How about another quote from Thomas Merton? I know, I’m almost done with the book and I’ll move on, but this is a good one. He is speaking of sincerity–telling the truth.

“The arguments of religious men are so often insincere, and their insincerity is proportionate to their anger. Why do we get angry about what we believe? Because we do not really believe it. Or else, what we pretend to be defending as the truth is really our own self-esteem. A man of sincerity is less interested in defending the truth than in stating it clearly, for he thinks that if the truth be clearly seen it can very well take care of itself.”

Amen Mr. Merton! It is amazing how little people are able to explain what they believe and would rather resort to calling names and getting mad. Their indignation scares off any debate so they think they’ve won. Really, all they are doing is covering up for their shallow knowledge and trying to save face.

It is also scary that this is most true of Christians. Those who have followed the way, the truth and the life. We have the truth yet few actually know it (him). The less people know, the more adamant they seem to be.

Here’s another update on the Bush/Kerry bike riding news. This article compares the two riders and the bikes they ride. Apparently, President Bush fell off his bike while mountain biking off-road, much more commendable and in fact, the thing to do while mountain biking.

Kerry just wiped out on sand on the road, which seems about right. The article proposes maybe the two candidates have a bike race. I think that would be entertaining. Perhaps the citizens should demand one! Maybe they’d both fall together.

This morning’s message may not have been the most exciting, no matter how hard I tried to find illustrations to spice it up, it’s awful hard to tell stories demonstrating the difference between burnt and peace offerings!

However, seeing the system of sacrifices and how annoying it all was, even boring to read through, it shows us just how great things are when Christ takes care of it. I am grateful all the time that one of my functions as pastor is not to have to slaughter animals!

I am also grateful because under the Law I would not be allowed to be a priest/pastor. Being legally blind would have disqualified me from service. What a huge difference Christ ending the Law makes for us all! Thank the Lord that every message in church is not, and does not have to be about sacrifices!

More From Thomas Merton:

“It is, therefore, a very great thing to be little, which is to say: to be ourselves. And when we are truly ourselves we lose most of the futile self-consciousness that keeps us constantly comparing ourselves with others to see how big we are.”

This is driving at the idea of placing other’s wills above our own and humility. When we assume we are better than others we don’t do much for them, they should do for us! But the real issue is that you are acting self-centered. Anytime we can stop thinking about ourselves there is a chance we might think of others.

After wandering away from his babysitter, a 22 month old boy was found floating in a canal. After trying to revive the child rescuers gave him up as dead.

While preparing his body for the funeral home, a nurse noticed that the boy was breathing! That would be one very relieved babysitter I’m guessing!

So, is this a true to life resurrection? Hmm. Does it make you a believer? I hope not–faith is based on the evidence of things not seen.

Here is the web site of the monastery where Thomas Merton spent his time in Trappist, Kentucky. There is also a biography of him there.

Like I said before, he’s got some issues I would strongly disagree with but he’s still rather interesting.

Just a note of clarification: just because I am quoting Mr. Merton does in no way imply an endorsement of all he says. He has made many a statement, even the majority of one chapter, that I found a bit off the mark.

He made a statement that you can only get the Holy Spirit through the sacraments of the Church. I would disagree strongly.

However, Merton is an interesting thinker and philosopher with a bit of Bible thrown in. I would consider him to be a “Christian” philosopher of the Catholic persuasion. When he’s right he’s very right; when he’s wrong he’s very wrong!

“Perpetual self-examination gives an overanxious attention to movements that should remain instinctive and unobserved. When we attend too much to ourselves, our activity becomes cramped and stumbling. We get so much in out own way that we soon paralyze ourselves completely and become unable to act like normal human beings.”

Another quote from Thomas Merton. I think he nailed that one pretty good too. If all we do is analyze ourselves and focus on our problems, we get so consumed with it that soon we are so fake and weird there’s nothing left for us to do that is the least bit normal!

I believe that’s why humanistic psychology turns you inward–discover your true self by analyzing what you do and why. It’s also why Christianity says to look outward, first to Jesus Christ and second to the needs of others–that’s where true healing comes from. Psychology may make you a better human but it will also make you completely fake.

Ever seen any infomercials on tv with the self-help guys and their fake plastic smiles and fake mannerisms? Yup, you feel like you’re being played. Now they are successful, in human terms, but they still have an empty pit within.

As ole what’s-his-name said “each one of us has a God shaped void in our heart.” Turning in and analyzing self may have some benefit but a consumption with it only makes us worse.

Not only are they formulating a new constitution in Iraq they are also working on one for the European Union. Guess which one is having the most trouble in regards to whether or not they mention God? You guessed it, our wonderful American forbearers are debating whether God should be included.

Here’s a quote from the article linked to above to give you the basic idea of what’s going on.

“Of course, we have a Judeo-Christian past, but the constitution is inspired by a heritage that is cultural, religious and humanist all at once,” Michel Barnier, France’s new foreign minister, said after a news conference at the Foreign Ministry on Tuesday. He made clear that France would not bend to new pressure to inject religion into the draft, noting that the constitution should be “secular.” The current wording, he added, is “well balanced.”

Anything that is “well balanced” is probably wrong! Good luck to ’em.

From No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton:

“May God preserve me from the love of a friend who will never dare to rebuke me. May he preserve me from the friend who seeks to do nothing but change and correct me. But may he preserve still more from one whose love is only satisfied by being rebuked.”

His book opens with a chapter on love and what the right kind of love is. We often do nice things, thinking we’re showing love, but all we’re doing is selfishly forcing love on others, which really isn’t love.

Some think that love never confronts, yet love has to at times. Others think love gives them the right to confront everything, yet love is often silent. Others use their troubles and whininess to manipulate others to love them, yet love seeks the best of others not itself.

The role of friendship is to be available for others and the ultimate goal is to bring them closer to Christ through that relationship. The number of friends a person can have is pretty small.

Most won’t let you in to be a friend. Love is a huge spender of time, one can only afford so many friends. Yet we are to love everyone. Love is not exclusively for those who are our friends. Christ had few friends but he loved the world. Interesting things to consider.

Krispy Kreme doughnuts has been the fastest growing doughnut chain in America but they will only be opening 100 new stores this year, 17% fewer than expected, due to the low-carb diets.

It has always seemed weird to me that people would rather not exercise than not eat doughnuts and cookies. Exercise can be so much fun plus, if you can exercise while eating doughnuts it’s even more fun.

This is an Atkins friendly post and has ZERO carbs!

The catholic church in Boston has got to cut back. Due to declining mass attendance and giving, a shortage of new priests and the fallout from the sexual abuse scandals the church has to restructure their parishes to have fewer diocese (dioceses? diocee? dioces? dioci?)

Things are tough all over in religious circles. People are seeing less of a need for church and the church is seeing less of a need for people. Perspectives are wrong for churches and for attenders.

It is amazing how life has a way of treating you according to how you deserve however. If your message is one of guilt and then you see that those preaching this message are just as guilty, it tends to annoy many. My message will be grace throughout because I know I need it too!

No Man is an Island is the name of the book I am currently reading. It comes from a snippet of prose written by John Donne who has written some interesting stuff. Here is the larger context of these words, you may recognize another more famous book title in the same passage.

No man is an island, entire of itself;

every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;

if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less,

as well as if a promontory were,

as well as if a manor of thy friends or of thine own were;

any man’s death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind;

and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls;

it tolls for thee.

John Donne

I began reading No Man is an Island by Thomas Merton. I don’t know much about Merton. I know I’ve heard his name and I know he is of the Catholic persuasion.

I am still in his introduction where he is talking about how do you love others? It starts with loving yourself but how do you love yourself and others? And if you’re all about others how do you think of you? Etc.

I’m not sure what his answer is yet but I read this quote which seemed pretty good to me:

“It is therefore of supreme importance that we consent to live not for ourselves but for others. When we do this we will be able first of all to face and accept our own limitations. As long as we secretly adore ourselves, our own deficiencies will remain to torture us with an apparent defilement.”

If you are always thinking and living for you, you will be disappointed when you fail. Your limitations, things you naturally cannot do, will become flaws and issues which make you think you are defiled. “To be disappointed in yourself is to have believed in yourself” is another quote I heard from someone else.

Here’s an example from my own life. I’m legally blind. There are things I can’t do. If I’m always living for me, the fact that I can’t drive a car could drive me nuts. I’m dealing with coming to grips with having to admit I shouldn’t play softball, something very hard for me because I love it. But, I just can’t see all the time and it hurts the whole team.

Now, I adore myself, I’ll be honest with you. I especially adore my baseball knowledge. To admit I can’t do it is a total defilement to me. I feel defiled because I can’t do it. However, if I could use my knowledge to help others instead of thinking about me, perhaps I can handle that limitation.

Life aint easy. There’s lots of things we are weak in. Things that continually bog us down. Habits that never let go. The more we focus on ourselves and our struggle and our bad habits and our limitations the less we’ll think of others.

The more we think of others the less of an issue our weaknesses become.

I finished reading the New World Translation yesterday. What a wild and crazy ride. Here are a few thoughts to sum it up:

I could never get over how it sounded like someone rewriting the King James with a thesaurus.

The amount of things they change is startling but not as bad as I thought it would be. I mean, the amount is enough for me to chalk it up as heretical and evil but still, the Gospel can be seen.

I understand some of their doctrine a little better now based on the things they changed and now see how they can support what they think.

Anytime you have to change God’s word to support what you think–look out!

94% of the time when talking about God they use the word “Jehovah” almost to the point of distraction. Not only is that nowhere close to being an accurate translation all the time, it gets very old.

The “torture stake” was consistently brought up throughout the New Testament and just didn’t work for me. Just use “cross” here people. And using “impaled” rather than “crucified” seemed silly as well–“I am impaled with Christ?”

Anyway, haven’t decided what version to read next. I might just go back to the faithful standby, the King James, and brush up on my King’s English.

I woke up this morning feeling very warm. I thought maybe I was coming down with a fever. But then everyone else said they were hot too.

Then I figured out why–the temperature in our house was over 80 degrees! Our furnace came on last night and never went back off. Bummer.

There’s always something. I suppose now I’ll have to spend money on something to make the furnace shut off. My plan is just to leave it off until next fall and worry about it then. I’m sure that plan will work!

There’s also a window in our basement that a mouse chewed all the insulation out of and is in the process of falling in. So it goes. Stupid sin messes everything up.

The list of stupid warning labels I read from this morning is from this web site here. CAUTION: excessive looking at computer screens can lead to damaged vision, narcolepsy and or projectile vomiting.

George W. Bush fell off his bike on Saturday. This is after several falls that John F. Kerry has taken on his bike the past few months.

What is up with these guys? I ride my bike several thousand miles a year and it’s been quite some time since I’ve fallen. I mean, I wipe out in the winter on ice at least once a year but the last time I fell on the pavement was in 1993, I remember it well.

What’s going on with these presidential candidates that they fall over all the time? Maybe they’re so used to blowing in the wind it’s hard for them to stand up straight for once. I wonder if he fell to the right or the left?

A lawyer has gotten in trouble for barking like a mad dog during a trial. His barking was so disruptive the court reporter had trouble hearing what was going on in the trial.

Ironically enough, the lawyer in question’s last name is “Fink.” A self-fulfilling prophecy no doubt! Human nature is hilarious sometimes! Enjoy the ride!

Speaking of Church History, here is an article which addresses some of the issues we talked about last Thursday at TNBS.

The article is based on quotes from The DaVinci Code since that book has sparked renewed interest in some aspects of Church History. The article addresses the Council of Nicea and how and why the Gospels we have are the ones we have. Enjoy!

Think you’re pretty smart? Watch out, your brain could do what this guys brain did. Weird.

It’s funny how we like to think we have diseases and medical problems under control and then something totally new pops up to confound them all.

Each year Lake Superior State University (Sault Ste.

Marie, MI) has been compiling its annual list of words banished from the Queen’s English for mis-use, over-use and general uselessness.

The list seems good to me but I would also add some others:

using “dialogue” as a verb. “Let’s dialogue about this at the next meeting.” Annoying.

“Appropriate” has always bugged me. Instead of saying something is right or wrong we now say it’s appropriate or inappropriate. Pretty weenie if you ask me. I think it’s wrong!

If we were able to ban the word “just” from all Christian prayers we would save approximately 37.6 hours in a year on average. “I just want to pray for Jim. Just let him feel your presence and just be with him.” Please.

I know there’s some others that I’m missing but those are my top three.

Hebrews 12:7-11 is an often skipped portion of Scripture. You’ve no doubt heard the beginning of chapter 12–we’re surrounded by a great cloud of witnesses. . . And that’s a fine message, very encouraging, but we usually like to stop there.

Verses 7-11 hit a bit harder, tell us things we may not want to hear. God disciplines who He loves? Get out of here! But he ties it in to a father, if a father loves his child he’s going to discipline him, train him, allow him to learn. Why wouldn’t god do it for us?

He does. Paul says it isn’t always pleasant to go through it but when you look back you see how valuable it was. Totally worth the pain.

I wonder how much of our discipline has been removed because we now have remedies for everything. I wonder how much has been removed because we only think of God’s love and not His discipline.

The next time something crummy happens to you, consider that it might be God trying to teach you and show you love. All He wants is for us to grow closer to Him. He’s going to discipline His people anyway, you might as well benefit from the deal!

The Catholic church continues to take heat for their decision to not offer communion to abortion supporters. The latest is 48 members of Congress sending a letter to the Catholic Church asking them to knock it off.

It will be interesting to see if the Catholic Church caves in to politicians. The day the government dictates what a church does seems to be right about the date the second American revolution should take place.

The more church and state get entangled the more the church will lose. Even if we’re not Catholic this whole thing should make us think.

A 12-year-old boy fought off a 7-foot alligator that was attacking his head! The best way to fight off an alligator is to make lots of noise and struggle. Just so you know.

When Noah stepped off that ark God said that all the animals would be afraid of people–Genesis 9. Animals attack us and each other all because we’ve messed up the world.

Sure will be nice when sin and corruption are removed and the 12 year-old and the alligator will lie down next to each other!

The first online virtual church has opened and they’re already having trouble. Seems as though certain “church members” are using profanity and otherwise being obnoxious during “church services.”

The online church, Ship of Fools, is drawing in over 20,000 people a day, which is pretty good. An interesting concept and who knows, maybe it’ll even work.

Yesterday Randy Johnson became the oldest pitcher ever to record a perfect game. A perfect game, for those who don’t know, means absolutely no one reached base on the opposing team. He faced 27 batters (3 outs in each of the nine innings) and recorded 27 outs.

The story of the perfect game is all over the news. Aint it just amazing how our world wants to celebrate perfection? Hmm, I wonder, I just wonder where we get that from? Hmm, I really wish I knew because it seems like it might be an interesting answer. Hmm, if only I were smart enough to figure that one out.