August 2009


A few weeks ago, I decided to write notes to a few people who had impacted my life.  The impacts weren’t earth-shattering or life-changing.  I had gone for years without really thinking about these people.  And perhaps that’s why I thought it was important to write to them.   The bigger the impact, the more likely the person knows about it.  But that doesn’t make the small impacts unimportant.

I knew that if either of these people passed away, I would regret not sharing my thoughts.

The letters weren’t Pulitzer-prize winning or long — just short, sweet, to the point.  I am thankful for what they have done in my life, this is what I’m doing now, I hope they are doing well, yadda yadda yadda.

Today I recieved a letter back from one of them, and I knew my short, quick letter was worth it.

I’m not saying all of this to congratulate myself or to brag how thoughtful I am.  Far from it.  I think it’s my lack-of-thoughtfulness that made me want to write the letters after all these years.

I’m sharing this because I don’t think enough of us think about all the people in our lives.  Yes, some people have made huge differences in our lives — our parents, our spouses, close friends, a mentor, a pastor.   But others have only been in our lives for short times– perhaps came and went quietly, unassuming, and are now almost forgotten.  What about these people?

Every person has been put in our lives for a specific reason– from the cashier at the grocery store or the person who cuts you off in traffic to your next-door neighbor or child.  What have they done for us?  What are we doing for them?

Take the time to thank a few people from your past.  Perhaps they have no idea how they affected you or think they have gone unnoticed, and your thank you will help them get through the next day.   Maybe they have completely forgotten you, and your note or phone call will bring back memories.

Regardless, it’s worth the small effort.  And maybe their response will make your day as much as your note made theirs.

There’s an interesting article by Elizabeth Bernstein in the Wall Street Journal about Facebook:

How Facebook Can Ruin Your Friendships

It’s a good read, although I think she’s barely scratching the surface of what’s wrong with Facebook and the essence of social networking sites.

(For another — slightly longer– read, check out my take on the phenomena here.)

Bernstein:

Like many people, I’m experiencing Facebook Fatigue. I’m tired of loved ones—you know who you are—who claim they are too busy to pick up the phone, or even write a decent email, yet spend hours on social-media sites, uploading photos of their children or parties, forwarding inane quizzes, posting quirky, sometimes nonsensical one-liners or tweeting their latest whereabouts. (“Anyone know a good restaurant in Berlin?”)

Well said.

I came on here to vent and rant and rave because — let’s face it — I like to do that.

But after reading both my brother’s post and my sister’s post today, my frame of mind changed.  Both posts were so moving and thought-provoking, it was hard to come here and rant.

I’d highly recommend both posts, so feel free to head over and read them before finishing reading this.  You may never come back.  But if you do, I’d like to share some thoughts.

Being single has unique challenges.  Now, my family does have a reputation for non sequitur conversations, but this really does follow- I promise.

When I was reading my sister’s post about the daily trials of motherhood, I realized that part of the challenge of single life is the lack of trials.  While she is being stretched and strengthened, she is learning about God’s life-giving love in the school of dirty diapers and spilled juice.

There are no dirty diapers here.  There is no one demanding my attention.   There is no one to take me away from my computer, my television, my telephone, my book, my crochet, my sleep.

My brother’s post revealed the thoughts of the first day of felt-fatherhood.  While a mother bonds with her child in utero, the father’s first bonding moment is when he holds his child in his arms.  Until then, he may love the child and care about the child and worry about the child — but he can only do so through his wife.  After birth, there’s new felt responsibility, there’s a new bonding, a new connection.

I have no lives dependent upon me.   While I have godchildren to pray for, students to teach, and friends and family to love and worry about, the single life I’m currently living bears no responsibility like the responsibility of souls.

We are all called to lay down our lives.  For my brother and sister, they do it daily for their children and their spouses.

The trial of single life is the lack of trial.  Sure, every life has its cross.  I’m not going to pretend I have a perfectly carefree life with no suffering.  But the danger of the single life — which is why I have come to believe it is not, in itself, a vocation — is that it quite easily spirals into a selfish life.

Look into my closet and see my shoes.  To me, those shoes encapsulate my current state in life.  There are a lot of them.  And if I wanted another pair… I might not hesitate before buying them.

Some women in the world may see that as the epitome of happiness.  Me?  Reread my those two blog posts by my brother and sister.    That’s happiness, folks.

… And so I must also remember… the cross of single life is being satisfied where you are at this moment, while striving to be better.

And, not that my other sister can read this blog, but if she could, I’ll put a plug in for her vocation as well.
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I just heard that the British healthcare system is the third-largest employer in the world.   And much of that is administrative– there are more managers employed than doctors.

Yikes.

That’s one of the reasons it is never going to go anywhere.  Think of that voting bloc.  (do we really want that?  we’d better fight hard, because if it comes… it’s staying.)

I learned that little fact on my way home, while listening to a  guest on Glenn Beck’s show.  I don’t know who he was, but he had a British accent, and that makes you sound smart.

He also said he was stunned when he heard that America was considering a nationalized healthcare plan.  He said he couldn’t imagine a country choosing such a thing during peace time, or choosing to expand the federal government when it didn’t have to.

And now I need to write one more sentence, for the sheer fact that while I hate to end sentences with prepositions, I just did, and I certainly can’t end a whole post with one.

It’s time for another movie review.

This weekend I watched three movies.  One I really liked (Julie and Julia), one I would have liked if I was thirteen (High School Musical 3… did I really just admit I watched that?), and one left me wanting more.

A friend loaned me the 2002 movie Joshua, based on a series of books.  He said he was interested in what I thought of the film, so I turned it on ready to evaluate it.  I knew a little bit about the books- enough to be skeptical, but not enough to go in with my mind already made up about it.

After watching the film, I felt I had discovered the Savior.  Not my Savior, but the Savior of the Church of Relativism.

Stick with me as I engage on this little- but relevant- tangent: Awhile back, while out shopping with a religious sister, we saw a depiction of a fairly anemic Jesus.  Sister took one look at him and said, “That’s not the Man I married.”

That’s sort of how I felt after watching Joshua.  A little background– the movie (and I suppose the books, as well) tells the story of a mysterious traveler who shows up in a small community.  This Joshua eventually brings the community together, by rebuilding an old church, by physically healing people, and by reaching out to everyone in love.  He comes under the wrath of the local Catholic priest, who is suspicious of him because he’s not traditional.

In the end, the priest is in tears, hugs Joshua, and all is good with the world.  Joshua goes to see the Holy Father (who realizes Joshua is somehow Jesus, returning but not returning, as in it’s-the-end-of-the-world-as-we-know-it) and leaves him with the reminder to help everyone to love.  Sounds nice and fuzzy.  But it was… sort of flat.   I had some questions for this Joshua.

Being Catholic isn’t easy.  Being Christian isn’t easy.  And after watching the movie, it seems that I’ve got it all wrong. Forget all those rituals, all that fear of God, all that avoiding sin.  Forget that struggle against vice and battle for virtue.  Forget waking up early to go to Mass before work.  Forget saving sex for marriage.

I just have to be nice to people!

yay!

Institutions = closed minded!  Ritual = unneccessary!  Traditions, rules, preaching about sin = ridiculous!

We just need more love.

When Pope Benedict wrote his first encyclical on love, I think everyone did a double-take.  What did this guy know about love?

I did a double-take, not because I didn’t think he knew about love, but because I had kind of tossed the whole “God is Love” thing out with the burlap banner I had made in second grade.  I had heard “God is Love” ad nauseum and had begun to tune it out, right along with Kumbaya.

And there lies the danger of that pendalum swing!  Yes, Jesus was much more than a nice guy who healed people and brought communities together (and I pointed out my friend- while Joshua brought the communities together, Jesus split them apart!!), His central message was love.

So Joshua was right — we need to love.

But when Christ taught us to love, it wasn’t a free-for-all.  As much as we don’t want to admit it, He gave us rules.  He founded a Church (Mt 16:18) and he instituted sacraments.  It wasn’t just, “Go and love people.”  It was, in the words of John the Baptist, “Repent and believe in the Gospel.”

And what is love?   Is it “group hug, let’s all just get along, no one create waves”?  What about when Christ says, “I came to cast fire upon the earth; and would that it were already kindled!  I have a baptism to be baptized with; and how I am constrained until it is accomplished!  Do you think that I have come to give peace on earth? No, I tell you, but rather division; for henceforth in one house there will be five divided, three against two and two against three; they will be divided, father against son and son against father, mother against daughter and daughter against her mother, mother-in-law against her daughter-in-law and daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law.”

That doesn’t sound like love!  But it is.

In his new encyclical, Caritas in veritate, Pope Benedict reminds us: “For the Church, instructed by the Gospel, charity is everything because, as Saint John teaches (cf. 1 Jn 4:8, 16) and as I recalled in my first encyclical Letter, “God is love” (Deus Caritas Est): everything has its origin in God’s love, everything is shaped by it, everything is directed towards it. Love is God’s greatest gift to humanity, it is his promise and our hope.”

But he continues, “I am aware of the ways in which charity has been and continues to be misconstrued and emptied of meaning, with the consequent risk of being misinterpreted, detached from ethical living and, in any event, undervalued.  …  Truth needs to be sought, found and expressed within the “economy” of charity, but charity in its turn needs to be understood, confirmed and practised in the light of truth. In this way, not only do we do a service to charity enlightened by truth, but we also help give credibility to truth, demonstrating its persuasive and authenticating power in the practical setting of social living.  This is a matter of no small account today, in a social and cultural context which relativizes truth, often paying little heed to it and showing increasing reluctance to acknowledge its existence. … Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived.  Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity.  That light is both the light of reason and the light of faith, through which the intellect attains to the natural and supernatural truth of charity: it grasps its meaning as gift, acceptance, and communion. Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality.  Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way.  In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.  It falls prey to contingent subjective emotions and opinions, the word “love” is abused and distorted, to the point where it comes to mean the opposite.”

Sometimes the truth hurts.  Sometimes it’s a “hard saying.”  But that doesn’t mean it’s not the truth.  And it doesn’t mean it’s not love.

So I was left wanting more from Joshua.  Not that he was a weakling physically, but he certainly wasn’t the Savior I’m following.  He would be a nice guy to have as a friend, because he oozes kindness and love, but He lacked that fire — the fire of the One Who caused a bit of a disruption when He said, “Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink His blood, you have no life in you.”

As for me and my house, we will serve the Lord.  The Lord Who is the Way, the Truth, and the Life!

A friend sent me this message, which was originally recorded on LP and distributed by the American Medical Association.  The messenger is familiar to us all, although at this time, in 1961, he was simply a concerned American citizen.

I have presented it in two forms, so that you can take it in however you desire.  Listen carefully to this, and you’ll find that not much as changed in the last 48 years.  I just pray we Americans have the courage to stand up for our country before it’s too late.

Now back in 1927 an American socialist, Norman Thomas, six times candidate for president on the Socialist Party ticket, said the American people would never vote for socialism.  But he said under the name of liberalism the American people would adopt every fragment of the socialist program.  There are many ways in which our government has invaded the precincts of private citizens, the method of earning a living- our government is in business to the extent of owning more than 19,000 businesses covering 47 different lines of activity.  This amounts to 1/5th of the total industrial capacity of the United States.

But at the moment I would like to talk about another one- because this threat is with us, and at the moment, is more imminent.

One of the traditional methods of imposing statism or socialism on a people has been by way of medicine.  It’s very easy to disguise a medical program as a humanitarian project.  Most people are a little reluctant to oppose anything that suggests medical care for people who possibly can’t afford it.  Now, the American people, if you put it to them about socialized medicine and gave them a chance to choose, would unhesitatingly vote against it.  We have an example of this.  Under the Truman administration it was proposed that we have a compulsory health insurance program for all people in the United States, and, of course, the American people unhesitatingly rejected this.

So with the American people on record as not wanting socialized medicine, Congressman Ferrand introduced the Ferrand bill. This was the idea that all people of social security age, should be brought under a program of compulsory health insurance.  This would not only be our senior citizens, this would be the dependents and those who are disabled, this would be young people if they are dependents of someone eligible for social security.

Now Congressman Ferrand brought the program out on that idea, of just for that particular group of people.  But Congressman Ferrand was subscribing to this foot-in-the door philosophy, because he said, “If we can only break through and get our foot inside the door, then we can extend the program after that.” Walter Reuther said, “It’s no secret that the United Automobile Workers is officially on record of backing a program of national health insurance.”  And by national health insurance, he meant socialized medicine for every American.

Well, let’s see what the socialist themselves had to say about it.  They say once the Ferrand bill is passed this nation will be provided with a mechanism for socialized medicine capable of indefinite expansion in every direction until it includes the entire population.  Well, we can’t say we haven’t been warned.

Now Congressman Ferrand is no longer a congressman of the United States government.  He has been replaced, not in his particular assignment, but in his backing of such a bill, by Congressman King of California.  It is presented in the idea of a great emergency that millions of our senior citizens are unable to provide needed medical care.  But this ignores that fact that in the last decade, 127 million of our citizens, in just 10 years, have come under the protection of some form of privately owned medical or hospital insurance.

Now the advocates of this bill when you try to oppose it challenge you on an emotional basis.  They say, “What would you do? Throw these poor old people out to die with no medical attention?”

That’s ridiculous and of course no one is advocating it.  As a matter of fact, in the last session of Congress a bill was adopted known as the Kerr/Mills bill.  Now without even allowing this bill to be tried to see if it works, they have introduced this King bill, which is really the Ferrand bill.

What is the Kerr/Mills bill? It is a frank recognition of the medical need or problem of the senior citizens I have mentioned and it has provided from the federal government, money to the states and the local communities that can be used at the discretion of the state to help those people who need it.

Now what reason could the other people have for backing a bill which says we insist on compulsory health insurance for senior citizens on a basis of age alone regardless of whether they are worth millions of dollars, whether they have an income, whether they are protected by their own insurance, whether they have savings.

I think we can be excused for believing that as ex-congressman Ferrand said, this was simply an excuse to bring about what they wanted all the time: socialized medicine.

James Madison in 1788 speaking to the Virginia convention said, “Since the general civilization of mankind, I believe there are more instances of the abridgment of the freedom of the people by gradual and silent encroachment of those in power than by violent and sudden usurpations.”

They want to attach this bill to social security and they say here is a great insurance program; now instituted, now working.

Let’s take a look at social security itself.  Again, very few of us disagree with the original premise that there should be some form of savings that would keep destitution from following unemployment by reason of death, disability or old age.  And to this end, social security was adopted, but it was never intended to supplant private savings, private insurance, pension programs of unions and industries.

Now in our country under our free enterprise system we have seen medicine reach the greatest heights that it has in any country in the world.  Today, the relationship between patient and doctor in this country is something to be envied any place.  The privacy, the care that is given to a person, the right to choose a doctor, the right to go from one doctor to the other.

But let’s also look from the other side at the freedom the doctor loses.  A doctor would be reluctant to say this.  Well, like you, I am only a patient, so I can say it in his behalf.  A doctor begins to lose  freedoms– it’s like telling a lie.  And one leads to another.  First you decide the doctor can have so many patients.  They are equally divided among the various doctors by the government.  But then the doctors aren’t equally divided geographically, so a doctor decides he wants to practice in one town and the government has to say to him you can’t live in that town, they already have enough doctors. You have to go some place else.  And from here it is only a short step to dictating where he will go.

This is a freedom that I wonder if any of us has a right to take from any human being.  I know how I’d feel if you my fellow citizens, that to be an actor I had to be a government employee and work in a national theater.  Take it into your own occupation or that of your husband.  All of us can see what happens once you establish the precedent that the government can determine a man’s working place and his working methods, determine his employment.  From here it is a short step to all the rest of socialism, to determining his pay and pretty soon your son won’t decide when he’s in school where he will go or what he will do for a living.  He will wait for the government to tell him where he will go to work and what he will do.

In this country of ours, took place the greatest revolution that has ever taken place in the world’s history; the only true revolution.  Every other revolution simply exchanged one set of rulers for another. mBut here, for the first time in all the thousands of years of man’s relations to man, a little group of men, the founding fathers, for the first time, established the idea that you and I had within ourselves, the God-given right and ability, to determine our own destiny. This freedom was built into our government with safeguards.  We talk democracy today, and strangely, we let democracy begin to assume the aspect of “majority rule is all that is needed.”  Well, “majority rule” is a fine aspect of democracy, provided there are guarantees written in to our government concerning the rights of the individual and of the minorities.

What can we do about this?  Well, you and I can do a great deal.  We can write to our congressmen and our senators.  We can say right now that we want no further encroachment on these individual liberties and freedoms.  And at the moment, the key issue is: we do not want socialized medicine.

In Washington today, 40,000–less than 100 per congressman are evidence of a trend in public thinking. Representative Hallock of Indiana has said, “When the American people want something from Congress, regardless of its political complexion, if they make their wants known, Congress does what the people want.  So write, and if this man writes back to you and tells you that he too is for free enterprise, that we have these great services and so forth, that must be performed by government- don’t let him get away with it.

Show that you have not been convinced.  Write a letter right back and tell him that you believe in government economy and fiscal responsibility, that you know that governments don’t tax to get the money the need-  governments will always find a need for the money they get, and that you demand the continuation of our free enterprise system. You and I can do this.  The only way we can do it is by writing to our congressmen even if we believe that he is on our side to begin with.  Write to strengthen his hand.  Give him the ability to stand before his colleagues in Congress and say, “I have heard from his constituents and this is what they want.”  Write those letters now and call your friends and tell them to write.  If you don’t, this program- I promise you- will pass just as surely as the sun will come up tomorrow, and behind it will come other federal programs that will invade every area of freedom as we have known it in this country; until one day, as Norman Thomas said, we will awake to find that we have socialism.

And if you don’t do this and I don’t do it, one of these days you and I are going to spend our sunset years telling our children and our children’s children, what it once was like in America when men were free.

I tried to post today. I did. I wrote the same post a few times, deleting what I had written each time.

Today is the 5th anniversary of my grandfather’s death.

I wanted to post something meaningful. I wanted to write what was in my heart. Instead I pushed delete and let the tears run down my face.

Sometimes we cry when we’re sad. But I wasn’t sad. I was thankful. Thankful that such a man was in this world. And thankful I was allowed to be a part of that world.

When the words failed me, I walked away from the post and confessed to my mom that I couldn’t find the words to say what was in my heart.

And she said it well: “Sometimes things spiritual, and that is what death is, don’t need words because words don’t express what is there. Our feelings are beyond words, they are bigger than words.”

And I’ll leave it there.

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