Thursday, April 4, 2013

The Abundance of Life Is About Choices

By Charlie Courtois

Here God Paints His Beauty

                           The Abundance of Life Is About Choices

We start making choices somewhere between the age of seven and nine. I remember the first bad choice I got caught in when I was in the first grade. I told a lie, and I got caught. Did it stop me from making bad choices? Sometimes I thought about not doing something because of past experience, but now when I reflect on some of my pretty rotten choices I come up with the idea that I was either dumb or just plain hardheaded.

As the years pile up the choices become more and more important, and it seems that the choices never end. Should I hang around with this one or that one. Should I reveal this or that to my parents? Then of course there is the coverup, and then, that failing and I get exposed for my misdeed. Finally, the teens are over, and now young adulthood brings on graver and harder choices. Then who to go to work for, and what kind of things should I spend my money on, and, before you know it, some of the earlier choices I made go sour, and then the piper has to be paid.

Adulthood begins to take its toll. Our poor choices begin to interfere with our duties and responsibilities in life. In my case my parents were drowning themselves in their daily booze consumption, and there was definitely not any reason to turn to them for advice. Financial obligations were driving my life faster than I wanted, and the consequences of the rotten choices were piling up and choking me.

Along comes the military obligation which I thought I had avoided through scheming and trying to beat the system. I failed, and lost control to Uncle Sam, but I made what turned out to be a very good choice and the Army became like my family, well not quite, but the food, shelter, and sick-care came as part of the required service, and when the Bay of Pigs came along in the 60's, JFK added another year of mandatory service. I wrote a letter to an old flame in Long Beach to share some of my German experiences while I was recuperating in the hospital, and within a few weeks this old flame started a fire and before I knew what hit me, I was completely and totally involved. Coincidentally, she and my father arrived within an hour of one and other at the Frankfurt am Main airport. Dad's visit was a total surprise, and how things developed from then on is a total blur. Dad went back to France quickly, and my flame and I became intimate way to fast. But, that train left the station before I could halt it.

Marriage was forced upon us, and that was a huge choice which I made that was wrong. So, things were really horrible. All my own choosing ,which turned out to be irreversible, wrong choice, after wrong choice, and the sad part was that I never really admitted to myself that I caused every bit of my own misery. Seventeen years later my first wife threw in the towel and filed for divorce, albeit the whole process was devastating it finally was over and all of those rotten choices reared their ugly heads once again, and thank goodness for one really loyal friend who rented me a room to stay in at a reasonable cost that I could afford.

Slowly, but surely I began to see some light at the end of the tunnel. Why? I stumbled in some of my first choices, but I was finally able to take charge of my own existence when I made the hard choices. Before I took the easy way out, the most expedient, and after a few years of clearing up the financial disasters, my over-due payroll and income taxes, the scary choices, were no longer scary; it was the natural thing to do. Once I buckled down to following my plan, executing my plan, and seeing the fruits of my efforts, along with making some very hard, uncomfortable choices, I never looked back. I found that whatever scary choices I faced, I never again hesitated. Thirty-three years later my new mate and me have enjoyed a wonderful life together without even an argument or cross words. It must be because of her, because I am no saint for sure.

Not until I got kicked in the teeth over and over did I recognize where I was going wrong in my choices. Yes, experience turned out to be the great equalizer, and without plenty of it, none of us will ever achieve the successes that I was finally able to achieve. Fourteen years ago my wife and I joined a church and year by year we have given back to the Lord what he mercifully gave us all of our lives. Christ has blessed us abundantly, and we continue to do his work now without thought of ourselves. It is just how we live now. I have finally learned to put the Lord first in my life! Thanks be to God.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

The Coming Families of the Next Generation


     It could well be said with the declaration of "Same Sex Marriage" by President Obama that there will be many non-traditional marriages and/or unions. It's well known that we already have many  States that allow same sex marriage, and what is not known is how each state will treat the benefit-rights annuring from Federal and State Agencies. The courts are going to be full of claims, counter-claims and cases which will subsume hundreds of thousands of men and women in legal wrangling who will want to claim their just due.
     It seems rather absurd to me to have to justify and prove what a family is, and has been, since the most primitive of tribes and peoples in the world of recorded history. But, quoted below is a small inkling of what I am referring to:
     Same Sex Marriage in the United States,commentator Rachel Maddow expressed her frustration with the Obama Administration position on same-sex marriage in August 2010. In response to Senior White House Adviser David Axelrod's statement on President Obama's position: "The president does oppose same-sex marriage but he supports equality for gay and lesbian couples in benefits and other issues", Maddow said,
"Got that? So the line from the administration is that Barack Obama does not want gay people to be allowed to be married, but when gay people can be married and other people are trying to take away that right like in California, he doesn't want the right to be taken away. But, he's not in favor of that right in the first place. You got it? The president is against gay marriage but he is also against constitutional amendments to ban gay marriage, which means that he'd apparently prefer that gay marriage be banned through flimsier tactical means? That's the president's position. Clear as mud. Ripe for criticism much?"[100]MSNBC
     How can a Catholic/Christian advise their child what is right and wrong from this abomination of information coming our of the White-House?
     The answer is one-sided and simple. For believers you follow the teachings of Our Lord and Savior that are found in Christian Bibles. If you are a Catholic, like I am, I don't need to pay attention to Obama to know what is right. The Catholic Church's teachings have not changed for more than 2,000 years. Marriage is between one man and one woman, and "marriage" is also a sacrament in the Catholic Church which is defined as a union between a man and an woman that will become one flesh.

     It seems that we are going to have to endure a great deal of legal confrontation in our land before we can settle this issue as a matter of civil law. These civil laws have nothing to do with Church law, and for those that are looking for the church and the new Pope to change the rules about: marriage, contraception, abortion, and euthanasia, they will be sorely disappointed. It is not going to happen!

The continued deterioration of the family in the U.S. is going to cause an equal amount of disharmony and irreparable harm to the social development fabric throughout our urban plains; and, an increase as well in all forms of crime, unrest, and poverty which pulls down economic productivity where the harmony of the family, a man and a woman, will produce stability and continuity for a healthier, brighter more productive future. It goes better with a real mom, and a real dad! Anything else is just not as good.


Thursday, January 31, 2013

Spiritual Reflection: Nothing Separates Us

Take It to Heart

Paul is convinced that nothing will ever separate us from God.

 (click the link if you don't have a Bible handy)

How convinced are you?

As you read this passage, allow Paul's passionate belief to echo in your heart, and be drawn into his poetic understanding of God's love. Neither death, nor life, nor height, nor depth can keep us away from God or, more important, keep God away from us. Paul pointed to proof of God's love: God's willingness to sacrifice his Son for our sins. God showed his unconditional love for us in this one act. And Paul is certain that there is no reason to expect anything different from God in the future. We live in that future, united with God.

What does this love mean in your family life?

How can you model this love with family members?

Friday, January 25, 2013

Spiritual Reflection: Mistaken Self-Love


My Child, here is the secret of all perfection---forget self-interest and follow My will in all things. You want what you consider good for you, but you are often wrong in your calculations. I want what you consider good for you, but you are often wrong in your calculations. I want what is really best for you, and I am never mistaken. If you want to be the kind of person I want you to be, learn My truth and do My will. Then leave the rest to Me.

2. Every human fault arises from a mistaken self-love. Men overcome their faults only as far as they really abandon their selfishness and follow Me. Some make a half-halfhearted effort,and some make a ninety percent effort, but only a few make a full effort with no reservations.

3. If you gave all you goods to the poor, without giving your heart to Me, you have done nothing as far as eternal life is concerned. Even great penance means nothing unless you are determined to fight against your faults. There is no substitute for true virtue. The basis for true virtue lies in this---that you accept and prefer My Will in all things.

4. You are not so wise as you think. You do not always know what is best for you. No man is richer, no man is happier than he who loves My Will in all things. Empty your heart of every other desire, and place you daily life in My hands. Work, and pray, and do all that is right and good for you. When things do not go as you desire, do what you can to remedy them. After you have done all that common sense demands, accept the results as My Will.

Here is the key to God's peace and yet I hesitate to use it. Can God be mistaken? Can He be wrong? Why do I not find His peace within me? It is simply because I have not yet succeeded in placing my life in His hands. I am not quite sure that He will do what I would like. Yet I know that He loves me more than I love myself. He wants what is surely good for me, not merely some deceptive good thing. Do I want to look our for myself, even if it means committing a sin here and there? Sin hurts me far more than I realize.

My Jesus, show me at last a life of obedience and loyalty to your Will. Let me forget self and become more unselfish with those around me. Wherever I can, I hope to do things for others. Sin must be hated for what it is...self-deception and stupidity. How can I ever do anything wrong, knowing that it hurts me and offends You? I will try with Your help, to live mm daily life as a true and loyal follower of Yours. What You forbid is forbidden because it is bad for me. How can I ever insist on sinning again? You have proven your love for me in a thousand ways. I hope to prove my love for You by trying to act as You want me to act in my daily life.


How can we spread this message?

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Spiritual Reflection: An Act of Faith

Grieved at their hardness of heart, he said to the man, “Stretch our your hand.”Mark 3:5 

The Pharisees in Jesus' time looked for every possibility to catch Jesus in an infraction of the law. There were so many laws to follow. Wikipedia says there are about 613 which were followed. No wonder the Jewish leaders were so obsessed with following the law. With that many laws to be faithful to, it was a virtual impossibility, for any human to come close to obeying all of them. 

At every turn in his ministry since Jesus asked John the Baptist to baptize him in the Jordan to the Wedding at Cana, Jesus was making his own rules. The Pharisees were keeping track of all the infractions, so they could report them all to their leaders. With today's verse about the man with a withered hand, the Pharisees were just waiting to see if Jesus would heal this man on the sabbath in the synagogue so they could accuse him.

 When Jesus healed the man the Pharisees immediately rushed out to report to Herod and his associates to conspire against him. As Jesus, again, breaks the sabbath law, he continues to teach and heal and he appointed the Twelve. The Pharisees continue the conflict. Jesus' family thinks he is crazy. His adversaries, the Pharisees, accuse him of being possessed by Satan. Jesus separates himself from his family.

 Questions for discussion below:  

Why does Jesus cause so much conflict?

Why do people-especially religious leaders reject him?

A concept to include in your thoughts...

Think about the parallels for your faith in everyday life today as well.


Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Forgive, but Set Limits & Expectations

This is a follow-up to yesterday's story about a wayward nineteen year old. He is sorry because he got caught stealing thousands of dollars of jewelry and pawning it.

Aren't we all. 

But, after counseling with other professionals, the consensus opinion was to set limits which we had already done for the bad behavior.

The key decision!  My wife and I decided not to prosecute. Instead we made him face his horrible actions with the written evidence in front of the police chief. He allowed this audience, and told my grandson so, because the next time he sees his name come across his desk, the meeting will be in the interrogation room, and off to prison or jail for a one year minimum.

For a street savvy kid like he is, it didn't seem to impact him sufficiently. We have had a face-to-face meeting with him, laid down the new rules, taken his house key away from him and forbidden him to be in the house unless one of us is there with him. He can come in, eat, take a shower, but the office, and the rest of the house is off limits, until we decide to change the rule. Until he is gainfully employed, and has earned his keep with some employer, we will remain ever vigilant as long as he is on our premises. Otherwise, it is hit the street, you are now on your own. Blood relative, or not!

Time will tell! We all know that the leopard doesn't change his spots; they just grow in size!

Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Handling a Lie & a Theft in Your Home

If you are an employer, it seems the treatment of these two offenses can be found in the company policy manual, but parents and grandparents, on the other-hand, have a different role in these matters. I think the care-taker grandparent in this case, has an even different  role than the parent.

Yesterday was not a good day! We were confronted with the theft of $1,800 of my wife's jewelery which is hidden in a special drawer in a hunt stand. The theft could only be carried out by one person, our grandson, and when confronted he immediately admitted to the theft and the pawning of the items in the local pawn shop. It seems he went to the pawn shop on three separate occasions, and the pawn shop owner paid him: $60, $60, and $70 out of his pocket for the $1,800 dollars worth of jewelery. 

My wife just came back from the pawn shop and discovered that he had been there in January and pawned several other pieces of jewelery, plus something for a friend he runs around with. More lies, and now this seems to be much more serious than we thought.

I am sure many have faced this type of issue, but since we live in a small town, we are faced with not wanting to make these incidents public knowledge. 

Before today, we forgave another costly incident in September 2010, and now this mindless theft for no real purpose, leaves us in a real dilemma. It is going to be very hard for me to trust him again, and I am sure that my wife, who is usually more compassionate that I, will have the same issues to deal with in her mind. There don't seem to be any easy answers to this situation as I type these words.

The real issue is when and if  you should prosecute your relatives for grand-theft, or do you give them another chance?