The search for contentment…

August 17, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words contained this quote – “We may pass violets looking for roses.  We may pass contentment looking for victory.”  (Bernard Williams)

Jack went on to call into question the popular sports-oriented saying “Winning is the only thing.”

As a society, I think that our obsession with winning and not allowing ourselves to be content with having made our best effort is contributing to the tensions and unrest that we see on the nightly news. It also is a major contributing factor to the current politicaldebaters divide, where compromise, which could lead to contentment, is considered failure. The two political parties have abandoned any search for a middle ground on most issues and seek only to win, to beat the other side. We saw that locally this past week were the scrum to choose a successor to the late L. Brooks Paterson turned nasty and completely partisan from the get-go.

I have from time to time called for the creation of a third party in the middle of the political spectrum  a party of compromise and reason. At least a new party would not disagreement2carry with it the baggage that the current parties have accumulated of late. It would also allow those who are uncomfortable with the extreme on both sides to fins anew home that perhaps with which they could become content. I suspect that quite a few who call themselves Republicans or Democrats would welcome a party with less strident positions on the issues and one which relied more on common sense than the political litmus tests that the current parties use on issues.

In life, as in politics, winning isn’t really everything. Giving it your best effort is more important. It’s not that you will be unhappy if you don’t win; but, rather, that you will be pecial olympics 2unhappy with yourself if you didn’t give it your best shot. If you made your best effort, but that fell short of winning, you can still feel good about yourself. In sports, even competitive athletes are often happy if they achieve a person best – they know that they did the best that they can for that event or race. Maybe you can look at the events in your life the same way. If you’ve achieved your person best, be happy, celebrate your achievement, use that experience to plan way to do better next time. Stop and smell the violets. Find contentment.

Have a great weekend of contentment!

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Be extraordinary instead….

August 12, 2019

In a quote that I saved from the Jack’s Winning Words bog, Lou Holtz said – “I can’t believe that God put us on this earth to be ordinary.”

 Lou Holtz may have initially used that thought as motivation for his athletes at Notre Dame, but ILou_Holtz suspect that he had a broader application in mind for mankind in general. Lou is a devout Catholic and often speaks in motivational talks about the higher calling of man to serve others and God.

It is all too easy to be ordinary, to let yourself slip into that mode where the needs and problems that you see around you are someone else’s concern, not yours. It is less hassle to pass on the other side of the road from the injured man who helperwas beaten and robbed, rather than be the Good Samaritan (Luke 10: 25-37). After all, you have issues of your own to deal with, so you do not have time to stop and help.

Yet, somewhere is the back of your mind there is that little voice telling you, “you should stop and help”. Some might label that as your conscious. Lou Holtz might tell you that it is the quiet voice of God, trying to move you to not be ordinary – to do what He put you here to do.

There used to be an Army recruiting commercial on TV that used the tag line – “Be all that you can be.” Maybe that is what the little voice is telling you – don’t be ordinary, be extraordinary instead. Be all that you can be by stopping to help.

We see almost weekly stories on the nightly news about someone rushing to help in an emergency – maybe running into a burning building to rescue someone trapped inside homeless manor pulling someone from a car wreck moments before the car explodes into flames. Those “heroes” were not being ordinary. They did not decide to pass by on the other side of the road. They listened to the voice of God and helped. Did you drive by the same scene and keep on going, even though you thought, “Oh, those poor people, I hope that they are alright”? How ordinary of you.

One does not have to go looking for emergencies or crisis to find ways to help; to be extraordinary. Every community across this nation has volunteer organizations that are helping with poverty, homelessness, mental health, drug and alcohol addiction or other pressing issues. Extraordinary people who refused to pass by those issues on the other side of the road make up those organizations. You can join them and be extraordinary, too.

helping-2You don’t have to have great wealth to help. You don’t have to have great power to help. You just have to have compassion and resolve that you will make a difference by stopping and helping, instead of passing  by on the other side of the road.  Don’t let yourself be ordinary. That’s not what God put you here for.

Be extraordinary today!


It’s time to get busy…

August 10, 2019

I keep a collection of quotes, most of which I get from the Jack’s Winning Words blog, as a source of inspiration for writing my own posts here. Sometimes a few quotes on the same topic build up in that collection, as was the case when I decided to write about time. Here are three good quotes from Jack’s blog –

watch“Time is more valuable than money.  You can get more money, but you cannot get more time.”  (Jim Rohn)

“Time only seems to matter when it is running out.”  (Peter Strup)

“One thing you can learn from the clock is that it passes time by keeping its hands busy.”  (Unknown)

I agree with the first two quotes, but it is the third quote that I want to focus upon here. Iman rushing think that the most important things that we can do with our time is to use it to be doing something. I find that when I’m busy time passes relatively fast and I’m not concerned about that, because, well, I’m busy.

I visit a number of retirement homes in the area in my role selling newspaper ads for the Spinal Column. During those visits I have observed that the residents who are busy doing something – volunteering within the facility or participating in one of the groups or clubs that the facility runs – seem to be much happier than those who just sit around watching others. Certainly, one’s health dictates the limits of what one can do, but I think it is also a matter that those who want to be active find a way to keep doing something.

With two jobs – selling real estate and selling ads for the paper – I have things to occupy multitaskermy time. Add to that the volunteer work that I do for the Chamber of Commerce, my church and the Milford Historical Society, and I really have little time left to be bored. Like the clock, I pass my time by keeping my hands busy.  So, rather than worry about how much time I have left; I focus on using that time to get things done. My time is too valuable to waste. You cannot get more time, but you can get more done in the time that you have.

There are lots of churches and non-profit organizations in every community across this land that need volunteers to get work done. They are usually doing good things to help others; so, you get the side benefit of feeling good about what it is that you are busy doing. Even if you aren’t physically able to do a lot of things, there are jobs at thosesewrving soup organizations in which you can help by doing what you are able to do. You may end up making phone calls to shut-ins to see if they need anything or perhaps you can read to someone who can no longer see well enough to read. Maybe you can schedule other workers who are more able or perhaps enter data into a computer. Maybe just being there to greet and talk with visitors is what they need. So, look around your neighborhood or area and find those volunteer jobs that need to be done. Whatever it ends up being; you are doing and not just being. You are busy.

How are you passing your time? Maybe it’s time to get busy.


Are we that easily manipulated?

August 9, 2019

A story on the evening news recently documented how Russian agents operating through Facebook and other social media outlets have been trying (with surprising success) to manipulate the American public by fomenting unrest and divisions within the devilpopulation. They tactics used by those agents aimed at increasing racial tensions and heightening fears about the impact of immigration. They were successful to the extent that Facebook and other sites have had to take specific actions to limit their access to accounts and monitor their attempts to plant fake news or to slant the coverage of real news.

The sad part of all of this is unfortunately the answer to the headline question. Are we as a people really that easily manipulated? The answer is apparently – yes. At least there is a large portion of the population that seems to believe what they see and read on social media sites without taking the time to evaluate the message or the sender. Perhaps that comes part and parcel with the shortened attention span that has couple-looking-at-phonesevolved in modern times. We have become an audience accustomed to sound-bites, tweets and YouTube posts. There seems to be no time to stop and evaluate the content, so we just accept it and sometimes act upon it. We re-tweet or re-post or take to the streets with signs because we read about a threat on social media. Never mind that the national news outlets or the big newspapers may be debunked the false reports or posts. Anyway, We are told that they are purveyors of “Fake News”; so, let’s believe a Facebook post from someone that we don’t know, instead.

What fun it must be in Russia and North Korea and Iran and in ISIS and Al Qaeda camps around the world to work at manipulating such a gullible population. They never have to question whether many Americans will believe some outrageous story or claim; rather they just have to figure out the best social media places to post it. I’m reminded of the old cereal commercial where the older kids who were leery about the taste of cereal said, “Let’s give it to Mikey, he eats everything.” Perhaps that’s the bad actors view of the American public – “Let’s feed them this false report, they believe anything.”

Still, I believe that there is a “silent majority” of Americans who have not joined the extremists who are manning the barricades of hate, prejudice and ignorance that thesedeviil-and-angel bad actors thrive upon exploiting. There is still a strong sense of right and wrong within the hearts of most Americans and a desire to do what is right, rather than acquiesce to what we know is wrong. We may be frustrated that we cannot seem to resolve some of the big issues that are facing us as a society, but that does not mean that we will drift off to the edges of reason and join the bigots or zealots that define the extremes in today’s political and social environment.

Are we that easily manipulated? I tend to think not; however, we are not happy with the status quo. Every few years we get the chance to do something about that and 2020 is one of those years. Let’s not let the Russians or anyone else manipulate us and our system of government. Make up your own mind and get out and vote for the people that you believe will make the changes that are needed. I don’t think that you will find them out on the fringes and you shouldn’t look to Facebook or Twitter to tell you who they are. listenJust listen closely for the voices of reason and compassion and concern amongst all of the shouting and accusing and finger-pointing of modern politics. Centrists exist in both political parties and they deserve your attention and support.

We need not become an isolated, bully nation nor a socialist state to resolve the current issues that face our country; we just need to return to the rule of civility, reason and compromise and reject the hate, prejudices and fears that foreignflag agents are trying to use to manipulate us. We are a better people than that. We can make up our own minds – thank you very much. Let’s get ready to vote in 2020.


What do you see?

August 5, 2019

From a recent post in the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this thought – “The traveler sees what he sees.  The tourist sees what he has come to see.”  (Gilbert Chesterton)

arrogantAs I thought about Chesterton’s quote, going to church on Sundays came to mind and the saying morphed into – “The self-righteous sees the church service. The faithful sees the face of Jesus.”

It is all too easy to become wrapped up in the beauty of the church building or the carefully choreographed rituals of the church service and be like the traveler in Chesterton’s quote. For many years the Catholic Church resisted the movement away from using Latin in the Mass because the inability of the laity to preacher-pointingunderstand what was going on was a big part of the mystery and drama that the clergy wanted to maintain. It was considered to be part of the show that the congregation has come to see. What do you see?

But, the faithful, like the tourists in Chesterton’s quote, have come to see something in particular – they have come to be with Jesus. In Matthew 18:20 we are told that Jesus said jesus-as-light– “For where two or three have gathered together in My name, I am there in their midst.” The faithful came not to be entertained, but to see Jesus. What do you see?

Look around the next time that you are in church. Which one of the others who are there with you is Jesus in your midst? Is He the well-known congregant who is always faithfully at church or that stranger that you’ve never seen there before? Is He the infant noisily crying in the back of the church or the hunched over elderly man in the pew next to you? Could He be delivering the sermon or just listening to it like you are? What do you see?

 The difference between the traveler and the tourist that Chesterton was pointing out is one of intentional focus. For the traveler, the scenery unfold around them as they proceed, but it may be barely noticed – it is simplify background noise in their lives. For the tourist, the scenery that is unfolding around them as they go IS what they came togods-hands-2 see. They not only notice, but also take it in and savor it. It is often much the same with church. One can just get through the service, mindlessly mouthing the words of the songs and blankly staring ahead during the sermon; or one can be in the moment, savoring the time that they have to be with Jesus in worship. For those who open their hearts to God, church is a time to see what you came to see – the face of Jesus in your midst. What do you see?

 So, next Sunday; be the tourist and savor the moments that you will have with Jesus in your midst. Focus upon what you came to see and find God in the crowd, in the service and in the building. Ask yourself – What do you see? Do you see what you came to see?


Free from reason…

August 3, 2019

A recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog used this quote – “The law is reason, free from passion.”  (Aristotle)

Jack went on to write – Have you ever served on a jury?…or, have you ever had a jury pass judgment on you?  Aristotle describes not only the law, but also the ideal jury…reasonable and dispassionate…like the sculpture, Lady Justice, which gives form to impartiality blindfolded; fairly weighing evidence holding a balance scale; able to enforce the verdict grasping a sword.  At the Last Judgment, would you want a jury of peers, or God?

As I thought about what Aristotle said a variation came to mind – Faith is passion, free from reason.

Man’s higher-level ability to reason, to think things out and reach a conclusion or solve a problem is certainly one thing that sets him apart from other living things; although many primates have some level of reasoning ability. Reason, combined with no small insightmeasure of ego, is also what keeps man from knowing God. Man has always tried to figure out how he got here and wondered about some supreme force or being that was somehow in control of things. It is that use of the human ego, leading to the need to put God in our own human context, which limits our ability to know and love Him. Our reasoning keeps us from opening ourselves to a passion for God, to having faith.

What are we to do?

Stop trying to figure God out. Stop trying to force God into that little image that looks like you that you can conjure up in your head. Stop using your reasoning and open yourself to the passion of knowing – have faith.

The Star Wars franchise of movies introduced us to the concept of The Force, which comes as close to describing faith as anything else. Early episodes focused upon yoda drawingunderstanding and using The Force. The understanding part really boiled down to accepting and believing, which Yoda tried to teach Luke in the initial installment. It is interesting that there was no attempt in Star Wars to put a face on The Force or to characterize it as being something that looked like any of the characters in the series – there were no drawings or painting of The Force. In order to suspend disbelief and accept The Force in the Star Wars movies, one had to have faith in something that is never seen, but is always there to be called upon by the faithful – the Jedi.

Perhaps we all need to suspend our disbelief and free ourselves from reason. Once free woman-prayingfrom the need to figure God out, maybe we can move on to the passion of accepting and knowing Him in our lives. In that moment of passion, all of your cares, concerns, pains, fears and troubles will fade into the background. You will have found faith, free from reason.

May The Force be with you.