I Confess

Pope Francis on confession. I included two videos because together they give a fuller understanding of what the Holy Father said.

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Tornado Prayer

There are two things you can do about a tornado.

1. Get out of the way.

2. Pray.

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Book Review: Sex and the Vision Thing

To join the conversation on Sex and the Single Christian Girl, or to order a copy, go here

Our culture teaches young girls to look at themselves as meat. I could dress that up by using less harsh language, but the dressing-up would be a lie.

From the time they are babies wearing trollop fashions, to the days when they sit in sex education classes that push dangerous contraceptives on them, including the morning after pill, young girls are taught that their first mission in life is to be sexually available and sexually used.

There is some linguistic dressing up of this message. It is termed “liberation” and “women’s rights.” But it’s not. It’s about using social pressure to coerce young girls into sexual behavior that, based on what quite a number of them have told me, they don’t enjoy or find sexually satisfying. It is the old double standard, flipped over and made even more destructive.

Christian girls end up caught in a social and moral conundrum. On the one hand, they hear that sex outside of marriage is a sin. On the other hand, they hear that they have a “right” to use sex the same way that men use it.

This explanation degrades the girls, as well as the boys. Every one has a sex drive. Every one is more than their sex drive. People want things that hooking up not only can’t give, but that hooking up prevents. Things like self-worth, love, commitment, stability and emotional security.

Even Christian parents have fallen into the trap of stripping the security of  a stable home and consistent family interaction from their children’s lives. Divorce destroys basic trust and security in children. Shooting from one activity to the next like a pinball destroys family time and inner peace. I won’t even go into the tsunami of damage that drugs and alcoholism do to children.

It has reached the point that girls who grow up in a stable home with parents who give them love and attention are the ones who are out of step with the culture. They are the girls who seem odd and out of place.

When everyone else is talking trash and getting laid and doing drugs, they’re the wallflowers who spend time in their dorm rooms or at home on Friday nights, wondering what, if anything, it profits them to live lives of purity.

Sex and the Single Christian Girl is written from inside that specific experience for those girls who live it.

The author, Marion Jordan Ellis, lived the life of growing up Christian and then throwing purity over for the hook-up culture. She experienced a radical conversion to Christ and then spent over a decade as a Christian single woman living in purity in a world that disses purity. When she finally met the Christian man who became her husband, she faced the new challenge of maintaining her chastity until she said “I do.”

The thing that sustained her in those years of single chaste living, and that she didn’t have when she slid into the hook-up culture, was vision.

Mrs Ellis makes the important point that a laundry list of “Thou shalt nots” is not enough to give a person the strength they need to follow Christ in our post Christian culture. She applies this directly and specifically to the situation of, as the title says, Sex and the Christian Single Girl. But the idea is equally applicable to all Christian living in a world and society such as ours, that is aggressively hostile to Christian values.

We can’t stand up to the culture by being against it. We have to be for something, and that something must be fueled by a deep and abiding passion. The answer Mrs Ellis offers is not the right answer, it is the only answer.

We are, all of us, beloved Children of the living God. Our lives are not our own. We belong to Him.

And we are worth more than the degrading behaviors that our culture teaches us are not only cool, but necessary and our “right.”

Hook-up sexuality is self-abuse.

It’s that simple.

Drug and alcohol abuse are a living death that, if they aren’t stopped, lead inevitably to a real death.

Divorce is ripping asunder the one flesh of soul and spirit that God has created in Holy Matrimony. It damages our children irrevocably, as well as impoverishing and grieving the husband and wife.

The answer to all this, is, as Mrs Ellis says, that vision thing. We do not see ourselves as the immortal beings of light that we truly are. We do not understand that we are made for eternity in heaven and that our every action in this life either adds to that future or it doesn’t.

Young women are worth more than the value our society has taught them to place on themselves. They are, first of all, Daughters of the King. They belong to Him and to themselves and, once they pass into adulthood, they are answerable to no one else. No one has the “right” to treat them as meat, including and most especially, themselves.

When I was little, I always knew, never doubted, that either one of my parents would die for me. I knew without a shadow or a flicker of doubt that my father would kill or die to protect me and that he would not hesitate about either one.

That is how parents feel and what they do. It is what our Father in heaven has done for us. When Christ hung on that cross at Calvary, that was God, dying to save each one of us. That is, as the Scriptures tell us, “the price” God paid for us.

Young women need to understand this about themselves and never forget it. Their salvation was bought at a great price that only a Father Who loved them would have paid. This culture teaches them that they are meat. But in truth and in fact, they are immortal beings of eternal light; daughters of the living God.

I recommend Sex and the Single Christian Girl to any young woman who is struggling with issues of chastity and self worth in this post Christian world. I also recommend it to parents of daughters who want to teach their girls how to live as the beautiful daughters of God that they are.

Pope Francis Hands Out Boxes with ’59 Little Pills’ in Them

Pope Francis offered medicine boxes that contained “59 little pills,”  in St Peter’s Square this weekend.

This medicine is “good for your health, your heart and your whole life,” the Pope told his audience. “Don’t forget to take it.”

What is the ‘medicine’ the Pope is prescribing?

Watch the video below and see.

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Cardinal Zen Calls for More Support for the Church In China

The Vatican needs to do more to support the true Church in China. That is the message from Cardinal Zen.

His comments are worth considering, not only because of the religious persecution in China, but because of the growing tendency for government to try to control the Church and the faithful in the Western world.

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When Jesus Washed My Sins Away

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Billy Graham: God Can Change the Past

I respect Billy Graham. He’s the real deal.

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Book Review: Doubt is Just Another Way to Say You’re Thinking it Through

To join in the conversation about Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt, or to order a copy, go here.

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Christians often behave as if they’re afraid of their own questions. 

Perhaps this comes from preachers to don’t want to face the same questions in themselves and who attempt to answer the anguished “Why?” of a suffering parishioner with platitudes or, occasionally, accusations of a lack of faith. 

But the truth is, there is a reasonable basis for these questions.

“Life,” as President John Kennedy famously said, “isn’t fair.”  

Sometimes the rich get rich, the good die young and bad things happen to good people. 

That alone is enough to drive any sensitive person to take a good long look at claims that God is all-powerful, all-merciful, all-loving, all-knowing and all-just. 

If that is true, why aren’t the baby rapers of this world piles of ash? Why didn’t Hitler die along with so many others in World War I? How is that the heads of big banks can bring down whole economies and get paid off with our treasure to refrain from finishing the destruction they created?

I could go on.

And on. 

But the point is made.

This God of ours, with His long list of “alls” can seem a poor fit for the reality of what is often cruel and difficult human existence. 

Sensitive, thoughtful, nerdy people, as Kyle Cupp, the author of Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt describes himself, are bound see the conundrum and ask themselves their own little whys. These questions are not the Why of a mother whose son was murdered in front of her house, or a girl who was raped and beaten and left for dead. They are the confused questions of a bystander who sees this and cannot balance the two columns, one a column listing God’s attributes, the other a column listing the many instances of “where was God?” that they see around them.

People who are caught in the snares of life’s anguish don’t ask these questions, or if they do, they don’t ask them in the same way. The irony of dwelling in doubt is that the doubts tend to vanish when you are confronted by the hardest realities. There is no choice then but to live by faith or to die psychologically. More to the point, these deepest pits of human suffering are when the Holy Spirit meets us most reliably and in ways that undeniable. 

Backward as it seems, intense suffering, which sparks doubts in those who witness it, often increases faith in those who endure it. 

Mr Cupp has had his own life’s hardships. He’s dealt with them by living in faith, all the while shadowed by nagging doubt. But difficult as the things he’s borne, they do not reach the level of all-eclipsing cataclysm such as sometimes happen to people.

There are things that are not survivable without God. It is possible for some people to survive them physically, but without God they will never be intact again. 

Perhaps the one such encounter that everyone must face is their own death. Without God, death means annihilation. People can pretty that up or, more often, just dismiss it from their thoughts when death appears far off on a horizon they don’t expect to ever reach. Most people who talk blithely about dying without God do not, in their hearts, really believe in their own mortality.

But actually facing death your own death for real is quite another matter. The blithe burbling dries up and your tongue sticks to the roof of your mouth.

It is the time when people make the final choice as to whom they belong, the point at which that choice becomes eternal. 

Everything — every grief and small annihilation we face in our lives up to that point — is a practice session in making the eternal choice. Doubt is not a sin. It is not a lack of faith. It is simply thinking it through. 

What matters is not so much the question, for in essence all these questions are only one, what matters is our answer. Dwelling in Doubt is simply the question in whatever form your life experiences direct it to.

And that question, directed to Our God Who made us, is, “can I trust You to be Who they tell me You are?”

The answer is either living by faith or going the opposite direction and turning your back on the only hope you have. 

Kyle Cupp writes an honest book with Living by Faith, Dwelling in Doubt. He lays bare many of his own sorrows and weaknesses. By his own confession, he is a nerdy, introverted man. But his prose reveals a strikingly honest person who is not afraid to admit that there are days in which the faith he lives by dwells in doubt. 

Christian Persecution and Conversion in Nigeria

Nigerian Christians have suffered a decade of murderous attacks from militant islamists, in particular the killer cult of Boko Haram. 

At the same time, Christianity has been growing. The Pentecostal movement is flourishing in Nigeria with all night prayer services drawing thousands of worshipers. 

The old saying is, “the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church.” 

Present-day martyrs for Christ are no exception to that. 

From PRI The World:

Credit: Rowan Moore Gerety

Under an open-air pavilion built to seat a million people, children sleep on mats spread out on the cobblestones while their parents enter their 6th consecutive hour of worship.

All-night prayer vigils are at the core of the country’s booming Pentecostal movement. Some churches draw worshippers in the hundreds of thousands.

At one church, the Redeemed Christian Church of God, Friday night vigils take place in what locals call an “auditorium.” It’s a covered pavilion the size of 87 football fields, and it’s not quite big enough. The church has already cleared ground for a bigger one. 

In fact, it’s something of a pattern: the church’s old pavilion was demolished a few years back, and now vendors have set up shop on the old foundation.

Once the service starts, all these people selling, they’ll close their shops and go inside the auditorium to listen to the word of God,” says Wale Akande, a volunteer who stands by the auditorium, welcoming visitors to the Holy Ghost Service in a fluorescent green vest.

The pavilion here was built in 2000 to seat a million people. It’s basically a corrugated rooftop. The ground below is paved with cobblestones and lined with thousands of crude wooden benches and plastic chairs. Akande says attendance is down tonight because of rain; the pavilion is only a third full.


Dolan: Christian Persecution is “a Humanitarian Catastrophe’

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God love Cardinal Timothy Dolan. 

He took the podium at the annual fall assembly of Catholic Bishops to speak out for our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ. 

Public Catholic reader, Manny, sent a wonderful letter to Cardinal Dolan a few weeks ago, encouraging the Cardinal to do all that he could to help persecuted Christians. Perhaps we should all take to our word processors and send letters.

Christians need to stand in unity with persecuted Christians and not be intimidated by foul-mouthed attacks from those who seek to silence us. People who try to deny the persecution of Christians and who attack those who speak out for them are fellow travelers and enablers of those who carry the guns, wield the clubs and light the flames. 

From Catholic News Agency:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York addresses the USCCB Fall meeting Nov. 11, 2013. Credit: Addie Mena/CNA.

.- Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan, president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, urged his fellow bishops to be advocates of Christians persecuted for their faith around the world, encouraging prayers as well as action on their behalf.

In his address to the assembly, Cardinal Dolan said one million Christians have been killed for their faith in the first years of the 21st century, which he called “a new age of martyrs.” Citing the Pew Research Center, he said that over 70 percent of the world’s population lives in countries with restrictions on freedom of religion.

He declared a “humanitarian catastrophe” in Syria, where two Orthodox bishops have been kidnapped amid the ongoing civil war. He said the Iraq war and its consequences have “devastated” Iraq’s ancient Christian community. The 2012 attack on Our Lady of Salvation Church in Baghdad resulted in a massacre of 58 Christians.

The cardinal also noted a “serious escalation of violence” against Christians in Egypt, where dozens of Coptic churches have been burned. An August attack on a school run by Franciscan nuns resulted in the rape of two teachers. Three nuns were paraded “as prisoners of war.”

There have also been attacks on African Christians, such as shootings of priests and church burnings …

Cardinal Dolan said the situation in India is “grave” in the aftermath of the 2008 Orissa massacres that killed hundreds of Christians and displaced thousands more. Thousands of homes and about 400 churches were destroyed. 

In addition, the cardinal noted the pressures on Christians in China, such as the state supervision and imprisonment that faces Catholic bishops and other religious leaders.

In light of these grave global challenges, Cardinal Dolan made several suggestions for action.

The bishops should encourage “a culture of prayer for persecuted Christians,” both in private prayer and in liturgical intercessions …

He encouraged the bishops to make others aware of the suffering of other Christians through their columns, blogs, speeches and pastoral letters … ask pastors to preach on the topic … encourage Catholic media to “tell the stories of today’s new martyrs.”

The bishops can insist that U.S. leaders listen to persecuted Christians and make their protection “a foreign policy priority,” he added, observing that this has not been a high priority for presidential administrations of either major political party.


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