Tuesday, October 4, 2016

The sin of Complacency

If you and I were to sit down and go through my life story and if I were to be truly blunt about everything in my life, I could amaze you with the wonderful works of God done for a wretched soul like me. Most of you would doubt the second part initially. That is for a different time.

During my High School and College years, my Spiritual Ecosystem (not just me but those around me and where I spent my time) flourished. I couldn't tell you the many moments of grace I felt, retreats, small groups, life changing one on one conversations, special encounters, and many other faith affirming experiences. I don't doubt God exists. I know He is alive and I know He can be found in this world. But somewhere among the great experiences, I slowly became numb to my inner self.

As long as I felt something, I experienced something I could attribute to God, I didn't care too much about my commitment to a personal prayer life and growth in a relationship with Christ. I figured that if I had all these moments, God couldn't be far from me. That is when I first became numb to gnawing poke which kept telling me I am not well. Though it was true that God wasn't far me, I was slowly turning my back on Him.

After College, that ecosystem couldn't keep sustaining me. I wasn't there always like I used to be in the past. I had more time commitments to work and grad school. I became more and more numb to living a life both of this world and for God. There were so many times it was tearing me up inside, but it was easier to say "I'll do it tomorrow" or say "what is one day going to hurt." God continued and still continues His relentless pursuit of His wandering child however. It isn't good enough to just follow the rules or be a good person, not when you have had the chance to know Christ like I have had. Once you know Him, once you have truly experienced Him, you can either commit your life to Him or you must reject Him. All of his disciples either was changed radically in service to Him or completely abandoned Him.

I can look to what I do now, teaching CCD, helping the Youth group where I can, going to Mass every Sunday, going to bible studies or prayer meetings, or worship nights... none of these things matter if I don't put God first.

I'm not saying we have to be perfect. Peter gave a great example of that even after the Holy Spirit was residing in him. I am saying though, we have to be faithful to what we do know. For us to know what is right and not do it, that is sin. That willful act is breaking, rather, tearing our relationship with God. The more we do it, the less we feel how badly we become affected by it.

I say all of this because it really comes down to the simple things. I may not know exactly what God wants from me at every moment of my day, but I know He wants me daily in His presence. Not because He is being selfish and wants my love only for Him, but so that He can shower me with His Perfect Love which allows me to give all the more to those around me. I can find this through daily prayer and meditation, through daily reading of scripture, through daily review of how I lived, and through my daily decision to put Him first.

I don't pray every day. I don't even intentionally think about God everyday. To me whom God has given much, I have given so little and it is breaking me. Over the last several years however, I am convicted of this more and more. I am reminded of this in so many ways. I think, slowly, I am changing. But how much longer do I have to take the slow road? We have all seen how quickly a life can be taken away. The longer I live in this complacency, the higher my chances of never reaching Heaven.

I am not writing this because tonight was magical and I am done with how I have been living my life. I write this tonight because it is yet again a reminder to me, and I think a reminder to others, to always seek God further and deeper. Don't think you have reached perfection yet, but strive for it till the day you die. Don't think there is a good enough line either. Get up every time you fall.

Tonight I was struggling with what to do and this time I chose to open the Bible randomly. Tonight God spoke thus to me:

"The Lord said:
Because these people draw near with their mouths
    and honor me with their lips,
    while their hearts are far from me,
and their worship of me is a human commandment learned by rote;
14 so I will again do
    amazing things with this people,
    shocking and amazing.
The wisdom of their wise shall perish,
    and the discernment of the discerning shall be hidden."

This is from Isaiah Chapter 29. I cannot tell you how much I needed to hear these words tonight and how much it resonated with me. Truly God's Word is living and effective and pierces the heart of any person.

I write this in hopes that another needed to hear these words as well. I hope and pray for each of you who reads this tonight. I also ask for your prayer as we make this journey together. I hope when the Lord speaks to each of us, our hearts will not be hardened.

Tuesday, December 1, 2015

Intimacy with Christ

I am engaged to a wonderful woman whom I shall marry in January. Preparations for the wedding as well as for marriage have been going well for the most part. It can be a stressful time, making sure we have covered everything for the ceremony and the reception afterwards. As stressful, too, is trying to get ready to live together with someone and create a family. We are discussing decisions as big as what our life goals are and as small as how are we going to wash dishes. There is a lot of excitement too for the people who will all be coming for the wedding and the many possibilities of the future!

As part of the preparation though, I am trying to take some time to make sure I'm "ready" for that day. I say "ready" because I don't think anyone can truly be ready for all life has to offer at any given time, but you try your best and move forward. Recently, I've started to read a book called "Spousal Prayer" by Deacon James Keating. Within the first few pages, Deacon Keating speaks to a profound truth found in Scripture. Christ's Love for His Church is a spousal love and when we are called to Love our spouse it is in and through and with the Love God has for the other person. As I contemplate how this should look in my life, I'm filled with so much hope and peace for the future. It is easy for me to see all the times I have failed in the past and think about how many ways I may fail in the future. I can look at our relationship and see how much more it could be but this truth teaches me: we are not alone in this endeavor. God's Love will complete any shortcomings I may have if I allow Him to fill me with His Love for her. God's Love is so infinite, it will constantly be a source of comfort in our relationship.

Then it hit me... God Loves me in a way a husband should Love his wife. His Love for me is intimate and deep. He knows me better than anyone else and He gives me all He has because He thirsts for a complete union with me. In the depths of my soul, my desires are the same. I wish to be Loved perfectly. I crave to be in complete union with God.

Growing up, I've been blessed with people of strong faith and the opportunity to attend many spiritual events. I've had and continue to have many situations where I can see the Hand of God at work in big and small ways. I've always been told to have a personal relationship with Christ but up till recently, I've always compared it to a relationship of a friend. What I mean by this is that I treat it as I would with a casual friend: call every once in awhile, talk about what is going on, feel good about seeing all the things happening and moving on with my life. Yes, I've had times where I will be broken and God has been there to lift me up. But now, I'm asking myself, how much deeper can my relationship with God be in seeing the depth of His Love for me?

We are all called to experience Christ in this intimate way. For each of us to not only be Loved so immensely, but to be moved by that Love. How can I experience this Love if I don't spend every day allowing this Love to flow into every moment?

Since college, I've become more and more a relational person. I love talking to people and hearing their stories and telling a few of my own. Now, though, I see when I'm with other people I spend so much time on my phone responding to text messages, emails, Facebook notifications, etc. Instead of really living those moments with people next to me, I'm disconnecting myself and not truly experiencing the other person. In the same way, in my relationship with Christ, I haven't given my full attention to God. Christ, however, continues to pursue me all the more. He is there to share in my joys and sorrows, in my health and in my sickness.

So, what am I waiting for? What are you waiting for? Don't let anything in the past, present or future push you away. God knows all and still He died on the cross for you and if it meant only you would join Him, He would done it. His Love is so strong and fulfilling it will heal us of all the brokenness, all the fears, and all the pains we may have bottled up inside. He isn't asking us for perfection but a complete surrender to Him in which He makes us perfect. It is there for you in each moment of your life. Let's then take the time to sit with Him, and let Him flow in and through us.

"Awaken my soul, come awake
To hunger, to seek, to thirst
Awaken first love, come awake
And do as you did at first

Spirit of the living god come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow,
To overflow

Awaken my soul, come awake
To worship with all your strength

Spirit of the living god come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow,
To overflow

Come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade
Spirit come and fill this place
Let Your glory now invade

Spirit of the living god come fall afresh on me
Come wake me from my sleep
Blow through the caverns of my soul
Pour in me to overflow,
To overflow" 
- Fall afresh by Jeremy Riddle

Monday, November 16, 2015

Tipping point ...

It's true what they say, you can't have your feet in two boats. At a certain point you have to decide which direction you want to go. The best advice I got when I was near the end of college was from my boss and mentor at the time. He said, "Jerin, you need to pick side. You can't dilly dally on the fence anymore. Pick a direction and move." I wanted to live two lives. One dedicated to God and another dedicated to myself.

Don't get me wrong. I'm not saying if you choose God, you can't think of yourself anymore. In fact, I think it is because we want to truly take care of ourselves that we should choose God. God really Loves me and you unconditionally. He knows better than anyone what we need and what our heart is really yearning towards.

 Even though I know this, it is still hard to let go of the things around me. After coming back from work, I would rather just watch Netflix than get to work on my to do list. It is not bad to allow myself a break, but the problem arises when I end up watching Netflix all night long and well after the time I should go to bed. I then complain about being too busy for what needs to get done. I complain I'm too busy for God and I can't find time to pray.

Luckily for us, God isn't too busy for us. In every moment, He comes and reminds us of who we are: His beloved children. In every moment, He reminds us He is our Father and He loves us. He constantly "comes to the door of [our] heart and knocks." He wants to be a part of our lives because He knows how much we need Him.

In our faith journey, in order for us to truly grow in our relationship with God, we need to start letting go of the things which keep us from Him. When we start to let go and start to respond to what God is offering us, we will want it more and more. In the end, we will have no regret in surrendering to God. Even now, as I look back, the regrets I have is in not spending more time with God. I have experienced God in amazing ways. I know He is real and He loves me. I can feel the thirst for God in my heart. The greatest danger for me then is when I choose not to spend time with Him.

Just to be in His presence can lift us up from our fallen state. I urge you to keep treading forward. No matter where you are in your walk with God. No matter how far you think you have strayed, God is near to you! He wants to be with you. Spend time with Him. Let Him heal you and let Him comfort you. Do not fear what is around you. God Loves you and He will make a way for you. He knows what He is doing and He will take care of you. When troubles comes, look up to Him for your help comes from Lord.

Father God, I present to you all that I am in this moment. You have blessed me so much and there is nothing I can do to repay you. Yet, in so many ways I leave you out of my life. Please, God, come crashing into my life. Help me to see Your Love. In each moment, big and small, help me to be aware of You. Let me trust in Your Love for me and know you are always guiding me. I may not see You or feel You, but I know you are with me. You are my Emmanuel. I love you Lord, help me to love you more. 

Monday, November 2, 2015

The beginning

Where should we start? As an endearing film once noted, the beginning is a "very good place to start." We were born into this world with nothing and at least in the physical sense, we leave with nothing. Where did this all start? Why did it start? How are we to find our purpose, our reason for living?

As we grow, we look around us to the people who are close to us. Some see a world which is caring and nurturing, while others feel the coldness of being alone. Most however are faced with the realities of both. Either way, we begin our search. We try to understand what is happening around us and why it happens. Some things make us  laugh and smile and others hurt. We learn to satisfy our desires and urges. Soon we recognize the need for something more. There is an emptiness we try to fill with successes, gratification, accomplishments, love and much more. What is it which will allow us to finally rest? When can we truly feel at peace?

No matter which walk of life we come from or what our faith is, we must find answers. Too often I think, even as Christians, we forget the most basic and complete answer to all the questions we have; God is Love. As human beings we are driven by intellect and will to find absolute Truth and perfect Love. We get caught up in what we know, as we forget the unlimited possibilities which are born of faith. God is Love. Love creates. Love created me. I am a child of Love. Love is what moves my very essence. Where should I rest if not in Love? As St. Augustine wrote in reference to God, "You have made us for yourself, O Lord, and our heart is restless until it rests in you."

How much more would I live every moment of my life if I embraced this truth completely? If in every decision I made, I chose always to do what would bring me closer to where I am completely fulfilled, how more vibrant would my life be? Even so, how truly awesome it is that the creator of the universe, who sees all and knows all, does not just see the good in me or the potential for good in me, but Loves me as I am. My God doesn't just turn a blind eye to my faults and my sins, but stares Sin right in the face. My Lover and King, took all of Sin and carried it as a cross and put to death all which could keep me away from Him. My beginning and my end, my all in all.

And so I come to the reality I am made for much more than I can comprehend right now. I will fall and I will stumble, yet, as long as I have breath, never will I stray too far from Love.

My Lord and my God, I thank You for the Love you have shown to me. I thank You for each and every moment of my life as I recognize "all things work for good, for those who love [You] and and are called according to [Your] purpose." I ask for the grace to offer to You all that I am, as I am. I ask for the mercy for all the choices which have led me stray from You. May all that I am, bring greater glory to You and show the world Your immense Love for each of us. May Your Love make me whole and may I share Your Love with each soul I encounter.