crisis of faith or living faith…a choice

In a speech to the Roman Curia on December 22, 2011, Benedict XVI
reflected that
“The essence of the crisis of the Chruch in Europe is the crisis of faith.
If we find no answer to this…then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

The Day is Far Spent / Cardinal Sarah


(a lone turkey feather lost in the woods / Julie Cook / 2019)

When Joseph Ratzinger speaks about a “crisis of faith”,
we should understand that he is not talking in the first place about an
intellectual or theological problem in the academic sense of the word.
He means a “living faith”, a faith that imbues and transforms life.
“If faith does not take on new life, deep conviction and real strength
from the encounter with Jesus Christ,” Benedict XVI added that day,
“then all other reforms will remain ineffective.”

This loss of the sense of faith is the deep root of the crisis of civilization
that we are experiencing.

As in the first centuries of Christianity, when the Roman Empire
was collapsing, all human institutions today sem to be on the
path of decadence.
Reflections between people, whether political, social, economic, or cultural,
are becoming difficult.
In losing the sense of God, we have undermined the foundation of all
human civilization and opened the door to totalitarian barbarity.

Human beings, separated from God, are reduced to a single dimension—
the horizontal—
and this reduction itself is one of the fundamental causes of the various forms
of totalitarianism that have had tragic consequences in the past century,
as well as the crisis of values that we see in the current situation.

By obscuring the reference to God the ethical horizon has also been obscured,
to leave room for relativism and for an ambiguous conception of
freedom which, instead of being liberating, ends by blinding
human beings to idols.

The temptation that Jesus faced in the wilderness before his public ministry
vividly symbolize which “idols” entice human beings when they do not
go beyond themselves.
Were God to lose his centrality man would lose his rightful place,
he would no longer fit into creation, into relations with others

Pope Benedict XVI
Nov 14, 2012

consequences…the decisions we make

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest.
That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance.
The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which,
a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of.
An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge
or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity


(a willet makes off with a crab for breakfast /Julie Cook / 2019)

Scanning a local Atlanta’s news feed Sunday, I noted the storyline about a local Army Master Sgt.
passing away ten years after he was initially wounded in Afghanistan.

I stopped to read the story.

It seems that this soldier’s tale is a bit more complicated than that of a soldier being wounded
in the line of duty.

This particular soldier, Master Sargent Mark Allen of Georgia, was shot in the head 10 years ago
after he went out on a search mission for a fellow soldier who had deserted the unit.

The AWOL soldier was Sgt Bowe Bergdahl.

Bergdahl deserted his unit and was eventually captured by the Taliban.
He was in captivity from 2009 until 2014, when then-President Barak Obama
traded 5 Taliban prisoners for Bergdahl.

Master Sargent Mark Allen’s now recent widow Shannon,
did not know that her husband was actually shot while searching for Bergdahl,
not until several years later when President Obama ordered the prisoner exchange.
All she had known was that her husband had been shot in the line of duty and had
suffered a debilitating traumatic brain injury.

Allen was to spend the next 10 years of his life in a wheelchair and unable to
communicate, requiring constant around the clock care.

The full news story is below…followed by a bit of personal reflection…

Georgia soldier injured while searching for Bowe Bergdahl dies 10 years later
By: Chelsea Prince, The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

A retired Army National Guard officer from metro Atlanta died Saturday,
10 years after he was shot in the head while searching for Army Sgt. Bowe Bergdahl
in Afghanistan.

Master Sgt. Mark Allen was injured in a June 2009 search mission for Bergdahl,
who walked off a U.S. military outpost and was captured by the Taliban.
Military prosecutors said Allen was shot during a firefight that erupted when U.S. forces
and about 50 members of the Afghan National Army were attacked by enemy fighters.

Allen suffered a traumatic brain injury that left him in a wheelchair and
unable to communicate.
His wife, Shannon Allen, told WSB Radio that she did not learn about the circumstances surrounding
her husband’s injuries until 2014, after former President Barack Obama negotiated Bergdahl’s release
in a swap for five Taliban members detained at Guantanamo Bay.
Shannon Allen typically declined interviews,
but she was in the courtroom in October 2017 when Bergdahl pleaded guilty to charges of desertion
and misbehavior before the enemy, The Associated Press reported.
He was later sentenced to a dishonorable discharge from the Army but avoided prison time.

When Allen returned home, after being treated for three years at a military hospital in Florida,
he was honored as a hero.
The father of two was a frequent recipient of local accolades in his Walton County hometown.

According to an obituary printed in the Walton Tribune,
Allen spent 21 years in the Army and the Army National Guard.
He retired in 2013 upon receiving a Purple Heart.
He is survived by his wife, his son, Cody, and a daughter, Journey.

Services are planned for this week.
Visitation will be from 4 to 8 p.m. Thursday at Tim Stewart Funeral Home in Loganville.
A funeral is set for 11 a.m. Friday at the First Baptist Church of Snellville with a burial to follow.

This story was written by the Atlanta Journal-Constitution

Stories such as these are hard for all sorts of reasons.
Lives are shattered and forever changed all because of one person’s choice,
action or decision.

Two children lost their dad this past weekend… and if the truth be told,
they actually lost the dad they had known as small children, ten years ago
when he was shot in the head by a member of the Taliban.
There are conflicting reports that upwards of 8 other soldiers were shot and killed
as a direct result of that particular search mission.

The story behind Bergdahl is cloudy.

When President Obama exchanged 5 military prisoners for Bergdahl’s release,
some of the truth behind Bergdahl’s story began to emerge.
Details causing some in our Government’s leadership to question the legality of
President Obama’s prisoner exchange.

Bergdahl was eventually tried in a Military court and pled guilty to desertion.

He was given a dishonorable discharge, demoted in rank and was fined $1000 from his
monthly pay.
He did not face any prison time.

Since then, some have wondered aloud whether or not Bergdahl was actually
an enemy sympathizer.
A disillusioned soldier who decided to take his chances by deserting the Army
and country he served, opting to seek asylum with the enemy…or did he merely desert,
hoping to elude capture and simply “run away” to whatever it is was that he thought
might be a better life.

Bergdahl, however, does not deny deserting.

In a letter to his parents just prior to his desertion, Bergdahl paints
the picture of a young man who was very much disillusioned.
He was angry and had decided that he must wash his hands of any part of the mission and war.
He spoke of “being ashamed to be an American”
He noted that “the US Army is the biggest joke the world has to laugh at”
He points to the fact that America and her military are arrogant and even cruel in their actions
against the Taliban and the local people.

His father’s response was for his son to follow his conscience.

Yet one thing history has taught us is that war is not pretty nor is it ever fair.
Wars are bad and bad things happen during such.
Rules of engagement, the Geneva Convention, the UN, all have
been put in place to aid man in fighting his wars fairly…
yet what of any war is ever fair?

But those who are the committed members of our military understand
the mission and in turn work to that end.

And yet in all of this, I am reminded about the matter of consequence.

A man who was once proclaimed as ‘The Great Agnostic, Robert Ingersoll, once noted that
“There are in nature neither rewards nor punishments — there are consequences.”

Ingersoll was not a Christian man however both Christian and nonbeliever can each agree
that from all actions comes consequence.

No matter Bergdahl’s claims as to what took place following his departure from his Unit,
the fact of the matter was, and remains, that the consequences from his decision
and actions that fateful day in 2009 has forever changed a myriad of lives.

Bergdahl made a conscious decision, that many say to this day, was purely selfish.
I happen to be one of those who find Bergdahl’s actions self-absorbed…
and according to Military protocol, even criminal.

His choice to walk away, for whatever reason, set in motion a chain reaction of
life-altering events…perhaps none so great as experienced by the Allen family.

The Bergdahl case remains somewhat fluid as his legal team continues to push that he
be awarded various medals from that of POW survivor to a Purpleheart…
as well that his “Court Martial” be overturned.

Despite whichever side of this case you find yourself, the fact of the matter is
that decisions, actions, and choices all hold weight.

And often that weight is a balance between life and death.
As they directly affect other people…whether we see or not the effect.

Do not be deceived: God is not mocked, for whatever one sows, that will he also reap.
For the one who sows to his own flesh will from the flesh reap corruption,
but the one who sows to the Spirit will from the Spirit reap eternal life.

Galatians 6:7-8

Consequences of being armed without prayer or humility

“Arm yourself with prayer rather than a sword;
wear humility rather than fine clothes.”

St. Dominic


(Saint Dominic adoring the Crucifixion by Fra Angelico / The Covenent of San Marco/
Florence, Itlay/ with silhouette of photographer, Julie Cook / 2018)

Just as Christian doctrines have consequences, so do false teachings.
And the experience of the last several decades shows us the consequences
of false teachings about marriage: broken hearts and homes, spouses betrayed,
children abandoned by father or mother and slowed or derailed from the path to healthy maturity.
And when these things befall large segments of the next generation,
every other social institution is impaired.
For all associations—including the Church herself—depend on
formation that only the marriage-based family can reliably provide.

Gerhard Cardinal Müller
from The Power of Truth:
The Challenges to Catholic Doctrine and Morals Today

disrespect found in a den of iniquity

Discourtesy does not spring merely from one bad quality,
but from several–from foolish vanity, from ignorance of what is due to others,
from indolence, from stupidity, from distraction of thought,
from contempt of others, from jealousy.

Jean De La Bruyere

jeopcollege2017group_990x557
(the 2017 Jeopardy college championship, with our little friend from Stanford on the far right)

Disrespect….

I’m pretty certain that I’ve rambled on about this little topic before…
and here I am finding myself, once again, addressing the whole
notion of respect vs disrespect, morality vs immorality…
as I caught a little story in the news this morning that has left me troubled…

And it seems as if the story centers on, of all things, the college
championship competition on Jeopardy…
as if sadly, nothing is currently off limits…
particularly when it comes to this notion of respect…
even the benign bastion of all things related to trivia being apparently fair game…

Disrespect, which actually walks hand in hand with it’s first cousin immorality,
as in each are the mirror effect of respect and morality,
are two negative human traits that if left unchecked, unaddressed….
two actions that left either ignored or simply tolerated,
are two of the key undoings of any society.

For disrespect, and its cousin immorality, lead directly to the erosion of civility.
The erosion of civility, in turn, is the undermining of any civilization…
all of which leads directly to anarchy.

Throughout much of the history of humankind, it has been the youthful ones
who have had the most trouble with these two notions…
that of both respect and morality.

There is a time in all growing up when these two choices, or perhaps more aptly put,
decisions in behavior, come powerfully and dangerously into, well, jeopardy.
Be it testing the waters with a devil may care lifestyle,
the growing pains found in a struggle for independence or simply part and parcel
of growing up… that time period between late adolescence and early adulthood
is a murky pool swarming with defiance, emotional roller coasters and lots of
poor choices…

In times past, society had done well to nurture its angst filled youth through these
troubling waters…
today however, we are witnessing a dangerous anomaly taking place on
college campuses all across the country….
An enabling of the molly coddling coupled by a dangerous ideology of a liberal manifesto
found not in what was once considered to be the bulwarks of higher education but rather
now found in places that are considered nothing more then dens of iniquity.

Society now not only tolerates the anger filled intolerance of the self-centered youth,
it is embracing it and them with a heinous zeal while affording these young people the
luxury of living a Peter Pan type of lifestyle…as in never having to grow up and
accepting responsibility for the poor choices of their negative actions.

On this particular Jeopardy episode, three kids from various colleges were competing
for the college championship.
During the brief meet and greet portion of the show, Alex asked each student
a question allowing them a brief time of explanation.

One nice looking young man from Stanford was asked a question about his major.
While answering Alex’s question, this young man was, it appeared, to be not only
talking with his hands as he responded to the question,
but one hand was actually raised while he was coyly shooting a bird for the cameras.
For roughly 10 seconds, this kid talked while shooting a bird on national television.

I actually saw this particular episode and never noticed.
But why would I….
why would I think a competitor would want to act like a fool on a national platform?
Alex apparently didn’t notice either.
But Twitter noticed.

Someone tweeted out about the incident with the student quickly responding,
“damn right I did”

Really??

Now why pray tell would some kid, who is sporting the sweatshirt of his college,
proud to be representing his college in a national televised competition want to
show his butt by shooting a bird while casually explaining his college major
to the host of the show?

Rude comes to mind.
As well as selfish.
Selfcentered.
Arrogant…
Disrespectful…

I was angry.
Mad at this blatant act of total disrespect to not only Alex the host, but to
the crew, this student’s fellow competitors, his parents, the audience..
both in the studio and those of us at home.

So now, as a society, do we decide to tolerate this cheeky kid’s behavior?
Do we choose to ignore his disrespectful behavior?
Do we opt to laugh it off as merely brash?
Do we simply chalk it up to youthful ignorance?
Do we shrug it off as just a kid being kid…?

Or do we say enough.

Do we say grow up kid.
Man up, as it were.
Step up to the what it means to be and act like an adult.
Do we respond with a “you think you’re so smart, then act it?”

Maybe his winnings should be forfeited for his disrespectful behavior…
Maybe Stanford should be reminded about the type of “ambassadors”
they’re sending out as representatives of their fine institution of all
things educational.
Maybe it would behoove all of us to recall that actions, all actions,
have consequences…
instead we’ve chosen to turn a collective blind eye to
poor behavior….

Having a lack of respect leads not merely to the obvious opposite of disrespect…
but rather it leads to contempt…
contempt of both one’s self as well as others…
eventually leading us all down the chaotic path to the loss of soul
found only in anarchy.

http://nypost.com/2017/02/24/jeopardy-contestant-gives-trebek-the-finger/

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.

“Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You travel over land and sea to win a single convert, and when you have succeeded, you make them twice as much a child of hell as you are.

“Woe to you, blind guides! You say, ‘If anyone swears by the temple, it means nothing; but anyone who swears by the gold of the temple is bound by that oath.’
You blind fools!

You snakes!
You brood of vipers!
How will you escape being condemned to hell?

Matthew 23:13-17,33)

Rights and Responsibility–somewhere in there, should be compassion

A hero is someone who understands the responsibility that comes with his freedom.
Bob Dylan

Until the great mass of the people shall be filled with the sense of responsibility for each other’s welfare, social justice can never be attained.
Helen Keller

“A human being is a part of the whole called by us universe, a part limited in time and space. He experiences himself, his thoughts and feeling as something separated from the rest, a kind of optical delusion of his consciousness. This delusion is a kind of prison for us, restricting us to our personal desires and to affection for a few persons nearest to us. Our task must be to free ourselves from this prison by widening our circle of compassion to embrace all living creatures and the whole of nature in its beauty.”

― Albert Einstein

DSCN8284
(emerging fall color / Julie Cook / 2014)

The news as of late, has been rife with the stories of the growing cases of Ebola emerging outside of the so called West African “hot zones”—With most cases occurring in individuals who have traveled to and from theses specific hot zone— such as doctors, healthcare providers, aid workers, with a few emerging cases from average citizens who simply wanted to “get away.”

After reading the headlines and watching the latest breaking news concerning this growing global worry, I have become a bit troubled by one story in particular, which has been capturing a great deal of attention. It is the story of nurse Kaci Hickox from Maine, who after returning from Seirra Leone, has refused to be quarantined against, what she claims, to be her will. She was initially detained in Newark, NJ as soon as she disembarked from the plane. Eventually leaving the hospital in New Jersey, heading home to Maine, where the state of Maine has asked that she at least “self quarantine” at home, avoiding contact with anyone and to not leave her home for the requested (note requested) 21 days.

A defiant Hickox has refused, claiming that she is healthy, perfectly fine, and refuses to be a “prisoner” or allow her “rights” to be jeopardized. She claims that not being able to have contact with loved ones, after returning from a stressful situation, is simply too much to ask.

Really?

I certainly do not adhere to the “Henny Penny the sky is falling” school of panic, but I do believe in common sense and responsibility. With any new, scary, unknown factor there is indeed going to be a certain level of concern and even panic on the part of the general population. The thought of a modern day “plague” is very frightening. The unknown itself is simply very frightening to people.
Somehow I don’t think the taking of a defiant stance helps to calm heightened concern.

Modern day science and medicine is indeed a marvel. We have made so many wonderful advancements in the treatments of deadly diseases and viruses, even taking on the so called super bugs as we wage a war of eradication.

Unlike the days of the Middle Ages when those, having contracted leprosy, were required to wear bells around their necks so as to warn those passing near to be cautious and move away as a leper was in the vicinity, we have learned that we cannot contract certain viruses and diseases by mere touch or being in the presence of the “sick.” Yet many individuals are still concerned, cautious and afraid.

It was reported that the local hospital in Ms Hickox’s town has had up to 10 individuals cancel elective surgeries out of concern that Ms Hickox could become symptomatic requiring her to have to go the hospital for treatment. It was reported that she was craving a pizza from the local pizzeria. The restaurant was inundated with calls concerned about her showing up as other patrons did not want to be there when and if she arrived.

Some may consider such behavior in her community as bordering on hysteria, some may see it as merely precautionary. I do believe however that Ms Hickox, especially as a healthcare provider, does indeed have a responsibility to her community—in which she should want to work to ensure calm, reassurance and the bridging of gaps and not create or add to the hype, the rising sense of panic or fear that a belligerent, spiteful and defiant attitude breeds.

I’m not saying that we should give in to hysteria and panic but I am saying that we should be brave enough and smart enough to execute judicious precautionary action. 21 days is said to be the time for the incubation of the virus, should someone having been exposed, contract Ebola. I don’t think 21 days of quarantine is much to ask of anyone coming back from the so called hot zones. We’ve already seen how several healthcare providers, who felt perfectly fine upon leaving the country or having worked with sick patients, eventually came down with the virus.

I find Ms Hickox’s lackadaisical and caviler attitude bordering not on the knowledgeable and scientific and constitutional as she claims, but rather of the selfish. She is hellbent, having already “lawyered up” as it were, on maintaining her “rights” to come and go as she pleases—despite the fact that she has caused contention, consternation and division within her small rural hometown of Maine.

Is it fair to the town, the state, the Nation, or to the Global family at large, to throw caution to the wind and go merrily about one’s individual world while those around are questioning, fretting, arguing, debating, panicking—which gives way to the fact that our lives are not so single and individual as we think but are actually linked inextricably to and with that of our fellow human-beings.

Maybe this all boils down to an inconsistent policy dealing with this new “threat” to humanity as it seems we, our Governments and Medical Communities, are learning on the proverbial fly. Each day and each new case brings with it, its own unique set of circumstances. We’ve seen the quarantining of the pets of victims. Spain opted not to quarantine a beloved dog of a nurse who had come home bearing the virus, but opted rather to put the dog down. Global leaders are grabbling with how best to quell the growing worry of an ever growing weary world. Not everyone is making the most wise of decisions as we continue living in the midst of the learning curve.

Ms Hickox’s responsibility to her fellow human beings, in my opinion, outweighs her so called constitutional rights. To claim one’s individual rights when it is affecting the wellbeing of countless other lives, businesses, decisions. . .particularly when one is supposedly about the business of selflessly caring for others, rings of selfish, self centered egotism.

I’m all for defending our rights and freedoms, but I think we must ask ourselves is it fair to put countless others at risk without a bit of cautious reflection? In this case a time of evaluation and observation of 21 days is the “cost” of being cautious. The responsibility taken to travel to a highly volatile region brings with it obvious risks—those risks don’t simply disappear when one hops in a plane and flies away, leaving it all hopefully behind. There are consequences for all actions, good and bad—if we are willing to jump into a risk filled situation then we must be prepared for the followthrough—in Ms Hickox’s case, that followthrough is a 21 day time period of quarantine. It’s that cut and dry.

Groups such as the ACLU and various civil liberty groups seem to throw common sense out the window just to argue a point. Sometimes I feel as if we’ve allowed “the law” to overshadow reason, compassion and the doing of the right things for and by people. Oh I know what many will say to such, that the law is the law is the law and it is our duty to defend it. . .especially when a body of one, a minority, is concerned. I fear we’ve seen far too often how we now bend over ourselves for the few, often forgetting the whole. . .
As a nurse, Ms Hickox should know that sometimes there are some hard consequences as part of a profession and if a 21 day quarantine is requested, not necessarily required, but merely requested, should not precaution trump the selfish clamoring of violated rights? Could not her self imposed quarantine perhaps not be the best teaching example to help educate and quell fears?

Ms Hickox was selfless in her desire to work with the organization Doctors without Borders–demonstrating a concern and compassion for those afflicted, sick and dying–yet in her having come home, that same sense of concern and compassion no longer seems applicable to her very neighbors as she choses to cause division in her very own community. I’m thankful that she is “free of Ebola” and has returned home, as she continues to claim, very much well and healthy, but the issue here is one of caution, of which she has been asked to observe and of which she is vehemently refusing.

May we be willing to take and bear the responsibilities for our actions. May we work to put the wellbeing of others above our own wants and desires for in so doing we create a more compassionate and kinder global community. May we learn to yield our self governing egos to that of compassion, giving, caring, not demonstrated to but a few, but to all we encounter. . .if I should see that my hellbent desires are causing so much ire, so much pain, so much contention and consternation around me, may I learn to back off, taking on the spirit of gentleness with my responsibilities verses the combativeness of self.

consequences of our choices

The Wrong we have Done, Thought, or Intended, will wreak its Vengeance on
Our SOULS.”

― C.G. Jung

“Good and evil both increase at compound interest. That is why the little decisions you and I make every day are of such infinite importance. The smallest good act today is the capture of a strategic point from which, a few months later, you may be able to go on to victories you never dreamed of. An apparently trivial indulgence in lust or anger today is the loss of a ridge or railway line or bridgehead from which the enemy may launch an attack otherwise impossible.”
― C.S. Lewis,

“May your choices reflect your hopes, not your fears.”
― Nelson Mandela

DSCN6476
(a Georgia peach / Julie Cook / 2014)

The third law of physics, as stated by Sir Isaac Newton, proclaims that for every action, there is an equal and opposite reaction.
I would say that this “law” is not only true for the physical actions in our lives, but is equally true when it comes to our “mental actions” better known as the choices we make in our lives—
For every choice made, there is a resulting consequence–be it good or bad.

Some of our choices not only bring ill effects to ourselves but may have sweeping negative ramifications for others. Therefore one may, in turn, conclude that our choices are accompanied by grave responsibility. Yet who really ponders the decision to change a lane while driving as having potential grave consequence? Who really ponders the decision of taking a flight for a business trip as having possible lasting effects for our loved ones. . .as our plane is blown from the sky?

I would imagine President Harry Truman understood the concept of choices and consequences as he kept a small plaque on his desk “The Buck Stops Here.” Meaning the ultimate end of all decisions and choices regarding the best interest of all the American people and that of those in the free world, rested with him. It was ultimately President Truman’s decision to go with the bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. A choice to bomb or not to bomb—either way would have had consequences—consequences effecting millions which would (and still) continue reverberating far into our future.

Let’s look at this concept of choices and consequences within the frame of a little scenario—

A man walks into a convenient store with a loaded gun pointed at the head of the cashier, demanding all the money in the register. Suddenly, for whatever reason, the robber choses to pull the trigger.
Lives are immediately changed forever.
For the sake of our little story let’s say the cashier is killed.
The robber, now turned murderous gunman, runs.
In that single selfish instant, the cashier’s family is changed forever .
The gunman, let’s say, is eventually apprehended.
His family is forever changed.
There is lengthy legal haggling.
In and out before a judge and the Courts.
Suddenly a bunch of other people are now consumed with the gunman’s selfish choice.
Years pass before there is a trial.
Now all of us as taxpayers are responsible for the gunman’s’ upkeep.
More lives are effected.
Eventually the gunman is found guilty and is sentenced to death.
There are appeals.
Years continue to pass as he lives in prison on Death Row, paid by taxpayers.
As other lives continue to be consumed with his own.
At some point, he turns to God.
He asks for forgiveness.
He is indeed forgiven.

God says to our gunman, “I forgive you and I love you, but your actions have consequence in the life of your world as well as in My World. As I have forgiven you, you will now be welcomed Home, but you must answer for your poor choices there in your world and undergo the punishment given. You must know that you will be with Me in and for Eternity but you will have to first undergo the consequences of your actions.”

Depending on the courts, the state of the crime, and the lengthy appeals, there will either be a sentence of death or life in prison. Either way, the gunman clings to God’s Grace—he accepts his earthly fate as a result of his initial choice of walking in the convenient store, all those many years prior with a gun in his hand, yet now instead of hate, greed, malice, there is a Peace in his being as He knows he is now forever God’s child come home. And there is a resolved acceptance to the punishment of his crime as our gunman now knows that his punishment will not be a permanent ending.

Let’s say for the sake of our little scenario that our gunman does not find God and does not seek forgiveness. He chooses to live bitterly stewing over the one hiccup in his plan, that he was caught.
If he had to do it over again, he’d make certain he was never caught.
There is no remorse—just a seething internal hate and disdain for all creation.

Depending on your belief system, be that in a Heaven or Hell, in a God of Grace and Justice or if you prefer to believe in nothing at all–either way, our gunman’s lack of remorse and choice of a selfish act now sends him either to eternal damnation or into oblivion.
End of story.
And isn’t that all quite empty and sad?

It is obviously not always for us to see justice.
Which can be terribly frustrating as well as painfully maddening. Imagine the hearts of the parents of children who’s young lives have been savagely taken from their parents arms by malice or illness. . . which must lead us all eventually to the Cross for some semblance of direction—but that is for another post.
However, the one thing we must take from this little story of ours is that we are to be mindful of our own choices.

For the one thing we can and do have some manner of control over is indeed our choices.

And granted not all of our choices are going to be as drastic or extreme as an armed gunman’s. . . as that is but a mere example. But it is an example which sums up the ripple effect of poor and selfish choices. The tentacles stretch outward casting a wide net that often stretches out through the ages. One’s negative choices can effect children, grandchildren–oftentimes altering the entire dynamics of a family for generations.

Many of us today continue to pick up the pieces of our parent’s or grandparent’s poor choices which have impacted our own lives in ways that leave us bitter and resentful.

May we then be the cycle breakers. May we be blessed with the vision to see the unhealthy and negative web which may be consuming our lives. May we rest in the knowledge that the cycle can be broken, which is after all, a mere matter of a choice.

You whom I have taken from the ends of the earth, And called from its remotest parts And said to you, ‘You are My servant, I have chosen you and not rejected you.
Isaiah 41:9