Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Genesis Notes: Eve's Resume

Eva from the Brautpforte (Rathaus Hamburg), Jacob Ungerer

We don't know many details about Eve but she was a key player in the beginning of Genesis as Adam's wife and the person who had to deal face to face with Satan's temptation. As with Adam, I like the way that the Life Application Study Bible's profile on Eve makes the key lessons from her life stand out.
Strengths and accomplishments:
  • First wife and mother
  • First female. As such she shared a special relationship with God, had co-responsibility with Adam over creation, and displayed certain characteristics of God
Weaknesses and mistakes:
  • Allowed her contentment to be undermined by Satan
  • Acted impulsively without talking either to God or to her mate
  • Not only sinned but shared her sin with Adam
  • When confronted, blamed others
Lessons from her life:
  • The female shares in the image of God
  • The necessary ingredients for a strong marriage are commitment to each other, companionship with each other, complete oneness, absence of shame (2:24, 25)
  • The basic human tendency to sin goes back to the beginning of the human race
Vital statistics:
  • Where: Garden of Eden
  • Occupation: Wife, helper, companion, co-manager of Eden
  • Relatives: Husband - Adam, Sons - Cain, Abel, Seth, numerous other children.
Key verse:
The Lord God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him." (Genesis 2:18)

Eve's story is told in Genesis 2:19-4:26. Her death is not mentioned in Scripture.

Worth a Thousand Words: The Conversation

Paul Gustav-Fischer, The Conversation, Helgoland, 1896
via Arts Everyday Living

Well Said: Eschewing Adjectives and Jesus

Cornwell imputes ugly motivations to people though he has no way of knowing what drives them. Cornwell uses a trowel to smear thick layers of degrading adjectives on every priest, nun, or merely any Catholic he encounters. These are trite and transparent writer's tricks. Again, telling the truth is all about obeying William Carlos Williams' dictum: "no ideas but in things." Again, telling the truth in that way is not just a writer's discipline. It is a Christian's discipline. ...

Again, I marvel at how the Gospel writers didn't lather Jesus with adjectives. He isn't "kindly Jesus" or "angry Jesus" or "helpful Jesus" or "woman-friendly" Jesus. He is a Jesus of eyewitnesses disciplined and integral enough to record only what they saw: Jesus who lets children sit on his lap, Jesus who whips the moneychangers out of the temple, Jesus who turns water into wine at a friend's wedding, Jesus who has his longest and most interesting conversation with a woman, who saves a woman from killers, and who appears, first, to a woman after rising from the dead.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
I already loved those gospel writers. This just makes me appreciate them even more.

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Scott flies through the air with both guns blazing — in slow motion

— while Julie fires into the air screaming, "Noooooo!" Neither can calm down until they eat their Cornettos. Hot Fuzz is investigated in Episode 136 of A Good Story is Hard to Find.

Worth a Thousand Words: Calling the Roll After An Engagement

Elizabeth Thompson, Calling the Roll After An Engagement, Crimea, 1874, Royal Collection
I'd never have heard of this if Malcolm Gladwell hadn't featured it in the first episode of his new podcast, Revisionist History.
Each week for 10 weeks, Revisionist History will go back and reinterpret something from the past: an event, a person, an idea. Something overlooked. Something misunderstood.

"Because sometimes the past deserves a second chance."
Gladwell's famous for comparing and contrasting things we wouldn't have thought of connecting. I love his books and this podcast is similar to his writing.

Just a note in passing, the website is so hip and modern that it is practically impossible to navigate easily. Yep. I like Gladwell but I don't like that website. Here's the iTunes link if you'd rather just get them there.

Well Said: Adam and the value of each individual life

Adam is an individual, apart from a mob. The Talmud teaches that God created only one Adam, rather than a group of men at once, to emphasize the value of each, individual life. One man, in himself, is an entire universe. The Bible teaches: you matter. Not some ideal you. Not you as a cog in a big machine. You who you are, right now. You matter. The God who created the universe wants contact with you. Bring your moment-by-moment concerns to God.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
Another thing that never occurred to me. Just when you think you've gotten all the goodness out of Genesis (and Scripture in general for that matter), someone comes along, flips it sideways, and shows you a new truth that was there all along.

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

Bearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic HistoryBearing False Witness: Debunking Centuries of Anti-Catholic History by Rodney Stark

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

I have long been aware of Rodney Stark's excellent work using facts and statistics to set the historical record straight.

This might be the best part of the book, at the end of the introduction:
Finally, I am not a Roman Catholic, and I did not write this book in defense of the Church. I wrote it in defense of history.
And we thank you.

The fact that Stark isn't Catholic matters because it means he doesn't have a dog in this fight. Except, of course, as a historian who loves truth more than "what everyone knows." I was really surprised that every chapter had examples of current historians (who Stark calls "distinguished bigots) perpetuating untruths, usually despite clear evidence from modern  historians who had disproven them.

I really loved this book. Even in the cases where I knew a lot about anti-Catholic history I always learned new and surprising facts. Often this was the result of simply reorienting my thinking.

For example, I knew the Church's inhumane behavior to thousands of people during the Inquisition was largely exaggerated, but I was totally unprepared for archival evidence to show that these claims are a pack of lies. Pack. Of. Lies. It's so ingrained to believe that there was at least some level of culpability that I realize it looks outrageous for me to say this. But it is true.

As are the lies that have been perpetuated about motivating anti-Semitic medieval pogroms culminating in the Holocaust, precipitating the Dark Ages (which never existed, by the way), provoking the Crusades, burning witches, supporting slavery, and much more.

I could go on, but you get the point. No wonder the Church has a hard time among moderns. As Stark himself points out, anyone would resent an organization guilty of the hateful acts that the Catholic Church has been charged with committing throughout history. Luckily for us, he has plenty of facts, usually from secular sources, to show that those crimes never were committed in the first place.

You don't have to just take Stark's word for it. Each chapter has a chart of historians whose work contributed to the proof Stark lays out for us, and there is an extensive bibliography with recommended reading.

Get this book and read it whether you're Catholic or not. The proof is there. The truth matters.

Monday, June 27, 2016

Well Said: God looks like Adam and Adam looks like God

Between 1508 and 1512, on the ceiling of the Vatican's Sistine Chapel, Michelangelo depicted the spark of life in the fingertip-to-fingertip, eye-contact encounter between one, loving, creator God and one human being – not a teeming mass – just one person. In Michelangelo's fresco, we see Adam's full naked form, from head to toe. God looks like Adam, and Adam looks like God. They are the same size. Every detail here matters – that Adam is just one man, that he is naked, that he is anatomically detailed, that he is the same size as God, that God and Adam are fundamentally structured the same, that Adam is making eye contact with God, that God looks upon Adam with fiercely attentive love – every detail here has an impact on the life anyone can live in a Judeo-Christian society.
Danusha Goska, God Through Binoculars (unpublished)
This is one of those cases where a painting is so familiar that it never occurred to me to consider what the artist might be saying besides the obvious message. Yes, God creates Adam. But the way that Adam is portrayed compared to God tells us a wealth of information about Michelangelo and theology. And what it tells us, as Danusha Goska points out, is wonderful.

Worth a Thousand Words: Immaculate Heart of Mary Church

Immaculate Heart of Mary Church in San Antonio was built in 1911 by the Claretians,
a community of priests and brothers devoted to the Blessed Virgin Mary.
It is one of the Painted Churches of Texas.
Photograph and caption by Jason Merlo, Merlo Photography
What are the painted churches of Texas?
Cross the threshold of these particular Texas churches and you'll encounter not a simple wooden interior but an unexpected profusion of color. Nearly every surface is covered with bright painting: exuberant murals radiate from the apse, elaborate foliage trails the walls, wooden columns and baseboards shine like polished marble in shades of green and gray. These are the Painted Churches of Texas.

Built by 19th century immigrants to this rough but promising territory, these churches transport the visitor back to a different era, a different way of life. ...
Read all about them here. Jason Merlo Photography has some stunning shots.

Unknowns, and Ghosts, and Hidden Rooms. Oh my!

Chapters 15-17 of The Bat await you at Forgotten Classics podcast.

Live in Dallas? Want to make your good marriage better?

Have we got a deal for you!

The Beyond Cana® marriage retreat offers the time and tools to restore and strengthen marriages - with God and His direction for us at the center.

It's a 2½ day retreat designed to enrich the marriages of couples who want to focus on the communication, respect, love, and intimacy that are so integral to a good marriage.

Tom and I've been helping present this retreat for ten years and can vouch for the way it has made our good marriage better.

The next retreat is July 22-24.

To sign up or for more information, go to the St. Thomas Aquinas website.

Friday, June 24, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: A Paper Trail

A Paper Trail, Karin Jurick
Artist's note: A young lady enthusiastically sketches
on the floor in the Legion of Honor Museum in San Francisco.

Well Said: Holy Spirit, Work in Us Through Grace

Come, Holy Spirit
Let the precious pearl of the Father
and the Word's delight come.
Spirit of truth,
you are the reward of the saints,
the comforter of souls,
light in the darkness,
riches to the poor,
treasure to lovers,
food for the hungry,
comfort to the wanderer;
you are the one in whom
all treasures are contained.

Come! As you descended on Mary,
that the Word might become flesh
work in us through grace.
St. Mary Magdalen dei Pazzi,
via Voices of the Saints by Bert Ghezzi
I've read longer prayers to the Holy Spirit, but never better, never richer. This seems to have endless food for meditation. At least, it speaks to me that way.

Solemnity of the Birth of St. John the Baptist

This feast, a segment of Advent in the season of Ordinary Time, makes us aware of the wonderful inner relationship between the sacred mysteries; for we are still in the midst of one Church year and already a bridge is being erected to the coming year of grace.
The Church's Year of Grace, Pius Parsch, via Catholic Culture
I've always respected John the Baptist's role in salvation history.

But I never really appreciated his role fully until reading this in Magnificat a few years ago.
I want to show you a sun that shone more brightly than all these, a soul that was truly free and detached, cleaving only to the will of God. I have often wondered who is the most mortified of the saints I know, and after some reflection I have come to the conclusion that it was Saint John the Baptist. He went into the desert when he was five years old and knew that our Savior and his came on earth in a place quite close by, one or two days' journey perhaps. How his heart, touched with love of his Savior from the time he was in his Mother's womb, must have longed to enjoy his presence! Yet he spends twenty-five years in the desert without coming to see our Lord even once; and leaving the desert he stays to catechize without visiting him but waiting till our Lord comes to seek him out. Then when he has baptized him he does not follow him but stays behind to do his appointed task. How truly mortified was his spirit! To be so near his Savior and not see him, to have him so close and not enjoy his presence! Is this not a completely detached spirit, detached even from God himself so as to do his will and serve him, to leave God for God, and not to love God in order to love him better? The example of this great saint overwhelms me with its grandeur.
St. Francis de Sales

Free State of Jones movie review

In 1863, Mississippi farmer Newt Knight (Matthew McConaughey) serves as a medic for the Confederate Army. Opposed to slavery, Knight would rather help the wounded than fight the Union. After his nephew dies in battle, Newt returns home to Jones County to safeguard his family but is soon branded an outlaw deserter. Forced to flee, he finds refuge with a group of runaway slaves hiding out in the swamps. Forging an alliance with the slaves and other farmers, Knight leads a rebellion that would forever change history.
Until I saw the trailer, I'd never heard of the anti-Confederate rebellion which came to be known as the Free State of Jones, from which this movie takes its premise. The history around the rebellion and Newton Knight, who has been portrayed as a Civil War Robin Hood, is somewhat muddled.

Perhaps that is why Free State of Jones is a bit of a mess. The director/screenwriter couldn't seem to decide whether he was telling an inspirational story, a morality tale, or a history lesson. The actors do their best but they are given little to sink their teeth into as they are yanked from one focus to another. The result is no focus at all.

Adding to this problem is  a 1960s courthouse tale which is occasionally intercut with the Civil War era story. This was extremely distracting until the very end of the movie where it finally began coming together with the main story.

There were also various anachronisms, beginning with the glass windows in the cabin on Newt Knight's hardscrabble farm.

I was pleased, however, with the way religion was portrayed. It was clear that there was an underlying belief in and reliance on God. If poor people had the luxury of a book it was likely to be a small Bible, and the Bible was used to teach people to read. Despite trying times and several funerals God was never railed against and his promises were always turned to for comfort. This really seemed realistic for the times and, as frequent readers here know, is the way many regular Americans still practice their faith.

Unfortunately, despite some praiseworthy elements, Free State of Jones squanders a fascinating story and the potential of the talented contributors.

Thursday, June 23, 2016

Worth a Thousand Words: Marie Spartali Stillman - Self-Portrait

Marie Spartali Stillman, Self-Portrait, 1871

Summer Reading: My Lady Jane

My Lady Jane
by Cynthia Hand, Brodi Ashton, and , Jodi Meadows

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

A one-of-a-kind fantasy in the tradition of The Princess Bride, featuring a reluctant king, an even more reluctant queen, a noble steed, and only a passing resemblance to actual history—because sometimes history needs a little help.

At sixteen, Lady Jane Grey is about to be married off to a stranger and caught up in a conspiracy to rob her cousin, King Edward, of his throne. But those trifling problems aren’t for Jane to worry about. Jane gets to be Queen of England.
A GoodReads friend had so much fun reading this that it seemed like the perfect summer book ... and I luckily had an Audible credit burning a hole in my pocket so I plunged it.

For what it was — a humorous, inventive, light, romantic, alternative history — it was practically perfect in every way. It was sometimes silly but always charming and I was glued to it in every spare moment.

There are intrigues, betrayal, arranged marriages, inconvenient shapeshifting, pickpockets, notes slipped under doors, swashbuckling, blackberries, and men with big noses. Mixed with a smidgeon of history. And romances. I can't recall the last time I've been so invested in whether people would kiss.

One could see the major plot points ahead but that didn't matter. The fun ride is the thing wherein the reader is caught.

The story is told from three points of view (Edward, Jane, and Gifford), each of which was written by a different author, but I had to read that information to be sure of it. The story style flows smoothly without any obvious style breaks.  Narrator Katherine Kellgren was over the top sometimes in a way that startled me at first but soon saw perfectly reflected the story. The various accents and voices were perfectly performed.

I loved it.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Well Said: We can't leave all our passions behind

My dear Sister, you tell me that you have brought your pride with you. I assure you that I was quite aware of that! If you had left all your passions behind you and were just an unfeeling lump, how could you prove your love and faithfulness to God? Therefore don't worry about your feelings, but fight bravely, leaning on God.
St. Paola Frassinetti
via The Voices of the Saint by Bert Ghezzi
This is something that was pointed out to me recently when I was bemoaning a character trait that I repeatedly try to reform. It is that very character trait which makes me who I am. Perhaps the way I exhibit it might not always be the most pleasing, but I can't leave "me" behind or, as St. Paola says, I'd be a lump!

Worth a Thousand Words: At Ease

At Ease, Karin Jurick

Speak Lord. Your Servant Is Listening.

Breton Girls at Prayer
William-Adolphe Bouguereau, 1904
via French Painters
Before the Lord the whole universe is as a grain from a balance
or a drop of morning dew come down upon the earth.
But you have mercy on all, because you can do all things;
and you overlook people’s sins that they may repent.
For you love all things that are
and loathe nothing that you have made;
for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.
And how could a thing remain, unless you willed it;
or be preserved, had it not been called forth by you?
But you spare all things, because they are yours,
O Lord and lover of souls,
for your imperishable spirit is in all things!
Therefore you rebuke offenders little by little,
warn them and remind them of the sins they are committing,
that they may abandon their wickedness and believe in you, O Lord!
The Book of Wisdom 11:22-12:2

I present one of my favorite Old Testament passages for our prayerful reflection. It's a wonderful image of love, understanding, and mercy. It also reminds me that Jesus said, "Anyone who has seen me has seen the Father" (John 14:9). Amen.

Thanks and gratitude for:
  • Rose's job opportunity
  • Deb's father's amazing healing progress
Lord, hear our prayers for:
  • Upcoming Beyond Cana marriage enrichment retreat — for couples attending, for more to sign up, for those presenting the retreat
  • Danusha's healing
  • Zoe's eye to heal
  • Tammy's request
    Continual prayer intentions ...
    • For our government officials to uphold our right to religious liberty
    • An end to abortion and a reverence for life in all stages of age and health.
    • Our priests and for vocations
    • Abortion providers, Lord open their eyes and hearts
    • Strength, joy and peace for oppressed Christians in China, Asia, and the Middle East. Also that their oppressors may have their eyes opened to the truth. And for all those oppressed, actually.
    If you have prayer requests, please leave them in the comments and I'll add them to the list. I keep these in my prayer journal also.

    Tuesday, June 21, 2016

    Worth a Thousand Words: The Gardeners

    Gustave Caillebotte, Les jardiniers, 1875

    Well Said: Understanding Life ... and Living It

    It is perfectly true, as the philosophers say, that life must be understood backwards. But they forget the other proposition, that it must be lived forwards.
    Soren Kierkegaard

    A Movie You Might Have Missed #56 — Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    "In the Oscars someone votes for you or votes against you.
    Racing, you do that yourself."*

    Winning: The Racing Life of Paul Newman

    Paul Newman's famous for a lot of things: acting, popcorn, salad dressing. But I tend to forget that he also raced cars. I never realized racing absorbed him so much that he ignored his acting career for it. That's just one of the many interesting facets opened up in this film.

    I picked this up because my husband loves documentaries and race cars. This seemed tailor made. I expected to tolerate it but instead I fell in love with this well rounded, subtle picture of a deeply private man.

    As the documentary tracked Newman's increasing love and dedication to racing, we saw him through the eyes of acting buddies like Robert Redford, racing team members, his brother, and his wife, Joanne Woodward. Archival footage fills in the gaps but it is the heart felt stories that draw the viewer in. The film winds up not just being about racing but about everything that Paul Newman loved and his talent for focusing on what absorbed him. In the process, we also learn more about what racing means to those who participate in it.

    In that sense it reminded me of Muscle Shoals where we came for the music but found surprising depth. Most documentaries don't have that sort of range but Winning is a welcome addition to documentaries that left me feeling inspired and that I could gladly watch again.

    * Paraphrased.