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What you are is God’s gift to you, what you become is your gift to God.

Hans Urs von Balthasar

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I like the symmetry of this.  Our gift from God is being itself.  However our gift to God is in our being not just singularly but collectively.

What we become in reflected in each of us and in the culture in which we reside.  Just as we prosper in who we are, what we do, what we think, what we believe and how we order our life and time – so too is culture assessed in a similar manner.

As to culture today – we are not much of a gift to God.  Indeed, we live as if we reject this gift of being.

We have normalized all sorts of abhorrent behaviors.  We make violence lawful – think: killing children.  Yes, mothers engaged in child sacrifice.  Hideous.  Marriage is not honored as it once was – and families are in tatters.  Drug use is common, suicide and child abuse too.

Intimacy is scarce.  Vulgarity is not.

We care less about others and more about our self.  We have dumbed education down.  We have ideology but not belief.  One political party relies on division, Father Government and variants of destructive Marxism fantasies.  Envy and hatred are common.  Humility is rare.

What is one to do?  Separate yourself from godlessness.  Turn your back on it.  Close your ears to it.  Live independent of it.  Keep your distance from it.  Learn to live in silence, quiet, peace.  Learn your faith.  Recall its wisdom and employ its truth daily.  Speak softly of what is good.  Help those who come to you.  Be candid in describing what you see and the truth you know.  Make each breath count for what is good.  Stay close to God who brought you into being and ignore all those around you who have no God but themselves or some nonsensical idea or fetish.

A time for choosing what is good is here.  You are either a gift to God or nothing at all.

Shalom.

Washington Post.  The newspaper reports in a long article today that Nikolas Cruz was identified as a troubled child in his early school years.  The story reports that getting a child into the proper setting was a long and involved process that took years to accomplish.  Likewise, the newspaper article says that places in the right settings were fewer than needed for troubled children.  It also reports that Broward County had used many of the placements for youngsters who would have likely been referred for prosecution.  The paper suggests that some groups wanted to interrupt the “pipeline” from school to jail that beset certain ethnic groups.

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A guy needs somebody to be near him.  A guy goes nuts if he ain’t got nobody.  Don’t make no difference who the guy is, long’s as he’s with you.  I tell ya, a guy gets lonely an’ he gets sick.

John Steinbeck, in Of Mice and Men

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Like many people yesterday and last night I watched television coverage of the Parkland, Florida high school murders.  Frankly, the most significant and most revolting aspect of this tragedy is simply this: no one – not one person – knew Nikolas Cruz, the 19-year-old student who committed these murders!

Most troubling: no school official seemed to know anything about a young men who was within their jurisdiction.  No teacher appeared to tell us who he was.  No school counselor appeared to tell us who he was.  The school principal never appeared at all.  Those who previously disciplined the student did not appear.

The police chief spoke – he could offer no personal information on the lad.  Not where he lived. Who were his parents.  Whether he had full or half-siblings.  How long he lived in the community.  Who he had known.  What he might have done in school.  What grade level he had been in.  How long he was in the school or the Parkland educational system.  Whether he has received psychological or counseling services through the school or benefited from medical or mental health or social services referrals.

This kid was an absolute stranger to these people.

Listening to the coverage – it was as if this fellow just appeared out of thin air.

The state “dignitaries” likewise knew nothing about this young man.  The Florida Governor was a blank sheet as to Nikolas Cruz.  Ditto the Florida Attorney General, the Parkland School Superintendent.  No one knew Nikolas Cruz – No one.

As you sit today and ponder what happened in Parkland, Florida, yesterday – there is one thing you can know for sure – those who had charge and care of student Nikolas Cruz did not care for him, did not know him … and in effect put him on course to these murders.

A gun did not kill these murdered students.  Oh noabject, inexcusable indifference of adults did.  Shame on those who failed this young person.

Let’s face the truth, Friends – we have become a culture devoid of intimacy.  Simple caring and acts of friendship are fewer – far fewer – than they once were.  And yet we fool ourselves while dividing ourselves into small self-centered and angry groups separated by race, politics, gender, sexual “preferences”, ethnicity … at the same time we shun God and those who believe in God.    

Indifference and those who are indifferent killed these high school students the very same way they killed Nikolas Cruz.

Some Ash Wednesday in the year 2018!!!  If we ever needed God, we need God now!!!

Shame.  Shame.  Shame.

Shalom.

The Aftermath.  One day after the Parkland tragedy and the hysteria commences: talk of mental illness without any indication that Mr. Cruz was ever diagnosed … and talk of banning guns … Yet, not any evidence of introspection.

It is always easiest to point blame away from ourselves.

Let’s be plain.  Parkland is a small town of 23,000 people.  Until the 2000-2010 it was a town of 8000 plus (according to Wikipedia).  The school was probably the largest government entity to have direct daily contact with its population.

Are we to assume that this small town threw a mentally impaired kid (without a family) out of school with no concern for what he might do or whom (including himself) he might hurt?  If so – forget mental illness and guns – these people need to focus on their conduct and responsibility. 

 

 

 

 

Back after a Knee Replacement

I find the best way to love someone is not to change them, but instead, help them reveal the greatest version of themselves.  (Emphasis added.)  

Steve Maraboli, in Unapologetically You: Reflections on Life and the Human Experience

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This is a real gem that Steve Maraboli gives us.  It is a keeper.

Look around at our culture and politics – people are always trying to change.  They lobby for us to be as they are – often without any introspection as to who they themselves are.  This is really quite arrogant – ignorant – utterly unwelcoming and ridiculously foolish – destructive even.

I have been in the hospital from Monday (this week) to Wednesday (of the same week) to have my second total knee replacement.  Frankly, it was a very special experience from beginning to end.  I had the extraordinary pleasure of having remarkable men and women attending to me.  Many were from the Caribbean and African countries, one or two from India and several from the U.S.  Absolutely beautiful people – inside and out.  Loving, kind, pleasant, warm-hearted, and good at what they do.

It was interesting that more than a few cozyed up to me for conversation – excellent conversation – the type you have with a good next-door neighbor.  We talked about living at a spiritual depth, finding out how you might do the best for others with the skills you possess, having patience, aspirations, child-rearing, aging, the wonderful gifts women have, and retirement.

Such symmetry.  Those who helped me, gave me a chance to help them.  There is hardly anything that is so satisfying as helping one another.  These people were friends and I was made the richer for their friendship.  Strangely, some remembered me from my first knee replacement one year ago in February 2017.

The content of these conversations was just as Maraboli said: a help in which others are revealed to themselves.   Isn’t that the best we can do?  Isn’t that a blessing?  How fortunate we are!  People – just people, God’s children … not divided by gender, race, religion, ethnicity and such.  Sacred beings.

Shalom.

 

 

You are so hard on yourself.  Take a moment.  Sit back.  Marvel at your life: at the grief that softened you, at the heartache that wisened you, at the suffering that strengthened you.  Despite everything you still grow.  Be Proud.

Tibetan Wisdom

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Grief gives.  Heartache gives.  Suffering gives.

Gifts come in unexpected wrappings.  Receive the gift.  Live in the gift.  Breathe in the gift.  See the sky in the gift.  See the sun in the gift.  See the trees and the mountains in the gift.  See the sun and its shadows in the gift.  Feel the wind in the gift.  Touch your memories in the gift.

Never be captured by things less than God.  There is no daily confusion that surpasses eternity.

See the gifts.  Accept yourself – a child of God.  Smile at it all.  Be settled in what is reality not what is less.  What is temporal is only temporal.  What is Divide is Eternal.

See the gifts.  Life is a gift.  You are a gift.

See the gifts.

Shalom.

More Money for YOU!  Well this week you are getting more $$$ in your paycheck because of the Trump Tax Reform legislation.  Mind you, Democrats in the Congress opposed this legislation.  The message is plain: Democrats want more of your money for them, for bigger government, to give to others.  Progress?  Yes, we are ATM’s no more! 

Weasels and Liars.  Yesterday a dismissed former F.B.I. Director tweeted about “weasels” and “liars.”  Irony is interesting.  Introspection is essential – humility its product.

FISA Memo.  Will the release of the FISA memo spell the end of the Democrat Party?  One might think so given the energy its Party members are putting into fighting its release to the public.

Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Mt 5:2

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I remember hearing this and initially thinking: How can one without the Spirit come into the Kingdom.  Of course, I have come to understand as I got older that what Jesus said meant something entirely different.

Yes, it took more life experience to realize that life is the invitation to grow in the Spirit.  We live in the midst of a spiritual journey.  In this we begin with a native spiritual disposition, a natural endowment: the joy of children – their life in a state of supernatural reality, with an instinct for good sitting within.  Their eyes are the eyes of innate Believers.  Yes, we have those eyes.

Soon enough the world imposes a materiality on the young.  Their vision blurs.  Their conscience becomes that of the concrete world in its one-dimensional structures and requisite consciousness.

In our mortal world we are soon enough diverted from what is innate and natural to a state of spiritual poverty.  From cradle to adulthood we grow poorer than we are made to be.

Indeed, our life will teach us that we must seek what we have been given: life in the full – and that means a spiritual existence and all its joys, insights and comforts.

Beware.  What is your spiritual state?  Have you remained poor, without growth in the Spirit?

You see your blessing is in this: poor as you might be – the Spirit and its riches await.  You are made for this journey is the destination is the Kingdom of Heaven.

Journey on.  That is the primary purpose of your life – to come to the full form in the gift of life – a spiritual life full of understanding, wisdom, peace, contentment and certainty … a life in touch with God throughout – a life of building up, not tearing down.

Shalom.

The most paradoxical and at the same time unique and characteristic claim made by Christianity is that in the Resurrection of Christ the Lord from the dead, man has completely conquered death, and that “in Christ” the dead will rise again to enjoy eternal life, in spiritualized and transfigured bodies in a totally new creation … Such a fantastic and humanly impossible belief has been generally left in the background by the liberal Christianity of the 19th and 20th centuries … (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Well that pretty much explains the roiling discontent many feel in their souls each day and explains the concern one has for their children and grandchildren – their country, Western Civilization and the exile of God from culture.  That is to say – we no longer carry at our core the above understanding.

The abandonment or loss of this perspective also explains the errant notions that flood our culture: same-sex marriage, Marxism, feminism, racism (expressed even by those who were once its victims), fanciful ideas of multiple genders, liberal intolerance and the like.

Think about it.  Is there any reason for a Believer to adopt any of the popular mantras and divisive dispositions so present in contemporary culture?  No.  There is not.

If one believes that Christ in His resurrection conquered death, there is no need for doubt, discontent or division.  And, yes – Merton is quite right that liberal Christianity have abandoned the unconquerable truth that Christ was Resurrected and as Christians this Resurrection rescues us from all apprehension – furnishes us with certainty, frees us to live fully and in the Spirit.

So in a sense, the unease we see, the hostility and antagonism and their attendant expressions and assertions literally have no place among those who Believe as Christians.

As Merton goes on to say – “Christianity without this fabulous eschatological claim is only a moral system without … spirituality consistency.”  I add only “a moral system” at best; for I have seen in my lifetime the weak idea of “ethics” displace morality as surely as man has replaced God in secular culture.

Ironically, in the age of ethics we get endless rules and regulations of all things and the extraordinary result that those who author the rules and regulations seem never to be held to them.  Out with morality – and corruption flourishes while individual responsibility, freedom, and accountability of the rule-makers seems to disappear.

Without the recognition of the Resurrection we are (as we now show) but a culture inclined to chaos and decline, the loss of freedom and community, and the sickness of godless existence.  Our present trajectory, of course, cannot hold.  We are at a critical moment.

Where are you in your thinking and living?  Best turn to God and the Truth of the Matter.

Shalom.

Life and death are at war within us.  As soon as we are born, we begin at the same time to live and die … If by chance we become fully conscious of it, not only in the flesh and in our emotions but above all in our spirit, we find ourselves involved in a terrible wrestling, an agonia not of questions and answers, but of being and nothingness, spirit and void. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in The New Man

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Last night I watched Part One of Ken Burns film on the Second World War.  I saw the war from the perspective of the common man and woman, the families in small towns and large cities.  It is, of course, a story of all ethnic groups, all races and religions, rich and poor, farmer, factory worker, school teacher, professional. Yes, it is the story of Americans when we were once One and united – neighbors, friends, a community, a proud and patriotic nation – people from foreign shores who arrived to make a new life and seize opportunity in a free society.

Burns shows us what we once were – before we became “fat” and fancy, successful, too expectant, spoiled, too focused on our own welfare and too rooted in demands and divisions from one another.

Once we lived implicitly what Merton describes: we were conscious of our supreme value – yes, of our God-given value – the divine equality of the soul.  Friends, this was how we once lived … You see victory in this world and the next comes only to those who live this way.

I grew up on a street with World War II vets in a working class city known for producing more U.S. Marines per capita than any city in the country.

The ethos of our greatest hour is now misplaced.  You see its absence in Members of the Congress – in the Flakes, Schumers, Pelosis, Durbins, Waters, et al … in the public chorus of “me first, only me” special pleaders whose arc of complaint stretches from the banal to the bizarre, and among the over-privileged in the entertainment industry and in the lost souls of media.

What we see is clear evidence of a loss of faith – of wisdom, perspective, patience.

In a secular society there is no transcendent purpose, no eternity – no moral context and all-embracing narrative.  No – secular life lacks meaning, leaves us shallow and self-absorbed – dependent, unhappy, … with an emptiness that breeds drug use, sexual chaos, hatred and violence.  Godlessness, we see, produces self-destruction.

Time to wake up.  We have regressed.  We lack the honor we once had – and the valor, bravery, virtue, honesty, confidence, integrity and purpose of our recent past.

Shalom.

A very jumbled schedule today – so a late post.  My apologies.

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A good life does not require that we think less of ourselves, but that we think of ourselves less.

Bob Sylvester

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We need not think less of ourselves to be good people.  Rather, we need only to think of ourselves less.

Being a servant does not mean diminishing yourself – rather the point of service is to put others first – to serve those in need of help.  We serve best when we preserve our sacred value, protect our God-given dignity and act on that.

Today we see people acting as if serving others through government policy is the ultimate form of service.  In these pursuits – the government takes money from people to hire employees to manage the distribution of money or services to others.  There is little sacrifice in this.  No one offers themselves to another and pays a personal cost, nor is the actual experience of personal servitude realized.

In giving we are embellished spiritually because we humble ourselves so others might be assisted, receive our care, concern, love and attention.

I often say to others: in my lifetime secular culture has diminished both imagination and intimacy – robbed life of its spiritual content, numbed us to our full humanity – created distance between man and God.

When we do experience the capacity to serve, we draw closer to our sacred personhood – the experience of knowing service as Christ knew service.

With your dignity in tow, serve with humility … Yes, thinking of self less makes us whole – amplifies our sacred being.

Shalom.

Life is to be lived, not controlled; and humanity is won by continuing to play in the face of certain defeat.

Ralph Ellison, in Invisible Man

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With the warmth of a wood-burning stove, I write alone in the frigid darkness while the wind howls.  Aaron Copland’s Own Town makes now the memories of the past.

Yesterday’s battles tug most when you are alone, when the earth is asleep and the ground is stone hard.

There is nothing gentle in these recollections.  Thank God the ones you loved and lost sit closest as the night takes its form.

I am a long way from the Boston I never left.  Yes, life’s markers are portable and, at times, inescapable.  Curses and blessings served on one plate.  Time teaches unforgettable truths.  Yet, joy survives in having lived it all out.

What is exterior is interior.

The trials grant us wisdom for future battles.  What was once opaque, is not.  In challenges – the gifts of insight and understanding, a sense of humor – and confidence.  Behind it all, faith waits cultivation.

Yes, Ellison is right – life is to be lived … and we are not to be controlled.  The Spirit cannot be jailed.  He must take his breath.  His heart must beat.  His dignity is of God, so too his identity.  You are his host.  He lives in you.

Shalom.

 

Each miracle writes for us in small letters something that God has already written, or will write, in letters almost too large to be noticed …

C. S. Lewis, in Miracles

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Growing in faith improves your eyesight because faith grows your heart.  With the eyes of faith you see more and see more clearly.  Yes, you see the works of God more readily and life, as a consequence, becomes something to be cherished – and, in truth, you can separate out the godless words and deeds of those who have not grown in faith.

I give you two examples of sight that is informed by faith.

My little granddaughter Fiona, 14 months young, arises from sleep each day and seeks out Minnie Mouse, and Gorgeous George (her two little pals) and picks them up, pulls them to her chest for a morning hug.  No one teaches her to do that.  There are no standard parental instructions to do this.  It comes from a child’s heart.  It is an innate expression of love.  This is evidence of God – a small but critical miracle that God has written over and over in the hearts of small children.

And then there is this: a recent snowfall presented grandson Jack (age 3) with the opportunity to ride a neat plastic toboggan (shaped like a banana peel without runners on it) down a short backyard slope.  Joy abounded as snow-suited Jack squealed “Weeeee … look at me!”  Innate joy, like innate love, a miracle that God has written over and over in the hearts of small children!!!

This is the product of seeing with the eyes of faith … and evidence of God’s work, God’s miracle-making.  Why would a culture ever want to dismiss the presence of God?  Why elect a loss of sacred vision and the evidence of God’s love and kindness???

Shalom.

 

 

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