Friday, May 31, 2013

Now that you're broken, do I have your attention?

I have NEVER heard the voice of God.

I have always thought to myself that people who claim to have "heard the voice of God" are two shots short of a triple shot Americano. 

Well...pour me a triple shot espresso. Tonight at Eucharistic Adoration I heard God speak to me.

There were no trumpets, no choirs of angels, no crying preachers at a pulpit. It was a small still voice. The voice I needed to hear at that moment.

I have had A LOT on my heart lately. Career, family, faith...basically life. Life choices, sins, sickness and at times despair have left me close to depression, again. I know this is a direct attack by Satan. My last blog post exposed my life over the past decade that led me to relief. When I'm most proud of myself is when I fall the hardest.

I prayed to Jesus for reverent and thoughtful prayers during the rosary. I prayed for my career, my wife, our kids, life decisions, friends and family. Then I prayed the rosary. I began to feel Christ entering my soul.

I finished the rosary and then just sat there. Quiet. Still. Open to hear His voice. There was the body of Christ on the altar. The holy presence of my Savior. The man who died on the cross for MY sins. The God of the universe. Then I heard Him.....

"Be positive."

That was it. That was the moment. That's when God met me where I needed Him most. That is where the Savior became real to me.

I asked a few more questions and without missing a beat He spoke to me. The message to "Be positive" is what I needed. For so long I've been jaded, negative, hopeless and downright miserable to most people. They might not have noticed it, but in my heart I had grown negatively distant to society.

Be positive.

Such a simple command. Yet, a promise that everything will be alright. Turn the page, seek His face and experience everything that God has for me in this life.

"Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever." -Psalm 118:29

Sunday, May 12, 2013

My Story of Fake Living, Pain, Rebellion and Redemption



I didn't like Catholics. It wasn't that I had anything against them. Maybe they were Christians, but didn't they worship Mary and pray to the pope? Isn't that against Christian teaching? I was baptized as a baby in a Catholic church in San Antonio, Texas, but as far as I cared that was about as much of a visit to a Catholic church I would ever make.

God has a sense of humor.

I started going to a Baptist church in high school and was baptized as a born-again Christian my senior year. After school I became involved in the youth group of our church and I was going to go to school to get my degree in youth ministry. I was on fire for God and nothing was going to get in my way to lead lives to Christ….that is nothing but I who would eventually cause my downfall.

Money became important. Career became important. I became more important than any plans God could possibly have for me. I left the youth group and became a full time employee and a full time student in a field I couldn’t possibly have cared any less for. Growing up and starting a family, this was “reality” setting in and obviously I had a better plan than the Creator of the universe.

I began going through the motions at any church we attended. I pretended to care about having a relationship with God. I was a Sunday Christian…and some weeks not a Christian at all. Somehow this was all “working” until I realized my life was missing something—God. It was at this moment I lost one of the most precious things in my life, my mom.

I hated God. I was filled with anger. Was this God’s plan? For me to lose my mom who was only 44 years old?! F*#k this! I just didn't care anymore. Sure, I went to church and pretended to be filled with God’s love, but I couldn't have been farther from the Lord. As I went through two years of pain, my family changed on me—my wife started going to the Catholic Church. WTF?!!!

I was mad at her for doing this to me. Didn't she know the pain I was in? Going to a boring church with all this chanting and aerobics (stand, sit, knell, sit, stand, blah, blah, blah) was NOT going to bring healing! I fought this for two more years. I eventually started going just to keep my family unit together. I did not like going to mass—I thought it was stupid. However, “happy wife, happy life (HWHL)”, huh?

As time went on I became open to the possibility—about 3%—of making the Catholic Church my home. This was still more of the HWHL scenario—my heart was not in it. I went to Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA) classes only to discover I truly didn't give a crap about this faith. I quit after a month. I was completely “happy” with not becoming Catholic. About six months later we moved to a new city; a move that would ultimately change my life in so many ways.

A year after my first attempt at RCIA, I started up classes again at the parish we chose to go to in Puyallup. This time I stuck even though a moment in the middle of the classes almost caused me to selfishly leave again. The people in the class were great and the discussions were fascinating. Except for that brief moment that challenged my understanding of God’s providence, I made it through the year and was welcomed into the Catholic Church in 2007.

My life was perfect, right? Hell no.

Financially our lives were unraveling before us. We foolishly bought a house that was way out of our price range. I quit my stable job in order to chase a thoughtless dream of riches and fortunes in the house flipping industry. I spent my entire 401(k) on this failed venture only to return back to my old job in a lesser position. We moved out of our house thinking foreclosure was right around the corner. Going through all this and ending up in a 900 sq ft apartment was too much to take. I was not grounded in my faith, let alone giving two craps about the Catholic Church. I was drowning and I was ready to end it all.

I will never forget the day I found myself at a state park in SE King County and contemplated suicide. To this day it makes me so sad that I allowed my life to spin so far out of control that those thoughts took place in my mind instead of the mercy and forgiveness that God was offering me. By the grace of God I came home that evening.

That event should have changed my life, right? Nope.

I was still drowning. I continued to try and fix everything on my own. I talked the bank into letting us back in to the home and see about keeping the home. I finally got back into my old position with the company—just in time for the economy to tank. I was still missing God in my life. This yearning to fill a void in my life almost cost me my marriage.

My relationship with my wife began to crumble a few years ago. To the point where I knew she had had enough of my attitude and lack of direction in my life. We barely talked. I was a doucebag. I had thoughts of leaving; getting a divorce and moving on to what I look back at now would have been a more destructive life. I was going to screw over my kids and deny them a mother and a father…just like what had happened to me.

I drove as far east as I possibly could—about 500 miles away from Puyallup. That’s when it hit me. That was the moment my life truly began to change. That was when a Christian rock band was playing on my radio and two songs brought me back home. I heard Skillet’s “Sometimes”—a song about realizing I’m not always going to “feel holy”, and “Never Surrender”—God calling me to fight the good fight and save my marriage and ultimately my life.

I came home.

I reconciled with my wife. She shared with me her thoughts about our marriage and about me. She told me that God had revealed to her that no matter what, our marriage was worth fighting for and that she would never surrender fighting for it…..this was before I told her about the two songs. This was God.

It took another full year before I took the next big step in my faith.

I have had a deep dark secret of a sin that has plagued me for over 20 years. It’s something men don’t like to share and are fervently embarrassed to talk about. This sin was a black hole in my soul that controlled me…to the point that I truly believed I could never be delivered from or forgiven for. That was until one night. I was watching a Mark Hart video about the Bible Timeline and he made a comment that true healing doesn't happen until we confess ALL of our sins to God. It was at that moment I knew I was going to reconciliation and spilling my guts to a priest.

The next day I drove up to Seattle and that was exactly what I did. Sins that only few knew and others did not, evil things I had done that now only this priest and God knew. The relief I felt when I came out of that confessional was amazing. I had never felt so free in my life. I experienced the joy of confession and the grace of a merciful God. For once in my life a true relationship with God was something I could believe in.

In the last two years I have continued to move closer to God. Though I don’t believe my method of three steps forward and two steps back is the most productive, I challenged myself to know God more and He has shown me wonderful things. With this childlike faith there still have been times where I've let Him down. At one point last year I found myself going to confession WEEKLY for about six weeks. Obsessive and quite literally ridiculous in my lack of obedience to God, I knew that eventually I would accept the path that Christ has laid out for me.

About a year ago, I finally made the decision to sell out and completely follow Christ and the teachings of the Catholic Church. The “boring” church service I so vehemently despised seven years before became a whole new way for me to worship the Creator of heaven and earth. I began to embrace the prayers of the rosary and the beautiful relationship between Jesus and Mary. The saints and martyrs of our faith came alive and their lives proved to be inspirational. I was seeing my Christian faith in a whole new way. Jesus was bringing me back to Him.

Today I fully embrace the teachings of the Catholic Church. I trust in the authority of our leaders and their call to live faith-filled lives for Christ. I believe that the church that St. Peter started 2,000 years ago is the one True church. Though I still have some tests of my faith, I now rely on the love of Jesus Christ for my ultimate good. I fully embrace the mercy that God displayed on the cross where Jesus was murdered and daily absorb the grace that He has given to me. My relationship with God has become a beautiful thing.

This is my story. A story of my selfishness and the rise and fall of my ego. A story of being lost and thankfully found. A story of despair and hope. A story of rebellion and righteous obedience. A story for the reader to understand that there is no other way to the Father than through the precious blood of Jesus Christ and the resurrection of our Savior. To God be ALL the glory of my redemption and the saving of my life….from myself. 

Sunday, April 28, 2013

How to Make Confession a Little Less Stressful

It's been three weeks since I've been to confession. Believe you me that's like ages in my spiritual walk—just enough time to get filled with pride.

Apparently my human nature was getting tired of the spiritual side always succeeding in the never ending battle of sinning or not sinning. Therefore, in moments of weakness my flesh chose this week to deploy the sin operation....hence my journey to the reconciliation room on Saturday. I really do like going to confession, but I like living a righteous life more. Unfortunately, I haven't reached righteousness so off I went.

There is an app that helps me on that journey to bring me closer to Christ. "Confession: A Roman Catholic App" is fantastic when I'm doing the pre-confession work of examining my conscience. At times it can be sobering, but it helps me get closer to God.

Keep in mind the app does not replace going to confession. I still have to go and share with my priest my failings in order to receive absolution. With the app though, it makes the process a little less stressful.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Doing a Bad Thing for a Good Cause Doesn't Mean the Heart is Focused on God

David Kills the Messenger
Courtesy of www.thebricktestament.com
Throughout the Old Testament there is plenty of violence. As God's chosen people work their way back to the promised land, many tribes that stood in the way were wiped out. At times it can be quite unnerving to read about all this death and destruction in God's word.

Yet in the midst of all the carnage in the Old Testament, God uses David to show that violence does not necessarily guarantee blessings. In 2 Samuel 1, an Amalekite man came to David to share the news that he had struck down King Saul--clearly a lie since Saul took his own life (1 Sam 31). Expecting David to praise him for his "courage", the Amalekite was in for a surprise when David called for HIS death. King Saul was God's anointed and David took that title very serious...even if Saul wanted him dead.

Being a devout man, David took his relationship with the Lord very serious and was in constant communication with God concerning his plans and movements as he marched towards his inevitable reign as King of Israel  David had a few opportunities to kill King Saul, but always spared his life to show God's mercy. The "murder" of King Saul by the Amalekite was a violation of the Lord's anointing of the king.

The great thing about the stories in the Bible is just when the reader thinks they've seen it all, God brings the point home even harder with an even crazier story!

Ish-Bosheth was the son of King Saul and had since taken over the throne with the king's passing. Ish-Bosheth had two men who were leaders of raiding bands, Baanah and Rekab. One night the two leaders turned their loyalties towards David by sneaking into the kings bedroom and killed him. As their proof to David, they cut off the head of the king and brought it to him. Again, these men thought they were doing a good thing with their violence, but you guessed it.....David had them both killed for an unrighteous act.

David proclaimed that their actions of killing an innocent man, in his own house, in his own bed was wicked.

What we can take from these lessons is though we may believe that our moments of "un-Christian" actions may bring further glory to God's kingdom, our hearts couldn't be further from the Truth. The Lord requires from us holiness and righteousness. We must remember that God can bring glory to all things and that taking matters into our own hands--like God couldn't just snap his proverbial holy fingers to fix a situation and serve justice
--may not bring us the praise and reward we are selfishly looking for. Do good things in God's name and let the Lord sort out the rest.


Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Shut up and take my money!

I'm not a fan of pledge drives. As a matter of fact I despise fundraisers. I get they're a necessary evil, but I feel like I'm already giving as much as I can between bills and raising a family in today's economy.

But they're is a pledge drive going on right now that I can absolutely get behind: Air1.

If you have never heard of Air1 then it's time to open your ears. Air1 is a commercial free nationwide Christian music station that can be listened to online or if you're lucky a local radio station (check the website for a local station). Artists like TobyMac, Skillet, Thousand Foot Krutch, Jeremy Camp, Mercy Me and the Newsboys are constantly rocking the airwaves for Christ!

Air1 is more than music; for me it's a chance to come closer to God and worship my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ. The "positive alternative" has inspired me in uncertain times or convicted my heart when I've been straying from God's will. However, it's those times when a song has brought me to tears in humility that justify my monthly pledge to the Air1 ministry.

I challenge you to head over to Air1.com and give them a listen. I believe if a ministry can help change hearts for Christ, then I must do everything I can to spread the word and encourage others to support this ministry too!

God bless Air1.

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

God's Mercy Helps Me Understand How To Be "So Far Gone"

There have been those rare moments in my life where I have been blown over by God's grace. When I first accepted Christ as my lord and savior almost 20 years ago, after the loss of my mom to cancer, the healing of my marriage and now at the threshold of my late 30s. All of those previous events led me for a brief moment to the Lord's altar of love, forgiveness and healing. However, this time it feels much deeper.

There is a song by Thousand Foot Krutch called "So Far Gone" off their album The End is Where We Begin. It moves me....not like I have ever experienced before.

To begin with I am a total sucker for praise and worship music and the guitar and drums in this song gives the message that feeling. In the first verse the author shares: 
"Because I've never felt stronger than when you're with me
Sometimes I wonder why you even care
Because when I leave you're always there with me"
I am a sinful man. I have been to confession on average every other week this year. Whenever I get comfortable and over-confident in myself, I have allowed Satan and his demons back into my life. Almost like clockwork I fall into sin again and feel like garbage. That is the enemy's trick, but there is reconciliation in Christ. When I go to confession and share with the priest my sins I can feel Christ holding me. Just like when one of my children fail and I show them discipline and love, so does Christ. With Christ I never feel stronger.

The chorus of this song has brought me to tears quite a few times:
"I want to be so far gone in youSo far nothing else will ever doI want to be so far gone in youIn you"
 As my relationship with Christ has grown and strengthened through reconciliation and prayer so has my desire to get lost in Him. I thought I understood what it was like to be lost in Christ. It wasn't until I fell on my knees and made a conscience decision to take my faith seriously, did I truly understand what joy it is to be "so far gone" in Christ. The decision meant I had to give Christ my all.....not just Sunday mornings. It has not been easy. This world won't let it be easy. To be "so far gone" in Christ is ridiculous, but if that is what the world says then count me as a fool for Christ.

One final blessing I would like to share comes out of the second verse:

"Sometimes I cry because I can't believe
Your love is big enough to cover me
Sometimes I've wondered if you even cared
But when I'm far away you meet me there"
God's love for me is beyond measure. Think about that--because I have--He loves us SO much that we can't begin to measure it! I can measure the love I have for my wife and my children. To think God loves me even more than that blows me away.

It makes me cry.


Even in those moments when I sin, the same sin that nailed Jesus to the cross, it's not God who has left me. I am the one who has embraced sin and veered far off the path of righteousness. However, the thing about grace is that Christ is right there to surround me with His love and get me back on the path. I never have to go looking for God, He's patiently waiting to embrace me back into His arms.

It is my heart's cry to be "so far gone" in Christ that the things of this world hold no power over me. I now know this will encompass the rest of my life on this planet. I have often wondered how people truly give up their lives to Christ....between the teachings of the holy Catholic church and faithful musicians like Thousand Foot Krutch I understand the cost. To be "so far gone" in Christ is to be fully committed to a greater good and a higher love.


Tuesday, April 9, 2013

With Great Procrastination Comes Great Clarity

It's been almost two years since I took my Lenten journey to blog about a Bible verse of the day.

Boy has life changed since then.

Today I find myself more humble. Things have happened in my life that have allowed me to accept the fact the God is God....and I am not. Reading the old blog entries I saw a man trying to find himself in God. Sure, he was saying all the right things but deep down inside did he believe it? I'm not sure.

It takes a real man to fall on his knees and admit he's a failure. As of late I've decided to invest in a pair of holy knee pads--for all of these not so winning moments in my spiritual life. But this is good and I accept it now. I love going to confession...wait, let me clarify that statement...I love the feeling AFTER going to confession. Going to confession because I am a tool is not fun. The joy of forgiveness after venting my spleen to a priest is unbelievable.

Lately, I've been getting a little high and mighty in my walk. I kid you not, every time I pat myself on the back for "having control over my sin", the Devil always sneaks in and reminds me I'm human. It's amazing how pride can truly bring down a man. Thank God for forgiveness and grace. It's God's mercy that enables me to go back to confession for the 50-millionth time to ask for forgiveness.

I hope to add more blog posts in the weeks to come. I want to share my successes, my struggles, my praises and my hope with others. I may be just a man in the Pacific Northwest, but I am God's man and I now strive to do all things for His glory. Praise God from whom all blessings flow!