Tag Archives: Christian

Self-Pity

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I received a comment on one of my recent posts that really hit home. You see, when I started this blog (as mentioned in the “About” section), I had the intent of beginning a ministry to help others who suffer from mental illness. Being faith-based in nature, my aim was also to help people know God.

Well, by perusing my own posts for the last, oh, several months, I was hard pressed to find much, if any, encouragement from myself.

In other words, I’ve been sulking in self-pity for the longest time. I realized it, but I didn’t seem to care. I didn’t feel the need to make any adjustments. King David used the Psalms to gripe about things, and then he threw in a praise to God at the end, I would tell myself, half-believing the justification.

Also, my posts have gotten shorter. Why? I ask myself. Because I’ve been selfish. I drag myself before the computer, I whine and complain, and then I log off, putting in my “time.”

I’m glad Jesus’ ministry wasn’t like that.

I’m FAR from being like Jesus. Really far. At times I try–

See, I just caught myself before the full-on “woe is me” stuff came out.

Thank you, dear commenter, for bringing my self-pity to my attention. I listened to you because:

  1. you were sincere,
  2. you were loving, and
  3. you know what I’m going through because you suffer from it too.

The truth be told, I came back from the psychiatrist this evening. He’s trying to adjust my meds. Things aren’t working out too well. For some reason, when I leave the psych’s office, I feel like cutting loose with sin. The doctor told me I suffer from hypermania (whatever that is), bipolar disorder, and obsessive-compulsive disorder (which explains why I feel the world is crashing down on me when I give in to the tidal wave of lustful thoughts and feelings).

The person who left the above-mentioned comment recommended a book entitled The Temperament God Gave You. I ordered it, and it arrived a few days ago. I like what I see so far. I’m so glad a Catholic book on that topic is available.

Dear readers, the only inspiration and positive thoughts that I have for you this time aren’t necessarily Christian nor are they from the Bible. An hour ago, I was sulking in my big, fluffy chair in my so-called library, and I pulled down my copy of poems by Emily Dickinson. I opened the book to a random page and found something called “Hope.” I posted it on my Facebook page, but you can read it below:

HOPE
by Emily Dickinson

Hope is the thing with feathers
That perches in the soul,
And sings the tune without the words,
And never stops at all,

And sweetest in the gale is heard;
And sore must be the storm
That could abash the little bird
That kept so many warm.

I’ve heard it in the chillest land,
And on the strangest sea;
Yet, never, in extremity,
It asked a crumb of me.

~t

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Here I Go Again On My Own

Here I go again on my own,

going down the only road I’ve ever known.

Like a drifter I was born to walk alone.

                                     –Whitesnake, “Here I Go Again”

I am a member of the Knights of Columbus, and we had our monthly council meeting last night. The officer installation for the 2014-15 fraternal year took place in June, so our July meeting was the first time that our new officers took their positions (I continued as an officer).

This means that our new grand knight (chairman) assumed his role as leader of our council. The only reason he “got the job” was because no one else wanted it; too much responsibility and pressure. (In a lot of cases, grand knights are retired guys because they have the most time to devote).

Well, we officers and regular members knew it was a bad idea because… um… let’s just say he wasn’t the right type to lead a K of C council. Problems started right off the bat: He never bothered to learn the ins and outs of the office of grand knight; he shouted and berated guys who had the floor during meetings; it was “his way or the highway;” etc.

Needless to say, this caused an enormous amount of tension in the air every month, not to mention the fact that members have stopped volunteering for fundraisers and various other projects due to an apparent drop in morale.

At the July meeting, I merely sat there and observed the circus around me, ashamed at what the council had become. Last month, I went off on the grand knight and had to be calmed down by another officer. At that point, whenever I would think about or see K of C guys, I would get panic attacks and start to hyperventilate.

Last night, at the September meeting, all hell broke loose.

I won’t go into the details, but there was a controversial proposal from the floor which created a battle line immediately. Shouting ensued. Words with venom dripped from a portion of these godly men’s mouths.

After the meeting, I was confronted by some of my “friends” about my stance on the particular issue. It led to harsh words and defensive body language all around. I left in a huff, shaking and gasping for air, ready to physically assault someone.

It was as if I were drunk: I don’t recall everything that transpired during my raging panic attack. I loudly cursed at a friend and officer in the lobby of the parish community center. I stormed to my car, not looking back as my friend chased me down. I didn’t acknowledge him until I got to my car.

My complete meltdown was taking place. I could not stand up. Leaning on my car, shaking, you would have thought English was not my first language: I was having trouble forming words and uttering sentences.

I remember breaking down in front of my friend, confessing all of my mental issues. I was a blubbering mess. I kept repeating the refrain, “I don’t want to go to prison.”

I was on the verge of seriously hurting someone.

I would love to tell you that my friend hugged me, told me everything would be okay, and that I went on my merry way.

That’s far from what happened next.

One of the new members and officers, an arrogant, loud-mouthed stocky Latino guy strutted over to me in the dark parking lot. His actions and expressive speaking style reminded me of a pissed-off prison inmate.

“You know, I don’t appreciate the way you talked to me in there. You don’t know nothing about me. I’m a man. You disrespected me.”

(Mind you, we are two practicing Catholics and officers in the K of C, so this will definitely amuse you anti-Catholics out there.)

Lots of talk. Lots of swagger. Chest puffed out. Intimidating?

Not in the least.

I’m 6’5″ tall, 220 pounds, and skilled in aikido which I practiced in Japan. This guy was expecting me to either cower before him or run away.

Instead, I got in his face (Well, his face was in my chest).

Accusations, threats, and macho shouting progressed until my friend stepped between us.

Latino’s smart-ass taunts got me more worked up; I was already a basket case, pushed to the brink of insanity.

To make a long story short, he eventually walked away to his truck and left as I kept yelling, trying to provoke him into come back and taking a swing at me.

***********************************

What did I learn from this?

That I have a lot of soul-searching to do. That both the Latino guy and I need to repent. That I wasn’t being like Jesus.

That my illness had struck again and I’ll have to leave the council out of shame. That I’ll have to find another parish to attend. That I’ll have to start over yet again.

I have since officially resigned from my officer position, sent a heart-felt apology to the Latino guy, and sent myself into permanent exile from this K of C council and parish. Possibly an indefinite exile from the Church and religion for a while.

I never, ever imagined this happening. This K of C council was full of my brothers in the faith. I looked forward to every meeting, every function, every volunteer opportunity. Because it was a brotherhood.

But it happened.

Here I go again.

~t

(Photo by Topaz)


Everything is Meaningless

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I’m sitting here in my home office surrounded by a Catholic calendar, a crucifix, and various prayer cards featuring great saints through the ages. Knights of Columbus plaques line my walls.

My two beautiful, healthy sons are asleep in their bunkbeds. My loving wife has just gone to bed.

But I don’t feel anything.

I am empty, confused, angry, suicidal, dejected.

You can have all the Bibles, crosses, religious stuff, and everything else: the “NOTW” stickers that I see on the backs of so many cars, et cetera, but it is all meaningless.

Just like the wise teacher states again and again in Ecclesiastes.

Today I had to go outside to the far edge of my campus where I work because I had to get out of the building. I was on the verge of killing a student who had pissed me off with his smart-ass tendencies. (Sorry for the potty mouth — but it’s a big, bad world.)

I had to get away. There is a nature park on the grounds of my college campus. I sat there on a large rock and cursed at God the whole time. Cursed at him for the hand that I was dealt in life.

It takes EVERY OUNCE of my strenth and sanity EVERY DAY to “keep my head above water” in regard to my mental illness. Most other people hover above the water, floating around, singing and humming, enjoying life, enjoying work, enjoying being alive.

Not me. I curse God for giving me this depression/suicidal ideation/insecurity/anxiety/bipolar tendencies.

If you’re a nice church-going individual, I don’t expect you to be reading this far. Just take heart, you say. Have faith.

Ha.

If only it were that simple.

Last month, one of my favorite comedians of all time, Robin Williams, committed suicide due to depression. The nation mourned and paid tribute. Countless articles about depression and suicidal thoughts appeared on all sorts of blogs and news sites such as CNN, Huff Post, and Yahoo.

That’s all fine and great. But what about now? After the storm has blown over, people will just go back to forgetting about us. The articles will be fewer and fewer.

But know this: If you’re in the same boat as I am, I will never forget you. If you are reading this, whether you’re Catholic, atheist, whatever, I am with you in the crappy hand that life dealt to you before you were even born. I am at the poker table with you, crying and blubbering over the worthless hands of 2s and 3s that we’re holding.

Suicide hasn’t appealed to me as strongly in the past two years as it did today. A nice flowing river runs directly behind the nature park at school. I’ve read that drowning is an excruciating death. How bad could it be, though? Inhale a few breaths of water, keep my head underwater, and voila: freedom.

You’re a Catholic blogger, Topaz. Be more positive, some of you have told me.

It’s a cold, hard, motherf****r of a world, and right now, I’m being crapped on by laughing vultures.

same ol’, same ol’.

Hey, normal Christian/Catholic person out there, be glad that you’re “normal” (I’m not supposed to use the world “normal” because it’s relative. But I couldn’t give a s%@& right now.).

If you have time, pray for the poor bastards like us who have to talk ourselves out of suicide and dark depression before our feet even hit the floor after waking up every morning.

Remember us.

I’m out.

~t

(random photo by Topaz)


And God Said No

Credit: Alexandre Buisse

My wife, who is not a Christian, reluctantly agreed to attend a baptismal class for our youngest son. I figured she would be bored out of her mind: The hour-long class would be full of Catholic terminology regarding a sacrament that Ayako had no clue about.

And there would be praying.

That evening, I found the courage to glance over at Ayako at some point during the class, and, sure enough, her eyes were glazed over. “How are you doing?” I asked meekly.

No response.

I got worried. The whole idea of baptizing our children was mine. I was the reason we were all here on a weeknight instead of at home in our highly-structured routine.

In my mind, I tried to hurry along the class so that I wouldn’t feel like I was keeping my wife hostage inside a Catholic church. Just a few more minutes, right? I kept asking myself nervously.

After 90 minutes, we were dismissed. Leaving Ayako with both kids, who were going stir crazy by then, I went up to the individuals in charge of the baptismal class to ask some questions.

Outside in the parking lot, I expected Ayako to either give me the silent treatment or start complaining about wasting her time. Instead, the first words out of her mouth were: “I liked that prayer.”

“Which one?”

“The one at the beginning. It sounded like a poem.”

This is a very good sign! I thought, shocked that she actually enjoyed something about the class.

I went home and punched in some key words on the computer; I had no idea what the poem was called or anything. That’s why God gave us Google, I reminded myself.

Ayako even wanted me to print a copy for her which she now reads every night before going to bed.

The moral of this story? God is in control. He can work wonders. He changed a big fool such as me, and He can surely convert the heart of a tough little non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist Japanese woman. Just not according to my timetable.

Anyway, here is the poem that I tracked down. It’s called “When God Says No” by Claudia Minden Welsz.

 

I asked God to take away my pride,
and God said, “No.”
He said it was not for Him to take away,
but for me to give up.

I asked God to make my handicapped child whole,
and God said, “No.”
He said her spirit is,
while her body is only temporary.

I asked God to grant me patience,
And God said, “No.”
He said patience is a by-product of tribulation.
It isn’t granted, it is earned.

I asked God to give me happiness,
And God said, “No.”
He said He gives blessings,
happiness is up to me.

I asked God to spare me pain,
and God said, “No.”
He said, “Suffering draws you apart from
worldly cares and brings you closer to Me.”

I asked God to make my spirit grow,
and God said, “No.”
He said I must grow on my own,
but He will prune me to make it fruitful.

I asked God if He loved me,
and God said, “Yes.”
He gave me His only Son, who died for me.
And I will be in Heaven someday
because I believe.

I asked God to help me love others
as much as He loves me,
and God said,
“Ah, finally, you have the idea.”

~t


Sunday Musings: Franciscans Make Me Think

Credit: Jimmy Smith

This is a new section entitled Sunday Musings. It consists of thoughts, observations, and experiences that I have during or immediately after Sunday Mass.

It is a semi-regular feature; I will update it on Sundays as I feel inspired to do so.

 

1. Don’t Judge a Beard by its Cover

As we sang the opening hymn, the procession passed by me. I had to do a double-take. It’s a visiting priest, I thought. Look at that beard! It’s overtaking his face. And then more thoughts: I think he missed his exit. The Orthodox church is downtown.

It turned out that he was a Franciscan friar and had the most gentle, welcoming voice, reminding me of John Michael Talbot (below), one of my favorite Christian vocalists. The beard isn’t too far off, either.

 

2. The Ambience of an Evening Mass is Better

Because of my oldest son’s birthday tomorrow, I attended the 5:30 pm Mass today (Saturday). I don’t know, but there’s something about the (lack of) lighting that made this evening Mass more intimate and special. The candles were more brightly illuminated, and there was more of a mystical feeling in the air. I loved it.

 

3. More Bible

Of course we Catholics hear Scripture readings each Sunday from the Old Testament, Psalms, New Testament Epistles, and the Gospels. However, it’s great to hear a homily that is totally about the Bible (not that other homilies are bad).

The priest elaborated on the Gospel reading (Matthew 5: 17-37) and spoke in detail about how Jesus was the new Moses who taught the new Ten Commandments from the hillside (Sermon on the Mount) just as Moses received the tablets from the mountaintop. Eye opening indeed.

I encourage Catholics (and other Christians) who are reading this to delve into the Scriptures more to find these little nuggets of inspiration. It will deepen your faith tremendously.

 

4. Summarizing the Homily in One Statement

I liked how the priest today summarized his entire homily like this: “So, the word of the day is: the law of grace.” Boom. Succinct and effective.

 

5. Franciscans Always Make Me Think

There’s something attractive about Franciscans. It must be their vows of poverty and way of life. It’s so… impacting.

The friar this evening was wearing brown sandals in stark contrast to his flowing green vestments. As I watched him distribute the Eucharist, I couldn’t stop admiring his pure joy and humility.

Driving home, I usually turn on my iPod or listen to talk radio. Tonight, however, I spent the whole commute thinking about how I could be more like that kind friar. I didn’t even catch his name, but I’m still thinking about him. Wonderful.

~t


Should Christians Watch Orange is the New Black?

Credit: Netflix

I wrote this post because I typed the above title into Google the other day and got zero results. Disappointed, I decided to do something about it.

If you want to know about the latest TV shows or the hottest movies, I am the last person you should ask. Seriously. The inane garbage that Hollywood and the TV networks produce doesn’t interest me in the slightest. When my mother raved on and on in an email about the movie Gravity, I didn’t really pay attention. Sandra Bullock in a space movie. Whatever, I thought.

So, I find it ironic that I’m writing about what many people are calling one of the hottest TV shows at the moment. To be honest, I stumbled across it by accident. My sister lets me watch documentaries on her Netflix account (thanks Kay). For some reason, I’m drawn to prison documentaries like Lockup and Behind Bars. I’ve always been afraid that I might end up in prison one day due to my anger, so it’s like preventative therapy. Netflix is good because I can find obscure independent films about prison life or how ex-cons adjust to life after they’re released.

Every time I entered the keyword ‘prison’ on Netflix, Orange is the New Black always appeared in the results. With my strict diet of gritty documentaries and independent dramas, I naturally avoided Orange. Take another look at the promo pic at the top of this post and you’ll see why. The thing looks like a goofy chick-flick comedy, for cryin’ out loud.

Bored and running low on choices one night, I decided to give the first episode of Orange a try. I was pleasantly surprised at the writing and character development. And I love good writing and character development (Peter Bratt’s La Mission is a recent favorite of mine).

Let’s get back to the topic of this post. To support individual Christian opinions, we can use Scripture verses such as Matthew 15:11 (What goes into someone’s mouth does not defile them, but what comes out of their mouth, that is what defiles them) or the sin catch-all verse, 1 Thessalonians 5:22 (Abstain from every form of evil).

A lot of gray area exists in life, though; some things are not so cut-and-dry. However, as good as Orange is, there are two main things that make me wonder if Christians should be watching it.

1. Sex, Sex, Sex

Lesbian sex scenes. Close-up photos of male and female reproductive anatomy. Lesbian sex scenes. Nude scenes. Sexually-explicit talk. Suggestive scenes…

I understand that the story takes place in a women’s prison, but are there REALLY that many lesbians in such a small area at one time?! And if so, are they REALLY that free to have sex whenever they want in showers and in the chapel?? Of course. That’s what viewers want to see. But, wouldn’t the series still be a hit without all the gratuitous sex scenes? I think so.

Well, then don’t watch it, Topaz. But I want to. Although parts of the show are distracting and tempting to my sinful nature, it’s a good, solid story. So far, I’ve been able to look away or skip past the sex. I don’t know how long I want to keep doing that. It’s frustrating and troublesome.

2. Secular Humanism

It’s obvious that Orange is targeting the middle-class secular market as most TV shows do, but there’s a difference between secularism and overt God Delusion-thumping atheism.

Yes, we know that Piper Chapman, the main character, doesn’t believe in God, but the writers still make her spew all of this:

Piper: I can’t pretend to believe in something I don’t, and I don’t [believe in this]… I believe in science. I believe in evolution. I believe in Nate Silver, and Neil deGrasse Tyson, and Christopher Hitchens, although I do admit he could be kind of an ***hole. I cannot get behind some Supreme Being who weighs in on the Tony awards while a million people get whacked by machetes. I don’t believe a billion Indians are going to hell. I don’t think that we get cancer to learn life lessons. And I don’t believe people die young because God needs another angel. I think it’s just bull****. And on some level, I think we all know that…

Actually, instead of being offended, I laughed out loud. Really? Is that all you got? I thought.

The main spokesperson for Christianity in the show is a character nicknamed Pennsatucky, a backwoods, uneducated, former meth user who condemns nearly everyone to hell at one point or another. The figurative triumph of atheism over religion in the last episode left me speechless. Really? I’ve seen high-school stage productions with deeper symbolism than that.

There is, however, a Catholic nun character who is locked up for civil disobedience. The few times that she appears in the show, the nun acts as a moral compass. When Sophia, a transgendered inmate, is having personal issues, it’s the nun who supports him her. It’s too bad the nun doesn’t appear in the series more.

The writers take some jabs at Buddhism as well. The inmate who teaches yoga is portrayed as a New-Agey, mumbo-jumbo space cadet. Come to think of it, isn’t yoga based in Hinduism instead of Buddhism? I suppose that, through the lens of humanism, it’s all the same thing anyway.

On a side note, the series is starting to drag midway through the season. I may stop watching because of that.

~t

Update (June 10, 2014):

I began watching season 2, but I only got halfway through episode 2 before I gave up. It appears this new season has even more nudity and left-wing propaganda. I would not recommend this series to Christians after all.

 


Communicating with God

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Last week was very challenging. On Wednesday, I got into some sin that affected the remainder of my week.

I don’t know about you, but there are certain sins that, when I let my guard down and give in to, plunge me into the pit of despair. Unable to claw my way out, I start sinking deeper within the cold, muddy pit.

I know that God forgives me; I ask his forgiveness and (try to) repent. However, I find myself returning again and again to that filthy pit.

This is why I love the sacrament of reconciliation (commonly referred to as confession). With the power given to the priest by Christ (“Whatever you bound on earth shall be bound in heaven, and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.” [Matthew 18:18]), it’s as if I’m confessing my sins directly to Jesus who is sitting near me. What a powerful, electrifying experience to actually hear the words of forgiveness.

This past Saturday, I went to confession at my parish. I prayed fervently beforehand that the Holy Spirit would help me to pray the Act of Contrition from my heart, and that the Holy Spirit would fill me.

There is nothing like praying inside the church: various individuals kneeling reverently before the life-sized crucifix and the tabernacle beside it that holds the Holy Eucharist, the true body and blood of Christ present before us.

After exiting the reconciliation room (“the confessional”), I always locate a pew in front of the altar, kneel, and immediately bow my head, reflect on my sin, and recite the prayers of penance.

However, instead of bowing my head, I knelt with my hands clasped in front of me, and my eyes were instantly transfixed on the body of Christ that hung on the cross. What’s going on? I was unable to move. It was one of those moments when The Lord speaks before I do.

At that moment, my mind was profoundly connected to God’s, and our conversation began:

Lord, since Wednesday, I…

Forget it. It’s in the past now.

Dear God, thank you for forgiving me…

You’re already forgiven. It’s time to move on.

The dialogue was over, but God wasn’t quite finished.

As I continued to gaze upon the crucifix, I had a vision of two long paths running parallel and almost touching. The left path was my life: I saw myself going through life working, spending time with family, and so forth. On the right path, rays of light that resembled water continually shone down the path and out of sight. I saw myself occasionally taking a step onto the right path, the rays of light/water washing over me like a horizontal shower. After a brief moment, I would step back onto the left path and continue my daily life.

The right path was God’s forgiveness. The Lord was showing me that Jesus died on the cross 2,000 years ago, and His saving grace always exists and is close by; all I must do is take the step, wash myself in it, and carry on.

At last I felt that God was finished communicating with me, and it was time for my penance. I prayed one “Our Father” and ten “Hail Marys.” These aren’t just rote actions that we go through because the priest says we have to; the prayers help us to get our focus on God. The prayers came alive like never before, each word imprinted on my soul.

I have listed the two prayers here:

Our Father, Who art in heaven,

hallowed be Thy name. Thy Kingdom come.

Thy will be done on earth as it is in heaven.

Give us this day our daily bread,

and forgive us our trespasses, as we forgive those who trespass against us.

And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. Amen.

Hail Mary, full of grace,The Lord is with thee.

Blessed art thou among women,

and blessed is the fruit of thy womb, Jesus.

Holy Mary, Mother of God,

pray for us sinners now

and at the hour of our death. Amen.

~t