Confession: Medicine for the Soul

Confession is part of the conversion process in much the same way that taking medicine is part of the healing process.

The season of Advent requires us to examine our consciences and then to take the sins we find there to the confessional. This process of honest self-appraisal and equally honest confession results in an interior cleansing that I don’t think can happen in any other way.

I always mentally draw a line under my past misdeeds after confession and just simply forget them. They are done. Forgiven. Confession peels off the clingy guilts and scrubs away the stubborn stains of what I’ve done and turns me toward a better future.

I’ve also found that if I go to confession often and confess, as I usually do, the same sins over and over, I begin to change. Confession confers grace, including the grace of self-awareness. The desire to keep on committing these sins weakens with repeated confession and I gradually, without even noticing it, do them less and less.

It’s not an act of the will. It’s not even a conscious thing. It just happens.

I’m not a great theologian, so I can’t give you a treatise on why confession works, or even all its merits. I can only tell you that it does work. It is difficult to confess your sins. It can even be painful. But even if the priest in question is not a good confessor for you (and not all of them are good for everyone; we are, after all, individuals) the cleansing, the liberation and the grace of conversion still happen.

Confession, like all the sacraments, does not depend on the personality or even the sanctity of the individual priest. The graces of confession come from God and they are more a function of your honesty and willingness to accept what God offers you than anything else.

The Church guards the sacraments and preserves them from one generation, one historical challenge, to the next. It then makes them freely available to us. These sacraments, each of them, are an opportunity to meet God in this life in a dependable, simple, non-intellectual way. Everyone, from the youngest child to the most erudite intellectual, experiences the same taste of heaven in the sacraments.

The sacraments do not depend on our working ourselves up into an emotional state. They do not require us to understand deep theology. They don’t even require us to be good or holy. All we need to do is be honest about ourselves before God and willing to receive the gift He freely offers us through His Church.

Confession follows self-examination. It is the second step in the three-step dance of conversion. First, we look at ourselves honestly. Then, we ask forgiveness for our sins.

Through the gift of confession, we have the privilege of saying our sins out loud in front of another person. We are given the gift of hearing that we are absolved. And, finally, we can know without doubt that these things we have done are behind us. They are finished, over and through.

We can draw a line under our sins after confession and forget them, safe in the knowledge that God has forgiven us and these sad little sins are no more.

Christian Persecution: Christian Nigeria’s Witness for Jesus in the Face of Boko Haram’s Terrorists

Nigerian Christians are withstanding violent persecution at the hands of Islamic terrorists called Boko Haram. Their witness for Christ humbles me today, as if has for quite a long time. I will never forget the voice of a Nigerian Anglican Bishop’s wife as she told me “Those who persist in following Christ until the end will have eternal life.”

Eternal life in Christ was real to her. It sustained her and gave her not only a peace which passes understanding, but courage which passes understanding, as well.

When people are faced with the horror of repeated terrorist attacks as Christians in Nigeria are, and they respond with prayer and fasting as Christians in Nigeria do, I know that I am witnessing the courage that comes only from the grace of a loving God.

One of the many sins that we need to repent of in this Advent season is our indifference in the face of such magnificent courage and faith in Our Savior by our persecuted brothers and sisters in Christ all over the world, especially in Nigeria.

The excerpted CNA article below describes one such act of courage among the many in Nigeria today.

Msgr. Obiora F. Ike walks in front of St. Leo the Great Catholic Church in Enugu, Nigeria. Credit: Aid to the Church in Need, www.kirche-in-not.ch.

Lagos, Nigeria, Nov 13, 2012 / 12:17 am (CNA).- After his parish in southern Nigeria was desecrated on Nov. 4, Monsignor Obiora F. Ike called on his parishioners to observe a week of prayer and penance.

“Msgr. Ike has called for seven days of prayer, fasting, penance and reparation for the Christian faithfuls and for the conversion of these perpetrators,” according to a statement on his website.

Around 2:00 a.m. on Nov. 4, attackers entered St. Leo the Great parish in Enugu, vandalizing the building and destroying infrastructure and sacred items.

Everything in the church was destroyed: the altar, sacred vessels, musical equipment, seats, the pulpit, statues, religious images, and the entire microphone system.

The destruction included “the Blessed Sacrament that was desecrated,” according to Msgr. Ike’s statement.

By 4:00 a.m. security agents arrived at the parish and assessed the damage. According to Msgr. Ike, the damage done totals around $63,500.

Sunday Mass at the parish was held outside “under the heavy sunshine.” Msgr. Ike’s sermon that day encouraged the congregation to “remain steadfast in their faith despite all the persecution, religious intolerance and fanaticism.” He also urged them to remain dedicated in prayer and forgive the perpetrators.(Read more here.)

Who Me? Are You Serious Lord?

Who me?

I’ve been a feminist for a long time.

The driving force to my feminism is violence against women in all its forms.

I was one of the six original founders of the YWCA Rape Crisis Center here in Oklahoma back in the early 1970s. Violence against women in its many forms led me into a hot-headed pro choice advocacy and ultimately to the position of NARAL Director for Oklahoma.

I’ve passed law after law trying to stop violence against women. I passed the original protective order here in Oklahoma, back in the day when the whole idea was considered radical. I even had opponents of the bill go on television and denounce me as being a Communist for passing it, something which amused me no end.

Year after year, decade after decade, I have worked to end violence against women. I’ve done everything I can. And you know what? It’s worse than ever. Women are sexualized and degraded for comic relief on mainstream television. They are pornified and reduced to objects on other channels. Movie after movie presents us with titillating scenes of women being beaten, raped, sodomized and murdered — all for our entertainment.

Type the word “rape” into your google search engine, and you’ll get page after page of hits on pornographic sites showing women being raped, tortured and murdered for fun.

The major thing that drove me away from any church and straight into my anti-God period was the indifference I saw to violence against women in the churches. I’ve seen horrific things in this regard and they drove me away from both church and God.

I don’t know of course, but I think that perhaps the reason God gave me such a knock-you-flat conversion experience is that I needed it to be able to see Him for Who He was. He poured such love on me, and by doing so, shared His real self with me in a way that wiped away all confusion as to His nature.

Even after all that, I was still so painfully hurt by all that had gone before that I actually prayed and asked God if He hated women. This prayer wasn’t a challenge. It wasn’t an attempt to argue with the Lord. It was an honest question, based on my own life experience.

God doesn’t often answer me directly, but He answered me then. It was one of those full understanding answers where He sort of downloaded a total vision of what women are to Him and how He truly feels about the abuse of women that is misogyny.

That answer was one of the most generous things He’s ever done for me. It was also life-altering. It has informed my walk with Christ and my understanding of what it means to be a Christian feminist, ever since.

Six years ago, when I was in Fatima, Portugal, God gave me another of those downloads. This time, it wasn’t an understanding. It was a commission of sorts, a commission I’ve hemmed and hawed about, that I’ve delayed acting on, ever since.

I was sitting in the cathedral there at Fatima. I wasn’t praying, exactly. I wasn’t not praying, either. I was just drifting in that Presence that saturates the whole grounds. I do that sometimes. It’s kind of like the Holy Spirit is a river, and I’m floating in it, just letting the current take me.

As I was floating in the soft waters of the Spirit, just drifting along, I understood that my life was going to change and I would be doing something different.

I won’t go into the whole of it now because I don’t think it’s time. But I will say that part of it involved writing three books; three books, that for one thing, share with the world that understanding of what women mean to God that He gave me so long ago. There’s more, but that’s enough for me to talk about now.

I’ve been so intimidated by the whole thing that I’ve delayed and put it off for six years.

There have been several times during those six years when the Lord has re-visited me about it. Each time He told me to stop waiting and begin. I’ve joked to friends that I don’t want to die and go stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘Write a book’ don’t you understand?”

But the truth is, I don’t want to die and stand before the Lord and have Him ask me “What part of ‘write a book’ don’t you understand?”

I’m not a kid anymore, and the Lord has given me work that I need to do before I die. So, I guess I’d better do it.

Tomorrow, I have surgery on my foot again.

It’s Advent.

How do those things connect, except by the calendar?

Well, post surgery is a great time for prayer. Thanks to the pain meds, it’s also a great time for falling asleep in the middle of prayer. But I have a number of precious little sins I need to give up. One of them is procrastination about the work that God has charged me with. I’ve been like Moses without Moses’ sanctity, complaining that I don’t have the ability to speak and besides nobody will listen to me and shouldn’t He ask somebody better????

All that over the writing part of what He told me to do. I won’t even go into my total inability to do the rest of it.

I need to repent of doubting Him. I need to repent of not doing what He told me to do. I need to stop listening to the doubting devil and start doing what I’m told.

The reason I’m telling you about this is to ask for your prayers. I need this Advent as a sweeping out, clearing away and facing forward time. I don’t think there has ever been a time in my life when I’ve needed a penitential season as much as I need this one.

As I said, I’m asking for your prayers. As Leah Lebresco would say, Ora pro me

 

 

It’s That Time Again: Atheist Cranks Put Up Another of Their Annual Anti-Christmas Displays

Who reads the Bible more than the President of the Southern Baptist Convention?

Atheists.

Who talks about Jesus more than the Pope?

Atheists.

Who worries constantly about the fact that somebody, somewhere, might be enjoying Christmas?

Atheists.

Who misquotes the Bible and misapplies those quotes more than Archie Bunker?

Atheists.

In their annual campaign to ruin Christmas for the rest of us, the Freedom From Religion Foundation has somehow or other persuaded the government of Wisconsin to allow them to use the Wisconsin state capitol to promote their bizarro view of the world. The post, Tis the Season: Atheists stage “alternative” Nativity scene, by Deacon Greg Kandra who blogs here at Patheos at The Deacon’s Bench describes one of the many spitballs these folks throw in this annual Grinchfest. The article reads in part:

Atheists, clearly agitated that Christians purportedly “stole” various holiday traditions from pagans, have come up with a solution: A potentially-offensive “natural nativity scene” that removes baby Jesus and replaces traditional Bible characters with some eyebrow-raising alternatives. The Freedom From Religion Foundation (FFRF) is behind the spectacle , which emerged this week as part of a diorama inside the Wisconsin state capitol.
The angel that typically graces the nativity is replaced with an astronaut. And the wise-men – prominent figures in the Biblical account of Jesus’ birth — are replaced with evolutionary theorist Charles Darwin, scientist Albert Einstein, anarchist Emma Goldman and author Mark Twain. The Statue of Liberty is also placed in the alternative nativity to purportedly symbolize freedom.
Rather than including Mary, whom the FFRF dismisses as “a mythical fertility figure,” the display includes Venus, the Roman goddess of love. And forget about Joseph — this depiction has Thomas Jefferson, a figure atheist groups enjoy touting for his purported church versus state views. According to the FFRF, Jefferson “would have disavowed Christian devotional scenes on state property.” (Read more here.)

My first thought on reading this is one I often have when I encounter the antics of these people: They don’t sound like adults.

My second thought is another one that I often have when dealing with them: They are obsessed with what they claim they don’t believe. I don’t know of any other group as obsessive, compulsive, negative and, finally, boring as evangelical atheists. Did I forget rude? Forgive me. I don’t know any other group of people as rude as evangelical atheists.

I don’t believe any saint in history thought about Christ and his Church as much as these people do. Based on their public utterances, they must think about Him 24/7. I would guess that when they aren’t out posting repetitive insults on Christian blogs and dreaming up equally insulting slogans to put on buses and in dioramas at Christmas, they must be perusing the Scriptures, looking for verses to take out of context and use for spears to hurl in their various attacks.

I was never a full and absolute atheist, but I did spend 17 years of my young life in an all-out anti-religion mode. I was probably more anti-God in my way than these people are. The difference is I was good at it. I didn’t spend my days obsessing over God. I didn’t read the Scriptures. I didn’t insult anybody. I just didn’t care. I left Christians alone in much the same way that I don’t now go busting into Free Thinkers’ meetings to razz at them. They’ve got a right to think what they want. And I don’t care.

You see, that’s what unbelief, or in my case, rejection, actually looks like. You don’t obsess over what you don’t believe. These people are odd. And they’re really negative and nasty in the things they say. I’ve said this before, but what they remind me of are adolescents who are searching frantically for significance. I think the reason they spend so much time driving the rest of us bonkers is because it makes them feel special and important.

All I know for sure is that Christmas 2012 is just around the corner, which makes it time for the cable networks to trot out their annual Christmas specials complete with “experts” to dismember the Nativity Story. It’s also time for the various atheist groups to file lawsuits in an attempt to suppress and oppress any ideas but theirs. Along with that they’ll treat us to ridiculous “Christmas” displays like the one in Wisconsin.

As for me, I’m just beginning Advent, which, unlike this nonsense, is a serious spiritual season. I have much to repent of, much to pray about and much to learn during this time. I don’t think I’m going to let the annual atheist attempt to ruin Christmas for everybody else distract me.

Someone’s Coming, and We Need to Get Ready

Today is the first day of Advent. A time when we prepare to meet Our Lord.

I’ve read in books and seen on television a number of first person stories from people who were faced with imminent death. Many of them relate how, when the gun is pointed at their heads or the bear was chomping at their skulls, they asked God to forgive their sins and receive their souls. Then, almost invariably, they say they thought about their families.

Not once in any of these tales of survival in the face of death have I heard anyone say that they were worried about missing a meeting at their office or whether or not they would get their next promotion. Preparing to meet the Lord strips away all the little things that take up our days and leaves us with the stark reality of who we are in light of His justice and who we love in this world. When we are face to face with eternity, eternal things — love and the state of our souls in relation to God — are what matters.

One striking element of these narratives is that these people are, even in the face of their great peril, hopeful. They don’t just bemoan the ugliness of their sins as they compare to God’s justice, they ask, with certainty of His love, for forgiveness. They ask, with expectation that it will happen, for Him to receive their souls. They even ask Him to take care of the people they are going to leave behind.

The reason they have this confidence in God’s love, this hope of His forgiveness and that He will take them home when they die is that God become human in the form of a helpless little baby. That is what we are awaiting in Advent: The hope and the promise of the only One who can save us, the beginning of the end of death.

Advent is a door opening on our eternal salvation. It is the pathway that leads us to eternal life.

Someone’s coming. And we need to get ready.

Like everyone who knows that someone’s coming to their house, we need to sweep up the dust, straighten the pillows and stock the fridge with goodies. Only in this case, the house He is coming to is the real and eternal us: Our souls. Instead of a vacuum cleaner, we need confession.

All this is somewhat symbolic, of course. Jesus is already born. He has already suffered, died, been buried and rose again. The promise of Advent is reality for us already. But at the same time, this promise is also coming and on its way. We are battered, buffeted, chip, stained and pitted by the battles of our daily lives. We are embittered by our losses, defeated by our failures and enthralled with our victories.

We are, in short, too much of this world to be ready to receive our King. We need to pause and take stock of ourselves and we need to do it now. To paraphrase a soft drink commercial, we need that pause of humility and honest self-examination that refreshes. We must, if we are to be any use to Him at all, acknowledge our sins, look honestly at our failings and turn to Him for forgiveness and conversion of heart.

We are His instruments in this world. But before an instrument can be used, it must be cleaned, tuned and brought into good working order. After this election season and its many evils, after the struggles of our lives these past few months, we need this cleaning and tuning up.

We must prepare our eternal houses, our souls, to receive our Lord once again. That is what Advent is all about. If you would be His servant in this world, it is imperative that you not miss it.

Holy Father’s Prayer Intentions for December 2012

December 2012

General Intention: That migrants throughout the world may be welcomed with generosity and authentic love, especially by Christian communities.

Missionary Intention: Christ, light for all humanity. That Christ may reveal himself to all humanity with the light that shines forth from Bethlehem and is reflected in the face of his Church.

Pope Benedict: It is Upon the Word of God That We Shall be Judged

Pope Benedict XVI. Credit: Mazur / catholicchurch.org.uk.

Vatican City, Nov 18, 2012 / 04:27 pm (CNA/EWTN News).- During his Sunday Angelus remarks at the Vatican, Pope Benedict XVI said that the Sunday gospel reading about the passing of the world is a reminder that Jesus Christ is the focus and source of all creation.

“Everything passes, but the Word of God does not change, and each of us is responsible for his behavior before it,” Pope Benedict said Nov. 18, from his window overlooking St. Peter’s Square. “It is upon this that we shall be judged.”

Jesus does not act as a visionary who gives forecasts and dates, the Pope explained. Rather, he wants to show his disciples “the right path to walk on, today and tomorrow, to enter into eternal life.”

The Pope emphasized the centrality of Jesus in his comments to English-speaking pilgrims.

“Jesus tells us that although heaven and earth will pass away, His words will remain,” he said. “Let us pledge ourselves to build our lives more and more on the solid foundation of His holy word, the true source of life and joy.”

The Pope focused his remarks on the Sunday gospel reading from St. Mark, a passage he said is “probably the most difficult text of the Gospels.”

The reading “speaks of a future beyond our categories” and uses images and words taken from the Old Testament.

But above all, the Pope said, the reading “integrates a new center:” Jesus Christ himself and “the mystery of his person, and of his death and resurrection.”

The Word of God is “the source of all creation” and its creative power is “focused in Jesus Christ, the word made flesh.”

Jesus’ words are the “true firmament” that directs the thoughts and the path of mankind.

Even though Jesus uses the apocalyptic images of a darkened sun and moon, falling stars and the shaking of the heavens, these images are set against the backdrop of his statement that the Son of Man, Jesus himself, is coming “with power and great glory.”

“He is the true event that, in the midst of the turmoil of the world, remains the firm and stable center,” Pope Benedict said.

 Read more fine articles like this one at CNA/EWTN News.

Atheists to Obama: Remove ‘So Help Me God’ From Oath of Office

President Barack Obama, official portrait

The Freedom From Religion Foundation sent the following letter to President Obama two days after his re-election.

Among other things, they asked the president to remove the words “so help me God” from the presidential oath of office and to not place his hand on a Bible while taking the oath. They supported this demand with the interesting assertion that the words “so help me God” are unconstitutional since they “alienate the demographic elected officials must rely on in the coming years,” meaning, I assume, atheists.

This odd claim that it is unconstitutional to “alienate” unbelievers is only slightly more arrogant than the rest of the letter.

If you want a good summary of why Christians need to stop being so cavalier about their faith, read this letter.

November 8, 2012

President Obama
The White House
1600 Pennsylvania Avenue NW
Washington, DC 20500

Dear President Obama:

Congratulations on your re-election. I write to respectfully ask you to re-examine the use of religion as a political tool in your second term as President. The November election highlights the country’s rapidly shifting demographics. The electorate’s religious affiliation is changing more quickly than any other metric, including race. In 1990, 8% of Americans were nonreligious. When you were elected in 2008, 15% of Americans identified as nonreligious. Now that number is 20%.

More strikingly, 1-in-3 Americans under 30 now identify as nonreligious. This is the demographic that, by a wide margin, elected you in 2008 and again in 2012. It is the 30-and-unders who are our greatest supporters and are the future of this country. Their votes will decide future elections. More and more they are tired of leaders injecting religion into politics.

The shifts towards marriage, sex, and race equality, and the acceptance of non-nuclear families all coincide with the secularization of America. For secular America, religious rhetoric is empty. Religious justifications for government action are hollow arguments invoking an authority that we reject. Politicians often use religion to pander to their base, but we find such rhetoric exclusionary and distasteful.

You called Nov. 5 “the last day that I will ever campaign.” This term limitation is a gift. You are not beholden to any future constituency. This term is a chance to do something that no president in recent memory has done: reach out to secular Americans. In the past, that might have been politically costly.   But this recent election shows that it will be politically costly notto reach out to secular America. We are the future. Use this second term to build a legacy by rejecting the way this country politicizes religion.

You can start on January 21. When you stand to reaffirm your oath, do so using the language of the Founders. Eliminate the religious verbiage. While you’re at it, why not place your hand on the Constitution instead of a bible? The oath, laid out in Article 2, Section 1 of the Constitution, is secular (no hand on the bible, no “so help me God”): “I do solemnly swear (or affirm) that I will faithfully execute the Office of President of the United States, and will to the best of my Ability, preserve, protect and defend the Constitution of the United States.”

The “so help me God” tradition violates the Constitution in the act of promising to uphold it. The ritual alienates the demographic that elected officials must rely on in the coming years. It excludes the people that put you into office and runs against the wishes of the people that created your office. The Constitution does not mandate religious oaths; it prohibits them.

Use this term to create a legacy worthy of the Founders. Restore the presidential oath to its original form and begin the necessary process of divorcing American politics from religion.

I will never forget the lines of your first inaugural address, recognizing nonbelievers:

We are a nation of Christians and Muslims, Jews and Hindus — and non-believers. We are shaped by every language and culture, drawn from every end of this Earth; and because we have tasted the bitter swill of civil war and segregation, and emerged from that dark chapter stronger and more united, we cannot help but believe that the old hatreds shall someday pass; that the lines of tribe shall soon dissolvethat as the world grows smaller, our common humanity shall reveal itself; and that America must play its role in ushering in a new era of peace.

 The final tribal allegiance that must dissolve is not sex, or race, or sexual orientation. It is religion.   Private citizens are free to maintain that allegiance if they choose, but it is time our government abandoned it.   Please do not passively wait for a revelation of “our common humanity.” Lead us into that new era of peace and unity by separating politics from the division religion sows.

Start small. Start by honoring the secular intent of the oath. In its altered, religious form, the oath is a symbol of the disregard this country has shown for its Constitution in the name of God. Our once silent minority will no longer remain silent as politicians trample the document we hold sacred —the Constitution. Honor the oath as you recite it on January 21 and lead us into the new era you promised four years ago.

With hope,

Andrew L. Seidel
Attorney
Freedom From Religion Foundation

Christian Persecution: Standing for Jesus in the Face of Worldwide Persecution

This Worldwide Christian Persecution video is made using films from Voice of the Martyrs.

 

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Today I Took the Oath of Office and Will Begin a 54 Day Novena

5 At Gibeon the Lord appeared to Solomon during the night in a dream, and God said, “Ask for whatever you want me to give you.”

… 7 “Now, Lord my God, you have made your servant king in place of my father David. But I am only a little child and do not know how to carry out my duties. 8 Your servant is here among the people you have chosen, a great people, too numerous to count or number. 9 So give your servant a discerning heart to govern your people and to distinguish between right and wrong. For who is able to govern this great people of yours?”

 

My family and I made the trek to the capitol this morning for my swearing in.

Most of the rest of the representatives are still out there, going through the long ceremony, complete with speeches, of the regular, formal, swearing in. I decided, due to Gimpy the Foot, to go out early and get sworn in privately. However you do it, taking the oath of office is always a kick. Now I am legally the representative for District 89 in the Oklahoma State Legislature for the next two years.

I always begin a 54 Day Novena at this time of year. I ask God to use me however He wishes in the upcoming legislative session and to please protect me from my own stupidity so that I won’t accidentally do something that hurts people by mistake. I also pray Solomon’s prayer when he was first anointed king.

This is a good time to remember what happened to Solomon after he prayed this prayer. God heard him and gifted him with great wisdom and prosperity. But Solomon, despite his excellent intentions at the beginning of his reign, fell into apostasy, allowing his many political marriages to women who were not of his faith to re-introduce idolatry and human sacrifice into Israel.

That same thing has happened to our own country. Many of the leaders we’ve trusted, including some of our religious leaders, have led us into blatant human sacrifice to the gods of commerce, success, and a false sense of freedom. We abort our children, euthanize our elderly or warehouse them in nursing homes. We buy and sell young women as if they were chattel. Everything is forfeit to the pursuit of our private narcissism and the almighty dollar.

I remember all this when I pray Solomon’s prayer. It is a perfect prayer for any elected official, and the sad end to which Solomon fell after praying it is also worth pondering.

The 54-day Novena involves praying the Rosary for 54 days. For the first 27 days, you pray for your intention. For the last 27 days, you thank God for answering you. I do it every year before session. It focuses and cleanses me. I also think that it has been answered, usually in surprising ways that I would not have dreamed of at the time I prayed it.

So for me this business of being sworn in is another starting point. It signifies that I am, once again, committing myself to the job of being the voice for thousands of people within Oklahoma’s state government. I don’t take this lightly. In fact, it can be rather terrifying. Which is why I always turn to the Lord for support, guidance and help.

Christians can do nothing for God without God’s help. We are not are own. We belong to Him.

Prayer is the well-spring from which our grace and strength comes to us.

This is the beginning of my 17th year in elected office. My prayer is that God will use me however He sees fit. I am His.


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