Sunday, September 8, 2013

Why Megachurches Are Full of Ex-Catholics

I remember when I left the Catholic Church and what drew me to Protestant churches.

It was relationships.

I yearned to talk to other believers about Christianity. I desired fellowship and conversation. However, in the Catholic parish I belonged to at the time, there was little available.

Decades ago, Catholics would attend Mass and that was that. There were a few groups like the Knights of Columbus but not many that focused on simply gathering together to encourage one another in the faith.

I remember the first time I visited a local Presbyterian church. I was astounded that after the service, they invited everyone over to their "fellowship hall" to have coffee and doughnuts. This was a revelation. Wow. Imagine staying all the way to the end of a service and then join others in a room afterward to socialize!

Most of the Masses I attended at that time had a good amount of people heading straight for the exit after receiving Communion. I wasn't used to people actually wanting to stay after church to spend time with other church-goers.

So that's how I got hooked.

It's taken me years to reclaim my Catholic faith. I have found some fellowship online through blogs, articles, and the comment sections. But my true fellowship has come through my own parish where they have... wonder of wonders, a "coffee and doughnuts" social held in the undercroft after Mass.

I think more people yearn for this than some may realize. When I look around at the parishioners who are sitting at tables, munching a doughnut and drinking an average cup of coffee from a styrofoam cup, I see people who are in need of connection. Some of them are older and alone. Others are young with families. But everyone wants to connect with someone.

Dr. Taylor Marshal has an excellent article, "10 Ways to Put Megachurches Out of Business." He didn't mention "coffee and doughnuts" but I think it's worth a mention.

Catholicism is rich with its history and spiritually fulfilling with her sacraments. I'm thinking of going through an RCIA class just to learn the ropes, again.

Here's why I think the megachurches are full of ex-Catholics: because Catholics don't really understand and appreciate the truths of their faith.

Everything looks better "on the other side." Megachurches seem exciting with their worship bands and the hundreds of various ministry groups. There's hustle and bustle going on! Activity like this is often confused with substance. Catholics look at all the energy and excitement as proof that their church life is boring and irrelevant.


Send me any ex-Catholic who attends a megachurch and let me talk with him or her. Let's get down to the nitty-gritty. Let's have coffee and really talk about why they're there. And then let me tell them the truth about the megachurch.

Busy, Busy!

Megachurches thrive on busyness. There are too many groups and too many activities because they're trying to appeal to everyone.

Their identity is dependent upon how the church members define it. And the identity is always shifting, along with the "new building fund."

They have to keep changing up things, otherwise, they fear people will become bored and leave.

But is that the way the Church should be? Is this what Jesus Christ meant when He said to St. Peter, "Upon this rock I shall build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it."

I believe the gates of hell won't prevail against the Church but meanwhile, the vulgar, meaningless, culture-of-death crowd is certainly trying.

Perpetual Teenagers

Megachurches, because of their nature, do not have much spiritual depth. They're constantly trying to reach out to "the unchurched" yet once Ben and Jennifer Unchurched is inside, the megachurch realizes they can't look and act too much like a church, otherwise, they'll lose Ben and Jen.

So there is the constant "light and fluffy" spiritual messages that float out to the congregation with enough pop psychology and current cultural references thrown in to keep them hooked.

Meanwhile, Ben and Jen remain perpetual teenagers, having their ADD-style spiritual compass forever spinning around but never finding True North.

There is no grounding, nothing of substance because everything a megachurch does is rooted in keeping up with whatever is popular or trendy. This isn't a good path for deeper spiritual development.

Casual Faith

Finally, the type of faith I experienced during all the years I was involved with megachurches was a casual saunter into God's Coffeehouse.

One megachurch I attended had a specialty coffee area where I could get high-quality espresso drinks. And then I could take that hot beverage with me right into the "sanctuary."

Apologies if the quotes offend anyone, but it's difficult to view a huge multi-purpose room with upholstered chairs and a large stage filled with a drum kit, keyboards, and guitars as the central focal point, as a sanctuary.

We unfortunately live in a time where entertainment trumps substance.

Substance is difficult to grasp. It takes work. It's not as mentally easy as standing up and swaying to the music of a worship team or sitting back sipping your fair-trade cappuccino while watching a multi-media "60 Minutes" style production talking about the importance of Bible studies.

Here's an interesting observation: if you ever visit a megachurch, look around to see how many gray heads are sitting in the seats. There may be a few, but usually they're outnumbered by those who are under the age of 50.

I think that says something.

The Fullness of the Faith

When I returned to the Catholic Church, I was stunned by many things. The beauty of the liturgy, which when I was younger, struck me as "boring." Gregorian chant, which always appealed to me but now seemed like the perfect response to a loving, merciful God whose traits we can barely comprehend.

I remembered going to confession and explaining to the priest that I had just returned to the Catholic Church after attending non-denominational churches for years. He graciously said, "those churches do a good job of bringing people into the church and telling them how to live a Christian life, but they don't have the fullness of the faith."

I am still discovering the fullness of the faith but will say that I have found it to be full of substance and meaning. It has intellectually and spiritually challenged me. It has fed my soul to a degree that I never found within the blinking, blaring megachurces.

What brought me back to the Church was the longing for the Eucharist. And not just a symbolic nod to the Last Supper. I wanted the true Body and Blood of our Lord Jesus Christ.

The words from St. John 6:44-58 call to me:

No one can come to me unless the Father who sent me draws him; and I will raise him up at the last day.

It is written in the prophets, 'And they shall all be taught by God.' Every one who has heard and learned from the Father comes to me. Not that any one has seen the Father except him who is from God; he has seen the Father.

Truly, truly, I say to you, he who believes has eternal life.

I am the bread of life.

Your fathers ate the manna in the wilderness, and they died.

This is the bread which comes down from heaven, that a man may eat of it and not die.

I am the living bread which came down from heaven; if any one eats of this bread, he will live for ever; and the bread which I shall give for the life of the world is my flesh."

The Jews then disputed among themselves, saying, "How can this man give us his flesh to eat?"

So Jesus said to them, "Truly, truly, I say to you, unless you eat the flesh of the Son of man and drink his blood, you have no life in you;he who eats my flesh and drinks my blood has eternal life, and I will raise him up at the last day.

For my flesh is food indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

He who eats my flesh and drinks my blood abides in me, and I in him.

As the living Father sent me, and I live because of the Father, so he who eats me will live because of me.

This is the bread which came down from heaven, not such as the fathers ate and died; he who eats this bread will live for ever."

Upon hearing Jesus' words, many could not fathom their truth. It seemed preposterous to suggest that one would eat someone's flesh. And that claim about "living for ever?" What kind of sense did that make?

It's one of the many facets of Christianity that I love -- the inexplicable, the mysteriousness, the stop-you-dead-in-your-tracks-and-make-you-go-what-ness of it all. Jesus said very thought-provoking things and this definitely was one of them.

I never heard anyone in a megachurch really unpack that section of the Gospel of St. John.

But in the Catholic Church, we celebrate it during every Mass. We look at the bread and wine and solemnly acknowledge that a sacred mystery is unfolding before our eyes as the priest, in persona Christi, takes the bread and the chalice of wine, offers it up to God in a re-presentation of the sacrifice at Calvary, and in that moment, the bread and wine become the Body and Blood of Our Lord and Savior Jesus Christ.

Receiving tiny tablet wafers and a tiny tablespoon of wine in a tiny plastic cup, passed from person to person on a plate like party appetizers -- is not the same thing.

This to me is part of "the fullness of the faith." There is a richness, a depth, an fuller expression of our faith in the Catholic Church.

I spent over two decades in the non-denominational church. After almost ten years, I asked a few church friends, "So, how do you get spiritually fed?" They admitted they didn't receive much "spiritual meat" from the Sunday service. We talked about various books, radio programs, etc. But it was obvious that once you passed the "Okay, now I'm comfortable in church once again" phase, there was little substance in the messages.

The megachurches may appeal to many Catholics but I think it's because many of those Catholics (and I used to be one), have no idea about their Catholic faith.

Imagine, for fifteen centuries, the Christian Church was one.

United. In bond with one another. That is a long time for church unity.

Compare that to the mere five centuries we've now had with the church universal and the myriad of off-shoots since the Reformation. Those fifteen centuries built some very strong saints, produced intellectual giants who founded universities and hospitals, and overall, changed the world.

I can't help but think "how did they do it?"

And to me, the Catholic Church is a large part of the answer.

Sunday, June 9, 2013

Why We Need To Forgive Mark Shea

A good friend forwarded me a blog post by Fr. Dwight Longenecker, In Defense of Mark Shea. I haven't kept up with Mark Shea's writings because frankly, I was one of many who were turned off by his tone. I remembered thinking to myself, "Here we go, again. I wonder who Mark has taken potshots at this time which requires someone to defend him..."

My own mea culpa

Well, I was wrong. Turns out Shea was delivering a huge mea culpa to everyone for his behavior, which he admitted had been bitter. The post is surprisingly detailed as Shea opened up his heart and not only confessed that he knew he had acted bitter with people, but why he did. He revealed a tender spot in his relationship with God (emphasis mine):

One of the things that lives under the rocks in my heart has been a deep and abiding fear, a kind of heart conviction about the universe that long predates any conscious relationship with God I formed as an adult (recall that I was not raised Christian). I’m not saying it’s a truth about the universe. I’m saying it’s something more like a broken bone in my soul that never knit right. And what it comes down to is a pattern of assuming that I am, at best, a tool of God, not a son of God and certainly not somebody God loves.  And with that has been a fear that, at the end of the day, once my utility to God is spent I would be tossed away like a candy bar wrapper.

Shea has admitted a weakness that is true for many of us, namely, that we have to work for God's love and earn it by faithfully demonstrating a mastery of the gifts He gave us. We think the more we do this, the more we are valued by Him. In essence, it's a performance issue and one that has many, many facets. Too many to go into here and actually not my business because this has to do with Shea's own spiritual formation, not mine.

The dark night of the soul, but we are not alone

But I can fully vouch for such a wrestling of the mind and spirit because for anyone who wants to be told, "Well done, my good and faithful servant...," they need to understand that God's great love and mercy for us is not dependent on our "deliverables" (if you will pardon my using a term from my business vocabulary), but is an expression of His perfect grace. (Romans 5)

As tempting as it is to delve into that aspect (perhaps, for another post), I want to focus on Shea's contrition. I do not agree with Fr. Longenecker's assessment that it was not necessary. I believe it was absolutely vital that Mark Shea apologize to those he had wronged after recognizing his error precisely because it was in obedience to the work of the Holy Spirit.

Who else can convict our hard-headed and hard-hearted ways? Certainly not the most persuasive spiritual director or admired mentor. Without the Holy Spirit, we are doomed to make the same mistakes over, and over again. The Holy Spirit speaks truth many times, often gently as we kneel in silence after communion or when we contemplate Scripture. Suddenly, BAM! That soft, insistent, and terrible truth comes forth from the Counselor: You have sinned in this area and I am calling you to repent.

Nevertheless I tell you the truth: it is to your advantage that I go away, for if I do not go away, the Counselor will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you. And when he comes, he will convince the world concerning sin and righteousness and judgment: concerning sin, because they do not believe in me; concerning righteousness, because I go to the Father, and you will see me no more; concerning judgment, because the ruler of this world is judged.(St. John 16:7-11, RSV)

I don't need no stinkin' apology...

When someone publicly admits they have been in the wrong, there is a tendency in us to want our own pound of flesh. "Yeah, you say you're sorry... but what about this instance? And when you said that? Plus, I don't believe you. You'll likely go back to doing the same thing again!"

Not only is this unfair but it is un-Christlike. I'll speak for myself, here, only because I have said the above and more when it came to someone making a public act of repentance.

It is not my job to evaluate how sincere someone is when they repent, or if they'll be successful in avoiding the same sin again. My job as a Christian is simple. I accept the act of repentance with joy and bless my brother and sister for the faith, humility, and strength it took to make it.

St. Peter wishing Jesus would finally lower the boom...

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?"

I remember the first time I read these words by St. Peter. I thought, Hmm. I wonder who ticked him off?

I suspect he was looking for Jesus to respond by saying, "Seven times is more than enough, Peter. Look, you gave the person seven opportunities to make things right and if they're STILL screwing it up, then by golly you're justified in kicking them to the curb! That's it! They're outta here!"

But of course Jesus said no such thing. (Thank you, Lord!)  Here is what he said:

Then Peter came up and said to him, "Lord, how often shall my brother sin against me, and I forgive him? As many as seven times?" Jesus said to him, "I do not say to you seven times, but seventy times seven.  (St. Matthew 18:21-22, RSV)

For those keeping score (and boy, how we love to do that), that's 490 times. That would be a notebook's worth of forgiveness-keeping, which even the most dutiful and detail-oriented person would probably tire of after the 50th entry.

Jesus then went on to share The Parable of the Unforgiving Servant. (St. Matthew 18:23-35) In a nutshell, a servant was shown mercy by a king. The servant owed the king ten thousand talents but was unable to pay it. When the king said the servant, his family, and all his possessions would need to be sold to settle his account, the servant begged for mercy. The king was moved and forgave the servant his debt.

Then the servant went along his merry way and did something that wasn't so smart. He found another servant who owed him a hundred denarii and demanded repayment.

Just to give you an idea of the difference between a talent and a denarius: A denarius was a Roman silver coin weighing about 4 grams, a day''s wages for a common laborer or soldier. A talent, a unit of weight for gold or silver, typically weighed about 33kg (75 lb) varying from 20 to 40 kg.

How many denariis would it take to make 10,000 talents? 

88,831,168.83 (Source)

So this servant, who owed the king much, much more than what his fellow servant owed him, didn't seem to appreciate the irony. He threw his fellow servant in prison until he repaid his debt.

This didn't sit too well with the other servants. They high-tailed it back to the king and and spilled the beans. Their master was none too pleased.

His response?

Then his lord summoned him and said to him, 'You wicked servant! I forgave you all that debt because you besought me; and should not you have had mercy on your fellow servant, as I had mercy on you?'

Jesus wrapped up the parable by saying this:

So also my heavenly Father will do to every one of you, if you do not forgive your brother from your heart." (St. Matthew 18:32-35, RSV)

We are reminded of the requirement to forgive every time we pray The Lord's Prayer:

"... and forgive us our debts, as we also have forgiven our debtors..." (St. Matthew 6:12, RSV)

Gratitude for a new attitude

This is why I need to forgive Mark Shea. As much as I found his online behavior repellant and divisive, he has repented and asked for forgiveness. Even if he hadn't asked for forgiveness, I was still required to forgive him if offended.

But now that he has taken the bold step in being transparent with his soul, I am especially called to forgive him, no holds barred and with no fine print attached.

I don't involve myself with online arguments because to be honest, I don't see much spiritual fruit borne from it. I don't consider this intellectual cowardice but a desire to shift the focus away from my intellect and instead, toward God. What more could I add to the conversation when we're speaking of the divine act of our heavenly Father bestowing an unfathomable act of mercy upon me, allowing His perfect and holy Son, Jesus Christ to die for my sins?

Yes, I love to think. Yes, I love to ask the deep questions. But when it comes to my behavior toward my brothers and sisters in Christ, I'd rather find the common ground than the uncommon. This is the Year of Faith. For me, I know my time is better spent living a life of faith rather than telling someone else how to live theirs. This isn't easy, I know. I've already done quite a bit of the latter with this very post.

But the bottom line is this: when a fellow brother or sister in Christ asks for forgiveness, we give it -- fully, abundantly, and with great gladness of the heart.

It's much better than throwing someone in prison.

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

This Is How All Will Know That You Are My Disciples

My children, I will be with you only a little while longer. I give you a new commandment: love one another. As I have loved you, so you also should love one another. This is how all will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another. - St. John 13:33-35

Sometimes, I feel older than my years.

I just read an interesting post from St. Louis Catholic that I found troubling. ("The World, The Flesh, and the Devil Have Nothing To Fear")

I have always loved God and His Son, Jesus Christ. There has never been a day in my life when I have not believed wholeheartedly in their complete holiness, their immeasurable love, and their compassion for us fallen men and women.

I remember the first time I experienced betrayal within a church. I was so naive that I truly believed that if another person expressed their faith in God and His Son, then we'd just get along perfectly like peas and carrots.

Suffice it to say, I discovered otherwise.

At heart, I am a lover. A peace-maker. I would much rather state "let's agree to disagree, agreeably" than throw flaming arrows of "I'm-right-and-you're-oh-so-wrong" at my fellow brothers and sisters. It saddens me when I see hard, vicious words being thrown toward those who for all intents and purposes, are part of the family.

But, since the theme of this blog is confessions, I'll reveal yet another one about me.

In the fleshiest part of my being, I am a fighter.

Just ask my husband, who at times had to calm me down because of some development that was just... well... wrong. And I wanted to make it right. Whenever I see injustice, or bullying, or people trying to control others, I go sort of ballistic. So I'm not a complete pussycat.

But when it comes to the Church, when it comes to this glorious Body of Christ that is to be considered the Bride of Christ, a gift... and to see her strip down to her skivvies and land on the mat with a sneer and her gloves itching to fly, I know we've gone way off the rails.

For those who are still scratching their heads, I'll lay it out more clearly.

Jesus Christ said that the way people would know we are His disciples is by how we love one another.

Not how we love sinners.

Not how we love the Magisterium.

Not how we love Vatican II.

And not even how we love the Pope.

It's how we love one another. 

In all of our ugliness, our sinfulness, our idiosyncrasies that often can drive one another nuts... it is that "fleshiness" we are called to love.

This includes those who are "cafeteria Catholics." Pro-choice Catholics. Catholics who think a woman should be a priest. Catholics who believe same-sex marriage is no big deal. It also includes Catholic converts who now are selling a bunch of books about Catholicism. Catholics who poke fun at other Catholics. Catholics who think their brand of Catholicism is better than someone else's.

There is the word "catholic" (lower "c") which comes from the Latin word catholicus, meaning "universal."  And then there is Catholic with a big "C." The first time Catholic was used was found in a letter from St. Ignatius of Antioch to the Christians in Smyrna.

He wrote: "Wherever the bishop shall appear, there let the multitude [of the people] also be; even as, wherever Jesus Christ is, there is the Catholic Church." (Ignatius Epistle to the Smyrnaeans)

The Greek word for Catholic is katholou, meaning "entirely, in general, on the whole."

What I get from that is this: unity.

Do you remember the movie Independence Day? If not, it's about how aliens are attacking earth. In one of the most well-loved film moments, Bill Pullman's "President Thomas Whitmore" makes a speech that could very well be applied to our own current times:

The President: Good morning. In less than an hour, aircraft from here will join others from around the world. And you will be launching the largest aerial battle in this history of mankind.

Mankind -- that word should have new meaning for all of us today.

We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore.

We will be united in our common interests.

Perhaps its fate that today is the 4th of July, and you will once again be fighting for our freedom, not from tyranny, oppression, or persecution -- but from annihilation.

We're fighting for our right to live, to exist.

And should we win the day, the 4th of July will no longer be known as an American holiday, but as the day when the world declared in one voice:

"We will not go quietly into the night!
We will not vanish without a fight!
We're going to live on!
We're going to survive!"

Today, we celebrate our Independence Day!

I feel the exact same emotions but for our beloved Church and for one another.

We are fighting the fiercest battle that we've ever seen in an attempt to control humankind. I do not think I am being an alarmist when I say such things. The attempt to control every aspect of our lives is at the heart of an evil plan to destroy the Church, destroy the family unit, destroy freedom, and destroy all that has brought any speck of good into this fallen world.

Finally, my brethren, be strong in the Lord and in the power of His might. Put on the whole armor of God, that you may be able to stand against the wiles of the devil. For we don not wrestle against flesh and blood, but against principalities, against powers, against the rulers of the darkness of this age, against spiritual hosts of wickedness in the heavenly places. Therefore take up the whole armor of God, that you may be able to withstand in the evil day, and having done all, to stand. - Ephesians 6:10-13

In my mind, I can hear the above speech like this:

We can't be consumed by our petty differences anymore. 

We will be united in our faith. 

You will once again be fighting for our freedom, not just from tyranny, oppression, or persecution -- but from annihilation. 

We're fighting for our right to live, to exist. 

And should we win the day, the Church will not be known by its factions, but as the true catholic Church when it declared in one voice: 

"We will not go quietly into the night! 
We will not vanish without a fight! 
We're going to live on! 
We're going to survive!" 

Today, we celebrate God, His Son, Jesus Christ, the Holy Spirit... and His Church, which the gates of hell shall not prevail against!

Pray for the unity of the Church. And yes, pray for our spiritual leaders. As the world grows louder and more violent in its hatred of Christianity, it is time now to gird up our loins. To pray. To put on the armor of God. To love one another in spite of our differences.

And after having done all, to stand. Because we either will stand together or fall alone. Let's choose together.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Book Review: The Church Building As A Sacred Place

"How can we recover the sense of the sacred in our temples and shrines? We seem to have lost the ability to make new buildings which exude that ineffable sense of the 'sacred' which can be rightly called the presence of the Almighty. Why is it that few of our churches built in recent decades intimate that the church building itself and the celebrations taking place within it are sacred?"
- From the book, The Church Building As A Sacred Place: Beauty, Transcendence, and the Eternal, by Duncan G. Stroik

I was privileged to be given this book for a review. The day I received it, I gasped at its large size, breathing in the lovely scent of thick, quality paper while feasting upon the rich, vibrant images of stunning cathedrals and churches from all over the world.

This is my kind of book.

Not only is the book itself a delight to hold and read, the content itself is (as I shared with Thomas M. Dietz, who contacted me) "right up my alley."

I cannot fully express how starved my soul was during the years I spent attending non-denominational churches. How hungry I was for the visual cues that would direct me toward the sacred, that would remind me of the beauty and grandiosity of our Creator, His Son, and the Holy Spirit.

During those years away from the Catholic Church, all I had to look at were the bare, cream-colored walls of a multi-purpose room which had a stage set up for the worship team.

When I was part of the Vineyard Christian Fellowship in Cincinnati, Ohio, I co-led an artists group. We received permission to have an installation, featuring the art work of our members. I remember working away with Ben (not his real name), the other leader as we gently hung the paintings and framed photographs. Ben was into "found object" art and had created a special piece that was displayed outside the building. He had strung together a collection of found objects that were carefully hung from the roofline, dangling a bit like a large strand of Christmas lights.

Ben's installation was about reminding us that we were all "found objects" God had pulled from the trash but He joined us together to make something beautiful. I was oddly touched as I would gaze up at Ben's work, realizing that no matter how broken or ugly I felt, I was still loved by God and deemed worthy of the saving power of His Son, Jesus Christ.

However, we were asked to take down the art after three weeks. And then it was back to bare walls. The same happened with another church I attended. Artists would be appreciated for a few weeks but then the request would come in to remove the art and "get back to normal."

The problem is, as Stroik so eloquently describes, a lack of understanding what the sacred is and how important it is to preserve it.

An appreciation and investment in the sacred was demonstrated by my ancestors. In Cincinnati, Ohio, there is a beautiful Catholic church called Old St. Mary's. My parents were married there. When Old St. Mary's was being built, the many immigrants who settled in Over-the-Rhine at that time would take the bricks home and bake them in their own ovens. There was a pride in knowing that they were literally part of building the church.

When I attend Mass at Old St. Mary's, I am reminded of the hard work and sacrifice that went into erecting such a building to the glory of God. For those who so invested themselves, I am deeply grateful and respect them for their contribution. Stroik's book examines the history of sacred buildings and sends out a call to return to such an investment once again.

The book is divided into four parts: The Church as a Sacred Place: Principles of Church Design, Church Architecture Today, From Bauhaus to God's House: Modernism and Modernity, and Renaissance and Revival.

Within each section are chapters devoted to such topics as: the altar as the center of the Church, the purpose of a church, myths of contemporary sacred architecture, and even advice to pastors and laity who are planning to build or renovate a church building.

Some of my favorite sections nailed our culture's deteriorating interest in producing beautiful buildings. From Part II, Church Architecture, Chapter 7: Spontaneous Shrines and Temporary Churches:
Interestingly, while most people can appreciate historic art and architecture of high quality, they do not expect much from contemporary buildings -- perhaps because we think that modern buildings are unique in history, since they are functional, built on a budget and express our age. Thus, we have gotten used to the buildings we visit on Sundays and Wednesday nights being not unlike doctors' offices and shopping malls on the outside, while on the inside they are not even that nice. It seems our priorities have changed.


Stroik goes on to say that many Christians live in homes that are quite beautiful, filled with lots of images and having "transcendent" great rooms, and yet their churches are the opposite of their homes.

He the asks, "Why is it that many of us would not spend money on a beautiful well-built church but would be happy to live in a mansion?"

It is a profound question, one that would likely make most Christians uncomfortable if they really thought long and hard about it.

The book is filled with such observations and pondering. Page after page shows visually stunning cathedrals, both the exterior and interior, alongside the barren and at times brutal images of what I'd call the hideous modern church buildings. How walking into a church that resembles a grim prison cell is more preferable than one that resembles a sacred place of worship, is beyond me. But some committee voted for it.

And since I came out of the "mega-church," I especially appreciated Stroik's thoughts on it. (Part IV Renaissance and Renewal, Chapter 15: Can We Afford Not to Build Beautiful Churches?). He calls such buildings that house mega-churches, "un-architecture."

Following the design principles of the sports coliseum, shopping mall, or office part, it is dropped down in the middle of a large piece of land convenient to major highways and surrounded by a large sheet of asphalt. It is the "media church," the here and now, in which the ultimate architectural philistinism has triumphed. The transience of the American population, the preeminence of the parking lot, and the short term life of an institution build around an individual preacher or a contemporary psychology results in a building that needs to be big, cheap, and built fast.

Wow. Did he nail it, or what?

I think that for many of the younger people who attend my local Traditional Latin Mass, they instinctively recognize how such buildings come up short when it pertains to being transported into a higher realm for worshipping our God.

I spoke to another architectural friend at length years ago as he explained the spiritual significance of  our Catholic parish's building. My eyes grew wide as he revealed the significance of the doorways, the way the pews were arranged, the steps leading up to the altar and how it correlated to the relationship to the Christian,  Jew, and Gentile when we have a Solemn High Mass; and how the altar represented Christ. He said, in essence, that the building itself was to be a place where heaven and earth met. And... it is to be a place where mystery exists alongside faith.

When he said that, the image of all the ugly mega-churches and ghastly modern church buildings flashed before my eyes. I thought about our own parish, which is a traditional Catholic church building with stained glass windows and a beautiful altar with soaring spires and statues of Jesus, Moses, and Abraham within it.

I thought about how I relished entering into that building, knowing there was a clear line of demarcation from the world and I was now on holy ground. Personally, I believe we all need such a sacred place, a place where we go to meet our God and remember the sacrifice of His Son, Jesus Christ. To me, these types of meditations are not easily had when one sits inside a box. But when I'm surrounded by inspired architecture, I am humbled and realize how much we need such buildings.

This lovely book has much to offer, not only to the architectural world, but for Christians who yearn to discover once again sacred places that transport them with their beauty into a realm where the eternal and divine meet. Within such buildings, we are transformed and reminded of the unchanging nature of God, and our relationship with Him.

The book can be purchased from Liturgy Training Publications. I highly recommend it. Also, it would make a beautiful gift for anyone who loves Catholic church architecture and enjoys the philosophical examination of it. Whoever is blessed to receive such a gift, will be grateful.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

"Everyone Who Belongs to the Truth Listens to My Voice"

Today's Gospel reading at Mass was another personal love letter to me from God.

Not many people would look at these verses as a love letter, especially given the fact that Jesus Christ is facing Pontius Pilate and trying to speak truth to him. In fact the Truth was standing right before Pilate and he was blind to it.

From John 18:33b-37

Pilate said to Jesus, "Are you the King of the Jews?" Jesus answered, "Do you say this on your own or have others told you about me?" Pilate answered, "I am not a Jew, am I? Your own nation and the chief priests handed you over to me. What have you done?" Jesus answered, "My kingdom does not belong to this world. If my kingdom did belong to this world, my attendants would be fighting to keep me from being handed over to the Jews. But as it is, my kingdom is not here." So Pilate said to him, "Then you are a king?" Jesus answered, "You say I am a king. For this I was born and for this I came into the world, to testify to the truth. Everyone who belongs to the truth listens to my voice."

The reason it is a love letter is because it reminds me that the Kingdom of God is not of this world and I really need to be reminded of that right now. I have been going through a lot of soul-searching regarding how much focus I've put on politics and the dawning realization that I fell into a belief that "a man" could change things.

Well, we do have a Man who did change things. He was born of a virgin and came to save the world from sin. He conquered sin and death to give us eternal life. He reigns with goodness, love, compassion, and justice. As such, He is the rightful King of our souls.

Today we celebrate the Solemnity of Christ the King. He is the ruler of a heavenly kingdom, and as followers of Him, we know that we will never feel as though this world is our home. The Truth lives here, but ultimately His home is in heaven and God willing, that is where we also will be someday.

Sunday, November 11, 2012

Where Does My Help Come From?

A Song of Ascents. I will lift up my eyes to the mountains; From where shall my help come? - Ps. 121:1 (RSV)

I, like many other Americans, have been doing a lot of soul-searching over the past few days. After a crushing defeat at the polls for Governor Romney and Congressman Paul Ryan, those of us who were looking to them as "the last stand" of sorts, were bitterly disappointed.

We thought things would turn out so differently. We thought that the large crowds at the Romney/Ryan rallies would prove to win the day on November 6. But for reasons that are a mystery to us, things did not turn out the way we planned.

I also was very disappointed in an overwhelming percentage of Catholic Hispanics who voted to re-elect President Obama. (Breitbart News, "Latino Catholics: Immigration, Not Religion Decided Vote") It is almost unfathomable to me that any Catholic could vote for Obama, especially after the heavy-handedness in requiring religious employers to pay for contraception in their health insurance. But they did.

However, all of this is, for the  most part, buckets of tears under the bridge.

We must now focus on what lies before us.

Today, as I drove to Mass, I was in prayer. All week I have been petitioning God for many things, mostly for the grace to accept His will. I believe with all my heart that if God wanted Mitt Romney to have become our president, it would have happened. So I am left to ponder the possible answers as to "why?"

I never wanted to live in an age where I could possibly be persecuted for my faith. I, like many of you, have enjoyed the freedoms this country has given to us, freedom that I don't take for granted. Today, Veteran's Day, I especially am reminded of all the brave men and women who have fought and died to preserve such freedom. But, perhaps we have taken our freedom for granted. Perhaps it is, as Thomas Jefferson said, "time to refresh the tree of liberty."

His quote often appears in patriotic blogs and articles, but I will give context to his quote, and the fuller text.

Thomas Jefferson had just receive the latest copy of the U.S. Constitution. He liked some of it. He didn't like other parts of it. From this letter, it sounded as though he wasn't keen on keeping a President in office for four years, but at least it wasn't for life.

What is interesting is his view that rebellion is a necessary thing in order to preserve freedom. I highlighted the most commonly quoted portion of this letter.
"I do not know whether it is to yourself or Mr. Adams I am to give my thanks for the copy of the new constitution. I beg leave through you to place them where due. It will be yet three weeks before I shall receive them from America. There are very good articles in it: and very bad. I do not know which preponderate. What we have lately read in the history of Holland, in the chapter on the Stadtholder, would have sufficed to set me against a Chief magistrate eligible for a long duration, if I had ever been disposed towards one: and what we have always read of the elections of Polish kings should have forever excluded the idea of one continuable for life. Wonderful is the effect of impudent and persevering lying. The British ministry have so long hired their gazetteers to repeat and model into every form lies about our being in anarchy, that the world has at length believed them, the English nation has believed them, the ministers themselves have come to believe them, and what is more wonderful, we have believed them ourselves. Yet where does this anarchy exist? Where did it ever exist, except in the single instance of Massachusets? And can history produce an instance of a rebellion so honourably conducted? I say nothing of it's motives. They were founded in ignorance, not wickedness. God forbid we should ever be 20. years without such a rebellion.[1] The people can not be all, and always, well informed. The part which is wrong will be discontented in proportion to the importance of the facts they misconceive. If they remain quiet under such misconceptions it is a lethargy, the forerunner of death to the public liberty. We have had 13. states independant 11. years. There has been one rebellion. That comes to one rebellion in a century and a half for each state. What country ever existed a century and a half without a rebellion? And what country can preserve it's liberties if their rulers are not warned from time to time that their people preserve the spirit of resistance? Let them take arms. The remedy is to set them right as to facts, pardon and pacify them. What signify a few lives lost in a century or two? The tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants. It is it's natural manure. Our Convention has been too much impressed by the insurrection of Massachusets: and in the spur of the moment they are setting up a kite to keep the hen yard in order. I hope in god this article will be rectified before the new constitution is accepted." - Thomas Jefferson to William Stephens Smith, Paris, 13 Nov. 1787[2] (Source)

The day after the election, Glenn Beck said this:

"[God's] work and his glory is not for a presidential election. It’s for the salvation of all mankind. And that requires freedom. So his agenda is freedom, and we have esteemed it too lightly." (Source)

I thought that was a profound statement. God is still God. He's in charge, not us, and maybe we needed the results of this election to reminds us of that truth. I know I've already changed since Tuesday, November 6, 2012. I am reminded that ultimately, my security comes from God, not from any government. And those who know me would tell you I never depended upon the government anyway, but I did want to see an end to cultural relativism or at least a slight pressure on the brakes.

Alas, it looks like we're about to head over more than a fiscal cliff at breakneck speed. However, I do not think this needs to happen without Christians sounding the alarm. We still need to speak out against the culture of death. We still need to bear witness to the saving power of Jesus Christ and preach the Good News. No matter how dark the days may become, we cannot allow them to extinguish the light of hope that lives within us. In fact (and I know you're gritting your teeth as you realize what I'm about to say...), it was during the dark days of persecution that the Church grew in strength.

I have been convicted today to pray for our President and his administration much more often than I ever did. (which was next to "never.") I confess I have been filled with anger and resentment more than peace and love. I have been convicted by the Holy Spirit that this is not the way I am to conduct myself. I am to pray and trust in God. Much easier said than done, but that is what I am called to do.

I will close with the rest of Psalm 121, for it is a beautiful reminder of where our help comes from— not from any government, but from our Divine Creator, who knows all things and can do anything. I pray you also find peace through His grace.

My help comes from the LORD, who made heaven and earth. He will not let your foot be moved, he who keeps you will not slumber. Behold, he who keeps Israel will neither slumber nor sleep. The LORD is your keeper; the LORD is your shade on your right hand. The sun shall not smite you by day, nor the moon by night. The LORD will keep you from all evil; he will keep your life. The LORD will keep your going out and your coming in from this time forth and for evermore. 
- Ps. 121:2-8 (RSV)

Tuesday, September 4, 2012

Catholics and Fame

This blog post most likely won't win me any popularity awards. But I've been observing something over the past four years that has puzzled me and I finally decided to write about it.

I remember when I used to attend non-denominational Christian conferences and met all the various people who had "ministries." Because I had a position of influence within a global ministry, I was often handed their business cards, subtly and at times overtly, being asked if there was any need for their ministry.

I worked within a ministry school, and for many of the students, the pinnacle of "success" was to have one's own ministry, traveling across the country to preach at a church and then dashing off to speak at some large Christian conference. It all left a bad taste in my mouth. Somehow, I suspected that this was not what Jesus had in mind when He said to go out into all the world and preach the gospel.

With the eager conference attendees who were promoting their ministries, there simply seemed to be too much ego involved. It was all about them. The ministries often featured their name, along with some type of Christian imagery like a lion, a flame of fire, or a dove. "Empowering" was a popular description.

Even when I was heavily involved with those non-denominational churches, I would frequently think back to my "Catholic days" and remember how low-key Catholics usually were when it came to serving others. There weren't obvious "ministries" because most Catholics just shouldered whatever service came their way without much fanfare. The work just needed to be done and they did it. Case closed.

Fast forward to today and my goodness, how things have changed.

I know the Internet has played a major part in this change. On one hand, I am thrilled to see Catholics involved with online Bible study and catechesis. But the dark side of the Internet is that it has elevated the desire of some to be famous. "Elevated" may still not be the word I'm searching for, but I do know that I've seen more Catholics online over the past few years seek recognition and fame. And to what purpose? Are we really reaching out to the lost with such pursuits? Or is it all an ego-stroke-fest that proves how clever we are?

I haven't spoken of this before because I know my words could be construed as an unfair judgement. After all, don't I have this blog and am I not enjoying the same exposure as the Catholics who seem bent on getting a book deal? Fair enough. I am, but will add a caveat: I have deliberately chosen not to pursue recognition. I had several occasions over the past three years where I met famous and influential Catholics. These were people who have a presence in the media. Although it was at first tempting to leverage those connections, something held me back.

Granted, at the time I yearned to share my story so other lapsed Catholics would consider returning home. But since I had already seen the "other side" of getting a wider audience to hear my message, I was convinced. That path may be for others but it is not for me.

I don't say such things lightly. In fact, this may be one of the most honest "confessions" I've shared. It is really tempting to spout out thoughts and ideas, to have people agree with you, and then start to follow you. It is tempting to encourage such admiration, turning it into a validation of my worth instead of looking to my heavenly Father, His Son, Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit for how much I am loved.

It is tempting to think that just because I have a large following (which I really don't, but for argument's sake, let's say I had thousands and thousands...), then I'm right about everything I say.

Tempting, but wrong, and oh so dangerous for my soul.

When I returned to the Catholic Church, one website totally blew me away. It is Audio Sancto. I've mentioned it before, but will again restate my first impression of this beautiful website. I was shocked that such solid, delicious, "meat" was being served up online for FREE and without attribution.

If you've never been a member of a Protestant church, you have no idea how radical that is.

Any preacher or teacher worth their salt in a Protestant church would have been slapping a label on a CD containing such teachings and selling them as a boxed set in a New York minute. They would not be free. Some churches today are now charging "membership fees" for a person to listen to an audio interview or watch it on video.

This is completely shameful to me and reflects very poorly on the Church.

We are not to profit from the Gospel's message. It should never be seen as a way to make a living. (Except those whose vocation is Holy Orders.) Even St. Paul was a tent-maker and when he received money, it happened because he had let others know of his needs and the Church responded with love and generosity. He never sold his letters to others or any type of miracle. To do so would be to relegate our sacred beliefs to nothing more than an infomercial.

This steals the life from the transformative message of the Gospel. And speaking of life, there have been contentious debates from some Catholic blogs that have drained the life from the Church. Seeds of disunity have been sown and at a time when we cannot afford such division.

I feel like I have to add another caveat of "no I'm not perfect." It is rather silly to think that every time a brother or sister observes something in the Church that concerns them, they're immediately taken to task by some self-appointed holier-than-thou sort who tells them to sit down and shut up. Don't be judgmental. Take out the log in your own eye. How dare you speak out?

Well, I do dare. I have asked God for His grace more times than I can count. But I also realize that we need to be careful when it comes to jumping on the "fame" bandwagon. Getting contracts, our own book, or a TV or radio show may be a great thing if approached with humility and an attitude of service.

But when such developments cause one to become more egotistical, more contentious, and more divisive, it is time to step back and ask a hard question. Whom do you serve?

Asked and answered honestly might be the best thing we've ever done with our lives.

(P.S. The fact that I've not finished the book I intended to write for lapsed Catholics is a direct result of my inner conflict regarding this topic.)

Monday, June 4, 2012

The War on the Word "Religion"

A few days ago, I attended a family event. As I chatted with my nephew, I noticed he was wearing a t-shirt that simply said: Relationship Not Religion.


I've written before about why this bothers me. But it continues to bother me, primarily because I think the anti-religion tone is in essence, anti-Christianity. Now I know that sounds weird. Especially when you see Christians from non-denominational churches wearing such t-shirts or promoting videos like "Why I Hate Religion But Love Jesus."

There is an assumption with this position that the two (religion and relationship) are mutually exclusive. It's as though these Christians believe religion prevents relationship with God, or at the very least, hinders a fuller, richer relationship with God through His Son Jesus Christ. Either a person believes in "religion" (the inference being that religion is dry, regimented, and lifeless), or "relationship," which is preferable and eminently superior to religion since "relationship" infers intimacy, dynamic growth, and mutually beneficial rewards.

Yesterday, as I kneeled during the liturgy in the Traditional Latin Mass, my eyes glanced over to a life-sized Cross with the body of Jesus outstretched upon it. Again, my thoughts turned toward that t-shirt's message and Jesus Christ's message. Suddenly, it dawned on me.

Religion defines our relationship with God. Obedience to religious practices strengthens our relationship with God.

Think about it.

Jesus Christ was a Jew. He was born to Jewish parents and was raised as a Jew, following the Judaic tradition of the Law, which was defined in Exodus and Leviticus. When Jesus walked this earth, He said this, in what I consider one of the scariest scripture verses (emphasis mine):

Not every one who says to me, 'Lord, Lord,' shall enter the kingdom of heaven, but he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. - Matt. 7:21(RSV)

What is the "will of my Father?"

The "will of my Father" was defined by Judaic law. If we go to the source, God made it clear to the Israelites how He wanted them to behave. He created standards, regulations, and laws for them to obey. That was considered doing the will of God.

So what has changed?

Many Christians believe that since Jesus Christ died on the cross, and rose again from the dead — that the grace that has been generously poured out upon us somehow releases us from the obligations of obeying God's precepts. So it doesn't matter so much if a person decides not to attend church because they "have a relationship" with God that they can nurture at home. This is as much a misunderstanding of the meaning of "grace" as it is the word "religion." Grace has been given to those who believe Jesus Christ is the Son of God who died for mankind's sins, but it does not remove the expectation from God to grow and mature as His sons and daughters in His Kingdom.

These expectations from God do not exist in a vacuum. We just celebrated Pentecost and rejoice that indeed, we've been given a "Paraclete," an advocate who helps us attain holiness: The Holy Spirit. And what does the Holy Spirit do? Convicts us. Teaches us. He helps keep us on the straight path of righteousness.

And what does the Holy Spirit use to do this?

Hmmm. Could it be that He uses religion? A set of institutionalized attitudes, beliefs, and practices?

Jesus spoke quite a bit about obedience. When He said only those doing the will of his Father would enter into heaven, then I want to know exactly what "doing the will of my Father" means.

I believe that Jesus Christ's relationship with His Father was defined by His religion. How could it be otherwise?

The revelation I had yesterday was this: Jesus expressed His love to God by keeping His commandments. And He asked us to keep them, too. 

If you keep my commandments, you will abide in my love, just as I have kept my Father's commandments and abide in his love. - John 15:10 (RSV)

"If you love me, you will keep my commandments."- John 14:15

By this we know that we love the children of God, when we love God and obey his commandments. - 1 John 5:2   
For this is the love of God, that we keep his commandments. And his commandments are not burdensome. - 1 John 5:3

Religion is our committed response to having a relationship with God. The two are not mutually exclusive. In fact, religion is a strong foundation for allowing me to know God and love Him. By understanding and obeying His statutes, by implementing that understanding in my adherence to a set of beliefs and practices that are consistent (and have been since the birth of the Church), then I am secure in knowing I am on the right path toward heaven.

The Latin root word for religion is said to be "religio," which means reverence and respect. It is derived from the word "religare," which means to tie out of the way, to bind fast, to moor. That word is derived from the Latin word "ligare," which means to bind, to fasten.

All of which tells me that religion binds us to God. It grounds us. It give us the strong foundation we need so that we don't chase after every fleeting worldly philosophy.

When someone says "Relationship Not Religion," it sounds good but is ultimately at risk for selfishness. Religion demands something from us. To a certain extent, so does relationship but relationship without principles ends up serving no one other than desires of an individual.

"Relationship Not Religion" veers dangerously close to relativism. How?

The assessment for how well a relationship is working depends on what?


Some couples who marry switch out the "to death do us part" for "You will be mine as long as love remains." Who is the arbiter of that one? The one who is loved (as long as it remains) or the one doing the loving (as long as it remains)?

It's all relative. We've already seen this when some Christians actually say something along these lines: "What may be a sin for you is not a sin for me." And then that's followed usually by a discussion on what this person's relationship is with God and that it's unique and different... yada, yada, yada. There are no standards to uphold because it's all relative.

Well. I think I've vented enough. I may touch upon this topic again, though, because I've seen it too many times. I think it is a dangerous belief and, not aligned with what we know of God. Of course God created man for relationship — first with Him and then with others. But to say that relationship is diametrically opposed to religion is wrong.

If Jesus honored religion by abiding by its practices, how can we not do the same?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

What I Love About Catholicism: The Maturity Model

Since returning to the Catholic Church, I often think about the differences between the Catholic Church and other churches. One of the differences (at least in my mind) is the mature faith the Catholic Church builds into her children.

The road toward adulthood from childhood is marked by milestones: the transition between believing in fairy tales and realizing they're not reality, becoming a teenager, our sixteenth birthday and learning how to drive, our first job, and so on.

Everyone remembers these milestones. Some are common in our culture such as celebrating a "sweet sixteen" birthday party or graduation. Other milestones may be rather ordinary to most people but important to that individual. I remember the first time I was in a sit-down restaurant with a friend (and not with my family), I felt like I had entered into another room of "adulthood."

Catholicism has many of these milestones. (I realize other denominations, such as the Lutheran church, have their milestones, too and only proves my point.) Milestones mark a journey and often define a pathway toward a destination.

Looking back on my time within the non-denominational church, I can see there were no such milestones and as a result, few ways to measure progress. Let's say you joined a non-denominational church. Apart from the annual appeal to give toward a new fund or the annual church picnic, what else is there? For the children, what "markers" help them understand that they are to spiritually develop from a child to an adult?

There aren't many.

I've mentioned before how the liturgical season imprints upon us the timeless truths of our Christian faith. I'd also say the Sacraments of the Church do the same thing, accompanied by the catechism, sacramentals, the study of our Church's history, and all the various extra Catholic groups associate with the Church.

What I'm trying to say is that with each of those expressions of our faith, there is a pathway toward maturity. Maturity happens when one is entrusted with responsibility and can fulfill its expectations. It is a process. Maturity is an interior journey.

Although non-denominational churches give responsibility to emerging leaders, the interior development is often missed. Many times, I saw responsibility given to someone simply because they just happened to be in the "right place" at the "right time." I've also seen responsibility given to those who were too immature in their faith to handle it well. As a result, they were the equivalent of an insecure teenager being put in charge of roomful of college students. The Goodyear Blimp had nothing on the size of their heads.

I am so thankful I was raised Catholic. There is a humility instilled in Catholicism that can often be overlooked by those unfamiliar with its doctrine and traditions. I now realize that it was the beautiful rhythm and milestones that helped shape me into a responsible, thinking adult.

Being Catholic is a combination of many things: solid teaching, spiritual formation, understanding one's responsibilities, practicing love, compassion, and forgiveness; to name a few. It is through Baptism, First Communion, Confirmation, Confession, and discovering your vocation, that maturity in the faith occurs. My fellow Catholic brothers and sisters are among the most grounded and mature people I've ever met.

Adulthood seems to get pushed back with every generation. When I watch movies that were made in the 1930's, I'm amazed how "old" a twenty-one year old acts. Compare this to the typical twenty-one year old who is still living at home today and playing video games. I've read that "adulthood" doesn't really happen now until one is in their thirties.

Thankfully, the Catholic Church continues to produce mature believers. I am grateful for such wise instruction and committed support. We really do have the best spiritual parents, around.

Sunday, May 13, 2012

National Offend a Feminist Week! Sunday: Happy Mother's Day!

Thanks to Robert Stacy McCain, we're having big fun with "National Offend a Feminist Week!"

Today is the last day of this week's festivities. I really wasn't sure if I was going to be able to post something original for seven straight days, but then said, "What am I thinking? We're talking feminism, here! Of course there's enough material out there! In fact, probably more than enough!"

I was right. I learned more about feminism and especially the link between Marxism and feminism. I think it's sad how these women allowed anger and bitterness to overcome their lives. I think it's doubly tragic that instead of getting the deep psycho-analysis they need, they instead try to brainwash other women to swallow the insanity. Trust me. Hating on men and conservative women isn't healthy or normal.

My previous entries:

Monday: My History With Feminism
Tuesday: Someone Got To Me Before the Feminists
Wednesday: Where Are the Men?
Thursday: Women Want to Get Married
Friday: I Happily Took My Husband's Name
Saturday: I Gladly Submit to My Husband


Happy Mother's Day!

This will be more of a short and sweet post.

Mothers hold our lives together. They meticulously weave their love around us, watching over us, comforting us when we skin our knees, encouraging us when we've had a bad day, challenging us to not give up, and celebrate our victories.

I really miss my mom.

Even though she's been gone for five years, her influence in my life is indelibly printed upon my heart and mind. I am extremely blessed to have had one of the most loving moms around. She taught me how to read. She taught me how to cook. She taught me how to love.

Mothers and daughters share a special bond. A daughter looks up to her mother as a model for how to behave. My mom was a great model.

She instructed me how to look my best. She stressed the importance of presentation, knowing that often people will judge you quickly by the way you look. I remember learning about make-up from her, still applying my own make-up the way she did hers.

My mother was feminine. She delighted in feminine things like pretty perfume bottles, handbags and shoes, jewelry, and of course, her weekly visit to the hair salon. I'll never forget how my father would argue about such a necessity but she stood her ground. Looking back, I can see that was one of the rare times she was able to simply sit and let someone else do something for her without feeling obligated to return the favor.

My mother was no shrinking violet. She had her own strength and wasn't afraid to speak her mind. She didn't crumple when difficulties came but instead met them head-on. Even when my father was traveling for business (and she was pretty much a single mom during most of the week), she expertly directed my brother and I toward our responsibilities. I never felt as though our discipline was "on vacation" during those times. There was a certain way she expected us to behave and if we didn't, we'd get into trouble.

When I think of how mothers affect the world, I think of how they first influence their children. Mothers are the primary caretakers of their little ones, no matter how much "life balance" attempts are made between a husband and wife. It is the mothers who first train their children, beginning with potty training and tapering off with showing her college son how to properly load a washing machine.

Mothers' prepare us for life. Real life. Not with a bunch of theory but with practical applications. They also teach us to think and care about others. They teach us to share and play nice with others. They teach us to not lose our temper but to give ourselves time to work through a knotty problem.

When you think of all the positive ways a mother influences her children — and then how that child grows into a responsible adult and influence the world, you can see why some feminists seek to destroy the nuclear family, why they insist the government can do a better job of raising a child than a mother. Who are they kidding? The government has a tough time as it is responding to national disasters, even with plans drafted by a battalion of experts.

Those of us who have loving mothers understand the power of multi-tasking while still somehow providing a hot dinner or getting us to school on time. A mother is a combination of doctor, judge, cook, cleaner, counselor, and oracle (to name a few).

Thank God for mothers. I really don't know what we'd do without them.

If you still have your mom around, give her a kiss and a hug from me and thank her for raising a kid who didn't turn out too badly, after all. Maybe she'll give you that last piece of pie.

Saturday, May 12, 2012

National Offend a Feminist Week! Saturday: I Gladly Submit to My Husband

Thanks to Robert Stacy McCain, we're having big fun with "National Offend a Feminist Week!" Today's post is really going to drive feminists nuts.

My previous entries:

Monday: My History With Feminism
Tuesday: Someone Got To Me Before the Feminists
Wednesday: Where Are the Men?
Thursday: Women Want to Get Married
Friday: I Happily Took My Husband's Name


Today's post is a doozy.

I'm going to go where few women travel. In fact, this is an area where few Christian women would travel because it's so controversial.

But, hey — what do I care, right? Controversy is what makes the world go 'round. Besides, it's a topic Christian women need to understand before having a knee-jerk reaction to it.

I am speaking of submission.

And boy howdy, talk about a bundle of dynamite for feminists.

Submission is a concept that immediately brings to their mind a caveman dragging his woman by the hair back into his cave, where he'll force her to scrub the walls and cook his brontosaurus medium well-done. And then after she's spent, he'll demand sex where he won't care if she enjoys it or not.

The trouble with that picture is that it gives a false image of submission. Plus the fact that it assumes the man is the instigator of submission. Actually, it is the choice of a woman, not the dictate of a man.

You can't "make" someone submit to you. If you do, it's called bullying and the other person has no choice. If done by force, it's coercion.

However, true submission is a sublime, beautiful gift that can only be understood through the prism of a relationship with God.

For Christian women, one of the key models of submission is the Blessed Virgin Mary. She was a young girl, unmarried, and suddenly called by God to carry into the world His Son. She was visited by an angel to soothe her fears and she responded with courage and faith with what is known as The Magnificat:
My soul doth magnify the Lord. And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour. Because he hath regarded the humility of his handmaid; for behold from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed. Because he that is mighty, hath done great things to me; and holy is his name. And his mercy is from generation unto generations, to them that fear him. He hath shewed might in his arm: he hath scattered the proud in the conceit of their heart. He hath put down the mighty from their seat, and hath exalted the humble. He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away. He hath received Israel his servant, being mindful of his mercy: As he spoke to our fathers, to Abraham and to his seed for ever. (Luke 1:46-55)

Humility is the predecessor of submission. It's tough to be proud and then submit to anything. Humility softens us and prepares us for those times when we're given the choice to either submit or not.

As I said before, submission is a gift. It is a gift to the one we submit to but also a gift to ourselves. The reason for this is because each time we make the choice to think of someone else's benefit instead of ours, we've walked in the same direction as Jesus Christ.

Some may think that submission in a marriage amounts to a husband telling his wife what to do and she does it. Although this may be true to a certain extent, I think of submission in much broader terms.

The Greek word for submission in the New Testament is hypotassō. The definition includes this: to yield to one's admonition and advice.

Some men unfortunately think submission is when a woman is simply to obey some command of theirs, without thought. These same men often use the scripture verses of Ephesians 5:22, 5:24, and Col. 3:18 as a justification for their own selfish desires. This is not what God intended when the word "submit" was used. In fact, in Ephesians 5:25, it says "Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her..." (emphasis mine)

This is a sacrificial love, a love that seeks to serve — not order someone about, according to one's whims. Yes, wives are to trust their husbands but their husbands are also reminded that they are to love their wives as Christ loved the church.

So what does submission look like?

Well, in my life, I am certainly a project in process. I am not a docile lady. At times, I can be downright cantankerous. However, I also seek to be pleasing to God. I'll give you a few examples of how I live out the calling of submission.

My husband recently bought a metal detector. He wanted to head out today to use it on a beach near a lake. I was still working on this post. He had to work overtime today and I knew when he'd come home, he'd most likely have metal-detecting on his mind. I was right.

Now, did I really want to go with him? Not particularly. However, it was a chance to enjoy the weather and spend some quality time with my husband. I chose to go and we had a fun time (Even if all we found were bits of aluminum foil, a young girl's hair barrette, and a piece of glass.).

Another example: I was asking for my husband's advice regarding a marketing question. I wanted to try one approach (which would have included driving to a store and asking people questions) but he thought it was better to set up an online poll. Although I saw the expediency of his idea, I still really wanted to do my idea. However, I viewed it as an opportunity to submit and I did. As it turned out, his way was just fine and I saved some gas.

Some might split hairs on these examples, thinking the first one wasn't really submission and the second one, just a tad more so than the first. To the naysayers, I'd simply shrug. The way I see it, submission is a personal journey for every woman and it's not going to look the same because not every woman has the same personality.

If a woman is meek and leans more toward people-pleasing behavior, then those two examples might not mean as much. But for someone like me, who usually believes that her way is the right way every time and after 39 years of being single, is used to doing whatever she wants, whenever she wants to do it — well, it's a big step in the right direction.

There have been times when I've held my tongue when debating things with my husband. Other times I've accepted what he's said without quarrel. And then there have been the few times when a decision has to be made and I've submitted to his choice.

All of these times have been opportunities to love my husband, respect him, and trust in God. These are not easy choices when we have a worldly ideology that tells women that it's just fine to do what we want without any consideration whatsoever toward our husbands. Not everything in my marriage has to be a battle and I am not in a war to win my position every time I come up against resistance.

Marriage has helped me grow because it's demanded I put aside my own selfishness. As I make the choices to submit in my own way, I feel a little less shackled by that selfishness and a little more freer to be God's channel of love toward my husband.

I don't expect feminists to understand this. They really can't. Feminism focuses so much on the individuality of the woman that there's no room to think of anyone else. And if you add to that a deep-seated resentment of men, then it makes it even more difficult.

Not everything has to be that difficult. Constant fighting and resistance expends a lot of creative energy that could be put to better use. Women are truly in the position of power within a marriage. Choose to fight a man every step of the way and life will be unpleasant, indeed.

But if a woman learns how to bend and yield on occasion, a marriage can be like heaven on earth.

Long ago, there was a controversial book written in the 60's, Fascinating Womanhood. Feminists hated it. The author, Helen Andelin, recommended to wives a bold strategy for "making their marriages a lifelong love affair": consider the feelings of their husbands.

She is very specific with her advice and millions (yes, millions) of women tested her theories and were surprised to find they worked! I highly recommend this book. It is full of wisdom. Many women were able to take a marriage that previously was on life support, and transformed it to a fully alive marriage once again. The advice is that solid.

Men and women are different. God created us that way and His commandments to the husband and wife are different because of our unique roles within His Kingdom. Something doesn't seem right when you see an extremely bossy woman and a meek, submissive man. There is something innate within a woman that knows a man is to have a certain level of assertiveness. And somehow women understand that men can only take so much bossiness before they've had it.

Submission is a delicate topic, and I'm afraid I've gone after it like a bull in a china closet. But I do hope for those who've read this far, who as soon as they heard the word "submission," shouted a hearty "Oh, hell no!..." at least will pray about it and be open to what God shows them.

You may be surprised. In fact, I know you will be. The fruits of this type of obedience to our Christian faith are numerous, and your life will hold a special kind of joy. The jadedness that has come with having to swim in this worldly muck will be removed and you'll find there is another way.

And, you'll find peace.

What's not to love?

Friday, May 11, 2012

National Offend a Feminist Week! Friday: I Happily Took My Husband's Name

Thanks to Robert Stacy McCain, we're having big fun with "National Offend a Feminist Week!" I almost forgot how fun it is to expose the evils of feminism.

Make sure to check out the trackbacks in the comment section. Other bloggers are also having a blast with NOFW.

My previous entries:

Monday: My History With Feminism
Tuesday: Someone Got To Me Before the Feminists
Wednesday: Where Are the Men?
Thursday: Women Want to Get Married


I love being married.

Not only do I feel fulfilled as a wife, my "personhood" (to use the parlance of feminism), has developed in a way that never could have happened as a single.

I have bloomed like a soft, pink rose...

(I know. I'm being ridiculously naughty.)

When I was single, I fought quite a bit with God. On one hand, I really did want to get married but on the other hand, I had to cope with the possibility that it wasn't God's will. I have been outside of God's will enough times to know that life is so much better within it. Laying our own desires before God, knowing that it could be a sacrifice and not a feast, is the one of the traits of our faith. Trust and obey.

Back in the 60's, feminists raged against marriage and they still do. Marlene Dixon, a feminist firebrand of those times, wanted to see the institution of marriage end. She said, "The institution of marriage is the chief vehicle for the perpetuation of the oppression of women; it is through the role of wife that the subjugation of women is maintained." (Wikipedia, but the link is broken in the reference area. However, I found more rainbows and lollipops from Dixon elsewhere, as seen below.)

Feminists hate marriage for a few reasons. First, they believe it subjugates a woman to the demands of her husband. Second, it's a contract that according to them, leaves women with the short end of the stick. (More housework, increased risk for domestic violence, isolation..) Third, it protects the nuclear family, which radical feminism seeks to destroy.

Did you know that marriage is linked to evil capitalism and subjugates woman by forcing her to reproduce all these little consumers to maintain "the system?" Now it becomes clearer why the Occupy Wall Street movement was hell-bent on harassing parents trying to take their little toddlers to school. (Note: the article I linked to with the "evil capitalism" sentence is a scary read. Not only does it rip into marriage and families, but it explains the insanely evil idea that population control is the only way to bring justice to a 'rotten' system.)

If you ever wanted to understand the link between Marxism and feminism, it is this: private property, according to Marx, was the foundation of the 'enslavement' of women. As long as a man held the deed to the house, a woman was bound to him. Marx found an eager audience with feminists by demonizing capitalism, claiming it oppressed women and forced them into an inescapable, unequal position within society.

Except now we live in an age where many women make more money than men. They buy their own property and can hardly be called "oppressed" by anyone.

For whatever reason, hard-core feminists can't see the forest for the trees.

Even as recently as 2009, when Elizabeth Gilbert, author of the best-seller Eat, Pray, Love, married (and then wrote a book about it: Committed: A Skeptic Makes Peace With Marriage), some feminists felt she betrayed them.

Seriously. Wall Street Journal writer, Charlotte Hays, was so disappointed with Gilbert's decision to wed, that she penned these words (emphasis mine):

Such women rarely remain single—even if they profess to be feminists. Noting that Gloria Steinem advised women that they "should strive to become like the men they always wanted to marry," Ms. Gilbert adds: "If I am to truly become an autonomous woman, then I must take over that role of being my own guardian." But, confronted with Felipe, who calls her "darling" and seems to Ms. Gilbert a character from a Graham Greene novel, she succumbs with only a token struggle.

Succumbs? Token struggle? How many heaving-bosum books has Hays read? The condescension and belittling of marriage is in full battle regalia.

Here's what God says about marriage:
Then the LORD God said, "It is not good that the man should be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him." - Genesis 2:18 (RSV)

The operative word there is alone.

Throughout all my years of studying scripture, I have been deeply touched by God's desire that we know we are not alone. From the very beginning, He made it clear that Adam was built for relationship. First, with his Creator, and then with woman. All of us, whether married or unmarried, are built for relationship.

This is why men and women gravitate toward one another and seek a lifelong commitment. This is why love is such a big deal. Because we want to have a loving relationship with someone that will last the rest of our life.

Radical feminism, which I believe comes straight from the pit of hell, will do anything it can to destroy a loving relationship. They'll call it "oppressive" and says it subjugates women. So what is a woman to do? Embrace an ideology that oppresses them even more and makes them miserable? It would seem so.

And they do this with a passion, believing somehow that robbing a woman of her desire to love a man, to give of herself freely to him as an declaration of her commitment —is somehow vindicated because after all, it keeps a woman from being "used."

Well, I've got news for all those self-appointed love-destoyer, emotional-Nazis: Back off. Women love men and they love being a man's wife. They love taking his last name as their own, not because they feel like they're being branded but because they're being protected.

And yes, there are still many women around who love that they have a husband who cares for them enough that they'll watch over them. It has absolutely nothing to do with "ownership" but everything to do with John 15:13:
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.

Love is what strengthens us and brings out the beauty in life. Love elevates us to a higher place and makes us a better person. Love for a spouse nourishes us and allows us to become conduits of God's grace and mercy. There is nothing like loving your spouse when all is well and especially when all is not. It is when love is tested that it shines the brightest. And like gold being purified by fire, so is a marriage's strength purified by trials and difficulties.

That is something that all the activist rallies in the world cannot, and will not bring. And it is why radical feminism will never build anything worth having.

Links of interest:

Ms. Magazine: Who Wants to Marry a Feminist?

Ask Amy: A reader asks about the feminist's view of marriage

The Dangerous Rise of Sexual Politics

Marxist Feminism

Thursday, May 10, 2012

National Offend a Feminist Week! Thursday: Women Want to Get Married

Thanks to Robert Stacy McCain, we're having big fun with "National Offend a Feminist Week!" I am thoroughly enjoying myself.

Make sure to check out the trackbacks in the comment section. Other bloggers are also having a blast with NOFW.

My previous entries:



So I mentioned before that I was a relationship coach for single women over 40 who were looking for love. I did this for a little over three years.

I made the distinction of saying "looking for love" as opposed to "wanting a husband" because after a few workshops, I found that some women didn't want to get married but did want companionship.

However, the majority of the women who attended my workshops (and those I coached), wanted to get married.

I started this type of coaching back in 2004 because I knew how challenging it was to be an older woman in the dating arena. I didn't marry until I was 39 and realized years earlier that the dating landscape had changed drastically.

When I was in my twenties, there were plenty of single people and lots of activities to keep me busy. However, toward my late twenties and early thirties, I realized that the pool of eligible single men had dwindled significantly, many of them finding wives during those years. I was heavily involved with ministry work and assumed I'd meet a nice, respectable man at church. Huge assumption and completely wrong. I'm not sure what the experience is with other Christian women, but I will say I never got a date through my church.

When I turned 35, I knew I had to do something different.

I began to check the weekly newspapers for interesting events or groups to join. I made an effort to be "out and about" after my workday instead of heading home and becoming a couch potato. I joined the YMCA and started to exercise more. Although most of my attempts to meet eligible men fell through, I was starting to feel pretty good about myself. I was eating more nutritional foods, exercising regularly, and socializing more than I had since my college days.

At that time, the singles events I found seemed to attract more of an "over 50" crowd than over 35. I remember walking into one singles dance and immediately saw a crowd of men and women in their fifties and sixties. I turned around and walked out.

The point is, I kept trying. Once you're past 35, you have to start getting creative to meet men. That means employing the assistance of friends and family. You may be surprised how many of them thought I was happy being single. I explained that although I was content, I still wanted to find a husband. I asked them to keep me in mind if they met any single men who were around my age. They agreed.

It wasn't until I moved back to my hometown that things started to happen. I joined an online writing community and met an interesting man. However, he lived in the state of Washington and I was in Ohio. I joined a cycling club and met more men.

Then I visited an online Christian chat room, although I viewed it as a harmless diversion just before I headed to bed. Lo and behold, that is how I met my husband.

We met through the chat room, exchanged email addresses, and then began a correspondence that lasted a little over one month before we finally decided to meet. I was already half-way in love with him but after we met, I knew for sure. We were married four months later. (And just celebrated our tenth anniversary last December, so we've endured!)

But back to "Offend a Feminist Week."

I wanted to give a little backstory to my own history regarding dating and being very clear with my friends and family that I wanted to get married.

It seems that many women are almost embarrassed to admit this — that they want to get married.

And as usual, I blame feminism for it.

When I was giving my workshop, "5 Ways to Find a Husband After 40," I was contacted by a local library. Would I be interested in joining their fall program by offering the workshop for them?  I said I'd be delighted.

A few weeks later, I received a phone call. The program director nervously told me that she had to "disinvite me."

"Oh?" I said. "May I ask why?"

"Well," she slowly said. "The board rejected the workshop."

I was surprised. They only had the title to reject since I didn't share the details of the presentation with anyone. It wasn't so much that it was a secret, it just was that no one asked for the content. I believe the title was pretty self-explanatory.

As it turned out, the director went on to say that in all the 10+ years she had organized the speakers, she had never had an issue with the board regarding any of them. I suspected something and decided to have a little fun.

"So, was it only one person who objected?" I asked. It was. A woman.

"Is this woman by chance, single?" The director answered yes. I asked if she happened to lean toward feminism.

The director at this point was chuckling. "Not only is she a feminist, but she's a lesbian. In her words, after I announced the title at the meeting, this woman huffed and said, 'No way will we offer such a presentation in this library! The title in itself is offensive!'"

I then told the director that if that was the case, then it was amazing this woman wasn't offended by the library itself, since the section on relationships were filled with books on finding love and getting married!

I was annoyed by the whole thing but at the time, toward the beginning of my coaching business, so I didn't want to start off on the wrong foot by suing someone. But I could have.

What I explained to the director, and to anyone who had questions about what I did during these workshops, was that women had the choice to attend them and if they wanted to get married, I wanted to help. I wasn't holding a gun to anyone's head. And besides, wasn't it the feminists who said they wanted women to have "choices?" And if a woman chose marriage, wasn't that a valid choice?

Apparently not.

This is the problem women like me have with feminism. It claims to be about choice but choose a path that feminists don't agree with and you'll suffer their scorn. I'll never forget watching a film which had the main character sitting with a group of her career-focused friends. She just had a baby. When asked by her friends when she planned on returning to her job, she confessed she wasn't, and instead she would be staying home full-time with her new baby. The icy looks exchanged spoke volumes. The nerve of a "modern" woman choosing to stay home with her kid!

Some of the women who came to my workshops actually seemed apologetic and slightly ashamed for having a desire to be married. It was almost as if they thought they had let their team down. I spent time emphasizing the fact that it was just fine if a woman wanted to remain single but just as fine if she wanted to get married. The important thing, I said, was knowing what you really wanted. (I counseled Christian women a little differently, but overall tried to help women not feel guilty if they really wanted to be married.)

This exposes a weakness in feminism's argument. You can't tell women that feminism is all about having choices but then take away some of those choices. Nor is it fair to judge one choice as more important than another. Many women want to get married. Many of them want to raise a family. Just because a woman wants that does not make her stupid, oppressed, ignorant, a slave to men's needs, or intellectually dishonest. It simply makes her authentic.

This condescension exhibited by women toward women for wanting something that has existed for thousands of years is laughable if they weren't so doggone serious. Radical feminists think marriage is an old cultural tradition that places women in bondage. But as I said, there are many women who would like nothing more than to meet a wonderful man, fall in love, and get married.

I suspect there are some women who fell in with feminism and lived their lives as unmarried career women for many, many years. Suddenly, they wake up and realize they're fifty-years old and most single men around their age are on their second marriage to a women at least ten years younger. I wouldn't be surprised if they felt as though they had been duped.

Not everyone is called to be married. Catholics believe it is a vocation and in the Church, singlehood is just as valid of a calling. But for those of us who follow Jesus Christ, we are expected to pray and ask God what His will would be for our lives.

Because when you get right down to it. choices made separate from God won't ever bring joy. This perhaps is at the heart of why I so loathe feminism. It is a direct rejection of God's role in a woman's life. As a woman of faith, I am called to trust God. There were many years during my twenties that I wanted to be married but it was not to be. I had to come to grips with trusting in God for His timing for marriage, and also accept the possibility that He was calling me to live a single's life.

I've mentioned this before on this blog but will share the story again:

When I was in Charlotte, North Carolina, attending a ministry school, I had a revelation. I don't say that lightly, because as far as I'm concerned, a revelation is when you know beyond a shadow of a doubt that what just entered your mind was not from you but came from above.

I was driving to class and my mind was drifting. Suddenly, I opened my mouth and this sentence came out: "Feminism is women's attempt to gain security apart from God."

Simple. Profound. And it made perfect sense.

Feminists expend a great deal of energy trying to convince people they're worth something. that their ideas are important or they're capable of great accomplishments. Why is this so important?

Because these same women feel unappreciated, disrespected, or minimized in some way. But guess what? They're looking for validation from the world.

Once I started to go deep in my relationship with God and find my validation through Him, everything in my life changed. I found my security, my strength, and my sense of worth through Him.

That is why Christianity is so dangerous and why radicals throughout the world seek to destroy it.

Because it triumphs over the world.

And feminists absolutely, completely, and with a pure, driven passion — hate it.