A #Joyful day

This was an amazing day!  After days of rain, the sun came out.  I went outside and spent the entire day there. With all the rain we had, everything was brilliantly colored. The greens were almost glowing. The lilacs smelled better than the finest perfumes. The irises were bursting with color and the sky was the most beautiful clear blue.

While I weeded the garden and mulched the tomatoes I was listening to my favorite music. While Vivaldi’s Gloria was playing something suddenly changed. A feeling of overwhelming joy came over me. The joy was so intense that I had tears streaming down my cheeks. The sun was warmer, the colors brighter, the scents more intense. I felt like God had taken some of the joy from heaven and poured it over me.

I, and many people, have enjoyed a beautiful spring day and have been inspired by beautiful music and have been awed by God’s great creation. But this time it was different. There was far more than the joy of a nice day. The joy from heaven is so intense that it can’t be simply called joy. Ecstasy does not do it justice. All of the superlatives that our language provides are insufficient.   After the intense joy subsided, a wonderful warm glow followed and continued for the rest of the day.

I wish that I could somehow bring a moment like that to every person on earth.   If they knew the unbounded joy that comes with the immediate presence and awareness of God, there would be no fighting, no wars, no crime, no sorrow.  Perhaps I can help one other person encounter God so closely.  I can’t change the world but maybe, just maybe, I can help one or two people experience God.

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More from your caring government?

Yesterday’s post described the problems my Nephew was facing and the lack of progress he had experienced working with the Social Security Administration (SSA).  I have now had a full day of trying to improve the situation and I am convinced we should scrap the entire SSA and start over.

It seems that the SSA has a policy that if a person is working and making over $1090 per month, they are not disabled regardless of any medical conditions that they suffer from.  My nephew is still working, barely, but he continues to try to support himself and his wife until he can get help.  However, the only way he can get the SSA to accept his application is to quit work first.

Of course, if he quits work he will need to live on whatever savings he may have. With the combination of no advanced education and suffering from a serious disease for the last twenty years, he has never had a job where he made enough to accumulate any significant savings.  Within at most three months he will have nothing and the notices will begin arriving in the mail.

“Your electricity will be shut off in thirty days unless we receive payment of…”.  “Your rent has been unpaid for thirty days.  Eviction proceeding will begin if we do not receive payment in ten days.”  Notices like these will greet him every day when he hobbles to the mailbox.

The solution, it seems, is to quit work and immediately begin applying for every kind of state and county aid that is available and hope that you can make through the eighteen or more months that it will take for a lawyer to get the disability application completed and the six additional months before the first payment arrives.

It is interesting to note that the lawyers who handle these cases make it a point to say “Our service will cost you nothing!  We only get paid when you get paid.”  The policy of the SSA is to pay back payments to the date of the initial filing of the claim.  The pricing for these law firms is to take one third of whatever the back payments total.  So, if your benefit payment is $1500 per month and it takes eighteen months to get approval, then the lawyer gets $9000 (18 months times $1500 is $27,000, lawyer gets one third of that) for handling the claim.  If it takes twenty four months then the fee will be $12,000.  The SSA is motivating the law firms to take more time rather than to complete the process as quickly as possible.

Being a bit naïve in these matters, I may be wrong but it seems to me that the SSA policy is designed to accomplish two objectives.  First, have as many applicants as possible die before they get any benefit payment and second, provide a government financed gravy train for lawyers who handle these cases.  I can find nothing that indicates that the policy is concerned with helping the citizen who has worked and paid into the system for years.


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Your Caring Government?

The phrase “I’m from the government and I’m here to help” generally makes people quake in fear or laugh like a lunatic.  But in spite of that common reputation, I am encountering a situation that is so bizarre that even the most cynical person would be surprised.

My nephew has cancer again.  At the age of fifty-two he if fighting his third battle with the disease.  In his first bout, twenty years ago, he received radiation treatment.  The treatment at that time was not as well controlled as it is now and as a result he began to suffer from degeneration of the bones of his lower spine and legs.  Of course, this makes walking painful and difficult.

When the degeneration reached a level where he was in constant pain, he applied for disability from the Social Security administration.  As is their usual procedure, they denied the claim.  It seems this is nearly always the process regardless of the severity of the disability.

He applied again later and was denied again.  Unfortunately, he was not aware that there is no chance of getting approved unless the claim is submitted and handled by a law firm.  Finally someone told him about getting a law firm to submit it and he tried again using a lawyer.

The lawyer was aware of the procedures that the SSA forced on claimants and advised my nephew that the process would take time.  As expected the SSA denied the claim but the lawyer knew this would happen and immediately submitted a request for an appeal.

It took about three months for the initial denial when he submitted his own claim and also when the lawyer submitted it.  Then the expected time before the appeal be heard was at least eighteen months!  According to both the law firm and the SSA office, this is normal and expected.  It takes three months for a clerk somewhere to say no.  Then another year and a half to get the case in front of someone.

Eventually that application was also denied.  At this point, my cousin had already moved from his townhouse because he could no longer go up and down stairs and rented a first floor apartment.

The law firm resubmitted the claim again and it was denied again and went to appeal again.  After another year and a half the appeal was denied and the law firm notified my cousin that they were dropping his case.

Not being a quitter, my cousin contacted his senators advising them of the situation and asking if they could help.  Al Franken never bothered to answer him.  Amy Klobuchar did respond and promised to help in any way she could.

This is where I got involved.  My wife and I saw him often and she frequently chatted with him on the phone so we knew of his medical issues.  However, he is not a complainer and we did not know about the severity of the problems until they were truly disabling.  We were also unaware of the SSA claims he had filed.

With the last denial and the law firm dropping his case, he asked if we could help him.  I am now working with Amy Klobuchar’s office to see if we can get through the incredible convoluted process of getting help for someone who really needs it.

This is an ongoing process and I will be posting more as things develop.

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I made the mistake of reading some of the comments on Yahoo news stories.  It amazed and saddened me that there are so many people who are so full of hate.  It didn’t matter what the subject of the story was, the majority of the comments were full of obscenities (masked with many *** embedded in them) all of them hating whatever the story was about.  If it was a political story then the Democrats hated the Republicans and vice versa.  The nonvoters were the worst; they just hated everybody.  If it was a story about a religious figure there were hundreds of comments condemning them regardless of the religion they were with or the subject of the story.  If it was about anything Islamic the comments were frighteningly vitriolic.

If there is a story about a faithful dog or a rescued pet, the comments are sweet to the extent of being syrupy.  But a story about anything human engenders the hate comments.  It is so sad that humans have found reasons to hate other humans for as long as we have any historical records.

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A Dream

My memories of a dream January 27, 2015

I had a dream, or I think I had a dream. Just as I was waking in the morning the dream began. I have had many dreams before that began near the time I woke but they always faded out of my memory very quickly. This one is as clear now as the moment I awoke from it.

It was dim, not dark like night. There was a hill and at the top was a cross with Jesus on it. Mary the mother of Jesus and John the apostle were near it (I don’t know how I knew it was Mary and John but I had no doubt) and a few unknown others were nearby. There was sorrow, terrible sorrow, sorrow so profound that it had body. As I approached the cross the overwhelming sorrow grew even more intense. I could feel it brushing against me like rain but it wasn’t wet. It permeated everything.

Silence abounded. There was no talking, no whispering, no crying, nothing.   No bird sang and no animal moved. No breeze rustled a leaf. Even Jesus made no sound. It could have been an incredible sculpture but it was real. The people were real and alive.

As I moved closer to the cross the sorrow became so intense I began to fear for my life.

I was next to it now and with my eyes downcast, I reached out and touched it.

The sorrow lightened ever so slightly. The dim light grew a bit brighter. I looked up and saw some spots of light approaching. As they drew nearer I could see that they were the faces of people and the sorrow waned more and the light grew brighter yet. More people came and still more. They crowded around the cross. Then more came. Soon there were people as far as I could see in every direction and all sense of sorrow had been displaced by joy.

Then I was awake, fully awake as if I had been up for an hour.

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While I am not a Muslim, I know that they believe there is one god and that god created everything and everyone. Yet there are tens of thousands of “Muslims” who, through their actions, are stating that they believe they are wiser than Allah. They have appointed themselves to destroy all of the people that Allah created but who they deem are not good enough to exist.   So here are these people bowing down to the ground multiple times every day in humble prayer to a god that they consider so stupid that the people he created must fix his millions of errors.

Their arrogance is as astonishing as their violence!

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The Best Christmas Present

Every Christmas many people scramble to pick out the perfect gift for their loved ones and others (or not) and, in spite of all their efforts, many presents end up in the trash soon after Christmas.  I am an especially hard person to buy for because I have pretty much everything I want.  I am not wealthy but I do have enough retirement income that I can live a comfortable life and I am a firm believer in simple living so picking out a useful present for me can be very hard.

This Christmas though, my granddaughter Jenny bought a pile of basic living supplies (warm socks, soap, shampoo, etc.) and put them in plastic bags with a paper saying:

“Here’s a Blessing Bag For You”

“You may be down on your luck right now, but let this little bag remind you that you are worth so much.  That there are people who care about you.  That there is always hope.  That you are beautiful. And that Jesus can always sustain you.  I will be praying for you!  Have a lovely day.”

So I received a gift of a wonderful, blessed granddaughter and a gift of joy that I get when I give the bag to someone who needs it.  It couldn’t be better!

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A Winter Muse

Thank You Lord for the birds at my bird feeder this morning. Thank You for the bright flashes of red as the cardinals dash in and out. Thank You for the pecking and scratching of the juncos feeding like tiny gray chickens. Thank You for the crazy sideways and upside down woodpeckers attacking the suet. Thank you for the chickadees and the nuthatches, the gold finches and blue jays. Thank you Lord for giving us such abundance of life.

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Amazing Discovery!

Our scientists are working hard to learn how the world works.  However, sometimes they need to have a little direction.  A news story from Reuters reported that a team of 100 scientists have mapped the entire genome of the centipede!  What an amazing and valuable discovery!  Did you know that they have many legs and no eyes? Oh, I guess you could tell that without mapping the genome.

I wonder if any of those 100 scientists ever thought that it might be a better use of their time to map the genome of the ebola virus so a cure could be found.  I guess a few thousand African lives are not important enough to deter them from their amazing centipede discoveries.

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I have always felt that suicide was a very bad thing but I could not clearly express why I felt that way.  I have been reading “Orthodoxy” by G.K. Chesterton and I found exactly the words I had been seeking.  Let me quote Mr. Chesterton.

“The thief is satisfied with diamonds; but the suicide is not: that is his crime.  He cannot be bribed even by the blazing stones of the celestial city.  The thief complements the things he steals, if not the owner of them.  But the suicide insults everything on earth by not stealing it.   He defiles every flower for refusing to live for its sake.  There is not a tiny creature in the cosmos at whom his death is not a sneer.  When a man hangs himself on a tree, the leaves might fall off in anger and the birds fly away in fury; for each has received a personal affront.”

He goes on to compare the suicide with the martyr; both lose their life based on their own actions but one is seen as a hero and the other as a sinner.

“Obviously, a suicide is the opposite of a martyr.   A martyr is a man who cares so much about something outside him, that he forgets his own personal life.  A suicide is a man who cares so little for anything outside him, that he wants to see the last of everything.  One wants something to begin, the other wants everything to end. … he is a mere destroyer; spiritually he destroys the universe.”

In the words that I am now better able to form, suicide is an intense focus on oneself and a complete disregard of the rest of creation.  Their own troubles become more important than every good thing in existence.  Clearly there is no humility in persons who kill themselves.

This is not to condemn suicides as sinners who are doomed to hell.  Rather, suicide is a sad, even pathetic, exit from a life that was grossly deformed and twisted from everything good.  Only God can judge the ultimate destination of people, but the death of a suicide is an offensive event for all of humanity.

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