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What have I learned in 15 years of marriage?

It’s unfortunate that celebrating a day like today is seemingly becoming more and more rare. I’ve found that for Theresa and I, there have been some crucial, hard lessons we’ve had to learn as a couple that have helped us get to where we’re at today. There are certain things in a marriage relationship that are unique to the individuals, but I think there are things that are universal, if you ever expect to spend the rest of your life with someone. This is what I’ve learned over 15 years. Let it be said, though, that some of the things I’ve learned continue to be struggles, continue to be worked on, and take constant, proactive effort. This is by no means a “I’ve figured it all out” list.

1. Communication. One of the most vital things we’ve learned is to communicate. It doesn’t matter if we’re talking about menial day-to-day catching up, or discussing major decisions and events in our lives. If you do not communicate with your spouse, you do not succeed.

2. Compromise. Give and take has to occur if you’re going to thrive in the closest interpersonal relationship you will have with another human on this earth. And I’m not talking about wives who act like Stepford Wives, or guys who are so spineless they do everything their wife demands without question. Either of those scenarios do NOT lead to a healthy marriage, they lead to resentment. They lead to grumbling, complaining, and eventually, a volcano eruption that stifles #1. Furthermore, expecting either a Stepford Wife, or an unquestioning, always accomodating husband is unrealistic and unhealthy. By doing so, you’re stealing away a little bit of who that person is by the demand you put on them.

3. Patience. Face it, it’s going to take patience to deal with the idiosyncrasies in your spouse after Cupid goes away, the dust settles, the honeymoon ends, and it’s just the two of you. One of the worst things dating couples do in a relationship is to only reveal their best side. Doing so is a disservice to you significant other, and unfair. It shows them nothing of who you are in the good and bad times, it only shows what you want them to see. And if there’s one things we as people are good at, it’s hiding who we really are, and giving others only the perception of who we want them to think we are. When that fades away (and it WILL fade away), you’re going to need patience and grace. God knows Theresa has needed it in spades with me over the years.

4. Understanding. If your relationship is going to work, you’re going to need to try understanding their side, even when you don’t want to. This kinda goes along with communicating well, but in my estimation, relationships that work are such that each person understands and is pliable enough to entertain a perspective that is not their own.

5. Be Selfless. Something I’ve said for years now, is that the primary cause of any any ANY divorce or seperation is selfishness on one, but more often than not, both sides. One person’s selfishness often precipitates it, but at the core, it’s a selfish attitude on the part of both. We live in a selfish society, and selfishness is ingrained in us as part of the “American Dream” (the part few want to acknowledge exists). So it’s no surprise that a selfish attitude pervades in our relationships. Pride is a marriage killer, and it’s rampant. You’re a team, not an island.

6. Faith. I have found, for Theresa and I, that our shared faith in God has been a sustaining force in our marriage being what it is today. Knowing that not everyone shares our set of beliefs, I will say that at the very least, you should be on common ground with your spouse theologically. If you are not, you’re fighting an uphill battle. It will be difficult, especially if/when children come into the picture, to maintain commonality if a shared faith isn’t present. When kids hit the scene, suddenly the questions of “how are we going to raise this child?” come into play. It happened with Theresa and I, but we were on somewhat common ground throughout (even though our upbringings were different), and much of our spiritual journey happened in unison. I know that’s not the case with everyone though.

7. Realistic Expectations Another one that dovetails with a few previously listed. It’s amazing to me how relationships are so strained and broken apart as a result of unrealistic expectations put on the other person. Here’s a newsflash: At least to a certain degree, you KNEW what you were getting into when you got married. If you didn’t, then you’re silly for going in with unrealistic expectations. If you did know, then you have the responsibility to work at it, and MAKE it work. If that means you drop some of what you think the other person should be, or your “perfect” idea of what you want them to be, then drop it. It’s unfair to them, and again, it’s a resentment-builder for you. Don’t set unrealistic expectations. By doing so, you’re just giving yourself less room to be let down, and you’re operating in a little more of the grace you need just as much as the other person.

8. Apologize. If you’re never willing to admit you’re wrong (another selfish trait), you’re never going to have strong relationships with anyone, let alone a spouse. And while both sides need to know how to apologize, this one’s especially for the guys. Guys, have that macho pride thing going that women don’t deal with (at least not in the same ways, or to the same extent). So guys, when you say, “I’m sorry, but…” you’ve already disqualified your apology. Use any counterpoint or perspective to argue that, but I assure you, you’re wrong. I have found, over and over and over and…….that the times I’ve ONLY said, “I’m sorry”, are the times I didn’t have to worry about Theresa’s response or if she would “fess up” to her side of things. Trying to qualify your actions puts up a wall between you and your spouse. When you show that you are sorry, without trying to explain yourself away, your spouse will do the same (or at least should). Think of it as killing them with kindness. There are times I had to say sorry and leave it at that. There are times Theresa did as well. Do yourself a favor: Say you’re sorry. Then SHUT. UP.

I’ve told people for years now, that I know for a fact that my wife and I will never, ever separate, except by death. The response has always been, “Oh man, don’t say that. You never know what might happen.” If I can be frank, the people who most often say that to me are the ones who have failed at a marriage. I know that we won’t, because we both have practiced the things above. I know that we won’t because after 15 years, the last thing I would ever, ever do would be to intentionally hurt her or do something idiotic and selfish to damage our relationship. And I know the same can be said by her. THAT is what marriage is about, and that’s what a self-less, two-way, successful relationship is about. And I know that the truth of that will never, ever change with us.

Marriage is tough, no doubt. Another thing I think anyone who’s made it any length of time can authoritatively say is that if you can make it through the early years, you can make it. I think much of what I’m talking about here is most vital in the early (first 7-8) years of marriage. When we had issues early on (and believe me, we DID have issues) we resolved that we could either split, seek counseling, or sit down, drop the gloves, and put everything out on the table in an attempt to work through our issues, find reconciliation, grow, learn, and move forward together. So we did. We worked hard at it, had arguments, didn’t always agree, but worked through it and were better for it. If you don’t put in the work, you’re not going to get the result. It’s simple, but it’s true. An NBA player doesn’t become so by not practicing, and a marriage isn’t successful without endless, tiring but rewarding effort. Again, not saying this is some end-all, be-all list of how to make it work. But being married means you’re going to become a statistic. It’s just a matter of what kind of statistic you’re going to be.

I’m thankful for my wife. I’m thankful for the trials, the arguments, the rough patches, the fun, the joy, and the happiness she brings. And I’m thankful that she puts up with all the same with me.

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Paradox

Today I’ve seen and heard things that anger, sadden, and sicken me about humanity, and things that give me hope. I won’t go into it tonight for the sake of reprisal. What I will say, is that the paradigms come from the opposite sources of what one might expect. I’m choosing hope, because I won’t let despair have the last word.

Joy comes in the morning.

Happy Easter.

Colony Collapse & One Night Stands

About 2 1/2 years ago, a book idea was birthed by Mike Signorelli and myself called “Real On Nine”. It’s been a work in progress for some time. We’re hoping to let it see the light of day soon. The following is from a chapter called “Colony Collapse & One Night Stands”. Hope you enjoy.

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Honey bee colony collapse is a phenomenon that is believed to be caused by bee keepers that take too much of the honey for commercial uses. The bees are then given high fructose corn syrup in place of their own honey. Pushing these bees, taking the best of their product, and replacing with a lesser substitute is causing “colony collapse”. This is essentially what I see happening in our church world today. This one night stand mentality is the epitome of our throwaway society. We have to remember that souls coming into the kingdom aren’t another tally on Sunday, or even a confirmation that we’re right. How often do we forget about the workers in taking their product?

In this extravagant attempt to extract mass quantities of honey from bees, we have removed their sense of belonging, ownership, and appreciation. It’s not just new converts that are being abandoned–it’s the men and women who help run the show. We have to be very careful in our taking. What may eventually happen is that members are no longer stakeholders, but rather a means to serve self.

Humanity has proven that it has this way of misappropriating resources. We’ve proven that we crave excess at any cost. The idea that we can make money from “honey” is far more tantalizing than the thought of preserving the workers that make it possible. I’m afraid far too many churches have sought to exploit the creations of talented individuals without any regard for the longevity of the creator’s career. When the product is valued more than the producer—you can expect abandonment, bitterness, and resentment.

Many have turned in search of other colonies when they realize that their conversion was just another tally for attendance, or that their youth was just another public relations ploy. People want to know that they are in service of something real. They want to know that they will be developed, pruned, and molded in tender compassion. Colony collapse happens when the myth of genuine concern unravels. When people have been used at maximum potential, discarded, and forgotten, they come to the conclusion that the colony is in fact, not their own.

Historically, industrialization plays a major role in our collective mentality. This idea that “numbers” matter isn’t the stance that Christ would take. The most captivating moments in His ministry occurred when He crossed the line of socially appropriate and found someone alone. He wasn’t concerned with a pastor’s opinion about his productivity, youth retreat’s effectiveness, or minimum church attendance requirements. He was staring into the windows of a creation that longs for nothing more than only one inhabitant. He understood that their seemingly trivial affairs were paramount to unlocking potential. To disentangle an individual from their worries was to unleash a believer.

Isn’t this a model for ministry; that Christ would care most for the individual, that He would know each hair on our head? That He would care for each bird that annoyingly scavenges and chirps outside our ledge of luxury? That He would clothe each lily? But somehow, we’ve forgotten to take care of our brother who is infinitely valuable to the kingdom of heaven. Are his needs not our needs? Be careful not to misidentify what is waste and what is not. Don’t discard the china with the scraps. We are losing multitudes at the cost of a phone call. We are misdirecting passions at the cost of a letter. We cannot afford to return the riches of glory (people, not things) back to the wicked, because the Church couldn’t find time to care. Don’t take the busy bees for granted. Don’t take their product without reciprocating appreciation.

As soon as you accept Christ, you receive a mission. Religion has never, and will never accomplish the task. Start a dialogue with non-Christians in your life. Listen to them. Allow them the freedom to explain themselves without fear of judgment. After you’ve emptied your hand, you may empty your mouth. Christians have done a far better job of talking than listening. When you meet the physical and emotional needs of those around you, they are far more likely to believe in your Christ. The monologue must become a dialogue if we are ever going to successfully engage this generation. The Holy Spirit’s job is to change us. We will be far more effective when our friends are friends (rather than a potential number in the congregation). And we will never make a lasting impression on people if all we express of our faith is a works-based, morality driven theology that stresses a list of rules over a relationship based in love for our Creator.

Matt. 3:8 – “Prove by the way that you live that you have repented.”

Earlier we said that evangelism is most effective when it’s beginning and ending is found in our love for others. This is just as true today as it was 2000 years ago. The Church has tapped into a truth that is impossible to the outside world. When we truly have a faith in Christ, we know that we can only love others to the degree that we love Christ. Our love we find through a faith in Christ comes from the basis of knowing His love for us (even though we sometimes forget it). What we forget is that we can only extend love to others around us to the extent that we love God.

I wonder if this truth hasn’t been forgotten in the 21st century, even in the church world. We search everywhere, some endlessly, to fill the void left by people who were absent from our lives. From the neglectful parent, the abusive relationship, and the abuse and neglect that came not from being absent, but from being present without speaking into our lives. Those scars have bore an indelible mark on who we are as humanity; a humanity that cries out for love, who looks countless places to fill the voids left by lack of relationship, or relationship that was not as it should have been.

If we are ever going to effect the change we say we want in the Church of the 21st century, we have to realize that we will never know how to love horizontally (other people) before we know how to love vertically (our Heavenly Father). We have to first love God before we can love others. This is the reason for so many shallow relationships in the world, but are we also making it the norm inside the Church? As time has progressed, we have become more impersonal, rather than doing life together, sharing in community, and looking out for our fellow man. We have not been a community like the prophet Nehemiah spoke about. We are not standing on the wall, ready to lift up our brothers and sisters when they fall. We’ve allowed gaps, entertained a divisive spirit, and looked out for ourselves, rather than helping one another and lifting each other up in love.

We are the body of Christ; we should act like it. The book of Acts illustrated a culture of community that wasn’t forced. Relationship was formed as a result of a desire for fellowship. We are most effective when we come together. In the spirit of fellowship and community is where we will thrive in truly fulfilling everything Christ has commanded us to be. It’s when we change our outlook on humanity that people around us will notice a love inside of us that extends beyond the differences that separate us. It is only then that true reconciliation with our fellow man can take place, and we can who God called us to be.

Shane Claiborne’s Letter To The IRS

Shane wrote a letter to the IRS. You can find it here. Thoughts?

Ordinary Radicals

Watched “Ordinary Radicals” tonight. I know it’s a few years old now, but I hadn’t previously had a chance to watch it. A very well done documentary by Jamie Moffett, “Ordinary Radicals” chronicles the “Jesus For President” book tour for the book of the same name by Shane Claiborne and Chris Haw.

The tour (and the book) hit on a deeper level some of the things said by Shane in his previous book, “Irresistible Revolution”, which he expounded on more in “Jesus For President”, and it reminded me about the wonder and simplicity of the Gospel message, and Jesus’ call to love others. And while Shane lives in the community he helped start called The Simple Way, he makes his own clothes, grows his own food, and drives a veggie bus, it’s a great reminder that you don’t have to grow out dreads or live communally to make an impact on your surroundings, live intentionally, and love unconditionally.

Some might find Shane, Simple Way, and their circles as too political or wrapped up in some “hippie” movement, but that’s not at all the case. It’s safe to say that Shane’s speaking, as well as his books, have meant more to me over the last 5 years than anything else I’ve read, studied or heard, outside the Bible.

If you haven’t seen this documentary, or read one of Shane’s books, do yourself a favor and seek out his stuff. You won’t regret it.

Shane Claiborne & The Simple Way

9/11 nine years later

This day, perhaps more than any other for the last nine years, causes a great deal of reflection and emotions for me, as it does for thousands of others across the nation and world. I know I’m not the only one, as I scroll through blogs and status updates reading people’s reactions to this date on a Tuesday not so long ago.

I find myself watching the specials that come around every year, highlighting everything from the engineering and mechanics behind the fall of the towers, the impact of the Pentagon, and the massive kinetic energy generated by a plane being driven into a field in Shanksville, Pennsylvania; to the countless stories told, and sometimes retold, of final conversations with loved ones, and some retelling of the conversations they never had. I’ve lost count at this point of how many times I’ve welled up with tears, hearing the stories, and thinking with appreciation of what I would feel or say if it were me in that interview chair, talking about my wife, children, parents, or brother. Those stories fascinate me. The fortitude that most have when expressing what the day means to them never ceases to amaze me.

I didn’t know anyone who died that day personally. I do know people who have lost, though. A brother who was on the second plane that hit the South Tower. The family member who knew literally dozens of people from the firm Cantor Fitzgerald, who died in an instant when the first plane hit the North Tower, directly striking their floors. This same family member actually received a voicemail from the CFO of Cantor Fitzgerald. See, my family member was supposed to be in New York that week. Even more harrowing, he was supposed to be visiting Cantor Fitzgerald, that week, that day, that hour, performing one of his regular audits of CF. A few weeks before his planned trip, his boss here told him the trip would be delayed until October that year….a trip that would never come. Minutes before the first plane hit, though, came the voicemail. “Hey _____, sorry you couldn’t be out here this week. When you come out next month, let’s grab lunch, would love to see you.” As he watched the towers burned, he retrieved that voicemail, knowing the voice on the recording, the friend he knew along with so many others there, was now silent forever.

What I’ve had the most trouble with in the years since 9/11 has been the politicizing of the event, and the conspiracy theories. In either case, it seems to, in so many ways, cheapen the events of that day. For years, politicians have used the events of nine years ago for political gain, filling their speeches with talk of “defending freedom” and “repaying our attackers”. Conspiracy theorists argue every facet of that day’s events, from a government coverup, to supposed missles on the bottom of planes, to controlled demolitions of the WTC buildings that came down that day. All of it, again, cheapening the hurt, the loss, and the grief experienced by so many people of all nationalities, creeds, and religions.

There is something patriotic about remembering an event that left an indelible mark on a nation. There is something necessary about it as well. To not remember is to minimize the loss of so many of our fellow countrymen, both those who served by running into what everyone else ran away from, as well as those who innocently went about their day, heading off to work to provide for their families, not knowing it was a trip they would not return from. So we should always remember, and we should honor those who are no longer with us.

I’ll close this out with this entry from a year ago. I think it’s important for those of us who walk under the banner of “Christian” to remember.
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Romans 12:17-21

Do not repay anyone evil for evil. Be careful to do what is right in the eyes of everybody. If it is possible, as far as it depends on you, live at peace with everyone. Do not take revenge, my friends, but leave room for God’s wrath, for it is written: “It is mine to avenge; I will repay,” says the Lord. On the contrary: “If your enemy is hungry, feed him; if he is thirsty, give him something to drink. In doing this, you will heap burning coals on his head.” Do not be overcome by evil, but overcome evil with good.

Quote of the day, courtesy of Walter Wink:

“In the final analysis, then, love of enemies is trusting God for the miracle of divine forgiveness. If God can forgive, redeem, and transform me, I must also believe that God can work such wonders with anyone. Love of enemies is seeing one’s oppressors through the prism of the Reign of God – not only as they now are, but also as they can become: transformed by the power of God.”

Wise words to remember today, on both counts.

Take time to say a prayer today; for the families of those who’ve experienced loss, certainly. But also for those who act out in violence, who we cannot see and do not know, but who are in need of God’s grace just as much as you and I on a daily basis.

May the pain of today be transformed in hope for tomorrow; may we share the Source of that hope, with those we love, as well as those who would mean us harm.

Say Anything

A quick look back over my blog shows me one definite thing: I don’t blog much.

It wasn’t until recently though, that I figured out why. It’s not that I don’t feel like taking the time to, and it’s definitely not because of limited access to the internets. It’s something a bit deeper than that. I don’t often blog because, when I say something, I want to “say” something. It’s got to have a point; it’s got to be something real and tangible that the reader can chew on, digest, and spit back up to chew on some more, if necessary.

I think our society has set us up for the opposite. So much of our culture is instant, shallow, and vapid. Pundits and politicians are a great example. They say much, but mean little, and most of what they speak is wrapped up more in sounding good than in having any real substance. Reality tv is another great example. If you’ve never heard someone speak without saying anything, watch any one of the 400 reality shows on today. In either case, media exposes us to people who run their mouth, speaking much but saying little. And it’s frustrating, because it bleeds into society, and into the people around us.

Look at any social networking site, and you’ll likely see the same. Formulaic witty statements, wittled down to 140 characters or less, pervade Twitter and Facebook. When you can update a page inumerable times a day, it causes a disconnect in the deeper things of life. It also serves to drain us of any real substance in our lives, when our days can be summed up in a quick status update. There’s a narcissistic quality to it, that assumes someone….anyone, wants to hear or is interested in every event going on in our lives. I know I’m saying this as one who’s just as guilty. Just like anything else technology driven, social networking venues have their positive and negative elements. While good can come of them, like reconnecting with old friends, keeping in touch with current ones, and keeping people “in the know” on different events and happenings, there’s also the negative, like the disgruntled spouse who runs across that ex from high school, and our uncanny ability to proclaim shallow missives from behind our keyboards. And just like a pundit, politician, or reality star, we say very little, or at the very most point out the obvious.

“If you don’t master your rage, rage will be your master.”

“Doers need to think more. Thinkers need to do more.”

Really? That’s what we’re telling each other in 2010?

It’s frustrating, but it’s prevalent. We’ve reached the point that most of the interaction we have with each other is on this level. If you don’t think that’s the case, pay attention closely, the next time you turn on the tv or have a conversation with someone. What’s REALLY being said?

I don’t want to fall into that same trap. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not swearing off social networking. I try to use my sites as a source of conversation and challenge. I want to talk about the things that people are thinking, but are too afraid to say. I don’t want to be divisive, but want to challenge the reader to dig deeper, think harder, and converse on the things they maybe normally wouldn’t. It’s how we create community, and how we maintain interaction with one another. In 2010, it’s our most popular method of interaction, for sure. So why do we use it to convey such shallow things? I understand that some use these avenues for “fun”, that they keep things light, always joking or humorous, and don’t get into discussions over the internets. I get that, and think that’s cool. If that’s your thing, great, I’m down. But there’s a difference between saying something challenging and thought-provoking, and saying something empty and shallow that’s meant to sound thought-provoking. The veil is thin, and we see the difference.

It’s the same reason I’m personally very careful about who I surround myself with, the types of friends and acquaintences I choose, as well as those I interact with online. While it may sound snobby and elitist, it’s really much more about a mindset. I want to be around, and interact with people who are going to challenge me to be better in every area of life. People who aren’t going to accept the status quo and go through life unfulfilled. Those are the relationships I value the most, because those are the relationships that force me to grow and to stretch beyond who I am today.

So before you speak, take a minute. Think about what you’re saying, and think about what you’re hearing from others. You’ll be surprised at how much is not being said while spoken.

Until next time….

NoiseTrade Widget

Happy Reformation Day

In honor of Martin Luther, his 95 Theses.
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Out of love for the truth and the desire to bring it to light, the following propositions will be discussed at Wittenberg, under the presidency of the Reverend Father Martin Luther, Master of Arts and of Sacred Theology, and Lecturer in Ordinary on the same at that place. Wherefore he requests that those who are unable to be present and debate orally with us, may do so by letter.

In the Name our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.

1. Our Lord and Master Jesus Christ, when He said Poenitentiam agite, willed that the whole life of believers should be repentance.

2. This word cannot be understood to mean sacramental penance, i.e., confession and satisfaction, which is administered by the priests.

3. Yet it means not inward repentance only; nay, there is no inward repentance which does not outwardly work divers mortifications of the flesh.

4. The penalty [of sin], therefore, continues so long as hatred of self continues; for this is the true inward repentance, and continues until our entrance into the kingdom of heaven.

5. The pope does not intend to remit, and cannot remit any penalties other than those which he has imposed either by his own authority or by that of the Canons.

6. The pope cannot remit any guilt, except by declaring that it has been remitted by God and by assenting to God’s remission; though, to be sure, he may grant remission in cases reserved to his judgment. If his right to grant remission in such cases were despised, the guilt would remain entirely unforgiven.

7. God remits guilt to no one whom He does not, at the same time, humble in all things and bring into subjection to His vicar, the priest.

8. The penitential canons are imposed only on the living, and, according to them, nothing should be imposed on the dying.

9. Therefore the Holy Spirit in the pope is kind to us, because in his decrees he always makes exception of the article of death and of necessity.

10. Ignorant and wicked are the doings of those priests who, in the case of the dying, reserve canonical penances for purgatory.

11. This changing of the canonical penalty to the penalty of purgatory is quite evidently one of the tares that were sown while the bishops slept.

12. In former times the canonical penalties were imposed not after, but before absolution, as tests of true contrition.

13. The dying are freed by death from all penalties; they are already dead to canonical rules, and have a right to be released from them.

14. The imperfect health [of soul], that is to say, the imperfect love, of the dying brings with it, of necessity, great fear; and the smaller the love, the greater is the fear.

15. This fear and horror is sufficient of itself alone (to say nothing of other things) to constitute the penalty of purgatory, since it is very near to the horror of despair.

16. Hell, purgatory, and heaven seem to differ as do despair, almost-despair, and the assurance of safety.

17. With souls in purgatory it seems necessary that horror should grow less and love increase.

18. It seems unproved, either by reason or Scripture, that they are outside the state of merit, that is to say, of increasing love.

19. Again, it seems unproved that they, or at least that all of them, are certain or assured of their own blessedness, though we may be quite certain of it.

20. Therefore by “full remission of all penalties” the pope means not actually “of all,” but only of those imposed by himself.

21. Therefore those preachers of indulgences are in error, who say that by the pope’s indulgences a man is freed from every penalty, and saved;

22. Whereas he remits to souls in purgatory no penalty which, according to the canons, they would have had to pay in this life.

23. If it is at all possible to grant to any one the remission of all penalties whatsoever, it is certain that this remission can be granted only to the most perfect, that is, to the very fewest.

24. It must needs be, therefore, that the greater part of the people are deceived by that indiscriminate and highsounding promise of release from penalty.

25. The power which the pope has, in a general way, over purgatory, is just like the power which any bishop or curate has, in a special way, within his own diocese or parish.

26. The pope does well when he grants remission to souls [in purgatory], not by the power of the keys (which he does not possess), but by way of intercession.

27. They preach man who say that so soon as the penny jingles into the money-box, the soul flies out [of purgatory].

28. It is certain that when the penny jingles into the money-box, gain and avarice can be increased, but the result of the intercession of the Church is in the power of God alone.

29. Who knows whether all the souls in purgatory wish to be bought out of it, as in the legend of Sts. Severinus and Paschal.

30. No one is sure that his own contrition is sincere; much less that he has attained full remission.

31. Rare as is the man that is truly penitent, so rare is also the man who truly buys indulgences, i.e., such men are most rare.

32. They will be condemned eternally, together with their teachers, who believe themselves sure of their salvation because they have letters of pardon.

33. Men must be on their guard against those who say that the pope’s pardons are that inestimable gift of God by which man is reconciled to Him;

34. For these “graces of pardon” concern only the penalties of sacramental satisfaction, and these are appointed by man.

35. They preach no Christian doctrine who teach that contrition is not necessary in those who intend to buy souls out of purgatory or to buy confessionalia.

36. Every truly repentant Christian has a right to full remission of penalty and guilt, even without letters of pardon.

37. Every true Christian, whether living or dead, has part in all the blessings of Christ and the Church; and this is granted him by God, even without letters of pardon.

38. Nevertheless, the remission and participation [in the blessings of the Church] which are granted by the pope are in no way to be despised, for they are, as I have said, the declaration of divine remission.

39. It is most difficult, even for the very keenest theologians, at one and the same time to commend to the people the abundance of pardons and [the need of] true contrition.

40. True contrition seeks and loves penalties, but liberal pardons only relax penalties and cause them to be hated, or at least, furnish an occasion [for hating them].

41. Apostolic pardons are to be preached with caution, lest the people may falsely think them preferable to other good works of love.

42. Christians are to be taught that the pope does not intend the buying of pardons to be compared in any way to works of mercy.

43. Christians are to be taught that he who gives to the poor or lends to the needy does a better work than buying pardons;

44. Because love grows by works of love, and man becomes better; but by pardons man does not grow better, only more free from penalty.

45. Christians are to be taught that he who sees a man in need, and passes him by, and gives [his money] for pardons, purchases not the indulgences of the pope, but the indignation of God.

46. Christians are to be taught that unless they have more than they need, they are bound to keep back what is necessary for their own families, and by no means to squander it on pardons.

47. Christians are to be taught that the buying of pardons is a matter of free will, and not of commandment.

48. Christians are to be taught that the pope, in granting pardons, needs, and therefore desires, their devout prayer for him more than the money they bring.

49. Christians are to be taught that the pope’s pardons are useful, if they do not put their trust in them; but altogether harmful, if through them they lose their fear of God.

50. Christians are to be taught that if the pope knew the exactions of the pardon-preachers, he would rather that St. Peter’s church should go to ashes, than that it should be built up with the skin, flesh and bones of his sheep.

51. Christians are to be taught that it would be the pope’s wish, as it is his duty, to give of his own money to very many of those from whom certain hawkers of pardons cajole money, even though the church of St. Peter might have to be sold.

52. The assurance of salvation by letters of pardon is vain, even though the commissary, nay, even though the pope himself, were to stake his soul upon it.

53. They are enemies of Christ and of the pope, who bid the Word of God be altogether silent in some Churches, in order that pardons may be preached in others.

54. Injury is done the Word of God when, in the same sermon, an equal or a longer time is spent on pardons than on this Word.

55. It must be the intention of the pope that if pardons, which are a very small thing, are celebrated with one bell, with single processions and ceremonies, then the Gospel, which is the very greatest thing, should be preached with a hundred bells, a hundred processions, a hundred ceremonies.

56. The “treasures of the Church,” out of which the pope. grants indulgences, are not sufficiently named or known among the people of Christ.

57. That they are not temporal treasures is certainly evident, for many of the vendors do not pour out such treasures so easily, but only gather them.

58. Nor are they the merits of Christ and the Saints, for even without the pope, these always work grace for the inner man, and the cross, death, and hell for the outward man.

59. St. Lawrence said that the treasures of the Church were the Church’s poor, but he spoke according to the usage of the word in his own time.

60. Without rashness we say that the keys of the Church, given by Christ’s merit, are that treasure;

61. For it is clear that for the remission of penalties and of reserved cases, the power of the pope is of itself sufficient.

62. The true treasure of the Church is the Most Holy Gospel of the glory and the grace of God.

63. But this treasure is naturally most odious, for it makes the first to be last.

64. On the other hand, the treasure of indulgences is naturally most acceptable, for it makes the last to be first.

65. Therefore the treasures of the Gospel are nets with which they formerly were wont to fish for men of riches.

66. The treasures of the indulgences are nets with which they now fish for the riches of men.

67. The indulgences which the preachers cry as the “greatest graces” are known to be truly such, in so far as they promote gain.

68. Yet they are in truth the very smallest graces compared with the grace of God and the piety of the Cross.

69. Bishops and curates are bound to admit the commissaries of apostolic pardons, with all reverence.

70. But still more are they bound to strain all their eyes and attend with all their ears, lest these men preach their own dreams instead of the commission of the pope.

71. He who speaks against the truth of apostolic pardons, let him be anathema and accursed!

72. But he who guards against the lust and license of the pardon-preachers, let him be blessed!

73. The pope justly thunders against those who, by any art, contrive the injury of the traffic in pardons.

74. But much more does he intend to thunder against those who use the pretext of pardons to contrive the injury of holy love and truth.

75. To think the papal pardons so great that they could absolve a man even if he had committed an impossible sin and violated the Mother of God — this is madness.

76. We say, on the contrary, that the papal pardons are not able to remove the very least of venial sins, so far as its guilt is concerned.

77. It is said that even St. Peter, if he were now Pope, could not bestow greater graces; this is blasphemy against St. Peter and against the pope.

78. We say, on the contrary, that even the present pope, and any pope at all, has greater graces at his disposal; to wit, the Gospel, powers, gifts of healing, etc., as it is written in I. Corinthians xii.

79. To say that the cross, emblazoned with the papal arms, which is set up [by the preachers of indulgences], is of equal worth with the Cross of Christ, is blasphemy.

80. The bishops, curates and theologians who allow such talk to be spread among the people, will have an account to render.

81. This unbridled preaching of pardons makes it no easy matter, even for learned men, to rescue the reverence due to the pope from slander, or even from the shrewd questionings of the laity.

82. To wit: — “Why does not the pope empty purgatory, for the sake of holy love and of the dire need of the souls that are there, if he redeems an infinite number of souls for the sake of miserable money with which to build a Church? The former reasons would be most just; the latter is most trivial.”

83. Again: — “Why are mortuary and anniversary masses for the dead continued, and why does he not return or permit the withdrawal of the endowments founded on their behalf, since it is wrong to pray for the redeemed?”

84. Again: — “What is this new piety of God and the pope, that for money they allow a man who is impious and their enemy to buy out of purgatory the pious soul of a friend of God, and do not rather, because of that pious and beloved soul’s own need, free it for pure love’s sake?”

85. Again: — “Why are the penitential canons long since in actual fact and through disuse abrogated and dead, now satisfied by the granting of indulgences, as though they were still alive and in force?”

86. Again: — “Why does not the pope, whose wealth is to-day greater than the riches of the richest, build just this one church of St. Peter with his own money, rather than with the money of poor believers?”

87. Again: — “What is it that the pope remits, and what participation does he grant to those who, by perfect contrition, have a right to full remission and participation?”

88. Again: — “What greater blessing could come to the Church than if the pope were to do a hundred times a day what he now does once, and bestow on every believer these remissions and participations?”

89. “Since the pope, by his pardons, seeks the salvation of souls rather than money, why does he suspend the indulgences and pardons granted heretofore, since these have equal efficacy?”

90. To repress these arguments and scruples of the laity by force alone, and not to resolve them by giving reasons, is to expose the Church and the pope to the ridicule of their enemies, and to make Christians unhappy.

91. If, therefore, pardons were preached according to the spirit and mind of the pope, all these doubts would be readily resolved; nay, they would not exist.

92. Away, then, with all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Peace, peace,” and there is no peace!

93. Blessed be all those prophets who say to the people of Christ, “Cross, cross,” and there is no cross!

94. Christians are to be exhorted that they be diligent in following Christ, their Head, through penalties, deaths, and hell;

95. And thus be confident of entering into heaven rather through many tribulations, than through the assurance of peace.

What if….

A little over a year ago, I came to a difficult realization. I talk about doing alot of things, but seldom see them through. I had found, up to that point, that I would speak quite a bit about doing a number of different things, but when it came to the actual doing, I seemed to fall short.

I suppose some of this is based in perception, and is a bit subjective. Next month will mark 6 years ago that I competed in my first (and only) bodybuilding contest. For that contest, I trained and dieted for an entire year. I set aside all other facets of life and focused solely on my preparation. Life essentially stopped for that year, as anything short of family or work were an afterthought, and anything undertaken was first and foremost considered within the immediate question of “what effect will this have on November?” But anytime I was asked as to why I was doing the show, my immediate response was always, “because I wanted to set a goal and see it through to its completion.”

It took me some time to get used to “normal” life after November of 2003. Not long after the dust settled from the relentless contest prep and endless dieting, I found myself in something of a rut…..a rut I remained in for the better part of the next 5 years. The rut was this: I woke, I worked, I came home, and I slept. Rinse, and repeat.

Sure, life continued outside of those things. A few nice family vacations, a stint in More In Sorrow of close to 4 years. But even my time in More In Sorrow, for as involved as I have always been in music and for as much time as was devoted to playing shows and the band, amounted to little more than a hobby to me, albeit a passionate one. I loved my time with that band, and still think of it with fond memories. But when that chapter ended for me, it ended.

Back to the grind.

Until last year. Last year, I began to really come to grips with the fact that most of my time was spent in routine. Mind you, from a family perspective, I’m not complaining. My wife and my children are everything to me, and no part of any of this entry is meant to imply anything to the contrary. The ways in which they enrich my life and bring me joy are countless. But I came to a point in life where I really began to question the bigger picture, and whether or not I would just think about things, or talk about things, and never act.

I think as believers, we get too caught up in the routine. All people have gifts and talents that they possess, but especially believers have not only gifts and talents, but a means by which they can make those gifts count for something real and tangible, something with eternal impact. But how many of us don’t utilize those talents, for whatever reason?

For better or worse, and even though it is probably a bit dated now, one of my favorite movies is “Dead Poet’s Society”. Anyone who has seen the movie knows the lesson Robin Williams teaches on the very first day of class to his students.

“Carpe Diem.”

“Sieze the day.”

No day is as important as today is, and no decision is more vital to your being than what you decide to do with that day. How often have we been caught up in our routine that we forget all the potential God has given us? How many times have we shelved our talents because of a lack of foresight or a fear of failure?

One of my best friends wrote a blog here where he quite simply said, “You can’t fail if you don’t try.” And really, that’s the whole thing. That thought this last year has gotten me thinking: Do you sing? Can you write? Do you act? What is stopping you from exploiting that talent? I mean, COMPLETELY exploiting it? Too often we put our talents on the shelf. We set them aside because we don’t think we can be the next Dave Matthews, Tom Clancy, or Tom Hanks. We have lost that sense of doing something with excellence, subjecting our trade to that of the mediocre, or worse still, we’ve forgotten it altogether, and settled instead for a life of waking, working, and waiting to die.

So a year ago, I endeavored to try. I determined that whatever talents God gave me, I was going to use. You can’t fail if you don’t try, but in the failing comes the success. Learning what you didn’t know before. Looking for the opportunities that sit in front of you, and when you don’t see those opportunities, making them.

I see so many people every day who simply live, only waiting to die. They have families, they have jobs, but it’s as if they have no direction or ambition to go after those things they are truly passionate about. For so long, that seemed so normal. Now, it’s definitively abnormal to me. I decided that I refused to be one of those people who ended up asking “what if….” What if I would have done this or that? What if I would have taken advantage of that opportunity? What if I would have decided to move on that desire?

What it came down to for me was simply this: God has not done the things in my life that He has so I can wedge myself into routine and wait to die. This is not the end of my story. Whatever roads He takes me down, and whatever lies ahead, I refuse to believe that anything I do or set my mind to has to be ordinary or routine. God created us for so much more than that. Colossians 3:17 says, “And whatever you do, in word or deed, do everything in the name of the Lord Jesus, giving thanks to God the Father through Him.” Everything we do is a praise to the One who made us. Yes, that includes our daily routine, our jobs, raising our kids, but doesn’t it also include all the things you’d love to take a stab at, but are too afraid to undertake? Too often we get caught in our box mentality, where everything we are has to fit comfortably into a certain criteria.

You can’t fail if you don’t try.

The only way you’ll know if you’re a writer is if you try writing a book.
The only way you’ll know if you’re a musician is if you write a song.
The only way you’ll know if you’re an artist is if you paint a picture.
The only way you’ll know if you’re destined for something greater is if you let God use your talents and gifts for His glory, and go for it.

Exploit it, do something you never considered before. Allow yourself the chance to fail so you can succeed. Don’t end up full of regret, asking yourself, “What if……”.