Pascal, I’ll Wager You’re Right!

I know most people have given some thought to the afterlife, perhaps they have been influenced by popular media, movies, books, or relatives.  They may have been given imagery of clouds and angels floating in the atmosphere as young children, and they have never let go of this “angelic” image of a heavenly existence.  My wife, is often very intrigued about the stories of those who have claimed to visit the other side of existence, and with words unable to describe the beauty they saw, show us all by the abrupt change and acceptance of God in their lives.  Unfortunately for the western world and the predominance of Judeo/Christian beliefs, a swell of non-belief seems to have begun.  Largely the ranks of unbelief range with a spectrum of complete apathy and nonacceptance, to the disillusioned who have personal demons to wrangle with and assume the responsibility on their own (at least this is what they tell themselves).  However, the whole topic, as a perfunctory pursuit of faith has always grabbed my attention.  Those in life, who are so sure there is no existence past the one we know now, and are willing to bet the farm to prove it.  From talk-show hosts, to movie stars, to the guy in the office next to you, we see more and more people embracing nothing as faith and the degradation of morals in their wakes.  Relativism is on the rise, people can do what they please as long as it isn’t hurtful (in the legal sense) and at the same time, judgement is only reserved when we, as the all-knowing judges, permit a subjective reality to measure each situation hiding behind an austere façade of objectivity.  If I were a betting man, this would be the equivalent of walking up to a table of hardened poker players, betting the house, and expecting to win on the first bet.  Life just doesn’t happen like this.  Expectations of no work, no planning, and no struggle are what you expect to hear from youth with little to no experience in this world, and not from intelligent and compassionate individuals.  So, Blaise Pascal, in the early 17th century proposed the structure of what would be called “Pascal’s Wager”, representing two choices.  The first choice is to believe the existence of life ends when we die, no more, nothingness abounding.  The second, is a belief in God and eternal life based on our faith and struggles within the context of our faith.  The wager is presented as, even if you don’t believe, wouldn’t it be far better to try and believe on the off chance there really is a God, and this God has given you free will.  In other words, isn’t it better to hedge your bets on the belief of a God, rather than bet everything you have on nothing?

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This is truly a wager of biblical proportions, it carries with it the most venial of human thoughts when trying to figure out a problem, but is presented with a coldness only an atheist could embrace.  So, where do you go from here?  Can anyone be so sure there is nothing, to take the wager and bet on nothing?

Over the years, after many discussions with my wife, and her help to expose the holes in my general thought processes, and we’ve wondered what it actually takes to convince a person there is nothing, not to be confused with an agnostic but a true atheist?  This is to say, what happens in the intellectual growth of a person, personal events of their life, or the perceptions they form from all the above to lean on the side of the argument with the least amount of proof.  To be fair, there isn’t one conclusive argument from a modern standpoint which indicates the existence, and all I mean is, there wasn’t an event where the heavens opened up, God leaned down and uttered, “Well, now you know”.  However, this isn’t to say there isn’t any evidence whatsoever either.  So briefly, I wanted to take a look at those events which might push someone away from Christ’s light, and then what may be the most reflective sources to show us the true path of faith.

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To begin, people fall away from faith every day, for one reason or another, but what seems to be the most insipid reason tends to be a personal desire for self rather than other.  Perhaps the desire to do what we want to do, but then we become turned off because men or women who don’t know anything about our lives insist on telling us what to do.  This oligarchy of moralistic teaching teeters on the fact, we were not consulted before the decision was determined.  Which seems to lift up the selfish indignation we feel, and moral high-ground we assume to possess without ever realizing the moral struggle it takes to know the high-ground is nothing we want to be on.  Some people are just plain bored with what it takes to know God, the silence it requires of us, and in a culture so bent on the need for entertainment at every second, silence is the last distraction we want to deal with.  Then there is the problem with pain and suffering, the only seemingly good argument from the surface, an atheist has. However, placed into a proper context, becomes a straw man argument, based in a logical fallacy.  Whatever the reason someone fails to believe in the unending love of God, for them the reason is non-negotiable, and in order to thwart this self-determined knowledge, the wager presents a scenario where even the most hardened of critics would have a hard time disavowing.

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Unfortunately, people are disavowing God in greater numbers than we’ve ever seen.  These were some of the reasons which plagued my own journey of faith, these reasons presented a challenge which I wrote of as passe but in my own brand of apathy I embraced.  I never really gave much thought or time to the mediocrity I existed in, I only was just living and living for myself primarily.  When we see those around us embracing an existence without God, aren’t we willing to do just about anything in a hope they will see the joy we see?  This is how I feel a lot of the time, I want to present the truth as I know it, but I constantly run in to people who never see what I’m explaining the way I see it.  They are firmly rooted in non-belief, and like I pointed out before, many stick to the problem of pain and suffering.  So, let’s address this.  Why does pain exist?  In Aquinas, Summa Theologica, he presents the argument from the objection first; if something is infinitely good, then it cannot be bad, and since there is evil (bad) on Earth, then this is the proof God doesn’t exist.  On its surface, this seems like a well thought out theological point of view, but if we examine the result of this objection against a back drop of free will, we find it carries no merit whatsoever.  A benevolent God, who is love, meaning God can be nothing but love, creates in us the ability for love but at the same time knows there will be those who choose the opposite and in order to acquiesce on his gift of free will, he allows us to act accordingly.  God doesn’t just love me, or you, but God loves all, and in order to give the free will, he must allow the narrative to play out as it will.  This may seem unusually harsh, the knowledge God has the ability to stop pain, but doesn’t, creates a sense of resentment for many.  However, this plays to the knowledge, we neither know the narrative nor are we privy to the conclusion, but we must accept our role in the story and embrace the author who lovingly created us as a character in this life.  The ability to endure pain, creates in us the knowledge of God’s existence, as a matter of truth, God’s truth in our lives is presented in such a way, a greater good might come from the pain or suffering developed from the sin of another.

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Years ago, I attended a funeral for a young woman, who passed away from cancer.  The church was filled with relatives, schoolmates, community members, and clergy.  There wasn’t a dry eye in the house, this was a young woman who truly touched the lives of the people she was around, based on all the words spoken about her, she was the brightest reflection of light possible.  She loved God, and to us, it seemed as if God was taking her life away from her. For what reason?  Why did she have to go, and not some deranged killer terrorizing children?  The answer came in the words spoken by the priest as a reminder of who Christ was and who she was to him.  The priest, a very well-spoken man, who always seems to have the right words at the right time said, “Her journey in this life is over, she rejoices in the presence of God”.  These words struck me like a thunderbolt and mixed with the words of my wife, “each one of us has our own cross to bear”.  Take a minute and think about this.  For anyone who doesn’t believe in God, this might sound like the hopes of a deluded man, but for those with true faith, usually a not and a grunt of acceptance follows.  Like when talking to anyone with life experience to anyone with little or none, a truth is revealed and all we know to do is nod.  We accept it, we acknowledge its place in our existence, and by our nod and grunt, and we accept what we need to do in order to meet this head on.  Ok, so where does Pascal’s Wager come into play?  Right here, at this point this is where I would usually lose those sitting on the proverbial fence, their amusement in what I’m saying vanishing and their interest slowly going back to what they know (or rather don’t know) as a matter of course.  The wager is presented to bring them back and show them an inescapable truth, although be it, a truth with choice.

The choice is as stated before, you can believe in nothing and you might be right, but wouldn’t it be better to believe in something and be wrong, because what have you lost by belief.  An all or nothing scenario presented, and if we choose nothing, and there is something we lost it all.  However, if choose God, and it turned out there was nothing, we would never know.  I will admit, I don’t really like the coldness of this approach, even if it is true to one extent or another.  The fact of the matter is, God isn’t a bargaining chip, and a life lived without faith is a life which never experienced true joy.

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This is where we seem to be at in relation to where God expects us to be, which is to say, we are below the level of a simpleton to the knowledge of God, and our intellectual postulates of final determination are more musings and rudimentary modes of thought much like a dog trying to figure out how the food comes out of the hole in a dispenser.  This isn’t to say we are dogs, but from the relativistic point of view in thought, we are similar in distance from intellectual capabilities.  So, it seems due to this understanding, God expects this from us, and in doing so, all which is needed, is the spirit and willingness to look towards the light.  Pascal’s Wager seems to be an attempt to do just this.

As to the relevance of thought which doesn’t exclude the wager, but emboldens the existence for what the wager proffers, are those events (miraculous in nature making them supernatural events) presented to us as evidence of God’s love.  Instead of waiting for a voice to come from Heaven (which if we heard, we may dismiss as some new technology), we need to step back and deduce what it is we’re seeing.  Since we have the ability to intuit what we see on a regular basis, is it out of a realm of possibility to determine a supernatural existence when there is no plausible explanation of the event, and an event which is determinedly an exposition of God’s love.  Those with true faith know when they read or see something of an extraordinary nature exactly what it is, but those with little or no faith excuse away the events as explainable, even if they can’t explain it.  The wager is present to bridge the gap in their own minds as a means of transportation to one day get to believe the supernatural explanation of the event, even if they don’t know how it happened.  For instance, when many people saw Christ die on the cross, their hopes for a messiah (a chosen one) were dashed, because of their fervor and the fervor of the Pharisees searching for them, they chose to hide.  However, their faith was rewarded, by Jesus’s presence among them for the next forty days.  His presence, emboldened them to truly embrace their faith, and their actions in this life emboldens our own faith, two-thousand years later.  Those who read, but don’t believe attempt to come up with simple explanations to the existence of our very nature.  Seems a little lopsided to me, but at the same rate, they usually won’t be swayed, so presenting a truth to them in the very paradigm of their own existence as though it were a mirror allowing them to see a glimpse of what’s behind them, allows for an ignition of what may be the beginnings of a true faith.  God doesn’t need us to know immediately, God just needs our desire to know and He’ll do the rest.

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With all the events over time which have occurred, but with the amount of time between events, it’s easy to see sometimes how people can become so removed from God’s light.  However, much like Pascal’s Wager, we see those timeless examples of rational thought on what might be considered the irrational or at the very least super-rational as a means of grip rather than explanation.  It’s very easy for us to exclaim a person isn’t listening when they don’t believe what it is we have to say, or they don’t buy what we’re giving them as it relates to Christ’s Divinity.  This isn’t a bad thing necessarily, they were probably raised different, with a different upbringing, different influences, different politics, and because of their differences to your own, have a common ground is unlikely to happen.  However, if there is foothold for them to climb up the mountain of faith, then they have a real chance to begin their push towards God’s love, and this push is really all it ever takes, because faith isn’t always an accent up the vertical face of a mountain, sometimes it’s the landslide from the mountain which gains speed and momentum the further along it goes.

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Pascal’s Wager is a simple way to combat a paradigm of thought in faith.  Those who say, “I can never believe in something so ridiculous” are attempting to explain the unexplainable, but leaving the theory of choice at their feet will begin to chip away at their façade of arrogance, hopefully it will give them enough time to allow God’s joy to enter their hearts.  The world is of God, so too should the people.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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The Lord is My Shepherd; There is Nothing I Shall Want!

Over the years, I’ve been to several funerals, and one unmistakable characteristic of a funeral is the somber recitation of the 23rd Psalm.  Usually the rendition is spoken with a contextual fervor, where the person reading seems to visualize their loved one entering a valley of shadows and fear of death, but in some way surrounded by the protection of God.  I would imagine most the people listening also picture their own perceived journey and the courage needed to face death.  For me, I do picture a valley of sorts, in the dark of night, surrounded by evil or a perceptible shadow of evil on all sides.  The imaginings I have of this lonely and terrible place, are usually replaced of what I think God must be to me.  Of course, this is more of a haze than a clear representation of a person, it usually winds up being a focus of anything but a face.  However, as we walk the pathway, those things which were once dark, have become illuminated, and what I now see aren’t shadows, but beauty.  Those things which I once perceived as an awful exterior of pain and degradation have been shown to me their intrinsic wonder which all at once leads me to realize, I’m seeing things as God sees things.  The “Valley of the Shadow of Death” is a real place, believe it or not, which can be found on a road from Jerusalem to Jericho.  Once a place of peril, especially for shepherds in David’s time, danger lurked with the animals who preyed on other animals (e.g. lions, cheetahs, and bears), and outlaws posed a threat to those who would shepherd their flocks.  David wrote about this place, because of personal knowledge, and because of his relationship with God.

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Isn’t this what our lives are supposed to be about, the one true relationship with our creator?  In our culture today, we are bombarded with the popular notion of the antiquated ideas of religion mixed with the embrace of science for all important answers.  As Bishop Barron, once pointed out, science is something which should be embraced by all, but it doesn’t have the answer to everything, for instance science can’t explain why something is beautiful (To Light a Fire, Barron).  Science isn’t meant to help determine why we’re here, but instead, how we are here.  Science can’t determine purpose for life, it can’t decipher a meaning from this purpose, it won’t allow for supernatural determinants to be explored except through hypothetical determined to undermine faith, and above all we need philosophy mixed with science to truly come close to the love God wants for all of us.

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Why do we need science?  Well, I don’t know about everyone else, but with science we can see the depths with which, God has reached in creation of this universe.  There is an order, within the perceived chaos, and this order is the rule by which science or nature is governed.  Because of this order, theories can be postulated and expounded upon.  The theory of relativity by Einstein, although a proven theory, is just what it says, a theory.  The Big Bang Theory of the cosmos, discovered by a Catholic priest, Georges Lemaitre, is indicative of our capability in knowing what dependencies we relied upon for our existence.  We can calculate the measurable expansion of the universe because of what we know from theories like Lemaitre’s.  Of course, I’m not a cosmologist or physicist, but what I know about what we are capable of knowing is, God gave us intelligence, and he so ordered nature to allow us to see his creation and marvel at its simplicity and yet be perplexed at the complexity of what seems so simple.  This is God’s gift to each of us, to look up at a tree swaying by an invisible wind, and as we watch the leaves move back and forth, we can know within the tiniest of cells exists God’s very touch.  Within the movement of the wind or the puling of the tides, we can see God in everything down to the tiniest of details.  These details provide for us, a road map of what our expectations should be in the Living God, know-ability, an ability, if we’re willing to look hard enough and silence our hearts to know what God has done for each of us.

Today, people want the answers presented to them, and work, even decades of research and diligent efforts to find truth are usually too much for the average person to comprehend because of an unwillingness to work hard for answers relevant only to ourselves.  This isn’t to say people aren’t willing to work hard, but when there is no certainty of a completion for what we sought, we are inclined to hedge our bets and work on those things which will give us satisfaction through their answers, good or bad.  However, within the framework of science, if we take a step back, and we look through the lens of the tool, designed to give us the answers we seek, we find the face of God staring directly at us.  Let your deductive reasoning take over and realize the longer we take to see what we’re looking at, the longer we must go without true joy in our lives.  I would ask anyone, what scientific discovery wasn’t found by a belief in the Almighty God, and what was gained by turning away from an explanation which can neither be proved nor disproved.  Faith alone can possibly save us, but works without faith are as empty as the space a scientist looks into for their search of truth.

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Truth isn’t about the final answer, which will solve our most troubling questions, instead, truth is about the journey to love one must take and how their journey was used to express this love to others.  A truth in life is, life isn’t fair, life has a way of stepping on us, especially when we’re already down.  The truth, however, is much more beautiful; as we seek truth, we find people in their own struggles as well as our own, and when we can will their good above our own, we can find the truth in life very easily.  I would venture to say, most people don’t feel rotten when they help another person, and why is this?  For faith in God shows us, the reason we feel wonderful, while helping another, is because we allowed the truth of love to enter our lives, and there is no more powerful expression we can give.  The truth is, as we give love, we receive love, and as we put people before us, God acknowledges this by the imprint of his likeness in each and every one of our hearts.  The journey for truth, is the only requirement which will bring us the answers we need.  The prisoner who sits in a cell and relinquishes all control to God, and the time it takes to do this, has started a journey of truth, a journey of redemption through repentance of self.  The truth is, this prisoner will be redeemed, but not simply because they asked to be redeemed, but because they had to walk the path presented to them, the path lit by God alone, and a path which was tailor-made for the redemption of their souls.  In this path, in this valley of darkness, they have two choices, the first to embrace the truth of God and trust, or to choose themselves and attempt to thwart every evil which comes their way or accept the sin and embrace what is the antithesis of Christ’s light.

After we look through the microscope of science, we must be able to appeal to the part of ourselves which processes what we know with what we don’t know.  So, how do we process what we see and hear and learn, with what God intends for us?  Simple, the philosophical implications of life, are there to think out what we know, what we don’t know, and how these fit into our recognition of truth.  In other words, the truth is knowable, and what it requires of us is the desire to know God, to know this truth as He has lovingly laid before us.  I always tell my children, if it seems hard, then the truth is, it is the right path.   The acknowledgement of God, and the deduction of what we learn, leads to the interpretation of life as purposeful to the extent we are required for the overall narrative.  Since there is no way to know what God’s narrative is for each of us or as a whole, we must rely on what we learn about our surroundings to form a purpose for our lives, the incongruence of life without God becomes abundantly apparent.  Look at those who keep trying to live a life without God, what you recognize is an emptiness in action, perception, and goals.  The actions are self-motivating and self-adulating, perception of these actions amounts to the need to work harder or not care when goals become unattainable, and above all else, the emptiness of the void left when God is not exalted becomes painfully apparent.

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We can deduce, what it is we need in life, by looking around and reading our environment, but this can become a problem, when we fail to read the environment properly because we desire to affect our goals before anything else.  We walk the valley of darkness, and fail to recognize, that although we can fight off somethings ourselves, we don’t have the ability to fight off everything, but with the creator of all things, it becomes less a matter of fighting, and more a matter of understanding.  This is what my interpretation of the 23rd Psalm is trying to attain for us.  Which is to say, we all must walk our own valleys of darkness, and we all must overcome the fear of life as we walk these valleys.  It isn’t enough to be cautious or weary of danger, because even with our cognizance at its highest alert, we still won’t see everything, which is up to God to grant us the grace of vision, the vision of all which is unknowable, invisible, and incomprehensible.

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Do you walk a valley of the shadow of death?  Are you fearful of life and those who might cause it to be shortened by their actions?  Are there those points in time, where you fail to admit God’s presence in your life, and in doing so, you recognize the emptiness you feel?  This valley you walk, everyone walks it, everyone is fearful of what they don’t know.  When I reached a milestone birthday, and took stock of my life up and to that point, and I wasn’t too pleased.  I was acknowledging my relevant mortality, but also my fear of death.  My fear of the unknown, past this life, was paralyzing.  I began to ponder a life after this one, and whether or not it truly existed, and if it did, what must I do to be a part of this life.  The truth was, God wasn’t my focus, and until God became central to my life, until I acknowledged the divinity of Jesus himself, I could never truly feel balanced and full of joy.  This was what was missing, fear took over parts of my life, because I never put God first.  I was absent of joy, because I wanted fear to consume me, although I didn’t know this is what I was doing.  I thought my life was going good, and I was fine with how things were, but every now and again, I would feel a twinge of emptiness so consuming, it risked to upset everything I believed in my life to this point.  No matter what anyone says, no matter how much they try to believe what they say, their lives are empty without the love of God to fill the spaces and make whole what is broken.

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As you traverse the pitfalls of life, and as you get older, you will find less comfort in life choices which have no purpose, you will find less happiness in actions without a Godly purpose, and you will remain unhappy until joy enters your life.  Like a plant which needs the sunlight to thrive, if you place it into a dark room, it will continue to wilt and fade until it either dies or is brought back to the light.  We are all the plant in need of the light of Christ, we must have this light, and otherwise we make human attempts to find joy on in an ethereal fulfillment.  Our valley of darkness will eventually become out tomb, and this tomb carries with it and eternal consequence of a void without the love of God.  As we walk this earth, we don’t see God as a person who walks with us, but rather if we step back we are with God in everything we see and do.  We are surrounded by the works of God constantly, we are surrounded by the acts of God constantly, and our acknowledgement of these opens the door to joy.

So, when we walk a valley of darkness, what do we need?  In other words, when we traverse this life, what do we need to follow in order to find the path and protect us from those enemies, either seen or unseen?  We simply need the shepherd, who will find us, protect us, and lead us down the path to an assuredly eternal goal.  The goal of eternity is most rightly where we need, but more importantly where we want to be.  We must all remember, our lives are in the middle of the narrative, which God has written, and our patience is needed to fully understand what written.  As humans we seem to embrace arrogance, and shun wisdom as par for the course, without realizing the patience we find as a virtue isn’t just about dealing with those whom we are aggravated by, but more importantly our patience is a matter to view and watch God’s plan unfold in our own lives.

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If we can learn to take a step back, and watch as things unfold in our lives, we will find love in every step of the way, it is sometimes masked in anger, but nevertheless, love’s tool is understanding.  This understanding is compassion, and the ability to look through one’s eyes with a lens of compassion is scratching the surface of the essence of what it is God wishes, hopes, and desires for our lives.  When we love those people who surround us, good and bad, we begin to feel the depth of God’s love for us.  Although unable to fully know this love, until we are joined with God, we can create a semblance of movement in this direction.  When we do this, it is as if the shepherd is calling our names, and all we need to do is go to his voice, where we will find care and protection.

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I look back on my own troubled times and of my own selfish decisions, I reflect on those actions which hurt the people I loved the most, and always lower my head in how my arrogance almost ruined my family.  God’s love for me, was like the shepherd wandering the wilderness to find me specifically, God’s care for my soul and for the souls of my family became abundantly apparent.  God beckoned me to come back to him, and when I made this choice, I had to traverse the scorched land which I burned through my egotistical actions.  All the while, fixing what I broke, it was painful for me, but the pain is what I needed to heal.  I won’t say I’m perfect by any stretch of my imagination, I still have a lot of ground to cover before the day I can embrace Jesus.  However, what I will say is this, my life has become so much the richer for wanting God’s love in my life.  My joy abounds in everything I do, even when I choose to become upset, I can see my fault and although sometimes I don’t want to give up my anger, my love for the person and for God, almost wills that I let my anger go.  If you are at the point in your wilderness or you know someone who is, where the voice of God seems distant or non-existent, I challenge you to be silent, really listen to God’s voice.  Cardinal Sarah remarked, God’s voice is to be found in the silence of our hearts.  When we can be silent, even though we wander in the wilderness, God’s voice will come through softly at first, but then as a trumpet when we know what we are listening for.  I pray that God will bless you and your family, he will deliver you from the wilderness, or those whom you love from their self-imposed exile.  God’s blessings send us forth!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Saints With a Past, Sinners With a Future

I am a lover of history, the events which shaped the world we live in today.  From this history, I’ve learned the world we live in is shaped by events which are ugly, constrained by perspective, self-serving, monumental, courageous, corrupt, ground-breaking, and beautiful.  Often times the perspective of the author writing the books is based in the times they lived.  For example, stories written hundreds or even a thousand years ago are less worried about exact times and dates, and the stories are more focused on point and context. Though in the last few hundred years, we see the context become more regimented and facts with time become more relevant.  Once constant we do see time and again, are those who the history is written about, those characters, sometimes larger than life, attempting and sometimes succeeding in achieving an immortality of a uniquely historical framework.  This is especially relevant for those people, who brought about change, either good or bad, and the world forever moved away from the paradigms of the past.  Undoubtedly, the most significant and influential person who ever lived, was the Divine Christ.  Some will argue the validity of his divinity, some will argue his purpose, others will argue his relevance, and perhaps the most baseless of all arguments is his existence.  For purposes of this, I’m really speaking to the veracity of historical figures and their place in our lives from an influential standpoint.  Where would we be without Jesus Christ, as a nation, as a society, as a people seeking common moral and objective paths for ourselves and the generations to come?  The truth is, history is littered with those who have a past, but history is also replete with the beauty of those who found faith and became the brightest reflections of God’s light possible.

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Every year on November 1st, the Catholic Church celebrates the Feast of All Saints, a holy day of obligation, and a celebration of those who once walked with us, and through God’s Graces, their acknowledgement of their past and sins, and their unwavering desire to love God, they became saints.  I always tell people if you have a doubt about those who became saints, read their biographies and I promise, even if you still don’t believe, you will be moved.  Isn’t this what God wants from each and every one of us, the ability to compassionately look into the life of another, and see the beauty they possess as a unique creation of God’s Love?  St. Augustine, wrote and Oscar Wilde made more widely known, “The only difference between a saint and a sinner is that every saint has a past, and every sinner has a future.” A simple and unique perception of who we are as people and where we desire to be.  When Christ walked among us, he preached, performed miracles, exposed his divinity, and showed us hope.  This hope is fire which burns in all of us, for the promise of a better day, a sublime forgiveness for the mistakes we’ve made, and the redemption we all seek as imperfect human beings.

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I actually love this phrase because is sums up everything about us as humans, in such few words.  I’ve had conversations with people in the past about where they wanted to be when their earthly life was over, and most people give some sort of vague answer, as if little or no thought has ever been placed on a question like this at all.  In most cases, the conversation ended, and I was given the distinct impression of their unwillingness, at least for the time being, to put any more thought into such and cavernous question, to move forward with thoughts and actions on this topic.  Although, I wasn’t worried, I’ve always asked the question, why?  Why don’t people want to handle those hard questions first and settle the path for their lives?  Why don’t people want to really start living, and stop with all the material foolishness which seems to inundate our lives with a daily barrage of everything we don’t truly need?  The hardest lives to live are ones of holy contemplation, which is precisely why most people don’t do it, but if we look at the saints and the lives they led, this is exactly what they all did.  If we’re unwilling to commit to a life more focused on prayer, love, contemplation, and forgiveness, where do we realistically expect to be when we die?  Perhaps, this is why we fear the question, because when we acknowledge the paradigm, it becomes either do or do not with nothing in between.  Most people would prefer to live in the gray, unfortunately, the gray is filled with obfuscating world which embraces sin as a matter of course because a belief in self is more important than a faith in God.

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Bishop Robert Barron stated, “The only difference between us and saints are they acknowledge their sin”.  His statement is profound, because I think at points in time, we all recognize our sins.  However, the ability to do it every day, and the ability to acknowledge our shortcomings as something only to be overcome by the Grace of God, leads down a path to sainthood.  However, this path is one which from the vantage of the saint, is lonely at times and one which faces a temptation at every turn.  What is precious in the eyes of God, is most assuredly something Satan covets.  Though, for those of us looking up to see the path of the saint, we see remarkable circumstances mixed with extraordinary events.  St. Paul, lived a life where he asked three times of God, to remove the thorn of persecution, distress, and reproach.  It was these three attributes, among many more, which the Devil twisted into his side and made what seemed to everyone around him God’s blessings, but for him it was a future of toil and hardship.  Even as his future was a mountain of continual ascension and struggle for footholds, his past was something even worse.  His upbringing, was as a Pharisee, a group within the Jewish people who were influential in politics and the general ruling body for many Jews.  The Sanhedrin in Jerusalem was led by the Pharisee, Caiaphas, who was the High Priest for that year.  The group which made up the priests of the Pharisees was learned, well versed in the languages (i.e. Greek) and usually men of means comparatively to the average person of the day.  St. Paul, was raised in this life, he was incredible intelligent, and believe in God’s dominion over all of the Earth.  So, when a little know tekton from the hovel in Nazareth has died, and people everywhere seem to be abandoning Jewish teaching, like many, he rebels against this change.  He fervently seeks to destroy the Jesus uprising, and in doing so, he was either instrumental in the deaths of early Christians or at the very least was complicit.  His fervor to seek out and destroy the uprising was becoming his pathway to a life of ambition.  God did not see this for Saul who eventually became St. Paul.  Instead, a bright light knocked him from his horse, on his journey to Damascus to persecute more Christians, and a voice asked why Saul was persecuting him.  Saul, blinded by the light, exclaims he doesn’t know who he is speaking to, is answered with “I am Jesus, whom you are persecuting”.  From there, he went on to Damascus, still blind and in need of compassion from those around him.  He was sent to Ananias where he had hands laid upon him, and where scales fell from his eyes, allowing for him to regain his sight once more.

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In St. Paul’s story, we see a man, who lived a life he believed to be proper and in line with God’s will, but as his perspective changed, and as the truth was revealed to him, he quickly realized the error of his ways, and the need to embrace a future of God’s light.  His past was dreadful, and his future full of hope.  This becomes abundantly clear when he states what is now in 1 Cor 4:13

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“Love is patient, love is kind. It is not jealous, [love] is not pompous, it is not inflated, it is not rude, it does not seek its own interests, it is not quick-tempered, it does not brood over injury, it does not rejoice over wrongdoing but rejoices with the truth.  It bears all things, believes all things, hopes all things, endures all things.

Love never fails. If there are prophecies, they will be brought to nothing; if tongues, they will cease; if knowledge, it will be brought to nothing.  For we know partially and we prophesy partially, but when the perfect comes, the partial will pass away.  When I was a child, I used to talk as a child, think as a child, reason as a child; when I became a man, I put aside childish things. At present we see indistinctly, as in a mirror, but then face to face. At present I know partially; then I shall know fully, as I am fully known.  So faith, hope, love remain, these three, but the greatest of these is love.”

Paul, continued with this fervent belief in love for the rest of his life, where eventually we was put to death.  What St. Paul’s story tells us is, his past, as awful and degrading as it was, wasn’t beyond God, in fact God’s will allowed Paul to seek redemption and thus find it among those people seeking God.  His future was uncertain, but it was his, and his choices and his free will to find God in all things.

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We are a lot like St. Paul, in the sense, we are all not immune to the mistakes of the weak.  Our nature is bound to become a sinner, and is relegated to a weaknesses which creates in us a void always in search of God.  What we believe, and what this culture wants us to believe is, if we gain more things and work harder, we’ll be rewarded with those gifts we desire.  This is untrue, and dangerous to the redemption of our souls.  If we are to find joy in this life, we must be willing to embrace the sin which has prevented us from the joy of God’s Love.  Sin is the stain which permeates our souls and keeps ups from attaining the light.  Think of it like being in a room with no doors and no windows, what seems hopeless, is only the devil’s game, it’s only the lie which keeps us from trying.  What we don’t realize is the darkness is behind us if only we would turn around, if only we would lift our heads, and if only we would wipe the blindness from our eyes.  This is what St. Paul did for Christ, he wiped away those scales from his eyes, and what was interminable blindness, causing him to stumble, fall, and question hope, suddenly became clear.  I can only imagine the elation he felt from once again being able to focus on what was in front of him.  Once his eyes were opened, he spent the next three years in Damascus, and began to grow this faith, which he believed he always had, but truthfully, a faith which was only half developed, a faith where he was embracing the past, so his future had no chance.  God made him this mustard seed, and he grew and grew, all the while knowing at some point, he would lay down his life to fully embrace Christ.

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Those of us, still looking at the past, still embracing our proverbial pain, are given a choice.  We can either recognize, everyone has a past, varying and distinct in their own ways, or we can condemn not only our past but the past of the others around us.  Which one do you think will truly carry the light of joy in your life?  We constantly see shows on television, where the hosts tear down people, all for the purposes of creating profit for the goal of entertainment, but all the while failing to recognize the destruction of another is most assuredly not a pathway to growth and love.  If you sit alone at night and feel a twinge of self-consciousness or embarrassment, then good, learn you aren’t perfect, and embrace your imperfections.  It’s the only way, as a sinner, you will ever be able to embrace the future.

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As we begin a journey into another Advent and Christmas season, take the time to realize, your imperfections are what make you who you are.  Acknowledging this and seeking redemption for this is what puts you on the pathway to a life of love in God.  Failing to recognize the hurt you cause, the detriment to others, or the arrogance to unchanging stubbornness, doesn’t just create in you a situation of constant turmoil, but for those you care most about, you are teaching them self-reliance more than a reliance on God.  As creatures of our God and King, we were never meant to be lowly guilt-ridden beings always hunkering down out of shame and fear of the unknown.  Instead, God wants us to be saints, God wants us to embrace a life of non-stop love.  Loving our families, our friends, and our enemies.  God’s desire is for us to reach a humility aimed at knowing what we’ve done, and correcting it because there are those people who are still in the clutches of their past, and the only thing which will bring light to their darkness is the reflection of light you will bring into their lives with your presence.  Remember, God loves you beyond all measure, and your free will is his gift to you.  Choose his path, choose his ways, and above all else, look to a future with God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

http://wcucatholic.org/st-pauls-thorn-flesh/

Catholic Campus Ministry

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God First, You Second, Me Last!

When I was a kid, I always wanted to be the first in line.  I always knew the first person, was usually the one who got the best gifts, food, treats, and praises.  Our society has taught us, to win is everything, and to lose implies a deficiency of effort or character or both.  We’ve learned this so well, we approach physical sports and games as though they are tests of will and something to be lifted above all.  We send children to coaches to enhance a talent, hopefully to be utilized on a global stage culminating in Olympic dreams.  There are those, who spend untold sums of money to find the best coaches, the best facilities, and the best opportunities for their children to train.  All of these efforts are utilized to hedge the uncertain paradigm of failure.  The benefits of such a long journey to victory, take their toll on familial and personal relationships at times, and when all is said and done, and the athlete competes, there is no guarantee of a win.  The hope determinate is if enough effort and energies are placed onto a single goal, then with enough practice a champion can be hewn from the rough exterior of desire.  The question is, desire for whom?  Desire for the ten year old, who can neither envision nor properly conceptualize the rigorous training nor the fandom which may come from victory.  Perhaps it’s the desire for the parent, who loves their child, to realize with effort and hard work a better life can be attained.  As a parent, I try to direct my children down a path, which will hopefully enable my children an easier life, but at the very least a life with more opportunities than I had for myself.  However, at what cost are we willing to be first, and at what point does our recognition of the line to be first materialize into something contrary to what we thought?

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In Matthew’s Gospel (20: 1-16), we see a parable told about workers in a vineyard, arguing about daily wages and work commensurate of those wages.  What we find is the designation of the landowner to pay people as he chooses.  On the surface, we might all agree, someone being paid the same for doing less is tantamount to prejudicial set of standards.  The actual truth is they are paid more for doing less, and yet we are still relegated to the work we do for the pay we agreed upon.  However, if we dig a little deeper, we see, the unfairness is melted away, when the landowner clearly describes a paradigm of choice.  Which is to say, the landowner, because of his expense and time, is benefitting from the work completed on his crops.  However, he limits his benefits by reducing his margin when he pays exorbitant wages for very little work.  One would say, he gets a bargain the earlier he can make his workers begin their day.  Many employers today are like this, requiring of workers to come in as soon as possible, and restricting movement which isn’t designated to the profitability of their business.  For many western cultures, there are now laws to prevent the abuse of employers to the employee, these laws help to restrict the number of hours in a day, where an employer can force an employee to work.  There are protections against harassment, prejudice based on race or sexual orientation, and compensation for people willing to work longer under hourly pay compensations.  To be clear, it is better to work a manual labor job today, than it was two thousand years ago, but the same ambitions once realized in antiquity still exist now, being first means a win, and being last means destruction.  So, what was Matthew trying to explain to us, about the fairness of choice?

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In Matthew’s parable, we see the landowner explain to the disgruntled workers about their agreement of acceptance of pay.  They agreed to a daily wage and the promise was delivered on upon their complete of the work.   The last workers, who were summoned late in the day, and subsequently only worked an hour, were paid first.  As the foreman went down the line paying the workers, the ones who worked the longest expected more based on the pay which was given to the first.  The disagreement materialized when they realized their pay would be the same as those who by their estimation barely worked.  Whereby the parable is summed up with the phrase, “The last will be first and the first will be last”.  What this phrase tells all of us, is although we rightly perceive our environment, when applying who we are to anyone else, we run the risk of improperly assessing everything.  This is to say, when we worry about everyone else, and we find diminishment in their stature we risk duplicity as a measurable standard.

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Much of our culture these days does exactly this, we look at others and we determine they are unworthy of our will, they somehow have not met the standards we set for ourselves and subsequently they are diminished in our eyes.  This takes shape in our work, church, family, societal interactions, and in our politics.  We are very judgmental, but at the same time we want to be first, and this need to be first, adds to our need for judgement.  We measure how far in front of another we are, so we can maintain an air of superiority.  Our arrogance begins to lead us in directions which seek to maintain a win and grasp at all those things of non-importance to our lives.

As the Olympic hopefuls and their families grasp at a future where winning becomes a goal tangible enough to taste, they begin to risk a future unrelenting in its avoidance of failure.  As a culture, we can see every aspect of our society is touched by a need to win, and failure results in mighty falls by those we once forced on to the pedestal of adulation.  The most prominent figure in sports history, who fell from grace was Lance Armstrong.  A competitor who won the Tour De France seven times and all the while was creating an advantage for himself, realizing if ever caught, it would throw everything he worked for away.  Instead, his arrogance allowed him to cheat, it allowed him to put himself before the purity of why the competition occurred and in doing so, forever stained the perception of what he worked so hard for.  His career nose-dived when he admitted his sins of cheating, and he was subsequently dropped from all endorsements and was asked to step down from his company as chairman.  “Oh how the might have fallen” (2 Sam 1:27), true words indicating we all face this fate if we fail to recognize what’s actually important.

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In my life personally, I’ve been put in my place, embarrassed rightly for my actions, and forced to the end of the proverbial line to find the truth I seek.  My journey to find this truth, in all honesty, has been painful for me.  I was forced to see life in a very different way, than what I had originally expected; my life was nothing I ever planned for it to be.  This is not without a silver lining though.  My life is far better than I could have ever expected it to be.  I’ve learned so much about who I am, through many of those painful experiences, I’ve humbled myself or been humbled by the atrocious actions I selfishly arbitrated on others, and through my pain I realized when it began to subside I was somehow better.  Like the process to enhance steel’s strength, heating it up to a red hotness, and then cooling it down immediately in water, then we heat it up one more time, but in this instance we allow it to cool slowly.  The longer it takes the stronger the steel.  What this told me, was I was right where I needed to be.  I needed to stop making the race about me, I needed to begin to put those things in life and those people in my life first if I ever wanted to make a change and move closer to the love of God.  To temper my life through the rough times, I would need to be made strong, and the only way to do this is to humbly accept the will of God.

I once had an opportunity to listen to a priest speak about a bumper sticker he once saw, “God first, you second, me last”.  Who would have ever thought so much wisdom could be found in six words?  Placing ourselves last helps to ensure we will the good of the other as a matter of priority in life, we no longer are worried about whether we’ll get the best award, best gift, or priority place in the areas we exist in.  Instead, we have the opportunity to realize where are place actually is in life.  We can see things for what they are, a sense of understanding will wipe over us, and we can appreciate without anger or malice those who are different and still beloved in the eyes of God.  Our compassion can now take over and we can choose and feel the effects of true love in our lives.  It isn’t to say we’ll always handle this properly, but what we are giving ourselves is the ability to strengthen our resolve to handle those desires for ambition, superiority, and want to replace with faith, hope and love.

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In the current state of affairs in our world, once we being to step back from all of the general confusion, we find examples of those who seek the prize, seek to be first at everything they do and although our compassion is exemplified by their presence, we are also reviled at the sin of desire in whatever form it chooses to take.  Dietrich Bonhoeffer exemplified the desire to remain last, when as a concentration camp prisoner, he chose to seek to be first in death so his fellow prisoner could embrace life.  His desire for the life of another, meant unselfishly, the assuredness of his death.  His fear though was infinitesimal to his ultimate goal, the love of Jesus.  As we all seek the Love of Christ, what we sometimes fail to realize is, we are all seeking the same thing, and in doing so, Christ wishes to love us in return.  Why is there a need to be first, he will love us no matter what, the unconditional love he gives to us is hoped by our willingness to love him in return.  We don’t find love when we worry about others getting what we don’t have.  We don’t find love in seeking fairness of outcome.  Love doesn’t exist in selfishly seeking an ends which isn’t created resplendent by the means.  We are welcomed by God, because of our love of all, our willing the good of the other.

If ever there were a time to place others first, it would be now.  We have growing populations of the poor in wretched conditions, we have growing populations of those no longer seeking a faith in God, and what seems to be the fastest growing of all is the indifference to life and humanity.  The landowner seeks to prove the worker’s position as a matter of choice.  The worker could choose to accept he was treated fairly, and in acceptance of his treatment, be happy for the great fortune of those who worked last.  However, the worker also has choice to see things as he did, a total unfairness to wages as he worked longer and harder, but was treated like those who barely worked at all.  If given the same opportunity, can we be happy for the good fortune of another, or are we so focused on what we don’t have, we’re willing to ruin the fortune of another because we didn’t get it?

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Today, I often hear grumblings about more taxes on the rich and more programs for the poor, but if we look at the parable, the landowner walks up to the men standing in the marketplace and asks “You too go into the vineyard and I will give you what is just”, indicating his will to make their lives better by an opportunity to work.  What we can all glean from this story is, they will never become rich, by standing in a marketplace and waiting for work, but what the landowner can do is provide something with what he has by his own will.  Forcing people to be last out of a sense of moral superiority will get nowhere, but subjecting ourselves to the humility of servitude will gain us the kingdom of heaven.  Even Jesus, rebuked for washing the feet of the disciples, maintained the need to serve them, he indicated he would lower himself by his own decision to show how much love was in his heart for them.  People who’ve been given graces in this life, and who’ve prospered by their hard work or the hard work of another, are bound to a responsibility because of their prosperity.  They are bound by the ability to show forth compassion and the means to do so by the gifts they’ve been given.  Though, just as God seeks our love in free will, so to, must this be given of their own free will.  Forcing those to meet our subjective standards of first and equal, creates inequity of life and choice.  A duplicity occurs when we force another to live by a standard, that if we were placed in the same position, we would neither accept nor understand.

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Those families, who create a better life for their children, by creating a willingness to work and recognize failure as a daily possibility, teach only one aspect of life, there must be w desire to seek God, for without God there is the bitter nothingness life has to offer.  Being first in anything, without the recognition of God in our lives, becomes an empty exercise of vain pursuits.  Placing love at the forefront of our actions, helps ensure we not only seek compassion, but we become a reflection of the very light we seek.  No matter your station in life, seek to put others first before yourself, give what talents you have to a choice of compassion.  Will the good of the other because they are other, and you are both fashioned by God with love.  We all have different paths to walk, but our willingness to stop on our path, and help another, means we both meet the expectations God seeks for us, and not the selfish wanderings of an arrogant fool.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Do You Have Complete Control?

Since we are in the thick of an election cycle, culminating in the elections just around the corner.  We are bombarded with rhetoric flying in every direction and candidates making names for themselves by stirring up turmoil.  As potential voters we eye what is happening, in confusion, anger, and perplexed by behavior, which at any other time, would be verboten.  Yet it seems, people on both sides of the political aisle, make concessions about behavior if there is a chance their candidate will win and they will retain some measure of “rightness” or “power” in this pit of a society which thrives on direct control or at least the perception of influence.  The problem with a pit is, if it’s deep enough the light never seems to touch the bottom shrouding everything in darkness, and this is a lot like truth, never penetrating the irascible darkness which threatens to consume us when we embrace the unassailable notion, dictating our conscious perception is all we need to determine truth, and not an objective truth given to us only by God.  Personally, I’ve watched candidates and strained to comprehend the pitiful digs and insults they give to one another, the blatant lying achieved through either their list of achievements or vilifying the other candidate’s record on key issues or just life in general.  I’ve seen grown men and women resorting to childish behavior because they can taste the authority, it’s at their fingertips and they will do almost anything, from insults to actions of lawlessness.  They do this, all the while never realizing they lose a little each time they sink to achieve this goal.  Like taking one more step away from goodness, in the hopes they won’t ever get to far to come back easily if needed.  A politician motto, leaning over the line isn’t stepping over the line.  However, a little bit of confidence is seemingly eroded by my own estimates, every time this happens.  As a culture and modern society, we find ourselves willing to bargain everything for little or nothing in return.  People want answers, people want their candidate to follow their rhetoric, and people want to know why their candidate didn’t do everything they wanted as if the candidate they voted for works directly for them.  Aside from the general outlook of politicians at the moment (corrupt, lying, opportunists, rhetoric ninjas, public servants), I can’t imagine why anyone would want to face a life of scrutiny, threatening to burn one’s career down at the whiff of impropriety.  The rhetoric in our culture today is taking a hypocrisy of all things and elevating this poor subjectivity of life to a new level.  So, rhetorically speaking, my questions will never be answered, because I’m relying on a set of subjective principles to seek truth, and without the objective truth, without God, as Dostoevsky stated, “Everything is permissible”.  This is where we are headed with our rhetoric and the demand to cling to hypocrisy.  The removal of God in daily life, so we can embrace the permissibility of whatever we desire, hedonism like the days of Rome, and this all begins with people taking control who desire supremacy.

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The desire of control is a very real thing, we’ve broken it down to stories of corrupt people who were caught, or platitudes which resemble something of a pitiful notion of wisdom to exemplify the removal of power from those perceived as despots.  This is why, as a society, we’ve created a rule of law.  The law is meant for everyone, but especially for those seeking elevation to corrupt, to hurt another by means of physical detriment, and to diminish the rights of others.  There is the control which comes from stealing, and currently theft is a big business, when it comes to cyber related crimes.  There is the influence of suggestion, a company can suggest something to consumers, and the influence they wield when their product is marketable is measured by the dollars and cents flowing in and out of commerce each day.  At the end of all the scenarios is how this ambition and influence is regulated, from acceptance within standards like a company selling a product but a product which is safe, to incarceration of those individuals who desired to control everything at the cost of pain to others.  Every single person seeking ambition is bound at one point or another to an undeniable truth, there are persons at the end of the line determining what the influence means and how it is used.  Those people are politicians, duly elected officials, appointed to positions of influence with a constituency willing to fire them at the very next election if their exhibition of authority is lacking.  On its surface, this is a fair process, designed to empower the republic with democratic processes, thusly allowing the people of society to hold the ace card, true dominion.

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The clout people yield is immense, by direct or indirect means, the people of our society control the direction our society is driven.  A relatively new concept as it pertains to the history of the world, especially when there are still nations who seek a rule either through means of an aristocracy or a diluted socialistic endeavors.  At any rate, there will always be people who desire what other people have to be their own, and in this ambitious effort, many people will suffer.  The most common people we’ve seen attempt this lofty goal would be Hitler, Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot.  People who spread and ideology so damning and detrimental to life, the result being genocidal regimes with wide ranging abuses bent on the destruction of personal freedom.  The corruption of situation is real, and we all face it daily in the choices we make and the people we interact with.  The real focus isn’t about what influence we wield, but what we’re willing to give to another in a pursuit of truth.

The reality about ruling is, truth is power.  I once had a friend tell me I was a know it all, I won’t lie, it hurt a little, I was taken aback and immediately went on the defensive about her assertion.  I fully believed I was being helpful, but her perception didn’t find help, it found arrogance and ambition.  Subtly, she saw the need for me to control the conversation with her, the need to have the command of the conversation at my will rather than all of the participants as it should be.  When she could tell her words struck a nerve, she asked me if I was upset at what she just said.  I of course lied and said, “No, I’m fine”, but as the conversations began to erode and disintegrate, I asked why she said what she did.  She said, she felt I needed to know, perhaps I could tone down the need to appear all knowing.  Again, her words sliced at me, and I was beginning to feel an anger well up in me.  I told her, I didn’t agree with what she had to say, and her indifference indicated to me, what I had to say in defense was not worth her time.  Swallowing my pride, I told her, her words hurt and I didn’t like feeling that way.  She then said something to me, that although we take as a platitude, I’m sure we experience a feeling like this all the time.  She said, “The truth hurts”, those three words changed everything.  The desire for control of a conversation led to an objective perception a truth will hurt if we allow our desire for control to get in the way.  This is all I mean, look back at those times when your desire to control a situation was made apparent to you, and your personal rhetoric attempted to stop what was being accused, but in the end you couldn’t deny the truth and its mark on the destruction of your rhetoric.  This destruction assumes to rip out of you what was never meant to be there in the first place.  The truth reflects the brightest of lights on those who’ve sat in darkness, and the longer they allowed darkness to consume them, the more painful it is when they walk in the light.  Can’t you remember a time when walking out of a darkly lit movie theater or restaurant, caused your eyes to seer with pain until you could adjust to the blinding brightness of your changing paradigm (i.e. dark theater to sunny parking lot)?

about-rhetoric

Rhetoric, is our attempt to avoid this light, all the while presenting a paradigm which seems innocent even truthful.  It is an attempt to simplify the complex, to explain the unexplainable as a matter of course.  Take for instance the argument of abortion.  For people on the pro-abortion side of the fence, they utilize an ideology and rhetoric of choice as a means for measure in the destruction of life.  As the voice their rhetoric about choice, they demand capitulation of those posed with the rhetorical question of choice.  If you are not with them, then you are against them, and then all bets are off on behavior and even violence as we’ve seen over the last few years.  Their need for influence to give a perception of choice becomes simplified to one word, and without asking, people follow because deceptively it seems right.  However, objectively, one question should be asked, “Where is the line with choice?”  Where is it safe to assume the rhetoric won’t go?  For instance, objectively speaking, all life is precious and shall be conserved and protected at all costs.  This is reflective in the vast majority of laws on one level or another, but not in the debate for life over one’s choices.  Their choice was distinctly exhibited in the actions to create life and subsequently the truth of their decision became evident.  Objectivity, for some, is replaced with a desire to attain an influence of sorts over perception of rightness.  Those who wish to attain this influence, have in their own way, become a politician, an interpreter of right and wrong for others.  Those who desire the objective truth, love as it were, find an emptiness in the control or desire of control and wish it not for the destruction of will, but instead for the preservation of life which in its own natural way embraces will.

In some fields, testing the working apparatus to see its strength or capabilities is necessary for those individuals relying on the strength of the tool.  For instance, industries utilizing gas pipes will need to know the strength of the pipe transporting the gas for pressure collapse.  This will ensure they put the right sized pipe in the ground for the expected payload.  The truth of putting more than was expected at a higher pressure would ensure, catastrophe leading to circumstances of death and destruction.  The truth about rhetoric is the same way.  If rhetoric seems right to anyone, then test it to its extreme, if it stands up to your test, find someone else’s test and determine if it can handle the scrutiny.  The argument with abortion, usually falls apart with these tests against a foundation of objective morality.  Without the context of morality placed upon the paradigm of choice, we see it open at imperceptive angles.  Angles which if taken to their full extent, give a society pleasure, choice, and opportunity to destroy anyone or anything which threatens to usurp their position.  So testing an argument can go both ways, and in this instance, we see older people who can no longer care for themselves become just a choice, people of both physical and mental diminishments become a choice, and eventually people who just disagree with our truths can become just another choice as we choose to eliminate them altogether.  None of this would be possible with an embrace of a moral truth to life though, which is where the argument for choice falls apart, at least for reasonable people.  When embracing a rhetoric designed for selfish pursuit of goal, we become unmoved at the notion of our pursuits, unless they become attached to us, in the inadvertent movement of subjective goals.  If you’re saying to yourself at this point, “yeah, I guess that could happen, but it probably wouldn’t” think back to a time during the mid to late 20th century and realize, it has happened, and I would bet most of those people never thought it would happen to them.

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Rhetorically speaking, the unnecessary need to answer such an obvious question becomes an endeavor of ludicrous proportions.  The point and purpose of my writing is one, for my own purpose of thinking out those issues I struggle with, two, to point our such obvious attempts by our society to bend truth to fit the desires of the ambitious, and three, to pull out those weeds of derision in our own lives so we can be examples of truth to those we are around every day.  Point two, the purpose for my words today, present a truth, we may not always be comfortable with.  Take a second and think about all the items you’ve purchased since last December, and then try to make an argument against your need for material influence in your life, I think you may get half-way into it and realize, all you’re doing is justifying what is a pursuit of material need.  I’ve done this very exercise, and realized, although I wasn’t motivated simply by the need to have items, I still collected like there was no tomorrow, perhaps because I was bored with life, but I think it had more to do with my own delusion of truth.  I was deluding myself into thinking, I wasn’t really materially focused, but the truth was I was/still am somewhat, and this truth is a bitter pill to swallow.  The truth is, it hurts when I think about how and what I could have done with the money I’ve earned over the years, I could have used it for something or someone who was in greater need than myself, but I didn’t.  I pursued a clout of conscious choice to affect ends of my own desire, and when I was done, I was no more fulfilled than when I started.

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If you are confronted with the truth, attack it head on, be willing to accept the fact, God isn’t worried about your embarrassment, and instead, God needs your yield, your capitulation to the truth.  Embrace your embarrassment as one of those painful lessons in life. Don’t worry about maintaining the pitiful control you desire, because your belief in God means more.  When someone desires to explain complication with simplicity, be cautious even when it sound right.  Things are complex, because they are complex, rarely can a complex issue be properly satisfied with a simple answer, unless the answer is the objective truth.  For instance, all life is important, thusly all life shall be protected, abortion on this very principle is deemed as wrong, no matter what the implication of choice is perceived as being.  Your choices in life are pretty simple, right or wrong, good or bad, moral or immoral, and everything else works itself out based on the principle understanding of your choices.  I hope you’re laying a foundation of truth in your life, and when it comes to the really hard decisions, rest in the fact, God holds you up, not you holding him up, so relax and rely on the objective truths set forth in life by the One True God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

The Only Constant is Change!

When I think back on my childhood, growing up with my brother and sister, I have good and bad memories.  I think most of us can find a memory, tucked away in our minds, which allows us to feel a sense of nostalgia or warmth as we ponder the whisper of moments as they come in and out of our mind’s eye.  I think we may even have the habit of remembering events with positive lights, even when we weren’t necessarily positive at the time of their outcomes.  Time and perspective will do that for all of us, and it creates in us a sense of hope for the future.  If where we came from was possible to move past and where we are now is doable, then the future might just be manageable if we try a little.  At least this is where my mind wanders when I think about my life and everything it touches and how those seemingly innocuous details can sometimes become the beginning of something which will change the course of my life entirely.  The natural movement of the strands of time create in all of us a sense of hesitation, especially when it comes to the unknown.  The change to what we don’t know, causes great consternation among many of us, and this leads to fear of the unknown.  The only thing we can be certain of is change, change to our lives by events around us, change to our perspective because of experiences we never expected to have, and change to the world we live in because moving forward insists on leaving behind what once was.

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When I was a kid, I lived in a typical home with two parents, a sister, and a brother.  We played sports, went to church, and had friends over all the time.  We lived outside of the city, so I was exposed to rolling farm lands, and livestock ranches.  The house I grew up in was surrounded by land, back-roads, and a general kindness among all the people who lived around us.  It was a place, where when someone drove by, you would receive waives and a nod, even if you had no idea who the person was.  Riding a bike was always an experience, as my friends and I would ride for miles to meet up with friends.  I shudder at the thought of letting my kids do this now; oh how times have changed.  Once when I traveled back to the old neighborhood, I found the house I grew up in was changed, it somehow looked worse, perhaps less taken care of than when my father was in charge of its upkeep.  The neighborhood seemed smaller, and more houses had been built since the time I left.  Some of the fields I would ride my bike past, visiting friends, were bulldozed over and businesses and homes now dotted the landscape which was once filled with grass, bales of hay, and sunflowers as far as the tree line.  Now, all I saw, were roofs, streets, and gas stations.  Progress was now taking over this slice of heaven I once resided in.  The funny part about it all was I never realized how beautiful it was until I was gone.  I never took notice of how change would cause a pang of reality to set in throughout all the corners of my life.  Not one inch of my life has been unaffected by change.

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What struck me the most was the size of everything, the place I once scoured like an explorer hoping to find treasure and the unknown, was unutterably small.  Everywhere I looked, I remembered the cracks in some pavement, but the pavement seemed tiny now.  My wife and children were with me, the last time I visited, and as I nostalgically remembered the fences I jumped over and fields I ran through, they were most unimpressed.  The represented the typical child, bored with anything not meant to entertain.  They looked out the windows of our vehicle, heads resting on hands, in the universal boredom pose, and asked when we were going to head home.  I did my typical dad routine, and informed them, “attitudes needed to change, or people would be walking home”, my bark is far worse than my bite.  At any rate, my memories seemed to discount the facts, this is to say, what I visualized in my mind was exactly what it was, and this was causing some turmoil for me.  Enough turmoil that I visited years ago, and now I feel satisfied to write about what I was experiencing.

So, as I look back on the events of my life, I have to be careful about how I actually remember what happened.  I’m a very passionate and emotional memory kind of guy.  I can’t remember phrases uttered in passing, nor can I remember when someone tells me their name, five seconds after they told me.  I’m absolutely awful at those kind of things.  However, if I attach an emotion to what I’ve seen, I can remember every detail, colors, words, actions, and outcomes.  I can visualize each and every step of what happened, the only catch is, I have to properly relate the emotion to decipher what I’m seeing in my mind.  It’s like using the glasses from the National Treasure: Book of Secrets movie; in order for the characters to see everything on the map, they needed to use the lenses properly.  The same is very true for me, and I would presume many other people, in order to decipher the past, we have to use the proper lens of emotion or memory to see it in its proper context.  In other words, when we don’t use the right context and perspective, our memories become all too horrible or rosy and lead us to conclusions deriding us from truth.

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As we go through life, we only have our experiences and what we choose to learn, as points of context on what we see now, and what we hope to see in the future.  This context, presents the ability to handle change as it’s presented to us.  Imagine riding in a bus with many windows and many passengers, there are events happening in the bus, and events happening outside of the bus.  As the bus picks up speed, we incorrectly assume the world is moving swiftly by our window, and we see things as a blur.  If we look away from the window, we risk missing it entirely, but we hope to take in the events of the world we currently inhabit going on around us in the conversations of the people who surround us.  However, perspective is key to this scenario.  There is a driver of the bus, but he is down in front, and we really can’t see where he’s at, we know he’s driving but not where he’s going.  When we look out the window, we see the blur of buildings and trees, some people and mostly cars zooming by the window.  If we roll the window down we can feel the strong gusts of wind blowing against our hair and hands, as a reminder, just because we can’t see the wind, doesn’t mean it isn’t powerful enough to move us.  As we reach our destination, the bus comes to a stop, and we stand up ready to disembark.  Some memories of the ride come to mind, but they begin to fade, and all we have are the brief memories of what we saw for a split second.  The interactions of the people in the bus last a little longer, and our emotion can be attached to snippets of these memories, but never a full recollection of the events, only those which stick out as memorable.  As we disembark the bus, the driver is nowhere to be found, and we wonder did he get off before us, or was he ever there, then we see him patiently waiting to greet us into our new destination, a restaurant named “A Little Slice of Heaven”.

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Life is a lot like this bus ride and we are a lot like the passengers, moving from stop to stop.  Sometimes we ride the bus to a particular stop, and this is where the change slows down for us, until we get back on and begin moving again.  For some people they were never meant to get off the bus and their life changes quickly, then is over.  This differs from our perspective of change, and those of us, who are living a life considerably longer, feel short-changed when we can’t continue riding the bus with those we’ve come close to.  Sometimes, the bus is filled with older riders, who tell us which seats to sit in and which stops to get off on, but since the bus never goes in reverse their advice is all we have to go by.  Eventually, they ride till their last stop, and we eventually become the older riders, attempting to give advice to the younger, newer riders who get on.  As we get older, we are less interested in the interactions going on inside the bus, and we begin to look out the windows and attempt to access our memories while watching the world move by at what seems a faster speed by the second.  If we try to focus on one thing out the window, we miss everything else, but if we try to focus on everything else, we don’t see anything for too long.  We change our focus, our perspective, and our memory with every changing second as the bus of life flies by the world around us.  What we fail to see sometimes is the bus flying through life, is driving in the world in which life exists.  It isn’t a fixture looking from the outside in, but something pushing its way through life and riding on the very surface of change itself.  How fast or slow the change occurs is up to us.  The subjectivity we choose to see life through, becomes the window of change, where we can no longer keep up with what we see, and then we become relegated to just watching events as they pass us by.  Life is about knowing what is right through teaching, learning, living, and choosing.  The change in our lives can either be one of acceptance by God’s Will, or one of pain by watching the events transpire and choosing to have no part in their outcome.

The one thing we do know in life is, change is always coming, it can be in the events close to us, like the conversations on the bus, it can be in the world surrounding us, and it can be in the path we walk as we choose to disembark the bus.  At any rate, the path we choose to experience life with, is of our own choosing, most of the time.  There are those people who choose a path for us, and this change can be taken with an acceptance of faith or none at all.  Our humility is achieved by accepting God, and with a humble heart we can face whatever change occurs, Saint Teresa of Kolkata once said “If you are humble, nothing will touch you, neither praise nor disgrace, because you know what you are.”  This is really what our bus ride is for, about learning the choices in life, about embracing our humility to quiet our souls and look out the window, to accept the change we see, even experience the change through our efforts of faith.  As events occur and change is imminent, the younger less experienced riders will look to us for knowledge and wisdom on how to accept the change they see.  They don’t need wallflowers or people who create a flaky wisdom subjective to change and at will to crumble upon the lightest of scrutiny.  They need principled riders who will judge a situation correctly and who will want the good for them simply because they are there.

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In business school, my professors were always talking about opportunities rather than problems, and in my youth this annoyed me to a great extent.  I would always say something like, “if it’s a problem, call it a problem, and then fix it”, and my professors would sometimes ignore my ignorance, and other times would comment and say, “aw yes, but see you’re focused on the change which you can do nothing about, and I’m focused on the change where my opportunities abound”.  My perspective changed, the opportunity is on the backside of the negative impacts of change, or at least the perceived negative impacts of change.  In reality, negativity is based on a perspective of where you think you are now, and where you want to be in the future.  The truth is, your reality, to one extent can never truly be known without the concept of faith as the true foundation.  This is all I mean, with a foundation of faith, you properly surmise a situation as being what it is rather than what you want it to be, and as you see it for what it is, and you also recognize the potentials given to you by this change.  Here is a good example, a man who is alcoholic finally enters a program to sober up, and he is given a stepped process to achieve his goal of drying out and being sober.  He has several options for his perspective, but only one correct option; the option of opportunity is now at his doorstep and utilizing it for its intended purpose is the only way the change will work.  He has several options at his disposal, but only one where redemption and repentance will heal wounds he caused and mend fences he’s broken (both figuratively and literally).  His opportunity to humble himself through apology, through unselfish works, and through a disciplined promise to himself is the only way it can work.  As we being to walk in our life, we recognize the one driving the bus isn’t us, God has the controls, we are here because he loved us into existence, and through our lives he teaches us, as we use our free will to grow.  We have the choice to fall in love with God, or to sit at the back of the bus and just gaze out the window, leaving nothing to memory and nothing to work towards.  However, if we choose to get out of that bus, we see a world he created, people he loved into existence as much as ourselves, and an ever growing humility as we realize we can accept what happens, because loving God is our ultimate goal, or we can resent what happens because failing to see the opportunity to love in every action has escaped us one more time.

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I hope in your life, you’ve never experience too much negative change, but if you have, perhaps reading these words can give you a different perspective.  Perhaps, knowing there are people out there like you struggling with the same issues you’re struggling with is a comfort, but also knowing you’re never alone.  You’re very precious in the eyes of God, and if you are struggling allow another to know and allow them to help you off that bus and experience the beauty and colors of life, which were always meant enrich and not take away.  Find the opportunity of God’s work at every movement of the wind, know that all change isn’t a matter of will, but a matter of perspective.  I know I want to be with God for all eternity, life will change rapidly for me at times, but it won’t fade what I know to be the existential truth to life, God loves us all and wants us to love him.  Jesus was proof of this, when he hung upon the cross and died for our very sins.  The apostles at first, looked upon the change with negative implications, but upon the resurrection of Jesus, their opportunity to spread the good word was realized and they did just that.  You have this opportunity, so don’t squander it because of fear, be courageous and embrace your change.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

Where is Our Culture Headed?

For many of us, we grew up at a time, when being “middle-class” was a badge of honor represented by the clothes we wore and the inevitable understanding of a hand-me-down culture.  I personally received clothes, toys, and anything else possible of being used by many people over a period of time.  My family never re-gifted something considered a hand-me-down, but they did place an importance on the items given, and the consideration was the base for many discussions and lectures during my youth.  Over the years, due to my upbringing, I cherish an item given to me by another.  This carries with it a significance of sizeable proportions when I’m aware of the struggle or expense required to attain the item now being generously given away.  Furthermore, I’m not removed from the societal implications of this no longer being a mainstay of family direction, but instead realize the paradigm of a throw-away culture.  “Nothing is meant to last forever”, I will hear people flippantly remark, and as I would agree in large part with a material focus, it seems like our culture has embraced a “live like you’re dying” mentality and focused on the “me” and the “now” aspects of this perceived newest of paradigms.  Think back on those times when you were the youngest, and you were bound to obey the instructions of the adults closest to you.  Perhaps your parents, grandparents, teachers, or just the older adults in the neighborhood you grew up in, and in those adults, did they pass along a moral teaching or truth which you’ve held on to this very day?

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This is where we’re at, a point in time, where the masses are scurrying around searching for truth, and at the mere mention by anyone of the truth we desire, we come running, only to find disappointment.  Why do we find disappointment?  Simply because, anything which isn’t the real truth, cannot be, no matter how hard it tries, the fulfillment in our lives imprinted by the Spirit of God.  Of course, some will get close, but an aberration of a truth is still a subjective reminder of the existence without a morality focused on love of one another rather than love of self.  So, have the teachings from those adults stayed with you?  Have you found yourself, either plagued with this persistent teaching, or comforted by the reliance on something which no matter the situation bears a light to the situation no others can compare to?  Take for instance, when I was a child, I was exposed to hatred by the society I lived in, and upon asking my parents for some clarification, some semblance of truth as I navigated these foreign waters, I was exposed to a truth.  My father explained to me, the essence of love is a matter of allowing another person the right to make a decision or a choice.  God does this for each and every one of us, our free will is our choice to love God or to turn away.  My question to my father, was as a result of being pushed into a belief of something, which I neither agreed with, nor could I reconcile the harsh existence of something claiming to be so beautiful.  His words, over twenty years later, still ring in my mind as a truth.  He said, “son, to scare or force another into belief, will never work, people must be allowed to choose of their own free will”, and although he didn’t tell me this to get a quote out of what I might write one day, he told me this because this was the lessons he’d learned over a life mixed with turmoil and abandonment.  His hand-me-down philosophy was something of ground breaking at the time, but has become a principle, and fills me with a light of truth I hope to give anyone who reads my words.  His explanation of a truth he learned and handed down to me, has become my hand-me-down to you.

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In our culture, of course, everyone has a truth, and no one has a real voice.  We are small in comparison to this world and to its ideas, but the need to make a mark or being something more than we are derides the values of the past and risks to ruin the hand-me-downs of those who once put our benefit above all others.  Saint Teresa of Kolkata said once, “For love to be real, it must cost, it must hurt, it must empty us of self.”  Wise words from a Saint, but can we really say we’re willing to put ourselves out there so we risk hurt, pain, or loss?  As a father, I’m conflicted about giving a moral or teaching to my children without indicating the negative consequences (perceived as positives from those less experienced) from disobeying the morals or objective truths about what I’m passing down.  My son tests me from time-to-time, and for good measure, he is very bright and finding his path in life risks derailing him from what he wants rather than what he needs.  I fear I was worse when I was his age, this is my penance, by passing on what I learned, handing down my experiences and exposing him to the moral truths in life.

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As we speak, we can turn on any news agency and determine who is outraged by what and why and why they pontificate it to a largely anonymous audience.  We are tasked with weeding through those instances which are true outrage and the ones conjured up by a media seeking ratings over a moral existence.  We are bombarded by constant subjective changes in what we once saw as an immovable moral, to something we can take or leave based on our mood.  People who once stood up for an objective truth and moral life are being vilified as racists, bigots, or pariah to a society poised for greatness on the brink of moral destruction.  Those lessons once passed down by fathers, mothers, neighbors, teachers, police officers, fire fighters, and clergy are either being abandoned by the culture wholesale or are being put to question daily by sources seeking a stream of revenue more lucrative today than even yesterday.  Do you ever ask yourself, why have we gone down this path?  Why have we accepted the direction of those who so clearly have a motivation for us following?  Like many other people, I was looking for anything to help direct me and I was truly lost in the wilderness of life.  At my lowest point I was brought to love by those who were willing to risk my anger and ire to expose me to a truth so wonderful and painful the catharsis of my soul is still happening.  The growth from which has helped form my life into an unceasing need to express my regret and thanks for the moral teachings, I was given, and to attempt in whatever way possible to pass along what I’ve been blessed to see.

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Ok, so where do we go as a society, who throws away everything, and yet is still seeking what we’ve thrown away.  We are like a bunch of mental patients, off our medications, because we didn’t think they worked, but for anyone objectively watching, we clearly need our medications back.  The hand-me-downs of faith, culture, morality, justice, truth, and love are very much needed in their undiluted form.  This begins in the home, this begins with full families teaching those morals to the children they love so dearly.  Earlier, I mentioned my father, and his care and love for my moral learning, his soft-handed approach was there when discussion was needed to smooth out an idea, wrinkled in my mind over undisciplined thought and action.  My mother, helped with the harder topics, she was the discipline master.  She never feigned her responsibilities as a woman with a disciplined focus, sometimes as a child I thought she was angry and wrong.  As an adult, and as a father, I see she was spot on.  She was passing down a need to focus on discipline through action, and then take this very rudimentary method of living and apply it to every aspect of my life.  Her disciplined approach, and my father’s philosophical truths of morality and faith provided me with a foundation to set my life upon.  A foundation, through my own actions, where I strayed, but eventually came back to, a foundation which lights my soul and warms my heart at every thought.

Children need these hand-me-down truths, even if they don’t know why they need them, even if the parent isn’t completely sure why they teach them.  With anything, we do as a tradition, we should learn why we do what we do, but to deny the tradition, because we see no current use is to deny the truth of those who’ve come before us without tasking ourselves to explore the method behind the wisdom.  Our perspective isn’t the means of all explanation, our perspective isn’t the wise arbiter of all truth, so, why would we assume because we don’t see a purpose in teaching we can therefor discount this teaching as coming from a different time and place with no relevance to today?  I think this is where we find ourselves as a culture.  We question everything, and when we don’t get a satisfactory answer, and when we can’t see a purpose, we abandon anything which meets this criteria.  We see the abandonment of the traditional family, roles in marriage, faith, politics, society, and life.

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The traditional role of the family has always been one woman and one man bound by a covenant with God, in the expression of love, to grow a family in the teachings of Christ.  The Catechism of the Catholic Church states, “The matrimonial covenant, by which a man and a woman establish between themselves a partnership of the whole of life, is by its nature ordered toward the good of the spouses and the procreation and education of offspring; this covenant between baptized persons has been raised by Christ the Lord to the dignity of a sacrament.”(CCC 1601).  However, as a society we’ve abandoned this truth, and we’ve replaced it with a convenient substitution which states, as long as there is a loving parent, then the children will have a subsequent upbringing.  For anyone, who was brought up in a loving home, this doesn’t pass the smell test, it stinks to high heaven.  So, let me be clear, no, the natural set of circumstances is two parents (biologically) created a child or children, and it is the natural set of circumstances they will raise and teach these children.  Whenever we’re exposed to an abridged or unnatural version of this paradigm, we find circumstances of unfulfilled expectations.  Children who grow up in broken families as a result of divorce or any other circumstance as a prevention of the natural means of family creation, risk throwing away what the generations before us figured out, due to an embracing of hubris to an altered reality.

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Let me be clear, I’m not saying there aren’t good people in bad situations.  There are, and this speaks more to the testament of time than the person.  Time doing anything will result in consequences which take on different shapes and severity over which families and society are affected.  This isn’t to say, there bears with the consequences a blameless architect, but instead carries with it a clarity of focus to stop the machine of duplicity, degradation, immorality, and villainy.  If we see a problem, then we have a moral duty to stop this problem.  This begins with discourse and action, not a fear of risking the anger of those who, like many, would run from the truth when confronted with it.  This means, taking charge of our society means, keeping the family above all else.  I don’t mean for anyone to stay in a relationship, which harms their life or health in any way.  No, I mean to teach the younger generations to look for the right one, to find those qualities in another which will complement their own, and approach marriage in a realistic and permanent way.  Too often, young couples approach marriage with a throw-away quality.  They say to themselves, “I hope it works, but if it doesn’t then I hope I meet someone who loves me”.  The sentiment is relayed over and over, in one variation or another, from couple to couple in our society.  We’ve defeated ourselves before we’ve had a chance to race.  Any good coach will tell an athlete, they must visualize the win before they can realize it.  Although, marriage isn’t something to be won, we can recognize the wisdom from those words, we must be willing to walk through the fires in our marriage, if we hope to rest beside those cool waters on the other side.

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For those of us, who’ve either been divorced or live in a relationship not meeting the standards we hope to achieve, change begins with you.  It begins by your approach to the moral truths in your life and the embracing of those hand-me-down traditions, the previous generations figured out and gave to us.  As a father, I’m often times surprised by the shenanigans of my children, I’m even further surprised by the stories of older generations dealing with identical situations semantics aside.  A hand-me-down society is a society intent on learning from the past, learning from the mistakes of others and applying best practice to meet today’s challenges.  A moral society, is a society willing to meet those challenges, while standing on the side of right, and refusing the temptation of the wrong.  There are definite wrongs and rights of life, there are those who would dissuade to simply bring more to their way of thinking, regardless of the wrongness of their actions.  A sin is a sin, and sin isn’t pretty.  It is wrong, no matter how we try to dress it up, and as a matter of course, when people are doing anything wrong, they always attempt to bring others along with them.  “The road to hell, is wide, and paved with good intentions”, never were more were truer.  Being compassionate to the condition or plight of others, doesn’t preclude a need to do what is right.  An individual who marks time in their life with a pursuance of “their truth” and then finds negative consequences awaiting them, deserves compassion, but they also deserve an exposure to the hand-me-down truth of their decisions.  As men and women in this culture, if you’re not willing to stand up for what is right, who will.  Are you waiting for the next champion?  What if you’re the champion needed?

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Are hand-me-downs a bad thing?  The answer is, no!  We must get over our arrogance and stop assessing the past as what was wrong, and looking at now, as what is right.  If we continue this, the logical fallacy would be, even now is past, and is it wrong as well?  Our embrace of those truths passed to us, can only be considered when the person passing the morality was moral themselves.  As I’ve pointed out before, a person without faith cannot have a morality based in objective truths, their reality is purely subjective, and advice or hand-me-down truths will be full of holes because of the dilution needed to fit their truth in time.  No one wants a hand-me-down full of holes and stretched thin to fit what it was never meant to fit.  Place importance on your role to pass down those moral teachings to the younger generations, give them a strong principle to rest upon, and create in them the need to have a clean heart in order to push this culture in the right direction.  A journey up a mountain by one’s self is an arduous journey, fraught with peril and the risk of falling at any time.  A journey up a mountain with those who have already walked its paths becomes easier and makes the traverse bearable, even at the most fearful of points.  However, a walk up the mountain when God is involved, is as simple as believing, and the obstacle was as if it never existed.  God is where our joy in life must be found, God is where we must find our humility to accept the wisdom and traditions of the past, and God is where our faith must be to move those mountains which risk to prevent us from finding the summit and seeing the vastness of what we don’t truly know.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

What Lens Do We See Life Through?

When we look at our world today, we see things from our own perspective, we judge things from our own experience, and we condemn based on our own subjective point of view.  None of us are immune from these actions, and not a person living or who has ever lived, save one, has ever been able to resist the temptation of seeking a moral high-ground, but instead achieved their own hilltop of self-importance.  A place where we believed we were better, or a place where we thought we would do a better job than the person who seemingly caught our ire.  This isn’t to say, we were ever walking around looking to condemn and punish, instead, harmlessly we walked around and criticize those who don’t fit into a mold we have lovingly crafted out of our misguided sense of purpose and importance.

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Context, everything must be placed into an order, in a context which we can properly understand the events.  If I just started talking about jelly dripping on a table, you might be able to surmise what I was speaking about, but if you fast forward a couple of millennia, and audience reading my words, may not have the single notion of what jelly was.  Without placing a context of jelly dripping from my sandwich I was eating, I risk placing an improper determination of events in the hands of someone forming an opinion.  Often times, we see people misidentify historical events because they neither properly studied the event, or they’re mistaken due to an ignorance of context.

I know I could be walking on slippery slope here, but what my point is trying to painfully extricate is truth is somewhere in the mix, and although we don’t see events in our day as someone did yesterday, it shouldn’t necessarily make them wrong in our eyes.  Instead, we should see the flaws which exist in all people.  Thomas Jefferson was once quoted in saying “slavery is like holding a wolf by the ears”.  What is so clearly obvious is, no one wants to hold that wolf by the ears, but in standard fashion of decision making no one wants to let go of the wolf, for what is assuredly negative results.  He was right, we inevitably faced a war which would define the very nature of American government, and would set in motion a paradigm of freedom worth fighting for.

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Placing what we see and do is sometimes a matter of life and death, if it creates in us an urgency to see what is right, and what is true in our lives.  It also creates in us, a matter of importance in the lives we affect by our determination of decision.  As a father, I am painfully aware of the decisions I’ve made in the past, but as I made the decisions, I was focused on how they affected me, and how I was going to deal with the consequences.  I wasn’t at all worried about the long-term effects of how my decisions would cause turmoil among those who love me, I didn’t bother to understand anything past where I was at and what I was going to do next.  If there is anything my poor decision-making ability taught me, it was this.  I can see people making similar decisions to myself, and yet, I’m not angry, but encouraged to show them and teach them where I went wrong, and possibly my experiences can give them a contextual perspective, which will allow a positive outcome.  I can only pray, if I hope to make a change in my life and the lives of others.

Ok, so where am I going with all this context?  Constantly, when I turn on the news affiliate, I see stories of events which happened years ago, in some cases decades, and what I’m most alarmed about is the need to find a villain in everything we do today.  The need to condemn someone who did something, which decades ago may have been considered a poor choice, but with today’s lens of judgment, those very people (unable to defend themselves) are run through the mud.   The issues with civil war era statues or even statues depicting a person, who when researched wasn’t a saint.  I’ve even read about statues of saints being defaced because of their association to the Catholic Church and the subsequent child abuse scandal.  The common understanding is a guilt by association tactic, which includes the ideology of perfection in representation for those people we don’t agree or like.  In other words, if we like the person immortalized in a statue, then we can keep it up, but if we don’t like the person, we will generalize their life into compartments of ideology, and if they don’t pass the muster of perfection then we can destroy their statue and subsequently any legacy.  From a purely ideological standpoint those who don’t fit the proper lens of today have unknowingly cast their names into the fire.  However, there is one major flaw with this logic, people must be judged based upon the context of when they lived, when they achieved their famous stature or infamous stature.  To deny this concept of context is to relegate the people who stood in judgement at the time as insignificant.  Since most of these people are long gone from our current times, one aspect still remains, subjectivity.  If we subjectively choose to see truth as our own interpretation, and we fail to recognize people as fixtures of their times, then we risk facing the same judgement either before or after our time.

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There is also a fractured hypocrisy designed not only to suit the needs of the hypocritical, but also to enact revenge on those who dispute the claims.  Take for instance the clear understanding of due process in the U.S.  This process places importance on the accused, to indicate an atmosphere of innocence, until by fact of proof evidence has been shown to allow twelve individuals a chance to vote on the guilt of the assumed innocent person.  Furthermore, the guilt must be a unanimous verdict, or the innocence is left intact.  From a legal standpoint this is necessary, failing to present proper evidence, even at a penalty of technical superiority, is needed to ensure we never send an innocent person to jail.  In recent times, with the introduction of DNA evidence, we’ve seen the exoneration of many individuals who were wrongly convicted by eye witness testimony.  They’ve resided in a cell, not much larger than a common bathroom for decades.  Their injustice has caused us to be more fervent about the seeking of justice, but when we do this without those timeless objective measures, we set ourselves up for failure.  We’ve indicated, truth isn’t so much a concern, however our ambition to get our way has now become paramount to succeeding in our goals.  This is dysfunctional for the perpetuation of a society, or the propagation of truth as a matter of foundation for a society’s growth.  When this has occurred, the lens we look through has become marred with our desires and not the unwavering truth.

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Of course, I’m sure we can take any five news stories today, and find instances where the reporter or news anchor colored a story with divisive language or leading supposition.  We see stories, when taken as an objective stance fail to corroborate anything the reporter suggests, which leads to the conclusion, the reporter is now no longer objective and believing what they write about should be approached with caution.  Some reporters have sunk low enough to introducing conspiracy theories woven from fantastic circumstances in order to make believable what would be unbelievable when objectively reported.  These theories then presume to make accusations about whole groups and their efficacy towards each and every one of us.  The most common and yet disturbing claim is about the policing agencies and a systemic racial bias.  In some countries this is a very real problem, and in others, this is a ludicrous statement proven false by the copious amounts of statistics.  However, this is where the real lesson is learned, our ability to learn in an environment which accepts laziness as currency.

Here is what I mean.  Most people have an ability for thought and opinion which creates an ability for comprehension on a deeper level those topics of concern.  This deeper level of thought will eventually reach a conclusion based on the limits of knowledge in a single mind.  Without research or the inclination to find source material to back one’s conclusion, the opinion is based solely on suppositional matters.  So, I think everyone is a racist, but I have no proof either way.  Most of the foundational knowledge we have comes from media, anecdotes, or limited exposure to facts.  Though, most people never do an in-depth study of the topics they insist on giving their opinions about.  This can be considered sufficient when speaking about general topics like which cultural food is from where, or perhaps which style of furniture suits your house best.  Opinion is really all which is needed for these topics.  When we begin to need more facts and statistical proof, many people shy away from the work needed, and attempt to walk a high-wire of logic to assist them in their perfunctory analysis.  Their logic is consistent of someone who must use their own experiences to form the path, and this is the lens they choose to look through.  This is a dysfunctional method of critical thinking, and usually leads to logical fallacies skirting the edge of insanity at times.

So, we can all agree slavery is awful and is an affront to any human being no matter the times.  Though many societies who have condemned slavery today, were once profiteers of the slave trade.  They made money on the backs of a person all the while the person enslaved lived a life of anonymity.  We will never know who most of the slaves doomed to a life of hopeless and meaningless abuse, but even to this day we can see their contributions to the world (e.g. Great Pyramids of Giza).  However, if we look back at yesterday with the lens of today, and condemn the world for their immoral acts, what have we gained?  Do we stand upon a moral high ground and judge them for being imperfect?  Are we arrogant enough to quizzically pronounce ourselves to be less immoral?  Have we gained a measure of context by condemning those who acted without the perspective of today?

The problem we run into when we look through our lens of today is subjectivity.  We think because we live relatively good lives that we are doing good and being good.  However, if the people from the past were to examine our lives, in every detail, they may just be equally put out at the immoral paths we take.  We are a sign of our times, we do what culture dictates, even if we don’t want to admit it.  We walk away from God’s love at every twist and turn of our lives and then blame someone else when our lives don’t work the way we wish they would.  We look to right the wrongs of the past, without realizing the wrongs of today, as if this focus on punishing the people who did wrong generations ago would somehow justify today.  If this weren’t enough, we stand on a hill made of sand, to look down upon those who came before us, with superficial acknowledgement to their struggles and sacrifices along the way.

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The lens of today is a dangerous tool to look through, it is an arrogant tool to look through when judging others.  It presumes an atmosphere of rightness, while all along it creates subjective apathy and misconstrued ideologies focused on the destruction of fact and the creation of myth.  The myth of what didn’t really happen is the storyboard of Hollywood, events which once occurred are enough to tell a story about, but not good enough to entertain.  Subsequently people watch movies and determine the movies to be a sufficient source of history.  People look for the magnanimous dramatic event, the fireworks to show them true drama, but fail to recognize the drama in the subdued.

Life has never been about a big show, its purpose has been in the journey we travel.  Life has always been a matter of course, one which is presented to us day by day, and in our course we see the drama unfold in the most beautiful ways.  As a father, I see events unfold in most dramatic of ways with my kids, but what I want them to focus on is not the drama, but the journey past the explosion.  The journey past the emotional firestorm they are so attracted to, and then to think through everything they see, and search for the objective answer which is certainly waiting for them to discover.

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None of us really has the answer to everything, and none of us has the ability to be right all the time.  However, our lack of knowledge on everything and our inability to predict the future demands an unwavering and unflinching measure, a truth.  The lens of today, without the objective truth, is nothing more than an aperture of dysfunction.  When we let in the dysfunction, by accepting subjective ideologies, or demanding a selfish ambition be realized, we risk the lamentation of the next generations.  When we go into this world, we must be willing to understand and consider with compassion the situations of those we come in contact with.  An understanding which dictates a removal of anger and replacement of inquisitive desire to know and appreciate, regardless of what we see, helps us remove the lens altogether.  This is what is truly needed, to put the lens down and accept people for who they are and not what they do, no matter their disposition towards yourself.  Willing the good of the other because they are other, isn’t just a catchy phrase or platitude.  It should be the very way of life as we approach all peoples.

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Much like when we put on a pair of glasses either prescription or shaded, we find the view is altered in one way or another, the lens of truth and love requires just our ability to see without an aid.  God has given to us the very ability to see, we need to trust and begin using this vision.  Put the lens down, seek the truth, understand before pushing your own way, and above all else love each and every person you find in your path, because without this love, we devolve into the roughhewn equivalent of a realized hate.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

What is Your Drug?

When you are willing to give almost everything you have and everything you ever will be for the hit of one last experience, your drug of choice has become more important than life itself.  This is to say, when nothing else matters in the world, except for that look, taste, or feeling you get, then your shackles are fastened securely and you are the slave.  The bind which you once considered a passing phase, has now become the only phase which matters.  Whether this describes you or not, and whether you can push past your own philosophical boundaries to expose a drug you’ve kept hidden is removed from our everyday life as a matter of course rather than something to be reviled.  You’ve justified its purpose, a Munchausen Syndrome has taken hold, and your justification has revealed no physical harm has occurred, or at least no physical harm has occurred to anyone else.  It’s your body, it’s your life, so why shouldn’t it be your choice on what you do, as long as no one is hurt.  If people could only understand how you think and what you feel about why you do what you do, then maybe they could understand and appreciate, even show sympathy for your actions.  They may even allow a carte blanche when it comes to behavior.  Perhaps they can know you on a deeper level.  All of these are what the junkie for their drug will say, and eventually, after ridicule has become the order of the day, and banishment has occurred, does the junkie no longer care.  They’ve been written off, they’ve been cast aside, and in this public process of social death, we see what they really want.  One last hit, a search for the exhilaration they once felt, but a search which never yields the dividends or results they desire.  Have you ever known anyone like this at all?  Have you ever been like this at all?  The drug of choice, doesn’t need to be an illicit drug, designed to chemically change us physically.  No, the drug could very well be, something we covet, and hold above all other aspects in our lives, something which changes us from the inside out and corrupts our very soul.  This could be porn, power, money, material items, or all of the above.  Can you name your drug of choice, or can you name the loved one who seeks this drug?

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Often times we hear people, religious minded people, dictate a rule of living which means the pursuit of these “drugs” as they were are a wrong pathway to walk in life.  However, when pressed on the point, we may find they are regurgitating a religious philosophy which promotes incredulity at the very questioning of their beliefs.  It may even invite ridicule, to a point where they fail to listen to the questions of those suffering from this perceived need.  Saying, “because, this isn’t what God wants” may be sufficient to those who’ve embraced the love of God, but for those who don’t know or are in the grips of sin, this answer is woefully insufficient.  Equally, I would find consternation in those people who desire to explain nuance with platitudes and vague generalities.  Where the advice sounds like a truism and where the person giving advice sounds like they are helping, often times their vagueness creates distended issue worse by infusing more questions without any answers.  Once, I worked for a man, who loved to hear himself talk, his problems were usually the worst, and his answers were the extensions of those who worked around him.  He took credit for those who worked for him, which allowed him to maintain his position, and when asking for project explanation, his answers were vague and unhelpful.  It wasn’t until years later, when really putting my life and experiences in perspective, did I realize what he was doing and subsequently what he was suffering from.

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First, what my previous boss was doing was allowing enough movement for himself where is vagueness was an elongation of his need for power, so keeping me in the dark long enough to continue asking his advice and direction allowed him to steer me where he needed me to go.  His pursuit of misdirection when dealing with supervisory direction, such as projects requested but never utilized, was a matter of his own realization of regulatory discretion.  He was less worried about the people who worked for him and their careers, and he was more worried about how he was going to attain his next big break in the company.  He wanted to maintain his “rock star” status with the executive management and keeping a tight leash on his subordinates was a method he found to keep his fix coming.  Second, his drug was attention and power at the hands of those who considered him irreplaceable.  He focused his need for this attention and power and exuded a persona of simplicity and fairness, his reality was to keep his subordinates at odds with one another, and give details only when necessary.

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For me, this took me the better part of ten years to let my anger go and forgive him, because at the end of the day, he thought he was playing the system, and instead it was playing him by allowing him a “hit” when he did selfish and unredeemable acts.  He couldn’t help himself at one point, and when confronted with the truth of his lies, he didn’t deny them, just stared at me for bringing them up.  He was at a position of power so distinct, he no longer cared what anyone thought.  Of course, at the time, I was disheartened to be exposed to this.  I was angered to have been the brunt of his selfish actions.  In the end, I was offered another position, in another company, and I left his employment.  Many years after the fact I often would work myself up to a lather thinking about how I had been taken advantage of, and I realized I allowed him to do this to me, because I needed the job.  I wanted the hours and salary which came with the job, and I was willing to be treated poorly in order to attain these desired materials.  I was in the grip of my own drug, the drug of status quo.  This is to say, I enjoyed what I had attained from those benefits, and I was unwilling to let them go, even if I was being poorly treated by a boss who was out for his own benefit.  After looking back on the entire organization, I realized it was bred into the industry with the profession of individuals who steered its direction.  If I was willing to step back a little more, I saw this was not just an industry thing, but a cultural thing.  This is to say, we all have something we’re willing to endure to keep the status quo.  We all have something, we answer away with “this is just my struggle” as a matter of course, rather than the recognition of our own need for the drug of choice.

My drug, was a search for the better, a reality of making life easier by increasing my wealth through employment.  I was willing to work as long and as hard as I could, so my life and the life of my family could be easier.  Not better, mind you, but easier.  I employed a distance philosophy, a strategy which said, as long as we have all we need to pay bills and provide us these creature comforts, we’ll be fine.  What I failed to think through, with any love or time whatsoever, was the erosion of foundation needed for my family.  I was the provider, yes, but a father can’t only provide money.  A father must provide, compassion, love, instruction, defense, will, strength, to sum up, a father must be a man.  I know this is rolled up nice and neat, but this is what it is.  A simplicity of life, which carries with it the nuanced complications of reality.  I was shirking my duties as a father and as a husband, so I could do what I wanted, rather than what I needed to do because of my obligation which was given lovingly to me and my wife by the Living God.

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We were entrusted to create a family by covenant with God, to raise our children and maintain this love shown to us, as we raised our children.  My selfish need for a fix, created an aberration of obligation and adulterated the very truth I was seeking in life.  I was awful in retrospect.  So, upon this realization and reflection in my life, I choose to reexamine the situation surrounding my career and those supervisors who once were the bane of my existence and look over the situations once more.  Here is what I found.  Often times, God gives us the very tools needed to overcome the situations we’re in, and when he doesn’t, this means it’s time for you to come home and probably your life is ending.  Which is to say, unless it is death, you have the tools, you just need to dig deep and reflect on just what your expectations are in life.  Regarding my previous boss, my compassion won out.  He is just a man, trying to figure his way out in this world, and “when in Rome” was his philosophy at the time.  He just wanted to provide for his family and promote up as he did so.  Nothing so wrong about this, until you begin to step on those around you, and this is where the pain comes in.  An unwillingness to acknowledge our behavior, because to acknowledge it would be to admit wrongdoing and in our admonition we are faced with a decision of right and wrong.  We all like to think of ourselves as right, so the very mention of being wrong would be about as painful a truth as I can think of. God wills our love, but gives us free will, we choose to return our love to him or walk away.  It is up to us.  Our decision to push away from the drugs which bind us in this life are our choice.

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Think about your decisions today, did you go to a job you hate?  Did you talk poorly to a person you love?  Were you confronted by a situation which by itself isn’t too good, but taken as a whole with everything else in your life, makes everything seem awful?  What are you going to do?  Do you just up and quit everything, run away from this problem(s) in your life?  Believe it or not, before writing this, I talked with numerous people who have gone through these very questions today, and I had to assure them, all isn’t lost and yes pushing away from these is needed.  It doesn’t mean we cut out our family, friends, or quit a lucrative job.  Just the contrary.  It dictates, the pathway we are walking down, is wrong.  The decisions we are making are not based in principle, but selfish desire to realize an outcome which will never materialize the way we want.  It is the realization, what we want isn’t always what is needed.

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I would challenge anyone who is facing these situations to ask themselves, “is there any part of this situation, I could have changed for the better of everyone involved?”  This may mean an acknowledgement of selfless behavior or a truth of outright wrongness.  Whatever the result of the situational reflection happens to be; is it too late to fix?  If it isn’t, then as I would tell myself, my wife, and definitely my kids, “make it right!”  If it is too late, then what is your solution?  How can you fix it for the future?  How can you kick this drug of selfishness to the curb?  Questions which have literally been asked for millennia and will continued to be asked long after we’re dead and gone.  Though, not without merit if we can learn from our mistakes, and teach the next generation to be more compassionate and thoughtful individuals living principled lives.

As I’ve acknowledged before, when I began to focus more on my principles in life, I found the quality of my life began to dramatically improve.  So much so, I had people tell me there was something different about me, almost a joy exuding from me when I spoke.  I had no idea what they were talking about.  All I knew was I was tire of being angry, and I was tired of being tired of all the drama I sought in life.  Along with searching for a better life, as a drug of choice, the side effect was vitriolic anger.  I wasn’t happy about anything, I wasn’t nice about many things, and I could find fault in the whiteness of snow, if given the time and opportunity.

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The side-effects of our “drugs” are the worst part about it all.  The side-effects give us the illusion of binding us to our decisions and preventing us from taking steps of correction.  Some of my family members are well known for stubborn pride, they can be quoted as saying, “I’ve made my decision and I’m sticking to it” even when objectively this decision is bound to fail due to the selfish nature of pursuit.  They are unwilling to discuss alternatives, and are unwilling to discuss points of view.  When asked, they simply respond, “nope, I don’t wish to discuss” or “I’m sorry you feel this way”.  Which if I’m being completely honest, I absolutely hate the “I’m sorry you feel this way” response.  However, something I’m still working on, I have a lot of personal projects.  Nevertheless, the pain which is cause by people who care about us, and are willing to say anything at all out of love, should not be derided as a matter of course in our decisions.  There are a few situational hurdles which must be met before we can fully continue down the path of correctness and not the path of selfish desire or so we can get our fix.  The first being, why was anything said to us at all, do they desire to prevent us from being happy or do they have any experience in this matter?  If they want us to be happy, then we must acknowledge this, and if they have experience, failing to recognize this, is tantamount to a fool’s paradise.  The second question is a little more in depth, are they suffering from their own drug fix and are incapable of seeing our situation for what it is?  To answer this final question, the first two must be recognized of their own merit.  If the answer is no to the first two, and we can clearly see the answer as, yes to the last question, then we must as compassion dictates, stop relishing our own situation, and give to them.  They need our care and concern.

At the end of the day, keeping the focus on selflessness is what we should be doing, because the drugs we face in this life are centered on a pursuit of selfishness to the destruction of all if needed.  The need for power, money, sex, control, and feeling good.  Instead the antithesis of these selfish desires is where the love of God resides.  This is to say, God, wills us to fall in love with him through, charity, selfless acts of compassion for those who need to be pulled out of the mire their lives are in.  God needs us to, put others first always, even as an expression of life and martyrs.  God needs us to accept his love, accept his joy, and give everything we have in return.  Just imagine this, knowing you could have run a little harder or pushed a little farther, and you would have succeeded in winning the game but you always held something back, just in case.  Life isn’t a game, but the principle applies.  If you’re always holding something back, if you’re always waiting for something better to come along, if you can’t quite give of yourself completely for hopes of anything else, you’re hooked and you need to get off the drug as soon as you can.  Your love is very much needed in this world, your spouse needs you completely, your children need you fully, and God desires everything you have for a love as completely pure as to make the very ground you walk on quake from the goodness given.  May, God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

With Me or Against Me?

Today I was fortunate enough to hear a perspective in thought about how we may all perceive others as well as our own actions.  It was a perspective of change, at least in the context of our very lack thereof.  Which isn’t to say we are incapable of change, if we can visualize or realize the outcome expected we can contain some control over our expectations.  Though, the very second, we no longer have or perceive control, we push away what we can’t have.  We don’t have control over everything, and by this fact, we only exist in those comforts of control.  We only stay around those people we feel most comfortable with, we only do those activities which provide a predictable outcome for us, or we only accept those things which seem to benefit us and then turn our back on those things which seemingly hurt us.  This hurt is pain which comes in all shapes and sizes.  Sometimes pain comes from growth, sometimes from loss, at other times pain can be a combination of both, but I think the most prevalent form of pain comes from the disparate expectation of results in our favor and then being disappointed.  Our disappointment leads to a removal of situation and thus removing what is perceived to be the pain.  This perception is somewhat counter-intuitive because when we seek to remove the pain in our lives we take out the most needed portion of control and in doing so we replace it with a mechanism of devilish design focused on our destruction. In Mark 9:40 Jesus states “For he that is not against us is for us”.  For in these ten words, he describes pain and acceptance for those things which we can’t control, and at the same time those we deal with who represent a mountain of difference but a similarity in pursuit.  Their journey is different to our own, but their goal is just like ours, God, of whom we all seek whether we realize it or not.

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Earlier this week, my wife and I watched the public lynching of a person who by all objective standards was castigated because of his difference of perception to certain groups of individuals who disagreed with him which created an atmosphere of hysteria.  These people because of their perception of “against” were willing to destroy a reputation of a good man, all because he didn’t do things the way they wanted.  He didn’t agree with their points of view, and destruction, in their minds, was the only way to achieve victory.  The real answer was never dialogue through argument and persuasion, only destruction through villainy and misdirection.  The repercussions of their behavior to this person, are perceived to have long lasting effects which will disrupt the decision-making process for a generation.  This was all achieved, because of their lack of focus on their own paradigms, their lack of work in their own fields, and the need to pawn the hard decisions on those few to find a villain when the time comes.

Ultimately, this is a perfect example of the for or against argument and existing paradigm in today’s world.  We don’t need enemies, we don’t need turmoil, we need to step back and realize our way isn’t the only way in life.  Our perceptions aren’t the only perceptions of life.  Finally, we must do better and know, when it came to Jesus, we were either for or against him.  When the Apostles were incredulous to the fact there were those driving out demons in the name of Christ, they wanted it to stop, because of the perceived unaffiliated association perceived to be with Jesus.  Their perception was limited, and they walked with the Divine Christ, just imagine how limited our perceptions are of the people around us.  Think of a time, when you may have felt threatened by someone new to the group, someone who received the attention you worked so hard for.  Then when you were asked about how you liked this new person, you never said an untruth, but what you did may have been much worse.  You, instead, didn’t give your endorsement, and this cause others to look down upon the new and ultimately reject them.  To flip this around, the rejected may have been dumbfounded as to a reason they were rejected, especially since they were nice to everyone and there was seemingly no reason whatsoever to have been rejected.  Do you think if they had an opportunity to speak with you to plead their case, they might have done so, especially knowing the power of persuasion you wielded?  At the end of the day, accepting those who are different in ways of look, practice, or perception is the cornerstone of compassion.  A compassion which simply stated wants and wills the good of the other.  We all are created by God, and we must all realize, although another person doesn’t always fill a warm place in our heart, they are beloved by God, and are loved beyond measure by God.

My focus in life, is to be a faithful servant to God, be a good father and husband, and a desire to be a reflective light of Christ in all I do.  This can be very difficult at times, especially when those results I seek, don’t seem to go my way, and instead I am challenged at every turn.  I meet challenges when I go to the store and find people going too slow or walking down the middle of the aisle.  There are those I work with, who at the very least, are argumentative to a fault and create strife because of their unhappiness.  I even have strife in my own family, when I am confronted with a member who does not see faith or religion in the way I see it, and consternation ensues and creates tension because of a perceived ocean of difference between the details.  However, everything is about perception, and with a proper perception, we can overcome it all.  We can also realize, to be with God is the only “with” our concern should be focused on.

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Did you know 99.999999% of the human body is empty space?  The nucleus of an atom is very small in comparison to the atom.  Which is to say, although we see our bodies as a solid mass of cells because we feel and look solid, but when seen through a microscope the very dimensions of what we see is exposed and there is a vast gulf between what we can see and what is there.  This is better explained when the question is asked, “if there is so much space between the nucleus and the protons, electrons, and neutrons, then why can’t we float or walk through objects.  Here is where the real perception comes in, because of those things we can’t see or know, or truly wrap our heads around, the space is full.  The space is filled with undulating waves of quarks and gluons.  This is to say, there’s a whole lot going on we just don’t know or fully understand why.  However, the kinetic movement of the cells is very much needed to function.  A perception of with or against is very much like this.

So often we act as if we are for change and for an understanding of the original and even the eccentric when it comes to those people who are around us.  Though, if I’m being honest, I would have to say, I don’t deal with change or others very well at times.  Those times when I don’t seem to connect with others or find a common ground, I’m more likely to push back and walk away.  In other words, I create a perceived gulf and give what sounds like a logical argument for my distance and even adversarial relationship.  However, if I’m willing to focus on the objective truth between myself and others, I will find I do more things to distance myself, due to inconsistent behavior than they do.  In other words, they are more normal than me, and if there is an issue, it is probably more my responsibility to work on myself than the insistence of my forced perspective on them.

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Time and again, I find with the context of morality, when I focus on a reality where I’m not the one with all the answers. I am willing to accept blame for my actions, I find a willingness and perhaps a zeal to be wrong as a matter of course to learn.  However, when I find an honorability in ostracization, I find judgement in others as being against me, because “they’re doing everything wrong” and this doesn’t meet the plans I had, when deciding to control my life.  This isn’t to say there haven’t been those people in my life, who above all else, were more selfish than myself, and their decisions were really a toxic portion of my life, there were, and those times led to worse times when I allowed the influence to sway the decisions I made.  No, what I’m really referring to, is the comfortable times of mediocrity, where we find blame and fault in those who don’t do as we wish, but who aren’t wrong either.

I’ve always heard an expression of, “there’s always more than one way to skin a cat”, and yes, I realize if you’ve never heard this, then my hillbilly roots just came through loud and clear.  Though, there is great wisdom in this expression, a fountain of knowledge which seeks the listener’s ability to forward think and realize a paradigm shift explaining a new perception of the same old argument.  If there were only one way to do the activities we seek in life, then it would be fair to say, I would not be typing right now, and you would not be reading right now.  All of us would have already embraced the traditions of old, and it would be more a question of “when?” than “why?”

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If we embraced a fervor to accept different ways and methods of thought, then we would be inclined to trust those around us, and instead of a with or against argument, we might just have a when argument.  Ideal as this sounds, we as human beings, would then force ourselves to create a new equilibrium dictating where the “for” or “against” lines should be drawn.  If you doubt this, look at the laws of the last 100 years, and you will quickly begin to realize, there is a social movement in the perceptions of the laws and those who commit the illegal acts.  There is a new sense of indignation when “offensive” remarks are made, but no real substance can be draw from the outrage when a proper perception of God is the focus.  This is to say, if we exist on the very Hands of God, then we must begin to realize, it’s less about what we perceive, rather than what we give.  It’s less about our honor or ego, and more about a humility to ask for the acceptance of another.  Perpetually behaving as if the world owes us something, or our honor is never to be impugned sets us on a pathway which seeks the derision of our lives and breeds unjoyful disdain.

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So, are you with me or against me?  Question of the day; this is focus of our politics now, the focus of our world now, and frankly the focus of religion as well.  As much as smart individuals want to embrace a grayish area of existence, a focused morality and decision-making process of good or bad should really be all the black and white we need.  This is to say, if we are for one another, then the good wins this contest.  If we aren’t consistent our acceptance, like it or not, the “against” will always win out.  The gray area consists of the time we take to use our objective truths to answer these questions.  Obviously the longer we take to answer the hard questions, the longer we stay in the gray, and the more comfortable ambiguity will become for each and everyone one of us.  Maintaining an atmosphere of moral ambiguity allows us to embrace, perversion of perception and this fosters ambivalence towards others for failing to meet our expectations or requirements in an area we are neither an expert nor a proper judge.  We aren’t an expert, because we assume there is only “our” way of doing things, and we are not a proper judge, because only a judge who bases their decision on an objective truth (e.g. rule of law) can make a fair decision to know and accept a truth larger than their perception.

Ok, so we mostly exist in the gray, but we desire to be in the white (or light as I like to think about it) and obviously the black is the darkness which threatens to consume us, by our own decisions and improper perceptions.  I’ve written about the mediocrity of the age, whereby, we as a culture embrace the gray.  We don’t wish to push past the difficult and really know the beauty of life, but instead we become lazy and wish to have others do the work for us, or at least make the hard decisions so we can blame them for our lot in life.  When the truth of this comes to light, we don’t have the courage to admit we were cowards, and we didn’t do what was needed to really make a difference.  This starts with an ability to acknowledge the differences in others and accept although they are different this doesn’t make them wrong.

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Next time you feel the desire to push someone away, because they possess those personal, profession, or religious attributes which appear to be at odds with us.  Remember, ours isn’t to push away, but instead, ours is to embrace with the Light of Christ at every chance possible.  So, are you with me or against me?  I hope you’re with me on this point.  I am the guiltiest of pushing people out of something I held to be mine and mine alone.  The shame I feel from this, creeps in on me from time-to-time, and I realize, my arrogance gave me the courage to act as if I was better and in doing so.  I made another person feel unwanted and unloved, when I think on this long enough, I know it should have been me who was pushed for failing to recognize how wonderful those people were, in their own ways.

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If you were able to make it this far, please think about your situations in life and how you could be/have been better and make those good decisions now.  Root for the win, embrace all those who truly are with you in life, and find a reason to bring those who seem to be against you in to the fold as well.  I hope and pray my words are an encouragement to you and your family.  I pray God blesses you and your family.

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Why Does Growth Create Pain?

When I was a kid, I went out of my way to avoid extra work, or anything which I perceived would cause me turmoil.  I would cut corners in the hopes, my corner cutting would be considered a new minimum amount of necessary work, and would be accepted.  My calculated risk venture would work, more often than not, and the dividends paid meant more time to watch TV or basically hang out with my friends.  As far as the times it did not work, I found mild irritation in the lectures I received from my parents, and the struggle of doing extra work.  All in all, it made more sense to me, to avoid the struggle whenever and wherever possible.  At the time though, I didn’t know why I was so willing to be essentially lazy, all I knew was it was working just fine for me, and I was ok with this.  As I was becoming a teenager and then eventually a legal adult, I found those situations were becoming more often and less innocuous.  The results of my behaviors were also becoming more pronounce and the effects on those around me were even more severe at times.  I was walking on people, in a manner of speaking, to get where I needed to go, by avoiding those tasks and situations which required my attention and my personal care to focus on the issues at hand.  In other words, I was avoiding my responsibility.  The process of being responsible, for me, was painful, and although I had not characterized this as pain, this is what I was avoiding all along.  I was pushing off the pain of growth for the perceived painlessness of life through inaction.  However at one point or another, I realized the pain I was avoiding was being manifested in other ways on other people and because of the transference the pain was exacerbated.  Through my nonacceptance of responsibility, I transferred my pain to others.

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This is really what everything comes down to at times, we don’t want to feel true pain, so we avoid it at all costs.  We make a personal practice of willing ourselves to maintain the status quo, without realizing the only status quo which can be maintained is change.  The change needed in our lives, although we may not recognize or agree with it.  The change needed for growth or responsibility is paramount to our collective efforts within a culture of “me”.  I’m sure we can all remember as children when we had growing pains in our legs which seemed to throb and become a never-ending pain which wasn’t relieved by any position we sat or laid in.  I was always given a rub of some ointment which smelled awful and I likened to burning a hole in my leg.  However, with enough time, the pain seemingly just went away, as if it was never there and the world would be right once again.  This is what I would liken pain in our lives like.  Some pains are worse than others, and some stick with us, while others just seem to vanish.  If we focus on the pain and figure out why it’s occurring, we might be better suited to find a solution, rather than if we practice avoidance and find after the pain has affected every aspect of our lives, we no longer can avoid and we must fix what has been broken by the pain.  The expression, “and ounce of prevention, is worth a pound of cure” was never truer than when dealing with pain.  When we avoid our responsibilities, and allow a subsistence of pain to continue we risk damage which will take more time to fix than if we’d just focused and prevented it in the first place.

I’m not suggesting though, we run head long into every painful situation we can, or people don’t have pain thrust upon them for no reason or explanation at all.  What I’m merely suggesting is, we deal with our pain, as we understand, in order to grow in our spirituality, lives, understandings of the world and people in it, and love we must all endure varying levels of pain.  Pain from loss, pain from growth, pain from the unexpected, and pain from the expected are all ways we must grow.

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Just the other day, I was informed about an acquaintance whose child was diagnosed with leukemia.  To say this is heart wrenching is an understatement.  His child, was diagnosed years ago, and seemingly beat the cancer into remission, but the sickness has come back and it’s aggressive.  However, the situation isn’t a practice in avoidance.  Quite the contrary, they are focused on every aspect of the physical sickness, the pain of the situation in all aspects, and the very real contention of loss from all points of realized mortality.  They know what the result could be in a loss to this disease, but they also realize avoiding this pain carries not one scintilla of benefit whatsoever.  They, for lack of a better understanding, embrace their pain as they wish to grow in the light of Christ.  This is to say, God’s will is for all of us to accept where we are and pursue love in life as it pertains to God’s Love.  This is a painful proposition, but not one which is unjoyful or one which carries with it no benefit.  Through pain we find a greater willingness to love, to understand, to hope, and to put ourselves last as a matter of truth.  I’m strengthened to know their child has what seems to be the faith of a thousand hearts, a faith as bright as the reflective light of a child but in a circumstance as their body struggles.  Their pain hasn’t affected their faith, but has increased their love of each other and of the world.

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Over the years, I noticed something about pain though, the first time I endured a physical pain, perhaps a migraine or broken bone the pain was almost so bad, I felt as if it would never end and I couldn’t endure it much longer.  However, the more times I felt pain I was able to focus and clarify the pain, and create a sense of position within the pain as a matter of a perception to harness rather than something which would control me.  This isn’t to say I didn’t feel the sting of physical pain or the emotional drop of failure in both my personal and professional life.  It just means I recognized the supercilious events as they occurred.  It was like opening a door to a world which would allow me a better understanding to accept what must be endured as a matter of course.  I see the man’s child who is enduring a fight with leukemia, and what they must endure to fight the disease.  I see the pain they endure and the pain their family endures by being unable to fight it themselves and I don’t see hopelessness, but instead I see a glorifying effort in the name of God to push past the physical ailment and recognize a higher purpose to the pain they endure.

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This really is what it is all about, the enduring of what we see as pain, for the purpose of something higher and more pure than we can possible comprehend in life.  So, the question asked is, why does growth cause so much pain?  The answer is, because we don’t know what we don’t know, but in order to know, we must realize growth and learning is a matter of pain because as humans we resist growth because we like where we are at the time the pain becomes apparent.  Why can’t things just stay the same?  This isn’t the will of God.  If everything were to exist as it is now, then there is no hope for any of us.  Personally, I have a lot of work to do on myself, I feel as if I’m a project only half-completed and the work is long and difficult.  However, the work although painful at times, allows me the knowledge, once I’ve pushed past the pain, to address the real issues I have and with God’s help create something better.  I on my own can only hope to create works which are imperfect and lacking, but if I’m willing to take direction from God, this is to trust God completely (which is painful), then I will be shown a better and more fruitful way to exist.

This is where the family of the child with a disease is at.  They ask questions like, “why us?” or questions like, “what did we ever do to deserve this?”  The answer, although people don’t want to hear, because presumably there is the pain of receiving an answer which doesn’t satisfy our need of certain closure as a result of questions, is perhaps we were never intended to live a life stretching into old age.  Perhaps we were never intended to have a life where we received the vows of marriage, maybe having children was never in the cards as well.  It could be our intended purpose on this earth was to be a light which shown bright for a brief period of time, only because a brightness like those who leave us early can never be sustained over a long life.  The truth is we don’t know, but what we can know, is because of medicine, and new techniques for human health, we’ve grown to assume all humans should live well into their 70s and anyone who doesn’t left too early.  However, when we think like this, we take God out of the mix, and assume life is about science and the explanation therein.  Perception is key, when we presume life is how we see it, then we can correctly presume we are wrong in this.  “Some truths about God, exceed all the ability of human reason” (Aquinas, Summa Contra Gentile, B1:iii)

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There is pain in this understanding, but when we move past this pain we realize, we can only know what God wishes us to know, but this knowledge isn’t without the express desire to know.  We can’t simply ascertain a bevy of knowledge as if it were a notion suddenly apparent in our heads.  We have to search for this knowledge, we have to be willing to accept in our search we will go down the wrong paths.  We must conclude, in our search for knowledge, the pain we must accept as our world no longer is what we once perceived.  Many years ago, although I have always believed in God, I never asked the question “Where do you think you go when you die?” Seemingly I knew what the answer would lead to, and I knew letting go of what I’ve always known would be painful.  Accepting a truth which didn’t align with my current situation, would be a painful proposition, and one I wasn’t ready and willing to accept.  The truth still existed, and the question was still on my lips, “why is my life in so much turmoil?” The answer found its way into my head and into my heart, and the years I mulled it over and over, I would find a qualifying understanding of the question on one aspect or another, but I kept away from the answer I knew I must accept.  Finally, I did, I can’t say when or where it was, but it was as if the entire world and understanding of past, present, and future made sense to me.  It was then, I looked back on my life before this point, and realized my turmoil, my confusion, and my lack of acceptance was painful.  This part of my life was very painful, and although I don’t have the physical scars on my body to show the pain I was dealing with, I have very real scars on who I am, perhaps my soul is covered in the scars of my sins.  I was in pain, I looked and acted like a normal man, but the truth was, I wasn’t a man, I was still that little boy trying to avoid pain off the pretext, I didn’t want anything in my life to change.

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I’m reminded of the movie, Titanic with Kate Winslet and Leonardo DiCaprio where the ship has begun its final plunge into the blackness of the ocean.  The cold waters of the Atlantic risk to swallow the light from the ship and the voices crying out in fear.  What I always remembered was the stoic behavior of the Captain, as the ship dips below the water, and he looks at the glass now covered by the ocean, and the fear is realized.  He knows his death is eminent at this point, he knows there is nothing he can do to prevent this from occurring, so he’s accepted his fate.  Then all at once the water comes crashing in and his fears are realized, his fate is sealed, and we move on to others in the film, suddenly realizing their own fates.  Hollywood is real good about the dramatization of events to evoke emotion, and then leaving those events to entertain us with other equally dramatic tales of happiness or sadness.  Though in the case of the captain, our pain is a lot like what he experienced before the water came rushing in.  We wait till the circumstances of our fear have taken control and it then becomes too late to do anything about where we find ourselves.  Jesus once asked “Who do people say the Son of Man is?”  Peter being the leader of the Disciples says, “You are the Christ, the Son of the Living God”.  Jesus indicates to Peter, he is the rock the community is meant to be built upon, and nothing of human origins gave Peter this revelation of truth.  Though, this truth wasn’t something Peter received just because, he was in search for this answer, even if he didn’t realize what he was searching for.  This search would inevitably lead to Peter’s death, but a death glorious in the truth of God.

Like Peter, we are all searching, but we aren’t quite sure what we’re searching for.  Some of us have preconceived notions of what we’ll find, and there are those of us who run from what we’ll find because we are fearful of the pain it might cause in our lives.  Some of us risk the loss of a loved one due to sickness, and even the loss of our own lives due to sickness.  There are those of us, who have the capacity to embrace the love of God, and reflect the light God shines upon us to all, but we don’t because we know what this will mean for our embrace of the culture which surrounds us.  Don’t be mistaken, to embrace God, means to push away a culture focused on self, and to become selfless.  It means the pain of being ostracized by those we once considered friends even family.  However, the reward of life doesn’t come in life, but in death.  When at the point of death, our fears are relieved and we can see a truth more beautiful than the limits of our imagination, we understand, the pain was necessary for our growth, so might be willing to accept the Love of God.

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God must deal with enormous amounts of pain, in order to love us all.  God must endure those, whom He has created, rejecting him at every twist and turn and yet his acceptance of those (including myself), is the unconditional love we all seek and desire.  God must also see our pain as we grow, much like a parent must watch their child endure a necessary pain in growth and even a perceived unnecessary pain (though as we don’t understand God’s narrative, we must always presume there is a reason for the pain we feel).  God must allow this, because if we are to fall in love with God, we must be allowed to experience the pain from the growth necessary to experience an unmitigated and pure goodness from God’s love.  I know this can seem counter intuitive, but this is only because we don’t know what we don’t know.

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So, why does growth cause so much pain?  Because, any journey in life will inflict upon us demands which for some will seem like a painful experience because their head is down as they look upon themselves.  For others, their eyes are affixed to God and what might be physically painful or emotionally painful is mitigated by the joy one feels for God.  Pain risks to control us all, if we accept it as a final act, but where God is our focus our pain becomes secondary.  Embrace your pain, push past it, find God in all you do, and your spouses will follow suit, your children will have a leader to follow towards the path of the eternal light.  You will be joyful, and you will always have a reason to admonish the pain you feel as par for the course.  May God bless you and your family and mitigate any pain you feel in this life.

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Where is Your Compassion?

“Where is your compassion?” A phrase uttered by those people taking stances of incredulity whereby they feign shock over another person’s ability to either be insensitive or unflinching in the perceptions of the world over their own perception of an event.  They are immediately listed by any one of the common descriptors and placed into an ideological prison set to explain issues of nuance and complexity with one word monikers or one line backhanded labels.  At any rate, our need to take anything and everything we see, and categorize it expresses the need to keep things simple.  This need for simplicity is thwarted when we begin to utilize hypocrisy, standards with shades of gray and justifying measure, and when we simply don’t want to spend the time to find out the truth behind such perceptions.  This is further exacerbated, but not always knowingly, by the general public, when they are knowingly deceived by media outlets and/or manipulated by the very sources they depend upon to give them factual evidence.  I will always stand by a desire to have only the facts relayed to me, and allow me to form an opinion devoid of political and social influences.  At the end of the day though, our culture’s need to define and redefine what is believed to be compassionate without an objective base to compare it with will remain a constant problem.  Just like an inability for compatible moralities, so are expectations of compassion.

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When we think of compassion, I’m sure we have a roughhewn image of kindness, this is to say, an act of kindness for someone in need of our charitable behaviors.  However, since our lives aren’t written for us to examine and prepare for, we’re left at a loss to determine how much or when our charity/compassion is to be used.  Our “free-will” allows us to go as far or as little as we desire, with a hopeful expectation (linear in its thought progression) which inadvertently says, the more charitable we are with people the more we can expect in return.  This is to say, the better we’ll feel, or the more magnanimous our efforts are the more people might see the “good-works” we’ve done.  I would say, if this is any person’s goal, they are somewhat off course.  Though to say they’ve done good works at all, means someone who benefitted from their kindness is better off from this expression of love, although be it a misguided love.  In some instances, I see a compassion shown by one person to another, becomes an act of self-love due to an expectation of reciprocal love in action.  This is to say, and expectation of benefit by first giving as a form of manipulation.  All I’m saying is, person “A” gives to person “B” in the hopes person “B” will reciprocate by giving back or telling everyone about the generosity of person “A”.  The ego is fed by a reverse stream of adulation performed by the original intended target.  Compassion then becomes more of a photo op than an act of charity.  With this exposure, a game of sorts is created, the game where parties are more concerned about the actions expressed as meeting a minimum set of arbitrary requirements, set forth by culture, and subsequently moved when the culture has found little response in the manipulated response.

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Here is what I mean, when something bad happens, people will usually extend a message of “thoughts and prayers” this message is used to convey a simple compassion and let the person receiving the message a sense of community.  In return, society has deemed the appropriate response to such an expression would be something similar to “thank you” or “I appreciate your words”.  A compassion was shown, regardless of size, and the acceptance of the intended target has lovingly reciprocated.  However, just recently, we’ve seen ire being cast upon those who offer “thoughts and prayers”, not because they’ve done anything wrong per se, but because those who would find fault in the subjective world of compassion, see the perceived diminutive response as more an admonition of bad events rather than the simple words of compassion they were meant to be.  This is to say, the line of acceptance has moved once again, and people who are on the wrong side of the “correct” perception risk public ridicule and varying levels of ostracism.  This is of course until the offending party, remember the person attempting to show compassion, apologizes for their breech of etiquette and forms in with the rest of the cultural police.  How, dumb!

This got me to thinking about how we perceive compassion and how it translates to each and every one of us.  All I mean is, to have an understanding of compassion, there really should be a measure of compassion.  There really should be an objective standard, with which to measure our actions against and in turn know beyond a doubt we’ve been compassionate to those who are in need of compassion.  Ok, so in laymen’s terms what is this?  All I’m trying to say is, when we perform compassionate acts, there should be an allowable stopping point to conclude this act, but at the same time, there should be an objective reaction which agrees upon the conclusion of compassionate acts.  A good analogy would be, a person of wealth and means takes it upon themselves to feed a family starving.  The family agrees they need food to live and gladly accept the food of charity, but also expect the brief respite from their situation to be concluded at the end of the meal.  For them to have an expectation more should be given is a subjective expectation of want over need.  They want something and because the person can theoretically provide this want, the compassion which was originally showed has now become obligation by only one side of the compassion equation.

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Often times, I’ve seen people who do not wish to be involved, for whatever reason they may have, with the parties they wish to show compassion, but because they don’t act with the perfunctory social norms of society, their compassionate act is treated with vitriol and pushed into the realm of defunct ideologies.  This isn’t to say, they could have acted better or with more tenderness in their pursuit of compassion, but within the actions of their efforts they are without a doubt, not wrong.  As this is the case, those who seek a punitive action against perceived adversaries of compassion find themselves at odds with segments of the “new culture”.  It then becomes, by popular acceptance, a crime of sorts to push away from public opinion.  However, like any drug and the potential for addiction, those forces set to rewrite the objective standards of compassion seek all avenues of power to attain in order to make all aspects of culture fall in line with their perceptions.  We see people who have religious beliefs being forced to go against their wills, as a matter of course, regardless of the degradation it focuses on their lives and the lives of their families.  We see entire organizations, focused on the compassion of others, being told, because of perceived outdated beliefs, they no longer are considered compassionate, but instead they are outdated and evil to their core.  The Catholic Church is a prime example, a religion of over 1.2 billion Catholics is routinely told, regardless of the literature and words spoken daily, they are bigots and enemies of goodness, at least by popular media and media driven sources.  Events in the Church, which are deplorable and an affront to anyone who claims to be Christian and good, are exacerbated to an epidemic level challenging the very motives of compassion and good the Church is built upon.  However, just like anything with a subjective goal in mind, there is always something behind the curtain, and an argument of compassion is no less important to the debate over abortion.

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Abortion, a hot button topic in the world today, and especially a hot topic when the law and its continuation may be subject to change or at least be hotly contested is on the forefront of the minds of many people.  Just so we’re clear, abortion is wrong, and taking the life of anything is wrong, especially the life of an individual who cannot defend or answer for themselves.  If we want to talk about choice, where is the choice, the child in the womb, has and why aren’t they allowed to exercise it?  Some would say, giving the woman a choice to decide if she wants to keep the baby or not is compassion.  Though, I would say this isn’t even in the same world as compassion, in truth, a woman who exercises an option to end life acts more like a dictator purging what they don’t want rather than showing compassion to all.

The Christian Church is very specific about the life of a child, and in the processes of the compassion to see the beauty of life, choices must be made to keep this very reverence for life understood as an objective truth and not the opinions of those with an agenda.  Some, could argue, the Christian’s pursuit is a subjective approach to “their truth” and is no more relevant than those with a pro-choice agenda.  In some specific cases, I can find no argument with their point.  However, even when we can find those with a subjective agenda, it still doesn’t preclude the understanding of objective truth and life and the need to preserve life at all costs.  At its very core, compassion seeks to prolong what is good, by shielding those who are beset by what is evil/bad.

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I would even go so far as to say, when we can accept the objective moral truth finding compassion is relatively easy and to put into practice is a matter of time and acceptance.  When we find subjectivity in our compassion, we find issue in circumstance and derision in anything which doesn’t meet our specific standards of compassion.  If it isn’t what we’d do, or feel, then it is probably safe to assume the person intending compassion is wrong, and since there isn’t anyone around to punish them for their oversight, we must do so, so we can teach them where they are wrong.  Seems to be the standard action for anyone who doesn’t meet a set of standards.  Standards, which are neither written down, and can only be repeated, until they are no longer popular.

The act of compassion, isn’t just about hugs and kisses, although, those are good to have in certain disagreeable times, especially those instances of loss.  However, compassion should be, one’s desire to understand and proffer a solution meant to alleviate circumstances which might be necessary to help another person or persons.  Currently within many governments, we are inundated with social programs focused on the help of the society at large.  For instance, welfare programs intended to subsidize those who need financial or food needs, with a general belief the help will provide circumstances whereby the individual(s) will be capable of sourcing food and shelter on their own at some point.  At least, this was the original intended purpose, however this has changed over the years, and there appears to be more and more folks finding loopholes and system crutches to allow advantageous circumstances perpetuating and existence on the forced compassion of the people around them.  This isn’t to say all the programs are necessarily bad, but they should never be considered entitlements of life.  However, culturally they have been accepted as a cultural need, and anyone who disagrees with this perceived need, now becomes the cultural equivalent to a racist, bigoted, uncompassionate pariah.  So, now we reach the value of the question, “Where is your compassion?”  To which I would answer, “My compassion has always been here”, for me to continue giving sums of money unrequited, is nothing less than an inability to be compassionate and an ability to feel bad.  That’s right, seeing poverty and the conditions it creates should make us feel bad, but giving our time and money to an entity which has been shown, by its agents, to be woefully corrupt and inadequate, is an indicator of our misaligned need for compassion.

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Compassion simply comes in the word, “no” more often than the word “yes”.  I love my kids, and yet I find I tell them “no” so often, they assume this will be my answer anytime they ask for something.  I know there might be some out there, already forming an opinion of me, but keep reading, and hopefully you will recognize the compassion in my “no” to them.  A child is a needy set of circumstances, which culminates into a beautiful gift from God.  This is to say, their innocence and their goodness is one of the closest gifts of the ethereal we can touch and experience.  However, kids are also entitled and believe they should get what they ask for, sound similar to some adults you might know?  By giving them what they ask for, whenever they ask for it, I am showing no compassion, but instead I’m complicit in the degeneration of their development.  A functioning adult is one which can accept circumstances and yet still rise above to achieve their goals.  An adult’s ability to rise above their circumstances isn’t a matter of talent, but something which must be taught and learned over many frustrating years of development.  Likewise, this is a matter for the parents as well, I personally don’t enjoy causing consternation for my family.  I don’t find enjoyment in seeing the letdown on their faces as I inform them, they will not be going to the party because they are in trouble for failing to do their chores.  So, you’ve guessed it, I’m a mean dad, because I care enough to tell them “no”, so one day when they are much older, they will have an objective standard to base decisions on.  They will be able to accept the fact, they won’t receive everything they want, but this won’t make them unhappy, but instead it will give them perspective to understand needs and wants.

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Sometimes, being perceived as wrong, because we don’t follow the pack in their subjective standards of compassion, is right where we need to be.  This can be considered tough love, old school rules, or common sense, and whatever we choose to call it, we can be certain of a few things.  The first certainty is our comprehension of what we call compassion, find an objective source (The Bible and Teachings of the Church) and stick with them.  The second, compassion isn’t a feeling, but instead a moral choice to acknowledge right from wrong, and then show charity for our fellow man with no hope of reciprocal effort.  The third, no matter what another person says about the compassion we show, if we can find where our actions are objective (through self-reflection) then we can argue our point, and contrary to popular belief now; arguments are very much needed, they are the only preventative measure to all out chaos.  An argument is the only way to create a compassion through discourse.  Our compassion is our own, and although we feel the need to explain it from time-to-time, this is the effect of a hypersensitive culture, which needs our argument and your silent stance on your efforts to find compassion in those who are God’s creations.  May God bless you, and your family!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Is Morality Transferable?

Is morality a transferrable option, which is to say, can just anyone possess a sense of morality?  Well if we listen to some of the greatest minds (modern day or the recent past), there seems to be some who say “yes” and others who believe “no”.  The truth is, without a sense of objective truth, we are left to wonder just how objective we can be.  Reality is, we all stake even objective perceptions in a subjective reality where justifications abide.  This isn’t to say our subjective realities are always moving in a direction of sinful behavior, in some cases, we become more restrictive than is probably necessary (e.g. The Puritans).  However, actions intended to be moral, but without the source of an objective morality being in place, our hopes of being objectively “moral” turn out to be self-serving actions which in their intent may be good or bad, but nevertheless of our own making.  In a godless society, we’ve become, to take a point of modern atheists, our own gods.  We keep our own counsel, and we determine the rightness and wrongness of our actions (which in a selfish society seem to hardly ever be wrong), and the degree of wrongness to which others have acted when not in concert with our interpretations of truth.  That’s a mouthful, but in the end, within ourselves we become the judge, jury, executioners of modern civics up to and including social organizations which don’t meet our civic perceptions.

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This topic is loaded, so I will do my best to keep things brief and concise as possible.  The first part of this is to unload perceptions.  I often have conversations with my wife, about the perceptions of those, who are neither well read, nor experienced in many things (e.g. failure, desire, success, life), but yet they have an opinion about everything, and to disagree with their opinions is tantamount to heresy in the court of public opinion.  In truth, if the church of public opinion wants to cast me out, I’m good with civil fringe existence, this area of the cultural landscape is getting more populated by the day.  I will also confess, I am super opinionated, and I’ve been this way since I could remember.  Sometimes this can be good, but often times this must be taken with a “grain of salt” and be understood, although an opinion exists, we must not allow it to get in the way of actual truth.  We can’t be so bound to our opinions, because they make sense to us, and be unwilling to look at all sides of an argument.  This is where being well read and well versed in a particular topic stands to gain the most ground.  This isn’t to say a veritable novice wouldn’t have a good opinion or judgement of any matter their not an expert in, but it does recognize those who are well read or studied on a particular topic as having more exposure and thusly being exposed to more viewpoints creating a more well-rounded opinion.  This is usually the problem with opinions, we don’t know how narrow they are until exposed to further explanation and the creation or expansion of the original thought.  This is good when learning about topics, but this can also be negative when it comes to topics of morality.  Expansion is like the platitude of moderation, “anything in moderation is key to a balanced life”, this is true but too much exposure to one side or another on any topic, might create an unbalanced look at whatever topic is being considered.

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As morality goes, our culture suffers from a relativism which is an unbalance expansive point of view.  This is what I mean, western culture has been largely influenced by Judeo-Christian beliefs, which is to say a moral foundation created and is the base for moral and societal determinative efforts for areas such as the law, societal acceptance, and workweek activities.  As a society has continued to age, the population naturally has increased considerably, but methods of exposure to morality has not.  This effect of expansion is the causation of a gulf between objective moral sourcing and perceived moral behavior.  Essentially, as the culture is aging and people are so busy, they are filling their time with activities which carry their attention more.  Like an ever-changing list, they are constantly moving items of interest in their list to “top five” designators and creating importance from this list.  Here is an example, if you were given two choices, go and listen to a speaker talk about the importance of financial planning or watch a movie you’ve anticipated for some time, which would you go to?  Truthfully, twenty years ago, I would have picked the movie, but now I would give some consideration to the financial planner, eventually resting on the movie.  My determinate behavior would be based on a few factors such as how much time I have to consider financial planning, maybe how much I’ve desired to see the movie, perhaps in just how bored I would be sitting in a hotel conference room listening to someone with more money than myself explain what I should do just in case I get some money.  If I boil everything down to its most simplistic terms, I would be bored in the room listening and not bored being entertained.  As you can see though, my perspective in life has caused me some pause to change my general outlook.  As something becomes important to me, it carries more weight than whether or not I should be entertained.

Which brings back into focus the subjectivity factor, this is to say, and we need to unpack what motivates us, and creates the subjective behaviors we all act on.  Now, as I was stating before the Judeo-Christian beliefs of kindness, love, compassion, and accountability are always there.  However, there are those who find going to church and listening to someone they hold in contempt, perhaps don’t agree with, or plain bored with because of an incomprehension to what is being said or done finding a deviation of these objective teachings as a matter of subjective thought.  So for instance, someone who doesn’t go to church nor do they believe in God, has all their life seen and heard the objective moral teachings of Christianity, and now they have molded the parts easiest or seemingly fair into a personal credo.  They then apply this credo as a matter of personal thought even placing a sense of originality to the thought as they apply it.  They thought it (at least this is what they tell themselves) and now they apply it and attain results.  Here is where the subjectivity will let them down, they own nothing to a negative result, other than to say it is a part of their understanding which will need to be reworked until a positive result ensues.  Their moral behavior has now become subjective, and their moral goals have now moved in one direction or another so as to achieve a result as they see fit.  The problem this moral subjectivity causes is, when millions of people are doing the exact same thing, thinking the exact same way, it creates confusion tantamount to chaos.  The chaotic whirlwind of secular morality is such as to create a relative point of view allowing for everything or nothing but all is good or all is bad.  Extreme?  Seems this way, but at the same time, if we don’t know there the line is, then who can we assume knows where this is at, and if we don’t know who knows then like lost lambs we await a shepherd to bring us into the proverbial fold.

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Photo by Alex Smith on Pexels.com

Our need to find this shepherd becomes a search for anyone to give us the directions we so desperately look for.  In an interview Jordan Peterson once made a point of the waves of men, especially young men, who flock to his presentations searching for anything which wets the appetite of their moral intellectual philosophies.  They are searching for directions, the relative pathway seems nice for a while, but the gift God gave us to search for the light of truth, persists within us to find truth and seek a shepherd within our lives.  The truth is a protection of sorts, it binds us to God, and creates within us a set of boundaries, a line as it were, and knowing where this line is creates a sense of calm within our restless souls.  Knowing where the path is at allows us to walk to the path instead of becoming agents of opinion and spending an entire life in search of the pathway needed to find joy, essentially finding God.

This becomes a figurehead to the question as to why, if there are objective points of direction, do people stay away from these points (i.e. the church, families)?  There are three basic reasons, as I can see, which would provide an answer to this question, but they may not be the only answers just the answers I’ve found to be of prominence.  The first would be what Peter Kreeft spoke about in some of his lectures as the boredom and complacent position of humans, we tend to stay away from those things which we determine to either be boring or those things which may cause us discomfort by removing our contented way of life and creating a perceived turmoil (once again we tend to utilize a subjective opinion pattern to determine future actions).  The second is a matter of familial subjectivity, take for instance my wife, she was not always Catholic, but when she converted, she was shunned by her side of the family, who were protestant and looked upon the Catholic Church as being an enemy to Christianity by some context.  My wife though, is a strong a woman as I have ever known, she held her ground and continued to move forward in her faith.  However, some people might have found this paradigm within their families to be absolutely debilitating and thusly cause them to stop.  The final and probably most significant to all people is the appearance we all face, by believing in something which may appear (based on any media driven outlet) the antiquated and perceived incorrectness of an institution which has existed for some over 4,000 years (Jewish) or for others 2,000 years (Christians).  Being bombarded daily by social media or reports from every news media possible about the inadequacy and perfunctory efforts of religion would create potential for anyone to rethink their position.

Not Interchangeable

Morality is not interchangeable.  Those who both claim to be moral and atheist or at least agnostic are a walking logical fallacy.  An oxymoron of sorts, to be without an objective moral authority means to have no moral line to which crossing would be considered verboten, which is to say a sin.  Instead, when there is no moral objective authority to counsel and direct us in our actions, then we make the decisions which will allow us (individually) the best outcome possible.  In other words, as long as we benefit from what is happening, then we are “morally” sound in our judgement.  However, the concept of morality, although it is based in a “rightness” or “wrongness” of decision, the principle of morality is a measure of sacrifice rather than selfish indulgence.  Here is what I mean, when I choose to treat others with self-less moral behavior, I sacrifice me in the process by giving of my time for the benefit of another.  Perhaps, I charitably give of my money to the benefit of anyone in need of it.  Whatever the result of my objective moral behaviors, sacrifice is at the root.  I must sacrifice what it is I want, in order to be supplied with what I need.  The need for God’s light, love, and presence in my life is the main objective of the Church, and its objective is a proper interpretation of God’s word either in action or written down for us to study and expound a reasoning.

I’ve heard, recently, people who exclaim they don’t like the complexity of our times and wish to have it simple and a simple understanding of Christ, much like the Apostles did in the first century.  Though, this leaves me somewhat perplexed, as a living body of the followers of Christ, we are set on a pathway of growth.  A pathway which given a boundary of morality we are to walk and learn as our life progresses, and we are to learn those which others have learned along the way.  This constant and hopefully consistent learning patter brings us form the proverbial mustard seed to a healthy growth determined to spread its branches as far as possible.  This cannot be achieved if we are constantly in turmoil about the parameters of morality.  The movement in morality is based on a person or person’s unreliable method of taking their own counsel in all matters.  As we “cry out in the desert” we must “prepare a way for the Lord, and make straight his paths” (Matt 3:3)

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To sum everything up, our morals are not up for change, and they are definitely not up for negotiation.  When we assume to take our own counsel and interpretation of God’s word, what we run in to is a subjective point of view which will not carry with it a proper introspective understanding at one point or another.  This is to say, if we only listen to the voice in our head, and claim it was the spirit, we might be more wrong more often than we care to comfortably admit.  This isn’t to conclude we won’t get things right on occasion which might turn to bolster our confidence in our perception of what we know, but is the pitfall the devil is counting on, our arrogance to put us down the path to sin.  Sin is a highway paved with good intentions as the saying goes.  We don’t read and hope to enter life in order to get things wrong, but we do, and this is a constant.  The need for an objective authority to point out and explain where the parameters of morality exist is the shepherd we are all looking for in life.  As a father, I realize I must accept this, if I ever hope to teach true love to my wife and kids by example.  The Catholic Church for me, meets this standard I’m looking for, and although there are problems with the inner workings of the Living Church, the bones of objective truth still exist and should be applied.

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In case I haven’t sufficiently made my point clear, morality is found in the words of Christ and the teachings of the church.  Nowhere else will you find the proper dissemination of truth in your life, but it’s up to you in what you do with this truth.  It will be uncomfortable at times, and at other times you might even become disheartened and mad.  These feelings you feel are the pain of tearing away the sin which has become infused with you in life.  This pain is the pain of growth and of substantive understanding, of self-reflective capability, and above all else, like someone who has lived in the darkness their whole life and then suddenly is thrust into the sunlight, it hurts.  If you’re not currently holding to a moral life, then be courageous and start, accept the pain which will follow, but start right now, I promise a life led in morality is one which will set your inner turmoil to rest.  I pray God blesses you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Are We Shooting to the Middle?

Let’s hurry up and wait, or “shooting to the middle” have always been phrases I’ve known to mean mediocrity as a goal.  An average of sorts, which argues a point of minimum.  This is to say, if the minimum weren’t enough it wouldn’t be the minimum.  However, the point which is also to be illustrated is the overall aspirations or goals in life are to be the best at whatever we attempt.  One thing I’ve found over the years is just how much patience, effort, and luck I need to have in order accomplish whatever goal or dream I have.  Often times I have a tremendous amount of energy at the beginning of any endeavor, but as time begins to sit upon my goals, and inevitably becomes heavier, I’ve found maintaining course becomes more difficult as the seconds tick.  I think this would be a similar experience for most people, which is another reason we marvel at those who’ve seemingly moved past those barriers which tempt us to move forward, but keep us mired in the middle.  Haven’t you ever wanted to be something like an athlete or author, someone who accomplishes the perceived impossible or very difficult?  I know for a period of time, I was always trying to do one thing or another, and as usual I got where I was either bored, indifferent, dejected, or plain frustrated with many things I attempted without a true understanding of expectations as results and time were key considerations.  Furthermore, those failures began to mount in my life and by themselves amounted to very little, but at as a lifetime of failure and mediocrity stacked up, I hesitated to look at because of its size and imposition in my life.  So everything I failed at or seemed to fail at, was cast aside and became my mountain of problems.

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I was clearly shooting to the middle, I was hurrying up to wait, rather than taking in the path life was giving me.  I confess, this is always still an issue with me, I have to tell myself to slow down, be patient, and not to expect unrealistic results.  Which is to say, I’m like everyone else, and my frustrations in life are usually a manifestation of poor planning, poor expectations, and generally poor results.  No matter what anyone of us does, we can usually never overcome poor planning.  I once had a colleague who would opine the phrase, “poor planning on your part, doesn’t make an emergency for me” and although he never used it towards me, be anecdotally would tell me about how I needed to be on top of my duties and yet maintain a proper pace.  The pace being of course to have the stamina to finish the race.  Nothing looks or feels worse than the bravado to begin a race, but not having the endurance to finish because we have all tried to bite off more than we could chew.  We were either completely unprepared, perhaps we were foolish in an attempt to cast something off as easy and is anything but easy.  All in all, we mostly reside in the middle, because our fantastical notions are what I refer to as the “theory of best intent”, this is to say, and when we think of things coming to fruition, very rarely do we see the most extreme negative.  We don’t look for the worst case scenario when planning, because somehow this seems to defeat our efforts even before we begin.  However, much like an unbalanced load, when we over-correct often times we are still a little over-balanced.  Failing to be balanced, will still create a stress because we fail to properly take in the full scope of whatever we are attempting to do.  So instead of realizing the pitfalls to any idea, we assume the bravado of green light and great outcomes, and this gives us wind in our sails, and the perceived energy to approach the task at hand.  For me, this usually means failing to think out the small details, and those are usually what kill my plans, or at least the details are what prevent me from moving forward.  Think of them like prerequisites for a class, you need those details to line up, in order to give you the best shot at success in your goals.

A proper balance in life, is what allows us to operate most efficiently.  If you visualize the word, “balance” you might come up with images like someone trying to walk a tight-rope, maybe the scales of justice, or even an experience in your life which flashes images of and improper balance causing you tremendous angst and frustration.  Which is where I’m headed with all of this, surprised?  Shooting to the middle, is a great indication of improper balance in our planning, execution, and delivery as it pertains to whatever we attempt to do.  Marriage is a wonderful example of two people needing the balance to withstand the storms which crash upon them like waves on a beach.  By balancing the relationship and paying attention to those details, they are better suited to tackle those challenges life hands to them.  For a couple to be unevenly yoked, it means, one will carry a heavier burden while the other doesn’t feel the strain of the increased weight.  When this happens, the one with most of the weight will eventually collapse under the pressure.  It’s not a matter of if, but when they will collapse and whatever they have on their shoulders at the time of the fall will determine the extent of the damage.  When this occurs, you can almost assuredly trace back behaviors and actions which laud the race to the middle.

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They raced to be in a relationship, sometimes not taking the time to figure out just what this meant to be committed to another person.  Then they raced to marriage, making a lifetime commitment to each other and hopefully to God, and yet still they didn’t grasp the relative weight which was set upon them.  Finally, they raced to the middle in hopes to begin a family still not comprehending the gravity of the weight which now lay upon them.  A relationship, a marriage, a family, all of which if are done by one, become a mountain seeking to drain us of energy and hope.  However, if we seek to move past the proverbial middle, we must share this load.  Essentially, the weight of family and responsibilities is tremendous, but with another by our side, we only carry half, but with the passion to carry it all.  If both proceed with this fervor towards their relationship, then over time, we find we can move up this mountain in lock step, and accomplish the most enormous goals.

In a relationship, when one or both members realize they no longer want the responsibility which they’ve chosen, because of their fear of hurt or because of their apathy, they inadvertently cause the other, who may have suspicions when they notice an unbalanced life, to deal with everything.  A lonely existence when you may be the only one who seems to care or want the relationship.  This becomes compounded when going through the motions takes on a gravity all by itself, and so being in the middle becomes a practice of apathy and unbalanced decisions.

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Look at all the relationships we see where divorce was a surprise or even and inevitability, I’m sure in some cases we can look and see the signs of the doomed relationship, well before its end.  They shot to the middle and burned out because they couldn’t sustain a never-ending battle.   No person takes on a goal, realistically, in the hopes it will never end.  They don’t look at a race and hope it is infinite in its distance so they never reach the finish line.  Well, relationships are a lot like this, we need goals, and we need to see these goals realized.  Either in growing the family, career pursuits, home creation, and faith practices. Whatever the goal is, it needs to be realized at one point or another, or we will just burn out.  If we are always in the middle, we never see it realized and we become dejected by failure.  Sometimes, the push to the middle is a matter of exceptional perspective, this is to say, having a realistic expectation of our reality is the most important step in attaining a realistic goal.  If I’m a farmer in Kansas, then being the director of the United Nations isn’t a realistic goal when it comes to making decisions about my life.  Likewise, being in a relationship should never consist of goals for the other person, but rather goals for ourselves to attain.  Perhaps it’s a matter of increasing our prayer life, maybe to put our spouse’s needs in front of our own, it could just be to call our significant other and let them know we’re thinking about them and hope they have a better day than the one before.  The point here is, when we create goals focused on someone else, it never turns out particularly good, it may even end up a matter of manipulation to make another do as we would like eventually creating a rift or distrust between spouses.  Personally, I like me, and I want my wife to like me.  She doesn’t always agree with me, and I don’t always agree with her, but at the end of the day, we are both trying to be better for our relationship and for each other and in our efforts, we stumble and fall a lot, but the spirit is there to carry the load together.  Knowing this about her gives me energy to move past the middle and see to goals I’m currently working on.  I’m impatient, loud, and sometimes angry, I don’t listen like I should, I have more faults than you have time to read, but the point is I know she is working on a similar list and as we work together, when detours threaten to take us off course we work together to remove the anxiety and deal with the issue.

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I can only imagine what single parents must feel on a daily basis, the loneliness is magnified, because there is no longer anyone to share the load of familial responsibility, and there is no balance.  The work is all on them to accomplish a task created for two.  That’s right!  God, created this task for man and woman, we complement each other.  Contrary to the media’s belief men and women are different, we have strengths and weaknesses which when we prepare properly can be used to the advantage of the family, and in doing so become the will of God in practice.  The family becomes greater than the sum of our parts, in business this has been referred to synergy by some, but in the family this should be referred to a love.  Love in its most pure form has one look, unselfish desire to wish the best for everyone regardless of station or action.  In our culture today, this pure form of God’s gift has been diluted to focus on the emotive side of an action as the confirmation of rightness.  Problem is, when we dilute love, we shoot to the middle.  We’ve created a society based on feelings, rather than truth.  This society of feelings or middle dwellers shames us for what is impermissible and yet everything is permissible.  The problem we all run into is when we don’t seek the objective truth, or rather when we choose to stay in the middle, we accept failure as the new currency of relationships.  Don’t get me wrong, we all fail, and we all find ways to mess everything up, but as a matter of course for learning what and what not to do so we can finally reach our goals.  Too often now, it’s stated we should all be winners, but it’s ok if you want to accept failure.  It’s not ok, it never has been ok.

For those of us who may have been divorced at one point or another, can we take a true look back at our actions and find where we may hold the blame in a relationship?  Did we have poor expectations, going into the relationship?  Did we expect too much from them without giving the same in return?  Were we mature enough to handle the relationship properly?  Did we allow our selfish nature to make decisions for us, and in turn destroy trust and the ability to be balanced?  These are questions I’ve asked myself in the past, and honestly, I was ashamed of my answers.  Truthfully, when I was honest with myself, I failed all of them.  I made my spouse carry the load and in doing so, created an environment where we could never stay on course because we veered from one thing to another.  She could only do so much, and I wanted her to do everything, I was a bastard to my everlasting shame.  I will report, we are the best we’ve ever been.  We recognized we needed to rethink everything, we needed to redo everything, to tear down the unbalanced structure of our lives’ and start over.  This was very hard, but not as hard as it would have been to do it all alone.  Don’t mistake my innocuous statement of hard as just a single word of single description.  It was so hard, we argued, we fought, we battled over everything.  We were two titans with an agenda, and we weren’t going to be denied.  Then like a body of water in turmoil, it was as if a cleansing oil of salvation calmed us down.  We found a true starting point.  God, was this point.  We, in our own ways began to come closer to the God who created us and we embraced this, we prayed together and this further began to bond us.  Our shared faith began to yoke us evenly and we found purpose, a goal of sorts, to work towards.  We found self-reflection as a matter of course and no longer were we focused on fixing the other person, but we found egotistical shrinkage of ourselves as we began to chip away at the façade of sin we surrounded ourselves with.  As of today, we are more focused on the love we need rather than the desires we want.  This doesn’t make us perfect in any way though.  My wife knows I’m stubborn and hard to deal with at times, and yet she still finds a way to love me, she finds a way to accept me, an emulation of Christ Himself.  Christ who loves me, and accepts me as who I am, but doesn’t accept my poor actions and selfish behavior.  Christ doesn’t accept the middle, the lukewarm behavior.  Hot or cold, but no middle.

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So, if you’ve read this far, know this, you must move past the middle in your life.  The devil looks for this complacency in our lives and wishes to capitalize on our willingness to embrace our dreadful results.  Don’t give him the opportunity, move past the middle, move past you.  Take the time to focus on what you’re doing, and don’t jump into something without having a clearer understanding of who you are and what you want.  Don’t waste the life of another, because you’re unwilling to move past the middle.  If you are at a point in your life where everything seemingly is falling around you, stop for a second, pray, and then regroup.  If you need to tear everything down to the foundation, then do so, but this time build it right, take your time, don’t race to the middle, but instead be patient with your spouse be willing to understand who they are and how you fit into their lives.  If they are the middle dweller, patiently bring them in the path and teach them love.  Love isn’t something we all can just do, it’s something we must learn at times, it is something we must accept, even when accepting it means we might just be on the short-list of unrealized expectations.  Move past the middle, be willing to accept we can’t change other people, but we can work on ourselves and be better spouses, fathers, brothers, friends, and faithful.  Through our examples we have a great chance of becoming the reflective light of Christ and influencing those whom we love the most!  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Is Marriage A Bygone Fashion?

Is marriage a perfunctory trend, like all trends, has become old and worn?  What do we owe a life of unabated selflessness?  Isn’t the need for a husband, wife, or two parents obsolete according to what we see and hear daily?  What’s the difference between having parents of both sexes as opposed to parents of the same sex?  I’m sure I could go on all day with questions we all ask ourselves at one point or another, some of us may have even acted upon these questions.  The one truth is, this is a truth, a truth we can rely upon and even hope in, but not a truth where the reality is bendable to subjective relativism.  There isn’t a truth which relies on the emotive explanation of a pop cultural aberration of love.  Love which is as disposable as any material item we can own, and which we dispose of so we can make room for more material items.  This most certainly isn’t love!  I have spent many years searching for what love actually is to each and every one of us, and although, I don’t have the best explanation, I do have an unwavering understanding.  Love and by extension marriage is an all or none prospect, not something we give a half-hearted percentage to, but something we give our very being to.  Marriage is the most outwardly courageous expression of our love, because we stand before the Triune God, and all of the world to express our desire for a covenant which binds us to our spouse and with time the creation of God’s gift, the family.  The family is never a throw-away, and the family is never something which should be moved aside to make room for more “things” in life, and above all else, the family is something sacred and should be treated as such.

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Today, we are constantly bombarded with a media’s interpretation of what subjective morals and subjective beliefs we should adopt, in order to be “happy”.  However, there isn’t anything about the desire for continuous joy, nothing about the need for a construct of continuation in life past our perception of current existence.  We’ve come to the realization, as a culture, if we can’t explain it, then it is a figment of imagination.  At least, this is what the broader scope of the forced interpretation we are fed daily by those with the most obvious platforms for influence.  Though, if we step back we find, this isn’t at all true, very little of what we hear in the “news” or in the general social media is in fact true.  Of course there are punctuations of truth here and there, otherwise we would never believe anything (e.g. CNN).  The truth is, in every word which is spoken to us there is a subjective lean, something which creates a masterful manipulation focused on our seemingly independent choice to agree.  A manipulative argument designed with subjectivity, emotion, and in some cases outright lies to sway us in our decision making processes.  This is never more prevalent than in the consumer market, a place where “dreams come true” and we are separated from those who can’t possibly have what we have.  Maybe it’s not a cognizant effort to distance ourselves from those who can’t afford our lifestyles, but when this chasm is brought to our attention daily on every media device about the inequality of outcomes, a pervasive and convincing cry develops and threatens to erode the foundation of our very culture.

The truth of the matter is, the poor will always exist, and the perception of the rich will be the foundational argument to the poor’s plight (the wealthy are keeping the poor from being not poor, a fallacy of argument to be sure).  This inequality of argument will continue with everything which appears incongruent with the narrative being sold to our culture.  This narrative of perfect opportunities and perfect outcomes is a lie, the human right to be treated with fairness and equality is a verified objective truth.  However, the outcome of this equality is a harsh reality of life.  Take for instance, it should be every human’s right to believe in God in which ever manner they have determined to be best, and this translates into a proper equality of opportunity.  In some areas of the world, when those who choose the wrong “god” have been located, they are put to death, which is the most powerful example of life’s harshest realities.  To say the victims of terrorism deserved better, belies the concept of life.  No one person deserves anything over another, based on their intentions or effort, instead, we recognize the “chance” afforded to all of us when pursuing our goals.  To be somehow prevented the chance, by reasons of racism, bigotry, or manipulations is a basis of evil.  This is where we are now, evil, true evil, has found its way into our society on every level, and instead of a revulsion we, as a culture, are embracing a false narrative of freedom.

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Photo by Victor Freitas on Pexels.com

Our new found freedoms, allow us to go and do whatever we want as a matter of course in life, and when our goals aren’t realized, we can blame those who are in turn blameless.  The story of Joseph (Gen 37) is a prime example of unrequited circumstances working against his perception of life, molding him to become the man he needed to be and to forgive those who sold him into slavery.  What he wanted, was no what was best for him, and because he embraced God, he knew what was needed of him.

So, this is my long-winded set up to the questions posed earlier, has marriage become a throw-away effect of long ago beliefs? Do we perform marriage for the benefit of a party, and as a matter of tax and death benefits?  In short, yes, this is where our society seems to be leaning.  When we look at marriages, we often wonder if they are on their first or second.  Of course when we see a young couple, we automatically assume it’s their first marriage, without catching ourselves.  Instead of assuming this is their only marriage in life, we number them as a matter of course.  We’ve been formed by a society which doesn’t hold marriage to anything more than a living arrangement.  With enough money and desire to do so, we can trash a marriage in a matter of months, and even punish the person we no longer like with punitive means such as child-support, alimony, or even psychological efforts focused on the emotional destruction of an individual we once shared our lives with.  There’s a problem here folks!  How did we get so callous as a people and a culture?  Where has our compassion gone?

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There is good news.  There is hope!  It requires work, a life time in fact, and the results may never be realized in your lifetime.  Can you handle this?  Personally, I love my kids and wife so much, I would be willing to do anything to make a better more joyful world for them, even at the risk of never seeing my work come to fruition.  The key to assessing anything and working to make it better is to understand every aspect of the problem, and from this understanding we create an opportunity to fix what is broken.  Marriage isn’t something which can be reformed, it is what it was always meant to be, and combining of a man and a woman to create a bond in order to have children and raise these children.  This is the most basic explanation of family I can come up with.  There is one very important distinction which should be realized when tackling this topic.  Marriage, up until recently, has always been a social construct, a contract set in social circles to create families and to perpetuate a “way of life” which coincides with their social existence.  For instance, a Christian family will honor a Christian marriage and will desire for the family to raise their children in a Christian tradition creating a lineage of social awareness focused on the propagation of this way of life.  In some cultures marriage was utilized as a simple contract to keep peace or to unite like-minded groups, but it was never an agreement in practice to focus on those which could not add longevity to social practices or groups.  In effect, marriage was intended to compliment those natural actions which benefited the group.  If it was seen as unnatural it was considered as such, and wasn’t a focus by the vast majority of any social group.  This was never in true contention, until we decided as a culture, to allow a non-thinking committee of sorts to make our social decisions for us, yes, I’m referring to the government.  A body which is focused on the over-arching wants of the people, and if allowed has no more constraint of power than what the vast majority of the people are willing to fight against.  Like a behemoth with unrestrained powers, the government is neither graceful, compassionate, just seeking an animal seeking to satisfy its wants.  It doesn’t do anything efficiently, and when compared to other better options, its one equalizer is it has your money to do with as it desires, up to and including the destruction of what it deems as unnecessary.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Marriage is a very foundational block, which I don’t need explained to me, nor do I need people who have no concept of my way of life determining the value of my life by decisions.  The attempted destruction of marriage is moving with such ferocity as to leave anything which opposes it in a wake of destruction and often times down a path of sinful pursuits.  Now, I’m not being puritanical here, but obeying the will of God isn’t something to be flippant with nor is it something to cast aside because we don’t agree.  Marriage is a gift of love from God, even though it seems like it’s a punishment at times, but anything worth doing requires efforts which at times seems likes punishment but is really growth.  This growth comes from a natural progression of life (i.e. kids and age), without both of these progressions, this is just a relationship, but never a marriage.  Although, a government entity can dictate what laws we should live by, they don’t have the ability to legislate morality. As a matter of course anything which denies the sanctity of the institution God created through natural law and life, is an enemy against it, bent on the destruction of God’s Will.

This is either people failing to grasp the gravity with the vows they take, by the introduction of same-sex unions, or the acceptance of society to go and do as we wish as long as the perception of a relative innocuousness is achieved.  “I’m ok, you’re ok” attitude isn’t heathy.  Why isn’t there a more concerted effort to determine why societies maintained a level of moral discipline and suddenly we’ve decided (in our arrogance or hubris) we don’t need the adherence of these moral disciplines?  The answer is the absence of God in our daily lives. Every year, more and more people claim to have no affiliation with Christianity whatsoever, and without a foundational representation by the vast majority of our culture, we find morals lacking and in distinct obscurity, all at the cost of us doing what we want to do.

The truth of the matter is, we are unwilling to sacrifice for what we truly say we believe.  This is to say, when it comes down to the crucial decisions, we are more willing to maintain a status quo rather than do without because we like our materiality.  If someone required us to live in a monastery or convent for the period of a year, and to live a Spartan lifestyle, most would run away as fast as their feet could carry them.  But, why?  What is it about living with no material possessions, except what we wear is so terrifying to us?  The answer is, we love our stuff, and to be asked to do without it, is something we’re unwilling to do.  This is why we won’t go against the grain of society, this is why we are unwilling to become a social outcast because we disagree with the direction our culture is going, and this is why when those hard decisions (e.g. abortion, same-sex marriage) we defer to someone else to make our decisions for us.  At least if someone makes our decisions for us, we can complain and defer the blame to someone else.  If this isn’t you, I’m sure with little effort you can point to a loved one who does exactly this, and if we can all do this, then there is the answer as to why our society seems to be teetering on the edge of a precipice bent on our doom.

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I know this seems like a lot of doom and gloom, but I never present a problem without showing the opportunity to make it better.  God is loving and time and again, we push away from God, but when we realize our errors God awaits us with open arms ready to forgive.  So the first steps to the pathway of God’s will is recognizing forgiveness awaits us, as we repent our sins.  Second, the foundation of our culture resides in the solid foundation of the family, something which isn’t designed or made by a government entity, but something which is consecrated by the very God of the faith we believe, a covenant between you, your spouse, and the Living God.  Nothing else should come between this, and a covenant is never disposable, it can be reaffirmed but not thrown away.  Sex is meant for the procreative and love affirming of a marriage, it is meant for nothing else, and if both are not ordered in this manner, then the disorder of the relationship is what constitutes the inadequacy on the cultural and social construct of our lives.  People who wish to have sex either homosexual or heterosexual without the foundation of a marriage behind them is why we are now consider marriage to be just a fashionable trend which is seemingly not needed anymore.  Nothing could be farther from the truth.

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We need the foundation of marriage to teach children the balance needed in life through the exercise of our faith.  Without both parents committed to one another, and to the children they created by God’s help, we embrace a society focused on sins rather than virtues.  We will go from one problem to the next until we are exhausted as a culture, we allow everything and the only thing we won’t permit is anyone or anything (yes, churches) to become counter to this embrace of the devil.  Make no mistake, we are in battle even now, it doesn’t require we stand up and shoot our way out.  No, it requires dedication to God, and to stand up for what is morally right and put down what is morally wrong.  Marriage isn’t throw away, and isn’t a fashion statement we can walk away from.  Marriage is deliberate, it is wonderful, and it is the hardest thing anyone will ever do, if they care at all.  Make good decisions in your marriage, it’s easier to do than you think.  Become good teachers with your spouse and teach your children the ways we should live by, based on God’s will for all of us.  Defy those who would wish to tear down God’s gift to all of us.  Find joy in your marriage, this is something which can’t be taken away, no matter what is going on.  Love your spouse and your kids with every ounce of energy you have, and leave nothing back.  Because, if you won’t give them everything you have, then what on earth are you holding it back for?  Be passionate about your family, second only to God in life, your loving awareness, may be the lesson your great grandchild teaches their grandchildren one day.  May God bless you and your family and extended family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

Featured post

“When in Rome”

I’ve heard the expression, “When in Rome” all of my life, and of course this turn of phrase has been in existence for a couple of millennia (Rome was of course the most powerful empire for hundreds of years, and the center of existence, much like New York is now), and during this time it has been used to explain our outward metamorphosis of us human beings to adopt a similar way of dealing with life.  Some would even argue it is an “anything goes” way of life.  This is only to say, we justify our behaviors by applying a “mob” mentality and adopting a methodology of what’s best for the group behavior.  On the surface, this makes perfect sense, going against the larger population isn’t always what is needed.  When we constantly run into “walls” of opposition, we tend to change course and this becomes inefficient to our daily lives.  We’ve all known the one person, who with little to no effort, makes every situation difficult.  Guess what, just like the old joke goes, if you don’t know anyone who does this, then you might be the difficult someone.  Though, what are we rebelling against?  If my wife were talking to anyone, she might even say, I’m the difficult one, and from time-to-time, I cause a great deal of stress by my attempts to be an opposite of an “easy going” personality.  In my defense, I try to go with the flow more often, but I’m just no good at it, and unless I see a logical or even philosophical point to my actions, I usually refrain from doing anything which would detract.  I think though, the “When in Rome” mentality is being used to a detriment at every rate possible, and those of us who claim to me of the moral majority, are really nothing more than marionettes dancing on the string of a larger and yes evil force.

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There are many books devoted to the explanation of why Rome eventually fell, and most come to a similar conclusion.  What strikes me as interesting is, we can all conclude Rome fell, and we can all see distinct points in time when the façade began to crack and then fall to pieces.  The major event I’m speaking about is the introduction of Christianity, a movement started at just the right time for the spoken words of God to be carried across the oceans and to distant lands exposing a truth, never before realized.  A truth, so terrifying to some, they put those with the message to death.  A truth, which illuminated a darkness so replete with sadness, death, and evil the lords of this darkness attempted to stop the flood of the waters of life.  However, much like us trying to stop a leak in a dam, this was never going to be possible and so the deluge of the truth of Christ became apparent.  A wildfire of sorts seeking to burn down the old establishment was racing across the lips of those few who heard it’s truth, and as each person began to believe the “movement” picked up momentum.

What did these people have which Rome could not offer?  Truth, the justice every human being innately desires to be set in covenant.  Let me be clear, Rome was the best the world perceptibly had to offer at the time, so one can easily imagine a truth which risks to take the obtained power from the power source and give it to the beggar and the leper.  This would shake the most fervent politician to their core.  And so, this is what happened, the “When in Rome” mentality began to waver.  People began to turn from their hedonism and selfishness to an introspective and selfless manner.  So much were they willing to accept the truth, death no longer became a matter of consequence, other than to accept it as a doorway to the eternal life promised by Jesus as he hung from the tree at Calvary.

Destruction of Rome

Ok, so where must I be going?  I’m sure you’ve already surmised my point is relevant to today, because fifteen centuries have passed since Rome succumbed to a truth more powerful than the subjective and wayward litanies of sin which it was built upon.  The words of the Divine Christ brought the walls of the greatest empire the world had ever known crumbling down like as if it were a child’s toy finally succumbing to the constant abuse of the child.  It took time, truth, and love to bring down this empire.  It wasn’t about going along to get along.  It was never about accepting the behaviors which are as detrimental to a society as they are to our very souls, and embracing them because our neighbors do.  Accepting truth may mean we are going to go against the very adulterated nature of those individuals around us, but it may also mean we are the light which will illuminate a path which has been in utter darkness for them.  When their path has finally been lit, they will see the “brood of vipers” which awaits to strike at every step they take.

My purpose for pointing this out is to make relevant the issues we face today.  I believe the knowledge of history is paramount to understanding and comprehending our now and our tomorrow.  When we presume our answers are to be found in one location, we find more often than not, a disappointment and even a profound sadness at being unable to ever find the answers we seek.  We are left unsatisfied, the cup of everlasting drink is never full.

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In today’s climate, there are points of view which do anything but apply the mentality of “When in Rome”, but by failing to go along with the main stream, they inevitably become a mainstay topic and they’ve recalculated the equilibrium of our society and now they are Rome.  Take the example of marriage, before about 50 years ago, divorce was highly frowned upon and so couples would stay in a relationship either out of love or a fear of being culturally put down for being divorced.  Especially the women, men seemingly could move on, but as women were homemakers and without skills or a trade, finding a new spouse and one who would take on a potential nest of kids was very difficult to say the least.  However, our culture challenged this paradigm, and found people in a “bad relationship” should leave if for nothing more than their health and the health of those around them.  Like a pendulum which swings to keep the tempo of the music, we’ve gone from one extreme to the other now.  Now, our society lives in a paradigm where it is fully expected for most people to have been married at least twice.  As though the first marriage was a test run, and the second is a matter of work because they figured out how to play the game.  It has become the Roman rule to look at marriage as a disposable endeavor and one which we should walk away from, especially if the perceived spouse doesn’t capitulate to our wants.  A husband who wants to behave as he did when we was unmarried and with no more prospects than to engage in mindless activities with others to pass the time out of boredom.  Maybe the wife, who is so needy as to demand her spouse do as she wishes because this is the societal perception of what a loving spouse should do.  When these paradigms aren’t met, it’s time to give up and leave the confines of the stifling relationship.  Sound familiar to anyone out there?  Truth is, society has told us, it’s ok to be a flake, and I’m telling you, based on God’s Will, it is never ok to be a flake.  Being mindful, considerate, loving, and willing to accept an objective truth which doesn’t agree with our own subjective thoughts and behavior is a foundational understanding of life.  When we are the minority of thought, we must look at Rome and realize it begins with us.

Our behavior and the very nature of everything we do is a matter of God and how we fit into the narrative of everything since time began.  I would never presume to insult anyone and explain the unexplainable, but even to this point my faith makes sense of everything I know.  It fills in the gaps, so to speak, of all I’ve ever seen or knew.  Marriage, death, life, abortions, agreements, disagreements, abuses, the Catholic Church, and everything under the sun become relevant and no longer can I just go with the flow of the popular majority.  It also doesn’t mean creating a rule by force, it means the very slow and methodical processes of attaining an understanding and teaching those we are most influential of and by the ways of Christ.  We may never see the results of this, but God does, and this is why it matters.  We have the power through every little act of life to bring the equilibrium back into the objective truths we need in order to follow those pathways illuminated by God.

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As we traverse the slippery slopes of conversations with others, what matters the most, isn’t how we “destroyed” the other in a debate or how we “obliterated” them with a heady comeback on social media, but how we knew not to stray from the path and how we prayed for our detractors.  In many debates, when I was willing to love the other person as they spouted vitriol in my direction, I was unable to hate, I was willing to listen and it was as if my thoughts were clear and concise.  They could tell, I cared about what they had to say, even to the most vile commentators, they eventually broke down their defense and although they didn’t agree with me, we came to a common ground of kindness.  This is all God needs, a foot in the door, so to speak.  We can help to open the door and the Holy Spirit will do the rest.  The phrase “When in Rome” as an effect to the hardness of our hearts, we become swayed to doing those things which we thought weren’t possible and now have become the rule of the day, until they’re not.  This is the danger with following the subjective, it can turn on us like a dime, and when it does we could be in the wake of a very destructive wave of hate.  This is the devil’s plan and purpose all along, to get us away from the light and then reign down destruction in an effort to destroy our life and the lives of everyone around us.  The devil’s purpose is to destroy, to rip and tear apart.  Have you ever tried to put together something which has been ripped and torn apart, it’s very difficult and takes time and patience.  When in Rome is the force behind the gash which threatens to destroy us all.

When in Rome is a seemingly innocuous phrase utilized by the masses to explain away those things which we don’t desire to change or think about, but if we’re unwilling to question what is being presented to us, aren’t we as much to blame for the goings on as those we allowed to commit the behaviors?

In our cultures today, life is no longer held to be a sacred gift from God, and hate is a manner of behavior, and not something so repugnant as to risk staining one’s soul.  We march around talking about how we will destroy this and that and lifestyles which were once culturally and religiously disordered are now the normal accepted behavior, and anyone who doesn’t agree is sent to the desert until they capitulate to the “Roman Rule”.  These are wrong, without a doubt.  The Church and the Bible are our two sources to know what is right and what is wrong.  However, these sources aren’t a matter of telling us what not to do, but instead showing us the path to walk.  The path of truth is illuminated and we must have the strength to turn away from subjectivity as a matter of course and focus on an objective truth.  We must risk being sent to the desert, for who we desire to be.  I’ve been told, “Love the person not the sin” from my wife for years, and it is so completely true and has carried with it the benefits of wisdom for years.  I don’t have to agree with homosexuality to love the homosexual, and in doing so showing through my actions a considerable compassion.  I don’t have to accept a hedonistic lifestyle of those around me (a man slut who sleeps with every woman he can find is not ok), but I do want to love the individuals and pray I can be a good alternative to the life they are choosing to lead.

I’m not perfect by any measure, and I’m constantly looking for those examples in my life as well.  We are a collective of people searching, it is imprinted on our souls to search, we are looking for those who’ve found the way and can show us where to go.  When we follow blindly, by being the Roman, we’ve stopped looking and are now just desiring to take an easy path and covetous path, a pathway designed to be full of good intentions but very rarely a path which leads to something good.  Love is hard work, and it is a matter of the soul.  Why would I trust the decisions of my soul to those who neither have an interest nor even believe a soul exists?  Short answer, I won’t and I don’t.  I pray during these hard days, God blesses you and your family and gives you the much needed light to show you a path which is hard but the truth!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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We Must Own Our Behavior!!!

We’ve just added a new layer of complexity to the already abhorrent scandal of abuse, which has plagued the Catholic Church for decades.  We’ve learned about abuses which have spanned over seven decades in Pennsylvania and carry a pain which cannot be realized for the victims of those predators, or even an understanding of the desire to cover up what was wrong.  In many publications, I’ve read, there is finger pointing from everyone going everywhere.  Our initial reaction is to right the wrongs which were perpetrated on the victims, and the quickest way we know to do this is to vilify that which we don’t fully understand.  This has bothered me greatly, it’s analogous to those arguments of absolutism which hope to grasp an all-encompassing ideology or at the very least turn of phrase for everything which is wrong.  For example, some people might say, “the Catholic Church is evil”, but as I would hope many people out there understand, lumping everything into such an ignorant statement is neither helpful nor truthful.  So, back to square one, how do we fix what is broken, and how do we make right what others have seemed to make so wrong?

I don’t know about anyone, but for me, nothing can really be said to allay the emotions and raw anger which is brought about by such evil inclinations.  So, I don’t attempt to say anything regarding the actions of others.  Instead, it is more a reflection of my own behaviors and by extension and understanding the behaviors of others in response to my decisions.  I would hope this applies to all when really reflecting upon ourselves and all those situations which require more than a simple explanation or the scapegoating we all desire as a kneejerk reaction.  Ok, to begin, McCarrick and those religious named in the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report, are in need of prayer.  They’ve allow those suggestions by the Devil, to take root in their behavior and by their wills have perpetrated evil acts upon the innocent.  If the capability and the evidence is shown for criminal behavior, then they must face the music, and serve a societal penance for their actions.  If they are no longer with us, then prayers must be said for them, that they repented of their behaviors before leaving this world, for even Cain was beloved by God.  “Am I my brother’s keeper?” Gen 4:9.

Cain was sent to the “Land of Nod” Nod meaning to wander, he was set to wander with a mark set upon him that no one was to do him harm.  Even knowing the awful acts which he perpetrated upon his own brother, God still loved Cain, and wanted to see no harm come to him.  In this we find the root of our understanding on multiple levels of our behavior as it relates to the scandals which have broken out, but more importantly on how we choose to understand ourselves and those who would wish to do us harm.

We are often given and impression of the Devil as being something of a literary myth used to describe in almost a philosophical sense of understanding, about an inability to explain what we know to be evil.  This of course has more to do with an inordinate amount of philosophers and psychologists looking beyond their interpretation of myth for a more scientific answer.  In doing so, they cast aside perceptions which can’t be explained in pursuit of what they perceive can be explained.  Let me be clear, to utilize an answer of, “the devil made me do it” might on some level be correct, but isn’t effective when it comes to our own souls or acceptance of fault.  When we search for a scapegoat, using the devil defense as your go to, is the mother of all cop-outs and should never, on the basis of legitimate repentance, be used as a decent explanation.  We are bound to the discipline needed to look within ourselves and accept, although we have nothing to do with what happened, is our indirect inaction to play a part in the events which unfold around us.  Take the scandal for instance, although the bishops and cardinals had nothing, in some cases, to do with the criminal behaviors, they still didn’t do anything to prevent more victims, and this is tantamount to pimping the violator out to another victim and being subject to the same moral culpability.  Evil, isn’t just a psychopath running around the woods in a leotard and knife, it is also the inability to do what is just when we know by our inactivity the unjust will act.

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The Devil is very real, very smart, and more powerful than we can imagine.  Although, the devil has no direct act upon us, an intelligent suggestion by means more cunning than we can fathom, has the potential to derail our every understanding.  We see this every day, families ripped apart by selfish actions, never intended to bring about the results finally realized, but in their maturation have done just this and burned every imaginable bridge.  The devil delights in this, and just knowing the root of the term “diabolic” which means to rip apart, we find, we are more weak and useless when we intend to do it alone.  When we intend to get out of just treatment in our behaviors, we leave others alone to face whatever emotive traps await them and the subjective environment can be most unpleasant.  I’m not saying, repentance and even a societal punishment should be pleasant, but one where we accept our behaviors and agree to the punishment is a society where ownership is taught from the earliest age.  A perception of evil, always trying to disrupt and destroy, is at the forefront of our minds, and we would rather behave in a manner of love and accountability than one of selfish indignation.

Here is where I’m at with everything, for too long, the Catholic Church sought to deride a just construct because they employed the “devil made me do it” mentality when it came to those who embraced evil.  This is and was unacceptable, failure to make the priest or bishop own their behavior did more to allow evil to flourish than any one thing imaginable.  The need for priests outweighed the need for justice, and what’s worse was those in charge failed to put their trust in the Lord, and in their own desire to be esteemed and honored, they became hypocrites set to do the work of the devil.  Time and again, when we see societies, unwilling to place blame in its proper place and context, we see evil spread like a wildfire, consuming anything in its path.  The citizens of Germany, during the 1930’s and early 1940’s were as culpable of the holocaust as were the perpetrators.  If we are unwilling, even to the punishment of death, to stand on the side of justice, then we are as guilty in one manner or another of the evils the devil pushes to perpetrate on all of us.

As a father of three and a husband, accepting my faults hasn’t been easy.  I could have been inclined to explain away poor behavior or bad circumstances with any number of vacillations or contextual realities (i.e. “when in Rome”), but this never assumes an ownership of behavior or result as matter of ownership.  Instead, this gives me a sense of superiority, allowing me to take credit for what I want to take credit for, and push off consequences I don’t see as being fair or at the very least what I want to deal with.  Pretty nice paradigm, right?  Always being the good guy, never dealing with negativity, unless it’s drama I seek, but even then I control the level the drama sits at.  I did this for a time, and it’s exhausting, I lost myself through deceit and embracing of my decision to sin.  I failed to own my behavior and I failed to own my decisions which would lead down a selfish path always ending in heartache.  I hated myself, and in the process, everyone else who represented the life I truly wanted, the life to be with God through my decision to own every action and thought I have.  It’s my free will of course, and where would any of us be if we didn’t own our own behavior, active or passive?  We wouldn’t have free will is the answer, and our lives would be infinitely more destructive and worse than we could imagine without the ability to exercise free will.

God’s gift of free will, gives us the chance to grow, without our ability to accept ownership and learning from our numerous mistakes, an expectation of growth becomes unrealistic.  This applies in everything.  The Catholic Church, in the moral ground with which it stands is still a matter of man’s pursuit towards the light of God.  In this pursuit, there will be shortfalls, evil, willful ignorance, and lack of ownership in the general behavior of the church.  However, this living body of Christ, is always doing the work of God, and is always led by the Holy Spirit, and in the process of failure is always learning as the world moves on, to correct its mistakes.  In other words, to own its poor behavior.

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If I had any recommendation for the Church, do like you would do with so many others, allow them to face the laws of the land (Rom 13:2), and at the same time, pray for their souls and they may have the strength to own their behaviors and right the wrong in every way possible.  There is also the prayers needed for the victims to forgive, to stop being victims and move forward in their lives, and to embrace life as this bridge to a more beautiful existence with God.  Pain is a circle we will continue to walk with our heads down, failing to see we continue to walk a path of pain constantly.  Only when we lift our heads do we realize we must stop walking in this circle of pain and begin to move forward in our lives.

Ownership for me, was the hardest, most liberating experience of my life.  It was tangible, and it was something I could finally work with, something where I could envision God handing me the tools and telling me “make something beautiful my son”.  Just like any work, it requires revision and rework, it demands others to look upon this work, and give their thoughts, and it needs our loving attention at all times.  Men, this is where we can shine the most, own everything you do, right or wrong.  People may not always be a fan of this, but it is never about them, it is about our search for the truth, our search for our path, the search for God and the reflective light which will expose the darkest corners of our soul and allow us the ability for compassion and love to everyone.  If there are those people in your life, who have wronged you in some way, look into yourself and search out how you may have wronged them, search for a common ground and be willing to stand there first and wait for them, forgive them, pray for them, love them.  If you’ve done no wrong, then you must remember, even though they’ve decided to walk an evil path, you must still choose to walk the path of the righteous.  This means everyone is precious in the eyes of God, so we must all remember if we want God’s compassion, even in time of our own strife we must be willing to give the compassion at the highest cost.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

 

Painting by: Thomas Blackshear

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What Does Objectivity Have to Do With Me?

Often today, we hear about subjective and objective points of view.  We are faced with subject matter presented to use, as a daily barrage, as matters of fact, when in truth supposition leads the day.  The person telling us how we should be, places their own personal subjectivity of a particular matter, and in the process attempts to sell us on what they believe.  This has become so popular a trend, we see every form of entertainment jumping in on the game.  So, not only are we bombarded with how we should be by the media, we are then castigated by the entertainment crowd, and next it will be by our elected officials (you know the people we vote for will lecture us).  To be clear, I am not above a good lecture from time-to-time, and assuredly I don’t handle those as good as I should.  However, I tend to turn a deaf ear to those people who openly lead a life, one which based on my faith is less than virtuous, and lecture me or others into what is good and moral.  It just doesn’t make sense.  I would also contend, a vast majority of people would disagree with being lectured, or at least told how they should think, unless they knew for sure it was a matter being dealt with as an extension of love.  Take for instance, I’m am against abortion, for the obvious, it destroys a life, which left undisturbed, has the potential to become like you or I.  It is intrinsically disordered to kill life, especially for the purposes of contraception.  If you don’t want the potential for having a kid, don’t have sex.  I am aware of this context and the outrage which could be elicited by telling people not to have sex, but no one has ever died from living a sexless existence, but millions have died because sex is treated like an afterthought.  So, here we are, the meat of the matter, the subjective personally selfish potential to do harm, or the objective acceptance to which we acknowledge, life is neither fair nor easy.  We are bound to one another through familial relationships, work relationships, friendly acquaintances, or our desire to achieve a faith which transcends our own existence.  To say anyone deserves anything is an assumption others don’t deserve their plight based on the most minuscule decisions based in selfishness or happenstance we know.  In other words, to assume someone is either deserving or undeserving of an event in their lives, assumes a comprehensive understanding of the narrative which God lovingly wrote.  Impossible.

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In subjectivity, we find an ever-moving line which deludes us all into thinking we can control this line to be subject to our personal perceptions.  The fallacy which threatens to destroy us all is, if there are a million people, all have their own subjective points of view, which can turn on anyone of us, at any time, and where we were once in the majority of thought and action, we are now in a minority of ridicule and public admonishment.  When did the line move?  Weren’t we in control just seconds before it turned on us?  Sure, but humans are fickle creatures willing to pivot easily, in order to avoid a negative consequence.  I know truly I have acted in just this manner, and I don’t find myself extraordinary in the least.  What we see, is everyone has their own perception of the same event, if you don’t believe me, read any five witness interpretations of the JFK assassination and see if you don’t agree.  This was a murder which occurred in front of thousands of witnesses and was caught on film, and yet we as a population cannot agree on how it happened or who did it.  People place their own subjectivity in front of facts or logical implementation of understanding to determine a truth.  Imagine playing the board game, Monopoly, and imagine your wife is constantly changing the rules to suit her needs.  At one point or another, it wouldn’t be hard to imagine the board being flipped up, a fight ensuing, and feelings being rubbed raw until tempers cool down (we play to win in my house, and if I’m being fair, my wife accuses me of changing the rules).  So, since we don’t want people just making up rules as they go, the gaming company does us all a favor, and prints out an objective set of rules everyone can play the game by.  We aren’t bound by playing by the rules, but in a focus on fairness we do.  We play by the rules, because objectively this is the only way everyone will receive a fair shot at a potential outcome in their favor.  This same rule of objectivity must be applied to all aspects of life, or someone at some point or another will receive the proverbial short-straw and receive an unjust treatment.  We see, in life, this circumstance happen all the time when we hear about an innocent person being sent to prison because of an over-zealous prosecutor, or a witness who lied on the stand, maybe even with a prejudiced jury.  At any rate, their subjectivity to the situation, prevented them from making a just decision and instead created and unjust outcome.  Isn’t this a litmus test which should be applied to all situations?

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I know my topic is rudimentary at best, but truthfully, it seems as though our culture is in love with its ability to think and forgot the very foundation of thought and processes needed to create a comprehensive thought structure to build a just society.  Now, I’m not referring to our system of government or law; we represent the finest system of law, the world has ever seen, with an ability to put the rights of the person (due process) before the offended party.  This is why we say innocent until proven guilty, because in the end, we would desire an audience of objectivity to weigh the facts and rule in our favor if we truly were innocent.  The subjectivity is put into a most awful exposure, as people are no longer willing to be truthful because as our society embraces secular ideologies, there is nothing more than our subjective interpretation to hold us accountable.  This is until an objective authority is enacted and we are bound to adhere to their rules.

As we continue to move down our own pathways in life, are we really bound to anything other than what we want or how we perceive things?  In the end, we have true free will, we can either choose to live by rules or choose to ignore them.  From a civil point of view, within the context of the societies we live in, we live by the law, because otherwise we would go to prison.  In prison, we are given a more restrictive law and we must abide, or the restrictions will increase continuously.  There are segments of the population who embrace the renegade lifestyle by perpetrating crime and adhering to a different more subjective lifestyle which meets their needs and wants.  Unfortunately, as I described before, someone always will receive the unfair point of their subjective wants, this is to say where there is a perpetrator of lawlessness there is a victim too.  The criminal’s subjective point-of-view, has become the new line of majority (at least for them personally), and if either you or I exists on the wrong side of this majority, we might just be the next victim.

Ok, so where is the relief in all of this turmoil created by a subjective perception?  God!  Constantly, I hear people refer to the Bible as a set of rules to live by, and hardly ever do I hear an acknowledgement of what we read as a manner of purification needed to stand in the presence of God, of sheer and unadulterated love and goodness.  I mentioned it a few times before, but go be with anyone whom you acknowledge as being truly good, and you will feel an unworthiness and second-rate perception.  Not because they make you feel less, but because of the intrinsic reflection of yourself you are made aware of and completely unable to turn away from while in their presence.  Objectively, this truth is what it is.  Only a person who embraces subjectivity, as a means of worship for their personal beliefs, will be able to turn away from this goodness, but all of us have this within us to look at the good and objectively seek it.

Ok, so where are we when we can objectively see what should be done, and then we decide to interject our personal view (i.e. subjectivity), we are headed down a path which will go where we don’t want to go.  How does this apply to all the men and fathers out there?  Well, since you have been given the unique responsibility to help lead your family down the right path, you are one-half responsible for making sure you look at the whole picture and you accept, although things may not be what you want them to be, there is a truth and failing to follow it is derisive of love.  That’s right, when we fail to follow love, or objective truth, we embrace sin.  We embrace an existence where we vacillate on every topic, where we should have exceeded expectations, and instead are bound with the other people who put their material needs and wants ahead of the better more substantive truth.  I know, from personal experience, there was a time when I was making very poor decisions, and yet I still had the arrogance to say to myself, “you’re a fairly smart guy, why do you keep screwing up?”  At the end of the day, I failed to look at the objective truth, this is to say, I failed to look at those principles in my life which are used as beacons to help me and those who subsequently follow me down the proper path.

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This is where the path of the subjective and objective diverge.  A path of principle is the only foundation our lives have in order to make work of the existing and yet never feel a need to look behind us, because we can trust the principle and the solidarity it possess for each and every one of our lives’.   In case you were wondering, yes, those principles are the ones we all know, and the ones which are the hardest to live by.  Take a lie, for example, something which if you ask anyone, they will express to you a lie is not acceptable.  However, today, many people will add an admonishment to their prosaic position on lying.   Their truth allows them to lie, if by their own subjectivity, they’ve determined the lie to be livable or miniscule in their perception of life.  So, in other words, people might say something like, “I lied to him, because I didn’t want to hurt his feelings” or they might say “I was never going to tell her she looked awful in her dress, I don’t want to sleep on the couch”.  Though when we look at the bigger picture both examples give us, we see a person desperate to save face or maintain status quo with no effort whatsoever.  Selfishness rules the day, when we accept a path where lies are to be permissible.  The alternative to either example is one which we always have options, some more distinct and potentially brutal than others, but nevertheless keeps one clean of making the decision for the other.  This is what a lie comes down to, its essential subjectivity; we lie to another person, because of our arrogance or hubris in assuming we can make a decision for the other.  We can’t, even if what we say, may cut to the quick by exposing truth to the other person, we are bound to look at our actions or theirs which brought us to the point, whereby a truth is so painful.  Sometimes, delivering bad news is as painful as anything we can bear, but to take away the raw truth from another person, to prevent them from partaking of the gift of pain which is God’s way of growing us, we assume the role of God.  When we fail to follow the principles in life, we assume we are taking control of the helm, at the bridge on a massive vessel, but in truth, we are like kids playing with a toy.  A toy which if thrown or left in a path could cause problems to anyone in its path, but a toy which sits on the deck of the vessel to which God has always had full control.

So, what I’m saying is, your charge as a man and a father, just like mine is to maintain a principled life.  A life devoted to God, through the practice of principles, which in the exercise of these principles we help to purify and maintain a pure love for the objective truth.  Objectivity is the only thing which we can truly know, and realize within the context of our lives and application of principles, where we know we are reflective of the light of Christ.  To be principled, is to love deeply, not feel deeply, but to love, to will the good of the other because they are other.  To be charitable, and always giving, the principle of putting others before ourselves is truly a matter of life and death.  To always tell the truth, but to express the truth with a compassion and love for each and every person, we should be the walking truth, we should always feign the possibility of taking someone’s free will away from them by deciding for them in our selfish lie.

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Our efforts as fathers and husbands is sometimes hidden or at least shrouded by our duty as fathers and husbands.  Objectively, I know what I am doing is best for my marriage and my kids, when I get to a point of unsuredness about my actions, this is where my wife is the best.  She is willing to tell me the truth, even when I hate what she has to say.  Of course, the only reason I hate it, is because it is the truth and I must look within to acknowledge I was completely wrong and in my wrongness I feel like a fool.  However, she is right, she is true, and if I’m willing to be courageous enough to listen, then we have a real chance of moving forward.  This might be the final principle I would encourage all men to embrace.  We must be willing to look within, in order that we might grow, we must be willing to look into ourselves and see the awful truth, if we are ever to prevent the sin from growing in our lives, and truly love God.  God is our focus, and he requires all of us to search for the truth and accept our sins.  Look for the objective truth, push the subjectivity our culture is pushing on all of us, as far from yourself as you can.  Objectivity exists in the light, as does God, and when you embrace the objective truth, you will see your life changes from night to day, and it is quite dramatic.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

 

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What is Your Personal Choice and Responsibility?

So, I was once told, “no matter what anyone says or does, you have the ultimate power”.  Implying, I had the power of choice, either right or wrong, I was the captain of my ship.  Sometimes, no matter how carefully we choose, the results we are faced with are nothing we could have imagined and presents us with new paradigms every day.  Though, this is what I would call outlier theory, and one which shouldn’t be presented as a mainstream ideology of thought.  Instead, for the vast majority of people, we make good decisions and we are greeted with good results.  Thus, the opposite is true for any poor decisions we happen to embark on.  I personally see good and bad decisions made by people on a person level extending all the way to an international level.  I know I can never be the voice of reason to many of the people I see as they are on their journey of decision making (i.e. life), but objectively I can rightly anticipate their result based on their decisions.  In our current global climate, I think we are bombarded with people who make decisions, ranging from bad to worse, and we are foolishly led to believe this is the way of the world now.  However, if we all sit back and think about our lives and the people who touch our lives, I think we can envision many people who consistently make good decisions and by their own actions will us to make good decisions as well.

Perception of personal choice is one of tremendous power, but as is quoted often, “with great power comes great responsibility” (Voltaire), and this power is sometimes obvious to each and every one of us.  Though, for most of us, responsibility is made aware by exposition of choice.  When our choices become clear to us, in a causative based relationship, we can see the benefit or lack thereof presented to us.  We can see how our personal choices affect us and the people around us.  However, when we make choices, and we are not aware or are not permitted to know the effects, we perceive a lack of power within our own choice ability.  We don’t perceive our choices to have any effect whatsoever, and we behave accordingly.  For instance, if buying gas for one’s vehicle were a matter of life or death, and we were aware of this fact, is it possible we would be more sparing about how we used it or at least why we used it.  This is more to the point of my topic in this essay; our perception of responsibility within choice, is as important as anything we could possibly do.  To consider anything less would be letting ourselves down and those who are directly related to us through contact and familial relation.

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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

The phrase, “the devil is in the details” has never been truer than in my life and the decisions I’ve made.  I’ve looked past events which I should have made my focus, and I focused on decisions which had no more profound implication in my life than to acknowledge a necessity for moving forward as a matter of course.  My wife, for sure, is brilliant with the details, she pours over decisions.  Focusing on the details and covering ever angle to make sure she is covered in her process of choice, and the result is a woman who, short in stature, is as powerful a woman as I have ever met.  She knows she will not always make the right decision, but because of her ability to size up a situation, I rely on her opinion daily as it relates to me.  I can dress myself, and even though my kids think I dress like a dad, I can mix and match properly and blend in with the crowd.  Though, I ask my wife her opinion and I’ve never been disappointed by her choice.  I know the use of this example seems perfunctory towards the larger goal of my topic, but run with me for a second and you will see my point.

As dressing seems like something we do always, and a matter of dressing is up to the person, their body style, and the budget, we can’t be too critical of how people dress.  Though, if we imagine a person as a capable individual, we see a power of perception in the details of their lives on display for each and every one of us.  When we see someone disheveled as a matter of daily habit, we may intuit their inability to make good choices, and we are affected by this.  My wife’s ability to focus, with appropriate measure, gives an understanding to some that although I didn’t make the choice to wear what I have on, I was at least smart enough to trust the person who would make the choice.  Ok, now, we are getting to the meat of the matter.  Choice matters, either by our own hand or by another, and in this ability to choice we are faced with understand perception of power or eventual realized power.  In any context, and ability for choice constitutes power, and any country which resolutely puts the choice in the hands of the people, gains immeasurable power.

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Today, I was reading a good deal of op-ed pieces focused on two sides of immigration debates, and some articles were focused on the ever-increasing push for a secular world view.  All of these articles create a landscape of dotted morals and ever-changing rules as we understand them.  From the diminishment of life either in abortions or euthanasia, to the bravado exclaimed by a society which is bent on shooting as a means to an end, and finally cultural view of materialism the likes of which the world has never seen.  Nothing about what I read or was subject to was indicative of a society which bows in reverence to the Almighty God, nothing about what I was exposed to lovingly attached itself to where I was at to indicate there is something beautiful upon the horizon of our lives.  Instead, I was introduced to hate, lies, skepticism, posturing, and rampant desire.  I will admit, I was a little put back and could only shake my head for a second, before I realized none of what I was looking at was the truth.  None of what I was reading encapsulated what I know to be a real labor of perception in choice and power.  Instead, I was exposed to maligned theories of those who have yet to realize their own powers of choice.   The truth was, and has always been, we possess the ultimate power of choice.  We can never truly say any one person made us do anything we didn’t want to do.  If we did or do anything which carries a negative impact in our lives it was always our choice, we weighed the options and in doing so created a culpability of conscience and consequence.  We have the ultimate power, either do or don’t do, but at any rate we must accept the responsibility of so much power.

I’m sure I could jump on the band wagon of cultural criticism, and I probably have at one point or another, but in this specific instance of responsibility, I would encourage everyone to create an atmosphere within their own control of proper choice.  Don’t blame the person next to you, men don’t blame your wives, if she is doing something you don’t like, you have a choice to communicate with her your disdain.  Now, I know that may be a loaded statement for some out there, but it must be done if there is ever to be an expectation of an equal yoking between spouses.  She must be able to hear and appropriate a proper response to you and likewise, we men should be accepting of the reciprocal action.  There must a desire to affect a proper change through proper distribution of behavior and perceptions.  This tends to break down, as I’ve seen in the past, when one or the other party in a relationship (either marriage or dating) doesn’t pull their weight.  It creates frustration and an anguished feeling of despair for the other leading to regret and poor decisions.  Then the blame game begins, and the spiral downward to an inevitable crash seemingly occurs.  Though, this can and should be prevented by both parties in the relationship.  The popular or contextually unpopular Bible verse (Eph 5:21-29) indicates when read fully, a subordinate attitude or choice, out of our reverence to Christ.  Most modern day feminists or even an atheist attempting to make their point, will illuminate only certain points of this passage to assuage a fear in those who fail to recognize the potential in their choices, and at the same time bolstering the dominance some seek to over-wield a perceived power.  Neither is acceptable without the balance God brings to our lives.

Men, this is where we are at in our lives in a culture which seeks to rip apart those natural abilities we all possess as outdated idioms relegated to a time and place which no longer will accept wisdom from the past.  A culture which takes the stance, presumably from those portions of the societies we live in, which desires equality of outcome based on a subjective reality.  So, what is your personal choice?  Where do you go when everyone blames you for the failure which will inevitably befall everyone who fails to recognize the power they possess in every decision they make?  God!  God is your answer to all things.  This may seem simple to some and complex for others, but I assure you, God is the focal point for our decisions.  Let me give you an example.  The other morning, while driving in what seemed to be more traffic than normal for this particular time of the day, I was cut off by a driver who was obviously in a hurry.  Perhaps they were late to work, or maybe worse, they enjoy driving fast and don’t care too much of anyone else on the road.  They know if they cut off another vehicle, the vehicle my honk their horn, but will eventually slow down and allow a right-of-way to be accessed.  This indeed was the case with me, I yelled a vitriolic rant of disapproval, honked and in a matter of minutes the car was nowhere to be seen.  I made a choice to denigrate the very decision capability I possess to allay a need for anger.  My perception of this driver was poorly crafted and in my lack of concern for this person, I was willing to stain my own soul in a sinful diatribe only to regret my decision later.  I would imagine many of us are like this, in a split second, anger takes over and creates regrettable moments as if we never learned from our previous mistakes.  Our ability to make good choices, has become reflexive as a matter of course, we just exude anger because we can.  However, the reverse also creates in us a measure of squeamish subordination, especially when it relates to others as they view our actions.  If I were to repeat the situation, but now with an audience, I most assuredly would never have said what I did.  I would have received looks of disapproval and even words of discouragement of my behavior.  We are two different people, one of truthful maligned anger when no one sees us at our worst, and acceptable members of a relationship when on display.

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This is where my choices derided me in the past, my duplicity was never in check, except by my perception of the situation I found myself in.  I was unable to make competent choices as a matter of principle because I was always trying to control the situation and out think whatever was going to occur.  Well, I’m not that smart, and many things blew up in my face, most importantly my marriage became uneven, and it was all my decision.  This has taken me years to acknowledge, my decisions were ruining my marriage, my relationships in my family, and they were taking their toll on me.  I was drowning in a complex web of lies and manipulations, all the while creating a perception of control which never existed.  The inexplicable answer to the whole situation was to tear everything down, and build it properly this time.  Everything began with an understanding of how my decisions impacted my life, and how much control or power was to be realized.

I am part introvert and part extrovert, if this is even possible.  I can talk to everyone and for as long as they can handle my conversation, but at other times, I can’t stand being in large crowds, it feels like the walls are closing in.  Likewise, I can be a leader and control any situation I see fit, though I find most of my comfort in situations where I’m happy to take direction and seek to please whomever I am in contact with.  I find joy in the subordinate quality of principled behavior to glorify God.  Nothing else comes close, nothing I’ve ever attained in my life creates a situation where I can almost smile in the face of defeat as does the joy of knowing God.  This is where my decision patterns have developed over the last few decades.  Everything I do, is for the greater glory, I don’t always achieve what I want to do, and like my example with the impatient driver, I am brought to repentance as a matter of course in my decision to seek God.  This is where we are at, our personal choices must start from a foundational understanding of who we are and where we desire to be.  There is only one decision which will create a fulfilling effect in our lives though, and this fulfillment creates an understanding of the true power we possess.  This power is the strength to withstand those storms, as we see them enter our lives, it allows us to recognize the vitriol and fear mongering our culture is addicted to and desires.  Our responsibility is one of humility and recognition, we must understand how the foundation of choice and responsibility is set in our lives if we are ever to build upon it.  I can’t imagine a world which doesn’t have some strife, there are always people who want to pursue choice abilities in order to control the perceived weak.  However, perception is the most powerful tool we can possess.  Jesus, was perceived as being little more than being a common man, poor, unworthy of exaltation by any authority.  When the fruition of His earthly life came to actuality, he was nailed to a tree after being beaten and scourged.  Nowhere, and at no time, was there a reminiscent or abject stance of dominance to be seen.  Instead, with more love than we can possibly imagine, he stood there, not in a stance of cowering, but one of resistant love, and accepted what was to come.  His choice, to love those who condemned him became a symbol to each and every one of us.  Our choice first and foremost, must be a choice of love.

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As husbands, we must be willing to openly let God into our lives through our choices, especially those choices we make as we are yoked evenly with our spouses.  As fathers, we lift up our children, not by giving them what they want in order to appease them, but by deciding what we know to be the best decisions for them, until the day and time they must make their own.  Our example of a loving decision maker is paramount to reflecting the light of Christ in their lives.  This is our power in choice and responsibility, the long game as it were, we may never see the benefits of our choices reflected back to us.  It is in this we must always look to God and trust the path he carries us down.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Featured post

What is Life Worth to You?

This week we learned a sitting Supreme Court Justice (Kennedy) will be retiring and stepping down from the Judicial Branch in the United States.  Within minutes of the news, reactions were popping up on every major media site I have.  Reactions were coming in from as far away as Asia, and vitriol was being spewed in both directions over the potential new Justice and what this person will be like.  One half was groaning over the loss of a decided case (Roe v. Wade) and what this would mean to popularized stance of the hypocrisy of life and how selfishly they would be affected.  The other side high-fiving the chance to right a perceived wrong, the death of millions, yes millions, of unborn children.  So, I’m sure you can guess where my stance is on this, but not perhaps at my disdain for both sides.  A law, as powerful as it is, isn’t the measure by which a society functions.  Instead the morals and ethics by which we govern ourselves, creating an almost unnecessary need to be dictated in law, permeates society’s every fiber.  This isn’t what is happening.  Our society, hangs on the most delicate balance of majority in every situation, especially on those topics which there should never be a question.  Currently, everyone’s thoughts are on the palpability of seeing a legal injustice (as perceived) righted and justice being served.  Though, this brings about another question.  What are we going to do about all the people who utilized abortions for contraceptive methods?  Have we taught them anything?  Are we going to instill more familial values in our world, so instead of ubiquitous sexual encounters, we see a development of true loving relationships?  By my measure, this is why I write this blog, because there is real potential to see the law of the land mirror the values and morals we have to uphold the sanctity of life, but the hypocrisy will still be brimming under the surface.

When I was a teenager and I was talking with my friends, we all couldn’t wait till our first sexual experience.  We objectified the very act of something, which so beautiful in its own right, was degraded into an object, an activity to display prowess or desire.  We were typical, by all societal standards, and in our attempt to attain an average acceptance of society at large, we disordered something which is the very cornerstone of life.  The very action and all emotion which, with God’s Graces, creates a beautiful life.  Allowed to let nature progress (save any outlier such as medical emergencies etc.), we see a baby grow and be born into this life.  As the baby is born, there are two parents, who’ve set aside their own personal selfish pursuits, and decided to raise this child.  In their decision to raise this child, they do so in a loving home, because there is no longer any place for egotism, instead sacrifice is the measure of the day.  Sacrifice in time and effort to teach the rights and wrongs of life, a desire to have this child see the light of Christ, and a measure of self-reliance which gives the child a chance to live this life in a world looking for destruction.  Never, in my wildest dreams, did I envision destroying life so I could maintain a carefree lifestyle, one which would have been prevented if I was required to raise a child.  This is where we are at, and as a matter of perverted thought, we are bombarded by those who wish to make a case for their own bodies as a plight of decision rather than life.  Let me be clear, if a man and a woman have sex, and a pregnancy occurs, the natural order is such that a baby will be born in approximately nine months.  To do anything to stop this pregnancy by unnatural means (e.g. abortion, murder of the mother), constitutes a disorder of the Will of God.  A destruction of life, is an egregious act, which no society should stand for or allow on the context of decision alone.

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Ok, so where am I going with this?  I’m simply stating, a society which holds life as a precious gift, a society which gives recognition to natural event, should never permit the destruction of said life.  From another perspective, the conceived child never asked to be conceived.  If the prospective parents engage in ill-timed sexual activities, and are faced with a consequence of life, then it is up to society to hold them to this decision, not give them a chance to become worse people.  “It takes a village” is a true contextual observation of our lives as they are, not as we would like them to be.  A strength is needed, to correct the wrongs, the moral misgivings people have, a strength to stand in opposition to everything which seems to be going against us.  I have learned, over the years, to find comfort in God, even though I find discomfort in the opposition I bring to a room of unlike minded individuals.  Not to create disquiet, but to present an objective truth.  This is to say, all life is valid, beautiful, and of the love of God, to diminish it or destroy it is always unacceptable.  The child which is created by good, bad, or indifferent decisions, should not be punished.  Instead, the growth of the adults creating the child is what is as important as the raising of this beautiful representation for life.

The real substance of what I’m getting at is what will change if the law changes, when an overwhelming number of people don’t seem to care about a law, except for the fact they don’t want to be incarcerated.  The spirit behind why a law exists should transcend the population and create a redundant measure of justice to confirm our reality.  As I see it, it begins in the home, we are challenged to teach the next generation of kids and even create a learned paradigm ourselves pertaining to the sanctity of all life.  We can’t be hypocrites about life either, if life is precious, then we must hold it to be so.  What I mean is, we must push to have all corners of our culture embrace life, old and new, infirm and unhealthy.  We can no longer sit idly by, and allow people who have no self-professed reason to honor life, God, or humanity make our decisions for us.  Standing up in defiance, not fighting, not running, but defiant opposition to those who diminish life is paramount to our survival.

I’m sure I could look up statistics and quote very real numbers as to the veracity of life, but in the end if anyone is like me, there should be something innate within all of us, where we see the natural progression and growth of an individual.  The progressive potential of someone who as they enter life possess the potential to do wonderful things, and by the Grace of God, become a reflective light to all of us.  The key here is a doggedness which pursues the truth over and again and never rests until we rest in the presence of God.  Unfortunately, before abortion was made legal, illegal abortions were being performed, and in the process both baby and mother would sometimes perish.  The procedures were awful, and the “doctor” would use various means to destroy the life in her womb.  The real question was why was a woman willing to go through this to destroy a life and potentially put hers at risk?  Society, at this time society was unforgiving for women who chose to have sex outside of marriage and then become pregnant and produce “bastard children” as a result.  They would rather go through the risk of death than to face the humiliation, they most assuredly we see, if they kept the child.  The humiliation was from all facets of society, church, home, work, and strangers.  Everyone had an opinion and those opinions seemed devoid of compassion, giving rise to alternative routes of dissemination in result.  The problem became multifaceted, families failing to speak about truths, society unwilling to be compassionate, people unwilling to face discipline of their own lives as well as the discipline which results from decision making.  A ship going down in the middle of a storm and no one was willing to do what was needed, except those willing to look at the light of Christ as a beacon for hope.  Ok, so the law is passed.  Society can relax right?  Now, men and women can have sex, protected or not, and worst case scenario, if the woman gets pregnant she can terminate the pregnancy and it’s all legal.  The best part is, because it is the law, it must be right?  I don’t think this is a fantastical way of looking at the issue, many people believe the law is an extension of moral correctness and apply it as such, and in the ever-shifting sands of the law, they rely on the very words of the law to apply a life’s compass to their wandering.  Some of those who opposed the law, which should be every Christian ever, approached a tactic of shame and absolutism, for the ones who decided as a means of contraceptive measures to abort their pregnancy, and take a very unchristian approach.  This was wrong!

So, where are we now?  As a father I can tell you this, I love my daughters, and I don’t want them to ever feel as if they should be shamed by their actions, regarding any of this.  Thankfully they have not done this, and it is my goal to teach them as long as I have breath in me, about the utter sanctity of life.  This is to say, if they choose to walk the wrong path, it is up to me, through compassion and the Love of Christ to bring them back to the light.  This isn’t done with force and requires the patience of time to pray and show them the truth.  At the end of the day, bringing them back is a matter of their choice and acceptance of truth, even if they are my kids and I love them beyond measure, they must make their own decisions and live with those decisions, like we all must do.  However, a measure of compassion on all of our parts is needed.  Jesus, accepted those who sinned and dined with them as a physical way of showing how precious they were in the eyes of God.  Which brings me to my final point, God made each and every one of us, we are beloved in the His eyes, and as such, it must be understood, if even I am beloved, isn’t also the unwanted child of two people who conceived because of their pursuit of pleasure?

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All children are wanted, needed, and loved.  God fashioned each and every one of us as a testament to love, to say, look at your ever-changing curves and wrinkles, look at your hair or lack thereof, look at what you’ve learned and the impact of your decision on the lives of those closest to you and then think what would this be like if you’d been aborted.  Just like any good argument, we must take the extreme and the reality is, some of the greatest impacts on our culture and societies have come from people who were originally cast off from society.  Society even wished them dead or to go away as though they were dead, in order to remove them from the conscious reminder, but they didn’t and with enough time and love, and the Graces of God outpoured, they became a radiant reflection of the Love of God.  St. Francis of Assisi is the best example.  A wealthy son of a merchant, and no stranger to sin, renounced his sinful ways and embraced a lifestyle of humility and degradation.  He became an outcast, so much so, his father renounced him as a son, and he was dead to him.  Though through the Love of God, he began to win over hearts and minds, and where people once wished him dead, they fervently celebrated his life unto his death by following the path he followed in Christ.  His life, although seemingly unworthy, created a fervent desire to approach God with love which hasn’t stopped since it began.

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We must have the wisdom to look past what we see now, and know what is possible in the future as we approach a compassion for life and a desire to see all life flourish.  Babies must be allowed to grow to birth and be loved.  Those children must be taught to adulthood, to create a reverent and loving society.  Those adults must be compassionate enough to embrace the change which will come, and stoic enough to resist the temptations of man.  When life fades for all of us, we must accept it with a joy of God’s Will rather than an end to an unfinished life.  My wife and I have had the conversation over the years about conceptualizing death, and why it is such a hard concept for us to grasp.  Here is my answer, and I hope it can give some people some solace.  I believe in God, completely, and in doing so, I know this life on earth is a matter of a means to the end, the end being of course Life in Christ.  To be embraced by God, as both Heaven and Earth are once again joined in balance.  I know what we endure here in this life is a matter of course for the greater glory, and in a truer understanding of time and place, become a blink of an eye on a scale of eternity.  As I understand all of this, I am challenged to think of those I’ve loved and lost to this temporal existence, to know the joy I will feel when I see them once again.  Though we must feel the pangs of sorrow if we are truly to understand the joy of life, and this cannot be taken for granted.  Our every action must be accounted for, repented of, and compassionately understood.  If there is anyone you know, who has confided in you a decision to abort their child, pray for them, bless them for better decisions going forward, but above all else stand for what is right (life) and show them compassion beyond measure.  Don’t accept sin, but be willing to embrace the sinner.  I am a sinner, I know this for sure, and I am willing to embrace all because I know we are all looking for the light of love and compassion in our lives.  Be the light for someone who is desperately searching!  There are many alternatives to abortion, please pursue them and find a path to life.  For all the fathers, and husbands out there, stand your ground, don’t ever let someone make the argument of choice, there is only one choice and life is it, anything less is an abomination to the Will of God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

http://www.usccb.org/issues-and-action/marriage-and-family/parents-and-parenting/index.cfm

https://www.catholiceducation.org/en/health/abortion/

https://www.catholic.com/tract/abortion

Catechism of Catholic Church:

http://www.vatican.va/archive/ccc_css/archive/catechism/p3s2c2a5.htm

 

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Featured post

What Can We Hear in God’s Whisper?

Sometimes, especially when we position ourselves properly, we receive news which indicates extraordinary events explainable only by the Grace of God.  I know I’ve heard more stories than I can remember of events related to people which inextricably have no answer other than to associate a divine presence as the author.  I don’t want to diminish or dilute the faith of anyone, but I’m not referring to events such as a near miss or someone was sick with a common cold and got better.  These are happy events, but not miraculous.  I’ve spoken on the topic of miracles in the past, just a little, and so I was thinking about our perception of the mode of arrival in which God lets us know his presence.  In Kings 19, we read about God and his discourse with Elijah.  We expect the presence of God to appear with great whirling winds and earthquakes as the chapter alludes to, but this isn’t the form with which God spoke.  No, instead it was in a whisper, a faint representation of the Almighty’s power which to our human estimation presents us with either doubt or misinterpretation of strength.  When we as men, especially today, think of strength, the cultural landscape we live in dictates a confusing juxtaposition of strength and weakness.  We are presented with a need to be stoic and unmovable on points of rightness, and yet have the knowing capability to bend with a pliability needed for every situation.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but we can’t have both.  We can have one path to follow, and in this we will represent strength, compassion, courage, fear, and love.  Above all, we will find our thirst quenched in our loving pursuit of this whisper, which in its perceived weakness, is the most profound strength anyone of us could hope to discover.

Never have I been more confused as when I watch any thirty minutes of television today and attempt to figure out what society is looking for from men or fathers.  Morality seems to have taken a backseat to general wants, and those wants are paramount to material wealth or physical pleasure.  The objective truth, which does exist, is pushed aside for a version of “my truth”, which is nothing more than the perspective of any individual based upon their experiences and intelligence at the time of the thought.  It could change from moment to moment, and what’s worse, if someone is exposed to an experience less than acceptable, their moral line in what they are willing to accept or do, could be what’s needed to push them over the edge of a precipice where darkness consumes the soul.  I know this seems very extreme in the context of our normal lives, but I would argue this, if an alcoholic knew by taking their first sip, they would become an alcoholic, would they take that first sip?  We seem to be wandering the desert right now, and where there are beckons of light in the darkness, there are unseen hands grabbing at us to pull us down and away from those lights.  So, what do we do?

I won’t pretend to have all the answers, but I can tell you my journey, my struggles, and where I see a path of righteousness in pursuit of Christ leads us.  As I was detailing earlier, morality is a big button issue at the moment.  There are causes and movements swirling around us, so much so, I’m not sure anyone of us comprehends the depth of any three causes, except for what is explained through our media outlets.  Just recently we’ve been subject to sexual scandals, the ever-present abortion debate, and the stance on leadership as it pertains to our governments, and the need for a religion to strengthen our faith.  There’s a lot going on!   I want to address some of it, because by my estimation it is relative to the whisper of God’s voice in our lives, to the silence in our hearts where God resides patiently waiting on us.

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I would like to begin by saying, if you ask yourself before you do anything, “Is there love in that?” You will find an ability to ask yourself the harder questions and have a distinct answer which is not only resolute in its solution but creates a paradigm to explain what love actually is.  To begin, love is not an emotive decision process, no matter what the movies tell us.  It isn’t the license to treat people poorly because we’re bored with our situation or we in other words have found something or someone else to gravitate towards.  Love isn’t the process to find wrong in others, so much so, we risk true joy and happiness for pursuits of the physical.  In other words, we miss true love poured upon us, because we insist our partners or those we love should fit in a precise paradigm of diminishing returns.  We want people to look and act a certain way, and we delude ourselves into thinking, once we have what we want, we’ll be happy.  Wrong!  The question of love in our actions becomes imperative, it becomes something we must utilize as a presence of being, a tool of sorts, to delve deeper into actions, meanings, and where we want to be.  When we apply the understanding of the objective truth we find calmness in the midst of a storm.  The storm is our person, our society, our loved ones circling about us and yet we must find the calm, because only in the calm can we ever hope to hear the voice of God.  In this calm, we find love.

Ok, so love is paramount to understanding everything, much like Jesus was referred as the cornerstone (Acts 4:11) “He is ‘the stone rejected by you, the builders, which has become the cornerstone’”.  We must apply the love of Christ as the cornerstone to anything we look at, any argument we face, and any hot button issue which seems to plague us today.  I will promise this to you, if you truly apply the objective truth as it pertains to love, you will have an answer to any issue you find, and the issue will become no longer up for argument, but rather a means of understanding to approach your life.

For the topics I mentioned earlier, I want to attack each one, and put to rest what should have been put to rest already.  The current environment of sexual proclivities including sex of all types, pornography, multiple partners, artificial contraception, and a willful acceptance by a growing percentage of the population has presented us with an aberration of truth as we see it contextually.  This is to say, we haven’t a problem with what’s going on, until we do, and hopefully you’re on the right side of the fence when the problem becomes apparent.  Now, this isn’t to say poor behavior such as rape, harassment, or sexual perversion as it relates to unlawful behavior has ever been ok.  Instead, it seems to be more an ideological perception of what right and wrong in the context of right, and then pushing and extremity to areas where it was never considered or was simply put back on the participants.  Let me give you an example, a woman being raped is awful and should never happen, and based on the individual circumstances is how to determine the degree of severity with which any justice is to be applied.  However, in our cultural climate today, we find, the presumption of guilt no matter the circumstance.  The accusation is levied against an individual, and without any due process whatsoever, we hold this person in contempt and they have now become a pariah we wish to turn away from.  We no longer find the promiscuous behaviors of the population as a matter of unacceptable path to personal destruction, but instead we honor the victim (poor decisions and worse consequences and all).  We don’t ask why this event occurred and what the factors were leading up to it transpiring.  We don’t ask if the event ever occurred at all, because it becomes too risky for fear of reprisal in either a private or public forum, usually both.  We don’t want to be the one to pour salt on a wound which has already potentially caused someone pain, we haven’t the stomach for this.

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I do want to set the record straight, I love having a physical relationship with my wife, it is a gift from God, at its most basic understanding it’s a physical representation of love to express our oneness with each other in the covenant of marriage.  A marriage which is brought together by the Graces of God to perpetuate life, love, and the objective truth as set forth by the Divine Christ.  To extend this even further, it’s the natural progression of life as was ordered by God.  Anything outside of this, from a physical intimate portrayal is a disorder of its intended purpose.  In Humane Vitae, Pope Paul VI, intuits a destruction of familial truths in society (Section 17) as a result in the creation of artificial contraception.  He indicates the failure of will, to be replaced by want.  No longer do people need to worry about the societal implications of their actions, as long as they got what they wanted.  Before anyone thinks, they know what’s best for their lives, I would caution this method of thinking, we don’t know from day-to-day what our lives have in store, and to explicitly challenge objective truth and replace it with our own, should be analogized as trying to play chicken with time.  It just doesn’t work, and when we try, we inevitably fail.

Now, I know what some people think when they hear this, and at first it appears Puritanical.  However, if we approach the entire paradigm with a lens of love, we see this is the furthest aspect of the truth.  It’s not that rules are for us to follow, but when we apply love to our decisions, we find we follow a pathway with the truths and these truths become objectively speaking a rule or guideline to stay on the path to God’s love.  Which presents our next cultural challenge, abortion, the destruction of life, to preserve our own way of life.  No matter, the decisions it takes to get to this point, killing life is unacceptable.  Christian Faith, and specifically Catholicism, is a religion of putting to death a sinful life and a rebirth of spiritual purity.  To put it bluntly, you must allow your old self to die, before you can be raised up to the light of Christ.  This is not, and has never been achieved by the destruction of life.  This is to say, we can’t move forward as a culture if we create a culture of promiscuity and sexual disorder, then allow the circumspect behaviors towards those involved as they continue to make poor decisions.  I’m sure at one point or another, we’ve know someone who has had an abortion (if there are women reading these words, it’s possible you may have had an abortion), and it’s not a matter of condemnation.  Instead it’s a matter of compassion for those who have sinned, but if we don’t change the behaviors then the sin continues unfettered and this becomes the culture we are being forced to embrace today.  I’ve heard arguments for a very long time in the position of “pro-choice” and “Pro-Life”, and yes I capitalize my life stance for the inflection of importance.  Life is always more important than any one of our choices.  To give our lives for another is a choice which still places life above anything else.

The way I’ve always seen the arguments crafted for abortion is a matter of the utilization of outlier (i.e. extraordinary events to make us think about what might happen) and prevent any movement whatsoever on the topic, which has so divided everyone.  The vast majority of abortions are performed as a matter of contraceptive method, a decision to regret sexual behavior, and instead embrace a pathway which leads away from accountability.  At the end of the day, there are two stances one can take for the argument against abortion, a scientific one (very valid when speaking with secular groups or atheistic religions), and the second it the faith comprehension of truth and applicability of love in all situations.  If we apply love to this debate, then we see, no loving person could end the life of another soon to be fully functional human.  Just isn’t possible, and if anyone thinks I’m accusing those who’ve had abortions as unloving, you’d be correct.  We all have the ability to love, but we must learn how to love, and we can’t learn to love if we are pursuing our own selfish ends.

The final topic of discourse is our need for leaders in this world.  Do we really have anyone we can look up to?  Maybe, but at this moment, we are so unwilling to hold ourselves accountable on the most objective level, how can we expect to hold our leaders.  They are a symptom of a much greater problem.  We must start with the family, we must start as fathers and husbands and hold ourselves accountable to each and every person we come into contact with.  We can’t deny our failures, we must embrace and learn from them. “It is not the healthy who need the doctor, but the sick” (Matt 9:12).  We have to acknowledge to ourselves, we are sick and in need of healing.  A healing which can only be provided by God.  Our leaders begin with us, they begin with a family which is both made up of a father and a mother to teach our children the proper objective truth in life.  To accept pain as par for the course, and yet continue to move forward as a matter of life and the pursuit of life and the light.  Though the most important gift we can teach our children is to be charitable.  Our charity, or love, towards others will help us to be leaders and to pick leaders who meet our ideals and share a common pursuit of objective truth in a time of hegemony of subjective morality.  Our leaders are an extension of our pursuits in life, these leaders have the courage to stand up and show us the way.  Don’t be afraid to stand up for a leader who embodies these principles in life.  There are too many good people in the world to give an excuse for the selection we have now, but because of the ever changing moral climate, it’s impossible to tell unless you calm yourself in the midst of the storm and listen to the whisper of God.

I only briefly touched on topics which in themselves have been the inspiration of volumes of books, dissertations, and essays which explained my topics much better.  Though at the end of it all, we don’t need a full explanation, sometimes, to know deep down what is wrong.  Be only with a spouse, it is more ordered and special in this context.  Don’t kill innocent life (this really goes without being said, one would think), when left untouched, life blooms, we can’t hide behind choice, life always takes precedent.  Our leaders are an extension of us, if we don’t like who our leaders are, perhaps we need to take a longer look at us and fix what is apparently broken.  God gives us the strength to fix what is broken, but like anything learned, a level of pain is needed to correct a wrong.  Even if the pain is the intrinsic understanding which alludes to ridicule of one’s self for failing for so long.  Pursue God, pursue love, and the answers you seek will become all too clear.  May God bless you, and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Are We Really Finding Humility?

So, for the last couple of weeks I’ve been diligently working and spending time with the family, and a curious question was raised, which I thought was food for thought.  When we see our fellow man act with some level of contrition, are we associating a measure of humility to their actions or are we so focused on our lives we don’t notice at all?  Does humility require us to be subservient, contrite, or on many levels something other than ourselves as we feel we should be?  Is humility an ability to self-deprecate and lower ourselves so we can be liked by perceived superiors?  These are the questions which have been rattling around my brain, so I wanted to go more in depth with you and hopefully we can find a way to embrace our humility and yet retain all of who we are and how this applies to our pursuit of love in God.

When we look at a simple definition of humility we see the most basic of answers; “freedom from pride or arrogance, the state of being humble” (Merriam-Webster Dictionary).  When I think of the word pride, I immediately imagine a patriotic banner swaying in the air, and music which evokes an emotional response tied to heroic events sweeps through my mind.  Though, in this case the pride which humility seeks quash, is the pride we take when we can’t accept our wrongness as it pertains to us and the people around us. The first example I can think of is when the devil tempts Adam and Eve with the fruit of the Tree of Knowledge (Genesis 3), their desire to know as much as God and their pursuit of control amounted to a prideful pursuit of self-sufficiency, to rule themselves as they see fit.  This pride became arrogance as the devil continued to whisper in Eve’s ear about how she could do things and make decisions just as good as God, and the combination of her pride and arrogance mixed with Adam’s own pride and arrogance gave rise to an unhumble desire to control.  Isn’t this what an unhumble person becomes, someone who can’t be told what to do, a person who can’t accept their fallibility, or a person who sees what they are doing as wrong (by all conventional and moral standards) but desires the control and will do anything to keep it?  I’m sure we all know people (could even be us) who fit the bill, and as Christians we are bound in our pursuit for the love of God, to be a representation of someone who is humble in life.

Now, isn’t it just that easy?  You say to yourself, “I want to be humble, so now I’m going to be humble.”  I find, it is much more difficult to put into action than just saying those words.  Peter Kreeft, Angels & Demons, remarks about the super intelligence both angels and demons possess.  Their intelligence on it’s lowest level makes our smartest human beings resembling the intelligence of a dog.  This isn’t to say we are dumb, just not as smart as they are.  As we understand and apply our knowledge of the intelligence paradigm, it is much easier to understand the crafty nature of the devil and demons which pursue us and latch on to our arrogant and prideful natures.  It is also not too difficult to see how playing on someone’s need for attention and need not to forcible made to be meek in the sight of everyone would prompt them to take a path where humility is looked down upon rather than something which seeks to harness the true reflection of God’s light.  At every moment of every day, we are being tested to make decision which have no humility whatsoever, so we can pursue earthly accolades.

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As a father and husband, I feel like I am challenged to walk this humble line constantly by trying to be the living example of what Christ wants us to be, and to be a man in this world.  I’m constantly challenged to be kind in the face of insult by exterior events, but at the same time I’m challenged to be humble in front of my family, especially when I’m wrong.  Truly wrong this is, I’ve lost my temper and acted so poorly in the past, I was faced with two options, either accept the humiliation of my wrongness or continue to move forward with my unjust behavior and in doing so create an example to the people whom I love dearly, with an example which leads them down a path of selfishness and despair.  We all, as a matter of learning our humility, must in many instances face the humiliation required to learn this very basic but important learning block of our spiritual development where the result is God’s love for all eternity.
This is an interesting turn of events, when we think about what we must learn to continue in our growth.  Much like we all had to learn to write letters before we could read or compose full sentences.  We must learn how to accept what creates our unhappy nature before we can pursue the joyful path.  This is to say, we can’t possibly know which path to walk down, unless we’re shown this path, and in some cases irrespective of our desires we choose the wrong path, and in doing so we are given perspective to decide to continue this path or face the humiliation.  This humiliation hopefully causes us to take stock of our decisions and never walk the wrong path again.  The instances of humiliation we face from day-to-day, are seemingly poignant reminders of our straying from the desire to pursue God.

I’ve faced humiliation more times than I care to remember, and one lesson I can take away from my learnings is the complete and total embarrassment which set me on a path, so I wouldn’t repeat the behavior/process again.  I hated the notion and even the feeling of setting myself down a notch, especially in front of those people who were blameless yet suffered my pride and arrogance.   At the same time my embarrassment was reaching its zenith, I could also feel a growth in my behavior.  I could feel a movement past where I was currently at in my growth spiritually and in my understanding of others.  In other words, I felt as though I was learning to love, through my own humility.

We can never hope to gain all humble circumstances within the confines of our comfortable surroundings, we are pushed through our life to move from one changing circumstance to another, and in the process of doing so, we learn the pitfalls which allow us to gain traction in understanding.  This isn’t to say we learn on the first time we fail at anything, I personally have failed more times than I care to remember, on the same subject or topic.  The more difficult the topic the more times and effort may be needed to fully comprehend the humility we hope to attain.

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As a husband, I know I’m in the dubious leagues of eating some humble pie to attain a paradigm of understanding and application of love.  When I was younger, I foolishly thought my passion for life and what I did, would translate to an application of love.  I thought, if I approach everything the same way, with the same amount of fervor, I would have fair to similar results and this would be fine for me in life.  I was a perfectionist when it came to my hobbies and general pursuits in life, and I just figured, everything would fall in place when it came to my spouse.  I intended to just approach life in the same haphazard manner I approached everything, and I would just learn along the way.  Marriage just isn’t this way!  To begin, marriage is a sacred covenant between your spouse and yourself, a focus only to be beaten by your faith, is absolutely required.  This person, who is your spouse completes you, they balance your place in the fabric of time, for however long they are here with you, and evenly yoked, they present the challenge of family and faith as a matter of path for your very existence.  You mission, as it were, becomes the movement of both husband and wife through and ever-changing landscape, requiring a steadfast approach to compassion and love, but to bend as the tree will do in large storms but never break.  Though, we do break sometimes, we do need to be fixed sometimes, and in the processes, which requires the time and attention needed by both spouses, continually sets the foundation of solid stone and regrows (obviously with God’s help) a loving environment.

So, this is where I was at with my own relationship with my wife.  I needed to humble myself, and truly understand where my wife was at, more than choosing to think I was the only one in pain.  She also needed this, and together we were both broken, but we needed each other to mend our brokenness.  My wife, who is an angel, was in pain because of me and because of failed expectations, I was in pain because of me and failure to care what the expectations, which were lovingly asked of me, were needed to grow our love in God’s eyes through the covenant of our marriage.  In the end, we both became fighting and selfish to what we wanted, and the irony was we really didn’t know what we wanted.  We thought we were going to do everything ourselves, our pride, our arrogance was going to fix the problems we inevitably faced because of our pride and our arrogance.  This became a revolving door of misery for us, no matter what I attempted to do, I was getting things wrong, and no matter what love she tried to show me, I interpreted it as anything other than love.  We didn’t trust each other, and we didn’t want to be the first to give in, for fear of showing weakness, or so I thought.  In my monumental arrogance, I failed to see, my wife was there with open arms, and in her unconditional way was giving me herself (much like the day we said our vows).  God helped her in a humble path, and she was humbly waiting for me.  I am completely floored when I think about this now, when I realized this at the time, I was embarrassed and didn’t know how someone could love me so much.  She did!  Little by little, she patiently waited, and we eventually were yoked evenly again, and since this time, we’ve moved side-by-side in patient step with God’s will.  We recognized, it is far better to stand together, realizing God lifts us both up, and allowing his light to shine in everything we do.  It’s not about whether I got what I wanted, or she obtained the expectation she hoped for, but it is, and has always been about the journey to find truth in love.

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This is a funny concept, one which I’ve met people over the years, and I’ve had them explain to me their perception of what a truth is, and as a matter of course, they indicate a destination of understanding rather than a journey.  Humility isn’t just about knowing what we did to bring us to the point we are at now, but instead it’s about perceiving just how every step can affect every perception and every action we take.  Our journey in life is what forms us so when we do meet an expectation or a goal, we will know just what to do with it.  Humility must be attained if we are ever to understand who we are in relation to a loving God.  If you think back in your life and you meditate on those individuals who carried the most influence and seemed to show a love in one way or another, you should see the marks of an individual who humbled themselves to be a loving foundation of your life.  If you are one who has never been able to knowingly acknowledge a presence of love, look deeper and know, there have been people all along the way, but with every ounce of humility they are harder and harder to find.  Which is a good way of saying, they are involved with you daily.  Those who are so humble as to be almost non-existent in your life, not because they aren’t there, but because you never noticed those things which they do for you to carry you forward.  Perhaps someone holds the door open for you, allowing you to walk in first, maybe someone at work is willing to accept more work because your shift has ended, and they intuit your need to go home, or maybe a beggar at the stop light, looking for a handout stares at you and with fluidity says, “God Bless You” and then walks on.  None of these instances carries with it a perceived notion of a life changing event, but in their humility, they give what charity they can (the effect of a true charitable love).  Of course, we’ve all talked to a friend who states, “those beggars probably make more money than we do”, or they might say “well if they are willing to stand at the corner, then why can’t they work”.  Though the truth of the matter is more nuanced than the simple observation of an impropriety or perceived laziness.  Perhaps the real humility is to recognize, someone of lower societal stature than yourself, can look into your eyes and pray for you with three simple words, and your inability to recognize this humility is indicative of a path still untrod and still in need of travel.  You must humble yourself to understand, even if the person doesn’t mean what they say, you can draw a deeper understanding a deeper meaning and in this newfound perception your humble response should be one of gratitude.  A gratitude for a truth being revealed.

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I know for some; a perceived naivety can be construed by what I’ve written but allowing those who wish to fool us or take advantage of us grants us an understanding (at times) to understand the person who is in enough pain to hurt another.  Yep, that’s right, someone willing to hurt us in one way or another is truly in pain.  They’ve left the path of love, which exudes joy with every step, and they’ve entered darkness, and although they may not realize exactly where they are at, the innate need for God’s love in our lives will project pain when we push the light of love away.  This pain will be reflective in outward actions towards others, your humility and understanding are paramount in these situations.  Your ability to put your pride, ego, arrogance, and need for honor will steer you and hopefully those who need your example in the proper direction.  The best example of those who need the most influence are our children, as we all know, they are easily influenced and respond to exhibitions of natural and unconditional love.  This means, yes you must say no and be the bad guy.  In the end, their acknowledgement of truth, as a humble person would accept truth, will in its recognition through their own humiliation of being wrong or even right create a loving individual on a path to find God.

So, are we really being humble in our every day lives?  I know I am not, I know I can find more and experience more in my life to create in me, a humble heart.  I know I can find love in the darkest of places, those places exist in my heart and in the hearts of the people I am in contact with every day.  As we find those places of darkness, we see despair, desolation, a sense of hopelessness and it only appears this way because of the darkness.  Find humility in your every action, find a sense of right through your wrong.  Don’t be fearful of being wrong, it just might be what you need to find the path God has set forth for you.  Above all else, be the light which burns the brightest because you’ve lowered yourself and attained an overflowing measure of humility.  To find humility we must seek understanding, as we journey for understanding, we find humility was the ability to recognize our weakness and our wrongness as the foundation for understanding all along.  Look within yourself and you will find the humble place your heart desires to be, because as we are made in the image and likeness, this humility is the unconditional love given by God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What Is Heaven To You?

This is a loaded question, and one with no really good answer to the average person.  Though, it does carry with it a sense of finality and its elusive context provides the backdrop to our finite reality on this earth.  When I turned 35, I didn’t go out and do anything uncharacteristic, nor did I push the envelope of proper behavior.  No, what I did was take a figurative look back at the previous 35 years, and my first thought was, “whew, this went by way too quickly”, but as this began to set in, so did my mortality.  Just who am I?  What is my purpose in this life?  What am I truly meant to do? Where is it I go, when I die?  You know, the easy questions in life.  Of course, it’s been several years since I asked these questions, and although the answers were not necessarily what I wanted to hear, they were what I needed all along.  I hope in the next few paragraphs, you will see some of your own questions come to light, and perhaps you will find an answer yourself.  At the end of the day, God is always the answer we look for, but finding the path, He crafted Himself for us, is the first step to the hardest and most rewarding decision of your lives.

Let me start from where my “mortality enlightenment” occurred, and then I will push forward from there.  My realization of a world which passed me by, like bullet train, was beginning to sink in.  My kids were much older now, I was much older now, and I wasn’t further along in my career.  I wasn’t doing anything professionally or socially important with my life.  I wasn’t attending church on a regular basis.  I didn’t have many friend or even acquaintances, except for those people I talked with at work.  Though, I hated my work, so I understood, as much as I enjoyed talking with people, this eventually would go away.  So, back to square one, I thought, “where am I supposed to go from here?” I intuited I needed people in my life, but at the same time, I didn’t want anyone else but my immediate family.  I was going to take the quasi loner’s life, and I would wear the invisible cloak of struggle.  At the end of the day, I was creating my own paradigm of failure, and this mortification of self through a deprivation of human contact was probably one of the lowest times in my life.  I didn’t feel unhappy though, I was content in my solitude, but desperately seeking human interaction.  I only noticed this, when someone would give me the slightest attention, and it was as though my world was set to right, and I could function as I should.  At the end of the day, it would always go away, and a false reality would set in.  The words seemed to pop into my head, indicating, “This is all you’ll ever have, and you should be happy”.  Now, I’m not sure about anyone else, but sometimes faced with an acceptance of less than we anticipated can be demoralizing at times.  At any rate, this is where I was at in my life.

Now, it’s taken me years to seemingly self-diagnose this and realize, I was the problem, not everyone else.  God isn’t asking me to suffer my situation, but rather as St. Theresa of Lisieux would point out in “Story of A Soul” it was a matter of embracing what it is I am and giving it to God in every possible way.  To begin, I looked at all the years which to this point passed me by, gone, I can’t get them back now!  I sat quietly thinking, at best, I may have another 35 or 40 years left, and I’m on a downhill trajectory at this point.  I was very depressing to be around, but it is just like the darkness next to the light, always seems to be more enveloping and consuming until we become illuminated.  As was the case for me.  I began to move my thoughts from, why the years seem to move so fast, to just who I am as a man.  What is expected of me as a man?  What is my purpose?

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As a man, this was a pretty hard question to answer for a couple of reasons, the first being, and my expectations as a man, because I’m a man.  The second being, my expectations as a man, because society sees me as a man.  When I tackled the first, I was constantly convoluting it with our cultural expectations, and rendering a poorly imaged portrayal of what a man should be.   There was always a defect in my mind’s eye, and I continuously was exposing the flawed characteristics of my manly personality and my frustration began to grow.  This mixed with my attempts to teach my son about being a man, becomes more confusing to him, which in turn frustrated me. However, just like anything we do, with enough time and attention, we begin to get a little better, we look for better sources of information in what we seek, and we hold ourselves to a higher standard as we increase our skill.  My higher standard is God, and my recognition of the source of my manhood was the illumination I wrote of earlier, it exposed the good and the bad.  It was the medicine I needed to heal the festering wounds of pride, hubris, ignorance, and a lack of love in my life.  Let me be the first to say though, it wasn’t easy to take, it wasn’t a picnic facing the exposure.  My wife, in her unconditional love, fought hard to ask me the question and have me realize the answer, “where is the love in what you do”.  Seemingly a simple question, but when we dig deep, the exposure of an answer, “I haven’t been giving my love, I’ve been holding back for fear of rejection, loss, and failure” entered my mind.  I was in my anger and removal of myself in situations creating a distance which allowed an insularly effect protecting me from my fears (at least I thought so).  As hard as it was to take the answer to the question posed, I found it harder to look in the direction of God, shame was winning and the worst part was, I was letting it win.

I must emphasize my shame in this, I thought I looked like the biggest fool to everyone and to everything.  I was arrogant, and put myself in a place where I didn’t need anything or anyone (or so I thought), it was like being a mile in front of everyone in the race, only to realize I took a wrong turn.  My embarrassment, especially to my wife, created a sense of anger in me and confusion.  I always felt as if I need all the answers to anything asked.  I read, study, and constantly try to know everything I can for a couple of reasons.  I need the human attention so bad, I wanted to immediately be valuable to anyone if they just asked, and the second reason was I needed to know as much as possible, so I can never look foolish.  When my wife pulled me back in, she did so in the way a wife loves a husband or as a woman can love a man.  She unconditionally asked me the question, and I had to answer.  It’s the best question I was ever asked, and I didn’t have the answer this time.  I couldn’t make an excuse for me any longer.  Happy 35th birthday, right?  It was probably the best birthday, I’ve ever had.  It was as if the door was opened, and I was exposed to the “real world” the objective truth as it were.

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A couple of things changed on the onset, first of all, every detail didn’t escape my notice.  Now, I’ve always been hypersensitive to my environment, but in a way which was entirely self-serving.  This time though, I noticed one simple change to my perspective, and then everything seemingly fit into place, even when I didn’t have an answer.  I could see love, in everything.  I don’t just mean, pink hearts, or people smiling a lot (which is nice, but overrated).  No, I could see the love of God, in everything.  It’s truly amazing!!!  I can’t describe, the joy which can overwhelm me in an instant at the thought of what I see.  I have stopped to embrace this all-consuming experience, and many times, because of our cultural perspective of manliness, I will conceal my tears.  Peter Kreeft, once remarked in his dis-belief of those who claim to speak with God, and yet seem to have no emotion or memory of emotion which isn’t fervent or believable.  In other words he indicated, God, in His sheer goodness should shake us to our core and in being within the presence of this goodness will inadvertently cause us to look within ourselves and be repulsed at the sin which we have allowed to corrupt our very nature.  I would use this example to further explain my point, when I’m around someone who I can very clearly tell is good and kind in their nature, I carry with me a sense of shame because, in my pursuit of God’s love, I am immediately exposed to the truth, I can do more than I am doing as this person has clearly (without saying a word in chastisement) has shown me.  This is what my wife’s question did for me, and this is what my experience is when my hypersensitive experiences are introduced.  I have less of those experiences now, than when I first started having them, but they still come back, and I fully embrace the chance for a realization of emotion attached with a recognition of my failures.  Embracing our sin as a cognitive device to remove it would be the same as a doctor acknowledging the sickness before he can remove it and make you well again.

Right, so there I was answering the most important questions of my life, and the next question popped up, “what is my purpose?”  This question, is on the minds of everyone at some point, I would imagine, and some have answers and some don’t.  When I asked this question, I was at a point in my career and my life where it was evident I wasn’t achieving the goals I set forth for myself.  I had clear intent to attain my degrees and work a job, all the while moving up the ladder of success.  This did not happen, at least not in the way I would ever have imagined.  I was challenged to look at my perceptions and goals, and place a new perspective on something other than a material view.  What was I doing for others, how did I show God’s love in everything I did.  This was further exposed by an understanding of God’s place in my life.  God, who lovingly created me, put me where I would have the greatest opportunity to find love in my life, he does this for all of us, although be it, in different ways.  Some of us must go through great struggle and there are others of us, who must be willing to push those earthly gifts away to create a sacrifice in life for God.  Those little sacrifices are to push those things which keep us further away for the light of Christ and embrace everything we see with an acknowledgement of love.

I was meant to be a loving husband and father.  I was always meant to pursue God and embrace His love with every fiber and ounce of my being.  These were my true goals, and at 35, I realized I had wasted too much time on my personal wants, rather than a determined focus on the unmitigated love of God.

My wife deserves a husband who is patient and loves her for who she is.  This meant for me (I’m still working on this), accepting those things which make her who she is, not who I want her to be.  This can’t be stated more clearly, how can we love anyone if they are not free to choose who and how they want to reciprocate the love in return.  My children deserve a father who is willing to place the principle of love before all things.  This doesn’t mean, I’m their best friend or I won’t become upset at their actions, what it means is I’m willing to teach them what true, unconditional love actually is, and I do this through my actions towards them.  I will admit, my son tests my patience beyond measure at times, but when I give myself enough time to think about him, I am transported to what my mind imagines the pain God must feel when we constantly and without rest test his love.

We test God every second of the day when we fail to repent, through our sinful behavior and through the repulsive behaviors which push Him away from us.

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This brings us to the final question, and the hardest from the standpoint of truth.  We as humans have the power to decide two pathways to travel down.  The first is the pathway which God has placed before us, a pathway which is laid with obstructions and bends so severe we risk failure at every turn.  Though this is our perception when we look with our eyes, it is much different when we acknowledge what we see with our hearts.    Those bends and slopes create in us a need to slow down and find God, nothing in life is truly gained by running so fast we miss everything around us.  This is the first path, the journey is our journey of love, the pathway we might seek to embrace an unconditional love of God.  The second path is a path of self.  A pathway where we control our destiny, or at least we try to control our means and end.  This pathway is straighter and less narrow, it has less obstructions, and we find there are many people on this path but no one person is concerned about us and our journey just their own.  How can we find joy in people who aren’t concerned, at every unconditional level, about us?  The answer is, we just can’t, and we can’t pursue the desires of another and hope to find the joy of God.  Ok, so the moment of truth came when I was tasked to answer, “Where do we go when we die”?  This was the fundamental question, the question when once asked and answered should be the direction we base our entire lives going forward on.  So, I did.  Based on everything I know of this world, and those who’ve been kind enough in their lives to exhibit God’s love, I chose God.  I want to be in an existence where I can fall in love with the creator of all things and do so in a way where I’m not creating an issue of being forced to decide.  This was the inevitable truth and I accepted it with all my heart.

At the end of the day, the decision was a fork in the road.  Either I could believe or not believe, and if I chose to not believe (deluding myself from every bit of evidence and what I knew to be certain in my heart), then I would lead a life answering only unto myself with a moral compass set only to an emotive true north.  On the other hand, believing in God presented a multifaceted acceptance.  An acceptance of an objective truth, a way as it were for me to direct my energies.  I was given a solid black and white paradigm to accept, it was the belief in a true right and a true wrong.  Something I could tangibly rest my back upon for the rest of my life, and this was what I was always searching for.  My heart longed for something and I tried to fill it with everything possible, except the one thing which would keep it full.  God’s love is what I was searching for, and in this I found the answer to absolutely every question I ever had.

The meaning in my life was God, the joy which was a side-effect of loving God has brought a fulfillment of riches regarding my marriage and my family life.  I see people so much more differently now than I ever did, and in the process of seeing them differently I recognize everyone is precious in the sight of God.  If God loves you as much as he does me, then how can I not love whom my heavenly father loves.  Heaven is the joining of this world and the throne with which God sits.  Since my pitiful attempt to describe the indescribable is the best I can do, we will just have to imagine the original tear in the fabric of life being brought back together where we will walk in communion with God in the cool of the evening as Adam once did.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Featured post

What Does Devotion Mean to You?

Devotion is such an interesting word, often overused to indicate one’s pursuit of a goal as a means to an end.  Though, if we delve deeper into just what devotion is, I think we might be surprised.  Every example of the definition of devotion has a moniker of love associated with it.  Either through the pursuance of faith, religion, or even the love of a spouse and children.  Typically this might involve a sense of urgency as it relates to want or desire pertaining the devotion.  It would perhaps carry a zeal or enthusiasm as we approach anything in context to our devotion.  Where we begin to trip up is the self-interpretive benchmark our culture lays on our shoulders to create a devotee status which is worthy of our peers.  In other words, our society seems to place an importance on our personal devotions which is neither substantive to our personal pursuits but instead becomes a socialistic collective of ideas bound to meet an ideology of equality in outcomes.  Ok, so this is was a mouthful, the lay version of this is, people have their own pursuits and want us to want what they want.  If we do, they are pleased with us, and if we don’t we seem to be a pariah to them or to their cause.  So, the question comes back, and hopefully we can discuss this in depth as a matter of interpretation and fulfillment of our devotional development.  Where does your devotion stand, based on the influences of our culture?

Let me begin by saying, everyone is on their own spiritual journey in life, so for anyone of us to think or believe we’ve cornered the market in devotions would be tantamount to a priggish snobbery.  There is no place in the Heavenly context we talk about for behaviors such as this.  However, if we approach our faith and our interactions with all of God’s people as a matter of zeal and an enthusiasm, seeking not to tear away (as is the devil’s desire), but to bring together as in one “church”, one “body”, then we’ve found the truth of a true devotion.  Every day, I run into people who are on one path or another, some are seeking the spiritual guidance of God, and others are just trying to tread water in this world long enough to see earthly goals realized.  Though, objectively speaking, where do we go when we’ve been blessed to see our earthly goals come to fruition?  Do we stop, or is it human nature to seek more and more?  My money is on human nature, although imprinted with the image of God, seeks to fulfill its own accord or desire.  Sacrifice isn’t apart of measure of achieving more.  In my own life, it took falling down, and disappointing almost everyone I knew for me to realize, my desire to seek selfish goals was achieving the figurative equivalent of pouring out God’s precious blessings.  I was shouting in the silence, “I don’t need you”, all the while being miserable with what I was seeking.

There are numerous types of devotions, and I want to discuss what I see as the top three.  The first being our pure and truthful devotion to God.  The second is our devotion to the covenants and missions we chosen in life.  The third is one’s devotion to their family.  As you can see, none of the devotions can be truly realized without the first, in the context of truth.  However, when we attempt to put the second or third devotion over our devotion to God, we find a misappropriation not altogether wrong, but somewhat misplaced.  Take for instance the beauty of a flower, to recognize its beauty is epidermal, and to associate a function of the senses proves to be yielding of purpose.  Though this purpose could wane with mood or time, and our once simple devotion no longer exists as a matter of course.  This all changes, of course, when we look deeper into the meaning of the flower and to its lineage of creation.  This is to say, when we peel back the layers of the flower’s inevitable creation, we see God as the architect of this beautiful, and seemingly insignificant portion of our lives.  Now, the observation takes on a new priority, and in this priority, we find as we stop and “smell the roses” we are not just appreciating the sights and smells of this beautiful example of nature.  We are also finding appreciation in the gifts God gave us as a matter of natural design.  So, perspective changes all solutions.  This is to say, our devotions will take on new characteristics as our perspective of God and our natural existence changes.

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In descending order, let’s look at the devotions one-by-one.  The third, family, a devotion worthy of kings but given as a gift to even the poorest of beggars.  The family is so important to God, he choose to lower himself, as a man, and be born of a woman, who was betrothed to man.  Then to be raised by this family, until such time as the fulfillment of the ultimate sacrifice would come to pass.  The apostles walked with Jesus, and created an ad hoc family of believers specifically focused on the evangelization of the world.  As we can see, family should be in the upper three and we should never dilute the importance of family, let alone allow culture to dictate what the definitions of family should be.  Here is where devotion should play its most significant part.  We devote ourselves to raising families and teaching our children the ways of Christ, and in doing so we build upon the stone foundations set by Christ Himself, leveled and adjusted as the cornerstone of life.  Men, our wives are there for us and we are there for them.  We enter into a covenant with God, when we enter marriage (nothing to be taken lightly, I assure you), and we create a physical family focused on the rearing of children and teaching them the ways of Christ as they were taught to us.  So, what if we weren’t taught the ways of Christ, and this is all news to us?  Good news, The Catholic Church is the “Universal Church”, in other words, the biggest family you could ever know.  Not here to judge, and never here to condemn, but instead here to pour forth compassion, and teach us everyone is invited to the table of redemption and love.  This is what we must teach our children and this is what we must show our spouses.  This isn’t easy, to be certain, choosing the covenant of marriage and choosing to raise children with my wife, has been by far one of the toughest choices of my life.  However, I tell my kids all the time, “go to the hard” your results may vary, and you might just fail, though failing isn’t the end, it shows we must try harder.  The knowledge of seeing where we must go is God’s gift to us.

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I personally can attest to the forgiving nature of my wife and my kids when it comes to my failures.  I cannot state this with enough importance, I am a hard person to know, and I thank God for the gifts of my family, and of the family of The Church.  We are all one family, maybe not by blood or in the natural law abiding sense of the description, but as devotion goes with God, we are all family in the ecumenical bonds set forth by Jesus Christ himself, even with those who don’t believe at all.  Just like a family member who refuses your company (I have one of those), all we can do is lovingly want the best for this family member, and then pray this blessing for them.  Perhaps they will walk our path with us once more and we can rebuild and repair as we journey through redemption.  Make family a priority, treat everyone as a meaningful person who we can be more with, in doing this we might just be able to move the obstacle of egotism away from our path.

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The second devotion (covenants and missions) is more hidden in our lives but carries with it the interpretation of God, and the point of views we possess as they translate into our daily activities.  I already wrote about the covenant of marriage, and in this I discussed its application as a familial matters are concerned.  Now, let’s talk about the covenant as it relates to our spouse.  This person whom you choose and they choose you, and just how this daily gift can be looked at as a struggle or as a blessing.  Early on in my marriage with my wife, I perceived everything I did as “the struggle”, never to be undone but to be layered one struggle upon another.  In doing so, I blamed everyone else for my problems, and I wanted them to feel sorry for whatever predicament I was in.  Even if this predicament was of my own making, and if as a matter of course I was facing the consequence of my decisions.  As a point of fact, I didn’t devote myself to my marriage and this was its faltering.  My wife was willing to work hard until she could see I wasn’t and in the overall process we allowed our feelings and egos to decide best course of action.  Emotive responses are good for the movies but have little place in the decision to do what’s best when discussing true problems with any relationship.  We often forget, the dynamic of any covenant is a realization of our place within the covenant.  Too often, in our culture, we see people demanding an answer for evil, demanding to see a relationship with God on an inverse level.  They subordinate the Most High, into a subservient position as a requirement to answer questions which within the context of understanding or not knowable.  Cardinal Sarah (Power of Silence) indicates we neither can know the highest of the highs or the lowest of the lows, but we insist on an answer.  The covenant between us and God, isn’t a matter of knowledge as to how, but rather as to why.  The answer as to why, is all just a matter of love.  Love is God, in every pure and concentrated way possible, and as we approach our covenants and missions we must do so as God has done with us, in love.

The second part of the second devotion is our mission, our perception of the work with which God lays out before us.  A choice as always, because love is not love if we don’t have the free will to choose to love in the first place.  Though our perception of a loving God, is the fire for the enthusiasm to approach our mission as reflect the goodness and love of our creator.  I’ve discussed “mission” in the past, and let me say, my mission is what brings to reality the true desire to seek the redemption God is so willing to give.  It is also the pathway which allows me to stop wandering in the desert of doubt, and instead head for the mountain of faith.  Without my mission in life, which for me is to be a husband and a father (in that order), and to be a reflective light for all of God’s people.  No matter the perception of anyone else, I am here to be a reflection of the Light of Christ, and in doing so be an example to show love in any and every way possible.  I must confess, I still have a long road to travel, I seem to trip and fall a great deal, but this hasn’t discouraged me one bit.  I can still see the mountain, and I am as energized to and full of strength to pursue my faith as I’ve ever been in my life.

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Finally, the first devotion, God.  This is a devotion we were all born to realize.  Some of us do, and some of us fail to see where devotion should always be.  When we pursue anything in life, without the guidance or devotion of God, we find the pursuits can be meaningful at times, even to fulfill somewhat the desires we set as goals.  Though, with enough water which passes under the bridge, we become unfulfilled once more, seeking more goals to get us back to where we have a sense of purpose or even belonging.  If we think of this like the addict we might just see many familiar traits, both ending in death, and both being abundantly clear to the objective observer, this life was wasted in the greater context of life in general.  As I discussed earlier the cultural predication, we deserve an explanation, runs counter to any meaningful relationship we could possibly want or know.  Logical fallacy as a matter of course seems to be the ruling ideology of the day.  We can apply, as a culture, a system of fallacies which neither prove a point nor can be sustained as a pillar of an argument, and then we vacillate between fallacies in order to create false equilibriums of perceptions and right actions.  Supposition, as we know it today, is more an art form of fallacy, than it is of following and interpreting evidence of anything as one would deduce a set of clues.

To be sure, evil exists in our world, and this evil is set on the destruction of love, the separation of covenants, the diminution of family, and the belief there is nothing but what we see and what we know as the objective truth.  Our devotion to God, changes all of this.  I know evil exists, and I know this evil does terrible things to all people no matter the place or time, but I also am aware of an existence of the loving embrace of God.  This embrace is indicative above all else, which is as terrible as evil is, it becomes inconsequential to the overall narrative with which life has been written.  It is our choice to accept what we can’t change, but to know it is God who lifts us up, and not the other way around.  The topic of devotion to God, has filled the pages of books, beginning with the Gospels, epistles, writings of the Old Testament, and the inspired writing of authors for millennia.  I would never presume to come close to the writings of the masters who were titans to my insignificant attempts.  Though, if I had one take away to give to anyone reading, my life has utterly changed with my devotion to God.  For years I was stumbling around in a darkened room of awareness.  This awareness, seemingly innate, was telling me to open my eyes to the truth.  It was painful, to the extent, I wasn’t forced to tear anything down, and I gladly did so.  The truth hurt because it was growth, and any real growth in our lives should involve a level of pain.  The pain which I felt, in some cases has become the signal my devotion was right, and in other cases has become an expected portion of my spiritual growth.  I would be ridiculous to think my devotion to God was as simple as truth and understanding.  The hurt still hurt, the poor still exist, and the evil in this world still hunts the weak of spirit.  Our devotion to God, is our first line of defense against the, for lack of a better expression, ways of evil this world chooses to thrive on.

None of us are immune to sin, and we’ve all let our devotion wane from time-to-time, but the redemption we seek is a matter of accepting the truth.  Hans Urs Von Balthasar remarked about the “theo-drama”, a play which is produced, directed, and written by God, only to be countered by the “ego-drama” which is a play written, directed, produced, and stars us.  This is something we all insist on being in, and why our devotion seemingly diminishes or at least teeters on a brink at all times.  We are all cast in God’s “theo-drama” some big, some small, but the truth is we have the perfect part, one written especially for us.  This is the truth, no one want to witness a play where one actor upstages all, and demands more than others.  Instead, we want to be a part of something which allows our devotion to expose the relevancy of our existence as it translates to the creator.  We want to play the part with the most love we can provide.  Remember, truth isn’t a matter of interpretation, it just is, as God is “ispsum esse subsistens”, the very nature of being itself.  God isn’t changed and will forever continue on the path of existence within our lives whether we accept this truth or not.  I hope I’ve brought salient points of interest to the forefront of your mind with what I’ve written, at the very least, hopefully these topics will allow you to think and discern the needed devotion to God and the way in which you love yourself, those closest around you, and for better or worse the world.  I pray God places many blessings over you and your family, and these abundant blessings will help you attain a new perspective on your devotion to life and God.

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Featured post

Are You Wandering In The Desert?

From time-to-time we hear about someone wandering the desert, and I’m not sure we assume a literal translation but either something of a metaphor or an allegory to teach us what we may need to know. At the very least, remind us of what we’ve forgotten.  However, if we look at the overall paradigm of our lives and their relation to an eternal existence, we see how the wandering we do in this desert of life is set more profoundly than we could ever imagine.  There is a deeper meaning to all of this, if we’re willing to look around and ask those hard questions which never come with easy answers.  This desert write about, seeks to confuse us with mirages and the promise of salvation just over the next hill.  This false hope we chase is bent on giving us an earthly fulfillment but when we really examine the fountain of knowledge we see, we find nothing more than the proverbial sand and wind so many have endured before.  So, are we truly lost in a desert?  Are we being led to the oasis which is a truthful promise of our life and salvation, or are we just wandering aimlessly, just filling time as we see it? Do we attach ourselves to those people who will help lead us through the desert of life, and do we trust them enough to help lead us?  The next question which comes to my mind, is who do we trust, and how do we know to trust them?

I’ve read, and listened to speakers talk about the wanderings of Jesus, as he didn’t so much wander in the desert, but embraced it.  Jesus, fervently approached a time of fasting and want as those necessary steps in the ultimate sacrifice he would inevitable make for each one of us.  St. Theresa of Lisieux, who in her writing “Story of A Soul”, remarks over and over again about her excitement in the sacrifice which would be asked of her.  Her story of course, is an extraordinary one, but not a story of bewilderment.  She approached The Trinity with a fervor and an innocence, I’ve never encountered before.  Her laments in life were over what we would admonish as a mere triviality, and yet she begged in some ways for hardships and tests so as to prove her devotion.  She aggressively pursued a relationship with God, this pursuit, until her death, was a reflection of the vigor Jesus displayed to all of us as he walked in the desert.

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So, the question comes back to the forefront.  How and who do we know to trust to lead us through the desert we wander in life?  I know it’s too simple to suggest we listen to the voice of God, but in truth, this is the answer.  Quiet yourself, allow your heart, your ears, and your soul to hear the silent voice of God as you begin to pray.  It’s not a matter of sitting still, though it can be, but more a matter of the willingness to be patient and focus on all around us.  To sit in awe, as it were, and notice every inch of every movement, and every sway of every branch to be the integral creation (beyond our mere comprehension) of God.  God’s Grace is the living breathing functionality of love, and then all at once it culminates in the one great sacrifice, Jesus.  Within this sacrifice, we see the desert for what it really is, a treacherous gift.  I know this may sound like your standard oxymoron, but let’s think about it.  In past writings, I imbued the concept of falling, not for the sake of our pain, but for the instrument of God’s love in the greater cognitive reality of our lives.  We stumble, that we might realize the need and love in our lives provided by God.  Isn’t this true for everything?

I had a discussion with my wife the other day, and we talked about the incomprehensibility of people only willing to accept part of a truth.  In other words, they cherry pick what is important to their point and seemingly forget the rest, although to fully accept the truthful logic presented, one must accept the whole truth.  We can’t drive the car without gas, we need all of it for it to work.  The objective truth, is neither concerned or acknowledges ignorance or willful disobedience.  Though you cannot willfully acknowledge an untruth and carry with you the credence of logic or proper discourse, there will always exist and fallacy of truth exposed by the existence of objective truth.   It just is, and in its being, we can either accept or deny.  Even though we can exist in the gray matter of ambiguity, we are still challenged to accept or deny as a matter of faith, logic, understanding, and pursuit.  Some of us get into trouble, pursuing an ends, which is neither truthful nor morally sound.  We attempt to pursue a pathway which is untruthful, whether we acknowledge this or not.  Any pathway which leads us from the truth carries with it, the opposite of love, and the opposite of God.

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Ok, so why is the desert of life a treacherous gift, because we need this gift to understand who we are and who God is to us.  We need those hill which move constantly, and those hidden enemies which test us at every turn, but more importantly we need the mundane and never ending perception of blandness to remind us our sacrifice and struggle in our lives and those of the people we come in contact with are the most important.

If any one of us has ever been in a desert, you will find, there is a rugged beauty to what we see.  This goes away quickly, and what we begin to see, is harshness.  There is no water, the animals which seem to inhabit this forsaken land are treacherous.  Snakes, scorpions, and even the plants are all living warnings telling us to stay out.  Though, after our initial shock (especially in life), we begin to look past the epidermal layer of fear, and notice a whole new world of beauty.  We come back to the rugged beauty of our surroundings and we notice, on a deeper level the colors, the movement, the history, and the uniqueness of those entities which desire to keep us out.  With enough time, we are no longer worried about the danger, but wish to explore a newer brighter world which pushes us further and further into the exterior of everything we know, and we push past the barriers to see everything.  All the while, we rely on a deeper voice, God’s Voice, to give us direction in where we must go.

This is where I’ve been in my life, not truly knowing where to go or what to do.  Many friends and family have benefited from the clarity of purpose in their lives as a focus on family or careers.  I wasn’t blessed with this type of focus, but for me, the clarity of a more providential purpose has been my focus of faith.  How do I translate my faith into purpose for my life, and for those around me?  How can I become a true reflection of light to everyone I meet?  In the end, this hasn’t been easy, to say the least.  I seem to be challenged at every turn, either from my relationships in a professional or social environment, to my son and his never-ending challenge to what seems like me personally.  I would translate this as when we first step into the desert, and our perception of the desert.  How we must take everything in before we can truly appreciate it all.  It’s not about the paradigm of the desert, but rather, it is about our recognition of mission as we journey through the desert.

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In my personal relationships with people, and the frustrations which come along with these relationships, I find there is excitement in getting to know the people and finding out about them personally.  This can be difficult to a large extent, especially when everyone is so guarded these days, and we all seem to exhibit an atmosphere of underlying hostility towards society at large.  Though, if we can only imagine, we have opportunities everyday to show God’s light in every situation we are faced with.  Now, I’m not writing this with an exuberant level of optimism, but instead, our situations are loving means to our inevitable ends.  The end being an eternal relationship with a loving God, who desires to be with us and longs for us with open arms.

This becomes the paradigm we exist in, if we accept our faith journey, then truly no matter the situation, our faith becomes paramount.  I know this seems in some ways rudimentary, but the real questions are can we apply this new focus on faith to all situations?  For instance, you’re diagnosed with an inoperable and incurable disease, given only months to live.  Can you accept you’re almost through the wandering desert of your life and although this last challenge will be the hardest, it will be the one you gain the most insight, the most ability to love, and the greatest opportunity to show God’s love.

As we believe we are truly lost in this life, truly lost in this desert, this is where we should be learning to let go and give God the control.  Ok, so what does it mean to give control?  Control, is another way of saying to be patient, accept not everything will go your way, but above all show the true light of God and give love at every turn of your life.  To accept one’s way as a matter of course and quit lamenting the perceived negatives is the first step in our personal focus to look past the barren landscape of the desert and we start to see the colors and beauty of God’s work.  St. Theresa looked forward to the hardships of life, and her laments were more concerned with the frivolities and luxuries of life.  Jesus was asked by a wealthy man with many possessions, because he followed all the commandments, what must be done to inherit the Kingdom of God, and Jesus’s response was “Jesus, looking at him, loved him and said to him, “You are lacking in one thing. Go, sell what you have, and give to [the] poor and you will have treasure in heaven; then come, follow me.” (Mark 10:21-23) Truly all which is being stated here, isn’t the obvious, but instead the focus of our lives.  How can we accept God, if we can’t give ourselves to the journey?  The journey of our wandering through the proverbial desert has become our mission as we seek God.  In Mark, Jesus was asking quite literally and figuratively to follow him.  In the literal sense, he desires us to drop our worldly need for possessions as we seek him, and in the figurative sense, Jesus seemingly was eluding to our ability to focus on the beauty of life, even as we walk through the desert.

So, as I begin to focus on my own desert, I realize, I need my children to challenge me to be a better father.  It’s at those times when my consternation is at a heightened level, I begin to see the colors with which God painted the sands of my life.  They are truly beautiful, and I’m blessed with an abundance of joy and gifts truly given to me by God.  Just now, as I’m writing this, I receive a wonderful blessing as my son tells me goodnight.  He is growing to be a handsome and responsible young man.  He has his whole life ahead of him, and yet he still finds the time to come and tell his old man good night.  I’m not saying this is what fatherhood is about, but instead it is one of God’s blessings to allow me and his mother an ability to focus on our task as our son’s parents to teach him about God’s love in its completeness as we understand it.

I’m not saying I have everything figured out, in fact, I don’t.  I get more things wrong than I get right, and this frustrates me almost to the point of exhaustion.  Though, I see everyday the light shining brighter and brighter in my life.  With every passing moment and every written word, I find more strength to become a reflection of this light and become a beacon for others who wonder in their own deserts.  This has been done for me, by my parents, and by those people who have entered the pathway in my life and lovingly helped me.

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Why do we wander?  I think above all else, we wander because we are looking to be filled, much like the man who was unwilling to give away his possessions.  We want eternal love, but at first, we might just be too unwilling to put in the work, especially for something we can neither tangibly see or know.  However, this is our faith.  This is the journey, to give one’s self over to God, even when everyone disagrees.  To wander the desert with him, and know, he holds us up through everything which comes our way.  To realize, although things don’t turn out the way we imagined or wanted, to assume we know the narrative of God’s plan is to become the epitome of arrogance.  This is perhaps why we wonder the most, we allow our egos to interceded and decide our path, instead of our hearts.  We look for excitement, instead of love.  Love is our decision, a decision to accept what we cannot change, a decision to embrace who we are and why God loves us.

I hope as you wander through your desert of life, you seek the reflection of God’s light in those around you to indicate which way you should go.  Don’t rely on easy answers for your journey, but don’t expect every step to be drudgery.  Look around, look at God’s beauty in everything.  Who hasn’t ever watched a storm roll in and been amazed by God’s presence in nature?  I know this is an overused line, but stop and smell the roses, and then look deeper into the pistil and the petals.  Go further and think about the design of something so insignificant yet so beautiful in this world.  When God goes to this level for something like a rose, imagine to what level He would go for you.  You are precious in His eyes, and because of his love he longingly wants you to see the beautiful canvas He’s painted for you.  I pray God blesses you and your family in everything you do!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Featured post

How Right Are We?

Last week I had the pleasure and in some cases the burden of reading N.T. Wright’s book on St. Paul (Saul of Tarsus).  The burden lay in my extreme lack of knowledge of a person who was so instrumental in developing the Christian theology as we practice it today.  This burden was pouring through the details and minutiae which existed based on Wright’s expert knowledge of the subject.  The pleasure in the reading was focused on learning the human aspects of a man, whom God personally chose, to bring the news of life to all peoples.  His focus was primarily on the conversion to Christ.  Christ, whom Paul never met, but who spoke with him on the fated road to Damascus.  The blinding light, the voice, and the redemption given to Paul to proselytize the Christian mission until his dying days.  So, this is where I would like to begin, and discuss the mission, the perceptions Paul faced and how we seem to face very similar derisive decisions in our own world today.  How does this affect our daily lives as husbands and fathers, and just how can we fall more in love with God?

I think it might be fair to say, the ancient world was a tough place to live.  From disease, short-lives, warring regimes, autocratic rule, religious fervor, and hard physical work.  We see a lot to be miserable about but this isn’t what we find when we explore the words of Jesus or the disciples.  We see tremendous hope in the face of the gravest danger, and this is compounded by conditions which would cause any one of us to shrink in our seats with fear.  We see in numerous writings the joy which seemed to be infectious for those early Christian believers, a willingness to enter the homes of strangers, and the walls of societal implement being torn down to receive the open arms of love.  If we were to believe what we see today, we might just think the world was in its own handbasket to hell.  Everyone utilizes their own supposition based on nothing more than just their perceptions, and in the process they go through to know and understand why they believe something amounts to little more than a cursory search of multimedia pictures and click-bait ads.  We are all experts at everything, and we all don’t need to be told how to do anything, especially by older people who are out of touch with reality, right?  Wrong!

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Something which occurred to me when I was reading Wright’s book was, how does he know all of this information?  How can he know so much about a person who lived 2,000 years ago, and at best had very little written to explain motives and understandings of this person?  It hit me with clarity, he knows because of his extensive knowledge of historical writings, of personal experience, of teaching and researching this topic ad nausea, and the culmination of his life’s work allows him to intelligently speak about topics which are as foreign to us as Greek (assuming you don’t speak Greek, but if you do that’s awesome).  The more and more I looked into a person’s expertise the more I was astounded at the authors who neither have an expertise (including myself) and the numbers of people so willing to listen to a person who has no basis of knowledge whatsoever.   I’m not saying the people who aren’t experts are going to make competent comparisons and analysis, but there is a great risk in accepting what is said at face value.  Though we do this on a daily basis.  We listen to the news, and we think because of the perception of the person delivering the news, we can trust what they have to say.  Because the news isn’t so important we must check it daily, we accept stories with little to no fact as truth, and we buy into the acceptance of ideologies which neither have the capability to encapsulate our society nor explain it very well at all.

Non-Expert experts are everywhere.  Their form is usually deceiving, and as life goes leads us down a path of regret and selfishness.  I have been down this path, and I would owe it all to my inability to distinguish between what was really truth and what was not.  I listened to anything which sounded like it made sense, and then built a cognitive stream of thought in order to rest my back upon this new founded information.  At the end of the day though, there always seemed to be a “fly in the ointment” and would cause me to give up my new opinions or beliefs about something.  After a period of time, this became so disconcerting, I almost felt like giving up.  There seemed to be no redemptive quality in my actions, and the more I tried the more it seemed to compound me and cause a disconcerting turn of events to unfold against me.

This was when I began to realize, perhaps I should go deeper in to the meanings and trappings of life and find out a truer purpose than to just live.  This presented me with a challenge, questions down to the very fiber of who I was.  Questions which threatened to dismantle everything I ever thought I believed.  Who is God to me, and just where do I think I go when I die?  These questions have taken many years, and it seems to me, I always knew the answer, but my need to hang on to what was in this life carried precedence, to my shame.

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My questions needed to be answered by those people who seemed to float in and out of my life, by the circumstances of everyday and the experiences I dealt with daily.  I was given answers to these questions when I least expected it, but people I never thought would have the answers, and most importantly my humiliation was key to a realization of humility which for me is soul saving.  This isn’t to presume I don’t continue to make mistakes daily, as though I’m in a contest to win a prize for the person who makes dumb decisions.  I still have days which make me scratch my head and wonder just how I could have done something so selfish or stupid.  However, on the overall scheme of things, I see a growth in myself which seems to breed an overflowing abundance of joy.

Those times which I just knew I was right, I was completely wrong, and this acknowledgement of my own flawed paradigm gave me the clarity to realize.  We are all like this, we are seeking to prove our points of rightness, but we are all guilty of a failure to realize we don’t know everything.  Not only do we not understand or have the ability to conceive everything in a competent way, we are miserable at it.  Oh sure, we have experts on the law, on art, or ever on politics.  Though, I find most people are seeking some truth in life, to become an expert in anything else is a way to fill the gaps in the more important question, who is God to you?

Ok, so the gauntlet has been thrown down.  Is God your main point of purpose?  Do you wake up and constantly think about God throughout your day?  For most people the answer is no, and they have their “right” way of perception and a belief in their “rightness”.  However this amounts to little more than a grasping of earthly footholds in an attempt to ascend a mountain of unknowable dimensions.  The only way to truly ascend this mountain is to allow God’s loving hand to gently set us atop.  The analogous understanding in all of this is, we are always in God’s hand and when we attempt to do it ourselves, we are trying to leave the grasp of the one who loves us the most.  Think back on times, in your own family when you push away those who would love you unconditionally, and in your attempt to free yourself and possess the “rightness” you so desired, you were willing to hurt in the most egregious ways.

This is where I’ve been, I’ve been at the precipice of life thinking I was completely right, and when finally exposed to the objective truth, I was shocked.  I was shocked at just how little thought I put into those things which required the most thought, and I was shocked at the depths with which I was accepted by those whom I hurt the most.  This prompted me to begin to look at the world in a completely different way.  I was willing to explore everything in its deepest way, to search for the meaning I could find in all of it.  Believe me, this can be exhausting, but in the best possible way.  The most exhausting part of my new perception has been to realize, most people don’t want to go too deep for fear of getting the answer I was so afraid to find out myself.  Some people are sure, like I was, I am wrong and they don’t want to hear what I have to say which brings me to the next big point.  A knowledge of the truth isn’t about telling everyone you meet, it’s about showing everyone you meet.  Let them figure out through observation and discussion just why you are who you are.  Let them know, your only motivation in life is the pursuance of God’s love.  In this and only in this can you be a reflection of Christ’s light.

Now this isn’t to say, when you meet people you are bound to silence, we aren’t Trappist, but what we are, are people in awe of God.  Delving deeply in to a love for God, means simply finding the deepest possible meaning in everything, even those which aim to hurt us and cause a tearing of the fabric to which we would cling in this life.  It will present a paradigm, whereby God is our focus, and because we can never hope to completely comprehend his reasoning, we can accept it more fully.

My role as a father is a challenge every day, my wife challenged me a few days ago about my need to be more as a father to my kids.  This wasn’t accepted well, but she wasn’t wrong.  Her observations of my actions, and furthermore willingness to face my anger over her understanding of “rightness” as it pertains to the objective truth, was what my soul needed to accept the task, one more time, to try harder as a father.  I was also challenged to accept, I wasn’t right in this instant, I was completely wrong.  My back also felt this, as I was presented with a night on the couch as a means of my stubbornness to prove just how right I was.

As it just so happens, when I was more level headed the next day, and for all intents and purposes very humbled by just how wrong I actually was.  I could see a definitive change in my interactions with everyone.  It was as if I had been walking around in the dark, and suddenly the room was filled with bright light to illuminate the fact I was always standing near the door.  My wife is a true reflection of God’s light in my life, and she is right most of the time because of this.  I can only hope to have as much fervor and love for God as she does.  I have so long to go, but I’m not discouraged in the least way.  I am looking forward to my journey.  I have conversed with several people about what I write, both good and bad, but I’ve learned something from everyone.  I am so very thankful for God’s graces to be poured out in the manner in which I’ve received them.  My stubborn need to be right, and my acceptance of just how wrong has been the sanctified understanding, my life is meant for more than just waking up and doing a job while running through the motions.

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No matter what is happening to us at any given time, we must look deeper in to whatever it is we do.  In most cases, as they pertain to life and God overall, we might just find we are more wrong than we are right.  This should humble each and everyone one of us!  When I entered my graduate program for business many years ago, I was challenged by a professor who asked each and every one of us, if we were aware of just how much we didn’t know.  When I was asked, all I could see was a forest of knowledge and me standing on its edge fearfully waiting to enter.  Don’t let fear hold you back from pursuit of God, don’t let fear dictate what you will or won’t do when it comes to the truth.  Don’t be afraid of fear, don’t be subject to the paralysis which accompanies a fearful life.  Go out and be a disciple of Christ, and spread the message of God through your works.  As fathers and husbands, we must do this, we must be the example to our kids and our spouses.  Although they may not say it to us, they rely on us.  Although, my wife keeps me centered on us, she needs me to do the same for her when it comes down to it, but she also needs to be evenly yoked with me.  Which above all else requires my dedication to my marriage and my family.  If one spouse is doing all the work, the burden will be too heavy to sustain and will eventually cause the dissolution of the marriage, the failure of the covenant before God.  When we let go and give everything we have to God, then although the world will still continue to move around us, we will have joy about it.  Although we will still face hardness of hearts and times which cause deep sadness, we will still have joy in the understanding we are here for more than what amounts to a glimmer of time.  We are here for more than to just be right, we are here to be wrong and recognize it.  We need to be humbled, we need to seek redemption, and we can only do this by a self-reflective quality which will manifest itself in the silence we seek within the rightness of God’s voice!

I do hope some of my words will help, especially if you are struggling today with your life.  You are truly loved and you are truly special in God’s eyes, but also every Christian who stops and answers those questions I posed to myself.

So I want to ask one more time, for you, as well as for myself.  Who is God to you?  Where will you go when you die?  I hope these questions are a permanent fixture in your life from this day forward, if they already weren’t.  Joy in life isn’t about being right, it’s about filling yourself up on the abundance of love provided only by God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Featured post

Is Stubbornness a Good Thing?

I think it’s fair to say, anyone who has ever met me and of course known me for any time at all would characterize me as being a little stubborn.  Once I have something set in my mind about what anything should or should not be, I’m almost impossible to convince otherwise.  In my defense, I spent inordinate amounts of time searching for an answer before setting my mind to a point.  Therefore, I’m a little stubborn when it comes to what I think, and how I interpret what is happening.  I will also argue, as my mom has stated for years, “with a brick wall, if he thinks he can win”.  True as well, I’m not satisfied with listening to anyone’s point which carries either a logical fallacy, or clearly hasn’t been thought out well.  This is a common phrase I hear from people when I talk about something and proceed to enter a deeper thought stream regarding the point, “I don’t know, I just don’t think about things that deeply, most people don’t look at it that way!”.  At this point, I almost can’t see straight with the ludicrousness with the phrase just spoken to me.  Whereby I will begin to start justifying why I do what I do, and hope (at least in the back of my mind), they nod and say, ‘you know what, you’re right, I was wrong in how I perceived things my whole life”.  So, this is a mountain of stubbornness, I’ve been working on most of my life.  I think people could agree, stubbornness can be good in some instances, and because of a prideful affect detrimental in other situations.  I want to write a little on just what these have done to really create a positive and negative situation in my life, and perhaps we have similar stories.

From the earliest age I can remember, I could think fast, and usually fast enough to have a quick-witted, and usually unkind response to anything anyone stated.  Sometimes, my responses were met with laughter and other times a look of awkwardness on the faces of people standing near me as if I’d relieved myself completely unawares.  In fact, I’ve made a true ass of myself so many times, I qualify some statements to people with a phrase, “I hope what I’m about to say isn’t offensive to you”.  Over the years, I’ve taken a more rigid and institutional look at my opinions as they pertain to my discussions and found, if I don’t have any experience and I’m not well read on the topic, it’s probably best I keep the information to myself.  This has given me great results over the last few years, but I still step in it from time-to-time.  What I will say is, because I’ve tripped up so many times in the past, I feel as if I’ve got a good point of reference when talking to my kids.  I can literally see what they’re doing and remember when I did the same thing, and I can tell them (not that they listen that much) not to do whatever it is they’re going to do.  My stubbornness in its infancy has created a stubborn need to keep pursuing a correctness and in some way perfection to “get it right”.  Nowadays, I would rather read ten books about a topic before talking about it, because I don’t want to be embarrassed again.  I think we can all reason with this in some small way, no one wants to be humiliated because they didn’t think something out properly and were eviscerated by another’s argument to a point, the scar can still be felt a decade later.

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I feel like stubbornness is like a mutant power from the X-Men and all I’ve needed to do was harness it.  Of course, this is a silly notion on the surface, but when we delve a little deeper, we see truly everything should be something like this notion of expertise.  I have natural ability to argue, or at least pick a side and think cogent thoughts to make my point.  I don’t always convince, but at the same time, they don’t walk away from the table saying to themselves, I have no idea what he was saying.  However, at the same time, I spend more time stirring up whatever it is I’m talking about, instead of true points of conviction being harnessed.  My stubborn nature finds this to be a goal worthy of pursuing, but not at the cost of anything or anyone else.  I can see the same nature in my children when they want me to allow them to do something, I otherwise said, “no”, to and I’m asking them to convince me.

All of this is less of an attempt to show anyone I know what I’m talking about, than to raise the question, “Are we satisfied with cultural status quo, and are we better served to leave things as they are or search for an objective truth?”.  On the surface when I ask people about this, they always say, “objective truth, of course”; however, when they are confronted with the actual objective truth, they tend to shy away and back track.  It seems the truth has a way of confronting anyone, especially if their beliefs are wrong, or their understandings are completely inaccurate, of exposing them and at the same time in the silence of their minds shaming them.  Who wants to be shamed, I sure as heck don’t, so like many people, I myself have run the opposite direction of truth many times.

However, do we have the stubbornness to eventually accept, we were wrong, and then to move in the direction of truth, no matter what castigating vitriol we must face to get the truth we seek?  Take for instance our political climate we deal with from day-to-day, currently we have three relevant perspectives.  All three have in their own ways valid points of view, and all three have relevant areas of needed development.  For many years I tottered with an idea where I would look to the most relevant at any given time, but the problem with looking at things this way makes subjectivity (my truth) the qualifier.  This never works, because my subjectivity could change from day-to-day, as many people’s perspectives do in our ever-changing cultural landscape.  In this case, what does a man of faith do?  Do I hang on to a platitude as a common phrase spoken, or do I challenge myself to pursue the objective.  Since asking myself this question many years ago, I’ve concluded (see why I’m so stubborn), objectivity is the only way to pursue anything at all.  This means, principles must be adhered to, and objectivity is always the pursuit of truth in everything.  We should be stubborn about this.  We should always apply a litmus test, which when it doesn’t pass, the point is cast aside until another can challenge and defeat the point we now possess.  The great thing about objective truth as we pursue this understanding with our completely stubborn nature is, it is what it is and we can see in the entirety a fairer way will never be met past a certain point.

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Take for instance an argument where one player takes an argument to a valid extreme, but the other player, because of recognition of the truth which has just been exposed fails to acknowledge this truth and either ridicules or dismisses what was stated almost immediately.  So, out of stubbornness, because the first player sees the truth, they try again, and once again the second player refuses the attempt.  Is it at this point, player one should relinquish their pursuit or continue to challenge?  In my experience, player one should stop, otherwise their stubborn need to be right will subvert anything they could hope to attain through this conversation.  Ideas are seeds meant to be planted in the mind of another, if they are truthful, all ever need be done is to plant and leave alone.  If we continue to pursue without changing our perspective we, risk uprooting whatever has been done.  Therefore, in an argument, an extreme case should always be offered to meet the extreme confines of the paradigm, and if shown not to destroy the argument, you’ve attained a truth, at least within the argument.  Maintaining this principle out of stubborn pride, is wrong, but maintaining this principle out of a stubborn need for a pursuit of objectivity is right.

So how do we know when we should pump the brakes or continue ahead?  Are there warning signs to let us know when we may be taking it too far?  Of course, there are warning signs, but generally experience is the only way to recognize, unless we get a “life” coach and the coach can be with us every day of the week and will sit back quietly to watch our actions, and based on their experience will only speak up when they can see us going awry with our actions.  I’m not sure about anyone else, but I think this would be a silly notion. Which usually leads to another parallel, as smart as people may be, there is no substitution of experience.  Thinking one’s way out of a situation is terrific, but only one theoretical point of view is grasped within this convention of solution.  When we hire, or promote anyone with experience to a position of leadership or coaching, we are really looking for a successful track record of experience which will allow for difficult situations to occur, as they do in anything, but to have a leader at the helm who knows exactly how to handle them.  Within most police departments there is usually a minimum amount of time before anyone can be considered a supervisor, not because an effort to discriminate is prevailing, but simply a matter of time must exist for a potential candidate to attain supervisory levels needs the experience to handle what ultimately, they will need to know when faced with similar situations under their watch.  I think it would be a good use of stubbornness to continue an effort holding to a standard such as this; when we allow some levels of hubris to enter our stubborn pursuits, we will always fall short of any glory we hope to have.

I will admit, in the last couple of weeks, I’ve taken my stubbornness superpower to the very next level.  In my attempt to teach my children and a husband to my loving wife, I’ve failed miserably.  I’ve been so stubborn as not to take the advice of my wife or recognize the imploring needs of my children for one thing or another.  It’s so easy to write off what I do, or rather what any of us do as a matter of course or in the end, we never meant to achieve such dubious goals in life.  Though with much thought, I must admit, I failed them at this point, and it’s up to me to make it better.  I was fortunate to listen to a wonderful homily given by our local priest, and his explanation of fear was one of the best I’ve ever heard.  His exemplification of the normal paradigm we all face was our lack of doing what is right comes from the innate fear we have for whatever it is we attempt.  His point was rather, if we fail to do anything at all, it has more to do with our own failure to attempt to accomplish a goal, and saying to ourselves, “I’m no good for any of this, so why even try”.  So, in retrospect, we fear the change of life, so we subordinate ourselves to being stubborn, so in futility we hope we can stop time by saying “no”.  This is where I’ve been for the last couple of weeks, my focus has been on me and what I want, rather than sacrificing my time for God.

So, if you will forgive my absence from writing over the last couple weeks, and if you will accept my confession of selfishness and the stubborn pursuit of “me”.

At the end of the day, no one person is immune to a condition of stubbornness; the real question happens to be more a matter of do we have the self-reflective ability to change our ways when we can see the bigger picture and realize our actions are going nowhere.  Being able to step back from whatever paradigm we happen to live in and look at outside influences and apply a healthy principled foundation to whatever decision we make will help all of us be better men, fathers, and husbands.  Our roles in this world require of us a tremendous responsibility, so being stubborn until you have the full objective truth is an absolute must.  Don’t ever bend to the feelings of society, especially when you know those subjective feelings can turn on you in an instant.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Featured post

Why Do We Never Have Enough Time?

Do we ever really have enough time in our lives to do what we want to do?  So, there seems to be two valid yet disqualifying answers when we really think about our lives.  Yes, we always have plenty of time to do what is needed.  At the same time, do we ever truly do what we ought to do?  The answer to the second question seems to be a resounding, “no!”  For me personally, I find a multitude of items to fill the space, and none of them ever completely fill the void.  Instead seemingly prolong an internal agony I feel constantly by not placing the most primary goals and items in my life in the appropriate order.  Deep down the worst part is I really do know where I need to be, but my laziness, and indeed acacia have proven to get the better of me.  I know a deep recognition resides in the most quiet and resolute places of my soul.  Those places which recognize God as being my sole purpose in life, but instead of keeping his love and presence as front and center to my everyday actions, I find I seek out, with what time I have something other than the truth as a replacement.  So, when I do finally realize my shortcoming, I say to myself, “I never have enough time!”.  Which, for all intents and purposes, is one more lie to myself and to God, whom I love but not enough to be honest.

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Ok, so here’s the rub, we are all given a specified amount of time to exist in this earthly life, and we are challenged to live life to the fullest.  I once heard a homily given by a priest friend, who exclaimed, we should be living every day as though it is our last.  We should be living every day as if we were given the terminal diagnosis, which interpreted properly gives a time-stamp to our days.  A gift as it were, a period for us to realize our own mortality and make best use of time.  I am sure many people look on death or the circumstances of sickness and then subsequent death as an awful transaction of a godless world, but I don’t see it this way at all.  We are all creations of God, and in the process of living an earthly life we must live it fully, loving all we are in contact with, and at the same time finding our own path (lighted by God) to fall in love with the One True God.  Since all our pathways are separate but uniquely convergent as well, we find intersections of pain and loss along the way.  No one enjoys pain, hence the word, but to the extent we experience life, isn’t most of our life attenuated by the reduction of pain?  Think back on a time where we did experience a real pain, perhaps a loss of a loved one, or the failure of a much-anticipated goal.  Didn’t we learn from our experience, don’t we carry that pain in some small measure with us?  If it is true pain, doesn’t it linger with us, when our presence of mind is consulted about what we should do next?  The entire misconception is, we are the doctors to affect the healing of our own pain.  We aren’t, how many doctors have you ever met, perform open heart surgery on themselves, it just doesn’t happen, but without the much-needed surgery, they will die.  The surgeon must rely on another to help in the process of dealing with the pain, and then in the process of moving past the pain.  An open-heart surgery patient, if coaxed to do so, will indicate what they’ve dealt with in overcoming their pain as it relates to the physical and mental of the surgery.  Isn’t this like those of us who’ve dealt with some form of pain in their lives?  A properly healed wound isn’t something someone is afraid of confronting, but a wound still in need of proper healing will continue to fester and with writhe with pain.  When asking myself the question of time, and realizing I was avoiding the answer all along, the recognition of my avoidance, and the flood of a realization of the emotional and spiritual pain which has crippled me the whole time was an experience everyone should realize.

My pain exhibited its traits in my poor attitude towards people and life, in my avoidance of people and events, but most importantly it affected my decisions towards those I love and those I was always meant to love.  This avoidance, or sin as we all know it by, is one of the most powerful weapons the devil has as an influence over us, the confrontation of pain is something our culture would much rather do without.  Look at the world around us, we can’t speak truth for fear of the environment it will cause, or the offense it may give to another because of what we think or say.  Our feelings are the emotive equivalent to the Washington Monument, apparently, and defacing our emotions at the expense of reality has become verboten among large groups of people today.  This is never truer when we confront the truth of God, and for doubters out there, truth doesn’t care if you believe, it just is.  Now, just imagine being a skeptic all your life and then suddenly realize everything you think didn’t exist does, and not only that, you have a lot to make up.  You think to yourself, I just might not have time to make up for all the lost time.  Never fear, you have time, if the God of all can raise a life from the dead, then you can repent and believe.

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Where does this leave us then?  Where do we go with our time?  Should we just hang it all up and enter the cloister with the Franciscans?  Well, if you feel this is the life you should lead, and with proper guidance from a spiritual director, then I pray for your journey!  If you are like me, and have a wife and kids, then this is the real question.  How do we have a life focused on God, but not oppressive to the people we love the most?  The answer is once again, simple and yet seemingly a matter of personal perspective as it translates to what is best for each one of us.  Some of us are challenged to enter the cloister, perhaps some are challenged to see a perspective of life dealing with personal physical sacrifice, there are those of us who must accept loss as their path, and even those who deal with their own pain as it translates to their loved ones.  Whatever the path might be, the time focused on God’s Graces, as they pertain to each and everyone of us, is a matter of significance.  Like any loving relationship, God allows us the free will to choose what we will do.  To make a determined decision to either fall in love with Him or walk away.  What we will all inevitably see is, our choice to walk away ends in a determination, we never had enough time.  We never did enough, we never made enough, we never experienced enough, but in the end, with God as out focus we will be completely full.  No regrets, at least not in the manner of seeking God, except to lament not doing more to grow the unconditional love we seek.

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Perhaps there are events in your life, I know there are in mine, where I regret the decisions I made, no matter the significance or the inscrutable circumstances which surround my regrets, they are mine and mine alone.  Even to have someone I truly love and care for tell me to move forward doesn’t always wash away my guilt or recognition of the delta which exists between what was right and what was wrong.

As time continues to march on in my life, and my hair gets more and more grey with each passing year, I find my memory serves me well, I forget those things which cause great pain, and I seem to remember those which brought me the most joy.  I fully believe this is a Grace poured upon me by God, because the devil wants nothing more than for us to relieve the hurt we cause or the pain we felt, this is ideal way for him to keep his liar’s clutch on us.

Suppose there are things about you or someone you love which are almost too much to bear or at least you think they are.  Consider this, stop wasting time, confess your sins, reconcile their impact in you life and the lives of other, and rectify your decision.  Your decision to waste time, your decision to push yourself further from the loving gaze of God.  Realize, you have time for what you make time for, and in the process of learning what is most important, realize those who want to fill your life and embrace them.

When I was in school, I was not a part of the “in-crowd” I performed on stage and spent a great deal of time reading and philosophizing with my father and friends.  Over the years, I’ve had significant run-ins with people who seemed to look down upon me in school, but for reasons unknown matured and treated me as a person worthy of their attention.  I have subsequently done the same, and it occurred to me an analogy which in a manner of perspective sums up our lives and how we treat people or how we are treated.  Imagine yourself on a team of any kind.  This team has captains who receive all forms of adulation from everyone, some deserving and some not so deserving.  Then there is you and me, we serve the captain, we get the captain what they need whenever they ask for it.  In our eyes, we perform a valuable service, but in the eyes of the captain, he doesn’t even know our names, or possibly a nickname is given.  When the captain achieves a monumental victory everyone on the team is thanked but us, we are left to continue our seemingly subservient duties until we can move on to something more befitting our own aspirations or desires.  What did we learn from the experience?  We have two ways of looking at it, much like anyone might perceive.  The first way would be the most typical, we are stepped on because the captain imbues a level of sub-distinction on us, even if the work we did was exceptional.  The captain always thinks of their self as superior, even if they don’t come right out and say it, their actions speak louder than any utterance to move past their lips.  The second perspective can also look at the same situation and realize this, God is our focus, and much like Jesus washing the feet of Peter (John 13:5-9).  We are to make ourselves as servants to all, and in our humility, we glorify the one true God.  In our attempts to serve the captain we seek God’s love, in our search for God’s love we face the ridicule of the captain, but it doesn’t truly matter.  It doesn’t dampen our spirits, it just shows us we have much work to be done, if we choose to seek the light of Christ.  Christ, hanging from the cross, served all humankind by a humiliation never realized.  The Divine Christ allowed himself to be tortured, spat on, beaten, and crucified as a matter and an example to every one of us.  His efforts in their actions spoke to us saying, I love you, and I will die for you.  I will humiliate myself for you, give me your time and energies as I have given them to you.  Love me, because I love you so much.

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Ok, so where does your time focus at?  What will you do with the extra five minutes you have at lunch?  Will you help those people at your work, who struggle but need someone with a loving soul to figuratively wash their feet?  Remember, we are the subservient, we take the beatings because in our own sin we’ve given them out.

As husbands and fathers, we watch those we love the most treat us with love and disdain.  We watch a child, whom we nursed from sickness, stare into our eyes with utter contempt because we told them “no”, and they give not one second of thought to us when making poor decisions.  Though when they are in trouble they look to us for answers.  Did we not do this to our own parents, from time-to-time?  Were we not the “captains” in our perception of the game of life?  I know I was, I know I behaved abhorrently when it came to the people who loved me the most.

When we think about time, and we think about what we might have wasted, don’t let the fear of what people may think regarding decisions.  Your decision to love God, is a matter between you and God.  It doesn’t matter what people think, or say, or do.  What matters is the agape you have, the love sense to look towards true light of God, this is what will cleanse you and light your way.  Nothing any person can do will sanctify your life, except the sacrifice of Jesus, and worrying what another person my say or do in this life proves to be nothing more than wasted time.

If you feel like you’ve wasted time in your life, welcome to the club.  I wasted so much time, at first, I thought I needed to play catch-up.  What’s worse is I didn’t know what to do or where to look, I was running around trying to do everything, and this in an of itself cause levels of consternation with my family and I was perceived as being a priggish interlocutor condemning those who weren’t willing to see my perceived goals.  As I grew a little wiser in my relationship with God, it was only then did I see the humiliation I cause and faced my own humiliation.  I was embarrassed to know people disliked me because of how I treated them.  I was the “captain” and I treated those who were most willing to love me with contempt because I thought I was better.  I wasn’t, I truly desire to wash the feet of those who surround me, I am contemplative and want everyone I meet to know, I love them with the light of Christ.

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When you look at your wife tonight, realize how much she serves you and how much you should be serving her.  Realize, with her a grace has been poured upon both of you, and in this grace, you will reflect the light more fully to everyone you meet.  Recognize, the time spent teaching your children the ways of Christ will be worth every moment.  They won’t always understand, but be solid, be unwavering in your love.  God’s love isn’t about rules, it’s about the pursuance of his affection, and in this pursuance, your guidelines to stay on the lighted path will appear to be rules, but really, they are instructions to find your way home.

Don’t waste any more time, don’t give yourself any more excuses.  Seek God, ask for a transformation of your soul and the time to bring yourself into his fullness.  Spend just a few minutes each day in communion, conversation, confession if you can.  He desires this from us.  Don’t be the child who pushes the parent away, because they don’t understand why the parent said, “no”.  Instead, trust God knows what is best for us, if we would just be willing to accept the truth.  I’m sure there are many people in your life who will tell you, you are wasting your time, let them.  They need God’s love as much as we all do, so be the reflection of this love, so they will stop wasting their time.

I pray God’s light will enter your life, and illuminate the way for you, your path is your own.  Don’t waste any more time searching for sources of light which will neither illuminate your path or direct you down another’s misguided way.  Put God in the forefront, cognizant reaches of your mind and keep Him there always.  May God bless you and your family, always!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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What is Faith Without Love?

This is a question Paul asks in Corinthians 1,13:1-2.  A question, which at the times he preached was relevant, especially with the groupings of Jews relegated to focus of Jewish law as a means of living, for the one true God.  However, as we see time and again, within the Gospels, we see the challenges given to Jesus in a manner of what appears to be a question with no way out but answered flawlessly by Jesus.  So, in his answer, what was the one key ingredient the scribes and Pharisees were missing?  Love!  Their questions were aimed at a focus of rule and regulations as set forth by the Jewish teachings and prophecies as they were interpreted by the prophets.  This is finally challenged when the Divine God walked, suffered, cried in pain, and eventually died for us as a matter of love.  Our very definition of faith was challenged at this point.  We were challenged to see, life as a matter of love and sacrifice in this love as a way of living.  Essentially speaking, a new rule was brought forth, to challenge every rule ever set before.  The rule was love, to seek a path so we could fall in love with the Eternal God, and in this path, we may be the light for others (like Paul), to help light their paths.

How many people have you ever met in your life, and wondered why they are angry, upset, or seemingly without joy, but at the same instance you see this joyless expression you determine your calling being the light this person needs for their pathway to be lighted?  I will admit, I see it all the time, and I’m as befuddled at a solution to help light their way as I am my own, but I see the need.  When we expressly understand, the need in others, this is the gift God has given us in the sacrifice of Christ.  To not only have the faith to believe in what we see in others but combining this with love as we pour out ourselves to the other.  Fulton Sheen said, “for no one comes to Christ, and comes back the same way he came” (Meditations of the Magi, Catholicism, Barron).  Our path is such, we are forever transformed by what we see and feel.  I’ve asked this question before, but for those, who have never read these words, “where you think you go when you die?” are the foundational understanding of our lives, our faith, and our interpretation of love.  Once we truly answer this question, we are never the same, our pathway is forever changed, our blissful ignorance has become the very sand blown away in a desert to reveal the stone with which we build our foundations.

I talk a great deal about love, over and again on this, but it is for nothing more than the pursuit of faith and love we exist.  We can never hope to fall in love with God if we are just faithful to the commandments.  My son, indicated during our discussion, “yeah, I have to be good, so I can go to heaven, right?”.  My eyes were wide at this moment, not only because, I felt he missed the mark of our faith completely, but I also felt this was a teaching moment to help form his faith more solidly and become a principle he could always come back to as his life continues to move forward.  My answer to him was Heaven wasn’t about winning or losing, but about our relationship to God as a focus of our lives.  I used the analogous example between my wife and myself as the prototype of the love we seek in Christ.

Imagine having a relationship where we seek only the result as a means of winning or losing.  Many Christians may have this interpretation, one where they see the result of life as being good and walking through the pearly gates of Heaven or doing bad and burning for all eternity in the absence of God known to us as Hell.  Since, I’m not a theological master, I can only explain it as my interpretation of faith as it relates to the Catechism.   CCC – 1024 “Heaven is the ultimate end and fulfillment of the deepest human longings, the state of supreme definitive happiness.”  I ask you, have you ever thought of Heaven in this manner?  “To live in Heaven is to be with Christ” (CCC-1025).  God has opened our minds to see past the rules and effectively attached our ability to fall in love with him, and in doing so, a beatific vision is given to all of us, allowing for our contemplation within the expression of love.  Could we ever love our wives without being allowed to think on her and what makes her so wonderful in our eyes, but then not limited to an understanding she opens herself to us and creates an ability to understand her.  We don’t always know ourselves but being open to exploration of our love and our purpose in our lives, allows our spouses to truly love us to depths we can hardly imagine.  This is true with God, God opens himself to us in a way where we are called (through prayer) to contemplate on God to fall truly in love.

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There isn’t a list which indicates, if you complete all the rules and follow everything which is said, you will inherit the kingdom of Heaven.  We are called to do nothing more than to find the beauty in all others, and in our understanding of this beauty we can love our neighbor!  Our perception of life and love is distorted by the times we live in, we find abject beauty as being a prerequisite for love.  We also determine, if we don’t feel a sense of emotion or jittery feelings as they pertain to our perception of love, then we truly must not be in love.  This pursuance of an emotive acknowledgement within our own person as the litmus test prevents us from seeing the real person we meet.  We are ridiculed if we are with anyone who isn’t beautiful on the outside first, or at the very least pleasing to be around.  Though this comes to us like a double-edged sword, why would we want to be anything other than accommodating when it means we have an opportunity to be around someone to love more?  Have you ever treated, anyone who you determined in your eyes to be diminished of your own stature, in a less than loving way?  In my shame, I have, I haven’t always treated people as though I am, if anything lucky to be in their presence.

So, is it any surprise to us when people attach an emotive understanding of love, to associate with God.  In this pursuit of feelings (a reciprocal effort), when they don’t receive their expectational response, they determine a lackluster quality to a pursuit of love in life as it relates to God.  Then it becomes, as I explained to my son, an atheist’s pursuit of life and to follow just the rules as to follow a rule and receive something for our efforts becomes a subjective morality and value system ever more.  Morality isn’t a set of rules we must follow, in order we may fully understand our faith.  Instead, morality is the surest way to keep ourselves focused, that we might have a clear chance to deepen our faith and love for the One True God.

Ok, so where do we go from here in our lives, if we determine God is truly where we want to be?  A life of love, put down those instruments of hate and determine (unto our deaths) where Christ is, and don’t just walk or meander down this path, but doggedly pursue the relationship.  Don’t let it elude your efforts by letting life slow you down or become the whisper in your ear indicating your unworthiness.  You are worthy, you are lovingly fashioned by the hands of God, and it isn’t about emotion, it’s about your pursuit of faith in love which will create the deepest seas of emotion you’ve ever experienced.

My life as a father has been one of confusion for me, but one of the greatest rewards possible, and I can’t imagine what God must feel from us, when by our own unloving actions, we say, “leave me alone, I don’t want you!”.  How this must hurt!  Let this perspective soak in for a little while.  Are we as fathers pursuing a loving relationship with our children and especially our wives?  Do we allow God to lift us up for the lessons so desperately needed as a daily dynamic in our own families, or are we insisting our trying to be the unmovable rock?  Don’t get me wrong, men, we should be men always, and our pursuance of a society, which has a pure focus on God is our utmost responsibility, but at the same time, are we seeking to understand above all else.  Have we taken this beatific vision, and let the love of God permeate our senses to move us closer to God’s light?

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My son’s comments today, made me question how we see events as they relate to those around us.  His friends, who don’t believe in a God, are without a strong parental figure to show them the objective truth, but instead attempts to teach them the only way to a proper life is one of subjective feelings and morality which applied to life is the aberration of love altogether.  This isn’t what God is about, God is about our attempt to have a closer relationship to Him, but we obtain this relationship by loving those around us, without condition.  No matter what they throw at us (Acts 7: 54-60, St. Stephen’s Martyrdom), we must be willing to face this with only the armor of faith, and the weapons of love.  Without either one of these, we can’t hope to best the giants which faces us, like Goliath and David.  Without both, we will succumb to our own expectations and our own perceptions of what love should be.  It is an all or none, a black and white existence, although we live in a grey world, our pursuit should be one of truth.  The truth is, without the free will we have, we can never truly know love, but within our free-will, if we don’t pursue love, then our pursuit of right and wrong is marred by no other than us.  My advice to my son’s friends, was to be the loving example God gave us, Jesus.  Be the best person he could be to everyone, but be true, be himself, no matter how much people accepted him or not.  It’s not about the acceptance of those who are not on the same faithful, loving journey we are on, it’s about us being the love to light their way.  I’ve had too many situations based in some manner of conflict, over the years, to not have a take-away which is an understanding, our actions in love have more power to move those mountains which stand in the way of faith, than anything else we could ever imagine.

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When you go out today or tomorrow, remember, you’re never alone, and so, all you need is to believe.  Your belief will bring you great joy, but more importantly, your belief will be fulfilling.  This pursuit of the fulfillment in your life is love, the ability to become fulfilled is faith as the tool to accept love.  When you’re sitting in your spot tonight, watching TV, or when you look up from your plate at dinner tonight, and you look over at your wife, think on three things.  The first, do you think it would be possible to love her if she didn’t open to you who she truly is?  Second, could you love her even if she didn’t seem to love you back?  The third, is love more transcendent than your own perspective of reality do you have to understand everything about her to love her?  Sometimes, we aren’t meant to understand everything, we must trust our spouse, we must have faith in them, which isn’t too much to ask seeing as how we are in a covenant with them before God.  As our trust/faith in them grows, we see a ripping away of those cultural and societal constructs which represent a shallow pursuit of love, and we see the deepening of a bond which as strong as an oak, sways with life.

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I hope and pray we are all pursuing a means of faith and love as it relates to a closer relationship with God and our fellow man.  We can’t take this physical life with us, which is why faith and love are the deepening of the soul, encouraged by the physical joy we feel by our pursuit.  Don’t be tempted to act on a matter of reverse egotistic tendencies, when we don’t receive the answer we wanted or the response of another.  Don’t give up, when we see the path change before us, and it isn’t what we originally planned our lives out to be.  Have faith, know we are all going through our own journeys of faith and we all need each other to light the way.  Objective truth shows us, our love is all God desires, and our purity though this love is needed that we may be in Heaven with God.  If you see yourself sinning, sacrifice those sins so you can fall in love with God, be willing to let go as a matter of faith to feel the love of God in return.  God speaks to us, within the silence of our hearts, and when you think about your family and friends, are we not moved to love them more when we see them sleep or see their actions of love as a matter in our own quiet contemplation on our feelings towards them.  God is much the same, take time to think about your relationship with God, and in your silent contemplation, you will see how He fills those spaces of your life with the loving graces to an overflowing capacity.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

 

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What is Our Sickness?

When we think of ourselves, are we consumed with thoughts of who we are as a person, or what we are capable of?  Do we look at ourselves the way we want others to look at us?  Why don’t we look at ourselves as someone who should be in a hospital?  I recently spoke with my mother-in-law about perception of sin as it relates to those who do us the most harm.  For her, it was my father-in-law, a person she loved at one point in her life with unimaginable unconditional love.  She saw her life, as an old woman, growing old with her husband surrounded by kids and grandkids.  This wasn’t to be, she faced a reality whereby, she was deceived and eventually abandoned by her husband.  Her wound was deep, and in human fashion, she was forced to deal with a new reality which included hard-times, strife, and the coming face-to-face with an all to reality of loneliness.  In here reality, she was forced to look at those items of her life which caused her the most grief and deliberate over the face of the person who wounded her the most.  In her despair and anger she found solace in God but struggled with forgiveness of the one person who caused the greatest pain in her life, her ex-husband.  So, this is where my point of recognition begins.  This in my conversations with her over more than two decades has become the realization of our sickness.

So, bear with me, imagine you are walking through a hospital, and you see a patient burned beyond all recognition.  Burned so bad, you’re not sure if there is a hope of his survival, he will probably gain some manner of disease, or eventually die of the pain.  Then imagine, you look around and everyone in the hospital ward seems to have the same degree of pain and wounding.  You look around and begin to ask questions about whether there was a fire or an event involving terrorism.  No one around you has a good answer but they are feverishly trying to use their machines and medicines to alleviate the pain and suffering, but more people are coming in by the droves.  You think to yourself, “what is this madness, why are all of these people coming in?”  Then suddenly, you are struck down with sever pain, you can’t seem to understand why you are feeling so ill.  Sores and blisters begin to form on your skin and the pain is unimaginable, and yet you can do nothing to stop them, eventually you fall and are picked up by medics hoping to deal with your pain in the same manner you were just dealing with the patient’s minutes before.  Eventually, all who come to the hospital, in pain and agony will succumb to their pains, but it’s their decision on just how they deal with the pain.  They can push away those people who are there to help, perceiving the help given as a poor attempt at control, or they can accept the help and realize although they don’t understand everything which is happening, they will trust in the help given.

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Imagine again, life is like this hospital, and the sickness incurred is the sin we gladly accept into our choices and allow to stain our souls.  As we begin to move more and more away from the will of God, we become more reliant on anything to fix our problems except the one truth, God.  One part of my discussion with my Mother-in-law was our inability to see sin for what it is, a true sickness on our soul.  Imagine walking through the hospital ward, seeing people writhing in pain, and being unaffected by this display of pain and the need for compassion.  Would we really walk by someone in need of our charity and love and tell them no, especially if we could see the sores exposed for all the world to see?  The answer is if we have a human bone in our body, we would probably bend over backwards to help this person as much as possible.  Our discussions pertained to the actions by which we perceived either an evil action or an action with so much malice behind an action it was perceived as evil.  Though the real question should have always been, is he dealing with more than we know?  Is there something which is he is dealing with, which requires patience and understanding more than my anger?  If he was sitting in the medical ward, with sores all over his body, writhing in pain due to the sin and influences he was dealing with, would I be more compassionate to him?  This is how I think God sees us, not as our sin a rapacious causality to our choices and behaviors which keeps Him away from us, but instead, sees us with love, and sees these sores and pains which cover the landscape of our soul as a matter of the need to be healed.  God’s compassion for us, is one which lovingly holds us with care, and wills us to be nursed to health by His will alone and our decision to accept His help.  This creates another analogous paradigm, which manifests the most bizarre perspective of all, because we writhe in pain, we don’t realize it, because our conventional understanding of pain isn’t exhibited, so when God offers to heal our sickness, we push God away and insist we can do it all our own.

I would also, point out, accepting sin as a sickness, much like I described, isn’t too far off the mark.  We can’t see the true form of sin, because we lie to ourselves, we fool ourselves into thinking what we do isn’t all too bad, especially since no one was hurt.  Though, at the end of the day, our sins are there no matter how noble they may appear to us, care no nobility whatsoever, they are what they are, sins, and those sins push us away from God.  With each sin, if we can only imagine the wound we inflict on our own body due to the sin we choose.  Some sins, may be small in the larger estimation of our actions, but if we think about any time we’ve run through a wooded area, and thorns were everywhere, while running we may have been aware of a thorn here and there cutting us up, but when we stop and we look our entire body over, we see more wounds than we could have previously imagined.  In this we can determine, even our actions, seemingly innocent by our estimation, could still cut us, because in the objective truth, a sin has been committed.

Ok, getting back to my mother-in-law, where is she at pertaining to the hurt inside?  Well good news, she is much better than ever before, she seems to have forgiven the man who hurt her deeply, she seems to have moved past the pain, and realized the one truth, God, and placed God before her in everything she does.  In our discussions together, we both agreed, looking at people who we deem to be sinners including ourselves requires our sympathetic perception of pain before anything else.  We should be looking on those, especially the ones who touch our lives, as a matter of a doctor dealing the medicine of love to those who seek relief, even if they don’t know they do.

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Our sin is a lot like a sickness in many ways, if we spend too much time around it, it can affect us.  It truly creates derision in everyone causing a ripping or tearing of the fabric of love.  In doing so, we see exactly what we are seeing today, less people willing to make decision of faith, or more people willing to ridicule and criticize those who attempt to go through life looking for the light of God.  The sickness is the darkness of sin, and the only way to rid one’s self of darkness is to be presented and exist in the light of God.  It cures our soul of the sickness we feel, or don’t feel, but we allow to reside in us.  The damnable quality of sin is just when we think you’ve got a handle on it, or just when we think we’ve overcome the sin we’ve struggled with, we become mired in its grasp and search for God is as if we never knew him.

Being a husband and a father has been the most challenging things I’ve ever associated myself with, in my life.  I’ve never not loved my kids or my wife, but I chose to love my wants and needs more.  I chose to put something before my very God, and I confess to all of you, I am like Peter in my abandonment, and I have wept bitterly because of it.  The sickness grew inside me so much, the sin took over, and I said to myself, “what’s the point now, I can never be the perfect child I saw myself to be, I’m stained with this sin forever?”.  This was the devil trying to influence my thoughts and make me feel worthless, and it almost worked.  It was “Screwtape” trying to capitalize on my mediocrity of life and decision, and in my lack of enthusiasm and fire, I almost let go.  I didn’t know, even when I wanted to loosen my grip on the life I thought I lost, there was a hand over the top of my very own hand.  This hand in its strength, in its silence spoke to me, or rather spoke to my heart.  It said, “no, don’t go, I’m still here and I love you!”.  It was as if I had a thousand stones lifted off my chest, and I could breath once more, I could think about something other than myself.

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So, what was I missing?  Fire!  I was missing the fire of the Holy Spirit.  The only topic in my life which ever seemed worthy of my attention was the study of God, and the actions according to my faith, so when I failed my friends and family, I thought I covered the fire over with the dirt of sin.  I was so very wrong.  The one thing the devil doesn’t want you to know, is God’s forgiveness is the medicine we all need, we are all looking for redemption from our failures.  Some people have more than others, but this doesn’t negate the powerful forgiveness of God.  His love extended to a man, a man who chose to love us so much, he would die for us.  Love hung on the cross, love bled for us, love died for us, love conquered death for us.

Men if you have something in your life holding you back, and you know without the recognition of this sin and the wiping away of sinful behavior you can never walk one step closer to God, then stop now.  I would tell you, right your wrongs, ask forgiveness of those who’ve hurt you.  Be men!  Be strong!  Be the example, your children can look up to.  If you yelled at your wife, because she hurt you or angered you in some way, apologize to her, hold her, tell her how much she truly means to you.  You are one with her, you are bound to her within a covenant put together by God, so treat her as such.  I will be the first to admit, I’m no saint when it comes to anger or treating people the way I should, but I will say, the rush of emotion when you do ask for forgiveness is God’s gift to you, it’s God’s way of saying, “I love you!”.  What is more powerful, is when you do ask/beg the forgiveness of the wounded party and they forgive you, there is nothing more powerful in this world than someone who is truly hurt by your actions, willing to accept you for who you are, a bond of unconditional love is formed.

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Sickness wishes to ruin this, spoil this holiness, sin wishes to tear apart the bonds which bind us lovingly.  It takes many years to forge a path of love in pursuit of God’s will, but it takes only seconds to obliterate the very path we seek.  What is so wonderful, is God doesn’t deride us for destroying the path, but forgives us, and wishes to give us light so that we may see the path once more.  Sickness is darkness, and in darkness, how can a father ever show his children the way or be the reflective light his spouse so desperately needs when she is in her own mire of sin as well.  I know this seems almost too much to burden any one person with, but I assure you, life was never meant to be easy, it was always intended to purify and create lovers.  God’s beauty is the weapon of love, of righteousness, of hope, and of faith.  The Saints are our examples of this beauty, their lives are examples of the sin we fall into, but the faith which will carry us out of our own willingness to walk away from God.

I pray, within our own sickness we can realize, sin isn’t a matter of disobeying a rule set forth by God, but rather sin is our way of pushing the hand of God away from us when we are sick, and all God wishes to do is make us better.  I pray we can accept the forgiveness of other, but also be willing to forgive those who writhe in pain because of their choices in sin.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

Jesus Forgives

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What Does Eternity Mean?

When we think about the word “eternity” doesn’t our mind immediately think, “whoa, that’s a long time”?  Which really isn’t accurate whatsoever.  The salient point to be made here is, eternity isn’t so much a mark of time, but a place without time which exists.  A place where being is, and a conception of time no longer keeps a place of importance within what we do or how we choose to fill our time.  Take for instance, what have we done today to mark time?  I personally have been awakened by my alarm, and then I had my “morning coffee” and I’ve just eaten my “first breakfast”.  During my day I will have more to eat, which will mark time in the day, I have a few appointments, and then my day will end with exhaustion (hopefully) and I will mark another point in time while I sleep.  This is just one example of how time dictates a pattern in our lives which imprints its decree of compliance on everything we do.  As humans, we rely on this time to perceive our existence, otherwise we might go mad with just not knowing.  Time is so important to us we sell high priced time pieces to mark our day, some of the greatest ancient inventions (Archimedes), were done as a measure of time, and we determine high points in human existence (e.g. Birth/Death of Christ) by a calendar.  So, if I wasn’t clear so far, time is a big deal for us, we need it, we search for it, and we can’t live without it.

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So, where does the question of eternity and time fit in with our pursuance of faith, and where does eternity fit in with our lives in general?  In some of my previous writings I referred to the paradigm shift of endings and beginnings, and to be sure, eternity is the beginning.  We’ve entered life, fashioned lovingly by God, and we’ve been put to the task of living.  We are thinking, breathing, beautiful creatures which have captured the heart of God, and it is our choice in life to reciprocate this love (freely given) and pour it upon our fellow man but also look in agape towards the light of God.  This is seen in the gift of Jesus, the gift of forgiveness, and the gift of love outpoured again and again by God in his grace towards us.  When we read the Bible, we are given a tremendous gift of forward sight as it relates to eternity and this life as we can know it as it pertains to Heaven.  God is heaven to be sure, existing in Heaven, means existing within the presence of God.

I’m not going to presume to explain an existence without time or of a place I’ve never been, all I can do is speak of the teachings I’ve received and of the experiences I’ve been fortunate enough to have in my life, which I believe are a semblance of what eternity must be like.  I always tell people, I’m not a fan of those movies which seemingly try to represent heaven, the first which comes to mind is the movie (What Dreams May Come), and to be clear, the acting was very well done in the movie.  Though, what I feel we miss is the ineptness with which a movie tries to describe the indescribable.  We as humans can’t possibly describe heaven, we are just too limited by our brains and our creative thought potential to realize a place of intense beauty and the true presence of love.  Kreeft points out, we are no longer seeking faith or hope when we enter the gates of Heaven, but instead we are surrounded by pure love, pure goodness and this must be impossible to describe, as none of us have ever experienced something so intense in our lives.  Those of us who have, are probably saints, St. Thomas Aquinas, was believed to have received a vision of Heaven, and when asked if he wanted to continue the Summa Theologica he declined and stated, “I cannot”, when asked why not, he replied “because everything that I have written seems to me chaffy”.  Just to be clear, Aquinas’s Summa is one of the greatest works of literature ever written, I would also mention, the very foundational understanding of Christian Theology is attributed to Aquinas and his explanations and refutations of everything pertaining to the Trinity.  Even as this is acknowledged, his vision of what we can only presume as the presence of God turns everything gray by our standard of perception, and this even includes time as it exists for us.

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When Moses asked for God’s name, at the burning bush, a response like no other was given, “I Am Who Am”.  A name which indicated an eternal existence, Scott Hahn points out in his discussion on the Gospel of John, an eternal existence is one which has always been no beginning and no ending, and everlasting life is an existence with a birth yet with no ending (i.e. Humans pursue everlasting life with the eternal God.).  We accept this, as Christians, when we eat the body and blood, and through our belief of Jesus the promise is fully realized.  Though to be in the presence of God as we are given many examples in life, it is to touch eternity and glimpse its stark contrast to our time.   These transcendent events, works of art, or our personal experiences with out fellow human beings is this glimpse.  If we can’t afford to spend any of our time in the presence of God doing the good works needed for our soul, how then can we presume to spend eternity doing this very thing?

As a man, I find my lack of emotion for some things to be bothersome, but I am just not moved by what my wife is moved by and combined with either my anger on some issues or my willful ability to push those things I don’t like in my life out, I create walls seemingly impervious to your standard list of acceptable responses.  Walls which prevent love from entering my thoughts and walls which make it nearly impossible sometimes to feel the sympathy or empathize at least with the events occurring around me.  For instance, my son was sick from school and when he approached my wife and I, I castigated his excuse for feeling unwell.  I was dissatisfied with his lack of explanation and seeing as I wasn’t to be made a fool of (I was more worried about me than I was him), I was going to stand my ground.  I was immediately imbittered by his lack of explanation and unmoved by his condition; in my anger, I upset my wife, and removed myself from an ability to look at his pain with my own love.  My wife, upset by my words and actions stated, “there is no love in your actions towards our son”.  This hurt.  Though, by my estimation, it probably didn’t hurt as much as my actions towards him, both my son and my God.  This was cathartic for me, my wife was truthful with me, even if I didn’t like it because I did feel pain when she stated my actions for the record, I had to accept the truth.  Eternity is the truth, it is the expression of love which God gives us by every means possible, and in this expression, we can look within ourselves and determine the answer, or we can be like I was with my son.  We can choose to allow anger to control our destinies, or we can accept our past behaviors and make amends for what we’ve done wrong, and then choose to make every effort to curtail our boorish attitudes and behaviors as events happen to us and with us.

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Men, I think we have a tough road, we are increasingly looked upon as being out of touch with the times if we exhibit a roughness or stoic attitude about events which occur around us.  We are put in a place of diminishment as cultural subjective attitudes take precedent over objective truth.  Feelings have become a vital weapon in the arsenal of victim-hood, and men who blubber and cry in entertainment and public forums has become the normal paradigm now.  Personally, I don’t want to see men cry about tragedies, I want to see them stand up and lead the way to solutions.  Now, I’m not going to be ridiculous about my perceptions of men, but nothing good ever came from an emotive action, including legislation of laws, and changes in truth.  The truth is, bad stuff happens to good people, but time requires we continue to move forward, and this isn’t achieved when we attempt to stop moving and wallow in our misery.  I challenge anyone to read any five books on the westward expansion of the United States and you will see stories of misery whereby people were expected to pick back up and continue forward with their lives.  They did not have the luxury or time as it were, much like we do today, to stand and cry about what awful events transpired in their lives.  As this just so happens to be the case, all misery is terrible, and all misery is creating a void in our hearts longing for what once was, but as pain hurts, we learn from the experience of pain.  Our desire to be with our eternal God requires a purification of soul, and within our efforts of purification we will endure all manners of pain.  Our culture is attempting to create its own eternal paradigm where we are see ourselves as victims and where the culture pushes out those people who don’t agree or refuse to accept this self-aggrandizing behavior.  They are creating their own personal hell, and I don’t want to be there running in the never-ending circle which is misery.  I choose to believe in God, the sources of joy in our lives.  Our joy is the recognition, within our reality, no matter what happens, God exists and is there to comfort us, if we would only allow this love in.  Allowing this love to enter our lives is the beginnings of lights of eternity as it illuminates the darkest places of our hearts.   In every chance possible we should be looking for our places in the eternal light of God.

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Ok, where am I going with all of this?  Perception.  Perception is your key to understanding all, your pathway to understanding.  How can you ever hope to perceive what your wife or kids are doing if you don’t understand what they are doing?  How can you ever know the events in life which happen are bad, but altogether within the scope of the love God pours out, as matter of understanding and perception of love.  Your acceptance of an eternity which creates, The Paradigm, acknowledges the very real and very hard asked question, “Where do you think you go when you die?”.  This was the game stopper for me, this was the question above all other questions, which when I stepped up and finally answered, changed my perception of everything.  In the back of my mind I always knew the answer, but was too afraid to confront it, I choose to be willfully ignorant of the ways of the world and my culpability regarding those ways.  Much like Constantine’s Confessions, I was more apt to take the easy path of sin rather than the difficult path of righteousness.  My answer to the question was this, God is very real, and eternity does exist, God loves me, and so desperately wants me to love him back, but he won’t make me as this is not love, but a modern-day subjective aberration which dictates God should answer to us.  This is unequivocally wrong, we answer to our creator in all things, and we should refrain from hubris, arrogance, and the priggish pursuit of our own personal rightness.  God’s will be God’s will, it should be followed, and in a pursuit of anything else is our attempt to justify sinful behavior.

Fathers and husbands out there, this is the teaching we must pursue with out families, we are leading them down the path, especially our kids, as much as they may act like grown ups sometimes, they are still innocence personified and trust us beyond measure.  They still look to us, with an enthusiastic attitude of amazement, they want to put us on this pedestal and even expect us to never make mistakes.  There is some pressure, if we truly care about the eternal decisions we make, but in the end, eternity is our choice.  Everything we do is moving in the pathway of eternity, and we decide if it’s an eternity of love and fulfillment, or an eternity of misery and damnation.   This may seem a bleak representation of what we have before us, but it really is this simple.  We get to choose, and what I’ve noticed is when we choose the light of God, our whole perspective changes with death, sickness, kindness, feelings, and most importantly love.  So, when we are teaching our families through our actions or words, we need to keep eternity in mind, we need to be completely aware of those events in life which are determined to define us, but you need no defining other than looking to God.  God is your definition, Jesus is your purpose, and the Holy Spirit is your guide to a realization of an eternal light which will never again allow darkness to enter your heart.

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As we are coming into Good Friday, we are brought face-to-face with the reality of eternity, through the resurrection of Christ, we see a very real perspective confronting us.  A perspective of truth.  How does a man, beaten, scourged, and crucified manage to walk around after his death?  Well, he was the divine God, first, but more importantly we he was ascending to eternity as a manner to light our ways.  Subsequently the disciples followed his teachings and became martyrs themselves.  They all died to be reborn into an eternal life.  When we see the horrible events, which are occurring in our world today, we as a matter of media extension, focus on the death and destruction as a placement of emotion and we seek to put the guilty parties to justice.  What we don’t seem to focus on, as a society at large, is the very real need and understanding, God is all powerful, and nothing happens to us without the express love and attention by God.  When we die, we go to God.  Those of our families or friends who have died, are by my estimation, in a much better place than myself, and I long for the day when I will go to see my creator.  I am not worried about my journey, nor am I worried about my family, I seek everyday to show them the path as I see it, and I know God loves them.  They will have to make their own decisions, in life, and I pray my actions and words will help guide them in the path they need to go as time continues to march toward the sea of eternity within their lives.

Where did we end up in the discussion of eternity?  We’ve ended up knowing a few truths, you are your own worst enemy and in a matter of accepting pain as a matter of growth, you have two paths.  You can choose right or wrong, both are eternal, but one is with God, and one is without the loving presence of God.  To place this in a general perspective, we are always in the existence of God on Earth seeing as God is the creator of all, God is the very nature of being itself, but as Heaven is concerned we will see and know God more fully.  Being in an existence without the creator is an awful thought, and much like we can’t incapsulate the perception of Heaven, the same is also true with Hell, though Dante’s Inferno does a pretty good job describing it.

I hope and pray, eternity is a very real thought for you and your family.  I hope it is on the forefront of your mind daily, it is where we meet God, and I’m very excited about this!  Answer those fundamental questions and create a foundation of understanding which will keep your gaze in a form of agape always and keep your focus on the important work of God.  You are loved, and this is evident in your life, and the potential to do wonderful things with your life.  I pray your family is keeping you grounded in your faith, and as a man you stand in front to guide their way.  A family doesn’t need a crying blubbering man to guide their path, they need someone who is strong and willing to continue moving forward as a matter of faith in God and faith in eternity.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

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Is Seeing Really Believing?

How many times in your life have you been challenged with your beliefs, only to be unable to fully defend why you believe or see things a specific way?  How many times have you ever been confronted by a non-believer, and because of either their aggressiveness or their circular arguments in questioning, you’ve left feeling inadequate to answer their seemingly innocent interrogations?  Well I have more times than I care to remember, and in some ways, I felt shamed because I could not defend my faith.  I know my faith to be correct and the basis for objective truth, but I couldn’t explain why.   Over the years I’ve read more and more, and engaged in some debates over faith and the Church, but overall, I’ve made it a general practice to refrain from arguing politics and religion/faith.  We seem to live in times where the only thing worth believing is what we can see and what we can measure.  Even then, people are left with a healthy dose of skepticism because the measurement is only as good as the person who measures.  We just don’t know who to trust or who to follow.  We gravitate to those who seem to have the answers, and when we realize they were wrong, we become emptied with nothing but dashed hopes and dreams of a promising future (maybe where many secularists/atheists are at in their lives).  Though, faith isn’t like this at all, I’ve never been disappointed by anything I’ve learned, and at the very lowest expectation I could have ever had, it has surpassed anything I could have dreamed.  Faith was never about seeing with my eyes, but having the ability to listening to the voice of God in silence and learning to see with my heart.

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Where do we go when we are surrounded by those who not only don’t believe us, but even ridicule us in every way, when our beliefs run counter to what they deem as “stupid” or at the very least outdated cultural mentality.  What this inevitably does is to presume, we are the more enlightened culture now, and those who came before us, especially if they were the faithful, are at best simpletons because of their lack of knowledge on science and modern-day matters.  To this line of thinking I would caution the arrogant, this is about the time the carpet is pull from beneath their feet.  The matter I’ve always run into is perception of what is right and the pushing away of what is wrong, no matter the situation or subjective nature of the situation.  The collateral damage incurred by this poorly crafted focus of life become a measure of in and out as they see fit.  Subjectivity is dangerous when trying to create equality of outcomes.  Currently most people still have a strong faith presence in their lives, but the swell of non-believers and aggressive atheists has promoted a movement towards a relativistic culture.  We see, as Christians, an acceptance of ostracizing behaviors meant to relegate those with faith beliefs to the section of the proverbial yard containing all the nuts.  In doing so, pushing us out of relevant discussions, we see a culture shift intent on pushing us out of the general forum altogether.  This in my opinion is unacceptable, and we must do everything we can to exhibit our faith in action, but also our faith in defense as much as we can.  We can’t be afraid to talk about our faith in public forums, nor can we be afraid to become the ostracized.  Jesus was our example, no one faced as much humiliation or degradation as he did for us.  We can endure a loose insult with a smile and then pray for our insulter, can’t we?

When I first began to study about the faith, and those who so fervently believed in it, I was looking for intelligent answers and a logical line I could follow.  Something which would make sense and yet was also something which would require my action of faith to finish the sentence (so-to-speak).  I wasn’t looking for platitudes, nor was looking for something based solely in the prophetic.  I was looking for something which could open my eyes to life, and the expectations of life, and tell me why I felt the way I did.  What I found were many people who were just like me at one point, and who embraced their faith in such a way as to become examples to all.  Some were Saints, and others were just faithful servants, and when I read their biographies or works of faith, I didn’t find a didactic instruction meant to punish those who’ve fallen in their faith.  Instead, I found a beautiful example of God lighting the way for everyone and they were the brightest beacon to do such a thing.  In some cases, I was reading text over a thousand years old and some only fifty years old.  Their texts were never an admonishment of sin, but an acceptance of their sin and the desire to repent and search for God.  They illuminated and clarified matters of faith which I never even realized to be an issue, and they refuted with tremendous clarity those who would seek impugn the fervor of those who are faithful and pursuant of God’s will.

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As time was marching on, I noticed something within our own time as it related to the writer’s perspectives, some of which were centuries old.  Life, really hasn’t changed all too much, in the grand scheme of things.  We still fight over petty need for control, wars rage over territory and disputes of common ideologies every day.  Greed has never gone away, and since there is probably more wealth today, than at any other time in history, the greed runs rampant.  Though everyone claims they’re not greedy, just the businessmen or politicians.  Be honest, haven’t we all been greedy at many points in our lives, and isn’t our culture a representation of our need for “me” in a lot of what we do.  I have been greedy in my life, for a time, I was only looking out for me and to the detriment of the people around me, and in many cases to myself, I caused so many problems I was drowning in an ocean of poor decisions and hurtful outcomes.  At any rate, the points of views expressed by those faithful servants of God, illuminated a point of perspective which indicated, our time is our time, but our philosophies and faith are ancestors of those who came before us.  Failure to recognize this simplest of facts, invites hubris and even a priggish sense of self into discussion where there is no place for such a thing.

So, where does belief come into play, regarding everything we see today, and read from yesterday?  Have you ever heard the expression, “read between the lines”?  I’ve been told this time and again since I was a young kid, the inference is an indication to understand implication and thus refrain from all the superfluous questions.  Look at the bigger picture and ask yourself the pertinent questions for the important answers.  This is where faith resides, this is where we see faith in action.  In a very similar action, those of us who envision images as explanation, see a sheet of paper with words written and we look at those small spaces of emptiness and find the proverbial answer, this is also true when we think about the quiet spaces and silences in our heart, this is where God resides.

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A few weeks ago, my son asked me, “Dad, if God is real, why doesn’t he just reveal himself, wouldn’t that be much easier, then everyone could believe?”.  For such a young man, he has a wonderfully quizzical mind for simple and yet puzzling answers.  So, why doesn’t God just reveal himself to us in a grand display of power, so we can be believers, and the debate we currently face will be settled once and for all.  As a man, I love simplicity, and I’m not ever looking for drama, so when my wife indicates she will be watching the nightly litany of drama shows, I run the other direction.  I, like my son, have always searched for the easy answer, and this is exactly what this is, an easy answer.  For this, I find, usually the easy answer is the wrong or at least the less right answer.  The reason for the seemingly silent presence of God, is one of faith.  God wants you, God wants your love, and just like a relationship where we would love another, we must be willing to allow the other to choose completely unfettered and a decision which hasn’t been adulterated in any way.  When my spouse reaches for me, I know it is a matter of her will, and not my presence as a guilt, or even I possess something she wants.  Which is why God, doesn’t have a superpower light show every Sunday, if we want his love we must seek to be in his love.  This is all God ever wanted from us, God is love, and in his ability to be love, he is unable to not want this.

In my reading, and looking for the true answers which are sometimes plainly written and other times as plain as day within the context of the spaces as actions in faith.  I found there is more evidence to indicate a loving and beautiful God than to presume an existence where we are our own device and we’ve become gods ourselves.  There is more to this life than a pursuance of what we want, the early Christian writers didn’t just test the walls of doubt, the destroyed those walls with their love, reason, and faith in action.  If you ever want to read the best objections to the Christian Faith, read the Summa Theologica, not only did St. Thomas Aquinas present wonderful objections to the faith, but he also more sublimely refuted the objections with reason and philosophy.  It wasn’t about seeing with our eyes to more enhance our faith, but instead it was about seeing with our hearts to understand what is our faith.  The supernatural with which God exists, can’t be measured by human instruments, but can be seen with human understanding.  So, is seeing believing?  Yes, it just depends on what you’re looking with, and if your heart is open to accepting the truth.  Open your heart, allow the light of God to enter in, and illuminate those dark corners so at once you can see what it was you were always meant to see.

One of my biggest failings in life is having an opinion which excludes other opinions and is unwilling to allow differing perspectives to enter my cognitive thought pattern.  Though, having my kids, and being married to my spouse has softened this approach a great deal.  I tend to find myself thinking, much like with the question my son proposed, and really taking the time to explain what I know.  This is our jobs as fathers, we must be willing to search for the right answer, not the quick or easy answer.  Take your time, as the words you speak to them, will be something the will roll over in their heads for decades to come.  Something you may say to them will be the deciding factor in their pursuance of God and how they treat people in life.  Something you’ve said in love, to show thought and caring, will help prevent a series of poor choices ever happening.  The truth of the matter is, you will never be able to answer all their questions, and you will never be able to prevent them from making poor choices when it comes down to it.  Though, you do have the response capability to answer them in a way which is illuminating of the faith in love, and explanatory as in the explanation between the lines.  Kids understand your actions more than your words, mine do for sure.  Hugging my kids and exhibiting behavior which rewards or derides their own behavior is more beneficial than any diatribe I could recite about the beauty of God.  There is a place for such explanation, but it is always superseded by the action of love.

As is the point of my writing, you are bound to understand what you are willing to accept.  If you don’t accept anything without seeing it for yourself, then you will never accept it completely.  So, if you see anyone exhibit, what you don’t accept, your general interpretation will be one of nonacceptance maybe even ridicule.  When we look back at the Apostles, we see their attempt to preach the wonderful news of Jesus, and yet they were believed by many and hated by more.  They fought the establishment through prayer and preaching and were hated by the establishment, unto death, for doing so.  Imagine, telling someone you believe in the very words of God, and then having a stone smashed on you for this belief.  Do you think you could still say the words, “Jesus, My Lord and My God!”?  The disciple Thomas, uttered these words as he was being run through by spears at the end of his life (at least as the Gospel of Thomas indicates).  He was the perfect example of the one who seeks to see to believe, which is why he is known as “Doubting Thomas” for his unbelief, whereby Jesus, already in his resurrected state says, “You believe because you can see me. Blessed are those who have not seen and yet believe.” (John 20:29)

If we really think about our lives, there are many things which occur and we are not privy to their details, or we just can’t be in all places always and so taking some things on faith of trust between the parties is a necessary.   Ok, so where am I going with this?  Originally, I was writing about one’s defense of faith as a matter of exhibiting God’s light and reflecting this light to light the way of faith for others.  This seems irrespectively difficult when those around us are trying to trip us up at every turn.  Here is where believing is never about seeing.  Be the mustard seed which is planted in the minds of those we see and speak to each day.  God will do the work of growing this seed in their minds, but we need to plant it.  This is accomplished in our daily interactions as we come into fullness of our relationship with our spouse, and the tree of faith in our own soul continues to grow, but as an example to our children what is possible and what is truth.  It comes into fullness when we choose to understand and love those who are around us every day.  The faith comes into fullness when we exhibit those traits everyone sees and immediately realizes, as they read between the lines, and they say to themselves, “there is more here to my existence, and I want to know!”.  Be the example which causes them to say this.  Be the men who are strong enough to ask for the help of God, and be satisfied with the silence God will give in return, the answers are always in the silence of your heart.  Believing is seeing with the heart, and with the heart, we can all be wonderful by seeking the goodness of God, and receiving the blessings God pours abundantly over us.  Faith isn’t about rules and regulations, and it isn’t about seeing what we want, it’s about believing although we can’t see with our eyes we can feel with our heart.

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Today, if you get the chance, embrace your wife, and your kids.  Stop and listen to anyone, and really listen to what they say.  Focus on anything and everything but yourself, and I promise, as tired as you will be at the end of your day, you will have the energy to want more, want to do more, want to listen more, and want to really know God.  I pray your journey has begun or begins today, put your whole faith in God, you will not be disappointed in your journey.  It will be tough, but in the best way possible, and it will be fulfilling in the most unexpected of ways.  Listening to the silence of your heart is the key to seeing God with as much clarity as possible.  Be willing to listen, be willing to be quiet, be willing to pray.   I pray your family grows closer, and you become an example for those around you to see God more clearly.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Featured post

Do We Really Understand What We See?

Can we legitimately look at our neighbor and will their good over our own?  How many times have you been wronged by a friend, a coworker, or a boss and in your anger prayed for them?  Have you envied the position of someone you thought didn’t deserve the status or position they attained?  Have you ever known anyone to abuse their power, and thought, “I hope they get what’s coming to them”?  Do we have it in us to forgive the unforgivable acts committed against us?  Can we gaze into the faces of those who would wish us dead, and bless them as the proverbial stone is dropped upon us?  Don’t be mistaken, faith is a matter of one chapter ending and another beginning.  Faith is everything, as we know it, placed into the perspective of eternity and then thrust back at us, to choose life or death.  Life of course, is the eternal existence with God, and death is reality of knowing we will never be in the presence of God ever again.  An emptiness so lonely we haven’t the words or ability to comprehend its effect on us.  Though, based on the saints on interpretation and Jesus’s reference to a “fiery Hell” (Matt 5:22), this is also no where I think any of us wants to be.  For some of us who think God isn’t around, I would remind them, God is the creator of all, so in this very understanding, God is in all things we see, feel, and know.  We also must never forget, it isn’t about one or the other, all of this is about learning to fall in love with God.  God is love, and we run to him in our exuberance, our zeal, our love unconditionally as he does for us.  It’s never been about rules per se, but instead, look at your spouse.  It’s about the effort applied to find a more loving and accepting relationship, to become open and unafraid, to become unconditional in our efforts to find oneness with the other.  Though this isn’t just for our spouses or our family, but just as important we do this for our neighbor.

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I am the kind of man, who remembers a wrong, especially one which was perpetrated against me with malice.  This might have been an embarrassing incident where I was the butt of a joke (mean-spirited of course), or a person made my time in whatever I was doing interminable through their constant manipulations or passive aggressive behaviors.  As you can imagine, I didn’t handle these tests of faith very well at all.  I used name calling, yelling, me on subversive behaviors to undermine what I perceived them to have done to wrong me.  In the end, I was no better than them, and in many cases when I really think about it, I probably was much worse.  I knew where I should be at, and I knew what I should do, and I turned my back on what was right to avenge and uphold my honor.  My honor was the biggest issue in my journey to charity, my honor created more stumbling blocks for my life than any single factor I can think of.  Don’t be fooled by the word “honor” either, this isn’t a medieval word or something of a Southern Gentility where people take off a glove and proceed to have a comedic slap fest with it.  No, honor is a very real thing, a very debilitating way of looking at life.  We hold a form of honor so high in our culture, we are willing to some of the evilest acts as a matter of keeping our honor intact.  Hollywood’s staple blockbuster movie is about a heroin regaining their honor by destroying their enemy, by whatever means possible.  We rarely see a character willing to put everything on the line as a matter of faith and humility so vengeance will be eliminated and representing a true morality of character.  This just isn’t good entertainment, death, destruction, immorality is the best form of entertainment our culture can come up with now.  We can do better!

I want to start with work, and the unfortunate events which happen daily to us as we meander our way through the jungle of work politics.  Men, we can’t think everyone has a basis of understanding when it comes to morality or ethics as they might pertain to us, but everyone does have an innate longing for truth (the truth being God), and a recognition of this truth as it pertains to their lives.  So, when we work with people of similar backgrounds, races, and religions we naturally will have similar expectations when it comes to the moral landscape.  However, this isn’t the culture we live in anymore, the world has become much smaller, and inclusivity means everyone is welcome to the party.  Naturally, we work with every type of differentiation of character, race, religion, and orientation possible.  This isn’t an easy pill to swallow for many people, because we have beliefs which are so ingrained in our person, we recoil when we are confronted with an altering point of view.  Especially points of view which run completely counter to our very faith beliefs, or social understandings of ethics.  Ok, now how do we deal with this drastic change in philosophies or culturally acceptable behavior?  We accept everyone is a treasured soul in the eyes of God, and everyone deserves more consideration than even we think we do ourselves.

So, how many times have you ever been wronged by your fellow man?  Was the pain tremendous?  Were you enraged by their actions so much, for years when their name was mentioned, you became immediately angry and unable to find a calm?  I am not sure of anyone else, but for me, this has happened more than once, and in my anger, I found a revolving door of shame and more anger.  There was no respite from my inflammatory feelings, and within the procession of my anger, I took it out on the people I love the most.  Those people who were closest to me, received my vitriol, my rage at those who had perceptible wronged me.  Yet, this anger was somehow intoxicating, I wasn’t reducing my wrath, I was increasing it with ever turn of phrase.  I shamefully will admit, I would hand gesture my favorite gesture when passing their offices or homes.  When asked by anyone about my feelings, regarding my enemies, I had nothing but anger laden insults to hurl at these people.  Was anyone trying to stop me, yes, my lovely wife, but I wasn’t listening.  Instead, I was paying attention to those people who would encourage me to feed off the bitter angry vine I found succor in.  The parallel I noticed, was everyone was beginning to give me cause to anger and everyone was wrong but me.  My family was wrong for not agreeing with me, my friends were wrong for having a difference of opinion.  My wife was the most wrong of all, she loved me enough to tell me the truth, and I couldn’t handle the truth, and pushed her away.  I pushed her away in the most figuratively violent ways possible.  I avoided her, I wouldn’t discuss with her, I wouldn’t listen to her, and I passively decided I wasn’t in need of her at all.  To my shame, I was so utterly wrong, I can hardly bare to write the words you are reading now.

At the end of the day, I fell, I wronged, and I had become a perceived shell of God’s creation in love.  At least I thought!  This is where the fire began to grow in me, once at a low point in my life, the light began to burn the brightest, I began to see what is for some the beacon of hope, and for others the path which would lead out of the forest we call “shame”.  The deceiver wants us to forever stay in his forest of shame, he forever wants us to lament our decisions and create a never-ending spiral of degradation which we cannot ever recover from.  Judas is our primary example of someone, who in his very own decisions, decided to listen to the deceiver and betray the Son of Man, and in Jesus’s passion we find the very answer to the dilemma of charity.  Jesus, forgave the very people who put him to death.  Jesus, hung on that tree in a place known as “skull”, Golgotha, and he forgave.  He forgave the Sanhedrin, he forgave the soldiers, he forgave Pilate, he forgave you and me.  Let this sink in for a minute.  If Jesus can do this while hanging in the most unbearable pain, bleeding from his cuts, his lashes, and his nails, can’t we take the anger which wells up in us and just let it go?  What is the worst which can happen? Will people make fun of us?  Maybe we aren’t perceived as being as strong as people once thought we were.  Does it matter what people think of us?  Doesn’t the truth just exist with God?  Are we not more in search of a loving relationship with God, than what our neighbor down the road thinks of us?

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The matter at hand is our ability to understand just who we are, and what our purpose is.  My purpose as a man is to be a man.  I am here to help lead my family with my wife, and show love as a matter of daily existence.  To accept people are not always going to do what we would like them to do, but as a matter of love, do our best to understand why they do it, and then to pray for people as we may be the only ones who are praying.  We may be the only person to show another, who may treat us poorly, any type of love whatsoever.  Should we shirk this amazing responsibility?  I don’t think so, we should approach it head on, and allow God’s will to form as it was intended.  I’m not suggesting we do anything which would be foolhardy or wrought with degrading circumstances, unless this is the only route to love we can see.  Sometimes we must walk the line of danger (danger in life, danger in love, danger to put one’s self out there to be ridiculed for one’s belief) to be the loving example God intended us to be.  I can remember many times in my life when a circumstance would have completely changed, if for nothing more than my willingness to accept and the other person, understand where they were coming from, and pray for them.  I’ve always heard this phrase, “seek to understand, then to be understood”, everyone can stand to benefit from its platitudinal expression of wisdom at the sake of sounding too easy to work.  When was the last time you were derided for anything you’ve done or believe in?  Were you made to feel small or less intelligent?  Did you feel foolish for talking about it to begin with?  Maybe, you turned in a project, but the project was completely wrong, and since you pride yourself on doing good work, you looked silly turning in something so completely awful.  I’ve done these, and I lived, and not only that, I found it in me to put myself in the position of the person who’d suddenly become my adversary and found reason to understand their point of view.  I realized in an instance, I wasn’t so much angry with them for their behavior, although if could have been better, but I was more apt to see things in a clearer light.  In some cases, I still saw my point of view, but I could understand their point of view as well and this understanding allowed for a more conducive discourse between us.

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As I began to learn I wasn’t the center of the universe, and I learned other people’s opinions were as beneficial and useful as my own, I found growth beginning to occur.  I found I wanted to listen more to what was being said, and I found weakness in my own points of view.  This truth was a point of realization for myself, a recognition of my overall inadequacy as a person, but deep down what it showed me was a desire to know my neighbor more fully.  I was taking the skin-deep approach and applying it to everything in the past, but now, I want to know everything I can, and I have found a couple of wonderful benefits to come from this catharsis of selfish individuality.  I found I want the company and encouragement of other, plus the ample discussion which comes from friendship.   I also can see the beauty in most everyone I speak with, man or woman, a true and deep love for the people who enter my life.  I don’t mean a love of Eros, but a love instead known as Agape, a love which looks to God and is a fulfillment of our deepest desires in life.  I find everyday an inescapable feeling of thankfulness for the conversations I’ve had, or even the opportunity to bless the person who just cut me off in the fast lane.  I want God to create in me a clean heart, one which looks to the charity of another and the hope for the best of all circumstances which will allow them to see the true light of faith in God as we should all want.  Charity being the epitome of our willfulness when it comes to love, sacrificing our time, our efforts, our energies to the benefit of another.  Just think, if you can give just a few seconds of your day in prayer for the person who causes you the most grief, perhaps you will see the light of Christ begin to emanate from them in the most peculiar of ways.

 

I was never more challenged though, than when I had to forgive and even pray for those people who caused me the most grief in my professional working life.  These people went out of their ways to stop my advancement, and to create an atmosphere of derision within every turn I made.  I was taken to the brink of complete misapprehension and lowest self-esteem of my life.  I blamed everyone one for everything, and if I told my story to anyone and they didn’t take my side, I wrote them off as well.  I was completely wrong, I should have prayed for those people who didn’t understand me nor I understand them.  I should have tried every day, either in prayer or in conversation.  I should have been fearless, because God was always there with me, and I should have never worried about how I would be perceived.  I was so wrong to not trust in God.

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Men, as strong caring persons, we must always remember, strength of character comes from struggle of life.  If we struggle, then we are learning to become men.  Struggle within our marriages and how we can become a better spouse to our wives.  We struggle to become a better parent to those kids who just refuse to listen to our knowledge.  We need to understand who they are, who they want to be, and how their expectations fit in with the life God chooses for them.  This is the same with our neighbors, for whatever reason we are placed in the path of another, God’s plan is infinite, and we are only exposed to a minuscule portion.  We were never meant to understand everything, but instead trust in God.  If we choose to trust in God, then we choose to struggle to love, we choose to accept what is given us, and in our acceptance, we will move forward in our faith journey.  I do hope and pray, if there is a circumstance which is hampering your daily life or even bringing your down in spirit you do the right thing.  Pray for those individuals, pray for their understanding of faith, pray for your love (your Agape) to abound in the favor of another as it God wills us.  Remember, men, we are helping to create a foundation of faith, hope, and love in our cultures, and within our efforts we have the need to be understanding of all and willing to sacrifice in the name of God those things which keep us apart.  I pray you are finding a loving balance in your family and with those you meet daily.  We all need to be doing more, in the name of God, and in the pursuit of our love of God.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Why Are Beginnings Painful?

So, today, I was intrinsically motivated to leave my job.  My job became a labor of stress and pain and created in me a sense of anger which I applied to everything I do.  To my regret, I applied my anger in ways which were not beneficial to my family or the people around me.  I started to become the very individuals I was so opposed to, and in some ways, I was worse.  When we realize the objective truth, and yet fail to accept it, are we not more to blame than those who willfully create ignorance as a matter of truth?  I wanted to write about our endings, necessary in sometimes, sudden in sometimes, but inevitably we all have endings.  How can we accept our outcomes when they don’t seem to benefit us, but instead put us in a more precarious situation?  Jesus, hung from the tree, because an ending which wasn’t particularly beneficial to his health was our eternal benefit.  The greatest example of ending we could have ever been given, and God gave it to us.  We see time and again, endings occurring within the Bible, and in most cases the endings aren’t pretty.  We see the end of the population in the world after the flood and Noah’s Ark (Gen 7), everyone not on the boat, was relegated to a watery grave.  How about the fervent belief of Stephen, the first martyr of Christ, we see Stephen stoned to death, but created an ending which was more in tune with the love of God, than one of horror (Acts 7:54-60).  It occurs to me, our endings are of our own making, or at least of our own interpretation and we choose to accept the pain or give love.  Jesus, hung from the cross and chose to give love to all the world, Stephen chose to bless those who wished him dead.  We much choose the path to and ending of love when it comes to doing what we must do.

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Many years ago, much like the job I’m leaving, I was challenged every day to see a “positive perspective” and I attempted to look at thing from a positive point of view.  It was only after attempting to see things in a positive light did I realize, this was a lot of cultural junk.  Some things are never meant to be a positive, some things are problems, and some things must be seen for what they are or we risk a delusion within our own perception of truth.  Here is what I mean, we see an ending which doesn’t seem to benefit us in any way as a negative, or something we would prefer never to have occurred.  Perhaps a death, a divorce, or loss of a situation by our own actions.  These perceived negatives have the potential for creating within themselves more negative circumstances if we follow the path illuminated by their treacherous light, or we can create a recognition or even a precognition of sorts to understand what our role in life is.  I’ve heard once before, “the only certainties in life are death and taxes and the only thing which stays the same is change”.  All endings of one fashion or another, all points whereby we must except and embrace our lives as God has graced us with or turn away and attempt to control our perceived destines.

Of course, this is what this topic is all about, perception.  What is your perception of your life?  Are you where you thought you would be?  Have you become the important person you always perceived yourself to be?  Are you aware of God in your life?  All questions I’ve asked myself at one point or another, and all questions which were life altering, and ending to a perception which needed to die.  I perceive life as a matter of decisions which in the larger context are related, but to which I had full control over, up to and including a bad result/ending was a matter of poor decisions. Ok, so can we make bad decisions, and this have an interminable effect on our life and the lives of the people around us?  Sure!  The decisions we make carry a ripple effect, much like we would see in the wake of a boat.  The more speed and carelessness we pursue in our life, the more turmoil caused in its wake.  I perceived my life as a matter of my intelligence and I would determine its path.  This was a lie I told myself, a lie which I believed wholeheartedly and the perception would carry with it a mess which would take me years to fix.  My perception of life was wrong.  God gave me this life as a matter of a gift, he created me, lovingly to walk a path of my choosing.  Though he so desperately wants me to choose love, and in this choose him, it is my choice.  It’s my choice to end things the way I do, or embrace God’s will and create endings which are seen through a lens looked on by Heaven.

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My perception was so convoluted, I perceived my place in life as a matter of failure.  I had a good paying job, a wonderful family, I was singing in Church, and I had friends in my life who were great.  I though, perceived my life to be one of failure, not being where I needed to be, not finding God’s love in my family, not understanding why more people didn’t want me to sing, and pushing away those friends who added so much to my life.  It pains me to write this, because I must revisit my behaviors, and in retrospective analysis, I’m ashamed at the pain I caused the people I love by creating a means of ending our relationships.  It seems to me, this is just how our journey works, for without those points of pain along our path, we may never realize the truth of joy when it is presented to us.  So, was I where I wanted to be, at first the answer was “no”, but after everything, the answer is a resounding “yes!!!”.  I love my life and the people around me, I love the opportunity to wake up every day and be a potential influence for those of our brothers and sisters who are searching for the truth.  I love working, and I love resting.  I enjoy looking at nature as it whips past my truck window on an early morning drive.  I was missing my joy and failing to see the endings in my life as true beginnings.  It is all a matter of the perspective of life, we must see our endings as our beginnings.  It’s not about positive and negative happenstance, but instead, it’s a matter of “God I love you and want to be with you always” or “I can do everything on my own”.  I choose God in everything I do, and everything I see.  This presents a challenge, within my endings to love those who would do me harm, even more so than those who I know securely love me unconditionally.

Are you important?  I think this is such a relevant question.  Look around, look at those people who look to you in life, maybe it’s a coworker, or a relative, or your spouse, or your children.  Look at them and imagine them without you, see how they would rely on another person’s advice, and know you would give them a more loving committed answer to any question they have.  Much like Capra’s classic “It’s A Wonderful Life”, it truly is a wonderful blessing filled life.  We are not immune to struggle, but what we do have is the ability to see God’s blessings in all we do no matter what the event or perceived ending may be occurring.

As we see in our everyday life, God is central to everything.  When we are speaking with our spouse, do we see love in our decisions and how we talk with them?  I must say, my anger was so ferocious for so long, I didn’t approach my wife with a loving tone or consideration.  I was more worried about myself and what I needed to see and hear, than in what was right for the both of us as we stood before God.   This was a stemming from those failed perceptions in my life and the subsequent endings which I hated to my core, and they were all a factor of my inability to place God first.  I was rude and bitter to my wife because I hated myself and I’d become an aberration of myself and the person I knew I could be.  Every time I would catch a glimpse of this person I hated, I would thrash in conversion to become someone other than who I needed to be.  I was always willing to reinvent myself and distort myself for the perception of others, I was willing to see an ending as final so never to revisit my personal pains ever again.  So, the person I needed to be was God’s creation, God’s love in action, and the person I chose to be was someone who thought he was a better sculptor of self than our Heavenly Father.

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This led to pushing my kids away from me, and failing to enjoy their presence which was overflowing every second I was with them.  Now, I’m not saying, they don’t test me, my kids have advanced degrees in pushing my buttons, but this is what kids do, this is what we signed on for, so love them when it comes to handing out a punishment, this doesn’t mean they shouldn’t realize the error of their ways, but what it means is their father loves them but needs them to see what they should be doing as a matter of truth.

My son, tests me daily with his obstinacy, his complete unwillingness to do the simplest of tasks creates in me a sense of turmoil like none other.  Though, I’ve realized, I love him more than I could possibly put into words, he is a wonderful light in my life, he just needs the encouragement I can give him, and then the rigidity of truth needed to eventually move forward in his life without his old dad.  I once looked at my discipline of my son as an ending to his behavior, but now I see it more like the beginning of a journey he will undertake.  He very much needs my help (even if he thinks he can do it alone), life’s pitfalls are such I can’t help him in every situation, but I can attempt to be at his side as often as possible.  This is what God does for us, God is at our side every moment, through our tough and wonderful times.  God’s desire for us is to turn to him and allow him to save us, allow God to hold us in his unconditional love.  We must open ourselves to his light, and realize our perceptions of self are never truer than when we look through the loving eyes of God.

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Ok, so where are we left when it comes to endings?   We are left in a place some consider nowhere, we are left to our own lazy devices.  When I began to write this, I indicated I left my place of employment, but I didn’t say why.  I had a fundamental disagreement with the manner and application of employer dealings as they pertained to the employees.  I was not satisfied with the environment I chose to exist in daily, but more importantly I was becoming lost in a world of anything other than love.  I was willing to look at the worst parts of a person and become critical of their faults, as if I had no faults of my own, and I was willing to take my anger out on those people who mean the most to me in life.  My wife would always say “God has a plan for you, be patient and accept what this plan is when you see it”.  Of course, his plan came in the form of an email which exacerbated an already tense situation, and created a door that I chose to walk through, ultimately releasing me of my work obligation.  It was as if, I needed this to validate my decision to walk away and end my relationship with my employer.  Though, it’s not really an ending, this is a beginning for me in a new environment and atmosphere where once again I have an opportunity to influence everyone I am in contact with about God, a new chance to reflect God’s light to be an example of faith in everything I do.  Although, the environment I left was tenuous and acidic in its very nature, I have no ill will for anyone, perhaps an incomprehension to some behaviors, but nothing but love for these people.  We are all children of God, and we are cherished in God’s eyes.  I hope the very best for the employer I’ve left, and all the people who still work for them, I pray they are successful and their pursuits in life become that of faith, hope, and love.

Within the context of my current writing, I believe it is so important for us to regain a vital understanding of who we are to God, and who we are to our very situations.  Our endings are not endings they are beginnings, no matter how painful the transition just happens to be.  Like birth, as a painful process for both the baby and its mother, it is necessary for the beginning of life.  It is needed to feel the eventual love the child will have when they wrap their arms around the parent as the parent tells them “goodnight” or as the parent faces a new beginning in their eternal life with God.  When we can see our beginnings with a proper perspective we will see anything with a true beginning will have some level of prescient pain in association, but a pain which can shape us as God sees us, or can distort us as we see ourselves.  Don’t ever forget, God is with you always, you are his work of creation, God formed you before you were born, “Why, every hair on your head has been counted. There is no need to be afraid” (Luke 12:7).  Stop worrying about trying to fix everything which comes your way as a matter of control in your life, allow God to take charge and his will be done.  You are so very valuable to God, and all he wills in return is your love, but a love which is your choice as a matter of faith.  Be faithful, accept your beginnings, accept love in your life.  Men, stand up and be strong while you do this, be a foundation of your family to accept the new beginnings in the life of your family, and never ever let the thought enter your minds whereby you can change everything, or you are not enough, or you are not where you need to be, or Heaven forbid you aren’t loved.  You are precious, and so too are all of God’s creation around you, so treat them as such.  The final ending in our life it the truest of beginnings ever, embrace the journey needed to begin our eternal life.

I pray the words I’ve written here will find even the smallest cracks in a wall which might surround your heart, and will allow the light of Christ to enter in, be open to love and those walls will fall.  Be open to pain, and you will grow immensely, be open to God so that you will understand why we have endings and why they can become perfect beginnings.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

God is good, all the time, and all the time, God is good!!!

 

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Featured post

How’s Your Subscription to Social Media Morality?

How many times have you been on social media, and come across a quotation or meme which spouts a platitude offering wisdom in only a few simple words leaving you a pondering moment whereby you conclude in a thought, “yeah, I agree with that!”.  How about when you read those posts from a family member or just anyone you know, asking you to forward or share their post about something religious maybe even controversial.  Your seeming capitulation to the request indicates to them, you agree with their point of view, but if you don’t forward along, or you don’t agree, they become social media distant from you.  What we see in many posts is a one-sided assertion meant to persuade those who read it.  In some cases, a misguided attempt to encapsulate a complex theology or epistemology of faith into a simplistic ideology of conscious will.  We see political views being expressed as matters of fact, but, the views are colorful suppositions meant to ridicule those who don’t agree and welcome those who agree.  Don’t misinterpret my meaning, some posts people publish are correct in every spiritual, intellectual, and feasible way possible, but when we are forced to wade through the right and wrong every time we log on, we would rather not.  How many times have you seen the profile of a ubiquitous quote fairy (we all know who they are in our circles), and just kept scrolling?  How about a family member, who can’t understand why their opinions aren’t solid gold, and so we hide their posts as a matter of passive protest them?  I know we’ve heard from everyone we know; social media creates a negative dynamic in our society (i.e. each and everyone’s life).  Social media is in fact a diminishment within the constructs of our culture because we’ve let go of traditional knowledge for the short-order wisdom special, and a side of hubris, with a dessert choice of anger or apathy on those topics which require neither to be addressed.  Our culture has replaced understanding with a “me, me, me!!!” entitlement philosophy, and those of us unwilling to capitulate to the new normal behavior, are seemingly left in the dust of those who tell us daily, they are moving forward.  They are wrong, the accurate paradigm is, those of us who choose not to berate those who disagree with us, or those of us who choose to look deeper into our faith journey, are more like to recognize social media as a tool for understanding rather than an opinion platform (I do realize the irony, as I write this blog though, it’s not lost on me).

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So, what do I mean by “short-order”?  There are so many different sites which post spiritual based text and pictures, and this become convoluted with the individual posts people make all focused on one thing, our spiritual growth and/or conversion of faith.  There are so many out there right now, how do we know which has a basis of truth, and how much is a matter of thought someone had one day.  I’m sure we’ve all see the quote, “Everything on the internet is true, by Abraham Lincoln”, I must say the first time I saw this, I belly laughed, because it is quite true.  We just don’t know what is and what is not, without a true basis of comparison as it relates to our journeys.  I know from personal experience, I have some relatives who are so combative and express so much vitriol with my points personal points of view, I eventually silenced them from my feed.  This was after a few altercations, whereby they quoted improper facts, and diminished my overall faith as a matter of stupidity.  In retrospect, I should have been more forgiving with my actions towards them, but at the time I was angry, a