Saturday, April 26, 2014

We pray in our time, God answers in his

The Princeton University Art Gallery is a great trip! Photo Jim Purcell
By Rev. Jim Purcell, MPS (Ret.)

It has been the an amazing week. I saw an old buddy, Steve Bailey, whom I haven't seen for 10 years because he up and moved to the Netherlands one day to marry his lovely wife. If anyone deserved luck he did, and I am so happy he has found real peace.

For any Courier people out there, or friends of the old rag, Steve was the fellow that constructed our first-ever, and best-ever, website.

Then, a missionary job I applied for came in -- four years too late. And, I received an offer from a wonderful company in the City I applied for -- three years ago or more. If I had gotten these offers 2011 it would have saved some true tragedies and heartaches. Yet, there is a reason for everything; none of us know it.

I am disabled now so there is nowhere to go with these things. All in one week, though, is simply irony. I am retired not of my will, but because I am simply too broken to work anymore. Still, we pray in our time and God answers in his.  Sometimes, though, it takes God a little while to check his messages, I suppose (lol).

I launched a new website for my apartment building's Council, which I was elected to serve upon, and am starting something of a newsletter on Monday. For anyone interested, and I think there shouldn't be that many, it is at: It's really a wonderful place to live, and it is open for veterans of our Armed Forces to rent there.

Years ago, as some of my readers know, I was very active in politics on the municipal and sometimes county levels. Every now and again I mixed it up on the state level, all pretty much at the orders of my old boss. This is not to say I didn't enjoy it, though it wasn't very good for me insofar as my health and family. There was some venom in these doings by both sides, but in the heat of the fight it happens.

Yet, I loved the fight. I regret nothing about my tenure with my late boss, Joe Azzolina Sr. He played politics like it was bloodless war, and it is -- no matter where one is from. A lot of people didn't like him -- so what? A leader cannot decide anything in this world firmly without someone making noise in the peanut gallery. Great things are not done by people who are either indecisive or timid. Sometimes, people have to step up and fight for what they think is right and serve the Lord by trying to get things done -- whether they win or they lose.

I was reading McCullogh's book about the Brooklyn Bridge, which is amazing reading, by the way. And, the book really became the story of the bridge's architect and engineer, John Roebling, from Berlin and the woods out near Pittsburgh, respectively.

Anyway, Roebling did big things in his day. Men and women made enormous landmarks in U.S. history, from art and architecture to creating organizations or enacting programs or designing cities or re-designing cities. And, during times of war, this country really pulled together, I suspect because the U.S. Government less frequently indulged in frivolous wars for no reason back then or borrowed money from foreign powers to continue their stupidity. People were bigger back then, metaphorically speaking. Today, they are bigger around the waistline, by and large, and the "Great Unwashed" American masses read and write more poorly then at any time in our national history: Yay! We're No. 1, We're No. 1!

God does some fine work, I think. Photo Jim Purcell

The missionary job with my old denomination was a surprise. I went to seminary five years and I held a paid position at a health-care facility for one year (well almost a year). The grant ended, that was that. I did an extra year, after my Master's, of CPSP Chaplain Accreditation, wherein all candidates had to possess a Master's to begin, at Capitol Health, in Trenton, NJ to work the job. All for a year...a lot of effort for a cameo. But the Lord sends us on journeys we do not always understand, and anyone who thinks they are smarter than the Lord is, to put it very politely, wrong.

By the by, I was helping another veteran try to register at my alma mater, one of them anyway: Brookdale Community College, in Lincroft. It was horrible and didn't get done. There is a veteran's 'coordinator' or whatever that just doesn't return calls for the better part of a week. When I went to Brookdale, in the 80s, it was just beautiful and was staffed with the most wonderful, academically nurturing people I could ever hope for; it isn't like that anymore at all. It's a cold, inevitable morass of bureaucracy and unnecessary, elongated paper shuffling, for the sake of unnecessary, elongated paper shuffling. If I were assigned to Hell in the afterlife, one possible version of punishment (perhaps around Canto II, most Americans won't get the reference (requires reading)) might be never-endingly trying to get registered for classes there as a new student, without success. This punishment would reflect the reality on earth too, on frequent occasion, I suppose. 

So, the guy is going to University of Phoenix Online -- nice fail, Brookdale (L). Giving anyone access to higher education is the most basic tool anyone needs to feed themselves and their family these days. In view of that, their conduct was ridiculous.

All in all, the days are becoming more lovely and slowly the temperature is climbing. Best of all is that the cherry blossoms are exploding in grand fashion. Life is what you make it, I try to do my best day to day -- mostly a nice disposition and lots of smiling helps. We've all begin an amazing gift -- life itself -- and though hard times come and go nothing will be solved by being miserable, even in the darkest times.

Sunday, April 20, 2014

The only journey worthwhile is the one toward peace

By Rev. Jim Purcell (Ret.)
Searching for peace is the only journey that makes sense

I have been wanting to write for a little while. But, I have been genuinely happy for a bit now. And, where writing used to be an outlet I would use when I was feeling good or bad, I find these days I write more when I am bored or just going through the motions. I also write through obligation, which is what this is. However, I am so humbled by the readership to this blog and believe it is a commitment to regularly write in this space.

So, this is good. For those who read me from time to time, I am always talking about being selfish and caring about yourself first and how you feel as you get older. Well, I talk it and I walk it.

When things come up with me, I deal with them head-on these days and get through it without any drama. Then, I concentrate on doing things I like a lot. Strangely enough, good people get attracted to other people who take care of themselves and focus upon God and their centeredness; then I tend to hang out with positive people and we have a good time. No one screaming, calling anyone names or making life a bother.

I will tell you this -- it is downright addictive. Oh, and speaking of: I have had my fair share of people I loved lost, in one way or another, for many years now. It is sad when loss happens. But, focusing on loss does little to resolve it. Loss is only to be gotten over, life teaches. For me, I started really living within what I perceive to be God's plan and it is going swimmingly.

In AA, there is always this thought (purposeful or not) that if alcoholics begin to enjoy their lives too much then they are losing track of their sobriety, forgetting the hard times. In response to that, I would say this, I lost my family when I was active in my addiction (my children, my fiancĂ©e); my loved ones turned like rabid dogs on me;  I lost my house (a big one and a condo too) and all my money to false friends and 'loved ones'; I lost my car(s) (which I liked); I lost my drivers license through DWI (got depressed when I didn't get calls on my birthday (nuts!)); I slept outside in the snow in Nebraska during winter -- homeless; I was treated like an animal working at a bar in New Jersey and a gravel factory outside Lincoln, Nebraska and used terribly along with my mates; I suffer seizures still; every friend I had turned their back on me -- well, I don't think I will be forgetting about any of that too soon. I was not so wretched that this should have been my fate -- people took what they wanted from me and left. But, God remained. Only He remained.

AA got me in early sobriety and started convincing me I should apologize to people, it felt like I was supposed to be sorry to everyone. As I became more sober, it occurred to me: Why the hell am I going to chase after a group of people who stabbed me in the back and took my money, used me for position, or for their own agendas? I have nothing to apologize for to them. I wrote one apology letter and, after a bit of sobriety, I wrote the person I sent my apology to and took it back promptly. Sobriety isn't going to make me the same kind of fool addiction did.

AA is many things to many people. How I feel about AA is not how all, or even most, other people feel. It is a wonderful organization and has helped so many. For me, though...thanks and I'll find my strength in God alone.

I do not drink today. Barring Alzheimer's or Dementia I'm not drinking anymore. But, every day is time to celebrate life. And, I have learned not to waste even a moment on people who do not waste any moments on me. I have had old 'friends' apologize for their conduct while I was in addiction (the only one I ever hurt was myself) -- and took it well. They were bad friends. I don't grind it in -- we know what happened (and there was some money involved here and there). No matter, it is over.

No, I do not run around after people who are not convinced they have something to be contrite about in a past relationship with me. I did some things too, but unilateral apologies are not smart and don't make anyone feel better at all -- especially when they are largely unwarranted. Apologies that have no meaning just plain have no meaning.

Someone's guilt is between them and their God. Where it involves me and my God -- we just got back from a Mets game where the boys won a 4-3 overtime bout that went to the 14th against the Braves. We are having fun, not forgetting that hard times happened but committed to making new, good ones. And, I am not nuts in any way when I say 'we'; in all the time I was homeless (about 3 years), it was only God that saw me through the hardest times -- regardless of whether I was drunk or sober, in the midst of a seizure, or dragging a lesioned, bloody foot while serving booze seven days a week behind a skid row bar in North Middletown, New Jersey. What do I have to apologize to my former 'masters' about, who are in league with dark forces in their quest for a dollar? I was no better than a slave but God was there; a presence that is undefinable and powerful. I made it through being Ground Zero at Superstorm Sandy -- He was there. I made it through being at Ground Zero at the World Trade Center -- He was there. I made it through so many losses -- He was there. He was the only damn one who was there -- proving that I only needed Him and me. Everything and everyone else was optional.

People with dark intentions should be avoided
In general, people do not believe others when they talk about God, because we are in the era of Post Modernism (no one believes anything). Regardless, in God's love I could care less if anyone believes me: God doesn't need me doing His job. When and if He wants to let everyone know He is around then He can do it himself. I write my revelations for me because I am grateful for my past, no matter how nuts. I finally understand, for me, why the good times and the hard ones happened -- and it makes perfect sense finally...and it helps. It calms my heart and restores my soul.

I have been called every horrible thing possible by those who were 'there for me' (lol) and it was so very hypocritical and ridiculous that to remember such 'support' must grant a smile. And, no longer a bitter one. The Lord takes pain from the heart. I am so happy I survived my bout with addictions, homelessness and untreated injuries and psychiatric conditions (all brought about through service). At the end of a dark tunnel can be utter joy, where the pain and ignorant people of the past hold no more sway. Of course, the other route is to self-destruction and every man and woman must decide just which road they will take. It is not for anyone to say or instruct.

There is so much evil in my past, by men and women still there if I were to turn around, still enjoying the profits of their ill-gotten gains of mine. They can have it. I want nothing of it. Their way of living life has cost them their soul, and it is not for me to count their sins. I am busy enough with my own and trying to live a life of peace and love -- and gratitude. I have no more space in my head for evil times. I pray for people and hope they find their way. I know I have and am moved to tears for it. I sleep like a child now...and still kind of act like one. It is a gift I readily accept. God has been good to me.

Good comes to those who search for it. And, it is better to be one of those searching for good than one of those on the Road to Hell. We live in a horrible age, in a doomed society ... but just because people live in such a place is no reason why they cannot ignore it and proceed on their own path, which can be so much more joyful than any other.

(Rev. Jim Purcell is a graduate of the NY Theological Seminary. He is also a former award-winning journalist, whose works have been commended by the U.S. Congress and NJ Legislature, as well as the U.S. Army, among others. In addition, he was an active member of the Civil Rights Movement, who served within the NAACP in the cause of equal justice in America. Finally, Rev. Purcell is a former U.S. Army Sergeant and Paratrooper who served with, among other units, the 82nd Airborne Division and the XVIII Airborne Corps.)

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Stuff We're Supposed to in this Life

By Rev. Jim Purcell

Young people have their own ideas. The very nature of young people, very many of them, is that they try the waters and take risks, fall in love, work hard and dream. I wouldn't want to go through that again for all the tea in China. I learned a lot in my life, through getting kicked and falling through many of the branches of the more challenging scenarios in life. And, I am as tired as a tired as a one-legged man in a butt kicking contest.

In youth, whether or not we owned up to it, many of us believed in our invincibility. Yes, youth will do that -- it is a condition that has stood the test of time since the innovation of mankind first debuted on the earth. Life can look as long and straight as I-95 between North Carolina and Georgia. But life, that great teacher, has, in the immortal words of the character Jed Clampat from 'The Beverly Hillbillies,' " something fur ya." Yes, it does.

In some ways, people are not unique at all because there are commonalities we all share, and in others there is variety. Case in point: If anyone's leg gets broken, then the way to fix it is pretty much the same anywhere you go. It is another case where it involves sociology, psychology and culture. The basic organism of mankind -- men and women -- does not change all that much. But, the dumbass things we can think of is legion; and I mean that from an individual level all the way through entire nations. Oh, there is so much energy applied to being unique and different in this world.

After half of a century in this better than all other worlds, some things have changed with my way of thinking: I no longer want to live to be 120 years old, I do not want to find any job let alone the job of my 'dreams,' family will never be everything I wanted it to be, love may or may not be forever, dogs are proven to be the best emotional investment of all because they are a hundred times more faithful than men or women and there is real joy in quiet contemplation. These are some of the big things that changed my thinking.

Oh, yes, revenge: I had to give that up. It took so much energy being angry at those who did this, stole that, hung me up to dry here and betrayed me outright I was getting too tired to go to lunch most days. Older people have to -- have to -- figure out what is important when it comes to using one's energy. And, since there are things like one's health, love, friends, housing, hobbies, finances and moderate exercise to deal with, there isn't really a lot left over. It doesn't matter if someone wants to hold onto whatever negativity they have. Of course, there are going to be those who are not fully grown-up yet, and there are plenty, who go into their Golden Years nursing these immense, negative issues (I know a few of them from my days putting out a newspaper in Middletown, New Jersey). And, all of those fellows have a lot of money.

It reminds me of the that Biblical quote from Christ saying it is easier for a camel to travel through the eye of a needle than it is for a rich man to gain the Kingdom of Heaven (of course I am paraphrasing). Even if one does not have faith of any kind, I presume that having peace in one's reclining years is better than not having peace in one's reclining years. It is, after all, our collective Fourth Act, so to speak, after a certain point in our lives. Nevertheless, these years can be wonderful, amazing! Men and women can not only rediscover who they were and are during the years after working, but they can also 'become' in retirement. They can become what they have always wanted, or even dreamt; a pilot, a dancer, get that Master's you have been talking about forever and ever, become a volunteer teaching kids, or helpo out at the hospital. The sky is the limit. It is a new time, shining with the sun. Of course, you could always hang around the disappointments and frustrations of your old life and become a crusty old thing, so miserable no one wants to be around you -- not even pets.

I choose to try and make some use of the time the good Lord has given me before my eventual dirt nap. Oh, the notion of life eventually being over doesn't scare me. Today, I have a closer relationship with the Lord than ever before in my entire life. I started doing some work on that most important relationship between myself and my creator. It's my belief this is as it is supposed to be. Going to Glory one day is not a punishment or something to dread. Not having found peace and serenity, even a little wisdom, in this world would be the terrible thing. Our time is made precious because there is only so much of it in this world.

My suggestion: Be kind, have some fun and be sure to let yourself fall in love if that comes up. As always, thanks for coming here and reading my incessant ranting, as usual. Be sure to stop by in a few days, I am starting to feel a little better and think I will be perfectly recovered by then.

God bless and seeya later!