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Month: September 2016

Don’t Chuck the Berries!

Don’t Chuck the Berries!

In some parts of the world it’s already cold and damp – and ‘the nights are fair drawin’ in’, as the old folk used to say. That simply means the days have less daylight hours than they used to, and that it’s getting dark earlier each evening even before the clock gets shifted. Soon the hatches will be getting battened down, not for the three days of darkness but simply for another Winter north of Hadrian’s old wall. Already, the wind has been trying to rip the roof off the house. The swallows left for Africa a few weeks back without evening saying, “Goodbye”. Who can blame them?

Why did some people decide to settle in inhospitable places, or is it just the panzie-moderns like myself who can’t put up with months of rain, cold, wind, and darkness? Maybe living where a summer was a real summer for so many ears has spoiled me. Any takers from the Pacific Island – maybe Fiji or Samoa – who’d like to do an exchange? You come here for good and I’ll shift the family down there, so that we can enjoy your fantastic diet, and your rugby skills! (Well, no harm in asking).

Still, there are some things that the South Pacific Islands couldn’t give – like blackberry picking even this late in the year. What’s more, they even made me think about Our Lord’s Passion (if I was lying around on a beach in Fiji, or Samoa, I’d probably not think much of the Holy Sacrifice). The berries were simply there, a short walk from the door. The food was there, waiting to be picked either by a passer-bye, the fox, or the birds. No fox came, and the birds were not insight. The berries just seemed to call out, “Food for free!” Yes, seriously, free food. Provided by the Provider of all that is Good. Or maybe old Mother-Evolution, wherever she by-chance comes from, was working away for millions and billions of thingy-bobs so as to grab this unsuspecting humanoid into her great web, to make me think I was actually freely picking something. Bunkum! The food seemed to be crying out, “I am all thine! I am gift for you, dear Passer-bye.” And so it was. A gift. With the added gift of watching the children pinch a berry here, and a berry there, and sneak one into their mouths to taste the wonder of sweetness and bitterness. All gift for those with eyes to see.

Children and berries. They soon discover that the best ones – the big, juicie, fat ones – come at a price. Learning to suffer for the best is a lesson for life as the thorns try to stop one from achieving ones goal. How sweet the big ones are, and sweeter still when a thorn is removed from a little hand. The blood from little scratches (or even big scratches) being hardly noticeable due to the deep blood like stains from the juice itself. One’s fingers are as blood-black as the berries before too long – another little reminder of the price paid for the little children by the One Who welcomed them into His arms and promised them all that is His.

By the time the picking is done there are more thorns to pull, and there is a fool with a bucket full of what strangers often pass bye. A bucket full that will be sweetened and turned into wonders by a mother’s old cooking skills. Skills still handed on, and not yet lost to the mass producers. How did something so simple call out and draw us in? Maybe the food was put their for the traveller to have something on his way? Maybe the berries were placed there to entice one out before the darkness descends – out to have one more good look around and remember the plenty there is even in suffering? Maybe, just maybe, the sweetness promised was place there by the One who does not chuck (throw) away the berries or the little ones away, but changes them it something quite sublime? Enjoy – and don’t chuck the berries!!!

Scotland – I Never You!

Scotland – I Never You!

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This blogging game is a funny business and it’s remarkable what one finds other people write. Even the language of pointing to what is to be found on another blogg is quaint. So one can say, “over at”, when referring to “a recent post” somewhere else is the “bloggosphere”. All rather charming. Anyway, here’s what I  found over at www.exlaodicea. It got me thinking and scribbling. The passage is from Pope Leo XIII’s encyclical letter Caritas Studium from 1898:

Scotland, so dear to the Holy See, and in a special manner to Us, has its place in Our care and solicitude… We have constantly sought to promote the welfare of your nation, which is naturally inclined to embrace the truth. The terrible storm which swept over the Church in the sixteenth century, deprived the vast majority of the Scottish people, as well as many other peoples of Europe, of that Catholic Faith which they had gloriously held for over one thousand years. It is most pleasing to Us to revert to the great achievements of your forefathers on behalf of Catholicism, and also to allude to some of those, and they are many, to whose virtue and illustrious deeds Scotland owes so much of her renown… This was the faith of St. Columba; this was the faith kept so religiously and preached so zealously by the monks of old, whose chief centre, alone, was rendered famous by their eminent virtues. Need We mention Queen Margaret, a light and ornament not only of Scotland, but of the whole of Christendom, who, though she occupied the most exalted position in point of worldly dignity, sought only in her whole life things eternal and divine, and thus spread throughout the Church the luster of her virtues? There can be no doubt she owed this her eminent sanctity to the influence and guidance of the Catholic Faith. And did not the power and constancy of the Catholic Faith give to Wallace and Bruce, the two great heroes of your race, their indomitable courage in defence of their country? We say nothing of the immense number of those who achieved so much for the commonwealth, and who belong to that progeny which the Catholic Church has never ceased to bring forth. We say nothing of the advantages which your nation has derived from her influence. It is undeniable that it was through her wisdom and authority that those famous seats of learning were opened at St. Andrews, Glasgow, and Aberdeen, and that your judicial system was drawn up and adopted. Hence We can well understand why Scotland has been honoured by the title of “Special Daughter of the Holy See.”

It got me thinking about what Scotland was when it too shared the ancient Faith. What has remained and what has been lost? I’m not sure, but maybe now it’s only the accent that remains, or is it that then Scots were not homeless but, like many others today, there is a sense of homelessness.

“Geeee, I just love your accent!” – is a familiar enough phrase. It is often uttered innocently. It was often said by students who believed a particular professor was from Ireland. He tried, as best he could through his rough words, to explain that historically his country and Ireland were closely linked but that, no, he wasn’t Irish despite the fact that his mother was from Ireland’s most northern county. To his own embarrassment he remembered thinking a priest from the Outer Hebrides was Irish! Still, the students looked on with horror that someone really could sound like a character from Mel Gibbson’s Brave Heart yet only have seen the movie once. The professor, for his part, looked on in horror when a student confessed to having watched it thirty-six (36!) times. His accent spoke of a certain people, but when he reflected on that same people he came to realize he knew them, in a certain sense, but that Scotland – the Scotland of Wallace and Bruce – was foreign to him. What was the cause of this disconnect?

Being measured against a previous generation is not easy. Maybe it is why many people run from the past – trying to flee the acts of those who went before them? What is more strange, however, is that other people are keen to know where someone comes from in order to identify that person with a certain group of people. In societies where grave injustices have been carried out in the name of one group against another the degree of mistrust is almost tangible as people try to get around the involuntary association they have with the acts of their ancestors. The Scots often identify the English by the accent – even although a Scotsman could have as strong a London accent as any Londoner – in order to place themselves in a certain position. The Irish will do the same. The accent is a sign, however, that is easily misread but the point is one of seeking identity. What is behind this? It seems to be an attempt to achieve security. The English often mimic the Germans. Where does that come from? Probably from an attitude of ‘the Hun sounds like this’: a basic education in identifying the enemy. The straightforward question of, “Friend or foe?” is often by-passed for an accent-identification-process. Surprisingly, international airports don’t yet have such an official security channel where one needs to line up and speak into an accentometer (I know, that’s another, neo-logism)! That, however, doesn’t stop the security personnel noting how one speaks – they can’t avoid what they’ve always done. Human beings look for safety indicators.

The accent, the familiar sound of one’s childhood can be also very refreshing. The foreigner abroad often finds solace when hearing that tone, which takes him back home. The sound of home – maybe that’s what one’s own accent is? But what of those who find their neighbours to be strangers? Or maybe it is not those nearby, but the society outwith one’s own circle, neighbourhood, or district that is foreign or strange? Immigrants often find this difficulty. In Scotland, where many Irish immigrants’ children grew up during the Twentieth Century, the word ‘home’ was a land across the sea. What about the Germans, Italians and others who went to America, and whose children then fought in Europe during World War II, did they find it strange to be going ‘home’ to fight against their own? Yet, how many of them returned to where their parents came from only to find that it wasn’t really home after all? Is this not the story of so many – unable to answer that basic question of where home is, and then classified according to an accident know as an accent? How many have never actually known the country in which they were brought up – especially since that country’s history was not the history of their ancestors? Maybe many Muslims today are being more honest than they are given credit for – the European countries they live in are not historically home to them even while governments pretend to try to ‘integrate’ them into something that is not theirs. Strange though it may seem both Jews and Catholics (those living in what became known as ‘Protestant countries’) can identify more closely with this than those who either claim to be atheists or simply national ‘Christians’.

The Jewish people historically do not trace their roots to Europe – they would be the first to say so, even although they contributed to the building of Europe. Their history for the last two thousand years has been intertwined, in a for-or-against posture, with those first Catholics who were themselves Jews and who moved within the confines of the Roman Empire. Those Jews who first became labelled as ‘Christians’ in Antioch were called such by their own kinsfolk who rejected them as heretics. The cast-out-Jews (i.e. the first Catholics) were labelled as such, not to hold them up as examples to be followed, but to identify them as those who were religiously and politically unacceptable. It was a way of pointing to them as foreigners, or even betrayers of the qahal YHWH. They lived within the Roman domain (as their forefathers had done in the Greek and Assyrian empires) but they were not of the Empire. Their forefathers’ origin was not geographical, despite Jerusalem being the physical place to which they turned, but  from God Himself. Other peoples, those around them, had land but it was never promised to them from the Source of the land itself. The pre-Christian Jews, however, had this Promise that announced a land divinely given. As they moved from place to place – be it in times of peace, war, or disaster – this Promise united them, pointing them towards Jerusalem. They lived, therefore, orientated toward a place of worship, a place away alien to the pagans around about them who worshipped local-gods (i.e. false-gods, demons). They knew these people; were born and raised close to these other people; but they were not of these people. When they were faithful they knew them not. One could say that they were orientated towards their true home.

Knowing ‘home’ is rooted in knowing where one is going. It seems also to be deeply religious and, therefore, related to a certain cult. The question of cult leads to the what kind of culture one has around about oneself. For the pre-Christian Jews their worship was focused on the ancient site of the Temple in Jerusalem, and this led them to consider themselves as a people set apart for worship. No matter where they found themselves, they looked to Jerusalem as the fulcrum of their identity. They turned towards God. As they remembered so they knew who they were. Without memory one looses awareness of ones identity – and also that sense of belonging.

What happens then if a people’s culture is changed by a change in the cult? Such a change is bound to lead to a loss of the sense of home. Imagine the horror of those who survived the destruction of Jerusalem in 70 A.D. No Temple means no cult; no true cult means a loss of ones true identity. For those who experienced such a horror, “Where is God?” was an obvious thought. They seemed to be faced with an existential threat to their very existence.

Trying to highlight such cultural threats, or actual happenings, today is like trying to point out that the emperor has no clothes. Such changes, such acts of idiocy of standing-by and watching a naked king wonder around, often come from above rather than from below within a society. Failure to recognize insanity and care for the insane surely points to cultural madness. Millions afterall, were not recently out shouting, “End Marriage!” (Although millions were already acting as if marriage didn’t matter because the glitteratae, and the grovellers around them, were living against marriage for long enough). The farce of a naked emperor is always because of a connivance with injustice, or stupidity, as with England in the days of Henry VIII. Fear (or gain) was the driving principle for those who went along with his madness. The product has been an England that many living through it could not identify with. The England of their fore-fathers was destroyed as the cult was destroyed. In Scotland, during the same period of the religious revolt, it was the destruction of cultural icons, such as Christmas, and the great cathedral at St. Andrews, that were used to change ‘home’ into something it was not. Pagan practices were re-invented in order to change a people, and their promotion excluded those who tried to hold onto the old religion. And today, it is just the same. Marriage and the family, as centre pieces of civilization, has been officially cut-off from their proper place in the home. Would anyone who died fighting to defend their childrens’ and grandchildrens’ civilization during World War II recognize a culture where sex is worshipped rather than recognized as a power to be controlled for the well-being of the whole society? A power to be ordered for the glory of God.

With false cultures rooted in the principle of every individual for itself (thanks to a German preacher who 500 years ago saw himself above all authority and went mad with power), what more is to be expected than a sense of homelessness? A sense of homelessness is what arises from rejecting the true cult, the true religion. It cuts one individual off from another; one generation of from another; and one people off from another. Falsehood only has one outcome and that is confusion, and the falsehood of that 500 year old nonesense  is what exacerbates today’s cultural loneliness in former Christians lands. The fact that it has Nominalism built into highlights how it is also to be found in Islam too, although in a manner that finds itself more cleverly wrapped up in sense of belonging.

How then do Catholics, Jews, Muslims, and even atheists all come across a sense of not being at home when they are in foreign lands? This would seem to arise from the natural desire for God (for Truth Itself) that is written in man’s nature. Man cannot satisfy his deepest longings – history teaches that lesson for sure! And so it is with ones own people, and ones own earthly home. These cannot fill the deepest longings of the human heart. Truth, however, expressed – and even more so in the true Faith supernaturally made present in the Holy Sacrifice – points man to God. He alone Who is man’s true home. And so, if a people turns away from the truth, at any point in its history, it looses its orientation toward its eternal home. For the present author Scotland is not what it should be, and never was as he grew as a child amidst a people who often said, “This is a Protestant country, and don’t you forget it!” He never knew Scotland because it did not reflect the Truth as it had done in the days of Margaret, Wallace, and Bruce. It embraced the principle of radical me-ism and later sought to rectify this by declaring itself for the worker, and a fighter for the underdog. Now it is ruled by those who think in narrow, materialistic, and hedonistic terms. It’s religion is the self-annihilation whatever-ism, enforced by powers pretending to care, but who will use whatever it takes to keep Scots (and whoever live in Scotland) cut-off from the True Blood that was offered on the field before the battle of Bannockburn. England still has Walsingham, where the True Queen can be honoured – even if awkwardly – but Scotland has lost it’s Mother. She, however, still looks for her Son’s own. This land, this people, once declared Specialis Filia Romanae Ecclesiae – I never knew you! It has been only through the Truth that I have seen what you could be.

Mater Misericordiae

Mater Misericordiae

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O Mother, protect us against falsehoods and lies about Divine Mercy. Lead us to see that Your Son’s Mercy is never without His Justice. Lead us to see that true Mercy guards Justice, never rejecting it. Help us, dear Mother, to ‘seek first God’s kingdom and His justice’ that we may never speak of Mercy without Justice, that we may never betray the Holy Sacrifice offered for us. O Mother, this world is a mess – only you can bring us Him. Come to our aid. Come the aid of poor sinners ‘of whom I am the first.’

…vita dulcedo, et spes nostra….

…vita dulcedo, et spes nostra….

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She is always with us – no matter how nutty things may get. She is always with us – no matter how many reject her. Big business doesn’t want Her in their coffee shops; in class rooms where purity is rejected she too is rejected; and even in the Mystical Body her purity is sneered at through linguistic events. She, however, is stronger than big business; she is stronger than those who corrupt children – making them into purveyors of death; and she is stronger than the fools who are trying to run with the world. She is not of the world, but she is in the world – quietly bring all graces to the souls of those who will be saved. Sancta Maria, Mater Dei, ora pro nobis peccatoribus, nunc….Bring Him again to this fallen world.

“For God, and…for GAMINNNNG!!!”

“For God, and…for GAMINNNNG!!!”

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There are a few places still in existence that seem to have a scent of the divine around every corner – the tops of high mountains are often such places. To listen to some divines, however, one would think that wherever there is goodness, friendship, and genuine happiness shared by people that it is either a fluke, or that it is because God – with a divine-gamble – took a risk by giving gifts to people hoping that it would all work out. Such ideas are obviously based on an anthropocentric view of God that fails to see that He knows all things, and is incapable of taking risks. He knows what He’s doing, and what the outcome of His divine acts will be. Thinking that God takes risks is childish. Can you imagine it? God, the old grandfather figure, sitting twiddling His divine fingers, wondering whether or not His children will come home safely? Maybe He is full of self-doubt, asking Himself whether or not He still has omnipotence and omniscience? Maybe Cartesianism has got to Him or He is trapped under a Kantian cloud – trying to figure out how He knows what He knows. Maybe he believes what the new atheists say – He is redundant because man is now so advanced? All absolute nonsense and the sign of someone in need of a course in Aristotelian-Thomistic Metaphysics. Or, more simply put, in need of a good dose of reality.

The truth of the matter is that God has every single detail of His creation, or reality, as He wants it right now. Indeed, there has never been a moment, with all the various events happening at once within it, that has been off His radar. He, obviously, doesn’t have a radar since He doesn’t have anything – He is what He is. As such, nothing is out with His plan. This means that every place, person, thing in existence is as it is because He wills it to be such. Now some places are seem more obviously so – Gaming, in Austria, being an example. No, it is not a sporting event, or a casino owned by some strange character seeking to rule the world. Rather it is small gemeinde over an hour and a half west of Vienna where God has given proof His existence, again and again, over the last 25 years.

For a whole generation now there has been shown, time and again, in a former Carthusian monastery – once occupied by the Red Army – the goodness of God to those who turn to Him. There, at what is affectionately called the Kartause,thousands of young men and women (along with others not so young!) have passed through the hallowed walls of a place steeped in the prayers of the former holy monks. What was almost a complete ruin was restored under the direction of Architect Walter Hildebrand, and then used by various institutes of higher learning as a base from which to bring souls again to Christ. Earlier this month Franciscan University of Steubenville, Ohio, hosted celebrations aimed at thanking God for the silver jubilee of their presence amidst the Austrian fore-Alps.

The work of planning and organizing the jubilee events fell to Mr. Thomas Wolter (MBA), the Director of the Austrian Program. Like God, Mr. Wolter was leaving nothing to chance; and thanks to the prayers and efforts of all those at present associated with the Kartause, the events passed off with much joy and fanfare. There was, in fact, at the main gathering held at the beginning of September, representatives from every one of the 25 years. Mr. Wolter guided many of the former members of the Kartause community through the recent renovations and achievements of the Program. And yet, it was as if nothing had changed – the greatness of God was still in evidence and the stories shared of past years dove-tailed perfectly with those of the present. Little things and big things had changed yet one thing had remained the same: God’s goodness to the workers in His vineyard.

Those whom God sent to Gaming over 25 years have included priests from China and America; professors from Columbia, England, Austria, and Slovakia (to name but a few countries); and students from as far a field as Kazikstan and Alaska. However, those who were by far the special forces used by God in the battle for souls were the families (again from far and wide) who were graced with either short or long tours in Gaming. It was their presence – especially as they gathered around the Blessed Sacrament in Adoration – that allowed there to be an oases of normality in the little place that was like a Narnia for them. It was as if God had taken them into another world where they were tasked with a special mission in order for the great and only plan to come to fruition. Places of refuge within the storm of the contemporary cultural collapse; and places where the true Faith was often handed on in all it richness. This is what they were quietly asked to be and this is what they succeeded in being.

For the children born and bred in this Narnian place – and even for those families who came for but a short time – a magical time was God-given. A group of them were able to return for the recent events and they agreed amongst themselves: once a Kartause kid, always a Kartause kid! More than a generation of them have grown up now, beginning again the steps of stepping into the divine plan. They tasted it as children and now the task is theirs to embrace. Gaming gave them a firm foundation on which to build, and this would seem to have been one of the main reasons why God gave it.

Undoubtedly there were mistakes made over the 25 years by those who labour under the effects of original sin, but they were all part of God’s plan in that He permitted so that poor sinners could repent and draw close to Him. Nothing is off His radar – it’s called Divine Providence! And so the celebrations were implicitly about thanking God for allowing poor miserable sinners to be used for His glory. He didn’t take a chance with any of them: He knew exactly the part that would be played by them all and how it would bring forward so much God fruit. This doesn’t mean He was shouting from His big fluffy grandad cloud, “Go ahead and sin!” Rather, He was allowing the misuse of freedom to open His own side on the Cross so that greater and greater graces could flow into the hearts of those whom He has chosen. As someone once said, “God used the good, the bad, and the ugly – on Good Friday – and He still does so today!” The Kartause kids were often the recipients of the graces won that day.

Mr. Wolter (and his dear wife Maria) are to be congratulated on having led Franciscan University’s Austrian Program to this point, yet they would be the first to admit that they have simply tried to play their part in a game were the Gamingers are all invited to be on the winning side. The game is up, it is already won, and as the next generation goes forward into battle may it too cry-out as they fight on the winning side: “For God, and…for GAMINNNNNG!!!!”

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Once a Kartause Kid, Always a Kartause Kid!

Facebook or Face East?

Facebook or Face East?

It’s said that every culture has a cult at the centre of it. A form of worship that forms what happens around about it. So New Zealand’s national religion is it’s rugby. The whole country (apart from a few miscreants who prefer football/soccer) is mad about a game that it absolutely dominates. The ‘cult’ of the All Blacks produces a culture where the work of cultivating success is unprecedented. They are one of the highest achieving sporting teams ever having won over 75% of their games since 1903! The point: what you worship gives you what you are.

When it comes to the military one can see in the Special Forces that there is also a certain cult – a fulcrum around which various groups of men live their lives. Here the cult is that of ‘being the best’, with a certain bravado thrown in. And there is no doubt about it – the men in these groups have a culture that sets them apart from Joe Bloggs. Their religion (their culture) is closed to the uninitiated, and it (their cult) binds them together in a remarkable way. Unfortunately, their creed is often bought by the highest bidders.

Another example of worship (cult) and results (culture) is that of contemporary modern science. Today many people basically live from, live off, and live with the cult of scientific results. The popular cultural line that highlights this is: ‘They say that….’ They say that it’s good for you; they say that it’s because of…; they say that they’ll soon have…. Like most religions, this doesn’t feed the hunger in man for the Infinite, but society goes by the way of it’s cult. The latest sermon from today’s religion: ‘They say that you’ll soon be able to get a head transplant.’ Now, does that mean you get ahead; or you’ll get someone else’s head? If you get someone else’s head then whose head will it be? Or does it mean that science now officially recognises that people are loosing their heads?

Back to the point. What you worship is what you get around about you. Today’s religion seems now to be promising headless chickens waiting patiently to be recapitated (yes, I know that’s a neologism but don’t worry, I won’t copyright it!). How much will it cost?

Another manifestation of the dominant religion flowing from science’s success is that of artificial communication – typified in the social media sites. The arguments for and against Facebook are interesting to a point but the obvious effects are what most of the Facebook faithful are missing: there is no real communication. There is no flesh and bloody directly involved in it. It is artificial. For all people know, it could simply be a super-computer pumping out more ones and zeroes. That doesn’t mean it’s bad. Rather, it is simply a something that man has made, and which man could actually live without. Someday it will, like its founder, pass away no matter how many heads it manages to sow on. It is not God – despite its omnipresence. Neither is it omnipotent – as the purveyors of Google try to be. Instead, it is a lifeless thing. It can neither smell, nor taste; neither can it eat or drink. If you sowed it in the ground it would not sprout little Facebooks come the Spring time. These basic signs of life are absent from it. It cannot smile. It is, indeed, not headless, but Faceless no matter how hard one tries to cultivate it.

How then has it come to be at the centre of many peoples’ religion today? How come even someone as stubborn and brutal as myself decided to sell my soul to it? Why have I changed my religion? In a word or two: its easy. Facebook means face-me; look at me; me promoting me; my face stuck in your face. When it’s good it works fine – helping people stay in touch; giving people opportunities to organise things. It’s used to bring a smile to someone’s face. Hats off to Facebook. It’s easy. It’s easy to get hundreds of people asking to be your ‘friend’ in 24hrs – easy but…questionable.

Yes, it’s easy when everything is going my way. When everyone can see me at my best. When the chips are down, however, and life starts to break at the edges – or already be completely smashed up – then is when it’s deified and becomes a god more powerful than Frodo’s ring. It becomes, ‘my Precious’. And God help anyone who tries to stop me from being with ‘my Precious’! Yes, it seems to drag one in; it seems to consume everything; it seems to determine ones whole life. What else do you expect? After all, it’s a cult – the centre of a religion – and that’s what everyone has at the centre of one’s life. Yes, it consumes souls that do not have the true cult and do not have the true religion, the ancient Faith, to protect them against it. There are after all, only two kinds of souls – those in friendship with God, and those who are not. Who’s who? St. Joan of Arc implicitly gave the answer when asked where she stood: ‘If I am not in the state of grace [i.e. friendship with God], may God put me there; and if I am, may God so keep me.’

Sold your soul to Facebook? If you have, may God get you out of there; and if you haven’t – I’ll see you where your hopefully facing East in true worship!