"St. Michael the Archangel, defend us in battle."
"Drain the swamp." This has been a frequent slogan used in political jargon over the last couple of years. Unfortunately, the swamp is deeper and more far-reaching than just the American political establishment. The lack of professionalism among our elected leaders, as demonstrated this week for all of the world to see, is simply a symptom of a much deeper illness throughout our nation. Our society lacks holiness.
I do not personally know any of the players involved in the supreme court hearings. I have my opinions on the subject just like everyone else, but those opinions are based on very limited first-hand information. I can find numerous articles on the internet supporting one side or the other. Sadly, I no longer trust any of the media outlets. Hard news reporting is a thing of the past--if we ever really had it at all. Editorial statements and commentary usurp the factual details as the reporter tries to sway our thinking in one way or another. As noted after Hurricane Florence, even reporters covering the weather attempt to deceive us. They stand in ditches to make the flood waters seem deeper. They act like they are being blown over by forceful winds when someone appears in the background casually walking across the street. Our society lacks honesty.
In my nineteen years of ordained ministry, I have had the privilege to walk side-by-side with many individuals going through difficult stretches of life. This has included those who have been victims of sexual abuse. The pain is deep, and the healing process from such encounters can be quite long and painful. These recent proceedings have opened fresh wounds in many people recovering from traumatic experiences. I am sure that is especially the case for individuals associated with other high-profile allegations involving people at the highest office of our land. Our society lacks healing.
I have also known a few folks who have been falsely accused of sexual impropriety or other offenses. That is a horrendous experience as well. Damaging the reputation and good name of another person by falsely accusing them of a misdeed is extremely harmful. Even when the person is eventually found innocent, there is no turning back the clock and undoing the character assassination. Our society lacks integrity.
Subsequently, whether we believe the testimony of Christine Ford or not, some of the descriptive words used to label her are certainly not helpful to the conversation. Likewise, whether you believe the testimony of Brett Kavanaugh or not, the vile threats against him and his family certainly do not aid in seeking the objective facts. Our society lacks prudence.
The challenge in all of these proceedings is sifting through the political posturing in search of truth. The pursuit of power and money is evident time and time again among the political elites. How many of those involved in the proceedings are simply using these hearings as an opportunity to campaign for their next election? Our society lacks humility.
As we look at the symptoms of an ill society, how do we find the root cause and begin the process of healing and restoration? Many people speculate that it is already too late for America. Paul Harvey's warning in 1965 seems to be coming to fruition right before our eyes. Our society lacks wisdom.
www.youtube.com/watch?v=teZLqItvK-8 (Vivid images to enhance script)
www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGrWvrGDOXg (Includes transcript)
One question I have heard repeated lately is, "Why do men hurt women?" I would take that question to another level by asking, Why is there so much violence in our world?"
Why do we have so many wars?
Why is there so much violent crime? There were 1,026 people shot in Chicago during the summer (Memorial Day through Labor Day).
Why do we feel it is okay to hasten the death of some people through physician-assisted suicide? I did an internet search to see how many states now had approved this type of legislation. The first website offered for my perusal was entitled, "Death with Dignity." The language we use matters in regard to how we perceive some of these things.
Why do we feel it is okay to exterminate the lives of millions of children while they are in the womb? It really is not "pro-choice" for the baby.
Bottom line--our society lacks gratitude for the gift of life.
As I study the symptoms of our ailing society, I see a dire need for the theological virtues of faith, hope, and love if we have any chance of recovery. When the Son of Man returns, will he find any faith on earth? (See Luke 18:8) That question becomes more pertinent with each passing day. Our society lacks faith in God.
It is difficult to have hope when the world seems to be caving in around you. If we are placing our hope in government, our wealth, or simply in ourselves, we will surely be disappointed. Our society lacks hope in the omniscience of Almighty God.
Finally, why is it surprising to see so much immorality in our world? We have no sense of sin. Without a sense of right and wrong, it is difficult to love. We tend to be more focused on looking out for number one rather than serving, honoring, and respecting others. Our society lacks genuine love.
Sadly, the Church has failed to be a moral compass in many respects. We have lost credibility in our preaching and teaching due to these failings. This has hindered our ability to be a light shining in the darkness. Instead, this failure in leadership has contributed to the pain and suffering of many. Our Church lacks unity. ("Father, may they be one." See John 17:21)
My dear readers, healing for our nation and society begins with each one of us. Let us root out the sin in our own lives. Let us be people of prayer. Let us have reverential awe for God and a genuine respect for our neighbor. We may not be able to control what happens in Washington, DC, but we can control our own actions and behavior. Individually, we sometimes lack self-discipline.
My encouragement to you today is simply this. Be an authentic Christian! Be a saint!
It was another new experience last night for Margaret and I here on Hilton Head Island. We attended the fundraising gala for the Pregnancy Center & Clinic of the Low Country at Sea Pines Country Club. We shared a table with three other deacons and their wives. It was a great way to get to know my colleagues in ministry a little better and also contribute to a great cause. The story of the pregnancy center is truly remarkable.
There were many tempting items in the silent auction and even more enticing deals in the live auction. The generosity of of the attendees was outstanding. It was a fantastic evening.
I was a little late in catching the sunset over the marsh at the country club. I must be slipping because I am generally very diligent in looking for photo opportunities such as this. I'll try to be more punctual next time.
There are many things involved in relocating. Finding a new doctor is one component of that puzzle. As I have learned in the past, it can be a daunting task to find a doctor who is accepting new patients. Thankfully, I am making progress here on Hilton Head Island. I still need a primary care physician, but I have a cardiologist. That is a big first step.
The threat of a hurricane postponed a couple of tests I had scheduled, but we have since been able to complete them. Results came back today and good news from both of them. I am giving thanks to God for good health. Let's keep that ball rolling in the right direction. (Sitting on the beach is apparently great medicine.)
When was the last time you gave God thanks and praise for the gift of life? Even when times are tough, are we able to be grateful? I still struggle with giving praise during the hard times, but I keep trying. Thankfully, God has been patient with me.
Many thoughts ran through my mind when I looked at this photo. Most of those thoughts leaned toward a negative perception of what was happening. I have no idea whether or not that perception was accurate.
We observe things around us and we make certain assessments because of those observations. A pilot may look at this photo and have a very clear story to tell about what is going on at this point in the preparation process. Someone who is afraid of flying may think the pilot is looking for the parking brake release. Worse yet, he may looking for the instruction manual.
If you had to create a caption for the photo, what would it say?
(Example: "Wait. I lost my keys.")
Now, using this same photograph to describe your spiritual journey, create a caption for your pilgrimage of faith.
(Example: "Prepare for turbulence.")
A quiet walk is always a good time for prayer and reflection. I had the opportunity today to go for three walks. We are feeling just a little breeze from Hurricane Florence. Eventually our area looks to get a little bit of rain, but overall, we have enjoyed some nice days despite the dire warnings earlier in the week. While it was still warm and humid as I walked, the breeze made it definitely feel better than usual.
The Church celebrates the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows today. I can only imagine the anguish Mary must have felt as she watched her Son get betrayed, tortured, and crucified. The pain for her must have been immense. Reflecting upon this scene conjures up many thoughts in my mind. It is painfully clear to me that I have known quite a number of parents who have buried their children. They hold a common bond with Mary in that regard.
Many years ago when I was participating in a support group for families coping with life-threatening illnesses, I came to know many young people suffering from serious illnesses. Unfortunately, some of these battles were lost to the illness. Several people in their 20's did not make it. I celebrated my 26th birthday in the hospital, but eventually tests showed that I was cancer-free. I was one of the fortunate ones who survived.
Looking back, I can recall the anguish I saw in the eyes of my parents as they sat next to me in the hospital day after day (for 52 days--but who was counting?). It did not occur to me until years later that my parents were probably pondering whether or not they would be burying a second child. I had an older brother that I never met. He lived seven days and died on my mom's birthday. While that had happened many years earlier, I am certain that watching me go through surgery and months of chemotherapy treatments had to be difficult for them. Would they lose two of their four sons due to illness?
In ministry, I have walked with parents who have lost a child in a variety of ways. This has included deaths due to car accidents, illness, suicide, and even a homicide. Each tragedy brings waves of emotions. The heartache is deep and long-lasting.
Today's Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows reminds us that we do not suffer and grieve alone. The journey of life can sometimes be harsh and bring an immense amount of pain and grief. The age-old question resonates with me, "Why do good people suffer?" I don't know the answer to that question, but I try to keep walking in faith, hope, and love. It is clearly not easy to do that all the time. In my own pilgrimage of life, I have struggled day-by-day and even minute-by-minute seeking God's strength to endure the trials and tribulations of life. As I look at Mary's faith and trust in God, I am strengthened to continue on in my own journey of faith.
Due to living in South Carolina I could not make a trip to the Shrine of Our Lady of Sorrows in Starkenburg, Missouri today. However, I encourage my Missouri readers to do that sometime. It is a quiet place to reflect and pray. If you make a trip to the Hermann area for any of the many events held there, it is worth taking a little side trip to Starkenburg (Rhineland) on the way.
My photos today are not from a shrine. They were taken during my walk at Jarvis Creek Park on Hilton Head Island. This was my first visit to the park. The 0.85 mile paved path around the lake was beautiful. Although signs were posted in numerous locations directing visitors not to feed the alligators, I did not see any alligators. I did watch carefully just in case. I don't want to make the news because I encountered an alligator too abruptly.
What sorrows do you need to place at the foot of the cross today?
A break from the perpetual coverage of the hurricane is needed. Today we celebrate one of my favorite feast days--the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross. It has been a long time since we celebrated the Paschal Triduum, and Good Friday in particular. This annual reminder in September that Jesus has conquered even death itself can be a good boost to our spiritual life. As I prayed the Liturgy of the Hours this morning, I felt a great sense of calm. While the uncertainty of what the hurricane would bring has weighed on our minds this week, today's feast reminds us to keep things in perspective.
The liturgical color for today is red. Do you know why?
Tomorrow (Saturday, September 15) we celebrate the Memorial of Our Lady of Sorrows. The liturgical color for tomorrow is white. Do you know why?
It is appropriate that these celebrations fall back to back. It gives us great food for thought, prayer, and meditation.
An evacuation order had originally been given for Beaufort County but was later lifted. As the uncertainty of the storm path continues, and the concern about lingering effects of an immense amount of rain and storm surge grows, I am starting to think it may have been better to leave. The 24 hours of news coverage is helpful in some ways, but it is also an avenue of increasing one's anxiety level.
We took a break from the nonstop weather updates yesterday and went to Coligny Beach briefly. Since the visitors are gone and many residents evacuated when the original order was given, it has alleviated congestion throughout the island. It was a beautiful day yesterday.
The clouds are beginning to move in today. A few rumbles of thunder can be heard in the distance. As the week progresses more decisions will need to be made about what to do and when to do it. The uncertainty of the storm makes it difficult to determine the best plan of action. I do not envy the governor and all the emergency management leaders who are having to make some tough decisions with flexible information at their disposal.
Please keep the people of the East Coast in your prayers. We are looking at days and days of difficult circumstances.
Coligny Beach, Hilton Head Island, South Carolina on September 11, 2018
Weather forecasters are able to give plenty of advance notice about an approaching hurricane, but determining the exact path of the storm is not quite a precise endeavor. The governor of South Carolina had issued a mandatory evacuation order for our county yesterday. As the storm tracks northward, we received a reprieve today from the evacuation order. We are able to stay in place.
While we are out of the direct path of the storm, I realize that many others are not as fortunate. This looks to be quite a lengthy event for many, many people. I understand the anxiety a little more clearly now after a couple of days of anticipating the worst here in our own locale. My thoughts and prayers for all those bracing and preparing for the hit.
We also remember 9/11 today. Just saying those two numbers brings up vivid memories and images for people all across the country and even the world. On the other hand, 17 years have now come and gone since that horrendous day. The younger generation does not know this event from first-hand experience. I sometimes wonder what they are taught when this subject is covered in school. What type of perspective is presented as details about the day are shared? How does this event impact the next generation of political leaders?
It seems that there are never any shortages of difficulties and challenges in life to get our attention. Let us be people of prayer always seeking to build up the Kingdom of God.
The words of today's first reading from the prophet Isaiah seem quite appropriate as the east coast watches the track of Florence. "Be strong, fear not!"
The beauty of the ocean is evident. The power of the ocean will also be evident as the storm approaches landfall later in the week.
I went to the beach for a little while last night to spend some time in quiet. While the number of tourists seems to have subsided a little, there were still plenty of people at the beach. I did not quite get the solitude I was seeking. One article I read recently said that summer now starts for the locals since Labor Day has passed. That appeared to be the case yesterday evening. Many people were out enjoying the calm before the storm.
Today's Gospel draws to a conclusion with a powerful statement made about Jesus. "He has done all things well." What does that mean for us today?
As the waves grow in size and intensity over the next few days in the Atlantic, the story about Jesus sleeping in the boat while a storm was raging becomes crystal clear. I can understand the apprehension of the disciples in such circumstances. That particular Bible story suddenly has a new and different appeal to me.
"Praise the Lord my soul."
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