Mercy Triumphs! As seen on T.V.

021513A quick word of thanks for your patience, as the Blog has been down for three days. We got hacked in a bad way. Terrible malicious software brought the whole server down. Every thing had to be cleansed and copied to a new server. We are back on Firefox, Safari and Explorer but Google Chrome is still mad at us. Hopefully they too will be back on line after we prove we’ve been cleansed by the Blood of the Lamb, and also by IT experts!

It is impossible for us to know why we were attacked, it may be something that was said or posted here or it may just be that it was “our turn.” Either way, Satan has been busy and he and his minions will answer to God someday for things far more serious than this, but not to exclude things like this.

And that leads me to today’s commentary on a Mercedes Benz commercial. In the video below Satan appears with promises to the whole world and all its pleasures if the man in the video will just sign on the dotted line. Not only will the man get a free Mercedes Benz but he will also get all the things that are supposed to go with a Benz: beautiful women, caviar, luxurious receptions, fancy homes, access, victory, popularity, you name it. “It’s all yours! Just sign here!” says Satan.

But the man considers the price of a Mercedes without the devil as a partner versus everything with the Devil as a partner. Do not miss the meaning of the name “Mercedes” which means mercy, and Benz which is a name meaning “brave”. Mercy is worth more than anything else, no matter how pleasurable in passing. For the mercy of the Lord endures forever, while the trinkets of the devil are but for a time. You might say, in financial terms, mercy has positive leverage while the Devil’s payouts have diminishing returns. If the Devil gives you a payout, you’ll watch it diminish with each passing day. But God’s grace and mercy grow to yield an abundant harvest. There may be the payout of the cross and deferred pleasure, but wait till you say the harvest. Thus once must bravely (“benz”) reach out for Mercy (“mercedes”).

Thus, in the commercial the man considers all Satan’s trinkets against the glories of mercy and he chooses mercy. He know the cost, but considers it acceptable if he can but have mercy for himself, without the Devil as a partner. How about you?

A final detail worth noting in the commercial: At the bottom of the proposed contract held out by Satan is a backward Chi Rho (The Greek abbreviation for “Christ”) and the Latin Inscription Sigilla posuere magister diabolus et daemones (Master seal of the Devil and demons. The backward initials recalls an image of the anti-Christ. And the Latin is more literally means “A seal to set the Devil and demons (as) Master.”

In the end that is the choice. You will have the master your choose. And of this the Lord reminds we must choose one and only one:

No one can serve two masters. Either he will hate the one and love the other, or he will be devoted to the one and despise the other. You cannot serve both God and Money. (Matt 6:24)

Whose coins are in your pocket and whose seal is on them? The choice is yours. You are free to choose, but you are not free NOT to choose. You can have it all now, or store it up bravely for later:

Do not store up for yourselves treasures on earth, where moth and rust destroy, and where thieves break in and steal. But store up for yourselves treasures in heaven, where moth and rust do not destroy, and where thieves do not break in and steal. For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also (Matt 6:19-21)

Why not be Benz (brave) and choose Mercedes (mercy)?

In the end the Scripture is fulfilled for the man which says, Resist the Devil and he will flee (James 4:2)

Here’s the Commercial:

Straining out Gnats and Swallowing Camels as seen on T.V.

020813The video below is a good example of how we sometimes follow smaller rules and overlook bigger ones in the process.

The Lord Jesus often had to endure scorn from the people of his day that he overlooked certain precise matters of the law, often Sabbath observances. But those who rebuked him for this were guilty of far greater violations. For example,

1. [Jesus] went into the synagogue, and a man with a shriveled hand was there. Some of them were looking for a reason to accuse Jesus, so they watched him closely to see if he would heal him on the Sabbath. Jesus said to the man with the shriveled hand, “Stand up in front of everyone.” Then Jesus asked them, “Which is lawful on the Sabbath: to do good or to do evil, to save life or to kill?” But they remained silent. He looked around at them in anger and, deeply distressed at their stubborn hearts, said to the man, “Stretch out your hand.” He stretched it out, and his hand was completely restored. Then the Pharisees went out and began to plot with the Herodians how they might kill Jesus (Mk 3:1-6)

2. Woe to you Pharisees, because you give God a tenth of your mint, rue and all other kinds of garden herbs, but you neglect justice and the love of God. You should have practiced the latter without leaving the former undone. (Luke 11:42)

3. Indignant because Jesus had healed on the Sabbath, the synagogue ruler said to the people, “There are six days for work. So come and be healed on those days, not on the Sabbath.” The Lord answered him, “You hypocrites! Doesn’t each of you on the Sabbath untie his ox or donkey from the stall and lead it out to give it water? Then should not this woman, a daughter of Abraham, whom Satan has kept bound for eighteen long years, be set free on the Sabbath day from what bound her?” (Lk 13:14-16)

4. You blind guides! You strain out a gnat but swallow a camel. Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You clean the outside of the cup and dish, but inside they are full of greed and self-indulgence. Blind Pharisee! First clean the inside of the cup and dish, and then the outside also will be clean. (Matt 23:24-25).

Yes, straining gnats and swallowing camels, a kind of maximizing the minimum and minimizing the maximum. Note that in the first example, they are actually planning to kill Jesus for healing on the Sabbath!

But perhaps my favorite, all time illustration of this awful human tendency is in the Gospel of John:

Then the Jews led Jesus from Caiaphas to the palace of the Roman governor. By now it was early morning, and to avoid ceremonial uncleanness the Jews did not enter the palace; they wanted to be able to eat the Passover. So Pilate came out… (John 18:28-29)

Notice, they are plotting to kill a just an innocent man, indeed, they are plotting to kill God, they are acting in wickedness, envy, jealousy, hatred and murderous anger, but their main concern is to avoid ritual uncleanness! Yes, straining gnats and swallowing camels.

Now we who are pious and observant need to be careful with this tendency. For it sometimes happens that, congratulating ourselves over lesser matters, we can either offend or neglect in weightier ones. Perhaps I get to Mass each Sunday (which is a grave obligation), perhaps I pray the rosary (a highly commendable practice), perhaps I tithe, also commendable. And these are things that ought to be done (one is commanded, one is commended, and one is a precept). But what if, at the same time I am hateful toward certain people at work, unforgiving to a family member, and insensitive to the poor?

But the danger could be that, in effect, I let my observance of certain things all me to, in effect “check off the God box” and figure, “I’ve got the righteousness thing down” since I went to Mass, gave an offering and even prayed the rosary this week. Now these are good things, and should not be neglected, but they are not the only thing. And too often, very significant and serious things like love, mercy, forgiveness and charity can be set aside or neglected as I go on congratulating myself over other, sometimes lesser things.

This can happen in the other direct too wherein someone may congratulate themselves that they have advocated for the poor, spent the day working at a soup kitchen etc., and thus think they have no need to look at the fact that they are living say, unchastely, all shacked up, or not getting to Mass.

But we cannot buy God off like this, doing certain things (usually things we like) in way that seeks to paper over other things we’d rather not observe or look at. In the end, the whole counsel of God is important.

We must avoid the sinful tendency to a sort of substitutionalism, or swapping, maybe even a trading on the holy, thinking we can observe a few things and overlook others.

Culturally too we see a lot of strange examples of this. We obsess nationally over whether or not people smoke because it might be bad for their health and then ignore the national health consequences of promiscuous behavior which spreads AIDS, and countless venereal diseases and leads to abortion. We save the baby seals and shred the baby humans by the millions. We deplore (rightfully) the death of several thousand each year by gun murder, and call the murder of over fifty million babies a constitutional right. The school nurse requires permission to dispense aspirin but none to deploy the dangerous abortifacient morning after pill. We talk about the dignity of women and yet pornography flourishes. We worry endlessly about our weight and physical appearance of our bodies that will die, and care little for our souls that will live. We decry carbon footprints and fly on jets to the global warming conference at the sprawling luxury convention center complex. We use compact bulbs to help save the planet, but fill them with poisonous mercury. etc….

Straining gnats and swallowing camels. To be sure, as the Lord says above, we ought not neglect smaller things wholly. But simply observing lesser things doesn’t give us the right to ignore greater things.

Salus animarum suprema lex (The salvation of souls is the highest Law). And thus, while little things mean a lot, we must always remember not to allow them to wholly eclipse greater things.

The ideal for which to aim is an integrated state where in the lesser serves the greater and is subsumed into it. St. Augustine rightly observed:

Quod Minimum, minimum est, Sed in minimo fidelem esse, magnum est.
St. Augustine – De Doctrina Christiana, IV,35

(What is a little thing, is (just) a little thing. But to be faithful in a little thing is a great thing).

Thus, notice, the lesser things are in service of the greater thing, in this case fidelity. And thus we rightly ask who some of the lesser things we do are really in service of the greater things like, just, love, mercy, fidelity, kindness, generosity and such. Otherwise we run the risk of straining gnats and swallowing camels.

Enjoy this video which illustrates how the one rule (silence in the library) is observed but to the total neglect of every other virtue.

No One Goes Away From Jesus Unchanged, As Seen on TV

The video below is a Coca Cola commercial from about five years ago that takes up the Christmas theme of the star of Christmas.

Let us review the impact that Star of Christmas had on the wise men, the Magi.

  1. The star moved them to seek meaning outside themselves. It made them look out and up.
  2. The star called them beyond what was familiar in their own country and world and expanded their horizons toward Christ and His kingdom.
  3. The star summoned them to seek Christ, and when they found him, to worship him.
  4. The Star  drew them to be generous to a poor family in Bethlehem, and to make sacrifices,  as they lay costly gifts of gold, frankincense and myrrh before the Lord.
  5. The star roused them to conversion as they “returned to their country by another route” following the straight and narrow path, rather than the wide and destructive one.

Yes, it is a fact that no one encounters Jesus Christ and goes away unchanged. A blind man went away able to see, the deaf went away able to hear, the lame could walk, the hungry went away satisfied, the ignorant were instructed, the guilty forgiven, and sinners were converted.

And the call of the nations to new life and to change began with a star. And the light of the star opens the way to the Light of World, Jesus. The star of my life is Jesus.

In the commercial below we see Santa (a name which means “Holy One”) send forth a star, a star that touches people and radiates a light that transforms them.

  1. A woman sees the light of that star and is able to forgive her husband and be reconciled with him.
  2. A young soccer player sees the light of that star, surrenders pride and  steps aside to let another player share in and get a shot at glory.
  3. A young girl sees the light of that star and forsaking some of her own beauty seeks to beautify a public park for others.
  4. A guard at the local museum sees the light of that star and shows mercy to the guard dog with him (this was a silly one).
  5. A father sees the light of that star and permits his son a moment of growth.

Yes, there is something about that star that changes everyone who looks at it. They become more forgiving, more gracious, aware of others, more connected to others, more loving.The light of the star, and the light of the world is Jesus. And his light is meant to have that same effect and more besides.

In the background of the commercial plays an old Elvis song: Wise men say only fools rush in, But I can’t help falling in love with you. Shall I stay, would it be a sin? If I can’t help falling in love with you.

Here of course the “love” that is portrayed is not the romantic love of the song but the brotherly and agape love that Christ gives. Like the Magi of old who found Christ by the star, no one sees the star of Jesus and encounters him and then goes away unchanged. Indeed if we authentically encounter Christ, we are equipped to love, just as the people in this commercial are. We are equipped to forgive, to bring healing, to help others find strength and glory in the truth and to come to full maturity in Christ. A person who knows Jesus and has encountered him cannot help loving others, not in some merely sentimental way, but with a strong, vigorous love rooted in the truth. The same love Jesus has for us all.

At the end of the commercial there is an admonition in Spanish that translated says, Give the world the best of you. The best of me is Jesus.

Will God Still Be Able to Find Me? A Meditation based on an endearing Christmas Commercial

Children often have problems with generalization and conceptualization. For example, when I was very young I was told that Jesus lived in the tabernacle. Fine I thought, then that must mean there is furniture and stuff in there. So when the priest opened the tabernacle up on the high altar, I earnestly looked for the furniture and perhaps the little stair case going to a second floor, much like my sister’s dollhouse was set up.

But then the Nuns threw me for a loop in Sunday School when they asked “Where is God?” And then they supplied the answer, “Everywhere.” But wait a minute, I thought they said he lived in the tabernacle. And thus I could not generalize and specify very well with my 6 year old brain.

As for conceptualization, I remember being told by my mother that we were going to join my Father (who was in Vietnam at the time) for a two week vacation in Hawaii. She showed me the location of the Island chain on a globe in our house and I was immediately anxious. “How could we all fit on those little islands? They looked so tiny, and I could not conceptualize the notion of scale. I was truly shocked when my mother told me that not only could we all fit on those islands, but so could thousands of other people and also that our airplane could land on these seemingly tiny islands with room to spare. But for a seven year old brain this was all very implausible and I remained nervous about going to these little islands.

Yet another struggle I had was when I was told were going to move from Chicago to Florida. I asked my mother, “How will God be able to find me if we move?” I was actually quite concerned that even if He could find me, He might not want to walk that far to see me. I guess you might say I thought of God in a very localized way, a kind of local deity. Mother of course tried to reassure me but I wasn’t so sure.

I thought of that when I saw the video below. It is of a young boy who moves with his parents to a new house, somewhat near Christmas time. And he is obviously concerned to let Santa know his change of address so that the presents will be properly delivered. It’s quite cute really and a reminder of my earlier years with a more primitive brain.

Spiritually, though we likely move beyond the materially heretical notion of God as a “local deity” who might not want to walk so far to see us, it is still possible that we struggle at times with the notion that God has somehow forgotten, or forsaken us. When times get rough we may wonder where he is. In the video, “Santa” (a name which means “Holy one”) can represent God. And sometimes we need others, such as this young boy’s parents in the commercial, to help reassure us that God, the Holy One, is not far, has not forgotten and is well aware of our every move.

When God seems far or forgetful, it is good to have the Church and others in our life to remind us that God is more present to us that we are to ourselves, more knowing of us than we know ourselves.

A young monk went to the Abbot and said, “What am I to do about the distance I feel from God?” And the Abbot said, “Understand that it isn’t there.” “Does that mean that God and I are one?” Asked the monk. “Not one, not two.” Said the Abbot. “How can that be?” said the monk. The Abbot answered: “The ocean and its wave, the singer and his song…not one, not two.”

Enjoy this video and remember the word of the Lord, I will never forget you! See, I have engraved you on the palms of my hands (Is 49:16)

Sin on Sale – 50% off. But Beware of the Side effects

I usually like to keep things light on Friday evening when I post. And the video at the bottom of the page is something of a spoof on drug commercials, treating sin like a drug. Wait till you hear the side-effects disclaimer at the end. 🙂

I also thought today of doing a little post on the sins that cry to heaven for vengeance since I was talking to a parishioner today, who is suffering because his employer has not paid him for three weeks. The employer, a government agency says this is  due to “administrative difficulties” in the bureaucracy where he works. He was angry (rightfully so) and getting desperate. I reminded him that withholding wages was a sin that cried to heaven and that God was angry with him. The rest of our conversation I’ll keep private.

With that painful situation in mind and how the negligent sin of one affects another, it occurs to me offer a few lists of sins, that may prove as helpful reminders to all of us in our struggle against it. Sometimes it helps to see sin in categories and to be able to “name the demons,” as a help to combat them. These are just a few helpful lists. There are others and I invite you to add to them. For the sake of brevity, I do not fully develop them all.

In keeping with the video below, consider these lists a kind of “Sin on Sale” a clearance sale if you will. The lists below can be purchased separately or together in packages. But do beware of the potential and likely side-effects!

The sins that cry to heaven for vengeance: (CCC 1867)

  1. Murder (Gn 4:10),
  2. Sodomy (Gn 17:20-21),
  3. Oppression of the poor (Ex 2:23),
  4. Defrauding workers of their just wages (Jas 5:4).

Seven Deadly Sins

  1. Pride
  2. Greed
  3. Lust
  4. Anger
  5. Gluttony
  6. Envy
  7. Sloth

Sins against the Holy Spirit:

  1. Despair,
  2. Presumption,
  3. Envy,
  4. Obstinacy in sin,
  5. Final impenitence,
  6. Deliberate resistance to the known truth.

Sins against faith: (CCC 2088-2089)

  1. Hesitating doubt – delaying the overcoming of doubts, difficulties, or objections due to indifference or laziness
  2. Voluntary doubt – disregarding of the truth or on-going resistance to overcoming doubt.
  3. Incredulity – willful refusal to assent to revealed truths of the faith.
  4. Heresy – the choosing and over-emphasizing of certain truths of the faith to the exclusion of others.
  5. Schism – Refusal of submission to the Pope or Catholic communion.
  6. Apostasy – Total repudiation of the Christian faith.

Sins against God’s love: (CCC 2094)

  1. Indifference
  2. Ingratitude
  3. Lukewarmness
  4. Sloth – sorrow or aversion at the good things offers to the soul
  5. Hatred of God – usually rooted in prideful notion that refuses to be second to God.

Sins against the Honor that is Due to God – (CCC 2111-2117)

  1. Superstition – the elevation of certain practices such that they are regarded as more important or powerful than prayer or trust in God.
  2. Idolatry – divinizing what is not God, false worship, holding creatures more precious than the one Creator who is God.
  3. Divination – undertaking practices meant to disclose the future, e.g. horoscopes, astrology, palm reading, recourse to mediums etc.
  4. Magic and spiritism – attempts to tame occult powers and place them at our service, or to have power over others in this way.

Sins of Irreligion: (CCC 2118-2128)

  1. Tempting God – Putting God to the test
  2. Sacrilege – stealing sacred things, profaning sacraments or liturgical actions, desecration or speaking irreverently of sacred persons, places or things that are blessed or consecrated to God.
  3. Simony – Buying or selling spiritual things, seeking to profit on them merely because they are blessed.
  4. Atheism – Denying the existence of God, to include the practical atheism of materialism and utopian notions that man can save himself.
  5. Agnosticism – an indifference toward God that refrains form formally denying his existence.

Sins against the name of God: (CCC 2142-2155)

  1. Promises – infidelity to promises or oaths made with God’s name
  2. Profanity – using God’s name in vain ways that do not respect its sacred character, (e.g. empty expressions like “Oh my God!”
  3. Blasphemy – to speak ill of God, trivialize, curse or ridicule him. By extension, to ridicule sacred things or the Saints.
  4. Swearing – calling God to witness in matters that are trivial. Also swearing a false oath, committing perjury when under oath.
  5. Cursing – using God’s name to curse or call down evil on others.

Sins against the Lord’s Day: (CCC 2185)

  1. Refusing the worship owed God
  2. Refusing the joy proper to the Lord’s day
  3. Refusing the relaxation of mind and body commanded on the Lord’s day.
  4. Refusing reasonable works of mercy proper to the Lord’s day.

Sins Against life: (CCC 2268-2283)

  1. Intentional homicide – all unjust killing
  2. Abortion
  3. Euthanasia
  4. Suicide
  5. Acting with reckless disregard for the safety and life of our self or others

Sins against Chastity: (CCC 2351-2357)

  1. Lust – willfully entertaining inordinate or disordered desires for sexual pleasure
  2. Masturbation
  3. Fornication
  4. Adultery
  5. Pornography
  6. Prostitution
  7. Rape
  8. Homosexual Activity

Sins of Injustice and theft: (CCC 2409ff)

  1. Theft
  2. Deliberately keeping lent things
  3. Damaging the goods of others without restitution
  4. Fraud
  5. Paying unjust wages
  6. Forcing up prices
  7. Refusing to pay debts
  8. Work poorly done
  9. Tax evasion
  10. Forgery
  11. Excessive and wasteful practices
  12. Hoarding
  13. Excessive and unnecessary exploitation of natural resources
  14. Refusing our legitimate obligations to the community
  15. Refusing our legitimate obligations to the poor

Just a few helpful lists drawn from the Catechism with reference also to the Catholic Source Book and other places.

So there it is a clearance sale on sin. Now here’s a word from our sponsor!

An Image for the Kingdom in A Beer Commercial

At the end of this dreadful day of shopping so aptly named “Black Friday” I propose an image for the kingdom. As I reflect I realize I will sound like a man (Which I am). For it remains true that most men absolutely hate shopping (unless the shopping involves electronic devices or sports gear).

For most men the dreadful reality of shopping seems an image for the drudgery of this world, a world shouting to us like some huckster, demanding our attention, time and, most of all, our money. The hectic running about only to wait in line, the mad rush to acquire financed by the foolishness of debt, and none of it ultimately very satisfying.  Shopping, a little taste of hell.

This is all well depicted in the commercial below. And, silly though the commercial  is, it does to point to things that ultimately satisfy more: food, fellowship and fun. The men in the scene slip away from the mind-numbing tedium of shopping to a little “hush harbor” that celebrates life simpler pleasures: Good food, good friends, and a good fun.

I wonder if this isn’t an image for the Kingdom. One of the biblical images for the Kingdom from the Road to Emmaus is: walking, talking and dining. Jesus was quite famous for his table fellowship. He was often found dining and enjoying company, sometimes in questionable company! He several times used the image of a banquet to describe the Kingdom (e.g. Luke 14:15ff; Luke 22:29ff inter al).

And of course the Mass, our great foretaste of the Kingdom of heaven is set in the context of a sacred and sacrificial meal. In way, the Lord says to us each Sunday, “Come aside and rest awhile. Cease acquiring and enjoy what you have….The most important things in life aren’t things….come rest, eat, enjoy company, celebrate life’s simpler joys.”

Well I know you may think I draw far too much from this commercial. You may even consider me irreverent for seeing the Kingdom in a beer commercial. But bear with me my friends and have mercy. Black Friday is a pretty awful spectacle (especially for a typical man like me who so hates shopping). In fact, Black Friday is just awful enough to make a beer commercial seem like a step up closer to the Kingdom. Just sayin….

Now be of good cheer and realize that I write all this in something of a light-hearted manner. Do not debate me. Laugh with me, and jab back if you wish – light-heartedly of course.

Love Conquers All! – As Seen on T.V.

Amor omnia vincit – (Love conquers all). Clearly this was shown best at the cross where instead of retaliating with violence and destruction, The Lord Jesus took our blows and responded only with love. In this he conquered and broke the cycle of violence.

Dr. Martin Luther King, paraphrasing Gandhi, memorably said: “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only Light can do that. And Hat cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.”

And thus Jesus, who broke the long cycle of violence by accepting our blows encourages us to do the same. When we are struck on one cheek we are turn the other. In effect we are neither to run, nor to strike back. We are to stand our ground and refuse to meet our enemy on his own terms and thus become like him.

In so doing we break the cycle of violence that would otherwise escalate. We claim back ground for the Kingdom through love and by forsaking the need to retaliate. We deprive Satan of a double victory. For Satan has already drawn our enemy to hateful violence, and thus has one victory. In refusing to meet our enemy on those terms we deprive Satan of another victory.

Love does conquer. It disarms and changes the conversation. Would that our fear would dissipate so that we could learn the lessons of love and try its methods.

There is, of course legitimate self defense, but most of our violence is not about this, it is about things far more petty than life and limb.

Lord, take away our fear so that we may with trust take you up on your word and, ending the cycle of violence,  experience the truth that love really does conquer all.

Enjoy this video which humorously illustrates our point as it shows escalating violence over something as petty as a beer, but then note how love wins the day. And I know that some of you will simply want to see it as lust. Such cynics! See it as love! See it as an appreciation for the Good, the True and the Beautiful! The pretty girl wins the dayAmor omnia vincit!

On humility and our hidden faults, as seen in a commercial

The video below humorously illustrates a biblical principle of our hidden faults. Indeed we all have sins and behaviors that are often clear to others but of which we are unaware. Indeed there are even deeper faults of which no one is aware except God himself who sees our innermost heart. Consider some of the following quotes:

By [your ordinances] your servant warned; in keeping them there is great reward. But who can discern his errors? From my hidden faults acquit me, O Lord. Keep your servant also from willful sins; may they not rule over me. (Psalm 19:11-13)

You have set our iniquities before you, our secret sins in the light of your presence. (Psalm 90:8)

For God will bring every deed into judgment, including every hidden thing, whether it is good or evil. (Eccl 12:14)

Mind you, I have nothing on my conscience, but I do not stand thereby acquitted. It is the Lord who judges me. (1 Cor 4:4).

The sins of some men are conspicuous, going before them to judgment, but the sins of others appear only later. (1 Tim 5:24)

Call no man happy before he dies, for by how he ends, a man is known. (Sirach 11:28)

Yes, some of our sins are obvious to us and we may rightfully work upon them. But lest we sin through pride, we ought always recall that we have sins and faults that are often hidden from us. Others may see them, or perhaps only God.

At the end of the day we’re all going to need a lot of grace and mercy!

Enjoy this commercial that well illustrates this fact. And enjoy a little humor, it’s been a tough week on the blog!