Sunday, October 30, 2016

God is patient.

Yesterday in our online book study of 33 Days to Merciful Love* (which you can still join) we learned of the patience of God.  Like a loving father, he encourages us to try, even if it's something he knows we can't do on our own.  He wants us to try, he wants us to ask him for help, he is patient and never beats us down for our failures.

I thought of my own children and how they learned to walk.  Never once did I say to my toddlers, "you are such a loser, you'll never be able to walk if you keep falling down. Ho many times am I going to have to pick you back up and help you.  This is ridiculous, come get me when you can walk.  It's not that difficult!"

We laugh at how ridiculous this sounds yet isn't this what we do to ourselves or allow the enemy to do to us.  Don't we say things like, "God could never forgive me for that sin" or "this is the millionth time I've fallen into this same stupid sin, I'll never be free of it, I might as well stop trying."

Trust me, these are not God's words to you.  It is not his voice.  God is patient with us to a fault.  He's more like an indulgent grandparent than a tyrant ready to smote us for the least fault.  He is more patient with us than we are with ourselves.  It is during these moments of self-hate and feelings of worthlessness that Satan cuddles up beside us and whispers in our ear, "you aren't loveable, you'll never escape this sin, it's too late for you, even God couldn't forgive that sin."

Those aren't the words of your Heavenly Father, they are the words of the Father of Lies.  The book of Wisdom (today's first reading) gives us the antidote to the lying words of the Devil.  They bring reason into our unreasonable self-talk or the evil whispers we are hearing.  "But you[God] have mercy on all...you overlook people's sins that they may repent."  God is patient!

The Psalmist tells us the same thing.  "The Lord is gracious and merciful, slow to anger and of great kindness...The Lord lifts up all who are falling and raises up all who are bowed down."  God is patient!

St. Paul too in the 2nd Reading tells us to "...not to be shaken out of your minds..."  In other words, trust that God is there and is patient with you.  Don't be "shaken out of your minds" by the lies of the Evil One.  God is patient!

In today's Gospel Jesus is patient with both the Pharisees who were judging him and Zacchaeus.  Like Zacchaeus, Jesus invites us to come down and be with Him.  He wants us to stop staying away from him because of our sin, only observing him from afar (or above) like he is some sort of entertainment or a parade.

God is patient and wants to be with us.  When we allow him to come into our hearts and home it will change us as it did Zacchaeus.  Only when we come down from the tree of pride can we experience his patience.  Only when we allow God into our hearts and home can he teach us to walk.  He will not scold us when we fall.  He will not turn his back on us when we stumble.  God is patient and he encourages you and me to get back up, try again, and be patient too - with ourselves.

*(This is an affiliate link which means I may receive a financial benefit if you were to purchase this item. I only recommend items that my family has personally used and owned.)

Saturday, October 29, 2016

Mining the Riches of Scripture

This morning I woke early to do some work on another Rosary Meditation book that I am working on. While working on the topic of suffering and how it can be found in what we call The Presentation, I was struck, once again, by the depth and richness of Scripture. I was amazed that so many thoughts or ideas can come from a single passage in Scripture.

Perhaps this has happened to you when hearing the readings at Mass? You have heard them over and over your whole life, but for some reason, usually God's grace, something sticks in your heart when you hear it for the two hundred and thirtieth time.  Or while reading a passage from Scripture something finally clicks and you have an "aha!" moment.

For those of you who have never experienced this I thought I would try to give you a glimpse of how what St. John Paul II said is so true: "the simple prayer of the rosary marks the rhythm of human life."
In Rosary Meditations for Real Life I took 7 topics that most of us have faced during our life and found each of these 7 topics in all of the mysteries of the rosary. However, what I want to do here is list each topic but present only the Joyful Mysteries. My hope is that you will see the depth and the richness of Scripture and meditating on it. I hope that you will be able to see that even though each meditation focuses on the exact same Scripture passage, so much can be drawn out of it depending on the topic or theme. I pray that you will try this on your own and fall deeply in love with the scriptures and each day find your life in the mysteries of the Rosary. A simple prayer, right?

Following the samples are resources to help you get started going deeper, mining the riches of
scripture and the rosary!

Anyway, here are the meditations on the Joyful Mysteries. I will list each topic and then the meditation.

In the sixth month, the angel Gabriel was sent from God to a town of Galilee called Nazareth, to a virgin betrothed to a man named Joseph, of the house of David, and the virgin's name was Mary. And coming to her, he said, "Hail, favored one! The Lord is with you." But she was greatly troubled at what was said and pondered what sort of greeting this might be. Then the angel said to her, "Do not be afraid, Mary, for you have found favor with God. Behold, you will conceive in your womb and bear a son, and you shall name him Jesus. He will be great and will be called Son of the Most High, and the Lord God will give him the throne of David his father, and he will rule over the house of Jacob forever, and of his kingdom there will be no end." But Mary said to the angel, "How can this be, since I have no relations with a man?" And the angel said to her in reply, "The holy Spirit will come upon you, and the power of the Most High will overshadow you. Therefore the child to be born will be called holy, the Son of God. And behold, Elizabeth, your relative, has also conceived a son in her old age, and this is the sixth month for her who was called barren; for nothing will be impossible for God." Mary said, "Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word." Then the angel departed from her. - Luke 1:26-38

TOPIC: WORK
Mary was not sitting idle when the angel appeared. Traditional artwork shows Mary reading scripture, meditating on the word of God. The fact is Mary was serving God by working through the scriptures. Whether I work in an office, on a construction site or at home, my work can bring me closer to God. Mary wasn’t sitting idle waiting for a sign from God that she was to be the Mother of the Messiah. She was fulfilling her daily duties when God’s message came. What will my state of mind be and what will I be doing when God’s messenger comes? What if it is not a messenger but God Himself? Will I be humbly attending to the work set before me or will I be complaining against the task? “Be it done unto me.”

TOPIC: CHILDREN
Children are a gift from God. A completely mysterious gift, but a gift nonetheless. The mystery of the Annunciation shows me how much God loves human life. My salvation did not begin with a celestial light show or trumpeted announcement throughout the heavens. It began with a pregnancy. The Word truly became flesh and entered the world the way I did. My God chose to become a helpless child in the arms of His Mother. For a while the Creator was nurtured at the breast of one of His creatures. Unless I become like a little child I cannot enter the kingdom. To be child-like is to be full of awe and wonder at everything God does. Small children are amazed at simple things like music, balloons, and bugs. I too need to look at life with that kind of awe. Children are a gift from God because they can teach me how God wants me to live, depending solely on Him and looking with wonder at all He does for me. Like the angel Gabriel children can be messengers from God.

TOPIC: DEATH
It seems strange to meditate on death as associated with the Joyful Mysteries of the rosary. Yet to meditate on death is a spiritually healthy thing to do. I, like Jesus did, from the moment of conception am moving towards death. Death is as natural as life, yet I fear it because it is a realm unknown to me. As the Catechism states, my purpose is to "know, love, and serve God in this life so I can be happy with Him in the next." This very statement has the shadow of death behind it. In reality, death is a prerequisite for eternal life. If I remember death daily, I will be strong enough to say with Mary, "Be it done unto me according to thy word." "Every man dies, but not every man really lives," the actor said. By constantly remembering death is only a breath away, I can "really live" for God.

TOPIC: ADDICTION
I am afflicted by addiction, an addiction to sin. My addiction to sin is a negative mirror image of the Annunciation. I oftentimes say “yes” to things sinful and “no” to God, where Mary said “no” to everything sinful and “yes” to God. Mary is often called the refuge of sinners. Might she also be called the refuge of the addicted? It does not matter what my addiction is, Mary can help. If I am addicted to drugs or alcohol, Mary can ask her Son to give me the wine that is His blood. If I am addicted to sexual sins, Mary can wrap me in her mantle of purity. If I am addicted to anger or power, Mary can obtain for me peace of heart and humility. Mary is my Mother who will never forsake me no matter how addicted I become. She will pull me out of the gutter when I am out of my mind with drugs. She will gently pull me away from the pornography and filth. She can talk me down from the precipice of anger and pride. In my darkest hour of addiction I must call on the Mother of God that she might obtain for me light from Light and release from the prison cell of addiction.

TOPIC: MARRIAGE
"Be it done unto me according to thy word." With these words heaven was married to earth. Mary said, "I do", and conceived a Son by her spouse, the Holy Spirit, and the world has never been the same. Love manifests itself within marriage in the bringing forth of offspring. For those who cannot conceive children physically they are to manifest their love through spiritual offspring. When a couple is married the Church asks them to promise to accept children lovingly from God and raise them according to the teachings of the Church. To which they agree without much thought yet a large majority of professed Catholic married couples employ the use of artificial contraception. Has that promise made on our wedding day turned into a lie and denial of God's will? Every human life brought forth changes the course of human history. If we keep our promise to God and His Church it changes history for the good and furthers the Kingdom of God. If we do not keep our promise we are living a lie and helping bring about the destruction of the Kingdom. Contraception has no place in our marriage. We promise to accept children willingly from God. Be it done unto us according to thy word.

TOPIC: THE MASS
When the angel visited Mary the miraculous happened. At Jesus' conception in Mary's womb “the word” as St. John says “was made flesh and dwelt among us”. During the Mass the miraculous happens again. At the words of consecration the Word once again becomes flesh and dwells not only among us but in us. The bread, which earth has given and human hands have made, becomes the Bread of Life. The fruit of the vine becomes the Blood of the Lamb.

During the Mass I experience my own personal annunciation. As the angel said to Mary, “behold you shall conceive a son”, the priest says to me, “behold, the Lamb of God”. Mary said, “fiat”, “be it done unto me according to thy word”. I say, “I am not worthy to receive You, but only say the word and I shall be healed”. At this moment I also cry out, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven”. But maybe I should cry out, “thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven here at Mass”.

TOPIC: THE JOYFUL MYSTERIES THROUGH THE EYES OF ST. JOSEPH
When Mary told me she was with child I didn’t know what to say. I didn’t know what to think. I felt betrayed and angry yet I did not want her to receive the punishment called for by the Law. Later that evening I decided to divorce her quietly when an angel appeared and spoke to me. I was amazed and thought I was dreaming. The next day I told Mary about the dream. Only then did she tell me her side of the story. She told me how an angel had appeared to her also and told her things that were similar to what the angel had told me in my dream. I asked her why she didn’t tell me this before. She said that she knew the Lord would provide my answer in His own way and she didn’t want to interfere. That is just like her, always leaving everything to the Lord.

Resources

If you like these rosary meditations, consider downloading our FREE tri-fold PDF pamphlets for personal or community use.  The Joyful Mysteries of Work and the Joyful Mysteries as Seen by St. Joseph are available in full.  There are currently 11 available pamphlets including 2 Spanish Translations.

Don't have hours to devote to prayer and meditation? Have you really tried to pray and give time to God only to be distracted and discouraged? Do you want a step-by-step plan that's realistic and fits your state in life? In this short book, 4 Simple Steps to Better Meditations, you'll find a proven way to meditate better and have more fruitful prayer times.  Available in Paperback, Instant PDF Download, or for Amazon Kindle.

Rosary Meditations for Real Life is a unique approach to praying the mysteries of the rosary.  It combines the traditional mysteries of the rosary and scripture readings with meditations on everyday life events.  Available in Paperback or for Amazon Kindle

Rosary Meditations for the Family is a series of meditations inspired by the World Meeting of Families that took place in 2015.  Each of the mysteries brings to light the joys and struggles of family life.  We know that your family will benefit greatly from these meditations.  Additional meditations are included that focus on Marriage and some designed for use with small children.  Available in Paperback, Instant PDF Download, or for Amazon Kindle.

Friday, October 28, 2016

The Work of Love

A wise priest once told me that the Law of Charity supersedes all other laws.  What this means is that charity must come before any other rule or law.

Today's readings illustrate this message clearly.  Let us first replace the word "work" with "love" in the readings for today.

"I am confident of this, that the one who began a good love in you will continue to complete it until the day of Christ Jesus." - Philippians 1:6

"Great are (is) the love of the Lord exquisite in all their delights."  "Majesty and glory are his love and his justice endures forever."  "He has made known to his people the power of  his love, giving them the inheritance of the nations."  Psalm 111:2, 3, & 6

If you doubt that this is really what is being said, go back and replace the word "work" with "labor".  I think you'll find a stark contrast in meaning.

You may say, "but the word work is not mentioned in the Gospel."  This is true enough but the Pharisees viewed even the healing that Jesus was doing as "work" and not love.  In the Gospel today the Pharisees replace the word "cure" with "work".  Jesus replaces the word "cure", with "love", with charity.  So there are two ways of looking at the question posed by Jesus -

 "Is it lawful to work on the Sabbath or not?"   or   "Is is lawful to love on the Sabbath or not?"

Jesus is trying to help them see their hypocrisy for even they had exceptions to the rule. Even they would "work" at rescuing child or animal on the Sabbath.  Why not rescue a man from a debilitating disease, or sin?

The Law of Charity supersedes all other laws and rules.  A quick illustration of this in our own lives would be the precept of attending (assisting) Mass on Sunday and Holy Days of Obligation.  The Church imposes a mortal sin for intentionally missing Mass on those days, and rightfully so.

However, what if you are very ill? The law of charity would supersede and say that you must stay home and get better.  What if you are on your way to Mass and your car breaks down or you witness a bad accident where you can help?  The law of charity says missing Mass because of circumstances beyond your control or in order to help someone in dire need incurs no sin.  The work of love is more important, in some cases, than the work of worship. (The word liturgy, by the way, means "the work of the people".  In my word replacement mood, I'd replace this "work" too with "love".)

Today, let us try to allow our work to be love, charity.  Let us make each diaper change a work of love.  Let us make each dish washed a work of love.  Let us make each nail hammered or wrench turned a work of love.  Let us make each part of our work today be a work of love.  For as St. Teresa of Calcutta said, "works of love are works of peace."  Lord knows we could certainly use more love, and peace, in the world today!

From the Saints

"You asked what you could offer the Lord.  I don't have to think twice about he answer: offer the same things as before, but do them better, finishing them off with a loving touch that will lead you to think more about him and less about yourself." - St. Josemaria Escriva (Furrow #495)*

*(This is an affiliate link which means I may receive a financial benefit if you were to purchase this item. I only recommend items that my family has personally used and owned.)


Thursday, October 27, 2016

Masks and Armor

I often come home to find my youngest son dressed up like a superhero.  He has superhero pajamas complete with cape.  When we meet, I become the evil monster and he proceeds to fling me around the room like a rag doll.  He loves to pretend that he’s this other person and his strength is far superior to even the strongest man he knows.

In college a friend hosted a Halloween party and everyone dressed up in some very creative costumes.  Two of my friends wore all black and the “Van Gogh” masks from the movie Scream.  These masks are simple but disturbing.  The black mesh allowed the wearers to see the party-goers but we could not see them.  For hours they silently walked around or stood in a corner and stared at us.  They wouldn't speak, eat or drink thus continuing to conceal their identity.  It was un-nerving to say the least.

Apart from Halloween, we all have masks that we wear.  We all have costumes that we put on and we pretend to be someone we are not.  Many times these masks and costumes are needed for survival.  Most of the time, we are only fooling ourselves.

There are two serious dangers inherit in these masks and costumes.  First, if we wear them long enough, we may start to believe that we’re the superhero or the villain.  We may start to believe that we’re destined to save the world while ignoring the needs of our family and neighbors.  We may start to believe that we’re unlovable and find ourselves hurting others to mask our own hurt.  Second, not only do masks and costumes give us the false idea that we’re someone we are not, they conceal who we truly are.

In today’s Gospel Jesus pulls the masks off of both Herod and Jerusalem.  He calls Herod a "fox".  His mask is one of a calm dignified leader wanting the best of for his people.  This mask covers his cunning, selfishness, and the deceit of the people in his are.  The mask of Jerusalem is one of holiness and peace yet Jesus reveals that under the mask, it is rotten.  He (God) has tried over and over to get his people to heel, to love Him, to listen to Him.  Yet they persist in turning away from the Lord.

This Gospel passage is given as a warning and warnings, taken correctly, can instill a great deal of hope.  We are given the chance to learn from the mistakes of others.  The passages illustrate the continual need for self-examination, humility, and spiritual direction.  Without these things, our masks and costumes become harder and harder to remove.

Let us pray for the courage and grace to follow St. Paul’s advice regarding masks and costumes.  Rather than putting on a mask that conceals who we truly are, let us put on the Lord, let us imitate Him, let us become like Him, …"Let us then cast off the works of darkness and put on the armor of Christ…put on the breastplate of righteousness…shod your feet with the equipment of the Gospel of peace…take the shield of faith…the helmet of salvation, and the sword of the Spirit." (Romans 13:12, Ephesians 6:13-17)

The above pictured Armor of God poster is available here.
(This is an affiliate link which means I may receive a financial benefit if you were to purchase this item. I only recommend items that my family has personally used and owned.)

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

The Narrow Gate

"Someone asked him, 'Lord, will only a few people be saved?'"

I am often puzzled by the answers Jesus gives to certain questions.  In today's Gospel, he certainly could have encouraged the questioner to enter the narrow gate and left it at that but he goes on.

Jesus' answers very often give us a glimpse into the heart of the questioner and perhaps our own hearts.  The question is simple enough but the answer is rich and powerful.  He tells the questioner, those around him, and us that entrance into Heaven is not easy.  This is contrary to so many "gospels" today.

Jesus tells us that we must strive to enter.  Strive.  It will take effort.  Not only will it take effort, but "many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough."  He even goes so far as to say that even if you have eaten with him, drank with him, and listened to his teachings, it doesn't guarantee you will enter.  Why not?

Hanging out with the Lord is not enough.  Reading scripture is not enough.  Belonging to a certain sect, group, or even religion is not enough.  All of these things can be good, can be helpful, but they are not enough.  Hanging out with Jesus, reading scripture, and our religion needs to change us!  More importantly they need to change us to be more like Him.

"Strive to enter through the narrow gate", says Jesus, "because that's what I did."

So what is the narrow gate?  Where is this gate?  How do we find it? How can we enter?  Today's first reading from St. Paul to the Ephesians gives us the answer.  In fact, if you want the answer to those questions and the key to the gate, read the letter to the Ephesians.  It's only 6 short chapters but it is extremely powerful.  (You can find it here)

Here is some of what Christ teaches us about the narrow gate through St. Paul.  If you want to enter through the narrow gate:

"I... beg you to lead a life worthy of the calling to which you have been called, with all lowliness and meekness, with patience, forbearing one another in love, eager to maintain the unity of the Spirit in the bond of peace...Therefore, putting away falsehood, let everyone speak the truth with his neighbor, for we are members one of another...Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, with all malice, and be kind to one another, tenderhearted, forgiving one another, as God in Christ forgave you...Look carefully then how you walk, not as unwise men but as wise, making the most of the time, because the days are evil...Be subject to one another out of reverence for Christ. (4:1-3, 25, 31, 5:5-16, 5:21)

This message continues with today's first reading.  Christ, through Paul, instructs children to obey parents and parents to respect their children.  He tells slaves to serve their masters as though the master were Jesus himself and the masters to do likewise to the slaves.

Love is the key to the narrow gate.  True love.  A love that seeks to put others first.  A love that wants what is best for others, even our enemies.  A love that is humble, patient, forgiving, and sees all people as though they were Christ Himself.

What does this gate look like?  It is not like an ordinary gate, metal or wood on hinges.  It's shape is vastly different.  You need only look to the Crucifix to find it's shape.  To enter, our arms too must be outstretched in love and sacrifice.

Strive to enter the narrow gate.  It's not easy but it is possible for with God all things are possible.


Tuesday, October 25, 2016

How to Change the World


The Kingdom of God
starts very small
like mustard seed or yeast
yet when it grows
it changes all
the greatest from which was least

Our efforts seem
to no avail
or seem to take too long
yet when we see the good that's grown
happily we are wrong.

Your task it is
to sow the seed
to be tiny leaven
by action, deed
prayer, and thoughts
help others on to heaven.

Be not discouraged by failure
or slow inperceptable growth
it is the smallest act of love
that changes the world the most.



Friday, October 21, 2016

King Brump and the Orb

The young toad sat on the stone absorbing the warmth of the last rays of an October sun.  All about him he could hear the various sounds he was accustomed to in his little kingdom.  He watched as the humans of various sizes patrolled the borders keeping out all who might harm him.  The humans belonged to him, they were part of his kingdom.  They ran this way and that in great excitement brandishing their polished silver clubs with black handles repelling roving bands of scoundrels hunting for the Orb.

The Orb had arrived in the kingdom years ago, no one can really remember when.  It was at a time when the young toad still had a tail and his kingdom was much smaller.  The Orb was magnificent to behold with it's unnatural smooth green coat and 365 facets, each one marking a day in the long year.

On Arrival Day each year, that is the day that King Brump emerges from his deep sleep, he ventures out through the kingdom summoning the humans and searching for the Orb.  It is never where he left it on Delving Day, the last cold day when King Brump delves into his deep sleep.  The humans, in their constant vigilance, move the Orb to protect it while the King sleeps.

His humans often move the Orb, in fact, they move it daily.  He has commanded them to do so.  In part, this is to protect the Orb but also because King Brump enjoys the big adventure of finding the Orb.  Each time it is moved he travels through the Kingdom on his quest for the Orb.  Often he will find the Orb in crafty hiding spots created by the humans.  They will place it in tall grass beside the Fair Lawn by striking it with their clubs.  They fain looking for it to throw off the enemy and then run off with a yell to another part of the Kingdom.  At other times, in times of great haste, they will strike the Orb with perfect precision placing it in a spot within the Stone Cave where only he can retrieve it.

There have been times that he has found it by the ancient Wind Mill on the Eastern most edge of his realm.  More than once has he had to reprimand one of the younger humans for such carelessness.  But in his kindness he allows them to pick him up and parade him around the Kingdom.  The parade often makes him feel nauseous and he is thankful when the large human guards insist that he be positioned on one of his many thrones and left to Kingly affairs.

And so it goes day in and day out in the peaceful Kingdom of King Brump.  I hope that one day you will be able to visit his Kingdom if you haven't already.  I truly believe you would wonder at the majesty of it with it's flowing streams, careening waterfalls, gentle slopes, and peaceful walking paths.  The Kingdom is known in the world of humans by a different name.  This is part of King Brump's plan to keep the Kingdom safe.  The wise among you will recognize it in the human tongue as Adventure Mini-Golf or sometimes Magic-Mountain Mini-Golf.  Mini-Golf is the secret word King Brump devised to make his hidden Kingdom known to humans.

When you visit do not enter the Kingdom without a polished club for although it is a very beautiful land, it is dangerous and there are great perils for you and the Orb in your care.  When you see him, make sure to bow low before King Brump and if he summons you to take him on parade, be gentle, for it can make him nauseous.

This story was written as a personal challenge to myself this morning.  A weird challenge nonetheless.  I decided to work on a little creative writing by writing a story about the last picture I took on my phone.  It just happened to be of this little toad one of my boys found while we were playing mini-golf last Sunday.  

If you are writer or just adventurous, I challenge you to do the same.  Write a short story about the last picture you took on your phone.  Link to my story and I'll link to yours on your blog or website.  Any brave participants will be listed below.  

If you are not a writer, I'd be interested in your thoughts on this story?  Did you enjoy it?  Did you realize what I was writing about instantly or did it take some time?  Do you see a moral to the story?  Any feedback is appreciated, just use the comment box.  Have an awesome day!

Thursday, October 20, 2016

In Conversation with God

THE CONVERSATION

Me: Jesus, can we talk?

Jesus: Sure, we can talk anytime. What's up?

Me: What's up? What's up? Today's Gospel is "what's up." I can't make heads or tails of the whole thing. Just when I think I know You, everything changes!

Jesus: What? What did I say?

Me: Okay look, over and over I have been told things like Jesus is the Prince of Peace and the Devil is the author of division. Every "You" lover shouts "peace!" Heck, sorry, I've even heard You say things like, "blessed are the peace makers." Then there are the songs, "Peace is flowing like a river", "Make me a channel of your peace", and on and on.

Jesus: So what was your question?

Me: Are you the Prince of Peace or a divider?

Jesus: Yes!

Me: I thought you might say that. What does it mean? This whole scripture passage today is filled with contradictions - fire/baptism, peace/division, mother-in-law against daughter-in-law/mother-in-law getting along with daughter-in-law!?

Jesus: Does fire consume what it burns?

Me: Yeah.

Jesus: And as it consumes it, does it not provide fuel for the fire which in turn gives light and heat? And would you rather have My fire cast upon the earth or the devil's fire? Where my fire burns and purifies giving light and heat, his destroys.

Me: Okay, I get the point. But what about Baptism?

Jesus: I desired that baptism in order that the spark of faith might strike the world and the wind of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost might fan it into flame.

Me: Cool, I never thought of it that way. But what about the peace and division thing?

Jesus: Can division often bring peace? And can peace often bring division? When one is divided or separated from sin do they not find peace? And when one finds peace can those who do not yet understand this peace often divide or separate from the one who is at peace? I did not come to bring peace to the world but peace to the soul. I did not come to divide the soul but to divide the soul from the world.

Me: Do you always answer questions with questions?

Jesus: In your mind I do.

Me: Why do you always have my voice when we talk?

Jesus: If I didn't, what do think would happen? Really?

Me: Yeah, your right. Hey, what about the mother-in-law and daughter-in-law thing? I mean really, You sure called that one right even if the division isn't because of You.

Jesus: Let's not go there...who knows who might be reading this....

Going Deeper

Of course this post is a little tongue-in-cheek but I feel like I often have these "conversations" with the Lord about things.  Very often they are more than conversations and turn to heated debates, I should probably talk to a priest about that.

If you are interested in deeper meditations and a real "conversation" with the Lord (not in the format above) I would highly recommend the In Conversation with God library of books published by Scepter.  This set of books covers the entire liturgical year and has at least 3 meditations for the readings each day.  Divided in this way, this library of books offers the reader 3 years of meditations for the readings give to us by the Church.

Many of the books may also be purchased individually.

(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

Wednesday, October 19, 2016

Responsibility for Souls

My post yesterday included a story of a school teacher and her class in an attempt to illustrate how easily we can be distracted from what is truly important. I thought that today we could revisit this story briefly with a small twist. Let us suppose that the teacher didn't expect the clown to arrive that day and that it was the teacher's job to keep the children focused on the alarm clock until it rang. Let us further suppose that this task was given to her by her superior and that she would be held accountable if the children were not focused when the bell rang.

When we look at this same story through this lens we have an inclination as to the weighty responsibility of those charged with the care and custody of souls. This could include parents who promise at their child's baptism to raise them according to the teachings of the Church. It could include parish priests charged with tending the flock of the bishop and leading them closer to Christ or at the very least keeping them focused on Jesus. Furthermore, it would certainly include the bishop who is responsible for the souls of all the faithful in his diocese. Finally, this weighty responsibility rests on the shoulders of the Supreme pontiff, the Pope. The greater the height the heavier the weight.

In yesterday's Gospel Jesus tells us that we must be ready for His eminent return. Today, Peter asks if this message is meant for the disciples as well. Jesus answers that it is and in a far more important and difficult way. Not only must the disciples keep their own souls steadfast in the seemingly never-ending wait. They must also see to the care of the many souls entrusted to them by virtue of their office.

Jesus shows us that this responsibility is so great that if one were to fail he is to be assigned to the place with the unfaithful. Hence Saint John Chrysostom's famous saying, "The floor of hell is paved with the skulls of bishops."

In this day of individuality I often am moved to weep for my bishop. The weight upon his shoulders must be immense. Daily he must face those from the left and the right and with equal charity. He must keep his balance and perspective while constantly being assailed by often well meaning self-centered souls.

Our bishops and priests need our prayers, support, and obedience no matter how difficult it may be for us at times. God will reward us for our faithfulness to those He has placed over us, and based on how they have led us, they will be punished or rewarded. Therefore, let us be obedient but more importantly let us pour out prayers and sacrifices so that Our Lord may "put him in charge of all of his property."

FROM THE SAINTS - The power of obedience! The lake of Gennesareth had denied its fishes to Peter’s nets. A whole night in vain. Then, obedient, he lowered his net again to the water and they caught ‘a huge number of fish.’ Believe me: the miracle is repeated each day.”
St. Josemaria Escriva
(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

Tuesday, October 18, 2016

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Waiting is the Hardest Part


The 4th grade teacher gathered her class in a circle in the middle of the room. In their midst she placed an old-fashioned alarm clock with a face and bells. She then proceeded to make a deal with the class. If they could sit silent in the circle for 30 minutes, until the alarm rang, she would give them a free day and provide them with pizza, drinks, and candy. The students eagerly agreed. What the students didn't know was that outside the classroom door stood her husband. He was dressed in a clown suit and was carrying a few dozen balloons in one hand and in the other two leashes attached to two golden retrievers.

After ten minutes had passed the teacher opened the door and invited the clown and all his trappings into the room. The circle held fast for a little while. The children looked at the dogs and then back to the clock slowly ticking away. The pressure was too much and finally one student stood up and began playing with the dogs. The clown handed the child a balloon or two and began talking to the student. The other students stood fast but when they saw how much fun their classmate was having with the clown and the puppies their resolve began to fade. There were only ten minutes left until the alarm bell would ring. Another student slowly rose and then ran to the dogs and the clown and the three played and laughed. This was too much for the remainder of the circle. Almost instantly, the remaining students jumped up and ran to the clown.

The students laughed and played. They bounced their balloons off the ceiling and wrestled with the dogs. At the height of their rambunctious play the alarm bell rang and the room stood silent except for that lone little clock sitting in the middle of the floor on the other side of the room ringing. At that moment the clown took hold of the dogs and quickly vanished out of the classroom. The students learned a valuable lesson that day.

Today Jesus once again reminds us to be ready. He tells us that He will be returning and we will be blessed if we are prepared and in fact looking for His return. Often the things of this world distract us from our good intention to stand ready. In our hearts we want to be ready but then the world enters the room with passing joys. So far, if you are reading this, you, like me, have been lucky. The alarm hasn't sounded while we were concerned with the trappings of this life and we have been able to return to our watch. Nothing is more heartbreaking than the thought of having that bell ring while we are doing something other than God's will. Our loss would be far greater than a free day or pizza.

Lord Jesus, help me to be vigilant and give me the grace and strength to remain vigilant even when the slow ticking of the clock seems endless.

FROM THE SAINTS - "Lord, by the words of consecration the substance of the bread and wine is converted into the substance of your Body and Blood. All powerful Lord, say over me the word which will change me into You." - Saint Anthony Mary Claret

Monday, October 17, 2016

New Retreat Begins Wednesday!

Wednesday will mark the beginning of our 3rd online retreat with over 160 members participating.  This retreat will begin on October 19th and end on the Feast of the Presentation of Mary, November 21st.  

We'll be using the book by Fr. Michael Gaitley, 33 Days to Merciful Love.  You may purchase the book at any Catholic bookstore or here.  

Consider joining us on these 33 Days and if you are able, join us online in our Facebook group where we will be sharing spiritual insights and graces throughout the preparation.

May God bless you and yours!

Sincerely,

Jim & Nicole Hahn and Family

Are You Possessed by Your Possessions?

A Story

As the young novice knelt in his cell he prayed for detachment.  After years of having many possessions and living a worldly life, he asked for the grace to be able to detach himself from the desire to have or keep worldly things.

He was off to a good start.  His cell was located in a courtyard near the old stables behind the 
monastery.  The room was basic.  A small cell with a door and in the door a window the size of a man’s face allowed him to look out over the snow-covered courtyard.  There were simple, modest furnishings in the room.  Along one wall stood an old rickety desk and chair with a few sheets of paper and a dull pencil sitting on top.  Beside the paper was a dog-eared Bible that had been left by the ancient priest who had previously lived in the cell for forty years before his glorious departure to be with the Lord.  Across the cell from the desk on the floor was a thin straw-filled mattress and above the mattress hung a simple wooden crucifix.

As the young man was praying there was a knock upon his cell door.  A priest from the monastery 
informed the young novice that a visitor had arrived in the night and was in need of a bed.  The priest asked the young man if he would consider giving up his bed for the night for this visitor, who may be Christ in disguise.  The novice thought of the cold uncomfortable floor that was hidden beneath his straw mattress and then he remembered his recent request of the Lord.  He offered his bed and cover as well.

The following morning the same priest returned with some terrible news.  As it turned out, the visitor was actually a thief who ransacked the chapel and started a fire with the straw mattress that destroyed the interior of the chapel.  Since the chapel had been gutted, the priest asked the novice if he could part with his desk for they needed an altar for mass.  He also asked for his Bible and crucifix so that mass could be offered with some dignity.  The young man thought long and hard.  He knew he would miss sitting down with Sacred Scripture but he willingly gave the priest the desk and the Bible.  The crucifix was harder to part with for many reasons.  It was a gift from his mother when he entered the religious life and she had passed away shortly after.  To look at the crucifix was comforting because he remembered his mother and at the same time entrusted her to the Crucified One.  As he looked at the crucifix he again remembered his prayer for detachment and with a smile removed it from the wall and handed it to the priest.


That night he lay on the cold stone floor in his habit looking at the rickety chair in the middle of the cell by the light of the moon.  The room was quiet and cold and he could hear whispering outside his door.  In an instant the door was kicked in and two men entered his cell.  He jumped to his feet without saying a word.  The thief and an accomplice had returned to the monastery to find more items of value but all they could see in the cell was the rickety old chair.  As one thief turned to leave the light of the moon shone through the doorway and onto the trembling young novice.  Without a word one thief grabbed the young man and threw him to the ground ripping his habit from his body and began kicking him.  The other picked up the chair and began striking the novice until the chair fell to pieces.  The thieves beat him until he was nearly dead and then ran off.


The light of the moon shone brightly on the young man’s face as he lay there naked and dying.  He 
remembered his prayer for detachment and a smile came to his face.  He had been stripped of all his worldly possessions and he was quickly fading but he was happier now than at any other time in his life.  He was happy because he still had one possession that no one could take.  He came into this world with nothing but he would leave this world with one single possession.  He was happy because he was possessed by this greatest possession, this great treasure, the pearl of great price, Jesus.


A CHALLENGE

In his book Happy Are You Poor* (Ignatius 2003), Fr. Thomas Dubay, S.M. writes, “for us wounded human beings, possessing imperceptibly slips into being possessed.”  

We live in a culture of things.  The world tells us that our happiness and fulfillment exists in objects.  For the most part our grooming and education is geared toward the goal of accumulating items of value.  Those of us who try to live lives that are faithful to the Gospel are not exempt. Often our religiosity can lull us into believing we are detached from the desire for worldly goods when in fact we are possessed by the very objects we claim to possess.


For a Christian in today’s society this detachment can be extremely difficult to achieve.  It is difficult 
because the radical nature of Christ’s message has been diluted.  In many denominations Jesus is either the friend next door that will hang with you no matter what you do or He is the social justice superhero of the Twenty-first century.  The predominate Christian message today is that we should all “love” each other and we are all free to make up our own definition of “love”.  Hardly ever do we hear the message that Jesus wants us and wants us without any baggage!  I have never heard a radio evangelist call those listening to renounce all they have and follow Jesus.    I have never heard a priest call his parishioners to sell their second car and give the money to the poor.  

Too often we rationalize by saying, “I give this much to the Church and I pray and I am a good person.”  The Gospel has a blunt and difficult answer for us if we have the ears to hear.  When the rich young man approaches Jesus and asks him what he must do to inherit eternal life, Jesus tells him to follow the commandments.  The young man replies that he is doing all of that.  In short, he is a “good person.”  Jesus replies that the next step would be for him to sell what he has, give it to the poor, and then follow Him.  This disturbs the young man and he goes away.  Here we could ask a simple question, “why couldn’t the young man simply follow Jesus?  Why did he need to detach himself from his worldly goods?”


To follow Christ and to follow Him closely requires a complete detachment from earthly goods.  We 
cannot serve God and mammon.  We cannot have it both ways.  This in no way means that we can possess nothing but that we should not be possessed by anything.  Our soul, spirit and disposition should be one that could care less about any possession we claim to possess.  This sounds easy but we are, as Fr. Dubay says, “wounded human beings.”

Think of the last gift you received and the person who gave it to you as well.  Now imagine parting with it.  Is it hard to imagine parting with this object?  Why?  Is it because you look at it often and enjoy its beauty?  Is it because the gift has deep sentimental value?  Why is it so hard for you to imagine being without this item that until recently you never had in your possession?  Have you imperceptibly slipped into being possessed by that object?

If you are truly honest you will admit that when faced with the above questions you rationalized many reasons as to why you should not part with the particular item.  That is our fallen human nature at work.  With this simple self-examination we find that not only are we fighting against a world that offers all that glitters, beeps, and tastes wonderful but also against our fallen desires and a tempter who one moment is our advocate and the next our accuser.

TO FOLLOW CHRIST

How can we live this radical call of Jesus?  How can we detach ourselves from everything to the point that we haven’t a care for anything except Jesus?  How do we get over the speed bump of being a “good person” and back on the road to being a holy person?

Like the young novice we should constantly pray for detachment and then stay awake so that we recognize when Christ is asking us to give up yet one more thing.  We should be ready to give everything away.  Like the novice we should be able to detach ourselves from anything regardless of material or sentimental value.  Finally, like the novice our main concern should be with the one possession that rust does not affect and moth cannot destroy.  We should be concerned with the one possession that can never be taken from us.  We came into this world naked and with nothing but we can take one thing with us when we leave and our life must be spent being possessed by this one possession, Jesus Christ!



*(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

Friday, October 14, 2016

Should I fear the Lord?

"I tell you, my friends, do not be afraid of those who kill the body but after that can do no more.  Be afraid of the one who after killing has the power to cast into Gehenna, yes, I tell you, be afraid of that one."

So, who is "that one"?  For years I thought that Jesus was referring to Satan as the one whom we should fear.  However, I no longer believe that to be the case.  

Jesus is referring to God the Father.  Only he has the power to cast us into Gehenna.  Only he has the power to release us from our sentence.  Only God knows what we speak in secret.  He alone knows what we have said and done behind closed doors.  Only God knows the hairs on our head, or in my case the lack thereof!

What does it mean to fear God?  When I was younger I understood it to mean cowering, waiting for the hammer to fall.  It meant walking around on eggshells just waiting to be smote for something I did wrong.

As I've grown and experienced more of life, I've come to a different understanding.  I would liken it to my relationship to my wife.  I could easily say, "fear of my wife is the beginning of wisdom."  By this I don't mean that I'm peeking around every corner waiting for a frying pan.  Rather, it is a fear of offending her, a fear of hurting her, a fear of damaging my relationship with her.

Having a holy fear of the Lord is very similar.  As we progress in the spiritual life, as we fall more deeply in love with the Lord, this fear of damaging the relationship becomes clearer and more important.  

When I first came back to the Faith I would often avoid sin out of fear of punishment and hell.  I didn't want to die with that sin on my soul so I'd run to Confession.  It wasn't a heart thing but a fear thing.  Now, I avoid sin (not perfectly, sadly) out of fear of damaging my relationship with God.  It's not so much hell that I fear but moreover I fear letting God down, disappointing Him with my actions, thoughts, and omissions.

So let us pray today that our fear of the Lord will continue to mature.  Let us ask for the grace to not just avoid sin out of fear of punishment but rather out of fear of damaging a beautiful relationship.  If you think you've already damaged that relationship, take heart, God is a patient lover and invites you and me back over and over until the thought of hurting him causes us to cry out with the saints, "death rather than sin."

+++++++++++++++++++++++
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Also, we are still in the midst of our Rosar-A-Day Giveaway where we giveaway one of our handcrafted rosaries each day during the month of October.  Learn more here.


Wednesday, October 12, 2016

Stop Attending Mass!!

Over the course of the past year* many Catholic individuals and groups who have been calling for change in the Church have suggested the idea of the faithful refraining from attending Mass.
Their intention is to show the Church they want change by dropping attendance, which in turn will hurt the Church financially.
I must echo this call. I too ask all Catholics to stop attending Mass. It is my dream that every Catholic in the world would no longer attend Mass. However, my reason for this lofty dream is far removed from the ideology of those now calling for change. The universal Catechism states that the first precept of the Church is that, “the faithful should attend mass on Sundays and Holy Days of obligation.” I know what this statement means. However, if one specific word is changed there could be a world of difference. The Baltimore Catechism states essentially the same thing except that the word “attend” is replaced with the word “assist”.
There is a world of difference between the words attend and assist. When I attend events I look on patiently waiting to be entertained in some fashion. When I assist I provide a service to others. I can attend concerts, sporting events, graduation ceremonies, and movie previews. I can assist at food banks, homeless shelters, hospitals, and charity events. I would never think of attending a food bank nor would I consider assisting at a concert unless I was a musician.
How then can I stop attending Mass and begin assisting? First, I must prepare myself to celebrate this sacred mystery. This preparation involves turning away from sin. Most priests make themselves available for confession on Saturday afternoons for 45 minutes to one hour — with minimal participation. Have I become more holy or have I been blinded to my own sinfulness that I don’t take more advantage of this opportunity? In order to assist at Mass I must cleanse myself inside and out so that I may present myself as the spotless bride, the Church, to Christ.
Second, assisting at Mass involves more than merely hearing the Word of God. Great musicians and athletes do not participate in their respective events without preparation. They prepare so that they might fully participate in the event. I too should prepare for Mass by arriving early to pray and read through the readings. This familiarity frees my mind to delve deeper into what Christ is saying to me. In order to assist at Mass I must be spiritually prepared to fully participate by studying and reading the scriptures and the order of the Mass.
Finally, assisting at Mass means more than warming a bench. The Mass is a sacrifice of praise and I must bring a gift or many gifts to be sacrificed on the altar. I must bring my family, friends, work, joys, sorrows, sufferings, worries, and dreams and lay them before God on the altar. My sacrifices are represented in a small way by the gift of money, bread, and wine. However, as the gifts are being brought forward to the altar my heart should be bringing my entire life before the Lord. As the gifts are handed to the priest I should be handing him spiritually all that I am — good and bad. In order to assist at Mass I must make a conscious, spiritual, emotional, physical gift of myself to God. In return for my full participation God will give me nothing less than Himself.
Contrary to popular opinion the Mass is not a spectator sport. It is not for quotas or to fill pews. The Mass and the Church will continue until the end of time regardless of the number of people in the pews. We are not benchwarmers. We are a chosen people. We are priests, prophets, and kings destined to proclaim the death of the Lord Jesus until He comes in glory.
The Mass is my opportunity to stand at the foot of the Cross, say I am sorry, and unite myself fully to Jesus, His sufferings, and His Church. I plead with all Catholics to stop attending Mass. I ask every Catholic in the world to resolve to never attend Mass again! Let us however start assisting at Mass. Let us get so involved in the Mass that we truly see it for what it is, heaven on earth.

Going Deeper

One of the best books available on understanding what is truly going on at the Mass is The Lamb's Supper:  The Mass as Heaven on Earth.  In this book Dr. Hahn takes us step by step through the book of Revelation and "reveals" to us that what we are truly seeing in Revelation is the Mass.  Check it out, you won't regret it!  (This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)
*This is an article I wrote for Catholic Exchange back in 2003.  I think it's still relevant today.

Woe to Me

I don't often think of Jesus letting folks "have it", but occasionally He does. Today's Gospel is in the midst of an onslaught of rebukes directed towards the Scribes and Pharisees. For nearly two full chapters Jesus has been challenged and questioned by the teachers of the Law and now He shoots back.  In today's Gospel Jesus speaks harshly to the Pharisees. So much for the "Jesus-loves-you-no-matter-what" kindergarten approach to Christ. He points to their hypocrisy in word and practice. He shows them how they have lost sight of what God has called them to

Too often I imagine myself standing behind Jesus as He rebukes people. Like a weak sidekick, I stand behind and off to the side and say, "  Yeah, what He said." I like to imagine that I am on the right side and those rebukes are always given to everyone but me.  However, I must be realistic. After all, if Jesus saw fit to call Peter "Satan" then I should not be surprised to find myself at the sharp end of Our Lord's rebukes. .

Lord Jesus, although this prayer is hard to pray I cry out to You, "show me my hypocrisy." Let me see the areas of my life that pull me away from what is important. Give me the wisdom to understand how I focus on giving myself glory while claiming to give You glory.

Woe to you, James, for you...

Tuesday, October 11, 2016

Praying for Integrity

As human beings one of the great pleasures of life is being a material being.  Our senses are wonderful and extremely pleasurable.  Our hearts leap at the sight of a beautiful sunrise or sunset.  Our memories of love and joy coming flooding back with a familiar smell or song.  There is no greater pleasure than the touch of another human being be it the touch of a lover, the kissing of a baby's tiny head, or the holding of a hand as the life slowly ebbs from someone we love.  God has given us a great gift in the material world and our senses.

However, this great gift can also become a curse, our downfall, if we are not careful.  When we become so enamored with the creation around us to the point of forgetting the Creator, we have a problem.  This is where addictions come from.  This is lust, gluttony, avarice, and a host of other sins.  When you and I live for creation, and not for the Creator, our world is turned upside down.  We must often remind ourselves that there is something deeper than what we are seeing and experiencing.  We need to struggle to find balance with the world, the visible and invisible.

In today's Gospel Jesus reminds us that outward appearances are not the most important thing in our lives.  It is what lies in the heart that must be the primary focus of our attention not the external signs or trappings.  Using a dish as an illustration, he shows that cleaning the inside is just as important as cleaning the outside.  Perhaps, it's more important!  I'd much rather eat from a dish that is clean on the inside and dirty on the outside than vice versa.

St. Paul echoes this message in the 1st reading.  Those to whom he was writing were getting caught up in outward signs and appearances.  They were focusing on circumcision of the body when it is really circumcision of the heart that is important.

So today I pray for the grace to be just as conscientious about the state of my soul as I am about the state of my appearance.  I pray for the grace to be just as diligent about getting to Confession as I am about shaving and showering.  I pray for the grace to not only wear a Crucifix but to be a living image of the One it represents (at home, at work, on the road, etc.).  I pray for the grace to have my words and my actions not contradict each other.  I pray for the grace and the gift of integrity.

Going Deeper

The best way to make sure that the inside is just as clean as the outside is the Sacrament of Confession.  Here are some of the best books I've found on this wonderful but underutilized Sacrament.



(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

Monday, October 10, 2016

The Eternal Shore

Saint John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI, and Pope Francis have said, in so many words and in their own unique style, that the problem is not that God has not fully revealed himself to man but rather that He has revealed too much and it is too difficult for us to comprehend. It is difficult to understand how the Creator could be held by His creation. It is difficult to reckon how God could take on human suffering even until death, death on the cross. Is this God really all-powerful, all-knowing, all-everything as the catechisms tell us?

The problem is not so much the fact that God isn't all that and more, but rather that He doesn't fit our mold. He refuses to be boxed in. His ways are not our ways. Thank God!

I often think back to times in my faith walk where I asked God for a sign. I asked Him for silly things and serious things. I asked because I was lost and needed direction. Often He answered me clearly and without delay. Other times it seemed as though He didn't hear a word I uttered. As I look back now, it is those times of silence on His part that I cherish. I cherish them because I realize He did not answer my request because He had something far better planned. Yes, the silence was difficult at the time, but it has trained me to be more trusting, more patient, and more faithful.

In today's Gospel the people are pressing Jesus for some sort of a sign. They want proof that He is who they think He is. They want something that will remove all doubt. They want more bread, more healings, levitations, shows of power or something of the like. To this request Jesus says no, at least He won't give them the silly signs they desire but the ultimate sign of His divinity, the Resurrection. Like Jonah of old who was spewed upon the shore after three days in the belly of the whale, Jesus will spend three days in the belly of the earth and be spewed upon the shores of eternity.  We will too and His resurrection is the only sign we need.

TAKE TWO

The crowd presses on
they seek a sign
is this the one who is to come?
Show us a power
give us some bread
and we'll follow when it's done.

There'll be no sign
of such simple things
no magic lies in store.
A far greater sign
will be given to you
like the one spewed upon the shore.

The Queen of the South
and the Ninevite men
will condemn you on that day
far greater than Solomon
far greater than Jonah
is the one you cast away.


This book is not a easy read but well worth the time and effort.  Pope Benedict XVI illustrates and answers that nagging question that even the most staunch atheist has echoing in the back of his mind, "but what if this is true."  I would highly recommend reading this with a friend or group where you can compare notes and share ideas and thoughts.
(This is an affiliate link.  By clicking on this link I may earn money by your purchase.  I do not recommend anything I haven't read or used personally and believe is of value to you the reader.  Thank you)

 

The Smallest Act of Love