Friday, May 29, 2009

The things which belong unto thy peace

[This is a re-post from a few days ago at What's Wrong with the World. It was prompted by some of the posts it links from Wesley J. Smith's incredibly important blog, Secondhand Smoke (now at a new location as part of the First Things blog family).]
And when he was come near, he beheld the city, and wept over it, saying, "If thou hadst known, even thou, at least in this thy day, the things which belong unto thy peace! But now they are hid from thine eyes. For the days shall come upon thee, that thine enemies shall cast a trench about thee, and compass thee round, and keep thee in on every side, and shall lay thee even with the ground, and thy children within thee; and they shall not leave in thee one stone upon another; because thou knewest not the time of thy visitation."

We humans usually don't know what's good for us. Jesus addressed the City of Peace and said that its inhabitants would not know the things that belonged unto their peace.

It is often said by conservatives, and rightly, that ideology is a great danger. The ideologue gets hold of one truth and makes it into the only truth, the only thing that matters. He sacrifices all else to that one thing. That one ideal might be equality, beauty, health, or love, but when one makes second things first, the second things always turn vicious, and horrors follow.

But there is another point, compatible with that point, that must be made too: When second things are made first, they destroy themselves. The ideologue does not even know what is best for the ideal he professes.

Take love, for instance. It's been said times without number that the sexual revolution wasn't really about love. But there were people who thought it was. If you had told them that the revolution they were founding would ultimately destroy love, even romantic love, even sexual love, they would not have listened. They would not have believed. Yet it was true, as numerous broken-hearted, broken-bodied men and women, men and women who have tried sex without honor can attest.

And now, in this our day, health is another god, another second thing made first. In the name of health we harvest the dead, we destroy embryos, our scientists promise us cures of all diseases if only we will dispense with ethical limitations on research. They are wrong, of course, and much of the promise is hype. But beyond that, we are in the process of losing all sense of what actually constitutes health. Doctors are under pressure to cooperate in the destruction of unborn infants as part of their profession. How is that serving health? Suicide on demand, for any reason whatsoever, assisted by doctors, is all the rage. What does that have to do with the medical profession's job of helping people to be healthy? Yet restless people whose relatives have had trouble finding people to cooperate in their suicide would actually like writing suicide prescriptions to be mandatory upon doctors. Bodily mutilation of healthy limbs is being considered as a "treatment." This is not serving bodily health and integrity.

In other words, the utilitarian attempt to elevate health as a good above innocent human life and above all ethical restraints has turned out to be profoundly anti-human and, consequently, is undermining the medical profession and the very notion of health itself.

If human beings knew the things that belong to their peace, then their perception of some good--love, health, beauty--would guide them to do the right thing. But they don't. They never seem to see it coming--the self-destructiveness of topsy-turvy priorities. They never seem to realize that when second things are made first, you end up with nothing, not even the second things.

It is time to ask ourselves what things belong to our peace. If we believe in healthy bodies, love, beauty, and human joy, we cannot serve these things best by treating the human body as mere matter. We will lose it all, and our house will be left unto us desolate.

What I've been up to--new horseback lessons

Just in case you all out there in readerland ever say to yourselves, "I wonder what Lydia McGrew is up to in her personal life lately," the latest fun thing is horseback riding lessons. It's still not absolutely clear that I'm going to be able to keep them up, but it's a case of so far so good. I have some minor back trouble that might have flared up and prevented it, but last week I recovered rapidly from the lesson and this week--we shall see. I feel fine just coming home now. Just a little stiff.

I rode a lot of Western trail riding when I was a kid, but there's nothing really "to" Western trail riding. You sit on your horse, and it follows the horse in front of it. If they trot or gallop, you hold the saddle horn. At age 10, I had a few English riding lessons, a very few, until Mom and Dad couldn't afford them anymore (understandably enough). Then it was just going riding with the church youth group now and then, hardly any riding at all, for years and years. And about twelve or thirteen years ago, I foolishly told an acquaintance that I knew how to ride, was given a horse I couldn't handle, and got myself thrown with the horse falling on top. Nobody hurt badly, not even the horse. But not fun. So after that I concentrated on raising children and not getting killed, and I haven't been back on a horse until last week. We're starting English riding from the very beginning.

I'm very fortunate to be having one-on-one lessons with a really good teacher. Last week we used one of the "school horses" from the farm, until she saw that I'm not scared of the horse or likely to freak out. Jake was very calm, but a little hard-mouthed, and with a fast, choppy trot that I could neither sit nor post. So today we had Hailey (sp?), and that was much nicer. Hailey is a tall Appaloosa and a pleasure to look at and ride. She has that long-legged walk straight down from the shoulder to the ground that always somehow reminds me of a lady in high heels. She has a lovely, smooth trot (as smooth as a trot can be, that is) that Barb, her owner and my teacher, calls a "Western" trot. I can sit it or post it, though I was still holding on to keep my balance while posting by the end of the lesson. I expect to be stiffer tomorrow than I was last week. Posting is a workout for a nerdy, sedentary type like me.

My mom called me a couple of days ago. She's nervous about the riding lessons. Ever since "what happened to Christopher Reeve," she says. Thanks, Mom. I told her I'm in far more danger driving to the lessons on a windey road where all the drivers push you if you're two miles below the speed limit than I am up on the horse. And that's the truth.

Hope to be able to keep it up this summer. Should be lots of fun if so.

Saturday, May 23, 2009

Blessed Ascensiontide

Well, golly, I wrote such a great post for Ascension Day last year that I'm strongly inclined just to link to it. It's here.

And here are the wonderful collects. We get two, because Ascension has an octave:

Grant, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe thy only begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

O God, the King of glory, who hast exalted thine only Son Jesus Christ with great triumph unto thy kingdom in heaven; We beseech thee, leave us not comfortless; but send to us thine Holy Ghost to comfort us, and exalt us unto the same place whither our Saviour Christ is gone before, who liveth and reigneth with thee and the same Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen.

For any of you who are Peter Wimsey fans, the first of those (the one actually for Ascension Day) features in my favorite of all favorite Wimsey novels, The Nine Tailors. As you'll recall (if you've read the book), Wimsey first came to the small fen town in the story back in the winter, on a nasty, snowy New Year's Eve, rang a peal with the ringers (because several had fallen sick of the influenza epidemic and Wimsey had turned up providentially to ring bells for nine hours overnight), and left the next day. But just after Easter, a body is discovered unexpectedly, and the rector, Mr. Venables, writes to Wimsey asking him to come and help investigate. So Wimsey is back in the fens in the spring. He is inspired to guess the location of the mysterious emeralds (yes, there are mysterious emeralds) by the rector's sermon on the collect for Ascension Day.

One of the things I like about Ascension as an Anglican feast is that it's the kind of thing a person with a Baptist upbringing and sympathies can be enriched by without changing one whit of doctrine. It's just a set of ideas that simply never occurred to you before: Jesus took our human nature back to the Father's right hand. Jesus reigns with God, so God and man are on the throne together. We sit with Him in heavenly places. He intercedes for us with the Father. If you are familiar with Scripture, all of that comes back. But if you don't have a liturgical background, you usually didn't think of associating it with Jesus' ascension. But that's when that all started. And of course, as Jesus' words to the disciples just before ascending refer to the promise of "the Gift," the Holy Ghost, so the Feast of the Ascension looks forward to next week, Whitsunday, Pentecost.

Lift up your heads, ye mighty gates, and be ye lift up, ye everlasting doors, and the King of Glory shall come in!

Sunday, May 17, 2009

Lemon-roasted chicken

Okay, enough serious stuff. I offered this recipe on Facebook and had several takers, so here it is. Hopefully, the style will be more interesting than that of the ordinary cookbook. If you are not cooking challenged, pleased excuse the unnecessary details. (Recipe modified from one published in Reader's Digest donkey's years ago.)

Get one (dead) chicken, 4-6 lbs., and 2 fresh lemons. Bring them home.

Put the chicken somewhere where it won't matter when all that gross blood runs out all over everything, and cut open the wrap. Take out all the icky stuff in the body cavity--the giblets-in-a-bag and the neck--and throw it away.

Grab one of the fresh lemons and stab it all over with a sharp knife. Put the lemon into the body cavity of the chicken.

Put the lemon-stuffed chicken into some sort of roasting pan big enough to hold it. (Oh, pre-heat the oven to 375 degrees.)

Cut the other lemon in half. Squeeze the juice of half of the lemon all over the chicken. (Tip: If the lemon half doesn't want to squeeze, make several small cuts in the edge of the skin around the rim of the lemon half.)

Shake dried basil and dried oregano generously all over the lemon-juiced chicken.

If you feel like being fancy, tuck the wing tips of the chicken under its back. But if you don't know how to do this and don't mind the fact that the wings will pretty much be dried up and inedible if you don't do it, don't bother.

Make sure your oven racks are far enough apart to fit the pan with the chicken in it.

Place the chicken in the pre-heated oven and bake for one and one-fourth to one and three-fourths hours, depending on the size of the chicken. While it cooks, clean up the mess from opening up the chicken, etc., with hot soapy water.

Test the chicken for doneness using an instant thermometer stuck into the thick meat of the chicken somewhere (like on the breast). It should read 180 degrees. Or saw off a leg right at the thigh and see if it looks completely cooked and white with clear juices, not pink at all.

Serving suggestion--Serve with Uncle Ben's long grain and wild rice.

Oh, cut up the other lemon half into slices for people to squeeze over their chicken meat and rice.


Thursday, May 14, 2009

Finding leads to losing

About thirty years ago in Chicago I went to a live concert by Ken Medema, a blind Christian pianist and singer. Ken was in rare form that night, and it hardly mattered that we were crowded into an auxiliary room watching on closed-circuit TV. He did the inimitable "Moses" and I think one or two others of his classics, but for the most part his concert was one long ad lib on the life and miracles of Jesus. In the course of it he kept coming back to this little chorus with doggerel rhyme, that I now half suspect he made up on the spot:

Finding leads to losing;
Losing lets you find.
Living leads to dying;
Life leaves death behind.
Losing leads to finding;
All that I can say.
No one will find life another way.

I lost count of the number of times he went back and sang that in the course of the evening. It is, of course, a paraphrase of the words of Christ: "He that saveth his life shall lose it, but he that loseth his life for my sake and the Gospel's, the same shall save it. For what shall it profit a man if he gain the whole world and lose his own soul? Or what shall a man give in exchange for his soul?"

The tune has stayed with me all these years, and I can almost hear the guys from the youth group--not a very reverent lot, truth be told--singing it over and over again in the van on the way home.

And somehow, today, I had it going through my head in an entirely different context, a context which may be quite unrelated. (The temptation to blog sometimes has a negative effect on one's logical faculties.) But here is what I thought: The Internet has made it possible for me and for many others to find many friends that we would not otherwise have found--likeminded people, men of integrity whom we respect. Ideological loneliness is a real thing. We Christian conservatives, especially those of us who are traditionally minded, are not in a majority in our country or our world, and so we naturally reach out to allies and new friends, and the Internet has proven a great resource for this purpose. But that finding of friends also means that there are that many more opportunities to lose touch with people. It needn't be a matter of a falling out at all. Someone retires from blogging; a given blog closes down; people become understandably and rightly busy with real life. But just as it is a sad thing to lose touch with an old friend one has known in high school, college, graduate school, in person, it is also a sad thing to contemplate possibly losing touch with a person one has known only on the Internet.

So finding leads to losing. But in the end, whatever happens in cyberspace or physical space, we are not bound to the circles of the world. And in heaven, I think that even those we have never seen, whom we would not now recognize if we passed them on the street or in the store, we will recognize.

So losing leads to finding after all.

Zippy Catholic: Pax

Saturday, May 09, 2009

Songs to Die for (and oldies): Amy Grant

I fear that only a small segment of my already-small readership will appreciate this post, but that's as may be. I am self-consciously dating myself here. This first song came out originally, I learn from Youtube, on the album Age to Age in 1982. That was the year I graduated (young) from high school. Amy Grant was considered rather radical in my fundamentalist crowd, a fact Eldest Daughter thinks is absolutely hilarious now. Yet we all listened to her. I have recently learned that she is only five years older than I am and am shocked to think how very young she was in 1982. Anyway, out of the blue today I found myself singing "In a little while we'll be with the Father," and I came home and introduced it to Eldest Daughter, who has found some of Grant's music already through the Internet. Favorite line: "We're just here to learn to love Him. We'll be home in just a little while."

In A Little While - Amy Grant

And then there's "Straight Ahead":

Straight Ahead - Amy Grant - Straight Ahead

Friday, May 08, 2009

The value of gun-ownership

More self-defense stuff: Kudos to the (for some reason) unnamed college student in Georgia who saved himself and his fellow students from murder and the females among them from rape by two armed intruders. The student pulled a gun out of his backpack, shot at one bad guy (driving him out of the apartment), ran into the room where the other bad guy was with the women, and shot him. One girl was shot accidentally but is expected to recover completely. And if I were she, I'd be thanking my defender 'til the day I died.


Tuesday, May 05, 2009

New issue of The Christendom Review now on-line

A new issue of a relatively new journal called The Christendom Review is now on-line. Bill Luse and I both have articles in it about Terri Schiavo, and those of my readers who are interested in legal issues will, I hope, be especially interested in my examination of the legal issues surrounding Terri's murder. I haven't had a chance myself to read many of the other pieces, but I already knew about the visual art of Timothy Jones and am pleased to see some of it highlighted in this issue. I especially like Bleu Cheese and Beer. (One thing I don't quite understand is where the section of Timothy Jones's page went that used to show his whole gallery, including paintings already sold. Some of them were very lovely, and it was great to be able to see them all.)

Anyway, check out the new Christendom Review, and hearty and insufficient thanks to Todd McKimmey for all the work he does and the space he provides to make each issue possible.

Update: Ah, here it is: Timothy Jones Fine Art (I was forgetting to try .net as well as .com) He should have this link front and center on all his other pages. I especially like Strawberries & Cream.

Saturday, May 02, 2009

Don't let this be you

I'm going to touch on a touchy subject--the subject of race.

Larry Auster links and discusses a horrifying recent story of a young mother, out shopping with her baby, who was kidnapped at gunpoint and raped. She did not take precautions against her attacker because she "didn't want to seem racist." Ponder that. Anti-racism is now a religion, and people think that they must risk suffering and death for it. This woman could easily have been killed. As it was, she was "only" kidnapped and raped and lived to identify her evil attacker.

Don't let this be you or one of your beloved female relatives or friends. Whatever you may think of the religion of anti-racism, don't be a martyr to it. This woman saw a black man loitering in the parking lot of (of all places) Babies "R" Us, wearing a tattered coat. She felt uneasy and suspicious about him, but she simply walked to her car as usual, past him, because she "didn't want to seem racist." He came up behind her with a gun and threatened to kill her baby if she didn't drive away with him to wherever he directed her.

What else could she have done besides stifling her misgivings and going to the car? She could have gone back into the store and shopped more, checking from time to time to see if the suspicious man was still in the parking lot. She could have used the cell phone that almost everyone has to call her husband or a friend and ask to be met at the store. Best of all, she could have gone back into the store, told the manager about a loiterer who made her feel uneasy, and requested a male escort to her car. She could have done many things. But instead, she walked straight into the trap. And this is by no means the only incident of this kind that has occurred.

Use your brains, your knowledge, and your instincts. Don't stifle them as wrongthought. Better safe than sorry.