A View of Catholicism Today

This I believe. I believe in heaven.  I believe in God.  I believe each of us has a soul that after death resides with God and angels and the souls of countless others in eternity.  I believe that angels exist, reside in eternity and are God’s messengers to we dwelling on Earth.  I believe that any creature capable of loving, caring and having feelings for others has a soul that too, after death, resides in heaven.  That goes especially for animals.

I am also a Catholic

I am a mightily disturbed Catholic over the public outing of those miscreants who call themselves priests.

 

I have countless times over my adult years said “I’m a Catholic in spite of the Church.”

 

I identify as a Catholic mainly from communal, social, and family reasons.  I’m from a half Italian, half Sicilian family.  The distinction is verification that I know the difference.  I went to Catholic elementary school, Catholic high school and a Jesuit college (the distinction is intentional as many within the church cast a skeptical eye towards Jesuits, even calling the head of the order “the Black Pope”.)  My relatives are Catholic.  For the most part, my friends and classmates are Catholic.  I attend Catholic Sunday services. Quite unintentionally I’m a founding Grand Knight of my parish counsel in Maryland.  I consider myself part of my new Texas Catholic parish community.

 

Being Catholic is part of my identity.  I would not feel comfortable or honest to say otherwise.

 

The Catholic religion is based on faith in Jesus Christ.  It’s a legitimate part of what followers call Christianity. We don’t worship statutes as some think.  We don’t worship angels.  We don’t worship Saints.  We worship one God and it doesn’t, to me at least, matter what anyone calls the Supreme Being, even using the Hebraic phrase that acknowledges God but refuses to use a name to that effect.

 

I also need to be very clear that I really bridle at being asked if I’m a Christian.  If you can’t tell what I believe from the way I act then I don’t deserve to use that description anyway.

 

Another reason I don’t subscribe to the “have you accepted Christ” club is that I find it a tad insulting and just as offensive as Muslims demanding fealty to Mohammad’s cult of belief.  I say cult because any group that believes “others” who, for whatever reason, refuse to join that group deserve death is no fellowship that worships the true God.

 

If, as many claim, Mohammed was an impressive and quite successful plagiarist of world religions his epic work’s most despicable admonishment that non-believers must be slain can be traced to an equally disgusting era of intolerance of those from whom he borrowed ideas including the Catholic Church.  The Inquisition was one.  Oliver Cromwell and his Roundhead Generals genocidal slaughter of Irish Catholics as compelled by “the wrath of God” is another.  Witch trials were part of that horrid mindset.

 

The idea of any one religion claiming exclusivity to (pick a name) heaven, paradise, nirvana, or whatever the name du jour for eternal happiness might be is utter, egotistical bull.

 

My attitude is simply that what I practice as a form of worship is none of your business. As I said, my life is my membership card and if that’s not good enough for you…that’s your problem, not mine.

 

That said I have a very real problem with the historical and present Catholic Church, the regal structure of the clergy and the offenses against God and mankind that follow.

 

I can’t stand anything that walks like, talks like or has pretensions of royalty.  I’m sure it’s due to equal parts of my Sicilian/Italian genetic disdain for overbearing authority and the intrinsic importance of independence to being American.  Bow to a King or Queen or kiss a Cardinal’s ring…thank you no.  I’ve shaken a few Presidents’ hands but taking a knee to anyone or any group is out of the question.  We are all the “Chosen.”  Why else would we be here?  We all deserve equal respect until we prove otherwise.  And, we are all servants no matter if others call us by any exalted title.

 

In my seven decades as a Catholic I’ve encountered priests who understand their role as servants of God and their fellow humans, and I’ve known many who posture as divine arbiters of human behavior.  I’ve found Irish Catholic priests more often than not tend to act like petty tyrants who demand the faithful follow their every idiotic command as coming directly from the mouth of God.

 

The recent, but by no means new, revelations of the wholesale sexual depravity of some Catholic clergy in Pennsylvania and elsewhere were not shocking.  They didn’t shake my faith or cause me to jettison my identity as a Catholic.  The horrific sexual predator practices among scores of priests in Pennsylvania is but one of the most recent in a long-standing history of that abomination.  Not that such damnable behavior is restricted only to the Catholic clergy.

 

Catholicism to me is not an exclusive club, nor the only community whose membership enjoys favor with the Divine although church figures throughout history would beg to differ. I do not hold the Catholic clergy or their hierarchy of pretentious titles – monsignors, bishops, archbishops, cardinals, even the Pope – in any particular awe.  They are just men doing a job who tend to wear funny outfits.  Respect I give for the individual on a sliding scale depending on their dedication to service to all of us, humans and animals alike.

 

There is but one God. To me, it does not matter the flavor of believe espoused: Christianity, Islam, Protestant faith etc. with which one identifies.  (Islam is mentioned here with a figurative cautionary asterisk attached.)

 

A great lesson was taught me when my wife and I sought a cleric to preside over our marriage ceremony.  We made inquiries of a wide range of religions.  The local, Maryland Catholic priest declined.  He said our previous, less than successful forays into domestic disfunction, required the past unions to be annulled.  The idea that children even those from the worst parental pairings would be, in theory, the offspring of a newly deemed non-existent union was pretty offensive and insulting.  Even a minister whose website proclaimed theirs was a community of progressive thinking, acceptance, and quite “universal” that met in a glorified tree house said “no.”  One man, whose initials begin with “Kenn,” stepped forward. I believe his background was Baptist…and definitely former Marine.

Rev Kenn Blanchard at Duke University

Attending the event were many Catholics including two nuns.  One of the nuns approached me once the vows were made and documents signed and said that the Reverend’s service was the single most spiritual she’d ever seen.  No robes, no altars, no organs accompanying vocalists singing hymnal or Hollywood songs.  It was a spiritual event orchestrated by a true clergyman saying true words in honor of the true God.

 

So,in spite of the church and too many predators in priest clothing, I remain a Catholic but my form of worship is grounded in how I live my life, embrace others, open my heart to the companionship of those who passed before me and accept the many gifts, both positive and painful, the Divine One allows me to experience during my journey here.

A Visit to the Billy Graham Library in Charlotte

Billy Graham Library

It’s supposedly the #1 attraction in the Charlotte, North Carolina, area, the Billy Graham Library. That means it’s more popular than NASCAR. Although I had seen the billboards advertising the Billy Graham Library and I routinely visit Charlotte and the surrounding area, I hadn’t visited until … my parents joined me in Charlotte for a family wedding. I grew up watching Billy Graham’s amazing crusades on our black and white TV, back in the ’60s. As a teen, I went forward to answer the call at a crusade in my hometown of Sioux Falls. And now, it seemed fitting, right, to go to the library and to visit the resting place of Rev. Graham and his wife, Ruth, at the library in Charlotte with my parents, the wonderful people who not only brought me into the world, but also, who started me on my journey of being a Christian.

Billy Graham library

These are my lovely parents, who are standing in front of the Billy Graham Library on a wet and chilly April day in Charlotte. The grounds are gorgeous.

Billy Graham Library barnInside the Billy Graham Library

Although the building looks “barnish,” it houses valuable documents and artifacts that chronicle Graham’s mission in life — to preach the gospel of Christ. Rev. Graham preached for almost 80 years, and you can follow, chronologically, his own journey. The Library is hosting special displays this year:

  • June-August: “New Frontiers” – 1980s & 1990s
  • September-October: “Looking to the Future” – 2000s & 2010s
  • November-December: “Then and Now” – Today

I especially liked the display that featured the time that Rev. Graham went to Berlin. It features live footage of the occasion, and the magnitude of the crowds is really, rather overwhelming. There is a hunger in the world to hear the word.

displayVisitors to the library will follow the life and journey of Billy Graham, and also learn about his #1 helpmate, his soulmate, Ruth Bell Graham — whose parents were missionaries in China. Find out more about this lovely lady and about how her plans, of eventually returning to China as a missionary, were changed and melded into an even greater plan.

Billy Graham's preaching bibleThis is a super interesting display — the preaching Bible that Billy Graham used on his crusades across the world.

Billy GrahamThroughout the library, you will be exposed to videos and photographs of the world and the times and how Rev. Graham effected change.

guns on display Billy Graham LibraryHow can I even improve on this little piece of information. Life changing. You’ll find nuggets of wisdom and pearls of knowledge throughout the journey in the museum, which will take at least 2 hours. Make sure to visit the gift shop, where you may find Rev. Graham and his team’s books, as well as several devotional books and lovely mementos of your visit.

Billy Graham farm homeRev. Graham had his family home moved to this site, keeping 80% of the original materials. He lived in this house from the age of 9 until he left for college. The interior is similar to how the Graham family lived, with original appliances and furniture, along with fascinating photographs.

billy Graham gravesiteRev. Graham passed away in February 2018, at the age of 99, and his grave is located on the site near his wife’s grave.

No admission charge, but a donation is accepted.

Visit the Billy Graham Library.

 

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

are you spiritual or religious

Titles

How many times have you heard someone describing their faith status as being spiritual but not religious?  What do you identify as in your Christian walk?

As Christians we struggle with titles and identifying words for what we do and what we are.  Words have always been important.  They define us.  In a time where identity is topical.  What do you call yourself as related to Christianity?  Not only do we have goo- gobs of denominations but even more differences internally.

If you think about it, I bet it is because of the shortcomings you have witnessed, lived and survived as a Christian.  Have you heard the podcast?

Are you religious? Religion is our attempt at worshipping God in the manner of our preference. To be spiritual is to recognize the existence of God, angels and demons. That is not saying much, actually. Demons recognize God, they just don’t worship Him.

Thou believest that there is one God; thou doest well: the devils also believe, and tremble. James 2:19 (KJV)

It is not secret that the concept of organized religion has come short for most people. If the truth be told we have come short of what God wants for us.

For all have sinned, and come short of the glory of God – Romans 3:23

Our churches are imperfect because we are in it. There are no perfect churches because there are no perfect people.

Are You Spiritual or Religious?

One thing about deciding if we are religious or spiritual is from our failing as a religious community is forgetting who the real enemy is. We fight each other. We fight the pastor. We fight the deacons. We fight non-Christians. We fight people that show us our shortcomings. We fight a lot for people trying to be like Jesus. The real enemy is spiritual. It is the unseen forces that inhabit our dwellings, and people in our lives. Being demon possessed sounds horrible but lets move away from the Exorcist type movies and think about what happens to us daily.

For we wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this world, against spiritual wickedness in high places. Ephesians 6:12

Have you ever had a family event go south (go to hell) after it started off great? There was love and peace in the home and then without warning someone ignites a firestorm of mean spirited conversation that destroys the joy. It is often the family member that doesn’t go to church. Or how about after a guest comes over. It is not the guest necessarily but as if a presence came in with them that changed the dynamic of the event.

This event influences more people than presenting the Gospel. It is why it happens. It is demonic.

How about a home that goes from warm to cold. A day that goes from great to horrible as if a virus of evil passes through it. I submit that this is exactly what happened.
How about the church business meeting? Those are often the worse. Meetings held were we talk about everything but evangelizing, saving people from eternal death or helping someone. They are ripe for evil influences. Meetings were we are more concerned with parliamentary procedure than prayer. Prayer is more important than we realize.

If you are a follower of Jesus, you have enemies in the spiritual realms. Satan and his minions hate you. They seek to stop your growth, delay your progress, kill your joy. What’s worse is you accept it on a daily basis as normal. You blame everything and everyone else.

The thief cometh not, but for to steal, and to kill, and to destroy: I am come that they might have life, and that they might have it more abundantly.  John 10:10

It doesn’t just happen in church or in the movies.   It happens so often we miss it. Think about family times that turn out to make you NOT want to be around those who love you unconditionally. Think about all the times we have allowed ourselves to be angered, frustrated, or whatever is the opposite of what God would prefer.

You ever had family dinner time destroyed? The family is enjoying themselves and feeling the love and thankful to God about their blessings and then it hits.

How about in the home with a child that all of a sudden disrespects you, hits a hot button of yours.

It happens in church. It splits the church. It undoes the fabric of a church congregation which is actually another family.

Let’s talk about demons in the movies. They often say snarky stuff at first. It’s funny sometimes. It is a diversion. The next level is often hurtful truths. They are not all knowing but having been around longer than we have and able to confer with other demons on stuff about us and our families that appear impressive. They use that information to push your buttons. It came shame us, or fill us up with false pride. And it is always subtle. There is no being in red with horns and a pointed tail to scare us. The monster comes only after your confront it and try to cast it out. Then you get the ugly thing that spits, fights, curses God and blasphemes.

Casting out demons is no joke. It is not for the weak in faith. Not many of us are strong enough to do it. Look at what happened to the posers that tried it in Acts 19:13-16

Then certain of the vagabond Jews, exorcists, took upon them to call over them which had evil spirits the name of the Lord Jesus, saying, We adjure you by Jesus whom Paul preacheth.
And there were seven sons of one Sceva, a Jew, and chief of the priests, which did so.
And the evil spirit answered and said, Jesus I know, and Paul I know; but who are ye?
And the man in whom the evil spirit was leaped on them, and overcame them, and prevailed against them, so that they fled out of that house naked and wounded.

I don’t want you running out of the house naked and wounded.

Reading Scripture the Holy Spirit cautions us that to do it successfully it must be done by someone strong in their faith, cleaned and prepared by fasting and prayer.

In the movies, The Exorcist (spoiler alert) both priest died. Prayer is still crucial for us on a day to day activity before we deal with anyone.

Suggestions:
Before your next conversation with your spouse pray.
Before your next meeting pray.
Before your next event pray.

You want to pray to rid your home of indwelling or wandering evil.
You want to pray to protect your family while home. Think of evil as a roach in your home or church. You need to fumigate it with prayer.

Call the Holy Spirit to replace what is there. That is done through prayer and praise.

Pray without ceasing. – 1 Thessalonians 5:17

I want to give you a title if you must have one. Instead of being religious or spiritual, how about being a follower or disciple of Jesus the Christ. There is no ambiguity or gray area there. But I must warn you there is no middle of the road answer. You are either His or you are not…

Matthew 10:33 says “But whosoever shall deny me before men, him will I also deny before my Father which is in heaven.”

Watch your thoughts for they become words. Watch your words for they become actions. Watch your actions for they become…habits. Watch your habits, for they become your character.

Amen?

Make Good Choices a sign pointing to choices
Make Good Choices

 

 

Crank up the Christian Tunes When Working Out

woman music christian music

About 30 pounds ago, I was a fitness instructor – jumping around on the fault line in Southern California, leading people through step aerobics and high impact workouts. See, I’ve dated myself already. So now, 30 years and 30 pounds later, I’m back in the gym and one of the first things I changed about my workout? The music. I decided to add Christian tunes to my workout regime.

Cranking up the Christian Tunes

Instead of listening to metallic rock, hard-driving and fast-packed thumping music with nasty words, I’ve switched the sound system over to Christian Rock. I’m revisiting the songs from 15 years ago, when I played in a Christian band at a big Baptist church in Missouri, and I’m starting with this CD, Integrity’s iWorship, “No Boundaries. It is a 2 CD collection of 33 worship songs, including these artists – Michael W. Smith, Casting Crowns, Israel & New Breed and more. I look forward to exploring more modern Christian music as I practice this new choice of music in the gym.

I reference Ecclesiastes 3:3: A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up.

christian tunesI like to think of it this way. As I tear down muscle fibers, to rebuild themselves, I am also tearing myself down again and listening to the words through these songs, and rebuilding myself. I am able to hear the words, think through them and leave after a workout with a stronger purpose in living the life that God wants me to live.

What are some Christian artists and songs that you do or would listen to when you work out?

Barb BairdOur friend, Barbara Baird, has been a Sunday School teacher, a concert choir accompanist at a Baptist college, a singer in church choirs and a keyboardist with Christian rock bands. She’s also a travel writer, a gun writer, a wife, mom and granny who lives in the Ozarks. She’ll contribute tips on lifestyle topics – such as travel, exercise, safety and who knows what else? Find her at Ozarkian.com and Womensoutdoornews.com.