Seeds and ships

Faith like a mustard seed (Mathew 17:20). I’ve read that verse so many times always just thinking that I understood it. But it wasn’t until recently that I actually did. As I know I’ve said in the past, I love music and it’s from a personal struggle mixed in with a For King and Country song that my understanding of this verse and how it applies  to me happened.  
                    
The struggle. 
      For as long as I can remember I’ve made it a point to live the Faith.  I’m not perfect, and I stumble as much as I stand, but my intention..my focus..was to always be trying to be the man that Christ wants.  I even end my letters reminding others to “live the Faith”. But for the past few months, I don’t know how to explain it except to say I was feeling like I was walking in molasses…spiritually. Although I was, and  still, praying ever day and reading the scripture daily, it wasn’t enough. Something was stopping or delaying me at times in physically acting out or living the Faith. I  couldn’t seem to stop allowing life, and all it’s chaos, to question my commitment to my own faith. And maybe it was all a battle that only was being fought in my head because anyone who knows me, associates me with my faith (which is something that I’ve always taken pride in). But my lack of action caused me to question the strength of my faith. Just to be clear, it wasn’t everyday that I was feeling this but even if it was  only for a moment it felt like the devil trying to get a foothold in me. 
The song

      A little over a year ago For King and Country released a new album. The album name and one of the songs is Burn the Ships. I’ve listened to the song so many times but it wasn’t until a few days ago that it truly hit me. Before I continue the quick back story on the song is that when the explorer Cortes arrived in Vera Cruz, Mexico he had his men “burn the ships”.  Basically making it an all or nothing situation. The point of the song is that we have to be the same way when it comes to Christ. 
 
     So about a week or so ago I was walking to Penn Station listening to Pandora when the song came on. And it was like one of the situations where you can listen to something a hundred times and it’s just words, but then one day you hear it. And just like that things start to seem clear. Like I said in the beginning of this letter, my faith is like a mustard seed.  Even when I’m at my weakest, it’s still unwavering, and as “small” as I may have thought it was at times, in my heart I know it’s strength is endless. At that moment I decided to “burn my ships” and not let my fears or self doubt dictate my belief. The feeling of peace that came over me when I decided to trust the depth of my faith was awesome. By putting myself “all in” I realized that my belief, no matter what size my brain made it seem, is so strong..so true that all things are possible and I can be  the man that Christ wants and I need to be. You see as long as you truly believe with all your heart, it doesn’t matter if your belief is the smallest of seeds or largest of plants it’s all the same and moving a mountain is child’s play. 

 Jesus told them. “I tell you the truth, if you had faith even as small as a mustard seed, you could say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it would move. Nothing would be impossible.”   -Mathew 17:20
Thanks for listening.  I pray we all remember to live the Faith.  God bless. 

Just a step away

     A few days ago I was sitting on the train when a young woman started arguing on her phone. Being forced into hearing one side of the conversation the only thing I could tell for sure was that whomever was on the other end was asking for forgiveness, and it was most likely a sibling from the “mom” references made.  But based on her responses like “why should I?” and “you’ve said sorry before” it was definitely a struggle for her to be merciful. As the train entered the station she said something that struck me, “I want to but, how many times do we have to go through this?” As I walked past her moving towards the train door I muttered “seventy times seven”.  Fully knowing she probably was so focused on her conversation she hadn’t heard me, and even if she had the odds on her knowing the meaning was even slimmer.  But as I walked onto my next train I started to thinkI about forgiveness. Not so much about forgiving others, but asking for forgiveness.  The truth is they are both intertwined in that to be forgiven by God you have to forgive others first.  Which, lets be real, isn’t always the easiest thing to do.  But it’s still the only way. 
     If it was as simple as just saying the words “I’m sorry” or “I forgive you” then the act would be meaningless. At times, unfortunately, it is just meaningless words. But to truly work the words have to come from your heart. There have been times in my life where I was faced with the having to forgive. And sometimes they didn’t ask or want my forgiveness, but I gave it non the less.  It wasn’t easy, and it absolutely wasn’t right away, but after awhile I realized holding onto that anger was only hurting me.  But like I said, that day (and today) I was thinking about the person asking for forgiveness. 
     Just the act of asking for forgiveness can be a humbling task. Put yourself there for a moment. Being truly sorry for something, not sorry you got caught, not sorry of the ramifications, but truly sorry for something you did or said. To have to courage to ask for forgiveness knowing that you may not get it.  Maybe they won’t believe you, or maybe you don’t feel like you deserve it….that’s a real tough point there…it’s real easy to not feel like you deserve forgiveness. Here’s where lessons learned from Jesus show exactly how awesome our faith is. Throughout the New Testament Jesus shows us how love is the greatest gift we can give or receive. And let’s face it the only way giving or receiving mercy can genuinely happen is if it’s driven by love. Whether it’s the story of the prodigal son (Luke 15:11-32) or the ultimate example as Jesus was hanging on the cross asking His Father to forgive (Luke 23:34), we see that it’s never too late, and the sin is never to great to ask for forgiveness if you truly want to be forgiven. So if anyone ever feels that they are too far gone, or not good enough to be forgiven, remember this from Luke 15:7….
7 I tell you that in the same way there will be more rejoicing in heaven over one sinner who repents than over ninety-nine righteous persons who do not need to repent.

In the end remember that we are all always just one step away from forgiveness…sometimes it feels like an enormous step, but it’s just a step. Thanks for listening.  Remember to always live the faith.  God bless. 

#jesus #faithlikewater #love #faith #forgiveness
 

A whisper amongst the noise (part two)

I sometimes think there’s a bit of confusion about the HolyTrinity. I mean there’s no confusion about Jesus, there’s absolutely no confusion about God, but then there’s the Holy Spirit. Like God and Jesus, the Holy Spirit is, for lack of a better a person or entity. Maybe it’s the phrase “Spirit “or “ghost “that makes people view it as this non-substantial thing. Which in reality could not be further from the truth. The Holy Spirit has been here since creation…
In the beginning God created the heavens and the earth.<span class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NLT-1a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>[<span class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NLT-1a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>a<span class=”footnote” data-fn=”#fen-NLT-1a” data-link=”[a]” style=”font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; vertical-align: top”>] The earth was formless and empty, and darkness covered the deep waters. And the Spirit of God was hovering over the surface of the waters. -Genesis 1:1-2
It’s in the Gospel of John that we learn that not only was Jesus there as well…

“In the beginning the Word already existed.
    The Word was with God,
    and the Word was God.
He existed in the beginning with God.”          -John 1:1-2

…but we also learn who the Holy Spirit is and how together they tie into God’s plan.  What’s important here, I feel, is in these instances we are being taught that the Holy Trinity or Godhead truly exists as three separate and yet one at the same time. I’ll pause for a moment because as I sit here writing this, having been reading and thinking about this for quite awhile, it’s still such an prodigious idea to wrap my brain around…..
     ….And we’re back! So before I get into who the Holy Spirit is(yes I said who), I need to clarify what Christ did/does for us first. To fully understand one you need to know the other. For the sake of this letter I’m only going to keep using the Gospel of John (hopefully you’ll take the time to read or reread it when I’m done), my own personal thoughts, and secular music.  Now as much as I love Christian music, when I hear something in secular music it blows me away. I don’t know if it’s the writer’s intention, divine intervention, or just my interpretation but hearing Gods message in something that, at face value, you’re not to expecting to is awesome. 
     So as I know I’ve mentioned in the past, I spend a bit of time on/in/under the water. Accordingly, so much of my faith is tied to the water.  To be able to see the grace, power, and face of God in the waves is absolutely one of my personal blessings. A while back I had written something comparing about how surfing, more specifically the few moments before and the instant the wave grabs you, to truly living our faith. The short version is that to when you surf, truly surf, it’s an all or nothing situation.  There are times when just paddling out is a battle, and people who don’t know look at you like you’re insane or mock you for putting yourself through it. Then once you’re there and you turn to catch the wave, if you don’t put everything into you’re not going to make it.  Then there’s the moment. Like a hand, you feel the wave grab your board…it’s at this moment, which lasts less than a second, you have to decide to trust…trust that when you pop up you and the wave will be one…and when it happens, whether it lasts a few moments or an eternity, there are no words to explain the way you feel.  And that feeling is what drives you to paddle back out again and again no matter how tired you are, regardless of what anyone else thinks or says, regardless of any fears.  That is how I describe my faith.  In John 14:6 Jesus says “I am<span class=”crossreference” data-link=”(H)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26675H” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px; caret-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%”> the way<span class=”crossreference” data-link=”(I)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26675I” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px; caret-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%”> and the truth<span class=”crossreference” data-link=”(J)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26675J” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px; caret-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%”> and the life.<span class=”crossreference” data-link=”(K)” data-cr=”#cen-NIV-26675K” style=”box-sizing: border-box; font-size: 0.625em; line-height: 22px; position: relative; vertical-align: top; top: 0px; caret-color: rgb(0, 0, 0); -webkit-tap-highlight-color: rgba(0, 0, 0, 0); -webkit-text-size-adjust: 100%”> No one comes to the Father except through me.” The way. That’s exactly what He does for us.  He provided us with the way. And regardless of how society or hierarchy (especially lately it seems) want to change the rules, there is only one WAY.
      Knowing what awaits us in heaven, coupled with the true peace I feel whenever I block out the noise of life and let myself hear His words and actually live the way He taught us (even if it’s just for moments at a time) is the reason that I strive everyday to be the man that God intended. 
     Here’s where it gets deep. In John 14:5-14 there’s a conversation between Jesus and the Apostles and they ask about when He leaves what will they do. Jesus tells them that He’s the way, but they will have to travel it. Awhile back I was listening to Chris Cornel’s “I am the highway” and I was struck by how familiar it sounded.  That’s when it hit me that if you listen to it from the perspective of Jesus saying these words to the Apostles it’s pretty awesome.  I’ll get into it completely another time, meanwhile if you have a moment, listen to it and see what you think.  But for the sake of today I’m just using the first line of the chorus. “I am not your rolling wheels, I am the highway..” and just like that the Word of God, the very essence of our faith, is not only laid out for us but we’re told what to do.  Jesus was never the vehicle.  We are.  He’s the ocean, the wave, and to follow him we have to paddle out or travel that highway. He provides with the way, but we have to choose to follow it.  To follow Him.    
     No matter how we romanticize it, it’s a daunting task. Reality is when faced with the same information, the Apostles, who had spent years with Him seeing all He had done and even performing miracles themselves, were afraid and unsure what to do.  And that’s where the Holy Spirit steps in. In John, Jesus tells us that He will ask the Father to send another advocate, and that this person will not be seen by the world because they don’t believe, but instead He will live within us forever.  
Within us. 
So no matter what we come up against in life we have to remember that inside each and every one of us us this person, this being that has been here since the moment of creation.  Who’s only job is to love us, guide us, and help us, and the only requirement is to believe.  Maybe it’s just me but knowing that God has provided us (as always) with the ultimate one to punch in the form of Jesus and the Holy Spirit, I find it difficult to let fear take hold of me.  
26 
   
Thank you for listening, and remember to always live the faith. God bless
#jesus #faithlikewater #holyspirit #godhead

Golden rule

19 We love each other because he loved us first  –John 4:19

     Every 9 weeks my work schedule shifts and I have to work a week of overnights and a week of 3-11’s. So with inconvenient train schedules combined with my desire to avoid the subway as the sniffles season begins, at the end of my shift I walk the 2.5 miles to Penn Station. I actually enjoy the walk, because as I zigzag through the streets I get to see people as they’re just starting their day as mine is ending. Something about the look on the faces.  Seeing them full of energy and anticipation of the coming day, it’s almost like a temporary boost for me after a long night.  But this morning, as I was walking half in a daze like I usually am after the first night, the sound of kids playing snapped me back into reality.  As I got closer to the school yard I could see a dozen or so kids playing a baseball like game, next to another large group trying to have conversations over the music they we’re playing.  Next was a group of five or six huddled around a phone laughing at some video, I actually found myself smiling thinking how nice it is to be so carefree. Then in the middle of the playground, sitting on the cold asphalt, I saw one kid.  His phone in one hand and his face in the other, it was heartbreaking. I mean there was at least 50 kids there and no one was talking to him.  I don’t know if it was the dad in me ,but it took everything not to start yelling to the other kids to include him…the reality that I’d look crazy and that kid probably would’ve been embarrassed kept me at bay.  So as I walked by I said a quick prayer and hoped that he had friends that were just running late.  

     As I continued on my trek, a feeling of helplessness came over me. And that’s when I started to think how it’s not just kids who can be that cruel, as adults we’re just as bad. Actually, we’re worse because not only do we do it, but WE KNOW BETTER.  Sometimes it’s not malicious, we just get so focused or dare I say distracted by what’s right on front of our face (yes I’m talking about cell phones) that we miss or ignore what’s going on around us.  
     So for the rest of my walk to the station I went out of my way to make eye contact and say hello to everyone…..EVERYONE.  The funny thing is just about smiled back and returned the greeting.  I know I felt better and I’d like to think they do too.  That’s when that little voice in my head repeated the phrase we all learned as kids…to treat others how we want to be treated. The Golden Rule.  And like most phrases we know it comes back to the Bible, Matthew 7:12…
12 “Do to others whatever you would like them to do to you
     As upsetting as it was, I truly believe that a lesson was learned…or relearned today as I walked past that playground.  It’s up to us to take care of each other, to love one another the way that Christ loves us.  Being imperfect as we are it’s just easy to forget.  Well maybe it’s time for us all to remember.  

God bless

Synod

25Therefore each of you must put off falsehood and speak truthfully to your neighbor, for we are all members of one body. 26“In your anger do not sin” d : Do not let the sun go down while you are still angry, 27and do not give the devil a foothold. –Ephesians 4:25-27

So I’m sure like most people as of late, I’ve been following the Catholic Bishop Synod on the Amazon that’s taking place right now at the Vatican…for the few of you who I’m sure are totally embarrassed for not knowing, the Synod is a gathering of Catholic Bishop’s that takes place every three years, that’s purpose is to discuss and counsel the Pope on a specific topic.  This year is the Pan-Amazon region. 

     In all seriousness although I’m pretty sure I’m one of the few people who’s recent search’s are filled with things like: 
News on the Synod, the Rugby World Cup(…not looking great for the US team but I digress…), and surf wax. What makes this synod so serious is the effects it will have on the Church as a whole not just the regions in question. The magnitude of the decisions that are being discussed and possibly decided with only limited representation is a recipe for disaster.  The three topics in no particular order are the ordaining of women as deacons, allowing married men to take Holy Orders, and the pagan activities and symbolism that’s taking place there.   
I’m not exactly sure what to think right now.  For a long time I’ve felt the Church has been under attack, but unlike in the past, this time it’s coming from within. When the Church starts making changes based on what’s popular it’s no longer following the word of God it’s being led by the lost.  With that said here’s my thoughts on the three topics I’m addressing and I hope someone will comment or at least think and pray on it, I know I am.  
-Although I will always give thanks and praise to the women (nuns and lay alike) who have and do give and provide so much for not only the Church as a whole but me personally as well, I can’t side with the idea of ordaining women as deacons. My reasoning is this when Christ was building His ministry women were absolutely actively involved but He never chose them as Apostles or sent them out to teach the word.  Who are we to override or change the path and methods of Jesus.  Next, when the Anglican Church decided to make the change to allow women to be ordained it created a schism day within the church that. Again it seems to me that decisions that divide rather than unite can’t be the will of God.  And finally and this carries over to the next topic as well, where does it end?  If the decision today is to allow women to be deacons how long until they’re allowed to be priests as well?  And I’m not insinuating that a women couldn’t do the job.  There are a lot of women who would be amazing at it, but being able to do something doesn’t necessarily justify it.  Especially when we are talking about altering the Church as it was taught to us.  
-The issue if there not being enough priests in these regions has prompted the idea of allowing married men to take Holy Orders.  Now this is a little tougher because most of the Apostles and early “priests” were married and it wasn’t until 304 BC that it was first officially brought up (in 1139 BC it actually became law). Additionally even now there are cases where married men have been allowed to become priests.  But again I’ll ask, where will it end?  Although this is only for the “Pan-Amazon” region, how long until it spreads across the entire church.  Now as a man of faith who is married with children do I think I am any less faithful because of my family? No absolutely not, but again that doesn’t make it right.  In this instance St. Paul actually spoke about the importance of the faith being more important than marital duties. 
-Although I look forward to hearing others opinions on the first two, the last part there is no moving me.  Any references to “Mother Earth” either in word or song (both were done) in church is not acceptable.  The wearing of pagan ceremonial garb while singing/dancing literally inside the church is not acceptable.  And finally the placing of pagan idols at the foot of the alter is, again, not acceptable.  There’s a difference between trying to create an environment of tolerance and inclusion and blasphemy.  When thief is trying to enter your house, it’s not with a roar it’s a whisper.  The devil’s not getting a foothold today.  
God bless 
  

What’s a dollar?

It’s been a long day, following a long week so bare with me. Anyone whose ever spent any time in (I’m assuming) any major city has come across someone asking for change. Just a few minutes ago I was on the R train in trying to will the train faster to 34th St so I could run to Penn Station and make my train home when a gentleman stepped on the train, not poorly dressed or dirty, and with a somber and exhausted voice began to tell anyone in ear shot how he had lost his job but was working again but at the moment he and his family were living in a room. Although happy to be able to keep his family together, they have no means of cooking or storing food so everyday they have to buy food to eat.

In all the years I’ve worked in New York I’ve seen so many panhandlers who strategically sit in high tourist spots to try and scam people, but as he walked past me through the car I thought what if he’s telling the truth?

I mean I know I’ve been in tough spots in my life, and I thank God that I never had beg for money. But if it came to it, what wouldn’t I have done for my family. Who wouldn’t do anything for their family?

Reaching into my pocket I felt the change from a coffee I had bought earlier. Hey! Excuse me, I yelled as he nearing the far end of the car. Here you go. God bless buddy. You’d have thought that the dollar and change I handed him was so much more by his expression. As he walked back, suddenly other people started handing him money. Almost like they just didn’t want to be the first person. As he got halfway he stopped, looked at me, and mouthed thank you.

In the end I was able to forget for just a moment about the stresses from the last few days and do something for someone and be the catalyst for others to do the same. Maybe it was a lie, but in my heart and in my gut it wasn’t, and if there is even just a chance that some kids somewhere might not have to go to bed hungry tonight it brought me peace…and it cost me a dollar.

God blesss

A whisper amongst the noise (part 1)

So a few days ago my wife Kerri and I went away for a couple of days for her birthday. And often it’s in times like these, when my mind is seemingly deafened with the noise of life that I hear God’s voice the clearest.

Demons. The Holy Spirit.

Two phrases, two different topics, one focus. Let me explain.

So I’m going to back up to the middle of last week, I was reading an article about a pro-abortion protest where these people were burning baby dolls…a bit graphic and a lot crazy if you ask me…but I digress. After finishing the article I started reading through the comments and saw a lot of satan this, and the devil that response’s. Truth of the matter is I didn’t really think much of it, probably agreed on a subconscious level. Flash forward to Friday morning and as I’m driving listening to to the radio talking with Kerri when out of nowhere it hits me…

When people see bad things happening they immediately want to blame the devil or an evil spirit. Now I whole heartedly believe that there are dark forces at work in this world trying to undo and corrupt everything that is good, I also believe the decisions and actions we make are our own. When we do something good are we being controlled by God or an Angel or are we consciously making the decision to do the right thing. To live and act as Jesus taught us. After the last supper when Jesus went to Gethsemane He prayed that God would let this cup pass from me because He knew what was going to happen and He was afraid but he also knew that He, like all of us must choose to do God’s will. It wasn’t the devil that made the Pharisees or even Judas betray Jesus, it was things like greed and fear. That’s why Jesus forgave them. Even today we fear self accountability. One of the many gifts and blessings we have is free will. But it’s also one of the hardest things for us to endure because it’s having this ability to choose that forces us to pick the right path, and not necessarily the easiest. Since Friday I’ve been thinking about this, and the simplicity of it makes me stop writing and read more scripture because I’m the type of person who when presented with something that I should have seen sooner feels the need to look for a more complex situation to justify my own ignorance but unfortunately that’s not how this works. We, as Christians, have a tendency to feel like we have time…I’ll change that tomorrow, I’m not ready to forgive…., I swear this is the last time I …. and we do have time, until the day comes that we don’t! The excuse that one person can’t do anything is only true because we allow it to…maybe we want it to because it’s easier. We as a people have to come to a point where we stop blaming the devil or God, for the things happening in this world and be the champions of our faith that we were asked to be. With faith..true Faith, can anything truly stand in our way?

What shall we say about such wonderful things as these? If God is for us, who can ever be against us?-Romans 8:31

But let me ask you, can one Christian stand up to everyone who chooses to attack or try to change our faith? That would be ugly…like trying to stop a river with one stone…well how about a thousand stones, or a million stones…what if today all 2.2 billion Christians stepped into that river? It only sounds crazy because no one wants to be the first stone.

Thanks for listening, I’ll be writing the next part in the next day or so…until then remember to be the light for others and to live the faith. God bless

#faithlikewater