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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.

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The first element of love is loving kindness.

Thich Nhat Hanh, in How to Love

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Love is spoken of so commonly, but is any attention given to what precisely it is? Does anyone contemplate its range and depth?  Or understand its relationship with God?  Its role in human and spiritual development?

Does anyone ask, does my culture promote or impede love?  Does one ask: is the person whose public voice I hear loving?  Knowledgeable about love? Confirm love in their demeanor?  Their own life?

The point to be made is this: how can you love when love is not fully explored and understood by you or others, or your culture?  Think of it this way: when I am exposed to those who hate, those who exclusively attack and advance their own interests, am I thwarting my opportunity to love?  Am I converted to hate? Or hardness of soul?

Those who show loving kindness bring joy to others, say in their action: I love you.  They love because their body houses care for others, compassion, a sense of right and good, humility.  They are generous and know that there is a God and God loves them and all others.

Think about loving kindness and your life at-large.

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.

It is part of … growing up to listen to the fearful discords which real life grinds out and to include them among the images of reality.  Truth and reality are … no music of the spheres – they are the beauty and terror of Nature herself.

Carl Jung, M.D.

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Jung’s view as a psychiatrist is that every person by nature is designed to strive toward wholeness – full human development.  It follows that if that is not one’s course in life – disorder comes.

Drawn on the larger canvas of society as a whole, the same applies.  If a culture does not impart the opportunity for wholeness – whole human development, it produces disorder on a large scale.

Let’s say, for example, that a culture is inhospitable to religion and religious narrative – then it is dismissing the single greatest vehicle for accessing wholeness.  Likewise, let’s say that a culture stresses individualism and in doing so (without religious narrative) it is placing a huge burden on the single human person to come to full development and meaning all by himself or herself.   This is a daunting task especially when we know that the full development of a human being is hard, introspective work that takes a lifetime of honest self-examination and considerable character, humility and intellect.  Yes, soul-searching.

Now let’s say that in place of religious narrative the bulk of individuals in a society are geared to the pursuit of equality as if that is the Holy Grail.  Under those circumstances the bulk of people chase a meaningless objective particularly insofar as all human beings have equal value to begin with.  Once again, the culture diverts human beings from wholeness in favor of something (equality) that they already possess.  Such a culture builds in the person a misconception: the perpetual underestimate of their created, divine value. Unfortunately, hostility and conflict follows where they need not.

You can see in a culture of individualism and the quest of “equality” how (in the absence of religious narrative and a focus on wholeness) one can end up in great discord – unnecessary discord, wasted energy and great stress.

Have we slipped off course?  Jung might well say we have.

Seek your true self – which is wholeness of being and the peace and stability that it brings. Forget all the orientations which keep you unsettled.  See your value.  Seek your whole and sacred development.  It is your birthright.

Today in our culture we make enemies out of friends and neighbors.  This is utterly unnecessary.

Shalom.

If you don’t think that religious narrative and wholeness matter, how can one justify a country like Iceland “solving” down syndrome births by aborting unborn children who show that genetic profile?  Or how can a society eliminate racism by making race consciousness prevalent?  If we do not assume all people are of equal value – we shall never have fellowship and community.

Writing is like oil painting.  You work in quiet and create a picture.  Time means nothing.  It stops.  Everything is just now, and now is eternal.

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O soul of mine, will you never be good and sincere, all one, all open visible to the beholder more clearly than even your encompassing body of flesh?

Will you never be fit for such fellowship with the gods and men as to have no syllable of complaint against them, no syllable of reproach from them?

Marcus Aurelius, in Meditations, Book Ten, Para. I

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Most of what you see and hear is chaotic.  Most people make noises and do things that say: “I am sick.  Disordered.”  The wise man knows that having this warning it is best to say free of these people and their noise lest he becomes sick too.

Washington and other large cities are like glass jars full of heated molecules with a tightly affixed lid.  When you listen to the noise of the sick, you reside in that glass jar constantly assaulted by molecules over which you have no control.

Why enter the jar?

Find a quiet place to be alone and sit.  Calm yourself so that you might hear the rhythm of your breath, your heart’s work.  This is the predicate for meditation. In silence look at yourself – your habits, expectations, desires, history – from these come your discontents – the heat that hastens the speed of your molecules.  Discard these things, and accept yourself – your sacred being itself – a being that divinely created cannot be harmed but by you who have expectations dependent on the conduct of others.

Marcus Aurelius lived more than a century before Christ.  He saw the glass jar with lid and heated molecules.  Emperor of Rome, he lived on the extreme edges of his empire so he might know peace and quiet, so he might know himself, others and the gods.

Knowing your divine being your needs drop away, contentment comes to be and you see others as ones in injured state … but when you are free of expectations, housed in your sacred being compassion comes freely.  Nothing those sick ones who routinely behave in hurtful and upsetting ways can rile you, upset you, suck you into their chaos, their drama … nothing that they might do can throw you off stride.

Separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding, knowing your divine self, suspending wants and expectations (unnecessary to the divine self which is our natural and independent state of health and existence).  In separation, quiet, solitude, self-understanding we see the jar, its lid and its heated molecules – but we are not captured.

… Jesus would often slip away to the wilderness to pray.

Lk 5:16

Marcus Aurelius, Zen and Jesus.

Shalom.

 

Dedicated to My Son, His Wife and My Two Grandchildren … and All the Parents Raising Children

To be a good parent … we do not need to be people who have arrived; God simply calls us to be on the way, seeking, finding, and rejoicing in what we find. (Emphasis added.)

Catherine Stonehouse, in Joining Children on the Spiritual Journey: Nurturing a Life of Faith.

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My son and I recently had a very interesting conversation about providing for the spiritual lives of his two small children, ages almost three and almost one.

Yes, children have – as all human beings do – innate spiritual needs and desires.

Throughout the ages people are confronted with all sorts of probative “why” and “how” and “what” and “who” questions.  Why do bad things happen?  How can we be good? What is love? How do you forgive someone? Who made the world? Why go to church?

Yes, we are all bound by these questions.  And, no – politics does not provide the answer.  And, yes – by thinking all things are political as many do in this imploding secular culture we establish one thing for sure: life and cultures demand that individuals pay particular attention to our interior, the spiritual plateau in all human beings or court chaos and destruction, disintegration.  Absent attention to the spiritual: cultures, societies, communities, families, nations, individual people are undone – destroyed – trapped in selfishness, error, hostility, destruction, conflict, injury and despair.

Frankly, we are inclined precisely in that destructive dimension in contemporary America and the West at this very moment.  

We are, of course, not human beings seeking a spiritual experience, but rather – spiritual beings seeking a human experience.

Look around you.  Do you see how costly denying God and spiritual reality can be?

Parents attend to your spiritual existence and invite your children to join you.   Individually you will each be better – together you will be a family – a sacred, life-saving vessel in a world of choppy waters and occasional gales.

I wish you smooth seas – no matter the conditions you meet.

Shalom.

Moral Indignation.  Been alive for seven-plus decades.  Ain’t met a single perfect person, nor an angel.  My conclusion: we are not perfect.  Yet, now some (armed with moral indignation) are set on tearing down statues of people they find unsavory.  With this approach the Democrat Party may find itself banished after their lengthy history of favoring the Klan and racial segregation.

In the language of Boston politics – what goes around, comes around.    

 

 

Excellence is an art won by training and habituation … not an act but a habit.

Aristotle

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Very few visible in mass media are habituated to excellence.  If you want mediocrity or less, mass media provides an endless supply of such lightweights. However, beware: if you have a diet of mediocrity you will disgorge yourself of the attitude, instinct, discipline and will for excellence.

Excellence takes strength of soul.  Excellence understands sacrificial love. Excellence honors God in its being and doing.

All have the capacity needed for excellence.  Yet many forfeit the strength of soul.  Those who forfeit strength of soul live lies – excuses are common to them, envy too – they seek nothing more urgently than to thwart the will of others, to neutralize the soul.

Those who forfeit strength of soul are weak links.  They abound in politics today. They prefer dependence to a free populace for they fear being challenged to live fully.  They keep others bound-up so they might wallow in under-achievement, the cost of which always includes dishonesty and corruption.

When mediocrity rules, men are targeted, for it is men who do the dying, who come easily to sacrificial love.  A warrior class is always necessary.  Today, the weak seek their demise.  Men are targets for the weak fear them. 

Want to see the locus of excellence in American culture, look at the middle class and those like me who lived in poverty and in daily combat.  Look, not just at me but at my petite mother – one tough cookie … and her parents, and her brothers Don and Ray.  Their habit was excellence – its byproducts: humility, confidence, contentment, compassion, joy and laughter, insight, wisdom, generosity, gratitude.

Excellence comes to those who must work hard to survive, and to whom difficulties befall because in the hardest things they live daily by strength of soul. This is why the Left so despises the middle class and seeks to make dependents of the poor.  Don’t let yourself be sold short or sold out.

Live in excellence.  You’ll scare the heck out of the elites and make of us again a great people.  And, in the habits of excellence is satisfaction.

Enjoy the life God has given you.  Don’t let anyone deny you a life of excellence – especially of moral excellence.

Shalom.

The most beautiful and most profound emotion we can experience is the sensation of the mystical.  (Emphasis added.)

Albert Einstein, in Out of My Later Years

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Do you remember the story of Jesus visiting the home of Martha and Mary?  (Lk 10:38-42)

In that story Martha is busy preparing a meal for Jesus and others while her sister Mary is seated at Jesus feet listening to him.  Martha asks Jesus if he does not care that Mary has left her to do all the preparations alone.

Jesus answered Martha – “Martha, Martha, you are worried and bothered about so many things; but only one thing is necessary, for Mary has chosen the good part, which shall not be taken away from her.”

This is precisely the wisdom Albert Einstein expresses. We all have the capacity to experience the mystical.

A life lived within mortal limits is a life not lived.  It is a life without fullness.  It is “the mystical” that makes a life, that alone completes a life.

Feodor Dostoevsky writes in The Brothers Karamazov this: “Much on earth is hidden from us, but to make up for that we have been given a precious mystical sense of our living bond with the other world, with the higher heavenly world.”

We have many like Martha.  And few like Mary.  Which are you?

Those like Mary possess calm, certainty.  They see and they are not lured into all that is earthly.  They are not worrisome.  Addicted.  They are not egotists.  They are not trapped in the nonsense that prevails among the masses.  They are not captured in the present day and all its false gods and endless foolishness.

Our culture is full of Martha in many forms.  Ignore them.  They have chosen the lesser things.

Are you Mary or are you Martha?

Shalom.

Russia and Us.  It is interesting that for all the hubbub about Russia over the years, we have not been smart in dealing with them.  We have been, because we have “leaders” who do not live life on a mystical plateau, unable to see the undeniable truth about Russians which is this: Dostoevsky reveals their core, their heart – their orientation to life (even as they try to supplant him with Marxist nonsense).

The truth of who they actually are is their soft underbelly and, not being well and fully formed, our “leadership” cannot see it.

When the blind confront the blind – it is always an “eye for an eye.”  Endless folly. “Clowns to the left of us, jokers to the right.”

The Seven Story Mountain … is a journey away from the world through the process of purification of those vices that hold the person back from God as well as an interior exploration of the ground of human existence, which is the presence of God through grace.

Lawrence S. Cunningham, in The Seven Story Mountain

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The Seven Story Mountain is Thomas Merton’s account of his journey in faith – his turn to Christianity, to Catholicism and to life as a monk, a contemplative and writer.  It recounts his interior journey and its relationship to his exterior existence, the world and to others.

Lawrence Cunningham’s above description is that of the journey to God, its path and trajectory is a good guide for anyone who desires to draw closer to God and find in that the solace that only a relationship with God can produce.

Mind you, in moving “away from the world” one is simply breaking the dominating chains of the mortal world and its ways in favor of what is above the mortal, what is divine and eternal.

Notice that Cunningham identifies a “process of purification” that takes us from the vices of our human imperfection and clears the way for our relationship with God.  Yes, the more our errant ways deflate, are reduced – the more buoyant we become, the more we have a course to naturally seek what is good, best in us – what is evidence of the presence of God, God within and without us.

Notice that our closeness to God rests in an interior exploration of our human experience and that this would have us say about life experience: why does this event or experience resonate with me?  Why does this make me sad, or angry? Why does this give me joy?  What experiences have I had that seem to be triggered by a particular external experience, and why?  What is the origin and essence of this experience and why is it such?

The interior journey – a matter of taking what is experienced inside – awakens the good within, our longing for it and the upset we feel when good is denied, when evil intrudes.

We are, as God’s children, made to seek what is good, to realize the good within, to seek the God within and without who is Pure Good, Love itself.

While Cunningham is describing Thomas Merton’s journey, Merton’s journey is your journey as well.  Be not afraid.  Seek what is The Good, for you are called to that Good and the longer you resist that call, the harder, more unsettled and upset you become, the further lost you are.

Come home.  Know peace and contentment … there you love freely and in wisdom.

Shalom.

” … an hour is coming, and now is when the true worshipers will worship the Father in spirit and it truth; such people the Father seeks to be His worshipers.

God is spirit, and those who worship Him must worship in spirit and truth.” (Emphasis added.)

Jn 4: 23, 24

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The above words are those of Jesus from his remarkable conversation with the Samaritan woman at Jacob’s well.

This exchange is, in my view, one the most instructive and revealing stories in the Gospels.  I say this because of the candor and clarity with which Jesus speaks and the manner in which the woman so readily hears and sees who Jesus is.  Likewise I look at the content: we are called to live in spirit and in truth. Our faith is an inside out proposition – it is the spirit which governs … that completes the law, animates truth in daily life.

Each of us should be as the Samaritan woman: we listen to Jesus, experience him and our life is radically changed – certainty emerges and faith is our new and concrete foundation, a spiritual foundation.

We have strayed far from faith today and we are far worse for it.  Partisanship replaces friendship, accuracy in the press and media gives way to falsehood and bias, untruths. Individual personal demands are asserted over the common good, budget deficits hasten the risk of economic calamity and few relinquish their own desires at the expense of our children and grandchildren and our immediate national security in an increasingly hostile world.  We are without a faith foundation – without the Spirit … and we suffer badly from this absence.

Frankly, if we believed as the Samaritan woman believed we would be more certain, more secure, stronger, more confident, more content and happier, wiser and more greatly blessed by God.

Listen to the public discourse.  Is there anyone whose words tell you that they drink of the living water that Jesus offered this peasant woman?

 “… whoever drinks of the water that I will give … shall never thirst; but the water I will give … will become in him a well of water springing up to eternal life.”

Jn 4:14

Shalom.

Father, lead me to drink each day from The Living Water that I may be closer to You and a source of witness to others in need of You.  Make of us a faithful and courageous nation, a source of light and love to others.

 

 

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