Friday, October 10, 2014

The Poison of Pornograpy and the Effects it has had on my Life.

The use of pornography among men and even women is staggering! What is even more shocking is the use of pornography among Christian men! You can read more about that here.

I have personally been affected by pornography because of the loved ones in my life. I was first introduced to it when I was a little girl. A close family member would look at pornographic magazines right in front of me. Unfortunately this family member was also a workaholic and paid little attention to me. Naturally what I subconsciously concluded from that as a little girl is that men were superior to women and the only thing women had to offer of value was their bodies. This was reinforced to me when at the age of 6, I was also molested by an older boy. This sent me down a road of sexual curiosity and I would often sneak the pornographic magazines that were in my home along with my friends and cousins. It is hard to put into words how damaging this was.

At the age of 19 I discovered God's love and I gave him my life. Through his grace, I underwent several years of inner healing of these past memories. When I was 23, I got married to a man who was 21. We were so very young and also immature. Those first years of marriage were very tough and stressful. My husband would shut me out and I felt all alone. This was compounded by the fact that I got pregnant on our honeymoon and it was a very difficult and complicated pregnancy. I later found out from him that the reason he shut me out was because he had a problem with porn. Especially when he was stressed, he would turn to pornography. He also had a fear of intimacy which would cause him to turn to porn instead of me. You can read more of his story here.

My husband has worked hard to overcome his addiction. He has taken advantage of the Sacrament of confession and has allowed God's love and grace to transform him. He is a different person than the one I married. He is better able to love me and be emotionally available to me. It has taken me a while however to be able to receive his love and let him love me. All those years took a toll. I have had to work through a lot of anger but haven't had anyone to talk to about it because I didn't want to make him look bad. I also put up walls to guard my heart and got used to it being just me and Jesus.What I am now realizing is it didn't need to be up to me to guard my own heart. Jesus would have been more than capable of guarding my heart for me if I would have fully entrusted it to him. As he is calling me to a higher level of surrender and I am letting go, those walls are coming down. I am finding healing and a greater level of freedom. Jesus truly is able to redeem anything especially when darkness is brought into the light. I am very proud of my husband for sharing his struggles. I trust that God will restore the years the locusts have eaten and I look forward to what the future holds with my love!

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Discernment and Being Used in the Area of our Greatest Weakness

The gift of discernment is a much needed gift right now especially with the times that we live in. There are several types of discernment that is important for members of the Body of Christ to walk in. There is the supernatural gift of discernment, where through the Holy Spirit, you know something about a person or situation that you wouldn't otherwise know. There is discernment that comes out of a relationship with Christ, enabling a person to recognize what the Holy Spirit wants to do and say in a given situation. And there is a natural discernment a person acquires from life experiences. When a Christian walks in all these dimensions of the gift, rooted in love, it can be very powerful!

The supernatural gift of discernment enables certain Christians to clearly recognize and distinguish between the influence of God, Satan, the world, and the flesh in a given situation. Through this gift one can warn believers in times of danger or keep them from being led astray by false teaching. If the gift is not rooted in love, it can come across as judgmental. An example of Jesus operating in this gift is found in Mark 2:8:

Immediately, Jesus knew in his Spirit that this is what they were thinking in their hearts and he said to them, "Why are you thinking these things?" 

Jesus was able to say this because he had a mature character and acted out of love. When I started following Christ at the age of 19, I would discern a lot of things about the people I would come in contact with on a daily basis. However, I did not yet have the character to act on it or the level of maturity to be able to handle the things I was seeing.

One of my biggest character flaws has been in the area of my speech. One of the Saints I have been able to relate to most since my conversion in 1988 is St. Peter. From what we know from scripture, it seems he was always putting his foot in his mouth and sometimes saying inappropriate things. It is very encouraging that the Lord ended up appointing him as the leader of the Church. Out of Peter's love and relationship with the Lord he finally learned to to discern who Jesus was and what the Holy Spirit was doing (Matthew 16:17) and the Lord ended up using him mightily.

Part of the reason I believe I struggled in the area of my speach is because growing up communication was something my family was lacking in. When I was a kid, instead of being told that I was saying something out of line or inappropriate, I would receive dirty looks. I did not always know however why I was receiving dirty looks. This may sound odd but it got to the point where I would purposely say inappropriate things just so I would know why I was receiving the dirty looks. After my conversion 26 years ago, this is the thing I struggled to overcome the most. I always found myself saying inappropriate and wrong things.  One of my main prayers was that Jesus would give me discernment in this area and that he would help me be socially appropriate. What I have learned over the  years is that discernment doesn't always miraculously drop into our mind. As I have learned to lean back, rest in Jesus' love for me, and surrender to his perfecting love and transformation, I have learned to better discern and make decisions based on love. For example, before speaking, I now first naturally ask myself the question, "If I say this, will it edify and encourage those I am speaking to?." "If I say that, will it make someone else look or feel bad?" This has also helped me to know when I am crossing the line into gossip.

God can use anything from our past for his purposes (Romans 8:28)! Some ways my dysfunctional childhood helped me in the area of discernment and how the Lord is using it is that I learned to pick up on body language and words not being said or the meaning behind words. I can often tell if someone has ulterior motives and can not be trusted. I can also usually tell if someone is being genuine which has also helped me be more genuine; after all, if I can tell this about others, maybe they can tell this about me. 

I write this post in hopes that it will encourage someone. The Lord is starting to move me out in ministry. Lately my husband and I have been given opportunities to speak and minister. If the Lord could use someone like me, he could use anyone. I love how the Lord often uses us in the areas we are weakest so his glory is then displayed the most!

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

9/11, Dreams and Second Chances

On the anniversary of 9/11 every year when I am watching the footage of the twin towers being hit by planes on TV, I am reminded of a dream I had exactly three years earlier in September of 1998. At the time I had the dream and until 9/11 happended in 2001, I did not realize the dream was going to be somewhat literal. I even prayed about and came up with a symbolic interpretation. 

Around the same time I had the dream, the Lord kept warning me that some storms were coming that would effect our nation. He impressed on me that even though he wasn't going to cause the storms, he was going to use these storms for his purposes and for good. Through them some people would turn to him and come to know him. Finally I had the following dream that gave a little more detail into the nature of one of the storms that was about to hit.

Dream - I was in a room filled with other people and we were socializing. The room was at the very top of a skyscraper. A big storm was coming but the people were not too concerned. I looked out the window and I saw a huge demon coming across the sky in the form of a big fire ball and it was headed right for the skyscraper. I knew I needed to get out of the path of this storm so I got my family out of the skyscraper, put them in the car and we drove away to get out of the way of this storm.

Dolly the sheep

The way I interpreted the dream at the time, which I believe is still relevant in a spiritual sense, was that the skyscraper represented man's own efforts to become like God and get close to God without God, much like the people did with the Tower of Babel. In the Church it is using the forms of religion instead of a real relationship with Jesus, relying on his grace and mercy. In the world it is through technology and setting ourselves up as gods by the things we are able to create. I also felt at the time that the Lord showed me it was very important that things be founded on the solid rock of Jesus because everything was going to be shaken and whatever was not founded on him would not be able to stand.
embryonic stem sell research

When 9/11 happened in 2001, it was very sobering to realize that the Lord was warning me of something that was actually going to happen and maybe I could have helped lessen the severity of it if I had only prayed more. I am very grateful for his love and mercy and for second chances! Today I pray for all those people who were directly affected by this tragic event!

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

Depression and the Average Christian

With the sad and tragic death of Robin Williams, there is now a lot of talk and speculation about depression and suicide. Suicide is always a tragedy. Ironically, a man who made the world laugh is now making people cry.

I do not agree with the people that are saying Robin Williams is free now and in a better place. Yes, we can entrust him to a loving and merciful God but I am not going to presume he is in a better place. It is so tragic that he felt there were no other options than to end his life. I do not know if he was a believer in God. It is almost understandable for someone to lose hope and become depressed if they are not a believer. I also do not know what was going on in his mind or if he was suffering from a mental illness. Even though I probably could talk about mental illness because I have a degree in Mental Health, I am not going to address that here. After all, I did not even agree with much of the stuff I was taught in my Psychology classes. I felt the perspectives were too much from a secular world view. 

What I would like to talk about here is the subject of depression for the average Christian without a mental illness. Personally, depression has been a temptation for me. Occasionally it knocks on my door. It usually starts with discouraging thoughts which stem from lack of hope and trust in God. There have been times I bought into these discouraging thoughts and gave into depression which I believe gave the enemy a foothold. The result of this was a spiraling downward of deep depression that was then hard to come out of. The Lord has warned me about giving into this. It is a sin and I have a choice. I can either choose to put my hope, trust and faith in the Lord even when life seems bleak or I can choose to have a pity party and give into depression.

That all being said, I would like to talk about grief and the difference between grief and depression. It is normal and human for us to grieve when tragedy strikes. Even Jesus grieved when his friend Lazarus died. You can grieve and still have hope and faith. When I had a miscarriage a couple years ago, I grieved but I did not give into depression. Instead I surrendered my grief over to the Lord and he turned it into something beautiful.

2 Corinthians 4:16-18, "Therefore we do not lose heart. Though outwardly we are wasting away, yet inwardly we are being renewed day by day. For our light and momentary troubles are achieving for us an eternal glory that far outweighs them all. So we fix our eyes not on what is seen, but on what is unseen, since what is seen is temporary, but what is unseen is eternal."

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

Gearing Up!

I can't believe the summer is almost over. I have been gearing up for the new school year; trying to get organized, ordering curriculum and hoping this will be a better year than last year. Last school year felt like juggling most of the time except I did not feel I did a very good job at it. Homeschooling multiple age children, trying to keep up with the housework and also taking care of a baby or toddler requires being able to multi-task big time, which I am not very good at.

Recently I was praying about this and an image came to my mind of people that are able to jump rope over multiple ropes while also doing flips and turning around. The Lord encouraged and showed me that to be able to do that takes a lot of patience, perseverance, and practice. Then he compared it to me as a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom (guess I wasn't imagining when I thought my life felt like that). I believe he was telling me I shouldn't beat myself up if I am not in that place yet and I keep tripping over the ropes. If I keep persevering and keep leaning back and resting in his grace in everything I do, he will get me to the place where I am able to handle everything that comes up in a day with grace and ease.

A few months back, the Lord really impressed upon me that my most important goal everyday needs to be to encounter him and help my children encounter him. I am trying to plan my school year and curriculum accordingly. There are a lot of good curriculums out there and it would be easy to get bogged down, wanting to do multiple things but if I remember that our main goal is to encounter him, then I feel I need to keep it simple. I am mainly going to stick with CHC (Catholic Heritage Curricula). I love the way it weaves in the faith with the lessons. I also like that their lessons are not too rigorous. The only subjects that I am not going to use CHC for is Math. Clare will be in 3rd grade and uses a program called Making Math Meaningful which is working really well for her. Lily is more of a kinesthetic learner and I am going to try Life of Fred with her. She is very bright and has a very creative mind but she wasn't really ready to sit and do most Kindergarten work last year so we are going to try again this year. She missed the cutoff by one month for just entering into Kindergarten this year anyway so I think we are fine. Sarah who is four is going to be working on the same material as Lily so that should make things easy. Hopefully Isaac who is 18 months will be content to play with toys I have stashed away while his sisters do school. Here's hoping :)

We usually start each school day off with a decade of the rosary, focusing on the life of Jesus one mystery at a time. We then read from the bible, preferably the gospel for the day and then each of the kids takes about five minutes to go off on their own and seek Jesus. I then have them write or draw in their prayer journals. My eighteen year old daughter will not have school on Fridays this year so she has suggested that we go to mass every Friday. This might be a challenge getting the little ones out of the house and at church by 9am but we'll give it a try. Another way children can encounter the Lord is through fun activities and creating memories. So, we will again take one day a week to either celebrate a feast day with our friends from our Eucharistic Heart group, go on a field trip or work on enrichment activities and learning games.

This is my plan. We'll see how it goes. If we all stay healthy (unlike last year as we caught EVERY illness that was going around) it could be a productive year. If it doe not go as I plan, I need to remember that God's grace is sufficient! He has always been faithful to make up for where I am lacking. Just like the boy who gave his little lunch of a few loaves of bread and fish and had it multiplied, I need to remember that if I give Jesus what little I have, he will multiply it as well.

* I am not being paid to advertise the curriculum I recommended.

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

How much is enough?

Once I was at a meeting with a group of church leaders. One woman there was the mother of a teenage daughter. She was lamenting how some of her daughter's friends had gone astray and she was wondering how we could keep our own children from going astray. One of the men spoke up and said, "We just need to pray continuously for them!". This didn't sit well with me. Afterall, how much prayer would be enough? Also, that seems to put it all on us. It also makes God out to be an ogre who witholds his mercy and grace from his children.

The truth is, God never withholds his mercy and grace.  
Luke 11:11-13 - What father among you, if his son asks for a fish, will instead of a fish give him a serpent;  or if he asks for an egg, will give him a scorpion? If you then, who are evil, know how to give good gifts to your children, how much more will the heavenly Father give the Holy Spirit to those who ask him!”  
We just need to tap into and get in touch with God's heart and his grace. When I pray for my children and others, I try to join my heart with God's heart for them and get in touch with what he already wants to do. I then place them in God's hand and entrust them to him without taking them back. Then I stand back and watch in amazement as God works and makes up for where I am lacking. This also helps make intercession a form of contemplation where I am able to encounter him.

I am also a homeschooling mom. Some days can get a little overwhelming. There is always more that you feel like you could be teaching your children and there is always more housework and laundry that could be done.

The Lord has really impressed on my heart that my main goal everyday needs to be to encounter him and help my children encounter him. Encountering him does not mean we say some prayers and memorize some scripture verses. Encountering him means we seek his face, meditate on his love and place ourselves in his presence. Instead of having my children memorize scripture I teach them the stories of Jesus' life so they get to know him and love him.

As a homeschooling, stay-at-home mom, I do not always get through every subject. My house is often messy and I do not always get through all the laundry, but I can have peace at the end of the day knowing I did the most important thing...I encountered Christ and helped my children encounter him as well.

Friday, July 4, 2014

"Being Religious"

This might be a touchy subject but it comes up quite a bit so I thought I would address it. I know some Protestant, non-denominational, evangelicals who pride themselves on not "being religious". "It's about a relationship not religion" they will say. I know where they are going with this and to an extent, I would agree but I'm not sure they really know what "being religious" means. They are usually too polite to tell me to my face but sometimes they will imply that I am involved with a 'religious institution', as if it were a bad thing and say it is not for them. 

First of all, religion does not have to be and should not be anti-relationship with God. I agree that we are called to have a relationship with God. Through Jesus' death and resurrection, he made a way for that to happen. We are called to "rend our hearts, not our garments." (Joel 2:3).  And we are called to love God with our whole heart, mind and soul. He does not want just lip service, he wants heart service. In effect, he wants his law to be written on our hearts.

I know people that think that striving to be obedient to the Lord is "being religious". I don't get that! Didn't Jesus even say, "If you love me, you will keep my commandments."(John 14:15)? I would like to propose that if you are not walking in obedience to the Lord but go to church every week and say that you love him, you are "being religious". If you are lukewarm in your faith, but still go through the motions, you are "being religious". I also had someone tell me once, "Shoulds are bad and if you tell yourself, 'I should do this and I shouldn't do that', then you are being religious." Isn't that statement in itself being legalistic and putting God in a box?

There are also those that say that 'guilt' is a bad thing as if ALL guilt was bad. Paul however in his letter to the Corinthians distinguishes and talks about a guilt that is a good thing. 

“Godly sorrow brings repentance that leads to salvation and leaves no regret, but worldly sorrow brings death.” (2 Corinthians 7:10)

So, it sounds to me like there is a 'Godly guilt' that is a good thing because it can lead to someone leaving sin behind and changing their ways.

Some Protestants also think it is religious that Catholics have a liturgy (a collection of formularies for public worship). I hate to break it to my fellow Christians, but if you belong to a church, you probably have a liturgy. It may be a shallow liturgy, but it is still a liturgy. If you gather, sing a few songs, have a message and a time of prayer every week, that is a liturgy. If you are doing this every week but not inviting God to be in your midst, that is "being religious". If you are going through the motions but your heart is distant, not surrendered to the Lord and your thoughts are elsewhere, that is "being religious". In any given denomination you have those who just go through the motions but are not sold out for the Lord. It is not the religious institution or denomination that is the culprit, but the callousness of our own hearts. I think most of us have been "religious" at one point or another.

Now, I will give "non-religious people" this, "religious people" might be more prevalent in a denomination where there are many born into it instead of choosing it. That is not as much the fault of the church as it is those in charge of teaching and catechizing (which should primarily be the parents). In the Catholic Church there also might be more to ensnare someone who is prone to scrupulosity and someone who has not yet had a personal encounter with the Lord. However, for someone who has had that personal encounter, there is so much richness and beauty that can aid to help one grow deeper in the faith and love of the Lord.  Knowing what is there, why we do what we do and out of love for the Lord, putting our hearts into our Faith is not "being religious".

I grew up in the Catholic Church, and growing up I did not know that we could have a relationship with Christ. I thought he created us, left us on this earth to fend for ourselves and watched from a distance like that 1980's song "From a Distance". However, that couldn't be further from the truth and when I was 19, my spiritual eyes were opened (through the breaking of the bread) at a Mass. I then discovered that God was very much in our midst, walking among us and imparting his grace through the Sacraments of the Church. I also was involved in non-denominational churches for ten years and knew people who went to church every Sunday but were not surrendered to Christ or living for him during the week.

I propose that we as Catholics and Protestants who love the Lord, work together to help those around us encounter Christ. I say we stop judging, labeling and start loving one another, recognizing all we have in common instead of what is different. It is then and only then that Christ will be revealed in and through us! 

“A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another, even as I have loved you, that you also love one another. By this all men will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” (John 13:34-35)