Archive for May, 2014

More Than What We See?

Posted: May 16, 2014 in World On The Edge

file0001888333711What does a runner look like when he finally spies the finish line of a 5K race? Isn’t he or she perspiring profusely, panting out breaths, his heart pounding, muscles aching. He’s so close to the finish line, he knows he won’t quit. A little bit more, and then—it’s done. He’s over! He’s put in the work. He suffered through the race. Soon, his breathing quiets, his perspiration dries, his heart stops pounding, his muscles loosen. There is more than just a smile reflected upon his face.

What does a painting look like when the artist begins? Only a line, more lines, colors washing every which way. He doesn’t like it. He wipes it off. He begins again. Lines and color come together until–finally, he has what he wants. He’s created beauty. And he smiles, too.

What does a woman giving birth look like when she’s in labor? An oversized body groaning, crying, pushing, shouting. And then–finally, it’s over. A new human life is laid on her breast. Her child. And she smiles, too.

The point is there is more to be seen in each of these particular events than the suffering or hard work or frustration. In time, we see personal accomplishment, the creation of something beautiful, and most miraculous, the emergence of human life–be it brand new, or only renewed.

There’s more to be seen in the struggles of our individual lives as well. Maybe we’re concentrating on the hard work, frustration, or suffering, and there’s the chance of giving up. But if we hang in there, if we give it our best–in time, we’ll see that our life is emerging too–into something better.

Have Faith in that.
“While other worldviews lead us to sit in the midst of life’s joys, foreseeing the coming sorrows, Christianity empowers its people to sit in the midst of this world’s sorrows, tasting the coming joy.”
–Tim Keller, Walking with God Through Pain and Suffering.

You Can Be a Hero!

Posted: May 15, 2014 in World On The Edge

MFU1767What is your definition of a hero?

I think this is a good one:  A hero is a  person who is unafraid to  make what they believe to be a ‘right’ decision.  And if the decision turns out not to be  correct, they own up to it and accept the consequences.

This means that a hero must have courage—enough not only to stand up for what is right, but to keep going no matter how tough it gets.  Heroes are not people who have super-human strength, super speed or the ability to shoot beams from their eyes. They are just average people who care about people, about human life and how fragile it really is.

According to researchers, empathy and compassion for others are key variables that contribute to heroic behavior. People who rush in to help others in the face of danger and adversity do so because they genuinely care about the safety and well-being of other people. A 2009 study found that people who have heroic tendencies also have a much higher degree of empathy.

Heroes are good at seeing things from the perspective of others.

Researchers suggest that heroes aren’t just compassionate and caring; they have a knack for being able to see things from the perspective of others. They can ‘walk a mile in another man’s shoes,’ so to speak.

Heroes are competent and confident.

It takes both skill and self-confidence to rush in where others fear to tread. Researchers suggest that people who perform heroic acts tend to feel confident in themselves and their abilities. When faced with a crisis, they have an intrinsic belief that they are capable of handling the challenge and achieving success no matter what the odds. Part of this confidence might stem from above-average coping skills and abilities to manage stress.

Heroes have a strong moral compass.

According to heroism researchers Zimbardo and Franco, heroes have two essential qualities that set them apart from non-heroes: they live by their values and they are willing to endure personal risk to protect those values.–http://psychology.about.com/od/the-psychology-of/a/characteristics-of-heroism.htm

There are so many heroes who go unnoticed, selfless people who step out of what is easy and take up something hard  to elevate someone else.  And they ask for no recognition.

Today we hear and read so much about the world’s villains.  But look around—maybe even in your own family–the world is filled with heroes.

Who are the heroes you’ve known, or know now?

file000500940833“Because God is never cruel, there is a reason for all things. We must know the pain of loss; because if we never knew it, we would have no compassion for others, and we would become monsters of self-regard, creatures of unalloyed self-interest. The terrible pain of loss teaches humility to our prideful kind, has the power to soften uncaring hearts, to make a better person of a good one.” —Dean Koontz, The Darkest Evening of the Year    

At some time in our lives, each of us will lose someone we love. We will attend a funeral, stand at a cemetery, and later, visit a grave. We will remember the last time we saw them. We may wish we’d said something different than what we actually said. We will long for their companionship.

But we will also laugh at some of the memories  we have of them. We will find ourselves doing the things they did, in just the way they did them. We will think and say what they might have said if they were here now.  We will keep them within us, refer to them when speaking to family members, and by doing so we’ll continue their memory.

And hopefully, we will ask them to pray for us–for I believe they are able to do so.  The veil between life and death is decidedly thin, and  certainly no barrier to God.

Life is certainly a circle. Where does it end? Where does it begin?  This is known only in the mind of our Creator whose nature is Love, itself.

So, we are sad when we lose someone we love, but to be honest the sadness is mostly for ourselves and the despair of what we’ll do without them.  I think we ought to remember that the soul of a beloved never dies, that he or she is eternally loved by God, just as we will be when we are reunited with those who meant the world to us.

The Long Road to Okay

Posted: May 13, 2014 in World On The Edge

SAM_2550You’ve probably been asked this question thousands of times in different scenarios. “Are you okay?”

Depending on the situation, if you’re like me, you may lose emotional control, you may even want to belt the questioner and yell, “No! Would you be okay with this?”

Emotional control is the key here.  That means acting like a  “real” adult and not a small child.  How many times do small children have an emotional meltdown in public places, or even a full-blown temper tantrum? A sad but true fact is that many of us lack emotional control, when we become angry, impatient, or frustrated.

This takes time, but the key to learning to control emotions is learning to control our thoughts. Angry thoughts take us to angry words and actions. Sad or personally negative thoughts lead us to discouragement.

But if we turn our minds to positive thoughts, loving thoughts, grateful thoughts, we find that we become happy. The key to developing emotional self-control is learning to “reboot” as soon as we feel negative emotions coming on. Then change our thoughts to something positive so that our mood might improve.

We will not do this overnight. It takes practice, but eventually, when bad things–or bad people–happen to us, we can use our mind to become stronger so that we can weather the storm.

He Wants to Use You

Posted: May 12, 2014 in World On The Edge

HE wants to use you. 0

Who is HE?

God.

God created us as specific individuals. He has given us specific gifts. Some gifts may be more obvious. Some may be quieter, less obvious, but one is just as valuable as the other.

God’s gift to you is meant to be used for the benefit of others. And He will come up with a way for you to use, too–if you’re open to His voice. If you listen. But be warned, He will ask for your courage. He will want to lead you, maybe where you’ve never been before. And  to that, you’ll have to agree, and then TRUST.

Are you using your gifts? Here’s an example of someone who is.

Recently, a nun went on the Italian version of The Voice.

“My dream was to be a singer,” Sister Cristina told the state news agency, in her only interview. “The Lord has made use of my wish to call me to him, and is taking me to realise my dream in a way that I could have never imagined.”

Having grown up in Sicily, Sister Cristina was not yet a nun in 2008 when she played the role of Sister Rosa in a musical to celebrate the anniversary of the Ursuline Sisters of the Holy Family. She was spotted by Claudia Koll, who had starred in the 1992 erotic film Cosi Fan Tutte, which was released internationally as All Ladies Do It, but who had since returned to the Roman Catholic Church and was starting a drama school at a nunnery in Rome.

“When I saw Cristina, I realised she should be one of the first ones” to enroll, Koll said. “She had the ability to reach people’s hearts, to communicate with people. And she had a beautiful voice.”

At the beginning of Sister Cristina’s March 19 appearance on The Voice, the camera focused briefly on her sensible nun’s shoes as the judges perked up at the sound of her voice and the roar of the crowd. During these early auditions, the four judges sit with their backs to the performers. Then, if they like the voice, they hit a button, and their chairs spin so they can face the singer.

The first judge to hit the button for Sister Cristina was J-Ax, who is now serving as her coach in the competition. Once a self-proclaimed “bad boy,” J-Ax began to tear up. A man who grew up idolising Run DMC and Public Enemy saw in Sister Cristina a different sort of rebel, “Somebody breaking the rules, and doing it in a joyful and cheerful way”.

When she rehearses with J-Ax, he promised the convent’s mother superior that he would protect his protege from the evils of show business. He also said that once the show ran its course, he would talk to her about spirituality. “The light in her eyes makes me curious,” he said.

To some observers, the success of Sister Cristina is another byproduct of the new tone established during the first year of the papacy of Pope Francis. If it once might have seemed inappropriate for a nun to even appear on the show – an issue still stirring discussion on different Catholic websites – now the outpouring of public support is seen as more proof of the so-called Francis effect.

“There is a tendency for music to need to be transgressive,” said the Reverend Raffaele Giacopuzzi, artistic director of the Good News Festival, the Christian singing competition won by Sister Cristina last year. “But today faith is the last transgression. So the time was ripe, but no one noticed.”

Is it time for you to use your gift?   Is it time for you to TRUST that God will lead you?

How many lives will be stirred or changed because God has given Sister Christina the means to use her gift? Of course, that remains to be seen, but I believe it will be many.

Read more: http://www.smh.com.au/entertainment/tv-and-radio/voice-sensation-sister-cristina-is-a-nun-who-just-wants-to-have-fun-20140507-37wb2.html#ixzz312KmdK00

Passing Through?

Posted: May 9, 2014 in World On The Edge

solarnebula-580x464Have you ever looked at a large oak tree and wondered how long ago it sprang from an acorn? Or swam in the Gulf or ocean and wondered how long it had been a body of water? Or looked at a star, or the moon, or the dirt below your feet, and thought about their ages?

Even more mind-boggling is how many multitudes of people have lived their short lives on Earth, and then passed from it!  That’s like counting grains of sand on all the world’s beaches.

Scientists think that the Earth is 4.54 billion years old. Coincidentally, this is the same age as the rest of the planets in the Solar System, as well as the Sun. And because our Sun is heating up, scientists also think that humanity has less than a billion years more to enjoy the surface of our planet before it becomes inhospitable.

A billion years?

No matter if we live to be a hundred, what a miniscule portion of time on Earth is ours! If there’s one certain truth, it’s that we are only passing through this world.

So how can we make a difference?

We must thoroughly and truly know our own strengths and weaknesses. We should not lie to ourselves, it’s a waste of time. We can use our courage, not our fears, and embrace our strengths and even our weaknesses, then use them not only to our advantage, but for the advantage of others. Because we’re not passing through this life alone. Those who travel with us are our spiritual brothers and sisters.

Each of us has something to give, something that can change the world in ways we may never know, or imagine.
We may be only an itsy bitsy,  tiny part of Time, but our voice is meant to be heard.

The Joy Within Us

Posted: May 8, 2014 in World On The Edge

Joy_and_Sorrow_by_Susamie

The joy within us wants out. How do we give it breath?

Each of us have had our bad days, bad weeks, maybe even bad years, when we were sick, or broke, or hurt, or just plain miserable, over one thing or another. Maybe it’s happening to some of us now.

But believe it or not, we were not created to have misery, but to have joy.
There is a place within us that yearns for joy, a place where the possibility of joy actually lives, but sometimes, we’re too hard-headed to even try to get in touch with it. We’d rather complain, or gripe about our situation because we’re desperate to have another understand what we’re going through. We want pity, or we want to make another, maybe someone close to us, feel guilty.

The truth is though, only we, ourselves, can bear a personal burden. And when we obsess and complain over it, we’re actually hurting ourselves, as well as those around us.

How much more pleasant this world would be if we magnified our blessings the way we magnify our disappointments. —Unknown

For me, and maybe for you, it’s necessary to surrender our misery to God. It may be necessary, too, to go through the bad times–but with the attitude that the bad times will not last. Because they won’t. They never do.

I’m not saying, “Shut up, and suffer with a smile on your face–oh if only we could! But what we can do is put our minds on the joy that is surely within us, joy concerning the good things in our lives, joy that there are those who love us, and then we can turn to others and try to love and help them find joy, too.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being the more joy you can contain. Is not the cup that holds your wine the very cup that was burned in the potter’s oven?”—Kahlil Gibran

**The art above is by  Susamaie

4f7c4962d0745.preview-300How many times a day do each of us lie?

A growing body of research shows that people lie constantly, that deception is pervasive in everyday life. One study found that people tell two to three lies every 10 minutes, and even conservative estimates indicate that we lie at least once a day.

Some of these are ‘white lies.’ You may tell someone their outfit is great when you think it’s horrible. You may tell your boss his/her development plan is super, when you hate it. You may say you won’t be at home when you’re supposed to help with a civic event you’re not in to. There are many, many white lies.

But there are huge lies, too, that hurt other people. We don’t like someone so we make up a degrading story about them. Or we cheat in school, or on the job, or in our marriage. And then, there are the  politicians. Who doesn’t remember: I did not have sex with that woman!”

Lying seems to be a growing problem in today’s world, and it has pervaded the lives of our children by lying about them for personal means.  Last year, for example, a Fulton County Georgia Grand Jury indicted thirty five educators from the district, including principals, teachers and testing coordinators in a cheating scandal . They faced charges including racketeering, theft by taking and making false statements about their roles in an alleged plot to falsify students’ standardized tests.  In other words, they lied about the true scores of students attending public schools in Fulton County, to puff up school accreditations. And some of them were paid to do it.

“The philosopher Immanuel Kant said that lying was always morally wrong. He argued that all persons are born with an “intrinsic worth” that he called human dignity. This dignity derives from the fact that humans are uniquely rational agents, capable of freely making their own decisions, setting their own goals, and guiding their conduct by reason. To be human, said Kant, is to have the rational power of free choice; to be ethical, he continued, is to respect that power in oneself and others.

Lies are morally wrong, then, for two reasons.

First, lying corrupts the most important quality of our being human: our individual ability to make free, rational choices. Each lie we tell contradicts the part of a person that gives he/she moral worth.

Second, my lies rob others of their freedom to choose rationally. When my lie leads people to decide other than they would had they known the truth, I have harmed their human dignity and autonomy. Source: http://www.scu.edu/ethics

Thomas Aquinas also thought that all lies were wrong, but that there was a hierarchy of lies and those at the bottom could be forgiven. His list was:
•Malicious lies: lies told to do harm • Malicious lies are mortal sins
•’Jocose lies: lies told in fun •These are pardonable
•’Officious’ or helpful lies •These are pardonable

What do you think about lying? Has another’s lie hurt you?

Far Away–or Near?

Posted: May 6, 2014 in World On The Edge

file9431259009263While taking a break from working in our yard this beautiful, past weekend, my husband commented on the grass he’d just cut and trimmed. “From far away, it looks pretty good–nice and green. But closer up, it’s full of weeds.”
I said, “Oh, that’s a good idea for a blog!” So here it is:

How does your life look right now? Nice and green from far away, or filled with weeds on a closer look?

I’d have to say there are plenty of weeds in the yard of my life, plenty of the strangling stuff, with very deep roots, that ought to be pulled out.

Why don’t we pull the weeds in our lives? Why do we let them go–and grow–knowing the time may come when they will take over? But because we don’t know WHEN that time will come, we sort of prance along. Deep down, we may be unsatisfied with the way our lives are progressing, still, we think we have time to change. But do we?

Not one of us–not one–knows when or how our life will end. But as Christians we do have an idea of what lies in wait for us when it does—- Eternal life.  And we have been given the map to get there in the Ten Commandments.

While the musicians play, Nearer my God to Thee, (which is where I think we all want to be when our ‘time’ comes)  there are some poignant scenes in the movie, TITANIC. No one knew their extravagant, supposedly indestructible, ship would go down. No one knew how close to death they were. But with that realization, the first thing that came to mind for them was their personal lives, and that what was most important was their Eternal Life.

In our world today, there are many similar instances of sudden death. Just a look at the news will tell us so.  But do those stories affect us for more than a minute or two?  Yet they might be looked at as somewhat of a warning that there is no guarantee about the length of our life.

I don’t know about you, but that seems rather hefty to me.

Allow both to grow together until the harvest; and in the time of the harvest I will say to the reapers, “First gather up the tares and bind them in bundles to burn them up; but gather the wheat into my barn.–Matthew 13:30

Where’s Home?

Posted: May 5, 2014 in World On The Edge

cartoon-catherine-pain-homeAre  we away from home? Not necessarily the place–home. But maybe, where our  heart   ‘used to be’?  Where we may have had different values than the ones we have now?

To find ourselves in such a place, a place that’s not home,  can be disrupting and often disturbing to us–especially if we want to go back. And most especially, if home held the values for us of honesty, justice, determination,  consideration, and most important, love. Values we may not see in the place we are today.

But what if home wasn’t like that? What if the values our home held were the opposite of those above. What if there was  lying in our home, and injustice,  goal-less commands, meanness, and no conception, or perception, of  love?

Wouldn’t we flee from those attitudes?

Many young people experience a life like that, and they flee from it.  The problem is that some also take those undesired values with them when they leave. And that affects others–in another family they may create, in their workplace, in their social connections.

The heart of our homes–the values we teach cannot be given less importance than the schools we were sent to, the ‘things’ we were given,  or the particular sort of house we lived in–big or small.

An old Jesuit saying:: ‘Give me the child and I will give you the man.’ Which is to say how very important the training of a child is.

“Up to the age of seven, we are like sponges, absorbing everything around us and accepting much of it as true, especially when it comes from our parents. The confusion and blind belief of this period can also lead to the early formation of trauma and other deep problems. The critical thing here is to learn a sense of right and wrong, good and bad.” (Changingminds.org) And home is where this is taught.

We are our children’s first and most important teachers. Our home is their schoolroom.  And though we often forget —that makes us, and the home environment we create– very important  to the world around us.