So much noise. Social media, news, radio, politicians, everywhere. Yet, I'm glad we live in a country, for now, where you are allowed to make noise. But there is a vicious rush to shut up people you don’t like, you don’t agree with.

As I like to do on issues such as this, I usually begin by going to our foundations. In this case, the First Amendment:

"Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances."

The following from a young patriot is even more prophetic!

“In those wretched countries where a man cannot call his tongue his own, he can scarce call anything his own. Whoever would overthrow the liberty of a nation must begin by subduing the freeness of speech; a thing terrible to publick traytors.”

This was written by Benjamin Franklin at the age of 16! In 1722!

And then you see in Thomas Jefferson give a poignant warning. Beware of monopolies that can control. (See Facebook, Google, Twitter, etc.)

“I will now add what I do not like. First, the omission of a bill of rights, providing clearly, and without the aid of sophism, for freedom of religion, freedom of the press, protection against standing armies, restriction of monopolies, the eternal and unremitting force of the habeas corpus laws, and trials by jury, in all matters of fact triable by the law of the land, and not by the laws of nations.”

Thomas Jefferson in a letter to James Madison, 1787

And one more from the great Benjamin Franklin:

“If all printers were determined not to print anything till they were sure it would offend nobody, there would be very little printed.”

February 25, 2021

Tiger Could Be Us

Following the tragic Tiger Woods' accident and the impact it and other traumatic episodes in his life must have had on his psyche, made me think about us all.

Life is terribly temporal, which makes is so important to be grounded on the right things. That car on the side of the road could be us.

Focusing on the things that matter should be your mantra. Don't let too many days pass without taking a minute to reflect and recount how you are spending your time, who is getting your attention.

We are only here once. Every moment matters.

February 24, 2021

Get Dirty And Live!

A couple of odd encounters with fearful hipsters took me back to my twelfth birthday. I was given my great-grandfather's double-barrel shotgun and allowed to wander the fields looking for something to shoot.

It was glorious, yet something I imagine the two young hipsters I met would be appalled by.

If you aren't getting a little dirty and a little stupid sometimes, you aren't living.

February 23, 2021

A Moment For The Little Things

Yesterday we talked about Bob Dylan’s song, Every Grain of Sand. A beautiful testimony to how our pain and vulnerability might be the things that help us realize God is everywhere, in Every Grain of Sand.

This weekend reminded me of a similar concept, in our busy world slow down or you might miss the most important things of life.

My homeschool varsity boys basketball team was in our state Final 4. The first quarter went well, then we stopped doing the little things. Most importantly, we didn’t stop to look and anticipate. We reacted. I teach the kids to catch the ball and take a second to face the basket and look around. Put your head down and start dribbling to soon you miss opportunity and you head into trouble.

But isn’t that life sometimes? Put your head down and move too quickly, you miss things.

We need to time to contemplate, to breathe, to examine what is going on around us and make good decisions.

Matthew 6:6 "But you, when you pray, go into your inner room, close your door and pray to your Father who is in secret, and your Father who sees what is done in secret will reward you."

Mark 1:35 "In the early morning, while it was still dark, Jesus got up, left the house, and went away to a secluded place, and was praying there."

And we don’t just need to find the time to stop, look, and listen for prayer. We need to do it for so many of the little things in life that are far more important than their size: a moment to laugh with a friend or loved one, time to read or listen to a favorite song, time to hug and hold the ones your love without a hurry to end the embrace.

Don’t rush, you’ll miss the little the things that often matter most.

February 22, 2021

Every Grain Of Sand

You never know where you’ll find some grace filled truth. I found some last week in a Bob Dylan song that I had somehow overlooked from his 1981 album, Shot of Love.

Paul Williams said about the song: 'The song is about the moments in which we accept our pain and vulnerability and bow down (and are lifted up by) the will of God'.

There might not be more poignant words ever written in pop music. Enjoy these lyrics as we discuss on today's The Pilgrim's Odyssey.

"In the time of my confession, in the hour of my deepest need

When the pool of tears beneath my feet flood every newborn seed

There's a dyin' voice within me reaching out somewhere,

Toiling in the danger and in the morals of despair.

 

Don't have the inclination to look back on any mistake,

Like Cain, I now behold this chain of events that I must break.

In the fury of the moment I can see the Master's hand

In every leaf that trembles, in every grain of sand.

 

Oh, the flowers of indulgence and the weeds of yesteryear,

Like criminals, they have choked the breath of conscience and good cheer.

The sun beat down upon the steps of time to light the way

To ease the pain of idleness and the memory of decay.

 

I gaze into the doorway of temptation's angry flame

And every time I pass that way I always hear my name.

Then onward in my journey I come to understand

That every hair is numbered like every grain of sand.

 

I have gone from rags to riches in the sorrow of the night

In the violence of a summer's dream, in the chill of a wintry light,

In the bitter dance of loneliness fading into space,

In the broken mirror of innocence on each forgotten face.

 

I hear the ancient footsteps like the motion of the sea

Sometimes I turn, there's someone there, other times it's only me.

I am hanging in the balance of the reality of man

Like every sparrow falling, like every grain of sand."

This week, a series of short documentaries launched focused on Moving American’s Soul on Suicide. The first episode is on me and my family, “Anyone Can Get Broken.” You can watch it at the website masosfilm.com or on Youyube. As the website says, it’s time for hope.

The idea came from a friend, David Covington, CEO of RI International and one of the world’s biggest advocates for suicide prevention.

He had seen me speak years ago at a conference, and after being frustrated attending a suicide prevention meeting in DC that just wanted to keep doing the same old things, he thought of my talk and the idea of this series was born.

We had a long talk, I agreed to participate, and we were off!

Rush Limbaugh died yesterday. The greatest radio broadcaster ever. You can read about his many accolades, his many fans, and his many detractors, on many other places. But today I wanted to talk about why Rush meant a lot to me. And it had nothing to do with politics.

I first learned about Rush from his TV show watching in the ready room of my flight school squadron while in the Marine Corps. He seemed odd at first, pudgy and soft. But when he spoke, fire, All-Marine.

Little would I know how important his words would be to me in the upcoming years as I struggled to find hope after a jet crash.

Rush made sense, and he made me believe I could make sense of my life off the rails. He also made me believe I could still make a difference in the world. As bad as I might feel, he wouldn't let the fire of American spirit die, "pick yourself up and keep going" exuded with every breath he spoke. I felt it my duty to not give up.

On one of his last shows he talked about his faith and his relationship with Christ. In the spirit of that, this Bible verse is for him, and us.

John 14:1-3 1 “Do not let your heart be troubled; believe in God, believe also in Me. In My Father’s house are many dwelling places; if it were not so, I would have told you; for I go to prepare a place for you.

After yesterday’s podcast on the Blizzard of 2021 and my adventure picking up my daughter as my dear wife prayed, my mom reminded me of the Blizzard of 1978. It starting while I was in class at Van Rensselaer Elementary. It hit so fast busses couldn’t run, and my dad had to come in to town to pick me up. I remember the harrowing trip home, I didn’t think there was any way we wouldn’t get swallowed by snow.

Now '78 was a true blizzard. It hit hard and fast on January 25th, 1978.

There were 20-foot snow drifts, 50 mph wind gusts and temperatures that plummeted from 36 degrees to zero overnight. The National Weather Service says the epic snowstorm had little equal in the climatological record for Indiana. I can remember a snow drift making it to the roof of our house. My brothers and I scaled it to see the view from the roof, and we dug snow forts in the drifts that you could stand in.

More than 70 people lost their lives across the region because of the storm, including five souls in Kentucky, 11 in Indiana and 51 in Ohio.

The roads were so bad, the National Guard used 14-ton armored personal carriers to rescue stranded drivers and get food to people.

Earlier in the day before mom had reminded me of this, I had written down a Bible verse I wanted to share, and then she texted me and it was even more poignant.

John 16:33 “I have told you these things so that in Me you may have peace. You will have suffering in this world. Be courageous! I have conquered the world.”

You will suffer, it is inescapable. So how do we respond? By being courageous! And what allows us to be courageous? Faith in the God who has conquered the world, and investing in those things that rise up to help us when we suffer – family, friends, and community.

Well, they said it was coming and it came - The Blizzard of 2021. My daughter was in town at college when it started and then went to work at Target. She was one of the few they had work till close, so at almost 10pm with the roads drifting over I trekked in to get her, sure her old Honda Accord wouldn’t make it home.

I sent my wife a message that I didn’t know if I’d make it to town and back, her reply was a reminder of faith:

“Oh my goodness. I prayed as soon as you left for a herd of angels to surround your car to Mother Mary!”

I was worried, but I wasn’t praying. My wife who is a prayer warrior was. It reminded of the following verse:

Ephesians 6:18 “Pray in the Spirit at all times, with every kind of prayer and petition. To this end, stay alert with all perseverance in your prayers for all the saints.”

As I Mary and I drove home at no more than 20mph through drifts and wind and snow, I looked at her and said, “Every father and daughter need a good adventure together!” And I should have added prayer.

It reminded me of a lesson I teach in my leadership classes, “do the little things, and you are more likely to rise to the occasion of the big things.”

Well this goes for prayer, pray daily, for everything, and prayer is more likely to be your refuge for the big things at the most dire moments.

February 15, 2021

Finding Life, Eyes Wide Open

Last Friday we talked about the new original sin of Chinese Forced Labor, we all benefit with cheap goods and it encourages us to lie and ignore our conscience.

So why did I use the term original sin? Well biblically, that sin from Adam and Eve impacts us all. Sin brought death and we all are subject to the consequences of death.

Chinese Forced Labor, for decades unchecked - I doubt you can go to the store and avoid something made in china, maybe or maybe not, made my slave labor - brings consequences we'd rather ignore.

How do you find life when you have become burdened by things you turn a blind eye to – all the things culture tries to sell us – new clothes made by slaves, a million diet products to look pretty, the newest version of a phone that works perfectly well, and I could go on. Obviously, not everything is black and white, so many things we can buy that can vastly improve our lives, yet so many things that can take our focus off of the things that matter.

I still think that late Thomas Merton nailed advertising and our consumer culture back in the 50s and 60s:

“Advertising treats all products with the reverence and the seriousness due to sacraments.”

Being sold contributes to the noise of modern life. Again, written over 50 years ago, think of the implications of the following quote today:

“The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of contemporary violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, to want to help everyone in everything, is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of our activity neutralizes our work for peace. It destroys our own inner capacity for peace. It destroys the fruitfulness of our own work, because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”

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