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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

Christian Outreach Talk…Conclusion

In March of 2012 I had an Epiphany.  With everything that had gone on in my life it hit me, one day, that God had always taken care of us.  He was always there for me.  The Holy Spirit began to really burn…and I know why.  I immediately understood what loving God with all my heart and soul meant. As Jesus commanded in Matthew 22: 37-40 He said to him “You shall love the Lord, your God, with all your heart, with all your soul, and with all your mind. This is the greatest and the first commandment. You shall love your neighbor as yourself.  The whole law and the prophets depend on these two commandments.”  It sounded good before my epiphany, but now I really got it.  I really do pray for my enemies and my judgement days are completely gone.  Even the tiniest transgression I consider a sin.

 

Later that year in December, while delivering a meal, a gentleman approached the car and asked me to roll down the window.  He had backed out of the parking space and then pulled right back in.  I had no idea why he wanted me to roll down my window.  He told me that Jesus told him to tell me that “everything is going to be alright.” Oh, my God, did I just really hear that?  It was and still is the ultimate gift in my life.  Imagine tears in the eyes.  No matter what the trials have been for me since then, no matter what the world has thrown at me, I now know that everything is going to be all right.  I haven’t had one ounce of fear, anxiety or worry.  Sure, I get frustrated with myself sometimes because I have set the bar so high.  I want to be better and better every day.  I really do watch myself.

 

I once heard a homily that contemplative prayer is continuously thinking of God.  In fact, the priest said that thinking of God every day is one of the strongest prayers that can be offered.  I’m glad I heard that because it’s how I pray.

 

In Mark 8:29 Jesus asked Peter who he thought Jesus was.  I often wonder who people think I am.  For that matter, I wonder who I think I am.  I want to be the person to where people see the Jesus in me.  Not be Jesus, but have the heart of Jesus.

 

I now know that the only thing that matters is God.  Knowing that has made me a much better person.  I’ve had people turn away from me because, during discussions, they don’t want to hear the truth about God’s intentions and how to live their lives. I don’t preach and I don’t judge.  But I won’t back down either from defending His plan.

 

I think about the gift certificates from that wonderful family on Christmas, the gentleman with cancer, sleeping with the homeless and especially my epiphany. I know that the Holy Spirit is burning in my soul.

 

In John 3:17 it says that God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but that the world might be saved through him.

 

That verse and Jesus’ message to me on that December morning, 2012, gives me confidence every day that everything is good and everything is going to be all right.

 

God Bless

Christian Outreach Talk…Part 2

I lost my job a couple of times. I didn’t get fired. I would just get an attitude and walk away.  Even though I treated people well and had a soft heart, I did things that put my family in jeopardy. It was nonsense and I knew it…but I couldn’t control it.  I hated myself for it and became depressed.  Very depressed.  I was suicidal.  Whatever the demon was, I couldn’t shake it. In fact, my prayer was, “Please Lord, don’t let me destroy myself.”  Proverbs 29:22 says that The ill-tempered stir up strife, and the hotheaded cause many sins. That was me in a nutshell.  While unemployed for my first time, I got us to the point where we were only one month away from running out of groceries.  That Christmas Eve I was downstairs while Joyce and my three kids were upstairs enjoying Christmas Eve. I was so scarred, mostly ashamed, of what I was putting my family through.  Around 11 that night the doorbell rang. On our doorstep was an envelope with $500 worth of Harris-Teeter gift certificates.  The card was not signed, only Merry Christmas.  I figured out quickly who it might have been, but they obviously wanted to remain anonymous.  It was so joyous and my family was all so happy.  Many years later I did approach the husband and warmly thanked him.  What that family didn’t know that night was that they gave me two gifts.  They demonstrated what a follower of Christ, not merely a Christian, was all about; and I wanted to emulate them.  I felt the burning desire to do what I could to be a follower of Christ, which began my journey toward Christianity…of which they demonstrated to me the direction I needed to go.  They’re son is now a priest and I know how proud they are…deservedly so.

 

On April 30, 2004 I was diagnosed with a mental illness.  It involved Bipolar and a severe mood disorder.  Now I knew what my demon was.  Now I knew, that with medication and a good therapist, I could manage it for the rest of my life.  Many people assume that mental illness is behavioral.  Mental illness is a disease much like diabetes.  All you can do is manage it through medication and therapy; not cure it. Initially, Joyce and the kids didn’t buy into the biology diagnoses.   There are those who still don’t understand it.  I have ruined relationships.  My doctor is great, but it was my therapist who made magic.  As an example, on my very first visit I asked Peter, my therapist, if he was going to help me with my depression.  His answer was, “I’ll be depressed if I can’t.”

We’ve been at St. Matthew since day 1.  I volunteered for many things but I realized later that I was doing it for my ego and not from my heart.  In Samuel 16:8 God tells Samuel that he rejects appearances and lofty stature.  He doesn’t see us as other mortals do. The Lord looks into the heart.  I was volunteering for the wrong reasons.  I began taking communion to nursing homes after the 7:30 mass each Sunday. I taught our junior youth group (grades 7&8) for nine years and delivered meals-on-wheels to the poor, homebound and infirmed.  The Holy Spirit was there…I could feel it working.  Like the time where I sat with one gentleman in his dilapidated apartment, located in a very poor neighborhood, confined to a bed…suffering from cancer.  When I first met him he was cantankerous, yet an amiable man.  On this particular visit we talked about God and his recent conversion.   It helped him to accept his fate and I saw a huge amount of courage in him.  There was peace and solace in him even though he was in pain from head to toe…literally.  He knew that he was going to die soon yet welcomed it with joy.   I learned how to be strong from that visit.  He died weeks later and I know in my broken heart he is with God.  I learned that it was no longer about me.  I began to understand that I must demonstrate my faith through works.  Like James wrote 2:18… Indeed someone may say, “You have faith and I have works.” Demonstrate your faith to me without works, and I will demonstrate my faith to you from my works.

 

I volunteered for a ministry, Room in the Inn. It is a program for area churches where, from December to the end of March, they offer the homeless a warm place to sleep, a bed, shower, dinner, breakfast and a brown bag lunch for the next day. The only qualification is that they must be homeless and not have any felony convictions. It was another learning experience.  Those ministries taught me so many lessons on how to love.  They also made me realize that my outreach had become heart felt and I knew that I could now make a difference in the lives of others.  As Ezekiel wrote in 36:26 I will give you a new heart, and a new spirit I will put within you. I will remove the heart of stone from your flesh and give you a heart of flesh.  No longer did I want to do things just to be noticed.

Christian Outreach Talk…Part 1

This is a tough talk to deliver as this talk culminates all the wonderful talks to this point.  I’m going to give you a snapshot and then get on with it.

 

  • My mom died 3 years ago and almost took a secret with her to the grave.
  • I fought a demon.
  • I learned to be humble and know what love really means.
  • I had an epiphany and will share with you the best day of my life!

 

My dad and I were never close.  Heck, I thought a father-son relationship was automatic.  I didn’t realize it until adulthood and, frankly, I was baffled even then and didn’t understand why the cold shoulder.   I figured that, as a teenager, it was because I was rebellious, radical, independent, hard headed and didn’t take no for an answer.  My parents got to the point where they simply gave up on me.  My dad made it clear that he wanted me out of the house after I graduated. He constantly compared me to other teens especially my 2-year younger, straight “A” student, brother.  “Why can’t you be like him?”  Nothing I did was ever good enough for him.  All it did was manifest resentment in me.  I wasn’t a bad kid…just one who constantly pushed the envelope.  I’m not trying shuck responsibility here, but I have considered that the friction between me and my dad, and his lack of attention, might have led me to my rebellious mood.  Who knows?

 

My mom’s secret?  It seems my dad blamed my mom for everything about me.  I didn’t find this out until the month before she died.  I was born while he served in Korea and he didn’t see me until I was a year and a half…all of this I already knew.  But because he wasn’t allowed to discipline me as soon as he returned, he held that against her and claimed it was her fault.  After she passed, I called him on the carpet.  (I wish I had known this sooner because I would have straightened out his attitude towards her right away.)  During that conversation, of all days, he continued to blame her, the day after her funeral. But I put my hand up and told him that I never wanted to hear that again and that I’d like her to rest in peace.  Besides where was he the past 60 years?  He didn’t have an answer. My mom had been ill for many years.  Yet, he treated her like crap.

 

He died 3 months later and I haven’t grieved a second.  I didn’t go back to Nebraska for his funeral and my siblings hold it against me.  They’ve never believed or understood our relationship…or lack thereof.  Jesus and I work on that to this day.  I guess I realized that I didn’t have any feelings for him after all.

 

Joyce and I have been married 45 years.  I met her in high school and, bless her heart, she was the only one that had a positive influence over me.  In my opinion she was the best-looking girl in high school.  How lucky was that?  When she agreed to marry, me I was shocked.  She knew the real me and yet was prepared to cut me enough slack to help me. She certainly didn’t marry me for my money. She converted to the Catholic Church from, what she calls, the Heinz 57 of religions.  She was confirmed just weeks before our wedding.  I certainly appreciated her commitment and was thankful she chose to do it.  The best thing for me to do, after high school, was to enlist in the Navy. I spent 9 years riding submarines.  While the kids were growing up (I have three wonderful kids who remain our friends) I became the spiritual leader of the family like I was supposed to be.  In Ephesians 6:4 Paul writes, Fathers, do not provoke your children to anger, but bring them up with the training and instruction of the Lord.

Christianity = Discomfort?

You know I sit here and describe how much easier it is to be a follower of Christ since my epiphany…and it is….easier…not easy.  I understand that there will always be temptations and I’m always on guard and ready to face them.  In Sunday’s gospel, Jesus told us…

Matthew 10:33  But whoever denies me before others, I will deny before my heavenly Father.

At mass our pastor asked the question, “What is your greatest fear?”  When a child, all I ever heard about was fearing God and going to hell if I didn’t.  Thank goodness for the new testament.  One of the important things I learned over the past five years is that I am afraid of nothing…except maybe myself.  I used to say a prayer everyday, all day long.  “Please Lord, don’t let me destroy myself.”  It sounds kind of morbid, but since I’m a guy who gets right to the point, that prayer drove me to be the best person I could possibly be.  I’ve found that I no longer say it, and haven’t for over three years.  I know that my Brother, Jesus, is constantly showing me the way to eternal salvation…and I can’t wait.

I am so thankful that I have reached the point in my life that I know exactly what I need to do and be on a daily basis.  Although I am not afraid of anything nor worry, the discomfort in my Christianity still lies in me while trying be as perfect with God as I can be.

One of the biggest fears in people is speaking in front of people.  That was never a fear for me but, I still get nervous and, initially, was so uncomfortable I sweat like a…well..a person who sweats easily.  Me!

I relate that to my Christian life where I love the Lord but still get that uneasy feeling when I am tempted in any way.  I feel as though if I succumb to temptation, I am denying God.

2 Timothy 2:12  if we persevere we shall also reign with him. But if we deny him he will deny us.

On a side note, I had mentioned that in November, at our 27 hour Christ Renews His Parish event, I will be giving a talk about Christian Outreach.  The formation of my talk is basically how I came to be…the hardships and how I evolved over time into my Christianity.  I’ve been asked if I would share that with you all.  I will.  In fact I read the final version in front of the group the other night and it came out exactly how I wanted it.  This final draft ended up being the culmination of many, many hours of heartache, trying to get it right.  It had to be right. The attendees deserve to hear a quality talk.  Anyway, I will share it in increments a little later down the line.  (I think one of our director’s, Jim, reads these blogs so I’m sure it will be OK with him.  He’ll definitely let me know for sure.  Right Jim?)

God Bless

Naivety

Proverbs 14:15  The naive believe everything, but the shrewd watch their steps.

If there was an olympic  event for naivety, I would have won gold for many years.  When I graduated high school and went directly to the Navy…the real world…I was shocked at what I didn’t know.  Some might make the excuse for me that I grew up in a small town in Nebraska so what would I expect?  I know that’s not true.  It was my parents who dropped the ball.  As an example, my dad brought home a record LP with a booklet.  He began playing it and left the room.  My brother and I had absolutely no idea what it was about.  As it turned out the record was about sex education.  No dialog with my parents at all.

That’s just an example, but I have had to learn everything the hard way.  Education?  I barely graduated high school because my parents didn’t communicate its value and told me I should just enlist in a branch of the military.  Once in the Navy I was a target for jokes taking advantage of my naivety.  My life was tough, learning the hard way by making mistakes and being immature.  I was as insecure as one could be.

Proverbs 22:3  The astute see an evil and hide, while the naive continue on and pay the penalty.

This, too, became very clear after my epiphany.  When my eyes were opened and I found God completely, my naivety about my faith disappeared.  It’s difficult to explain that once was, is no longer.  The eye opening is something I can’t describe.  I wish I could for the benefit everyone.  I took my leap of faith and landed exactly where I wanted to be.  Prior to my epiphany, I see that I really didn’t understand what faith was.  I was naive to think that God would always be there only if I was there for Him.  Now I know that He is always with me, no matter what.  I reciprocate by being His person in the best way possible.  I am no longer insecure.  Rather, in all humility, I’ve never felt better about myself.

Jeremiah 51:17  Every man is stupid, ignorant; every artisan is put to shame by his idol: He molds a fraud, without life-breath.

Yup, for most of my life, I was a fraud.  I didn’t seem to have any meaning in life.  Now, my head is clear and what was once a very confused and cluttered mind, is now filled with wisdom…and I continually pray that it stays that way.

God Bless

 

 

Rage, hatred

John 4:20  If anyone says, “I love God,” but hates his brother, he is a liar; for whoever does not love a brother whom he has seen cannot love God whom he has not seen.

Over the weekend I read an opinion piece in the Wall Street Journal.  (WSJ is the only newspaper I read and I no longer watch the news…whether it’s created or not.)  The author was Peggy Noonan, of whom I really enjoy her writing.  (She wrote a book a while back about Ronald Reagan, “When Character was King.”  It was my introduction to her writing.)

Her piece was titled “Rage is All the Rage, and it’s Dangerous.”  We all see just how much hate and violence this world encounters each day.  The really sad part, it’s not necessarily war.  It’s just people hating one another.  But back to Mrs. Noonan for a few moments.  Please find an excerpt from her piece:

Oh, to have a unifying figure, program or party.

But we don’t, nor is there any immediate prospect. So, as Ben Franklin said, we’ll have to hang together or we’ll surely hang separately. To hang together—to continue as a country—at the very least we have to lower the political temperature. It’s on all of us more than ever to assume good faith, put our views forward with respect, even charity, and refuse to incite.

And was anyone surprised? Tuesday I talked with an old friend, a figure in journalism who’s a pretty cool character, about the political anger all around us. He spoke of “horrible polarization.” He said there’s “too much hate in D.C.” He mentioned “the beheading, the play in the park” and described them as “dog whistles to any nut who wants to take action.”

As I bring it back to God, I, like you, pray for some kind of end to all of this.  You can almost see evil in people’s eyes when one speaks about a topic that, accidentally, incites them.  For example, somewhere between elections, my 42 year old son went completely left.  When I asked him one question, if he believes in God, he told me that he is struggling with it.  It took me totally off guard, but I wasn’t surprised.  If you met him you might turn to me and say something like, this is a good guy with a good heart.  I agree, except when he goes on a mission, politically.  In one instance, as I always do, I ask questions about why he believes what he believe…and I do it diplomatically.  If he had something on Facebook, I would reply with a question.

He would turn on me and get upset.  I was shocked the first couple of times.  He actually asked me, “why do my friends always think you’re going after me?”  He allowed his friends to dictate his feelings.  I believe that his friends are progressive and do not have God in their lives.  I know his wife doesn’t, although a good person.

I used him as an example because it’s so close to home.  I could see the rage in his eyes.  At that instance he wasn’t my son.  We are friends and have a great relationship so it does bother me when I see that.  Oh, I stopped replying to anything he posts on Facebook.  In fact, I’m rarely on Facebook any longer.

It’s so sad when I see the violence, the hatred and the disownment from people I believed I was close to.  It’s sad, but I no longer let it bother me because of my one true Father.  And all of you wonderful friends.  Your replies are so welcome because they are filled with love.  That’s what happens when we have Jesus in our lives.

1 John 3:13  Do not be amazed, [then,] brothers, if the world hates you.

As John writes, the comfort in dealing with hatred is knowing that Jesus loves us and is walking with us every day.

God Bless