Welcome to a blog of discovery.

God expects us to continually improve our understanding of the physical, and scientific investigation has developed a more erudite grasp of our universe. God also encourages us to develop a more sophisticated understanding of the spiritual. We humans, unfortunately, have failed to pursue the requisite wisdom. Our intellectual progress in the spiritual has not matched our growing knowledge of the physical, and this simple fact is the crux of the conflict between science and Christianity.

So there is the challenge. Christianity needs to experience the refreshing clarity of a theological renaissance. Can we unite the essence of the wonderful, loving, spiritual message we received over 2000 years ago with 21st century knowledge?


April 22, 2014

Is It Lust or Love?

“Who’s the girl?”
Rick smiled uneasily and looked down at his feet. How did he know I have a girlfriend?
His mind swept over the events of his senior year. Rosalinda—yearning to be near her. He was tempted to skip college and just get married. Rick felt a rush of emotion. He looked bashfully at Micah.
“Rosalinda...  Her name is Rosalinda Santiago Munoz.”
Micah knew who she was—shy, petite, very pretty, with almost jet black hair and lovely brown eyes. Like Micah and Rick, she was a member of the Catholic Church in town. Rick had almost stammered when mentioning her name. Micah looked again at Rick.
“Are you in love?”
Rick thought for a moment. “We are very much in love,” he said with a little smile.
Micah gently prodded his young companion. “Are you sure it’s not just lust?”
“No, no,” Rick said defensively. “We’ve been in love a long time.”
Micah’s eyes wandered over the beams of the barn, the bales of dusty hay, and then at Rick.
“Do you know the difference between lust and love?”
Rick was embarrassed by the question. His cheeks colored a bit.
“Lust is sex, love is—more.”
Micah looked away again at the gray-and-brown landscape around his farm. “It’s important you know the difference, Rick. Lust is temporary. Love is forever.”
Rick shifted his weight uneasily on the bale. No one had ever challenged him to explain his love for Rosalinda. Micah paused for a moment and then quietly began to describe his convictions.
“Lust is a natural physical reaction to a contact we have made with another human. The excitement, passion, and exhilaration we feel comes from deep within our physical being. Lust is the powerful inner energy that brings humans together for procreation. The problem is that we often confuse our natural physical reaction to someone with our equally natural desire to love, and be loved, in a physical way. But while lust is a physical reaction that stimulates our mind into action, love is an emotional reaction with far-reaching spiritual implications.”
Micah paused. Rick looked a bit confused, as though trying to sort out his feelings for Rosalinda. Micah smiled gently at his companion.
“Think of it this way: Lust is the way our body stimulates us into action. But although the excitement of the activity may linger in our mind, lust is a physical thing. Love, on the other hand, is more closely aligned with long-term relationships. It is the feeling of friendship. Those we love, we trust. We view them as companions with whom we can share our thoughts and dreams without fear of ridicule.”
Micah paused again to organize his thoughts.
“When we lust for someone, it is usually a selfish act. We want to satisfy our physical need. The other person is an object to satisfy our physical desire. Love, by contrast, is an expression of giving—as well as receiving. Our need for love is fulfilled by making someone more content with our relationship. We want them to trust us. Be our companion. Share our thoughts. Engage with us on a spiritual level. That means true love is a commitment that lasts for a very long time, and it does not require us to perform a physical act. Remember, Jesus loved those with whom he traveled and the people who came to visit with him. Those relationships were spiritual in nature. He welcomed them as companions and friends.”
Rick looked down at the floor of the barn, deep in thought. He appeared to understand Micah’s words. The old man carefully slid off the bales and dropped onto the barn floor. He looked up at Rick.
“Well, Rick, is it lust or love you feel for Rosalinda?”
Rick looked intently at Micah. Slowly, solemnly, he said, “Both.”
“Good answer,” Micah responded with a gentle smile. “A very honest answer.”

From The Angels' Footpath
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April 19, 2014

Why is the Bible Important?

“”Cold winter rain poured down on the Mitchell house. Rick and Phillip were sitting at the kitchen table. Rick fiddled aimlessly with a glass of Coke. Phillip was sprawled out on his chair, bored by a Saturday afternoon with nothing to do. They talked about football, last year’s season, and their chances for next fall. It was a conversation they had many times. Then the front door flew open, and Abigail struggled into the foyer. She took off her wet raincoat, shook her head so her hair would fall down around her shoulders, and put her coat into the hall closet. Then she came into the kitchen.
“Just the man I want to see,” she said, looking directly at Rick. “I have a book for you.”
Abigail reached into a brown paper bag she was carrying, pulled out a black book, and handed it to Rick. He took the book and looked at the cover.
“It’s a Bible!” he said with some wonder.
“Yes, and it’s for you to read—cover to cover.”
“But I thought you were an atheist,” he said.
Abigail sat down at the table and looked thoughtfully at the two boys. Then she turned to Rick.
“Phillip is interested in computers and software. He follows after me,” Abigail said with some pride. “But you seem to be more interested in philosophy and ideas. So here is a book for you to read—and I expect you to read it.”
Although Rick had read parts of the Bible, he had not given it much thought. He was puzzled by Abigail’s insistence he read the whole thing.
“Okay, I’ll read it—but you still didn’t tell me why you, of all people, a strict atheist, want me to read the Bible.”
Abigail looked at Rick with some determination in her eyes.
“If you are going to be a man of ideas, of philosophy, then you must read and understand this book. It describes the greatest system of philosophy mankind has ever produced.”
“But you don’t believe this stuff—”
“The truths in this book are universal,” Abigail interrupted with some intensity. “I may choose not to believe in God. But nevertheless, the characters we meet in the Bible are dramatic and the drama is ageless. There are lessons of history. There is spiritual vision, moral right and wrong, the best and worst of human behavior, and the experience of both pain and joy. The Bible’s authors tell us about marriage, divorce, adultery, obedience, authority, honesty, parenting, nature, and much more. No other book has had a greater influence on humanity because in its essence, this book is about us.”
Abigail paused thoughtfully. “I suppose you can say... we are the people in the Bible.”
Phillip looked over at his mother. “Do I have to read it?”
“Yes, as soon as Rick has finished, he can give it to you—and you can expect me to quiz you both about the content.”
Phillip looked over at Rick and smiled with a certain resignation. His mother could be a woman of great determination.””


From: The Angels’ Footpath


April 14, 2014

The Commandment to Love

Those who hate, accept a desolate death.
Depression follows them everywhere.
The ravages of distrust drain their senses.
They condemn themselves to mortal despair.

Happiness eludes the cynic.
Love avoids the arrogant.
Anger creates hostility.
Indifference invites isolation.

Murderers are condemned to Oblivion.
Torture is the handmaiden of death.
Suicide desecrates the energy of Life.
Abortion violates natural law.

I command you, therefore:
Commit not the works of hatred.
Do what the Lord would do.
Fill your heart with the peace of love.

Love those who are your enemy.
Welcome the stranger.
Assist the injured.
Comfort those in need.

Love thy neighbor as thyself.
Embrace a positive lifestyle.
Experience the wonders of the Temporal Universe.
Sense the energy of the Spiritual Universe.

May the gift of Love bring you closer to God.
May it nourish your soul and give you peace.

A psalm from “The Compassion of Father Giovanni”
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April 09, 2014

Parental Responsibility

Parents love your children.
They are the tangible evidence of your union.
Nurture your children with compassion.
Teach your children faith, hope and charity.

Lead them away from evil temptation.
Defile not their bodies with drugs and drink.
Instead, encourage each child to excel.
Teach them mutual respect and fidelity.

Draw your children close to you.
Bring your family together each day.
Create the security of a loving home.
Encourage a belief in the spiritual.

Be thoughtful in your parental obligation.
Success requires commitment and participation.
What your children are - is your responsibility.
What they become - is your mission.

Love your growing children.
Share in their accomplishments and dreams.
Then be joyful on the day they leave your nest,
To create a family of their own.

We know God created the family
To nurture and protect the young.
May your home be a place of harmony
And a residence for the Holy Trinity.


A psalm from “The Compassion of Father Giovanni”
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April 02, 2014

Birthing

If you wish to follow God’s commandments,
do not participate in the conception of human life,
until you are ready, willing and able,
to love and support the infant you have created.
Your baby will be precious in the eyes of the Lord,
and no matter how difficult the challenges of your life,
he expects you to be a loving and responsible parent.

A psalm from “The Compassion of Father Giovanni”
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April 01, 2014

Marriage

Honor the one you love above yourself.
Show consideration in word and deed.
Be joyful in hope, patient in affliction, and faithful in commitment.
For true love must be sincere in purpose and honorable in act.
A good husband values his wife.
A good wife respects her husband.
Be your partner’s best friend, and most trusted companion.
Your love will be measured by your devotion to one another.
These are the things that bring you together as one.
And make your union precious in the eyes of God.

A psalm from “The Compassion of Father Giovanni”
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March 31, 2014

What about Bible Mythology?

The Bible is not merely a collection of mythologies. The text of the Bible conveys God’s message to us. Most of its stories and verse are easy to understand.

Think about it. If you were God, how would you reach out to humanity? When the content of Bible was created; radio, television, newspaper, magazine, telephone, and Internet media did not exist. There was only a limited supply of the materials needed to create written records and they would have been difficult to use. Making copies was a laborious manual task. Most of the people you want to reach cannot read or write.

So how do you convey your message to humanity? By inspiring selected humans to create a story that incorporates your message, and then having it repeated over and over again as people travel from land to land. Eventually, your message is converted into a written form that can be copied and sent everywhere your messengers go. By this means, you are able to teach and guide humanity. It’s not perfect. But it works.

Given that it was written over a period of 1,600 years, the content of the Bible has an amazing continuity. It conveys a caring message of inspiration and comfort to the millions who turn to it for counsel. Although the Bible presents us with a text drawn from another age, its lessons are timeless, the characters we meet are dramatic, and the drama is ageless. There is a unity of purpose. There are prophecies and the lessons of history. There is moral right and wrong, the best and worst of human behavior, and the experience of both pain and joy. The Bible is a book about tribes, families and individuals. The Bible’s authors tell us about marriage, divorce, adultery, obedience, authority, honesty, parenting, nature, revelation, behavior, God, and much more. It presents us with real life stories of spiritual vision, high ideals, and great moral depth.

If we take a moment to think about it, we soon recognize the Bible is the most enduring and popular book of philosophy ever written. It describes our triumphs and failures, our strengths and weaknesses, our wisdom and our folly.  We are capable of gentle compassion and fierce passion. We are good and we are evil. We embrace both love and hate.

So there you are. No other book has had a greater influence on humanity because in its essence, this book is about us. We are the people in the Bible. It connects us with the compassion and wisdom of God. And that is why it has endured.

Rick

March 29, 2014

Is The Bible The Word Of God?

     There are three basic ways to perceive the text of the Bible.
    
     Conservative Christians believe the Bible is – word for word – the work of God. In essence, God caused every word to be written. Even the many revisions and translations are the work of God. If that interpretation brings us closer to God, and helps us to sustain a positive view of our existence, then our conviction is beneficial.
    
     Many contemporary Christians prefer to believe that although the Bible was written and revised by human authors over a period of years, it does reveal the word of God. The stories and scripture we find in the Bible are a way of conveying God’s message to us. Although God inspired the scriptures, he encouraged human authors to express his message to us in their own way.
    
     Critics and skeptics like to point out the Bible’s errors, weaknesses, and contradictions. Some of the passages appear to encourage violence, and many of the stories lack credibility. For them, the Bible is nothing more than a collection of fables.
    
     So. Who is right?
    
     The answer to that question is relatively simple.
    
     How you value the Bible... is between you and God.

Rick
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March 26, 2014

Separation of Church and State: The Freedom to Believe

The Constitution was intended to be an inclusive document. We were a loose collection of colonies struggling to establish a national unity while retaining a local identity. The framers did not wish to eliminate the participation of any group based on their religious affiliation.

Although most of the Framers were Christians, they believed that individual Americans should have the right to characterize "God" according to their adopted system of religious beliefs. They were painfully aware of the political disasters that had occurred in Europe and the Mediterranean area when zealous piety was combined with secular power. The quest for religious freedom had been a primary stimulus for America's growth and they were determined that to avoid any loss of this precious right. The First Amendment to the Constitution, ratified on December 15, 1791, makes this very clear:  “Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof;”.

The framer's institutional neutrality has been confirmed in many ways. One of the more interesting was the Treaty of Tripoli in 1797. In this document,  the United States assured the  government of Tripoli it would not seek to impose the religious opinions of Christianity on any Muslim nation:    

" ARTICLE 11. As the government of the United States of America is not in any sense founded on the Christian Religion,-as it has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion or tranquility of Musselmen,-and as the said States never have entered into any war or act of hostility against any Mehomitan nation, it is declared by the parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two countries."  

 This Treaty was drafted by the Administration of George Washington, passed unanimously by the Senate, and signed into law by John Adams. The religious neutrality of the United States was again expressed in a subsequent Treaty of Tripoli in 1806:

"ARTICLE XIV. AS the government of the United States of America has in itself no character of enmity against the laws, religion, or tranquility of Mussulmen, …. it is declared by the contracting parties that no pretext arising from religious opinions shall ever produce an interruption of the harmony existing between the two nations. And the consuls and agents of both nations respectively shall have liberty to exercise his religion in his own house. …. "  

In other words, the U. S. had no intention of conducting a religious war against the Muslims of Tripoli.

These two treaties give us an example of the religious neutrality of the United States, are evidence the government of the United States had no established religion, and show that religion or religious opinion were not to be considered as a basis for interrupting the harmony of International affairs. However, these treaties also support the concept that in United States  religious conviction was - in fact - a customary practice.

The Framers believed that Catholics, Lutherans, Jews, Pilgrims, Anglicans, Baptists, Muslims, Hindus or any other group with its own system of religious beliefs could have its own unique characterization of "God".  Furthermore, "God" could also be called Yahweh, Jehovah, Lord, Allah, divine Providence, the way, Nature's God, supreme truth or - in a modern philosophical context - "the Force". 

There is a clear difference, however, between a recognition of a religious entity and the practice of the spiritual beliefs. As a practical matter, the framers of our Constitution would generally use the term "religion" when they were referring to a specific organized human institution that practiced a specific system of religious beliefs.  They did not, however, envision that freedom of religion would be equated with freedom from religion.  In the cultural environment within which our Constitution was created, it was assumed that all good men, women and children practiced some form of religion and believed in a spiritual Divinity - "God" - however defined by one's conscience.

This cultural framework appears in the references made to God in the Declaration of Independence, July 4, 1776.  In part, it reads:

WHEN in the Course of human Events, it becomes necessary for one People to dissolve the Political Bands which have connected them with another, and to assume among the Powers of the Earth, the separate and equal Station to which the Laws of Nature and of Nature's God entitle them, a decent Respect to the Opinions of Mankind requires that they should declare the causes which impel them to the Separation.

WE hold these Truths to be self-evident, that all Men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness -- ….

WE, therefore, the Representatives of the UNITED STATES OF AMERICA, in GENERAL CONGRESS, Assembled, appealing to the Supreme Judge of the World for the Rectitude of our Intentions, do, in the Name, and by Authority of the good People of these Colonies, solemnly Publish and Declare, That these United Colonies are, and of Right ought to be, FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES; that they are absolved from all Allegiance to the British Crown, and that all political Connection between them and the State of Great-Britain, is and ought to be totally dissolved; and that as FREE AND INDEPENDENT STATES, they have full Power to levy War, conclude Peace, contract Alliances, establish Commerce, and to do all other Acts and Things which INDEPENDENT STATES may of right do. And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm Reliance on the Protection of divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.

Our Founding Fathers left us an abundance of quotes that reflect their Christian convictions.  It was assumed there is a divine Providence to which America would entrust its fortunes.  Thus, although they were careful to separate the influence of organized Religious institutions from the affairs of state, they never-the-less firmly believed all human activity – including government – was conducted under the watchful eye of our creator. 

Hence the term: “In God We Trust”.   That is also why you will find the “all seeing eye of god” on a one dollar bill.


Ronald R. Cooke

March 24, 2014

A Prayer

When I was a child, I spoke as a child. 
Having lived a full life, even unto the sunset of my years,
God grant I may speak with the wisdom of ages.

Father Giovanni
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