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Pursuing the Truth: New Year 2016

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Friends of Padre Steve’s World

Marcus Aurelius wrote, “If someone is able to show me that what I think or do is not right, I will happily change, for I seek the truth, by which no one was ever truly harmed. It is the person who continues in his self-deception and ignorance who is harmed.”

Before I say anything else I just want to thank you for taking the time out of your schedule to read, comment and even share what I write. That matters to me and a good number of you have followed my writings for years. So I truly thank you from the bottom of my heart, and if you like what you see please comment and share with others.

As I get older I realize how valuable time is. There are few commodities that truly cannot be replaced or conserved, time is one that is always fleeting. As Dr. Suess said:

“How did it get so late so soon? It’s night before it’s afternoon. December is here before it’s June. My goodness how the time has flewn. How did it get so late so soon?”

That being said I am not a fan of New Year’s resolutions, in fact I generally don’t make any because frankly I think that most are a waste of time. However, I do not think that the pursuit of truth is a waste, and as Benjamin Disraeli noted so wisely; “Time is precious, but truth is more precious than time.”

To that end, as I did last year I am going to endeavor this year to commit myself to continue to seek truth and to speak truth, wherever that takes me. Truth matters to me. In my life I have seen so many lies, especially by political and religious leaders that I trusted that I now devote myself to the pursuit of truth. As Captain Jean Luc Picard told the young Cadet Wesley Crusher in Star Trek the Next Generation episode The First Duty: “the first duty of every Starfleet officer is to the truth, whether it’s scientific truth, historical truth or personnel truth…” 

So, I will continue to write, especially about historical subjects that have an impact today: civil rights and social justice, faith, military issues, PTSD and military health issues, the Middle East conflicts and a number of other topics. Of course I will write about baseball, which is often my refuge when things are too much for me and music. I may do more regarding music as I was asked to do an article for a journal about liturgical music, stress and resiliency.

I will continue to be as transparent as I can about my own struggles with PTSD and faith in the hopes that my journey will help others who struggle like me. In fact this was a major reason that I started this site back in February of 2009.

Expect more writing about the Battle of Gettysburg and the Civil War. I have a feeling that that is going to become a life work, even after I retire from the Navy. The American Civil War is so pertinent to who and what we are as a nation and the more I study it, the people, the issues and the ideologies involved I see many parallels with today; some of which are positively frightening. So expect a lot more about these subjects. In fact the Civil War is one in which debunked myths still hold sway over many, especially among the defenders of the Lost Cause who predominate the Christian Right.

In addition to that I expect to be going back to some of my older research and writing about the social, religious, political, and ideological dynamics of Weimar and Nazi Germany and how similar that are to some things going on now in our own country.

While lies are dangerous the myths can be more so, and the proliferation of lies, half-truths and myth have shriveled the brain cells of those who enjoy the comfort of opinion without the benefit of thought. President John F. Kennedy spoke of this in 1962, and his words are timely, especially when hordes of preachers, pundits and politicians, the Trinity of Evil, do this with abandon:

“The great enemy of truth is very often not the lie–deliberate, contrived and dishonest–but the myth–persistent, persuasive and unrealistic. Too often we hold fast to the clichés of our forebears. We subject all facts to a prefabricated set of interpretations. We enjoy the comfort of opinion without the discomfort of thought.” 

To do this I have to constantly challenge my own thoughts, beliefs, and opinions. So with that resolution I wish you a good day and a Happy New Year. Thank you for reading, sharing, commenting, and encouraging me. Until tomorrow.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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New Year 2014: Resolutions, Coffee and Donuts, The Mendoza Line and the Unknown Possibilities of Existence

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“New Year’s Day: Now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.” Mark Twain

New Year’s Day is typically one of the laziest days that I observe during the year and this year was no different. The reason for this is because I figure that there are another 364 days left in the year and I need to pace myself.

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Last night we were up a couple of hours after the ball fell in Times Square and thankfully our dogs Molly and Minnie let me sleep until eight-thirty. After I let them go out, take their morning constitutional and feed them breakfast I went back to bed and stayed there until after noon when Minnie told me in no uncertain terms that I needed to be up and that she needed another constitutional.

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After that it was time for a shower followed by a cup of coffee, and this morning in a fit of wild abandon I discovered that Krispy Kreme Chocolate Mini Donuts are great when dipped in coffee. It is amazing the chances I will take in a New Year, as Johann Wolfgang von Goethe said “Whatever you can do or dream you can, begin it. Boldness has genius, magic, and power in it.” But I digress.

Like I said yesterday I don’t do New Year resolutions. I find that I don’t do well with them and my reality is more in line with Mark Twain who so rightly observed:

“Yesterday, everybody smoked his last cigar, took his last drink and swore his last oath. Today, we are a pious and exemplary community. Thirty days from now, we shall have cast our reformation to the winds and gone to cutting our ancient shortcomings considerably shorter than ever.”

That doesn’t mean that I will not seek to improve myself or do better. As I have mentioned on numerous occasions I am not a “Hall of Famer” in the game of life, I am a “Mendoza Line” guy when it comes to doing life. For those unfamiliar with the Mendoza Line it is named after Mario Mendoza a shortstop for the Pittsburgh Pirates and other teams who was competent at defense but a marginal hitter, his batting average being just enough not to be sent to the minor leagues. The Mendoza Line is considered to be a batting average of .200 though Mendoza’s actual lifetime average was .215. Thus for me life is something that I manage to muddle through and if I do well I might muddle through a bit better than I have before.

That being said I do have some goals this year. I want to become a great teacher of Ethics and Military History and get started on a Ph.D. so that whenever I retire from the Navy I can be competitive in teaching at the college and university level. I want to get started on a book this year and maybe even find a publisher and I hope that a major media or commentary site will start publishing some of my blog articles.  So if you know someone that can help in that last category please give me a shout out.

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Other things I want to do apart from work and education. I want to make a trip to England, Ireland and Scotland with Judy this year. I want to go to a lot of Norfolk Tides baseball games at Harbor Park, see a Orioles game at Camden Yards, and maybe if possible see a game at Fenway Park or Wrigley Field.

On a personal level I want to see more improvement in my PTSD recovery, to sleep better without nightmares and night terrors, to not be as anxious in crowded places or in bad traffic and to develop some better spiritual disciplines. Those are all things I have struggled with since coming back from Iraq and though I am have been doing better over the past year I want to see some more marked improvements in each area this year.

Likewise I want to be better at caring for those in my life, family, friends and those that I work with and those that I will teach and those who read this website.

Of course none of us know what the future brings, but thankful to paraphrase Abraham Lincoln “the future only comes one day at a time” so we should be good.

So a New Year is a hand, 364 more days in it and lots of possibilities. The past is now past, and though the past may still be with us and influence the present it does not have to bind us in its icy grip.

The new year presents me, and maybe all of us the chance to look at possibilities that we never imagined, to accept the past and all that is part of it without being trapped by it. It is as the entity Q told Captain Jean Luc Picard in the Star Trek the Next Generation episode Tapestry:

Captain Picard: I sincerely hope that this is the last time that I find myself here. 

Q: You just don’t get it, do you, Jean-Luc? The trial never ends. We wanted to see if you had the ability to expand your mind and your horizons. And for one brief moment, you did. 

Captain Picard: When I realized the paradox. 

Q: Exactly. For that one fraction of a second, you were open to options you had never considered. That is the exploration that awaits you. Not mapping stars and studying nebulae, but charting the unknown possibilities of existence. 

Our trials will not end in the coming year. However, if we open ourselves to new possibilities and to options that we never before considered we just might find that at the end of 2014 things might go better. Even more important we might be different, better or changed. As T.S. Elliott wrote: “For last year’s words belong to last year’s language and next year’s words await another voice.”

Peace

Padre Steve+

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The Future Ain’t What it Used to Be: Happy End of the Old Year and a Better New Year

Happy New Year (Art by Judy) 

“The best thing about the future is that it comes one day at a time.”  Abraham Lincoln

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3Uo0JAUWijM 

Well finally we come to the end of the year 2011.  That being said we can say that it was definitely a year. It was a year filled with days which were filled with hours which were filled with minutes, seconds and nanoseconds.  It was a year of triumph and tragedy that filled the hearts of many with fear and unease.  At the same time it is now in the past. It cannot be relieved or changed but we can take the time to learn from it and hopefully build a better future.

2011 like all of the past will be remembered and written about by historians, theologians journalists and philosophers and most will place their own interpretation on it and then go on to surmise the future.  I do not presume to be that smart until someone starts paying me to make such learned prognostications.  However the future is unknown and even Jesus warned us “that we do not know what tomorrow brings.”

I am a historian and I study history.  I think that we have to learn from the past in order to be ready for the future. But the future is unknown and often uncharted.  Thus we should as George Patton said  “Prepare for the unknown by studying how others in the past have coped with the unforeseeable and the unpredictable.” That really is the reason I study history, not so we have a laundry list of facts events and dates that I can use to prove my point but rather to see how people and nations dealt with things that they either could not or did not foresee. Human nature doesn’t change and while circumstances and technology may change the way people deal with unforeseeable events can help us navigate future difficulties. It is not a guarantee but it is a help.

Dallas Maverick’s owner Mark Cuban wrote today that “None of us are born into the world we live in.”  That is so true because we are all born at a moment in time and the world is always changing and changing is ways that will always surprise us. Maybe not some of the events themselves, but the players that make things happen, the places that they happen and the speed of which they happen.  Time stands still for no person.

Though the future is yet to be written though people of faith place the future in the hands of God we cannot erase the past and go back to some point in time where our interpretation of history says that things were better. Such thinking is pure fantasy and is  quite delusional.  Golda Meir said “One cannot and must not try to erase the past merely because it does not fit the present.” Unfortunately most politicians and pundits do not understand this as George Orwell so poignantly noted “All political thinking for years past has been vitiated in the same way. People can foresee the future only when it coincides with their own wishes, and the most grossly obvious facts can be ignored when they are unwelcome.”

For me 2011 was a year of growth and learning.  I made plenty of mistakes but hopefully have learned from them. I though about resolutions for 2012. The ones that came to my mind in my first draft of this post were so sickeningly altruistic that I had to delete them. I thought that there was no way that I could make it through New Year’s Day if without totally screwing them up. So my resolution this year is to go out every day, do my best and try not to screw things up too badly.  It is the same attitude that I have playing baseball or softball.  Why not apply it to the rest of my life.

All this being said I think that the wisest thing ever said about the future was by Yogi Berra who wisely remarked “The future ain’t what it used to be.” But then was it ever what it used to be?

Blessings my friends, Happy end of the Old Year and all the best for the New Year!

Peace

Padre Steve+

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Filed under faith, History, Loose thoughts and musings

New Year’s Resolutions and the Problem of Forgiveness

 

“New Year’s Day… now is the accepted time to make your regular annual good resolutions. Next week you can begin paving hell with them as usual.”  Mark Twain

I don’t do New Year’s resolutions well.  Usually mine are not worth the time to make them. However this year I am resolving the make a couple of resolutions that actually are resolvable it real time which I actually stand a chance at keeping.  Well….at least I hope that I can keep most of them, one will be tougher than the others.

The first of these resolutions is to make sure that I am within my weight and body fat standards for the Navy. This is doable and if I don’t do it I could get put out of the Navy and never see the rank of Commander that I worked so hard to be selected. The big test of this is the middle of April and I will make sure this happens and once I meet the standards in April the goal is to keep them and get in even better shape the rest of the year.  Thus I resolve to lose the weight and body fat while keeping it off and getting in great shape. P-90X here I come.

The second resolution is to do everything that I can as a supervisory chaplain to set my co-laborers up for success and to care for the spiritual and human needs our hospital staff as well the Marines, Sailors and their families that come to our hospital for their medical care. I am blessed to have a great staff and a supportive administration so this should be a pretty resolvable resolution.

My third resolution is to continue to rebuild my spiritual life both in daily spiritual disciples and in relationships with God and all the people that God puts in my path.  The past few years have taken a lot out of me and the past year has been a year in which faith returned after living life as for all practical matters an agnostic after I returned from Iraq.

At the same time I still have issues that I struggle with. One of those is on forgiveness. However when people make nasty attacks on me I struggle to forgive. I am rather earthy and certainly cannot be mistaken for a real saint as I have far too many rough edges to think too much of myself in regard to “how good of Christian I am.”  I have to leave that to judgment God and others.  I remember my first confession when I asked the Priest hearing the confession “if they deserved it is it still a sin?” I was told that my actions were still sins even if they deserved it although there might be some mitigation.  I think that my response was “damn.”

A rather nasty attack on me occurred on a website run by people that have left the CEC that had posted my essay about leaving the CEC on their site.  The comment has since been removed as the site administrator.  When I contacted this person he was shocked that was on the site and removed it and apologized to me a number of times and provided me the text of the offending comment.  The weird thing is was that I would have never read the comment if a CEC Bishop had not asked me to go to the site to defend him when the attack was on me.

The comments made about me were typical of much of my experience in the denomination. The person who was quite obviously a CEC clergyman twisted my words and accused me being an apostate. He accused me of “posturing” and denying need for the work of Christ to forgive the sins of humankind especially in regard to homosexuals and Moslems.

In fact these are some of his words: “Fr. Steve now believes that it was unnecessary for Jesus to atone for our sins as even Muslims can obtain Heaven without the Cross. And hasn’t God repeatedly taught us throughout Scripture that homosexual sex is condemned as an abomination. Yet Fr Steve now believes God didn’t really say that at all and that gay sex is okay with God.” My crime is to believe that the grace of God can extend to anyone and the Blood of Christ is sufficient to save anyone.

To put my beliefs and words about this I quote from one of the keynote documents of the Second Vatican Council.  It is a long quote but obviously my critic is clueless and readers unfamiliar with my writings could take what he wrote at face value and agree with him thus I quote from The Dogmatic Constitution of the Church Lumen Gentium paragraph 16:

16. Finally, those who have not yet received the Gospel are related in various ways to the people of God.(18*) In the first place we must recall the people to whom the testament and the promises were given and from whom Christ was born according to the flesh.(125) On account of their fathers this people remains most dear to God, for God does not repent of the gifts He makes nor of the calls He issues.(126) But the plan of salvation also includes those who acknowledge the Creator. In the first place amongst these there are the Mohammedans, who, professing to hold the faith of Abraham, along with us adore the one and merciful God, who on the last day will judge mankind. Nor is God far distant from those who in shadows and images seek the unknown God, for it is He who gives to all men life and breath and all things,(127) and as Saviour wills that all men be saved.(128) Those also can attain to salvation who through no fault of their own do not know the Gospel of Christ or His Church, yet sincerely seek God and moved by grace strive by their deeds to do His will as it is known to them through the dictates of conscience.(19*) Nor does Divine Providence deny the helps necessary for salvation to those who, without blame on their part, have not yet arrived at an explicit knowledge of God and with His grace strive to live a good life. Whatever good or truth is found amongst them is looked upon by the Church as a preparation for the Gospel.(20*) She knows that it is given by Him who enlightens all men so that they may finally have life. But often men, deceived by the Evil One, have become vain in their reasonings and have exchanged the truth of God for a lie, serving the creature rather than the Creator.(129) Or some there are who, living and dying in this world without God, are exposed to final despair. Wherefore to promote the glory of God and procure the salvation of all of these, and mindful of the command of the Lord, “Preach the Gospel to every creature”, (130) the Church fosters the missions with care and attention.

I may be a moderate to liberal on some social issues and be more inclined to err of the side of the grace of God when it comes to people that many conservative Christians demean and damn to hell but I don’t deny the Creeds and my beliefs are those espoused in the documents of Vatican II and the Encyclicals of Pope John Paul II.  Personally I think that puts me in some pretty good company as far as my orthodoxy and Catholicity are concerned but there are some in the CEC that like to twist words and beliefs to demonize those that have left that church.  In fact when I was in the church I was attacked and even silenced for being “too Catholic.”  At the same time I was one of the most stalwart defenders of the CEC Church leadership despite how I had been treated by some Church leaders and not defended by others that should have defended me. I understand the pathological needs of those that make such spurious and cowardly attacks under the cloak of anonymity I have a terrible time forgiving them.  I don’t hide who I am or what I believe I expect that anyone that claims to be a Christian minister would have the decency to contact me personally rather than take the low road and do a drive by hit on me on another site. This process will be terribly hard and I will endeavor to forgive and get beyond it but I know my nature.  I am one of those old fashioned people that believe in honest and open dialogue and have a concept of personal honor.  This will require a lot of work and prayer and I will need your prayers to do this.

So there they are. As you can see some resolutions will take some work but I should be able to accomplish them. The last resolution regarding forgiveness will probably take a lot of struggle. Since I presume that the aforementioned coward and those like him will take other pot shots at me my wound will probably remain fresh as much as I want to leave it this part of my life behind.

I appreciate your prayers for me in the coming year. So many people have been so encouraging to me on this website in so many ways since I began the site in February of 2009.  I am so grateful for all of you and give thanks to God for all the love and care that so many readers have shown to me over the past two years.  I pray that you will know the love, peace and blessing of the Incarnate God in the coming year and covet your prayers that I will be able to do the same.

Peace

Padre Steve+

 

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New Year’s Resolutions: Is the Resolution Resolutionable?

Let’s Make New Years’s Resolutions Resolutionable the Year!

One of the traditions common with the advent of a new year is the resolution. Typically people will resolve to do something different to improve their lives, such as losing weight, starting an exercise program getting out of debt, having a child, getting a better job, having cosmetic surgery, finding a new love, ditching their old love, founding a new religion and fleecing the flock and a million other laudable goals.  The key question that one must ask when making a resolution is “Is the stupid thing resolutionable?“

You probably are asking “just what the hell is resolutionable?”  Well, I figured that and here is Padre Steve’s test of what is a “resolutionable New Year’s Resolution.” Resolutionable to put in the vernacular is simply a combination of various factors to see if a resolution has a bat’s chance in hell of succeeding.

Question One: The first question that you have to ask yourself is “Will this be good for me?”  If yes give yourself 5 points. If the answer is no subtract 10 points immediately and ask yourself if you are merely stupid or have forgotten to take your anti-psychotic meds.  Obviously if it is not good for you it is not wise.  However it is a free country so no one can stop you from being an idiot unless they get a court order which is unlikely.  Since you are free to do something bad for you and because it is a free country you can continue to take the test to see if you can recover.

Score for this Question: _______

Question two:  Is it reasonably attainable? Is it something that a reasonable person maybe even a coldly logical dispassionate and neutral observer would agree with you is attainable.  Frequently such people are either known as Vulcans or Assholes, on earth most are the latter, but they can be counted on to tell the truth.  For example, you resolve to lose weight.  You weigh 200 pounds, your ideal weight is 180 and you have no health conditions that would harm you if you attempt to lose the weight.  If so a coldly logical, dispassionate person would probably say that this is reasonable.  Now conversely if you weigh 900 pounds and have to have Dick Gregory talk you into having a construction crew knock a hole in your apartment wall to have a crew of firemen with a forklift get you out and want to lose weight, any weight it is unlikely that you will succeed and that it is an unattainable goal unless a plastic surgeon takes a shop vacuum to you.  If it is reasonably attainable give yourself 5 points. If not give yourself nothing, nothing ventured nothing lost.  I hope that wasn’t too harsh.

Score for this Question: _______

Question Three: Does success depend on someone else helping you?  If “yes” subtract 5 points as most people are unreliable, get over it.  If “no” give yourself 10 points because you are at least trying to take control of your destiny. If you are depending on God to make it happen for you subtract 10 points because regardless of what you answered before. Nothing against God, I’m work for him and am a big fan, but you want a miracle and those are rare. Try Miracle Whip instead. To be resolutionable you have to be doing the work, otherwise it’s like cheating.

Score for this Question: ________

Question Four:  Will it cost money or involve significant amounts of time? If it does there is a decent chance that you might actually follow through on it especially if it is a decent chunk of change and not tied up in some crappy piece of exercise gear.  If it does not cost money there is a decent chance that you won’t follow through on it, after all you have made no investment in it and have little motivation, unless your career, a significant relationship or life is at stake.  If the answer is yes give yourself 5 points.  If the answer is “no” and your career, significant relationship or life is not at stake you get nothing.   If your career, significant relationship or life is at stake give yourself 5 points.  If it costs a significant chunk of change or a significant threat to your career, significant relationship or life is at stake give yourself 10 points.  There is nothing like necessity to motivate you to actually stay with the program.

Score for this question: _______

Question 5: Will doing this benefit others?  If it will give yourself 5 charity points, if not take nothing, if it will hurt someone and you know it subtract 50 points because you are probably going to Hell for even entertaining such an idea.

Score for this Question: ______

Now add your points.

If you score 25 or higher your resolution is definitely resolutionable and should by all means be pursued.

If you got greater than 15 but less than 25 your resolution might be resolutionable and has a chance even if not the greatest.

If you got more than 5 but fewer than 15 points you might want to think about another resolution.

If you got less than 5 and since no question is worth less than 5 points you got 0, unless of course you got a bunch of those negative points.  Such resolutions are bound to fail so try something use.

So this year I am going to resolve to lose 20 pounds.

Will this be good for me? Yes. Score 5 points.

Is this reasonable?  Yes since I gained 25 pounds over the summer I should be able to do this. It will happen because I am no longer eating 4-6 Krispy Kreme hot and fresh glazed doughnuts every night before bed and have no underlying medical problems eating health while engaged in a regular program of exercise this is reasonable.  Score 5 more for Padre Steve.

Does it depend on anyone else? Nope, Score 10 more for Padre Steve.

Does it involve a substantial amount of money or time?  Lots of time and as we all know time is money so score 5.  I get added points because if I don’t it could mess up by career and I have two much to lose by not losing the weight.  Score 10 more for Padre Steve.

Finally will it benefit others? Yes maybe not as much as me, but it will at least indirectly help others. Since I’m not greedy I won’t take the 5 charity points.

Padre Steve’s score:  35 which means that this New Year’s Resolution is resolutionable. See how easy that was?  Using this simple test we can all determine the likelihood of a New Year’s resolution succeeding, which if we bother to actually make one is the point right?  So let’s all resolve to make resolutionable New Year’s resolutions this year.

Now I know this isn’t the most pastoral carily way of putting this, but hey, whatever works right? Have a wonderful New Year.

Peace

Padre Steve+

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