Archive for August, 2013

GATOR TOWN SIGN

I am very grateful to Mike Sullivan, Moderator of Goodreads On The Southern Literary Trail, for ‘talking about’  my novel, A Hunger in the Heart.

In the Summer of 1959 we packed up our 1958 Oldsmobile.  It was my family’s first air-conditioned car.  It was a little square unit that sat under the dash that blew cool air through little round vents.

 photo 1958_zps59588366.jpg

With my grandparents in front and my mother and I in the backseat, we headed to the land of dreams, Florida. (more…)

Lawn Chair Catechism

Posted: August 7, 2013 in Lawn Chair Catechism

JesusTHE JESUS STORY

 

When my oldest daughter was about four or five, she looked up at the Crucifix and then to me for an explanation of why Jesus was hanging there.

“The bad men didn’t like what He was saying and they got mad,” I told her. “So they put Sweet Jesus on the cross.”

“What did Sweet Jesus say to make them mad?” she asked. (more…)

FREEDOM is a big word

Posted: August 7, 2013 in World On The Edge

long black trainFreedom is a big word. A weighty word. A lengthy word. The locomotive of Freedom is championed by words, like Liberty and Independence. But the locomotive’s steam is often the lack of any restriction or inhibition.

The train of Freedom runs two ways, and on conflicting tracks. One is a track of lies, the other a track of truth.

Before you buy a ticket on one train or the other, there are questions to ask: Where does it come from? Where is it going? And most especially, who is its engineer?

The lying train of Freedom can be very long and black. It can come from jumbled and defective thinking. It can take us to foolishness and death. And its engineer can be a faulty entity of propaganda.

Do we really have the freedom to kill innocent babies? The engineers of society and our government say we can.

Do we honestly have the freedom to forget our marriage vow, or steal another person’s wife or husband, or to have sex with whomever we want? The engineers of Hollywood say we can.

Do we truthfully have the freedom to knock ourselves out with dope at the expense of the life of our family and our own life as well? The enormous drug trade says we can.

Who is your engineer? Who is driving your Freedom train? We do have a choice. On which train will you buy a ticket?

For you were called for freedom, brothers and sisters.
But do not use this freedom as an opportunity for the flesh;
rather, serve one another through love. For the whole law is fulfilled in one statement, namely, You shall love your neighbor as yourself. But if you go on biting and devouring one another, beware that you are not consumed by one another.– Gal 5:1 13-18

Marriage: A Mystery

Posted: August 6, 2013 in World On The Edge

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The Need To Be Needed

Posted: August 5, 2013 in World On The Edge

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAWe often use this phrase today: “She (or He) is needy,” meaning insecure enough to ‘need’ an overabundance of attention from another human being.

It’s difficult to interact with people who have learned from negative experience not to trust. If you ignore or avoid them, they will be hurt by your rejection, and may get frantic, desperate or spiteful.

Clingy behavior puts a strain on any relationship. We don’t want to suffocate another with our insecurities, but the fact is each of us needs to be needed. Can you imagine what it would be like if nobody needed you? (more…)

The MoviegoerRecently, I re-read The Moviegoer by Walker Percy. I’d read it  many years ago–because it had won The National Book Award and because Percy was a southerner from New Orleans, a Catholic, and a physician.

I liked the book, but in my naïve and youthful perspective, it was just a story about a man who went to movies to see himself in the lives of movie stars. I didn’t understand much about life back then. I didn’t know that life can turn on you and that you have to have an absolute anchor or the currents will steer you where you don’t intend to go. Now I realize all that was Percy’s theme in the novel.

Though it was written decades ago, The Moviegoer has much to say about today’s reality-show-world whose ‘stars’ are heroes to many. It speaks to the values that we DON’T expect from Hollywood or from the flat-screened, superficial world of television that we follow. In the novel, this is the kind of world the main character, Binx Bolling, has taken for his own reality, but it’s a reality he begins to question: Why is he here? What is his purpose?

Binx initiates a personal ‘search’ for answers he never seems to find because he looks in the wrong places. In his mind, he converses with a screen star– Rory Calhoun, a popular actor of Percy’s time—about sex, about money; all important to Binx. His drug-addicted paramour and cousin, Kate, claims to be part of Binx’s search, too, but what she wants is Binx to tell her what to do. She’s a follower,  too afraid  to“act” on her own. In fact, neither of them have the courage or stamina to “act.” Both have come through tragedy—Binx the Korean War, Kate the loss of someone she may have loved. Their hard times have made them searchers, but still, they use excuses to avoid being decisive.

Walker Percy’s descriptions of place, especially New Orleans, as well as every character playing on the screen of Binx’s mind, are close to impeccable. There is no question of what Percy wants us to see–that Binx does not take in the true, indeed divine, essence of life, in himself or in others. The one exception is his half-brother, Lonnie, who of all his family members, is the bonus in Binx’s life.

Finally, in the last pages of the book, it is Ash Wednesday, and Percy sets forth serious questions for Binx, and for his readers. Binx isn’t watching a movie, but a black man coming out of church.

“His forehead is an ambiguous sienna color and pied: it is impossible to be sure that he received ashes.… It is impossible to say why he is here. Is it part and parcel of the complex business of coming up in the world? Or is it because he believes that God himself is present here at the corner of Elysian Fields and Bons Enfants? Or is he here for both reasons: through some dim dazzling trick of grace, coming for the one and receiving the other as God’s own importunate bonus? It is impossible to say.”

Walker Percy is a Catholic writer of the highest sort. His handling of the first-person narrative is wonderful. His insight into people is brilliant. The Moviegoer is powerful for many reasons—not the least is that it stirs the reader’s consideration of a ‘search’  into his own, perhaps flat-screen, reality. Even if you’ve read it before, another read is well worth it.

Get There If You Can

Posted: August 2, 2013 in World On The Edge

stuck in concreteNo one is created perfect. No one lives a perfect life. Of course, that is an understatement.

I know of a man who killed his brother out of jealousy. I know of a woman who lied knowing it would ruin another’s life. I know of a mother who chose drugs and a life on the streets over her child. I know of a father who deserted his family and left them to welfare. I know of a politician who went to jail for stealing campaign funds. I know of a nurse who killed nearly fifty patients. I know of a doctor who killed hundreds of innocent babies for money. I know of a man who kidnapped children and kept them for years as sex objects. I know of a man who entered a crowd and began shooting.

You know these people, too. You’ve heard about them on the news. Maybe you’ve encountered people like them in your own life. Maybe you’re even one of them. They are many. They are legion. And they’ve always been with us.

From a view of loftiness, we may wonder what causes these violent, selfish behaviors. How do they happen?

Don’t point too stiff a finger. Each of us has the capacity to be violent or selfish. But each of us also has the capacity to be gentle and self-giving.

I also know of a man who saved his brother’s life, of a woman who I don’t believe has ever lied in her life. I know of many mothers and fathers who daily, and with much sacrifice, love and care for their children. I know of politicians not out for power or money, but in the service of others. I know of nurses who care deeply for the dying, and conscientious doctors who save the lives of a multitude of children and adults. I know of men who believe that sex is not selfish, but a self-giving gift to be shared only with his spouse.

What causes these behaviors? They’re so opposite from the ones first listed. How do they happen? How do we get to them? One word will answer: Grace.

Then how do we get to Grace?

We have God’s grace within us already, but many of us have covered it over with everything our conscience warns us against. We take the easy way. It’s almost as if we see ourselves as stuck in concrete and either can’t, or don’t want to, get out of –dare I say it–sin. We’ve allowed ourselves to become so distracted that many of us don’t acknowledge grace, or its power, at all.

Put the word ‘grace’ in Google and see what comes up first. It’s the name of a corporation. It’s an acronym to map the earth’s gravity. It’s part of the name of a TV show.

It’s too bad that the most important–and yes, crucial–meaning of the word is ignored. Because we need it. We ought to recognize it. We ought to act with it.

The grace of God is within our reach, so reach for it. Pray for it.

Let’s get there if we can.

Love Hurts

Posted: August 1, 2013 in World On The Edge

cactus heart
When is the last time we asked ourselves this question: What is the purpose of life?

Maybe we’ve never asked it—-although we wouldn’t begin a task or a trip, consider a movie or read a book, without asking what those things were about.

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