Archive for August, 2014

Preparing to Fail?

Posted: August 29, 2014 in World On The Edge

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Would you build a new house without a blueprint? Would you take a trip without knowing where you’re going?  The blueprint and the knowledge are important preparations to success.

“By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.” –Benjamin Franklin

These words from a great American leader reinforce the need to prepare.

But wait. Have  today’s American leaders neglected to realize that  our enemies are preparing, too—against us?

Remember the Emperor Nero who ‘fiddled’ while Rome burned?   In other words, he was so full of himself, he  did not prepare for the hard times to come.

Perfect example: The Ant and the Grasshopper

It was summer, hot and sunny, and, instead of working and preparing for winter, a Grasshopper preferred to dance, sing and play his violin at his leisure, not minding that these wonderful days will soon be over, that cold and rainy days will soon be near.

On seeing a hardworking Ant passing by him, preparing for the hard winter that was to come one day, he invited him to join him and share his fun.
“Unfortunately, I don’t have time for this”, the Ant answered, “I must work hard, so that winter won’t find me without shelter and food.”
“Stop worrying so much, there is still plenty of time to prepare for winter. Let’s sing and dance together, let’s laugh and enjoy life”.
But Ant was very wise and wouldn’t pay attention to the Grasshopper’s words and continued to work hard and store food for the long winter that was to come.
The winter came sooner than expected, and the Grasshopper found himself without home and without food. He went to the Ant’s house and begged him for food and shelter.
“I’m sorry, but I can’t help you”, the Ant said. “I only have room and food for me and my family, so go find help somewhere else.”

Moral:  Prepare for the hard days to come.

Once again: “By failing to prepare, you are preparing to fail.”

We must prepare. Because—right under our noses– there are those who, for years, have been preparing for terrible evil against us. Sadly, we either ignored it, or some of us were too busy playing King. And now, like the grasshopper’s, our survival may be in great danger

Hard to Figure the Reasons?

Posted: August 28, 2014 in World On The Edge

tough-loveWhen raising your children, have you ever practiced what is called Tough Love?

This might come about if they want something badly, but you know it isn’t good for them and so refuse their request. Of course, a child may pitch a fit, cry, stomp, scream that you are being unreasonable. He or she might even say you don’t love them–because if you did, you’d give them what they want.

But there are situations when we know what a child does not know. We are experienced enough to see that a certain thing or situation will harm them. And it’s precisely because we Do love them that we refuse–even when we know that our refusal will cause them pain.

As Christians who pray, we adults do not always receive what we pray for. How do we handle it? Do we pitch a fit, cry, stomp, scream that God is being unreasonable. Do we lose faith that He loves us? Sometimes we do.

Maybe we’ve lost someone dear to us, or are fired from a job. or maybe a huge tragedy out of our control comes upon us as a people–hurricanes, earthquakes, floods, and war? It would seem, then, that  God is forcing us to our knees.

Can we believe that all this comes from a God who loves us as a parent?

The answer is difficult.  Just as a child questions her parent’s reasoning, we question God’s reasoning. OR at the very least, we wonder about God’s intent.  A wonderful priest I know wouldn’t venture an answer as to why awful things happen to people. “If you want to know why human beings suffer, don’t ask me–ask God,” he said.

So the question goes unanswered because for a human being to know the reasoning of God  can be compared to a grasshopper attempting to know the reasoning of a human being. It cannot be done. Yet what we often see happening  is that  uncontrollable tragedies, like those mentioned above,  have an ability to pull people together. People stand together, and pray together,  in the face of great disasters.

So, in situations of suffering when it seems God has brought us to our knees, what should we do?  I think we  trust that God loves us as a parent, and that because of that great love, He will give us what we need to get through, to get up, and even  to become better people.

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There are times when we’re young that we are also confident. Someone will ask, “What do you want to be when you grow up?” And we can give a quick answer. But as we grow, things are not so clear as when we were children. Life gets complicated because we have more and more responsibility–for our own lives, and the lives of those in our care.

We may feel lost. We may not be sure where we’re going anymore. We may not  even have a direction in mind. We look around and think we see everyone else in a situation we’d like to be in, too; but we’re just not there–and don’t know if we’ll ever be.

We can feel pretty depressed in times like these. We can feel very alone and unimportant.

Then something happens.

No, we don’t win the lottery.

The something that happens may not seem profitable at the time. It may not be fun.  In fact, we may want to avoid suffering through it.

But we do suffer through it. And afterwards, it’s possible that we find some good in it. We may find our true self in it, too.

When this something happens, we are changed by it. We may be so changed that we begin to live for someone else. And in the process we find our own self–the person we were meant to be.

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The mother of Jesus is our partner in prayer. We do not pray to her, we ask her to pray to Jesus for us. The latest, publicized example of this is James Foley, beheaded last week by a fellow human who made evil his personal choice.

James Foley beseeched Mary’s prayers in his hour of greatest need.

Here are the stirring words of Elizabeth Argue, Catholic Vote.com

“He knelt in the sand with a shaved head, in the garb of a prisoner. The image is heartbreaking and maddening, a cruel act of hatred……

James Foley lived and died as an American Catholic man and he ought to be esteemed as such. He did not call out, but clenched his jaw and courageously faced death. Although we cannot know what he thought in that moment, he wrote that he recited the rosary in captivity, slowly tracing prayers over each knuckle of his hands.

He wrote that it brought him an interior freedom, which his captors could never take away.

James Foley’s life and death are a testament to his character and to all who raised him: to his country, his religion, his family, his teachers, his friends.

Life as an American Catholic is one of relative ease, but it places upon our shoulders a burden of responsibility. While we work and play, we must remember to pray, to read and write, to discuss real issues, to care for one another, to lift up all humanity through our lives. We have opportunities to speak freely and to proclaim the truth – not just that of faith, but also of the beauty and suffering of humanity.

Each day, we must face with courage the little battles – cultural, political, social, moral, personal – in order to be strong if ever a great challenge arises. Each day, we must stand with those who suffer persecution. Each day, we must raise our eyes above our very small trials to see the hope that freedom and faith bring. We are privileged to be both Catholic and American.

Let James Foley be an example to us all of one who lived, suffered, and died with the courage derived from a life of dedication to the truth. Although we will never know what he thought as he knelt in the sand, we take comfort knowing he had often prayed these words:

Holy Mary, Mother of God, pray for us sinners, now and at the hour of our death.

Surely these prayers, uttered as his only hope in the darkness of a prison, were answered. The Blessed Mother was with him at the hour of his death and nothing, not even the taunts of his murderers, can take away that freedom.

May James Foley rest in peace, may he be freed from death.”—Elizabeth Argue

Ready For The Boys of Fall?

Posted: August 25, 2014 in World On The Edge

Auburn-AlabamaRoll Tide! and War Eagle!

Are you ready for Football?

Are you ready for the uniforms, the helmets,  the cleats, the shoulder pads, and the PRIDE?

Are you ready for the tackles, the blocks, and the scores?

Are you ready to watch COURAGE get back up when its down? Are you ready for TEAMWORK?

This week it begins!

Many have said the game of life is a lot like football.

Paul “Bear” Bryant:
 In life, you’ll have your back up against the wall many times. You might as well get used to it.

James Ralph “Shug” Jordan:
Wisdom is knowing what to do next, skill is knowing how to do it, and virtue is doing it.

Vince Lombardi:
Football is like life – it requires perseverance, self-denial, hard work, sacrifice, dedication and respect for authority.”

Football really is like life. In the game, you and I are its  receivers, and God is the passer. And what He passes to us is goodness, the light that shines in the darkness. We may refuse to catch what has been passed to us. Or we may be so bogged down we may not even recognize it.

But those who  do catch it and recognize it are meant to pass it on. We are literally asked by God to be the hands of Jesus Christ on Earth in our lifetimes.

That’s a huge request.

But  let’s do it. Let’s stand in the huddle and listen to the call. Then let’s go virile with it.

Let’s run with the ball. Don’t fumble it. Don’t drop it. And when the right time comes to pass it, let’s make that play great enough for a touchdown.

Marriage: A Requirement?

Posted: August 22, 2014 in World On The Edge

MarriageAmendmentinNorthCarolinaAre women aware of their dignity? Do we demand respect?

Dignity and respect go hand in hand.

Dignity is what we see in ourselves, and respect is what we require of others because of it.

When it comes to marriage, the plan for dignity and respect is simple.

If you love me, I require you to marry me. If you do not love me enough to marry me, then find someone else to go to bed with.

Old-fashioned? Let’s think about it.

In the first place, old-fashioned is not a bad thing to be when it sets you apart from everybody else. I spent twenty years in advertising trying to set my clients apart from everybody else and show their differences so that they would succeed. Being different can be very good!

I realize it’s hard to tell that to a teenager, but it isn’t primarily teenagers who are sleeping with other people without the benefits of marriage. Benefits? Yes!

So let’s talk about benefits.

Marriage, the union of one man and one woman, is a personal, but not private, relationship with great public significance. Marriage is good for the couple; it is also provides the optimal conditions for bearing and raising children.

Harvard psychologist and psychotherapist Mark O’Connell, PhD. says this: Marriage is more than just wearing a ring on your finger. Marriage is an intimate and enduring relationship that grows over time and makes you a better person. Dr. O’Connell contends that there is something about sustained intimacy that offers people a chance to get to know themselves and each other in a way that is more honest and real.

Family can be a great training ground for the kind of virtues that lead to successful careers. Family life teaches perseverance, cooperation, the ability to get along with others, and respect for authority – all virtues that are valued highly in the workplace.

The Social Benefits of Marriage are many. Marriage makes an essential contribution to the common good.

Marriage and Health

• On average, husbands and wives are healthier, happier and enjoy longer lives than those who are not married.

• Men appear to reap the most physical health benefits from marriage and suffer the greatest health consequences if they divorce.

• Married mothers have lower rates of depression than single or cohabiting mothers, probably because they are more likely to receive practical and emotional support from their child’s father and his family.

Marriage and Wealth

• Married couples build more wealth on average than singles or cohabiting couples.

• Married men earn more money than do single men with similar education and job histories.

• Married women are economically better off than divorced, cohabiting or never-married women.

Marriage and Children

Children raised by their own married mother and father are:

• Less likely to be poor or to experience persistent economic insecurity

• More likely to stay in school, have fewer behavioral and attendance problems, and earn four-year college degrees

• Less vulnerable to serious emotional illness, depression and suicide

• More likely to have positive attitudes towards marriage and greater success in forming lasting marriages

Marriage and Crime/Domestic Violence

• Married women are at lower risk for domestic violence than women in cohabiting or dating relationships.

• Boys raised in single-parent homes are more likely to engage in criminal and delinquent behavior than those raised by two married biological parents.

• Married women are significantly less likely to be the victims of violent crime than single or divorced women. Married men are less likely to perpetrate violent crimes than unmarried men.

Marriage and Society

• The institution of marriage reliably creates the social, economic and affective conditions for effective parenting.

• Being married changes people’s lifestyles and habits in ways that are personally and socially beneficial. Marriage is a “seedbed” of prosocial behavior.

• Marriage generates social capital. The social bonds created through marriage yield benefits not only for the family but for others as well, including the larger society.

Sources: Why Marriage Matters: Twenty-Six Conclusions from the Social Sciences (Institute for American Values); Healthy Marriages, Healthy Lives: Research on the Alignment of Health, Marital Outcomes and Marriage Education (California Healthy Marriages Coalition); Testimony of Dr. Barbara Dafoe Whitehead, National Marriage Project, before the U.S. Senate Subcommittee on Children and Families.

So think about dignity, think about respect, consider the benefits, and then say to the one you love:  “Take me down to the little white church!”

railwaytracksWith such instability in our world today, we may be searching for perspective. Consider first, perspective in Art.

Perspective drawings have a horizon line, which is often implied. This line, directly opposite the viewer’s eye, represents objects infinitely far away. They have shrunk, in the distance, to the infinitesimal thickness of a line named after the Earth’s horizon.

In a perspective drawing, the scene  includes parallel lines that have one or more vanishing points.   All lines parallel with the viewer’s line of sight recede to the horizon towards this vanishing point. This is the standard “receding railroad tracks” phenomenon.

But this line is seen not only in Art, but also in Philosophy–the study of the fundamental nature of knowledge, reality, and existence.

The French philosopher and Jesuit priest, Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, refers to it as The Omega Point,  and thought of it as a cone–one that we are all rising through to its apex–Christ.  He clarifies it like this: “Remain true to yourself, but move ever upward toward greater consciousness and greater love! At the summit you will find yourselves united with all those who, from every direction, have made the same ascent. For everything that rises must converge.” (Flannery O’Connor fans will recall this as the title of her last short story collection, influenced by the philosophy of de Chardin).

“In a Universe of “Conical” structure Christ has a place (the apex!) ready for Him to fill, when His Spirit can radiate through all the centuries and all beings; and because of the genetic links running through all the levels of Time and Space between the elements of a convergent world, the Christ-influence, far from being restricted to the mysterious zones of “grace,” spreads and penetrates throughout the entire mass of Nature in movement. In such a world Christ cannot sanctify the Spirit without (as the Greek Fathers intuitively perceived) uplifting and saving the totality of Matter. Christ becomes truly universal to the full extent of Christian needs, and in conformity with the deepest aspirations of our age the Cross becomes the Symbol, the Way, the very Act of progress…..”

I will pause the quote here–because this speaks to me–in a philosophical way– as an explanation of  why there is suffering in our God-created world, something so hard for a human being to accept!

But de Chardin continues…”Within a Universe of convergent structure the only possible way in which an element can draw closer to its neighboring elements is by tightening the cone. In such an order of things no man can love his neighbor without drawing nearer to God and, of  course, reciprocally (but this we knew already). But it is also impossible (this is newer to us) to love either God or our neighbor without assisting the progress, in its physical entirety, of the terrestrial synthesis of the spirit: since it is precisely the progress of this synthesis which enables us to draw closer together among ourselves, while at the same time it raises us toward God.”

Another pause, because I see in this a value for suffering.

de Chardin, continuing again…”Because we love, and in order that we may love even more, we find ourselves happily and especially compelled to participate in all the endeavors, all the anxieties, all the aspirations and also all the affections of the earth….”

As a child, my grandmother –who lived to be nearly one hundred years old– never failed to comment on the pain of my skinned knees, the loss of a boyfriend, my less than good grade, or any of my youthful disappointments  Her words were always. “Offer it up.” I had no real idea what she was talking about until I reached adulthood and went through some very trying and tearful times. Her words were the same, with a little added on: “Offer it up. Suffering has a value.”

But because  we are humanour physical selves  find that hard to accept. So I think we have to be philosophical about it. We have to have a perspective. We have to raise our minds to the intangible to come to any idea of why suffering?