My Time Is Not God’s Time

Tags

, , , ,

It was one year ago today that I began a 2,600 mile, four day solo drive from Cincinnati, Ohio to Seattle, Washington during which I posted daily how God had shown Himself to me in one form or another. Last Saturday I set out again for another long drive for this year’s summer vacation. This trip was a 1,286 mile drive to Ingram, Texas, which is a little over an hour northwest of San Antonio, for a family reunion.

Unlike last year’s trek, I was joined this time by my daughter, Grace. My wife had gone on ahead by flying to Louisiana and then driving to Texas with another daughter. I always look forward to road trips and one of the things I was most looking forward to on this trip was being captive for twenty hours in the same space as Grace. I’m sure, at age 17, she wasn’t quite as enamored with the idea as I was. She will be leaving for college in a few short weeks and this would probably be our last chance to spend any real quality time together.

The level of conversation in the car often depends upon who has control of the stereo. Wanting to make this a pleasurable trip for both of us I relinquished control even though I was driving. This meant I had to listen to a few hours of Bruno Mars, John Mayer and Josh Groban. Pretending to like most of the songs was a small price to pay for this bonding opportunity.

Our plan upon leaving home on Saturday morning was to drive as far as Dallas via Louisville, Nashville, Memphis, and Little Rock. But, before we even arrived in Nashville, I could tell from watching my car’s GPS that our ETA in Dallas was steadily getting later and later because of the delays due to highway construction and heavy rains. By the time we were leaving Nashville I decided to make a hotel reservation in Mt. Pleasant, Texas, about two hours east of Dallas. My GPS said we could arrive at 11:30 p.m. I had already lost two hours during a six hour trip.

We came to another full stop on I-40 east of Jackson, Tennessee for more construction. We crawled along for about ten minutes when we came upon an accident. A Jeep Wrangler had collided with the rear end of a semi-trailer, and a PT Cruiser was bent in half leaning against a highway sign at the bottom of the embankment off the shoulder of the road. The driver of the Jeep was still in his vehicle and a young woman was sitting on the edge of the shoulder in front of the semi tractor. I saw one other person standing around talking on his cell phone.

Car 1

Car 2

Grace was driving so I asked her to pull over. I retrieved my first aid and blood borne pathogens kit from my car (I had just received Medic First Aid/BBP refresher training the Tuesday before and thought it would be a good idea to carry a kit on this trip) and donned the latex gloves. I walked to the girl sitting on the ground and asked about her condition. She was holding a towel to her chin in an effort to stem the bleeding from a cut she had received when her PT Cruiser had rolled down the embankment. She said she had movement of her limbs, head and torso and, other than the cut, was just shaken up. Telling her I would be back in a moment I went to see about the man in the Jeep.

On my way to check on the driver of the Jeep I met the other man who had stopped. He said he had activated EMS but otherwise didn’t know what to do. I then discovered another man who had stopped but who also didn’t know any first aid procedures. I went to the Jeep and found the young man coherent. He also said he could move his torso, neck and head but that he thought he had a broken leg because he was trapped in the vehicle. Upon inspection, he was indeed trapped and would have to be cut out of the vehicle.

As I was talking to the young man another man stopped and came up to me and asked if I was a medical professional. I replied I was not and he said he was a nurse. I asked him to take over here and I would go back to the driver of the other car.

When I walked back to the young woman, another woman walked up and said she was a nurse and, after relaying what I could tell of the injuries, I asked her to take over with this patient. I asked the young woman what had happened. She said she was stopped behind the semi and she saw that the vehicle behind her didn’t appear as if it was going to stop so she tried to move over onto the shoulder.   The Jeep slammed into the rear of her car and forced her down the embankment and caused her car to roll over. The Jeep then slammed into the rear of the semi-trailer.

It was obvious that her defensive driving tactic of looking in her rear view mirror had saved her life. Had she not made an attempt to move to the right onto the shoulder the Jeep would have pushed her car under the trailer and she could have easily been crushed and decapitated.

As she related the incident she began to cry. With medical professionals on-site and the EMS on its way, I decided there wasn’t much else for me to do. But, then I thought there might be one more thing I could do. I asked the young woman what her name was and she said it was Julia. I said to Julia that I didn’t know if she was a religious person but I would be happy to pray with her if she would like. She looked me in the eye and said, “Please do!”

As I knelt, I took her hand and I prayed for God to hold her close to Him, to heal her wounds, both physical and emotional, as well as those of the other driver, and l gave thanks for saving her from injuries worse than she actually received. When I finished praying she had stopped crying, smiled and thanked me. As I walked back to my car I heard the sirens of the emergency vehicles approaching.

Grace and I resumed our trip. We stopped in Jackson, Tennessee for reconciliation and mass at St. Mary’s Catholic Church. We got stuck in more severe weather and more construction delays. She conceded and we listened to some ‘70s music from Jimmy Buffet, Jerry Jeff Walker and Marshall Tucker Band. We arrived at our hotel at 2:30 a.m., three hours later than expected. What should have been a 13.5 hour drive turned into 18.5 hours.

As my head hit the pillow I remembered my prayers. I thanked God for delivering us safely but I wished we had not had so many delays. I prayed for the two injured young people from earlier in the day and I gave thanks for the opportunity to spend quality time with Grace. And then, the God-moment came to me. I believe now that the delays we had both prior to and after coming upon that accident were two-fold and were meant to be. Even though I may not have been able to do anything to help with their injuries, maybe, just maybe, I was able to be of help spiritually to Julia. Perhaps it was God’s plan for me to be there at that moment in time not to attend to injuries of the body but to strengthen a spirit. And, perhaps God knew that Grace and I needed an extra five hours of togetherness.

“Heavenly Father, I give you thanks for allowing me to be an instrument of your love and to spread your love through charity to others. Thank you for the opportunities you give me to build loving relationships with my family and friends and new acquaintances. Amen.”

(The post My Time Is Not God’s Time was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

The Rotten Tree

Tags

, , ,

999-408

This week finds me on the road for business again, specifically in Nashville, Tennessee, for two days and nights. After a long day of meetings I chose not to join my co-workers this evening at the restaurant where we usually go because I didn’t want to overindulge on their generous portions and delicious food. I am trying to minimize the opportunities for temptation to seize me. So, instead, I decided to make a trip to Kroger and purchase a healthier and more appropriately sized meal.

On the way to Kroger I happened to pass by the Holy Rosary Catholic Church. This in itself was sort of a serendipitous event because, for a city the size of Nashville, there really aren’t very many Catholic churches. The sign out front announced there was a Wednesday evening mass at 6:00 p.m., which was only 20 minutes away. My first thought was how attending mass would be a wonderful way to de-stress and refresh from a day of learning we would have to do more with already stretched resources. My second thought was how once again, through a “God-moment”, He shows up just when I need Him.

I parked, found my way to the front door, and entered the church. I was the first one in the church other than the lector, who was practicing his reading, so I knelt and got some good prayer time in. When mass started I was one of nine people in the congregation.

The first reading came from 2 Kings but, between my hard-hearing and the lector’s soft voice, I failed to grasp most of the reading. Then, the pastor of Holy Rosary, Rev. Mark Hunt, delivered the gospel for the day, loudly and clearly such that I could hear each word:

“Beware of false prophets, who come to you in sheep’s clothing, but underneath are ravenous wolves. By their fruits you will know them. Do people pick grapes from thornbushes, or figs from thistles? Just so, every good tree bears good fruit, and a rotten tree bears bad fruit. A good tree cannot bear bad fruit, nor can a rotten tree bear good fruit. Every tree that does not bear good fruit will be cut down and thrown in the fire. So by the fruits you will know them.” – Matthew 7:15-20

Well, I don’t know about you but it always takes some dedicated effort on my part, or stooping to ask someone else, to get straight in my mind what Jesus meant in some of his parables. Just after I had resigned myself to stew on this later this evening, Fr. Mark delivered his homily with a message that helped explain it for me. I feel obligated to share with you the salient part of his homily in the best rendition I can muster:

“One day a man invited his boss to his home for dinner with him and his family. The boss was the type who had worked hard for his position but held himself in very high esteem and often let his employees know just how highly he regarded himself. After a fine dinner with the man, his wife and his son, during which the boss repeatedly expounded on his many accomplishments, the boss became aware of the boy staring at him. Not used to receiving this kind of treatment, the boss asked, ‘Excuse me lad, why are you staring at me?’ The son answered, ‘My dad says you are a self-made man.’ The boss, puffing up his chest, responded, ‘Yes, I am, but what is it about my success that is causing you to stare?’ ‘Well’, the son answered again, ‘I was just wondering why you made yourself such a jerk!’”

Thank you, Fr. Mark, for the lesson on the importance of humility, for explaining the difference between the good and bad trees, and the fruit that both bear. And, if I didn’t know better, I’d say you knew the boss I had back in ’95 and ’96!

“Heavenly Father, please forgive me for those times I have been a ‘rotten tree’ and have surely put on airs to impress myself and others. I beseech You to grace me with humility and a desire to serve others that allows me to be a ‘good tree’ from which may be harvested ‘good fruit’. Amen.”

  

(The post, The Rotten Tree, was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Beginning Again

Tags

, , ,

“Likewise, the Spirit helps us in our weakness. For we do not know what to pray for as we ought, but the Spirit itself intercedes for us with groanings too deep for words.” – Romans 8:26

Photo credit: U Turn for Christ

Photo credit: U Turn for Christ

As I sit down to write I know it has been a while since my last post – a full six weeks. It feels good to be back and even better to have the craziness of the last month and a half behind me.

As much as I like to write there are many other priorities in my life, whether I like it or not, that are either more important or more urgent than sharing my thoughts with you. On the up-side, over this six week period I have attended my daughter’s high school graduation, prepared for and hosted a graduation party, had the pleasure of family from out of town stay with us for several days, and hosted a party for some dear friends who are relocating out of state. On the down-side, I’ve fought the Ohio spring weather in trying to complete the spring clean-up of my property, and made many more business trips out of town than I normally do.

About a week and a half ago, after most of these things were behind me and the pressure was off, I “woke up” one morning on my way to the office and realized I had not prayed or had my daily conversations with Jesus in too many days. Then, I looked back and I realized those days had grown into weeks.

I spent the rest of the drive to work contemplating what had happened. I realized I had simply been caught up in the urgencies of so many things pulling me in different directions that I had let Him fall off my radar screen. Once I got past the sense of shame I felt a little bit of consolation in that I still had faithfully attended mass every Sunday (even though it was at four different churches), and spent an hour with the Lord during Adoration every Friday evening. As I parked my car I thought, “I’ll take some time later this morning and pray”.

Later that morning didn’t happen. I didn’t think again about praying until the next morning as I began my drive into work. Again, I decided I had let too many other things get in the way of my daily prayer. But, this particular morning, after deciding I needed to spend some time in prayer, I thought, “Where do I start? How do I come back?” And, then, before I answered those questions for myself, I was parking my car again.

Another 24 hours passed and I resumed the conversation with myself the next morning. But, the only answer I came up with was, “I don’t know where to start”. Frustrated, I vowed to think about it later, and I opted to listen to some music the rest of the way in to work.

I had the new CD from Jason Gray, Love Will Have The Final Word, in the stereo so I turned it on. One song was just ending and the next song, Begin Again1, began playing. About two-thirds of the way into the song the following lines caught my attention:

“It’s never too late for a new start / If you give God the pieces of your broken heart / When you come to the end, you can begin again.”

“Begin Again”. That was the answer. With those words, I knew it didn’t matter where I started or how I began “coming back”, just that I do start and I do come back. God doesn’t care how I do it, just that I do it!

Shortly thereafter I pulled into my parking lot and went to my office. Being a half hour early to work, I had time to pray, to “Begin Again”. I just started praying like I was having a conversation with an old friend I hadn’t seen in, well, six weeks or so. It felt good. It felt welcoming. I felt His Grace come over me and I thanked Him for taking me back. And, before I said, “Amen”, I thanked Him again for coming to my rescue in the way I’ve come to expect – through some mysterious and unexpected sign such as a timely song lyric or other phenomenon which most people would call coincidence. I know otherwise.

Later that morning as I was basking in the comfort of His love I wondered about all the people who drift away from God. How many of them start the same way I did, slowly, surely, and freely letting the busy-ness of life get in the way of maintaining their relationship with Him? How many drift too far away before realizing it, convince themselves they are too far out to sea to turn back, or forget their faith is their life raft that will keep them afloat? Too many, I’m afraid, forget the first step to beginning again is to whisper His name.

“Dear God, I thank you for Your gift of faith, for a heart to love You and a mind to know You, and for the courage and will to come back to You when I have drifted away from You. Lord, hear my prayer for everyone who finds themselves alone, that they may accept Your gift of faith, hear Your voice or see Your signs that are calling them home to You. Let me be a disciple who leads the way. Amen”

1 Begin Again, words and music by Jason Gray and Jason Ingram. ©2014 Centricity Songs, Jason Gray Designee (BMI)/Sony ATV Timber Publishing, Open Hands Music (SESAC)

(The post, Beginning Again, was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

The Reward I Receive Now

Tags

,

This morning I realized I was a full week behind with my reading from this Easter season’s Little White Book so I took some time before work to catch up. When I got to today’s reading for 16 May 2014, Friday of the Fourth Week of Easter, I couldn’t help but look upwards, smile and give thanks. Unbeknownst to me, today’s reading is based on John 6:55-56, the very passage about which I wrote and posted as The Bread of Life just last night. Believe me, folks, I had no idea I would be reading more about this today.

I think it is His way of reinforcing what He just taught me.

Because today’s entry from The Little White Book perfectly complements my reflections on receiving the Eucharist, I feel obligated to reprint the passage here.

(The following is reprinted from The Little White Book, Little Books of the Diocese of Saginaw, Inc., ®2013 Diocese of Saginaw)

“For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” (Jn 6:55-56)

This week Jesus leaves no room for hedging or metaphor. He speaks flat out, straight: “This is my flesh…This is my blood.”

He doesn’t say, “My body, my presence.” He says, “This is my flesh.” And he doesn’t just say those who “take in” his body. He says those who feed on his flesh and drink his blood.

It’s real, literal, graphic.

It seems like there are two ways of receiving Communion. One is as a child who tends to see Communion as almost a spiritual dessert.

Another way is to become part of Jesus and the way he lived. The moment of sharing Eucharist is meant to be a moment of conversion. When I receive the Lord, I’m consciously saying, “Yes, I want to live Jesus’ way. I want his way to be part of who I am.”

The Eucharist isn’t a reward I receive after I have put my life entirely in order. It is in itself a conversion experience, part of the ongoing change and reform that is involved in following the Lord.

It’s the reward I receive now.

(The post The Reward I Receive Now was first published in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

The Bread of Life

Tags

, , , , ,

There is truly something special about a holy hour of Adoration! There are simply too many of my prayers answered and mysteries explained to me for the Holy Spirit not to be working during that precious hour of genuflection when it’s just me and Jesus. I’ve written about many instances where I have been graced with understanding during that weekly event, and I now have one more “God moment” to add to the list.

In my last post, Never Stop Learning, I recounted how I would pray for God to fill my heart with the Holy Spirit when I started to feel a little empty and I needed to be jazzed up. Then, through a serendipitous reading of Romans 5:5 during my holy hour of Adoration, I came to understand that the gift of God’s love had already been poured into my heart through the Holy Spirit at my baptism and that His love for me is constant and never-ending.

Also, through that discovery, I began to make sense of why I sometimes feel exhilarated in my spiritual life and why sometimes I feel less so. But, even though I know I can’t sustain the spiritual rush that goes along with “being in love with the ‘feeling’”, I still pondered how to find a more consistent, day-in/day-out feeling of “being in love with Jesus”. I needed to figure out how to level the bumps in the road.

So, last Friday afternoon during my holy hour, I prayed for understanding of how to maintain that closeness with Him from one day to the next. Then, as I often do to round out the hour after my prayers, I opened the bible to read.   That afternoon I chose to read the daily scripture instead of randomly picking a passage from the bible. The gospel for the day was John 6 : 55-58. I read it and, just like the week before when I read Romans 5 : 5, I had to immediately re-read it because I couldn’t believe what I had just read:

“(55)For my flesh is true food, and my blood is true drink. (56)Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him. (57)Just as the living Father sent me and I have life because of the Father, so also the one who feeds on me will have life because of me. (58)This is the bread that came down from heaven. Unlike your ancestors who ate and still died, whoever eats this bread will live forever.”

Jesus the Bread of life

“Whoever eats my flesh and drinks my blood remains in me and I in him.” There it was – the answer for which I had prayed just two minutes before. My mind jumped back a year to the night I became Catholic and I remembered my baptism, my first Communion and Confirmation. I remembered how the best part was feeling the presence of Christ upon receiving His precious body and blood during first Communion. And, I knew that all I needed to do to level those bumps in the road was to be renewed in Him each week through taking of the Eucharist, and to remember that He is in me and I in him – that His love is constant and never ending.

I get it. And, I won’t forget it. This week, as I’ve approached those bumps in the road, I have had to stop several times, whisper His name, and remember that He is in me. Each time I have been graced with instant peace.

My next holy hour of Adoration is tomorrow afternoon. I can’t wait to discover what new insights I will receive through listening to His comforting words. If you haven’t experienced this grace that comes from spending an hour in His presence, I encourage you to give it a try.

Lord Jesus, Your presence, through receiving Your precious body and blood in the Eucharist, nourishes and sustains me daily and brings me everlasting life. May I always allow you to satisfy my spiritual appetite. You are the Bread of Life.

Amen

(The post The Bread of Life first appeared in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Never Stop Learning

Tags

,

I have now been Catholic for a little over 13 months and I have finally realized and accepted that I will never stop learning about my faith and discovering what it means, to me, to be a Christian. There is just so much to wrap my mind around. It seems that every time I open and read passages from the bible, read my daily devotional by St. Augustine, meet and discuss my faith with my men’s group, or other such opportunities, I have a new revelation that is either a totally “Ah-ha” moment or, at least, clarifies something about which I have been unsure.

Most of the time I feel as if I’m the last Christian in the world to “get it”, but, then, I realize there are probably others out there who are in the same boat as me. And, so, I write about it to both help me better understand and with the hope that I might reach one of those folks and bring him, or her, a little closer to Christ.

A couple weeks ago I posted in Praying for Help that a recent epiphany was finally understanding that God is always there trying to help me if I will only let Him. In the instance I mentioned, where I grew into the habit of praying for God to help make me a better person, I realized that He has given me all the knowledge, skills and tools I need to become better in all the roles of my life if only I will do His will. So, now I simply pray, “Please, Lord, give me the prudence, courage and strength to do your will.”

Besides praying for God’s help, there is one other standard fixture in my daily prayers: “Please, Lord, fill my heart with Your Holy Spirit and Your love so that, as Your disciple, I may readily give it away to others.” When I think back to times when I was particularly “in the Spirit”, such as after a Christ Renews His Parish weekend, or after an especially gratifying Adoration hour, I believed I had been graced with the Holy Spirit during that particular instance. Thus, as my spirituality waned from time to time, I prayed to be “revisited” and “renewed”.

And so it was that during a recent Adoration hour I prayed my modified prayer for the wherewithal to do His will, and I prayed my regular prayer to be filled with the Holy Spirit. Then, after praying, I opened my bible to read from a random page. This time I opened it to Paul’s Letter to the Romans, Chapter 5, and began reading. When I got to verse 5, I stopped and re-read these words again:

Romans 5:5 – “and hope does not disappoint, because the love of God has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit that has been given to us.”

This was an “Ah-ha” déjà vu moment all over again. St. Paul was telling me that, just like praying for help, I don’t need to pray to be filled with His love and Holy Spirit, I already have it in me, it was a gift I received at my baptism.

But, I admit, I’ve had to think about and digest this a bit. If this is true, if I indeed have a continuous supply of high octane Spirit in my tank, why, then, do I feel I need to be refueled from time to time?

After days of contemplation, I decided the answer to that question was that the standard to which I had been comparing the amount of energy, or Spirit, I had in my tank was flawed. It was inflated. Those times when I felt farthest from Christ were not because my tank was getting close to empty, but rather that, in those moments when I felt closest to Him, my engine was turbo-charged and running like an Indy car.

Well, as much as I like the exhilaration that goes along with moments like that, I know it is not sustainable. As much as I would like to feel that rush every day, I know I can’t handle it. My life would be a wreck. I need days when I can only run at the speed limit. I accept, too, that there will be days when things beyond my control force me to slow down, and days when my engine conks.

I’ve been kicking this idea around in my head for a couple weeks, trying to be sure I had it right. In fact, everything written up to this paragraph has been written for many days. But, actually, I felt stuck.  In the back of my mind, it seemed there must be a reason why we Christians, or perhaps simply us humans, cannot sustain the continuous rush of an emotional or spiritual high, and I wasn’t sure why.

So, in the hopes of bringing closure, I brought it up two nights ago at my Men’s Bible Study meeting thinking that they might shed some light on the idea and get me beyond my impasse. And, they did, at least in a way that makes sense to me. My friend Carl told me that our mutual friend, Jim, once explained to him that folks who constantly seek that rush tend to be in love with the feeling. But, he said, we can only mature as Christians by understanding and accepting that it is Christ with whom we should fall in love instead of the experience. Only in this way can we build that personal relationship with Him.

And, believe it or not, while typing that last sentence, I had another déjà vu moment. Those words sounded familiar. I found them in my blog post Are You In the Garden or in the Desert? from back in February . With quotes from Fr. Robert Barron and Archbishop Fulton Sheen, I used that very thought to explain why we go through spiritually dry periods. I suppose at the time it didn’t occur to me it could be the anecdote for why our spiritual highs need to be limited, too.

Now, I will have to alter the second part of my standard prayer to go something like, “ Lord, please help me remember that Your love is constant, that your Spirit resides in me. Help me show my love for You by being Your disciple and spreading Your love to others.”

“Lord, help me to always seek to understand Your Word and to never stop learning how to do Your will”.

(The post Never Stop Learning first appeared in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Amen

Conquering Temptations

“Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has been proven he will receive the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.  No one experiencing temptation should say, “I am being tempted by God”; for God is not subject to temptation to evil, and he himself tempts no one.  Rather, each person is tempted when lured and enticed by his desire.  Then desire conceives and brings forth sin, and when sin reaches maturity it gives birth to death.”

James 1:12-15

At a recent men’s group, I was asked to pick the bible verse to discuss. Coincidently, at one of the daily masses that week, this passage from James was read. I imagine we all struggle with some kind of temptation in our lives. A few years ago, through prayer (both my wife’s and mine) and God’s grace, I broke free from one that was damaging our marriage.  Because of this and our commitment to live an Ephesians 5 relationship, our marriage is stronger today. However, that was only one of my many temptations.

I have struggled with my weight since I was a teenager. Going up and down in weight (mostly up), trying all the fad diets out there. In 1999-2000, I lost a bunch of weight through Weight Watchers. However, when we moved to Texas, I discovered how much I loved Texas BBQ and Mexican food. The weight quickly returned.

The other primary temptation I had succumbed to was a 30-year love affair with Diet Coke. I averaged 6-8 cans a day most days and bought them by the case full at every sales opportunity.   At just six cans a day, that works out to be 91 cases a year. That does not include the bottles I would buy out of the vending machine for my drive home from work every day. That is a lot of pop/soda for one guy.

On October 31, 2013, I turned 48. Not normally one to care about my age, this one bugged me. Probably because 48 is awfully close to 50 (with apologies to my aged friends and family who have passed the 50 mark). Consequently, I decided that I wanted to gain better control of myself. Not just for health reasons, but because I no longer wanted “things” to control me. Food controlled me. Diet Coke controlled me. I was determined that I would gain discipline over my desires. If I could do that, 50 would not seem so bad (again, apologies to you seasoned citizens).

On November 5, 2013 I committed to lose and maintain a 50-pound weight loss by the time I turned 50. I called it my 50×50 plan. Holidays seem like a crazy time to start a weight loss program but I did not want to wait. I got back on Weight Watchers and followed it strictly every day. Nothing I ate went unrecorded. As I write this, I have lost 49.4 pounds and should reach that 50-pound milestone this week or next. I have gone from a 42 waist to a comfortable 38. A 50R suit coat to a 46R coat. I have spent a bunch of money on new suits and clothes but it has been the best money I have ever spent. Weight Watchers says I should lose another 20 pounds and I am going to try to do so. Mostly, though, now that the weather is finally better, I am going to get outside and get some exercise. Physical laziness will be the next temptation I will conquer.

Now, what about that Diet Coke addiction? On the Friday after Thanksgiving, I drank my last Diet Coke. I had a week of headaches and then another week of fatigue as the caffeine got out of my system. I haven’t touched it since and I feel great. I now drink water and Crystal Light exclusively at home and work. I do miss it at times, but controlling the temptation is building up my “discipline muscles.”

“Blessed is he who perseveres in temptation, for when he has proven he will received the crown of life that he promised to those who love him.” All things are possible with God, even beating food and Diet Coke addictions.

What tempts you each day? What can you do to conquer those temptations?

 

You Filled the Hearts of Your Faithful

Tags

, , , ,

As we alumni processed into the dining hall and I glanced into the eyes of the men sitting there, surprised to see the appearance of strangers strolling in and singing, “City of God”, I knew You had just had a hand in something very special. You were present in that room. I could feel You and, from the looks on so many faces, they could feel Your presence, too.

When those nine men on the St. Francis de Sales Christ Renews His Parish Receiving Team #28, stood to offer thanks to the Giving Team for the gift they had received, and then began to recount their experiences of the last thirty hours, they confirmed my suspicion – You weren’t just in the room, You were in each of their hearts.

Lord Jesus, You know we have been praying this prayer for the last six months:

Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful

And kindle in them the fire of Your love.

Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created,

And You shall renew the face of the earth.

O, God, who by the light of the Holy Spirit,

Did instruct the hearts of the faithful,

Grant that, by the same Holy Spirit, we may be truly wise

And ever rejoice in His consolations.

Through Christ our Lord, Amen

Today You answered our prayers.

You filled the hearts of Your faithful.

(The post You Filled the Hearts of Your Faithful first appeared in Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Praying for Help

Tags

, ,

Do you ever pray for help?

I try to, at least every morning and evening. It usually goes something like this, “Heavenly Father, please help me to be a better husband, father, son, brother, and friend today. Oh, and please help me to grow closer to you, too.”

One morning a few weeks ago it struck me that I was starting and ending each day with prayers that sounded pretty much like the ones from the day before, and the day before that. And, in spite of those prayers, I realized I was not becoming a better husband, father, son, brother or friend. At least not noticeably. In fact, it felt as though for every step forwards I was taking a step backwards. It seemed I was getting worse in those roles and, especially when I was acutely aware of my sins, I felt like I was moving away from God.

I have been trying to stay in touch with my spirituality and it bothers me when things like this happen. There is a certain amount of frustration that goes along with wondering what I’m doing wrong. There is a measure of guilt that is due to knowing I’m not quite living as Christ would have me live. I want to get it right but I often feel I am failing miserably. Thus, I pray more earnestly for His help. And the cycle continues.

Then, over the course of a few days, I made two observations which caused me to back up and reconsider my situation and my methods. The result was one more epiphany for me in this process of understanding and practicing my faith.

The first of those two came during a bible study gathering with some of my friends even though I didn’t comprehend the full meaning of it until the second instance came along. In our opening prayer for the evening my friend, Bob, asked God, “Please give us the prudence, courage and the strength to do your will….” I remember thinking how his was a little different than my normal daily prayer but I didn’t understand the significance of it until later.

The second observance came from re-reading a short passage in the Lenten “Little Black Book” from Wednesday, 19 March, in which the topic was how difficult it is to accept the Father’s will. The author asks, “Ever try to help a bird get out of your house? You’re trying to give it freedom, and it resists as though you were trying to harm it.” This is something I can relate to because I often have birds get trapped in my chimney and, even when I open the flue and the window to let them out, they don’t always go where I want them to go.

The author continued, “Sometimes it’s the same thing with me and God. I get into some problems, God tries to lead me to freedom, and I resist.”

My “Ah-ha” moment occurred when I combined these two instances. Finally, after all this time, I came to see and accept that God is always there for me and offering His help regardless if I ask Him for it or not. He has given me all the knowledge, skills and tools I need to be a better husband, father, son, brother and friend if only I will do His will. He has given me the prudence or the common sense to know what is right, and He has given me the wherewithal for when I choose to act on those right decisions.

On the other hand, I understand that God has also given me the free will to do otherwise – to turn my back to Him and act according to my own will, not His. Recently, I have felt as though I am getting pretty good at doing just this.

So, what am I trying to do differently to right my ship? Well, when I pray I am trying to be more contemplative and specific about the things for which I need His help. I try to consider what is in a right relation to His will regardless of my own desires at the moment, and I try to follow through on those thoughts. Am I always successful? No, my stubbornness and concupiscence still get in the way. But, I think I’m on the right track. And, God has given me the gift of hope that I will continue to get better. So, for now, the best way for me to exercise this gift of hope is to follow Bob’s example and pray for that which I really need: “Please, Lord, give me the prudence, courage and strength to do your will.”

Thank you, Lord, for friends like Bob.

Isaiah 40:29-31

(29) “He gives power to the faint, abundant strength to the weak. (30) Though young men faint and grow weary, and youths stagger and fall, (31) they that hope in the Lord will renew their strength, they will soar on eagles’ wings; they will run and not grow weary, walk and not grow faint.”

Thank you, Lord, for my friend, Jerry, who forwarded this verse to me just when I needed it.

(The post Praying For Help was first published on Reflections of a Lay Catholic)

Follow

Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 48 other followers