To my two mothers gone up above, Continue to bless us with undying love, Hold in your hearts, your family, And continue to teach us “how to be”. With our Blessed Mother, calm our fears, And with love overflowing, dry our tears.
And to the mothers of our children, With us on earth, Lead our families and nation, To a rebirth, Remind us of the love, taught at your knee, And mirror God’s love, for all to see!
Last night I saw the movie Tolkien and I highly recommend it to everyone! A wholesome movie about a great person and one of the top 5 influences in my life. The movie documented the fundamental moments of Tolkien’s formation that was behind his masterpieces The Lord of the Rings and The Silmarillion. And as I relived his early life through early adulthood, I thought about how much Tolkien and his works were instrumental in my own growth. Here are the six key moments when the works of Tolkien formed me and changed me.
My First Book Purchase – The first books that I bought with my own money (you can read about how I earned that money here https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/01/14/a-penny-a-minute-a-lifetime-of-lessons/) was the box set of the Lord of the Rings. I have posted a picture of the Two Towers to show you just how much value for the money I got! I remember buying them like it was yesterday at Quakerbridge mall and then using the remaining buck and change on the new entry at McDonald’s – a Quarter Pounder with Cheese and Fries (1973) https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Quarter_Pounder . I raced home put my name on the cover in case someone tried to take it and devoured the books like I did the Quarter Pounder. I have now read those same books with pages falling out at least once a year. The first time I read them all in a weekend. For a ten-year boy in the 70’s, it was the equivalent of a new Harry Potter book (which my children equally devoured). I remember cowering in the bed as I read about the Black Riders for the first time and adding Frodo and Sam to my evening prayers.
Bonding with my best friend – My best friend in elementary through middle school was Paul. He loved the Lord of the Rings as much or more than me and we talked about it endlessly. He also introduced me to the Lord of the Rings allusions in Led Zeppelin songs such as Misty Mountain Hop and some Galadriel references in Stairway to Heaven. He also had pictures from the Lord of the Rings calendars decorating his room where we worked on building rockets for Mr. Pickett’s rocketry club. We parted ways in high school as our lives took different turns (The Road Goes Ever On!). But I will never forget the joy I had in discussing the latest calendar and references to LOTR by Led Zeppelin!
Love of Family – My Dad was a Steelworker, no-nonsense Blue-Collar man. He did not care for Fantasy, elves and hobbits. In contrast, I was like Frasier to my Dad’s Marty Crane. All through 1978, I looked for every news item on the upcoming rendition of the Lord of the Rings from Ralph Bashki. My dad got tickets for the opening day for the whole family, because he knew how much I loved it. He also got me for Christmas the LP Soundtrack. The movie was not good but my whole family sat through it as I tried to explain what was happening. They sat through it and tried to cheer me up as I was disappointed. Even though my brother David still ribs me by humming the March of the Orcs, I never felt more loved since my family showed their kindness and support for something I cared about.
My Senior High School Thesis – I love to write and get just as much joy from writing as I do from reading LOTR. I feel exhilaration after writing each one of my blogs and unlike most loved writing essays for school. My senior thesis for High School was one of my favorites – Christ Imagery in the Lord of the Rings! I am not sure if that is even a topic that is allowed in school’s today. I learned so much from studying this subject. Unlike Lewis who is clearly allegorical in the Narnia series, Tolkien is more subtle but nonetheless profound. Frodo, Aragorn, and Gandalf all represent elements of Christ. Frodo the clearest as he carries the heavy burden to Mount Doom. Aragorn as a king in disguise that leads to a new Kingdom. Gandalf perhaps the least subtle as he arises from the dead in white after battling the Balrog. Tolkien did not like allegory, but he did understand those fundamental truths that our highest calling is to sacrifice. I still remember the exhilaration of getting an A on the paper, but more so the feeling that the LOTR revealed a deeper truth!
Falling for the Fellowship – I waited for 23 years for the next movie version for the Lord of Rings – The Fellowship of the Ring. My wife and I had four kids waiting for its arrival! My oldest daughter Kate was at the age where she could stay up late to catch the movie with me on the first day (BTW – she is an English teacher!). It came out the day before I had to lead an Oral presentation for the biggest deal in my career. Nevertheless, I got the only 2 last tickets available for the midnight showing on the first day. In the last two seats behind a bar that partially obstructed my view, I and my daughter waited in anticipation. I was literally praying that it would not be like the earlier movie. I will not lie to you. When the scene of the Shire and Gandalf came on the screen, I wept tears of joy. Peter Jackson had captured the essence of the books that defined my life. The decency of the Hobbits. The goodness of Gandalf and the evil of the Dark Riders that used to make me shake in my bed so many years ago. This will sound like the ultimate geek, but I count that first viewing of the Fellowship as one of the top 10 moments in my life. (BTW It inspired me to win the most important job of my career the next day!).
Dancing in the Glade – I thought nothing would ever match the scene of the Shire but last night’s scene from the Tolkien movie did it. My favorite story from Tolkien is not LOTR but one chapter from the Silmarillion – Of “Beren and Luthien”. I love it for three reasons. 1. It examines the love between people of two different cultures (Elves and Man). 2. Beren and Luthien fight against all odds to defeat evil. 3. Last and most important, it shows the never-ending love between a man and his wife. For the uninitiated, Beren and Luthien Tinuviel represent J.R.R. Tolkien and his wife Edith. They were married for over 50 years. Edith was Tolkien’s muse and the anchor to his life. The image took my breath away as I sat next to my wife of 32+ years and thought of her in that glade. In the movie, they show Edith dancing in the woods in England, the image that Tolkien explains in his poem below.
“The leaves were long, the grass was green, The hemlock-umbels tall and fair, And in the glade a light was seen Of stars in shadow shimmering. Tinuviel was dancing there To music of a pipe unseen, And light of stars was in her hair, And in her raiment glimmering.” (Read more here – https://www.goodreads.com/quotes/tag/luthien).
Six events that shaped a life! Thank you, J.R.R. Tolkien and the makers of this film, for making this film that explains the life of this man who shaped me and so many others!
I hate flying on planes; doubly so after a hard week at work on a late flight. Such was the case when I boarded a plane back to Austin a few years ago. Little did I know that my temperament and life was going to change in mid-flight!
I had just settled into my aisle seat. I always get an aisle seat, especially back
then when I was a bit north of 250. I
had already gotten up one time for the person in the window seat. Now I was spreading out hoping against hope
that I could dissuade someone from taking the middle seat. It was not to be.
Near the end of on-boarding, a young clean-cut guy asked if the seat next to me was taken. People were pressing so he was standing directly to the side of me, blocking my way from getting out. I said in an abrupt manner, “I could let you in if you would move and stop blocking my path.” The lady behind him caught my grumpy facial expression, took pity on him, and moved back so I could let him in. Yeah, I thought, I now had a tall occupant with wide shoulders occupying the seat next to me. Fun! Time to lean out in the aisle a little more.
I glanced over to size up my neighbor, since by this time I
was feeling a little bad about how I acted.
I noticed three things off the bat that were different. First the guy was reading a religious book;
something not expected from a young man without a collar. Equally unique was the Miraculous Medal
around his neck; something you do not often see except on a Nun. Lastly, I noticed he had a rosary in his
Thinking I had a priest or a seminarian next to me, I began
feeling even more sheepish than I did before.
So, I decided to try and make amends for the way I acted and strike up a
conversation. I reached out my hand to my neighbor and said,
“Hey I am sorry about how grumpy I was a moment ago. My name is Don.” He replied his name was Travis Moran and we
struck up a conversation.
Wanting to find out more about Travis, I said, “I noticed from the religious book and the rosary that you must be Catholic. I am too, even though a few moments ago I may not have appeared to be. I was just about to listen to a podcast of Father Mike Schmitz. Have you heard of him?” Those who regularly read my blogs know I am a devoted listener to Father Mike Schmitz’s podcasts. He is an excellent speaker whose lessons on life and God are inspired. Travis promptly pulled out his cell phone and showed me a picture of him with Father Mike and others. Travis had just been to the SEEK conference in San Antonio and heard Father Mike and others evangelize. This was the first indication that maybe Travis and my meeting was not by chance.
For the first time in a long time, I decided to talk to the
person next to me on the plane. I
usually do not like to talk on planes.
But this was unbelievable. Travis
is an amazing young man. He was discerning to be a priest when he got another
calling to be a physical therapist for Special Needs kids in Connecticut. Working with his father and others, he treats
autistic and other special needs children at Crossroads Physical Therapy. I was so impressed by his kindness and
devotion to God that I was not sure if it was all real so I looked him up (see http://www.quchronicle.com/2011/12/this-is-me-a-man-with-faith/).
I now asked him about book that he was he reading. It was
called 33 Days to Morning Glory. He
explained that the book was a 33 day retreat to grow closer and consecrate yourself
to Jesus through the intercession of Mary.
Ok, I thought. A little deep for
me but he was so devoted I listened attentively. Maybe God was speaking to me.
We talked for another 20 minutes or so until Travis asked if
he could take time out and say his daily rosary. As we closed our conversation, he told me he
was praying his daily rosary today for my intention. I thanked him. Later as we left the plane, we shook hands and
I told him how much I enjoyed the conversation and prayers. Little did I know that this was not the end
of this change that started in mid-flight.
Or so I thought! Instead with at that late hour, I through blurry eyes bought another book: 33 Days to Merciful Love! Noting that I ordered the wrong book, I later bought 33 Days to Morning Glory. After reading a few chapters of each book, I put them aside as work and life distracted me. The original spark faded until several months later, when God broke through again.
I was on a work trip in Raleigh, North Carolina. I could not sleep and got up at 4 O’clock. Wanting to get some restless energy out, I walked the streets of Raleigh with my earbuds in, listening to the latest podcast from Father Mike. It was the opening homily for Lent and as he finished, he told his parishioners at UMD that he had a book for all of them. The book was 33 Days to Merciful Love! Here is the actual podcast with the link to the book https://soundcloud.com/bulldogcatholic/wholehearted-part-i-go-big-be-small I have never felt God’s presence in my life more, as a tingle ran down my spine.
Third time is the charm.
I could not ignore the message any longer. I performed both internal retreats covered in
the books. At the end, I consecrated
myself to Jesus through Mary. It was a
life changing experience and though not yet all the way there, those retreats have
helped me to grow closer to the Lord. I now hope to bring others closer to Jesus both
as a Core Team member with the Life Teen ministry.
I still tear up thinking about this change in Mid-flight and
Mid-life. I hope this true-life message inspires
you to put down that iPhone on the plane and to be a little more kind to the
person in the seat next to you. It just
might be God trying to talk to you!
A few nights ago, I had one of those dreams. You know the ones that I am talking about. A dream so vivid, so poignant that it seems more than real. A dream that wakes you up at 4 AM with a smile on your face and thoughts rushing so fast that you can barely keep up as you type on your cell phone in the bathroom with door shut so as not to disturb your wife. A dream of important messages heaven sent to shape your life and to pass on to others.
In this dream, I was again in my Grandpop’s house on Melrose
Avenue in Trenton, NJ. And there was my
Grandpop rocking on the porch. The
picture below is of that very same house that my sister Lori texted me today
while she was visiting Jersey, reinforcing the dream’s importance! As we walked together and talked in each of
the rooms, the memories of times shared together came flooding back. And there was an underlying message tying all
those memories together. My Grandpop –
John William Henry – was a good man.
I say a good man, not great man for a reason. The best men are good men not great men. They dole out love instead of striving for
power or money. They love their country
and their God. They care more about
friends and less about prestige. They
take time for fun, the Phillies, and to sing Irish songs. They look like Fred McMurray on My Three Sons
and remind you of Jimmy Stewart on It’s A Wonderful Life. That
was my Grandpop! And here are the four
lessons that I learned from that dream, his life and my Grandpop’s home and
Take time for Family
and Friends (The Porch) – Grandpop loved to rock on his porch and look out
on Melrose Avenue. Two memories came
back to me as I again sat on the porch. I
remembered how he would spend hours on the porch during the evening and
weekends talking to and visiting with his neighbors down the street. Some 50 years later, I can remember their
names, their faces and believe it or not their homes. During that dream, I visited with them again. Mrs. Curr a widower who gave us tea and
cookies in her home as she talked about her garden. Mrs. Heipel who lived on the end house on
Melrose talking about her daughter who had recently moved. The Toronto’s telling stories of my mother
when they were young. I was happy for
the friendship again and a little sad since my porch faces the back yard and I
so seldom visit with my neighbors (or remember their names).
The other thing I remember is how gentle and good my
Grandpop was. He was no wimp having
boxed when he was younger. But he knew
how to calm his Grandkids when they were cranky and tired. I again saw him rocking my brother David as
he sang “Little Man Your Crying” in a voice not as resonant as Bing’s but close
to perfect due to its love. And as I saw
this image again in my mind’s eye, I thought back that although I spent quality
time with my kids, I was not as calm or soothing as that gentle man who rocked
my brother asleep
Unconditionally and For Eternity (the Living Room) – We came in from the
porch and into the living room with its furniture entrenched in the fifties. We sat on the couch watching the Phillies
like so many times before. We both loved
the Phillies, especially Mike Schmidt (Schmidty as we called him). In walked my Uncle who had gone missing for several
months on another binge as he had done so many times before. He was the ultimate prodigal son. He asked to come back to the home and
Grandpop with tears in his eyes took him back.
And I thought to the times when I turned my back on others in need
because I was too busy and vowed to do better.
The dream changed again to a different moment. This one happened outside my other Uncle’s
house in Morrisville, PA but in the dream, it was in the living room. My family was visiting, and my Grandpop
walked in with a bag of donuts as he did on most Sundays. But this time it was different. It was several weeks after my Grand mom’s
passing and Grandpop had returned to the donut tradition for the first time
without Grand mom. I again saw the tear
from my Grandpop’s eye when my brother asked where is Grand mom? I was again a bit mad at my younger brother
since I was older. And I thought on how
my Grandpop who was still a young man of 50 when Grand mom passed, yet he never
dated seriously or married again. He
would visit his wife’s grave several times a week keeping the love of her in
his heart for the rest of life. And I
imagined them again holding hands throughout eternity and I vowed to love my
wife like Grandpop.
Be Frugal with Yourself,
Lavish with Others (the Phone room). I wanted to stay with both my Grandparents again,
but my dream switched to the phone room.
I was not sure if the room was a formal dining room or a second living
room, but I remember it as the phone room due to the rotary phone that rested
at the end of a long hutch. Another
thing that rested on the long hutch was hundreds of coupons. Having lived in the Depression, my Grandpop
and his brothers were frugal in saving money.
I again saw my Grandpop and Great Uncle Don talking about the latest
coupon that they found for Acme. My
Grandpop would drive to 5 or 6 stores to use the coupons to save a few
bucks. Besides being frugal on the
groceries, he did not spend much on himself.
He seldom traveled or bought expensive clothes or items but reveled in
the simple pleasures such as the occasional Phillies games. He was frugal with himself but lavish with
others. As my dream progressed, I
thought back on the time he bought my brothers and I a complete Lionel Train
set on Christmas. And how happy he was
when our eyes lighted up. Then I thought
back on the many times I had splurged on the latest iPhone or Uber Eats instead
of focusing on the ones around me. I
seldom use a coupon even though they are digital now and can easily be obtained
on the cell phone I have. I vowed to
spend less on myself and more on others.
Be Thankful for the
Simple Pleasures and Family (the Kitchen).
The dream now moved into the
kitchen and I saw the big yellow wooden kitchen table where we often sat. As I sat down at the table, I looked across
to a little stand when my Grandpop kept one of his prized possessions – a Hot
Dog Zapper! I do not know if they have
them anymore, but my Grandpop sure did take pleasure in it. He would invite us to sit down and put each
of the six hot dogs on two prongs at either end of the hot dog. He would turn on the machine and after a few
minutes of zapping they were cooked (and most often split open a bit!). He again laughed as he took them off and gave
one to each of us around the table.
As we ate, more of my extended family gathered around and I
realized the time had shifted to St. Patrick’s Day. I again saw my Great Uncles (both cops), my
Uncle John and his family, Uncle Gary and my family. Each of the men had a Schlitz beer or two (I
told you Henrys are frugal!) as we went through a chorus of Irish Songs – Mrs.
Murphy’s Chowder, Come Meet a Donovan, The Same Old Shillelagh, and of course
When Irish Eyes Are Smiling. And I
thought. We often take for granted the
simple pleasure of singing with family and friends. We forget the expensive items we bought after
a few years. But I can sing verbatim
every one of those songs to this day and see the hot dog zapper in my mind’s
eye. Just before I left this part of the
dream, one more simple, glorious pleasure occurred. My Dad did not know the Irish songs of his
wife’s family but wanted to participate.
I again heard him sing “The Old Rugged Cross”, his favorite song and the
one we played at his funeral. As I wept,
I vowed to spend more time with family and the simple pleasure of life.
And as I woke, one thought ran through my head. Be good, not great! Strive for friendship not fame. Make memories not money to live on through
This Friday marked a major milestone on my road to recovery from a major heart procedure. A little worse for the wear but not so bad if I do say so myself. Luckily our instructor did not end her usual unleash song, Tina Turner’s Rolling Down the River. I would have ended up breaking Rule 2 below and looking more worn. I simply can’t resist going 120 RPM’s on the chorus of that song.
For those of you follow my blog regularly, you know how much I love spin class. I fell in love with the music, movement, and madness that is spin about a year ago. It is indeed one of my favorite ways to relieve stress. But before getting back in the saddle, I first had to follow these three rules:
1. Rest, recover, relax. This first rule was the hardest for me. Having lost a ton of weight a few years ago, I was nervous that taking time off to rest and recover would throw me back off track. So, I did a very stupid thing and broke this rule. I went for a long 5 mile walk the day after returning from the hospital. Initially, I felt great as you can read in this blog. https://weightlossleadership.com/2019/02/13/a-heart-filled-with-gratitude-and-love/ But, it was not to last. During that whole week, I was recovering from the walk.
If I was going to get healthy,I needed to go back to the basics and follow this first rule. So, I took the entire next weekend completely off and rested and relaxed. It did a world of good and sped up the healing process. It is very important to take time for yourself and relax after surgery before diving into your normal regimen.
2. Ease back into exercise. The second step after taking time to rest is to ease back into exercise. As much as I wanted to, I did not get on the bike until three weeks later. Instead, I went back to basics and walked at a much slower pace and for shorter distances than that first Sunday. This less strenuous regimen provided two major advantages. First it allowed the bruise around the insertion point to heal. Second, it gave me a benchmark on my heart rate and gave me confidence the procedure had worked. I now was ready to take the plunge (or in this case the seat!
3. Unleash without fear. The last step is perhaps the most important one. Once you have taken the time to recover, you cannot be afraid to test the limits. It is the same lesson we all learned as kids. Get back on the bike when you have fallen off! I did watch my Fitbit carefully the first few songs but then gave into the vibe! You must trust in the professionalism of your Doctor’s and your own preparation. Get back in the saddle and ride!
And that is what I did and will continue doing. This coming Saturday, I will again be participating in Lifetime’s Ride for A Reason to fund the good work of St. Jude’s Children Hospital. Last year I rode all four hours and will hopefully do so again if the three rules allow. Please consider supporting the good work of St. Jude’s through a donation at the link below. The last picture is of me after last year’s event. https://fundraising.stjude.org/site/TR?px=4996114&pg=personal&fr_id=103544
Last Sunday I walked Brushy Creek trail like so many Sundays
before. But something was different. It wasn’t the light rain that was falling or
the new audiobook on my iPhone. No, this
day was different because of the overwhelming gratitude that I felt as the rain
touched my face.
The morning before I was discharged from the hospital after a six-hour heart procedure. Sounds like something that might not elicit gratitude. But in me it did. You see a scant 4 years ago making it through or even to the procedure would not have been likely. Weighing in at a hefty, 358 lbs. breathless and bloated, I was stressed out and strident To read more how about how I came to this unfortunate state, read here. https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/09/fit-to-fat-lessons-learned-while-doubling-my-weight/
I needed a change to get healthy and I needed help to make
the change. Luckily, God set people in
my life that helped me to get fit. He
also guided the hands of the gifted doctors and the kind deeds of caring nurses
to bring me through on the other side. I
began that Friday with a heart that was broken and left with a heart filled
with gratitude and love!
As I slowly walked, amazed that I could do so after the
procedure, I looked back on five things for which I was grateful.
First is God. Throughout my journey to better health, God put people in my path, thoughts in my head, and love in my heart. One such person is Father Mike Schmitz whose podcasts taught me to love myself, love others and to love God. Another person is the ICU chaplain who is responsible for producing weekly Christian Meditations. These meditations have helped me to become calmer and look to God for answers. Less everyone think that God only works through podcasts, time and time again, events occurred at of nowhere to lead on me on the right path. One example is the company email that I got for a discount to Wellness that Works on the day I was about to give up (more on this organization in number 3). More recently, I have found passion and purpose as a Core member with my church’s Lifeteen group.
Next are the doctors and nurses of Austin Heart. This gifted group correctly diagnosed my condition five years ago and set me on the pathway to health. With medication and skill, they helped me to get my initial problem under control, so I could lose the water and weight. With a stronger heart, I was able to exercise and get fit. More recently, they were able to diagnose a second serious problem and address it with my recent procedure. These doctor and nurses listed to my concerns and thoughtfully guide my decisions.
Third is WW, the organization formerly know as Weight Watchers and now Wellness that Works. This organization and its Round Rock lead Julie Faircloth provided lessons, tools and nurturing support that have brought both fitness and comradery. There are no better friends than my Saturday group. To read more about this amazing group, read this blog https://weightlossleadership.com/2018/04/22/the-whys-of-weight-watchers/
Lastly and most importantly is my family and friends. My wife has helped me through and loved me, through my weight gain and my journey to health. She has been a rock and helped me through the recent procedure staying with me every step of the way. She is kind but firm, leading me on the right path. She is my hero and my heart!
And then the walk was done.
The rain had stopped, and the sun now shown as gratitude flowed in my
After a 30+ day shutdown decided to re-post this timely blog. I was in church and as in every week before July 4th we sang America the Beautiful. This time I really looked at the words and as I sang at the top of my lungs (anyone who ever heard me sing knows that is the only way I do it), I choked up. You see I could sing some of the lyrics like spacious skies by rote. But other parts I should read and remember. And on this July 1 as we head into the celebration of our nations birth, I want to convey the words that choked me up. In this time of uncivil discourse, I think it is necessary to remember what binds us together as a nation. It is not military might or economic strength but rather the belief of liberty for all, freedom from oppression, and most of all, the steady march of progression toward a more perfect union. So, let’s dissect the versus focused on the bolded sections.
1. Verse 1. O beautiful for spacious skies,
For amber waves of grain,
For purple mountain majesties
Above the fruited plain!
America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Commentary. We are truly a blessed nation. We have resources and the freedom to pursue happiness and the means to do it. So why the vitriol and the rancor on both sides. We need more brotherhood and sisterhood and less tweeting on both sides. We do not have a problem, we have an opportunity! We have people that believe in our country coming to our borders for a better life. True, it is not all of them. We cannot take in those impostors who want to harm us. But most people escaping from the south just want a better a life. Surely the country that rebuilt our enemies with the Marshal Plan, sent people to the moon, and built a nation of immigrants can discern in a professional way the people that do not wish us well. We have done it before and we can do it again. Instead of protesting, roll up your sleeves. This immigration problem is solvable and we a nation built on immigrant citizens and a history of practical solutions to thorny problems can do it. The President and Congress can do it if they put down the iPhones, look up to the Heavens, and realize how blessed we are. Call me naïve, but I think at the end of the day, we all want a fair but firm response to the immigration crisis. Heck we may even consider a new Marshal Plan for the South.
2.Verse 2.O beautiful for pilgrim feet,
Whose stern impassion’ d stress
A thoroughfare for freedom beat
Across the wilderness! America! America! God mend thine ev’ry flaw,
Confirm thy soul in self-control,
Thy liberty in law!
Commentary. This is by far the most consequential verse. The first line “O beautiful for pilgrim feet” speaks to how the pilgrims escaped religious persecution and later civil strife to find this beautiful country. Like the pilgrims of yesteryear, the pilgrims of today are seeking the same thing – liberty and the ability to reach their human potential. We must be a resting place for those men and women of good intent to find their home free from persecution. Note I said good intent. There are some with ill intent but we need a humane process and procedure to discern who they are. Those of good intent have and will protect our nation, build innovation, and will progress us on our path to a better nation. Which brings us to the later stanzas of this verse. We have flaws as a nation but we are the best thing going. Do not kid yourself. But we will lose our leadership status if we neglect self-control as one stanza of the song points out. As one President and a famous Saturday Night sketch pointed out we must practice prudence and self-control. All of us, especially the President, need to stop the late-night twitter rants and practice prudence and self-control. Lastly, our liberty is built in law. We somehow need to figure out a way to expedite legal immigration and provide asylum for those who need it and an opportunity for those that want it! Laws do that and where the law stops or hinders it we need to change it.
3. Verse 3. O beautiful for heroes proved In liberating strife,
Who more than self their country loved,
And mercy more than life!
America! America! May God thy gold refine
Till all success be nobleness,
And ev’ry gain divine!
Commentary: It is a disgrace to those men and women that laid down their lives for this beloved country, that we cannot stop the bickering, and the twittering, and find a solution to this immigration issue (and other issues facing our nation). We are to be refined, refined by the blood of patriots, and anyone who does not look in their hearts to find a middle way does the soldiers that fought and died for this country dishonor. We also must show mercy to those like us are seeking a better life and freedom. I ask everyone to rise-up, roll up their sleeves, and put on their working boots to solve our issues. And our President and Congress need to lead the way or get out of the way!
4. Verse 4. O Beautiful for patriot dream
That sees beyond the years Thine alabaster cities gleam, Undimmed by human tears! America! America! God shed His grace on thee,
And crown thy good with brotherhood
From sea to shining sea!
Commentary: The patriots dream is that their country continues to press for a future! One that sees beyond the years and today’s expediency to understand the nation’s imperative is to welcome those decided in the course of liberty and freedom. In the end, America is not a nation but an idea. An idea that those with the will and the drive can escape to a new beginning where the tears will stop, the freedom will flow, and the nation will prosper!
One of my favorite quotes is from Ernest Hemingway in A Farewell to Arms. He writes “The world breaks everyone and afterward many are strong in the broken places”. Truer words have never been written! Each of us one day will face a hardship that tests our very fiber, but if we make it through, we will grow and flourish. You assuredly learn from your mistakes, but you grow from your pain. The imperfections of this world are designed to test our mettle and prepare us for a more perfect world beyond.
Although the world breaks everyone in some way, many but not all become stronger in those broken places. What gifts have been bestowed on us, so we can be strong in the broken places? St. Paul provides us with the answer: Faith, Hope, and Love with the greatest being Love. As we end this year, let me provide three examples of these saving gifts through the lives of others.
Faith is trust in God and self that things will get better either in this world or the next. It isa powerful weapon in confronting hardship and in forging a new life. One example of abiding faith is St. John Paul II. As a priest and bishop, he showed faith that his beloved Poland wouldshake the bonds of oppression from the Soviet Union and it came to pass. As a new Pope, he had faith in the protection of Mary who shielded him from anassassin’s bullet. He later showed faith in the redemption of others by forgiving this would be assassin. As he aged, Saint John Paul II showed faith in God’s plan by showing us his weakness as he confronted Parkinson’s.
Hope is the belief that things will get better despite current hardships. Gandhi epitomizes hope to me. He faced obstacles and trials as he strove to establish the modern nation of India. Any one of the obstacles that he faced would have dissuaded a lesser person. But through the March to the Sea, the horror of the Jallianwala Bagh massacre, and his many imprisonments, Gandhi retained his hope that the dignity of man would prevail. In his words, “To believe that what has not occurred in history will not occur at all, is to argue disbelief in the dignity of man.” Hope is the belief that the ultimate purpose of man will shine through despite the broken places.
Love is the greatest gift. It transforms the heart and soul. I have seen it do this to my brother David, his wife Debra, and his mother-in-law Marge. Debra is dealing with the debilitating disease of Aphasia and has been in a nursing facility since September. Please read more at this link https://www.gofundme.com/6d948wg . She can no longer speak and must use a respirator and eat through a feeding tube as she rehabilitates. Though she may not recover fully, she shows her love to David and Marge by getting up each day and taking on the rehabilitation exercises. Marge shows her love for her daughter by coming by daily and sharing time. Despite some of her own health issues, she is always there for her daughter in this time of hardship. Perhaps the most transformed by love is my brother David. We have had our occasional arguments over the years which is to be expected from a younger and older brother. He has in the last year become an inspiration to me and others. He is there after work every night to spend time with Debra and provide her with support. He also fights for his wife as he strives to get justice from the insurance company. I am inspired that the kid that used to tantalize me daily has been blessed with love in the broken places.
As we ring in this new year, let us learn from the examples above and strive to become stronger, more perfect in love! Let’s God’s glory shine through the broken places to be an inspiration for all to see.
Today I am going to take a break from my typical weight loss blog because I am feeling nostalgic about Christmas and Jersey. I got in the mood by watching Springsteen on Broadway. Hearing about his hometown in Freehold made me think of my hometown in Crosswicks. Mine closer to Philly; his closer to New York; but, Jersey all the same!
(As a side note. How do you know you love your wife? When she convinces you to turn off Springsteen on Broadway to watch Secret Santa on Wheel of Fortune! Giving up your home state hero for Pat and Vana is surely a sign of love. )
Relegated to my study, I got a beer; put on my best Springsteen; and decided to write about Christmas and Jersey. Here are four of my favorite Christmas memories from my childhood in Crosswicks, New Jersey! Like the Saturday Live skit from the other week, featured here https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4WvwX18oMR4 , Christmas memories are better upon reflection and a glass of wine (and some Springsteen).
The Community House Tree. Crosswicks is a historical town where much history happened. Indeed, George Washington launched his famous Christmas time raids on Trenton and crossing the Delaware from his headquarters at the Quaker Community House in Crosswicks. This history is all fine and good but my favorite memory is from personal history. Each Christmas, the citizens of Crosswicks would light up a large Christmas tree on the grounds of the Community House and sing Christmas songs and drink hot apple cider. For that day, the rivalry between the Black Sox and Red Sox baseball teams would be buried by the tree near the baseball field with voices of joy!
Hoping the club doesn’t come to your house first! My Dad worked as a Steelworker and Union Vice President at DeLaval. His friends from work and their families formed a group simply called the Club. The Club would make the rounds to each family’s house on Christmas. We mostly loved playing with all the kids. Except of course, if you were the first house on the tour. Being the first house on the tour was dreaded because it was when all the kids were really wound up and wanted to play with your new Christmas toys. Wound up kids on Christmas equals broken toys. One sad Christmas, we were the first on the tour. We were excited about our new Evil Knievel motorcycle and track. You would pump the motorcycle with air and it would fly off the track. It was our most prized toy until Jimmy and Kimmey got a hold of it. They pumped it so full of air that Evil and the motorcycle broke after flying a record 10 feet in the air. Much like the real Evil could not jump Snake River canyon, our toy could not make it 10 minutes with the kids from the Club!
Granpop’s Christmas train. My Grandpop grew up in the depression, so he was careful with his money. One of his best cost saving ventures was to buy Ribbon Candy after Christmas at quarter price and put it out the next year! He may have saved his pennies when buying candy, but not when taking care of his grandkids. One Christmas, we woke up and were brought downstairs to see a fully decorated Lionel train set in the cellar. The excitement of us kids was reflected in the joy of my Grandpop’s face as he passed on his love to a new generation.
Rudolph’s Nose and Dad catching Santa. One of the difficult things each Christmas was keeping my brother David from waking up from all his excitement at 2 AM . Me and my brother Gary had a ploy to keep David in the room we shared. Still do not know to this day why it worked and fooled him every year. My Dad used to put plastic on our windows during the Winter to keep in the warmth. Besides keeping out the cold, the plastic also fuzzed up the red light on the radio tower about a mile way enough so we could trick David. Each time when he woke up in the night and said “Is it Christmas, yet? Let’s wake up Dad and Mom! “, Gary and I would point to the red light and say that Rudolph was still flying. Even with that trick we could only contain him until 5 AM. Then we had to wake Mom and Dad. Dad in order to delay us while he was getting his Polaroid camera would say “Santa is still down here” and make some rustling sounds to keep us at bay. Oh how we sat on pins and needles until he gave us the all clear signal.
Well, I see Wheel of Fortune is finally done! I am going to get back to the real Boss and hear more tales of Jersey from the master. I hoped you enjoyed these!