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Archive for August, 2014

Over Zealous?

My friends know that I am extremely passionate about my faith, family and beliefs; some consider me over zealous.  In fact Paslm 69:10 describes me to a ‘T’ “Because zeal for your house has consumed me, I am scorned by those who scorn you”.  I initially joined Facebook because of an invitation from the National Right to Life, to stand up and defend the lives of the unborn.  Knowing that I can annoy people, I try to temper my zeal so that I am not so obnoxious.  Some people simply don’t want to hear what I have to say; I have probably been ‘unfriended’ more times than anyone else in the history of Facebook!

God bless all of you patient individuals who have stuck with me in spite of my outspoken rants, whether you agree with me or not.  Your opinions matter, and I am grateful for those spirited conversations.  Better to be passionate and zealous, than lukewarm, as we are warned in Revelation 3:15 “I know your works; I know that you are neither cold nor hot.  So, because you are lukewarm, neither hot nor cold, I will spit you out of my mouth.  For you say ‘I am rich and affluent and have no need of anything,’ and yet do not realize that you are wretched, pitiable, poor, blind and naked.”  

Whoa!  That is a bold warning!  So Jesus would rather have you fervent, than apathetic.  Unfortunately apathy is rampant, and it seems most Americans are more concerned about the chances of their baseball team winning the World Series, or their college team winning, than about the problems in the world.  It drives me crazy that so many people just don’t seem to care about their faith, or all that matters is getting promoted or advancing a career.  But I have to realize that everyone’s spiritual journey is their own.  My friend, Debra Kessinger and I inspire and support each other; she is even more passionate than I am!    Yesterday she told me in prayer that Jesus spoke to her and said “this (apathy) was My heaviest burden on the cross during My Passion. ”  Seeing the apathy in the world literally breaks my heart, so it brought me comfort knowing that I am sharing in Christ’s suffering.  Whenever I am discouraged or feel I’m wasting my time, Debra and other friends are there to offer me hope and encouragement.

Today is the feast day of John the Baptist, who was beheaded because he spoke the truth.  Herodias was married to King Herod’s brother, Philip, and John the Baptist brazenly proclaimed “It is not lawful for you to have your brother’s wife”. (Mark 6:17)   Furious, Herodias found her opportunity to silence this bold prophet when her daughter danced for the King.  Delighted, he granted the girl “whatever you wish”; she in turn asked her mom “What shall I ask for?”   And Herodias promptly replied “the head of John the Baptist”.  An executioner quickly brought back John the Baptist’s “head on a platter“.

Many times I have been told that I should be silent, that an issue is none of my business.  I have been called more names than I can count.  I would certainly never tell someone what to do, but I will always stand up for the truth.  Our country is so divided and polarized on so many different issues, from homosexual lifestyles, to abortion, to the economy, to whether women should be ordained priests, to caring for the poor.  There seem to be two sides to every issue.  Beware of ‘false prophets’, those politicians, actors and commentators who claim to know the truth.  Only one will lead you into truth, and that is Jesus, who is “the truth, the light and the way”.  The Holy Spirit promised in John 16:13 that he would “lead you into all truth”.  If you want the truth,  increase your prayer time, study, find confirmation in scripture and most important, be guided by the Church, which is the “pillar and foundation of truth” (1st Timoothy 3:15).

So take a moment and pull yourself away from your computer or television screen; forget about the “Dawgs” or “Gators” for a few minutes.  Does it matter that Jesus died on the cross for you, and you alone?  What upsets you the most about the problems in this world?  Some are outraged by our politicians’ propensity to go to unceasing war.  Whichever side you are on, do your research, especially into the problems in the Middle East.  Pakistan, Iran, Iraq, Syria, Sudan, and Libya have all harbored or been governed by Muslim terrorists such as Al Qaeda, the Taliban, Hamas, Al Jihad, ISIS and the plethora of such groups.  Invading and trying to subdue any country in this hotbed of Muslim unrest seems to be futile.

Whether your passion is to help the poor and hungry, or education, capital punishment or defending your faith, take time to learn all you can, pray and do what you can to make a difference.  One horrific problem here in Georgia and all over the world is sexual slavery of mostly women and children; tens of thousands of women and children are trapped in this degrading and perverted captivity.

The women are tricked into the promise of passage to America for exorbitant fees, sometimes more than $25,000.00.  The ‘generous’ smugglers offer to loan them the money, and then when they get here, they are forced to work in ‘massage parlors’ until their debt is paid.  The slavers take away the captives’ passports and identification, and then are charge them outrageous fees for ‘room and board’, so their debt is never repaid.  Often threats are made against the slaves’ children or other family back home, coercing them into obedience.  The women are often deliberately sleep deprived, and moved around often, to make them more ‘cooperative’.

And the plight of children is even worse.  Many children that are abused or just mixed up that run away from home gravitate to the big cities.  Here in Atlanta, Houston, Seattle, San Francisco, Las Vegas, Los Angeles and most large cities, pimps hang out at bus stations ready to ‘help’ these children and young teens into prostitution.  The group StandUp for Kids works hard to reach these kids that slip through the cracks; most won’t go to the police, because the police are obligated to place them in the foster care program, which often is just as bad, with widespread abuse.  It is estimated that around 14,000 children and teens are living in the streets of Atlanta, prey to pimps and perverted adults.

So how in the world in a predominately Christian nation can this type of forced slavery exist?  If American men didn’t create the need, this kind of market couldn’t exist.  I have heard estimates that as many as one of every three girls, and one of every seven boys, has been molested, quite often by a family member.  Several years ago the Atlanta Journal and Constitution had a report about the large number of teachers in the local school systems that are serial child molesters.  Instead of being prosecuted, they are shifted from district to district.

I have learned more than I ever wanted to about child sexual abuse, and one important fact is that rarely does someone molest children, unless they were molested first (from the book Out of the Shadows, by Patrick J. Carnes).  If you have been molested, please, please, please get counseling.  As one brave soul told me “trying to live life normally is like trying to play ball with one arm tied behind your back”.  Being abused really scrambles your brains, causing pain, negative self-image, shame, guilt, addictions, post traumatic stress and gender confusion.  Quite often those who have been molested will be sexually active at a young age, with different partners.

If you regularly look at pornography, please, please get professional counseling and join support groups for sexual addiction.  There is a support group for addicts right at my local church (message me for info).  Go to confession weekly and pray.  When someone is addicted to pornography, the brain is rewired, and it will take more and more perverted and exotic images to get the same rush. Do you think it is a coincidence that virtually all rapists are sexual addicts?  Am I saying that just because you look at pornography you will turn into a child molester or rapist?  Of course not!  I am saying you are playing with an explosive  molotav cocktail.  (See the article below This is Your Brain on Porn).  I have read that sexual addiction is far worse and harder to break free from than cocaine.

So my challenge to men is to stand up and condemn ‘lusting in the heart’, pornography.  If you are Muslim, stand up and condemn the beheading of journalist James Foley, the oppression of women, and the torture, imprisonment and death of those Muslims in the Middle East who convert to Christianity.  If you encounter someone who is pregnant, but not married, give her a baby shower, take her to the Beacon of Hope or other center for unwed moms, and connect her with Catholic Charities or St. Vincent de Paul.  If you meet someone suffering from depression, be a friend and listen to them, encourage them to get counseling, and most of all, pray, pray, pray!!!

If your faith is last on the list or priorities, remember the First Commandment is to give God first place in our lives.  If you are a kindred spirit and passionate like me, God bless you.  If you are apathetic, get up and do something!

Related Articles:

Modern Day Slavery in America
http://www.alternet.org/story/146932/modern_day_slavery_in_america_–_over_300,000_u.s._children_fall_prey_to_sex_trafficking

StandUp for Kids
http://www.standupforkids.org/

Effects of Sexual Assault
https://www.rainn.org/get-information/effects-of-sexual-assault

This is Your Brain on Porn
http://www.relevantmagazine.com/life/whole-life/features/29332-this-is-your-brain-on-porn

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Ice Bucket Challenge

The latest current trend is to boisterously videotape splashing yourself with a bucket of ice cold water, and then challenge others by name to either donate $100.00 to ALS Research, or replicate the dousing and challenge.  Wild and wacky videos have been making the rounds, from the zany lady rapper dousers (my favorite and shown below), to the sexy Old Spice gorgeous hunk, to President George W. Bush, to Lady Gaga, to the Reno City Council, to Kermit the Frog.  Debonair actor Patrick Stewart gave his own twist to the challenge by writing a check, and instead of soaking himself, elegantly used the ice in his glass of Scotch.    One enterprising soul was so caught up in the popular fad that he posted a video of himself, forgetting he was wanted for parole violation.  He was quickly arrested by the local police.

So why has the ice bucket challenge turned into such a craze that it has turned your Facebook newsfeed into a solid stream of frozen water?  I believe the reason so many people are jumping on the icy bandwagon is that it simply feels good to do something that helps others, especially since it is done in such a fun way.  And we all want to be a part of the latest trend, filling the deep seated need to ‘belong’, to be part of something bigger than ourselves.  Many who ‘douse’ also send a small donation.

I think it is wonderful that donations to ALS Research have risen by 80 million dollars in the last few weeks, but this soggy acrobatic challenge has stirred up quite a bit of controversy.  Some people object to the ALS challenge because of the use of embryonic stem-cell research, which destroys a human life.  Some of these objectors will take the challenge, but ask for donations instead to the John Paul II Medical Research Institute.  Atlanta Archbishop Wilton D. Gregory accepted the chilly challenge and was doused by Catholic school students not once, but four times.  He also made a donation to the JP II Medical Institute.   Another friend took the challenge, but asked for an alternative donation to help an affected family, the Kim family, deal with the emotional and financial toll of living with someone with ALS.  (http://www.kimkimfight.com/donation.html).

Some object to the showmanship of the videos, and others object to the waste of clean water since there is such a vast shortage of clean water in third world countries.  Actor Matt Damon poured toilet water on his head to raise awareness of the lack of clean sanitation systems for 2.4 billion people. My niece, Michelle, had a similar idea to donate bottles of water to a local homeless family. Some wanted to bring attention to their favorite cause, as did my nephew, Johnny, who posted a ‘dry bucket challenge’ for alcohol awareness in honor of his father.

When I was issued the ice bucket challenge by my niece, Shannon, I figured enough ice cubes had already been dumped to sink the Titanic!  Inspired by both of my nieces, I challenged all of my family and friends to help my friend Dave Sloan serve the poor on Sunday, September 14 at 2:00 in Hurt Park, with his group Love and Serve Atlanta.  Although Mother Teresa advises us not to be overly worried about our donations being used in the wrong way, but to be more concerned with giving, I prefer to give donations to charities or groups that have low administrative fees.  I think it is a wise idea to research a charity or group before donating.  Some of my favorites are St. Vincent de Paul, Mustard Seed, Catholic Charities and Love and Serve Atlanta, which have low or non-existent administrative fees.  If you are concerned that the money you donate may be used inappropriately, the web page Charity Navigator, is a great way to easily research administrative fees. (http://www.charitynavigator.org/)

If you are Christian, tithing is extremely important, especially to your own church.  Tithing fulfills the First Commandment to give God first place in your lives.   By tithing you are reminding yourself that God owns everything, and is the source of everything, so giving helps us to be humble.  Tithing also helps us “store up treasure in heaven”; when we give to the Church the money goes to support buildings in which to gather, priests and ministers to guide us spiritually, evangelization and outreach, charities, religious education and a plethora of other ministries.

In the prayer of St. Francis we are told it is ‘in giving that we receive’.  This message is reiterated in Luke 6:38 “Give and gifts will be given to you; a good measure, packed together, shaken down and overflowing, will be poured into your lap.  For the measure with which you measure will in return be measured out to you.”  If we want God to bless us, then we must be a blessing to others.

Most people have a cause dear to their heart, which is why I challenged friends and family to help the homeless, in honor of my brother, who was a Viet Nam veteran, and was homeless at different times in his life because of his addictions and mental issues.  My nephew, Johnny, gave the challenge to fight alcoholism, in honor of his father and a close friend.  I did have a friend who had ALS, and can attest to the agonizing, debilitating effects of this horrific disease.  ‘Mac’ MacDonald was in deaconite formation when he contracted the deadly disease, but he was far enough along in his studies, that Archbishop David John Francis Donoghue ordained him shortly before his death.  ‘Mac’ was a kind and loving man, and a powerful witness to his Catholic faith, right up until the very end.

My mother died from lung cancer, my dad from prostrate cancer, my mother-in-law from Schleroderma, my father-in-law from heart disease, but I tend to be concerned about giving for any medical ‘research’.  In the book The Truth About the Drug Companies, the author outlines that the National Institute of Health (NIH), which does most of the medical research in universities, allows the universities to patent and license the NIH discoveries.  Most medical research is carried out by the NIH, universities, and small biotech start-up companies, all of which receive royalties from discovery of new drugs.  Almost 77% of new drugs produced today are simply ‘me-to’ drugs, virtually identical to previous drugs, whose patent was about to run out.  When a patent runs out, other companies are free to market the drug, taking away huge profit from the original manufacturer.  The drug Nexium, for reflux, came out right when its predecessor, Prilosec, was about to have its patent run out.  Voila!  Virtually identical, now the pharmaceutical companies could charge $4.00 per ‘purple pill’.  The pharmaceutical companies spend about 2.4 billion on advertising annually; I believe those funds could be better spent on research.  In addition, I feel the pharmaceutical companies practice price gouging, by lying about the amount of research they do, and charging whatever the market will bear.  Even in Congressional hearings it has been difficult to determine the actual amount of ‘research and development’, since the drug companies use a convoluted method involving lost revenue from estimated future drug sales.

But medical research has saved lives and extended the lives of many sick people; if you want to give to medical research, the John Paul II Medical Research Institute is a non-profit organization, and is the most ethical and cost-effective of all research facilities.  The JP Institute is a wonderful alternative to profit driven companies and agencies.  So whether you give to medical research, or give to charities, just be sure and give to whichever cause touches your heart the most.   If you are broke and can’t tithe financially, then practice the Spiritual Works of Mercy outlined in the related link below; pray, teach, give of your time.  The body of Christ is made up of many different personalties, with assorted talents and gifts; use yours to build up the Kingdom of Heaven!

Related Article:

Works Mercy, Works of Prayer
http://maryscatholicgarden.com/2012/11/21/works-of-mercy-works-of-prayer/

Lady Rapper https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fUwRqYifFXo

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archdukeferdinand.jpg

Archduke Ferdinand

A seemingly insignificant assassination of an Archduke in Sarajevo wound up triggering a catastrophic world war.  On June 28, 1914,  Archduke Franz Ferdinand, heir to the Austro-Hungarian throne, and his wife, Sophie, were  assassinated in Sarajevo by the Black Hand, a radical Serbian group.  The ringleader, Princip, most likely supplied information from Colonel Dimitrijevic-Apis, head of Serbian intelligence, who feared the Archduke would empower the Empire and block Serbian ambition to expand into Bosnia and Croatia.   Believing the Serbian government to be responsible for the assassination attempt, the Austrian council issued a 10-point ultimatum demanding the suppression of anti-Austrian newspapers, organizations, teachers and officers.  Serbia, with Russian support, rejected the ultimatum.

Outraged at a personal attack against a member of the royal family, and backed by Germany, on July 28, 1914, Austria declared war on Serbia.  On August 1 Germany declared war on Russia, followed by the domino effect of Russia’s ally, France, declaring war on Germany, and vice versa, on August 3.  Germany’s planned invasion of Belgium on August 4, caused Britain to declare war on Germany.  In a few short days most of the major powers in the Western World were involved in cataclysmic World War I.  Eventually Italy and the United States of America were dragged into the fray.

One hundred years later almost to the day, the world still seems to be on the precarious brink of another world war.  Russia, now the Soviet Union, recently invaded and dominated the Ukraine, and a Malayasian jet was shot down a few weeks ago over the Ukraine, with both the Soviet Union and the Ukraine claiming it was the fault of the other.  Israelis and Palestinians, lead by the group known as Hamas, have been firing rockets at each other for three weeks; each claim the other broke the cease-fire.  We seem on the verge of World War III.

Every day we face crossroads; some small, some huge.  Recently there was a severe outbreak of the Ebola virus in Africa, and the CDC decided to fly two infected Americans to Emory University Hospital in Atlanta for treatment.    The CDC assures us the Ebola virus will be contained, and there won’t be any ‘significant’ outbreaks.  This particular virus is especially contagious, and over 1,300 Africans have been infected; roughly half have died.  Did the CDC make the right decision?  Many Americans believe the patients should have been treated in Africa, rather than bringing them to the United States, as the deadly virus has the possibility of spreading rapidly in the United States.  Only time will tell if the decision will have disastrous consequences.

King Henry VIII

Granted, the political scene in Europe before World War I was volatile and complex; however, the Austrians and Serbs had no idea their declaration of war would have such far reaching repercussions.  Throughout history minor circumstances has affected millions.  Catherine of Aragon was married to King Henry VIII, and even though they had six children, only one, Queen Mary I, survived.  The King was desperate for a son to succeed him, and in 1527 Henry became enamored of Anne Boleyn, one of the ladies attending Queen Catherine.  He spent the next five years petitioning the Roman Catholic Church for an annulment of his marriage to Catherine, simultaneously romancing Anne Boleyn.  After resisting his overtures for years, Anne finally succumbed and became pregnant in 1532.   The Roman Catholic Church continued to refuse Henry his annulment, so in January, 1533 he married Anne Boleyn.

The Archbishop of Canterbury proclaimed the marriage to Anne to be invalid, and the Church still refused to annul Henry’s marriage to Catherine.  Until then, Henry had been devoutly Catholic, but his lust for his mistress and desire for a son became overpowering, and eventually he broke off from the Catholic Church, declaring himself to be head of the new Church of England.  One man’s lust lead to the fracturing of Christianity and the resulting division of millions of Christians.

Throughout our lives we have times when we face a ‘fork in the road’, when we have to make decisions that could be life-changing, or eve world changing.  Walt Disney was fired by his editor at the Kansas City Star, because he “lacked imagination and had no good ideas”.  If that editor had even a smidgen of vision, Disney could have had an exciting career as a journalist.  Instead the inventor used his energy to create the Disney Empire.  It is almost impossible to imagine a world without quirky Mickey Mouse, adorable Thumper and Bambi, mischievous Tinkerbell and Peter Pan, the irrepressible Mary Poppins and the host of other charming  characters.  The world would be a sad place without the beguiling Disney songs  Heigh-ho, Heigh-ho, or I Just Can’t Wait to Be King, or the  mesmerizing new song  Let it Go, from Frozen, which has touched the hearts of millions of children.

At those decisive moments in our life we have two roads to choose. Sometimes the choice should be easy, but sin rears its ugly head, making a mockery of our integrity.  King Henry VIII surely knew as a devout Catholic to honor his marriage vows.  Yet he chose the “broad road that leads to destruction” described in Matthew 7:13 by having an affair with Anne Boleyn.  He compounded that bad decision with greed when he declared himself head of the Church of England, giving himself freedom to marry his mistress, as well as improving his coffers, since he no longer paid  taxes to the Roman Catholic Church.

Sometimes the fork comes in the form of temptation and we have to decide if we will take the  “narrow gate” and make good moral decisions, choosing not to cheat on our taxes, or lie to our boss.  Sometimes the fork in the road is a course of action, such as taking a chance on a new job with better pay, or instead staying with your current employer and comfortable working conditions.  The fork could be the decision to attend a retreat, or it could be financial, such as the decision to keep your older, high mileage vehicle that you own free and clear, or trade it in on a brand spanking new candy apple red convertible with a hefty loan!

The fork in the road may concern your faith; perhaps you have fallen away and you feel a pull to return to the faith of your childhood.  It may concern your health and the decision to take time to eat more nutritiously and exercise.  You may be at the crossroads with a family member or friend caught up in an addiction, trying to decide whether or not to end the destructive relationship.

You may have cancer and are facing the agonizing decision to have surgery, or radiation, or both.  My mother developed lung cancer and agreed to surgery to have the lung removed.  Unfortunately it was a deadly decision, as the cancer had already spread microscopically to the brain.  When the primary tumor in the lung was removed, the brain tumor grew ferociously, and even with radiation she died eight months later.  She probably would have lived several more years if she had chosen not to have surgery.

But it is impossible to know if your decision is the right one or not, and there is no point in fretting over it, like a dog with a bone.  When faced with difficult decisions, St. Faustina would try to discern whether her pride was influencing her, and which decision gave God the most glory.  Even then she would still be faced with indecision, so she would follow the strongest nudge, and ask God to change the course Himself, if she happened to be going in the wrong direction.  She had peace because by surrendering, she practiced humility and allowed God to act more freely in her soul.

No decision is foolproof, and we will fail or make mistakes.  But we can’t let our fear of failure cripple us by making us too cautious.  Remember His promise in Romans 8:28 “We know that all things work for good for those who love God, who are called according to his purpose.”   Even if we discerned badly and tragedy results, we can trust that God will bring something good out of the mess we find ourself in, knowing that He can solve any crisis or problem.

When facing tough choices I pray for the Holy Spirit to give me wisdom and guidance; I discuss the situation with my family and spiritual director, and then follow the path I believe is God’s will.  But since I can never fully know if my decision is the best one, I ask God to ‘hit me over the head with a two by four’ if I happen to be going in the wrong direction!

So when you face the ‘fork in the road’, pray for discernment with Proverbs 3:5 “Trust in the Lord with all your heart, on your own intelligence do not rely; in all your ways be mindful of Him, and He will make straight your paths.”

 

 

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