Faith trumps fear, when it comes to death…

March 31, 2018

I attended my church’s Good Friday service last night. While I was sitting there listening to the familiar story of Christ’s Passion and death on the cross, I couldn’t help thinking about a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “It is the unknown we fear when we look upon death and darkness.”  (J.K. Rowling)

Death is the one certainty that represents the biggest unknown in our lives. As the service went on, we prayed and said the words to Martin Luther’s Explanation to the Second Article.

I believe that Jesus Christ, true God, begotten of the Father from eternity, and also true man, born of the virgin Mary, is my Lord.

He has redeemed me, a lost and condemned person, purchased and won me from all sin, from death, and from the power of the devil, not with gold or silver, but with His holy, precious blood and His innocent suffering and death.

He did this that I should be His very own, live under Him in His kingdom, and serve Him in eternal righteousness, innocence, and joy; just as He is risen from death, lives and reigns in eternity. This is most certainly true.

jesus-as-lightThe death and resurrection of Christ is the defining event in the Christian faith and I thought that if one believes in that event, i.e. if that is the foundation of one’s faith; then that belief should remove the fear of death. The next thought I had was one of wondering what someone has who has no faith? If you cannot find hope and comfort in the belief of life after death, then what do you have. Nothing? It’s no wonder those without faith fear death.

Man’s fertile imagination has allowed him to conjure up many different ways to express the concept of God and his need to organize and manage the process of expressing that faith has resulted in hundreds of religions. Even within the religions based upon the belief in Jesus Christ as the son of God, the hand of man has resulted in hundreds of implementations of the practices of that faith and the concept of the church as a vehicle for those practices. The religious chaos that grew out of all of this has fueled the argument of the cynics who have no faith in God or anything else. They are unable to put aside the trappings of the various religions and get to the core of them all, which is a belief in God and a faith that an afterlife exists.

As we head into Easter Sunday, we put aside the dark and somber meditations on Christ’s woman-prayingdeath and turn our attention to the joyous celebration of his resurrection. That is how we overcome our fear of death. Life after death may still be a great unknown for us, but we believe in it and look forward to the promise of “a peace that surpasses all understanding”.

He is risen! That’s all that we need to understand.

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Look long enough to actually see…

March 27, 2018

The Jack’s Winning Words blog had this quote today – “Everything becomes interesting if you look at it long enough.”  (Gustave Flaubert)

Jack went on to write about staring contests and beginning to see things in common objects if one looks long enough. Our brains are wonderful at making connections and finding nuances within common objects, if we give it the chance to work long enough.

girl with nose chainIt occurred to me that the same thing applies to looking at people. Too often we look at someone without seeing them. We see a color or we see a hairstyle or we see a different way of dressing and we quickly look away without actually “seeing” the person that is there. There’s an old saying, “What you see is what you get”; but that saying requires that you actually see and not just look.

Did you look long enough to see the smile on the face of the person of color that you encountered? Did you see the twinkle in the eye of the girl with purple hair? After you looked at the bright colors of the outfit of that person, did you see the welcoming and friendly way they were holding themselves? Did you really see them or just look at them and jump to a conclusion?

Sometimes “seeing” the person may actually go beyond just looking. You might actuallyStephen_Hawking have to talk to them to “see” who they are. How many of us would have seen the genius in front of us if we just looked at Stephan Hawking sitting in his wheelchair? How many times have we looked at a special needs child and quickly looked away without seeing the real person that was there? Do we see and understand the person sitting on the corner begging for our help or just look at the bedraggled person there and turn away with a sense of pity and guilt.

Sometimes the things that mask the person that we look at prevent us from “seeing” the real person. Maybe we think that we don’t have the time to actually spend to see the person in front of us. A quick glance and a hastily drawn conclusion from that look is all that we can afford the time for. How sad that we don’t take the time to “see” and understand what and who we look at. It is truly our loss.

So, take the time and make the effort to see past the things that are there on your first look. Give your brain time to absorb more than that first glance can tell it. Hesitate and take in more before you draw a conclusion. Try to really see the person that is there and not just the stereotype that pops into your head based upon your first impression. You might be pleasantly surprised at what you see then.

There is another old saying that seems appropriate here. It is “Stop and smell the roses.” Maybe we also need to “Stop and see the person”. Have a great rest of the week.

I’ll be “seeing” you.


Change your life today…

March 26, 2018

From the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes today’s tip – “Big sweeping life changes really boil down to small, everyday decisions.”  (Ali Vincent)

Jack went on to write – In meteorology it’s called, The Butterfly Effect…how small changes in a weather system can cause big variations.  That’s why forecasts aren’t always correct.

The theory of the butterfly effect is that the flapping of the wings of a single butterflyButterflies somewhere in the world caused enough change in the movement of the atmosphere to cause minute changes to the weather patterns in the entire world. If you’ve ever wondered why it may be raining across the street, but not on your house, perhaps it was a butterfly somewhere in Asia that was flapping it’s wings that caused that weather pattern. At least it’s more fun to think of that butterfly flapping away in Asia than dwelling on the fact that it may be raining.

Back to the quote. One of the things that sometimes holds us back in life is spending too much time thinking about what we see as the big problems in our lives, rather than making the small decisions that can eventually lead to life changes. Jack also wrote about a recent news article that covered the health aspect of doing just a little exercise every day and eating several small meals during the day, rather than a few large one. I’m man lifting weightscertainly guilty of procrastination about exercise. When the gym that I was going to closed, I told myself that I’d join another gym and get back to regular exercise. I’m still telling myself that. I’ve been looking at it as a big decision, when in reality there was a small decision that I could have made to do a little exercise at home each day, until I found a new gym. It’s time to make that small decision and change my life. Time for some home burpees.

What small, everyday decisions have you been putting off in your life? Why? Isn’t it time to do something, no matter no how small t may seem, to move off that dime? Make that first, small decision to change something in your life and see how it begins to affect your life overall.

Here’s a suggestion. Make the decision to start each day with a moment of silent prayer.woman-praying Reconnect with God each morning and put your trust in what He has in store for your life today. I use the little prayer that I’ve posted here many times – “Not my will, but Thy will be done”.  You will find that you start each day with a new attitude when you take that moment to reconnect and reassure yourself that God is with you. That new attitude and the aura of God working through you will carry over into the decisions that you make that day, which can’t help but change your life and the world around you. You will become God’s “butterfly effect” on the world.

Make your little ripple in life’s fabric and be prepared to be swept along in the life changes that will occur. Change your life today.


Keeping an open mind…

March 23, 2018

Jack Freed recently posted this little quote on his blog Jack’s Winning Words“I believe in having an open mind, but not so open that your brains fall out.”  (Arthur Hays Sulzberger)

I like that quote because sometimes, under the guise of having an open mind, people do let their common sense (their brains) fall by the wayside and end up doing stupid things. An open mind is one that is willing to consider a change in position or understanding on a topic. Everyone and everything that we interact with conjures up some mental insightpredisposition in our minds about them/it and how to react to the encounter. Sometimes, those predispositions may be strong and well as wrong and have turned into unfounded prejudices. Many times it may just be a feeling of unease or fear, if we have little or no experiences upon which to fora more positive reaction.

When you’re a child prejudices may be more excusable, because you haven’t experienced enough or learned enough to really have an informed opinion. As you grow up there is an expectation that your will gain first-hand experiences and knowledge that helps you make better decision; or at least that is the hope. A key to that growth is your ability to keep an open mind, but also to use your brain to sort, categorize and assimilate new bits of knowledge so that the basis for your reaction to events and people is based on better knowledge. Some do a better job at that than others do.

arrogantSome people really don’t have a mind that is open to change, no matter what evidence is presented that a long held conviction is wrong. They have locked their brains tightly into a reality that is theirs alone and they “see” the world from within that realm. Unfortunately, that seems to be the case in Washington these days, as the politicians there become more and more polarized. One certainly doesn’t see a lot of open minds there, just a lot of brainless behavior.

How do you start each day? Are you open to new ideas, new thoughts and new ways of seeing things? Do you see meeting new people who are different from you as an opportunity to learn or as a threat? Is your brain open to learning new things or too busy defending old prejudices, fears and unsubstantiated positions?

Being open to new ideas, new thoughts and new people does not mean blindly accepting them or immediately acting upon them, as Sulzberger was saying in his quote. You still have to engage your brain to evaluate their worth and place within your life. Some newsmirk idea may well displace old ideas that you now know were not completely right or which no longer fit for you. New people in your life may replace old friends who no longer share your values or whose position on things is no longer aligned with yours. Life happens and you move on.

So, let changes happen in your life and your outlook on life. Don’t let where you were at hold you back from where you are going. Use your brain to sort through new thoughts and beliefs and to control the pace and extent of those changes, but not to block them out. Keep an open mind. Don’t worry, your brains won’t really fall out.


Follow the children…

March 20, 2018

“The wolf will lie down with the lamb…and a little child shall lead them.”  (Isaiah 11:6)

That was the quote used in today’s post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog. Jack used it to write about what he sees as a turning point in the movement against gun violence. He compared the recent Walkout Day, led by survivors of the recent Parkland school shootings, to the Children’s March during the civil rights movement.

I’m a participant in the Huron Valley Coalition, which is an effort to save children from becoming victims of substance abuse, mainly through educational programs for them and the community. Recently the Coalition sponsored a student round table discussion about gun violence in schools, as a means of understanding the student’s perspective on this issue. This program just happened to fall on “Walk Out” day, so that became a part of the conversation.

As was reporEnough_is_enoughted elsewhere across the country, there was a lot of confusion and very mixed support for the Walk Out within the administrations of the various schools, even within our local school district. Some teachers and administrators supported the Walk Out, while others warned students not to participate for fear of consequences later. In general, the students who spoke at this round table were disappointed in the lack of a consistent message from the adults involved and vowed to do a better job themselves next time (and they were clear that there will be a next time).

I was a bit surprised by the reported politicization of the issue within the student body. I guess I don’t recall from the ancient days of my own high school experience that students identified that much with the various political parties or their platforms. That is apparently not the case these days, as the roundtable discussion exposed the political opposition to the Walk Out within the student bodies of the various schools. Apparently, even within high school students there are strong attachments to one political point of view or the other. Political polarization starts young these days.

Even with those differences of political opinion, there seemed to be a universal feelingCandle light vigil that this has to stop, that schools need to be a safe place of learning and not a place where “shelter in place” and “active shooter” exercises are the norm. I hope that the children will continue to make noise, continue to walk out and protest the mess that the cowardly politicians in Washington cannot seem to take fix. There is no place in the woods for a hunter to use an assault weapon and there should be no place in our nation’s classrooms for them either. Had they foreseen the future, I’m sure our nation’s founders would not have included in the Constitution that every citizen has the right to bear a machine gun or assault rifle.

So, follow the children. They are trying to clean up the mess that we adults have made of the country. Maybe as they get old enough to vote they will remember who in Washington stood with them and who stood with the other side. Then instead of walking out, they can walk into the voting booth and really make changes in Washington. Let’s hope so.


Be a good father; be there…

March 19, 2018

From the Jack’s winning Words blog – “Be like St. Joseph.  He’s a model for every (teacher and parent).  Children need you to walk beside them in love.”  (Pope Francis)  Today is St. Joseph’s Day, honoring the father of Jesus.

Jack went on to write a little bit about Joseph, the father of Jesus and about being there for our children. All too many fathers are so focused upon success in their careers that they fail to realize, until it’s too late, that the children that they worked so hard to man rushingprovide for have grown up and moved away. They rationalize all of the time that they spend at work instead of at home as necessary to provide all of the things that they think the family needs. Often, the only thing that the kids really wanted was more time with dad. Perhaps the saddest country song that best captured this topic was Cats in the Cradle by Harry Chapin.

In reality, the pursuit of career advancement and success at all costs is an ego-driven thing and, as such, is extremely selfish. The success-driven businessman is not in it for the family; they are in it for themselves. Few ever really admit that and that is the root cause for many divorces. Perhaps even their marriages are motivated by the need to appear successful, to have the perfect wife and the perfect family to fill out their resume. Those marriages seldom stand the test of time. Some may evolve into loveless arrangements of convenience for both parties.

The truth is that, if family is one’s first commitment and concern, the career that you family grroupchose to pursue will be viewed as a necessary and secondary commitment of your time and attention. An even deeper truth is that family will actually be second, after your commitment to God. Once you have made that commitment your other priorities will fall into line. When you get your priorities straight, you will also find that your level of satisfaction with life increases dramatically. A loving kiss from your partner or a hug and a heartfelt “thinks Dad” from your child is much more rewarding than another reward plaque to put up on your wall.

We often see stories in the news about children being raised in single parent homes. Many times those are children in black homes, where the father is incarcerated or perhaps even dead at an early age. It is easy to sit back and think that this is somehow different from the family where the children never see dad, because he is always “at man prayingwork”. Perhaps “at work” is his prison. In any event, the result is still the same – children being raised in what is effectively a single parent home. Grant yourself a pardon from your work prison and spend time at home with family. Don’t worry that you can’t afford to give them the latest things; the one thing that they want is you in their lives and you can give them that. Be like St Joseph and be there for your children.

Have a great week ahead with your family.


What’s within your reach?

March 17, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog – “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.”  – Clarissa Pikola Estes

How often inaction is driven by thinking too big. We think about the problems of the world and they become too big for us to tackle ourselves, so we do nothing. We cannotescape provide food for the millions in Africa who are starving, so we do nothing. We cannot stop the genocides that are on going in the Middle East, so we do nothing. We cannot stop human trafficking, so we do nothing. Doing nothing is the easy choice. We fail to see what we can do right in our own back yard. What’s within your reach?

If we really took the time to stretch out and see the needs right close to us, we would be able to do plenty to reduce hunger and suffering and human exploitation right in our own towns and cities. How often do we scurry by that homeless beggar on the corner asking for our help? How easy is it for us to look the other way when we see a teenage girl selling herself on the streets to support a drug habit? How many times must we tune into the nightly news and do nothing as we see and hear about another massacre in our schools or churches. These things are happening within our reach. Stretch out and try to mend what you see every day. What’s within your reach?

We tend to let ourselves generalize the problems that we see and let them grow into homeless manseemingly unsolvable huge things that we are incapable of solving alone. It’s not just that homeless beggar, it’s all homeless people. It’s not just that one teen prostitute, it’s all people hooked on drugs. It’s not just that one crazed shooter, it’s all of the disturbed people in the world.  If we let that happen, we become paralyzed by the enormous size of the problems than we see. What’s within your reach?

But, what if you could help that one homeless person that you meet get back on their feet and become a productive member of society again? What if you could save that young girl from a life on the streets? What if your efforts to alert authorities about an unstable person who is headed towards becoming a shooter could prevent that from happening and stop the carnage before it happens? Do you see how taking action, even with only one person in need, can change things in the world? If you can see it, what is stopping your from doing it? Look around. What’s within your reach?

Maybe you just can’t bring yourself to act alone. Maybe you don’t feel comfortable tryingsewrving soup to approach the homeless person or the street walker with your offer to help. Maybe fear keeps you from saying anything to (or about) that unstable person. There are still ways that you can help. There are organizations that you can join and work for that provide that help and intervention. Groups like Community Sharing are here locally, within your reach. Groups like the Michigan Human Trafficking Task Force exist and run hotlines that provide help. They need people to do the work that they do. They are within your reach. And there are crime tip hotlines like the Safe School Helpline in every state that provide an anonymous way for to alert the authorities about a potential problem person. That phone call is within your reach.

So, don’t become paralyzed by thinking too big. Think about what is within your reach and then take actions to do something about what you can see. If everyone, everywhere just did that the big national  problems would fade away one local solution at a time. What’s within your reach?