If you are looking for my blog titled, The Contemplative Catholic Convert, you are at the right spot.

Friday, December 29, 2017

Questions and Answer(s)

It’s not that I question God. I don’t.
Well, maybe I do.
Like just now as I’m reading through the Psalms (9):
“Arise, oh Lord, do not let the man prevail; Let the nations be judged before you. Put them in fear, oh Lord; Let the nations know that they are but men.”
And that psalm reminded me of a text in Isaiah chapter 64: “Oh, that You would rend the heavens and come down, that the mountains might quake at Your presence.”
I mean, with all the demonic-inspired evil here in the States and overseas, I sure don’t understand His apparent silence. 
I like to think if God opened the earth like He did during Korah’s rebellion (Numbers 16) when the earth swallowed him, his family and all those who joined his rebellion against Moses .... if that happened today—we’d probably see some changes in our culture and our world. 
Or, would we?
If I remember correctly, it didn’t take 24 hours after the earth swallowed Korah and the others before Israel was grumbling and finding fault with God all over again.
Yes, sometimes, like tonight as I’m reading the psalms, I get to wondering why God does what He does — and, honestly, wishing He’d do things like He used to do. 
Then again, maybe His answer to me would be the same as He gave to His disciples who said to Him, “shall we call fire down from heaven and consume the Samaritans?”
If you remember the story, Jesus rebuked them and said, “The Son of Man did not come to destroy men’s lives, but to save them.” (Paraphrased from Luke 9:51-56)
Yes, I have lots of questions - and not many answers. But if nothing else, reading the Scriptures sure gives me opportunity to think about how life in the 21st-century is so similar to life in the first century. Same questions, but always the same answer: “God is in heaven and on His throne. Let all the earth be silent before Him.” (see Habakkuk 2:20)
And He reminds me again: He is God. I am not. 

Thursday, December 28, 2017

All My Hopes?

During my time with the Lord this morning, these lyrics floated through my mind.  Some of you may know the hymn:

"All to Jesus I surrender,
All to Him I freely give;
I will ever love and trust Him,
In His presence daily live.
I surrender all, I surrender all.
All to Thee, my blessed Savior,
I surrender all."

Intuitively, I knew the words and its message were in response to a question I asked myself a moment earlier – a question I've asked myself many, many times during the last decades:

“When my plans fall apart, when my hopes lie shattered, when my dreams never materialize, when my prayers remain unanswered – can I still say with my heart as well as my mouth – “I surrender all’?

All my plans. All my hopes. All my dreams. All my unanswered prayers.

Lord Jesus, help me in my reluctance to surrender them all into Your hands. And to leave them there.

Sunday, December 24, 2017

45 Years

I've posted this several times. Today is 45 years since my story began.

Christmas Eve 1972. Forty-five years ago today. I remember the day as if it happened only a few weeks ago.

I still see myself kneeling at the side of my bunk in Barracks M, above the chow hall on the Yokosuka Naval Base in Japan. I’d recently finished Hal Lindsay’s, The Late Great Planet Earth. His references to Jesus the Messiah in my Jewish Bible amazed me. No, that is not the correct word. His references astounded me.

In all my life – I was 22 at the time – I never remembered opening a Bible, and certainly had never heard of the many prophecies in my Bible that referred to Jesus. Isaiah 7, Isaiah 53, Daniel 7, Zechariah 12, Psalm 22, Psalm 16, Jeremiah 31, Micah 5, Deuteronomy 18 are just a few that come immediately to mind. But there they were, pulsating on the pages as I read his book.

Still skeptical, I walked the two blocks to the base chapel and asked the Jewish chaplain if I could borrow a Bible. I took it back to my room to verify the texts Lindsay quoted were actually there, in my Jewish Bible.

They were.

I never thought forty-five years ago my life would take the twists and turns it has taken, each twist and each turn leading me ultimately to this place and time on December 24, 2017 as I post these words. But it all began as I knelt by my bunk in Barracks M. The Holy Spirit, having shown me through my Jewish Bible the truth about sin and judgment, but also about mercy and forgiveness, I stared at the clouds beyond my window and said to God, “I believe Jesus is the Messiah.”

Six words. But unspoken in those six words, yet resolute in my heart as I spoke them, was my promise to God of my commitment to Him. I didn’t know the prayer of St. Ignatius of Loyola at the time:

"Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen . . ."

But I meant every syllable in the six words I spoke. And to this day, forty-five years later, I have tried my best to live according to the unspoken intent of those six words.

Have I failed Him in those years? Many times. Has God forgiven me, reconciled me, redirected me? Every time I confessed my failure. Every time.

Forty-five years. Over and over and again and again I have fallen to my knees and re-committed myself to my God and Savior.

The point of this story is not, however, about me. It is about you.

How long has it been since YOU said to God something similar to St. Ignatius’ prayer: "Take, O Lord, and receive my entire liberty, my memory, my understanding and my whole will. All that I am and all that I possess You have given me: I surrender it all to You to be disposed of according to Your will. Give me only Your love and Your grace; with these I will be rich enough, and will desire nothing more. Amen"?

This is Christmas Eve. If you’ve never done it, why not do it now? If you’ve done it many times, why not do it again? What better gift this Christmas could you give to yourself, your family, your community . . .

And to God?

Saturday, December 23, 2017

What Kind of Faith?

I always find this vignette in Acts 19 instructive:

“But also some of the Jewish exorcists, who went from place to place, attempted to name over those who had the evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, “I adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preaches.” Seven sons of one Sceva, a Jewish chief priest, were doing this. And the evil spirit answered and said to them, “I recognize Jesus, and I know about Paul, but who are you?” And the man, in whom was the evil spirit, leaped on them and subdued all of them and overpowered them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.” (verses 13-16)

If our faith in Christ is not a personal faith, then it is nothing more than a bit of trivial knowledge. If our faith is rooted only in what we have heard of Him from others – and not in what He Himself has taught us as we’ve sat at His feet in prayer and study of Scripture, then we do nothing more than imitate Sceva’s seven sons.

They relied on their impersonal and 'hand-me-down' knowledge of Christ – and it resulted in complete failure.

Fast forward 2100 years. Nothing is different about Christ-centered faith today. Only a personal faith and relationship with Jesus grants us the authority to overcome the darkness in our own lives -- and through prayer, the darkness in the lives of others.

The Christmas season is a great time to reexamine ourselves. What kind of relationship do we have with Jesus?

And what must we do to make it better?

Thursday, December 14, 2017

Don't Look Back

I read Luke 17 this morning. The context is the second Advent when the Lord returns. I encourage you to read the entire chapter – and then focus on verse 32: “Remember Lot’s wife.”

You’ll remember what she did after the angels nearly dragged her, Lot, and their two daughters away from Sodom.

One reason I appreciate the lyrics of this song (below) is they encourage me to keep on keeping on. We always face the temptation to ‘look back’ with a desire to ‘go back’. Life is too often too complicated, too wearisome, too frustrating that it is often too easy to long for days and places that were once so familiar and comfortable.

Christian: Keep on keeping on, fixing our eyes and heart on Jesus, the author and finisher of our faith.

Monday, December 11, 2017

Don't Leave Home Without Him

I never knew I had an anterior cruciate ligament. But I received my lesson in human anatomy as I rounded third and sprinted toward the plate. A few yards down the third base line my right knee popped. It felt like an unseen hand ripped my leg in two. I toppled to the dirt, in too much pain to move.   

The surgeon said we should wait a few days for the swelling to subside before repairing my injury. He sent me home with crutches.

The anterior cruciate ligament -- also known as the ACL -- is a band of tissue located behind the knee. Its chief purpose is to stabilize the leg by fastening the top and bottom together. If the ACL tears, the knee easily shifts out of position during normal activities like walking or running.

I didn’t like using crutches. I felt uncoordinated as I hobbled down the sidewalk. Maneuvering from the living room to the kitchen was more trouble than I wanted to endure. Climbing stairs was out of the question. Within two hours of returning home, I put the crutches aside.

“I don’t need these things,” I groused before going to bed. “I can get by just fine without ‘em.”

The next morning, I crawled out from under the covers and stood carefully at the bedside, testing my knee. It felt sore, but nothing I couldn’t handle.  I showered, dressed and wolfed down my breakfast. I ignored the crutches as I walked out the door.

When I stepped off the sidewalk, my knee buckled. If the car hadn’t broken my fall, I’d have fallen to the ground. A few minutes later, I hobbled back into the house to retrieve my crutches.

Over the last forty-five years, as I’ve shared my faith in Christ with others, I’ve heard the refrain so often, “Religion is a crutch,” I wonder if it isn’t subliminally scripted into our subconscious.  What people most often mean is, “Believing in Almighty God is no different than being weak and dependent on something.” 

Coming from the lips of men and women whose spiritual injuries sometimes defy description, I shake my head in bewilderment.  In the face of overwhelming troubles and heartache, of illnesses, and loneliness, or the death of loved ones, and on and on it goes, some people still stubbornly cling to their pride and walk out the door without support. Others, hobbled by crippling disabilities like drunkenness, drug addiction, uncontrollable sexual lusts, and any number of spiritual injuries, still crow, “I don’t need crutches. I can get by fine without ‘em.”

I’ve learned (and still need a reminder now and then) it’s good to have Someone to lean on. The game changes too quickly. One moment I’m sprinting toward home, the next, I’m writhing in the dirt, eating my pride.

I am not ashamed to admit it. I need a crutch. I need Christ’s strong hand of support and soft words of comfort. I need a rock upon which to stand and a Savior to hold me fast.

I learned the truth a long time ago: Don’t leave home without Him. Or, more to the point: Don’t live your life without Him.

Saturday, December 9, 2017

A Supernatural Gift

I am a Pentecostal Christian. A charismatic Catholic. For more than four decades I've believed in the Biblical truth of the baptism of the Holy Spirit as manifested in what many call "speaking in tongues."

I routinely pray in tongues.

However, I don’t know why in those earlier years I DID NOT believe in another – and supremely important – gift of the Holy Spirit – the one promised by the Lord Jesus in the last half of John 6. I’m referring to the changing of bread into the very Body of Christ, and the wine into the very Blood of Christ.

Over the years I’ve found great peace and comfort and spiritual strength while exercising my supernatural prayer language. And I am so very sorry that I did not know in those early years that I could find additional peace and comfort and strength in receiving the Eucharist.

I missed a lot.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

Potiphar, Joseph -- and Us

I’ve read Genesis dozens of times, but this time I noticed something for the first time in the story of Joseph and Potiphar. Not that it is of any great theological importance, but what I saw caught my attention for a few moments. You’ll find the vignette in chapters 39-41.

In 39:1, Potiphar is called “captain of [Pharaoh’s] bodyguard”  – a position similar to the Chief of the U.S. President’s Secret Service.

Potiphar had purchased Joseph as his slave, and eventually, Joseph rose to what we might call, “Head Butler” of Potiphar’s household. If you remember the story, in time, Potiphar’s wife falsely accused Joseph of attempted rape and Potiphar threw Joseph into prison (it is of interest that Potiphar did not have Joseph executed.

(It’s has been theorized that Potiphar did not believe his wife’s accusation, but could not take the word of a slave against his wife’s. But that is another discussion).

So, Joseph is now in prison where the jail’s warden soon put Joseph into a position of rank among the prisoners. You’d think that by this time Potiphar was done with the guy and had forgotten all about him. But that doesn’t seem to be the case.

In 40:4, “the captain of [Pharaoh’s] bodyguard” (Potiphar) put Joseph in charge of two recently incarcerated special prisoners (Pharaoh’s personal chef and butler). Apparently, Potiphar was not only still keeping tabs on Joseph, but he considered him worthy of supervising those special prisoners.

Then in 41:12 – which occurs two full years later—Joseph is still called “a servant of the captain of the bodyguard” (i.e. Potiphar).

As I said, this likely has little theological value – at least, none that I can see – but I’d never noticed that Potiphar seemed to have a continued ‘trusting’ relationship with Joseph all those years, even after his wife’s false charges.

Maybe 39:21 holds a key. It occurs after Potiphar throws Joseph into prison. The text reads: “But the Lord was with Joseph and extended kindness to him, and gave him favor in the sight of the chief jailer.”

Perhaps there is a theological point after all: Trust God. Always do the right thing. God will forever stand by your side.

Sunday, December 3, 2017

Only Five Books

Everyone who regularly reads my posts knows that I strongly encourage reading the entire bible through year after year. But I got to thinking the other day that there are probably many who find that idea too daunting to even begin the journey.

So, perhaps I should simplify things – anything to inspire 100% of those who read my posts to set themselves to regularly read God’s word and, thereby, learn how to better walk with the Savior.

Here, then, is my simplified suggestion:

Set for yourself a goal for the next 12 months, until November 19, 2018 (or whatever date you read this blog post), to read only the following five books of the New Testament: The Gospel of Matthew, the Gospel of John, the book of Romans, the book of Galatians, and the book of Colossians.

That’s it. Five books of the 27 books in the New Testament.

Each day as you begin the day’s reading, ask the Holy Spirit what He wants you to know in that day’s reading.

Reading those five books should not be a sprint. Plan for it to take a year to read them. But in your reading, it will be important to reflect – even ruminate – on verses or paragraphs that arouse your interest. Listen as the Holy Spirit speaks to you.

It will be a year well spent.

(By the way, there are many, many One-Year Bible reading plans available on the internet. Search key words such as: One Year Bible Reading.  Also, if you are interested in reviewing the One-Year Bible Reading Plan I devised, here is the link: