Look at me – Here I am

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Here we are, Holy Saturday, and I only kept one of my lenten promises and it wasn’t the one that I was going to write a blog post for each day of lent. I didn’t make the Good Friday “Celebration of the Passion” either. Maybe next year but I will be going to Easter Mass tomorrow morning.  More

The Lord is My Shephard

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One of the readings at Mass Sunday was Psalm 23. This psalm is mostly known from being  read at funerals. Depending on the particular bible translation you use, the NABRE used at Mass reads differently than the RSVCE. The difference is verse 4:

Even though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death – RSVCE

Even though I walk in the dark valley – NABRE

Not being a biblical scholar I guess this can be taken as the psalmist is on his deathbed, but I look at it differently. I look at Palm 23 as talking about our journey through life in general. It describes what trusting in God is like, how your life journey will be.

The LORD is my shepherd; I shall not want.
In verdant pastures he gives me repose;
beside restful waters he leads me;
he refreshes my soul.

When you trust in the Lord, you shall not want, He will give you what you need, it may not be what you want, but it will be what you need. He will protect you from harm, he will guide you through the storms. He will lead you to green pastures where you can rest peacefully, with plenty of food and out of harm’s way. He will lead you to restful waters where you will be able to drink without worrying about being washed away by rough currents. You will also be able to cross these streams without difficulty. Because your journey is made easier by following Him, your soul will be refreshed and rested.

He guides me in right paths
for his name’s sake.
Even though I walk in the dark valley
I fear no evil; for you are at my side
With your rod and your staff
that give me courage.

The Lord will guide you, making sure you are on the right path. He will make sure you don’t stray from the path, becoming lost, abducted or misled. Even when you are in a dark valley, even after death, He will be right with you and you do not need to fear evil. All you need to do is look at Him, see Him next to you and you can get through anything. I know this has certainly worked for me. I have been on a pretty rough journey, and once I began to trust in Him, letting Him guide me, I was no longer afraid of where I was going or what was going to happen to me. I was always afraid, uncertain of the future, not knowing what was coming next, and what I would do when something happened. No longer do I feel that way for I know God has my back. He has given me the strength and courage I never had before.

You spread the table before me in the sight of my foes;
you anoint my head with oil;
my cup overflows.

Only goodness and kindness follow me all the days of my life;
and I shall dwell in the house of the LORD for years to come.

When you follow the Lord, he spreads his table before you, all the gifts you could want, all you need. He does this in front of your enemies so they can see what He has to offer and they will realize they cannot compare. You will see that your cup will truly overflow.Because you follow Him, goodness and kindness will always be with you. You come into the world with nothing and you will go out with nothing. All you can leave behind you is the good works you have done, and a legacy of all the good you have done.

Are you following the shepherd?

No Temptation Will Overtake You

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How are you doing on your Lenten promises? Remember the one I made about writing 500 words every day? Well, not doing so great. I took the weekend off although I did do some writing yesterday on another blog of mine that I have just redesigned. I guess that kind of counts.

I won’t get into the other Lenten promise I made but it involves one of the seven deadly sins. It has been difficult but I am doing okay with it and it started me thinking: What is it about sin that makes it so difficult to stop? Think about the sins you’ve committed, they all have one thing in common, they all bring some kind of pleasure. Usually, it’s sensual pleasure, but there can be other types of pleasure as well. This pleasure is what Satan uses to keep us coming back.

Sin begins with temptation. We are tempted every day, from all angles. Even if we were to totally unplug from everything there would still be temptation, unless I suppose we lived by ourselves in the middle of nowhere. But unless we lived every day of our life alone, I think we would still be tempted having memories of those sensual pleasures.

Now, are these pleasures bad? No, we just need to control them. Everything in moderation is the rule. And of course the ones that lead to sin, I am thinking here of lust, in particular, need to be controlled. When you lust after another who isn’t yours, this is where the sin of adultery begins. As Jesus tells us in Matthew:

 “You have heard that it was said, ‘You shall not commit adultery.’ But I say to you that every one who looks at a woman lustfully has already committed adultery with her in his heart. Mt 5:27 – 28

It is one thing to look at a beautiful woman (or handsome man if you are a woman or if that is your persuasion) and you admire them for your beauty that’s okay, but if you are looking at them lustfully, that is a sin. Can you tell which of the deadly sins I am trying to stop? Lust has become so ingrained into our culture, really starting in the late sixties, we have been sold on the idea of looks equals lust. This is closely tied in with another deadly sin, pride, which really is the sin that leads to all others.

I used to suffer from pride as well, but that was one of the first to go for me. When I realized that God really is in control and that all I have comes from Him, I became quite humbled. But the lust thing is a little tougher. What is lust? The Catechism of the Catholic Church defines it as:

Lust is disordered desire for or inordinate enjoyment of sexual pleasure. Sexual pleasure is morally disordered when sought for itself, isolated from its procreative and unitive purposes. –  CCC 2351

If we jump up a few paragraphs to CCC 2534

The tenth commandment unfolds and completes the ninth, which is concerned with concupiscence of the flesh. It forbids coveting the goods of another, as the root of theft, robbery, and fraud, which the seventh commandment forbids. “Lust of the eyes” leads to the violence and injustice forbidden by the fifth commandment. Avarice, like fornication, originates in the idolatry prohibited by the first three prescriptions of the Law. The tenth commandment concerns the intentions of the heart; with the ninth, it summarizes all the precepts of the Law.

Ref: For all that is in the world, the lust of the flesh and the lust of the eyes and the pride of life, is not of the Father but is of the world. – 1 Jn 2:16

Even when I go to Mass Satan sends those lustful thoughts to tempt me. I am not and will not act on these thoughts but I know I am still sinning. It’s a struggle for me, but then we all have sins we struggle with. Some of us are stronger than others meaning some of us don’t need to struggle as much, but there is still a struggle. Like it says at the top of this blog:

No temptation has overtaken you that is not common to man. God is faithful, and he will not let you be tempted beyond your strength, but with the temptation will also provide the way of escape, that you may be able to endure it. – Cor 10:13

God knows I am not strong but He also knows that I am trying.

Strong Roots and a Good Foundation

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Let’s change course for a post or two since I am sure you are tired of hearing about my signs. Don’t worry though, I have plenty more of them to share. Today I want to talk about Jeremiah 17: 5 – 10.

Blessed is the man who trusts in the LORD, whose hope is the LORD. He is like a tree planted beside the waters that stretches out its roots to the stream: It fears not the heat when it comes, its leaves stay green; In the year of drought it shows no distress, but still bears fruit.

This is one of those passages that you need to read more than once to get the meaning. Not that you won’t get anything from it when you read it just once, but each time you read it you’ll get more. What does it tell us? To plant trees near water? Not exactly. It tells us to trust in the Lord and no matter what happens we will be okay.

When we trust in the Lord we are like a tree planted near the water. The tree will flourish because it has a good water supply. The roots will stretch to the stream and it will be strong and healthy. Because it is so strong, it will be able to withstand any stress that may come upon it, for example a drought. It will also be able to withstand storms, wind and ice. All because it has a strong foundation – the root system. This is no different with us.

If we have strong roots – if we believe in God – we will be able to withstand stress as well. In this case it is the stress brought on by Satan. Satan will try everything to get us to sin. He wants us for himself, he doesn’t want God to have our souls. He will do everything in his power to take over our souls. The harder we fight to keep sin and temptation away, the harder he will fight to get us to sin. But if we have strong roots, like the tree planted next to water, we will be able to withstand anything that Satan throws at us. God is our water. He is the one who gives us the strength to fight Satan We just need to ask for his help.

To reward everyone according to his ways, according to the merit of his deeds.

God will reward or punish us for the deeds we do. Remember how I say “Live with the end in mind”? This is God’s plan for us – to spend eternity with him. Since He is the one who decides, we need to do what He wants. We need to get that water to make those strong roots.

“Everyone who listens to these words of mine and acts on them will be like a wise man who built his house on rock. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. But it did not collapse; it had been set solidly on rock. And everyone who listens to these words of mine but does not act on them will be like a fool who built his house on sand. The rain fell, the floods came, and the winds blew and buffeted the house. And it collapsed and was completely ruined.” – MT 7:24 – 27

Build your house on a solid foundation.

No Temptation Shall Overcome You

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My last two posts discussed the first instance I remember God giving me a sign, other than falling off the truck and watching as that machine suddenly veered to the left just before it was going to land on me. The reason I began thinking about these things was I was questioning, not only if God is real, but if it is true that He watches over us and both answers our prayers and sends a guardian angel to watch over us.

My first step in the fact-finding mission on guardian angels was to see if there has been anything written about them. According to the Catechism of the Catholic Church:

328 The existence of the spiritual, non-corporeal beings that Sacred Scripture usually calls “angels” is a truth of faith. The witness of Scripture is as clear as the unanimity of Tradition.

That doesn’t really say much about guardian angels however, just that there are angels. We can also confirm there are angels by what is written in the Nicene Creed:

I believe in one God, the Father almighty, maker of heaven and earth, of all things visible and invisible.

with angels included in the “all things visible and invisible”. Then of course there are the three angels mentioned specifically in the Bible by name:

  • St. Michael
  • St. Gabriel
  • St. Raphael

Of these three St. Raphael is certainly the one we can most clearly see is a Guardian Angel. We read about him in the Old Testament book of Tobit. There are also other references such as in the writings of St. Augustine among others. But then there are those who would say that the Bible and anything related to it is fake anyway. Okay fair enough, so that is when I decided to look for some concrete examples in my own life, other times when a guardian angel may have been watching over me. I already mentioned the falling off the back of the truck incident, and the story of me opening the door, although I am not really sure if that would be considered a Guardian angel incident or not.

But there were others, most notably dealing with my drinking. As I have mentioned I was quite the drinker. Whether I could be classified as an alcoholic or not is a matter of definition. If anything I guess I was a functional alcoholic, although I never missed work because of drinking, and I was never dependent on it. Also, I could quit any time I wished. Like the time when I received the message I already described. I woke up that morning and didn’t have a drink for a few weeks. But when I drank, I drank and it caused many problems. I had quit and restarted several times. It seemed I would also quit before I got past the point of no return. It is said that an alcoholic won’t quit until he reaches the bottom, yet I never did. I always wondered why.

As I reflected on this I asked God about it. Could He have had something to do with it? Other than that first time I never asked him for help so it wasn’t like he would know. I had no answer, until… I had some down time during the day and randomly opened my bible. I opened it to 1 Corinthians Chapter 10 and here is what it said:

No trial has come to you but what is human. God is faithful and will not let you be tried beyond your strength; but with the trial he will also provide a way out, so that you may be able to bear it.

God will not let you be tried beyond your strength, how true that is. I know I am weak, and my guardian angel knew that if I sank too low I would never get out. Whenever I stopped drinking it was for some reason, whether I was low on money, having marital problems or out of work. I now know that each time, it was my guardian angel sticking his or her nose into my business, and that’s alright with me.

Knock and it will be open part 2

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Let’s continue with yesterday’s theme. Was this really a sign from God or was it just a coincidence? I am 95% sure it was a sign from God, especially now that I look back on other signs God has giving me.

I will be getting into those other times as we go along but for right now I do believe it was a sign. As I said yesterday I also believe that had I really listened and learned from that side my life would be entirely different. However I don’t want you to get the wrong impression about my current life I am very happy, in fact I can say now that I have found God plus with some other events in my life I am happier than I have ever been. I don’t live in the past. you can’t, even though Satan wants us to. What’s done is done, we can only live for today.

What is the lesson I could have learned from that experience? What is the lesson I should have learned? I mentioned yesterday one lesson was ask and you will receive, you only need to ask and God will give you what you need. But now I believe there is also another lesson I should have learned.

Let’s look at Luke 6:37 – 38. Especially line 38 “for the measure with which you measure will return be measured out to you”. What is it telling us? It is telling us what Jesus tried to get through to all of us and that is do you want to others as you would have them do unto you. In other words when you do good things, good works etc. then good things will happen to you. You reap what you sow, if you plant good seeds then you will harvest good crops. When I began my journey and started doing good things that is when my life turned around and I begin to have good things happen to me.

Why else should this matter? We need to live each day with one goal in mind, to fulfill God’s plan for us. But wait… didn’t I say that we don’t know what God’s plan for us is? Yes I did, we don’t know his EXACT plan for us but we know what his general goal for us is. He wants us to spend eternity with him in Heaven. That means that we need to do everything we can to get there. We need to live each day with the end in mind. This doesn’t mean to live each day like it is your last, or to decide to end it all. We don’t know when exactly our last day is going to be. It could be today, it could be a long time from now. The point is we don’t know so we need to be ready.

When you are called to judgement will you be ready? Can you say I did my best? I know I can for the last few years, but before that I wasted a lot of days. This is why I say had I listened all those years ago, and lived as the best Catholic, Christian, person I could have my life would be different. But at least now I am on the straight and narrow path. The path to eternity, I know I will need to make a stop in purgatory along the way, and then it is still up to God, but at least I know what I got to do.

Knock and the door will be opened 

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Let me continue with yesterday’s train of thought. Shorty after I began my journey, a journey that began mostly as a fact finding mission. I wanted to learn the truth about what happens next, what happens when our time here is done.

At this time I had a job where I spent a lot of time alone in a truck with plenty of time to think about these things. As I said yesterday I began to look back though the past for any time that God may have helped me.

The first that came to mind was sometime in 1982- 83. I was newly married with two young children and was working for my father. I worked a lot of hours, seven days a week. I also was quite the sinner. I drank- a lot, I had just broken off an affair (okay the person I was having an affair with ended it) and I wasn’t taking it well. My life was a mess and I knew I needed to do something.

One of my uncles passed away at this time and I took a morning off to go to the funeral. It was a bitter cold January morning and I walked into the church. I was in one of the back pews and I knelt down, made the sign of the cross and looked at the crucifix. My conversation went something like this:

Lord I know I haven’t spent a whole lot of time with you and I know I am not one of your best subjects, but I’m in trouble here. You know the things I’ve been doing and I know they are wrong. Lord I need to ask you a favor, tell me what to do. Give me some kind of sign. I can’t promise I’ll suddenly become a church goer but I need your help.

After the mass I headed back to work. As I opened the “back” door there was a man on the other side reaching for the door. This man was the one I essentially replaced after I finished college. He left to open his own store a town away. He had big plans but they never came to be. He began drinking heavily, hosting card games in the back room, closing the store for lunch for three hours a day.

When I saw him his face was gray and drawn. I thought I was seeing a ghost. He was the picture of defeat. We talked for a few, he told me he closed his store, I did him a favor and I went back to work. That night I couldn’t sleep. I tossed and turned. Every time I closed my eyes I saw his face, a broken and defeated man.

It wasn’t until morning that it hit me. I remembered I had asked God for a sign and that was it. God was telling me that I was going to end up like that if I didn’t change. At least that’s what I thought at the time. It wasn’t until a few years ago that I got the rest of the message.

I went to work and stopped drinking for a while but soon went back to my old ways. While God gave me that sign I asked for I didn’t fully understand it. And because of that lack of understanding in a few years I left the business my dad spent his life at and it closed.

Let me jump ahead 30 years or so later when I was thinking of this incident. That day I had some down time and as was my habit I would randomly open my bible and read. There have been several times when I have done the same thing and gave me a message. He must have known that I had questions about this, that I was thinking about that time so long ago. I opened to Mt 7:7 – 8

“Ask and it will be given to you; seek and you will find; knock and the door will be opened to you. For everyone who asks, receives; and the one who seeks, finds; and to the one who knocks, the door will be opened”

Knock and the door will be opened to you. I knocked and the door was opened but I never went any further, I never asked, I never sought, I never knocked again, at least not for another twenty years. Had I asked I would have gone back to church, I would have studied the bible, and there is a good chance I would have turned away from sin.. I would have stayed on the narrow path, stayed in the light, and I beleive my life would have been different.

But as I said yesterday, God has a plan. We might not always know what that plan is but God does and He is very good at adapting to our mistakes and wrong turns and giving us another chance. Some get this right away, for others like me it takes falling off the back of a truck. Eventually we’ll get it.

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