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Christianity (is) not … a matter of getting … ideas straight but rather of getting (one’s) life straight.

Robert Barron, in The Strangest Way: Walking the Christian Path

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Ultimately people want to live well, have peace, experience love, be free of troubles, worries, sickness and injustice, be able to laugh, enjoy friendship, and realize the value of their own good work.

Life is about “getting life straight.”  And that is a faith matter.

Yet, in the course of my lifetime, I have seen interest in faith (particularly Christianity) decline and, in the void that is created, I have seen people seek meaning in ideology and satisfaction the prosperity that has come to us mid-last century in a free market economy with peace at hand.

However as to ideology, I am most troubled.

Ideology is a body of ideas reflecting the “perceived” needs of an individual, group, class or culture.  Needs, mind you, of this mortal existence.

Unlike faith, it is earth-bound and reflects the desires of a class of individuals.  Its goal is not the realization of a full life but rather it is smaller than that – it seeks only the self-authored, contemporary desires of a group – often pursued with force so to impose a narrow and self-interested view of life on all others.  Apropos, politics, propaganda and public tantrums are three of their favorite coercive tools.

Ideologues, you see, care only that their views (which comfort them) be forced on others – never time-tested and never challenged.  Totally accepted as totalitarians demand.

Imagine living with someone who, exposed to an idea, assumes (because they like the idea and feel empowered by it) to make of that idea their world view and the “thing” that  governs their world as they experience it – as if this idea is the prism through which all experiences are, and must be, filtered.

I guarantee that living with such a person is close to living in North Korea or a re-education gulag.  This is where we are today as to ideology – in its public and private hues and noises.

Convince a potential ideologue a hammer is a “hat” and that person will spend the rest of life trying to fit that hammer to their head and expect you to do the same.  Yes, they will abandon all reason in favor of foolishness.  Me?  I’ll take faith – you can keep the hammer.

Shalom.

 

 

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Character is not cut in marble … it is something solid and unalterable.  It is something living and changing …

George Eliot, in Middlemarch

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Surely one of the central reasons for being alive is to determine how we shall live … and more particularly – who we are.  And that, Dear Friends, is a question of character.

Each day affords us the opportunity to determine who we are.  Each challenge we face provides us the chance to affirm who we are.  So says Psychiatrist and award winning author Robert Coles, M.D.  And, he is right.

Dr. Coles reminds us that life is like a story in that the people and events in it bring us to our own story where we determine who exactly we are – a person of character – of truth, meaning, courage, empathy, sacrifice … or one as yet unable to excel, to live fully and to face the unknown with confidence.  We either seize the day or we deny our existence.

The good Doctor reminds us of this by telling a story of a young girl he treated who was dying of cancer.  Not yet a teenager she sought to show in her brief life that she was “a good girl.”  Knowing she would die – she sought to show she was someone who was a good person.  In the face of death, with all the inconveniences of her hospitalization and the intrusive interventions of medical treatment – her focus was on establishing who she was and that she was a person of character.

Interesting isn’t it.  You can take in the news of the day and more often than not wonder where is the character of the person who is the focus of the news story?  Why would the Pope say that?  Why did the Attorney General meet with the husband of the target of wrong-doing?  Why does the Senator exaggerate so?  Why does the newsman overlook the obvious?

As a nation and a Church we’d best see people of character or we’d best fine those with character to assume the roles of those who do not.

Shalom.

Let Us Pray – for the children with cancer and for their parents that they may grow in faith in the midst of their travail.  

… autobiography – the story of the formation of self – is one of the most enduring genres of Western literature.  Historically, writers view the self as a soul; for them the story of life is a spiritual autobiography.

Amy Mandelker and Elizabeth Powers, in Pilgram Souls

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You have a biography, a story – just as we all do.  But do you know this?  Have you come to know the clarion events of your life, their consequence to you – how life has shaped you, what your central story is?  In short, do you know who you are and has your reflection brought you to understand your life and life itself.  If not, you are probably lost, less than you can be and standing on a narrow patch with the inclination to defend your existence as you know it – at all costs.

The point to be made is this: if you do not know your story – life closes in on you and joy closes down.  What can be joyful and instructive is lost and all energy goes to defending your self as you have defined it – not as life defines it, as being itself defines you in the context of the divine reality that you are called in being by the grace of God.

Think about this.  Otherwise you are missing the movie.

Shalom.

 

“When you have the Light, believe in the Light, so that you may become sons of the Light.  These things Jesus spoke, and He went away and hid Himself from them.”

Jn 12:36

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There are endless lessons to be learned in Scripture.  The above is an example.

As “literalists,” we understand the easy lesson here: believe in Christ and become the sons of the Father.

But there is another extremely important lesson here as well and it is this: give yourself private time, time alone – in quiet – in solitude for that is precisely what Jesus does … he retreated from people, from the crowd, to be alone in quiet for prayer, rest and contemplation.

As to this point, let’s be deadly serious: we live in a troubled land with many disordered people and disordered ideas and a great deal of stress, conflict and destruction.  People are very limited in their own development and have anchored themselves is selfishness, foolishness, fantasy and what is false, fraudulent and wrong.  Evil has been passed along as good.

We are, in many real ways, a disintegrating society.  There are those ideas and people among us who push us more and more to our destruction.  Yes, things are that disjointed and out-of-control.  Even institutions like the Church show these signs.  Fortunately as Christians, we have Christ and His teachings and He and His teachings are all the more indispensable to us in this time of chaos and conflict.

For you I say only this: pay attention to Christ and keep some time for being alone in quiet, rest, prayer and contemplation.  Do not immerse yourself totally in culture or labor.  Read Scripture and see so plainly what is before you: many are lost and forces present attempt to push us to extinction.  That is what godlessness brings – evil deeds and the assault on what is Good, life-giving and eternal.

Stay strong and tough.  Be wise.  The Light is your guide.  Stay in the Light.

Shalom.

If today’s message is helpful, please pass it along to others and welcome them to share it with those they know.  We are in this together.  All in one boat.

As always, comments are welcome and helpful.  Peace be with you.

The 4th of July is our beginning, our heritage!

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 There was no American nation, no army at the start, no sweeping popular support for rebellion, nor much promise of success.  No rebelling people had ever broken free from the grip of a colonial empire … And so, we must never forget, when they pledged “their lives, their fortunes, their sacred honor,” it was not in a manner of speaking.  (Emphasis added.)

We call them Founding Fathers, in tribute. … it has meaning in our time as never before.

David McCullough

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These words appear on the jacket cover of Mr. McCullough’s superb biography of John Adams (John Adams, Simon & Schuster, 2001) – a book that tells, in eminently readable detail, of the colossal, selfless, grinding work and courage, genius and fellowship among a small handful of brave men willing to chart a course of national independence from the power of a mighty Great Britain in late 18th century.

“Old Dead White Men” indeed!  Shame on Leftists who know nothing and have accomplished even less for dismissing these brave men.

Yes, shame on them – their ignorance is only matched by their substantial ego.

We can only wait patiently for these sons and daughters of the post-1968 nihilistic cabal to pass away.  Then, perhaps – just perhaps, we will restore our senses and return to actual learning, real education (sans snowflakes,”safe” spaces, etc.), and a love of liberty, this land, our sacred heritage and each another.

I cite one story to suggest the price these “old dead White men” paid in forming our nation and crafting our Constitution.

John Adams of Massachusetts, having traveled from Boston to Philadelphia on horse back to be separated from his wife, children, extended family and professional work for months on end – endured enormous worry for his loved ones when a deadly small pox epidemic swept through Boston.  Letters their only communication.

Yes, men sacrificed as did their families and worked day and night, day after day to establish and defend this daring independence from Britain.  The burdens were plenty and hard problems and choices abounded at the same time they sat apart from their home and family.

Perhaps this 4th of July we might just gather our thoughts and begin to see how blessed we have been because of the efforts and sacrifice of these men and their families … and perhaps, you might just remind the perpetual complainers that they are an embarrassment to our Founders.

“Old dead White man,” my fanny!

Shalom.

Our birth is but a sleep and a forgetting: / The Soul that rises with us, our life’s Star, / Hath had elsewhere its setting, / And cometh from afar. / Not in entire forgetfulness, / And not in utter nakedness / But trailing clouds of glory do we / From God, who is our home: / Heaven lies about in our infancy!

William Wadsworth, in “Intimations of Immortality”

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A 30-something man fixated on a running feud with a local small town newspaper shows up and kills five staff members.  A large crowd of plump, disgruntled (but well fed) middle age women show up in the Capitol to air their “grievances” (which seem more like proclaiming themselves rather than establishing a claim of injustice).

In any given day, on multiple fronts, some strange things happen (some violent and others just noisy) and one wonders: Has the door to the loony-bin been left open?

My point?  If you look around and wonder what is going on with these people you see – I might suggest two things: one, many people are not well-formed, fully matured, and, two – some are genuinely ill.  I add: the line between the two is thin and hard to see.

That said, what does Wadsworth have to do with anything?

Well, this – throughout time stories have been told (as in the above) that proclaim that prior to our birth we knew a celestial existence and that we were born to the mortal world to journey in it in a manner whereby we grew in understanding, maturity, in faith so we might one day return to our celestial beginning.  Yes, for many the journey was from God – to God, again.

Well, so what – you say?  My response: classical and religious narratives and as with myths and stories present an account that can guide us in this life – help us retain meaning and sanity and grow in patience, wisdom and understanding.  Note, please analytical psychiatrists may well be familiar with these ancient sources of understanding and do incorporate these stories in their appreciation for human wellness and the journey from ego to self (and human wholeness and sanity).

Now back to what we see daily that concerns us.  The day’s events give us these lessons: (1) many people are not fully developed, and their conduct tells us this, (2) some are acutely disordered and they carry real risk for innocents, (3) we do a lousy job providing people with an education that helps them understand their task is to grow in knowledge and stability over time, (4) in our present state we have many people who do not “play well” with others in the sand box, (5) our welfare rests on knowing the wisdom of ancient narratives – religious included – and applying ourselves to growing up to be healthy people – one by one.

Finally, today we are a LONG way from the maturity we are offered.  A starting point for us?  Stop the complaining in the streets and the demonizing of others (such efforts only establish your own immaturity).

Shalom.

Why does anyone tell a story?  It does indeed have something to do with faith, faith that the universe has meaning, that our little human lives are not irrelevant, that what we choose to say or do matters, matters cosmically.  (Emphasis added.)

Madeleine L’Engle

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So says author Madeleine L’Engle (Wrinkle in Time and so many other wonderful works).

Yes, life has meaning.  Yes, life has meaning for each of us – from the oldest to the youngest, from the richest to the poorest, the healthy to the ill.  Each of us live a life of meaning … and we are not called into life willy-nilly – without purpose or sanctity.  We are holy beings – everyone.

Finding meaning is the issue.  Finding meaning and experiencing the intimate and amazing reality that we (each one) has a reason for being and for living a full life – beginning to end.

Where to find meaning?  One place in story.  In the written and oral stories of the human being throughout history – in our mortal and eternal existence.

Story.  The best and most revealing story we possess as Christians and Jews is our religious narrative.  It, more than any other story within our reach, is laden with meaning for each of us.  Each recorded episode of God and his people, of Christ and his disciples records the meaning of life for each of us.

Yet, there are those among us whose actions seem to say: “I know not my meaning – I have no value, no meaning, no purpose – I am lost – irretrievably lost.”

This is a national cultural crisis.  It is immediate – it is now.  And it need NOT be so.

Sadly, we see the above words of hopelessness in the addicted, the criminal, the thief, the serial adulterer, the sexual predator (man or woman), the pornographer, the pimp, the prostitute, the liar, the cheat, the cruel ones, abusers … in those who take their own life.

We can even hear these words of hopelessness among those good men and women who have lived more objectively than subjectively – those who cultivated the mind at the expense of the heart.  These are good people who have missed the story and its life-sustaining nature.

Sadly about 45,000 people a year now take their own life here in the United States.  Yes, there are about twice as many suicides in the U.S. as there are homicides – and the number of suicides is growing rapidly.  Such is the price of godlessness in our exclusionary secular culture.  

We have lost our way.  Those with power and authority have forsaken faith – turned their backs to God and abandoned religion and our religious narrative at a very, very great price.  You see our unhappiness and self-destruction is the product of life without meaning – which is to stay: life without God, without attending to our religious story.

If there ever was a time when we had to reverse course it is now.  Come back to a life-giving story.  Come back to your faith narrative.  Demand it be welcomed in the public square.  Play an active role in our cultural recovery and restoration by adopting your religious story as a guide, and active ingredient in your daily life, thoughts and actions.

Our country needs you.  Others need you, too – especially our children.

Shalom.

If this post speaks to you, act on it – share it with others but do take your faith seriously.  Learn you story in its content and insight.  As usual, I appeciate your comments.  Thank you for reading Spirlaw.

 

Any renewal not deeply rooted in the best spiritual tradition is ephemeral …

Carl Jung, M.D., in Collected Works

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Jung knew the importance of seeing the spiritual content of life and life’s events.  We are not so readily inclined.  He derived meaning and understanding from this.  Our inability to do so, leaves us confused and, in the worse cases, destructive of self and others.

It seems to me this is where we are today.  Likewise we have few (if any) commentators who are capable of seeing and discussing the spiritual and psychological elements of our present moment and its fractious nature.

This circumstance makes me think of Mary and Joseph and their newborn child’s flight into Egypt.

You may recall that an angel of the Lord appeared to Joseph in a dream and urged him to flee lest Herod kill the child.  This itself has meaningful value as a simple story.

What we see in this is the fear felt by the ruling authority vested in a rigid status quo – the fear that “change” other than what they offer or demand, however aluminating otherwise, may be costly to their status quo.

Thinking of today – this may well explain the daily hostility we see aimed at President Trump by media, comfortable elites and his political adversaries.  His presence disturbs their psychological comfort, their status, the world as they have come to know it.

It is always wise to ask deeper questions when one sees reactions at that are overt, persistent and hostile.  Such reactions signal that a fundamental cord has been struck, i.e. something important is afoot.

Likewise when ones sees those sworn to serve lawfully acting in a lawless manner – one confirms again – this is a significant moment.  I think, in particular, of the challenges to the U.S. Constitution – another grave sign that fundamental stakes are at play.  And I think of legal guardians acting unlawfully.

More to the point, when the Constitution is easily attacked its opponents tell us they do not realize that this document is as much a spiritual document as it is a political document.

Indeed, seeing only with political eyes produces destructive consequences for the Constitution is by all measure a document that reflects the soul and identity of a free people and their nation.  Damaging it, damages our individual and collective self – our identity and relationship to one another as one people united and free.

So often we miss the spiritual and psychological aspects of life in one’s historical moment.  Such a mistake is always costly and wrought with conflict that could be avoided if we just recalled our larger context – namely, the narratives of our heritage and what they tell us.

Shalom.

 

… it came to pass … that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus, that all the world would be taxed …

Lk 2:1

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This census, of course, required each person in the Roman Empire to assemble in their ancestral village or town … and this was a prelude to Jesus birth in Bethlehem as Joseph and Mary journeyed from their home in Galilee in accord with Caesar’s directive.

How many note the significance of Jesus being born at a time when the entire Roman population was assembled as a whole?  My point being that the birth of Jesus has characteristics to it that proclaim something quite special in this birth.  Illustratively, the birth of Jesus heralded the assembly of all.

Yet, there is more.  Jesus birth in a manger among farm animals makes the statement that the child’s presence exceeds mortal reality – but rather speaks to all creatures and creation.  Yes, Christ is for and of the whole of this world and the next.

Indeed, shepherds and kings come to his place of birth.  Is this not a proclamation that in Christ the humble and exalted are but one in the same?

Yes, the circumstances of this birth speak to us of its universal and eternal importance – but do we think of this in our own time?  Is this a point of reference for us?  Does this magnificent birth inspire us?  Motivate us?  Lead us in our daily existence?  I dare say: “it does not.”

Does not the star that led others to Bethlehem speak to the cosmic significance of this holy birth?  Does it not say that each birth is God’s intention?  Yet, who are we now?  Do we see these things?  Are we comforted and governed by them?

Shalom.

 

The bravest are surely those who have the clearest vision of what is before them, glory and danger alike, and yet notwithstanding, go out to meet it.

Thucydides

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Our culture does not look kindly on men.  We are more the suspects than the welcomed.

Secular culture does not honor the nature of things nor the historical record.  Aside from rejecting religious narrative and God, groups of “special pleaders” adopt a variant of Marxist analysis and divide us by gender, skin color and political views.

In the present age, “throwing the baby out with the bathwater” is reflected in disparaging men.

Thucydides speaks a Truth.  The bravest among us face the difficulties that come to their families, their clan, their children, their spouse, their friends, their community, their country, their Church, their neighbors, the old, the weak, the poor, the young.

History tells us the task of facing danger and risking death has been the job of men.  To disparage men is to lose sight of who they are.  Yet, we disparage them without thinking – “Who will fight for us, protect us, do the dying that life demands so others might live?”

We are at this point a foolish culture.  I see those who garner public attention – but I do not see the men I know – those who stand ready when trouble approaches.

Life is combat.  And men do combat.

Shalom.

 

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