Saturday, December 13, 2014

Remembering...

One year ago today, a tragic, horrible incident took place at a typical high school in a typical suburban town.  We hear of these shootings on the news far too often.  We grieve and shake our heads, as we wonder "Why?" and then we pray.


However, this unimaginable episode was not "just another news story" for my family.  The young woman who was shot was not just a face in the news.  Claire Davis was my cousin's daughter.  She was young, beautiful, and in love with life.  In his misery, another student's anger cost Claire her life.  It was not only heartbreaking for the Davis family, but also for his family.

December 13, 2013, will be forever etched in our minds as the day we lost a shining light.

Please continue to pray for her parents, brother, grandparents, friends, and relatives.  No school shooting will ever again be "just another" to us.


Ceremony Will Mark One Year Since Arapahoe High Shooting « CBS Denver

Tuesday, December 09, 2014

PLEASE HELP!

Dear readers, I have never done anything like this before.  However, the Holy Spirit is directing me to pass this information along.

The mom mentioned in this article is a dear friend of mine, who is in desperate need of help NOW.

Let us show our Christian love and the spirit of Christ by doing all we can to help them.

God bless you all!

~Joni



IMG_4183

Help for a Friend

Posted on Dec 9, 2014 by  in lessons | 0 comments
Update: Over 20% funded in just one hour! You guys are AMAZING!!! Let’s do this!!
Friends, I need your help. I believe in connecting people and I think I’m good at it. I wouldn’t put this out there if I doubted the legitimacy of this– I know deep in my heart that this is an intense and immediate need. I’m going to give you a short version of a long story, but enough that you’ll understand why I want to do what I can to help, which includes asking you to help me help this family. So in the spirit of this season, can we help this family with a little kindness after what they’ve been through and are still going through? (who am I kidding? I *know* we can do this!!)
My friend’s son has several disorders and in order to protect her son I’m going to be general about his medical history and I’m going to call him Joey. Joey has some issues and the family has dealt accordingly. Recently though, Joey was involved in a serious accident that might have been a suicide attempt. He had a lot of medical issues stemming from this. He is currently in long term rehab with post accident traumatic brain injury and will be hospitalized until February.
As if that’s not serious enough, the poor boy was molested (pre-accident) by a deacon in his church–who just so happened to be his godfather, and Joey’s mom thinks this is what pushed him to go off the deep end. After telling the church and the police, it was discovered this deacon/godfather was actually a registered sex offender. After a lot of time, Joey had to testify against this man. I don’t know all the details, whether or not the man was hiding his sexual offender status or what, that’s not the important part. Here’s the part I need you to help me with.
The man took a plea bargain which spares Joey a long, victim-blaming trial, and in his condition, this is really for the best. The family needs to make an 800 mile round trip to give victim impact statements to hopefully sway the judge into giving this disgusting human being a much harsher sentence.
The family needs to rent a car because they don’t have a car that will make an 800 mile trip and they don’t have a credit card, so they’ll have to put down a deposit. They need gas, food, and lodging for the whirlwind trip. They’ll leave their home, drive 400 miles, stay over, appear before the judge the next day and then head back home, hopefully with news that this man will be locked up for a really long time. I’m thinking $700 is an amount that will allow them to get this trip done and put behind them so they can focus on healing.
To donate, please click on this link, and scroll to the "Donate" link at the bottom of the article.

**some of you know this family and have been praying for “Joey,” have seen the news articles and photos of Joey in the first days after the accident, and have been cheering him on in his miraculous recovery. If you recognize this story, please keep the family’s real names silent. The molestation is something the family hasn’t talked about, understandably so, and would like to protect their son as much as possible. I’ve been given permission to tell this part of the story because it’s integral to the trip.

Tuesday, December 02, 2014

The Other Side of the Veil

I guess you could call this my "coming out" post, in a sense.  Because I have been struggling with something for many years, and have finally decided to go public with it all.  I am not prefacing my article this way to poke fun at anyone.  It is simply the best way I know to introduce a decision that has made a big impact on my life.  It is a controversial issue among some in the Catholic Church.  Rest assured, though, I am very sure of the path I have chosen, for I was guided there by the Holy Spirit.

Ready?

Holding your breath?

I wore a veil to Mass last Sunday, which was the first Sunday of Advent.

This is where you gasp and say to yourself, "You know, Joni had already gone pretty far off the deep end when she became Catholic.  But now?  Now she's trying to take us back to the time of women held under the tyranny of men.  Doesn't she know Vatican II liberated us from all that?  Poor, poor Joni!"

Okay, maybe that's a bit overboard.  Maybe you're just thinking, "Why in the world would she want to do that?"

I'm so glad you asked!  ;o)

For many years, I have puzzled over the passage in I Corinthians 11.  Most people who are familiar with it will recognize that reference as the "how to celebrate the Lord's Supper" passage.  Yes, it is.  But there are several verses preceding that part, which address the appropriate way for men and women to come to the table.

"I commend you because you remember me in everything and maintain the traditions even as I have delivered them to you.  But I want you to understand that the head of every man is Christ, the head of a woman is her husband, and the head of Christ is God.  Any man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head,  but any woman who prays or prophesies with her head unveiled dishonors her head—it is the same as if her head were shaven. For if a woman will not veil herself, then she should cut off her hair; but if it is disgraceful for a woman to be shorn or shaven, let her wear a veil.  For a man ought not to cover his head, since he is the image and glory of God; but woman is the glory of man.  (For man was not made from woman, but woman from man.  Neither was man created for woman, but woman for man.)  That is why a woman ought to have a veil on her head, because of the angels. (Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man nor man of woman;  for as woman was made from man, so man is now born of woman. And all things are from God.)  Judge for yourselves; is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered?  Does not nature itself teach you that for a man to wear long hair is degrading to him,  but if a woman has long hair, it is her pride? For her hair is given to her for a covering.  If any one is disposed to be contentious, we recognize no other practice, nor do the churches of God."


Many will stand firm on the notion that Paul was simply reiterating a cultural practice.  It was something for that time, and not necessary to be continued in modern worship.  I always had a bit of a problem with that theory, though.  When does Paul stop being cultural in this passage?  When he begins telling them not to have divisions among themselves?  When he says the Lord's table is not a place for gluttony and drunkenness?  When he restates the words of Christ when He said it was His Body and Blood?  When he tells them to examine themselves before receiving the bread and the cup?  Where does that happen?

I am saying these things only because they were the mental struggles I faced.  I could not reconcile the premise with the actual text, or even with the way the Church lived it out.  Women wore head coverings to Mass throughout the centuries, even into the late 20th century.  (See this insightful article, taken from a book by Jackie Freppon.)  Yet today, most parishes are filled with bare-headed women.


So did I give in to "peer pressure" and just do it because other women were doing this?  Hardly.  In the time I have been Catholic (since 2007), the only places I have seen women wearing head coverings have been Latin Masses and a few, rare souls at what we call Novus Ordo (the English Mass).  In our parish, I have known only two women who wore veils:  an older woman and a beautiful, younger woman who attends daily Mass.  No woman has ever tried to convince me of the necessity of wearing a veil or the "liberation" of not wearing one.  It simply hasn't come up!

As I have studied the history of this practice though, and spent a lot of time praying about it, I have sensed very strongly that it is something I should do. Over the past 2-3 months, several things have occurred that confirmed this.  And so, I have begun.  To the question of "Why?" I would simply answer, "Because I want to walk in obedience to whatever God is speaking to me."

Was it an easy decision?  Obviously not.  Is it easy to walk in wearing this lace on my head, when, especially on Sunday, no other woman is doing this?  NO.  I feel very nervous and self-conscious.  But do I feel in my heart that I have gained a new sense of reverence as I approach the Lord's table?  Absolutely.  Do I feel that every woman should cover her head when she enters a church?  Honestly, no.  I feel this is something I have been led to do.  If other women do not feel that sense in their spirit, then I have no problem with that.

I offer you the following two articles which give even more insight on the matter.  
And, as always, I welcome your questions.  I am never offended by questions!

The #Veil Project:  A Movement to Encourage 
To Veil or Not to Veil




Tuesday, October 28, 2014

I See...

What do people see when they encounter you?




Sunday, October 19, 2014

Back to the Basics

Just a few thoughts on this beautiful fall evening:

When our family became Catholic in 2007, I felt a bit overwhelmed.  With 2,000 years of history, there is a lot to learn.  So many wonderful saints' lives to investigate.  So many writings to read.  So many documents to study.  So many amazing resources to examine.  So many incredible prayers to incorporate into my prayer life. (If you've read any of my articles at Catholic365, you can learn a bit more about this.)

In the midst of all this growing and learning, though, there are a couple of things I have discovered that I think is super, super important:

-Don't forget the basics.

    1.  Though we attend Mass almost every day, corporate prayer and worship should never be a replacement for personal times of prayer and worship.  (This is a both/and, not an either/or...)

    2.  Though I hear Scripture read every time I go to Mass, it should not be a replacement for personal times of reading and praying through Scripture.  (Again, both/and...)

When I was an R.A. in Bible college, I had a bit of advice for the girls on my hall.  I repeated it several times in the two years I served:  Don't allow daily chapel to replace your personal relationship with Christ.  So for all of us, I extend that tidbit of wisdom.  Cultivate your love and relationship with God every day.  Happy Lord's Day, everyone!







Thursday, October 09, 2014

In Defense of Life and Family


In light of the current Synod on the Family,  I took the opportunity to read Humanae Vitae.  If you are unfamiliar with this document,  it was written by Pope Paul VI in 1968.  The full text can be found here.  Humanae Vitae

Keep in mind the year 1968--the time of "Free Love," the sexual revolution,  and  "Sex, Drugs, and Rock & Roll."  The cry of the day was against "the establishment" and the trend was, "whatever feels good,  do it."

Yet Pope Paul VI stood strong in the midst of the tidal wave of individualism, and reasserted the teaching of the Church, even when some voices within the Church were calling for a more "open" view to contraception,  abortion,  sex, and family life.

I was amazed by the prophetic nature of this writing.   Though written almost 50 years ago, he foretold that, if the course of things continued as they were, the government would one day decide the issue.

"It could well happen, therefore, that when people, either individually or in family or social life, experience the inherent difficulties of the divine law and are determined to avoid them, they may give into the hands of public authorities the power to intervene in the most personal and intimate responsibility of husband and wife."

And yet, he spoke to government leaders:

"And now We wish to speak to rulers of nations. To you most of all is committed the responsibility of safeguarding the common good. You can contribute so much to the preservation of morals. We beg of you, never allow the morals of your peoples to be undermined. The family is the primary unit in the state; do not tolerate any legislation which would introduce into the family those practices which are opposed to the natural law of God. For there are other ways by which a government can and should solve the population problem—that is to say by enacting laws which will assist families and by educating the people wisely so that the moral law and the freedom of the citizens are both safeguarded."

Thinking back, too, on the rapid advances in technology since that time,  we can clearly hear the Holy Spirit speaking through him:

"Everything therefore in the modern means of social communication which arouses men’s baser passions and encourages low moral standards, as well as every obscenity in the written word and every form of indecency on the stage and screen, should be condemned publicly and unanimously by all those who have at heart the advance of civilization and the safeguarding of the outstanding values of the human spirit. It is quite absurd to defend this kind of depravity in the name of art or culture or by pleading the liberty which may be allowed in this field by the public authorities."

Please join me in praying for the attendees of this synod.  For though the tidal wave has grown, God is still bigger.  God bless.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

When He Calls

As you have probably detected from previous posts, our oldest son has begun his freshman year in college.  It has been quite an adjustment for our family.  But growth is not always easy, is it?  (Thus, the term "growing pains.")  Being stretched can indeed be painful.

So, with that in mind, let me share something I have learned during this time of change.  I teach private piano lessons.  We have a rule for our sons that I will not answer the cell phone during a lesson.  It's not fair to the students, or to their parents who are paying me to teach their children.  However, since eldest son has left the nest, any time I see his name on the screen, I automatically answer.  He's away from home, and needs his mom!  Thankfully, this has only happened once or twice.  He is very understanding when I say I will call him back in a few minutes, as soon as the lesson is done.  But even if I have to tell him to wait, I want him to know I'm available.

While considering this last night, I realized how often I have accused God of being a bad Father.  Not in so many words, mind you.  But I have definitely implied that feeling by my thoughts and actions.

Do any of these sound familiar?

- I was in a really tough situation, and called out to God.  He never answered.  (Or said, "No.")

- Many people were praying for this person, and they were not healed.

- This person has lived an amazing Christian life, and yet they suffer so much.

The thing is, when I hear these same protests from non-believers, I always have a ready verse or insight to remind them that God is always there, always listening, and is far wiser than we are.  "His ways are above our ways..."

Why don't I get that when it applies to me?

Let's think through this:

We say, "God is love."  And He is.

We say, "God is all-knowing (omniscient)."  And He is.

We say, "God can do anything."  And He can.

We say, "God is our Provider."  And He is.

We say, "All things work together for good for those who love the Lord."  And it's true.

We say, "Ask, and you shall receive.  Seek, and you shall find.  Knock, and the door will be opened for you."  And that is true, too.

So where is the breakdown?  God is still God.  He never changes.  What's the problem here?

I think it's a problem of perception.  After all, when our son calls and I can't talk for long, I have still heard him.  I just can't answer right away.  I don't love him less.  I don't care for him any less.

The honest truth is, all the easy "platitudes" and Scriptures I can spout off to others?  They are more than platitudes.  They are truth.

Even if I can't see the bigger picture, He still hears.  He still cares.  We are never alone.

Rest in that assurance today, my friends.

Saturday, September 13, 2014

Happy Feast of John Chrysostom



Growing up in a Pentecostal church, the preaching was where it was at.  I mean, if the pastor could deliver a strong, make-you-really-think-about-your-relationship-with-God, and get-you-to-the altar sermon, then it was a good Sunday morning!  Please read NO sarcasm in this statement.  It was wonderful.  I have heard some amazing preaching in my lifetime.  It didn't have to touch the emotions, either.  If it was something that resonated inside the spirit, then it was a good sermon.

Don't get me wrong.  I have heard some very emotion-driven sermons.  They made me laugh.  They made me cry.  They moved me, Bob.  But the best sermons were ones that called me to change.  Called me into a more intimate relationship with Christ.  Called me to be more of who God made me to be.

There are very few sermons I actually remember.  But those I do remember have made a lasting impact on my life.  

One was given by an evangelist named Mike Brown.  I remember it so clearly.  I was a camper at a Kansas youth camp.  The message was entitled, "A Double Portion."  It was based on Elijah and Elisha.  When Elijah was about to be taken up to heaven, Elisha asked for a double portion of the spirit that rested on Elijah.  The invitation to us:  pray for God to give you a double portion of His Spirit.  I have never forgotten that.

Another was a sermon by my brother-in-law:  "God Is Bigger."  John preached this sermon during a time in my life when I was questioning everything God was doing.  Our family was undergoing some huge changes, and I wasn't a bit happy with God.  John reminded us all, though, that no matter what we were facing, God was bigger.  I have never forgotten that.

Just one more I want to mention in particular.  A sermon by Tim Dilena.  I don't remember the title.  I do remember the content, though.  He was preaching from Psalm 56.  Verse 8 particularly caught mt attention:  You have kept count of my tossings;   put my tears in your bottle.    Are they not in your record?  He talked about the Jewish teaching/tradition that tears were collected in a bottle, and saved for a time of mourning.  (Perhaps that the woman who anointed Jesus' feet with her tears was actually using a tear bottle.)  I was brought to a place of trust in God in which I realized that He cared about every teardrop that comes from my eyes.  Every moment of sorrow, He has "kept count of."  He cares deeply.

(I must mention here, too, that I have heard so many memorable sermons by my husband, I cannot count them all!)


Saint John Chrysostom was known by this title of "Chrysostom" due to his preaching.  He was known to have a "golden voice."  He lived about 350 A.D.  As New Advent.org states,  he "is generally considered the most prominent doctor of the Greek Church and the greatest preacher ever heard in a Christian pulpit."  Now those must have been some sermons!  He is considered greater than every preacher...ever.

One of his most famous sermons is called his paschal homily.  It is read every Easter in the Eastern Orthodox Churches.  Be prepared!

Is there anyone who is a devout lover of God? Let them enjoy this beautiful bright festival!  Is there anyone who is a grateful servant?  Let them rejoice and enter into the joy of their Lord!
Are there any weary with fasting?  Let them now receive their wages! If any have toiled from the first hour,  let them receive their due reward; If any have come after the third hour,  let him with gratitude join in the Feast! And he that arrived after the sixth hour,  let him not doubt; for he too shall sustain no loss. And if any delayed until the ninth hour,  let him not hesitate; but let him come too. And he who arrived only at the eleventh hour,  let him not be afraid by reason of his delay.
For the Lord is gracious and receives the last even as the first. He gives rest to him that comes at the eleventh hour,  as well as to him that toiled from the first. To this one He gives, and upon another He bestows. He accepts the works as He greets the endeavor. The deed He honors and the intention He commends.
Let us all enter into the joy of the Lord!  First and last alike receive your reward;  rich and poor, rejoice together! Sober and slothful, celebrate the day!
You that have kept the fast, and you that have not,  rejoice today for the Table is richly laden! Feast royally on it, the calf is a fatted one. Let no one go away hungry. Partake, all, of the cup of faith. Enjoy all the riches of His goodness!
Let no one grieve at his poverty,  for the universal kingdom has been revealed. Let no one mourn that he has fallen again and again;  for forgiveness has risen from the grave. Let no one fear death, for the Death of our Savior has set us free.
He has destroyed it by enduring it.
He destroyed Hades when He descended into it. He put it into an uproar even as it tasted of His flesh. Isaiah foretold this when he said, “You, O Hell, have been troubled by encountering Him below.”
Hell was in an uproar because it was done away with. It was in an uproar because it is mocked. It was in an uproar, for it is destroyed. It is in an uproar, for it is annihilated. It is in an uproar, for it is now made captive. Hell took a body, and discovered God.  It took earth, and encountered Heaven. It took what it saw, and was overcome by what it did not see.
O death, where is thy sting? O Hades, where is thy victory?
Christ is Risen, and you, O death, are annihilated! Christ is Risen, and the evil ones are cast down! Christ is Risen, and the angels rejoice! Christ is Risen, and life is liberated! Christ is Risen, and the tomb is emptied of its dead; for Christ having risen from the dead, is become the first-fruits of those who have fallen asleep.
To Him be Glory and Power forever and ever. Amen!

That is a soul-stirring sermon, is it not?  (Can I get an "amen!"?)

As much as I love the sermons, though, I have to admit that the greatest message ever told is repeated every time there is a Mass in the Catholic Church.  For the story of Christ's life, death, and resurrection are displayed very clearly as we hear the Gospel read, and the priest retells the story of the night before Jesus died.  We listen to the words of institution, "This is My Body.  This is My Blood."  And we remember His death until He comes again.

The greatest sermon of all (and I'm sure St. John would have agreed!) is the Holy Eucharist.

God bless you all, and have a wonderful Lord's Day!

Saturday, August 23, 2014

Rhyme and Reason

When I was in high school, I went through what many would call my "teen angst" stage.  If you're unfamiliar with this term, it is generally a "girl" thing.  Back in the day (1980's), this was usually expressed in diary journals and sad, dark poetry.  For me, my poetry was a way to express myself in words which I found hard to speak.  Most of my writing was an outflow of prayers to God.  A lot of "why me" type of stuff.  Very emotional, teen girl stuff.

I have often found that I can express myself more fully in written (or typed) words.  Thus, this blog!  However, poetry is not a genre I have commonly used in my adult life.  For this post, I make an exception.

Last night, as I was unsuccessfully trying to drift off to sleep, the following words were flowing from my heart to God.  My first thought was to jump out of bed and hurriedly write it all out.  Alas, jumping out of anything at my age is not the best idea.  And at 11:30 p.m., an even worse idea!

And so, without further ado, I give you my latest, and probably not even close to the best, edition of a poem from my heart:

This Grief

This is not a grief I have known,
This grey and misty path I now trod.
It is a mystery, and not an anguish
With which I desire to commune.

I have known the grief of death,
Walking through the sorrow of losing those
Who are the aged and the ill
Is not an unfamiliar path.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of sudden loss,
The unexpected passing
Of one too soon lost to this earthly life.
The young, or those who left our world
Swiftly, before it seemed their time.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of parting,
Saying my farewells to friends
To whom I owed a great debt
For sharing their life and love.
People who have impacted me eternally.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of disappointment,
When trust has been broken
And confidence in relationship rendered ineffectual.
The times of longing to once again
To have assurance of another person's honesty.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of anxiety,
Wondering if the fears in my heart
Are somehow going to come to fruition.
Desiring to trust my God to uphold me,
Yet still doubting at times if He will.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of personal sin,
Seeing in myself such lamentable insufficiency,
Knowing I have failed the God I love,
And wondering if His forgiveness
Is still mine for the asking.
I have known this grief.

I have known the grief of childlessness,
The yearning to feel that fluttering
Of new life within my womb.
Craving the gift of motherhood,
Desiring to fulfill a role of my dreams.
I have known this grief.

But this new grief is one I have not known.
For the son of my longing heart became
The gift given in answer to many prayers.
This young, marvelous person,
With whom I have spent my past 18 years.
And yet...

The time has come for him to be
A man in his own right.
An adult being formed by God,
But no longer under the watchful eye
Of his mother and loving father.
This is a grief I have not known.

Lord, please teach me now,
How to keep this grief in its place,
Not causing me to question
Your ways or your methods
Of molding my beloved offspring
In the image of Your own Son.
This is a grief I must let go.

It is time for me to know this grief.
Yet is time for me to release it, too.
It is time for me to allow You
To birth him into adulthood,
And the life You have as his destiny.
This is a joy I must know.

And so, my son, I entrust you
To the care of the One who formed you.
May my brief sorrow at our parting
Blossom into the great joy
Of seeing God fulfill the plan
He has had for you from the beginning.

Copyright © 2014 Joni Johnson. All Rights Reserved.

" 'For I know the plans I have for you,' declares the Lord, 'plans to prosper you and not to harm you, plans to give you hope and a future.' 
Jeremiah 29:11