A good plan violently executed now is better than a perfect plan executed next week.

Gen. George Patton

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Amid the rumbling, stumbling, bumbling process of responding to the threat we face it might be wise to think of the value of expeditious use of power and force. Sad as it is, evil may require a prompt response.

We need only think of Niccolo Machiavelli’s The Prince to clear our head and comprehend what General Patton was saying in the above quote.

Here are just a sample of the real world wisdom and practical advice that Machiavelli provides. You might see its ageless wisdom.

On presence in a foreign land: when the Romans had a presence in foreign territories they worked with the less powerful groups rather than the most powerful group in order to gain stability by keeping two competing groups occupied with one another.

On prospective discord of groups in the lands they occupied: the Romans were vigilant and faced prospective adversaries immediately, recognizing that delay made a manageable problem far less so.

On foreign problems: when evil is brewing it is more easily cured than when it is in full blossom.

On avoiding war: attending to disorders as they begin to form avoids war at a later point.

On ignoring disorders that are adverse to your interest and security: to defer is always to the advantage of the adversary, and to your own disadvantage.

On war when it must be waged: it is better to fight on another’s territory than your own.

No one wishes to fight.  It is not our finest activity.  Yet, history tells us that from time to time we will do just that.

There is in matters of security, as there is in many things we face, a real value to NOT “kicking the can down the road.”  Indecision and deferral are not helpful. Deciding what must be done and doing it decisively and with intent and speed is to be preferred.

Sadly, we find ourselves at times engaged in the most regrettable situations. The world requires our attention, and life and the world always requires our prayers.

How wonderful it might be that we encounter only what is good.  Alas that is not the case.  Rather, Western Civilization and our faith are the target of those who wish us ill and show this in their conduct.  We have every right to expect that those who claim to lead us will respond competently, quickly and completely in the face of those who desire to destroy us.

May we find those among us who lead wisely.  May we engage in building bridges when and where we can.

Shalom.

Not the cry, but the flight of a wild duck, leads the flock to fly and follow.

Chinese Proverb

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Perhaps you remember the story from Aesop called “The Mice in Council.”

In that story the Mice summon a council to decide how they might derive fair warning that their enemy The Cat was near.  The Council agreed that the best plan was to tie a bell to the neck of the Cat so they would be warned of his presence and could, promptly, seek shelter in their mouse holes.  Alas, no one stepped up to be the mouse who placed the bell around the Cat’s neck.

Leaders do.  And in doing they lead others to action.

Look at those who claim leadership.  Do they do?  Have they even done?  What is their biography? Are they more prone to play than to work? Have they actually done anything?  Created anything?  Shown any courage?  Been led by faith into dark valleys and lived to tell about it?

Or have they lived on the fat of the land?  Rested on their modest laurels? Where they went to school?  Who they were married to?  Been people of modest or no accomplishments even with privileged educations?  Have they ever been in a fight?  Been bloodied?  Suffered primary setbacks, gut-wrenching defeats and bounced back all the better and more the wiser for it?

You and I know the answer at this time.

We are bereft of leaders among those who hold such titles.  We have those who have mastered self-promotion and combined in cabals to promote one another. Experience?  No, just privilege and entitlement enjoyed – entitlement rather than hard work.

It is said in Proverbs 29:18 that “where there is no vision, the people perish.”  I say: the flight of the wild duck alone presents leadership for the flock.  No flight, no leadership.  Without flight, we perish.

Shalom.

And I, when I am lifted up from the earth, will draw all people to myself.

Jn 12:32

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Lifted up and drawn in.  These are, of course, the words of of Christ telling us that His resurrection will provide our safe haven, that He will be own home, our shelter in the storm.

Caryll Houselander, the British mystic and spiritual writer, used the above words to begin her first book written during the dark days of World War II in which Britain was under siege.

Lifted up and drawn in.

We now face real adversity, a condition largely mismanaged in the last few years by a government that is far from familiar with the idea that we are lifted up and drawn by Christ, in perpetual need of faith both personally and culturally.

So what might you do to restore confidence amid the missteps of non-believers? Remember John 12:32 and live it each day.  But there is more: speak of faith to those who carry fear, or are preaching to you that their intelligence or the alleged intelligence of their preferred pubic figures is sufficient to “save the day.”

To be lifted up and drawn in is to proceed with confidence not in self but in the Divine.  Such confidence allows one to think clearly and proceed with calm and assurance, humility and strength.

Yes, in Christ you are lifted up and drawn in.

Shalom.

Deeply inquisitive reasoning does not make a man holy or righteous but a good life makes him beloved by God.  I would rather feel compunction of heart for my sins than merely know the definition of compunction.

Thomas a Kempis, Monk

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Ideals are superior to ideas.  This might help us assess our culture and ourselves, locate ourselves on the map – so to speak.

In secular culture, we value the head more so than the heart and we have far too much proof that this is so.  There are signs aplenty.

Think about it.  Do you not daily read something in the newspaper or hear something reported and say: What is wrong with us?  Such a statement is the voice of ideals speaking.  Facts and ideas do not police human conduct nor explain what is offended when wrong is done, evil unchecked.

Ideals exceed ideas in the same manner that the heart exceeds the head, the soul exceeds the body.

With ideals one lives a good life.  With the head one gets good grades.  The divide of the two is deadly, blinding, de-sensitizing.

Ideals sink you into living a full life, into the depth of life – they are a bridge to what is supernatural and everlasting – a part of all human beings, too often a neglected part, a grossly neglected part.

Compassion rests in ideals, ideals sought – ideals sought in daily life.  Ideas tell us about concepts and support analysis but not life.

We are kin who live for ideals and know that they exceed ideas.

Shalom.

Walk with wise men and you will become wise, but the companion of fools will fare badly.

Prov 14:20

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As it is true of the company we keep, it is also true with those who would lead us.

There is little value in education that does not produce wise men and women. Wisdom is always critical.  Life, more than a book, makes for wisdom and faith all the more makes this so.

Shalom.

… the souls of the just are in the hand of God, and no torment shall touch them.

Wis 3:1

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Why do you worry so?  Do you prefer worry to peace?  Others to God?  Yourself to God?

Why have torment when the hand of God offers shelter?

Shalom.

Be not afraid of sudden terror, of the ruin of the wicked when it comes;  For the Lord will be your confidence, and will keep your foot from the snare.

Prov 3:25-26

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There can be NO leadership from a faithless person – none.  

Why is that?  Their knowledge of life is limited.  They know only fragments of the day and nothing beyond what is material, “fact” – and they are full of fear. Fear? Yes.  Because they are surrounded by the unknown and are without wisdom. Nor do they inspire.

Ask yourself this about those who command the public stage: What have they told me that is worth remembering because it tells a truth that prevails throughout the ages?  The answer is: nothing.  Their “facts” are suited to their ignorance and their small and biased, somewhat childish narrative.

How can this be?  No faith, no wisdom.

Oh, we have “talkers” – bells without pitch, clanging in the wind without rhyme or message.

No faith, no wisdom.  No faith, no leadership.

Shalom.

Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall.

Prov 16:18

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There is a significant divide in the land.  It is visible everyday but unnamed.  We are governed by decisions makers and a news media that cannot identify reality. There is a fairly simple cause for this – yet, few seem to see it.

Perhaps, a little Flannery O’Connor might help.

She wrote a story entitled “The Lame Shall Enter First.”  In this story a “mental health professional” named Sheppard plies his “trade” with clichés and learned phrases from his “training” – all antiseptic and distant from both the sufferer and reality

You see, Sheppard occupies not life but “learned experience.”  He applies what has been emptied into his head by others, a sort of ideology made certain to ignore the every day immanent experiences of life.  I think therefore I need not live.  Or, I think therefore I am not.

Bingo.  These are our decision-makers who cannot identify when others seek to kill us, or see and treat the patients at VA Hospitals, or distinguish truth from falsehoods. They see only what their learned script would have them see.  Thank you, “higher education.” They are indoctrinated, not educated.

They ate the “soup”… and we are ill-served.

O’Connor knew that a secularized person was a blind person and when that blind person was in a position of authority we would be at risk. Sheppard shows this in that story.

We are governed by simple-minded ideology.  Governed by the self-intoxicated and the blind.

By abandoning the wisdom of the ages and the essence of human life in favor of ideology  – we have shown how small we are and how dangerous pride is.

Humans are easily captured by pride.  We care little for the wisdom of the ages, hence we shun faith and its narrative at considerable risk to us. Whither wisdom?  Forget leadership.

Prayer is in order … and rejection of those who propound what is foolish and patently wrong-headed.

Shalom.

I will weep when you are weeping; When you laugh I’ll laugh with you.  I will share your joy and sorrow ‘Til we’ve seen this journey through.

The Servant Song

Today’s blog is dedicated to all those who walk with others in good times and bad.

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This is the fourth stanza of a wonderful and moving hymn entitled The Servant Song - words and music by Richard Gillard.  It speaks a truth in each stanza.

Being like Christ is not as complicated as one might think.  These words tell us what we might do for others: walk with them in their sorrow and in their joy – be someone’s companion on the journey, a loyal companion.

I have been blessed all my life to have those who did just that – and I learned the value of that, its gift and in that how to do just what others did for me.  I have had great friends, most for 50 or 60 years – more than my fair share. These men and women are my brothers and sisters, we watch out of each other. And, I continue to garner without merit more good friends each year.  I think this is so because of having learned the value of being a companion and trying to honor that in my own life.

These are the types of men and women who care for their suffering and dying friends, family members, parents, and they carry the emotional weight of that with endless devotion, calm, selflessness, love, good sense, deep feeling and clear thinking.  Doing so says to illness and death, and rejection and loss: you have no victory!

These are servants, heroic in what they do – expect for this: they would call themselves just people doing what was necessary.  I might call them faithful, God’s shepherds, a blessing.

If you think a calling is something complicated – think again.  It is as simple as walking with others on their journey.  Be a loyal companion.

Shalom.

” … letters are your father’s way of keeping a diary – thinking about things and trying to make sense of them through the written word.”

Today’s blog is for those who read what appears here.

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These are the words of noted psychiatrist Robert Coles’ mother, words she offered when, as a youngster, he asked why it was that his Dad spent time writing to his family and friends as he did.

Yes, writing helps the author as much as it might help the reader.  Those who write clearly, tend to think clearly – and to think clearly is to put to task the desire to understand.  But it is much, much more.  It is to reach out by opening yourself.  It is the cup of self shared with others.  It is, even when one is somewhat contentious, an act of contact, with intimacy, and a desire to bridge distance and come to a meeting, a give and take, a table of sorts, a shared meal in some figurative way.

In writing you offer to others that you might know as a way that they too might be know -and so come to share themselves, with their loved ones, strangers, maybe you as well.

We have plenty of surface exchanges in this life, and plenty of abruptness and outright hostility – and way too much ideological dribble and self-assertive, utterly uninformed advocacy always merely bald self-interest intended to placate the speaker and drum the listener into exhausted “agreement.”

But writing about things that matter.  Writing in a way to think out loud, to summon something of truth from what is uncertain, or invisible but present – that is a far different offering.  When you write that way, the reader is always in your mind.  It is like preparing a meal for a guest, sometimes an exotic meal – sometimes a simple meal.

This kind of writing explores, looks at meaning, existence, the soul, what cannot to seem but is surely felt.  This kind of writing connects.  At its best, it grows self and others.  It wakes us up.  Makes us think.  Hopes that we dream.  And laugh. And change in a favorable way.

I used to be involved in politics and public policy and practice law.  In this I learned that changing hearts was the task for each life well applied to its own time.  So on to theology.  On to faith.  On to writing, and speaking about things that seem to matter to the human person, those living now who wrestle with what is before us and what is always in play: trying to figure out what a life is and how we are best to receive it in all its ragged edges and over-riding moral limits.

Between our birth and death we may touch understanding, As a moth touches a window with its wing.

Christopher Fry

Shalom.

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