Before going any further, let me say that success means different things to different people.

This past Christmas Eve, we had just returned from a candlelight church service back to the Peabody Hotel in Memphis to have dinner at the hotel’s Italian restaurant, Cappacio’s.

So often we Americans celebrate the Fourth of July with hot dogs, hamburgers, pizzas, homemade ice cream and family get-togethers. We hear speeches or read articles with some mention of liberty, justice and the American way. We watch or participate in such things as road races or other special contests.

Loving America does not mean that we ignore her faults, past or present. It does not mean that we are unaware of her inequalities or injustices that must be challenged and changed.

Simply stated, I cannot over-emphasize the critical nature of listening to the building of authentic relationships.

So how do we come to love ourselves and overcome our feelings of inadequacy, inferiority and worthlessness?

In a couple of weeks, along with numerous others, she will reach the monumental milestone of becoming a high school graduate.

Isaiah the prophet reminds us of how we can live wisely and well in the midst of continuous strain (tensions).

Countless people who have learned how to keep going report that at least one of the ingredients for endurance is the understanding of the meaning of one’s life.

It ruins health. It demolishes peace at home. It leads to violence. It prompts open crime. It turns love into hatred.

It is important that we people of faith be clear that human tragedy is not the will of God.

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I am glad I was in Africa while my brothers and sisters in the once united Methodist Church were cutting one another to shreds at the recent general conference in St. Louis. I am glad that I only caught glimpses of the terrible things that people representing Jesus Christ were saying about one another in the name of love and unity.

A year may start happily and end wretchedly. A career may start with a blaze of glory and end with an embarrassing thud.

For sure, we are a nation under stress. We are a tension-ridden people who take aspirin for our headaches, tranquilizers for our nerves and sleeping pills to make us sleep. And so much of this “medicine” is being taken to alleviate tension or stress.

Along with you, I was recently appalled to hear again that a gunman had opened fire at a nightclub in Thousand Oaks, Calif., killing 12 and wounding a number of others.

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