Yes, I Believe in Angels

Today, will traveling at 70 mph (the legal speed limit) I was suddenly hit on the right side of my car by another car who had it a truck and then crashed into me. This car, driven by a man whom the police later arrested, hit my car so hard that it knocked it up onto the concrete barrier wall that separated my lane from the HOV lane. I felt my car was about to flip over when suddenly I felt the car stop its movement to flip, move off the concrete barrier, land in the right lane with no cars behind me, and come to a stop before it hit the car that had first hit me (this car had spun into my lane and had come to a stop). My airbags did not deploy. Had they deployed I could have been hurt badly, instead all I received was a dislocated little finger cause by the steering well and a completely destroyed (but insured) car (the driver of the other car did not have insurance).

I have no doubt I was protected by a guardian angel. This is the second time death was cheated in the last six months. I am grateful and amazed that I am still here. I also am certain I had help that I could not see and this was not simply a random act of luck. I am alive because of an angel.

I do not pretend to know why there was a divine intervention in my case. I do not know why some people die and others do not. I can only tell of my experience and give credit where credit is due for whatever the reason. I do not believe myself to be worthy of any special attention. I am a foolish man who has made way to many foolish mistakes in my life. Yes, I have been called by God into his service, but he has used a donkey for this purpose before.

All I can say is thank you Lord. Thank you my guardian angel.

Making America Good Again

“The goodness of God is the highest object of prayer, and it reaches down to our lowest need. It quickens our soul and gives it life, and makes it grow in grace and virtue.”
— St. Julian of Norwich

Prayer has the power to move us deeply in the direction of closeness to God. Yet, so few realize this power. Too often prayer is used simply as a means of asking God for something. And will God receives such requests, God also wants us to know that prayer has the power to guide our lives in such a way that our requests are often realized before we even ask.

Every human being encounters the presence of God daily. God is always here with us. The problem for most people is that we have one of awareness. We tend not to pay attention to how God is seeking to move our hearts and wills in a direction for our own benefit.

In each human life, the good spirit is striving to get us to choose the path that leads us toward God’s will while there are false spirits that work to lead us toward lies and twisted truths. Unless we are aware of this continual battle we are likely to make bad or wrong choices. A willingness to pray for an awareness of God’s presence and guidance can help us become more open to the truth and the good of God.

There was a time in the beginning of this country that the desire to be in God’s will and to live a life of faith was more important than economic advantage or pursuits of personal pleasure and power. It was a time in which the French political scientist and early sociologist Alexis de Tocqueville made the claim, “America is great because America is good. That good came because of our early focus on faith.

Over the decades, America began to loose this spiritual focus. And while American has had its sins and shortcomings, the orientation toward good continued as long as the spiritual focus was strong. Now, organized religions had replaced the divine/human relationship focus, thus the influence of the church has little impact on the soul of our country. Prayer has become politicized along with the dogma of faith. Single issues take priority over overall goodness. Being more Christlike is not even mentioned by people who consider themselves religious.

If we would make America good again we must again become seekers of God’s will through our own individual discernment rather than letting “leaders” decide for us. We must have a shift in values from that which is temporary to that which is eternal. And, perhaps more importantly of all, we need to remember who we are and why we are. Then, perhaps, we can come together and make America good again.

“Know this: just as the wood of the ark saved the just from drowning, so too, by the mystery of His wooden Cross, does Christ, the Church’s God and King, save us from drowning in the sea of this world. In the symbol of a thing made of wood He gave human beings a foreshadowing of both the judgment to come and the salvation of the just.” — St. Augustine

A Meal for Sharing

“The soul hungers for God, and nothing but God can satiate it. Therefore He came to dwell on earth and assumed a Body in order that this Body might become the Food of our souls.” — St. John Vianney

Today started off in difficulty. Worries and concerns crowded into my mind choking my soul. I became aware the desolation was knocking at my door. Even my Sunday nap contained memories of hurt, failure and shame.

But then came the 5 pm mass. The sermon was not the homiletically best I have ever heard. It was a said mass so there was no music. However, when the host was being blessed and the mystery of the Eucharist filled the room, I was transported back to that upper room. Jesus was there as were the disciples, I could see them in my mind, in my prayer. As Jesus broke the bread, I knew it was an offer to me. As he passed the cup, I knew it was an act of love, a desire to be closer and for me to remember no matter what was to come He was with me.

I took the host and placed it in my mouth. It was like an intimate kiss. The thoughts and worries of the day disappeared. The desolation that was stalking me was no where to be found. I had been blessed.

I am thankful for the following prayer I came across on line yesterday. It is so fitting for me today.

My Jesus, I believe that You are present in the most Blessed Sacrament. I love You above all things and I desire to receive You into my soul. Since I cannot now receive You sacramentally, come at least spiritually into my heart. I embrace You as if You were already there, and unite myself wholly to You. Never permit me to be separated from You. Amen.

What a Spiritual Director Can Do for You

“We frequently need other people’s help to figure out what God wants of us. It is relatively easy to sort out what is bad from what is good, but it is much more difficult to sort out what is good from what is better and what is bad from what is worse. The Holy Spirit gives us the counsel we need through external and internal signs of grace.” — Rev. Jude Winkler

First of all, let me tell you what a spiritual director is not. A spiritual director is not a therapist. A spiritual director is not a licensed professional counselor. A spiritual director is not someone who will “fix” you.

A spiritual director SHOULD be a trained guide who understands the challenges of this world and has travelled the wilderness of life. They are someone who has engaged in spiritual combat with forces we may not even be aware of and has learned to defeat them. A good spiritual director has worked to develop the ability to discern false spirits from good spirits and can help you do the same.

I put emphasis on the word SHOULD because I have encountered spiritual directors who took my money, tried to play counselor, and did more damage to my soul than good. I have had a spiritual director lead me into false consolation (meaning the director had become a tool of the enemy). Be very careful about going to a spiritual director who charges for their time. A good director may accept gifts (a workman is worthy and their time is valuable) but a good spiritual director will work with you whether you pay them or not.

A good spiritual director will be an encouraging person. They will be gentle toward a person but firm against the enemy. A good spiritual director will be a prayer warrior in you behalf. They will project humility and compassion. They will rarely tell you what to do but instead will ask questions that can help you see the situation with more clarity and assurance. They will aid you in discernment when discernment is needed.

A spiritual director may or may not belong to an organization like Spiritual Directors International (I am a member mainly because of their code of ethics). Again be careful because some of these folks are not followers of Christ and may or may not have been competently trained. Get references or ask a lot of questions before you agree to meet with them.

You do not have to meet with a spiritual director in person. So of the masters spiritual direction did most of the work through letters. In our age, a spiritual director can be very helpful when Zoomed or Facetimed. You do not have to meet with them unless you feel the need. A good spiritual director will find time for you but will have boundaries you will need to accept.

Lastly, a good spiritual director (and I have a great one who has been of immense help to me) understands their purpose and place. They have realized the importance of community. They understand the lies and twisted truths of the enemy. But most of all, they have learned to trust God. They are close to our Lord and work with (not in place of ) the Holy Spirit.

I believe every person can benefit from a spiritual director if you are sincere in growing in your faith and love for our Lord. Seek out a good one and it will be a life changing experience.

Difficult People

“Put up willingly with the faults of others if you wish others to put up with yours.”
— St. John Bosco

Yesterday, while on Facebook (this site seems to always be a challenge for me) I responded to a comment by a person who I had forgotten I knew. It was a strange experience when I came to the realization of who this person was. I cannot believe I had so put their name behind me that I would not remember that this person lead the charge to get me removed from a church I was serving. This person had lied about me, slandered me, and caused me all kinds of distress. Once I realize who this person was, all the bad memories came flooding back. It took me a few hours to get back to the place of spiritual tranquility.

Using painful memories is one of the basic attacks of the enemy. Painful memories can cause feelings of shame, guilt, sorrow, anger, distress, tension, and even severe depression. I was not going to let the enemy use this tactic against me. You should not either.

Perhaps the best weapon we can use against our memories of difficult people is the art of practice compassion. There is a wonderful book, Practicing Compassion, by Frank Rogers Jr. that provides a very practical pattern for obtaining an attitude of compassion toward people like my former nemesis on Facebook. What Frank tells us is that we should take our PULSE when we have to deal with people like this.

P-paying attention by seeking a nonreactive response to the negative feelings that arise.

U-understanding empathically by remembering how easy it is to have negative feelings and to realize that the person toward whom we feel antagonistic likely is carrying a lot of pain as well.

L-loving with connection by allowing ourselves to be moved by the suffering with us and extending care toward ourselves and wishing it for the other person as well.

S-sensing the sacredness by remembering that we are all created by God for God’s purpose and that our God is a God of compassion who is willing to help us become compassionate as well.

E-embodying new life by moving forward beyond the damaging past memories and thus not allowing the enemy to have the influence the enemy wants to have on our lives.

Frank also warns us, “In demonizing others, we distance ourselves from their humanity. We forget that their hearts beat with longing and pain. For all practical purposes, we assume that the pulses of their spirits have been extinguished.” This condition will only diminish our own humanity.

Yes, difficult people can be hard to deal with. Yes, people can cause a lot of pain and distress in our lives. However, we do have the power to decide to transcend our own negative responses and take the road less travelled which will lead us to a peace beyond human understanding.

Holy Indifference

“O my God, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served, to give without counting the cost, to fight without fear of being wounded, to work without seeking rest, and to spend myself without expecting any reward, but the knowledge that I am doing your holy will. Amen.” — St. Ignatius of Loyola

Each of us make decisions everyday. Simple decisions about what we wear, what we eat, what we watch on television. We also may have complicated decisions that we need to make. How do we know what is the best decision to make?

If we are not intentional about our decision making we may allow the world or some other principality and power impress us to make a decision that my go against the decision God would like for us to make. We may be prejudiced toward one decision over another due to emotional factors or from selfish desires. These decisions can really have a negative impact on our lives.

Perhaps the prayer quoted above by Ignatius of Loyola would be a good prayer to pray before we made decisions that could impact our lives, especially or spiritual lives. We are beings made for a reason. The bottom line of this reason is that we are made out of the love God expressed in our creation. We can only fully live our lives when we make decision that God wills to be best for us. Everything else can leave us in a place we really do not want to be in.

Holy indifference is seeking to allow God to lead us in our decision making process. When we allow the movement of the Holy Spirit in our lives we can be assured we are making the best decisions. Otherwise, we may be influenced by a false spirit that does not have our best interest at heart. Getting help from a competent spiritual director is a good way to begin living a life grounded in good decisions for the greater glory of God and thus to our greater glory as well.

Happiness Needs Help

“The secret of happiness is to live moment by moment and to thank God for what He is sending us every day in His goodness.”
— St. Gianna Molla

I have recently gone through a nine week training course on ACT (Acceptance Commitment Therapy). I went through this course for my own self benefit and to add to my spiritual direction toolbox. It was a very interesting course. The basic premise is that we can, no matter what our circumstances, have control in our lives by putting our values first and learning to be mindful of these values as we deal with obstacles and challenges in our lives.

Let’s face it, happiness is difficult when we feel we are controlled by forces beyond our control. As a spiritual director, I understand that life, a fully satisfying and meaningful life, can be very difficult to obtain. I have been in the pits. I have faced times in which I felt I had no hope. I have made some very bad decisions in such times that can still bring up a sense of regret.

I have learned, however, that when I recognize I am in desolation, seek understanding for the reasons behind the desolation, and then act (respond) in an appropriate manner to confront the desolation, I can be sustained until I can again find spiritual consolation and return to a state of happiness. ACT training has given me more tools to use in all three categories of recognizing the situation, understanding what is taking place and then responding in a way that hope is again a light I can look forward with and patience can bring me to an anticipation of again being happy.

Happiness is only truly achieved when we are together emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. I did not not physically because that often times is one of the things beyond our control. I made the mistake once of listening to a spiritual director who lead me to focus on the physical that produced a false sense of relief I later came to regret. Be very careful to whom you trust with your soul.

I would recommend to everyone who understands that sometimes happiness needs some help to purchase a couple of books on ACT = Acceptance Commitment Therapy and learn some of the techniques and plans for living that they offer.

If I can be of help, not as a therapist but as a soul friend who is on the journey of life with you let me know. Blessings

The Blind Person’s Guides

“Faith and love are like the blind man’s (persons’) guides. They will lead you along a path unknown to you, to the place where God is hidden.” — St. John of the Cross

If I have learned anything from all my negative experiences in life is the reality of just how blind I can be to the dangers, pitfalls, obstacles, and evil awaiting me on this journey of life. I have learned the hard way of just how important it is to have guides we can trust to be leading us toward the good and our own best interests.

My faith has changed. My first vision of faith was not a true vision but one given me by fundamentalism. Fundamentalism in religion can seem to be a life jacket when a person believes they are drowning in a sea of unclear parameters and a false sense of needing certainty. However, this life jacket will become a straight jacket that will itself become an obstacle to discovering the true path for which we are created. Fundamentalism is in itself a form of blindness that is prejudiced toward building walls and limiting freedom. It is more of a psychological and social barrier than a religious path to truth.

My unbinding of the straight jacket of fundamentalism required me to accept my faith not as something to be certain of, but a relationship I could trust and find assurance. My faith now gives me freedom to question and explore, to discover and to discern. Faith now guides me to recognize my limitations as well as my opportunities. I now am more adept at hearing truth rather than needing to see and touch it. Because of these new perspectives and abilities I am able to truly believe the words, “We live by faith and not by sight.” (2 Cor. 5:7 CEB) Faith is now a prominent spiritual director in my life.

Perhaps the hardest guide for me to accept in my life is the guide of love. I did not love myself for much of my life. I was continually at war with my own self perception. I would do things to try and escape from the person I believed I was. This self loathing only lead me into the traps of the enemy of humankind and influenced the many bad choices that I made.

Even though I believed I was a Christian, I could not really fathom the idea that God really did love me. How could God be so blind. It was not God who was blind. It was me. It took a miracle, a miracle resulting from an extremely horrible and destructive choice to bring me to a point where I could begin to understand that even someone like me could be loveable. I had felt (and was) betrayed so many times by those who said they “loved” me that I was extremely resistant to love breaking through. But, the think about love is that it does not give up on a person. Love pursued me and overtook me. It introduced itself to me and promised not to force me, use me, or deceive me. It made it clear it would gain my trust at the pace I set. It provides me with assurance that I had been blindly seeking and never finding.

Yes, there are times when it is hard to trust faith and love. Sometimes the road we travel can become so terrifying that I try to let go of their hands. They never let go of mine. They stay with me till I am ready to again believe and trust them to lead me on the best path for my life and will help defend me against the evil I am sure to encounter. They will do this for you as well no matter what stage of life you are in. They are always there waiting to be asked.

You have this faith and love because of the hope reserved for you in heaven. You previously heard about this hope through the true message, the good news, (Col. 1:5 CEB)

A Mission of Unity/a witness to truth in Political Parties

“We have been called to heal wounds, to unite what has fallen apart, and to bring home those who have lost their way.”
— St. Francis of Assisi

I have a proposal for those who are already established in a political party. If you are a Christian, since you believe you know what your party stands for why not become a missionary to the other party? I know this sounds crazy, but think about it for awhile. We do not try to make Christians out of individuals who are already followers of Jesus (well, let me correct that, make Christians out of committed, active, and obviously in God’s will people). Why then, not seek to align the platform of both parties to one that supports moral and spiritual values and works against the evil that is an enemy of us all.

I am not just talking theory here. This is something I myself have done. Let me share a bit of my earlier resume’. I was the first Baptist to serve on the board of Dallas Right to Life. I was an organizer for the Religious Roundtable. I am the founder of Hill Country Right to Life and the Schreiner College Young Republicans. I was a delegate to the Republican Convention. I was train by NICPAC and the Young Republicans in political activism. Now, I volunteer and write to support Democrats who are like-minded in values and convictions. I feel I have been successful in convincing some of moderating their views to a point that they too are more in favor of stances that look at the big picture (also, I could never support Trump).

How can this work? Let’s take an issue like the abortion debate. This issue will never be solved by laws against abortion. The only way their will be change is to change our cultural perspective. What I propose is to seek to get other Democrats to see this. Democrats are big on the issue of women’s rights, this is a noble stance. Why not work to join an attitude of pro-life with position that seeks to support women who become pregnant with an unplanned pregnancy financially, emotionally, and with any other support they may need. Why not seek to promote research that would provide safe and effective contraception that is more effective than what we now have. Also, we need to educate men as to their responsibility in this issue and make them accountable. If Democrats would take the life of the unborn child more seriously and reflect this in their platform think of how much good could be done.

Another issue, the widening gap between rich and poor. The Republicans are extremely pro-business. What if some individuals with current Democrat leanings who are Christians would begin to work to seek to make that part more sensitive to workers needs? Think of good that could be done.

If you look at the platforms of both parties you can find good and find things that need to be adjusted. I am not so Pollyanna to think that we can bring about universal agreement, but we can make changes that would promote more civility and unity. Even the hardest of heads can be softened with the right approach and love. Our Lord taught us that. Our current cultural wars are only going to bring more hatred and suffering into a deeply divided world. Christians are to be reconcilers not pawns to be used by political power brokers.

Will this be difficult? Yes it will. However, our Lord never said that anything that we do for the Kingdom would be easy. Is this the right thing to do? If we really care about our call to be reconcilers and witness to God’s truth, then yes it is the right thing to do. I hope you will consider it.

Discovering God’s Paths

Rather than defining faithfulness as absolute conformity to authority and tribal identity, a trust-centered faith will value in others the search for true human authenticity that may take them away from familiar borders of their faith, while trusting God to be part of that process in ourselves and others, even those closest to us. Pete Enns, The Sin of Certainty, p206

After spending forty years in the pastorate and seeing the corruption, competition, and compromise first hand in three major denominations, I have concluded that we are deeply in need of a new reformation. I left one denomination due to the cover-up of a major fraud oriented scandal and a change in my theological understanding of salvation, was forced to retire from another due to being falsely accused of sexual misconduct (never officially charged-just not reassigned so I could be accused of being a bit biased), and as a member in the third I ceased to seek recognition of orders simply because I am tired of jumping through hoops in order to convince the powers that be (whoever they may be) that I do have God’s call upon my life. Boy that was a long sentence. Still, the church is the bride of Christ and will continue to await the return of the Lord and perhaps receive some needed plastic surgery to cover up the scars that have been self-inflicted. I still believe the church is the means through which we carry out God’s will.

For the last three years I have been seeking to understand what it means to seek God’s will. I finally found a definition that I can fully trust due to its biblical support and theological rational. (Quote) “God’s will is the vocation of every Christian, of every person. In every act of willing we should explicitly or at list implicitly be willing the glory of God for God’s greater glory.” I found this definition in my study of Ignatius of Loyola. I have also discovered that Ignatius put together a set of rules to help a person discern if a path is likely from God or not. These rules are very practical and take into account the reality of the existence and influence of an enemy of humanity and God.

In my own life I wish I would have come to find these rules for discernment sooner. It would have saved me a lot of grief, sorrow, depression, pain, and making choices I wish I would not have made. In all my theological training (and I have a doctorate from Perkins Theological Seminary) I was never given any aid or instruction on how to discern God’s will. Also, there is a great emptiness in how ministers today are trained in regard to engaging in spiritual combat and in dealing with the immaturity and hostility that thrives in most churches today. Even in the training I received to become a certified Spiritual Director I was not introduced to a way of discernment as helpful as I have found in Ignatius.

I love what Jules J. Toner, S.J. writes in his book on Discerning God’s Will; “We ought to take for granted that what the Lord of the whole world works in persons is either for the sake of giving us greater glory or for the sake of lessening our evil when we are not disposed to receive the greater glory (p.22).” God wants to work with us to not only our good but for the good of all creation. When we understand and work to be able to be available to God and to recognize His voice (the purpose of discernment of spirits) we are much better equipped not only to spiritually survive but thrive and bring defeat to our enemy.

I would (and do) encourage all who want to develop deeper confidence (not certainty which is idolatry) in their spiritual walk to seek out a spiritual director who is knowledgeable in Ignatius rules and also to read all they can get their hands on concerning this incredible gift this Spanish mystic has offered us. More on this later.