Are you making progress?

January 31, 2018

In a recent post to his blog – Jack’s Winning Words – Jack used this interesting quote – Pablo Casals“Cellist Pablo Casals was asked why he continued to practice at age 90.  ‘Because I think I am making progress,’ he replied.”  (Seattle Opera post). Jack went on to write about his grandmother who was still reading her Bible at age 92, even though she needed a magnifying glass to do so. She was still learning about God and Jesus and making progress in her relationship with God.

Life is a journey of discovery during which we accumulate knowledge (which one hopes eventually turns into wisdom) and we form relationships. In almost all fields of knowledge, we eventually reach the end of human understanding of that topic and conclude that only God knows the rest of the story. It is at those intersections that we begin to hunger for more knowledge about this God, who apparently is the source of all things. We desire a relationship with Him and look for some guidance on how to meet gods-hands-2Him and form that relationship. That guidance is contained in the Bible. Fortunately, for us, the Bible tells us that we have also been given a guide. Jesus said, “I am the way and the truth and the life. No one comes to the Father except through me.” (John 14:6).

One of the great dichotomies of life’s journey rages between the concepts of faith on the one hand and our own ego on the other. Faith demands that we let go of the quest for understanding and just believe; yet, our egos pull us in the direction of continuing to try to understand everything. We are driven by our egos to try to dissect things down into smaller and more elemental pieces that we can “wrap our brains around.”  Faith says, “Let it go and just believe” while our ego says, “there must be a way for me to understand this.”

At the root of that problem is our human tendency to see things and try to understand them only within the context of the physical world that we already understand. We god-micelangelo-sistenechapel-creative-commonsexpress this ego-restricted view of the world in our religious art, which always depicts God in our own image. We have a hard time conceiving of something that we cannot depict in a material way.

The leap of faith from relating to the things we can see and touch to accepting a God that we can neither see nor touch is the last chasm that separates us from Him. Jesus came to earth to provide a bridge so that we can make that we can jump that chasm in our “leap leap of faithof faith”. Jesus beacons us to jump and trust that He will catch us and take us the rest of the way.

So, why keep reading the Bible after years of doing so? Why keep going to church every week, after years of doing so? Why keep praying to a God that we cannot see or touch, after years of doing so? Why do we continue this never-ending journey to meet our God? Maybe it is that little bit of faith that we have already achieved that is providing us the hope that Pablo Casals expressed, “Because I think I am making woman-prayingprogress.” It is a journey that I realize that I will not finish on this earth; but, I hope that I get enough done here to be able to continue the journey in Heaven.

Are you making progress, too?

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A life well lived? Defining success…

January 16, 2018

From a recent post to the Jack’s Winning Words blog comes this bit of life advice –

“Have faith, hope, and charity; that’s the way to live successfully.”  (Dale Evans)  Jack went on to write  – Dale and her husband (Roy Rogers) were both very religious people.  Her quote is from a song she wrote, called, “The Bible Told Me So,” based on 1 Corinthians 13:13.

man reaching for starTo me, the most interesting word in that little saying is the word “successfully”. That begs the question of who is measuring the success of one’s life and by what standards? Too many people measure themselves and their achievement of success in their lives by what they think others will think of them or how they think others measure success. For those people, success equates to the accumulation of what they see as the three “P’s” of success – possessions, power and position.

Many things in our social environment seem to point to fame and fortune as the keys to success and thus to happiness. Yet there are also many indications that tell us, in the tragic, drug-related deaths of thosedepression3 who we admire and believe have achieved those things; that just achieving fame and fortune may not be the answer to happiness in life. How often we hear their stories of loneliness and insecurities after their deaths. All too often, we find out that they suffered from depression and turned to drugs as a refuge from a life of fear and torment. They seemed to have had it all; but, did they really live a successful life?

Then we can recall the story of Mother Teresa in India or closer to home of Father Solanus CaseySolanus Casey , the Capuchin Franciscan from the Detroit area who was recently elevated to the level of Blessed by the Catholic Church. They certainly didn’t accumulate great possessions, nor were they in positions of power or great prominence; yet who would say that they did not live successful lives. By what standards were their lives judged? I would submit it is by the standards that Dale Evans was espousing.

In the final analysis, the only two judges that matter in evaluating the way you lived your life are you and God; and God has the final vote. As one analyses their life, which makes one the more successful – self-esteem and arrogance or Faith in God; a sense of entitlement or hope for the future; giving a small portion of one’s great wealth (and asking for a receipt for tax purposes) or giving all that you can and wishing you could give more? I would submit that the person who does the latter in those cases is living the more successful life.

As you start a new year, resolve to live life according to the measure of success that DalePinterest Wayne Dyer graphic Evans recommends and not by that old Malcolm Forbes hack, “Whoever dies with the most toys wins.” Inspirational writer and speaker, Wayne Dyer, put it nicely in this quote that I saw on Pinterest.

At the end of the day, will you be able to look back in satisfaction on a life well lived through faith, hope and charity or will you still be dissatisfied that you haven’t quite accumulated all of the possessions and power and position that you believe will make you happy?

How happy or sad I will be for you.

 


Hope based upon faith is not dreaming or wishing…

July 17, 2017

Recently the Jack’s Winning Words blog has featured a couple of post on wishing and hope –

“Wishing are the dreams we dream when we’re awake.”  (Buddy DeSylva)

“Accept life and what it brings, I hope tomorrow you’ll find better things.”  (The Kinks)

Jack went on to write – Peter Marty wrote recently about the difference between wishing and hoping.  Wishing upon a star is different than placing hope in God.  Hope seems to have a spiritual tone to it.  It’s what sustains us when we’re not ready to give up on God.  The Kinks’ song came out of the writer’s down time.  As I read the lyrics I see more hoping than wishing.  What do you see?    😉  Jack 

I suppose that one could argue about which comes first faith or hope. I would take the position that hoping in the absence of faith is just like dreaming or wishing; there is no basis for belief that something will actually happen to make the dream or wish come true. As Jack wrote, “Wishing upon a star is different than placing hope in God”, and thewoman-praying main difference is that “placing hope in God” is actually placing your faith in God. After all, who are you asking when you wish for something without a belief in God? Who will grant your wish? To whom do you turn when you have a dream of a better life? Hope based upon faith provides clear instructions on where to take your wishes and dreams and how to ask for what you need and want.

“And whatever you ask in prayer, you will receive, if you have faith.” – Matthew 21:22

As you read the first part of that quote the tendency is to say, “Alright, I can have whatever I ask for”; however, the kicker is in those last four words – “if you have faith.” Time after time in the Bible you will read that faith is the precursor to hope or the fulfillment of prayers. Many times we “pray” for things that we do not get and there is usually the same answer for why not –

“You ask and do not receive, because you ask wrongly, to spend it on your passions.” – James 4:3

There are many things that we may dreams about or wish for that fall under the general man prayingcategory of our passions – the things of this world that we sometimes think are so important. We might pray to win the Lotto or we might pray for a new car or for other material things, rather than praying that God help us do the right things in life and trust that He will provide all that we really need. The key is having faith first and allowing that faith to guide what you ask God for in your prayers. Base your hopes on faith and they will be fulfilled –

“Therefore I tell you, whatever you ask in prayer, believe that you have received it, and it will be yours.” – Mark 11:24

I think I wrote here once before that, if I happen to include a mention of the Lottery in my prayers, I ask God to help me do the right things with the money, if I should win. Lately I have refocused my requests in prayer to a very simple ask – “God help me make good decisions today.” I have faith that those good decisions will actually be God decisions.

What do you ask God for in your prayer? Are your hopes based upon your faith?


Now more than ever…

November 22, 2016

“Cast all your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”  (1 Peter 5:17) – from a post on the Jack’s Winning Words blog some time ago.

Anxiety is defined as “a feeling of worry, nervousness, or unease, typically about an imminent event or something with an uncertain outcome.”

The recent election has caused a great deal of anxiety among people who voted for Hillary winner-loserClinton and against Donald Trump. That anxiety is driven by fears that President-Elect Trump will actually carry out some of the more outrageous promises that he made while campaigning, concerning things like building a wall at our southern border and deporting illegal aliens or taking harsh and discriminatory measures against various ethnic or religious groups. There would have been a similar anxiety had Hillary won from those who saw her as a threat to their right to own weapons or who fear more and bigger government interference in their daily lives. Those on both sides should step back and remember Peter’s advice – “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

There is a great deal of irrationality in both of those views. While a modern President can impact our lives in many ways, our governmental system does not allow for him/her to run roughshod over the will of the people or even that of the minority. Having rebelled against an onerous king, the founding fathers of America put enough checks and balances into the reality2system to insure that tyranny by a ruling leader would not be possible. Also at work here is the shift that President Obama has spoken about that occurs once one actually has to be the President, rather than just campaigning to be the President. We can see that already in Mr. Trump’s rapid backpedaling away from some of his more outrageous stated positions from his campaign. Some have called that being pragmatic, but perhaps the Lord is already at work and you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

If one lives long enough, one gets to see (and live through) the various swings of the political pendulum back and forth between the two major parties and their underlying philosophies on government. The earliest that I recall being actually aware of who was President and what they meant was during President Eisenhower’s terms in office; although I do vaguely recall early TV news reports of Margaret Truman playing a piano eisenhowerconcert for her family while in the White House. I do remember how the press seemed to cover every golf outing that President Eisenhower took and how he was called the “do nothing” president; even though he was the father of our modern Interstate system of highways and a bulwark against the spread of Communism after WW II. Eisenhower also created NASA in response to the launch of the Sputnik satellite by the USSR. He fought behind the scenes against Joe McCarthy and effectively ended McCarthyism. There were many who feared what would happen when Eisenhower was elected; but, also many who had faith enough to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

I could go on to give examples of the anxieties caused by the elections of each of the Presidents since Eisenhower; but, here we are today, still anxious yet still hopeful. Things will change for a while as the pendulum prepares to swing back towards the other side. Perhaps it is at its furthest rightward point away from the center, but I suspect that this last election was actually a turning point and the momentum has already shifted back reality-checktowards the middle for the next few elections. Those most likely to be disappointed are not those who voted for the losing candidate, but those who voted for the winner, in hopes that all of their anger, hate and prejudices would be assuaged. For those who standing quivering in fear and anxiety at this turn of events, I can only offer the comfort of faith and ask them to, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Now is not the time to abandon your faith; now is the time to find strength and comfort in it. Many may feel the same way they recalling feeling when they faced a bully at school or bully.pngat work. There is a lot of bluster and bravado from the winning side and some disappointment, whimpering and shame on the losing side. Both have already subsided as both now try to envision a future with this status quo. One side is focusing upon what they can actually do for the next four years and the other is deciding what they can actually prevent from happening in that same time period. The gridlock that is our Congressional arm of government has shifted from “prevent Obama from doing anything” to “prevent Trump from doing anything.” The Lord does work in mysterious ways, indeed. “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

In churches across the land the prayers remain the same – “Lord give our leaders the wisdom to lead us wisely and to do the right things” (or words to that effect). We haveman praying no power over what those leaders see as “the right things”, but God does. Now, more than ever, we need to trust in God to put into the hearts and minds of those in power the wisdom and compassion to do the right things. So pray often and pray hard for God to intervene to make the right things happen; and, pray with the conviction that you can, “Cast your anxiety on the Lord, for He cares about you.”

Have a great and anxiety-free week ahead.


It’s a new day; let’s get started off right…

October 24, 2016

alone at sunsetIt’s a new day and a new week. Let’s get started off on both on the right foot. I found some quotes that all point in that same direction:

“Each morning we are born again. What we do today is what matters most.” – Buddha

“Don’t start your day with the broken pieces of yesterday. Every morning we wake up is the first day of the rest of our lives.” – Unknown

“Your life isn’t behind you; your memories are behind you. Your life is ALWAYS ahead of you. Today is a new day – seize it!” – Steve Maraboli

For many people it is hard to let go of what happened yesterday or last week, but you mustbaggage do that so that you can focus upon what’s coming up or at you today and this week. Hopefully you learned something from what happened last week and stored that knowledge away for future use; however, you needn’t dwell upon it and let it distract you from what is ahead.

Don’t get bogged down in the coulda, woudla, shoulda’s of the past. You didn’t, so move on. You still have “I will” ahead of you. Make the most of your upcoming opportunities.

You will need more than just good intentions, however. One of my mom’s favorite savings was: “The road to hell is paved with good intentions.”  Good intentions not acted upon just become paving stones to failure. The key to success is committing to an action plan that will make those good intentions come true.

smiling-sunSo, let us resolve that tomorrow is behind us, along with whatever disappointments or failures or pains that it brought. We have not failed yet today. We have not disappointed yet today. We have not yet experienced any pain today. What happens today or how we react to things today is still within our control. Seize the day! Own it! It is yours to make of it what you will. Perhaps we should start today and every day with this thought from Psalm 118:24 – “This is the day that the Lord has made; let us rejoice and be glad in it.”

You might be pleasantly surprised how much better your days go if you start off rejoicing in each new day. Start off on the right foot.


Keep the candle burning…

April 23, 2016

“Hope is being able to see that there is light despite all of the darkness.”  (Desmond Tutu) – as originally seen on the Jack’s Winning Words blog.

I’ve written here before about the story of the four candles – Peace, Love Faith and Hope – and how they went out one by one until only Hope was left. It was through that remaining children victimsHope that the other three candles were re-lit. We all go through periods of turmoil in our lives, although the crises in most of our lives are usually relatively minor when compared to what others face. One has only to watch the nightly new to witness what real crises look like. Scenes of earthquake survivors picking through garbage dumps to find something to eat can quickly put our personal emergencies into some perspective. Coverage of those wailing at the loss of a loved one in a suicide terrorist attack can deliver a dose of reality into our sheltered lives.

Yet accompanying all of the stories of woe and despair there are usually also stories of hope. Hope for a better life or a better world. Hope that tomorrow will bring relief and an end to the pain. Hope that the danger ends just around the next bend and that life can return to some form of “normal.” It is that hope that keeps the darkness that may be all around us from closing in and consuming us. I wrote some time ago also about hope being stronger than fear. In fact in that post it was hope more than anything else that the fictional ruler in the movie Hunger Games feared the most. It is through continued Hope that people overcome oppression.

As a people, we must keep the candle of Hope burning; for without it we will not be able tohand reaching for heaven find our Faith and Love and Peace again. They are a connected series of things in our lives. It is hope that supports our faith that there is a better life; if not here, then in the next life. With hope and faith it is possible to love ourselves and others. Once we have achieved the ability to love through our hope and faith we will quickly discover that we are at peace – a peace that passes all understanding.

So, keep the candle of Hope burning in your life. Let it keep the darkness at bay and allow you to see your Faith again so that you may find Love and once again be at Peace.

 

 


Hope is stronger than fear…

November 24, 2014

I happened to watch The Hunger Games over the weekend or at least a part of it. I hadn’t seen the movie, since we seldom go to movies anymore. At the end there is a scene in which the character Bow and ArrowSnow, played by Donald Sutherland, President of the Capitol in country of Panem  says, “The only thing stronger than fear is hope.” Snow and the Capitol rule Panem through the use of fear; but the success of Katniss and Peeta give hope to the people in the outlying Districts and they begin to riot.

While it was an interesting action film; and it is not necessarily what I would pay to go see; it did have an overall moral message of good overcoming evil and of Hope for the future. I’ve written here before about Hope. In fact Hope was the only candle left burning after the other three of the four had been extinguished in my post about the Four Candles. I also wrote about it in posts titled Hope Leads to Great Memories and my post, Don’t Worry, Be Hopeful.

Of those previous posts, I think the Four Candles one applies most to today’s theme that Hope is stronger than fear. There are so many troubled places in the world today where the first two or three candles have been extinguished; where Peace and Love are hard pressed to be found or expressed. In many of those places Faith, especially faith other than the stated religion of the rulers (or the dictated lack of religion) is hard to keep lit. Even in those evil places and under the worst of circumstances Hope may still be found.

In most of those places fear is the main tool of the oppressive rulers. Fear of being found out and turtletortured or killed, if one has different religious beliefs or maybe is even of a different sect within the same religious belief. Fear is a powerful tool. Fear can cause people to cower and stay in line. Fear can turn people against each other. Fear causes people to look at their shoes when evil acts take place right in front of them. Fear allows a small minority to rule over the great majority. But fear is not a foundation upon which to build the future. Fear does not encourage and support.

Hope is the only thing stronger than fear. Hope allowed people in East Berlin to take the chance to run across mine fields and through barbed wire in order to get to freedom. Hope getting outprovides the courage and the persistence for families to make long journeys through rugged terrain in places like Iraq to get to a better place. It is Hope for a better life for their children that sustain people through the long hours of toil necessary to give their children a chance at a better life. It is Hope that allows the other three candles to be relit if only one waits long enough and has Hope enough. And it is Hope that steels the backbone and steadies the hand in the face of overwhelming odds; it certainly cannot be logic or knowledge.

President Snow in The Hunger Games was right to call out Hope as the biggest threat to his reign. People with Hope will overcome fear and great odds and will eventually prevail. Once they have tasted victory, they will move on relight to the candles of Faith, Love and, eventually, Peace. I have no idea what happens in the next two episodes of the Hunger Games trilogy, but I suspect that they will inevitably move towards victory for the oppressed people of Panem and the rekindling of the other three candles.

butterfly1In our world one can hold onto Hope for people stuck in places like China and North Korea, much of the Middle East and many places in Africa, plus the places in Eastern Europe still ruled by dictatorships based upon repression and fear. If one were to pray for help for those areas, it should not be that they somehow magically change overnight (that will not happen); rather pray that Hope is kept alive in the hearts and minds of the oppressed. Eventually it will be that Hope that will allow the people to find a way to overcome the dictators and throw off the shackles of fear and repression.

In our own day-to-day lives, it is our Hopes and dreams that keep us going, too. Hope represents our future and having no Hopes would mean having no future. Many of us might Hope for better futures for our children and work to make that happen. Then, we might hold out Hope for our grandchildren’s future, too. As we get older we might shift our focus to Hoping for a long and healthy life and for comfort and security in our waning years; but, we never lose Hope. Eventually, it is the Hope found in our religious beliefs that help us overcome the biggest fear of all – the fear of death.

What are your Hopes? How does Hope help you overcome your fears. How does Hope sustain you?

I Hope you have a great and Hopeful week ahead.