Friday, December 31, 2004

Tsunami and Response

The enormity of this tragedy
is almost beyond grasp. Count is now approaching 120,000 dead, with thousands still missing, and other thousands also missing from Sweden, Germany and other nations. Some five million estimated now at risk because of lacking food, water, shelter and medicine. Water supplies all contaminated. Many are desperate already. Many still in shock. Relief fund is up to $500 million, and the USA will apparently now do more than the $15 million first promised.

Entire seaside villages wiped out and many bodies washed out to sea. Children orphaned everywhere. Emotional trauma will last for many years for many thousands, esp those multitudes who made their living on the coasts by tourism and by fishing. (See link below) No one predicted or imagined such a natural disaster.

This stretches both our minds and our hearts. Many aid agencies thankfully at work. We are now truly a village. Hopefully Americans as a people will be typically generous. Still, an event like this undermines the stability of our entire world. What is certain? What can be depended upon? How dependent are we on others, even for the basics? How much do we take for granted? Jesus told us our neighbor was anyone in need, anyone hurting in the ditch.

"It's a tragedy but it is also an opportunity to demonstrate that terrorism doesn't drive out everything else," said Morton Abramowitz, who served as American ambassador to Thailand a quarter century ago and went on to become one of the founders of the International Crisis Group, which helps prepare governments to respond to unexpected shocks. "It's a chance for Mr, Bush to show what kind of country we are."

Mr. Bush and his aides have long argued that the administration's reputation around the world is undeserved. The aid effort that has now begun presents Mr. Bush with an opportunity to battle, with action rather than just words, the perception that took root in his first four years in office that he is all about America first.

Sign on ski slope: "We are all in this together. Report unsafe skiiers." Metaphor for life?

You can help. Please bookmark this link, for information and donations:
Tsunami Torments Minds after Breaking Bodies

Wednesday, December 29, 2004

Report on my Midway College Ethics class

Fall, 2004, Student Evaluations (#14)
Completed December 18, 2004

What we liked best, summary:

"I really loved this class. It was surprising! I loved the debates. It makes people think about current events. Helps us delve into ourselves and find out how I really feel / believe.

"You did an awesome job helping us look at ourselves and our "frames"
I really enjoyed and learned a lot from the Muslim conferences. I think every person should attend something along those lines.

"I love your teaching methods. Very effective and motivating.
The extra credit inventory asking us to define our own values and how they were influenced is an excellent teaching tool for "Self-enlightenment."

"Best was the amount of participation. You wanted to be involved. I have learned much from listening to others and their opinions, facts and theories. I always leave with so much in my thoughts. It has made me take a deeper look at myself.

"I enjoyed the openness of all the students. The teacher developed a safe and creative atmosphere where everyone felt comfortable expressing their feelings / beliefs. The size of the class helped.

"I loved the discussion style format. The issues were real, and got me to thinking differently about perspectives.

"I liked the interaction between you and the other students It was a very challenging and thought-provoking course. It widened my frames and outlook in many different areas. It taught me to evaluate all sides of an issue in a logical and thoughtful manner. This is one of the best courses I have taken. I really enjoyed it. Thank you very much.

"The knowledge and expertise of the instructor aided us in the educational aspects of this class.
Handouts were helpful. The class made you think about yourself and your values. It forced you to think outside the box. Getting to know others in this way has a large impact on how we think.

"Our class blended well. I really liked the workplace issues that we brought in and discussed. I loved the debates each week, and the business cards exchange. Do the business card exchange earlier in the course.

How to improve the class:

Do not change anything (about one half of the class)
Get rid or change the text (about one third of the class)
Not require so many newspaper articles to be brought in (about one third)
More clarity on homework and syllabus (several)
Give a grade to papers handed in (several)
Did not like the requirement to attend the Muslim conference (one)

To my students reading this summary:
Thank you for your positive feedback and your suggestions!
You all made it fun!
Be well.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

The Awesome Humanity of God

Dear God
I know I cannot begin to imagine the
width, breadth and depth of your love for us.
But I can glimpse this Amazing Love.
The more I appreciate the undeserved gift of faith,
then the more I live inside the beauties with which
You have surrounded us. Actually every way we turn
we can see Your Face: family, friends, others, and
strangers, too. The wonders of nature. But still the
immensity of Your Love seems to escape us.

When a man loves a woman
and she loves him loving her,
her lovingness is sparkling with delight.
Her eyes, her smile, all her senses are turned
toward him. This face of love must still be
only a glimpse, a paltry veil of the immensity
and diversity of Thy Love for every one of us.
In everything that happens
I must ask myself,
"Is it you, Lord?"
"Is it you inviting me deeper into the
Mystery of your lovingness,
desiring my heart for
yourself alone?"
Why are we embarrassed
to use human love as a metaphor
for the ineffable mystery of God’s love?
When is the last time we heard
a homily on the Song of Songs?
Is this lack of imagination one of the
roots of dearth of discipleship today?
Tonight, on this eve of an Important Anniversary
–a rebirth of Divine Love in human form--
Beloved Companion, please love this
lonely heart with your own
immense desire;
Awaken me to your
Beauty everywhere.
Thank you.
Paschal Baute
December 24, 2004

Sunday, December 19, 2004

The Iraqi war and our morality: discussion

The most significant moral issue of our time, arguably, is the morality of the war we are supporting with blood and money in Iraq.
We have no defense against suicide bombers, as the Israelis have discovered. How long shall we offer our youth to this war now redefined as giving the Iraqis "democracy?"

We had a debate yesterday (December 18) in our Social Ethics class, Midway College, about the morality of the Iraqi war. We argued for and against a position paper that proposed: 1) our morality was no better than the 911 WTC bombers; 2) it is our country that over 50 years has created and fueled Muslim extremism; and 3) since we have no regard there for civilian casualities, we are no better morally than the 911 bombers. ( I will later post this position paper on this website.)
It was an interesting debate. No one there dealt with the fact that it is the USA that has through secrecy and empire, control, dominance and military power, created the radical Muslim response to this country, starting at least with Iran and installing the Shah as our puppet some fifty years ago. (This was the basic point that Dr. Samhat made in his talk on November 16 at the University of Kentucky library, sponsored by the Notre Dame Club and the Christian - Muslim dialogue group, "What Americans Need to Know")
The students could not do this even after hearing the Muslim speakers in Lexington.

We are simply not well informed enough as citizens to realize and accept that our imperialist policies have caused by hook or crook thousands of deaths overseas and the installing of dictators, leaders and governments known to be friendly to us, and willing to suppress any dissent among their own people, over many decades. We do not have that context, so most of us are willing to believe whatever our own leaders tell us.
How do we get our news today, when many do not even read the daily paper? When most of our lives are filled with other responsibilities? Our plates seem so full.
No one in the class dealt with the argument that our killing of probably one hundred thousand civilians could not be justified morally or legally. That our disregard for civilian life in Iraq is a war crime in itself. The fact that we are refusing a body count means only that the number of deaths is unimportant for the achievement of our goals of "freeing the Iraqi people."

The main arguments given for the war seemed to be three. 1) Saddam Hussein was a cruel dictator who did very cruel things to his own people; and 2) We must go after the cowards who did this--the USA cannot let "them" get away with what "they" did; and 3) We have the obligation to defend ourselves and cannot stand by and allow others to attack us so secretly, so cruelly, while using our own technology to do so, e.g., flying our own airplanes loaded with innocent Americans into the WTC towers, the Pentagon and the Pennsylvania field.

Now, in attempting to encourage dialogue among friends, relatives and now students for many months, I believe it is the shock of that 911 event that still colors the attitudes of most Americans toward this war. I remember clearly writing on the internet, several web sites, on the need to understand why Muslims want to attack us in that way, the roots of Muslim rage.

My point is that we need to know who the enemy is, and why they are the enemy, that is, what motivates them and why--if we are to be successful in coping with this dire danger to our security both now and in the future. I was accused at the time of lacking patriotism, of being a liberal softie. Our enemy must be so completely evil that only a forceful military response is useful. "They hate our freedoms," is the refrain of Mr. Bush.

I beg to differ. That is simply not true. It also ignores the fact that we have invaded their Muslim world long ago on the sly, created our own dictatorships in their countries, support the Saudi dictators as friends, and most of all, have given unqualified support, weapons and money to the Israelis, and not supported the just and moral cause of the Palestinians, who were expelled from the territory, homes, businesses, places of worship which they had occupied for centuries.
For anyone who understood the Middle East at all, its history with the West, the tribal nature of its societies, the current impossible quagmire in Iraq was totally predictable.
And that is still only part of the complex issue. We put terrorist weapons in the hands of Saddam Hussein, poison gas in fact, in his fight against the Iranians, which he later used on the Kurds. We put terrorist weapons, munitions of every type then available, in the hands of Osama Bin Laden when he was a tribal leader against the Russians in their invasion of Aghanistan. As long as they were on our side we armed them and taught them how to fight effectively.

The shock, anger and fear generated by 911 is still so much with us that we cannot see that the Iraqis were NOT responsible for 911 in any way. Not only were they not part of the conspiracy, but they did not have weapons of mass destruction. We cannot see that our war against them is simply not justified. It is illegal and immoral.

We have no right to invade another country simply because they have a cruel dictator. There are many dictators in the world. When they are our friends and support our needs and aims, such as the Saudis, or in Latin America, then we overlook their injustices. Or if the future markets there are so great for American corporations, we pay no attention to the suppression and killing of millions of people as in China under Mao. We have supported dictatorships in Latin America and ignored the killing of their own suspected civilians for decades. We have embraced any and all governments, military and otherwise, who would resist the emerging national spirit of the common folk that they are being abused and used by the rich and powerful of their own country.
We, the United States of America, have, in fact, been the rogue bully of the world for many decades. But we will not learn of this through the main media, which will seldom speak out against the powers that be. Most of prefer not to look, not to be informed. Our plates are too full. Therefore we are too ready to believe the lies our leaders manufacture to keep themselves in power.

Many other issues here. Can we easily afford a war that turns the world against us, which most of the world, and particularly the Muslim world, regards as unjust? Which will cost over 100 billion dollars when we do have not have health care for 40 million of our own? Which will cost and is costing thousands of lives, including the best and bravest of our youth? When the Muslim world numbers 1.4 billion today, how many future terrorists are our policies manufacturing, even if only one out of 1,000 or one out of 10,000 becomes a future terrorist?

My point is that our unjust, illegal and immoral war in Iraq is creating many future terrorists and suicide bombers throughout the world that future generations of our children will be forced to live with. Osama bin Laden could not have designed such a better scenario than to generate an ongoing conflict between these two cultures, the West and the Muslim world, a clash between two cultures. He knows he will win this war as we are playing into his hands. There is no defense possible anywhere against suicide bombers.

My last point is that until we understand the Muslim culture and our own history in that region, that is, the real reasons, for the suicidal rage against us, we cannot be effect in responding to it. We are making the situation worse by every new abuse of human rights, which is widely publicized in the Muslim world.
What we discovered this fall in Lexington is that surprisingly few of our citizens are willing to take the time and energy to discover "What we need to know as Americans," and "What we need to know as Christians" about Muslims and the Middle East.

There is grave reason for concern for the future of our nation, our children and our world.

Question: What is the one single and simple mandate that Jesus gave us, the only MANDATE? Answer "To love our neighbor as ourselves."
If our neighbor is defined by Jesus as anyone in need (His answer to "Who is my neighbor?" was the parable of the Good Samaritan), then we have 1.4 billion Muslims in the world, most of whom feel misunderstood and misjudged by the United States of America, hurt and angry that we have, in their view, wrongly invaded a Muslim country that did nothing to us.

That so few are willing to do this pilgrimage of understanding today makes "our situation" precarious, yet filled with precious opportunity.

Discussion, anyone?

(Note: Paschal has served in or with all four branches of the U.S. Military, both enlisted and commissioned, active and reserved, with letters of commendation or their equivalent from each branch: Army, Air Force, Navy and Marines, during two wars and peacetime. He had two different commissions in the US Navy Reserve, one as Chaplain and another as Psychologist in the Medical Corps Reserve, and served in duty ranging from Japan and Guam across the USA to Rhode Island.)

Friday, December 17, 2004

Jim Bergman, R.I.P.

It is a sobering shock when one suddenly loses a long time friend who was apparently well.

Our SGN friend for many years, Jim Bergman, died suddenly Tuesday evening, December 14. We learned about this just after our retreat was concluded the next day. He was born the same year as I, in 1929, and was 75. Although he had heart problems, he was exercising regularly.

It is impossible to say in a few words what a particular friend has meant. Jim was a kind and caring man, a gentleman and a scholar--well loved by many. He will be sorely missed by all who knew him. His obit was in the Lexington Herald-Leader of December 16.

Death alone brings life fully into perspective: how much of life we take for granted; how little we recognize the preciousness of every day and of friendship. Visitation is set for 5 to 9 p.m. tonight, Friday, at the Lewis FuneralHome in Irvine and the funeral at 9-10:00 a.m. Saturday, at the First Christian Church, Irvine. Our prayers will follow Betty, his wife, and his family.

While on retreat this week, Sister Paschalitta told us that her blindness was her "#1 gift," and we asked her about that.

Later, I asked myself what is my #1 gift?
My #1 gift is my faith, which is unearned and undeserved, and free
and mighty in its effect. Hope and Love also follow closely.

I had also decided earlier that my cancer is a gift and wrote a poem
about it. My physical diminishments, unnamed, are also a great gift,
because they help me realize the undeserved giftedness of everything,
every moment, every day, every event and every person.

We can begin to appreciate more fully what is truly important.
When we can begin in live in this kind of graciousness
--the radical gratuity of everything we are part of, e.g,
nothing whatever had to be this . . . way--
then we can begin to find Beauty everywhere.

And, guess what? We find what we are looking for!

Jim's friendship was a gift of beauty to all of us.
We will miss him. He most always had a great story
and something from his heart to share.

Wednesday, December 15, 2004

Retreat Journal, Dec 13-15, Knobs Haven

We met for our annual early December retreat, members of the Spiritual Growth Network, this time just four of our founding members, John Parks, Ann Siudmak, Mike Kavanaugh, and myself were present, two others having cancelled. The Arctic air had finally moved in, so we appreciated the old fashioned heating via the old noisy free standing radiators in the rooms.

We began our discussion Monday evening with the need for hope. Mike read the beautiful summoning letter from Clarissa Pinkola Estes "We Were Made for These Times," author of the bestseller, Women Who Run With Wolves. This we had published on our web discussion and also in our December newsletter. Her concluding words:

"There can be no despair when you remember why you came to Earth, who you serve, and who sent you here. The good words we say and the good we do are not ours. They are the words and deeds of the One who brought us here.

"In that spirit, I hope you will write this on your wall: When a great ship is in harbor and moored, it is safe, there can be no doubt. But that is not what great ships are built for. This comes with much love and a prayer that you remember who you came from, and why you came to this beautiful, needful Earth."

I found a quote from Pascal: "In difficult times, you should always carry something beautiful in your mind." This was my personal theme for the retreat. We have been sharing now--the four of us--at the deepest level possible for many years. So our trust level, humor, respect, reverence and openness with each other is very deep.

Meditation: I choose not to avoid seeing the pain of the world, but to live in the world of beauty, awe, wonder, loving, striving, seeking, courage, compassion, listening, and I - Thou relationships. When we live in graciousness, we find beauty everywhere.

A friend put a book in my hands before I left for the retreat and it was precisely the book I needed for my meditation there: Beauty by John O’Donohue, author of Anam Cara. And believe it or not I quickly found one by Rumi (my current favorite poet) in the first several pages.

"Let the beauty we love be what we do.
There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground."

Several sisters of Loretto visited our table at meals. One Sister Paschalitta had been in vows for 70 years. Another, Sister Kathleen Vonderhaar, had a prison ministry teaching meditation with prayer cards to share for our own prison inmate group at the Fayette County Detention center. Another, Sister Rose Henry, shared a newly published cookbook from St. Augustine’s in Lebanon and a story she had contributed. (I will post this Christmas Tree story later.) I bought one for Janette.

Sister Paschalitta was blind in both eyes, with macular degeneration, but the most curious mind, asking each of us in turn our names, where we were from and where we had went to school. "What a wonderful role model for growing old," we discussed after she had left. She was born in 1914, so is now 90 years young.

It was a blessed, gracious and restful pause together. The hospitality at the Sisters of Loretto Motherhouse is always superb. It is one of those sacred and holy places that simply emanates Presence. A thousand young Catholic women have given their lives to God there. Theirs is the oldest native American order of sisters in the USA. They were the order that staffed the Catholic schools in Lebanon, Kentucky, where I and my siblings went to grade school. (There is always one to come to the table to tell a story of me in the first grade.) We have been "retreating" there four times yearly now for 15 years. It is hard to believe that fact.

December 15.
Let the beauty we love be what we do.

Monday, December 13, 2004

The measure is love.

Since we are summoned to become lovers,
then the measure of our hearts,
the measure of our lives is simply and purely. . . .


Self-giving love, compassion, friendship love, family love, community love, love of the earth, its peoples, my brothers and sisters everywhere. And the courage to risk this.

Now here may be part of the secret: if I am called to love God totally (mind, soul, heart, strength) and my neighbor as myself, no, change that if to since I am called. . .(and I ask God for that grace), THEN I should act as if the grace is received, and in so acting, thereby receive it.

We learn by doing. And sometimes by failing.

Now I am beginning, at this stage in my life - and therefore
humbly - to discover all over again what it is to be a lover.

Grandchildren, spouse, life,--the true giftedness of every day.

So a lot of my posting shall be about Love. I do believe that we
are each born with "holes in our hearts" that only something outside
ourselves can fill. We can fill that hole with things.
Actually most any Thing.
But no Thing will ever satisfy us.
Not even faith.
Not Truth.
Not religion.

There are those who believe they possess all three of those: faith, truth
and true religion, but they do not have love.
They cannot risk listening to a point of view that may be
very different from their own.

St. Paul told us there was faith, hope and love,
and the greatest of these

We must risk talk and sharing what our hearts are full of.
Keep on
to listen.

Be well. Have a good day.
Let some love stretch you today.


Sunday, December 12, 2004

Homily on love, for weddings

All the saints, all the prophets,
All the scripture writers and mystics
Tell us one thing:

The nature of God is love.

That god’s love is the central
Or core mystery of the universe.

Today love is not out there--
Somewhere in the heavens.

Today this mystery is right here,
Among us.

Between _________ and ___________

Human love is the most amazing grace of all.

It is holy, sacred and awesome not only in
What it is, but what it beckons us toward.

An enjoyment of one another and
An unceasing giving of ourselves,
A surrender to the other.
Then, as Time Goes By
we discover it is
a surrender to
the Otherness of the other,
loving them still, warts and all.

___________ And _________ today
Pledge that they
Will be faithful to this love
That has found them

And we are here to celebrate
With them
And their families
The joy of this discovery
And this pledging.
They are stepping publicly
into the great mystery of love
which is, in truth, the metaphor of life.
For anyone to do this,
is, in itself, an awesome
and holy thing.

What a precious and happy day
This is,
for them
for all of us.

December, 2004: Hello!

This month I am beginning a new adventure: blogging. Allow me to introduce myself.

I stopped working in 1998, and since have been doing only what I love. I describe this in my mission statement. Basically it is helping people achieve their greater potential. As a psychologist, pastor, coach, mentor, community activist, former military, husband, father, grandfather, cancer survivor, lover: all of these over some years, I have a number of activities for focus. I wear a lot of hats.

Currently, "Becoming a Spiritual Warrior in a Fierce Landscape" is a volunteer project at the Fayette County Detention center. We have four volunteers, and are developing a total program that teaches inmates to embrace the jail experience as a "boot camp" for changing their life style. The Desert Spirituality of the Fathers and early monks is the model for this. The current workbook is some thirty pages and we are now in our 23rd month.

I teach part time at Midway College, currently (Fall, 2004) a course in Social Ethics. I helped develop the new core curriculum in Human Resource Management there this past year.

I have a Eucharistic ministry as a Catholic priest to several retirement villages.

I am co-facilitator in the Spiritual Growth Network of Kentucky, see, where I have a number of articles posted under "Articles by Paschal Baute" addressing various aspects of the spiritual journey and Christian faith.

I also serve the Lexington - Fayette County UCG and the local School Board as a psychologist screening candidates for the Fire Department and public school bus drivers. I also serve several religious jurisdictions in helping screen and assess candidates.

My main fun is with two grandchildren, Quinn Bell, age 4, and Chloe, age 2, who fortunately live only about 15 minutes away. I serve as their "entertainment center."

My main current love is being witness to the weddings of the forty some odd couples who come to me each year to witness their weddings. They choose the actual ceremony from a menu of choices. I will post later the homily about love as the "most amazing grace of all," that is used in the wedding.

I am undertaking a community project in sentencing reform in Kentucky for 2005, and currently enlisting those who might support such a project. I have recently applied to the Herald-Leader to be a community columnist and that will announced some time this month.

I am blessed beyond all my dreams, with good health and energy and drive, wife and children. See the prayer called by Catholics as the Magnificat, in Luke, chapter 1, v 44 ff.

I love creating new ways for people to "think outside the box" to become more whole, authentic, effective and empowered.

Welcome, lovers, to my blog.
My other sites are