Posts Tagged ‘ faith ’

Let me count the ways….

Quite by accident, I just happened upon an article titled, “17 things the boss should always say in a performance review.” It was purely accidental, because I would have had to have cared – like I once did – to go look for something like that. You know, if I was a boss, I would be burning the candle at both ends to find nuggets like that. I’m convinced my boss has never even seen a headline like that, let alone read, or studied that kind of material.

Of the 17 topics in Jacquelyn Smith’s “Business Insider” article, not a single one came up in either my “performance review,” or my more recent “salary discussion.” Not a single one.

Rather, my boss informed me that his “spousal unit” – is that supposed to be some cutesy way of referring to this wife? – has given him permission to retire anytime. He emphasized the point by saying “2015, 2016, 2017 …” Not sure if his dumbing-down was for my benefit or his. I still can’t figure out how his retirement plans figure into my life in any way.

His next major point was to say that a lot of people leave looking for more money, only to come back when they find out the grass is greener on this side of the fence. Huh? Is that encouragement to leave, or just another way of saying, “take it or leave it”? A previous boss (third level) was fond of saying we should vote with our feet.

Smith would have a boss open up with “How are you feeling?” or “I’d like to hear your thoughts on how you think you did this year.” Me, too. Just once.

By a very convoluted path, I found myself in what is essentially a “call center.” Imagine a call center for any product or appliance you have in the house, or driveway. If it breaks, or makes a funny noise, you’re not going to call ghost busters, are you? Nope, you call the manufacturer; there is a highly trained, highly experienced team standing by, around the clock (literally 24/7/366) to answer technical questions. In my case, the product is airplanes and they often have passengers on them – put yourself in their shoes (might not be very difficult, if you’ve flown very often).

The call center I was in up to a year ago handled older model airplanes – airplanes that I had years of experience and training on; the call center I have been in the past 12 months handles the latest-and-greatest model (a single model). So, with no experience and no training, I sit at a desk with a couple of phone lines and three computer monitors linked to half –a-dozen databases, in a room with around ten others.

My boss says I did well over the past year. I remind him that I have had no training at all on the one model we support. That was worth a salary increase of precisely 1.75% “Celebrate the positives”? You mean like I didn’t go postal? Smith says, “Reinforce the person’s strengths. Recognize what they are doing right and give them an opportunity to expound on their achievements.” Really?

As far as asking me what I could have done better, or differently, or where I might see my greatest potential for growth and improvement, I’m sure that never occurred to him.

And, a plan for improvement, whether my words or his? Hah, that would be a joke. Even more ludicrous would be him saying “I’m here to support you. Never hesitate to ask me any questions that arise or share concerns that come up.”

The positive note that charade ended on was that it ended. As we were walking down the hall, back to the call center, he asked, “How are those two little ones?” My Twins are eight months old; that is the first time he has ever asked anything about my home life. If you have babies in the house, you know it is not “business as usual” when they arrive. I know he has kids – he talks about them frequently (though he talks about fishing more).

Many moons ago, I was filled with piss and vinegar (or youthful enthusiasm, if you prefer), and I was going to be “a somebody” in the company. I never had a horizon as to how long I was going to stay; I never had a limit as to how high I was going to climb the corporate ladder. I learned two things going to classes at night to earn my MBA: (1) hard work was not enough – career progression has more to do with who you know and less with what you know; and (2) it wasn’t worth a marriage and an estranged daughter. In other words, the enthusiasm I brought with me 30 years ago has been beaten out of me.

I long ago stopped looking for anyone to say thank you, or in my potential to grow or develop as a professional. I have instead, put my energies into my new family and my Church. In the early days, I didn’t have time for anything but The Company. Now, I have no time for The Company.

Zika

I could not make it, if I did not believe in GOD. I have known pain, and I would have taken my own life years ago; very much a case of “there, but for the grace of GOD, go I.” I came across an MSN.com photo spread on the Zika Babies, and while I was able to click on all 20 slides in the article, it was thru tears that not only welled up, but cascaded down my cheeks.

You see, my own Twins have just passed the seven-month mark, and they are delightfully, incredibly, thankfully “completely normal.” Meaning, I suppose they will have a life very similar to my own. From what I can understand, the Zika Babies will have a life unlike any other – any other “normal.”

When my wife became pregnant, my daily prayer was for the health of the baby (babies, it turned out). Thru-out the almost nine months that the Twins got to know each other, and their mother, long before they knew either oxygen or me, I prayed for health. What parent would not? Me, personally, I was remarkably unremarkable.

Yes, once again, I nearly lost my wife during delivery; but the children are, normal, or average, by any measure. (And, in this day and age, where technology lets us indulge in our obsession of numbers, “any measure” is quite a lot of numbers.)

There are days when the mundane routine of daily life takes center stage, and so it can be difficult to remember that our little boy and our little girl are the most important “things” in our lives. They are our First Loves, our Eternal Loves, our Reasons for Living. Altho rather late in life (better late than never), I have learned that my life is not about me. And, I thank GOD.

More tears.

Looking at those photos of those babies who have been stricken with the Zika virus reminds me of all of those babies who are born into this world with a Cross I will never know. Whether it be a disease wrought by Nature (i.e., permitted by GOD), or a burden imposed by men (again, permitted by GOD, but wrought by the hand of evil men – and women too: the devil is an equal opportunity employer). In any case, babies who will never know the beauty of THIS world. Babies unlike my own, who with GOD’s will, will know the beauty of this world.

But, when it’s all said and done, and we have all returned to dust, the Zika Babies, and my own Twins will have the reward of Eternal Life with GOD. Me? Well, the jury is still out on me. But, I could not make it, not another day, if I didn’t believe in GOD and Eternal Life.

If this is all there is, then the suffering I see on the internet would be overwhelming. There would be no point in going on. I would have to stop the deluge of pain and suffering I see in the world.

However. However, I have been given the Gift of Faith. No, I have no idea why. It’s not like I am going to do very much with my life – GOD knows I haven’t done very much at all so far. And the Twins have given me the gift of Hope. How could I bring new life into this world, if I didn’t have hope? I’m sorry for those who have none.

The Zika Babies remind me that this life on this world is not all skittles and beer. There are those we get too much of (Trump and Clinton come to mind), and there are those we never hear of (name one, just one, Zika Baby). There are those who raise the bar on what this world can possibly provide (Paul Allen and his yacht, Octopus), and those who can’t even dream of whether they will make it thru the night, or where their next meal is coming from.

So, for me, there absolutely must be a GOD. If there wasn’t, the Earth would spin off its axis. And, then there’s that Faith thing. I know – I am absolutely, totally convinced that GOD will balance the life of the Zika Babies. But, that conviction doesn’t stop the tears.

 

 

Emma, 14

My brother’s in-laws have endured another painful life and death.  Last year, a 20-something daughter died from brain cancer; yesterday, a 14 year old grand-daughter also died from brain cancer.  (I use the general term “brain cancer” because I don’t know specifics.)  And, considering that our Twins have just celebrated six months, it seems appropriate to ask the question, “Why?”

As in, “Why have children, if they might have a very difficult life and die young?”  Or, as another, unrelated, couple that I know has put it, “How can you bring children into this awful world?”  Pretty much the same question, really.  And very much the same answer.

A year ago, or two years ago (more like it), I could not have answered anything other than, “Good question.”  I certainly was not thinking of bringing any more children into this world, and so I could (thankfully) avoid any difficult answers.  Knowing what Mother Nature can do to us, and what our fellow man (this would be the very generic “man” to include men, women and those who are confused) can do to us, it would seem that bringing more children into this life would be selfish at best (“someone to adore and take care of me”), and damned stupid at worst (the worst doesn’t always happen to the other guy – sometimes it is closer to home than that, like my brother’s home).

But, since July 1, I have discovered inexpressible joy.  Altho I think “happiness” is over-rated, I really couldn’t get my arms around “joy” – was it a synonym for happy, or something else entirely ?  (Always slinking away, mumbling, “Good question.”)

Yes, CS Lewis’ title, “Surprised by Joy,” comes to mind, and maybe there are some similarities I am not thinking of (altho my wife’s name is most definitely not “Joy”).  But, “surprised” is definitely the word here – six months later, I am still surprised.

Every day, I thank GOD for the gift of these two, new lives – very little lives, but already growing faster than I can imagine.  I cannot frankly, think of a greater gift; for with these two lives, I feel HOPE.

GOD called me back to the One, True Church about ten years ago with the Gift of Faith.  Just last year, He gave me the Gift of Hope.

Those two girls lived very difficult and very short lives.  For all I know, our Twins will fare no better.  But, in the lives of those two girls and in their passing, I believe I will be a better father.

You see, I believe GOD gives us all opportunities and then lets us choose.  The parents of those two girls chose hope.  The family and extended family can choose to remember how those two little ones lived, and they can choose to remember the love and the hope.  Or they can get angry.  They can turn toward GOD, or they can turn away from GOD.

I was certainly aware of the “dark side” of Life long ago.  And, I was marching down the road of turning away from it.  Had I not married my wife and had we not been blessed with these two little lives, my own life would be far less stressful (I sure wouldn’t be working this job and driving an hour or two each way to do it).  And I never would have known what I was missing.

So yes, I continue to pray for Emma and her aunt, as I pray for my Twins.

 

 

 

Slim-to-none

With the Twins celebrating their second month with us, and their increasing physical, tangible, auditory (and occasional olfactory) presence in our lives, I am spending more time thinking about their future. And having come to the recent conclusion that Faith is a gift from GOD, I find myself praying that GOD will give them lots.

Of course, when I started reading the Bible – I mean really reading it – I at first enjoyed reading about the “stiff necked and hard hearted” Israelites. Very much of a “I’m glad I’m not like them” point of view. More reading and that opinion shifted to “how could they be so, so, obtuse?” They had GOD with them every day and every night. My good friend, Bugs Bunny, might be inclined to say: “What a maroon.”

Readers of the Divine Office might recall “Do not harden your hearts as at Meribah, as on the day of Massah in the desert.” (Psalm 95)

Thankfully, I have grown over time (being late to the party and a slow learner notwithstanding) and I have come to the conclusion that “stiff necked and hard hearted” applies to this generation as much as, if not more than it did to those ancient wanderers. So much for being able to point my finger at others. But, why are some people so full of faith and others so bereft? We all have ten toes, why not the same amount of faith?

Those given an abundance of faith we call saints, and some of those the Church officially recognizes. Then the lukewarm hoi polloi. Continuing down the sliding scale, we get to those that were not gifted: the slim-to-none. It wasn’t too long ago (not long enough) that I would have put myself in that third bucket. Then, as I have shared elsewhere in these pages, I woke up and smelled the coffee; hopefully I have progressed up, past the lukewarm.

But, how about my loved ones? I don’t have much difficulty in accepting that people I will never meet don’t believe, and therefore won’t be saved; but what of those that I care about? I would guess my family is a fair cross-section of humanity, and considering how they spend Sunday morning, I won’t be seeing very many of them on the other side of the grave. (A great man of my past (Reverend Joe) once said that regardless of whether I got to heaven, or hell, I would be surprised by two things: those people who were there, and those who weren’t.)

It just isn’t fair!

I completely accept that faith is a gift from GOD that is unequally distributed. So, I know people that are in the race to get to Heaven with their shoelaces tied together (that used to be me, but no more). I know people that are given just one talent, and I might know some that have been given two, or five talents. And, I appreciate that, “For to everyone who has, more will be given and he will grow rich; but from the one who has not, even what he has will be taken away.” (Matthew 25:15-29) But, when it comes to faith, this seems to me to be stacking the deck.

If the servant who was given five talents (lots of faith) goes to heaven, what of the servant who buries his one talent? Maybe the parable was less about the gift, and more about what we choose to do with the gifts we receive?

But, for those that are not given any faith, how can they be held accountable for not believing?

In my “day job” (which is, of course, at night) I interact with about a dozen others. And, they spend a reasonable amount of time talking to each other, about, as you would guess, things not at all job related. In the past, when the topic turned to religion, I have turned a deaf ear. That would mean either cranking up the music in my headphones, or leaving the room. My co-workers are not kindred spirits, especially when it comes to religion.

Over the past few weeks, I have turned off the music and stayed in the room, and have bitten my tongue. A saint might be able to engage in the discussion, but I am no saint, so I keep my mouth shut. I do listen. And, I am amazed at their opinions. It’s not a matter of seeing two sides of the same coin. It is not that the world is wearing bifocals (Paul Newman as Butch Cassidy). I simply don’t understand how they can reach such different conclusions, have such different opinions. It would be easy to say they are ignorant; but I am certainly no rocket scientist (although, “brains,” too are not given out in equal measure).

Since I do believe I do hear Jesus standing at the door to my heart, and I do believe I am trying to open the door to my heart, I have to ask: “Why me?” Why do I hear Him knocking, and so many others do not? Perhaps I got five talents worth of faith? Perhaps.

But, as I hold these two brand new bundles that have been entrusted to me, I ask myself how I can help them grow close to GOD. If they have been given very little faith, how much can I help? Yes, I do lose sleep over this.

I also pray more.

Revelation 3: 15“I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.* I wish you were either cold or hot. 16* So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth. 17* i For you say, ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind, and naked. 18I advise you to buy from me gold refined by fire* so that you may be rich, and white garments to put on so that your shameful nakedness may not be exposed, and buy ointment to smear on your eyes so that you may see. 19 Those whom I love, I reprove and chastise. Be earnest, therefore, and repent.j  20 “Behold, I stand at the door and knock. If anyone hears my voice and opens the door, [then] I will enter his house and dine with him, and he with me.*

Double Header

Thanks to NBC for that tag line. Yes, today is a big deal for Roman Catholics. Two popes canonized, two popes presiding. Can it get any better? Yes. For starters, I could have been there (but on the other hand, happily not sharing the experience with a few hundred thousand of my newest BFFs).

I understand from the secular news media that there is some controversy. Some may be conflicted, but I am not. For me, Saint John Paul II is the one person that brought me back to the Church. My mother got me started, but JP2 took me by the lapels and shook some sense back into me. And, I had the divine blessing to have been close enough to Pope Emeritus Benedict to touch his sleeve (yeah, probably a bigger deal than Midnight Mass at St Peters – can I get back to you on that?).

So, this day, for me, is a day of great rejoicing. No controversy. Only peace. Only joy.

Having built my house on rock, and not sand, I am not afraid the opinions and comments of others. For those who are believers, we are one. For those who are not, for those who can’t relate, who don’t want to relate, who scoff, who criticize, who complain; for those who can’t hear Jesus knocking at the door, who hear and do nothing but complain; for the lukewarm, well, all I can do is pray.

Go ahead and throw stones. At 2,000 years old (give or take), over a billion current followers of every stripe (uncountable over those 20 centuries), incomprehensible number of pages written by and about, the Roman Catholic Church is an easy target. You are not doing yourselves any favors.

If you want to make this world a better place. If you want to improve the lot of the overwhelming percentage of the human race, you would do better to start building than tearing down. If you are about yourself, get a life.

For me, today is huge. It is truly a watershed year.

I had something else planned for my next post; but to borrow: the very stones cry out.