A Saint Valentine’s Day Story

“The way to love anything is to realize that it might be lost.” – G.K. Chesterton

The Cardinal is one of the most popular birds. It is the official bird of as many as seven eastern states. It has extended northward for decades from its primary habitat in the southeast. The Cardinal brightens winter days with its distinctive red color. As well its whistled song can be heard as far north as southeastern Canada. Bird feeders stocked with sunflower seeds may have aided its northward spread. – referenced, “Audubon Society”

When I was a young boy undergoing physical therapy as a result of polio, I would attend school on a half day basis until the therapy had best prepared me for full days. I was scheduled for therapy three days per week at the local Easter Seals Rehabilitation Center, since being released from the convalescent hospital, where I had spent nine months in recovery since the onset of the disease.

On those half days my mom would pick me up from school and take me to one of a number of parks in our area. There we would enjoy a homemade lunch that she had prepared or stop by a local food establishment for a slice of pizza or a chili-dog. We would spend about an hour or so talking. Most of the conversation encompassed how my day went, as I adjusted to my school and classmates. Otherwise we simply enjoyed the lunch, small talk (as I was but a first grader) and the outdoors. Then off we would be, on to my P.T. session. As the therapist ran me through my paces, mom patiently waited for me, often bringing a good book to read.

On one of those outings, while we were enjoying our lunch, something caught my attention. As I looked off in the distance, I had noticed a peculiar thing. Well, it seemed peculiar to me at the time. I saw what I thought was an apple fall from a tree. Not that that is peculiar, because apples often fall from trees. But, on this particular occasion, the apple went back up into the tree. My mother quickly solved the anti-gravity mystery. I found that, what was peculiar for an apple was not peculiar for a Cardinal. That was the first time that I had ever seen one. My mom told me that the Cardinal was her favorite bird. It was her favorite not solely because of its vibrant red color and sweet song, but that it stayed here the year round; adding color to the drab winter until spring returned. That day, the Cardinal became my favorite bird as well; something that we would always share.

Decades later, during my mom’s last days, the burdens of that winter were particularly difficult. However, less burdensome than the cross she carried and the concern that was shared by we who did all we could, limited by our understanding, to care for and comfort her. My mom’s bed was by her window. From time to time her suffering was eased by the pleasant distraction of a visitor just outside her window. The pleasant distracting visitor was a beautiful crimson Cardinal. Its bright red feathers stood out prominently against the white background of snow. I’m sure it brought the thought of spring to her and that golf season, which she loved so much, was not far off.

It has been some fourteen years since my mom’s passing. As I write this piece, in front of me, is a window overlooking a wooded area outside my house. Often, when most unexpected, I am pleasantly distracted by a visitor; a Cardinal hopping though the snow or perched on a bare tree limb. It is at a time like this that I am reminded of a shared commonality; an everlasting bond. A time when apples became Cardinals, and affirmed in me, that my mom was the apple of my eye. It is in these rare precious moments that one simple and comforting thought comes to mind; after which I whisper, Hi Mom.

 

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Lent Is A Journey

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

lentFor those who do not know, Lent is a journey. It is observed by Catholic and most other Christian denominations. The journey begins on Ash Wednesday, and lasts forty days. During that time Christians practice prayer, fasting and almsgiving. Prayer represents how we relate to God, fasting represents how we relate to ourselves and almsgiving/charitable works represents how we relate to others. The followers of Christ are reminded on Ash Wednesday of their dependence upon God for their very being. The ashes distributed in the ceremony come from the palms from the previous “Palm Sunday.” As the priest or minister marks the forehead of the penitent with the sign of the cross using the blessed ashes he says either of two blessings: “Remember you are dust and to dust you shall return,” or, “Repent and believe the Gospel.” The first blessing, a stark and humbling reality of our mortality, the second, more amicable. Yet to follow the Gospel is by no means for the meek.  Lent then continues through Holy Week, culminating with death’s final triumph over life by…

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Death By Any Other Name

A rose by any other name would smell as sweet” is a popular reference to William Shakespear’s play Romeo and Juliet, in which Juliet seems to argue that it does not matter that Romeo is from her family’s rival house of Montague, that is, that he is named “Montague”. The reference is often used to imply that the names of things do not affect what they really are. (Wikipedia)

“Margaret Sanger, Eugenics and Planned Parenthood”

After World War I, Margret Higgins Sanger (born Margaret Louise Higgins, September 14, 1879 – September 6, 1966, also known as Margaret Sanger Slee) was an American birth-control activist, sex educator, writer, and nurse. She increasingly appealed to the societal need to limit births by those least able to afford children. The affluent and educated already limited their child-bearing, while the poor and uneducated lacked access to contraception and information about birth-control. Here she found an area of overlap with eugenists she believed that they both sought to “assist the race toward the elimination of the unfit.” (An event of history has shown that the Third Reich had an interest in those same beliefs and practices.) They differed in that “eugenists imply or insist that a woman’s first duty is to the state; we contend that her duty to herself is her duty to the state.” Sanger was a proponent of negative eugenics, which aimed to improve human hereditary traits through social intervention by reducing the reproduction of those who were considered unfit. Sanger opened the first birth control clinic in the United States, and established organizations that evolved into the Planned Parenthood Federation of America. (Wikipedia)

[A significant note confirming that Sanger’s aim still hits its mark to this day: 2010 Census results reveal that Planned Parenthood is targeting minority neighborhoods. 79% of its surgical abortion facilities are located within walking distance of African-American or Hispanic/Latino neighborhoods.]

“Abortion Facts”

The pro-abortion rights Alan Guttmacher Institute reports that there have been nearly 50 million abortions performed since 1973, the year the Supreme Court issued the Roe v. Wade decision ushering in legal abortion nationwide. As of 2018 the number of abortions in the United States stands at over 60 million and counting.

Those supporting legal abortions under any circumstances=50%. Those in support of legal abortions under certain circumstanced=29%. Those supporting illegal abortions under any circumstances=18%. Those today who consider themselves pro-choice=49%; those who consider themselves pro-life=46%. With the introduction of 3D ultra sound imagery, perception has changed and along with it has likely influenced a reduction in abortions.

“Capital Punishment Facts”

The Death Penalty Information center has compiled the following statistics since 1976.

There have been a total of 1263 executions performed in the United States. That is on average 172 executed/million population out of 2206 on death row/million population since 1976. A Gallop poll shows that Americans supporting the death penalty is the lowest since 1972 at 55%.

Although there exist laws to protect the unborn and reprieve be granted to death row convicts, the numbers show that those on death row proportionately fair far better than the unborn.

Once a life is before us it then becomes a moral issue. A person on death row can be seen. The unborn is for the most part hidden from view. Yet, Isaac Newton tells us that an object set in motion stays in motion unless acted upon. In following this law of nature, it is true that once life begins at conception (see my blog: “The Significant Spark,” May 5, 2016 ), if the process is left to itself, the fetus will continue to grow to a complete human being by a geometrical proportion; (2+4+8+16+32…). And is therefore no less before us than those on death row. So, then, the fetus is not potentially human, but, rather, is a human with potential. For those who hold to the pro-choice slogan, “My body, my choice,” science offers an argument. It has been proved that the fetus possesses one half the DNA of the mother and one half the DNA of the father. Therefore, the DNA of the fetus is unique unto itself. By this fact, then, in this matter, one’s choice does not solely effect oneself but also effects another.

The compared numbers as regards capital punishment and abortion respectively since 1972 and 1973 are staggeringly evident: 1263 to 60,000,000. One on death row acted in some way in breaking a grave law of society and of God. He/she did something to warrant death. The unborn acted not, but is the result of an action. An action, as all actions, which has a consequence also carries with it responsibility. The unborn did nothing wrong other than to be conceived. And in most cases is perceived an inconvenience while awaiting entry into the world as is his/her right granted, if you will, by natural law.

Today, a full 42 % of the women having abortions live under the poverty line, and another 27 percent have incomes within 200 percent of the poverty line. Taken together, 69 percent of women who have abortions are economically disadvantaged. Women seeking abortion tend to be unmarried; around 85 percent of those seeking abortion aren’t married. While the discourse around abortion still focuses on scared white teenagers, the reality is that the typical abortion patient these days is a twenty-something single mother of color.

It is difficult not to find compassion and understanding in light of the statistics in the above paragraph. Yet when a concerned and frightened women or female adolescent makes a choice to enter an abortion clinic, that is where choice very likely ends. We must not in any way so trivialize life that we would extinguish it either through fear or inconvenience. For how then can the worth of all humanity not be significantly diminished? To make a prudent choice one needs a viable alternative. That alternative can be found at a new website called: LifeNews.com. Here, those who are in a very serious quandary over their circumstance can find direction and solace at alternative women’s health clinics at locations in their state. Often these health centers can be found directly opposite a Planned Parenthood location. In one particular case in my State of Connecticut. A young African-American woman entered a Planned Parenthood location with intent to abort her baby. But upon reflection found she could not go through with it. As she left that clinic she looked across the street and saw the Women’s Health Center. And for this confused and frightened young woman, as in Robert Frost’s poem, “The Road Not Taken;” “it made all the difference.” She gave birth and life to her child and with the guidance and help afforded her by the center, mom and child are doing fine. She was able to, unlike too many who do not investigate an alternative, avoid the lasting regret of an uninformed hasty choice.

Each infant, whether fit or unfit in some capacity, possesses the greatest purpose inherent in us all: the capacity to be loved. Oscar Hammerstein II validates this truth in the following lyrics: “A bell‘s not a bell ’til you ring it, A song’s not a song ’til you sing it. Love in your heart wasn’t put there to stay, Love isn’t love ’til you give it away!”  And, therefore, by the very presence of the infant yet to be, offers another the opportunity to love.

Death by any other name….is yet a contradiction of life. Through abortion we are  reminded of a sorrowful consequence; that millions would never claim their right to life given by God. And for many, who by such decisions, may be impelled one day to ponder: “What if…if only…What – might – have – been?”

 

 

 

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Who is Roe?

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

On the anniversary of the Supreme Court Decision regarding Roe vs Wade I searched for the answer to a question that I’ve had for some time. Who is Roe? What motivated me in this search was the curious lack of news coverage of the annual Right To Life March in Washington D.C. each year since the Supreme Court’s decision. I attempted to find out the why by finding the who. The following information is provided by Wikipedia. It is the real woman behind the identified Roe and her story. 

In 1969, at the age of 21, Norma McCorvey became pregnant a third time. She returned to Dallas. According to McCorvey, friends advised her that she should assert falsely that she had been raped and that she could thereby obtain a legal abortion under Texas’s law which prohibited abortion; sources differ over whether the Texas law had such rape exception. Due to lack…

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Jack Frost

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

        

“…art cries out for an artist. It is plainly impossible that so standard a work as the Universe should remain anonymous.” – G.K. Chesterton

One morning my sister-in-law captured a photo of the top image that was left on her windshield following a below freezing night. Before scraping the windshield clear, the photo was taken from inside the vehicle and preserved. Jack Frost, depicted on the left, in using my sister-in-law’s windshield as his canvass, had left this awe-inspiring wintry portrait for us all to enjoy and marvel. Until the window pane came into practical use, Jack Frost had no medium on which to share his divine gift.

Starting in late 19th century literature, more developed characterizations of Jack Frost depict him as a sprite-like character, sometimes appearing as a sinister mischief-maker or as a hero. He is traditionally said to leave the frosty, fern-like patterns on windows on cold winter mornings and nipping the extremities in cold weather. Over time, however, frost…

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Epiphany: To Return By A different Way

“Then Herod secretly called for the wise men and learned from them the exact time when the star had appeared. Then he sent them to Bethlehem, saying, “Go and search diligently for the child; and when you have found him, bring me word so that I may also go and pay him homage.”  When they had heard the king, they set out; and there, ahead of them, went the star that they had seen at its rising, until it stopped over the place where the child was.  When they saw that the star had stopped, they were overwhelmed with joy.  On entering the house, they saw the child with Mary his mother; and they knelt down and paid him homage. Then, opening their treasure chests, they offered him gifts of gold, frankincense, and myrrh.  And having been warned in a dream not to return to Herod, they left for their own country by another road.” – Matthew 2

The last few italicized words in Matthew 2 holds a deeper meaning. For when anyone comes to Jesus, with a contrite heart, neither do they return as they came. The dispositions that they held before are not those held after. After Christ’s birth was witnessed and celebrated by both the least and the greatest; the shepherds and the wise-men, all then returned to the real world. But took with them a validation of hope. For when they entered the cave they expected to see a babe, but, rather they saw the Universe. They saw not a king among kings, but the King of kings; greater than any on earth. For this King created the earth and all living things that walk upon it, swim in its seas or fly above in its skies. When in His presence, all there realized that they were because He is. Should God cease to  love, then all would cease to exist. In this One solitary babe was the one Thought and Word that creates and sustains. He is the Divine Incarnate who is destined to do what no other could: reconcile God with Man.

Why would not Herod, too, be inspired in a such a way as these travelers. Because it takes, as I mentioned above; a contrite heart. God forces no one to come to him, but is always patiently persistently pursuing and is forever open to our yes. Herod loved the real world and, I imagine, believed himself god. He desired to keep it as it was and would protect it even unto the murder of God Himself. To drive God from his own creation. He would succeed in the “murder of innocents,” but not the One innocent he sought. Not until His hour had come, would Christ submit to death on the cross. For this reason He came into the world. Only through sacrifice can love triumph and death be rendered impotent.

In the film, Saving Private Ryan, the elder Ryan asks his wife as he stood over the grave of the lieutenant who led his rescue mission: “Tell me that I am a good man.” His bewildered wife answered: “Of course you are.” As he lay dying on a WWII war-torn street the lieutenant whispered something in the ear of Ryan as the American reinforcements overtook the attacking German troops. His comment was not heard by any other than Ryan. We, the viewers, as well, never knew what was said. Yet, what Ryan heard prompted his question to his wife. For the lives lost on that rescue mission not to have been in vain, then the life saved, Ryan, had to have been worth saving. Ryan’s wife’s answer confirms that he had lived a life worthy of their sacrifice.

Why would anyone’s life be so effected by another? Why be so compelled to alter one’s way of living? The answer lies not in a response of fleeting emotion but, rather, by a steadfast  act of will. How great is the impact on one who is rescued from death by another. And more so when that other loses his life in the process. Each circumstance, like that of Private Ryan’s comrades in arms, requires a sacrifice and self-denial; the greatest testimony to love. Which of us would not be fundamentally changed and hold forever in their heart the honor for that one who gave all for our sake. And in recompense would not strive to live a good life in memory of the one who saved ours? Ryan by honoring the lieutenant’s request, in a sense, has lived both their lives.

How much more, then, did those who came to Christ in Bethlehem that night – or do those to this day – receive from Him their very creator? For this child, too, in thirty-three years hence, would make the supreme act of divine love upon a cross. Not for one, but for all; past, present and to come. And what was asked of Ryan – to be a good man – and thereby give meaning to his comrades’ sacrifice, now is asked of us. To not remain as we were, but to return to the world by a different way. The One who by His death on Calvary and ensuing resurrection restored not, solely, life but eternal life, can not be justly honored and glorified in living a good life alone; but, rather, by joining our will to His. In a similar sense, as Ryan, we are not living our individual lives. Instead our lives are joined to Christ’s in that union of wills?

The Magi in looking upon the infant beheld the infinite. An infinity desired by principled men and women. An infinity promising absolute truth, perfect love and eternal life. Had the Magi returned to Herod they would have ratified an unprincipled world view promising an infinity founded on deceit, betrayal, hatred and death. So they returned to their own country not by the way they came.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Christmas: God Comes To Man

CROSSROADS-Right Choices

nativity-1168845-wallpaperAnd though no man knew it, the hour was near which was to end and to fulfill all things; and though no man heard it, there was one far-off cry in an unknown tongue upon the heaving wilderness of the mountains. The shepherds had found their Shepherd.” – G.K. Chesterton (“The Everlasting Man”)

Archaeologists have long searched for evidence of a missing link that would join modern man to the primates from the world in which he lives. By the study of unearthed remains of early cavemen there is hope that one day the link that would bridge the elusive, if existing, gap will be discovered.

But the missing link has already emerged. He was a caveman too. Because he was not born on the earth, but beneath it. Although, a caveman, He did not come to link men with beasts, but to link men with God. Men and women should not dwell on that which is beneath them, but that which is above them. For it…

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