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/

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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.

parents

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!

family3

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.

 

propose-live-on-tv

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!!!

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.

apathy

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.

ChurchTraditions

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!!!

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?

Yarmosky-old-aged-superheroes-pensioners-gambling-poker-retired-funny-painting

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.

Jesus_Water

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.

Woman in pain

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.

Crucifixion

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!!!

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.

valley of death

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.

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

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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Truth2Freedom's Blog

The mindset in postmodernism is that objective truth does not exist. But in post-truth, the person believes that objective truth exists, but they subordinate truth to their preferences, or their comfort. In other words, one doesn’t care that truth exists or what the truth is if it doesn’t line up with one’s preferences. "There is but one straight course, and that is to seek truth and pursue it steadily" - George Washington letter to Edmund Randolph — 1795. Faith in Jesus Christ is our response to God's elective purpose in our life. These two truths--God's initiative and man's response--co-exist throughout the Bible. The gospel is "the message of truth" because truth is its predominant characteristic. Salvation was conceived by the God of truth (Ps. 31:5); purchased by the Son, who is the truth (John 14:6); and is applied by the Spirit of truth (John 16:13). To know it is to know the truth that sets men free (John 8:32). Believers are people of the truth (John 18:37), who worship God in spirit and in truth (John 4:24), and who obey the Word of truth (John 17:17). People have rejected, neglected, redefined, and opposed God’s truth for centuries. Some cynically deny that truth even exists or that it can be known by men (John 18:38). Others foolishly think that denying truth will somehow make it go away. Truth determines the validity of one's belief. Believing a lie doesn't make it true. Conversely, failing to believe the truth doesn't make it a lie. The gospel is true because Jesus is true, not simply because Christians believe in Him. His resurrection proved the truth of His claims and constitutes the objective basis of our faith (Rom. 1:4; 1 Pet. 1:3). Truth is our protection and strength (Eph. 6:14). Throughout history, people have tried everything imaginable to gain favor with God. Most turn to religion, but religion apart from Christ is merely a satanic counterfeit of the truth. At the heart of every false religion is the notion that man can come to God by any means he chooses--by meditating, doing good deeds, and so on. But Scripture says, "There is no other name under heaven that has been given among men, by which we must be saved" (Acts 4:12). That name is Jesus Christ, and we come to Him by confessing and repenting of our sin, trusting in His atoning death on the cross, and affirming His bodily resurrection from the grave (cf. Rom. 10:9-10). There is no other way to God. False religious leaders and teachers talk much about God’s love, but not His wrath and holiness; much about how deprived of good things people are, but not about their depravity; much about God’s universal fatherhood toward everyone, but not much about his unique fatherhood toward all who believe in His Son; much about what God wants to give to us, but nothing about the necessity of obedience to Him; much about health and happiness, but nothing about holiness and sacrifice. Their message is full of gaps, the greatest of which leaves out a biblical worldview of the saving gospel and replaces it with the worldview of postmodernism with its dominant ethical system of relativism. The Bible describes mankind in the end times: “always learning and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth” (2 Tim. 3:7). Spiritual answers cannot be deduced by human reason alone (1 Cor. 2:14). It’s not that spiritual truth is irrational or illogical, but that human wisdom is defective, because it’s tainted by man’s sinfulness, and unable to perceive the things of God. That is why the Bible is so important. It gives us the answers we can’t find on our own. It is God’s Word to mankind. Scripture is divinely revealed truth that fills the vacuum of spiritual ignorance in all of us. Post-truth is the word of the year for 2016 and also the philosophy of the day, According to the dictionary, “post-truth” means, “relating to or denoting circumstances in which objective facts are less influential in shaping public opinion than appeals to emotion and personal belief.” Simply put, we now live in a culture that seems to value experience and emotion more than truth. In a “post-truth” world, people make choices based on emotion and experience rather than objective fact. So in a post-truth world, truth is irrelevant. What exactly is a post-truth culture? It’s a culture where truth is no longer an objective reality. It has become subjective. It’s what’s true for me—my beliefs, my opinions, determine my truth. So in our post-truth culture, man determines truth. Man makes himself the ultimate authority. This starting point, which rejects God’s Word and the idea of moral absolutes, makes truth subjective. Truth will never go away no matter how hard one might wish. Christianity is grounded in objective truth. “And you shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free” (John 8:32). Objective truth exists because we have God’s Word. In the Gospel of John, Jesus says, “Sanctify them by Your truth. Thy word is truth” (John 17:17), and Paul and James describe the Bible as “the word of truth” (2 Timothy 2:15; James 1:18). The Psalmist says, “The entirety of your word is truth” (Psalm 119:160). Jesus Himself said, “For this cause I was born, and for this cause I have come into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears My voice” (John 18:37). When Jesus said, “I am the Way, the Truth, and the Life. No one comes to the Father except by me” (John 14:6), He wasn’t expressing His personal belief or opinion. He was speaking the truth, a fundamental reality that doesn’t change from person to person. It doesn’t matter if our culture thinks all roads lead to God. The truth of the matter is “no one comes to the Father but by [Jesus].” This blogs goal is to, in some small way, put a plug in the broken dam of truth and save as many as possible from the consequences—temporal and eternal. "The further a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it." - George Orwell

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