Monday, May 11, 2015

Praise the Lord

Welcome to my blog. I had written this on May 11: 
I think these blogs by my husband and I have run their course. We will not be making more posts but will have them available. My husband had quit posting in his blog a while ago due to bad health and is not taking comments. Thanks to all of you who have visited. I thank the Lord for the opportunity to have written mine and I praise Him for His love and creative power.
However, I updated on 6/15/2015 with this: 
I am re-thinking about closing my blog, womanatwell, but do not plan to post until at least the end of summer. However, my husband's blog, Muskegonmemories, will now be closed to posts and comments.
Thanks for your patience. I've been with this blog since 2008 and would miss it, but life has a way of getting ahead of us sometimes. Maybe I'll catch up by autumn. In the meantime, please help yourself to free e-books and the posts I've already done. Thanks much.

Also to note: The comments are open but moderated in this blog. Just go to any regular post to leave a comment.

I thought it would be good to update my blog since I haven't had a post since one dated May 11. At that time I said I was planning to discontinue posting but to keep the blog online. The blog is still a source for  my books and a variety of subjects (see right column), including the amazing complexity of Creation. I thought I might resume in autumn, but for various reasons I don't plan to post on a regular basis any time soon.

What I have been able to do is to periodically check in on the Catholic Answers Forums and see what is being written there. I have even made a few comments when I have had the time under the name, womanatwell. The setup there is very well done, I think, and the people who comment cover a wide array of topics. My participation allows me to communicate with others and I use my blog as a reference link in some cases. I hope you will check it out at the link I have above on the Forums name.

I thank anyone reading this for visiting and may God bless you.

Monday, May 4, 2015

The Pure Life

In our culture the controversies over how to live are especially loud right now. Many people wonder why Christians are so “judgmental.” We advocate for a pure, holy life. People may ask who decides what a “pure life” is and whether it even exists. Why should we care how others live? Doesn’t God just want people to be happy and love one another?

If you have any kind of a conscience, you will know you can’t have your own way all the time. To please and help others, you have to make sacrifices. Unfortunately, most people are innately selfish. The concept of “fallen nature,” which is associated with sin, is part of the Christian doctrine.

Throughout the Bible there are concepts of laws, order and the ideal existence. The Old Testament tells us of the Jewish clan who believed God Himself gave them rules to live by. They were not to murder, to commit adultery or even be jealous of others. They therefore had concepts of the good separate from the bad in terms of behavior.

To justify bad behavior, a person can deny there is anything such as bad behavior. One common argument is that all things are relative--what’s good for you might be bad for me. Well, certainly if you take things from me, someone might consider that argument proven. But in terms of a standard of behavior, most of us have one even if we deny it. It’s pretty general that no one wants things stolen from them, so therefore stealing is bad. In general, no one wants to endure the betrayal of adultery by the person they love or have their parent abandon them.

Over the years we have come to have laws that follow lines of what our citizens believe are right and wrong. However, there are great pressures against these laws in terms of Christian standards of pure living. Part of Christian evangelism is to convince people that purity is what God wants.

A pure life harmonizes with emotional joy and stability. That doesn’t mean it is easy, but the outcome is wonderful. The fallen nature is a source of aberrant desires which can be acted out (greed, selfishness, aggression, etc.), pulling us away from joy and deep happiness. The superficial satisfaction of pursuing wrong desires leads to bad places, but that is very hard to believe for those who are not experienced in the end points. It is much easier to accept the Hollywood versions of persons who can’t help how they behave and are being discriminated against.

But many Christians have experienced results of bad choices and then real change in our lives. We talk about being freed from the chains of addictions. For some it happens immediately, but for others a slow improvement over time. I know there are complications because some people say they pray for help but still can’t seem to change. I don’t have all the answers, but Jesus Christ tells of the woman who keeps asking a judge for a favorable decision until he finally gives it to her (Luke 18, NIV). Though Christ had been talking about justice at the time, He is saying that persistence pays off.

Our feelings and desires can change when we encounter the Lord’s interventions because the “tearing down” of the bad is replaced with the “building up” of the good. The degradation of impurity is a reason many look for relief in drugs, alcohol or other addictions. But those things never reach the deepest places which crave fulfillment. Only walking in God’s ways, which encompasses belief in Him and living the pure life, can fill that hole. Then we realize the pure life is really the best one after all.

Monday, April 6, 2015

Do You Believe?

My husband and I went to see the movie Do You Believe? (DYB?) a few weeks ago, so I thought I’d make a few related comments (this is not a review since I won’t get into the details of the movie). The movie was made by the creators of God’s Not Dead (GND), which was a small budget film that was very enthusiastically received by Christian audiences and did well financially. I had liked that film too and commented on it here. The description of DYB? is here. It is basically about people who are living out their Christian faith and also about the people whom the Christians are trying to materially help and spiritually convert.

I noticed that DYB? brought in about half the proceeds of GND the first weekend, but it did exceed studio estimates, so I guess they were happy. I liked DYB? well enough, but I know it will not be appreciated by everyone. The problem with trying to film the Christian experience is that it is the experience itself that brings the meaning. It’s like a story about a happening that was actually quite interesting but falls flat in the telling : you had to be there. When the understanding of God in an individual blooms, it is under the skin, so to speak. It is lived, not watched.

I can testify that the inner life is changed with Jesus Christ. I had been brought up in Church but did not understand the fullness.Christ can bring. I dropped away for a while and in my 20’s I was miserable, even though I was well-educated and well-off by worldly standards. I felt no happiness and had no hope for the future. When I accepted Christ fully, all that changed. I had identity, purpose and joy (along with the many other benefits that come with belief in God). It was like night turned to day. And in coming back to the Christian community, I have heard many similar stories.

It is natural to want this for others. We try to evaluate who is really experiencing Christ and who is not, and some cases are pretty obvious. And we try to help them spiritually. (We also try to help anyone in material need, but that's a little different.)

Many Christians continue to live out our lives the best we can, trying to show others God’s love by what we do. When we tell people about Christ, many of us do it in a loving and concerned manner. Though we falter and sin, we go to God for help to do better. In the nitty-gritty of everyday life, we try to get the ideas across. Since Christians are human, we don’t always live up to the standard. We don’t always live the life and sometimes we accuse instead of encourage.

Unfortunately, those who are affected by bad experiences become cynical and group all Christians together. Then, even when Christians simply try to state the Truth as we see it, the words are taken as harassment. Add to this mix the tendency for those who are doing wrong to not want to hear about it. You get reactions to Christians that are not likely to be kind.

That leads to the other problem with the movie: the people who were helped were either relatively charming or easy to convince. I mean “relatively” in comparison to some of the real people out there that Christians are trying to help. My husband and I have had experience in that arena, and it can be an extremely difficult business.

This actually relates to Catholics right now in the leadership of Pope Francis. One of his main messages has been for Christians to get out among the poor and help them. Now, don’t get me wrong--I am very glad for his emphasis in this area. But he hasn’t really clarified the down side--that many people want help in one way (material), but not in another (genuine acceptance of God and life changes for the better). Still, it is better to be optimistic, and the Pope promotes God's mercy--the emphasis on God's love for us and His desire for us to reconcile with Him.

For a long time, I had continual feelings of failure in my relationships with those who would not accept God. Then as I was reading one of St. Paul’s letters in the Bible, I found peace. He was talking about people who said they followed either him or another apostle. Paul said it is ultimately Jesus Christ we should all be following (1 Corinthians 1, NIV), A little later (1 Corinthians 3), Paul said he and other ministers only plant the seeds and water. It is God who really causes the growth.

It is true from my own life and for many other Christians that it took years for the Gospel to really sink in, so why should it not take time for others? We can speak from our hearts about God, but it is God who ultimately interacts with individuals at the deepest level. And then it is between each person and God whether s/he accepts Jesus Christ as their Savior and repents from sin, or not.

Whether the movie, “Do You Believe?” is a critical or financial success, I think the production has been worth the effort. It will inspire many of the people who know exactly what it is like to try to live out a Christian faith. These persons know every attempt at urging people toward the true God is worth it, no matter the cost. And we have already experienced some of the wondrous transformations God can bring to us on the inside.

Monday, March 2, 2015

Personal Discernment

Discernment is known to be a spiritual exercise which is accompanied by fasting and prayer. Now that it is Lent, it is a good time to give up some worldly attractions, like extra food, and read the Bible and other spiritual literature. I’m re-reading the book by Ralph Martin, The Fulfillment of All Desire. He writes about the journey to holiness and goal of union with the Lord.

Martin chooses from the writings of seven Doctors of the Church, including St. John of the Cross, Catherine of Siena and Bernard of Clairvaux. These saints were known for the depth of their experiences with God. Martin elaborates on three stages of spiritual maturity: the purgative, illuminative, and unitive ways.

Reading through the first time, I thought the book a little choppy, since Martin starts talking about one saint and then brings in the writings of others to support the point he is making at the time. But the reviews of his book on Amazon are stellar, and I thought I’d go through it again at a slower pace. I am finding that this does help in absorbing Martin’s explanations. The Amazon page, where you can get much more information, is here.

Our efforts to tell others about Jesus Christ are often seen by outsiders as tiresome. But the salvation He has offered us is toward a wondrous joy of a growing relationship with God. Among  the things Christians should do is to develop this love with the Lord, in conjunction with love for His people, and express these experiences to others.

May you have a blessed Lent and move along God’s path for you.

Monday, February 2, 2015

Getting Along

The Week of Prayer for Christian Unity was observed Jan. 18-25. The theme was taken from John 4, where Jesus Christ asked a Samaritan woman at a well for a drink of water. The theme was apparently suggested by Brazilians, who have the custom to offer water to strangers when they approach.

Pope Francis commented on the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity, encouraging personal encounters between Christians that emphasize listening to each other rather than expounding on “subtle theoretical discussions.” It’s an interesting point of view, and highlights the difficulty of religious relationships. Even within denominations we have problems. The Pope followed a similar line of thought with Catholic Bishops at the Synod of the Family last October. Francis told them to think about how to be better pastors and not try to prove to each other how smart they are. And, during a trip to the Philippines, also this past January, the Pope said that the leaders should listen to women, because they see things differently than men.

Reason is given by God, but so is wisdom. Catholic thinking can be hardened and cold when intellect refuses to encounter a variety of living human beings. Imagine the male leadership becoming so humble as to respect the spectrum of women’s feelings and opinions instead of insisting we all conform ourselves to a single mold of an imagined (by men) ideal. And yet didn’t God ask humility of us all?

It is the logic of natural law that men learn in universities that says that women can’t even think (Summa Theologica, Part 1, Question 92, Article 1). It is no wonder women reject teachings particularly aimed at us. These rulings are based on a history of male prejudice against women throughout the ages, and within Christianity starting from the Fathers of the Church shortly after Christ left this Earth for Heaven. With non-abortive, barrier contraception as an example, Catholic leaders have consistently ignored female voices. However, perhaps there is some hope, as the problem of the Church's ostracism of women is being addressed with some insight at a Vatican meeting about women this month. Among the thoughts expressed is that Church leadership has indeed historically excluded women from decision-making, and perhaps not every complaint from women should be categorized as rampant feminism. Although this assembly has been widely criticized, it is at least a start.

It’s hard to imagine how Christians will unite between denominations when we can’t even get along within them. Then again, humans alone probably are unable to do it. We need to find how to connect with God’s grace when we face each other. Not only would that lead to agreement, it would awaken our spirits to the wonder of becoming a part of the Divine Nature. This promise is related to us in 2 Peter. To become spiritually complete is to reject false pride and arrogance. It is to live in community with love, harmony and acceptance.

What a witness of Christianity that would provide to the rest of the world.

Monday, January 5, 2015

Discern More Certainly

I've been talking about discernment the last few months, and I’d like to add a few more comments to the subject.

Many persons believe that they discern through the Holy Spirit. However, some of these people, including current members of the Church, don’t believe Jesus Christ is the only way to heaven, but that one religion is as good as another and eventually we’ll all go to heaven. In the opinion of many Christians, this is not what Christ and His disciples taught.

Jesus Christ's mission on Earth included instruction about our sins, His atonement for them, and the clear message that belief in Him alone, as part of the Trinity including God the Father and Holy Spirit, is the only way to living in spiritual freedom with God in heaven. Jesus talked to the disciples about sending His Spirit after He was gone. Then, on the day of Pentecost as told in the Book of Acts, Chapter 2 (NIV), the Holy Spirit came upon the disciples and they could speak other languages. They came to understand Christ better because of the Holy Spirit.

Later in the Bible, St. Paul writes quite a bit about the Holy Spirit, for example in Romans 8 and the Book of Ephesians. He links the Holy Spirit very strongly with belief in Christ.

Women and men who don’t have this faith are logically and spiritually incomplete. God can direct us in times when we are on the wrong path, and He often does so to bring the lost to His kingdom. Yet I believe the best way by far for us to commune with His Spirit is to believe in Jesus Christ as our Savior. If your belief is incorrect, your discernment can be mistaken.

Christians believe that the Holy Spirit is part of the Trinity of Father, Son and Holy Spirit: three persons of one essence. If you do not have proper relationship with one, you do not have proper relationship with the totality of God. If you think any religion is as good as another (the idea is called “Indifferentism”), you are susceptible to being wrong about the thoughts you are following. Even true believers may not be perfect in discerning the Holy Spirit, but a false set of mind will muddy an already difficult process.

I’ve talked about women having personal callings from God about what to do with their lives. I wanted to add these further thoughts about discernment, because I’ve read and heard a lot of what I consider wrong thinking about the faith itself from many Catholic women leaders, such as theologians and religious sisters. Much as I want to see progress in the Church for women, it should never happen at the expense of Truth. Women (and men) who are not truly Christian may well be following the wrong voices down the wrong path. Yet all persons who understand Christ’s true message can and should lead others to Him.

I'd like to repeat here an aspect of discernment that is important in many situations. In the Bible, Paul says we should agree with each other (1 Corinthians 1:10). This is very difficult for us. It seems we all have an opinion, and it is very natural to think our way is God’s way. So unless we have an open mind that God might want something different, it will be hard to listen for His direction.

Pope Francis has tried to tell those who are rigid in their opinions that we can be “surprised by God.” The hope is that, when we have conflict, God can bring us to fuller understanding and greater clarity. I believe God often uses life’s experiences in this way, and so it can take time. But if we persist with our hearts in the right place, it can be worth every bit of the wait.

And so our prayers for discernment together as Christians should continue whenever there is disagreement. And we must be sure to pray to the True Lord.