Awkward Catholic

Living my faith as the awkward man of God that I am.


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Get busy living or get busy dying

 

That awkward moment when you realize that our nation is being torn apart just like an unborn baby in her mother’s womb during an abortion.

It’s unnerving watching our culture at war with itself. Each side demonizing the other, justifying violence and vengeance upon each other. People literally in the street shattering windows and lives with bullets. Young people are so disconnected with each other and any truly meaningful relationships that they are killing each other and themselves at alarming rates, or diving headlong into addiction and despair.

People’s lives are being torn apart, disintegrated through countless abuses against their own and each others’ God-given, beautiful nature. Families are disintegrating, too, because of and in precipitation of all these self-inflicted wounds. It feels as if so many lives, so many families and all of society is spiraling out of control into a vortex of war and destruction, internal and external.

Disintegration

Image by Cyril Rana

After yet another shooting, such a common occurrence now that even the media outlets are starting to ignore them, people are shouting even louder (if that’s possible) for more gun-control. They think that’ll solve all these terrible mass-murders. But gun control isn’t the solution because it isn’t the guns that are killing people but people killing people. And before you jump on me, I do believe in enacting certain limited, sane, safe and healthy gun policies. It’s a balancing act, not an all or nothing kind of thing. Besides, gun laws aren’t the answer. Just like the vast majority of so many other hot button issues, like immigration and education.

Ultimately, it boils down to this one truth so clearly simple that it baffles me that so many people simply don’t understand it… we are living in a culture of death and it should surprise no one when death occurs, natural or violent. Why would a troubled teen think twice about shooting up his school when any mom can simply stroll into an abortion clinic and kill her unborn child? Yes, it’s about abortion. The moment our once great nation accepted the murdering of its most defenseless and vulnerable, we lost our soul as a nation. And what happens when a person’s soul separates from his body? He dies. That fateful day, Jan 22nd, 1973 is the day of our nation’s death.

Stroller Grave

Photo by Henry Burrows

We were once a nation of immigrants. No longer. We were once a nation where people came because they had a dream of life and hope. A place of freedom and prosperity. We are now a nation of freedom from religion, a nation of death and “tolerance.” You will be tolerated as long as you agree and support the army of death. But speak out against it and your job, your business, your family, your life is forfeit. Welcome to the brave new world where slavery thrives, alive and well. Not only is real, physical, human slavery thriving more now than at any point in history (there are more people enslaved through human trafficking and the sex trade than at any time in history before), but we are a culture enslaved to the doctrine of tolerance.

But I don’t want to tolerate you, I want to love you. I am not a slave, I am a friend and I love you too much to allow you to persist in a life of death.

Our moment of death as a nation was on Jan 22nd, 1973 with the legalization of abortion, but we became sick many years before, when in the 1930’s, Protestant churches began accepting the use of artificial birth-control methods. As Justice Anthony Kennedy said in 1992, that women have come to depend upon abortion should their contraception fail. Thus, abortion is a necessity.

With contraception, we violate the very nature of sex (being ordered toward procreation and unity) and thus destroy and disintegrate our love. And without love we die. As John Paul II once said, “Man cannot live without love. He remains a being incomprehensible to himself, his life is senseless, if love is not revealed to him, if he does not encounter love, if he does not experience it and make it his own, if he does not participate intimately in it.”

With artificial contraception, the love between spouses disintegrates and removes the heart of the family, God, from the most intimate and profound of all possible acts. And death ensues. The family disintegrates, the child is no longer an expression of love but now a commodity to be bought and sold, traded, fought over, torn apart and discarded. Sex, now a vehicle for selfish pleasure, becomes cold and lifeless and porn becomes just another means of satisfaction, another commodity in the relentless pursuit of pleasure and escape from the pounding, ever-menacing presence of death.

But all hope is not lost. No, far from it! For we do not hope in a lifeless, distant god. Our God raises the dead to life with a mere thought, a simple act of His will! But he does not wish to go it alone. This God of love insists that our love participates in his!

He brings the dead to life– persons, families, nations and the world! He called the universe into existence with a thought, he can raise our culture back to life. But he waits; he waits for you and for me to respond to his call to raise our nation and our world, our families and our own souls back into the light of his love and life. We do this, not by our own strength, but by His strength within us, by responding (through his grace) to that still small voice within our hearts crying out in a whisper, “Love!”

So let us arise. What are we waiting for? As Andy Dufresne said in “The Shawshank Redemption,” “It comes down to a simple choice, really. Get busy living, or get busy dying.”

Freedom


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True Stories of Love & Lust

That awkward moment when you finally admit to yourself that you’re an addict and that more awkward moment when you admit to your loved ones that you’re an addict.Jail

By the grace of God I was fortunate enough to recognize from an early age that I was struggling with an addiction; I say fortunate because the recognition of the addiction enabled me to struggle against it and not simply indulge with abandon. From the first time I tried to resist the temptation to indulge in my “drug of choice” and failed I knew I was addicted. I tried for years to free myself from my addiction but failed miserably; I could no more stop myself from giving in than I could stop a bullet with my teeth. It was only by the grace of God and the prayerful love of a faithful woman that I’m able to manage my addiction. That’s the thing about addiction, the pull never really leaves you; it’s why alcoholics can’t have just one drink.

I was recently asked to review a new book called Restored: True Stories of Love and Trust After Porn by Matt and Cameron Fradd. It’s a beautiful book about the wondrous grace of God and the restoration of love and wholeness found by couples who suffered through a porn addiction. At times the profound suffering experienced by the ten couples who share their stories seems overwhelming, but the victories won, the grace, mercy, and restoration given by God is what captivates and makes reading through the suffering so powerfully fruitful! As Rachel shares of her story:

Am I restored? I can say with certainty that being restored is not a single event we mark on a calendar to which we point and say, “Yep, there it is, that’s the day he fixed me.” Renewal is a daily choice we make each morning when we open our eyes and ask Jesus to help us lead our best life possible. Somehow, that usually begins with a measure of forgiveness.

I was restored the day I was baptized into the Church and again on the day of my First Communion. I get restored every Sunday during Holy Communion and in the quiet of the night while in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament inside our adoration chapel. I feel restored when I see my girls playing with their Daddy in our living room, when I hear them laughing, and I smile, knowing our family journey is just beginning. I am restored when I pause during the craziness of my busy life to realize how my choice to stay and fight is the only thing that shields our little girls from the brokenness and pain of divorce. It is a choice I embrace. Thank you, Jesus, for restoring me again today.

And in case you’re tempted to run from this book because of the topic, it’s not a book about porn, it’s a book about hope, grace, and mercy. Recently one of my awesome teens said, “Mercy is what gives love direction.” And in the stories contained throughout Restored, the mercy of God seeps through the pages. In this beautiful Year of Mercy Pope Francis gifted us, the unfathomable mercy of God becomes palpable and real through the stories of real people, real wounds, and real mercy.

Reading this book is a transformational experience, reading about the profound transformations and restoration of people who experienced profound trauma encourages and transforms my own spirit towards a more profound personal restoration. There’s a restoration and freedom that I’m still working towards, that God is leading me to; there’s a restoration that too many men in our culture desperately need and that this book holds out as possible. Through the grace and mercy of God “all things are possible” (Matt 19:26).Freedom

Whether you’re someone who struggles with porn addiction or have been affected by someone’s struggle, whether you’ve never struggled or may be married to one who struggles, this book is a moving and real depiction of the amazing grace that God offers through his mercy. We each have the chance to claim the very same mercy that the woman caught in adultery experienced, summarized perfectly by Paul in his letter to the Romans when he writes, “We know that all things work for good for those who love the Lord.” (Rom. 8:28)

 


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Getting Perspective

baby crying This morning started off pretty well. I woke up on my own, as opposed to my three year old loudly disturbing my slumber early in the morning as is his custom. My 3 month old daughter slept until 9AM and then sat quietly and patiently by as I finished cooking pancakes for the boys. It was after that when things started getting rough. An hour after waking my daughter started crying; she was hungry and tired.

Normally I’d just pass her off to Maria to nurse her which would almost instantly put her to sleep. However, my amazing wife was not home. She was at her first day of work after giving birth. So this morning was my first attempt (and Therese’s 2nd attempt) at using a bottle. It didn’t work. She cried her sweet little eyes out not understanding why her mommy wasn’t coming to the rescue. It was heartbreaking.

So I took her upstairs and tried pacing around the room with her, shushing her and patting her back. Eventually it worked beautifully and she fell asleep and I was able to put her down just before my back began cramping up. Prior to her falling asleep, as I paced back and forth, my mind poured over all the problems and concerns I have, from the stress of a crying, inconsolable baby, to my two boys fighting downstairs, the unpaid hospital bills and looming mortgage payment, our old house which still hasn’t rented out (on which we’re counting to augment our income), the ridiculously high electric bill and on and on.

Then something occurred to me that put it all in perspective. Here I stood in a huge house, holding a beautiful baby girl, with her two wonderful, healthy siblings downstairs, and my wife and I both are gainfully employed and so many other countless blessings. Meanwhile, there’s the worst Ebola outbreak the world’s ever seen occurring in Africa, Isis is taking over Iraq and destroying the lives of millions of people, a war is brewing in Israel, typhoons are ravaging the Philippines, countless thousands of refugees are crossing into Texas, the scourge of sex slavery is growing exponentially (a result of porn) and on and on.Ebola

How blessed am I?! It’s not that I shouldn’t be concerned with those little things that surround my life, but in the greater perspective my life is good, amazingly blessed and my loving concern for those suffering unfathomable loss and grief has grown enormously. So, rather than wasting my time stressing over these little things I need to pray. I need to pray for them and let them go in trusting surrender to God’s will. Then I need to pray earnestly for those that need God’s grace. Or rather, I need to pray to God and call down his grace on those who need it now, the most. He knows so much better than I where his grace is most desperately needed.

I want to challenge anyone reading this to find a new perspective. Let’s put aside our judgment and preconceived prejudices about immigrants (legal or illegal), about the chaos of northern Africa, about who’s at fault in the Israel/Palestinian conflict (more than one side is wrong there, it’s not as black and white as you think), about the terror and evil in Iraq, and so on. Let’s cast aside our judgment and pray. Pray for a just and compassionate solution for the immigrants seeking a better life, for those suffering from plague or terror or war. Pray earnestly for peace, for health, for hope. Pray.

After all, the wars and plagues and famines and suffering is your fault anyway. Well, OK, it’s all of our fault. You see, God created paradise but our sin brought chaos. That’s what sin is, a tearing away of perfection and replacing it with chaos, with an absence of love. So yes, that Ebola outbreak is a result of our sin, the evil in Iraq is a result of our sin and the only way to bring an end to it all is God’s grace breaking into the chaos of our sins and turning it into something good, beautiful and perfect… kind of like the Crucifixion of Christ.Crucifix