As human beings, we are obsessed and preoccupied with materialistic things; it’s just unavoidable as it reflects the essence of who we are, sensory beings. It is said that to a boy with a hammer, everything he encounters needs fixing. And so it is with you and me; we exist by digesting the world through our senses, yet once ingested, that input is manipulated, analyzed, processed and output as thoughts, emotions, attitudes, behaviors, and values.
And the irony of it all is that the physical presence each of us creates in the world, is a product or collective result of all that intangible, untouchable, immaterial, yet very real sensory input that our minds (and hearts) filter and shape into what makes each of us so unique in this world; our Spirit.
“Many individuals fail to connect the dots, in that they believe who they are is determined by what they do, rather than the values they hold, the beliefs they form and the future they create. It’s like swimming in a pool and never knowing what you are, much less, what direction you are pointed and where you are going.”
Indeed, Choice breeds Optimism, Confidence, Productivity, Morale, and reduces Anxiety. Choice, or shall I say, Free Will, is a fundamental construct created by God to empower us to rationally decide whether we wish to follow Him.
It’s about the connection, the relationship, the desire, the attitude, the commitment and the future. Faith breeds momentum, in that it reinforces a consistent approach and response to the world around us.
Free Will is as much associated with Decision making as our Creation is to Intelligent Design, or what I like to call, Deliberate Design. Life with a Purpose; a purpose We Choose. What a concept!
The favorite class of my entire high school experience was Geometry. I still love the shapes, the symmetry, the balance, the beauty, the complexity and the real world applications; indeed, the real world implications.
Geometry, as a subset of Math, is predictable, in that there exists a defined and disciplined cause/effect relationship inherent in its manifestation within our world. In contrast, Faith and/or belief in God, may at times, appear unpredictable, from our myopic and grossly limited view as human beings. Therein lies the paradox.
As much as I admit I am unaware about God’s thoughts, other than I believe He is indeed
Real and has dominion over all dimensions of being, I firmly believe that there is as much predictability about God as there is with Geometry. It is very important to note that acknowledging the predictability of God does not require complete or intimate understanding of Him or comprehension of His nature.
In terms of this world, you and I exist and function in a primarily horizontal plane, specific to relationships, communication, interactions and knowledge. From a spiritual perspective, however, any/all interactions, communication, etc., with God or involving our faith, predictably exist largely in a vertical plane, i.e., “God on Most High”.
“The ability to think vertically in a horiontal world is what sets individuals apart from others, from the aspect of being able to get a sense of the “Bigger Picture” and better understanding cause and effect events in our lives and of those around us. It’s almost like observing the world through perfect vision, seeing the lines that connect the dots of seemingly disparate events, when everyone else is viewing it using fuzzy, out of focus sight.”
Without question, faith and an unwavering belief in, and reverence for, God, is the catalyst enabling that ability. And like any skill, with continued practice or use, it is refined.
So how, then, does faith work to sharpen or transform our senses? I believe that faith, in practice, minimizes distractions in the world, sets and clarifies life priorities, focuses our efforts toward clear goals, fertilizes our relationships and interactions with others, and attunes our minds to be in better harmony with God’s Will.
As imperfect beings, and as sinners, each of us were born at a great distance from God’s Will. As Christians, we are taught, and slowly learn, to shape our lives in such a way that we become more like God as we grow. As we succeed; as we stumble; as we repent and as we pray, our spiritual maturity develops within us as our physical bodies develop externally; bringing us closer to God.
And the critical points to remain focused on are that we must:
- Never waver in our beliefs
- Constantly remind ourselves of our goals
- Regularly evaluate our lives
- Identify areas to improve
- Followup with appropriate actions, and
- Remain humble in our approach
These guidelines have and will define you and I as Christians and as worthy of God’s Mercy and Grace.
“To thine own self be true, And it must follow, as the night the day, Thou canst not then be false to any man.” – Shakespeare
Electricity has always fascinated me as a concept. In truth, it has empowered me directly while teaching me respect for it, along with a good dose of humility. My perception of electricity is that of a formidable force of unbridled power and a silent master.
And as human civilization has harnessed electricity to create unfathomable applications and outcomes, you and I can equally harness our faith to create unimaginable yet incredible futures. Indeed, from a bolt of lightning in the sky, we have managed to transform it into light, heat, coolness, stored energy, movement, communication and intelligence.
Similarly, we have the ability, dare I say, power, to transform our faith into actionable living, yielding real life outcomes and consequences. Yes, we are the switch!
One might ask, “What are the possible outcomes of faith?” and “How do I go about pursuing them?” The answer to both questions begins and ends with one question; “Do You Believe?”
If your answer is “Yes”, you have already mastered the most difficult aspect of this concept. Conversely, if your answer is “No”, I will challenge you that subconsciously, your real answer is “Not Yet”.
Like electricity, every physical aspect of our existence and being on Earth, must conform to a simple construct specific to energy, i.e., Every action has an equal and opposite reaction. Simply stated, this means that because everything in our world is fundamentally energy, the Law of Physics states that energy is never lost, but rather, transformed into other energy, water boils and becomes vapor, food is ingested and becomes muscle and body mass, thoughts transform into action… and prayers are answered and manifested in numerous ways in our lives.
“Unlike electricity, however, faith is a conditional construct. And that is, faith depends upon our Will to enact it. Faith triggers real life events to occur. People are saved from tragedy, opportunities materialize, sickness can be healed and reconciliation between people is made possible. An essential aspect of faith that many people overlook or do not acknowledge, is that God acts within His own timeline, not ours. He responds to us in many ways, some being unexpected or misunderstood, because we do not share His thinking, logic, or plan.”
The real Power of faith is in knowing that we have influence upon the world, other people, and events; and that God is a Loving and Caring Being, and will eternally be just, compassionate and responsive to our communication. All we need to do is simply Believe.
As a Believer, I want; truthfully, I need, to learn more, to better understand, and to guide my actions as I implement my being as a Christian… as a Believer. Accordingly, I read the Bible, I share my thoughts with others and I collectively worship God with other believers. I observe my world and I sincerely offer help to others in the interest of making it a better place. I refer to “Prayer” as the First Amendment of the Soul, and I will always choose to Believe, to be Thankful and to seek to Help others. I invite you to come and join me.
Seriously, would you rather be an atheist and die, only to learn that God is Real; or would you rather be a Believer and die, only to learn that God did not exist? Which path has minimal risk and maximum reward? Which then, do you choose?
Yet there comes a time in each of our lives when we reach a plateau of sorts that represents a plane of existence, comprising our ideals, core values, fervent beliefs and yes, religious and political advocacy. You may reach the plateau at any age, however, typically, and more often than not, it will be some time after you’re out of the K-12 school system.
“Truly, it is completely normal and entirely expected that we will (and should) be challenged about our beliefs, for it is in these “Moments of Truth” when we learn more about who are; as sons and daughters, as husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers… most importantly, as spiritual beings. For if our beliefs are never or seldom challenged, we lose focus, motivation, self-awareness and yes, direction in our lives.”
And without question, my childhood was no exception. Born and raised a Catholic, I regularly attended church, was educated for five years in a Parochial elementary school, served as an Altar Boy, learned the Mass in Latin, and of course, was instructed in the constructs, requirements, expectations and directives of living as a Catholic.
I began to seriously question, for lack of a better word, the validity of Catholicism as contrasted to other “alternatives” within the Grand scheme of the world, even universe. Keeping in mind this is MY personal journey; upon inquiry, discussion, research and comparison, the Catholic Religion emphasized an inordinately large amount on finances/”dues”, spent an equally small amount of time on the Bible, and ubiquitously created the mental hierarchy of Church, Priest, Catholicism and lastly, Jesus Christ (in that order). Needless to say, this troubled me in a deep and huge way.
And then, I began to read the Bible on my own. I began to personally experience Jesus Christ in the most wholesome, reverent and meaningful way, like I had never envisioned before. It was as if I had just discovered that Santa Claus (Catholic Church) was not the real deal. It caused me to feel betrayed, angered, frightened and anxious about my future. In short, it challenged my core values to the point of nearly destroying my sense of self, value and being.
I have always been, and am, however, a Survivor. Throughout my life, I’ve trusted my instincts and my gut, to analyze, make decisions and move forward in my mortal journey. Truthfully, my transformation from Catholicism to Christianity occurred well into my 30’s, as it simply took my faith that long to mature. And I remain confident in my path, who I am, who is Jesus Christ, what our relationship has become, and what my expectations are of myself to effectively and successfully live life as a Christian and Child of God.
Am I perfect? HARDLY. I struggle, like everyone else, with the sins of humanity. Yet, that realization does not hinder nor prevent me from striving with every breath I take, to live my life in His image. Do I have guilt as a father for not having done a better “job” raising my children as Christians? EVERY DAY. Yet, that reality, when examined, yields the conclusion and belief that every human being has a Free Will and uses it to form their own thoughts, make their own decisions, create their own behaviors, future and certainly, their personal accountability for their life.
As a father, I provided the toolbox and attempted to teach my children (and myself) how to use the tools of life; compassion, integrity, accountability, motivation, enthusiasm, reverence, humility and forgiveness. Now, it is their choice which tools to use and how to use them; or whether to use them.
Does the Catholic Church serve a purpose? Absolutely, as a resource about Jesus Christ, history, self-discipline and community. My most trusted reference, however, is the Bible, for it represents the unequivocal “Word of God” and when viewed holistically, is the ultimate Book of Life.
I am a Christian and I live to become exclusively like Jesus Christ. There is no other. I humbly ask that you pray for me as a Christian to continue down the righteous path. God Bless You all in finding yourself; in finding Peace, Love, Joy; in finding your Savior and Salvation. There is definitely something in the water. Be well.
Even though a hexagenarian, I find myself facing a new experience; the death of a sibling. As the youngest of five, I experienced that inevitable, awkward and painful telephone call from my nephew yesterday, to inform me that my brother (his dad) had passed away. On the surface, one might surmize this is not an earth-shattering event, it eventually happens to all of us, and it happens every day, in every city, of every country on the planet.
Let me assure you, however, death is anything but routine, ordinary or insignificant. As a Christian, death is the debt we pay as the entry fee to cross the portal from human reality to spiritual eternity. It is a process, a portal and many times, painful. Make no mistake, though, death is also a celebration, albeit a melancholy and bittersweet one.
Death is as the Yang to the Ying, as it permeates Life. It can be construed as an ending, however, the Christian’s reality is that death is another beginning; a rebirth of our spirit/soul. Death can certainly be viewed as routine, ordinary and perhaps even normal, that is, until it directly impacts YOUR life.
When you witness death in the first person of someone you intimately know, love and share history, it is exponentially more significant, impactful and forever changes your essence as a human being.
“In a peculiar sense, death morphs your sense of reality, self-image, mortality and perspective of the world around you. Ironically, viewed as a polar region, death coexists and even defines the boundaries of life as do the poles on a planet. Profoundly, death has its own life.”
As you experience death at a very personal and familiar level, every emotion in the library of your mind is touched, jolted, carressed and exposed. In that context, death can be defined, understood, acknowledged and bounded by each of our realities of life. Death is the wild stallion being broken, it is the uncontrollable child morphing from adolescence via puberty into an adult; psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.
Without question, witnessing death up close and personal is an experience you simply Never forget. The bittersweet nature of life is that positively, it ends all aspects of human suffering, be it physical, emotional, or psychological. Death, as a metaphysical event, takes away the undesirable aspects of life, and to that end, can be looked upon as something good. The rest of that story, however, is that death also creates an ending or sense of finality (absent faith), for those remaining alive. It is the proberbial locked door, separating the past, the present and the future.
In a comforting light, however, faith and Christianity offer us the key to unlock that seemingly impenetrable barrier. All we must do is use the key, without fear of the unknown, to master our own mortality, prepare for our own passage and comfort those standing on the mortal side of eternity.
Importantly, death is not to be feared, but to be understood, prepared for and anticipated… and the way we accomplish those goals is through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ. Death serves as that little voice in the back of our minds coaxing, whispering and urging us to take stock of the life we have, leaving no stones unturned, to demonstrate gratitude for it, to reconcile our differences with others, remind those close to us just how much we love them and how much they mean to us. In a terse and succinct context, now, go do it! Be well.
Dedicated to the eternal spirit of David L Cerkas (1947-2016)
Admittedly, the vast majority of our life is unavoidably spent focusing inwardly, as we plan, perform, procrastinate and hopefully, pray. Reflection, however, can be an amazingly powerful and insightful activity to spur personal growth, if revisited on a frequent and regular basis; and if conducted in an authentic and candid fashion. It provides that “out of body” experience which enables us to see ourselves in the 3rd person, from the outside looking in.
“Just as you utilize and reference a map during a long trip; first, to plan your way and then, to monitor your travels toward your destination of choice, the “art” of reflection can serve as a life echo, if you will, a sounding board, which will, when attended, reveal much about who you are at this instant, as well as who you were yesterday, last year, as a child… and most importantly, who you are becoming and will be tomorrow, next year and ultimately, when your horizon meets the sky.”
To be sure, reflection has the potential to be painful, yet equally, it can be breathtaking, refreshing, satisfying and revealing; if we have the courage to send out that call and then, wait for the echoes of our life to speak to us and reveal who we truly are; at the spiritual level.
Reflection is a pervasive thing in our world. We keep track of the score in sports, our bank account, the gas in our vehicles, the clothes in our closets, the color of our hair. We are obsessed with constantly working to improve our (physical/mortal) self, while primarily paying lip service to our spiritual life and soul. Even more ironic, is the realization that our soul is eternal, whereas our human lives are temporary. One would think our priorities should be reversed, yes?
And this is precisely where reflection can aid us in correctly setting those priorities. Just keep in mind, it won’t always be pleasant because we are imperfect beings. However, we are immortal souls and reality founded in faith is the medicine we need to survive post-death. Yes, forever is a long, long, long time. Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated it best, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.
Take the time to plan for reflection in your life. It may seem unnecessary, perhaps even a bit dry, however, if it is, then so is your life. The benefits far outweigh the time spent. Your spiritual self will thank you; anxiety, worry and stress will flee your mind like leaves blowing in a strong fall wind. You will love yourself more, respect others more, know yourself better. Great medicine, if we will only be brave enough to take it.
Remember, Without Winter, there can be no Spring. Be well.
Although each of us is born of DNA, snippets of our parent’s tendencies and that red liquid coursing through our veins, we also create our environment with our thoughts, ideas and reactions that collectively comprise our experiences, personality and the essence of our individuality and being. Hidden in the depths of our sub-conscious, lie our fears, joys, loves and regrets, along with the complete set of our core values and beliefs.
Many of these “tucked away” emotions and navigational guideposts steer us on a day to day basis, yet we remain somewhat unaware of their subconscious influence upon our lives. And so it is with food, dress, relationships; and faith. And although the strongest of these morally magnetic influences is faith, as humans, we overwhelmingly have the most difficult time expressing, even sharing our museum of faith that is ordered and stored in our minds much like books in a library.
Yes, the magic of life itself remains hidden within our minds, along with everything that defines who we are, what we believe and why we behave, think and make decisions the way we do. Many times it is safety and security that convinces us to refrain from sharing our selves with others, while at other times it can be ego, pride and self-expression that pushes us to let others know equally defining aspects of ourselves.
“As music is encrypted upon a CD or stored on the hard drive within our computer, it is conspicuously silent and unknown unless played and shared with others. In essence, it does not exist unless it is shared. And in a parallel fashion, our faith, beliefs and Christianity remain largely unknown and non-existent, unless we make a concerted and deliberate effort to communicate and share them with others; through our words, through our Actions, and as witnessed by our lives”.
It is human nature to judge others by their looks, words, body language and behaviors, along with how they interact and relate to others. This tendency to judge is a largely, mutually occurring phenomenon, i.e., it is happening all the time and all around, and to us. It is as breathing; an involuntary response to ensure our survival.
And so it seems, in this day and age of global strife, we are being coerced into “survival mode” by external forces. Accordingly, we are being awakened to a degree by that little voice inside us that is screaming to protect ourselves, to protect others and to raise the veil of our faith, exposing it for the world to see, by our actions.
And make no mistake, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein). Indeed, it is incumbent upon each of us to not only acknowledge our values, beliefs and faith, but moreover, to have the courage and character to defend them when under scrutiny or worse, attack. Take the risk, remain focused and Play the Tune, people, albeit at times a bittersweet symphony, lest we wither away into non-existence.
I’ve wondered many times when I was a child, what life would be like when I was an adult; a husband; a father. My imagination would conjure up visions of a burly man, physically fit, yet understanding, compassionate and loving. I would shudder at the thought of the tremendous responsibility of marriage, and even more, of fatherhood. The mere thought of this “serious” future that awaited me would quickly bring me back to reality; the reality of an eight-year-old boy at the precipice of manhood, or so I thought.
My journey was far from over, yet I have always been able to visualize it, almost touch it. Growing up in a small town afforded much of the quality of life that people today cherish and search for when raising a family. Surely, it lacked in cultural variety and experience, yet it grounded me in a forged way that would serve me well in my life ahead.
“Like most other boys growing up in the 60’s, there was beer, a bit of cursing, plenty of outdoor sports, bikes to ride, movies to see and girls to gawk. And these things were indeed memorable, yet in my family, one thing trumped them all and that was Church on Sunday.”
At the time, even being an altar boy, I missed much of the essence of what having faith is all about. Perhaps it was mired in the overtures of the Catholic Church financial bulletins, where your family name was used as a club by disclosing your contributions. Perhaps it was overshadowed by the procedure, rigidity and absence of emotion by the clergy. Perhaps it was a victim of an emphasis on Catholicism and not of Jesus Christ and the Bible. But it was there to be discovered, experienced and revered, nonetheless.
I’ve always been one to pray, heavily in times of “need”, but also in times of blessing, bounty and benefit. And even though every child, adult and Catholic saw the same crucifix and Jesus, my Jesus was special because He spoke and listened to me.
In all my years, I’ve yet to be disappointed, angered or spiteful by my Jesus Christ. For even though my prayers weren’t always answered in MY timeframe, I accepted whatever response I received from my Jesus Christ, because I knew he was Almighty, Omnipotent and Kind. That faith, attitude or core value system has saved my life many times; from preventing me from making mistakes, to my physical safety to being the recipient of good things happening to me as a result of my “choices”.
You see, each of us must find our own path, one bridled in our own sense of morality, and bounded by God’s grace. A path only limited by our imagination. I simply can’t imagine living a worthwhile life without the guidance, feedback and love of God. I know not everyone shares that same belief, and that is ok, for the essence of our being is that of choice. To a degree, we create our own future by the choices we make. And for me, what better resource could one have, than Jesus Christ as your mentor, friend, Master and Creator?
As it was for me and as it will continue, when in doubt, I’ll follow the Son. It’s a highly personal matter and it will remain that way. Be well and choose wisely. God Bless you.
Remember when life was simple and understandable? Yeah, neither do I. As reality would have it, we exist in a world of context, image and ambiguity. Some by choice, other by perception. Where does that leave authenticity? Answer, you and me. It is incumbent upon each of us to project our authentic self. And it is when we are most still that clarity and awareness reveal themselves to us.
We must first acknowledge and accept that we are all very complex beings. We value, we believe, we hope, we fear, we love, we avoid, we seek, we appreciate, we contemplate, we aspire, we interact, we influence, we anticipate and we pray… that others understand and respect us.
Given the hodgepodge of mixed messages we emit to the world in a continuous fashion, it is no surprise that misunderstanding occurs on a very regular and frequent basis. And what results is tension, confusion, anxiety, fear and even depression. Just to be clear, I’m describing the emotions each of us experience as we live our lives while striving to reveal ourselves to the world.
Much of life’s stress can be channeled, perhaps even avoided, if we can truly look within ourselves to identify the person in the mirror. How we are ‘wired’, what we believe, where we are going and what is our goal. Man, if we don’t know this, how do we expect anyone else to figure it out?
The best advice I’ve ever discovered is, “To thine own self be true, and it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not then be false to any man.” – William Shakespeare
This is not rocket science, people. It is pure and unadulterated common sense, yet it goes without heed by millions on a daily basis for all eternity. Self-awareness is the key to happiness and happiness means something uniquely distinct to each of us. Self-awareness alone, however, does not lift the fog of life. It must be coupled and forever joined with courage; the courage to live your conscience and core values without apology and certainly without hesitation.
“Profound truths such as trust, relationships, harmony, happiness, respect, dignity and motivation all become squarely within our grasp as human beings, once self-awareness and courage are lifted from the toolbox of life and used as a habit in each of our lives.”
Personally, I’ve found that I am most happy when the reality of my life is in balance and harmony with my core values and faith. I live to help others, to generate good will, to share positive energy, to be a happy and content person, to experience the world on my terms, to believe and practice my faith, and of course, to write. All that I am is but a glimmer of the man I want to be; and that pursuit keeps me going like the energizer bunny, non-stop.
So, do yourself (and the world) a favor and get to know yourself before crafting that image, creating that context and eradicating that ambiguity that others see as you. Focus on who you want to be and not what others believe you should be. Strive to project the image of your spirit and aura and most importantly, be honest with yourself. It is only then that Truth will reveal itself to you.
Indeed, time is a fickle thing, albeit a creation of our feeble human minds as a result of our inability to comprehend and understand the vastness and pervasiveness of God, the Universe and Eternity. Endless phrases have been captured (over time) characterizing and lamenting its stronghold over our human lives:
“Time is of the Essence”
“Can’t seem to find the Time”
“No Time like the present”
“I don’t have Time for this”
“There’s never Time to do it right, but always Time to do it over”
“Time waits for no man”
“Time heals all wounds”
“Use your Time wisely”
“Having the Time of your life”
In truth, time is but a fabrication and rationalization of our minds in an attempt to avoid confusion and chaos. Simply, time helps us comprehend our existence within the limits of our knowledge. Now, let’s shift our perspective and view time from a spiritual perspective. As Christians, one of the tenets of our faith is the awareness and acceptance that each of us are born as imperfect beings, having inherited that imperfection as a result of the Original Sin committed by Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden. The true beauty of Christianity, however, is that by being born again via Baptism, we are cleansed from sin’s blemish on our soul and are blessed to have the opportunity to live this earthly life in God’s Light, striving to become like Him, understanding that at times, we will falter and sin. And in the wisdom of our Creator, He provided a mechanism for us to redeem ourselves of sins via repentance, along with his Grace via forgiveness.
“Yes, faith is a peculiar construct, however, those that possess it do not perceive it to be peculiar at all. For you see, the expectation of faith is the realization that a life lived in God’s Light, following His Word, supported by love, kindness, humility, forgiveness and goodwill/intent, will be rewarded by the Perfect and eternal life in heaven, at some Future moment.”
Thus, the Future Perfect tense of life; My Life. I have but one breathtaking, awe-inspiring, profound, loving and Blessed word to describe this expectation in my life…. Hallelujah! Be well my friends. Watch and Listen…. and be brought to tears in the Joy of knowing Christ. God Bless You.
And for you “boomers”, let’s take a walk back in Time and relive another memory.
And something for the more mellow of us.
Lastly, how much Time do you have left?