Praying Mentis

A Laymen's Journey into the Catholic faith.

Saturday, May 30, 2015

On the Divine Architect

We have all run into the moment when we have to make a very big decision. Whether it is to stay at the same job we have been doing for years, deciding who to marry, or even just what you're going to eat tomorrow. I wanted to post on this subject because there is actually an easy button for this.

Four years ago I got on the plane to visit my now wife's family. On that plane I was faced with the biggest decision I would ever make... Would I marry my now wife, Elizabeth awesome Day. I remember on the plane ride I made a pro's con's list of why I should or should not marry her. I stopped, but probably not soon enough. You probably cringed as you read that sentence almost as much as I cringed to write it. It's probably one of the stupidest things I have done. 

Truth is, there are a thousand reasons for doing one thing over the other. Life would get insane very quickly if there wasn't a sure way to find out what path to take. Life would be complete chaos! The starting point in making a decision is turning to Jesus, who is "the way, and the truth and the life." (John 14:6)

In the parable of the vineyard Jesus reminds us that He loves us personally, cares for us, and that we need to stay close to Him. If we stay close to Jesus we can ask him anything we want, and as a loving spouse, He will respond. In John 15:7-9 Jesus says:

"If you remain in me and my words remain in you, ask for whatever you want and it will be done for you." By this is my Father glorified, that you bear much fruit and become my disciples. As the Father loves me, so I also love you. 

He says, "by this is my Father glorified that you bear much fruit and become my disciples." It glorifies God to ask Him for things! If you are remaining in Christ, then you will ask for good things and you will ask for what God wants in your life. By doing this you will certainly find the answers you seek and glorify God by  being the you that God planned for you to be, which brings you and all those around you the most joy. It's like a snowball effect. 

Jesus makes His intentions for you and I clear throughout all of Scriptures. He says, “I have told you this so that my joy may be in you and your joy may be complete." (John 15:11).  The one conclusion I have made in this life is we are infinitely loved beyond what we can possible imagine. Our joy is God's first concern. Thankfully, joy from God is not the same as regularly super crummy cheaply-bought brand X joy, that we're used to in this world that blows up in our face when things get bad.

Jesus came so that we could join His divine family and He was willing to do anything to make that happen. He was willing to do anything to be with you. God Himself, the creator of the universe, wants to be closer to us. Coming from a broken home, the thought of my Father as the creator of the universe is an awesome reality. A close second to the fact that this same Creator wants to be close to us and cares for us more than we can possibly imagine.

Truth is, God has prepared a path for our life before we were even born. In Ephesians 2:10 St. Paul says: "For we are his workmanship, created in Christ Jesus for good works, which God prepared beforehand, that we should walk in them."  The ways that we are supposed to take are already known by God. We need to only go to the Divine architect of the universe and our lives and ask. He Himself will set us on the road that will bring the most joy.

I am writing this partially as a reminder to myself as well. I am currently struggling with anxieties of my own as I write this with uncertainties with work, how to be the man I am supposed to be, and other issues close to my heart. And it's tough, but we are on this journey together. And I firmly believe if we remind each other of the times that God has intervened in our life in the past and how He has constantly revealed Himself in our lives and Scriptures to be true, faithful, and always caring of our unique lives; maybe we can learn something from mere repetition that our soul sometimes forgets.

Psalm 119:105 says, "Your word is a lamp for my feet, a light for my path." At times we can only see the next step. To be honest, I think it is best this way for us and I thank God it is this way. Even though it is very hard to be in the midst of uncertainty, I think it would be much worse to have to worry about every decision months or even years before a clear alternative arrives at your door!

With that said I encourage myself and everyone who actually reads this silly blog to only look at your next step. If you must change course or stay where you are, God's word will act as a Lamp for your feet. That same word that is a lamp onto your feet is the word of which God Himself says: "So shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it." (Isaiah 55:11)

Thursday, August 14, 2014

On a Good Decision

I am not sure if I have written about this in the past, but before my wife and I were married I was trying to decide whether or not it was the right decision to marry her. I was on a plane to visit her and her family in Mississippi. We had been together for roughly a year. I had to make a decision--do we take the next step? Do we get married? I couldn’t make up my mind, so I did what all normal people do when they try to make a decision--I made a pros and cons list. 

Every time I tell this story, people laugh. It’s ridiculous and probably the stupidest thing I have ever done. Don't worry though--my wife still loves me and we're doing great. 

I only bring this up because I wanted to write on what I learned when I made the best decision of my life. If you know me and my wife, you know I made a really really good decision. Sadly, the well written pros/cons list didn't help at all. It was a waste of time that cost me my credible reputation as a loving husband (and telling the story to my youth group teens made them laugh in my face). I am now scarred.

The reason people laugh when they hear this story is because they know intuitively what I did not know on that plane. They knew that even the bests pros-cons list cannot possibly illuminate all the possible future effects of a decision and make it simpler to make said decision in the present. There are simply too many factors in the present and future that we just can't take into consideration. It's kinda funny--people laugh when they hear this because they are recounting their souls' interior sensibility and knowledge that we cannot do any good without God. (Hey, there is a Bible passage that says that! John 15:5)

The other weekend we heard the story of Solomon: a wise king who asked God for wisdom to govern his people. It says:

10 The Lord was pleased by Solomon’s request. 11 So God said to him: Because you asked for this—you did not ask for a long life for yourself, nor for riches, nor for the life of your enemies—but you asked for discernment to know what is right— 12 I now do as you request.[1]  (1 Kings 3:10-15)

Solomon was just like us; he didn't know how to govern his people rightly, with justice, love, mercy, as God wanted him to. 

He did do not have the tools to make an informed decision on what was best for his people, but that was ok because he relied on God to help him rule justly. Just like with Solomon, God can see the best path for us. 

The question I very frequently hear is, "Can an all powerful God love every person on this planet?!" To answer this we just to need to look at the countless lives that Jesus personally took interest in. Jesus healed the leper (Mark 1:40-42), healed the man with the withered hand (Mark 3:1-6), healed a Roman soldiers' servant (Matthew 8:5-15), and did countless other healings for different people in different circumstances all throughout the Bible. The last one I want to mention is when Jesus healed the paralytic and forgave his sins (Mark 2:9-12). I believe this is the most beautiful healing in the Bible that illustrates how Jesus loves us. This man comes to Jesus, telling him that if Jesus desires to heal him he can. In a way, this is the same question we struggle with. This man didn't have to ask if Jesus had the power to heal him and we don't either. We know God is all powerful. The remaining question then is--does Jesus love everyone of us? In each of the healings that took place in the Bible we are supposed to hear the resounding answer to this question.

If we do not rely on Jesus, life will be hard. We will constantly question ourselves. Asking over and over, am I where I am meant to be? How can I know for sure that I made the right choice? How about you start from the beginning. God loves you. Because God loves you, you can safely assume that He wants you to become the best version of yourself and is invested in you. He will guide you.

It is very difficult to make a wrong decision if it is made in prayer with God. I would dare say it is impossible, but I don't want to be a heretic. God never forsakes us and all things work together for those who love God.

“We know that all things work for good for those who love God,* who are called according to his purpose.[1]” (Romans 8:28)

This passage is often translated as, “We know that God makes everything work for good for those who love God.…” God gives us direction. God leads us.  If you want to make the right choice, love God and the rest will make sense. You will know where you are meant to be and what you are meant to do. God's personal love and interest in us is what should bring us endless streams of hope as christians. Actually, that is a great title for my next blog... Hmmm...

*Special thanks to for the 1st image and for the 2nd image.*

Monday, October 22, 2012

On a Wise Choice

I have to admit, I never thought much of Casting Crowns. It was one of my Dad's favorite bands. I remember him calling me upstairs to listen to them on several occasions. I was listening to Pandora today, and the song, "If We Ever Needed You,"  came on. I was reading the Catechism at the time, about our call to be Christian and how the apostles first started their mission (see Mark 16:20).

It made me remember a conversation I had with a good friend back my senior year of college. My friend asked what the difference was between living a Christian life and not. My answer should've been, "When there is a christian preaching the gospel of God, you will know God is there because of the signs that will necessarily follow." I knew this then, but I didn't know how to articulate it. When you are doing what God asks you to, you can better see him around you in the small things. Especially in subtle coincidences and in answered prayers.

One reason we fall from God is because we have some kind of doubt that we feel needs to be settled. Or we have a sin that we can't let go of which can cause us to lose faith (because we justify our sin to ourselves). Doubt can arise from simply not looking toward God. I think everytime I am weak in my faith it is for that reason. I try to do things on my own. But if we search for God, we will find Him. Despite the simple nature of the previous statement, this search can be difficult. I was reading St. Augustine today and the intensity of his search for God through prayer struck me:

"...tell me of Thy compassion, O Lord my God, what Thou art to me. 'Say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.' So speak that I may hear. Behold, Lord, the ears of my heart are before Thee; open Thou them, and “say unto my soul, I am thy salvation.” (Confessions of St. Augustine)

I know I keep bringing up my Dad, but I feel it is relevant to this subject. The last thing my dad said to me before his first heart failure was, "David, do you look back in your life and find how God has worked in your life these past few years?" I smiled and turned back to him thinking he was being his overly contemplative self, and said " Yes! Are you kidding?" And I cited the reasons. There are too many to mention right now, but i will say meeting my fiance is one of them. 

I'm reminded of what Pope Benedict had to say on starting actions with prayer: "Whenever we pray together, where we receive God’s gifts with thankfulness, a new heart comes into being, which also changes us ourselves..." (God is Near Us: The Eucharist, the Heart of Life. Page 52). It is important for us to always remember God's gifts in order for us to be changed, and to have a "new heart".

Too often we forget God's gifts in our lives and become ungrateful. We become exactly like the Israelites fleeing from the persecution of the Pharaoh, who after being persecuted all of their lives by a ruling dictator (Satan), displace their anger upon the God who liberated them. They began to seek other means to overcome the pain they were experiencing, which involved seeking idles over God. They didn't realize that God Himself was there for them, and time and time again God revealed Himself to them. And yet, they required more to believe, as is the case with us. 

We don't realize that our sins have punishments despite the fact that they are forgiven. Or in terms of the graph below we become ungrateful as the gifts we are given pile up. But maybe the greatest punishment we receive is the consequential punishment of unrequited love. 

"What am I to Thee that Thou demandest my love, and unless I give it Thee art angry, and threatenest me with great sorrows? " (Confessions of St. Augustine)

Not to distort the order of things too much, but the above quote was what inspired this blog in the first place. This one quote reminds me of the brokenness I have seen around me. Everywhere I see brokenness I also see rejection of God. God is love, so those who reject Him are essentially casting themselves into sorrow. It's kind of sad really. Or in other cases, God comes secondarily to some other material object. That in mind, let me share with you this quote:

"We did what was right in our eyes, and now our children will pay the price." (Casting Crown, If We Ever Needed You)

Sin never only affects us. If you choose not to spread God's message to world, you're choosing to spread the message of another "god". Or as John Lenin put it, 

"You're gonna have to serve somebody/Well, it may be the devil or it may be the Lord/But you're gonna have to serve somebody."

Our sin directly affects everyone around us as well as God, which is a fact we often overlook. Our family, friends, and especially our future or present children. This is something that has helped me to put the proper weight to the seriousness of sin in life, and has helped me to continually battle against it.

Augustine of Hippo. (1886). The Confessions of St. Augustin J. G. Pilkington, Trans.). In P. Schaff (Ed.), A Select Library of the Nicene and Post-Nicene Fathers of the Christian Church, First Series, Volume I: The Confessions and Letters of St. Augustin with a Sketch of His Life and Work (P. Schaff, Ed.) (46). Buffalo, NY: Christian Literature Company.