Category Archives: Faith

My Transformation from Catholicism to Christianity


cross_4_youHow many times do you recall as a youth being advised, “Never talk about Religion and Politics“?  Assuredly, like most of us, probably more times than you have fingers and toes, yes?

Yet there comes a time in each of our lives when we reach a plateau of sorts that represents a plane of existence, comprising our ideals, core values, fervent beliefs and yes, religious and political advocacy.  You may reach the plateau at any age, however, typically, and more often than not, it will be some time after you’re out of the K-12 school system.

“Truly, it is completely normal and entirely expected that we will (and should) be challenged about our beliefs, for it is in these “Moments of Truth” when we learn more about who are; as sons and daughters, as husbands and wives, as mothers and fathers… most importantly, as spiritual beings.  For if our beliefs are never or seldom challenged, we lose focus, motivation, self-awareness and yes, direction in our lives.”

st_peters_basilicaAnd without question, my childhood was no exception.  Born and raised a Catholic, I regularly attended church, was educated for five years in a Parochial elementary school, served as an Altar Boy, learned the Mass in Latin, and of course, was instructed in the constructs, requirements, expectations and directives of living as a Catholic.

I began to seriously question, for lack of a better word, the validity of Catholicism as contrasted to other “alternatives” within the Grand scheme of the world, even universe.  Keeping in mind this is MY personal journey; upon inquiry, discussion, research and comparison, the Catholic Religion emphasized an inordinately large amount on finances/”dues”, spent an equally small amount of time on the Bible, and ubiquitously created the mental hierarchy of Church, Priest, Catholicism and lastly, Jesus Christ (in that order).  Needless to say, this troubled me in a deep and huge way.

bibleAnd then, I began to read the Bible on my own.  I began to personally experience Jesus Christ in the most wholesome, reverent and meaningful way, like I had never envisioned before.  It was as if I had just discovered that Santa Claus (Catholic Church) was not the real deal.  It caused me to feel betrayed, angered, frightened and anxious about my future.  In short, it challenged my core values to the point of nearly destroying my sense of self, value and being.

I have always been, and am, however, a Survivor.  Throughout my life, I’ve trusted my instincts and my gut, to analyze, make decisions and move forward in my mortal journey.  Truthfully, my transformation from Catholicism to Christianity occurred well into my 30’s, as it simply took my faith that long to mature.  And I remain confident in my path, who I am, who is Jesus Christ, what our relationship has become, and what my expectations are of myself to effectively and successfully live life as a Christian and Child of God.

Am I perfect?  HARDLY.  I struggle, like everyone else, with the sins of humanity.  Yet, that realization does not hinder nor prevent me from striving with every breath I take, to live my life in His image.  Do I have guilt as a father for not having done a better “job” raising my children as Christians?  EVERY DAY.  Yet, that reality, when examined, yields the conclusion and belief that every human being has a Free Will and uses it to form their own thoughts, make their own decisions, create their own behaviors, future and certainly, their personal accountability for their life.

Celtic_Eternal_LifeAs a father, I provided the toolbox and attempted to teach my children (and myself) how to use the tools of life; compassion, integrity, accountability, motivation, enthusiasm, reverence, humility and forgiveness.  Now, it is their choice which tools to use and how to use them; or whether to use them.

Does the Catholic Church serve a purpose?  Absolutely, as a resource about Jesus Christ, history, self-discipline and community.  My most trusted reference, however, is the Bible, for it represents the unequivocal “Word of God” and when viewed holistically, is the ultimate Book of Life.

I am a Christian and I live to become exclusively like Jesus Christ.  There is no other.  I humbly ask that you pray for me as a Christian to continue down the righteous path.  God Bless You all in finding yourself; in finding Peace, Love, Joy; in finding your Savior and Salvation.  There is definitely something in the water.  Be well.

How We Die – More Important Than Living


Destiny_QuoteWe’ve all heard about and perhaps have even read books about the grand nature of life, e.g., “The Purpose Driven Life“, by Rick Warren; “Chicken Soup for the Soul“, by  Jack Canfield; “Heaven is for Real“, by Todd Burpo and Lynn Vincent, and “The Last Lecture“, by Randy Pausch.

Books like these, present us with an opportunity to change or better comprehend our perspectives about the significance of (our) life, perhaps a deeper meaning or connection with our spirit and overwhelmingly, insight into our human nature.  They are, without question, all great reads.

What if I told you, however, that how we die is more important than how we live?  Would veterans_funeral_flagyou immediately disagree?  How could this be true?  Isn’t death an ending?  Why focus on the negative?

Certainly, these are all relevant and valid questions or thoughts about something we know precious little about, yes?  Yet, if one views life as an accumulation of knowledge, experience, wisdom and dare I say, faith; well, now you know the purpose of this discussion.

“Have you ever uttered that age-old phrase, “If I had known then what I know now…”? Trust me , you’re not alone.  The essence of that quip, is that living life yields much insight into ourselves, our situation, our environment, and the world, as it relates to people and relationships.”

Easter_CrucifixMany factors intertwine to make us who we are today.  Among them, our childhood, the location(s) we’ve resided, family, friends, education, information about the world, events, and especially our faith.

I’ve assembled a punch list of 10 factors that influence just how prepared we will be when we die.  Prepared, you might ask?  For what?  Well, prepared for what follows our death, of course. The following net outcomes at the time of our death largely determine our path forward:

  1. Have we truly accepted Christ as King?
  2. Have we “Chosen Wisely” using our Free Will?
  3. How did we utilize our Time on earth?
  4. Were we motivated in moving toward life or Running Away?
  5. Did we present ourselves to others in an Authentic fashion?
  6. Have we developed a sense of Inner Peace?
  7. How effective were we at dealing with Change?
  8. Were we in a faithful Mental State?
  9. Did we consider the Bigger Picture as we made decisions?
  10. How effectively did we demonstrate Compassion and Love for others?

Judgment_Day_GateAs evidenced above, when we die is truly irrelevant in the Grand Scheme of our Eternal Existence.  The things we accumulated during our lives are likewise meaningless as they remain behind in their entirety.

What matters, when our physical life is distilled, is how prepared were we to die all along the way.  Collectively, our priorities, values, mindset and intent represent the bellwether of how we are to be judged, held accountable and projected forward into eternity.

 

Death – A Melancholy And Bittersweet Celebration of Life


Ying_Yang_2Even though a hexagenarian, I find myself facing a new experience; the death of a sibling.  As the youngest of five, I experienced that inevitable, awkward and painful telephone call from my nephew yesterday, to inform me that my brother (his dad) had passed away.  On the surface, one might surmize this is not an earth-shattering event, it eventually happens to all of us, and it happens every day, in every city, of every country on the planet.

Let me assure you, however, death is anything but routine, ordinary or insignificant.  As a Christian, death is the debt we pay as the entry fee to cross the portal from human reality to spiritual eternity.  It is a process, a portal and many times, painful.  Make no mistake, though, death is also a celebration, albeit a melancholy and bittersweet one.

Death is as the Yang to the Ying, as it permeates Life.  It can be construed as an ending, however, the Christian’s reality is that death is another beginning; a rebirth of our spirit/soul.  Death can certainly be viewed as routine, ordinary and perhaps even normal, that is, until it directly impacts YOUR life.

When you witness death in the first person of someone you intimately know, love and share history, it is exponentially more significant, impactful and forever changes your essence as a human being.

“In a peculiar sense, death morphs your sense of reality, self-image, mortality and perspective of the world around you.  Ironically, viewed as a polar region, death coexists and even defines the boundaries of life as do the poles on a planet.  Profoundly, death has its own life.”

As you experience death at a very personal and familiar level, every emotion in the library of your mind is touched, jolted, carressed and exposed.  In that context, death can be defined, understood, acknowledged and bounded by each of our realities of life.  Death is the wild stallion being broken, it is the uncontrollable child morphing from adolescence via puberty into an adult; psychologically, emotionally and spiritually.

Judgment_Day_GateWithout question, witnessing death up close and personal is an experience you simply Never forget.  The bittersweet nature of life is that positively, it ends all aspects of human suffering, be it physical, emotional, or psychological.  Death, as a metaphysical event, takes away the undesirable aspects of life, and to that end, can be looked upon as something good.  The rest of that story, however, is that death also creates an ending or sense of finality (absent faith), for those remaining alive.  It is the proberbial locked door, separating the past, the present and the future.

In a comforting light, however, faith and Christianity offer us the key to unlock that seemingly impenetrable barrier.  All we must do is use the key, without fear of the unknown, to master our own mortality, prepare for our own passage and comfort those standing on the mortal side of eternity.

Importantly, death is not to be feared, but to be understood, prepared for and anticipated… and the way we accomplish those goals is through our personal relationship with Jesus Christ.   Death serves as that little voice in the back of our minds coaxing, whispering and urging us to take stock of the life we have, leaving no stones unturned, to demonstrate gratitude for it, to reconcile our differences with others, remind those close to us just how much we love them and how much they mean to us.  In a terse and succinct context, now, go do it!  Be well.

Dedicated to the eternal spirit of David L Cerkas (1947-2016)

 

 

 

Echoes of Life – A Melody In The Making


Self_ImageAdmittedly, the vast majority of our life is unavoidably spent focusing inwardly, as we plan, perform, procrastinate and hopefully, pray.  Reflection, however, can be an amazingly powerful and insightful activity to spur personal growth, if revisited on a frequent and regular basis; and if conducted in an authentic and candid fashion.  It provides that “out of body” experience which enables us to see ourselves in the 3rd person, from the outside looking in.

“Just as you utilize and reference a map during a long trip; first, to plan your way and then, to monitor your travels toward your destination of choice, the “art” of reflection can serve as a life echo, if you will, a sounding board, which will, when attended, reveal much about who you are at this instant, as well as who you were yesterday, last year, as a child… and most importantly, who you are becoming and will be tomorrow, next year and ultimately, when your horizon meets the sky.”

To be sure, reflection has the potential to be painful, yet equally, it can be breathtaking, refreshing, satisfying and revealing; if we have the Destiny_1courage to send out that call and then, wait for the echoes of our life to speak to us and reveal who we truly are; at the spiritual level.

Reflection is a pervasive thing in our world.  We keep track of the score in sports, our bank account, the gas in our vehicles, the clothes in our closets, the color of our hair.  We are obsessed with constantly working to improve our (physical/mortal) self, while primarily paying lip service to our spiritual life and soul.  Even more ironic, is the realization that our soul is eternal, whereas our human lives are temporary.  One would think our priorities should be reversed, yes?

And this is precisely where reflection can aid us in correctly setting those priorities.  Just keep in mind, it won’t always be pleasant because we are imperfect beings.  However, we are immortal souls and reality founded in faith is the medicine we need to survive post-death.  Yes, forever is a long, long, long time.   Pierre Teilhard de Chardin stated it best, “We are not human beings having a spiritual experience. We are spiritual beings having a human experience”.

compass_mapTake the time to plan for reflection in your life.  It may seem unnecessary, perhaps even a bit dry, however, if it is, then so is your life.  The benefits far outweigh the time spent.  Your spiritual self will thank you; anxiety, worry and stress will flee your mind like leaves blowing in a strong fall wind.  You will love yourself more, respect others more, know yourself better.  Great medicine, if we will only be brave enough to take it.

Remember, Without Winter, there can be no Spring.  Be well.

The Dormant Christian – Play The Tune!


DNA strand with codeAlthough each of us is born of DNA, snippets of our parent’s tendencies and that red liquid coursing through our veins, we also create our environment with our thoughts, ideas and reactions that collectively comprise our experiences, personality and the essence of our individuality and being.  Hidden in the depths of our sub-conscious, lie our fears, joys, loves and regrets, along with the complete set of our core values and beliefs.

Many of these “tucked away” emotions and navigational guideposts steer us on a day to day basis, yet we remain somewhat unaware of their subconscious influence upon our lives.  And so it is with food, dress, relationships; and faith.  And although the strongest of these morally magnetic influences is faith, as humans, we overwhelmingly have the shield-of-faithmost difficult time expressing, even sharing our museum of faith that is ordered and stored in our minds much like books in a library.

Yes, the magic of life itself remains hidden within our minds, along with everything that defines who we are, what we believe and why we behave, think and make decisions the way we do.  Many times it is safety and security that convinces us to refrain from sharing our selves with others, while at other times it can be ego, pride and self-expression that pushes us to let others know equally defining aspects of ourselves.

“As music is encrypted upon a CD or stored on the hard drive within our computer, it is conspicuously silent and unknown unless played and shared with others.  In essence, it does not exist unless it is shared.  And in a parallel fashion, our faith, beliefs and Christianity remain largely unknown and non-existent, unless we make a concerted and deliberate effort to communicate and share them with others; through our words, through our Actions, and as witnessed by our lives”.

Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Nashville Symphony during a performance at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

Maestro Giancarlo Guerrero conducts the Nashville Symphony during a performance at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center.

It is human nature to judge others by their looks, words, body language and behaviors, along with how they interact and relate to others.  This tendency to judge is a largely, mutually occurring phenomenon, i.e., it is happening all the time and all around, and to us.  It is as breathing; an involuntary response to ensure our survival.

And so it seems, in this day and age of global strife, we are being coerced into “survival mode” by external forces.  Accordingly, we are being awakened to a degree by that little voice inside us that is screaming to protect ourselves, to protect others and to raise the veil of our faith, exposing it for the world to see, by our actions.

And make no mistake, “In the middle of difficulty, lies opportunity” (Albert Einstein).  Indeed, it is incumbent upon each of us to not only acknowledge our values, beliefs and faith, but moreover, to have the courage and character to defend them when under scrutiny or worse, attack.  Take the risk, remain focused and Play the Tune, people, albeit at times a bittersweet symphony, lest we wither away into non-existence.

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