I use the word “My”, but the reality is, “The God Advantage” is freely available to anyone interested in claiming it.
I began this post some time ago and it has run through my mind on several occasions since I first put that seedling onto the page.
And now, after listening to the very rich, intelligent, insightful and compassionate discussion between Dr. Jordan B Peterson and Helen Joyce (“The Jordan B. Peterson Podcast Episode 287 – Trans: When Ideology Meets Reality), I am compelled to continue my own personal thoughts. Their conversation has enflamed in me many reflections which, to my mind, fit hand in glove with their own.
My sixty-four years of life have been filled with curiosity about (initially) other human beings and ‘why’ there were so many personality, attitude and character differences between us. Eventually, my curiosity expanded itself to societies, both here in the United States and beyond.
My first recollection of sincere curiosity returns me to my confusion about ‘why’, while I always tried to be kind, (a veryimportant value and expectation in our home), others seemed to live without that same expectation. “Why” did some children act as though they didn’t care or (maybe) know any better? The scenario that plays through my mind is one in which I am talking with my Mama, a look of confusion on my face as I ask, “Why don’t they get in trouble when they act mean?” “Do their parents know” how they act on the playground, in the classroom or in the after school hours? How come they get away with acting that way when we can’t?
Mama had put the fear of God into my younger brother and me, reminding us that she should never see us being unkind to anyone! Her tone of voice, though loving, still conveyed how unacceptable unkindness toward others was. Skin color, religion, country of birth, socioeconomic station in life, pretty, ugly, fat, skinny: there was never any reason to be unkind. Her explanation as to the ‘why’ was just one of the foundational blocks in my personal relationship to God: “Yes”, there are times when someone might be unkind to us, but one of the most important things to remember is that we were all created by God, which made us brothers and sisters. Each of us is a child of God. So, if I mistreat someone, I am mistreating one of God’s children, my brother or sister. How did I think that God would feel about that? Just the same as He would should someone mistreat us, we were assured.
That seemed like a fair deal. God loved each of His children and wanted all of us to be treated kindly by one another. Our job was to do as our loving Father expected. Should some of His children disobey, HE would take care of their discipline. Our job was to be an example of His love.
Little did I know that I’d be in for a lifetime of confusion, wondering why others would choose not to obey, “doing onto others…” leaving me to continue trying to figure out why human beings do what they do.
Relatively new to publishing a Public Blog (I have actually enjoyed WordPress for several years as a home for my other Private Blogs that I started as a “Writing Lab” to practice, and learn from, my writing), I am still in the learning curve in better understanding how to write in such a way that is totally understandable and relatable to my reading audience.
In that spirit, I’m thankful for those family, friends and WordPress readers willing to give precious time to critique and comment on the perspectives that I have shared through the written word.
So my good friend and neighbor, Jayne, after reading my last post, shared that she enjoyed it (despite my tendency toward looong sentences ☺️) but came away feeling there wasn’t an understandable conclusion.
I suspected that might be the case for some of my readers, so I apologize for my negligence in not better explaining my closing with a footnote concerning my reference to “Braver Angels”. Relatively new to ‘ Braver Angels’, myself, this is an Organization recommended to me by two different friends (one a “Red” and one a “Blue”, Thanks Rosemary and Jeannie💕) as I shared my deep sadness at the Political Division we’ve experienced over the past five plus years.
After the mention of it by my second friend, I went that very day to investigate further and, (cue the trumpets) 🎶 🎺HALLELUJAH 🎺🎶, I felt like I had come “home”! There was, literally, the lifting of a heavy burden on my heart and mind upon finding this Organization, a Band of ‘Braver Angels’, willing to come together as Americans with diverse perspectives to have civil conversations in the spirit of promoting a better understanding of one another’s points of view.
Civility is one of the first, and most important, rules in being a member of this God-sent organization. Finally, a safe place to hear, discuss and even debate the issues, all in the framework of respecting one another as fellow human beings.
My hope in humanity and the future of our country, as the home of people I dearly love and care about now, and even long after I am gone, has been renewed with a spark that, with each Podcast I listen to, Debate I hear/observe or article I read, is blazing and growing larger every day.
So, in reading this apology and explanation, I hope my reference to ‘Braver Angels’* in the ending paragraph of my previous post, as my “Oasis”, will be made much clearer and understandable.
Please, check out this beautiful organization dedicated to healing the terribly ugly and hurtful divides being experienced among family, friends, neighbors and co-workers throughout our nation.
In the wise words of Abraham Lincoln, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.” So please join me as I attempt to listen and learn, with an open heart and mind, to broaden my understanding of issues from a perspective other than my own; all in the name of Love and Peace.
When my heart and mind are troubled, the search begins. Curious by nature, I’ve found that the addition of years to my life has done little to discourage my hunger and search for answers.
As we came into the season of Presidential Campaigning in 2015, watching the debates became “Must see TV”. With the inclusion of Donald J. Trump, the “outsider,” these particular debates proved to add special allure. My interest in politics being minimal, beyond the typical nightly news reports, it didn’t take long for me to believe that, even as uninvolved as I was, what I was witnessing on the American Presidential Debate Stage had to be historical in nature. Throughout my sixty-three years of life, never had I seen nor heard this shocking level, or style, of “debate battle”.
As I watched Donald Trump engage in the mean, cruel and vicious attacks on his fellow competitors, not only was my heart deeply troubled, my mind could not quite grasp what I was hearing and observing. I was truly heart-broken and angry (righteously); I was incredulous! Being that I am a “verbal processor,”anyone viewing the debates with me was not spared my negative commentary on Trump’s behavior. I cannot even say for certain that I watched all of the debates due to the stress and frustration his behavior engendered in me as I watched and listened.
My nature being more toward kindness and understanding of others, I found myself deeply saddened and hurt over seeing one human being treat another in this manner. The hurt presented in frustration and a very unkind assessment of, what I saw as, despicable behavior. Always taught to give someone the benefit of the doubt, I had no idea of what was yet to come. Any hope that this initial display of inhumane behavior would be squelched by public opinion was quickly dispelled as subsequent Debates proved that Trump had no intention of changing his “manner”. How could such a highly successful, intelligent and visible figure, such as Donald Trump, feel comfortable in displaying such vile (and ignorant) behavior on such a public stage!? It made no logical sense to me that this man could believe that there would be no repercussions in reaction to this type of performance.
Intrigued by human nature, for as long as I can remember, I have always preferred to “investigate” a bit further before coming to an unwarranted or unfair conclusion as to behavior in others that puzzle me. I have found, through my lifetime, that this is an attitude that serves me, and others, very well in helping to build understanding and deeper interpersonal relationships.
I cannot help but be reminded of a “teachable moment” shared with my Dad during my teenage years. The exact situation which presented this opportunity is very unclear, but the lesson was one that was difficult not to remember. The moral of the story was, “When you ASSUME, you make an ASS out of U and ME.” I have no doubt that it took more “practical” experience for the message to be driven home, but it has proven, thankfully on rare occasions, to be true. Thus, my commitment to look a little deeper before rendering a concluding opinion.
It was undeniably apparent that there was an intense hatred for the man elected to the highest office in our land in 2016. (I will leave, for another time, my personal observations and disappointments in both the Red and Blue over these past five tumultuous years.) While I held a deep dislike* and a level of disrespect for our sitting President, my conservative leanings had brought me to be one of the votes which put him into office.
I was well aware that I had dear friends, as well as acquaintances and many others, who would disagree and be deeply frustrated by my choice. But, while I eagerly solicited opinions and discussion on the topic, ultimately I knew that the decision was mine to make and with which to find peace. The consideration of ‘not to vote’ presented itself, but my sense of duty, plus the loss of my right to render an earned opinion, negated that possibility. And so it was, up to the very last possible moment before I had to put my absentee ballot in the mail, I prayed and felt the difficult internal conflict that brought me to my ultimate decision.
Comforted with the level of prayer and sincere questioning I engaged in before making my final choice, I laid my heart and mind to rest. What was done was done prayerfully and sincerely based on my hopes for the future of our Nation. I had done the very best I was capable of, my personal convictions, heartfelt prayer and limited resources of accurate information being what they were. I couldn’t help but wonder if others had felt as torn as I did in the process of making this important decision.
Then, I recalled a question that tickled my mind many years prior and to which I still had not come to a satisfactory answer. Having cheered for my Jr. High and High School Football Teams for four years, plus football being a regular staple of our TV viewing on Monday nights and the weekends, a familiar image flashed through my mind. I had seen, on many occasions, huddled teams in prayer before taking the field. This eventually begged the question, in my curious mind, “So, whose side is God on?”
In the development of my personal paradigm I was taught, expected to respect and also had exemplified in our home, the Truth that God loves each and everyone to whom He has given life. God has no favorites; His love and care is unconditional and He is fair and just (something that I later had to explore in more depth, as this escaped my understanding on more than one occasion). All of this being True, how could God answer the prayers of the competing teams which, no doubt, were directed to One God? What about those, beyond football, believing in the same God yet praying for divergent outcomes in a shared situation? It continued to remain, though not uncomfortably so, an uncertainty in my mind, until…
Years later, having heard its title many times, I finally read THE ALCHEMIST by Paulo Coelho. I loved the premise of the book and felt deeply touched by the young shepherd’s search. Then, low and behold, the “answer” that had eluded me for so many years seemed to be written within the pages that I was, at that very moment, reading! I read and reread it with a growing sense of amazement at how understandable and comforting the answer seemed.
The following are the words that finally enlightened my understanding:
“As they sat around the fire, the camel drivers exchanged information about windstorms, and told stories about the desert.
At other times, mysterious, hooded men would appear; they were Bedouins who did surveillance along the caravan route. They provided warnings about thieves and barbarian tribes. … One night, a camel driver came to the fire where the Englishman and the boy were sitting. “There are rumors of tribal wars,” he told them. …
They had been taking careful precautions in the desert, but the camel driver explained to the boy that oasis were always considered to be neutral territories, because the majority of the inhabitants were women and children. There were oasis throughout the desert, but the tribesmen fought in the desert, leaving the oases as places of refuge.
“The battles may last for a long time, perhaps even years. There are powerful forces on both sides, and the war is important to both armies. It’s not a battle of good against evil. It’s a war between forces that are fighting for the balance of power, and, when that type of battle begins it lasts longer than others–because Allah is on both sides.”
Part of my nature has always been, and still survives despite the typical difficulties of growing up and experiencing the pain of youth, a sincere love of my fellow human beings. Always attempting to see them through “My Father’s Eyes,”* I believe, deeply, in the intrinsic potential and beauty created in each individual, different and unique. Being an American citizen also affords each of us the right to vote as unique individuals, according to our own conscience, without judgement or harsh repercussions.
Sadly, my heart has been broken by the puzzling divisions between some of the kindest people I know and their families, due only to exercising the right to vote for their candidate of choice. Totally unexpected, I too, have had the deep hurt of division in a personal relationship that has spanned more than four decades. I never saw it coming. What I have discovered through this difficult experience is another story for another time.
But now, having discovered “Braver Angels” I find myself enlightened once again and sensing new hope for better understanding and healing for our Nation. Braver Angelsis that Oasis to which those seeking peace from the battlefield can find a refreshing refuge. Thank God for this shared space of respite.
“Hate” was a word that, if used, brought quick reprimand in my childhood home because, “God doesn’t want us to ‘hate’ anyone.”
Amy Grant, My Father’s Eyes on Myrrh Records, 1979 Rereleased on Sparrow Records, 2007
Happy New Year❣️ And an early Happy Valentine’s Day! 💗
After a long, physical (and sometimes lonely) separation from my family, compliments of COVID-19, we are together after celebrating one of our most Gratitude-filled Christmases and New Years in memory.
Gone are my days of frantic searching to find the latest, greatest and most “in demand” item of the season to be placed under the Christmas tree awaiting excited squeals of delight from our daughters. Now, with children of their own, that is a torch I passed on (gladly) almost fifteen years ago. Glad to no longer be concerned with the most popular gift to be purchased, not to mention trepidation for what it might cost us monetarily, I’m seldom aware of the latest social gifting tends.
But could anyone have ever imagined that, through the WHOLE of our WORLD, the most prayed for and precious gift in EVERY language would be LIFE: VITA (Italian), VIDA (Spanish), LA VIE (French), LEBEN (German), IMPILO (Zulu), BUHAY (Filipino), LAVI (Haitian Creole), LIV (Swedish), MAISHA (Swahili), ORANGA (Maori)…, something that money cannot buy?!
Our lack of rapid control, and failure to contain the devastating loss of life, has been a sobering reminder that LIFE is aPRICELESSGift that cannot be purchased with cash money, debit or credit card. It is not something we can just go out to buy or replenish because the one we possess was stolen, unexpectedly lost or a consumable that we’ve run out of. Sadly, that is what this Novel COVID-19 Virus has wrought upon the human race. Confusion, even among the brightest scientists and health care professional of our day, continue to plaque attempts to halt this virus and it’s deadly effects.
As our imperfect, yet very beloved (by many), United States of America continues to welcome in 2021, we are forward-looking, with high hopes, to a much brighter future than the destructive and tragic past that is now behind us. Challenges still lay ahead* but the prognosis appears much more hopeful than when it all began a year ago this month.
Those of us who will be blessed enough to live through this Pandemic would never have anticipated that our legacy would include such a shockingly historical event. A crisis of this scale and magnitude has forced us into a shared human experience of unbelievable proportions and the opportunity to see one another through eyes of compassion and empathy. In our humanity, as opposed to the color of our skin, the language we speak, the country we live in, the job we work at, the home we are blessed enough to live in (rented or owned), the car we drive or the clothes we wear, none of us are immune from the devastation this virus has been, and continues to be, capable of wreaking in the lives of so many.
As I have tried to make sense of the upside down world we find ourselves living in, I once again am so thankful for the values and understanding that my parents worked so hard to instill from our youngest years. In my personal journey to adult hood, although often confusing, I am most grateful for the sowing of seeds that introduced me to a belief in God, His role as Creator and loving Father, the preciousness of life, and the importance of the building of personal character; all things that cannot be bought or sold.
* An additional “challenge” which carries a more personal, though also far-reaching, effect is that of the division being experienced in our American Nation. This is a challenge I hope to address in a future Post.
It’s not a question that I’ve ever actually asked someone to think back and consider about their own life, but in my earliest memories of childhood God was always present. He has always played into the fabric of my life and represented a “loving creator”, who also “punished those who did wrong”.
Naturally, Satan was a part of the whole formula. I still laugh when I think back on a ‘play day’ that found me digging in the dirt close to my Mama’s flower beds. Coming across some spindly roots, which had me totally confused, my Daddy told me they were the “devil’s fingers”. I don’t recall being fearful, but experiencing a phantom shiver, as I think of it, tells me it must have creeped me out. To this day the experience still remains clear in my mind.
Attending Catholic School for my kindergarten and first grade years had a big impact on my faith formation. I still recall, with awe and joy, the boy and girl team (which I remember as being brother and sister) of older students who looked over me while being allowed to attend mass with them. (This is a common practice, even unto this day, where older students are “buddies” to kindergarteners learning how to attend mass.) They were so sweet and kind, making me feel so special, and it remains a vivid memory of my Catholic school experience.
My first grade year brought another positive experience which would help to encourage my trajectory. I received a special award for “Outstanding Obedience”. Digressing for just a moment: For those who have ever seen the movie, “A Christmas Story” (1983) staring Peter Billingsley as ‘Ralphie’ and Darren McGavin as the father, think back on the utter excitement McGavin portrayed as he awaited the arrival of a prize he had won through a local radio station. Arriving in a package marked “FRAGILE” (which he pronounced fra-geel-a) his joy was palpable as he opened and placed in the window (to the horror of his wife), for all of his neighbors to see, the sexy, black fish-net, stockinged mannequin leg topped by a lamp shade with black fringe. He almost could not contain himself! Such was my joy at being given, what I considered, such a special Award.
For years I remembered that little award. I would talk about that happy experience, occasionally wondering what had ever become of the accompanying Certificate. So, you know how, when you’re a small child, your memory of things seem so much grander than they actually are? I eventually found that cute little certificate…blue, folded, no frame and much smaller than I remembered, beautifully filled in, by Sister’s handwriting, no doubt; I was reminded of the reality of how a child often perceives things in their young life. But, upon finding that long-misplaced award, small and inconsequential as it was, the memory and feeling of the joy it had brought to my young life, still lingers.
Understanding that even the smallest things can help to mold and inform a child, we all do well to remember that ‘little eyes are watching’ and ‘little ears are listening’. Jesus so loved the innocence of children and God’s Word reminds us of how very important we are as instruments for reflecting and encouraging His love.
For the past two years, the very first thing I do when I wake in the morning, to begin the transition from my warm and snuggly bed, is to reach for my iPhone, tap the ABIDE App Icon and listen to the fifteen minute version of the day’s meditation. If you look at my ‘History’ it will tell you that I have listened to the day’s meditation repeatedly, two to three times, before exiting my bed. That might make me sound like a very ‘dedicated meditator’ but, for the sake of complete disclosure, the second or third listen is very likely to be due to dozing off.
But, there are those very special Meditations that speak so directly to my heart and soul that listening for a second or third time is brought on by a deep thirst to hear and absorb the message as fully as possible. It’s not uncommon, when so moved, for me to pull out my Spiritual Journal to capture in writing the words, ideas, insights and wisdom that I so desperately hope to capture and retain.
And so it was, “the morning after” Election Day, still not having read or listened to Television or Radio concerning the incoming results, I began my morning as usual with my ABIDE Meditation. It was there that I encountered the warm, loving and affirming embrace of my God. As I listened to the words and prayers spoken throughout the Meditation, I felt such a peace and sense of well-being come over me (and it wasn’t just the warm snuggly bed!), an affirmation. I knew, regardless of the outcome of “The Vote”, that my heart was in the right place and that I had followed the path to which I had felt led.
It’s not “us against them”, because I have never felt that way. And while, yes, there will be some deep disappointments in what policies are/aren’t adopted should my Candidate of Choice not win (which, even to this very moment on Friday evening, I do not know the “Official Results”), the reaction I most hope to have is one of Grace and Mercy. Because, regardless of our daily personal situations, there will always be those who are ‘better or worse off’ than we are. There will always be those who could not possibly understand a different perspective because they have not met the hardships, demands or experiences of someone else’s life. “You can’t please all the people all the time” and maybe, even more to the point, “You can explain something to someone, but you can’t make them understand.” (I got that little gem off of a shirt I saw in a catalog! lol)
My prayer is that in the aftermath of this ugly and divisive period of Political misbehavior, of which both sides are responsible and I find no “Heroes”, we as a nation will begin to try to heal and be reminded that, “A house divided against itself cannot stand.”
For those who might, after reading this far, have an interest in hearing the ABIDE Meditation to which I refer, I have written to Customer Service requesting a direct link for this particular meditation. As soon as I receive a response from ABIDE, I will include that link in a future Post that you might judge for yourself and, hopefully, find truth and blessing. I have found great comfort in each of the days meditations following Election Day, sharing messages relevant to all human beings who claim to care for their fellow man, regardless on which side of the “Isle” you fall.
To bring this to a very personal close, I want to share an experience that began just days before the Election. A very dearand beloved friend, one of the kindest, sweetest and most admirable people that I know, a servant to her family, friends, my children and others, has been unexpectedly fighting for her life since last weekend. Having lost their father last year, her beautiful children and grandchildren have now faced the risk of her physical loss. But, once again, the courageous Medical Professionals (of which she herself is one) are putting their expertise and skills to work, along with fervent prayer from so many, to prolong her presence here on earth. This is the personal world to which God has called my attention and that others, not living my life, could not possibly understand the intricacies of; just as I cannot possibly understand the personal human issues of so many of my fellow brothers and sisters.
The Presidential Election Results pale in comparison to the emotions being felt by those of us who know and love this precious human being, one whom we continue to pray will remain a part of our lives for much longer.
With my prayer candle lit, last minute reading complete (furnished by a life-long friend sharing her leanings) and God by my side, I will soon walk out of my door to cast my VOTE for the next President of these United States of America. What a wonderful FREEDOM, RIGHT and PRIVILEGE to help influence, in a small way that adds to the whole, what direction the next four years could hold for the health and wellbeing of our country.
It’s been a challenging road coming to this point because, admit it, there is always an OVERABUNDANCE of INFORMATION and RHETORIC, often OVERWHELMING our ability to understand the complete truth concerning most of the issues at hand; especially during an election year.
I’ve never had the advantage of being a fly on the wall in Washington to hear and see what really goes on in that “other world”, thereby limiting my ability to know the veracity of many of the claims from both sides, short of direct evidence of an outright action or lie. Add to that that much of the information we seek comes in the form of confident OPINION from those who consider their words worthy of public consumption, leaving no doubt concerning their personal perspective. These Opinions are supplementedby “Facts”, which also have to be double checked through unbiased sources. Good luck with that! Are there Fact Checkers who insure the accuracy of the Fact Checkers?
All of the Political talk, in hopes of convincing us that their vision of the “Brightest and Best Future” under their leadership, inundates my mind and peace of heart as I pray for Guidance in choosing the “Best” Candidate. And that is the most we can actually hope for in an imperfect world; the ‘Best’ out of the choices which we are given. Even the ‘Best’ is only human, insuring that, regardless of how he leads, he will disappoint due to his human imperfection and, yes, self-centeredness (along with the cast of humans with whom he is surrounded).
Truth be told, making an “informed” choice should start the day a President takes Office. But, the other reality of human nature is that some of us (i.e., me) come to the game a little late and find catching up a daunting task. Keeping up “in general” is not wasted for sure, but when the rubber meets the road… Well, I think many of you might be able to relate. Paying attention and taking good notes has always been encouraged in school in preparation for “the test”. I think Presidential Elections are also a good fit for that wise advice.
While I found our last Presidential Election a big challenge in terms of who to vote for, this time around it has been brutal. Sadly, the challenge began almost immediately after Donald Trump was first elected. The backlash and division began almost instantaneously from the day he took office; not only on Capitol Hill but, even more heart-breaking, in families and friendships throughout our nation.
One of my dearest friends, with whom I have built a beautiful long-time human and spiritual relationship, was honest enough to express to me her disappointment and sincere confusion in my ultimate choice for President four years ago. How could someone she felt so close to and cared so deeply for make such a choice? Her sense of the importance of who I chose to vote for seemed to hold a much higher priority for her than the priority her vote held for me.
As we shared lunch together one day, I sensed, and felt compelled, to address my concern for her feelings and our friendship. I was so glad that I broached the subject (uncomfortable as it was) and that she was willing to share honestly with me. It brought about a dialogue that helped me to explain to her that her vote, in no way, affected the love I have for her as a friend. And, even more importantly, how I know the beauty of her Character, her Trustworthiness as a Friend and Human Being, the true Depth of her caring for others and Desire to make our world a better place. Our shared experiences, happy and sad, throughout our years of friendship can, in no way, be devalued because of a difference in our perspectives and reasons for our personal vote.
I am Thankful to report that our Friendship remains to this day, fostered by the Grace she was eventually able to extend even in the midst of her disappointment. Is it unchanged? I think not, but deeper in even more important ways. I love who she is to this day, and trust that if I ever needed her I could confidently call and, because of who she is, she would be there for me.
For most of us (%99.99), the reality is that it won’t be Donald Trump or Joe Biden who comes to comfort us in times of greatest need or celebration; and I suspect that who we did or did not vote for will be the last consideration on our mind during these times of human experience, which can be counted as certainties.
Our Understanding of Life and our Lifelong Experiences inform the value we assign to the many issues which we have before us to consider in Electing the Leader of Our Nation. It would be so much easier to be a “One (or two) Issue Voter”, but that option, in my opinion, isn’t a satisfactory or complete approach. Thankfully, those in the role of Leadership in my Church agree that we must be prayerful, concerning all or as many of the issues as possible, to bring us to the fullness of our wisest decision. And even in that endeavor I know I will fail to some degree.
Therein lies my personal reality: there are so many issues of which I am ignorant, even beyond my own understanding: “I don’t know what I don’t know.” This is why I am able to “Try my best and Forgive myself” for the ignorance I bring with me into the process. There are some things that we can only take another’s word for (since mind-reading is not one of the gifts God bestows), try to discern the truth amidst the double talk and personal research we embark on and pray for openness and diligence in discerning God’s guidance in coming to our final Decision.
There is more that I would like to share on this topic from a second source, whose writing has brought me to a deeper understanding on a question that I think all of us ask during our human experience. That post will follow shortly after this one.
If you’ve chosen to stay with me thus far, I ‘Thank You’ for considering yet another Human Opinion.
Secondarily, please feel free to share your own personal wisdom in the comments below. I continue to experience ‘Enlightenment’ quite often!
It all began with my Italian nonna (grandmother). Receiving packages wrapped in white cloth, tied up with twine to insure the contents remained securely inside, was one of the greatest thrills of my childhood. The writing and beautiful stamps decorating the white fabric signaled where the “love” was coming from. While the star content was typically unknown before the unwrapping, colorful Italian candy was always a given. And regardless of the contents, we knew that each package always came with a deep and sincere love; an outward expression of an inner reality.
Regular visits to our Mama’s childhood home in Italy weren’t financially possible, as weren’t visits from our Italian relatives. But phone calls and the few trips we were able to make to Italy over the years helped to build the foundations of loving relationships with our Italian family. The gift packages were like icing on the cake.
Coming from a humble home of modest means, my father worked hard providing the necessities of life for our family. Often living in “Feast or Famine”, my Mama never complained but, instead, was grateful that my Dad allowed little, if any, time to pass between jobs. She often talks of how, even before one job was finished, he was looking for the next employment opportunity to provide for his family. My sweet, little Italian Mama provided a warm, clean and loving living environment; our refuge from the world. We didn’t always have what we wanted, but always what we needed. This was why these packages from Italy always elicited great excitement, bringing gifts of frivolity for us to enjoy.
Together, with Mama in the lead, they both worked to raise children who would know the values of hard work, right and wrong, honesty, kindness, compassion, respect for others and trust and faith in God’s love and constant presence in our lives: the really important things in life. Often difficult, their work to parent and teach us how to love was accompanied by living example. Sunday mass with Mama and full participation in the Sacraments of our faith were important elements which helped to reinforce the teachings and examples at home. Imperfect, as all humans are, our home had it’s own unique dysfunctions, but we were always shown how to work at overcoming personal shortcomings, saying, “I’m sorry”, and learning to forgive.
I began my first job at the age of sixteen years, thrilled to be making my own money to afford extravagances unavailable from my parents. Although I didn’t fully realize it at the time, this began my practice to express “love” as my Nonna did, through gifts given from the heart.
The most joy I would often experience was when I would choose a gift for an unknowing recipient; not even necessarily someone personally close to me, but someone that I was friendly with and for whom I had admiration. The surprise on their face at being given a gift from a mere acquaintance was a gift unto itself. Communicating to someone that they warranted a gift, just for who they were, was invaluable and a true source of joy for me and, hopefully, the recipient.
For the sake of clarification, I wasn’t like the “Fairy Godmother” handing out gifts on a regular basis, but the practice, when employed, always brought a sense of happiness and the feeling of expressing “love” to another human being. My hope was that, with the unexpected gift, I might be bringing a bit of God’s love into their life, symbolic in confirming their value to me.
As the years marched on I continued to enjoy the practice of Gift Giving and polished my understanding, coming to believe that there was actually an art to it. More about that in Part II.
According to one of America’s favorite Doctors, “You don’t reward bad behavior!”
With the upcoming Presidential Election, where does that leave us? Or at least those of us who agree with Dr. Phil?
Before continuing, I must qualify my following thoughts by explaining that I have never been a big fan of the Political Machine. It’s a world to which “We the People” are given only a glimpse but, in reality, know very little of the true inner workings. Our various News Media have their own biases which only add to the difficulty of getting a straight story. Add to that the propaganda, back-biting and mud-slinging seemingly inherent in the political game, and I find it, at the very least, extremely distasteful and, at it’s worst, downright devoid of human civility, integrity and morality.
It’s a world with it’s own set of rules and understandings to which the majority of us will never be privy due to the improbability of actual experience. Our human pride in our superior intelligence often has us fooling ourselves into thinking we can surmise more than we, in truth, are capable of due to our distance from the reality.
Four years ago, living away from our Arkansas home necessitated that I vote via absentee ballot. The run-up to the Election, watching the unprecedented Campaign between the first woman to possibly become President of our United States challenged by a total Washington outsider, provided “interesting” viewing during the campaign, party debates and ultimate Presidential Debate.
While Hillary ran a campaign fairly normal by Washington standards, the introduction of Donald Trump into the fray made for unseen and, often, jaw-dropping behavior. He seemed to be lacking a “filter” for, at the very least, courteous debate. I was incensed at his boldness in the criticism and lack of respect he meted out. My initial impression was not a good one owning to the fact that whoever was elected would stand in Representation of our Nation and, from what I observed, my spirit was unsettled and badly shaken.
Being a Christian, also blessed to be a mother of two daughters and five grandchildren, most definitely shaded my opinion of the rude and derogatory statements that would often come out of his mouth; not to mention that it was before both live and television audiences of millions, Nationally and Internationally, of which my grandchildren were often observers. The behavior I saw being displayed by this unexpected Republican Candidate put my spirit ill at ease. I had grave concerns that my grandchildren were witnessing this type of behavior from an “adult” who might possibly come to represent our country.
I began to pray early on when it became clear that the Republican Candidate was yet to be determined and that Donald Trump was turning Washington on it’s ear; a somewhat refreshing, if scary, prospect. I had my reservations concerning Hillary, albeit they were much less grounded in the way she presented and could stand as a Representative of our country for whom we could be proud. Deeper issues were at stake for me.
There were many times that I despaired, feeling like I would prefer not to vote at all than to vote for either of the available candidates. But, I firmly believed that it was my duty as an American Citizen, given the freedom to elect our leadership, to cast my vote. And so, the praying continued…up the the very last hour before I deposited my ballot into the mail slot to insure my vote would be counted. Ultimately, I trusted that I had done my due diligence and that God was still in control. Whoever won the election still sat under His sovereignty and God would “work all things for good”.
As the end of the Presidential four year term has begun to loom with the Primaries fast upon us, I now find myself feeling like an unpopular and invisible minority not often recognized. After sixty-two years of life, I have finally come to accept and embrace (as heart and mind rending as it can be) that I am a “thinker”, someone requiring more information and understanding than most care to bother with. I’m not satisfied to see things in black and white, devoid of depth, relying solely on what’s visible only to the human eye and ear. Many answers of what is “right” and what is “wrong” come easily, while other more weighty matters bear heavily on me while I pray and ask for Wisdom to make the most informed and Spirit-led decision I am possibly capable of.
While never coming to a point of fully embracing Trump, I have been unencumbered enough to give him credit when I feel credit is due for the good that he seems to bring to the Presidential table. Still visibly imperfect as a human being (a trait all humans share) and leader, I have chosen to respect the Office of the President.
But with the historical health Pandemic our World continues to struggle with and the amplified racial unrest (understandable in my opinion) precipitated by George Floyd’s unnecessary and devastating death, I have found myself greatly disappointed in our leadership
I have seen heart-breaking and disgusting behavior out of both sides. While President Trump has displayed behavior and disrespectful speech unbecoming of his office, both here and abroad, I also watched horrified as Democrats encouraged open disrespect, mean and cruel behavior to anyone associated with Trump. These being the most visible actions to reference, there are much deeper issues that bring into question the integrity and leadership abilities of some of our most visible elected Representatives, both Democrat and Republican. The thing that saddens me the very most is that many, on both sides, claim to be Christians, “Christ-Followers”. No, not in the Bible that I read can any of this behavior be justified as Christian, let alone human.
I have often wondered, but have found myself, over the past four years, revisiting the question more frequently of whether or not a Christian truly dedicated and devoted to Christ could serve and escape the temptations of power and privilege in Washington. We all fall short of the glory, but some of the most basic tenets of Christianity and human dignity have been openly rejected and unreflected by those “in power” most visible to the American public .
I have often seen educated, intelligent men have such a high opinion of themselves that they forget by whom they were created. They prefer to believe themselves “self-made”. No man is an island, we have all developed thanks to many teachers, known and unknown. We have stood on the shoulders of giants. None of us has become who we are solely by our own devices.
But in my attempts to engage in civil discussion concerning the Presidential Candidates, it seems that no-one has any interest in actually “hashing out” the intricacies of what is before us. I can’t seem to engage anyone who doesn’t either hate Trump and the Republicans or are convinced that the Democratic Party has gone far left. One dare not say something positive (deserved or not) about the other; I’m not certain that I have heard a balanced perspective from any of the sources of which I am aware.
And so here I sit, contemplating what I am to do with the upcoming Presidential Election.
I sincerely hate labels; too often misused and abused, they defy accurate and possible description of any human being, lacking the necessary complexity that each individual possesses or recognition deserved. Sadly, a more expedient and economic way to categorize people, they are such an injustice that we impose on ourselves and others.