You Need Three Legs for the Stool to Stand

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I finally realized what I am missing in my life, self-discipline. I have patience and I have perseverance, but I do lack self-discipline. You only have to go as far as to look how I post in this blog. I’ll go on a streak of writing a post every day or every couple of days, and then I don’t write anything for months. More

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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.

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 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.

For the Right Reasons

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It has been just about two years since I began my journey back to the Catholic Church after having been away for it and any other church for a long, long time. I have come a long way since then, but still have a long way to go. More