“Walk toward the fire. Don’t worry about what they call you. All those things are said against you because they want to stop you in your tracks. But if you keep going, you’re sending a message to people who are rooting for you, who are agreeing with you. The message is that they can do it, too.”
I have long felt that life is like a series of links in a chain. You might be driving down the road and you hear a song on the radio, or see a picture, and you feel a memory…. Something that reminds you of a different time and place than where you are right now.
The memories remind you of a totally different time in your life. Perhaps you lived in a different place. Perhaps you were surrounded by different people. Perhaps a different job or completely different friends.
Our reflection recognizes those memories like frozen moments in time. They become individual links in the chain in our life.
We never actually realize, in the immediate moment, when one link closes and another link begins. But when we look back, we can clearly see distinct points where things changed, the link closed, and a new link began. The links are only visible in reflection.
At the point where the links are joined we carry parts of the previous link forward to the next. For many people those connections are bonded by family, or very strong life long relationships. Connections which continue beyond our geographic moments, jobs or temporary acquaintances.
But for everyone, the primary bonding agent brought forward from one link to the next is ourselves, our center, our values and core principles. Our beliefs.
The strength of the steel which comprises the links of our life is determined by forging in the fire of adversity, weakness, challenge, pain, loss, and painful growth. The steel is then cooled with the tears of triumph, hurdles overcome and resolve.
The forging makes the steel stronger and able to withstand the pressures that accompany the additional length. Slowly the chain becomes wiser as it lengthens. Able to reach further, form more significant benefits and become more useful.
Hope replaces fear. Love replaces loneliness. Success replaces adversity. These are successful links began and finished while contributing to the whole.
At times we may manipulate the links with avoidance. We hide from -or choose to avoid- an issue in our effort to begin a new link before the old one was naturally, and spiritually, prepared to be closed. Eventually as life continues, and the chain lengthens, the weak link can fracture and we are forced to revisit/repair what we originally chose to avoid.
You see, in life we cannot control the universal laws that guide us. So if we manipulate circumstances to avoid confronting our own weakness, we cannot fully strengthen our life of links. Eventually, the weakness of our past will impact our future.
So what do we carry from link to link? What core values and beliefs stay with us throughout the journey of our lives? The answers to these questions are what makes us human spiritual beings.
We possess freewill able to make choices about what we do, and how we define our individual humanity; but can we then define ’right’ and ‘wrong’ according to our individual principles? Or are there principles that exceed our influence and definition?
Are there natural laws of right and wrong, good and bad, that cannot be subjected to the determination of man? These are the bigger questions, perhaps the more important questions, and yet perhaps the ones we reflect upon the least.
A student can skip class, take few notes, pay only half attention, then stay up all night cramming for a test and manage a decent grade. It depends on the students goal: grades or learning.
The student can choose to manipulate the education by avoiding the learning and capturing the grade. This is possible in the ‘Law of the School’.
However, a farmer cannot take short cuts. A farmer cannot avoid tending to the soil, preparing the seed, fertilizing and nurturing the crop, and still gain benefit of an abundant harvest. The farmer must necessarily do all of the appropriate work in order to benefit from it. Such is the ‘Law of the Farm’, the natural law.
When one considers the weakness remaining within a poorly constructed and manipulated link, perhaps established by selfish choices and driven by avoidance and fear, one can be faithfully be assured those who have dealt dishonestly with us will have to visit the issues of their association again. Conversely, no amount of manipulation or avoidance on our own behalf is going to improve the frailty of any link without first resolving the lack of character which created the weakness.
So we have choices in our lives. Decisions we each make regarding how we interact, and participate in the lives and links of others; as well as how we choose to construct the links that compromise our own lives. Do we base our sense of purpose around natural principles? Principles based on natural laws of right and wrong, good and bad, truth and lies.
Do we forge strong links based on following our heart, our values? If we can interact with others absent of a prideful self-driven agenda, or manipulative intent, we can then apply such principles and strength to our endeavors.
If we fertilize and cherish our crop, and the crop of our neighbor, with honesty and sincere appreciation for the souls we meet along our chosen path, we will live a life of abundance.
If we tend carefully to the consideration of everyone, yet holding true to our values and principles, we can strengthen ourselves amid the face of adversity and disenchantment.
If we do not hide from, nor ignore, our individual and collective faults, we can build the chain of our life with strength, humility, and purpose.
I wish for each of you the very best of life. A long chain of bold, strong, beautiful links, polished with the reflective brilliance of Love.
Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.
I will just copy here a portion of her letter to me.
My friend, Jack is the father of four sons… and at the end of an email about his sadness over the dismantling of the statues of Washington and Lincoln, he mentioned that he and his boys had just been listening to “The Ballad of Davy Crockett,” and then he commented that “pretty soon, they’ll come for that, too.”
They very well could.
It made me think….what if they come for it all—all of our stories and poems and songs and books and movies, but each one of us could save something….what would it be? (Like Dolly Madison saved the portrait of Washington from the burning White House).
So, I wonder if Treepers would contribute to an “American cultural treasure chest” by suggesting the title of a poem, story, book, movie, song, or even of a photo or painting that was an important part of his or her own growing up. I’d be glad to collect all the suggestions together into something Jack and other parents and grandparents could share with their children and grandchildren as a way of connecting them to American history and culture—through the eyes of ordinary American people.
I was just reading …“Casey at the bat,” and I would definitely save that. It was the first poem that ever made me cry. And the book my mother read to me over and over again when I was very little, “The Little Engine that Could.” And Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” And all of the Rogers and Hammerstein musicals. And “Gone With the Wind.”
I wonder what bits of your own cultural history you would save?
If people are planning to be with friends and family this 4th of July weekend, the question might be a great conversation starter.
So, I pass on this idea, and a few thoughts.
If it is worth saving, it is worth sharing, teaching, discussing, promoting. Lots of us are feeling that we should do something to stop the insanity going on in this country right now, but not sure exactly where to start or what to do.
At 62, with no real talents except cooking and pissing people off left and right, I have now reached the Don’t Give a Red Hot Damn stage in my life, and I feel I do not have a lot to lose in the battles to come, which for me have mostly been fought on social media. Should things escalate I would imagine that there are more than a few cantankerous old people who are also at that stage.
But I do have one other talent and ability, perhaps the most important of my life. I can teach, and I love to, although I am not a professional and have no degree in teaching. I have tutored my own and other kids along the way, and now I have grandchildren.
Those grandchildren will learn things from me. It is time I gave more thought to what exactly I want to spend time teaching them. Of course I have always had books here for them, and my eight year old granddaughter, who loves to read, just asked me to get some longer books to keep here for her. I bought Heidi and Swiss Family Robinson a few months ago. I also keep children’s religious stories and books, and since she had her First Holy Communion recently, a Bible for her, and some more advanced books dealing with her studies to prepare her for the Sacrament.
So, my point is this. Education and knowledge and influence are weapons and we have the ability to use them. I have a lot of time with my grandchildren, and today is the day to make a little more time for important things, and I don’t just mean books.
I’ve taught some of the kids some cooking basics, as well as started teaching them to bake breads. My husband is a genius at fixing any and everything, and a very good mechanic. He has always taken the time to answer the kids’ questions and let them help him with his projects, and fixing their own broken things.
What talents, skills, and knowledge can you pass on? I might even think about volunteering as a tutor in inner city schools. There are lots of places that people with good intent can pass on what we have to share.
Happy 4th of July Treepers!
Added note: Please read the post. There is a reason for it. It isn’t another post for political rage, sarcasm, anger, and insults. The Treeper who suggested this is going to compose a listing of all your ideas that might be shared. Do we have to make her sort through rants?
I’m an old man, but I will stand beside you and fight this fight until freedom and the American way win
Idon’t know if I am just barn sour from being locked down with the COVID 19 shutdown or I’m just getting old and crabby.
Since the Governor told us folks over the age of eighty to stay home until this virus thing improves, I have watched far more television than is good for any reasonable person.
As far as the news is concerned, I’ve found that watching it with the sound turned off is the only acceptable way. If you just watch the pictures and don’t have to listen to the biased announcers, you get a pretty good idea of what is going on.
This leaves the mind a lot of time to try and digest what is really happening in our country.
These old eyes have ridden this rock we call Earth, nearly 82 times around the sun. That time span has covered war and peace as well as everything in between. Our freedom has never been in a more perilous position than it is today.
You see, I remember working in Congress with patriotic, America loving Democrats. We certainly didn’t see eye to eye on most of the issues, but we had debates, discussions and compromise to work out our differences, not insurrection and violence. Many of us were good friends.
Today none of that is present. Instead we have hatred, gridlock and are a prime target for activists that want to turn our country into something we have always fought against around the world.
And that is what I am seeing just watching the pictures on TV with the sound off.
These are not peaceful demonstrators for Black Lives Matter. These are not people that have peaceful change in mind. They are Marxists, revolutionaries that are well funded, organized and hell bent on taking over our country.
No one has condemned the disfigurement and destruction of statues and other historic monuments. Companies have been shamed into changing logos and trademarks.
I’m not a fan of Rush Limbaugh. However, he is the first one with a national podium from which to preach that has come out with the truth.
This was a posting on Facebook attributed to Rush.
“Folks, this is not about the Confederacy. It’s not about slavery. It’s not about being offended by statues. That’s not what is happening here. What’s happening is a bunch of Marxists, under the guise of Black Lives Matter and Social Justice and whatever other groups are out there are literally trying to tear this country down, not insult it, tear it down, tear it apart, rip it apart.”
This begs the question, “When will anyone on the other side of this argument finally take a stand for freedom and America?”
It also begs the questions of what is happening on the Democrat side of the aisle. Their brand has been stolen and is being used for things that the Democrats I know and consider friends would never stand for.
Where are the Democrats that are real patriots?
Where are the Democrats that have worn a military uniform?
Where are the Democrats that have lost family members fighting in wars to protect this country?
Where are the Democrats that I used to debate serious issues with and then we went out to dinner together?
Where are the Democrats that love this country as much as I do?
Where are the Democrats whose children and grandchildren will be saddled just like mine with the enormous debt this country will have to pay?
Where are the Democrats I used to worship beside and praise God?
Where are the Democrats that will come forward and fight side by side with me to remove the anarchists, traitors and others on the dark far left side who are hellbent on destroying our country?
Where are the Democrats that will come forward and reclaim their good name?
I’m an old man, but I will stand beside you and fight this fight until freedom and the American way win.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
I was ten when I first heard about the magic ring. Mom and I were spending the afternoon at Grand Mum’s. She’s my mom’s mom. They were talking, and I was playing with Stephanie. She’s my Barbie, and she had just gotten home from work. I removed her business suit and dressed her in black jeans and a bright-yellow blouse. I was barefoot, so I let Stephanie be barefoot too. While I brushed her hair, she told me about her rotten day at the office.
“You wouldn’t believe what Mr. Davidson did today,” she said.
I bobbed my head in time with her words and made sympathetic noises as she told me about her boss. When she’d poured it all out, I told her my day had been no picnic. I patted her head and started to fix her a drink like Mom does for Dad when he comes home from work. It was then I heard the hushed tones grownups use when they don’t wish to be overheard by children.
“What ring?” I said.
They exchanged looks. “When you’re older,” Mom said.
I’d heard that line all my life. I looked at Grand Mum. She shook her head, smiled, and repeated Mom’s words. I could have whined, as I usually did to get my way, but I didn’t. There was something in Grand Mum’s eyes. Something that told me I was a party to their secret, but it was a secret I couldn’t yet understand. So, Stephanie dropped into her recliner, and I fixed her a bourbon on the rocks.
Time, and the aspects of growing up, dimmed all thought of the ring until the evening of my sixteenth birthday. That night Mom came to my bedroom carrying a small metal box. She closed the door before crossing to my bed and sitting at my side. Mom and I had always hugged, but that night she hugged me for an eternity—or so it seemed at the time.
I knew the best presents were always opened last, but in my opinion, Mom was pushing it. My birthday party had ended hours earlier. No matter. I grinned and said, “Another present?”
Special? I loved presents—-special or otherwise. I asked to see it.
“In a moment,” she said. “First, I must tell you the story that goes with it.”
Oh, Boy! I just knew Mom was building up to one of her birds-and-bees lectures. Without a doubt the box contained a diaphragm, a prescription for the pill, and a lifetime supply of condoms. “Mom, I’m sixteen. I’m not a baby. I know all about, you know, boys and stuff.”
She gave me another hug. “I want to talk to you about that too,” she said, “but this is different.”
Different? I scooted closer to her side.
“This box belonged to a great grandmother of ours. Her name was Danica.” Mom cradled the box on her lap and brushed her fingertips over its hammered-bronze finish. She appeared to be wrestling with an invisible force when she continued. “This grandmother from our past was not an American, she was a Romani born near Bucharest in 1855.”
Romanies were nomadic, non-Christian, and their lifestyle was looked down upon as unorthodox by the Christian Church. I knew that much from taking world history in high school. On the other hand, Mom, Grand Mum, and I were Christian and often attended church together. Was it this contrast between our faith and Great Grandmother Danica’s lack of it that was now troubling Mom? To the chance that it was, I said, “Mom, children have no say in where they are born.”
“Yes, but her place of birth was only a part of a larger problem.”
“I don’t understand.”
Mom shifted the bronze box on her lap. “It’s that she was raised in a culture far different than what we deal with today.”
“Like what? No TV? No Internet or email?”
Mom ignored my attempt at humor as she continued. “Much of the Romani lifestyle and culture in Danica’s time still persists today. One aspect of it was that any female not married by her fifteenth birthday was shunned by society and even her own family. Danica reached fifteen with no man in her life.”
I thought of the dorky boys at South Central High School. There wasn’t one I could name who could talk with a girl without staring at her boobs. “Lucky girl.”
“Lucky for you,” Mom said, “but not so lucky for Danica. She needed immediate help, and to get it she went to a gypsy.”
“A real gypsy?”
“Very real. The gypsy placed a ring on the third finger of Danica’s right hand. She was told not to remove the ring or to tell anyone where it came from. If she obeyed, a man would ask for her hand before the next new moon. She would marry him, but on her wedding night she must remove the ring and place it into this box. Her first born would be a daughter.”
Mom paused and stared at the box.
“Then,” she said, “when that daughter became a young woman, Danica was to explain the power of the ring and pass it on to her.”
“You’re putting me on, Mom.”
“Wait until I’m finished before you make up your mind.”
“So, what happened?”
“Before the next new moon, a Norseman, Vestar Sutherland, asked for her hand. That Danica had not married among her own by age fifteen was incredible. That she would marry someone outside her own was unthinkable.”
“So, she married the guy?”
“Oh, yes. They had several children, but their first born was Ericka.”
Mom opened the box. I saw a small, leather-bound book and a wide-band ring. The ring looked heavy and crudely made. It did not look magical. “What’s in the book?”
Mom placed it on my lap. “This was Danica’s diary,” she said.
I opened it. The handwriting was flowing loops and swirls and elegant to a fault, but I couldn’t read a word of it. “What language is this?”
“Romanian, but as you’ll see, Erika’s daughter, Denise, came to the United States around the turn of the century. Her entries, and all entries thereafter, are in English.”
I flipped through the pages. “Grand Mum’s name is in here! And so is . . . yours?” I paused and looked at Mom. “You wore the ring?”
Her face drained and her eyes began to water. In a whisper she said, “Yes, and the decision to do so has troubled me in the years since.”
I sat quietly alongside Mom and tried to imagine the discomfort she’d felt. What would I have done?
She brushed the backs of her hands over her eyes and gave me a weak smile. “I had dated and fallen in love with your father two years before he proposed marriage. During that time I prayed again and again that he felt as I did. But, in a moment of weakness, instead of standing on faith and the power of prayer, I wore the ring.”
Again, I wondered, what would I have done? With this unanswered question still in mind, I looked back at the diary and turned another page. “Oh, no! My name’s here too.”
“You’re my first born. But you also now know the history of Danica’s ring.”
I kept the box under my pillow for several nights before putting it in my hope chest alongside Stephanie. I figured she had as much use for the magic ring as I did.
That evening was eight years ago, and a few things have changed.
I opened my hope chest and reached for the tiny box. It was still sitting next to Stephanie. Both looked well despite their years of confinement. I carried the box to my desk, removed the diary, and read again through the entries of those who preceded the page bearing my name. Except for Danica and her daughter, whose entries were in Romanian, the approximate age and the reasoning expressed in each woman’s entry were essentially the same. That is, by their late teens they had found the love of their life and were hoping the ring’s power would ensure the union they deeply wanted.
These repetitive entries had not fully made sense when first reviewed when I was sixteen. I’d told mom I already knew about boys and stuff. In truth, though, my only experience with love had been the immature feeling best known as puppy love.
The items before me on the desk were my King James Bible, the ring Danica had first worn, and her diary now opened to the page bearing my name. Currently, I was a senior at Florida State University, 24 years of age, home on spring break, and, for the last two years, I’d been dating someone I genuinely cared for. Mom had held place in a similar situation concerning my dad. When she had told me about this, I wondered what I would have done in her place.
Spring break was now over, and I’d return to campus tomorrow. Soon thereafter I would graduate with my degree in accounting. Was marriage in my future? If so, would I have children of my own? Or, would I move on and find place in the business world? Another glance at my desktop gave the clear answer I sought.
I pulled Danica’s diary closer and picked up my pen.
These words will never reach you, yet I feel a duty to append the final entry to your diary. I harbor no disrespect of you, your use of the ring, or for any of those who followed in your wake. I admit to desires for my life, but unlike you and those others, my path to all future things will be guided by the supreme power of our Lord as promised in Proverbs 3:6 “In all thy ways acknowledge Him, and He will direct thy paths.”
With understanding love,
A divine feeling of comfort embraced me as I returned the ring and Danica’s diary to the small metal box and replaced it in my hope chest alongside Stephanie. What prompted this special feeling? I believed 1 Corinthians 13:11 explained it well.
“When I was a child, I spoke and thought and reasoned as a child. But when I grew up, I put away childish things.”
“I am with you always”
Now that the masses have been shut out from all churches, it is more important than ever to pray.
Praying is really the only way to stay in touch with the Creator.
It’s dispiriting and depressing that after three long months of shuttered churches to have authorities re-opening them to only 30% of their original congregational capacity—a move destined to make those wanting to return to church service feeling guilty of queue-jumping.
But in this sad time of massive human longing, the Almighty still lives in the hearts of the faithful.
During this long lasting church shutdown, brought on by the coronavirus pandemic, I keep traveling back in memory to Christmas Eve, 2019.
It was just a few minutes before Midnight, Rome time, on Christmas Eve when I emailed historian, journalist and ‘Face of God’ author Paul Badde, before traveling to Midnight Mass in another town, the only one available within driving distance from the small town where I live :
“Sending wishes for a Blessed and Merry Christmas to my favourite writer!
“More than 15,000 people—and still counting—have viewed your wonderful video:‘Paul Badde: The Holy Face of Jesus the Veil of Manoppello’ on CFP’s front page. I regard it as our news site’s most cherished item.
“Will be saying fervent prayers for you at tonight’s Tridentine Midnight Mass.”
His response literally made my now seeming so long ago Christmas Eve, 2019:
“Embraces my dear Judi right from St. Peter’s Midnight Mass and Love Paul!”
Had anyone ever tried to tell me back then that within only three short months all churches would be closed, I wouldn’t have believed them.
Who could ever believe that all churches, worldwide would be shut down by Holy Week—including Easter Sunday?
These past months of lockdowns have proven that we can no longer take going to worship God Almighty at church for granted. Yet the salvation of our immortal souls depends on taking the existence of our Savior Jesus Christ for granted; something that will always be there no matter how long authorities keep our churches closed.
As we remain confined to our homes, forces are transforming the world to a godless totalitarian state.
Only prayer can save us from what they have planned for us
Adding to our worries, with most now living on government financial support, there are too few jobs available as governments ease in Phase II of the return to work in the Time of Coronavirus.
It was on one of those long, lonely, Canadian Winter nights back in 2012 when, out of the blue, I first Googled, “Face of God”. My search took me to Badde’s The Holy Veil of Manoppello: The Human Face of God—which turned out to be the best book I ever read.
On Dec. 22, 2014 Canada Free Press uploaded a YouTube, ‘Paul Badde: The Holy Face of Jesus: The Veil of Manoppello, to its front page.
As of this writing, the Badde-produced video has over 19,000 views and still growing. Somewhat miraculously, Google has never taken the video down.
I meant every word when I wrote to Badde on Christmas Eve: that I regard his video as our news site’s “most cherished item” and take heart that people are still finding it on CFP’s cover.
Today we celebrate Corpus Christi, the Body and Blood of Christ, with most churches still closed or restricting attendance to only 30%.
Why do I take heart that people are still finding the Paul Badde video some six years after it first went up?
Because one way or the other, millions, worldwide, keep searching for our Savior’s Blessed Face. And most likely always will.
“I am with you always”-Matthew 28.20.