Friday, August 30, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (#3)

Thanks to Jennifer Fulwiler for hosting!

1. This is an awesome story about a man who had a seemingly perfect life. His wife got pregnant with their second child, and they learned the child had Down Syndrome. The man pressured his wife to have an abortion. The rest of the story will require a box of tissues.

It reminds me of a similar story I heard this week on the radio about a dad whose fifth child was born with Down Syndrome. The father on the radio admitted that at first he hoped his daughter would die. The baby had to have some surgeries right after birth, and the mother couldn't take the baby to the operating room. So the father had to take her. He described how his heart was transformed as he walked his new baby girl to the operating room. He began to love her with a deep love, and he cried and cried and begged God to spare his daughter's life. He is now so thankful that he has his daughter with Down Syndrome and recognizes how his daughter has enabled him to love in a fuller way than he ever loved before.

2. I have a problem. I can't read stuff like this and not let it deeply affect me. As in - it affects me all day, all night, and sometimes well into the next couple of days. And then it drives me crazy that no one else seems to care. It makes me want to scream at people (but I don't). I can't help think about this baby being born, and the first thing he wants and needs is the loving embrace and caresses of his mother. Instead he gets thrown in a trash bag and stuffed in the toilet. As a mother, I cannot understand how someone can have their own flesh and blood come out of her body, touch the sweet skin and delicate bones of her infant with her hands and within seconds stuff him in the toilet. Does no one want to get to the bottom of why stuff like this is happening?! Maybe they don't want to know the answer.

3. As long as we're on the topic of things that bother me all day long, I read Wednesday that Chris Christie, governor of New Jersey, signed into law a ban against gay conversion therapy. Even for homosexual teens who may want to be heterosexual. So let's make sure we have the logic of this perfectly clear. If a boy decides he should be a girl - meaning he's a homosexual boy who wants to be a heterosexual girl - that's just fine. We'll help you along your way and support you. But if a homosexual boy decides he should be a heterosexual boy, then sorry dude - you're on your own. I don't want to get into the ins and outs of either side of the arguments for or against "conversion therapy". The gap in the logic right here should be reason enough for people to take a stand for kids out there who are confused and need guidance! Can someone please explain to me the logic in this??

4. I am constantly seeing people who try to live in their own, new, nontraditional ways. But in being different they all end up conforming to the same "different". Conforming isn't different at all. Living "green" was for a short time the new different. Now it's the way to conform (not that conforming to being "green" is bad). Wanna see a couple who really lives in a different way? Jase and Missy Robertson of the show "Duck Dynasty" were virgins until their wedding night. Gasp! That's crazy! Being a Christian and living it out is now the new different. Seriously. We get more looks walking around as a family of 7 than this guy probably does.

5. One of the difficult things for me as an introvert having 5 kids is the way we are gawked over when we go out. I don't think people are being rude. It's really not them - it's me. I am not comfortable being in the spotlight at all. When we go to a restaurant, I am very aware that people are staring. And our kids are good kids, so people aren't looking because we just brought a bunch of loud, squawking kids in to ruin their nice quiet meal. I don't like eyeballs on me, and it makes me want to go hide in the corner. But you know what? I'm gonna have to get over it. Because that's what happens when you're different - you get looks.

6. We really should carefully consider the version of the Bible we are reading. I mean, this is the Word of God. We put an awful lot of trust in the individual who translates the Word of God for us. Have you ever looked at a verse in the NIV and compared it to, say, the Message Bible? Too often the verse has a whole different meaning to it. The first Bible I ever bought was an Contemporary English Bible. I liked that it used English that was easy for me to understand. I would take it to my Baptist church with me and follow along as the pastor gave his sermon. I was very uncomfortable with the wording used in my Bible compared to the translation he was using. Sometimes it seemed like my translation was saying the opposite of his. The Word of God is Truth. I don't want anyone's interpretation stuck in there ready for me to mistake the author's opinion or interpretation as God's Truth. I'm not saying some of these Bibles aren't a useful way to get a deeper understanding on a particular verse. But don't go all quoting it as if God had said it. This is a good Bible Translations Guide to explain the difference between a translated Bible and one that has the author's interpretation integrated within.

7. Peter started speech therapy this week. He turned two in July, and the pediatrician recommended that we get the state-sponsored child development program to assess his speech (and they decided he needs some help). The therapist comes to our house, and he took right to her. He is using substitution for words (such as snorting instead of speaking a word that he doesn't want to try to say), and he doesn't say the end sounds of words, which seems like all the experts agree could be because he has had ear problems resulting in two sets of tubes so far. The therapist taught me some tactile cues to help him understand some of the sounds he needs to be making. He's already showing signs of learning new sounds, and my husband and I are pretty excited about it! 

Happy Friday!


Thursday, August 29, 2013


Nearly 16 years ago I exchanged marriage vows with my husband. They were traditional vows, promising to love each other no matter what. Yet, I didn't know what love was at that point in my life.

Although I had been a Christian for several years and tried to live my life like Jesus, I bought into the world's view of love. I believed love was more of a give and take. As long as my husband was meeting my needs, I loved him.

We went to a Christian marriage retreat weekend the first year or two of our marriage. The speakers reminded us not to buy into the world's view of marriage. The world's view of marriage is that it should be 50/50 - fifty percent of the love and responsibilities should be covered by the husband and the wife should assume the other fifty percent. The problem with this is that someone will always be coming up short, likely leading each other to frustration and disappointment. Instead, we learned that God calls us to be 100% the spouse that we can be. When we are both giving 100% of ourselves to our spouse, never asking for anything in return, that is when marriage works according to God's plan. This made perfect sense to us, and we tried to live this way in our marriage. Still, I don't think I had opened my heart to the fullness of this message. I understood it in theory, but unfortunately it didn't "click" with me until much, much later.

The world's understanding today seems to be, "as long as my spouse makes me happy, I will love him/her". But this isn't true love at all. At it's very core it is self-seeking. Me, me, me. And a marriage will not work if the object of my love is me.

I've been reading Theology of the Body for Beginners by Christopher West. This is crazy good stuff (and from the title it apparently gets even deeper after you've grasped the "beginner" part!) West describes how original sin twisted our hearts and the focus of our love. God made Adam in his image. God is self-giving, so Adam was designed to give himself to another human being. Yet Adam had no other human to whom he could give himself. So God made Eve. Adam and Eve were made naked and were not ashamed. Their passion for each other was pure and mirrored God's perfect love. They gave themselves freely to each other. Along came sin, and they immediately covered their bodies. Their nature and hearts had changed. They went from self-giving to self-seeking. Instinctively they knew they could be used as objects, and they had to cover themselves to protect themselves from being used and hurt.

I was self-seeking in my marriage. I wanted it to please me, to make me happy. I got married for my "happily ever after". One day God revealed to me that my life was not meant to just be about me, me, me. If I were to truly live out the way I was designed to live, I must give, give and give of myself. Jesus gave himself fully to us in his Passion. We beat him. We mocked him. We betrayed him. But he loved us anyways. Not only is his Love patient and kind and gentle, but it also is perfect in giving no matter what.

I am called to love like Christ. Once I allowed this reality of what true Love is, I became a better wife and a better mother and better person. My attempts to love are not perfect by any means. Loving by giving of myself is one of the hardest things for me to do. When it's late in the evening and I've finally sat down after a day full of chores, my body aching for some rest, and one of the little guys asks for some milk - love gets back up out of the oh-so-comfy chair and gets the glass of milk for my son. When my husband and I have a disagreement, love doesn't insist on being right. Love embraces humility and gives from the innermost depth of ourselves. Love does for others instead of taking from others.

What would Love do? It's not easy, but then again being a slave to self-seeking desires is a prison in and of itself. So it's not easy, but it brings peace and joy that we were intended for.


Tuesday, August 20, 2013

we all need baptism, including infants

Infant baptism was not one of the big doctrines that lead me to the Catholic Church. I focused on studying theology on things like apostolic succession, visible unity of the church, sacred Tradition, the papacy, and the Eucharist. Once I had these things settled in my mind and my heart - once I saw that Catholicism lined up with Scripture more than any Protestant denomination I had ever been a part of, I looked into things like baptism, prayer of the saints, and contraception (just to name a few). But no Protestant ever asks me about apostolic succession or visible unity of the church or even the Eucharist. I can understand why - as a Protestant I never even heard of these things much less considered them very important. When I'd be in a group talking about the anti-Bibleness of the Catholic Church, people always brought up infant baptism and prayers to the saints. Oh, and Mary worship (which is feels odd to even write this because Catholics don't worship Mary). Now as a convert, infant baptism is often the thing I get questioned about the most.

Baptism was not a big deal to me before. I believed that the Catholic Church relied on this man-made tradition of baptizing infants because they were backwards and never thought it fully out - that Catholics were just mindless sheep doing what they were told to do and never reading the Bible to find out what it actually said about needing to be of an accountable age before you can be baptized. (What I didn't realize is that there was no verse about being at an accountable age before deciding to be baptized.)

When I was learning to evangelize, one of the arguments we prepared for non-believers went something like this, "If I'm wrong about my belief in God, what's the worst that will happen to me? I will have lived a life of love and charity the best I could and then I die and get buried and that's the end of that. But what if you're wrong?" The implication was that if the non-believer was wrong about the good news of the Gospel not being true, well then he was going to have hell to pay for being wrong. This argument was not used to scare people into believing in Jesus, but rather as a way to spur them to some deep thinking on the solidity of their beliefs about truth. The same question rang through my mind when I didn't believe in baptizing infants. What if I'm wrong? As any other parent, my children are precious, priceless gifts to me. The answer to "What if I'm wrong about not baptizing infants?" scared me enough that I wanted to know the other side of the argument to see if truth was there.

This isn't my baby, but it looks just like my Zoë
Catholics aren't the only ones who believe infants should be baptized. There are many Protestant faith traditions that believe in infant baptism - Lutherans, Methodists, Presbyterians, Episcopal/Anglican, Eastern Orthodox and Reformed Christian churches all believe in infant baptism. Of the 800 million Protestant Christians in the world, at least 540 million believe in infant baptism, or 68% of Protestants. Take the entire world of Christianity into consideration - Catholic and non-Catholic - at least 87% of Christians believe in infants baptism. (I came up with these calculations using Wikipedia's number of Christians by faith tradition.) This of course doesn't mean that majority rules. But it is at least worth mentioning. If you are in the 13% minority who do not believe infants should be baptized, do you feel you have some sound evidence to take this position?

Baptism is not optional for salvation. The Bible stresses in verse after verse the necessity of baptism for salvation. In John 3:5 Jesus says, "Verily verily I say to you, no one can enter the kingdom of God unless they are born of water and the Spirit." Mark 16:16 says "He who has believed and has been baptized shall be saved, but he that does not believe will be condemned." 1 Peter 3:21 says baptism saves a person "this water symbolizes baptism that now saves you also - not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God. It saves you by the resurrection of Jesus." Peter insists baptism is integral in salvation in Acts 2:38, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins." Acts 22:16 "Arise and be baptized, and wash away your sins, calling on the name of the Lord." In fact, in every instance in the Bible where people learn about Jesus, they are immediately baptized. It wasn't optional.

We are all born with original sin. We can't help it. We inherited our sinful nature from our parents, Adam and Eve. Psalm 51:5 says, "Behold, I was brought forth in iniquity, and in sin my mother conceived me." Ephesians 2:3 says that we're "by nature all children of wrath". Jesus says in John 3:6 that "Flesh gives birth to flesh." We were stained with sin from the beginning. 1 Corinthians 15:21-22 says "death came through a man (Adam)...For as in Adam all die..." Without salvation, our sinful nature inherited from our first parents is a death sentence. It's a death sentence as soon as we enter the earth. Babies need forgiveness. They need it at birth.

The Bible does not exclude infants from the promise of baptism. The objection that is often brought up against infant baptism is that there is no reference to an infant being baptized in the Bible. However, there is no objection to infant baptism in the Bible, either. So if we are to discuss infant baptism, we have to agree that the Bible does not spell out the words "thou shalt not baptize thy infants". Actually the Bible has several verses that show that baptism was not restricted to adults. In Acts 2:38 Peter commands, "Repent and be baptized, every one of you, in the name of Jesus Christ for the forgiveness of your sins. And you will receive the gift of the Holy Spirit." Then in 39 he says (emphasis mine) "This promise is for you and your children..." Jesus himself did not turn away infants when they were brought to Him. In Luke 18:15-16 people brought their infants to Jesus and when the disciples saw this they rebuked the people for bringing their infants (after all, the infants cannot themselves make the decision for Jesus). Jesus corrects them instead welcomes the infants of believers into the kingdom of God, "Let the little children come to me, and do not forbid them, for of such in the kingdom of God." In 1 Corinthians 1:16 Paul says that he baptized the household of Stephanas. 

Jesus instructs the disciples in Matthew 28:19, "Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit." The term "all nations" has always been understood by Church fathers to exclude infants mean everyone. The promise does not leave infants out.

Baptism is to the New Covenant what circumcision was in the Old Covenant. In Colossians 2:11-12 Paul equates baptism with the old circumcision, saying, "you yourself were circumcised with a circumcision not performed by human hands, by putting of the body of the sins of the flesh by the circumcision of Christ, buried with him in baptism..." Christians have no need for physical circumcision.  They have already received that inward circumcision, that spiritual cleansing of the heart, that is effected by the Holy Spirit, given to us in baptism.

Circumcision under the Abrahamic covenant was applied to infants on the basis of parental faith. Galatians 3:29 says "if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise." We've already seen how Paul explains that baptism is the fulfillment of circumcision. 

Now, imagine a father who was Jewish and newly converted to Christianity in 70 A.D. He brings his baby to be included in the kingdom of Jesus Christ, the fulfillment of the covenant of his father Abraham. Do you think the Apostles would have turned away his baby because his baby could not choose Christ for himself? Of course not! If it were so, then the man would have been turned off by the new covenant, which was preached as a fulfillment of - as better than - the old. Infants were included in the old covenant. They are not to be turned away in the new covenant, which is a better covenant than the old.

Please don't get me wrong. I am not claiming that baptism alone will save someone. But it is necessary.

Baptism is a sacrament, which means it is  given to us by Jesus to give us a powerful grace in our lives. Remember, it is only by God's grace that any of us have faith, adult or child or infant. And for an adult or an infant, faith should grow after baptism. The faith required for baptism is not a perfect and mature faith. 

I hope I've at least spurred an interest in some to investigate further into the theology behind infant baptism. If I'm wrong that infant baptism is right and true (I don't believe I'm wrong, but let's just ask for argument's sake), what's the worst that would happen? But if you believe it's wrong to baptize infants, what if you're wrong?

And here's a little completely interesting fact. Do you know how Catholics dip their finger in holy water when they enter and leave church? There's meaning behind it! It's to remind us of our baptism! I get sooooo excited about this. I love the opportunity to relive, in a way, my baptism each and every time I go to church and to remind myself that I am His.

Some additional resources:

And, of course the CCC (with Bible references) - start in the section called "The Sacraments of Christian Initiation."

Kyrie, eleison
Christe, eleison
Kyrie, eleison

Friday, August 16, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (#2)

Is it Friday already? I can't believe I made it through the week!

Thanks to Jen at Conversion Diary for hosting 7 Quick Takes Friday.

1. We started football practices this week with my sons. Todd is in tackle football for the first time this year, and Eli is still in flag. There is something about that first tackle practice that was like my son crossed over to the journey of becoming a man. He had to eat a piece of humble pie and do 5 push-ups when he fumbled a ball. During his first practice. He was pretty upset, and he was ready to quit football. But now he has had three practices, and he loves football. I LOVE football, too, so I can't wait to watch their games.

2. I spent a little time eating some humble pie this week myself. Or conviction pie. Either way, it was hard to swallow but I know it will be good in the end.

3. My 4-year old, Isaac, enjoyed a home visit from his pre-K teacher this week. We had to switch preschools this year because our Catholic school shut down in May, and he went to preschool there last year. I am very impressed with this new preschool so far, and I'm really impressed they do a home visit before school starts up in September. At the end of her visit, his teacher, Miss Linda, asked me a few questions about Isaac, including if Isaac had any fears she should know about. Isaac spoke up and told her that he is afraid of the dark and...something else. He acted like he was nervous about this "something else". He finally told her. He is afraid of getting a swirly. She acted like she didn't know what that was, so he explained his understanding of a swirly (which originally came from his older two brothers). "It's when someone sticks your face in the toilet and flushes the toilet and then poops on your head." Unfortunately I couldn't find a table to hide under. And just for the record - he's never had a swirly.

4. Indiana is withdrawing from Common Core! I am so relieved that we won't have to go to D.C. if we don't like what our kids are being taught. Other states are starting to withdrawal, too. Subsidiarity wins, thank God!

5. This video is powerful. Watch the whole video beginning to end. It is amazing to see the change in the countenance of the people being interviewed when they start to realize the state of their souls and their need for a savior.

I used to think there were two kinds of people in the world - those who believe God exists and those who don't believe God exists. But there are probably people who believe there is a God and don't want to admit it because then they'd have to give up their will...they don't believe the promise of the gift of joy in following God. 

6. There was a horrible crime committed against a newborn this week. A woman went into a Kohl's bathroom and gave birth to her child then intentionally murdered it. She was eventually caught and arrested and when she was charged with the crime she had no expression on her face. I cannot believe that a woman could have a child - flesh of her flesh - come out of her and then murder it. It is so dark and twisted. This is a bi-product of abortion, of course. Abortion has devalued the preciousness of human life. Kyrie, eleison!

7. I can't leave on that note. I miss the 80's. Now worries, by the looks of the fashions today, the 80's are making a big comeback. Here is an old classic. "Kyrie" by Mr. Mister. "Kyrie, eleison" is Greek for "Lord, have mercy". Enjoy!


Kyrie eleison
Kyrie eleison

The wind blows hard against this mountain side
Across the sea into my soul
It reaches into where I cannot hide
Setting my feet upon the road

My heart is old, it holds my memories
My body burns a gemlike flame
Somewhere between the soul and soft machine
Is where I find myself again

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I'm going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

When I was young I thought of growing old
Of what my life would mean to me
Would I have followed down my chosen road
Or only wished what I could be

Kyrie eleison, down the road that I must travel
Kyrie eleison, through the darkness of the night
Kyrie eleison, where I'm going, will you follow?
Kyrie eleison, on a highway in the light

Thursday, August 15, 2013

the Assumption of Mary - is it Biblical?

Marian doctrines take me a looooooong time to wrap my head around. This post at the Archdiocese of Washington is really, really clear and concise and helped me a little further along in my faith walk today.

If God assumed Enoch and Elijah into Heaven, why is it so difficult to believe He would do any less for the mother of his son? "All generations will call me blessed." (Luke 1:48)

We can all have the hope that we will one day be body and soul united in Heaven, just as Jesus did for his mother! Because He is good and loving and merciful. 

Glory to God!


Friday, August 9, 2013

7 Quick Takes Friday (#1)

Thanks to Jen for hosting 7 Quick Takes. I'm excited to join in the fun today!

Protestants struggling to keep Millennials in church. son lays prostate with his priest father. Awesomely funny blog: Momma Knows, Honeychild. New school starts for the older two boys. Jim Gaffigan quote. Thoughts on "sending positive thoughts your way". Pat Robertson devalues the lives of poor children (who are also blessings from God in my Bible!)

1. A message I keep seeing recurring in the evangelical Christian world is that the flashy mega churches aren't working. Sure, they might be bringing people in the doors with their concert-style "sanctuaries" and night club-style worship services and casual lobbies, but what they are teaching people isn't sticking. The youth are falling away at higher and higher numbers. Once they leave their homes and go out on their own, they leave God, too. The Washington Post ran an interesting article about this frightening trend. The author points out that the effort to make Christianity "cool" is not making disciples.

The part that struck me most from the article was the summary in the last paragraph (my emphasis in bold):
As a Millennial, if I’m truly honest with myself, what I really need from the church is not another yes-man entity enabling my hubris and giving me what I want. Rather, what I need is something bigger than me, older than me, bound by a truth that transcends me and a story that will outlast me; basically, something that doesn’t change to fit me and my whims, but changes me to be the Christ-like person I was created to be.
Folks, this is the Catholic Church that people are longing for, and this is why 18 to 30-years olds are converting to Catholicism more now than ever before. They crave the Truth of Jesus that was given to us by Jesus 2,000 years ago and that will not change - cannot change - to fit the world's fleeting whims and trends.

2. I saw this article about Father Patrick Allen, who is the second Episcopal priest in South Carolina to join the Catholic Church through the Anglican ordinariate. The picture of him laying prostate with his son beside him really really blessed me.

I think I need to lay prostate before the Lord. And not because I have five kids who exhaust me most days. Can laity just go and lay prostate before the Lord? Someone who is Catholic - please tell me! I need this!

3. So one of my favorite bloggers, Jennifer Fulwiler, let her readers in on a little gem-of-a-blog called "Mama Knows, Honeychild" Now I have added Heather to my list of favorite bloggers! I read through some of her posts yesterday and I was laughing so hard that I was crying. I even lost my breath and worried for a couple of seconds that my lungs weren't going to be able to inhale. I worried I would die from laughing. Literally. "Warm It Up" especially hit me hard. I cannot tell you how many times we've sat our hineys on the couch and ate fattening snacks while "getting inspired" by watching the "The Biggest Loser". So I knew by the first picture of the blog it was going to be something I could relate to.

4. My sons' Catholic school shut down last year (don't want to talk about it - makes me too sad), so they have started their new school and have been there for a week. It's the closest public elementary school to our house, and we had heard great things about it. So far I've been thrilled about it. And my sons are adjusting pretty well considering. My oldest son says that everyone there is really nice (big sigh of relief for a momma!) I have mixed feelings - super happy about the school, super sad that they don't pray or learn about Jesus during their school day.

5. My new favorite comedian is Jim Gaffigan. Our pediatrician told me about him because he has five kids. I looked him up on the internet, and really liked his acts. He's come out with a new book, My Dad is Fat, and I love that he is bringing attention to the crazy wonderful that comes with a big family. After all, what is the point if you can't laugh (hysterically) at yourself? Here's quote from Jim Gaffigan that I love (emphasis mine): 
“I watch the faces of single people in their twenties after I bring up that I ‘have children.’ I imagine them taking a small step backward as if to avoid contagion, with a look of ‘Sorry to hear that’ on their face. Like I naively volunteered to contract leprosy, forever quarantining myself from the world of having fun by having children.  Well, why not? I guess the reasons against having more children always seem uninspiring and superficial. What exactly am I missing out on? Money? A few more hours of sleep? A more peaceful meal? More hair? These are nothing compared to what I get from these five monsters who rule my life. I believe each of my five children has made me a better man. So I figure I only need another thirty-four kids to be a pretty decent guy. Each one of them has been a pump of light into my shriveled black heart. I would trade money, sleep, or hair for a smile from one of my children in a heartbeat. Well, it depends on how much hair.”
He gets it.

6. One comment I see over and over on Facebook from my non-Christian friends is something like "sending positive thoughts your way!" This is mostly used to try to comfort others who may have posted that they are having a difficult time with this or that in life. I asked the question, what does this phrase mean? How does one send positive thoughts to another person in such a way that it would benefit the other person? I got all kinds of answers. One person even equated it to telepathy. Someone said I was over thinking the phrase (which is probably true, and as a real nerd I have to over think everything). It seems to me it is just a phrase that people say to say something nice, but it doesn't have any power behind it. I think it is interesting the lengths the world will take to sound like Christianity, but with all fluff and no power. As for me, if I am having a hard time in life, please pray for me. I would appreciate to know that you're thinking about me, but that doesn't really help me with my problem, does it?

7. Boy, Pat Robertson made a lot of people mad this week by insulting the dignity of poor children and taking a dump on the value of their lives (not to mention fanning the flame that is the division between Catholicism and Protestantism). If you didn't catch what he said on his program about birth control and ragamuffin kids, you can catch it here. It is hugely offensive what he said about God-given life, and many people have pointed that out. I'd like to point out something else he did that is anti-Protestantism in a big way. When I was an evangelical Protestant, what your pastor preached was a big deal. He's your pastor, he's your shepherd charged with guiding you through this earthly life. So this woman who wrote to Pat Robinson says her pastor taught that contraception is a sin against God (which it is). And Pat Robertson trumped her pastor and said he was wrong and he didn't even give any Bible verses to back it up. Didn't Pat Robertson just make himself the pope of the Protestants? I mean, who gave him the authority to trump a pastor? Furthermore, what version of the Bible he is getting his answer from? I think Pat Robertson thinks too highly of himself and needs to get his brain back in the Word of God. Division within Christianity makes me ill (and was one of the things that lead me to the Catholic Church), and he is promoting division, he is promoting the killing of children for the idol of self. Maybe he should read Jim Gaffigan's book.

Monday, August 5, 2013

dreams waking up (a.k.a. my conversion story)

My journey back to the Catholic Church started in mid-2008, although I had no idea at the time that the Catholic Church is where my journey would lead me. That isn't to say there weren't seeds planted before then, but the seeds began to take root when a popular flamboyant preacher named Todd Bentley gained popularity within the Pentecostal faith traditions. This tattooed preacher was seen as a fresh breath of air, with his unconventional and theatrical style. He was asked to lead the Lakeland, Florida Revival for one week. The revival became a phenomenon that lasted much longer than one week, and Pentecostal Christians all over the country were buzzing about the rock-star style revival meetings. The meetings aired on GOD TV, and there were numerous healings claimed by the evangelist.

Some Pentecostals we knew were head over heels excited about what God was doing through Todd Bentley. Others were cautiously optimistic and dove into their Bibles to verify what was happening on the TV screens wasn't in conflict with the Word of God. Generally, my experience was that those who dove into their Bibles to check the revival came to the same conclusion - this guy doesn't jive with Scripture.

Still others that we frequently talked to and greatly respected couldn't stop talking about how everything that was happening at the Lakeland Revival was amazing. So we were sort of left scratching our heads. My husband watched several of the revival meetings on TV to see for himself. He prayed and watched. His report to me, his feelings toward what he had witnessed - this cannot be of God. It's a fraud.

We waited and watched. In August 2008 it came out that Todd Bentley had an affair on his wife, his marriage was ended in divorce. The Lakeland Revival meetings ended and when the truth came out, guess what? It was all about money the whole. The whole thing was a sham.

My husband and I were greatly bothered by the stark disagreements of the two camps of people we talked to - those who were "all in" on the goings on at the Lakeland Revival - even after the thing came to a screetching halt - and those who saw the Lakeland Revivals and Todd Bentley for what is was - a wolf in sheep's clothing. Or in this case a rock-star's clothing.

God, this can't be what you have for your church. There must be truth out there somewhere that doesn't contradict itself from one day to another.

We prayed together, "Lord show us your will for your church. We are open to anything outside of our current experiences. We just want something real."

We asked ourselves - why do we believe what we believe? Because of what we were taught growing up? What if those over us while we were growing up were wrong? There are many different denominations that we've never looked into; what if one of those denominations were more accurately teaching truth and we never knew it just because we were taught that our denomination - or lack of denomination as sometimes had been the case in our lives - was the correct one? What if the people teaching us that our denomination was correct...were wrong? What if Methodists interpreted the Bible more accurately and we just never knew it because we were never taught what the Methodist faith taught? Or Baptist? Or Church of Christ? Or something else?

We were attending a wonderful small Assemblies of God church with wonderful people. I mean wonderful in the kind of authentic Christ-like mercy-giving loving kind of people that we never wanted to think about leaving. But what if the Assemblies of God church wasn't what God wanted His church to be? Which church should we look at first? I mean, as we would soon find out in one History Channel program, there are 8,000 Protestant denominations. I don't have the ability to research 8,000 different sets of beliefs. My mind was spinning.

My husband had an idea. To find out what God wanted for His church, my husband would look back at the beginning...before Jesus was born, died and resurrected...he would study Judaism to find out what the earliest church would have been like. But it had to be Orthodox Judaism, as Reform and Conservative Judaism seemed to be evolutions of the Judaism that would have been on Earth 2,000 years ago. 

I wasn't quite convinced my husband's idea would work, but I didn't have any plan at all as to how I would look into 8,000 different Protestant faiths, so going back to the beginning - way before 8,000 Protestant denominations came about - sounded like an acceptable plan. I went through a kind of burned out period where - although I loved Jesus - I was feeling disillusioned by all of the divisions within Christianity. God, isn't your Truth out there somewhere?

So my husband turned started attending Orthodox Jewish services. It turns out an Orthodox Jewish service is about 3 hours long. I was pregnant with our third son, and a three-hour long service did not sound like the kind of research I was up for. So he went alone. He loved it. He soaked it in. He was excited about everything he learned. He started going to daily morning prayer services whenever he could find time in his schedule. People thought he was crazy, but we were OK with it. We knew the unsettled feeling we were dealing with, and we were OK with crazy for a while if it meant finding God's true desire for His church.

Now, my husband wasn't interested in denying Christ at all, so he took the knowledge he found to look for something similar in Christianity. Maybe it was the Messianic Judaism movement? We went to a couple of Messianic Judaism services. They were...long. And too many things just didn't add up to me. It just seemed like another Protestant division denomination to me. I couldn't see how something that started as a movement 30 years ago could be anything remotely similar to what God's church was like 2,000 years ago. Plus, in the Messianic Judaism services we went to, we never met anyone who had actually been to a Jewish synagogue. It was almost like they were making it up as they went and trying to base things on what someone told them happens in a Jewish synagogue service. 

All this time my husband would go and spend three hours every Saturday morning at the only Orthodox Jewish synagogue in our area. He begged me and begged me to go. In December 2008 I finally agreed to endure the three-hour long service with him one Saturday. I dragged my month-and-a-half-away-from-delivery butt over to the synagogue to please my husband. I didn't think anything would come out of it except maybe getting the best wife in the world medal for a day.

What I experienced made my palms sweaty and and heart race. What I saw was very...Catholic...except without Jesus. From the prayer book to the tabernacle to the chanting to the singing of the Psalms even to what the leader of the service was wearing and the way he kept bowing at the altar and the way the leader and the others read written prayers - it was more like what I remembered from my childhood days in a Catholic Church than any Protestant church I had ever been in.

No. Not the Catholic Church. I'm sure truth couldn't possibly be in the...but what if...

No. I was sure that's not what God is showing me. I started to look into what the Catholic Church taught. And it made sense. A lot of it was difficult for me to understand right away. I had to mentally chew on it. And I would get these moments of repulsion at the very thought of considering that the Catholic Church most accurately contained the truth that God wanted for His people. (I had, after all, very thorough and deep training in anti-Catholicism since becoming Protestant at age 15. And we were still fresh in the news of the priest sex scandals.) I even looked into the Lutheran church, since it was a direct shoot off of the Catholic Church and was very similar in liturgy and doctrine. So if it were a directly branch off of the Catholic Church, I thought, then it would be most like the original thing - sort of like a copy from an original is less contaminated than a copy from a copy from a copy from a copy...

I had a dream one night. I can't remember any of the dream except this - a Bible opened up in front of me, and there was such an amazing light and the most wonderful colors that you could ever imagine beaming out of the pages of the Bible. And there was such a joy and peace that only comes from knowing God and His holy Word. I knew during the dream that God was trying to tell me that there is more in His Word than we will ever be able to comprehend with our natural minds. That's what the incredible colors beaming out of the pages represented - all that God has for us in the Bible that we cannot fathom.

It's funny when you have a dream like that. There was such a joy and excitement in my heart and I tried to tell a few people about the dream only to get a nice smile from them and a, "that's nice, dear" response. But I knew the dream was a promise from God that He had more for me. More for us.

I kid you not - becoming Catholic has made that dream of Biblical awesomeness come alive to me. I never even knew the Catholic Church believed in the Bible. It's true! I thought the Catholic Church didn't want its laity reading the Bible. It was a lie told to me years ago and I believed it. The Bible brought me home to the Catholic Church. Apostolic succession, the papacy, their view of marriage (it's deeper than any Protestant has ever been able to explain to me) as a sacrament, confession (yes - confession!), visible unity of believers (a.k.a. the Jesus' church being ONE as opposed to 8,000 divisions), and the Eucharist (this is where I give a big shout out to John 6 - why had I never seen that whole chapter before?!), oh the Eucharist! It turns out 

(And have I mentioned - the Catholic Church doesn't teach that a person can go to Heaven by works!)

I'm not Catholic because of RELIGION!
I'm not Catholic because of old family ties.
I'm not Catholic because I went through a difficult time and "lost my faith" along the way.
I'm Catholic because God's grace touched my heart and opened the Bible up in a way that had never happened before.
I'm Catholic because of the Bible.
(Just in case anyone had to stand on their head backwards to not read that last statement I'll say it again.)
I'm Catholic because of the Bible!

I often imagine what people think of my conversion. I know the mindset I was in before. I would've thought someone who converted to Catholicism just didn't understand the love God had for them and the freedom from religion that His love provided. "Religion" had become a dirty word in our faith circles. It implied a faith void of any relationship with God, only rules and rituals. Mostly the word "religion" referred to Catholicism when I thought of it in a negative sense. But that's not at all what has happened to me. My relationship with Jesus has amplified since becoming Catholic. I know this is such an oxymoron to many.

I guess I can be thankful that Todd Bentley ignited a fire within me for my faith. I have been through a revival of my spirit through the washing of the Word. And I will never be the same again.

To God be the glory!