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The happiness on this side was like an announcement of the other side.  I realized that this was an undeserved gift and I could not grasp by what grace it was bestowed on me.

Czeslaw Milosz

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These are the poet’s words near the end of his life.  He had acquired perspective, saw the whole and stopped lamenting of things past.  We should all be so inclined.

Have you ever noticed how the least bright or least development among us fester in fear, announce in the strongest terms that we must pursue this or that “adjustment,” policy, point of view lest the planet/the universe/all humankind perish?

It is always the youngest or shallowest among us – some (but this is no longer a prerequisite) with their undergraduate degree and access to a TV camera or a radio audience ring the alarm of shear doom and name those they deem responsible for the impending catastrophe.

The inexperienced always panic and shout of the sky falling.  Yet, those who live fully and examine life along the way fear less – such is the harvest of years well and properly lived.

In the wise is faith – yes, the resignation that there is a God and time proceeds as God wills that it might.  Likewise, the wise see the humor of it all, and dismiss much of the pomp and circumstance.  Their eyes see the suffering of others, the unnecessary worry many without faith carry.  The wise go quietly into the dusk.  They sleep well when the night falls.  They do not bow to mortals.  They keep their words and thought with God and love those who love also.  Their voice turns soft as light dims.

It is Christmas time – live with the wisdom it brings … hear the words of ancient choirs sung once again so we might hear and grow in wisdom – yes, acquire the settled heart of Christmas – proof  of eternal reality.

Shalom.

 

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To learn to see – accustom the eye to calmness, to patience … defer judgment – grasp(ing) a case from all sides.

Friedrich Nietzsche, in Twilight of the Idols

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Far too many people point to Donald Trump as the target of their discontent.  How silly!

He is a late arrival to the disorder in this country that has developed over the last five decades and accelerated dramatically in the last eight years.  

Those who blame Mr. Trump for the mess are of two stripes: (1) they are partisans responsible for the mess we are in, (2) those with knee-jerk reactions to the unsavory culture we now occupy.

The truth of the matter is we have been deconstructing this culture for most of my adult life.  Essential institutions have been weakened.  All sorts or pagan ideas and hedonistic practices have de-normalized American life.  Idiotic ideology that has proved its complete failure has been stubbornly advanced.  Few see the sickness so evident today, despite the daily evidence.

None-too-smart, the Left wishes to double-down.  Their only justification as I see it is this: hitting yourself on the head with a hammer feels so good when you finally stop.

Frankly few see at all.  As a consequence, only discreet listening is advised.  And, common sense would tell a reasonably intelligent adult: get rid of the old crowd who brought us to this broken place.

Shalom.

Forget the suffering you cause others.  Forget the suffering others caused you,  The waters run and run, springs sparkle and are done, you walk the earth you are forgetting.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Forget

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Age roots in the body.  We remain, at best, of sound mind with insight from the years and the experience they bring.  For the fortunate ones joy remains, so too sight, touch, taste, sensuality, humor, gumption and guts.  But our voice softens as humility and gratitude take form – the soft voice – evidence of reverence.  Nearing home at last.

How blessed we are to age with soul in tact and heart alive with love and kindness – and long past worry and uncertainty.

There is a calm sense in being an elder for we have the range of sight unknown to the young – no matter the status, title, education, office … One must run the course to know and see.  Those ones see deeper, are content with quiet, live well among the lengthening shadows for by faith they are the sons and daughters of twilight … darkness holds no fear for them.

The aging ones who have lived well have fought the necessary fights – having fallen, they have gotten up.  In this they come to a point of common suffering and its fruit: compassion.

There is quiet and peace within when the light begins to fade.  Winter prepares for sleep.

Shalom.

There is for all of mankind but one felicity – a gracious God.

Flavius Josephus, in Antiquities of the Jews 

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Well, there you go.  Written in 75 A.D.  If only we had the wisdom of Flavius Josephus!  But alas it is absent.

Nowhere in public discourse is there much thought of God, of life in the Spirit, of our historical record or wisdom of the many centuries.

No, in its place – talking heads, the chattering class of ill bred, poorly schooled, ideologues incapable of holding two contradicting ideas in their head at the same time.  And yet the most astonishing thing is this: their words pass as worthy of our attention. Who is the greater fool there?

RETREAT while you can.  Take safety in wisdom and reality.

Imagine a God of felicity – a gracious and loving God.  Such a novel thought today in this deflated culture flooded with harmful utterances and ideas.

In contrast, I can offer this.  I have never doubted that there is a God and that this God had an interest in me and all others.  That is not to say that I acted without sin, nor that I did not attempt a life of self-reliance, a life in which I acted as if it all depended on me, my efforts.  Yes, we are foolish for a time until we prove ourselves less than we think we are.

There is nothing, by the way, like tragedy and injustice, chaos whose actions abound to your loss and pain to bring you to God … and, in due time, to Flavius Josephus and his insight.

In retrospect, I can now express daily sincere gratitude for the grace to have always known there is a loving and merciful God – and that God, not man, reigns over mortal and eternal life.

After years of life, I know the valuable gift of humility, in knowing that I am His subject … and you are too.  Likewise, I know in that reality, that relationship – the priceless value of intimacy … God’s love of me, of us and our divine opportunity to love others as God loves each of us.

Imagine if we knew what Flavius Josephus knew, we would not live in fear and think in that fear of the world as governed by race, or gender, or class, or force, or power, or money, or intellect, or sex, or status, or nonsensical ideologies.

No, on the contrary – tension and anxiety would dissipate; we would know certainty, live in confidence and gratitude, know peace and fellowship.

Best of all – if we were as Flavius Josephus – there would be no place for those who spread words of hate, who divide and speak so carelessly, so ignorantly.

That, Dear Friends, is a step toward Eden and you have been given the opportunity to step toward that Paradise.  Alas, seize it … or suffer more, and continue to hurt yourself and others until you die and face this question: Why did you not take the path I gave you?

God help us all.

Shalom.

God, let the words of Flavius Josephus rest in our heart and animate our every thought and action in the confidence of your gracious and loving dominion.

A beautiful fall day in the Virginia countryside.  The fallen leaves call.  And I shall meet them in the challenge posted.

I offer a prayer for your quiet contemplation and closer walk with God.

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There is God

Ubi caritas et amor, Deus ibi est.

Where charity and love are found, there is God.

In every flake of snow, in every grain of sand – there is God.

In the stout and stoic strength of our brother, the mountain, in the swift and sure vigor of our sister, the sea – there is God.

When the cold winds whip the head, when warm breezes brush the face – there is God.

In the darkest hours of the blackest night, in the brightest light of a golden afternoon – there is God.

When we are uplifted by the joys of victory, when we are wracked by the sorrows of defeat – there is God.

When we are surrounded by companions, when we are isolated in solitude and loneliness – there is God.

In the laughter of a friend, in the smile of a stranger – there is God.

God is always there.

Lord, grant that we may always walk with you and that we may have the peace, joy and love that is your countenance.  Amen.

Jared Sylvester, Class of 2006 – University of Notre Dame

Jared wrote this prayer while a freshman at Notre Dame.  This and many other excellent prayers can be found in Lead Kindly Light: The Notre Dame Book of Prayers.

Yes, God is alway there!  Have faith.  Maintain a steady hand and live in joy and humble confidence.  It is nothing new to swim against the currents of discontent and falsehoods.  It is the way of Christ, our Way.

Shalom.

Please feel free to share this with others who may be helped by it.

 

 

The spiritual history of man, as seen by God, is not of progress but of recovery, redemption.

Aelred Graham, in Christian Thought and Action

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In this Age of Unbelief, ignorance appears and history and souls are lost.

Think about it.  We spend billions on education – primary, secondary and university education and professional schools – yet we act as if there is no valuable historic legacy, no lessons learned, Truths discovered at high price, through sacrifice and dying.

Ignorance and unbelief have their cost.  The cost is destruction and division.  We see this now.  It need not be.

Take redemption as an example.  Those who cause a public fuss seem utterly unfamiliar with the concept of redemption.  Their conduct says: we do not believe … They would have a hard time defining what redemption is and an easy time being hostile and angry.

I ask you this: Who raising a ruckus links redemption to Christ?  Or classifies it as central to the Christian narrative?  Why do we listen to others who know so little?

When we lose our legacy, forget our story, bad things multiply, we divide and hostility grows.

Think about belief and redemption.  If you do you will begin to restore some calm and sanity to your life.  You will put the angry into perspective and create a healthy distance.

Who needs unnecessary anger and agitation?  Is not peace and wisdom better?

Shalom.

If the U.S. ever comes under attack, let’s have the military “take a knee” and the NFL players go to war.

All human nature vigorously resists grace because grace changes us and change is painful. (Emphasis added.)

Flannery O’Connor, in a Letter of December 9, 1958

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We are willful.  We prefer our ways to the ways of He who made us. This one thing accounts for our disorder, and eventually to a demise.  It is for each of us the single challenge in our life.

Done well life is a process of submission to God.  Yes, we grow when we decline so He might gain. In shorter the shadow we cast, the greater we are – the healthier we become, the more certain and the calmer we are.

Look around you.  We now have organizations that work to advance selfishness, sin – one preferred method of rebellion and godlessness or another … and we have many who co-exist with those who advocate disorder and sickness.  The enablers can sink this culture, jeopardize our health and wellbeing.

The tug-of-war between good and evil is a consistent part of the human story from the beginning of time.  Flannery O’Connor reminds us in this December 1958 letter that God does not miraculously meddle in each and every human affair, rather He offers the grace to grow, mature, come to faith and meaning through life experience, the sacraments, belief, worship.  In grace we grow in dignity and our implicit responsibility is to defend and preserve the sacred value of life itself.  Yes, this may put us at odds with others … but is it not Jesus who asked: “Who is my mother and who are my brothers?” (Mt 12:48)

To reject grace is to reject God and life itself.

Look about.  Do you see bad being called “good?”  This is the condition of our time, and the ageless challenge: good or evil – life or death, God or His adversary?

Shalom.   

 

There is an internal longing for harmony and happiness that lies deeper than ordinary fear or the desire to escape misery or physical destruction.

Czeslaw Milosz, in The Captive Mind

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The politics of the Left in American today fuels anger, conflict, division and violence.  It does not seek to heal but rather to dominate and destroy those who disagree with them.  They proceed just as Milosz saw under Communist rule in Poland and Eastern Europe.

Today in American, Czeslaw Mislosz would likely be persona non grata among those on the Left for he appealed not to hate and hostility but to our better human nature: the divinely planted desire for harmony and happiness.

Would not this nation excel if we sought first harmony with others?  Of course it would.  But first we must say to those who shout, malign, insult and act out violently: “Stop – calm down – are we not brothers and sisters, neighbors, friends?”

The fever pitch is far too loud today.  The angry voices of the Left are breaking bonds that hold us together.  The distance between the privileged elites and the common person is far too great.  Those on top act in isolation and expect others to conform to their wishes despite any discomfort those wishes might cause in the life condition and circumstances of those without privilege.

Those in power forget that communities are built on relationships from which trust and fellowship flow, and harmony is the common treasure.

Nothing would become us more at this moment in American history than to say to those who shout: “Be quiet, sit down – let’s share a table and a meal and talk about things we have in common and the harmony and happiness that we each seek because God made us good and wishes our relationship with Him and one another.

Think about this.  Reach out.  Practice harmony.

Our present task: restoration of this culture.

Shalom.

“If you do well, will not your countenance be lifted up?  And if you do not do well, sin is crouching at the door; and its desire for you, but you must master it.”

Gen 4:7

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These are the words of God to Cain.  They are worthy of our reflection.

Life has its ups and downs.  Yes, even its injustices.  We will be deceived and betrayed by some and circumstances will conspire against us from time to time. Anger is a normal byproduct of deceit and betrayal.  And of disappointment, too.

But know this: anger is the gateway to sin, and evil is often its destination.

In times of disappointment, deceit and betrayal it is best to seek quiet and settle your soul.  Best in these times to be alone with God.  Wise to ask when anger is stirred within us: shall I be as Cain, or shall I be the Lord’s?

It is human to sin.  We are imperfect beings.  But the best way is always to be the Lord’s in all things and all circumstances.

My recommendation? Start each day in Scripture.  Wisdom and strength reside there. The words tend the soul and calm the turbulent seas we all encounter.

In challenging times God’s words settle us and give us peace.  In hard times all is arid and barren, but the words of God are living water – our sustenance and source of our survival.  Life is in the soul, not the body.  Feed the soul each day and calm follows.

Shalom.

In times of public turmoil is it not best to quiet the soul and seek the leadership of those who have done just that – quieted their soul in reliance on God?  Leaders must retain calm to be worthy of our support.  Only those who rest on faith can offer that calm.

We often expect far more from politics and government than is justified … and far less of ourselves and those who would lead us.  Our God desires that each of us grow in Him. There are no substitutes for God if we desire to live well in mortal life with all its challenges.  God bless you all.

Trump Short Term Debt Ceiling Agreement with the Democrats – Smart move. Why? Trump has not been helped by the Congressional Republicans who are captive to the Washington-ways.  Like the Democrats they dislike that Donald Trump is an “outsider.” They now recognize that he is an independent force whose constituency is the American people who are sick of the inertia in Washington and policies that are destructive.  Yes, he represents the “basket of deplorables” – and they are not fans of Washington-ways. Frankly, this shows you that Trump (like military officers) are not wedded to politics and surely not Washington’s ways. Wake up: Mr. Ryan.  Wake up: Mr. McCornell.

Imagine a boat … caught in a storm.  If anyone panics and acts rashly they endanger the boat. But if there’s even one person who is calm, this person can inspire the whole boat.  

Thich Nhat Hahn, in How to Sit

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The nature and quality of our action and reaction conveys our being … who we are.  Mind you, not all the people you see have come close to their being – their wholeness, who they are made to be.  Why?  They do not work at integrating their human experience and traveling within – coming in contact with the truth of their life and being itself.  Rather, they elect scripts that they or others fashion – usually an ideology, an image and group-think.

Yes, in a storm in the boat – only one of many will show calm, provide leadership and wisdom.  In crisis, look for the quiet voice, the calmest among you.

Do you need an image of who this might be?  Did not Jesus recess to the desert after his baptism?  Did not St. Paul do the same after his Damascus Road experience?

In tumult, the real beings among us embrace quiet and stand tall.  In quiet God is located and we are still and certain.  Our actions are then inspired – rooted in our sacred being.

In contrast, those who swirl in panic and fear, the loudest among us are the antithesis of being.

Shalom.

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