Tag Archives: faith

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


Getting Routed in Battle

Credit: thequickbrownfox

Grief wants only sleep.

No more battling demons

unless you’re dream knight.

                                        —Sr. Helena Burns, FSP

I wanted to use Sister’s haiku as the epigraph to this post because it sums up everything that happened to me over this past weekend.

During my darkest moments on Saturday, it explained everything; that “Aha!” moment when everything fits into place like in the movie Monster when Charlize Theron’s character finally sees the big picture while talking on the pay phone in jail.

I received quite a number of encouraging messages on Twitter (Yes, I know they’re called tweets, but messages sounds better) this past weekend. No, it’s not because I’m so popular. It’s because I was a victim of an ambush.

As a soldier — all Christians are soldiers by the way — I found myself traveling along the battlefield called Earth without my sword and shield.

That’s pretty stupid, Topaz.

Yeah, you’re right. It was stupid. And careless.

Satan is the commander of the opposition forces, and they are legion. As you might recall from a previous post of mine, I believe that God has put it on my heart to start a recovery/accountability group at my parish that specifically deals with men who struggle with pornography.

Now, picture Al Capone’s crime syndicate in your mind. Well, if a small band of vigilantes were to try and expose a drug trafficking ring of theirs, um…

You can imagine the swift, deadly response. Those vigilantes had better be ready for a counterattack or else.

That was my situation this past weekend. As I stated, I have been (smugly) targeting Satan and his demons by attempting to create a program that would help men leave the bondage of a very destructive type of sin. Porn is such a lucrative moneymaker for the Dark One. My problem was, after announcing myself and my intentions to the enemy, like an idiot, I traveled around without my small band of warriors — heck, even without any weapons or defense.

I underestimated the enemy while overestimating my own faith and strength like a glory-seeker.

I was like, “Oh, look at me! Satan and his demons are gonna be running scared because I’m attacking his stronghold!”

The enemy is very intelligent and a master at guerrilla tactics.

I was driving along by myself this past Saturday when, from out of nowhere, I happened upon a certain temptation that hit me so hard, it was like getting struck with 50,000 volts from a Taser gun. My whole body went into shock, and I could no longer think straight. This all happened within an instant. I’m lucky that I didn’t have a car accident.

I won’t go into any more details, but it was akin to a recovering alcoholic who has been clean for several months and suddenly walks by a bar that is giving away free beer samples out front.

As you can imagine, the demons blindsided me, and I crumpled miserably. The rest of the day I was out of commission, ready to throw in the towel. Not just with the recovery group, but with the Church and my faith in general. I had fallen and couldn’t stand up. I was finished.

The next morning, instead of getting ready for 8:30 Mass, I was on the sofa, surfing the ‘net on my iPad. “Aren’t you going to church? You’ll be late,” my non-Catholic/non-Christian wife said.

“I’m not going today. It’s okay; no one will miss me.”

Do not underestimate petite Japanese women.

“You WILL go. Get. Up. Now.”

Maybe she knew that I needed some cheering up, or maybe she needed some time alone from my grumpiness. I didn’t ask, but I’d like to think that God was actually picking me up through her. God works in mysterious ways. We all know the cliché. He even works through individuals who don’t even believe in Him. Now that is amazing.

I didn’t want to be at Mass, but my Tiger Mother wife had forced me to go. I was miserable while I sneaked in during the Gospel reading and grabbed a seat in the very back. I remained in this emotional state until I uttered these words with the priest during Mass:

Lord, I am not worthy that you should enter under my roof, but only say the word, and my soul shall be healed.

The floodgates were opened, and I couldn’t stop from crying my eyes out. The rest of my day was transformed. God had heard my pleading and worked a miracle!

For lunch, our kids wanted to go to McDonald’s to get more Despicable Me 2 Happy Meal toys (even though they haven’t seen either of the movies yet). By chance, some friends of mine happened to be there as well: a fellow Knight of Columbus and his wife, a strong Catholic who happens to be from Asia. I have always wanted my wife to have some quality time with her, but with their schedules, it was always impossible.

Although a different nationality from my friend, my wife was excited to talk with someone who was actually from the same continent (Yes, Asia is vast and diverse, but in a place like Texas, my wife gets excited when she sees anyone who resembles an Asian).

They had a great chat about God and Chinese cuisine, and I was able to spend some time with a fellow parishioner and Knight. Our kids were more than pleased because, thanks to the nice cashier, they ended up getting two Happy Meal toys each instead of one.

By the end of last summer, I was thankful to be alive. By the end of this past weekend, I was thankful to be standing on my own two feet, clad in shiny new armor of God that I truly didn’t deserve.

So:

Be alert and of sober mind. Your enemy the devil prowls around like a roaring lion looking for someone to devour. (1 Peter 5:8)

Yeah, especially if you’re lobbing Molotov cocktails into his command center.

~t


About Sex and Being Close to God (Not Necessarily in That Order)

life-is-good-BIG

Since I began receiving help from my doctor and therapists, things have been going better for me. What has really helped me, though, is my faith.  As they say, there are no atheists in foxholes.

Last weekend my family and I were on our way to the park to play 18 holes of disc golf (yep, even our two young children can hang with us for all 18 holes!). Out of the blue, my wife said that, if she could go back in time and do things differently, she would like to be a pediatrician. She is realizing that she loves being around children and helping them. Part of this is due to the fact that our youngest son will start kindergarten in the fall, and, for the first time, she will be home all alone during weekdays which is one reason she wants to start working outside the home.

My wife then asked me if there was anything that I wished I could do over. “Nope. Nothing. I’m happy with the way my life is.”

Huh?!  Did I really just say that?

My wife was just as shocked. “Really?” I expected her to say something smart like, “Well, I wish you could have chosen a better major in college so we’d have more money now,” or something to that effect.  Instead: “Wow. You’re lucky!”

Yes. I am lucky. For the first time in my life, I am totally happy in my relationship with God. I have made many sacrifices and have gone through many trials in order to be so close to Him. It was hard. Man, was it hard. But after all these years, I finally understand what St. Paul is saying: “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me.” (Galatians 2:20)

Sure, it would be nice to have a job that paid a six-figure salary like so many of my friends who are my age or even younger. It would be great to be able to take my kids to the Harry Potter theme park in Florida even though they are totally thrilled just to watch the DVDs at home. It would be nice to pay my mother back for the thousands of dollars she spent on my hospital bills over the past 12 months.

But what I have now is peace and joy. Peace because I know God will continue to provide for us. Joy because I have never been happier doing God’s will. I gave up everything that was hindering me: extreme metal music, going out drinking every weekend, pornography, ogling every female I came into contact with, and so on.

Believe me, sin is fun (as if you didn’t know). But it leaves an emptiness inside after the high quickly wears off. But by giving up all that stuff to God, He is able to use me to my fullest potential, filling my whole heart and soul with His spirit. It is the most wonderful feeling.

Before, I would achieve various states of this, but it was always a self-fulfilling prophecy: I was afraid that my joy and trust in God would evaporate after a few days’ time, and, sure enough, it always did.

This wasn’t the first time that my wife had asked me about what I would do over in my life. We are both intelligent and earned degrees in fields that we loved back in the day. However, as people get older, they change. Sure, it would have been really cool to learn how to play drums when I was younger so that I could be an expert now. But those are just thoughts; not even bucket list items. As I mentioned in another post, I’m not really into bucket lists. I’m not sure why. I guess there is so much stuff that I’ve already done, and I am completely happy with my two little sons, even though our marriage has morphed into something that neither one of us expected. This was my wife’s decision, but after MUCH prayer and advice, I decided to offer it up to God, and now we are both okay (?) with it.

Credit: Fotolia

Anyway, I believe that in order for me to avoid mortal sin (contraception, coitus interruptus), and since my wife is a non-believer, a Josephite marriage (see above link) is actually a good idea for us. Would I recommend it to Catholic or non-Catholic couples? Absolutely not. There are so many factors involved; taking it on a case-by-case basis would be the best idea. Plus, talk to someone who is licensed.

Do I hope that we become intimate with each other again one day? Absolutely. But it’s not like I’m holding out or anything. I never thought it would be possible for me, but it really is not a problem. Now that is proof that there is a God; there would be no way that I could remain totally abstinent, being the gross sinner that I am.

So, teens and young single people: abstinence is indeed possible. If a married guy living in the same house as his wife can do it, then so can you!

“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13)

~topaz

What are your thoughts on married couples who choose abstinence? Is it too strange? What if one party is not open to marriage counseling? Should a Josephite marriage be established to avoid divorce? Please let me know your thoughts. I’m just a blogger and could benefit from your feedback.


That Fateful Night: An Excerpt

Credit: realhdwallpaper.com

I have been writing a lot for the past couple of years. How much is a lot, you ask? Well, I have a few completed manuscripts that I’ve accumulated.

That’s great!! What are you waiting for?? Send them in!!

Ha.

If only it were that easy.

I haven’t wanted to release any of them yet. And the one manuscript that I did shop around turned out to be lacking something. Oh well. We live and learn.

Live.

Yes, it’s all about living. That much I know.

This current project feels like it might be the one that sees the light of day. It may very well be the one that gets published self-published. Why? Because it’s the only one that feels right: the story that is bleeding out of my still-open wounds. It’s not like I’m on a 1,000-word-a-day writing binge, but I’ll get it written at some point.

My goal is to have it finished and bound before my mother passes away. She’s not sick or anything, but she’s the one who keeps urging me to publish it, so I’d at least like to finish it before she does pass away someday. She wants me to get my story out there so others can learn and benefit from it. Plus, she thinks it’ll earn me millions of dollars.

Yeah, right. It helps to dream, though.

Anyway, below is an excerpt from my work in progress (I almost said Enjoy! but decided not to). Mind you, it’s a rough draft, so please overlook mistakes of any kind:

 

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

 

I never thought I would be so brave as I rushed toward my death. No goodbyes, no crying (and I was quite the crybaby). The four margaritas, each with an extra shot of tequila, had given me the courage, though. They had taken the credit just like everything else in my pathetic life.

Luckily I had enough sense to pick up my prescription at the drive-thru. The Muslim lady with the head scarf gave them to me through the window just like she always did. She has her faith. That’s good, I thought. I had mine: nearly two full bottles of Xanax.

Like in that Clint Eastwood flick where the one-armed deputy had two guns in his belt.  “But you only have one arm,” someone had asked him. “Well, I don’t wanna get killed on account of not being able to fight back,” he had responded. I, too, wanted to be like that.

 

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

 

Not so smart now, are you?

Why was my mind still working?

Somehow I knew it wasn’t God’s voice; sounded too familiar.

I didn’t see anything.  No blackness.  Just… nothingness.  Even with all the liquor and drugs in my system, I was still somehow tied to reality. What was going on?

 

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

 

“Scott, Scott, where are you?!” The voice was frantic. I knew it was my wife’s, even in my condition. That smallest hint of recollection. Funny how the mind worked. Her voice sounded tinny, like it was coming from my grandma’s childhood radio that she had shown me pictures of.

I was fumbling with my work bag on the floorboard. “I can’t find my phone!!” I was frantic, too.

But why? 

Oh, I know. 

The redneck standing outside my passenger window. I’m not actually sure if he was a redneck, but that’s what I called those guys in Texas who drove those huge gas-guzzling pickup trucks. I think I had asked him if he were okay. “I’m fine, but your car is totaled,” I remember him saying.

I never started up my car.  I was still in the crowded parking lot of El Ranchito… right?

“Where’s my blasted phone?!” I shrieked again and again. It was no longer in my bag. I was going by my sense of touch, unable to see. I could still hear my poor wife’s frantic question coming through the receiver like a short-circuiting megaphone in the darkness of my mind.

“Scott!!”

 

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

 

–killed someone!  You could have—

I was on my back, staring up into a bright light. Nothing but radiant fog, like headlights shining through early morning mountain air. It was a woman’s voice. She seemed to be addressing me.

–could have killed—

–someone!

You could have—

Yes, I get it, now shut up, I thought.  All I was conscious of was my vision, or lack thereof; I hadn’t noticed my limbs, if I were even able to move them.  Was I strapped down?  Was I in an ambulance?  Were we in motion?

Who cares?  The radiance was giving way to a shadow; an eclipse entered my line of mental vision and sent icy pellets of fear through my body.

I’m dead.  Oh my God, help me…

Someone had an arm around me and was helping me walk. I felt cold. I sensed that nothing was covering my legs. Where were my clothes? I was doubled over and staggering like an old man, a few baby steps at a time. I’m 6’3” and a lean, solid 220 pounds, so whoever was helping me was pretty strong, that was for sure.

Come on…  you can do it…

An old man’s voice. Maybe it was God.

 

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

 

~topaz


A Life Cut Way Too Short

I’m not into posting in an impromptu manner, but something has been weighing heavily on my heart today.  There is a lady whose blog I have recently discovered.  It is called My Bright Shining Star, and it is an outlet for her to deal with the trauma of losing her beautiful daughter, Kaitlyn, to suicide this past April.

As a lot of you can guess, this topic really hits home to me since I attempted suicide late last summer (the night of August 24 to be exact).  I cannot do this poor woman justice by describing her pain and torment and how she pours her heart and soul into her blog posts, so just go over there and read them for yourselves.

I know the blogger’s name, but since she doesn’t publicize it anywhere (that I saw) on her blog, I will just refer to her as Kaitlyn’s mother.

She is still Kaitlyn’s mother and always will be.

My wife spent one year in the U.S. as an exchange student in high school. She was placed with a very dear LDS (Mormon) family. They had six children, but two of them tragically died in a car accident years before my wife lived with the family. To this day, my wife’s host mother still includes all six children’s names in her Christmas cards that she sends out each year.

It melts my heart each year when I open the card and see all eight names at the bottom (including the parents). To my wife’s host mother, the two deceased children’s bodies are no longer here, but their spirits live on in the hearts of the surviving family members.

I’m not sure what the Catechism of the Catholic Church says about it, but my wife and I have a mutual understanding that we would have done the same exact thing had we been in her host parents’ situation.

I wrote a comment to Kaitlyn’s mother today and told her that her blog has impacted me in ways that she probably cannot imagine. After my attempt last summer, my wife, parents, and siblings told me over and over how they would have been affected and how it would have changed their lives forever. My mother even said that she wouldn’t have been able to celebrate Christmas quite the same for the rest of her life; she and I share that holiday as our favorite, and I would have unknowingly ruined it beyond repair.

My older cousin took his own life while I was living abroad, and I’ll never forget reading the email from my mother about the details. I began sobbing right there in the Internet Cafe as I read the news. My mother said that my cousin even took the time to put his two beloved dogs in their kennels before he shot himself.

My mother, from whom I get my emotional heart, said she would have given any amount of money to know what he was thinking as he led the dogs into the kennels and latched the doors for the last time. Those little trivial thoughts are like life support for a memory that has already evaporated.

Even though it has been over twelve years, little things like that pop into my mind from out of nowhere. One year for Christmas I bought my cousin a newly-released CD box set of The Doors, his all-time favorite band. He loved that gift so much. I still wonder what became of those CDs. Are they sitting in an attic covered by layers of dust? Did his ex-wife sell them at a garage sale? Or did my aunt and uncle leave them in his bedroom where he had last left them, like a lot of parents who seal off their deceased child’s bedroom to preserve their memory for as long as possible?

Anyway, if you’re reading this, Kaitlyn’s mother, please know that, although I cannot begin to comprehend your loss and the trauma that you’re experiencing, your writings have impacted me like nothing else ever has. I promised my family that I would not attempt suicide ever again, and you have helped me to cement that vow.

May you and your family be comforted and carried by the Lord and His angels until you are all reunited with your lovely daughter again.

~topaz