Tag Archives: spiritual warfare

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

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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


The Consequences of Surviving a Suicide Attempt

People commit suicide because it’s a way out. A way out of the gloom that has encased them. They see it as a way to finally achieve peace; little do they realize that they leave behind family, friends, and other loved ones who have to carry on with the enormous amount of grief weighing on their hearts.

Being a way out is the reason why I attempted to end my life last summer. Had I been successful (and I still don’t see how I wasn’t), it would have put an end to my suffering — or so I believed. But who’s to say the afterlife doesn’t have its share of problems? Hmm. Maybe it depends on which afterlife to which one goes.

Individuals who are trapped in their mental illness don’t/can’t stop and say, “Hey, what if I don’t die? Will I be paralyzed? Will I suffer permanent brain damage? Will I be hooked up to feeding tubes, my brain a worthless vegetable?”

When I was being checked in to my first mental hospital, the nurse and I began to chit-chat. Normally I don’t like to make small talk; it’s a waste of time. However, she brought up a topic that immediately drew me in. “You know,” she began while filling out the first of numerous pages of forms, “you’re lucky.”

“And why is that?” I asked bitterly. I was ticked off that I was still on planet Earth.

“Well, because some people live through their suicide attempts.”

“Really.” I didn’t ask in a typical shocked or interested tone; it was more like a response to her telling me what she had to eat for dinner the night before.

She began to tell me about a young man, a former patient at the same hospital, who shot himself in the temple and actually lived. The bullet passed through his head, somewhere between his brain and his eyes. It missed his brain but severed some nerve systems leading to his eyes. He was perfectly normal except for permanent blindness.

She said that another person at the county hospital (where I was initially taken) survived after jumping off a five-story building. He was in pretty bad shape, as you can imagine, with permanent damage to his back and legs.

She proceeded to explain why I was so fortunate: I didn’t have any lasting damage (at least at that time I didn’t; the overdose may have affected my memory and so forth).

So, to summarize a bit, it basically sucks to live through a suicide attempt because most people suffer physical and other lasting injuries.

However, at the time I didn’t know, but I wasn’t off the hook.

Luckily my parents helped my wife and me pay off the thousands of dollars in hospital, ambulance, and “miscellaneous” (i.e. doctor visits, blood work) bills. Psychiatrists and medication that they dispense are not free: They cost a lot. As do therapists.

My paid-off car was damaged beyond any hope of repair, so we suddenly had a car payment again. Plus, my insurance went up. Way up.

After the horrible accident which I don’t even remember having, the police mailed back my driver’s license without a single note attached.

I was finally free!

Months went by, and as each one passed, I prayed hard. Six months after the accident, still no word from the police. Lawyers began telling me: You’re in the clear. Nothing to worry about. Go on about your life. It’s all behind you.

Nine months after the accident, nine months, I received an ominous envelope in the mail one day from the police department. My first thought was that I had run a red light and one of those intersection cameras caught me.

I opened it and almost fainted: It was a warrant for my arrest.

“Why did it take nine months for them to send me this?!” I remember yelling to my wife. For crying out loud, they even told me my blood alcohol content was 0.00% after the accident.

So, it was not the end of the story; in fact, there were quite a few more long chapters that I had failed to notice.

I turned myself in and was booked like a common criminal, including the infamous mugshot and fingerprinting. I had to scramble to get a bail bondsman and pay the 20% which turned out to be $200.

Then I had to get a lawyer who charged $4,500 whether we would win or lose the case.

Then I had to start missing work due to psychiatrist appointments, counseling appointments, and court dates. The first several court dates were pretty much a joke: I had to be in the court with a bunch of other offenders for roll call, and then, one by one (i.e. whenever the lawyers got around to it) the lawyers would saunter in. Some would appear with their clients in front of the judge, and others, like mine, would take us out into the hallway and tell us the lowdown before releasing us.

By the way, if you have read any John Grisham novels or have seen the movies, um: He doesn’t embellish a whole lot. I would say not at all.

The lawyers that walk in and out of county criminal courts are the most eccentric, goofy-looking lot. Okay, okay, some look and act normally (like mine of course), but, but…

I know this is Texas, but do some of them have to wear their ten-gallon hats to court? Some lawyers look like they wear the same suit day after day, and others don’t seem to own any hair brushes or combs (or soap).

I swear, one guy came stumbling in, a small black bag in his hand, and almost tripped over some of the benches. His eyes were bloodshot, matching nicely with the color of his face. Yep, he turned out to be a lawyer.

Anyway, it’s a circus in the court on any given day. People milling about the spectator area, conducting business, while the judge hears cases at the same time. The second time I went to court, I made sure to get a seat in the very front row right behind the rail.

This is so embarrassing for the defendants, I thought as the judge heard cases while the circus was in full swing all around her.

Another thing I was surprised to witness was that the judge carried on emotionally and admonished the defendants like a drill sergeant mother, not that much differently than Judge Judy and all those other reality show court programs. Who would have thought?

Today I was actually glad that my lawyer was running three hours late because I got to witness several cases. The first one was a 40-something man who got his second DWI conviction. The judge had no mercy on him because, for some reason, he hadn’t even bothered to start an AA program that he was supposed to. Plus it was his second DWI charge in two months, bumping it up to a class B misdemeanor (that means hello jail and goodbye driver’s license).

Another lady looked strung out and was dressed in light blue county jail attire. She didn’t seem to understand why she was before the judge. Her charge was public intoxication for the fifth time. I’m not kidding. She got sent back across the street to corrections just as quickly as she had entered the court.

One case really pierced my heart, though: An 18-year-old pregnant woman went before the judge for an offense which I didn’t really hear. It could have been DWI or drug possession (seemingly most of the cases in County Criminal Court (CCC) #6). The judge went through questions about her life, and for the first time, I saw the judge’s compassion for certain offenders: She was asking the defendant what kind of future she imagined for her and her child because the father had abandoned her. The young woman had recently quit her waitress job and was living with acquaintances. Even the stone-faced bailiff looked softer as he fetched a box of tissues for the young lady.

The judge cut her a break, only adding on an extra six months to her probation and telling her to complete her GED program. Since I was directly behind the bailiff area, the young lady had a seat inside the court and was just inches away from me. I wanted so much to tap her shoulder and tell her everything would be all right because there were strangers who cared about her and who were going to pray for her. She could have been my daughter.

However, I didn’t dare attempt to reach over the courtroom barrier. I had already had enough excitement a few hours before.

Earlier in the morning, as I passed through the metal detector downstairs to come in, of course all the bells and whistles went off even though I had taken off my belt and wedding ring. Well, I had totally forgotten that the rosary ring that I sometimes carry in my pocket could be considered a weapon in a county courthouse. I had to leave it with one of the sheriffs. Talk about embarrassing: I was whisked away and separated from the general area while the rosary ring was examined and while I was yelled at.

Rosary ring: a weapon for spiritual warfare. In a county courthouse, though, just a straight-up weapon.

Anyway, after several initial appearances, the trial is finally set to begin in September. My lawyer told me it will more than likely be moved back due to the state having to assemble witnesses and experts. So the end to all this is still nowhere in sight.

A whole year after my suicide attempt, the consequences of that fateful night are still popping up like ant hills in our backyard during the long summer months.

Here is the moral of my story: Don’t try to kill yourself.

Just don’t even try.

Besides forever hurting those who love you, you just might live through it, and your problems would then be multiplied. And, believe me, it sucks.

~topaz


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.