If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, July 26, 2013

It "Is" a Big Deal

I wrote this 15 years ago. The point remains timeless.
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For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.  (John 3:16)



From the moment our 15 year-old son walked into the house after a weekend missions trip to Mexico, he rambled about his experience with an enthusiasm I thought he reserved only for computer programming. His excitement continued through dinner as he painted vivid word-pictures of homes he and other church members built for two impoverished families, the children they met, the food they ate, the bugs they chased. Then, as we left the dinner table, he added, “Oh, by the way, I cut my leg two days ago.”  He pulled at his pants leg to give me a look. “What do you think?”

 

I’ve been a nurse a long time, but had never seen such a mass of angry, reddish-blue pustules like those covering his shin. It was hard to know where infection stopped and healthy skin began. A thin, yellow fluid seeped from an inch-wide blister and traced down into his sock. I bent closer and caught a faint whiff of foul odor.

 

“Put on your coat. We’re going to the emergency room.”

 

Shortly after we arrived, a physician examined Nathan’s leg. He prodded, poked and murmured an occasional, “that’s interesting” to no one in particular. Then he looked at us and announced the bad news. Nathan needed intravenous antibiotic therapy to prevent the infection from spreading to his bone or his blood. If it spread, he would require hospitalization. Nathan’s “by-the-way” nonchalance suddenly transformed to an “uh-oh” anxiety.

 

After the IV therapy, we drove home with a two-week supply of antibiotics and other medications to help his leg heal. The physician told me to keep him home from school for a few days.

 

When Nathan went to bed, I sat at my computer to unwind from the day’s events.  As I stared at the blank screen, I thought about the incident beginning from Nathan’s, “Oh, by the way.” I relived my gnawing fear as the doctor probed, prodded and attended to his infection. Under different circumstances, Nathan’s “Oh, by the way” could have ended in disaster.

 

It’s been many years since that evening, and I still wonder how Nathan could have been so casual about something so serious. Maybe it’s because he is so much like me -- and the rest of humankind. We often deny reality, hoping, for example, the chest pain is indigestion and not a heart attack, insisting the persistent lump in our throat will go away with time, or making believe weeping sores will get better by the morning.  But in an eerily similar way many of us also deny our spiritual wounds with a similar nonchalant: “It’s not that bad.”

 

When I share my faith in Christ with others, the common refrain, “I’m not that bad” makes me wonder if it’s subliminally scripted into our subconscious. What people most often mean is, “When I die, God will weigh my good deeds against my bad. I think I’ll do okay.”

Coming from the lips of men and women whose spiritual wounds sometimes defy description, I shake my head in bewilderment.  In the face of overwhelming spiritual injuries like drunkenness, drug abuse, sexual addictions and perversions, volatile tempers, arrogance and destructive pride . .  . .  why do we believe we need nothing more than a bandage?

Perhaps because we hear the message “God loves us” so often, the words lose their significance. But it’s His love that prompts His warning, “Get to the Emergency Room (Calvary).” And there, when the Great Physician prods, pokes and tells us, “You need a new heart; you need to be born again  -- some still wonder, “What’s the big deal? It’s only a little sin.”

Nathan’s physical injury was a big deal. Skin infections such as his can invade the blood and become systemic infections overnight. Untreated, it could have killed him. And spiritual injuries are also a big deal. Untreated, they will spread through every nook and cranny of our lives and will eventually separate us forever from God.

Nathan didn’t have a choice the evening he showed me his leg and said, “Oh, by the way.” If he refused to come to the hospital I’d have dragged him there. But you and I have a choice about going to Calvary. God won’t drag us to the Cross. We can bring our wounds to the Great Physician or shrug our shoulders and, with “by the way” nonchalance, tell Him, “I’m okay.”

I'm here to tell you, “I’m okay" is a very bad choice. That’s why Scripture urges us, “ . . .  now is the time of God's favor, now is the day of salvation” (2 Corinthians 6:2).

Waiting overnight might be too late.

Monday, July 22, 2013

Bang, Bang. You're Dead

I wrote this more than 20 years ago. Its memory resurfaced a few days ago and I thought to update it and post it here.
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From the Catechism of the Catholic Church: The message of the Last Judgment calls men to conversion while God is still giving them "the acceptable time . . . the day of salvation." It inspires a holy fear of God . . . . (paragraph 1041)
Choose for yourselves today whom you will serve. (Joshua 24:15)
 
Exhaustion swept over me. It had been a long day at Disneyland with my young children, and I looked forward to plopping into bed at our motel room down the street. As we stood on the corner waiting for the light to change, a red convertible raced passed us and someone on the passenger side shot at me from a high-pressure water rifle. I looked up in time to hear my assailant shout, "Bang, Bang. You’re dead."
It happened so quickly I never had time to think about ducking for cover and protecting my kids. For a moment I stood motionless and incredulous. Did that really happen? Did he really shoot me? I looked at my shirt. Yes, he did. I'm soaked.
Several emotions suddenly swelled within me. None were very kind. I clenched my fists and glared at the tail lights disappearing into the collage of vehicles now at the other end of the block. I considered giving chase, but realized I'd never outrun them, and besides, I didn't know what I would have done if I caught up with the guy – or what he might have further done to me if I had.  So I stood there, fuming and frustrated - until the full weight of what could have happened settled over me. When it did, anger gave way to fear. My shirt could be saturated with my blood instead of water. I rubbed my hand across my chest. I could be lying dead on the pavement.
And then, inexplicably, as I stood there on the corner, the oddest sense of peace settled over me. No, “peace” does not faithfully describe the emotion that flooded into my mind. Comfort is a better word. Or maybe assurance.
Let me explain.
Many years ago I made a disturbing discovery about myself. Through a series of unhappy events I came face to face with the truth that my life was a cacophony of excuses and lies, of tragic rebellion, selfishness, and arrogance. I cringed at who I really was and how many people I had hurt.
However, at the same time I made another discovery. Despite my sin, God loved me. Despite my willful defiance, God offered me forgiveness. Despite my rebellion He offered me a new relationship - as of a son with a Father. All I had to do was take the first step and repent – apologize to Him for my many sin – ask Him to forgive me, and invite Jesus Christ to be Lord of my life. I could hardly believe it all could be true.
But it was.
In December 1972 I took that step, and God opened for me the floodgates of His love. I knew instinctively and intuitively He’d forgiven me for every terrible thing I’d ever done. In that single moment He wiped the slate of my past absolutely clean, adopted me into His great Family and made me His child. He promised I would never be alone in my heartaches because He would be with me wherever I am and through whatever I must endure. But perhaps best of all, He gave me His unalterable oath that when my life on earth is over, I will live with Him in His eternal kingdom.
Had that water been lead, I would have awakened in a place where there is no more death, no more tears, no more heartache, no more fear, no more separation, no more loss.

It’s been said, "Life is fragile, handle with prayer." God used a street corner “wet-down” to sharpen my focus. A drive-by shooting, an accidental fall . . . death can strike in an instant. I am grateful to Him that I do not have to worry about making last-moment decisions about eternity.
                                                                      

Thursday, July 18, 2013

Deadly Pinholes

Put on the full armor of God, so that you will be able to stand firm against the schemes of the devil. (Ephesians 6:11).

August 19, 1990. The United Nations Coalition forces, led by the United States, were still a few months from enforcing the U. N. Resolutions against Iraq.
Dressed in camouflage green, I stood with nearly fifty other Navy and Marine Corps personnel in front of the warehouse at Camp Pendleton in California. We received our "sea-bag" gear the day before: helmet, sleeping bag, poncho, canteens and various other pieces of equipment necessary to conduct daily living in the middle of the desert. Today we would receive our chemical‑warfare protective gear: charcoal impregnated overgarments and gas mask with attached butyl rubber hood.

Chemical weapons, which include mustard, nerve and choking agents, can create large numbers of casualties for very low cost. Of the known chemical weapons in Iraq's arsenal, nerve agents caused the greatest concern because a droplet the size of a pinhead is sufficient to kill an unprotected person.

"Check your gear carefully," the supply sergeant said as he handed each of us our gas mask and green garment bag. "Make sure the garment bag is intact, and that your hood is free from holes."
Holes? I threw a suspicious glance at the sergeant and looked at my bag, turning it upside down and around in my hands. It looked intact. Next I examined my mask and hood. Everything looked okay.

Then I noticed the sergeant hold someone's rubber hood up to the sun, inspecting it from the underside. When he shook his head and tossed it into an already half‑full 50 gallon drum beside him, I looked back at my own hood, giving it much closer scrutiny. What at first appeared to be an intact hood, when held up to the light for closer examination, revealed scores of tiny holes no larger than – pinheads.

I used to wonder if there was a close parallel between preparing for military battle and preparing for spiritual battle. I no longer wonder about it. I know it to be true.

Among the items comprising the Christian's armor (see Ephesians 6), the Bible is central. It is the bedrock foundation of our defensive and offensive posture as we battle the subtle treacheries of Satan.

That is why St. Jerome said: Ignorance of Scripture is ignorance of Christ.  It is why the Catechism of the Catholic Church teaches the faithful Catholic: "God is the author of Sacred Scripture because he inspired its human authors; he acts in them and by means of them. He thus gives assurance that their writings teach without error his saving truth." (Catechism paragraph 136). And it is why “The Church has always venerated the divine Scriptures as she venerated the Body of the Lord” (Catechism paragraph 141)

But any warfare is not without its deceptive stratagems, and Satan is master at the game. Knowing how critical God's word is for the Christian, our deadly enemy diligently works to diminish its authority. One of his tactics is to introduce droplets of his toxins - not obvious vipers, but pinhead size worms - which for many believers render the Scripture, by degrees, impotent in their lives. You may have read some of these toxins in magazines and books, or heard them promulgated in movies, the workplace – or even in some churches. For example:                             
- The Bible is a compilation of moral stories, but cannot be trusted to represent the inerrant word of God.

- Because the stories were written by men and copied time after time through the centuries, significant errors are sure to have occurred in transmission.

- There are no absolutes upon which we may anchor our actions. Everything is relative.
- The Bible addresses the problems facing today’s people with archaic and uselessly outdated methods.
- What was considered sin in Bible days was rooted in the ignorance of a nomadic and intolerant people. Twenty-first century humanity is far more knowledgeable and tolerant about what should be considered wrong.

Had we been attacked with nerve agents, my defective chemical suit would have proven fatal for me. In the same way, I dare not engage in spiritual battle without ensuring my spiritual armor is intact. It is not the large gaping defects in doctrine which are the most dangerous. They can be easily spotted and dealt with. Rather, it is the small defects, the easily overlooked pinholes in the armor, which allow the seeds of death to take root.

As the history of the Church warns us, the strength and integrity of the Christian's spiritual armor is rooted uncompromisingly in God's word. That is why it is so critical, in the spiritual battles we face each day, to examine every philosophy, every thought, every idea under the light of Scripture – and for Catholics, how the Church interprets the Scripture. There is too much at stake to be sloppy or casual about our spiritual gear. Pinholes can develop too quickly.

And kill too easily.
 
 

 

 

 


Sunday, July 14, 2013

Homage to My Daddy in Heaven


Because you are sons, God has sent forth the Spirit of His Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! [Aramaic word for Daddy] Father! (Galatians 4:6)

Sing to God, sing praises to His name; Lift up a song for Him  . . . whose name is the Lord, and exult before Him. A father of the fatherless and a judge for the widows is God in His holy habitation. God makes a home for the lonely . . . .  (Psalm 68:4-6)

 
I call Him Lord so often I sometimes forget He’s my heavenly Daddy. I’m sorry when that happens. ‘Lord’ conjures for me a more distant relationship than the intimate bond ‘Daddy’ invokes.

In prayer last week, that intimacy stirred thoughts once again of my earthly father. Those who’ve followed my blogs for a while know Albert left me and my sister in 1954.  I was four, Andrea was not yet two. He wouldn’t keep out of other women’s beds, so Mom finally told him to pack his valise.

Andrea and I rarely saw him afterward. Three, maybe four times over the next decade and a half. Then, in 1968, when I was eighteen, I asked Mom to set a meeting with him at my paternal grandparents’ apartment. I wanted to know his side of the story. I wanted to know why he left me and Andrea.

My mind’s eye still sees him as he sat in the wing-backed chair in front of the living room window. I sat cross-legged on the carpet a few feet from him. Andrea and Mom sat on the sofa to my left, my grandmother on the flowered upholstered chair to the right of the couch. My grandfather softly drummed his fingers on the dining room table to my right.

“Why did you leave?”

Albert hardly hesitated. He looked me in the eyes and said, “Because I wanted to.”

That was 45 years ago. His words remain as chilling as if he spoke them last month.

I don’t know why that memory recently resurfaced while I was in prayer. I forgave Albert in November 2011 for what he’d done to me. The Lord had interrupted my prayer time and asked if I would forgive Albert. His question caught me by surprise, and I wasn’t quite sure how to respond. Would I forgive Al for casting me aside like a piece of trash? More to the point, could I forgive him?

“I’d like to,” I finally answered.

What happened next still warms me to think of it. The memory of Albert saying what he did remained – and yet remains – chiseled in my mind, but the memory then took a sudden and extraordinary turn. I was no longer sitting on the carpet. Instead, my heavenly Daddy was sitting on the carpet and I was sitting in His lap. His arms encircled me and I snuggled deep into His embrace. His warmth surrounded me. I could hear His heart beat, feel His breath on my hair. A great sense of quiet washed over me. I knew I was at home, at home in His arms.

Home. Oh, the security, serenity, the love and hope that word arouses within me.

Albert’s words, “Because I wanted to” no longer stung as they had in 1968 because now, in 2011, I could snuggle deeper into Daddy’s embrace. Albert’s cruelty dissipated like a mist burned away by the sun as my Daddy held me yet closer – because He understood how those words ripped a hole in me. I remember as I write this how – as this scene unfolded in my memory – I broke into a grin, looked him in the eyes and said without hesitation: “I forgive you.” 

Why shouldn’t I forgive the man? How could I not forgive the man? I was sitting in my real Daddy’s lap. Albert was never my father. He only impregnated my mother. He was no more my father than if he had raped her and she conceived. But my Daddy in heaven – oh, my Daddy has never left me, no matter how many reasons I gave Him in my life to do so. And even when I didn’t know it He was there, all the time, His arm around my shoulder, whispering encouragement to a young boy, who became a teenager, and then became a young man who would one day become the man at 63 who joyfully lifts his hands in worship of his Daddy in heaven.

Sitting in my heavenly Father’s arms, how could Albert’s cavalier rejection hurt me? I could feel only sympathy for the man who missed a lifetime of opportunities to be my earthly daddy.

Is it any wonder why I am so in love with my Daddy who art in heaven?

Friday, July 12, 2013

Stressful Times of Prayer


The tongue is a fire (James 3:6)
 
Sometimes prayer is a stressful time for me. Even distressful. Like this morning when the Holy Spirit reminded me of how easily angered I can become. Like yesterday. About how easily I permit harsh words, hurtful words, to sometimes flow from my mouth.
 
I really do not like what I do at times. I really do not like who I am at times.

The Holy Spirit was not yet finished. He then reminded me of a verse in Proverbs I’d memorized a long time ago: He who is slow to anger is better than the mighty, and he who rules his spirit, than he who captures a city (16:32).
 
Then He brought into my thoughts a portion of the ‘Universal Prayer’ attributed to Pope Clement XI: Help me to conquer anger with gentleness, greed by generosity, apathy by fervor. Help me forget myself and reach out toward others.
 
And finally, as if to punctuate His point, I opened my Facebook page shortly after my time with the Lord, and followed a posted link to this YouTube video. Its title is, Change Your Words, Change Your World. It is well worth the short minute or two to watch. Here is the link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8n4DyFh9iWA 

Sometimes prayer is a stressful time for me. Even distressful. But without those times of self-rediscovery I would not have reason to bring to Christ my sins, seek His forgiveness, cleansing, and purging – all designed to change me more into His image.

 

Thursday, July 11, 2013

The Fruit of Impatience

And now, O Lord, for what do I wait? My hope is in you. (Psalm 39:7)

Aaron should have known better. Only 40 days earlier he, with his two of his sons and 70 elders of Israel, climbed Mt. Sinai with Moses. There they witnessed the terrifying and awe-inspiring glory of God as He overshadowed the mountain (Exodus 24:9-17). And more: they all sat and ate dinner with the King of Glory.

Six weeks later God called Moses up the mountainside to receive the Ten Commandments. As Moses turned to enter the cloud he told Aaron and the elders, ‘I will return. Wait for me’ (Exodus 24:1-18).  But after a little more than a month, as Moses delayed his return, the people grew impatient. So they said to Aaron – the one whom God had chosen as High Priest – “Make us a god who will go before us. As for this Moses, we don’t know what happened to him” (Exodus 32:1).

And for some inexplicable reason, Aaron – who had only 40 days earlier eaten with God and beheld His inexhaustible grandeur – Aaron acquiesced to the people and formed a golden calf to serve as their ‘god.’ (32:1-6).

You can’t make this stuff up.

You and I now sit on the other side of that Biblical history, and I wonder how much things have changed. Two thousand years ago the Lord Jesus promised us, “I will come again” (John 14:1-3).  But like Aaron, the elders and the people in the Exodus account, have we grown impatient waiting for the Lord to fulfill His promise – even (and perhaps especially) those of us who eat His flesh and blood at each Mass? How many of us actually wonder if Jesus really intends to return for us? And how many live unaware of their participation in St. Peter’s prophecy – and by their ignorance fulfill that prophecy: “[I]n the last days mockers will come with their mocking, following after their own lusts,  and saying, “Where is the promise of His coming? For ever since the fathers fell asleep, all continues just as it was from the beginning of creation” (2 Peter 3:3-4)?

Impatience.

The Apostle continued: “The Lord is not slow about His promise, as some count slowness, but is patient toward you, not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.” And then he added: But the day of the Lord will come like a thief, in which the heavens will pass away with a roar and the elements will be destroyed with intense heat, and the earth and its works will be burned up. Since all these things are to be destroyed in this way, what sort of people ought you to be in holy conduct and godliness . . .?” (2 Peter 3:9-11)

Indeed, what sort of people ought we to be?

“I will come for you,” our Lord Jesus promised. And I suspect He expects us to believe it – and to act accordingly. But throughout Church history, even to this day, impatience has taken its toll. Like Aaron, the elders, and the rest of the people, many Christian leaders and laity alike seem to have forgotten the Lord’s warning directed toward His disciples: “[I]f that evil slave says in his heart, ‘My master is not coming for a long time,’ and begins to beat his fellow slaves and eat and drink with drunkards, the master of that slave will come on a day when he does not expect and at an hour which he does not know, and will cut him in pieces and assign him a place with the hypocrites; in that place there will be weeping and gnashing of teeth.” (Matthew 24:48-51). 

Truly, what sort of people ought we to be to whom the Lord has said, “I will return. Wait for me”? How should we live our lives to please Him who – with the warning – also told His disciples to continue His work until He returns (Luke 19:13)? Joshua’s exhortation to Israel after they entered the Promised Land is relevant to that question. He said, “. . . Choose this day whom you will serve . . . but as for me and my household, we will serve the Lord(Joshua 24:15).

Oh, Holy Spirit, help us to not grow impatient, and in our impatience lose our love and impassioned devotion for God.  Help us choose today – to choose now – to choose wisely. Amen.

Monday, July 8, 2013

Why is it so Hard to say it?


 The Lord is compassionate and gracious, slow to anger, abounding in lovingkindness (Psalm 103:8).
 As soon as I hung up the phone, I felt uneasy about our conversation. Brian asked me to include some of his furniture in my household shipment when I transferred back to California. At first, I didn’t think anything of it. We were both U. S. citizens working overseas for the government. He and his wife had several pieces of furniture they wanted shipped to their daughter who also lived in California. Because his contract did not permit him to ship very much weight when they eventually returned to the States, he asked if I would include his items in my shipment. Their daughter would pick up the furniture when I arrived at my new home.
Brian and I spent a lot of time together fishing on the lake and smacking balls around racquetball courts. We talked for hours about politics, sports and computers. We attended the same church. I couldn’t imagine he would ask me to do something illegal. However, I couldn’t shake the feeling something was not quite right.
The following Sunday I stopped him in the hallway at church and told him I needed to check with the shipping office to see if it was okay to combine his furniture with mine.
Brian took a deep breath. “Don’t bother,” he said. “It’s illegal.”

I looked at him, not sure if I heard correctly. When I recovered, I said, “You mean you knew it was wrong?

He nodded.

In the corner of my eye I spotted my wife motioning to me from the sanctuary. The worship service had begun. Brian and I walked into the church, but my heart stuck in my throat. Over the next several days I replayed our conversation, alternating between anger and disappointment. I couldn’t understand why my friend was willing to put me in such jeopardy. I could have lost my career. Been fined. Even gone to prison.

Thursday, I called him.

“Brian, I think you owe me an apology.”

“For what?”

“For what?” I echoed, more hurt than incredulous. “You could have gotten me in lots of hot water . . . and you knew it was wrong.”

Even as I spoke, I valued his friendship and did not want his sin to come between us. Besides, had I not also in the past done stupid – yes, rebellious – things for which I was ashamed? I would not hold myself aloof as if I was somehow holier than he. I wanted to forgive him. All Brian had to do was admit he was wrong and ask my forgiveness.
Instead, he justified his sin. “The government,” he argued, “owes it to me.”
 
That I could have gone to prison for fraud, that he could have ruined my reputation, meant nothing to him.
We lost contact after my wife and I moved back to the States. To this day, decades later, I sorrow for our loss. And yet, as I think about Brian and me, I also see a similar story unfold – not between two men, but between Mankind and God.

Surely, we have all offended God far more than my friend ever offended me. But how many of us would rather justify our sins than admit to Him we are wrong? How many of us would rather blame society, our parents, our environment, our genes – than simply say, “I am guilty”?

I have to wonder if God is more saddened than angered by our stiff necks. I wonder if He is more grieved than offended by our defiance. I wonder if He is more disappointed than provoked by our unwillingness to say, “I’m sorry.”

What is so hard about saying it? Why is it so hard to tell Him, "Lord, I am sorry. Forgive me. Cleanse me with the blood of Jesus and help me live my life now for You"?

Tuesday, July 2, 2013

July 4. Not Just Another National Holiday

O beautiful for spacious skies, for amber waves of grain, for purple mountain majesties above the fruited plain! America! America! God shed his grace on thee. And crown thy good with brotherhood from sea to shining sea!
(America The Beautiful, written by Katharine Lee Bates in 1895)

July 4th. For many Americans it’s a day off from work and an opportunity to invite friends to the house for barbecue. And for most Americans, its significance, and that of the Declaration of Independence, gets lost in fun.

I pray this year is different for all of us. Our nation is at a crossroads, the result of two generations of a diluted and revisionist focus on American history in our schools. The implacable bravery, unrelenting dedication to freedom and the incredible sacrifices of life, health, comfort and fortunes of our forefathers to purchase our liberty – our freedom from oppression – is rarely (if ever) mentioned any longer in our school classrooms. Our children, and their children, have not learned – as those of my generation learned – of the desperate struggles of American patriots that eventually won our God-blessed American heritage.

I hope our celebration of Independence Day will be a little different this year. As I researched the circumstances surrounding what is perhaps the most important document in US history, I relearned why so many men and women gave their lives during the American Revolution.

In the early 1770s, King George of England reigned over the colonists with a severe and arbitrary fist. He forced them, under penalty of imprisonment, loss of property, or death, to house British troops in their homes. Court officials on the king’s payroll protected the soldiers from prosecution for any crime they committed, including murder. King George denied the colonists right to trial by jury. He created numerous 'offices' and send minions of government officials to ensure obedience to new and intractable laws. He enacted punitive taxation while refusing the colonists representation in decisions that affected them. He forced them, under penalty of death, into military service. Read the Declaration (see link below). Their grievances roll on and on. I don’t know why they waited as long as they did before shouting, “Enough!”

The 56 signatories of the Declaration of Independence were not hoodlums looking for a fight. Twenty-four were attorneys or judges. Eleven were businessmen. Nine owned large tracts of land in an era when few people owned property. Each one had much to lose by opposing the King’s tyranny. But they had more to gain . . . if not for themselves then for those who would follow after.

"We hold these truths to be self-evident,” they wrote, “that all men are created equal; that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable rights; that among these are life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And to wrest those God-given rights from the King’s clenched fist, they stood shoulder to shoulder “with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence,” pledging their lives, their fortunes, and their sacred honor.

Their pledge proved costly. Most of them died in poverty. Many saw their families murdered or imprisoned.

As most people who’ve studied history know, sometimes the battle goes that way. Sometimes men and women endure horrendous sacrifices to win freedom for themselves and others, yet never see the results of their sacrifices. Only the generations that follow are privileged to enjoy them.

The Declaration of Independence gave birth to the United States of America. With all of our current and growing problems, needs and tensions, we remain a nation blessed by the One upon whom the fifty-six signatories called to help their fight for freedom. This year would be a good time for all Americans to find copies of the document at public libraries. Or print their own at the following URL: http://www.archives.gov/exhibits/charters/declaration_transcript.html.
 
Then, as the steaks sizzle on the grill, gather the guests and family around the table and read the document aloud. It’ll only take a few minutes. But doing so might change the way many of us view life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. And it might change the way we view the One in Whose hand those things ultimately reside.