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.