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The life of the spirit is not your life, but the life of God within us.

St. Teresa of Availa, in Life Written by Herself

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Spirirual growth is aided significantly when we allow questions to arise in us.  What might that mean?

When something happens to us that we cannot quite understand, or when we experience something that is puzzling, even hurtful or disorienting – or something quite suprising and quite unexpected, it is good to pause and spend time asking yourself – what just happened?  Ask – why did that happen and what does it mean or what does it tell or teach me about life, others, interactions, me and the nature and history of my personal journey and the themes that have thus far emerged in my life?

In becoming familiar with your spiritual journey, you become familiar with yourself, your potential, your present personal settings as they orient you (most likely) partially to what is within you, what is your whole and presently unlived story.  And more to the point, in this questioning, you become wiser, more secure and find a relationship with God – your Creator.

Our journey is not so much about complete comprehension as it is about mystery – allowing the presence of mystery, and gaining stability in knowing not all things, but rather that – in growing in Spirit we need not know all things but only that all things are possible, even the things that we least expect and cannot predict.  In this state, we depart from the common installation of those things that are not certain – our identity in politics, career, education, title, wealth, status, political party, ideology, possessions, habits, gender, sexuality “identity,” etc.

Remember as to the Spirit and spiritual development – we do not and cannot unilaterally craft a life; to attempt to do so is bound to lead to frustration, chaos, unhappiness and failure.

In parting, I remind you of Mother Mary: “[Mary] was deeply disturbed [by the words of the angel] and wondered what they might mean.  Luke: 1:29 (Emphasis added.)

Ask questions.  Aim them particularly at yourself.  In this, you grow in the Spirit and peace, understanding and wisdom emerge.

Shalom.

 

Happy Easter!!!

“… dying he has destroyed our death, and rising her has restored our life.”

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There is no human life on earth that is not subject to sin and death.  Sin fractures relationships with others and indeed fragments our very self.  Death is “that ubiquitous reaper.”  But Christ changes that default setting that bedevils man and woman, child and adult.

Christ on the Cross redeems each of us from sin and neuters the dread of death, the pain of this mortal exodus.  In Christ we are upright in soul and being – sin does not imprison and death does not threaten.

In Christ we have a whole new existence – human wholeness, spiritual expanse, contentment, strength, truth, humility, certainty amid the unknown, community, friendship everlasting.  In Christ, all troubles teach and insight and wisdom abounds, patience too.

In Christ, love prevails as love is practiced in all manner of life’s encounters.

Imagine a culture in which consciousness of Christ was for each of us – the substance of each daily transaction, each moment, each idle hour, each day month after month, year after year.  Imagine Western Civilization restored to its formative reality – Imagine America and Americans at their historic best – humble, compassionate, brave, sacrificial, honorable, hardworking, strong, independent, dignified, sober, gentle, just, forgiving, confident, grateful for each day and each breath, faithful and kind.

The worm, Friends, is turning.  We have gone too long divided, disgruntled, angry, joyless, self-serving and without Christ.

The truth of the matter is quite simple – we need not “fundamentally alter America.”  Those who think this are mistaken, ignorant of many things – and in need of faith.  For them we might pray.

Shalom.

 

Aristotle didn’t equate happiness with wealth, pleasure or fame.  For him, happiness was an internal state of contentment that we acquire only by living life in the best possible way.

Edith Hall in “Aristotle’s Pursuit of Happiness” in The Wall Street Journal (Feb 2/3 2019)

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Happiness is an inside job.  It is evidenced by our good feeling, our aim at what is “well” and “good.”  Hence contentment, tranquility, peace of mind and heart.

In his early life (as Dr. Hall notes) Aristotle saw the unhappiness of the elites, their malevolence and turmoil.  He saw (much as one might see now) how the “high and mighty” are miserable, living in and creating chaos for themselves and others.

For Aristotle the road to happiness was an honest understanding of who you were – that is, self-knowledge/knowledge of self.  He sought to know the ethos of the human person – the way to virtue and virtuous living – not wealth or possessions, or fame or title or power – but rather heart and soul and good health.

Aristotle would have each of us know our best and worse behavior and strive to maximize the best – to improve where we need to grow for the better.

In such a life is, as he determined, “moral self-sufficiency” … a good life, a stable existence – contentment, maturity, wisdom and compassion.  Men and women such as this are and always will be critical to the leadership of others – for they model the best within each of us that is frequently honored in its absence.

As for me, we tolerate too easily those who are not near well-developed and in that condition sow division and unhappiness and act in error and ignorance.

Seek happiness.

Shalom.

 

 

 

 

Post for Today, January 15th, 2019 is Delayed … Snow removal and stacking fire wood – walking on ten inches of snow with a glorious sun and blue sky above.

Today’s Post Late Afternoon

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The privilege of a lifetime is to become who you truly are.

Carl Jung, M.D.

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Your contentment comes from being who you are.  That is a process of discovery.  A matter of inquiry and honest self-examination … of knowing what a man is or what a woman is, of knowing that you are mortal and wondering what, if anything, comes after mortality …

Those who know who they are and were made to me – need not play-act a personality, nor long to be someone they are not.

Finding out who you truly are is a matter of living what comes your way for you discover yourself when all matter of things (good and bad) are looked at squarely and lived through with confidence and expectation that after all is said and done trials illuminate who we are.

Shalom.

In his inimitable, frank language, Epictetus explained that his curriculum was not about “revenues or income, or peace or war, but about happiness and unhappiness, success and failure, slavery and freedom.”

James Bond Stockdale, in Courage Under Fire: Testing Epictetus’s Doctrines in a Laboratory of Human Behavior

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Navy fighter pilot James Stockdale is the only three star Admiral in the history of the U.S. Navy to have spent years of captivity in solitary confinement as a prisoner of war and become a recipient of the Congressional Metal of Honor.

He holds a graduate degree in philosophy from Stanford University where his focus was on the Stoic philosophers, Epictetus included.

Epictetus, as the above indicates, maintained a school in Rome the purpose of which was to produce students who could speak of philosophical ideas without “idle” babble. As he said “Let others practice lawsuits, others study problems, others syllogisms: here you practice how to die, how to be enchained, how to be racked, how to be exiled.”

Mind you he lived in a harsh time.  Indeed, he was a slave who gained his freedom.  He faced (as did many) a hard life with great risk.  His desire was to help others find a way to live well in the midst of real challenges.  Philosophy was his vehicle – as it was with Admiral Stockdale.

Epictetus thought that a person was responsible for his own “judgments, even in dreams, in drunkenness, and in melancholy madness.”  His view was that each person brings about his own good, his own evil, good or ill fortune, his happiness or unhappiness.  He held the view that to be a victim one must consent to victimhood and that in virtue is serenity.  Indeed, how we chose to live our daily life was key to our contentment, wisdom, survival and prosperity.

Why do I write of this today?  To raise the point that we are not captive to the language and conditions of secular culture.  As human beings we have a sacred autonomy that allows us to author a life that is positive and strong in the face of what seems hard, unjust, dismissive, hurtful, disrespectful, faithless and harsh.

We are made to know our freedom, dignity, happiness and autonomy and to encourage and respect others who possess precisely that same nature as we do.  Seems to me we could use a good deal of what Epictetus is “selling.”

Be well.

Shalom.

 

 

Theology is not made by mystics; mystics are formed by theology.

Thomas Merton, in Ascent to Truth

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In a sense the above proposition raises the question as to one’s journey to God.  Is this trajectory intellectual or does it require an ascetic disposition?  Does one think oneself to God, or is there a personal disposition that brings one to God?

As to the latter question, I suppose that when one’s life is absorbed by, and full of, the satisfaction of all personal desires then one might think of the importance of an ascetic disposition – a sparser life.  That is to say – a life void of multiple distractions and endless obligations, a simple life of few attachments and tasks – one with privacy and quiet might be better than a fully engaged life if one desires God.

As to intellect, it seems that thinking alone will not of itself bring us God for God is not a mental proposition but far more the totality of all that a human is, and can be by their mere (divine) creation.

So where does that leave us – or at least – me?  A modest life fully lived, accepting of all that comes one’s way (good or bad) is necessary for the experience of God.

By a life fully lived, I mean one that is examined so one comes to know one’s faults, short-comings, personal history honestly seen, one’s gifts and deficits and the mysterious joys of having been helped, nurtured, taught, loved and accepted by those placed in one’s life without whom each of us would be far poorer and more likely lost than found.

What am I saying?  Yes, intellect plays a part in our journey to God – we learn from our narrative and all those who over the Ages unbundle the mystery of a Loving God.  Yes, maintaining a life that is prepared in its honesty and humility to find God is also essential.  And yes, the acceptance of life as it is presented is the essential ingredient of obedience that brings us to God for this acceptance says clearly – “I accept my gift of being … I trust in the Gift-Giver.” In this, it seems to me one meets God …

Do not underestimate the value of acceptance and obedience.  Is that not the humbling road we must choose?

Friends, journey well and wisely this year.

Shalom.

 

You know the time; it is the hour now for you to awake from sleep.  For our salvation is nearer now than when we first believed; the night is advanced and the day is at hand.  Let us throw off the works of darkness (and) put on the on the armor of light; let us conduct ourselves properly … not in orgies and drunkenness, not in promiscuity and licentiousness, not in rivalry and jealousy … put on the Lord Jesus Christ, and make no provisions for the desires of the flesh.

Romans 13: 11-14

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A new year is here.  We may each set a course.  Darkness or Light – that is the choice we have.

Look around you, in this culture we have divorced ourselves from what has been a true and beneficial course.  We have abandoned what is good and taken to what we want for ourselves.  We have become quarrelsome, divided ourselves from one another.  We have normalized destructive behavior – indeed legalized such conduct.  Individual responsibility is replaced by idleness and dependence.  Sexuality has displaced love.  Families have been gutted.  Babies destroyed.  Addictions and suicides abound.

Our wisest course?  To put on Light and renew our faith – make faith the very center of our consciousness and each day.

For the Christian this means a relationship with Christ must be at the center of our existence.  Anything less will be opportunity missed and the continual destruction of what has been a faith-driven culture in which civility meant a regard for one another and community.

Think about this – a new year is an opportunity to live well and seek what is good and lasting.

Shalom.

These things I have spoken unto you, that in me ye might have peace.  In the world ye shall have tribulation but be of good cheer; I have overcome the world.

John 16:33

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We are, it seems, better at discontent than contentment.  This need not be.

Look around – so many assert themselves, make pleas as to a perceived “injustice.”  Mind you each voice of self-promotion of this sort is a voice that divides one from another … for there is no advocacy but that someone is designated as the “oppressor,” the enemy.

I ask you this – if you have the peace of Christ can there be this need for advocacy and self-promotion?  Would angry voices and division ever be necessary?

You know the answer.  Our peace is in Christ.  Yet, we are a quarrelsome breed, always at odds with others.  Look at our public figures, the public “intellectuals,” our news media, celebrities, the legions of advocates – who among us speaks with the voice of Christ?  Who counsels and conveys the certainty we are afforded in the life, death and resurrection of Christ?  Who, despite disappointment and deceit, remains certain as to this life and its outcome?  Who is undeterred by conflict and inequality?

Those who live in Christ live in peace – maintain a stable disposition – are neither chaotic or perpetually angry.  No, they are confident and strong of heart.

We need in this culture today to reduce the conflict, discontent and disorder.  We need men and women who build a life on Christ and faith.  I think particularly of our political figures – Members of Congress and the those whose life have been as permanent fixtures in the federal government.  I see no one in this group who speaks with the confidence and reassurance that witnesses the peace of Christ.  Rather I see, among the elected and particularly among the ideologues, a hostile disposition that knows no comfort.

Having lived a life of hardship, loss and poverty in the midst of combat that such things bring – I can tell you that living in the peace of Christ is the only vehicle that brings one peace, certainty and stability.  Each of the discontented and quarrelsome voices deserve only your rejection – for they know nothing of a life of peace.

Who in their right mind would want to be led by those who are angry and hostile, discontented and not at peace?

Shalom.

Remember Pearl Harbor, 1941/Remember Benghazi Too

It is cold and the sky is clear, the colors true and the mountains firm and sure.  December and the Son is near.  Despite the public nonsense, it is Christmas time … and Holy Silence is here.

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Man … a wanderer and wayfarer … in search of a … holy place, a center and source of indefectible life …

the Irish monks “… simply floated off to sea, abandoning themselves to wind and current, in the hope of being led to the place of solitude which God himself would pick for them …”

Walker Percy, in “From Pilgrimage to Crusade”

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Have you seen your life as a pilgrimage?  Have you imagined it so?  Have you been given to live what God has given?  Are you so blessed by the grace of that gift to come to that place He chose for you?

Live properly and fully lived, life is a pilgrimage.  And I have come to realize this as I come to my 73rd year this month.

Yes, I have been overcome by the length of time and its passing speed, but more so the unusual continuity and scope of my life … from betrayal and poverty, to death and homelessness, to conversion and many who loved me to that place … In it all I see my gifts of interest in others, and the will to survive life’s constant and bitter combat and the desire for God in all of it.

Lately I have sought peace and quiet after years of battles – defense of others with my lawyer’s trade and growing faith – seeking truth and a just result … standing alone as loneliness prepared me so.

Seeing life as a pilgrim’s journey is a blessing that overwhelms, producing tears of wonder for the divine gift of consistency that was in me and this life so on track to be just what I had been made to be.

Imagine the innate mystery of consistency and the companionship of the right values and the best goals of service to others  … a life like the Irish Monks submission to the winds and currents of a life Godly given.  Imagine too the sight of God in those who loved me to this place.  My shepherds … my shepherds – so many, so many … angels given, angles given …

Looking back now I see one astonishing grace – that I was given to accept life as it presented and to do so without complaint or bitter feeling – but rather to accept it as what it was – the gift of challenges that built with each hard event courage, wisdom and greater strength, greater depth, greater faith, greater insight and the reward of solitude, certainty of the soul and peace which conquers all conflict.  Once lonely, I could stand alone because of Him … I am who Am.

A pilgrimage – previously unbeknownst to me.  But for the grace to walk one step at a time over hills and through dark valleys for all these years I would not know how grace delivered consistency to me … and now I see that God has done as God intended … and my unwitting collaboration with His Desire for me … grace … grace … grace – the mystery of grace.

Looking back I see through tears of awe and humility for I have done by the Grace of God what God has asked of me – simply to journey as a pilgrim would.

I pray you know the same.

Do not get bogged down in the daily voices of nonsense – they hold no sway, no mystery they.

Shalom.

 

Well Friends, I missed posting yesterday.  You see my friend needed use of a computer and I gave her mine so she might do some work that needed to be done on a deadline.  So no post yesterday – but in absence … a good deed.

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Have this attitude for yourselves which was also in Christ Jesus, who although He existed in the form of God, did not regard equally with God a thing to be grasped, but emptied Himself, taking the form of a bond-servant, and in being made in the likeness of men … humbled Himself by becoming obedient even to the point of death … (Emphasis added)

Phil 2: 5-7,8

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At the end of your life will you have emptied yourself?  Or will self-importance made you a prisoner – a prisoner of what is false and insignificant?

Life is intended to introduce us to humility – hence suffering and betrayal, loss and mistake – calamity and worse.  But it is made also to teach us who God made in us and in this to reveal God to us.  Yes, we carry a sliver of the Divine in us for we are created by God.  That said, so many live as if they are the author of their own life.  Foolishness – complete folly – beware of the misbegotten.  They cannot not lead for they know not.  Chaos is the fruit of their mortal days.

For the Christian, Christ is our narrative – our template, our Teacher, our lesson – the pathway to God.

Those who live well to the end are those who have emptied themselves.

We have been instructed – forewarned.

Shalom.

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