Tuesday, January 31, 2006
What is new you ask?
Well, I am still going to RCIA weekly and it is getting more interesting as we close in on things actually pertinent to becoming Catholic. The first several weeks were a general overview of things about which I already knew for the most part. Now as we get into the sacraments in more depth, it is more interesting and exciting. I cannot wait until Easter Vigil and I know that it will be here before I know it.
I am also still singing in the choir, such that it is. This past Sunday we had four members in it and a 5th if you include our director, but she was playing the piano and singing. It was a bit nerve-wrecking to be up there with so few. You see, I don't consider myself a singer of any sort really. I have found enjoyment in singing and wish I could sing better, but I simply want to take part in something that glorifies God. And the fact that it involves music, which is my passion, is why I stay with it. I also enjoy the social aspect in the fact that I am meeting new people and getting to know others in the church this way. For a shy person like myself, I have to take small steps, you know?
Lent is coming up soon and I have been giving thought to what I should give up during that time. Last year, although I hadn't made up my mind on even calling the church, I took a stab at practicing Lent. I gave up fast food and soft drinks. I also participated with respect to not eating meat on Fridays. I am not sure what my plans for this year are, but I am sure that God will speak to me. I do know that I plan to incorporate more prayer during the time of Lent although I know I need to incorporate it more in general. At least it's a start.
Well, I best be getting back to my lunch and getting ready for my classes. Perhaps there will be another post tonight. I will actually be able to get home at a decent hour for once.
Sunday, January 22, 2006
He also used the example of the first call of the apostles. The fact that they said "yes" and followed Christ lead to our salvation. Because they continued to teach and pass on Christ's message, we have the ability to also live as Christ's followers. And once again... it was a choice that they made. It may have been part of God's ultimate plan... but they had to make the decision to say yes.
Every day we are called to respond to God's graces. And no, it is not a single moment of faith that allows us to be God's followers. Even though we may have been called into His service and made a proclamation of faith (such as in confirmation), we still have to make choices to live Christ-like lives. And we do, we are able to receive the graces of God. And once again... it's not a matter of works that allow us to be "saved" or receive graces. It is making those decisions to live according to God's standards.
The decisions we make about how we live and the choices we make impact us. Not only does it impact our final destination after we die, but it affects our lives on a daily basis. And though we may not always realize it, our lives can impact others. I am not a big proponent of going door to door and spreading the good news about Christ and asking people about their personal relationship with Christ. To me it is very invasive. I don't want people coming to my door and interrupting my life in that way and I certainly don't want to impart myself on others in that manner. But if I choose to live a holy life, then I am alrady being a witness for Christ in my actions and words. And if someone chooses to ask me about my faith, my Church, and my life, I will be glad to share it with them. And I did that just last night. My friend that was here asked me a multitude of questions about the Catholic faith and it's teachings. I answered her questions to best of my ability.
It's not that I am trying to draw people into the Church. But if someone asks me about why I have chosen this Church and what they teach, I will share it with them. It doesn't mean they are going to drop everything and start RCIA classes themselves... but perhaps it gives them something to think about. At the very least if someone sees me as a person of faith and admires the way I live, then I have at least set an example. And I've said many times before and I'll say it again. I am still a work in progress. But I have seen a great deal of progress made in the past year that I have been going to Church.
We also have to consider the fact that we don't know how we will impact others when we die. Sometimes it is when someone deals with the death of someone close to them and see how that person lived their lives andrealizes how their faith affected them, then they might just take a long, hard look at their own lives... especially if they are unbelievers or fallen from faith.
This lesson today reminded me very much of the book The Five People You Meet In Heaven. If you haven't read it, I highly recommend it. It isn't a complex book that is difficult to understand. It simply deals with a man's life, the end of it. It is the reflection back on the events of his life and how others impacted it and how he impacted a multitude of others... though he had never stopped to think about it. Sometimes we cannot realize those we impact even though we may have never met them in person. It could be a simple observation, something perhaps posted on a blog or maybe even a few kind words.
It is something to certainly think about, isn't it?
Wednesday, January 18, 2006
Today wasn't a good day for me and I'm hitting a bit of depression right now. I need to spend some time in prayer... if I can find it. I promise to be back as soon as I can.
Tuesday, January 10, 2006
So I prayed it last night. Something I read recently mentioned having an intention for each decade of the rosary that is prayed. So I decided to give it a whirl.
I know that God answers all prayers. Sometimes they don't happen in the timely fashion we desire. Sometimes the answer is a definte "no". And happily sometimes the answer is "yes".
One of the intentions that I prayed about last night was my 7th period class. You see, this semester I have the class from heck. I guess I complained too much about my 7th period last semester because this semester is far worse. So last night I prayed for the students in my class. I asked for peace in their hearts and that they might know that there is more to life than what their limited view is. You see I have several in this class that just have bad attitudes overall and it makes for an unpleasant day. So I prayed for them. And you know what? Today was a wonderful day during that class. They presented their poems and shields that they created and nobody was obnoxious or interrupted. One of the things they had to talk about was something they would never change their minds about and a great deal of them mentioned God or their faith... which was very refreshing. (Keep in mind that probably 75% of the community is Catholic). At the end of class I thanked and praised them for their behavior. And on the way home today it struck me that I had prayed for them.
I did have other intentions that I am certain God will answer in His time. I am thankful though that He gave me that small bit of peace today with my class. I will continue to pray for them and all my students.
Once again, I wish I could post more often in here, but things are getting so very busy again. I've taken on probably more than I can chew at the moment, but I will manage with God's help. I have several post ideas and have done some research and hope I can find time to put more thoughts down soon. So please bear with me.
Wednesday, January 04, 2006
But I did want to leave you with something so I'm going to post something I pre-wrote last January.. probably almost exactly a year ago. I'm not sure of the exact date, because it isn't dated. One of the things I bought myself last year... probably around Christmas time was two journaling books. I wanted to work on my skills and do some practice writing. One of the books was called "Loose Ends" and it was writing letters to people that you would never send to them, but the act of writing them would help you get things out that needed to be out. One of the journals was to write a letter to God. It was an interesting concept. Sure, I've prayed, but to actually write out a letter to God... that was different. So here is the letter I wrote.
How do you start a letter to the Almighty? I should start with my thank-you's, I guess. Thank you for my life. Sometimes I'm not appreciative enough or complain too much, but I do thank you for my existence. I hope that in some way I can make a difference and perhaps glorify you in some way - with your help, of course. Thank you for Josh. He has been a true blessing to me. Please help me to be a good mother to him. And help him find you. Let him live a happy and passionate life. Thank you for my friends and family. You've given me some wonderful people. Thank you for Marty. I pray that if it's your will for us to be together that you make it so. Thank you for my pets. They have been great companions. Please take care of Fuzzball for me. And thank you for everything else - my job, my house, my "stuff". You have always provided for me.
Normally I should get into my sins at this point, but there's not enough room. I know I haven't lived according to your standards and I'm sorry. I hope you will guide me in being a better person.
As far as my spiritual journey goes, I'm at least opening myself up for it. I've opened the door a crack, but I'm hoping you'll burst in at some point. Yes, I'm still holding myself back. I'm still afraid. But I'm trying to figure things out and do what's right. I ask that you give me a bit of a helping hand in all of this. Continue to give me the desire to learn about Catholicism, and if it's your will for me to join the Church, give me the desire, courage, and strength to do it.
I know it ends rather abruptly, but that's when I ran out of room. And God has answered my prayers. Sometimes it's not the answer I was looking for... such as in the case of Marty. But more importantly, He has guided me in my journey into the Church and for that, I am so very thankful.
Monday, January 02, 2006
This was posted in a Dear Abby column recently and it really struck home with me. I had heard it before, I think, but didn't know it was attributed to St. Francis of Assisi. I think I will make this my prayer for this year.
"Lord, make me an instrument of your peace.
"Where there is hatred, let me sow love;
"Where there is injury, pardon;
"Where there is doubt, faith;
"Where there is despair, hope;
"Where there is darkness, light;
"Where there is sadness, joy.
"O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;
"To be understood as to understand;
"To be loved as to love.
"For it is in giving that we receive;
"It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;
"It is in dying that we are born to eternal life."
Sunday, January 01, 2006
O.k. now I will share my thoughts as to why I disagree with the Calvanistic view of predestination.
From my understanding, the following is the concept of pre-destination by many Protestant Churches:
1) Total Depravity - man is too sinful to ever merit salvation or choose God.
2) Unconditional Election - God saves people entirely based on His grace, not our works.
3) Limited Atonement - Christ's atonement, although satisfactory to save everyone, is only applied to the saved (i.e. elect).
4) Irrestable Grace - It is impossible to resist God when He begins tugging your soul (i.e. it is impossible to say, "no" to the internal call of salvation).
5) Perseverence of the Saints - those whom God has saved can never "unsave" themselves.
And now my two cents worth:
1) Total Depravity: The only thing about this that I agree with is the fact that man is sinful... because we are all born with original sin. However, I completely disagree with the notion that man cannot choose God. Certainly God chooses us, but to think that He only chose some, and condemns others is not a pleasing thought. If God condemns some men to hell, then he is not the benevolent, loving God as indicated in the Bible. I feel that because He gives us free will, we can certainly choose him or deny him... but it's still our choice.
2) Unconditional Election - True that we cannot save ourselves and God's grace is certainly part of our salvation, but works is also a part of it as well. If works aren't involved, then how do we become more Holy and serve Christ? We are saved because of God's grace and continue to work through our salvation with our works. Faith is indeed part of this, but it's not simply a one time profession of faith... it's ongoing... and one can certainly lose it. We must choose to accept the grace given to us by God.
3) Limited Atonement - This doesn't make sense. If Christ only died for some and not all people, what is the point in his sacrifice? I feel that God wants a relationship with ALL of His creation, even though He knows that some will not choose Him.
4) Irresistible Grace - This is where free will comes in. God certainly calls for us at certain times and He may certainly put the desire for a relationship with Him upon our hearts, but we ultimately choose to say yes to Him or not. Even in the Baptist service where they have the altar calls and people go up to give their lives over to Christ... it is still a choice that the person makes to heed the call. Consider Mary. She was called to be the mother of Christ and she accepted the task of her own free will. Sure, God knew that she'd say yes.. but she still said it on her own.
5) Perserverence of the Saints - I feel that God does call some people into service (like Mary) and they have received His unmerited Grace. But I also feel that because faith and works are involved in our salvation, one can certainly lose it and there's no guarantee that any one of us will end up in heaven. Many Christians will have a reasonable assurance because they have lived their lives in accordance to the will of God. Salvation is an ongoing process. When Catholics are asked if they are "saved" their response is I am saved, I am being saved and I hope to be saved.
One of my big problems that I had within the Baptist church with this concept of salvation was the fact that I was "saved" three times and even after all of that, I couldn't say with complete certainty that any one of those times I was assured of a place in heaven. Was my faith ever enough to earn my place in the Book of Life? And what if I wasn't one of the elect? How could I possibly know that? If the concept of pre-destination holds true, there's nothing I could do to earn everlasting life and it would happen no matter what I did. If that's the case, what would be the point of even attempting to live a Christian life? Why not simply live whatever way I chose? Because if I was going to be one of the elect, then nothing I could do would keep me from eventually being called. So I could just keep living my life of sin. When God was ready for me, He'd let me know, right? The thing is... I thought I was ready on three different occasions. Why didn't any of those "take" so to speak? What got to me the most of all in my previous church was the fact that I was questioning all of this - wondering how I could possibly know that I had true salvation etc. when one of the guys that had led me in my last salvation experience got up in front of the church and said that he really hadn't been saved. He had been bringing others to Christ, serving in a capacity as an associate pastor of the church, teaching classes and all of that and he came to the realization that he had not had a true salvation experience. How can that be? If once saved, always saved? If this guy that had been living a pretty Godly life really wasn't saved, then how could I be when I was still struggling with sin myself? So then I began to wonder if perhaps I was not one of the "elect" that was called to have a relationship with Christ. Although at times I had the desire, it was never strong enough to really devote myself to everything involved in Christian service. It was disappointing to think that no matter how much I did or didn't do, that I might not ever get to heaven.
The concept of a one-time profession of faith went out the window with the associate pastor's profession of a false salvation. If all it takes is that one moment, perhaps if I had been saved the first time when I was nine years old, nothing I could ever do would keep me out of heaven. Even if I commited the most heinous acts and sins, I would still go to heaven. The counter argument by Protestants is that if it is a "true profession of faith" then one would never commit those acts and they would be commited to Christ all of their lives. But how many people in churches all over the world stop going to church or lose faith that they thought they had? Protestants claim that works aren't necessary for salvation, but if/when one is "saved" then the works will ultimately follow. But every human act in service to God is still a choice. Even when we have the ultimate faith possible we still have to make the choice to act upon it.
It seems to me that the idea of pre-destination is really an easy way out with regard to salvation. If we are chosen, we will be called. Once we're called we can't lose it. Therefore it doesn't matter how you live. How convenient. But honestly, it takes effort every day and we still make choices to live Christian-like lives. Free will gives us that right. Hopefully we use it to choose to follow God's will for us.
What drew me into the Catholic Church and keeps me involved is that their teachings make the most sense to me. I was at first trying to figure out which of all the many denominations was at least the most right. Realizing that the Catholic Church was the original Church founded by Christ dating back to Peter made me investigate it's teachings further. As I have studied the faith (especially thanks to the questions and concerns from my Baptist friend) I have not found anything that I have questioned. I am by no means a complete expert, but I am certainly enjoying this learning experience. It has answered a lot of my questions that I've had for a very long time. So in the end, I find that as a Catholic, there is more hope with the concept of salvation. It's not an either you're in or out kind of thing... and it's not a matter of whether you're chosen or not. Because all are called by God and we must choose to follow Him.