Tuesday, January 30

Liberty And Equality Not The Same...

I read with amused consternation that the California state legislature, that bastion of political correctness, passed a law which mandates that high school cheer leading squads in that state must "cheer " in equal squad numbers at the girl's basketball games as they do for the boy's games. Hum-m-m... Looks like Title IX has reared its mandated "fairness" head once again. Never mind that the majority of girl's basketball teams in California could "care less" that their H.S. cheerleaders cheered for them or not. But one must suppose that someone or some group of someones felt slighted. Otherwise, why go to all this trouble? One might gloss over this legislative dictate were it not for the fact that the "bent-out-of-shape" physical education teachers behind this corrective push also want the cheerleaders to "cheer with equal enthusiasm" at the girl's games. This added impetus would be amusing if it were not so inane.

Let's take this woefully lack of logic a step further. You and I required are by law to pay taxes. Were the above described attitude adjustment also a requirement, not only would we have to pay our taxes, we would be required to do so with "enthusiasm." I'm all in favor of rendering unto Cesar that which is duly and fairly his, but I draw a firm line in my ledger when it comes to doing so with anything remotely approaching having an enthusiastic smile on my face!

Indisputably our nation is regarded as the most over-regulated society in the world. The question must be, "How did we get this way?" In the simplest terms, we have sacrificed personal liberty for the equality of the masses. A handshake to consummate a verbal agreement between one or more parties has long ago been regulated to the dustbin and replaced with a myriad of confusing, but allegedly required, legal documentation produced in triplicate and regulated by a veritable army of legal "experts" whose self-justified purpose is to interpret and enforce each nuance of these binding agreements. Individual trust in personal transactions have been smothered by innumerable laws and regulations propagated by the governments and their subordinate institutions that we citizens have allowed, if not encouraged, to proliferate. The more latitude government is given authority to regulate our lives the less personal liberty we as individuals have to control and live our own lives as we deem appropriate. This is not to suggest that a well-ordered and civil society could productively flourish without a codified set of laws to establish domestic tranquility for its citizens. Rational laws, like fair taxes, are a recognized necessity. However, there comes a point when the proliferation of laws and regulations, like unchecked taxation, becomes an undue burden on the citizenry and, thus, stifles even more drastically individual liberty.

Take for instance the oft-debated seat belt and the motorcycle helmet laws. Common sense would dictate that if for no other reason than personal safety one would readily fasten their seat belt or don a helmet. Yet society deems it necessary to fortify "common sense" and make both practices mandated by law. Are both good and necessary laws? Yes and no. Depends on one's view point. In the grand scheme of things individuals should have the liberty to determine for themselves whether wearing a seat belt or a helmet is in their best interest and not have a governing authority make that decision for them. On the opposite side of the issue, to make it fair and equal of all, a law is enacted that says in effect that individuals cannot be trusted to make wise decisions and, therefore, the law takes that decision out of their hands. For our own good we are mandated to wear our seat belts and motorcycle helmets, and thus personal liberty is sacrificed in the cause of the "common good."

On the larger stage of national issues, the "Secular Progressives," as commentator Bill O'Reilly has recently labeled persuasions of that ilk, and "conservative traditionalist" are at hotly debated odds over same-sex marriage and affirmative action, to name two. Without elaborating on the pros and cons of either view point, suffice it to say that "common sense for the common good" is being pitted against "equality for all." Both sides are clamoring for laws to justify and solidify their affirmed positions. Invariably when persuasion fails, laws are enviably enacted. The more pluralistic a society becomes the more secular that society is. Therefore, more laws are legislated to keep that society in check. Personal liberty wanes with each law enacted in the name of equality for all.

Bottom line...when people align themselves with God they are accountable to God and a moral code to be accountable to each other...fewer laws are required and greater freedom and liberty prevails. When religion is absent a vacuum occurs into which laws compelling good behavior fills the void. Equality in man's eye must be legislated. Liberty and freedom never are.

"I often wonder whether we do not rest our hopes too much upon the constitution, upon laws and upon courts. Theres are false hopes, believe me, these are false hopes. Liberty lives in the hearts of men and women; when it dies there, no constitution, no law, no court can save it."

- Judge Learned Hand, 1941

Tuesday, January 23

Caught In The Middle Of Moderation

I am reading Dr. Gordon Livingston's newest book, "And Never Stop Dancing." This is Dr. Livingston's follow up book to his best selling first release, "Too Soon Old, Too Late Smart." Dr. Livingston, a Johns Hopkins School of Medicine certified and practicing psychiatrist, tragically lost both of his children when each was very young. These tragedies and his years of attempting to minister to hundreds of mentally perplexed individuals, has served to shape him as a complex individual, highly intelligent, keenly insightful about the human condition, but seemingly devoid of any sense of faith in a supreme being. I do not agree with everything he has proclaimed as "truths" in his two books, but I find his observations thought provoking and worthy of personal contemplation.
Dr. Livingston, in both volumes, chapters his content as "Thirty True Things You Need To Know Now." One of the chapters is entitled "The Primary Difference Between Intelligence And Stupidity Is That There Are Limits To Intelligence." The opening paragraph reads, "People tend to put a lot of stock in the ability of human beings. We think it's what makes us special among the creatures of earth. So why does so much of our national discourse sound like the debating society of a confederacy of dunces?" Dr. Livingston proceeds to harpoon a number of social topics passionately being debated across America that indisputably continues to create deep divisions among we citizens. It is my intent to comment on a select few of Dr. Livingston's statements and agree or refute in full or in part.
Dr. Livingston's opening salvo addresses the long-running debate regarding the Ten Commandments; whether they can be permitted to be housed and displayed in public venues underwritten with tax supported dollars, or should they be restricted from these locations. The pivotal arguments encompass the issue of the freedom of religious expression and the establishment clause of the Constitution's First Amendment. Alabama Supreme Court Justice, Roy Moore, tested those parameters when he ordered that a 5,300 pound monument containing the Ten Commandments be permanently displayed in the courthouse in which he presided. Judge Moore lost the argument, but the debate rages on.
Judge Moore proclaimed the Ten Commandments to be "the moral foundation of American Law." Dr. Livingston adamantly refutes that contention by stating, in effect, that seven of the ten "bare little relation to American law," whereas except for the prohibition against killing, stealing, and bearing false witness, the balance of the commandments have never been the "subject of contemporary legislation." That observation, in my opinion, when scrutinized factually, can hardly be refuted. I tend to side with Dr. Livingston's argument. However, whereas it may be an ill-reasoned stretch to contend that the Ten Commandments represent the "moral foundation" of American law, I have no difficulty in suggesting that these same decrees should be no less than a significant if not the guiding moral compass for formulating and underpinning our laws.
It is no less than pure, unadulterated intellectual folly to deny that in our country's short history that staunch adherents of the Ten Commandments have not liberally misapplied these religious tenets for their own narrowly defined agendas, as was the case when religious fundamentalist cloaked themselves reprehensibly in the hoods and sheets of the Klu Klux Klan and propagated any number of illegal acts and immoral rationale to subvert the equality of the races. On the opposite side of the struggle were the equally devoted and dedicated proponents of racial equality that held just as steadfast to the religious convictions that were no less tied to the adherence to the Ten Commandments. To deny any person or segment of American citizen equality purely on the basis of race is reprehensible. To adhere to the woefully misguided belief that such a social position was religiously sanctioned was and is morally indefensible.
The drawn battle lines then bare little difference now in this same on-going struggle of ideologies. Dr. Livingston defines the two warring sides not as liberal verses conservatives, "but between extremists and moderates." I wholeheartedly agree, as I, for the most part, count myself a moderate. Caught in the middle of this war of ideological wills is the majority of the American public who have grown increasingly tired, angry, and to a large degree, generally apathetic to this shrill tug-of-war. Moderation, in the market place of ideas, is the bedrock of civility in a pluralistic society. As an example, religious freedom need not and should not be narrowly defined as either freedom of religion or freedom from religion, but both. Individuals of like mind should have just as much liberty to practice their religious beliefs without fear, ridicule, or persecution as should be the guarantee for other individuals who abstain from religious influences of any variety. One need not and should not make demands on any fellow citizen that they must abide by their faith-based criteria for moral living any more than their opposite number should demand that they relinquish their personal beliefs so as to not unduly influence or manipulate theirs. There need not be an arrogant division between the two view points, but there should be an armistice of acceptance that both points of view and selected life styles could and should co-exist in our pluralistic society. Such is the ideal, but reality attest to the entrenched and unwavering agenda of both factions that prevent such a conciliatory mindset.
Dr. Livingston's views the extremism on each end of the political spectrum as being detrimental to social order, but expresses his greatest displeasure and distaste for the religious conservatives, whom he sees as being unwilling at best or incapable at worse to seek middle ground; being "so sure that they are right that they believe they must convert or compel those who disagree with them." Dr. Livingston labels such individuals as "true believers," holding so forcefully to their opinion on how the world should operate per their strict guidelines that any deviation from their core beliefs is tantamount to heralding in Armageddon. I personally recognize that such arrogance of opinion and belief can most assuredly be found in the more conservative proponents of strict religion doctrine, but I recognize also an equal degree of radicalism in those individuals who view religion utilized to promote social order as being antiquated and of no intrinsic value. Neither side, as I view it, has a monopoly on either rational thought or stupidity.
The founders of our nation readily recognized the assumed existence of a "creator" who imbued mankind with rights that in and of themselves were to be regarded as being beyond reproach or ambiguity, citing predominately the rights of "life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness." Our nation's constitution, which followed on the heels of the Declaration of Independence, was most carefully devised to iterate these stated rights. Although not specifically delineated in this august document, implicit in its scope is a right which Americans cherish as equally as they do their freedom; the right (and the expectation) to be left alone! Just as Americans wish to be free of needless government intrusion and interference in their lives, they too expect to be free to select or reject ideology that does not correlate with their innate desire to promote and maintain their personal well-being. Religious beliefs, or the absence of same, is at base a personal choice. When it ceases to be so, it is no longer religion based on personal faith and trust, but institutional socialism.
Maintaining my moderate approach to life, I choose to live my life as I recognize, by conscience faith, that my God compels me to do so...to live a life that adheres to the very best of my ability to the tenets of the Ten Commandments, and to "invite" others within my sphere of influence to consider coming of the own volition to know Him as well. For me, that requires that I knock on my neighbors door...not cave it in. By contrast I do not want my neighbor to run roughshod through my domestic tranquility in order to either promote their ideologies or to refute mine. In this country, governed by rational laws and personal civility, every citizen must be permitted the right to say, "No, thank you" and leave it at that.

Friday, January 19

Free Fries...

As I was leaving a local convenience store this morning, I was hailed by an elderly black lady navigating with the aid of a cane slowly across the parking lot in my direction. "Do you work here sir," she asked. "No ma'am," I replied. She then began her earnest appeal for help. "I've just come from the doctor's office and I need to catch the bus back to town. I'd don't have any money..." "How much will it cost?" I inquired. "$3.00," she replied. That sounded rather expensive to me, but since I haven't ridden any sort of public transportation since I was in elementary school, I had no basis on which to refute her. I looked in my wallet and saw a single dollar bill and two five dollar bills. "Here's five," I said. Her face lit up in appreciation and she invoked God's blessings on me for being so generous. She then proceeded to walk slowly across the street toward another convenience store...not toward the bus stop. As she enter the store my thoughts turned to misgiving. "Had my wish to be of help produced generosity that was unwarranted? Had she lied to me? Had I been taken advantage of? " Maybe...maybe not. I decided that even though I gave her more money than she requested, perhaps she had even greater needs than my five dollars would begin to meet. "I did what I did and I'll let God determine the best outcome," I decided. Normally that would be the end of the story. A good deed delivered and then forgotten.

Before returning to my office, my stomach reminded me that I was hungry. I decided to stop by my favorite burger establishment and pick up a little lunch. Remembering that I had somewhat depleted my available cash, I determined that I would also have to modify my usual "large whatever." I opted for a fish sandwich and a small fry, knowing that I'd have just enough money to cover the order. When the food was placed in my "to go" bag, I discovered that my order of fries was missing. I looked on the sales ticket and also noticed that the fries had not been included. I mentioned to the counter attendant that I'd like a small order of fries and that I'd be happy to pay the difference. He turned, filled up a large container of fries, handed them to me and said, "Don't worry 'bout it."

Coincidence? Good fortune? Perhaps. After all it was only an order of french fries that didn't come anywhere close to costing $5.oo. Still, even if the secular world would suggest that I was being a sentimental dupe for believing such "crap-trap," I am convinced that God was letting me know that my previous gesture of "good will" toward the lady I encountered in the parking lot had not gone unnoticed and was appreciated. I like french fries... and I'm glad God does too!

Thursday, January 18


In another lifetime I was an executive director of my own YMCA branch in Lebanon, Tennessee. My immediate supervisor of the Metropolitan "Y" in Nashville lived with his wife on a large farm that was literally overrun with a large assortment of animals. To my rather well-trained, city-slicker eye, it appeared that the greatest majority of these animals were dogs. There were dogs of every size and description running in wild abandon all around us with reinforcements on the way. It was obvious that the wife in particular loved these dogs and they her. The wife (her name escapes me after these many years gone by) proclaimed that she maintained a "list" of every dog she had ever owned, who sired whom, and the ribbons and prizes some of the more special breeds had won. As she was going on and on about "her dogs," one rather sad looking specimen, that, in my opinion, couldn't have won any sort of beauty contest even if it was the sole entrant, came sulking up to lay beside us. Asked the lady, "Do you know anything about dogs? This one has the mange!" Mustering up everything instantaneously that I could remember about what I personally knew about the canine breed, I replied, "I know one when I see one." That remark abruptly ended any further conversation with this woman.
In a nutshell, I'm not a big fan of lists. In fact, I avoid them like a mangy dog. Some people like lists. Some people live by lists. My wife is one. She feels lost if she doesn't have her day mapped out before her and a list of planned activities and hoped for accomplishments as her faithful companion and guide for the day. Me? After I awake each morning, it's whatever comes down the pike. Don't ask me to make a list or have a list of planned activities. I do whatever I do until I'm too tired to go any longer and I call that "a good day." A "list" would most likely remind me of what I didn't get accomplished, and if it were to fall into the wrong hands, there might be needless eyebrows raised in disapproval. I don't need the added aggravation, thank you.
What prompted me to embark on this tirade was the rediscovery of a book that had languished for undisturbed years atop my bed's headboard. The title of the book, List Your Self - List Making as the Way to Self-Discovery. "A provocative, probing and personal expedition into your mind, heart, and soul." Oh goody... Hopefully this book was a gift, as I can't think of a single reason I would ever consider purchasing it for myself. The book contains 297 pages with 285 pages subdivided into 10 categories under which there is every type of exhaustive list imaginable. Examples. Under the category "Yourself" the reader is challenged to "List the way the full moon affects your behavior" and "List any telepathic or paranormal experiences you've had." Apparently the authors were intent on making this book broad-based in its appeal. Under the same category two additional directives, "List all of the qualities in yourself you like the least" and "List all the reason you should congratulate and celebrate yourself." My initial reaction is that there are way too many blank lines devoted to the first list and not near enough pages for the second.
Under the category Daily Life, "List what's under your sink," and "List what's consistently in your garbage." For goodness sakes, "Why!?!" Business - "List what you'd like to shout out loud to your boss or coworkers." At least that list has some merit. Culture - List all the celebrities you'd like to sock in the face." My list would be longer than the book! Under Men and Women - List what's wrong with women." Would I even dare? Growing Up - "List all your favorite lost items." If I could remember where I lost these items I wouldn't need the stupid list! Finally under Suddenly - "Suddenly you've arrived on Jupiter. List the things your can't live without." Suddenly oxygen comes to mind.
No thank you. I can live my life quite effectively without the need to reduce or define it by a collection of lists. For me it's always "Just Another Day In Paradise!" Now...where did I put the
television listing for the games this weekend?

Wednesday, January 17

"Tain't Funny McGee..."

Perhaps I'm being too critical. After all it's just one more television commercial hawking a product ad nauseam. I know that they are a necessary evil, but bottom line...I detest commercials. If it wasn't for my trusty remote control, I would have given up watching television years ago. And it appears that all the major networks have banded together in a secrete conspiratorial plot to air their menus of commercial spots at exactly the same time. Try this on for size. At the bottom of any prime time hour when a commercial break is scheduled, switch to any of the other major network channels and see if you don't agree that every channel is airing commercials at the same time, many identical to each other. For at least the next ten minutes, it's wall-to-wall, non-stop commercials. Exasperating...
And there must be a prescribed quota that dictates that the same product commercials must be broadcast over and over again. Tell me the Fox Network didn't air the Dodge Ram truck commercial 6,000 times during the weekend's NFL playoff games! You know the one. Two robots standing boot-to-boot in a boxing ring beating the bolts out of each other until one of the robots dislodges the "head" of the other. Not satisfied with the bout's outcome, the victorious robot exits the building in search of another hapless victim...a Dodge Ram truck parked on the street. Punching the grill of the vehicle for all its worth with ever increasing ferocity, the robot's "head" finally pops up in defeat. My reaction exactly!
But it is not this particular commercial that disturbs me. It's the newest offering of Geico Insurance commercials. Previously Geico produced a very entertaining commercial series that featured an English accented gecko. His (I'm going out on a limb here and assuming the little critter is a "he") matter-of-fact approach to enticing listeners to pay attention to his spiel is both appealing and memorable, favorable factors that every ad agency strives to achieve. But I think Geico has fallen far below the bar previously set with their gecko. Their latest commercials feature "cavemen." If this series of commercials is suppose to be "cute," they are not.
The premise of the spots are apparently designed to suggest that obtaining a quote from Geico for one's insurance needs is so easy that even a "caveman" can do it. Several male actors are made up to mimic the identifying features of a typical caveman that one would expect to see in a National Geographic expose on the subject, but functioning in our 21st Century world. The cavemen, themselves viewing the advertisements as would we, take offense that their intelligence is being depicted as being less than double digit. Their protest fall on deaf ears. Their sense of being exploited disregarded and they endure ridicule for being too overly sensitive. Funny? No. Disturbing? For me, yes.
What I find disconcerting and offensive is not that fictions cavemen are utilized in the Geico commercials. They represent a means to the desired end for selling insurance products. What I find disturbing is the implied message (perhaps unintended, but prevalent nonetheless) that it is "okay" to discount and degrade people who are not like you or me. Yes, I realize that these characters are fictional. That there are no longer cavemen roaming the corridors of corporate America. But I am nevertheless repelled by the notion that it is acceptable to employ thinly veiled discrimination as a means to justify corporate profit. Unfortunately, it is not only product being sold, it is the message of permissible arrogant superiority that is also portrayed in a poor attempt at humor. As much as the Dodge Ram truck commercials make my head explode, I'll take them any day over the Geico commercials. T'aint funny McGee.

Monday, January 15

A Light Which Should Burn In Each Of Us...

At 6:01 p.m. on the evening April 4, 1968, while gazing to the distant horizon from the second floor balcony of the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, a single bullet from a lone assassin's high-powered rifle found its intended mark and the wanton attempt to extinguish the influence of one the brightest lights to illuminate mankind's better angels accomplished its intended purpose. Sixty-four minutes later, not unlike the most renowned and honored champion of human rights, Abraham Lincoln, Martin Luther King, Jr. was pronounced dead and his memory and legacy also commended too soon "to the ages."

This day, January 15, commemorates what would have been this great man of humble origin 78th birthday. It is a day in which all mankind, especially we Americans who claim to stand center stage in the guarantees of equality for all men, are called to remember the vision that Reverend King eloquently invoked as his dream that for a large segment of black Americans of his time had yet to realize. His death alone did not fulfill the dream, but his lingering and challenging words of hope continued to slowly open a new chapter in this country's history where indeed the color of a man's skin was no longer regarded as a hindrance, but a proud stamp of heritage, where ignorance and prejudice gave sway to acceptance and opportunity.
The progress since Reverend King's death has been painfully slow and in many instances bloody. But the battles fought and the minds persuaded continue to influence new generations to embrace Dr. King's dream not as something to be hoped for, but an ideal that must be nurtured and protected. For those of us who were witnesses to this man's greatness and to his tragic death, our role must be one of guardian, ever vigilant to call into rebuke those lingering pockets of prejudice and ignorance that are devised to demean the human spirit regardless of race, color or creed. We have an equally important responsibility to those generations yet to be birthed, that the impassioned spirit of Dr. King's dream may through them forever flourish and be the living benchmarks whereby equality and opportunity are measured.
Heralded as the best speech of the 20th Century, Dr. King delivered his "I Have A Dream" speech from the steps of the Lincoln Memorial on August 28, 1963, at the climatic conclusion of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom. Before a gather mass of over 200,000 civil rights supporters, Dr. King galvanized the audience with his eloquent plea for racial harmony and accord. A man of great vision, Dr. King wished to obtain his objectives not through acts of violence, but by peaceful means, stressing that which is inherently good in all mankind would win ultimate triumph over the forces of ignorance and hatred.
"But there is something that I must say to my people who stand on the warm
threshold that leads into the palace of justice. In the process of gaining our rightful
place we must not be guilty of wrongful deeds. Let us not seek to satisfy our thirst
for freedom by drinking from the cup of bitterness and hatred. We must forever
conduct our struggle on the high plane of dignity and discipline. We must not
allow our creative process to degenerate into physical violence. Again and again
we must rise to the majestic heights of meeting physical force with soul force."

Dr. King's plea for civil restraint in the face of generations of institutional shackles, concluded with the memorable words oft quoted down through the years.

"When we let freedom ring, when we let it ring from every village and hamlet,

from every state and every city, we will be able to speed up that day when all

God's children, black men and white men, Jews and Gentiles, Protestants and

Catholics, will be able to join hands and sing the words of the old Negro spiritual,

'Free at last! Free at last! Thank God Almighty...Free at Last!'"

Dr. King's impassioned vision for freedom and equality for all citizens has in so many ways been realized. But this quest is not at an end, not should it ever be. There are still minds to be changed and hearts to be won if Dr. King's dream is to forever be a living and on-going reality. It must live on in each person who believes that in God's eyes each person is precious and has immeasurable worth. We each must carry forth the torch of freedom and equality so that every child born and yet to be born shall thrive in this nation that is deliberately blind to physical differences and "judges not by the color of their skin but the content on their character."

Let that be America's creed...in testimony and in deed.

Friday, January 12

"Whose In Charge Here?"

What few occasions I have happened across the Doctor Phil television show I have found the content to be passively entertaining, yet disconcerting. Like many of the presently popular detective and courtroom dramas, which open with a crime committed, suspect identified, apprehended, tried and sentenced all in the allotted time frame of one hour, I know in reality that particular sequence of events may take weeks, if not months or even years to come to final resolution. That same reality of extended periods of time needed to resolve conflict or emotional distress for the parade of Dr. Phil's guest is also glaringly missing. By the conclusion of the day's broadcast, Dr. Phil has evaluated the difficulty, enlightened the individual as to the root source of the problem, established a course of remedial actions to be initiated, acquired enthusiastic agreement of all parities involved, and the hour concludes with copious amounts of sunshine being radiated throughout the studio...problem solved. Oh, were it that easy. I must, however, give the good Dr. Phil his due in one respect. He offers hope to those individuals who seek his counsel. When the world seems to crashing uncontrollably around them and they are internally exclaiming, "Whose In Charge Here?," Dr. Phil's extends a life raft of hope to which each may choose to cling and come to an affirming realization that the answer lies within their grasp.
Who among us have not encountered to varying degrees of severity disappointments in our lives that have upset the equilibrium of our emotional well-being? To be human is to experience a life of interaction in an uncertain world where our individual paths will lead eventually downward spiraling into valleys of confusion, doubt and sometimes debilitating despair. It is how each of us react to these pitfalls that define our resilience; to either embrace with hope our fate or to succumb in resignation to accept unchallenged that which we may perceive to be a fate beyond our control. I offer no ready made solutions that will guarantee a successful exit from these "shadow valleys." Well meaning but shallow platitudes offered in the hopes of providing temporary balm to an open emotional wound serves little purpose other than to discount as trivial the quagmire the recipient finds themselves immersed. "Into life a little rain must fall," or "When it's raining lemons, make lemonade" rings hollow to the individual caught in a raging storm of doubt and are up to their necks and sinking fast in a sea of lemon juice.
So where does one turn to find relief and hope in the face of despair? There is no simple answers. Time plays the biggest factor. Quick fixes are notoriously imperfect and for the most part ineffective. They only serve to delay effective resolution at best if not compound the problem more significantly. Come to the realization that it will take time for your soul to heal from the wounds that have been afflicted upon it. You must commit yourself to allowing whatever time may be required to pass which will give you either the peace you seek or the strength to endure. Some personal tragedies never completely heal and there may yet remain emotional scars to serve as painful reminders of such events. The loss of a dear loved one under any circumstance evoke such sad and lasting memories. That is to be expected and accepted as reality. To expect that a person should eventually "get over" such tragedies in an arbitrarily defined period of time is not only unrealistic, it is inhumanely insensitive. Grief should never be defined by time elapsed. It is too personal to be so limited and encumbered.
Determine that you will share your burdens as much as you can over a period of time with another person who is truly committed to your well-being. Do not try to "go it alone." There are kindred souls who have traveled the same paths as have you, who will be able to offer much more than pacifying words of advice, and into their hearts you may pour your own.
Be willing to seek and accept professional help; a pastor, or a recognized support group that has an affinity for your particular concern, or a certified mental health professional, or any combination of the aforementioned. These types of individuals and closely defined groups have established successful means and methods through which you may begin to regain your sense of mental equilibrium. Each of these entities can promise a portion of the means by which you can again obtain a more purposeful quest to re-energize your life, but you alone hold the key. The willingness to do so lies solely with you and the resignation that the better days you seek will not dawn over night. It will take time and you must be willing to give it the time necessary to affect the desired change in your perspective.
Finally, but most importantly, you should seek a power of persuasion that lies beyond human purview. For me it is my trust in the one and true God of the universe. It not for me to question God why disappointment may come to reside in my otherwise well-ordered life. For I know that God is not the author of sadness, but the unquenchable depository of hope, peace and joy. I may indeed pass through my own personal valleys of confusion and despair, but I do not travel that dark path alone. I know that God is with me and will nor abandon me. The secular world may view this dependency as an inability for me to right my own ship. I know it rather to be an anchor to which I may cling when sought after distant shores appear to be beyond my reach. Sometimes God quiets the raging storm and sometimes He calms the child in the storm. In the storms of your life I would recommend grasping firmly to the anchor chain that is God. He will get you through the storms of life if you allow Him to come on board. The ship can be mighty empty and lonely without Him. Sail on and may peace be your destination. Say hello to Dr. Phil along the way...

Thursday, January 11

God's Penny For Your Thoughts...

I have had the opportunity to previously tell the following story, and wishing to include it in my journal, I believe it worthy to share once again.

A very successful businessman had invited, as was his custom, several of his junior executives and their wives to spend as part of his annual Christmas celebrations a weekend at his country estate. The opulence was breath-taking and was equally complimented by the warm and inviting hospitality of the owner. The weekend festivities included a visit to one of the exclusive restaurants in the near by town, which had been reserved exclusively for the chief executive and his guests. All expenses were to be underwritten in full by the executive, telling each couple that no meal or beverage was to be excluded as perhaps being too expensive. The entourage was chauffeured to the restaurant in a fleet of sleek limousines. Upon arriving at the appointed destination, the executive exited from the lead car and proceeded to open the door for each car as it came to a stop at the curb, personally assisting each guest to his side. As the last couple collected their belongings and began to walk towards the restaurant's entrance, they noticed their host, who was a few steps ahead of them, bend down and pick up what appeared to be a shiny object from the ground. The young wife of the last couple was curious as to the identity of the object that the senior executive was turning over and over in his hands and gazing upon intently.

"What have you found, sir?" asked the young lady. Replied the gentleman, "It's a 1968 penny."
"Does the penny's date mean that it has some additional value?" the young lady further inquired. "No ma'am, it's only worth a penny." "Forgive me sir," followed up the lady, "and forgive me if I offend you, but you are no doubt a man of immeasureable means and wealth. Why would you be so intrigued by a single penny?" "I take no offense, my young friend. To say that I am not materially blessed beyond even my earliet ambitions to achieve, that would be the unforgiveable offence. But this single penny is of great worth to me far beyond its stamped value. All pennies, all coins and paper money of any demonination, for that matter, have greater worth aside from their printed exchange value. For if you look closely at each coin, there is a message from God on it. Do you know what that message is?" Hesitating, the young woman timidly ventured a guess, "In God we trust?" "Yes," said the gentleman, "but that's only part of the message. Those words, 'In God We Trust' are just God's way of getting our attention...to notice Him, if we only take the time." Said the woman, "I don't understand. What's the rest of the message?" Replied the executive, "Simply said it is God telling me 'Here I am. I am with you. You can trust me.' That's why whenever I spy a coin lying on the ground I always stop to pick it up, and I as I find those four words, I take the time to give thanks to my God for being here with me...for blessing me so abundantly...and His promise that no matter what, wealth today or poverty tomorrow, He will remains steadfastly by my side."
Having read that story many months ago, I too keep a faithful lookout for coins on the ground. And when I come across one, I too take the extra time and little effort to stoop over, pick it up, find those four words, and give thanks to God. I may never achieve the riches that the executive in the story obtained, but together we share the greatest treasure of all together...our faithful and loving God. I encourage you to keep a sharp lookout for these orphaned coins. God has a message for you...if you'll only take the time to hear it. Happy hunting...


My twenty-one year old daughter is fond of repeatedly suggesting to her Mother that she worries too much about things, that for daughter Megan, are of no little consequence. "You're going to give yourself wrinkles, Mom." I chalk this statement up to the obvious difference between a twenty-one year olds lassiez-faire approach to viewing life and its complexities and her Mother's wiser and more seasoned understanding of reality. Yet Megan, nevertheless, has a keen understanding that worry for worry's sake is a detriment to a person's well-being. I agree.
My wife, Judi, is a detail person to the nth degree. There are well populated CPA offices with less paperwork that in comparison would be put to shame to the mounds of paperwork of every description that have found residence in our home. I often retort that Judi maintains somewhere in her archives the feed receipts for the Ark. Her most requested gift for Christmas this year was to receive a paper shredder, a request I gladly obliged by purchasing the deluxe, super-duper model that chews its way through with undaunted determination any manner of paper goods. What a God-send. As I sat at my computer last evening, I listened with gleeful satisfaction as that little devil whined away for over an hour. Yet, I have long ago come to realize and appreciate the fact that what would appear to be chaos to the casual observer is indeed the means by which Judi maintains control and order for our family. Her organizational and administrative skills are unparalleled. The myriad of details that she attends realizes for her not only a daily anticipated challenge, but a sense of accomplishment at day's end. What daughter Megan evaluates as a source of worry is for her mother just the opposite. It is all in how one chooses to approach life's challenges that separates those who worry about how to accomplish a task and those who get the job done, and have a true sense of joy while doing so.
Too often of late I encounter individuals who seem weighted down with the day-to-day challenges of living their lives, many of whom carry the added burden of being overly concerned about "what if" matters and events that in even the worse case scenarios will never come to fruition. Our society, even more so since 9/11, seems to have adopted as the norm a sense of foreboding and fear about concerns that in reality we have no personal ability to affect. Our mass media outlets are awash in stories and opinions of looming cataclysmic calamities that if each were regarded as unavoidable fait accompli, we would each elect to retire to our closet and pull the door closed. In the sixties we worried that the Russians would, at worse, unleash nuclear holochaust upon us, or, at least, come storming ashore in mass in Rhode Island. In months past we have had to entertain the foreboing fears of bird flu, mad cow disease, and tainted spinach. What will be this year's fears de jour? Who knows?
I am not suggesting that we should elect to place our well insulated heads in the perverbial sand to isolate ourselves from the prevailing circustances and events of our times. It is wise and prudent to have and maintain a well-informed world view, to evaluate the potential impact that each adverse situation may provide and to take the necessary steps of reasoned precaution to minimize the effects of same. The good folks of New Orleans would have better served themselves had they undertaken serious consideration of the potential impact that a major hurricane would have on their city and had, as a result of this due diligence, affected the necessary precautionary steps to minimize the loss of life and property before Katrina came crashing ashore. Common sense is often times its own reward and a lack of same an irreversable affliction.
So...why worry about those things that we have little if any control over? You're going to give yourselves needless wrinkles! Why not embrace each new day as an opportunity to impact the world for good in the little portion of the world that your traverse? Give thanks and appreciate the unique gift that is you...smile more and let your face in on it...keep God in the mix...share a laugh with someone who needs it...travel the pathways presented for the day and merge confidently where you can. Don't be timid a moment longer, but love more openly and profoundly those who love you, and be ready to give a hug to those who may not even know they need an embrace. And for goodness sake...don't buy any more wrinkle cream! You may not add a day to your life by deciding to worry less, but you're sure not going to subtract any either.

Thursday, January 4

Let The Resolutions Begin...

Now that the New Year is offically underway, let me be among those to wish you a prayerful promise of a great 2007.
The St. Petersburg TIMES ran an oldie but goodie PEANUTS in the comic section on New Year's Day. It opens with with Snoopy lying in thoughtful repose on the snow covered ground lamenting, "So here I am starting a New Year...But am I any different? Nope! I'm the same ol' dog! Day after day and year after year...never a change." The final panel has Snoopy in one of his familiar poses, lying on his back on top of his snow covered dog house and thinking smugly, "Sometimes I marvel at my consistency!" I can relate. You?
Tis the season, so I'm told when personal resolutions are made. They run the gamut from A to Z, all faithfully formulated to make us a better person in some respect than we were the previous year. Some are introspective...we recognize for ourselves an area or areas in our lives that requires adjustment...either doing some things more or doing some things less. Other resolutions are more or less thrust upon us by people who declare steadfastly that they "only have our best interest at heart." My dear wife has thrust one of those types of resolutions on me...to go to the gym at least once per week. I am bound by the love for my wife and the threat of her wrath to embrace that particular resolution. Unlike the old adage that says "getting there is half the fun," I fear that sentiment doesn't hold much validity when it will be painfully applied to my aging body. I'd rather be like Snoopy and marvel at my heretofore well developed sense of consistency.
So...have you made any resolutions for yourself this year? Some wise person made the observation that "Confession is good for the soul, but is really bad for the reputation!" I'm not asking you to reveal them to me. Your determination to make and keep a resolution is strictly your decision. That choice, like life itself, is so much a paradox. Consider the fact of how blessed we are to live in this wonderful country. Compared with any standard of living, we are the most affluent society in world...where our material welfare is virtually guaranteed, where our enemies are diligently held at bay, and the greatest majority of infectious diseases that threaten life are contained. One would surmise that we would be at our leisure to figure out ways of living and relating to each other that would produce a sustained sense of fulfillment, happiness and contentment. Then why is it that mental health professionals of all stripes continue to maintain burgeoning case loads? There in lies the paradox. What is it about the human condition that seems for too many to devise formidable roadblocks between themselves and the life they so desperately desire?
Every spring the sock-eyed salmon swim back up the rivers and streams of Alaska to reach their place of origin. The trip is arduous in and of itself, but add in the combined hazard of there being a gaggle of very hungry brown bears waiting atop the rapids to devour the unlucky few that leap into their waiting jaws and one comes to realize that not every enterprise will have a good outcome. Some salmon make it...some don't. Some bears eat their fill...some go hungry. It's a paradox of consequence. Seems to me that one of the best strategies for living is to understand that we are limited in what each have control of in our lives and to forgo the illusion and accompanying anguish that we can and must control everything.
Here's my personal resolution... To be thankful to God each and every day that He has granted me yet one more day to embrace all that day has in store for me...the good and the bad...knowing that HE and He alone is "perfectly" in control of everything and my task is to Honor Him and my Savior Jesus Christ by living each moment with a peaceful knowledge that He does not expect me to be "in control of all things." Now if I could just get God to take away all the anticipated pain that will accompany my efforts to get back in shape, we'd be square.
Have a great first week of 2007! Enjoy each day granted you and make that day a quest for excellence.

Leaving Footprints Along The Way...

"I think, therefore I am." The 17th Century philosopher Rene Descartes issued forth that pronouncement in an attempt to "explain it all." A Clintonian explanation of "it" seems in order. Taken at face value, one might assume that Descartes is attempting to define why mankind could and perhaps should elevate and, therefore, justify his existence above all other forms of life. Expressing this idea in another manner...as mankind has the ability to be introspective about his being, his essence, his person...that he can, to varying degrees, manipulate his environment and his place in it...man, therefore, is superior to all other life forms that have no such awareness or ability to alter their environments. If one is talking about an amoeba, that statement might have acceptable validity...discounting, on the other hand, the unique ability of say monkeys and dolphins to mimic, if not come close to mastering to a recognizable degree, these same traits. Being not an amoeba, nor a monkey or dolphin, I will accept Mr. Descartes' pronouncement on face value.
In the Old Testament book of Exodus, Moses encounters "God" in the form of a non-consuming burning bush. Reflecting the ever inquisitive nature of man, Moses asks, "Whom shall I say is calling?" The voice from the burning bush resounds (I assume He was resounding in His reply), "I am that I am." One might ask, "What kind of answer is that?" For God, it was and is the only answer that could be given. I am sure that the God of the universe and creator of same could have elaborated to a greater extent, but how does one properly and completely define the alpha and omega of all things? It's a bit like trying to define wind. Yes, words can be concocted to describe this physical phenomena, but in reality, wind is best defined through experience. The same with God. Sometimes the best answer is the simplest answer.
I offer the above matters of reflection to hopefully set the stage and premise as to why I would care to enter into this blogging enterprise. Simplest answer, "Because I can." Because I do regard myself as a unique person, so created by the same creator of the universe with the free will and ability to "think" for myself as to who I am and where I belong in this world, I wish, if for no other reason than to entertain myself on occasion, to impart reflections of a distant horizon so that I may leave a few personal footprints along the way...perhaps to also entertain and elevate other seekers of truthful introspection who may stumble upon this body of work.