Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Caught in Time

When I felt compelled to go on my pilgrimage to the small village in Yugoslavia in 1987, a number of profound changes occurred there in my very being; most of which are beyond description. That’s the way it is deep conversions. One of the things which happened, however, was my becoming firmly aware that during the Catholic mass, at the point of consecration, Jesus is present on that altar in front of me. My God has come to my presence. I know non-Catholics don’t believe that is so, indeed many Catholics don’t either. They say it is a matter of faith, a faith they don’t have. At one point I didn’t either, not really. But in that village, my FIRM understanding changed. I KNEW. That sure knowledge of the God of all Creation coming to me was awesome. I could never forget the moment I understood and believed that. Laugh and call what happened to me anything you wish, but I am not a stupid man, nor one easily fooled, and I KNOW. I’ll let the Church and the theologians explain why it is so, but I KNOW.

The Jews were blessed to be the chosen people. God saw the trust of Abram and greatly blessed him and his children for all time, but the Jews, Abraham’s children, so easily were caught up in the cares of the world, and they forgot God’s importance. So God gave the Jews His commandments to teach them how to love Him and all His earthly children, and the Jews were much better at remembering and following these rules. But still over time they forgot.

It was when God sent his Son, Jesus however, that things became most clear to us weak men; God saw to it that we would never forget again. Jesus simplified the commandments; he gave us concrete examples of how this human life should be lived, and most importantly, God directed that Jesus shall never leave us again. The God of Abram was heard, but forgotten; the Commandments were written in stone, but stored away and not thought about, but Jesus, although risen bodily into heaven, would always stay with us in the Eucharist, so that we might never forget His love.

When the host is solemnly raised at the consecration and the words of Jesus repeated: “This is My Body,” I now know that Jesus is present, but I’ve come to think at that moment not of Jesus, but of His Father in heaven. The words said at that moment can easily be imagined as also being said by His Father. In love, I believe they are. Even as we are making this offering, in elevating the Host, of the Son to the Father, the Father can also say He is making an offering to us of His Son, a gift to us: “This is My Body.” For a God to give us such a gift, His Son, has no words for comparison.

Heavenly Father, I thank you for this gift of your Son. You love me that much! I need Him with me. I want Him with me, so much! Glory and praise be to You, for your great love.

Moments later as the chalice is raised: “This is My Blood,” I hear His words and think of the gift of Jesus to me.

Lord, thank you for this great gift of Yourself. I want you to stay here; I want you with me, now and always. Come with me, be with me, and teach me as you taught the Apostles. Thank you for your love.

Jesus rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven. But in the wisdom of the Godhead, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, He still stayed here. He stayed here in the Eucharist because he loved us; He stayed here because He knew we needed Him.

Time here on earth is like but a second in eternity. We stare at the dial on our watch, tick, and it is gone never to return. Such is our life, and such was even Jesus’ life here on earth. But unlike any other human being, God in His love and mercy directed that Jesus, through his being in the Eucharist, never leave us. All humans move on from this time into eternity, where time is no more. Only Jesus, in the Eucharist, stays here forever more, caught in time. He is God not just speaking, as to Abram, not just giving instruction, as the commandments, but living with us always. Greater love than this no man has than to lay down his life for a friend. We and all our friends will one day leave this earth. Only Jesus lays down his life here, in this great humility, for a God to be present for us, forever.

Once I knew, how could I ever forget this?

Monday, September 27, 2010

Afraid of the Truth

I prayed the Glorious Mysteries again tonight. The prayers of the rosary remained the same, but the words I use as aids in meditation led my mind on ever-changing paths. The Glorious Mysteries, thoughts on the unthinkable, why should I be surprised that the minutes have passed so quickly, as my mind wandered and pondered, His glory, His truth.

The First Glorious Mystery: The Resurrection from the Dead: “You knew You could do this. The guards knew it too.”

Can you imagine what the soldiers sent to guard a dead man were thinking, there in the dark of that night? Oh, I’m sure there was much bravado at the start, joking, drinking, laughing aloud and kidding one another about why they were chosen for this “difficult” assignment. “You’re such a poor example of a soldier; they wanted to see if your battle skills could subdue a dead man.” “You’re such a poor officer, that’s all they’d let you lead.” “What a sorry lot we are.” But eventually their talk quieted, and the night grew cooler, and seemed to grow darker.

They could not but know of Jesus, whose body they were guarding. Some friends or relatives must have told them of miracles they had seen, seen with their own eyes! The soldiers heard, from reliable witnesses, what Jesus could do when he was alive, ---- when he was alive, but now…? They may have heard, or been told as part of their assignment, that he said he would rise from the dead. All that he did while he was alive, and then he said …? I wonder, did they talk about those things? Were they afraid to think on the possibility --- he would rise?? I think they knew of the possibility, but tried with all their bravado to pretend they didn’t. All men act that way. We don’t want to think about truths because of what they mean about us, and for us. All truths impact us, often in very big ways. If you were the soldier, if you really thought he might rise, what would you be thinking about your duty to the captain, or your duty to HIM, a God??? What would you do if you admitted the truth you knew in the back of your mind? Truth can be a scary thing; it is often much easier to just not think on it.

I read a blog earlier today, two very intelligent men discussing back and forth the arguments of St. Thomas Aquinas and others on the proofs for the existence of God. Both men seemed to have once been atheists, who came to believe in God, and even to have converted to the Catholic faith. They reasoned and had their way graced to a belief in God, but now were debating the arguments for or against their belief journey, as if pausing to check themselves on their momentous decision, or as if knowing the truth of it and being afraid of its awesome implications, afraid of what they must do. I followed their arguments with interest, but then thought: vanity of vanities. Instead of moving on, they were like two small children afraid of the dark before them: “You go first. Noooo, YOU go first.”

“Do you think he could rise from the dead?” The guards knew it.

There are so many truths in our lives which we are afraid to admit. If we admitted to their truth, we could no longer ask ourselves: “Do you think …?” Instead, we would have to ask ourselves: “What must I do?” If we admit a truth, it inevitably means we must do something; we must act in a particular way. All our options, our “well, maybe” decisions, and all our procrastinations are gone in the face of truth.

If all human life is created by God and precious in His sight, then here is how I must treat my neighbor, EVERY neighbor. If I will eventually end in an eternity of heaven or hell, then here is how I must lead my life to enter heaven, ALL my life. If that is really Jesus on the altar at each mass, my God who created me and holds me in existence, then ….. Oh! Oh my God, I am sooo unworthy. I am sooo sorry.

We shrink from duties in our lives. We want freedoms, the ability to live our lives free as gods, where we can choose to do anything. But Jesus did not deem equality with God something to be grasped at. Rather, He emptied Himself and took the form of a slave, being born in the likeness of men. (Phil 2:6-11). Jesus came to show us the Truth, and how to act in the face of Truth. He showed us how to lovingly accept our duties in this life, which flow from that knowledge of the Truth.

The Catholic Church, indeed most Christian churches, teaches that in heaven we will be in some way united with Christ, perfected members of His Body. This is the final Glorious Mystery. We’ll know all things, as much as we want to or are capable of; we’ll know all truths --- without any doubts. If this is our destiny, even if we can only pray this is our destiny, why are we wasting our lives fearing to admit the truths of Christ’s teaching, and our responsibilities flowing from them? Why are we afraid of the admonition that He must grow, and we must diminish?

We fear admitting things are true, even when in our hearts (like the soldiers’) we know that they are true, because we fear that then there are things we must do, and ways we must live. We fear we will lose our freedoms. But vanity of vanities, we withhold our minds from assenting to truths even as we know the heaven of all Truth, the Glory of Truth, that awaits us. In our fearing truth now, even as we long for truth then, we lie to ourselves. What silly beings we are. Our lies allow us freedoms of choice, and all the choices do is make us anxious about achieving that future. I think one of the most often spoken lines in defending our fear of the truth is: “You can’t tell me what to do.” Ever said it? (We think the best defense is an offense. We’re wrong.)

Do not be anxious. You needn’t worry about your freedoms of today, for indeed it is true that: The Truth will set you free (Jn 8:32).

Glory be to God!

Saturday, September 25, 2010

I Want To Walk With My Father

I don’t know why my mind wandered to thoughts of dad this morning. Perhaps it’s because of the wonderful words I recently read by other bloggers, and their fond memories of their dad. But the thoughts washed over me this morning, as mom quietly slept in the other room

My father was a good man, and in his life he made good – even if sometimes hard – choices. In his youth he stopped school at the 6th grade, because during the depression his younger brothers and sisters needed him. My Godfather, his brother, once wrote me of coming home from school with his siblings for lunch and saying “Potato soup, again!” to my father, but he also wrote of how much he loved my dad and the sacrifices he made to help the family. Dad later joined a polka band, playing the accordion, and he told me of the wonderful times they had. He told me of the wedding that lasted all weekend, sleeping in the hayloft and then getting up to play and celebrate some more. He told me of meeting and eventually marrying my mom. And then the war came, and he was off to Europe almost before the ink on the marriage certificate was dry. My sister was born, and he didn’t see her for three years --- and she screamed when she first saw him. He didn’t talk much of the war, but of his company of 125 men, only five came back. They exchanged Christmas cards for many years. They didn’t diagnose post-traumatic stress syndrome back then, but mom said he screamed in his sleep every night after he got home; she thought of having him committed to some institution. He eventually left to wander the country for some months, riding the rails, but he came back.

Dad went to work on the railroad, and advanced into management positions. When they offered him a big promotion to move back east to the home office, and he was sorely tempted. But “I saw how almost every man I knew in that position worked long, stressful hours --- and was divorced. You mom didn’t want to move you children, and you all were more important to me than prestige or money, so we stayed here.” He was never offered another promotion, but won awards for the work he did. I remembered his words when promotions were offered to me.

We grew up in an all white suburb of Chicago, near an all black suburb. No one talked about racial things, and people in the stores in town were as likely to be black as white; it was no big deal. I remember when the things down in Alabama and Dr. King hit the papers, I thought it more strange than anything else. I remember when dad told me of the first time he had dinner at the home of one of the black men who worked for him; he had about 60-75 direct reports on his job. He described the man as one of the nicest, most loving men he knew, and his best employee. He talked about the love he saw in the home; he spoke of admiring him. He told me to never think that I am better than any man, but I recall feeling they were strange words. The commandments we were taught in school said love you neighbor, they never mentioned color or race, and I just never thought about it. When I later went to high school and college in Chicago, where I was or who I was with never mattered to me. The only time I thought about racial prejudice was when I was the only white person in the El car, especially if the other people were tough-looking young men. But I’m not sure my unease had to do with color or not.

I don’t recall many father-son talks with my dad; I learned much from him by just watching how he led his life. He and mom never fought --- well, except that one time when I ran away from home because I was so shocked at his yelling and her crying. But after I ate the banana I took with me, I went back home. I don’t recall many repairmen at our house. If mom wanted something or something needed fixing dad either fixed it or got a book from the library to figure out how to fix it, and then he did. He always read lots, as I do. He paved the driveway, built the garage, re-wired and re-plumbed the house, built our bedrooms and added the concrete front porch. As I grew up and started wanting what “all the other kids had,” dad always told me I could have them. I could have anything; all I had to do was go out and earn the money for them. It was a lesson I never forgot, and I still admire people who live that way. He paid for my Catholic high school, but I had to pay for the bus fare to get to it. I paid for my college degree. I bought my first car when I was 19, a new one I paid cash for, about a week after I got my driver’s license.

Dad harassed me into hitting that first bucket of golf balls at the driving range. Golf seemed a game for sissies. But then for years he and I would golf every Thursday afternoon, a different course each week. I think that was the only thing dad was not proud of me for; I was and am a horrible golfer. In his retirement years he had a coach from the University of Wisconsin bring his students to watch my dad hit the ball, with his easy swing. He had his last hole in one at age 87. Those Thursday afternoons as we walked, I talked to dad about all the problems I had in my teenage years, my job, my school, and yeh, girls, although I never really had any time for them then. Thinking back, those were some of the best days of my life, and if I were truly ever able to live any part of my life over, I’d say I’d want those days; I’d say I want to walk with my father. Later, when I graduated from undergrad college and moved to another state, dad wrote me letters in that beautiful clear handwriting of his, telling me what was going on at home. Still later, he wrote to tell me how much he enjoyed his retirement, and the home he purchased on the river. We had many enjoyable days and nights fishing together there; it almost reminded me of those Thursday afternoons. He had many happy retirement years, and despite having a pass to travel anywhere in the country by rail passenger service, he never traveled even once --- mom always like to stay at home, and so he did also.

I can’t recall dad ever asking anything of me. He just gave. So I was surprised on the night when he called me on my cell phone and said he had a problem he needed some help with. He was out of breath and couldn’t get out of his chair. There wasn’t much I could do from 500 miles away except to tell him to hang up and dial 911. When I got home, I called the neighbor to get over there. Mom was sitting on her porch rocker at 3AM as I drove up. “Dad’s sick,” she said. Two days later the doctors told me, and I told dad, that he had terminal cancer. He didn’t question anything about the diagnosis; his first words were: “You’ll take care of mom?” He died 5 days later.

I miss dad, but I probably talk to him more often now than I did in the later years of his life. He still gives good advice. He still prays for me. What else could you ask of a father? At some point though, I look forward to walking with him again.

Friday, September 24, 2010

In God We Trust

A couple of weeks ago someone asked me to tell them my “conversion story”. They wanted to know how it came to be that I viewed God as part of my life, an important part. Many churches describe this as “when you committed your life to Christ,” or some such words. Many people have such stories, and even can remember the day or hour when it happened. That’s a good thing, and recalling it brings warm memories, because it was a good thing that happened, a great thing. It’s kind of like remembering where you first met your spouse, or saw your baby’s first smile. So a person’s “conversion story” is important to recall, but I don’t think it is the most important faith story in a person’s life.

Knowing that God is part of my life gives ME a level of confidence that I am not alone in my struggles of daily living. In the good times, but more importantly in the bad, I know that God is close to me, and I can call on Him; I can commit my life to Him. This knowledge of an intimate friend in God gives me confidence. I wrote a book review recently here and noted that this awareness of God is a good thing, and we should be re-enforcing this awareness in ourselves and in others. It is easy to lose this level of closeness in our society, where so many other things seek to intrude, to say to us: “Hey! I’m important too,” or: “This is more important NOW; focus on this thing.” And that thing demanding our attention may be as stupid as a new flavor of bubblegum.

Awareness of God in our lives is important, but perhaps even more important is the next step. Beyond a confidence that you can call on Him at any time, and that He will hear you, is a confidence that He will answer you AND you can trust His answer, even if you don’t understand it. A great step in faith is the confidence that you can trust in God. The statement, In God We Trust, on our printed money almost seems like a sacrilege, since so few people really do trust in Him. To achieve that trust is a conversion story in itself.

Although I committed to trust in God one day (in a strange country many years ago), it was almost like He had to earn that trust. I made a commitment, but I was looking for some proof. I accepted good and bad things which happened in my life equally, saying that perhaps God has good plans for the bad things, but I felt like I was in a fog wondering where those good plans were. I believed ---- but I wondered. But I can remember very clearly the day when I put my trust to the test, and God’s response.

Someone desperately needed money, and they were personally asking me, now, today, for help. I sincerely wanted to help, but I looked at my checkbook and saw a very small balance, and I had no savings. Payday was many days away. I had no money to give them. I hesitated. But then I looked at their face, and wrote out the check. I dutifully subtracted the check from my balance, writing down the new balance with brackets around it. I recall saying “Well God, this is for Your work. I trust in You.” I guess I thought that maybe some check I had written wouldn’t be cashed right away; maybe I could play the “float”. I thought that maybe it would turn out I made a math error, and I really had more money in the account than I thought. And I thought that “Well, at worst I would overdraft and pay some penalty fees or something.” I worried a bit that a check might bounce. And then I forgot about it. I really did!

When my next bank statement came, I saw that I never did go negative in my balance, no check bounced, no overdraft was issued, and no penalties were assessed. Logically, I didn’t see how that could have happened, but I chalked it up to the work of God. And when subsequent opportunities to help His children came up, I wrote checks without hesitation, and put the brackets in my total column. There were sometimes months where my total column never was without brackets, yet never did a check bounce, never did I pay any penalty fees. I haven’t balanced my checkbook in 25 years, but sometimes it seemed my checkbook balance seemed so hugely different from the bank statement totals that I arbitrarily added in a few hundred dollars here, a few hundred there. Once I added in a thousand. I don’t know how God keeps His books, or mine, but the jar has not run dry.

The reason I am thinking about these things today is that my local Catholic radio station (Ave Maria Radio) is running a fund-raising drive this week, and they are woefully behind their needs. In considering how much I could afford to give to them, I considered their need and how God has never failed me when I try to do His work, and then I made my pledge. Perhaps I will find myself running negative balances at some point to pay this new pledge; perhaps I will be taking loans. But when I look at the value of what that station produces, shows syndicated (for free) to hundreds of stations around the country, and the people who learn from them for the first time that basic conversion story: God is there for you, I realize that their work is far more important than mine. If it should be in God’s plans that at some point I should ever go bankrupt and stand in some soup kitchen line, it is far better for me to go bankrupt than that radio station.

The other day I wrote about the preacher who emphasized that we are all part of the Body of Christ, and we are all equal. Cardinal Schonborn described the words “We are all Church” as slogan of a protest movement, not a teaching of the Church. We are NOT all equal; we are all created individually and loved individually by God. We are all unique beings, with unique purposes. We are all members of the Body of Christ as unique functioning elements of it. Some saints chose martyrdom in this life, for the good of the whole Body. Perhaps some lowly insignificant part may also choose bankruptcy, for the good of the whole Body. I trust in God that this, if it is His plan, would be a good thing. I trust in God. It’s just that simple, but getting there was my REAL conversion story.

May you have peace this day, and worry a bit less. He is there beside you, and you can trust in Him.

Thursday, September 23, 2010

The Heaven Express

You know this blog is not about Catholic theology, and I issue a caveat that “I may be wrong” whenever I try to speak as I believe the Church does, however every now and then something passes by which disrupts my peace, and I guess I need to get it out of my system. So I now issue to you one “I’m sorry” and "I may be wrong" in advance of the following words.

Recently a friend brought over a book and CD extract of a talk given by a Catholic priest. If he wasn’t a regular writer in the local diocesan newspaper I might quickly dismiss some of the things he wrote and said, and, to be honest, I did rather quickly dismiss one of his central points --- but my irritation did not go away, and so I sought further understanding. Could I be wrong on his point?

The priest’s talk began with a joke about the sacrament of Penance. You know, how priests sit around in Persona Christi – as Christ would -- in lounge chairs drinking scotch and smoking cigars as they listen to you confess your sins. Ha-ha. His story and the subsequent laughter reminded me of this story:

But flippancy is the best of all. Any (human) can be trained to talk as if virtue were funny. Among flippant people the joke is always assumed to have been made. But every serious subject is discussed in a manner which implies that they have already found a ridiculous side to it. If prolonged, the habit of flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour plating against the Enemy (God) that I know.
- The Screwtape Letters by C. S. Lewis (Ch. XI)

The priest goes on to state that reconciliation does not occur in the sacrament of Reconciliation, but in the Church Community. He references Mark 5 where the woman is healed of her bleeding and sins by touching the garment of Jesus, and he states that to touch the Church community yields the same results. The Church is the Body of Christ, therefore it can forgive sins. He goes on to give examples of how someone in mortal sin with a sincere desire to receive the Eucharist cannot even have a mortal sin, since the desire to be united with the Body of Christ heals sins. He talks of people who have “nice” kids but they never go to Church. No problem, if you love them they are forgiven of any sins because they are “tied to the Body of Christ” through you. “You can bind and loose their sins. If you love them, they can’t go to hell.” He goes on to state that he wrote these “controversial” things in a recent book and since no bishop has criticized him, they must be okay with the Church.

My friend sincerely wanted to believe this, for her sake and those of her children. Our children often cause us so much heartache, and we want to believe almost anything which would help them, and we’d do almost anything for them. But some things, some pains, are not healed by wanting them to be.

There are lots of references to refute the “uncontested” beliefs of this man. I think the simplest I found is in a little book which pretty clearly states the teachings of the Catholic Church. It’s called the Catechism of the Catholic Church. It notes in paragraph 1461: “Christ entrusted to his apostles the ministry of reconciliation (Cf. Jn 20:23, 2Cor 5:18). Bishops and priests, by virtue of the sacrament of Holy Orders, have the power to forgive all sins ‘in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the holy Spirit.’” Then, in paragraph 1462 it notes: “Forgiveness of sins brings reconciliation with God, but also with Church.” Note the sequence there: Sacrament and forgiveness of sins, which brings reconciliation with God and Church. The priest in his book and talk had it backwards; he said that reconciliation with God and Church (the Body of Christ) brought about forgiveness of sins; the sacrament of Reconciliation had little to do with it.

Perhaps I am wrong; I said I am no theologian. I merely read a lot, and I have a pretty high IQ. I make mistakes, and I admit that I have constantly been growing in the depths of my knowledge of God and of his teachings, but never have I seen what I have learned as a truth turned around into an un-truth. If I can truly forgive sins and guarantee heaven to all whom I love, then let me say to all who read this and all people throughout the world: I love you!! So let’s close up all the churches and quit wasting the time there and move on with improving the lot of people while they are here on earth. By my love, I now declare we are all going to heaven --- or at least in this priest’s understanding, we all are.

A guy named Auguste Comte had a similar notion in the mid-1800’s; he called it positivism. It was to be the “religion of Humanity.” Comte noted that there is no salvation for man except in “community spirit and sense of duty.” Comte taught that the Catholic Church would evolve into something where all the rights of God would be transferred to rights of society. He saw a few brilliant scientists who would lead the world, explaining everything by “methods of persuasion” to achieve “mental regularity” --- everyone thinking the same, “enabling pressure to be brought on those who favored personal opinions.” Catholic social teachings would serve as a platform to teach everyone that their main responsibility is to each other. Then all ideas of rights would be wiped out, and led by the positivist leaders, all would exist in harmony, recognizing not rights, but duties to each --- as explained to them by their leaders. A virtual heaven here on earth, or as much as Comte thought there could be. He generated much discussion of his ideas, but in the end, not many followers. Comte’s ideas of “love everyone to eternal happiness” sounded a lot like those of the priest I noted.

Hmmm. I was led from thoughts about us not needing priests to confess sins, and us being the Body of Christ and just loving each other to heaven, to Comte’s thoughts. Looking at the words in the paragraph above again, and thinking on the situation of our society today, perhaps I should amend that line to say that Comte’s ideas did not generate many followers --- until now.

Oh, Good Grief!! Maybe I shouldn’t go back to read the last paragraph, but go all the way back to and read the top of this blog: Do Not Be Anxious. Worrying about one thing only led me to another; it seems once you start worrying about things, it can become endless. And so in closing, I repeat again, to any confused and disappointed readers: I’m sorry. Sometimes I just can’t help myself (Or would you say that I’m beyond help?).

Monday, September 20, 2010

Spontaneous Creation?

It seems Richard Dawkin’s new book is creating a stir everywhere. I would have only one question of him: “If spontaneous creation is indeed possible as you assert or even, in the time of eons, a likely thing, why then is not spontaneous dissolution equally possible?”

My answer to him would be that it is! All things are possible in God, Q.E.D.. What’s your answer?

All things in nature have been demonstrated to happen because of a source action, a push, or an irresistible need to act, a pull. I see no such “pull” in the universe to compel a “spontaneous creation,” and if you tell me none need exist, then you are merely defining a miracle. And what does that mean? Are you saying that miracles can and do happen, but “of course” God doesn’t do them?

God lacks nothing; therefore His ongoing acts of creation do not find their origin in any kind of need. Instead, God creates out of sheer love, a love so strong that it gives birth to a universe, to innumerable worlds, to uncountable creatures, to humankind, to each and every one of us.
- - Life in Christ, by Fr. Benedict J. Groeschel, (P127)

Sunday, September 19, 2010

Getting in the Mood

The ride to the chapel for the midnight adoration takes me about twenty minutes. Time enough to have a coffee; time enough to calm my mind, time enough to prepare me for time with my God. Unfortunately, some nights it is also time enough to worry. Last night was one of those nights. Plans for the book, am I doing enough; next steps for the jobs class and website – maybe I should do more; the book review, was I fair, or too fair; the finance meeting on Monday, are we ready to incorporate? The balls were bouncing around in my brain, as I drove through the dark night.

Fortunately, sometimes within all this clutter, there is still room for my mind to remember where I am and where I am going, and Whom I am going to see. Then, to get my mind in the proper mood, I often put some beautiful love songs in the CD player, savoring the words, and imagining they are Jesus and I, beginning our conversation for the night, telling each other of the love we feel.

These are a couple of my favorites. I put the woman’s words in italics, and duets in bold. (The words and songs are from a CD titled: Michael Crawford performs Andrew Lloyd Webber.) I pray that, perhaps, these words might also inspire you, to prepare you for your conversations with He who so much wants to love us, and to have us love Him.

All I Ask of You

No more talk of darkness, forget these wide-eyed fears,
I’m here.
Nothing can harm you; My words will warm and calm you.
Let Me be your freedom; let daylight dry your tears.
I’m here with you beside you, to guard you and to guide you.

Say You’ll love me every waking moment.
Turn my head with talk of summertime.
Say You need me with You now and always
Promise me that all You say is true; that’s all I ask of You.

Let Me be your shelter; let Me be your light.
You’re safe.
No one will find you.
Your fears are all behind you.

All I want is freedom, a world with no more night.
And You, always beside me, to hold me and to hide me.

Then say you’ll share with Me one love, one lifetime.
Let Me lead you from your solitude.
Say you need Me with you, here beside you.
Anywhere you go, let Me go too.
Love Me, that’s all I ask of you.

Say You’ll share with me,
One love, one lifetime.
Say the word and I will follow You

Share each day with me,
Each night, each morning.

Say You love me…,

You know I do.

Love me, that’s all I ask of you.
Anywhere you go let me go too.
Love me, that’s all I ask of you.

The First Man You Remember

Other pleasures, and I’ve known many,
Afternoons in warm Venetian squares.
Pleasures old and new, can’t compare with you.
You amaze me; where did you come from.
You do things champagne could never do
Crystal winters, crimson summers, other pleasures,
I would trade them all for you.

I want to be the first man you remember.
I want to be the last one you’ll forget.
I want to be the one you’ll always turn to;
I want to be the one you won’t forget.
May I be first to say you look delightful;
May I be first to dance you round the floor.
The very first to see your face by moonlight,
The very first to walk you to your door.

Well, kind Sir, I’d be delighted.
There is nothing I would rather do.

What could be a sweeter memory
Than sharing my first dance with You.

I want to be the first man you remember
The very first to sweep me off my feet.
I want to be the one you always turn to.
The first to make my young heart miss a beat.

Sailing off in the night, on a silver lake,
Taking more from this life than I ought to take.
Other pleasures, I would trade them all for you.

I want to be ….
The one you won’t forget.

Saturday, September 18, 2010

On Helping the Poor

Sometimes I wonder how much our efforts to help the poor are really helping them. I think and pray on these things: “Lord, am I doing Your will, or mine?” Sometimes it is hard to distinguish.

In America, we have defined a certain income level as being “the poverty level.” People with an annual income below this level are defined as “living in poverty.” Strictly speaking, the numbers are distortions, since one’s income is not necessarily how they are living. Many people, especially among the elderly, have save up or purchased many assets. They can have multiple homes and cars and large amounts of money in their retirement funds, but still fit the category of “living in poverty” if their “new” income level falls in a certain year. This is a distortion. But besides the dollar levels, expectations in America are also a distortion. Huge percentages of those “living in poverty” have homes, cars, big-screen televisions. This isn’t poverty, this is living below where they would like to be. Compared to most countries south of the equator, virtually every American is rich.

But enough of money, certainly a more important measure of richness is a man’s relationship to God, and his pursuit of not earthly, but heavenly happiness. Conversions to the Catholic Church, and to Christian churches in general, are huge on the African continent. While Muslims dominate the religious scene in the North, much of Southern Africa has become Catholic. From what I’ve read, these are good, fervent Catholics. Recently I helped a young woman go to teach at an orphanage in Ghana; her new blog describes the “poverty” there. But she also describes the happiness there, the faith, and yes the family, neighbors loving and caring for one another. Although promptly homesick, she quickly wrote that now she feels part of a family there. “How could I think,” as she first did, “that I wanted to live with other teachers from America or Europe? This is now my family.” So young, and yet she has rapidly learned so much! She is not there to build wells, buy chickens, or build houses. And yet she is there, I believe, to help these people in much more meaningful ways. Helping the poor does not mean giving them things.

If a man is smiling, if he has peace in the Lord, leave him be! Even if he has little food, even if he has dirty, torn clothes, even if he does not have all the earthly blessings as we have, leave him be! In giving to him, you may be taking from him, for you may give him earthly desires and lessen his heavenly ones. If you must interact with him, do not teach him how to gain all your earthly treasures, rather learn from him how to have peace with none. Do not lead him onto the road to hell, rather look to him to help lead you onto the road to heaven.

If a man is at peace with God, leave him in peace! Don’t stir up an envy or hatred of those who have more, materially or spiritually.

In my thinking, I believe this, this is really helping the poor.

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

An On-Line Book Review

Why God Matters: How to Recognize Him in Daily Life, by Karina Lumbert Fabian and Deacon Steven Lambert (Tribute Books)
(visit their website)

I was selected from a large group of Catholic bloggers to review this book, written by a Catholic “re-vert” and her convert father. I agreed to do this because it seemed such a simple thing; I regularly read so many books --- what’s one more. It turned out, however, to be anything but simple.

As anyone who has read my blather in this space knows, I desire and encourage spiritual growth, in part because, as the Catholic Church states, a key purpose of our life is to grow in holiness. So I had some initial misgivings at a first reading of this short book when, instead of promoting spiritual growth, it seemed to be saying: “Look, see how much we’ve grown! Let’s celebrate where we’re at!” This seemed almost childish to me, and the book seemed to tell stories of minor importance --- until I remembered that I was once a child myself, and even some of the smallest things once seemed very big to me.

The book’s cover indicated Why God Matters was written by and for “average” Catholics, and it was written without “religiosity.” “Why God matters,” written in a non-religious way? I, a reader of philosophers, theologians, popes, and doctrinal exegesis, was confused by this simple book before I even read the first page! While I enjoy both the depth of Cantalamessa and the simplicity of Mother Teresa of Calcutta, I didn’t know how to make sense of what I was reading in this book.

For a while, as I read through the 14 simple stories in Why God Matters, my mind was looking for God in the words, in His great complexity and eternal beauty – but many of the stories never even mentioned the word “God”. I was looking for deepness, but I had forgotten Him as I first saw Him, much earlier in my life, as in the simple picking of a flower, or in the comfort of my mother’s hug. I had forgotten the simple joy a child feels (and which we, even as adults, can re-live) when he yells: “Mommy! Mommy! Look, a bug!” The child smiles at his new-found wonder, and so do we. As I began to recall these things, I began to see the beauty so many “average” Catholics have said they see in this book. It is a celebration of God in our lives, in the simple things.

I’ve read many “Catholic” books, from those which challenge me to meditate and grow in love of God, to those which celebrate being Catholic --- except for all those things, you know, that the Church does wrong (and which, they note, is just about everything). This book really is between those extremes; it’s aimed at the Catholic who accepts and loves his faith, even if perhaps he is not as “on fire” as some others. This book takes small snapshots of our life, and enables you to see HIM in the picture. The book shows how much our Catholic faith influences how we think and live, like in its chapters about how we love our neighbor by sharing food with them, or worrying that we’re too much of a burden on them as they wait to pick us up at the airport. It shows that God loves us, through simple reminders to be virtuous or to grow in our faith, or through great acts of our guardian angels to protect us from harm. It is our Catholic faith; it is a way to live our lives --- with God. He is there, He matters, even if we so often forget to notice Him. This book serves to remind us.

On the sidebar of this blog you can see the Prayer to the Apostle Paul, which I pray before mass: “Give us a deep faith, a steadfast hope, a burning love for Our Lord.” Recall how important the adjectives are in our life. Without them life is a dull event. I pray that readers of this book use it to begin to see that deepness, that steadfastness, and that burning in their own lives. It is: why He matters.

The authors of Why God Matters don’t write with many adjectives such as these. Oh, I’m sure they could write the beautiful words of Augustine, late have I loved You, but from reading this book I wouldn’t expect them to write his words: I pant after You. I have tasted You and I hunger and thirst after You. Such emotions are not contained in their words. They don’t write of their tears upon receiving the Eucharist, but try to explain why they don’t want a relationship with Him. Even as they are confident they see Him in their lives, it appears there is so much more they have to learn to know Him; it will take a lifetime of learning. But, hey, they’re young, and they’ve learned the journey can be a joy.

Take a walk with them on their journey in this book; see their joy. See yours. Look!

Sunday, September 12, 2010

Shine on Me

Summer’s almost over; the days are getting shorter, and cooler. The air conditioning’s off, and I thought briefly last night about turning on the heat at my home, but I survived without it. I was thinking on these things as I drove back from church this morning, and looked out at the blue sky and bright sun. Before I go back to mom’s, should I stop at home and open the shades at my house to let the sunlight in?

I did a quick recall of my physics classes, and some common sense: the sun would shine in through the windows and warm everything it touched, the carpets, the furniture, even the darker walls. It would make the house warmer, even if the temperature outside did not get much above 70. Of course, I won’t get back home until after mom goes to bed, and by then it will be dark and cooler. What to do? I reasoned the heat generated within the house coupled with the heat radiating in off of the windows during the 10 hours of daylight remaining would more than offset the cold coming in, in the few hours of darkness. It dawned on me that both the light and the dark would cause heat or cold to radiate off the windows, but only the light would shine into the house, and generate even more heat there. The warm sunlight generates heat, wherever it touches, while the dark and cold just slowly creep in.

It’s kind of that way with our faith, isn’t it? The light shines brightly, generating heat and warmth within our personal home. It’s there most every day, if we open the shades to let it in. God’s radiance feels warm on our body; He doesn’t have to say a word or do a thing, but we can feel Him there. It’s a good feeling. Unfortunately, we often don’t stop to pay attention to the heat of love freely given to us, and we only notice it when it is gone, and the cold of sin or sorrows enter our lives. Then we want His warmth; we want His presence. And so we call out to Him in prayer: please answer us, please come to us. Sometimes when we do that we find, just like when opening the shades, that He is already here, just waiting for us. But sometimes ….

Sometimes we wait a long time before we call. Maybe we think we can do without God; maybe we thought we He’s only there for emergencies. Night sometimes falls on our home, and it is getting pretty cold before we decide we want His heat. Oh, it’s always there, waiting for our call, but sometimes, like the furnace we have to turn on in our house, sometimes it’s going to cost us something. Indeed, sometimes our waiting costs us dearly. Sometimes, even, we find that the furnace refuses to come on; our ignoring it for so long has broken the connection. Oh yes, then it costs us very dearly. We turn on the thermostat: nothing. We pray: nothing. And we have to spend a long cold night, waiting --- and praying --- for the heat to come back on in our lives.

I stopped home and opened the shades. I’m betting the house will be warmer when I get home than if I had not opened the shades, and perhaps I’ll save a little bit of money --- another night I won’t have to turn on the furnace. It’s a good thing to let the sun shine in on my home. I gave thanks to God for the sun, just a little thing, making sure our connection is always working.

Wednesday, September 8, 2010

Pregnant: My Sorrowful Journey

I began to pray the rosary, the Sorrowful Mysteries, and to meditate on the Passion of Christ. At the start, I said I was offering my prayers for an end to abortion, but then my thoughts switched back to something I had said earlier that day: “To fully understand the parables in Scripture, we must put ourselves into the position of the characters Jesus spoke of.” And so I began my rosary again, thinking not only of Jesus’ sorrowful journey, but also the sorrowful journey of the pregnant woman, the one I was praying for.

1. The Agony in the Garden
My decision is: to choose death, to begin this hard journey to please my Father. I feel so alone.
My decision is: to choose live, to accept this hard journey to please my God. I feel so alone.
I feel pain now, but worse may come.
I feel pain now; Jesus, please be with me. I am afraid.
My Father, I will choose to do your will.
My Savior, I will follow Your example. Hold my hand on this painful journey.
I had many followers, but who will follow me now?
I had many friends; I wonder what they will say?
I am resigned; I will do this, Your will.
Jesus, my sorrows are nothing compared to Yours.

2. The Scourging at the Pillar
Real pain now comes. I did not imagine it could be this bad.
The slap came from my father when I told him; mother just cried.
The lashes just continue and continue. Can I do this?
My family, my friends--- my BEST friends, they don’t understand. Can WE do this?
A rhythm develops. I can ignore this pain if I will it.
Everyone turns away. I can ignore their hurts if I will it.
By myself I would give up, but Father, I know You are there.
If I were truly alone, I could not go on, but Jesus, I feel Your strong hand.
In my agony, Father, I trust in You.
In my sorrow, my Jesus, I trust in You.

3. The Crowning of Thorns
This is a time of darkness, alone in my thoughts. I hear them laughing.
More and more, people know. They stare. I see them laughing at me.
I did so much good; many followed me; they understood.
I had so many friends; they said they like me; he said he loved me.
No followers here; only those who mock me.
The days go by alone. Friends? They no longer talk to me.
I thought I saw glory ahead; now I face death.
Life seemed so good, how did things turn so sad?
All the accomplishments, all the lauds --- gone.
I’m doing the right thing --- why does everything seem so wrong?

4. The Carrying of the Cross
I hear the noise of the crowds, but the quiet speaks louder: They don’t care.
My growing child is very visible now; all see; all point at me.
Where is Peter, my best friend? No friends are here in my hour of agony.
All those I thought I could count on, gone. The burden is heavy.
How often I fall, alone I cannot lift myself up.
All I can do is cry. But then, someone comes forward to help. Strangers care.
Simon carries some of the weight. The pain is no less, but I can go on.
Someone says they care; they’re praying for me. It is still hard, but it feels lighter.
I thank my Father for giving me friends, help for the journey.
Thank you, Jesus, I trust in You.

5. The Crucifixion
At the end, few were there, mostly just strangers.
These last months, as I face the uncertain future, I feel alone.
I think of the end, the final agonies. I will to do this for Love.
I think on the physical pain; I expect it to be bad. My will drives me onward.
Physically, I’m weaker, the mocking is louder, but my will is stronger.
I remember why I am doing this. It is not for me. This is the love You taught me.
I had doubts, but in me, never in You, Father. Never in You.
I wasn’t sure I could do this, but God and friends, new friends, give me strength.
I see the coming death; it will bring glory. I trust in You.
I see the coming life; it will bring me great Joy. My Jesus, I trust in You.

Sunday, September 5, 2010

Who Am I?

Most people would consider me a big tipper; when they see what I leave on the table, they often comment that they think I made a mistake. Perhaps I once dated a waitress, I don’t remember, but somehow I gained a perception of how hard waiters and waitresses work. They earn their money. I usually start tipping at about 20-30%, but for lower-priced meals, like breakfasts (where I tend to drink lots of coffee), I never tip less than $5 – often more than the cost of the meal.

So I was taken aback recently when a waitress confided to me that she had “stood up for me” to other waitresses in the Coney Island that I sometimes visit for breakfast. “They said you were a grouch. I explained to them, though, that you always ask for a half-order of food because you don’t want to waste any. I told them to get over it.” I thanked her --- I guess. I was a little stunned.

I generally don’t like leftovers, except mine, and leftovers from breakfast make no sense --- eggs don’t re-heat very well. So I thought I was doing a good thing, and even saving the restaurant money when I began ordering half-orders of their breakfast menu items, and paying in full. I never thought about any inconvenience I may have caused by being different. And, to be honest, I guess sometimes I was “grouchy” when my half-order was delivered in full. Usually I asked for a separate plate and then calmly put half the food on it and handed it back to the waitress saying (politely, I thought): “I just bought you breakfast. Enjoy!” Not too cool, huh? Definitely “different,” but I never gave it much thought. My mind was stuck on the good I thought I was doing, and gave no thought to HOW I was doing it.

I remember the saying “The Lord loves a happy giver.” From the big tips to the saving of food, I think I got the “giver” part right, but I guess not the “happy” part, not if I was perceived as a grouch. (Remember how I recently wrote how important adjectives were? “Happy” giver. I guess I need to re-read that, and seriously think on it.) And I wonder how many other people I interact with each day also think of me as a grouch?

I’d like to survey the people I meet: Who do you say I am? Am I the man who prays his morning prayers before mass, sitting in the same spot each day? Am I the strange old guy who sometimes talks to animals? Am I the generous giver? Am I the man who always seems to have a stain on the front of his shirt? Am I the man who is always reading, like a book grows out of the end of his arm? Am I the man you can call at all hours, who’ll listen and comfort you if you’re having a bad night? Am I the man who writes too much, and contemplates things not worth considering? Am I the grouch?

I wonder, does ANYONE think I am like the Father, even a little bit? I believe Jesus’ Spirit resides in the soul of every man I meet, and it’s Him that I am trying to see in others. And when He looks back, I wonder: “Who do you say I am, Lord?”

I can’t change who people think I am; I can’t change them. But I can change who I am, and how much I am open to receiving God’s grace --- and then giving it away through all my actions. I want this to become natural. And as to the waitresses who started me thinking on these things? Well, perhaps I’ll simplify my orders to just coffee, to not complicate their day, or maybe I’ll tip $20 --- that might change their attitude, or at least make them open to change. But one thing I will deliberately do to them and to others, and to the Jesus I try to see in them, is: I’ll smile. I will try to smile at everyone I meet, everyone. Oh, perhaps a few will think I’m a little nutty, smiling all the time. Well, perhaps that I am.

But I’m not a grouch --- or at least I don’t want to be.

Lord, I am a weak and sinful man. I wish to be an evangelist, to bring your peace to this world, yet so often I bring disharmony. But to give your peace, I know I must first receive it. I must find your Joy in my life. I’ll look for you, in your words, in your actions, in the Eucharist, and in your children who you bring into my life.
Lord, prepare my mind and heart to accept your peace. Let my actions start with my receiving, so that others may then see you in me, and not be discouraged by only seeing me.

Saturday, September 4, 2010

A Simple Child of God

On a quiet holiday weekend, just mom and I, there’s really not much to do. Together, we sometimes both enjoy a television show (especially one with children or animals). Yesterday we watched a 2-hour episode of Little House on the Prairie and, as I’ve described here in the past, the show often tells stories of great faith and wisdom. It’s one of a few series where prayer was a regular part of the show. This episode, in particular, had prayer as its primary focus:

Charles Engles, after 3 girls, finally had a son, and he was very happy. But the baby proved sickly, and within days the situation grew dire. Mom and dad asked the girls to pray for their new brother. Kneeling at her bedside that night, however, young Laura didn’t mention the boy, and her older sister, Mary, asked her why. Laura replied that dad was paying so much attention to him that “pa’s probably praying more than enough for all of us,” besides, “he doesn’t really care about us anymore. All he thinks about is his son.” Mary threatens to tell their parents what Laura had said, but like a good sister she doesn’t.

The son soon died.

Laura was distraught for weeks over the loss, and her self-perceived role in it. She went to her pastor and asked him: “Your sermon today said God can make all things possible. How can you get a miracle? How do you pray hard enough?” The pastor thought and then answered: “God doesn’t guarantee miracles, Laura, but I’ve found that the closer you are to God, the more likely He is to listen.” Laura smiled at that answer, and went off to play.

That night Laura is shown running away from home. She travels off to a high cliff, and begins climbing until she gets to the top. There she innocently prays: “God, I came up here so I could be closer to you, so you could hear me better. Lord, my father needs a son, like you had God. I was thinking, you already have a son, and so maybe you’d like a daughter, like me. And then you could send my brother back to pa, and then you’d both be happy. Please, Lord.”

Meanwhile, Charles read the note that his daughter had left on the fireplace mantle, and hears the whole story from her older sister. He sets out to search for young Laura, with the help of his neighbor Mr. Edwards. They don’t know where to begin.

The next morning, at the top of the cliff, Laura meets a kindly man. He asks her what she’s doing so high up and so far away. She tells him she’s on a trip, but says “I’m not sure where I’m going yet.” He offers her food for the journey, and while he’s eating he starts talking aloud to God. Young Laura is astounded: “God talks to you? I talked to him last night but nothing happened.” The man tells her, “Well, you have to be patient. You know God has lots of children to listen to; he’s a busy man” As they sit and chat, the man makes Laura a wooden cross, and carves her name into it. Unfortunately, later while getting water, she drops it and it is lost.

After she gets more comfortable with him, Laura tells the man what she asked of God, and why. “I guess it’s okay for me to tell you, since you know God so well.” Laura tells him she’s worried because God is not answering her prayer, perhaps it’s because she did such a bad thing. Maybe God doesn’t like her anymore. The man replies that he’s sure that isn’t true. “Even if you do bad things, like everyone does sometimes, you can do good things to make things right with God, good things for others. That makes God happy, you know, because he’s so sad sometimes because people ignore one another.”

Laura walks away to go and pray some more. The man looks up toward heaven and says: “A child like that makes it all worthwhile, doesn’t it.”

Back at the search party, Charles and Mr. Edwards grow weary. They don’t know where to look next. Then they stop to water the horses, and Charles spots a stick floating down the stream. It’s the wooden cross with the word “Laura” carved into it. He smiles and says a prayer of thanks. “It’s her. I know it,” he says. “Let’s look upstream.”

Laura and her new-found friend continue to talk. “I just don’t understand. I prayed as hard as I could. Maybe he can’t forgive me.” “No, he’s very forgiving. He has to be or else he’d have no one to talk to!” Laura thinks that maybe he still isn’t hearing her, and perhaps she needs to go to a higher mountain, so she can get closer to him. As she starts to gather her things the man says: “Wait! Maybe we just need to get his attention better. Let’s build a great big fire, one he can’t fail to see. That’ll get his attention.” And so they set about to gather wood for a fire.

The fire burns brightly, and the man and Laura comment that surely God will see this. Down in the valley, Charles and Mr. Edwards see smoke coming from the top of the nearby cliff, and they start up.

Laura is praying again, “Please God, answer me.” Then in the distance she hears: “Laura!” It is her father calling out her name. The man sitting near her says: “He has answered your prayer; he sent you your pa.” “But it’s not what I prayed for,” she says. “Pa needs a son.” “No child, your pa wants and needs you, and God sent him here. How else would your pa have found you?”

“How can I be sure,” Laura asks. “I know,” he replies, “because He has told me so.” And Laura smiles.

Her pa and Mr. Edwards come up, and there are lots of hugs, kisses, and words of love. It is a happy ending. Then Laura tells her pa about her friend, the one who can talk to God, but when she goes to find him, he is gone. Charles and Mr. Edwards look at one another, wondering if she had made up the story. Then Charles looks down in his hand --- and sees the cross.

Well, I don’t have to explain the morals and implications to you. The story tells these things very well on its own. No commentary is needed.

Considering all the television shows being produced today, I’m happy we can still turn to these old shows, these shows which are not just mindless entertainment, but which also exist to teach and reaffirm important things in life, and the most important Being in life. We can go back and look at these old shows and perhaps for a time feel good about things, and maybe we could pray that God inspires someone, somewhere, to use these shows as a template for future shows. I don’t have great expectations of this happening though, but who knows? --- “Be patient. You know God has lots of children to listen to.”

And so although I read in this morning’s Wall Street Journal a review of Richard Dawkin’s new book, in which he “explains” that: “spontaneous creation from nothing is possible,” I wonder if that spontaneous event can answer a prayer. I have read and studied many things of science, but if it takes being a simple, naïve child to believe in God, then that is what I wish to be.

Friday, September 3, 2010

Better Words Than Mine

This blog originated because some friends suggested that I publish a book of some of my writings. I demurred, perhaps more out of fear than humility. Someone I respected suggested instead a blog, and so I began.

Yesterday I read a book which was written under contract. (You’ll see commentary on it here in a couple of weeks.) I say that the words I post here are meant to be meditations, since invariably that is how they started in my mind. They weren’t little ditties that amused me, nor simple sayings; my mind pondered on them. So I was interested to read these contracted words, meant to be spiritually enlightening words. How did they come about in the author’s mind? My words were things I thought about, I meditated on. I can’t imagine how I could have planned topics for me and God to think on, nor the structure of words to describe them.

Which is why when I don’t have any particular insights, I don’t hesitate to print here the words of others, who I believe do. Today I’ll give you some words about stress and prayer, from some authors I believe will give you something to meditate upon.

Whatever you ask for in prayer with faith, you will receive (Mt 21:22)

Stress can grasp up with such a powerful grip that we feel helpless in getting free. On our own we feel caught, unable to change our experience. That’s when we must remind ourselves that we have powerful assistance available to us. Prayer is a way of changing our way of thinking as well as calling for God’s help in our struggle. Even asking for help begins to turn our experience in a more positive direction. Believing that we will receive help is a wonderful expression of faith. So what we find is that help comes from two directions: from God’s response to our prayer as well as from our own willingness to change our attitudes and thoughts.

This is a joint endeavor, dear God. I’m calling on you to help me with your powerful love to surrender my stress, which keeps me so caught in its grip. I trust that you will help me. And I see that I must do my part too. By my willingness to ask for your help, I want you to know that I’m serious about letting go of my stress. I’ve always taken my stress as a given, and then I’ve just settled down and lived with it. But now I’ve decided to turn to you. Help me trust in you and your power to support me in releasing this stress in my life.

Surrendering Our Stress, by Joan Guntzelman (Surrender in Prayer, P72)

• Our Father, we confess we are in danger of slipping away from the moral and spiritual values which have made us great. We are in danger of losing our way in the midst of other voices that would urge us to put our trust in man rather than You. Give us a new passion for justice, a new zeal for peace, a new commitment to compassion and integrity, and a new vision of what you desire us and this nation to be.
• There is no scriptural basis for segregation. The ground at the foot of the cross is level, and it touches my heart when I see whites standing shoulder to shoulder with blacks at the cross.
• Tears shed for self are tears of weakness, but tears shed for others are a sign of strength.
• There is nothing wrong with men possessing riches. The wrong comes when riches possess men.
• Everybody needs some friends around him who will say, “You are wrong!” And that includes me. I really value the friendship of people who’ll just tell it to me like it is, even though I may try to defend my position for a while.
• When I stand up and preach the Gospel, I no longer worry about whether anybody is going to respond or anybody is going to find Christ. I know that in every audience I talk to, there are some people whose hearts God has prepared if I am faithful in presenting the message of Christ. I may not see any visible results. We are not to preach for results. We are not to count. We are to be faithful and vindicate the righteousness of God by presenting His Word.
• The only time my prayers are never answered is on the golf course.

---- Life Wisdom from Billy Graham (Hallmark Books)

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Our Neighbor; Our Friend

The greatest challenge to our growing in virtue occurs because of our focus on ourselves. We want ever more for ourselves, and we want it now. We let ourselves become the focus of our lives, the never-ending thoughts of “I”. Virtues have to do with your neighbor, and your relationship to him. You can’t grow in holiness; you can’t grow in virtue, if you can’t get past “I”.

If our neighbor is in our house, if he travels with us in our car, or if he is next to us walking in the mall, our mind is very aware of his presence. Our thoughts naturally turn to him: What can we say of interest to him; what can we do together; what worries are on his mind? We find a joy in his presence, and in just being his neighbor.

Jesus is our neighbor. He is ALWAYS next to us. Why do we so often ignore Him, and focus on the all-important “I”? If we find joy in our neighbor’s presence, why don’t we find joy in Jesus’ presence?

If we never spoke to him, if we never laughed together with him, if we never were concerned with what he thought, would our neighbor visit us, journey with us, or walk with us, anymore? Would he care what happens to us? Would he be there in our time of need?

Why should Jesus?

If we stay in our house alone, focused on “I”, despite all our efforts, honestly, just how much joy do we bring ourselves? When I listened to the book “The Last Lecture,” the college professor spoke of all the happiness he went out and got for himself, everything he wanted he went out and got. I wonder why, then, he faced death with no joy --- despite all this “happiness” he went out and got. Despite all the accomplishments and all the happiness, as he stated, “I” got, he still sounded like a man facing death without joy, but only a sadness.

A “lone”, we are alone. Life is not about what “I” can accomplish, but what “WE” can accomplish.