Monthly Archives: June 2014

clear pathway

The Road Less Traveled

Life is meant to be lived in a joyous, loving, thankful manner.  Our Maker, in my opinion, meant it that way – for all.  But we need to work for that ultimate reality.  Life is a gift from God.  What we do with it is largely up to us – one by one, but also in many collective ways.

Challenges face us all and the reality is not that all we face is good, but that we try, try, try to overcome whatever the adverse cards we are dealt.

In a way, a very special way, bad cards can become good if we summon the will to rise above them in a positive way – the road less traveled.

Congressman Bill Cassidy for Senate

Very recently I attended the opening of the Jefferson Parish senate campaign office of Congressman Bill Cassidy, M.D.  This is the second time I’ve seen and heard Dr. Cassidy, and I have been thoroughly impressed both  times.
Bill Cassidy is tall and slender and quite attractive.  His wife is poised, charming, slender and a physician too.  Bill Cassidy will give Louisiana a fresh, intelligent and dedicated Senator.  He actually reads the proposed bills–including Obamacare.  Of course, he categorically stated that he always gets the last word with his wife, “Yes, dear.”
He is an expert on Obamacare and the alternatives, having not only read the bill, but is fully aware of the Republican alternatives, despite the negative Democratic television ads that are “misleading” at best as to his health care stance.  He explained that before Obamacare, there were 40 million uninsured people in our nation.  Guess how many we now have,  Yes, 40 million.
Senator Mary Landrieu has voted 97% of the time in accordance with President Obama.  That’s completely out of line with the wishes of most of the citizens of New Orleans.  Landrieu was at her worst when she cast the deciding vote that allowed Obamacare to pass.  There will be a lot of  television commercials that “mislead and confuse.”  That’s sort of putting it mildly as to these Democratic attack ads.
We need Bill Cassidy M.D. to represent us in the U.S. Senate.  During the recent campaign headquarters event, he became quite passionate because, having been a Congressman, he understands how badly we need to change the majority of the Senate, and his election is projected to be the sixth Republican who can change the Senate to a Republican majority, which will finally rid Congress of Senator Harry Reid, who makes so many disastrous statements and legislative decisions.
This is a crucial year for Louisiana and our nation.  Jefferson Parish is an important key to our nation’s future.  It wasn’t Louisiana’s fault that the incumbent President Obama was reelected.  We were a “red” state.  This vote for Bill Cassidy is critical to our nation and the world.
Go Doctor Cassidy!  Go Republicans!

IRS Scandal

The Wall Street Journal reports on its Opinion Review and Outlook the following:  “The IRS–remember those jaunty folks?–announced Friday [June 14, 2014] that it can’t find two years of emails from Lois Lerner to the Departments of Justice or Treasury.  And none to the White House or Democrats on Capitol Hill.  An agency spokesman blames a computer crash.”
Does anyone want to buy a bridge?  It’s sad that our federal government, in which I served honorably for twenty years, has sunk so low with this Obama Administration.  What is so bad about this IRS scandal of harassing conservative and Tea Party groups is that it may have helped President Obama with his “reelection” in 2012.
I remember how President Nixon was charged with using the IRS for political purposes.  But the things he did were minimal compared to the scale of abuse that I deeply believe President Obama personally directed.  It’s interesting that this news was disclosed on a Friday, trying to master the news cycle after much, much delay with the same purpose.
It’s high time for all the media to wake up to the corrupt nature of the Obama Administration and how it is drastically affecting our present and future.

Spend Some Time with Me in Cuba

This was written on May 7, 2014, while I was in Cuba, along with other members of my church, to assist with the installation of a water purification system.  This was my eighth such trip to Cuba.

I am at the convent under renovation in Pinar del Rio.  We are doing living waters installation primarily to serve the nuns once the convent goes back into operation.  The sister who called us was quite friendly, warm and informative.

A great deal of workmen are building a wall – mixing the concrete wheelbarrow by wheelbarrow.  This wall is necessary because the renovation was partly necessary because of the theft of so many parts of the convent.

The sister just told me that the mother of the architect to this renovation died this morning.  She calls all the workers together and they recite together a Catholic prayer.

I am sitting on the front “porch” looking out as the work has restarted.  This is hot, hard work.  Inside our two Cuban friends are busy installing the water filtration system and I’m staying out of the way not to impede any of this fine work being performed for this worthy cause.

I’ve never seen concrete mixed by hand in a wheelbarrow, probably for very low wages.

The worker has now pushed the wheelbarrow to the edge of the wall being built.

They had already built wooden molds at the top of the rather high wall.
Bucket by bucket they are raising the concrete mixed previously to the top of the wall, filling it by pouring the mix into the mold.

Just about all the other work – of about at least a dozen workers – is being accomplished manually.

A horse-drawn “carriage” passes – a frequent sight in Cuba.

The workers do have a few power tools as I can hear them even though they’re out of my sight.

We are on our way back to Havana because we finished the living waters purification system early.

The highways all the way from Veradera through bypass of Havana – to Pinar del Rio – are four to six lanes with a median.  I believe they were probably built with Soviet Union foreign aid.  Now in 2014 this highway system is bumpy and not up to modern standards.

Another oddity is that traffic is very light probably due to the low ownership of vehicles and lack of viable businesses.

There just isn’t much truck traffic, almost none compared to the United States.  And there isn’t much rail transit either.

Scooters and even bicycles are limited in rural areas, but nonetheless present.  A few horse riders go along the side as there is limited fencing of the system.

There are large groves of banana trees.

It’s 6:00 p.m., and I can’t see a car on our side of the median in the distance – although a few cars and a bus or two pass.

A “rural bus” passes – a truck with an enclosed back with eye level opening as people standing/peering out.

We pass a horse-drawn buggy pulling two men.

Bicycles are present from time to time.  The second small “modern” car passed us.  Here’s another horse-drawn buggy, a scooter and a bicycle and two pre-revolution cars for which Cuba is famous; and we pass another and another.

The modes of transportation perhaps vary more than other places at least to the degree I have noticed.

The drive is picturesque with attractive plants and hedges in the median, probably more WPA-type projects like we had during the Great Depression.

Now people are selling at the side of the road.  Making ends meet in Cuba can be difficult.

One striking thing on this trip through this rural area is that most of the land is completely undeveloped with no farms or houses visible.

I see power lines in the distance and we pass a tractor cutting grass on the median.

We pass over a railroad with two sets of tracks; we pass trucks carrying containers that may have come from China; we pass a goat pulling a cart.

Now we are into an inhabited outskirts of Havana.  There is some traffic and it is 7:15 p.m.

We are now passing through an attractive residential area – very light traffic.

We are in metro Havana.  It’s said that Havana leads the world in urban gardening.  The area that we have been going through would tend to support that accomplishment.

 

Internalized Stigma and Healthy Self-Esteem

I believe just about everyone suffers from some type of internalized stigma – some much more than others, very much a matter of degree and the source of the stigma.  That does not mean that there aren’t many people with healthy self-esteem.  But many of these people, sometime in their life, experienced internalized stigma.  Overcoming this stigma can and does create both wisdom and that healthy self-esteem.

Selfishness versus Self-Preservation

On our ultimate journey toward Heaven on Earth we must learn to shun selfishness.  But the reality is—like most things in life—the difference between selfishness and self-preservation is a matter of degree, rather than some absolute.

We are each made of mind, body and a “little piece of God” (what others might call a soul).  Taking care of ourselves is a solemn duty and responsibility—in all three of these areas.  At the same time, we must be aware of others and avoid selfishness, which harms others.  It sounds simple and the goal is quite comprehensible.

The practice of caring for oneself, and at the same time avoiding selfishness, is not easy.  But, it is critical in our quest for Heaven on Earth.  My advice is to think about what you really need for self-preservation.  Contemplate this concept.  Pray on it.  Like all the other values—whether positive or negative—it is critical to be honest with oneself and to be aware of the balance between selfishness and legitimate self-care.

A Missed Opportunity in Iraq

On May 25, 2011, The Wall Street Journal reported on its Opinion page about a speech that the highly respected and departing Secretary of Defense, Robert Gates, made about Iraq.  Here is the final paragraph concerning Mr. Gates remarks:
“Lo and behold, Mr. Gates is saying that Iraq is that model, and that even the Obama Administration now sees a democratic Iraq as a  potential bulwark for American interests in the Gulf.  The rest of the press corps won’t acknowledge it, but Mr. Gates is more or less saying: mission accomplished.”
Now, without a stabilizing force that could have maintained the situation in Iraq, disaster is in the works.  According to The New York Times on Thursday, June 12, 2014, “Sunni militants consolidated and extended their control over northern Iraq on Wednesday, seizing Tikrit, the hometown of Saddam Hussein, threatening the strategic oil refining town of Baiji and pushing south toward Baghdad, their ultimate target, Iraqi sources said.”
No matter how one views our actions in Iraq, a Muslim democratic state in the Middle East would have been very possible and certainly like night and day from what the Obama Administration has allowed to happen.  After World War II we left behind troops to stabilize the democracies in Germany, Japan, and Italy, with wonderful results.  The incompetent and incoherent foreign policy of President Obama is reprehensible.
We need leaders with enough vision to lead our military forces in thoughtful ways in order to promote freedom and democracies across the globe.

New Hope in India and United States

India has a new prime minister, sixty-four year old Narendra Modi, whose party won the lower house of the Indian parliament outright, a feat not accomplished in thirty years.  He comes from a modest background, contrary to the caste system that has stymied India for so long.

The Congress Party, which was soundly beaten, had generally ruled India since its independence from Britain in 1947.  That party had continually used socialist concepts and the offering of food stamp programs to win votes.  This time it didn’t work.

The median age in India is twenty-six.  These young people want opportunity and jobs, not handouts.  Prime Minister Modi had previously electrified rural areas in the province he governed by building roads, eliminating red tape and engendering rapid and sustained growth in this region.

If Americans want to see the potential in our upcoming elections in 2014 and 2016, I believe we should look to this amazing election in India.  Anti-business forces went down in defeat because the young saw how growth was engendered by business-friendly policies of a truly progressive democratic leader.

America’s young people want prosperity that can only be provided by the private sector, a sector not hobbled by onerous regulations and high, complex taxation.  I realize that our youth also seek green solutions and good citizen corporations, but these are certainly not mutually exclusive from solid, job-creating growth.

I hope Republican leaders take note of this election, and what we can learn from it.  We must all understand that pro-business means pro-jobs, and that’s very pro-youth!

America Graduates and India’s Recent Historic Election

I just completed reading all The New York Times and The Wall Street Journal stories on the election just completed in the world’s largest democracy – India (1.2 billion citizens).

What does that have to do with American graduates?  In India, the young people in particular came out in force against the anti-business, leftist party and instead overwhelmingly elected a pro-business leader and his party.  These young people want jobs—not the Indian equivalent of our food stamps.

I hope and pray that the American graduates will come to the same conclusion as their Indian world citizens, in both 2014 and especially during our presidential election in 2016.

Pondering Our Place on God’s Green Earth

A few months ago I attended a men’s retreat through my church.  Here is what I wrote one morning:

I’m sitting by myself gazing at the calm, peaceful, serene waters affronting part of the family compound.  The grounds are beautiful and the birds – in this early morning – are chirping away, as if claiming their freedom in God’s wonderful world.

Why are we here, in this life as we experience a grain of time within the vastness of eternity?  Our minister says it’s because God does not want to be alone.  I agree, but I think there’s much, much more.  We are here to survive, strive and thrive – individually and eventually as Heaven on Earth.

Places like this remind us of God’s gift to us through nature and all its marvelous facets. But we can hide inside our self and while there is much that can be improved; there is also that mind, body and “little piece of God” that allows us to be kind to ourselves and others.

What is it about scenes such as this – grassy grounds, mature trees and placid waters – that cause us to pause, to reflect, and to wonder?  It’s just the awe of it, surrounded by living creations of God while at the same time reflecting on the water as it echoes in its own reflection.

We are not alone.  God is in us, around us, on a moment by moment basis – eternally.  Faith helps us to live, nurture our values and develop beliefs that serve as the foundation.

Spiritual leaders are important on this journey toward Heaven on Earth.  They can – first, encourage us to say and do the right things, demonstrate good behavior; second, nurture our values, the positive ones while diminishing our negative ones; third, encourage beliefs that support first, behavior, and then empowering values.

Wisdom is the key to Heaven on Earth.  And the good news is that it can be taught – and it should be, in schools, spiritual entities, government, the media, and families (of course), all human entities.  Perhaps I’m escalating, but we gain our wisdom partly by our interactions with others.  But we also gain it by our own experiences – such as this moment with the riveting and penetrating ingenuity of God’s works.

I feel God’s presence here.  We are studying in the current Sunday school class Living Waters.  The statistics on water are quite sobering – how little of our planet’s water is pollution and salt-free, liquid and accessible.