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Sunday, July 31, 2011

Sabbath Sayings....

“Heed me, and you shall eat well, you shall delight in rich fare.”  Is 55:2

Saturday, July 30, 2011

Saturday Reflections

Do I receive what only God can give?

Do I allow Him to minister to my needs?

Do I feel that I have done something that makes Christ unable to love me? What would Saint Paul say to me about this?
Do I let my emotions or physical condition separate me from God?

Do I bring all I have to my relationship with Christ?

Am I feeling dissatisfied?

Most importantly, have I ordered my book club book? Why not?

Friday, July 29, 2011

Ask Ellen: Who Wrote the Book of Love?

 If John wrote Revelation, and Paul wrote most of the Epistles, who wrote the Book of Love? Pat, ND

What a great question! Pat, your Biblical knowledge is acute. John is believed to be the author of the Book of Revelation. As you might recall, I am finishing up a class on Johannine Literature, which studied his Gospel and Revelation in depth. It was excellent! Sorry for the advertisement!

Paul is the author of most of the epistles. Coincidentally my next class is Pauline Literature. What are the chances! (Pretty great considering I choose when to answer your questions.)

The Book of Love? Well by that I assume you mean the Bible. I mean it is a love story from start to finish. God’s love is evident from “In the beginning” to “It is finished.” If you want to read a great love story that stands the test of time, this is it. If you want to read about a man who loves his Bride enough to die for her, this is it. If you want to read about the ultimate “happily ever after”, this is it.

So I think you are asking me, “Who wrote the Bible?” The answer is….God. God inspired human authors to record His message. The authors were able to use their own skills and talents, but the message belongs to God.

The Monotones had it right:

It was someone from above who wrote it. And it goes a little something like this:

In the beginning God tells us He loves us

He invites us to live in paradise where we will never be apart from Him

He shows us the meaning of romance by offering us everything we truly need

We break up with Him…through sin.

But He always gives us just one more chance.

That is who wrote THE book of love.

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Thursday- I Can’t Get No Satisfaction

Sunday’s Gospel is Matthew 14:13-21. Go ahead and read it now. I’ll wait.

Yesterday we focused on how nothing can separate us from Christ’s love. Today we see what that love offers.

We see the emotional side of Jesus in this passage. When He learns of the death of John the Baptist, he seeks some alone time. He feels sorry for the large crowd that follows Him and heals them. He wants to do the same for you.

The disciples miss the obvious here. They are in a panic that these people are getting hungry and there is not enough food for everyone. They tell Jesus to send the crowd away. Jesus tells them to bring Him what they have. That’s all he requires of you as well.

They bring 5 loaves of bread and 2 fish. (The bread is meant to recall the story of Elisha, for you Bible Geeks). We then see Eucharist language here…they sit. He blesses the bread, breaks it and gives it to his disciples (the priests of the New Covenant) to distribute it to the people. Sound familiar? The same exact things happen at every Mass.

The people ate and were satisfied. Oh that we were satisfied! What would that even look like? Our culture tells us that we can never be satisfied. It tells us that we need a better car, a better job, a better spouse etc. But Jesus satisfied these people.

The readings for this week tie together beautifully. Isaiah tells us that anyone can get what they need from God. St Paul’s Letter to the Romans tells us that nothing we do can disqualify us from this love that gives us what we need. The Gospel of Matthew shows us that Jesus can actually satisfy us if we let Him.

Are you struggling with feeling dissatisfied? Have you asked Jesus to give you what you need? Have you let Him in? These readings offer tremendous hope in the midst of a dissatisfied world. Come and rest and be satisfied!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Yeah, Well You Don’t Know What I’ve Done

Sunday’s Second Reading is from Saint Paul’s Letter to the Romans 8:35, 37-39. Take a few minutes to read it now.

This week is following the theme that nothing can separate us from God and that He will provide what we need. Today we focus on the fact that nothing can separate us from Christ.

Paul lists many things that can challenge us: anguish, distress, persecution, famine, peril and sword. These might not be every day things in your life but you get the picture. Sometimes we let our emotions or physical condition pull us away from God.

Saint Paul tells us that all these things were already conquered for us by Christ, simply because He loved us. How would life be different if you lived life like this true? What if you didn’t allow your emotions to control you? What if you didn’t let life’s circumstances defeat you? It is wasted energy because they aren’t in your hands anyway.

Saint Paul concludes by listing many powerful things that still cannot separate us from Christ like: death, life, the present, the future, power or creatures. He loves us that much.

You might be thinking, “That’s great in theory but you have no idea what I’ve done.” You are right, I don’t. But God does and listen to what St. Paul is telling you in spite of it….Christ still loves you. He is longing to give you the things you need that were mentioned in yesterday’s song.

Today rejoice in the fact that nothing you’ve done and nothing that will happen in the future will make Christ stop loving you.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Come To The Water

This song quotes Sunday’s first reading, Isaiah 55:1-3.

This passage makes it clear that anyone can come to the Lord and that He will provide all that this needed. He calls us to receive what only He can give.

Enjoy the song. For today realize that nothing you have done or will do will ever makes God stop loving you.

Monday, July 25, 2011

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Sabbath Sayings....

“Love bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.  Love never ends.”  1 Cor 13:7-8a

Saturday, July 23, 2011

Saturday Reflections...

Do I do everything I can to get God into my life?  Or do I run and hide?

What changes do I have to make to include God in my life?

What people has God brought into my life to love me and lift me higher?

Am I on a peak or in a valley on the long and winding road?

Have I led those that love me to my door?  Or do I turn them away?

What song meant the most to me this week?  Why?

Friday, July 22, 2011

Ask Ellen: I'll go with the silly...What's the deal with the incense? Is it only for "special occasions"? Steph, PA

Thanks for the question, Steph.  When you grow up in the Catholic Church, as we did, it is hard not to run into incense at some point.  It is interesting how the minute I smell it, it reminds me of Church.  Of course it also reminds me of college.  People used incense to cover the smell of pot.  But that’s another story.

Incense was an important part of Jewish liturgy.  The altar of incense was before the Ark of the Covenant.  Therefore, incense is associated with God’s Presence as God’s Presence was thought to be contained within the Ark.  The smoke that arises as incense is burned is said to be our prayers ascending to heaven.

That is a beautiful picture.  As we pray our thoughts and intentions are lifted up to heaven.  The liturgy is meant to engage all of our senses.  We see the candles, vestments, stained glass etc.  We hear the Word of God and prayer.  We touch each other through the sign of peace.  We touch Jesus as we receive Him in the Eucharist.  We taste heaven as we receive the Body and Blood of Christ.  Our sense of smell is engaged with incense.  The liturgy should be a feast for the senses.

Nowadays, it is used for special occasions such as “High Mass” and funerals.  I hope next time you smell incense it is in Church and not to mask the smell of illegal substances!

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Long And Winding Road

Please copy and paste the following link to hear today's song:

Today continues our theme that the Beatles can teach us about true love.  This is more melancholy than yesterday’s song.  He is still waiting for his love.  Yet all roads lead him back to her no matter how many paths he may have thought he had chosen.  It is clear that he has been through storms and pain and cried many tears over this woman.  It has not been an easy road for them.  He has tried to move on but is powerless to do so where she is concerned.  You can feel his struggle.  What he wants the most is for her to show him how to love her.  He wants to be welcomed back into her life.  Since I am a sucker for happy endings, I always picture her opening the door and them living happily ever after.  But that’s just me.

How does this apply to your life spiritually?  I think your faith is the long and winding road of your life.  There are times you are on the path.  You have a plan and you and God are going places.  Other times, you are in the ditch is a monsoon.  You might even have times when you are angry with God and send Him on His way.  Those times are OK too.  At least it is authentic.  There may be times when you make decisions you are pretty sure God objects to.  But still He leads you back to the long and winding road of your walk together.

I would be full of baloney if I told you that you were supposed to be the perfect believer and never struggle or sin or choose to walk away.  That is not real life.  What I can tell is that I think it is easier to get back on the path than we make it out to be.  The worst thing we can do is say, I am so far off the path I won’t ever get back on.  I don’t think we can outsin God.

Today, look around the path.  Are you in a peak and valley?  Know that we are on the long and winding road with you….and that it does lead to God.  And lead those who love you on your own path to your door.

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

Got To Get You Into My Life

Cut and paste the link to hear today's song:

I know that you have already assumed that I am going to tell you that this is one of my top five Beatles songs.  Please do not keep track because you will quickly realize that I have about 5 sets of top 5s.  But I digress.

Think about this song.  It is beautiful really.  It is obviously about a couple who drifted apart for whatever reason.  He sets out on a journey not sure of what to expect .  I love how his thought process changes the minute he sees her.  It is clear from that one line that he has always loved her.  He quickly decides that he has to do everything he can to spend as much time with her as possible.  Do you remember being that in love?  He seems shocked that she doesn’t run away.  I think maybe she did last time.  He tells her that he knew that this would happen.  I guess nothing really ever ends.  I love the confidence he has that time and fate would bring her back to him again.  He seems like he was willing to wait no matter how long it took.  If that isn’t true love, I don’t know what is.

What can this song mean to your faith?  Do you do everything you can to get God into your life?  Or do you get close and run and hide like the girl must have?  If you truly want God in your life, what changes would you have to make?  You were meant to be near Him.  You were made to be together everyday.

This song reaffirms my belief that true love that conquers time and distance.  And makes me think that kind of love comes only from God.  He brings people into your life to love you and lift you higher.  Why not let them?

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Excerpt From Book Club Selection (Cont)

Click on the banner above and order your copy today.  Join us Tuesdays in August.  All are welcome!

First, since the Bible requires me to tell the truth (Proverbs 26:28), I must confess that part of the reason is to write this book. A couple of years ago, I came out with a book about reading theEncyclopaedia Britannica, all of it, from A to Z – or more specifically, from a-ak (East Asian music) to Zywiec (a town in southern Poland known for its beer). What could I do next? The only intellectual adventure that seemed a worthy follow-up was to explore the most influential book in the world, the all-time bestseller, the Bible.

Second, this project would be my visa to a spiritual world. I wouldn’t just be studying religion. I’d be living it. If I have what they call a God-shaped hole in my heart, this quest will allow me fill it. If I have a hidden mystical side, this year will bring it out of the closet. If I want to understand my forefathers, this year will let me live like they did, but with less leprosy.

And third, this project would be a way to explore the huge and fascinating topic of Biblical literalism. Millions of Americans say they take the Bible literally. According to a 2005 Gallup poll, the number hovers near 33 percent. A Newsweek poll puts it at 55 percent. A literal interpretation of the Bible – both Jewish and Christian -- shapes American policies on the Middle East, homosexuality, stem cell research, education, abortion – right on down to rules about buying beer on Sunday.

But my suspicion was that almost everyone’s literalism consisted of picking and choosing. People plucked out the parts that fit their agenda, whether that agenda was to the right or left. Not me. I thought, with some naiveté, I would peel away the layers of interpretation and find the true Bible underneath. I would do this by being the ultimate fundamentalist. I’d be fearless. I would do exactly what the Bible said, and in so doing, I’d discover what’s great and timeless in the Bible and what is outdated.

I told my wife, Julie, my idea, and warned her it might affect our life in a not-so-minor way. She didn’t gnash her teeth or tear out her hair. She just emitted a little sigh. “I was kind of hoping your next book would be a biography of Eleanor Roosevelt or something.”

Everyone – family, friends, co-workers – had the same concern: That I’d go native. That I’d end up as a beekeeper at a monastery or I’d move into my ex-uncle Gil’s spare room in his Jerusalem apartment.

In a sense, they were right to worry. You can’t immerse yourself in religion for 12 months and emerge unaffected. At least I couldn’t. Put it this way: If my former self and my current self met for coffee, they’d get along okay, but they’d both probably walk out of the Starbucks shaking their heads and saying to themselves, “That guy is kinda delusional.”

As with most Biblical journeys, my year has taken me on detours I could never have predicted. I didn’t expect to herd sheep in Israel. Or fondle a pigeon egg. Or find solace in prayer. Or hear Amish jokes from the Amish. I didn’t expect to confront just how absurdly flawed I am. I didn’t expect to discover such strangeness in the Bible. And I didn’t expect to, as the Psalmist says, Take refuge in the Bible and rejoice in it. 

Beatles Trivia

Cut and paste the link below to play some Beatles trivia.  Let us know your score!

Monday, July 18, 2011

An Excerpt From The AGOG Book Club Selection For August

Click on the banner above and order your copy today.  Join us Tuesdays in August.

As I write this, I have a beard that makes me resemble Moses. Or Abe Lincoln. Or Ted Kaczynski. I’ve been called all three.

It’s not a well-manicured, socially-acceptable beard. It’s an untamed mass that creeps up toward my eyeballs and drapes below my neckline.

I’ve never allowed my facial hair to grow before, and it’s been an odd and enlightening experience. I’ve been inducted into a secret fraternity of bearded guys – we nod at each other as we pass on the street, giving a knowing quarter-smile. Strangers have come up to me and petted my beard, like it’s a Labrador Retriever puppy or a pregnant woman’s stomach.

I’ve suffered for my beard. It’s been caught in jacket zippers and been tugged on by my surprisingly strong two-year-old son. I’ve spent a lot of time answering questions at airport security.

I’ve been asked if I’m named Smith and sell cough drops with my brother. ZZ Top is mentioned at least three times a week. Passersby have shouted “Yo, Gandalf.” Someone called me Steven Seagal, which I found curious, since he doesn’t have a beard.

I’ve battled itch and heat. I’ve spent a week’s salary on balms, powders, ointments and conditioners. My beard has been a temporary home to cappuccino foam and lentil soup. And it’s upset people. Thus far, two little girls have burst into tears and one boy has hidden behind his mother.

But I mean no harm. The facial hair is simply the most noticeable physical manifestation of a spiritual journey I began a year ago.

My quest has been this: To live the ultimate Biblical life. Or more precisely, to follow the Bible as literally as possible. To obey the Ten Commandments. To be fruitful and multiply. To love my neighbor. To tithe my income. But also to abide by the oft-neglected rules: To avoid wearing clothes made of mixed fibers. To stone adulterers. And, naturally, to leave the edges of my beard unshaven (Leviticus 19:27). I am trying to obey the entire Bible, without picking and choosing.

To back up: I grew up in an extremely secular home in New York City. I am officially Jewish, but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant. Which is to say: Not very. I attended no Hebrew school, ate no matzoh. The closest my family came to observing Judaism was that paradoxical classic of assimilation: a Star of David on top of our Christmas tree.

It’s not that my parents badmouthed religion. It’s just that religion wasn’t for us. We lived in the 20th century, for crying out loud. In our house, spirituality was almost a taboo subject, much like my father’s salary or my sister’s clove cigarette habit.

My only brushes with the Bible were brief and superficial. We had a next-door neighbor, Reverend Schulze, a kindly Lutheran minister who looked remarkably like Thomas Jefferson. (By the way, Reverend Schulze’s son became an actor and, oddly enough, went on to play the part of the creepy priest on The Sopranos.) Reverend Schulze told great stories about college sit-ins during the sixties, but whenever he started talking about God, it just sounded like a foreign language to me.

I attended a handful of bar mitzvahs where I zoned out during services and spent the time trying to guess who had bald spots under their yarmulkes. I went to my paternal grandfather’s funeral, which was, to my surprise, presided over by a rabbi. How could the rabbi eulogize a man he’d never met? It was disconcerting.

And as far as childhood religion, that was about it.

I was agnostic before I even knew what the word meant. Partly, it was the problem of the existence of evil. If there is a God, why would He allow war, disease, and my fourth-grade teacher Ms. Barker, who forced us to have a sugar-free bake sale? But mostly, the idea of God seemed superfluous. Why do we need an invisible, inaudible deity? Maybe He exists, but we’ll never know in this life.

College didn’t help my spiritual development. I went to a secular university where you were more likely to study the semiotics of Wicca rituals than the Judeo-Christian tradition. And when we did read the Bible, it was as literature, as a fusty ancient book with the same truth quotient as The Faerie Queene.

We did, of course, study the history of religion. How the Bible has been the force behind many of humankind’s greatest achievements: the civil rights movement, charitable giving, the abolition of slavery. And how, of course, it’s been used to justify our worst: war, genocide and the subjugation of others.

For a long time, I thought that religion, for all the good it does, seemed too risky for our modern world. The potential for abuse too high. I figured it would slowly fade away like other archaic things. Science was on the march. Someday soon we’d all be living in a neo-Enlightenment paradise where every decision was made with steely, Spock-like logic.

As you might have noticed, I was spectacularly mistaken. The influence of the Bible -- and religion as a whole – remains a mighty force, perhaps even stronger than it was when I was a kid. So in the last few years, religion has become my fixation. Is half of the world suffering from a massive delusion? Or is my blindness to spirituality a huge defect in my personality? What if I’m missing out on part of being human, like a guy who goes through life without ever hearing Beethoven or falling in love? And most important, I now have a young son – if my lack of religion is a flaw, I don’t want to pass it onto him.

So I knew I wanted to explore religion. I just needed to figure out how.

The germ of the idea came from my own family: My uncle Gil. Or ex-uncle, to be exact. Gil married my aunt and divorced her a few years later, but he remains the most controversial member of our family. If the rest my relatives are ultra-secular, Gil makes up for it by being, quite possibly, the most religious man in the world. He’s a spiritual omnivore. He started his life as a Jew, became a Hindu, appointed himself a guru, sat for eight months on a Manhattan park bench without speaking, founded a hippie cult in upstate New York, turned into a born-again Christian, and, in his latest incarnation, is an ultra-Orthodox Jew in Jerusalem. I may have missed a phase – I think he was into Shinto for a bit. But you get the idea.

At some point along his spiritual path, Gil decided to take the Bible literally. Completely literally. The Bible says to bind money to your hand (Deuteronomy 14:25), so Gil withdrew $300 from the bank and tied the bills to his palm with a thread. The Bible says to wear fringes on the corners of your garment (Numbers 16:38), so Gil bought yarn from a knitting shop, made a bunch of tassels and attached them to his shirt collar and the ends of his sleeves. The Bible says to give money to widows and orphans, so he walked the streets asking people if they were widows or orphans so he could hand them cash.

About a year and a half ago, I was telling my friend Paul about Gil’s bizarre life over lunch at a sandwich shop, and I had my epiphany. That’s it. I needed to follow the Bible literally myself. I needed to do it for several reasons. 

Beatles Week....

Click the Gracenotes link above to hear this week's podcast.  And welcome to another Beatles Week!

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Sabbath Sayings....

“I will be with you.  I will not fail or forsake you.  Be strong and of good courage.”
Joshua 1:5b-6a

Saturday, July 16, 2011

Saturday Reflections...

Do I like baseball?  Why or why not?

What life lessons are hidden within the game?

What can sports teach us about life?

Do I live life deliberately?

Am I fixated on the clock?

Do I always want to know what to expect?

Do I slow down enough to see the connections around me?

Do I keep playing even if its clear I am not going to win?

Do I ask God what the play is before I come up to the plate?

What can I learn from Moses’ stint as a starting pitcher?

What can I learn from Joshua’s relief work?

Will I go down swinging?

Friday, July 15, 2011

Our Book Selection Described By The Author Continues

Click the banner above and order your book today. A portion of the proceeds will benefit AGOG. We will begin our discussion on the first Tuesday in August. All are welcome to join!

I decided to dive in headfirst. To try to experience the Bible myself and find out what’s good in it, and what’s maybe not so relevant to the 21st century.

The resulting year was fascinating, entertaining and informative. It was equal parts irreverent and reverent. It was filled with surprising insights almost every day. (I know it’s not biblical to boast, so apologies for that).

The book that came out of the year has several layers.

-An exploration of some of the Bible’s startlingly relevant rules. I tried not to covet, gossip, or lie for a year. I’m a journalist in New York. This was not easy.

--An investigation of the rules that baffle the 21st century brain. How to justify the laws about stoning homosexuals? Or smashing idols? Or sacrificing oxen? And how do you follow those in modern-day Manhattan?

--A look at various fascinating religious groups. I embedded myself among several groups that take the Bible literally in their own way, from creationists to snake handlers, Hasidim to the Amish.

--A critique of fundamentalism. I became the ultra-fundamentalist. I found that fundamentalists may claim to take the Bible literally, but they actually just pick and choose certain rules to follow. By taking fundamentalism extreme, I found that literalism is not the best way to interpret the Bible.

--A spiritual journey. As an agnostic, I’d never seriously explored such things as sacredness and revelation.

--A memoir of my family’s eccentric religious history, including my ex-uncle Gil, who has been, among other things, a Hindu cult leader, an evangelical Christian and an Orthodox Jew.

Ask Ellen: Why is Mass so boring? Bob, TX

Ouch!!! That one hurts but may be deserved in some respects. In general, people find Mass boring because they have no clue what is going on. We go to Church….stand, sit and kneel and respond with stuff we memorized but were never told why. We know something significant is going on but we have no idea how to plug ourselves in!

First, let me say that I am sorry that it was never explained to you. Let me also add that I wish we were given more opportunities to understand the Mass piece by piece. This is exactly why I advocate Bible study for Catholics! Everything about the Mass is Biblical!!!! Every response and gesture..everything.

Let me pause for this commercial break…and tell you to get “A Biblical Walk Through The Mass” (Ascension Press) by Dr. Sri. As an aside, he happens to be teaching me the Gospel of John in the Augustine Institute DE program and it is nothing short of fabulous. And no..that is not brown on my nose.

If you read a book like his or maybe “The Lamb’s Supper” by Scott Hahn you will begin to see the depth and significance of the Mass. You will understand what liturgy is and how much we owe to the Jewish faith for its tradition and beauty.

If you study the Mass, you will have many “aha moments” You will even understand vestments and incense. Mass will become like a Bible treasure hunt..sorry, I get carried away. I can guarantee that Mass won’t be boring…but I cannot guarantee that your priest won’t give a boring homily from time to time. But cut the guy some slack. It is hard to share the stage with something as awesome as Mass.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Author's Description Of Our Book Club Selection

Click on the banner at the top of the page and join us on the first Tuesday in August for our first Book Club.

The Year of Living Biblically is about my quest to live the ultimate biblical life. To follow every single rule in the Bible – as literally as possible. I obey the famous ones:
The Ten Commandments
Love thy neighbor
Be fruitful and multiply
But also, the hundreds of oft-ignored ones.
Do not wear clothes of mixed fibers.
Do not shave your beard
Stone adulterers
Why? Well, I grew up in a very secular home (I’m officially Jewish but I’m Jewish in the same way the Olive Garden is an Italian restaurant). I’d always assumed religion would just wither away and we’d live in a neo-Enlightenment world. I was, of course, spectacularly wrong. So was I missing something essential to being a human? Or was half the world deluded?

I decided to dive in headfirst. To try to experience the Bible myself and find out what’s good in it, and what’s maybe not so relevant to the 21st century.

The resulting year was fascinating, entertaining and informative. It was equal parts irreverent and reverent. It was filled with surprising insights almost every day. (I know it’s not biblical to boast, so apologies for that).

The book that came out of the year has several layers.

-An exploration of some of the Bible’s startlingly relevant rules. I tried not to covet, gossip, or lie for a year. I’m a journalist in New York. This was not easy.

--An investigation of the rules that baffle the 21st century brain. How to justify the laws about stoning homosexuals? Or smashing idols? Or sacrificing oxen? And how do you follow those in modern-day Manhattan?

--A look at various fascinating religious groups. I embedded myself among several groups that take the Bible literally in their own way, from creationists to snake handlers, Hasidim to the Amish.

--A critique of fundamentalism. I became the ultra-fundamentalist. I found that fundamentalists may claim to take the Bible literally, but they actually just pick and choose certain rules to follow. By taking fundamentalism extreme, I found that literalism is not the best way to interpret the Bible.

--A spiritual journey. As an agnostic, I’d never seriously explored such things as sacredness and revelation.

--A memoir of my family’s eccentric religious history, including my ex-uncle Gil, who has been, among other things, a Hindu cult leader, an evangelical Christian and an Orthodox Jew.

Relief Pitcher

Moses was an excellent starting pitcher. He led his team through a rocky season to say the least. He threw some great fast balls like the water from the rock. He threw some curves too. Lets not forget breaking the Ten Commandments. He was strong through many, many innings. He endured the boos of the crowd. Remember his fans were sick of their ballpark fair. No peanuts and cracker jacks for these folks. They had manna and quail. They let Moses know each time his pitches wandered outside of their comfort zones.

But our ace got tired. I would say tired of his team, his fans and some shaky calls. Mostly I think of his tired arm as he held up his banner to win victory over his enemies. That would make any pitcher’s arm tired!

So what is God to do when His starting pitcher gets tired? He made a call to the bullpen and found a trustworthy rookie named Joshua to come in and save the game for Moses. Joshua threw some perfect pitches and led his team into the Promised Land. He trusted his manager (God) to make the right calls and brought home the victory..or in this case brought the people home. I can just imagine the celebration at home plate as the walls of the stadium (Jericho) fell around them.

God teaches us an important lesson in bringing in this relief pitcher, Joshua. He shows us that even His starting ace, Moses needed help and could be replaced. Lest we think we are more valuable than Moses, what does that mean for us? I think means if we are called to start the game, we go in like Moses and pitch out hearts out. If we find ourselves on the bench we should watch the game carefully and wait for the bullpen phone to ring. If it does, answer it and take over for someone who has gone before you. It is the only way we can win the game.

We should also keep in mind that none of us or what we contribute is irreplaceable. I certainly am no Moses. Even Moses got worn out. But as long as we are in the line-up, lets throw some strikes!

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

AGOG Proudly Announces Our First Book Club

During the month of August we will be discussing "The Year of Living Biblically: One Man's Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally As Possible" by A.J. Jacobs. On Tuesdays, we will discuss this book right here on the site. The discussion will keep going throughout the month on the AGOG Facebook page which can be found by clicking on the Facebook icon on the home page. This is a fun and thought provoking read that I hope will generate great discussions.

Please consider reading along with us. The book can be purchased from Amazon using the link on the top banner of the home page. If you buy through the AGOG site, part of the proceeds will be given to help fund the AGOG site and that would be appreciated.

If you'd like to join us, order your book and be ready to dive into the discussion on the first Tuesday in August. It is that simple!

My hope is that the book helps us to remember not to take ourselves too seriously. All are welcome to join regardless of age or gender. It is a book that has something for everyone. Join us, won't you? Happy Reading!

Go Out Swinging

I like…baseball. You might even say that I love it. I like the game itself but I love the Philadelphia Phillies. Being a Phillies fan has not always been as easy as it seems the last few years. They were awful for a very long time. My son who is a huge Phillies fan has no idea how this can be true. But I bet some of you reading this remember it well. It was really just a series of losses strung together year after year.

I remember when they won the World Series in 1980. My dad was so happy. He, also a lifelong Phillies fan, had suffered through many more terrible seasons than I had. Then they won again in 2008. This was special because I have groomed my own children into Phillies fans. My father was taught everything baseball from his grandfather. It matters to my cousins too. We are all rabid Phillies fans. Why?

I think it connects us as a family. We know that we are all interested in the score no matter where we are. On the days of big games or big trades, a series of phone calls will circulate through the family. Before a big game, like a playoff, my Aunt will call to be sure the “flag is up.” This is code for making sure I have a cocktail to enjoy while watching. Our love of the Phillies keep us close even though we all live in Pennsylvania, Maine, Maryland or Virginia. I love that!

I think we like the game too. It is a thinking game and slow enough for me to follow. I like that I can see the strategy of winning played out before my very eyes. I like that there is no clock. The game can last 20 innings but it won’t end until someone wins. It is the one thing I enjoy that I don’t wonder what time it is. I like that I can watch my son play baseball and know what to expect…most of the time. There is nothing better though than thinking it is over just to have a rally start.

What does this have to do with faith? My faith also connects me to those same family members. We will be welcoming a new addition to my extended family soon and we will all gather. This time for a Baptism. I promise you even though it won’t be during the regular season, someone will mention the Phillies. I think I should start to approach life and my faith the way I watch baseball. I should slow down enough to see all the connections around me. I should forget about the clock and just learn to play. And I should keep playing until someone wins, even if it is not me. I should study God’s strategy as He brings me in for the next play. And I should live life knowing it isn’t over until the last man is out. And even then, I want to go out swinging.

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Monday, July 11, 2011

Saturday, July 9, 2011

The Best Of...Make A Happily Day

There are so many themes we can tackle in the movie Cinderella.  Today I’d like to focus on just three.  The first is Prince Charming.  I think all of us at one time or another have pictured ourselves married to Prince Charming.  Yet most of us wake up to regular lives and regular guys.  So what happened?  I think we came to the realization that perfect doesn’t exist this side of heaven.  But I bet you are married to someone who at one point was charming.  It may have been decades ago but something drew you to that person.  Things might be so bad that you have difficulty even imagining what drew you to him in the first place.  But for today...try to remember what it was.  Release him from the ideal of Prince Charming and allow him to be who he is.  You don’t need him to be your Prince Charming anyway.  Yours is waiting for you in heaven..white horse and all.

And to all the single readers out there. …. Take it from someone who knows, stop fretting and searching for what you have decided is ideal.  The guy you least expect might have a glass slipper in just your size.  Stop spinning your wheels and allow God to be your prince until an earthly one shows up.

Speaking of the glass slipper, that brings me to our second topic.  The lengths women go to….. to make it fit.  What are we thinking?  Really?  Sometimes it is painfully clear that our foot is too small or too big to step into a situation, yet we proceed to just keep trying to make it fit.  Sometimes its better to just walk away or never become involved in the first place.  We need to learn to become more introspective and ask ourselves and God if we have any business doing the things we are doing, fighting the wars we are fighting on behalf of ourselves, our spouses our children or whatever we decide is our cause.  Should you really being doing what you are doing?  Or are you trying like mad to make something fit that just doesn’t?

Lastly, what is this thing called happily ever after?  Seriously?  I cannot sit here and tell you that if you find the right guy or the right job or the right kids or whatever that life will just be ducky everyday.  We both know that is simply not true.  I can tell you that if you make the best decisions you can and you do it with a heart that longs to be faithful to God, you will have more good days than bad.  When you do what you can to surround yourself with love and joy, you have more “happily” days.  When you concern yourself with others, you have more ups.  Those are things we can all do in some simple way.  Start today!  What is one thing you can do today to have a “happily” day?  Read a book, take a walk, play with your kids, cut your husband a break, call an old friend, book a vacation, take a bubble bath.  Oh right, I said one thing…well, pick one and do it.  Create your own happily day

But what about ever after?  We have been offered the best happily ever after there is with Jesus in heaven.  That’s the only one I know of…I hope to see you there.

Friday, July 8, 2011

Best Of....Ask Ellen...Ask Ellen: I'm interested in being a saint, what's the application process? Paul, DE

Congratulations on setting the bar high for yourself.  I commend your aspiration.  Let’s see…the application process is quite lengthy, your whole life in fact.  Your resume would need to include faith and good deeds.  Your educational experience should probably include studying the Bible as well as many other good reads like the lives of the saints and such.

Your application will come under review shortly after your expiration.  You will probably have to sit in the waiting room until Saint Peter calls you for your interview.  An important thing to remember is there won’t be any call backs or second interviews here.  Peter will review your resume and decide if you are in, if you have to sweat it out for a while until you make the cut (kinda like the minor leagues) or if you’re fired..literally.  If you find yourself in the waiting room, know that generations of Catholics have been praying for your release.  If you’re fired then I guess you should have changed the font on your resume or had better references.  If you’re in, then congratulations you’ve achieved your goal of sainthood.  Please pay it forward by putting in a good word for the rest of us.

As for me, I really hope St. Peter is in a good mood and doesn’t check all my references.

Thursday, July 7, 2011

John, Jesus' Lap Dog

I love John.  Mostly because of how he loved Jesus.  John was one of the twelve men Jesus chose to hang out with.  He got to spend some serious quality time with Jesus, walking all over Israel, hearing Him teach, watching Him heal and just growing to love Him with what I like to think of as puppy love.  We can learn some important things about John by studying the Gospels.  Today I will highlight just a few.
{You should be warned that I just started a class on John so you might be hearing a lot about him!}
Just as any good dog follows his owner, John does not hesitate to follow Jesus when He is called.  In fact John left everything behind to become a loyal follower of Jesus.  John got to spend intimate times with Jesus, watching Jesus pray.  Sure sounds like my dog, Pinot who curls up next to me as I work. 
The key lap dog moment for John can be found in John 13:23

I love this verse for a couple of reasons.  The first being that John actually describes himself as the one Jesus loved.  I love that he thought it.  I love that he wrote it.  Isn’t it just like us to think, yeah but He loves me best?  Now, where was I?  Oh, yes, the other reason I like this verse is because I think it was true….I believe Jesus did have a heart for John.  I believe He has that same heart for each of us as well.  It is believed that John was younger than the others, kind of like a puppy I’d say.  I think Jesus loved his enthusiasm and playful side.  I like to think that John entertained Jesus in a way the others might not have.
Jesus took John into the Garden on the eve of His death.  I cannot imagine what our playful puppy, John, experienced that night.  I shared yesterday that our puppy, Pinot tries to lick our tears away.  What must John have sought to do as he watched Jesus’ Agony in the Garden?  I tremble to think of it.
The image of Jesus’ faithful lap dog is conveyed in John 19:26-27

John again wants us to know that He is loved by Jesus.  I think he is reminding himself of it as he watches this horrific scene unfold.  Yet, as a faithful guard dog he stands at the foot of the Cross when all the others have scattered.  His Master needs him and he is right there.  Jesus knows what a great guard dog John is and entrusts His Mother to John’s care.  I know he took care of her the way my puppy takes care of my kids.
The final scene I offer you today is one where I playful puppy returns.  We find it in  John 20:3-4.

Can you just see our puppy, John, running to the tomb on the off chance that his Master is alive?  I see the look on my dog’s face when I come home and she looks like, “I can’t believe you came back.”  Can you imagine John’s “I can’t believe you came back” moment?  I picture him running with reckless abandon to find his best friend…alive!
What can we learn from John?  We can learn to be Jesus’ lap dogs.  We can learn not to hesitate when Jesus calls.  We can learn to obey the commands of our Master.  We can search out times of intimacy with Jesus when we are completely alone with Him.  We can learn to recline with Jesus and allow Him to teach us.  We can unite our suffering to His.  We can stand by Him when no one else does.  We can faithfully care for those He has given us.  And finally we can run like mad to meet Him whenever He comes.

Wednesday, July 6, 2011

The Best Of...Father's Day Week

Welcome back to Dude’s Week. Admittedly I have no clue what its like to be a father. But I do know what it is like to be surrounded by great ones: my own dad, my husband, my uncle, my business partner, my son’s godfather, my friends’ husbands. Man, as I write this, I see that I like to surround myself with good men. Good move on my part.

Today’s Biblical character study involves my good friend, David. David was a good man but he was far from perfect. Notice I did not say the guys I mentioned above were perfect. David starts off life well. He is chosen to be king but he plays his cards smart while he waits for that to unfold. We are going to fast forward in his life to the point where he is living life large. He is hanging out on the roof of his palace when he should have been in battle like the other kings. He has the best of everything and he is bored….so he takes what isn’t his, Bathsheba. They have a child together who dies. Sin always has consequences. But the consequences don’t end there. For a while it seems they have recovered. They proceed to have a son, Solomon, the Wise One.

We need to look deeper to see what happened because of David’s sin. His family fractured. I’m sure many of us can relate. His children don’t get along with each other. One son actually rapes his daughter. His son Absalom will be our focus today.

Absalom wants his dad’s throne. In fact he gives David quite a run for his money. But David has a father’s heart. He orders his men not to kill his son for any reason. Absalom winds up dead and we have some of the most gut wrenching words of Scripture in the lines that follow. “O my son Absalom, my son, my son, Absalom! Would I have died instead of you, O Absalom, my son, my son!” “ 2 Samuel 18:33

As I said before I have no idea how a father loves. But in this brief passage I think I catch a glimpse. I see a powerful man with the world seemingly at his command, reduced to his knees in grief over a child. In his case the child was dead. In yours it might be estranged, in sin, sick or whatever. The pain is real. And David’s pain is raw. In that sentence I can begin to see how a father loves…. mightily yet he cannot fix everything. The King is reduced to his knees on behalf of his son.

Scripture tells us that David had a heart like God’s. To me, that means a father’s heart. In David we see a man who made some pretty bad choices and some great ones. But he never stopped loving God. He loved his children with abandon and they broke his heart. Yep, sounds like a heart like God’s to me.

For all you dads out there…love your children even though they can and will break your heart. When you feel like giving up think of David and his broken heart and love like him.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Best Of....

Click on the Gracenotes link above to revisit one of our earlier podcasts.

Monday, July 4, 2011

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Sabbath Sayings...

“As for you, you meant evil against me; but God meant it for good.”  Gen 50:20

Saturday, July 2, 2011

Saturday Reflections...

What movie would I like to study on AGOG? (be reasonable, people)

Have I expected too much of my Prince Regular?

How has looking for the ideal hindered what I have?

Do I allow the princes in my life to be who they are?

Do I know the real Prince Charming is in heaven waiting for me?

What glass slippers am I cramming my feet into?

Where do I fit?

Am I missing life looking for happily ever after?

Do I create “Happily” days?  Or wait on others to make me happy?

Do I understand that happily ever after is only in heaven?

What did Joseph’s story reveal to me?

Do I struggle with forgiveness?  Giving or receiving it?

Friday, July 1, 2011

In A Pit

We would be missing the obvious if we didn’t discuss the evil stepsisters in Cinderella.  Now I know you are thinking, how is she going to connect the evil stepsisters to the Bible?  You are probably even kind of thinking..this one is gonna be a stretch.  Not at all.  I immediately think of Joseph’s brothers.  Let’s compare these today.

In Cinderella, the stepmother favors the stepsisters.  She makes Cinderella do all of the work.  The stepsisters hate Cinderella because she is beautiful.  Eventually, good triumphs and Cinderella marries the prince.  She is elevated to a high position and we are told that she lives happily ever after.

How does this relate to Joe and his brothers?  Well, let’s see!  Joseph was the favorite son of Jacob.  He was Jacob’s favorite because he was the son of Jacob’s favorite wife, Rachel.  Safe to say both stories have favoritism as a root of the problem.  Where there is favoritism, there is jealousy.  Joseph’s brothers resented him because their dad loved him best. (kinda the way the sisters hate Cindy cause she is the prettiest)  Jacob gives Joe a lavish robe, which puts it in the bros faces. (kinda like the dress that the  mice made for Cindy)  The stepsisters rip the dress apart and Cindy is told she can’t go to the ball.  The bros throw Joseph in the well and leave him for dead.

The brothers go back and tell Jacob that his prized son is dead.  How cruel!  Joseph is saved and ends up in Egypt.  There he becomes quite successful and becomes second in command of the whole country.  (Cindy becomes a princess)  As God would have it, Joseph’s brothers have to come groveling to him to get food.  Joseph helps them and is reunited with his father.

Although it was fun for me to compare the two, the message of Joseph’s story is much more profound than Cinderella.  Joseph models forgiveness for us.  He doesn’t hold a grudge and does what he can to help his family.  We see that God took care of Joseph even when his brothers left him for dead.  God rewarded Joe’s faithfulness but putting him in charge of great matters.

What is the lesson for us?  God expects us to be forgiving even when what has been done is unforgivable.  Forgiveness can be the loveliest gift you give others.  But, more importantly, it can be the greatest gift you give God.  By putting yourself and your feelings aside, you allow God room to move in your life.  When God finds you faithful in matters like this, He often promotes you to new and exciting things, like He did with Joseph.  Prove yourself faithful today.  Let someone off the hook.