The Spirit and the Heart

adulteress  Before I submitted the manuscript for Angela’s Song, I had my pastor pray over it.  I stopped him in the vestibule one day after daily Mass.

“Do you have time to bless something?”

“Of course, what is it?”

I held out my hand, which contained a pink flash drive.  “My book.”

“What, specifically, do you want me to pray for?”  He always asked the right questions, this priest.

“Healing,” I answered.  “I want the readers of this book to experience God’s healing presence in their lives.”

He nodded and raised his hand over the flash drive and what came out of his mouth was a beautiful, profound blessing and intercessory prayer to the Lord, for wisdom, for healing, for conversions, for hope, peace and love.  In my pastor’s blessing were the deepest desires of my heart.

In my adult life I’ve acquired what is called a ‘zeal for souls.’  I constantly pray for conversions.  This is why I identify so well with St. Therese of Lisieux.  Everyone, to me, is Pranzetti, including myself.  On the advice of St. Paul, I ‘work out my salvation with fear and trembling.’

Conversion rarely comes through preaching.  Conversion will come, firstly, with prayer.  Because it is the Holy Spirit, really, that does the conversion.  Look to the apostles on Pentecost.  Their nine-day prayer to the Holy Spirit resulted in the conversion of thousands and the birth of a Church that still stands today, with billions of faithful over the globe.

But the Lord heard my meager prayer for souls as I wrote Angela’s Song, and today I saw proof of His profound love and faithfulness.  I received an e-mail from a woman who had her heart broken time and time again, which made her harden her heart and turn away from God.  But, she wrote, after reading Angela’s Song, that she has made the decision to forgive and to let God back into her life.  I am in awe of the goodness of God in allowing me to know this and see His work through my writing!

How many times have we shut God out because of the hurt caused by people?  I know I have.  What about when we hurt others?  We often shut God out of our lives because we feel unworthy of His love.  There are so many reasons why we harden our hearts.  But the only thing that can soften them again is forgiveness.

We need to forgive others and ourselves.  Forgiving others isn’t too hard…if they’re contrite.  But what about of they don’t apologize?  What if they continue doing all the nasty things that hurt you?  Forgive anyway.  I know…I know…it’s hard.  I’ve been there, done that, as well.  The secret to forgiveness is to realize that the forgiveness sets you free, not the person you forgive.  That is between them and God.  How do you know you’ve truly forgiven?  When you can pray for the person.  When you have no malice toward them.  Forgiveness doesn’t magically take the hurt away.  It does, however, pull down the bars of the prison you’ve built for yourself.

Self forgiveness is probably more difficult than forgiving others.  When we are unable to forgive ourselves, it turns into self-loathing, which can lead to all sorts of serious issues, such as self-injury, depression or suicidal thoughts.  (Of course, these things are not always caused by self unforgiveness. It could be a possible cause; there are clinical origins as well, which need to be addressed by a professional.)

Again, forgiveness is the answer.   In Wisdom 11:24, the bible tells us:

For you love all things that are

and loathe nothing that you have made

for what you hated, you would not have fashioned.

Your sins are not greater than the Lord’s love.  They are not more powerful than the Blood which redeemed them.

Psalm 51 is a soothing psalm, which asks for healing and restoration.  Pray this daily, if you need help in this area.

If you have a deep wound, caused either by your own or someone else’s actions, ask for help from God.  He is waiting to help you.  Angela’s prayers in my novel demonstrate a type of visual prayer that is very healing.  A friend of mine shared the following form of prayer with me and it has helped me on so many occasions.

Before you go to sleep, imagine that you are with Jesus.  He is standing before you, with the healing rays of love coming from His heart into yours.  Ask your guardian angel to keep you there, with Jesus, while Our DM imageyou sleep, so He can heal your wounds.  Do this as many times as you need to, until you are able to forgive yourself and others.

When angry or negative thoughts surface about yourself or the person who hurt you, repeat, “Jesus, I trust in You,” until the thoughts dissipate.

Unforgiveness is a burden. God wants to release us from it.  Turn to Him for help.  Let go of the unforgiveness and walk in freedom.

 

Pat Robertson, what were you thinking???

SONY DSC

Recently, a woman called televangelist Pat Robertson looking for advice on how to forgive her husband who had cheated on her.  One of his comments to her was, “He cheated on you, well, he’s a man.” REALLY???  That’s all Mr. Robertson could come up with?  And then he went on to tell her that if women made their homes ‘wonderful,’ men wouldn’t stray.  To my dismay, he also told her not to focus on the cheating and to be thankful if the husband was a good provider.

With all due respect, Mr. Robertson, you do not understand the nature of marriage and your comments sell both men and women terribly short.

First off, no one drives anyone to break their marriage vows.  Marriage is a covenant with God.  You either take it seriously or you don’t.  Those who cheat, don’t.  When a man cheats on his wife, he does not understand the covenantal relationship he has with her.  All he is focused on is pleasure, both physical and emotional.  By narrowing his focus to the sensual, he cuts the spiritual aspect out of his life and is unable to think or live like a true Christian.  Christians are called to see others as Christ and treat them accordingly.  When we live focused only on our sensual experiences, we lose the selflessness that we are called to as Christians and become what a priest friend of mine calls ‘spiritually cross-eyed.’  We focus in on ourselves instead of out on others and derive joy only from those things that are sensual.  Men (and women) who behave this way are infants, both emotionally and spiritually.  That said, this is a reason, NOT an excuse.  Just because you say that men “have a tendency to wander,” doesn’t mean they should.  We are, after all, above the animals in the order of creation and do have a measure of self control.

Scripture says, Husbands, love your wives, even as Christ loved the church and handed himself over for her, to sanctify her, cleansing her by the bath of water with the word, that he might present to himself the church in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. (Ephesians 5:25-27)SONY DSC

How does cheating on her or using pornography sanctify a wife?

Men are supposed to die for their wives, just as Christ died for His Church.  Maybe they won’t be called to die an actual physical death, but they are called to ‘die to self,’ to put their own needs aside and sacrifice for their wives.  This call, in Ephesians 5, is much bigger than merely being a good provider.  Men shouldn’t be patting themselves on the back if they are making lots of money, paying the mortgage on a big house, driving a brand new car, but cheating on their wives.  That is not upholding the covenant they made with their wives and with God.

As a spiritual leader to many, Mr. Robertson has fallen short in the advice He has given to this women and failed the men and women who have heard this advice.  It is not God’s plan for men and women to merely settle for being comfortable in a marriage in which vows are being broken.  When we read scripture, we see that Jesus called people out on their sins, sometimes harshly.  And He certainly didn’t say to the adulteress, “Well, if you make great meals and get the laundry done, but have a tendency to sleep with the neighbor once in awhile, that’s okay.” No.  He told her to stop.

I think Mr. Robertson would greatly benefit from reading Bl. John Paul II’s Theology of the Body and also Love and Responsibility, both of which emphasize the sacrificial nature of the husband-wife relationship.

In Finding Rita, the novel I am currently writing, I address the issues of marital infidelity, pornography addiction and sexual abuse as it affects a marriage.  I have spoken to many women whose lives, and the lives of their children, have been impacted by their husband’s ‘tendencies.’

Men aren’t merely providers and women aren’t merely housekeepers.  God made us to be so much more, and I am saddened by the fact that Pat Robertson has failed to recognize that.

 

 

Book Review: Frozen Footprints by Therese Heckenkamp

Frozen Footprints front cover

This novel was so suspenseful and teetering on the edge of horror that I was both fascinated and repulsed by it…and I mean that in a good way!

I read Therese Heckenkamp’s previous novel, Past Suspicion, and really enjoyed it, so I knew I’d probably be pleased with Frozen Footprints as well.  Not only was I pleased, I was blown away.

I try to read mostly Christian fiction because I want to avoid the smut and/or graphic violence and language.  But many times, Christian novels wind up to be sappy and sophomoric, usually resulting in a completely unrealistic conversion-and-they-live-happily-ever-after experience.

Frozen Footprints front cover

Not so for Charlene and her twin, Maxwell.  They are Catholics, but not perfect Catholics, who come from a very dysfunctional family.  A tragic experience forces them to rely on their faith in order to survive, but things don’t come easy.  There are many snares along the way and the reader is kept on the edge of his seat wondering how things will sort themselves out.

Heckenkamp does a great job in creating a villain who is evil and loathsome.  The hair on the back of my neck stood up as I read several scenes in the book.  It was a treat to read a truly scary story that didn’t include gratuitous violence and gore.

I hope Heckenkamp will continue to write more horror stories.  We need more quality fiction, especially in this genre.   Ms. Heckenkamp, I’ll be waiting for another like this, but I’ll be sleeping with the lights on!

Good and pLENTy

I have to admit, I’m one of those scary, freakish persons who loves Lent.

I don’t exactly possess a lot of willpower.  So, it’s hard for me to work on overcoming my faults.  But, I love to follow rules, so Lent is perfect for me!  We fast on Ash Wednesday and Good Friday and abstain from meat on Fridays.  We choose to either let bad habits go or to add new good ones (or both).  Yay!  LOVE Lent!

Lent is the perfect excuse for me to work on those qualities I possess which I am not exactly proud of…all those things that put a barrier between me and growing in holiness.

This Lent in particular will be very difficult.  I’m on a restrictive diet.  All I can eat is meat, fish, eggs and vegetables.  I need a lot of protein at every meal or I begin to feel ill.  So, giving up a food item is not on the short list of what to give up for Lent.  I can’t just say, “I’m not going to eat candy,” and be done with it.

No.  Not at all.

My kids keep asking me what I’m going to give up if not sweets (which I’ve already given up).  They are watching Mommy closely to see how she handles Lent.  Mommy needs to be a good example, especially in the area of humility. So, this Lent Mommy will work extra hard to be a servant to her family, to be even more conscious of what she can do to help her children grow in holiness, both by example and by direction. Mommy will take good care not to complain when things don’t go the way she planned. And maybe Mommy will make a small difference in how her children embrace suffering and sacrifice.

One Lent, a long time ago, I gave up taking the Lord’s name in vain.  Never went back to it.  I wouldn’t have had the gumption to do that if not for this penitential season.  I’m glad for it. I’m glad the Church challenges me to become a better Christian. And I’m glad my kids haven’t grown up with a Mommy who throws the Lord’s name around like it’s a swear word.  Yay, Lent!

So, challenge yourself this Lent.  Don’t just give up chocolate or soda.  Really stretch yourself.  Be uncomfortable.  Do the hard work.  It will pay off.