Archive for May, 2014

file0001704015753There’s an old song–I think from the 1940’s– that says we always hurt the ones we love. I think that’s pretty much true.

What I don’t think is true is the lyric that we hurt them–“because we love them most of all.” There’s something very wrong with that.

Intentional ¬†hurt and love don’t go together. There may be many reasons for the hurt, but one of the most frequent is anger. Anger causes us to lose control, to say and do things we might not ordinarily do.

Anger is described as an emotional response related to one’s psychological interpretation of having been threatened. Often it indicates when one’s basic boundaries are violated. Some have a learned tendency to react to anger through retaliation.¬† And some use displays of anger as a manipulation strategy–think of a threatened lion showing his prowess. But we are not animals.

Anger is a valid human emotion, still we shouldn’t let it get out of hand.¬† We need to recognize the psychological or emotional factors that could predispose a person to intermittent explosive anger so that we can be onguard— growing up in an unstable family environment, marked by severe frustration, lack of a positive role model, physical and emotional abuse, alcoholism, violence and/or life-threatening situations.

We know¬† unrestrained anger can lead to misery for its victims–even victims the perpetrator professes to love . And that kind of anger is¬†one of the Cardinal Sins.

If our first response in many situations is anger, it is very likely that our temper is covering up our true feelings and needs. This is especially likely if we grew up in a family where expressing feelings was strongly discouraged.  Explosive anger is especially destructive to children. As a result, an adult who experienced that sort of anger as a child may have a hard time acknowledging feelings other than anger.

If your anger seems to be spiraling out of control, remove yourself from the situation for a few minutes or for as long as it takes you to cool down.  Here are some of the dynamics of  Explosive  Anger:

  • We become more angry when we are stressed and body resources are down.
  • We are rarely ever angry for the reasons we think.
  • We are often angry when we didn’t get what we needed as a child.
  • We often become angry when we see a trait in others we can’t stand in ourselves.
  • Underneath many current angers are old disappointments, traumas, and triggers.
  • Sometimes we get angry because we were hurt as a child.
  • We get angry when a current event brings up an old unresolved situation from the past.
  • We often feel strong emotion when a situation has a similar content, words or energy that we have felt before.¬†¬†¬† Source: Get Your Angries Out

Let’s try to put our sincere love for a person in the forefront of our thoughts the next time we feel explosive anger rising within us.

Feel Broken?

Posted: May 29, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001915661239My new short story collection, Birds of a Feather, is all about¬†broken people. Some of the characters don’t realize it at first. They are the ones who won’t see themselves as they really are. Others are shattered, or left behind,¬†by someone they’ve loved. But then, as in life, something changes for them, or more specifically in them. Some of the characters, but not all of them, recognize an offer of healing.¬† The recognition comes when GRACE is offered.

God’s grace is infinitely available. We only have to want it, to take advantage of it. We only have to trust in Him. We only have to turn around and see Him behind us, possibly in the face and actions of a caring human being that He’s called to help us.

Our lives will change then; maybe in ways we never imagined, or maybe in the way we’ve prayed for.¬† Whatever–we will be transformed.

Can we think of a time in our lives when we were so down, so miserable, that we couldn’t put one foot in front of the other? Grace is very present in these circumstances. It is a ‘waiting’ grace, waiting for us to take it. Maybe we have to admit our weaknesses. Maybe we have to give up what is dragging us down. Maybe we need to dig deeper for courage, or patience with others, or let go of our anger, or forgive another–or maybe we just ignore its presence.

But we should never imagine that God is not present.  Instead, we should imagine ourselves reaching out to Him, to realize that being broken at a given moment does not mean being broken forever.

And it is, after all, up to us.

Who Do you Serve?

Posted: May 28, 2014 in World On The Edge
twoMasters¬†“No one can serve two masters. Either you will hate the one and love the other, or you will be devoted to the one and despise the other. ¬†¬†Matthew 6:24
No doubt, there is often frustration in the choice¬†we make about¬† who to serve. God does not force us to serve¬†Him.¬† We have¬†been given free will–we can just as easily choose NOT to serve Him.

Except ¬†He does have a plan. We are put on Earth by our Creator to serve others ¬†in one way or another. God wants us to make a difference during our life. It may be a big difference, or a very small one–but it is a difference designed specifically for us.¬† We can ignore that, or take it to heart, but it’s a fact that the world will be changed, for better or worse, ¬†because we are here.

If we serve God, we know our lives will be worthwhile. Though we may not appear to be¬†society’s idea of success, we will be successful if we follow¬†Him.

If we are not following God, then we are following something or somebody that won’t bring us¬† authentic joy— Only the holy are happy.

God has a unique plan for each of us,¬† a mission that we may not, at once, ¬†be aware of.¬† We discover it by staying close to God in prayer and in the service of others–when we¬†serve others,¬†we are serving¬†¬†God.¬† And that gives our lives great meaning.

The following song by Bob Dylan is about finding meaning in life through serving God. At the time of writing, Dylan was a born-again Christian, hence the song’s religious message: “You’re gonna have to serve somebody/Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you’re gonna have to serve somebody

John Lennon thought this song was “embarrassing” and wrote “Serve Yourself” in response to it. Lennon’s song criticized Dylan’s preaching and instead asserted: “You gotta serve yourself/Ain’t nobody gonna do it for you.”

In 1980, Dylan’s song was awarded the Grammy Award for Best Rock Vocal Performance by a Male.¬† While the religious nature of the record alienated many of Dylan’s older fans, the album also gained Bob a new wave of Christian fans.

imagesPUDVQR78Sacrifice: To forfeit something for something else considered to have a greater value.
Sacrifice does not mean giving up something for nothing; it means giving up one thing for something else we believe is worth more.
Sacrifice is part of  the very definition of what it means to truly love another person. In fact, intimate relationships require sacrifice. I think we understand this most in the context of family, because we do sacrifice for our spouse, our children,  and our parents.  And one of the most important, and hardest, things to sacrifice for family is often our time.

Today’s society¬† tries to¬†obliterate sacrifice at every turn. Ads promise people that they can fulfill their desires without having to forsake anything at all. ‚ÄúLose weight without giving up your favorite foods!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúGet¬† a great body without long workouts!‚ÄĚ ‚ÄúGet rich without having to work hard!‚ÄĚ The denial of¬†sacrifice is everywhere. How about¬† our soaring credit card debts–and of course the¬† national debt?

But it’s a fairy tale to think you can have whatever you want without sacrifice.

If you want to lose weight, you have to stop eating what puts the weight on.¬† If you want to get ripped, you have to work out. If you want to be loved, and to love, you have to show another person that you would give up¬† something of importance for them.¬† Love and Sacrifice are intertwined–and they¬†cost us, sometimes a great deal.

For Christians,  the greatest sacrifice given out of love is the ransom Jesus Christ paid for us.  And I believe the second greatest sacrifice was that of his mother, Mary. Can you imagine watching as your beloved innocent son suffered and died?  Mary did something that only she and God have done. They both freely allowed their only Son to be a sacrifice for the salvation of the world.

imagesC3L18P5BSince most of¬† have things about ourselves we’d like to change or make better, we’re always planning new beginnings.¬† In our heads, the tape plays, “This Monday, I’m going to start…….”

But if you’re like me, starting something over, or beginning something new,¬†is hard to do. We get very comfortable with our bad habits, don’t we?¬† We know we ought to ‘fix’ them, but we’re a bit wimpy when it comes to actually doing it. I have a set of hand weights I bought nearly twenty years ago—how many times have I used them? Maybe twenty.¬† Yes, I’m that bad!

It’s called procrastination.¬† Here’s a great quote: ¬†Procrastination is opportunity’s assassin.– Victor Kiam

People will tell you to “just do it!”¬† But how?

Here are ten things, presented by Marcia Eckerd, Ph.D.¬† on Psychology Today. They’re not instant, she says, but at least helpful:

” 1. Create a deadline you must meet. I set up a meeting that requires me to finish a report and use panic to get me going.
2. It’s common knowledge, but it works – go on your diet or exercise routine with a friend.
3. Break the task into smaller pieces and reward yourself when you actually finish a piece. (Snickers is my reward of choice.) It helps to see the light at the end of the tunnel.
4. Work somewhere outside of home so the usual distractions aren’t there. Or make your work area as distraction-free as possible.
5. Get started even if it’s a gesture. Often, that’s the hump that’s hardest to hurdle.
6. Actually look at your to-do list. Take off anything non-essential, and set a time to start on one thing. The size of the list may scare you away.
7. Talk to yourself, although not out loud if you’re somewhere public. Repeat to yourself: “I have set a priority.” If you feel pulled to do errands or check e-mail, you have set a priority.
8. Organize the bills/papers/supplies you need to do your task. You’re less likely to wander away if you have everything together.
9. Set a time when you must sit down, and don’t allow yourself to do anything else for at least a half hour. You might start out of boredom.
10. Figure out a time to do what you need to do and stick to it. As crazy as it sounds, I lift weights before I go to bed. It’s the only consistent time I can manage.”

Oh, but Dr. Eckerd–you don’t know me!!

Uriah Heep, antagonist in Charles Dicken's,  David Copperfield

Uriah Heep, antagonist in Charles Dicken’s, David Copperfield

Uriah Heep, from David Copperfield, is one of Charles Dickens’s most wicked characters, definitely a villain; a greedy clerk and money-lender, who fawns his way through David Copperfield and blackmails his way to success. The character has as little pigment in his body as he does decency, though he makes frequent references to his own “‘umbleness.” Heep is an evil character, a¬†blackmailer, with no empathy for others. To read about him is to make your skin crawl!

We know from the outset he’s going to be evil. ‚Äú[He] had hardly any eyebrows,‚ÄĚ says the boy, David, ‚Äúand no eyelashes, and eyes of a red-brown, so unsheltered and unshaded, that I remember wondering how he went to sleep.‚Ä̬† Uriah has¬† a pale face, red eyes , and “a long, lank, skeleton hand, which particularly attracted my attention”

The cold, long, white hands of Uriah Heep stand in for the inhumanity of the rest of him: he is like a dead thing, totally immune to any kind of human warmth or sympathy. David is only 11 at this point, but even he is wise enough to see that Uriah Heep isn’t trustworthy.

In real life, there are certainly real life villains–particular villains ¬†in each of our lives. Are we wise enough to know who they are? How do we recognize someone who would do us wrong, or put us in danger? Most of the time, they don’t look like Uriah Heep, but like everyone else we know.

Well, why is that? Why does a person capable of committing evil look like the rest of us?

Because he is like the rest of us–and sometimes he/she is US.

So, can we recognize evil in ourselves as easily as we can in others? Can we honestly look at ourselves? Of course, not; at least not easily.  And that is what often makes us smug Christians, even hypocritical Christians.

This is why we must open ourselves to God through prayer, asking that He allow us to see and stay away from those who would lead us astray—and most importantly, that He will allow us to see ¬†ourselves as we really are, too often the villain, too often the problem in our own lives. The wonderful thing is, He will give us the grace we need to change ourselves, if we ask for it.

The music video is by a band from my youth, coincidentally named, Uriah Heep. You’ll have to hang with the introductory and ending instrumentals–that was usual for heavy metal in the 1970’s. And of course, there are the psychedelics, but the message is on the mark.

cover_churchwciv_lgLet’s talk about the Catholic Church,¬† about her contributions to Western civilization, not only the fields of Theology and Philosophy, but also in science, art and architecture, music, education, geology, law and jurisprudence, language, and the status of women.

Let’s talk about it, precisely because many don’t want us to talk about it. They’d rather talk about the so-called historical ‘repression’ by the church, and by religion in general.

In their discussion, Secularism is assumed to be right and to bring us progress. The Secularists dig in their heels and say the church is an obstacle to their personal progressivism, which means their own version of Truth.

In fact, to the so-called progressive secularist, all religion is wrong. This is far from Truth–I’m talking about absolute Truth, the kind that doesn’t change on a whim. All religions in Western Civilization preach about ‘Truth’ and ‘brotherhood,’ that each of us is a child of God, brothers and sisters who strive for the Truth. And hopefully we are striving for Truth as it really is, not for a changeable truth that is genuine one day, but not the next, according to our whim.

This less than genuine idea of truth has promoted an inaccurate history of Western Civilization that is being used to malign both the Catholic Church, and Christianity in general.

The following quote is from Thomas E. Woods, Jr. –How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization

“About the least fashionable thing one can do these days is utter a kind word about the Catholic Church. The idea that the church has been an obstacle to human progress has been elevated to the level of something everybody thinks he knows. But to the contrary, it is to the Catholic Church more than to any other institution that we owe so many of the treasures of Western civilization. Knowingly or not, scholars operated for two centuries under an Enlightenment prejudice that assumes all progress to come from religious skeptics, and that whatever the church touches is backward, superstitious, even barbaric. Since the mid-20th century, this unscholarly prejudice has thankfully begun to melt away, and professors of a variety of religious backgrounds, or none at all, increasingly acknowledge the church’s contributions.”

The author, Thomas E. Woods, knows what he’s talking about. He’s an American historian, political analyst, and author. Woods is a New York Times best-selling author and has published eleven books. ¬†He has written extensively on the subjects of American history, contemporary politics, and economics. Woods holds a¬† B.A. from¬† Harvard university and a Ph.D from Columbia University, ¬†both in History. He is a senior fellow of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama and a member of the editorial board for the Institute’s Libertarian Papers. ¬†Woods is also an associate scholar of the¬† Abbeville institute in McClellanville, South Carolina. The Abbeville Institute promotes the cultural inheritance of the American Southern tradition as “a valuable intellectual and spiritual resource for exposing and correcting the errors of American modernity,” as opposed to “colleges and universities [which] have come to be dominated by the ideologies of multiculturalism and political correctness.

Some books on this subject are listed below the video. This video is only the introduction to others that Wood has created. Many may find it valuable to consider viewing the rest.

Books on the Subject:
http://tomwoods.com/books/how-the-catholic-church-built-western-civilization/

http://catholiceducation.org/articles/apologetics/ap0388.htm

http://www.deseretnews.com/article/700210479/Commentary-History-shows-contributions-of-Catholic-Church-to-Western-civilization.html?pg=all

 

Do You Love YOU?

Posted: May 21, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001188775838 (1)It has become almost cliché to say that before you can truly love someone else, you must first love yourself.  Cliché or not, the statement is true.

But we cannot love a false self.¬† We are more than mannequins dressed by another’s intentions. We have to know who we are–for Real.

Loving oneself begins with digging deep to be honest about who we are and what we do. Digging deep to discover the things we are good at, and loving those things about ourselves. Digging deep to discover our faults, our flaws, and doing something about those so that we can love ourselves. Because love is not just a word, it is always action.

When Jesus talked about the greatest commandment of all, He quoted Deuteronomy 6:5 and said we are to love God with all our heart. But He also added the second greatest commandment: You shall love your neighbor as yourself. God wants us to love ourselves, the way He created us to be.

Oddly, or maybe miraculously, the way to honestly loving ourselves is by loving others. How many times have you felt a certain excitement over what you’ve done for another–a word of encouragement, an act of mercy, a simple gift to another of something he/she desperately needs?

Conversely, don’t we feel disheartened when we try to be only what another wants us to be–especially if what another wants us to be goes against our moral code? That’s the failure to love ourselves, that’s being untrue to the core of who we are.

If we want to be happy, we must realize that God loves us terribly, and because He does, we can love ourselves, too–enough that we want to be worthy of His divine love. As it always does, God’s love calls us to action.

There is a story, Bluebird of Happiness, in my new collection, Birds of a Feather, in which a physician misuses his profession in an attempt to keep peace with his controlling wife. He puts that misguided peace above being true to his own moral core. Of course, he is unhappy with himself, with his life, and with his wife. I think many of us do something like this only to please others, or to keep some tranquility. But it does not make us happy. Loving yourself in the right way is what will actually make us happy.

Taking to heart other people’s opinions of us as if they were Truth— though sometimes those opinions may flatter us, as well as put us down–.- is not the way to the joy of knowing and loving ourselves.

So, let’s take some time out to discover¬† what we’re good at, or what we’d like to be better at. Take off any false image we have of ourselves that someone else may have thrown upon us. Then we will find the goodness within us that it takes to love ourselves, and because of¬† that goodness, we will ¬†love others.

 

Going to Mama’s?

Posted: May 20, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001891314285If you grew up in the South, a common destination was ‘Mama’s.’ The expression doesn’t mean that Daddy isn’t there, too; but when we refer to going to our home place, it’s always, “I’m going to Mama’s.”

And when/why do we go?

We go when we’re upset, when we’re hungry, when we want conversation, or hugs or understanding, and to step back onto our home base. For all those things, we go to Mama’s.

And when we leave that place, we take the memory of it with us—a lamp in our thoughts.

Mama’s is a state of mind. A place of refuge in an often stormy and even dangerous world. Mama’s is safety, security. It is roots.

Why do we need this? Because there is so much in our lives that has become temporary, disposable things that have no deep meaning—in fact some things that have no meaning at all except in our possession of them.

Here’s what J.R.R. Tolkien says in “The Fellowship of the Rings.”

“All that is gold does not glitter,
Not all those who wander are lost;
The old that is strong does not wither,
Deep roots are not reached by the frost.‚ÄĚ

 
Of course, I realize that Mama is absent in many homes, that abuse, neglect, abandonment, and violence are prevalent, and it is tragic that so many children have to live with this opposite of what home is supposed to be. How can we change this?

It starts with the sort of training–or lack of it–that parents have gotten in their own homes. And it comes with a loving commitment to everyone present in Mama’s house.

I thought it very interesting that a week or so ago, just before Mother’s Day, at least 80 percent of my Facebook friends changed their personal profile picture to a picture of their mother. And many of the conversations revolved around all the loving things they remembered doing at “Mama’s.”

As for me, there was, and still is, no place quite like Mama’s. My mother’s house has been sold now, my mother and father are gone, but they haven’t left my heart, and never will.

Mercy? Yes, Love.

Posted: May 19, 2014 in World On The Edge

help-buttonHow you ever wished for an imaginary “help button” that would give you immediate assistance with a significant problem? Well, you do have one.

You have the mercy of God.

What do we know about God’s mercy? Have we seen it work in our lives, or do we notice it at all? Do we notice that despite our sinfulness, God still loves us–and waits for us to love Him in return?

Think of the parable of the merciful father whose son returned to him after taking his inheritance and squandering it. Always, the father is waiting for his son to come home. Finally, when he catches sight of his wayward boy slinking back because he has no place else to go, the father runs to meet him with joy, despite what his son has done.

Did you know you are loved like that? You are loved by God.

Do we think our sins are too big, too disgusting to be forgiven? Are we afraid of what God might do to us because of our sins? But again–¬†He loves us.

I am certain that He will do nothing except love us–loves us through our sins, and His love will rid us of them if we let it. Trust in that.

“Let us always remember this in our lives as Christians: God always waits for us, even when we have left him behind!” Pope Francis, The Church of Mercy