Monday, December 26, 2016

Christmas Peace

Friends of Faith:
And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God and saying,
        "Glory to God in the highest and peace on earth among men of good will." Lk 2:13-14
“Who does not know that to receive this Child, it is sufficient to be of good will . . .He came to bless good will, which little by little he will render fruitful and effective, as long as we allow ourselves to be governed by it. And I hope that we will do so.” Saint Padre Pio
We wish you good will and hope that you, in turn, reflect and do good will with the gifts you have been given and for all that you will meet. With a reminder that goodwill begins at home by loving in the service of kindness and forgiveness those closest to us, our spouses, our children, and our parents, this Christmas and throughout the coming year – no one could or would ask for more.
With every decision made by goodwill we would have our most often requested and hoped for dream: Peace on Earth.
Blessings and Merry Christmas to All!
Charlotte, Stan & the Upah family

Monday, December 19, 2016

Watching and Waiting to Know What to Do

Friends of Faith:
The LORD spoke to Ahaz, saying: Ask for a sign from the LORD, your God; let it be deep as the netherworld, or high as the sky! But Ahaz answered, “I will not ask! I will not tempt the LORD!” Is 7: 10-11

I’m always thinking about what I’m going to do next. And I pray to God often, what is it you want me to do, and help me to say yes.

But I wonder how often I am like Ahaz, that when God says, “Ask for a sign, I’ll tell you what to do.” My answer is: “I won’t ask, I’m too proud, I can do it myself, or I’m too afraid of what the answer might be.”

I so desire to be an obedient and humble servant, like Joseph and Mary, listening to and 
IMMEDIATELY following the signs they received that brought Jesus into the world.

The angel of the Lord appeared to him in a dream and said, “Joseph, son of David, do not be afraid to take Mary your wife into your home. For it is through the Holy Spirit that this child has been conceived in her. She will bear a son and you are to name him Jesus, because he will save his people from their sins.” All this took place to fulfill what the Lord had said through the prophet: Behold, the virgin shall conceive and bear a son, and they shall name him Emmanuel, (Is 14) which means “God is with us.”

When Joseph awoke, he did as the angel of the Lord had commanded him and took his wife into his home. Mt 1: 18-24

And Mary said, “Behold, I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it be done to me according to your word.” Lk 1: 38

For hundreds of years, even before Jesus was born, we have been asking for signs. I personally have received many signs and God has answered many prayers. And still, I ask for more. I fail to listen or I fail to act even when I have asked and been granted a sign. There are some who won’t ask. There are some who fail to believe in God or even in Jesus’ coming.

And yet we continue to wonder, watch and wait for an answer to “what should I do.” Have I asked? Have I listened?

Maybe God is answering and I am just not looking in the right place.

In which manger do I look to seek Jesus? Will I listen to and answer God’s call? Will I say, “YES” like Joseph and Mary to make Jesus the reason and focus, not just for Christmas, but for life?

Be active. Don’t just watch and wait – ask and listen. God will give us a sign! This is what Advent is all about. This is what God promises!


Tuesday, November 29, 2016

Giving Tuesday from the Perspective of the Gifted

Friends of Faith:
Today is giving Tuesday. I thought it would be appropriate to share what giving looks like from the perspective of those who work for the agencies that benefit from your generosity. Hopefully we remember to give to those who truly need support this Thanksgiving and Christmas season.
As a tribute I am sharing a “guest” column from one of our favorite charities—Bridgehaven, pregnancy support center, in Cedar Rapids. This Christian organization serves mothers, babies, and families with women’s health, prenatal care, post birth and post abortion support. Some of their financial support comes from my favorite second hand store, Treasures, located in downtown Cedar Rapids. Our daughter, Kristy, is on the board of directors.
This column was written by Kylee Pusteoska, Director of Development and a Traer native. Please look them up at
“For most of us, Thanksgiving is a time of family, food and football. We anticipate a favorite dish, whether it be Aunt Nancy’s mashed potatoes or Cousin Andi’s Asian salad. Some are concerned about the outcome of the Cowboys game. Still others worry about cleaning their bathrooms for the in-laws who will be spending the weekend. But what if you were the Development Director at a local non-profit? This would mean you were planning a wonderful Giving Tuesday campaign for your beloved charity.
Giving Tuesday is the Tuesday following Thanksgiving, Black Friday, Small Business Saturday and Cyber Monday…November 29th this year. Traditionally, the Tuesday after Thanksgiving is a day to celebrate philanthropy. Around the globe, social media lights up with wonderful stories about the valuable work of of non-profits, along with a call to financially support these great organizations. We, at Bridgehaven, happen to be pretty proud of the work we do and I can’t wait to share that with the world.
My Marketing Coordinator and I came up with a fabulous plan, including photos and videos of our staff and volunteers talking about our work. I thought it was going to be an easy sell to the staff members…not so much. Apparently, being videotaped is a phobia-inducing experience for some. Others were worried about lipstick or hair. Others wanted to make sure they said exactly the right thing. There were several practice sessions and videos taped over and over. In the end, I think we are going to promote the joy and love that radiates from Bridgehaven but the experience got me thinking.
Doesn’t God ask us to shine our light into the dark world? Isn’t he asking us to show love to our neighbors and help care for the least of his people? The staff and volunteers at Bridgehaven do this every single day. They meet with young women who are often frightened and alone. They counsel young families facing difficult circumstances and teach classes to men and women who are trying to make their lives better. The staff is constantly making connections in the community so that we can offer our clients information about services we don’t provide. We work with several other non-profit organizations in Cedar Rapids to make sure our clients get the care needed by them and their families. Every day, these men and women at Bridgehaven work hard to do God’s work….to be the hands and feet. And they do it with a grace I am in awe of. So why was it so hard for them to share that?
I think everyone on our staff feels called to be here. There is a connection with each other and with our clients that could not exist outside of this non-profit ministry. The love that moves through this place is like nothing I have experienced. It is such an honor to be part of this team. I am pretty sure everyone feels that but there was a disconnect when it came to saying it out loud on a video. Was it modesty? Humility? Was it the ol’ Iowa nice kicking in? It could have been any number of these things…it could have been all of them. But I think I finally figured it out.

Bridgehaven is a place of acceptance and love. The people who work here see that as normal and merely answered God’s call to be here and to serve. They don’t understand that what they do every day is miraculous. The work that happens at Bridgehaven involves faith and a comfort in knowing we are changing the future for the better. But the men and women who work here don’t realize all the gifts and talents they bring to the table. They don’t understand that I see them all as rock stars in Jesus’ band. They simply show up every day and love. They love each other and they love the clients and families who walk through our doors. They solely live the mission of Bridgehaven “to empower choices for life through Christ-centered education and support.”
So this Thanksgiving, I am thankful I work with a team so involved in love they don’t know how to express that in a promotional video. They come and hold the hands of our clients and offer them information without judgement. They sort clothes at Treasures to help raise funds to support the ministry. They teach classes about parenting to create stronger families. They do ultrasounds and teach classes about positive life choices. Some of us get to watch all of this and be amazed by what happens here. So when I tell you that the staff and volunteers here are exceptional, believe me. Just don’t ask me to show you evidence on video.”

Kylee Pusteoska
Director of Development

Monday, November 14, 2016

Urgent Preparation

Friends of Faith:
The readings this weekend were about the end times – not because the Church or anyone else besides God knows when the end time will come, but rather because as we draw near to the end of the cyclical Church year it is important to be reminded that there should be an urgent sense of preparation for God in all that we are and all that we do.

God has given us a promise of eternal glory through Christ’s life, death and resurrection. And as His faithful believers we need to be reminded often that our lives here on earth not only have a purpose, but that the end of our life is imminent and unknown. So therefore “getting it done” is urgent so that we are not caught off guard, sleeping or waiting for someone else to do it, but rather that it is important that we take an active role in imitating Christ for ourselves so that others may come to know Him through us.

Brothers and sisters: You know how one must imitate us. For we did not act in a disorderly way among you, nor did we eat food received free from anyone. On the contrary, in toil and drudgery, night and day we worked, so as not to burden any of you. Not that we do not have the right. Rather, we wanted to present ourselves as a model for you, so that you might imitate us. In fact, when we were with you, we instructed you that if anyone was unwilling to work, neither should that one eat. 

We hear that some are conducting themselves among you in a disorderly way, by not keeping busy but minding the business of others. Such people we instruct and urge in the Lord Jesus Christ to work quietly and to eat their own food. 2 Thes 3: 7-12

We are also reminded that it is the devil’s way to divide us, by making worldly truths, things and power seem more important than what Christ, His Church, and the Holy Spirit guide us to do. He reminds us that it won’t be easy to live in faith but that if we trust in Him He will give us what we need to suffer whatever challenges are placed in our lives.  We are challenged to live our faith through the works and sufferings he has gifted us to share for the purpose of spreading His urgent message to others.

"See that you not be deceived, for many will come in my name, saying, ‘I am he,’ and ‘The time has come.’ Do not follow them! When you hear of wars and insurrections, do not be terrified; for such things must happen first, but it will not immediately be the end.” Then he said to them, “Nation will rise against nation, and kingdom against kingdom. There will be powerful earthquakes, famines, and plagues from place to place; and awesome sights and mighty signs will come from the sky.

“Before all this happens, however, they will seize and persecute you, they will hand you over to the synagogues and to prisons, and they will have you led before kings and governors because of my name. It will lead to your giving testimony. Remember, you are not to prepare your defense beforehand, for I myself shall give you a wisdom in speaking that all your adversaries will be powerless to resist or refute. You will even be handed over by parents, brothers, relatives, and friends, and they will put some of you to death. You will be hated by all because of my name, but not a hair on your head will be destroyed. By your perseverance you will secure your lives.”
Lk 21: 5-19

God has given us a promise, but we have been challenged that we have a responsibility of taking an active role as His servants. We cannot be fed by the Spirit if we don’t work in the Spirit.

I have been given by God the right to life and a duty to work. Every minute of every day I must do it with a sense of urgency and selfless servitude, not for me, but for Him; not for my success, but for His will; not to promote the worlds good but to achieve eternal good.

My challenge is to be hopeful, perseverant and watchful – remaining in Him, thru Him and for Him in everything I do. It is my challenge to each of you to act with a sense of urgency in spreading His message to all.


Monday, October 24, 2016

Truth, Not Justification

Friends of Faith:

“And so I say to you, you are Peter, and upon this rock I will build my church, and the gates of the netherworld shall not prevail against it. I will give you the keys to the kingdom of heaven. Whatever you bind on earth shall be bound in heaven; and whatever you loose on earth shall be loosed in heaven.”” Mt 16:18-19

If you find yourself trying to justify your beliefs and you haven’t sought God’s design thru the Church teachings to reveal the truth then your truth may not really be the truth, because there is never a real truth from God that needs justification. And although we might be called upon to explain God’s truth, God’s truth will always stand. He will prevail.

Brothers and sisters: Be kind to one another, compassionate, forgiving one another as God has forgiven you in Christ. Be imitators of God, as beloved children, and live in love, as Christ loved us and handed himself over for us as a sacrificial offering to God for a fragrant aroma. Immorality or any impurity or greed must not even be mentioned among you, as is fitting among holy ones, no obscenity or silly or suggestive talk, which is out of place, but instead, thanksgiving. Be sure of this, that no immoral or impure or greedy person, that is, an idolater, has any inheritance in the Kingdom of Christ and of God. Let no one deceive you with empty arguments, for because of these things the wrath of God is coming upon the disobedient. So do not be associated with them. For you were once darkness, but now you are light in the Lord. Live as children of light. Eph 4:32 – 5:8

Over the last 4 years in study with Stan for his formation in the churches diaconate program I have been challenged many times as to why my faith is real, as to why what I believe is true, and if I am going to trust what is being revealed to me. And the more I choose to pray, to read Scripture and Church documents, and to seek good quality Church approved education the more of His truth I have had revealed to me. And the more truth I have had revealed to me, the more I realize God still has yet more to reveal to me. I am not yet complete and I have much to learn.

And then, too, and more importantly, it also becomes my choice whether I believe; or whether I justify my beliefs by what is convenient for me or what I have always believed or what I have always been led to believe.

God gives us many gifts – life itself –the miracle of birth in creation (Genesis), constant and unfailing forgiveness (through his death on the cross), our daily bread (the Eucharist), and a promise of eternal happiness. Yet I am constantly put in a position to justify these truths by choices which require me to pick between eternal happiness and what secularly seem to be “good” cultural norms – freedom to choose, equality for everyone, tolerance and economic wealth.

St. Thomas Aquinas said, “He who is of God has everything which is best.”

I can justify my decision to pray for the elderly while failing to visit them; I can justify my desire to help someone in my expertise/career while failing to see the loneliness of a client who sits across from me; I can justify choosing to honestly pay taxes while failing to give money or shelter to the homeless person on the corner by saying the government will take care of them; and I can justify believing everything I am told by the government because it is “allowed,” or is lawful, while hearing the gospel tell me that power is not in principalities but in Christ.

Then war broke out in heaven; Michael and his angels battled against the dragon. The dragon and its angels fought back, but they did not prevail and there was no longer any place for them in heaven. The huge dragon, the ancient serpent, who is called the Devil and Satan, who deceived the whole world, was thrown down to earth, and its angels were thrown down with it. Then I heard a loud voice in heaven say: “Now have salvation and power come, and the kingdom of our God and the authority of his Anointed. For the accuser of our brothers is cast out, who accuses them before our God day and night. They conquered him by the blood of the Lamb and by the word of their testimony; love for life did not deter them from death. Therefore, rejoice, you heavens, and you who dwell in them. But woe to you, earth and sea, for the Devil has come down to you in great fury, for he knows he has but a short time.” Rev 12: 7-12

Our way is not God’s way. No matter what happens, God will always prevail. That is his promise to us.

Our responsibility then is to act on the truth by seeking it, by listening to it and by defending it when it is revealed to us. And never to be afraid – of being tested, of our friends ridicule, or even of denying an unjust law.

I can think of hundreds of times when I have been tested or ridiculed for my beliefs. When I have been challenged that my belief is skewed, misinformed or of my own desire. And each one of these times it is my challenge to become further educated, to pray, to ask God if what I am defending is from Him or from the culture or even to educate and kindly share what God has revealed to me to 

God has a unique way of revealing Himself to us – in today’s Scripture, in an encounter with a stranger, or in an answered or unanswered prayer. Our only true “choice” is the choice to believe or not to believe in His Truth.  Truth is revealed in Sacred Scripture and Scripture, “the word” became flesh in Jesus. (John 1:1-14)

When Pilot spoke to Jesus:  Pilot said to him; “What is truth?” (John 18: 38) It is interesting how Pilot was staring into the eyes of the author of truth Himself and Pilot still didn’t recognize its very existence.

Heavenly Father, Almighty God, All Powerful Creator. You are my strength and courage. You are the Truth. Help me never to deny Your gift of Life; Your gift of grace; Your unfailing gift forgiveness and mercy. Help me to be open to the truth that is revealed to me and to follow You without fear. Amen.

The only justification that is important is our faith In God – and the only one that we will be asked to justify this to is God himself on our judgment day.

God is testing us now. Will I pass the test? Or will I justify something less than the truth?

Monday, October 17, 2016

Courageous Truth Follow-up

Friends in Christ:
It seems everyone wants to make everything be a "political" statement these days and then when we try to remain politically correct we forget that speaking God's truth isn't political at all. And that God is the one who gives us life, real liberty and true freedom.
So I've been having difficulty finding the RIGHT words to explain what it means to be an informed Christian-Catholic voter to other Christians who have different viewpoints than I do, but yet who are what I would call very faithful Christians. In that search I was sent this link to an awesome sermon -- Homily starts at 18:26, lasts about 20 minutes. I think it is the best I have heard on which issues should be and are of greatest importance in determining our vote.I pray that each of you are courageous enough to watch the entire message and to share it with others. 
My hope is that all Christians will be moved to vote to protect the most innocent, so that instead of being divided by politics, we and this country will be united in the only way possible-- for, in and by Christ. If you listen to the end you will also hear that the message is not just this priests own but comes from his bishop, so I forward it to you so that possibly you might be able to propose the same to others. This is the youtube link to only the homily.

Please go here to hear Fr. John Lankeit speak at Mass on October 2, 2016.  Advance the video to 18:26 to begin his sermon. It takes about 20 minutes.

In light of this week's gospel 2 Tim3:14-4:2 Do NOT be afraid to speak the truth and remain faithful. Please find it in your heart not to be swayed by the secular press and the secular culture which has confused their law on "freedom" with God's law of love and life. 
Remain faithful to what you have learned and believed,
because you know from whom you learned it,
and that from infancy you have known the sacred Scriptures,
which are capable of giving you wisdom for salvation through faith in Christ Jesus. 
All Scripture is inspired by God and is useful for teaching, for refutation, for correction,
and for training in righteousness, so that one who belongs to God may be competent,
equipped for every good work.

I charge you in the presence of God and of Christ Jesus, who will judge the living and the dead, and by his appearing and his kingly power: proclaim the word; be persistent whether it is convenient or inconvenient; convince, reprimand, encourage through all patience and teaching.


Monday, September 26, 2016

Time to Change the World

Friends of Faith:

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. ….a time to be silent, and a time to speak. A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace. Ecc 3: 1-11 (beginning)

Would you like to change the world, but feel like it is impossible? It is not a time to be silent, it is a time to speak. It is always a time to love, unfortunately there is a lot of hate. And we are in a time of war: against the devil in who is tearing down our Christian moral values, taking away our religious freedom and imposing Islamic terrorism, but God reminds us that if we speak to promote his truth it should give us peace.

But you, man of God, pursue righteousness, devotion, faith, love, patience, and gentleness.  Compete well for the faith. Lay hold of eternal life, to which you were called when you made the noble confession in the presence of many witnesses. I charge you before God, who gives life to all things, and before Christ Jesus, who gave testimony under Pontius Pilate for the noble confession, to keep the commandment without stain or reproach until the appearance of our Lord Jesus Christ that the blessed and only ruler will make manifest at the proper time, the King of kings and Lord of lords, who alone has immortality, who dwells in unapproachable light, and whom no human being has seen or can see.  To him be honor and eternal power. Amen. 1 Tm: 6: 11-16

Just as I was ready to turn off the politics these were the readings I heard and then I heard a homily which I hope you’ll take the time to listen to as hopefully it will give you peace as it did me:  Daily Catholic Mass - 2016-09-20 - Fr. Miguel.

Simply put God asks us to speak as our religious liberties allow – by voting –while making our decision as to how to vote using our faithful Christian conscience in making a just decision. We must not be discouraged and irritated by personalities or the current state of the morals in our nation. Instead, we are to use due diligence and form our conscience based on the Five non- negotiable Christian values -abortion, euthanasia, embryonic stem cell research, human cloning and same-sex “so called marriage". More at . 

Focus on the Family also reminded me that voting isn’t just about choosing a personality or the lesser of two evils in the presidential race, but rather it is about determining policies at all levels of society: local, state and national – because probably as important as the presidential race are races for our state representatives and the nomination of the judges made at every level, especially for the Supreme and District courts.

If you don’t know where to start here is the direct link to a simple comparative chart on the party platforms. How Do The Party Platforms Compare? We Break It Down. And if you want to verify the comparison copy and paste these direct links to the full platform verbiage. The democratic platform at (in particular pg 19 & 37); and the republican platform at[1]-ben_1468872234.pdf (in particular pg 31-32 & 36)

There is an appointed time for everything, and a time for everything under the heavens. ……What advantage has the worker from his toil? He has made everything appropriate to its time, and has put the timeless into their hearts, without man’s ever discovering, from beginning to end, the work which God has done. Ecc 3: 1-11 (conclusion)

Heavenly Father, bless our nations people and help them to wisely choose our elected officials. Guide our elected officials to uphold Christian moral values as they have been designed by God. Thank you for the gift of life at all stages from natural conception to natural death. Help us to trust in your timeless power and respect your design even when we cannot fully see it. Amen.

This is our appointed time to speak. It is our time to vote a well formed Christian conscience. May we as Christians do our part to change the world.

Monday, September 12, 2016


Friends of Faith:
I will be Courageous.

Jesus was crowned with thorns. Jesus stayed and ate with sinners while encouraging those sinners to change. Jesus told the Pharisees that it was better to speak the truth on the Sabbath, then to sit back and rest. He showed us how to be morally, ethically, and spiritually courageous.

I cringe whenever I hear someone say we should change something because “our culture says we should change, or the culture is different now than it was “back then.” I cringe when I hear “everyone else is doing it.” I cringe because the culture is far from seeming  to follow God’s design. I cringe because the culture contains obvious lies that conventional wisdom is working to convince us as “normal,” “realistic” or “equalizing.”

I am not afraid of change, but when it comes to changing morals I am glad that I believe in the Word of God, that I trust in the path that Jesus Christ walked ahead of me, and that I have a Church to help me discern the Holy Spirit’s guidance as to what the truth really is.

“Now the one who has prepared us for this very thing is God, who has given us the Spirit as a first installment. So we are always courageous, although we know that while we are at home in the body we are away from the Lord, for we walk by faith, not by sight. Yet we are courageous, and we would rather leave the body and go home to the Lord. Therefore, we aspire to please him, whether we are at home or away. For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, so that each one may receive recompense, according to what he did in the body, whether good or evil. Therefore, since we know the fear of the Lord, we try to persuade others.” 2Cor 5: 5-11

I CHOOSE to be courageous. I CHOOSE to pray in public. I CHOOSE to speak the truth to defend Church (God’s) teachings. It’s NOT okay to sit back and rest, even on the Sabbath, if that means that someone will go hungry or to be bullied into believing that they will be punished for choosing to attend a church service before going to a game. I CHOOSE to walk by Faith. I CHOOSE to be courageous.

And I am confident in my prayer that God will put in my path spiritual mentors who will help me “see” the truth (God’s judgment) rather than the way the culture (individuals) wants or is judging me.

And when I am judged by the culture to be weak, old fashioned or even too conservative I will be courageous and accept the criticism with the hope of the promise of Christ Jesus.

Over my lifetime the Supreme Court has ruled that it should be legal to kill a baby because in the womb it’s not yet a person; that it’s not okay for teachers to encourage prayer in school or to sing Christmas carols yet we must make accommodations for non-Christian cultural needs; that marriage is something other than God’s design as the union of a man and a woman; that in the name of equality bathrooms must be open to whatever “sexual orientation” I determine myself to be on any particular day; and it has protected pornography as freedom of speech.

These are cultural lies. These “laws” do not make us free, these “laws” take away our freedom, our dignity, and our choice for God.

LORD, show me your way; lead me on a level path because of my enemies. Do not abandon me to the desire of my foes; malicious and lying witnesses have risen against me. I believe I shall see the LORD’s goodness in the land of the living. Wait for the LORD, take courage; be stouthearted, wait for the LORD. Ps 27: 11-14

Heavenly Father, Please help me to be courageous, to discern your truths, to be open to hear and follow the Holy Spirit. Help me to be strong, on guard and to stand firm in faith. Help me to stand firm for the truth and to not be afraid to spread that truth to others with compassion, with mercy and with the confidence of Church teachings. I believe I shall see the Lord’s goodness in the land of the living. Amen.

Don’t believe the lies the culture is impressing upon you. To walk by faith, not by sight means to follow the culture of Jesus, that which is unseen rather than the culture pushed upon us by the propaganda of popular media. Be hopeful and be courageous for our faith is being openly tested.


Monday, September 5, 2016

God First

Friends of Faith:

God First! This may seem like a no-brainer, but if we really think about it – do we really, truly and always put GOD First?

That’s what Jesus meant when he said: ‘Great crowds were traveling with Jesus, and he turned and addressed them, “If anyone comes to me without hating his father and mother, wife and children, brothers and sisters, and even his own life, he cannot be my disciple. Whoever does not carry his own cross and come after me cannot be my disciple. Lk 14:25-26

Wow – he really does mean we are to put HIM first. Of course, he doesn’t really mean that we are to hate our family, he just means we are to put HIM BEFORE even those we love. And if we are to put Him even before our family and friends then what does that say about all of the “things” we appear to love so much, things like money, cars, furniture, boats, sports, vacations and even abundant food and drink.

How often do we let something besides God make us happy in the moment? How often do we set aside prayer and never get back to it? How often do “things” take away our time with God? How often do we listen to a lie of the culture instead of making a decision based on God’s answer?

Earth is the devils playground. And the devil has been given all the time in the world to tempt us with money and materialism; a “me first,” feel good, culture; and technology which fills our time-- ultimately all of which can lead us to sin. The devil keeps us entertained so that we don’t have time to educate ourselves about God thru the Church or share God’s message of love with others.

The devil uses our selfish human nature and fights us with fire, storms of nature, illness, injury and even death by leading us down a path of despair instead of sacrifice. He uses whatever tactics he can to lead us in a godless culture down an easy street of degradation to our bodies and souls.

It is a constant challenge to remain with God: to take a tough line with our children by standing up to the sports and entertainment gods who insist on using Sunday morning as their playing field and where resources are spent by the millions. It is a fight to spend our time and resources helping the poor, caring for our elderly and encouraging our neighbors when our cell phones and computers keep us from getting to know our spouses, family and friends. It is a fight to choose deep, meaningful, conversations which can lead others closer to God when we are constantly interrupted by our cell phone. And it is easy to lose ourselves in a culture defined by sexual immorality, a lack of discipline and a desire to be materialistically happy.

 If everyone truly put God first (the no brainer) then we would all be on or searching for the same path in seeking truth and compassion. And with the help of God’s grace we would show each other mercy and forgiveness, healing and understanding while growing closer Him, to holiness and to each other. This is how God wants us to win the war against the devil; against powers, principalities and politics.

Putting God first is not just for Sunday morning. It means continuous prayers of thanksgiving and blessing before we eat and before we sleep, before we do anything of any consequence. It means a constant realization that we are here to make each other holy, that God has given us much and that whatever it is we are doing, we should be doing it without regard for our own happiness and comfort and for His greater glory.

If God was first then we could never forget that our time, our talents, and our treasures, our very lives are all a rich blessing, a blessing which no one can truly live without?

Several years ago I heard this wisdom: Happiness is fleeting, Joy is forever. God brings joy!

“Blessed are they who dwell in your house, O Lord. They are happy, who dwell in your house, for ever singing your praise. They are happy, whose strength is in you, in whose hearts are the road to Zion.” Psalm 84

I know I am happiest when I am putting God first. I feel the most joy when I give up my time to help a friend in need; when I take the time to pray the rosary while I am traveling; and when ministry work comes before my job.

Then the king will say to those on his right, ‘Come, you who are blessed by my Father. Inherit the kingdom prepared for you from the foundation of the world. For I was hungry and you gave me food, I was thirsty and you gave me drink, a stranger and you welcomed me, naked and you clothed me, ill and you cared for me, in prison and you visited me.’ …. And the king will say to them in reply, ‘Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.’” Mt 25: 34-40

Without putting God first I cannot be instructed in his ways and without putting God first it is difficult to walk in his path. “That he may instruct us in his ways, and we may walk in his paths.” Is 2: 3

“Sing to the LORD a new song; sing to the LORD, all the earth. Sing to the LORD, bless his name; proclaim his salvation day after day. Tell his glory among the nations; among all peoples, his marvelous deeds. For great is the LORD and highly to be praised, to be feared above all gods. For the gods of the nations are idols, but the LORD made the heavens. Splendor and power go before him; power and grandeur are in his holy place. Give to the LORD, you families of nations, give to the LORD glory and might; give to the LORD the glory due his name! Bring gifts and enter his courts; bow down to the LORD, splendid in holiness. Tremble before him, all the earth; declare among the nations: The LORD is king. The world will surely stand fast, never to be shaken. He rules the peoples with fairness. Let the heavens be glad and the earth rejoice; let the sea and what fills it resound; let the plains be joyful and all that is in them. Then let all the trees of the forest rejoice before the LORD who comes, who comes to govern the earth, To govern the world with justice and the peoples with faithfulness.”  Amen. Psalm 96

Am I really putting God first? Be joyful, not happy. Be for God, not for yourself. For if God is for us, who can be against us?

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

In Humble Service

Friends of Faith:
For every one who exalts himself will be humbled, but the one who humbles himself will be exalted.” Lk 1: 11

God has a unique way of showing us right from wrong; of humbling us when we feel “good;” of guiding us on HIS path of righteousness; of asking us to learn His wisdom; of guiding us to understand others and of putting us in places which remind us to be more Christlike.

“My child, conduct your affairs with humility, and you will be loved more than a giver of gifts. Humble yourself the more, the greater you are, and you will find favor with God. What is too sublime for you, seek not, into things beyond your strength search not.” Sir 3: 17-18, 20

It isn’t easy to humble myself and let God determine if I have done right. I can’t just say I am saved and then make choices that are against God’s law; and being “good” doesn’t save me if I know that Christ wants me to profess to others His life (by living in His footsteps). So I must learn to be faithful and obedient, if that is what I profess to be. I must continue to pray (listen) to God, serve like Christ, discern through the Holy Spirit and ask His Church for guidance.

Someone asked him, “Lord, will only a few people be saved?” He answered them, “Strive to enter through the narrow gate, for many, I tell you, will attempt to enter but will not be strong enough.” …. “For behold, some are last who will be first, and some are first who will be last.” Lk 13: 22-30

Like many people I want to be assured that I am saved. I want to know I am right. I have a tendency to judge myself as “deserving” salvation rather than learning the patience, humility and courage that comes from knowing that I must allow God alone to judge me and that I may not always get what I want. I may even have to suffer here on earth to receive the rewards in heaven for DOing the work of BEing a Christian.

“For they’ll know we are Christians by our love, by our love, yes they’ll know we are Christians by our love.”

God asks us not to love ourselves, but to make ourselves humble by loving Him and loving others. 

Jesus could have been taken the crown of the righteous King of the Jews. Instead he bore a crown of thorns and died on the cross, showing us how to suffer, showing us how to give up everything we want and have by dying to our own selfish desires for the sake of others. And Jesus showed us how to love by allowing God to have the ultimate control that He modeled to us by doing the works of a Christian.

Jesus gave up everything because love doesn’t come from a feeling, love comes from a service, that of serving others, of serving those who have less. Love is shown when the first become last, when those who have give to those who don’t; when those who are first give to those who are last; and when those who have wisdom find compassion – seeking to understand the foolish and downtrodden.

Love is shown in families when we say “I’m sorry for hurting you;” “I will take care of you even when I have something else planned;” “for better, for worse; for richer for poorer; in sickness and in health;” and when we forgive “seven times seventy” the spouse or the child who continues to (by our standards) to make a mess (of their rooms, or their lives). THIS is true love. This is God’s love. This is how God teaches us right from wrong, humbles us and shows us the straight and narrow path.

Heavenly Father, Mold and fashion me into someone who trusts you with humble innocence and a childlike faith. May my faith be so strong that it obeys with courage when I am asked to put my own desires last and others needs first. Help me to find peace in being powerless and joy in giving others the hope of seeing beyond this life into the next. Amen.

Be humble. Be last. Serve others. God will not forsake, for eternal, not earthly, happiness is His promise.