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… that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in Me, and I am in You.  May they also be in us …  (Emphasis added.)

Jn 17:21

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In the recent four or five years in traveling across the country and in my daily public activities like shopping, I have had the privilege of meeting and talking to a good number of African-Americans – mostly men.  The conversations have always been cordial – actually wonderful, warm, joyful and a real blessing.

In each of the conversations I am referring to, I have offered and observation which has been universally and warming accepted.  My observation?  It is this: I say to the man with whom I have shared kind words and some laughter – this simple thing: “You know, for the life of me, I cannot understand why it is that others are intent on turning us against one another.  If I or you were drowning and someone threw us a rope that saved our life, would we ever care what their race, or religion, or ethic heritage was?”  Not one of my conversation partners ever responded other than this way: “You are so right, I am sick of the division.”

” … that all of them may be one, as You, Father, are in me, and I am in You …”

Look, we have one critical responsibility and that is to be one as the Father and Son are one.

That said, ask yourself as you listen to those whose words are presented in public discourse – Does this man or woman divide us?  Or do their word bring us together?

I pray that we all start to apply these two questions to all who speak to us.

We will die by division – just as we will live and prosper only as one.

If you doubt this, think of this one thing.  In the Genesis story God provides man a companion – a woman because it is not good that man be alone.  Friends, could this be any plainer?  Men and women are clearly different and yet we are made whole by one another.  Does God not make this plain as day?  You know the answer.  Let’s live this reality, this truth.  One.  One.  One.

Dear God, help us see that we are one, meant to be one – help us turn from those who would divide us, create hostility for their own dubious benefit.  Amen.

Shalom.

If this message makes any sense to you, please share it with others.  We really are in this life together.  We own the problems we have and we have a way out of the troubles we had created.  Let’s get busy being one.

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… Jesus was saying to those Jews you believed in Him, “If you continue in My word, then you will be truly disciples of Mine, and you will know the truth and the truth will set you free”

Jn 8:31-31

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The claim Jesus makes here is this: if you live in and by His words, you will know truth and His words will set you free from sin.

What if you could live a life free of sin, in truth – and the contentment that this would bring, would you choose to do so?

This is a very simple and direct question.  It is the question Jesus poses for each of us and particularly for those of us who say we are Christians and, especially for a nation that claims a Christian heritage.

So, do we live the offer Jesus makes?  Do you?  And can we claim Christian life by the acts of our nation?  Codifying abhorrent behavior is hardly consistent with what Jesus offers.  Nor are the deeds of those who lie, exceed their lawful authority, use their positions of power to enrich themselves, or spread immoral conduct.  Corrupt conduct is in opposition to Christ.

These words above are a constant challenge to each of us and those who assume leadership positions in this land.

It is time to look at yourself honestly … and to challenge those in positions of power who besmirch Christ and reject what He has offered.

Shalom.

… taking ownership when things go wrong requires extraordinary humility and courage … (Emphasis added.)

Jocko Willink, in Extreme Ownership: How U.S. Navy Seals Lead and Win

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Look around today.  Listen to the daily news.  Adults realize that in life “things go wrong.”  Some might say – things go wrong daily, perpetually.  Would anyone expect less from imperfect people?  No.  Not unless one was delusional.  And, yes – some people are delusional.

Learning requires taking ownership for our actions and inactions that produce error and failure.  Doing so requires humility and courage and is the mark of a leader.   

Looking at the daily news suggests we have a shortage of leaders.

When you find yourself in chaos and recognize that those who speak to the moment look neither humble nor courageous, you realize that you are called to fill that void – you are called to lead – to manifest that humility and courage, to take responsibility, to candidly identify and speak of errors that must be corrected, to call others out.

Today we are far from seeing daily examples of leadership. The messes in the Parkland, Florida school shooting, at the FBI and Justice Department, in the Obama Presidency and within the intelligence community are sufficient evidence that we have a leadership problem – because we have a maturity problem, a character problem, a faith problem, an honesty problem, a courage problem, a humility problem.

What are we to do?  We must call those out who fail to lead.  Identify failure.  Rid ourselves of those who fail to own their errors.  Realize valor is our mission.  Separate from the indigenous failures among us and lead as you are called to do.

Courage.  Humility.  Onward.

Begin with your family, then your workplace and community.  Keep the company of the humble, the courageous – and speak the truth.

Better the company of the few, the best – than reside with lost souls.

Shalom.

You never have to change anything that you got up to write in the middle of the night.

Saul Bellows

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Live your life like you wrote it in the middle of the night.

Victor Davis Hanson tells a funny story about his wife.  Apparently she was watching Donald Trump the candidate on television.  For her it was a case of “first impression.”  She called to her husband to come see “this guy,”  He joined her and she asked something like this: “Listen to this guy – do you think he has any guilt in saying what he says?”  Mr. Hanson says, “No, none at all.”  Mrs. Hanson, a “middle of the roader” as to politics, says – “I think I could vote for this guy.”

Trump lives his life as if he got up in the middle of the night to write it.  Freedom.  The soul fully engaged, no self-deception – living what you got.

This scares the heck out of the programmed and the pretenders.  It is as if – unfamiliar with Truth – the imposters are confronted with reality – with what they have steadfastly ignored, and avoided.

When you think about it freedom is in sharp contrast to the figures we see in political life: the fearful, contrived, scripted, cranks, whack-jobs, the predatory heavy breathers, social climbers, the inbred sons of the wealthy, the wannabe’s and others seemingly washed ashore after some colossal hurricane to stand damp, disheveled, dazed and confused.

Leadership requires authenticity.  Those who lead are real.  Not ideologues.  No, they live what comes and make headway.  They are unperturbed.  They have not just seen the movie, they lived the movie.

Yes, there are good people in public life – but they connect with others because they write their story having gotten up in the middle of the night to do so.

Much of life is in the middle of the night.  Sleep not.  Freedom waits.

Indeed, how can those who are not free themselves lead a free people?  Most public figures today prefer you to be the sleep they are.  Ah, the night is so liberating – in its sacred quiet and moonlight.  It is not conquered, you know.

Shalom.

 

God abandons only those who abandon themselves, and whoever has the courage shut up his sorrows within his own heart is stronger to fight against it than he who complains.  (Emphasis added.)

George Sand, in La Petite Fadette

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Yesterday I spent much of the day alone.  That gave me time in all the quiet to think about the joy of seeing my son, his wife and my grandchildren and gave me mind to think about loved ones and friends who have passed away.  My mother has now been gone 21 years.  I have no siblings.  My uncles and their wives are now gone almost as long as my mother.  My wife Sylvia will have been gone 40 years this year.

I have spent a great deal of time without people who I loved and who loved me.  I have in absolute truth borne the weight of these years alone without complaint.  Honestly I have done so courageously – as Sand says I have “shut up the sorrows within (my) heart.”

Against this backdrop I call tell you I never liked complainers.  I was born to modest means and soon enough loved ones (grandparents with whom my mother and I lived) died.  Yes, each by the time I was just out of the sixth grade.  In short order my mother and I were in public housing and poverty took up residence in our reality.  Complaining was out of the question.  Complaining does no good.  It accomplishes nothing.  Doing is what problems and hardships demand.  Doing makes us stronger, wiser, more cunning, more empowered, more defiant, more confident, more independent.

That said, we live in a nation of complainers.  I am so sick of hearing about racism.  So sick hearing about income transfers, diversity, the plight of the dependent class, women who feel slighted, poor immigrants, etc.  Nothing gets better without parking your sorrows by the roadside and getting after life.  Wrong side of the tracks?  Show those who might demean you that you can outwork them, are stronger, more determined, bolder, more focused, unbeatable.

In the course of my life I have (despite a learning disability and poverty) graduated from college and law school, earned advanced degrees at Johns Hopkins and Notre Dame, practiced (serving poor clients, mostly), entered religious life, become an Army officer, purchased a home, a car and a small business for my mother, cared for a wife with cancer, raised a son who now has his Ph.D. and a nice wife, two lovely children and a good job where he is valued.  Mind you I am no genius.  I work. I had no time for complaining – I was a doer. 

We tolerate too much whining.  Too much complaining.  The best we can do for people who complain is this – tell them to be quiet and “get after it.”  Better we challenge others to show all the doubters wrong than waste time complaining or listening to their complaints over and again.

As legendary football coach and sidewalk philosopher Lou Holtz says: “Don’t tell people about your problems.  Twenty percent don’t want to hear about them – and the remaining 80 percent are glad you have them.”

Shalom.

The NEW Democrat Party.  Former Army enlisted clerk and transvestite Bradley Manning who was convicted for the illegal release of thousands of classified security documents and sentenced to 35 years in prison (before being pardoned by President Obama for no particular reason) has announced he/she is running for the U.S. Senate in Maryland against a seated Democrat Senator who has spent (as Democrats do) a lifetime on the public tit.  The New Guard is replacing the Old Guard.  (Same tit, by the way.) How charming.

This is exactly where the Democrat Party has been driving the bus.  George Orwell must be tickled pink – yes, isn’t that the color perfect.  The pinkos have more than one screw loose.

May you always walk in sunshine.

May you never want for more.

May Irish angels rest their wings right beside your door.

An Irish Blessing

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Wishing each of you the very best of life in this coming new year.

Seek God each day.  His presence is always to be known and felt.  Learn from the challenges – they teach best of all.

Thank you for reading Spirlaw.  Writing it allows me to start the day thinking about God, our world and nation and you.

Shalom.

Merton … understood … the human person and transcendent human dignity … through faith and experience he knew to what the human person is called.  The way thereto he explored generously and fearlessly.

Basil Pennington, in I Have Seen What I Was Looking For

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Who among us has taken time to understand the human person and the transcendent reality of human dignity?  Not many, I bet is your answer.

If it is so that not many you encounter have taken the time to understand what it is to be a human person and the divine measure of transcendent human dignity – you are saying this: the ones around you lack a depth of faith and the depth and range of human experience each of us has access to in our mortal and spiritual existence.

Indeed to say those around us do not understand human existence or the divinity of the eternal grant of dignity to the human person goes a long way to explaining why the world is the way it is.

Odd isn’t it.  We are given to know and to experience, but we so often fail to abide by this gift.  Rather we hunker down determined to construct ourselves as if we are the omnipotent Gift Giver.

This, of course, is the story throughout the Ages.  We seem intent on substituting our dubious genius for God’s gifts.  That Dear Friends is evident in our devotion to ideology, to politics, power, control, status, self, wealth, title, etc.  That Dear Friends explains the glorification of the body, the disaster that the focus on sex has produced.  That, too, explains the unhealthy place of race and gender consciousness in this land.  Ironically, as Christ was killed, so too do we kill the unborn child, one another, marriage and the soul of so many.

Where are you in this scene?  Is that not the question as we begin a new calendar year?

Shalom.

Hymns.  I have taken to starting my day listening to hymns as I prepare the fire and ready the tea and muffin.  It is quite difficult to be captured by the rhythm and force of godlessness when one has such a daily beginning.

Interestingly, these hymns bring to mind many lovely days spent with my son – especially our days in Scotland – in the Highlands, and Balliter, on the Isle of Muir and in Iona, and in St. Margaret’s small chapel in Edinburgh Castle.  Neither of us have ever quite left Scotland – the place of our family origin.  May you have such peace that death holds no sway.

Affection is responsible for nine-tenths of whatever solid and durable happiness there is in our natural lives.

C. S. Lewis, in The Four Lives

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We are made to seek contentment, to love and be loved.  In this one fact alone is evidence of God and the essence of our sacred being, itself.   Yet, today there are piles of evidence that we are neither content, nor seemingly loving or sufficiently loved.

“Evidence?” you ask.  Yes.

Look around.  See how few intact families there are.  See the divorces.  The adulteries.  The overt expressions of selfishness and hatred.  How we have elevated sexuality and exploited the human body.  Look at the predators and those who remained silent while knowing of their assaults, their habitual abuse.  Look, too, at pornography. The sexual abuse of children.  Abortion.  Parents killing their children. The addictions.  The “normalizing” of abhorrent conduct – the fiction of “same-sex marriages,” the lunacy of multiple genders.  And the grotesque violence.  All a product of the desperately unloved.

Now contrast these things with the God who is Love.

We live in a time when God is forsaken and destruction is advanced as a substitute.  We make Sodom look tame.

Many like to point to a President as the cause of our serious problems.  Others expect “politics” or government to be the source of our health, contentment – salvation.

No, these cannot satisfy.

Our happiness resides with us, with who we are – and with the recognition that God is necessary and the source of all that is good in us, good in human existence and in this mortal world.

It is Christmas time.  The source of your happiness is born this month.  Wake up!

Shalom.

All efforts based on parliamentary control and free-market economic mechanisms proved useless in quelling the growing polarization in opinion and stance.  Different propositions were put forward, ranging from anarchism to autocratic rule, and for many young people each seemed preferable to the rotten democracy they lived under.

Andrzej Franaszek, in Milosz

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These words describe the deteriorating political climate in Poland in the 1930’s and to some extent the political climate in Europe at the same time.

They so remind me of the extraordinary state of affairs and discontent in the U.S. today.  Partisanship reigns.  One Party houses the extreme Left.  Liberalism embraces nihilism and its echoes ring in the public square, mass media and the courts of law.  Anarchists, while small in number, dressed in black slash and burn.  Foundations fund the voices of Black racism.  We live in uneasy times.

Circumstances have changed.  The once stable America is less a source of certainty than it has been and the world becomes more dangerous.

We tilt Left and morals have been mothballed.  Trusted government institutions have lost their glow.  Public corruption tarnishes democracy.  Religious belief itself is in thin supply.  Education is below the waterline.  It is a troubled time.

History tells us that in such times the best young men mature more quickly … and across the land the wise turn back to faith.  Yes, extreme moments snap us into what is fundamental, personal, sure, uplifting, good and eternal – humanizing, strong, kind, heroic – the only option in dark days.

Beneath the flawless manners of a worldly gentleman he hid his compassion for all that is living.  Some people perhaps could sense it, but it was certainly known, in ways mysterious to us, to the small birds that would perch on his head and hands when he stopped in a park alley.

Czeslaw Milosz, in Goodness

Lord, bring us to our senses – to morality, honesty, kindness, compassion – Make us One.

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.

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