The Passion

Photo courtesy of Aztlan Communications Network

Under a certain amount of duress, I drove with Kathy to Tacoma to see The Passion today, while my Mom watched the kids. Receiving free tickets, and even being chauffered to the movie theater by my Dad, it was all accomplished with very little inconvenience or pain to me. Except, perhaps, the pain of watching.

Don’t get me wrong. I thought the movie was very well done, extremely effective and reasonably true to the Biblical accounts of the Gospels. I found the scriptural quotations to be well-chosen and believe the overall presentation was closely representative of the actual event. But it was a difficult and draining experience to view the portrayal of Jesus’ agony up to the moment of his death, in such graphic detail.

I’m glad that I went, for some values of ‘glad’.

(This is a programmer joke — 2+2=5 for some values of 2 and 5. Admittedly, not a very funny joke, but, hey, I’m a programmer, not a comedian.)

What I mean is that I felt responsible to see the movie and I’m proud that I went through with it, but it did not, technically, make me ‘glad’. I went to see it because I think for the next month or two it will be one of the most effective ways to engage a non-believer in a discussion about Jesus; indeed, I tried it out on a WalMart checkout clerk on the way home and found the conversation to be very easy and natural.

My wife says that I am too negative in this posting and that I fail to inspire my potential reader to rush out and see The Passion. Perhaps so. Frankly, to quote an obscure line from “Knight’s Tale”, going to this movie is “something each man must decide for himself.” I will probably not allow my children to see this movie, but I would encourage my brother to do so, if he hasn’t already. If you love God, seeing this movie will probably deepen your understanding of the sacrifice that Jesus made as He died in your place. If you don’t love God, and you reject His Son, then going to this movie may not help you particularly, unless the Holy Spirit uses it to touch your heart and change your mind.

I was very moved by the scene in which Mary manages to connect with Jesus as he makes his way along the Via Dolorosa. Rather than speak of his suffering, or even express his love for her, the actor playing Jesus says, “See, I am making all things new!” (As far as I know, Jesus does not actually say this until quoted in Revelation 21:5.) Gibson communicates Jesus’ sense of purpose and submission to God’s plan very accurately, using flashback scenes to carefully underscore the fact that Jesus gave up His life; it was not taken from Him. Even as His mangled body is crushed beneath the weight of the cross, Jesus’ unswerving commitment to fulfilling the will of the Father blazes forth in this majestic moment.

There was nothing in the movie that surprised me, particularly, except a few ‘jump’ scenes (as when Jesus stomps on the snake’s head or when a Roman soldier knocks an offered cup of water out of a woman’s hand). I’ve seen the Puyallup Passion Play several times, where considerable effort is made to realistically portray the beating and crucifixion of Jesus. And of course I’ve studied all four of the gospels fairly carefully and read a number of commentaries that explain various cultural customs and practices more clearly.

I was impressed by the way that Gibson used Satan to actually present the essence of the Gospel, in the opening scenes of the film. Satan, trying to discourage Jesus, tries to tell him that there is no way one man can bear the sin of all people. Through this backhanded device, the viewer can clearly understand that Jesus’ intent is to bear the sin of all men in His own body, according to the will of God the Father.

There was, perhaps, a bit more reverence of Mary than seems appropriate to me, but from a Catholic perspective, it was fairly restrained.

I strongly identified with the thief on the cross who asks Jesus to remember him, when he comes into his kingdom; the power of God never ceases to amaze me as revealed in that scene. In the midst of the darkest moment of all of Creation, as the Son of God, King of Kings and Lord of Lords is being brutally tortured to death by His own rebellious creatures, God reaches out and uses that opportunity to snatch a soul from Satan’s grasp.

Truly, he makes all things new.

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Elk Rocket Scientist

It is said by some local hunters that, in order to shoot an elk, you have to outdumb them — trying to outsmart them will leave you sitting alone with a blank elk tag. Personally, I have a lot of experience in chasing them around with a camera, and I can attest that they have a unreasoning prejudice against people pointing things at them.

I was out yesterday helping a customer with a virus problem; as I returned home, I noticed a half-herd of elk grazing in the clearing that will, we trust, soon contain the Retreat Center. They glanced indifferently at my car as I hurtled past; lifting their heads briefly, they soon returned to the serious business of nibbling Mom’s flowers and fruit trees.

I determined to get a close-up picture — not owning a telefoto lens, I routinely fail to capture wildlife with my digital camera. As I stepped out onto my deck, I was pleased to note the sound of a helicopter nearby — although I am careful to move quietly, and am widely known to be dainty in size, the elk usually (for some unknown reason) hear me coming.

Unfazed by cars and helicopters, the herd perked up their heads and began trotting away as soon as I descended to the ground. Gnashing my teeth, I snapped a few halfhearted pictures but was mostly treated to the uninspiring sight of 40 elk bottoms.

Elk, unlike me, are not particularly dainty. When pursued, they cause substantial destruction among the local flora; I soon abandoned the chase in hopes of preserving what grass may remain down by the pond.

About an hour later, a neighbor called to warn that the herd, having been reinforced and now 80-strong, was heading back through our property. Hope springs eternal in the heart of an amateur photographer, so I sidled out onto my front deck to try once more. Again, most of the elk quickly reacted to the dire threat of my camera, and harumphed and galumphed gracelessly into the underbrush where they glared at me from under lowered brows. (Actually, I’m not sure elk have eyebrows, but they definitely managed to glower.) Just as I was about to give up, a particularly feckless elk doe walked around the corner of my house and provided me with this picture. She may have been the victim of a practical joke, elk lodge hazing, or perhaps even a triple-dog-dare. As you can see, she was startled by my presence but too dumb to run away.


I suppose if I was an elk hunter, I would wait comfortably at home and shoot the first elk that rang my doorbell, except that they would probably eat the doorbell instead of ringing it. There is the additional drawback that I don’t have a doorbell.

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The First Flower of 2004

Spring is almost here! The trees are budding, and the flowers are starting to bloom — here is the first flower that I have seen growing outside this year. I think it is some kind of a violet — if you know its actual name, please post a comment.


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Duckabush Death March

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One early March day dawned bright and clear, the morning sky washed that deep shade of cornflower blue that only comes after a good rain, or so my wife told me.
“Could you please pipe down, and pull the blinds closed a little tighter?” I mumbled into my pillow.

The shrieks of my children preventing me from resuming my slumber, I rose to greet the day, albeit in a surly manner. After a desultory attempt at work, I was forced to acknowledge that this day must be spent outside. I summoned my two oldest sons, Slug and Weasel, to my office, pointing imperiously for them to sit at my feet.

“Something wrong with your finger, Pops?” snickered Weasel as he slouched against my desk, kicking his leg aimlessly at my computer’s reset button.

“We must seize the day and hike to the Ranger Hole!” I trumpeted. “But first, I will tell you a story of the road marches we had when I was in the Army.”

My sons concealed their pleasure by rolling their eyes and holding their stomachs, groaning. “Seriously, Dad,” whined Slug, “Can’t we just hike to the Hole and pretend we listened to your stories?”

Two stories and four hours later, we climbed into my trusty bronze car and careened up the valley to the trailhead. “The problem with kids today is that they don’t have any stamina,” I warned. “You two watch me carefully and you’ll see how a real hiker handles a trail.”

“Can we get going yet, Pops?” Weasel droned. “How many times are you gonna lace up your shoes?”

We set off at a brisk pace; I wanted to see how quickly these soft youngsters would fall to the wayside. Just as I expected, they were soon both out of sight.

“How long do you want us to wait for you?” shouted Slug from the top of a small mountain.

“Slow and steady wins the race,” I wheezed.
“I don’t know about slow, but you don’t look any too steady.”
Weasel always did have a sharp tongue.

Their boundless energy was beginning to discourage me, as I puffed up an incline that rivaled the North Face of the Eiger. I motioned for the boys to halt, and after five or ten minutes, caught my breath. “Say, I just remembered that I left my camera in the car — why don’t you two run back and get it.” Craftily, I hung the camera across my back where they wouldn’t see it until they returned, when I could apologetically ‘discover’ it. Lacking my years of hiking experience, they both fell for this ancient ruse.

“You sure didn’t get very far,” griped Slug, returning. “The car is locked, and you forgot to give us the keys.” He didn’t even seem out of breath, so I gave him the keys without even a twinge of conscience. A kid like that needs more exercise, I’ve always thought.

In what seemed only moments, he and Weasel had returned, resuming their disrespectful practice of prodding me forward. “Ha ha ha, that was some joke, eh?” I laughed nervously. “I had the camera all the time.”
“Very funny, Pops — nearly as funny as the time you had me and Slug search the beach for your Palm Pilot, until we remembered that you don’t own one!” Weasel chortled, poking me expertly in the small of the back with his walking stick.

Finally we reached the river, where I passed the time entertaining fantasies of pushing both of them into the glacier-fed waters. It fell to me, as their father, to provide these impressionable young boys with an example of maturity and good sense. This was a bit of a problem, since I had managed to grow to adulthood without acquiring either.

Slug seemed to respect and understand this, as he retrieved his hat from the patch of stinging nettles where I had thrown it. “You sure are a scalawag,” he guffawed, tossing my wallet into the bottom of a ravine.

The trip back to the car was even worse, if possible. Weasel amused himself by running laps around me, loudly keeping count. Slug jogged ahead, ostentatiously taking naps whenever he found a comfortable bed of pine needles. I found their vulgar display of physical prowress very distasteful, and said so:
“I find your vulgar display of physical prowress very distasteful.”

As I sagged into the driver’s seat of my little bronze car, muscles aching and gasping for breath, I took the only revenge possible:
“There I was in the woods. The rain was pouring down, and my M-16 was slung across my back. Suddenly, the Sergeant-Major popped out from behind a tree. ‘Gimme 20 pushups’, he roared … ”

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This posting made in honor of Pat McManus, author of many hilarious short stories.

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Homeschool Recess

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Two years ago my Dad convinced me to build a deck. Craftily, my wife became involved during the planning stages and doubled pretty much all the dimensions of the deck. In spite of labor shortages (I only use volunteer labor, to avoid exploitation of salaried workers) the deck was mostly finished last summer and now wraps around half of my house. We get a lot of use out of it — it stays much drier and cleaner than the gravel and mud which it now conceals. Here is Daniel enjoying some early Spring sunshine during recess.

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