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Life demands for its completion and fulfillment a balance between joy and sorrow.  But because suffering is … disagreeable, people naturally prefer not to ponder how much fear and sorrow fall to the lot of man.  So they speak … about progress and the greatest possible happiness, forgetting happiness … is poisoned if the measure of suffering has not been fulfilled.

Carl Jung, M.D., in Psychotherapy and a Philosophy of Life (Collected Works, Vol. 16)

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Where are the adults and wisdom figures today?  Not in politics.  Not in higher education.  Not in media.  Not in journalism.  Not in public life.  Not in the law.  Surely not in the established bureaucracies of the government.  And most assuredly not in entertainment.  Not among the Leftists and the whining ideologues, nor among the “professional” advocacy class and the liberals on television or the products of “identity politics.”

Nope, we are short of mature, wise adults.

In large measure this is due to having few people with honestly examined lives.  Few who are familiar with human psychology, philosophy, the history of Western Civilization or history itself, few familiar with the Classics of literature, and fewer still who are spiritually developed and hence engaged in faith and guided by a religious narrative.

Super-power notwithstanding, a nation does not survive that is not populated with those who are broadly educated and are humbled by a life in which both joy and sorrow have been experienced.

When I look at the assembled collection of Democrat presidential aspirants I think only of this – “what a motley crew!”  Not a one to whom I’d feel comfortable giving a sharpened pencil.  Likewise, I prefer not to give attention to anyone in journalism – such is the state of that enterprise today.

So where does this leave one?  To the task of independent self-education – becoming familiar with a range of disciplines that instruct as to the collected understanding of the human person for good and ill.  And from this base – to the individual life lived to experience and know both joy and sorrow … which renders us sober, grateful, insightful, steady, humble, wise, courageous, faithful and joy-filled.  

Alas the miss-mash we see in the nonsense of a secular society stripped of wisdom and insight ought to call us back to common sense, more silence than chatter, and quiet application of life dedicated to proper education and conduct now simply honored in their abandonment.

Shalom.

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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.

 

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.

 

 

Beginning the day with Morning Prayer and Allegri’s Miserere.

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Son of God, you were with the Father in the beginning, and in the fullness of time you became a man, give us a brother’s love of all people.  (Emphasis added.)

From the Intercessions of Morning Prayer for weekdays after Christmas.

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There is nothing that might end our division but being as brother’s to others – that is as Christ would have it.

Think about it.  What if those women who disparage men would see men acting with honor as brother’s and protectors?  Imagine what might happen.

I tell you a story.  For about the last three to four years I have had many wonderful conversations with men and women who are African-Americans.  These exchanges have been pleasant, warm – the kind of encounters one has with a good neighbor.  In each conversation I have said – “I am so sick and tired of people dividing us from one another.”  I have not encountered one person in these conversations who did not agree whole-heartedly with me.

If Christ comes as our brother, is it not necessary that we who claim to be Christians be as brothers to others?

You know the answer.  Let’s live up to our obligation and begin doing so today!

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.

 

Back from an unexpected day without a post.  It was a leisurely drive back from family and friends – a long road in beautiful country and heavenly quiet.

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The version of eros that Jane Austen’s novels study … is hardly animalistic.  It is ethicalthat is, it is concerned with the education of the will to the end of good character, and indeed is precisely about coming to know someone’s character.

Deirdre N. McCloskey, in The Bourgeois Virtues

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Who among us acts as if love is intended to deliver us to good character

To the best of my knowledge I give you my answer – not very many.  And I add we are a sick culture – more animal than human.  Grunts in heat – far short of character … the kind of people you’d be best to avoid.

McCloskey’s book is excellent and particularly good in discussing love and its relationship with our character.

Only through McCloskey can I see clearly the distinction between my wife who died childless of cancer at 29 (one month short of our 4th anniversary) and a subsequent wife who left a child, a husband and a marriage after 22 years for no particular reason but her desire to do so.

In McCloskey’s work I see so clearly one spouse aligned love and character and one did not.  I add, indeed, that unbeknownst to me in dedicating my life to the care of my seriously ill and dying wife – I had enkindled in me the relationship between love and character.

I add thankfully that by the grace of God I lived and loved in a manner that both life and love was joined to the quest for good character – who I am, who I have been made at birth to be.

Recognizing this allows me to see so clearly the blessings of that first love and the triumph that my life has been – all because of the grace of God.  Likewise, I see the ugly character of so many in our culture who make no such linkage between love and character.

It is hideous how the affluent and so-called “elites” and public figures, celebrities and the self-proclaimed wisdom figures and endless talking heads show absolutely nothing to distinguish them nor merit any of our attention.  Yea, their personal lives often a mess –  a series of failed marriages – seemingly without a touch of honor.

The fault lines are now between the urban and suburban elites and those who are not them.  Oddly, the fault lines might just be between those who show that love is connected with character and those that do not.

Shalom.

 

Today’s blog is dedicated to women and my Mother, Jackie Sylvester, and so many great women I have been blessed to know.

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The woman was made out of a rib out of the side of Adam … of his side to be equal to him, under his arm to be protected and, near to his heart to be loved.

 Matthew Henry, in Exposition of Genesis

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My mother raised me by herself.  My father deserted the family when I was an infant.  My mother literally saved my life.  She placed me first and held me accountable – never failing to offer opportunity, correction, encouragement, support, love or her sacrifice for my benefit.

Through the grace of God I recognized this very early on in my life.  Accordingly, I never gave her reason to worry about me.  We were a team – we were one together.

My job was to not make her job any harder – and to protect her and support her and love her.

I love her to this day and think about her everyday.  She has been dead now 21 years – yet, I’ve not lived without her in each of my days all those years because anything good I have done, or thought, or do today is in some manner derived from her selfless dedication to me as a woman and a Mom.

Perhaps you can guess, I have enormous affection and respect for women.  No man proceeds to a good life without a woman’s guidance and instruction, love and assistance.

I loathe men who disadvantage women, hurt them and treat them poorly.  I adore the strength and manner of women, their wisdom, their courage, and their heart.

That said, I reject “identity politics” which shamelessly divides woman from man and in doing so rebels against God and nature.  In “identity politics,” like so much of what the godless Left promotes, we devalue truth and inflict needless damage on this life that we are given.

In “identity politics” we are made to be far, far less than we are, and who God has made us to be.

Shame, shame, shame – turn your back on those who divide us – they are wrong, miserably and hatefully wrong.  They bring evil to what is a great good.

Two bound together are stronger than one alone.  It is idiocy to divide what God has made as one.

Shalom.

 

The purpose of life … is to be helpful, to be compassionate, to have it make some difference that you lived and lived well.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

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A satisfying life does not require you paint on a large canvas.  A small canvas will do.

I tell you a story.  In my early years I was raised in my grandparents home with my mother (their oldest child and only girl).   My mother helped her mother raise four boys – her brothers: Ernie, Ray, Don and Bob.  They were my Uncles.  I was the peanut among them.  I looked up to them – as I grew they became my friends.  I had an especially close relationship with Don and Ray and their wives.

When my wife suffered from cancer, they watched over me.  When she died, they watched over me.  When my mother died, they watched over me and stood vigil with my young son who missed his Granny greatly.  Both Don and Ray lived the right way – tended to their wives and children, lived honorably, helped others, loved and laughed heartily.

Years after my wife’s death, Ray’s wife contracted a rare illness, one that was most likely to take her life.  I was Ray’s confidant.  He was bewildered by what he faced.  I told him she needed the best Doctor who knew the most about this illness and that I would find that person and I did.  My Aunt Tippy got the best care possible.

I stood with Ray when she passed, and with Don when his lovely wife Ginny passed.  Both good men showed their courage and their loss.  My heroes were wounded as I had been.

Years latter, both Don and Ray developed illness that would take their life.  Each talked often to me during their illness – wonderful conversations, honest, touching, urgent but assuring – privileged.  I spent hours on the phone with Don the day before he died – precious time – beautiful, irreplaceable – unforgettable time.

In my travails and hardships and modest successes I became their “go to guy.”  My losses and struggles and experiences were their fortress in times of strife.  A small boy had become a trusted source, their counsel, guide, confessor.  I was honored by men I looked up to and loved … I can hardly think about it without getting emotional.

When Ray neared death he told me this, “Bobby, I never considered you my nephew – I thought of you as my youngest brother.”  Few things have honored me so.

You do not need a large canvas, a small one will do.  Take your licks in this world – everyone faces difficulty.  Forget fame or fortune – focus on growing in understanding, wisdom, common sense, faith – be helpful – make a difference where and when it matters most to others.  Life is good.

May you be blessed to experience what I have related here.  You have a reason for being.

Shalom.

 

 

In so far as man himself, consecrated by God’s name and dedicated to God, dies to the world that he may live for God, he is a sacrifice.

St. Augustine, in The City Of God

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Is it for the world that you live?  For yourself?  The goods of the world?  Its comforts?  Titles?  Wealth?  Esteem?

Or do you live a life that is first and foremost consecrated to God?

The men, the heroes of wars past and present – those who themselves volunteer to serve at risk of injury, disability or death – they are the ones consecrated to God. They are the living sacrifice.

God bless them.

May they be our guide.  Our inspiration.  Our models.  May they flourish in number among us.  May our sons and grandsons know them and live in their honor.

We give thanks for them – the living and the dead.

We stand forever grateful.

Shalom.

“… the guys I couldn’t save … “

” … we take care of each other.”

Chris Kyle, in American Sniper

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These words come into play near the end of the movie American Sniper.  They arise in an exchange between the distinguished Navy Seal Chris Kyle and a doctor who is talking to Chris about the effects that sustained combat tours might have had on Chris.

These are the words attributed to Chris in that exchange.

When asked about the things he saw in his four tours of duty in Iraq (approximately 1000 days as suggested by the doctor) – Chris says he is not concerned with the killing he engaged because he was protecting his guys – but rather he is concerned about the guys he couldn’t save.  And he explains that we take care of each other.

What if we in this country cared about protecting one another and caring for one another and acted accordingly? 

What if we cared so much that we would routinely risk our life to protect others and to care for each other?

Quite honestly this would be a very different country.  Indeed, it is hard to envision the range of bad behavior we see and tolerate today if we lived to protect and care for others.  Likewise, it seems that fear would dissipate … crime would diminished.

But you know the most interesting aspect of this proposition is this: what do you suppose the effect might be on men like Chris Kyle in a self-serving culture when he is one of only a few with such courage, with a willingness to sacrifice and care for others more than self as he did?

Imagine what it would be like for you if you were the guy who cared for others as he did, who sacrificed for others while the vast majority of population went about serving their own needs to the exclusion of others – and doing so day after day, month after month, year after year.

What might the man or woman feel who sacrificed all his or her life and put others first, defended and fought for others in a society where many felt obliged to serve self first, exclusively and endlessly?

Imagine if we lived in a society with only a few like Chris Kyle.

Shalom.

 

 

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