Heart disease. That is scary. Once the ol’ ticker goes, so does the soul that inhabits the body. Heart disease is so scary that millions will go on a lifetime prescription journey in the hopes of avoiding it.
The heart is a muscle. Like any other muscle, it can be trained. If you exercise it and give it the right nutrients, you can strengthen it and significantly reduce your chances of disease in the future. Between medication and diet/exercise, what would you choose?
Having a strong, healthy heart should be a priority. As stated earlier: once it is gone, so are you. As a result, we go to great extremes to protect it. But the worst heart problem cannot be fixed with exercise. Medication cannot cure it. Doctors may be able to repair it once it is damaged, but they are powerless when it comes to repairing this most serious of heart problems.
Some would say your heart and soul are one in the same. I agree. But where the heart muscle will one day cease to exist, your heart soul will continue into your next existence. But without love and charity in your heart now, you might find yourself in a shack on the outskirts of heaven instead of that mansion you were hoping for.
Consider the souls that have touched your life. Consider the acts of kindness, love, and friendship that you will never be able to forget. These are rare gifts that we should hold dear. Those moments are the catalysts for the stories worth remembering and worth telling. And once they are passed down, they inspire others to acts in similar ways.
Or maybe, it will inspire the recipient of that love and friendship to be more loving and to be a better friend to others. Maybe one generous act of kindness crossing your path of destiny will change your course so dramatically that others will also be affected. The result would be an exponential return of love. The result would be a truly better world.
No love, no friendship can cross the path of our destiny without forever leaving some mark on it forever.
It is said that with pride comes the fall. I have been down that road and chances are, many of you have as well. Humility takes work. And if you are busy working on becoming a better person, when will you have the time for arrogance and conceit. Stay humble. Stay low to the ground. If you do have a fall, you will have a shorter distance to go, and it won’t hurt so bad.
The Fear of the Lord
The priest asked us to close our eyes, and then he asked a question. He said, “How many of you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind.” I raised my hand. I could hear others raise their hands as well. We put our hands down and were told to open our eyes. Then another set of questions came:
How many thanked God this morning for another day?
How much time have you spent in prayer?
God gave us one book, how much time do you spend reading it?
Do you give your first fruits or just whatever you have left over?
We were told to close our eyes again and the same question was asked. “How many of you truly love God with all your heart, soul, and mind?” My hand didn’t go up. I don’t think I was alone.
Break down the commandments and we essentially have two: Love God and love your neighbor. Follow those two, and you are good on the original ten. When I think of loving God, I also think of fearing God. Do I really fear God? If I did, would I live like I do now, or would I live differently?
Riches, Honor, and Life
Pride equals a fall.
Sin equals death.
Humility and fear equal riches, honor, and life.
A proud man wants to flaunt his possessions and abilities. He wants the world to notice him. Most likely, he will live above his means. He will cause others to loathe him. Those he offends would love nothing more than to see his demise. They may even try to bring it about themselves.
Once again, humility takes work. It is the work that brings riches, honor, and life. This is Thomas Stanley’s Millionaire Next Door. This is the one that has much but doesn’t draw attention to himself. This is the one that stays low to the ground and does the work.
The results of humility and the fear of the Lord is riches, honor, and life.
Let’s start with friends and five things to keep in mind…
1. Forgive imperfections. Your friends are not perfect. Does it matter? No, not if their good qualities exceed their bad. It is those good qualities that we really admire, and one of the reasons for the friendship. In this way, good friends make good role models and help us along in our own personal development.
Of course, nobody is perfect, including our friends. But that is okay. You would grow weary of a perfect friend eventually creating a rift in the friendship. Like you, they are imperfect human beings trying to survive in this world to the best of their abilities. For this, we should cut them a break.
If thy brother wrongs thee, remember not so much his wrong-doing, but more than ever that he is thy brother.
2.Encouragement. Good friends want to see their friends succeed. The better off your friend is doing, the more pleasant it will be to spend time in their presence. And when they are not doing good, the relationship becomes strained. So, when we see them struggle, we try to help them. The right encouragement helps them to shift their viewpoint. It gives them a positive affirmation that they can overcome their difficulties.
My best friend is the one who brings out the best in me.
3.Be kind. A smile goes a long way. Kindness goes even farther. We all have the monsters in our lives that need slaying. And when your friend is in a battle with the monster of the day, derision never helps.
Be kind for everyone you meet is fighting a hard battle.
4.Speak the truth. If you lie to your friends, they won’t be your friends for very long. They don’t need that in their lives and will eventually find a way to separate themselves from you. A basic principle we must all adhere to is to speak the truth because our character is what attracts people to us.
Life is short, and truth works far and lives long: let us then speak the truth.
5. Don’t neglect them. I have lost touch with one of the greatest friends I ever had.* Even with all the technology available to us, I can’t find him. I no longer know his phone number or his address. He has zero social media presence. I miss him. I want to know he is okay.
We do not know what tomorrow will bring. This might be the last day you see that friend you love so much. With that in mind, we cannot let the time slip by neglecting our duties as friends. That day might not ever come around when you get around to making that call. Check in, make sure they are doing okay, and let them know you are there for them.
Let us greedily enjoy our friends, because we do not know how long this privilege will be ours.
Now that we covered friends, let’s move on to you…
1. Forgive your imperfections. Your friends are not perfect, and neither are you. After all, you are human. To not be perfect is okay. It doesn’t mean you can neglect your own self-development, but you don’t have to keep psychologically abusing yourself.
2. Encouragement. You are more enjoyable to be around when you are doing better in life. Only if we all could be doing better in life! Sometimes we struggle, and sometimes there is no one we feel we can go to for encouragement. You are going to have encourage yourself. You must tell yourself to get up and to forge ahead. With or without a cheering section, this is your path and no one else can walk it for you.
3. Be kind. Your battle is hard. The fates have dealt you a bad deck of cards. What should you do? Smile. Even at the worst, you are still alive. You still have much to be grateful for. Self-derision is not the answer. Give yourself the dignity you deserve.
4. Speak the truth. Look into the window of your soul and see it for what it is. Don’t lie to yourself. Putting on the blinders of self-delusion will lead to a pitfall. You can’t improve if you don’t know your issues. If you refuse to believe you are in a battle with the monster, you cannot win.
5. Neglect. You can’t do it to your friends, and you can’t do it to yourself. Take a moment and check in with yourself. Put down all the distractions and see how you are really doing. If you ignore yourself, you might end up losing yourself.
Become a friend to yourself. Learn to love yourself. Some would say this is the only way you can learn to love others.
* Bernie: I don’t know where you are, but I hope you are doing well. Our circle, our most inner circle from way back when, are concerned about you. You were the best of friends, and we miss you. You may never read this, but hopefully somebody we both know will get in contact with you. Peace my friend.
I turned out the lights and turned on my Kindle. It was bedtime, and the Kindle my nightly ritual. A little light reading before bed helps me sleep. It tires my eyes and quiets my mind. Usually I read a bit of fiction, but this night I read from Marcus Aurelius’ Meditations. The translation I have is old. It is filled with thee’s, thou’s, and thine’s. I like it as it reminds me of the King James Bible.
The emperor had a way with words and the passage from the sixth book did its magic on me. After a few minutes of reading, I had to put the book down. I had to digest the words. Sleep didn’t come quick this night.
Consider where we are right now in this time, in this space. Compare it to the big picture of the universe. A small point in time. A tiny pinprick in the vastness of the cosmos. Here we are, veritable miracles of life, so small and fragile. But here we are, together. Despite all our differences and problems, we are in it together, occupying the here and the now.
We have a tendency to make things seem bigger than they are. Our problems, because they impact us personally seem, to matter more than the problems of those down the street, those across the globe. Yet in the grand scheme of things, they are nothing but minor trifles.
This is the call for unity. When you meet your fellow humans, it is one miracle colliding with another. The dog, the cat, and even the bird on the front porch, all miracles, all points in time and space. True charity is that we treat all our brothers and sisters with love despite our differences. True charity is to honor those we meet with the dignity and respect that all creatures deserve. We are one moment in time, one speck in the universe. Our impact may seem small. But to those we come across, it can be enormous. The waves our impressions leave can lift others and sweep them to safer shores, or it can crash upon them shattering them on the rocks. What impact will you leave today? How will you be remembered tomorrow?
The words of the Stoic Emperor have made their marks on my soul. I hope it has the same impression on your’s:
Asia, Europe are corners of the universe: all the sea a drop in the universe; Athos a little clod of the universe: all the present time is a point in eternity. All things are little, changeable, perishable. All things come from thence, from that universal ruling power either directly proceeding or by way of sequence. And accordingly the lion’s gaping jaws, and that which is poisonous, and every harmful thing, as a thorn, as mud, are after-products of the grand and beautiful. Do not then imagine that they are of another kind from that which thou dost venerate, but form a just opinion of the source of all.
He who has seen present things has seen all, both everything which has taken place from all eternity and everything which will be for time without end; for all things are of one kin and of one form.
Frequently consider the connexion of all things in the universe and their relation to one another. For in a manner all things are implicated with one another, and all in this way are friendly to one another; for one thing comes in order after another, and this is by virtue of the active movement and mutual conspiration and the unity of the substance. Adapt thyself to the things with which thy lot has been cast: and the men among whom thou hast received thy portion, love them, but do it truly, sincerely.–Marcus Aurelius, from Meditations Book 6:33-35
Outside of the passage from the book of Genesis (ch. 2), it is no surprise that Paul’s great chapter on love in I Corinthians 13 is frequently read at weddings. After all, isn’t love the ideal reason for marriage in today’s society? For the common person, it is not for social or political reasons. Not for an arranged marriage. It is love. Those other reasons seems like entering into a contract of misery.
When I attended a co-workers wedding recently, I once again heard Paul’s words. But unlike all the other times, this time I really heard the words. They sounded different this time. What I could almost repeat verbatim entered my ears for what seemed like the first time.
Instead of the word “love,” they used the older, traditional word of “charity.” When we think of charity, we often think of the giving of our time and/or money to those in need. Do we ever consider that what we are giving is love? Do we give out of love?
If you have read any of my other posts, you may have realized that I frequently write on the virtues. There are seven traditional virtues. The four cardinal virtues: prudence, temperance, justice, and courage. And then, there are the three theological virtues: faith, hope, and love. Paul closes out the thirteenth chapter with these words:
And now these three remain: faith, hope, and love. But the greatest of these is love. –I Corinthians 13:13
The greatest of these is love. Love, the highest virtue. And for those who would strive to be more virtuous in their daily lives, they must do it with love. What is any of the other virtues without this one? You could attempt to keep the 10 commandments and hold to the law without love. But then you would miss the point. But when Jesus was asked what the greatest commandment of them all was, He responded with, “First love God, then love your neighbor.” (My abbreviated translation from Matthew 22:36-40). If you truly love God and your neighbor, you would be able to keep the law. Not because you were commanded or forced to do so, but because you wanted to do so, out of love.
Most of my day I spend thinking about how I can become a better person. I strive to be more virtuous, and then I record my efforts so that someday my son may have a little help as he negotiates his own path. For some reason, I rarely think about becoming a more loving person. I go back to thinking of today’s definition of charity and forget that it really is loving my neighbor. It is easy to love friends and family, but do I have the same outpouring towards those who desperately need it? In the end, we are all on the same team. We are humans trying to survive in a world that is often harsh and indifferent to our desires.
For those who could hear a nourishing passage, here is the full thirteenth chapter of I Corinthians:
If I speak in tongues of men and of angels, but have not love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging symbol.
If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I can have a faith that can move mountains, but have not love, I am nothing.
If I give all I possess to the poor and surrender my body to the flames, but have not love, I am nothing.
Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud.
It is not rude, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs.
Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth.
It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres.
Love never fails. But when there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away.
For we know in part and we prophesy in part,
but when perfection comes, the imperfect disappears.
When I was a child, I talked like a child, I thought like a child, I reasoned like a child. When I became a man, I put childish ways behind me.
Now we see but a poor reflection as in a mirror; then we shall face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known.
And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love.