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.

A Single Step

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I know, I know, I missed two days, but I promise to make it up to you. In my last post, I promised to go through my bible and locate all the passages that helped me get through my troubles, the ones that helped me to trust in God and to live one day at a time. There are 32 of them that I have counted.

I wish that I had kept some kind of a record as to a timeline or how I happened on each one, whether it was through my normal reading or whether God directed me to them, but alas I didn’t. So I will just tackle them one at a time and try to explain them as best I can. I will begin with James 4:7.

So submit yourselves to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.

As a quick sidenote, James is one of the shorter chapters in the Bible, yet percentage wise I  have more passages marked in this chapter than any other.

When I first began my journey I was definitely under the influence of Satan. I had been for a long time. While I had gotten better in some respects, I was still under his influence. I was beginning to see that in order to resist Satan I would have to submit myself to God, trust in Him, listen to him, and follow his lead. This wasn’t easy at first, the submitting myself to God part at least. I was able to resist the devil although I always knew (and still do) that he was never very far away. But totally trusting in God was a little tougher. I describe it as climbing up a mountain, and when you reach the top there is too much fog to see what is on the other side. You don’t know what you will be walking into, so you turn around and go back the way you came. After all, you know what is that way.

But why should I trust in the Lord? What proof do I have that He has ever been there for me, that he has ever helped me? After all, my life (until recently) has been a struggle. How can I say that it would have turned out any different if I had trusted in Him? I can’t go back to the past and change things. I suppose I could try to guess but that is just that, a guess. I needed to think back to any time in the past He may have helped me. Was there one?

Come to find out there were many. One is what had caused me to begin this journey in the first place. I had fallen off the back of a truck and was almost hit by a machine known as a scissor-lift. I was working hauling small construction machines with a “Roll-off” tow truck. It was a wet day, and I wasn’t paying attention and took a shortcut. The scissor-lift began to slide backward, knocking me off the bed of the truck, and as I lay there I was watching the machine come to me. I thought “This isn’t going to end well.” Just then the machine turned slightly missing me be a few inches. What caused the machine to turn ever so slightly? There was nothing on the bed, no defect, there was no wind, nothing I could see that would have made it do that. Was it the hand of God? Did I have a guardian angel?

I laughed it off but couldn’t stop thinking about it all day. My thoughts turned to the question of whether there is life after death. Is there a heaven and a hell? Is God real? I realized even though I was a cradle Catholic I had no idea what being Catholic meant, what I was supposed to believe or not believe. When my day was done I realized I better find out and determine what the truth is. That marked the beginning of this wonderful and sometimes confusing journey.

As time went on I began to remember other times when things happened to me, things I couldn’t really explain. I even remembered two specific times I had actually prayed to God and he answered me. The first time was maybe 30 or 35 years ago, the second was 7. Had I realized it the first time, or more correctly, had I not ignored it, my life would have turned out much differently. But  …

For I know well the plans I have in mind for you—oracle of the LORD—plans for your welfare and not for woe, so as to give you a future of hope. – Jer 29:11

God has a plan for us. We never know what it is, but there is one. And most of all He doesn’t give up on us, even when we give up on Him. We may not know exactly what His plan is, but it we listen to Him, it will be revealed to us in bits and pieces. The first time he sent me a message was when I asked Him to show me a sign, He did, but I didn’t take it seriously. He could have given up on me, but He didn’t, he tried and tried again. Maybe falling off the back of the truck was the last time, I don’t know but at least it worked.

In my next post, I will get into the story of the first time  I prayed for help and the sign God gave me. For now, I will go back to the first passage I shared above. This was the first step I needed to take, to give myself to God, put myself in His hands and resist sin and temptation. Once I did, my life slowly began to change.

This is where everyone needs to start, put your trust in God, and He will lead you.

Trust in the LORD with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; In all your ways be mindful of him, and he will make straight your paths. – Prov 3: 5-8

It isn’t always going to easy, it will take some time and a lot of patience and perseverance, but it will come. Every journey begins with one step.

Patience is a Virtue

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Okay it’s day eight and I have written five hundred words each day of Lent so far. Can I make it to forty? I don’t know, but I am going to try. I know today’s post is going to be a struggle. I’m just not in the writing mood today. I suppose I could just copy Psalm 119 but then that would be cheating.

Let’s talk about patience today. This is one of the first things I learned during my journey back, to be patient. this is one of the twelve fruits of the Holy Spirit and I certainly believe it was the Holy Spirit that sent it my way. It was just a little over a year ago that I knew I needed to make a change in my life. Things were not going well and I needed to make some hard decisions. I prayed for answers and they were given to me. At the same time I also learned that I needed to be patient and in time the changes would come.

We had to get out of the house we were in, it needed more work than we could afford to put into it. However we had outstanding debt and no credit so it was going to take a lot of hard work to change things. We were going to have to cut our spending, make some hard choices, including not paying off some of the money we owed people, making them wait a little longer, In other words we ticked some people off. But I knew we could and would bo it. We would get caught up. get our credit score up and be able to move. I knew God had my back, I trusted Him and believed we would do it.

My better half didn’t believe. It took her awhille to see we were making progress and that it would happen. Even for several months after we moved she still had a hard time beleiving we would be okay. But we were and are. I would tell her to have faith, that I was praying, and God was there for us. It was actually kind of funny becasue she would ask me why I needed to read the Bible all the time or go to church every week. I would smile and say “Because it is helping us.” Now she sees. Now she believes. that good things truly do happen when you pray and have the patience to wa.it for Him to act. He may not give you what you want or what you ask for, but He will give you the answers. God knows whats best for us.

In my case I asked God, not to send us a pile of money, only to guide meand show me the way. I asked Him to show me the way out of this mess and He did. I have the next four days off and I will go through my Bible and look at the notes I have made to pick out the ones that helped me. The ones that brought me to the point where I finally trusted in God. The point when I got to the top of the mountain and wasn’t afraid to go down the other side

Another Day Another Answer

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Isn’t it funny how God just seems to know the answers to your questions? I can hardly count the times over the last six or seven years that God has sent me some kind of sign when I have asked him about what I should do. The latest was last night when I asked Him how to deal with my work situation. (See yesterday’s post)

I try to read either some scripture or other religious reading, and last night something told me to open my bible to 1 Peter 3:13 – 22. Okay something told me to open to 1 Peter, but when I read it I came to this chapter 3 and these passages.

Now who is going to harm you if you are enthusiastic for what is good?

Who indeed? Without sounding cocky or full of pride, I know what is right and what is wrong. I know how to treat people (Treat others as you wish to be treated). As long as I am doing what is right and good I need not worry about the consequences.

But even if you should suffer because of righteousness, blessed are you. Do not be afraid or terrified with fear of them, but sanctify Christ as Lord in your hearts. Always be ready to give an explanation to anyone who asks you for a reason for your hope, but do it with gentleness and reverence, keeping your conscience clear, so that, when you are maligned, those who defame your good conduct in Christ may themselves be put to shame.

If I am somehow persecuted for doing what is right, for speaking my mind, then so be it. Of course, giving an explanation with gentleness and reverence may not be an easy thing for me to do. I have been known to lose my temper when I see something that is just plain wrong. This is where God needs to give me patience. It is never good to counter anger with anger.

For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that be the will of God, than for doing evil

Unlike so many others in these times, I am not afraid of doing what is right, I follow God’s law. Others do what is right for them, I do what is right for God. I like to call it living with the end in mind. When I’m dead, I am going to be dead for a long, long time. Therefore I want to do everything I can to increase my chances of living with Jesus for eternity. How can I do this? By doing what is right, what is good. I can’t be afraid to do what is right.

For Christ also suffered for sins once, the righteous for the sake of the unrighteous, that he might lead you to God. Put to death in the flesh, he was brought to life in the spirit.

Jesus suffered for me more than I can ever suffer for him. A short while ago I was having some serious back pain and every night I would look at the crucifix by my bed and think no matter how bad my pain gets it will never be as bad as what Jesus went through for us. Thinking of that every night, and offering up my pain to him to ease his suffering, made my pain bearable. This offering must have worked since my back has improved significantly.

I know I will get through this, I know I only need to do what is right in God’s eyes, no one else. If I do that, I can do know wrong.

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