Legal Writing for Legal Reading!

Pa. Superior Court: Family Court Notice Must Be Meaningful

Although there are standard forms for various pleadings and motions for family matters, they should certainly not be considered formalities or merely boilerplates. In the matter of T.L.G. v. J.D.G., the Pennsylvania Superior Court drove home the importance of pleadings and motions in providing the opposing party notice of what is at issue when going to a family court hearing.

In T.L.G. the parents of two children were subject to a stipulated custody order. One of the two children subject to this order unfortunately suffers from various mental health issues. Her parents both agreed to enroll their daughter in a residential program in North Carolina. At the conclusion of her program in the residential facility, she had the option to enroll in a therapeutic boarding school (which was recommended by the professionals at the residential program), or, in the alternative, she had the option to enroll in a standard public school with in-school and out-of-school therapeutic services. The parents disagreed over where to enroll the child; the child’s mother wanted to follow the recommendations while her father wanted to send her to a public school with additional services.

As the parents were unable to overcome their impasse regarding where to enroll their daughter, the mother filed a petition for special relief requesting the court to enter an order requiring the parties to follow the recommendations of the mental health professionals at the residential program. Accordingly, the court entered a scheduling order that set a hearing date “in consideration of the within petition.”

At the day of the hearing, the judge before whom the hearing took place opened the hearing by announcing that the order he would enter would likely be one that awarded sole legal custody (in the areas of education and mental health issues only). The judge ultimately entered an order granting the father sole legal custody (limited to education and mental health issues), and the mother timely appealed this order to the Pennsylvania Superior Court.

On appeal the mother argued that the trial court abused its discretion and violated her due process rights when it entered an order modifying the custody order (by changing legal custody) despite the fact that there was no petition to modify custody filed by either party.  Instead, the mother argued, her petition simply requested an order to resolve a single discreet issue of dispute between the parties, and the trial court’s order should have reflected that.

In ruling on the mother’s appeal, the Superior Court first noted that “notice and an opportunity to be heard are fundamental components of due process.” Furthermore, the court further noted that notice to a party must be provided within a meaningful time in a meaningful manner. Citing the Pennsylvania Superior Court case of Langendorfer v. Spearman, 797 A.2d 303 (Pa.Super.2002) (which in turn cited Choplosky v. Choplosky, 584 A.2d 340 (Pa.Super.1990)) the T.L.G. court also indicated that “if the parties do not receive proper notice that custody is at issue, a trial court cannot ‘assume that the parties had either sufficiently exposed the relevant facts or properly argued their significance.’”

While filing a petition to modify custody is typically the appropriate manner by which to request a custody modification, the court recognized that a trial court, under the right circumstances, may modify a custody order when it is in the best interests of the child, even if a petition to modify had not been filed. The court clarified, however, that such circumstances are only “if notice of the proceeding adequately advises a party that custody will be at issue, a court may entertain the request to permanently modify a custody order after hearing in that proceeding.”

When reviewing the facts of this matter, the court observed that mother’s petition for special relief does not request any modification of the custody order at all. It merely requests the trial court to adjudicate the discreet issue of where their daughter should be enrolled. Furthermore, the court also observed that the trial court’s scheduling order, quoted above, did not reference the potentiality of a modification of custody.

Based on the above, the Superior Court ruled that mother did not have proper notice that custody modification would be an issue at a petition for special relief hearing. In addition, the court did not believe the trial court judge’s opening statement at the hearing that legal custody may be modified constituted notice at a “meaningful time” or in a “meaningful manner.” In the court’s view, requiring the mother to make an objection on the record against the judge’s statement giving her last-minute notice that modification would likely be at issue (indeed, there was not even notice that it would definitely be an issue) is not sufficiently advanced notice to the mother to enable her to prepare or properly advocate. Indeed, the trial court did not even inform the parties that it would, in fact, modify legal custody until it issued its order after the hearing concluded.

In light of the above, the court ruled that the trial court abused its discretion and violated the mother’s due process rights when it awarded the father sole legal custody over educational and mental health matters despite the fact that neither party filed to modify the custody order. The court ruled that the mother did not receive proper notice that the custody order could be modified, vacated the trial court’s order, and remanded the matter. This decision makes it clear that court filings, and the court notices that follow from them, must be specific and provide adequate notice to the parties in order to ensure and protect a party’s basic due process rights.

James W. Cushing is senior associate at the Law Office of Faye Riva Cohen and managing attorney for Legal Research Inc., and sits on the executive committee of the family law section of the Philadelphia Bar Association.


South Carolina Episcopal Parishes All Win Title To Their Property

This is from religionclause.blogspot.com which you can find here:

In Protestant Episcopal Church in the Diocese of South Carolina v. The Episcopal Church, (SC Common Pleas, June 19, 2020), a South Carolina trial court was called upon to interpret a confusing decision by the South Carolina Supreme Court in a long-running property dispute that arose after a split in the Episcopal Church in South Carolina.  In a 2017 decision, the 5-member South Carolina Supreme Court in 5 separate opinions spanning 77 pages purported to resolve the factional property dispute. The trial court concluded that, under the state Supreme Court’s decision, 36 parishes are the owners of their parish real estate and accompanying personal property. The court said in part:

This Court must distill the five separate opinions, identify the Court’s intent, and produce a logical directive. It must harmonize these opinions and find common ground among them. The issue is whether the 1979 Dennis Canon or any parish’s alleged accession to that Canon created a legally cognizable trust under South Carolina law….

At issue is ownership of real property, purchased and managed exclusively by the Plaintiff Parishes including land and buildings, considerable funds, and other personal property such as books, silver, and historical archives. The crux of the disagreement rests upon the Dennis Canon and its legal effect on whether this property was ever held in trust for TEC or TECSC….

This Court finds that the Plaintiffs merely promised allegiance to TEC and without more, this promise cannot deprive them of their ownership rights in their property. This Court finds no Parish expressly acceded to the 1979 Dennis Canon. The Dennis Canon was not mentioned by name in any of the evidence, and Defendants admitted that the Dennis Canon is not referenced in any of the deeds of parish property…. As a result, there is no trust created in favor of the Defendants, TEC and TECSC.

Christian Post reports on the decision.

You can learn more about this issue here.


Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics XI–“Come to me, . . . and I will give you rest”

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics XI–“Come to me, . . . and I will give you rest”.”

See also:


The disciple is not bereft of consolation from Christ in the midst of the fierce battle against evil that precedes the full coming of the kingdom.  There is joy in the forgiveness of sins that comes from Him, and Him alone.  There is joy in serving Him accoring to His will.

In Matthew, and only in Matthew, are “the comfortable words” (Book of Common Prayer, 1928, p.76) of Jesus:  “Come to me, all who labor and are heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” (Matthew 11: 28 ESV)  These words are employed in a hymn written by Horatio Bonar, set to a tune by sixteenth century English composer, Thomas Tallis, “I Heard The Voice of Jesus Say.”

At the center of the maelstrom that is the world the disciple finds comfort in His relationship with Christ.  The heavy laden disciple is invited to rest in Christ.  Then Jesus continues: “Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly in heart, and you will find rest for your souls.  For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.”  (Mattrhew 11: 29 ESV)  The disciple is heavy laden, but Christ gives rest; Christ places a yoke on us, but despite the yoke the disciple will yet find rest.

How can this be?  Matthew 23 may give us more insight.  The Greek word for burden in its nominal and verbal forms is rarely used in the New Testament   In Matthew it occurs in Chapters 11 and 23.  In Matthew 23 Jesus delivers sharp criticism of the scribes and Pharisees.  He instructs the disciples and the crowd to follow what the leaders say but not what they do.  The Lord finds in them a contradiction in what they preach and practice. One must practice what he preaches.  It is in this chapter that Jesus again uses the word for burden.  The Jewish leaders burden the people with heavy burdens, but they do not burden themselves.  They do their deeds to be seen.  Thus far, we find three criticisms of the Jewish elite.  They burden others but not themselves; they do not practice what they preach; and they do good deeds to be seen by others for their commendation.  Jesus calls the people to humble, not exalt themselves.

Then follow woes, rather than blessings, against the scribes and Pharisees.  Jesus accuses them of shutting people out of the kingdom of heaven; corrupting new believers, called proselytes; teaching a moral casuistry (reasoning) that does not lead to righteousness; failing to teach “the weightier matters of the law: justice and mercy and faithfulness. These you ought to have done, without neglecting the others.” (Matthew 23: 23b ESV)  The scribes are accused of taking care to follow rules of cleanliness, but are full of greed and self-indulgence.  The leaders are clean on the outside but unclean on the inside.  They are hypocrites and lawless, not righteous.  The leaders assert that they would have not killed prophets and wisemen of the past, yet they persecute those of their time.  Ironically, Jesus’ death would occur in a few days at the hands of the Roman governor and the Jewish leadership in Jerusalem.

Jesus calls the leaders hypocrites, blind guides, whitewashed tombs, lawless, serpents, and a brood of vipers.  He follows His criticism with a lament that the people of Jerusalem have rejected His protection. Judgment will take place.  Jesus does not follow the rules of engagement concerning not calling people names.  But, He explains why He calls them what He does.  The names are accurate descriptions.  May we also use accurate descriptions in debate and use them sparingly, if at all? Finally, Jesus is pronouncing judgment as the Son of God.  We are sons and daughters of God, but not the Son of God. He is the Son by nature, we by grace.  We do not consign people to heaven or hell.  Only God does.

Jesus is the opposite of these false leaders.  He practices what He preaches and calls HIs disciples to righteousness.  In the Sermon on the Mount, where He also criticizes the leaders of the time, He calls on His disciples to bear fruit, practice righteousness, and put the kingdom of heaven first.  But, how can we live sup to the standards of the kingdom?  Is not Christ’s yoke a heavy burden also?

The yoke which Christ places on us is for righteousness and the kingdom; that of the leaders is for hell.  There is the enormous difference.  Christ gives us the rest and the easy burden that is associated with the kingdom that He announces has come and is coming.

The disciple of Christ finds rest in Christ and knows the joys of serving Him.  The way of discipleship is difficult, but it is not measured by its difficulty but by the joy one knows in service of Christ.  Through difficult times, the witness and apologist of Christ will find rest in Christ and His burden light.

Michael G. Tavella

December 1, 2019

Joe Arcieri Songs: The Nile Deep

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “The Nile Deep” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Meritocracy Is Killing High-School Sports

Athletics are supposed to be great equalizers in American life. But they’re being hijacked by the wealthy.

If you want to understand how income inequality and opportunity-hoarding by the rich can combine in toxic ways to hurt the less fortunate, you could look in all the usual places—elite colleges, housing policy, internships.

Or you could look at high-school sports.

In the 2018–19 school year, the number of kids participating in high-school sports declined for the first time in three decades. At least, that was the headline; the reality was even worse. Thirty years ago, the high-school population itself was shrinking, due to a short-term falloff in births after the Baby Boom. This past school year is the only period on record when high-school sports participation declined even as school attendance increased.

The most obvious reason for the decline of high-school sports is that football, the Friday-night-lit mainstay of the high-school experience, is withering on the vine, likely due to fears about injuries and head trauma. The number of high-school boys playing the sport fell for the fifth straight year in 2018–19, and fewer male high schoolers now play football than at any other time this century. Many schools cannot field a full team and have resorted to a six-on-six version, according to the National Federation of State High School Associations (NFHS). America’s most popular sport on television could be close to a full-blown crisis.

But it’s not just football. Basketball, baseball, golf, and lacrosse are all losing players too. The number of girls playing high-school basketball has fallen to its lowest level since the early 1990s. Head injuries can’t explain all that. Neither can school funding or the number of high-school teams, which are steady, according to the NFHS. Something else is going on.

So is it screens?

Smartphones conveniently take the blame for just about every other societal ill, from rising anxiety to declining sex. But Farrey assured me that screen culture is not the culprit here. What’s telling, he said, is that the children of high-income parents are playing as much as ever. Kids from homes earning more than $100,000 are now twice as likely to play a team sport at least once a day as kids from families earning less than $25,000.

The deeper story is that the weed of American-style meritocracy is strangling the roots of youth sports. As parents have recognized that athletic success can burnish college applications, sports have come to resemble just another pre-professional program, with rising costs, hyper-specialization, and massive opportunity-hoarding among the privileged.

Before kids enter high school, they tend to participate in youth sports leagues, which have become one big pay-to-play machine. It’s now common for high-income parents to pull their kids out of the local soccer or baseball leagues and write thousand-dollar checks to join super-teams that travel to play similar kids several counties away. As I wrote last year, it’s not a crime for parents to spend money on their children. But as travel teams hoard talented (and, typically, high-income) kids, they leave behind desiccated local leagues with fewer resources and fewer players. As a result, many low-income children lose the sports habit (or never gain it to begin with), and simply stop playing altogether by the time they get to high school.

Another crucial factor is the rise in sports specialization. Once again, it might seem harmless that ambitious parents and coaches want talented kids to pick a sport and focus on it. But the frenzy around early specialization might be misplaced. A 2015 paper from Harvard concluded that specialization—defined as at least one year of intensive training in a single sport that requires quitting other activities—increased risks of “injury and burnout.” In July, ESPN published a two-part story on specialization in basketball and its correlation with injuries and emotional exhaustion. One coach likened the overwork of young athletes to “an epidemic.”

What’s more, it’s simple math that specialization means fewer kids per high-school sports team. A teenager who plays three sports counts as three distinct participants in the NFHS data. So the decline in participants partly reflects the fact that students who, 20 years ago, played football in the fall, basketball in the winter, and baseball in the spring are now just focusing entirely on, say, basketball.

“Athletic recruiting is the biggest form of affirmative action in American higher education,” says Philip Smith, a former dean of admissions at Williams College, has said. (About 30 percent of Williams students are recruited athletes.) In the 1990s, Division I and Division II colleges annually distributed less than $300 million in student-athlete scholarships. Today that figure ismore than $3 billion.

You might think most of that scholarship money is going to help kids from poor families who couldn’t otherwise afford college. That’s not the case. In 2010, just 28 percent of Division I basketball players were first-generation college students, meaning they likely came from low-income families. Five years later, that figure has fallen by nine percentage points. Today, fewer than one in seven students receiving athletic scholarships across all Division I sports come from families in which neither parent went to college. Farrey calls this the slow-motion “gentrification” of college sports.

This process starts in youth and high-school sports. Both historically served as a pipeline to flagship universities for low-income kids. But when they’re shut out from pricey travel leagues and the expensive coaching that early specialists receive, lower-income kids are denied not only the physical benefits of playing sports, but also the jackpot that is college recruitment and Division I and II scholarships.

Institutions that were meant to be opportunity-equalizers for the rich, poor, and everybody in between—community youth sports leagues, public high schools, the American college system—are being stealthily hijacked to serve the primary goal of so many high-income parents, which is to replicate their advantages in their children’s generation.

By Derek Thompson and published on August 30, 2019 in The Atlantic and can be found here.

Taking “Aim” at the Second Amendment

            The United States Constitution provides the very framework in which our nation is based, providing for the organization of the United States government and the establishment of the relationship between the federal government with the states, citizens, and all people within the United States.

The Second Amendment of the Constitution, which is part of the United States Bill of Rights, protects the right of the people to keep and bear arms.  The extent to which this right applies remains the subject of dispute as courts attempt to balance an individual’s right under the Second Amendment against governmental interests in adopting regulations to restrict gun ownership and control.  The Second Amendment was found to be fully applicable to both state and local governments through the Fourteenth Amendment in McDonald v. City of Chicago.  Thus, there has been a constant battle between gun rights as safeguarded by our Constitutional and the need for public protection and safety.

The right to gun ownership was established in Heller v. District of Columbia, where it was found that individuals have a right to own a gun in self-defense to protect their hearth and home.  However, this right did not provide an unfettered right to gun ownership.  In assessing a core Second Amendment right under the intermediate scrutiny standard, the court in Heller determined that gun registration requirements effectuated the important governmental interest in the public interest of promoting public safety.  Similarly, Heller limited the types of guns that could be owned by individuals to only those that were in common use and typically possessed by law abiding citizens.  Assault weapons and large capacity ammunition feeding devices were found to be “dangerous and unusual” and not to fall within the purview of rights provided under the Second Amendment.

The extent to which the right to carry guns in areas outside of the home remains the subject of dispute where two cert petitions are currently being argued before the Supreme Court.  In Masciandaro v. United States of America, the petitioner was convicted for possessing a loaded gun in the trunk of his car while in a national park area.  In applying the intermediate scrutiny standard, lower courts found that a regulation prohibiting the carrying or possessing of a loaded handgun in a motor vehicle did not violate an individual’s Second Amendment right as there was a substantial government interest in providing a safe environment for persons who visit and make use of the national parks.  In his appeal before the Supreme Court, Masciandaro argues that the Second Amendment right to possess a gun within one’s home should be extended to allow the possession of guns while traveling on public highways.

Similarly, in Williams v. State of Maryland, another case currently before the Supreme Court, purports that the Second Amendment provides for the right of an individual to carry a gun in his backpack while traveling to his house.  Williams was arrested after an officer observed him rifling through his backpack near a wooded area and then hiding his gun in the bushes.  The Court of Appeals of Maryland upheld his conviction on the grounds that Williams lacked standing to challenge the statute and handgun regulations as a violation of the Second Amendment since he failed to file an application to obtain a permit to carry a firearm, even though he attempted to argue that restrictiveness of the state law to obtain a gun permit was the reason he was unable to obtain one.  Nevertheless, it was found that Maryland’s statute prohibiting the wearing, carrying, or transporting a handgun, without a permit and outside of one’s home fell outside the scope of the protections afforded under the Second Amendment.

The Constitution provides for the very framework in which our nation is founded.  It provides the groundwork for the rights that we enjoy today and is the catalyst which has shaped our nation.  Yet, the rights entailed in the Constitution have not been deemed to be an absolute right.  Whether the Supreme Court will recognize and extend Second Amendment rights to protect the right to carry firearms outside of one’s home remains to be seen.

By Theodore Y. Choi, Esquire and published in Upon Further Review on September 13, 2011.

Expand Your Business, Increase Your Income!

This article is part of my posts on the economic system of distributism.  This is from practicaldistributism.blogspot.com which you can find here:


A slogan such as the title of this article seems simply common sense to probably most Americans. If sales are up, then certainly expanding your business is the natural thing to do, or at least to think of doing. If you own one restaurant and it is doing well, consider opening a second – and a third, and a fourth. Except that this logic is totally contrary to real common sense, to the purpose of economic activity, and to our hopes for eternal life.

Contrary to common sense? To the purpose of economic activity? How so? Because the reason why the human race engages in economic activity is to satisfy our need for external goods and services. It is contrary to reason to make the acquisition of such goods and services ends in themselves. So if someone is providing sufficiently for himself and his family with his present business, if he is able to satisfy his own and his family’s need for external goods, what need does he have to expand that business and try to increase his income? Why would he even wish to do so? Has he never reflected on what is the purpose of income and wealth? That they are merely so that we can obtain the goods and services we need for life on this earth? And that if we have enough of them, it is irrational to want more.

But can we say that this is even contrary to our hope for attaining eternal life? How? Holy Scripture is full of instruction and warnings about earthly goods and riches. For example,

…if we have food and clothing, with these we shall be content. But those who desire to be rich fall in temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction. For the love of money is the root of all evils; it is through this craving that some have wandered away from the faith and pierced their hearts with many pangs. (I Tim. 6:8-10)

St. Paul is here connecting a desire to become rich with a “love of money” that he terms “the root of all evils.” The desire to become rich, that is, to have more earthly goods than one reasonably needs, indicates a disordered attitude toward one’s possessions. But it does more than that. It places the person who desires to become rich into a near occasion of sin. For it is the rare rich person who does not succumb to an inordinate attachment to his riches, and to an even more inordinate attachment to acquiring more and more of them. It is true that someone born into riches, through no fault of his own, may licitly retain that wealth – provided he remembers his duties of justice and charity toward the other members of the human race, which Pope Leo XIII expressed in Rerum Novarum in the following words:

Therefore, those whom fortune favors are warned that freedom from sorrow and abundance of earthly riches, are no guarantee of that beatitude that shall never end, but rather of the contrary; that the rich should tremble at the threatenings of Jesus Christ – threatenings so strange in the mouth of our Lord; and that a most strict account must be given to the Supreme Judge for all that we possess. (no. 22)

But those who are not rich, yet who are sufficiently providing for themselves and their families, they are those whom St. Paul warns, “who desire to be rich” and therefore “fall in temptation, into a snare, into many senseless and hurtful desires that plunge men into ruin and destruction.” If Catholics are serious about their faith, if we really believe that we will be judged after our death and our eternal destiny will be heaven or hell – then who could in good conscience seek to acquire more than is reasonably necessary in this life? Why would anyone risk eternal damnation not merely for transient earthly goods, but for transient earthly goods which are not even needed?

I am not of course denying the uncertainties of this life, of the need for reasonable savings or the high cost of such things as our children’s education. But at some point we surely can say, enough. Beyond that point there is no rational reason for increasing our income. Beyond that point riches are nothing more than a temptation and a snare.

Only if we recover the traditional Catholic understanding that the goods of this life have purposes, and thus are limited by those purposes, only then can we begin to live rightly. In fact, we can hardly understand what the Church teaches and why unless we come to see that the things of this life exist in a hierarchy, that economic activity and the acquisition of wealth do not stand alone but are subordinate to the overall ends of life. If we can do that, then, as Pius XI wrote in Quadragesimo Anno:

If [the moral law] be faithfully obeyed, the result will be that particular economic aims, whether of society as a body or of individuals, will be intimately linked with the universal teleological order, and as a consequence we shall be led by progressive stages to the final end of all, God Himself, our highest and lasting good. (no. 43)

You can learn more about this issue here.

Templeton Project: Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics X–“Fear not, do not be afraid”

Back in October 2015 I wrote about the inauguration of the Abington Templeton Foundation (see here).  The project is now underway (see here) and I will be posting our writing here.

Check out the latest piece entitled “Discipleship in Matthew and Apologetics X–“Fear not, do not be afraid”.”

See also:


In Matthew 14 Jesus comes to the disciples, walking on the sea.  They were terrified when they saw Him, thinking that He was a ghost.  Jesus responds to their fear by saying, “Take heart; it is I. Do not be afraid..” (Matthew 14: 27b ESV)  In this article we will consider the use of the word, fear/afraid, in the Bible.

The basic question for each believer is, shall we fear the things of the world or God or neither?  The word fear is used many times in its substantive and verbal forms in the Gospel of Matthew.  In Matthew 1: 20 the angel comes to Joseph and says to him, “Joseph, son of David, do not fear to take Mary as your wife, for that which is conceived in her is from the Holy Spirit.  She will bear a son, and you shall call his name Jesus, for he will save his people from their sins.” (Matthew 1: 20b ESV)  Joseph was going to end marriage plans because of Mary’s pregnancy, for he did not want to put her to public shame. In a dream an angel told him not to fear taking Mary as his wife.  He is also told that Mary is a virgin, the theotokos, the Christ bearer, that will save the people from their sins.  Joseph feared the public repercussions of this apparent “illegitimate pregnancy,” for  “being a just man and unwilling to put her to shame, resolved to divorce her quietly.” (Matthew 1: 19b ESV)  When he was instructed to return to Israel from Egypt, Joseph was afraid to go to Judea, but went to Galilee instead, because Archelaus was ruling in Judea in place of his deceased father, Herod. He must have thought that Archelaus was dangerous to the child as Herod was. Again circumstances caused fear in Joseph.

Jesus counsels the disciples not to fear those who would persecute them.  He instructs them not to be afraid of those who can kill the body but not the soul, but fear those who can kill both body and soul in hell.  (Matthew 10: 26ff)  If God cares for the sparrow, will He not much more care for us who are “of more value than many sparrows?”  (Matthew 10: 31 ESV)  We should not be reluctant to acknowledge Christ, even when danger draws close  (Matthew 10: 32).  Our witness and defense should not be weakened or non-existent because of the hostility of others.  This is a good reminder as we keep in mind our American culture whose opposition to Christianity increases.  Though far from there yet, our culture is moving in a direction that looks more and more like the situation for Christians in the early centuries of the church, that is, the threat and reality of persecution.  The word for fear/afraid indicates a trepidation that comes from the dangers we experience in life, mostly from other human beings, or fears about the future.  Disciples of Christ are most especially susceptible to danger.

The word fear also refers to human reactions to encounters with God.  In the prophet Isaiah, the word fear is used by God when he speaks to human beings.  “Fear not, nor be afraid; have I not told you from of old and declared it? And you are my witnesses! Is there a God besides me? There is no Rock; I know not any.”  (Isaiah 44: 8 ESV) Isaiah had the personal experience of encounter with God in the Temple in Jerusalem. His reaction was, “Woe is me! For I am lost; for I am a man of unclean lips, and I dwell in the midst of a people of unclean lips, for my eyes have seen the King, the Lord of hosts!” (Isaiah 6: 5 ESV)  At the burning bush Moses had an encounter with God.  The Lord said to Him, “‘I am the God of your father, the God of Abraham, the God of Isaac, and the God of Jacob.’ And Moses hid his face, for he was afraid to look at God.” (Exodus 3: 6 ESV)  Another example is found in Matthew at the resurrection, where the angel tells the women, “Do not be afraid, for I know that you seek Jesus who was crucified.” (Matthew 28: 5 b) In encounters with the divine, we are told not to fear. In Luke’s story of the Nativity of Christ, the messenger angel says in his announcements, “Do not be afraid.” To Zechariah, the father of John the Baptist, “And there appeared to him an angel of the Lord standing at the right side of the altar of incense.  And Zechariah was troubled when he saw him, and fear fell upon him.  But the angel said to him, ‘Do not be afraid, Zechariah, for you prayer has been heard, and your wife Elizabeth will bear you a son, and you shall call his name John. (Luke 1: 13 ESV)  and to Mary, “Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God.” (Luke 1: 30 ESV)  And to the shepherds, “And the angel of the Lord appeared to them, and the glory of the Lord shone around them, and they were filled with fear.  And the angel said to them, ‘Fear not, for behold, I bring you good news of great joy that will be for all the people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Savior, who is Christ the Lord.’” (Luke 2: 9-11 ESV)

In the Scriptures the word, fear, is equivocal, that is ambiguous, having more than one meaning.  Equivocal is the opposite of univocal, or unambiguous, having only one meaning.  Fear is a reaction to immediate danger.  In Psalm 55: 4-7, the composer writes: “My heart is in anguish within me; the terrors of death have fallen upon me. Fear and trembling come upon me, and horror overwhelms me.  And I say, ‘Oh, that I had wings like a dove!  I would fly away and be at rest; yes, I would wander far away; I would lodge in the wilderness; I would hurry to find a shelter from raging wind and tempest.” (ESV)  The Psalmist describes the reason for his fear.  “The cords of death encompassed me; the torrents of destruction assailed me; the cords of Sheol entangled me; the snares of death confronted me.” (Psalm 18: 4-5 ESV)  Of all things, the prospect of death is feared the most.  We are not to fear dangers or the divine presence, yet the Scriptures also call us to the fear of God.  “You who fear the Lord, praise him!” (Psalm 22: 23 ESV)  “You who fear the Lord, trust in the Lord! He is their help and their shield.” (Psalm 115: 11 ESV) Fear has to do with respect for the Lord.  “The fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge; fools despise wisdom and instruction.”  (Proverbs 1: 7 ESV)  Fear may come in an encounter with the Lord in HIs otherness and holiness.  He would call us to put aside our fears and listen to Him.  Fear is also a response to danger and threat.  And, finally, fear describes a respect for the Lord.  Context reveals the particular meaning.

We are to fear the Lord and have no other fears, something difficult to accomplish.  We are to reverence HIm, listen to Him, and do His will, for He is the holy God that created and redeemed us.  In our witness and defense of the faith we are to worship and serve Him above all other things including the gods of this world. We are to fear Him and nothing else.  Such is the foundation of the work disciples are called to do in the world.

Michael G. Tavella

Day of Thanksgiving 2019

Joe Arcieri Songs: Between Two Worlds

Joe Arcieri is a friend of mine who I worked with for many years during my ten years working for Acme Markets.  Joe, when not stocking milk or saving lives as a nurse, is an excellent guitar player.  I have had the privilege, from time to time, of (badly) plunking my bass guitar with Joe as he melts a face or two with a great solo.

As great musicians do, Joe has written some of his own songs and keeps a soundcloud site to post them.  When I have opportunity, I will post his music here as well.

Here is his composition called “Between Two Worlds” which you can find here.

Here are the links to the previously posted songs by Joe:

Deaths caused by drivers running red lights at 10-year high

I have been writing in opposition to traffic cameras for a few years now (you can find all of my articles and posts on traffic cameras here).  They are consistently controversial and violative of basic rights as described in the article below.


The number of people killed by vehicles blowing through red lights is 28 percent higher than in 2012, AAA said.
DETROIT — The number of people killed by drivers running red lights has hit a 10-year high, and AAA is urging drivers and pedestrians to use caution at traffic signals.

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