Friday, April 24, 2015

7QT: Seven Quick Takes (Volume X)

I'm linking up with This Ain't the Lyceum to bring you seven quick takes from my world this week.

Why are all my favorite bloggers moving to podcasts now?!!  So annoying!  I love podcasts, and I listen to them daily on my commute and when I'm doing tasks or errands, but I prefer blogs.  I can read them at work and refer back to them much more easily.  I always seem to be one step behind.  Once I resign myself to losing my favorite bloggers to podcasts, everyone will start doing something else.

God gives us grace for today, not for hypothetical, worrisome situations in the future.  I have to remember this.  Especially as I consider how my current life circumstances are not conducive to what I think I want in the future - children.  One step at a time.  We must deal with what is.    

After a lifetime of almost no dental problems and nary a cavity, I now have multiple cavities and have to either get a bridge or an implant for one tooth.  I don't know what happened in the last 6 months (aside from getting married), but I'm falling apart now.  It's expensive and frustrating.  Getting old ain't for sissies.    

I recently discovered the work of Deacon James Keating.  This discovery, combined with the work of Father Timothy Gallagher on discernment has really, really helped me with a lifelong problem that I didn't even know I had.  Did you know that the mean voice in your head that condemns you, blames you, hates you, attacks you, and generally makes you feel like crap is not from God?  Maybe everyone knew this but me, or maybe not everyone has that "voice" as a constant companion.  I just have gotten so used to that voice over the years that I basically heard it as my own.  You know, the "taped messages" you replay to yourself?  Part of the negativity and hatred came from my parents and the way they talked to us, taught us to treat ourselves, their view of God as judgmental, and their view of humanity as totally depraved.  Gradually, I have been able to weed out their voice in some respects, but my own voice to myself was not much better.  I didn't realize that God is not the one who condemns you or hates you.  I confused my desire for more holiness, my desire to be better and to do better with a mean voice in my head that reminded me of how far I had to go.  But, you must question your thoughts - even the thoughts which come in the first person.  If they discourage you, condemn you, remind you of your mistakes in a way that is not helpful, they are not of God.  It's that simple.  Again, maybe everyone knew this but me.  I could have told you that the Holy Spirit doesn't condemn, that "there is therefore now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus," (Romans 8:1) or that the devil is referred to as the accuser of the brethren, but at the same time, I put up with this voice as a constant companion, thinking it was God.  In moments of despair or panic, this voice screams the loudest.  It's part of my hardware.  But now, I can't explain the relief I have found from recognizing that it is not of God and dismissing it summarily.  There is freedom, clarity, and peace in my mind that is totally brand new.  

Fr. Gallagher explains that when one is moving from sin to holiness, God will "prick" you by convicting you of your sins (not condemning you).  Once you are on a path of holiness, but trying to do better, it's not God, but the devil who "pricks" you, reminding you of your mistakes, telling you that you'll never succeed, and generally discouraging you.  One has to discern which stage on the journey they are in, and know whether or not you're listening to the voice of your best friend or your worst enemy.  Deacon Keating explains that the accuser often comes in the form of a "You are..." statement, such as "You are such a loser, you can't do anything right," or "You are such a hypocrite, who do you think you are?"  Whereas God often comes in the form of an "I am" statement, such as "I am the God who heals you," or "I am love, I will never stop loving you."  You can find the work of both Deacon Keating and Father Gallagher at Discerning Hearts, or from other sources by doing a simple internet search.  That is my brief summary of what has been a major breakthrough for me.      

Speaking of such things, I have really gotten into the writings and story of Joseph Sciambra.  I am fascinated by conversion (or reversion) stories.  Joseph was raised nominally Catholic and gradually slipped into a deviant lifestyle in the gay community, getting deeper and deeper.  He writes from a perspective now of a man redeemed and living out the call to chastity.  Pray for him, for others like him, and for those who could be reached by his story for their own conversion.  Our world needs more people who are this brave. 

I think part of the reason I am drawn to Joseph is that Theology of the Body was a life-changer for me.  I have yet to explore the depths of TOB, but I feel like it is an encompassing truth which explains our fundamental nature and destiny in light of natural law and gospel truth.  (I write a little bit about my encounter with Theology of the Body and Natural Family Planning here.  I also touch on it in my conversion story, which is in four parts here: I, II, III, IV.)  

Joseph also reminds us that the demonic is at work in the sexual perversions of our world.  We are so accustomed to it that I think many of us open ourselves to spiritual oppression by accepting or acting upon these base desires.  You turn on the TV, and jokes about porn and masturbation abound.  They are treated as normal behaviors.  Gay couples are depicted on TV as if they are about half of the population (not the 3-5% estimated by sociologists).  Not to mention that promiscuity, fornication, and the like, are just seen as normal.  I am guilty of all of this.  I swallowed this mindset hook, line, and sinker when I left home for college.  I was indoctrinated by the Sex and the City lifestyle throughout college, and fell into deep sin for the majority of my twenties, despite being raised in a Christian home.  

All that to say, considering the high percentage of persons involved in pornography (by consumption alone), both gay and straight, and those involved in sexual sin, both gay and straight, our world is in the devil's hand, doing whatever he wants.  This isn't something insignificant or to be taken lightly.  This isn't just another sin, this is a sin of the body, which is crucial to our being - eternal and temporal.  Our bodies proclaim the gospel.  Our bodies are not just something we are "stuck" in, housing our "real" selves.  Our bodies are the embodiment of our souls.  (I have to respectfully disagree with C.S. Lewis on the point, "You do not have a soul.  You are a soul, you have a body."  No - we are an embodied-soul or an en-soul-ed-body, you cannot separate the two.  A soul without a body is a ghost.  A body without a soul is a zombie.  We will have bodies in eternity.  We believe in a resurrection of the body.  I want to write more on the connection between near-gnosticism by some Protestants and liberal humanism, both believing the body is unimportant.)  I digress.  All this to say that Joseph's story has reminded me that "we wrestle not with flesh and blood." (Ephesians 6:12)  Also, we can pretty much draw a line in the sand - that which is not life, and life more abundantly is not of God.  Satan comes to steal, kill, and destroy.  (John 10:10)  It's very black and white.  I am trying to be more vigilant in this and realize that you can't dabble in or mess around with this stuff.  We have to stay pure, go to confession, receive the sacraments, and fight this war.  

Tomorrow (God willing), marks the last day of a lay catechist training program I've been taking through our diocese.  It consists of three semesters of work, over 90 hours of instruction and 3 days of reflection.  I felt like, as a convert, I had a somewhat limited understanding of the faith.  I had done lots of reading when I converted 9 years ago.  I continued to read theology, but RCIA was a long time ago.  I felt extremely knowledgeable in some areas of Catholicism (specifically about areas of apologetics that differed from Protestantism), and I felt extremely ignorant about other areas of Catholicism.  I wanted to fill in the gaps.  While it was difficult to give up so many Saturdays over the last year and a half, I'm happy to be almost done.  I have learned a lot, and I'm considering getting a Master's in Theology.  It's one of the only things that interests me anymore - our Catholic faith, that is.  

Like I say every time I do this post, seven sure seems like a lot of "quick" takes.  I have over 10 drafts of blog posts, 451 notes to myself on my iphone, and 16 email drafts to myself of blog ideas.  I want to explore all of these thoughts further (and I did blog a little more than usual this week), however, when it comes to writing seven things down, I seem to be at a loss every time.  

May the peace of Christ live always in your hearts.  

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