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July 6th, 2018 – Hope it is a good one for you!

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If you want something too much it’s likely to be a disappointment.  The healthy way is to learn to like the everyday things, like soft beds and buttermilk – and feisty gentlemen.

Larry McMurtry, in Lonesome Dove

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Re-reading a favorite book or watching a movie you have already seen can restore a perspective you once possessed and need to acquire again.  Yes, the pace of present day secular culture occupies us so thoroughly that we can easily lose our orientation, perspective, way of being when we are at our most relaxed best.

The above words are those of Gus McCrae, a crusty old witty and practical ex-Texas Ranger with a philosopher’s disposition and a desert dry sense of humor.

Old Gus proceeded through life with joy.  He never missed the fun, nor fooled himself as to the world he lived in, the nature of people in it, or himself.  He was hassle-free.  I do not mean problem-free – for the world is the world even for honest and balanced characters in Western novels.

Seeing Gus’s humor and wisdom, sense of justice and courage, fidelity to friends and principles reminds me of how not like Gus so many people are now.  The contrast is striking.  Gus stood tall – saw what was before him and never shunned the call to honor.

Unlike many with public voice today, Gus was not a complainer – not a whiner, and in contrast to the multitude of Left and liberal voices we hear – he was not sour, frantic, perpetually irritated, obnoxious, and demanding.

Gus had fun with life – the Left and the liberals do not.  The Left today is disgruntled or angry about anything and everything that is not what they want, do, think, believe, expect, or demand.

Mind you, Gus’s life on the Western frontier in the late 19th century was hard and unpredictable.  But Old Gus took all the hurdles, bumps, twists and turns with same panache that Sinatra sang – smoothly and self-assuredly while resigned to the magistry and mystery of it all.

How we’d help ourselves to be like Gus: funny, witty, courageous, sober, loyal, grateful, clever, loving, generous, and wise.

Right now, those most vocal among us are anxious or offended, or hostile, or loud and unhappy – unpleasant and constantly frantic.  No Gus for them.  Unlike Gus – they take nothing in stride.

Life in the West in the late 19th century, or life today in cyber-secularism?  Where’s my horse and gun?

Shalom.

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God, Who is everywhere never leaves us.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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It seems to us from time to time that God is not present to us.  But this would appear to negate what Merton says above.

What might one say?  Merton says this: sometimes God seems present to us and sometimes He seems absent from us.  This is normal.  Merton tells us this: God may be more present to us when he appears absent than when He appears present.

Strange, you might think.  And you might ask: How can this be?  More present when we think He is absent?

To figure this out Merton points out that there are two kinds of “absent.”  One is a condemnation – God is absent from us “because we put some other god in His place and refuse to be known by Him.”

In the second form of “absent” we are not condemned but sanctified!  In that experience of His absence He “empties the soul of every image that might become an idol and of every concern that might stand between our face and His Face.”

Condemned is what our culture has done presently – how we live at-large in a secularized culture that intentionally excludes God and foolishly elevates the human person – their physical and intellectual desires above God.  All of the homicides, violence, broken relationships, addictions, predatory behavior, conflicts, divisions, abortions, child abuse and neglect, abhorrent inter-personal behavior and actions intended to destabilize the country are acts of condemnation on our part.

The sense that God is absent to us in the whole is an accurate indication of our present day experience.  We have met the enemy and he is us.

Sanctification is something else again.  Here God acts positively and protectively to insure that we do not personally (one by one) acquire the means to divide ourselves from God.

In sanctification God loves us so that He leads us to a place where we realize that the things we have cherished are NOT God and as such can never satisfy or fulfill us in and by themselves.  You see when find that we have begun to place even the best things we do or encounter above God, God reminds us that even the good we do cannot satisfy as God can for the good we do does not love us the way the God who is Love does.

When the day grows quiet and you are alone, ask yourself if you have placed things above God – even the good things you do.  If that might be so, ask God to bring you back to Him.

As for the serious disarray we have in our culture and country, it is way past time to seek that God might bring us back to Him.

Shalom.

 

 

… 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.

… she seated herself at the Lord’s feet and listened to His teaching …

Lk 10:39

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Here we refer to Mary of Bethany, who sat at Jesus feet listening to His words, His teaching while her sister Martha prepared a meal for others.

As you recall, Martha complained to Jesus that her sister sat while she worked.  And you likely recall that Jesus remarked that Mary chose the better way.

We in this Nation are, in my opinion, at the most significant historical point in my lifetime of 72-plus years.  We face today a political, moral and spiritual crisis which I believe to be the most ominous threat to our existence that we have faced.

There are those among us who seek to secularize us completely, to disgorge us of faith and morality, substitute socialism for free market capitalism, concentrate power in Washington, regulate human behavior, thinking, and opinion, and institute a government of a small and privileged ruling class.

So why reference Mary of Bethany at the feet of Jesus?  Well, because there is a profound and urgent lesson in this story.  The lesson?  Our welfare, security, prosperity, peace and the preservation of this unique free nation, built on belief in God coupled with freedom, can best be maintained by listening to the Word of God, being guided by it and incorporating it into our life and political views.

“If any man thirst, let him come to me and drink.  Out of his inmost being will flow rivers of living water.”

Jn: 37-38

Shalom.

 

 

When you learn to be alone you’ll discover the difference between alone and lonely.

L. J. Vanier, in Ether: Into the Nemesis

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Coming to the ability to be alone is like climbing a very steep and very high mountain with tough terrain and turbulent weather.  Yes, being alone is not the first thing we come to embrace – more like the last thing we come to embrace.

I used to dread being alone.  Why?  I just lost so many people in my childhood – it was like being in battle and seeing those on your side, those you needed disappear leaving you with dwindling odds for survival.

Yes, loss at an early age is a serious awakening that brings more fright than confidence.

But then there is age.  When you have weathered many storms, you somehow grow in strength and confidence.  You can only bury so many people before you realize “you are still standing … and each battle has made you wiser and stronger … and ready for the final days whenever they appear.”

At some point being alone is tolerable and supplies you a state of peace that awakens you spiritually.  At some point, alone comes to mean God, what is eternal and joins you with those long gone but not missing really.

When you can be alone and yet with the others you have known, you have approached the summit.  At the peak of the climb there is no sadness, no loneliness – just the fruits of the hard climb up the craggy mountain.

Some people never climb the mountain.  In this the mountain becomes a demon and fear settles deep in the valley of one’s soul.

For me, I’ll take the mountain and the peace it brings – brings in such an odd way of suffering and challenges.

… Jesus led them up the mountain.  There he was transfigured.

Mt 17: 1, 2

Shalom.

… what we are is to be sought in the invisible depths of our own being, not in the outward reflection in our own acts.  We must find our real selves … in our own soul … the principle of all our acts.

Thomas Merton, in No Man is an Island

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This from a wonderful essay entitled “Being and Doing” in Merton’s No Man is an Island.

His words are very useful in a mass communication, digital and social media culture where images and acts are often center stage and narcissism is a real problem (as reflected in its prominence in therapy and as daily exhibited in the news and on TV).

As to our present climate public acts are so a part of others need for attention.

In the present era we seem to be besieged by those who need to sustain a public image at all costs.  We seem to have a culture that accommodates projecting images as the normal form of being while passing completely on the critical important core of one’s self – the soul.

As Merton noted in his 1950’s essay – “I need not see myself, I merely need to be myself.”

Yes, Merton gives us in eleven words the heart of health, meaning and contentment – not our image (and surely not our narcissistic actions and proclamations) but our eternal soul.

How smart he was.  Imagine now how we are surrounded by narcissism and self-promotion.  How many say nothing of value and cannot maintain day-to-day coherence.

How public figures have convenient double standards that say subliminally: I have no guide but ideology invoked and applied to bolster my personal preference.

It is, I think, fair to say – we have many lemmings, but few Mertons.  Therein is our illness, agitation, confusion, calamity, untruths, treacherous deeds and great unhappiness.

Shalom.

 

 

It is widely reported that there is immorality among you, and immorality of a kind not found even among pagans … Purge the evil person from your midst.

1 Cor 5: 1, 13

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We live in a mass communication culture.  We see much – on television, in the movies, on the computer, in print.

The charge of St. Paul applied today creates a broad responsibility for us.

Think about how we are informed about public affairs and the content of our present conversation – about sexual mores and practices, about adultery, about abortion.

Think too about the words that are used.  Think about what is justified and the absence of shame.

Think about the female grade school teacher who discusses with her class her impending “marriage” to another women and the nature of their interpersonal contact.  Think about the crude and unfunny language of the woman at the White House Correspondents Dinner and about the political advocacy witnessed today, and the comments made in the media by people whose lives we know nothing.

Is not St. Paul addressing these things?

Are you a careful and discreet listener?  Or do you mindlessly take all this in?  You had better be the former than the latter.

You are responsible for what is said, done and condoned in society.

If you tolerate anything you will get things that you will come to regret.  Indeed, we have been an uncritical audience too long.  And that is how we have come to see the rubbish we have seen, hear the language we hear, dismantled the family, lost our children to bad habits, drugs, violence, immortality and idleness.  That is why we have the woeful, shallow, crass public and media figures we see.

Think about the celebrities.

We tolerate far too much that is presented to us.  Discretion is needed.  Only you can reject that which St. Paul notices.  If you welcome immorality, you will get endless immorality.

Shalom.

All in, all the time.

A Navy Seal Saying

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I was born on the short end of the stick and the “wrong side of the tracks.”  It was a blessing.  It was the best thing that ever happened to me.

I had one parent – a Mom who never placed herself before me.  When the end of the month came and food was short, she’d have a black coffee and a cigarette for supper while I ate what we had.  She was peanut of a gal – 5′ something and thin.  She was terrific.  She literally saved my life.

She was “all in, all the time.”

I lived with others who were hard-working people.  Disciplined and welcoming.  My siblings were the men and women I grew up with … my extended family: the Moms and Dads of my best friends and my wonderful neighbors.  I love these people to this day and they have remained my close and trusted friends – my brothers and sisters.

Yes, what is most challenging is a great gift.  Difficulties are the fertile ground for love, faith, excellence and courage.

When my wife, Sylvia, was diagnosed with with cancer at 26, I knew instantly “I can do this” – meaning I can walk with her and be by her side, be her strength, love her more – through all that was to come, to her death and beyond.

In my trial and appellate work, I simply out-worked others, out-fought them.  My life had trained me to fight hard, innovate, get the best out of any situation.  I was surprised how many lawyers feared the fight – preferred grabbing the “low hanging fruit.”  Their conduct told me: I can get the best of these people.

In vowed religious life, I saw how many of the members of my community preferred “easy street” to a total commitment to live fully.  To this day, I remember many of my colleagues as people who simply did not live what God had offered them – life in the full.  To this day, I am stuck by how disgruntled and resentful they became when illness struck.  Today, I see the same paltry disposition in lawyers and others chasing the President.  They take the “low road.”  Sad to see.

If you claim to be a faithful Christian, why would you ever not be “all in, all the time?”  Where is the joy of being alive when you “lay up short?”  “Aim for the cup.”

Shalom.

 

God has made different religions to suit different aspirants, times and countries.  All doctrines are only so many paths; but a path is by no means God Himself.  Indeed, one can reach God if one follows any of the paths with whole-hearted devotion …

Ramakrishna, in The Gospel of Ramakrishna

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I cite Ramakrishna to make this one simple point: do his words not say to you that religion is fundamental to human beings; and, that being said, does it not put to us this question: If religion is fundamental to human beings, how is it our culture and many in authority disparage religion and attempt to exclude faith from public view?

Do you need any evidence this is so?

Just look at the English courts and their medical establishment this week.  They prohibited a loving mother and father from transferring their very ill child to a hospital in Italy where his care could be sustained albeit in his terminal state.

When the laws of man override the love of two good parents one wonders where faith and respect for faith has gone?

Of course, we have many examples here in our own country.  There is a story today of a teacher told to remove a shirt that reminded people to pray.  And of course, despite the unencumbered availability of contraception, the federal government still subsidizes abortion providers.

I leave it to you to decide – have we not rejected the importance of religion and do we not see the dreadful consequences?

Indeed, just last night I saw a video of a public transit station in San Francisco where twenty to thirty people were laying about injecting themselves with heroin in broad daylight while passengers passed by.

Only a community and state where godlessness is prevalent would such degradation of a human being be accepted.

Is there any more obvious indication that God is rejected than permitting a human being to so degrade their own life and life itself in plain view of others?

This disgraceful San Francisco scene reminds me of Nazi death camps located in cities where everyday existence and commerce continued as if evil was not present.

Shame on us.  From “In God We Trust” to who cares!

Shalom.

“The works I do in my Father’s name testify to me.  But you do not believe, because you are not my sheep.”

Jn 10: 25, 26

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These are the words Jesus spoke to Jews in Jerusalem at the Temple.  Let’s put them in today’s context.

Yesterday a young man in Toronto drove a van down the sidewalk and killed ten people and seriously injured more.  A few days ago in Nashville, Tennessee, a young man entered a restaurant early in the morning and shot and killed four patrons and injured others.  Each young man had a history of mental health problems.

These two incidents are reminders of the Parkland, Florida, school shootings that took the lives of 17 students.  That young man also has a history of mental illness.  In that case, the public authorities totally failed to address the needs of that very troubled young man.

” … you do not believe, because you are not my sheep …”

The success of Alcoholics Anonymous is dependent on recognition of the existence of God (“a higher power’) and on our limitations to address our problems as if we are that “higher power.”

It seems to me that the constant signs of our neglect of those in need and the violent actions of those who (in their deranged state) randomly kill innocent people is an indication of our neglect of our own spiritual needs.  

I think too of the two lesbian women who adopted six foster care children and retained custody of those children while having had run afoul of child welfare officials in three states.  As you recall these two women drove a vehicle (with the children in it) off a California cliff to their collective deaths 100 feet below.

We are a troubled nation because we have forsaken belief … because we have neglected our full health, our need for spiritual sustenance.

Indeed we live like we are each a god unto our self.  We are, in this regard, absolutely NOT helped by all the discontented “special pleaders” in politics and particularly the angry godless voices on the Left who create division and disorder and their counterparts in the Democrat Party in the U.S. Congress, the federal bureaucracy and in state and local government.  Yes, godless voices breed sickness and hostility.

Let’s be honest, we awake each day to read or hear about one or more horrific accounts of murder, child abuse, infanticide, abhorrent sexual assaults, or some form of human deprivation that is beyond our imagination or understanding … and we see day after day the utter failure of authorities to do much of anything about these matters.

You know I recall the hubris of Mr. Obama who boasted about fundamentally transforming America and that no one seemed ever to ask in what form this change might take, nor did anyone dare to say to him: “Hey, pal, you’re NOT God and you have accomplished nothing thus far in your life.”

The point to be made?  Man is not God.  Heck, we are not now even clearly showing that we are the Shepherd’s sheep.

Might be time to believe again.  But do we have it in us to be humble as we once were?

Shalom.

Warped Self-interest – No Democrat Senators on the U.S. Senate Foreign Relations Committee voted in favor Mike Pompeo for Secretary of State.  They did so largely to deprive President Trump the person he wanted in that position.

Mr. Pompeo, a former Congressman and Director of the C.I.A., graduated first in his class at West Point and first in his class at Harvard Law School.  He has had both a successful military career and an excellent business career in which he started (as I recall) two successful businesses.

When you think that we have had recently both Hillary Clinton and John Kerry as Secretary of State (neither of them who achieved any particular success in their lifetime), it shows you that Democrats always put their own interests before the interests of the Nation and its people.  Shameful.

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