At that time, then, she spread out her hands, and facing the window, poured out her prayer:
“Blessed are you, O Lord, merciful God, and blessed is your holy and honorable name. Blessed are you in all your works forever!”
At that time, the prayer … was heard in the glorious presence of Almighty God.
(Photo by Topaz)
Tag Archives: God
For the past two weeks, I’ve been anxious and depressed. I have received a tentative job offer from a company, and any day now, I am hoping to get the firm offer. The deadline to submit everything was last Friday, November 28. It’s only been a day and a half, I keep reminding myself to no avail.
What would I do if I didn’t get this job? It seems like a shoe-in; what if it slips through my fingers like the previous offer from the university? They did my background check after they gave me the offer, only to rescind it the next day. I was crushed.
I get obsessed so easily whether it’s women, job offers, material goods, aikido, et cetera. I develop the worst tunnel vision.
Without much faith, I have been begging God to give me patience and to wait on Him. I’m having loads of trouble doing that, though.
I quickly forgot about these problems, however, when I learned yesterday that my best friend from high school had passed away.
I have never had another friend like David; I don’t expect that I will. We were kindred spirits. Somehow we connected on the first day of high school despite having come from different middle schools. We were both anti-social and awkward without realizing it. We knew each other better than anyone because we were just like each other.
It was the hardest thing in the world for us to make friends with others. We were so shy and afraid of interacting with people that it’s a wonder how the two of us even met. I guess it was our destiny. I don’t recall how we actually met; I just remember having metals class with him, and, before I knew it, we were best friends. Neither of us had a circle of friends, so we made our own circle of two. We didn’t let anybody in, and no one wanted in.
Maybe it was like having an identical twin brother. I don’t know what that’s actually like, but I have read that identical twins are best friends for life. Maybe David’s and my friendship — no, our bond — was like that.
We weren’t complete unless we were together. We confided in each other — even stuff that our parents never knew about.
One time when he had built up the nerve to skip school and spend the day in the woods, I was lost and even envious. Just going one school day without him had me wandering around the halls, dazed and depressed.
Only one time did we fight; I mean literally fight. David was fuming because I decided to hang out with his neighbor, a dorky kid our age who liked the same 80s hair metal (before it was called “80s hair metal”) bands but didn’t have the same connection to David or to me.
In our confrontation later that day, we came to blows; we were both crazed with anger. Amazingly, that was the only time we were ever at odds with each other. It was the strangest thing.
Being a mama’s boy, I attended college close enough in order to keep living with my family. David told me a few times in passing that he was considering the military. I didn’t believe him. I mean, he couldn’t leave! I was attending college near my house, and our life was the same as it was in high school — just the way we wanted it.
But David ended up joining the army. His departure date loomed in our minds, overtaking us like a shadowy demon.
In college, I was recruited to join a Christian cult (but that’s a different story), and David was in the army, stationed far away. We kept in touch, but life took us down different avenues. Eventually we lost contact.
Around the year 2000, I was desperate to locate my best friend. David’s dad was transferred around the country a lot, so I had no idea where to start looking. Google produced no results. Several times I almost hired a private investigator.
I refused to give up. David was more shy and anti-social than I (and that’s saying a lot), so I figured he didn’t want to be found. Nevertheless, I continued scouring the Internet. Then my online searches for him became intermittent; about once a year, I did searches, always coming up with nothing.
I was becoming convinced that he was in the witness protection program or something.
Well, yesterday I did my annual Google search for David, and the fifth result was his obituary. On the website, David’s mother had listed her phone number hoping that I would see it and contact her.
It took me over a year to find the obituary and phone number, but I did indeed find them.
Last night, for the first time in over 21 years, I was speaking to his mother. Same voice and everything. That alone made me cry; I wasn’t ready for it. Hearing the pain in her voice brought everything together, and it finally hit me that my best friend of all time was dead.
After finding out about David and talking to his mother all evening, I am sobered and humbled. I had been stressing out over a measly job offer while David’s mother has been going through hell, perpetually grieving over both of her sons who were taken from her way too soon. (David’s older brother passed away when I was in college.)
I miss you, buddy. I will always miss you.
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.
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.”
“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.”
I should be happy with my life because I’ve found God and His Church, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have two healthy, happy sons, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have a wife who is honest and loves our family, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I have a full-time job, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I am healthy, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because my family and I aren’t homeless or starving, but I’m not.
I should be happy with my life because I can just change my thinking and be positive, but I can’t.
I should be happy with my life because I can make changes and please my wife, but I can’t.
I shouldn’t be happy without my life because all my pain and suffering can end right here and now, but I am.
Dear Little Rachel,
I will never forget the day that your mommy and I put the manjū rabbit on the tatami mat of our neighborhood Shinto shrine. It was Japan, so there weren’t any churches. Somehow that little shrine transcended religion and its boundaries.
I have never been moved quite so much than at that moment. To ring the bell, clap our hands twice, and pray with mommy for the repose of your soul affected me more than had you been born alive.
Just like placing flowers before a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe or lighting a votive candle before St. Joseph the Worker, I knew that the offering was well taken care of. The manjū rabbit was more than an offering, though, Rachel. It represented you — that little thing, parted from mommy and daddy, surrounded by eternal happiness in that beloved shrine.
You were about five weeks old, but mommy and I were so excited. You would have been our first child! Mommy liked the name Rachel because she has always been a fan of the TV show Friends, and I liked it because it’s a lovely Biblical name.
I will never forget the little sonogram photo that showed you in mommy’s tummy. Of course there’s no solid proof that you were a girl, but somehow we knew. Your grandma
is a psychic, and even she was sure of your gender.
I remember exploring the grounds of a nearby Buddhist temple the week before you stopped kicking. We were excited to have discovered such a beautiful landscape and temple. Monks were chanting from inside. I thought it was God’s way of blessing you, and I was happy. However, mommy later told me that it was a funeral ceremony, and that she felt that the monks were saying it for you, Rachel. Mommy and I never went back to that place.
I’ve always wanted a little girl to spoil. I see pictures everywhere of proud dads with their little princesses, and it gnaws at me in the depths of my spirit. It goes without saying that I love your two brothers more than life itself. But there’s a reason for everything, right, Rachel? You know; you are with the Lord in His heavenly kingdom. You are part of the beatific vision and, thus, you probably know the reason. Mommy and I won’t know until we meet you after falling asleep in the Lord.
I’ve never brought this up with anyone, Rachel, but I have an idea why you didn’t stay with us. Of course, I don’t know the mind of God, but I have a conviction in my heart that is as strong as iron. I struggle continuously with lust and sexual impurity. I honestly believe that God allowed mommy to have a miscarriage to somehow help me to be more holy. I am sorry if that sounds selfish. I really am. Also, our next two children were boys; we were to have no girls.
I would have loved you and protected you with my entire being, though.
Mommy and I are filled with joy that we have two happy, healthy, normal little boys.
But I will always think of you from time to time — and walking away from the manjū rabbit at the shrine nine years ago.
Well, little one, I’ll wrap up this letter for now. Mommy and I will see you later. (Pray for mommy because you know how stubborn she is when it comes to spirituality!) Give Mama Mary a big hug for me.
Love always and forever,
An explanation of manjū is here.
I couldn’t see a thing. All I knew was that the room was about 8′ x 5′ (2.4 m x 1.5 m). I sat there with my legs folded under me with my eyes closed. My mind wasn’t working; only the heaviness of guilt and regret was with me in the darkness. This was my punishment. I had it coming. How I wish I could take back everything I did. I didn’t want to leave this pitch-black cell, though.
After being frozen in place for what seemed like hours, I curled up on the floor, using an old musty cloth as a pillow. I didn’t want to stretch out; it would have been too much of a luxury, plus my feet would have been near the door. I never expected to drift off to sleep, but it had been an emotionally draining experience.
It all happened in a flash. One moment, I was checking my email on my phone, and the next minute, the fight broke out with no warning. They were going at it with everything they had. It’s a prison fight, I thought with horror. How could it be happening? What caused it? And right under my nose? How dare they!
After the bigger one got the smaller one down and began hammering his back with right-left combinations, I snapped.
It was one thing I lived in fear of, even as a dedicated, faithful Christian. The beast inside me reared its ugly head once again and took over. I got in each boy’s face and screamed at each one. “What are you doing?! You will not fight while I’m here! You,” I said, looking at my seven-year-old. “Don’t you realize that he is only five? Why were you beating on him like that? Huh?!”
“Scott, stop. You’re getting carried away.” Ayako, my wife, tried to calmly intervene.
“Don’t interrupt! I’m in the middle of disciplining them!”
“But, you’re yelling–”
“Didn’t you see it?! It was like a prison fight!” Now I was yelling at my wife.
I don’t remember what happened next. I was in such a crazy state of mind.
I used to punish myself by striking myself in the temple, cheek, and forehead. I was doing it again. Wasn’t all that crap behind me?
I had one of those profound moments during Mass earlier in the morning when my soul cried out to God. I was in up to my neck in a certain type of sin, and I couldn’t worship the Lord like I usually did.
That’s what sin does. It makes you think that once is enough. Instead, the cycle begins. Like a drug addict trying to go straight. One little snort or injection and everything will be okay. Just one fix.
But that’s not how sin works. The devil knows that one little slip and he’s got you. The feeding of the addiction happens all over again. The cycle is torture. Even St. Paul struggled with sin: Even though his mind said no, his flesh said yes. I always seem to forget about the rest of that verse.
His answer is to turn to Christ.
God told me in the middle of Mass that I kept falling because I was legalistically trying to avoid sin. What I didn’t realize was that I was using my own power. God reminded me that I must avoid sin out of love for Him and not because of myself.
When God speaks to me, I don’t mean that He speaks audibly inside my head like I’m a schitzo. It’s more of telepathy for lack of a better term. His Spirit connects with my spirit on a deep, primal level. I don’t even have to think of a reply; my soul responds automatically.
So there I was, my heart and soul transformed and touched by the hand of God. After Mass, as everyone cleared out, I knelt down in the pew and continued praising God and thanking him profusely for His gift of faith and forgiveness through Christ. Normally I get distracted and not pray after Mass, but I was deep in communion with the Holy Spirit yesterday, and nothing could divert my attention. How wonderful it was!
So how did I go from that mountain-top experience with God to being curled up in the fetal position in this dark, cramped room? It felt like my brain was swishing around in my skull; the dull pain was making me sick to my stomach. You deserve it, Scott. Serves you right for treating your two little buddies so horribly.
My oldest son is very sensitive and gets his feelings hurt easily. He is excelling in second-grade reading and math. I am so proud of him. My youngest son is in kindergarten, and all last week he and one other student had the privilege of sitting at a special table in his classroom reserved for exceptional students. The little rascal didn’t even tell my wife or me, but that’s how he is. Very humble.
The three of us love playing soccer in the backyard after dinner. Both boys are playing in a fall soccer league now, and my youngest is the star player on his team. He gets the majority of his team’s goals each game. My two little buddies are the pride and joy of my life.
Seeing them both break down into tears as I screamed at them hit me like a sack of bricks afterward. When my rage was in full force, though, I wanted them to cry; I wanted to see their remorse and for them to fully understand how fighting would not be allowed.
I try very hard to be the best father that I can be. I love my sons more than I love myself. If they’re still hungry when we eat at home or at a restaurant, I am quick to share my food or dessert with them. Ten years ago I wouldn’t have shared with my wife. My food was mine!
I sometimes get angry with my sons for little things. Yesterday morning we had a fun day at the park. My kids love riding their bikes through a nature trail, stopping periodically to explore a creek or a wooded area that looks interesting. Yesterday, I took the photo at the top of this post It was in a wide-open field at the park. As I was trying to figure which angle of the log to photograph, my oldest son sneaked up behind me and yelled boo. He was laughing, having fun because he scared Dada. I responded by yelling at him not to scare me like that. He went away dejected.
My right shoulder and back were killing me from spending so much time on the floor in the small, dark closet. I turned over, tossed away the old cloth that was my pillow and roughed it some more. The more I was uncomfortable and in pain, the more I could atone for my behavior. In shorts and a t-shirt, the floor was feeling cold, but I was determined to keep lying there; hopefully I would catch a cold and suffer for several more days.
God, I whispered, help me. Help me in this situation. I created such a mess. Then I thought about how every action of mine, either positive or negative, affects my whole family. Just like when I was young. My father’s mood affected all of us and ruined so many happy moments. It tore me apart to see myself acting like my father who I still cannot forgive for leaving me nothing but rancid memories of my childhood.
I drifted in and out of consciousness in the darkness. Brief dreams floated through my mind. Suddenly I heard a female voice. It was soft and gentle. Perhaps it was an angel.
Scott. Scott. SCOTT.
Huh? I mumbled. Was I dreaming?
Get up. The voice sounded authoritative now.
No. I want to stay here.
Get up! The angel was yelling now. Don’t make me angry!
I was awake now, but I didn’t move. Stop yelling first.
Your sons are waiting for you to read to them!
It wasn’t an angel after all. It was Ayako, my wife. She is a tough little thing, so I knew it would be in my best interest to get up and go into the living room.
Before opening my bedroom door, I collected myself and prayed. God, you gotta help me. I let out a deep breath and opened the door.
My boys were on the sofa with their little books, waiting for me to read to them. “Dada! Come sit with us!”
They had forgiven me and were actually happy to see me. We read several books together, and then we played their favorite card game, Uno. My wife even came in from the kitchen and joined us for two games.
Later, after dinner, my sons and I went out back as usual and played soccer. A little while later, my wife came out for the very first time, and we played an aggressive but fun two-on-two match.
God had worked another miracle. Everything was back to normal, but I was still depressed and suffering from guilt.
I’m sure my family won’t forget what happened yesterday afternoon, but it was evident that they had forgiven me.
I don’t expect them to forget, though. How I wish they would.
Someday when my sons think back to their childhood, I don’t want my screw-ups to outweigh the fun times that we had.
I am still burdened by extreme guilt right now as I finish typing this. I had to take two Xanax tablets a little while ago to relieve the pain and agony inside of me. The pills didn’t quite do the trick.
I want to lock myself in a room somewhere because I am agitated despite the 2 mg of Xanax. I can’t do that, though. All I can do is rely on God, but I’m having a hard time surrendering right now.
(photo by Topaz)
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.