Look Up

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We have talked about how there are times when we have to make choices and some of them will be quite difficult. It is these difficult choices that will fill us with the most fear. “What will happen if we make the wrong choice?” “What if something goes wrong?” This fear can paralyze us. I know this is where I was at in my life, so afraid to make the wrong decisions, I wouldn’t make any.  

I do realize some of this was due to my fibromyalgia which has a tendency to cloud your thinking, something those with fibromyalgia affectionately call “fibro fog”. Even if I didn’t have fibromyalgia I know the fear of making the wrong decision would still have paralyzed me. Now that I think about it maybe I used the fibro as a good excuse. 

Anyway, I also know that the older you get the harder it can be to make decisions. For one thing, the older you are the more important the decisions are likely to be. Things, like getting married or buying a house, aren’t decisions to be made lightly. In addition, the older you get the less likely you may be to have a support network. My parents have been gone for a long time now and I can’t ask them for help. I am also not one who shares things very easily with others, I tend to keep things inside meaning there is really no support network with any friends or other family members. even including my wife at times. So if you are like me, without that support network, what do you do? Where do you look for help? 

Look up. 

Trust in him, and he will help you; make your ways straight, and hope in him.  You who fear the Lord, trust in him, and your reward will not fail; Consider the ancient generations and see: who ever trusted in the Lord and was put to shame?  Or who ever persevered in the fear of the Lord and was forsaken? Or who ever called upon him and was overlooked?   Woe to the faint heart, for it has no trust!  Therefore it will not be sheltered. – Sirach 2:6,8,10,13

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Be Quiet and You Will Hear

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When I take a look at the world around me I just have to wonder what happened. There is hatred and violence where ever we turn. It doesn’t matter who you are, what race, religion or political affiliation, someone out there hates you. Who is to blame?  More

Are the Animals Lining Up

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As I am sitting here listening to the rain tattooing the roof of the building I am in I am wondering if  this will be going on for another 39 days. Of course, I know that God promised Noah that it wouldn’t happen again, but could he change His mind? No, because he doesn’t renege on His promises.

I establish my covenant with you, that never again shall all flesh be cut off by the waters of a flood, and never again shall there be a flood to destroy the earth. – Genesis 9:11

Now that isn’t to say that the end isn’t going to come some other way, in fact, we can pretty much count on it. When it will come we
do not, nor will we ever know, but it will come. Which is another reason to live each day as if it will be our last, always keeping the end goal in mind. What is that end goal? Come on, you know, I’ve told you before. Anyone? The end goal is to do whatever we can to get us to heaven so we can spend eternity with the Lord.

My sheep hear my voice, and I know them, and they follow me;  and I give them eternal life, and they shall never perish, and no one shall snatch them out of my hand. – John 10:27-28

Follow Him and receive eternal life. What a deal.

The Lord will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The Lord will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. – Psalm 121:8

Life is what you make it. About five or six years ago I was diagnosed with fibro
myalgia. It basically drains the life out of you. (Yes, you can buy my book here). I decided I had two choices, I could be miserable and let it beat me, or I could go on living and beat it. I beat it. It is the same with anything we do. We can wake up and decide we will have a good day or a bad day, it is our choice. We can decide if we are going to live as a good Catholic and Christian or if we will follow Satan. In other words, we can choose to live with the end goal in mind or not.

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.

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.

Keeping Watch – Luke 12:35

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I certainly don’t claim to be a biblical scholar, and I certainly am not a theologian (I can’t even pronounce it), I am just a layperson who sees how God has worked in my life. When I began my journey one of the many things I learned was that every time you read a passage of scripture for the second third of more time, you will learn something new. The latest of these is Luke 12:35 – 40.

This is the parable where Jesus tells the story of the master who has gone to a wedding feast and the servants are charged to stay awake and await his return especially if he returns after dark. In the time of Jesus, there were only locks on the inside of doors, probably a sliding bar of some sort. Once this bar was in place the door could only be opened from the inside. It was up to the servants to listen and know the sound of the master’s voice, even his footsteps to ensure they didn’t open the door for anyone but him.

Most people interpret this parable, correctly I might add, that it means we must be ever vigilant to hear when Jesus comes to our door at the end of time and invites us to come with him. If we don’t open the door for him, we will be left behind. Jesus isn’t going to open the door himself, he isn’t going to wait for us, he will move on. He can’t open the door, we must open it for him. We need to know when he is there.

The last time I read this passage, actually last Sunday since it was the Gospel reading, I was struck with another thought. Couldn’t this also mean we need to be as vigilant to not open the door for the wrong person, i.e. Satan? Isn’t he trying to get into our door as well?  We need to be as, if not more, attentive to who is at the door before we open it.

But here is the problem, there is so much noise around us in today’s world, we can’t always hear. We are surrounded by noise, noise of all kinds, from all directions, from all sorts of devices. When was the last time you were actually immersed in complete quiet? No television, no cell phone, no computer. It’s probably been awhile. This is exactly what Satan wants from us, to be surrounded by noise. When we are, we can’t hear God talking to us. The saying “Out of sight, out of mind” comes to mind. When we can’t hear God, we forget about Him. We put Him away somewhere and wonder where He is later when something happens. Just like the Evil One wants.

I was never one who listened for God. It wasn’t until I fell off that truck and really started thinking about things that I realized that He had been talking to me all my life, I just never listened. I didn’t know who was knocking at my door. I didn’t know who I was letting in and who I was keeping out. Now I do.

Let me share a quick example as to how I have done this. The last job I had, I would always let myself be dragged into the negativity, gossiping and back-biting that was a daily occurrence. At my new job, this still goes on, and at a higher level than at the last one, but the difference is now I don’t let myself be dragged into it. I don’t and won’t participate no matter how much others will try to get me to. I know who is knocking and I don’t answer the door.

Take the time to listen. Listen for God, listen to God. Take some quiet time to learn what He looks like and what He sounds like. Learn to differentiate between Him and Satan. He is out there. Once you shut out all the noise, you will find Him. I have and so can you.

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