Archive for October, 2013

Fences

Posted: October 18, 2013 in World On The Edge

file0001008911782You may have heard a phrase that goes something like this: When tough times happen, the tough get going.

But that isn’t always true. At times, those who seem ‘tough as nails’ fall apart and into desperation. That kind of a person is likely to put up an emotional fence around himself or herself to keep others away. I think it has to do with pride–exactly because this person has been thought of as strong and can’t let others see his or her weakness.

So, they close people out.

They won’t let themselves be loved–even though they know that good times often follow bad times.

I think of the recent flooding in Colorado, where the homes and livelihoods of individuals were washed away. In the flood waters that devastated them, they literally found pieces of gold!

If you’re a person who closes out others when bad times come, don’t close out Jesus, too. Let Him hold your hand through the mess.

Let Him lead you.

Let Him love you.

Far Things Close Up

Posted: October 17, 2013 in World On The Edge

file0001191597629“In the novelist’s case, prophecy is a matter of seeing near things with their extensions of meaning and thus of seeing far things close up. The prophet is a realist of distances, and it is this kind of realism that you find in the best modern instances of the grotesque. Whenever I’m asked why Southern writers particularly have a penchant for writing about freaks, I say it is because we are still able to recognize one.” Flannery O’Connor

What are the “far things” O’Connor is talking about?—the connection between close-up realism on Earth and a higher spiritual Truth. God and our relationship with Him, however weak or strong or strange; this is what O’Connor writes about. This is what I strive to write about, too.

To show God’s presence in the world, a writer who wants to bring far things close up often uses the strange or the outlandish. O’Connor called it the ‘grotesque.’ She was an author who wrote fifty years ago, when not only the South, but most other areas recognized the outlandish as just that.

Today, the rules concerning what is strange have changed. Oddity has become almost normal. Yet God hasn’t changed. He is just as apparent in our world, maybe even more so. And to present Him in fiction, a writer cannot just whisper, or use sentimental fluff to show His action through people. A writer concerned with presenting the chance of salvation has to yell above an already noisy and distracted world.

Many of us yearn for a chance of restoration. And most readers have a desire for some redemptive act in a novel or story that offers the chance of restoration as well. We long for that moment of grace that will turn us, or better us, or lift us up to higher place in the eyes of those we love. Yet we often forget that the price of restoration sometimes takes the grotesqueness of a crucifixion.

I’m polishing up a novel about restoration now–and I ask for your prayers that I succeed.

Diamonds

Posted: October 16, 2013 in World On The Edge

file2821242488232When I go through situations that I don’t choose and don’t want to go through, I picture the end result as the shine on a diamond.

Our life is a process. Each of us undergoes pressure, and stress. Each of us must take on the heat of learning to live in a very flawed world. But our suffering is often a polishing. If we do it right, we can shine, we can sparkle like a diamond.

Natural diamonds are precious and expensive because of how and where they are formed–at extremely high temperature and pressure, and at depths of 87 to 120 miles deep in the Earth’s mantle. Using carbon-containing minerals, the time period in which they develop ranges from 1 billion to 3.3 billion years. Diamonds are brought close to the Earth′s surface through deep volcanic eruptions by a magma, which then cools into rocks.

That sounds very complicated and intense, doesn’t it? Just like our own lives sometimes are.

If we want a life that shines like a diamond, we have to remember that LIFE IS A PROCESS in capital letters. We may have distances between us at times. We may be bombarded by life’s eruptions–diseases of the body and mind, the financial strain of daily providing for ourselves and our families, grief, loss, and worry over the waywardness, or even the death of a loved one. In these difficult situations, we are like diamonds forming. We are deep within a dark Earth. Yet we can rise.

We can sparkle.

And we can shine.

It’s up to us.

The Space Between Thorns

Posted: October 14, 2013 in World On The Edge

file8671251084098“God is in every person’s life. God is in everyone’s life. Even if the life of a person has been a disaster, even if it is destroyed by vices, drugs or anything else—God is in this person’s life. You can, you must try to seek God in every human life. Although the life of a person is a land full of thorns and weeds, there is always a space in which the good seed can grow. ” ~Pope Francis

Think of the stem of a rose. It’s not particularly beautiful. In fact it has thorns.  We don’t  look at the stem, except to avoid it. Instead we look only  at the beautiful flower.

This is often the way we view people.  We like the flamboyant, the showy. We pay attention to the beautiful, the successful. Most especially we pay attention to people we think will do  something for us. We want flowers. We don’t want thorns. Thorns are dangerous. They can hurt.

But don’t we have thorns as well? I know I do.  There are times when my own actions disappoint me so much that I feel very unworthy to be God’s child. But I am, and so are you.  Even when– not if–we are covered by the thorns of  life. God is in with us—-in fact, within us.

Between our thorns, no matter how thick, stiff, or close together they are, there is a small space. And often from this place comes the brand new sprout of something  we may never have considered.  It is tender and new in the beginning, but it has the possibility of becoming something gorgeous.  We ought to look at others in this way, too. The thorns don’t take away from the purpose of the Rose.

America

Posted: October 11, 2013 in World On The Edge

May God Bless America.file000273024348

We are in desperate need of His blessing today!

Some of you are way too young to remember Frank Sinatra. I know from my parents that his songs helped get them, and many others, through World War II.

Below are the lyrics to one particular song Sinatra loved to sing–a simple song about simple American things that may soon be lost to us, unless we speak out.  The song is “The House I live in.”

What is America to me?
A name, a map, or a flag I see
A certain word, democracy
What is America to me?

I sometimes wonder if we’ve forgotten what a great country our founding fathers came up with, how hard they fought for it. Why were individual freedoms so important to them?— Because they were being taken away by the  greed of a controlling English crown.

The house I live in
A plot of earth, a street
The grocer and the butcher
Or the people that I meet

We still have the right to live where we want, not where a government tells us to live. But we are taxed on property as if the government owned it with us.

The children in the playground
The faces that I see
All races and religions
That’s America to me

Our children on school playgrounds are told now, what they can play and what they cannot play.  And in school, our children are taught about a government imposed morality–what only parents have the right to teach at home.  To say that our Religious liberty is at stake is more than an understatement.

The place I work in
The worker by my side
The little town the city
Where my people lived and died

Small business owners, like the grocer and butcher and many others, are being told what to do. They don’t run a small business except by government imposed standards.

The howdy and the handshake
The air a feeling free
And the right to speak my mind out
That’s America to me

Can we really speak our mind–even through our representatives? What happens to those who do?

The things i see about me
The big things and the small
That little corner newsstand
Or the house a mile tall

What do we see about us now?  The strong values of America have weakened to the strength of a wet mop.

The wedding and the churchyard
The laughter and the tears
And the dream that’s been a growing
For more than two hundred years

The dream of America was Freedom. It’s being chipped away, one law at a time. Can you even decide your own healthcare?

The town  I live in
The street, the house, the room
The pavement of the city
Or the garden all in bloom

States rights are practically nil today. The government bureaucracy has a finger in every state pie.

The church the school the clubhouse
The millions lights i see
But especially the people
– yes especially the people
That’s America to me

But here is the saving grace–THE PEOPLE–you and I. Our hands, our mouths, our votes. I pray we will not be fooled again. I pray that America is restored to the great and noble country she once was.  I pray for a new day of Freedom—a day that truly is OF THE PEOPLE, and UNDER GOD, not the government.

Flitting

Posted: October 10, 2013 in World On The Edge

file000429279301Are you an ant, or a butterfly?

Are you self-motivated enough to finish what you start?  Or do you flit from one thing to another?

Sometimes we have a great plan, with great goals and values. But when the plan doesn’t  achieve immediate success, we jump quickly into something else.

We flit, like a butterfly, dipping from flower to flower. Maybe we do this out of fear of failure, or financial pressure, or some other distraction–but we do it. And we do it too frequently.

Butterflies are beautiful, but in their days as a caterpillar they can eat through a garden. You’ve heard of  The Hungry Caterpillar?

The tiny ant can teach us self-motivation. Ants  get organized. They stay focused. They see their plan through to a completed anthill.  (Unless someone comes with ant-killer!) And in the end, working together, they have created something good—not only for themselves, but for their cohorts.

So, I’m going to  stay a little bit longer with what I’m doing.  I’m going to ignore the beauty of the butterfly and concentrate on the ant. I’m not going to fold up my chair and leave the hall. I might miss the music of something really grand.

Now, can you hang with this video until the end?

Wait

Posted: October 9, 2013 in World On The Edge

file8431234481540Does anybody reading this like to wait? I know I don’t. And I never have.
Still, growing up, when I wanted something I wasn’t sure I could have, I was frequently given the advice, “Wait and see.”

Of course, that requires patience. The timing of something we desire doesn’t always come quickly. And waiting is difficult.

Some things we wait for are out of our control; they depend on others. (more…)

Stand Up

Posted: October 8, 2013 in World On The Edge

file000380733782

We shouldn’t forget to teach our children courage. We do that by being courageous ourselves and encouraging them in the lesson. I learned the lesson many years ago. In the years since, I’ve faced seemingly more serious things, but this little incident in my youth taught me to stand up for my values.

We used to call it “going along with the crowd” when a person acted in a way contrary to what he or she had been taught at home. When we’re young, it’s so easy to do that, because we don’t want to be judged as different from our peers, especially the popular peers. So, we allow them to lead us into situations that we know may not be good for us. Today, some of those particular peers might be labeled as bullies.

I remember one incident in high school when there was an attempt to “bully” me.  Clubs were thought to be important then, and in my high school, the only high school in town, there were four clubs—two for girls and two for boys. Future members were voted in as Freshman and then made to “pledge,” like in a college sorority or fraternity.  For the girls, that involved wearing no absolutely no make-up, carrying around candy or gum for members, and doing jobs or favors for members when ever they asked.

I was agreeable to all that, until I was ‘assigned’ to one of the senior girls in ‘the club’ to which I was pledging. She grabbed me before a Biology class and told me to cheat while grading a paper for a boy she especially liked—we often swapped our test paper with another student, and while the teacher called out the answers to the whole class, we checked the wrong ones, then turned the student’s paper in to the teacher.  The senior girl did not want me to check anything wrong on this boy’s paper. She said he was to make 100 percent, no mistakes.

I was petrified, but I told her no, I wouldn’t do that.

“Well, she said, “if you want to be in ‘the club,’ you’d better do it, or I’ll see you get kicked out of the pledge group.” (BTW, this girl was the daughter of a local Baptist preacher, and I was one of very few Catholics in my school.)

I honestly didn’t think that long about my answer.  My parents had taught me to stand up for what was right. So again, I told her no.

She didn’t think long either. She made good on her promise and went to the club officers to have me kicked out of the pledge class.

Fortunately, one of the officers was my good friend’s sister, and she stood up for me. “Kaye is a Catholic,” she told the rest of the officers,  “And Catholics won’t cheat.” (Wow–not quite the truth–I only wish it was so. Catholics are all too human,  even back then!) At any rate, pity was given because I was a Catholic, so I wasn’t kicked out.

This kind of threatening, or bullying, doesn’t just happen to the young. It happens to all ages; in business, friendships, and families. “If you don’t…., then I’ll…..”

I was lucky enough to have been taught to stand up for what I believed in, no matter the threat. That long ago incident gave me courage to stand up for much more important things later on.

Oh yes, and one more thing–at the final, and dreaded, initiation of pledges into ‘the club’, the Senior girl again chose me as her own. She was ‘paying me back,” she said.

It took my mother half the night to get the Crisco and Corn meal  out of my hair, and half a tube of toothpaste to get rid of the garlic the girl made me chew! But again, I was lucky–I enjoyed every oyster she poured down my throat. I never said a word to her, but I just love oysters!!!!

Heaven on Earth

Posted: October 7, 2013 in World On The Edge

mountain sunHeaven on earth. What does that mean to us? Does it have to do with some sort of freedom?

Freedom is often confused with the license to do whatever a person wants to do. What many of us want to do is to serve ourselves. We want to get angry and hold grudges when we feel like it. We want to take the biggest piece of everything. We don’t won’t get off the couch when we need to. We think we’re so important that the world revolves around us, and only us. We want sex whenever, and wherever, and with whomever, we want to have it with. We lie about others, and put them down when they get in our way. We drink too much, eat too much, drug ourselves, or take medications without moderation.

And what does the above behavior encapsulate? The Seven Deadly Sins. Yes, sins: Wrath, Greed, Sloth, Pride, Lust, Envy, and Gluttony.

And none of that behavior brings us freedom. Often, it brings us misery instead. In fact, each sin comes accessorized with a particular kind of prison.

But……

“Do not be afraid. Do not be satisfied with mediocrity. Put out into the deep and let down your nets for a catch.”
― John Paul II

We can catch Heaven on Earth, and do–every time we make moral choices and not immoral ones. Probably all of us remember when someone we respected or loved said to us, “Do the right thing.”

An awful lot is contained in those words.

They may be hard to live up to. We may not want to hear them. But when we “do the right thing” we are, ourselves, bringing a little of Heaven to Earth.

Suffering

Posted: October 4, 2013 in World On The Edge

file391252950798 (2)How many of us call ourselves Christians? Probably most who read this blog.

But what does it mean to be a Christian, a follower of Christ?  Does it mean we’ll be crucified, too?

It may. At the least, we will surely suffer. Life sees to that.

At times, we cause our own suffering by the bad choices we make.  Other times, another person, or circumstance, out of our control may cause it. We may even be betrayed, as Jesus was for thirty pieces of silver.

But one thing I know. God does not cause our suffering. God is loving, always and forever. He never changes in his love for each of us. And he showed us that on the Cross.

Every suffering we encounter is difficult. We don’t want to go through it.  We pray for a way to get out of it, just as Jesus did in the Garden of Gethsemane when he asked His Father to take it from Him, but assenting that if He would not, then the will of His Father be done. That is the covenant between Son and Father.

Just as with His own son, sometimes the suffering does not leave us. Even when we pray for it to disappear, God allows it to happen for some purpose we may never know in our earthly life.

As my grandmother consistently told me, “Offer up your suffering.” In other words, we may be suffering for others.”

This is what Jesus did. He gave himself away, for each and every one of us, leaving His Holy Spirit within us, leaving us as Temples of Himself, leaving us to use Him by showing His loving way to others. This is the covenant God offers us. The same covenant He offered His Son. But we have to accept it. Do we?

If we really believe that He is within us and that we are to be messengers of His Holy Spirit, wouldn’t we give ourselves to others much more than we do?