Stop, Look and Listen

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Back in the day when railroads first came onto the scene, the railroads would post signs at crossings that read “Stop, Look and Listen.” The idea was to get a person to stop at the crossing, look both ways and then listen as an extra precaution. Why? Because it just might stop you from walking in front of a train, the results of which are never good.

Every morning I try to read the daily Mass readings and a reflection on them. If I don’t have time to read them I try to listen to a podcast of them (Great app here). I noticed the other day that many times when I do this, I am not really paying full attention, I am usually doing at least one other thing at the same time. Maybe checking email, listening to the news (on Catholic radio of course). (Yes I sometimes listen to other radio but honestly I really do get fed up with the mainstream media, but that is for another post on another day.) I notice when I am done, I hardly remember what I read, sometimes I cant even remember what the reading was.

In today’s world we spend all day “multitasking”, distracted by all the gadgets we just have to have. We have been sold on the fact that our lives are so much easier and better now that we have cell phones, laptops, notebooks, iPhones, and on and one. Do all these things really make out lives better? I say no, they only make our lives more stressful. Is that email really that important? The text? The tweet? The Facebook post?

As C.S. Lewis writes in “The Screwtape Letters
” talking about Hell:

“…no square inch of infernal space and no moment of infernal time has been surrendered to…(music and silence) We will make the whole universe a noise in the end.” – C.S. Lewis “Screwtape Letters, Chapter 22

Satan wants to fill our world with noise, noise so we can’t hear God talking to us, noise so we don’t have time to think about Him, noise so we don’t have time to reflect. Noise and distraction is what Satan wants. He wants to keep us from God. Which brings us back to the railroad sign.

We need to Stop, Look and Listen. We need to take time to stop everything and look around us, listen to the quiet, and try to find God. Look around at all He has giving us. Here in New England our leaves have completed their annual color change from green, to oranges, yellows and reds, how many noticed? Did any of us stop to take the time to look at them and appreciate this miraculous change or did you only think “I don’t have time to rake all these up”? Have you shut everything down and just listened? Do you hear God talking to you or only Satan and his minions?

We need to take time to “Stop. Look and Listen” every day. Look around and be thankful for what you have, believe me there are plenty of people out there who have more problems than you do or who are struggling more than you are. Take the time to listen to God, He speaks to us in very many ways, but we won’t hear unless we listen.

Stop, Look and Listen or you just might get hit by a train.

Looking for more great Catholic reading? Wait, I am not saying my writing is great, that certainly wouldn’t be humble. Check out these links:

Practice Confidence in God

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The Last Should be First

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Lately I have been struggling with a tough decision. The first thing I did was to ask God for some help and guidance. After I did this I started thinking about how for so long this would have been the last (if I ever asked God at all) thing I would do.

I think sometimes we have our lives backwards. When we need help, we use God as a last resort. After everything else we try doesn’t work, we finally throw up our hands and say “Okay, God, here is the mess I got myself into, now fix it!” Then when God doesn’t pick up the pieces we get angry at Him and ask “Why aren’t you helping me?” or “You never answer my prayers, so why should I bother?” Come on you know you do it. Wouldn’t it make sense for us to ask God first? Maybe see what He has to say about it, then make the decision?

What about this whole “God doesn’t answer my prayer thing?” Are you sure God isn’t answering your prayers? Do you think He isn’t because you aren’t getting the answer you want? God will only give us what is good for us. Not that we won’t get what isn’t good for us, but if isn’t from Him. We need to “listen” to God and He will tell us what is the right thing to do. The trick to the whole thing is simple: We need to listen. I know in previous posts I have mentioned this, but I will mention it again, I truly believe God does talk to us, gives us signs and shows us the way. We just don’t take the time to listen. We surround ourselves with noise and distractions and never hear.

We also expect God to answer us right away. He might not, it might take some time, after all God is patient and has plenty of time. Maybe by His taking His time He is telling us to wait and think a little more about what we are asking of Him. Maybe He knows something we don’t. I know in my case I am very impatient, proven by the many bad choices I have made. I tend to be one who wants  answers right now so I can get started, doing whatever it is I want to do. Asking God for help has always been the last thing I do.

One more point to consider. I always talk a lot about doors. Doors have played a major role in my spiritual life, as I have written about often. Sometimes God will open doors for us and sometimes He won’t. The thing is, we need to know that if He doesn’t open one for us, maybe we shouldn’t force it. Trust God, He really does know what is best for us.

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Time to Clean the House

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I have a confession to make, I hate cleaning. There I said it and now the whole world knows it. But even though I hate it, it still has to be done. Furthermore, after it is done once, that isn’t the end of it, you have to do it again and again, because if you don’t, soon it will be just as bad (if not worse) than it was. The same goes for our souls, we have to clean them of sin and then keep up with the cleaning.

I have written about my past problems and how God never let me fall so far that I couldn’t come back. But the same thing would happen every time. I would be good, stop drinking, pay attention to my life, but sooner or later I would fall back to my not so good ways. It was like I was cleaning the house and then just letting it go. Each time the house was dirtier than the last. I didn’t keep up with the dusting, so each time I had to clean it was harder than the last.

In Friday’s Gospel reading, Jesus addresses this:

“When the unclean spirit has gone out of a man, he passes through waterless places seeking rest; and finding none he says, ‘I will return to my house from which I came.’ And when he comes he finds it swept and put in order.  Then he goes and brings seven other spirits more evil than himself, and they enter and dwell there; and the last state of that man becomes worse than the first.” – Luke 11:24 – 26

Jesus is talking about an evil spirit being expelled from a person and not being able to find another home to lay its evil head. It decides to head back to the original person it was in and finds that the “house” has been cleaned, but he also finds that the cleaning isn’t being kept up. He decides to reenter but this time he brings seven of his friends, “more evil than the first.” As Jesus says, “The last state of the man is worse than the first.” As the more evil spirits enter, they are harder to expel. For example if you are a drinker, you will find it harder to give up the second, third or fourth time.

There is one thing common about all sins, and this is how the Evil One gets us hooked into them, they are all pleasurable in some way. They all make you feel good in some way. Yes, I know something like drinking to excess can make you sick, but when you first start, you enjoy it at first, and then as you go along it might not feel quite as good, but you are hooked. Adultery, self-pleasure, gambling, are all the same. Some you may not get sick with, but they are all hard to break because they all feel good.

This is why you need to keep your inner house clean, and continue doing it before it gets worse. As a Catholic, we have the Sacrament of Confession, where we confess our sins to a priest and are absolved from our sins. While there is no set rule as to how often you should go, other than at least once a year, I find that it is best to go often rather than seldom. I still recall the first time I went to confession after 35 years or so and how good it felt. It’s funny, when I was younger and knew more than God, I could never understand why I had to go tell the priest my sins, after all God knows everything I do, He knew when I screwed up and as long as I confessed to Him, all was good. Even now I have a hard time explaining why Catholics believe in this, I am far from an apologist. Fortunately there are people much,  much better at it than I who can.

And one more thing I have learned is each time I go to confession, it is easier and it is also easier not to sin. After all, I still don’t want to tell the priest my sins!

Here are a couple of links to other blogs you just might like:

Being Catholic … Really

It’s Only Write