Saturday, May 13, 2017

NEW BOOK!! MISSION VATICAN



Hi everyone! 
After ten years of research and writing, six months of it in Europe, finally it's out. 
I have just published the first book of my mission trilogy, MISSION VATICAN! (at Amazon.com)

Mission Vatican


It is a must-read for anyone who likes intrigue, danger, history, theology, philosophy with a dash of romance that will continue in the next two books. Please take a moment to watch the book trailers and then get the book. It is also available on Kindle! 

Feel free to share the book trailers:








FOR A LIGHTER SIDE:





Wednesday, May 10, 2017

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MARRIAGE

THE TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MARRIAGE

By Arthur and Teresa Beem



We have a large family by today's standards. With our own children, plus many nephews and nieces that have recently married and more who will become married in the next few years, I thought I would hand off some advice to them and their potential spouses. After all, my husband, Arthur and I began dating in 1979 and married in 1984 and so we have learned some things about how to be happily married.

WHAT IS MARRIAGE?

As crazy as it may seem to ask that question; in today's world, it is time to go back to the basics and review what marriage actually is and what God established it for. Marriage isn't just nature working itself out. It is so much more. In fact, God told us that marriage is a profound and great mystery. God infused marriage and the family with deep symbolism that foreshadow and prophesy of who God is. The triune man, woman and child express the relationship between God the Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Marriage reflects the Trinity. God wanted us to learn of Him through His crowning creation of the family.

But the layers of meaning in marriage go much deeper. Marriage is a symbol of Christ and His Church. The man represents God and the woman represents His Church. Just as Christ and His Church are one flesh, the church being His Body on earth, so a man is to be one flesh with his wife. She is his body. Whole books have been written on just this very topic and the mystery of marriage is profound.

Marriage is a sacrament. That is, God instituted marriage in order to help man grow in perfection. When two Christians are joined together by God in Holy Matrimony, there is special grace given to them; marriage infuses divine graces that actually propel those people into righteousness. The selfless, sacrificial demands of marriage take us out of our narcissistic self-centeredness and through love we are to give ourselves fully to another person. Holy Matrimony is God's gift to His people draw us into and lead us to the perfection. And each spouse's first duty is to see that, through loving sacrifice and daily encouragement, their spouse makes it to heaven. That is one of the purposes of this eternal, monogamous institution. Marriage is supposed to be a saint-maker. But that vital truth has been lost in our culture of pursuing personal happiness.

Man is told to make a kingdom on earth to reflect the Kingdom of Heaven.
Into marriage, this amazing reflection of God's unity and love, something miraculous happens. Within the marital embrace, we become most like Him. From this holy union, immortal life springs! If we have the wealth to build civilizations; if we build monuments that will stand for thousands of years to honor us, there is nothing a human can achieve on earth that comes close to the divine miracle of creating a human not only in our own likeness, but in the likeness of God! Our Christian children—those precious souls who will never die, who are destined to rule heaven as kings and queens—that God privileges us to be born from our own bodies, are brought into the world through the little trinity. Life! The ultimate joy and design of marriage shows us in a very real sense who God is and His love for us.

Satan's final attack on humans will be to utterly destroy the family—man, woman and child—for it most represents the Trinity in heaven.

Create your Kingdom and bring the Kingdom of God to earth.

PREPARING FOR MARRIAGE

Statistically, almost everyone gets married, so everyone needs to be preparing for this way before they are old enough to date. Historically, all known cultures and civilizations used to prepare their children for marriage and families, but today we just assume it happens naturally. Tragically, parents focus their time and resources on preparing our children to make money instead of preparing them for something vastly more important.  

No matter how wild and irresponsible you were before marriage, parents need to step up and start expecting more from their own children. No need to just assume that your child's behavior will inevitably be like yours. You are to have the courage, as parents, to be the giant shoulders your children will stand on. Don't curse your children by saying nothing and assuming they will make the same mistakes you did. Teach your children to be faithful to the spouse they will eventually meet. Explain to them that one day they will stand before someone they love with all their hearts. They will at one point find someone they will make the vow to be faithful to "until death do us part." There is no joy on earth that equals giving yourself to your spouse fully, without regret of having slept with anyone else. The greatest gift you could ever give your husband or wife is to have been faithful to them sexually before you ever met them. In our Sodom and Gomorrah culture of lasciviousness and wanton self-gratification, we do not see the vital need of keeping oneself for one's spouse. Mainly because many, if not most, of us were not sexually pure when we got married.


If you are young, I urge you to pray and think about this important topic carefully. Be courageous. Be a hero to the one you will one day love.

NOTE FOR DISILLUSIONED NEWLY WEDS

One last note before we begin the Ten Commandments of marriage. I have often heard people make the grievous statement, "I think I married the wrong person." If you both are Christians, that is utterly impossible. God would never join in a holy commitment of marriage two people who He would not give the grace to be the perfect mate. Never even allow that thought to come into your head. You did not marry the wrong person. You have come up to a situation in which marriage has greatly wounded you or you feel betrayed or disillusioned. Grab your beloved and pray. Rededicate your hearts and souls and minds to God and start anew, no matter how painful or hopeless the situation. Do not despair. God has given us marriage to heal our wounded and sinful souls. Now is the time to grasp God's promise that nothing is impossible for Him. Time for the battle of prayer to release yourself and your spouse from the grip of sin.



TEN COMMANDMENTS OF MARRIAGE

10) THOU SHALT SLOW DOWN AND THINK

The bad news: marriage doesn't happen naturally and is hard work. The good news: the hard work can be fun and rewarding like climbing a mountain or getting to the Olympics or writing a novel or going on vacation. It is so worth the time, effort and sacrifice.


Take time everyday to think—not just about your marriage—about important things. Think about how to be a better person, how to be a better Christian, how your home can work better and how to be a better spouse.

Caution: Often in this step of thinking, newly-married people focus on how their spouse can change to make their lives happier. As you mature in Christ, you will focus less on how others can make you happy and begin to realize that you will only find lasting joy through giving joy to your spouse. Jimmy Durante had a song that helped remind me of this, "Make Someone Happy."
(https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z_AQMaqDLtg)

Also, when you sit down to think, try and discover how your husband or wife sees a situation. Try to see things through their perspective. And ask God to give you wisdom so that you can see better how to make your marriage glorify Him and be a blessing not only to the two of you and your children, but be a witness to the world of the relationship of Christ and His Church.

We live in a world that is glutted with entertainment and noise. Take time daily to find a quiet spot to think. It will make your marriage better.

9) THOU SHALT KEEP THE FESTIVALS

Just as the church has liturgical seasons, such as Easter, where we are commanded by God to rejoice and celebrate, marriage needs these too! Find out what you both enjoy doing and do it often. It doesn't have to be expensive: cook together, watch sports, read to each other, walk or ride bikes, dance, sing.

It is normal for couples go to counseling and make time to deal with their problems, but they often forget that couples need to nurture the greatness of marriage. Life can be stressful—with student debts, misunderstandings, car troubles, taxes, health issue (we become enslaved by our culture of money). So, having marriage holy days is vital. Keep them even when you are furious with each other. Make a commitment that during this timeframe, there will be no fights, no criticisms. It is the "safe-space" for your marriage and the rule is that you must set aside everything to just enjoy that person during this time. And, it is best to end the night with a more intimate romance. That will inspire most husbands to keep the date!

Everyone's marriage is in need of holy days (holidays) just like your career. Create marriage festivals and celebrations. A time to enjoy each other.

8) THOU SHALT NOT QUIT

Erase the word "divorce" from your vocabulary. It is one of the most dangerous words spoken by humankind. It is marital blasphemy.  There is no end to the ills and ruination of our society when we, as Christians, believe that it is the right thing to do to divorce. (Don't let your marriage get to the point that there is so much abuse you think divorce is the only way out. Do something to prevent it. Separation. Jail time if it is that bad.) Remember as a Catholic, if God fused you as one flesh in a valid, sacramental marriage—only He can rend you asunder and believe me, He won't. He will heal your marriage, never tell you to divorce.

God made marriage. He created marriage to work. And women: know this—though both of you must be fully committed to marriage, men are designed for commitment. It deteriorates the souls and fabric of men to be only kind-of committed. They must fully commit. There is no such thing as a partial launching of an attack in war. Men should be launching their hearts and commit 100% to marriage and if not your marriage will be totally overrun.

Thou shalt not quit listening. Listening is a grace and a habit that one must develop. Listen to your spouse with patience and gentleness. This is especially difficult for some men because they are made to fix a problem. So it is a sacrifice for them to slow down and use their listening skill not just to improve their careers, but their marriage. 

Men need to realize women are brilliant but they think differently. Don't pander. 

Women need to spend more time listening and less time thinking about how they are going to respond to their husbands. Listening is done quietly, without interruption.

The Hard Stuff About Not Quitting: Marriage is going to hurt and sometimes hurt very badly for many years. Prepare yourself for that. You will survive it and be rewarded. However, your sufferings to stay married can be lifted up to God and miracles can occur. Do not pray for God to permanently separate you (for at times and for a short season, in serious cases you may have to separate); rather, pray for a miracle of healing. For to make gemstones, rough rocks are placed in a tumbler and they bang against each other to bring out each other's beauty. Marriage is a saint-maker, thats its point. There is no trouble, no situation, nothing beyond God's healing power.

7) THOU SHALT MAKE YOUR HOME A LITTLE HEAVEN

T
he world is a rough place. A place where you might be mocked, teased, put down, cursed, laughed at, fired, misunderstood and abandoned. Home should be a place where you do not need to keep up your emotional defenses. Home should not be a place of war or even a hostile peace.

Make your own home a place where your spouse loves to go most. It is his or her favorite place of peace and encouragement. We often make the grave mistake of giving our best to our friends and co-workers. Do not give your best to others. Give your best at home. Speak words that uplift and not tear down. Be careful with demeaning teasing, snarkiness and sarcasm. Sarcasm often is a way of spitting out pent up rage. It may seem cute and fun for a season, but eventually it will begin to wear away at your joy. Rather than allow rage to develop, talk it out rather than allow it to boil over in sarcasm. Sometimes sarcasm doesn't have any hidden anger, but is just a person showing off how clever they are. Even that can get old after a while in a marriage.

Never, ever, ever publicly humiliate your spouse.

Don't be irritable. Decide that you won't let little things irritate you. Learn to not take yourself seriously and laugh.

Cultivate a treasure of words that uplift each other. Let your home be full of Godly encouragement. The world will oppress us. Let home be a place of warmth and grace. It is hard to develop these habits but it is much worse if you don't. It takes commitment and discipline. And to live like this is possible, but only if you stay connected to the One who gives these graces freely.

6) THOU SHALT ALLOW THY SPOUSE TO BECOME A SAINT

Often inside a marriage we take on roles. He is the immature one. She is the nag. I have seen many people take on the victim role, the martyrdom role, the self-righteous one, the stubborn one; there are many of these we fall into out of habit. It is very difficult to break out of a role and your spouse should help and not hinder that.


No matter how bad you were yesterday, that does not mean you cannot be a saint today. The whole point of the sacrament of marriage is that each day married people walk together they are to be more heroic.

Do not force your spouse into a role you imagine. Sometimes women and men want to make their spouse out in the image they have in their head. God's image of who each of us should be far, far exceeds what we think we want.

Allow men to be men and women to be women. The differences are supposed to work together.

5) THOU SHALT KEEP THE MARRIAGE BED UNDEFILED

The marriage bed is holy. This means more than being faithful and not committing adultery. In our desperately wicked culture (i.e. Fifty Shades of Gray) even married people are encouraged to do sinful things, promising intense sexual gratification. Never do anything, watch anything, that you or your spouse will regret. Always remember that God created the pleasures of sex. Do not demean it with porn. Do not demean it with sin. Stay faithful, stay trustworthy. Never do anything together that you would be ashamed (not embarrassed, but ashamed) to go public or for your children to find out. NO PORN period. Period. No matter what.

(Note: Women put away your romance movies, novels and soap operas, they will make you unhappy with real life and with your real husband. They can become women's porn! To be happy with your husband—quit filling your brain with these novelists' impossible expectations.)

4) THOU SHALT COMMUNICATE

First and foremost, no secrets in marriage. (Surprises for birthdays, anniversaries etc, of course, I am not speaking of.) In fact, in the Catholic Church, if you enter marriage with serious secrets, you invalidate your marriage. Secrets are the home of sin; they often lead to lies (and worse) and will destroy trust between you. If men or women wish to be respected, wish to be a person of character, do not keep secrets from your spouse. In fact, I tell my family and friends that I cannot hear secrets (within reason, of course) that I cannot tell my husband. If a family member tells me something trivial that would embarrass them if my husband knew and it doesn't in anyway concern my husband, then that is different. But if my husband would want to know or should know? Then I can't keep it from him.

Communication is a learned skill and takes enormous practice. People, especially genders, communicate differently. Sometimes the same conversation must be said over and over for full understanding as you grow and mature in life and your marriage. Do not get discouraged if it takes many times to explain something.

After twenty years—twenty years of frustrating miscommunications, my husband and I decided to start defining our words. Everybody gets in our heads that words are defined in the same way for others as they are for us. Not true. Some words may even mean the same thing but have emotional contexts attached.

For instance, my mother would always say "please" when she was at the end of her rope! (She had six kids—so I don't blame her.) So I grew up with an emotional attachment of  irritated exasperation attached to the word. Others think I am being rude by refraining to use "please" even if I am generous with my "thank yous." I am not being impolite, I simply didn't want anyone to think I am upset with them. 

Marriage should be a safe space where you can be less than perfect with your spouse. You should be able to feel your spouse loves you and will not judge you harshly as you walk together towards sanctification. No one should be abandoned or shunned because they are less than perfect. Two Christians who are sold out in being obedient to God should know that marriage is the place to "work out your own salvation with fear and trembling."

Some people do not communicate because they don't want anyone to know how dumb or selfish they are. In fact some do not want to reveal that they are stubbornly clinging to a beloved sin. (By the way, that's why God set up confession!) However, it will actually help you overcome your temptations, your worries, your weaknesses if you discuss them with your spouse. Often just speaking your worries and temptations will help you see these things have less power than you gave them.


Ask many questions and as you grow old together, you will begin to know the right questions to ask so you will know the very soul of your spouse. 

3) THOU SHALT SACRIFICE

This is the one of the toughest ones. And it can only be done with much prayer and pain. (Wince. Sorry!) However, this is where Christian talk hits the road of realville. Take a deep breath and swallow hard and sacrifice your wants, your needs, your plans and even your most precious rights for your spouse. Don't expect sacrifice to be equal. Don't assume you know that your spouse is not doing his share of sacrificing, because one day you may awaken and find your spouse has been enormously patient and sacrificial for you and you didn't even notice. It takes a lot of maturity to see what others are doing for us. We all have an enormous blind spot that and with the help of our spouse, those blind spots will slowly diminish. And believe me, you will be humbled—sometimes humiliatingly, embarrassedly humbled as your blind spot shrinks.

However, there may be times you will be the only one sacrificing. And that's okay. Imagine yourself to be Sponge Bob and absorb the inequalities you are experiencing. Sometimes deep wounds in your spouse can cause them to behave selfishly out of self-preservation and with prayer and self-sacrificially absorbing the hits, you will show them the love they never felt they deserved.

This part will take wisdom: Never sacrifice for spouse or children to enable them to behave badly. Spouses and children should not be spoiled or encouraged to be self-centered by your suffering and sacrificing for them. You do not martyr yourself so that your spouse can buy a car you can't afford, or watch a television show that is full of moral filth. Sacrifice should always bring out the best in others. And it will be required of everyone who is married at sometime. My advice, be the first to sacrifice, because if you both learn this early—it will save you enormous pain in learning to do it later. 

Remember, Christ did not show the universe love by giving humans and example of buying everyone a car and cellphone. He didn't come to show us love through taking the whole world to Disney World. He showed the highest love when He was hanging on the Cross. Love takes up the Beloved's sufferings, not that they may continue to do wrong, but that they may do what is right.

2) THOU SHALT FORGIVE

Yes, as we near the top of the list of the marriage commandments, they become more serious and difficult. But I can assure you, that a marriage is worth it. It is worth all the sorrow and sacrifice and battles and drama. And the more you are genuinely following the rules, the less pain and drama there will be—guaranteed!

Forgiveness is one of the hardest things to do when your spouse had destroyed your trust. And your spouse may not deserve forgiveness. But forgive him or her anyway. It is the first step in healing the wounds for yourself and your marriage. Forgiveness is never carte blanche for someone to continue to wrong you or themselves.

Forgiveness is not a point in time, it is a process. If your spouse had abused you, betrayed you, lied to you, ruined your credit—something of great evil—you enter a cycle of forgiveness in your heart and mind that will take re-forgiving them over and over. Forgive, because you don't want to become bitter and full of rage. You will no longer enjoy life and pleasure will cease if you don't forgive. Your marriage will seem like a bit of heaven when the healing of forgiveness really happens.

And don't for one moment think that when you sin against your spouse that forgiveness is easy, nor cheap. Don't ever put your marriage in that dangerous position of needing such serious forgiveness. Wake up, grow up, don't do stupid things. Don't act selfishly. Both of you should learn to live so you don't have to forgive!

1) THOU SHALT PUT THE KINGDOM OF GOD FIRST

I bet you all knew I would write that as number one for a happy, healthy marriage. Well, it is true. For all the ten through two commandments cannot be done successfully if God isn't right there giving you the grace to think, persevere, sacrifice, etc.

Every single day, make it a habit to have devotions together—go to mass if possible, read the Bible and pray. Individually, have them too if you wish, but never neglect family devotions. Even scientific, sociological studies have proven that miraculously! families that pray together, stay together! (Hmmm, wonder why?)

It is so easy to let this slide, but every time you let is slide, restart it!

God gives us a promise: put the kingdom of God first and all other things will be added unto it. God first. Before entertainment, before sports, before job, before relaxation, before everything and anything…. before even spouse and children, for He is the source of love and energy and life that will make the family work. Nothing will work without His grace.

And if you feel overwhelmed by this list, that's normal. The list is impossible, absolutely impossible and that is not a joke or hyperbole. For us, it is impossible, but with God… all things are possible. And I can assure with with all my heart and soul, with all my love and assurance that a good marriage is worth all of it. A good marriage is the beginning of eternity in the Kingdom of Heaven. 

Friday, April 21, 2017

Victimhood and the Christian Worldview by Teresa Beem



We are in a time when the most obvious observation is despised because it goes against this idea of being nice. Being nice and even good have become about not saying anything that corresponds with reality. And that is because reality makes people angry. So, nice people don't mention it. 

Well, I am going to mention it because I think reality is important. Reality itself isn't nice. Blame reality and not me! I figure Christians should be able to understand what I am about to write, but today, I am not so sure anymore.

A World of Victims

Everyone is a victim. Everyone feels victimized: men, women, racial minorities, old people, young people, transgendered people, Jews, Muslims, Christians, fat people, ugly people, short people, stupid people, poor people even rich people.

Oh poor, poor me! Oh poor, poor us!

And they are RIGHT! If you are feeling victimized, you are feeling reality correctly. Life isn't fair and life is filled to the brim with injustices. Everyone ought to feel exploited and used and abused because this corresponds with reality.


Whose to Blame?

Everyone clearly understands that injustices need to be righted, so they demand government to deal with it.
Men need to think above the waist.
The rich need to give more to the poor.
There are conspiracies against the regular Joe.
Enforce laws.
Make new laws.
More jails.
More education.
More tolerance.
Why can't we just all get along?

If every possible injustice had a law against it, that would not eradicate injustice. Laws cannot stop the problem, even if they can punish it.

Unfortunately we live in a society of such monumental irrational pride, so bent on self-destruction, we would rather tear each other apart with blame than actually admit the cause of injustice is right there in front of us and pretty much most civilizations in the last four thousand years knew or at least suspected it.

We are oppressed because we are guilty of disobedience to God.

Yeah, I know nobody wants to read that. I know some readers are saying, "You always want to blame everything on sin." Yes, that is true, because that is what God did. Sin makes us sinners who hurt each other.

God didn't die that we may have the best government system or to show us the correct political affiliation. Christ didn't suffer on the Cross that we could be wealthy and comfortable. He is not the Savior from being offended. His life and death were not to help us feel good about ourselves. He didn't die so we would be free to sin. He came to conquer the sin that brings about our death and misery and injustice and oppression and enslavement.

But I get it. 
If we admit that moral crime is causing suffering and injustice, that would make us all victims! And no one could feel much superiority in their oppression-hood. Wrongdoing, of course, is not equally distributed, so we are not equally abused, but make no mistake, sin brutalizes everyone.

No one wants to think about evil because they want the bad guy to be someone else—someone they can fight against. We all want to be the good guy! Of course, that is how we were created! It is wonderful to want to be the good guy and beat up the bad guy. It's just that because of disobedience to God, no matter how sincerely or ignorantly done, we have to re-learn how to be the good guy. It is not easy or as natural to us as we wish it to be.

I Don't Believe in Evil

Many of us who call ourselves Christian don't really believe in wickedness. That makes us feel uncomfortable and judgmental.

Why? Why do we all freak out (even Christians) when someone states the obvious?

Because no one wants to get rid of iniquity! Sin not only makes us the prey of evil, it makes us predators too. Transgressing God's law, being the source of injustice, means we sinners become not only the victims, but the bad guys who create the injustices.

We all believe and feel ourselves to be the good guys and it is a shock to our system—a shock to our reality—if we place the blame on injustice on ourselves. That means there is no guy in the black hat we can all corporately get rid of and injustice will vanish. We can't protest or strike against or boycott sin—unless we do it in our own life. 

The Empowerment of Righteousness

There is nothing we can do to stop the victimization of evil unless we personally stop doing evil things. If we wish true freedom so that nothing can victimize us anymore—we need to stop that which is enslaving us. And… that is sin. This power is right there for us no matter your gender, age, race, etc. God's mercy and grace is the ultimate heaven for those who wish to live in a non-biased, color-blind and just society.

Few can handle this truth—that most of the guilt of society comes from our personal decisions! While it is evident that the world suffers from others' transgressions, our deepest persecution is our own fault and derives from our own choices.

The Christian worldview of evil and oppression really is the nicest and most personally empowering because God promised that He would pull us from the depths of this horrible victimization and take our transgressions from us! Through His grace, Christ provided a way out of this enslavement. That is the good newsThat is the gospel.But no one today seems to want to hear that gospel because it means they would have to admit there was a problem with not just the world—but themselves—and admit the problem is wickedness and submit to the Great Shepherd for healing.

And for every holy man and woman, for each example of the saints who defy the law of sin through Christ's miraculous grace, a thousand injustices we can't control are defeated. Personal holiness effects much more than your own personal enslavement to sin, it shines the light so that others too may leave the prison of persecution.

And evil doesn't want that. It wants us humans to love our own oppression and blame others. Sin keeps us blind to our own faults but shines the light constantly on others. Evil is the master deflector, the master blamer, the master at dulling us to guilt, the master at tempting us to feel the enslavement it has us in, but to love our own choice to remain as a victim in our jail cell while screaming injustice at other prisoners from within it.

Christ opened the door for us. He gave us the solution to injustice. And the solution begins with each of us falling on our knees daily in repentance, having faith that His mercy is great. He wants to shower grace upon us so that we can no longer be victims, but walk as kings and queens in His eternal kingdom.

He wants us to rise from the deepest filth of victimhood and will freely give us the love, courage and strength to go and sin no more. 

Tuesday, April 11, 2017

What is the Catholic Mass

The other day, I mentioned to an Evangelical  that I was going to mass. Protestants often wonder why Catholics don't just say, "I am going to church." So this person asked me, "What is the difference is between church and mass?"

Ah, what a question. And now I get to pour out my love in an answer I hope and pray will be understandable. And an answer of love, often requires many words!
______________________________


Creation
Before the babbling gurgle of babies, before the laughter of children and the words of men, there was a deep and dark silent mystery.

Then suddenly, from the heart of God, burst forth a cosmos. Galaxies were thrown forth in an everlasting expanding spin, light exploded and in the wake of God's voice, trillions of stars were left against a black sky to mesmerize us each time we would look up to find God.  His love song radiated a divine offering of life. The universe echoed back His song as a beautiful symphony of love. And the oceans teamed with the first generation of babies. The sky grew heavy with thousands of species' first baby birds! The lion and lioness lay down with their cubs, and the cattle filled a thousand hills.

That is what love is! Love does not simply inspire creativity. Love's form is creation. As the sun does not simply produce radiation, it is radiation, as perfume does not create a scent, it is the scent. As flowers do not create beauty, they are beauty, so love does not simply create life, it is life. That's the nature and essence that God formed and called love. You cannot separate the life producing from love or it ceases to be love.

All acts of love create. The bliss of total self-gifting love is reproductive, in that it reproduces itself.


Destruction
Then the perfect symphony went silent. Adam sinned.
Sin stole from us the blessedness of life-giving sacrifice. Sin's nature is the very opposite of love. It is destruction. Satan's ultimate goal is to rip life from love, leaving it sterile and selfish.


Sin began a war.

Man chose to battle God. When Adam took the forbidden fruit, he placed himself at war with God. No matter his heart. No matter that he was deceived in the ultimate outcome. No matter how sincerely he repented and was sorry. Satan trapped man into a life of utter enslavement to self. 

Recreation
Two thousand years ago, the definitive battle of this still ongoing war was won by a Savior who totally surrendered His life for love. The Cross showed the raving madness of wickedness. Sin is hate so powerfully deceptive that given reign convinced the creation to murder its own Creator. But so much more, the Cross showed us the extent of Christ's love in a pure life-giving sacrifice. Christ offered us freedom from sin and death and He did it through the creative and jubilant sacrifice of love.


As excruciatingly painful as it was, it was a joyous gift offered that those who accepted it would be restored to their rightful position as His Sons and Daughters. And for those who choose to obey the King, they will reign forever with Christ.

Because we live in a world crowded and confused with sin, our understanding is clouded and we cannot clearly comprehend the Cross of Christ. For most humans, Calvary is indistinct, remote, and unreachable. 


So Christ gave the world His Church to bring back His love song and the music of life. He commissioned His people to bring the meaning of His sacrifice clearly focused into reality. We are to show the Cross through our actions to a dulled and desperate world. 

Catholics go to church for this purpose of re-creation. The word "mass" contains the entirety of the meaning of the Cross packed into it. The wording bursts forth with that life-giving memory of Calvary.

The mass is where we go to received the grace of Christ's Crucifixion that we may leave and be "little Christs" to the world. For that is how we got our name. The Roman pagans living in Antioch called us Christians, because they saw our living sacrifice and it reminded them of that criminal who died a cruel death because He believed in bringing us the love of His Father.

As true Sons and Daughters, we still should be doing that today. Bringing the living symphony of His creative life to the world! We pour ourselves out as He pours Himself in to us in mass. We become the living cup that overflows with His pure living water to satisfy the world's thirst. We become His broken bread to feed the hungry.

Not through just spoken or written words but through yielding up our freedoms and rights in the daily little things, often unnoticed by others.

By our gift of self-control when we are insulted or offended and desire to spit vengeful words and instead speak words of encouragement, we bring the Cross near.

When we have made plans to do something relaxing on our time off, and we see someone in need, we lovingly gift
 our much needed rest and act unselfishly to help—we bring the Cross near. 


When we have a right, a liberty we fought hard for, but for the sake of others, give that right up—we bring the Cross near.

When we give supernatural forgiveness to someone who has despicably wronged us—we bring the Cross near.


The mass gives us the grace to do the heroic even in the most mundane and irritating moments. His grace awakens in us the needs of those around us and urges us to give even when it is against our very fiber.

Dozens of moments during the day, we are faced with tiny choices of self-preservation or a painful sacrifices of what we want or need and we choose to take the hit out of love—we become Christ and bring the Cross more clearly to a confused and defeated world. Surrendering to God these precious tiny moments build and build until they form a tsunami of grace that floods the world.

And as we grow like Him as the decades go by, Christ is bringing us to His ultimate goal: that self-sacrifice becomes a exuberance and we are more able to pour out our life for others in an unending song. 


The Church is the building.
 

The mass is God's gift of His love that brings forth life in us, so we may then pour out our soul in charity, bringing the Cross near to everyone we encounter. The mass is His life. His love is creative through us.



Monday, April 3, 2017

Church Hunting (JohnCristVideos)


This IS SO true! Exactly what I hear from so many Christians today and actually... for the first decade of 2000, this WAS US except for we were doing theological church shopping-- grilling the denomination to see if their perception and interpretation of the Bible matched ours! And believe me, it takes a little longer--in fact, in several cases a few years of checking it out---and interviewing pastors (we really did that!!). So funny!

It would be boring to list all the churches we were checking out during our personal church hunt.... from the most charismatic Pentecostal to the most dry Presbyterian an everything in between--the liberal Baptists the conservative Baptists the wacko Baptists.... Lutherans, Church of God, Disciples of Christ, Methodist.... really. And I was open to any type of service from dancing in the aisles to silent snoring in the hard pews. What we were looking for was correct theology. Wow we were just like these guys in the video with the exception we were looking for truth according to OUR personal interpretation of scripture:









Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Love Trumps.... Everything

If I speak in the tongues of men or of angels, but do not have love, I am only a resounding gong or a clanging cymbal. If I have the gift of prophecy and can fathom all mysteries and all knowledge, and if I have a faith that can move mountains, but do not have love, I am nothing. If I give all I possess to the poor and give over my body to hardship that I may boast, but do not have love, I gain
nothing. Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails. But where there are prophecies, they will cease; where there are tongues, they will be stilled; where there is knowledge, it will pass away. For we know in part and we prophesy in part, but when completeness comes, what is in part disappears.... And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. I Corinthians 13

So if I don't have love, it doesn't matter if I have a testimony of Christ and can preach like an angel. It doesn't matter if I can tell the future, or read a person's heart. I can move mountains with my
faith but none.... not even faith...not even sola fide matters if I don't have love. Love is the greatest... even greater that faith. 

So, what keeps us from loving? 

Fear. 
There is no fear in love. But perfect love drives out fear, because fear has to do with punishment. The one who fears is not made perfect in love. I John 4: 18

Pride. 
God opposes the proud but shows favor to the humble.... Humble yourselves before the Lord, and he will lift you up. James 4: 6, 10

🙏

The moment is seared into my soul like few others. The New Bern, NC Catholic Church had assigned to me a RCIA sponsor because I didn't know any Catholics locally. In fact, I didn't personally know any Catholics, only the ones I had met online. 


My husband and I had been encouraged by online Catholic apologists to join the local Rite of
Christian Initiation classes in order to understand Catholicism. And we were not there to convert, just to learn about what Catholics believed. 

Eventually, each person who intending to actually join the Catholic Church was asked to find a sponsor. It used to be a "godmother" or "godfather" but for adults, the name was changed to sponsor. They gave me Sister Katherine, a very petite elderly nun who sat beside me each class with her head down and eyes closed. 

Once I asked her if she were sleeping and the nun answered back gently, "No, I am praying for you because you are full of pride." 
That wiped the smile off my face and I stuttered back some incoherent words. After class I fled with indignation and anger. "What a judgmental jerk! What? Can she read my heart and know I am full of pride? Why--if she were wanting me to become Catholic--would she say such a rude, condescending horribly hurtful thing to me?" I cried and screamed and threw a major old-fashioned southern-belle hissy-fit! All the way home and once there I continued to yell in my mind at the imaginary crowd of Catholics that I was certainly not prideful! I was a nice person. I was a kind person. What was the nun talking about?

Then all of a sudden my brain went quiet. And the Holy Spirit spoke as gently as the nun. "Are you full of pride?" Then as I looked deeper, scanning not my actions but much deeper down into very motivations for why I was kind...Oops... then, uh-oh... I knew I was full of pride. The nun was right. I knelt down horrified by the brutal self-realization that beneath all the niceness I was indeed a prideful person. Ouch. I prayed for forgiveness. 

And that is just the beginning. Daily, I need to pray that same prayer asking God to forgive my pride and grant me the grace to be humble so that I can more fully love Him and others. It's all about love! That is why I want to be humble.

Christ is now teaching me how to love and it is not an easy lesson. You can't learn to truly love with fear and pride in one's heart. 

We learn to love, not by working up a feeling of compassion and sympathy for others. We don't love by shedding tears of empathy. 

We learn to love through prayer and humble obedience to God. He gives us His love through His grace. We can't work it up on our own. It is His unmerited gift. 

We learn to love when we turn from our own pride and selfishness and sacrificially give to others. Love often it is in the harsh words of a little nun who smacks you with your own reflection in the mirror. 

Love Trumps Hate, yes. But love also trumps rights and self and fear and pride and faith and hope. 




Wednesday, January 25, 2017

My Thoughts on Fearless Christian Living



One of the things I don't want to do is to die with regrets. From the time I was a child I have been thinking about this. I don't want to be lying on my deathbed looking back at my life regretting all the people I have hurt and all the things I did to hurt myself. I don't want to be ashamed of my life. But even more, I want to have lived.

Life is so precious. It is such a gift that I spend a lot of time contemplating it. And I wonder why so many of us blindly live without ever even noticing our own existence? Is it that we have been raised in a mental white noise that doesn't' allow us to think? Very few people contemplate the meaning of existence. 

Why? Because it is hard.

Thinking about human existence and watching the lives around us, it seems like everyone is in misery, or living a futile life of seeking comfort and pleasure—even Christians! It looks as if no one really has a direction or plan for their life
except to work hard for the fun we can eke out on the weekends, live for sports and entertainment-- keep plodding along until the yearly vacations and soon enough we will retire and move to Florida and play golf. 

Voila! Then we will sit alone in our little apartment wondering what happened to our lives, pet our dog and hope there is a God so we can have a do-over in the next life.  

How horrible to think back on life and realized we had wasted such a precious gift of life on television, cable, movies…. entertainment--that we have spent our whole lives living through someone else's fictional life.

That is not living! I want to be the heroine of my own story. 

How pathetic if, instead of even reflecting upon life, that at our lives' end we just go from this life watching television never even having known we lived! We had become an automaton being consumed by Hollywood's moving pictures. We ended up being nothing but a pair of eyes. 

For Christians, we know the meaning is to live eternally with God. However, if we aren't learning to understand the meaning of this existence we have now, as Christians, if we are not doing anything meaningful or special now, why would we want a never-ending meaningless existence?

No! This life was meant to have incredible meaning. Our lives are to be heroic and epic.  

Whatever you are doing today, stop and think about this for a few minutes. Do you live every moment as if it has meaning or do you just drone along filling your time with entertainment and thinking about the next fun thing you are doing? 

If your life seems enslaved with the mundane, if you do not have a meaning and purpose for your day besides making going to work to money and texting on your iPhone what you are going to watch or do that evening for fun, you need to really rethink your life.

So what keeps people from living? Really living. I am not talking about having that extra ice
cream cone or living dangerously by going sky diving or being crazy and getting another tattoo.
My husband is a nurse and over the years has been with many dozens of elderly people as they take their last breath and I assure you they are not thinking of the money they didn't have, nor the food they didn't taste or the rain they should have danced in. They are thinking about what their life meant and the people they loved--no matter what the meme's say.

Real living is not doing the things that make one feel exhilarated. That is just more empty days at adult Disneyland. I am referring to living life with meaning--with a purpose so clear and so heroic that you are willing to put everything you have—your heart, your mind, your soul, your strength, your time, your money into it…. sold out—all out living.

(And for a Christian that meaning should never be based in money.)

As Christians, with an informed proper Christian worldview, there would only be two things that keep us from really living our God-given epic life. And that is that we don't know our purpose and we have a fear of suffering. 

************

I would like to give my opinion on the second half of that—the suffering. I think it is far more that Christians fear suffering than they don't know what they are supposed to be doing to make their lives meaningful. The Bible spells it out that we are to quit sinning and take care of others. That is what gives life meaning

However, most of us Christians would rather make a bunch of money and throw money at the poor, the weird, the uncool, the suffering than actually be a part of their lives. That is how we envision doing our part in the gospel mission. Because doing anything else would be hard... or uncomfortable.

The number one thing I think Christians need to get past is the fear of suffering. I am not criticizing anyone with that. I know everyone is calling everyone a snowflake and telling them to buck up and deal with life. That is not what I am writing. I am promising you that the moment you give your fear of suffering to God and follow Him, that your life will begin to be epic--epic in pain, epic in love, epic in hope, epic in meaning. And to live such a life of fullness, greatness that will end in joy, you have to give up this need to protect yourself from embarrassment and pain. 

Our early Christian leaders all told us that it is okay; do not fear suffering:
Join with me in suffering, like a good soldier of Christ Jesus. II Tim. 2:3

Most of today's suffering is in direct consequences of our stupid, wrongful actions and God brings upon us shame and suffering in order to bring us to repentance. (Rev. 22:2) But that is not the kind of suffering Christians are called to.

When I was a kid, I most sincerely promised the Lord I would be so incredibly good that He would never have to make me suffer to learn a lesson. I have lived that. God alone knows how hard I have tried to be perfect so that I don't have to be punished for my sins and suffer.

And even with that, I have had great suffering in my life. I  have spent over twenty years in physical pain as a consequence of other people's sins. (A young man on meth plowed into my car stopped at a red light one evening in 1997 and messed up my back and jaw.) God brought great joy to my life because of that, even with the pain.


We need to realize that suffering happens and as a Christian we must stop fearing pain. No matter how righteous your life is, you are going to suffer. While you may avoid the deep regret of knowing you have caused others to suffer for your stupidity and selfishness, all Christians who follow the command of Christ to daily take up their Cross and follow Him, will inevitably find themselves doubled over in pain because of something. 

Life hurts. And once we no longer fear suffering, we will find that a freedom that Americans with all their claims to freedom have no concept of. Christian redemptive suffering sets you free. That, of course, is not contradicting Christ, who said the truth will make you free, because I am telling you the truth! 

Suffering doesn't mean God has abandon you. If you look at your life and you sincerely know that you have done nothing, no choice your made any time in your life has the consequences that you are experiencing; if you find yourself randomly in pain for something, do not feel ashamed or afraid. 

Lift it up to the Lord.

Why are we in need of suffering? The Apostles give us some thoughts on this: 

Not only so, but we also glory in our sufferings, because we know that suffering produces perseverance; Rom. 5: 3

Now I rejoice in what I am suffering for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church. Col. 1: 24

You became imitators of us and of the Lord, for you welcomed the message in the midst of severe suffering with the joy given by the Holy Spirit. I Thess. 1: 6

All this is evidence that God’s judgment is right, and as a result you will be counted worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are suffering. 2. Thess. 1: 5

So do not be ashamed of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner. Rather, join with me in suffering for the gospel, by the power of God. 

That is why I am suffering as I am. Yet this is no cause for shame, because I know whom I have believed, and am convinced that he is able to guard what I have entrusted to him until that day. 2 Tim. 1:8, 12

[F]or which I am suffering even to the point of being chained like a criminal. But God’s word is not chained. 2 Tim. 2: 9

Brothers and sisters, as an example of patience in the face of suffering, take the prophets who spoke in the name of the Lord. James 5: 10

For it is commendable if someone bears up under the pain of unjust suffering because they are conscious of God. I Peter 2: 19

John, your brother and companion in the suffering and kingdom and patient endurance that are ours in Jesus, was on the island of Patmos because of the word of God and the testimony of Jesus. Rev. 1: 9


We are going to suffer and it will be our joy, because as Christians our suffering is to produce fruits that will help fill the kingdom of God with other souls. Our suffering has great meaning.

And I have discovered that suffering destroys pride and pride is another great impediment to a life of freedom. Humility is the very context of true freedom. 


I know, not something you really wanted to read this morning. But I can tell you that if you want true freedom, if you want your life to have meaning and a joy that you could never reach any other way.... pray that God will not let your fear of suffering keep you from living a life a great meaning. 

God is calling you to be great--to have an epic life. To live with your eyes and ears open and your
days full. Pray for that kind of courage. And it will happen. And when your days on this earth are ended, you will die with a smile on your lips.