I Do Not Wish to Offend

Over the last few weeks, I’ve read stories about celebrities, public figures, and the everyday person offending groups of people over something said or done.  In some cases, the comments which were made, were done so many years before, and of course said in the context of spite, comedy, or insensitivity to an unknown audience many years in the future.  As this is becoming the case for everyone, we are now expected to find three paths of behavior resulting in a simple choice.  The first, we can play a character in our own lives and never truly let anyone see who we are, in a subjective attempt to play a game where the goal is moved constantly and we’re bound to lose at one point or another.  Second, we can exude a spitefulness towards the game, and in the process, still lose but now we are disliked immensely, except for those who’ve also taken the same stance.  Finally, we can choose to walk away from a game which is neither a measure of who we are, what we stand for, or a need to validate to a single human being why we are who we are.  These three paradigms, present a challenge for each one of us as we attempt to live in a world, where a prospective boss looks up social media accounts, in order to determine worthiness of employment.  Perhaps, those people who wish to dig up dirt on anyone to find any semblance of imperfection.  Whatever the reason, we’re seeing lives ripped to shreds in a matter of minutes which took years of hard work and dedication to build.  So, when people didn’t wish to offend, but inevitably did, is there more of a need for admonishment of the offending party, or a greater need for the offended to understand context and character instead.

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I’ve been blessed in my life with a wonderful family, who fights and grumbles like any other family in this world.  However, one thing I noticed was, although we are offended by one another, we get over the offense rather quickly and move on with our days, our lives, and making more memories where possible.  Why doesn’t this work for everyone else though, why do we choose to continue to be upset by those around us, or at the very least continue to be offended at every word uttered in distaste or disaffection towards what we hold to be important?  I think the problem we’re facing as a society is comfort, which isn’t to say, we shouldn’t be comfortable, but in our comfort, we’ve become sore bored as a society we rebel against anything which pushes us from our comfort.  Take for instance, the exhausting utilization of wording to meet the needs of the public, without a realization of hypocrisy which happens because of this need.  Black Americans have been called every name in the book some very bad, and some more appropriate to a desire for formality, but none of which ever are a pure description of who they are.  Many years ago, the term “African American” was introduced into the lexicon of our vernacular as a means of placation to assert an area of origin, and then we saw this occur throughout races and cultures widespread.  It has now become accepted practice to assume the origin of a person by their physical features, and then assume they want to be called by a place of origin.  However, my ancestors came from Northern Europe and I have no desire to be called Northern European American whatsoever, and I can’t imagine many other people would like this either.  Simply, I am fine to be called American if a moniker of obvious title must be placed.  Though, the hypocritical nature of our society rears its ugly head once more.  I’ve been called white, whitey, boy, cracker, honky and all nicknames associated with white since I was a kid, but it was simply verboten in my family to doll out the same retaliatory wording to anyone else.  The duplicity with having a society which is allows certain members to utilize offensive language as a sub-cultural allowance, but prevents others from using the same language because of this cultural exclusion and offensive rhetoric is a ludicrous notion of duplicity.

So we come to the first of the three paradigms, duplicity, when we act one way with one group, but are completely different with another group.  This is to say, we think we can be two or more people and the transition will be seamless.  Unbeknownst to us though, most everyone can see through a charade of duplicity with little or no effort.  I’ve known black and white people who’ve been appropriate when in mixed company to avoid using words where they would be offensive, but when around like minded individuals, they have no problem using words which are offensive and derogatory as a means of expression.  To be clear, they are not right for having two faces and being savvy enough to know when one face is needed over another.  It makes them a liar in the context of omission by action.  Would people be as nice to us if they could be inside our heads?  Isn’t this a question, we should ask, as a general rule to ourselves, when it comes to appropriate action?  However, one larger question should be lurking around as well; why do we have such a confluence of different appropriations if one is considered better than another.  Stereotypes, exist for one reason or another, they exist because we as cultures and subcultures desire to compartmentalize the people we meet, as if to place and ideological circle around them, and categorize a group as good, bad, indifferent, or hated.  Once again, this is morosely wrong behavior, but as humans, we seemed programmed to do it.

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Most of our needs to supplant poor behavior with good behavior, comes from a societal pressure to get along rather than bucking a system of objective checks and balances.  Though, recently in the last few decades, objectivity for purpose of living good lives has been replaced by subjective pursuits of unfulfilling qualities like fame, fortune, beauty, attention, and power.  All of these pursuits have been around since man walked this earth, but they’ve taken on a more sinister turn in the last century.  They’ve no longer become a hidden pursuit, instead, we’ve gilded them in a luster and shine which promises everything we ever wanted, and when we scratch the surface, we see the ugly truth of emptiness on a rotten landscape.  This lends itself to the second paradigm, the desire to spite the entire world for failing to be what we expected it to be.  This is never more apparent than when looking at comments about the Catholic Church and the awful behavior of priests in the past, from the inquisition to the abuse scandal.  The vitriol which flows towards the church and those who help guide it, has in some ways taken on a life of its own.  However, in recognition of the bad which has been brought on so many innocent victims, a failure to see all the good displayed in the name of Jesus is a misaligned argument.  In other words, only attacking what we don’t like, without and understanding of what we do, presents an unbalanced argument and breeds an atmosphere of anger set to destroy us if we fail to resist it.  Good news though, God’s imprint rests in our hearts, and resisting the lure of anger and evil is only a matter of will and the desire to do good works.

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Anger and resentment, to emotive reactions to a world which seems to be changing by the second into something we neither recognize nor understand.  This anger and resentment is born out of fear and a disillusionment of expectation which comes from the pursuits of empty desires our cultures encourages and even pushes us to celebrate.  If we don’t accept what is presented to us, the first reaction is shame and ridicule, the second ostracizing those individuals for failing to fall in line, and finally defamation of character and standing as a means to crush them.  Some folks, don’t have the power to do such a thing, and wouldn’t want it at any rate, but their expectation disruption causes them to shout and wail against those things which have changed, those things which prevent them from recognizing life as they have always known it to be.  Finally, with perceived lack of voice, they hit the media air waves and spew anger onto the virtual hi-ways of the internet cultural forums, media.  There they “slam”, “crush”, “destroy”, and create “catastrophe” in their wakes.  Though, all of this anger is much like a circle, and never-ending spiral descending down into madness and destruction of both themselves and the society to which they claimed to care about so much.  The problem with the anger is, it’s a cancer which will metastasis those areas not already touched by unmitigated anger and if no one stands in defiance, we will all be sucked in.

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Finally, our final paradigm, the hardest of them all.  Walk away from the cultural expectations and the perceived outrage.  Eventually, we all will see, although someone speaks tones of anger, exclusion, or general inequity, we don’t have to accept it.  We don’t have to bow to poor behavior, we can simply stand in opposition, but at the same time, will the good of the other.  This is to say, we can pray that the light of Christ will shine upon the darkness of their shriveled and angry hearts.  This is what the great deceiver hopes we all do, decline the light and shrivel in weakness as he overtakes what is left of us.  However, standing up means to oppose those who would deny us our free will as a matter of choice.  We don’t have to say anything which would offend another, but if we did, and we apologize, this should be enough.  If our actions cause the harm of another, and we are fully to blame, then we do what we can to make what was broken whole again.  Relying on someone else to make us sorry, fails at a result of societal implications.  It then becomes the fault of another, and this is what got us in this decline in the first place.

When I was taking a class, many years ago, I heard a professor speak about the epidemic of lawsuits which seem to plague our society today.  His simple and profound response to this was, “Christians don’t sue” (Matt 18:15-17), understanding the context of life and who we are in this life is a matter of perspective of our desire for eternal life.  Which is a fancy way of saying, be careful what you do in this life, you will reap what you sow, and if what you reaped was degradation and humiliation it will be brought back upon you in the same manner.  My father, many years ago, was faced with a situation from a less than noteworthy contractor.  This contractor built a retaining wall for him, but did a poor job in its construction, and the wall was beginning to shift.  My father, considered legal implications with the contractor, but decided against it.  In my conversations with him, I counseled him to accept the unfair nature of the event, and we would do whatever he needed if the contractor failed to do what was right.  At the end of the day, the matter was fixed without the need of the legal intricacies involved with suing one person over another.  However, I do realize this is probably best case scenario, it doesn’t change the fact, to stand up means a disciplined response where we neither fight nor flight from the situation staring us in the face.

Be Still

Be still your angry heart, contemplate your actions as they begin to boil beneath the surface, and quite the storms which create in you a restless desire for destruction of your enemies.  There are those who do wish to offend, those who would like to see nothing more than the utter destruction of all who oppose them, but this is something left for them to sort out with God, not you.  You’re not the arbiter of life and the dissemination of proper subjective morals.  Instead, you are the reflection of light which God places upon you, but much like a mirror reflecting the light of the sun, when it is moved the reflection is lost.  We are much like the mirror, until we can be still and deliberate about our actions, contemplative and kind, compassionate and charitable, the light will never stay with us for long and we will serve to be more annoying to the recipient of the reflection than a help.

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I do not wish to offend, I wish to thank.  I do not wish to offend, I wish to care for.  Offensive behavior doesn’t require defensive reactions, instead it requires silence and contemplation.  If some would accuse this of cowardice, I would prompt them to read the Beatitudes, especially “Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth”.  Even Jesus own words to his disciple, “Those who live by the sword, shall die by the sword”.  It begins with you, it begins with me, and it begins with our actions to be better.  We must look to those people who came before us, and recognize their insistence of standing firm.  It isn’t about an offending anyone, it is about walking away from a game designed for your destruction, while entering a world created on life and the love which extends from each and every one of us.

I will confess, after reading the comments from the posts the other day, I was disheartened by the vitriol expressed out of ignorance and malice.  I wanted to comment and set the record straight, but I neither had the words to express nor an inkling of just how to do it.  I realized, the people expressing their anger were of the second paradigm, and nothing I could ever say would change their minds into something I perceived as being correct.  I spoke with my ever wise, wife, and she agreed with my decision, and after sleeping on what I read, I came to a conclusion which put my heart at ease.  I was reminded of a phrase from a book, Stephen Prothero, “God is Not One”, where he tells an anecdote about a southern black church and the conversation between the pastor and one of his congregation.  The parishioner indicated their lack of belief in God, and with great care the pastor’s response was simple and profound.  “That’s ok, he believes in you”.  This granule of knowledge put my mind at ease, because it reminded me, we’re all on our own journey to find the light.  Some of us, are way off the path, and in their confusion about their life and expectations of life, or rather where the path of light is, they have become anger and willing to lash out at anyone who reminds them why they are despondent.

Prince Harry

In our attempts to live our lives to the fullest extent, don’t offend, don’t do anything which would prevent another person from realizing their own path and the light of Christ which they desire as you do.  We are all loved by God, and their path is as important as ours.  If they choose to be offended by love, charity, and kindness, then this is something they must deal with and all you can ever do is accept what is.  What is!  A simple phrase to examine for each of us, the cross we bear.  Which is an acceptance of not the cross we carry, but the cross we are nailed to, and the irascible ending we must face. Christ, was the first, he hung from the cross, and yet his words were not of despondent hate, vitriol, cursing, or questioning.  They were full of love, compassion, and understanding for the very people who wished to experience his destruction.  Would they have continued to do so, if they realized he was the Divine God incarnate in man, hanging before them?  No, probably not, so therein lies the greatest of human mysteries, if you knew what you were doing was a mistake, would you keep doing it?  I would contend, as eternal life matters, “no” you would cease immediately.  Everyone is on their own spiritual journey, although they believe they want to offend, I believe if they knew what you may know or what those who have found God’s love knows, is really they do not wish to offend.

Perspective

In my own life, my offensive actions were brought back to me, and I never wanted to offend anyone.  I did though, and as I go through my life, I must recognize when people are saying what truly offends me, I have to remember, either they are in a circular paradigm of confusion and anger, or they are where I once was and need guidance, much like I had to show them a pathway of compassion.  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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You Hear But You Do Not Heed!

Take a step back from your reality today, look at the world around you.  Look at the news, which runs now constantly.  Look at entertainment, focused on filling up every nook and cranny of your time.  Look at art, hardly any of it focused on an ethereal and transcendental elevation of our reality, but instead a deluge of abstract figures and paintings, of nature and a pantheistic pursuit designed to make us feel comfortable, and above all celebrations of mediocrity.  Stories seem unoriginal now more than ever, movies are remakes of once celebrated ground-breaking forms of art sometimes once and twice over.  The criticism each person faces by exposing their art has more to do with an inability to have perfected an art form which required decades to master, and the public’s immediate expectation let down (any Star Wars movie after Return of The Jedi as a perfect example).  This constant criticism of an audience which no more has an ability to critique because of their own deficiencies in the education of art have led studios and executives to pursue the benefits as a means rather than the goal of entertainment.  The inexplicable problem which inherently comes forth is, the quality is poor, and in our deepest recesses we all know it, but since we paid so much for what we are seeing we feel personally obligated and willing to sit through and endure this nightmare simply by personal duress of this obligation.  We’ve all allowed our standards to take a back seat, this includes the executive to the teenager willing to pay.  This is just one facet of our society willing to degrade a standard to have instant satisfaction, and for what?  Jesus, in his words to the disciples said, “Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock.  And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house.
And it collapsed and was completely ruined.”

MotherTheresa

Cardinal Sarah, wrote in his book “Power of Silence” about listening to the voice of God, within the silence of our hearts, indicating the rightly ordered understanding of God, ipsum esse subsistens (the very nature of being), as residing in the quietness of our hearts and we must intently and lovingly listen if we want to hear what he is saying.  At the same time, St. Thomas Aquinas points out this imprint of God in all of us, is what causes us to inexplicably drive towards him in all we do, even if we fail to recognize what it is we do.  So, when we choose sin or rather sinful paths to walk down, we understand more fully, the free will to sin is our choice to hear and not heed the loving words spoken to us.

Have you ever been in a situation where you friend, spouse, children, or boss has stated “I told you this would happen” and for whatever reason, you still chose the path which led to failure, or sometimes victory?  Often times, the plight of a parent is seeing a more developed picture of the world than their children, because of poor decisions and failing to listen, and we seek to instruct the child in right behavior and appropriate responses with a picture of failure as a deterrent for poor choice.  Just to have the child fail to do what was advised, and an “I told you so” situation arises, where in hopes by the parent the child will learn from this failure.  Failure, such a negative word, many papers and books have been written about the context of failure as it relates to great catastrophes an then even when it helped to build the character of a person as they ascended the ladder of their career.  However, failure is by definition, “lack of success”, according to Google.  Placed into the simple context of life, we then have to ask ourselves, what is success?  Is success obtainable in a world with such lofty goals in criticism, and yet such mediocre goals in performance?  Are we only as successful as the world says, or is there a more objective standard in which to hold our actions and effects as we run through this life of never-ending pitfalls and slippery slopes?

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The answer to any question, as simple as it may sound to anyone, is God!  God is always the answer, and placed into proper context of any situation, the answer is most appropriate.  For instance, your pregnant wife looks at you, eight and a half months in, uncomfortable and ready for this ordeal to be over soon, and she stares at you and asks the ever mindful question “do I look fat to you?”  Red lights start going off in your brain, images of people sliding down poles to man stations as sirens are going off whirls the imagination of your mind, and as you being to speak images of “Jaws” biting you in half suddenly take the forefront of your mind’s eye.  When you stop for a split second and think about God, and then all makes sense, the waters have calmed, it was just a flounder and not a man-eating shark, and you say “sweetie, you have a baby growing inside of you, you are so beautiful because of God’s gift to you”.  Before anyone thinks, this is mush and sounds cheesy, they would be so right, if you didn’t mean it.  However, your focus on God’s Graces in your life, center your responses and create in you a clean heart willing to example his light in a reflective manner towards everything you do.  Do be afraid to sound silly when speaking from the heart, this is where God is in all of us, and to speak from the heart, lovingly and humbly, is listening to God’s voice and echoing what is being said.

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Over the vast expanses of time, we have all read and seen examples of God’s light shining from those who would place their hearts in a position for complete destruction and still were unafraid.  Those people who pushed to show what they heard, no matter what people criticized them for, because deep down they knew the truth, they knew the voice, and it contained within themselves a solidarity of purpose reliant on an unmitigated sense of veracity.  However, when people can listen to God and the works of art which are delivered in such a beautiful manner, it gives us all a glimpse at the potential we all hold as a matter of hearing what is required of us as we live our lives.  From the person we see standing on the corner with a sign that says, “Will work for food” to the relative who insists on telling you about a “great opportunity you would be stupid not to get in on”.  All goodness has an ability to stare in the face of difficulty and be unflinching as a result.

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We never seem to heed the advice given by those who love us the most.  I am as guilty of this as anyone, and although I am better than I once was, at times my hubris gets the better of me, and my belief in my own ability indicates my lack of trust in others.  Which is to say, I feel as if I know better than a person who has given advice based on years of experience, especially when I have no experience at all.  The very arrogance I have displayed among friends and family over the years is astounding, because at its very worst, I attempted to disguise my arrogance under a vale of duplicity.  All the while, thinking no one can possibly know, but finding out years later, although people never said a word to me, they always knew and in my self-reflection I surmised, I must have looked completely foolish to them.  This is all as a result of listening by not heeding the advice Jesus gave us on down to the friend who only ever desired to see my happiness.  Just like when you watch a person and for some inexplicable reason, you can tell they are being untruthful, or at the very least they are not telling the entire truth, I was exposed even if they didn’t know what was being exposed.  Trust was cleaved in two, and it would take me years of hard work, pressure, and a fervent desire to meld the two halves back together.

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When Jesus spoke to his disciples about the impending fate he would suffer at the very hands of one of his own, the Apostles failed to heed his warning.  So after his crucifixion, they for fear of their own lives, sought refuge in hiding.  They huddled together, minus Judas and Thomas (Thomas not yet there and Judas hung from a tree himself by his own hands), and lamented what their lives meant at this point and what they must do from this point forward.  Then all of a sudden, as if always there, Jesus sits among them.  They are astounded, they know all too well, he died upon that cross in a place known as “the skull”, Golgotha (Gospel of Mark), where he would spend the remaining hours of his earthly life in agony.  In Luke’s Gospel, we see two other men who will meet the same fate, and although one of them rebuked Jesus, the other who knew of him, listened to God’s voice and spoke true as his exclamation of Jesus’s innocence and what’s most important his truthful words “Jesus, remember me when you come into your kingdom” indicate, although he failed to listen to God’s voice in his sin, he listened finally and heeded what was being said.  His reward, “paradise”, but for those Apostles who remained a fire would need to be lit, literally, and as the Holy Spirit descended upon them like a flame, they were eternally given the words of God to listen and heed.  They walked to the ends of the earth and spoke of the good news, which was Jesus.  To this end, they would all die but John, and they would all do so surrounded by darkness but as the brightest reflections of light possible.

At the end of our lives, we may not all have a chance to reflectively look back on what we did right and especially what we did wrong, in the hopes of rectifying those mistakes of sin we embraced as a matter of selfish pursuit of success.  Instead, death may come quick, death may come as an unfair guest to a game which we thought we were winning, while all along, we never had control of for one instance.  Death may be the sweet release of a life which sought to hamper every effort we had at making a better life for ourselves, it may even be (like JOB) a systematic disintegration of everything we’ve known and loved.  However, this isn’t the end, and listening to advice (morally and principally sound advice) has never and will never be a means to prevent a person from enjoying life, instead it is a means of direction for a path filled with joy, even in times of struggle.  Often times, when we see pictures of natural disasters or inexplicable events, testing the very nature of our faith.  We still see victims who have chosen to listen to the voice of God, and heed what they know to be true.  A life built in pursuance of love of God, is a life where no matter the struggle, a pure focus on what is true, always carries the day.

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As we are in this Advent season, a time of waiting, and time of listening for the sound of Christ’s birth, we should be reminded of the lessons we seek to teach our own children.  To seek God in all we do, to seek love in every action performed, and in order to recognize, we must listen as much as anyone if we want to live a life in heeding of the words Jesus spoke.  So, when you go out and purchase a gift for your spouse or your kids, think about the implications of what you give them.  Of course, people want the latest or newest gadget, especially if makes their life easier (I know my wife would always like something that sparkles and she isn’t satisfied with the sparkle in my eyes apparently), but is this really the gift they need in their lives?  Don’t give the gift they want, at least not always, but give the gift they need, as a parent you are their protector and guardian, they need guidance from you every day of the year and especially during those occasions where their own inability to listen creates tension.  For your spouse, they are your other half, a union created in a covenant with God.  To be one with one another, it is always best to put your spouse’s needs above your own, but with it, you create a bond to strengthen love day-by-day.  I am reminded of the story of the Gift of the Magi, a wife with hardly any money seeks to buy her husband a gift, her only option, to sell her hair to acquire enough money for the purchase of a chain for his gold watch.  When he arrives home, he can see her hair is gone, he sits her gift upon a table, and she begins to open it when she realizes, it was a set of brushes for her beautiful hair.  Unshaken by all of this, she proceeds to hand him his gift.  A beautiful silver chain for his gold watch, but he looked at her with love in his eyes and set down the box while saying, “I sold my watch to purchase those brushes for your beautiful hair”.  The lesson from this simple story being, both were willing to give what was precious to them for the benefit of the other.  Although it amounted to very little in the material sense of the transaction, their love deepened by the acts of unselfish desire to unconditionally love one another.  The story is called Gift of the Magi because, the Magi were wise men who desired to give what they had to the King of Kings, and in doing so, and this made them wise beyond measure.  The story is similar in a vein of wisdom, the loving couple wisely gave gifts for the pursuit of happiness in the other.  Unselfishly they put the other before their own desires, willing the good of the other in life, especially when it is our spouse, is the very essence of love in action.  Every great saint, every great disciple, and every great apostle embodied the very nature of listening and heeding the words Christ spoke.  Remember, you are loved greatly, God is in your heart, listen to what is spoken to you, and heed it in every possible way.  I pray God blesses you and your family!!!

 

God's light

 

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

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Why Must I Always Be The First to Say Sorry?

Have you ever been in a situation, where both parties are angered and both believe the other should apologize first for actions less than good?  I certainly have, I’ve been in relationships and friendships where the toxicity was such, I became paralyzed by the desire to seek honor as a means of capitulation, rather than making the first move of repentance and apologizing for my actions.  The result being a further diminishment of light and descending into a pit of anger and resentment which would take me a decade or more to be removed from.  As perspective is the best lens we can look through, while we try and maintain a foundation of objective truth, I realized I was fighting three fronts at one time.  The first being myself, my ego was such, I wouldn’t really listen to anyone, or anything they had to say no matter the benefit to my life.  I was afraid of the pain it would cause me, and the thought of such pain wasn’t something I was willing to put myself through.  The second, was although the people around me didn’t put into words their hurt, they were hurt.  I let them down, I cause what seemed to be a reflection of light to become dimmed right before their very eyes.  Imagine watching a tragedy unfold before your eyes and there is nothing you can do about it?  This is what I realized I was causing to the people who were closest to me, and loved me with unconditional boundaries.  The final and the most important front to my life was the very human desire for sin as I push away all which was good and true for the promise of desire and darkness.  I didn’t want to bring myself to the very painful truth, my “sorry” and repentant behavior was all which was needed to begin to heal and allow the light of Christ in my life once again.

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As a child, I spent most of my time determining I didn’t want to answer to anyone, and this included parents, friends, and yes God.  Since I wasn’t being struck down by a bolt of lightning every time I lied, I figured a justification of what I was said was all which was ever needed for explanation.  The irony being, one of the most prolific messages my parents would ever give me was the need to stop with excuses and live up to the truth.  However, this was inconvenient to me and my purposes of fulfilling my dreams and goals in life.  Now this isn’t to say I was rude or distasteful to people I met, but rather it means I found justification in doing what I wanted, when I wanted even if it was problematic or hurtful to others.  I never desired to cause pain, but I deluded myself into thinking others were just as much to blame for my behavior as was I, so they can apologize to me as much as I can to them.  It never entered my head, in any way, to lead and accept God’s truth, we must be willing to walk the path alone, but we must be willing to lead the way as well.

So, there I am in life, causing rip tides of destructive selfish tendencies bringing people down where I can, not bothering to take full responsibility for my actions, and I’m hit with a piece of advice which changed my life and I still think about daily.  As I was attending a therapy session, because talking is the only way I can understand some things, I was told, “Sometimes, you have to have the courage to be the first to say sorry, even if it means your destruction”.  To this day, I don’t think truer words were spoken to me about what I needed to be as a man, a husband, a father, and a friend.  Look at Jesus, death on a cross, for our sins, humiliation, and pain, yet he still did it for us.  He, obviously is the perfect example, but as I heard the therapist speak these words, my life began to change.  Of course, I tried to deny her words, but over time, I began to accept what she meant and I applied my understanding to how I needed to embrace this truth seeking a better life for myself and more importantly, my family.

journey

I wasn’t sure how to begin, but all I knew at one point was I needed something more in my life.  I was incredulous with my life, how can I sometimes make good choices and sometimes make bad choices, there was no consistency.  I was happy at some times, and very down at others, I wasn’t sure what the hell was going on.  All I knew was it had to stop, all I wanted was no drama in life, to make good principled decisions, and to find purpose to what I was doing.

fightthegoodfight

Just like any good race, I needed to figure out why I was racing, was it for me or something else.  Well, it was for both, but most importantly, it was in search of God’s presence in my life.  God’s presence provided me with understanding, a warmth of unspeakable dimensions, and above all joy.  I won’t try and pull the wool over anyone’s eyes and say I don’t get mad, or I walk around with a smile plastered across my face every day all day.  Instead, I seem to calm down more often, quicker, less likely to get excitable about those things which I can’t control, and above all else, recognize God’s here with me and this was always the purpose.  God is my goal, my purpose for running this race, and my desire to see it through, no matter the cost.  But I was running into a wall, now I knew what I needed, I wasn’t sure how to get it.  Of course everyone knows about being “good”, but what does that exactly mean?  The world is full of good people, “hell is a road paved with good intentions”, but being a good person isn’t merely enough.  Good, is relative to the subjective conversation we have with other people.  Being principled and holy is a completely different story.  When we don’t have a measure of what good actually is, then we don’t have a concept of how to accomplish this goodness.  As it were, I was stumped by how to not only do the right thing, but to show others I was doing the right thing.  Well, the first was answered by an understanding of what a principle is.  An objective moral which becomes a standard, set to lay a foundational rule, not to be broken and which isn’t negotiable by any standard.  A principle is not just a rule, but a belief which forms our way, a conduit of sorts, towards God’s light for each one of us.  It creates in us an ability to focus our desires for the will of others, and to find joy in what we do as we become consistently good in our decisions and our very being.  What we all find in being principled is, where we follow one, we must follow them all.  This isn’t to say we always do, or I always have, but what it means, is we are human and we strive to seek this light, God’s gift to all of us is the yearning for his love and affection through means simple to understand and because of our will hard to always do.  Of course, as I realized through my principles I would attain a truthful life and devotion to God, I also needed to remove any drama.  Drama, which causes emotion to take over and decisions to be ruled by feelings only and little intellectual skill, instead of the combination of intellect and compassion as a measure of decision making which having the two combined creates principled lives in all of us.

The first thing I did, was begin as it were, my humble march in shame.  I would apologize to all members of my family, at one point or another.  This meant one-on-one meetings whenever and wherever possible to express regret at my selfish actions, because much like water with ripples, so too are our actions in the lives of other people, especially those who are closest to us.  After making my concessions and apologies to my family, extended family, and those closest to my family, I began with friends and acquaintances.  However, at this point, I wasn’t just apologizing for recent actions which caused disquiet among family, instead, it was a lamentation of sorts for past woes which I may have caused and which I needed them to know I regretted, not simply because it was wrong but because they may have hurt because of it.  Now, I know what you might be thinking, this seems like a lot of drama, especially for a person who was trying to remove drama, but I would say it was the last push of a life devoted to no more drama, except the envelopment of the drama which unfolded because of the “Passion” Jesus endured.

What-is-truth-Christ-and-Pilate-Painting-by-Nikolai-Nikolaevich-Ge.

What I attained from all of this has helped to set my path in life.  I hope I can pass along a little of what I’ve learned and it will help those who have experienced similar circumstances, or will help illuminate a path some have been seeking and as yet have been unable to find.  The first lesson I grasped from all of my struggles was I am entitled to nothing, I deserve nothing. In acknowledgement of God’s Graces, I’m overjoyed to receive a drop of rain on a hot day, a warm coat when a frigid wind blows against me, the hugs of my children, a kiss from my wife, a call from my mother and father, or a chance to open my eyes one more day and seek the love of God once more.  Recognition of God’s Grace is the first step to a life of joy, a life where blaming people for our troubles is no longer needed, but most importantly a belief in an existence past our earthly lives, a goal to live for.  God’s love truly isn’t a race in the traditional sense, as it is nothing to win.  Instead, God’s love, is like a race in the sense we all must start and we all must end, how we decide to run the race is the very definition of character we choose.

Hug of Jesus

Ok, so why must we always be willing to say “I’m sorry” first, because God’s love exists and in our imperfect nature, we undoubtedly could have done more to embrace the compassion and charity needed for every situation.  Often times, when I speak to my children, they are in a situation(s) where they are at the receiving end of another person’s vitriol, and in response they release their own anger and words they hope will cut as deeply as the wounds they believe they have.  Though, to be honest, no wound is too great which can’t be healed by humility and the light of God, so why easily offend?  The other night my oldest daughter was at the brunt end of an accusation, which was neither true no kind in the way in which it was delivered.  She was immediately upset and intended to strike at those who were delivering the verbal body blows, and this was how she intended on settling the issue.  Though in this case, the people who verbally accused my daughter, had been under some stress and were facing tough questions in an uncertain future, and when faced with an accusation they applied swift and incorrect judgement to affect an outcome.  Much like what my daughter was willing to do and make the same hurtful error.  However, my wife and I talked to her and she thought better of making decision by emotion only.  To this day, I’m not sure how it ended, but since I haven’t heard anything else, I would guess she adhered to a “silence is golden” behavior and left the insults and accusations alone.

salemwitchtrial

My daughter’s experience though does bring about one good point, was she at blame enough where she could have apologized for something, possibly, but only she can truly know this.  At the end of the day, this is what repentance and making one’s self humble is all about, reflecting on those instances of our own lives where we could have made a more loving outcome occur if not for our need to have a circumstance the way we want rather than what is best.  When my daughter became upset, she could have called and handled the situation emotionally, and I can’t say this would have been completely wrong, but not best you see.  Best is stopping and thinking about everything occurring, and then putting ourselves in the place of another, so we may see a situation as they see it, so we can understand as they understand, because if we’re willing to see the world through the eyes of another we might just be willing to be less hostile and more compassionate.  Jesus said “But I say to you, offer no resistance to one who is evil. When someone strikes you on [your] right cheek, turn the other one to him as well.  If anyone wants to go to law with you over your tunic, hand him your cloak as well.  Should anyone press you into service for one mile, go with him for two miles.  Give to the one who asks of you, and do not turn your back on one who wants to borrow” (Matt 5: 39-42).

Jesus speaks these words after giving the Beatitudes and right actions, and what He is saying above all other things is, our absolute need to understand, to elevate oneself to a position where even if evil is applied to us, even if we’re innocent, to stand and receive what we receive but understand there may be a point of misunderstanding on the part of the one who seeks your pain.

When we face situations which are seemingly impossible to understand, situations where we are blamed, wrongfully or rightly, we have the absolute power to step forward and fix what is broken.  When we’re always waiting on the other person to apologize, we will never be satisfied with the result, because our anticipation of personal expectations unrevealed to another are always most certain to fail.  However, if we set the tone with an expectation of redemption and adherence to humility through love and compassion, more often than not, we’re not disappointed.  Although, people will continue to disappoint, and cause us consternation through their selfish efforts, it’s up to us to be leaders and make things right, even if we stand to lose.

Crucifixion

At the end of the day, our free will gives us power to choose above all else.  Our choices are located in two arenas, good and bad.  Those arenas are easily labeled by the objective morals/principals we adopt in our lives.  Like a science-fiction movie, where a special gift enables the hero to draw from and locate the source of power they seek, so too is the power of principle.  When we follow our principles, we find a new world is opened up, a clean world, a world where offense is abhorred and compassion is embraced.  So, if you question life like I did at one point, know this, your principles are a great starting point and will get you on the path where the search for the light of Christ can be found.  The acceptance of those principles starts with your ability to stand before those you’ve offended and apologize.  They may never accept your apology, but at a minimum, you’ve put others before yourself and this is a great point to begin your journey.  I pray God blesses you and your family!!!

 

 

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

Featured post

Do Not be Terrified, For Such Things Must Happen

In the Gospel of Luke 21:5-11, Jesus speaks the words, “Do not be terrified, for such things, must happen” as a warning and a comfort to all those who seek the His light in their lives.  In my own lifetime, I’ve seen many cults and evangelical preachers assume a role prophesying the destruction of the world.  Some have even blamed natural disasters as a cudgeling response to the sinful ways of a cities inhabitants.  Their narrow minded, half-hearted attempt at drawing a parallels with the Old Testament, shows a misinterpretation of the Bible and further exacerbates the ignorance of the people who choose to listen.  So, why do the fear mongers who live among us, carry so much sway when they make these predictions?  Well, it comes down to our need as humans, to have answers.  We look for leaders in every walk of life, because they have the answers we desire, or at least we think they have the answers we need.  In truth, the answers we are looking for can be summed up in this one line; “Don’t be terrified, for such things must happen”.  My wife has often said, “this too shall pass”, a derivative of the first phrase, what we are instructed to do is stop the worrying our mind will ceaselessly do, and begin to focus on those who truly need our efforts.  After we’ve moved past our initial shock to the cultural shifts happening before our very eyes, we must finally stop our grumbling and get to work on the objective moral solution.

Syria

Currently as I write this, there are at least 10 crisis happening in our world.  From the Rohingya Crisis in Myanmar and Bangladesh to the cartoon character in North Korea.  All are threats to peace and in some cases have outright destroyed peace.  In Syria alone, estimates of death range from over 350k to over 500k; I Am Syria, a website devoted to exposing the death tolls also places the death toll over 500k.  To place in context, about 600k were killed in four years during the American Civil War.  So, putting it mildly there are reasons to be thankful for the peace and tranquility most of us endure on a daily basis, with only fighting the rush hour traffic, or putting up with the Holidays and those guest who never seem to leave.  Our world isn’t one of bland tastes or derisive points of view as much as it is a world complex in its desires and brutish in the ways in which those desires may be fulfilled.

If we look back at those who wished to possess power the most, we see two who stick out predominantly, Hitler and Stalin, and perspective is everything when it comes to historically looking at these despots of time.  Hitler, of course was on the losing side during the Second World War, and neither time nor the history books have been kind at all, as well they shouldn’t be.  However, not much is said in modern context to Stalin, a thug and paranoid dictator who before the outbreak of WWII, purged the leadership in his military for fear of coup d’état, and after the war, he murdered approximately 20 million people, so as to maintain the fear and control of his country.  His history is less damning, probably because he was betrayed by the other tyrant and his only choice was to join the winning side of the war.  Those people who lived through such times, especially the Jews of Russia, Eastern Europe, and places like Turkey were tested with the phrase Luke writes of Jesus, and it wasn’t as if Jesus was unfamiliar with hard times.  The Jews of the Holocaust were herded like cattle, into rail cars and brought to factories of death, the most prominent being Auschwitz, located in Poland.  A place of sadness and doom for those chosen to walk through the gates and either face immediate extermination or be forced to work until their bodies could no longer work, and then would be summarily killed before the rest of those living.  Living conditions so bad, when we read about what was eaten and the sickness which occurred, we ponder if we’d have the ability to live through what they did.  Since we have nothing to base our perceptions on regarding the treatment of the Jews during WWII, we are left at a foundation of incredulity to grasp at what we can only think of as too outlandish, even for a movie.  The same can be said for what we know of the time when Jesus lived, aside from His omniscience due to his divinity, ancient Jerusalem was a difficult place to be in, from sickness, to wars, to poverty, and death as the result of any one of those paradigms and Jesus lived and embraced those who were meek and humble, poor of spirit, and those who would weep.  Death was at every turn, and to have the very Divinity of All, stand before us and teach us to put away our terror, elucidates just who he was and what he was here to do for us. The irony of the Jews of the early 20th Century having never read the words of the everlasting Christ, although they feared the unknown, the stories of accepting their fates are what true stories are written about.

blacklivesmatter

The events of our lifetime have been, or are in constant turmoil.  Everywhere we turn, there is a person, a group, or a country trying to stir up strife as a means to an end, regardless if they don’t know what this end might be.  Take for instance, the black lives matter movement which took on a fever pitch in 2016 and had people (mostly black Americans) marching the streets and protesting a perceived systemic racial bias being showed to them by the law-enforcement communities throughout the country.  Problem is, the statistics didn’t back their argument, and the police were being vilified by conjecture and supposition leading to the culmination of the deaths of five police officers in Dallas, Texas, and countless other brother officers throughout the nation.  The rhetoric being spewed from the mouths of those who would seek their own ends regardless of the means, meant tragedy for those families forced to pick up the broken pieces of their lives.  The turmoil which was created by selfish pursuits left heartache in the wake of destruction by incendiary lies, which prompted those who would find purpose in the lies the devil tells.  At the end of the day, the worst part of the whole situation is when members of the movement were asked on new programs and street interviews, they could neither explain cohesively nor intelligently, why they were there or what they were fighting against.  Instead, the conversation would unravel and words like racism or bigotry were used as facts were dismissed.  A duplicity began to evolve with movements such as this, and although these people still exist and are still marching today, their ever-changing path to truth became too much for a mainstream to accept and it now has become a fringe element of extremism.

water-crashing-rocks

Over and over again, we continue to see fires out of control in our own lives, and if we just take a step back, we see much of the turmoil amount to nothing more than experience based in perspective.  Like the rock which isn’t moved by the turmoil of the sea crashing into it, we must be willing to accept the wave, while we hold fast to our faith.  To the person who has seen and done many things, excitability isn’t something we will see them exhibit too much, instead, a deliberation of effort and calculation of outcome is what we can expect, and when we think about the words of Christ spoken to those, who for lack of a better term, were ignorant of his ways, Jesus was deliberate in the words chosen and the actions taken.  For in his divinity, he is aware of the full narrative of time, and like any of us who’ve read a book more than once, we know what’s coming up, but if the story is good we are no less moved by what happens.  If we think about Jesus’s life on this earth, we are reminded of his power and ability to command legions of Angels, but as he knew this part of the story must happen, he refrained from calling upon them, that we must not lose faith and succumb to terror, because those things would happen.

Portraits-of-Homeless-by-Lee-Jeffries

In the context of the world we live in we need to keep a few things in mind before we abandon all hope.  Our perspective of life is limited, which is why embracing patience and compassion in all situations can never not benefit us, but may limit our exposure to material desires we truly don’t need.  Think about those situations where you failed or even when you succeeded, the failures for me usually came when a lack of preparation and planning was replaced by speed and quick results.  More often than not, when I forced an issue, any issue, I was greeted with mixed results, but when I’ve taken the time to measure out a proper decision, I am greeted with results I planned on and gladly except.  Which is the overall purpose, because there are some who will read this and think to themselves, “it doesn’t always work to take my time and deliberate”, but fringe exceptions to the rule should never be the acceptable proving ground to break a rule of thumb.

Overall, the words Jesus spoke in any context, soothe our weary minds, calm those seas which risk to stir us up into a lather, and above all give us a peak at what is to come if we’re just patient enough to allow the story to be told.  In the major motion picture, “Paul: Apostle of Christ”, Jim Caviezel, counsels the Christians in the temperament needed to face certain death.  He indicates the pain will be there, but in an instant it will be gone, and the light of life will greet every one of them.  As some may find this sophomoric in his attempt to “sugar-coat” a horrific action, and they may be right, the other we can be sure about is the light they will receive by their martyrdom.  Bishop Robert Barron, in his book, “To Light a Fire on the Earth”, makes use of the beauty of both the Saint and the Martyr, not because their lives are full of luxury and desirable to the common person, but because their lives are examples of the beauty which awaits all of us.  Those are the leaders we should follow in life, not the CEO’s or the alphas who exist in every group, but those who have been given the proverbial light to follow and beckon us all to come with them through their unselfish actions.  Barron, remarks in his book, more people have come to Christ through the actions of martyrs than just about anything else.  The beauty in the sacrifice is evident, but above all, the embracing of Jesus’s words is inspiring.

burden

When we face those events in our lives which prove to test our souls, and when we feel just like we’d break at any second, what we need to focus on are the words resonating in our heads.  “Do not be terrified, for such things must happen”, sometimes we need to break down a little, how else can we learn to trust God?  Sometimes, we need to set the structure we designed in our heads and our actions, ablaze because burning it down and rebuilding is what is needed (figuratively speaking).  In my own life, I needed to tear down the structure and the façade my life had built up to a certain point.  Remember, building your life and its structures without the light of God, is like building a house in the dark, with no light whatsoever to look upon your work and make corrections where needed.  When we have the light to illuminate what we do, we still need patience to guide us to the right decisions, and we must overcome the fear of the unknown.  Just like those who’ve come before us, accepting our cross simply means, we’ve are nailed to it, and we have accepted what it is we must do.  It is not a matter of simply removing ourselves from what we don’t like, but instead, making the best of any situation we happen to be in, and praying God will guide us into his love.

MaxamillionKolbe

I will leave you with this one last story to put your mind of the martyr at work.  Maximilian Kolbe was a priest who was sent to Auschwitz prison, during World War II, and while he was there, a function of the evil employed against the prisoners, was a selection of ten prisoners to be killed when someone escaped or tried to escape.  They would be lined up and selected at random (or if someone looked as though they couldn’t work, they would undoubtedly be selected), and during this process of selection, a sickly man was selected, but he protested the selection indicating his family needed him.  So, Kolbe, took his place, and was placed into a cell for two weeks without food, as a means of starving to death.  However, Kolbe, and a handful of prisoners were still alive at the end of the two weeks, and were summarily shot to death.  He was granted sainthood in 1981, by St. John Paul II.  This story is sad, depressing, and full of remorse over the lives of those chosen to die at the hands of the evil.  However, I wanted to point out one most intriguing points which my mind was affixed to, and which I’ve tried to point out in my writing here.  Kolbe, through his own sacrifice, saw the light of Christ clearly, he was moved to take the place of another, solidifying those nails as he was placed on his own axiomatic cross.  His enduring ability to stay alive, for two weeks, and then have it ended by an assassin’s bullet, makes for what seems to be and anti-climactic end to such a magnanimous effort.  However, this is where God exists for us.  In the spaces between, in the cracks of the hardened exterior, and in the silence of our hearts.  Can’t you remember a time, when you’ve done something for someone else, and they showed little response?  Perhaps there was a time when you unselfishly did something for another, and they thanked you, and you walked away, and no one ever knew what you did?  This is the step I am referring to, the fear of putting ourselves out so that others may ridicule, and the willingness to accept our fate is where the light of Christ exists.

JesusontheCross

Do not be terrified, for such things must happen, is the first words anyone should hear, especially when they begin their journey to Christ.  For many years, I allowed my fears to control my actions, and what pitiful actions they were, but fear is liberating, for many reasons, not least of which, overcoming our fear is where God stands, he needs us to do this if we are ever to love him.  Think of when you loved someone dearly, and then they broke your heart, God would never do this. If you’re willing to give your heart to those people, who most assuredly have a chance of breaking your heart, it seems a waste not to at least try the same with God, who will always lift you up because you are his beloved.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

 

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

 

 

 

 

 

 

“10 Conflicts to watch in 2018” Robert Malley; https://foreignpolicy.com/2018/01/02/10-conflicts-to-watch-in-2018/

Featured post

Thank You, Once Again, Thank You!

Last week I was scrolling on social media, and I came across a “meme” and it was a list with two columns with answers based more in perception than anything else.  The message was more a matter of gratitude rather than expressing regret as a measure of action.  This little message blew me away, something so simple, and yet it completely reversed how I interpret what I do.  Now, this isn’t to say, I wasn’t thankful for the gifts and time people ever gave to me, nor was I thankful for the patience I’ve received over the years, but what it exposed for me was although there is a measure of penitence to an apology.  The depth of the pool of repentance comes when we ultimately realize, our apology isn’t about saying we’re sorry so much as it is about thanking the other person for the love they’ve shown us in one way or another.  When we stop worrying about messing up or generally capitalizing on selfishness, we find a desire to put “other” before us and achieve a humble existence.  In other words, we grow closer in our relationship with God.

sorry

The first line of the list said, “I’m sorry, I’m late” on one side, and on the other, the more appropriate response was “thank you, for waiting on me”.  Both responses indicate a measure of sorrow and seeking of redemption, but one response above the other indicates a recognition of the other person and their sacrifice for us.  This perception, in one manner or another, is what life is all about.  Our sacrifices and the recognition of the sacrifices by others, creates within us a humility, allowing us to see the individual actions of another and how they might impact all of us.  In other words, I can see how my actions actually impacted another, and when I realize they had to struggle due to loss of time or worse, situation, then shame is exposed as if by a bright light.  Isn’t this what goodness is all about, a recognition of the light and it’s exposure to those dark areas of sin we all possess?

Our thanks in life should never be about what we see, but instead what those around us see.  I don’t necessarily mean, we should be bothered by another, when we are trying to do well and they just don’t like what we do.  However, how our actions impact another should be quite relevant and going out of our way to mitigate the negative consequence on others.  I think back to a phrase I heard many years ago, “better to act and beg for forgiveness, than to risk being told ‘no’ to begin with”.  This is such a loaded statement, I’m sure I could probably write a dissertation on the positive and negative impacts of such a life’s philosophy, but what I will say is when we seek to manipulate a situation out of selfish desire to see a goal realized, we run the risk of creating a negative impact on all those people like a ripple effect on a lake.  We may never realize, by pushing our self-motivated agendas a short-fall might occur sometime later, which we will never know nor will we be subject to the negative consequences.  Instead, another innocent person might be subject to the consequence and face hardships because of it.  We see this happen daily in companies and in countries all over the world, and as a result we continue to seek more and more regulation and rules/laws to regulate the push for selfishness and immoral behaviors instead of attacking the root problem.  The light of God isn’t in their lives and the absence of light breeds darkness and in the darkness, the presumption of any selfish person, is they can do as they wish because no one will ever see.

Business development to success and growing growth concept, Businessman pointing line dot graph corporate future growth plan

Companies are accused all the time of putting the profits ahead of the people, to satisfy expectations by those who would otherwise seek selfish goals to meet some finite expectation of today, rather than think about the degrading impact of tomorrow.  I’ve heard many arguments over the years about the relevance for making smart financial decisions, within the structure of a company, and although this is correct, preparing for such a day isn’t usually on dais for question.  I once had a business professor who stated clearly, “the role of a manager and a leader is to put themselves humbly into the lives of those around them.  When they can do this, then future of an organization becomes a labor of love and not the first payment on a boat.”  His words, like the list, changed my perspective on how I wanted to approach life and the people around me.  This was at a time when I embraced turmoil and self-aggrandizing efforts, and because of his care for his students and because of the influence of God in my life, I realized I could say, “thank you, for having patience with me”.

This is where it all comes down to, sacrificing what we want, for an understanding of what others need.  We as fathers and husbands provide this for our families.  We counsel our children about lessons from day-to-day, and we must say thank you to those wives, willing to be patient as we learn just how to traverse life and marriage all at the same time.  I once approached my life as a matter of momentary instances, to be thought out thoroughly, some work our way and some don’t.  I compartmentalized events into good and bad, but I never saw the string of responsibility connecting everything I did and the subsequent ripples my actions caused others in life.  Like my son, who loves to do a cannonball in the pool during those long summer days, and the torrential flood of water which splashes those who sit on the edge of the pool, my actions were much like his, but emotionally draining.  When he jumps in, and comes up for air, he usually looks around and says, “oh, sorry” because his focus was on achieving the perfect height and splash radius for his entrance into the pool.  For everyone else, who is now dripping with water, we look at him with disdain because he disrupted what was enjoyable.  Though, there are two perceptions to be taken with this, the first is, he isn’t wrong for wanting to jump in, it’s a pool, and that’s what you’re supposed to do, meanwhile we should understand this and be willing to see his perspective.  Simultaneously, he should know, just because we want to do something, what is the best course of action, when we put people before ourselves and their needs into consideration with our very own?  The usual result is a verbal argument by himself and his sisters, or a few words of instruction by myself or my wife, until it happens again.  On all of our accounts, we’re unwilling to look at the whole of the situation and this is eerily similar to life as we live it.  So many times we are unwilling to thank another for simply being or loving us.  We forget to put them ahead of us in what we decide to do.

political turmoil

Think about the politics of where we’re at, all too often we talk about this side or that side and how they are destroying everything we know.  The irony is, both sides are doing the same thing, we constantly see politicians corrupted by power and selfish desire to have rather than to give.  We see politicians who would rather push a personal agenda sometimes devoid of moral behavior, and as constituents we are so willing to accept immoral behavior to allow for what we truly want, like a law or revenue streams not previously possible.  We all are attempting to get something, but have we really asked what the cost of our desire is, or are we all hoping we can say, ”sorry” later?

I think this is what the politicians in our culture believe, they can capitalize on the turmoil between voters and the immoral stance of their constituents and if they are ever called out on what they’ve done (assuming it’s non-criminal), then they will just apologize and it will be business as usual.  Instead what they should be doing is thanking those people who voted for them and remove themselves from such an important position.  The result, some would argue is two-fold, the first being the call for the resignations of many in office, and the second being a deluge of politicians leaving office and creating a virtual vacuum of disruption for all of us.  This is of course true, but the house we live in is falling in ruins, and we must have the courage to clear off the foundation and rebuild, and do so in a proper fashion.  This starts with the ability to place our needs last and put those needs of others first.  This might start with a thankfulness to those who gave their lives, which you might be able to sit in your chair and read these words.  This is a thankfulness for those who gave everything they had or would ever have, to realize the truth of what men and women should be, even in the face of great evil.  Their thankfulness to those who gave to them, much like they gave to us, strengthened the string of events which has eventually led to our culture today, but the string is fraying.  Our liberties and freedoms are waning under the guise of immoral behavior touting a platform of choice.  Over and again, we bring into focus a need for consistent choice-making and foundations of principled lives of those who wish to lead us.

holiday material

As we head into another holiday season, we will be bombarded with music and advertisements pushing a season of giving, a season of spirit, and above all a season where if you use financing you can get more stuff.  However, I challenge you to look at this as a season of rebirth, much like the birth of the greatest man who ever lived this earth, Jesus, we are called to become reborn in our lives through action and proper reaction to the events which surround us constantly.  We have an ability to place upon us the weight of right and wrong, and always know wrong is ugly and disdainful, but brought to us in beautiful wrapping.  “The road to hell, is paved with good intentions”, a phrase I’ve heard uttered for many years, and a phrase which sums up our culture so quickly.  Good intent doesn’t pay the bills for those workers laid off before the holidays.  Good intent, doesn’t tell the person, who waited hours for you, you understand how they felt by simply saying “sorry” as if it were a passing turn of phrase.  Good intent doesn’t offer redemption, just strings words and actions together to make us feel better about choosing wrongly.  Don’t be this, intend to put yourself in the shoes of another this Holiday season, be thankful, be mindful of everything around you, and be reborn.

Although, I write about my family sometimes, I never truly give them credit where credit is due, and to show them just how thankful I actually am.  So, if you will permit me, I would like to do this with the few lines I have left today.

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To my parents, how I love you, thank you for raising me the best way a boy could be raised.  You held me when I was young, and you embrace me now I am older.  Your instructions in my life have proven to be invaluable, and your freedom to allow me to make mistakes have taught me more than I could have ever imagined.  Mom, you are the strongest woman I have ever known, tough and tender when it counted, more tough at times, but love isn’t a squishy pillow, it’s a choice and you choose to do it right, thank you so much!  I saw you fight for those in life, who couldn’t fight for themselves, and I was never more proud of anyone in my life when I found this out.  Dad, your ability to approach life with wisdom has inspired me since I was a teen, to seek the truth, your forgiveness of my poor behavior when I argued with you humbles me.  You thoughtful tone when I hear the word “son”, warms my heart.   My perception of a Father in Heaven comes from your ability to be patient as a father to his son.  I love you both beyond a measure of any type, thank you for raising me properly.

To my mother-in-law and my step-mother, I am thankful for your presence in my life.  To my mother-in-law, you have always been kind to me and thoughtful, even when I was awful, you loved me and you didn’t have to, and for this I am eternally grateful.  To my step-mother, you have treated me like one of your very own kids from the beginning, and although, your entrance into my life was later, this has come with no less a profound significance to understanding what life throws at us and how we can choose to deal with it.

brother and sister fighting

To my sister, you are wonderful, you are brilliant and motivated, and yet you allow yourself to be open and flawed for all the world to see, I love this about you.  You accepted me for me, and then asked my opinions of things, even when I was the most boorish.  We haven’t always gotten along, and to this I’m forever ashamed.  I always could have tried harder, but I allowed my selfishness to get in the way, rather than seeing the thankfulness from your presence in every way.

brother and brother

To my brother, I haven’t spoken with you for some time now, and perhaps these words will get to you one day.  We definitely haven’t seen eye to eye over the years, and my bullish desire to seek out my own goals, was sadly to the detriment of our relationship, but I would like to say, I think we could one day be better.  I’m thankful to God for your presence, if for nothing more, than the pathway to walk with you one day as God intends us to walk.  I remember your lessons for me as a kid, how I looked up to you, and in many ways wanted to be like you.  This wasn’t meant for us, I guess, but I know God’s light shines upon you, please look up, please seek it, and please know I am forever thankful for you!

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To my kids, y’all are the greatest gifts God could have ever bestowed upon myself and your mother.  Smart, loving, kind hearted, obnoxious, and all around the very best this world has to offer.  Constantly, you teach me to be a better father, and for this I am thankful.  Day in and day out, you provide me with an abundance of love, and my cup is overflowing, and your willingness to accept the faults of your father astound me.  In matters of self and growth, I feel like I have so much to learn from each one of you.  I am thankful for your energy, for your tears, for your anger, for your inquisitiveness, which provides to both your mother and myself, so much joy.  When we realize how much God has given us, our thankfulness abounds into a feeling of contentment and humility all at once.  I see each and every light from you and I want you to know, it’s so very beautiful.

 

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To the love of my life, my beautiful wife.  Thank you, once again, thank you!!!  You are a rock, you are the strength I need in my most dire of situations.  Your forgiveness of me is like none I have ever experienced.  You kindness in truth and of our life together has sustained me more than you will ever know.  More important than anything else, is your love of God.  I don’t know why God placed you in my path, all those years ago, and when I wonder about what I would be like had we never met, the thought freezes my soul.  I shudder at knowing that if I had never had the courage to say, “Hi”, we might never have known one another.  At the same time, I realize God’s blessings give us a pathway of light for us to walk down and see those vipers of sin all around us.  Many years ago, we stood before the priest and committed to the covenant with God, we would be joined as one, and we would walk this life together.  For a time, I forgot how to be thankful, for God, and for you, I am truly sorry.  However, your faith has been unwavering in God, and in me; you are the most courageous woman, you tackle what is before you and you don’t give up, just because everyone says you should.  This is rare, and my decision to love you has come from all of this, your beauty, your kindness, your thoughtfulness, your intelligence, your love of our children, your love of life, your love of the family, your love of me, and most importantly your love of God.  By my estimation, you could have found a million men, just like me, but you choose me, and I am thankful for your patience, for being there, for helping me, for the courage to point out my mistakes, for your understanding, and for your love.  Thank you!!!

Today or tomorrow, if you get the chance, turn to those you know and love, and thank them for their willingness to see you and accept you.  In one way or another, love isn’t something in a box, it’s the two words spoken before any apology, “thank you”.  Have a wonderful holiday season, be reborn.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

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

Featured post

Standing on the Shoulders of Giants

A couple of weeks ago, I was listening to a speech given about the theologians and philosophers of antiquity.  The context of the speech reminded me of the paradigm shift, I experienced, when I first began to read texts written centuries ago.  I was constantly amazed at the language use, its imagery was either powerful or gave me insight as to the extension of their perceptions we use today.  I was energized by knowing, some theology and philosophy I know and use today, was around for hundreds of years.  I was further encouraged to find, many of the theological practices I put in place now, were originated by those who walked in step with Jesus.  However, as I wanted to explain what I discovered, I found many people either uncaring, or unconcerned with the knowledge of origination for our very beliefs now.  In truth, I found people to be somewhat glued to the belief in our current times as the epitome of existence.  I’m not sure if this is because of technology, time in perspective, or because they’ve been taught from an early age to embrace the present as we relegate the past to ineptness.  Whatever the focus for any one person, failing to recognize the contributions of the past, as they lift us up on their mighty shoulders, is similar in failing to acknowledge the sacrifice of the brave for the freedom we now possess.

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Often times, we are presented with an action, we neither know its origin, nor do we care too much about why we’re doing it.  I once heard an anecdotal story, which has probably been changed many times, but the moral of the story remains solid.  A young woman, was taught from an early age, when she baked a ham, to cut off the very end before placing it into the oven.  She repeated this process for years, and eventually passed this tradition of cutting off the end portion to her children.  As they came of age, and were eventually baking hams for their families, a question was posed by one of their children over a holiday weekend, “Mom, why do we cut off the ham, is it to make the food taste better?”  Bemused by the seemingly innocuous question, she had no answer, she thought about whether or not it would make the food more delicious, but to no avail, she had no good response for her child.  As the day went on, the question continued to nag at her inquisitive nature, and she called her mother.  “Mother, why do we cut off the end of the ham, is it for taste?”  To this, her mother stated, “I haven’t the slightest clue why we do it, it’s just been something we’ve always done”, but just like her daughter, not knowing left her restless.  Soon, she called her mother, who for all intents and purposes no longer cooked, but always enjoyed an invitation to dine with her children over the holidays.  “Mama, why do we cut off the end of the ham”, she asked, “does it have to do with the flavor?”  Her mother said, “Well, I never thought about the flavor, but the dish I got from your grandmother wasn’t large enough to fit a whole ham, so I always had to cut off the end so it would fit”.  At this moment, everything fell into place, the tradition for cooking a ham in their family was purposeful, as long as they understood what the purpose was.  When time moved one, and different pans were used, larger pans were used, the need to cut the ham became a tradition practiced but not understood.

The story for me, was eye-opening.  It presented a paradigm which challenged our willingness to accept tradition, without truly finding out why we were doing what we were doing.  This behavior is human for sure, but it has good and bad consequences associated with it.  For instance, following a teaching, without asking why, makes us like sheep, regurgitating what we’ve learned, but never able to apply a deeper meaning to what we know.  Only until we ask, “why?” will we ever be able to move past our own arrogance as it translates to the life we lead.  Those who bothered to ask questions before our time, and who risked everything to example courage to all of us, seem to be less than a footnote in the annals of history, this is until we bother to really look.  This was where I was at, when I first began to read about who I was, where I was from, why I believed what I believed, and why in my belief I followed practices which were over two thousand years old.

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I’ve been told, on more than one occasion, the beliefs of the Catholic Church are antiquated, and either belong in the past or modernized to fit today’s times.  This is often how the movement, to today’s arrogant times is phrased, “today’s times”.  This inoffensive statement proceeds to remove the word morals and replace it with something providing a more effusive term which embraces the now and discounts what is perceived as antiquated behaviors and teachings.  Though one question always bothered me about modernizing beliefs.  If we modernize a belief, does it remove the objectivity, and if we make an “objective truth” more modern, were the people who practiced it wrong?  This is where courage in questioning takes place, because with hardly any thought given to the question, we run the risk of attempting to destroy the lifetimes of people who lived before us, and everything they ever believed in.  The problem with trying to make the past fit the now, is like trying to fit a square peg in a round hole.  No matter how we want to see the past through the lens of today, it will never be quite right, and it creates villains where villains never existed.

Take for instance Rome, a society where their army was always in some conflict, slaves were common, arena fights (not always to the death) were exhibited in grand fashion, and political turmoil and strife was the measure of the day for hundreds of years.  Though, because we largely accept their contributions to our modern society, we’re willing to look past the more negative aspects of their traditions and societal encumbrances, and we embrace what we identify as ours now.  Of course, this is how history works, those who could etch out a description of themselves and do it in such a way as to make their legacy a fitting explanation stand to be lifted upon the pedestal of history.  Those who lost wars, who failed to explain themselves (as if this was proper form) become the losers in history and receive the indignation of those wishing to find a reason for their plight.  The statue removal, currently happening in the US, shows us this hypocrisy in action.  We remove statues which belong to the losers, and find ridicule by diminishing a life’s work into two categories; were they good or were they bad?  The criteria is the simplistic ideology of today’s lens, and yesterday’s actions and we relegated someone who’s life extended for decades into one question, without really looking into who the person was and why they did what they did.

Blurred interior of the church

When I was a child, I attended church regularly.  I did not know why we did what we did, and sometimes when I would ask my father, he didn’t have a clear answer, or would assume my immaturity wouldn’t understand, and so he would brush off my question with an answer failing to reach the crux of my question.  Over the years, I eventually stopped asking and would just accept what I saw, as part of the tradition, and I became sullenly bored with the whole process.  This was until I met, who would become my future wife, and she took me to a play her church was presenting.  The play, in its entirety, was presented to show us a reality after death, and because of the choices in this life the eventual resting place for each and every one of us.  To put it mildly, it scared the hell out of me, and I eventually walked down with a group of people and received a blessing from the preacher.  I was told, I was saved.  I wasn’t sure how to take this, because the people around me acted like I was a prize to be won rather than how I felt.  At the end of the day, this play I watched over twenty years ago, lit the fire of my learning which hasn’t to this day been quenched.

FatherSonQuestions

With my questions, I began with my father once more.  A knowledgeable man, who was able to give me some direction, because of his own formation and training within the theology of the church.  However, I quickly realized, he could only do so much, as my formation was concerned.  I was going to have to live what I learned, and I was going to have to study in order to live this life.  Well, as some have probably figured out from my previous writings, I wasn’t about doing hard work early in life, and I abandoned (somewhat) a desire to know God.  I pursued a life of self, a life where I demanded the Church modernize its viewpoints to suit the Common Era and focus on bringing more people into its hallowed halls.  If the Church was unwilling to do this, the minimum, then I was unwilling to try any harder than I tried.  I would attend church, but I wasn’t invested in why I was there.  I would go and talk about topics of theology and philosophy, all the while I was saying to myself, I’m not sure how much I actually believe.  I was lukewarm, and because I refused to go to the fire of truth, I allowed my actions and mind to be swayed by the great deceiver.  Though, like most of us, who think we can do it alone, I hit a wall.  The proverbial wall of arrogance, knocked me flat, and it took me about three years to regain my footing.  In those three years, I started slowly asking those questions I would ask my father.  Except this time I would ask my Father in heaven, and in the silence of my heart, I started to receive answers, and not always the answers I wanted to hear.  Sometimes, it was an answer of desire to learn more, to know more, and to accept there were people who already answered my question, God just needed me to go in this direction.

The most significant find of my life were two authors, St. Thomas Aquinas, and the humble Dr. Peter Kreeft.  St. Thomas Aquinas, wrote the Summa Theologica (Summary of Theology) and Dr. Peter Kreeft explained it.  What these two authors showed me, was an existence far before my time but just as relevant to my own.  Dr. Kreeft, is a modern philosopher, who has a way of explaining the truth as if it were a matter of discussion over a cup of coffee before hitting your morning commute, and this becomes relevant because we all need explanation for truth, even when we know the truth.  We all need a source of exposition, perhaps a question for us the opportunity to reveal the truth, much like Jesus question to the Apostles, “Who do you say that I am?” (Matt 16)

St. Thomas Aquinas though was the cathartic experience which changed how I will forever look at the past and those who spent lifetimes seeking the light of Christ.  In his work, Summa Theologica, Aquinas, details objections to the faith and summarily answers them with finality.  This work was written in the early 13th century and what it illuminates is the very foundational understanding of philosophy, we have today, are based on his courage to answer those questions which seemed impossible but needed to be answered.  His courage, has allowed me to be lifted up on his shoulders, that I might have a greater opportunity to see the light of Christ myself.

"Ralph is doing a preliminary study of re-inventing the wheel."

I always say, “There is no need to reinvent the wheel, when it’s not necessary”, simply meaning, if we can utilize the knowledge of the past, then we need to do so.  This is never more prevalent and understanding than with the faith and traditions of our past.  We can’t frivolously continue to cut off the end of the ham, and not know why we’re doing it.  We can’t attend church, and not know why we stand there and sing hymns, bow, recite prayers, or partake in Holy Communion.  Failing to do so, creates in us a chasm of failure to open our eyes to the beautiful, embracing what we want rather than what it is.  Dr. Kreeft remarked about the boredom of church as it relates to a sporting event, and in doing so, his analogy indicates a vast portion of our boredom come in to practice when we don’t understand or we don’t accept what it is we see.  Failing to do either, when it comes to the very presence of Christ, has more to do with arrogance than with an ability to know and react to what is pure light and love in our lives.

Over the last ten years, I’ve devoted more of my time and energies to study and attempting to humble myself in every which way I can think.  This is one of my primary reasons for opening up about my life, my shames, my expectations, and my hopes for everyone to see what I’ve seen.  My knowledge of the past (what little I know) indicates to me there is a mountain of tradition and understanding those who came before me have courageously fought to answer.

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So going into this holiday season, dig deep, find out a little more as to why we celebrate the birth of Christ.  Recognize, as intelligent and intuitive as we seem to think we are in this modern age, you might be surprised at the intellect and insightful but beautiful language which exists from the past.  Some of the most beautiful language ever written was done so over seventeen centuries ago and our very comprehension of morality is based on this language.  The traditions of the church are steeped in a deep and thoughtful understanding of who Christ is to us all, and not some notion of someone who never took the time to really understand and accept what these traditions were.  Finally, Christ in the Eucharist, is the greatest gift we can ever partake in, and this is one tradition many of the ancient and modern authors all agree upon, and the way I see it is, if it stands the test of time, and it can be argued with a central understanding of objective interpretation, then the application of truth exists.

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This Christmas, like so many before, offers us all the rebirth we need to be a little more holy, a little more understanding, and above all else a little more willing to humbly accept the ground we stand on is actually the shoulders of the giants who lift us up to see the light of Christ more clearly, and they stand upon the gentle hands of God in every way possible.  May God bless you and your family!!!

 

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

Featured post

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.

DDay

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?

tax the rich

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)?

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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.

Rejection

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.

Ideas

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)

never-changing

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!!!

Featured post

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.

Angel Demon

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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Featured post

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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Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

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!!!

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“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!!!

 

 

 

Featured post

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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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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Featured post

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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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!!!

 

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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.