Archive for the ‘World On The Edge’ Category

In a Place of Acceptance???

Posted: October 19, 2017 in World On The Edge

 The Distance Between High and Low is my new upcoming southern gothic novel, now in the final stages of proofing.  The novel is about young people–specifically a set of twins, a boy and a girl–who must do without a father, and about those who pick up the slack. One of the twins is the girl in the picture, completely devoted to her brother. More to come about her later.

But there’s another important character in the novel, an adversary called, Hobart McSwain. Hobart, born in Detroit, was adopted as a child by an Alabama family. Expressing his need for acceptance in the fictional town of Highlow, he says:

“I never asked for Alabama; I never asked to be her son. I had no choice over my deliverance. A child has no muscle, at all; just a displaced leaf riding on a stale wind, blowing this way and that. But when the wind stops, the leaf descends. I descended into the high side of Highlow and was raked aside, and it hurt that I wasn’t good enough to be noticed.”

Not good enough to be noticed. A frightening and continuous worry that most of us have throughout our lives.

Four years ago, I had my first book-signing at Barnes and Noble, here in my hometown. I worried a lot–like a child: Will anyone come? Will I sign any books? As a new author, will I be accepted?

Since then, I’ve spoken at many events and venues, but always wondering the same. Am I good enough?

Acceptance is one of the themes in The Distance Between High and Low. And it’s what we all want, isn’t it? From the time we are born until the time we die, we strive for the acceptance of those we admire. Am I good enough?

In high school, in college, on the job—am I good enough?

In marriage, in parenthood, as a friend —am I good enough?

Living on the edge of a materialistic world that places wealth, power, and beauty on the altar of success—am I good enough?

Do I hide as if I’m inferior, and only now and then, peek out? If so, I need to remember that I don’t have to please another’s version of ‘good enough.’ I only have to satisfy that place in my own soul that pricks me to follow my highest inclinations, not my lowest ones.

Because in that place, I can relax in comfort and ask the Lord to lead me, then hear His voice as a Father to His child: “I love you no matter what you do, or who you are. I accept you. You are mine.”

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We all have our “little kingdoms” to protect–those tangible and transient things in our lives that we covet. Some covet position, holding to their bank account, or personal appearance. Some hold tightly to their addictions, bad habits, or sins. Others concentrate on influencing and swaying people–maybe, or maybe not, in a loving way.

And we work hard to keep up these things we hold on to. We pay great attention to them because they fill some perceived lack within us. If we have, or if we do, this or that, we will be completely satisfied, and happy. Or so we think. But often, even if our little kingdoms are attained, we still feel unhappiness and dissatisfaction.

This is because, as human beings created by God in His own image, we are made for more than seeking satisfaction in the kingdom of Self. That kind of satisfaction is shallow and stagnant. We are made to thrive in a much bigger kingdom right here on earth. And I don’t mean kingdom as a symbol. I mean a genuine kingdom for each of us in light of our great value. In other words–Who We Are.

And who is it that we are? Children of Almighty God. All of us. Every one of us. No matter our status in life. “I will be a Father to you, and you will be my sons and daughters, says the Lord Almighty.” –2 Corinthians 6:18

It is odd that we put so much more stock into our own personal little kingdoms which may bring us passing happiness, but often cause discord and unhappiness, and yet ignore the bigger kingdom of everlasting happiness that is our birthright.

What are we waiting for? Why are we holding back? We strive for, obsess over, and give all our attention to our passing kingdoms. Why won’t we give everything for the only kingdom that lasts?

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It’s a fact.

Women spend lots of money to “stay young.” So do some men.  The biggest thing to many of us is appearance.

And its expensive, especially for women, who reportedly spend over 426 billion dollars on beauty products with dreams of having the taut faces and bodies of our younger years.

All these beauty products may, or may not, keep us looking good on the outside, but as human beings, we possess so much more than our bodies. We possess a soul.

Our soul, our interior self, projects to the world our genuineness, or our falseness, as human beings. The Catholic Catechism tells us that the human person, created in the image of God, is corporeal and spiritual. The biblical account expresses this reality in symbolic language when it affirms that “then the Lord God formed man of dust from the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living being.”

Man, whole and entire, is therefore willed by God. In Sacred Scripture the term “soul” often refers to human life or the entire human person. But “soul” also refers to the innermost aspect of man, that which is of greatest value in him, that by which he is made in God’s image: “Soul” signifies the spiritual principle in man.

How much attention do we pay to that?

Do we ever ask ourselves how does my soul look, instead of how does my body look?

We are called to pay attention to our soul, called to recognize that it possesses a divinity created by, and shared with God, making us His.

I ask you this: will your body live forever? No answer is needed. We all know it won’t.

But our soul will live forever.  So, doesn’t it seem smart to take better care of it than we do?

black-and-white-1283234_640What’s a hidey hole??

According to the dictionary: a place for hiding something, or oneself, especially as a retreat from other people.

A hidey hole has positives and negatives, and there are times when we need one–times when we need aloneness. One of those times is for prayer. Of course, we can pray anywhere, even in the middle of a noisy crowd, but solitude is a requirement for most of us when making prayerful decisions about our life in a conversation with God, who loves us and will lead us, if we let Him.

But sometimes our very private hidey holes are breeched by other people who want to destroy our convictions and closely held beliefs. These people crowd around us, increasing their loud cacophony to distract us from our deeper self. The sound of their voices keeps some of us from hearing our own inner voice, while the breath from their mouths attempts to blow out the personal candles of our once-enlightened soul.

We are lured by a false connection to these people we don’t even personally know–and who surely don’t care a thing about us. These people are haughty and proud, big-screen personalities out for themselves. Yet, we let them tell us who, or what, we ought to be.

At first they come at us to question our appearance:

We ought to be thinner.
We ought to dress like them.

Then they come at us touting their own actions:

We ought to sing their way, or dance their way, or go on their Survival trips.

Finally, they come for our thoughts:

We ought to tolerate whatever they say we should tolerate, no matter if it goes against the grain of what we know is right. We ought to silence our own thoughts and take up theirs. And on and on, until we’re not thinking for ourselves, at all.

Except inside us, in our tiny hidey hole, lies our conscience–a still, small voice that will speak to us if we let it. A voice that comes from the wonderful gift of free will–the opportunity to think and act for ourselves.

Do we realize how much we lose by not listening to the voice within us?

Do we realize how much we miss by not trusting in ourselves?

Don’t miss the opportunity to become who YOU are, not who THEY are.

Never give up your own, valuable hidey hole–that quiet place within you that nourishes and strengthens your spiritual convictions.

Need to Re-shape the Pie???

Posted: October 4, 2017 in World On The Edge

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My mother was not a pie-maker in the physical sense. But in the sense that she could usually find a way to get through any crisis, she was a top-notch re-shaper of pies.

Most of us have our unique ways of ‘getting through’ undesirable times in our lives when sadness seems overwhelming. We cannot change a sad situation, but we can try to motivate ourselves out of it. We have the ability to decide to climb out of the dark hole we find ourselves in. Some of us look back and choose to appreciate the people and things we still have, and that brings solace. Others look ahead and choose to begin again, to dream and plan for better events to come. Getting through a bad situation begins with a vision of improvement. Because, without a vision, we remain static.

But for those who do nothing except bathe in their misery, better times will come more slowly, if at all.

In reality, many of us make a decision to give-up and remain the victim of circumstances. Maybe these are circumstances that we have brought on ourselves through our own pride, greed, envy, lust, vengeance, laziness, or anger. We let one or more of these vices control us, forgetting the God-given gifts we have to overcome them.

Or maybe an awful life event happened that was not caused by us at all, yet we must deal with it. Well, we cannot give-up. We are not made to give-up.

No, it is not easy to move ahead. Yes, it may take time. But we are children of God with His gift of imagination, His gift of an ability to think and plan, love and forgive–even to forgive ourselves.

We are wonderfully created human beings who can re-shape ourselves, just as a pie-maker reshapes a pile of sticky dough, and makes it into something desirable, something we can smile about and, again, be proud of.

WALLS???

Posted: September 27, 2017 in World On The Edge

If only “real history’ was taught in today’s schools. We must take care of America first–our country, fought for many times at such high cost.

Translating a World on the Edge

Walls‘ are getting a bad rap. The real meaning of ‘walls’ has been politically skewed as a thing of evil. Nothing is further from the truth.  A wall is a structure that defines an area, carries a load, or provides shelter or security.

To wall something in means to protect it, to save it from harm, as your own arms around your children protect them.  We build walls with sand bags to protect property from a storm surge. We build retaining walls to keep earth from washing away. The walls of a building are its structure, built on its foundation. Without them, there could be no towns, no cities, no homes.

Violence will not be heard again in your land, Nor devastation or destruction within your borders; But you will call your walls salvation, and your gates praise.– Isaiah 60:18

Today we are bombarded with the secondary meaning of the word, Wall

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The beautiful video at the end of this post has always touched me. It is a prayer that someone absent from us will be brought home.  Of course, there are many ways to be absent, not all of them dangerous. But the present opioid epidemic (painkiller prescriptions) is one that can cause the ultimate absence–death.

We could speculate on all the reasons people fall into this addiction. We might say that so many drugs advertised on television and social media first put the thought into our minds. We might say that physicians too easily prescribe medication instead of other ways to reduce pain. We might blame the drug lords who make the pills more powerful and more addictive–for profit. All this is valid. But the problem now is what to do about the present crisis.

Having personally known several wonderful people who have become addicted to these drugs, I am grateful the epidemic is being faced and fought against by this administration, most specifically by the US Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

“In the 20 years from 1991 to 2011, opioid prescriptions nearly tripled in the United States. That is too high. We have got to reduce prescription in the United States.

In my home state of Alabama, we have had more painkiller prescriptions than Alabamians for over a decade. And for the last 5 years, we have had the highest per capita rate of prescriptions to people of any state in the country.

No doubt as a result, we have now seen one of the highest increases in overdose deaths in the country—a jump of more than 20 percent between 2013 and 2015.

These trends are shocking and the numbers tell us a lot– but they aren’t just numbers. They represent moms and dads, brothers and sisters, neighbors and friends.

They represent unique, irreplaceable people, and fellow Americans.

They represent the 26-year-old pregnant mother who overdosed in Charleston, accidentally killing both herself and her unborn child. They represent the couple who were found dead in their Kernville home a week after they had overdosed on heroin.

Their five-month-old daughter was found with them—dead from starvation and dehydration.

I recently had the opportunity to address the National Alliance for Drug Endangered Children, it was during this event that I was able to view this crisis through the eyes of a child—just imagine for a moment you are a helpless toddler who cries for their mother to wake up and she never does, or the poor infant that is wailing in the NIC-U due to opioid withdrawal—you just entered this world and are already suffering and for sins you did not commit.

We must make progress for those currently afflicted and for those who have yet to be caught in its grips.

Drug dealers across America are profiting off of this crisis. They are making the drugs stronger – and more deadly – by lacing heroin with fentanyl—a drug 30 to 50 times more powerful than heroin—and carfentanyl, a synthetic opioid 100 times more potent than that. As a result, drugs on the streets today are more powerful, more addictive, and more dangerous than ever.

They’re so powerful that they put your lives at risk too, because exposure to even trace amounts of fentanyl can be fatal.

A police officer in Eastern Ohio suffered an overdose after brushing what he thought was white powder from his uniform after a routine traffic stop. And another officer in New Jersey was rushed to the emergency room after a puff of fentanyl came up while removing the air from a plastic bag.

As a nation, we talk a lot about growing our economy and shrinking our government budgets. Drug abuse does the exact opposite: it shrinks our economy and it grows our government budgets.

It is estimated that prescription opioid addiction costs our economy some $78 billion a year and that illicit drugs cost us a total of about $193 billion a year.

Drug abuse reduces the productivity of our workers, eliminates many otherwise qualified individuals from our work force due to addiction and criminal records, and puts a strain on health care programs like Medicaid. It is filling up our emergency rooms, our foster homes, and our cemeteries.

The point is that our country is served by having more Americans healthy, drug free, and ready to work. Every addicted American reduces the productivity of America.

Despite the record death toll and the dangers on the streets, some in our culture and in government say that drug abuse is no big deal.

That is wrong.

To confront a crisis of this scale, we must have a comprehensive antidote to the problem.

I believe the solution today is still based on the three principles of prevention, enforcement, and treatment.

Treatment is important. In some cases, treatment can help break the cycle of addiction and crime and get people back on their feet.

But treatment cannot be our only policy. Treatment often comes too late. By the time many people receive treatment, they, their families, and communities have already suffered.

The struggle to overcome addiction can be a long process – and it can fail. Tragically, it often does fail.

The best long-term solution is prevention. The best action is not to start. Just say no.

And prevention is what we at the Department do every day—because law enforcement is prevention. Enforcing our laws helps keep drugs out of our country, drive up their price, and reduce their availability, purity, and addictiveness.

And in this effort, we’ve already had some successes—including in this office. In April, a man from New York was sentenced to 29 years in prison for distributing heroin that killed a 26-year old man in New York City. Prosecutors in this office worked the case with DEA, and police in York County. This is an outstanding example of law enforcement cooperation, and I commend you for that. There are a lot of other examples I could point to, as well.

The Department of Justice is proud of what you have accomplished. And we are taking new steps to support you in your work.

Two months ago, the Department announced the largest health care fraud takedown in American history. DOJ coordinated the efforts of more than 1,000 state and federal law enforcement agents to arrest more than 400 defendants.

More than 100 of these defendants have been charged with opioid-related crimes, including many doctors. This was also the largest opioid-related fraud takedown in American history.

Just a week later, we announced the seizure and take down of AlphaBay— the largest darknet marketplace takedown in history. This site hosted some 220,000 drug listings and was responsible for countless synthetic opioid overdoses, including the tragic death of a 13-year old in Utah.

And to help fight the overprescribing of opioid painkillers, I announced last month that we will allocate new resources to find and prosecute the fraudsters who help flood our streets with drugs.

The first new resource is a data analytics program at the Department called the Opioid Fraud and Abuse Detection Unit. This team will help us find the tell-tale signs of opioid-related health care fraud by identifying statistical outliers.

Fraudsters might lie, but the numbers don’t.

The second is that I’ve assigned 12 experienced prosecutors to focus solely on investigating and prosecuting opioid-related health care fraud cases in a dozen “hot-spot” locations around the country – places where they are especially needed. And one of those will be in Western Pennsylvania.

And, today, I am announcing that we will be awarding nearly $20 million in federal grants to help law enforcement and public health agencies address prescription drug and opioid abuse. This is an urgent problem and we are making it a top priority.

I believe that these new resources and new efforts will make a difference, bring more criminals to justice, and ultimately save lives.

And I’m convinced this is a winnable war.

But in order to end this crisis, we must work together. Eighty-five percent of all law enforcement officers serve at the state and local level, and your work is essential to our success. Strengthening partnerships between law enforcement officers at all levels is a central theme of my tenure at the DOJ, and I hope you will help me do that.

Each of you has a difficult job, but it is a job worth doing, and a job that your communities are depending upon. And you can know this: you have our thanks, and we have your back.”  __US Attorney General Jeff Sessions, September 22, 2017 speech to law enforcement.