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“No matter what the writer may say, the work is always written to someone, for someone, against someone.”

Walker Percy

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I sit alone to write.  I sit in quiet to write.  I write each day.  Normally before dawn.  Maybe at 2 a.m.  Maybe at daybreak.  Yes, I write to others.  To someone else.  To those met or those not yet met.  To the living and the dead.  To those before and those to come.  And to myself.

I write for, and I write against.  I write to all, to the family we are.

Writing: a message in a bottle.  My crucifixion.

I write alone … hanging on a tree.

Shalom.

Our wills are not ours to be crushed and broken; they are ours to be trained and strengthened.

Hamilton Wright Mabie

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Many things in life seem to stall us, trap us – but what of our will?  The ability to persevere.  The mental toughness to “gut it out,” “grind away,” refuse to quit, to give up?

Does not will overcome the obstacles that arise when feelings are hurt and action is needed?  Yes, of course it does.

But who has the will is the question?  Look around.  How many are trapped by childhood problems? Life’s misfortunes?

Is it not the case that all will be hurt in some primary way, suffer some insult and neglect?  Yes, of course it is.

But those who employ the will, arise from the damage and get stronger, smarter, more determined, more confident, wiser, sly and cunning.  Those who will advancement beyond the pain rely on the will to live, to live despite the setbacks – indeed, because of them.

Does God not give us free will for a reason?  Yes, so that will itself may be chosen and in doing so honor the sanctity of life that we have been given.

Shalom.

Victory over modern liberalism will require a robust self-confidence about the worth of traditional values that … liberalism has already seriously damaged … This is at bottom a moral and spiritual struggle.  (Emphasis added.)

Robert H. Bork, 1997

The real crisis we face today is a spiritual one; at root, it is a test of moral will and faith.  (Emphasis added.)

President Ronald Reagan, 1983

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Opposition politics today is not about policy and surely not about tweaking the business of government and established big-government programs.

Yet none of the opposition candidates have shown that they understand what a significant percentage of the electorate does: that our nation is being re-defined and lost, its once reliable institutions destroyed, its citizens targeted, faith unwelcome, God exiled, courts as agents of nihilism, executive action – lawless, unilateral and contrary to our national security and interests.

Yes, we face a spiritual crisis, one of moral will and faith.

Yes, the United States and Western Europe are at serious risk because of the ideas and policies of the Left and modern liberalism.

We face a spiritual crisis, one that jeopardizes the fundamental nature of America and the West and our survival.  The battleground is – what we believe, our spiritual existence.

Our candidates, lacking comprehension of the nature of the conflict we face, do not speak to the damaging change in culture and country that has been visited upon us by the Party of the Left.

Nothing less than a head-on assault on the thinking that the Left embraces and promotes in its public policy is required; and that, today, means a scope of criticism that engenders the spiritual needs of people and the spiritual damage Leftist thinking has presented to us in the last 60-70 years.

The leadership we need must be wise in matters of faith and spirit, have the ability to articulate and explain the damage caused by the Left’s destructive thinking, policies and ideas, and the public presence to strip the bark of the Leftist tree with intelligent insight, wit, warmth, and commanding presence.

We face a time not unlike the 1st Century of Christianity in which we stood against the tyranny of the Roman Empire and the self-limiting ways of the existing religious hierarchy.

Challenging?  Yes.  But this is the rarest of opportunities to be overtly Christian again – strong and unflinching, unashamed and determined.

We can do this one by one.  Christians have stood against oppression since 33 A.D.  This is our heritage, our identity.

Shalom.

Christian simplicity is the very perfection of the interior life – God, His will and pleasure as the sole object.

Jean Nicolas Grou, in The Hidden Life of the Soul

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” … Reagan was – I use the word simple, as in simplicity … What you saw is what you get, it’s not phony … I mean the guy cared about the country, he cared about the people.  He wasn’t a phony …”

So says Dennis Le Blanc a young California highway patrol officer assigned to Ronald Reagan’s security detail when he served as Governor of California and who worked side by side with the Governor at his ranch when he became President and after he served as President.

When I say “worked side by side” I mean that literally.

You see, Ronald Reagan always did manual labor on this ranch.  He maintained the land, improved it, created trails where once thick wild brush thrived.  He added small improvements to his very modest home there.  He made and laid fence.  He worked alongside Mr. Le Blanc and shared lunch with him and others who helped in the work.

As Le Blanc reports, never asked anyone to do work that he himself would not do.

This was an everyday occurrence and truth is: he loved it.  It was part of his day, every day – rain or shine.

Yet more impressive, and so critical content in understanding the nature of the balanced and good life of Ronald Reagan was this: he was grounded in a relationship with God.

Indeed, simplicity and God go together as Jean Grou says.  They form a contented and fulfilling life of service to God and others, a life with and for God and others.

As Mr. Reagan’s daughter Patti notes: he saw God in creation, in the land and its beauty.  He saw the human being as being responsible to care of what God created.  He saw man not as a problem but as God’s humble problem solver.

As author Peggy Noonan says “He saw the sanctity of ordinary things” and acted accordingly.

Indeed, here was a man who occupied a position of enormous power but never clung to it, nor lauded it over others. No $200 haircuts.  No retribution.  No superiority.  No family foundations taking in millions and blurring the lines between proper and improper, lawful and unlawful.

No need to sustain a public presence after his service was complete.

Rather, here was a man willing to get his hands dirty, happy to be a private citizen, a retiring presence, a contented man.  A simple man with a relationship with God who he saw in all things, in others, in His beautiful creation.

A grateful man who never forgot his early life of poverty and his mother’s enduring trust in God.

Yes, he perfected, without fanfare, his interior life and, yes, his simplicity was real and connected to his relationship with God.  This: a lesson for all of us.

How we need public figures like this.  Authentic people, those who serve God and others – not themselves.  Not problem makers but problem solvers.  Humble servants.  Good people.

Christianity … makes a man’s greatness consist in the amount of service he renders to the world.

Theodore Parker, in Thoughts on Labor

Shalom.

Note – Credit goes to Peggy Noonan for her chapter “The Ranch” in When Character Was King.  She has written such a good and useful book.

How might you know what will become of your life, and what work you will do? You probably will not know that.  Living is first an approximation – notions that, in living, get refined and reveal who we are as we proceed.

You will have at the onset an approximation, a general direction – something that will be distilled, shaped into an identity, a place in the world. We live by faith, you see – and walk by light, at first a glimmer and then a flame.

How does the journey look?  What is it like?

We mature over time.  And this takes sorting through what comes our way, learning from the missteps and mistakes, coming to grips with the early events of life – and learning from relationships and past wounds and gaining emotional and social wisdom.  In the process, somewhere along the way, creativity grows and our place and name is more familiar to us and we grow in the spirit and become savvy at living in the world as it is and can be.

You arrive when calm is the dominant disposition and you realize you can help others quite readily and often find yourself doing so.

Live with patience.  Grow each day.

Shalom

Knowing God is more important than knowing about God.

Karl Rahner, S.J., Theologian

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How does one come to know God?

This is a concise question that opens up our life, changes us and promises our expansion and fulfillment.

If God is in all things, then God can be known in all things.

The traditional ways of coming to know God are through worship, by reading and contemplating Scripture.  Yet, there is so much more that it natural to our existence that reveals God to us.  We know God in our friendships, in caring for those who need help or understanding.  Likewise we know God in family and through the work of our hands and heart.  And in nature also.  As in silence.

Then there are the things special to you.  The things you enjoy doing are often a place to know God who places in your life skills and a disposition to know the joy of living that is unique to you.

For me, I find God in children, in friends, in my care of dogs, in painting and in reading and writing, in my suffering and the suffering of others, and in the warm reception of others and they of me.  I find God in the suffering of our Jewish brothers and sisters during the Nazi Holocaust for I cannot see a reminder of this monumental tragedy but that I think how God was betrayed by those who tortured and killed His children.  I see God in our Jewish kin and their steadfast devotion to God and learn from them what the love of God is.

Yes, God in everything.  And with God in everything, then always God.  Nothing above God.  Nothing more than God.  God.  Just God. God and you.  God and us.  God.  Knowing God.

May you draw closer to God each day, with each step.  May your consciousness be of God; may you be with God and God with you breath by breath.

Shalom.

It is said that St. Patrick suffered enslavement as a young man and that while tending sheep in solitude he had a conversion, that his conversion was aided by dreams and interior understandings; in short, that he evolved in his faith and his identity grew as did his closeness to God.

Likewise it is said that in the course of his spiritual development he sat out to visit the Apostolic See in Rome in order to gain a greater understanding of the divine wisdom and holy mysteries to which God called him so that he might preach Christ to those who were not Christians.  Yet, as the accounts tell, St. Patrick was hosted in Gaul by a holy and wise Bishop (Germanus) who became his tutor and teacher.

While with Bishop Germanus, it is said that St. Patrick had a dream that told him it was time to fish with “the net of the Gospel” so that he might bring others to Christ.  This, it is told, inspired St. Patrick to evangelize the people of Ireland.

In this story and at this time in need of Christ, does St. Patrick not ask us: Is it now time for us to evangelize, to fish for others with “the net of the Gospel?”

Father in heaven, you sent the great Bishop Patrick to the people of Ireland to share his faith and to spend his life in loving service.  May our lives bear witness to the faith we profess and our love bring others to the peace and joy of the Gospel.  Amen.

Go and fish for others as St. Patrick did.  The times require this.

Shalom.

Life throws us curve balls and they are hard to hit.  The unexpected is to be expected.  Our plans are the plans of men and they do not account for the unexpected.

Often the unexpected appears as a detour, a heartache, a distraction.  But is it really?  Might it not be good fortune, something which refocuses or redirects us?  Could it be God’s hand at work to help us exceed out narrow vision and see where we are needed and where our happiness is to be fulfilled?

Think about Moses.

A poor Jewish child is discovered in a basket by Pharaoh’s daughter and adopted by her. He is raised in the royal family and in his adulthood he kills an Egyptian who was abusing a Jew and flees to the desert lest he be found out. He remained in the desert for 40 years tending a herd of sheep.  Hardly a plan that Moses could ever have created.

Yet, after his 40 year exile God calls him through a burning bush to serve a most unexpected task: to deliver the Hebrews from Egyptian captivity.

From adoption to flight to exile to liberator, this is not the plan a man creates.

You see the things which are most unexpected are often the greatest gifts, and God’s intervention into your life as you, mere mortal, conceived of it.

When your plans are interrupted do not judge the intervening facts at the time that is contemporaneous with the “trespass” on your plans.  No, wait.  See what new space the intervening circumstance creates for you to move to – for that is where you will find success and happiness – go to the new created space.  Do not resist.  You will find in time that the ill-wind is a blessed breeze to get you to change to a course that you would never have designed for yourself, that exceeds in time anything you could have imagined.

In short, God is a better planner than we are.  Do not fear.  See the space and move to the Light.

And he looked, and behold, the bush was burning with fire, yet the bush was not consumed.

Ex 3:2

God speaks to us through unusual circumstances and the unexpected difficulty. Take heed.  Ask what is this interruption telling me?  Where is the Light directing me?

Have confidence in God who has given you an identity and skills which are sacred gifts and intended to be used for your happiness in the service of others – to promote their well being and your own.  We are all called to do God’s will and therein lies the joy of living and our happiness.

Go to the space and the Light.  Difficulties often give divine direction.

Why lies he in such mean estate where ox and ass are feeding?

Good Christians, fear; for sinners the silent Word is pleading.

2nd Stanza, What Child Is This?

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The silent Word is pleading.  Can we hear it?

Some psychologists, like van de Berg, say that all psychological problems are the product of the socio-historical changes in culture.  Be that or not, cultures do shape our human experience and have an impact on how we hear, whether we hear or not.

It is fair to say that the human person is not a clean slate, unaffected by culture and era.  Our challenges do not arise out of thin air.  The times we live in and the culture that we occupy impose themselves on us.  Our particular time and culture pushes us to particularized expression fitting for the time and culture and the problems posed.  It follows we hear what is particular to the culture and times – or we perhaps do not hear because of the nature of the culture and our time and our own passivity and laziness.

To hear the silent Word requires a critical evaluation of our times and culture. Without that critical understanding, hearing the Word is more difficult.  Yes, maintaining a critical and examining disposition is work.  Yes, it requires one to engage life, sort it out and this is a life long enterprise, not something given to the passive and disengaged.

Hearing the silent Word, you see, requires a commitment to engage life fully over a life time.  Those who fail to do so are, especially as they age, at odds with aging and mortality.  They are the sour ones, the grippers and the bitter who feel inexplicably “cheated” by life because they long ago expected ease, life without toil.  For them one might say in their end state of unhappiness – welcome to the NFL, to life as it is – too bad you missed most of it.

Live the life you have been given – stay in the game.  If you do, the silent Word will be heard.

Shalom.

 … Mary … sat at Jesus’ feet and heard his word.  But Martha was distracted with much serving, and she approached Him and said, “Lord, do You not care that my sister has left me to serve alone?  … tell her to help me.”  And Jesus answered …” … Mary has chosen that good part, which will not be taken away from her.”

Lk 10:39-42

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There are so many stories in the Gospels which teach and teach us well.  This is one.

Mary’s sister Martha was preparing a meal while her sister sat a Jesus feet listening to Him.  Martha makes a reasonable request: that Mary help her.  But Jesus tells Martha that in a choice between task and listening to God – listening to God is the priority.

This is a seminal lesson in a culture that stresses work and distances itself from God.  Do we need to review what the Gospels teach?  Yes.  Do we have to apply this lesson to our own lives?  Yes.  Do we need a cultural adjustment? Yes.  How might that be done?  Be Mary.  Spend time with the Gospels and with God.  Listen to Christ.  Ironically, you will go about your tasks more effectively – and with a far better attitude.

Shalom.

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