On Being Where You Are

As St. Patrick’s day approaches, and thoughts turn to Ireland (or at least some fabled Emerald Isle that bears the name) I think there is something in the saint’s story worth considering when we reflect on our local church:

1) There are many beautiful churches and cathedrals in Ireland.

2) Many modern (built in the 70’s or later) churches in America seem uninspired, even ugly.

I’m not really qualified to make objective statements about architecture; I realize that. I’m going to  have to make a point from those two very widely held yet anecdotal bits of evidence.

As a Catholic that grew up in one of those older churches that was constructed almost as a scale model of an Irish cathedral, the trend  in the last 100 years of architecture is apparent to me, especially as we moved westward to where parish churches were constructed 50 years ago instead of 150 years ago.

There are some that fault the building for the lack of reverence. Some that will bemoan that the quality of music, the attire or attitudes of the other churchgoers, or yes, even the building itself does not present as good a spiritual environment as such-and-such in another place.

There are those who will even travel great distances to go to a place of worship that is, to them, more reverent, more spiritual, and more beautiful than their local parish. If at all possible, people tend to seek out that parish that resembles a cathedral – maybe even an Irish cathedral.

I am here going to mention an  apparently blasphemous but painfully true statements that one must never, ever utter in such hallowed places such as Irish bars on St. Patrick’s day. If you repeat this truth in such a place, you alone are responsible for the beating you suffer for it.

St. Patrick wasn’t Irish. He was, to put it bluntly, a Brit.

Patrick was forcefully taken from his home and brought to the pagan isle of Ireland as a slave. He escaped, returned to Britain, and eventually returned to Ireland as a missionary and a priest. The rest is history, legend, and the story of a saint.

St. Patrick did not choose to stay near the aesthetically pleasing places of worship. He went back to the pagan land, preached, prayed, worshipped and taught in a land with no cathedrals.

Truth, Beauty, Ignorance

The things that feel spiritual or reverent to us – the music, the attire, the posture and behavior of the people, the building – these are things of man. The are aesthetics. When we make a judgement of things based on aesthetics, we’re making judging as man sees, not as God sees. We’re choosing things because they are attractive, or pretty.

We are called to be in the place we find ourselves, in the time we found ourselves. We may not have been kidnapped, as St. Patrick was, but nevertheless our circumstances often dictate where we are.

Maybe the way the local church worships isn’t as attractive to you because of cultural differences. There are certainly legitimate ways in which worship at one church in a place and time varies from another. Some of the aesthetic preference is simply cultural or nostalgic.

But maybe the lack of perceived beauty is ignorance. Maybe people at your church aren’t reverent because they don’t fully understand what it is they are proclaiming, adoring, and worshipping when you gather. Truth is beauty, as Keats wrote, so the corollary that ignorance is ugly might be fitting.

If ignorance is the case, and you feel you know more than those around you, doesn’t that imply you might just have a job to do there, where God has placed you?

Maybe there is something you need to learn from others in the place God has put you – after all, it was the tax collector who beat his breast in the temple that went home justified. The learned man, who was comparing himself to another in the temple even in his prayer, did not go home justified.

If St. Patrick had stayed where the faith was more firmly rooted, where people worshipped as he had when he was a boy, where they were more reverent than the pagans in Ireland,  we might not have the Irish cathedrals we admire today.

 

 

 

 

Coffee Doesn’t Cure Acedia

The many changes over the past seven months (and more) with this site and my work has a rather simple explanation. After about 7 years of freelancing, I got a regular job.

The biggest adjustment for my family has been the time; a commute, 8 hours of work or more, lunch time that doesn’t count – almost half the week is now spent away from home.

I now spend most of my waking hours in the “normal” world of an American office. A small but growing company, and having worked for smaller and larger companies in the past there is a lot that stays the same regardless of industry, decade, and state in which the office exists.

There’s the usual temptation to vice that goes along with working in the modern office environment. As I am currently reading a lot of old texts on the virtues and vices for a new project, the reading and research and daily grind have made the overlap stand out. There’s envy, of course, whenever you have gatherings of people, greed whenever money and goods are involved, wrath as tempers flare and patience wanes, pride abounds and there is even lust – though fortunately it presents itself in its older form, luxury, for most of us.

But if I had to pick one vice most plagued the modern workplace, I would not hesitate to name acedia. A word considered so archaic spell check doesn’t recognize it. Over generations the vice became referred to as sloth, and equated with laziness. As with all evil, it has worked best when it keeps us unaware of itself.

The Office Vice

Take this scenario:

For Bob, time at the office begins to slow down as lunch approaches. It feels as though it completely stops after lunch. It is as if the clock does not move at all, and a day feels like a week. He doesn’t feel like he’s making much headway on the tasks and goals at hand, and he’s got tabs open on his browser for news, weather, ebay or craigslist. He leans back in is chair and glances at his fellow works, to see if he might happen to make eye contact and they can discuss some matter – work related or not.  He remembers that Lucy, in sales, had a daughter that was sick with something last week, maybe he should go and ask her how the kid is doing. It would be the nice thing to do, right? Maybe John in receiving could use a hand.

His mind wanders to a reminder from LinkedIn that a fraternity brother has gotten a new title at his job. What if they had stayed on the West Coast? He’d probably be making more money. Definitely be a lot happier. Heck, Bob’s downright certain he would be making more of a difference in the world. After all, that is what he’s supposed to be doing with his life, isn’t it?

You wouldn’t exactly call Bob lazy, and the scenario is probably all too familiar.

Now compare it with a description of Acedia – a vice considered the most dangerous by the desert monks of the 5th century:

The demon of acedia – also called the noonday demon (Psalm 91:6) – is the one that causes the most serious trouble of all. He presses his attack upon the monk about the fourth hour (10 am) and besieges the soul until the eighth hour. (2 pm)

First of all he makes it seem that the sun barely moves, if at all, and that the day is fifty hours long. Then he constrains the monk to look constantly out the windows, to walk outside the cell, to gaze carefully at the sun to determine how far it stands from the ninth hour (3 pm), to look now this way and now that to see if perhaps [one of the brethren appears from his cell]. Then too he instills in the heart of the monk a hatred for the place, a hatred for his very life itself, a hatred for manual labor. He leads him to reflect that charity has departed from among the brethren, that there is no one to give encouragement. Should there be someone at this period who happens to offend him in some way or other, this too the demon uses to contribute further to his hatred.

This demon drives him along to desire other sites where he can more easily procure life’s necessities, more readily find work and make a real success of himself. He goes on to suggest that, after all, it is not the place that is the basis of pleasing the Lord. God is to he adored everywhere. He joins to these reflections the memory of his dear ones and of his former way of life. He depicts life stretching out for a long period of time, and brings before the mind’s eye the toil of the ascetic struggle and, as the saying has it, leaves no leaf unturned to induce the monk to forsake his cell and drop out of the fight.

Rings pretty true, even though the monk Evagrius wrote it some 1600 years ago. Evagrius was so concerned about the vice that he described it is a demon that “rips the soul apart as a dog would kill a fawn”

Acedia practically defines the workplace attitude. Whether the afternoon lull is referred to as a ‘lazy day’ or being ‘food-stupid’ or remarks are made about how everyone is just ‘out of it.’ The mood has a name, though it has almost been forgotten.

How do more and more people cope with it? Caffeine. Energy Drinks. 5-Hour Energy fought its way into the market with the slogan that it beat “the two-o’clock feeling.” Imagine how ridiculous it would be to develop a tonic to beat any other particular vice! I’m sure it will happen, and has happened. But for the moment it is happening, and no one quite realizes it because the name and definition of the vice has shifted over time.

Evagrius describes ascedia as “an ethereal friendship, one who leads our steps astray, hatred of industriousness, a battle against stillness … laziness in prayer… untimely drowsiness, revolving sleep… an opponent of perseverance … a partaker in sorrow, a clock for hunger.” Even he who defined it (and the other chief vices for the first time) had a hard time defining it. The Oxford Concise Dictionary of the Christian Church defined it more succinctly as “a state of restlessness and inability either to work or to pray.” Restlessness is a key trait of acedia, and yet not something we associate with being lazy. Being a busybody, gossip, or just doing busywork may appear to be industrious, doing something, and “not lazy,” but all are actually acedia.

If you think about it, our culture’s obsession with current events, celebrity stalking, and the 24-hour news day all are symptoms of acedia also. It’s not slothful to stay informed, but it isn’t industrious.

So in a nutshell, checking Facebook one more time, taking a stroll about the office, and getting another cup of coffee are not going to break “the two-o’clock feeling.”

The Cure for Acedia

What actually is the cure for acedia? First of all, being aware of it. Acedia has managed to be so entrenched because it is seen as acceptable, even unavoidable. The idea of naming a power to conquer it has some truth here: name the noonday demon, pray for the strength to overcome, and consciously fight it, and it will have little power over you.

Evagrius writes in the Eight Thoughts that perseverance, “the execution of all tasks with great attention” and the fear of God are the cure for acedia. “Set a measure for yourself in every work and do not let up until you have completed it. Pray with understanding and intensity, and the spirit of acedia will flee from you. ”

You can also keep in mind the following words from the Hagakure, the Book of the Samurai (and quoted in The Way of the Christian Samurai):

“There is surely nothing other than the single purpose of the present moment. A man’s whole life is a succession of moment after moment. There will be nothing else to do, and nothing else to pursue. Live being true to the single purpose of the moment.”

Attentiveness, awareness, prayer, and perseverance – and charity. Test every moment, every act, against the test of charity. Is what I am doing loving God and my neighbor? Or am I distracting myself and my neighbor?

Further reading on the Internet:

 

New Edition of Clean of Heart Available!

After several years of publishing Clean of Heart by Rosemarie Scott, an invaluable book for overcoming habitual sins against purity – put bluntly, pornography and masturbation –  the program is no longer distributed by myself or Eternal Revolution (or the old name that appears on the Revised Edition of the book, R.A.G.E. Media. )

Rosemarie has a new 3rd edition out, published directly by herself with the help of Amazon (Hooray for Distributism/Microcapitalism!)  and it is available today on Amazon with a new, gorgeous cover.

It has been an honor to serve Rosemarie and those her book has helped these past few years; I pray that the good work is continued.

Please also note that our subscription service has changed, so this email may appear unusual. If you are getting this email, it is probably because you bought G.K. Chesterton products, The Way of the Christian Samurai, or Clean of Heart from Eternal Revolution. Or you signed up on my site, which has also changed.

If you’d like to get blog posts sent to you by email, subscribe with the form on the right side of the page!

Mea Culpa

The past several months have been full of radical changes here.  Radical,  coming from the same Latin root as the word “root.”  The shift has changed the very basics of my family’s life,  particularly our available time.

This “root”  change has led me too look back over the past seven years of Eternal Revolution and the projects and books I have created.  I realized that my initial goal – to produce useful books and written materials,  has somehow been diluted and even lost along the way.

What stated as a ministry became a business.  Instead of focusing on words and the Word,  I took on more projects with the hope that they would help provide for my family while I wrote.  Eventually,  I was spending more time marketing, making board game pieces,  designing and printing t-shirts,  and the bookkeeping necessary for so many irons in the fire that there was no time to do that which I set out to do.

When God called Abraham out of Ur,  He told Abraham to leave family behind.  Instead,  Abraham took Lot and his family along too.  Much of Abraham’s troubles on his journey were due to the Lot he brought with him; and a great man struggles and fruitlessness has come from my lot.

When we step back from life we call it a spiritual retreat.  In battle,  a retreat is a tactic to regroup and continue the fight later,  limiting your losses.  These past few weeks have been a retreat for me in both senses.  Like Gideon,  when I next charge forth I must do it with reliance on God,  not what I think I need to add to the mission to make it viable.

For that reason,  I have already begun to cast off the extra lot I have taken on,  and this process will continue for a few more months.  The T-shirts have already been marked down by 20%. Also,  the book Clean of Heart by Rosemarie Scott -  a wonderful program for overcoming pornography addiction –  will be moving to another publisher.  There will be some updates in the future as those projects shut down.

As for this blog,  I realized I have made several missteps.  Trying to force myself to write on a regular basis –  a best practice for blogging – has led to less other writing and a quality I was not thrilled with.  I also realized that there are some current events that should be addressed. Finally,  while tying to leave out the Catholic aspects of my faith for the sake of reaching a more general Christian audience has left several important spiritual warfare resources out.  There is a reason that Chesterton called it “The last fighting for of Christianity.”

Over the next few weeks and months,  there will be more tearing down and rebuilding.  The blog will be restructured after the four methods of fighting the Eternal Revolution,  as written in the book I finished this spring.  The website format will change as the ministry simplifies itself again.  There will be some updates about sales and final chances to get products that are being discontinued,  and hopefully soon new articles will be posted and books published (and re-published) to encourage and support all of us fighting the war we call the Christian life.

Pray for Revolution.

When the World Falls Apart

When your world is falling apart, what is it that is actually changing so drastically?

It cannot be anything that can affect your salvation. It may be a change in your role – or what you thought your role was – in the story of salvation. When Peter was called from his boat, when Paul was thrown from his horse, their old world ended. Up to that day they thought they knew what their life would be. And the next day it changed forever in response to a call.

A few lines in the Scriptures over simplifies the upheaval such decisions and such callings cause.

On that note, there will be more changes here at Eternal Revolution. The more I pray about things the more I realize a more radical course correction is needed to bring things in line with my calling.

I stated in The Eternal Revolution that we are not fighting as the army of God. An army follows orders in a clear battlefront. We are resistance fighters, and part of that is shifting and responding and changing quickly to adapt to shifting conditions or orders. This is the way we fight.

‘I Hate Christmas’ Kickstarter now Live

It maybe a few months away, but I need your help to get the next book for Eternal Revolution published in time for Christmas – and that means getting it in print now.

While the book is available as an ebook on Amazon, if we can raise the money in the next 3 weeks it can be in print for Christmas 2014 – if not, the print edition will have to be postponed at least another year.

Check out the Kickstarter campaign here.

Dependence and Charity

The stated goal of many charities is to encourage independence of families or the individual. The entire operation, if properly aligned, is to help the person and those they support to no longer become dependent on some other entity – in most cases that means they organization specifically does not want the person to remain dependent on them.

For Christians, however, especially those aware of the Eternal Revolution and our daily battles with the world, we cannot say our charity work or acts of charity are geared towards the independence of those we serve. When we do what we can to meet the physical, mental, and emotional needs of others we want them to find dependence on God, not on themselves. To be reliant on oneself is to act out of pride.

Charity, as a virtue, ought to always desire to love others as God loves them. We do not want others dependent on destructive influences like drugs, alcohol, or debt. But nor do we want them to see themselves as dependent on their own selves. This can be as simple as directing their expressions of thanks to God, and not to our organizations or our own efforts. It is good for any child of God to recognize His hand behind the hands that help them, and it ought to be their goal to always be dependent on His Charity.

It is not a bad thing that people need help from charities. Charities, especially Christian charities, ought to exist as organizations that do works of charity – that is love. And as Christians we desire that people put their trust, their hope, and their dependence on the love of God. To desire them to be independent of that would in fact be a terrible and uncharitable thing to wish upon another person.

What are You Afraid of?

As we start another week, what is it that you are afraid of? What is keeping you from doing the miraculous, the amazing, the incredible for the Kingdom of God?

Peter could step out of the boat and take a few steps, until he became fearful – even when Our Lord was right there in his presence doing the impossible!

There are always scary stories on the news. There will always be uncertainty and plans gone awry, especially on Mondays. There are always waves, big and small.

But what you fear is what you worship. When you hesitate, catch yourself and ask, “Am I afraid of falling short of what Christ called me to do, or am I more afraid of _______?” If the answer is ever the latter, do everything you can to switch your focus to your King!

Last Chance for Chesterton Shirts, Plus Free Book Offer!

As Summer draws to a close and we prepare for a change of season, and a return to the school year, it is time to wrap up some changes at Eternal Revolution.

At the end of August, the following shirts will be removed from the Eternal Revolution shop. There are limited supplies, so they might run out sooner. They are each just $10 in the clearance section.

These are some of the oldest G.K. Chesterton quote shirts that I offered. They are also on Zazzle, but are much cheaper here!

“Without Education we are in horrible and deadly danger of taking educated people seriously.”

 

“An inconvenience is only an adventure wrongly considered.”

 

“To be clever enough to get all that money, one must be stupid enough to want it.”

 

Free Book Offer!

In addition to the low prices on clearance shirts, each shirt order of $20 or more placed in August will get a free copy of The Eternal Revolution. Orders of $50 or more ship free in the USA! There is no coupon code or special instructions, you will get this automatically.

The Purpose of Suffering in the Eternal Revolution

There are times when we go through deserts of life – the times when we feel that we have been cast adrift with no divine wind in our sails. There are other times when we suffer acute pain: mental, physical, or emotional anguish of a particular kind or from a particular source. Both of these periods in our lives are suffering, and I firmly believe there is a purpose to suffering.

There is meaning in suffering, but that is not what I am concerned with in this post. The meaning of suffering is more metaphysical, which in many cases, and for most people, is not the type of thing you have the mental energy to do while enduring suffering. Purpose speaks to a practical reason or explanation of why this, why now. Recognizing a purpose to your suffering can get you through each day, and then in looking back on a period of suffering you may find the meaning.

We endure suffering in this life to bring us closer to God. Pain curbs the dangers of pride. Feeling alone and powerless turns us back to the Powerful One who said He would not leave us. Pain and suffering remind us that we are not at home in this world. They make us focus on the promise of a life free from the ordeals we experience here and now. Suffering should bring us to hope.

We are not always hopeful when we are called to endure. Long periods of crisis, or painful chronic disorders can bring us to despair and envy instead of leading us away from pride. This happens especially when we thing that someone or something has the answer to “solve” our problem. Worst of all, we might think that there is something we can do to fix our situation, our aliment, our pain. What vice is it that makes us think we can solve our own problems? Pride. The very thing that suffering can help us conquer can be used by the enemy to make our spiritual condition worse.

Pain and suffering are weapons, but they are not just weapons of the enemy. They can be used against us, crushing us into despair, or they can be powerful weapons in our hands, guided by God, to shape us into better practitioners of His will, not ours.

The purpose of suffering is to test and to purify us. It is not a punishment, though it can be a correction. We all suffer, each to a degree that God knows we can endure if we rely on Him. Certainly, some suffer so that they might be miraculously healed for His glory and as a witness of His power. But the majority, most of us, are being called to endure the trials and hurt so that we might be refined, formed, and directed to give glory to God.

Will you be beaten by the hardships in your life, or will you, with the strength of God,  wield them as one of the most powerful weapons in your arsenal of faith?