Guest Post: #LoveWins

Jacob has guest posted on my blog before when he shared his letter to A&E over the comments of Phil Robertson and yesterday I asked him what he thought of this blog post over at Aggie Catholic and he did. In his thoughts he mentioned love and God and I found his thoughts to be interesting so I asked him if he would elaborate on them and write something up for my blog. The main reason that I wanted him to do so is because people need to stop reacting to everything and start listening, even if there are obvious issues that we disagree on, it is only in listening to others that we can truly see what it is that they are doing and why. When we don’t listen then it’s easy to label them as our enemies and fight them. None of that is what Jesus calls us to. We can boldly speak the truth and listen to others at the same time. I am going to ask him more questions based on this blog post, but first I want us all to really hear what he is saying without automatically going to our parroted arguments on how he is wrong. I will be very picky about the comments I let come through because this is my blog and I can do that. Whoever wants to take this and use it against me as proof that I’m a heretic because I think that allowing people to speak on their thoughts is somehow dangerous, then go for it, but I won’t let you comments through and I won’t really give you much attention at all, but I could use all the traffic I can get, so link me up all you want. 

I am Catholic. I believe in the Church’s definition of marriage. I know that God is Love and that He revealed Himself to us in the person of Jesus Christ and with His Word, the Bible along with His Church, the Catholic Church: The Pope and Bishops and Saints. I don’t deny any of this and yet, I see truth in what Jacob is saying here. The Truth that is put on all our hearts. I also see the missing of the mark on the things that influence us from understanding that God is the creator and we are the created. The same missing of the mark that leads me to cuss out my neighbor when I should love him. Anyway, on to Jacob’s thoughts. He is the son of my best friend, I’ve known him since he was child and now he is an adult and I’m proud of the person that he has become. Any attacks on him will not be allowed through. Love doesn’t create fear and I have seen a lot of people speaking out of fear in the last few weeks. Fear masked as speaking the truth is still fear.

The goal of me hosting this post is to open up a discussion, not to debate the sinfulness of anyone. Anyone who wants to discuss sins, can begin by discussing their own.

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Love#Wins:  The Rambling of a Crazy Gay Love, that’s the name of the game.

Love is an art form within our society. It can brighten the darkest of souls or be carved into a weapon against the most innocent of spirits. On Friday, June 26, 2015, the Supreme Court of the United States ruled that same-sex couples have a right to marry. Love won. This victory for the LGBTQ (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transsexual, and Queer) community was acknowledged around the world, and within popular culture, the hashtag #LoveWins has been spreading like wildfire over social media such as Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I guess you can call it a victory slogan. As it related to this subject, a dear old friend of mine and I were discussing a few things about Catholicism and Christianity and we spoke about how God is Love. I explained to her that the gays are well aware of that, which is partially the reason why our victory slogan for the Supreme Court ruling of same-sex marriage is “Love” Wins, it’s not Gays win, or Sinners Win, it’s “Love” Wins. She told me that she really liked the concept and she wanted me to explain further. So, here is what I have to say about it. Now please keep in mind that I am just one, twenty-two year old, single, gay man who works in a cafeteria and lives in the Texas county-side. I am not a politician or philosopher, so please don’t take anything I say as me speaking for the entire LGBTQ community. Throughout our lives, we of the LGBTQ community struggle through many personal afflictions that force us to question such things as sexual orientation, gender identity, moral perception, and social value. Many of us would say that such struggles began when we were children. It is getting easier. Some LGBTQs of the older generations are still going through these struggles today. The most well known example would be Bruce Jenner, or rather Caitlyn Jenner. However, there are some children within pop culture today who wave their freak flag high for everyone to see, and they are not ashamed. Such struggles create within us a type of spiritual evolution. Because there are not many places to turn for help, we are forced to look within ourselves for the answers. It has been said a thousand times over again that what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger. The pains and trials, that are specific to the LGBTQ community, we go though have taught us many life lessons, however, the underlying life lesson learned is: Love yourself. Love yourself for who and what you are, no matter what people think of you are say about you, Once you start to understand this, you begin to gain the ability to Love others, whether that be another man, a woman, your parents, or that Bible thumping Christian down the street. At a very young age, we begin our journey of spiritual morality that connects us with Love, connects us with God. We may have been shunned and oppressed, and we may have turned away from the church, but we know what it means to Love. We do have a connection to Love. We do have a relationship with Love. We may not have a connection or relationship with the Bible, but we do have morality. We do have Love. God put it in our hearts, and we have found it. Politically, I believe that we have been fighting for the right to share that Love with the people that our hearts resonate with. In that fight, yes we have said and done some pretty terrible things, but it was for Love. Yes we get angry. Yes, we get frustrated. We have been oppressed. People who do not understand our type of Love have treated us as lesser beings that do not deserve Love. We have fought for the right to marry for many reasons. We want the civil rights of being a spouse, the rights we are entitled to. We want to see our Loved one’s in the hospital. We want to raise children together. We want to show our devotion for one another. We want to be treated not as lesser beings, but as people, who deserve to Love. The way I see it, Love is the goal, and we have fought for our right to share that Love. The Supreme Court ruled on this behalf. That is why our slogan is #LoveWins, because on June 26th, 2015, Love Won.

My Peace

In the last couple of years my life has been chaos. I blamed God for a lot of it because when you don’t really wanna take a long hard look at yourself, blaming God is the way to go and He is always merciful and takes it. Just like Jesus took it when the soldiers mocked Him and spat on Him. When He stood before Pilot He said “you have no power over me that has not been granted to you from above”, which is still true today. Blaming God, being mad at Christ and closing my ears to the Holy Spirit are all powers given to me by God in the first place with the gift of free will. But it never ceases to amaze me just how far God will go to get our attention so that we snap out of that cycle of anger and resentment against Him. Not because He needs us to not be angry with Him or because He needs anything from us but because He created us for one reason: to love us. To give us everything that we need to be happy.

The problem is that when things start going wrong in any kind of way we tend to blame others and not look at ourselves. We think “when am I ever going to be happy” (usually the “like __________” follows) because that is the trick of the evil one from the beginning, to get us to doubt in the truth that God wants our happiness. The devil lies to us and tells us that God wants us to be slaves and that eating the fruit will make us happy and God doesn’t want that. The fact is that God not only wants our happiness, but created us to BE happy and knows exactly what will make us happy if we would only ignore that serpent and follow the will of the One who created us and the world around us for our happiness. That’s so much easier said than done. And you know why? Because the voice of the serpent sometimes comes out of the mouths of the people around us.

Jesus said that the devil is a liar, accuser and a thief. It makes sense to me because usually accusations are made based off lies and they steal friendships and peace. It has happened to me on more than one occasion in life, even as a Catholic. I’ve been accused of not standing up boldly against the SCOTUS ruling legalizing gay marriage among other things. Well, here’s my thing: I know persecution is coming and it’s coming fast. I am making the choice to be rooted in prayer knowing that the Supreme Court could rule no other way based on the current state of affairs in this country. It is what it is. So I’m going to daily Mass, adoration, getting my degree so that I can do what I feel God is calling me to do even though I HATE school, and I’m staying off social media debates that cause me to lose my peace. I’m cutting out everyone who doesn’t build me up because I have work to do. My children are going to live in a culture that is hostile to them. A culture that is spitting on priests and will soon turn on the rest of us. I need to get them ready and rooted in Christ to face that. Arguing with fools who love the sound of their own typing to prove that they are right is a distraction from that. I’m not going to do it.

Keeping my peace is not about being silent and not standing up for the truth, it is about being able to have the faith that is going to teach and sustain my children and grandchild when they are being asked to deny Christ. There are more important things than being right as a great priest once told me when I was being one of those fools, and I see that now. Peace is more important. Raising missionaries, martyrs and saints is more important and being a witness of Christ to each person that He puts in my life is more important.

I am no longer mad at God, I thank Him for the chaos, it has humbled me and made me realize what a waste of time arguing on social media is. It is a distraction from what God is calling me to do. Being right is the fruit and I’m done reaching for it thinking that being right will make me happy.

How do you maintain your peace?

My Last Resort

Yesterday’s Gospel reading for Mass included a story of a woman who has suffered from hemorrhaging for twelve years. She was supposed to be isolated from everyone and yet she had the courage to seek out Jesus and touch His clothes so that she could be healed. She had enough faith to know that she just had to touch His garments and He could heal her and she also had the stubbornness of faith to get past everyone else in the crowd who were probably telling her she had no business there. Unlike all those who were just bumping into Christ, she reached out and touched Him. The priest at my parish yesterday gave a great homily pointing all of this out and I was sitting there listening to it with hot tears rolling down my face.

Someone awhile back posted a comment on my blog asking me to explain what it was that helped me go from where I was in life to where I am now. I have told the story many times of the priest who helped me along my conversion journey. I would stalk him and argue with him, go to his office with objection after objection and when I had my first confession in his office I was so angry that the first thing that came out of my mouth was “I can’t be Catholic, I don’t hate gay people”.  It is easy for me to say that his love, compassion, kindness and fearlessness of telling the truth were part of why I changed my entire life to become Catholic. But the truth is that those things were just a door. All the people who met me where I was and never judged me all while not being afraid to challenge me and tell me hard truths about the way I was living were doors. Because of the love and acceptance that they showed me, I opened the door to God’s grace in my life. Through that Grace, I encountered Jesus. Not just once, but many times and I still continue to encounter Him.

During the homily yesterday, I encountered Him again as Father explained how for the woman hemorrhaging and the man whose daughter died, Jesus was the last resort. They had run out of options and because of that, they dared to seek Him even though it was unconventional and not the norm for people in their circumstances to do so. As soon as Father said those words I remembered the moment that I realized that Jesus was my last resort. I had tried everything else. I had tried sex, drinking, pills, having kids, getting married my way and living by my own rules. I had tried being a good girl and being a bad girl. I had tried everything and none of it worked to heal my wounds. I had run out of options and I knew Christ was my only option. I had to come to the realization on my own and those around me let me and they gave me the love the fueled my courage to seek Christ out when I did.

I came to the point in my life when I figured out that letting Christ really take control of my life after a very hard year in my marriage. Even though I had my conversion 5 years ago, I always still kept a little bit of control of my life. I still hid behind the teachings of the Church to help me feel good about myself and to feel superior to others. There are days when that still happens, especially being on social media, and I have to remind myself that we are all wounded creatures trying to find our way to happiness and healing. I know that happiness and healing come from loving God, but I also know that everyone has to come to know that on their own. Force doesn’t work.

I guess that is the simplest answer to the question of how I went from my old life to this life as a Catholic : I found Jesus and He was my last resort. Anytime that I get to that point where I have tired everything, He is my last resort. Even when I’m crying hot tears during Mass because someone hurt me. I’ve been a Catholic for 5 years and those moments still come, and He is still always there for me when they do.

It’s Not About the environment, it is About Love

I have spent the last 6 days in bed with a horrible cold that turned into a double ear infection, a chest cough and I’ve been battling a fever and chills the whole week. My insurance hasn’t been paid for so there was no way that I could afford to go to the doctor and then a friend reminded me that my parish has a community clinic that sees people who don’t have insurance or way to afford a doctor. Off I went and after sitting for 3 hours, I was seen by a doctor and given medicine and sent home. Sitting there I kept thinking about how embarrassing it was to sit in this building that is on the property of my beautiful Parish home. I’ve been on my parish council, I’ve been involved in RCIA and our Jesus is Lord course, I’ve had dinner at the Rectory and I’ve donated hundreds of dollars to the Parish when I had hundreds of dollars to give, and now here I am. Broke and sick with no health insurance, not even able to put the suggested $20 in the donation envelope. I was too sick to even think about what lesson God could be trying to teach me at that moment, but I knew there was one. There always is.

I read the Pope’s encyclical, Laudato Si,  yesterday. You may have heard of it?  (I can finally type that without having to check the spelling on the Vatican website after 36 hours) I really can’t stress enough how important it is for Catholics to read this papal document. Don’t just read people’s take on it, even mine, but read it for yourself. Read it prayerfully and with an open heart. Because I don’t think there is one single person who Papa doesn’t address in it. It’s beautiful, not because it was written by Pope Francis but because, as Jen Fritz wrote, it combines so many things, Popes, encyclicals and doctrines and most of all convicting to me about the way me and my family live. If you read this document all the way through and nothing in it makes you squirm, then you’re reading it wrong. And I mean squirm not go all Gollum about it, like so many are doing because the Pope dared to tie our own selfishness and greed to the destruction of the Earth and each other. Pope Francis called us all out and I’ve been trying to digest it since I finished the last line at midnight last night. As Jen said “Christianity is something more than a Jesus-flavored quest for the American Dream.”

Papa isn’t just talking about pollution of the air by fossil fuels, and I’ll be honest, until yesterday every time someone said “fossil fuels” I would snort-laughed.  Yes, he does bring it up and it has convicted me about wanting to research the issue and see what he is talking about, but there are other types of  pollution of us to consider. Laudato Si talks about the misuse of technology, the pollution of the mind, the chaos of living in urban areas covered in cement and asphalt, and the pollution of thinking the “we” are better than “them”. I have been kicking it around my mucus filled head all day and all I can come up with is that the Pope is warning us about the pollution of our souls that cause us to exploit and abuse the Earth as well as each other. Maybe it’s the binge watching of Hoarders or the addiction to Facebook with all the anger all over my feed about cops, riots, mass shootings or just the riots and mass shootings themselves, but I don’t have to look very far to see that what Pope Francis is talking about is the reality around us.

A man walked into a church bible study and after an hour of sitting with the members of this church as they talked about the Love of God, shot and killed 9 of them. The reaction of people in my line of vision on social media went from “what happened to this young man?” to “if he was black, his arrest would have ended with him dead” to calling him all kinds of names laced with insults about mental illness, race and gun owners. We as people doubled down on this man’s hate with our own hate while somehow thinking we are better than him. Christians are saying we should forget this man’s name and I can honestly understand how people would think that. It’s rational human reflex to call him a “monster” or “evil” or “mentally ill” and to want to throw him in a jail cell to rot. But how many of us are willing to consider the fact that God has this man’s name written in the palm of His hand, just like each of ours? Because He does. God loves each of us scandalously, including a man who can kill 9 innocent people during bible study. Even now, God still longs for him to turn to Christ and be forgiven. The family members of the victims who had the grace, love and courage to say so to him at his bail hearing are witnesses of the Gospel.  We should all follow their lead and pray for this man to come to know God.

And that is where Laudato Si has left me: looking at everything through the lens of eternity. When I first said that a few weeks ago, I didn’t even know what it meant, but now it’s so obvious. I went into Austin today and everything looked so different: the homeless man waving and smiling while standing in the rain, the people suffering from road rage because where they have to be and when they have to be there is more important than the lives of other people on the road,  the temptation to flip off the guy honking at me at the red light when I don’t take off the split second it turns green, and the fact that I went through the drive thru at McDonald’s to get a bag full of crap to feed my kids lunch (come on $2.50 for a double cheeseburger and fries is a bargain). All of it looks so different now. I am even thinking about that walk in the field that I grew up in when I faced the man who abused me. How much the smell of those wildflowers told me that God loved me, even when evil was taking over the man who would end up abusing me in the worst way. I often wondered where God was and now I know that He was in those flowers, because those flowers are made by Him and they are good.

The message that I got out of Landato Si is that we allow evil to take hold of us little by little every time that we deny the good in something or someone that is created by God. All His creations are good because He is Good, the Supreme Good. Denying that, even when it’s a racist murderer, an abortionist, ourselves or the flowers, is letting the father of lies have a tiny foothold in our heart. The purpose of this life is to take care of  every creation of God. By eating right, caring for our health, working, loving, recycling, caring for the poor and fighting exploitation of the earth and others.

Laudato Si is not just about the environment. It is about love and hate.  The hate in each of us that helps to destroy the planet we live in, the hate that helps us exploit the poor, our neighbor, ourselves, the hate that lives in each of us when we think of “them” as the enemy. Pope Francis is calling us each out on the ways that we hate and asking us to turn to God, Who is Love, and start to make changes in our everyday life that lead us to love ourselves, our neighbor and the planet given to us from God. Sadly, I see so much anger and ugliness in reaction to this encyclical and the shooting in Charleston. When are we going to quit fueling the evil in this world with our anger? I’ve had an anger issue my entire life, and today I am orientating myself towards Love.

When we do that, we can open up community clinics for those who can’t afford medicine or doctor visits that people can go to when we have no money and we can go to them and not be embarrassed because we understand that we are here to help each other get through this life with love.

Making Breakfast, Going to Mass and my Failure to Love

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I have had this book on St. Therese for a pretty long time. In the chaos of life, both good and bad chaos, I have fallen very behind in my reading. I’m also in school now for a Bachelor’s degree in Philosophy and taking three summer classes, so I am reading a lot, but it’s for class which is very different even if I do love it. But this book has been calling me. Every day that I wake up, I see it on the shelf and it’s calling me to pick it up. Anyone who knows anything about St. Therese knows that this is how she works.

Today was the day that I picked it up and have made a goal of finishing it. I’m still on the first chapter and I’m already sitting here writing to process something that hit me hard.

I read a sentence in this book in which Jesus is asking the question “When will they love me?” after a paragraph that talked about all that Jesus gave us of Himself: His Blood, His Body, The Eucharist and lastly His Sacred Heart (the Feast that we celebrated yesterday). And yet, He still wonders when we will see that and love Him back. My first reaction to that was to think “Well, I do love Jesus, so I’m not part of that problem”, but then as usually, my angel had something to say and I remembered that I didn’t go to Mass last weekend. Not because I was in turmoil, or because something came up or anything that was justified, but because I was tired and took a nap. I could have gone in the morning, I could have not taken a nap, I could have set an alarm, but I didn’t. And that isn’t even the worst part, the worst part is that I was relieved to not have to get ready, wrestle with the kids and make that exhausting effort that is dragging a family to Mass.  How can that be love? I was relieved to not go and spend time with Jesus because it was too hard on me.

As if that was not enough to get me thinking about love and how I fail to do it, I realized that I also don’t make breakfast for my husband. This morning I went into his office and told him that I would really love it if we could have date night in the middle of the week because my Love Language is quality time and when I go all week without time with him I hate everything. He sat in his office chair smiling at me as he listened to me and said “Yes babe, I have to figure out how to do it after working all day in this heat, but I’ll figure it out.” and with that, I walked out of his office feeling loved and heard. Then I wondered what I could do for him that would make him feel the same. Nothing came to mind until after I realized that I do not truly love Christ as I should. That’s when it hit me that I don’t love my husband as I should either because this man has been asking me to make him breakfast for the entire 7 years that we have been together. A request that I always make excuses to avoid fulfilling. Most of those excuses based on my feelings and laziness. Like the fact that I would rather sleep instead of getting up to make my husband breakfast. Kind of how I would rather sleep than go to Mass. Do you see the vice at the root of these two things?

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It’s not just these two things either. Laziness has become a sin for me because it is the main reason that I fail to love anyone at all. I’m addicted to Facebook and I’m lazy. Those two things are keeping me from loving my God, my husband, my kids and doing my very best in school which God is asking of me. It’s also keeping me from loving myself because it is the one reason why I don’t workout.

Pretty much anytime I think of doing anything or I am asked to do anything I think of how I can get out of it so that I can take a nap. I’m not saying there is anything wrong with naps, alone time or anything but when it gets in the way of my relationship with God, doing something to make my husband feel loved and spending time listening to my kids, it’s an issue.

This very minute I am thinking of what time Confession is so that I can go confess this and get back on track and also thinking about how I wanna take a nap. It’s a problem ya’ll. I’ve been to a doctor and there is nothing wrong with me, I never catch up on sleep no matter how much I sleep and not doing anything doesn’t make me feel alive, it makes me bored and want to jump off a bridge, but I don’t want to leave the house either. Something has to give. Who is the Patron Saint of Nappers… I mean lazy people?

I have told myself that I’m making a grocery list and making breakfast for my husband. I am going to confession today and I’m logging off Facebook for the week, other than work related things. And I’m going to daily Mass. For starters. Something that Heather King said in my interview with her was that she “orders her day”. I do not do this, I just go through my day winging it. So I’m going to try and order my days this week and see how that works to help this laziness so I can love those who love me.

Have any of you had this issue and how did you defeat it?