10 Questions to Ask Your Teens

by Jason Matthews | When it comes to your relationship with God, what’s more important to you—how you feel about Him or what you know about Him and Why? We need to ask our teens questions about God and religion to find out what’s really going on in their heads…and what they ultimately believe in their hearts.

It’s spring time, which means that another school year of youth ministry is about to wrap up. For some of us that just means a shift to summer program, and we’re already starting to think about things like camps and mission trips. For others, it may mean a total shut down of our programmed events and we’re already starting to think about slower days and just hanging out with students. Either way, now is a good time to look back and evaluate the “success” of your ministry this school year.

Youth ministry “success” can be measured in different ways. Numbers certainly matter, so we track and measure things like attendance and professions of faith and how many students are signed up to go on the mission trip. But, numbers don’t always tell us the whole story…and without the whole story, it’s hard to truly evaluate if your ministry year was a “success” or not. If we really want to know how we’re doing (and how our ministries are doing with raising the next generation of Jesus followers), we need to ask bigger questions, ones that can’t be measured on a spreadsheet. We need to ask them questions about God and religion to find out what’s really going on in their heads…and what they ultimately believe in their hearts.

So, recently, I asked my students to anonymously respond to ten questions. And, I’m finding that their answers are all over the map. From the typical “Sunday School” answer to answers full of “Christianese.” From answers that reflect a solid, Biblical understanding of what it means to be a Christian to ones that reflect the moral therapeutic deism that is so prevalent among students today. But, at least I know what my students actually believe…and that helps me in two ways. It helps me look back on the school year and evaluate the “success” of our ministry in making disciples. And, it helps me look ahead to the next school year and start thinking about what our students need the most to grow in their faith.

If you want to dig a little deeper into how “successful” your ministry is in raising up the next generation of Jesus followers, you might consider asking them these ten questions:

  1. What does it mean to be a Christian?
  2. What do you see as “Christianity” today? How would you describe it?
  3. What turns unchurched people off from Christianity?
  4. What turns churched people off from Christianity?
  5. What is the role of the Christian in the world today? Why are we here?
  6. What is the role of the Bible in today’s world? What’s its purpose?
  7. Why do you go to church? What’s the purpose of the church today?
  8. What do you value the most about your relationship with God? Why?
  9. Do you believe people are born mostly good or mostly bad? Why?
  10. When it comes to your relationship with God, what’s more important to you—how you feel about Him or what you know about Him? Why?

Those are my ten. What other questions are you asking your students right now to find out what they believe?

Jason Matthews is a youth pastor in Washington State, where he’s been serving students for over 20 years.  When he doesn’t have to be in the office, he loves to be outside with his family, hiking and exploring the Pacific Northwest.  He also loves to network with other youth workers.  You can connect with Jason on Facebook, Twitter @PJMATTHEWS77, and Instagram (@wearethebreak) where he’ll often post on life and youth ministry.



The Monks Save European Civilization

by Jesus Christ Savior | Pope Gregory the Great, as a leader and defender of the Holy Roman Catholic Church in the Middle Ages, ensured that the Church would endure and grow during those difficult times, when much change was taking place in the Roman Empire and beyond (Image, Pope St. Gregory the Great 540-604).

The Monastic Orders have been a premium influence on the formation of Christian culture. For not only have they been islands of asceticism and holiness that have served as ideals to a secular world, but also they have provided many if not most of the religious leaders within each historic age, especially during times of renewal and reform. The word monos is the Greek word for one or alone. Monasticism began in the East and spread throughout Europe and saved European civilization.

The practice of leaving the ambitions of daily life and retreating to the solitude of the desert was seen throughout Palestine, Syria, and Egypt, St. John the Baptist (Mark 1:4) an early example.

The father of Christian monasticism was St. Antony of the Desert (251-356), the first of the Desert Fathers. Antony of Egypt took to heart the words of Christ to the rich young man, ” Go sell what you have and give to the poor, and you will have treasure in heaven” (Matthew 19:21). He headed across the Nile to a mountain near Pispir to live a life of solitude, prayer, and poverty . Soon many gathered around him to imitate his life, living as hermits in nearby caves in the mountain, and in 305 he emerged from solitude to teach his followers the way of the ascetic. He then moved further into the desert by Mount Kolzim near the Red Sea, where a second group of hermits gathered and later formed a monastery. He lived there for 45 years until his death in 356.

St. Maron (350-410), a contemporary of St. John Chrysostom, was a monk in the fourth century who left Antioch for the Orontes River to lead a life of holiness and prayer. As he was given the gift of healing, his life of solitude was short-lived, and soon he had many followers that adopted his monastic way. Following the death of St. Maron in 410, his disciples built a monastery in his memory, which would form the nucleus of the Eastern Catholic Maronite Church of Lebanon.

The fall of the Roman Empire to the barbarian invasions left European civilization in disarray, for the social structure under one ruler in Rome was destroyed. The preservation of culture and the conversion of the barbarians to Christianity was left to an unlikely group: the monastics of Europe. Their missionary efforts converted one tribe after another, so that eventually all of Europe was united in the worship of the one Christian God.

St. Patrick as Apostle to Ireland founded the monastery of Armagh in 444 and other monasteries throughout Ireland. As the social unit in Ireland and much of Europe at the time was the tribe in the countryside, the monastery was the center of Church life and learning. The Irish monks that followed him converted much of northern Europe. The lasting legacy of the Irish monks has been the present-day form of confession. In early times, penance was in public and severe, often lasting for years, such that Baptism was generally postponed until one’s deathbed. The Irish monks began private confession and allowed one to repeat confession as necessary.

The monk St. Benedict (480-547) was born in Nursia of nobility but chose a life of solitude in Subiaco outside of Rome. Soon he moved nearby to build a monastery at Monte Cassino in 529 and there wrote the Rule of Benedict. Monte Cassino placed all of the monks in one monastery under an abbot. The guiding principle for the monastery was ora et labora, or pray and work. The monastery provided adequate food and a place to sleep and served as a center of conversion and learning. Known for its moderation, Monte Cassino and Benedict’s rule became the standard for monasteries throughout Europe and the pattern for Western civilization.

The first monk to become Pope was St. Gregory the Great (540-604). Born to Roman nobility, Gregory at first pursued a political career and became Prefect of Rome. However he gave up position and wealth and retreated to his home to lead a monastic life. He was recalled to Rome and soon was elected Pope in 590 and served until his death in 604. A man of great energy, he is known for four historic achievements. His theological and spiritual writings shaped the thought of the Middle Ages; he made the Pope the de facto ruler of central Italy; his charisma strengthened the Papacy in the West; and he was dedicated to the conversion of England to Christianity. Gregory sent the monk Augustine to England in 597. The conversion of King Aethelbert of Kent led St. Augustine to be named the first Archbishop of Canterbury. Soon English Benedictine monks were being sent to convert the rest of Europe, such as the English monk Winfrid, better known as St. Boniface, who served from 723-739 as the Apostle to Germany.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



Pope Leo the Great (440-461)

Jesus Christ Savior | The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis.

Pope Leo entered the Papacy at a difficult time. Alaric had sacked Rome in 410, and the Huns and the Visigoths were gaining strength. However the Pope proved to be a master statesman and history has deservedly accorded him the title of Pope Leo the Great.

One of his first actions in 441 was to bless the missionary efforts of St. Patrick and to ordain him as Bishop of Ireland.

A tension in Church authority between papal leadership and collegiality of the bishops was developing over theological questions. Rome was the place of martyrdom for Saints Peter and Paul. Rome’s position as the capital of the Roman Empire was also supportive of a leadership role for the Bishop of Rome. The Bishop of Rome as successor to St. Peter was the Pastor and Shepherd of the whole Church, as seen with St. Clement of Rome in his First Letter to the Corinthians in 96 AD, and with Pope Leo the Great.

The Council of Ephesus, the Third Ecumenical Council, in 431 recognized Mary as the Mother of God, which was intrinsic to the human nature (ϕύσις – physis = nature) of Christ. The independent Church of the East in Persia believed in two distinct natures (dyophysite) in Christ and did not accept the wording. Pope Leo synthesized the thought of the differing Schools of Antioch and Alexandria in a letter known as the Tome. The Council of Chalcedon in 451 was the Fourth Ecumenical Council, which supported Leo’s stance that Christ had two natures, Divine and human in perfect harmony, in one Person or hypostasis. This set the theology for Roman and Byzantine theology and was important for European unity. However, Eastern Christians in Armenia, Syria, Egypt, Ethiopia, and India who still believed that Christ was one incarnate nature (monophysite) of the Word of God objected to Chalcedon and formed the Oriental Orthodox Churches.

Just one year later (452), Attila and the Huns were threatening outside the walls of Rome. Pope Leo met Attila, who decided to call off the invasion!

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



The Cultural Train Wreck That Is Hollywood

by Tom Allen | I went to see three movies over Christmas break—Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, and the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody—and, as usual, I was both entertained and upset by them. These are engaging films that are all marred by the worst kind of roll-your-eyes propaganda that our still largely naïve and gullible public passively absorbs.

Ours is a tragic age, but based on my cultural observations over the Christmas holidays hardly anyone appears to be taking it tragically.

Instead, people are blissfully adrift: eating, drinking, marrying, and being given in marriage. Few seem to be noticing the red tide rising.

The holidays always afford me the opportunity to take the temperature of the culture by taking in a few movies at the multiplex. Having worked in film for the past two decades, I remain in awe of its power as an art form. A well-made movie can be a transcendent, transporting experience. Unfortunately, the propaganda factor has swamped the American film industry to such an extent that it has become unbearable for me, so most of the movies I watch now are foreign. Once you start “seeing” the agitprop you can no longer not see it, and your ability to slip into suspended disbelief is forever compromised. So I visit the movie houses at Christmastime mostly to see how the train wreck is progressing.

I’ll state it as plainly as Archie Bunker would: there’s a Commie bias in Hollywood films—nearly all of them. The Cultural Marxism unleashed by the “Frankfurt School” nearly a century ago has become the dominant philosophy of the western world. Its overt proselytism is pervasive and relentless. The Tinseltown propaganda machine has changed our culture in astonishing ways over the past 50 years, and up next is nothing less than the forced revision of our very identities as men and women.

This isn’t just a theory. It is manifestly obvious to anyone with eyes to see. In January of 1963, the House of Representatives reviewed and entered into the Congressional record a document entitled “Communist Goals for Taking Over America,” derived from researcher Cleon Skousen’s book The Naked Communist. In addition to such tactics as promoting the UN as the only hope for mankind, capturing one or both of the political parties in the United States, softening the curriculum of schools and infiltrating the press, it contained the following agenda items:

  • Gain control of key positions in radio, TV, and motion pictures.
  • Continue discrediting American culture by degrading all forms of artistic expression.
  • Break down cultural standards of morality by promoting pornography and obscenity in books, magazines, motion pictures, radio, and TV.
  • Present homosexuality, degeneracy and promiscuity as “normal, natural, healthy.”
  • Eliminate all laws governing obscenity by calling them “censorship” and a violation of free speech and free press.

You’d think we would have heard about all this in school. But alas, the Cultural Marxists swept into American academic institutions at the same time they infiltrated Hollywood, prompted by influential radicals like Antonio Gramsci, the Italian Communist who argued that the Left could transform society by seizing control of the “cultural means of production” via a “march through the institutions,” including academia.

I’d also never learned about or read Bella Dodd while at St. Augustine’s or Notre Dame. Dodd spoke of the infiltration of the Catholic Church by Soviet agents and Commie fellow-travelers in the mid-twentieth century, identifying the Catholic Church as the only one “feared” by the Communists. Clerical fellow-travelers would become a new threat along with the older Modernist one previously identified by Pope St. Pius X as posing the greatest danger to the Church. Dodd echoed Pius’s claim that the attempted destruction of the Church would be carried out from within.

After her expulsion from the Party in the early 1950s, Dodd fell in with Bishop Fulton J. Sheen and revealed how in the 1930s “we put eleven hundred men into the priesthood in order to destroy the Church from within.” The idea was for these men to be ordained and then climb the ladder of influence and authority—to become monsignors and bishops. “Right now,” she wrote, “they are in the highest places, and they are working to bring about change … changes that would be so drastic that you will not recognize the Catholic Church.”

It appears Ms. Dodd—and Sen. Joseph McCarthy—was right about the “Red Scare” in twentieth-century America. Our institutions were besieged while academia and the news media pretended all was well. Feminine Mystique author Betty Friedan was a secret Communist Party member, and pioneering gay activists such as Harry Hay were also Reds.

Dodd is said to have predicted that once the priest-infiltrators became bishops their influence would spread because “bishops beget bishops.” They would use their leverage to elevate and promote clergymen who would not necessarily be dedicated Communists, but who were of a progressive, “rainbow” mentality and whose influence would foster a new philosophy and theology within the ranks of the clergy. This is why things are the way they are today both in the Church and in the culture.

Awake to the Propaganda Reality of Film
I awoke from my personal media-driven stupor a couple of decades ago and started seeing the disturbing signs. So thankfully, from the time my children were young, I whispered in their ears in dark theaters phrases like, “Here comes the obligatory ‘father-is-an-idiot’ scene,” or “Here is where they disparage Christianity,” or “Here’s where they advance the gay agenda.” And it played out like clockwork. Now my grown kids predict such scenes and plot devices themselves. They and their friends are awake to the propaganda reality, and aware also that these scenes are the reasons why most of the movies get made and distributed in the first pace.

I started seeing the corruption while at film school in New York, but I did not see all of it, for I could not have imagined the extent of it then, or the venality of the propagandizers. Working closely with Mel Gibson on The Passion of the Christ, I would think he was off his rocker every time he’d go on about how the Curia had been corrupted and the liturgy ruined and sacraments were invalid in places. All that was a bridge too far for me at the time, but, like Bella Dodd and Joe McCarthy, Mel was right about much.

In any event, I went to see three movies over Christmas break—Clint Eastwood’s The Mule, Bradley Cooper’s A Star Is Born, and the Freddie Mercury/Queen biopic, Bohemian Rhapsody—and, as usual, I was both entertained and upset by them. These are engaging films that are all marred by the worst kind of roll-your-eyes propaganda that our still largely naïve and gullible public passively absorbs.

Clint’s movie is excellent on balance but not without cave-ins to the prevailing left wing culture. I’ve long recognized and endured the advancement of the homosexual agenda in movie after movie over the years. At this point, practically every movie ever made contains some genuflection to the gay culture, and Clint’s newest is no exception.

The character Clint portrays, a 90-year-old horticulturalist who made all the wrong decisions in life and suddenly finds that he has nothing and no one in his old age, decides to become a courier, i.e., a “mule,” to make some fast cash and at least win the favor of his endearing granddaughter. Mission accomplished as he gets infused with instant drug riches and the concomitant rise in social status. Stopping for a meal on one of his drug runs, he encounters a biker gang which turns out to be a group of motorcycle lesbians—“dykes on bikes”—who in their moment of recognition in a major movie jump at the chance to squeeze their breasts and boast of their manliness. Gone are the days of charm and sweetness to gain favor. Today it’s all head banging Antifa and in-your-face nasty. This is the advancement of the gay agenda with a twist. Reminiscent of Neil Jordan’s The Crying Game, released during my “awakening” period in film school, one minute you’re looking at a standard American biker gang and the next you’re seeing, as if through a kaleidoscope lens, an agitated group of angry women who menace an old man for not recognizing their femaleness.

Even Clint needs to bow to the modern-day altar of gender confusion. It was a completely gratuitous scene, like all gay commercials, doing nothing at all to advance the story. But it needed to be there for the same reason that a hagiographic Ruth Bader Ginsberg biopic needed to be advertised before the film—to get the masses thinking “the right way” on an issue. We must be indoctrinated to believe that mean and hostile biker women are acceptable without question. We must be indoctrinated to believe that RBG is the greatest justice to ever grace the Supreme Court.

More Obligatory Gay Agitprop
A Star Is Born raised the obligatory gay agitprop scene to a whole other level. With homosexual marriage already enshrined into law, the next frontier of the Godless left is the normalization of transgenderism. Bradley Cooper—to my surprise, because I thought he was a normal male, treats viewers to the longest transgender scene in (mainstream) cinematic history when his aging, alcoholic character drifts into a drag bar and encounters a singer with serious vocal chops belting out Edith Piaf’s “La Vie en Rose.” This, of course, is Stefani Germanotta, aka Lady Gaga, unmasked but provocative as ever, bringing down the house with one of her trademark performances. This is what’s required, you see, to get millions of people to stare, rapt, for half an hour (or so it seemed) at XCUs (extra close-ups) of men in drag with painted faces, bouffants, and eyelash extensions at a two-drink-minimum “bring-your-own-boobs” establishment. Again, mission accomplished. Transnormative agenda advanced. It’s the Star Wars “Cantina Scene” redux, only the characters in this one are wunnnderful: funny, loving, and supportive, to a man. They’re fantastic, all of them—so don’t complain when they read to your kids at the library story hour.

In the following scene we’re treated to Germanotta, in a straight bar now, socking an off-duty cop in the kisser, repeatedly, for bugging the Bradley Cooper character, whom she’s taken a liking to. So you get girl power and anti-police narratives advanced simultaneously in one scene.

The RBG advertisement was by no means the only movie trailer to advance an agenda that’s as disruptive, transgressive, left wing, and anti-Catholic as ever. A preview to a film called “Greta,” which I thought might be a movie about Garbo, turned out instead to be about a possessed stalker who is today’s answer to Glenn Close’s “every-Lothario’s-worst-nightmare” Fatal Attraction turn. Only this one blesses herself while surrounded by Catholic iconography when she’s not perpetrating horrors on her terrified victim. Nowadays, the monsters are not in the biker gangs or drag bars or Supreme Court. They’re in the Church.

Next came a preview of Captain Marvel, the comic book character Lennon sings about in “Bungalow Bill,” who I didn’t realize was female. Once again, audiences were treated to the kind of desensitizing, smash-mouth brutality that’s meant to exorcize the demons haunting the male-hating feminists who make these anti-patriarchal films.

Then came the third feature of my Christmas week, the one I was looking forward to the most: Bohemian Rhapsody. I was entranced by that song the first time I heard it as a young lad on the bus to school. I expected gay aggrandizement in the film, of course, because Freddie was so out there before dying of AIDS in 1991. What I did not expect was the tender, male-on-male open-mouthed kissing scenes, again in XCU, sustained, and with the kind of intimate sound design that makes you practically feel the actors’ tongues slithering into your ear.

I’m conflicted about Queen. I loved the music they produced during my growing up years. “You’re My Best Friend” is simply lovely. “Bohemian Rhapsody” woke me up to the emotional power of pop music during my grade school years. “We Are the Champions” united rival competitors at my swim meets and became the anthem of my high school swimming years. However, I never wanted my children to sing lines like “I sometimes wish I’d never been born at all,” or “nothing really matters … to me,” or worst of all, “Beelzebub has a devil put aside for me,” and in so doing program their brains.

When I was young I thought of Freddie Mercury as I had thought of Elton John before him—a flamboyant and exuberant attention-seeking showman intent on driving record sales. Now I pity him as a man who was raised by loving, straight-laced parents in a monotheistic tradition who got engaged to a beautiful girl but eventually surrendered to his lusts and then feared the eternal consequences of doing so. His is a sobering cautionary tale. We must remain ever on our guard.

So what is a faithful Catholic to do in the face of all this, as the walls of the culture and Church tremble and collapse all around us? Should we see these movies at all? Perhaps it is the duty of some of us to do so and report back on what we see so that others will gain the perspective needed to withstand the assault. For the tide is high and rising.

 

Tom Allen is the Director of Marketing at the Sophia Institute Press.



Archaeologists Dig Up Authentic Biblical Artifacts at Ancient City of Shiloh

by Chris Mitchell/CBS News – JERUSALEM, Israel – Archaeology doesn’t set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude, Dr. Scott Stripling

Driving along the route known as the Way of the Patriarchs in Samaria, the heart of biblical Israel, you’ll come to ancient Shiloh.

The Bible says this is the place where Joshua parceled out the Promised Land to the 12 tribes of Israel. It’s also where the Tabernacle of the Lord stood for more than 300 years.

Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Excavation Director Dr. Scott Stripling, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Dr. Scott Stripling directs the excavations at Shiloh. Along with dozens of volunteers, he and his crew are digging into history.

“Welcome to ancient Shiloh,” Stripling greeted us. “This is the first capital of ancient Israel and it’s a sacred spot because the Mishkan was here, the Tabernacle, where people came to connect with God.”

“We’re dealing with real people, real places, real events,” he continued. “This is not mythology. The coins that we excavated today – we’re talking about coins of Herod the Great, Pontius Pilate, Thestos, Felix, Agrippa the First, Agrippa the Second. The Bible talks about these people. We’ve got the image right here.”

Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Aerial view of ancient Shiloh, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

That ‘image’ includes a fortified wall built by the Canaanites. The team finds a treasure trove of artifacts there, which includes ancient coins and some 2,000 pieces of pottery a day.

“Now, this one was from yesterday,” he said. “It’s been washed already so you see the same form right out of the ground in yesterday and those are those handles from the stone vessels. Remember, Jesus’ first miracle in Cana? There were stone jars full of water. That’s that ritual purity culture of the first century.”

Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Unearthing ancient pottery, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

An archaeologist like Dr. Stripling looks at these shards as a fine time piece.

“Just like your great grandmother’s pottery is different from your pottery that you’re using today…once we learn the pottery, then we can use it as our primary means of dating.”

Stripling says literally digging into the Bible can change your life.”

“You can read the Bible, you can walk the Bible, but the ultimate is to dig the Bible,” he said. “You know, when we actually get into the swill, like these students from Lea University. They’re literally – it’s under their fingernails and in their nose and in their mouth and their ears and they’re exposing this ancient culture. It becomes one with you. It’s sort of like we came out of the soil and as we dig into the soil, we connect with God and with each other, I think, in a very important way,” he said.

Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Abigail Leavitt, Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Abigail Leavitt, a student at the University of Pikesville, serves as object registrar.
“I love getting my hands dirty. I love digging in the dirt. It’s my favorite thing,” she told CBN News.

While people of all age volunteer at the dig, the main drivers are students like Abigail.

“It’s tiring and exhausting, but it’s really rewarding,” she said. “It’s exciting to find ancient things – things that have been just waiting for us for thousands of years.”

Leavitt says the Bible comes alive in the dirt.

“I read the Bible totally differently than I did before I came here, and I can see when I read the Bible I know the places, I know what’s going on. I understand it more deeply, especially where previous archaeologists have claimed the archaeology disproves the Bible. But when we dig here, we find that everything matches. You read it in the Bible. You dig in the dirt and there it is,” she said.

Stripling said, “Archaeology doesn’t set out to prove or disprove the Bible. What we want to do is to illuminate the biblical text, the background of the text, so to set it in a real world culture to what we call verisimilitude,” he explained.

Cross-section of the Archaeological dig - Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

Cross-section of the Archaeological dig – Photo, CBN News, Jonathan Goff

“So, we get an ancient literary description. Now, we have a material culture that matches that,” he continued. “Chris, you’re sitting where Samuel and Eli and Hannah and these people that we have read about, they came just like us, needing answers, needing to connect with God, needing forgiveness.”

Stripling says they dig into the past and find lessons for the present.

One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay

One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay

“One of the faith lessons for us is that God is the potter and we are the clay. And even if our lives are broken like these vessels are, God told Jeremiah after He had told him to go to Shiloh and see what He had done, He told him to go to the potter’s house and look at a flawed vessel and see how the potter puts it back on the wheel and works out the imperfections. So my faith lesson is this: Yes we’re imperfect, but if we will allow God, He wants to put us [on] His potter’s wheel and make us a vessel of honor.”

Stripling often cites Psalm 102.

O Zion, your servants take delight in its stones and favor its dust.” (Ps. 102:14)

“For me this is sacred soil. This is where the Mishkan was that answers the most basic of all human questions: ‘How do I connect with God?’ And I think that’s their most basic question,” he said.

“I know I messed up. I know that God is holy. How do I bridge that gap when I sin against other people, when I sin against God. Ultimately, Chris, if the Bible is true, then the God of the Bible has a moral claim on our lives. And as we establish the veracity of the biblical text, I hope that everyone watching would just think about that – that God loves us and He has a moral claim on our lives.”

Please check out the original article on the CBN News website. Please don’t forget to support their work on their website.

Chris Mitchell covers CBN News and events in Israel and the Middle East. He brings a Biblical and prophetic perspective to these daily news events that shape our world. Chris first began reporting on the Middle East in the mid-1990s. He repeatedly traveled there to report on the religious and political issues facing Israel and the surrounding Arab states. One of his more significant reports focused on the emigration of persecuted Christians from the Middle East.

In addition to his reports for The 700 Club, Chris is also a regular contributor to Christian World News, a weekly 30-minute newscast that airs nationally in multiple markets. After almost a decade with CBN News, Chris’s goal is to provide in his stories the Biblical “understanding of the times” described in I Chronicles 12:32. Connect with Chris via @JlemDateline and .

 

Constantine and the Edict of Milan (313 AD)

Jesus Christ Savior | Five centers of Christianity within the Roman Empire – Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Byzantium, and Rome – evolved into Patriarchates after Constantine recognized Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313 (image: Remains of the Imperial palace of Mediolanum (Milan). The imperial palace (mainly built by Maximianus, colleague of Diocletian) was a large complex with several buildings, gardens, courtyards, for Emperor’s private and public life, for his court, family and imperial bureaucracy by Lorenzo Fratti).

Christians were severely persecuted through three centuries of the Roman Empire, especially at the hands of Nero (64 AD), Trajan (98-117), right up to Diocletian (284-305). But their powerful witness through martyrdom only served to spread Christianity!

Constantine became Emperor of the West in 306. As he was in Gaul at the time, he still had to capture Rome where Maxentius held sway. Prior to battle, he had a dream or vision of Christ on the Cross, a cross of light, and was instructed to ornament the shields of his soldiers with the Savior’s monogram – the Greek letters Χ (chi) and Ρ (rho). He defeated Maxentius at the Battle at Milvian Bridge over the River Tiber and became the sole Roman Emperor in 312, attributing his victory to the Christian God.

Welcome relief from Christian martyrdom came with the Edict of Milan in 313, through which Constantine and Licinius, the Emperor of the East, granted Christianity complete religious tolerance. His defeat of Licinius in 324 made him sole Emperor of the entire Roman Empire, and he moved the seat of the Empire to Byzantium in 330 and renamed it Constantinople.

Constantine considered himself Christian and did much to protect and support Christianity. Sunday as the Lord’s Day was made a day of rest, and December 25 was celebrated as the birthday of Jesus. He restored property that once belonged to Christians. After his mother Helena discovered the True Cross, Constantine built the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at the site of the crucifixion, burial, and Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ in Jerusalem. He also built the Church of the Nativity in Bethlehem and the Church of St. Peter in Rome.

Five centers of Christianity within the Roman Empire – Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria, Byzantium, and Rome – evolved into Patriarchates after Constantine recognized Christianity in the Edict of Milan in 313.

Christianity remain undivided until mankind sought to define the hidden nature of God and the mystery of Christ. A dispute concerning the relation of the Father and the Son arose in Egypt known as the Arian controversy. Constantine called the First Ecumenical Council in 325, known as the Council of Nicaea. The Council declared that the Son was of the same substance – ὁμοούσιος – homoousios – with the Father, and formed the initial Nicene Creed. The Nicene Creed was expanded and finalized at the Council of Constantinople in 381 to include homoousios for the Holy Spirit as well, by quoting John 15:26, “the Holy Spirit who proceeds from the Father,” to form the Nicene-Constantinopolitan Creed (still called the Nicene Creed). The Apostles’ and Nicene Creeds are important to the Tradition of the Church.

Constantine considered himself both head of state and father of the Christian Churches. The alliance of Church and State in the Roman Empire first seen under Constantine was the beginning of Christendom. 1, 17-22.

Our anonymous author is a physician and a Masters graduate in Theology and Christian Ministry from Franciscan University, Steubenville, Ohio. He teaches Sunday Bible Class at St. James Catholic Church and serves both Pastoral Care and the Medical Staff at St. Joseph’s Hospital.



What Nationalism Means Today

by James Kalb | Among ordinary Americans, though, the usual form of what’s now called nationalism is the belief that the first obligation of American government is to look after the common good of the American people. (image: Mount Rushmore Sculpture Monument Landmark, Pixabay).  

A piece I wrote last month on globalism and nationalism led to some extremely spirited discussion. A few more comments may be useful.

Journalists and commentators today use the word “nationalism” very broadly to refer to any resistance to globalization based on attachment to national identity. This usage lines up with current disputes regarding the legitimacy and future role of the nation state, so it makes sense to go along with it when discussing current affairs.

One point that confuses discussion is that Americans for the most part haven’t called themselves nationalists. They’ve been more likely to call themselves patriots or just plain Americans. The few who view nationalism as their basic political identity have often held views that most find deeply misguided. They might be “national greatness” conservatives, who think America has a manifest destiny to put the world in order, or white nationalists, who don’t much like America and want to establish a new nation on the basis of racial separation.

Among ordinary Americans, though, the usual form of what’s now called nationalism is the belief that the first obligation of American government is to look after the common good of the American people. This is generally taken to mean less immigration, fewer foreign wars, fewer social innovations like multiculturalism and transgenderism which threaten the structure of everyday human relations, and measures, like more advantageous terms of trade, to support well-paying jobs for Americans.

This kind of nationalism lines up with standard popular conservatism. Commentators sympathetic to it—some of whom have begun to use the term—generally think it’s important for societies with some historical and cultural coherence to maintain it, for example, by resisting mass immigration, and to determine their policy in accordance with their own understanding of the common good of their people. The alternative, they believe, is for them to hand over their national fate and the well-being of their people to bureaucrats and billionaires who answer to no one but themselves.

Another source of confusion is the varied meanings nationalism has had over the years. When many people hear the word they think of arms races, the two world wars, suppression of dissent, and so on. There’s some basis for this association, but one could just as easily associate nationalism with democracy and resistance to foreign domination. It depends on which account of history one believes.

In broad terms, a nation state is a state that represents a people that exist pre-politically. This means it represents a people that understand themselves as such because of historical and cultural ties that don’t depend on the state, so that they would continue to be a people even if the state were divided or absorbed by another state. Thus, Poland is a nation state, Austria-Hungary was not a nation state, the Kurds are a nation without a state, and the extent to which the United States has been a nation state is debatable and has varied over the years.

Nationalism has to do with supporting the nation state as a political form. What that involves varies. It matters, for example, whether the point is to support the supremacy of the nation, state, or ethnic people over family, locality, and religion, or to support one’s own nation against other nations, or simply to maintain the existence and distinctiveness of nation states in the face of the global order now emerging.

It also matters how intense the support is. Is the nation the supreme loyalty, so that the national interest takes precedence over all other considerations? Or is the claim merely that the national community is legitimate and important, and the common good should normally guide its government’s policies?

The presence of regional variations and national minorities, and the attitude toward them, also make a difference. The idea of the nation state, like the idea of democracy, implies a state that basically represents the majority. So if the majority is Catholic and French-speaking then Catholicism and French language and culture will pervade state institutions. Something must pervade them, since they’re not going to be neutral on issues like language and the nature of man and reality, so why not go along with what predominates in the society unless there’s something inherently wrong in it?

On the other hand, no people is altogether unified, and justice requires respect for minority rights and interests. How that plays out always involves compromise. It seems wrong for the French to forbid the Breton language, yet acceptable for them to insist Breton schools teach French, and right for them to resist immigration by people who aren’t much like the French and don’t seem likely to become so any time soon. Attempts at perfect solutions to such problems work badly. These include present-day multiculturalism, which tries to equalize the position of all groups in all settings, and overreaching forms of nationalism that try to do away with minority and regional cultures, languages, and religions.

How these things work themselves out changes with the times. At first nationalism had to do with making the territorial state stronger than the webs of the local and international authorities which ordered medieval society. This generally meant increasing the power of the king over other political actors. The justification for this, apart from royal self-interest, was efficient governance. The king didn’t want the Church, nobles, or local authorities disrupting policy.

As time went by, better communications and the growth of cities and the market economy led to the decline of personal, local, and religious ties in favor of general linguistic and cultural connections as a ground for social loyalty. As a result the emphasis shifted from unification of monarchies to unification of peoples.

The people hoped this trend would strengthen their position with regard to government. If the citizens of a state had a common history, culture, and language they would be able to deliberate and act collectively and so affect policy. And governments hoped that the nation state would become stronger with a more unified people.

But as nationalism won out, and Europe became a continent of nation states, it had fewer constructive goals. It was less concerned with making government effective and putting it in touch with the people than asserting the nation over against other nations. It also acted more and more as a substitute religion. These trends led to catastrophe, so after the Second World War nationalism was discredited in the West.

In the Third World, though, nationalism arose because it gave form to the desire for independence from colonial powers. And in our own time it’s making a comeback in the West for similar reasons. What’s called nationalism in the West today isn’t a struggle against local autonomy or the Church, nor is it a matter of competition among nations or suppression of minorities. Instead, it’s a struggle against an emerging world order that destroys all borders and all authority other than that of the global markets and transnational regulatory bureaucracies. It’s a way of protecting what is local and particular through borders backed by sovereignty.

This was the point of Brexit and of Trump’s election. The nationalism those events express has something in common with the regional nationalisms of Europe. It’s basically defensive, and stands for what has evolved among the people and defines them over against constructed larger wholes like a unified Italy, the EU, and global economic authorities.

The extent to which Catholics should favor one side or another in such disputes is a matter of political prudence. Church spokesmen today mostly favor global institutions over nationalism, and free migration over restrictions. I’ve discussed the social teaching of the Church regarding these matters, and argued that the teachings on government, immigration, and nation don’t quite support those views, largely because they don’t sufficiently take into account basic aspects of modern political life.

Too much can be said on both sides to resolve the matter here, though, so further discussion will have to await another occasion.

James Kalb is a lawyer, independent scholar, and Catholic convert who lives in Brooklyn, New York. He is the author of The Tyranny of Liberalism: Understanding and Overcoming Administered Freedom, Inquisitorial Tolerance, and Equality by Command (ISI Books, 2008), and, most recently, Against Inclusiveness: How the Diversity Regime is Flattening America and the West and What to Do About It (Angelico Press, 2013).



Nelson Mandela: The Human Side of the Icon

Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world (image: courtesy of Nelson Mandela Foundation, ANC leadership © Louise Gubb).

Living the Legacy, Explore the Life of Nelson Mandela

Rolihlahla Mandela was born into the Madiba clan in the village of Mvezo, in the Eastern Cape, on 18 July 1918. His mother was Nonqaphi Nosekeni and his father was Nkosi Mphakanyiswa Gadla Mandela, principal counsellor to the Acting King of the Thembu people, Jongintaba Dalindyebo. In 1930, when he was 12 years old, his father died and the young Rolihlahla became a ward of Jongintaba at the Great Place in Mqhekezweni1.

Nelson Mandela is one of the most inspiring and iconic figures of our age. Now, after a lifetime of taking pen to paper to record thoughts and events, hardships and victories, he has opened his personal archive, which offers an unprecedented insight into his remarkable life through his new book Conversations with Myself.

Conversations With Myself gives readers access to the private man behind the public figure: from letters written in the darkest hours of Mandela’s twenty-seven years of imprisonment to the draft of an unfinished sequel to Long Walk to Freedom. Here he is making notes and even doodling during meetings, or recording troubled dreams on the desk calendar of his cell on Robben Island; writing journals while on the run during the anti-apartheid struggles in the early 1960s, or conversing with friends in almost seventy hours of recorded conversations. In these pages he is neither an icon nor a saint; here he is like you and me.

An intimate journey from the first stirrings of his political conscience to his galvanizing role on the world stage, Conversations With Myself is a rare chance to spend time with Nelson Mandela the man, in his own voice: direct, clear, private. Introduced with a foreword by US President Barack Obama, Conversations with Myself allows for the first time unhindered insight into the human side of the icon.

Hearing the elders’ stories of his ancestors’ valour during the wars of resistance, he dreamed also of making his own contribution to the freedom struggle of his people.

He attended primary school in Qunu where his teacher, Miss Mdingane, gave him the name Nelson, in accordance with the custom of giving all schoolchildren “Christian” names.

He completed his Junior Certificate at Clarkebury Boarding Institute and went on to Healdtown, a Wesleyan secondary school of some repute, where he matriculated.

Mandela began his studies for a Bachelor of Arts degree at the University College of Fort Hare but did not complete the degree there as he was expelled for joining in a student protest.

On his return to the Great Place at Mqhekezweni the King was furious and said if he didn’t return to Fort Hare he would arrange wives for him and his cousin Justice. They ran away to Johannesburg instead, arriving there in 1941. There he worked as a mine security officer and after meeting Walter Sisulu, an estate agent, he was introduced to Lazer Sidelsky. He then did his articles through a firm of attorneys – Witkin, Eidelman and Sidelsky.

He completed his BA through the University of South Africa and went back to Fort Hare for his graduation in 1943.

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Nelson Mandela (top row, second from left) on the steps of Wits University. (Image- © Wits University Archives)

Meanwhile, he began studying for an LLB at the University of the Witwatersrand. By his own admission he was a poor student and left the university in 1952 without graduating. He only started studying again through the University of London after his imprisonment in 1962 but also did not complete that degree.

In 1989, while in the last months of his imprisonment, he obtained an LLB through the University of South Africa. He graduated in absentia at a ceremony in Cape Town.

Entering politics

Mandela, while increasingly politically involved from 1942, only joined the African National Congress in 1944 when he helped to form the ANC Youth League (ANCYL).

In 1944 he married Walter Sisulu’s cousin, Evelyn Mase, a nurse. They had two sons, Madiba Thembekile “Thembi” and Makgatho, and two daughters both called Makaziwe, the first of whom died in infancy. He and his wife divorced in 1958.

Mandela rose through the ranks of the ANCYL and through its efforts, the ANC adopted a more radical mass-based policy, the Programme of Action, in 1949.

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

Nelson Mandela on the roof of Kholvad House in 1953. (Image- © Herbert Shore, courtesy of the Ahmed Kathrada Foundation)

In 1952 he was chosen as the National Volunteer-in-Chief of the Defiance Campaign with Maulvi Cachalia as his deputy. This campaign of civil disobedience against six unjust laws was a joint programme between the ANC and the South African Indian Congress. He and 19 others were charged under the Suppression of Communism Act for their part in the campaign and sentenced to nine months of hard labour, suspended for two years.

A two-year diploma in law on top of his BA allowed Mandela to practise law, and in August 1952 he and Oliver Tambo established South Africa’s first black law firm, Mandela & Tambo.

At the end of 1952 he was banned for the first time. As a restricted person he was only permitted to watch in secret as the Freedom Charter was adopted in Kliptown on 26 June 1955.

The Treason Trial

Mandela was arrested in a countrywide police swoop on 5 December 1955, which led to the 1956 Treason Trial. Men and women of all races found themselves in the dock in the marathon trial that only ended when the last 28 accused, including Mandela, were acquitted on 29 March 1961.

On 21 March 1960 police killed 69 unarmed people in a protest in Sharpeville against the pass laws. This led to the country’s first state of emergency and the banning of the ANC and the Pan Africanist Congress (PAC) on 8 April. Mandela and his colleagues in the Treason Trial were among thousands detained during the state of emergency.

During the trial Mandela married a social worker, Winnie Madikizela, on 14 June 1958. They had two daughters, Zenani and Zindziswa. The couple divorced in 1996.

Days before the end of the Treason Trial, Mandela travelled to Pietermaritzburg to speak at the All-in Africa Conference, which resolved that he should write to Prime Minister Verwoerd requesting a national convention on a non-racial constitution, and to warn that should he not agree there would be a national strike against South Africa becoming a republic. After he and his colleagues were acquitted in the Treason Trial, Mandela went underground and began planning a national strike for 29, 30 and 31 March.

In the face of massive mobilisation of state security the strike was called off early. In June 1961 he was asked to lead the armed struggle and helped to establish Umkhonto weSizwe (Spear of the Nation), which launched on 16 December 1961 with a series of explosions.

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

Madiba travelled with his Ethiopian passport. (Image: © National Archives of South Africa)

On 11 January 1962, using the adopted name David Motsamayi, Mandela secretly left South Africa. He travelled around Africa and visited England to gain support for the armed struggle. He received military training in Morocco and Ethiopia and returned to South Africa in July 1962. He was arrested in a police roadblock outside Howick on 5 August while returning from KwaZulu-Natal, where he had briefed ANC President Chief Albert Luthuli about his trip.

He was charged with leaving the country without a permit and inciting workers to strike. He was convicted and sentenced to five years’ imprisonment, which he began serving at the Pretoria Local Prison. On 27 May 1963 he was transferred to Robben Island and returned to Pretoria on 12 June. Within a month police raided Liliesleaf, a secret hideout in Rivonia, Johannesburg, used by ANC and Communist Party activists, and several of his comrades were arrested.

On 9 October 1963 Mandela joined 10 others on trial for sabotage in what became known as the Rivonia Trial. While facing the death penalty his words to the court at the end of his famous “Speech from the Dock” on 20 April 1964 became immortalised:

I have fought against white domination, and I have fought against black domination. I have cherished the ideal of a democratic and free society in which all persons live together in harmony and with equal opportunities. It is an ideal which I hope to live for and to achieve. But if needs be, it is an ideal for which I am prepared to die.

Speech from the Dock quote by Nelson Mandela on 20 April 1964

On 11 June 1964 Mandela and seven other accused, Walter Sisulu, Ahmed Kathrada, Govan Mbeki, Raymond Mhlaba, Denis Goldberg, Elias Motsoaledi and Andrew Mlangeni, were convicted and the next day were sentenced to life imprisonment. Goldberg was sent to Pretoria Prison because he was white, while the others went to Robben Island.

Mandela’s mother died in 1968 and his eldest son, Thembi, in 1969. He was not allowed to attend their funerals.

On 31 March 1982 Mandela was transferred to Pollsmoor Prison in Cape Town with Sisulu, Mhlaba and Mlangeni. Kathrada joined them in October. When he returned to the prison in November 1985 after prostate surgery, Mandela was held alone. Justice Minister Kobie Coetsee visited him in hospital. Later Mandela initiated talks about an ultimate meeting between the apartheid government and the ANC.

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

A picture captured during a rare visit from his comrades at Victor Verster Prison. (Image- © National Archives of South Africa)

Release from prison

On 12 August 1988 he was taken to hospital where he was diagnosed with tuberculosis. After more than three months in two hospitals he was transferred on 7 December 1988 to a house at Victor Verster Prison near Paarl where he spent his last 14 months of imprisonment. He was released from its gates on Sunday 11 February 1990, nine days after the unbanning of the ANC and the PAC and nearly four months after the release of his remaining Rivonia comrades. Throughout his imprisonment he had rejected at least three conditional offers of release.

Mandela immersed himself in official talks to end white minority rule and in 1991 was elected ANC President to replace his ailing friend, Oliver Tambo. In 1993 he and President FW de Klerk jointly won the Nobel Peace Prize and on 27 April 1994 he voted for the first time in his life.

Presidency

On 10 May 1994 he was inaugurated as South Africa’s first democratically elected President. On his 80th birthday in 1998 he married Graça Machel, his third wife.

True to his promise, Mandela stepped down in 1999 after one term as President. He continued to work with the Nelson Mandela Children’s Fund he set up in 1995 and established the Nelson Mandela Foundation and The Mandela Rhodes Foundation.

In April 2007 his grandson, Mandla Mandela, was installed as head of the Mvezo Traditional Council at a ceremony at the Mvezo Great Place.

Nelson Mandela never wavered in his devotion to democracy, equality and learning. Despite terrible provocation, he never answered racism with racism. His life is an inspiration to all who are oppressed and deprived; and to all who are opposed to oppression and deprivation.

He died at his home in Johannesburg on 5 December 2013.

1. Nelson Mandela’s father died in 1930 when Mandela was 12 and his mother died in 1968 when he was in prison. While the autobiography Long Walk to Freedom says his father died when he was nine, historical evidence shows it must have been later, most likely 1930. In fact, the original Long Walk to Freedom manuscript (written on Robben Island) states the year as 1930, when he was 12.



Chaste teens significantly less likely to be depressed

Concerned Parents Report | The researchers found that when compared to teens that are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed (images: Pexels).

When compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed. Also, when compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide.

According to a study written by The Heritage Foundation, teenage sexual activity is an issue of widespread national concern. Although teen sexual activity has declined in recent years, the overall rate is still high. In 1997, approximately 48 percent of American teenagers of high school age were or had been sexually active. Every day, about 8,000 teenagers in the United States become infected by a sexually transmitted disease. Overall, roughly one-quarter of the nation’s sexually active teens have been infected by a sexually transmitted disease. The problems of pregnancy and out-of-wedlock childbearing are also severe.

In 2000, about 240,000 children were born to girls aged 18 or younger. Nearly all these teenage mothers were unmarried. These mothers and their children have an extremely high probability of long-term poverty and welfare dependence. Less widely known are the psychological and emotional problems associated with teenage sexual activity. This particular study examined the linkage between teenage sexual activity and emotional health. The researchers found that when compared to teens that are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly less likely to be happy and more likely to feel depressed. They also found that when compared to teens who are not sexually active, teenage boys and girls who are sexually active are significantly more likely to attempt suicide. In addition to its role in promoting teen pregnancy and the current epidemic of STDs, early sexual activity is a substantial factor in undermining the emotional well-being of American teenagers.1

1Sexually Active Teenagers Are More Likely to be Depressed and to Attempt Suicide, The Heritage Foundation, June 2, 2003, pp. 1-8.



Five Images Of Christ In The Post-Apostolic Age

by Mike Boling | All in all, I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the debate that took place during this period and why biblical Christology is so crucial.

It has been some time since I dug into a good “nerdy” theological style text. Over the past few months, I had tried to give my brain a bit of a break after another breakneck pace of reading last year. The kind folks at IVP Academic sent in my direction a book which at first glance looked like something I might really enjoy and my initial hunch was correct.

The Earliest Christologies: Five Images of Christ in the Post-Apostolic Age by Dr. James Papandrea is a short yet effective journey through five popular concepts of Christology in vogue in the formative years of the church, in particular, the Post-Apostolic Age. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of this period of Church History is aware there were a great many systems of belief being promoted. Some were attempts to work through some rather difficult elements of theology while others were quite frankly a product of heretical doctrines such as Gnosticism.

Our understanding of who Messiah resides at the center of our theology, and is essential to root oneself in a correct Christology. Furthermore, having a historical perspective such as provided by Papandrea in his helpful book will greatly assist in sorting truth from error as well as enabling one to understand where the errant doctrines derived from and why they are incorrect from a biblical perspective.

Discussions on topics such as Christology can often become very dry and mired in a plethora of theological terminology that leaves the reader with a lot of facts but not a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Papandrea avoids such an approach, instead focusing on walking the reader via short yet insightful chapters that outline the five arguably most popular and influential Christologies of the period.

Ultimately, and correct I might add, Papandrea reveals and outlines the Scriptural validity of Logos Christology and how it is firmly rooted in the two natures of the Messiah. Perhaps what I appreciated most was the engagement of the deleterious beliefs found in Gnosticism, an insidious system of belief that continues to rear its ugly head in far too many doctrines some hold to even today. Papandrea does an excellent job of exposing the lies and the theological fallacies of Gnosticism, in particular when it comes to developing a biblical Christology.

I highly recommend this book. The author presents the material in a manner that will be easily understood by those who may not be fully familiar with the theological details of Christology while at the same time providing those who have a bit more insight into this issue with a good deal of excellent information upon which to ruminate upon and study. All in all, I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the debate that took place during this period and why biblical Christology is so crucial.

Mike Boling lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica, adopted daughter Alissa, two cats Molly and Sweetie Pie and horse Beckham. After spending eight years in the United States Navy as a Yeoman, he has been employed for the past ten years by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger.



When Academia Adopts Corporate Production Metrics

by Kevin L. Cope | Administrations impose industrial-style economic models on discipline-based departments, setting them against one another in the competition for resources. This arrangement encourages small groups of professors to band tightly together, to resist outside criticism, to develop in-house jargons, and to become ever more defensive, parochial, and, worse, elitist (it being impossible that ignorant outsiders could understand the products of the departmental mandarins, images: Pixabay)

A little more often than now and then, some ruse, hoax, or stratagem upends academe. Recently, a small pod of researchers scandalized “cultural studies” by publishing, in prestigious journals, a plethora of counterfeit studies: make-believe research addressing preposterous issues such as the relation between the intimate anatomy of pets and the gender identities of their masters or the need for a feminist updating of Mein Kampf. Less spectacular exposés have occurred throughout the recent history of higher education, whether the famous Sokal hoax of the 1990s, which embarrassed the global scientific community, or the works of my own college roommate, a product of the Irish Boston immigrant community, who masqueraded for months as an enraged black poet. When the cover for such shams is eventually blown, the conservative press enjoys a feeding frenzy, railing against professors who, more often than not, draw their salaries from public funds. Is the story quite so simple? After all, even hard-core leftist professors should be clever enough to avoid looking ridiculous in the evening news. What does this recurrent phenomenon tell us about higher education—and about contemporary conservatism?

Probably the most widely observed law is that of unintended consequences. The donors, alumni, and commercial contractors who influence universities, many of whom drift to the conservative side of the political spectrum, may unintentionally create conditions that induce the kind of excesses exposed by satirizing hoaxers. Despite their reputation for leftist thinking, revenue-hungry colleges and universities spend much of their time trying to navigate around a cleft within American conservatism. Whether through public events such as Rotary Club or alumni association meetings or whether through a host of in-house documents—“mission statements,” “strategic plans,” and “vision statements”—that take long to write but attract only a few readers, campuses present themselves both as ivory towers in which noble thoughts find a safe haven and as factories stamping out the “human capital” required to ensure western dominance in a high-tech future. The first vision might be described as the philosophical conservatism of Cardinal Newman, the second, the establishment conservatism of Lee Iacocca or, if not Donald Trump, perhaps Tim Cook or Rex Tillerson.

Few college or university presidents have read Cardinal Newman. They find it easier, especially in difficult financial times, to opt for the production line version of conservatism. The donor queue, they recognize, is longer among CEOs than among philosophizing prelates. Eager to give conservative boosters what they think they want, campus leaders compensate for declining public support by seeking more students (or, as they prefer to say, “clients”), more tuition, and more output. Forgetting that Euro-American industry has a labor, social, and religious, as well as economic, history, they import into higher education a stripped-down version of the industrial model in the hope that producing students will convince the public that higher education is practical—i.e., that it evidences what cautious old Cardinal Newman discounted as “utility.” The conceptual instability of this approach is seen in mixed nomenclature within university propaganda. Incoming students are “clients” but the institutions go on to “produce” degree recipients. Industries, however, may “produce” goods to sell to clients, they do not “produce” clients.

What has all this to do with fake scholarship and academic bombast? The substitution of industrial-style conservatism for the idealistic conservatism of Newman—i.e., what Newman calls “the habit of pushing things up to their first principles”—produces knock-on, or secondary, effects that lead to the overproduction of absurdities. First comes the Balkanizing of comprehensive universities—schools that claim to cover most recognized disciplines—into an array of institutes, centers, and programs where much of the funding comes from outside supporters rather than from institutional budgets that are open to public scrutiny. Such centers offer an escape from the claustrophobia of traditional academic departments, yet they also must continuously seek support, please donors and grantors, and produce—whether what is produced is good, bad, scientific, ideological, or merely attention-getting. Mimicking their production-obsessed parent university, centers and institutes pump up a blimp-load of research from a thin tithe. In my own university, we have a swollen “water campus” that arose as a response to Hurricane Katrina but that is now something of a paradoxical joint habitat for academics supporting conservative “sportsmen” who want to preserve their endangered hunting grounds and for liberals hoping to make anxieties about climate change look more practical than apocalyptic.

Interacting with the rise of institutes is a pseudo-capitalist version of academic tribalism. Administrations impose industrial-style economic models on discipline-based departments, setting them against one another in the competition for resources. This arrangement encourages small groups of professors to band tightly together, to resist outside criticism, to develop in-house jargons, and to become ever more defensive, parochial, and, worse, elitist (it being impossible that ignorant outsiders could understand the products of the departmental mandarins). Academic journals, similarly, develop clienteles, cadres of reviewers, and, in a word, gangs. Fraud becomes easy for anyone even close to insider status; youngsters are easily corrupted by the promise of frequent publication opportunities in exchange for being a team player. Thus, an emphasis on academic products rather than ideas seems to fulfill a “conservative” mandate but leads to zaniness.

The scholarship singed by the recent spoof arose from the liberal arts rather than the “STEM” (or, worse, “TED”) disciplines. Science has become the approved template for measuring academic productivity. Cardinal Newman may stress the seeking of first principles, but in donor- and revenue-driven academe, “science” has become confused with “product” or “effect.” The sciences routinely produce studies with hundreds of co-authors, many of whom have never read the study that they are credited with writing, by way of ensuring that everyone looks productive. Including everyone also ensures that no one will criticize the published work. As the science-originated multi-author, multi-reviewer model spreads, syndicates—dare I say “conspiracies”?—arise within all the disciplines. Researchers who are also publishing scholars “referee” contributions for publishers whose success improves those referees’ publishing prospects. Such an arrangement is efficient but not truthful; it produces, per one of Henry Ford’s assembly lines, but it does not judge. It also replicates the industrialist-conservative ideal of voluntary self-regulation—an ideal that may not always work, as the costly Takata air bag recall showed. The primary values ingrained in the self-regulated academic publishing system are speed, loyalty, and conformity. The primary result: scholarship that is at its best when, as is often the case, no one reads it.

In considering any of the sometimes arcane, sometimes trivial doings behind the ivy-covered walls, the hard question “why should anyone care about this?” easily arises. Occasionally, the answer is obvious. A patient would be well-advised to think twice before popping one of the countless pills promoted on late-night television but tested on only a half-dozen prisoners and a tiny tribe of graduate assistants in order to ensure that a researcher earns tenure, that a corporate donor sees results, and that departmental productivity metrics are met. With regard to the more abstruse “products” of scholars in the liberal arts, a more theoretical, if more old-fashioned and somewhat humorously religious, question occurs. That question is: will there be work (or tasks or jobs) in heaven? If there are journals, studies, and other academic products in the great beyond, the supply line behind them is likely to be infinite and the need or demand, in so happy a place, minimal. St. Peter is less likely to pay for a subscription than to receive complimentary copies; the pressure to meet production quotas will be low. From St. Thomas More we have learned that the utopian throws into contrast the folly of what we regard as commonplace or normal. Presumably the scholars in the saintly academy will prize honesty rather than voluminousness and truth rather than metrics.

Kevin L. Cope is Robert and Rita Wetta Adams Professor of English Literature at Louisiana State University in Baton Rouge. He is the founder and editor of 1650-1850: Ideas, Aesthetics, and Inquiries in the Early Modern Era, the Co-General Editor of ECCB: The Eighteenth Century: A Current Bibliography, and the author or editor of dozens of books and articles. He received his doctorate in literature from Harvard University in 1983.



Are We Prepared to Tell God’s Story?

by Regis Nicoll | Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

It seems peculiar that the gospel reading for the first Sunday of Advent centers not on Christ’s first coming, but his second. In all three liturgical years, the gospel passage is taken from the Olivet Discourse—Jesus’s lengthy response to the eschatological curiosities of the disciples. But maybe this is not as peculiar as it seems.

In arresting prose, the synoptic writers report the Creator of all things privileging the disciples with secrets about last things. Interweaving predictions about the destruction of Jerusalem and his future return to earth, Jesus tells them of wars, famines, false Christs, and more. His purpose was not to shock or frighten them, but to prepare them—and not just for the far off events that had provoked their curiosity.

Punctuating his revelations are warnings to be watchful, ready, and engaged in faithful service—imperatives for God’s people in every age. But for the disciples those warnings had immediate relevance which, as many times before, went unheeded.

For, in a matter of hours, Jesus would be prostrate in the garden praying, while his disciples slept; he would be hauled away by an angry mob, while his disciples fled in panic; he would be brought before a kangaroo court to be ridiculed, spat upon, and struck, while one of his closest intimates vehemently and repeatedly denied him; and he would be scourged, marched to Golgotha, and nailed to the cross, while men who had been his constant companions cowered in an upper room, abandoning him to his persecutors.

Incredibly, after three years at the feet of their master, the disciples were no better prepared for the unfolding of prophetic history than they were at the beginning of their tutelage. This should trigger questions in us: Are we prepared? Situated in history between the Incarnation and the Parousia, are we advancing his kingdom as we watch for his return?

More to the point, are we even expecting his return? Given the 2,000 year lapse, have his warnings slipped into the cluttered closets of our memory or, worse, has the delay eroded our confidence in his prophesy or, for that matter, in him?

If those questions cause hesitation, it signals the need to revisit God’s story—the biblical record of divine activity throughout the course of human history. The historical record of what God has done provides a rational basis for confidence in what he has said he will do.

Playing Back God’s Story
Reading the history of Israel is like listening to a CD stuck on “repeat.” Over and over again, widespread apostasy led to divine discipline, provoking national repentance followed by a brief period of revival.

Despite the withering warnings of prophets, the Israelites repeatedly succumbed to pagan influences when they should have been attending to God’s word, they adopted pagan practices when they should have been transforming pagan culture, and they became a stumbling block to their pagan neighbors when they should have been a blessing to them.

To break the cycle, Israel’s leaders continually played back God’s story, reminding the people of God’s benevolence toward the nation: the parting of the Red Sea, the pillars of cloud and fire, water from the rock, manna from heaven, deliverance from their enemies, and the conquest of the Promised Land, to name just a few.

The leaders also proclaimed prophesies, hundreds of them, among the people. Some were given as warnings about the consequences of disobedience while others were given as assurances of God’s ultimate plan for restoring all things.

Two things are extraordinary about the latter: first, they were made far in advance of the events they described; and, second, many of the fulfillments of prophecy—including dozens concerning the life, death, and resurrection of Jesus—were recorded and passed on to people contemporary to those events.

From Public to Personal
God’s story is more than a record of past and future works on behalf of mankind; it includes personal testimonies of his working in the lives of individuals in the present.

Daniel, who prophesied about events in the near and far future, gave witness to God’s faithfulness in the present—answering his prayers and delivering him and his friends from capital punishment. In the Psalms, David repeatedly praises God for guiding, protecting, and strengthening him. Jeremiah’s lamentations over the sins of Judah and the destruction of Jerusalem include praises to God for comforting him during imprisonment and rescuing him from his enemies.

Nevertheless, spiritual vacillation produced a generation that was ill-prepared for the coming Messiah. Instead of watching for the Lamb of God who would deliver them from sin, first-century Jews were expecting a conquering King who would deliver them from Gentile subjugation.

A generation later, eyewitnesses to the life and ministry of Jesus Christ detailed, in four independent narratives, how he fulfilled the promises in Scripture from Genesis 3:15 to Malachi 3:1. And for those who failed to notice, Paul explained how the fulfillments of prophecy occurred among individuals, still living, who could contest any fictions or correct any errors.

Like the Old Testament writers, Paul also shared how God’s story had played out in his own life. In his letter to the Romans, Paul gives witness to Jesus for freeing him from the law of sin and death. He told the Corinthian church how God had encouraged and strengthened him during a time of personal torment. And to the Philippians, Paul testifies to his Source of contentment and efficacy in all things.

The gospel readings for the first Sunday of Advent remind us that God’s story did not end at Golgotha, the death of the apostles, or the completion of Scripture, but continues on the cosmic stage.

They also remind us that Christians are to be an expectant people, living in the sure hope that as God “showed up” once, he will show up again. Until then, he is active in the lives of individuals who are waiting, watching, and working to establish his kingdom on earth as it is in heaven.

A Personal Testimony
Most Christians can point to times in their lives when God “showed up”—maybe in an answered prayer, a healing, an encouraging word, or a needed revelation. Throughout my Christian life, I have had a number of such occurrences, of which I’ll share one.

I had been diagnosed with a terminal cancer. My timeline, according to the oncologist, was three weeks. But three weeks turned into three months, then three years, and now, ten years after being declared in clinical remission, I remain cancer-free.

Prior to that declaration, however, two questions hung in the air like the scent of decaying flesh: “Why did this happen?” and “How will it turn out?” I had a strong inkling as to the “why” (as I’ll explain in a moment), but the uncertainty of “how” lingered. Then, one night, both questions were answered for me along with a room full of people.

Joanne and I had joined a group of twenty or so intercessors for an evening of prayer. As we got ready to pray, someone suggested, off the cuff, that we read Psalm 118, which in my NIV Bible has the rather inviting heading, “The loving kindness of God.” It was further suggested that each person read a verse, in succession, according to how they were seated. Since our seating was not prearranged, neither was the verse individuals would read.

As it so happened, my turn fell on verse 18: “The Lord has chastened me severely, but he has not given me over to death.” The words left my lips and, for a moment, failed to register in my brain. When the next person seated failed to continue, I looked around. It was as if all the oxygen had been sucked from the room: mouths were agape, chests were clutched, eyes were tearing, and praises were going up. Then, I, too, was undone.

Earlier in the year, I had confessed to a church class that the greatest obstacle to my spiritual growth was overconfidence in myself. Less than one month later, I was lying in a hospital bed tethered to IVs, listening to an oncologist talk around the hopelessness of my condition, and coming to the realization that this “thorn” was beyond my ability and that of medical science to remove.

The shock of my utter helplessness was met, almost instantly, by a comforting word: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Privately, the message was clear: God was addressing my greatest need—total dependence on him—with his limitless love. Publicly, this message was confirmed to a small gathering of individuals who were watching and waiting for God to “show up.”

Each year Advent draws the world’s attention afresh to God’s story. It’s a story that Christians should be telling “in season and out of season,” through their words and their lives.

Regis NicollRegis Nicoll is a retired nuclear engineer and a fellow of the Colson Center who writes commentary on faith and culture. His new book is titled Why There Is a God: And Why It Matters.

 



As Thrones Before Him Fall: Christ Is Our King

by Claire Dwyer | There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him with many crowns,
The Lamb upon his throne.
Hark! How the heavenly anthem drowns
All music but its own.
Awake, my soul, and sing,
Of him who died for thee,
And hail him as thy matchless king
Through all eternity. — Crown Him With Many Crowns hymn

This Sunday sends off Ordinary Time with a solemn celebration of Our Lord Jesus Christ, King of the Universe. Established by Pope Pius XI in 1925, it was meant to counter secularism as a denial of Christ’s kingship.

The first two readings and the Psalm are thus rich in royal imagery: visions of the Son of Man coming on clouds and receiving everlasting dominion, glory and kingship, and the service of all the nations; robed in splendor, enthroned, the Alpha and Omega.

The Gospel, however, shows us this King in a different light, as a lamb being led to the slaughter. But then Pilate is let in on the secret: This kingship is not contained in the earthly realm. Rather, it is a powerful but hidden one, veiled in the temporal order. His angelic army of attendants holds back and watches with the rest of us the drama of salvation unfold as a kingdom is established that shall not be taken away or destroyed. Pilate cannot comprehend this, yet he unwittingly proclaims it: “Then you are a king” (John 18:37). And he will later have this inscribed above the cross, to the chagrin of the Pharisees. Jesus’ cross becomes the throne from which he rules and the banner under which we battle.

To the rest of the world, the paradox of a King who reigns from a cross is an insurmountable scandal. But to everyone who “belongs to the truth,” this reality is already established in their hearts. Growing in secret, putting down roots and laying foundations in the faith of believers, this kingdom is made manifest in the lives of those who have already found the beginnings of heaven even here, as they serve the King of Glory and enthrone him in their lives.

We wait for heaven to fully enter in the Kingdom of God, but the reality is that it is here now, and we are a part of it to the degree we allow it to rule in our hearts.

How much are we part of God’s kingdom? Is Christ our king? Which means, really, are we under his authority? Are we obedient to his commands? Have we subjected everything — everything — to him: family, home, health, finances and time, and especially our wills?

Are we willing to die the little layers of “death” each day that being in his service requires? Are we willing to have him overturn the tables in our inner temples? To smash the little idols that litter our interior lives? To submit to the destruction of every dream that is not the one he wills for us?

There is no middle ground. “No one can serve two masters” (Matthew 6:24). Meditating on the readings for this solemnity provides a powerful opportunity to re-examine our own allegiance to the King of Glory: “Choose this day whom you will serve” (Joshua 24:15).

Crown him the Lord of heaven,
Enthroned in worlds above;
Crown him the king, to whom is given,
The wondrous name of Love.
Crown him with many crowns,
As thrones before him fall.
Crown him, ye kings, with many crowns,
For he is King of all.

Claire Dwyer blogs about saints, motherhood, spirituality and the sacred every day at EventheSparrow.com and contributes regularly to WomenofGrace.com, CatholicMom.com and EndowGroups.org. She is editor of SpiritualDirection.com and coordinates adult faith formation at her parish in Phoenix, where she lives with her husband and their six children.



How God and My Church Helped Me Overcome My Alcohol Addiction

by Patrick Bailey | This is a story of how my Church and Pastor Fred used Mrs. Andrews to get me a specialist at the Mountain Springs Recovery who helped me create a concrete recovery plan after detox and treatment to keep me focused and aligned with my sobriety goals. My recovery process has been a daily lifelong journey. Connect via http://patrickbaileys.com (images: Pixabay)

I used to think that it was unfair and more than a little bit cruel of God to make alcohol an integral part of Christian church services and even in iconic Bible stories. How could this substance that rendered me dazed and irresponsible be put in such a place of honor? Now I’m simply grateful for the anointed people of God who prayed for me and guided my way and into alcohol rehab before it was too late.

There is simply no other explanation. Only God’s touch could have made my own personal miracle possible. And I’m very grateful He chose the right people (and one person in particular) to make His miracle possible.

You probably think that it was our pastor. You would be wrong. Sure, Pastor Fred would come up to the house every now and then. But I was single and, in my thirties, while he was a childless widower several years older than me. I think it was awkward for him to say the least.

Besides, I wasn’t really a public drinker. I never made a scene in public, never physically hurt anybody. And thanks to online jobs and a bit of money that mom left me when she passed, I was able to buy alcohol and still pay my bills. So, I guess I never really became Pastor Fred’s top priority.

Instead, he trained his sights on those whom I also agree needed him more than I did. Kids who were in the brink of or also in the throes of substance abuse. Overwhelmed widows and widowers. Orphaned children. Struggling large families.

But then one day, she came. She was Mrs. Andrews, a tiny septuagenarian, my mom’s best friend. The first day she came was on my Mom’s birthday. Which I didn’t remember clearly at the time or did I?

“Hi, My Name is Mrs. Andrews”

Maybe that was why I started drinking so early in life. Mrs. Andrews came at a little before 8:00 in the morning. By then, I had already finished a pot of coffee. See, I had just discovered the recipe for espresso martini the week before, and I had immediately fallen in love with the concoction. What wasn’t to love? Each part of coffee called for one and one-half part of vodka plus another one and one-half part of coffee liqueur. I can still remember how I told myself that I wasn’t really getting drunk but getting a coffee fix. The way regular people did.

So, Mrs. Andrews came inside the house as soon as I opened the door. She’s in and out of the house all the time when my mom was alive. Even more so in the last few months when my mom was very sick. I remember how the two of them looked reading their Bibles on the couch, my mom wrapped in the newest shawl that Mrs. Andrews knitted. She must have made my mom a dozen of those labor-intensive knitting’s in her last few months.

In any case, everything happened so fast. By the time she sat down on the couch, I had somehow agreed to drive her over to the cemetery to visit my mom’s grave. She claimed she couldn’t remember where my mom was buried.

Of course, ‘driving her over’ turned out to be a figure of speech. She drove us. After she came into my bedroom and found a blue dress that she said she helped my mom choose for one occasion or another. I’m pretty sure she didn’t dress me but as I said I was dazed out of my mind from the espresso martinis.

The Regular Visits

Two days after, Mrs. Andrews visit; she said she needed a company to go to the dentist two towns over because she didn’t trust the 40-year-old ‘young man’ who had taken over the practice after Dr. Sheldon passed away. I tried to get out of going with her but couldn’t even get a word in.

Almost a week after that, Mrs. Andrews came again. But this time she said she was looking for a baking dish that she and mom had used. She said it was an heirloom, so she simply had to have it back. So, I gave her leave to rummage in the kitchen while I pretended to work in the study and drink coffee (Yes, laced with vodka and coffee liqueur).

After an hour, the smell of baking wafted from the kitchen. It was lasagna. Her version was my favorite in the world. And she knew it. She explained that she couldn’t find the heirloom baking dish, but she found my mom’s. So, she decided to bake two trays because she just happened to have ingredients in her car. She apologized profusely that she couldn’t eat with me, but she sat me down and waited until I had finished a plate before she left. I remember thinking to myself that she had lost her touch because the lasagna was blah.

The fourth time she came in was on Sunday. She wanted me to take her to a Church service because her arthritis was acting up and she felt that her legs would buckle at any time. She made me wear the blue dress again.

Two days after, Mrs. Andrews came in to do my laundry. When I came down, the whole house smelled of detergent. She said her machine had broken down and that she always trusted my Mom’s machine, so she just took her laundry to my house. And did my loads as well, which she took from my bedroom while I was sleeping off the effects of binge drinking till two o’clock that morning.

The chaos of clean clothes strewn on the just cleaned kitchen table did me in. I just lost it. I screamed at Mrs. Andrews for being a busybody and told her to get out of the house. She simply said that she planned to after she had finished her load. Then she went back to the laundry humming as she walked away.

The day after that, she was at it again. This time she wanted to know if I had come around to dropping off my old mom’s clothes at the Salvation Army yet. My mom had made us promise to do this together. So, we spent the whole day sorting through my mom’s cabinets. She would not allow her shawls to be given out, though. And I was glad because I wanted to keep them.

The Rehab

For three months after my mom pass away, Mrs. Andrew always drop by my house. Sometimes with a tray or two of more blah lasagna. On my mom’s birthday, we were both in the garden planting daisies — my mom’s favorite — when she finally said what we had been both waiting to hear.

“Dear, I think you should go to alcohol rehab.” I think I tried to formulate a half-hearted protest about not being an alcoholic. But by then she had simply worn me down. She had even chosen a place for me in Colorado who offered Christian Base treatment and offered to pay for the part that my insurance wouldn’t cover. I agreed, but only on the condition that it was a loan. Less than a week after, Pastor Fred, Mrs. Andrews and I made a six-hour drive to the Golden State.

The first week was difficult to say the least. But as soon as she could, Mrs. Andrews visited me along with Pastor Fred in tow. And when I came home from rehab, she was waiting for me at my house with two trays of lasagna again. They were delicious! It turns out it was my taste buds that had a problem and not her cooking.

She had also gotten me a job clerking for the new dentist twice a week and an appointment at the beauty parlor down the city. Her treat. She was even more overwhelming than before. But I loved it.

The first Sunday after the rehab, Mrs. Andrews and I went to Church; Pastor Fred was preaching that day. Afterward, everyone came over and said my hair looked great. I accidentally looked over and saw Mrs. Andrews with the biggest smile on her face.

Goodbye Mrs. Andrews

That was four years ago. A month ago, we buried Mrs. Andrews. She died in her sleep, peacefully and happy. I was sitting with her the way I did for my own mom. Because she had been my second mom. She had given me a second chance at life and returned me to my Church and to God.

Later, I learned it was Pastor Fred who suggested that Mrs. Andrews work with me. I also learned that the Church congregation prayed for me daily. And every time, I was again overwhelmed with love; many will say that I was just lucky. But I really wasn’t. I was blessed with God’s miracle.

Patrick BaileyPatrick Bailey is a professional writer mainly in the fields of mental health, addiction, and living in recovery. He attempt to stay on top of the latest news in the addiction and the mental health world and enjoy writing about these topics to break the stigma associated with them.