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You must invite him in

You must invite him in

28 As they approached the village to which they were going, he gave the impression that he was going on farther. 29 But they urged him, “Stay with us, for it is nearly evening and the day is almost over.” So he went in to stay with them. 30 And it happened that, while he was with them at table, he took bread, said the blessing, broke it, and gave it to them. 31 With that their eyes were opened and they recognized him, but he vanished from their sight. 32 Then they said to each other, “Were not our hearts burning [within us] while he spoke to us on the way and opened the scriptures to us?”

Luke 24:13-36

The Road to Emmaus is a personal favorite and one of the most powerful stories after the resurrection of Christ. It contains just about all the major themes (theology) and experiences of Christian life – a life believers understand well today. It is a pattern for the mass, for conversion, His presence in the Eucharist, and many other wonderful teachings about how God works to reflect and meditate on.

This year though, I was caught by verses 28 and 29. Even after talking and walking with Christ along the way (but not recognizing him), having him explain the scriptures to them, he still acts as if he’ll keep moving on. It wasn’t until the 2 men INVITED him to stay that he came, ate a meal with them, and then revealed in the Eucharist that He had been with them all along.

It’s a reminder that we need to make explicit invitation for Christ after we have had an encounter with Him. Sometimes that encounter comes clearly through reading scripture or receiving Him in the Eucharist during mass. Sometimes its encountering Christ acting through others, through healing and answered prayers, a visit or kind word when especially needed, sometimes it’s the odd coincidences that make us think we had an encounter with God. But in all cases, Christ will never invite Himself in. We must take the initiative and explicitly do so – or He might continue on His way. This doesn’t just happen once, we must make this invitation again and again as we meet Him in all these different and unexpected ways like the 2 disciples walking to Emmaus.

It’s a good practice, at least once a day, to explicitly invite Jesus into your life and whatever is going on. Maybe as simply as saying, “Lord Jesus, you are my Lord, my savior, and My God. I invite you to stay here awhile with me and be with me through <whatever this is I’m doing> today. Stay and rest in my heart and there break bread with me so we may live like this through eternity.”

Chat with an Exorcist

Chat with an Exorcist

I had not seen Fr Chad Ripperger’s videos before, but I think he’s spot on in his observations about trends we see going on in the world. What’s interesting is that his observations are independently backed up by many scientific studies about happiness, social media, and news reporting.

This shouldn’t be shocking that science is slowly confirming many of the very core beliefs that Jesus and the Catholic Church have taught about what brings us happiness and fulfilling lives. Contrary to Hollywood’s incorrect take on religion as anti-science, Catholics believe religion and science are not in conflict but in unity for centuries. Certainly longer than most every current country on earth. Some of the most famous scientific discoveries such as physics (Newton), genetics (Gregory Mendel), and even the Big Bang (co-discoverer Fr. Georges Lemaître) were theists or religious who never saw a conflict with their faith – quite the contrary in almost all cases.

So when it comes to human behaviors and social trends, it should be no surprise that the teachings of Christ tell us how we should and shouldn’t act as well. What things bring division, hatred, destruction, and evil – and which bring joy, peace, and relationship. Give his talk a listen. Even if you don’t believe in God or don’t like the words ‘spiritual warfare’ – you should see that the core ideas and teaching are still correct whatever words you’d like to use.

Walking through Nineveh

Walking through Nineveh

The word of the Lord came to Jonah a second time:  “Go to the great city of Nineveh and proclaim to it the message I give you.”

Jonah obeyed the word of the Lord and went to Nineveh. Now Nineveh was a very large city; it took three days to go through it. Jonah began by going a day’s journey into the city, proclaiming, “Forty more days and Nineveh will be overthrown.” The Ninevites believed God. A fast was proclaimed, and all of them, from the greatest to the least, put on sackcloth.

When Jonah’s warning reached the king of Nineveh, he rose from his throne, took off his royal robes, covered himself with sackcloth and sat down in the dust. This is the proclamation he issued in Nineveh:

“By the decree of the king and his nobles:

Do not let people or animals, herds or flocks, taste anything; do not let them eat or drink. But let people and animals be covered with sackcloth. Let everyone call urgently on God. Let them give up their evil ways and their violence. Who knows? God may yet relent and with compassion turn from his fierce anger so that we will not perish.”

When God saw what they did and how they turned from their evil ways, he relented and did not bring on them the destruction he had threatened.

Reluctant Jonah is preaching to Nineveh. A story that captures the heart of the season of Lent. A city that is apparently embroiled in enough evil that its destruction appeared eminent.

Historically, there’s a lot of corroborating evidence for this story. Jonah is believed to have lived in the 9th-8th century BC. Nineveh was indeed a hugely growing and prosperous capital of the Assyrian empire all during the 8th and 7th centuries. During that period, it was the largest city in the world for about 50 years. It still exists today as the eastern half of the city of Mosul and is still called Nineveh by residents.

At the time of Jonah, the total area of Nineveh comprised about 7 square kilometers (1,730 acres), and had 15 great entrance gates. It had an elaborate system of 18 canals brought water from the hills to Nineveh from about 40 miles away. The city likely had around 100,000-150,000 residents. It housed a magnificent palace with at least 80 rooms with large numbers of tablets, sculptures, massive winged Mesopotamian lions weighing 30 tons, carved stone walls depicting historical scenes, and untold other art. The gardens of this palace are sometimes thought to be one of the ancient wonders of the world: The Hanging Gardens of Babylon.

When reflecting on this passage; I was caught by the fact it took 3 days to walk through the city while preaching. I tried to imagine what walking through a city like this must have been like. It very likely had many different neighborhoods and districts as today’s cities do. There was the grand palace and gardens. As center of the empire, there were likely all manner of legislative/government/military buildings. There were probably many temples and religious buildings. As an early center of trade routes up the Tigris, it likely had many kinds of markets and trade districts. There was likely financial districts, districts of homes/families/living areas. There were probably schools of all kinds. There were probably centers of fabrication, crafts, and trades of all kinds (pottery, leather, bronze, iron, etc). There was even probably red light districts. In short, every kind of area and part of daily life.

In reflection, I thought about the people who lived and worked in those areas. What must this been like to be at whatever you were doing and hearing his call of pending destruction? People engaged in business, education, prayer, cooking, etc. Things we do every day today. But wait, don’t I do those things too? My life isn’t that different than the parts of this city…

Just like Jonah’s walk through the city, maybe we too need to walk through all the districts of our life this Lent and preach repentance. Perhaps it’s a good time to sit down and reflect on our ‘financial district’. Are we using our money and treasures as God would intend? Do we tithe and support services to the poor? Do we give to organizations that follow Catholic social teaching and are financially transparent/responsible?

Maybe it’s time to proclaim repentance to our work and our ‘professional district’. What are my career goals and are they lead and guided by the teachings of Christ? Am I fair and honest in my dealings or have I embezzled or stolen money or property from work? Do I avoid slander, gossip, and maliciousness towards coworkers? Am I a servant leader or serve primarily myself and my desires? Do I spend enough time with my primary vocations to prayer and raising my family/supporting my spouse (if you have them) or do those take second seat to earning money or career advancement?

What about the district of my home? Am I present enough to the care of my family and home life? Do I get along with my neighbor? Do I help out with family chores and do my part? Do I nurture my relationships with those in my household? Am I estranged or holding grudges? Do I avoid spending time with them for my own pursuits?

What about my spiritual district? Do I pray enough? Is God really the center of my life, or only a side effort in my plans?

What about the hospital and food districts? Do I take care of myself and recognize my body is a temple of the Lord – or do I abuse it with dangerous activities, overeating, substance abuse, etc.

What about the educational district? Do I take time to grow in my wisdom, knowledge of scripture/God via good reading, or using my various gifts of intellect by developing them? Or do I consume endless social media and lower forms of entertainment that numb the mind?

What about the ‘red light district’ in our lives? Do we have hidden or secret lives we live (especially online, professionally, or in poor relationships)? Do I watch pornography, abuse substances for pleasure, engage in sex with people who are not my spouse? Are there things I do in private I would be embarrassed if others knew about?

Try to imagine all the districts in a big city near you – and all the different areas of life each city needs to serve. We too have these areas in our own lives. During Lent, it’s the perfect time to reflect on them all and let Jonah preach repentance to each part of our city.

In some number of days we too will reach the end of our lives and must make an account of how we spent them. But in Christ and during Lent we can visit the different districts of our life with prayer as the prophet. We can reflect and listen to any need for repentance. We can find forgiveness in the sacrament of confession, find the grace to make real changes for the better, and then find salvation and reunion with the God who loves us more than we love ourselves.

Finding of Jesus at the Temple

Finding of Jesus at the Temple

Every year Jesus’ parents went to Jerusalem for the Festival of the Passover. When he was twelve years old, they went up to the festival, according to the custom. After the festival was over, while his parents were returning home, the boy Jesus stayed behind in Jerusalem, but they were unaware of it. Thinking he was in their company, they traveled on for a day. Then they began looking for him among their relatives and friends. When they did not find him, they went back to Jerusalem to look for him. After three days they found him in the temple courts, sitting among the teachers, listening to them and asking them questions. Everyone who heard him was amazed at his understanding and his answers. When his parents saw him, they were astonished. His mother said to him, “Son, why have you treated us like this? Your father and I have been anxiously searching for you.” “Why were you searching for me?” he asked. “Didn’t you know I had to be in my Father’s house?” But they did not understand what he was saying to them. Then he went down to Nazareth with them and was obedient to them. But his mother treasured all these things in her heart. And Jesus grew in wisdom and stature, and in favor with God and man.

Luke 2:41-52

I wanted to share a recent reflection during some Lexio divina (divine reading in which we read; meditate; pray; contemplate).

This reading comes up early in the gospels, and is also the 5th joyful mystery of the rosary. In many meditations, I found myself drawn to how hard it was for His parents. Can you imagine the fear when by the end of the first day they realized Jesus wasn’t in the party and they needed to turn around? Then perhaps on the end of the second day when they were likely asking everyone they passed, not finding Him, then needing to end their second night without any luck? Those must have been terribly frightening and restless nights. Then the third day when they finally found Him – perhaps when they had exhausted the obvious places in Jerusalem and went to the Temple to pray for help. We can imagine all the feelings and fear they had when looking for Jesus – many of the same fears, struggles, and disappointments we sometimes get while trying to find God in our own lives – only to find him in prayer/sacraments when we come to our wits end and stop relying only on ourselves.

We can also focus spiritually on this as a prefiguring of Jesus’ three days in the tomb. Or perhaps as a mirror of our journey through Lent in which we search for Jesus in our lives during Lent/his 3 days in the tomb, only to find him at the resurrection at Easter. We find He has passed on to His Father’s heavenly house where we finally find Him.

But in a recent reflection, I found myself focusing on what Jesus must have experienced.

I got lost once in the Museum of Science and Industry in Chicago on a family trip when I was about 10 years old. I got completely captivated playing with a set of really cool mechanical gear displays. (It turns out someone else liked them too and put a recording up on Youtube.) I think playing with these displays was one of the first really big moments when I got fascinated in engineering. It was definitely a formative moment for me and hit a chord that lead me down the roads of math and sciences.

After being completely captivated with workings for a long time, I turned around and realized the rest of my family wasn’t there. I tried to find them but didn’t know where they’d gone. A couple saw my peril and took me to the central desk. They pinged my parents on the intercom. It turns out I was only a room away from them. It was only for a few minutes but with 5 kids they didn’t notice I wasn’t still in the gaggle of kids in the crowd, nor had I notice they had moved on. I think every parent/child has had this experience.

I was reflecting on this reading and that memory surfaced with all the feelings at the time. Perhaps Jesus was also completely captivated by the Temple and felt a powerful connection to His Father. The passage says they went every year, but this particular year Jesus must have been drawn especially for some reason. Perhaps it was like Samuel who is called while in the house of the Lord where the ark was kept.

I think we all have these moments of being completely captivated by something so that everything else falls away. For me as a kid it was those fascinating mechanical workings – to the point I didn’t even realize I’d ‘lost’ my family. In later years, praying with the blessed sacrament was the place I found an even more profound captivation and sense of place, home, and real peace in my heart. In those moments, there was nowhere else I could imagine being. Maybe Jesus experienced this at the age of 12 as He was captivated by His Father’s house and spent time there until He’d completely missed the fact his parents had left. I certainly have felt that kind of complete absorption in prayer at times.

But what about first night? Where’d He stay? Or the second night? Where did He get food? I get the feeling this might have been the very first awakenings of turning to and trusting in His heavenly Father to provide everything He needed. At some point as the evening fell, He must have realized his parents were gone. Perhaps He decided to stay where He most felt at home – the Temple where He was in His Father’s presence – the only place Jesus could imagine being. Perhaps He slept in the doorway or inside the Temple itself. Perhaps people gave Him bread and food the second day. While being there, He probably met the scribes and priests and started asking questions.

Jesus speaks very matter of fact to His parents about this. I think many parents have asked kids why they did something and children also state such wisdom and reasoning so matter of fact. I also wonder that this was probably a huge formative moment in which He, and all of us, learn that we can and need to completely trust our heavenly Father to provide what we need. Jesus seemed to think all His answers, material needs, and place was with His Father.

Do we find ways to turn to God in our day – as the one place we come back to again and again no matter what goes on in life? Do we return to God in prayer as the one place we find refuge during the great joys, the quiet times, the worried times, and even times of feeling completely lost?

Objective Truth vs My Truth

Objective Truth vs My Truth

It’s hard to believe The Matrix was released over 20 years ago (March 1999). Keanu Reeves encounters 3 teens who never saw the movie and he tries to explain it to them.

The teenage girl gives a response that reveals a lot about the idea of what truth is to many people today – and maybe why we are having so much trouble today with fake news. Do we even really care what the truth is if it makes us happy?

There is lots of self-styled experts and activists using the phrase ‘speaking your truth’ – especially for those who have experienced a trauma or unfair conditions. Unfortunately, like this blog writer/’thought leader’, he says this terrifying assertion when dealing with others:

Truth is not about being right. Truth is about how we feel and what is real for us.

He then goes on to say that even if you make mistakes and hurt others – as long as you’re speaking ‘your truth’ – this is ok. This is the most anti-science, anti-intellectual, and downright horrifyingly dangerous things I think anyone can say for several reasons. I understand where this blog writer, and many others are coming from. What if I can say this idea of ‘my truth’ is dangerously wrong but that we can completely validate people’s experiences, yet also not throw out truth everything depends on?

‘Your Truth’ is Anti-science and Anti-justice

Saying to ‘Speak your truth’ and ‘Truth is how we feel’ is profoundly anti-scientific and anti-justice. This idea says my impression is actual truth. It is a stance that ultimately denies we can understand or have any real impact in our world.

Justice in the world depends on determining actual facts of a case and then correcting wrongs. What if our courts were simply based on what anyone felt at any one time? Yet, this is exactly what is said by ‘Truth is about how we feel and what is real for us.’ Imagine what a court trial like that would look like.

Going further, all scientific thought as well as technological and medical progress depends on the idea that the universe operates by principles that are inherent in themselves – outside of our thoughts or feelings about them. Just ‘feeling’ that my car won’t run out of gas without refilling it, that time should stop spinning so I can sleep in an extra hour, or that eating grass should taste like pizza won’t make it so. In fact, that’s the kind of nonsense that children believe. Science and our very existence depends on the workings of everything from atoms, to electricity, to medicines we take, the safety of buildings, safe food cooking temperatures, to planetary orbits all follow provable and objective truths that exist outside ourselves. If any of those things depended on anyone’s feelings – then we’d be doomed. Unless of course you wish to admit to a God in whom the whole universe IS all held in place…

‘My truth’ also flatly denies decades of psychology and social science that proves there are objectively better and worse ways for we as individuals and society as a whole to act and behave. Science, government policy/laws, and TED talks are based on the notion that we CAN understand causes of problems and then can make changes and know they will solve them. There are great and proven ways to handle conflict, disagreements, addiction, violence, racism, and all manner of interactions we have with each other.

Worse, this logic of ‘my truth is truth’ can be used to control others. It tells others they cannot engage in reasoned discourse or argue. After all, my feelings tell me this is true – so it is true. Some holding this view go further and attack anyone that attempts to debate or talk about root causes or alternative ideas or interpretations. It’s a dangerous form of manipulation and gaslighting that invalidates anyone else’s viewpoint and makes mine the only true one.

Without real truth we can all agree on, this idea essentially makes us powerless to our feelings or even someone else’s feelings – which brings us to the next even more horrifying problem.

I justify what I do based on if I had my coffee this morning

If what is right and TRUE is simply what any individual feels – what if I am wrong? There is no recourse. You are completely justified in just about any amount of action as long as it matches my feelings. But what if you are wrong? It’s very easy to be wrong:

This really gets bad when we disagree. What happens when you make me angry? What happens when you wrong or hurt me? What if I’m angry enough to kill you? Or kill everyone like you? Everyone with that skin color, race, religion, political party, or where you’re from? We’ve had governments and people like this in the past. Without the ability to talk about the objective truth of our actions outside our personal feelings – we end up following cult-like leaders that massage and manipulate our feelings, purge anyone who asks questions or simply makes them disappearliterally.

Living like this, we become completely helpless to our feelings and those that know how to manipulate them. I firmly believe we are seeing that kind political leader on both ends of the political spectrum gaining traction. Unless we have a return to reasoned argument and turn away from outrage (which is a very powerful form of anti-intellectualism), we are headed to the same blunders that have brought about the horrors of 20th century wars and genocides. We need MORE people thinking and acting with their minds – not their feelings alone.

Your feelings are VALID. But not always TRUTH

Instead, what I wish people would say instead is that your feelings and perspectives are VALID but not necessarily TRUTH. And even if they are true, it doesn’t mean I should react in the same way in all cases. The first stages of being an adult is being able to name, claim, and own your feelings. Our feelings are real and valid – but they are only the IMPRESSION we have to what is going on. They alone are not truth. Anyone that has children or sees them interact understands they have lots of incorrect impressions and feelings about the world. What we teach children is to take the next step – using their mind to control their actions so it is fair and right for everyone. Even towards people they don’t like. Ultimately, saying that our feelings are truth is to act like a child. It’s anti-intellectual, it’s anti-science, it’s dangerous, and it’s wrong.

Instead, we can think of it another way and preserve both our feelings and our intellect. Just like a scientist, our feelings are like hypotheses. They seem to be pointing something out (this is fun, this food is delicious, this is unfair, this hurt me), but then we need to use our MIND to figure out if those impression are actually what’s going on. Further, we then need to think even harder about what we need to do about them. Science can absolutely help us with the second two parts – because even our social interactions have patterns for better/worse ways of behaving.

This is what makes us uniquely human. The fact we can use the wholeness of ourselves. We have feelings to help us empathize and connect with others, then a mind that we can use to figure out what is the best responses for us and others. Without that, we act like children – just reacting to our impressions and feelings. We become easily manipulated and lead astray by anyone that can appease our feelings or tell us what we want to hear.

Like Flannery O’Conner noted decades ago, “tenderness leads to the gas chambers”.

Re-learning things we already knew

Re-learning things we already knew

I recently found out about something called end-of-life doulas. Doulas are not healthcare professions, but a ‘trained companion’ who supports another person through a significant health-related experience. They seem to be part of a growing trend of doulas, life coaches, psychologists, and other similar emotional support caregivers. It’s fascinating that the secular world continues to find they need the same kind of support that people of faith have had for literally thousands of years.

In a recent Vox article, Rachel Friedman talks about what an end-of-life doula does. She walks readers through the process of loss that a person with a terminal illness goes through. She then talks about the re-focus of her daily life this created for herself, the value of active listening, and then focus on legacy projects you wish to leave behind.

What’s fascinating is that these exact topics and dealing with these realities are the lived Christian/Catholic experience that have been in countless writings and famous artworks for hundreds of years. Let’s take a look.

Memento Mori

“Memento mori” is the Latin phrase for “Remember, you must die”. This is not a morbid wallowing that many religious pundits love to use to discount Christianity. Instead, it is a statement of fact. In fact, many modern folks embody this idea in such phrases like YOLO (You Only Live Once) and ‘carpe diem’ (Seize the Day). Dead Poet’s Society has a great scene on this very notion from the 1648 poem by Robert Herrick:

Gather ye Rose-buds while ye may,
    Old Time is still a-flying:
And this same flower that smiles to day,
    To morrow will be dying.

To the Virgins, to Make Much of Time – Robert Herrick 1648

Both the secular and religious world see this as a need to remember that our time is short so we do not waste our lives. Many people are driven to achieve great things in business, sports, and personal achievement. We should live our life knowing that our time is finite – so we must make the most of it.

So what is the Catholic view? For hundreds of years, many Catholic artists showed monks and saints with or contemplating a skull. Some orders would sometimes put the skull of a previous monk in each monk’s cell. By contemplating the skull of a predecessor, we are reminded that we too will die, be buried just like they were, and all our efforts will come to an end. Some new person in just a few decades will then look back on our skull the same way as we look at them now. Talk about putting things in perspective!

If that was all there was, it might lead one to despair, wonder at the point of it all, or even turn to looking at life as just what I can get out of it for for myself. For Christians there is much more than this. Contemplating our death reminds us not only of the urgency of our lives, but also Christ’s victory over death, a victory in which we are invited to share by uniting our lives with His, and finally that this world is not our permanent home (Heb. 13:14).

This hits upon 2 major themes Friedman mentions. First, is that we should have a healthy sense of our own mortality so we can focus our living and make the most of it. At the core of many of Jesus’ parables and teaching was the most profound urgency. Don’t put off for tomorrow what can be done today. Don’t wait for ‘some day’ to start changing and living as you ought. We only have so much time to address those things that need to be addressed. No one knows the day or hour of their own death or His returning. Learning to love is a difficult process and takes us much time. Learning how to fall in love and build a relationship with our creator is not something we do overnight. This is urgent because we only have this time on earth to become friends and lovers of Christ. When that time comes, Jesus tells us many will come, even those that preached in his name, and he will tell them to depart and that he never knew them at all.

Friedman’s second major point is that we need to realize that everything we love, achieve, and accumulate will be left behind. For the secular world, loss and death can bring about existential dread. In reality, Friedman says that even non-believers will go through these very same realizations that everything we have will be lost at our death. For the Christian, however, it can also be a motivating and freeing force that puts our lives in perspective – when it’s done in relationship with God who lives with us and awaits us on the other side of death.

Many of Jesus’ parables tell us that we are temporary stewards – but the quality of our stewardship is what carries over. Christians know we are all graced with some amount of life, money, career, family, and possessions. All of these temporal things are simply a means to find salvation by daily conversion to the teachings of Christ. At our death Jesus will appear to us and take accounting of our stewardship. Our temporal gifts are used to help us learn how to love our neighbor and God. This is why the poor are sometimes greater in love than the rich – since they often give all they have.

Active Listening and Confession

Active listening is a skill that any of us can develop and increasingly recognized as a key element of emotional intelligence. Emotional Intelligence is recently recognized as a set of skills critical to a successful career and relationships. Active listening is a way of listening and responding to another person that improves mutual understanding. The listener must holding back their own stories, comments, and feelings. They don’t tell a person what to do. They don’t try to fix the situation. They ask open-ended questions and seek to understand while letting the person go through the process themselves. The idea is that the person must find their own way through the experience and the listener simply helps them speak what they are experience to make their own choices.

Would you be surprised that Christians have a very similar practice since the earliest times of the Church? We call it confession. In confession, the penitent can speak their deepest self in complete acceptance and safety. Part of confession is spending time doing a solid examination of conscience in which we use Christ’s teachings to really take stock of ourselves. When done prayerfully with Christ, we see ourselves as Christ sees us. The priest, acting in persona Christi, listens quietly just as if one were sitting with Jesus himself. The priest only interrupts to ask clarifying questions to understand better. This alone, as Friedman says, is tremendously powerful. This is, however, where active listening ends. The best it can offer is to ask ‘What do you think that means?” or “What do you think you need to do?”. It does not offer any meaning or answers.

Confession, however, has an even more powerful element – forgiveness – if it is sought. A key element of Jesus’ ministry was speaking the Truth. Many of us know the Truth in our lives as many active listeners would agree. However, without any external guide, the Truth of ourselves often becomes simply our truth for today. It doesn’t hold nearly the meaning as something that has been proven true over millenium.

In confession, we can see that real Truth and then can be freed of failings, hurt, and guilt and hear the words of forgiveness that Jesus would speak to us. Even at the late hours of our life we can re-start and try loving rightly again. We still must go out in the world and deal with the temporal effects of our sins, but Christians believe in the promise that Jesus gave that he would use his ministers to give forgiveness if it is sought. It’s the first step towards healing. Something listening alone cannot do.

Legacy Projects

As mentioned earlier, embracing our mortality gives us the motivation and focus to really make a difference even after we are gone. This is something both secular and religious would agree with. In both cases, it means creating something that will live on beyond us. For many, this is setting up their children or families to be safe and cared for after we are gone. For others, it is setting up legacy foundations, trusts, and financial vehicles to affect the world after we are gone.

This is no different for believers – but with a few additions. One only needs to look at the huge cathedrals in Europe to see this in play. The Cathedral of Notre Dame in Paris is a great example. Construction started in 1163 and was first completed in 1260. Over the next 800 years, it went through numerous expansions, revamping, destruction, re-building, and additions. The front towers were built separately over decades, the roof revamped numerous times, the windows added, etc. Many of these additions took well over a person’s lifetime. Expansions were started by one whole set of architects and workers only to be finished by completely different ones.

All the while it was funded by the contributions of money and work by believers. Churches should not be looked at as a one-time construction, but the work of generations of believers – rich and poor – over hundreds of years. Believers that contributed both in large and small ways. Even today, modern churches often have indications of which parts were contributed at different times and different people. It’s a reminder that we often start building things we never will see finished.

In more modern times, we do this kind of legacy building by setting up foundations, trusts, and groups that help particular societal needs. Religious orders have done this for centuries. Dominicans are dedicated to teaching, Franciscans and Carmelites are known for their work with the poor. If you look into the hundreds and hundreds of religious orders over the millennium, you’ll find that we owe modern free education and healthcare to countless generations of religious. That’s why many hospitals still hold Christian names. They were the original non-profit organizations of the world.

To wrap up

It’s interesting that the modern secular world is re-discovering the same things that Christians have known and practiced for thousands of years. That Jesus teachings are still as relevant and correct as ever. Perhaps we need to re-engage the modern world (which has become ever more disillusioned and discounting of religious knowledge) with these concepts – but in a way they can understand more clearly. And it turns out that we started that all the way back in the 1980’s under John Paul II. It’s a reminder of our mission.

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems

Gödel’s Incompleteness Theorems

Two of the the greatest intellectual achievements of modern times might surprise you. Both were developed by Austrian mathematician and logician Kurt Gödel in 1931. They are called simply Gödel’s incompleteness theorems and apply to all of mathematics, formal logic, and even philosophy (epistemology in particular). The implications turned out to be deeply profound and have thrown all of mathematics, logic, and even philosophy into disarray ever since. Despite almost a century of attempts, no one has been able to disprove them. In fact, almost all attempts end up supporting, and even reinforcing and expanding them. They now are accepted as almost certainly true.

The theorems sound simple enough at first blush. The first incompleteness theorem states that in any consistent formal system (mathematics, logic, physics, etc) in which a certain amount of arithmetic can be carried out, there are statements of the language of which can neither be proved nor disproved in that language. According to the second incompleteness theorem, such a formal system cannot prove that the system itself is consistent (assuming it is indeed consistent).

What is so shocking about these two simple theorem? They prove something devastating: that mathematics and logic is not complete. There will always be truths in reality that the system cannot prove. It means that some problems can NEVER be solved in some kinds of mathematics or logic. You can even try making new systems of math/logic (Algebra, Calculus, etc) but they ALL will have things they cannot prove. It meant that you might work on a mathematical, physics, or logic problem your whole life, and none of the systems we know about might be able to solve it – even though it might have a solution. There might even be some problems that if we make infinite numbers of logical or mathematical systems, we might STILL not be able to find a solution.

Veritasium did an absolutely fabulous video on the topic that’s worth a listen.

It blew my mind when I learned about Godel’s incompleteness theorems in college. Knowing that our tools are limited is frightening at first. It completely unseats our certainty that known mathematics or science as we have today is sufficient. In fact, we know it is NOT sufficient. In fact, we know that we’ll almost certainly have to make more logical systems for the rest of eternity. We can never have a grand unified theory of everything. There is no ‘bottom’ to reach.

Yet this opens the reality that there will ALWAYS be something new to learn and know. There will be countless other models that might work for problem we have but we haven’t found yet – even though each one will be flawed and incomplete in their own way.

Many purists find this knowledge to be disastrous. It rips the rug out from anyone that asserts we can know everything. Others were excited by the fact there will always be new developments. Others are left in awe that even our very universe/reality itself lacks the limits we have. Still others have taken this as proof of the infinite. I know at least one mathematician that believed it gave us proof of God.

I do believe in God – without question. Many people forget that the vast majority of modern science was developed by believers in God that saw no conflict with discovery of properties of the physical world. The idea that faith and science are incompatible is a very modern and absolutely incorrect train of thought.

Instead, I see this reality as much like ourselves. None of us are perfect, yet each of us has a uniqueness that might just express a great truth no one else in history has seen or could see. This is why life is so infinitely precious and a tragedy to all when even one life is lost. This is why it is a crime to all humanity when we decide suffering is reason to end a life or that a disadvantage life is a life not worth living when we have such contrary examples and saw exactly where that idea led too in the early 20th century during WW 2.

Community Fridges

Community Fridges

Portland is full of churches, food halls, and countless other services for the homeless and those that need assistance of any kind. Recently, free community fridges have became a bit of a thing in Portland. You can find them in a lot of places around Portland and they’re run by individuals who I absolutely believe have their heart in the right place, but I think have underestimated the difficulty and serious issues many on the streets are experiencing.

As the article points out, ordinary folks who are trying to do good things are very quickly being confronted by the serious mental health and safety issues homeless work can involve. This was a lesson I learned very early in my homeless work at the Downtown Chapel. The staff would give volunteers a minimal amount of training on safety. First names only, no personal info about yourself or where you live. All you can offer is what is provided, do not give out anything else (money, fliers, etc). The reality is that many times we had to deal with people who became violent, suffered serious mental health issues, or even serious criminal tendencies. Long-time volunteers knew how to spot trouble and defuse it – but that came from lots of experience and from professionals trained in handling these issues. These are issues the people in this article point out that they are not equipped to handle.

So who can handle it? Not well meaning people without training or coffee shop employees. Starbucks CEO Howard Schultz has long led and advocated for progressive policies. He was one of the first to denounce a bathroom incident after a black customer was refused access and opened bathrooms to all who come in. He pushed very hard for LGBTQ policies. Even he has changed his mind. In a recent interview about closing urban Starbucks stores due to worker safety issues this policy created he said (and I think rightly):

“I must say, in my view at the local, state and federal level, these governments across the country and leaders, mayors and governors, city councils have abdicated their responsibility in fighting crime and addressing mental health,” Schultz reportedly said at an internal meeting, according to a video posted on Twitter.

From my own work, you need people trained in how to deal with the serious issues that create homelessness. Drug addiction, mental health issues, and violence are real issues that lead many to the streets. Homeless services must set up boundaries and safety for both the workers (as Starbucks has learned) and those in need. This requires serious effort, education, proper environments, and leadership. It’s not something the average person should be doing if they do not have this kind of training. The assaults and dangers in the article are evidence of this.

Another issue is who is behind some community fridges. Started as a social justice initiative, there is definitely an anti-governmental/anarchist tone to one of the largest operators. PDX Free Fridge said they didn’t ‘consent’ to a story being written and thought that coverage could ‘jeopardize the safety’ of the project when contacted by a local news agency. This is a similar increasingly violent and disturbing reaction to any media coverage from extremist left-wing activist groups in Portland.

Democracy is founded on a free press and freedom of information – not on secrecy, threats, and non-transparent leadership and finances. Hundreds of other organizations are able to operate openly as non-profits – registered and adhere to audits and local law without issues. Any group that cannot identify it’s leaders, it’s principles, nor subject itself to audits of it’s finances is not an organization a Democracy wants to get behind. It’s definitely not a step forward in public policy. It’s also likely not to yield any fruits. Over the last 5-10 years, I’ve seen these kind of secretive Portland groups make lots of grandiose promises but very quickly disappear with little to show for it. They have a history of misappropriating funds and leaving the bulk of the fallout on volunteers/workers (who went unpaid) backs. Even BLM was blocked from fundraising in California in 2021 due to questionable use of it’s filings, real estate purchases, and payouts to closely related persons which lead to co-founder Patrisse Cullors resigning in May 2021. This demonstrates how critical financial and leadership transparency is to any movement.

Personally, I’ll continue to support the excellent work being done by the Blanchette House, St Francis Dining Hall, Downtown Chapel, and countless other public, accredited, and open groups that safely provide housing, meals, jobs, utility assistance, health care, education, and every other need. They also do this work with both financial and leadership transparency while keeping their volunteers and staff safe.

Bitcoin collapse observations

Bitcoin collapse observations

I’m not a crypto investor. I’ve been watching the developments of the last year with some amount of awe, and a lot of ‘told you so’ at the disaster. Cryptocurrencies went from a $3 trillion market cap to just under $1 trillion in the window of Nov 2021 to Jul 2022. That’s a 66% decline in 7 months. Most crypto and Bitcoin investors have seen at least a 50% collapse in value in the first 6 months of 2022. Many others have lost everything in Luna, Terra, and exchange collapsed and went bankrupt.

Some observations:

  1. The pain is real. The top pinned post on Reddit crypto forums quickly became the national suicide prevention line as exchanges went bankrupt and coins collapsed and even went to zero. People that needed their money back for cancer treatment have now lost it all. That’s as real as it gets folks.
  2. Crypto is going through it’s own 1929 market collapse – caused by the same insanely optimistic over-leveraging, over-extension, greed, and lack of regulatory oversight. It turns out a completely unregulated marketplace that can deliver astounding rises can encourage people to invest too much and lack of transparency and risk management can wipe their holdings out overnight. All of this was even predicted.
  3. A shocking number of crypto HODL’ers have a dangerous combination of poor financial illiteracy and fanatical belief. They often completely ignore risk, dangers, warning signs, and bad exchange policies. Many on their forums seem to lack the ability to do basic due diligence, and understanding of dangerous marketplace behaviors. Instead of informed discussions, forums viciously attack those that expressed any criticism or doubt. As an example during the collapse of Celsius, people were in complete denial that the company was going under even after the bankruptcy happened. Smart investors signaled people about all the warning signs. Yet were viciously attacked as liars, fiat currency fearmongers, and worse. Even after the bankruptcy filing happened the attacks kept coming – even when it was clear their money was gone.
  4. Unhealthy markets run for longer than you might expect, but the end always comes hard and fast.
  5. Many crypto promises were lies.
    1. Crypto/Bitcoin has clearly no turned out be a store of value like gold. When push comes to shove, it most closely follows high risk/reward investments like the NASDAQ more than any other market. Like many markets that only rely on promises and have no legal enforcement, it’s only when things turns bad do you learn if they are lying or not. Anyone that denies this needs to look at the fact coin markets went from $3 trillion valuation to $1 trillion in just a few months and stable coin collapses happened in just days.
    2. Stable coins were not stable nor safe. Terra went completely to zero and swallowed $60 billion dollars as it flashed to zero in just a few days. Many lied about having funds to back their stakes when the chips were down. Others just backed out of providing promised stakes when they saw the writing on the wall. Most used collateral that was just more crypto – a BASIC over-leveraging failure (much like happened in 1929).
    3. Miners are over-leveraged and facing possible large coin liquidations or bankruptcy. They also are facing huge headwinds with the value of coins dropping over 50%, rapidly increasing power costs, and outright bans (China and New York). It’s unclear how many recent and large mining operations are facing imminent liquidity collapses but it sure appears to be a shocking number.
    4. Small miners are dumping graphics cards because it’s now long longer profitable to mine. Each card they bought at top-dollar prices is selling for massive losses. A classic buy-high-sell-low failure. There is also growing evidence the dumping of these cards is seriously impacting sales of new cards and may cause vendors to delay release of next-gen cards.
    5. People didn’t read the fine print and learned exchanges owned their coins (Celsius) so they lost everything when they went under. Exchanges also froze withdrawals of coins and cash before they went under – maximizing customer losses.
    6. Most exchanges used depositor’s coins to make further high-risk loans on crypto. Without regulation, each exchange could decide their own risk profile. This is exactly what caused banking collapses and runs in the 1929 collapse. It’s why we have the FDIC now that ensures deposits up to $250k and regulates banks books to ensure they have proper safe collateral levels and risk profiles.
    7. Many exchanges put their thumbs on the scales and stop trading/withdrawals, freeze trading, stop trading (the list goes on!) when things got bad for them. Things that would land bankers in jail happened time and again. They threw their customers under the bus to eat losses and face margin calls without their money. This all follows the same bank run patterns we had for decades before regulation was put in place and FDIC ensured deposits.
    8. If banks are not your friends, then we’re learning crypto leaders are even worse.
  6. Naïve young investors are getting a rude awakening
    1. Charismatic coin founders that encouraged people to mortgage their homes, leverage any loan they could get their hands on, and put everything they had into crypto turned around and joked, disappeared, lied, went silent, and just shrugged when their investors and coins went to zero. It was sad watching naïve young investors freaking out that their investments were collapsing and foolishly expecting responses and plans via Twitter – even getting arrested showing up on founder’s doorsteps. The very ego-centric folks that gathered investors turned out to be powerless to stop the inevitable falls and even more sleazy than the ‘fiat’ markets they claim to stand against. Most are re-starting their coins and coin operations with the exact same methods.
    2. The promise of ‘community’ was lies. People following crypto leaders and companies are learning that a regulation-free market means there is nothing to keep people honest. It’s very hard to be honest and voluntarily lose millions in a bailout when you don’t have too. Terra still has claimed billions in backing that nobody has been able to find or verify. Either it was a lie, or someone walked away with it.
    3. Crypto companies are coming down hard on ‘woke’ culture that many young people who were attracted to crypto were raised in. Between publishing documents that reject being offended as a valid argument and encouraging employees that disagree to leave.
    4. Scams abound. NFTs and wallets are a prime target of hackers. Which brings us to this development: physical digital wallets.