Tag Archives: Christian

Pride Comes Before a Fall

Credit: David Lazar

The title of this post is a common saying. It’s so common that a lot of people don’t know that it’s from the Bible (Proverbs 16:18). For instance, this online dictionary doesn’t mention any biblical source: It’s merely referred to as an idiom in the English language.

All of the verses in the Book of Proverbs are awesome, and we need to apply them to our lives. However, verse 18 of chapter 16 (“Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall”) is one that I consider extremely important — a key in maintaining my faith and humility in order to stay close to God.

A minister at a certain Protestant-based church that I used to attend taught me the acronym KISS. No, the minister wasn’t a fan of the rock group of the same name (at least not that I knew of). It stands for “keep it simple, stupid.” Now, stupid isn’t a very polite word. We don’t let our kids say it. However, I’ve heard variations of it at work and even in my parish such as “keep it simple, silly” or “keep it short and simple.” (The latter sort of adds more meaning to it, so I don’t particularly like that one. But if you do, then that’s totally cool.)

I’m mentioning all this because “pride comes before a fall” is one of those wise sayings in the Bible that is in line with the KISS philosophy. And, wouldn’t you know it, those are the things that I tend to forget all about when push comes to shove in my spiritual life.

I’ve been doing well (i.e. abstaining from mortal sin, praying, going to Mass every Sunday, et cetera). So well that I actually thought that I was invincible against certain types of sin: lust, anger, and gossip to name a few.

I was under an illusion. The Evil One is always at work, scheming up ways to destroy us (1 Peter 5:8). Spiritual warfare rages on every day, every hour, every minute. Angels and demons are going head-to-head right now all around me as I type (and all around you as you’re reading). This Present Darkness is a good book that illustrates this biblical concept.

I’ve finished the first week of the fall semester at my job, and, while it was hectic, things went fairly well. I didn’t realize that my prayer time was going downhill. I had been praying a little less than usual, but my heart wasn’t in it. I was still in the mindset, though, that I was winning the battle against the darkness; never mind the fact that I was becoming more susceptible to temptation and outright sin.

If you’ve kept up with my posts, you’ll know that my wife is basically a non-practicing Buddhist/Shintoist (I’ll let you think on that for a second). She’s cool with my being Catholic. The only issue that we stay away from is abortion; although we agree to disagree on this subject, it still comes up from time to time. So, like the bumper sticker says, we “coexist.”

Anyway, we were driving to the park this morning, and my wife, Ayako, was telling me about a recent situation she had with a Christian friend named Molly. They were standing near a pond, and Molly told her son to get away from the edge because she didn’t want him to fall in. Her son said, “I won’t fall in.”

Ayako tried to remember what Molly said in reply. “She said something like ‘If you’re too confident, you’ll fall in too easily’ I think.”

After a moment, I said, “Oh, you mean ‘pride comes before a fall.'”

“Yes! How did you know?”

“Because it’s from the Bible. It’s really famous.” I changed the subject to something else, quickly forgetting about that verse from Proverbs.

Little did I know that God was giving me one last chance to repent before He would humble me.

Sure enough, later in the day, my house of cards collapsed. I found myself plunged into various types of sin that, just a week ago, thought that I was above and too good for.

Broken and troubled, I turned to prayer. Not the superficial kind that I had been practicing, but the real, honest, gut-check kind.

I heard God’s whisper in my heart almost immediately: Pride comes before a fall.

Boy, does it.

How could I have been so bone-headed?

Because you’re human. Now get back up and continue the race.

I felt like I had finally pulled my head out of the ground where it had been stuck for the past few weeks. What an amazing feeling.

It’s even more amazing to be reminded about God’s love for us. He was giving me signs that I thought didn’t pertain to me. He allowed me to fall in order for me to learn my lesson. When I came to my senses, God was waiting with open arms.

In the Parable of the Lost Son, Jesus tells how God will always forgive us, no matter how badly we mess up (Luke 15:11-32). After the son squanders his inheritance and reaches rock bottom, he decides to go back to his father:

But while he was still a long way off, his father saw him and was filled with compassion for him; he ran to his son, threw his arms around him and kissed him.

The son said to him, ‘Father, I have sinned against heaven and against you. I am no longer worthy to be called your son.’

But the father said to his servants, ‘Quick! Bring the best robe and put it on him. Put a ring on his finger and sandals on his feet. Bring the fattened calf and kill it. Let’s have a feast and celebrate. For this son of mine was dead and is alive again; he was lost and is found.’

~t


Into the Lungs of Hell: Blasphemous Pornography

This post is a continuation of the topic of pornography. Although images have been removed and no foul language is used, the subject matter could incite lust and temptation in individuals.

The purpose of this post is to bring awareness to how far this porn epidemic is spreading into sacred areas for Catholics, Protestants, and even Muslims.

Anyway, if you are like me and want to stay informed about the enemy, Satan, and his latest guerilla warfare tactics, then, by all means, put on your armor of God, take up your shield of faith, and grab your sword of the Spirit and follow me as I follow St. Michael the Archangel into the lungs of hell.

I am really angry right now.

I’m angry with pornography for keeping men and women from God, and I’m angry that I didn’t take action sooner. I’m angry because I knew there were genres and bizarre fetishes out there (After all, I did live in Japan — the land of the bizarre — for almost a decade) and I did nothing about it. Heck, I even gave in and indulged in some of it at one time.

But mostly I’m angry because it has been brought to my attention that there is a genre of porn out there that I had no idea existed.

I really thought I’d seen it all, folks.

Imagine the most perverted, grotesque form of pornography and I’ve seen it (except for child porn — The Lord knows that I am telling the truth). I’m not even going to list any of them because you get the idea.

But…

When some fellow prayer warriors told me about something called blasphemy porn, I thought, How bad could it be? Naked people inside a church building? Topless feminists burning Bibles?

Nope.

What I glimpsed, Christian, was so disturbing, it would likely have had the same impact as on an atheist being held at gunpoint, forced to watch as his beloved wife and child are sexually assaulted and then murdered.

I didn’t mean to pick on you, atheist friends. I just needed to provide y’all with a reference point as well.

Here we go:

Gosh, on second thought, I really don’t need to describe anything, do I?  I mean, the title of this post pretty much says it all.

The first image I saw–

But it’s art!! The woman is merely protesting against centuries of oppression by the Church–

Shut up. Just shut up.

For all of you with that kind of thinking, imagine the dearest person (wife, husband, newborn baby, handicapped child) or thing (American flag, your brand new car) to you. Got the image? OK, now imagine it/her/him being desecrated in some way. Are you a minority? Imagine a racial slur being spray painted on the beautiful house that you worked so hard to purchase. Love Obama? The Queen of England? Imagine their photographs being desecrated in the most abhorrent way.

OK, now we’re all on the same page (I hope).

Unfortunately, Muslims are not immune to this genre of filth either. Did you think the cartoon that depicted Mohammed as a terrorist was blasphemous?  Well, that ain’t nothin’.

Believe me, sexually deranged people in cyberspace pick on Islam just as much as they do Christianity. Take my word for it.

My point is this: We Christians and people of faith need to wake up and see that the Devil never ceases blaspheming God. We need to hate him and fight against him with prayer and awareness of this garbage.

It’s freedom of speech, you prudes. Freedom of expression. These aren’t the Dark Ages.

Yeah? Then why don’t you stop the next Hispanic person you see and call him/her a $%!@& w__ b___?

Why don’t you go outside and scream the N-word at the first African American you see?

Why don’t you give me your address and let me come to your door so I can call your loving wife a dirty whore? If you live in Texas like I do, you’ll probably grab your gun and shoot me. If you don’t own a gun, then chances are you’ll get kind of upset.

As Christians, we need to pray for the people who are involved in this blasphemy. Jesus Himself, as he was dying on the cross, cried out, “Forgive them, Father, for they know not what they do.” (Luke 23:34)

We Catholics need to love the people but hate Satan and fight him with much prayer and fasting. In chapter 9, verse 29 of St. Mark’s gospel, Jesus told his disciples that some demons can only be driven out by prayer and fasting.

Here is what Matthew Henry’s Concise Commentary says about Mark 9:29:

But Satan is unwilling to be driven from those that have been long his slaves, and, when he cannot deceive or destroy the sinner, he will cause him all the terror that he can. The disciples must not think to do their work always with the same ease; some services call for more than ordinary pains.

These are blatant attacks by the Devil against our dear faith, brothers and sisters. Let’s get righteously indignant and do something about it.

Well, what can I do? Do you expect me to–

For starters, you can pray. Pray hard. *Then ask God and fellow prayer warriors what to do next.

~topaz

*No violence, though. Our Savior, Jesus Christ, is the Prince of Peace.


A Drug Called Pornography

As a flesh-and-blood male, pornography is something that I struggle with — even as a faithful Catholic. So many times, I feel like St. Paul must have felt. I plead with God to take away this load of bricks from my shoulders, but He gives me the same response: “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” (2 Corinthians 12:9)

Huh?! What the heck does that mean, anyway?  Why don’t you speak in simple, straightforward English, Lord? Because I’m an idiot and I need for you to be clear. I want answers, darn it!

Then I’m reminded of that final epic chapter in Job where God does indeed answer Job’s complaints about Him. So, maybe I’m better off with the enigmatic response that St. Paul received.

There are some good resources out there for men and women who struggle with purity and pornography.

Yes, women, too.

I always thought that porn addiction was a problem that only men encountered.  That is not true. According to a 2013 study by Covenant Eyes, 20% of all Christian women (and 50% of all Christian men) are addicted to pornography.

To any non-believers reading this: Please do not hate on us and call us hypocrites. Yes, viewing porn is not very “Christ-like.” Duh. I’m not making excuses, but it is extremely difficult to resist the temptations of the world.

I will be the first to tell you: I am no better than any non-Christian. Shoot, I can probably name numerous atheists who do better at holding to good morals than I do.

But we Christians need to keep striving to imitate Christ and to get this stuff out of our lives.

Why, “Topaz”? You crusading, holier-than-thou prick? What’s wrong with a little porn? It’s natural. We’re human after all, and it helps jump-start my sex life with my spouse or significant other.

Dudes, ladies, I ain’t here to condemn you. When God looks down from heaven, he see all of us as sinners. I’m no better than anyone else reading this measly little blog.

And I mean that.

Oh, how I would love to tell you about my life before I got serious about practicing my faith. Heck, if I were to tell you about some of the stuff I struggle with at the present when I fall into sin, you would stop visiting this blog right away.

Yes, I’m rambling; I tend to do that when I get emotional about an issue. Please forgive me.

Anyway, here are just a few stats from that study over at Covenant Eyes:

88% of scenes in porn films contain acts of physical aggression, and 49% of scenes contain verbal aggression.

9 out of 10 boys were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.

The first exposure to pornography among men is 12 years old.

71% of teens hide online behavior from their parents.

28% of 16-17 year olds have been unintentionally exposed to porn online.

6 out of 10 girls were exposed to pornography before the age of 18.

15% of boys and 9% of girls have seen child pornography.

32% of boys and 18% of girls have seen bestiality online.

39% of boys and 23% of girls have seen sexual bondage online.

83% of boys and 57% of girls have seen group sex online.

51% of male and 32% of female students first viewed porn before their teenage years (12 and younger).

70% of wives of sex addicts could be diagnosed with PTSD.

56% of divorce cases involved one party having an obsessive interest in pornographic websites.

There are awesome resources at XXXchurch that include accountability groups via videoconferencing, accountability software, and other stuff. Unfortunately, the guys at XXXchurch take a lot of flak from Christians for the name of their site. I say, hey, whatever gets peoples’ attention. “Let he who is without sin cast the first stone.” (Jesus)

These aforementioned sites are Protestant (hey, we’re all on the same team).  A good Catholic resource can be found here.

OK, to change gears a little bit: Last week was my monthly Knights of Columbus council meeting. It was the first meeting in which I attended as an officer since the new fraternal year began July 1. (Proof that there is a God! Just a few years ago, there was no way that I would ever have been nominated and elected as an officer in a Catholic fraternal order.)

I brought up the topic of accountability partners because I haven’t seen anything like that at my parish. The typical pew-warmer tends to be lazy (hence the term pew-warmer), so I took it upon myself to initiate the idea. Again, this is something so unlike me; not only am I a pew-warmer, but I’m a wallflower as well.

Anyway, as I was afraid of, I received a pretty indifferent response from the general members as well as from the other officers. Dejected, I vowed to go to the parish priest and ask him for advice on how to initiate this much-needed accountability program.

Little did I know, though, that my fellow Knights were too hesitant and embarrassed to voice approval in front of everyone else. After the meeting had finished, several Knights approached me and opened up about their personal struggles with pornography and masturbation.

I was vaguely aware of the hall becoming empty as I chatted with brothers about their issues as well as mine. However, sitting in a corner of the hall, in semi-darkness, was a very prominent member. What was he doing? He usually had to rush out directly after the meetings because of his busy schedule.

After I had finished speaking with the last brother, it was only the prominent guy and me remaining in the hall. “Do you have a partner yet? I could use one. I look at porn,” he said, avoiding eye contact.

Oh. My. Goodness.

This was someone who I barely spoke to because his time seemed reserved for the “important” people. For him to wait and humbly admit this to me in an empty K of C hall really blew me away. “I’ve got your number. Can I text you?” I asked.

“Sure. That’ll work.”

I went home that night to my little prayer closet — they’re not just for Evangelicals anymore  — and just sat before the crucifix, electrified and humbled. Electrified because God was using a mental, introverted fool like me, and humbled because some of the most important men in my council and parish were now looking to me for a way out of their spiritual bondage.

St. Augustine, pray for us!

St. Maria Goretti, pray for us!

~topaz


Dark Day of the Soul

I don’t want to be here at work right now.  Actually, I don’t want to be alive right now.  I was fine when I left my family this morning; my two little boys were standing in the yard, waving to me as I drove away.  But when I get like this, nothing seems to cheer me up; not even my little sons.

I can’t believe — well, yes I can — that I have a class in 30 minutes.  Today is the first day of the second summer term, so this is a brand new English class that I’m teaching at my college.  I haven’t prepared anything yet — just the syllabus.  I can always let them go early, though.

Usually I try to add some wit and humor to my posts on this blog.  You know, “make it interesting and amusing so that readers will keep coming back for more.”  Sometimes, however, I say screw it.  No offense, WordPress Advice People.

I haven’t been taking my medication regularly because I’m sick of living in a fog, and I don’t have the luxury of taking naps whenever I want during the day. I am, after all, a teacher, so there are always things to be done and courses to teach.

Last year, I went to the campus nurse and told her that I was feeling extremely tired.  I didn’t dare tell her about my mental health; if word got back to the dean, I would be forced out of my job probably.  She told me to take it easy and go back to my office.  Well, I went out to my car (because I couldn’t keep my eyes open) and passed out for about an hour.

Somehow, the dean of Liberal Arts is into micromanaging some of us, so of course she wondered where I had been since it was too early for a lunch break.  I told her I wasn’t feeling well and that the nurse told me to lie down (I know.  I lied.  And this blog is supposed to be my Catholic ministry to help people. *sigh*).  She made me fill out a leave of absence form, so basically I had to take an hour of sick leave.  I suppose that was only fair, though.  I’m still upset that she was on my case that day.

When I get depressed, it’s not just a “woe is me” emotional moment.  It’s as if a dark cloud is enveloping me, sucking out my soul and leaving me empty and in agony.  For all you Harry Potter fans, it’s the equivalent of a Dementor’s attack.

dementor

Dementor

I can finally feel my Xanax (my emergency drug) kick in.  But the problem is, after a few hours, the drug leaves me with such little energy, and I end up falling asleep on my desk.  It’s nothing but a vicious cycle: I need the Xanax to rescue me from doing anything stupid while I am down in the dumps, but the effects are difficult to deal with later on.  I suppose it’s better to be drowsy in the afternoon instead of jumping in front of a train at the nearby rail station.

I guess I’ll just fake it until my class is finished and then see about going home for the day.  It’s summer semester, so it shouldn’t be a problem.

Speaking of teaching, so many people ask me why I got into such a “social” field; wouldn’t standing in front of  and educating 25 to 40 students at a time be the worst kind of job for someone like me who is often afraid to show up at parties when there are more than three people present?

I have shortened my response to just one word:

performance

Jim Carrey is a goofball on film, but he’s extremely shy and moody when he’s not in front of the camera.  Kurt Cobain was a very talented, interesting frontman on stage, but as soon as his set was over, he retreated into his own private world.

Now that I think about it, tonight is our monthly council meeting at the Knights of Columbus hall.  I have to speak to the brothers about the summer youth event that I’m coordinating and my idea for a men’s accountability group since neither our parish nor our Knights council has one.  Plus this will be the first meeting since I was installed as an officer last month.

The words of former therapists and psych ward aides suddenly zoom through my head:

Fake it ’til you make it.

God is great.

Don’t give up. 

Then I remember a fellow patient, a large African American woman, that I befriended in one of the psych wards getting in my face one day after a group session.  “You’re Catholic, so that means if you kill yourself, you’ll go to hell.”

“Yes,” I had answered.  “But I don’t care.”

“Well, then I’d have to come to hell and save your ***.”  She glared at me before continuing.  “And I don’t like heat.”

I had to peel my eyes away from hers.  “I got it.”

~topaz


Paranoia, Rage, and T-ball

Since Independence Day is a few days from now, I thought I would post this little non-fiction piece about our national pastime that I originally wrote in spring 2012.

baseball

I attended my son’s first T-ball game this past weekend.  I wanted to look over the email attachment of rules that the coach had sent me so I would know what was going on.  How much different could it be than regular baseball?

The rulebook turned out to be 41 pages.

Forget This.  I’ll learn as I go.

Since I teach some night classes, I’m not able to attend practices, so this was my first time to see the coaches and my 5-year-old son’s teammates.  Too anxious to sit, I paced back and forth, waiting for the game to start.

Being from the Midwest, I decided to wear my St. Louis Cardinals cap.  I unknowingly drew attention to myself since it was Rangers country and most parents and several coaches sported the red and blue apparel with the cool-looking “T’ on it.

It wouldn’t be the only time I would draw attention to myself.

Looking around at the other parents, it seemed I was the only male at the game who wasn’t:

1) a Harley rider;

2) a (wanna-be) gangbanger; or

3) a macho bodybuilder.

“I don’t think I fit in here.  Maybe I should have stayed at home and graded essays,” I whispered to my wife.

“You stay here.  Support your son!” my petite wife replied, not bothering to look at me.

Lord, I can’t do this.  Everyone is staring at me.  They all hate me.  I couldn’t get the paranoid thoughts out of my head.  Satan was attacking me with everything he had.

When the game started, our team took the field.   My son started at third base (each inning the kids switch to a different position)and I had to tell him not to stand on the actual base.  No big deal; it was their first game after all.

The first batter hit a bouncer (off the tee) to the pitcher.  The pitcher stopped the ball with his foot and picked it up, but then he just stood there.

“Throw.  The ball.  To first,” I growled to myself through clenched teeth.

“Good job, good job!” said the Harley biker dude, one of the assistant coaches.

Good job?!  He didn’t even attempt to make the play at first!  I thought.

Since all the balls usually don’t make it past the pitcher (it is T-ball after all)I was surprised when a batter on the other team hit one to the second baseman.  The fielder scooped it up and proceeded to throw the runner out.

Awesome!  This is more like it.

The second baseman did indeed throw the ball, but he threw it to third base for some unknown reason.  There wasn’t even a runner on that side of the diamond. 

“Come on!” I growled again.  A few people turned around.

My wife elbowed me.  “They’re only 5 years old!  Settle down.”

This time the dude with the drooping shorts and the Jesus is my Homeboy T-shirt clapped and shouted, “It’s OK!  Nice try!”

Why the is everyone being so darn nice?  These kids need training!

A few innings later (T-ball only has 4 innings), my son hit a grounder that made it all the way into center field.  I relaxed, a smile plastered across my face.

I was totally unprepared for what happened next.

The next batter got a base hit, meaning my son had to advance to second base.  He just stood there, though, picking his ear.

I jumped out of my folding chair like it was in flames.  “RUN!!  MICHAEL, RUN!!”

I’m not sure who else was urging my son to run to second; my voice drowned out all the others, so I didn’t know.  All I remember was that I unknowingly deputized myself as a coach.

“MICHAEL, RUN!!  *@#%*&$!!”

The game came to a standstill as everyone turned to me.  It was as if a pedophile had just walked onto the field buck naked.  Biker couples clad in U.S. flag bandanas and trailer people with mullets and faded Lynyrd Skynyrd shirts covered their kids’ ears.  Athletic muscleheads who could have thrown me like a javelin glared with contempt.

If T-ball had an umpire, I would have probably been banished from the sports complex for the rest of my life. 

I learned a lot about being judgmental that day.  I, the college instructor/ Christian in the polo shirt, cargo shorts, and Birkenstocks, turned out to be the true menace to society.

Luckily next weekend is picture day for the team, so I’ll just lie low and send my wife.  By the time the next game rolls around, hopefully everyone will have forgotten what happened.

Yeah, right.  And I’ll be pitching for the Yankees next season, too.

~topaz