Tuesday, September 30, 2008
I saw a commercial today for a video game for a BABY. A real baby.... like, you sit the baby on this electronic horsey thing and it reacts to whats' on the TV. Really. I almost lost my mind, feel like blogging about it, but I'm afraid I'll say some unsavory things so I'll just leave it at this: Lord Jesus Christ, have mercy on us.
I also got three separate phone calls from people that absolutely cracked me up this week. They all started with "So, I'm staring at one on my wall," or "so I've got three of them trapped here."
I didn't have to ask.... I knew we were talking about the dreaded cockroaches. It's that season, you see, and they are everywhere around here. And just as I was feeling smug-as-heck last night that my house has thusfar been cockroach free this season, I discovered an evil wolf spider we'll call "Harry," who was trying to move into my house. It took me nearly a half hour to smash him to smithereens, I was so terrified that I was having chills all up and down my body and the hair on the back of my neck was standing straight up. The ridiculousness of the situation (me standing atop my dining room table, armed with a mop (??????) which was the closest thing I could grab to kill it with and loudly praying and pleading the blood of Jesus over my family as I strongly prayed against the evil infiltrating my house. The neighbors must have been having a blast watching me from across the street!) was particularly hilarious when I considered that I was a lot like Steve on GhostHunters, who Wayne and I incessantly make fun of.... ghosts and goblins? Not so scary. Spiders? O.M.G.
Blah. Today was the feast day of St Jerome, who just happened to be one of the coolest saints ever. He was a hardcore bible thumper, and I love that, because so few Catholics today recognize the treasure that we have in the Word of God. I had the priviledge of proclaiming the Word today at mass (I usually hate it, but I was honored to do so today on the feast day of such a Word loving Saint!) and it was so cool to be reminded that it really all starts here.
Brother Yun, from the Heavenly Man, has a great quote I always try to remember: "You can never really KNOW the scriptures until you are willing to be changed by them." Yep. If I want to see an authentic Charismatic renewal alive and thriving in the Catholic Church, I need to see a deeper devotion to the Word of God in Scripture. And so that causes me to continue to go deeper into Scripture, because we can't hope for change and not be the change ourselves.
I was deeply challenged today at our women's book study by the topic: modesty and moderation. What was discussed was not so much modesty in clothing, which we had covered previously, but rather modesty in behavior, etc. Guarding our hearts, and keeping "intimate" those things which are intimate.
The book itself was written back in the seventies, long before Al Gore invented the internets (heehee) but it popped out to every woman there that these days, social networking trumps modesty and the virtue of discretion. People have accounts on myspaz and facebook and share the intimate details of their lives, pictures, thoughts, etc. Their families. They blog and talk about the ins and outs of their lives. The idea that was being discussed resonated with me in particular because I wear my life on my sleeve, so to speak-- I've always been an open book. In fact, I frequently get offended or hurt by family members and friends who make intimate all the details of their lives, and secret, because I find that I can't really KNOW them. I've discussed this blog with my dad before and he thinks it's a nightmare because he has always said that I lack discretion. Possibly, that's a valid point-- I do have a tendency to just talk to you guys about everything on my mind.
It's like this: on the one hand.... I've got people sending me emails who are choosing not to divorce or not to commit suicide, or get an abortion, etc, because of things they read in my blog that resonate. On the other side, I've got people who read my blog and endanger me and my family (ahem, calling Child Protective Services, etc) I have to take both into consideration.
And then there is the whole thing about how I'm not actually doing what I'm supposed to be doing. Often I'm blogging (like right now) when I should be taking a shower, or eating dinner, or taking a nap. Or reading scripture. Or praying. OR FINISHING MY BOOK!! :P
Doing the things that matter MORE in my life.
I get a sense that my blog is important because a) it's cathartic and I enjoy writing it, it helps me process my thoughts and b) people really tell me that something in them is changed when I share these personal stories.
The cathartic part is easily resolved by journaling, which I do anyways. There's nothing like pen to paper in my experience. But the other part is that in my zeal to see the whole world saved I don't always stop to think if I'm called to a particular thing--- I'm just like..... "you exist? Well then let me share Jesus with you in my life." You know?
I find that the longer I write this blog (and I've been seriously blogging for well over eight years now!) the longer I am perpelexed about whether I should continue. Many people read my blog and edit it for me, in the sense that I get calls telling me I should avoiding being so open or so personal about X, Y, or Z. But I sort of cringe at being told that-- because it's a part of ME to be open like that and to share. Heck, if I didn't read other people's blogs or know other people IRL who were this open, I wouldn't be who I am today--- it's AWESOME and encouraging to me to know what other people go through and I'm grateful to be given the opportunity to do so.
But the more time goes on, the more I'm convinced I should be putting all this energy to writing a book or something more productive.... where my thoughts would be more ordered, where I could reach more people but potentially harm such a smaller number... I quit journalism because of the same reasons and you longtime blog readers out there for SURE know how hard and agonizing that was for me.
If I'm totally honest with myself, I have to say that blogging has often reminded me that I'm "important," because of the gratifying emails I get where people say that God touched their lives through me. Staying at home and being a wife and mom doesn't do that for me because I don't get the recognition, you know? So I think the biggest obstacle to me stopping this blog (and by stopping, I mean stopping a daily blogging type thing... I probably will always blog about something at least once every couple weeks) is that I'm afraid that I will disappear altogether into this persona that God has laid out before me of wife and mommy that isn't wholly ME. Isn't that pathetic?? It just goes to show how much of a sinner I am, that I can't even live the very basic scripture which exhorts us to humble ourselves in the sight of the Lord and HE will lift us up. I wont vanish from earth if I stop writing this blog. But I wont have as many people encouraging ME as I want and somehow think I need to DO those things which are hard--- to pour myself into my kids and my husband. It hurts.
I don't write this blog to lift "me" up. I write it to share Jesus in a personal way. But how many of you who read it are meeting Jesus in a personal way and how many of you are meeting ME and what should I do about it? It's really all very heartbreaking--- darned if I do, darned if I don't.... and meanwhile, the clock is ticking. Arg.
For those of you who can't see the embedded video, here is a link:
For one of those times when there are no words. I was praying for the daughter of a friend and thinking about ways to reach her... and this video came to mind. If I had seen this at her age, I think it would have changed my life. Maybe it can change the life of someone you know.
Monday, September 29, 2008
Angels had always been sort of obscure in my life as a protestant because I was never quite sure of much about them-- only that they existed, that they were all around us, and that they rejoiced when sinners turned to Jesus. Coming back to the RCC has really given me this whole new "vision" for (and appreciation for !) the angels in my life.
The Church, for example, teaches that each of us have a guardian angel, assigned to us (the beauty of these traditions is that they were handed down from such awesome sources. The Church fathers believed in guardian angels, and thus, we do as well. Somewhere along the line, someone heard from Jesus who told someone else that each of us have a guardian angel.) and in my newfound appreciation for my guardian angel (And my kids' angels!!) after the events of last week, I have been drawing ever nearer to him and being aware of his presence.
So it only seemed right that today, after a week of drawing closer to the Holy Spirit and closer to my guardian angels and specifically to the angel known as Michael, who is a great protector against the wickedness and snares of the devil, that a feast day to celebrate these holy angels would just "happen" to pop up for me. God is awesome like that!
I was given the opportunity to do my half hour of mental prayer before mass, which is rare, and was awesome. As I was praying, and asking God's angels to share in my prayer, I saw a vision in my minds eye (my eyes were closed) that correlated with a tangible physiological change I was experiencing.... very incredible stuff. Please keep in mind that I am not sharing these things with you out of any motivation other than the one I'm about to disclose: I'm an open book, and in that book some of you might find encouragement, consolation, or even solace, because I pray every day that the Holy Spirit would use me to reach YOU. So if I'm saying this, it's not for me. It's for you. Actually , it's for HIM.
In my head, I felt my guardian angel put his hand on my chest, over my heart, and telling me to "be opened." This happened just as I was praying for more of the Holy Spirit. A warmth spread from my heart center all the way out to my extremities and I suddenly felt "lighter," if I can describe it that way... just like I could fly away. Or rather, like everything around me that was tangible and physical was melting away. Right as that happened, I felt a new annointing in the Spirit, virtually identical to the first time I was baptized in the Spirit, and I began to pray in tongues.
I've prayed in tongues a little since returning to the Church, but not like this-- where I was just... elsewhere. It was very quiet. There were people all around me who were praying and the church was perfectly still and silent, and no one noticed the High-on-the-Holy-Spirit girl in the front row with tears on her cheeks and a prayer in her heart.... but it was there, nonetheless, and it was AWESOME! The thing about tongues is--- (And please, spare me the "tongues aren't a gift for today" comments, myspaz r&pers, mmmk? We've got about twenty threads down on that topic. :P) you can NEVER force it. You can never sit down and say, "OK, I'm going to pray in tongues now," and that's it. No. You have to just sit down and say... "Lord, have your way in me. Help me to pray. Holy Spirit, set my tongue on fire." Because God is a gentleman, and He will always wait for our permission, but He is also a gift, and he will always wait for us to sit down and be ready to recieve instead of allowing us to just TAKE what He has to offer.
You can imagine, after that experience, that I was on fire for mass. And I wasn't disappointed. During the homily, Father was talking about how a lot of people leave the Authentic Christian religion, and go into "spirituality," they looooove to connect with the angels. He made the very profound comment that people did that because the angels will help them but will not judge them. Wow! Soooooo true. It was God's way of reminding me that I needed to continue to face my personal sins as they come lest I forget that none of this-- absolutely NONE of this-- is about me.
The other thing I'm seeing right now that is just so moving is the whole "big picture" of what God is doing in my parish and in the Church at large. I'm going to blog about it at length later but suffice to say, for now, that I'm so thankful for the Holy Spirit, and I strongly believe that He is our advocate in these end times.... openness to Him is the best thing we can do as believers. Missing out on Him is missing out on half the point!
God is putting other Charismatic Catholics in my life to remind me that the Holy Spirit has a plan for the Church and a future, and in a sense, God is putting me in their lives to remind them that Jesus gave authority to His Church to make sure that we come under the influence of the Spirit in a manner that is orderly and not unruly, one that builds up instead of tearing down, one that is firmly planted on The Rock rather than blowing mindlessly about... that we maintain reverence and respect and deference and obedience to the Magesterium, and that more than anything else, we just need to PRAY! We need to pray for God to move and to reveal to us more and more what He is doing. We need to pray for an outpouring of the Holy Spirit on the Roman Catholic Church, and each one of individually needs to welcome the Holy Spirit of God in and take a lesson from those persons who have been able to lay flat before the altar and say "Lord, have your way in me."
In other words, we could all use a good dose of surrender.... taking a cue from the words to the worship song I'm sure you're all familiar with:
"Cause all of life, comes down to just one thing
and that's to know you, Oh Jesus, and to make you known."
Saturday, September 27, 2008
Instead of a homily, Monsignor usually gets down into the congregation and asks guiding questions to the kids.... at which point lots of the "grown ups" start to shut down and quit paying attention. But I've found that in these moments I sometimes learn so much! Asking the question: "Who is this Jesus to YOU?" Monsignor roamed a sea of energetic raised hands, taking answer after after answer. He asked what types of things in our daily lives we could thank Him for... and that's when it happened.
One little girl answered "He created us." and sat back proudly in her seat. She was met with a fatherly "Yes, absolutely. He created us, and we can certainly be thankful for that. What else?"
And this little tiny brown-eyed bean, not much much older than my own, with a shy and beautiful smile, told him: "Um, well He created Jupiter!"
I marveled at what a personal God we have. It had never occured to me to thank God for the planet Jupiter, and yet here I had this motion picture in my head-- the little girl's piqued interest as she discovered Jupiter in school.... her subsequent report where she learned to visualize and describe for others this planet made up of swirling trails of hydrogen and helium, her looking up at the sky at night gleefully with her parents, squinting to find the fifth planet from the Sun, marveling that though it is a gigantic planet, it looks so tiny to the naked eye, and yet so bright, and laying in bed at night, wondering if Angels live there and what they look like.
Granted, I'm not her, and she may have different reasons for loving Jupiter, but if you could have seen the bliss on this child's face as she thanked God for creating her favorite planet--- it was just beautiful.
It reminded me of just how intimate our God is. He stirs us gently in the corners of our heart that we don't know had life, and takes the things we hold so dear and speaks to us through them. If my heart is Jupiter, then the Holy Spirit is my swirling hydrogen trail. If my heart is Jupiter, then the Angels and Saints are my 63 moons.... magically lighting its surface and changing its tone and temperature, just as our moon tugs gently at our oceans, pulling them in the right direction.
Wednesday, September 24, 2008
I encourage ALL of you who read this blog to spend some time getting to know him. You can begin this journey through EWTN's Padre Pio pages, available at :
be sure to click the sidebar links to read about his priesthood and his mystic nature.
The Catholic Church honors this great saint, who lived a holy life, and so yesterday, Catholics everywhere celebrated his life and example and plead his intercession. Because I have had, especially since returning to the Church since he and Mary had a role in my return, a strong devotion to him, I already expected great things from the day.
I was not disappointed.
I had made an appointment with my priest for confession before daily mass, and thus we were able to hash out --through confession and some spiritual direction-- what had been going on. Padre Pio, incidentally, was an incredible confessor and had the gift of Word of Knowledge, which Catholics call "Reading souls." This forced people to make better and more accurate confessions, thus causing them to face their sins as they really were.
Father blessed me and gave me a really great penance, which allowed me to deepen my faith walk and to feel safe in the arms of my Lord. I could already feel the fog of fear lift last night as I prayed with Scott and Seth, but after confession, which was --as always-- amazing, I found myself so thankful that God was beginning to give me some answers. I am also drawing nearer to the Holy Spirit, from whom I had sort of walked away for a moment there, and facing myself as I am... which has always been hard for an idealistic little mediterranean like me. :P
He is speaking to me: To whom much has been given, much will be required. He will not give me anything I will not be able to handle. He is my rock, my refuge, my strong tower. Suffering is a gift He gives His greatest friends. These are my great consolations.
I felt the presence of the saints at mass so strongly-- particularly those saints who I'm sure are interceding for me before the throne. And I dont' think it was just me... After a while, I realized I wasn't the only person dissolved in tears from the proclamation of the Word right on through communion. Everyone seemed to be seeing the mass with spiritual eyes, with the eyes of their heart.
Afterwards, I was physically, mentally, and spiritually exhausted. I went to our weekly bookstudy determined to be a better listener and to be a better reciever. It was wonderful. Peaceful. Calming. I came home and was busy with the kids and didn't see the time go by. When I put them down, I decided it was time to rest myself. My body was begging for rest.
I must have been tired, because I woke up this morning with my daughter in my bed and I have no idea how she got there! It was a wonderful "momy moment," and so sweet to wake up next to her. We've got lots planned for today, so I'm going to have to get moving pretty soon.
Things at home have been much calmer since Monday.
I had two moments that really bothered me at the time, but I was later able to explain so I just shrugged them off as me being extra "aware." (It's hard NOT to be when you undergo something like this in your own house.)
The first, a big bag of chips from atop my refrigerator came crashing down seemingly on it's own while I was typing away on the computer, and flew across the room-- or at least it appeared that way when I went into the kitchen, dreading to see what the heck had made that noise. Upon some investigating, though, I figured out that there was a small puddle of water on the kitchen floor where my daughter had been "cooking," and so though the bag had fallen directly down on the floor, it could easily have slid in the water across the room, rather than having been thrown there. That comforted me greatly.
The second incident was another one of those ones that sort of stop you in your tracks, but ended up being easily explainable. I was brushing my hair and happened to look down out of the corner of my eye to see that the bottle of holy water I had slept by the bed with was in the trash in the bathroom, and I had NOT put it there! I admit, my heart stopped. But then I started thinking about how easy it would have been for one of the kids to do that, so I simply asked. My daughter readily told me she had done it. Of course.
I breathed a huge sigh of relief and since then haven't had anything else to worry about--- it's funny how once you start to see things, you almost start to expect the worst. I think alot of paranormal investigators get caught up in that easily-- forgetting that there is often a very normal explanation. Of course, that's easy enough when you are dealing with some one ELSE's problem, but when it's your own, it's a bit different and more menacing.
One other thing I did notice, though, was that my dollar store statue of the Blessed Virgin Mary, and a cross which has the word "Peace" which I keep in my garden facing out towards the street are now facing in towards my house, having moved all the way around a tree seemingly on their own. I didn't move these, but it didn't cause the same sort of momentary paralysis in me when I discovered it. Rather, I felt profound peace--- that the angels and saints are all around me. Grace. That's what I felt when I saw that. It's a very different feeling than the hairs on the back of your neck standing straight up. I'll take grace and faith over fear any day of the week.
St Padre Pio, pray for us.
Monday, September 22, 2008
I've written apologetics blogs in the past about the importance of believing in the Holy trinity... and this is not going to be one of them. What I am going to say, though, bears a great deal of importance with regards to each individual role within the Trinity. It's the result of a recent revelation--- because as I am writing I am more filled up spiritually, so to speak, than I have been in quite a while. As my old pentecostal pastor used to say, "I've got that Holy Spirit glow right now."
Some things you may or may not have ascertained in the last few months of reading my blogs....
1. God is still calling me to the same types of ministry as before... just in a different setting. In other words, my basic "Christianity" is exactly where it was before--- only I would say it used to be a bit "Christian Lite." I'm now understanding more the theological implications of what Wayne and I have experienced/ felt when it comes to God.
2. Wayne and I are coming out of a parched period where we were having a really hard time hearing from God, and now we are being abundantly showered in grace and healing. This has been going on for some time.
3. Satan has noticed that I'm (we are) standing more firm in my calling and vocation, and has been taking an active interest in our family.
4. Over the last few weeks (and with some reflection, months even) we have been under spiritual attack that has been gradually accumulating, culminating in some really, extremely icky situations that nearly seemed like they were orchestrated by Satan himself.
(as my friend Jen said today--- this demonic stuff is like germs. It spreads to everyone who gets involved in it...Which, btw, is the number one reason not to get into deliverance ministry unless you are 100 percent sure, beyond the shadow of a doubt, that you are called to it. Wayne and I feel confident that we are to some degree.)
To spare you the details, unbeknownst to me, our priest came and blessed our house last night with my husband as me and the kids were sleeping. He wasn't gone five minutes before I was under a severe attack. That's the theory, with house blessings... if you have a real demonic situation going on, there will likely be a manifestation POST blessing. Sometimes stronger than the initial ones.
Keep in mind that I haven't even been TALKING to Wayne about any of the stuff that's been going on or that I've been dealing with, both in ministry AND at home. He and Father both decided that a blessing was needed completely independently of my input.)
So, as I was saying, the idea is that after a blessing there is a high possibility of a major post-blessing manifestation because sometimes all it does is make a demon mad. Which is exactly what happened...only I had no idea it was happening. And it took me (isn't it pathetic how I think I'm such an expert on these things and then allowed myself to be so decieved??) nearly three hours before I realized.... Hey, I'm probably under attack right now and that's what's really going on. In fact, once I had doused myself in holy water and begun crossing myself and turning to God in prayer, I realized that I had completely blanked out during the entire previous few hours.... I couldn't even remember how I had started to cry in the first place. So wierd.
A big part of this emotional frustation revolved around a fear that I was losing my mind. Because there is so much talk these days of mental illness when one BELIEVES in the world of the Bible, it isn't uncommon for me to be accused of being, as the R&P Forums used to love to put it, "batsh$t crazy." But it does happen that a seed of doubt gets planted and I start to think that maybe there is a kernel of truth to it. Just like when I first became a Christian, and random ex boyfriends started calling me at all hours of the day and night saying menacing things like.... "you can't BE a Christian. That's just not who you are." or "it's too hard for you. You'll never be able to live like that." One literally appeared on my doorstep and commanded me to worship HIM instead of Jesus. Those were his exact words. At the time, I thought.... well, either Satan himself is talking to me, or I'm going completely nuts. I believe the former rather than the latter. There's a reason they call people like us "Jesus Freaks."
So back to the post-blessing attack. Unfortunately, Wayne is now gone, so I was NOT looking forward to tonight, and being home alone when the next possible manifestation hit because I just didn't think, after the emotionally exhausting day yesterday, that I was strong enough to deal. But, as usual, when we are weak, He is strong.
I made an appointment to go to confession in the morning before Mass, which just happens to be on the feast day of St Padre Pio, who is one of my favorite saints and a true warrior for Christ....and a mystic. Who also happened to suffer, himself, from frequent demonic attacks. I literally can't wait to spend some time with Padre Pio tommorrow. I have a strong devotion to him as is, but on his feast day I plan on spending a great deal of time learning from his particular spirituality.
I then did the wierdest thing ever. I called my Brother-in-Law, Scott, and his friend Seth, and asked them to come to my house and pray. They are the only Christians of the Born-Again variety who are still speaking with us after our move to Catholicism and who don't have wives and kids to hang out with at 8 pm on a Monday night. In fact, they live for this kind of stuff-- just ministering to people where they are at.
Lately, I've been wondering about sticking a toe into the Charismatic community in the RCC. On the one hand, I'm pretty sure alot of their stuff is WAY too progressive and borderline unCatholic for me. On the other hand , it would be nice to be around other Catholics who also pray in tongues, etc. I really, really, really love the Holy Spirit, and I've been craving time with Him more, time to be around other people who know and are particularly devoted to Him, you know?
But since I don't know any Charismatic Catholics, and all of my nondenominational friends have families, etc, I called Scott and Seth, who are on FIRE for the Lord. I asked them to come over, briefed them on what we've been dealing with.
Scott grew up in a house with Wayne, and so naturally he experienced a lot of hte paranormal activity in that house as well. He is no stranger to the "Wierder" more "Supernatural" side of demonic infestation. I've seen him be a bit hasty and misguided before with it, but I figured that if we were certain of that type of situation, it could do no harm to have someone around who was certainly zealous. Seth I've just been getting to know as his friendship with Scott has grown, but I truly admire his faith and his hunger for holiness! So... yeah. Debriefed them, and then we sat down to pray. I wanted them there because I wanted other believers who are familiar with the Holy Spirit in an intimate way to stand with me in faith for ownership of my house and Lordship of Christ here. And stand they did, which was awesome.
As I had expected, the Holy Spirit spoke VOLUMES to all of us as we prayed, and over the course of a couple of hours we became intimately acquainted with His goodness and mercy and power and glory. He revealed to them supernaturally particular areas that needed prayer, and responded supernaturally. And for that whole time, I felt so in love with God and amazed by Him.
At the end, Seth got up and went out to his car, bringing back with him a few pieces of paper on which he had written out a word he had recieved from the Lord for me.
I am posting it here now, typing it up because I don't think it was only for me, but probably for all of us--- and because as I show you why, I hope that you will fall as deeply in love with the third person of the Holy Trinity as I am. Seth allowed Him to speak to His heart, stepped out in faith, and spoke straight to my soul by the power of the Holy Spirit. What does He have for YOU tonight?
I know your paths. Those behind you, and in front. Both where you have walked and where you will walk. I have called you for more than just the beauty of your name... Called you for a specific reason, full of acute planning and detailed tasks. Tasks that will come your way. Opportunities that will be in your grasp. How far down the road can you see?
I tell you: I am God. Nothing happens without me. Do not give up. Your life goes on, because I'm not finished with you yet. I know your past... and I see your end. In all that you do, know that I am with you and have nothing in my heart but love for you. Why not walk in it??
I say: Do not be afraid of the unknown. Many paths are always before you, but truly only one I have for you. I am not a God of confusion, but of mystery.
Still, I will constantly call you, I am constantly waiting and available. Chase me! Chase me and you will walk my path. Don't worry about where the path will go for you cannot see it. Rather consider where I am, for it is MY path. I am there!
My path is where I walk. Blessings and redemption are in my wake, mercy is before me. My arms and heart are love, and my tongue is a defense for those who are with me. My feet are sure! Again, I say to you... I am all around you!
My love is for those who come to me, but surely my blessings are with those who walk with me. Do not give up as we leave for I will show you things you do not know, places you've never gone.
I am YOUR God. Will you come "explore" with me?
Tuesday, September 16, 2008
Today being the feast day of Sts Cyprian and Cornelius, two martyrs of the Church, I focused most of my prayer life around the idea that, as I said yesterday, we need to live like we were dying. But more than that-- we need to live like we are willing to die-- willing to take on headfirst whatever hardships come our way, overcoming our fears like the Saints whose feasts we celebrate today, who said "to God be the glory!" at the pronouncement of their death sentence.
With such a stoic, courageous example before me, I was ready to lay down my life once again at the altar this morning at mass.... it seems these days that with every mass my heart soars more and more.
I suspect that moment of recognition when you start to see what gifts God is gracing you with and what He is pouring into you so that you can pour into others is an exciting moment for everyone. We’ve had a lot of that lately, and it’s really a vibrant time in the life of this particular parish. After all the warfare and battle raging around, it’s refreshing to enjoy a period of renewal, when God gives us little consolations and moments of mercy and we see things as they are for once. It seems that a lot of the spiritual "tension" in the air is rapidly melting for the moment as we all enjoy the fruits of our prayer labor. I realize I’m speaking in the abstract, but to avoid stepping on toes, I kinda have to. But lets just say that reconciliations and glorious bouts of charity are abounding in this Parish right now and it’s very moving to be a part of that. It’s also really amazing to find confirmation of the things that I’m thinking I’m hearing from God... something which I’ve noticed that often other Christians (as I was just discussing with my friend Robin over in California) stand in the way of God’s will in your life because they don’t necessarily allow for God’s will for YOU to be different than God’s will for THEM.
I’ve had a number of friends, close and not so close, (insert Ravelry.com Ghost thread shoutout here :P) inform me that they aren’t so sure that Wayne and I are properly discerning our callings to ministry. Particularly as Catholics, in a world where absolute evil is sort of laughed at (many of these people think that man is evil enough on his own) or where the further expansion of science and medecine have perhaps antiquated the idea of personnified evil. Many of those same Christians who DO believe in Satan also fear him, and some, though they don’t fear him, recognize that in their own lives, their calling is to stay as far from his territory as they humanly can, and therefore can’t imagine that another person’s calling might be to get out of their comfort zone a little and actually do some battle. My question to the latter, of course, is this: Well, if somebody doesn’t step up to the plate, does he just win?
Nevertheless, these same friends and acquaintances have expressed doubts and fears when the conversation came up ranging from the possibility of doing psychological damage to a person by furthering a delusion of being attacked by demons to modifying their memory of past events, and everything in between. They are nervous because I am partially operating in theophostic territory, where I was trained, and because theophostics is relatively new, and the kinks haven’t been worked out, they fear that the Holy Spirit won’t be over riding any of it and that somehow those of us who do what I’ve been doing all these years are somehow messing with people.
So let me be very clear: responding to a plea for help is not the same as going demon-huntin’. And again: responding to a prompting from the Lord is not the same as stepping into the lion’s den covered in steak juice. We’re talking about gifts and callings, which can be given AND TAKEN AWAY at any time, in any place, and for any purpose. God knows better than any of us what the heck He is doing, and all we can do is step out in faith when we feel that famous Holy Spirit nudge.
I’ve been allowing those doubts to seep into my heart for a while now.... like maybe people are right, maybe all this stuff IS just me wanting to get involved in something "unusual," or some big Uber Battle between good and evil, etc. Maybe my pride IS running the show.
Normally, when those doubts surface , I take them to confession, where I recieve some counsel about my life and my ministry which goes something like this: "Your family comes first, then your ministry to the Church."
To which I can easily counter that often sticking my foot in the paranormal world is a PART of Wayne’s and my ministry to each other and to our children, after all, once those doors are opened, for most people, they never close. I’m sure that none of our Spirit-filled, bible believing houseguests would be surprised to hear that often events of a supernatural order (both good and bad) occur in our home, after all, they’re believers. They probably sense these things as strongly as we do. Any long time blog reader knows that not more than six months goes by in my personal life where good and evil doesn’t make itself very present and REAL somehow, and in our marriage we were bound to experience many "Strange" (and again I stress, both good and bad) events since we come from such strongly God-intensive backgrounds. So yeah, ministering to my family through prayerful discernment and spiritual warfare is DEFINITELY on my top priority list. I dont believe in accidents or coincidences, and I don’t think God allows this family to experience miraculous financial events, miraculous healings, miraculous deliverances, and all the rest for nothing. A calling to this type of ministry has to come with two things: experience and a willingness to risk it all for Jesus, and in our family’s life, we definitely have those things.
So when I was driving in the car with a friend yesterday who happened to demonstrate in a personal example that a priest I’m so fond of still doesn’t know a whole lot about what to do when he’s certain he’s dealing with the Enemy, it was definite confirmation for me that my experience in this department was one of the reasons I’m here to begin with.... its’ a much needed ministry in our Parish.
Likewise, another friend sent me this quote tonight, and just in time. A ravelry poster had questioned whether my assurance of my particular charisms in this area weren’t just pride, and quite honestly had me wondering until I recieved this quote from Father Amorth:
"An exorcist must be aware of mental illlness only to the degree that he should recognize when a psychiatrist is needed; he is not required to know as much about mental illness as a psychiatrist does. By the same token, an exorcist must be aware of parapsychological phenomena, but he cannot be a substitute for an expert in the field. An exorcist’s specific domain is supernatural. He must have exact knowledge of supernatural phenomena and relative cures. This premise is necessary, because here we are dealing with matters that touch upon the supernatural, the paranormal, and the preternatural- or diabolical.
The Holy Spirit, with divine freedom, gives His charisms however and to whomever He pleases. These are not given for the glory or benefit of the reciever but as a service to his brothers. Among these charisms is the power to liberate from evil spirits and to heal illnesses. (...)I know of cases when ecclesiastic authorities intervened to alert the faithful against charlatans and swindlers. I do not know of any who are officially recognized to have such charisms. (...) I would like to suggest four guidelines for determining the presence of true Charisms:
1. The individual or the community lives the gospel in a profound way.
2. The individual or the community performs the services absolutely free-- not even accepting donations
3. The practices used must be the common means to obtain grace approved by the Church, avoiding unnatural or superstitious actions.
4. The fruits must be good"
-An exorcist tells his story, Father Gabriele Amorth.
Ironically (miraculously?) I just happened to be reading this book this week already and hadn’t gotten to this chapter yet! Talk about confirmation. I’m so thankful for God’s gracious responses to our doubts and questions. So, all this in mind, I was super thankful for God’s consolations in my time of frustration and confusion.
So there I sat in mass, tears streaming down my face after communion, so thankful to God for speaking to me about what He’s doing with me...just rejoicing.
I was almost skipping out of church, and just feeling so happy, when I literally almost ran into a group of soldiers in Class A’s, circled around each other, getting ready to bring in the body of a slain brother. It was a funeral for a soldier and I was totally unprepared to handle my emotions when I realized what I was looking at.
I melted into tears...I felt so selfish! Here I was, lalalaing about God talking to me, me, me, me...and here was this soldier, who died for me. Kinda like Jesus, in a way.
Of course, as I sit here, I’m talking to a friend who says that my reaction, though it made sense, wasn’t totally accurate. After all, me praying about me and Wayne and thinking about my family during mass instead of the whole world IS my specific vocation. That’s what I’m supposed to be praying for and focusing on the most.
With that, I’m sure that both lessons were good-- and I’ll retain them.
Glory to the Father, who created me, Glory to the Son, Who loved me, Glory to the Holy Spirit, who breathed me to life. Amen!
Monday, September 15, 2008
Today is the feast day of Our Lady of Sorrows, and I don't think it's an accident that the day was bittersweet for me.
Wayne left early this morning for another loooong stretch away from home, and I was sad to see him go. I was excited, however, to get the chance to go to daily mass this morning since watching Pope Benedict's apostolic visit to France for the 150th anniversary of the apparitions at Lourdes.
Curled up on the couch watching my old country change before my eyes as the Holy Father touched the lives of so many bored and borderline Catholics, I was moved to tears to think of how much we (France) needed this visit. I've really been coming to terms lately with what following the Pope means.... seeing and experiencing firsthand what that unity that crosses national borders looks like. The glory of Christ is revealed in the stature of the humble and quiet, but serious and holy man He has chosen to shepherd His flock. So watching him move through the excited crowds and seeing the faces (and scarves! Haha!) of the hopeful people of my beloved France, particularly at Lourdes, where God used Mary to draw so many to Him... ack. It was just so moving.
Between that, and the recent story I heard of a Catholic paranormal investigator who brought a not-so-pleasant entity home in her body, man. I am rediscovering my so basic need to pray. Why is it that prayer is the first thing we learn and then we have to continue forever to be reminded to do it? Prayer is more a part of my life than many people I know, and yet I'm never, never satisfied.... I long to pray more. At the same time, this weeks events and thoughts have really reminded me of the importance of humility and of being rooted in the Word of God, which stands for ever. I had begun to take for granted that I know scripture, because I am more familiar with it than a lot of the Catholics I'm around. (but not all!!! Just in case there's someone out there shaking their head about how Catholics don't know the Bible. :P)
At the same time, now more than ever do I need to pray and steep myself in the Word of God, because just when we are beginning to "get somewhere," so to speak, the Devil tries to come and snatch away those seeds which were planted so long ago. I have to grow roots so deep that they can never be snatched out. I have to guard my heart and my mind and turn to the Crucified for everything. Father rightly pointed out at mass today that the only one of the Seven sorrows of Mary that isn't a mystery of the Rosary is the flight into Egypt. It's that flight that I meditated on today--- because out of fear that God is calling me to something I can't handle, I flee. But He follows me and protects me nonetheless, reminding me always that if I will but reach out my hand, He is there.
Since we arrived at early at mass, I was afforded the opportunity to pray a rosary AND do my mental prayer..... and I was in the middle of a very peaceful, deep, and prayerful moment when I suddenly realized that I felt as wonderful as I do on my one-Sunday-a-month Carmelite meeting, which, I'm sorry to say, is rare. I looked up to the Cross, thankful for the peace and quiet that I had so desperately wanted to find in our beautiful church... and then quickly scanned the pews. To my delight, I found that directly across from me was another Carmelite from my group.... one who doesn't normally attend this mass. Of course! It was no surprise after that why I had felt that I was "in the garden of Carmel," during that special prayer.
The day went by slowly, but was filled with face after face and story after story. And now, I'm sitting here waiting for the kids to be asleep so I can get in the shower, wondering how my husband is so far away... wondering if God will once again wrap His wonderful, loving arms around me and hold me tight tonight as I draw near to Him.
One of my friends who was over today said something that I really relate to. She expressed a desire, sometimes, just to die, because we are Christians. Not because she doesn't like life, or she doesn't want to live--- but just to be in heaven, with God. No more distance, no more separation, no more tears.... just a heavenly glory which we cannot imagine for all it's goodness, and the strong arms of our Savior and friend, the tenderness of our blessed mother, the beauty of the place that is our only home. I get that. I don't want to die, but if I were to die tonight, I know what beautiful things the Lord has prepared for me and so I live like I am dying.... drawing ever nearer to the heart of God, because His example tells us that it is in dying that we really live.
Thursday, September 11, 2008
It seems everything after my marriage and the birth of Annika has been about what in the world God is doing with me (and now us, the family.)
Wayne and I pursued Him across the US, into Europe, back across the US and back AGAIN right back to the place we had started, only to discover that He was calling us to something we didn't have a clue He had been doing with us.
Once we heard His voice and realized that all that training and time had been for a purpose, we find ourselves here.... completely at peace but completely bewildered, still. Learning every day, and growing every day as prayer with a backbone of faith mold our lives into a living cross that we can lovingly offer back to the One who made us.
I spent most of the day with a dear friend today who is just now discovering her spiritual gifts and calling. In this person's case, and I don't think she'll mind my sharing since I am not divulging her identity, she's feeling called to what she described to me as "taking people to task.... challenging them." She described her feelings to me and I immediately recognized Wayne's identical spiritual "aha" moments (I really hate using Oprah terms, guys, I'm sorry.) Times where you suddenly realize: "OH! God is really calling me to do this!" And then you step out in faith and discover it was really, truly, a Spirit-led moment. For her, and for Wayne, this was about the spiritual gift of exhortation. She had just never had a name for it.
For me, that divine lightbulb went off in it's final form at Manna, although I recieved a lot of prophetic information about my gifts earlier in my "Christian" life. But it was at Manna when I realized what God was REALLY calling me to, particularly in the area of the Charismatic gifts, which I was really unsure and perplexed about (you want to talk about paranormal??? Look into some of these gifts of the Holy Spirit and you'll see what I mean,) and I was grateful to be around people who knew how to find them, use them, and define them!
My top three gifts have always been discernment of spirits, teaching, and exorcism. I ranked pretty high with gifts like Word of knowledge and Word of Wisdom, but those top three really resonated, and in my time since discovering that there WAS such a thing as a spiritual gift, God has made clear to me what he really wants me to hone in on. At Manna, developping these gifts was easy and was something I had to almost guard myself against using as a source of pride.... particularly after the Spiritual dryness we experienced in California. This "Desert time" was soo necessary, now looking back, because it gave me a much needed reflective pause, a SELAH, if you will, that helped me and Wayne both to come to a more humble appreciation of these gifts, their purpose, etc.
In my particular case, for example, it was easy for me to get really deep into the darker aspects of my personal "Christian Job," my vocation to discernment and deliverance, and I got in WAY over my head really, really fast. (thanks, pride!)
I eventually needed help to wade back out into shallower waters in order to get a break and re-evaluate and realize that I had much to learn. That's where my spiritual dryness came in, in California, where God used other people to heal me and gave me a much needed Holy Pause to recognize that without focusing on the whole point, Christ, religious demonology was no better than delving into the Occult. It was only by knowing the Source and Designer of my gifts that I became able to see the POINT of all of it, and that I was freed from spiritual arrogance in that department and granted the grace to pursue my callings with much needed humility and a fresh dose of understanding. It was a whole different story after that.
But... and this is where it gets wierd for me, though I know beyond the shadow of a doubt that God has called Wayne and I to the Catholic Church, within the Catholic Church it is relatively difficult and not so commonplace for us to exercise those specific gifts. Or rather, it's a much-needed ministry, for those who truly understand that these things are from God (my priest, thankfully, is one!) but not one where much training or mentoring or discipleship is available. Which is a tragedy. But as my priest said, the charismatic branch of the Church is there to blow the fresh wind of the Holy Spirit into the Church, and the legislative/authoritative side is there to play "checks and balances," and keep things in right order. Which is great... and I'm thankful for the order and somber realization that these things are here for a reason, not so much for the person who knows the gift but for the purpose of service to the Body of Christ. Nevertheless, the most interesting thing I pulled, today, from my conversation, was that a) the gifts work together to edify believers and build up a strong and holy church, and b) the gifts are supernatural, and as such, we can't completely understand them, even though we want to. We can, however, piece things together, as scripture says, seeing as if in a mirror, knowing that eventually, we will see the whole, real picture in all it's perfect clarity.
All of this to say that now that I know, know, know-in-my-knower what God is really doing in me, I have to know more about WHO HE IS and I have to become more and more aware of who I am in order to truly serve him rather than trying to "take" the gifts for my own use. Does that make sense?
In the spiritual economy of giver and reciever, I have to learn not only how to recieve what He is giving, but how to offer it back to Him...and that I know about PHYSICAL things (kids, possessions, etc), but not so much about SPIRITUAL things. He gives out of love, and I recieve out of love and give back out of love, and in that way, our loving union heals rifts in areas of the Body that need to experience that love. It's perfect. He is perfect. His name be praised for ever.
Pray for our priests and Bishop on retreat this week, that they may return Holy and ready to throw themselves entirely into their own vocations out of love for Him and for their bride.
Tuesday, September 9, 2008
At the request of Amanda, here is a blog about the joy of suffering.
"We always find that those who walked closest to Christ were those who had to bear the greatest trials."
~St. Teresa of Avila
"The greatest greatest honor God can do for a soul is not to give it much, but to ask much of it."
~ St. Therese of Lisieux
"Suffering is the very best gift He has to give us. He gives it only to His chosen friends."
~ St. Therese of Lisieux
As a senior devil in the Lowerarchy of Hell, Screwtape writes to a junior tempter, Wormwood, with helpful hints on how unsuspecting human beings may be lured by temptation.
One counsel from Screwtape concerns the relationship between body and soul, in particular the relationship between prayer and kneeling. He says: "At the very least, humans can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers, for they constantly forget, what you Wormwood must always remember, that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls."
~CS Lewis, the screwtape letters
I am slowly realizing the profound grace available to us humans in our suffering-- that even if the Divine Will is only good towards us, that that purgative flame surrounding us can often produce a resulting holiness that wasn’t possible to achieve any other way.
There was recently on ravelry’s DAR group a discussion about suffering. (those of you who are ravelers can read the thread here.) I was not surprised to find that in it, many professing Christians felt threatened by the idea that suffering could be redemptive-- or bring joy.
I think the first root of this misconception that is so prevalent among protestants is the idea that there is a fear of "works." We fear that we might be trying to add to what was done on the cross, or somehow say that our suffering is comparable to what Our Lord endured. But I’m the first to say that that, quite simply, can’t be true--- if we love God, we need not fear that by acknowledging our own crosses (and we Christians know that the way of the Cross is the way of Life) we are somehow overstepping our bounds. God knows how we feel about the plights we face. He knows what struggles we are experiencing daily, and exactly how much we can handle. He will not, the scriptures say, allow us to be tempted MORE than we can handle, and and He will always provide a "way out." So no, by saying that suffering can be redemptive, Catholics are most certainly not "adding to the work of Christ." We recognize that what Christ did for us is ALL that was needed... sufficient, and complete. We do, however, recognize that by acknowledging our own "personal" crosses, we glorify the One who was crucified and show ourselves to be His disciples. In other words, we aren’t adding to the Cross, but we are learning to be LIKE Christ, and thus showing obedience and love for Him.
The second problem protestants often face when dealing with the question of suffering is the "prosperity" mentality. Now, we’ve all heard the TBN crowd preaching that God wants to put a ferrari and a golden toilet in every believers’ billion-dollar home, so long as they are tithing to said preachers’ ministry, right? I’m not talking about those scam artists. What I am talking about, though, is a root that is just barely visible above the surface of the protestant, particularly the non-denominational, movement as a whole. That prosperity vision is there, even if it isn’t about becoming a millionaire. The Word of Faith stuff hasn’t completely infiltrated a lot of the Charismatic universe, but it’s still sort of lurking in the corner, if you know what I mean. There is a lot of talk about "our blessing," our "prosperity," our "seed faith," our "abundant harvest," etc. And while most solid, protestant preachers aren’t telling you that God will make you a millionaire if you want it bad enough (I still love Pastor Fletcher telling us that if we wake up one morning and a Ferrari is in our driveway, it is STOLEN. :P) they will, however, tell you that it is God’s perfect will that we be healed, able to pay all our bills, happy, healthy, etc. Sure, to a degree. But what I’m saying is that maybe, just maybe, there is a place called "middle ground" where God might will us to experience something difficult because in His wisdom, he KNOWS that we need to learn something, or perhaps just experience something, because that’s what happens in this fallen world.
I’ve got a lot of friends who, for example, come down with a common cold and immediately start rooting into their "Secret" heart, asking God to reveal any unconfessed sin. I have a lot of friends who question whether I’m (and I quote) " in faith" when I don’t know how I’m going to pay my rent at the end of the month, because SURELY, if I were being a good steward, faithful and repentant, etc, I would have not just money for rent but also a savings account, right?
To which I now feel confident asking: "Why?" Wayne’s mother nearly had a heart attack when she heard that he had taken a vow of poverty and that I would soon do so. You would have thought she had heard us tell her we were mass murderers something. And why is that? Because there is a deep rooted fear there that somehow, some way, spiritual poverty is in opposition to godly abundance. It’s a total forgetting (or willful ignoring) of the beattitude that says "blessed are the poor, for they shall inherit the earth."
I recently had lunch with a good friend who I find absolutely fascinating, who essentially told me she had had her share of suffering. Listening to some of her story, I couldn’t help but sympathize.... she wasn’t lying, to say the least! Yet at the same time, I am able to go back into my self and see the incredible suffering I’ve also experienced and say... me too. And so have you, reader. I know that you can go back and find pain that you can’t even explain. Suffering is a human language. We understand it. And while it doesn’t COME from God, we know from scripture that He uses all things for good for those who are called acording to His purpose.
Which brings me to the extremely Catholic lesson of simply Offering it Up. (In our Tuesday Morning Women’s book study we have a joke about calling it "Coughing it up.")
As Catholics, we know that our priests, from Hebrews 12 (and I’m going from memory on that, I may have to go back and edit for the correct ref) are offering up spiritual sacrifices. That is their main office, their spiritual work. Not just ANY spiritual sacrifices, but particularly the sacrifice of Christ on the Cross.... at the mass, we are brought to Calvary in a spiritual situation that resembles a time warp and we find ourselves face to face with Our Lord on the Cross, His mother at His side, and we offer Him back to God in thanksgiving and as reparation for the sins of all the world. You guys have heard us repeat it just at the consecration, when we say to the priest: "May the Lord accept the sacrifice at your hands, for the praise and glory of His name, for our good and the good of all His Church."
There is a spiritual lesson there for us. As members of the "priesthood of all believers," we must also exercise this purpose: to offer up spiritual sacrifices. And how does one begin to do this? By offering up his or her OWN crosses. And this brings us back to placing meaning in our own suffering. Not only do we suffer, but it can bring us to a deeper prayer life, a greater union with God, and with our brothers and sisters in Christ.
Now that isn’t to say that we should SEEK OUT suffering. Those around us who truly suffer (and I know many of you frequently read my blog!) would tell you that you do not want to exchange places with them. Suffering will come. It’s a part of this system of things, it’s a part of our fallenness. Don’t invite it, but when it comes, embrace it.
So, what is the practical application of all this?
My friend Kathleen blew me away with the realization of what this all meant to a Catholic when she described her labor during a women’s meeting. She had set a number of intentions to her labor pain, and every time she was agonizing through a contraction, her husband reminded her: "Think of your intentions, honey!"
I’ve learned to incorporate this into my own life... whilst reaching for the chocolate bar, slowly pulling my hand back and telling the Lord that I offer it up for the spiritual peace and sanctification of my friend Amanda. While powering up the computer for my morning ravelry session, hitting the "shut down" button and offering it up for more communication in my marriage. While biting my tongue not to respond to my husband’s harsh words with an insult, offering it up for my children’s purity. And as basic, and menial as it sounds, my prayer life has completely changed. It’s as if all these years I knew the spiritual benefits of fasting (heck, I fasted all the time!!!) but I never KNEW the reasons WHY IT WAS GOOD..... and man, I’m telling you, I’ll never look at suffering quite the same.
We talked about optimism and fortitude today at our women’s group. It takes both, in large quantities, to understand our suffering when suffering hits. But in the deepest recesses of my soul, the place where only God and sometimes Satan truly see me, I know that I now hold one of the greatest weapons against self pity and false victimization.... and thus one of the greatest tools for holiness.
Blessed be God forever.
Monday, September 8, 2008
Theology of the Body
Honey for a Child's heart
For the Children's Sake
The Well-Trained Mind: a guide to a classical education at home
The Confessions of St Augustine
Carmel: Land of the Soul
An exorcist tells his story
Things on my mind:
Annika's twoish bad behavior most of the afternoon
This HUGE stinking medicaid covers nothing bill for her arm
Wayne being far away and whether he's ok or not
The fun time I had with Jen today
The delicious chicken I had for lunch
The priests on retreat this week
Carmelites at the end of the month
Fr Ned's discernment group and how much I wish I could get down there
What the heck I'm supposed to be reading for the TOB class this month, and where we are having it
The Blessed Mother's birthday today
Jesus's gift of the incarnation
Lets be honest: Chocolate.
Things I'd like to accomplish this month:
Finish ALL the reading on my list
Getting better at correspondance/ calls back, etc
Finding a way to go to Fr Ned's group
A successful homeschooling month
Losing weight and getting more exercise
Blogging more and with more quality topics instead of just personal rants
Possibly getting a part time job to help out Wayne with paying this stupid bill.
Praying more and more and more and more and more and more and more!
Wednesday, September 3, 2008
Though Wayne started work, we've been having trouble rounding up the funds for our rent. I am not anxious, but rather irritated, but I have just been trusting God that He would provide and grateful that it's not any worse than it is-- With Wayne working now, we will be in a good place in no time.
Amazingly, God IS providing, in a way that touched my heart so much I can't even begin to describe it. (you know who you are, out there in readerland.... and you are amazing)
Yesterday was our first day alone. The day went relatively well, and at the end of it I was surprised by some very generous gifts for the kids...a toilet seat for potty training, some much needed socks and hair barrettes for Annika, and a new pair of shoes for myself.
We started homeschooling on Monday and it has been going really well. Our first biology lesson was absolutely amazing--- we found these amazing bugs which turned out to be huge locusts which come out every seven years and just destroy everything in their path.
We also, to my amazement, learned the 5-10 numbers in French and English in a heartbeat. She's really quick.
With daddy gone we are working on a really good schedule and putting in a lot of time on learning how to help mommy do things like folding the laundry (what a blessing when Annika figured out how to fold those little jeans of hers!) and doing dishes, cooking, sweeping, dusting, putting away toys and making the beds.
This week she also learned how to dress herself, which is hugely helpful.
Last night a friend came over for a good, long chat. As usual, we talked til like 3 in the morning, which is really just proof that we are two (three when Wayne is here) of the most verbal people on the planet....haha! Anyways, it was really special conversation and even though I'm falling apart today since the kids got up at 5 am, as usual (and I wont get a nap today because I've got plans for lunch!) it helped me to discern God's voice in more ways than I can even recount here and was TOTALLY worth it. Suffice to say that the Theology of the Body is coming alive more and more before my eyes. It's awe-inspiring. And God is good.
Tuesday, September 2, 2008
WHAT FOLLOWS SHOULD NOT BE ATTEMPTED WITHOUT THE ASSISTANCE OF SOMEONE WHO IS ALSO EXPERIENCED IN THIS FIELD. THESE THINGS ARE SERIOUS, AND CAUSE SERIOUS PROBLEMS, TO INCLUDE SICKNESS AND EVEN DEATH. THE SPIRIT REALM IS NOT AN AMUSEMENT PARK. IT IS, HOWEVER, UNDER THE LORDSHIP OF JESUS CHRIST.
I'm getting some answers to prayer this week that have been a LONG time coming. You guys are going to have to go with me to some wierd places in this blog with me, so consider that a warning. I do think, though, that if you stick it out, you might learn a few things or at the very least, have some questions of your own.
Most of you know that I've been involved with deliverance ministry for most of my eleven years away from the Catholic Church. I got involved because I had some very personal encounters with demons, and deliverance from that opression and its effects was so mindboggling for me that I felt, truly, that God was calling me to help other people going through the same thing. It was evidenced for my pastors through my spiritual giftings, namely deliverance gifts and discernment gifts.
Likewise, He continually placed me in the path of experienced people who were able to train me to deal with every type of spiritual warfare, culminating in training to be a counselor at Manna's very theophostic "Freedom Weekend," a deliverance seminar held semi-annually at Manna Church. Wayne also co-led a cell group on demonology and deliverance, having had his own similar experiences.
My experiences with the paranormal did not begin with what I would have then described as a demonic encounter, but rather with a ghostly encounter-- I have, over the years, witnessed several "hauntings" and lived in several "haunted" sites. The very first time that I saw a ghost I saw a full-bodied apparition, the mother lode of ghost sightings, and not just ONE, but two! Similarly, my brother has shared the experiences and has, like me, found that he had more of the same elsewhere and apart from our family...even while on tour in Afghanistan. It seems that once God allows you to "see" what's out there, you will always see it.
I can't say with certainty that I will ever experience a paranormal happening again, but I can certainly say that if one should arise I would not be in the least shocked or surprised-- after all, I KNOW in a tangible way that the spirit world exists, whereas many of you have not had similar experiences and have to take it on faith. Those of us who have experienced the paranormal can, however, say that we "know" it is real in the same way we can say that we have tasted food or felt water. It's a reality.
When I was a teenager, these ghost experiences I had previously had led me to try to search for "something" that resembled God in the spirit world... since I knew it existed I assumed He would be found there. I practiced wicca, like so many teenagers, because I knew the spirits were there. I looked for God among them.
Later on, as a Christian, I dealt with a great deal of what turned out to be demonic torment of a nature I wont get too detailed about. Suffice to say that my involvement (relationship) with the ghosts I had seen and my further calling out to spirits unknown through the Occult had left me riddled with demonic fingerprints-- quite honestly, only by God's mercy am I left untroubled. Before I go any further I should clarify for any Wiccan readers I might have: yes, I am fully aware that "Ghosts" and "Spirits" are, in your mind, two different entities. I'm going to explain later why for me, they are not.
Nevertheless, most of it surfaced during my pregnancy with Annika-Marie, at which point I was given the tools I really needed to deal with the problem. Actually, that's only partly true. I was given the REST of the tools, but I also was ready to get serious with God, and my WILL, for the first time in my real life, made the decision to be ENTIRELY for God, withholding nothing of myself. There was no where for evil to hide in me at that time because I was willing to face and deal with my sin at face value, something I had only "sort of" done before.
In the protestant world, there is much talk and debate about whether a demon can indwell a believer. The general consensus among most people with the spiritual gifts of deliverance and discernment is that believers can be opressed by demons but not possessed., based on the idea that the Holy Spirit cannot indwell a person filled with an evil spirit, and vice versa.
I was in the army with a girl who, late at night, would awaken in her bunk screaming from nightmares. On one haunting night that will forever stay with me, she secretly shared with me what had been tormenting her for so long. For as long as she could remember, she had been experiencing these night problems. She was also a believer, and knowing that I was also a strong beleiver, she came to me for prayer. She lifted up her shirt and demonstrated to me what had her so worried-- there were visible bite marks on her belly, her thighs, and her chest. They would appear just as she was waking up, bruise, and then disappear slowly over the course of an hour or two. I spent many nights observing her, praying over her, and learning how to deal with what she was going through. Her case really bothered me, because it went against everything I had been taught about demons: she seemed to me to be obviously posesssed, and yet-- -she was a strong believer!
Cases like Emily Rose (the real woman's name was Annalise) also bothered me. She, too, was a strong believer. If believers couldn't be possessed, then what the heck was going on with these people? I found no answers, even from experienced deliverance ministers.
In the protestant world, it is also a commonly held belief that ghosts are actually demons. All of them, "kind" and "helpful" or not, are demons. How do we know? Because they are dead, and dead people are either in heaven, or hell, and have no communication with us, right? Therefore, any "ghost" is, in actuality a demon attempting to lure you into occult practices including communicating with the dead. Therefore, in protestant circles, "hauntings" are considered demonic, period. No questions asked. That's how I've dealt with every paranormal case I've encountered since discovering that Jesus cast out demons.... by following the steps I'd always been taught once demonic oppression has been documented:
Make sure the person has confessed all their sins and is willing to get help and renounce evil, Find out the demons' name, Cast it out in the authority of Christ and command it never to return again, etc. I've seen this done, had this done to me, and I've done it myself countless times, with varying degrees of results-- everything from the most graphic of displays of obvious paranormal activity to absolutely no reaction to a simple cough and/or wheeze. Every case is different, but protestant beleivers worldwide are pretty universal about how to deal with demons.
I hadn't heard or seen much about ghost hauntings since becoming a Christian because, quite frankly, I felt that they were demonic and therefore didn't want to invite any problems by getting involved. Occasionally, Wayne and I heard of or talked to someone who was involved in an interesting case, and then we would check it out, but for the most part, ghosts left me confused and frustrated as I wasn't sure how they fit into my worldview and just basically left me.... uneasy.
The extent of our deliverance ministry has and always will be, I imagine, getting a referral for a person in need of deliverance, interviewing them and gathering evidence to see what the Holy Spirit might show us is going on in the person's life, and taking some action to assist the person, whether it be providing information or going as far as to remove the demon ourselves. I've even done this over the internet countless times.
One of our biggest problems upon returning to the RCC was the idea that the church only allows priests (And experienced priests, at that) to provide exorcisms. This didn't sit right with us because we have seen first hand that ALL believers are capable and able to cast out demons. My priest's response to the question was to say that "All people can, but that doesn't mean that all people SHOULD." Aha! He was onto something. There is danger in dealing with demons that even the unexperienced understand on some level. In her wisdom, the Church asks for people who are able to deal with these things with experience and demonstrable giftings of the Holy Spirit, and not just "Joe Catholic."
What's really awesome is that the Church recognizes the laity's gifts and callings in the area of deliverance and uses us to help them investigate and document incidents, all the while recognizing that in many of these situations we need the expertise and especially the authority of a seasoned priest to do these things. In fact, in the RCC, lay persons are not even to read the rite of exorcism and are discouraged from saying the deliverance prayers without prior permission because of the possibility of angering/arousing an inhuman spirit.
As a person with a lot of experience in deliverance ministry, I was feeling very "left out" of using my gifts within the Church and was grateful to find that there was definitely a place for them here...and grateful to find that, like in everything else, my theology has deepened so much in going from Protestant to Catholic because I now have further answers to my "questions" in this field, particularly with regards to the situation around ghosts and hauntings.
Which brings me to the paranormal field.... You guys know that Wayne and I love watching GHI on our date night because we are fascinated with the paranormal. We enjoy figuring out what's "Really" (spiritually) going on under the surface of their investigations and especially enjoy praying for the safety and salvation of our favorite ghost hunters. Through the TAPS team and GHI we recently discovered that -- as we had suspected-- a recent paranormal experience we both had on the battleship USS NC was, most likely, an encounter with a spirit as they were able to record some evidence of paranormal phenomena onboard. Interesting stuff...and definitely creepy.
Paranormal researchers find that they encounter two types of hauntings: Residual (in which the ghost does NOT interact with the investigators and/or continues "doing it's thing" regardless of who is present) and Interactive, or Intelligent, in which the spirit attempts communication. They divide these into positive and negative entites (helpful and violent/ dark) and divide the "bad" entities into two categories: HUMAN spirits, and INHUMAN (or "not-of-human-origin") spirits... in other words, demons. Researchers often also come into contact with nature/animal spirits as well as "angelic" spirits. As a protestant, I was never really sure what to make of all of this other than they were ALL demons.
Certain Catholic saints have a documented history of having had encounters with dead believers, specifically for the purpose of asking for prayer. Aside from saints, who reside in heaven and are interceding for us, it is not uncommon for Catholics to encounter HUMAN spirits who need prayer to get out of purgatory. The existence of the state of purgatory explains many residual hauntings, in which we are allowed a glimpse of the spirit world by which we are to pray with fervor for the purification to end and their time in heaven to begin. Occasionally, God has allowed some human spirits to specifically engage in interaction with a living human being in order to ASK for prayer. These have been documented as well. But the boundary between the living and the living-in-Christ-but-dead-to-the-world folks must be respected. This is God's law.
Some spirits, however, do not initiate conversation or dialogue but respond to living humans who attempt to make conversation. In other words, paranormal investigators such as the TAPS team, going in and doing EVP sessions (or even unlike TAPS, doing seances, using Ouija boards, etc) are people who are initiating conversation with whatever spirits might be out there. THIS IS WHAT WE SHOULD NOT, as CHRISTIANS, EVER DO. I cannot stress enough the importance of not doing so, because your options, if you are dealing with an intelligent, interactive haunt, are two fold: NOT souls in heaven, NOT souls in purgatory, but souls in hell and/or inhuman spirits, also known as demons.
The "animal" spirits and "angelic" spirits being encountered are documented, by the RCC, as being demonic in nature as well.
In other words, when you encounter something paranormal, your chances of it being demonic are far greater than we tend to think as non-Christian humans... but slightly less than I tended to think as a protestant. There is the off (and viable) chance that we are being allowed to encounter a spirit in order to pray for its rest.
This understanding helps me, when watching GHI or following investigations over at Triangle Paranormal or Eastern Paranormal's website, to discern what is really "spiritually" happening in the paranormal situation being documented.
More importantly, it helps me to make sense of my own experiences, of Wayne's experiences, of the things we have seen and been a part of together since being married, and of the exact nature of them as we discover what God is really doing. It also brings us one step closer to understanding what the heck God is doing with us. This is another apostolate that we have already been doing for years and that can carry over to the Catholic Church with fresh perspective and a deeper theology. Now, when I am helping people who deal with paranormal issues, whether we are talking about ghosts or talking about visible demonic manifestations, I am more equipped to grasp what the Holy Spirit would have me do to solve the problem and begin the healing process than I ever have been. And of course, having discussed these things lately with people in authority who actually deal with these things from a Catholic perspective, I'm incredibly grateful to know that being better equipped means being more responsible and better able to handle whatever comes by way--- this stuff can get very scary very quickly, and it's important to remember that ultimately, Jesus is in control so long as we cling to Him and trust Him.
My thoughts constantly return to Donna LaCroix, a TaPS Investigator, telling the (obviously) demonic "dark" presence in the chapel she was working in in Romania when she began to feel threatened: "You cannot harm us. I have my rosary in my hand. You do not have permission to harm us."
I have no idea what her spiritual state is, but it is obvious to me, in that moment, that she recognizes that completely outside of Science, there are some things that only Jesus can and should be handling.
Anyways, I share all this with you guys fully knowing that some of you will think it's all baloney, some of you will be appalled that I'm even talking about this stuff, and some of you will be SO glad to finally have answers to your questions. I encourage those of you who have, yourself, dealt with paranormal events in some way to speak with your priests or with lay catholic demonologists or myself or Wayne about them, because it's important to understand these things so that we will not make bad decisions out of fear or naivete. And I encourage all of you to dwell on the Light of Christ, which is the source of all goodness and truth.
As Wayne and I continue this spiritual journey, we look forward (especially me because Wayne really deals with this stuff begrudgingly and out of necessity whereas I am more "interested" in these types of events) to working with and getting to know others who have been handed experiences in the paranormal field and particularly those who love the Lord Jesus Christ in helping other people to make sense of what is happening around them, because like them, we know that it can be absolutely terrifying.
There is truly peace in Christ.
Lux æterna luceat eis, Domine, cum sanctis tuis in æternum, quia pius es. Requiem æternam dona eis, Domine; et lux perpetua luceat eis.
(May everlasting light shine upon them, O Lord, with your saints forever, for you are faithful. Grant them eternal rest, O Lord, and may everlasting light shine upon them)
more information: www.religiousdemonology.com
Monday, September 1, 2008
Wayne’s first day of work is Tomorrow morning at 8 am. I am so pleased—I couldn’t be happier that he will be working. And it’s a good job, which will teach him so much about his dad’s specialty, electrical work. But I have to admit, I’m really sad that he will be gone. Monday through Friday, day in and day out, well. I don’t know. Part of it is because we will really miss him!! How am I going to enjoy GHI every Wednesday without him next to me? Who will be there to encourage me to eat yogurt instead of brownies? Who in the heck am I going to snuggle up next to in bed?
Part of it is also selfish. I’ve been practicing driving, but I still don’t feel comfortable doing it alone, especially with the kids in the car. So I’m still not driving, and that means that on Sunday night, when we do our grocery shopping, I better make sure I have EVERYTHING—there is no public transport here in Fayetteville that I can get on.
I won’t be able to go to mass anymore during the week, and if no one can come all the way out to pick me up, I wont be able to go to my study groups either. And God forbid anything happens to the kids or something, I will have a hard time getting to the hospital.
This really bums me out and makes me feel so angry at myself and at him for not having pushed the driving issue when I had the chance. But what can I do? He has to go. I’m also concerned that his parents will take the fact that he’s gone all the time to try to “drop in” more frequently than they already do. (Not that I don’t love them and all, just… you know!) What about intruders? We never did get me that handgun, so now all I’ve got is the warclub in case someone tries to come in. That thing is pretty bad, but still…. It would be nice to know that I have the security of a weapon in my home. Fortunately, my neighbor across the street is a walking Country Music Video and will be good protection, I guess.
The last thing I’m worried about is that I will be so exhausted from caring for the kids and doing absolutely everything (for those of you who know us, you might find that funny, but he does at least take out the trash once in a while and frequently gets excited about cooking dinner! :P) but I might be so tired that when he comes home on the weekends I’m not myself, or I have a hard time being patient, or something. I don’t know.
But, all the “feeling sorry for myself”s aside, I’m excited for this opportunity to work. I’m so happy that he will be doing something that will teach him a part of the construction/engineering field that he doesn’t know a whole lot about. He will also be going out of state and out of the area and seeing some really interesting cities and things.
It’s a good opportunity, and the way I see it, it could be a LOT worse. He could be gone all the time AND in a war zone, right? So, yeah.
Saturday night Wayne and I were supposed to go out to dinner with our priest and his parents, who were visiting. Wayne decided he didn’t feel well enough to go that night so he offered to care for the kids while I went instead, which was a really nice treat for me!! I never get to go out without the children, much less to a nice dinner, so I was excited.
Particularly since we ended up going to Outback (my best friend’s faaaavorite!) so instead of being a little stuffy we could totally relax. His mom and I had margueritas (I hadn’t had one in YEARS!) and his dad and I talked politics. They are an amazing family—they were both Baptist until our priest became a Catholic and hounded them about religion until they were able to have decent conversations about it. Using the Bible, he was able to convince his father that the Church is who Jesus said it was, but his mom remains not just unconvinced but stubborn and seriously irate about it. I imagine being a hardcore Baptist momma and having a celibate priest as a son is a bit of a challenge.
There was this extremely awkward moment during dinner when the waitress jokingly told my priest to stop touching her hand. Because he was in civvies, she had no idea whatsoever that he was a Roman Catholic Priest. A little while later, he apparently did it again because she laughed and looks at me and says “honey, you better tell your husband to quit touching my hand.” Ha! We all looked at our plates, Father and I laughing quietly, but I could tell that had the potential to be a sore spot for his mom by her expression. He looked at me and said “I’m not worthy to be your husband,” to which I could only wonder how in the heck you explain to Baptist parents that he not only is my bridegroom but theirs, my husband’s, AND the waitress’ too?? Haha. Theology of the Body, baby. Wayne got a good laugh out of that moment when I told him about it later.
Anyways, in trying to do some icebreaking when we first met, I mentioned that I was looking into doula certification through DONA because my brother had rightly pointed out that I could make just as much money and work with just as many births as a doula than I could as an LPN, but that the training was a lot less difficult to do with the younguns, and way less expensive! (My brother is a genius. When he runs for president twenty years from now, please vote for him—so long as he’s not running against Amanda’s husband!) She lit up like a Christmas tree—turns out she IS a doula, she doulas for free to medicaid patients, AND she’s been in ministry with girls and women considering abortions for years and years. She was an amazing woman—I felt fortunate to get to know his parents a bit who I know have formed his faith which in turns forms mine, and I think it was probably refreshing for them to go out to dinner with one of his parishioners who “Spoke their language.”
I speak Baptist. Not as well as I speak Pentacostal, but I do speak it. And I bet it comforted her on some level to know that her son was still surrounded by people who were---- you know. Jesus Freaks. :P
Anyways, we went to mass on Sunday morning with a lot to pray for and offer up on the altar. Father Shay, a retired priest, was presiding. I had met him the night before at the rectory…he’s a total character. But in his age, he isn’t able to attend to his priestly duties the way he always has been (He needed an assistant to help him navigate at the altar and wasn’t able to distribute communion, you know?) so, I think a lot of less open-minded people probably suffered a bit through mass. I, on the other hand, was flabbergasted by how much I learned from him!! In yesterday’s gospel (Matthew 16:21-27), something stood out for me that I had never noticed before. We heard from God that He would repay each of us according to his conduct. (his behavior in other translations)
I couldn’t help but realize that judging us by our BEHAVIOR and not our motives is pretty major. How many of us MEAN to do well and end up not doing it???? It was a huge wake up call for me to get to the things I’ve been wanting to do but not doing.
So…. That hit me like a ton of bricks. It’s not enough for us to “mean” to love others. We have to DO IT.
Later on, at communion, I realized that Father Shay wouldn’t be distributing. Call me weird, but I like to receive communion from a priest. It REALLY, REALLY bugs me to receive from a Eucharistic minister unless I absolutely have to, and so I was already slightly…. peeved. To top it off, the Eucharistic minister who was distributing on my side turned out to be a certain person who shall remain nameless who greatly irritates the more orthodox persons of our parish with his majorly progressive views. (myself being one of them. I should state here that I think he’s a really, really nice guy. There’s nothing wrong with him. I just can’t stand some of his liturgical views and the decisions he makes in the parish)
Nevertheless, I wanted to receive the Lord, but I also had to check myself before going up--- I didn’t want to receive Him from him! Part of me was afraid he was going to judge me for HOW I was receiving. Part of me was judging HIM for what he believed about what he was doing. It was a mess. I was torn about even going up at all. But I did.
What an amazing lesson I learned. In the moment, being given the body of Christ from this person, I instantly felt so connected with him that I started crying!!! I would have hugged him if it didn’t make a giant scene. It was like, as the wafer hit my tongue, that waves of love washed over both of us, and I immediately knew that he was me and I was him and that we were together in the Lord--- and that nothing—absolutely NOTHING else mattered. I don’t think I’ll ever look at him the same again. I felt God’s love for him and I hope he felt God’s love for me. It was an amazing moment for me. I feel like it healed our relationship completely.
Back on my knees, in my pew, I reflected on this moment for some time, gratefully giving back to the Lord all the amazing love He shares with us. At one point, I looked up to the crucifix, out of the corner of my eye catching something totally amazing. A young boy, no more than 11, was receiving on his knees--- and what’s even more amazing was that neither of his parents did… they actually both received in the hand!! I thanked God for this young man and left mass yesterday completely refreshed in the Lord and thankful, especially, for the Eucharist and his great love for us… He is so good.
Pray for us as we start this new journey.