Update on the Sunday tragedy

The tragedy of last Sunday keeps hurting deep into our society. There are simply too many people who are acquainted with, or are related to, some victim. Right now the dead count went officially 347, with 275 bodies officially identified over 40 people not identified, and 28 people burned totally beyond recognition in such a way that only a DNA test can conclusively establish their ID. There are about 270 injured now in hospitals (total count of injured people is over 500), with at least 10 of which are in critical condition and they are not expected to make it tonight.

It is increasingly evident that the supermarket owner ordered the gates locked to avoid looting and people going without paying, while he was sneaking out with the day’s money. There are already several people who are in dire financial straits, unable to pay for their loved ones’ funeral and burial, and other people who lost their breadwinners.

Some of our pastors are working round the clock in 6 hour shifts to provide spiritual assistance and counseling to people.

The supermarket owners were imprisoned and all the board of governors of the supermarket company’s were indicted under charges of murder (save one, who was charged with failure to provide due assistance in an emergency). An order to seize the owner’s assets to an amount up to US$ 10,000,000.- using the strict exchange rate, and US$60,000,000 if you use a compensated exchange rate.

Pray for all of our country, and that God’s mercy and love may be shown through His people to those in need.

Tragedy in Asunci贸n

I was told by Rev. S. that I should show up in church services a little bit more frequently, so I stayed there after teaching Sunday School. The service was the usual glitzy show of drum, amplifiers, high volume and low quality and spirituality. After enduring it, I called my wife and she asked me to stop by the supermarket on my way back home. While riding of the bus, I saw a fire truck with all the sirens going on madly, and I thought it was just another fire.

While in the supermarket, I saw people crowded on the TV sets on sale there. Apparently, there was some breaking news that warranted that the TV networks stop their usual Sunday programming. I went nearer the TV sets to see what was happening, and I saw that there was a huge fire somewhere. Ok, I thought. I’ll check it out at home. After my shopping, I walked home and turned on the TV, and I just began to realize the magnitude of what happened.

All out of a sudden, a loud explosion was heard inside one of the supermarkets of the Ykua Bola帽os chain, and all hell broke loose, People stampeding trying to get out; many dead by fire; and many trapped, who died shortly thereafter after the roof crashed.

The death count, as I am writing this, is over 300, including at least one pregnant women, a baby and several children. Many of the deceased are unidentified. The injured are just too many, and like the dead, many of them are unidentified, their features burned beyond recognition. There are still bodies to be retrieved from the supermarket, but there are also fears that the whole structure would collapse any time soon.

Several hospitals of the Asunci贸n were converted into makeshift triage posts, helping as much as they can. They are literally flooded with patients and hospital beds are scarce now. The scenes showed by TV were simply harrowing and gut-wrenching.

As for other details, well, there were simply too many things that went wrong. There are strong, substantial allegations that once news of the fires reached the owner of the chain, a Mr. Paiva, ordered the gates closed “to prevent looting”, thus trapping many people. The fire alarm did not have a battery backup power supply, so it couldn’t go live when the power was cut. The roof collapsed suspiciously too soon.

And I pray I might be wrong on this regard, but it was the most crowded time in a supermarket: the Sunday noon, when people go there to buy groceries and ready-made food, and eat at the annexed eatery, so I suspect a bombing or sabotage. (Update: Apparently it was due to a gas leak.)

President Nicanor Duarte ordered a two-day national mourning period with no activities. Tomorrow is also a day off from classes in all schools.

Please pray for all the victims and their families. Thanks to our Lord, I am able to confirm that all of our families (my wife’s and mine) are safe and sound. I just spoke with Rev. S. by phone and he confirmed that so far no one in neither our Baptist School nor Church was harmed; but everyone here is shaken.

Additional coverage from the AP is available here.

O Weekend!

Finally the week is over. The week was so hectic I didn’t even had the time to post as frequently as I wanted. Even more, I didn’t have the time to do most of the things I wanted. Now I’m just relieved.

I plan to go on with my part of the KDE 3.3 translation and finish it any time now. Meanwhile, I’ve sent a sidebar for Tim’s article about GNOME. Hope they are a nice addition to his commentary.

Gnome or GoneME ?

I saw today Tim’s article Why GNOME’s Got it Right on Open for Business.

This comes as a nice complement to Ed’s thoughts on the matter. It is always nice to see these points debated, because I feel that GNOME sorely needs a little re-orientation. (Flash: I saw a good writeup by Ed on OfB.biz… and the whole thing got Slashdotted for good measure!)

Not the one to stay still, I’ve written up my own opinion on the matter. Expect it to appear in OfB.biz any time now.

Devotional – July 28, 2004

Thus says the Word of God:

I press on toward the goal for the prize of the upward call of God in Christ Jesus.
(Philippians 3:14, ESV)

Paul the apostle talks about his background and his religious and intellectual credentials some verses before; he certainly had “reason for confidence in the flesh”. But he also told us that it lacked any meaningful importance in light of the highest importance of the calling that consumed his life with irresistible passion. However, it seems that not all of the Apostle’s background was “rubbish”, since it is frequent to read how the Apostle applied illustrations drawn from athletic and military life to Christianity.

And this text is no exception. Paul compares himself to an Olympic runner, willing to leave everything behind for the sake of glory and the laurel crown. Like the life of an Olympic athlete, Christian life is a constant struggle that must be grounded in a discipline that is both strict and full of purpose. The Christian is not someone aimlessly wandering through life, but a focused ahtlete with a well-defined goal, called to deny himself in countless personal sacrifices for the sake of reaching the goal.

This text reminds us of Proverbs 24:16, which proclaims that “the righteous falls seven times and rises again.” It is a text that speaks of an iron-clad, absolute and unique determination, a resolve which acknowledges obstacles in the road, but that is also willing to deal with them, because the athlete is moved by the overcoming force of God’s call in Jesus Christ.

May our loving Father give us the same passion that quickened Paul the apostle, so that we might run with the strength of the Spirit towards the goal of the highest call of his Son Jesus Christ.

Prayer
Almighty and Eternal Father, who give life to the dead and call into existence the things that do not exist: grant us the strength of the Holy Spirit, our Lord and Giver of Life, so that we might run towards the goal set by your Son, and thus be worthy of your calling and stand as faithful witnesses of your Gospel in the way of our lives. By Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Phew!

This weekend can be labeled as really crazy. I’ll explain why.

Last Friday everything was in its usual frenzy. I was in a hurry and all worked up, trying to finish the church bulletin. My hair was very long since I hadn’t had time to get a haircut in the preceding weeks, and I couldn’t take it anymore. Furthermore, that Friday I was told that I was supposed to preach at the church’s Sunday evening service. Great.

My wife told me of a new hairdressing/salon that was near my home. For me, it was absolutely necessary to get a haircut with the least loss of time, so I asked my wife to ask there whether they cut men’s hair as well as ladies’. If they said that they didn’t, then I would get a ride to go to some barber shop downtown. But that beauty salon said they did men’s haircuts, so I went there. They were open till 7pm, and I was scheduled to leave not earlier than 6pm, so I’d better leave office as fast as I could.

Before I left, I got an email with an urgent translation request. It was some 27 pages of dense accounting jargon in Spanish that needed to be translated to English, by Monday, naturally. I wanted to retain the customer and also needed (sorely, I might add) the money, so I had to accept the job. I had a translation to prepare and a sermon to deliver before the end of the weekend. And I was supposed to get a haircut…

6pm arrived having finished the church bulletin just barely. I was hurried, so I did not “close shop” as thoroughly as I wanted. When I arrived at the beauty salon, they were expecting me. There, Miss M. made me sit down in one of the chairs, and started the haircut. I explained her that I just wanted a normal guy’s haircut, pretty standard and boring stuff. And then, OUCH!

She got a scissor with 3-inches long blades. The blades were not sharp enough, so they were literally plucking out my hairs. Besides being incredibly painful and annoying, Miss M. was sloooow. She was leaving too much hair, the hair was not being cut evenly, and she was giving me a lot of pain. Additionally, she was talking that “here we also give massages to all kind of people… sometimes one needs to relax…” red light here. Testily, I replied “so, do you do reflexology?” to which she replied, “yes, we do those kinds of massages for mental fatigue…”

The lady obviously was not an expert hair stylist, and I had serious doubts about my coming there. She finally stopped, and I paid, and left. I was extremely angry, because my hair was very messed up, I lost my valuable time, and I was under extreme pressure to deliver in two fields.

I woke up on Saturday, and when I looked myself in the mirror I felt instantly rebuked by our Lord for joking about ladies with the “bad hair days”. I was having a “bad hair day”. I was extremely angry for having lost my time to get such a joke of a haircut, and having to appear in the pulpit the next day. Furthermore, I was grounded, doing the translation, so going downtown for a barbershop was out of the question. The fact that it was Saturday (the busiest days for barber shops and hair salonns) only helped to worsening my situation.

My wife saw me that way and tried to lighten me up, but my anger was too much. Then she, with the loveliest of glances, told me, “Eduardo, why don’t we pray about that? And after we pray, we’ll have lunch, and then we’ll go to Mr. R. for a haircut. Deal?” As usual, my wife is Wisdom herself personified… I said yes, tried to calm myself, and went on.

After lunch we got a cab and went to Mr. R’s barbershop, located some 14-15 blocks away from home (near my father-in-law’s home). Mr. R. welcomed me very nicely, sat me on his chair, and in 20 minutes was done, giving me an excellent haircut. To say I was relieved was an understatement.

Then I went back home, and went on with the translation. By 9.30pm I was finished and was able to rest. At Sunday morning I went to church to teach Sunday School as usual, and then went back home. Had a nice meal cooked by my wife, and then went to the study to hammer out my sermon. At 3.30 I had it ready, and went to the bedroom. We watched a nice movie, then I dressed, went to church, preached.

By the grace of our Lord, the sermon was very well received. When I came home, I was exhilarating. All was over, and I was thankful to the Lord for his everlasting mercies, helping me even in the midst of great pressure.

Nice evening, huh? 馃榾

35 questions

Saw this on Tim’s blog and I thought I might just join in.

1. WHAT COLOR ARE YOUR BEDROOM WALLS?
White.

2. WHAT BOOK ARE YOU READING NOW?
Roger Olson, The Story of Theology.
Immanuel Kant, Critique of Pure Reason

Mostly because I need to read them. It is awfully hard to find time to read books when you’re married.

3. WHAT’S ON YOUR MOUSE PAD?
The logo of our computer provider on a blue background.

4. FAVORITE BOARD GAME?
Trivial Pursuit

5. FAVORITE MAGAZINE?
Christianity Today, World, National Geographic, The Atlantic Monthly.
Used to be the old Byte (pre-1990s).

6. FAVORITE SMELL?
Dewy grass in the morning.

7. FAVORITE COLOR?
Dark navy blue. In a distant second and third: Light grey and beige.

8. LEAST FAVORITE COLOR?
Red.

9. HOW MANY RINGS BEFORE YOUR ANSWERING MACHINE PICKS UP?
Don’t have any.

10. MOST IMPORTANT MATERIAL THING IN MY LIFE?
My library and the backup CDs of my work.

11. FAVORITE FLAVOR OF ICE CREAM?
Chocolate and Dulce de Leche.

12. DO YOU BREAK THE SPEED LIMIT DAILY?
Only in my wishes. I do not drive.

13. DO YOU HAVE A STUFFED ANIMAL IN YOUR ROOM SOMEWHERE?
My wife does. 馃榾

14. STORMS – COOL OR SCARY?
Cool. However, storms in America used to scare me.

15. FAVORITE DRINK(s)?
The famous Terer茅, which is an infusion made with Yerba Mate and cold water.

16. WHEN IS YOUR BIRTHDAY?
September 18.

17. FAVORITE VEGETABLES?
Onions, garlic, sweet peppers, garlic, corn, tomato, lettuce, potato.

18. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY JOB, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Canon Theologian of a Reformed Anglican Cathedral.

19. IF YOU COULD HAVE ANY COLOR HAIR, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Just like I have, dark brown, almost black.

20. HAVE YOU EVER BEEN IN LOVE?
In fact I am 馃檪

21. TOP THREE FAVORITE MOVIES (IN ORDER)?
Let’s see: The Lord of the Rings series; Master and Commander; Kenneth Branagh’s Henry V. Very difficult choice, indeed.

22. DO YOU TYPE WITH YOUR FINGERS ON THE RIGHT KEYS?
Usually, yes. (ditto, Tim)

23. WHAT’S UNDER YOUR BED?
Nothing; She is very stringent on that regard 馃檪

24. WHAT IS YOUR FAVORITE NUMBER?
don’t have any.

25. FAVORITE SPORT TO WATCH ON TV & IN PERSON?
Figure skating, gymnastics.

26. WHAT IS YOUR SINGLE BIGGEST FEAR?
Harm to my family.

27. FAVORITE CD OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW?
Victoria’s Requiem Mass by Tom谩s Luis de Victoria; also Scandinavian Nights and Made in Japan by Deep Purple.

28. FAVORITE TV SHOW OF ALL TIME & RIGHT NOW?
I hate TV. Perhaps JAG would be an exception.

29. HAMBURGERS OR HOT DOGS?
Hamburgers, like some fellow down here makes them, they’re delicious 馃檪

30. THE COOLEST PLACES YOU’VE EVER BEEN?
Firenze, Italy.

31. WHAT WALLPAPER AND/OR SCREEN SAVER IS ON YOUR COMPUTER RIGHT NOW?
elrohir has photos of Master and Commander sailing ships (switching randomly). Sombragris has a photo from Port Orange (beautiful).

32. DOES MCDONALD’S SKIMP ON YOUR FRIES & DO YOU CARE?
I don’t eat at McDonald’s, sorry.

33. FAVORITE CHAIN RESTAURANT(s)?
Difficult question… If I were in the U.S. I would say Applebee’s.

34. IF YOU HAVE A BOY (OR HAVE ANOTHER BOY) WHAT WOULD YOU NAME HIM?
Caesar Michael (but in Spanish: C茅sar Miguel)

35. IF YOU COULD LEARN TO PLAY ONE INSTRUMENT OVERNIGHT, WHAT WOULD IT BE?
Pipe organ.

That 80’s music

I saw this post in Rae’s blog about some 80’s favorite songs and, strangely, it stroke a chord.

Looking back to the 80’s, I am surprised to find pop music that was of actually good quality, even if it had some objectionable content. I find that today there are lots of “retro” radio stations, and ads are filled with 80’s music. Why today’s pop have to be of such a bad quality?

But I digress. Here’s my very partial list of 80’s songs:

    A-ha: The blood that moves the body – Take me on – Stay on these roads

  • Al Corley: Square rooms
  • The Alan Parsons Project: Don’t Answer Me – Eye in the Sky (and many others)
  • Alphaville: Big in Japan – Sounds like a Melody
  • Camouflage: Love is a Shield
  • Duran Duran: Save a Prayer
  • Erasure:: A little respect – Oh L’amour
  • Europe: The Final Countdown
  • A Flock of Seagulls: The more you live the more you love
  • Hall & Oates: Maneater
  • Huey Lewis and The News: I Want a New Drug
  • Laura Branigan: Gloria – Self-control
  • Men at Work: Overkill – Down Under
  • OMD: Enola Gay and many others
  • Peter Schilling: Major Tom
  • Queen: Radio Ga Ga – I want to Break Free
  • Thompson Twins: Doctor! Doctor! – Hold Me Now
  • Traveling Wilburys: Handle With Care – Runaway
  • Ultravox: Dancing with tears in my eyes

There are many, many others, but let this list suffice for the time being. What do you think ?

(Update: Another post with follow-up (i.e., more songs).

The Shortest Upgrade in History…

Yesterday I’ve upgraded to KDE 3.3 Beta 1. Well, it turned out that yesterday KDE 3.3 Beta 2 (“Kollege”) was released. Jean-Christophe Fargette had the Slackware packages ready in a matter of hours, and after downloading, I’ve upgraded again today !

All I can say is that so far I’m having no crashes at all, no wasted resources, and a very nice preview of what KDE 3.3 is going to be. This release is exceptional. Kudos to the KDE hackers!

By the way, I’ve checked out from KDE CVS the kde-i18n modules. I plan to translate, as usual, kdetoys into Spanish during next week.

Devotional, July 21

Thus says the Word of God:

“I have chosen the way of truth: thy judgments have I laid before me.”
(Psalms 119:30, KJV)

Each verse of Psalm 119, that jewel full of praise to the Word of God, is a complete sermon waiting to be discovered, full of incredible spiritual riches. And the text that is today under our study is no exception.

The Psalmist reminds us how important is to set the truth as our lifestyle and badge of fidelity to God. This is truth in the biblical sense: truth as faithfulness, as a lifetime commitment. It might seem unimportant; but we only need to remember that our Lord Jesus Christ is the Truth Himself (John 14:6); that truth is identified with the very Word of God (John 17:17), and this truth makes us holy (John 17:17) and free (John 8:32). Truth is not only an intellectual notion of “adequacy between reality and the intellect”, but a lifetime commitment that sets the full course for our life, leading us to honor God in our being and in our actions.

Besides, the Psalmist also reminds us that the only way to live embodying the Truth is by using the “judgments” of God, that is, His will as is revealed in His Word, as a guide put before us as our north and compass. Only with the Bible, the Word of God, we will be able to live the Truth as a way of life.

May God help us to obey His judgments, his Will, now and in every moment of our lives, so that we might be steadfast signposts to a world that lost his way.

Prayer
Almighty Father, our God, in whose old judgments we find comfort and hope: allow our lives to reflect the Truth made Flesh, your Son Jesus Christ, so that with the help of your Holy Spirit we might be able to show Your way to those who wander in the darkness of sin. In the name of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Working…

I’ve finished editing part III of the Stealth Desktop series and just emailed Tim all the files. Let’s hope it’s good.

Now I plan to write the Devotional that is going to be with our church’s weekly Prayer Bulletin. As was the case last Wednesday, I plan to post here an English version.

Rev. S. felt sick this morning and went to the hospital, where he was diagnosed with an incipient peritonitis at his colon. Thankfully there was no perforation yet, so he was sent home with strict orders to rest and take his medication. Rev. S. was way too much stressed and tired because of several issues at our church.

When he talked to me, Rev. S. told me he was prescribed with ciprofloxacin, and his blood was taken for some quick tests at the lab, whose results the technicians were very reluctant to tell him. I suspect that besides the quick tests of this morning, Rev. S.’s blood is now being cultured to show evidences of bacteriemia. Please pray for him.

Christian Spammers Should be Disciplined

Tim shared with us a terrific idea whose time has come: A blacklist of Christian spammers.

I just cannot tell you how much spam I receive each day from well-meaning individuals trying to spread their Christian message or the gospel by ways of spam. One particular infuriating example is certain gentleman from Brazil who sends two mails per day about the history of Christian hymns, complete with MIDI attachments. Sometimes, when he feels really inspired, he throws in a multi-megabyte Power Point presentation for good measure.

I am so fed up with the abuse of these fellows and yet, they seem practically impervious to any approach one might take to convince them of the error of their ways. That gentleman from Brazil, for example, sends all his messages from an account that automatically bounces my email… so I cannot simply tell him to stop. And yet he professes to be a Christian.

Please go and read Tim’s post; and if you feel like it, link to it. We need to spread the word.

Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World

poster thumbnail for the movie When Master and Commander: The Far Side of the World came to Asunci贸n’s theatres, I was busy, tired, newlywed, and very short on the green stuff. I was experiencing a painful exit from my job as an English teacher at a local Christian academy, and did not have the time or money to go and see it. So the movie went down before I was able to see it. And I regretted it.

Fast forward six months, and I am checking every week on the local video rental store to see if they carry the tape. When they finally do, I was very happy to rent it. And all I can say is wow!

I am a sucker for sailing ships. Perhaps because I’ve seen them only in pictures, and never saw a seashore save for a few glimpses here and there, and what I could see from a plane. Perhaps because I am a Navy Ensign in the Paraguayan Armed Forces Reserve. But the fact is that sailing ships and Old Navy settings are like a dream to me. Peter Weir’s movie hooked me since I saw the first glimpse of an ad because of that.

The story is based on the historical movies of Patrick O’Brien, a well-know historical novelist of the Anglo-Saxon world, and practically unknown to me. The adaptation is faithful to O’Brien in spirit, but not in the letter; I can certainly understand the disappointment of O’Brien buffs when they saw the movie with all the liberties taken in the script. But overall, the script carries out very well and it is a great introduction to O’Brien for a lot of the global world, myself included.

The movie is situated in 1805, and the degree of historical accuracy displayed in it is astounding. My wife mentioned that Crowe (as Capt. “Lucky” Jack Aubrey) had a kind of scar in one of his earlobes, much like an “old warrior” scar. This degree of accuracy is especially telling in the nautical themes, with all the jargon and lore of the Royal Navy of that time.

However, in my opinion, the one of the most important things on the movie is the values shown. Master and Commander shows that you could make a big blockbuster movie without showing cleavage or resorting to the lusts of the audience. It was uplifting to see virtues such as honor, courage, loyalty, patriotism and wisdom as living realities embodied by Aubrey and his crew, and not as the abstract, unattainable abstruse concepts they are thought of now.

And finally, the respectful acknowledgment of the Christian faith made throughout all the movie is almost incredible. Would you think of a feature move in today’s world that has a bunch of rough men saying the Lord’s prayer with heartfelt conviction? This movie shows that Christianity is a faith for the brave and courageous, and not for “sissies”.

All in all, an excellent movie in almost all aspects. There are, however, two aspects of possible concern: (1) There is a lot of strong, “sailor” language that includes a lot of profanity, so be careful if you choose to show to your children; and (2) there’s a lot of violence seen and implied. If you are prepared to deal with those elements, then you have a winner here.

Verdict: Strongly recommended. A masterpiece. Especially suited to watch with your male teenagers and have “men-talk” with them afterwards.

(Picture courtesy of The Internet Movie Database. Enter to see the IMDB’s page for the movie.)

A New Reformation

a new reformation Someone gave me this cartoon by mail. Enter into the picture at the left for the larger image (I’ve provided a thumbnail solely due to aesthetic reasons). The signs are in Brazilian Portuguese, so I will translate them for your profit.

There’s a church with the legend “Evangelical Church”. Below it is a sign advertising: “Revelations – Deliverance – Healing – Signs and Wonders – Prosperity – Breaking of Curses – Spiritual Warfare”. Below, a monk is fixing a poster with the legend: “95 Theses – Grace Alone – Faith Alone – Christ Alone – Scripture Alone – God’s Glory Alone.”

This is a cartoon that is dead on target. We Protestant Christians are supposed to be the zealous guardians of the Gospel based on the hallmarks of the reformation. And yet we are more prone to behave as spiritual whores from Babylon, bringing a hellish mixture of paganism, Deism, and pseudo-Pentecostal belief instead of the true Gospel.

But you, beloved, build yourselves up in your most holy faith; pray in the Holy Spirit; keep yourselves in the love of God, waiting for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ that leads to eternal life.
Jude 20-21, ESV

This is the challenge of the hour. May we rise to the occasion, by the grace of God the Father, the love of God the Son, and the guidance of the Holy Spirit.

Duarte L么bo: Requiem

CD cover While editing the church bulletin, I put in the CD player the wonderful Requiem Mass by the Portuguese composer Duarte L么bo (c.1565-1646; a namesake of mine, since his name was latinized as Eduardus Lupus).

Four years ago, I was totally ignorant of Renaissance polyphony. Of course I intended one day to get acquainted with it, since I was (and still am) a Baroque music buff, and I always wanted to expand my musical horizons; and especially, because I was curious. The main problem was that here (Asunci贸n, Paraguay) is not easy to get that kind of music, or, for that matter, anything that is not part of the musical mainstream.

One day I noticed in the newsstands installments of an encyclopaedia about Sacred Music. Each installment would come with a CD (from the labels Philips, Decca, and another one that I cannot recall now, only that it wasn’t Deutsche Grammophon). The CDs were rebranded and with most liner notes stripped out, but they were original recordings, many of them of historical quality, and with a remarkable period breadth.

One of the installments carried the Requiem Mass by Tom谩s Luis de Victoria. I listened to it as a matter of course, not expecting too much from it. By the time I was in Track 2 I was hooked for life: Renaissance Sacred Polyphony was among the most beautiful musical expressions of our culture. And so is this recording, superbly done by the Tallis Scholars led by Peter Philips.

Duarte L么bo was one of the most prolific Portuguese composers at a time when Portugual was politically dependent on the Kingdom of Spain, and therefore his music shows a lot of Spanish influence, especially from Victoria. The music is, of course, a Mass that you were supposed to sing in order to pray for the dead, and while there are many Bible verses that speak of hope and comfort, there are many unbiblical prayers and sayings proper to Roman Catholicism.

However, the Spanish Requiem Masses were an exercise in translating hope into musical terms; and L么bo’s mass is not an exception. The Mass is rendered in a major key, and the whole setting is luminous and clear, almost feeling like a musical embrace of some sort. The Scholars sing through the score almost flawlessly, transmiting the soothing and uplifting music directly to your heart. And there are moments especially pungent, such as in the Introito or the Kyrie eleison, when you could almost feel the composer as a sinner humbling himself before our Lord, begging for mercy and for his life, but also with the firm conviction that he is addressing a Lord that is not only just, but merciful.

It’s an experience almost mystical in its depths, and heavenly in its quality, and very difficult to translate in words. There were so many times when, while listening to the Kyrie, I would lift my hands to heaven, silently praying and enjoying the presence of my Savior; and perhaps with a tear or two shed by the way.

It goes without saying that the recording is thoroughly recommended. You can go and read the fine liner notes put together by Gimell Records here.

The Stealth Desktop, part II: Sight and Sound

I saw today at Open for Business that Tim already put part II of the Stealth Desktop series. This, in case you don’t know, is a series of articles related to setting up the Slackware distribution of GNU/Linux as a desktop operating system in home PCs.

Part I of the series dealt with installation and served as a whole introduction to it. Part II deals with setting up sound and video. Read it here.

Cursed is the man…

This is a three-part stage drama.

Act1
Some days ago C.,, a long time (since early childhood) friend of mine contacted my wife. He is a lawyer about my same age, but as things go here, he has trouble getting clients and work despite being an expert with a J.D. degree in tax law from the University of Trier (Germany). He is the husband of A., a well-known state prosecutor.

C. told my wife that his wife A. was preparing the Government case against the former execs of the National Housing Committee. But these people were moving behind the scenes to get an indictment against A. on false charges in order to discourage her from prosecuting. Furthermore, one of the main actors of that behind-the-scenes comedy was Mr. T., Esq, one of the lawyers who works at my uncle’s law firm, and coincidentally member of one of the most influential families here. And finally, the report said, that in order to help this Mr. T., my uncle was also in the bandwagon. So, C. told me if I could please phone my uncle and tell him that A. is the wife of C. who happens to be my childhood friend, and that if he and his partners are going to press charges against her, to press only legitimate charges, and not fake ones? (wow, that was a mouthful).

Now, just to put you into context: my uncle is director of the J.D. doctoral program of the Catholic University here, is a renowned expert in civil law, and has an extremely successful law firm. He is also member of the Council of the Magistracy and the president of the Jury for the Judgment of Magistrates.

I felt really uncomfortable about the whole issue. C. is, after all, my uncle’s colleague. Why didn’t he just contact my uncle through professional channels, appealing to professional courtesy to get an even treatment? I was really unsure, so I phoned Mom, who is often in touch with my uncle, and is an overall wise person. She said that she didn’t like the idea too much, either, but that it wouldn’t do anything if I called to the uncle and just told him the whole business, telling him clearly that I was just acting on a friend’s request. After some phone calls I managed to contact my uncle, and after I told him the whole issue, he said that he was surprised, and that he didn’t know a thing. Well, Ok, that’s right.

Act 2
The other day one of my cousins received a strange phone call. Her mom, a sister of Mom and my uncle, usually lives in the U.S. but three months ago she built a house here, in Asunci贸n, in a residential neighborhood. At that time she got an unlisted phone number. The caller was a male voice, who wanted at all costs to get my uncle’s home phone number. He said he was a reporter for a local radio station, and he wanted to warn my uncle that some fellows in his circle of friends were going to ‘stab him in the back’. And then he hung up leaving my cousing wondering. How did that man learn of my aunt’s unlisted and recent phone number? Go figure…

Act 3
Finally the whole business seemed clear. The local press ran some stories where Mr. President himself (Spanish link) and some of his representatives openly criticized my uncle and the Jury for the Judgment of Magistrates. Some of the Jury’s members openly acknowledged that the pressure to cave into the demands of the Executive Branch were almost unbearable.

So this is the whole issue. I was a pawn in a high power game. Someone really clever wanted to play against my uncle, and this person used my own family against him.

Of course, this amounts to play dirty, very dirty. That’s no surprise in the world of politics; but the really sad part here is that our President identifies himself as an evangelical Christian. The First Lady is a member of Ra铆ces (Roots) Mennonite Brethren Church; and he does worship there, though he is not a member (and some would add “yet”). There is a growing feeling of triumphalism among the rank and files of Protestant Christians here, because “Brother Nicanor”, “one of us”, is now the President. They just crave to be back into Emperor Constantine’s times, just to be in bed with the Government all over again, and they do not realize that they are being used as disposable stuff.

Thus says the LORD: “Cursed is the man who trusts in man and makes flesh his strength, whose heart turns away from the LORD.”
Jeremiah 17:5, ESV

A shameful anniversary

Today is the anniversary of the first example of atheism by establishment:

But the age of chivalry is gone. That of sophisters, economists, and calculators, has succeeded; and the glory of Europe is extinguished for ever. Never, never more shall we behold that generous loyalty to rank and sex, that proud submission, that dignified obedience, that subordination of the heart, which kept alive, even in servitude itself, the spirit of an exalted freedom. The unbought grace of life, the cheap defence of nations, the nurse of manly sentiment and heroic enterprise, is gone!
(Edmund Burke)

May this date live forever in shame and oblivion, and may we work towards the undoing of its consequences.

Devotional, July 14

Thus says the Word of God:

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father’s commandments and abide in his love.
(John 15:10, ESV)

When the Reformation was all the rage in old Europe, with sucessions of colloquia, disputationes and pamphlet polemics, it was common to accuse evangelical Christians of not giving due place and emphasis to the need of Christian sanctification, and of sidelining the need of good works. It was common to allege that once one attained justification by the sole faith in Jesus Christ, one was in danger of believing in a sort of license for the unrestrained commiting of sins. Of course, Reformers strongly denied this false accusation.

These words of our Lord tell us how important good works are for the Christian. To follow Jesus Christ means to abide in His love, a perfect love, outpoured to the extreme of the supreme sacrifice to the cause of the salvation of humankind. Following Jesus Christ does not mean taking a kind of mental aspirine to relieve the daily troubles of our existence amid a crass emotionalism. To follow Jesus is, first and foremost, to live and practice God’s love and compassion towards the entire humankind while extending the Father’s Kingdom.

It is noteworthy the way the Lord Jesus shows the norm and criterion of the practice of love: a sacrificial commitment to obey the will of God, no matter what it takes, as Jesus Himself obeyed the commandments of His Father to the utmost.

Are we willing to follow Jesus in His obedience? There lies the proof of our faith.

Prayer
Beloved Father, who in the person of Your Son has shown us Your love and mercy: Increase our faith in a way that, together with Your Holy Spirit, we may walk in the way shown to us by Your Son Jesus Christ, obeying His commandments and abiding in His love. In the name of Jesus Christ. Amen.

Nice weekend and…

I spent a good weekend. I managed to sleep well and rest. We rented the whole original StarWars trilogy, and it was mostly good to see, but I think that either I have a poor memory or George Lucas managed to alter the movies too much on the Special Edition.

The sad part is that I feel chronically exhausted. Part of the problem is that almost all holidays happen to fall this year in Saturdays, so they’re not available. (No, we don’t have movable holidays in Paraguay). I long for a vacation…

OTOH, I was very disappointed when I learned that the youth group of our church watched a video called “The Truth about Disney” in their youth group. It was just a lot of fearmongering spilled out by a Pentecostal pastor of some sort. Nice family material, isn’t it? *yuck*.

I’m stuck

Here I am, trying to edit the church bulletin. I hate Fridays.

On a slightly different note, I’m finding Slackware 10.0 a very good distro. Perhaps I might write a review soon.

When I finally manage to get off the office, I’ll run to the video store and rent some tapes. Keep praying.

Declare, O Muse!

“With leave and honour enter our abodes,
Ye sacred ministers of men and gods!
I know your message; by constraint you came;
Not you, but your imperious lord I blame.
[…]
But witness, heralds, and proclaim my vow,
Witness to gods above, and men below!
But first, and loudest, to your prince declare
(That lawless tyrant whose commands you bear),
Unmoved as death Achilles shall remain,
Though prostrate Greece shall bleed at every vein:
The raging chief in frantic passion lost,
Blind to himself, and useless to his host,
Unskill’d to judge the future by the past,
In blood and slaughter shall repent at last.”

(The Illiad, Book I, Pope’s version).

Here we go. Hope all of you can enjoy my blog, in due time. Shalom!

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