Saturday, December 15, 2012

Weep with those who weep...

The tragedy in Newtown, CT, has touched everyone in our nation.  As the news sources flashed images across the screen, our thoughts returned to Littleton, CO, and the Columbine shootings in 1999.  And the many other senseless acts of violence we have known in recent history:  Craighead County, Arkansas (1998), Virginia Tech (2007), Chardon, OH, (2012), and many, many (too many) others. The Amish children in Pennsylvania (2006).  The Jewish school shooting in France (2012).  The knifings at a school in China, just 2 weeks ago.

The question is asked over and over again:  Why?

We may never know the answer to that question.

As a mom, I have known little tastes of their fear.  When our oldest son was 2 years old, and came within a couple feet of being hit by a minivan.  The day my younger son, also at the age of 2, was pulled back from the street by my then-5 yr. old.  The times that same son disappeared from our yard.  And, more recently, the day I received a panicked call from my 16 yr. old, saying I needed to come get him...there was a bomb threat at his school.

When these tragedies strike, there is a common bond formed within us, directed toward complete strangers.  I know no one in Newtown.  But as a mother, I feel their grief in a very real way.  As a nation, we ponder more deeply the gift of our children and loved ones, even as we witness the mourning of parents and friends of those taken from this life so suddenly. 

I have no words, other than to say, "We love you.  We mourn with you.  We pray for you."  And even when the media moves on to other stories, we will still love, mourn, and pray.

These are the names of those who lost their lives on December 14, 2012.  Please friends...pray.


Charlotte Bacon, 6
Daniel Barden, 7
Rachel Davino, 29
Olivia Engel, 6
Josephine Gay, 7
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
Madeleine Hsu, 6
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Chase Kowalski, 7
Jesse Lewis, 6
James Mattioli, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7
Anne Marie Murphy, 52
Emilie Parker, 6
Jack Pinto, 6
Noah Pozner, 6
Caroline Previdi, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6
Avielle Richman, 6
Lauren Rousseau, 30
Mary Sherlach, 56
Victoria Soto,27
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Allison Wyatt, 6
Source: Connecticut State Police




Eternal rest grant unto them, O Lord,
and let perpetual light shine upon them.
May they rest in peace.

Amen.

Thursday, December 06, 2012

The Communion of the Saints (or, Those Catholic Idol Worshippers!?)

Today is Thursday, December 6th.  Throughout the world, millions of people are celebrating this day as the Feast of St. Nicholas.  Not to be confused with the jolly ol' St. Nick of modern days, he was a real person. 

Bishop of Myra (modern-day Turkey), he stood strong for the faith in the midst of strong heresies.  He also stood for truth, justice, and caring for the poor.  Born into a wealthy family, he lost his parents when he was quite young.  He chose to use the inheritance he received to help the less fortunate.  When the Council of Nicaea was held,  he took a solid stand against the heresy of Arius.  (Some say he was so angry with the audacity of Arius, he slapped him.  That's a legend.  But it does show that even saints weren't perfect!) 

There was a time of great persecution occurring during his life as well.  The ruler Diocletian was a wicked man!  He had many Christians imprisoned, tortured, and killed during his rule. The end to the persecution came about when Constantine became the emperor.

There are many legends about his life.  What we do know for sure is that he was a good bishop, and served the Church and God with all his heart.  In my opinion, anyone who strives to live like that is a saint...and he is!

So you may be asking yourself this question:  What is the deal with Catholics and the saints?  Why all the statues?  Why the icons (paintings of saints)?  The Bible tells us not to worship idols!  They are clearly violating that commandment.

I used to think the same thing.  This is one of the first teachings I had to deal with as we made our journey into the Catholic faith.  If Scripture is so clear on this matter, how is it that there are statues and icons from hundreds of years ago?  And what about that whole Sistine Chapel stuff?

The truth is, we do NOT worship idols.  We believe in a doctrine called the communion of the saints.  Simply put, it means we believe that, after death, the soul lives on.  The saints (whether given that title officially by the Roman Catholic Church or having lived as a true child of God) are in the presence of God.  This "great cloud of witnesses" (see Hebrews 11 and 12:1-3) is cheering us on and praying for us to finish the race by God's grace!  What a great band of spiritual warriors we have! 

And what about those statues and paintings?  When we see those, we honor the memory and lives of those they represent.  Do we worship them?  Absolutely not!  But we do worship the God they served, and thank Him for giving them the grace to live the lives of faithful witnesses.  We do pray for the grace to live our lives faithfully as they did.  As we view their statues or icons, we are challenged to stay true to our faith.

Do we think they were perfect?  Absolutely not!  We know they were human and had struggles.  We know they didn't always respond in saintly ways.  But the fact remains:  they struggled and made it through victorious.

I am so thankful for the saints and the great treasure they are to all of us.  May the legacy they left behind not be in vain.  Our society is becoming more and more hostile to Christians.  It is our turn to take up the battle cry and remain firm to the end!

"May all who come behind us find us faithful."
 ~from "Find Us Faithful".  Composed by Jon Mohr and performed by Steve Green

Thursday, November 01, 2012

Life Changes

It's hard to believe our oldest son is now a junior in high school! Our youngest is an 8th grader.  Life sure flies by, doesn't it?

One of the biggest changes in our life:  my husband was accepted into a year of aspirancy for the diaconate in our diocese.  And you're probably asking:  WHAT DOES THAT MEAN?!  Well, it means he is one step closer to being accepted into the formation program for the diaconate.  Does that clear things up?  :o) 

In the Catholic Church, a man is ordained into the diaconate.  In order to be a deacon, he must have a heart to serve and be willing to do whatever the bishop needs.  He ministers in word, liturgy, and charity.  Basically, this means he teaches the Word of God in various capacities, assists at the liturgy, and does charitable works (in prisons, hospitals, nursing homes, etc.). 

To get to this point, we went through a series of interviews, filled out a lot of paperwork, and prayed and prayed! 

For Keith, this means taking classes at our diocesan seminary twice a week, doing homework for said classes, and praying more!  For me, this means going with him and praying!  This year of "aspirancy" is a year of further discernment, as we both get a clearer picture of what it would mean for him to be a deacon.  We are both learning and growing.  Not always a painless process, but always a good one.  At the end of this year, he may be accepted into the formation process, which is another four years of classes, discernment, and, yes, prayer! 

The goal of this whole process is not the diaconate, though.  As the director of diaconate formation, Fr. Tony said, "The goal of all this is to find the place God has for you in the Church."  (Probably not an exact quote, but the essence of what he said.)  To change the words of an old Michael W. Smith song just a bit, we're all looking to find our "place in this Church". 

All that leads to today's feast, and the pictures I'm including.  Today is the Feast of All Saints.  What  a glorious day, as we reflect on the lives of the various saints (both the canonized, and the thousands of others who have lived holy lives).  They are not people to be worshiped.  So if you've ever though Catholics worship idols, please, please, please (!) dispel that thought right now.  We honor them, as those who have allowed God's grace to form them.  We praise God for what He did in them and through them.  And, we attempt to "follow them as they followed Christ". 

At our parish school, the 3rd grade children dress as saints for this day.  As we watch them process in, it is such a beautiful reminder of the communion of saints (Hebrews 11:1-12:3)!  It is also a great day for us to remember the grace God makes available to all of us, too.  He wants us to all be saints!

At the seminary, the chapel altar had a backdrop of the saints, including Blessed Mother Theresa and Blessed John Paul II.  Notice, they are all facing toward Jesus.  And that is the point of this day:  allow their lives to inspire you, but don't stop there!  Allow that inspiration to draw you even closer to their Lord.




God bless, and happy All Saints Day!

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Christian Fiction Book Reviews

You could win a Kindle Fire HD!  Just visit the link below and follow the instructions.

This is a great website for those who love Christian Fiction.  If you "like" them on Facebook, you'll often receive free/reduced downloads for your Kindle.

Check it out today!

Saturday, October 06, 2012

Do you know Me?

We are called to embrace the cross of Christ.

The problem:  when you embrace a cross, you will inevitably end up with many splinters. 

The solution:  those splinters contain life-giving Blood.





That which wounds is also that which heals.




"But God forbid that I should boast except in the cross of our Lord Jesus Christ, by whom the world has been crucified to me, and I to the world.
 Galatians 6:14

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

You Don't Know Me, Pt. 5

So you have been reading this series of posts over the past few weeks, and now you're wondering:  How DO I get to know God?

Instead of "reinventing the wheel," I refer you to an excellent website.  The article is, "Do You Know Jesus?"

After you take the time to read it, please leave me a comment!

Thursday, September 20, 2012

You Don't Know Me, Pt. 4

In keeping with the theme of this series, I give you these verses to ponder today:

"Now by this we know that we know Him, if we keep His commandments.  He who says, 'I know Him,' and does not keep His commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.  But whoever keeps His word, truly the love of God is perfected in him. By this we know that we are in Him.  He who says he abides in Him ought himself also to walk just as He walked."

I John 2:3-6 


Wednesday, September 19, 2012

You Don't Know Me, Pt. 3

If you read yesterday's post, then you now know more ABOUT me.  But do you really know ME?  Or do you just know more information about me?

For those who have read my blog for any time at all, you know I'm going somewhere with this whole series.  It's not about me.  It's about truth.

Many, many people (millions is an estimate) know about God.  He is the Creator.  He is Almighty.  He is All-Knowing.  He is the Father of the universe.  He is loving.  He is righteous.  He is holy.  He is the provider of all mankind.  Okay.

But there are millions of people who say He is not the Creator, Almighty, All-Knowing, a father (or at least not a good one); that He is hateful, spiteful, judgmental, and could really care less about mankind.

There are people who think God is whoever you make Him.  But then, if that's true, He wouldn't really be God, would He?

So who's right?

I'm not going to tackle the issue of all the religions in the world, and how they view God.  Maybe another day (and definitely a much longer post!).  What I would like to address, though, is the notion that sitting in a church, or at some other type of religious gathering--even every Sunday--somehow makes a person an authority on who God is, His nature, and why He does what He does.  And what He would/should do in any given situation.

I just want you to stop and think about this:  If you have any type of relationship with any other person (spouse, child, sibling, parents, friend), and you spend one day a week with them--I mean really, really spending time with them--can you still say you are an authority on that person, their nature, and why they do what they do?  Or what they would/should do in any given situation?  I have been married for over 23 years.  I have known my husband since 1985. I'm pretty sure I know him better than any other person on this planet will ever know him.  But I could never say those things about him.  I know a lot about him, but there are still hidden mysteries to learn.  That's what makes marriage exciting!  Spending a lifetime getting to know each other!  That is what makes a good friendship exciting, too, isn't it?  Investing time and energy into another person's life, getting to know them better, and allowing them to get to know you?

And really, this is the point of the series of posts.  If we really and truly want to know God, we should spend our lifetime investing in that relationship.  Read your Bible?  Yes.  Go to church?  Yes.  Spend time in prayer?  Yes.  But oh, so much more.  Sometimes I get to know my husband best in the silences of life.  Just observing what he does, the way he does it, facial expressions, etc.  Sometimes, the best way to get closer to God is just to allow Him to speak in the silences.  Or to watch what He's doing, how He does it, and the effects of His actions.

There is more to this series.  For now, I encourage you to meditate on this verse:

"Therefore know that the Lord your God, He is God, the faithful God who keeps covenant and mercy for a thousand generations with those who love Him and keep His commandments."

Deuteronomy 7:9









Tuesday, September 18, 2012

You Don't Know Me, Pt. 2

So here's the deal:  I know there are people who really don't know "me".  I mean the intents of my heart and words and actions and everything.  I'm not sure my poor husband even does!  :o)  I try my best to convey these things to those around me, so as not to be misunderstood.  I want to show the love of Christ to everyone--even those who don't want it or want to return the same to me.

Here's a list of things some people really don't know about me:

- I am very sensitive.  My feelings are hurt easily.  My mom has said she rarely raised her voice with me, because simply speaking to me would do the trick.  I love deeply, but it doesn't take much to wound me, either.  The wrong word, the wrong level of voice, or the wrong facial expression.  I take it all so personally.

- I try to give people the benefit of the doubt.  To a fault.  "They didn't really mean it that way.  Even though it hurt my feelings, I don't think they were trying to do that at all."  Which means I often allow myself to be a rug.

- I love my faith.  I have been questioned many times about the reasons we became Catholic.  All I can say is, the more I grow in my faith, the more I love it.  There is such a depth to the history, the mysteries, and the Sacraments.  I will never be able to mine out all the treasures, but I sure love trying!

- I do not hate Protestants.  This should go without saying.  But there are some people who don't believe that.  Hello!  Most of my family is Protestant.  Do you think I started hating them the second I became Catholic?  Seriously?  I have the most wonderful family and in-laws.  They are amazing people!  (They love me, after all!  :o)  )

- I love animals.  Well, maybe not the icky ones like snakes.  But it's not a hate issue here.  Just an avoidance issue!  I love all things "nature":  flowers, plants, bugs, stars, clouds, etc.  I'm not saying I'll hold all those things.  Just that they fill me with wonder.

- I love small children.  They are blessings from God, and so full of joy and innocence.  I love making them smile and seeing the beauty of their excitement.  We can learn so much from kids.

- I didn't "wait" to have kids out of some selfish desire to have a career.  We had given up hope of every having children--and then God surprised us twice with great miracles.  God gifted us with two boys, for which I am so very, very thankful.  I have to say, though, I don't like the question that emphasizes the word "only."  (As in, "So, you only have two boys?")  No, I HAVE two boys...and would have taken more, if that had been God's plan!





- I am a natural tom-boy.  As a kid, I climbed trees, tried my best to build a tree house, climbed over and on top of every building possible on our family's farm, and...loved, loved, loved riding my dirt bike.  Yep.  Even in the winter.

- I am a girly girl on the inside.  Sometimes it comes out...

- I am scared to death of storms!  I try to be brave, but I hate dark clouds, lightning, and wind.  Don't even think about tornadoes without shuddering.

- I don't hate gays, lesbians, adulterers, or pyro-maniacs.  Really.  I'm throwing this in due to the misconceptions of some on social media.  I don't agree with the lifestyle, but I sure don't hate anyone.  I don't agree with taking illicit drugs, either, but I don't hate people who do.  And for a little extra info.:  We used to live in Detroit.  I was around people of every imaginable lifestyle, including transvestites.  Trust me, I have seen a lot in the past 25 years or so.  When I was in college, I could be found on Commercial Street every Friday night, ministering to the homeless, transient, alcoholics, and drug addicts.  I hurt for those people, and wanted to bring them hope.  My husband was also on staff at Detroit Teen Challenge.  We ministered to people who were trying to break free from drugs, alcohol, and many other addictions (including sex, etc.).  It was hard, but it was worth it.

So now you know a bit more about me.  And there is so much more.  That's just the tip of the iceberg, so to speak.

And it takes me back to the question:  If you really know so little about me, what about God?  As much as we all think we know about Him, how much do we really, really know?  I have to say, the more I know Him, the more I am amazed at how much I don't know Him!

More on this subject in my next post...

"I am Your servant; give me understanding, that I may know Your testimonies."


Psalm 119:125

-

Saturday, September 15, 2012

You Don't Know Me

One of my sons had to read a book by this title for English class.  From what I could gather, it was about a young man who lived one way, but inside his mind, he was a different person:  handsome, bold, popular, said what he really thought, etc.  That was the "real" him.  The one people didn't take the time to get to know.  I think a lot of teens feel that way.  They have to act a certain way to get along in the world, but there is another person inside who is completely other than what the world sees.

And isn't that true for most of us?  I know a few truly genuine people.  They are who they are, and make no excuses for who they are.  They don't need to.  They are "real". 


Lately, it has really become noticeable that people I have known for many years don't really know me.  This is especially true of people I have reconnected with via social media.  They knew me as a child.  Or they knew me as a teen.  Or they knew me in college.  Or they knew me at some point in the past.  Or, they know me NOW.  At least they think they do.  By the comments they leave, or the private messages they send, they express their opinion of me as if they know me intimately.  They know what I think and feel, obviously, because they are quite adept at telling me why what I think and feel is right or wrong.  (Usually wrong!)  And to be fair, I am pretty sure I do the same thing.  Although I don't often express conflicting opinions.  I just stare at my screen and think, "Really?  You feel that way?  Really?!" 

The unfortunate thing about social media is that it is really impersonal.  Oh, the funny little cartoons and the silly comments about life are all safe enough.  When people begin expressing political, religious, or moral views, though, the gloves come off.  And, granted, these are emotional issues for the majority of us.  But if you can't hear a person's tone of voice, see their facial expression, or really KNOW their heart, well, you don't really know what they're saying.

Things like Facebook have tricked us into thinking we know each other.  We don't.  We know what someone posted or commented.  But we don't KNOW them this way.  We simply read words.  We know something about the person, for sure.  But we don't know THEM as a person.

I want to delve further into this idea.  But for tonight, this is what I want you to take away from this:  Do you have a "Facebook relationship" with God?  Have you read His words, but not taken the time to really know His heart???

Until the next time...

Tuesday, September 11, 2012

September 11

The heroes of 9-11.
Firefighters, EMT's, policemen, and Fr. Mychal Judge

May we never forget...

Saturday, August 25, 2012

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Licking the Wounds...again!

So this post was going to be all about something really cool.  I promise!  ;o)  There are some things on my heart that I've been wanting to share, but haven't gotten around to posting them yet.

But today, just bear with a little whining.


A few days ago, one of my Facebook friends (someone I really love and respect) added me to a Christian women's page.  The administrator continually posts questions and thoughts about the faith and Scripture.  I hadn't really participated, until yesterday.  She posted a question regarding what Jesus did while He was in the grave--and did He really go to Hell?

I decided to give a little input.  She immediately became defensive.  She said something in response, then I revealed that I'm Catholic.  Oh, my.  It all broke loose then.  She said I needed to leave the page, as this page is only for CHRISTIAN women.  There was more, but that was the gist of it.  I was shocked, but decided to just let it go.  I told her I would remove myself.  I did so immediately.  However, I didn't want to risk having offended her.  I sent her a private message to that effect.

The conversation has continued.  She has revealed to me that she is a former Catholic.  I am praying that I'm not in over my head.  After all, I am no theologian.  I am simply a woman who loves and serves God.  I know many people don't understand why we have chosen to do that within the Catholic Church.  My husband is so much better at this! 

The truth is, this is an opportunity for me to share my heart with someone who is convinced that I am totally wrong.  It's not an insurmountable task, but definitely a daunting one!  And, after all, it's not about me, but about Him.  Right?

I'll share a quote with all of you, which a wonderful friend shared with me:

People are often unreasonable, irrational, and self-centered. Forgive them anyway.
 
If you are kind, people may accuse you of selfish, ulterior motives. Be kind anyway.

If you are successful, you will win some unfaithful friends and some genuine enemies. Succeed anyway.

If you are honest and sincere people may deceive you. Be honest and sincere anyway.

What you spend years creating, others could destroy overnight. Create anyway.

If you find serenity and happiness, some may be jealous. Be happy anyway.

The good you do today, will often be forgotten. Do good anyway.

Give the best you have, and it will never be enough. Give your best anyway.

In the final analysis, it is between you and God. It was never between you and them anyway.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Friday, August 10, 2012

Seasons of Life

I am experiencing my annual "the-kids-are-going-back-to-school-soon-and-I'm-absolutely-dreading-it-but-the-summer-has-been-crazy-and-hectic-and-I'm-ready-to-go-back-to-a-regular-schedule" frame of mind. Can you relate?  (Please say yes!)

I always look forward to the end of the school year.  I want to spend every possible moment with my boys.  I think of all kinds of fun things we can do together.  Suddenly, they're actually home for the summer, and I still have to do laundry, clean house, and make meals.  Then they start the "I'm bored" syndrome, and the real fun begins.

Don't get me wrong, we have made some great memories this summer.  We spent part of Memorial Day weekend playing "tourists" in Cleveland.  We also went to a mini golf park.  We spent Memorial Day at the Cleveland Zoo.  Our oldest son went to a great youth conference.  Our church celebrated the Feast of the Sacred Heart (our patronal feast) with a special Mass, dinner, and capped it off with a street rally.  We went to visit my family in Kansas.  We went to Michigan to visit my husband's family, for his dad's 70th birthday.  We had a special celebration for our youngest son's 13th birthday.  My husband and I went to Steubenville for the Defending the Faith Conference at Franciscan University.


Visit to Kansas

There is a relative comfort in the routine of a school year, though.  I used to home school.  The beginning of a school year was a bit daunting.  Was I teaching them everything they needed to know?  Would they buckle down and do their work without being hounded?  Would I ever get my laundry done?

Now, there is the frantic feeling of, "Do they have their school supplies?  Do they have enough clothes?  Can I stand to be away from them for so many hours?"

Then there is the whole issue of both my kids being teens.  Our oldest is learning to drive.  Our youngest is beginning his big growth spurt.  And I'm getting shorter and shorter!

Not only that, though, there are the concerns about the world in which my boys are growing up.  The issue of sexuality is so blatant and "in your face" with the media and the way kids talk and dress.  It sure keeps me on my knees!

Life is just zipping by!

Wednesday, August 08, 2012

Archbishop Carlson on Apologetics and Evangelization

One of the speakers we heard at the Defending the Faith Conference was Archbishop Carlson, of St. Louis.  Due to storms, he was not able to be with us for all his scheduled time slots.  He graciously supplied the notes he had written for the session he missed.

Wow.

I. Introduction
When we find a good restaurant we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we hear a good song we want to share it with our friends, and we do. When we see a good movie or read a good book or find a good recipe we want to share it with our friends, and we do. The fact that you can now do it on Facebook is just a new twist on an old theological principle: The good is self-diffusive. The good wants to be shared, and anyone who resists doing so is rightly called selfish.

It's a curious fact about many Catholics, however, that there is one good thing that we're reluctant to share: the good news of our faith in Jesus Christ. For one reason or another, our culture tells us that it's selfish to keep good things to ourselves, but rude to share the good news of Jesus Christ. And, for one reason and another, we've grown comfortable with that double standard.

Well, the time has come to challenge our culture, and ourselves. The time has come to stop following our culture, which tells us to keep God out of the public square and inside the walls of worship, and start following the Lord, who tells us that we will be his witnesses to the ends of the earth (Acts 1:8). It's time for us to stop conforming to the world and accommodating the culture, and time for us to start transforming them.

How can we do that? Let me offer a few ideas.

II. Three Benchmarks

I want to propose three bench marks for an Apologetics that can contribute to the New Evangelization today.

First: orthodoxy. Orthodoxy of teaching is essential to an apologetics that can contribute to the new evangelization. This is especially urgent in an age of relativism. If our speaking and teaching are not within the channel marked out by Church teaching, then we are not bearing witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ - which is preserved in the teachings of the Church under the guidance of the Holy Spirit - we're only bearing witness to our own preferences. But our own preferences are not the sure standard that our culture needs. As Fr. Bob Barron has said, if you knock down the banks of a river, you end up with a big, fat, lazy lake. The teachings of Jesus Christ are the sure standard that our culture needs. Even if those teachings sound like "hard sayings" to today's ears, they are the solid banks that keep the river of our thoughts, feelings, desires and actions flowing steadily toward heaven. Unless our apologetics is orthodox, we're not contributing to the new evangelization, we're contributing to the dying of the light.

Catholic theologians and teachers who refuse to give the assent of faith to the dogmas of the Church, or who refuse to give firm assent to the definitive teachings of the Church, or who refuse docility of will and intellect to the other teachings of the Church1 are certainly free to do so - but they should have the integrity to admit that they are not doing Catholic theology or teaching the Catholic faith. And truth in advertising suggests that parents who send their children to Catholic schools have a right to know whether the teachers intend to instruct the students in the Catholic faith.

Second: contemplation. As I said, orthodoxy is essential for an apologetics that can contribute to the new evangelization. But now I have to add thatorthodoxy alone is not enough. As Blessed John PaulII said in Novo Millennio Ineunte:

the men and women of our own day …ask believers not only to "speak" of Christ but in a certain sense to "show" him to them…Our witness… would be hopelessly inadequate if we ourselves had not first contemplated his face.2

If the words and arguments of our apologetics are not rooted in contemplation—a contemplation in which we encounter the Lord—then our apologetics won't bear witness to the Gospel but only to our own cleverness. Our own cleverness is a rock to those who are asking for bread. Orthodoxy that's not rooted in contemplation won't offer people a living encounter with the Lord. It may win some arguments, but it won't convince hearts. We need an apologetics of cor ad cor loquitur—an apologetics in which the heart of Jesus speaks to the heart of people through our words. But that can only happen if we ourselves have known Him.

Third: deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit. Orthodoxy without living witness to the love of God is Saint Paul's noisy gong and clanging cymbal. The Spirit is the source of the Church's mission and witness. The only way our witness can bear fruit is if we follow the Spirit's lead - and that means paying close attention to the gifts and the fruits that the Spirit gives. In those gifts and fruits, the Spirit is showing us the way that leads to life.

Orthodoxy, contemplation, and deepening receptivity to the Holy Spirit. To be a good Apologist—one who can contribute to the New Evangelization—we have to combine these three things. I think this is consistent with what Blessed John Paul II said in Pastores Dabo Vobis. He was talking specifically about priestly studies, but the point applies to everyone. He said:

"To be pastorally effective, intellectual formation is to be integrated with a spirituality marked by a personal experience of God. In this way a purely abstract approach to knowledge is overcome in favor of that intelligence of heart which knows how 'to look beyond,' and then is in a position to communicate the mystery of God to the people."3

That's a lofty calling. But remember, Christ called us to be leaven, not flour. It takes a lot of flour to make bread. But it only takes a little leaven to make a lot of flour rise. Let's talk a little bit more about how we can fulfill that calling.

III. Orthodoxy and Contemplation

The philosopher Josef Pieper once wrote that "All reasonable, sensible, sound, clear and heart-stirring talk stems from listening silence. Thus all discourse requires a foundation in the motherly depth of silence. Without it speech is sourceless: it turns into chatter, noise and deception."4

Chatter, noise and deception—that sounds like an apt description of our texting, tweeting, facebooking world. If our speaking is not rooted in contemplative silence then we risk running up the quotient of chatter and noise in the world - even if the words we speak are true.

If we want our words not only to be true but also to be heart-stirring, then Pieper shows us the way: let your words be rooted in the motherly depth of silence. As the Holy Father said earlier this year, in his Message for World Communications Day: "Silence is an integral element to communication; in its absence, words rich in content cannot exist."5

It makes me think of the example of Jesus, who often went off by himself to pray, and whose words were certainly "rich in content"!

The Holy Father expands on the point in Verbum Domini when he says "Ours is not an age which fosters recollection [that certainly rings true!]; at times one has the impression that people are afraid of detaching themselves, even for a moment, from the mass media. [We've all seen this in our younger people! And how many of us, as soon as we get out of here, will check our cell phones for messages?] For this reason, it is necessary nowadays that the People of God be educated in the value of silence [There's the antidote! The Holy Father and Josef Pieper are working from the same playbook] … Only in silence can the Word of God find a home in us, as it did in Mary, woman of the word and, inseparably, woman of silence."6

Well, there it is—and no surprise: the Blessed Mother is the antidote to the world of chatter, noise and deception! In silence Mary received the Holy Spirit, and the Word came to dwell in her. In silence Mary nurtured the Word in her body and in her soul. And then, when the time came, she brought forth that single Word, received and nurtured in silence, for the salvation of the world.
If our apologetics follows the example of Mary, then our words can bear the same fruit as hers. Our words will not be mere words; we will not merely speak of Christ. Instead, through our words—nurtured in silence—people will be brought to an encounter with Jesus Christ, the Word himself. In that sense, each of us will become the "mother of Christ." Does that sound strange - becoming "the mother of Christ"? It's not just my idea. St. Gregory the Great put it this way:

"He is above all the mother of Christ who preaches the truth; for he gives birth to our Lord who brings Him into the hearts of his hearers; and he is the mother of Christ who through his words inspires a love of our Lord in the spirit of his neighbor."7

Even if the words and arguments of our Apologetics are true, if they're not rooted in a contemplative silence in which we ourselves encounter the Lord, they will simply ring hollow. Our words will reach ears but never touch hearts. And if that happens our voices will make no effective contribution to the new evangelization, because we will never bring Christ to birth in the hearts of others. Only an apologetics rooted in Marian silence and receptivity to the Word will bear fruit in the heart-stirring words that bring people to encounter the Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Listen to the words of the ancient Mozarabic liturgy, and let's make them our own prayer:

"What was once bestowed upon the flesh of Mary, may this now be bestowed upon the spirit of the Church; that her unswerving faith may conceive Thee, O Christ, in the womb; that her spirit, freed from all stain of sin, may bring Thee to birth; that our own souls, overshadowed by the power of the Most High, may give Thee a mother's care. Depart not from us, but rather go forth from within us!8

Amen!

IV. Orthodoxy and the Holy Spirit

How else can we move forward in our task? I'd like to turn now to Saint Thomas Aquinas for some guidance.

Toward the end of his treatment of the Trinity in the Summa Theologiae, Thomas says something very interesting, and it's important for our topic. It comes in Part I, question 43, article 5, reply to objection 3. Thomas is speaking about the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit. He says:
if we speak of mission according to origin, in this sense the Son's mission is distinguished from the mission of the Holy Spirit, as generation is distinguished from procession. If we consider mission as regards the effect of grace, in this sense the two missions are united in the root which is grace, but are distinguished in the effects of grace, which consist in the illumination of the intellect and the kindling of the affection. Thus it is manifest that one mission cannot be without the other, because neither takes place without sanctifying grace, nor is one person separated from the other.

Now, if this is the first time you're hearing that, you may be saying to yourself "I'm sure that's brilliant. But I have no idea what he just said, or why it matters for apologetics and the new evangelization." So let me repeat what he said—with a brief commentary on each section—to help us digest what the Angelic Doctor means and why it's important for us.

First: If we speak of mission according to origin, in this sense the Son's mission is distinguished from the mission of the Holy Spirit, as generation is distinguished from procession. Here we see that Thomas' treatment of the missions is deeply rooted in his overall Trinitarian theology. The Son proceeds from the Father alone, and that's called generation; the Spirit proceeds from the Father and the Son, and that's called procession. If the generation of the Son and the procession of the Spirit are distinct, then the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit will be distinct. No problem there!
Now, since he's speaking of the Trinity, Thomas is going to speak about unity as well as distinction.

Regarding unity, Thomas says: If we consider mission as regards the effect of grace, in this sense the two missions are united in the root which is grace. No problem there. Thomas is saying that the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit are both are a matter of grace for us
.
But I want to draw your attention to what Thomas says next about the distinction between the missions. He says they are distinguished in the effects of grace, which consist in the illumination of the intellect and the kindling of the affection. Now that's interesting! Thomas is saying that the mission of the Son has a special relation to the illumination of the intellect, while the mission of the Spirit has a special relation to the kindling of the affection.9 We're going to have to unpack that!

Before we do so, let's note that Thomas concludes—as we might expect—by drawing things back to unity. After the note about the illumination of the intellect and the kindling of the affection, he says: Thus it is manifest that one mission cannot be without the other, because neither takes place without sanctifying grace, nor is one person separated from the other." In other words: you can't have the mission of the Son without the mission of the Spirit, or the mission of the Spirit without the mission of the Son. Simple. Brilliant!

So, what does it all mean? Briefly, Thomas has highlighted an essential truth that has two consequences for us as we think about Apologetics and the New Evangelization.

First: an apologetics that attempts to illuminate the intellect without kindling the affections is bound to fail. And it will fail for a very precise Trinitarian reason: because it attempts to engage the mission of the Son and ignore the mission of the Spirit. You can't have one without the other!

Second: an apologetics that attempts to kindle the affections without illuminating the intellect is bound to fail. And it will also fail for a very precise Trinitarian reason: because it attempts to engage the mission of the Spirit and ignore the mission of the Son. Again, you can't have one without the other!

By the way, this isn't simply a dry piece of scholastic speculation—it's part of the prayer of the Church! The closing prayer for Evening Prayer II on the Feast of the Holy Trinity reads :

Father,You sent your Word to bring us truthAnd your Spirit to make us holy."

Here's what it means for us: for our apologetics to contribute to the new evangelization, we have to engage the mission of the Spirit as well as the mission of the Son. It won't be enough for us to know the truth and speak the truth and illuminate the mind. We also have to know the landscape of the human heart, and speak the truth in such a way that we kindle the affections.

When we speak the truth and illuminate the mind in such a way that we fail to kindle the affections of the heart, the Holy Spirit is telling us "There's no fruit here. Go back to the drawing board!" When we speak the truth and illuminate the mind in such a way that we also kindle the affections of the heart, the Holy Spirit is telling us "This is the path that will bear fruit thirty- and sixty- and a hundred-fold."

We need to have ears to hear what the Spirit is saying. And for that to happen, the charismatic movement needs to become quietly normative for all Catholics. That doesn't mean everyone will be raising their hands in prayer, or speaking in tongues. It doesn't need to. But the simple fact is that the Spirit is the source of the Church's mission and fruitfulness, and the charismatic movement's gift to the whole Church is to teach us how to receive the Spirit ever more deeply. The bottom line is this: If we aren't growing in receptivity to the Holy Spirit, our efforts at evangelization are rooted only in ourselves. And if our efforts are evangelization are rooted only in ourselves, they won't bear fruit.
Bearing that in mind, let's listen to these words of the Holy Father on the mission of the Son and the mission of the Spirit in the life of the Church:

"Let us be silent in order to hear the Lord's word and meditate upon it, so that by the working of the Holy Spirit it may remain in our hearts and speak to us all the days of our lives. In this way the Church will always be renewed and rejuvenated."10

(Here, it might be good to observe a moment of silence.)
V. The Present Context

Let's look at the present context a little bit, and the demands it makes on us as we think about apologetics and evangelization.

Many people today challenge the Gospel and the teachings of the Church because they've been raised on a steady diet of relativism. In that context it's crucial to understand that relativism is not only a philosophical error but also, in many respects, a Christological heresy. As such, it deserves to be treated with the same seriousness that was given to the great Christological heresies of history.

Why is relativism not only a philosophical error but also a Christological heresy? Because when all is said and done the truth is a Person. To deny the existence of truth is to deny the existence of Jesus Christ. You can't worship Jesus Christ on Sunday and deny that there is any such thing as truth on Monday, any more than the Arians could worship Jesus Christ and deny his full divinity. The Fathers of the Church were tireless in defending the truth about Christ against the heresies of their time. We're going to have to be just as tireless, persuasive and holy as we face the issues of our time. This is our moment. Let's step to the plate!

Many people today challenge the Gospel and the teachings of the Church because they think that we should just love people instead of drawing moral lines—in short, that we should be "tolerant." In that context we can ask a simple question: Was Jesus tolerant?

The Gospel story of the woman caught in adultery is a stunning example of how Jesus wasn't "tolerant" as people today understand that term. To be sure, Jesus protected the woman caught in adultery—he did not advocate or allow any kind of violence against her. And, to be sure, Jesus did not condemn the woman caught in adultery—he is love incarnate, and we have to imagine that he looked on her with a love that pierced her to the heart. But he did not condone her sin; he did not "tolerate" her behavior in non-judgmental silence; he did not leave it to her to define her "own concept of existence, of meaning, of the universe, and of the mystery of human life." Instead, he told her "Go, and sin no more." Because he loved her, he gave her the dignity of naming her sin for what it was. He treated her as someone who could rise above sin; he treated her as someone who wanted to rise above sin; he treated her as someone for whom he wanted more. Yes, Jesus loved people. And because he loved people, he drew moral lines. And because he drew moral line she incurred the wrath of the powerful. Jesus was willing to suffer the consequences of love - are we?

Some people don't challenge the Gospel and the teachings of the Church they're just indifferent, because they think that religions are "different paths to the same goal." In that context, we can ask a simple but profound question: the last time you came to a fork in the road, did you think they were 'different paths to the same goal'?

What a different world it would be if Robert Frost had written "Two roads diverged in a yellow wood and I, being a clever post-modern person, figured that they were different paths to the same goal, and it made little difference which one I took." The world's different physical roads lead to different geographical destinations. The mind's different mental roads lead to different logical destinations. Why should different religious roads lead to the same spiritual destination? This kind of indifferentism defies common sense, and we shouldn't be afraid to point that out.

We also have to admit, in all candor, that many people find the Gospel and the teachings of the Church hard to believe because of the sins of their messengers. In particular, the sex abuse scandal still looms large in many people's imaginations. In that context, we can do three things.

First: we cannot fault people for their disappointment. There are sins to be acknowledged. Unacknowledged disappointment and sadness often turns into anger. Acknowledged disappointment and anger usually burns clean.

Second: we must repent. Even when the sins were not yours or mine, we are still members of a body. As Saint Paul reminds us, when one member suffers, all suffer. We must repent together, as one body.

Third: we must be growing in holiness, each one of us. Of course some people will say, with resignation, "But the Church is a hospital for sinners, not a museum for saints." You know what? That's a false dichotomy! Of course the Church is a hospital for sinners. And that reminds us to be humble. But that's only half the truth - and a half truth, by itself, is a lie. The Church is also a launching pad for saints - a place where people are trained for holiness and launched into the world as Olympic athletes of love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, generosity, faithfulness, gentleness and self control. (Gal.5:22)

There they are again—those fruits that we have to pay attention to. St. Paul has given us some crucial criteria for judging our words and our lives. Study the works of the flesh and the fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:19-23. How does your Apologetics measure up? Is it characterized by love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, and so on? If so, you're on the right track—a good tree, known by its good fruits. But if your apologetics is characterized by outbursts of fury, rivalry, jealousy, dissensions, factions, and soon then—even if your words are true—you're on the wrong track—a bad tree, known by its bad fruits. We're not trying to score points on a talk show; we're trying to give witness to the Gospel.

VI. Conclusion: Bearing Witness Today

So the tone of our Apologetics is important. And tone is deeply influenced by knowing the end-game. Are there elements of our culture that oppose the Gospel? Sure. Is the Church being persecuted in important ways? You bet. Where will this all end up? If we hold the faith, and if we study the history of the faith, we know how this game ends. In the words of the hymn:

Christus vincit!Christus regnat! Christus imperat!
(Christ conquers, Christ reigns,Christ rules!)

Remember that earthly victory is not the key for us. Fidelity to Jesus Christ is the key. He has already won the victory. Our job is to fight on his side, in his way. What comes of that … we leave in his hands. He will give us the victory in his own time and in his own way—either through the conversion of those who oppose the Gospel, or through the Cross for us. Either way, we need not be anxious about the outcome. Don't let anxiety or hysteria infect your words. Just bear witness to Him.

Because, if you think about it,we've been here before.

Our situation is remarkably—and perhaps increasingly—like that of the early Christians in the Roman Empire. For the first three centuries of Christianity, Roman culture and law provided a climate that was not particularly friendly to the Church, and was openly hostile to it at certain points. How did the early Church survive and thrive in that hostile environment? How did it come to pass that the Roman Empire is only a subject for history books, while the Church is still a living reality?
It was the witness of believers. It was their faithfulness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. Their witness to the faith won the day then. Our witness to the faith can win the day again.

The Greek word for witness, by the way, is martyr. And that's exactly what we need.

In the early centuries, under Roman rule, the ordinary, everyday faithfulness of the white martyrs, combined with the heroic sacrifice of the red martyrs, gave the Church the strength she needed to survive and flourish under hostile conditions, to convert and transform a culture, and ultimately to outlive an empire.

That's our roadmap.

We need people who are ready for martyrdom-people who are willing to bear witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, people who are willing to make sacrifices so that the truth of the Gospel can be heard, our culture challenged, and our world transformed. The sacrifice required of most of us will probably be the white martyrdom of a life that is faithful to the Gospel rather than faithful to the culture. But the heat is being turned up, and we have to be prepared for extraordinary sacrifices as well.

Do you think we should be able to stand up for the faith and not suffer for it? That's not what Jesus told us to expect. The world has always demanded sacrifice from those who wish to follow the Lord. And that's precisely what Jesus himself promised us and told us to expect: a share in his cross.

If anyone wishes to come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross daily and follow me. For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it, but whoever loses his life for my sake will save it. (Lk 9: 23-24)

I'm convinced that taking up the Cross is the way to life. I'm convinced that Jesus won victory on the Cross, and that he will win victory in us if we take up our cross and follow him.

Brothers and sisters: we have to be prepared to suffer for our convictions.

But our faith tells us—and history shows us—that suffering will make our witness grow stronger. With that conviction, let's recall the words of St.Peter:

Beloved, do not be surprised that a trial by fire is occurring among you, as if something strange were happening to you. But rejoice to the extent that you share in the sufferings of Christ, so that when his glory is revealed you may also rejoice exultantly. If you are insulted for the name of Christ, blessed are you, for the Spirit of glory and of God rests upon you… whoever is made to suffer as a Christian should not be ashamed but glorify God because of the name. (1 Peter 4:12-16)

God bless you. May Jesus Christ be praised.

________________________________

1 On these categories,see the Profession of Faith and The Oath of Fidelity, and the Doctrinal Commentary on the Concluding Formula of the Professio Fide from the Congregation for the Doctrine of theFaith.
2Novo Millennio Ineunte, #16.
3Pastores DaboVObis, #51.
4A Brief Reader onthe Virtues of the Human Heart, p. 13.
5 Message for the46th World Communications Day (May 20, 2012)
6Verbum Domini, #66,
7Homily 3 on the Gospels, quoted in Hugo Rahner, Our Lady and the Church, p. 84.
8 Quoted in HugoRahner, Our Lady and the Church, p. 84.
9 Thomas also addresses the point in Summa Theologiae II-II, 177.1. Nicholas Lombardo, O.P., develops the point with respect to preaching in his work The Logic of Desire: Aquinas on Emotion, pp.254-259.
10Verbum Domini, #24.

Wednesday, August 01, 2012

Whose Controversy?

As you must know (unless you have had no access to TV or Internet for the past couple of weeks), there is a huge controversy in our country over the remarks made by the president and CEO of Chick-fil-A.  He said (gasp) that he supports biblical marriage.

I hope you're planning to eat some chicken, not just today, but several times in the future.

There was no controversy until the LGBT community decided to make one.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Spiritual Renewal

This past weekend, my husband and I had the opportunity to attend the "Defending the Faith" conference at Franciscan University in Steubenville, OH.  This was definitely a "wow" experience in our lives!

The hosts of the conference were Scott Hahn and Alan Schreck.  Marcus Grodi (of "The Journey Home" on EWTN) was also there, and spoke briefly.  These men had some hurdles to deal with:  water main break, speakers who had delayed/cancelled flights, etc. etc.  But the Holy Spirit brought it all together so beautifully.

A couple of highlights from the weekend:  the hour of Eucharistic devotion.  The holy hush that came over all of us at the beginning...wow.  And, as my husband said, as wonderful as all the speakers were, that hour was when we were listening to Jesus speak to us.

Another highlight was the exuberant worship, and seeing people of all ages with their hands raised in worship.  Of special note to me:  seeing two nuns with their hands uplifted in praise.  Wow again.

I'd like to just share just a few of the many, many amazing quotes, from our weekend.  (Disclaimer:  I sincerely apologize if I misquote anyone here.  I took notes as fast as I could!)

Dr. Janet Smith:

"Sex outside marriage, contraception, etc. are means to using another person."
"For a woman to have sex is to say to the man, 'I give you permission to be the father of my baby.' "
"A baby is not a punishment for having sex.  The child is a gift."

Robert Spencer:

"Muslims are some of the most devoted and pious people.  When they convert (to Christianity) their piety is a gift to the Church."

Dr. Ralph Martin:

"We need to make an every day commitment to be His voice."
"The Holy Spirit has shown us the Church is a communion of love, not just an organization."

Dr. Scott Hahn:

"The Eucharist is the heart and soul of the Gospel."  (If you want to read more on this, see John 6.)
"The sacraments are not rituals we do for God.  They are what God does for us."
"The Eucharist is the resurrected Lord.  It is not a reward for our righteousness, but a remedy for our sinfulness."

Steve Ray:

"We must be as devoted as Satan is:  a much as he is out to destroy, we should be out to save souls."

Jenn Giroux:

"We need to be a witness of motherhood.  Contraception damages women physically and spiritually."

Patrick Madrid:

In answer to the question:  Should anyone (any Christian) ever vote for a pro-abortion candidate?
"If they [the candidate] can't make a good decision on this, how can they make the right decision on other issues?".
"Not everyone who says nice things is your friend.  Not everyone who says negative things is your enemy."

Dr.  Alan Schreck:

"We cannot proclaim the lordship of Jesus until the Holy Spirit comes.  We can't fulfill our mission without the Spirit."
"We need to keep praying, 'Come Holy Spirit' every day."

Archbishop Robert Carlson:

"It's time to stop conforming to our culture, and to begin transforming our culture."
"Unless our apologetics are rooted in prayer, they are our own cleverness--it may win arguments, but it won't win hearts."

Kimberly Hahn:

"We are salt and light.  Light doesn't shout--it shines."
"Lord, make me movie popcorn, so that others will thirst for You."
"The news isn't that we sin, but that God's grace is more than sufficient."
"Worries are like little traps that steal time and energy from us."
"Sin clutters our life.  Clearing the Path helps us evangelize."
"Suffering can either make us self-centered, or it can clear the fog."
"We need to have a 'mission' mentality, not a 'maintaining' mentality.  We were baptized into Christ, and so are baptized into His mission."
"If you desire a holy family, you will face spiritual warfare."
"We need to equip our children to do warfare."
"It is in His Fatherhood that we find peace."

Fr. Terence Henry, TOR:

Quoting Archbishop Chaput:  "We are either missionaries for God or we are nothing at all."
"Sunday is our weekly Easter."
Quoting Archbishop Jenky: "The days we live in require heroic Catholicism, not casual Catholicism."

-----------------------------------------------
As you can see, this weekend was much more than a conference.  It was a time of spiritual renewal.

I have so much more I want to post, but the lack of sleep from my weekend is catching up with me!

God bless!


Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Woman in the Mirror

I want to be a reflection of You, whether I am in a crowd or all alone...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Facing the Realities of Life

Our family was able to spend last week in my childhood home (a week in HOT Kansas!) with my parents, sisters, brothers-in-law, nieces, nephew, nephews-in-law, and great nieces and nephews.  Not all of us were there, but the largest percentage.  We had such a great time, in spite of the awful temperatures.

The hardest part of the week?  Seeing how frail my dad has become since his stroke.  I had tried to prepare myself ahead of time.  But how do you see your daddy struggling to keep his balance on a windy Kansas day, and not have a hard time keeping the tears in check?

Dad and my boys
Then, today, at church it was announced that a very dear couple is moving.  They are both in their 90's, have been married 71 years, and are just the sweetest people.  They will be living nearby, but will no longer be a part of our parish life.

Dan and Lois
I am a fortunate woman to have many, many dear older people in my life--both blood relatives and many "adopted" relatives.  People who have endured the tragedies and triumphs of life, and still held strong to their faith.  People who know that the ONLY way to endure those same situations is by clinging to their Lord.

May their testimony become mine...

Monday, June 11, 2012

The Long Road...

I have often felt that journey of my life reflects the old saying, "One step forward, two steps back."  For every time I feel I've progressed, it seems like I slide back.

The truth is, we are always moving.  We are either moving closer to Christ, or we are moving away.  We are either allowing Him to work in us, or we are resisting.  Even if we just feel like we're stagnant...we are going in reverse.  Even if we feel like we are "trying, trying, trying" and cannot see any growth, we are really moving toward Him.

And so it is with recovery from anxiety.  Even if it feels like I am only regressing some days, I have to remind myself:  You are doing everything you can to move forward.  Just because you can't SEE the progress doesn't mean it isn't happening.

Sometimes we take giant leaps; others, we take baby steps.

Either way, we're moving.

In Him

In Christ alone, my hope is found...

Saturday, June 09, 2012

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Why...?

Why is this tunnel so dark, Lord,
And why can't I seem to see any light
At the end of it?

I want my life back.

Thursday, May 03, 2012

"Friendly" Fire

I began this post a couple of weeks ago.  I have debated whether or not I should finish and publish it.  I felt I should continue...


April 7 marked the 5-year anniversary of our family's entrance into the Catholic Church.  April 7, 2007, was a glorious day for us.  We are thankful for the journey God has brought us on, and where that journey led.

Many people haven't been as enthusiastic about that as we are. In fact, some individuals have been very antagonistic toward me and other members of my family.  Mostly, I am able to shrug it off, and just pray for the person to see the life of Christ in us.

Recently, someone I have known for most of my life (but not as a close friend--more of an acquaintance) bombarded me via Internet.  "How can you say you believe in the Bible if you're Catholic?  Don't you know all priests are liars?"  I won't say any more, but the diatribe was much longer than this.

I was shocked and hurt.  My response was to give Scriptural references for things the Catholic Church teaches.  I shared our story of journeying from where we were, to where we are.  The reply back was hateful and full of venom.  I instantly began e-mailing and sending messages out to my brothers and sisters in Christ, asking them to pray for me.  (Please note:  these people were both Catholic and Protestant.)  My concern was that I would let my hurt cause me to respond in anger and not love.

Why am I posting this?  Because I think that, even within the church realm, we often confuse "righteous anger" with "this-is-my-opinion-about-theology-and-I'm-right-so-I-don't-care-how-much-it-hurts-you".  And the verse always quoted is Ephesians 4:15:  "I'm speaking the truth in love.  So listen!"

Well, I'm sorry, dear sister, but I wasn't feeling the love.  All I felt was attacked.  Honestly, my main concern at this point is not about myself.  I am confident in the things I believe and have no doubt our family is where God wants us.

The concern I have is that this attitude will cause those who are not Christians to turn from Christ, rather than TO Christ.  Jesus said they will know we are His disciples by our love for one another.

Now, I do understand that when we feel someone is "off" doctrinally, there is nothing wrong with questioning that, or trying to open their eyes.  But there is a big difference between that and attacking someone.  The difference is LOVE.

Let's SHOW them we are Christians...

Sunday, April 29, 2012

What's On Your Agenda?

These days, it seems just about everyone has an agenda.  I'm not talking about their "to do" list, though it has somewhat the same effect.  What I'm talking about is their goal:  "I'm doing this particular thing because I want that specific outcome."

We see this most predominantly in the political realm.  Each candidate has their own viewpoint, and has a plan to accomplish certain things.  Their hope is that enough voters have the same agenda and will support them.  Often, the word "agenda" has a negative connotation.  It really is important, though, to know what it is you're doing and why...and what you plan to achieve.

Recently, a couple of incidents occurred which made me stop and wonder what my agenda is?  

The first incident happened yesterday morning.  I attended a training/renewal session at our church.  One of the small group leaders asked us what we saw as our gifts, and to think about how we are using them, especially within our own families.  Two things came out of our discussion.  The first was that another woman in my discussion group said she saw a gift in me that helps others worship more fully.  It made me really stop and think:  why do I play piano and sing?  Is it for me, for God, to lead others to worship Him, to entertain...???  I hope and pray that my "agenda" is to honor God and lead others.

The other thing that came out of the discussion was my own ponderings, which I didn't share with anyone else at the time.  In the past few years, I feel I have become a more compassionate person.  When I see someone hurting, I often cry with them, pray with them, offer them words of comfort, and just about always give them a hug (depending on the situation, of course).  It made me stop and wonder, though:  how compassionate am I with my own family?  Am I too quick to give a sharp answer to my boys, or see their personal situations in a way that expresses a "just get over it" attitude?  I want them to know I love them, and truly care about what affects their lives.  Also, what am I teaching them when I'm driving?  When I speak harshly of another driver and the driver's actions, what am I teaching my kids?  I saw that I am teaching them a judgmental attitude.  That grieves me.

So that was the first incident.  The second incident occurred last night while I was checking Facebook.

Someone I have known for many, many years posted something similar to this:  "Don't tell me about your God unless you show it in how you love everyone."

You have to understand, first of all, that I am a person who takes things very personally.  So my first thought was:  she's talking about me.  And that's very possible.  It's also possible she had someone else in mind.

The point is this:  is that how people see me?  That I say I love God, but come across as harsh and judgmental--totally lacking in love?  Do the things I post on Facebook reveal the amazing grace and compassion God has shown to me, and that I want to share that same love and compassion with everyone?

In other words, in my life, what is my agenda?  Is it to show the love of Christ to each and every person, no matter what their political views, lifestyle, race, religion, etc.?  Now I do understand that if I feel strongly about something (and I do!), I may post something or express an opinion that offends someone who has an opposing view.  That's bound to happen.  But if I respond in a way that is nasty and rigid, rather than in a gentle, loving manner, I will definitely never accomplish helping someone see how much I truly love them, in spite of our opposing views.

I want my agenda to be the same as that of God:  to love the world so much that I would lay down my life for them, so that they would know this amazing, wonderful  God that I serve.

What's YOUR agenda?  Join me in determining that our agenda will be that of showing Jesus to the world.

"A man’s heart plans his way, But the Lord directs his steps."  
Proverbs 16:9

Friday, April 20, 2012

The Ebb and Flow of Life

There are so many days I want to post about the exciting things God has been doing in my life.  For instance, our Easter weekend was incredible.  So, why didn't I post?

It seems that life has become the tyranny of the urgent.  This son has to be at this appointment, I have to be somewhere else, husband needs to study for this class, and other son has to be taken to practice in the middle of it all...  Sound familiar?  And the sad truth is, I let the "urgent" rob me of the reveling in the exciting things God is doing. 

Then lack of sleep creeps in, robbing me of my peace, and filling me with anxiety (AGAIN).

Lord, help me to fix my eyes on you, so that I might rejoice in all Your great and mighty deeds...I want to stay focused!

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Please Pray

 As you probably know, my dad had a stroke back in October.  He is having some symptoms which are a great cause for concern.  Please keep him and my mom in your prayers. 


Thursday, March 08, 2012

Homesick


I have been married for almost 23 years. My family is in Kansas, Colorado, and Oklahoma...a full two-day drive from Michigan (where we used to live) and Ohio (where we now live). Prior to our marriage, I was in college in Missouri for four years. So, most people would think: "You never get homesick any more, right? You're used to it!" Not really.

I grew up on a farm in southwest Kansas, the youngest of four daughters. We are a close-knit family, and we LOVE spending time together. All three of my older sisters were married by the summer I was 12, so I spent several years as an "only child". I forged such a great bond with my parents during those years.

We lived in an equally close-knit community, filling our days with church, school, 4-H, and other community activities. Whenever I visit home, I see people I have known since I was a child. They are truly "life long" friends. It's always a joy catching up on each others' lives.

The distance and finances have prevented us from visiting Kansas more than once a year. And phone charges prohibited frequent phone calls. You cannot imagine how ecstatic I was to have e-mail in the late '90's! I now e-mail my sisters and nieces on a daily basis, just catching them up on our daily lives. It makes such a difference! It makes the wait (until our next visit) just a bit easier.

So now you can probably understand why I tend to feel homesick on occasion. My older sisters and nieces are some of my best friends. As I said, we love spending time together. We laugh, and talk, and laugh, and talk! We enjoy each others' company.

Two of the things I have always enjoyed most about going "home" were walking around the farm (my parents and one of my sisters and her family still live there) and walking around Greensburg. The farm hasn't changed much over the years. It is so quiet and peaceful.

As you may know, though, Greensburg was destroyed by a tornado in May of 2007. Returning there now is a strange experience. The people I know are there, if the tornado didn't cause them to relocate. However, all the familiar homes, stores, and churches are no longer there. The people are rebuilding, and it's wonderful to see. But it's just not the same. The places I hold in my memory were taken away by a storm, never to return. I truly miss something that no longer exists.

So let's take this to a spiritual level. How is it that Christians can say we are "homesick" for heaven? It is a place we know little about, other than what we can see in our "mind's eye" from Scripture or visions others have had of its magnificence. Many saints throughout history had a glimpse of heaven as they were dying for their faith. Yet for those of us left behind, we can only guess at what heaven holds. Why do we miss it, then? Some place we have never been or seen?

Because the One who lives inside us is there, and we yearn to be with Him. We know Him, even if we don't know much about heaven. We know the One who is there.

The great thing is that we can experience a small taste of heaven now! AMAZING! There are times when He comes to us when we sit quietly in prayer. We get a glimpse of its beauty in sunsets, mountains, oceans, a flower, a baby's smile... And, I have to say, one thing I really love about worshiping with liturgy is that it reflects heavenly worship (see the book of Revelation)...and God comes into our very midst...a taste of heaven.

Yes, I am so homesick for heaven. This earth is becoming so incredibly decadent. When we are with Jesus, it will be glorious. But I am so thankful that we can experience His Kingdom in the here and now in so many ways.

It makes the wait to go "home" easier, doesn't it?




"As It Is In Heaven" by Matt Maher