Sunday, November 25, 2007

MySpace Promotion of the Satanic

We had a situation come up today, where I decided it would be a good idea to sign up for a MySpace page and do a little investigation. My recent concern has been with the demonic influence on some teens I know. That's NOT what I went to MySpace to look for, but it found me nonetheless.

On MySpace I filled out my profile as much as I cared to, and I did not want to misrepresent my age or sex (I'm a 60 year old man). So, I filled in my birthday. When I submitted my information, I noticed that next to a few other descriptions that I entered (such as "Catholic apologist") the system described me as of the Zodiac Sign of Aries. This I knew. But I also noticed that the word "Aries" was hyperlinked.

Before I clicked on the "Aries" link, I noticed the top banner ad that was now flashing at the top of the page. It read, in large type: "Goth Test: Are You Goth Quiz?" Oh, boy! I thought. We had just had a somewhat traumatic Thanksgiving in part triggered because a pre-teen we know wanted to have her nose pierced. (Goth's like piercings, if you didn't know...and be glad you don't.)

I clicked on the banner ad. I hope you're sitting down. I will actually edit it somewhat, but here are portions of the quiz that is accessible to kids that click on this banner ad. (Actually the banner ad is bad enough and is visible to everyone when it cycles up.)
Take this goth quiz if you dare! Find out if you truly embrace the darkness, if you are one with the night creatures, or...if you're a poseur and really belong at the mall with the other brainwashed minions of consumerism. How goth are you?
[Here is question 4]
Do you wear a Catholic cross? (pick one of the following)
--Hell no. I'm a Goth, not a Catholic. I worship Satan
--An ornate one, for the aesthetic
--As an ironic statement, and/or among other jewelry
--No, I don't own one.
--Yes, and it's covered in bling (jewelry)
For me, a Christian, just the suggestion behind the "goth quiz" is repulsive. The Bible is clear that those that play around with such things will bring upon themselves curses, not blessings.

But then I clicked on the "Aries" designation in my profile. Guess where I was taken? Are you sitting down...NOW? I was taken to "Tarot.com" where I was inundated with blogs, links, and articles about "my horoscope" "cosmic guidance" "Numerology" my "Tarot Card for Today", and other forbidden-by-God (may he be praised forever) things like "Sun and Chinese signs," "Moon and rising signs," "Palm reading"...and much more. Then, at the bottom I was told "Share Tarot.com with a friend and earn 10 Free Karma Coins." I suggest you don't die with such currency win your pocket.

GOD HELP US FROM AN IDIOT CULTURE!!!

If you're not aware, all of this is the antithesis of what is good, true, and beautiful. It is evil, bad, and ugly...and it will lead people literally into the darkness of sadness, depression, and rebellion. We've seen it.

So, will I stay on MySpace? Yes I will! I intend, with some other Catholic friends who are already there, to light a candle in the darkness, and start a communication campaign with the management of MySpace for something that is spiritually more safe. I encourage you to do the same.

I think I'm going to post this on my MySpace blog. It'll be a good beginning. Let's CHANGE culture into something that is good, true, and beautiful, and not submit to its ugly underside.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

"Getting" vs. "Receiving"

We produced a short video on Confession based on a script and VO by Dr. Ray Guarendi, and are thinking of doing a series of them as PSAs. You can watch the first one by clicking on the link at the top of the left column at NinevehsCrossing.com. In an email to our list I asked for feedback. Here's one comment and my response. If I don't make it clear below, I think A.S. is more right than I am. (SW)
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A.S. wrote:

Hello, Stan--

I wanted to respond to your invitation to let you know my thoughts regarding the video on Confession.

I think it’s excellent and inviting to all, especially those who have fear around this Sacrament or who, for other reasons, might have stayed away from it. It helps the viewer want to connect or reconnect with the Lord before he or she even gets to the confessional. The only thing that struck me in a negative way was the very last part when Ray said “...Confession is an opportunity to get God’s love, mercy, ...” Would it not be every bit as honoring of the Truth to say either “to know God’s love in an ever deepening way” or “to receive God’s love, His mercy, His forgiveness...” I don’t want to be theologically incorrect in any way. As a Catholic convert and therapist, I hear many former Catholics who didn’t receive the truth of the Gospel in love by way of their catechesis and therefore seemed to come away with the idea that it’s all about ‘what I do to get God to love me.’..I could be way off here—There’s just something about the word “get” used in conjunction with “God’s love” in the last sentence that, to me, feels like it almost wrecks all of the tremendous statements that went before.

Thank you for the wonderful job you do of making the Truth known through your apostolate.

God bless you,
A.S.

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Dear Ann,

Thanks very much for your excellent feedback on our Confession video.

Re: "get" vs. "know" or "receive".

I think you have a valid point. In our Common Ground DVD, Fr. John Riccardo clarifies to Pastor Steve Andrews that when we come forward for The Eucharist it's not so much about taking the body of Christ as it is Christ offering himself to us. (I may have the exact word wrong, but that was the sentiment.) In the same vein we need to be reminded that the sacraments are God's works, not ours. He is constantly giving, more so that we are "taking". God's common grace is ubiquitous to all. We are "recipients" a million over more than we could ever "take" or "get."

The other side of the issue is one of making clear the an important issue (of "getting" to Confession) and motivating people with clear language to do what they ought to be doing for their "own" good. Ray has a way with words, as you may know. He's able to connect with people's motivations. He's going to parse words on the human side of the issue. Using the word "get" in this instance, appeals to the human side of the relationship. Looking at it from God's perspective: God is giving and we're receiving. Looking at it from the sinner's perspective" we're taking and getting.

This reminds me of a conversation I often have with my wife about the use of certain words about human motivation in the process of justification-salvation, or works of charity... and the way a friend of ours positions the whole concept. D.G. is sort of a back-porch philosopher friend who is fond of pointing out that THE basic human need is personal survival. We think and do good and right things for others, he says, because ultimately they make us feel good, or they ensure us salvation. He's not arguing a works based salvation, but rather a basic human need that God has put into us. He'll say that altruism is not entirely selfless, acting altruistic protects us from eternal wrath. He says "You cannot give, help, or serve those in need unless you're alive and healthy enough to walk over and do the work in the first place." He argues that there's a point at which in general terms, taking care of oneself is more important than caring for others. His argument is not to engender selfishness, but to embrace the ability to serve and love one's neighbor. It's the reason the aid workers in destitute parts of the world are careful to get their vaccinations, food, and rest.

My wife doesn't like this argument, and I suspect theologians might not either. I can "get" their point. Most people would not appreciate the finer points of language, here. All they'd be interested in doing -- is "getting." Not good. Perhaps I'm just too selfish, but if the choice between hell and heaven wasn't constantly being dangled in front of me, along with the realization that I have to make hundreds of moral decisions everyday to ensure I "get" to heaven and not go to hell...well, who knows what I might do. My gut feeling as someone who isn't altruistic, nor am I someone who is always thinking of others -- is that I need to "get" to confession. I need to "take" a bath.

In the end I think "getting" and "receiving" are two sides of the same coin.

I'll pass this on to Ray...and the rest of the world, if they care.

Some very early morning thoughts.

Thursday, November 8, 2007

Basics of Teen & Adult Faith Formation

In a recent comment, to my blog for August 23, 2007, titled "Basic of Adult Teen Faith Formation" a catechist asked:
Thank you for your emphasis about Sunday School Classes in every Parish Stan. I am a Catechists for 17 nineth graders. We are using Mark Link's 'Path through Catholicism'. What would you suggest for me, the Catechist, that will grab their attention, get them involved with feedback, instead of their look, of the lights are on but nobody is home. Something that will give them a piece of our Faith they can take with them from class that will allow them to build a good Catholic Foundation for their Confirmation next year.
Dear Catechist: Here are some ideas that will work with any religious education curriculum and any age. They are based on the very successful practices of our Evangelical brothers and sisters.

But before I launch into the basics, thee is a foundation that you need to pray for and otherwise work toward with your priest and parish. GET THE PARENTS INVOLVED SPIRITUALLY. Without the enthusiastic participation of parents in the home with all things spiritual, all you can do is pray for a miracle — for the Holy Spirit to capture a kid's attention -- perhaps through you. In that, the following will help.

Run your Catechism class like Evangelicals run Sunday School class. I'm not suggesting you change curriculum; but rather run your class as a RELATIONSHIP building experience between you, your students, their parents, and God. Christian discipleship is mostly about profound personal relationships, which is developed by a combination of both faith (trust in another) and reason (knowing the other). The object is Christ, with you as the role model.

Proper catechesis (or discipleship) develops the student (child, teen, or adult) in both faith and reason, trust and knowledge. That is, proper instruction affects the mind and the heart. The mind is reached through the development of reason, the heart is reached through the development of trust.

In our experience there are five practical components to a sound spiritual formation program for youth. For instructors, we can break them down into these five actionable categories: in class, out of class, with parents or spouses, with students individually, and before God.

1. IN CLASS

A. Make the lesson material personal by engaging students in discussion and asking the following kind of questions: (1) What does the text (textbook, Bible, Catechism) literally say? (2) What does it mean practically in terms of your student's lives and what they do? (3) What examples from their real life can they tell the class about? (4) What questions does the text create in your student's mind?

B. Be prepared to lead the discussion by telling personal stories about yourself and your extended family or children. Then ask them to share from their personal lives. Encourage them to ask you hard questions, and be prepared to give them PRACTICAL (how-to-live) answers. Do not judge them, but do guide them. Help them.

C. Always, in a group, lead them in a time of prayer. Ask for prayer requests, and get the kids to pray for each other extemporaneously. "Dear God, please help Jack to study well, and pass the test next week that he's worried about." "Dear Jesus, give Mary the strength to help her mother through this terrible illness." As much as I love the potency of the written prayers of the Church, get people to pray conversationally from their heart.

D. Make your class times intimate, compassionate times of applying the lesson to their specific lives...not just the lives of the stories described in the text.

E. Try a schedule like this. It will draw your class in, get them involved, and listening better to the lesson. 1. Lead them in singing a hymn. 2. Take prayer requests 3. Lead them in group prayer. 4. Present the lesson with examples from scripture, the catechism, and your life. 5. Lead a discussion about applying the lesson to their lives. What worked and didn't work from last week? You don't have to have all the answers; as the students will be able to answer each other. 6. Close in prayer and a song.

F. Incorporate Bible drills every class time. Each student should have their own LEATHER Bible. At the beginning of class divide them up into teams. Before you give them a Bible reference verse, have them hold their Bibles in their hand(s) above their heads. Give them the verse (Psalms 101:4). The first person to find it jumps to their feet and reads it aloud. Give points to the teams, and over a period of time, treat the winners to some prize. Or do the same thing with the catechism. The passages you have them look up should have to do with the lesson...or with something they're learning in their real life. Check out Bible Quizzing. We need a Catholic Bible Quiz Organization. Who will start it?

2. OUT OF CLASS

A. Schedule events, parties, outings as a class at least once a month where you just have fun together and learn about each other and learn to trust each other. In other words build a small trusting community.

B. Start a prayer chain by email, text messaging, or telephone. When someone has a prayer request for something important, YOU start the chain, and get everyone praying for the need.

C. Start an e-mail list, where during the week you send them encouragement, a poem, some good news item. Something that will create buzz among the group so when they get together they'll be ready to talk and share. (Let parents know what you're up to.)

D. Attend their special events, sports events, plays, concerts, or things your students are into. Of course you have to ask them what they are doing so you know. Be personally involved in their lives.

E. Get the students involved in a service project, in helping the unfortunate. Afterwards, get together and share the insights, and then pray for the people you helped. What did the experience teach about life?

3. WITH PARENTS (OR SPOUSES)

A. In the case of children and teens, communicate regularly with parents. Talk to each student's mom, dad or guardian once a month in person or by phone. Keep a list. Ask how they are doing, and what you can pray for. Offer suggestions and observations about their child from your perspective. The important thing here is to keep the parents informed about what you're doing, and let them know you're concerned.

In the case of spouses, usually both will be in your class together. If not, find a reason to call or meet the spouse and ask about them, and invite them to class functions or meetings. Let the invitations come from YOU, not just the attending spouse.

B. Encourage and remind parents to pray regularly with their child . Not just at dinner, not just before bed...although those are musts. The bishops remind us (and it's a given in Evangelicalism) that parents are the first line of religious and faith instruction. If it doesn't happen at home, the catechists and pastors will have a tough time. Is there a set time at home for daily Bible reading (the readings for the day), spiritual discussion, and prayer? While praying the rosary as a family is a great exercise, if that's all you do, then it doesn't offer opportunities for praying personally for and with your kids. Saying the Rosary can be rote and not engage the spirit. Pray the Rosary out of love and adoration of Christ, not just to do something.

4. WITH STUDENTS INDIVIDUALLY

On a regular occasion make time to spend time with students individually (face-to-face, not via email or text messaging). Show your interest for them. With children or teens, never do this alone or in private. Your relationship with your students will help them form an idea of what their relationship should be like with God. Can they trust you? They need to trust God. YOU are becoming their SPIRITUAL ADVISER. You are not their confessor, but you should keep track for each kid and see that they are being responsible for daily prayer, helping others, getting to Mass, studying the Bible (Catechism lessons), and getting to confession. You can't make them, but if you ask them individually in a semi-private and confidential way, and then follow up with their parents. You will have helped them wonderfully form their faith.

5. BEFORE GOD

A. Pray the names of each student before the Blessed Sacrament, or at least in private prayer at home, each night before you go to bed. Where you know about needs, pray for them specifically, asking God, his angels, and saints to intervene.

B. Fast regularly for your students, that the evil influences of this world—addictions, exposure to demonic forces, wrong headed friends, recreational drugs, sexual lasciviousness, and anything that takes them away from God -- be taken away from influencing their lives.

C. Take ideas you come across (such as this list, or the ideas in my other blogs such as How to Start a Sunday School (check out this link), and pray about them before the Blessed Sacrament. Ask God for wisdom about how to teach your class.

CHANGE THE WORLD

This list is a good starting place. But continue to pray over, evaluate and improve what it is you do. Culture changes, as do students, regardless of their age. Kids change because they are learning so much and because their hormones are usually in some weird state of imbalance. Adults change because their kids do, their jobs come and go, and family are on the move. All of that change, however, will help you establish relationships with those you love and serve. In that way you model what it means to love God and your neighbor, and you'll help to form Christians who can change the world.

Tuesday, November 6, 2007

Teaching In India

One of the signs of the Christian spirit is our willingness and preparation to tell others about our faith. That willingness should not be found only among priests and other religious, but among everyday laity. Such an evangelical spirit is promoted heavily by our Catholic bishops, but it doesn't always catch on. Catholic laity, for the most part I think, still leave evangelization to priests, nuns, brothers and sisters.

As a child brought up in Evangelicalism, I was aware of a prohibition in our Evangelical ranks against ordaining women. (Wonder where that came from?) But it became obvious that if the Gospel was going to get out, women had a major role to play. In a previous post I discussed a little of the legacy that my grandmother, Edith Willobee, established by helping to plant churches and preaching in India; and I mentioned my Evangelical (not Catholic) daughter, Trudy Nelson, going to India for a very brief visit to teach the untouchables how to live Christian lives that trust God in the midst of dire circumstances. Below is her prayer letter upon her return. I offer Trudy's experience and preparation up as an example of Christian virtue that we should all follow. (That's Trudy above with her family in 2006 aboard Family Ties off Flower Pot Island, Canada.) (Stan Williams)

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Dear Praying Friends, November 3, 2007

We serve an amazing God who is worthy of all our praise! I believed this with all my heart before going to India. While I was there, however, I sensed the power and presence of God in ways I never have before. Thank you for making this trip possible. It changed me; it changed each person on our team; and it changed the 265 Indian women who attended the conference.

In my earlier letter, I asked for prayer in five areas. Thank you for your faithfulness as you prayed for each of these things. I saw God use your prayers in tremendous ways!

It was incredible to watch each member of our team teach the Word of God. Some of us had experience in teaching, but others honestly weren’t comfortable with being asked to teach. Yet, God took our willingness and obedience to His call, and gave us clarity as we prepared our lessons.

I asked: Pray that we will communicate God’s Word effectively and appropriately.He also gave us passion and a personal connection to the topics we had been assigned.
The women listened with wide eyes and, those who could, took vigorous notes.

I personally saw God take my topics and give me confidence in the words I should speak. He also provided clear visuals for my talks that were all of Him. (I’m not that creative!) One woman said, “This talk healed me,” regarding my first talk. In that talk, the women erupted into spontaneous applause at the climax of the visual (as a woman was transformed from an enslaved sinner to a daughter of the King of Kings). In the picture to the right, Rita is , wearing a “condemned” sign, with me before my talk.

Another woman found me and said, “I will never forget the sitar,” referring to the main illustration of my last talk. That talk was an allegory of how a common gourd is transformed into a sitar (a classical Indian instrument). I knew nothing about how sitars were made when God put this illustration on my heart. As I researched it, I was blown away by the unique ways a sitar is made and played and how well it illustrates what God does to transform us into instruments of good works for Him.

I asked: Pray for clarity, as we will be using translators during most of the teaching and many of the women are illiterate in their own language. This went hand in hand with the above request. It was exciting to have women translating for us who were also eager to communicate God’s truths. There were times when the translators would entreat the women lovingly, “Do you understand?! Listen! She has just told you something you need to hear!”

I asked: Pray for safety in travel and for good health. All of our traveling went smoothly and we were kept safe (even amid the crazy Indian traffic). We were also kept amazingly healthy throughout the week. There was a team member who had one rough day feeling sick, but it cleared up just in time for her day of teaching.

I asked: Pray that I will listen to God’s people in India and learn what God has prepared for me to learn from them as well. My answer to this could fill a few pages! Even before I arrived in India, God was revealing the depth of His love as I prayed through Ephesians 3:14-19. I had been praying for the Indian women to understand His love in a deeper way. I truly believe He answered this prayer. Yet, He did more: He filled my heart with His love for them—which translated into a deeper understanding of His love for me. Then, as I understood His love for me in a deeper way, I was freed to love them more. This was (and still is) a unique and powerful learning process for me.

Page 2

While in India, I was struck by the depth of hunger these women had for God’s blessing. They were needy in so many ways, but the need they acted on most visibly was their desire for Spiritual blessing. So often, I would be approached by someone who knew only how to say, “Please, pray.” They would stand before me, full of expectation for the prayer I could offer while my hands held theirs. God’s power filled me with passion for them and I was given His perspective of hope as I prayed for them.

Now that I’m home, I wonder how often we sense our own deep need for God’s blessing. Do I hunger for this like I saw these women hunger for it? Do I have faith to pray with power for my brothers and sisters here, just as I did there? Do I believe God is just as passionate about His children here as He is about His children there? Yes, I do—and because of this, I am still filled with hope and expectation.

The women also gave strong testimonies of the blessing it was be among such a large number of “Sisters.” Some came from across the city, but many took long bus and train rides to get to the conference. (Half of their travel expenses were provided to allow them to come.) They are such a small minority as Dalit Christians and are regularly persecuted for their “status” and their faith. One woman shared, “The number of women at this conference is greater than the size of my village.” The fellowship of being among Sisters was so overwhelming, that they even described it as, “a taste of heaven.”

These women cherished the fellowship given to them because they would not have it once they got home. Do I cherish the fellowship I have in my church? Do I thank God for my Christian sisters and brothers? Do I treat them like the gift they truly are to me? I want to grow even more in this area.

I asked: Pray also for Steve and the kids as they allow me to go, for safety and for an understanding of their partnership in this work. God took such good care of Steve and the kids while I was gone. Steve was able to take off work to stay home with them. Steve’s Mom was also a big help. I could not have done any of this if I didn’t have the full support of my family. Thank you so much for praying for them. I returned home to happy and healthy kids and to a loving and grateful husband. I am incredibly blessed to have each of them.

If you’ve made it this far in my letter—thank you! Thank you for your encouragement as I went. Thank you for your prayers as I was there. Thank you for your continued prayers for the church in India. If you see any reminders of my trip in the world
around you, please remember to pray for these
women:
-Pray they will remember all they learned.
-Pray they will not lose heart in the midst of persecution.
-Pray they will have courage and eyes of faith.

Thank you again.

In Him,

Trudy Nelson
mtrudyn@twmi.rr.com

More pictures of Trudy's trip can be found at http://wwpicasaweb.google.com/mtrudyn