Tag Archives: love

Just Before I Go: A Must-See for All of You Who Are Like Me

  

  
I was at Target recently with my sons to look for a Lego Batmobile set (which, my youngest learned in horror, had since been discontinued). While the kids were playing games on iPad demos in the store (How they quickly forgot about Batman), I took a look at the newest DVDs on a nearby shelf.

Not surprisingly, none of the titles rang a bell since I practically live under a rock. However, one title caught my eye: Just Before I Go. The actor’s melancholy expression and the tag line, Ending It All Was Only The Beginning, led me to believe that it dealt with suicide. Sure enough, I flipped the DVD over and read the synopsis. Sounded intriguing.

There was only one problem: Seann William Scott. Really?! He plays a total idiot in all his movies. Nevertheless, I jotted down the title in my iNotes (or whatever it’s called) to watch it at some point.

Tonight was the night. Friday after work. Wife and kids gone. Amazon rental. A nice bowl of Lucky Charms for dinner. I was set. I can always turn it off when the flick gets juvenile, I thought.

But… It didn’t.

Not an Oscar contender by any means, but it was GOOD. All the poignancy that I was hoping for.

**SPOILER ALERT**

I even started blubbering like a baby when Scott’s character met his deceased father on the lake during a near-death experience. 

**SPOILER OVER**

The movie is about a man who, before committing suicide, goes back to his hometown to confront some painful childhood memories “just before he goes.” I don’t want to reveal too much, except that this is not a screwball comedy. It tackles several thorny issues effectively I think.

Bottom line: If you are feeling depressed or even suicidal, do yourself a favor and watch this movie. Do it for me even. Screw what the film critics say about the film. They get paid to tear things apart. 

I loved the Emerson quote at the end:

When it’s dark, that’s when you can see the stars.

Just look up and they will always be there.

~t

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Laughter is the Best Medicine

alien-hands-far-side

I recently read this article about a type of OCD called scrupulosity. It’s basically the fear of sin or punishment from God. The article is definitely worth the read.

Of course, I’m not saying that it’s suddenly okay to throw caution to the wind and start sinning. Far from it. However, the article got me thinking about how uptight I may be; I tend to be a living example of the ironic process theory: If someone tells you not to think of a pink elephant, you are automatically going to (like you did just now).

While I continue to deal with habitual sin, I’m learning to make an effort to enjoy life and trust God as I go. For instance, my two young sons and I have been playing soccer in the backyard after dinner each night, and it’s so much fun! I have also come across some comics and memes on the Internet that make me smile.

Laughter and fun times are a welcome reprieve from the daily spiritual battles that we face.

Nuns at Six Flags

Last night, my sons and I were trying to steal the ball from each other in our scrimmage. As we battled against each other, my kids were giggling like crazy. Afterwards, my oldest, who is quite serious and emotional, suddenly asked me, “Daddy, why is laughing good for us?”

Taken aback, I replied, “Well, because it makes us feel good. Plus, we forget our problems while we’re laughing.” It was one of those moments where I inadvertently taught myself something.

So, in the spirit of all this, I have posted some comics and things that I’ve run across in the past few weeks. They are entertaining to me, but, after all, my sense of humor is a bit twisted. 😉

 

 

25-motivational-posters-part-II-exercise

 

If you’re a fan of this series, I apologize!

 

 

Since I’m an English teacher, I particularly like this one:

 

 

This one isn’t a comic, but it has really spoken to me during the past week. My dear sister in Christ, Jet, recently posted it on her blog:

 

 

Have a great week, and remember to laugh periodically.

 

~t

 


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


The Sorrowful Mysteries

Credit: Wikimedia Commons

Monday was the first day of classes at my college. The first week is usually chaotic as I try to get on top of my classes, serve on committees, get late students into correct classes, and so on. By the end of the day yesterday evening (only the second day!), I was exhausted, stressed, and reeling from sin and temptation.

Even though the fall semester has started, it’s still hot as blazes here in Texas, so a lot of students are still wearing as little as possible. Needless to say, it is not uncommon for me to encounter “spiritual landmines” throughout my day: lust and temptation.

I prefer to pray the Rosary at home in a quiet place, but I decided to play the CD during my commute home. I don’t listen to the Rosary on CD very often, especially while driving, but it was one of those days. What better way to cleanse the mind and refocus on God?

The calming background music and soft voice of the narrator immediately took the focus off myself. God knew exactly what I needed because yesterday happened to be the Sorrowful Mysteries. As I prayed along with the CD, the Mysteries and fruits of the Spirit totally matched my struggles. Not only did God put the idea on my heart to pray the Rosary, He also, in His glory, matched me up with exactly what I needed to hear and pray about.

I have listed each Sorrowful Mystery below, along with my thoughts and practical applications that I gleaned from my meditation.

Agony-in-the-Garden

1. The Agony in the Garden – Fruit of the Spirit: Sorrow for Sin

Three words stood out to me on this one: agony, sorrow, and sin. As I mentioned, it was a day filled with temptation (which day isn’t?), so I was feeling really guilty and sorry for letting my mind dwell on forbidden thoughts throughout the day. Even before I started the CD, I was already asking God to forgive me for not avoiding everything that led me to sin.

Plus, the image of Jesus sweating blood in the Garden of Gethsemane puts everything into perspective: I’m the sinner, so I should have been the one crying out to God to “take this cup away from me.” (Luke 22:42) Instead, out of His love for me, Christ took my place.

scourging

2. The Scourging at the Pillar – Fruit of the Spirit: Purity

There’s that word, purity. The Lord was speaking directly to me. That’s God: He always knows what we need and when we need it.

While I was letting my thoughts run loose, at one point Christ was being beaten within an inch of His life. He is the essence of purity yet was treated as a common criminal for my sake. Remember, He is God in the flesh, and He stooped down to this level for me.

That’s love. Not the warm-and-fuzzy sort of love that comes with infatuation; rather, it’s the self-sacrificing kind that a mother has for her child. I know that my mother would give her life for me, just as I would for my children.

St-Takla-org--Jesus-Crown-of-Thorns-07

3. The Crowning of Thorns – Fruit of the Spirit: Courage

Of course, when the word courage was mentioned during the introduction of this Mystery, I said a special “thank you” prayer to God. He was allowing me to see the progression I was to take: be sorry for my sins, vow to be pure, and now He was showing me that I must have courage to “fight the good fight.” (1 Timothy 6:12)

Let me tell you, when you give your whole self over to God, he will rock your world. And it’s scary. On one hand, you know that God is with you — you can just feel it. And it feels awesome! However, it pushes you out of your comfort zone, and you will periodically have doubts. For me, those doubts are crippling to me because I’m now doing something totally out of character like leading a men’s purity group or helping struggling Christians regain their faith.

He-Carried-That-Cross-For-Us

4. The Carrying of the Cross – Fruit of the Spirit: Patience

Okay, so you’re feeling pretty fired up and are living out your faith. That’s wonderful. Now another hurdle is in your path: patience. Just as Jesus endured the long, arduous walk to the place where He was crucified, we must also carry our own crosses (Luke 14:27). There will be times that you stumble and drop your burdensome cross due to its enormous weight; those times call for patience, a fruit of the Spirit.

Actually, even when things are going well for me, just one unanswered prayer can sink my mood and discourage me like crazy. I need to remember that God has His own plan, and it’s usually different from mine!

There may have been a time when Jesus merely wanted everything to be finished. Imagine going through a hyped-up trial, a severe beating and torture, and then, half dead already, having to carry an instrument of your own execution for what seems like miles and miles.

crucifixion

5. The Crucifixion – Fruit of the Spirit: Perseverance

Being a Christian isn’t a part-time job or hobby. It’s a lifetime commitment. So it’s not by accident that the last fruit of the Spirit of these Mysteries happens to be perseverance. God never said it would be an easy life. In fact, the Bible says to “run with perseverance the race marked out for us.” (Hebrews 12:1)

We must persevere and not give up because the cycle will repeat itself: commit sin, resolve to be pure, find courage, exercise patience, and not give up. Persevere because we will fall again. When (not if) that happens, we must get back up and keep trying our best.

I always thought that crucifixion was an immediate death, but it’s not. The Romans perfected this method of execution to prolong the suffering of the victim as long as possible. When criminals were crucified in the first century, they most likely died from asphyxiation after hours or even days of excruciating pain on the cross. (Actually, the word excruciating is derived from crucifixion).

Conclusion

I am so thankful to God for teaching me this lesson as I calmly fought rush-hour traffic on my way home yesterday. Just typing this out helps me to recall and meditate once more upon these Sorrowful Mysteries.

I pray that The Lord will inspire me to write reflections on the other Mysteries of the Rosary as well: the Joyful, the Luminous, and the Glorious. I’m in no hurry, though, because I will wait on God to inspire me. In the meantime, I’ll be putting into practice the five fruits of the Spirit from this post.

~t


Celebrate Life

During dinner last night, my wife, Ayako, suddenly asked, “Do you want to celebrate life tomorrow?”

I was taken by surprise. “You remembered?!”

“Of course! You think I would forget?”

How could she not forget? I put her through hell nearly one year ago. My attempt was on August 24, and I never came home that night. I had fallen asleep in my car and awoke the next morning after totaling my car.

Ayako had no idea where I was or what had happened to me. For all she knew, I was dead somewhere. I always called her when I would be late or if I had to stop somewhere. For her not to hear from me at all, and then having to go to bed with all those questions and fear in her mind must have been excruciating.

It turned out that she and my two little boys went driving around looking for my car on the side of the road all night Friday. Ayako called every hospital on the route between our home and my campus. On Saturday, still without hearing from me, and without a word from the police or hospital, she kept the appointment that we had made for the Lowe’s Build and Grow Workshop. My sons love going to the free clinic where kids can build their own wooden toys. She even took the kids to the park afterwards which was what we always did. Later, I learned that Ayako didn’t want to break up the routine and risk upsetting our boys.

The thing is, after she knew that I was alive (I had answered the phone in my drugged state without saying much), it pained her even more that she didn’t have any details whatsoever.

Anyway, I never expected Ayako to bring up the anniversary of my suicide attempt. This weekend, we refer to it as Celebrate Life Day after she had coined the phrase the night before.

We were at Lowe’s again this morning for another Build and Grow Workshop. The Halloween displays were out, probably just like last year when Ayako brought the kids by herself. Since my oldest son is now seven and able to express himself more, I asked him a question. “Do you remember last year when the Halloween stuff was out and daddy wasn’t with you when you built that Shrek onion carriage?” None of us ever spoke about that tragic time; we just wanted to put it behind us and move on.

“Yes, I remember.”

“Did mommy cry at all?”

He thought about it for a moment. “No, but she didn’t feel good because she didn’t know where you were.”

That was all I needed to know.

We celebrated life by having lunch at my favorite sushi restaurant. Again, out of the blue, my wife turned to me during lunch and said with a smile, “I’m really glad you’re still with us.”

“Oh, I am, too. I’m sorry for putting you through all that. I wasn’t in my right mind.”

I don’t know if we’ll continue the tradition of Celebrate Life Day. Maybe not, I would guess. But we sure had a great time today.

~t

(photos by Topaz)


The Downside of Being Holy

Credit: Creative Commons

Living a life fully devoted to God is difficult. In a previous post, I mentioned that, since I had nowhere else to go, I decided to step it up a few notches from being a lukewarm pew-warmer to someone who totally surrendered himself to God (Revelation 3:16).

I have also written about my Josephite marriage with my wife. Basically we are friendly roommates who are raising our two kids together — nothing more. I met with my therapist this past weekend, and I told her that I came across this phrase on a Catholic radio program. Trying to justify the reason that my wife and I have been celibate for nearly five years, I told my therapist that my wife and I have this Josephite kind of marriage — end of discussion.

I even told my therapist that I was okay with this type of arrangement. Actually… I’m not sure if I am; that’s just what I tell myself in order to try and overcome the frustration and emptiness. Five years is a long time. Since it was basically my wife’s decision (a Josephite marriage needs to be mutual), I just got plain worn out and tired of harping on the subject of sex with my wife. I really would like to think that it is God’s will, and I pray and cry out to Him all the time to show me, but the only response I get is… nothing. Just continued abstinence.

My previous therapist used to spend half of each session drilling it into my head that we were not normal, and he actually gave me homework: to have sex with my wife and report back to him about it. I soon left him and found another therapist that I felt more comfortable with and who didn’t keep pressing the issue. However, my new therapist does say that it’s not normal. Duh. I already knew that. I’ve tried everything: talking with my wife, asking her if there’s something about me she doesn’t like, asking if there’s something about her that she doesn’t like, telling her that we are not being a normal married couple, etc. It is to no avail.

So, I chalk it up to being God’s will. I have thought about being a priest since I love my faith and I love helping people, but (another duh), I’m married. Unless my wife passes away or we become divorced, it ain’t gonna happen.

I get extremely guilty when the thought crosses my mind of her dying early. Sometimes I have thought about our getting a divorce, but I couldn’t live without seeing my kids every day; plus, I can’t bear the thought of another man raising my kids. Yes, they will always be my kids, as my therapist says, but it wouldn’t be the same.

Well, it looks like you’re stuck, Topaz.

By the grace and power of God, I have overcome pornography and masturbation and no longer have any inclination for either. However, lust and impure thoughts constantly haunt me. Most of the time I don’t allow myself to dwell on these, but sometimes I do.

The bottom line is that I’m lonely. I live with a slim, attractive woman and I literally can’t touch her. It’s torture. I see women at church and long for a marriage with a good, faithful Catholic to share my life with. I see images on Facebook and other sites of a man and woman holding hands or hugging, and my heart aches so much. Oh, how I desire affection and intimacy.

I used to fall asleep at night imagining my soul mate curled up next to me. All that did was incite temptation, though. Now, I imagine the Blessed Virgin Mary, my mother in the order of grace, sitting in a chair beside my bed, her arm around my shoulders, whispering to me that everything will be all right. It always helps me drift off to sleep.

I’ve been a Catholic for three years, but I’ve only been a faithful, practicing one for the past 12 months. Since my mindset has become more in line with God’s, I no longer look at a woman’s chest, backside, or legs. Instead, I notice qualities like hairstyle, personality, and a sincere smile, and it makes my heart race just as quickly. My point is that I’m still struggling; it’s just in a different, non-sinful (?) way.

I refuse to give in to impurity. God has taught me how to channel my stubbornness into my battle with spiritual darkness. Instead of taking cold showers when I’m hit with lust — because that would be a lot of showering — I literally brace myself and pray until my hormones die down.

Some Christian leaders say that the only way to overcome pornography and masturbation is to get an accountability partner. I think that is very wise. However, I overcame by my sheer hatred of always sliding down the mountain after nearly reaching the top every time. I was sick and tired of not growing in Christ. I longed for a better life, one that I read about in the Bible over and over again but just couldn’t believe was possible for me. I’m not saying my “do it alone” method will work for everyone, but it did for me.

I would never consider infidelity. I love God too much and am faithful to my marriage vows. Maybe God is preparing me for the priesthood down the road. I’m in no way saying that I’m a saint, but maybe my celibate marriage will help me focus more on God and His will for my life. I will keep praying that He continues to unfold His plan for me. I guess I’m on a need-to-know basis with the Almighty. It sure would be nice to know, though.

~t


It Was a Good Week

Credit: Stock Free Images

…nobody I know got killed in South Central L.A.

                                                           –Ice Cube, “It Was a Good Day”

I really enjoy reading blogs. Not just the ones on WordPress, but in other regions of the blogosphere as well.

I have to admit, I am drawn to those that are humorous or that cheer me up. No offense to those who have dark, serious content (ahem); it appeals to a part of me for sure. The other part of me, though, really wants to feel good and smile sometimes (Yes, I have been known to smile from time to time.).

I was kicked to the curb recently by yet another psychiatrist who claimed that my particular health insurance was a “headache.” I’ve also been having lots of trouble adjusting to my new medication: I am constantly in a daze, and a few days ago I mistook a red traffic light for a four-way stop. Luckily my wife was beside me; without her scream, something terrible could have happened.

Back to the point of this post. I wanted to write about the positive things that have been going on in my life. God reminds me ever so often to count my blessings.

This was a good week. For one, I was off the whole week, my stretch of R & R before the fall semester begins later this month. My sons are still on summer break, so we’ve had a terrific time. Some of the highlights include: spending the day at a water park, one of the few places that all four of us really gel as a family — and where my wife and I laugh and play like kids; having an afternoon snackfest at Starbucks — another place where my wife and I forget our “problems” and chit-chat endlessly while sipping our Frappuccinos, our kids silent as they wolf down lemon pound cake and double fudge brownies; a trip to the aquarium (My sons are obsessed with sharks, so watching them squeal with delight made my wife and me extremely happy.); and yesterday I was able to attend church for the Feast of the Assumption of the Blessed Virgin Mary since I normally work until late at night on Thursdays.

Sure, there were moments when things weren’t “perfect,” but I chose not to dwell on those times. Plus, the enjoyable family time we had far outweighed the problems. I officially go back to work on Monday, so I still have a few days left of my break. I did have to take some naps in the middle of the day due to my medication, however; but, overall, it was a really good week.

Years ago, I attended a teaching conference in Seattle. The highlight of that weekend was visiting the cemetery where Bruce Lee and his son, Brandon, are buried. I went there as an excited tourist, snapping photos of the beautiful headstones, but I left in a much more somber mood after reading the inscription etched on Brandon’s grave:

Because we don’t know when we will die, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that’s so deeply a part of your being that you can’t even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even that. How many times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless.

So, even if you’re going through a lot and there appears to be no light at the end of the tunnel, count your blessings. Savor every moment with loved ones. Find things that put a smile on your face. Because, in life, unexpected things happen.

~t