Monday, March 30, 2015

The Power of Prayer, Faith and Judging Others

by M. J. Joachim

There was an interesting segment about the power of prayer on the Today Show this morning. It seems scientist are confirming that prayer really does make a positive difference in people’s lives. It wasn’t surprising for me to hear that the type of prayer doesn’t matter, and that spirituality is as important, if not more important, than following an organized religion. Faith is what makes the most difference, while how one practices faith is of less significance.

“Love your neighbor as yourself.”

Our family was recently invited to a young neighbor’s baptism. Their family is Mormon. We’d never been to a Mormon baptism before. I remember lots of Catholic “do’s & don’ts” growing up. Attending other religions ceremonies definitely was on the “don’t” list, as was attending weddings that weren’t performed in a Catholic church, preferably with a Catholic Mass to sanctify the vows. Marrying people who weren’t catholic was also a big “No-no.” And if you did, you had to jump through all sorts of hoops and sign all sorts of documents stating you would make sure any children born from that marriage were brought up catholic.

My husband wasn’t Catholic when I married him. We didn’t get married in the Catholic Church 22 years ago, but we did have a very Christian ceremony. I don’t know if my dad went to confession or not, but he did walk me down the aisle. I’m still Catholic and eventually, we had our marriage blessed in the Catholic Church. A few years later, my husband converted to Catholicism. We love God and our faith very much.

Neither of us had a second thought when we were invited to attend our eight year old neighbor’s baptism. We knew we were going. After all, we were invited and this was a very special day to celebrate with our neighbors.

Religion isn’t supposed to divide and conquer us. It’s supposed to bring us closer to God. Attending our neighbor’s baptism was a very wonderful event. I had to do a little googling to know what sort of gift was appropriate, because I don’t know that much about the Mormon faith, and I certainly didn’t want to offend anyone. The ceremony was beautiful and we were in community with some very kind and delightful people.

We were also exposed to their faith and religion. They believe different things than catholics, and their ceremonies are different too. I’ll share more about that in my next post, because this one is getting rather long.

I suppose the biggest point I want to make in this post is about the 11th Commandment. There is no holier than thou. We need to love our neighbors as ourselves, and let our faith in God reveal itself through our actions. No one is better than anyone else. Our actions reveal what’s truly in our hearts.

We’re all on a journey to meet our maker some day, and when we do, I hope it’s with a smile that says, “Jesus I adore you, lay my life before you, how I love you.” We can’t do that if we’re too busy thinking we’re above reproach, because we have the only religion that matters, and condemn everyone and anyone else seeking God. This goes for all organized religions. The moment judgment, discrimination and hatred enter the mix, all bets are off.

Thank you for visiting Christian Catholic today. Please leave a comment and share your thoughts on this post with me.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Sermon on the Mount, Carl Heinrich Bloch (1834 - 1890), PD-US

Monday, February 2, 2015

A True Gardening Story about Life, Faith and Loss

by M. J. Joachim

It was a warm, sunny Arizona afternoon. The summer heat hadn't quite kicked in yet, even though it was May. I was busy with my three small children, ages six, two, and one when the phone rang. For some reason, I didn't want to answer it, but that didn't keep me from picking up the receiver.

My mom, who lives in California, promptly said, "I have good news and bad news," without even saying "Hello" first. I pressed my feet firmly into the kitchen floor. "Okay. What's the bad news?" I asked. She hesitated for a moment. Then she said, "Your dad has cancer, but the good news is that it is operable." My feet didn't hold as I lowered myself to the floor, trying not to drop the phone. "Is dad there?" I asked. "Can I talk to him?"

After I got off the phone, I went and sat in the purple, armless chair in my living room. I thought of so many memories from my childhood. My family grew up playing in the waves of Santa Cruz, California. We would wake up early, and drive the half hour journey regularly during the summer. We would admire the playful gardens that people planted, many in their front yards. Dad would get ideas for our own garden, and then we would all spend the next weekend creating dad's vision.

Dad loved gardens. He enjoyed working with his eight children, as we dug up the dirt together. Then we planted seeds that would grow into food for our table. We learned valuable lessons about life in our garden. Dad used every opportunity to show us how our actions, and lack of actions, helped or hurt the garden. "They do this in real life too," he would say.

I felt the need to act as I sat in that overstuffed purple chair, tears streaming down my face. Here I was living in another state, while dad was dealing with cancer, and facing surgery. My dad very rarely got sick, and when he did, he never gave into it. I knew in my heart that he had no choice with cancer. I also knew that his greatest garden was his family.

My mind began to think of ideas that might make dad smile. I started thinking about stenciling a garden for him to keep in the hospital. Then I thought of how people sign casts when someone breaks a bone. I knew dad wouldn't be wearing a cast. I wasn't sure if dad would be able to wear a t-shirt. I decided to stencil dad's garden on an apron for everyone to sign.

The symbolic representation of a garden stenciled on an apron did not go unnoticed. Dad pointed out how he loved to cook and eat the abundant treasures our family grew together year after year. He recognized the many pictures of fruits and vegetables that were staples in our own garden growing up, and he smiled. When visitors came, he always asked them to sign his garden. Once again, Dad used the garden to grow memories, and reflect on life.

Dad has been gone for more than ten years now. While I have never mastered the technique of growing vegetables in Arizona, I have managed to grow some tall, majestic flowers. These flowers help me teach my own children the same values my dad taught me to practice, and cherish. Every so often, a gentle breeze will blow, and my flowers will seem to wave at me. I smile knowing dad must be close by.

Actually, Dad has been gone for more than 17 years now, and my garden has changed quite a bit, since I first wrote this article. It’s still a work in progress, and I still love tall majestic flowers in it, but I also like hedges and other more permanent features too, things that define it and make it easier to work in. I’ve had a lot of dreams about Dad lately - Mom too, and even a few of my siblings. The challenge of faith is not necessarily to be faithful. For only God knows the truth in our hearts. With unspoken words of love and peace for all those I hold so dearly in mine.
M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Carl Spitzweg (1808 - 1885), Museum Oskar Reinhart, PD-US

Thursday, January 29, 2015

Bible Reflection: 1 Corinthians 9:24

by M. J. Joachim

"Do you not know that the runners in the stadium all run in the race, but only one wins the prize? Run so as to win. "

With Super Bowl coming up this Sunday, I thought this an appropriate verse to reflect on today. Deflate gate has sort of taken on a life of its own in the news lately. All I can think of is, “Cheaters never prosper, even if they do seem to come out ahead from time to time.”

We run the race…

Against time
Against ourselves
Against others

How we run the race is just as important as our participation in it. Work ethic, merit, honesty and integrity matter. Word choice is crucial, especially when things have a way of getting blasted all over the Internet. Anything can be misinterpreted these days, and there’s rarely an eraser or easy apology to fix it, should what one says be taken wrong.

The prize isn’t as much about the trophy as it is about the long term affects of earning it. Earning, now there’s a concept! We’re told we don’t have to earn heaven. It’s a free gift. The race to win the prize requires playing the game of life in an honest, effective manner, one where living our faith is more important than professing it. It’s about being true to who we are and claim to be.

Heaven is free to all who seek it, but they have to play the game. We all have to play the game, because we’re all in this together. So why not run to win, not through cheating or false ways, but by virtue of being one of many in the human race?

Let them (whoever they are) have their tangible trophies, 15 minutes of fame and dissipating fortunes. I can’t help but think of youth sports, where everyone on the team gets a trophy at the end of the season these days. It’s not like they all deserve it, and some of those overbearing parents should be kicked off the team and sent to parenting classes, if you ask me.

Whatever we do in life, wherever we are with our faith, we should run to win. We should strive for perfection and put forth the effort required to get it. It’s not like we’ll all get a trophy for everything we do, regardless of how we do. Politics have a way of keeping that from happening, as does social networking. At the end of the day, it’s still nice to know we did our best and it was worth it, prize or no, because at the end of the ultimate race, the alternative simply isn’t worth it.

Thanks for visiting Christian Catholic today. I really appreciate it.

M. J.

©2015 All Rights Reserved Photo credit: Super Bowl Trophy, 49ers Family Day, BrokenSphere, GNU Free Documentation License