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Monthly Archives: November 2012

Emails to God – Free Will Submission (John 1:9-13)

9 The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10 He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11 He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12 Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13 children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.

Dear God, the decision to submit our will to you is, for some, the easiest thing to do, and, for others, the most impossible thing to do. One of the themes that keeps coming up in my life over and over again is the sense of a respect for authority. I would like to think that it all has to do with parenting, but I don’t think that is necessarily true. I have known people whom I considered to be excellent parents who had troubled, rebellious children, and I have known people who I thought to be terrible parents who have excellent, accomplished, self-disciplined children. That said, however, I do think that parenting plays a large role. If I were to put percentages to it, I would say that 80% of it is parenting, and the other 20% is just the child/adult exercising their free will.

I talked with a friend this week who has a grown son in his 40’s still living with her. She was expressing frustrations with the son’s behavior now, and how she wishes she had done things differently when he was a teenager. My advice to her was to go home, and do now what you wish you had done then because she is continuing to do the things now that she regrets doing then.

I mention all of this because of verses 11 and 12. Verse 11 talks about those who rejected Jesus, and verse 12 talks about those who received him. Those who rejected him were unwilling to yield to his authority, but those who accepted him willingly accepted the notion of being your child.

Father, for the 80% or so influence that you have given my wife and me over our children, please help us to parent them and nurture them in a way that they might be willing to fully submit themselves to you and be your child. Help them to find your peace. Help them to find your love. Raise up other voices in their lives that you will use to influence them. Draw them into yourself and give them a sense of your grace, love, acceptance, and power. Make it something for which they hunger.

 
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Posted by on November 30, 2012 in John

 

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Emails to God – Testifying to the Light? (John 1:6-8)

6 There was a man sent from God whose name was John. 7 He came as a witness to testify concerning that light, so that through him all might believe. 8 He himself was not the light; he came only as a witness to the light.

Dear God, what does it mean to give witness to the light? I had someone yesterday ask me a good question: “What are your thoughts on the Great Commission and its meaning for your life?” Hmm. Once upon a time I would have said that I think it is important—that people need to understand the light that is in you, submit to it, and embrace it.

Now, however, I find myself a little more worn down by the gray areas in life. I can’t tell if I am just getting to know you better and understanding a deeper sense of what the Great Commission means, or if my zeal and fervor has been watered down and I have opted for an easier way out. I do know that spending money on foreign missionaries, or even local missionaries, for them to do this as their living seems more and more odd each year. I almost used the word absurd, but it doesn’t seem absurd—just odd. The young man I was visiting with yesterday who asked the question has a degree in computer science, but is choosing instead to be a part of a church that will have him raise his own support and meet with people on campus. I cannot imagine a day that my “work” included meeting with two or three people individually, leading a small group once or twice a week, and then organizing a mission trip every once in a while—all the while making about $48K per year (or about $23 per hour at a 40-hour per week job).

So, back to my initial question—what does it mean to give witness to the light? I suppose for me, right now, it means that I need to be a part of reflecting your presence to those around me. I don’t seem to be doing that much in the way of proselytizing, but I know that those who come into contact with me can see you in me. At least I hope they do.

Father, help me to simply know what to do as your servant minute-by-minute today. Help me to live fully aware of you and the light about which I am to testify. Help me to represent you well, and for others to give you glory through their interactions with me. Help me to decrease as you increase, and use me in whatever way you will regardless of what it means to me.

 
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Posted by on November 29, 2012 in John

 

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Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 5

For those of you keeping up with this series that I’m doing to correspond with my wife’s blog, there is no Part 4 on my part because I didn’t really have anything to add to that part of her story. For those of you who don’t know what this is about, my wife joined the Catholic church this last Easter, and she is doing a 6-part series on how this came to be. I am doing companion pieces to her posts to give a view of what was happening with me and the family from my perspective as we all went through this process.

When last we left off, Megan had started visiting our local Catholic church, we were doing family worship times with our teenage children, but that was starting to fizzle out, and after I told a friend that I was feeling a little disconnected from Megan spiritually, he told me that I needed to “suck it up and go to church with my wife” as opposed to going to a nondenominational church that met in the bowling alley.

I started visiting St. Mary’s in late March. Frankly, I have never enjoyed Sunday morning worship so it didn’t matter that much to me. Also, as I’ve said before, I don’t have the problems that some Protestants have with Catholicism. I grew up in an ecumenical home, and after visiting a couple of times I found that I actually enjoyed the services more than I expected. My biggest hesitation was the more liturgical format, but, to my surprise, I didn’t mind it at all. In fact, after a few weeks, I got into the rhythm and kind of enjoyed it.

There is a local CPA in town who does the annual audit for the nonprofit where I work. He also happens to be a deacon at St. Mary’s. He had seen me at mass a few times and we talked about it in his office one day. He encouraged Megan and me to go through the RCIA (Right of Catholic Initiation for Adults) process to see if joining the church might be appropriate for us. I talked to Megan about it, and she had already thought about it, so we agreed to check it out.

On this point, I’ll disagree with Megan’s post a little. She said I had no intention of joining the Catholic church as I entered the RCIA process with her. That’s not true. I went into the process as open-minded as I could and willing to go through Catholic confirmation if I felt like that was what God wanted for me.

The classes were interesting. I knew that there would be parts with which I disagreed (as I do with any denomination), but I also didn’t think that was a big deal. I told Megan at the beginning that I was going to do my best to keep my mouth shut and not show any public disagreement because I didn’t want to be the person in the room that thought he was smarter than everyone else. For the most part I was able to do this. There was one night where the leader forced my hand a little, but for the rest of the time I was able to be a silent support in the class and not take away from anyone else’s experience as they sought out God and His call for them. I can say that I perceived that everyone involved in the leadership was very Godly and earnest in their love for Him. That’s all that mattered to me.

In the end, as I explained to one of the leaders about why I didn’t go through the final confirmation, I found that I agreed with 85% of the theology; 10% I didn’t agree with, but it didn’t matter; and then there was 5% that I didn’t agree with that was the deal-breaker. The interesting thing, however, was that it was NOT a deal-breaker for me, but a deal-breaker for them. If I couldn’t believe in this one particular part of the theology then they would not want me to join. I was okay with that, but my response seemed to vex the RCIA leader a little. I still don’t think he quite understands why I continue to attend mass every Sunday with Megan. The plain answer is that I think it is important that we worship together, and this is where she feels called to be.

There is one other reason I didn’t join the Catholic church. This became clear to me one night when the leader told me that one difference between Protestant churches and the Catholic church is that when you join a Protestant church you are joining that local congregation that may or may not be part of a particular denomination. When you join the Catholic church, however, you are joining the world-wide Catholic church and not just St. Mary’s Parish. Taken a step further, when you join the Catholic church, it is a life-long commitment to be Catholic. Frankly, I’m not willing to say that I am going to be a part of any particular denomination for the rest of my life, be it Baptist, Presbyterian, Lutheran, Methodist, or Catholic. I have found that my journey in corporate worship has taken me to different churches and different styles throughout my life, and that is simply a commitment that I cannot make.

One last thing. I don’t know if she’ll tell this part of the story, but I want to mention it briefly because it plays into the part of her post about rejection for this decision from different corners of her world. About a month before her Easter confirmation she received a letter from a “friend” of her mother’s. I came home from work and noticed she was upset. We were about to leave the house together, and when I asked her what was wrong she told me that she would tell me in the car. When we got in the car she read me the letter. It was someone who claimed that she knew Megan’s mother’s heart about this matter and that her mother, who had died two years before, would not be happy about this. The person wrote awful things about Catholicism and then didn’t have the courage to sign the letter completely, only giving her first name. I had to pull the car over while she read, I was so offended by what I heard. I knew Megan needed to understand that this letter was from hell, so I took the letter from her, crumpled it up, and drove to the nearest gas station where I threw it away to get it out of our lives as quickly as I could. I then told her that her father would scoff at the idea that this woman know’s Megan’s mother’s heart on this issue, and that it was full of lies. I think my response helped. Frankly, I consider it to be the most supportive thing I did for Megan through this entire process.

So to sum up, it is now spring of 2012, Megan and I are wrapping up going through the RCIA process. I am a little surprised that Megan is going to be confirmed, but supportive. Easter is coming, and she is wondering how her family and friends will respond.

 
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Posted by on November 28, 2012 in Supporting My Wife Going Catholic

 

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Emails to God – “The Darkness Has Not Overcome It” (John 1:1-5)

1 In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. 2 He was with God in the beginning. 3 Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. 4 In him was life, and that life was the light of all mankind. 5 The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.

Dear God, sometimes I need to just reboot and go back to the beginning. In this case, it has been months since I have had a specific book of the Bible to work through, and I find it easier to discipline myself to spend time in scripture if I have a specific place to go. So I’ve decided to revisit John’s Gospel, and see what you might have for me. I still remember some of the things that came to my mind the first time I journaled through this book, so please help me to block that out as much as you would like to block that out so that I can look at all of this in a fresh way.

I suppose verse five is what strikes me today: “The light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.” Sometimes, it really seems like the darkness has overcome your light, or at least is in the process of overcoming it. But I think the reason I think or perceive that is because I cannot see the forest for the trees. I tend to look at the world from my small perspective, but you look at it as being over centuries and millennia. You can see how you have continue to be light to darkness. You can see how your light has pushed back the darkness and given hope to those who are righteous. The world is so much bigger than my little life and the problems that I face in it. Your light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not (and will not) overcome it.

Father, help me to do my part in shining your light. Help me to shine it, first, in my home. Help me to shine it for my wife and my children. Help me to shine it at work. Help me to shine it for our staff, volunteers, and clients. Help me to shine it for our community. Live and love through me. And help me to shine it for the world. Use me however you will to give hope to others.

 
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Posted by on November 26, 2012 in John

 

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Emails to God – Supporting My Wife Going Catholic, Part 3

This is the third part in a series I am doing as a companion piece to my wife’s blog. She is explaining in a six-part series how she came to join the Catholic church this last Easter, so I thought I would flesh out some of the details as I experienced what she experienced. You can read her blog at www.meganwillome.com.

In today’s post, my wife introduces our local priest, Msgr. Enda McKenna. Let me give you a description of Enda. If every priest were like Enda then everyone would want to be Catholic. If every Christian pastor were like Enda then everyone would want to be a Christian. You get the idea. He is a sweet, gentle soul. I often describe him as a doll of a man. Just precious. He’s in his early seventies. He has soft white hair and an Irish twinkle in his eye. He grew up in Northern Ireland, and has that slightly whimsical Irish stereotype about him. He doesn’t take himself too seriously, and I adore him. Here is a picture:

Msgr. Enda McKenna
St. Mary’s Catholic Church, Fredericksburg, Texas

Through my work, I am privileged to be a member of our local ministerial association, even though I joke that I am the amateur Christian among the professionals. That is where I first met Enda. He is the first Catholic priest since I have lived here to actively participate in our ecumenical Christian ministerial association (okay, there has only been one other priest since I lived here, but I was really impressed when he started to show up and participate). Without exception, all of the pastors in the association love Enda. One retired Baptist pastor has particular affection for him. Enda was one of the first pastors to reach out to him when he lost a son to a car accident.

So that’s a description of Enda. Now, back to our story. When last we left off, my wife had started visiting St. Mary’s during the Christmas season, and I was visiting a church that meets in a bowling alley. Our two children, daughter who was 11 and son who was 14 weren’t visiting with us because we felt like were were in such flux, so we were doing family worship services together on Sundays. I also started having a Friday morning breakfast with one of the men from the bowling alley church so that we could share our lives and develop our relationships with God.

Around March of 2011, about three months after my wife and I were attending different churches, I mentioned to my friend, Tom, that I was feeling really disconnected spiritually from her. He looked at me and his advice was profound. I think I have this quote right: “You need to suck it up and go to church with your wife.” Hmm. That wasn’t the advice I was looking for. I had hoped he would encourage me to work through this with her in a way that we would both find a church together. But God obviously had her on a bit of a spiritual quest, trying to make some sense of her own relationship with Him given the loss of her mother and how her own view of her Christianity might have been wrapped up with her mother’s. As I said in my last post, it wasn’t that I resisted going to St. Mary’s because it was Catholic. I resisted because it was liturgical. Having grown up Baptist, visiting Lutheran churches was about as liturgical as I had gone. Worshipping Sunday after Sunday in the Catholic style…scared isn’t the right word. Let’s just say, it didn’t enthuse me.

I started attending St. Mary’s with her in early March 2011, and I talked to Enda at one of the ministerial association meetings about us visiting St. Mary’s. He had seen me there with her and wondered. I told him that Megan would probably enjoy a chance to visit with him about what she was experiencing, so I think he made it a point to visit with her that Sunday morning that she describes in today’s post. That is not to say that Enda wouldn’t have sought her out anyway. He is a generous soul and as accessible a Catholic priest as I have ever known, willing to change his schedule at the drop of a hat for anyone. But I think he was particularly aware of my wife’s quest as a result of our conversation at the ministerial association.

That’s where Megan ends her narrative, so that’s where I’ll sign off too. We’ll see you next Wednesday with Part 4.

 

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Emails to God – Prayer Requests (Colossians 1:9)

9 For this reason also, since the day we heard of it, we have not ceased to pray for you and to ask that you may be filled with the knowledge of His will in all spiritual wisdom and understanding,

Dear God, this verse is appropriate for today because I have some friends who need special prayer. To protect their privacy, I will use initials, but you know who they are.

  • For CS, he told me last night that he is going in for testing on a possible tumor in his ear. A tumor anywhere in the head would be in my top five of places I wouldn’t want a tumor—maybe even the top of the list. Please be with him today. Be with the ENT who is seeing him as well. Father, even now, please miraculously touch him and remove any danger from his body, if you are willing. I know you can do this father. I ask it on my friend’s behalf. Please, give him healing and a story to tell that will help him to glorify you and draw others into your presence.
  • I pray for GD and his wife, CD. Please be with them as they look for GD’s healing. Work in his body. Please touch it and move it into the next phase of recovery. This doesn’t seem life-threatening, but it is scary and hard. These people love you. Please strongly support them. Give CD strength as well. She has her own health issues, and she needs your strength to be able to care for her husband and support him through this. At the same time, raise up hands, arms and feet around them to do your work in their lives. Help them to see that it is you and recognize you as being the author of all things good in their lives.
  • I pray for BB and EB. They have to be so fatigued. Their health battles have been long and wearying. Please help them to feel your touch and hope. Help them to live with your power and joy. I don’t know that I could do it if I was them, but I have more faith in their ability to find you in the midst of these struggles than I do in my own. Please help and encourage them.
  • I lift up PO to you. He has going through an important procedure last week and I pray that you will help his body to adopt its new pieces and help him heal. Use this as a special opportunity to reveal yourself to him and those around him. Help him to feel your touch and your presence.

Father, in all of these cases and more, please do not let the pain and stress of these events go in vain. Please help each person whose name is flowing through my heart right now, including myself, to turn loose of the world and grasp on to you. Help us to pray without ceasing. Help us to submit our wills to you. Please forgive our sins. Forgive our selfishness and idiocy. Give us each the strength we need to do your will and give you glory in our families, in our work, in our churches and with our friends. Help us to decrease as you increase and make us your royal ambassadors.

 
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Posted by on November 12, 2012 in Miscellaneous

 

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Emails to God – Supporting my Wife Going Catholic, Part 2

I am continuing my process of writing companion pieces to my wife’s blog posts about how she ended up joining the Catholic church (click here for her blog). I’m doing my best to line up my posts with her timeline, trying to give my perspective on a fairly monumental shift in our lives.

My previous post about this last Wednesday ended with me saying that our family was in a bit of a church crisis at the end of 2009. My wife, daughter, and I were attending one church while our then 13-year-old son was attending another that he liked better. What I didn’t say was that my wife’s mother was gravely ill. My wife hasn’t written much about this in her “Going Catholic” series, so I want to be careful to not violate her privacy in this area. What I will do is give you a description of my mother-in-law.

In short, the people who knew here saw her as a spiritual giant, a prayer warrior, and thoroughly Godly woman, and she was all of these things. When she passed in March 2010 I would conservatively estimate that there were over 700 people at her funeral. I think I’m safe to say that, without exception, the people there admired her greatly.

She had gone through her own spiritual journey. I’m a little fuzzy on some of the details, but growing up Episcopalian, I believe she would describe herself as having discovered God in a new way in college. It was when she joined Bible Study Fellowship (BSF) in the late 70’s that her discipling relationship with Jesus took off. She eventually became the teaching leader for her group, and started to have tremendous influence on countless women that would continue until her death, and probably beyond. She eventually left the Episcopal church, and by the time I met her she and my wife’s family attended a Bible church. My wife grew up Episcopalian as well, and the change to the Bible church came in late middle school. By the end of her life, however, my mother-in-law and father-in-law had returned to the Episcopal church.

Again, I don’t want to tell too much of my wife’s story and violate her privacy, but instead explain what I experienced during this process. After my mother-in-law’s death in march 2010 my wife found herself being uncomfortable in the church we attended. It wasn’t the church specifically. She felt like it was something within her. We tried different churches, but she never felt comfortable. For my part, being very frank, I have never enjoyed going to church so I was probably not the best-equipped person to lead us through this transition. There were some Sundays that, with no specific place to go, I would just choose to sleep in. This was difficult for the kids because, being middle schoolers and high schoolers by now, they were just like me at that age and didn’t want to go to church–especially a different one every week or two. It wasn’t exactly fair to them make them try a new place each Sunday, so we stopped making them go with us when we would visit a place.

By the end of 2010, we were trying a “family worship service” on Sundays with our son leading music on his guitar and having a short devotion/lesson. That part was going surprisingly well at the time. I had found a church that I liked that met in a bowling alley (obviously, it was an informal group), but Megan was still looking for something different. Then one Sunday (I think it was one where I had slept in), she came home and told me that she visited St. Mary’s Catholic Church that morning and really loved it. It was the first time I had heard her describe a church that way–really ever. I had never heard that kind of enthusiasm from her about any church in the 20 years I had known her. It kind of scared me because I was thinking that there wasn’t a way I could follow that path–not because it was Catholic in theology but because it was liturgical and formal in its structure. My response would have been the same if she had said Episcopalian. It made me nervous and resistant.

That is where our story ends today because that is where her blog ended. In summary, at the end of 2010, my wife’s family was dealing with the loss of her mother, I was visiting a nondenominational church that met in a bowling alley, my wife had visited St. Mary’s for the first time, and we were doing family worship with our children on Sundays. It was also during this time that I started to have a once-a-week Friday morning meeting with a man I met at the bowling alley church. This new friendship proved to be pivotal in how I would support my wife on her journey.

 

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