HOW LOW CAN YOU GO?

The same question Chubby Checker asks in his version of the Limbo Rock, I can ask several democratic United States governors and legislators who support and cheer for late term abortion and infanticide. This has nothing to do with politics, because I can ask the same of some US Catholic Cardinals. I watched in anger and disgust as the “catholic” governor of New York, Mario Cuomo (D) signed his late term abortion bill into law while members of the New York legislature, cheered wildly. To top this, Governor Cuomo ordered the Freedom Tower to be lit that night in pink for victory!

Governor Cuomo, who identifies as catholic, has been vocal against Church teaching throughout his career. He stated in 2014, if you are pro-life, you ‘have no place’ in New York1. Does this sound catholic to you?  If you’re not sure, ask yourself if you could imagine Jesus congratulating King Herod on the slaughter of Jewish baby boys in his quest to kill Jesus.

Just when I thought it couldn’t get worse, Virginia Governor Ralph Northam (D), went even lower. The bill in his state included infanticide. Governor Northam explained on local radio station WTOP that under his bill a newborn baby will be kept “comfortable” while mom and doc decide if he or she should be snuffed out. How low can you go? Apparently as low as China and South Korea. Such illustrious company. Thank God the bill was defeated.

Let’s move on to the democratic ladies in white, headed by Speaker of the House, Nancy Pelosi (D) California, a “catholic”, and newbie Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D) New York. This block of women wore white to represent the late 1800’s to early 1900’s US suffragette movement. Interesting, since all leading suffragettes of the time, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Susan B. Anthony, Lucy Stone among others, were vehemently against abortion and considered it a tool of men to oppress women. These legislators couldn’t even stand or applaud President Trump’s comments against infanticide. Instead of white, the female democratic legislators should have worn red.

Speaking of wearing red, the color of cardinals, and I’m not talking about birds or the baseball team, I’m talking about Catholic Cardinals. Namely, Cardinal Dolan of the Archdiocese of New York. When the good people of New York rose up against the horrific abortion law in their state, many turned to their religious leaders. Catholics demanded punishment of Cuomo on the grounds of his prolific, unrepentant pro-murder stance. The outcry is not limited to New York—it’s country wide. According to Pew, only 25% of US adults approve of late term abortion—many of the 75% against are pro-choice2. So what did the chief shepherd of the Diocese of New York City faithful do?  Cardinal Dolan was horrified and condemned the law. When pressed on why Cuomo shouldn’t be excommunicated he stated that excommunication shouldn’t be used as a weapon3.

OK so why do we excommunicate women who legally have the abortion and the people who legally perform them4 but not the legislator who made it all legally possible? I’m not a theologian but I thought excommunication is an agent of mercy, not punishment or a weapon. It’s meant to bring the person back to the faith through penance. If you are Catholic, you want to be in communion with the church—not against it. How can Cuomo, a man who repeatedly and flamboyantly flips his nose at our Lord, have the honor of partaking in anything sacred? He’s not sorry. He’s rubbing it in our faces.

In the wake of the current sex scandal rocking the Catholic Church, why do our shepherds keep adding fuel to the flame? In what way will this lead people to the faith? Who wants admittance into a religion where the person next to you reviles the very principle you stand for? If Governor Cuomo called a presser this morning and said he was wrong about this law, begs forgiveness, and will vote to repeal it, Catholics would accept this and welcome him back, but he’s not going to do that because we know what happens to politicians who buck democratic party lines. One need looks no further than Pro-Life Illinois US Rep. Dan Lipinski (D)5.

It’s time we tell our “shepherds”, religious and legislative, we’re not having it. When I discuss the new late term abortion and infanticide laws to friends and co-workers, many don’t know a thing about it. The media squelches the story because it doesn’t follow their agenda, but the Church should not. This should be the main topic of every homily. What are parish priests afraid of? Parishioners like Governor Cuomo.

Just last week I read a story that Bishop Hurley, Diocese of Saginaw, Michigan, removed Father Edwin Dwyer, a canon lawyer, from his parish for introducing reverence and tradition back into one of his Masses6. The congregation loved it—except for a wealthy couple who reported him. He was removed expeditiously. Money is what influenced this bishop to do the unthinkable. Money and prestige influence some priests, bishops, and cardinals. Cardinal Dolan rubs elbows with the elites, attends cocktails parties and exhibits, even those that exposed sacred Catholic garments to the vile, mocking fashion of wealthy celebrities7.

All of us will have to face God one day—including Dolan and Cuomo. It’s our job to enlighten our loved ones. You and I have a voice. I intend to use mine. I am Catholic and proudly Pro-Life. To quote gospel singer, Mavis Staples, “We go high when they go low.” Don’t be afraid of being mocked and hated. Don’t get discouraged. Be proud. Wear it like a badge of honor. Instead of dancing the politically correct Limbo, heed the words of Jesus in Matthew 7:13-28 and Luke 6:22-23, “Blessed are you when people hate you, drive you out, abuse you, denounce your name as criminal, on account of the Son of man. Rejoice when that day comes and dance for joy! Your reward will be great in heaven.”

 

1 The Washington Times – Sunday, January 19, 2014

2  Pew Research Center, Public Opinion on Abortion, October 15, 2018

3 Relevant Magazine, NY Cardinal Dolan Won’t Excommunicate Gov. Andrew Cuomo Over Abortion Law, January 28, 2019

4 Canon #1398

5 CNN Politics, An anti-abortion, conservative Democrat fights for survival in Illinois primary, Eric Bradner, March 19, 2018

6 National Catholic Register, Nation, Saginaw Priest Removed From Parish for Traditional ‘Style of Worship’, Joseph O’Brien, February 7, 2019

7 National Catholic Register, Blogs, How the Vatican Became Enmeshed in the Met Gala, Edward Pentin, May 9, 2018

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I Can’t Get Next To You

The Temptations were once called the “kings of R&B” and ruled the airwaves from the ‘60s to the ‘90s. It’s unfortunate that most Millennials, both Generations Y and definitely Z, probably never heard of them or of Motown Records. The song is about a man who can do anything, except get close to a particular person he likes. The same can be true about the Catholic Church and Millennials. It’s not just the Catholic Church but all organized religions. Millennials, my children included, are all about technology, independence, and truth.  They are the largest demographic in the US and therefore wield an enormous amount of leverage in several markets.

As a Baby Boomer, working in a university setting, I deal with Millennials all day, every day.  I can tell you they do not think in the same traditional way that you or I do. Contrary to what is being put out there about them, they are creative, smart, and opinionated. They can be open to everything and closed to everything at the same time. They hold no loyalties, they trust no one, are in debt, but generally optimistic. They hold off on marriage, yet lead in out-of-wedlock births, while firmly believing children raised in 1-parent homes are bad for society. A recent Pew Study shows the divide.  Where 70% of past generations absolutely believed in God, only 58% of Millennials do with only 36% self-identifying as religious.1

Organized religion is low on their priority list. Many experienced “religion” from the church services they were forced to attend by their parents. They don’t like phonies and if Millennials aren’t learning or doing something constructive they are disengaged. The one truth they have embraced is Pro-Life. They are the catalyst driving the movement. Just tune in to the March For Life every January and look at the ages of those involved.

If we want Millennials to return to the Church we have to engage them. Millennials are desperate for truths and if you don’t give it to them straight, you’re out. They don’t want wishy-washy sayings or flip-flop beliefs; they want the history and the proof of who you are, what you believe in, and why. They want the blood and guts, the nuts and bolts, botta bing—botta boom.  Who was Jesus, what did He say, and what did He do?  Who are the saints, what did they say, and what did they do. Why do we have these sacraments? What do these symbols mean? Why do you do what you do?  You must be prepared with answers and fully engage them. They are interested and they will challenge you so be prepared.

In their book, The Millennials, Thom and Jess Rainer state that those Millennials who do strongly believe and identify with God “are passionate about their faith”. They want to be “radically” rooted in community, know Scripture, and love their neighbor.2 This could account for the uptick in young people returning to traditional Catholic churches.  Teach them the traditions of the church. Most Millennials have never heard of the Tridentine/Extraordinary Form/Latin Mass, Gregorian chant/Medieval sacred music/polyphonic music, and many are drawn to it.

You can’t expect Millennials to just wander into your church. You have to seek them out. They love an invitation. They are not shy about talking to older people—they like being mentored. You will have to come out of your comfort zone, though. You must make yourself available to them. If they know what you’re saying is truth they’ll return and listen for more. They are thirsty for knowledge. Be that fount.

I’m not saying all of them will listen. There are several who, like some of us, are jaded or firmly held in their beliefs and not open to other opinions. Many were raised in a secular home. As one Millennial put it, “I pray all the time but who am I praying to?” They are hungry for answers. Others are taught religion is a bad thing—guilt laden, judgmental, and close minded.  We need to show them that’s not so.

Don’t expect Millennials to come running to a “young adult” group meeting at the church. The first thing you should do is avoid the young adult moniker—they hate it. Go to them on their territory. Remember Theology on Tap? Why not host a short, engaging, lecture at the local coffee shop or art center? After the lecture open the floor to discussion.  Keep it fast-paced and make sure the topics are rooted in Scripture and relatable to today’s society. Explain what we can do together for others in our neighborhood.

Millennials want to change the world and make it a better place. Ask for their help organizing church/community events, teaching the youngsters and the oldsters the fundamentals of computers and safely navigating the Web, hosting a Millennial Bible Study, coordinating a food pantry day, neighborhood cleanup, or painting or remodeling for a neighbor in need, anything where they can lead the way and make a difference in their community—all in the name of being a good Christian. Include them in church services as lectors or ushers. Millennials are the most educated generation…utilize their skills and include them in parish councils. Millennials love social media.  You want to reach them, make sure your website is up to par and you must have an active Facebook, Instagram, Snapchat etc. And who best to be in charge of your church’s social media?  A Millennial of course.

Lastly and most importantly, when they see a parish community actually living their faith, knowledgeable in its teachings, knowing God and His Law, and loving each other, you will capture their hearts and souls. Who doesn’t enjoy being with people of all backgrounds and ages who love their Lord and their neighbor?  Isn’t that what living Catholic is all about? To get Millennials to the Catholic Church we need to change I Can’t Get Next To You to Come Together.

 

1 Pew Research Center, Social & Demographic Trends, Millennials in Adulthood, March 7, 2014 www.pewsocialtrends.org/2014/03/07/millennials-in-adulthood/

2 The Millennials: Connecting to America’s Largest Generation by Thom S. Rainier and Jess Rainer

 

DAUGHTER

The song by the same name was performed by Pearl Jam and is about a child with a disability.  Usually my articles and the titles of the songs by the same name have nothing in common, but this one… If you follow the news like me you may be aware of the Bonnie Liltz story.  Actually, the real victim of this story is not Bonnie but her late daughter, Courtney. You see Courtney was adopted by Bonnie at the age of 2.  Courtney had cerebral palsy and had to have 24-hour care.  However, the young woman was thriving. Speaking, when doctors said she wouldn’t, feeding herself, and using a computer. According to Bonnie Liltz, “she was a happy girl”1.

On May 27, 2015, after twenty plus years of caring for Courtney, Bonnie decided Courtney’s life must end.  She came to this conclusion because she, Bonnie, was battling cancer and other health issues.  Courtney had no say-so in the matter.  Bonnie mixed a cocktail of several drugs and fed it to her daughter, Courtney. She then attempted to take her own life, but was unsuccessful.

Bonnie Liltz, who is still ill, and very much alive is upset because the Illinois courts think she should—I don’t know—go to jail for murdering her daughter.2 You see Bonnie doesn’t want to go to jail.  She is now asking for “mercy” from Bruce Rauner, the governor of Illinois.  It also appears that because Bonnie is so ill the state jail just can’t seem to take good care of her.  Hmmm. Now let’s think back.  Isn’t it ironic that it was for this same reason that Bonnie decided to kill Courtney? Yes, you read that right. Bonnie worried that she couldn’t care for Courtney if she was too ill and she didn’t want to subject Courtney to state care because it wasn’t adequate—so, she killed her out of “mercy and love”. That’s amazing.

Also amazing is how many times Bonnie Liltz refers to God and the “gift” she received from Him when she adopted Courtney, and how “all life is precious”.  Really, wow!  So being Courtney was a gift from God how does Bonnie reconcile that she, not God, would decide to snuff out that gift?  And now that she is the ill one who cannot receive individualized care, it becomes a whole different story?

Bonnie, who is currently out on bond, didn’t like state sponsored jail life and is now asking for clemency to spare her from the horrors of it.  The Illinois Department of Corrections (state) just can’t provide the (individual) healthcare that Bonnie is accustomed to. You know, eating what she wants, taking her medications, and good quality physical and mental care.  She lost 14 pounds in jail! This is the same argument she made for taking Courtney’s life.  The state could not take care of her in the same manner that she, an individual citizen, could.

So far the courts are having none of it. She was sentenced to 4 years for involuntary manslaughter, which is a far lighter sentence then the one she bestowed upon her daughter.  It’s becoming the norm for judges to sentence killers of the innocent to lesser stints in jail and it’s wrong.  There is that slippery slope that pro-life advocates keep spotlighting. If abortion is legal, why stop at the fetus just before it’s born? Why not after birth and maybe up to say, 2 years old or older? And what about the disabled? That leads to the elderly. We’ve already started legalizing suicide for the sick, so why stop there?  You know, all in the name of “compassion”.

Thanks to abortion (the proverbial foot in the door), we are seeing this happen all too frequently. Mothers who no longer want to care for their child will kill them, out of mercy of course, and judges pass on lenient sentences. The child doesn’t have to be ill, just inconvenient. Some cases are more heinous than others, yet it’s difficult for Americans to wrap their heads around a mother who can kill her own child. This must stop or it will end with infanticide and worse.

Christians are taught that all life is precious from womb to the tomb. We are against capital punishment as well. It’s a hard sell when you look at some of these horrific serial offenders.  God teaches us that everyone can change. We must forgive.  St. Paul reminds us in his letter to the Romans 12:19 that vengeance belongs only with God.  However, God never said there should be no justice for the innocent and oppressed.  In fact that very thing is mentioned quite often in the Bible.  Jesus summed it all up in one sentence: love your neighbor as yourself. If you follow that golden rule you’ll never go wrong.

Back to Bonnie Liltz.  I’m sure Bonnie was a selfless mother at one time.  She cared for her disabled daughter for over 20 years. Being a mom is a thankless job on a good day. One may have looked at her and thought her a saint at one time. I agree with her thinking that the state could never take care of Courtney like she did. She was worried about her daughter and what would become of her once she was too ill or dead.  However, her end game was all wrong.

It’s very easy to feel compassion for a mother with a very ill child. How can that be murder? The mother thought the best place for her daughter was with God in Heaven. She didn’t stab or shoot her. She just went to sleep and never woke up. There was no pain1. Tell that to the millions of mothers who have and still are caring for their sick children.

Answer me this, would you feel comfortable with another person making the decision to end your life? What happens when you’re too old or too sick to take care of you? If this becomes the norm it will eventually make its way mainstream and come for all of us.  Eugenics is making a comeback.  It seems that the more we forget our history the more it just keeps circling back.

Bonnie Liltz references God so often that I wonder if she belonged to a church or a support group. If she did, she could have talked to her pastor or friends who could have reached out and got her the help she so desperately needed. She was overwhelmed, distraught, ill, and confused. Someone could have counseled her and this tragedy would never have happened.

If Governor Rauner has an ounce of sense, and I’m not sure that he does since he lied to his constituents and just made Illinois the most abortion friendly state in the union, he will uphold the Illinois courts and keep Bonnie Liltz in jail.

 

1 Suburban Mom Who Killed Disabled Daughter in Botched Murder-Suicide Speaks Publicly for 1st Time; Carol Marin and Don Moseley, NBC 5 Carol Marin Reports, August 31, 2016.

2 Bonnie Liltz initially was charged with murder but plead guilty to involuntary manslaughter.

BE NOT AFRAID

This is the official theme for Respect Life Sunday1, which is always celebrated on the first Sunday in October.  In fact, October is Respect Life Month. If your church isn’t celebrating life this month…find another church.

I never thought here in the United States of America that any citizen would be afraid to take a stand for life.  It’s the first inalienable right mentioned in the Declaration of Independence and we, as Americans and Christians, have the right and the obligation to defend it. If we do not, it could be taken from us.  We are living in a time where the 1st Amendment2 is under attack along with common sense, civility, morality, basic science, and possessing a spine. Why are we so quiet when we should be up-in-arms?

Abortion is murder.  There is no way around it.  It brings about death—period.  A fetus in the womb is a little human. What would happen if someone had the audacity to destroy a field of cocoons before the mature butterflies could emerge?  We all know what would happen.  Social media would light up, celebrities would be outraged, and news outlets would interview lepidopterists to tell you how butterflies impact the planet.  Death threats on the fiends and their families would ensue, and Jimmy Kimmel would be crying on his talk show.  I just used the example of butterflies but I could have substituted any animal3.

The most vocal among us are the hundreds of thousands of mainly young people who march through the streets of Washington, DC each January, braving the cold, snowy, or rainy conditions, to participate in the March For Life, the largest pro-life event in the world.  Although huge, it’s rarely if ever covered by any mainstream media outlet in the 40+ years of its existence.  Why?  Because they don’t want you to see it, hear it, or even know about it. And thinking about what abortion is and does makes everyone uncomfortable.  Well it should.  Murdering babies for the sake of convenience is the real inconvenient truth.  These pro-life advocates are fervently trying to shine a light on the millions of murdered innocents who can’t speak for themselves.

Remember the parable of the lamp in Mark 4:21-25? “Is a lamp brought in to be put under a basket or under a bed, and not to be placed on a lampstand? For there is nothing hidden, except to be made visible; nothing is secret except to come to light.  Anyone who has ears to hear ought to hear! Take notice of what you are hearing. The measure with which you measure will be measured out to you, and still more will be given to you.” How do you think Jesus delivered this story?  Did he sit with his head down, muttering quietly about truth, light, and a visible Church?  I doubt that.  I’m positive he stood, raised his voice, and was physically expressive.  He wanted his message to be heard, understood, and spread. There were no microphones, TV, radio, or the internet. Jesus was not timid and quiet.  Jesus was a revolutionary.  He upset the olive cart.  He rocked the boat. Get that image of the get-along, go-along, hippie Jesus out of your head. He had to be a mesmerizing and energetic speaker.

Yet, here we sit silent, except for a few, while Planned Parenthood profits off the murder of and selling of babies and their body parts.  Those self-taught investigative journalists who exposed PP are facing jail time and God bless them—they don’t care. And we should be just as fearless.  Nothing changes unless we demand and enact the change.  We’ve all heard the excuses: “I don’t want to upset so-in-so. She’ll start a war with me on Facebook.” “Nobody is going to listen to me, I’m just one person.” “You say it for me.” Stop it.  The time has come for every person to stand up and speak out. The more we remain docile lambs, the easier it is for them to keep chipping away at our rights.

It’s already happening.  Can someone give me the definition of “hate” speech?  The First Amendment protects all speech, not some, all and especially speech which makes you uncomfortable. Do you think speaking out against abortion isn’t provocative?  Go to any college campus and just walk around with pro-life literature. I won’t even suggest that you engage in debate because you’ll never get that far. There is a good chance you will be assaulted, physically and definitely verbally, and tossed off the campus. If you’re a student, you’ll be sent to the Dean of Students and be given a lecture on misogyny, and when and if you can go to a “free speech zone”, along with being publicly shamed and shunned. Ask your kids if you don’t believe me.

Think of all those Christians—men, women, and children—who have been and still are being martyred for their faith.  We, in the United States, are not subject to anything remotely like this.  However, many of our brothers and sisters are being denied a seat at the table because they practice their faith, which is in violation of the 1st Amendment. One needs look no further than Amy Coney Barrett, a law professor at the University of Notre Dame. Professor Barrett, who is a nominee to the Seventh Circuit Court of Appeals, was drilled on her faith and how it would impede her judgement should she serve on the bench.  Senator Diane Feinstein (D) California stated, “The dogma lives loudly within you, and that’s of concern when you come to big issues that large numbers of people have fought for for years in this country.” Big issue=abortion. Senator Dick Durbin (D) Illinois was blunt and asked, “Do you consider yourself an orthodox Catholic?”4  I guess the good senators never heard about the unconstitutionality of religious tests as spelled out in Article 6 Section 3.

The science against abortion is staggering. Fetuses, by 8 weeks after fertilization react to touch and by 20 weeks can feel pain5, yet the abortions continue and in some states, babies can be aborted just before delivery.  Will “abortion” after birth be next? Iceland aborts 100% of babies born with Down syndrome6.  Here in the US, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)  report a decrease in children born with Down, even though survival rates are up from 10 years old to about 47 in 20077.  Sympathetic judges are sentencing parents who murder their disabled children to ridiculously low sentences. Where do we draw the line?

Oh, that the dogma should live loudly in us all.

 

1 For more information and resources visit: http://www.usccb.org/about/pro-life-activities/respect-life-program/2017/respect-life-digital-resources.cfm

2 https://www.billofrightsinstitute.org/founding-documents/bill-of-rights/

3 The Lion Sleeps Tonight https://lifelinesbylucie.wordpress.com/2015/07/29/the-lion-sleeps-tonight/

4 Chicago Tribune Editorial: Durbin, Feinstein and Catholic judges September 11, 2017

5 Doctors on Fetal Pain www.doctorsonfetalpain.com/fetal-pain-the-evidence/

6 CBS News on Assignment “What kind of society to you want to live in?”: Inside the country where Down syndrome is disappearing. Julian Quinones, Arijeta Lajka August 14, 2017

7 https://www.cdc.gov/ncbddd/birthdefects/downsyndrome/data.html

Sugar Shack

The song by the same title was performed by Jimmy Gilmer and the Fireballs way back in 1963.  The lyricist simply told a tale about a coffee shop.  Not so for the “controversial” movie The Shack, based on a novel by the same name by author, William Paul Young.  I try viewing as many faith-based films as I can.  Sometimes I just can’t find a theater nearby.  I had no problem as The Shack is playing everywhere, most likely because Octavia Spencer and Tim McGraw are starring in the film.

The film opens with a troubled young boy, named Mack, who lives with his mother and abusive father.  Not many people in his small town acknowledge the abuse, except for one black neighbor, played by Octavia Spencer, who comforts him with her home cooking. When home life becomes unbearable, young Mack, who feels deserted by God, makes a horrible decision.  We quickly fast forward to the present.  Mack is now a man, living with his deeply religious wife and their three children. On a camping trip his youngest daughter is kidnapped and murdered.  The film does not dwell on this so don’t be put off thinking it will be bloody because it’s not.

Mack blames himself for his daughter’s death and cannot shake his depression.  He receives a letter from “Papa”, his wife’s name for God, inviting Mack to meet at the very shack where his daughter was killed. Mack decides to go and is shocked to find “Papa” is the same black woman who consoled him in his youth. Papa explains that Mack couldn’t accept a father figure at this time.  He meets Jesus, a Jewish carpenter, and the Holy Spirit, a beautiful Asian woman.  Towards the end of the film Papa decides Mack needs a father to take him through the rest of his journey of forgiveness and Papa becomes a mature, Native American man.  Again, the viewer knows exactly why God chose this form.

It’s this portrayal of the Holy Trinity that has several Christians upset.  I accepted God’s explanation of why He appeared in these forms.  Mack despised his father and couldn’t forgive himself for not being there for his daughter. He did not have a father figure he could rely on.  The Holy Spirit is portrayed as an attractive, soft-spoken, attentive Asian gardener.  Many Christians associate the Holy Spirit as a dove, ray of sunlight, a spiritual counselor and consoler.  Anyone who gardens knows how devoted you must be to your plants and flowers.  You protect them from predators and the elements as well as nourish them.  The same as the Holy Spirit is in her garden of souls.  All three display the wounds of crucifixion…something I’ve never seen before but makes perfect sense.

More importantly, The Shack is a story of forgiveness and how God loves ALL his children—the good and the bad.  It also emphasizes our free will to make our own choices.  Mack thought God had deserted him when he was a boy, but he comes to learn God was with him every step of the way, even when he made the wrong choice.  God never forgot about him and never stopped loving him.

I would definitely recommend this film not only for its message of forgiveness but also for showcasing the relationship individuals have with God.

 

New Year

The group, This Beautiful Republic, recorded a song by the same name.  The song is about someone going through a lack of trust with a loved one.  The lyricist tells the person to put his or her trust in Jesus and begin a new life in the New Year.  Good advice!

The New Year exemplifies new beginnings and along with it comes the infamous New Year’s resolutions.  You can’t turn on your television without seeing countless commercials for weight loss systems or products to help you stop smoking.  Sale flyers are offering great deals on work out wear and exercise equipment.  Fitness centers and gyms across the US are signing up new customers by the droves.

Ads run non-stop to help you organize everything from your closet, your home, and your life. Last night I saw a commercial that floored me.  A client wrote a professional home organizer that she didn’t didn’t know what to do now that her whole house was organized. The home organizer told her they could remain friends.  The client’s solution, however, was to buy a new and larger home so the organizer could organize it. Wow!  Even the organizer was stunned.

Exercising, losing weight, stop smoking, removing clutter, among others are all wonderful resolutions and will definitely help with lowering stress levels and improving your physical health, but have you ever thought about your spiritual health?  I guarantee you’ll never see a celebrity pitching a spiritual diet of prayer, fasting, almsgiving, and good works.  No special plans by Jenny or a pitch from Marie or Oprah on how a daily dose of talking to God will improve your overall wellbeing or how a daily act of simple human kindness can improve another’s life as well as your own.

There are hundreds of thousands, if not millions of people suffering from poor spiritual health, and I’m not talking about atheists.  There are many believers who know something is missing in their lives and they don’t know what it is or how to find it.  For many the cure is to keep buying and spending their way to happiness, yet that doesn’t seem to fill the void so they keep searching for the newest widget or trend (much like the woman who bought the bigger home so the professional organizer could keep coming).  For others it’s much worse.

So where to begin?  Believe it or not there are many people who do not know how to pray.  As with all resolutions it’s best to start simple.  Start with a daily Lord’s Prayer, add a Hail Mary or pray a daily Rosary.  They claim if you do something daily for a year you’ll keep with it.  Once you have a set routine add something new.  It doesn’t have to be a standard prayer.  Share your day with Jesus.  Tell Him your problems.  Share your dreams.  Ask for His help.  Pray for others.

Need help starting a prayer life?  Talk to your pastor.  I’m sure he has a starter plan for you.  Another recommendation, see the film The War Room.  No, it has nothing to do with traditional war but a great deal to do with spiritual warfare and the power of prayer.  Write down your prayers.  Go to your quiet place and talk to God about them.  You will be surprised how the stress of the day lifts away.

If you don’t attend Sunday service, start—this Sunday.  Excuses like I don’t have time, or I have to work, just don’t hold up anymore.  Catholics have services on Saturday afternoon or evening.  On Sunday you can attend very early morning, mid-morning, or late morning Mass and some parishes offer a late afternoon Sunday Mass for people who party hardy on Saturday nights.  You can usually find a Mass that meets your schedule.

If you feel like the parish you’re attending doesn’t suit your style, then perhaps your New Year’s resolution is to search for one that does.  Some of the best advice I received was if your priest is not teaching scripture and church doctrine, get up from the pew, walk out, and find one who does.  While the elements of the Mass are universal, every parish has its own character.   If you’re “old school” then search for a church that offers a weekly Tridentine High Mass or Latin Mass.  From huge pipe organs, pianos, and guitars to orchestral choirs to children’s choirs, music at Mass is the same yet diverse.  Traditional to modern—cathedral to tiny church on the prairie—God is present.

Another aspect to improving your spiritual health is connecting with others, and I don’t mean on Facebook.  There is nothing like interacting with real people.  Every parish is made up of parishioners.  The people in your community have much more to offer and they usually come from all walks of life.  Some may share interests with you while others do not—variety is the spice of life.  Chances are you could share a pew with a bank executive, a janitor, a school teacher, or a truck driver.  Everyone is equal in God’s eyes; and all agree that Jesus is their Lord and Savior and the parish is the heart of their community.

Along with connecting to other humans is the rewarding aspect of giving them a hand up when they’re down. This is not exclusive to folks in your church but to anyone in your community.  From buying a police officer walking the beat a cup of hot coffee to volunteering at a local food bank to shoveling snow or mowing the lawn for an elderly neighbor, or driving a cancer patient to their doctor appointment, it doesn’t cost much to do something nice for someone else.

All this takes me back to that client who felt a void after her home was completely organized.  Instead of checking her spiritual gauge to fill the gap, she bought another home just so the organizer could stay in her life.  That person is looking for something, somebody who doesn’t leave when one job is done.  That someone is Jesus.

Last Christmas, my daughter gave me a small box.  It wasn’t expensive but inscribed on the top it read, “Mom, Pray More—Worry Less”.  Inside the box was a tiny notepad and pencil.  The plan is to write down every worry I have on the notepad, leave it in the box, and pray on it.  What a great way to start a spiritual health plan.  The best thing about it is you don’t have to wait for anything to be delivered, no sweating or starving involved, and no monthly membership.  It doesn’t get any better than that!

It’s Good to Be the King

Who doesn’t love Mel Brooks?  This particular song was from the soundtrack of History of the World: Part I.  The idea of a king ruling over us is not particularly well received here in the US, or is it?  Our nation was built on Judeo-Christian principles.  We were firm believers that our rights come from God, not man.  However, over the past few years many of our citizens either have forgotten or no longer believe that.

History teaches us when you have a ruler who controls the population it never ends well, which is why the Founders gave us a Republic so that man could rule himself with as little government interference as possible.  To quote Abraham Lincoln, “that government of the people, by the people, for the people, shall not perish from the earth.”  So what happens when these people decide they want a king or queen?

I’m reminded time and time again of 1 Samuel 8, when Israel rejects God as their king and demands a man to rule over them.  Even when God, through Samuel, tells them they will relinquish many of their freedoms, they still demand a king.  They want to have what other nations have—a false sense of security at the price of oppression and loss of liberty in service to the king.

As a serf in a kingdom you are entitled to what the king or queen bestows upon you.  However, many don’t realize what the king or queen gives you—the king or queen can take away.  If you’re a friend of the ruler it means a lofty position, land, money, all on the backs of said serfs (you).  Serfs get to work for low wages and pay high taxes to the ruling family to provide their “free stuff” but more importantly to provide a lifestyle fitting for a king and his royal friends. Sounds familiar?  Yeah, but this ruler will be different.  This ruler will take care of us.  He or she will protect us from the bad people who say mean things, or want us to follow the Constitution, or want to do us harm.  So we give up our God-given rights in the false belief that the ruler will bring us security.  After all, he’s going to build a huge wall around the castle!

What images appear in your mind when you think of a king? A  crown, huge castle, opulence, greed, trumpets and great fanfare, a dungeon to jail those who speak out against the monarchy? You think huge, you think loud, and you think extravagant.  There is no question the boisterous voice is heard over the quiet, but does that mean what comes out of the loudmouth is always correct?

Let’s take a trip in the time machine back to 1960’s.  We all remember the riots, the days of rage, Bill Ayers and the Weather Underground, the Black Panthers, as well as the civil rights movement—Malcolm X and MLK.  Did the violent win over the peacemaker?  Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, a man of God, stood for the rights of Black Americans.  Was he vulgar, ostentatious, or violent?  No, he was the exact opposite; actually making his followers pledge an oath of nonviolence.  Did he promise African-Americans free stuff?  No.  He looked to a day when people would not be judged by the color of their skin, but the content of their character.  Did he say rise up and demand the rich pay their fair share?  No, he said whatever you become, become the best at it. If you want to be a garbage man, be the best garbage man. And yet he won.  Why? He had truth on his side—God’s truth.

Unfortunately, the history revisionists have left out the religious side of Rev. King.  It’s quite remarkable since almost all his speeches and writings were steeped in scripture.  Was he perfect? No.  None of us are.  He will be remembered as a modern day Moses.  How many rulers or overlords can you say will be remembered as such?

As America turns further and further away from God and instead turns to a king for a false sense of security, there are days I feel like the prophet Jeremiah, reluctant to speak yet compelled to do so.  Feeling I am not qualified to state the obvious yet I hear Him whisper in my ear, ‘Fear none of them, for I am with you and will keep you safe’ Jeremiah 1:8.

I have quoted Dietrich Bonhoeffer so many times but never before has his words had more meaning than they do now.  “Silence in the face of evil is itself evil: God will not hold us innocent. Not to speak is to speak. Not to act is to act.”  I know when I meet Jesus face to face I can tell him I spoke out.  I did my part.  I tried to be a good watcher on the wall (Ezekiel 33:6).  Jesus told us, “I am the truth, the light, and the way,” (John 14:6) “and you will know the truth, and the truth shall set you free” (John 8:32).

As we approach Holy Thursday, Good Friday and Easter, it’s good to remember that the King of Kings entered the world not as a flamboyant king, but as a humble, defenseless child.  He didn’t live in a castle; He was born in a stable.  His parents were not wealthy aristocrats.  We do know He never condemned or threatened those who spoke out against Him or those who even plotted His death.  He didn’t join the local Occupy Jerusalem movement or support Jewish Lives Matter.  Instead of a gold crown He was given a crown of thorns. He stood in silence as His own people mocked Him, spat on Him, and humiliated Him.  He did not raise a hand against those who tortured and crucified Him.  Instead, He forgave them all.

Jesus accepted everyone, even tax collectors and prostitutes.  He also cured a Roman Centurion’s servant and offered life giving waters to a Samaritan woman.  You don’t have to be a biblical scholar to know prostitutes, repentant thieves, tax collectors, outsiders, and a soldier from a conquering empire not your own would not be welcome in a king’s court.

Where we go as a nation I have no idea.  I can tell you if we stay as divided as we are now it will only bring about disaster.  “Every kingdom divided against itself is brought to desolation, and every city or house divided against itself will not stand.” Matthew 12:25.  However, I have hope.  “If my people, who are called by my name, will humble themselves and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven, and I will forgive their sin and heal their land.” 2 Chronicles 7:14

Who would you proclaim as your king and savior?  A man, or the King of Kings?

 

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