We are a commune of inquiring, skeptical, politically centrist, capitalist, anglophile, traditionalist New England Yankee humans, humanoids, and animals with many interests beyond and above politics. Each of us has had a high-school education (or GED), but all had ADD so didn't pay attention very well, especially the dogs. Each one of us does "try my best to be just like I am," and none of us enjoys working for others, including for Maggie, from whom we receive neither a nickel nor a dime. Freedom from nags, cranks, government, do-gooders, control-freaks and idiots is all that we ask for.
Our Recent Essays Behind the Front Page
Sunday, December 8. 2013
The time from the start of Advent to Christmas is like a short spiritual pregnancy.
What's the miracle of Christmas? That Christ can be born in all of us, anywhere, any time, at any season, to make us fully human and complete by linking the divine spark in our pagan, fallen souls to the holy.
Is it a shame, or a blessing, that we have to really need Him before we will put our precious selves aside, just a bit, to let Him into our lives?
While my Puritan ancestors would never celebrate the "Roman" (eg "Anti-Christ") feast of Christmas, I find it to be an emotional reminder of that miracle which exists in the present, not the past. And the totally pagan, Germanic tree is a perfect metaphor for transformation - ordinary baby firs, like all of us (miracle enough right there), with the potential to be transformed by light and truth and beauty and brotherly love.
At Maggie's Farm HQ, this transformation, from ordinary fir tree to Holy Spirit-illuminated tree, is what we pray for. (Hold the tinsel, please.) It's not decor, it's a symbol of our potential.
Thursday, November 28. 2013
First day of Chanukah
Although almost all use quotations from the Bible to buttress modern day arguments, relatively few have ever read it. Actually, I should say any of them. For there's the Jewish Bible, the Catholic Bible, and various Protestant Bibles, and among these are various translations, inclusions and exclusions.
One of the narratives, that of the Maccabees, is not included in the Jewish Bible. There's several reasons offered: The two Books of Maccabees are in the Alexandrian Greek version, and only those Books in the original Hebrew are included. (Other Books of similar non-Hebrew language or not accepted as divine scripture, like Judith, are as well in the Apocrypha, some in some denominations' Bibles.) The reign of the Maccabees' heirs were not of the sacred line of David and, therefore, unworthy to be treated as kings. Their rule was tarnished by corrupt practices, and contributed toward the internal divisiveness and, then, destruction by the Romans of the Jewish homeland, the wholesale massacres of Jews there and diaspora to alien lands for the remainder. Then, there's the rationale that for a people in exile, subject to survival under and adaptations to inhospitable or suspicious foreign ways, it was not good politics to exalt recent Jews as warriors in the codification of the Jewish Bible.
Today, with the increased ability of Jews to practice openly and participate constructively in Western societies, and with pride in having a homeland to secure safety for all Jews who would return there, the relatively minor holiday of Chanukah is celebrated widely. Providing a celebration for Jewish children at the time of year that others celebrate Christmas has made of Chanukah a major holiday. lt also fits with the recovery of a homeland of refuge in
Still, if Chanukah is degraded to just blue-and-white lights in place of red-and-yellow, or icicles, Chanukah is made meaningless.
One must remember there are two Books of Maccabee. The first Book deals with the profanation and oppression in which many Jews went along to survive -- leading to the brave fight by a few for religious freedom that overwhelmed seemingly undefeatable might.
(There's also the side-story of Hannah and her seven sons, who endured the most severe tortures practiced in those times, the descriptions of which would even sicken a surrealist, rather than renounce their faith.)
The second Book deals with the resanctification of the
I'll leave the canonical and scholarly debates here for others, in order to draw a lesson. Chanukah and the Maccabees fits within the Jewish Bible's narrative, whether formally or by custom. And, more attention deserves to be given the first Book, to understand the second. Fight, or surrender to comforts and fears and, thus, perish.
The Jewish Bible is a series of opportunities for living the guidance provided by G-d through experience and direction, often failing to do so in successive generations and paying terrible prices to relearn and return to basic truths. In this sense, Jews are fated to be a small self-selecting people, those who adhere to these basic truths, while by basic frail human nature others fall and fail by the wayside, merging into ostensibly safer masses.
The modern state of Israel struggles with these choices, and so far has risen beyond any expectations -- by rejecting the sophistry of self-serving internal weaklings, defectors, and collaborators paid off by Israel's enemies, and by evading false friends in high-places within other governments, who all recommend paths that are well-known to lead to defeatism and doom.
So, depending on the transliteration, to all a Happy Chanukah, or Hannukah. These young people in a flash mob on Ben Yehuda Street are the spirit that bring pride to fighting to endure in basic truth, for the benefit of all. There are onlookers and there are participants. Without modern Maccabees, participants in fighting for life, all would be enslaved.
Wednesday, November 27. 2013
As a Christian, I am always interested in our Jewish foundations, but I am not very well-informed. I felt this was good from Daniel Greenfield (Sultan Knish): Jewish Culture, Revelation and Continuity:
Saturday, November 23. 2013
A reader sends this inspiring link, partly about ordination of women: 'Because Beset with Weakness . . . '
Sunday, October 27. 2013
Many of us think of Christianity as a “cheerful” religion, but Andrew Klavan, who is a convert to Christianity, wrote that “for me, one of Christianity’s central assets is that it’s a tragic religion — which is to say, a realistic one. The son of God prayed for release from a dreadful death and his prayer went unfulfilled. That tells you something, something you need to know in order to live with patience and wisdom.”
Wednesday, October 23. 2013
From Conrad Black's interesting commentary on the Pope's recent speeches:
I sympathize with the Pope's traditional attitude of "love the sinner, not the sin," but the idea that all souls should get my care and love is utterly beyond my capacity. I steer clear of malignant things in the same way that I avoid rocks on a boat.
Tuesday, October 8. 2013
From Evangelicals and Israel - What American Jews Don't Want to Know (but Need to). One quote from the important essay:
Some might term me an Evangelical and some might not. Either way, I learned some things from the essay.
Sunday, October 6. 2013
Wednesday, September 4. 2013
The Jewish High Holy Days begin this evening with Rosh Hashanah.
One of the traditional Rosh Hashanah greetings is Shana Tovah, which literally means have a good year. The meaning goes deeper. To have a good year is to have sincerely repented one's transgressions and set yourself on a better acting and thinking path.
The eve of Rosh Hashanah, and the concluding of Yom Kippur in the evening 10-days later when our fate is sealed by G-d, is a period of especially intense inspection of self and correction of self. It is Jews' most solemn holiday period (read, Holy Days).
It is also a time to come together with loved ones as well as to find ways to come together with former adversaries. It is a time to enjoy our customs, especially the blowing of the ram's horn (shofar), especially at Rosh Hashanah, to literally "come awake" to ourselves, our relationships with others and with G-d. And, it is a time to enjoy apples and honey, to symbolize our hopes for a sweet new year. It is a time of long days of prayer. For me, the longer the better, as it is not the words so much that are important as entering a sense of transcendence in which I rise above ordinary thoughts to reach new breakthroughs, understandings, and ways to become better.
Like for other Jewish occasions, Rosh Hashanah has become a time for our modern youth to create new music, to bring new verve into our traditional ways. Enjoy this one. (I'm not getting it to embed, so please click through to YouTube.) P.S.: In the video, the tossing of bread into moving waters (tashlich) is to symbolize casting off our sins.
Here's a snippet of the verses: "Atonement's what I'm after; It's a new year, now we gotta do something"
The Jewish High Holy Days, and the Hebrew month of Elul's introspection preceding them, require of each of us to "do something", at the very least, to create a better self and world. Our custom has been adapted into Christianity with Lent, and into Islam with Ramadan. May we all earnestly work to be better. We all need to and we all need it.
Friday, August 9. 2013
Well, as close to an angel as I have ever identified.
Like most angels, she just looked like an ordinary middle-aged person. Unremarkable, unmemorable. Angels are simply messengers, aren't they? They aren't gods, and they don't have wings. The wings in angel images are symbols.
Tuesday morning at 10:30 I was sitting in the Maggie's HQ between meetings and conferences, with all doors and windows open to the soft summer breeze and enjoying a nice Partagas - I'm the boss so I do what I want - when I hear a knock on the open outside door. "Hello."
"Come on in," I say. "Pardon my cigar smoke. What can I do for you?"
"Nothing," she said tentatively. "I've never done anything like this before, but I felt had to. Are you (my name)? "Yes, I am. Who are you?" She gave her name to me.
I was pleasant, she was too. She said she hoped I did not mind, but the Lord had asked her twice, in prayer, to pray for me by name and to remind me that God loved me. She had no idea who I was, but googled my name, located me, and walked in my open door on the chance I would be there.
I told her that, far from intruding on me, she was like an angelic apparition. She had driven 20 miles to deliver me a message. I told her that I had lost both of my parents in the past few months, was grieving in my various ways but was not feeling disconnected from God.
She gave me a light hug, said "The Lord wants you to know that he loves you", and walked back out to her car. A silver Camry.
I told Mrs. BD that I had had a visitation from an angel. No, I am not insane. As I thought about it over the past couple of days, I began to realize that grief had indeed distanced me from God - not out of anger or anything stupid like that, but just by preoccupation with my own feelings, self-involvement.
Sunday, March 31. 2013
My pastor quoted from Tim Keller's new book, Counterfeit Gods: The Empty Promises of Money, Sex, and Power, and the Only Hope that Matters in his New Year's sermon yesterday.
He called Keller a prophet. (He refers to anyone who speaks difficult, deep Truths as "speaking prophetically.") On the subject of even good things becoming false idols, he used these Keller quotes which I took from an Amazon review:
If you happen to be in NYC on a Sunday, you could do worse than to visit his Redeemer Presbyterian Church. (It's a church, ie not a fancy building but a congregation of God-seekers and worshippers.) They have five worship locations in Manhattan.
Pastor Keller usually preaches at their 6 pm service at the Hunter College auditorium.
Friday, March 29. 2013
Good Friday is a Christian day for prayer and reflection - not that every day is not.
A quote from Kevin McCullough:
Image: El Greco, 1695
Thursday, March 28. 2013
"The Last Supper" is thought to have been a Passover seder. That supper was the source of Communion: "For as often as you eat this bread and drink this cup, you proclaim the Lord's death until he comes again."
In our church, we remember this event with a group Passover supper on Maundy (Middle English, "holy") Thursday, eaten in silence. No wine, though, as a consideration to the abstinent.
Below, Bassano's Last Supper (1542), depicting the reaction to Jesus' prediction that one of them would betray him.
Sunday, March 24. 2013
Luke 19: 28-40
28After he had said this, he went on ahead, going up to Jerusalem. 29When he had come near Bethpage and Bethany, at the place called the Mount of Olives, he sent two of the disciples, 30saying, Go into the village ahead of you, and as you enter it you will find tied there a colt that has never been ridden. Untie it and bring it here. 31If anyone asks you, Why are you untying it? just say this, The Lord needs it.32So those who were sent departed and found it as he had told them. 33As they were untying the colt, its owners asked them, Why are you untying the colt? 34They said, The Lord needs it. 35Then they brought it to Jesus; and after throwing their cloaks on the colt, they set Jesus on it. 36As he rode along, people kept spreading their cloaks on the road. 37As he was now approaching the path down from the Mount of Olives, the whole multitude of the disciples began to praise God joyfully with a loud voice for all the deeds of power that they had seen, 38saying, Blessed is the king who comes in the name of the Lord! Peace in heaven, and glory in the highest heaven! 39Some of the Pharisees in the crowd said to him, Teacher, order your disciples to stop. 40He answered, I tell you, if these were silent, the stones would shout out.
Sunday, February 24. 2013
Just a closer walk with Thee,
Wednesday, February 13. 2013
Today is Ash Wednesday.
6:1 "Beware of practicing your piety before others in order to be seen by them; for then you have no reward from your Father in heaven. 6:2 "So whenever you give alms, do not sound a trumpet before you, as the hypocrites do in the synagogues and in the streets, so that they may be praised by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:3 But when you give alms, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, 6:4 so that your alms may be done in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:5 "And whenever you pray, do not be like the hypocrites; for they love to stand and pray in the synagogues and at the street corners, so that they may be seen by others. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:6 But whenever you pray, go into your room and shut the door and pray to your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:16 "And whenever you fast, do not look dismal, like the hypocrites, for they disfigure their faces so as to show others that they are fasting. Truly I tell you, they have received their reward. 6:17 But when you fast, put oil on your head and wash your face, 6:18 so that your fasting may be seen not by others but by your Father who is in secret; and your Father who sees in secret will reward you.
6:19 "Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust consume and where thieves break in and steal; 6:20 but store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where neither moth nor rust consumes and where thieves do not break in and steal. 6:21 For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.
Saturday, February 2. 2013
I stumbled into this interesting, somewhat scholarly essay: WHAT IS RELIGION? by Prof. Thomas A. Idinopulos. A quote:
Tuesday, January 22. 2013
In the past two weeks, I have spoken with two people who have been stunned by this book: Proof of Heaven: A Neurosurgeon's Journey into the Afterlife.
It sounds like memories of a delirium to me, but who am I to gainsay a Harvard neurosurgeon?
Saturday, December 29. 2012
At Acton, The ‘Small’ God Who Brought Heaven Down to Earth. A quote:
Monday, December 24. 2012
I have attempted to lure readers with some Christmastime totty ( I just do not have it in me to post any half-nude hunky guys in Christmas outfits for our gal readers), but I would suppose that most Christians are now either frantic with last-minute gift- or food-shopping, or preparing for evening church services.
The B team will be out of range, skiing and cavorting in beautiful snow and invigorationg cold for a week after Christmas, but I have pre-posted mostly to keep my generous paycheck coming from Maggie's.
So perhaps only our Jewish, Hindu, Ba'hai, Buddhist, and Muslim friends will be reading this post, but that's fine with me.
Top pic of global warming is via Pirate. Pic of the super-special Christmas present below is probably from Theo but I am not sure.
In my view, the Christmas Eve candlelight service is not to be missed, even though I do not think of Christmastime as a particularly holy day in the church calendar. Christmas is a magical, miracle, beautiful time, but not too holy really, as least in the Protestant tradition.
The prayer: Be born in us today.
Our family doesn't do gifts, but we will assemble to church tonight to squeeze in, and will host a fine Christmas feast for 32 tomorrow at the Barrister homestead. The feast is the gift, bringing home-made foods are the gifts to eachother. Family, friends, and neighbors, coat and tie dress code including the youth, plenty of eggnog and good wines but no Festivus Pole.
First, Mead's annual Yule Log post. One quote:
Indeed. FYI, Prof, I may be an older Ivy-Leaguer but I read a Bible verse each morning, contemplate it, and pray. Before the morning coffee. As I always say, it has never harmed me to follow that discipline. Find a church tonight, you agnostics and atheists and unbelievers, etc. It won't hurt you at all.
Second, an excellent essay our loyal reader Buddy found: Is America Becoming a Pagan Kingdom?
Saturday, December 8. 2012
The earlier written narrative of the Maccabean revolt against Hellenization and outlawing Jewish worship differs in emphasis from the later “official” Jewish take on the result.
The portion of the Apocrypha (biblical era writings not included in the Jewish Bible) dealing with the events does not mention a miracle of one day’s sanctified oil for the Menorah lasting 8 days. The Book of Maccabees speaks, instead, of eight days of rejoicing the victory to substitute for the eight days of the Torah requirement to celebrate Sukkot, which were missed due to the fighting. The eight days celebration of Chanukah (i.e., rededication) became a custom for every year.
Several centuries later, in the Babylonian Talmud (finalized approx. 5th century, Common Era) interpreting Jewish law and customs, the narrative takes on a new twist, emphasis on G-d’s “miracle” of the oil, which downplays the emphasis on the accomplishment of mens’ arms to retrieve the Temple and Judaism from Hellenistic extinction.
What had happened?: The fall of the Temple and the dispersal (Diaspora) of surviving Jews. No longer having a state, Jews had to survive through craft or accommodation (different than assimilation) to the religion and politics of the states they lived within and not by emphasizing their abilities to fight, not to mention win, when persecuted.
The rise of Zionism in the late 1800s and early 1900s emphasized Jews’ ability to fight and win, and to deserve and have a state to protect Jews from thousands of years of oppression, persecution, and murder, based on thousands of years of roots, presence, worship, investment, hard work, and unceasing yearning for Israel. The more secular Zionists’ pragmatic emphasis stood in stark contrast to the more pacifist or accomodationist teachings that had dominated for almost two millennia.
Today, although a small minority within Israel still cling to illusions of a “miracle” of Palestinians and Muslims transforming their hate into peace, a larger proportion of Jews in the US and Europe – less existentially threatened – cling to such illusions. In Israel and elsewhere, Jews light the eight lights of the Menorah with the extra “helper” light, but the emphasized meaning behind the ritual differs. Adherence to G-d may have given Jews the internal strength to fight and survive, but it was not (as during the Exodus) G-d who directly intervened.
Regardless of this difference, the overriding and more important thing that unites Jews is that regardless of how to get there, either way requires faith and hope. Without faith and hope, necessary for resilience, Jews would not have had reason, cohesion or the internal strength to survive the depredations and challenges to existence of the past two-thousand years since the fall of the Temple to the Romans. Hatikva, Israel's national anthem, means The Hope.
As long as the heart within
Our hope is not yet missing,
Chanukah starts tonight. Come celebrate the miracle of endurance and survival.
The Credo, by Zionist poet Saul Tchernichovsky:
Laugh at all my silly dreams!
Tuesday, December 4. 2012
The Lord never promised us a rose garden. From Dr. Bob's post on Healing Faith:
Sunday, December 2. 2012
Readers know that, at Maggie's Farm, we delight in both the religious and the secular hedonistic aspects of Advent and Christmas.
The hedonistic, fun aspects of the season are residues of the Roman Saturnalia. At Maggie's, we love our invitations to Christmas cocktail parties. The fathers of the church were clever to recycle popular pagan feast days by pinning Christian feast days on top of them (eg Easter, Christmas).
Our Puritan New England ancestors hated Christmas and banned its celebration for many years. Pagan and Papist.
The best Advent sermon I ever heard was preached by a lady pastor. She used the metaphor of pregnancy - "expecting" - for the possibility of Christ's spirit growing in our hearts and the expectation of that miracle.
On the topic of birth and re-birth, I still feel that A Christmas Carol combines the religious joy and the secular pleasures of Christmas better than anything else. Scrooge becomes a re-born Christian and experiences all of the emotional turmoil and joys of it. Psychoanalysis before it existed.
Of course Dickens' short novel is worth reading, but the only version worth watching is the 1951 Alastair Sim version. It is better than the Dickens.
Whether Jewish, Moslem, Christian, Hindu, atheist, or whatever, if it doesn't bring a tear to your eye you are probably subhuman.
We should air-drop dvds of it across Islam, including Euroland. Might do them some good.
Sunday, August 19. 2012
When Moses ascended Mount Sinai for forty days to receive the Ten Commandments, G-d's Law, the Hebrews were fearful he wouldn't return and created a Golden Calf to worship and party. When Moses descended, in anger he smashed the tablets. G-d has not decided 'what to do with you,' and requires the Hebrews to abandon their former ways and corruptions of living as slaves in Egypt. G-d instructed Moses to again climb Mount Sinai to receive a replacement. Forty days later, during which time Moses asked of G-d to forgive the Hebrews' sin he was instructed that the Israelites repent of their weakness and faithfully observe certain holy days. Moses returned with the Ten Commandments and G-d's forgiveness.
The first day of Elul is the second time Moses went up on Mount Sinai, and 40-days later, when Moses returns, Yom Kippur, is when our fate is sealed based upon our acts.
It is not our sins toward G-d that most matters but our sins toward each other. A central reading during Yom Kippur is from Isaiah in which it is not our pieties that earn us G-d's favor but how we treat each other, particularly those more in need. Before our sins toward G-d can be forgiven, we must first earnestly strive for the fine balance of G-d's earthly standards of justice and mercy.
As distinct from holy days, like the Sabbath, during Elul we do not cease the work that can distract from our focus on G-d's way, or dress up to enter a sanctuary and pray our devotions as we would in entering the Lord's palace. We continue our mundane activities while our Lord is consciously invited into our fields to see how we daily live, correct and improve ourselves.
Sunday, July 15. 2012
They are dying, and not very slowly. We have often posted on this topic. The reason is obvious: these churches have been co-opted, captured by soft or firm Lefties who have replaced the search for Truth for political attitudes. People want God, but they are delivering pet funerals.
I suppose you could call that one aspect of "the long march through the institutions." Non-profits and other sorts of do-gooder organizations are vulnerable to being corrupted by that sort of activism because they often attract a certain sort of person.
My Protestant church is bursting at the seams with tons of young couples and tons of little kids. I know our pastors pretty well, but have no idea what they think about any political or otherwise controversial topic. Nor do I care, because they view their job as one of saving souls through Christ and that's what they do. Lots of people hunger for that.
There are many reasons people take two hours on Sunday morning to go to church, but politics and trendy silliness are not among them.
From Akasie: What Ails the Episcopalians - Its numbers and coffers shrinking, the church votes for pet funerals but offers little to the traditional faithful:
Re the latter, so much for mission work, I guess. "Gee, I'm sorry we told you about Jesus"! My view of ministry is simple. Preach the Word to all, visit the sick, inspire the marrying and comfort the bereaved. Mostly, preach the Word of God. What people decide to do with the lessons should be no concern of churches.
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