Archives For God

Fanaticism In The Name Of God

February 19, 2013 — 1 Comment

Believe it or not, as I begin to get ready for the Papal Conclave–yep, Super Bowl-like preparation except with less beer–I’ve been thinking about fanaticism in the name of God.

fanaticismI love the trajectory of the Church under JP2 and B16 but I wonder if the dark forces, using fanatics as proxies, will be successful in derailing their work. Am I suggesting that the Conclave will be infiltrated by evil? Not at all. But can evil disguise and exercise its influence in some other way? To an unsuspecting but powerful dupe? Always a possibility. Let’s see how events unfold.

I’ve talked before about my foray into screenwriting. Creative process – good. Earning no money – bad. Most recently, an acquaintance volunteered to send my latest spec screenplay to someone who might be helpful. It deals with fanaticism. So far, I haven’t heard anything in reply. Not surprising. I’ve reached out before without results. Add to that, I just read an article in Vanity Fair that talked about the state of affairs for spec scripts (a speculative script is not owned or commissioned by a studio). Not good.

So, I’m reminded of a time, not so long ago …

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My beautiful, perfect dog made me smile today; as she does every day. I lay on the couch reading about Mao. There’s a piece of work. One man, a classic megalomaniac, responsible for seventy million dead Chinese. I wonder what his tombstone reads.

Lani came over and put her paw on my chest. Can I ask you a favor?

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On my prayer meter, yesterday moved the needle quite well, thank you. Although, I do wonder whether my liberal sprinkling of “but” and “however” tarnish the process.

praying hands[Lord, please make me your servant of evangelization but if you want me to make a killing in the private sector so that I can give all the money away, I’m good with that. However, can we decide on a direction soon? Things are getting a bit dicey on my end.]

It’s just that I was trying to be so spot-on precise––I was talking to God and I was keen on not messing up. But inevitably, I did. While on my knees, I had this random thought that I was spending way too much time talking about me and not praying for others.

So what did I do? I cracked a joke, which immediately triggered self-reproach because the last thing I needed was for God to think I was irreverent.

However, this is what stress does to me. I begin to worry that I’m failing at prayer––because life is not improving. And at the moment, it seems most of my anxiety can be attributed to no job and funds shrinking faster than a thoroughly doused Wicked Witch of the West. The worrying––clearly a lack of trust (sort of) in God’s will––is the mental manifestation of pressure. The physical is the flip side of the coin and from experience; it can be a very warped currency.

Let me explain. A few years ago during a particularly troubling time, I was sitting down for lunch at a friend’s house, I picked up my glass of cranberry juice and within milliseconds, I began to shake uncontrollably. I was like the courageous and admirable Michael J. Fox––bless his heart––on a bad day. As if I was raucously celebrating a Super Bowl victory with champagne, the juice was splashing and spraying everywhere. I could’ve been a fountain in some Roman piazza. I was barely able to get the glass to my lips.

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My first post in this series of four, “Suicide – A Multidimensional Crisis” is here. My second post, “Suicide – It Begins With Suffering” is here. My third post “Suicide – The How-to Stratagem (Absurd!)” is here.

Praying Hands

During my time of struggle––hopefully the three earlier posts told the story––I would have characterized my life as untethered. I saw myself floating head down far from the earth’s surface, arms outstretched as though I was reaching for someone’s hand. I was only a stick figure, unrealized as a human being. I wasn’t floating in an atmosphere that was quiet and undisturbed but one that was tumultuous.

As the turbulence thrashed me about, as the glass shards of reality wounded me, I floated farther away and I was in danger of leaving the gravitational pull of our planet. Panicked, I prayed that somehow I would find a connection, something or someone who would grasp my hand and stop me from becoming my own planet adrift in the infinite void.

I found that connection. God––the Truth I had always been searching for––grabbed my hand and has never let go. And as I became more accepting of His presence––through prayer––it wasn’t coincidental that I never again wanted for the basics of life. Subtle miracles I like to say. Family and friends and new relationships stepped up to help in so many ways.

I’m going to assume that there are people reading this post (as well as the three earlier ones) who have had thoughts of hurting themselves. It’s an amazingly frightful act to consider and I’m empathetic to your pain. When I think of your agonizing struggles––I’ve been there and never want to go back––with as much honesty and conviction as I can muster, I beg your attention for what I’m about to say.

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Approximately 150 meters above the meandering Ardeche river in France sits an uncharacteristically large limestone cave. Inside, two torches are illuminating a space seventy-five feet from the cave entrance. On the soft clay-like floor, a young woman is pensively cooking meat over a fire, seasoning it with native herbs from the grasslands nearby.

Chauvet Cave

Finely made tools, neatly arranged, rest near a couple of wooden carved animal figurines – their tiny shadows dancing with the flickering light. As the woman turns the meat, she’s humming and adoringly watching the two men in her life scrape the adjacent cave wall clear of debris and concretions. The wall is becoming noticeably lighter and smoother.

The task almost complete, the little one – a boy no older than 4 – hands his father a short stick whose end has been roughly carved into a point. On the earthen floor sits a number of bowls containing pigments derived from ochre, hematite, manganese oxide and charcoal.

The father takes the stick – a smile and glance to the mother of his child as well – and dips its end into the ochre-like substance. He begins to smear an outline of a wild horse on a slight wall protuberance, his son watching every move. The mother comes over, puts her arm around the boy’s shoulder and kisses his head. She says something to the father who nods in agreement.

The beauty of God’s natural creation is being illustrated by skilled hands on a wall in a cave – an artist at work – and reverently observed by a family united in love.

The nearest torch also lights up the adjoining wall which angles in at thirty degrees and connects to their current “canvas.” It is this area where one sees paintings of hyenas, mammoths, panthers and bison – even hand prints. It’s a veritable “museum exhibit” of prehistoric art.

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It only took one press conference to rouse me.

I wrote about the subject of arrogance and Presidents prior to the election––and I’ll repeat some of it here––but it still has my attention. Is arrogance an easy or difficult label to apply to President Obama and is that solely a function of one’s political leaning? Or is confidence propelling his assured pace through the waters of turmoil. If one is being truthful, I think it’s an easy assessment and for me, it isn’t dictated by politics.

drowningMore to the point, we have big doings going on in this country and the world so the question of Presidential arrogance is germane in my humble view. Does a leader’s attitude of superiority matter at all? Can President Obama drown in his own arrogance––and by extension, we the people––or is he simply swimming in confidence?

Let me begin as I’m a bit of an expert. You see, I know arrogance. As a former Marine fighter pilot, I used to think I was the chosen one. Fearless and indestructible, I never imagined making a mistake. Even when guys around me were crashing and dying due to their own blunders, I never thought it would happen to me.

After transitioning to the business world, this mindset continued as I worked with the best and the brightest––always feeling right at home with my “peers.”

I was special. Clearly.

As events unfolded through the years, as mistakes compounded in both my professional and personal life, I learned that I wasn’t so special. Not even close.

Therefore, I have to ask. Regarding President Obama, is arrogance a character trait that requires scrutiny? Is he arrogant and is that necessarily a bad thing for the Commander-in-Chief? As well, does he believe himself smart enough and knowledgeable enough to solve the problems of America?

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God, I Love To Laugh

September 18, 2012 — Leave a comment

My blood pressure dreams of quiet days when everything is good. But alas, it only takes one brief lap around the Internet track chewing on the news before my blood pressure starts pounding my temple drums with a battering ram. Compound that with my professional and personal life, which are, at the moment, wanting, and one soon starts exploring the options of drinking at 10 a.m. or escaping to Ambienland.

Laugh Cry FreeDigitalPhotos

So I force myself to smile and think about the amazing therapeutic effects of laughter and friendship. All of a sudden, bad things don’t seem quite so bad.

Are joy and humor pearls of grace hand delivered by God?

A Doctor of the Church, St. Thomas Aquinas, writes the following in Summa Theologica: “Just as tears or groans are an effect of sorrow, so laughter is an effect of joy.” And the source of that joy? God!

Fr. James Martin’s book Laughing with the Saints told the following story. In the 1940s, when Blessed Pope John XXIII was still a cardinal and the papal nuncio in Paris, he was at an elegant dinner party, seated across from a woman wearing a very low-cut dress that exposed a good deal of cleavage. Someone turned to him and said, “Your Eminence, aren’t you embarrassed that everyone is looking at that woman?” And he said, “Oh no, everyone is looking at me, to see if I’m looking at her.”

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At the end of Part Two, I had listed a sampling of man-made religions and their prime architect. The differences and sometimes divisiveness of these faith and belief systems––and yes, Catholicism is fairly turbulent at the moment––is a hallmark of the human condition and at times, has spurred trouble on the world stage, especially when religion is co-opted by intolerance. That simple statement has been the impetus for books that fill libraries.

Calvary

However, to my point on spiritual discovery, when I read some of the doctrines and interpretations attributable to these various religions or the like, and I emphasize some, at times I find them insular, problematic, sometimes cultish and occasionally nonsensical. Additionally, it could be said that many of the Christian schisms were attributable to pride and not charity, so the motivations for their dissent have to be seriously questioned.

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