Archive for May, 2011

Preparing for “The End”

May 21, 2011

There’s a preacher who’s caused a bit of a stir by declaring today, May 21st, 2011, as the day the Lord will return to earth.

I hope he’s right. 

I look forward to that Angel’s horn blowing from above myself.

Sadly, prognosticators like this man get criticism from both sides.

Christians–who know the Bible–realize Jesus said, “no one knows the day or hour of His return, only God the Father.”

Unbelievers revel–as they can claim–if he’s wrong–that all Christians are just as ignorant.

He’s not wrong yet, at least until midnight.

I like the controversy.

Why?

Not enough people, believers and unbelievers, think enough about their last hours on earth.

Today I’m writing this post from the road.

The large hotel I’m in, as part of a training exercise, is about to be inundated with SWAT and rescue personnel, practicing their response to a full-scale terrorism event.

Most people sitting around in the busy Boston lobby will ignore the signs that say “Police Training in Progress.”

As the officers begin shouting their commands, anyone in their path, just might think this is their last hour.

They’ll hear loud sirens and then see camouflaged members of an armed SWAT team racing in and out doors, as if the building has been overtaken by killer terrorists.

Ironically, as part of this exercise called Urban Shield, police officers will be critiqued and evaluated by other first-responder professionals, so they can grown from “lessons learned.”

I’m grateful for these selfless men who practice risking their lives.

The reason they do is all too obvious.

I’m even grateful for quirky ministers who just might cause a few lost sheep to look around for their shepherd.

Gut-checks are good.

It just may happen today in Boston for a few tourists.

Let the trumpet sound.

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My Aunt Evelyn–Whispering God’s Love

May 20, 2011

Today is a difficult day for so many of my dear cousins and my dad’s sister Janet.

There’s a memorial service in honor of Evelyn Massery Aziz in San Diego–my Aunt.

All of my father’s siblings are special in their own way. 

I’m proud to have known them all.

There was something very calming about Evelyn. 

I never heard her speak in a loud voice. 

Whenever I had the privilege of being with her, it always seemed to me that her tone was just a hair above a whisper…as if she’d just returned from a long session with The Almighty and was overwhelmed by His greatness.

There was a real and aromatic texture of divine Love in that voice too…confirming my hunch.

Maybe she was at His Throne?

That’s where Saints often dwell.

I’ll always be grateful for the time, nearly four weeks, she spent with my family in Massachusetts, during my dad’s last days on earth.  

She was a solid rock of love, encouraging and consoling, and I know that my mom leaned heavily on her for emotional support

Dear Umti Janet and dearest Cousins Louis, Becky, Janet-Marie, Jimmy, Mike and Sandy….please accept my sincerest and deepest sympathathies for this loss of your best friend.

No matter how old a loved one is, it’s always very difficult to let them go…especially when their heart is so tightly connected to your very own…beating in sync–supernaturally–with every up and down that you experience.

Just know that through the Communion of Saints, in which we believe, she’s closer to you now than she was in life. 

She is at your side, redirecting The Almighty’s favor and blessings your way.

She can hear your whispers.

Habibti Evelyn.

I Am What I Am–Jesus and Popeye

May 19, 2011

Forgive me if any of this sounds disrespectful.

I knew one day I’d get around to this.

Please give me a chance to make my point.

In today’s reading from Acts 13, the writer uses alliteration, repeating the letters “J” and “P.”

From Paphos, Paul and his companions
set sail and arrived at Perga in Pamphylia.
But John left them and returned to Jerusalem.
They continued on from Perga and reached Antioch in Pisidia.

There’s no way to know if this was a deliberate use of alliteration, or just an accident.

What’s relevant is that when it is, and, used properly, it provides emphasis to help the reader stay connected.

Today’s Gospel reading from John 13, retells Jesus’ most common claim about Himself.

From now on I am telling you before it happens,
so that when it happens you may believe that I AM.

Jesus says the words “I AM” about Himself, twenty-seven times in the Gospels.

That’s no accident.

He later teaches that one must feast on His Flesh and drink His Blood in order to have eternal life.

Hard things to comprehend, but, as faithful Catholics and Christians, we know He cannot lie.

So…what’s up with the title of this blog?

My fondness for Popeye the Sailor was most likely because of the consistency.

Every episode always began showing the weaker, human side of the “one-eyed-runt.”

In the middle he’d say– “I am what I am and that’s all that I am.”

On cue, at the end, he’d eat his spinach and save the down trodden–usually Olive Oyl.

The pattern and re-use of the same basic structure of the story kept me and millions of other kids interested.

We knew something good would eventually turn out, but each episode had little trials and twists.

Jesus knew that to keep mankind interested He needed to convince us first Who He was.

That’s why He said “I AM” so often.

That’s why He performed miracles.

That’s why He gave us the Holy Spirit to live within, testifying from above.

So, the next time you receive Holy Communion, if you think of Popeye eating his spinach so he can take on the enemy–blame me.

I couldn’t resisk.

My Dad–the Self-Esteem Expert

May 18, 2011

I learned a great deal from my father about how to treat people.

One of his favorite sayings was– “timing is everything.”

There are certain times when we can lift up and edify the spirits of those around us in ways that can profoundly impact them.

Other times, those same attempts may be out-of-place.

One thing he taught me, (remember this is advice that applies to the 1940’s era) especially if one is out with a group of friends, is to be sure to ask all the girls for a dance, especially those most likely to be ignored.

The little attention we pay her gives her dignity upon which she can grow in confidence.

I thought of him this week, as a travel colleague and I went to the front desk of our hotel to ask for dining recommendations.

A stout woman behind the counter had a great deal to say.

In fact, she said it all twice, as she had a unique–full sentence–speech impediment.

Both my friend and I patiently waited for her to finish her many great points about where to dine.

Just before we left the front desk as I was walking away, I said.

Won’t you join us?

We’d love to have you as our date?

This dear woman turned red as a beet and gushed with joy.

Timing.

It’s so easy to take an immature approach at those less fortunate and walk away missing chances to lift them up.

There are hurting people in the world who don’t even have to fall to the ground to get dirty.

Many of them are on it in a prone position all day long.

If you want to be a better person, follow the advice of my dad.

Dance with everyone you meet.

Especially if the time is right.

The Boring Date–Cutting Aid to Pakistan

May 17, 2011

I had a small group of friends who I hung out with when I was in my early twenties.

One night this group saw me on a date with a young lady that I had met while roller skating.

They came over to me at a pub we frequented called Jasmine’s, when my date had gone to the ladies room.

One of them said to me–very quietly;

Jim…I have never seen you look so bored.

How did he know.

It was true, I was bored and in spite of my date’s pleasant demeanor, there was simply no chemistry.

The look on my face told the story in my heart.

I was doing one thing, but thinking another.

As we sit and listen to the Pakistani Government insist they had no idea where Osama Bin Laden was, it makes me wonder, who are they trying to throw under the bus?

I know many Pakistanis.

Most are doctors, or electrical engineers, or tech support people on the other end of a phone call fixing my computer.

Chances are good they were named Raj and dominated any problem in their path.

It’s hard to accept that this super intelligent people is sincerely not smart enough to have seen Bin Laden in their country.

That’s almost like Bill Clinton saying–he never noticed attractive interns until Monica came along.

Here’s the bottom line.

America must withhold its aid to Pakistan for at least one year.

The $3 billion we save can be put toward our burgeoning deficit and the lesson they learn will finally have teeth in it.

It’s time to stop pretending we want to be on a romantic date with them.

The chemistry is just not there.

Especially when the dinner bill is so high.

Morality–Internal vs. External

May 16, 2011

We had house guests over the weekend.

Not sure what book on tape they listened to on their voyage to Massachusetts, but it had something to do with perspective on U.S. History.

The author, as it was explained to me, tried to give both sides of 9/11, so that Americans could better understand what motivates Al Qaeda to hate us.

We don’t have to agree, but it pays to know your enemy.

Another point was the difference between conservatives and liberals, as they consider morality.

For the conservative, morality is external–black and white.

For the liberal, internal–relative.

Light bulb!

How else could the most religious of Jesus’ day, Pharisees, reject Him, unless righteousness was relative?

God was in their midst, yet their hearts were too clouded with self to see Him.

We cannot preach the Gospel with words only.

We must preach with actions.

We also should never expect the haughty and powerful to comprehend.

Like Saul, “haughty and powerful,” nothing members of “The Way” did, affected him.

It took a miracle by God, on the road to Damascus.

The less fortunate, we can impact daily.

Are we kind to strangers, or those with humble stations?

Does the man who carries bags to your hotel room have a name?

Do you tip chambermaids and write them notes that say “God Loves You,” while thanking them for keeping your room clean?

In the end, it will not matter which celebrities we knew, but far more, those who no one knew, we celebrated.

Al Qaeda will never understand that.

The Culture War We Can Win

May 15, 2011

A few days ago I wrote about my disdain for a woman who appeared on American Idol this week as a guest.

I later learned it was worse than I imagined.

It turns out this sorry excuse for a musician was also wearing shoes with heels in the shape of the male anatomy.

Idol was kind enough to blur it out of view from their audience.

Whoopee.

Americans as disgusted as me, and who watch that show regularly, need to let the producers know they were offended, even if they didn’t see it.

We can win this culture war of ours if we pick up our swords and fight.

We lose it if we think we have no power.

Several years ago, I received an anonymous letter from a neighbor who criticized me for not shoveling my sidewalk enough.

I was so convicted by that one letter I went out and bought a snow-blower.

Words of Truth have power.

When we hold on to them, they lose power and become nothing more than a culture museum where faith ideas simply collect dust.

In today’s reading from John 10 we learn about the Gate and the Sheep.

Whoever enters through me will be saved,
and will come in and go out and find pasture.
A thief comes only to steal and slaughter and destroy;
I came so that they might have life and have it more abundantly.

I’ve believed for many years that the culture war is won or lost through the strength or weakness of young women in our society.

The standard young girls set dictates the behavior of young boys.

As they go, so go the little men.

Arguments on this subject can be studied at my web site; www.fatherdaughterdance.com

Even if you don’t have a young daughter you can make a difference by recommending this outreach to your local pastor.

Dads only need a little push and they can be that heroic role model that points young women in the right direction.

The Gate to a better life for their little lamb.

It doesn’t matter how miserably we dads failed in our dating years.

We must work hard to protect them from the enemy.

Here’s a better letter I received that makes up for a few bad ones.

MAJOR BROWN LETTER

George Weigel and “The Diamond”

May 14, 2011

If you’ve never been to Vermont, you need to go.

I know I often  claim Norman Rockwell for Berkshire County in Western Massachusetts, but the fact is, he also lived in Vermont.

Those town meetings he painted, where the faces of wind and sun chiseled dairy farmers speak out are not made up.

There’s something unique about the Vermont accent that I love too.

Unlike New Englanders from Boston, whose vowels just lay flat, like they’ve been stomped on by a steam-roller…Pahk the Cah neah the Red Sawx Game.

The Vermonter loops his vowels back up into his mouth, so not to waste anything.

You can check the local ski report by the time their done saying the word Ver-maw-unt, with no accent on any of the syllables.

Last night, two contrasting worlds collided in Burlington, VT.

Christ the King Church hosted world-renowned author and NBC contributor George Weigel, to speak about his biography on John Paul II–Witness to Hope.

The audience, peppered with Catholic Preists, resembled a Norman Rockwell, with a Vatican City twist.

One of the best analogies George gave was when he compared John Paul II to a diamond.

A little background.

The Bishop of Krakow, Karol Wojtyla, before he became pope, was already known to be a threat to Communism.

The selection of this now beatified soul was the Church’s most crushing blow ever, against the wave of atheistic socialism in Europe.

The assassination attempt on his life, most experts believe, was a Red plot to cut off the head of their greatest enemy.

The bullets that struck the Pope, at point-blank range, should have killed him.

They only made him stronger.

As the pressure on this man’s life grew, his level of confidence hardened, and the light coming from within him grew brighter, like a diamond.

When Weigel spoke those words, my heart stood up, and spoke to me.

All of us have a mission.

Whether or not we’re beatified is irrelevant.

What matters most is not how we look or sound, but whether or not we’re wasting opportunities God puts before us.

We don’t need to be in Rome to move mountains, sometimes rural Vermont will do.

She’s No Lady and I’m Not Gaga

May 13, 2011

Not really sure what the origin of the term “gaga” is.

My wife’s sisters have used it often to describe their enthusiastic endorsement of this or that.

Last night Natalie and I had to turn off American Idol because of a so-called “Lady” who appeared on air.

First of all, she has no pipes.

Secondly, if I want to see someone in their underwear, I’ll grab my J.C. Penney catalogue.

I worry about young women in America, especially when programs with impressionable audiences like American Idol, glorify a “bint” who has no clue about music.

Call me a prude, old-fashioned, or square.

Don’t care.

She has so little talent it boggles my mind she’s achieved notoriety.

Her last performance should have been at a high school talent show.

Call me a musical snob if you want Lady, but you don’t hold a candle to real talent.

I’m not following you on Twitter and I’m begging parents to take their kids I-Phones away if they are.

Dad, do you realize she’s being paid by Twitter for the ad revenue your daughter is helping generate?

Here are a few far more talented ladies.

The last one is the best role model. 

  1. Celine Dion
  2. Tina Turner
  3. Billy Holiday
  4. Aretha Franklin
  5. Pat Benatar
  6. Ann Wilson
  7. Nancy Wilson
  8. Bonnie Raitt
  9. Carole King
  10. Marisa Massery (here’s proof http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5fqpqUluXU )

Life is far too short to waste going “gaga” over next to nothing.

Imagine a world filled with even one  more woman like her?

Lady…I have no idea who you really are–but you’re responsable for the stupid things you do.

We all are.

The First “GPS” Had a Higher Calling

May 12, 2011

I’ve written about the GPS before.

When I was younger, it stood not for “Global Positioning System,” but for “Grab Person on Sidewalk.”

If we go back a bit further in time, around 2,000 years, we see it in action once more.

Check out the events in these excerpts from Acts 8 and how the first “GPS” directs brother Philip.

 The angel of the Lord spoke to Philip,
“Get up and head south on the road
that goes down from Jerusalem to Gaza, the desert route.”
Now there was an Ethiopian eunuch,
who had come to Jerusalem to worship, returning home.
Seated in his chariot, he was reading the prophet Isaiah.
The Spirit said to Philip,
“Go and join up with that chariot.”
Philip heard him reading Isaiah the prophet and said,
“Do you understand what you are reading?”
He replied, “How can I, unless someone instructs me?”
So he invited Philip to get in and sit with him.
This was the Scripture passage he was reading:

Like a sheep he was led to the slaughter,
and as a lamb before its shearer is silent,
so he opened not his mouth.

Then the eunuch said to Philip in reply,
“I beg you, about whom is the prophet saying this?”
Then Philip proclaimed Jesus to him.
They came to water,
and the eunuch said, “What’s to prevent my baptism?”
Philip baptized him.

All too often, super smart people act as if new technology proves man greater than God.

That’s hardly the case, as we see in this passage, God had it all since time began.

The “GPS” back in the Apostolic era stood for “Go Preach to Souls.”

That was all that mattered.

Redeeming the lost.

Or should I say…”recalculating the lost?”