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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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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.

The charism of the monastic community is one of simplicity and truth.  The monk … abandons routines, the clichés … the empty formalities of the world …

The purpose of monastic detachment … is simply to leave the monk unencumbered, free to move, in possession of his spiritual senses and his right mind, capable of living a charismatic life in freedom of spirit.

Thomas Merton, in Contemplation in a World of Action

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Without thinking, we live tied to the world.  The question is must we be tethered to its ways, subsumed by its noise, demands, foolishness, rules, structures, dysfunction – encumbrances?

More to the point is health and happiness possible within these encumbrances?

When captured by the world does one have any remote chance of being in possession of his or her spiritual senses and right mind, free to live spiritually?  I would say, “No.”  That is “no” without reservation.

The move complexity, the less simplicity.  The less simplicity, the more discomfort and illness.

How can one ever expect to know himself or herself – understand what it means to be a full human being, spiritually alive when we give way to the complexity of secular culture and its demands on us?  In godlessness, God is lost to us – to our consciousness.  In short disorder breeds illness – emotional, social, psychological, physical.

Have you ever stopped to consider that much of your personal distress is the result of being in contact with those who are disordered, who literally have no idea of what being human entails?

When you are engaged with disordered people, your life becomes disordered.  If a person does not know themselves, has not examined who they are – how much health and stability can they offer others?

There is wisdom in what Merton say – who among us would not be healthier and more contented in a life of simplicity and truth?  The answer: “None of us.”

In short our peace, health and happiness flourishes in simplicity and truth.  Knowing self quiets us, holds disorder at-bay and brings us to peace and to God.

Shalom.

Fan Belt Inspectors – The way the upper levels of the F.B.I have behaved makes them look like “Fan Belt Inspectors” not the nation’s elite criminal investigative agency.

Let’s see – key investigators (both married) having an affair and teaming up (according to their emails) to do what they can to apparently forestall the election of a Republican president. A significant member of the agency in some form of contact with a Democrat “operations research” firm.  The agency’s failure to turn over documents to Congressional Committees who oversee their work.  The inexplicable loss of five months of emails requested by those Committees.  James Comey and the absurd handling of “the Clinton Matter.

Hardly apt to build one’s confidence in their impartiality and competence.

PROFESSOR O’MALLEY’S DORM ROOM

a lumpy bed full of books

old essays by students

old books by former students

old checks from students repaying loans – never cashed

Phillip Harden, in Journeys of Simplicity

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These list the contents of beloved University of Notre Dame English Professor Edward O’Malley’s dorm room when he died in 1974.

He never earned a doctorate or published a book, yet his lectures were inspiring.  His dedication to students was total.  He tended not to grad students, preferring undergraduates whom he knew by first name.

O’Malley was not a fan of grades – giving more A’s one year than he had students while recommending to the Dean that he pass out the extras to students in need.

O’Malley “traveled light” in life – no excess baggage shall we say.

Simplicity.

When you live close to the ground there is little need for extras.

What will they find in your room when you pass away?  What will you have done for others in your time?  Will your surrounding speak to others of the essence of a life?  What will your objects say?  Will they tell of you?  Your heart?  This life?  Its purpose?

Shalom.

Postscript.  Those interested in understanding the status of America and its politics today would be wise to listen to Victor Davis Hanson.

Corruption. IRS loses emails concerning political bias levied against conservatives, the FBI loses emails regarding bias against President Trump, Hillary Clinton loses thousands of emails.  Coincidence?  Hard to imagine.  Too close to “the dog ate my homework.”

 

Here are people who move easily between worlds, the seen and the unseen … They encounter fairies and hold conversations with them but they also walk at ease with members of the Trinity.

Esther de Waal, in her Preface to The Celtic Vision

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The Celts maintained a connection with nature.  They were at home in heart and head.  They lived modestly – and mostly by hand.  They engaged the arts and spoke lyrically in storytelling, in song and prayer.  They were believers and lived without division between self and soul.

I spent Saturday and Sunday with my grandchildren: Jack age three, and Fiona – just yet a few months past one.  They are Celtic in heritage (Scots and Irish) and their souls and self are in complete unity.  Their worlds are whole – one grand adventure day-to-day and moment to moment.

Little Fiona wanders about the house endlessly – hoisting herself up onto a sofa so she can visit with you – rising early to find her favored stuffed pals and take them to her in full embrace and gently put them down.  If she has a cookie or other tasty morsel she offers you some.  She trudges about with her little bottom wiggling left to right and back again as an angel who has forgotten her wings might well do.  She is whole – one, a perfect human being – without complication … being just as she is made to be.  It is beautiful.

Jack is a man on an adventure, a fully animated fellow.  A life of many daily escapades.  He dives into life each day full of pep and is constitutionally incapable of lacking joy and energy and enthusiasm.  He is a lad of many daily joys and new ideas and projects that follow.  He invites old Grandpa Bobby Bob to participate … and I do … and thus I re-enter a world where I am one and undivided – full and whole and lovely, too.  He shows me what a beautiful thing it is to be as we are made – divinely whole, from and with God.

Fiona and Jack: proof of God and how God wishes us to be – whole and with Him, living as He made us to be.

These two are my Celtic origin, the people of my past – my heritage, theirs as well.  I shall do my best to keep them close to this, for what they have and who they are is reality … our divisions are not.

Incidentally I awoke today with this prayer on my lips from the days of my childhood:

Now I lay me down to sleep, I pray my soul the Lord to keep.

Should I die before I wake, I pray my soul the Lord to take.

They awoke my past.

My Scottish Grandmother passed along her childhood bedtime prayer to me many years ago..  I had not thought of that verse for years.  Jack and Fiona: angels of reality.  Beautiful truth.

Shalom.

Christian monasticism dates from the early part of the fourth century.  It sprang up almost simultaneously in Egypt, Syria, and Asia Minor. While it expressed its inspiration in various concrete forms, all of them shared the same fundamental dedication to the search for God through silence, solitude, simplicity of life-style, and spiritual development. (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Keating, in The Heart of the World

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We live in an overtly secular culture.  For the most part our public discourse is godless.  Day-to-day there is no shortage of reports of heinous behavior – a father and mother torturing their small child, a ritualistic killing associated with an immigrant gang – one sad and cruel act after another.  Likewise we are engaged in one task after another – almost nonstop – day-to-day, week to week, month to month – year after year.

We are not living as a monk lives.

Where they have silence – we have endless noise and chatter.  Where they have solitude – we have immersion in the mass.  Where they have a simple life – we have a complex life. Where they tend to their spiritual wellbeing – we are dominated by our material existence.

We are NOT monks.  But maybe we need to be.

What level of comfort, contentment, peace, good cheer, health and calm does your life in secular culture bring?

On a scale of zero to ten with zero being “none” and ten being “perfectly fulfilled in these things,” my guess is that few among us confidently exceed 5 at best – likely three or four.

Why do I say this?  We are otherwise engaged.  And this present engagement keeps us from access to our whole and true self – our self as we are made to be: stable, at peace, content, insightful, patient, wise, healthy, congenial, secure, comfortable, un-worried, calm, at ease …

Simply stated each of us is made for the ways of monastic consciousness.  Yet, look around you – look in the mirror – are you not more or less fully engaged in the things of secular cultures?  Do you not act and think like a secularist – a sort-of human machine, fully and uncritically absorbed with the never-ceasing dance of secularism and all its inane lunacy?  Are you not sucked into listening to whomever appears on the Boob-Tube?

Dear God!!!  Do you not want to escape this in-crazed nonsense of the mindless, lost secular herd?

Be the monk you are made to be.  Silence.  Solitude.  Simplicity.  Spirituality.

Shalom.

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.

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflections of our own acts.  We must find our real selves not in the froth stirred up by the impact of our being upon others around us, but in our own souls which is the principle of all our acts.  (Emphasis added.)

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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I often hear people say that we are a sick society.  And so it seems.  One is hard pressed not to see the sickness of celebrities in our mass communication culture.  If one needed evidence we have plenty in the last months: Spacey, Weinstein, Franken, Lauer, Rose, Weiner, et al.

As far as I can tell, I see little comment about the effects of celebrity on the human person.  Little evidence that images can be very powerful and very destructive.  Few say much about how others use social media to gain attention, or how we are a visual culture and image, as a result, is significant.  Have you not noticed in political protests how people “dress for the occasion” – with black clothing and masks, or with pink “pussy” hats as the Leftist feminists have done?

Merton’s quote helps us understand the sickness of celebrity in mass culture, and the disorder it conveys to the public at-large.

As Merton says: our identity resides “in the invisible depths of our own being … not in the outward reflections of our acts.”  To be celebrated is not being.  To be celebrated is not to exist.  Our identity is in our soul and that speaks to spirituality, self-examination, faith and the wisdom of religious narrative.  Absent the latter we lose contact with our self and reality.  Therein rests the sickness of secularized mass communication culture.

We are made for time in solitude, for knowing our own divinely endowed dignity.  We are sickened and reduced when joined at the hip to mass communication culture and the images and celebrity it projects.

Your health and comfort is turning a blind eye to mass communication culture, its celebrity and image.

Shalom.

Truth – Funny thing about truth.  A friend asks your opinion and you tell them what you understand is true – and even decent people shy away from it, get defensive, hostile.  They prefer what is their comfortable view to what might be true.  People are weak – choosing to live the lies and compromises of a comfortable existence.  Yes, corruption and weakness take many forms – a common experience, one that isolates the true and honest from those with lesser strength.  So be it.  And we fail to get an honest and strong culture.  Keep your distance, lest you be compromised and reduced.  Let the dead bury the dead.

Pray, for all men need the aid of the gods.

Homer, in Odyssey

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Humans throughout time have prayed.  Yes, in all religious dispositions – prayer is present.

Homer wrote these words 800 years before Christ.  Prayer is a staple in human life.

But do you pray?  In the busy realm of today, do you pray?  In the midst of this technological and material life, do you pray?  Does affluence keep you from prayer?  Have you become so dependent on self, that you do not pray?  In a highly charged political climate where government and politics seems to edge their way into all aspects of human life, do you pray?  In a mass communication culture, is there too much noise to allow the habit of pray to take root?

In prayer the person is unburdened.  In prayer the natural order of things is restored.  Yes, in prayer we are fallible and God once again exceeds our limits.

Thomas Merton reminds us that when we pray we do not fashion the result.  That is we do not pray for solution or our particularized objective – but rather for God’s intentions for it is God who knows best what is needed.  In that posture, we are open to God’s will.

A good prayer, it seems to me, must assume that God desires that we prosper and that others with whom we will be engaged benefit too.  For our lives are part of God’s greater intent and in faith we carry God to others in our daily living, our words and acts.

In effect, prayer puts the human being into proper station and in this simple adjustment our anxiety and apprehension dissolves and our confidence increases.

Think about prayer.  Engage in daily prayer.  Speak to God of your concerns.  Share your heart with God.  Find rest in prayer.  In prayer is peace.

Shalom.

We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or rejoice that thorns have rose bushes.

Alphonse Karr, in A Tour Around by Garden

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Complaining has a limited shelf life.  No one likes to be quartered with those who constantly carp.  This sort of behavior has killed many a marriage and friendship.

Such constant complaining wears one out, drags others down.

In public discourse, the Left is wearing thin.  They are the constant voice of complaint.  They are the snowflakes, the resident disgruntled.  Their taste for idiotic demonstrations makes protest nothing more than a proclamation of their sour and childish disposition.  Yes, constant complaining makes children of adults.

Make no mistake the tables turn.  People prefer optimists to pessimists, joy to anger, good to bad, palliative to caustic, calm to hysteria, life to death.

Yes, it is the rose that is the beauty – the thorn pales in comparison.

Want to annoy the Left?  Be optimistic, cheerful – turn their complaints into what they are: annoying and slightly crazed childishness.

‘Tis the season for happiness, joy, renewal, optimism, faith, strength of soul, belief and good will.  Yes, in mature people that is the season all year, year after year.

Shalom.

TV and Roses – TV is (and always has been) an opinion-shaping instrument.  Roses are not.  Roses are roses.  TV is largely aimed at shaping how you think of things like marriage, adultery, homosexuality, religion, country, race, free markets, centralized government, politics, etc.  Roses in contrast do not spread propaganda.  They just are.

Want to just be who you are made to be.  Ditch the TV.

Susan Rice – Former Obama foreign policy maven objects to Trump’s America First view.   Love that one percent growth, do ya’?  Hard to understand.

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