SEIZE THE MOMENT

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Taking a day off from my “Tales of Ichabod” to share a wonderful meditation that was shared with me for Lent. In my church we often speak about “sins of omission,” namely, the Good Things I Might Have Done. In many ways these are even more important – and so, serious failings – than the negative things we do do. SO MUCH GOODNESS down the drain!

Paul Bear Bryant was one of America’s Greatest Coaches. He knew how to bring out the BEST in people. He never settled for less than 101%. It is no surprise that a piece of paper was found in his billfold when he died. It read:

 The Magic Bank Account
Imagine that you had won the following *PRIZE* in a contest:
Each morning your bank would deposit $86,400
in your private account for your use. 
However, this prize has rules:
The set of  rules:

1. Everything that you didn’t spend during each day  would be taken away from you.

2. You may not simply transfer money into some other account.

3. You may only spend it.

4. Each morning upon awakening, the bank opens your account with another $86,400 for that day.

5. The bank can end the game without warning; at any time it can say,“Game Over!” It can close the account and you will not receive a new one.

What would you personally do?

You would buy anything and everything you wanted right? Not only for yourself, but for all the people you
love and care for. Even for people you don’t know, because you couldn’t possibly spend it all on yourself, right?
You would try to spend every penny, and use it all, because you knew it would be replenished in the morning, right?
ACTUALLY, This GAME is REAL

Shocked ???
YES!
Each of us is already a winner of this *PRIZE*. We just can’t seem to see it.
The PRIZE is  *TIME*
1. Each morning we awaken to receive 86,400 seconds   as a gift of life.2. And when we go to sleep at night, any remaining time is Not credited to us.

3. What we haven’t used up that day is forever lost.

4. Yesterday is forever gone.

5. Each morning the account is refilled, but the bank can dissolve your account at any time WITHOUT
WARNING…
SO, what will YOU do with your 86,400 seconds?

Those seconds are worth so much more than the same amount in dollars.

Think about it and remember to enjoy every second of your life, because time races by so much quicker than you think.

So take care of yourself, be happy, and enjoy life!
Here’s wishing you a wonderful and beautiful day.

Start “spending”….
“DON’T COMPLAIN ABOUT GROWING OLD…!”

SOME PEOPLE DON’T GET THAT PRIVILEGE!
When i was small, i saw on television some great musician being awarded by all of his friends and colleagues a Lifetime Achievement Award. Funny thing is, i do not remember who he was. All that i recall was a giant theater filled with standing, screaming fans, as he got his award, and when he returned to his seat, his wife leaned over and whispered something in his ear through all the cheers. He burst out laughing. What i remember the most was when the couple exited the theater, and a reporter asked, “What did your wife say to you, that made you laugh so much?” The artist answered, “She said to me, ‘Now just imagine if you practiced!'”

ONLY THE PINK RHINO KNOWS

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My 14 year old Molly’s latest artwork was finished just in time for a Mardi Gras gift to our Capuchin friar friend, Ichabod, in the Middle East. But, an email from him this morning points out that it makes any even more perfect symbol for today, Ash Wednesday. It is just what he needs for his mission in a land where a Catholic priest is hardly welcome. He will need a Super-Strength, and there is nothing mightier than the Pink Rhino. So, where do we find such a creature? He is in anyone who runs on Compassion, a “battery” best found in the admission of one’s weakness and sin -AND THEN TOUCHED TO THE CORE BY THE HIGHEST POWER of all. The result is the AWESOME Might of Gentleness, of Tenderness.

It ran so well in the soul of “the Great Soul,” Mahatma Gandhi, who did not observe Ash Wednesday but who stated emphatically on many a Wednesday or any other day, “The only devils in this world are those who live in men’s hearts, and the only battles that should be fought are there, each one battling himself. I haven’t fared very well in mine, and that is why I have so much tolerance for other scoundrels such as me.” That is why, as many times as he was slapped or beaten, he could gently offer his other cheek.

It wasn’t long ago that Pope Francis visited our shores. Remember that guy?! Most of us went GaGa over him!!! Do we remember? Do we recall what was the gist of his message to “the most powerful nation on earth?” i have written many times how he could actually have found it in a letter written by George Washington to the nation in embryo. But Pope Francis already knew the answer and declared George’s secret wherever he roamed: “THERE IS NOTHING STRONGER THAN MERCY!” Ichabod notes what an excellent symbol Molly Robinson of Beacon, New York, has made of Pope Francis’ WORLD MISSION, being carried out by women and men like Fr. Ichabod: A PINK RHINOCEROS!!! What a bright child i have!!! The Mightiest of Might that can only be found in LOVE. No one said it better than St. Paul, who under the name of Saul appeared to be a man of power, quite the brute. He rounded up followers of Jesus and had a good old time watching them squirm and die. And then he saw THE LIGHT and how TRULY WEAK AND MISERABLE he was, not strong at all, just another bully. It was only when he was stripped of all power, all wealth, every-thing, that he really started to live. “When I am weak, it is only then that I am strong, in the strength that I have from above,” from the One Who Showed the Surest Strength by surrendering His Power to Love.

My friend, Ichabod, is not walking some new path through the Middle East – although it absolutely is “A ROAD LESS TRAVELED BY.” No, he walks in the footsteps of another man, the “first of the little brothers” who set the precedent for the mission some 800 years ago. St. Francis of Assisi, once a knight himself with all the swords and armor and other trappings, had fallen madly in love with a different kind of king. The Credo of all good knights was found in one word, which described such a King, MAGNANIMITY. It means to PROVE ONE’S GREATNESS by bending, serving, lifting up anyone who is below you, anyone in need. He had only found ONE SUCH KING, and he promised that ONE & ONLY his everything. Francis had found THE PINK RHINO and so was transformed into one himself. Strength in Service, in Compassion!

Without a doubt the perfect example of the pink rhinoceros came out during the Great Crusade, the centuries-long battle against the ultimate foe, or so they were seen, the Muslims. A young Francis had pledged his life, his blood, to defeat them. A NEW Francis, with NEW EYES and NEW HEART – found in the ashes of his sins forgiven, set out on foot and without sword or armor to the same Middle East (where his brother Ichabod walks just like him.) St. Francis in an action UNTHINKABLE-to-say-the-least walked straight through the “enemy lines” and asked to be taken to their leader. Imagine how many times the word “CRAZY” in its various translations was used that day!!! He was fearless, as only a PINK RHINO could be. He could NOT be harmed! All that he had to do was to reflect on the words of St. Paul thanking God for preserving him from all harm. Ha Ha, He He Ho Ho!!!!!!!! Did he miss something? Did he have major Alzheimer’s Disease? Could he not remember just how many times he was beaten, stoned, imprisoned, tortured? Why, of course he did! And he even knew that eventually they’d finish him off – that is, his body. But they could do no harm to HIM, the REAL HIM, the SAUL-BECOME-PAUL. He had been shown GREAT MERCY, handed personally by Christ “the Pearl of Great Price;” he had all that he could ever need or want.

And so Francis…in the very same Mercy, with the very same Pearl in the pocket of his soul, went to THE BIG GUY, the head honcho, the one who pulled all the strings of the enemy forces, and said, “Why can’t we find peace? After all, are we not brothers under the One God?” The Sultan Malik al-Kamil gazed with awe and listened intently to the PINK RHINO. Truly he had never before seen such STRENGTH. In the end he apologized to the holy man, saying those saddest of words, “If only they were all like you, Brother Francis, I would gladly order every soldier to lay down his arms.”

If only pink rhinos were not so very rare!!

Well, at least i know of another one….Francis still walks. Gandhi still breathes. Jesus still lives. And Nothing will ever be Stronger than Mercy.

T.G.F.I.

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Let us pause for a moment in a prayer for our sponsors….

Everybody, including me, loves to shout out TGIF one day a week and go out to eat! But i could say 7 days a week, even 8! and 24 hours of every day, T.G.F.I. Thank God for Internet!

i started yesterday’s blog joining the praises for the newest Knight, Van Morrison, for his Crazy Loving Ways. Let me begin this one thanking God for Sir Tim Berners-Lee, the Inventor of The WorldWide Web, which makes it possible for me to proclaim the wonderful tale of Ichabod, not the one with the headless horseman but my buddy, the one who risks life and limb – his own head – a Catholic Priest somewhere in the Middle East, just trying to share God’s Mercy!

TimBL, as they call you, “these kids of ours” – lol, they hate when we say that! They know no other way. Typewriters to them, even libraries to them, are like old toys, not unlike red wagons or Flexible Flyers. They will never have the reverence or gratitude i have towards one like you – and all of your colleagues, of course, in giving us the ease and the precision, the truly “amazing grace” with which we communicate with our human family around this “little earth.” (and i still barely know how to work this stuff!!!)

How happy i was to awaken this morning to chat with my “Brother,” Ichabod, and share a prayer with him for all of our human family. How excited i was to be able to share with him how sooooooo many now know of him and feel one with him, he needs not feel lonely, at least, as he serves the People of God, be they Muslim or Christian or Hindu or God-less in the Middle East.

Though the Internet is now one more tool which, like so many others, may be used for great harm, it does us limitless good in linking all our lives together! i swear, if TimBL were my neighbor, i’d bring him breakfast in bed every morning!

Through my little blog i have been able to share with the world some of the amazing people that God has placed in my life. The latest offering will take all week, my Ichabod, such a fascinating soul. When i offered my first installment, it was picked up in Italy and Canada and Australia and Brazil, and responses came in from Pittsburgh, Massachusetts and Jersey. Sweet Debbie Isaacson of Danbury shared how she KNOWS that in these present horrors around the world true saints are being molded, but we won’t ever hear of many of them. i was able to present one, as God had graciously allowed my path to cross with that of this awesome friar.

Able to bounce Debbie’s words off of Ichabod, he was able to LAUGH at his new “title” and then to share his weekly homily and how he, like Isaiah in ancient times, had been so touched by the Power of God, that when God said, “I need some help here; who will help me?” Ichabod answered – with both trembling and joy, “Here I am, Lord; send me.” As unworthy as he feels, like Peter on his knees in the sand at the feet of Jesus, the overwhelming feeling is that he just cannot hold in his Gratitude for Mercy. Ichabod will still get into “icky” situations, and sin is always close. Just think how hard it must be, for example, to love people who could no sooner have your head. He will have to constantly return to his source of strength, the Heart of God.

But again! God has put His Heart EVERYWHERE, and another source of strength for “Saint Icky,” as Debbie and i have decided to call him, are his brothers and sisters – so far away and yet sooooooo close – thanks to Sir Timothy. Isn’t it all so amazing? As Louie Armstrong sings, despite all of its horrors, “What a Wonderful World!”

Where else could i send my daughter Molly’s pink rhinoceros for all to ride?

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WOW! Thanks, Molly! This is for you, Ichabod!

 

…AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD!

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In a previous blog i mentioned a piccoloist who felt her part just so insignificant that she stopped playing. The Maestro halted the whole orchestra mid-symphony in order to comfort and to ensure her that her role was as important as anyone’s. In light of this i want to share the tale of someone so tiny YET SO TALL in the center of this world with all of its troubles. ICHABOD is the Maestro God’s VALENTINE to us all. i believe his story may take a few installments, but it is well worth the reflection.

Let me first say how happy i was last week, when the British Royalty decided to honor an amazing little saxophone player from Northern Ireland, George Ivan Morrison, better known to us all as VAN THE MAN. At Buckingham Palace he finally became Sir Ivan.

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Already i’ve heard many asking Why? What did he do?! Sing about some girl with brown eyes? Do a little Moondance? The truth is, this little man labored for over half-a-century to fill the world, so dark and sad and lonely, so “melancholic” – as he puts it, as it can be, with Light and Hope and Love. When i announced the Knighthood far and wide, many wrote to share what he meant to them, each one by their favorite from his enormous repertoire. It’s interesting how the winner among them all turned out to be Crazy Love. (i believe that only Dylan wrote more, and Dylan claims, “There’s none better than Van the Man.”)

i’ve been writing this blog for days, actually for months. Most recently i did some rambling on Donald Trump, and people have asked me why? Why would i waste my time, my words, on Trump…or on politics in general? Well, it’s true, our politics are at their very lowest ever (i feel the pain), and our country, our world, is in its direst need for a few good men. But i did all of that Trumping deliberately, and as a PRELUDE to this man, Ichabod, in contrast, one very good man, the CRAZIEST-LOVING brother of mine.

There are those like Trump and Cruz who actually think that carpet-bombing the Middle East is the answer, the best answer, the one answer. As if it would end the war and end the threats against the U.S. and the other freedom-loving nations of the earth. As if it would not lead to the War-to-End-All-Wars, as it would end all human life. What did Mr. Gandhi say? “An eye for an eye until the whole world is blind.”

…AND THEN THERE’S ICHABOD, my looney-loving buddy. Ichabod is not his real name, but it is what i always called him, as he was tall and skinny like Ichabod Crane. i won’t mention his real name or where he is at, as i would dread to be the one to hasten any terrible fate, as ready as he might be. Ichabod is a Capuchin friar/priest who lives in the Middle East as shepherd to many Catholic Christians and “crazy lover” to everyone he meets. He is not there to convert anyone but only to understand, to heal, and to love. i will return to this later.

But speaking of Gandhi, who can ever forget that defining moment of his life’s mission. Here he had wrestled his beloved India out of the grip of British tyranny. Enough project for whole vast armies, it was completed by only one tiny man who walked around in a diaper, had no title and no money. No sooner were they all free, however, then his dear countrymen decided to slaughter each other, Hindi versus Muslims. “The Great Soul” as he was known, “Mahatma” decided to hunger strike as a plea for civil war to cease and for them to begin instead to discuss how all could live in harmony. Wasted to nothing and just before he breathed his last breath, Gandhi was visited by a fellow Hindu who was screaming almost out of his mind, “I AM IN HELL!” He had just taken a Muslim child and crushed his head. “I LIVE IN HELL!” By now it was nearly impossible for Gandhi to breathe, let alone to speak, but he managed to get out, “I know a way out of hell. Find a Muslim child orphaned by this senseless war, and raise him as your own.” The man immediately felt a great burden lifted from him…..until the Mahatma added, “But be sure to raise him Muslim.”

WOW! To stretch the mind to think the unthinkable. To open and expand the heart to the very Craziest of Crazy Love (to love even as Jesus who was Gandhi’s ideal, although he was not even a Christian.)

And then there is Ichabod. A dear friend of mine, truly a BROTHER in the highest sense of the word, he and i lived in Italy together over 30 years ago. He actually chose to “Live in Hell,” as Americans and many others would call it. Whether he is killed by sword across his throat or by a nice shiny American carpet-bomb – but HOPEFULLY, God, you will preserve him who serves You!? Whatever happens, there is one who has found another way, call it Gandhi’s way or Jesus’ way or just “the road less traveled by.” Or maybe call it “the way of the Great Knight, Sir Ivan Morrison, the Way of Craaaaaaaaaazy Love.” His way out of Hell is to go right into Hell’s Belly, and, like a little piccoloist, play his tiny part minute by minute, hour by hour, doing what he can do for Love.

Let’s pray for him and all of those with him…and for our crazy world. Only something crazy is going to work (and i truly do not think it is carpet-bombing?!)

More next time. Ichabod, i love you. (He is reading this!)

SOME GAMES WERE NEVER FUN!

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Probably i shouldn’t allow it to bother me, but this whole Trump thing is such a daily embarrassment to our beautiful nation! The feeling i get is similar to the one when someone i respect gets sucked into a professional wrestling match, as if it is real, and i say again, “You KNOW it’s NOT REAL!”

“Trump isn’t real!” the wise David Brooks entitled his latest political essay. i know, i KNOW, David! But, then again, he IS! And this really IS happening – to the shame of America. It’s all a show, you might say; it’s all a game. But, it’s not funny – and not fun anymore. But, then, SOME GAMES WERE NEVER ANY FUN.

i’m thinking of one in particular, and i know that this is the very one that is being played for all of these sad months. We called it, UNCLE. We all remember the game, especially those of us who were small. Someone bigger would get on top and hold us down, pushing and pressing as we ached and struggled to breathe, until we cried, “Uncle!” Never fun for the little guy – and i doubt it was really much fun for the bully. i mean, Big Deal! So much to brag about! Does it really make you feel good about yourself?

Well, here it is again. This is what it’s about really. All a Game, but it’s all too real. How do we make it stop? Our wonderful Republic is on the floor, squirming, flailing its arms, fighting for air, an embarrassment to the world. Every time he opens his mouth – with one more cliche, another threat, or another false claim to victory, and poof, nothing else, no plan, no remedy, but a mob to cheer him on, Uncle Donald makes US look so foolish!

Or maybe i should put it this way – to a tiny praise of Mr. Trump. He isn’t really strong, you know. He might have lots of money, but the more he stands up there in the arena, the weaker he appears, especially when he screams “WIN” a hundred more times. But here it is. He does have ONE GREAT BIG MUSCLE, namely the truth that our government is a disaster. He is like David Brooks’ Professional Wrestler, taking his whole show to Washington, the Trump Circus to the Circus Maximus. He is right, and his camp keeps cheering him on. They have good reason to.

But to think that this Wrestler,who is really just a great performer, has any clue as to how repair the circus, Whew! That would only be putting the Super-Heavyweight D.T. into the D.C. Ring! i know, Mr. T., what this is all about. You are trying to make a point, a GIANT POINT (Can Donald Trump make any other sized point?) He is like the Giant Gold-Loving Ogre who came down the Beanstalk of Fifth Avenue, though this point does deserve, and need, to be made, and i will say, “YES! THANK YOU, SIR!!! POINT MADE. POINT TAKEN. Now please go home…or to the links.”

But that wouldn’t be enough for him. i’m nobody. Though a lifelong member of that “Silent Majority” he claims to be his people, my appeal would never work. So, what do we have to do, for love of our nation, to get him OFF OF US, off the stage, off our backs, off of our throats. ONLY ONE THING IS GOING TO WORK. Donald Trump has absolutely no business in this arena. We know it. He knows it. Everybody knows it. But he is not going to leave until someone CRIES UNCLE! And i mean someone from this broken, dysfunctional fiasco we call Congress YELLS, “OK! OK! OK! You are right! You WIN! UNCLE!” This is obviously the Ultimate Power Move which “the Donald” wants to be known for in his lifetime Wikipedia.

So, hey, down there in Washington! i realize that most of your egos are nearly as big as his. They weren’t so, when many of them were sent there BY THE PEOPLE FOR THE PEOPLE. Something about D.C., “something in the water,” makes egos grow. (LOL, D.T. in D.C. would grow into a Mushroom Cloud! i should not say, Laugh Out Loud.) HELLOOOO, is there anyone there who will dare cry Uncle – for the good of US all?

i would place my wager at this big WWF Match on Marco Rubio, “the little guy” as Trump calls him, “the Kid,” “the one who has no money, I MEAN ZERO, nothing, absolutely nothing to show for himself” –  how the hell is he planning to beat ME?! Rubio is a real part of that disgraceful government, though one who really keeps trying. A genuinely “littler” guy, i’m sure he got held down many a time in life and made to cry Uncle. Maybe that is where his beautiful humility was born, there and in the clear and certain knowledge that every little thing he has came from poor but GIANT-hearted parents who never stopped working. Marco has not stooped to the lows of others in this campaign. He has taken blow after stupid blow, loud screams about his weaknesses instead of his many accomplishments already, though he may be “a kid.”

PLEASE, Mr. Rubio, please be the one. Say to Mr. Trump, “OK! You are sooooo right! Things are really bad down here. OK! UNCLE!” Maybe then he’ll go back to the golden tower and let you take care of things, the right way. Satisfy the Bully, even if he does it all because he says he loves Veterans (though Veterans starve outside his tower, and he wants the City of New York to move them out…) Even if he says he loves Iowa, then claims the next day, “Iowa is meaningless.” He does it all because he loves the USA, as he ought; it is, of course, what gave him everything, though he claims it was all HIMSELF!

Please, Marco, CRY UNCLE. Otherwise, we’ll just have to endure…month after month of his doing the very opposite of what he promises, Making America Instead GRAVER and GRAVER. After suffering loss after loss after loss, with lawsuits initiated in every state, Uncle Don will go home, a beaten dog with tail between his legs.

 

 

MY 317 YEAR OLD PAL!!!

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At first i was going to put a photo or two on Facebook…but then i realized that this is well worthy of a blog!

Whenever i cross the Hudson River by my home, if i have even a few extra minutes, i just have to pay a visit and my respect to one of my Great Heroes, the Balmville Tree. Just think of it, born before George Washington! Born before Georgie’s Mother, Mary! This type of tree, the Eastern Cottonwood, usually dies after 100 years. But this guy kept on growing. My photo is just a zoom on a bit of bark. Its belly is 25 feet around!

Before the Revolution even began, it sat outside a tavern and shaded folks as they drank and grumbled about King George and his odious taxes. In 1783-1784 a New George lived just down the road a bit. Over their brewskies many spoke of making him King now. Who knows, maybe George himself and Martha stopped there for dinner and laughed away such notions. The General was very clear that THAT is not at all what they fought for. All of those wonderful conversations are held, hidden, cherished inside those ancient crannies.

Franklin Roosevelt stopped many times to visit my pal, and he made sure that it went on the National Register of Historic Places. The 349 square foot cove has been America’s smallest state forest/national park – of ONE PHENOMENAL TREE!

Three times passed its normal lifespan, it really hit some turbulence on its 300th birthday. Hurricane Floyd claimed bragging rights for strength. The limbs began to tumble down. Dangers to neighboring homes and roadways meant near-death.

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But there he still stands, his stump alone greater than any other tree in sight, and the eyes of George and Martha still watch over their friend and mine – for now.

Good to see you again, ole buddy.