2001 in New York. Like most people I tool was asking "Where was God in all this...? Then the image came to me of the hand of Christ on the cross in front of one of the towers and the plane going into the place where the nails went...That is where God was and is...He is there and when we give aid we give aid to Jesus suffering...That is what makes Christian aid - aid given by Christians as Christians - important and different. We are giving to Jesus, naked, hungry and alone. It is not simply philanthropy...."

Jesus sad that whatsoever we do to the least we do to Him. Most of us cannot travel to Asia & directly help the victims. But we can give alms. We can help by giving to charities we know are going to be good stewards of the money & do what they can to see the aide reaches those in need.

Two of these that I would highly recommend are the following:

Catholic Relief Services

Habitat for Humanity

These people not only have physical needs but all spiritual needs. The American Bible Society has set up a program to see that Bibles are distributed to bring God's comfort & consolation through His Word. ABS is using 100% of the money for Bible distribution. No overhead is being deducted.

Where is Jesus? He is there waiting for you to reach out. Even if it is only a widow's mite each of us can do something.

Note: all of these groups allow you to donate over the internet using a credit card.

Thursday, January 06, 2005

La Befana

Today is the traditional day that we celebrate the Feast of the Epiphany. Here in the USA we have transfered it to Sunday. This is the day we commemorate the arrival of the Magi in Bethlehem. In Italy it is also the day that children receive gifts, not from Santa, but from La Befana. There are many versions of the story. Last year I took my turn at it. Here is the story of La Befana:

Even though the bones of S. Nicholas were stolen from Myra in 1087 by merchants and brought to Bari, Santa Claus doesn't visit the children of Italy. Instead, each year the children look forward to the visit of La Befana. This is her story.

Long ago, at the time Christ was born, there was una vecchia (an old woman) who lived alone. Her husband had died and she had no children to care for her. Each day she would clean her house, gather the twigs she needed to cook and do her baking. Still, she was very lonely.

One day as she was leaving to gather her wood she saw a caravan approaching. It was the Magi. One of the servants came over and asked if his master could talk to her. She approached the wise man. He told her that they had traveled far in search of Il Bambino, the newborn King of the Jews, the Christ Child. They had come with gifts to honor him. She told him that she had heard nothing about him. Then the wise man invited her to join them on their journey.

She apologized. "I'm sorry, but I have too much work to do. I haven't the time to join you. I need to gather wood so that I might get my baking done." With that, they said farewell and left.

Quickly she began to regret not going with the Magi. Leaving the twigs she found she went home. There she gathered a few small things she had that she new a small child might like. She put them in a bag, took her broom and began to travel in the same direction as the Magi.

Whenever she met anyone, she inquired about them. Always she had just missed them. But she didn't give up. She kept searching and searching.

Time passed, years, decades, centuries. Still she searched. Eventually she reached Italy. On Christmas Eve of 1223. When she got there, there was a big commotion. She asked someone what was going on.

He replied: "The Holy Man, Francesco Bernadone (We know him as St. Francis) has set up a presipio (manger). There you can see the newborn King of the Jews."

She was excited. At last she had reached her goal. As she approached the site she saw a camel. The man next to it looked familiar. He was wearing the same clothing as the Wise Man she had talke to so long ago. Waiting her turn she drew near to the crib. It was then that she saw that Il Bambino was a wax figure. Puzzled, she asked someone why this was so. She was told that this was merely a reenactment of an event that had occured over 1200 years ago.

Disappointed and in shock she just stood there. When everyone had left, she began to cry. Her heart was breaking from the sorrow she felt.

Suddenly she heard a noise and saw a glow from the crib. A gentle voice told her to come near. Scared, she slowly approached and looked into the crib. The statue had come to life.

"Why are you crying?" it asked.

She replied: "I have been looking all these years for Il Bambino. I thought I had finally found Him. I am so tired and weary from searching. The disappointment is just too much."

Il Bambino said: "Dry your tears. From heaven I heard your cry and have come to you. I am grateful for the gifts you have brought me, but I no longer have any use for them. There are many children who have no toys. You can give the toys to them."

Overjoyed, she began to do as she was told. At first people were afraid of her. She was old and traveled with a broom so they thought she was a witch. they refused to welcome her. Some even threw stones at her to drive her away. Eventually people began to realize the truth. Sooon children began to look forward to her visit on the Eve of Epiphany. Since no one knew her name people began to call her La Befana from the Italian word for Epiphany. To this day, she still travels all over Italy honoring Il Bambino, the Christ Child by leaving presents for all the children. She is no longer lonely, but is very happy to bring joy and share her love with them.


Saturday, January 01, 2005

A New 1 Just Begun! 2005 is here.

What lies ahead? What does the year hold? These questions have been asked as people make predictions for the year ahead. Nevermind that their guesses last year were more likely wrong than right.

I am not going to try & make any predictions. That is not my purpose in writing this. What I am doing is sharing a bit of my hopes for this year.

I hope to continue to grow in my faith. As I have said, I am a Roman Catholic. I am a member because I truly believe it is the Church established by Jesus Christ. It is the Church Jesus put into the care of Peter & is continued to be cared for by Peter's successor John Paul II. The Church is the guardian of the truthes that Jesus proclaimed.

My desire is to grow & deepen my faith. To do so I plan to continue in several things that I have started over the past year as well as continue my regular prayer time.

The big thing I began was what has been often called a Holy Hour. That is where a person tries to, at least weekly, set aside time to go to a church or chapel & spend time praying before the Blessed Sacrament. It is a time for me to come before Jesus & spend time getting to know Him better. Catholics believe that Jesus is present body, soul, blood & divinity in the Eucharist. The bread & wine is not a symbol. It is no longer bread & wine but what Jesus said it was, His Body & Blood. It maintains the appearance of bread & wine. Yes, I can talk to Jesus anywhere. But Jesus is present there in a unique way. When I am there by myself in His presence, I feel like I am at home in a way that I feel nowhere else.

Part of my time is spent just being in the presence of Jesus, part is spent in prayer & study of His Word in Scripture as well as from a couple of books with writings from some of the Churches great teachers (right now either Catherine of Sienna or Archbishop Sheen). I also pray the Rosary.

In the few months I have been doing this I have begun to see the fruit of this effort in my life. God's Spirit is working in me & transforming me more & more into the person He wants me to be. I have a long way to go, a life time in fact. & at times I know I will stumble. But, Jesus is always there waiting to welcome me back.


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