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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.

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It is for God to grant His grace.  Your task is to accept that grace and guard it.  (Emphasis added.)

St. Cyril of Jerusalem, in Catechetical Orations

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A friend of mine wrote to me this week and asked that I might be available to talk to her.  Her mate had passed away after a long illness.  The passing was about three months ago.  She knew I have experienced a number of such losses of loved one in my lifetime.

In responding that I, of course, would be available for her call.  I thought immediately of grace and its gift to us – a gift that we often overlook and that is so, so powerful in facing life’s losses and its extraordinary hardships.

Knowing the grace that has been bestowed on you (in my experience) is best identified my thinking about the parts of your life to which you have been drawn over time.  Or the recurring events in your life.

Are you one you cares for the injured?  Or the less fortunate?  The lost or abandoned?

Are you one who defends the innocent?  Stands up to the aggressor?  Whose foundation is kindness?  Or courage?  Whose skills are in seeing behind the veil?  Understanding human behavior and explaining it to others?

Are you one who sees the missing parts of others and how conduct and language tells you of another’s fears, limitations, or the constraints that have been imposed on them?

These, to me, tell of the grace that you have been given.

In times of hardships the grace is your strength.  Grace blossoms in difficult times.

I give an illustration.  If you suffer the death of another so deeply that you feel utterly lost and deeply saddened, does it not say that you loved deeply and gave all of your heart and soul to another?  I believe the answer is, “yes.”  That is a grace – to love so deeply.

Think about it.  Loving deeply is a capacity you have been given.  It is natural to you.  It is what you do.  It is you.

That grace exceeds all that has been lost, and anything you might be able to muster-up under your own power.  That grace is given by God and brings you closer to God – in this you are made more whole and come to know that all that befalls a human in this mortal existence only speaks of what is eternal and Eternity itself.

There is nothing that can exceed God’s grace.  There is triumph in all that appears as defeat – when one believes.

Shalom.

State of the Union and the Democrats.  It is revealing to watch the Democrats at the State of the Union.  They are not happy unless they are unhappy.  Members of the Black Caucus sat on their hands when President Trump noted that Black unemployment is the lowest it has been since the records were firsts established.  One thinks that the Black Members of Congress are more comfortable when their constituents are less well-off.  One supposes then the Black Members of Congress will have little to do but continue to complain and ferment racial divide.

The Democrats are in-large no different.  They specialize in exploiting division so they too showed no indication that they intend to cooperate in a bipartisan way with anything the President proposed.

They seem to have worked themselves into a Leftist cul-de-sac of racial, gender, ethnic and ideological division that has frozen them in their division and bias.

Nations are weakened in this manner – and our adversaries know it.  We had best snap out of this and doing so means rejecting the Leftist Party of Discontent and Division.

The liberally educated person is one who is able to resist the easy and prefered answers, not because they are obstinate but because he knows others are worthy of consideration.

Allan Bloom, in The Closing of the American Mind

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Who killed liberalism?  The Liberals … with the assistance of “education” turned into indoctrination of fruitcake social applications of Marxism.

Enter the nonsense of community-organization, feminism, “homophobia,” race baiters, multiple genders, sexism, white “privilege,” disarmament, socialism, redistribution, environmentalism, central government as omnipotent, etc.  All possessed as if these notions are, individually and collectively, the Holy Grail and justify attack on all ideas that stand in opposition to their point of view.

The question is now can this intolerant crowd once again become Liberals or whether contemporary “liberalism” will, as it now appears, to be converted to fascism and the destruction of our constitutional representative democracy – its tenets, ethos, habit, practice, civility, genius and institutions.  The choice: preservation of freedom vs. its lost.

Ironically, the present circumstances require that one might avoid colleges and universities that dumb us down.  Ditto “social media,” media commentators, traditional sources of news, academics and the Party of the Left.

Much of what you now see as assaults aimed at President Trump by the media, press, modern “liberals,” academics, Democrats, Hollywood, the entertainment world and identity groups is a clash between ill-liberalism and the existing, historic mores of our Nation.  Indeed, such a clash begins with God’s exile.  All form of evil prosper when God is denied.

We live in challenging times.  The question is this: Who are we and who will be?  Go with tradition, what has worked for a long time.  Don’t leave God.  Ride with the Wind.

Shalom.

Nothing appeals to intellectuals more than to think they represent ‘the people.’  Nothing could be further from the truth.

Paul Johnson

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Therein lies the identification of our present historic moment in time – and the foundational explanation of Donald Trump’s election as President.

In short, the elites reside “aloft” – above the common folk, the workers, the hourly wage and the part-timer, the displaced miner and factory worker, the retail clerk, the Walmart shopper, the truck driver, the firefighter and the police officer, the Sunday churchgoers, the folks who do the fighting and dying like their Daddy and Uncles did.

You see in the last five decades we have flourished economically but the “big money” went to the elites, the celebrities, the media types, tenured university professors at privileged colleges, and the political class and lobbyists, to the mavens of social networks and internet commerce, to expensive cities, ritzy suburbs and exclusive enclaves in Malibu, Long Island, Martha’s Vineyard, Naples, Chevy Chase, Potomac and Bethesda and such … but not to the common folks who do all the “heavy lifting” and die before they age.

Recently I heard a Yale Professor and Nobel Prize winner in economics tell an interviewer (without any hesitation) that President Trump had some nerve going to Davos for a gathering of the international elites to discuss world economics.  His justification for his comment was this: Mr. Trump is a “popularist,” a nationalist, one who favors national borders – the things at this self-selective collection of the super wealthy, world political figures, bankers, financiers, globalists, liberals and social activists simply reject and despise.

Well now, don’t they know better than those of us who live closer to the ground and deal (unlike them) with the battle of survival every single day – day after day, morning to night.

Imagine the ignorance these elites possess, the self-deception and pridefulness multiplied in this small hot-house of arrogant “we know better than you do” yahoos.  Whence we hear those not in attendance are a “basket of deplorables” – not good enough for elites but sufficient for cannon-fodder, wage slavery and permanent dependence.  Atrocious!

This is central to our troubles today.  The lesser among us are invisible and thus expendable.  You can’t miss what you can’t see.  They don’t see us.  We are chattel at best to these sequestered elites.

Today we have a divide that threatens our demise.

This is our historical moment.  Those who would lead must know who comprises the ones that might follow.

The Christian who might lead knows those who struggle the most, has come from them, lives with them, has acquired their suffering and fears and their strength and courage as well.  Elites who live “aloft” can offer nothing but error and division … and if unchecked the death of what we once have known and been.

Think about it.  Who among us shows you that they know who you are?

Shalom.

Postscript – We grant too much authority to people who have gone to college – especially to the once “elite” colleges.  There is no magic to getting a college degree.

It is life experience that teaches and distinguishes a person.  What have they done?  What trials have they faced?  How did they respond?  What did they learn?  How vast and varied is their experience?  Have they maintained healthy relationships over time?  What insights can they share?  Are they wise?  Patient?  Stable?  Invariable?  Do they inspire confidence?

 

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.

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.

Prayer at Dressing

Bless to me, O God, my soul and my body;

Bless to O God, my belief and my condition;

Bless to me, O God, my heart and my speech;

And bless to me, O God, the handling of my hand.

Strength and busyness of morning, habit and temper of modesty, force and wisdom of thought, and Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Thine own path, O God of virtues, till I go to sleep this night.

Old Celtic Prayer for the Morning

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The Celtics lived close to nature, to one another and to God.  Do you?

This lovely morning prayer “Bless to me, O God” was passed along to author Alexander Carmichael by Catherine Maclennan who said in the giving “My mother taught us what we should ask for in prayer, as she heard it from her own mother, and as she again heard it from the one who was before.”

Morning Prayer.  Do you have a morning prayer?  Do you offer a morning prayer?

These matters were routine in our origins.  Why let what is so good die?  A fire in winter is better warm and alive, than cold and dead.

Life without God is cold and dead.  Live again!  Morning prayer.  Be smart – do it.

Shalom.

Celebrity and Politics.  Robert de Niro is a gifted and accomplished actor and film director and a seemingly likeable fellow.  But why his views on Donald Trump or politics in general warrant any public attention is worth pondering.

He has no particular education to qualify him as someone more informed than any other private citizen.  His views on politics would seem to carry no greater weight than the neighborhood barber, butcher or candlestick maker.

Celebrity does not confer any particular expertise on public matters.  Do we welcome the opinions of celebrities as to brain surgery?  I think not.

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.

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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