Surrounding myself with Jesus’ people

One thing I found out since my Epiphany, is that I needed to rid myself of “friends” who might cause a temptation and/or just wasn’t spiritually healthy for me to be around. This has also affected my relationship with my siblings.

Don’t get me wrong.  I’m extremely tolerant and, as you well know by now, non-judgemental.  Many of these relationships walked away and that’s OK.  I saw the need to surround myself with people of faith so I let go.

As an example.  This past December I flew to Florida to visit a brother, who I was hoping to reconcile with.  While there I realized that he was racist.  I was terribly uncomfortable with him and just kept to myself.  When he dropped me off at the airport there was barely a goodbye from him.    I thought about it on the flight back to Charlotte and knew that our relationship was just about nil.  I pray for him, but he’s going to have to figure a lot of things out.

As I mentioned, or at least think I have, I am a team member planning for the men’s Christ Renews His Parish event in November.   I’ve met some wonderful people and they are the kind of folks I should surround myself with.  I can be friends with anyone.  But they have to tolerate me just as I tolerate them.  Besides, I’d never know when all of sudden, perhaps because they saw the Jesus in me, they might have their own epiphany.

There is a verse in

Proverbs 18:24  There are friends who bring ruin, but there are true friends more loyal than a brother.

I try to live my life with this verse in mind.

John 15:13  No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends.

I like to think that I’d lay down my life for anyone, friend or not.  I have no idea how realistic that is, but I do know the importance of Love thy Neighbor.  I definitely consider you my friend as we both have the same love for our Lord.  Sometimes it’s tough, but knowing I have my Lord to guide me, it’s all good.

God Bless

I am a sinner

Before I begin, I would like to thank you when you give me honest feedback.  I read your replies and when I see that I’ve gotten a little preachy, which I honestly do not want to do, or you feel as though my emotions are running a bit high, I am humbled and grateful.

There was a time that I was too proud to look in the mirror and see my short comings…aka sins.  When I dismissed my trespasses, I found that it was quite a cowardly act as well.  I wasn’t sure what to do about that.  When I had this pride thing going on it regressed my spirituality and the wisdom I thought I had…if any at all.  I knew it was keeping me from growing as a Christian but I was too lazy to change from concentrating on material things instead of my spirit.

Bishop Fulton Sheen was quoted as saying:

“Far better it is for you to say: “I am a sinner,” than to say: “I have no need of religion.” The empty can be filled, but the self-intoxicated have no room for God.”

It’s like anything in life.  I had to face it, admit it, and pray about it.  After my epiphany I realized what wisdom was.  I was excited to spread the word but began going about it recklessly.  I finally developed patience and let God show me the way.  I like the fact that, now, any transgression, however small, I recognize as a sin.  It would be unrealistic to think I could ever be seek perfect, but to seek perfection is something I’m called to do.

James 1:4  And let perseverance be perfect, so that you may be perfect and complete, lacking in nothing.

When Jesus in, Matthew 5:48 calls us to be perfect just as our heavenly Father is perfect, means to me to become whole and complete with God.  That’s the wisdom  I began to understand.  (I used to shrug that verse off thinking that it was way beyond anyone’s reach.)  Perseverance in becoming sinless is something I strive for.  Again, I know it’s a truly difficult task, but I’m up to the challenge and will never look back.

God Bless

Am I allowed to be angry?

I have been waiting since the end of January to the present to receive my tax refund…believe it or not.  I’ve had a difficult time trusting the IRS in the past, and this has, it seems, put the nail in the coffin of that trust.  When we took a withdrawal from my wife’s 401k, I miscalculated the amount of tax to be deducted…by a large amount.  So this is a refund we could really use.  And guess what?  I’m not angry.  Frustrated…but not angry.  I’ve come such a long way.

Traffic, crazy drivers, used to really make me angry.  But they don’t any longer.  These are just two examples, of many, that I’ve overcome.  Thanks to my Lord!!

Now, having said that, there are two things that are bothering me…not quite angry…yet.  Please keep in mind, while reading this, that I am speaking from the perspective of love of God and what each of our missions should be.

I realize that many of you may disagree.

  1.  Our Bishop of the Diocese of Charlotte, Bishop Jugis, is in the process of regressing the diocese back to the pre-Vatican II days.  (I say regressing as opposed to progressing that the church has gone through for over 50 years.)  The diocese has nearly 20 priest, 5 newly ordained, that were sent to a seminary that educates the seminarians in the Extraordinary Mass (Latin).  I understand that the reverence for Holy Mass and especially the Eucharist is is belong more and more of an issue.  But I don’t understand why the throwback to the ‘fear of God’ days.  For example, I read a question and answer section for our newly ordained priests.  One question was about what they considered their biggest role as a priest.  Not one said that they wanted to spread the love of God.  If I was asked that question, spreading the love of God would be my #1 priority.  This upsets and bothers me.  (All 4 of our priests at St. Matthew consistently remind us of God’s love in their homilies.)
  2. Now I’m close to anger.  After reading about the Cardinal in Australia and the Vatican where non-marital sex has been spreading like wild fire, I shake my head and wonder why these men cannot keep their vows.  And this comes after years of reporting on sexual misconduct by the clergy.  We all have vows.  We all take oaths. I understand that they are men…humans.  But they had years of discernment and education to know how such activity can damage people.

Ephesians 4:26-27  Be angry but do not sin; do not let the sun set on your anger, and do not leave room for the devil.

I will never get to the point of having anger that would cause me sin.  Those days are long gone.  Certainly, like  you, I pray, pray, pray everyday for everyone…especially the Catholic Church.

God Bless

God’s language

We have been taught many ways too pray.  Rosary, Lord’s Prayer, Hail Mary, and the numerous prayers recited in all denominations.  Most, if not all, were designed, my words, to allow us to pray together as a group.  I’m probably wrong but I have found that “structured” prayer is necessary for a group setting.  However, when I’m alone, I do not recite those prayers.  Recite, to me, means that they aren’t necessarily my words.

This isn’t the first time I’ve written about this subject, but I so much believe in contemplative prayer.  I’m retired.  I have every opportunity to watch a TV program or listen to music; whether I’m doing an activity or not.  (The on exception is in the car.  Got to have the rock on.)

Whether I’m doing a project or just sitting on the deck, perhaps doing a crossword puzzle, I make sure that there is nothing playing.  Silence allows me to think about God all day.  It’s worked so far.  The reason this came to mind is because another quote, I found, from Father Keating, which really made my day.

“Silence is God’s first language; everything else is a poor translation.”

Like I said, structured prayers are important but they were written by humans inspired by Jesus.  With silence, I get to use my own words:  which have much more meaning to me.

Job 6:24  Teach me, and I will be silent; make me understand how I have erred.

God Bless

God will bring people and events into our lives…

God will bring people and events into our lives, and whatever we may think about them, they are designed for the evolution of His life in us.

-Father Thomas Keating

In preparing to write these posts, it sometimes takes awhile to develop a subject and then build on that so that it is something we can all reflect on.  I’ve kind of had that problem this week.  Then I listened to a homily by a priest where my daughter and family attend mass, St. Dorothy in NC, where he described the same problem.  This past Sunday, for example, it took him almost the whole week to gather his sermon.  I didn’t feel too bad after that because he is a heck of a homilist.

Then I watched a documentary about the amazing life of Thomas Keating.  Throughout the documentary it displayed certain quotes by him.  The quote I picked out for today really grabbed my attention.

It got me to think about the people who I have known well and the people that I’ve barely met.  Every person has had an impact of some kind on my life and it was/is up to me, my responsibility, to accept them so that I may, as Father Keating puts it, evolve God’s life in me.  I think about my love for my Lord every single day.  And, as I’ve said many times, everything that happens evolves from that love.  Another one if his quotes is really strong regarding love:

If one completes the journey to one’s own heart, one will find oneself in the heart of everyone else.

-Father Thomas Keating

Perhaps this is why the 8th commandment, thou shalt not bear false witness, is so important.  I think about all of the “gifts” God has given me in the form of the nice, and not so nice, people I’ve met over the years.  I realize that through the people I’ve encountered has allowed me to grow my spiritual life.  Therefore I have no business judging anyone else because I would be judging God in such a way.  As I grow it just makes more and more sense, and the eyes open a little bit wider each day.

 

God Bless

Christian Courage

There was a time when I was all talk.  I would praise God…only when I was by myself or with someone else of faith.  But when it came time to profess my love of God to the world, to people of all kinds of belief, I would falter and “hide” from the truth so they didn’t think I was some kind of “bible thumper.”  I cared too much about how people might take me rather than focussing on my faith and being proud of what I believed.  This Christian cowardice had the effect on me where I succumbed to temptation by not being strong and true in my belief of God.  John wrote, in his first letter, that focussing on the world rather than God, my heart was not accepting His love.  Not accepting His love meant that I wasn’t demonstrating the love of others as I was expected to.

1 John 2:15-16  Do not love the world or the things of the world. If anyone loves the world, the love of the Father is not in him. For all that is in the world, sensual lust, enticement for the eyes, and a pretentious life, is not from the Father but is from the world.

Since my glorious day of epiphany, I have been strong and steadfast.  No longer am I a shrinking violet when discussing my faith and my love of my Lord.  No one, many have tried, but no one has been able to shake me one bit from my conviction.  When challenged, I have no fear of having a debate with anyone.  (Don’t get me wrong.  I’m not the smartest guy out there, so I have to make sure I don’t get in over my head, intellectually.)  It’s much like the verse from Timothy:

2 Timothy 1:7  For God did not give us a spirit of cowardice but rather of power and love and self-control.

I just needed to open my eyes and recognize that God was offering me the gifts Timothy wrote about, but I wasn’t accepting them.  But then…epiphany.  You know the rest.

I wish I could describe what actually happened that March, 2012 day.  It honestly felt like a blindfold was removed and my vision became clear…which allowed me to understand. Of course, it was God’s grace that helped me, literally, see the light.  It was God’s grace that helped me finally grasp His plan/intentions.

I avoid being critical of anyone…I just don’t like it.  However, when it comes to sharing my faith, it is impossible to sway me from my relationship with my Lord.  With all humility, I am more courages than I’ve ever been.  I’m eternally proud to be a soldier of Christ.

God Bless

Freedom

On Tuesday we celebrate our independence…our freedom.

The word, freedom, always reminds me of songwriter/performer Richie Havens; who recently passed away.  For me, Richie Havens personifies freedom via a song he wrote, on stage, live at Woodstock, after being asked by the promoters to extend his set until the next performer, I believe, Jimi Hendrix arrived.  His response was, “I don’t have any more songs to perform!”  They just shrugged their shrugged their shoulders.  So, he goes back on stage and comes up with an iconic song “Freedom” that you could not imagine he had written, while he was performing it.

I don’t understand why people would even want to threaten to leave our country.  Sure, we have a lot to work on and fix, but we still have our freedom.  We still have our rights under a very strong constitution.  We have a great, great country.

The ultimate gift of freedom comes from our Lord.  Free will.  I tell people that it can be a  gift and a curse…it’s up to us how we exercise it through our actions.  The curse, of course, comes from the actions we choose, in that it turns us away from God.

So, I know a person who is a member of a protestant church.  A denomination, divided in two, that has a conservative and liberal belief system.  The church the she and her husband attends is the liberal direction.  She once told me that she likes the pastor and congregation but wished they would follow the mainstream denomination’s conservative agenda.  I didn’t tell her this, but in my mind I’m thinking…well…leave.  She has the freedom and free will to do whatever she wants.

My point is, I know I have had the freedom to make my choices over the years and am so happy I came to my senses, discovering God’s love,  that I finally have chose the right path.  It’s like what Jesus said in the gospel:

Matthew 10:37-39  “Whoever loves father or mother more than me is not worthy of me, and whoever loves son or daughter more than me is not worthy of me; and whoever does not take up his cross and follow after me is not worthy of me.  Whoever finds his life will lose it, and whoever loses his life for my sake will find it.

Strong!  It doesn’t get any clearer than that.  Using the example of my friend, above, she must think about putting what is right (God) before the love of her pastor…who teaches contrary to some of God’s intentions.  She has the freedom to make the switch.  She has the free will.  I pray for all that they have the fortitude to make the choice that will bring them eternal salvation…just like you and I have.

I wish everyone a very happy, safe and enjoyable 4th of July.

God Bless