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.

Who Am I to Judge

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It’s been a frustrating couple of days here in my little corner of the world. How can you stay positive when you are surrounded by negative energy? I work in a very negative environment and I would say that most of this feeds off of my direct boss. Since I can’t afford to lose my job I just keep quiet and call on God to keep me calm. But I almost lost it today.

“Judge not, that you be not judged. 2 For with the judgment you pronounce you will be judged, and the measure you give will be the measure you get.” – Matthew 7:1

I try very hard not to judge anyone. This was not always the case but over the last few years and all the things I have gone through, I realize that I know nothing about someone else. I don’t know what their life is like or what problems they may be dealing with. Yes, there are many people who will certainly tell you their problems, but still I don’t really know, and I can’t judge them. My boss on the other hand has no problem passing judgement on others whether he knows the truth or not. So much so that it wouldn’t surprise me if there would be a lawsuit coming over this last incident.

How do I deal with this? Do I say something and risk my job? Jobs are not easy to get for a 60 year old. Should I go over his head? This is something I have been praying about for the last few days. Even without having to listen to the teachings of Jesus I know this is wrong. Spreading rumors and negativity is not in the best interest of the workplace.

God wants us to be that beacon of light for him. He wants His light to shine through us, but how can you do this, especially in a small workplace like this? How can you shine His Light through the darkness? I have come such a long way in the past ten years. I have found my way to God and although I am far from where I need to be, I am closer than I have ever been. The one thing I still need to work towards is being able to spread His Word, whether through writing, speaking or more importantly through actions. There are good people here, but yet…

This makes me start thinking about this question:

Since we have pushed God out of our lives and replaced His morality with a moral relativism where everyone feels what is best for them is what is right. For two or more generations now people have not learned true morality, or even learned who God is, so how can we be the shining light on the top of the bushel basket when no one knows what the light is?

I know I have to be positive and not give up. I know that even if know one understands why I live the way I do, I still need to live as the best Christian and Catholic I can. God – I just ask that you help me to make a difference.

You Just Never Know

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First I must apologize for yesterday’s post. In reviewing it today i realized there were numerous typo’s. This is what happens when you are rushing to get the post done.

Today’s gospel is Matthew 25: 31 – 46. “Truly, I say to you, as you did it to one of the least of these my brethren, you did it to me.” We never know when Jesus will be standing before us. We never know if that is him standing on a street corner and begging for spare change. We never know if that is him over there struggling to change a flat tire. We never know if that is him asking us for directions. We never know and we never take the time to even fleetingly think it might be.

We may never know but when it comes time to separate the sheep from the goats, the shepherd will know.

Can you give to every pan handler? Can you help everyone in need? Of course not, but let me ask you this – do you even bother to wonder? Do you at least pause or do you just keep walking or driving, going about your business? Do you even see or does it all just blend into the landscape? Is there so much (okay you know what’s coming) noise that you don’t even see?

So that brings up this question: Obviously you can’t help every beggar you see. There are some pan handlers out there who are probably making more money than you or I are, they are just scammers. I remember on in particular who used to stand on a corner in Harvard Square in Cambridge. One afternoon I saw her packing up her cardboard sign and other goodies into a shiny new BMW. I am pretty sure she wasn’t living in the beamer. So how can you tell? How do you know which one might be Jesus?

This brings up another interesting, almost related thought. I was listening to a Catholic talk radio show this morning and the host was discussing a new movie called “The Shack”. Since I was only half listening I am not quite sure what the discussion was about except for one thing I caught. Evidently God appears to the main character in several different human forms. One was as a old black woman and another was as a Muslim I believe. There seems to be some controversy among Catholics about this since this is not how God is generally pictured. What do you think about this? What do you think God looks like? Can not God manifest in any shape or form he wishes to? Read today’s gospel reading again, it sounds like he is appearing in different forms to me.

As I said I really wasn’t paying full attention as to why people were upset about this, but I look at it like this, God can be anything he wants to be, or more accurately He can be “in” any form he wants to. I think of God as a being, definitely real but not necessarily something you can see or touch. I also think of Him as being in all things, in everything you see, touch and hear. I guess it’s hard to explain, but when you actually take the time to look, you’ll see God everywhere.

 

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