The Secret

Every day, bit by bit, the secret we reveal,
In every moment, in every thought, in all we feel.
As we try to guard, our soul leaks out,
In drips and drabs, in whispers and shouts.
And with every step, we drown with doubts.

What are lies? What is true?
Where to run? What to do?
Who to trust? What to defend?
And how does this mystery end?

As we discern what to let go and protect ,
In this world we try so hard to dissect,
We spy that discovery is hidden,
the final answer we seek is lost; forbidden.

So, with our last heartbeat and final breath,
We find we must love to reach beyond death.

Washington’s Rules of Civility Revisited for Today

George Washington when he was 16 wrote out 110 rules of civility to guide his life. Washington originally wrote down the rules presumably as an exercise in penmanship but later committed them to practice and memory. They helped develop the decorum, civility, and courage that guided Washington through war and the birth of this nation. You can read the Washington’s Rules of Civility here Washington’s Rules

The rules originally composed by French Jesuit priests in 1565 range from the practical to the profound.  At the root of the rules is respect and civility toward friend and foe.  Rule 1 lays this idea out perfectly with the words:  “Every action done in company ought to be with some sign of respect, to those that are present”.  Many currently in the public sphere would do well to take this rule to heart!

Most of the rules have application today.  One of them that I found particularly compelling is Rule 18:  “Read no letters, books, or papers in company but when there is a necessity for the doing of it you must ask leave: come not near the books or writings of another so as to read them unless desired or give your opinion of them unasked also look not nigh when another is writing a letter.” 

The letters, books, and papers in Washington’s time are the cell phones, twitter feeds and social media today.  Here is a brief update of Rule 18 refined for today’s technology.  “Do not look at your cell phone or multitask while in the company of others, whether it be in person or Zoom.  Put your cell phone in silence mode and only look at it in an emergency after asking permission.  Do not stalk or gaslight your colleagues on social media.  If your opinion differs, comment in a civil tone grounded in fact!” Let’s break it down further.

1.  Put Your Cell Phone Down.  We are tempted to pull out our cell phones at the drop of a hat.  Many of our conversations become nothing more than a battle of dueling cell phones.  With information at our fingertips, it is even more important to listen with full attention to your colleague, instead of trying to one up them with the trending twitter feeds.  Washington knew the importance of being attentive even when the equivalent to today’s social media posts were the dueling pamphlets of competing patriots!

2.  Do not stalk, talk.   It is easy today to form a preconceived opinion of someone from stalking their social media feed or what others say about them online.  It is also possible to ruin a person’s reputation by adding fire to gossip or rumor.  Instead of forming an opinion from second-hand thoughts or unclarified comments, build your judgement of a person’s thoughts and character through direct dialogue. Peering into one’s media presence out of context is like ‘looking nigh when another is writing a letter’ in Washington’s time.  Look not nigh, look them in the eye!

3.  Guard Your Opinions with Reason and Civility.  It is easy to react with emotion when someone writes something you disagree with on social media.  Resist the urge to do so.  If you feel you must post your opinion, do so factually and civilly.  Better yet, pick up a phone or meet the person you disagree with to understand the context.  I recognize there are times when the other person may have not acted with respect or is gaslighting you.  Resist the urge to fight fire with fire.  Instead dowse the fire with the cool water of reason and civility.

Rule 18 is just 1 of Washington’s 110 Rules of Civility.  Most still resonate today.  For example, just think how better off some politicians would have been if they followed rule 2:  “2. When in company, put not your hands to any part of the body, not usually discovered.”  Some of them may be of a bygone era but not many!  I encourage you to read Washington’s Rules of Civility.   What the world needs now is more civility, respect, and courtesy.

A Wandering Path To You

I am not worthy, but I’ll try,

Moving forward till I die,

Though I misstep along the way,

I get closer day by day,

To life as you meant it to be,

Loving, blessed and Holy.

I don’t deserve it, but I call,

To catch me when I fall,

To bring me home again,

In your presence, out of Sin,

With a heart meek and true,

In your paradise anew.

Jesus please hear my plea,

Remove the darkness, and let me see,

The path that I should take,

And the one that I should forsake,

On my wandering path to you,

And the mission I’m meant to do.

Advent: Love’s Everlasting Kiss

The Mount of Olives

In Advent we wait expectantly for God’s Love Incarnate. Not the gooey eyed love that we experience on a porch swing and a first kiss, but rather the long, hard fought victorious love that endures past a last kiss. The love of a God who so loved the world that he gave his only Son. The Love of our Lord who in the dungeons of Caiaphas, the agony of the Garden, and nailed to the Cross loves us, dies for our sins to be resurrected and gain us a path to Heaven.

The Love of Mary who agrees to bring God into this world and stands there at the foot of the cross. She takes that hard-won love with her to the house of John where she leads the apostles until she is assumed into Heaven and crowned its Queen. The love of a God that endures in the church and the sacrifice of the Saints. The Love despite our faults and sins is coming again to the Mount of Olives!

In closing, this poem came to me as a remembrance for my sister in law. This morning I believe that Love in the form of the Holy Spirit asked me to send this poem at the start of a new liturgical year on the Priesthood and Passion of Jesus:

Love does not come easy,
it’s built in trials,
minute by minute,
day by day.
It is built on sorrow,
As much as hope,
Tears and hardship,
As much as laughter.
It does not flit,
It does not float,
It is SOLID,
and it ENDURES!
Why love then?
It is our purpose and mission,
What we were built for,
What God designed!
Because love does not last,
for a minute or an hour.
It lasts a lifetime,
and through eternity.
So, drive on through the pain,
And strive through the sorrow, And with one last kiss,
Reach for the tomorrow.
And, remember in waiting,
Not the words left spoken or tears,
But the smile and loving eyes,
That resound through the years.

Lost and Found

I wish I could reach back,

Reach back in the past,

When my soul was innocent,

And my heart pure.

When I could look at something,

And say “There, that’s right,

I know it to be right,

I have no doubts.”

But age begets doubts,

And time desperation,

In a world charged with sorrow,

Nothing is for certain,

nothing for sure,

All we can do is love,

And love some more,

Hoping God is smiling on us,

To bring about a better day!

Let’s Celebrate Fathers as Builders!

This Father’s Day I celebrate Dads as builders! I revel in those fathers that built buildings, built large families, built Turbines, built farms and built all of us up to love! Amidst all the tearing down recently in our country, it is time for us Fathers to build up!  Here are four examples of Father’s building up.

1.  Building a family with bricks and good earth.  My Father-In-Law along with his wife  built a loving family of 10 borne on bricks, love, and good Minnesota earth.  The first time I met Cal, he took me to his Raspberry farm to work and to talk about his tractor.   This was the same raspberry patch that my wife and her nine siblings learnt responsibility each summer.  Later, Cal took me to see the buildings he built as a Union Bricklayer.  As we talked, I appreciated how he built a family brick by brick, berry by berry.  A man of few words, his example spoke volumes.

2.  Building engines that power cities, civil life, and a family.  My father Big-D was a dynamo! Like the turbines that he built at his work, Big-D energized civil life and a family through respect and love.  He was a Union Vice President, a Cub Master, a baseball coach, and president of several civic organizations.  He taught me and the community how to throw a curve ball, build a car for the Pinewood Derby, and how to negotiate to get what a worker needs and deserves.  Countries are built on civic organizations not tweets!  Read more here (American Anthem: More Crosswicks less Crosswise )  Dad along with my mother taught us how to live, love and learn in a community. 

3.  Building in the background with humility and hard work.  God is the ultimate father as builder.  He built heaven and this good earth which we are called to protect.  And when God was selecting an earthly father to protect and teach his only Son, he selected St. Joseph.  A quiet, humble man, Joseph patiently taught the Son of Man how to build amongst humanity with his hands and heart.  Joseph stood in the background and let his work show forth through the works of the Son.  Joseph prayed and sent a path for what all good Father’s wish for their Sons; a life that eclipses their own and sets the world aright.

4. Building bridges of love.  My first three examples are no longer walk in physical form with us.  But I know that their example lives on teaching us to build bridges of love across all humanity.  I see the builder in my cousin-in-law Uriah and the example he sets forth for Jessica my cousin, and their two young daughters, one only days-old.  I see it each day as he builds up the love bursting forth in a young family through hard work and compassion.  Getting up at night to comfort a little one and waking up each morning early to work each day just a little sleep deprived.  And I remember how hard it is to be builder and cheer as his family grows in love and to serves as an example to all of us that love knows no bounds.   

A Father’s love knows no boundaries.  It builds up instead of tears down.  It builds bridges across humanity and through time!  It is color blind and love rich.  Let’s all be builders in our families and society!

Commissioned to Love

What does it mean to be commissioned?  The simple Webster definition is “an instruction, command, or duty given to a person or group of people.”  But what is the instruction, what is the duty?  Who gives the command and to whom is the command given? And is their one great commission that we all should follow? 

I started thinking about this on May 24, the day when as a Catholic, I celebrate Jesus’s Ascension and the Great Commission.   Here is the first reading that occurred on that day from Acts 1:

He answered them, “It is not for you to know the times or seasons
that the Father has established by his own authority.
But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you,
and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem,
throughout Judea and Samaria,
and to the ends of the earth.

Acts 1

And what was the power that was bestowed by the Holy Spirit?  The power to know that you are loved and to bestow that love on others. To live out the commandment in courage and strength that Jesus gave on the last supper

This is My commandment, that you love one another, just as I have loved you.

John 15:12

This was the Great Commission and commandment that we are meant to follow.  What happened on May 25th , 2020, the very next day after this celebration, was the opposite of the Great Commission.  Call it the Great Betrayal.  An officer who was commissioned:  “TO PROTECT WITH COURAGE, TO SERVE WITH COMPASSION” did the exact opposite.  There was no compassion shown to George Floyd nor courage displayed by the officers that renounced their commission.

Now as the nation struggles with this betrayal and the many that have occurred before it, we need to cling to the hope and love set forth in the Great Commission. We need to practice the three P’s:  Protest Injustice, Protect Your Neighbor and Heart, and Pray for Love and Understanding.  We have seen many doing just this but unfortunately there are others who tear down instead of build-up.

In search of hope, I look back and forward to two other commissioning’s – one recent and one happening this week.  On Saturday May 30th,  Nasa and Space-X went on a successful co-mission as they launched the first commercial manned rocket to the space station.  The private and public sector blended their unique talents on a co-mission to space and allowed us to hope that we could boldly go were no man has gone before – a world were differences are celebrated. As Gene Rodenberry, creator of Star Trek puts it: 

“If man is to survive, he will have learned to take a delight in the essential differences between men and between cultures. He will learn that differences in ideas and attitudes are a delight, part of life’s exciting variety, not something to fear.”

Gene Rodenberry

I also look forward to the graduation and commissioning of the West Point Class of 2020 on June 13th.  I look forward to the cadets to taking the oath to serve.   In the words of LTG Darryl A. Williams, our first black West Point Superintendent (you can read the full letter here https://s3.amazonaws.com/usma-media/inline-images/about/Public%20Affairs/homepage/pdfs/superindendent_sends_06.04.2020.PDF):

“The oath to support and defend the Constitution binds us together as one team, dedicated to defending our Nation and upholding its values. We strive to embody these ideals and aspire to live by our core values of duty, honor, and country. Every word, every action, and every attitude should uphold those values so that we may live and lead honorably. The Nation looks to West Point as an example of what is possible when people from diverse backgrounds unite and aspire to honorable living.

Consider how your words, actions, and attitudes impact other people. Are you building up others and making them feel valued? Are you strengthening trust within the team? Are you extending forgiveness, and actively listening to other points of view? Are you inspiring others to greatness? If so, encourage others to do the same. If not, then choose to improve—immediately. Muster the moral courage necessary to confront and solve problems with effective, honest, and empathetic dialogue that seeks solutions rather than sowing seeds of division and disunity.”

LTG Darryl A. Williams

Let’s build up instead of tearing down.  Let’s celebrate the differences.  Let’s love one another and protect each other’s heart.  Let’s live out the great commission!

Thinking Our Way into Oblivion

Thinking our way into oblivion,

we forgo faith and embrace fear.

Worried about the future,

we forget each life brings the promise of redemption,

and no AI can match the spark of the soul!

Instead of reveling in life we cling to death,

hugging a tree instead of a child.

Thinking our way into oblivion,

the world may end in a whine instead of a bang,

Unless we love our way back to life!