Saturday, October 30, 2010

On the lighter side: "A Dark And Stormy Night"

Bob Hill and his new wife Betty were vacationing in Europe... as it happens, near Transylvania. They were driving in a rental car along a rather deserted highway. It was late and raining very hard. Bob could barely see the road in front of the car. Suddenly, the car skids out of control! Bob attempts to control the car, but to no avail! The car swerves and smashes into a tree.

Moments later, Bob shakes his head to clear the fog. Dazed, he looks over at the passenger seat and sees his wife unconscious, with her head bleeding! Despite the rain and unfamiliar countryside, Bob knows he has to get her medical assistance.

Bob carefully picks his wife up and begins trudging down the road. After a short while, he sees a light. He heads towards the light, which is coming from a large, old house. He approaches the door and knocks.

A minute passes. A small, hunched man opens the door. Bob immediately blurts, "Hello, my name is Bob Hill, and this is my wife Betty. We've been in a terrible accident, and my wife has been seriously hurt. May I please use your phone?"

"I'm sorry," replied the hunchback, "we don't have a phone. But my master is a doctor; come in, and I will get him!"

Bob brings his wife in.

An older man comes down the stairs. "I'm afraid my assistant may have misled you. I am not a medical doctor; I am a scientist. However, it is many miles to the nearest clinic, and I have had a basic medical training. I will see what I can do. Igor, bring them down to the laboratory."

With that, Igor picks up Betty and carries her downstairs, with Bob following closely. Igor places Betty on a table in the lab. Bob collapses from exhaustion and his own injuries, so Igor places Bob on an adjoining table.

After a brief examination, Igor's master looks worried. "Things are serious, Igor. Prepare a transfusion." Igor and his master work feverishly, but to no avail. Bob and Betty Hill are no more.

The Hills' deaths upset Igor's master greatly. Wearily, he climbs the steps to his conservatory, which houses his grand piano. For it is here that he has always found solace. He begins to play, and a stirring, almost haunting melody fills the house

Meanwhile, Igor is still in the lab tidying up. His eyes catch movement, and he notices the fingers on Betty's hand twitch, keeping time to the haunting piano music. Stunned, he watches as Bob's arm begins to rise, marking the beat! He is further amazed as Betty and Bob both sit up straight!

Unable to contain himself, he dashes up the stairs to the conservatory.

He bursts in and shouts to his master:

"Master, Master!...The Hills are alive with the sound of music!"


Wednesday, October 27, 2010

[Political humor] "Call Me Senator" - From David Zucker

Director David Zucker, who directed "Airplane" and "The Naked Gun," takes off on Barbara Boxer's notorious demand that a military officer, testifying before a Senate panel, call her Senator. Zucker also issued a public apology recently for having supported her in past elections.

Tuesday, October 19, 2010

The "Left Coast" and the future of American Christianity

On the Stand Firm website, Sarah Hey asks the question: "So How Is The Inclusive, Open-Minded Left Coast Doing With 815’s New Gospel?" She then posts statistics (with graphs) to show that every Episcopal diocese in the state of California has lost nearly 25% of its average Sunday attendance in the last 10 years.

The apostle Paul wrote: "I am not ashamed of the gospel, because it is the power of God for the salvation of everyone who believes..." (Romans 1:16)

America is becoming post-Christian (more quickly in some places than others) after the manner of Europe, and for the same reason. In the face of modernity, the church retreated and became ashamed of the Gospel. Liberal and "mainline" Christians felt that society's advances would provide the answers to society's ills. All the church needed to do was provide the spiritual component (for those who still required it).

Well it hasn't worked. The Brave New World doesn't need chaplains. A purely horizontal "gospel" overlaid with a religious veneer just isn't appealing to anyone. If people want to support gay rights and the Millennium Development Goals, all they have to do is vote Democrat, and they can sleep in or take the kids to soccer on Sunday morning. And they can probably feel better after a Yoga session, an hour of transcendental meditation, a walk on the beach, or a work-out at the gym than they will after a service at the typical liberal church.

If we don't preach the everlasting Gospel of Jesus Christ that can save souls and transform lives, then we need to give up, period.

Fortunately there are churches that preach the authentic Gospel on the "Left Coast." A few of them are Anglican, but hardly any of them are Episcopal (sadly). But the ones who do so are growing.

[Off-topic] Say goodbye to traditional free checking

Free checking as we know it is ending.

The days when you could walk into a bank branch and open an account with no charges and no strings attached appear to be over. Now you have to jump through some hoops — keep a high balance, use direct deposit or swipe your debit card several times a month.

One new account at Bank of America charges $8.95 per month if you want to bank with a teller or get a paper statement.

Almost all of the largest U.S. banks are either already making free checking much more difficult to get or expected to do so soon, with fees on even basic banking services.

It's happening because a raft of new laws enacted in the past year, including the financial overhaul package [thanks to Pres. Obama and the Democrats in Congress], have led to an acute shrinking of revenue for the banks. So they are scraping together money however they can.

Bank of America, which does business with half the households in America, announced a dramatic shift Tuesday in how it does business with customers. One key change: Free checking, a mainstay of American banking in recent years, will be nearly unheard of.

"I've seen more regulation in last 30 months than in last 30 years," said Robert Hammer, CEO of RK Hammer, a bank advisory firm. "The bottom line for banks is shifting enormously, swiftly and deeply, and they're not going to sit by twiddling their thumbs. They're going to change."

Yeah, I've heard plenty about CHANGE the past two years. Come November 2, we had better start to change back.

[Off-topic] Soros and Saban: Do Billionaires have too much influence in American politics?

Opponents of the so-called "pro-Middle East peace" lobbying group J-Street--which, it turns out, is funded by billionaire George Soros see Soros as an anti-Israel (and anti-American) monster.

Meanwhile, billionaire Haim Saban is a major supporter of AIPAC, the pro-Israel group that J-Street was formed to combat. But Soros and Saban apparently agree on one thing: Democrat politicians in California should be allowed to gerrymander their districts! Both have bankrolled the pro-gerrymandering Prop 27. . . . Luckily, they have to contend with the son of billionaire Charles Munger.

Read more here.

Why would billionaires Soros and Saban support the gerrymandering of state and congressional districts to keep Democrats in power? Is their use of wealth to make the electoral process less fair a travesty of justice? I would argue a very emphatic YES!

For more on the outrageous gerrymandering of California's state and congressional districts, read this.

Friday, October 15, 2010

Pittsburgh's "Seusscharist" sacrilege

"For as often as you eat this bread and drink the cup, you proclaim the Lord’s death until he comes." (I Corinthians 11:26)

First there was the Clown Eucharist from Trinity Church, Wall Street, NYC. Now comes this latest bit of folly from the Episcopal (TEC) Diocese of Pittsburgh. I know the link will go away once the event is over, so I have copied the relevant text and graphics here:

With brains in your head and feet in your shoes
Please come to Calvary from any direction you choose.

Friday, October 22 will be the day.
Fun is waiting, so get on your way.

We'll have a light supper and share together
A little Seuss fun, no matter the weather.

A movie, and popcorn, and stories, too.
We'll finish with a Seusscharist designed just for you.

Five thirty is the time that we will start.
We know you will join us, if you are smart.

Weezie is the one that you should call
She'll take reservations for family, friends and all.
412-661-0120, ext. 40

Age is no limit, bottom or top.
We know that our gathering won't be a flop.

Have any questions you'd like to ask?
Just call Adele. She's up to the task.
412-661-0120, ext. 16

Calvary Episcopal Church
315 Shady Avenue
Pittsburgh PA 15206

Now, before someone calls me a GRINCH for casting aspersions on this program, let me be clear about my reasoning. The Eucharist is to proclaim the Lord Jesus Christ's death, whenever we eat the bread and drink the cup, until He comes again. That is its message, and that is the meaning. It needs no other metaphor. Dressing it up in other garb can only obscure—not enhance—its message and its meaning.

The concept of a sacrilege teaches us that "sacred objects are not to be treated in the same way as other objects." That's the point of the matter. And no, this kind of display (Clown Eucharists and Seusscarists) isn't what the Apostle Paul means when he calls the preaching of the Gospel foolishness in I Corinthians. Even though C.S. Lewis does a wonderful job of symbolizing the atoning death of Christ in Aslan's death in The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, I would not be in favor of a Narnia Eucharist either. (And neither would C.S. Lewis!)

"Therefore, whoever eats the bread or drinks the cup of the Lord in an unworthy manner will be guilty of sinning against the body and blood of the Lord. A man ought to examine himself before he eats of the bread and drinks of the cup" (I Corinthians 11:27-28). Literally interpreted, this text means that we should not approach the Eucharist with impure motives or unconfessed sins against God and our neighbor, thereby having little regard for the presence of Christ in the Eucharist. But does it not also mean that, when it comes to the Eucharist, we shouldn't be clowning around? We are dealing with holy things in the Eucharist, when God in the flesh died for the sins of humankind. I can state it no better than the Book of Common Prayer:
An Exhortation

Beloved in the Lord: Our Savior Christ, on the night before
he suffered, instituted the Sacrament of his Body and
Blood as a sign and pledge of his love, for the continual
remembrance of the sacrifice of his death, and for a spiritual
sharing in his risen life. For in these holy Mysteries we are
made one with Christ, and Christ with us; we are made one
body in him, and members one of another.

Having in mind, therefore, his great love for us, and in
obedience to his command, his Church renders to Almighty
God our heavenly Father never ending thanks for the
creation of the world, for his continual providence over us,
for his love for all mankind, and for the redemption of the
world by our Savior Christ, who took upon himself our flesh,
and humbled himself even to death on the cross, that he
might make us the children of God by the power of the Holy
Spirit, and exalt us to everlasting life.

But if we are to share rightly in the celebration of those holy
Mysteries, and be nourished by that spiritual Food, we must
remember the dignity of that holy Sacrament. I therefore call
upon you to consider how Saint Paul exhorts all persons to
prepare themselves carefully before eating of that Bread and
drinking of that Cup.

For, as the benefit is great, if with penitent hearts and living
faith we receive the holy Sacrament, so is the danger great, if
we receive it improperly, not recognizing the Lord's Body.
Judge yourselves, therefore, lest you be judged by the Lord.

Examine your lives and conduct by the rule of God’s
commandments, that you may perceive wherein you have
offended in what you have done or left undone, whether in
thought, word, or deed. And acknowledge your sins before
Almighty God, with full purpose of amendment of life, being
ready to make restitution for all injuries and wrongs done by
you to others; and also being ready to forgive those who have
offended you, in order that you yourselves may be forgiven.
And then, being reconciled with one another, come to the
banquet of that most heavenly Food.

And if, in your preparation, you need help and counsel, then
go and open your grief to a discreet and understanding priest,
and confess your sins, that you may receive the benefit of
absolution, and spiritual counsel and advice; to the removal
of scruple and doubt, the assurance of pardon, and the
strengthening of your faith.

To Christ our Lord who loves us, and washed us in his own
blood, and made us a kingdom of priests to serve his God
and Father, to him be glory in the Church evermore. Through
him let us offer continually the sacrifice of praise, which is
our bounden duty and service, and, with faith in him, come
boldly before the throne of grace [and humbly confess our
sins to Almighty God]. (BCP, 1979, p. 316)

Now, who wants to clown around with that?

Tuesday, October 05, 2010

Message in a Bottle Survives Epic Journey

Last year, a high school student named Corey Swearingen put a letter in a bottle, sealed it up, and dropped it in the Atlantic Ocean, off the Florida coast. It was kind of an experiment for school. In the letter, he appealed to whomever came across the bottle to contact him and let him know where in the world it showed up. Amazingly, someone did.

Find out where it landed and read about some other long-traveling messages in a bottle here.

Sunday, October 03, 2010

Blind Type - No Accuracy Required

I gotta get me one of these!

Read more here.

Now, can it teach the seemingly illiterate products of our modern school systems the difference between your and you're, or they're, their, and there?