Monday, November 28, 2011

Home for the Holidays: Blessing or Curse?

The Holidays are here.  That means family gatherings.  Whoopi!  …NOT!!

Okay, not so fun for some.  Why?  Family gatherings can be challenging even painful at times, that’s why.

THE FAMILY: a blessing for many and for many a curse.  We have no choice in the matter.  We neither choose our parents nor our siblings, not mention those strange extended family relations.  We’re stuck.  Good bad or indifferent we get what we get.

If we like our family and have warm, cozy, loving family relations all the way around, there’s no problem.  But who has a perfect family?  No one, that’s who, ALL families have their fair share of dysfunctions. 

How best to deal with them, especially during the Holidays?

The following may be of some help.  These principles may not resolve, solve, or dissolve family conflicts.  Nevertheless, applying them in your own life may be a step in the right direction.

Principle #1: Try changing yourself not others.  The only real person within your power to change is your Self.  It’s a recipe for disaster to force or cajole others to change.  (We’re talking about adult relations here; parents who are still nurturing and raising children have a different set of dynamic principles they need to work with).  Thus, in any family dynamic where you wish so-and-so was different, a better more likeable or pleasant kind of person to be with or live with, begin by asking your Self, “How do I need to change, if I am going to bring a more positive dynamic to this challenging relationship?”

Principle #2: Be penetratingly and painstakingly honest first with your Self.  We are quick to reveal the flaws we see in others.  Quick to boldly point out their blind spots: “You see, you see what I mean!  Do you see how you are?!”  We tell them off, let them have it, harsh penetrating truth that cuts them to the quick about their weaknesses, their faults and failures, their shortcomings.  But we are just as quick to gloss over any truth about ourselves.  Take personal inventory before your family gathering.  Be brutally honest.  Ask yourself: What are you feeling and why?  Why are you angry, upset, or hurt?  Understand your real motives, your purpose and desire for this particular family member that grates on you so much.  Be true to your Self.  You will then be able to be true to others.  In turn they will learn to appreciate your authenticity.  When there is a lack of authenticity, tensions are raised and a huge amount of unnecessary energy is expended when family members have to second-guess and ask themselves “what did you really mean by what you just said.”

Principle#3: Respect yourself as well as the other person by setting appropriate personal boundaries.  Respect means don’t go on the attack.  Don’t speak down, nag, compare, put down, or belittle the other and don’t allow it (as much as is possible) to happen to you.  Don’t say things like, “Why can’t you be more like your brother [or sister, mom, dad, cousin, nephew; you get the idea.]?”  Do not nag: “you shouldn’t…, you ought to…, why don’t you…, when are you going to…?”  These are boundary crossers that go on the attack and show little respect for the person hearing them.  Avoid controlling, manipulating or commanding tones and behavior towards others.  This also is evidence of disrespect for the recipient of your controlling, commanding attitude, a source of much resentment in family dynamics. If you are tempted to do this, remember the first two principles above.

Principle #4: Don’t get defensive; rather, become more teach-able and receptive to honest critique or feedback.  This is helpful for applying the second principle.  Others are always able to see our flaws more clearly and more penetratingly then we ourselves are.  We all have personal blinds pots, blinders that somehow keep us from seeing ourselves the way others see us or experience us.  For example, we can be pouty and petty and never notice until someone—who hopefully really cares for us—kindly and lovingly shows us as much.  If we are to grow out of such childish and unbecoming behavior, we must first be willing to see it and hear it by allowing someone to hold up that reflective mirror that shows us exactly how we’ve been acting.

Principle #5 is so well known and so often said in personal self-help contexts that it has become a clichĂ©.  Nevertheless, its truth is still powerful when conscientiously applied: Accept the things that you cannot change; change the things that are within your power to change, and ask God to give you the wisdom to know the difference.

Finally, turn to God.  Ask for His grace and mercy to give you the wisdom, strength, love, kindness, and compassion that you need to endure, live with, overcome, and deal with the family given you.  They are not perfect.  But neither are you.  So by all means, avoid self-righteous attitudes toward those family members whom you deem less worthy: judge not less you too be judged.  After all, it was Jesus Himself who said, “Let him who is without sin, cast the first stone.”

Monday, November 21, 2011

Thanksgiving! Who Exactly Are We Thanking?

Ungrateful people are often also unpleasant people.  Have you ever noticed this?

On the other hand, people who are thankful and appreciative seem to be happier, kinder, and thus more pleasant to be around.  Why?

I suppose it’s because appreciative people realize that, in the end, life is really a gift.  For, there is no guarantee as to our life’s longevity or even its quality.  As much as we try, we are not the absolute masters of our lives.  Things happen and we fall victim to… whatever, things beyond our control, which is to say that we owe someone more powerful than ourselves a hardy “Thank you” when life is good—that unexpected goodness that comes by surprise and truly beyond our ability to have made happen on our own.

Saying “thanks” is simply acknowledging that we owe a debt of gratitude.  We are in debt to an act of kindness, a generous gift, provisions supplied that could not have come of our own doing and were perhaps even underserved.  And for this we are grateful.

At the heart of gratitude is the recognition of a kind of dependency or needfulness.  For example, we need someone’s help or require the service of another; we have support, receive an act of kindness, a generous gift that made our life better, easier, or enabled us to move up and forward to better things.  We need the presence of others in our life, and most certainly the love of and acceptance of others.  We can’t do everything alone.  There are certain things that we can only get by the aid of another.  And so, we are grateful for their presence in our lives.

There are the proud and arrogant; the totally self-sufficient types who refuse to recognize their neediness of others.  For them it is a weakness ever to admit such a thing.  It’s almost as if they’d rather die than to call for help and admit, “I need you.  And I am much obliged, grateful for your kind help.”  But most of us realize that such an attitude is nothing more than hard-headed foolishness.

And so there is no shame in giving rightful thanks to God.

Oh Yes.  I know.  There are a lot of bad things going on in this world and some are hard pressed to find anything, ANY thing to be thankful about.  So why thank God?

Because, the bad things that happen in life actually serve to accentuate a deeper reality concerning our human condition: we are vulnerable, needful, dependent creatures.  We need God.  And, as such, we need to trust God and be grateful.  We owe God our gratitude.

The alternative is bleak: without God we are essentially on our own.  Without God, gratitude is nonsense.  To whom would we be giving thanks for what we have, who we are, the life we live—the universe, the sun, the stars, Mother Nature, Cosmic Dust, Ourselves?  Inanimate objects, the sun moon stars, etc., wouldn't give a twit about our gratitude.  So what about ourselves, what would we be thanking ourselves for?  “Cheers!  We’ve given ourselves Life!  Look what we’ve accomplished.  We did it!  We’ve made it!  By our strength and our wits we live.  We will conquer the universe.”  I think not.  That kind of strident arrogance is what gets us into trouble.  It was the arrogance of the Nazi’s in WWII and that of every other ugly oppressive empire in human history, past or present.

“Every good and perfect gift is from above and comes down from the Father of lights, with whom there is no variableness nor shifting shadows,” says St. James (James 1:17).

This Thanksgiving Season, if you are thankful for friends and family and appreciate all you have.  Don’t forget to also turn your heart toward God.  God is gracious.  God is good.  By God’s mercy and by God’s grace are we given life, ability, and love.

Psalm 106:1-5
“Praise the Lord.  Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.  Who can proclaim the mighty acts of the Lord or fully declare his praise?  Blessed are they who maintain justice, who constantly do what is right.  Remember me, O Lord, when you show favor to your people, come to my aid when you save them, that I may enjoy the prosperity of your chosen ones, that I may share in the joy of your nation and join your inheritance in giving praise.”

Monday, November 14, 2011

Oil Companies Using Military Tactics against US

Have you heard?  Here in Pennsylvania, Gas/Oil companies that are engaged in Fracking are advocating the use of Military Psychological Warfare Tactics as a way of warding off unwanted critique and avoiding having to face the hard questions that solid honest and open accountability would demand of them.  These tactics were discussed or alluded to during a conference entitled, “Media & Stakeholder Relations: Hydraulic Fracturing Initiative 2011” held in Houston, TX.

What?  Is this true?  Please Explain!  You should say.  And, yes, I’ll be happy to.

(1) First a lesson on “PSYOPs”: This is military lingo for Psychological Warfare used by the military which is designed to influence the perceptions and attitudes of individuals and/or groups as well as governments in foreign affairs.  Literally it’s short for “psychological operation” = Psy-Op, hence PSYOPs”

(2) Here is a quote taken from Matt Pitzarella who is the Director of Corporate Communications and Public Affairs at Ranger Resources: “We have several former PSYOPs folks that work for us at Range [a gas & oil fracking company] because they’re very comfortable in dealing with localized issues and local governments.  Really all they do is spend most of their time helping folks develop local ordinances and things like that.  But very much having that understanding of PSYOPs in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”

Please note these two sentences again (to repeat & emphasize): We have several former PSYOPs folks that work for us at Range….” And “But very much having that understanding of PSYOPs in the Army and in the Middle East has applied very helpfully here for us in Pennsylvania.”

(3) Pennsylvanians are being subject to PSYOPs, psychological warfare, by the gas/oil fracking industry!


This industry does not want to be held accountable.  They want to get what they want without being responsible for any ill side-effects from its business.  They want nothing to do with openness and transparency.  They want to block out any open and honest discussion about their methods and actions.  They hope to silence voices that raise serious concerns.  And they hope to keep the “civilian” population (the average Pennsylvania voter) in the dark as regarding serious questions and concerns about any negative consequences arising from the fracking method.  The whole industry is pushing for a free reign in this whole area of getting gas and oil out of the Marcellus Shale. Thus, they view the average Pennsylvanian as “the enemy” who need to be psychologically managed and controlled, less we ruin their plans.  Hence, their use of PSYOPs!  At least, that’s my take on the whole thing.

What does this say about this particular industry’s character?  What does it say about their business integrity?  What does it say about their attitude toward, let’s say, giving back to the community?  What does it tell us about how much we know and how much we should really know and need to know for our own protection?  Why do they fear us knowing the real truth, facts and figures about what they are doing, such that they must stoop to Psychological Warfare against us?

Did you also know that the use of PSYOPs, psychological warfare, on U.S. citizens is technically illegal?  So how is it that they are getting away with this?  And finally, what are we going to do about it?

For further info see: and

Monday, November 7, 2011

Living within One’s Means and Meaningful Living

Tough economic times always call for tough financial choices.  We can no longer afford to have “both/and,” or “all of the above.”  It is now “either/or,” or “we just can’t afford it.”  What do we choose, what shall we give-up, or with what shall we do without?

“You can’t have your cake and eat it too.”  Ever hear that before?  No doubt you’ve spoken that little proverbial quip yourself; perhaps you’ve said it to your children.  There is good reason for those little proverbial sayings that pop-up in our discourse from time to time.  They speak volumes of truth with so few words, an economy of language.  And, no doubt, the kids rolled their eyes when they heard it, and without skipping a beat, still pleaded: “I know, I know, but why can’t I have…?  Please!!!!!”

It’s been said that in every crisis there is an opportunity, the possibility of a new start, an “A Hah!” teachable moment, leading to development of body, person, and character, or renewed hope and inspiration.  What might be the opportunity that our present financial hardship might give to an American family?

Well, this economic downturn might just provide American families the opportunity to measure its worth above and beyond its material assets.  Yes of course a family needs the basics, a roof over one’s head, food on the table, clothing to cover the body—especially in the dead of winter.  But once a family affords what it needs, all else is fluff, extra; is it not?

That is to say that for many, our economic downturn has really ignited an emotional reaction to our loss of the fluff and not simply to a loss of basic necessities.  That is, many can still afford clothes but not the latest styles (second hand stores should be booming).  Many can afford food but can no longer eat out any time they please.  Many can afford a roof over their head but have lost the chance for their dream house that might have provided each family member with a room of her own along with private bath.  The loss of “fluff” may not be all that bad.

Perhaps the lesson for us Americans in the face of this nation’s financial tightening of the belt is to become less spoiled and to go back to the basic principles that made this nation economically strong and stable in the first place: that is, living with gratitude for the things we DO have and not living with regret for the things we have not, accepting hard work as the true means to earning money, buying only what one can afford and not beyond, saving money as earnestly as spending it, and doing work that adds real and substantial value not only to one’s personal family but to the community at large, and finally: managing one’s finances responsibly, conscientiously, and wisely.

Let me make an extreme statement: before our economic downturn, most debt was frivolous and unnecessary.  Yes!  For example, short of real emergency use, no family should necessarily have been in credit card debt.  A mortgage is understandable.  Even having a car payment makes sense to most families.  But many families are hurting financially now, simply because back then they had to have it and buy it now.  They could not, would not wait until they actually had the earned money in hand to pay for it with cash.  “We could not say ‘no,’ to this and that, and the other thing.  We wanted our cake and eat it too.  We used our credit card as if it were free money.”  Furthermore, businesses and corporations wanted it that way.  We have been a “consumer driven society.”  “Consumer driven” means: buy, purchase, and consume—and worry about how to pay for it later.

Instead of “consumer driven” how about becoming a “value driven” society, value as in quality of living by means of building substance to personal-being and interpersonal relationships, valuing and measuring people by their quality-living rather than by their material-assets.  For example, we can live off the land in such a way that we give back to the land as well, so that the land is not left devoid of life, stripped of regenerative energy and made incapacitated for reproductive ability.  In short, maybe this is a good time to re-think economics altogether and discover a new model for financial sustainability in the 21st century and beyond.